A somber, readable tale of frontier psychodrama.

THE DIABOLUS LEGACY

CORMAG MACLEOD POLICE INSPECTOR SERIES

Falconer’s whodunit, set in 19th-century Sydney Cove, New South Wales, stars a haunted, hard-drinking investigator.

It’s 1875, and Inspector Cormag Macleod is a gruff, older, haunted man who can handle himself in a back-alley brawl. Macleod spends much of the book hung over and likes brooding over his pipe. He’s a bit rancorous as the novel opens. Not only must he trek out to Allynbrook to investigate a murder, but he’s saddled with Constable McDermott, a helper/watcher who’s barely 20. At Allynbrook, this odd couple finds a clue—a leather disc with a distinctive brand that leads them even further into the hinterland, to small subsistence farms. As Macleod and McDermott make their way to a distant property called Ravenscroft (“a lovely place, sitting high atop the hill with the river winding around it”), they encounter an entire cast of hardscrabble farmers raising pigs and growing tobacco and wheat, living day to day. Most of them harbor secrets of some kind. The pair encounters ferocious storms, murders, and a crazed kind of butchery that seems to verge well beyond the human realm in its depravity; it all leads to a vivid, brutal climax. Falconer draws this provincial world well, although the book’s most memorable creation is Macleod himself, a hard man with a soft heart and a jaded worldview (“Most of the evil in this world is in men,” he tells McDermott, in answer to a question about whether or not he believes in ghosts, “we don’t need spirits for evil to be close to us”). The prose is often distractingly purple (“He saw colleagues and friends, those who where succumbing to their injuries slowly, as the tide of blood ebbed from them, their lives slipping away,” and so on), but the dark atmosphere carries the reader along.

A somber, readable tale of frontier psychodrama.

Pub Date: June 30, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-72493-553-3

Page Count: 318

Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform

Review Posted Online: Sept. 1, 2021

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Enjoyable storytelling by two masters of the craft.

22 SECONDS

Lindsay Boxer faces a ton of trouble in the latest entry in Patterson and Paetro’s Women’s Murder Club series.

Senior crime reporter Cindy Thomas is writing a biography of Evan Burke, a notorious serial killer who sits in solitary confinement in San Quentin. She’s kidnapped by thugs wanting her to talk about her best friend, Lindsay Boxer, who’s an SFPD homicide detective and the story’s main character. San Francisco has a restrictive new gun law, and gun-totin’ folks everywhere have their boxer shorts in a twist. A national resistance movement has formed—Defenders of the Second—whose motto is “We will not comply.” They find it outrageous that the new law makes it illegal to own a gun that can kill 50 people with a single clip. Meanwhile, lots of bodies show up: A young girl disappears and is later found dead in a ditch, and ex-cops are found dead with their lips stapled shut and “You talk, you die” written on their foreheads. An inmate is found hanged in prison. And “a massive but unspecified load of military-style weaponry was en route from Mexico to the City by the Bay.” In a “frustrating, multipronged case,” there’s a harrowing shootout memorialized in a video showing “twenty-two of the scariest seconds” of Boxer’s life. She’s an appealing series hero with loving family and friends, but she may arrive at a crossroads where she has “to choose between my work and [my] baby girl.” The formulaic story has unmemorable writing, but it’s entertaining and well told. You probably won’t have to worry about the main characters, who have thus far survived 21 adventures. Except for the little girl, you can expect people to get what they deserve. It's relatively mild as crime novels go, but the women characters are serious, strong, and admirable.

Enjoyable storytelling by two masters of the craft.

Pub Date: May 2, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-49937-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2022

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Top-drawer crime fiction. The authors are tough on the hero, but the hero is tough.

THE RED BOOK

Patterson and Ellis put their characters through hell in this hard-edged second installment of their Black Book series after The Black Book (2017).

A young girl is one of four people gunned down in a “very, very bad” K-Town drive-by shooting in Chicago. Police are under intense political pressure to solve it, so Detective Billy Harney is assigned to the Special Operations Section to put the brakes on the gang violence on the West Side. His new partner is Detective Carla Griffin, whom colleagues describe as “sober as an undertaker” and “as fun as a case of hemorrhoids.” And she looks like the last thing he needs, a pill popper. (But is she?) Department muckety-mucks want Harney to fail, and Griffin is supposed to spy on him. The poor guy already has a hell of a backstory: His daughter died and his wife committed suicide (or did she?) four years earlier, he’s been shot in the head, charged with murder (and exonerated), and helped put his own father in prison. (Nothing like a tormented hero!) Now the deaths still haunt him while he and Griffin begin to suspect they’re not looking at a simple turf war starring the Imperial Gangster Nation. Meanwhile, the captain in Internal Affairs is deep in the pocket of some bad guys who run an international human trafficking ring, and he loathes Harney. The protagonist is lucky to have Patti, his sister and fellow detective, as his one reliable friend who lets him know he’s being set up. The authors do masterful work creating flawed characters to root for or against, and they certainly pile up the troubles for Billy Harney. Abundant nasty twists will hold readers’ rapt attention in this dark, violent, and fast-moving thriller.

Top-drawer crime fiction. The authors are tough on the hero, but the hero is tough.

Pub Date: March 29, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-316-49940-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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