The Trapped Girl

I had never come across Robert Dugoni’s mystery series featuring Seattle Detective Tracy Crosswhite, but I will now actively look for them. There are four full-length novels starting with MY SISTER’S GRAVE, HER FINAL BREATH, IN THE CLEARING and culminating with the book under review, THE TRAPPED GIRL.

He also has a five-book series starring Attorney David Sloane and a couple of one-offs including a non-fiction book. If they are anything like THE TRAPPED GIRL, then all his books will be eminently readable and exciting.

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Music for Love or War

Canadian-born novelist, journalist, screenwriter and director Martyn Burke combines his experiences covering the war in Afghanistan with his mordant observations of Hollywood and American pop culture – viewed from the vantage point of his part-time Southern California home – in his latest novel, MUSIC FOR LOVE OR WAR.

It’s a whirlwind story, equally hilarious and heartbreaking, about the various kinds of love and war — and quite unlike any novel you’re likely to read.

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Bryant & May: Strange Tide

strangetideChristopher Fowler is here to brighten our winter season with BRYANT & MAY: STRANGE TIDE, the latest Peculiar Crime Unit mystery featuring lead senior detectives Arthur Bryant and John May. Like previous titles in this series the mystery is enhanced with esoteric facts about London, the Unit’s home base. And, like previous titles, it is an unyielding joy to read.

A woman is found drowned in the Thames River after being chained to a concrete pillar at low tide. But only one set of footprints lead to where the woman was found. The odd nature of the death is brought to the Peculiar Crime Unit (PCU), who immediately researches the dead woman’s background to determine if the single set of footprints indicate suicide.

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worldedenaHere we go. Dark Horse brings out the first volume of the eagerly anticipated MOEBIUS LIBRARY: THE WORLD OF EDENA. It’s a fantastic release, collecting the six-volume cycle Jean “Moebius” Giraud wrote, illustrated and published between 1983 and 2001, set in the Edena universe.

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The Passenger

passengerpbLisa Lutz forsakes the comic-crime ambiance of her popular Spellman Family series for her noticeably more serious stand-alone novel, THE PASSENGER, newly available in trade paperback. While the protagonist is intriguing and first-person narration assured, the story unfortunately doesn’t venture far from its opening premise.

Forty-eight hours after finding her husband dead at the base of the stairs, Tanya Dubois quickly gathers what cash she can pull together, dyes her hair, and flees town. Thus begins her cross-country odyssey of different temporary residences, jobs, and identities. All the while she insists her innocence in the death of her husband.

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The Unreal and the Real: The Selected Short Stories of Ursula K. Le Guin

unrealrealPreviously published as two separate volumes, this hefty omnibus edition of THE UNREAL AND THE REAL brings together Ursula Le Guin’s personal selection of her many mainstream and science-fiction short stories. Her creative and narrative brilliance shines equally bright in both story types. And, as is her intention, Le Guin illustrates the very thin line between “real” and “unreal.”

A perfect example of this is “Buffalo Gals, Won’t You Come Out Tonight,” a story that appears in the “Where On Earth” section of presumably realistic stories. A young girl survives a plane crash in the desert, where the various animals living nearby immediately take her in. The girl effortlessly speaks with the animals and eventually learns the true nature of the world. Is the story a fantasy? Magic realism? The answer doesn’t matter, thanks to the spell Le Guin weaves.

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Trouble Rides Tall / Cross the Red Creek / Desert Stake-Out

troubleridesWestern novels aren’t usually considered noir. The dark, moody characteristics that distinguish noir fiction seem better suited for the mean streets of urban settings, rather than the unpaved dirt roads of the old west. Yet the prolific Harry Whittington demonstrated that noir works just as well in western novels as it does in urban mysteries, as evidenced in this trio of western novels republished by Stark House Press.

In TROUBLE RIDES TALL (1958), Bryant Shafter, the town marshal, feels his responsibilities are at an end. But then a young prostitute is found murdered and several related complications force Shafter to stay longer. Jim Gilmore, in CROSS THE RED CREEK (1964), is thought by many to be a bank robber. He is proven innocent, but the accusations continue to follow him. Then Gilmore discovers he’s being framed.

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The Wrong Side of Goodbye

wrongsideMichael Connelly’s latest novel, THE WRONG SIDE OF GOODBYE, continues the saga of Harry Bosch. Once again, we find the LAPD detective working as a private investigator (as we did in 2003’s LOST LIGHT). But this is not the only activity keeping Bosch busy, as we learn in this overly complex but only minimally involving addition to the series.

As part of the settlement of his lawsuit against the Los Angeles Police Department, Harry Bosch has resigned from his 30-year post with the LAPD and works as a private investigator. But he doesn’t advertise, doesn’t keep an office, and is very picky about who he works for. Then, through another former LAPD contact, Bosch is called to the home of a reclusive, elderly billionaire.

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The Hollow Men

hollowmenTHE HOLLOW MEN is a powerful and exciting debut novel from Rob McCarthy, and it starts what promises to be a series of riveting police procedurals. It’s not just a police procedural however, it’s also a medical procedural because McCarthy’s protagonist, Dr. Harry Kent, is a police surgeon for the London Metropolitan Police. The opening hundred or so pages seamlessly weaves together the worlds of coppers and medicos, the specialized language and details of the job peculiar to both, along with all the violence and the blood.

The book opens with a young down-and-out man who has taken a number of hostages in a fast-food restaurant. He’s coughing spasmodically and Dr. Kent is called to treat him while the cops are trying to negotiate during the standoff. If the doctor can help the boy, he will release some of the hostages.

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4 New Entertainment Titles for Which to Be Thankful

sinisterurgeIn Sinister Urge: The Life and Times of Rob Zombie, metal music bio specialist Joel McIver considers the career of the Renaissance man not content to constrain his talents to just one medium. If the Backbeat Books hardcover focused solely on Rob Zombie’s music — from White Zombie to his current solo act — I wouldn’t have been interested, but luckily, his forays into filmmaking are covered almost in as much depth. While the weight given to each movie is wildly off-balance, fans can learn a lot about the battles to make 2003’s controversial House of 1000 Corpses and the even more controversial 2007 remake of Halloween, and yet may be left wanting more about comparatively glossed-over subjects, such as the film-within-a-film excised from 2012’s The Lords of Salem or the clashes with David Caruso while shooting a CSI: Miami episode — I mean, tell me you don’t wanna hear everything about that! I assume this is because McIver had to draw upon existing sources since Zombie was not interviewed specifically for the book, so to judge what is there, which includes his absolutely crazy comics, I give it a thumb up rather than a middle finger.

filmfatalesWomen? Gotta love ’em. Women in spy movies? Gotta lust over ’em! And Tom Lisanti and Louis Paul’s tag-teaming of Film Fatales: Women in Espionage Films and Television, 1962-1973 damn near covers every one of the genre’s notable and/or nubile beauties: Raquel Welch, Lana Wood, Diana Rigg, Ann-Margret, Ursula Andress, Susan Hart, Honor Blackman, Tina Louise, Stella Stevens, Anne Francis … it’s the rare book that prompts the need of a cold shower. More than 100 of these starlets — seemingly half of them from James Bond adventures — are featured in their own few-pages-apiece chapters, profiling their careers overall and specific highlights from their filmographies. Generously supplemented with a nice photograph, they’re like IMDb entries with more depth and more flesh. Because of this setup, few will want to tackle Film Fatales cover to cover, opting instead to read up on the women with whom they’re most, um, “familiar.” But trust me: You’ll want to thumb through all the pages just for the photos alone. Unfortunately, so will your teenage brother/nephew/whoever, so hide it if you can. And if you cannot, good news: Originally published in 2002, this new reissue from McFarland & Company is close to half the price in paperback.

lostsoulshgAlso from McFarland, Lost Souls of Horror and the Gothic: Fifty-Four Neglected Authors, Actors, Artists and Others does just what it says. Edited by Elizabeth McCarthy and Bernice M. Murphy, this collection of biographical sketches is all over the place, but I suppose that is its point. While genre fans are likely to already know Rosemary’s Baby novelist Ira Levin, 1936 Sweeney Todd star Tod Slaughter and Just Before Dawn director Jeff Lieberman, even the most ardent enthusiasts may not be aware of the more obscure subjects, like illustrator Sidney Sime and author Marie Corelli. Bold choices include pop singer Danielle Dax, After Hours screenwriter Joseph Minion, Ghostwatch creator Stephen Volk and the team behind the Silent Hill franchise. Although the typical essay runs four pages, not even 100 times that amount would convince me that the legendary, double Oscar-winning actress Ingrid Bergman deserves a place among these Lost Souls.

bookkithThis is a review of This Is a Book About the Kids in the Hall, John Semley’s unimaginatively titled but perfectly readable biography of the venerable Canadian comedy troupe whose HBO series found a considerable cult. Published by ECW Press, the paperback delves expectedly into the Kids’ formation, dissolution and eventual reunion, but also reveals more about the members’ personal lives than I would have thought, particularly their upbringings, in which the running thread is “shitty dads.” The most interesting chapter chronicles the highly contentious making of the Kids’ first — and to date, only — feature film, the misunderstood 1996 flop Brain Candy (a movie I will defend to my dying day). Although the author inserts himself into the book too often and takes occasionally superfluous sojourns — the weak Kids in the Hall Drinking Game being the worst offender — I recommend any self-respecting KITH fan snap it up all the same, lest he or she risk a well-deserved head-crushing. —Rod Lott

Get them at Amazon.

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