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March 20, 2012 / John Sheridan

Reviews: Bite Size Roundup

I thought I’d do some short bize size reviews just to roundup some books I’ve completed recently but that I haven’t been inclined to do a full write-up on mainly as none of them stood out too much – I’d rank all of them 3 out of 5. Like many other bloggers that write reviews for the enjoyment I’m not in the business of trashing a novel in public so if I really hate something you would have to look up my ratings on Goodreads or Librarything but you’re not likely to find it covered here.

Shortcut Man

Links: Amazon, Amazon UK

First up, “Shortcut Man” by P.G. Sturges which I selected based on the blurbs (including one from Michael Connelly) and also given that the followup “Tribulations of the Shortcut Man” sounded interesting and was just published in February. As I prefer to read a series in order if I can I sought out its predecessor which starts like a punch to the face, literally in that Dick Henry aka The Shortcut Man “introduces” himself and his fist to Mike Tisdale soon to be ex-resident of the landlord who retained his services as the shortcut solution when compared to an alternative involving legal fees and court appearances. Despite the short chapters helping to maintain momentum, the book didn’t live up to its early promise for me with the high points being the various interludes (such as the one referred to previously) as he undertook various side assignments while the main storyline progressed separately.

The Concrete River

Links: Amazon, Amazon UK

I’ve heard good things about John Shannon’s Jack Liffey series which debuted in 1996 with The Concrete River. It definitely pictures a different side to LA with references to slums to rival South Africa or Brazil. A character that has fallen into the PI world and reminiscent at times of early Elvis Cole but without the Joe Pike sidekick. As you would expect from a long running series such as this it displays a lot of potential but unless you’re a completist it may not be necessary to start at the beginning, I guess I’ll find out in time. My rating as a standalone rather than a series would be just three out of five. Some scenes stand out for me though including one where a BMW M3 gets tagged with grafitti prior to being shot up and Liffey then faces down the owner of the car a.k.a. “the cowboy” which displays some major cojones on part of Liffey. Some nice one liners too – “I could probably rig a laser to burn through someone, but you’d have to shoot him first to get him to stand still.” All-in-all promising enough but not a knockout but plenty of others in the series leave room for development.

The Butterfly Forest

Links: Amazon, Amazon UK,

Another novel that like a James Patterson book utilises short chapters to usher the story along. Unfortunately, my abiding memory of The Butterfly Forest will probably be the amount of errors in it. My copy was sent to me by the author so I’m not 100% sure if the copy I was reading was an ARC (I don’t think so but open to correction) but the incidence of typographical errors is quite high, higher than any other book I can remember reading so a solid edit and proofread wouldn’t go amiss.

A couple of other things jolted me out of the story as well e.g. a reference to Jurassic Park jars (a 1993 film) as the first film an ex-con, Luke Palmer, saw in jail during his 40 year sentence? Assuming the novel is set in the present it means he didn’t see any film in the first 20 years of his sentence. Seems too coincidental. Also, given his conviction would have pre-dated DNA evidence, I could have done with an explanation as to how his DNA came to be stored in the database e.g. parole condition, federal/state law?

Other times I thought descriptive passages were overdone e.g. “Fog stood motionless above the water as if layered clouds had descended from the heavens overnight. The rising sun was a burnt orange planet trying to penetrate the mist. The sunlight was a shattered radiance bent through steam and moving water, creating colored wheels of dappled rainbows. The river itself was drenched in morning light.”

Reading what I’ve written above, it all seems overly negative but the story itself was good and what I’ve highlighted were really bugbears. The book could have reached a logical conclusion shortly after the death of Izzy Gonzales but I’m glad it didn’t as the final segment where Sean O’Brien aided by a couple of associates pursues the head of the Gonzales drug family was definitely the part I enjoyed the most.

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