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The Dime, by Kathleen Kent

DETAILS

Title: THE DIME
Author: Kathleen Kent
Publisher: Mulholland Books
ISBN: 978-0316311038
Genre: Crime | Suspense | Mystery

BACKCOVER BLURB

Brooklyn’s toughest female detective takes on Dallas—and neither is ready for the fight.

Dallas, Texas is not for the faint of heart. Good thing for Betty Rhyzyk she’s from a family of take-no-prisoners Brooklyn police detectives. But her Big Apple wisdom will only get her so far when she relocates to The Big D, where Mexican drug cartels and cult leaders, deadbeat skells and society wives all battle for sunbaked turf.

Betty is as tough as the best of them, but she’s deeply shaken when her first investigation goes sideways. Battling a group of unruly subordinates, a persistent stalker, a formidable criminal organization, and an unsupportive girlfriend, the unbreakable Detective Betty Rhyzyk may be reaching her limit.

WHAT I THOUGHT

The Dime—Kathleen Kent’s first crime novel—opens with an explosive, ugly start that will have you page turning from the get go. She also manages to bring a fresh twist to the genre and then ups the ante. Her main protagonist is a feisty narcotics cop who transfers in to Dallas from Brooklyn. Not only is she a third generation cop, she’s Polish, and her roots are showing. Red-head Betty Rhyzyk is tough, flawed, tenacious, and is anything but your typical cop.

Narrated in the first person, Betty lenses the action and characters through her own prism, with both a dry sense of wit, tough talk, and a vulnerability we seldom get to see in a main character. What’s more, Betty has her doubts, which makes her all the more human.

In Betty’s world, we get to grips with the criminal underbelly of life in Dallas, with the drug cartels notching up the body-count. There’s nothing sexy or glamourous about brutal violence. And as various factions vie for turf, Betty has to navigate and juggle the vagaries of her private life, with that of her job, and if that wasn’t enough, she’s being stalked by someone who sends her a decapitated head, as a gift.

Sharp, observant, witty and, at times, violent, The Dime is the first in a new, exciting series, featuring detective Betty Rhyzyk. And I, for one, cannot wait for the next installment.

The Stockholm Octavo, by Karen Engelmann

DETAILS

Title: THE STOCKHOLM OCTAVO
Author: Karen Engelmann
Publisher: Ecco, 2012
ISBN: 9780061995347
Genre: Historical Fiction

BACKCOVER BLURB

Life is close to perfect for Emil Larsson, a self-satisfied bureaucrat in the Office of Customs and Excise in 1791 Stockholm. He is a true man of the Town—a drinker, card player, and contented bachelor—until one evening when Mrs. Sofia Sparrow, a fortune-teller and proprietor of an exclusive gaming parlour, shares with him a vision she has had: a golden path that will lead him to love and connection. She lays an Octavo for him, a spread of eight cards that augur the eight individuals who can help him realize this vision—if he can find them.

WHAT I THOUGHT

THE STOCKHOLM OCTAVO is a wonderfully written historical thriller full of intrigue, fans—and yes, I mean those kind of fans women use to use to fan themselves with, and more, with a deft hand, secretly signal to friends and lovers—mystery, murder, and a dash of romance. A story that is as much about cartomancy decked out with a cast of characters ‘The Eight’ who Emil Larsson must find in order to achieve his destiny.

Set in Stockholm, Sweden, at the end of the eighteenth-century, we find out Larsson’s destiny isn’t his own, it’s tied up with that of the King of Sweden. All of which is the author’s way of opening up the various levels of society represented in the story, from seedy gaming houses and tap rooms, to the lofty levels of the government and royal palace and sumptuous world of Gustav III. Revolution is brewing on many levels, as the world in which Larsson finds himself, is undergoing tumultuous change.

Engelmann’s writing is fluid, graceful and wonderfully nuanced, sucking the reader into the story where the descriptive prose conjure locations, activities and conversations that evoke this world, perfectly. This is not by any means a fast, action-packed book, but a slowly nuanced complex story told from a number of POV, centred around Emil Larsson, that paints a richly detailed world of manners, morals, and a belief a person can rise above the station they’re dealt in life.

An enjoyable, immersive experience. Highly recommended.

Two Hundred and Twenty-one Baker Streets

DETAILS

Title: TWO HUNDRED AND TWENTY-ONE BAKER STREETS
Editor: David Thomas Moore
Publisher: Abaddon Books
ISBN: 978-1781082225
Genre: Speculative Anthology

BACKCOVER BLURB

“As a Victorian, Sherlock Holmes is more Wilde than Disraeli. He’s not the stuffy, pompous, superior gentleman of the public imagination, but a fey, brooding, dangerous Hob, a mad genius bent on his own destruction, whose passion for the hunt is as much a mark of his unsteady mind as his cocaine abuse. Taking him out of Doyle’s time – Doyle’s world – allows you to showcase the real Holmes, to audiences that might never find him otherwise. This was my chance to do that.”

WHAT I THOUGHT

This is Abaddon Books first anthology and features fourteen very assorted stories in which the invited authors were given carte blanche by editor, David Thomas Moore, to put Holmes, Watson, Mrs. Hudson and yes, even Inspector Lestrade, anytime and anywhere they want. And, as a result, we are presented with a varied and eclectic mix that include a female Holmes, a gay Holmes, a couple of classic Holmes, a Holmes who owns a travelling circus and, just as much fun, a Holmes who is a summoned demon; But more on that later.

Anthologies are, for me at least, something akin to a box of assorted chocolates; they can be a hit or miss. But, among this collection, there are some truly outstanding stories. A couple come with really cool settings, others neat twists, many with clever banter between the characters, but what all these ‘stand-out’ stories share is excellent story-telling by their respective authors. Authors such as Jamie Wyman, who takes Holmes and Watson and drops them into Mid-West America in a travelling carnival. A killer story which gave me a truly memorable opening act to the anthology.

I sucked up A Scandal In Hobohemia so quickly I arrived at the end with the equivalent of ice-cream brain-freeze. What a neat re-casting of our favourite characters, I mean, Holmes reborn as the Master of Ceremonies, Sanford Haus, Irene Adler as Adele Trent a Pinkerton investigator, with her colleague Jim Walker taking on the Watson role. Never mind the recasting of Mrs. Hudson as … no, I better not!

Fun, fast-paced, richly detailed and immensely readable. As was A Woman’s Place by Emma Newman gifting us a look into a possible future Britain where a dubiously benign DotGov watches everyone but Holmes. A Holmes who, as it turns out …what? Oh, I can’t tell you that either without spoiling the fun. Needless to say the unflappable Mrs. Hudson steals the whole show, at the end, when all is revealed.

Following on from Newman comes A Study In Scarborough from the cleverly cunning mind of Guy Adams, whose writing I love. This seemingly innocuous tale of journalist Arthur Doyle interviewing the retired actor, John Watson, was so delicious that I had to go back and read it a second time. The inter-cut of the BBC radio play dialogue add a touch of the 50s to a story that unfolds like an origami crane, never quite as you think it might.

Not to be outdone, in The Small World of 221B Ian Edginton gives us, what at first read seems like a classic Doylesque-written Watson and Holmes tale, but one that turns out to have another rather clever twist at curtain-close. I loved the premise and execution. And, again, like A Study In Scarborough by Adams, this was deftly written.

Whatever the time or place, none went quite as far afield—or is that beyond time and space itself?—as did Adrian Tchaikovsky in his, The Final Conjuration, in which minor magician and one of the 7 great wizard Lord’s apprentice, Wu Tsen, must once again recruit the aid of his pet demon, the Sherlock … What, pet demon? Yes, that’s exactly what I thought. Tchaikovsky takes Holmes out of his usual setting, and throws him headlong into a fantastical world of magic. One in which magic is unable to deduce let alone ‘see’ truth—a world in which only the Sherlock can. By the end of this I felt almost sorry for poor Wu Tsen having to deal with the foibles and quirks of the Sherlock. Great fun!

Just when I thought the writing couldn’t get any better. When I’m still smiling to myself over the fate of Wu Tsen. I started reading another superbly written magical fantasy set in a world that, I have to admit, I’ve kind of fallen in love with. Well, at least the idea of it. In The Innocent Icarus by James Lovegrove everyone has an ability. Everyone is gifted with a unique talent. For our fine fellow Dr. Watson, it is super strength and the ability to withstand pain.

But, in this world populated by people who can fly, run fast, distinguish unique smells, or swim under water, we discover that Holmes is nothing more than an ‘Ordinary’ … And yet, not so ordinary, when he uses his unique talents and skills of deduction to solve the murder of one Sir Hugh Lancaster. With its alternate Victorian-era setting, straight-laced manners, and almost steampunk-feel, The Innocent Icarus really delivers what I hoped all the stories in the anthology might, a thoroughly engrossing, richly detailed, well-delineated character story to read.

It’s the sheer quality of storytelling by this handful of authors that makes Two Hundred and Twenty-One Baker Streets a cut-above the rest, and well worth buying to read for those stories alone.