“Making a no-budget indie film is like going to war. But you’re not General MacArthur storming the beaches with a force of a hundred thousand soldiers. Instead, you’re more like a small squad of Vietcong guerillas behind enemy lines, trying to complete an impossible mission using guile and your wits, the odds stacked against you. It’s risky, difficult, and dangerous. I can swear to it. I’ve been there.”
–from the prologue of True Indie.
Beginning with a middle school film called The Fish Movie, the author’s life was filled with dreams of filming Hollywood blockbusters. Borrowing money from his father at 18 to make his first feature film, Coscarelli sells it to Universal Studios for a cool quarter million dollars. Turning down a seven-year contract at Universal and previewing his first feature, Story of a Teenager, the same week as the blockbuster Jaws debuted brought his studio career to a swift end. He was 20 years old.
If you have any interest in film, this memoir is a fabulous backstage look at the process. It is also a great look at someone realizing his childhood dream. The writing style is excellent. It feels like your middle-aged neighbor is talking about his long-ago exploits. There are plenty of secrets from Coscarelli’s films. You can’t ask more from a Hollywood memoir than the story of a True Indie. 5 stars!
Now I just need to watch Phantasm again to truly appreciate the difficulties of filming on the down low with no budget. Okay, I’m back. The author was listed in the credits as the writer, director, cinematographer, and editor. His dad was the producer. Talk about True Indie! It was a much better experience watching the movie knowing some of the filming challenges. On to my favorite film by the author, John Dies at the End.
Thanks to St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley for an advance copy.
Posted in Non-fiction Tagged with: memoir, movies, Oct 2 2018
Amateur detective Mordecai Tremaine is back is the fine mystery In at the Death.
Dr. Hardene is found bludgeoned to death inside a vacant house. When Chief Inspector Boyce of Scotland Yard is called to investigate, he brings his buddy Mordecai Tremaine. Numerous questions emerge. Why was the Doctor carrying a gun in his bag? Why was his car parked down the street? Why does everyone in the small town seem to be hiding something?
Written in 1952, In at the Death showcases the puzzle making skills of the author. He seems to be hitting his stride in the fourth Mordecai Tremaine mystery. I was totally blindsided by the conclusion. If you want to play armchair detective too, I highly recommend reading this book. Hopefully, you will have better luck guessing the murderer. 4 stars!
Thanks to the publisher, Sourcebooks Landmark, and NetGalley for an advance copy.
Posted in Mystery & Thrillers Tagged with: British, Oct 2 2018
Herbert Cargate is a very unpleasant man. He is also soon to be poisoned on a train in the English countryside in Excellent Intentions.
Starting a murder case at the end, in the courtroom trying to prove a mysterious person’s guilt, is an unusual plot structure. Published in 1938, fifteen years before Agatha Christie’s more famous courtroom drama Witness for the Prosecution, Excellent Intentions also uses a courtroom setting to obscure the face of a murderer. While I enjoyed the change, it did make playing armchair detective much more difficult. The point of view makes quick jumps between people and time periods. The author uses excessive and mostly meaningless detail as a red herring. The effect is rather like jet lag. Eventually, you are resigned to it and are just reading to find out whodunnit.
Excellent Intentions is an interesting golden-age British curiosity. However, it doesn’t work very well as a mystery. Therefore, it is recommended only for readers interested in the historical underpinnings of mysteries. It would be an unusual structure for a modern mystery writer to use and improve upon. However, even with the unexpected twist at the end, I can’t recommend it to regular mystery readers. To those people, I recommend the much better example of the author’s work, Murder of my Aunt. Excellent Intentions is rated a scant 3 stars.
Thanks to Poisoned Pen Press and NetGalley for an advance copy.
Posted in Mystery & Thrillers Tagged with: British, Golden age mystery, Oct 2 2018
The Way of All Flesh emphasizes the historical while leaving the mystery almost as an afterthought.
In 1847 Edinburgh, medicine is rudimentary and painkillers were thought to be against God’s will. When Will becomes the apprentice of Dr. Simpson, an obstetrician, he sees some horrific things.
In the mystery, Will finds the dead body of his friend, Evie, who is a prostitute. He enlists the help of intelligent housemaid, Sarah, to find Evie’s killer. As other bodies pile up, Will and Sarah continue to investigate.
Atmosphere and medical research are favored over the mystery in the Way of All Flesh. The book seemed to drag a bit in the middle for me. However, it is recommended for historical fiction fans especially those who liked the television show the Knick or historical medical practices. 3 stars.
Thanks to the publisher, Canongate US, and NetGalley for an advance copy in exchange for my honest review.
Posted in Historical Fiction, Mystery & Thrillers Tagged with: Oct 2 2018
Marvelous psychological thriller that totally got Under My Skin.
Poppy, a former travel photojournalist, now owns a boutique agency representing other photojournalists. Her husband, Jack, died a year earlier—attacked early one morning while running in a local park. After his death, Poppy had a nervous breakdown with a two-day blackout. Still seeing a therapist, Poppy realizes a mysterious man is following her. She is also having dreams of what happened during her blackout. She is downing both legal and illegal pills with alcohol. Is the person following her only in her fevered imagination? Is she going crazy again?
The soporific mood of Under My Skin is addicting. It feels like the reader is dreaming rather than reading the story. There is also a strong feeling of apprehension of what the denouement will bring. It feels like finally discovering the reason for Jack’s murder will blow Poppy’s entire life apart.
I’ve read a multitude of family thrillers. This is the best of the bunch. By the end, you are no longer reading about Poppy—you are Poppy struggling to maintain your sanity among increasingly untenable facts.
Under My Skin is an excellent micro-thriller. Nothing much happens on the surface but oh so much occurs in Poppy’s mind. If you have given up on sleep one night, this creepy little thriller is a perfect midnight read. 5 stars!
Thanks to Hanover Square Press and NetGalley for an advance copy.
Posted in Literary Fiction, Mystery & Thrillers Tagged with: family drama, Oct 2 2018
A beguiling mystery, unique romance and dynamic characters make the Hollow of Fear a perfect readcation for female Sherlock Holmes fans.
Set in Victorian England, the Hollow of Fear follows Charlotte Holmes and Mrs. Watson. Looking for her half-brother, Charlotte runs into Moriarty’s handiwork. Also, when Lady Ingram turns up dead, Lord Ingram is suspected. Charlotte must find the real murderer to clear his name while her relationship with the Lord takes an unexpected turn.
The use of Victorian language and plot devices (hidden tunnels and a multitude of disguises) matches the original Holmes atmosphere well. I especially liked the unusual romantic dynamic between Charlotte and Lord Ingram. Despite swapping genders of some characters and a very 21st century feeling to Charlotte, the mystery felt like it belonged in the Sherlock Holmes canon. It definitely wasn’t easy for this armchair detective to solve.
This is my first book in the series. While understandable as a stand alone, I felt the tale would have been more enjoyable if I had read the two previous books first. Regardless, it is a solid 4 star read!
Thanks to the publisher, Berkeley, and Edelweiss+ for an advance copy in exchange for an honest review
Posted in Historical Fiction, Mystery & Thrillers Tagged with: British, Oct 2 2018, Sherlock Holmes, Victorian
Kamo and Shokola are once again helping demon Crimson in Kamo: Pact with the Spirit World Vol 2.
Kamo makes a deal with demon Crimson. To be permanently cured of his deadly heart condition, he must capture twelve spirits to allow Crimson to become human again. In volume 1 (reviewed here), Kamo captures four. In this volume, Shokola leads a seance with Kamo that goes horribly wrong.
Kamo: Pact with the Spirit World Vol 2 relies on strong character development of both Crimson and Shokola. The seance aftermath sends shock waves through Shokola’s family. Kamo ups his demon fighting technique. Some new inventive spirits are found. There is a shocking twist at the end that should not be missed. 4 stars!
Thanks to the publisher, Toykopop, and Edelweiss+ for an advanced copy.
Posted in Graphic Novel, Paranormal Tagged with: Manga, Oct 2 2018
The Flash Vol 7: Perfect Storm shows the Flash Family at its best—battling villains together.
Barry Allen is the Flash. His arch nemesis, Grodd, has built a giant lightning rod to catch the speed force in the hopes of saving his own life. The lightning rod slows time throughout Central City. Barry isn’t strong enough to combat Grodd, Multiplex and Negative Flash alone so he gets some from help from Wally, Kid Flash and Avery.
I admit that I haven’t read a Flash story since Barry died in the 1980s. He was resurrected in 2008 in Final Conflict. This was followed by six issues of The Flash: Rebirth. Despite three reboots including title changes and renumberings, Barry has been continuing his Flash story since 2010. The Flash Vol 7: Perfect Storm collects The Flash Vol 5 #39-45 from the DC Rebirth.
The Flash Vol 7: Perfect Storm explains enough of the Flash Family’s back stories to allow it to be read as a stand-alone. The plot involves the fear of losing self by trusting others. It has a nice message that power isn’t always everything. It’s a good lesson for younger comics fans. The artwork is stellar and pops with bright colors. 4 stars!
Thanks to DC Comics and NetGalley for an advance copy.
Posted in Graphic Novel Tagged with: Oct 2 2018, Superheroes
Infidel is a modern-day haunted house story set in a bomb-ravaged New York City pre-war apartment.
Aisha is Muslim. She is engaged to non-muslim Tom. Tom has a daughter named Kris and a mother named Leslie. When they all move into Leslie’s apartment after it is partially blown up by a white supremacist resident, Tom thinks his mother is racist and wants to leave. Aisha convinces him to stay despite her constant nightmares about the dead bomber. As the ghost starts to appear in her waking life, Aisha turns to the neighbors for help. One, a writer, believes another resident in the blast was heavily into the occult.
Infidel is a creepy little horror tale reminiscent of Rosemary’s Baby, the Legend of Hell House—both old school 1960/1970s movies—and Get Out. The addition of race politics both modernizes the tale and ups the terror substantially. No wonder this tale was optioned for a movie after only two episodes were released. The scariest part is the 1 on the front cover. Will the building return in future outings? 5 stars!
Thanks to Image Comics and Edelweiss+ for an advanced copy.
Posted in Graphic Novel, Horror Tagged with: Oct 2 2018
Dead Ringer is another perfect cozy mystery featuring Agatha Raisin!
A group of eight bell ringers is planning a song to welcome the handsome and single bishop to their small village, Thirk Magna. The village church is full of secrets. Bishop Peter’s girlfriend disappeared without a trace a few years earlier. The vicar allegedly beats his wife. When he is found bound and injured in his home, two twin congregants explain they were playing a bondage game with him. The new policeman who responds to Agatha’s call sells the vicar’s story to the tabloids. When the policeman is later found dead, Agatha and her detective agency spring into action.
After watching the excellent Acorn Agatha Raisin series on television, I couldn’t wait to read the latest book in the series. Dead Ringer doesn’t disappoint. The bodies pile up, and multiple people fall into and out of love. Just another day in the Cotswolds.
Dead Ringer is perfect for readers looking for a side of dry British wit with their cozy mystery. 4 stars!
Thanks to Minotaur Books and NetGalley for an advance copy.
Posted in Mystery & Thrillers Tagged with: cozy mystery, Oct 2 2018