Imaginary Corpse
September 12th, 2019 by diane92345

I adored Imaginary Corpse! It is an inventive take on a noir private investigator plot using a fantasy setting.

The Stillreal is where ideas that are too real go when their creator abruptly sends them away. Tippy is a stuffed dinosaur who solves crime in the Stillreal. However, even he is perplexed when Spindleman is beaten to “death” by The Man in the Coat. The problem is ideas can’t be killed in Stillreal, they quickly regenerate. When Spindleman doesn’t, Tippy must investigate.

Wow, I love this clever book! I admit I requested this book more for curiosity than for a great plot. I was surprised by the author’s ability to suspend my initial skepticism by chapter two.

All the noir details are here. Tippy has a root beer problem and drinks it out of a flask. He reads Encyclopedia Brown, the real children’s detective series that started my love of mysteries. Despite being a stuffed dinosaur, Tippy is a fully fleshed-out character haunted by his person’s rejection of him and the rain that caused that rejection.

Setting it in an It’s a Small World-level childhood dream is a brilliant counterpoint to the usually depressing noir world. Who doesn’t love the concept that beloved ideas live elsewhere after their creators abandon them?

Don’t worry that the Imaginary Corpse will be too kitschy. It will suck you into its universe quickly. If you have read one too many standard mysteries or noirs and feel like a palate cleanser, please take a chance on this book. You won’t be sorry. 5 stars and one of my favorite books of 2019!

Thanks to Angry Robot and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.

Posted in Diane's Favorites, Fantasy, Humor, Mystery & Thrillers, New Books Tagged with: ,

Lady in the Lake
July 26th, 2019 by diane92345

“Alive, I was Cleo Sherwood. Dead, I became the Lady in the Lake, a nasty broken thing.”

Maddie is feeling unfulfilled in her life as a full-time wife and mother of one. It’s 1965, when women can dream of careers—and Maddie is a good dreamer. She leaves her husband of twenty years to become a reporter at the Baltimore Sun. Stuck with fluff pieces, she dreams of breaking a big story. She finds that story in Cleo Sherwood.

The Lady in the Lake is an almost perfect sixties adaptation of a forties crime noir. Instead of a good man in a hat, it’s feminist Maddie finding truths that are best kept hidden. Like classic noir, most of the characters are unsympathetic. The pacing is slower than modern thrillers. If both of those traits are fine with you, you will enjoy this “modern” update. 4 stars!

Thanks to Faber & Faber and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.

Posted in Mystery & Thrillers, New Books Tagged with: , ,

The Sleepwalker
July 17th, 2019 by diane92345

Definitely the best noir I’ve read this year! The Sleepwalker is the third dark thriller in the terrific Aidan Waits series.

Down these dark hospital corridors a man must go… Aidan and his shady partner Sutty are watching a serial killer called The Sleepwalker die. The Manchester Police are hoping that the prisoner will tell Sutty where he left the body of his last victim. Instead, he denies the killing immediately before both he and Sutty are bombed in the hospital room.

While this is only the beginning of the twisty tale, I can’t even begin to tell you more without it being a spoiler. What I can do is highly recommend this gritty British noir for its impeccably nuanced characters and impressive plotting. Every noir fan must read this book! Fans of thrillers and police procedurals (though Aidan is not one to follow many rules) will enjoy it also. 5 stars!

Thanks to Doubleday UK and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.

Posted in Diane's Favorites, Mystery & Thrillers, New Books Tagged with: , , ,

After She's Gone
March 2nd, 2019 by diane92345

After She’s Gone was named Best Swedish Crime Novel for good reason—realistic characterizations, a compelling mystery, and a haunting setting.

Swedish Police Detective Malin is called back to her rural hometown to investigate the murder of a five-year-old girl. Ironically, Malin found the girl’s skeleton eight years earlier when only a teenager.

Malin is part of a five-person homicide team. Two of its members disappear. When one, Hanne, crawls out of the freezing forest without coat or shoes, she can remember nothing of what happened. She was last seen with her boyfriend Peter, who is also on the team. However, Peter is still missing. Only cross-dressing teen, Jake, has seen Hanne emerge from the forest. He also picked up a book she dropped on the road. But he is afraid his secret will come out if he goes to the police.

After She’s Gone alternates between Malin and Jake’s viewpoints. Hanne’s diary also sheds a light on her thoughts before her disappearance. I enjoyed the many twists and turns. The reveal at the end totally blindsided me. The book is highly recommended to dark thriller fans. 4 stars!

My only question is, “How are Scandinavian countries consistently rated happiest when their environment, and their fiction, is so cold and dark?”

Thanks to Ballantine Books and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for an honest review.

Posted in Mystery & Thrillers Tagged with: , ,

Blood Standard
May 29th, 2018 by diane92345

Blood Standard is a beautifully written slow-moving hardboiled noir.

Isaiah Coleridge is an enforcer with the Chicago mob. Since he is Maori, he can never be truly part of the Family. When he falls out of favor, he is sent to Nome Alaska, the “Mafia penal colony”. After letting his feelings toward animal cruelty get the best of him, he is abruptly tossed out of the Life. On his own and hiding in a small upstate New York commune, he looks into the disappearance of the granddaughter of the owners.

Definitely a “down these mean streets a man must go” noir. Blood Standard has many great quotes. My favorite is

“whenever you think of gangs, think Romance of the Three Kingdoms. In the gangster universe, it’s all ancient Chinese court drama. Face, protocol, plausible deniability. This is what motivates wise guys and bangers. Pussy and money too.”

Realistically, that thought could have been expressed in substantially fewer words—but it wouldn’t have been half as memorable. The book reads as if each sentence was edited and re-edited until it was the perfect example of the author’s thoughts. Laird Barron has won the Bram Stoker award for horror and was nominated for a World Fantasy award. This is his first mystery/thriller. Thrillers are by their nature propulsive reads. Speed accelerates the feeling of danger. Blood Standard flows along more slowly, savoring its words and thoughts, and so losing the thriller pacing. This may be okay for readers used to reading horror, fantasy, or even literary fiction. It just felt off to me. I kept putting off reading it but finally finished a couple weeks after I started it.

While I can’t recommend it, I don’t want to say it’s bad—it’s just different and is sure to appeal to some readers. 3 stars.

Thanks to the publisher, Dutton, and NetGalley for an advance copy.

Posted in Mystery & Thrillers Tagged with: , ,

Archie Coe Vol 1
May 16th, 2018 by diane92345

Archie Coe, hypnotist, cat whisperer and sucker to every dame he meets. The art and dialogue both up the 1940s noir feel in Archie Coe Vol 1.

Jack Midland hires Coe to find the reason his wife, Hope, is frigid to him since their marriage. Hope insists that she and Archie know each other. When Jack turns up dead, the police look hard at Archie. In the meantime, a madman called the Zipper is killing people by removing their hearts with his bare hands.

I loved this black as tar noir! It’s amazing how many plot twists are among its 164 pages. Archie Coe Vol 1 is reminiscent of Bogart and Bacall movies as well as the style-driven comics I read in the 1980s. 5 stars! It is also available on Comixology Unlimited too.

Thanks to the publisher, Oni Press, and NetGalley for a copy.

Posted in Graphic Novel, Mystery & Thrillers Tagged with: ,

Baby Monkey, Private Eye
March 15th, 2018 by diane92345

Cute, funny, easy reader with awesome illustrations. Baby Monkey, Private Eye contains five cases for Baby Monkey, who is of course a baby monkey, to solve.

This is a brilliant mash-up of picture and chapter book. The illustrations are more frequent than words and were my favorite part.  Marketed to ages 3-8, this book would be a great group read to children almost ready to read and a great choice for beginning readers. The repetition of text means fewer words for young children to memorize.  It also makes it a good way for children to be able to read a “big book” since Baby Monkey, Private Eye has 187 pages.

Children will have fun seeing Baby Monkey’s frequent issues with putting on his pants. They will also relate to the need for afternoon snacks and naps. If they pay close attention to the footprints in most of the cases, they should be able to solve all the cases with Baby Monkey too.

The best part (for me) is that there are several hilarious features purely for adults.  Does Baby Monkey know the future? Baby Monkey’s office decorations change depending on the case.  What’s amazing is that the client has yet to arrive.  Adults will have fun recognizing the historic figures. There is a key in the back giving the answers. Damn you Bonnie Blue Butler for ruining my perfect score! There is also a humorous index and a funny, hopefully fictitious, bibliography.

Highly recommended for children and their adults. 5 stars!

Thanks to the publisher, Scholastic Press, and Goodreads for providing an advanced copy through the Goodreads giveaways program.

Posted in Children Tagged with: , ,

Jazz Maynard
December 21st, 2017 by diane92345

Gangs, dirty cops, missing children, sex trafficking and murder explode across this noir crime thriller. 

Childhood friends Jazz, Teo and Judas go down separate life paths that all involve crime. There is a significant flashback in chapter two explaining how the boys’ paths diverged.

While rescuing his sister from poor decisions, Jazz runs into some unexpected luck in New York City. After escorting his sister home to a small town in Catalonia Spain, his luck runs out and he must rely on Teo and Judas’ quick wits to rescue him from a bad situation. When approached by a local crime boss with a request that he can’t refuse, Jazz starts down a slippery slope. Of course, there is always a dame from the past to muddy the waters.

Jazz Maynard is a good crime drama. The artwork is excellent. The scene is set in dusky but highly saturated greens, blues, reds and oranges. While dark, it is easy to see details and tell the characters apart. The only complaint is there is an excess of words on each page. It feels a bit clunky while reading. Still, Jazz Maynard is a good choice for noir or crime syndicate thriller lovers, where no one is wholly innocent. It is reminiscent of Reservoir Dogs or Chinatown. 3 stars!

Thanks to the publisher, Lion Forge, and NetGalley for an advanced review copy. This book will be published on December 26, 2017 but can be ordered now on Amazon.

Posted in Graphic Novel Tagged with: , ,

Murder Geniuses
December 1st, 2017 by diane92345

An imaginative noir comic thick with backstory and full of plot twists!

What villain is killing Gotham City’s philanthropists? The Shadow knows the evil in the hearts of men but is he a hero or a villain?

Mentioning almost any part of the plot of this great noir comic would be a heartbreaking spoiler. Most of the fun in reading this multilayered story is not understanding where it is heading in advance.

Usually I read comics and even graphic novels not expecting much from the plot. Action, and awesome illustrations, are my usual expectation. This comic definitely contains both but the focus is on the story. It explains who taught Batman to be Batman. Alfred’s background is also explored. While I had only seen one old black & white movie about The Shadow, his story, as shown in this book, is captivating.

Most comics take a few hours to read. This one took me days because I truly wanted it to last as long as possible. I can also see a re-read in my future. Batman/The Shadow: The Murder Geniuses is definitely my favorite comic from 2017. It is especially recommended for mystery readers who previously shunned comics as too simplistic in plotting. The plot is definitely the star here. 5 stars!

Thanks to the publisher, DC Comics, and NetGalley for an advanced review copy.

Posted in Graphic Novel Tagged with: , , ,