Shaken

SHAKEN is the second-to-last entry in the Jacqueline “Jack” Daniels series. And it shows that author J.A. Konrath has left the trademark humor for gore and one long setup to the final book.

The gimmick here is nothing new and has been done in countless other books: telling the story in three separate timelines. He goes back to Daniels’ early days on the force in 1989, tracking down a killer of prostitutes, while the second story line takes us to 2007, where they have been hunting a serial killer by the name of Mr. K. The sadistic Mr. K taunts the police to the point of giving them all the clues to take him in.

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Treason at Lisson Grove

“Exciting” is the word I would use to describe Anne Perry’s 26th (!) novel featuring Charlotte and Thomas Pitt, TREASON AT LISSON GROVE. It’s a fast-paced Special Branch romp from beginning to end, from a foot chase of a suspected murderer and anarchist that leads from Britain to France, to the endgame where the monarchy itself is in danger of being toppled.

Head of Special Branch Victor Narraway is accused of embezzlement, and he heads to Ireland, accompanied by Charlotte Pitt, in order to clear his name. Meanwhile, Thomas is on assignment in France, and comes back only to find his wife and boss gone, Special Branch in complete disarray, and the threat of traitors having infiltrated the organization.

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Your Weekend Flick Attack

What’s been going on at our sister site, Flick Attack, “hitting you with one random movie a day … whether you like it or not”? Here’s what you’ve missed:

• The “slick, brainless action porn” known colloquially as SWORDFISH
• BURIED, starring Ryan Reynolds and a box
• Arthur Penn’s PENN & TELLER GET KILLED, “a series of increasingly mean and elaborate practical jokes”
• SCARED TO DEATH, “Bela Lugosi’s only color film and … a crazy-ass mixture of slapstick and horror”
• “Blaxploitation by way of the backwoods,” POOR PRETTY EDDIE

How many more reasons do you need?

Stuntman!: My Car-Crashing, Plane-Jumping, Bone-Breaking, Death-Defying Hollywood Life

When I first picked up my brand-new copy of Hal Needham’s STUNTMAN!: MY CAR-CRASHING, PLANE-JUMPING, BONE-BREAKING, DEATH-DEFYING HOLLYWOOD LIFE, the first thought that flashed inside my mind was, “Oh, fuck, now I actually have to read this shit.” My second was the profound realization that the cliché was true: Those who ignore the lessons of the past are forever doomed to repeat them.

Our story begins six years ago (-ish), back when I was still a young, bright-eyed, Canadian writer working for a local company that specialized in publishing books you’ve never read. Having grown accustomed to my being the most obscure working author in North America, I was shocked when my fourth book, URBAN LEGENDS, ignited a firestorm of media interest.

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Black Jack: Volume 13

Thirteen volumes into Vertical Inc.’s reprints of Osamu Tezuka’s classic BLACK JACK manga series, and I still love how unsympathetic and callous its title character can be: “Used and thrown away. Happens all the time to women. Now you’ve learned. Guys like that die in gutters” and “Suicide by jumping … what an idiot. He’s just a kid! His kind’s not worth saving.”

Yes, our favorite filterless, unlicensed surgeon of both good and greed is back, in another 300-page paperback of “peerless medical drama.” While the 14 adventures here are self-contained, I sensed a theme running unofficially through this one: Black Jack reluctantly saving the asses of self-absorbed, obstinate athletes.

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My First Dictionary

At first glance, Ross Horsley’s MY FIRST DICTIONARY could indeed pass for something you’d find on your kindergartener’s bookshelf. Then you notice the alphabet blocks stacked by the character on the cover: They spell “vodka.”

“What the hell?” you might say, and randomly flip open to the “L” section, which kicks off with the word “Last,” teaching young minds its definition by using it in a sentence: “Billy’s horse finished last. Billy’s horse finished after all of the others.” Nothing unusual about that, except that the accompanying illustration is of Mom picking out a cut of meat at the butcher’s counter.

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Lincoln’s Sword

Oh, I know what I was expecting from Debra Doyle and James D. Macdonald’s LINCOLN’S SWORD: a half-baked, alternate-reality fantasy that would hold together about as well as a water-soaked budget paper towel. And I was right for some of that, but the more I think about this novel, the more and more I like what they’ve done.

Basically, the book is set in the years during, preceding and after the Civil War, and it resolves around — for no well-explained reason — a certain sword in the hand of an Army commander. It’s hard to write a review without giving too much of the plot away, but basically, this sword needs to be in certain people’s hands at certain times, in order to avert catastrophe.

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Apostle Rising

Richard Godwin’s debut crime novel, APOSTLE RISING, is a dark police procedural in the vein of other current UK writers, in that it does an amazing job of sucking in the reader right away and never letting up.

Frank Castle never got over the Woodland murders from years earlier. All of a sudden, a new crop of killings starts, which may look like a copycat, but might actually be the original killer. Castle, who still thinks he had the right suspect all along, can’t let it go and is determined to prove he is right. But when it comes to light that suspect has an airtight alibi, he is determined like a dog that won’t let go of a stick.

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The Flock

Welcome to Salutations USA, a seemingly perfect American township located in rural Florida. The land was once owned by Edmunds Army Base and Bombing Range, but minimal use has left the forest and wetlands in pristine condition. Bought by Berg Brothers Studios, the entertainment company has built a thriving town and has plans to develop more of the land.

There’s just one problem: Dogs are starting to disappear from homes that border the development. So Berg Brothers call in Fish and Wildlife Services employee Ron Riggs to investigate. He determines that it must be the work of an alligator or python, but before you can say JURASSIC PARK 4, he discovers there’s something much older and much more dangerous at work.

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Moxyland

How many times have you seen someone frantically pressing the keys of their smartphone while saying, “My whole life is on this thing”? Offhand remarks like that are among the observations Lauren Beukes extrapolates for her futuristic debut novel, MOXYLAND, from the British-based Angry Robot.

The world presented here is one where we’ve become so dependent upon our portable technology that a criminal sentence of “disconnected” is a fate worse than death. It’s among several disturbing forecasts Buekes presents.

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