Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 10/1/2009 (3087 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
After all, Dashiell Hammett's iconic Sam Spade potboiler -- both the 1930 book and 1941 Bogie film -- is on top-100 lists of the 20th century and prefaced the post-Second World War American noir movement. Why risk tarnishing pure gold to get more Spade?
Well, against all odds, the gambit works in Spade & Archer (Knopf, 352 pages, $28), with three-time Edgar winner and Hammett scholar Joe Gores re-creating the master's voice to pulpy perfection. (It's even printed on yellowed, chunky pages, an insufferable conceit were it not for Gores' able hand.)
Set in Hammett/Spade's Prohibition-era San Francisco, the book predates the hard-bitten PI's reluctant partnership with "son-of-a-bitch" Miles Archer, the murderous dissolution of which is central to Falcon. Cleanly episodic, the book traces three deadly encounters with a crafty villain from 1921 to 1928 after Spade opens his own agency -- a gold heist from an Australian steamer, a shady banker's apparent suicide and a treasure hunt on behalf of the illegitimate daughter of Chinese revolutionary Sun Yat-sen.
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Sigh. Here we go again.
Unfazed by the chorus of critical raspberries that greeted her impenetrable offering of The Front last May, American über-author Patricia Cornwell soldiers on with Scarpetta (Putnam, 512 pages, $31), her 16th outing (over two decades) with forensic pathologist Kay Scarpetta.
None too convincingly, all the usual suspects -- Kay's ex-FBI profiler husband Benton Wesley, Net ninja niece Lucy, exiled bad-boy cop Marino, etc, -- are all transplanted to New York as the intrepid Scarpetta is called in to investigate the murder of a female dwarf.
More unlikely, Cornwell has half the NYPD, as well as the Big Apple's top prosecutor, politicians and fickle newshounds all fixating on a single no-name murder for days. Sure.
The chief suspect, a similarly-sized boyfriend, raves paranoid-delusional, convinced he's being stalked and psychologically tortured.
You'll empathize if you make it through this weary mess.
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A Swedish-born English professor is inexplicably gunned down in a mall parking lot in upstate New York.
From this single, random-seeming act of violence, Derek Nikitas' Pyres (Griffin, 320 pages, $15) weaves a near-supernatural survival tale of four painfully drawn women: alienated, Goth-dressing, 15-year-old Lucia (Luc), who survives her father's murder only to be kidnapped by his low-life assassin; her mother, left amnesiac by a failed suicide attempt; a pregnant and abused accomplice to the hit; and timeworn Rochester, N.Y. police investigator Greta Hurd, estranged from her own daughter but maternally obsessed with finding Luc.
An Edgar Award nominee for best first novel, Pyres is a harsh, bleeding nightmare full of Scandinavian angst and American mayhem, a fairy tale with all "the brutal bits."
In a genre ploughed deep, it breaks new ground. Don't miss it.
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Dan Brown meets Tom Clancy in Steve Perry's latest "The" novel, The Charlemagne Pursuit (Ballantine, 528 pages, $30).
In his fourth Cotton Malone venture, the globe-trotting Georgia lawyer-cum-historical fantasist has the ultra-macho ex-Justice Depaarment agent pursuing the truth behind his father's 1971 shadowy death. Which turns out to be -- wait for it -- a secret submarine mission to Antarctica on the trail of Nazis and a lost civilization!
Pure escapist nonsense, but fun.
John Sullivan is manager of online research and development at the Free Press. His column runs on the second Sunday of the month.