I Shot the Buddha

ishotbuddhaColin Cotterill actually has two (at least) detective series set in Southeast Asia featuring unusual detectives, and written in comic overtones so broad one can’t help chuckling while reading. I came to Cotterill through his series starring female detective Jimm Juree and her wildly strange family in titles like KILLED AT THE WHIM OF A HAT; GRANDAD, THERE’S A HEAD ON THE BEACH; and THE AXE FACTOR.

But he has a much longer-running series starring Laotian retired coroner Dr. Siri Paiboun and his wife, Madame Daeng. Though Siri is in his 70s, he and his wife still get into some marvelous scrapes and adventures, of which I SHOT THE BUDDHA is the 11th book to tell their tales.

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EURO COMICS ROUNDUP >> Ghosts of a Chance

ghostsinverlochSince Luc Besson just got a rousing reception for the few minutes of VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS footage he showed at this past week’s San Diego ComicCon, it’s only appropriate to continue reviewing the original series of comic books that not only inspired and instructed the career and ambitions of Besson, but through an extensive visual influence on George Lucas’ original STAR WARS trilogy, the majority of modern science fiction cinema as well.

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Charcoal Joe

charcoaljoeThings have changed a lot for Easy Rawlins, the star of Walter Mosley’s long-running and popular mystery series. But like the saying goes: the more things change, the more they stay the same. That’s the impression fans are likely to get when reading CHARCOAL JOE, the 14th title of the series.

The setting is Los Angeles in the late1960s, the same as ROSE GOLD, the previous series novel. Ezekiel “Easy” Rawlins has taken the money from the Rose Gold case and started a detective agency with partners Saul Lynx and Tinsford “Whisper” Natly. And, he is about to propose to his girlfriend, Bonnie Shay. Then a new case gets in the way.

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The Dragon Round

dragonroundI’m not a fan of high fantasy. I’ve admitted this in previous reviews. But I’m a sucker for revenge stories.

Some of my favorite books include THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO, THE STARS MY DESTINATION, and RENDEZVOUS IN BLACK. So when Stephen S. Power’s THE DRAGON ROUND was recommended to me as a “cross between THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO and GAME OF THRONES … well, I decided I had to give it a try.

I can’t speak to the comparison to GAME OF THRONES because I’ve never read the books or watched an episode of the series (I know, I know, it’s great. I have to watch it. Blah, blah, blah…). The only thing I know is that the series contains dragons, incest, and lots of deaths. THE DRAGON ROUND had two of those things, so I suppose the comparison is apt. It also has a plot that is equal parts THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO and MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY:

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SoHo Sins

sohosinsIf the promotional copy on the back cover and inside blurb page didn’t proclaim that SOHO SINS was author Richard Vine’s debut novel, you’d never know from reading it. Rarely has a first novel shown such confidence in its prose and such insight into its characters and setting. You’d swear it was the work of a seasoned novelist with national renown.

But these traits did not come naturally. Vine has been the managing editor of the respected fine arts publication, ART IN AMERICA, for several years. So he knows what makes good writing and he has an intimate knowledge of the New York art scene of the 1990s, the setting of this first work of fiction.

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My Father, the Pornographer

myfatherpornCrazy-family memoirs are a distinct genre and they can certainly be enjoyable such as Cameron Castle’s MY MOTHER IS CRAZIER THAN YOUR MOTHER or perhaps the genre’s pinnacle, the absolutely hilarious LET’S PRETEND THIS NEVER HAPPENED by Jenny Lawson. Well, Chris Offutt’s MY FATHER, THE PORNOGRAPHER has the suitably quirky title (and a lovely book design by Keenan), and an extremely quirky central figure, Chris’ father, Andrew J. Offutt, noted science fiction author and indeed prolific pornographer.

But it’s not funny. It’s not even charming. In fact, it has a melancholy tinge and some definite cringe-inducing moments that make one wonder about the sanity of the Offutt family. In short, it’s a brutal expose of both father and son.

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Dark Horse

darkhorseDARK HORSE is the second novel in Rory Flynn’s crime fiction series featuring Boston narcotics detective Eddy Harkness. Like its predecessor (THIRD RAIL), the title refers to the street drug featured in the story. Unfortunately this second entry can’t decide where its narrative focus lies.

A late summer hurricane slams into Boston as the novel opens. Detective Eddy Harkness and his Narco-Intel crew are examining the rain soaked streets of Boston’s Lower South End when another menace rears its head. A new, extraordinarily pure and deadly brand of heroin, known on the street as Dark Horse, has taken the lives of several residents and shows no sign of diminishing.

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Hell Fire

hellfireGah, Nordic Noir can be quite a downer. And that’s the case with Karin Fossum’s latest, HELL FIRE, a bleak and dour exploration of mother-son familial relations, where happiness does not go unpunished, and life is just a fucking slog with transient moments of happiness minimized by excruciating pain and fear.

This isn’t even one of Fossum’s more experimental japes, which always get me raving. No, this is a fairly straightforward crime novel where the procedures of the police procedural are pretty minimal, the crime is heinous, and the solution is … well, pretty predictable.

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strangerFrom Pegasus Books comes a new adaptation of Albert Camus’ THE STRANGER, which I was eager to get my hands on. Existential dread, murder and the absurdity of life? In the right hands — like Munoz and Sampayo — this could be spectacular.

Having now read Jacques Ferrandez’ adaptation, THE STRANGER, I can say that if you ignore the fact that it is an adaptation, you have a beautifully illustrated, fascinating and fairly unusual graphic novel that I would recommend to readers of literary comics. However, as an adaptation of Camus’ book, it comes off as an abridged and diluted illustration of the plot mechanics, excluding meaning, interpretation and insight of the original.

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Kill Joy / The Virgin Huntress

killjoyvirginNo less an authority than Raymond Chandler called Elisabeth Sanxay Holding “the top suspense writer of them all,” an opinion shared by Christopher Morley and Anthony Boucher.

From 1920 to 1952 Holding (who died in 1955) wrote over 20 novels and numerous short stories, most of which were mysteries. But finding copies of her published work can be a challenge to even the most dedicated collector. Now, thanks to Stark House Press’ Mystery Classics series, we can experience two of Holding’s mystery novels in KILL JOY and THE VIRGIN HUNTRESS.

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