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We're Ken Hebenstreit and Sharlan Douglas, blogging here about the books we love: Mysteries, suspense, crime fiction. If you want to comment on one of our postings, click on its headline.

Archive for October, 2010

Star Island by Carl Hiaasen

I’m still reading this book, snorting helplessly with laughter on almost every page.  Ken says if I do it one more time he’s going to make me leave the room.

NY Times reviews Estleman’s new Amos Walker collection

Loren Estleman has published a collection of 33 Amos Walker stories and Marilyn Stasio reviewed them in the October 17 NY Times Book Review.

I just can’t figure out why Estleman hasn’t achieved the level of recognition of a Michael Connelly or a John Sandford.  He’s every bit as good, writing in multiple genres:  Crime/detective, western, historical fiction.   I love watching Amos Walker prowl the  mean streets of Detroit, my adopted home town, and the thinly-disguised avenues of the Grosse Pointes and Bloomfield Hills.

Stasio writes:  “While Amos often finds himself on foreign turf … and out of his social depth … , his comfort zone is the industrial heart of his city and the battered working-class neighborhoods that feed it the souls it needs to keep on pumping.”

Ken has 51 Loren Estleman books in stock,  many of them signed.

Inside Out by Barry Eisler

We first met military operative Ben Teven in Eisler’s 2009 Fault Line.  In Inside Out, he is tracking down incriminating government torture videotapes, stolen by an assassin even more skilled and ruthless than Ben.  Of course that involves international flights and lots of  killing and general mayhem.  Parallel to his search we see the political operators — CIA, Vice Presidential advisors and Ben’s own superiors — maneuvering for their professional survival and even their lives.

In the first part of the book, Ben travels and spies with a beautiful FBI agent.  In these formulaic books, such characters usually turn into a tight, intuitive team to beat the bad guys, but Eisler splits them up, and their eventual reunion is unsatisfying.   They do engage in a long sex scene, which, in his acknowledgements, Eisler attributes it to Jane Litte of dearauthor.com and Sarah Wendell of smartbitchestrashybooks.com.

“If there’s something you don’t like about the scene in question, I hope it goes without saying that Jane and Sarah are entirely to blame.”  OK, ladies (and Barry), here it is:  The scene is excessive, improbable and gratuitous and derails the book’s momentum.

More so than most such action-novel characters, Ben analyses his behavior and motivation and develops a better understanding of himself.   He struggles to reconcile his growing awareness with the political revelations at the end of the book, leaving a state of mind and of the world of espionage that almost guarantees a sequel.

City of Dragons by Kelli Stanley

Miranda Corbie is a the noirest of noir private eyes in San Francisco, 1940.  She smokes Chesterfields and is tortured by the memory of her dead lover.

When a minor-league Japanese crook falls dead at her feet during a Chinatown festival, Miranda takes the case, sans even a pro bono client. Despite being at the wrong end of a hit-and-run, no sleep, no food, quarts of brown liquor and — did I mention the  Chesterfields? — she outsmarts the cops and an assortment of ethnic gangsters to solve that case and the four or five other cases to which it connects.

Author Kelli Stanley does a great job putting us in that time and place.  Her period details are spot-on.  I felt the fog, the pain in my calves from climbing those hills, the fear in a dark Chinatown drug den.  But the plot twists and relationships felt contrived.

Come to the Lansing book fair this weekend: 10/3/10

Glad to see fellow Spartan Bill Castanier posting about the book fair this weekend in Lansing.  We’ll be there!  Buy a book and you’ll get a free green (OK purple) tote bag!