Monday, September 29, 2008
Sunday, September 28, 2008
Pepe Carvahlo is a detective, but he is just as much a sensualist. He thinks just as much about food and women as he does a case. He is capable of great cruelty, but he is not the jealous type-his girlfriend, with whom he has an open relationship is a prostitute. He walks the streets of
In Tattoo (Serpent’s Tail, 2008), Manuel Vasquez Montalbon has his private detective searching for the identity of a man who washes up on the beach whose only identifying mark is a tattoo reading, “Born to Raise Hell in Hell.” Carvahlo is hired for this task by the owner of a hair salon, and he quickly finds himself on his way to
To say the plot of Tattoo, which appeared in Spanish in 1976, and has been translated into English for the first time by Nick Caistor, is slight is an understatement. It won’t take anyone very long to figure out what is happening. The attraction of the book isn’t the plot, but the character. Carvahlo is the type of guy who can get beaten and thrown in the canal in
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Monday, September 15, 2008
Reed Farrell Coleman’s latest effort, The Fourth Victim, (Bleak House, 2008) published under his pseudonym Tony Spinosa, is an excellent novel and a good example of why Coleman may always be a cult figure, relegated to an artistic life of critical acclaim without commercial success.
The Fourth Victim picks up with his odd couple of Joe Serpe and Bob Healy, former NYPD detectives, investigating the murder and robbery of another former cop, who also happens to share a second career in home heating oil delivery with the two protagonists. The dead cop, named Rusty Monaco, happens to be the fourth victim in a string of robbery/murders of oil delivery men, and he also saved Serpe’s life once on the job. Serpe feels honor bound to look into the death and Healy feels honor bound to help Serpe.
Serpe and Healy have a strained relationship because Healy was the internal affairs investigator responsible for ending Serpe’s career. Serpe was a hot shot rule bending narc, while Healy was a law and order watcher of the watchmen. Reunited by chance years later, the two men teamed up to solve a murder in Hose Monkey, the first Tony Spinosa novel, and in the second book they are business partners and friends, although it is an uneasy friendship. Coleman’s starting point is a conventional one. Odd couplings are the stuff of
Coleman rejects the easy route, however. While The Fourth Victim is firmly rooted in the tropes of the crime genre, Coleman refuses to give into the genre’s worst tendencies, which include glorifying violence and pat solutions to complex problems. In Coleman’s world murder begets murder and even good men end up being party to bad acts in the pursuit of justice. No one gets away clean, and redemption comes in small measures. Serpe and Healy do find out who killed their fellow cop, but there is no bullet filled climax. There are no witty one liners. There is no sneering bad guy who stops a well deserved slug with his face. There is no grand criminal conspiracy. There is just another body to be buried.
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Sunday, September 7, 2008
In 1952, Jim Thompson published The Killer Inside Me, a novel about Lou Ford, a small town sheriff who, while maintaining a personable, if somewhat dim façade, hides the heart of a psychopath. It has earned its place among the classics. Thompson revisited the same situation in Pop. 1,280, with small town Sheriff Nick Corey bearing a strong resemblance in character to Ford. Thompson so defined this little subgenre that in order to avoid being anything but a pale imitation of the original any author who wants to approach it had better have a good twist.
Dave Zeltserman’s Small Crimes (Serpent's Tail, 2008) succeeds in paying homage to Thompson’s work without lapsing into imitation because his dirty cop, Joe Denton, is only fooling himself. Everyone else in the tiny
Zeltserman makes good use of the first person point of view, constantly challenging the reader to use external cues to try and figure out the extent of