Quick Review: A MAN NAMED DOLL by Jonathan Ames (Mulholland/Pushkin Vertigo)

AmesJ-AManNamedDollUSIntroducing Happy “Hank” Doll, P.I.

Happy Doll is a charming, if occasionally inexpert, private detective living just one sheer cliff drop beneath the Hollywood sign with his beloved half-Chihuahua half-Terrier, George. A veteran of both the Navy and LAPD, Doll supplements his meager income as a P.I. by working through the night at a local Thai spa that offers its clients a number of special services. Armed with his sixteen-inch steel telescopic baton, biting dry humor, and just a bit of a hero complex, the ex-cop sets out to protect the women who work there from clients who have trouble understanding the word “no.”

Doll gets by just fine following his two basic rules: bark loudly and act first. But when things get out-of-hand with one particularly violent patron, even he finds himself wildly out of his depth, and then things take an even more dangerous twist when an old friend from his days as a cop shows up at his door with a bullet in his gut.

A Man Named Doll is more than just a fascinating introduction to one truly singular character, it is a highly addictive and completely unpredictable joyride through the sensuous and violent streets of LA.

This is the first novel by Jonathan Ames that I’ve read. It will not be the last. A noir-esque crime novel set in Los Angeles, it introduces readers to Happy “Hank” Doll: former veteran and LAPD officer, now a struggling private investigator. Over the course of a few days, Happy’s life is upended by a series of escalating, deadly encounters that threaten not only his own life, but those closest to him. A quickly-paced, enjoyable read. Continue reading

Upcoming: A MAN NAMED DOLL by Jonathan Ames (Mulholland/Pushkin)

AmesJ-AManNamedDollUSJonathan Ames seems to have quite a varied publishing history: he’s published two humorous novels, somewhat akin to Jeeves & Wooster or Withnail & I — Wake Up, Sir! and The Extra Man — and also the brutal noir You Were Never Really Here (which was adapted into the Joaquin Phoenix-starring movie of the same name). This year, he returns with A Man Named Doll, the first in a new LA-based noir series:

An idiosyncratic private detective Happy Doll and his quest to help a dying friend who is running out of time in sun-blinded Los Angeles

Happy Doll is a charming, if occasionally inexpert, private detective living just one sheer cliff drop beneath the Hollywood sign with his beloved half-Chihuahua half-Terrier, George. A veteran of both the Navy and LAPD, Doll supplements his meager income as a P.I. by working through the night at a local Thai spa that offers its clients a number of special services. Armed with his sixteen-inch steel telescopic baton, biting dry humor, and just a bit of a hero complex, the ex-cop sets out to protect the women who work there from clients who have trouble understanding the word “no.”

AmesJ-AManNamedDollUKDoll gets by just fine following his two basic rules: bark loudly and act first. But when things get out-of-hand with one particularly violent patron, even he finds himself wildly out of his depth, and then things take an even more dangerous twist when an old friend from his days as a cop shows up at his door with a bullet in his gut.

A MAN NAMED DOLL is more than just a fascinating introduction to one truly singular character, it is a highly addictive and completely unpredictable joyride through the sensuous and violent streets of LA.

Jonathan Ames’s A Man Named Doll is due to be published by Mulholland Books in North America (April 20th) and Pushkin Vertigo in the UK (April 29th).

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads

Upcoming: ROVERS by Richard Lange (Mulholland Books)

LangeR-RoversUSA few years back, I stumbled across Dead Boys, a short story collection by Richard Lange. I loved the way he wrote, and how he created and constructed characters, and he became an author I always kept an eye open for. Since then, he’s published a handful of interesting, gripping novels of crime fiction, including the LA noir The Smack. In 2021, he’s taking a swerve into horror/fantasy territory with Rovers, which I’m really looking forward to reading:

Two immortal brothers crisscross the American Southwest to elude a murderous biker gang and protect a young woman in this tautly paced thriller…

Summer, 1976. Jesse and his brother, Edgar, are on the road in search of victims. They’re rovers, nearly indestructible nocturnal beings who must consume human blood in order to survive. For seventy years they’ve lurked on the fringes of society, roaming from town to town, dingy motel to dingy motel, stalking the transients, addicts, and prostitutes they feed on.

This hard-boiled supernatural hell-ride kicks off when the brothers encounter a young woman who disrupts their grim routine, forcing Jesse to confront his past and plunging his present into deadly chaos as he finds himself scrambling to save her life. The story plays out through the eyes of the brothers, a grieving father searching for his son’s murderer, and a violent gang of rover bikers, coming to a shattering conclusion in Las Vegas on the eve of America’s bicentennial.

Richard Lange’s Rovers is due to be published by Mulholland Books in North America and in the UK, on July 27th, 2021.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

Upcoming: CITY ON THE EDGE by David Swinson (Mulholland)

SwinsonD-CityOnTheEdgeUSDavid Swinson is at the author of the superb Frank Marr trilogy, set in Washington, DC — if you’re looking for a great crime story, starring a complicated cop protagonist, then I highly recommend you pick up The Second Girl.

For his highly-anticipated next novel, City on the Edge, he takes readers to Beirut, and introduces us to a new protagonist. Here’s the synopsis:

In the wake of a baffling tragedy, 13-year-old Graham moves with his family to Beirut, Lebanon, a city on the edge of the sea and cataclysmic violence. Inquisitive and restless by nature, Graham suspects his State Department father is a CIA operative, and that their family’s fragile domesticity is merely a front for American efforts along the nearby Israeli border. Over the course of one year, 1974, Graham’s life will utterly change. Two men are murdered, his parent’s marriage disintegrates, and Graham, along with his two ex-pat friends, run afoul of forces they cannot understand.

THE CITY ON THE EDGE is elegiac, atmospheric, and utterly authentic. It’s the story of innocents caught within the American net of espionage, of the Lebanese transformed by such interference, of the children who ran dangerously beside the churning wheel of history. One part Stephen King’s “The Body” and another John le Carre’s A Perfect Spy, it’s a transformative crime story told with heart and genuine experience.

David Swinson’s City on the Edge is due to be published by Mulholland Books in North America and in the UK, on May 25th, 2021.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

Quick Review: SMOKE by Joe Ide (Mulholland/W&N)

IdeJ-IQ5-SmokeUSIsaiah Quintabe & Co. return, with more personal challenges and some sinister characters circling their lives…

Both Isaiah Quintabe – an unlicensed detective for all seasons – and his best friend and masterful sidekick, Juanell Dodson, are at a crossroads. This time, their lives may never be the same.

Isaiah is no longer IQ, the genius of East Long Beach; instead he’s a man on the road and on the run, hiding in a small Northern California town when his room is broken into by a desperate young man on the trail of the state’s most prolific serial killer.

Dodson must go straight or lose his wife and child. His devil’s bargain is an internship at an LA advertising agency, where it turns out the rules of the street have simply been dressed in business casual, but where the aging company’s fortunes may well rest on their ability to attract a younger demographic. Dodson – “the hustler’s hustler” – just may be the right man for the job.

Isaiah Quintabe returns! Smoke is the fifth novel in the series, and sees our protagonist and his growing supporting cast going through a number of changes and overcoming a series of challenges. A slightly different novel to the previous books in the series, I enjoyed it. Continue reading

Quick Review: HI FIVE by Joe Ide (Mulholland/W&N)

IdeJ-IQ4-HiFiveUSIsaiah Quintabe’s latest case is a matter of perspectives…

One woman. Five personalities. Private investigator IQ is back to piece together a Newport Beach murder with an eyewitness who gives “people person” a whole new meaning.

Christiana is the daughter of the biggest arms dealer on the West Coast, Angus Byrne. She’s also the sole witness and number one suspect in the murder of her boyfriend, found dead in her Newport Beach boutique. Isaiah Quintabe is coerced into taking the case to prove her innocence. If he can’t, Angus will harm the brilliant PI’s new girlfriend, ending her career.

The catch: Christiana has multiple personalities. Among them, a naïve, beautiful shopkeeper, an obnoxious drummer in a rock band, and a wanton seductress.

Isaiah’s dilemma: no one personality saw the entire incident. To find out what really happened the night of the murder, Isaiah must piece together clues from each of the personalities… before the cops close in on him.

In IQ’s latest outing, Long Beach’s favourite private detective finds himself wandering into the world of gun running, murder, and a rather unique suspect. Another good book in the series. Continue reading

Quick Review: WRECKED by Joe Ide (Mulholland/W&N)

IdeJ-IQ3-WreckedUSThe case of a young artist’s missing mother sets IQ on a collision course with his own Moriarty.

Isaiah Quintabe — IQ for short — has never been more successful, or felt more alone. A series of high-profile wins in his hometown of East Long Beach have made him so notorious that he can hardly go to the corner store without being recognized. Dodson, once his sidekick, is now his full-fledged partner, hell-bent on giving IQ’s PI business some real legitimacy: a Facebook page, and IQ’s promise to stop accepting Christmas sweaters and carpet cleanings in exchange for PI services.

So when a young painter approaches IQ for help tracking down her missing mother, it’s not just the case Isaiah’s looking for, but the human connection. And when his new confidant turns out to be connected to a dangerous paramilitary operation, IQ falls victim to a threat even a genius can’t see coming.

Waiting for Isaiah around every corner is Seb, the Oxford-educated African gangster who was responsible for the death of his brother, Marcus. Only, this time, Isaiah’s not alone. Joined by a new love interest and his familiar band of accomplices, IQ is back — and the adventures are better than ever.

The third novel in Joe Ide’s acclaimed Isaiah Quintabe series. Another well-paced and engaging mystery, as IQ is hired to find an artist’s mother. Unbeknownst to him, however, some very shady, well-funded mercs are also after the mother. IQ is in for a very tough investigation… Continue reading

Quick Review: RIGHTEOUS by Joe Ide (Mulholland)

IdeJ-IQ2-RighteousUSIsaiah Quintabe returns, investigating the death of his brother and getting mixed up in Las Vegas organized crime

For ten years, something has gnawed at Isaiah Quintabe’s gut and kept him up nights, boiling with anger and thoughts of revenge. Ten years ago, when Isaiah was just a boy, his brother was killed by an unknown assailant. The search for the killer sent Isaiah plunging into despair and nearly destroyed his life. Even with a flourishing career, a new dog, and near-iconic status as a PI in his hometown, East Long Beach, he has to begin the hunt again-or lose his mind.

A case takes him and his volatile, dubious sidekick, Dodson, to Vegas, where Chinese gangsters and a terrifying seven-foot loan shark are stalking a DJ and her screwball boyfriend. If Isaiah doesn’t find the two first, they’ll be murdered. Awaiting the outcome is the love of IQ’s life: fail, and he’ll lose her. Isaiah’s quest is fraught with treachery, menace, and startling twists, and it will lead him to the mastermind behind his brother’s death, Isaiah’s own sinister Moriarty.

I very much enjoyed Joe Ide’s debut, IQ, and decided that it was high time that I got caught up on the series. So, in a moment of choice paralysis, I just picked up Righteous and dove right in. I’m glad I did — as with the first novel, this is a fast-paced, entertaining mystery/crime novel. I enjoyed this. Continue reading

Quick Review: AFTERLAND by Lauren Beukes (Mulholland)

BeukesL-AfterlandUSA mother and son traverse America, on the run and trying to get home

Most of the men are dead. Three years after the pandemic known as The Manfall, governments still hold and life continues — but a world run by women isn’t always a better place.

Twelve-year-old Miles is one of the last boys alive, and his mother, Cole, will protect him at all costs. On the run after a horrific act of violence-and pursued by Cole’s own ruthless sister, Billie — all Cole wants is to raise her kid somewhere he won’t be preyed on as a reproductive resource or a sex object or a stand-in son. Someplace like home.

To get there, Cole and Miles must journey across a changed America in disguise as mother and daughter. From a military base in Seattle to a luxury bunker, from an anarchist commune in Salt Lake City to a roaming cult that’s all too ready to see Miles as the answer to their prayers, the two race to stay ahead at every step… even as Billie and her sinister crew draw closer.

I’ve been looking forward to Lauren Beukes’s Afterland since it was first announced a couple of years ago. A long-time fan of the author’s work, I had pretty high expectations for the novel. I’m glad to report that I was not disappointed. An interesting novel, with protagonists you’ll root for and plenty of interesting social and cultural observations. Continue reading

Review: CITY OF WINDOWS by Robert Pobi (Minotaur Books)

PobiR-LP1-CityOfWindowsUSA fantastic new thriller, and hopefully the start of a long series

During the worst blizzard in memory, an FBI agent in a moving SUV in New York City is killed by a nearly impossible sniper shot. Unable to pinpoint where the shot came from, as the storm rapidly wipes out evidence, the agent-in-charge Brett Kehoe turns to the one man who might be able to help them — former FBI agent Lucas Page.

Page, a university professor and bestselling author, left the FBI years ago after a tragic event robbed him of a leg, an arm, an eye, and the willingness to continue. But he has an amazing ability to read a crime scene, figure out angles and trajectories in his head, and he might be the only one to be able to find the sniper’s nest. With a new wife and family, Lucas Page has no interest in helping the FBI — except for the fact that the victim was his former partner.

Agreeing to help for his partner’s sake, Page finds himself hunting a killer with an unknown agenda and amazing sniper skills in the worst of conditions. And his partner’s murder is only the first in a series of meticulously planned murders carried out with all-but-impossible sniper shots. The only thing connecting the deaths is that the victims are all with law enforcement — that is until Page’s own family becomes a target.

To identify and hunt down this ruthless, seemingly unstoppable killer, Page must discover what hidden past connects the victims before he himself loses all that is dear to him.

This is the first of Pobi’s novels that I’ve read, and I was intrigued by the premise. Very quickly, it became clear that this is a very good novel by an excellent writer. I really enjoyed this, and I’ll definitely be reading more of Pobi’s work in the future. Continue reading