Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Y is for Yesterday by Sue Grafton

(hb; 2017: twenty-fifth book in the Kinsey Millhone mysteries)

From the inside flap

"The darkest and most disturbing case report from the files of Kinsey Millhone, Y is for Yesterday begins in 1979, when four teenage boys from an elite private school sexually assault a fourteen-year-old classmate—and film the attack. Not long after, the tape goes missing and the suspected thief, a fellow classmate, is murdered. In the investigation that follows, one boy turns state’s evidence and two of his peers are convicted. But the ringleader escapes without a trace.

"Now, it’s 1989 and one of the perpetrators, Fritz McCabe, has been released from prison. Moody, unrepentant, and angry, he is a virtual prisoner of his ever-watchful parents—until a copy of the missing tape arrives with a ransom demand. That’s when the McCabes call Kinsey Millhone for help. As she is drawn into their family drama, she keeps a watchful eye on Fritz. But he’s not the only one being haunted by the past. A vicious sociopath with a grudge against Millhone may be leaving traces of himself for her to find."


Y is a dark and plot-promising read. While it is not terrible, it is marred by its overlong, chatty and predictable execution. For readers who need every little thing and character described and spelled out for them, bingo, this is a book custom written for them! For the rest of us, Y is a lesser entry in a series that started out as excellent, engaging and tightly-woven, and has slowly gone downhill from there. If you must read it, this is best borrowed from your local library, unless you are a spell-it-out reader.  

Insane Tales From the Dead, Vol. 1 issue 2 edited by Doug Randazzo

(pb; October 2014: graphic novel - comic book. Published by Caustic Comics. “Introduction” by Mike Howlett )

Overall review

Insane is a good collection of illustrated, horror-centric works that recall the bump-in-the-night humor, gore and morality of EC/Creepy comics while updating those underground elements with fresh-twist terrors and raw, artist-varied artwork. Once again “hosted” by The Grim Faced Pale One (a.k.a. the Grim Reaper), Issue 2 is more mainstream and less sexually explicit than Insane’s first issue. Issue 2 is worth owning.

Review, story by story

 1.Call of the Wolf” – Silvano and Doug Randazzo: While driving back from a Halloween convention, a man’s car breaks down in the middle of nowhere. That proves to be the least of his problems when a monster shows up. Good, familiar read.

2.Sub Alien”– John Schumacher, Doug Randazzo and Micheal Joseph: Excellent, clever and funny story about two stoners who are visited by four aliens on a heavy metal mission.

3. Torture” – Doug Randazzo and Chris Laskowski: Visually- and grammatically-detailed vignette about a slow, sadistic killing, sans whos and whys. Solid exploration of its titular theme.

4.Who Gives a Nut?” – John Schumacher and Doug Randazzo: A suburban housewife feeds birds and squirrels in her backyard, unaware that a predator lurks nearby. I love the subtle, nature-based horror of this work, as well as how the visual aspects add plot details to it. Excellent piece.

5.Tales From the Cesspool – S**twrecked”– Mark K. Allen and Doug Randazzo: Gross, imaginative and ridiculous story about the aliens and the end of our world. This is a good, fun work, if you are not squicked out by fecal humor.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut Jr

(pb; 1963)

From the back cover

"Dr Felix Hoenikker, one of the founding 'fathers' of the atomic bomb, has left a deadly legacy to the world. For he's the inventor of 'ice-nine', a lethal chemical capable of freezing the entire planet. The search for its whereabouts leads to Hoenikker's three ecentric children, to a crazed dictator in the Caribbean, to madness. Felix Hoenikker's Death Wish comes true when his last, fatal gift to humankind brings about the end, that for all of us, is nigh."


Cradle is an incisive, puzzle-build and brutal satire that targets blind patriotism, religion, militarism, human nature and the end of the world. It reads a bit overlong in parts, but it gets its points across in an effective if sometimes-chatty way. Despite this minor nit, Cradle is an excellent, distinctive and milestone read from a distinctive author.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Neon Golgotha by Michael Faun

(eBook/Print; 2017: novelette)

From the back cover

"Welcome to Hotel Neon Golgotha! A first-of-its kind “home away from home!” In these five freestanding life-stories, each taking place in New York City, we get to meet Laurent, Joel, Flynn, Amanda, & Barbara, whose deplorable circumstances has driven them to a hotel named Neon Golgotha. Each room in the hotel is perfectly designed for its guest's eccentric traits, and is sure to satisfy their outlandish inclinations... Murder! Incest! Sexual sadism! Mutilation! Lavish in decor, Hotel Neon Golgotha offers spectacular live shows (though not for the faint of heart!), tailor-made personal experience packages, and much more. Make your overnight stay perfect – from the welcome Champagne flute, to a visit to our Roman spa, and why not a trip down memory lane?"


Neon is an entertaining, vivid sex-, violence- and drug-fueled short work. This hotel-hub novella is not for the squeamish. Its forty-eight pages, in heady fashion, detail the horrific deaths and subsequent Hells of various characters as they arrive at the Hotel Neon Golgotha. Readers who are expecting a typical characters-meet-up-and-figure-a-way-out trope should be warned that Faun does not incorporate that storyline here. It is Neon Golgotha that brings things together, not its guests.

Friday, October 13, 2017

The Devil's Star by Jo Nesbø

(2003, 2005: fifth novel in the Inspector Harry Hole series.Translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett.)

From the inside flap

"A young woman is murdered in her Oslo flat. One finger has been severed from her left hand, and behind her eyelid is secreted a tiny red diamond in the shape of a five-pointed star - a pentagram, the devil's star.

"Detective Harry Hole is assigned to the case with his long-time adversary Tom Waaler and initially wants no part in it. But Harry is already on notice to quit the force and is left with little alternative but to drag himself out of his alcoholic stupor and get to work.

"A wave of similar murders is on the horizon. An emerging pattern suggests that Oslo has a serial killer on its hands, and the five-pointed devil's star is key to solving the riddle."


WARNING: Possible plot spoilers in this review.

Like Nemesis, its direct prequel, Star is an excellent, reader-hooking and suspenseful novel. Star has less tale twists than Nemesis, but that does not detract from its entertainment value. This plot pretzel reduction leaves more room for the resolution of an ongoing subplot about Hole’s investigative crusade against his corrupt professional rival (Tom Waaler), an investigation sparked after Waaler’s murder of Ellen Gjelten, Hole’s partner (in The Redbreast).

his, like other books in the series, is worth owning. Followed by The Redeemer.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Vic Valentine: International Man of Misery by Will Viharo

(hb; 2017: seventh book in the Vic Valentine series. Published by Thrillville Press.)

From the back cover

"Vic Valentine, Private Eye is back in business -- as a dog walker. A really, really bad one. While drunk in a dive bar one rainy Seattle night, one of his canine clients tied up outside goes missing. The twisted trail leads him from Vancouer to Minneapolis to Houston to Mexico City and then all the way down to Costa Rica. Along the way he encounters nefarious businessmen, dangerous drug dealers, tropical cocktails, flesh-eating zombies, voracious vampire women, and a luscious Latina bombshell that may or may not turn out to be the long lost love of his life."


International is a dark, delightful pulp novel. In it, Viharo weaves wild elements and sub-genres into an addictive, fleet-footed and hallucinogenic read: sexploitation, P.I. intrigue, conspiracies, zombies, dog-centered writing, vampires, divine(?) intervention (hello, Ivar!) and – as promised – international travel. Of course, all of this is punctuated with Viharo’s recurring characters, quippy-sometimes-silly humor, and an awareness of life’s underlying melancholy. 

What makes International one of my favorite Viharo books is how, over the course of seven books, he has evolved Vic’s character by making him wiser, even as Vic continues to embrace his inner freak-up.

As is often the case with Viharo’s works, this a heady brew, excellent and timely work, one worth owning. If you have not read earlier Vic Valentine novels, International works as an entertaining, stand-alone read.

Saturday, October 07, 2017

Essential Marvel: The Amazing Spider-Man Volume 3 by "Stan Lee, John Romita, Sam Rosen & Friends"

(pb; 1967, 1968, 1969 and 2001: Collects The Amazing Spider-Man #44-68)

From the back cover

"The popular reprinting of Spider-Man's earliest adventures continues with classic stories by one of the fondest remembered creative teams to ever tackle Marvel's wacky webhead.All of Spidey's "usual suspects" are here in this gargantuan 528-page black and white volume: the sinister Vulture, the maniacal Doctor Octopus, the enigmatic Mysterio and the senses-shattering Shocker, just to name a few. Perhaps most significant of all is the debut of the Kingpin, an ominous figure who claims to be a "humble importer of spices", but in reality pulls all the strings of New York City's organized crime syndicates. One of the most chilling villains in all of the Marvel mythos, the Kingpin's first stories are recounted here.

"The Marvel Essential line of trade paperbacks are extremely popular among consumers. These inexpensive volumes give readers a chance to catch up on years of comic stories and history without spending a fortune tracking down hard to find back issues."


This comic book omnibus brings together issues 44-68 of The Amazing Spider-Man. As with Vol. 2, the artwork is excellent and realistic (particularly the figure work), and the action is visually exciting and fun. Thankfully, there is less melodrama with Peter Parker and Aunt May, an element that marred Volume 2, and the comic’s good-natured chatty narrative and dialogue is still in place.

Volume 3 is worth owning for its visual virtues and entertaining banter, if you can deal with a little unnecessary personal drama. Followed by Marvel Essential: The Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 4.

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Nemesis by Jo Nesbø

(hb; 2002, 2008: fourth novel in the Inspector Harry Hole series.Translated from the Norwegian by Don Barlett.)

From the inside flap

"How do you catch a killer when you're the number one suspect?

"A man is caught on CCTV, shooting dead a cashier at a bank. Detective Harry Hole begins his investigation, but after dinner with an old flame wakes up with no memory of the past 12 hours. Then the girl is found dead in mysterious circumstances and he beings to receive threatening emails: is someone trying to frame him for her death?

"As Harry fights to clear his name, the bank robberies continue with unparalleled savagery."


Nemesis is an excellent, addictive, suspenseful and plot twisty read. Some of its multilayered tension is heightened by an unresolved, cliff-hangerish storyline from the previous book, The Redbreast (whose writing is less streamlined than Nemesis’s). This is one of the better entries in the Inspector Harry Hole series, one worth owning. Followed by The Devil’s Star.

<em>Mother Night</em> by Kurt Vonnegut

(pb; 1961) From the back cover “ Mother Night is a daring challenge to our moral sense. American Howard W. Campbell, Jr., a spy du...