Friday, September 3, 2010

Best August Reads

August was a good month for reading.

Clockers, Richard Price. Even better than Freedomland. Price writes crime fiction that makes the crime—especially its solution—subordinate to what happens to those even peripherally involved. If you like The Wire, get thyself to a bookstore and pick up one of Price's book now. I'm going to have to read them all.

Ghosts of Belfast, Stuart Neville. The original title (The Twelve) was better, as Gerry Fegan tries to exorcise the ghosts of twelve people he killed during The Troubles in Ireland and stirs up political turmoil all the way to London. Written in a style that resembles Adrain McKinty channeling John Connolly, Neville has written a tight, perfectly paced thriller that never disappoints or takes the easy way out, deftly avoiding what Hollywood would turn into a sappy (and inappropriate) ending.

Road Dogs, Elmore Leonard. The reviews were tepid at best; maybe that's why I liked it more than I expected. Leonard combines three characters from previous books (Jack Foley from Out of Sight, Cundo Rey from LaBrava, and Dawn Navarro from Riding the Rap) into a stew with a plot that ebbs and flows not unlike Get Shorty, though not as funny. The writing doesn't have the hard bark of his early crime fiction, but his voice is like finding snuggling into a favorite pair of sweats and slippers. Even the few self-referential asides work, winks toward long-time readers.

The Night Gardener, George Pelecanos. I'm still not sure what it is about Pelecanos that I'm missing. Like Ross Macdonald, I can appreciate everything that makes him great—and he is great—but he doesn't wrap me up like McBain or Leonard or Price. I've seen him speak and read his blog and like and respect him as much as you can anyone you've never actually met. The story, characters, and dialog are top notch, and the pacing is excellent, though his characters do occasionally succumb to a political speech. Don't be deterred by my lengthy list of caveats; this is a hell of a book.

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