Review: Nobody Move by Denis Johnson

nobody-moveIn Nobody Move Denis Johnson embraces classic noir in all its violence, bleakness and black humour. It’s a slender, sparse hardboiled tale about a triumvirate of hard-on-their-luck, morally bankrupt people — gambler Jimmy Luntz, debt collector Gambol and gorgeous divorcée Anita — whose stories all interlock as they struggle for survival.

With dialogue as sharp as Elmore Leonard’s and littered with characters the grandmaster would be proud of, Nobody Move won’t convert non-noir acolytes — this is a fairly traditional tale in the style of Westlake, MacDonald and Thompson — it’s a searing example of the genre, and so far removed from anything else I’ve read by Johnson. Train Dreams was a tiny masterpiece; Jesus’ Son and The Largesse of the Sea Maiden a potent smattering of tales. Next on my list, the novel: Tree Of Smoke.

ISBN: 9780312429614
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 196
Published: 27th April 2010
Country of Publication: US

Review: The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead

9780708899434“The boys could have been many things had they not been ruined by that place.”

Based on the true life atrocities of the state-run Dozier School for Boys, Colson Whitehead’s The Nickel Boys tells the harrowing tale of Elwood Curtis, a law-abiding, hardworking, studious teenager, emboldened by Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement, who is sentenced to the Nickel Academy in the 1960s following a tragically innocent misadventure. What he experiences there — the sadistic punishments, the abuse wreaked by the faculty upon its students — belies belief, seems inhuman. But it happened. This is fiction based on fact.

From its brutal opening, depicting a secret grave site being discovered in the present day on the grounds of the juvenile reform school, The Nickel Boys is an unsparing, necessary portrait of America’s history of racism and violence and its eternal legacy. Horrifically, the Dozier School for Boys was only closed down in 2011; so this is not a book the sins of the past, it’s about realising the violations recounted within are the sins of the present.

It’s an extraordinary book, with an ending that lands like gut punch. You simply must read it.

ISBN: 9780708899434
Format: Paperback / softback
Pages: 224
Imprint: Fleet
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
Publish Date: 16-Jul-2019
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Review: White Hot Silence by Henry Porter

9781787470811

In last year’s Firefly, Henry Porter introduced Luc Samson, a former MI6 agent turned private eye and missing persons expert. Booted from SIS because of his gambling habit, Samson was pulled back into the fold to locate a thirteen-year-old refugee, codenamed Firefly, who possessed vital intelligence relating to an ISIS terror cell, and had made his way from Syria to Greece, then the mountains of Macedonia.

White Hot Silence takes place three years later, with Samson once again plucked from everyday life as a restaurateur to locate his former lover, Anastasia Hisami, who has been kidnapped in Italy while doing charity work with her husband’s foundation. More troubling? There hasn’t been a ransom demand. Anastasia’s kidnap coincides with her philanthropist husband, Denis Hisami, dealing with a crisis involving one of his investments — he suspects money laundering — and the arrival of Immigration and Customs Enforcement demanding his passport. Hisami refuses to believe it’s a coincidence.

White Hot Silence is a cinematic, suspenseful, professional-grade spy thriller with a dash of romance, featuring characters from the author’s abundant backlist. Porter proves once again that he can rework familiar genre material and bring it to new life. Fans of Mick Herron, Charles Cumming and Daniel Silva looking for their next fix of espionage action should look no further.

ISBN: 9781787470811
Format: Paperback / softback
Pages: 448
Imprint: Quercus Publishing
Publisher: Quercus Publishing
Publish Date: 25-Jun-2019
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

 

Review: The Dutch House by Ann Patchett

9781526614940Ann Patchett cemented her reputation long ago as a writer capable of examining families with ruthless intimacy. Compassionately, powerfully, understatedly and effortlessly she has stripped bare the dynamics of families, each novel quivering on the brink of being a masterpiece. Well, The Dutch House is it; her tour de force; as good a novel as you will ever read, this year or any year, about two siblings who plummet from riches to rags and form an everlasting bond as a result.

At the end of World War II, Cyril Conroy surprises his wife, Elna, by purchasing a mansion — so named the “Dutch House” because of its former owners, the VanHoebeeks — in the Elkins Park neighbourhood of Philadelphia. It’s a luxurious, fully-furnished estate, embellished with domineering portraits of the VanHoebeeks, and staffed by a servant girl named Fluffy. The perfect home to raise a family, you might think; but Elna can’t stand its decadence, and soon abandons her children — Danny, aged three, and daughter Maeve, aged ten —  to be cared for by the household staff and their gruff, inattentive father. Then a stepmother and stepsisters enter Danny and Maeve’s lives; both parties equally uncongenial, but content to live within each other’s orbits; until tragedy strikes, uncoupling the Conroy children from the Dutch House, thrusting them into a new reality wholly separate from the affluence they once knew.

Narrated by Danny, Ann Patchett unspools the lives of the Conroys with customary grace, rendering the ageing of her ensemble cast over many decades with profound authenticity.  The magic of Patchett’s work is her ability to spin ordinary lives into operas; to take the patchwork of moments that comprise our lives, the comedy and pathos, and turn it into revelatory, enthralling art.

ISBN: 9781526614957
Format: Paperback / softback
Pages: 352
Imprint: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
Publish Date: 24-Sep-2019
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Review: Joe Country by Mick Herron

9781473657458This finely wrought page-turner deepens Jackson Lamb’s legend and illuminates more of his shadowy world, all the while cementing Mick Herron’s place among the top tier of espionage writers.

Most books in Mick Herron’s Slough House series — Joe Country being the sixth instalment — function as standalones, but the latest rewards readers who’ve followed Jackson Lamb’s ‘Slow Horses’ from the very beginning; even characters who’ve featured primarily in Herron’s two novellas play important roles here. The Slow Horses are, of course, MI5 operatives banished from the higher echelons of Regent’s Park to a dilapidated London building for a variety of shortcomings and vices. Think le Carré’s The Circus — only this is the exact opposite; an outpost for those deemed incompetent, forced to complete mundane tasks under the irreverent eye of Jackson Lamb: one of the most enigmatic and abominable protagonists in the genre.

Joe Country follows three primary plot threads, while dipping into the lives of its multifaceted and fully-drawn cast: Louisa Guy is contacted by the widow of Min Harper, Louisa’s former colleague and lover, who wants Louisa to find her missing 17-year-old son, Lucas; new recruit Lech Wicinski, a leper even among outcasts, is determined to uncover why he’s been downgraded into one of Lamb’s minions; and River Cartwright’s estranged father — a rogue CIA agent — has returned, hired by a high-ranking politician to eliminate evidence of a potential scandal.

Anyone familiar with Mick Herron’s masterfully cynical take on the world of espionage will know what to expect from Joe Country. Lucid exposition, polished prose, and a story that builds slowly and crescendos brilliantly with truly shocking deaths, and a denouement that suggests even greater complications on the horizon for Lamb and his joes. Forget James Bond and Jason Bourne; Herron’s characters are flawed and breakable, prone to mistakes in the field and in their personal lives. More often than not, when the bullets start flying, the Slow Horses are more likely to miss than hit.

The spy novel is alive and well and Mick Herron is among those breathing new life into the genre. Once again he has proven himself to be a world-class practitioner of the espionage thriller, and the Slough House novels might just be the best series being published right now.

ISBN: 9781473657458
Format: Paperback / softback
Pages: 352
Imprint: John Murray Publishers Ltd
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton General Division
Publish Date: 20-Jun-2019
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Review: The Good Thieves by Katherine Rundell

9781526608130A swashbuckling adventure set in Prohibition-era New York City made even more engrossing by its emotional core and blend of characters. Fun, but without the sprinkling of magic that made The Explorer a standout.

In The Good Thieves, young Vita assembles a small team comprised of an expert pickpocket and a pair of budding circus performers to break into a derelict Hudson River castle once owned by her grandfather — cruelly purloined by a notorious conman named Victor Sorrotore — and recover a priceless hidden emerald.

Vita is an endearing protagonist, who rarely lets her bout with polio slow her down, and her fellow thieves are well-drawn and glow with personality. The action comes thick and fast, lyrically rendered, but New York never really comes alive like the jungle in The Explorer. The Good Thieves is guaranteed to entertain, but it is missing the emotional impact of its predecessor. Still, there’s no such thing as bad Katherine Rundell, and one of her middling novels is better than 95% of everything else on the shelves.

ISBN: 9781526608130
Format: Paperback / softback
Pages: 336
Imprint: Bloomsbury Childrens Books
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
Publish Date: 13-Jun-2019
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Review: Silver by Chris Hammer

9781760632991A fine-tuned mystery wrapped in an involving story of community and family dynamics that is satisfying on every level.

Forgoing the evocative opening imagery of Scrublands, and the scorching momentum it sparked, when a young priest calmly turned his rifle on his congregation, Chris Hammer eases into his second novel to star Martin Scarsden, with the veteran journalist driving into Port Silver — a hotspot of regional gentrification, and the home Martin waved good riddance to decades earlier — with two young hitchhikers he picked up along the way nestled in his backseat. Their cheerful spirits alleviate the tension he feels returning to a place laden with traumatic childhood memories.

Martin has emerged from the fallout of events in Scrublands with a new partner, Mandy Blonde, and her young son, Liam. Mandy has inherited an old house in the seaside town, and this is their chance to start afresh; Riversend, its history of violence, now a distant speck behind. But when Martin arrives at Mandy’s temporary homestead, he finds his best friend from school days brutally murdered, and Mandy leaning over him — the obvious suspect. Certain of her innocence, and exasperated by the police investigators who can’t seem to look beyond her, Martin launches his own investigation into the murder, prying open memories from the past, forcing confrontations with those he thought he’d vanquished long ago. Then another horrific event occurs, on an even grander scale — Australia’s own rendition of the Jonestown massacre — and Martin realises the heart of Port Silver is black as pitch.

Silver is a slower burn than Scrublands, but it feels deliberate, its plot set to simmer as Hammer establishes the geography of Port Silver, as well as its major and minor players, and dips into Martin’s childhood memories, and his struggle to marry the two sides of himself: the battle-hardened, world-weary reporter who makes a living exposing and transcribing the very worst of humanity, and the man who wants to start a family. The context is important, because when Hammer lights the fuse, and the plot kicks into higher gear, the stakes feel more extreme, and definitely more personal; the reader is invested in the vast cast that populates Port Silver. And the final two-hundred pages truly gallop, destined to be inhaled in one white-knuckled sitting.

With Silver, Chris Hammer proves himself once again to be a skilful practitioner of the crime genre, and in Martin Scarsden has created one of its most textured and fascinating protagonists.

ISBN: 9781760632991
ISBN-10: 1760632996
Format: Paperback
Number Of Pages: 576
Available: 1st October 2019
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Country of Publication: AU