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So far David McGill has created 102 blog entries.

The Gallic Flavouring of the Last Full Library Year


January is promising with Chief Inspector Jacquot, who could have been a colleague of Bruno’s. They are both into food, wine and rugby, but in his fifth case, Confession, Jacquot is up from Provence to Paris to sort murder and sex trafficking. Martin O’Brien writes a good police procedural, Martin Walker writes better about everything else. Jonathan Ransom for the third and maybe for me last time, as Christopher Reich  squeezes more from his mysterious spy wife in the hyper Rules of Betrayal. Maybe, and I never expected to write this, enough of Charlie Hood for a third time on the border with excessive violence in Jefferson Parker’s Iron River. Bruno I suspect has tilted my perspective towards red wine over spilled blood. Something of a relief when Barbara Parker gets a good chase going from Miami to London to the Swiss Alps, all over a rare map, The Perfect Forgery. Interesting terrain for Stuart Neville in Ratlines, 1963 Ireland and one dead Nazi and the hero charged by none other than Charles Haughey the ‘teasack’ himself as Minister of Justice with protecting glamour Nazi Otto Skorzeny, and himself the subject of many books. Bit of moral dilemma here, and a grand read. February Superintendent Grace has case No 12 in Dead Last, a lady with the lethal touch. Smuggling an Iraqi lady out of Iraq is a torrid task in Gerald Seymour’s The Corporal’s Wife. The Mongolian steppes is a novel locale for a crime novel, Inspector Nergui has a second case, murder and legal shenanigans, in Michael Walters’ The Adversary. A Swedish debut, former journalist Jan Wallentin’s Strindberg’s Star, plenty in there, Norse mythology, Nazis, religious artefact, murder, pursuit by a secret society [...]

Crime Fest Peaks for the Festive Season


The first Harry Hole for the first month of the new year, it does not get better. In The Bat Harry is in Sydney on a psychopath’s trail. Broken Harbour is Dublin cop Scorcher Kennedy solving one family’s murder and trying to sort his own, a good one from a new writer to me, Tana French. In The Cobra, Frederick Forsyth gifts his CIA man unlimited powers to crack the cocaine trade. Vanished is a good missing person thriller from Tim Weaver. The Small Boat of Great Sorrows is as good as its title, Dan Fesperman’s retired Sarajevo detective hired to find an old Nazi and finding much more contemporary villainy. More sedate villainy as Anthony Horowitz resurrects Holmes and Watson in 1890 London and Boston underworlds in The House of Silk. Another January five. Dan Fesperman delivers in The Warlord’s Son a tense caravan trip through modern Afghanistan, a jaded war correspondent and his guide in constant danger. Tana French returns with the Dublin murder squad after a missing girl presumed dead in Faithful Place. The complication is she was the main character’s lost love. If it had not been Robert Harris I might not have taken out a story of a scientist who is threatened along with his huge hedge fund in Geneva, but The Fear Index proves Harris can brilliantly handle more than spies and Cicero. Any crime novel on a Hebridean island has the call of my ancestral home, and cop Fin Macleod does not disappoint when he  returns home to Lewis to investigate a murder in my first Peter May, The Blackhouse. Very different is Sweetheart Deal, set in Bugfest, Georgia, you get the idea, a lawyer investigating her mother [...]

American Gothic and Other Noir


In the 70s and 80s Joseph Wambaugh showed us wild cops careening around LA, where the ocean met the ghetto. He was back with a second wind in the new millennium. I pounced on another in January 2012, Hollywood Hills. I was happy to get another Nic Costa outing, The Fallen Angel, modern Rome generating parallels with its murderous past. Not so sure about Scotsman Paul Johnston’s Death Wish. A writer is under email threat from a killer, library equivalent of a stocking filler. A pause, probably chasing Nesbos in the bookshops, but I am back in May. Stardust is Joseph Kanon dramatizing Hollywood 1945, as the communist witchhunt marches in. The Wailing Wind is Leaphorn/Chee Navajo mystery No 15. Death Wore White is Jim Kelly’s Norfolk at its bleakest, Detectives Shaw and Valentine trying to figure a stabbing in snow but no clues. Cold Day in Hell is too true for a series of grisly murders in Central Park. July brought a warming chill. Anybody working for Stalin always dreads his whimsical savagery. Siberian Red also offers Stalin’s other gift, a stint in a gulag, as the reluctant Finnish detective can only survive by doing Stalin’s bidding and infiltrating gulag convicts. Gulag stories always carry the added heft of horrified fascination that anybody survives. This detective does, but flourish, no. Good yarn by Sam Eastland. I shouldn’t have taken out The Cypress House, Gothic Florida is fine, but supernatural, no thanks. Much more acceptable Florida Gothic is Carl Hiassen with Skink 6, the unhinged ex-governor of the alligator state proving to have legs aplenty. So too does the actress playing the celebrity, who needs all the speed she and Skink can muster to avoid [...]

The Year of Reading Scandinavian


My Scandinavian exposure this year appropriately begins with the master Henning Mankell and the first case for Wallander, The Pyramid. I have to say I was more excited at Virgil Flowers among the March offerings, as Bad Blood kicks in with a death by grain silo. Trial by Fire is a district attorney fighting her own indictment for murder of her parents. Daddy’s Girl is a Cape Town policeman needing help from a journalist to find his kidnapped daughter. The Cruellest Month is death at a séance, a Quebec policeman investigating in an alleged revival of the Agatha Christie mystery. April crime offered the reliable George Pelecanos with Right as Rain, Derek Strange investigating something that has come to the fore, a white cop shooting a black who happens to be an off-duty cop. Ridley Pearson is another who often anticipates news, in Middle of Nowhere a police strike is not joined by Seattle cop Lou Boldt. Rules of Vengeance is a return for Christopher Reich’s husband and wife, except this time he is investigating her for a murder conspiracy. Web of Evil has J A Jance set up LA heroine Ali on a charge of murdering her estranged husband for his considerable inheritance. May crime has a few bottlers. Jeffrey Deaver is in the ‘insanely imaginative’ category. Roadside Crosses has Kathryn Dance and her team back to investigate roadside crosses that anticipate fatalities. Minneasota PI Cork O’Connor is in Canada’s Thunder Bay investigating a son of a friend who may have tried to murder his father. You with me? Crushed by a concrete frog requires Dick Lochte’s journalist to investigate murder at his magazine in the breezy Croaked! Brunetti investigates a cult in The [...]

The Year of All My Crime Christmases


Joe Pike is centre stage for the first time in The Watchman, kicking off January 2010 quadruple whammy. There are Thorn, Magic City and Dr Delaware, A Cold Heart. The doc’s cop buddy the gay Milo Sturgis could yet do a Pike on the psychologist. A new master to me is John Connolly with Every Dead Thing, ex-NYPD cop Charlie Parker pursuing the psychotic killer of his wife and daughter in James Lee Burke territory. A new Swytek When Darkness Falls is not bad, but does suffer by comparison with these masters. March delivers a heap of trouble for Thorn in Hell’s Bay, as he inherits a fortune and a seriously unstable new family. Got the Look is number five outing for Swytek the Miami criminal lawyer. End Games is sadly well-named, the last Aurelio Zen before Michael Dibdin died. A second March visit introduces rookie cop Charlie Hood in a pearler, LA Outlaws. Charlie is chasing a modern day female Jesse James, honour and passion colliding in the ‘insanely imaginative’ Jefferson Parker’s move to a series of borderland crimes. However, Charlie is shaded by another cop supplanting his boss, a la Pike, Virgil Flowers getting his first run in John Sandford’s Dark of the Moon. I confess my loyalty to Lucas Davenport destructed in one spectacular novel. Bring on more Virgil. Meantime, Kill the Messenger almost is a Tami Hoag cop hunting down killers of a sleazy LA lawyer. Fear of the Dark is another LA 1950s outing for Fearless Jones and Paris Minton. No, not Paris Hilton, but author Mosley does do zany names. Avenger is Frederick Forsyth’s visceral and efficient hunt for the killer of a Bosnian aid worker. The Wrong Man [...]

Returning from Gap Year


It was the end of May 2008 before I returned to Paraparaumu Library. The slips were now green, which offered hope after a gap year from the library crime shelves. Recovery proved swift, though I was puzzled by the note at the end of the issue slip: ‘Powered by Koha’. Did that mean we were expected to pay, like those museums and galleries that suggest a $5 donation? I paid my rates, so that would be my contribution. Rat Run was Gerald Seymour in fine form, an intelligence officer in Iraq. Venice sucked me into an Indiana Jones of a novel, The Venetian Betrayal, evil biological warfare and hunting Alexander’s tomb, the survival of the world at stake. Yeah, yeah, nah. So why then get out another Steve Berry, The Romanov Prophecy? This was about finding a descendant to restore the tsars to Russia. Nope. Sometimes you snatch up a book because of the cover and a misplaced hunch. I also did not warm to Susan Hill’s contrived and non-existent English cathedral town, The Various Haunts of Men. I prefer real places. Joel Ross provides that in Switzerland and World War Two conspiracies in White Flag Down. Spring enticed me back. Once again the magic city, Venice, sucked me in to David Stone’s CIA man versus a Serbian warlord in The Orpheus Deception, one of the Ludlum school, I guess. It was nice to lighten up with Bermuda Schwartz. Zack Chasteen is on another rollicking adventure, this time hidden treasure, murder, romance and rum. The Brethren is as always a reliable legal thriller from John Grisham. Kyle Mills whips up another doomsday scenario of an oil-eating bug in Darkness Falls. Patricia Hall delivers more page-turning [...]

Issues with Issues


In 2005 I borrowed only five times, topping up crime dining when other produce sources dried. The value of the issues is that they are a record I do not have for private borrowings. My bad. February’s six borrowings were notable for reading private eye Big Boy Brawly Brown, Easy Rawlins battling police prejudice and revolutionary fervor in 1964 Watts in Walter Mosley’s sixth outing for the caring private eye. The Phoenix is a faction book that tried to explain why Zeppelins failed, against the always compelling Nazi Germany backdrop. The Eyewitness is a Stephen Leather ex-cop tracking Sarajevo slaughter back to London. Mission Canyon is an Evan Delaney pursuit in Santa Barbara of a killer out to kill her. The Third Twin I took out because it was Ken Follett, but a techno-thriller is not really for me. Cut to June’s six, with Driving Big Davie the sixth Dan Starkey by a former Northern Irish journalist Colin Bateman set in Florida in a comic black revenge story, no match for local Miami criminal lawyer Jack Swytek back again framed for murder in James Grippando’s Beyond Suspicion. Neither is in the same savage street or, rather, canyons of an Elvis Cole yarn The Forgotten Man. Or indeed Leslie Thomas, who ventures across the Atlantic for a yarn about Nazi saboteurs, Orders for New York. Spring yielded some of the best. Henning Mankell’s The Return of the Dancing Master is not a Wallander, but another cop after neo-Nazis. Kenneth Abels’ first outing for himself and his Big Easy lawyer Danny Chaisson in Cold Steel Rain chases corruption and betrayal in Louisiana politics. In A Long December Donald Harstad’s Iowa cop proceeds to find an execution-style killer. Last [...]

Surfing Crime on the Kapiti Coast


The new Paraparaumu Library is a clean, gleaming, glass and steel Rolls Royce structure. Unfortunately, there appeared to be little budget left for books. They looked like a tattered job lot from the last Lions Book Sale. Never mind, the slips were pristine white, a cut above the Wellington Central yellow. Mysteriously, only three titles printed out, the other two were designated ‘Paperback’, which is what they all were. The first identifiable title was Robert Campbell’s The Wizard of La-la Land, a familiar genre, down-at-heel Californian private eye. Die Dancing was a Jonathan Gash, regrettably not Lovejoy, but a medical thriller. Definitely not a genre I would give a glance if not desperate. The House of Eros was an early Donald James, a Vietnam love story of the revenge kind. Not a great start to my relationship with my new library. My March lucky dip was wonky. Hunting Season did not live up – or die -- to its title, it was a bawdy Italian effort that lost me in translation. I had tried Stephen Kernick before, but maybe not again, The Business of Dying too bloody depressing. Faye Kellerman’s regular investigators Peter Decker and Rina Lazarus I quite like, but Jupiter’s Bones was another La-la land religious cult scarcely worth investigating. Numbered Account was a Christopher Reich Swiss financial thriller, but not up to the pace of The First Billion or Rules of Deception. I should add here that the likes of Faye and Jonathan Kellerman, Kernick and Reich I had read from my other thriller source, friends, and Rob up in Te Horo was a lifesaver, given he often came back from overseas with the latest airport thriller. I rounded out the month’s [...]

Millennial Issues


Christmas gift books explain a library gap until March 2000, when I made up for lost library time with seven outings, including a Bernie Rhodenbarr, The Burglar in the Rye. April was also seven, one a Thorn, Red Sky at Night, author Hall still using the ‘W’ after James. May I hoped for another comic crime series with Biggie and the Mangled Mortician, but the series about a feisty East Texas detecting dame and her grandson continued without me. Nor did E. Annie Proulx’s Accordion Crimes hit the spot; maybe the ‘E’ was a sticking point. Also there was the library telling us no more renewals, a retrograde step. Winter brought content with a McNally among the journeymen crime writers, July a Dalziel. Spring sprung a surprise on me, I was back to Jonathan Gash of Lovejoy fame, Stephen Leather and Zev Chafets, plus a Bryce Courtenay, Solomon’s Song, which was not up to his first Fagin. Bliss returned in October with a Rostnikov and a Dave Robicheaux.  Spring ended with the jackpot, Leaphorn and Chee, a droll Joe Lansdale, Donald James’ The Fortune Teller on the strength of his electrifying future Russia thriller The Monstrum and the best of the best, Elmore Leonard’s finest, Cuba Libre, fin-de-siecle cowboy crooks coming in to Havana at the same time as the Americans were capturing it. The year’s borrowings ended reliably with a Laurie King, Piers Paul Read and the incomparable storyteller Ken Follett with The Hammer of Eden. Now if we could just get my Somes Island book off to the press, the new year could be a good one. Again it was March before I got back to Central, the half-dozen outs topped by a [...]

Wellington Central Library Y2K Issue Slips


Remember Y2K? There was global dread of the Millennium Bug crashing computers. I spent the build-up to this non-event and the first year of the bug-free millennium building up a book on Somes Island and abandoning the house I built. I sold the cliff-top house positioned perfectly to engage all Wellington’s winds, descended into an old villa and new partners, one private with librarian skills, one public with Central Wellington publishing skills. The Central Library was now most convenient, with a greater range of crime to choose from. My visit on 27 February 1999 proved just so, scoring Robert Crais, Les Standiford, Ian Rankin’s Rebus, plus the first of all I could get of the Martha’s Vineyard crime stories by Philip R(!) Craig. One review called them soft-boiled detective mysteries, just the kind I like, glamorous setting and slick writing. The 11 February visit yielded another favourite soft-boiled crime writer, Laurence Sanders with his Palm beach, Florida, private eye McNally. Sheer delight, Noel Coward and PG Wodehouse transplanted to flapper-era of sun and shenanigans. By this time locale was an important factor in selection. If it is set in Florida, New York, Boston, California, New Orleans, I am usually a starter, just so too for Berlin, Moscow, Paris, London, Venice, Amsterdam. On this visit another Florida noir from James Hall, Mean High Tide, and still taking out John Lescroart legal crime, Greg Rucka and a David Ignatius CIA-driven spy thriller. March yielded another McNally and a Deal, the lead characters now so familiar I looked for them as much as the author. I was also on repeat with Philip Kerr, Robert K(!) Tanenbaum, and Joseph Finder. Later that month I got a Liberman, Scudder and [...]