Recently in Mystery Category


Director Guy Ritchie's big screen version of the 1964-68 TV series, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., opened in theatres to less than enthusiastic response last August.  That's too bad.  Despite some creative missteps, U.N.C.L.E. (hereafter referred to as UNCLE) is actually a terrific spy flick.


Real life keeps getting in the way of my updating this blog. But while I get organized, here are some of the titles on my figurative nightstand I'm currently reading (and also available from the library) that you might find interesting:

All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr:  A really compelling story of a young blind French girl and a tech-obsessed German boy whose paths cross during World War II.

The Man With The Golden Typewriter: Ian Fleming's James Bond Letters, edited by Fergus Fleming: Fun look at what went on in Ian Fleming's life while crafting the original 007 novels & short stories.

The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins:  The basic plot is derivative -I'm thinking Agatha Christie's 4:50 From Paddington- , but first time author Hawkins keeps you riveted throughout.

The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin (translated by Kin Liu):  The 2015 Hugo Award winner for best novel, this first installment of a Chinese science fiction trilogy is an offbeat take on the usual alien invasion plot, complete with really bizarre virtual reality sequences. 

More in-depth reviews to follow.

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Not bad.  Aside from a weak theme song, the by-now-overused plot of Bond going rogue, and a dragged out ending (that otherwise sets up a sequel), the latest James Bond 007 film Spectre, currently out in theatres, is an exciting, well shot and directed film.  Daniel Craig's fourth outing as 007 features his most relaxed and confident performance to date. He's even cracking jokes! 

I'll have more to say about it when the library gets the DVD, but in the meantime, if you're a 007 fan like me, you'll enjoy watching this film!

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The new James Bond 007 thriller SPECTRE hit theatres in the US today after having been released a week earlier in Europe and looks to be another big international hit.  But where did S.P.E.C.T.R.E. (yes, it's actually an acronym, at least in Ian Fleming's Bond novels) first appear?


After having read the last attempt to resurrect Ian Fleming's James Bond 007 in literary form by another author, I was convinced the secret agent's life in prose was over and done. Happily, Anthony Horowitz's Trigger Mortis (click here to reserve a copy) made me realize there can be an author who "gets" 007 as Fleming portrayed him. 

In fact, Fleming, via an unused outline he worked on for a potential 007 TV series in the late fifties that was used as a starting point for Horowitz, is partly responsible for the way Trigger Mortis (it's a technical term used by NASA that figures into the plot) turned out.  Set in 1957, directly after the events of Fleming's Goldfinger novel, Mortis finds Bond wondering what to do with the previous mission's heroine, Pussy Galore, when his boss M promptly gives him a new assignment.

Lancy Smith, a world famous British race car driver (loosely based on real life racing champ Sterling Moss) has been targeted by SMERSH, the covert Soviet  assassination and terrorist organization, for death.  Bond is assigned to protect Smith while they both compete in the Grand Prix.  But while keeping his eyes and ears open for possible threats, Bond discovers that SMERSH also is in league with  the mysterious Korean-American millionaire businessman Jason Sin. Apparently Sin is targeting America's space program, but what's his plan? 

With the initially reluctant help of a female "writer" named Jeopardy Lane, Bond quickly discovers that more than just the American space program is in danger.  But can he and Jeopardy stop Sin in time?!?

I can't give away anything more.  Trigger Mortis is a nonstop thrill ride from start to finish.  Horowitz captures Fleming's literary voice much better than others (I was always sorry the late but otherwise excellent thriller writer John Gardner was unable to write a really good, exciting Bond novel back in the 80s), as well as giving a good sense of historical perspective. The nasty Sin may invoke some memories of Bond's previous foe, Doctor No, however, and the cultural biases (which include ethnic slurs) that Bond and Fleming had back in those days are still present, which may make present day readers uncomfortable. 

If you can overlook the attitudes that characterized guys like Bond back then (and who'd ever thought the previously homophobic 007 actually had a gay friend, as seen in this new novel), you'll enjoy Trigger Mortis!  Recommended, and here's hoping Horowitz gets to do another Bond installment. 

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Yes, Mickey Spillane, the guy who wrote such hard hitting novels as I, the Jury and The Delta Factor, actually wrote a screenplay for a never produced western (for John Wayne, no less!) back around 1959! 


If you haven't, here's your chance:

The film opens in the US on November 6th.

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Tough guy private eye Mike Hammer returns in a "new" thriller, Kill Me, Darling, begun in 1954 or thereabouts by Mickey Spillane and completed very nicely by Max Allan Collins.  (Click here to reserve our copy.)

Set in the aforementioned 1954, Hammer comes out of a four month bender (set off when his secretary Velda had left him with little explanation) to investigate former colleague Wade Manley's  murder.  With the help of old buddy Captain Pat Chambers of the NYPD, Mike discovers a connection between the murder victim and Velda, the latter now the latest girlfriend/mistress of Miami Beach gangster Nolly Quinn.  But what connection does Quinn have with the case?  Mike decides to head down to Miami to find out.  And then stuff happens...

Fun from start to finish, Kill Me, Darling (the title is uttered by a character during the end of the book) is a good roller coaster ride with plenty of sex and violence (lots of hoods get dispatched by Mike) to please the audience.  While the plot uses some familiar tropes -Hammer's bender was eventually used by Spillane in his 1962 novel The Girl Hunters (pointed out by Collins in his nice introduction), plus there's a surprise revelation at the climax about another character that harkens back to an earlier Spillane Hammer novel*- , there's still plenty of unexpected twists to be found. I loved hearing the reasons behind other gangsters wanting to hire Hammer to take out Quinn, for example, as well as the backstory that connects Hammer, Chambers, AND Velda to the late Manley. 

Kill Me, Darling is definitely recommended! 

*(If I tell you which Hammer novel, you'll know what I mean.)

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(Above is one of the books I enjoyed reading this year.)

The Greenwich Time just published a list of books recommended by my colleagues and myself.  Click here to read it.

Since I had sent a lengthy list (no, I'm not bragging), some of my other picks were dropped for space considerations.  Anyway, here's what else I had recommended (some may be familiar to readers of this blog):

Rogues, edited by George R. R. Martin & Gardner Dozois, is a fun collection of short stories from several genres by such authors as Neil Gaiman and Connie Willis.  Fans of Martin's "Song of Ice and Fire" series (adapted for HBO as Game of Thrones) will want to check out the author's contribution, "The Rogue Prince, or A King's Brother", which is a prequel to the aforementioned series.

Jeff VanderMeer's "Southern Reach" trilogy (Annihilation; Authority; Acceptance) which revolves around the mysterious "Area X" and the government's attempts to penetrate it, is one of the most exciting and frightening works of horror fiction you'll ever read.  You'll leave the light on when going to bed after finishing this collection.

Just in time to celebrate the character's 75th anniversary comes IDW's Batman: The Silver Age Dailies and Sundays 1966-1967, which collects the first two years of the caped crusader's newspaper comic strip, written by Whitney Ellsworth and illustrated by Sheldon Moldoff, Carmine Infantino and Joe Giella.  Uneven in spots -the strip tried to combine the comic book version of Batman with the then-popular "camp" TV series- this is still a blast to read!

King of the Weeds by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins.  Private eye Mike Hammer tries to prove the guilt of a killer, whose release from prison on a technicality may destroy the career of Hammer's pal NYPD Captain Pat Chambers.  But first Mike has to fight off the mob, who think he's hiding millions of their own money.  Solid thriller with a powerful ending!

Other books I enjoyed included The Monogram Murders by Sophie Hannah, featuring Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot, Lock In by John Scazi, and  The Most Dangerous Book:  The Battle For James Joyce's Ulysses by Kevin Birmingham.  But the most powerful one I read was probably Ron Suskind's Life Animated: A Story of Sidekicks, Heroes and Autism, a moving and life affirming account of his ultimately successful efforts to communicate with his autistic son Owen. 

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The latest collaboration of the late Mickey Spillane and the still living (whew!) Max Allan Collins,  King of the Weeds, the "penultimate" Mike Hammer novel,  is out now. 


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