Tag: Mystery Novel

The Age of Treachery!

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An Atomic Moo Book Review!

Okay, I’ve been trying to get this review done for about two weeks, but life just keeps getting in the way. So, I’m just going to start typing, and hopefully somewhere in the blathering that follows will at least pieces of a meaningful review. Here goes…

Gavin Scott’s Age of Treachery is an extremely entertaining suspense novel set in post World War II London. The story follows history professor Duncan Forrester, who has to prove that a friend did not commit the murder of a rival colleague in his history department. Trying to prove who murdered David Lyall is really tough though, because every one hated the man. Seeking the murderer takes Forrester across all of northern Europe and to some pretty fantastic encounters with some of the 20th century’s best fiction writers!

Usually, I don’t pick up mystery novels. So, I am a little grateful to Titan Books for introducing me to the genre and getting me this book to review. It kind of made up (a bit) for all the schlock entertainment flooding our televisions and movie theaters these days, and shows what a true art writing can be. I don’t know how a person even starts to write a mystery, but (by what ever method) Scott created a suspense filled story that was also thrilling and fun to read. The book takes a deep dive into post world war II history, and keeps a very “English/Sherlock Holmes” manner in its narrative. Which added a lot of charm to the story. I don’t think this will go down as one of the best mystery novels ever, but it definitely deserves a lot of credit for its unique mystery and incredible use of historical events (and literary assets like J.R.R. Tolkien) of the time. This is honestly one of the few novels where I don’t have any criticism after having read it. It was an intriguing, memorable, page turner. I was so into the book that I finished it in two days and I’m looking forward to future adventures of Duncan Forrester.

The Age of Treachery is available in all major book stores or you can get your copy online at Titanbooks.com!

It is the winter of 1946, and after years of war, ex-Special Operations Executive agent Duncan Forrester is back at his Oxford college as a junior Ancient History Fellow. But his peace is shattered when a hated colleague is found dead: stabbed and pushed from an upper window.
One of Forrester’s closest friends is arrested for the murder, but Forrester is not convinced of his guilt; the dead man had many enemies, and there are rumours that he was in possession of a mysterious Viking manuscript. A manuscript that may have been owned by a German spy…
Travelling from Oxford to bombed-out Berlin and to the fjords of Norway in his search for the truth, Forrester must use all his wartime skills to find the true killer.

The Vinyl Detective: Written in Dead Wax!

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An Atomic Moo Book Review of Andrew Cartmel’s New Novel!

Andrew Cartmel’s The Vinyl Detective almost abates my hatred for hipsters. Almost. I don’t think anyone can stop hating hipsters. It’s just too easy to despise those bearded, coffee obsessed, man bun toting, shit bags that clog our beach streets with Fiats and Vespa scooters, but somehow (weirdly) Cartmel crafted a story that makes a coffee chugging – vinyl obsessed – hipster kind of cool. With a solid mystery to boot! Wow.

Written in Dead Wax begins when the nameless vinyl detective (later nicknamed “Chef”) is hired to find a rare Jazz LP by a now defunct 1950’s publishing label. Up until this point, Chef has eeked out a living by scouring London’s charity shops (I’m guessing that’s either like a pawn shop or a 2nd hand store…?) for rare records to sell online, or add to his vast collection. Then one day he is contacted by a foreign company’s very beautiful representative, Nevada, to help track down an incredibly rare jazz album, Easy Come, Easy Go, but finding the record won’t be easy. There just happen to be a pair of murderous blonde athletes also hunting the album and then there’s the dark mystery hidden in the record it self!

The thing is, I really enjoyed this book. Cartmel did a wonderful job of making his characters (though still disgustingly hipster-ish) likable and fun. Chef is an excellent detective, in a sort of not being a detective kind of way. He’s the total underdog hero, and as a geeky outsider myself, I can’t help but root for the underdog. I think the stories unique way of unfolding a mystery is also what makes the book such a great read. Written in Dead Wax takes it’s readers deep into the world of music, and (even better for geeks) collecting. I honestly have no opinion on what sounds better, CD or LP, but I’ve got a closet full of vintage Star Wars figures. I could easily tell you about the backing card, year produced, or existing variants of any of the collectible action figures (not dolls!) safely sealed away in the many containers which are piled to the ceiling in my closet. I can even spot reproductions and cheap knock offs. I don’t know why, but reading about collectors, and a mystery that goes deep into their respective world, was really refreshing. I honestly think this is one of the best mystery stories since The Big Lebowski! And yes, that was a mystery too. In fact; I’m almost willing (grudgingly) to consider the likes of Chef and Tinkler as geeks. Almost. ‘just have to lose the cats and any opinion about coffee.new16oz-coffee-cup Seriously!? What grown man keeps cats and gives a shit about the taste of coffee!? Coffee should be black and burn just as hard going out at as it did going in! That’s it. Its there to get the job done. You drink it, stay awake, and lose a year or so of unwanted life expectancy. When I put a $1.29 of hard earned cash down on the counter for my 7-11 what ever brew, I need it to do its goddamn job of keeping me upright and lucid for the next few hours. Not brag about its “aroma”, or what part of India a child laborer had to pull it out of. Coffee should be burly, stalwart, and humble. Just like my women. ‘merica.

Anyways… I’m very much looking forward to the release of the next book (The Run-Out Groove), and even if Titan doesn’t send me a review copy I’ll probably go pick one up. Yeah, I’m willing to spend my own money on the next edition. That’s how much I enjoyed this. Below I posted a copy of The Vinyl Detectives official synopsis. However, visit Titanbooks.com to get a copy of your own.

Cheers!

He is a record collector — a connoisseur of vinyl, hunting out rare and elusive LPs. His business card describes him as the “Vinyl Detective” and some people take this more literally than others.
Like the beautiful, mysterious woman who wants to pay him a large sum of money to find a priceless lost recording — on behalf of an extremely wealthy (and rather sinister) shadowy client.
Given that he’s just about to run out of cat biscuits, this gets our hero’s full attention. So begins a painful and dangerous odyssey in search of the rarest jazz record of them all…

Dust and Desire: A Joel Sorrell Novel

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An Atomic Moo Book Review of Conrad Williams Novel

I’m sure this isn’t true for the vast majority of mystery stories out on book shelves, but it seems like most of the ones I’ve read (and I like mysteries) tend to center around a detective who’s life is complete shit. The protagonist, sometimes including modern interpretations of Sherlock Holmes, are often surly, anti-social, drug addled, dicks (P.I.’s) working on the fringes of law and order. Who also despite being barely sober, somehow manage to put together all the pieces of a dangerous whodunit. Yeah, pretty much what happens in Conrad William’s novel, Dust and Desire, but this time with way more drinking. Keen.

Dust and Desire pits a broken ex-cop turned PI (Sorrell) against a ruthless serial killer and it doesn’t help that this psycho is also coming after Sorrell and everyone he knows. Here’s the official synopsis:

The Four-Year-Old, an extraordinary killer, has arrived in London, hell-bent on destruction… PI Joel Sorrell is approached by the mysterious Kara Geenan, who is desperate to find her missing brother. Joel takes on the case but almost immediately, an attempt is made on his life. The body count increases. And then Kara vanishes too… as those close to Joel are sucked into his nightmare, he realizes he must track down the killer if he is to halt a grisly masterplan – even if it means sacrificing his own life.

Though I’m skeptical that any human being could function after the massive volumes of alcohol Sorrell imbibes, let alone stop a killer, I enjoyed this story. Dust and Desire is chuck full of dark humor and even darker action. Sorrell’s messy past adds a fantastic backdrop to his investigation, and reading about a detective that is almost universally hated is always a lot of fun. Though readers should be warned this book is amazingly English. I mean – it doesn’t shy away from a very U.K. based (I want to say cockney, but I don’t know…) narrative and metaphors that I’m sure make sense in London (maybe) but there were several times where I had to do my own “google” investigations just to figure out what the hell Sorrell had just said. However, this could also be interpreted as just part of the books charm, and we all walk away with a few new terms for being drunk. Also, Dust and Desires readers can look forward to an additional (exclusive) short story, Do Not Resuscitate, and an author Q&A.

Dust and Desire is available now at most major book sellers, or you can get your copy online at Titanbooks.com.

Butterfly Skin

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An Atomic Moo Book Review of Sergey Kuznetsov’s Cult Hit Novel

Hello El Moochoadores! Our book review this week is of Sergey Kuznetsov’s Russian cult classic; Butterfly Skin! Well, I say this week, but I think it’s been well over a month since my last review. D’oh. Anyways: Originally published in the 1990’s, Butterfly Skin has recently been translated to English and re-published in the United States by Titan Books.

Since finishing Butterfly Skin I’ve read a few other online reviews who refer to this novel as the Russian Silence of the Lambs, or even compare it to Stieg Larson’s Girl with the Dragon tattoo, but I disagree. Though it hits a level of sexual weirdness, and creepy savagery few other novels have obtained, Butterfly Skin lacked what ever intrigue, or charisma, brought to us by Larson and Harris in their novels, and instead offers readers a dull story sugar coated in violence.

In Butterfly Skin, Kuznetsov floats between the first, second, and third person narratives as he writes about the life of young internet journalist, Ksenia Inonova (is the “K” a “Z” sound in this one?). Ksenia works for a small online newspaper, but she soon hits a new level of fame when she creates a website about a Moscow serial killer and his horrific torture and executions of young women. Ksenia, a masochists with deep BDSM desires, soon finds herself in a relationship with the unknown killer via an ICQ (remember – 1990’s, unless Russia still uses ICQ(?)) chat. Ksenia and the killer, only known as Alien, then develop a strictly online, but very explicit, relationship based on domination and submission that ultimately leads to fatal consequences.

Though I found the book interesting for it’s many changes in tense (sometimes first person narratives by Ksenia, or the killer, other times Kuznetsov writes as if you are the characters and what is happening to you) Over all I found this book to be mostly boring and far too reliant on shock value. Grizzly murder, torture, and submissive sexual encounters are described in vivid detail (way, way too vivid detail), but the book takes a long time to get to any real plot points and resolves with an incredibly abrupt ending. Butterfly Skin also seemed to imply that the dark fantasies, like the ones enjoyed by Ksenia and the killer, are shared by everyone, and readers should be “stimulated” by the story. However; after many (many!) chapters of the Killers narrative of why he kills, and how, the expositions became dull and mostly just weird. Yes, the book gets a little weird. Though, when narrating as the killer, Kuznetsov does show some incredible talent for writing and a prime example of this can be found in the beginning of chapter twelve (page 83) where the author has the killer speak to us:

It is good to kill in winter. Especially if it has snowed overnight, and the ground is covered with a delicate blanket of white. You put the bound naked body on it. The blood from the wounds flows more freely in the cold frosty air, and the warmth of life departs with it. If you are lucky and she does not die too quickly, she will see the solid film of ice cover what was flowing through her veins so recently. Red on white, there is no more beautiful combination than that.

Creepy, weird… sure, but also vivid and well written. Through out Butterfly Skin, the killer will often talk in this manner and provide readers with an insight into his supposedly normal life. Well, as far as mass murderes go…
Overall though, Butterfly Skin just tries to hard to shock or provoke the readers. Yes, full of awful murders, and weird/kinky (almost sad) sex, but that’s just a thin veneer on a story that doesn’t really do anything. Expect maybe it teaches us a detailed history of the lives of serial killers, and that we really loved ICQ in the ’90’s. Is ICQ even around anymore?

Butterfly Skin is available in all major book stores now, or you can get your own copy online at titanbooks.com! Check out the books synopsis below!

A new psychological thriller that will take you into the dark depths of contemporary Russia.

Moscow is plagued with a series of gruesome murders. Ksenia, an ambitious young editor in the news department of a small but influential online journal decides to track down the serial killer, devising an elaborate website to entrap him and thereby boost her company’s profile. She soon realises, however, that her obsession with the psychopath reflects something more deeply disturbing: her own unconscious mixture of horror and fascination with the sexual savagery of the murders.

Through his riveting plot and singular characters, Kuznetsov explores the sometimes pathological fallout resulting from our instant connectivity in the emerging world of emails, facebook, twitter, and other forms of electronic “intimacy.” The novel has enjoyed a cult following in Russia.

Atomic Moo Book Review of Joyland, a New Stephen King Mystery!

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For over a year now, I’ve had an opportunity to read many of the books from the Hard Case Crime library of hard boiled crime fiction. For the most part they are an excellent collection of stories, but I think I’ve found a clear favorite among this collection in the recently published Joyland. Written by legendary author, Stephen King, Joyland has a uniqueness that other crime novels don’t often try for in that it’s wonderfully subtle. In Joyland, the main character isn’t some “hard as a coffin nail” P.I. who’s as quick a draw with a pistol as he is the ladies. The main character is Devin Jones, a heart broke college kid working away from home, in a North Carolina amusement park, during the summer of 1973. Devin is thoughtful, but also young and inexperienced. While at Joyland he’ll encounter a unique little boy who himself is fatally ill and Devin will pick up on a haunting legacy of a girls cruel murder, at the park, several years before.

I think one of Joyland’s biggest strengths is that it is written as a memoir of Devin Jones. I’m fascinated by King’s ability to take us into the mind of a man nearing retirement and still re-live youthful moments in that man’s life that would change him forever. King injects a wonderful amount of humanity that helps us relate to these characters and accept their story. There are also these little nuances of having to learn a special “carney” language, and Devin eventually finding a special joy in “wearing the fur” for kids even on the really hot July days. Also, what better place could you pick for a grizzly murder than a small, under budget amusement park all set in the early 1970’s? I really don’t have much to be critical about in this story. I feel that most fans of King’s prior novels will embrace this book as it has a very “early” King vibe.

Summer is in full swing now and Joyland should be at the top of your summer reading list. Joyland is available in book stores now or you can get a copy through Titan Books.

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Atomic Moo Book Review of Seduction of the Innocent!!!

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Author Max Allan Collins (Road to Perdition) has a new book, Seduction of the Innocent, out through Hard Case Crime; a series of mystery novels published by Titan Books! Here’s the Synopsis:

It’s 1954, and a rabble-rousing social critic has declared war on comic books – especially the scary, gory, bloody sort published by the bad boys of the industry, EF Comics. But on the way to a Senate hearing on whether these depraved publications should be banned, the would-be censor meets a violent end of his own – leaving his opponents in hot water.
Can Jack Starr, private eye to the funny-book industry, and his beautiful boss Maggie unravel the secret of Dr. Frederick’s gruesome demise? Or will the crackdown come, falling like an executioner’s axe…?
An illustrated whodunit inspired by America’s real-life “war on comic books” in the 1950s, from the award-winning master of the historical detective novel, MAX ALLAN COLLINS.

Seduction of the Innocent is largely inspired by the real life comic book witch hunt led by Dr. Fredric Werthamtumblr_mii56xIVQX1qa64bjo1_500 in the 1950’s and does a great job of using a little history and lot of imagination to create an engaging mystery. I very much enjoyed this fictional “whodunit” with a comic book twist. The book’s main character, Jack Starr is fairly stereotypical (assuming Comic Book Detectives are stereotypical) but he fits the story being told, and Collins writing of Star’s narration makes the 1950’s world believable and fun. Actually, I’m kind of pissed at my high school guidance councilor. If I had thought “Comic Book Detective” might have actually been a choice… eh, but why look back. You can find a copy of Seduction of the Innocent at any book retailer or at Titan Books online store.

Just a side note here: I really did enjoy this book, but the real life story behind the golden days of comic books and their near death in the 1950’s is also fascinating. A few years ago I read a book, Men of Tomorrow by Gerard Jones, men_of_tomorrow_largewhich mostly followed the lives of Superman creators (Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel) but also had a few chapters on the 1950’s comic book hearings and the creation of the self imposed Comic Code Authority. Approved_by_the_Comics_Code_AuthorityMany of the real life counterparts to the characters of Seduction of the Innocent are also featured in the book and their histories and contributions to the comic book industry are just as fascinating.

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