A great collection of short crime fiction.

BROKEN

Six crime novellas from Winslow, who pays homage to Steve McQueen, Elmore Leonard, and Raymond Chandler.

The world is a broken place, thinks Eva McNabb, a 911 dispatcher in New Orleans in the title novella, and “you come out broken.” Her sons, Danny and Jimmy, are cops, and Jimmy is “as sensitive as brass knuckles.” When he and his partner stumble on a mountain of meth, gunfire and heartbreak follow. In Crime 101, a jewel thief named Davis notes the basics of successful crime—“keep it simple,” for example. He never strays far from “the 101,” his beloved California Highway 101. When Davis jacks $1.5 million in diamonds, Lt. Lou Lubesnick tries to identify and capture him, and it all comes down to this: “What would Steve McQueen do?” There are so many good lines in these yarns. How could the reader resist The San Diego Zoo’s opener: “Nobody knows how the chimp got the revolver”? This story is especially funny: A good cop becomes the department’s laughingstock after disarming Champ the chimp. Lowlife Hollis Bamburger once turned in a term paper with the Wikipedia heading still on it. Even Superman and Spartacus take a hilarious turn. Meanwhile, the characters in Sunset and Paradise spend a lot of time surfing or thinking about surfing. A bail bondsman looks for a heroin-addicted surfing legend, and a woman in Hawaii thinks Peter, Paul, and Mary were Jesus’ parents. Each storyline will keep readers entertained with wit, humor, and occasional sadness. Finally, in The Last Ride, a Border Patrol agent simply wants to return one Salvadoran girl to her mother. The tale is sad and powerful as it comes back to the theme that everyone is broken somehow.

A great collection of short crime fiction.

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-298890-4

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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Murder most foul and mayhem most entertaining. Another worthy page-turner from a protean master.

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BILLY SUMMERS

The ever prolific King moves from his trademark horror into the realm of the hard-boiled noir thriller.

“He’s not a normal person. He’s a hired assassin, and if he doesn’t think like who and what he is, he’ll never get clear.” So writes King of his title character, whom the Las Vegas mob has brought in to rub out another hired gun who’s been caught and is likely to talk. Billy, who goes by several names, is a complex man, a Marine veteran of the Iraq War who’s seen friends blown to pieces; he’s perhaps numbed by PTSD, but he’s goal-oriented. He’s also a reader—Zola’s novel Thérèse Raquin figures as a MacGuffin—which sets his employer’s wheels spinning: If a reader, then why not have him pretend he’s a writer while he’s waiting for the perfect moment to make his hit? It wouldn’t be the first writer, real or imagined, King has pressed into service, and if Billy is no Jack Torrance, there’s a lovely, subtle hint of the Overlook Hotel and its spectral occupants at the end of the yarn. It’s no spoiler to say that whereas Billy carries out the hit with grim precision, things go squirrelly, complicated by his rescue of a young woman—Alice—after she’s been roofied and raped. Billy’s revenge on her behalf is less than sweet. As a memoir grows in his laptop, Billy becomes more confident as a writer: “He doesn’t know what anyone else might think, but Billy thinks it’s good,” King writes of one day’s output. “And good that it’s awful, because awful is sometimes the truth. He guesses he really is a writer now, because that’s a writer’s thought.” Billy’s art becomes life as Alice begins to take an increasingly important part in it, crisscrossing the country with him to carry out a final hit on an errant bad guy: “He flopped back on the sofa, kicked once, and fell on the floor. His days of raping children and murdering sons and God knew what else were over.” That story within a story has a nice twist, and Billy’s battered copy of Zola’s book plays a part, too.

Murder most foul and mayhem most entertaining. Another worthy page-turner from a protean master.

Pub Date: Aug. 3, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982173-61-6

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: June 2, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2021

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The characters are paper thin, the plot twists mostly telegraphed, but the betting here is that the Baldacci army will once...

DELIVER US FROM EVIL

In Baldacci’s 19th (True Blue, 2009, etc.), boy and girl monster-hunters meet cute.

Evan Waller, aka Fadir Kuchin, aka “the Butcher of Kiev,” aka “the Ukrainian psychopath,” is one of those deep-dyed villains a certain kind of fiction can’t do without. Serving with distinction as part of the Soviet Union’s KGB, he joyfully and indiscriminately killed thousands. Now, many years later, posing as a successful businessman, he’s vacationing in Provence where, unbeknownst to him, two separate clandestine operations are being mounted by people who do not regard him with favor. Reggie Campion—28 and gorgeous—spearheads the first, an ad hoc group of monster-hunting vigilantes. Studly, tall Shaw (no first name supplied) is point guard for a rival team, shadowy enough to leave the matter of its origin ambiguous. While their respective teams reconnoiter and jockey for position, studly boy meets gorgeous girl. Monster-hunters are famous for having trust issues, but clearly these are drawn to each other in the time-honored Hollywood fashion. Shaw saves Reggie’s life. She returns the favor. The attraction deepens and heats up to the point where team-members on both sides grow unsettled by the loss of focus, singularly inopportune since, as monsters go, Waller rises to the second coming of Caligula—ample testimony furnished by a six-page, unsparingly detailed torture scene. In the end, the stalkers strike, bullets fly, screams curdle the blood, love has its innings and a monster does what a monster’s got to do.

The characters are paper thin, the plot twists mostly telegraphed, but the betting here is that the Baldacci army will once again show the stuff it’s made of.

Pub Date: April 20, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-446-56408-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Avon A/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2010

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