Thursday, December 31, 2009

December's Best Reads

My reading year ended with a bang.

Mischief, Ed McBain – A good, old-school, everyone gets into the act 87th Precinct story, featuring the Deaf Man. Meyer and Hawes get the mystery of abandoned Alzheimer’s patients, Parker and Kling have to work the killings of graffiti artists, and Carella and Brown have to figure out what the hell the Deaf Man is up to. All the stories end with less than perfect resolutions, and McBain is in fine form as the narrator.

Somebody Owes Me Money
, Donald Westlake –The Hunter, played for laughs. Chester Conway gets a tip on a horse and winds, then shows up to collect a few minutes after his bookie gets clipped. The bookie’s widow, his sister, two crime factions, and the cops all think Chet’s involved when all he wants is his $930. He’s going to get it, though. Laugh out loud funny in spots, especially when Chet is laid up and all the other players pass though his bedroom to advance their agendas. Great fun.

Swan Peak, James Lee Burke – His flowing descriptions seem better suited for the lush vegetation of Louisiana than to the sometimes stark beauty of Montana, but Dave Robicheaux always delivers. Clete’s more involved here than usual as a vacation goes sour when he accidentally camps on restricted property. Local law, the feds, organized crime, and a Texas escapee and his pursuer complicate things right up to the ending that doesn’t end quite how you expect.

Shakedown, Charlie Stella – A New York bookie quits the business three months before his old boss turns state’s evidence. Multiple plot lines interweave, and no one does anything out-of-character stupid just to advance the plot; it all makes sense when the decisions are made, no matter how badly things turn out. The mobsters are unapologetically, not caricatures, and the dialog is dead on.

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