Review: CRIME SONG by David Swinson (Mulholland)

swinsond-crimesongusFrank Marr is back!

Marr, a retired D.C. police detective working as a private eye for a defense attorney, has a serious problem. He is secretly a drug addict, and his long-time supply of cocaine is about to run out.

While staking out an upscale nightclub in an attempt to target the stash-houses of dealers from whom to steal for his fix, he settles on a target: a young college student. After a long night in pursuit of his quarry, Marr returns home to find he has been burglarized. Though his drugs are safe, several items are missing: his .38 revolver and his cherished music collection (with dozens of albums belonging to his deceased mother.) Marr immediately begins investigating the crime himself.

But when the dealer Marr had been following is stabbed to death in his own fortified home, Frank is certain that the burglary and murder are related. With good cops, bad cops, and exceptionally dangerous drug lords on his tail, Frank is determined to find out the truth, even if it kills him. This time, it just might.

I started reading Crime Song only a few hours after finishing The Second Girl, Swinson’s superb first Frank Marr novel. I’m very happy to report that Crime Song is yet another excellent crime novel, easily cementing Swinson among the ranks of favourite crime/thriller authors. This is a must-read series. Continue reading

Upcoming: THE SECOND GIRL by David Swinson (Mulholland)

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David Swinson‘s The Second Girl looks really interesting — the start of a new crime series, set in Washington, D.C. Here’s the synopsis:

He’s a good detective… with a bad habit.

Frank Marr may be a decorated former cop and the best private investigator Washington, D.C. has ever known, but the city doesn’t know his dirty secret.

A high-functioning drug addict, Frank has devoted his considerable skills to hiding his habit from others. But after accidentally discovering a kidnapped teenage girl in the home of a drug gang, Frank becomes a hero and is thrust into the spotlight.

Reluctantly, he agrees to investigate the disappearance of another girl — possibly connected to the first — all the time knowing that the heightened scrutiny may bring his own secrets to light…

The Second Girl is published by Mulholland Books in the UK and US, in June 2016.

Review: HOUSE RECKONING and HOUSE RIVALS by Mike Lawson (Grove/Atlantic)

LawsonM-JD09-HouseReckoningThe ninth and tenth Joe DeMarco novels

When Joe DeMarco was a boy, he always knew his father, Gino, had a shadowy job, working for a violent mafioso in New York. But he didn’t know that his father had been a hit man until he was murdered. The crime was never solved, but twenty years later, one of Gino’s former mob associates wants to get something off his chest before retiring to his grave: the truth about Gino DeMarco’s killer.

Only the alleged killer was not just another hood, but a supposedly upstanding citizen who is now on the brink of taking a job in Washington, D.C., that would leave him virtually untouchable. If DeMarco has any hope of finding out the truth and avenging his father’s death, he will have to act quickly. But is revenge over a two-decades-old tragedy worth his job, and maybe even his life?

House Reckoning tells DeMarco’s personal story in full for the first time, from his upbringing in Queens to his complicated relationship with his father.

Mike Lawson’s Joe DeMarco novels are among my favourite political thrillers. The series has been pretty varied so far, taking DeMarco all over the map. In these two novels, something from his past takes him to New York City and something in his boss’s past (and a fanatical offspring) takes him to the Dakotas and Montana. Another two great additions to the series.
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Review: THE WAYS OF THE DEAD and MURDER, D.C. by Neely Tucker (Penguin/Windmill)

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A fantastic, must-read new thriller series

Sarah Reese, the teenage daughter of a powerful Washington, D.C. judge, is dead, her body discovered in a slum in the shadow of the Capitol. Though the police promptly arrest three local black kids, newspaper reporter Sully Carter suspects there’s more to the case. Reese’s slaying might be related to a string of cold cases the police barely investigated, among them the recent disappearance of a gorgeous university student.

A journalist brought home from war-torn Bosnia and hobbled by loss, rage, and alcohol, Sully encounters a city rife with its own brand of treachery and intrigue. Weaving through D.C.’s broad avenues and shady backstreets on his Ducati 916 motorcycle, Sully comes to know not just the city’s pristine monuments of power but the blighted neighborhoods beyond the reach of the Metro. With the city clamoring for a conviction, Sully pursues the truth about the murders — all against pressure from government officials, police brass, suspicious locals, and even his own bosses at the paper.

A wry, street-smart hero with a serious authority problem, Sully delves into a deeply layered mystery, revealing vivid portraits of the nation’s capital from the highest corridors of power to D.C.’s seedy underbelly, where violence and corruption reign supreme — and where Sully must confront the back-breaking line between what you think and what you know, and what you know and what you can print. Inspired by the real-life 1990s Princeton Place murders and set in the last glory days of the American newspaper, The Ways of the Dead is a wickedly entertaining story of race, crime, the law, and the power of the media. Neely Tucker delivers a flawless rendering of a fast-paced, scoop-driven newsroom — investigative journalism at its grittiest.

It’s taken me a while to finally get around to reading this series, despite buying The Ways of the Dead on the day of its UK release last year. Nevertheless, with the recent publication of Murder, D.C., I decided it was time to give it a try — and I’m really glad that I did. I read both of these novels back-to-back, and in a handful of blissful days of reading. Both of these novels are fantastic — brilliantly written, plotted and paced, they are easily two of the best crime novels I’ve read in quite a few years. Continue reading

Review: THE TARGET by David Baldacci (Macmillan/Grand Central)

Baldacci-WR3-TargetUKThe third Will Robie thriller sets him and Jessica Reel on a collision courts with the Hermit Kingdom…

The President knows it’s a perilous, high-risk assignment. If he gives the order, he has the opportunity to take down a global menace, once and for all. If the mission fails, he would face certain impeachment, and the threats against the nation would multiply. So the president turns to the one team that can pull off the impossible: Will Robie and his partner, Jessica Reel.

Together, Robie and Reel’s talents as assassins are unmatched. But there are some in power who don’t trust the pair. They doubt their willingness to follow orders. And they will do anything to see that the two assassins succeed, but that they do not survive.

As they prepare for their mission, Reel faces a personal crisis that could well lead old enemies right to her doorstep, resurrecting the ghosts of her earlier life and bringing stark danger to all those close to her. And all the while, Robie and Reel are stalked by a new adversary: an unknown and unlikely assassin, a woman who has trained her entire life to kill, and who has her own list of targets – a list that includes Will Robie and Jessica Reel.

The Target is another great addition to this relatively-new series from Baldacci. Taking the popular central character of government assassin, the author has managed to forge a somewhat original path. The novel is gripping, excellently-paced, and well-researched. As has become the norm with Baldacci’s novels, I really enjoyed reading this. Continue reading

Quick Reviews: BULLSEYE, THE INNOCENT, and THE HIT by David Baldacci (Macmillan/Grand Central)

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Two novels and a short story introducing a new hero from one of the modern masters of thriller fiction…

I really enjoyed all three of these stories. I also read them quite a while ago, in preparation for the release of The Target. I’m not sure why I didn’t get around to posting reviews of them sooner, but I wanted to mention them here. Because they’re excellent. I’ll keep things short, though… Continue reading

“House Odds” by Mike Lawson (Atlantic)

Lawson-08-HouseOddsThe Latest Joe DeMarco Political Thriller

Washington D.C. fixer Joe DeMarco has been asked to handle a lot of difficult situations over the years for his boss, congressman John Mahoney. But nothing has ever been quite so politically sensitive, or has hit so close to home, as the task Mahoney hands DeMarco now.

Mahoney’s daughter, Molly, has been arrested and charged with insider trading. An engineer with a high-flying technology firm, she allegedly placed a half-million dollar bet on one of the firm’s clients. DeMarco’s job is to clear Molly’s name and keep his boss clean. But how did Molly get her hands on so much money to invest in the first place? Before long, DeMarco uncovers that there’s far more to Molly’s case than meets the eye, and the risk to Mahoney is more than just a little political embarrassment.

In this eighth novel featuring Congressional fixer Joe DeMarco, we get a look at the sordid underbelly of Beltway politics, complete with manipulative gangsters and politicians, crooks and thieves. I’m a big fan of this series, ever since I read the first in the series, The Inside Ring in a single day. Each new novel has been an addictive, well-written and expertly-plotted thriller. House Odds is no exception.

The synopsis does a great job of providing all of the information you need, so I’m not going to go any deeper than that, and keep the review short. House Odds hooked me from the start, and yet kept me guessing until the end. Things do not play out at all as I expected, as DeMarco comes across a number of liars, conflicting agendas, hidden motives, and the desperation of a powerful family brought low. It’s a novel filled with grey, and very little black or white. Lawson isn’t afraid to let the muck stick to both his protagonists and antagonists, which makes this a very satisfying and more realistic read.

Throughout the novel, as DeMarco tries to first get to the bottom of what Molly allegedly did, to then trying to get her off the hook, he is left questioning who, in fact, are the good guys. The plot is winding, and perhaps more so than previous books in the series, as Lawson keeps us guessing. The first half deals with one mystery, and the second half another, as our hero is faced with a near-impossible job. Strange alliances will be forged, threats will be made, and leverage will be exercised. House Odds shows us just how dirty politics can be.

As with Lawson’s previous DeMarco novels, there’s plenty of good commentary on the American political system – especially the egos involved. In addition, his characters are well-rounded and realistic. The author’s prose is stripped down, streamlined, and well-composed. The plotting is excellent, too, and I blitzed through this.

I really can’t recommend this series enough. If you have any interest in thrillers set in and around the world of American politics, then Mike Lawson is a must read. House Odds is excellent. Very highly recommended.