The Case of the Love Commandos

caselovecommandosThe delightful Vish Puri of India’s Most Private Investigations Ltd. returns in THE CASE OF THE LOVE COMMANDOS, a respectable addition to the series canon of author Tarquin Hall. In this installment, one of Puri’s beautiful associates, Facecream, is involved with the Love Commandos, a group of individuals infuriated by India’s caste system that prevents people of one caste from marrying into another.

Ram Sunder is a Dalit, one of the nearly untouchables. It has been his bad luck (or fate) to fall in love with Tulsi, a high-born daughter of a criminally powerful father who has forbidden the union. The Love Commandos are on the job.

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The Murder Code

murdercodeDetective Inspector Andrew Hicks has a focused — and reasonable — confidence in statistics. Cops don’t work on “some sharp flash of insight that leads … to the culprit”; “real life tends to be more mundane — and reassuringly so.” Hicks believes in the steady drumbeat of thorough procedure, of ticking off the boxes as you track through a crime scene.

He also believes in playing the odds: Murders happen for a few specific sorts of reasons, and the people perpetrating tend to have specific, reliable sorts of relationships with the victim.

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The Most Dangerous Cinema: People Hunting People on Film

mostdangerouscinemaThat Richard Connell’s 1924 short story “The Most Dangerous Game” has spawned so many adaptations and knock-offs is hardly surprising; the premise is simple and easy to, um, execute. What is more notable is how a wide a berth those resulting films cast, in terms of genres. Straight-ahead action/adventure takes aside, they include sexploitation, science fiction and even pratfall-fueled comedy.

Whatever form — official to plagiarising, well-known to obscure, excellent to awful — the movies are all rounded up in THE MOST DANGEROUS CINEMA: PEOPLE HUNTING PEOPLE ON FILM, Bryan Senn’s book-length journey into the meaty, man-vs.-man subgenre.

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The Wild Beasts of Wuhan

wildbeastsWhen an author creates a new series character, the challenge is always to prove that the character is strong enough to carry a second novel. Hamilton first introduced Ava Lee to American readers earlier this year in THE DISCIPLE OF LAS VEGAS. If this follow-up, THE WILD BEASTS OF WUHAN, is any indication, we can look forward to many more involving and inventive Ava Lee stories.
A forensic accountant, Lee is on a not altogether comfortable cruise with her family when she receives a call from Uncle, her mentor and business partner, that they have been summoned by Wong Changxing, one of the richest powerbrokers in all of China. So Ava immediately joins Uncle at Wong Changxing’s mansion in Wuhan — with almost no knowledge as to why she might be needed.

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Musique Fantastique: Book One — 100 Years of Fantasy, Science Fiction & Horror Film Music: A Historical Appreciation & Overview, Second Edition

MusiqueFantastiqueDespite being a visual medium, the movies wouldn’t be as powerful without music. Try to imagine John Carpenter’s HALLOWEEN stripped of its theme, and the film’s reputation — if remembered at all — would be somewhere far below the horror classic it is considered today.

Randall D. Larson obviously agrees; he’s literally written the book about the scores behind genre cinema with MUSIQUE FANTASTIQUE, now in its second edition, which heavily revises the 1985 original publication. (I’m actually thankful I wasn’t aware of its existence before now, because as with DVDs in their extras-happy heyday, I hate having to repurchase books due to updated material.)

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Top Secret: Images from the Stasi Archives 

topsecretThis wonderful book of photographs doesn’t contain many works of art. But the book itself is one, consisting of a multitude of snapshots culled from the archives of the Stasi, that all-seeing intelligence bureau of the Soviet satellite state of East Germany. 

The Stasi operation put NSA into shame, whatever Edward Snowden may reveal. When dismantled upon German reunification in 1990, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, it employed over 90,000 full-time workers, and somewhere between 200,000 to 500,000 part-time informers. That’s close to one Stasi agent for every 50 citizens. They had rooms full of underwear samples for dogs to sniff when a scent was necessary to trail someone. Eat your heart out, NSA.

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Doctor Sleep

doctorsleepI wonder how many readers (and writers) began as worshippers poring over the word of Stephen King? Every September, a thick new book would be published, and the congregation would scramble for the latest gospel. I often tell my students that King made me an English major. I could as easily note that he provoked an abiding obsession with horror not just as escape, but as a complicated and rich genre demanding — and rewarding — study.

Or that he connected on a deep personal level. As the author Sherman Alexie has noted, King wrote about (and to) all of the kids who felt like losers (i.e., just about every kid, except for that one douchebag on the bus). His enormous empathy for his characters — even as, or maybe because, he put them through horrific experiences — shaped my sense of self, relationships, ethics and — no surprise — grief and anger.

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The Abominable

abominableThe historian William Manchester compared himself to Dickens when replying to criticisms about the maximalism of his gargantuan account of the four days around JFK’s assassination, THE DEATH OF A PRESIDENT. He noted “objectively” that some complain about histories which account not just for major events, but the in-the-weeds details about what historical figures had for breakfast. (JFK had grapefruit on that fateful Nov. 22, 1963.*)

He then noted, less objectively, that such cluttered narratives provide a banquet more than a mere meal, offering us — like the novelist Dickens — a rich, complex vision of all the things that go into making up a world.

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The Hit

thehitProlific thriller author David Baldacci first introduced Will Robie, a highly skilled U.S. government assassin, in last year’s THE INNOCENT. Now Robie returns in THE HIT, a work that displays all of the author’s strengths and weaknesses.
Shock waves reverberate throughout the Washington, D.C., intelligence community when a government agent is found murdered. What’s even more shocking is that the killer seems to be Jessica Reel, one of the best and most lethal of America’s government assassins.

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Dr. Phibes / Dr. Phibes Rises Again / Dr. Phibes: In the Beginning

drphibes.jjpgFor me growing up, the two DR. PHIBES movIes starring Vincent Price were always must-see TV. Even today, if I get in the mood, I’ll pop them on. I had no idea that both spawned novelizations by their screenwriter, William Goldstein, with a third done years later as a prequel.

Now the first two — DR. PHIBES and DR. PHIBES RISES AGAIN — are essentially the movies, plain and simple, but with some added scenes and information. In the first book, we actually get a full backstory to each of Phibes’ victims.

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