WAIST DEEP by Frank Zafiro

“When disgraced former cop Stefan Kopriva is asked by an old high school classmate to find a runaway sixteen year old girl, he reluctantly accepts. Driven by guilt over a terrible mistake that drove him from the force more than ten years earlier, Kopriva battles old injuries, old demons and long ago memories as he unravels the mystery of the missing Kris Sinderling…and seeks his own redemption.”

So, yeah, it’s another drunk ex-cop trope.  You know, where he was just a smidge too late to save some little kid while on the force, and either quits in despair or is forced out in disgrace, and turns to alcoholism as a coping mechanism.

I keep waiting for the book about a well-adjusted ex-cop who quit the force because he either got bored, or had had enough of police politics and corruption, and went into some other satisfying business, has a normal love life, and only drinks a beer or two now and then socially.

Oh, well.

Our drunk alcohol-challenged protagonist gets himself into a fight at a ball game, is ejected, and one of the stadium security guys contacts him later to look for his teenage daughter who has disappeared.   The investigation brings to light a smarmy male high school teacher who preys on his female students, a slub making porn flicks in his basement, and a stupid high schooler who thinks making porn movies will bring her stardom.

Not a bad mystery, but I gotta tell ya, this alcoholic ex-cop trope is getting mighty old.

 

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THE NUMBERS GAME by John Stanley

Billed as a gripping crime thriller, I found it neither gripping nor a thriller, but a standard British police procedural.  It was fine.  Basically standard fare with a rebel investigating officer, and a not too bad mystery.  I would have solved it had I been paying more attention.  I was, however, busy eating cookies and sharing with the canines to give it my full heedfulness.  You do believe me, right?

It started off well enough, with two dead bodies in succession.  OK, I can see how that sounds.  I am sorry for the deceased, that’s not what I meant.  I meant the mystery itself got off to a good start with the discovery of the dearly departed.  Then it dragged itself onward with a trope about the heartless demolishing of some old housing to make way for new stuff in the name of progress, then it kind of meandered around the topic of the homeless and the drugfull, with some smarmy  sentiments about the needless deaths of young drug takers, and finally wound its way back to the matter at hand, that of who dunnit.

It was OK, not ab fab, but not awful, either.  Kind of a cozy police procedural.  Is there such a thing?

 

DEATH IN THE ENGLISH COUNTRYSIDE by Sara Rosett

Cozy mystery trying to stand of the shoulders of Jane Austin to suck you into it.

A location scouting company for movies and commercials has its owner go to England to a small country town to scout locations for a proposed film remake of one of the Austin novels, because there are not enough film versions of her books already cluttering up the place.

He goes on a Friday and by Monday has not returned, is not heard from, has not returned his rental vehicle, and the rest of the small company based in LA is nervous because, ok, well, he is a recovering alcoholic but has occasions of recidivism where he disappears for a several-day bender.

So his assistant goes to England to see if she can track him down, maybe boozing it up in one of the local pubs.  Nobody calls the police and reports it because…. and here is the follow-the-money angle ….. they are afraid if the money guy who will be bankrolling this production finds out, he will pull out of the project and take his dinero elsewhere.

Yeah.  I know.  Stupid premise right off the bat.

So natch the young single woman (aren’t they all in these cozies?) meets up with a local young single good-looking guy (aren’t they all in these cozies?) who was working with the disappeared guy, and wouldn’t you just know it, they come up with more clues (or clews, if you are British) than the police, whom they are eventually forced to call.  They get underfoot of the local gendarmes, make a series of stupid decisions, and make you wonder how they managed to get permission to enter the country in the first place.

Dopey situations, dopey characters, meh mystery which even *I*, the worst detective in the world, was able to solve.

There are more in this On Location series.  Egad.

 

THE SINGLE STAIRCASE by Matt Ingwalson

Nice novella, or long story, or whatever.  I truly cannot get straight what the various lengths are called.  But this is a closed room mystery, and a darn good one!

It features two missing persons detectives in an unnamed city, both former SWAT members, who go by their SWAT  nicknames of Owl and Raccoon.  They are called in by a young couple whose 3 month old daughter has apparently been kidnapped from her room on the third floor, and the only way up or down through the house was a single staircase which went through the living room where they were watching TV.

Owl suspects the parents of having killed the child and done away with the body.  But a full search of the house and surrounding areas does not provide a body.  There is no body, no ransom note, no nada except some strange behavior on the part of the bereaved parents, who although seeming upset, were not what you would call frantic.

Great story.  I was almost a little sorry it was not full book length, it was that good.  There are two more in the series.  I will see if I can snag them.

THE LONG DRUNK by Eric Coyote

The tag line says ‘Ultra Noir Crime Fiction’.  Well, not so much.   Maybe Ultra Soiled Crime Fiction.

It features a former NFL football player, James Murphy, who is homeless and an alcoholic.  Possibly both by choice.  He lives in Venice, California, and along with a cast of castoffs from Central Casting, (see what I did there?) roams the streets constantly on the lookout for booze.  He is accompanied by his furry friend of ten years, a dog named Betty.

Betty gets hit by a car, and after rushing her to a vet in the shopping cart of one of his buddies, after emergency surgery, the vet tells him that the damage is enormous, plus the operation revealed that she is riddled with cancerous tumors, and he will put her to sleep for free, but the ortho and cancer treatments would run about $15,000, and the doc will keep the dog for a week, and that’s all.  Well,  Murphy has about as much chance of coming up with $15,000 as being signed on another NFL team, so he despairs.

But then the cops come around and make a sweep of the street bums to try to get any possible information out of them as to an unsolved murder of a local resident.  Of course, nobody knows nuttin’, but Murphy sees a police poster offering a $25,000 reward for info leading to the capture of the murderer.  Murphy gets the idea he can solve the case, get that reward money, pay the vet and save his dog.

The rest of the book is about this unwashed street person trying to solve the case in order to save his dog.

It is humorous, clever, poignant, and lots of other things, none of them actually being ultra noir.  It gives us a glimpse into life on the streets, and into the mindset of an alcoholic beatup ex football player.  Not even a bad mystery, now that I think about it.

‘There’s no administration costs, so all of it will go for bourbon.’

 

 

 

IN THE DARKNESS THAT’S WHERE I’LL KNOW YOU by Luke Smitherd

“There are hangovers, there are bad hangovers, and then there’s waking up inside someone else’s head. Thirty-something bartender Charlie Wilkes is faced with this exact dilemma when he wakes to find finds himself trapped inside The Black Room; a space consisting of impenetrable darkness and a huge, ethereal screen floating in its center. It is through this screen that he sees the world of his female host, Minnie.

How did he get there? What has happened to his life? And how can he exist inside the mind of a troubled, fragile, but beautiful woman with secrets of her own? Uncertain whether he’s even real or if he is just a figment of his host’s imagination, Charlie must enlist Minnie’s help if he is to find a way out of The Black Room, a place where even the light of the screen goes out every time Minnie closes her eyes…”

This was one freaking weird book.  Well, no, not the book, but the idea.  A guy wakes up to find himself in a black space, which he eventually decides is the mind of a woman he has never met.

OK, I am trying to figure out how to describe more of the plot.  Just let me say it involves some kind of regressive action, him being him being him being him and her and different lives or worlds or …. I give up.

It was great for about half the book, then got just a little too too, and then ended definitely too too.  Maybe I am grousing because I didn’t fully follow it, fully understand it.  I am a simple peasant after all.

It kind of defies genre.  That’s what I like about a lot of the new works — they are not specifically romance, or mystery, or sci fi, etc.  this was originally written in four parts, then eventually put together in one volume and issued as a single book.  The writing was good, and the idea definitely something really different.

I read his Physics of the Dead  quite some time ago,and loved it.  You can see what I said about it here.  What I said about it was a whole lot more than what I have said about this offering, because, well, because waking up inside someone else’s head where the walls seem to be the physical mind of the person, and there are multiple universes is hard to have a conversation about, wouldn’t you say?

Side note:  Doesn’t ‘universe’ mean one verse?  As in uni being the prefix for single, or one?  So therefore, I should be saying ‘there are multiverses’, not ‘there are multiple universes’.  Food for thought, as if waking up in someone else’s mind isn’t enough food for thought for one post.

 

MURDER AT THE ART & CRAFT FAIR by Steve Demaree

Another one of the series of chubby Lt. Cy Dekker cozy mysteries. Number 6, in fact.  This one was even cozier than usual.  Kind of Extreme Cozy, if you follow.

Lt. Dekker has seen his doctor, who has insisted our boy lose weight or face dire health consequences, so he has taken up exercise by Wii, and is cutting calories.

Lots of light banter, boring detailed descriptions of the days and the food and the non-mystery related activities.   Lt. Dekker has found a lady friend, and it would seem that the heaviest romantic stuff are long kisses.  Improbable, but definitely not offensive to the prim and proper readers.

Actually, it was almost halfway through the book before we got to the mystery, and what a lame one this was.  As seems the usual case with the Dekker series, you can never guess the perpetrator because it is always someone not part of the story, some peripheral character that we never get to hear about until the last 15 pages.  So kind of like cheating.

In the series, Dekker’s partner, Lou, always has a ‘clue’ that pops into his head, some quote, or meaningless phrase, that usually has to be stretched beyond belief to have anything to do with the investigation in any way.  The clues in this volume were worse than usual.

Anyway, a vendor at the fair is murdered by being bopped on the head in his tent after everyone else went home.  And for the stupidest reason that didn’t even make any sense.

I have one more in the series to read, and I think I will pass on it.  Looks like Dekker is going to lose weight and get married to his chaste lady love whose sole attraction seems to be her tendency to one-liners.

So many books, so little lifetime.