Sexual Healing

8550007 by
My Rating: 3/5 Stars

Quarry might just be one beautiful bastard, even if he manages to lose a few teeth along the way. The women certainly don’t seem to mind. Whether he goes for the more experienced ones, or the younger ones who managed to knock themselves on the head with the beauty branch, right before their mouths open wide, he certainly empties himself in a rather judicious fashion. He’s an equal opportunity sexual healer, who pounds Percocet with reckless abandon, and always manages to get his man…or woman.

He’s not described as a large man, but he takes up a lot of space, and he’s not afraid to shoot right between the eyes, and stuff the bloodied corpse in the back of his trunk. Like the pages of QUARRY IN THE MIDDLE that somehow manage to contain his presence, he rushes toward the end, even if he gets tripped up along the path of redemption. More than one evil presence fills the pages of this tall tale. Even if the penultimate conclusion ends in a mild whimper, I still managed to root rather hard for the home team, and wield my Louisville Slugger with pride and compassion and mild resentment.

The curves on these broads, though, nearly had me on my knees. One day, when I’m probably on my deathbed, sucking turnip juice through my respirator, as pale as a white house, with varicose veins and a twitch in my right and left hand, I’ll tell the nurse, in between gasps of breath, “They don’t make ’em like that anymore.” And then I’ll probably pass out for the next twelve hours, only to snore so hard that I wake myself up.

If you don’t mind a few motherfuckers between the pages, a damsel in distress or two who just happens to own more than one pair of sheer panties and maneuvers better than a Hoover, then you’ll feel right at home between this warm blanket. Even if you have to sleep with one eye open and a hard look over your shoulder whenever you maneuver down a dark alleyway. I’d say it’s well worth the tradeoff, and I’ll try not to wait so long to read the next one.

Two Thumps Up

13288179 by
My Rating: 5/5 Stars

I’d say I’ve met my new favorite all American badass, and what I hope is the start of a beautiful friendship. Quarry is a former soldier that doesn’t mind getting his hands dirty, and there are enough beautiful dames and plenty of broads to keep even a man like Quarry satisfied throughout the pages of this action packed novel. The abundance of death rivals most Shakespearean tragedies, and the prose packs more punches than a heavyweight bout. Quarry has a smart mouth, and he utilizes all of his weapons to perfection.

As described in THE FIRST QUARRY, he’s not an assuming man, but he’s not one that should be underestimated either. Multiple individuals make that mistake in the novel, and it’s often their last one. I delved into this novel so deeply I felt like I was the action star, and I was playing on the big screen at one of the local multiplexes. Needless to say, I was rather disappointed when I reached the end, and not because the end wasn’t satisfying. In fact, I was rather giddy with the prospect of reading eight more Quarry novels and knowing that there is a ninth one coming out early next year with a cover that looks every bit as scintillating as all the other Hard Case Crime novels out there.

Now I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the lovely ladies in this novel in more detail, and what a fine troop of women it is that trek through the pages of this noir tale. Dorothy Byron may have a few miles on her, but as Quarry puts it, he wouldn’t mind helping her with a few more. And with a mouth talented enough to suck a basketball through a garden hose, she’s every man’s wet dream. Annette, on the other hand, has dark hair and a dark complexion, and what she lacks in age-related experience, she more than makes up for in youthful enthusiasm and daddy issues.

If this is ever made into a movie, I’d like to put in my vote for a black and white film, and Hollywood needs to bring in the curvy women. Forget the stick thin models, let’s see some curvy broads and femme fatales with a sharp tongue or two. As for the rating (and in tribute to the late Roger Ebert who passed away two days ago), I’ll resort to the old Siskel and Ebert standard of two thumps up. Way up.

The Hard-Boiled Convention

8124103  by
My Rating: 3/5 Stars

Kinsey Millhone might have her iconic status entrenched about as well as Sue Grafton has hers, and the series has kept me just interested enough to continue through to O, but I’ll need to take periodic breaths in between, or I might find myself gasping for air as the clock strikes E. Who knows? I might make it all the way to G before I pass out, but there’s the distinct possibility I’ll turn blue sooner rather than later.

Like a female version of James Bond, she has her good points, and she has her bad ones, but she goes down easier in small doses. Sugar helps, and divorces might too, of which she’s had a few, even if she’s only in her mid-thirties, and her smile might be an easier pill to swallow, if the mystery didn’t feel as though it was a bit forced.

Her male counterparts may lack in development, and end up a bit too lean on their stocky frames with hard noses and hard attitudes, and a lack of conviction, and possibly convention as well. A personality injection might even the score, even if they could probably use a little more. The mystery felt undernourished, and could probably have used a bit more flourish. Or maybe panache might have made my smiles a bit cleaner, even if the prose was already leaner…than many tales with a PI at the center of attention, even as she strives for the hard-boiled convention.

Even the women proved of a crazy sort, with eccentric personalities that they should probably abort. It was slow, and it was fast, and often somewhere in between, but I never felt fully engaged in the scene. I might have laughed, but I certainly didn’t cry, as I watched some poor motherfucker die. And when it was all said and done, I needed a pause before I attacked the next one.

Stella Got Her Groove Back

7488669 by
My Rating: 3/5 Stars

I must say Stella got her groove back in a resounding way with a slip of the tongue here, or a quick play on words there, or a face-to-face when the situation warranted itself. She doesn’t back down from anyone, including sheriffs or ne’er do wells, and she sometimes finds herself in precarious situations, but that’s all part of her endearing charm. She’s full of life, spunk, and possibly salt and pepper with a side of cinnamon. And she has the scars to prove her torrid marks on society, and a slew of bad men standing ready to watch her fall.

Stella Hardesty may not look like much upon first glance, but she has a revenge streak something fierce, and she sees her cases all the way to the end, with a mean side of revenge, even if it means she might dangle from the occasional precipice. I’d say that’s more than part of her appeal, and she has an additional side of charm.

With a cast of characters ready to excel on the big stage, including the blonde miscreant with possibly an extra hint of cellulite, the sidekick that doesn’t mind dipping her nipple in the nerd gene pool, and the sheriff who has acquired a few skeletons in his own closet, most of which may have been put there of his own volition, there’s a bit of fun for everyone.

The mystery, though, managed to leave me in dire financial straits, as I wanted a little more bang for my hard-earned buck. This was all about the characters instead of a hard-boiled plot for the ages and times. Not that I minded all that much, but the ending felt a bit forced upon me like a leering side of smashed peas shoved down my gullet, when I would have much preferred a side of sweet candied yams staring up at me with pleading eyes. And not that I mind guessing the ending before it has arrived, but it appeared ready for center stage rather than just a sidelong glance in my side mirror. In that regard, it reminded me of a Lamborghini tooling around in the middle of Arkansas or Mississippi.

This was a solid effort by a solid voice in the hard-boiled mystery genre, but I’d set my expectations a bit higher.

Man’s Best Friend

7171908 by
My Rating: 4/5 Stars

Me and Bernie working a case. There’s nothing better. The wind whipping my fur, the barking—I was barking?—my head out the window taking in the breeze and the smells—don’t even get me started on the desert smells after a hard rain. The squirrels and the choke—squirrel—collar and the tumbleweeds and steak (juicy deliciousness) and bacon (definitely not the crisp kind) and little rats and weasels and biting pant legs and opening doors and hamburger and chew strips and an entire family pack of bacon—don’t even get me started.

And I bark and Iggy barks and I bark and Iggy barks, and then Iggy disappears—no, he’s back again—and I slurp fresh water (the smell) and of course I like Slim Jims—what kind of a silly question is that?—and silly stoners and Bernie needs a loaner and we’re off and running on the case, or maybe that’s just me. But then I see a squirrel and a Frisbee and of course I like fetch—what kind of a question is that?—and the Porsche with its clickety-clack-clack sound before it all breaks down. Bernie boxing for show and nearly losing all his dough and fast food—where? did I miss it?—and ice cubes (like a cold biscuit before it dissolves in my mouth) and special treats and sitting in the backseat—let me tell you, it’s not as fun as shotgun.

Holy hell, Chet and I could be best friends, but he’s man’s best friend, so it’s all good. But good doesn’t even begin to describe this massive amount of fun. Chet may have the attention span of a fruit fly, but he’s got the voice of an experienced gumshoe digging through the entrails of his next case, and he’ll see it through all the way to the end, even if he manages to get sidetracked every three-and-a-half minutes.

The sidetracks, though, are where things tend to get interesting. Sure, there’s a mystery—albeit a slightly simple one, but this is a dog we’re talking about after all—and sure, it’s solved by the end but the real excitement lies in the and back roads and dog shows—perfect for a world-class gumshoe of the canine variety.

I’ll need to hold my fedora in my hand the next time I see Spencer Quinn—there was a brief encounter at the Albany Bouchercon—because he really nailed Chet’s voice. Nailed it so well that I thought I was a dog for a few hours, and I really, really want to be a dog all over again sometime soon. It’s a good thing I have TO FETCH A THIEF in the reading queue. Because if I didn’t, I’d certainly need to put it there…like right now.

Mystery From A Dog’s Perspective

6282379Dog On It by
My Rating: 4/5 Stars

If you ever wanted to stick your head inside a dog’s brain, wiggle it around a little, and see what decides to pop out, then DOG ON IT is the book for you. If you’re a mystery lover with a heightened sense of curiosity about said dog, then that’s even better. If you don’t love dogs on some sort of basic level, then you might find yourself in a state of uncertainty. Or maybe you like unique voices in detective fiction. But the bottom line is it’s all about the dog, and Chet fills every page with his unique perspective.

This book was an easy read, but it was a darn fine enjoyable one, too. Chet was lovable, affectionate, filled with happiness and joy, and just so darn cute. He changed direction about as often as Britney Spears changes her underwear, but I got caught up in whatever scent, or thread, or squirrel happened to pop into view.

As for unique voices, though, I’m drawn to those like cars are to potholes. Chet made me feel like I was driving down I-25 with my head stuck out the window and the wind assaulting me, as my nostrils filled with the fresh air after a brief desert rain. The rhythm of the sentences, the quick turn of direction, and the bubbles that seemed to pop with the utmost ease allowed me to believe I was inside Chet’s head every step of the way.

Sure, Chet had his faults, but he was as lovable on the first page as he was on the last. And sure the mystery could have been more complicated, but this is a dog’s perspective after all. It helps to look at it from a slightly tinted glass. Just smile and wave boys, smile and wave, because Chet is here to stay.

Took Me For A Ride

15702848The Taken by
My Rating: 4/5 Stars

It wasn’t love at first sight. No, it was more like casual curiosity in a sea of strangers where one stood out a little more than all the rest, wearing a tailored suit and an upturned do whereas the other women wore red dresses and spiked heels. But I was intrigued enough to continue the flirtatious glances, and she was inviting enough to offer up those baby blues and batted eyelashes and slight smiles when I least expected them, and before either of us realized it, the glances led to a conversation and the conversation led to dancing, and ultimately to a night neither of us would ever forget.

And it would be easy to classify Grif and Kit in a similar fashion, as their relationship started off rockier than a wooden rollercoaster in the middle of a windstorm. But there was a spark, a flare, and a need inside of them that had more pull than an undertow. Grif’s hard-boiled voice carried this story to new heights, while Kit proved every bit as tough as her pencil skirts and sharp tongue, and her milky skin was as pure as a fresh snowfall.

THE TAKEN took me for a ride I won’t soon forget, and I’m more than a little intrigued to discover what happens next for Grif and Kit. In a sea of books that sometimes strive to be more alike than they are different, I’m always delighted when I find a fresh voice, a fresh twist, or a combination of factors that individually aren’t any different than what I’ve already discovered so far, but when combined create a brand new element.

This novel offered me a glimpse behind a curtain, and I want to peel back the rest of the red velvet and discover what other joys wait for me on the other side.

A Beautiful First Date

Having an editor turn to you in a crowded room and start up a conversation through no provocation on your part equates to seeing a beautiful woman across the bar and having her wink at you, or giving you a look that opens the door to further dialogue. Had I been struck by lightning at the time, it wouldn’t have surprised me, even though I was indoors. And having a manuscript that said publisher might be interested in proved to be a bit fortuitous on my part. With renewed purpose, I attacked my female amateur sleuth vigorously and passionately, the muse appeared, life had meaning, the stars aligned, and the odds appeared to have turned in my favor.

Now we have the happy ending and cue the closing credits, right? Well, not exactly. Despite 13 or so years of writing, my life has never worked out that perfectly. But PageSpring Publishing did read my manuscript, at least the first 30 pages, and I received a rather large earful of feedback, the best part of which was that Ms. Seum believed my writing had merit. And I discovered firsthand through someone in the know that I hadn’t written what I thought I had. You see, I thought a cozy murder mystery was within my grasp and danced across the printed page, but instead, the voice was more hard-boiled than light and airy and breezy.

But had I failed? I don’t believe I had. That voice was as much a part of me as my hands and toes, and I breathed life into this rather quirky individual who had a rather complicated and unique outlook on life. Yeah, it meant I had plenty of road ahead of me, and that it might be filled with orange cones and detours, but that conversation was still the best thing that could have happened to me at that particular point in my life.

In the end, it was only a beautiful first date, but that date injected meaning and purpose into my writing life. So now I have a new plan, and new opportunities ahead of me. I further realized my hard-boiled roots are deeper than the ocean. And that’s perfectly okay with me.

Screwed Up Universe

16130228Light Of The World by James Lee Burke
My Rating: 4/5 Stars

Sometimes it’s hard to tell the good guys from the bad guys. As far as I know, no one does this better than James Lee Burke. The good guys are bad, and the bad guys are really bad. It’s like reading about pure unadulterated evil crafted around poetic prose, and it’s pretty wonderful, even if he does create one fucked up universe.

LIGHT OF THE WORLD feels like it’s covered in pure darkness. It’s filled with sexual assault and rape and Russian roulette and dead bodies and exploding planes and serial killers resurrected from the dead and a rodeo cowboy with a dark, checkered past. It felt as gruesome as any Stephen King novel, only my first thought was this could really happen, and then my second thought was I don’t ever want to go to Montana. In fact, maybe we should remove the state from future maps of the US. And as far as actual vacations go, I wouldn’t wish this vacation on my worst enemy.

And you want to hear something even more screwed up than all of that? This novel was therapeutic, almost cathartic even, and it was exactly the right story for me to read at this particular juncture, after coming off an unhealthy stream of mediocre affairs. I had my love of reading jarred back into me like a masked man with a blackjack, brass knuckles, nunchaku, and a nine millimeter strapped to his waist. And I surrendered with a smile on my face.

Gretchen Horowitz sounds like the ideal male fantasy, all chestnut hair and tits and legs, until it was revealed that she could pull the ass out of a rhinoceros and she’d killed men without blinking an eyelash. Taking two in the face and one in the jugular while I slept suddenly sounded a whole lot less appealing.

Dave Robicheaux, though, makes these stories sing baritone from the first row of the choir. He has as many demons as he has friends, but that makes him all the more appealing. As for Clete Purcel, he likes to drink and he likes his women and he has no problem mixing the two, and married women aren’t any less appealing than the ones that aren’t. But that doesn’t make him a bad man, just a highly tormented one, in a novel chock full of demented individuals, many of which, sheriffs and detectives included, ought to be locked in the slammer with the guard swallowing the key like he was a street performer in the middle of Las Vegas.

The plot proved more challenging than a Montana mountain range. With twists and turns and double backs and winding roads and steep cliffs with jagged edges and serpentine monsters waiting at the top of the next pass. In other words, it was a beautiful, complicated monstrosity filled with piss and spit and spite and it roared with its jaws open wide and it slashed its claws six inches in front of my face.

I received this book for free through NetGalley.

Stage Five Clinger

8942185The Vengeful Virgin by Gil Brewer
My Rating: 3/5 Stars

If this novel teaches us anything, it’s this: Virgins are Dangerous. Very Dangerous. Sure, the prospect of bedding a virgin sounds glamorous, but let’s face it: It’s not really the stupendously fantastic experience that it might appear to be on first glance. Unless you’re a suicide bomber with a severe mental illness and the prospect of a twenty year lifespan to be followed by a severe and violent death appeals to you and you’re under the rather misguided notion that the pearly white gates hold forty virgins in white wedding dresses waiting to fulfill every one of your wildest fantasies, the thought quickly loses luster.

And as THE VENGEFUL VIRGIN aptly proves, these beautiful rosebuds can turn into what we in the medical community like to refer to as a “Stage Five Clinger.” When that happens, run, do not walk to the nearest exit, even if you’re missing a few clothes and possibly even your car keys. You can send the police back for the rest of your stash later, after the threat of imminent demise has worn off. If you’re lucky enough to have your car keys handy, and even luckier to have a buddy present, have him discreetly move toward the nearest exit right before you both run like hell.

The pages and my Kindle burst with dames and broads and TVs rammed into the ceiling and dialogue punctuated with colorful language. The pages overflowed with poignant prose and distressed damsels. But I like my hard-boiled novels filled with PIs and detectives, and these folks were relegated to secondary status. While I continuously flipped the pages and devoured this little gem rather quickly, I did feel a bit unfulfilled in the end, even with more than one dead body gracing the pages.

Shirley Angela and Grace (no last name) proved as intriguing as Jack Ruxton, and filled with more curves than a string of back country roads. The detours proved small and short lived with the story reaching its dramatic conclusion in rather explosive fashion. And while liking this story was rather easy, really liking this story might prove to be dangerous. So, in the end, I was rather glad I found this story, and also happy that I reached the end in just a few sittings.