Crouch, Blake. Dark Matter.

NY: Crown, 2016.

When I don’t have a specific book pending in the back of my mind, waiting until I finish the current one, I usually browse my “To Read” list (which is very lengthy) until something just hits me the right way. This week, it was Crouch’s book, which has been staring at me from the shelf for awhile now. Time travel and alternate histories are two of my favorite subgenres within science fiction, and in recent years, authors of both have often turned to the concept of the multiverse to quasi-explain the “how it works” part of their stories. Crouch sort of does the same thing here, but he carries it all off in highly original and unique ways.



Hill, Reginald. On Beulah Height.

NY: Delacorte, 1998.

Things haven’t been going very smoothly lately for DCI Peter Pascoe of Mid-Yorkshire CID. He recently discovered his grandfather had been executed by firing squad in Flanders by his own side for not being sufficiently enthusiastic about the War, and his rage at the unjustness of it, even eighty years later, is quietly consuming him. And in this episode in Hill’s award-winning series, he suddenly faces a threat even closer to home that he has no way to combat.


Morton, Kate. The Lake House.

NY: Simon & Schuster, 2015.

I’ve been aware of Morton as an author of well-received romantic novels, but those usually aren’t my thing, so I hadn’t actually read any of her books — until this one, which was recommended by several friends who knew my tastes. And it is, in fact, very, very good indeed. In fact, it’s an amazing piece of work.


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.


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.


Mina, Denise. Still Midnight.

NY: Little, Brown, 2009.

It’s an ordinary late fall evening in the Muslim section of Glasgow and the extended Anwar family is going about its ordinary Ramadan affairs, when a couple of armed and masked men burst in, demanding a large amount of money from someone named “Bob.” There’s no Bob, only Muslim names, and one look at the house will tell anyone there’s not a lot of money around.


Rankin, Ian. Standing in Another Man’s Grave.

NY: Little, Brown, 2012.

DI John Rebus of Lothian and Borders police has been a copper for thirty-odd years — he’s the longest-serving member of the CID — but sixty is the mandatory retirement age and Rebus is now an ex-cop. Fortunately, the cold case review unit has a spot for him, so he takes what he can get. So one day he takes a call from a woman down south whose daughter disappeared eight years before, and who has never given up hope that the girl might still be alive. (You know where this is going, right?)


Dolan, Harry. The Last Dead Girl.

NY: Putnam, 2014.

Dolan, who has written two first-rate murder mysteries featuring magazine editor David Loogan of Ann Arbor, has found a novel way to avoid (for now) simply turning out a third episode: He takes his protagonist back more than a decade, to 1998, when his name was still David Malone and he was living in Rome, New York. So Malone’s personality and ways of dealing with the world are pretty much the same, even though the setting is entirely different.


Doolittle, Sean. Lake Country.

NY: Bantam, 2012.

Doolittle has published half a dozen novels now and has made a name for himself as a writer of wry noir crime stories leavened with humor. This one begins after Wade Benson, a successful Minneapolis architect who works too hard, makes a terrible mistake. One night, he drowses off while driving home late and his SUV destroys the much smaller car of college student Becky Morse, who is killed. Benson gets five years’ probation (with an interesting twist) but the incident leaves him with a heavy psychological burden — especially since Becky’s brother was killed in Iraq a couple days later and their father committed suicide the day after that.

Then we have Darryl Potter and Mike Barlowe, both of whom had served in the Marines with young Pvt. Morse. Five years later, Barlowe has a plastic knee, a diagnosis of PTSD, and a deep revulsion against guns and violence. Darryl has a Bad Conduct Discharge, a drinking problem, and a job as a collector for a nerdish young bookie. Darryl also thinks Benson got off way too easy. Maybe he’ll do something about that. Finally, there’s Maya Lamb, reporter for News7, whose first big story on her arrival in the Twin Cities was the death of Becky Morse and who is now facing early burnout.

Darryl’s kidnapping of the architect’s daughter, Juliet — now the same age Becky was when she died — starts events rolling that no one can control, with Mike determined to rescue his friend from his headlong self-destruction, and the Vietnam-era ex-Marine who runs the bar where Mike and Darryl hang out getting sucked in against his better judgment, and the young bookie’s bail-bondsman uncle lending him a psychopathic bounty hunter who wants the posted reward, and Maya trying to decide whether she really cares enough anymore to cover this riff on her earlier story.

Doolittle is very good at characters with problems and even better at crisp dialogue that brings the speakers even more sharply into focus. The action is nearly non-stop this time and it’s clear this would make an excellent film. Doolittle has earned a place on my “automatic” list.

Leonard, Elmore. 52-Pickup.

NY: Delacorte, 1974.

Leonard started out in the writing trade in the 1960s doing Western yarns and, since he’s lived all his life in Detroit, it presumably didn’t come very naturally to him. Then the pulp Western market dried up and he switched over to crime novels, of which this was his first.


Published in: on 13 August 2013 at 6:05 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , ,