I was dealing with work turmoil and on vacation for most of June so I didn’t get the chance to write as many in depth reviews as I’d have liked to. Which is a shame because some of these deserved a longer look; I just didn’t have the time or energy…
The Cage ****
I went back-and-forth on my review. I’ve been giving out a lot of 4-star reviews lately and considered docking the book for that reason since it’s very borderline. But the more I thought about it, the more I liked it. Bonnie Kistler takes a big swing and even though it’s more of a double than a home run, it’s well-written for this kind of thriller and I liked the ending.
Like a lot of other reviewers, I liked what Goldberg envisioned and appreciated it in spots but not sure he found the best way to tell the story. Parts of it dragged and I think I would’ve appreciated more introspection on Sal/David’s growth in Judaism and less cliched stuff about disgraced FBI agents. It’s definitely unique among most crime novels and I appreciate it for that reason.
Gone ‘Til November ****
Wallace Stroby has become one of my favorite crime writers. I have yet to read a bad book of his. This was widely considered his best book for a time and it’s tough to disagree. A moving crime novel of race, class, and circumstance. Stroby is one of the few white male writers I’d trust to write from a white female or Black male perspective. Only beef with this is I was looking for some more New Jersey in this tale and about 97% of it takes place in Florida.
I seem to have a thing for these kinds of female-written female-driven thrillers set in or adjacent to high society/creative culture New York. This is another one. Drawn heavily from the Anna Delvy case and the saga of Cat Person, it’s a fun suspense tale that hits the right beats with competent writing. I anticipated the twist, though I didn’t really need it. I thought the story was fine as is but it’s still good.
Survivor’s Guilt ****
An improvement on the first book in the series. Twisty (at times, too twisty as to be convoluted) take on the Jeffrey Epstein story, while expanding on Erin’s relationships and her navigating the world as a trans woman. Robyn Gigl is an exciting new voice in mainstream mystery fiction.
The Old Man ***
Much like Strip, this Thomas Perry novel is not what I expected. I figured it would be an on-the-run thriller and it is. But in between its action scenes, there’s rumination on the nature of intelligence work from the guy chasing the guy. There’s also a healthy dose of…romance? This truly caught me off guard. Anyway, I usually find Perry’s books more interesting than good and this one qualifies. I don’t regret reading it but I’m also in no hurry to grab another. This one would make for an interesting tv show and I might rubberneck at some point.
The Drop ****
As I’ve said before: you can tell early in a Bosch book whether it’ll be good or bad. This one, however, started out good and rocketed to great. No doubt one of the best Bosch books I’ve read, the A plot was superb and while the B plot lagged (diabolical molesting serial killer, which I find boring and gross, plus an unnecessary romance angle), its resolution tied with A into one of the best conclusions Connelly has ever written. Continuing on the “Who Watches the Watchmen?” Theme of police corruption, I still don’t care for Harry’s anti-constitutional maneuvers (and would love never to hear the phrase “high jingo” again) but I do like how Connelly uses Bosch’s character to explore issues surrounding how criminal justice is meted out.
The Patriarch: The Remarkable Life and Turbulent Times of Joseph P. Kennedy****
The first 2/3rds of this make for fascinating reading. Joseph Kennedy’s story is indelibly tied to the narrative of the first half of 20th century America, from the banks to Hollywood to Washington to London and back. The final 3rd could’ve been significantly condensed; JFK becomes the most interesting character in his fathers story. Still, a very readable biography, even if it drags in spots.
Barbed Wire Heart ****
Really good female-driven crime thriller that stalls and loses momentum with the needless flashbacks. Those prevented it from being great but it’s still a quality work of rural noir. A deconstruction of the Hashtag Badass Woman trope, it reminded me of The Handmaid’s Tale in a weird way because it was largely about a woman navigating a violently patriarchal system and discovering her own power.
Fine as far as whodunnit/procedurals go. Would get a .5 star if I could give it for the beautiful scenes of lesbian intimacy and romance, which are refreshing in this hetero-dominant genre.
Count me among the disappointed. I loved the premise but the execution left a lot to be desired; endless pages about the tedious and sedentary lives of the Booth family. The goal of having us see his existence through his eyes is missed by not really fleshing out his existence. There are moments that this works, especially the last 25 or so pages. But it mostly feels like a missed opportunity.
The Fury of Blacky Jaguar****
A fun, rollicking crime novella set (mostly) on the outskirts of NYC. Hope Colón delves into Blacky’s IRA backstory at some point.
He Kills Coppers****
If prime James Ellroy wrote an English crime novel. Just a superbly written tale. I loved “The Long Firm” but put off read this for ten (!) years because it wasn’t a direct sequel to Harry Starks’ story. It may not directly feature Starks but it is his world, the one he helped create and the same that Margaret Thatcher ruthlessly rebooted with a Noah-like flood of conservatism. Great book.
Funny in spots, bawdry in others and not at all feminist. I’m kinda surprised some think so. At the same time, reading this in an immediate post-Roe world will show how one may celebrate the concept, if not the execution.