I went on a bit of an unexpected reading tear these last few days, which is good because I need to clear some space off the TBR pile in advance of reading Barack Obama’s new book.
Moonflower Murders 4 Stars
::Trigger Warning:: Tragic homosexual plot
And how sad it is because the book didn’t need it. I was curious as to how Anthony Horowitz was going to follow up with his superb Magpie Murders series. He does so by giving us most of an Atticus Pünd novel, literally a book-within-a-book. How you feel about Moonflower will likely depend on how you feel about that set up. Me personally, it worked so well that I stopped caring about the actual case, although the way Horowitz connects the two is ingenious. There’s really no one like him in the game right now. I just wish he didn’t resort to such a lazy and destructive trope as the Tragic Homosexual Angle. While I can’t say more without spoiling, if that bothers you in any way, consider yourself warned.
Made Men: The Story of Goodfellas 3 stars
Glenn Kenny pulls off a mostly enjoyable take on the 30th anniversary of the legendary gangster movie, one of my all-time favorites. He gets a little too hung up on specific details and the lives of bit players. He also is a bit too much of a fan to give this one an appropriate level of objectivity, though he’s willing to criticize its racism and violence when need be. If you like the movie, you owe it to yourself to read it as you’ll learn a lot.
The Big Fix Roger L. Simon
In political times such as these, even with Biden’s triumph, I’m reminded at how The Bad Guys often win. Never underrate the power of folks to harness racial backlash into a counterrevolution. It happened with Trump’s election and it happened 40 years ago with Nixon. Moses Wine, a failed hippie and uninspiring PI, gets hooked up in a case in a novel that’s pure 70s. Political and examining social issues, this well written yet brief tale was right up my alley. Racist and sexist at times, which sucks but overall, I liked this one a lot. I feel like Thomas Pynchon might owe Simon royalties for Inherent Vice.
The Damsel Richard Stark
Richard Stark, the nom de plume of legendary crime writer Donald Westlake, is most famous for his Parker stories but he wrote a few under the Stark name about Parker’s sometimes sidekick Alan Grofield. The fourth, Lemons Never Lie, was voted one of the best Hard Case Crime novels ever. When I saw that, I decided to go back and read the first three. This is the first one and the first half is a lot of fun. It has the spirit of a Parker novel but is a little more comedic. The third act shifts perspective, the fourth tied it all together. Frankly, I could have done without the third. I appreciate what Westlake was trying to do but I wanted what the Parker novels are: simple, streamlined crime tales. That cost it a star but this was otherwise fun and I’m excited to read the others.