Of course the stories are uneven, often overlong and over-explained, and occasionally, like the all-too-aptly titled “This...

READ REVIEW

THE BIG BOOK OF THE CONTINENTAL OP

At long last, Black Lizard collects all 28 of the Op’s completed stories, plus the opening chapter of one incomplete tale and the original Black Mask serializations of the novels that were revised and published as Red Harvest and The Dain Curse.

Though he’s become synonymous with the hard-boiled shamus, the nameless operative for San Francisco’s Continental Detective Agency is not so much an anti–golden age detective—he made his first appearance in 1923, the same year as his polar opposite, Lord Peter Wimsey, before the gentleman sleuth had frozen into a bundle of clichés—as an anti–pulp detective, rarely carrying a gun in his earliest adventures and self-effacing about his talents and his testosterone. He’s also something of an anti-character who lacks not only a name, but many other individual markers that made his offspring Sam Spade such an indelible hero. But what a voice! As early as “It” (1923), the Op already sounds brisk, businesslike, precise, and articulate. In the eight (mostly early) stories not already available in the Library of America’s collection of Hammett’s crime stories, the Op, hiding some serious deductive chops beneath his mastery of violent action, figures out, among other things, why three corpses would have been sandwiched into a clothes press, which interested party took a shot at a bedridden patriarch, and what a known gangster has to do with the kidnapping of an advertising executive’s wife. Most of these tales, like the 20 more familiar ones from “The House in Turk Street” to “The Gutting of Couffignal” to “The Big Knockover,” begin with apparently simple cases that rapidly launch the Op into deeper waters that never quite close over his head. Editors Layman and Rivett make a persuasive case for Hammett’s willingness to adapt his style to three very different Black Mask editors, George W. Sutton, Philip C. Cody, and Joseph Thompson Shaw, the last of whom set the seal on Hammett’s transformation from pulp storyteller to one of America’s most influential novelists.

Of course the stories are uneven, often overlong and over-explained, and occasionally, like the all-too-aptly titled “This King Business,” just plain silly. No matter. Fans of hard-boiled fiction will know the holy grail when they see it.

Pub Date: Dec. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-525-43295-1

Page Count: 752

Publisher: Vintage Crime/Black Lizard

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2017

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Great storytelling, a quirky hero, and a quirkier plot make this a winner for adventure fans.

CROOKED RIVER

FBI Special Agent Aloysius Pendergast finds evil afoot in his latest action-filled adventure (Verses for the Dead, 2018, etc.).

Imagine Florida beachcombers’ shock when they discover a shoe with a severed foot inside. Soon they see dozens more feet, all in identical shoes, bobbing toward the beach. Police and FBI ultimately count more than a hundred of them washing up on Sanibel and Captiva Islands' tranquil shores. Pendergast teams up with the junior Special Agent Armstrong Coldmoon to investigate this strange phenomenon. Oceanographers use a supercomputer to analyze Gulf currents and attempt to determine where the feet entered the ocean. Were they dumped off a ship or an island? Does each one represent a homicide? Analysts examine chemical residues and pollen, even the angle of each foot’s amputation, but the puzzle defies all explanation. Attention focuses on Cuba, where “something terrible was happening” in front of a coastal prison, and on China, the apparent source of the shoes. The clever plot is “a most baffling case indeed” for the brilliant Pendergast, but it’s the type of problem he thrives on. He’s hardly a stereotypical FBI agent, given for example his lemon-colored silk suit, his Panama hat, and his legendary insistence on working alone—until now. Pendergast rarely blinks—perhaps, someone surmises, he’s part reptile. But equally odd is Constance Greene, his “extraordinarily beautiful,” smart, and sarcastic young “ward” who has “eyes that had seen everything and, as a result, were surprised by nothing.” Coldmoon is more down to earth: part Lakota, part Italian, and “every inch a Fed.” Add in murderous drug dealers, an intrepid newspaper reporter, coyotes crossing the U.S.–Mexico border, and a pissed-off wannabe graphic novelist, and you have a thoroughly entertaining cast of characters. There is plenty of suspense, and the action gets bloody.

Great storytelling, a quirky hero, and a quirkier plot make this a winner for adventure fans.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5387-4725-4

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

Proficient but eminently predictable. Amid all the time shifts and embedded backstories, the most surprising feature is how...

THE A LIST

A convicted killer’s list of five people he wants dead runs the gamut from the wife he’s already had murdered to franchise heroine Ali Reynolds.

Back in the day, women came from all over to consult Santa Clarita fertility specialist Dr. Edward Gilchrist. Many of them left his care happily pregnant, never dreaming that the father of the babies they carried was none other than the physician himself, who donated his own sperm rather than that of the handsome, athletic, disease-free men pictured in his scrapbook. When Alexandra Munsey’s son, Evan, is laid low by the kidney disease he’s inherited from his biological father and she returns to Gilchrist in search of the donor’s medical records, the roof begins to fall in on him. By the time it’s done falling, he’s serving a life sentence in Folsom Prison for commissioning the death of his wife, Dawn, the former nurse and sometime egg donor who’d turned on him. With nothing left to lose, Gilchrist tattoos himself with the initials of five people he blames for his fall: Dawn; Leo Manuel Aurelio, the hit man he’d hired to dispose of her; Kaitlyn Todd, the nurse/receptionist who took Dawn’s place; Alex Munsey, whose search for records upset his apple cart; and Ali Reynolds, the TV reporter who’d helped put Alex in touch with the dozen other women who formed the Progeny Project because their children looked just like hers. No matter that Ali’s been out of both California and the news business for years; Gilchrist and his enablers know that revenge can’t possibly be served too cold. Wonder how far down that list they’ll get before Ali, aided once more by Frigg, the methodical but loose-cannon AI first introduced in Duel to the Death (2018), turns on them?

Proficient but eminently predictable. Amid all the time shifts and embedded backstories, the most surprising feature is how little the boundary-challenged AI, who gets into the case more or less inadvertently, differs from your standard human sidekick with issues.

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5101-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more