Red Flags

Tammy Kaehler’s mystery series features racecar driver Kate Reilly, an up-and-coming hotshot who plies her trade in the fictional Sports Car Championship (SCC), but she’s looking to move up into IndyCar and even a potential start in the Indy 500. In Kaehler’s fourth book, RED FLAGS, Reilly comes with her SCC team to the Long Beach Grand Prix, one of IndyCar’s premier events that will feature the SCC race as a support race.

For those who are not attuned, Long Beach, California has been host to both Formula One and IndyCar races since 1976. It’s a beautiful, difficult, technical course run directly on the streets of the city along the waterfront. It’s a glorious track that encourages brilliant racing and with its southern Californian locale and usually great weather, the race weekend becomes more of a spectacular event than a single race.

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Nearly Nero: The Adventures of Claudius Lyon, the Man Who Would Be Wolfe

Prolific crime and western novelist Loren D. Estleman owes his love of mysteries to his discovery as a young reader of the works of Rex Stout; especially the stories of Stout’s most famous character, Nero Wolfe, as relayed by Wolfe’s legman Archie Goodwin. And, like many authors of his generation, Estleman was moved to pay homage to Stout by writing stories in the popular and enduring tradition of Nero Wolfe.

But rather than produce pastiches of “lost adventures” – like the countless Sherlock Holmes tributes – Estleman created a character so enamored with Wolfe that he reinvents himself, as nearly as he can, in the image of his hero. Thus we have Claudius Lyon and the nine gently satiric and wonderfully humorous stories gathered together for the first time in Estleman’s latest title, NEARLY NERO.

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The Boy in the Earth

Fuminori Nakamura is one of the most intriguing contemporary novelists out of Japan, but I’m glad his works are short. It would be much too difficult to wrap your head around the darkness his characters inhabit if his works were 500 pages long instead of his more usual 200 pages or less. His austere plot lines are inhabited by intensely well-drawn characters, but the characters themselves are “hollow.” Not in the sense that they aren’t fully realized, but in the sense that almost every character is damaged, has an aspect of loss to them, a hole that cannot always be filled.

THE BOY IN THE EARTH opens with our protagonist provoking a motorcycle gang, willing them to beat him into a pulp, which they gleefully do.

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The fifth stand-alone volume of Cinebook’s Marquis of Anaon series, THE CHAMBER OF CHEOPS, delivers a fabulously satisfying final adventure, written with care, sensitivity and intelligence by Fabien Vehlmann and illustrated in a moodily cartoony style by Matthieu Bonhomme.

This time around, our young hero, Mr. Poulain, inherits a large amount of money from a man he never knew. He’s not the only one to be on the receiving end of this gift, but he is the only one who wants to understand his dead benefactor’s motives. In his search he travels to Ottoman Egypt (circa 1730’s) and comes face to face with mystery, adventure and the harsh realities of life in that day and age.

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Dogs of War

In this ninth title of Jonathan Maberry’s series, Joe Ledger and his cohorts in the Department of Military Science (DSM) are once again called upon to battle a villain threatening the world with technology not too far from reality – in this case the latest creations in robotics. But DOGS OF WAR suffers from a meandering plot structure and a sluggish pace – characteristics never experienced in any of the previous Ledger novels.

No sooner does Joe Ledger return from a mission in Prague than he receives a call from his brother Sean, a homicide detective in Baltimore. A local teenage prostitute is found dead and the autopsy reveals very strange results – strange enough for Sean reach out to his brother, who Sean knows works for a clandestine government organization that deals with these kinds of things.

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Remember a few years back when Seth Grahame-Smith’s PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES hit the book scene, and suddenly it seemed like every hack writer was submitting classic novels interspersed with horror sections to publishers? Unfortunately, some of those “novels” (I use the term loosely) actually made it into print. What should have been a one hit wonder (and it kind of was) sparked imitations.

It’s similar to when Hollywood has a hit movie and hack screenwriters rush to their laptops and attempt to copy the winning formula of what they just saw on the screen rather than come up with something original. They type up a by-the-numbers script instead of being inspired by what they saw and attempt to create something with heart and soul.

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The Snatchers / Clean Break

Crime fiction fans are probably more familiar with the many movie adaptations of Lionel White’s novels than with the novels themselves. Now, thanks to Stark House Press’s Crime Classics series, we can read THE SNATCHERS, White’s first novel, as well as CLEAN BREAK, the basis of Stanley Kubrick’s THE KILLING.

Cal Dent, in THE SNATCHERS (1953), leads a team of outlaws that have set up what they are certain is the prefect crime – a kidnapping that is sure to bring them half a million dollars ransom. But things start to go wrong as Dent’s team and the kidnapped victims hide out in a vacation rental in Land’s End and wait for the payoff.

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The latest Hugo Pratt book, CORTO MALTESE IN SIBERIA, from IDW’s EuroComics is simply fabulous. Which comes as no surprise to anyone who reads this column. They all are. You should buy each volume, read them every couple of years, and stock extra copies to give away to friends and enemies and complete strangers. I’m not sure a longer review is necessary, but I’ll nevertheless jot down a few thoughts.

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The Murder of Mary Russell

I wonder if I’m getting to be a bit Sherlock-ed. After collecting Sherlockiana for 20 years, then running through multiple video reboots, some very welcome (Jeremy Brett, Benedict Cumberbatch), some not so much (Robert Downey Jr.), and then reading re-inventions or reinterpretations of the canon from some very fine writers (Laurie R. King) and some not so fine (John Gardner), I wonder if it’s all become just a bit too much.

It was my first thought on reading the new-in-paperback THE MURDER OF MARY RUSSELL, Laurie R. King’s 14th novel featuring Sherlock Holmes as having been married to one Mary Russell. In this installment, Holmes doesn’t even show up until around page 130 and that’s in an extensive flashback. For this book primarily is less about Holmes or even Russell, and more about the very colorful past of one Mrs. Hudson.

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The Lovecraft Squad: All Hallows Horror

THE LOVECRAFT SQUAD: ALL HALLOWS HORROR is the first in a promised trilogy of novels using a concept created by prolific horror and dark fantasy editor Stephen Jones. While it has its moments of effective horror – thanks mostly to John Llewellyn Probert’s prose style – this debut suffers from an derivative plot structure that dulls its overall intentions.

Bob Chambers is a member of the Human Protection League, often nicknamed “The Lovecraft Squad,” an FBI-sanctioned group that investigates and prevents occult occurrences throughout the world. Or, as Chambers himself explains, “Occasions when dark powers have tried to break through, evil forces that exist just on the other side of our reality and want to make this world their own.”

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