Quick Review: YOUR HOUSE WILL PAY by Steph Cha (Ecco/Faber)

ChaS-YouHouseWillPayUSTwo families, connected by a decades-old tragedy

A powerful and taut novel about racial tensions in Los Angeles, following two families — one Korean-American, one African-American — grappling with the effects of a decades-old crime

In the wake of the police shooting of a black teenager, Los Angeles is as tense as it’s been since the unrest of the early 1990s. But Grace Park and Shawn Matthews have their own problems. Grace is sheltered and largely oblivious, living in the Valley with her Korean-immigrant parents, working long hours at the family pharmacy. She’s distraught that her sister hasn’t spoken to their mother in two years, for reasons beyond Grace’s understanding. Shawn has already had enough of politics and protest after an act of violence shattered his family years ago. He just wants to be left alone to enjoy his quiet life in Palmdale.

But when another shocking crime hits LA, both the Park and Matthews families are forced to face down their history while navigating the tumult of a city on the brink of more violence.

This is the second of Steph Cha’s novels that I’ve read — the first being the author’s debut, Follow Her Home (which is also rather good). Your House Will Pay takes a look at race relations from the perspective of members from two minorities — Korean- and African-Americans. It’s sharp, often emotionally wrenching and thought-provoking. It’s also difficult to review without spoilers, but I will do my best. In short, though: I really enjoyed this novel. Continue reading

Quick Review: OPPO by Tom Rosenstiel (Ecco)

RosenstielT-3-OppoUSThe third Rena & Brooks Washington, D.C., thriller

The story of a senator who is offered the vice presidential slot by both parties’ presidential nominees and then gets ominous threats

It’s presidential primary season in Washington, DC, and both parties are on edge. At campaign rallies for all the candidates around the country, there are disturbing incidents of violence and protest and shocking acts of civil disobedience. Rena and Brooks are happy to sit it out.

Against this backdrop, Wendy Upton, the highly respected centrist senator, must make a choice: she’s been offered the VP slot by both parties’ leading candidates. When she receives an anonymous, unnerving threat that could destroy her promising career, she hires Peter Rena to investigate her past and figure out which side is threatening her and what they are threatening her with.

As Rena digs through the senator’s seemingly squeaky-clean past, he must walk the tightrope between two parties at war with each other and with themselves, an electorate that is as restive as it has ever been, and a political culture that is as much driven by money as it is by ideology.

In this third outing for Rosenstiel’s political fixers Peter Rena and Brooks, the fixers are hired to investigate a threat made against a centrist Republican senator who has been approached by frontrunners in both parties offering her the VP slot on their respective tickets. An examination of the devolution of American (presidential) politics, and the dark forces that manipulate the electorate and process, I enjoyed this novel. Continue reading

Upcoming: THESE WOMEN by Ivy Pochoda (Ecco)

PochodaI-TheseWomenUSThe next novel by Ivy Pochoda, the author of the acclaimed Wonder Valley (which I still have to read), has been unveiled: These Women, a new crime novel that is described as “a serial killer story like you’ve never seen before — a literary thriller of female empowerment and social change”. Due to be published by Ecco in April 2020, I’m really looking forward to this one. Here’s the synopsis:

In West Adams, a rapidly changing part of South Los Angeles, they’re referred to as “these women.” These women on the corner… These women in the club… These women who won’t stop asking questions… These women who got what they deserved…

In her masterful new novel, Ivy Pochoda creates a kaleidoscope of loss, power, and hope featuring five very different women whose lives are steeped in danger and anguish. They’re connected by one man and his deadly obsession, though not all of them know that yet. There’s Dorian, still adrift after her daughter’s murder remains unsolved; Julianna, a young dancer nicknamed Jujubee, who lives hard and fast, resisting anyone trying to slow her down; Essie, a brilliant vice cop who sees a crime pattern emerging where no one else does; Marella, a daring performance artist whose work has long pushed boundaries but now puts her in peril; and Anneke, a quiet woman who has turned a willfully blind eye to those around her for far too long. The careful existence they have built for themselves starts to crumble when two murders rock their neighborhood.

Pochoda’s Wonder Valley, also published in North America by Ecco, is available in the UK published by The Indigo Press. I couldn’t find anything about a UK release for These Women, at the time of writing.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

 

Quick Review: THE GOOD LIE by Tom Rosenstiel (Ecco)

RosenstielT-PR2-GoodLieUSA tragedy abroad causes a domestic political scandal: but what really happened?

When a shadowy American diplomatic complex is attacked in North Africa, the White House is besieged by accusations of incompetence and wild conspiracy theories. Eager to learn the truth, the president and his staff turn to Peter Rena and his partner, Randi Brooks. The investigators dive headfirst into the furtive world of foreign intelligence and national security, hoping to do it quietly. That becomes impossible, though, when it blows up into an all-out public scandal: Congress opens hearings and a tireless national security reporter publishes a bombshell exposé.

Now, Rena and Brooks are caught in the middle. The White House wants to prevent debilitating fallout for the president, the military appears to be in shutdown mode, the press is hungry for another big story, and rival politicians are plotting their next move. Rena learns the hard way that secrets in Washington come with a very high price. 

In this second novel featuring political fixer Peter Rena, he and his consulting firm are hired by the president to investigate the bombing of an overseas American military base. An interesting and intelligent investigative story, I enjoyed this.  Continue reading

Upcoming: THE GOOD LIE by Tom Rosenstiel (Ecco)

RosenstielT-PR2-GoodLieUSTom Rosenstiel‘s debut novel, The Shining City, is an excellent political thriller that introduced readers to political fixer Peter Rena. The novel presented a rather clear-eyed view of Washington, D.C., which was rather refreshing: lots of cynicism, frustration with the ever-growing divide between parties, etc.

I read it some time ago, and have been eagerly awaiting the follow-up ever since, and my anticipation was only boosted after the author confirmed via Twitter that a sequel was on the way. The Good Lie, which will again feature Peter Rena, is due to be published early next year by Ecco. Because we now have a cover and synopsis, I thought I’d share them on CR. Here’s the synopsis:

An intelligent and propulsive international political thriller in which political fixer Peter Rena is hired by the president to investigate the bombing of an American military base overseas

When a shadowy American diplomatic complex is attacked in North Africa, the White House is besieged by accusations of incompetence and wild conspiracy theories. Eager to learn the truth, the president and his staff turn to Peter Rena and his partner, Randi Brooks. The investigators dive headfirst into the furtive world of foreign intelligence and national security, hoping to do it quietly. That becomes impossible, though, when it blows up into an all-out public scandal: Congress opens hearings and a tireless national security reporter publishes a bombshell exposé.

Now, Rena and Brooks are caught in the middle. The White House wants to prevent debilitating fallout for the president, the military appears to be in shutdown mode, the press is hungry for another big story, and rival politicians are plotting their next move. Rena learns the hard way that secrets in Washington come with a very high price.

With intelligence, style, and a breakneck pace, The Good Lie explores the contours of secrets, lies, and the dangers of a never-ending war.

The Good Lie is due to be published in North America by Ecco, on February 12th, 2019.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

Books on Film: THE SISTERS BROTHERS by Patrick deWitt

One of those novels I’ve had for ages, and yet not managed to read yet… I know many people who loved Patrick deWitt‘s multi-award-winning The Sisters Brothers (especially friends in Canada), so I hope to get to it very soon — ideally, before the movie adaptation comes out.

deWittP-SistersBrothersCAThe Sisters Brothers was directed by Jacques Audiard, who also wrote the screenplay with Thomas Bidegain. The film stars Joaquin Phoenix, John C. Reilly, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Riz Ahmed. It was produced by Annapurna Pictures.

Here’s the novel’s synopsis:

Hermann Kermit Warm is going to die. Across 1000 miles of Oregon desert his assassins, the notorious Eli and Charlies Sisters, ride — fighting, shooting, and drinking their way to Sacramento. But their prey isn’t an easy mark, the road is long and bloody, and somewhere along the path Eli begins to question what he does for a living — and whom he does it for.

The Sisters Brothers pays homage to the classic Western, transforming it into an unforgettable ribald tour de force. Filled with a remarkable cast of losers, cheaters, and ne’er-do-wells from all stripes of life-and told by a complex and compelling narrator, it is a violent, lustful odyssey through the underworld of the 1850s frontier that beautifully captures the humor, melancholy, and grit of the Old West and two brothers bound by blood, violence, and love.

The Sisters Brothers is published by House of Anansi Press in Canada, Ecco in the US and Granta Books in the UK.

Follow the Author: Goodreads

Quick Review: SHINING CITY by Tom Rosenstiel (Ecco)

RosenstielT-1-ShiningCityUSPolitical intrigue and machinations surrounding a SCOTUS nomination. And a killer looking for revenge…

Peter Rena is a “fixer.” He and his partner, Randi Brooks, earn their living making the problems of the powerful disappear. They get their biggest job yet when the White House hires them to vet the president’s nominee for the Supreme Court. Judge Roland Madison is a legal giant, but he’s a political maverick, with views that might make the already tricky confirmation process even more difficult. Rena and his team go full-bore to cover every inch of the judge’s past, while the competing factions of Washington D.C. mobilize with frightening intensity: ambitious senators, garrulous journalists, and wily power players on both sides of the aisle.

All of that becomes background when a string of seemingly random killings overlaps with Rena’s investigation, with Judge Madison a possible target. Racing against the clock to keep his nominee safe, the President satisfied, and the political wolves at bay, Rena learns just how dangerous Washington’s obsession with power — how to get it and how to keep it — can be.

This is a very fine debut novel. It is the story of a judicial confirmation, the personal and political aspects of such a fight, colliding with a quest for vengeance. If you’re looking for an intelligent political drama, then Shining City is for you. One of my favourite reads of the year so far. Continue reading