Pelecanos, George. The Night Gardener.

NY: Little, Brown, 2006.

Pelecanos has a huge fan base but I had never read any of his stuff. This one was recommended by a friend and it’s pretty good — but it’s also kind of strange. Gus Ramone is a police sergeant in D.C., where this author seems to set all of his stories. He’s a senior detective in the large homicide unit (400+ murders a year, mostly Black and Hispanic, mostly drug-related), he’s married with two kids, and he sees what he does as a job at which he is very competent, but not as a mission.

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Published in: on 31 July 2012 at 1:50 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Block, Lawrence. The Devil Knows You’re Dead.

NY: HarperCollins, 1993.

Block’s detective stories featuring Matthew Scudder are often a bit unlike the usual murder mystery, and this is one of those in that the solution, when it finally appears — even the crime itself, in fact — are almost peripheral to the main story. Matt and his long-time girlfriend, Elaine, have a brief, passing social relationship with Glenn and Lisa Holtzmann who live in a nice high-rise apartment in the same neighborhood. And Matt doesn’t much like the guy, though he can’t say why.

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Published in: on 29 July 2012 at 6:21 am  Leave a Comment  
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Harris, Robert. Imperium.

NY: Simon & Schuster, 2006.

You would think an author who decides to write an exciting novel set in ancient Rome would pick someone like Julius Caesar or Mark Antony as his protagonist. But not Harris. He focuses on Marcus Tullius Cicero, the greatest orator of the late Republic, a canny lawyer, and a very astute politician.

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Rankin, Ian. Hide & Seek.

NY: Macmillan, 1990.

Several years ago, I tried a couple of Rankin’s extremely popular police procedural mysteries featuring DI John Rebus of the Lothian CID (that’s Edinburgh and environs to you non-Scots), but I just couldn’t get into them. They came from later in the series and I suspect Rebus had changed and become even darker and more erratic than he appears here, in the second of the series. But having gone back now and begun at the beginning, it’s obvious where the author’s fan base came from.

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Published in: on 25 July 2012 at 9:16 am  Leave a Comment  
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Benn, James R. A Mortal Terror.

NY: Soho Press, 2011.

This sixth book in the adventures of Lt. Billy Boyle, Boston Irish ex-cop and now a special investigator on the staff of his distant relation, Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, is a bit different from those that came before. It’s early 1944 and there have been two murders at the Allied staging area at Caserta, near Naples. A lieutenant and a captain have been whacked and there’s reason to think the two are connected, and that the next victim will be a major.

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Rankin, Ian. Knots and Crosses.

Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1987.

Rankin had published a number of well-received short stories in British magazines, but his was his first novel, and also the first appearance of John Rebus, then a detective sergeant on the Edinburgh police force and a man with too much history to carry around comfortably.

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Published in: on 21 July 2012 at 2:36 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Harris, Robert. Fatherland.

NY: Random House, 1992.

I’ve been a science fiction junkie since I first learned to read by myself, circa 1950. And with my later heavy involvement in history, it’s not surprising I developed a particular fondness for both time travel and alternate history stories. (Sometimes, as with Sprague de Camp’s Lest Darkness Fall, there’s a considerable overlap between the two.) And while Harris has become a pretty popular author over the past two decades, this book was not only his first, it’s still arguably his best.

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McCall Smith, Alexander. The Sunday Philosophy Club.

NY: Pantheon, 2004.

It’s kind of interesting to read this rather gentle murder mystery shortly after a couple of Ian Rankin’s far from gentle police procedurals. Both authors set their stories in contemporary Edinburgh but from their equally detailed descriptions, their city might as well be located on two different planets.

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Block, Lawrence. A Ticket to the Boneyard.

NY: HarperCollins, 1990.

Matt Scudder, ex-cop, unlicensed investigator, and alcoholic struggling to reform, is both a good person to have on your side and a bad person to cross, especially when the demons have got him. His best friend is Mick Ballou, a frequently violent career criminal, and the only female he’s at all close to is Elaine, a call girl with a lot of money invested in New York real estate.

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Published in: on 15 July 2012 at 7:31 am  Leave a Comment  
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Duncan, Andrew. The Reality of Monarchy.

Rev. ed. London: Pan Books, 1973. 381p.

The author, a skilled journalist, interviewer, and script writer, spent most of a year following the Queen and the Royal Family around, beginning with the opening of Parliament in October 1968 and ending with the investiture of Prince Charles as Prince of Wales the following July.

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Published in: on 14 July 2012 at 3:08 pm  Leave a Comment  
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