Friday, January 31, 2014

Short Fiction Reviews - - - Crime, Science Fiction, Mystery, Horror . . . . . . . . .


 

Joyland (Hard Case Crime) Paperback                                                                                                            by Stephen King   (Author)

          There is just enough crime and supernatural in this story to justify some of the advertising descriptions, but what is there is very good.  It's typical King fare - - good characterization, great descriptions, an engaging mystery and story.  King knows how to immerse the reader in his world and does it effortlessly.  His skills are so good you don't realize how easily he hooks readers into his plots. I think anything that he writes is worth checking out, especially if you have writing aspirations of your own.  King is a writer that you should study.  The story takes place in a carnival setting in the early 1970's and centers around the main character's coming of age, personal development and discoveries.  His attitudes and philosophy are shaped by the events that occur while he works as an amusement park employee.  There's a murder and a ghostly presence woven into the overall story that ties everything together in the final pages.  Don't overlook King just because he is mega-successful. The man has earned his stripes. 

         
 

Old Man's War (Mass Market Paperback)                                                                                             by  John Scalzi   (Author)

          Outstanding.  Will remind you of the master, Robert Heinlein.  But Scalzi is his own man and his own voice - - lots of great commentary and dialogue.   In addition to a great space adventure tale and a commentary on senior citizens finding a purpose, it's also a decades long love story - - and a good one.  Check this out!

Agent To The Stars  (Mass Market Paperback)                                                                                             by  John Scalzi   (Author)

          Scalzi can do no wrong in my book.  Old Man's War reminded me of  Starship Troopers in all the right ways.  And now, I'm reminded of Heinlein once again. Agent To The Stars has a theme also common to Stranger In A Strange Land  (alien visitor espousing philosophy and ascertaining the good in humanity) but the outline, story and resolution are all Scalzi.  Highly recommended. 

 

The Bedlam Detective: A Novel Paperback                                                                                                     by Stephen Gallagher   (Author)

          The Bedlam Detective is a captivating read blending mystery, detective, supernatural, horror and a bit of adventure all together.  The story is set in Victorian England and follows the work of Sebastian Becker as he investigates a wealthy eccentric to determine if he is sane or mentally unable to manage his household.  With a reputation tarnished by a disasterous expedition to the Amazon and a crazed recounting of events, this upperclassman is now under suspiscion for murders and near-murders that have occured on his estate grounds.   Author Gallagher makes it all seem all too real and disturbing.  A great read.
 


Head Stone  (Jack Taylor #9)                                                                                                                              by Ken Bruen (Author)

          Acclaimed Irish crime writer Ken Bruen has won numerous awards for his hard-charging, dark thrillers, which have been translated into ten languages.  In Headstone, an elderly priest is nearly beaten to death and a special-needs boy is brutally attacked.  has many guises and Jack Taylor has encountered most of them.  But nothing before has ever truly terrified him until he confronts an evil coterie named Headstone, who have committed a series of random, insane, violent crimes in Galway, Ireland.  Most would see a headstone as a marker of the dead, but this organization seems like it will act as a death knell to every aspect of Jack’s life. J ack’s usual allies, Ridge and Stewart, are also in the line of terror.  An act of appalling violence alerts them to the sleeping horror, but this realization may be too late, as Headstone barrels along its deadly path right to the center of Jack’s life and the heart of Galway.  A terrific read from a writer called a Celtic Dashiell Hammett, by the Philadelphia Inquirer, Headstone is an excellent addition to the Jack Taylor series.

 
Lake Charles (Trade Paperback)                                                                                                                                                             by Ed Linskey  (Author)

          This book moves through its paces at a rapid-fire clip.  Lake Charles is a very good murder mystery (solved by the accused, with help from friends) that takes place in mountainous and swampy settings (very familiar to Lynskey) in the late 1970's.  It's a little bit retro-history and social commentary (the seamy side, of course) of the times mixed in with the story/plot.  And I haven't mentioned the characters yet.  Lynskey has always done a great job with characterization, and he steps it up here.  After 50 pages or more I still hadn't warmed up to a single character in this book  (yet, it didn't stop me from continuing  to read).  I didn't find any to like.  But, as the novel progressed more and more was revealed of the main and secondary characters a little layer at a time - - exposing their depth as well as creating some empathy.  You understand them better after reading some flashbacks of character-defining moments in their past.  It's a very entertaining and fast read.  If you like crime fiction, this is for you.  It's what I call a "keeper" book.  I won't loan it out to friends or donate it.  I'll save it and re-visit a year or more from now for a second reading and enjoy it all over again. 

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