Monday, October 20, 2014

Reviewed by James L. Thane
Four out of five Stars

I was a big fan of Benjamin Whitmer's Pike, and I like his new book even better. It's a tough, gritty examination of the relationship between fathers and sons: violent, profane, and beautifully written.

The characters are all compelling, principal among them Patterson Wells. Wells leads a tough existence by any standard, working as a member of a crew that goes in and cleans out fallen trees in the wake of hurricanes, tornadoes and other natural disasters. It's a brutal job, consisting of long hours in the company of other rough men, hard on the body and even harder on the soul.

As if life hadn't handed him a plate that was full enough to begin with, Wells is devastated by the death of his young son. He blames himself for not spending enough time with the boy and writes him long letters as a way of coping with the loss and attempting to make up for the time they should have spent together while they could. Wells is estranged from his wife who insists that they have to try to move on in the wake of the tragedy. Wells is simply incapable of doing so.

In the off season, Wells retreats to a small cabin out in a remote area of Colorado. There he drinks heavily and broods on what his life has become. While there, he develops a relationship with a guy named Junior, the son of Wells' nearest neighbor. Junior and his father have issues of their own, and Junior supports himself by running drugs. Wells and Junior are a potent combination and as they team up, all hell breaks loose.

To say any more would be to reveal too much. Suffice it to say that this is an excellent book that should appeal to large number of readers who like their stories on the (very) dark side. Benjamin Whitmer is definitely an author to watch for.

A Superb Sleuth Story!

The Maltese FalconThe Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

You got nothin' on this book, see?! Yeah! That's right, skedaddle and quick-like!

Private detective Sam Spade smells trouble when this crazy dame walks into his office, and sure enough, his life is soon turned topsy turvy. Spade gets all tangled up in a fishy double murder. The coppers are on him, he's on to the dame and people keep popping outta the woodwork goin' on and on about this g. d. bird! If things keep up like this somebody's gonna get themselves killed dead.

Since its publication, the Spade character has become the ideal from which all other hired sleuths to follow would be molded. He's cool and calculating. He's no angel. No, he's in it for himself, yet only gets what he deserves (often a sock on the jaw) and somehow still comes out smelling like roses. This fantastically tight-wound story is a joy to read, made even more so by a hero who defines the word character.

Hammett's like an Italian tailor who's cut and sewn one of the finest suits you could imagine. It's sleek. It's stylish. You feel like a million bucks in it and you want it to last forever. Hell, with craftsmanship like that, it just might!

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Dashiell Gets His Drink On

The Thin ManThe Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Thin Man is best read with a drink in hand. Do you have a drink? Do you need a refresher? Would you like another? Above all else, it is important that you be drinking!


My god, a lot of alcohol is consumed in this book! It reads as if Ernest Hemingway had taken up crime noir.

Nick Charles, private detective, has hung up his hat. Nora, his wife, kinda wishes he hadn't. She likes wrapping her head around a good mystery. Well, a good one comes along in the form of murder for money, and Charles' old friends are all wrapped up in it.

The plot unfolds essentially in three places: at the Charles', at their friends', and at a speakeasy...each place being as well stocked with liquor as the next. Other than drinking, they don't do much of anything. And they don't really go anywhere, unless it's someplace to drink. They hang around and tie one on while they try to figure out whodunnit.

The writing is solid, the plot feels sound, the characters are a little dramatic (don't get me started on the women...these dames is batty!), but once all that's in motion, the book as a whole feels static. Dashiell Hammett, author of The Maltese Falcon pretty much invented this genre, so perhaps I should lay off. But I'm not always one to treat revered things precious-like...just the stuff that's precious to me.

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