David Markson was an interesting writer.  He wrote The Ballad of Dingus Magee, which was made into a movie starring Frank Sinatra, three crime novels, of which this is one, and several other later novels which were rather different in style and approach to the normal narrative style.  I am halfway through one of them now, and it is something of a slog, to be frank.

But Epitaph for a Tramp is wonderful.  Hard-boiled 1959 noir crime novel, cleverly written,  Chandler-esque in style.

A couple of years ago,our protagonist, a P.I.,  married a chick he met on the beach, and he  fell in love at first sight.  They marry soon after, but sadness is on the horizon.  Turns out, she is a troubled creature, finding solace in the arms of strangers whenever he is away on a case. He divorces her and carries on with his life.   This is exactly why your mother always tells you to wait a couple of years before marrying, because it takes time for the real person to reveal him/herself.

A year or so after the divorce, she comes to his apartment in the middle of the night, having been stabbed in the street, and bleeds out on his floor.  The rest of the book is him trying to discover who killed her.

It was good,– good writing, a good mystery, an interesting background story, and as usual, I had no clue as to the murderer, so I was happy with it.  More and more often, these days, I only want something easy peasy to read at night before I fall asleep, because I am too close to falling asleep to read anything too heavy.  Well, that’s what happens when you stay up into the wee hours of 7 pm.

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OUT OF THE PAST by Renée Pawlish

This is the fifth in an apparently endless mystery series by the Amazon #1 bestselling author.  I know she is the Amazon #1 bestselling author because it says so right on the cover!  She is an extremely prolific author.  Once you get the basic structure down pat of a detective story, you can churn these things out by the dozens.  *I* couldn’t.  I couldn’t write my way out of a paper bag, so I even admire the authors who can continually  come up with a new slant on the fundamentals.

This is kind of a comic mystery story.  Here’s the official blurb:  Compelled by a dark secret from his past, private investigator Reed Ferguson takes on his most unique case yet: bodyguard for young, spoiled trust-fund baby Stephanie McMahon. As Reed tries to protect her from her father’s enemies, he gets more than he bargained for. Things are not what they seem, no one can be trusted, and the past has a way of coming back to haunt us. And when suspicious deaths begin piling up, Reed knows he might be next. With a twisting plot and film noir fun that readers have come to expect.

OK, the big secret from his past is that back in his salad days, he and a few friends set up what amounted to a Ponzi scheme but soon shut it down.  Only a very few people know about this.  A wealthy guys uses this info  (how in the world did he learn of it?) to blackmail Ferguson into bodyguarding his wild and headstrong daughter, who wants no part of being bodyguarded.

But gee, a friend of hers commits suicide, another friend from her college circle dies, and the bodies start piling up.  The dialog is fun, the situations are on the light amusing side, and all in all, it is a decent mystery.  I almost guessed the villain of the piece.  OK, not exactly, but I was closing in on it.  Give a girl a break, will ya?

ANCHOR LEG by Jack Croxall

This little sci fi YA was almost good.  Almost.  Fell a bit short as the ending drew near because the actions became more and more improbable and the plot more predictable.

Official blurb:  Humanity has spilled out into the Solar System, into a succession of giant space stations known as the Relay. Seren Temples is a security apprentice running the Relay’s remote Anchor Leg. When sabotage strands her vessel near another damaged ship, Seren and her team are sent across to investigate. The second ship is a zero-G graveyard. Inside its vast hold, nothing but a single vial of frozen blood.

Seren is 17 years old. Her boss, the head of security, is injured during a riot control, and during that riot, a man steps in and shoots one of the security team, killing him.  Another member of the team goes after the shooter, and kills him.  He is taken into custody and thrown in the brig. The head of security is in a coma in the hospital, leaving only two members of the team still available and functioning — the former pirate turned good guy, and the 17-year-old trainee.  So.  Who does  the captain of the ship make acting head of security?   Sigh.  Yes.  The 17-year-old trainee, because, duh the other one used to be a pirate.   [Insert eye roll here.]

So right there, I am trying to decide whether to just abandon the book at this point, or slog forward.  I slog forward, because it is actually a space mystery/thriller and I usually finish a mystery, no matter how less-than-excellent they are.

The mystery itself wasn’t bad, but really, the star of the show being a 17-year-old?  That wasn’t really working for me.  However, I did like the world building — very creative.  The sci part of the fi was a smidge lame,  but the author wasn’t going for competition with Miéville or Kim Stanley Robinson, so we readers just went along for the ride.

I think I just discovered a new genre:  cozy sci fi YA mystery/thriller.    🙂

 

 

DARK SEPTEMBER Inger Wolf

This is a Scandanavian mystery.  It won the Danish Crime Academy’s Debut Award in 2006 for the most exciting debut of the year.  Yep, that’s me, right on top of things, only 11 years late.

It is late September, and Anna Kiehl, a student of anthropology and a single mother, does not return from her evening run in the forest. The next morning, she is found dead. She is naked, her throat is cut, and there is a bouquet of poisonous hemlock on her chest.

Police inspector Daniel Trokic is in charge of the investigation, and it leads him to the case of a prominent scientist and specialist in neurochemistry and antidepressants who disappeared eight weeks earlier. Daniel Trokic must get to the killer before he strikes again, but this turns out to be a dangerous pursuit.

OK, here I am with nothing to say about this book.  It was fine.  It was what I consider to be a standard police procedural/thriller, and that is fine with me.  I don’t need Nobel Prize Winners for Fiction in every book I read.  It  had an interesting plot, and OK characters.  There is room in this world for adequate, as well as knock-your-socks-off.  My socks are still on but I am happy anyway.

 

HELL IS EMPTY by Craig Johnson

Hell is empty and all the devils are here.  William Shakespeare, The Tempest, act 1

Well-read and world-weary, Sheriff Walt Longmire has been maintaing order in Wyoming’s Absaroka County for more than thirty years, but in this riveting seventh outing, he is pushed to his limits. Raynaud Shade, an adopted Crow Indian, has just confessed to murdering a boy ten years ago and burying him deep within the Big Horn Mountains. After transporting Shade and a group of other convicted murderers through a snowstorm, Walt is informed by the FBI that the body is buried in his jurisdiction-and the victim’s name is White Buffalo. Guided only by Indian mysticism and a battered paperback of Dante’s Inferno, Walt pursues Shade and his fellow escapees into the icy hell of the Cloud Peak Wilderness Area, cheating death to ensure that justice-both civil and spiritual-is served.

Blurbalishious.  I didn’t like this one as much as the others, mainly because I didn’t really care about chasing evil men through a snow storm.  I have had enough of snow storms in several of the other books in the series.  It was, as all of these books are, well written, full of great characters and beautiful descriptions of the scenery and the mind.  I think Mr. Johnson writes some of the best descriptions.  Just pulls you right into the middle of the scenery.

You may possibly be glad to know this is the last of the Longmire series which I have in my possession, although not the last of the series available.

QUIET AS A NUN by Antonia Fraser

Lady Antonia Fraser is the widow of Harold Pinter (1930-2008), and the author of Marie Antoinette: The Journey.

When a murder takes place in a secluded tower at Blessed Eleanor’s Convent in Sussex and the victim is an old school friend, Britain’s most popular TV reporter Jemima Shore finds herself in the middle of a disturbing puzzle. The dead woman, a nun, was to inherit one of the largest fortunes in Britain. Jemima walks into the eye of a worldly storm of fear – and the more she learns, the clearer it becomes that more lives, including her own, are being threatened.

This was written in 1977, which is like, crumb, forty years ago!  It was republished in 1998.  How the heck did it end up on my reading list?  I have no idea.  Anyway, it is a fine mystery, not especially special, but definitely OK.  It raises, if somewhat obliquely, the subject of ‘particular friendships’ between the nuns, and also discusses the issue that was prevalent even in the seventies, of the draining away of nuns from their vocations.  Lady Fraser was born in 1932, which makes her even older than me,  so the book has a slight tinge of the prim and proper,  but made for lovely reading all the same.

 

THE DARK HORSE by Craig Johnson

Yahoo!  Number 5 in the Walt Longmire western sheriff series.  In this tale, Walt investigates on his own when his instincts tell him something isn’t right about a prisoner accused of killing her husband.

Wade Barsad, a man with a dubious past, locked his wife’s horses in their barn and burned the animals alive. In return, Mary shot Wade in the head six times-or so the story goes. Walt doesn’t believe Mary’s confession, and he’s determined to dig deeper. Posing as an insurance claims investigator, Walt soon discovers other people who might have wanted Wade dead, including a beautiful Guatemalan bartender and a rancher with a taste for liquor, but not for honesty.

This was a little hard to read in parts, because, you know, horses and fire.  And in this book, our intrepid sheriff must go undercover to Absalom – population 40 and all of them suspicious of strangers and authorities. The locals are giving him a real hard time, but Walt is not a quitter, and slowly he begins to gather evidence about the victim.

The move away from Absaroka County brings a welcome change of air for the series and an occasion to steer closer to the classic western genre, not only by finally featuring horses, cowboys and Indians, sweeping vistas of Powder River and Twentymile Butte, even a barroom bare knuckles fight, but with the whole plot structure of the Lone Stranger come to bring justice to the lawless frontier town. The regulars of the series (Vic Moretti, Henry Standing Bear, etc) are all there, but they play on the fringes of the main storyline. Dog has a much better exposure than in previous novels and he rises to the occasion admirably. This latest book also has the bonus of offering a glimpse at Walt’s childhood, as his parents’ farm is near Powder River.

We meet the ‘miniature stagecoach robber’ Benjamin – a ten years old tough man ( In this country you don’t touch a man’s horse without his permission ). It was lovely the way Walt handled him, never talking down or making fun of the little guy, stern and authoritative, yet open to all questions and considerate of the boy’s feelings.

[in the interests of full disclosure and fair play, some of the above was stolen directly from reviews of the book.  I am so far behind in blogging my reads that I have taken to ethically suspect shortcuts.]

Another superb offering in this series filled with a cross section of the human condition, folks we are drawn to understand and care about.