Mean Business on Ganson Street: A Novel by S. Craig Zahler (Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press, $25.99, 304 pages)
An opening chapter filled with violence is standard fare for writers such as Lisa Unger, Deborah Crombie and Lee Child. Thereafter, the story settles into an exploration of the characters and their motivations that eventually link back to that initial shock. The reader is provided red herring possibilities for the solution to the mystery – who dunnit?
Author S. Craig Zahler has penned a “novel” that is, in fact, a snuff movie on paper. Sadly, the Warner Brothers studio has optioned the book and the author is working on the screen adaptation. His vision may spring to life. My hope is that it will be X rated. Anything less will mean that the gore and violence splattered on most of its pages has been insinuated and a younger audience will be admitted for viewing.
The contrasts set up between Detective Jules Bettinger, formerly of Arizona, and the sworn officers in Victory, Missouri are punctuated by crude epithets hurled every which way. Bettinger is exiled after being less than helpful when the former son-in-law of the mayor comes to the police station to secure assistance in locating his missing would-be bride.
Bettinger is alternatively a well-spoken man with an education, a loving husband and father and a guy out for revenge. Regardless of his role, he’s only marginally likeable. Zahler is sadly lacking in his female character development. Each of the women in his tale is one-dimensional. Even Bettinger’s wife fails to experience authentic feelings.
If trash talk and gory, sadistic and gratuitous violence are your preferred criterion for selecting a book, have at it. Everyone else should steer clear! To be clear, this book is not recommended; far from it.
A review copy was provided by the publisher.
No Mark Upon Her: A Novel by Deborah Crombie (William Morrow, $25.99, 384 pages)
I know you remember. But I will make you forget…
Anglophiles, mystery lovers and rowing fans – this is a book for you! Author Deborah Crombie has added a fourteenth book to her impressive list of mysteries with the February 2012 release of No Mark Upon Her. The tale focuses on the intersection of two activities, work at Scotland Yard and rowing on the River Thames. The first victim is Rebecca Meredith who was a high-ranking member of the force and an Olympic class rower on the comeback trail. The discovery of her body along the banks of the river jump-starts the search for her killer.
Although Crombie is a native of Texas, she flaunts knowledge of Great Britain that she acquired while living in England and Scotland. The narrative is filled with British phrases that were not familiar to this reviewer. A Kindle or Nook e-book version would provide easy access to definitions. Regardless, the language is not so far-fetched that a reader would lose the meaning of what’s being said. The locations for the action are nearly cinema graphic which gives the reader the sense of having visited the locale without the burden of jet lag.
The good guy characters are warm and knowable and the bad guys are thoroughly despicable. Figuring out which group each of the characters falls into is a bit of a challenge. While married members of the Scotland Yard force, Gemma and Duncan Kincaid, are clearly in the good guys group, their fellow officers are not so strongly portrayed. Interestingly, Crombie has set up pairs of characters, both couples and work partners which make for an engaging read. Some folks are just working, others are falling in love and a few are plotting the removal of obstacles in their evil path of greed.
There are crimes galore, rape, murder, arson and theft. One of these crimes seems to lead to another, almost logically!
A review copy was provided by the publisher. In Great Britian/Europe, this book has been released with the title No Mark Upon Her: A Kincaid and James Mystery.