Thursday, December 23, 2021

Fall's Best Reads

 Fall of 2021 was a good three months for my reading. The highlights:


The Killing Look, J.D. Rhoades. Rhoades’s first Western, and a winner right out of the chute. Combines the best elements of Western and modern thriller with a story and characters one can only hope is the prelude to a series. The Jack Keller books prove Rhoades has series chops, and it looks like he’s primed for another. (Not that Keller needs to go away, mind you.)


Band of Brothers, Stephen Ambrose. Decided to re-read this after The Beloved Spouse™ and I re-watched the HBO series. All the good things anyone has said about the book are true. Wonderfully, though practically, written, it humanizes everyone in Easy Company, both for better and for worse. Reads like butter, funny and wrenching by turns, a wonderful book.


Heroes Often Fail, Frank Zafiro. Book 2 of the River City series, and I’m definitely in for the duration. Parts of this book were hard for me to read, as it deals with child abuse; disclosing the nature of the abuse would be a major spoiler. It’s not graphic, but I have a low threshold for such things and glossed over some pages. Nothing is gratuitous, and the story as a whole is compelling, especially as it shows cops as imperfect, even when they’re heroes.


Blood of the Wicked, Leighton Gage. Gage first came to my attention when I was asked to review this book for the New Mystery Reader web site. This is the first of the Chief inspector Mario Silva series, following the cases of a member of the Brazilian federal police. A fascinating look into a country with its own set of laws, crimes, and customs, written by a master.


The Thicket, Joe Lansdale. Another book only Joe Lansdale could have written. This story of a teenaged orphan and his kidnapped sister reads like an extremely violent Tom Sawyer story. The cast of characters that travel with Jack includes an erudite midget, a Black bounty hunter who has issues with drink (but not what you might expect), and a 600-pound hog. A delight from start to finish.


A Red Death, Walter Mosley. The second Easy Rawlins book. Not as solid as Devil in a Blue Dress, as the story tends to ramble. This one isn’t so much about the story as it is about how Blacks lived in Watts in the 50s (which is true of all Mosley’s books), but also how the Red Scare affected aspects of American lives we don’t ordinarily think of.


The Magdalen Martyrs, Ken Bruen. The Jack Taylor books are typically more about Jack than they are about whatever case he’s working on; this is no exception. That’s okay. Bruen combines prose that borders on poetry with a sparse, hard look at life’s underside, spices everything with humor, and leaves one with a reading experience like no one else.


The Drop, Dennis Lehane. Among my favorites and close to a perfect book. I read it when it first came out (a rarity for me), and skipped the bar the first night at a conference so I could finish it. Been a while, but it holds up very well. The book is adapted from Lehane’s screenplay for the movie, which is ass-backward from the typical sequence, but it works to perfection.


With a week to go, I’ve read 46 books tis year. A little below my average since I started keeping track, but all tings considered, I’m fairly well pleased.


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