September was a whirlwind of travel and conferences, containing both Bouchercon and the beginning of C3. October has been stay at home busy, looking back with conference summaries while moving forward with new book releases. I’m not complaining, but that’s why it took me halfway into the month to talk about the best books I read in September. (I know how much you look forward to these posts. Go ahead. Admit it. No one will judge you.)
A Detailed Man, David Swinson. A little overlooked amid the acclaim for The Second Girl, Swinson’s premier effort is solid. It’s got some Wambaugh in it, showing what it’s like for a cop who has no real home in the department, working cases as they come. (The title has double meaning, referring not only to the protagonist’s attention to detail, but to the fact that he’s on a detail, or temporary assignment.) Swinson does a nice job of keeping multiple balls in the air without confusing the reader, while showing how easy it can be for a cop to become overwhelmed. The Second Girl is a home run, but A Detailed Man is a stand-up double and would be a great way to pass the time while waiting for Swinson’s upcoming Frank Marr book to drop next spring.
Hustle, Tom Pitts. Two young street hustler drug addicts come up with a plan to get off the streets by blackmailing one of their more affluent johns. Pitts has a gift for describing a degrading and hopeless life without turning it into misery porn. Big Rich and Donny have hopes—likely false—but they’re all the boys have. Of course, there’s more to life than watching their scheme come together and things go terribly wrong. Pitts manages to create empathy for two characters who, frankly, won’t have a lot of people who relate to them. The story had just enough twists and everything is well prepared and executed, showing Pitts’s unique ability to create distinctive characters and setting while working out a complex plot. Hell of a book.
Flash Boys, Michael Lewis. An expose of how high frequency traders use microseconds in computer transmission delays to essentially skim money from the stock market without contributing anything to the process. Read this and you’ll have to fight off an urge to stuff your 401(k) in a mattress. Lewis has a gift for writing technically challenging subjects in terms an intelligent layman can understand and do it with wit. I’m going to have to work my back though more of his stuff.