Burning Paradise

burningparadiseThe theme of science fiction author Robert Charles Wilson’s BURNING PARADISE, now out in paperback, is how extraterrestrials influence the lives of humans over a long period of time. It’s similar to the theme that powered his excellent SPIN trilogy (starting with the title novel and in the two continuing entries, AXIS and VORTEX). But where the aliens made their presence sudden and unmistakable in SPIN, here their appearance is so subtle and enduring that most of humanity is unaware of it.

The story takes place in 2014, but in a world much different from ours. There has been a hundred years of peace since the Great Armistice of 1914. There was no Great Depression, no World War II. Social unrest is rare and prosperity has increased over the world.

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Blood Line

bloodlineA young man goes missing in London. He was a stellar employee, seemed well-liked by everyone and was about to get married. His girlfriend thinks he may have just run off to escape, while the boy’s father is unconvinced. Detective Chief Inspector Anna Travis is leaning toward the girlfriend’s story.

She can’t seem to get concerned about the boy’s disappearance and wants a real case. That is, until through dogged police work, they discover that the girlfriend has ordered new carpet for her apartment and was seen buying industrial-sized bottles of bleach at a supermarket. Hmmm …

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EURO COMICS ROUNDUP >> The Shadows Knows

ambassadorshadowsCinebook has recently published two further volumes in one of the great science fiction comic book series, the decades long collaboration between artist Jean-Claude Mezieres and writer Pierre Christin featuring our friendly spatio-temporal agents Valerian and Laureline. 

On a roll by this fifth volume in the series, AMBASSADOR OF THE SHADOWS (http://www.amazon.com/Ambassador-Shadows-Valerian-Vol-Laureline/dp/) (originally published in 1975) is yet another solid winner. While the series took a couple of books to hit its mark, at this point it’s striking a rich vein with each stab.  

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Black Noon: The Year They Stopped the Indy 500

blacknoonThe so-called “glory” days of auto racing were often horrifically unsafe with even the slightest standards of automotive safety, like fire-retardant racing suits, ignored in the never-ending quest for speed and victory. In his first ever book, Art Garner tells of the 1964 Indianapolis 500 in BLACK NOON: THE YEAR THEY STOPPED THE INDY 500. “Stopped” here is a relative term for they did complete the race, but it was the first time in the event’s history that it was temporarily stopped with a red flag due to an accident.

An accident that claimed the lives of two drivers: veteran Eddie Sachs and up-and-comer Dave MacDonald. The book’s cover gives an impression of how terrible the accident was, but you can confirm that by viewing a number of clips of the crash on YouTube. Garner details just how the crash started, working with other people’s theories and developing his own, showing that MacDonald was not necessarily to blame for the fireball that engulfed his car and Sachs’.

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Slingshot

slingshotFormer British MI6 field officer and now author Matthew Dunn continues his Spycatcher series, featuring Will Cochrane, with SLINGSHOT, his third novel. Not surprisingly it is another swift and violent story of spies and espionage. But sadly it also suffers under the weight of its complexity and realism.
 
The CIA is informed through a double agent working in the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service that an important document has been stolen by a potential defector. But during an attempt to intercept the defector, a group of unidentified and highly armed men suddenly appear and kidnap the defector. Little is known about the stolen document, except that it is extremely dangerous.

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A Walk Among the Tombstones

walkamongGrand Master crime author Lawrence Block’s association with Hard Case Crime goes back to the very first reissued titles of the publisher’s backlist. Since that time Hard Case Crime has regularly featured several titles from Block’s career — including a few originally published under pen names, and most unavailable for many years.
 
Now, on the occasion of a new movie adaptation from writer-director Scott Frank, Hard Case Crime is reissuing A WALK AMONG THE TOMBSTONES, Block’s 1992 entry to his popular, long-running Matt Scudder series.

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Winter at Death’s Hotel

winterdeathKenneth Cameron’s WINTER AT DEATH’S HOTEL has an interesting Sherlockian twist. It does not feature the Master Detective, but instead the author (or if you prefer, the literary agent) Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. But even Doyle himself is not the protagonist. Instead, Cameron shines the spotlight on Doyle’s first wife, Mary Louise or Louisa, as the tale’s hero.

She and Doyle arrive in New York in 1896 to begin Doyle’s American lecture tour. She sees a young, flighty woman in the hotel lobby and has a little internal fantasy about how the woman seems to recognize the hotel detective. The next day, she improbably acquires a Police Gazette newspaper and is horrified to read of the mutilation and death of a young lady not far from her hotel. Later, in another newspaper, she sees a sketch of the lady’s face and it’s the same woman from the hotel lobby. She rushes to tell Arthur, who pooh poohs her imagination and forbids her from telling the police.

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The Mangle Street Murders

manglestM.R.C. Kasasian takes an unusual tack with THE MANGLE STREET MURDERS, yet another crime novel set in Victorian England. Instead of appropriating Sherlock Holmes and John Watson, he just reinvents them as two completely different characters, young ingénue March Middleton and her guardian, the noted detective Sidney Grice. These two don’t prowl the area around Baker Street, instead they star in Book 1 of what is to be known as The Gower Street Detective series.

The book gets off on a rough note with Middleton trying to provide a lot of background and scene setting via dialogue with a stranger on a train. The dialogue is too packed with detail and a little too revealing to sound realistic. The introduction of Grice, the extraordinary character, is also a bit hard to take with his overblown arrogance, apparent misogyny or indeed misanthropy, and disdain for the lower classes. But Holmes too had his peccadilloes so it’s important to give Grice the benefit of the doubt.

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Brainquake

brainquakeSamuel Fuller is known to movie fans and historians as the writer-director of such films as “Pickup On South Street,” “Shock Corridor,” and “The Big Red One.” His works and influence, both as a filmmaker and as a fiercely independent maverick, has inspired such contemporary directors as Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, and many others.
 
Lesser known is Fuller’s work in print. Yet early in his life, even before his legendary stint as an infantryman in World War II, Fuller worked as a newspaper reporter and occasional novelist. His best-known novel is THE DARK PAGE (1944), considered by many a noir crime classic. Fuller returned to fiction in the early 1980s, but his final novel was never published in English – until now.

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The Heist

heistTHE HEIST, Daniel Silva’s 17th novel and the 14th in his popular Gabriel Allon series, finds his protagonist at a personal and professional crossroads. Yet, try as he might, Allon cannot fully separate himself from intelligence field work, nor keep his beloved world of fine art away from the affairs of world politics and espionage.
 
The novel opens in Venice with Allon restoring an alterpiece by Veronese.. It is the kind of work he dearly loves, and a role that has served him for many years as a cover for his real identity as one of Israel’s best and most renowned spies. But with his beautiful young second wife about to give birth to twins, and Allon about to take over as head of the entire Israeli intelligence service, the work also gives him a few moments of peace before his life changes forever.

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