Book Reviews: Kind of Blue by Miles Corwin, Junkyard Dogs by Craig Johnson and Blowback by Peter May

Kind of Blue
Miles Corwin
Oceanview Publishing, 2010
ISBN: 978-1-60809-007-5
Hardcover

The author, a former crime reporter for the L.A. Times, has published three non-fiction books prior to this, his first novel.  It certainly reflects his deep knowledge of crime and police procedure, and certainly reflects all the past works that have preceded this effort, including such established authors as Michael Connelly, Robert Crais, James Ellroy, Jonathan Kellerman et al.

The protagonist, Asher (“Ash”) Levine, has an unusual background:  son of a holocaust survivor whose relatives all perished in the gas chambers, he volunteered to serve in the Israeli Defense Force.  Upon returning to Los Angeles, he became a cop and eventually a top homicide detective with an elite felony squad. When a witness to a murder he was investigating and whom he was trying to protect was murdered, he was blamed and suspended for a week.  Instead he quit.  A year later he is lured back on the recommendation of his former superiors when an ex-cop is murdered.

Tenacity is the only word that can be used to describe Ash.  His dogged determination and the haunting memory of the murdered witness keep him on a straight path to solving murders. In many ways, the novel is excessive:  over-plotted and with much violence, making Ash a violent and over-zealous character, sort of a Jewish Rambo.  But on the whole, the novel is well-written, smooth but complex, riveting to say the least.  Let’s hope this is the start of another interesting series.

Recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, February 2011.

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Junkyard Dogs
Craig Johnson
Penguin, June 2011
ISBN: 978-0-14-311953-1
Trade Paperback

The Walt Longmire series reaches its sixth entry, and judging by the various physical damage the Absaroka County, WY, sheriff absorbs during this episode, one wonders if he can last much longer.  He is bitten by a vicious dog in the rear end, suffers from a torn retina, is almost run over by a tow truck and almost shot, among other dangers to his body.  Not to mention other injuries, from events in prior series books, some of which have yet to heal.

Common to a Longmire mystery are a series of incidents, which by themselves may not seem important or are just plain hilarious, but usually add up to be interrelated clues to a baffling case to be solved.  Junkyard Dogs is no different.  First Walt is called to the scene of a bizarre accident in which the owner of a junkyard, George “Geo” Stewart, has been dragged two and one-quarter miles tied behind a car driven by his daughter-in-law.  After which Geo tells Walt he has found a severed thumb in a Styrofoam cooler.

Then there is the rest of the Stewart clan, son Duane, the aforementioned daughter-in-law Gina, and the Stewart “mansion” with its secret tunnel. Not to mention the developer, Ozzie Dobbs, who would like to have the Stewart junkyard and the adjacent town dump moved far away from his nearby real estate development.  And the owner of the severed thumb.  All inter-related and keeping Walt and his deputies hopping.

Typical of a Longmire novel are the well-drawn descriptions of the mountains, frigid Wyoming temperatures, and the snow.  And more snow. The novel is well-drawn and eminently readable, with the regular cast of characters, undersheriff Vic Moretti, long-time buddy Henry Standing Bear, and, of course, Dog, companion and savior.

Recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, May 2011.

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Blowback
Peter May
Poisoned Pen Press, March 2011
ISBN: 978-1-59058-841-3
Hardcover

The reader of an Enzo Macleod mystery faces a formidable task: Confronted by the deviousness of the unsolved crime Enzo seeks to solve, the magnificent descriptions of the area in France in which he works to complete the task, and the culinary delights of le haute cuisine Francaise, the reader has to overcome the temptation to weigh one element against the other.  Fortunately, in this novel, the fifth of seven unsolved cases on which Enzo has wagered he can bring to a successful conclusion, all three aspects are on such a high level, that the reader shouldn’t even try.

The case is a seven-year-old murder involving a world renowned chef of a three-star Michelin restaurant in the central French plateau, Chez Fraysse, named after its chef and half-owner, Marc.  There are no clues or forensic evidence, making Enzo’s task harder.  He places his daughter on the kitchen staff to give him an inside view.  Working with a young, female, gendarme, Enzo plows ahead, gastronomically as well as on the case.  As a side issue, some deep insight into Enzo’s personal life and past is provided, giving a more rounded view of the protagonist.

A well-written novel which only gives rise to the desire to read about the sixth unsolved mystery (much less the seventh!) yet to come, and recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, July 2011.