Friday, March 27, 2020

Favorite Reads of 2020, Part One

I can’t read nearly as fast or as much as I used to, so I’m pickier about what I do read. Books get far fewer pages than before to prove their worth. Lucky me that I’ve already read five I was sorry to see end.

The Fifth Risk, Michael Lewis. I planned not to read any books about the trump administration, but this was Michael Lewis. The germ of the narrative is how the trump team handled the transition from the Obama Administration, or, more to the point, didn’t handle it. What begins as an examination of how power changes hands spins through a description of the expertise that resides in government and then into a parable about being careful what you ask for. It’s brilliant, Lewis’s finest work, and that’s saying a lot.

Cold in July, Joe Lansdale. I’m late to the party on Lansdale but that’s among the reasons I’m trimming some of my other reading, so I can catch up. A damn near perfect book with well-drawn characters and one that belongs on the pantheon of greatness, namely Jim Bob Luke. What begins as a simple home burglary turns deadly and a solid revenge story starts to spin out until a plot twist that made me lower the book and take a deep breath. There are a couple of things that might defy the suspension of disbelief in lesser hands, but Lansdale pulls off the ultimate success: an ending that seems surprising yet inevitable. The movie’s good, but it only scratches the surface and makes a few odd choices. By all means read the book.

Apprehension, Mark Bergin. Just because I’m fussier about what I read doesn’t mean I’m only reading big names. Bergin’s debut is a combination police procedural/courtroom drama that succeeds on all counts in a manner that would make Joe Wambaugh proud, a fascinating story that is far more about how the cases work on the cops than how the cops work on the cases.

The Ghosts of Galway, Ken Bruen. Been a while since I read a book by Bruen. Can’t let that happen again. His style is as unique as Ellroy’s in its own distinctly Irish way. This time Jack Taylor gets involved in a classic MacGuffin tale that’s ostensibly about a rare book that ends up not being any more about the book than The Maltese Falcon is about the Audubon Society. Everyone uses Taylor for a pawn, not the least of which is a young woman who give Alice from the Luther TV show a run for her money in the crazy bitch department. What no one figures is the man they dismiss as an aging, broken-down drunk has limits to what he’ll put up with and skills to do something about it.

Cozy up to Death, Colin Conway. You might have assumed I don't read many cozies. The figure "none" comes to mind. This is a cozy with a difference. Sure, it's in a quaint New England seaside village. Sure, the protagonist owns a mystery bookstore and the bookstore has a cat. The lone police patrol officer rides a bike. Ah, but the store owner is a biker who ratted on the MC and is in Witness Protection, where he rubs up against some people he should really have stayed clear of. Delightful way of turning the genre on its head while still observing all the conventions.

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