I'll update the two books I've finished this week and update those I've started. Then I'll continue with my look at the Mystery Genre - American Cops.
"I can't exactly remember how I heard about The Small Back Room by Nigel Balchin. I imagine it was listed at the back of another book I'd enjoyed and it sounded interesting. Balchin lived from 1908 - 1961 and is noted for his novels written during and after WWII, of which The Small Back Room was one. He also wrote novels under the name of Mark Spade.
The Small Back Room tells the story of Sammy Rice, who because of a crippling disability (which means he has an artificial foot, is unable to be in the British military during WWII and now works as a weapons scientist for a small firm that assists the British government with new ideas for equipment. Sammy is disillusioned with the politics of his work, especially with RB Waring, an advertising executive who keeps inserting himself in their work. Sammy finds Waring always trying to affect the scientific analyses of his team as they try to report on this new equipment.
Sammy lives with Sue, a secretary at the firm and struggles to understand why she should want to be with him, a broken man. Sue is a wonderful woman, who always tries to encourage Sammy and keep him from his more destructive impulses, brought on by his work frustrations and the steady pain of his damaged leg.
Sammy also in involved with situation. He has been called to assist an English military engineer, a bomb specialist. It seems that German aircraft have been dropping booby traps that have killed a number of people. Little information is available as the bombs have been exploded before they are able to get information about them; what they look like, what sets them off, etc. This is an ongoing story line that will be critical to the final action of the story.
It's a fascinating story that mixes the emotional context of Sammy's work and relationships with the technical aspects of this work. It's nice that it doesn't get too lost in the technical part, but presents enough to make that part also interesting. The story moves along at a nice pace and we get an excellent view of the characters and their lives. The last chapters are tense and almost heart stopping. I initially found the ending somewhat unsatisfying, but as I think about it, it's actually not at all. I think the reactions of Sammy as he looks at his life are quite normal and realistic. Excellent little gem of a story. (4 stars)"
"I first heard about In a Lonely Place by Dorothy B. Hughes when I was exploring the site of a publisher, Femmes Fatale. They published books by authors such as Valerie Taylor, Vera Caspari and also another author, Dorothy Hughes. I tried one by Valerie Taylor and I've been looking for others since. I was surprised to discover that In a Lonely Place was also turned into a movie, starring Humphrey Bogart as the main character, Dix Steele. I don't think I've ever seen it before but I do know it shows on TCM once in awhile.
Anyway, to get on to the story. In a Lonely Place is a psychological noir thriller that explores the mind of a serial killer. Dix Steele, a WWII vet, has come to LA to discover himself. He moves around and finally meets up with an old Princeton chum, Mel Teriss, and while Mel heads to Rio, Dix takes over his apartment, clothes, car, etc. Dix is a loner and has a number of quirks, e.g. hates crowds, doesn't like the noise of his electric razor, etc. He survives on a monthly stipend from an uncle back in New York, who agreed that Dix could go out west for a year to write a novel. Dix doesn't sleep a lot and he spends his nights wandering about LA, and seems to stalk girls.
At the same time, the police are looking for an apparent serial killer, the Strangler. One of the cops on this team is Brub (yup, that his name) Nicolai, who meets with Dix one day. It turns out that he and Dix were best friends in the Air Force stationed in England. Dix's routine is thrown for a loop as he begins to take more of a part in Brub's life and meets with Brub's wife, Sylvia. Dix also meets a woman in his apartment complex, Lauren, a red haired fire brand. His life is changed drastically by these events and he falls hard for Lauren. He likes being with Brub, as he gets updates on the status of his investigation.
Dix's life slowly and then more quickly unravels as time goes on. He doesn't trust Lauren, finds people following him. An incident from his past crops up that also unsettles him. Lauren begins asking more and more about where Mel has gone. Everything unsettles Dix and you feel the turmoil in his mind.
It's a fascinating portrayal of Dix and how his mental issues grow and grow. The last half of the story moves along a quick pace and you can feel what Dix is feeling. I'm glad that I found and read this excellent story. Hughes lived from 1904 - 1993 and over the course of her life wrote 14 crime novels. I'll have to check out the others. (4.5 stars)"
"At sixteen Anne is grown up...almost. Her gray eyes shine like evening stars, but her red hair is still as peppery as her temper. In the years since she arrived at Green Gables as a freckle-faced orphan, she has earned the love of the people of Avonlea and a reputation for getting into scrapes. But when Anne begins her job a the new schoolteacher, the real test of her character begins. Along with teaching the three Rs, she is learning how complicated life can be when she meddles in someone else's romance, finds two orphans at Green Gables, and wonders about the strange behaviour of the very handsome Gilbert Blythe. As Anne enters womanhood, her adventures touch the heart and the funny bone."
2. A Firework for Oliver by John Sanders (Nicholas Pym #1).
"Nicholas Pym is given the mission of suppressing a newly-invented gun, a revolutionary weapon so far in advance of contemporary firearms that its very existence threatens the security of the Commonwealth, and the life of the Protector himself....."
My Ongoing Look at the Mystery Genre - American Cops
In my last entry I looked at Robert B. Parker's Jesse Stone mysteries.
"Each one holds a piece of the puzzle: Lindsay Boxer is a homicide inspector in the San Francisco Police Department, Claire Washburn is a medical examiner, Jill Bernhardt is an assistant D.A., and Cindy Thomas just started working the crime desk of the San Francisco Chronicle.
But the usual procedures aren't bringing them any closer to stopping the killings. So these women form a Women's Murder Club to collaborate outside the box and pursue the case by sidestepping their bosses and giving each other a hand. The four women develop intense bonds as they pursue a killer whose crimes have stunned an entire city. Working together, they track down the most terrifying and unexpected killer they have ever encountered — before a shocking conclusion in which everything they knew turns out to be devastatingly wrong.: (3 stars)
b. 2nd Chance (2002).
"The Women's Murder Club is back! A brilliantly diabolical killer is murdering people from every walk of life. The deaths seem unrelated but police homicide inspector Lindsay Boxer senses a connection and, together with medical examiner Claire, assistant D.A. Jill, and Chronicle reporter Cindy, finds a link that sends a chill through the entire nation. This killer's motives are unspeakable." (3 stars)
c. 3rd Degree (2004).
"The Women's Murder Club returns in a shockingly suspenseful thriller. Plunging into a burning town house, Detective Lindsay Boxer discovers three dead bodies...and a mysterious message at the scene. When more corpses turn up, Lindsay asks her friends Claire Washburn of the medical examiner's office, Assistant D.A. Jill Bernhardt, and San Francisco Chronicle reporter Cindy Thomas to help her find a murderer who vows to kill every three days. Even more terrifying, he has targeted one of the four friends. Which one will it be?" (3 stars)
d. 4th of July (2005).
"In a deadly late-night showdown, San Francisco police lieutenant Lindsay Boxer fires her weapon and sets off a dramatic chain of events that leaves a police force disgraced, a family destroyed, and Lindsay herself at the mercy of twelve jurors. During a break in the trial, she retreats to a picturesque town that is reeling from a string of grisly murders-crimes that bear a link to a haunting, unsolved case from her rookie years.
Now, with her friends in the Women's Murder Club, Lindsay must battle for her life on two fronts: in a trial rushing to a climax, and against an unknown adversary willing to do anything to hide the truth about the homicides-including kill again?"
Well, there you go. The complete list of books in this series is available on this link.
That's enough for one day. Enjoy your start to December. I'm off to get the missus and I a nice curry.. Yummmm!