My summer hiatus has extended into all realms of writing, including passing along recommendations. Not that what appears in this blog will make or break a book, but making even one person aware of a good book is worth the time, since the publishers sure as hell aren't going to do it.
So, with that in mind, here are my recommendations for May, June, and July.
The Queen of Patpong, Timothy Hallinan. I will be greatly surprised if I read a better book this year. Hallinan's Poke Rafferty series started well with A Nail Through the Heart, and has continued to improve with each installment. In The Queen of Patpong, Hallinan explores the back story of Poke's wife, Rose, from a girl in a Thai village through her work in the sex trade, in the context of a chance meeting with a man she thought she'd been rid of. Hallinan's pacing is dead on, which is no mean feat, considering he breaks away from the story he's telling to give you a novella-length look at Rose's life. If you're already familiar with Hallinan's work, you're not going to want to miss this one. If you haven't read him yet, why the hell not?
Gutshot Straight, Lou Berney. I picked this up at the Bouchercon book bazaar last year, because I figured any book titled Gutshot Straight had to be entertaining. I was right again. Berney runs you through twist after twist, never quite doing what's expected but never straining your credulity too much. The tone is just right, the characters are expertly drawn and complement each other well, and Berney keeps his tongue planted only deep enough in his cheek to maintain the proper mood.
Tonight I Said Goodbye, Michael Koryta. Koryta's original Lincoln Perry story deserves its accolades. To me, Koryta's Perry stories ring truer than his standalones, and this one is no exception. A good introduction to his regular cast of characters, and a story that turns around just enough. The ending is a twist out of the blue until you think about it for a second, which is just as it should be. Thor, the Russian mobster (who also appears in A Welcome Grave) is perfect.
Cop in the Hood, Peter Moskos. True story of a sociology student who spent twenty months as a Baltimore cop. Not just following them around; Moskos went through the academy and donned the uniform. Insights in a context you can't get anywhere else, an entertaining read, to boot. The last section of the book is a history of prohibition in America—both liquor and drugs—and how the unintended consequences of each may be worse than the problem the policy is supposed to solve. Should be mandatory for anyone who wants to have an intelligent discussion of the pros and cons of current drug policy.
Mating Season, Jon Loomis. A worthy successor to Loomis's first Frank Coffin book, High Season. Not as much of a revelation—you're already aware of the "colorful" nature of the Provincetown setting—but still a fun read. Loomis blends humor and violence as appropriately as anyone.
TKO, Tom Schreck. The second book in Schreck's Duffy Dombrowski series. Another good mixture of humor and murder, though with a considerably higher body count than Mating Season. Duffy is a multi-faceted character who's too involved in what goes on around him to truly be a slacker, though just barely. He's smart, and, most important, has a good heart that holds things together and keeps you rooting for him. Schreck may be the best at getting an animal to help solve mysteries, using Al the basset hound to things a dog could actually do, like track people.