Child 44 (The Child 44 Trilogy) by Tom Rob Smith

Child 44 (The Child 44 Trilogy) by Tom Rob Smith

First sentence…

Since Maria had decided to die her cat would have to fend for itself.

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

1953.  Soviet Russia. Leo Demidov, a young decorated war hero, now an idealistic security officer, is beginning to see the hypocrisy of the Soviet government.  Because all are equal there will be no crime.  Murder, especially is a symptom of Western corruption.  Soviet murderers like all criminals must be mentally ill.

When Leo looks into the case of a boy supposedly killed when struck by a train, he discovers the boy may have been murdered by a serial killer of children.  Told to back off, Leo refuses and finds himself at odds with not only his fellow officers but higher ranking Soviet officials.  Soon enough Leo and his wife are under investigation and from there the book really takes off.

To say more would deprive the reader of a great ride.  Child 44 has more twists and turns than any book in recent memory.  Tom Rob Smith has created a page turner that shocks, surprises and thrills.  I loved every page of it and look forward to reading the rest of the trilogy.

 

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Better Dead: A Nathan Heller Thriller by Max Allan Collins

Better Dead: A Nathan Heller Thriller by Max Allan Collins

Publisher: Mysterious Press

First sentence…

I was there when the Commies took over.

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

 

 

Better Dead is actually two interconnected novellas.

In the first Nathan Heller is hired to find evidence to exonerate Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, a married couple sentenced to die for providing Russia with secret information on how to build nuclear bombs.  Senator Joe McCarthy, who is leading the hunt for American Commies, wants Heller to serve as a double agent and provide him with whatever information Heller learns about the Rosenbergs.  Before long Heller is on the wrong side of government agents and gangsters and a possible death sentence of his own.

In the second story, Heller learns about government-funded mind control experiments on unknowing subjects from a scientist who has a change of heart.  When the scientist turns up missing, Heller knows that he’s next up unless he can figure a way out.

I’m a huge fan of Max Allan Collins’ Nate Heller series.  Heller is a fictional detective who finds himself in the middle of real crimes.  Heller ages as the series progresses and fiction is mixed with extensive research and historical fact.  It’s fun watching Heller interact with famous (and infamous) folks right out of our history books.  Equally enjoyable is Collins’ take on the crimes and what may have really happened (if it is not as we’ve been taught).

In Better Dead Heller interacts with Joe McCarthy, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, Roy Cohen, Bettie Page, Bobby Kennedy and others.  I also like that Heller in these outings is a bit more hardboiled.  Perhaps it’s the decade.

Better Dead is another great addition to the Nate Heller legacy.  I’m hoping for more!

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When Ali Was to Fight Wilt Chamberlain

Michael Kronenberg is a man of many interests.  Michael is into film noir, art, boxing (although not MMA) and more.

Recently Mike posted the Tweet above.  I wasn’t aware that Ali was at one time going to fight Wilt Chamberlain.  I have to agree with Ali’s prediction had he fought Chamberlain.  “Timber” indeed!

Of Mice and Men (1939)

Of Mice and Men (1939)

Director: Lewis Milestone

Screenplay: Eugene Solow based on the novel by John Steinbeck

Stars: Lon Chaney Jr., Burgess Meredith, Betty Field, Charles Bickford, Roman Bohnen, Bob Steele and Noah Beery Jr.

The Pitch: “Hey, let’s turn Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men into a movie!”

Tagline: A mighty novel! A sensational stage success! Now! The year’s most important picture!

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

George (Chaney, Jr.) and Lennie (Meredith) are old buddies who travel from farm to ranch looking for work just barely getting by during the depression. George is a strong giant of a man with the brain of a child.  Lennie constantly looks after George whose strength and lack of mental aptitude is always getting him them in trouble.   Although they dream of one day owning their own little place, it will probably never happen.

George and Lennie get work on a ranch owned by a mean old man and his son, Curley (Steele).  Curley takes an instant dislike to George.  Curley distrusts all the men on the ranch because of his attractive wife (Field), but he especially hates large men.  Lennie warns George to stay away from both Curley and his wife.  Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean that they will stay away from him.

 

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The Rules of Wolfe by James Carlos Blake

The Rules of Wolfe by James Carlos Blake

Publisher: Mysterious Press

First sentence…

Eddie Gato pleaded with us to take him on that run last winter but we said no.

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

 

Eddie Gato Wolfe is an ambitious young man who wishes to make a fast rise in the vast Wolfe family criminal organization.  When things aren’t moving as fast as he’d like, Eddie heads down to Mexico and takes a security job for the La Navaja drug cartel.

Assigned to a remote but luxurious desert villa, days and nights are boring.  The only time things liven up is when the cartel bosses fly in with young women to party.  Although contact or conversations with the help is not allowed one of the women seems interested in Eddie… and he in her.  Eddie learns her name is Miranda.

On Miranda’s next visit he sneaks a visit to her and they hit it off.  All is going well until the man who brought her finds them together.  He and Eddie fight and the man ends up dead.  The dead man is the brother of  La Navaja’s leader.  Eddie knows that unless he and Miranda can escape across the desert and back into the United States, a brutal merciless death awaits them both.

Eddie and Miranda head into the desert with the knowledge that the entire La Navaja cartel will be looking for them.  They’re only hope is a lot of luck and maybe some help from the Wolfe’s… the family that he deserted.

James Carlos Blake has another winner!

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The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946)

The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946)

Director: Tay Garnett

Screenplay: Harry Ruskin Niven and Busch  from the novel by James M. Cain

Stars: Lana Turner, John Garfield, Cecil Kellaway, Hume Cronyn, Leon Ames, Audrey Totter and Alan Reed.


The Pitch: “Hey, let’s turn James Cain’s The Postman Always Rings Twice into a movie!”

Tagline: Their Love was a Flame that Destroyed!

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

Frank Chambers [Garfield], a drifter stops at a diner and is offered a job by the middle-aged owner, Nick Smith.  As Frank begins to turn down the work, he spots Cora [Turner], a very attractive waitress and changes his mind.

Soon enough Frank learns that Cora is Frank’s wife.  Frank would be ready to move on except that Cora seems interested in him.  Although both Frank and Cora attempt to fight the attraction, it’s strong and will not be denied.  It doesn’t take long until Frank and Cora are planning Nick’s demise.  And we all know how those things work out, don’t we?

Garfield and Turner definitely had chemistry.  I love how each of them fights the attraction.  The Postman Always Rings Twice has a couple of great twists.  The cast and direction are top notch.

A classic.

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Robert B. Parker’s Kickback (A Spenser Novel) by Ace Atkins

Robert B. Parker’s Kickback (A Spenser Novel) by Ace Atkins

Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Putnam

First sentence…

Maybe he shouldn’t have gone out and celebrated.

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

Spenser faces one of his greatest challenges when he goes against a corrupt judge with organized crime ties.  Spenser takes on the case of a 17 year old kid, denied a lawyer and sentenced to a year in a youth prison that is run by a corporation with ties to, you guessed it, the judge.

Spenser won’t back down in his quest to right this wrong and finds himself up against cops with think they’re backing a zero-tolerance judge, and thugs who know the true score.

Not just another excellent Spenser tale by Ace Atkins but one of the best Spenser novels.

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The Story of Dr. Seuss’s How The Grinch Stole Christmas

Eddie Deezen presents The Story of Dr. Seuss’s How The Grinch Stole Christmas.  If you click over you’ll learn How the Grinch Stole Christmas went from simply being a follow-up to the best selling The Cat in the Hat to become not only another best seller but a loved Christmas tradition for millions.

Oh, you’ll also learn who the Grinch was based on as well.

Source: Neatorama.

The Naked Edge by David Morrell

The Naked Edge by David Morrell

Hardcover: 396 pages
Publisher: Morrell Enterprises, Incorporated

First sentence…

The sniper had a partner.

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

Cavanaugh is a retired Special Forces vet, and Security expert.  Now living the quiet life on an isolated Wyoming ranch with his wife, Jamie, their world is literally blown apart when an old friend and fellow vet shows up with a team to kill them.

Cavanaugh and his wife barely survive thanks to Cavanaugh’s training.  Cavanaugh learns that other operatives across the country have been killed.  When Cavanaugh and his wife are attacked again while under police protection, Cavanaugh realizes that the killers will stop at nothing to eliminate him.  Before it is over Cavanaugh discovers that his old friend is leading a group set on a terrorist act that will kill thousands.

David Morrell is the king of thrillers and Naked Edge is another great example of how he earned that title.

 

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Robert B. Parkers Cheap Shot (A Spenser Novel) by Ace Atkins

Robert B. Parkers Cheap Shot (A Spenser Novel) by Ace Atkins

Hardcover: 308 pages
Publisher: Putnam

First sentence…

I had dressed for Chestnut HillL a button-down tattersall shirt that Susan had bought me, a crisp dress khakis, a navy blazer with gold buttons, and a par of well-broken in loafers worn without socks.

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

Spenser is hired by super star New England Patriots linebacker Kinjo Heywood’s sports agent.  Kinjo has had some shady characters following him and although Kinjo fells he can handle it, Spenser is given the task of looking into it.  Before Spenser can make a determination, Kinjo’s son is kidnapped.

The stakes have been raised and Spenser knows that the boy’s life may rest in Spenser discovering the kidnapper(s) identity.

Another excellent Spenser tale by Ace Atkins.

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Holy Death (A Billy Lafitte novel) by Anthony Neil Smith

Holy Death (A Billy Lafitte novel) by Anthony Neil Smith

Paperback: 264 pages
Publisher: Down & Out Books

First sentence…

One-thirty in the morning in a truck stop outside of Hattiesburg, Mississippi.

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

Holy Death is the fourth yarn in Anthony Neil Smith’s Billy Lafitte series.  If you’re not familiar with it and you like crime stories, then you’re in for a treat.

Billy Lafitte is an ex-cop, an ex-con and is on the run from a prison escape.  Lafitte’s in bad shape from steroid abuse and the wear and tear of escaping from the joint during a prison riot.  Lafitte wants to make it back to his one true love to give her the merciful death she wants and then he hopes to disappear.

As luck [at least Lafitte’s luck] would have it, he crosses paths with DeVaughn Lagrenade, a professional gambler, ex-gang banger and brother of a kid that Lafitte killed.  Now in addition to all the cops looking for him, Lafitte has Lagrenade, his psycho girlfriend and members of Lagrenade’s gang hunting him down.  As they close in on him, Lafitte knows it’s his last chance to make it right [or as right as he can] for the love of his life and his dead child’s mother.

Holy Death is not for the faint of heart of the sqeemish, but if you like a gritty, modern crime story, then this may be for you.  Holy Death is the fourth in the Billy Lafitte series and I’m hoping there’s more.

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The Devil Doesn’t Want Me by Eric Beetner

The Devil Doesn’t Want Me (A Lars and Shaine Novel Book 1) by Eric Beetner

Paperback: 280 pages
Publisher: 280 Steps

First sentence…

Seventeen years is a long damn time.

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

The Devil Doesn’t Want Me is the first in Eric Beetner’s Lars and Shaine series.  Lars is a semi-retired hitman living on the west coast.  His boss, Nikki Senior, is one of the old guard mobsters who finds himself being pushed out by his son, Nikki Junior.

In an effort to clear the books and show his pop he can run things, Nikki sends a young hitman out to find Mitch the Snitch — a job given to Lars seventeen years prior.  Although Mitch was in government protection and killing him could cause more problems than it would solve, Nikki wants it done.

Enter Trent.  A cocky young hitman who immediately rubs Lars the wrong way.  Although Lars and Trent are at odds, they know they have to work together to find Mitch the Snitch.  And they do.  Without planning, Trent guns down Mitch and when the Snitch’s sixteen year old daughter stumbles in, Mitch turns to kill her as well.  Lars steps up and saves her and finds himself on the run with a sixteen year old orphan in tow.

It takes all of Lars’ skills and then some to keep himself and Shaine alive now that Nickki Junior has called out a team to kill them both.  And of course Trent killing a government protected witness has the feds on their trail as well.

Eric Beetner has never disappointed me.  I really liked  The Devil Doesn’t Want Me and have the sequel, When the Devil Comes to Call waiting in my to be read pile.

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