Wednesday, December 26, 2018

CEMETERY ROAD by Gar Anthony Haywood

I'm surprised that this isn't a more well-known bestseller. It shows that you can't always trust those sales numbers in a search for quality. Because this was one of the most well-crafted mystery novels I've read in a while. It follows a middle-aged repairman named Handy White who travels back to his native Los Angeles in a half-hearted attempt to look into the murder of an old friend, a murder that might have something to do with tragic events that happened in their younger days nearly 30 years prior.

Not only is it very well-plotted and entertaining with a perfect pace skillfully transitioning between the past and present stories to develop the mystery, but it also has prose that's at times incredible in it's sharp proficiency. It might not be the most surprising mystery, as it's fairly easy to figure out who's been doing what, but the book's strength is in how it gets there and how it tells it's story of guilt and remorse, debt, and redemption, and whether or not full redemption is ever really attainable.
Right around the time he hits his middle forties, a man starts giving serious thought to dying well. In his sleep, in his own bed, or in the course of a street fight meant to settle something meaningful. His end doesn't have to be poignant, just devoid of dignity. You wouldn't think that would be too much to ask. 
But how a man leaves this world, much like the way he comes into it, is almost never his own call to make, so evil men die on satin sheets in 400-dollar-a-night hotel rooms, while good ones breathe their last lying face down in cold, dark alleyways, their bodies growing stiff and blue on beds of rain-soaked newspaper.

Monday, December 17, 2018


Two souls adrift: a woman running away from a toxic marriage trying to start a new life with her kids, and a mid-level mob guy on the lam because of his connections to the JFK assassination. They meet and find a glimmer of happiness and the promise of a new start in each other. This one was at times tender and ruminative, while other times thrilling not only in it's surface action and suspense, but also in it's look at the excitement that comes with personal connection and discovery. I love reading about characters at a major crossroads in their life and the fateful choices they make, and that theme is at the core of this good book.


Tuesday, December 4, 2018

THE HOOK by Donald Westlake

The plot master Donald Westlake does it again by weaving a tale of two writers: Bryce Proctorr, a widely popular author with marriage problems and serious writer's block, and Wayne Prentice, a failing mid-level writer with money problems; and in the vein of Strangers on a Train, Bryce allows Wayne to use his name on his next book and split the profits, in exchange for getting rid of Bryce's wife...permanently.

I didn't realize how fun it would be to watch two nerdy writers try to pull off a murder and get away with it, but this is Westlake of course. He makes it all really believable and engaging as the two deal with committing a crime the way writers would: crafting motivations, red herrings, and plot twists in order to not only get away with murder but navigate the publishing industry, all while Westlake is doing the same thing with us. Fun times!