Previous reviews are at Mack Pitches Up

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Forthcoming Books: Absolute Zero by Declan Burke

I haven't had the pleasure of meeting Dec but he is high on the list of people I'd most like to sink a pint with. And I've read and enjoyed his books: The Big O, Crime Always Pays, Eightball Boogie (all available from the Amazons).

The Big O and Crime Always Pays are screwball noir, a term I first heard from the man himself. Eightball Boogie is as nice a piece of hardboiled writing as you are likely to encounter. All of his books are characterized by sharp writing, clever plots, characters you are interested in, and dark humour. Reviewers have compared him to Elmore Leonard, Carl Hiaasen, and Donald Westlake to which I say amen brothers and sisters.

Declan blogs about crime fiction at Crime Always Pays, one of the best crime fiction sites in the blogosphere. I've been introduced to many good authors in his posts not to mention the insights I've gained on the genre.

Which brings us to Absolute Zero Cool, his latest, published by Liberties Press. It will be launched in The Gutter Bookshop, Temple Bar, Dublin 2 on Wednesday 10 August by John Connolly. So get over there if you are within train, bus, driving, walking, bicycling, or dogcart distance.

Declan says Absolute Zero Cool will be out as an e-pub which I hope means it makes it to my side of the pond soon.

Here is a description of the story:
Absolute Zero Cool is a post-modern take on the crime thriller genre. Adrift in the half-life limbo of an unpublished novel, hospital porter Billy needs to up the stakes. Euthanasia simply isn’t shocking anymore; would blowing up his hospital be enough to see Billy published, or be damned? What follows is a gripping tale that subverts the crime genre’s grand tradition of liberal sadism, a novel that both excites and disturbs in equal measure. Absolute Zero Cool is not only an example of Irish crime writing at its best; it is an innovative, self-reflexive piece that turns every convention of crime fiction on its head. Declan Burke’s latest book is an imaginative story that explores the human mind’s ability to both create and destroy, with equally devastating effects.
And take a look at what is being said about it already and who is saying it.:

“ABSOLUTE ZERO COOL is unlike anything else you’ll read this year … Laugh-out-loud funny … This is writing at its dazzling, cleverest zenith. Think John Fowles, via Paul Auster and Rolling Stone … a feat of extraordinary alchemy.” – Ken Bruen, author of AMERICAN SKIN

“Stop waiting for Godot – he’s here. Declan Burke takes the existential dilemma of characters writing themselves and turns it on its ear, and then some. He gives it body and soul … an Irish soul.” - Reed Farrel Coleman, author of EMPTY EVER AFTER

“Declan Burke has broken the mould with ABSOLUTE ZERO COOL, which is actually very cool indeed. Funny, inventive and hugely entertaining crime fiction - I guarantee you’ll love it.” - Melissa Hill, author of SOMETHING FROM TIFFANY’S
“If you want to find something new and challenging, comic crime fiction is now the place to go … Declan Burke [is] at the vanguard of a new wave of young writers kicking against the clichés and producing ambitious, challenging, genre-bending works.” - Colin Bateman, author of NINE INCHES

“ABSOLUTE ZERO COOL is a surreal rollercoaster of a read, full of the blackest humour, and yet poignant. An outrageously funny novel ... The joy is in the writing itself, all sparky dialogue and wry observation, so smooth that when it cuts, it’s like finding razor blades in honey.” - Deborah Lawrenson, author of THE LANTERN

“Burke has written a deep, lyrical and moving crime novel … an intoxicating and exciting novel of which the master himself, Flann O’Brien, would be proud.” - Adrian McKinty, author of FIFTY GRAND

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Live Wire by Harlan Coben

Dutton, 2011. 978-0-525-95206-0. 375 pages.
I received this book as a review copy.

Myron Bolitar is the principal partner of MB Reps representing athletes, actors, and writers. Suzze Trevantino, a former tennis star and one of Myron's first clients, has a problem and she turns to him. She is pregnant and someone has posted on facebook that the child is not her husband's. Suzze fears that the suspicion will kill her marriage to the rock legend Lex, who Myron also represents. Myron agrees to help and with the assistance of his partner, Esperanza Diaz,  Windsor Horne Lockwood III, his silent partner/investor(?) begins an investigation that will drop into his dark past and put him into physical, personal danger, and threaten his career.

I was aware of Harlan Coben's books but had shied away because of the sports theme. I have low sports awareness and when confronted by sports enthusiasts I generally tell people that I follow cricket  because there is a very slim chance in the U.S. that I'll have to explain. I took the review copy because Coben is a popular author, a friend of mine at the public library likes him, and I was curious. This is an example of why a reader should be careful not to allow preconceptions to get in the way of a good read; I thoroughly enjoyed the book and plan to go back to the beginning of the series.

As a person who is compulsive about reading a series in order, how do I feel about starting with the latest book in the series? Pretty good. Obviously there is much backstory about the characters I don't know but I didn't feel confused. The plot hold up well on its own and Coben's skill at presenting his characters engaged me without having had to grow up with them.

Though Myron's profession is agent to the stars, Live Wire is essentially a straight-up detective story on the edge of hardboiled. Myron certainly has the wisecracking part down and, like a true hardboiled detective, he is going to crack-wise even if it means it will get him beaten up. He also made me laugh quite a few times. Also like the classic hardboiled detective, he skirts the law, if not outright breaks it, and assists in some extra-legal justice. The plot, like many detective stories, starts out simple but gets complicated the deeper Myron investigates and the more new details of the character's lives emerge. Finally, Myron does have his personal conflicts and demons. Here an incident from his past involving family surfaces forcing Myron to examine his feelings and motivations and look for redemption.

I enjoyed the set of core characters Coben created. Myron Bolitar, basketball star turned sports agent after he blew out his knee. Esperanza Diaz, beautiful, a former wrestler, and ex-bisexual party girl who is Myron's business partner and now married with a son.  Windsor Horne Lockwood III (Win), very rich and very dangerous despite his somewhat effete appearance. People who misjudge Win regret it, often from a hospital bed. Big Cyndi, receptionist at MB Reps, six-five, former wrestler, with an interesting fashion sense and a smile that makes children screen. Think Janet Evanovich's Lula but more extreme. Coben has a lot of fun with Big Cyndi.

The ending left me stunned in that Live Wire could could serve as the end of the series. I haven't read any interviews with the author so I can't say for sure but it doesn't feel like the end. Still, I'm intensely interested how Coben resolves the issues left at the conclusion.

Live Wire is an excellent read and I recommend it to people who enjoy a good detective story.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Summoner by Layton Green

My review of Layton Green's thriller, The Summoner, is posted on my AfricaScreams blog.

The Summoner is set in present day Zimbabwe and follows the efforts of Dominic Grey from the diplomatic security unit of the U.S. Embassy to find out what happened to a retired diplomat who disappeared during a religious ceremony. He is aided by Nya Mashumba from the Zim government and a professor of religious phenomenology, Viktor Radic. It is a good read made all the more pleasurable by the cultural, academic, and geographical details the author works in.