Wednesday, May 31, 2017

May's Best Reads

I started a program to be sure favorite authors don’t fall through the cracks a couple of months ago and it’s already started to pay dividends. Not that I’m no longer looking for new stuff, but I have a tendency to try to keep up which leads to some favorites slipping unintentionally off the radar. This sometimes calls for a re-reading of old favorites, but there.s nothing wrong with that, either.

All the Dead Voices, Declan Hughes. The best of the Ed Loy books. Hughes remains true to his Ross Macdonald roots, as the solution to Loy’s cold case lies far in the past, though this time not just a family’s past; the Irish Troubles are in play. Few can pull off shifting time perspectives of a book written primarily through the main character’s first-person POV. Hughes not only pulls it off but makes it a strength of the storytelling with all of the linguistic poetry one comes to expect from Hughes, but a plot a little more complex but less complicated than some of his other books. This is the one to read if you’re looking for an entry point in the Loy series, as you’re definitely going to want more.

Crime Song, David Swinson. Swinson wasted no time climbing to the top of my list of “must read” authors and to the even more elite circle of those whose books I’ll read as soon as they’re available. Crime Song follows onto the acclaimed The Second Girl without missing a beat. This time we get a little more backstory into grossly flawed antihero Frank Marr with a peek into his family life. Swinson knows police procedure and attitudes as well as one would expect from a retired cop, and is as familiar with DC’s drug trade as one would expect from a cop who worked narcotics for as long as he did. Those are assumed from reading his background. What’s surprising is the writing talent that allows neither of the above to ever sound perfunctory or formulaic, and creates prose that is worth reading for its own sake while never getting in the way of the story. The ending would do Ray Donovan proud. Another brilliant book by Swinson. If only he wrote faster.

Jimmy the Wags: Street Stories of a Private Eye, James Wagner (with Patrick Picciarelli). A laugh-out-loud cautionary tale of a retired police officer’s life as a PI. Wagner is as tough as one expects an NYPD lifer to be, gradually falling prey to increased expectations and the lifestyles of those around him. It’s both apologetic and unsparing and worth the time of anyone interested in PI stories. Or character studies. Or just entertaining stories well-told. I’ve read this book multiple times and hope to be around long enough for many more.

The Walkaway, Scott Phillips. Possibly Phillips’s best book; certainly the most affecting to me personally. A sequel of sorts to The Ice Harvest, this is the story of Gunther Fahnstiel, retired Wichita cop who walks away from his assisted living community looking for…well, he’s not exactly sure. A lot of people looking for Gunther aren’t exactly sure, either, but a critical mass of them come together through the intersection of two cold cases that might lead to the old man’s whereabouts. All the delightful turns of phrase and perverse side stories one looks for in Phillips tied together with a plot that begins as disparate threads yet pulls together neatly in the end.


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