Finch, Charles. A Beautiful Blue Death.

NY: St. Martin, 2007.

Mystery novels in a historical setting are very problematic, I’ve found, but my wife recommended this new series so I gave it a try. And it’s not bad. It does have problems, but most of them are common to nearly any first novel. It’s 1865 in London and Charles Lenox, the 30-ish younger brother of a baronet, is one of the unmarried idle rich. Well, not so idle, actually: He’s a talented amateur detective (and armchair explorer who wishes he could find the time to actually travel) who frequently shows up the plods at Scotland Yard,

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Hammett, Dashiell. The Thin Man.

NY: Knopf, 1934.

Hammett, one of the fathers of the modern detective story, only wrote five novels, of which this was his last, about the wealthy and sophisticated Nick and Nora Charles. It’s difficult to read about Hammett’s other famous detective, Sam Spade, without imagining Bogie, who made the character his own but who also played the hardboiled Spade pretty much the way the author wrote him. When Nick and Nora came to the silver screen, though, William Powell and Myrna Loy mostly just played themselves, and they mostly played the Charleses for laughs. And that’s not at all fair to the book, which certainly wasn’t written as light comedy.

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Connelly, Michael. The Wrong Side of Goodbye.

NY: Little, Brown, 2016.

Even though he must be pushing seventy now, ex-homicide cop Harry Bosch has spent the last half-dozen episodes in this long-running series fighting hard against retirement. Solving murders and getting justice for the dead is what he does. More, it’s what he is. He spent several years doing cold cases with a gang of other no-longer-active cops, and that taught him a lot — it’s made him “proficient in time travel” — and now he has his private investigator’s ticket, though he doesn’t work at it very hard.

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Pelecanos, George P. Nick’s Trip.

NY: Little, Brown, 1993.

Pelecanos is now considered one of the best crime-adventure writers around, and with good reason. But while his first novel (to which this is the sequel) was pretty good, the second one has major problems.

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Published in: on 11 January 2017 at 6:18 am  Leave a Comment  
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Pelecanos, George. A Firing Offense.

NY: Little, Brown, 1992.

Pelecanos is considered one of the top crime writers in English these days, and this unsettling story is where he started. Thirty-year-old Nick Stefanos, a Washington, D.C., native, is a natural salesman. Not the best — that would be his friend, Johnny McGinnis — but still very good, and by the late 1980s he’s worked his way up to Advertising Director of the Nutty Nathan’s retail electronics empire.

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Published in: on 17 November 2016 at 5:33 am  Leave a Comment  
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Pelecanos, George. Right as Rain.

NY: Little, Brown, 2001.

This is the first volume in what became known as the “D.C. Quartet,” widely considered this author’s best work to date. The two protagonists, who share certain experiences but have far more, and deeper, differences, are Derek Strange, a black ex-cop and private investigator in his fifties with a quarter-century of practical experience on the street, and Terry Quinn, a white guy in his late twenties recently departed from the Metro police under a cloud who is marking time in his life by working in a quiet used bookstore.

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Crais, Robert. Lullaby Town.

NY: Bantam,1992.

This is only the third installment of the Elvis Cole/Joe Pike private detective series and the body count continues to rise. This time he’s hired by Peter Alan Nelsen, a very famous movie director/producer, to locate the man’s ex-wife, Karen, and his now twelve-year-old son, Toby, whom he hasn’t seen in a decade. Nelsen is an egomaniac; he gets whatever he wants in Hollywood, so he assumes he’s entitled to it and that this also extends to the rest of the world.

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King, Stephen. Finders Keepers.

NY: Scribner, 2015.

This is a sequel to King’s first detective novel in the classic style, Mr. Mercedes, and it’s not only set in the same anonymous Midwestern city, its events begin with the same 2009 massacre-by-automobile at the job fair. This time, the victim on whom we focus is Tom Saubers, a husband and father who was laid off and is becoming desperate to find work. He survives being run over by the Mercedes but it takes several years for his injuries to heal, and the stress of all this nearly causes him and his wife to divorce. But his young son, Pete, has found a way to ease the family’s money woes.

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Crais, Robert. Stalking the Angel.

NY: Bantam Books, 1989.

The Elvis Cole/Joe Pike private eye novels have been called “smart guy noir” and that’s certainly the case in this second installment in the series. Elvis is definitely an oddball, with an office that sports a Mickey Mouse phone, a Pinocchio wall clock (the eyes move; “You go to the Pinkertons, they don’t have a clock like that”), a figurine of Jiminy Cricket, and a Spiderman coffee mug.

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Crais, Robert. The Monkey’s Raincoat.

NY: Bantam Books, 1987.

This is the first of the long-running Elvis Cole/Joe Pike detective stories and it’s a good starting place, too. Cole is a thirty-five-year-old Vietnam vet with a strong background in martial arts, a quirky personality, a taste for kitsch, and a sometimes peculiar sense of humor. He’s been a PI for eight years in partnership with Joe Pike, a highly laconic and extremely dangerous mercenary soldier.

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