July 24, 2017


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Brit pair ponders series of suicides

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 17/12/2016 (219 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A widely disparate group of people seeks out the most beautiful areas of The Peaks district — and there they kill themselves.

In Stephen Booth’s Secrets of Death (Sphere, 394 pages, $24), those one-time ill-matched lovers and ultra-moody but superb coppers Ben Cooper and Diane Fry come together once again, Cooper trying to sleuth the series of suicides, Fry on the very dark and nasty trail of one of the men who chose to end his life.

This is one of the very best English police procedural series around — but just how concerned should we be that Cooper’s head seems to be in a bad place in which he understands the suicide victims far too well?

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Glasgow’s low-life money-lenders and debt collectors bottom-feed among the most vulnerable underclass of society in Malcolm Mackay’s The Night the Rich Men Burned (Mulholland Books, 337 pages, $26).

These violent minor-league gangsters may learn their lines from Hollywood movies, but that makes them no less reprehensible and fascinating.

Go into the book aware that you’ll find not many decent folk, don’t expect that anything good will happen to anyone, and you’ll have a terrific read with a whole slew of fascinating characters from whom you will never — not ever — want to borrow so much as a loonie.

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In postwar Atlanta, a young black woman has been found murdered, last seen in the company of a white man, her death shrugged off by the system’s institutionalized racism and segregation.

In Thomas Mullen’s Darktown (37Ink, 384 pages, $33), the only people who care are a young black man who’s one of the first of Atlanta’s experimental black cops — all but powerless, appointed solely to keep the lid on their own segregated neighbourhood — and maybe a young white cop who survived behind the lines in Nazi-held Europe.

Yes, sure, it’s a terrific murder mystery. What’s vital about Darktown is that many readers will have difficulty believing segregation could have been this brutally racist, violent and all-pervasive, with the Ku Klux Klan operating pretty openly. Readers who remember this reality in our lifetimes owe it to younger people to urge them to read the book, and to keep a wary eye out for contemporary parallels.

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It’s a recipe for a chaotic mess of a hack’s book, but hey, Chris Holm’s Red Right Hand (Mulholland Books, 341 pages, $34) is pretty darned good.

Terrorists attack the Golden Gate Bridge, a "dead" mob informant resurfaces, a vengeful ex-military hitman gets unexpected help, a vast criminal conspiracy unleashes its hit-persons — pause for breath — private security forces muscle out the G-men with the help of corrupt politicians, and two female FBI agents try to keep their love together while taking on the villains.

And somehow Holm pulls it all together. It’s a crackerjack read and, unlike many books of its kind, this one frequently flaps its left wing.

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Martina Cole’s Get Even (Headline, 471 pages, $33) is unrelentingly brutal, depressing and doom-laden — and those are its good points.

Amid the uneducated thugs of London’s underworld, Sharon marries a Hard Man who’s in The Life and aspires to be one of The Faces. Ultimately, not your best decision, Sharon.

With no cops, courts, or nice folk anywhere in this overly long novel, we follow the creeps as they kill, torture, maim, blackmail, deal dope, run betting, pimp and steal.

A downer book is made far worse by Cole, whose two- and three-page chapters are mere vignettes in which she tells us what everyone feels and thinks, refusing to let dialogue and action and characterization tell a story.

Free Press legislature/education reporter Nick Martin would love to hike in The Peaks and finish off with a non-lethal pint in a country pub.


Read more by Nick Martin.


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