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: THE MAIDENS by Alex Michaelides (Celadon/W&N)

MichaelidesA-MaidensUSThe Maidens by Alex Michaelides has been getting a fair amount of pre-publication buzz. It’s the author’s second novel (his debut was The Silent Patient). The synopsis suggests an intriguing campus thriller, and certainly piqued my interest:

Edward Fosca is a murderer. Of this Mariana is certain. But Fosca is untouchable. A handsome and charismatic Greek tragedy professor at Cambridge University, Fosca is adored by staff and students alike-particularly by the members of a secret society of female students known as The Maidens.

Mariana Andros is a brilliant but troubled group therapist who becomes fixated on The Maidens when one member, a friend of Mariana’s niece Zoe, is found murdered in Cambridge.

MichaelidesA-MaidensUKMariana, who was once herself a student at the university, quickly suspects that behind the idyllic beauty of the spires and turrets, and beneath the ancient traditions, lies something sinister. And she becomes convinced that, despite his alibi, Edward Fosca is guilty of the murder. But why would the professor target one of his students? And why does he keep returning to the rites of Persephone, the maiden, and her journey to the underworld?

When another body is found, Mariana’s obsession with proving Fosca’s guilt spirals out of control, threatening to destroy her credibility as well as her closest relationships. But Mariana is determined to stop this killer, even if it costs her everything-including her own life.

Alex Michaelides’s The Maidens is due to be published by Celadon Books in North America (June 15th) and W&N in the UK (June 10th). Looking forward to reading this.

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Upcoming: HELL OF A BOOK by Jason Mott (Dutton/Trapeze)

MottJ-HellOfABookUSHell of a Book, the upcoming novel by Jason Mott, has been getting some pretty good pre-publication buzz online recently (UK review copies must have just gone out). I haven’t read anything else by Mott, but this sounds really interesting. Pitched as “both incredibly funny and heartfelt”, it’s a novel that “goes to the heart of racism, police violence, and the hidden costs exacted upon Black Americans, and America as a whole.” Really looking forward to reading this. Here’s the synopsis:

In Hell of a Book, an African-American author sets out on a cross-country book tour to promote his bestselling novel. That storyline drives the novel and is the scaffolding of something much larger and urgent: since the novel also tells the story of Soot, a young Black boy living in a rural town in the recent past, and The Kid, a possibly imaginary child who appears to the author on his tour.

MottJ-HellOfABookUKThroughout, these characters’ stories build and build and as they converge, they astonish. For while this heartbreaking and magical book entertains and is at once about family, love of parents and children, art, and money, there always is the tragic story of a police shooting playing over and over on the news.

Who has been killed? Who is The Kid? Will the author finish his book tour, and what kind of world will he leave behind? Unforgettably powerful, an electrifying high-wire act, ideal for book clubs and the book Mott says he has been writing in his head for ten years, Hell of a Book in its final twists truly becomes its title.

Jason Mott’s Hell of a Book is due to be published by Dutton in North America and Trapeze in the UK, on August 10th, 2021.

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Upcoming: VELVET WAS THE NIGHT by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (Del Rey)

MorenoGarciaS-VelvetWasTheNightUSLast year, Silvia Moreno-Garcia‘s Mexican Gothic (justifiably) stormed all over the book charts. This year, the author returns with Velvet Was the Night, a mystery/noir/thriller novel set in 1970s Mexico. In addition to that great, eye-catching cover, the synopsis sounds suitably intriguing as well:

A riveting noir about a daydreaming secretary, a lonesome enforcer, and the mystery of a missing woman that brings them together.

1970s, Mexico City. Maite is a secretary who lives for one thing: the latest issue of Secret Romance. While student protests and political unrest consume the city, Maite escapes into stories of passion and danger.

Her next-door neighbor, Leonora, a beautiful art student, seems to live a life of intrigue and romance that Maite envies. When Leonora disappears under suspicious circumstances, Maite finds herself searching for the missing woman—and journeying deeper into Leonora’s secret life of student radicals and dissidents.

Meanwhile, someone else is also looking for Leonora at the behest of his boss, a shadowy figure who commands goon squads dedicated to squashing political activists. Elvis is an eccentric criminal who longs to escape his own life: He loathes violence and loves old movies and rock ’n’ roll. But as Elvis searches for the missing woman, he comes to observe Maite from a distance—and grows more and more obsessed with this woman who shares his love of music and the unspoken loneliness of his heart.

Now as Maite and Elvis come closer to discovering the truth behind Leonora’s disappearance, they can no longer escape the danger that threatens to consume their lives, with hitmen, government agents, and Russian spies all aiming to protect Leonora’s secrets—at gunpoint.

Really looking forward to reading this one. Velvet Was the Night is due to be published by Del Rey in North America and in the UK, on August 17th, 2021. New editions of the author’s The Beautiful Ones (April 27th) and Certain Dark Things (September 7th) are also due out this year, published by Tor Books.

Also on CR: Excerpt from Signal to Noise

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Quick Review: VAMPIRE: THE MASQUERADE WINTER’S TEETH (Vault)

Vampire-Masquerade-WintersTeethTPBAn excellent new comic series, set in the World of Darkness

When Cecily Bain, an enforcer for the Twin Cities’ vampiric elite, takes a mysterious new vampire under her wing, she’s dragged into an insidious conspiracy. Meanwhile, on the outskirts of the cities, a rebellious found-family of vampire cast-outs investigates a vicious killing.

As the unlives of the Kindred twine together and betrayals are unearthed, will Cecily be able to escape and save what’s left of her family, or will she be yet another pawn sacrificed to maintain the age-old secret: that vampires exist among the living?

Born from the world of the internationally best-selling role playing game, Vampire: The Masquerade’s critically acclaimed comics debut spins a gripping and tragic tale about the Beast within us all.

Winter’s Teeth, the first Vampire: The Masquerade comic series, is an excellent introduction to the World of Darkness and its vampire culture. Collecting the first five issues, Tim Seeley et al have written a great horror-mystery. I really enjoyed this. Continue reading

Excerpt: SPOILS OF THE DEAD by Dana Stabenow (Head of Zeus)

StabenowD-LC5-SpoilsOfTheDeadToday, Head of Zeus has provided us with an excerpt from Spoils of the Dead, the fifth book in Dana Stabenow‘s Liam Campbell series. Due out next week, let’s start with the synopsis:

It’s Labor Day in Blewestown, Alaska, and it seems most of the town’s thirty-five hundred residents have turned out to celebrate – or to cause trouble. Not Liam Campbell, though. He’s checking out the local watering hole in his new town. He’s finally made it out of Newenham and is ready for a quiet life with his wife.

He’s been in town for about a week when an archaeologist invites him out to his dig site outside of town. He’s on the verge of a momentous discovery, one he says will be worth the State Trooper’s time.

Two days later, the archaeologist is dead, murdered on his own dig site. And Liam Campbell is about to learn that he’s traded one troubled bush town for another.

Now, on with the excerpt!

Continue reading

Upcoming: THESE TOXIC THINGS by Rachel Howzell Hall (Thomas & Mercer)

HowzellHallR-TheseToxicThingsUSI’m a relative newcomer to Rachel Howzell Hall‘s fiction. She is the author of the Eloise Norton crime series, and the stand-alone novels They All Fall Down and the excellent And Now She’s Gone (hopefully not to be a stand-alone for long). The author’s next novel is These Toxic Things, due to be published by Thomas & Mercer:

Mickie Lambert creates “digital scrapbooks” for clients, ensuring that precious souvenirs aren’t forgotten or lost. When her latest client Nadia Denham, a curio shop owner, dies from an apparent suicide, Mickie honors the old woman’s last wish and begins curating her peculiar objets d’art. A music box, a hair clip, a keychain — twelve mementos in all that must have meant so much to Nadia who collected them on her flea market scavenges across the country.

They mean a lot to someone else, too. Mickie has been getting threatening messages from a long-dormant serial killer to leave Nadia’s past alone.

It’s becoming a mystery Mickie is driven to solve. Who are the women, now dead or disappeared, who once owned these odd treasures? How did Nadia really come to possess them? Who is the killer watching every move Mickie makes? Discovering the truth means navigating the secrets of a sinister past. One, Mickie fears, might be inescapably entwined with her own.

Rachel Howzell Hall’s These Toxic Things is due to be published by Thomas & Mercer in North America and in the UK.

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Upcoming: WHILE JUSTICE SLEEPS by Stacey Abrams (Doubleday/Harper Collins UK)

AbramsS-WhileJusticeSleepsUSBest known as one of the most charismatic, capable, and compelling American politicians of the day, Stacey Abrams is also an author of fiction, and has been for quite some time. I haven’t had a chance to read any of her novels, yet, but While Justice Sleeps — due out later this year — looks very interesting. I’m really looking forward to reading this one:

Avery Keene, a brilliant young law clerk for the legendary Justice Howard Wynn, is doing her best to hold her life together — excelling in an arduous job with the court while also dealing with a troubled family. When the shocking news breaks that Justice Wynn — the cantankerous swing vote on many current high-profile cases — has slipped into a coma, Avery’s life turns upside down. She is immediately notified that Justice Wynn has left instructions for her to serve as his legal guardian and power of attorney. Plunged into an explosive role she never anticipated, Avery finds that Justice Wynn had been secretly researching one of the most controversial cases before the court — a proposed merger between an American biotech company and an Indian genetics firm, which promises to unleash breathtaking results in the medical field. She also discovers that Wynn suspected a dangerously related conspiracy that infiltrates the highest power corridors of Washington.

AbramsS-WhileJusticeSleepsUKAs political wrangling ensues in Washington to potentially replace the ailing judge whose life and survival Avery controls, she begins to unravel a carefully constructed, chesslike sequence of clues left behind by Wynn. She comes to see that Wynn had a much more personal stake in the controversial case and realizes his complex puzzle will lead her directly into harm’s way in order to find the truth. While Justice Sleeps is a cunningly crafted, sophisticated novel, layered with myriad twists and a vibrant cast of characters. Drawing on her astute inside knowledge of the court and political landscape, Stacey Abrams shows herself to be not only a force for good in politics and voter fairness but also a major new talent in suspense fiction.

Stacey Abrams’s While Justice Sleeps is due to be published by Doubleday in the US and Canada (May 11th), and Harper Collins in the UK (May 27th).

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Upcoming: ISLAND REICH by Jack Grimwood (Michael Joseph)

GrimwoodJ-IslandReichUKI’ve been a fan of Jack Grimwood‘s writing for some time. I enjoyed his  Assassini series (an atmospheric horror/vampire trilogy), and was intrigued when he decided to move into historical thrillers. His first Cold War thriller/mystery, Moskva was great, and introduced readers to Tom Fox (who also appears in Nightfall Berlin). This year, Penguin are due to publish a new stand-alone World War II mystery, Island Reich, which also sounds really interesting:

An unlikely spy.

July 1940. As Britain braces itself for invasion, ex-Tommy and safecracker Bill O’Hagan is glad to have escaped the battlefield. But when a job goes wrong, he finds himself forced to serve his country once more.

A former king.

Spurned by his government and fearing for his life, the Duke of Windsor flees to Portugal with the woman for whom he abdicated the throne, Wallis Simpson. As a web of Nazi trickery threatens to ensnare him, his fate and the fate of Britain rest on one man.

The fate of a nation in their hands.

Dropped on an occupied Channel Island without backup, Bill must crack an enemy safe and get its contents to safety. Failure will devastate any hope Britain has of winning the war.

But with the layers of deception and intrigue drawing ever more tightly around them, Bill and the Duke both learn they aren’t the only players in this game. And Berlin – which has the Duke in its own sights — is plotting its greatest move yet…

Jack Grimwood’s Island Reich is due to be published by Penguin in the UK, on May 27th, 2021. (Couldn’t find any information about a North American release, at the time of writing.)

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Quick Review: THE ALBUM OF DR. MOREAU by Daryl Gregory (Tor.com)

GregoryD-AlbumOfDrMoreauA fantastic science fictional twist on detective fiction and pop culture

It’s 2001, and the WyldBoyZ are the world’s hottest boy band, and definitely the world’s only genetically engineered human-animal hybrid vocal group. When their producer, Dr. M, is found murdered in his hotel room, the “boyz” become the prime suspects. Was it Bobby the ocelot (“the cute one”), Matt the megabat (“the funny one”), Tim the Pangolin (“the shy one”), Devin the bonobo (“the romantic one”), or Tusk the elephant (“the smart one”)?

Las Vegas Detective Luce Delgado has only twenty-four hours to solve a case that goes all the way back to the secret science barge where the WyldBoyZ’ journey first began — a place they used to call home.

It feels like a long time since I last read something by Gregory. I’ve enjoyed his work ever since I read Afterparty. He has a great writing and storytelling style. This new novella is a fantastic read: an intriguing, inventive science-fiction twist on detective fiction and pop culture. I really enjoyed this. Continue reading