Friday, February 26, 2010
Monday, February 15, 2010
I'll say this for the Hard Case Crime series, it introduced me to Lawrence Block. Or maybe I'd been familiar with Block's work for a long time but never known it. (He did write under pseudonyms at times.) At any rate, I started reading through everything I could get my hands on that had his name on it.
Once again, what brought me in was the great over work by Robert McKinnon. Never mind that the girl on the cover of this paperback looked like a certain girl I dated in college. (This particular vixen seems to appear on other covers, so I wonder if McKinnon knew her as well?)
A pair of anti-heroes come together to pull off a master grift against a real estate tycoon. In order to get it to work, they need someone on the inside. They have to look no further than the man's secretary. Evelyn Stone is more than willing to help bring down her lecherous boss, but it will come with a price that Johnny Hayden and Doug Rance will pay before they realize it.
To me, this is classic Block. We quickly identify with these two grifters and not because we're behind their plan but because we all know people like Hayden and Rance, and we've all worked for scumbags like Gunderman.
And we've all known the power of a woman like Evelyn Stone.
The grift is complex and involves twists on intricate levels. But it doesn't lose you in its complexity. It brings you along and it adds suspense. The final twist is well worth the journey through the actual con.
Four out of five bullets.
Sunday, February 7, 2010
Simple and direct. Gil Brewer delivers a passionate, early erotic tale of an appliance store owner who uses his skills to help an eighteen year-old ward murder her benefactor to reap a hefty inheritance.
You can't help but feel bad for Jack, the palooka with a talent for wiring what passed as home-entertainment systems in the 50's. From the minute he answers the call and lays eyes on Shirley Angela, the red-head vixen, you know there is going to be trouble. Is she dumb or is she playing him? Even at the end after all she's done with Jack to get the money, I still wonder if she had it all worked out in her head. I might have believed that if not for Brewer's dark ending.
One thing I've always enjoyed about reading and even writing if leaving the audience with a lingering image or two. Brewer delivers on this too when Jack lies in a hospital bed with his ex-girl glaring at him for his stupidity. Excellent moment.
Where the book weakens is in Jack. you have to really want to care about a bozo like Jack who instantly gets a hard-on for an eighteen year old girl and quickly begins to develop a plan on how to seduce her and then take the sick old man she cares for all his money. You're hoping he gets caught and maybe that's why you'll continue to read: To see if he gets away with it or if he gets his comeuppance.
Three and a quarter bullets out of five.
Friday, February 5, 2010
Look, I would be lying if I didn't admit one of the things that draws me into the Hard Case series is the cover art, especially when the art is done by Robert McGinnis. Google the guy; you've been looking at his work for years but probably didn't know it. When I saw the cover of Little Girl Lost, I knew I'd be in for some fun reading.
Yes, I'm judging the books by the cover because in the case of Hard Case Crime, it works.
I hated putting the book down. Richard Aleas (which is an alias) crafted a real fine tale of strippers, thugs, and PIs. He puts an updated twist on the good twin-bad twin plot line and reveals it earlier enough that I don't think it really needs a spoiler alert. Miranda Sugarman is as sultry and sexy as femme fatale's come and after a while, you can almost feel the heat of PI John Blake rising up out of the pages.
As far as private eyes go, Aleas' Blake is an intriguing detective. I thought he was worthy of more than a single follow up (Songs of Innocence to be reviewed later.) unless, of course, there are other Blake stories I haven't discovered. In Little Girl Lost, Blake has a pesky mother to deal with as he digs into his ex-girlfriend's life as a stripper. The deeper he digs, the darker her life becomes.
If I had any reservations before reading it, this book hooked me into wanting to delve into hard-boiled crime fiction.
Four and a half bullets out of five.