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July 25, 2015 / John Sheridan

Dee-fense, Dee-fense, Dee-fense

aka The Defence by Steve Cavanagh

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Amazon US, Amazon UK

This book was everywhere locally when it was launched a few months back. I got my copy from the library and its a few weeks overdue so I better put down a few lines about it before I return it. Firstly, it has one of my favourite covers from the last few years – highly visible in black and yellow but I loved the split down the front showing the various aspects of Eddie Flynn’s personality and even better (which you can’t get from the picture above is) that the left hand side is hidden behind a flap bearing the legend “Meet Eddie Flynn” and only on lifting this do you get to see the dark side.

Well it reads very like a Michael Connelly book which is just about the highest praise you can give a debut author. Not derivative though it does contain a Harry who was a tunnel rat in Vietnam – no harm in including a nod to a master. [Lawrence Block namechecks quite a few authors in The Burglar Who Counted The Spoons which I’ve just finished recently].

Anyway back to The Defence and Eddie Flynn has gone straight but not without difficulties. Strong-armed into taking on a murder trial for the Russian Mob as they’ve kidnapped his daughter he has to use his skills from both sides of the law in order to survive the next few days and get his daughter back alive but what’s the world coming to when you can’t rely on the word of a mobster. Great courtroom drama but interspersed with action as well as he has to escape a frame-up and execute a double-cross while the only support he can call on is from the former tunnel-rat turned judge and his childhood pal who luckily has progressed up the ranks in the Italian mob. What’s a little mob war among friends?

I hope there’ll be another Eddie Flynn novel soon as I’m giving this one 10 out of 10.

 

January 28, 2015 / John Sheridan

Belated Best of 2014

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Ok, having taken an extended leave of absence from updating the blog I’m back with my favourite books of 2014. 🙂

I didn’t manage to read as many books as in the previous couple of years due to personal circumstances but did manage to clear some books from the dreaded TBR pile that had been there for awhile so that was good. Name checks in particular in this instance go to: Jo Nesbo’s The Leopard, Laura Lippman’s Baltimore Blues (Tess Monaghan #1), Thomas B. Cavanagh’s Head Games and Anders Roslund & Borge Hellstrom’s Cell 8. Only the latter of these ultimately featured in my best of the year listing below but I was glad to sample my first Tess Monaghan and will read more eventually. Another first this year was finally reading my first Jack Reacher but Personal didn’t make the cut.

Jo Nesbo does feature with The Son which put his previous standalone Headhunters in the shade. Return visitors will know of my fondness for Messrs Connolly and Connelly but this year’s Harry Bosch misses out in favour of JC’s The Wolf in Winter which managed to make my jaw drop on at least one occasion (“….but you can’t do that to…”)!

Award for author of the year has to go Adrian McKinty as I read 5 of his books in 2014 including all 4 featuring RUC detective Sean Duffy and if you thought there were only 3 please catch up with the latest Gun Street Girl.

Anyway without further ado my favourite books in 2014 were:

Anders Roslund & Borge Hellstrom’s Cell 8
Jo Nesbo’s The Son
John Connolly’s The Wolf in Winter
Pierre Lemaitre’s Irene
Stephan Talty’s Hangman
Adrian McKinty’s The Cold Cold Ground, I Hear The Sirens In The Street & In The Morning I’ll Be Gone

Honourable mentions also go to:
Matteo Strukul’s The Ballad of Mila
Dan O’Shea for Penance and Greed.

August 6, 2014 / John Sheridan

Stuart Neville’s The Final Silence

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Amazon UK, Kindle UK, Amazon US

July 17th 2014 (UK), October 28th 2014 (USA)

Read an excerpt on the author’s website here.

Amazon Description:
Rea Carlisle has inherited a house from an uncle she never knew. It doesn’t take her long to clear out the dead man’s remaining possessions, but one room remains stubbornly locked. When Rea finally forces it open she discovers inside a chair, a table – and a leather-bound book. Inside its pages are locks of hair, fingernails: a catalogue of victims.

Horrified, Rea wants to go straight to the police but when her family intervene, Rea turns to the only person she can think of: DI Jack Lennon. But Lennon is facing his own problems. Suspended from the force and hounded by DCI Serena Flanagan, the toughest cop he’s ever faced, Lennon must unlock the secrets of a dead man’s terrifying journal.

This is Stuart Neville’s 5th book and the 3rd that I have read – the others being his debut (The Ghosts of Belfast aka The Twelve) and his preceding one Ratlines) but the first one that has featured DI Jack Lennon as the central character and the fact that I finished it in just under 24 hours which is the type of pace I normally reserve for Michael Connelly or John Connolly shows that it possesses the necessary ingredients to keep you enthralled. Whereas Ratlines was a historical novel featuring German Nazis in Ireland in the 1960’s, this book returns us to contemporary Belfast where Jack Lennon is under suspension from the PSNI.

Lennon is the archetypal flawed detective with both personal and professional issues and he faces a number of additional challenges here as one of the victims is a former girlfriend and when his fingerprints are found on the murder weapon he is forced to go on the run on top of his current relationship foundering, finding somewhere to live, encountering custody issues, medical problems, addiction challenges and being on suspension. He would appear to have a pretty full agenda without conducting an investigation from the sidelines but that may be the only avenue open to him in order to prove his innocence.

What elevates this book out of the ordinary for me are the little vignettes that portray the personal lives of the various characters in the book and the various demands each is facing in their own way from Lennon himself to his erstwhile partner Susan as well as the bond formed between the lead police investigator DCI Flanagan and Ida Carlisle, the mother of Rea Carlisle who finds the book which initiates events.

Suffice to say that although Lennon is the anti-hero and the reader is aware of his innocence despite the circumstantial evidence there are plenty of shady characters present that may have roles to play in the conclusion and the fact that he is under suspicion himself adds impetus to his investigation as there is a limited amount of time available to him before he gets arrested.

I’m sure that those of you who have read Collusion and/or Stolen Souls will want to continue with The Final Silence but I have to refrain from direct comparisons as I’ve skipped those but I would heartily recommend this. My rating is 9 out of 10. A quick word on the covers – I prefer the UK one shown above on the left despite it sharing the Lee Child quote and the “His New Breakneck Thriller” tag with his “Stolen Souls” book – inserted below for those of you who care about such things, maybe the publisher will change it for the next book.

 

July 26, 2014 / John Sheridan

Review: Those Who Wish Me Dead by Michael Koryta

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Amazon UK, Kindle UK, Amazon US, Kindle US

Set in the Montana mountains, this is a world away from the Lincoln Perry novels that first brought Michael Koryta to my attention but also thankfully doesn’t reflect the horror novels that he has also written which, as I have mentioned before, didn’t do anything for me so basically closer in feel to his previous book “The Prophet”.

Jace Wilson is thirteen and a witness to a murder but rather than being part of a witness relocation program he is on his way to a wilderness survival camp run by Ethan Serbin and his wife Alison as nowhere should be safer than a mountainside in the Montana mountains but everyone had reckoned without the inexorable pursuit by the Blackwell brothers who he is set to testify against. The Blackwells wish him dead and are intent on cutting a swathe through anyone who gets in their way and approach their task with zeal which spells bad news for Ethan and his wife as well as the local law enforcement and fire services in the area.

They lack any sort of compunction and are quite willing to torture and kill by whatever means are necessary to move them closer to their prey and in so doing set a fire to cover their tracks which spreads out of control through the forest on the mountains. Fire isn’t easily controlled though and when they brace Ethan’s wife, Alison, while he is hiking in the mountains with a group of boys which includes Jace (under an assumed name so that not even Ethan knows which one of the group he is) they hospitalise her but at the same time are injured themselves. As Ethan heads back down the mountain to her side, Jace is forced to go solo to avoid the Blackwells but is ably assisted by a fire lookout, Hannah Faber, who is overcoming her own personal trauma which resulted in a family and a number of firefighters dying in a forest fire but if together they can overcome their fears of both the Blackwells and the fire that is spreading towards them they may just survive long enough to signal for help.

So we have adversaries that excel in killing but who are not in their natural environment which may just hand enough of an advantage to their quarry in order to give them an equal chance. This gives plenty of scope for Koryta to build toward a climax that features a surprising denouement.

Recommended. Rating 8 out of 10.

Related Posts:
The Prophet
The Silent Hour
Envy The Night
Tonight I Said Goodbye

May 6, 2014 / John Sheridan

Currently Reading: The Bayou Trilogy

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I’ve read some great books lately including John Connolly’s “The Wolf in Winter”, Jo Nesbo’s “The Son” and Pierre Lemaitre’s “Irene” and as usual I’m way behind in actually posting reviews mainly as a result of watching series 1 thru 4 of Justified.

I’m currently reading The Bayou Trilogy from the critically acclaimed Daniel Woodrell and while some of the settings and dialogue would be at home in Justified, the book hasn’t really grabbed me as of yet but I am just over 100 pages into the first book “Under the Bright Lights” so I’m hopeful but on the possible downside I’ve ordered “Don’t Ever Look Back” by Daniel Friedman which is the sequel to one of my favourite books of 2012 so it’s quite likely that I will put this one aside in favour of that if it is delivered in the next couple of days.

March 29, 2014 / John Sheridan

Absalom Kearney series from Stephan Talty

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Black Irish: Amazon UK, Kindle UK, Amazon US, Kindle US

Hangman: Amazon UK, Kindle UK, Amazon US, Kindle US

Stephan Talty is an Irish-American author primarily of non-fiction and probably his highest profile work is “A Captain’s Duty” which formed the basis for the recent Tom Hanks movie “Captain Phillips”. Over the last couple of years he has published two crime fiction novels featuring Detective Absalom Kearney of the Buffalo PD who shares the author’s Irish-American background and accordingly gives a slightly different perspective to Adrian McKinty’s Sean Duffy Troubles trilogy that I wrote about recently. The second book in the series, Hangman, is due to be published May.

Book #1 “Black Irish” is set in “The County” – an Irish-American stronghold in Buffalo and features the activities of Clan na Gael prominently which was an organisation that supported the activities of the IRA in Northern Ireland via fundraising and smuggling IRA members into the USA to safe houses and the provision of new identities. All of these actions were aided by the close links between the Irish-American community and the PD and in particular Absalom Kearney’s famous detective (and adoptive) father. Within “The County” there is a code resembling omertĂ  so that despite their strong ethnic representation in the police department many issues are resolved without recourse to official channels but at the same time if you are not hooked into this network it can make your life and your job as an investigator that much harder and so it proves to be for Det. Kearney as she struggles to penetrate the wall of silence even as she pursues the murderer currently stalking the residents of “The County”. To these residents though she will always be an outsider regardless of her father.

But a little half-Irish girl from outside the neighbourhood could never have been at home here, even if she’d been adopted and raised by a legendary Irish cop, the great and terrible John Kearney.

Opening with the first victim, Jimmy Ryan, tied to a chair at knifepoint we soon realise that this isn’t a random killing – it is vengeance but even before the body is found his family seem strangely reluctant to cooperate fully with the police. It is not until more bodies turn up that they can connect the killer’s signature but even those people who are willing to talk to her clam up pretty quickly either intimidated or incentivised to keep quiet and solve things another way but between the mementos at the crime scenes and old arrest records the evidence points to a killer motivated by something dating back years but even her own father won’t share what he knows. Tempted into an isolated meeting by a promise of information she is lucky to escape alive but even worse circumstances conspire to place her under suspicion but there are more familial connections to the case than even she could possibly suspect. If you have done a deal with the devil don’t be surprised if it comes back to bite you.

So however good Black Irish is book #2 Hangman is even better though. The Hangman of the title is Marcus Flynn a serial killer that escapes custody while being transported but the manner of the escape raises many questions as to the role of the correction officers escorting him and also potential accomplices. A strong opening which leaves you with the sensation that there is much more to this than meets the eye especially as Hangman sustained a brain injury from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head when he was captured some years previously and the escape leaves one prison officer dead at a location overlooking the same motel where he was caught. Rather than being tasked with being part of the search, Det. Kearney is assigned the job of reviewing the prior cases in case Hangman avoids the dragnet and makes it back to his old hunting ground in Buffalo….And make it back he does and then there are new victims matching his modus operandi. There is plenty of avenues for Kearney to explore between those connected to the original investigations and those involved with Flynn since he was incarcerated – both staff and prisoners but to solve this case she’ll have to step on some toes and compromise her ideals. The tension associated with trying to find Flynn before he kills again keeps you on edge throughout and the resolution is not as straightforward at all.

While the two books form a series they can be read independently of each other without any adverse impact. I preferred Hangman (10/10) but rated both of them highly (8/10 for Black Irish).

February 21, 2014 / John Sheridan

2014 Releases I’m Looking Forward To

The Competition by Marcia Clark

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Amazon UK, Amazon
Los Angeles DA Rachel Knight investigates a diabolical high school massacre. A Columbine-style massacre at a high school in the San Fernando Valley has left a community shaken to its core. Two students are identified as the killers. Both are dead, believed to have committed a mutual suicide. But in the aftermath of the shooting, as LA Special Trials prosecutor Rachel Knight and Detective Bailey Keller dig deeper, they realize that the pieces don’t add up. Could it be that the two “killers” were themselves victims? And if so, does that mean that the real killers are still on the loose? When someone starts dropping clues that another horrific crime is in the works, Rachel and Bailey scramble desperately to profile their suspect and prevent another killing–before it’s too late.

Any Other Name by Craig Johnson

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Amazon UK, Amazon
Sheriff Walt Longmire had already rounded up a sizable posse of devoted readers when the A&E television series Longmire sent the Wyoming lawman’s popularity skyrocketing. Now, with three consecutive New York Times bestsellers to his name and the second season of Longmire reaching an average of 5.4 million viewers per episode, Craig Johnson is reaching a fan base that is both fiercely loyal and ever growing. In Any Other Name, Walt is sinking into high-plains winter discontent when his former boss, Lucian Conally, asks him to take on a mercy case in an adjacent county. Detective Gerald Holman is dead and Lucian wants to know what drove his old friend to take his own life. With the clock ticking on the birth of his first grandchild, Walt learns that the by-the-book detective might have suppressed evidence concerning three missing women. Digging deeper, Walt uncovers an incriminating secret so dark that it threatens to claim other lives even before the sheriff can serve justice—Wyoming style.

The Wolf In Winter by John Connolly

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Amazon UK, Amazon
The community of Prosperous, Maine has always thrived when others have suffered. Its inhabitants are wealthy, its children’s future secure. It shuns outsiders. It guards its own. And at the heart of the Prosperous lie the ruins of an ancient church, transported stone by stone from England centuries earlier by the founders of the town… But the death of a homeless man and the disappearance of his daughter draw the haunted, lethal private investigator Charlie Parker to Prosperous. Parker is a dangerous man, driven by compassion, by rage, and by the desire for vengeance. In him the town and its protectors sense a threat graver than any they have faced in their long history, and in the comfortable, sheltered inhabitants of a small Maine town, Parker will encounter his most vicious opponents yet. Charlie Parker has been marked to die so that Prosperous may survive. Prosperous, and the secret that it hides beneath its ruins…

Herbie’s Game by Timothy Hallinan

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Amazon UK, Amazon
It’s everyday business when Wattles, the San Fernando Valley’s top “executive crook,” sets up a hit. He establishes a chain of criminals to pass along the instructions and the money, thereby ensuring that the hitter doesn’t know who hired him. Then one day Wattles finds his office safe open and a single item missing: the piece of paper on which he has written the names of the crooks in the chain. When people associated with the chain begin to pop up dead, the only person Wattles can turn to to solve his problem is Junior Bender, professional burglar and begrudging private eye for crooks. But Junior already knows exactly who took Wattles’s list: the signature is too obvious. It was Herbie Mott, Junior’s burglar mentor and second father-and when Junior seeks him out to discuss the missing list, he finds Herbie very unpleasantly murdered. Junior follows the links in the chain back toward the killer, and as he does, he learns disturbing things about Herbie’s hidden past. He has to ask himself how much of the life he’s lived for the past twenty years has been of his own making, and how much of it was actually Herbie’s game.

Face Off (Anthology)

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Amazon UK, Amazon
Edited by #1 New York Times bestselling author David Baldacci and including stories by Michael Connelly, Lee Child, Jeffery Deaver, and more, this one-of-a-kind anthology pulls together the most beloved characters from the best and most popular thriller series today. Worlds collide!
In an unprecedented collaboration, twenty-three of the world’s bestselling and critically acclaimed thriller writers have paired their series characters—such as Harry Bosch, Jack Reacher, and Lincoln Rhyme—in an eleven-story anthology curated by the International Thriller Writers (ITW). All of the contributors to FaceOff are ITW members and the stories feature these dynamic duos:

· Harry Bosch vs. Patrick Kenzie in “Red Eye,” by Dennis Lehane and Michael Connelly
· John Rebus vs. Roy Grace in “In the Nick of Time,” by Ian Rankin and Peter James
· Lincoln Rhyme vs. Lucas Davenport in “Rhymes With Prey,” by Jeffery Deaver and John Sandford
· Wyatt Hunt vs. Joe Trona in “Silent Hunt,” by John Lescroart and T. Jefferson Parker
· Jack Reacher vs. Nick Heller in “Good and Valuable Consideration,” by Lee Child and Joseph Finder

Don’t Ever Look Back by Daniel Friedman

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Amazon UK, Amazon
The sequel to Don’t Ever Get Old, which garnered four starred advance reviews, a spectacular movie deal with a major Hollywood producer, and an Edgar Award nomination for Best First Novel. Daniel Friedman’s debut hit novel, Don’t Ever Get Old, was a huge critical and word-of-mouth success and was nominated for the Edgar, Thriller, Anthony, and Macavity Awards for Best First Novel. Friedman’s unforgettable 88-year-old protagonist Buck Schatz is back, and living at a retirement home; he’s downright miserable being treated like the elderly person he is. But soon, a man from his past, pays Buck a visit and offers Buck a tidy sum for a favor. Buck agrees. Alas, things go rapidly downhill from there. Way downhill. Written in Buck’s signature voice and featuring a mystery that will knock your socks off, Don’t Ever Look Back is another home run by an author with a long and star-studded career ahead of him.

The Son by Jo Nesbo

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Amazon UK, Amazon
The author of the internationally best-selling Harry Hole series now gives us an electrifying stand-alone novel set amid Oslo’s hierarchy of corruption, from which one very unusual young man is about to propel himself into a mission of brutal revenge. Sonny Lofthus, in his early thirties, has been in prison for the last dozen years: serving time for crimes he didn’t commit. In exchange, he gets an uninterrupted supply of heroin-and the unexpected stream of fellow prisoners seeking out his uncanny abilities to soothe and absolve. His addiction started when his father committed suicide rather than be exposed as a corrupt cop, and now Sonny is the center of a vortex of corruption: prison staff, police, lawyers, a desperate priest-all of them focused on keeping him stoned and jailed, and all of them under the thumb of Oslo’s crime overlord, the Twin. When Sonny learns some long-hidden truths about his father he makes a brilliant escape, and begins hunting down the people responsible for the hideous crimes he’s paid for. But he’s also being hunted, by the Twin, the cops, and the only person who knows the ultimate truth that Sonny is seeking. The question is, what will he do when they’ve cornered him?

Kill Fee by Owen Laukkanen

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Amazon UK, Amazon
The new Stevens and Windermere novel from one of the most dazzlingly acclaimed new writers in crime fiction. The billionaire picked a heck of a way to die. On a beautiful Saturday in downtown Saint Paul, Minnesota, state investigator Kirk Stevens and his occasional colleague FBI special agent Carla Windermere witness the assassination of one of the state’s wealthiest men. The shooter is a young man, utterly unremarkable—except in his eyes. There is something very wrong in his eyes. And it’s only the beginning. The events of that sunny springtime day will lead Stevens and Windermere across the country, down countless blind alleys, and finally to a very flourishing twenty-first-century enterprise: a high-tech murder-for-hire social media website. But just who has the dead-eyed shooter targeted next . . . and who’s choosing his victims? That’s where things get complicated.

Those Who Wish Me Dead by Michael Koryta

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Amazon UK, Amazon
When 13-year-old Jace Wilson witnesses a brutal murder, he’s plunged into a new life, issued a false identity and hidden in a wilderness skills program for troubled teens. The plan is to get Jace off the grid while police find the two killers. The result is the start of a nightmare. The killers, known as the Blackwell Brothers, are slaughtering anyone who gets in their way in a methodical quest to reach him. Now all that remains between them and the boy are Ethan and Allison Serbin, who run the wilderness survival program; Hannah Faber, who occupies a lonely fire lookout tower; and endless miles of desolate Montana mountains. The clock is ticking, the mountains are burning, and those who wish Jace Wilson dead are no longer far behind.

Bravo by Greg Rucka

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Amazon UK, Amazon
The thrilling follow-up to Alpha continues the Jad Bell series from New York Times bestselling author Greg Rucka. Still recovering from traumas both physical and emotional, Jad Bell is tasked with bringing in the Uzbek, principal organizer of the terrorist attack that nearly cost Bell his ex-wife and daughter. But the Uzbek’s just the beginning: his employer, the Architect, has already set in motion another, even more devastating attack. At the center of it all are two women under deep cover. One, as beautiful as she is deadly, has just been dispatched on American soil to execute the Architect’s deadly plans. The other is an American just emerging from a complex web of lies, whose intel may be the only hope Bell has to stop the assault before it begins. But after years of pretending to be somebody else, can she be trusted?

The Burning Room by Michael Connelly

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Amazon UK, Amazon
In the LAPD’s Open-Unsolved Unit, not many murder victims die almost a decade after the crime. So when a man succumbs to complications from being shot by a stray bullet nine years earlier, Harry Bosch catches a case in which the body is fresh but any other evidence is virtually nonexistent. Now Bosch and his new partner, rookie Detective Lucia Soto, are tasked with solving what turns out to be a highly charged, politically sensitive case. Starting with the bullet that’s been lodged for years in the victim’s spine, they must pull new leads from years-old information, which soon reveals that this shooting may have been anything but random.

Irene by Pierre Lemaitre

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Amazon UK,
For Commandant Verhoeven life is beautiful: he is happily married, expecting his first child with the lovely Irène. But his blissful existence is punctured by a murder of unprecedented savagery. Worse still, the press seem to have it in for him – his every move is headline news. When he discovers that the killer has killed before – that each murder is a homage to a classic crime novel – the fourth estate are quick to coin a nickname… The Novelist… With both men in the public eye, the case develops into a personal duel, each hell-bent on outsmarting the other. There can only be one winner – whoever has the least to lose… Irène is the second volume in the Dagger award-winning Commandant Verhoeven Trilogy.

February 6, 2014 / John Sheridan

The Troubles Trilogy – Adrian McKinty

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Book 1:
Amazon US, Kindle US, Amazon UK, Kindle UK

Book 2:
Amazon US, Kindle US, Amazon UK, Kindle UK

Book 3:
Amazon US, Kindle US, Amazon UK, Kindle UK

Northern Ireland gained quite a reputation during the 1970’s & 80’s with what McKinty accurately describes as a low-level civil war that was most often described rather euphemistically as “The Troubles”. Set against a backdrop of Northern Ireland in the early 1980’s, the Troubles trilogy could as this point be termed “historical” fiction as the events take place over thirty years ago but they accurately recreate in so many ways the tension, futility and desperation associated with Northern Ireland of that time and McKinty masterfully weaves his tales around the events taking place from the opening pages of The Cold Cold Ground featuring one of the many riots that accompanied the Republican hunger strikes of 1981 up to the Brighton hotel bombing, an IRA “spectacular” attack on the governing Conservative Party conference in which the UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher narrowly escaped being killed and which features prominently in In The Morning I’ll Be Gone. To gain some perspective on how violent and dangerous it was to be a resident of Northern Ireland at the time and a policeman in particular the following may help:

If the equivalent ratio of victims to population had been produced in Great Britain in the same period some 100 000 people would have died, and if a similar level of political violence had taken place, the number of fatalities in the USA would have been over 500 000, or about ten times the number of Americans killed in the Vietnam war.” (Brendan O’Leary and John McGarry, The Politics of Antagonism: Understanding Northern Ireland, London: The Athlone Press, Second Edition, 1996, pp.12-13)

In 1983, Interpol figures showed that Northern Ireland was the most dangerous place in the world to be a police officer, the risk factor being twice as high as in El Salvador, the second most dangerous. CNN

Sean Duffy is an intriguing character – a rarity in being a Catholic member of the RUC (that’s the Royal Ulster Constabulary or the police force that has since been disbanded in favour of the PSNI as part of the Northern Ireland peace process) in a period where any member of the RUC was a legitimate target in the parlance of the IRA but particularly a Catholic member who were viewly as being traitors to the cause but also as part of his backstory he was rejected in his approach to join the IRA (which adds some additional depth to what he may feel towards those current colleagues that refer both to him and other Catholics as Fenians) following Bloody Sunday as a former schoolmate told him the movement wanted thinkers as well as doers.  Having continued with his university education he ultimately joins the opposing side prompted in part by an IRA incendiary attack on a bar frequented by university students that leaves many dead and injured. McKinty obviously knows his subject matter well as he is from Northern Ireland originally but as an author his reputation is enhanced by a number of award nominations.

Kicking off with  The Cold Cold Ground which won a Spinetingler award for best novel and which introduces us to Detective Sergeant Sean Duffy where he is called to a site where a man’s corpse has been discovered with one of his hands chopped off which in normal paramilitary style would indicate an informer whose hand has been removed for accepting 30 pieces of silver but this particular case shifts in an unusual direction as the post-mortem suggests it may be the work of a serial killer but once the victim is revealed as a senior member of the IRA other investigative avenues must be pursued which involve senior political figures, a missing woman that has turned up dead but having recently delivered a baby and her ex-husband who has joined the ongoing hunger strike not to mention collusion between those best-of-enemies – the Loyalist and Republican paramilitaries. Perhaps it is best described by McKinty himself as “a police procedural but a procedural set in extremely unusual circumstances in a controversial police force cracking under extraordinary external and internal pressures”.

The second book in the series is I Hear The Sirens In The Street. With a guest appearance for John DeLorean who was supposed to be the saviour of the province if only the car that bore his name had been more successful commercially rather than just in the movies (that and the small matter of a FBI drugs bust) but the discovery of a body in a suitcase in the grounds of his factory at a time when everyone is still enthralled with him leads Duffy to another open murder case which is presumed to have been paramilitary in nature but the pieces of the puzzle don’t fit together easily leaving Duffy to antagonise not only his colleagues and the Northern Ireland citizenry but the FBI as well. The book incidentally also features my new favourite word – kakistocracy which means government under the control of a nation’s least-qualified citizens.

The soon to be published In The Morning I’ll Be Gone manages to spring a couple of surprises in that Duffy finds himself off the force early in the novel but is reinstated courtesy of MI5 and tasked with tracking down his former schoolmate Dermot McCann – the man who spurned Duffy’s advances to join the IRA. In the course of his investigation he meets both Michael Forsythe (the hitman who features in McKinty’s other trilogy comprising Dead I May Well Be, The Dead Yard and The Bloomsday Dead) as well as Annie McCann the divorced wife of Dermot and another former schoolfriend. Her mother confidentially promises Duffy inside information on Dermot McCann’s whereabouts if he investigates the death of her other daughter and it is this case which transitions In The Morning I’ll Be Gone most unexpectedly into a locked-room mystery.

I loved this series and have no hesitation in recommending them. I rated them all 10 out of 10. I may even be inspired to search through the dreaded TBR pile for some more of McKinty’s work which I know are in there somewhere. Further details are available from his personal site as well as his respective UK and US publishers.

January 3, 2014 / John Sheridan

Best of 2013

My favourite books of 2013 in no particular order were:

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The Hard Bounce by Todd Robinson (Amazon UK, Kindle UK, Book Depository, Amazon US, Kindle US)

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Alex by Pierre Lemaitre (Amazon, Amazon UK, Book Depository)

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Gun Machine by Warren Ellis (Amazon, Kindle, Amazon UK, Book Depository)

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Die Easy by Zoe Sharp (Amazon US, Kindle, Amazon UK)

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The Holy Thief / The Bloody Meadow / The Twelfth Department (Alexei Korolev series) by William Ryan

Amazon USA William Ryan Page,  Amazon UK William Ryan Page

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Police by Jo Nesbo

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Criminal Enterprise by Owen Laukkanen

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A Killer in the Wind by Andrew Klavan

October 31, 2013 / John Sheridan

Capt. Alexei Korolev

Amazon USA William Ryan Page
Amazon UK William Ryan Page

Book 1 – The Holy Thief
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It wasn’t easy for the young lad, thought Korolev. Being a good Communist these days was like following an arbitrary God who required you to believe that white was white one day and black the next.

Book 2 – The Bloody Meadow aka The Darkening Field
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He found himself hoping that a day would come when the leadership would point out to these arrogant protectors of the State that the People they were meant to be protecting were the same people they spent their time harassing and intimidating. (P. 71)

He knew that if he listened hard enough he’d hear voices from the cabinet, begging him to rescue the poor unfortunates imrisoned there and bury them, deep beneath the ground, the way a human being should be buried, in the shadow of an Orthodox cross to mark their passing. (P.112)

Book 3 – The Twelfth Department
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His visit to the institute had him asking questions he generally tried to avoid. What kind of revolution had it been now that the State had ended up making a science out of breaking its citizens down and building them up again? And for what? So that they could all think the same, feel the same, chant the same name at the same time – Stalin’s name, no doubt. How had it happened? He’d thought the Revolution had been intended to give the people freedom from oppression, not build establishments like the institute. Sometimes it was hard to believe that there was any good left in Soviet power, and that was the truth of it.

Straight from the opening prologue you can appreciate that the quality of the writing herein is something from another realm. The author had offered review copies maybe a year or two back which I ultimately declined because if you subsist like me on a diet primarily of American detectives by the names of Elvis and Harry (ok granted there is the occasional sojourn to Norway but he’s still named Harry!) then you may have concerns about historical novels set in the Stalinist era of the Soviet Union. Well maybe I’ve grown as a reader in the last couple of years but I was probably doing Mr. Ryan a disservice because he presents us with a surprisingly engaging central character in Capt. Alexei Korolev with a turn of wit that was both pleasing and unexpected. Korolev is a detective with the Moscow Militia which is the civilian police investigation unit as opposed to a branch of the state security apparatus known as NKVD (or colloquially as Chekists) and years later to become better known as the KGB.

The author effortlessly depicts both the environment and the era with references to requisitioned apartments and the all-pervasive sense of caution and inhibition engendered by the constant spectre of being reported on leading to possible investigation and arrest in the dark of night for subsequent transfer to Siberia. I was a bit slower than normal getting through this one but this was primarily due to me pausing to savour what I had just read.

Throughout the series, one is aware of the overbearing presence of the NKVD who emphasise the importance of trivial political matters over a murder investigation which merely serves to enhance our admiration for Korolev as he balances the requirements of his investigations without either meekly succumbing to subservience or abandoning particular avenues of investigation entirely.

As a historical series it certainly introduced me to a number of movements and incidents (e.g. The Stakhanovite Movement and the Stalinist Five Year Plans) that enhanced my understanding of the era so it was educational as well. Although Korolev is a Stalin supporter as evidenced by his enthusiastic response to an appearance by the Soviet Party Chairman, some remnants of his Orthodox beliefs remain with his morning prayer ritual as well as secreting his Bible away allied to his avoidance of doors in the former church that had been reserved to clergy. These tendencies must remain a closely guarded secret s however in a climate of distrust and fear fostered by the denunciation of colleagues by those either seeking revenge or advancement along with his reservations about the nature of the evolving Soviet society and those charged with “protecting” it from both internal and external saboteurs. In book two of the series, Korolev finds himself sought out by the upper echelons of the NKVD for an investigation in the Ukraine which in a politically charged environment as it existed at the time being remembered isn’t always the most comfortable of existences while #3 finds Korolev in unfortunate circumstances – caught between two rival NKVD factions which would lead most men to simply acquiesce and follow the path of least resistance to reach an acceptable conclusion regardless of the evidence even if this means compromising their own principles particularly when their own family are placed in jeopardy. Ironically across the series members of the Moscow Thieves become more trusted than some of those that he works for and with, even though nominally at least they are foes. My ratings for the three books were 10, 8 and 9 respectively in series order so it’s fair to say that I loved them and I’ve got a new series to follow in the future and definitely a series for you if you favour historical settings (or even if you don’t).

Synopses of the various books from the author’s website are reproduced below.

Disclosure:
No payment or incentive was received or promised in relation to this review. Books were sourced from local libraries.

The Holy Thief: Synopsis
Moscow, 1936 and Stalin’s Great Terror is beginning. In a deconsecrated Church, a young woman is found dead, her mutilated body displayed on the altar for all to see.

Captain Alexei Korolev of the Criminal Investigation Division of the Moscow Militia, is asked to investigate. But when he discovers that the victim is an American citizen, the NKVD – the most feared organisation in Russia – becomes involved.

As more bodies are discovered and the pressure from above builds, Korolev begins to question who he can trust; and who, in this Russia where fear, uncertainty and hunger prevails, are the real criminals. Soon, Korolev will find not only his moral and political ideals threatened, but also his life . . .

The Bloody Meadow: Synopsis
Following his investigations in The Holy Thief, which implicated those at the very top of authority in Soviet Russia, Captain Alexei Korolev finds himself decorated and hailed as an example to all Soviet workers. But Korolev is uneasy– his new-found knowledge is dangerous, and if some of his actions during the case come to light, he will face deportation to the frozen camps of the far north.

But when the knock on the door comes, in the dead of night, it is not Siberia Korolev is destined for. Instead, Colonel Rodinov of the NKVD asks the detective to look into the suspected suicide of a young woman: Maria Lenskaya, a model citizen. Korolev is unnerved to learn that Lenskaya was in a relationship with Ezhov, the feared Commissar for State Security and that Ezhov himself wants to matter looked into.

And when the detective arrives on the set for Bloody Meadow, in the bleak, famine-scarred Ukraine, he soon discovers that there is more to Lenskaya’s death than meets the eye . . .

The Twelfth Department: Synopsis
Moscow, 1937. Captain Korolev, a police investigator, is enjoying a long-overdue visit from his young son Yuri when an eminent scientist is shot dead within sight of the Kremlin and Korolev is ordered to find the killer.

It soon emerges that the victim, a man who it appears would stop at nothing to fulfil his ambitions, was engaged in research of great interest to those at the very top ranks of Soviet power. When another scientist is brutally murdered, and evidence of the professors’ dark experiments is hastily removed, Korolev begins to realise that, along with having a difficult case to solve, he’s caught in a dangerous battle between two warring factions of the NKVD. And then his son Yuri goes missing . . .

October 30, 2013 / John Sheridan

Planned Titles for remainder of 2013

These are titles that I’m planning on reading and not necessarily new titles. Most of them fall into one of two groups though – either there is a new release from that particular author and I want to read the earlier titles in the series or they may be 2013 titles from earlier this year that I hope to catch up on. One thing’s for sure though whenever I do a list like this I invariably end up with a few different titles or more titles listed than I can possible read in the time available.

With all that preamble out of the way let’s kick off shall we? I’m currently reading “The Professionals(UK) by Owen Laukkanen and provided I like it well enough I will follow it with book two in that series entitled “Criminal Enterprise(UK) if for no other reason than I bought them on Kindle recently for a combined $6 and want to see what the “buzz” is about before book 3 “Kill Fee(UK) is launched.

Similarly, Wallace Stroby whose Harry Rane series I really liked is back with book 3 in his Crissa Stone series “Shoot the woman first(UK) so I’m going to try to fit in book 1 – “Cold shot to the heart(UK). Then I’ve got Michael Connelly’s latest Mickey Haller novel “The gods of guilt(UK) on pre-order. After that it’ll be a little bit less predictable but the following could make the cut before the end of the year:

1. John Sandford Storm Front (UK) – I haven’t read any of his novels in 20 years and never one of his Virgil Flowers ones so hope to try this one out.
2. Walter Mosley Little Green (UK) – about time I tried one of his Easy Rawlins books
3. Craig Johnson A Serpent’s Tooth (UK) – I’ve been sitting on this for a couple of months and need to get my finger out!
4. James Lee Burke Light of the World (UK) – the latest Dave Robicheaux but again I haven’t kept up with this series in years
5. Charlie Huston Skinner (UK)

Ok I make that nine planned for the rest of 2013, that’s probably about the right number but we’ll have to see whether the ones above are the same ones that I actually end up reading.

John

August 18, 2013 / John Sheridan

The Eli Paxton Mysteries

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Mike Resnick is an author that you would be very familiar with if you enjoy science fiction and you certainly would be aware of his prolific and highly awarded catalogue. Me? Until these two novels arrived in the mail I’d never heard of him.

Back in the 90’s he published what was a one-off mystery novel “Dog in the Manger” which is now back in print courtesy of Seventh Street Books which has also enticed him into a second volume “The Trojan Colt” with the promise of more to come in particular #3 in the series “Cat on a Cold Tin Roof”.

There is something appealing about his P.I. creation, Eli Paxton, though even after reading the first book “Dog in a Manger” I couldn’t quite say what it was but it was sufficient for me to delve straight into #2 “The Trojan Colt” even though I only rated the first one about a 7 overall but it obviously possessed enough of those mysterious intangibles to warrant my continued attention.

Eli’s backstory is familiar enough – an ex-cop turned PI as a result of pursuing the wrong case the right way and consequently displeasing the powers that be. Likewise there are more successful pi’s than him out there too so he can’t afford to be too choosy over those clients that do come to him but he can offer them a dogged personality that will run with a case until there is nowhere left to go. There are certain similarities in both books as he is running out of avenues to pursue and about to quit the case until someone decides to take a shot at him which obviously convinces him that he is doing “something” right even if he is blissfully unaware of what he has done to attract such unwanted attention. So overall an engaging character that’s written in an easy-to-read style that isn’t too challenging but enjoyable nonetheless. I had a slight preference for The Trojan Colt over Dog in the Manger but there isn’t much between them, maybe 8 to 7.

Dog in the Manger: Amazon, Kindle
Description:
Hired to investigate the disappearance of a Westminster winner Eli Paxton stumbles into a web of intrigue. A dog is missing. Not just any dog. The number one Weimaraner in the country and current Westminster winner. Down-on-his-luck private eye Eli Paxton is hired to find him. Not exactly an elite assignment, but better than nothing. Maybe it will help him pay his rent. It turns out to be anything but a routine case. People start dying in mysterious ways, a cargo plane goes missing, and someone is taking shots at him. It makes no sense. Even a top show dog isn’t worth that much. Now the hunt is on. Paxton needs to find this dog to save his own skin. The trail leads to Arizona, then Mexico, and finally back to his hometown of Cincinnati—where he finds the startling solution.

The Trojan Colt: Amazon, Kindle

Description:
Hired to guard a high-priced yearling of “Trojan,” a recently retired classic winner in Lexington, Kentucky, Eli Paxton is only days into the job when the yearling’s young groom goes missing. Asked by the boy’s parents to investigate his disappearance, Paxton focuses on the Lexington breeding farm. It turns out that another staff member has disappeared in the past couple of months. As Paxton worries that the missing boys may never be found, he becomes a target himself when a secret threatens to derail the world of professional horse racing.

August 18, 2013 / John Sheridan

Two from Tyrus Books

I’ve had a good track record with books from Tyrus with previous titles reviewed including Craig McDonald’s El Gavilan and Reed Farrel Coleman’s Hurt Machine which were two of my favourite books of 2011. Jump forward a couple of years and we have the latest in the Moe Prager series from Reed Farrel Coleman plus The Hard Bounce from Todd Robinson.

I loved The Hard Bounce I have to say and I think Boo Malone is one of new favourite characters so this is one book you should have on your shelves (or your ereader if you prefer). Vivid descriptions accompanied by occasional effective use of the author directly addressing the reader via Boo make for one very entertaining read and on top of that Boo & Junior make for a great double act. I hope this one evolves into a series – the world deserves it!

I shuddered with Nabokovian creeps, and shifted my attention back to the crowd. (And yes, f*ck you, I know who Nabokov is. I’m a bouncer, not a retard.)

He felt around the inside his mouth again. “I think you cracked my tooth, @sshole.” Junior kicked him right in the face with a size twelve Doc Marten. Seven’s head bounced off the wall like a tennis ball. “There. Now you can be sure.”

The latest in the Moe Prager series is actually a prequel that explains how he ended up joining the police. Barring a few pages at the beginning and the end that frame the story and put it into context really with the rest of the series, the remainder is effectively a flashback as Moe explains what happened to his girlfriend back in 1967 together with various double-crosses and setups and how that ultimately led to him enrolling in the police academy. For long time followers of the series, all the usual identifiable traits are all present and correct. Plus points include a sense of time and place that is portrayed really well – just about the best this side of a George Pelecanos novel but without as much emphasis on the music.

So two excellent books. If I had to choose just one, it would be The Hard Bounce but very different styles and neither would go amiss. My rating for both is 10.

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The Hard Bounce
Todd Robinson

Amazon UK, Kindle UK, Book Depository, Amazon US, Kindle US

Book description:
Boo Malone lost everything when he was sent to St. Gabriel’s Home for Boys. There, he picked up a few key survival skills; a wee bit of an anger management problem; and his best friend for life, Junior. Now adults, Boo and Junior have a combined weight of 470 pounds (mostly Boo’s), about ten grand in tattoos (mostly Junior’s), and a talent for wisecracking banter. Together, they provide security for The Cellar, a Boston nightclub where the bartender Audrey doles out hugs and scoldings for her favorite misfits, and the night porter, Luke, expects them to watch their language. At last Boo has found a family.

But when Boo and Junior are hired to find Cassandra, a well-to-do runaway slumming among the authority-shy street kids, Boo sees in the girl his own long-lost younger sister. And as the case deepens with evidence that Cassie is being sexually exploited, Boo’s blind desire for justice begins to push his surrogate family’s loyalty to the breaking point. Cassie’s life depends on Boo’s determination to see the case through, but that same determination just might finally drive him and Junior apart. What’s looking like an easy payday is turning into a hard bounce–for everyone.

Onion Street
Reed Farrel Coleman

Amazon UK, Kindle UK, Book Depository, Amazon US, Kindle US

Book description:
Moe Prager #8
It’s 1967 and Moe Prager is wandering aimlessly through his college career and his life. All that changes when his girlfriend Mindy is viciously beaten into a coma and left to die on the snow-covered streets of Brooklyn. Suddenly, Moe has purpose. He is determined to find out who’s done this to Mindy and why. But Mindy is not the only person in Moe’s life who’s in danger. Someone is also trying to kill his best and oldest friend, Bobby Friedman.

Things get really strange when Moe enlists the aid of Lids, a half-cracked genius drug pusher from the old neighborhood. Lids hooks Moe up with his first solid information. Problem is, the info seems to take Moe in five directions at once and leads to more questions than answers. How is a bitter old camp survivor connected to the dead man in the apartment above his fixit shop, or to the OD-ed junkie found on the boardwalk in Coney Island? What could an underground radical group have to do with the local Mafioso capo? And where do Mindy and Bobby fit into any of this?

Moe will risk everything to find the answers. He will travel from the pot-holed pavement of Brighton Beach to the Pocono Mountains to the runways at Kennedy Airport. But no matter how far he goes or how fast he gets there, all roads lead to Onion Street.

June 24, 2013 / John Sheridan

Screwed

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Amazon, Amazon UK, Kindle UK, Book Depository

I wrote about Plugged the first book from Eoin Colfer, the creator of the Artemis Fowl series, to feature Daniel McEvoy last year and now he’s back in another fun-filled sequel. While many crime books feature a wise-cracking detective only a few of them actually manage more than a couple of genuine jokes in the whole book while this has one every other page (or sometimes multiple ones on the one page). This is basically a crime-comedy and a very good one too.

I’m a businessman. And what we got here is a business opportunity. Except he says opera-toonity. For some reason he can’t pronounce the word right and I wouldn’t mind but he works it into every second sentence. Irish Mike Madden says opera-toonity more than the Pope says Jesus. And the Pope says Jesus a lot, especially when people sneak up on him.

For those new to the series, it features Daniel McEvoy as the co-owner of the soon-to-be newly renovated hippest bar in town provided the uneasy truce with the local mob boss Irish Mike Madden doesn’t unravel relying as they were on the Cold War ethos of mutually assured destruction given that McEvoy’s death would beget the death of Madden’s mother by an associate of McEvoy’s in the old country by way of retaliation. Unfortunately, said mother has passed away in the most unfortunate and comical of ways leaving McEvoy once more exposed to Madden’s whims which this time require Daniel to act as a courier to get out from under. With assistance from his Botox-wielding “friend” Zebulon Kronski having to be taken with a pinch of salt Dan has to extricate himself from some of the most bizarre circumstances imaginable featuring thongs, dildoes, corrupt cops &YouTube not to mention a vicious intra-gang war.

My rating 10 out of 10 for the chuckle factor. Have fun people.

Amazon Description:
Dan McEvoy doesn’t set out to get into violent confrontations with New Jersey’s gangster overlords but he’s long since found that once you’re on their radar, there’s only one way to slip off it. So he’s learned his own way to fight back, aiming to outwit rather than kill unless he really has no choice. But when Dan’s glam step-gran Edit shows up on the hunt for his dishevelled aunt Evelyn, it quickly becomes clear that family can provide the deadliest threat of all. In a city of gun-happy criminals, bent cops and a tough-talking woman detective who inspires terror and lust in equal measure, Dan may just have reached the point where sharp wit won’t cut the mustard. But can he play the heavies at their own game?

June 19, 2013 / John Sheridan

Jo Nesbo’s Harry Hole

The end of the 2013 will be a good time for fans of Harry Hole with two books to be published and just when you thought he had died in Phantom. It’s early yet so I haven’t been able to find much in the way of covers or links but I’m sure they’ll be available soon enough.

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Police
Kindle UK, Amazon UK
Publication – 12 September 2013

Book Description
The follow-up to Jo Nesbo’s bestseller, Phantom, in which Oslo police officers are being targeted by a brutal killer :

The police urgently need Harry Hole. A killer is stalking Oslo’s streets. Police officers are being slain at the scenes of crimes they once investigated, but failed to solve. The murders are brutal, the media reaction hysterical. But this time, Harry can’t help anyone. For years, detective Harry Hole has been at the centre of every major criminal investigation in Oslo. His dedication to his job and his brilliant insights have saved the lives of countless people. But now, with those he loves most facing terrible danger, Harry can’t protect anyone.

Least of all himself.

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The Cockroaches
Publication – 5 December 2013

Book two of the Harry Hole series will be published in English for the first time just before Christmas. It’s set in Thailand with Harry called upon to investigate the murder of the Norwegian ambassador.

June 12, 2013 / John Sheridan

The Dark Pool by J.E. Fishman

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Kindle, Amazon US, Kindle UK, Amazon UK

Crime fiction that interacts with the financial world is an area that frequently appeals to me probably harking back to watching Wall Street many years ago and more recently Peter Spiegelman’s John March series and Mike Cooper’s Silas Cade – all very different but very enjoyable and each to a greater or lesser degree dealing tangentially with either the rights and wrongs of Wall Street or the denizens thereof. JE Fishman’s latest then with its tale of dark pools populated by these self-proclaimed financial titans inhabits the right territory for me featuring short chapters of no more than a few pages that keep the energy and suspense levels high.

Opening with high school football star Antwon Meeps falling foul of the law which provides the opportunity for others to exploit his new found vulnerability for their personal gain – Antwon through his actions and inactions doesn’t manage to endear himself to the reader so when the focus of the book switches to his coach Shoog Clay it helps to establish both the hero of the piece but also someone who is worthy of sympathy for all that is about to befall him. To paraphrase the quote often attributed to Edmund Burke “all that is necessary for evil to triumph is that good men do nothing” and it is this characteristic that distinguishes Shoog as the coach from Antwon as his star player for Shoog is willing to sacrifice everything including personal gain and advancement to do right by his players.

While the identity of “The Mean” is easily deciphered it is by no means key to the piece and is revealed by the author without any fanfare, there are others lurking that play a more significant role whose identities and motivations won’t be quite so easily uncovered. Without giving too much away the dark pool of the title concerns a pool where participants can buy and sell contracts tied to the Q score of an individual which determines how marketable they are. In Shoog’s case as a high school coach that has had another winning year his Q score is doing nicely but to make even more for his unknown backers it will take a step up in his recognition level that would come from joining the college game to really make a lot of money. With this much money riding on his future it doesn’t preclude certain pool participants from getting more actively involved in his life and with such active management of their risks, those on the other side of the bet through a murder or suicide or both might turn things against him if he can be implicated or failing that his own death which will make even more money for them by shutting down his Q score permanently – analogous to the corrupt practices that crashed banks and insurance companies, nothing should come between a trader and his money.

My rating is 9 out of 10. Definitely worth the 3 or 4 bucks you would pay to get it on your Kindle. Check out the author’s website for more.

Book description:
Three men’s lives on a knife’s edge…

Shoog Clay: The nation’s winningest inner-city high school football coach resists pressure to move up to the college level because his kids in the Bronx mean everything to him. But more powerful people won’t take no for an answer.

Antwon Meeps: One day Harriet Tubman High School’s star running back is a shoe-in for a college scholarship. The next day he’s accused of a rape he didn’t commit, his life begins unraveling, and he doesn’t know how to stop it.

The Mean: This incognito Greenwich hedge fund manager is so rich he keeps a giant sea creature as his pet. But a risky investment threatens to ruin him, and a stubborn high school football coach holds the key to his redemption.

Soon a tragic hanging in the school gymnasium will lay bare a secret force that none of these men understands. In a “dark pool” marketplace, insatiable Wall Street players have wagered everything on certain real-world outcomes. When fortunes hang in the balance, financiers cloaked in anonymity won’t hesitate to pay off their claims with the blood of others.

May 4, 2013 / John Sheridan

Forthcoming Fiction

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Screwed Daniel McEvoy #2
Eoin Colfer
May 2013
Amazon, Amazon UK

The second crime novel by internationally bestselling writer Eoin Colfer is a gritty and utterly compelling follow-up to the critically acclaimed Plugged. In Screwed, Colfer adds an entirely new chapter to the adventures and misadventures of Daniel McEvoy, the down-on-his-luck Irish bouncer at a seedy New Jersey bar who, with the help of a motley crew of unlikely characters, solved a bizarre string of murders–including the one of the girl he loved. But people around him continue to die mysteriously, and Daniel is called into action once again. Colfer, beloved by millions for his Artemis Fowl series, has written a riveting and relentlessly paced sequel that is sure to garner international praise. With wildly inventive imagination and head-spinning plot twists, Screwed is a tour de force that rivals Carl Hiaasen at his very best. Ridley Pearson called Plugged “a brilliant, madcap mystery” and “genius at work.” With Screwed, Colfer delivers that signature brilliance once again.

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Graveland
Alan Glynn
May 2013
Amazon, Amazon UK

On a bright Saturday morning, a Wall Street investment banker is shot dead while jogging in Central Park. Later that same night, one of the savviest hedge-fund managers in the city is gunned down outside a restaurant. Are these killings a coordinated terrorist attack, or just a coincidence? Investigative journalist Ellen Dorsey has a hunch they’re neither, and her obsessive attention to detail leads her to an unexpected conclusion. Days later, when an attempt is made on the life of another CEO, the story blows wide open—and Ellen’s theory is confirmed. Racing to stay ahead of the curve, she soon encounters Frank Bishop, a recession-hit architect, whose daughter’s disappearance is tied to the murders.

Set deep in a shadow world of crooked business deals and radical politics, Alan Glynn’s Graveland is a mind-blowing thriller. He is also the author of Winterland and Bloodland.

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A Serpent’s Tooth Walt Longmire #9
Craig Johnson
June 2013
Amazon, Kindle, Amazon UK

The inspiration for A&E’s Longmire finds himself in the crosshairs in the ninth book of the New York Times bestselling series

The success of Craig Johnson’s Walt Longmire series that began with The Cold Dish continues to grow after A&E’s hit show Longmire introduced new fans to the Wyoming sheriff. As the Crow Flies marked the series’ highest debut on the New York Times bestseller list. Now, in his ninth Western mystery, Longmire stares down his most dangerous foes yet.

It’s homecoming in Absaroka County, but the football and festivities are interrupted when a homeless boy wanders into town. A Mormon “lost boy,” Cord Lynear is searching for his missing mother but clues are scarce. Longmire and his companions, feisty deputy Victoria Moretti and longtime friend Henry Standing Bear, embark on a high plains scavenger hunt in hopes of reuniting mother and son. The trail leads them to an interstate polygamy group that’s presiding over a stockpile of weapons and harboring a vicious vendetta.

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Spirit of Steamboat Walt Longmire
Craig Johnson
October 2013
Amazon, Kindle, Amazon UK

A holiday tale from the New York Times bestselling author of the Walt Longmire mystery series, the inspiration for A&E’s hit show Longmire

“It’s a question of what you have to do, what you have to live with if you don’t.”

Sheriff Walt Longmire is reading A Christmas Carol in his office on December 24th when he’s interrupted by the ghost of Christmas past: a young woman with a hairline scar across her forehead and more than a few questions about Walt’s predecessor, Lucian Connally. Walt doesn’t recognize the mystery woman, but she seems to know him and claims to have something she must return to Connally. With his daughter, Cady, and his undersheriff Vic Moretti in Philadelphia for the holidays, Walt is at loose ends, and despite the woman’s reticence to reveal her identity, he agrees to help her.

At the Durant Home for Assisted Living Lucian Connally is several tumblers into his Pappy Van Winkle’s and swears he’s never clapped eyes on the woman before. Disappointed, she whispers “Steamboat” and begins a story that takes them all back to Christmas Eve 1988, when three people died in a terrible crash and a young girl had the slimmest chance of survival . . . back to a record– breaking blizzard, to Walt’s first year as sheriff, with a young daughter at home and a wife praying for his safety . . . back to a whiskey-soaked World War II vet ready to fly a decommissioned plane and risk it all to save a life.

Back to the Spirit of Steamboat.

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Killer Ambition Rachel Knight #3
Marcia Clark
June 2013
Amazon, Kindle, Amazon UK

Los Angeles D.A. Rachel Knight faces down the murderously ambitious side of Hollywood in Marcia Clark’s newest thriller in the follow-up to Guilt by Association and Guilt by Degrees.

When the daughter of a billionaire Hollywood director is found murdered after what appears to be a kidnapping gone wrong, Los Angeles Special Trials prosecutor Rachel Knight and Detective Bailey Keller find themselves at the epicenter of a combustible and high-profile court case. Then a prime suspect is revealed to be one of Hollywood’s most popular and powerful talent managers–and best friend to the victim’s father. With the director vouching for the manager’s innocence, the Hollywood media machine commences an all-out war designed to discredit both Rachel and her case. KILLER AMBITION is at once a thrilling ride through the darker side of Tinseltown and a stunning courtroom drama with the brilliant insider’s perspective that Marcia Clark is uniquely qualified to give.

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Full Ratchet Silas Cade #2
Mike Cooper
July 2013
Amazon, Amazon UK

Silas Cade takes his atypical brand of “auditing” from Wall Street to Main Street. Cade, the tough-guy auditor antihero introduced in Clawback, employs a brand of financial reform that comes with plenty of firepower. Needing a respite from Wall Street, Cade jumps at a job opportunity in western Pennsylvania—but finds that Main Street is just as dirty.

The job seems easy enough—check out a Pittsburgh manufacturer and file a report—but Cade quickly discovers corruption at every level. His revelations catch the attentions of hair-trigger Russian mobsters and a blonde assassin named Harmony. Cade’s estranged brother is dragged into the fray as the tension builds to bullet-riddled showdowns across defunct steel mills, forests, and Appalachian fracking fields.

Cooper again delivers a timely plot involving Wall Street greed, financial corruption, and the plight of blue-collar workers.

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Let It Burn Alex McKnight #10
Steve Hamilton
July 2013
Amazon, Kindle, Amazon UK

The newest novel in the acclaimed Alex McKnight series by two-time Edgar award-winner and New York Times bestselling author Steve Hamilton. Alex McKnight doesn’t leave Michigan’s Upper Peninsula if he can help it. He steers clear of Detroit in particular, where he once worked as a cop. The city will forever remind him of his partner’s death and of the bullet still lodged in his own chest. But a woman he can’t shake has drawn him back to finally see what’s there between them.

While he’s in the city, he can’t help but stop by his old precinct. It’s now closed, like the countless abandoned buildings that surround it. His visit has reminded him of a case he was working on during that last summer. After his partner was killed and Alex left the force, the case was solved, and a man was sentenced to life in prison for the crime. Alex remembers something, a seemingly small piece of the puzzle that he never got to share. But all these years later, when he looks up the now-retired lead detective, this new piece of information doesn’t exactly get a warm reception. The detective solved the case, after all, and justice was served.

Until Alex does a little more digging and finds out that the real culprit might have gotten away. And might still be out there, preying on more victims…

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The Twelfth Department Alexei Korolev #3
William Ryan
July 2013
Amazon, Amazon UK

The third in William Ryan’s atmospheric historical series follows Police Captain Alexei Korolev as he fights for justice in a paranoid and uncertain Stalinist Soviet Union. Captain Alexei Korolev has nothing to complain about. He has his own room in an apartment shared with only one other tenant, a job in the police force that puts food on the table, and his good health. In Moscow in 1937, that’s a lot more than most people have to be grateful for. But for the first time in a long time, Korolev is about to be truly happy: his son Yuri is coming to visit for an entire week.

Shortly after Yuri’s arrival, however, Korolev receives an urgent call from his boss—it seems an important man has been murdered, and Korolev is the only detective they’re willing to assign to this sensitive case. In fact, Korolev realizes almost immediately that the layers of sensitivity and secrecy surrounding this case far exceed his paygrade. And the consequences of interfering with a case tied to State Security or the NKVD can be severe—you might lose your job, if you’re lucky. Your whole family might die if you’re not. Korolev is suddenly faced with much more than just discovering a murderer’s identity; he must decide how far he’ll go to see justice served . . . and what he’s willing to do to protect his family.

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The Double Spero Lucas #2
George Pelecanos
October 2013
Amazon, Kindle, Amazon UK

Every man has his dark side…Spero Lucas confronts his own in the most explosive thriller yet from one of America’s best-loved crime writers.

The job seems simple enough: retrieve the valuable painting–“The Double”–Grace Kinkaid’s ex-boyfriend stole from her. It’s the sort of thing Spero Lucas specializes in: finding what’s missing, and doing it quietly. But Grace wants more. She wants Lucas to find the man who humiliated her–a violent career criminal with a small gang of brutal thugs at his beck and call.

Lucas is a man who knows how to get what he wants, whether it’s a thief on the run–or a married woman. In the midst of a steamy, passionate love affair that he knows can’t last, in pursuit of a dangerous man who will stop at nothing to get what he wants, Lucas is forced to decide what kind of man he is–and how far he’ll go to get what he wants.

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Merrick
Ken Bruen
October 2013
Amazon, Amazon UK

For fans of Ken Bruen’s Jack Taylor and Inspector Brant series, L.A. Confidential by James Ellroy and Mystic River by Dennis Lehane, comes a noir crime story set in New York City about a rogue ex-cop from the Irish Gardai (police force) who manipulates a transfer to work for the NYPD in an exchange program. However, it turns out that the Irish cop is really a serial killer wanted for murder in Ireland and now NYC.

Shoot the woman first Crissa Stone #3
Wallace Stroby
December 2013
Amazon, Amazon UK

In the third stunning Crissa Stone novel in Wallace Stroby’s acclaimed crime series, a professional thief desperately tries to help the family of her slain partner—even if it costs her her life. A half million dollars in drug proceeds, guarded by five men with automatic weapons. For Wallace Stroby’s determined heroine, professional thief Crissa Stone, and her team, stealing it was the easy part. But when the split goes awry in a blaze of gunfire, Crissa finds herself on the run with a duffel bag of stolen cash, bound by a promise to deliver part of the take to the needy family of one of her slain partners.

In pursuit are the drug kingpin’s lethal lieutenant, and a rogue Detroit cop with his own deadly agenda. They think the money’s there for the taking, for whoever finds her first. But Crissa doesn’t plan to give it up without a fight, even as her mission of mercy puts her and a young child in mortal danger, with forces on both sides of the law closing in. After all, a debt is a debt . . . even if it has to be paid in blood.

Wallace Stroby delivers another powerful, lyrical novel, his third featuring one of the most original female characters in hardboiled fiction.

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The Ways of Evil Men Mario Silva #7
Leighton Gage
January 2014
Amazon

As Chief Inspector Mario Silva has learned, justice is hard to come by in Brazil, so when his niece tells him about a possible genocide deep in the jungle, he agrees to round up his team and charter a plane to Pará to check it out.

Thirty-nine natives have recently dropped dead of mysterious causes. Given the tense relationship between the Awana tribe and the white townsfolk nearby, Jade Calmon, Pará’s sole government-sponsored advocate for the native population, immediately suspects foul play and takes the two remaining Awana-a father and his eight-year-old son-into her custody. But when the father is discovered holding a bloody machete next to the body of a village big-shot just before Silva’s arrival, the plot thickens. Why would a peaceful man who doesn’t believe in alcohol turn into a drunken killer?

Chief Inspector Mario Silva is a good cop in a bad system-Brazil’s police force is rife with corruption, and constantly a beat behind criminal elements. But Silva and his team of colorful sidekicks-baby-faced Goncalves, who is irresistible to lady witnesses; chubby, crass Nunes; Mara Carta, the chief of intelligence with a soft spot for Mario-crack their difficult and sometimes ugly cases with pizazz.

April 17, 2013 / John Sheridan

Alex vs. The Summer of Dead Toys

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Amazon, Amazon UK, Book Depository

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Amazon, Amazon UK, Book Depository

Thought I would compare two books that I’ve recently finished if for no other reason than they are both the first books in their respective series, will be published in the USA soon, I borrowed them from the library on the same day and they are written by continental European authors which is not my usual stomping ground, in fact I can’t recall reading anything from France or Spain previously.

What other similarities do they have? Well, the lead detective in Alex is Camille Verhoeven who is a widower following the death of his pregnant wife in a kidnapping case that has sidelined him from serious cases. Inspector Hector Salgado, the main character in The Summer of Dead Toys, is a divorcee returning from a suspension imposed for assaulting a suspect. So they are both alone and struggling to maintain their chosen career in the police force. I found Alex more taut and entertaining to read though without ever developing any particular fondness for Monsieur Verhoeven. The author skilfully sets up the initial kidnapping of Alex, the girl from whom the book takes its title, and places her at the centre of the piece where you expect a Buffalo Bill from The Silence of the Lambs scenario to play out while simultaneously developing the backstory of Verhoeven who has suffered the loss of his wife in similar circumstances and who consequently identifies strongly with the victim and can also be a conduit for ensuring that the pace of the investigation never relents as he has personal experience of the consequences. To avoid giving away too much, there are some wonderful twists and turns en route to a superlative denouement that will encompass role reversal between victim and predator as well as giving consideration to one of the frequent questions posed in crime fiction – if justice and the law are at odds which one would you rather prevail? At the end you can marvel at how far ahead one of the characters was in their thinking and execution in order to achieve what they wanted.

Turning to The Summer of Dead Toys, what we get here is arguably a more literary style book that favours characters more than plot which is not to say that the plot is weak or anything like that but simply that a greater amount of time is spent exploring the relationships of both Salgado and his associates and while this can be savoured as the writing is at times quite beautiful it isn’t directly related to driving the story forward. For me this ultimately proved to be the crux of the matter as the things I enjoyed most – the characters, the words, the writing style – were the very things that impeded / intruded upon the progression of the story and probably explains why it took me much longer to finish this one even though it is a shorter book (at least in terms of pages, don’t know about word count). I actually probably preferred Salgado as a character to Verhoeven in that he feels more rounded and his relationships and concern for those around him feature strongly. Featuring two separate cases, one which Salgado is investigating and one in which he is the suspect as a result of his previous assault, it is a race against time to uncover whether an apparent suicide is indeed that before he himself is potentially arrested for his role in the disappearance of the man he assaulted. Before he can uncover the truth though he will have to venture into another case long since forgotten and identify who Iris was and how she is affecting events many years after her death.

So if you’re looking for something to help you meet one of your reading challenges which one should you choose? I’m going to award this one to Alex on a score of 9 to 7 (out of 10) as it was much more fun to read and was one of those books that you would seek out at the end of the day in order to find out a little bit more of what was going to happen. If you are of a more sensitive disposition though you might want to give consideration to bypassing both books.

Additional reviews of Alex can be found here, here, here and here while more for The Summer of Dead Toys can be found here and here.

April 14, 2013 / John Sheridan

Gun Machine by Warren Ellis

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Amazon, Kindle, Amazon UK, Book Depository

It’s been awhile both since I posted a review and since I read Gun Machine but it is a great book so better late than never. Just listen to a couple of minutes worth of the trailer to be found here and I’m pretty sure you’ll want to get this one. Now just beware some spoilers below and you’re good to go.

Sharing a comic book background with other Mulholland Books luminaries such as Greg Rucka and Duane Swierczynski, this book features Det John Tallow whose partner is killed on entering an apartment building by a tenant that is unhappy (to say the least!) about the eviction notice that he and the other residents have been served with to allow for the redevelopment of the site. He is a character you can’t help but like even though he is not so popular with his fellow cops. The depiction of his “morning Tourette’s” captures him perfectly early in the book. The Tourette’s is eminently understandable in light of the fact that as well a dead partner and a dead perpetrator, Tallow managed to uncover an apartment loaded with guns from floor to ceiling courtesy of a shotgun hole in the wall and when forensics tie every gun in their random sample to an unsolved homicide he becomes suddenly the detective responsible for 200+ unsolved homicides – way to make your superiors happy!

Having stumbled upon the lair of a serial killer all that remains is to track him down which should be easy when you’ve got all the weapons used but things don’t ever pan out that easy especially when one gun is discovered to be a notorious weapon associated with a previous serial killer and was supposed to be securely held in a police evidence room. So that leaves you with evidence pointing to an inside man especially when someone higher up the chain is trying to shut down the investigation. So you’ve got guns (actually lots of guns a la Keanu Reeves in The Matrix), a serial killer, an insider within the police and a potential conspiracy to unravel all before the serial killer comes looking for you but at least you have two CSU’s nicknamed Scarly and Bat that you can count on.

Well worth picking up. My rating is 10 out of 10.

From the back cover:
This morning Detective John Tallow was bored with his job. Then there was this naked guy with a shotgun and his partner getting killed and now Tallow has a real problem: an apartment full of guns. Old guns. Modified guns. Arranged in rows and spirals on the floor and walls. Hundreds of them. Each weapon is tied to a single unsolved murder. Which means that Tallow has uncovered two decades’ worth of homicides that no one knew to connect and a killer unlike anything that came before.

March 27, 2013 / John Sheridan

A couple of books to anticipate

There are a couple of upcoming books I thought I would draw attention to. Firstly, Michael Harvey who is one of my personal favourites with his Michael Kelly series even though I was slightly disappointed with his last book We All Fall Down.

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Coming in May we have The Innocence Game (Kindle, Amazon UK), a standalone novel that promises something different: a leap forward into a dark world where the lines between innocence and guilt disappear altogether.

They’re young, brilliant, beautiful . . . and naïve enough to believe they can make a difference. For three graduate students, the exclusive innocence seminar at the nation’s most esteemed journalism school is supposed to teach them how to free the falsely accused from prison. Little do they know the most important lesson they’ll learn is how to stay alive.

The first day of class for Ian Joyce and Sarah Gold starts like any other, until a fellow student, Jake Havens, pulls a wrinkled envelope from his backpack. Inside is a bloodstained scrap of shirt from a boy murdered fourteen years ago and an anonymous note taking credit for the killing. The only problem is the alleged murderer is already dead.

Suddenly, the class has a new assignment: find the real killer. As the case unfolds, the bodies and questions begin to pile up.

Why are innocent men being framed?

Who’s been getting away with murder?

Drawn into a web of deceit and corruption, the students realize they, too, are being hunted. Ian, Sarah, and Jake are smart . . . but are they smart enough to stay alive?

From Northwestern’s idyllic campus, to the grittiest corners of Chicago, to the frigid depths of Lake Michigan, The Innocence Game is irresistible, harrowing suspense from a writer at the top of his form.

And having mentioned brilliant people that provides us with the perfect segue to the latest from Marcus Sakey (he of The Two Deaths of Daniel Hayes and a couple more personal favourites in the form of At the City’s Edge and The Blade Itself) which is due in July, Brilliance (Kindle, Amazon UK) crosses over into vaguely sci-fi territory in a book published by Amazon’s Thomas & Mercer imprint.

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In Wyoming, a little girl reads people’s darkest secrets by the way they fold their arms. In New York, a man sensing patterns in the stock market racks up $300 billion. In Chicago, a woman can go invisible by being where no one is looking. They’re called “brilliants,” and since 1980, one percent of people have been born this way. Nick Cooper is among them; a federal agent, Cooper has gifts rendering him exceptional at hunting terrorists. His latest target may be the most dangerous man alive, a brilliant drenched in blood and intent on provoking civil war. But to catch him, Cooper will have to violate everything he believes in—and betray his own kind.

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