ALEX, Pierre LeMaitre
This is the second in a series of three novels about PC Camille Verhoeven, of the Paris police,who returns to work after recovering (somewhat) from a personal tragedy. His first case concerns, Alex, a young woman who has been kidnapped from the Paris streets. A second POV, Alex' makes it clear what has happened. She is suspended in a crate where she cannot sit, lie down or stand. It is up to Camille to figure out where she is, who she is and save her.
There were more twists in this book than any I can remember. And every one of them worked! Just when it seems like the case was solved, there's another turn in the road. This is a violent book and not for the faint-hearted. And despite my late life pledge not to read more than one book in a series, this one might change my mind. Highly recommended. (And it won its author the International Dagger Award for Best Crime Novel of 2013. Not forgotten but perhaps not known to you.
John Farris was my generation's first literary rock star. When his novel Harrison High was published it quickly became controversial because of its honest depiction of life among American teenagers. This was 1959. America still believed that if teens weren't exactly like Ricky and David Nelson they certainly weren't like Elvis. Given the fact that many of these teens would be in the streets protesting the Viet Nam war only a few years later, you can see how badly books such as Pat Boone's Twixt twelve and Twenty misjudged them.
The paperback edition became a companion to Peyton Place, published a few years earlier, both Great Reads and both purveyors of unpopular truths.
Mr. Farris, now famous, was all of twenty-three when the book was published. But he was no beginner. Born in 1936 he could already claim the following novels in print:
* The Corpse Next Door (Graphic Books, 1956) (as John Farris)
* The Body on the Beach (Bouregy & Curl, 1957, hc) (as Steve Brackeen)
* Baby Moll (Crest, 1958, pb) (as Steve Brackeen)
* Danger in My Blood (Crest, 1958, pb) (as Steve Brackeen)
He was writing and publishing before he could legally buy beer.
Hard Case Crime has now given us a chance to look at some of Farris' early work with Baby Moll appearing this month. And fine work it is.
"Six years after quitting the Florida Mob, Peter Mallory is about to be dragged back in.
"Stalked by a vicious killer and losing his hold on power, Mallory’s old boss needs help—the kind of help only a man like Mallory can provide. But behind the walls of the fenced-in island compound he once called home, Mallory is about to find himself surrounded by beautiful women, by temptation, and by danger—and one wrong step could trigger a bloodbath."
If you have any doubt about Farris' writing skills open the book and read the first chapter. It is both lyrical and ominous, an unlikely combination in a paperback crime novel. This establishes the way Farris even then managed to take some of the familiar tropes of genre fiction and make them entirely his own.
The set-up itself is unique. Mallory called back to save the life of a boss he despises but a man he owes his life. The boss got him off the bottle.
The story, as it plays out, is also all Farris'. While parts of the first act brought Peter Rabe to mind Farris takes the gangster novel in a different direction. Given the relationship of the people on the island the book becomes almost Gothic in its entanglements and ambience.
Farris of course went on to write numerous bestsellers, a number of them staples of modern dark suspense and horror, but even here, early on, he was a cunning storyteller fascinated by the perplexity and perversity of the human soul. A good deal of his horror will live for generations to come. He is a true master.
Sergio Angelini, THE MAN IN LOWER TEN, Mary Robert Rinehart
Joe Barone, LAZARUS, Morris West
Les Blatt, Suggestions for acquiring a Classic Crime background
Casual Debis, MIDNIGHT FRIGHT, A collection of ghost stories
Bill Crider, THE CASE OF THE NERVOUS NUDE, Jonathan Craig
Scott Cupp, THE SINISTER SHADOW, Ken Robeson
Martin Edwards, THE DOCUMENTS IN THE CASE, Martin Edwards
Curt Evans, AN OLD LADY DIES, Anthony Gilbert
John Hegenberger, THE LOST CONCERTO, Helaine Mario
Rick Horton, THE MAID OF MAIDEN LANE, Amerlia Barr
Jerry House, THE SIRENS WAKE, Lord Dunsay
George Kelley, RETIEF: EMISSARY TO THE STARS, Keith Laumer
Margot Kinberg, MASSACRE POND, Paul Doiron
B.V. Lawson, A BLEEDING OF INNOCENTS, Jo Bannister
Even Lewis. DECOY, Cleve F. Adams
Steve Lewis/Dan Stumpf, THE LAW AND JAKE WADE, Marv Albert
Todd Mason, YESTERDAY'S TOMORROWS edited by Frederik Pohl (Berkley, 1982) and, essentially, EDITORS edited by Saul Bellow and Keith Botsford (Toby Press, 2001)
J.F. Norris, A TASTE FOR HONEY, H.F. Heard
Matt Paust, A CRY OF SHADOWS, Ed Gorman
James Reasoner, THE HELL-BENT KID, Charles O. Locke
Richard Robinson, FALCONER AND THE FACE OF GOD, Ian Morson
Gerard Saylor, THE DRUMMER, Anthony Neil Smith; SIERRA, Richard Wheeler
Kevin Tipple/Barry Ergang, TERROR IS MY TRADE, Stephen Marlowe
TomCat, THE DECAGON HOUSE MURDERS, Yukito Ayatsuji
Tracy K, SHOTGUN SATURDAY NIGHT, Bill Crider
Westlake Review, Comfort Station, by J. Morgan Cunningham (aka Donald E. Westlake)