Clowes, Daniel. Patience.

Seattle: Fantagraphics, 2016.

Clowes is probably best known for Ghost World, but he’s done a number of other graphic novels, too. This one is sort of science fiction. It’s 2012 and young Jack Barlow, who is scraping a living by handing out flyers on the street, comes home to find Patience, his wife, murdered. The cops decide he did it, and he spends many months in jail before they give up trying to make their case and cut him loose.

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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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Swierczynski, Duane. Revolver.

NY: Mulholland Books, 2016.

I stumbled on one of this author’s earlier crime novels a few years ago and became an almost instant fan of his rather noir style. He’s a Philadelphian through and through and the seamy side of the city he knows so well becomes a character in his books, too. And this time, he indulges in an unusual sort of narrative strategy.

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Cole, Allan & Chris Bunch. Sten.

NY: Ballantine, 1982.

Neither Cole nor his late writing partner, Chris Bunch, ever really reached the big leagues among science fiction authors — even though they published more than forty novels (and sold more than 150 screenplays) between them — but this book, the first volume in a series of eight, ought to be rediscovered by fans of high-quality space opera. It’s a big canvas with several larger than life characters and the action hardly lets up for a paragraph. Except, perhaps, when the Eternal Emperor is busy in the kitchen or is reconstructing Kentucky moonshine.

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Price, Richard. The Whites.

NY: Henry Holt, 2015.

I’ve been aware of Price for a few years, ever since the rave reviews of Clockers, but I hadn’t gotten around to reading him before now. But this one has been on everyone’s “Best of the Year” list, so I gave it a shot. I’m glad I did. It’s certainly on my own list of the year’s best.

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Nesbo, Jo. The Son.

NY: Knopf, 2014.

Even though I kind of have a thing for Scandinavian detective fiction, Nesbo has been a recent discovery for me, and then mostly through his independent novels rather than the “Harry Hole” series. This one shows off the author’s mature noir style and it’s sure to hit the big screen shortly.

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Published in: on 21 February 2015 at 8:16 am  Leave a Comment  
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Abercrombie, Joe. Half a King.

NY: Del Rey, 2014.

Abercrombie has established a major reputation in a relatively short time with his gritty “First Law” fantasy trilogy and the three sequel volumes, all set in the same world and with lots of overlapping characters. There are no shining, pointy-eared elves in his bloody-minded stories, and no wise wizards.

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Kuhn, Shane. The Intern’s Handbook.

NY: Simon & Schuster, 2014.

As novels about hit men go, this one is pretty original. John Lago is preparing to retire at twenty-five, having been a highly trained and very successful employee of Human Resources, Inc. since he was twelve. At age eighteen, “Bob,” who runs the show, began sending him out as an intern to law firms and big corporations, tasked with eliminating one or another bent executive (often on behalf of his career competition).

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Published in: on 2 January 2015 at 7:23 am  Leave a Comment  
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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.

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Abercrombie, Joe. Red Country.

NY: Orbit, 2012.

It’s kind of hard to believe that The Blade Itself, Abercrombie’s first work of robust, “real world” fantasy, appeared less than six years ago. Now, with the sixth volume set in his uncomfortable, hardscrabble, magic-fueled but vey human world, he has become a highly-regarded fixture in the field with glowing reviews even from professional readers who don’t ordinarily venture into this kind of thing.

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