Monday, January 5, 2015

December's Best Reads

Like December wasn’t a busy enough month, what with the holidays and the college graduation—with honors, no less—of one of my two favorite nieces (Congratulations, Aspen), good books were fighting each other to rush through my eyeballs to permanently imprint themselves on my brianal area. (I may be watching too much TV sports. Ever notice how sportscasters can never just say “he got hit in the face?” It’s always the “facial area.”)

Enough of me. These guys are good:

For the Dead, Timothy Hallinan. Poke Rafferty is back. I discussed this one in detail a few weeks ago. If you’re already a Hallinan fan, you need to read it. If you’re not a fan yet, read it and you will be.

Dead Red, Tim O’Mara. This one won’t release until next week, but is available for pre-order. The third of O’Mara’s successful Raymond Donne series finds Donne on summer vacation from teaching, sitting in a cab when the guy next to him gets his head shot off. I’ll have more to say when the book becomes generally available, including an interview with the author.

The Lost and the Blind, Declan Burke. I wrote on this one at length last week. Available in Ireland and the UK now; the colonies won’t have a shot at it until April. Sometimes one has to wonder if that whole revolution thing wasn’t a bit hasty.

The Friends of Eddie Coyle, George V. Higgins. Yes, I read it again, and, yes, I still think it may be the finest bit of crime fiction ever written.

The Sun is God, Adrian McKinty. A bit of a departure for McKinty, this historically-based mystery tells the story of a murder on a German colony in the south Pacific, in an enclave made up of a handful of nudists who eat only coconuts and bananas. (That part is true: such a colony did exist a little over a hundred years ago.) McKinty uses it as a satire on social mores and manners. The ending gets a little hairy, but McKinty’s story-telling gifts are on full display, and that’s more than enough.

The Good Cop, Brad Parks. My lack of affinity for bestsellers has been previously documented. I’m also leery of comedic crime fiction, if only because such books way too often either trivialize the violence or aren’t actually funny. I met Parks at a conference, he seemed to know what he was doing, so, what the hell? Good for me. Parks has the gift of paying full respect to the victims of violence while populating the cast with enough “characters” to keep a smile never more than a page away. I see why he keeps winning all those damned awards; he earns them. Added to the rotation.

All the President’s Men, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. I read it when it first came out, and, of course, saw the movie. (Learning Robert Redford had been cast to play him had to be the best day of Bob Woodward’s life.) Age and experience have made this an even more chilling read, placed in the context of how government and journalism have changed over the past forty years. Read it with what you know now and see if you aren’t dismayed by how fragile are the walls that protect our ability to have a say in how we live.


pattinase (abbott) said...

I agree about the Higgins. But strangely I have never read any of his other books.

Dana King said...

I've read a couple, most recently COGAN'S TRADE. It was good, but I found it a little hard to follow, and was happy to have seen the movie first, as the story laid out a little better. (The movie was KILLING THEM SOFTLY, with Brad Pitt and James Gandolfini.)

Interesting thing about COGAN'S TRADE: I read it on my Kindle, and I wonder if that failed to do the book justice. It's so dialog heavy, the screens laid out funny, and I have to focus a lot just to keep up with who was speaking, which disrupted the flow. I like my KIndle a lot--probably read between a third and a fourth of all books on it--but there are some books it is not well suited for, and this may have been one.