The Dead Pool (1988 USA)

“If you wanna play the game you better know the rules, love.” So sayeth Harry Callahan. Thankfully, director Buddy Van Horn and his team knew how to end the franchise on a high note. This is just as good as its two predecessors. In fact, Sudden Impact and The Enforcer were both pretty lackluster to the point of being almost boring. At least this swansong for Harry has a high degree of pure 80’s trash going for it. You want rock music videos, silly accents, some amusing dialogue, Uzi machine guns ejaculating at glass elevators and even a high speed car chase that involves a toy? With The Dead Pool, you’ve got all that and more.
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White Rabbit (Caleb Roehig)

Taking place within about a twelve hour period or so, this is a fast-paced thriller with a high body count. Featuring a queer main character and a romance, it’s a fun read. Don’t expect excellent character development (in fact, there’s little beyond Rufus’s own stereotyping of these rich jerks) but it’s refreshing to have a bloody thrill ride with those who seem to deserve their ends getting it…and not have suicide or mental health be the root cause of the story. [Read more…]

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase (Joan Aiken)

 

Set in an alternative 1832 where the monarch is James III (implying that the House of Hanover never came to the throne) and wolves have entered England during a bad winter by crossing the Channel Tunnel (not opened in our reality until 1994). Unlike the children’s books of today – this was first published in the early 1960s – the whole thing proceeds at a rip-roaring pace with very little build-up. There are a number of other books in the series, all set in the same alternate history but I don’t know if all the characters are the same in each. [Read more…]

Nightmare In Pink (John D MacDonald)

Nightmare in Pink is the second book in John D. MacDonald’s 21- novel Travis McGee series. Although McGee gets involved in mysteries, he is not a police officer or a private investigator. Instead, he is a “salvage consultant” who lives on a houseboat (“The Busted Flush”) in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. He prefers to be a beach bum, get a tan, reel in some fish, drink some beer, etc and seems a little uncomfortable in the big city. He is also a ladies’ man. [Read more…]

The Light of Day (Eric Ambler)

Winner of the 1963 Edgar Award for best novel this is an enjoyable crime/espionage vehicle typical of the era: crooks with scruples, the beautiful but unobtainable beauty & the luckless hero in the wrong place at the wrong time. The second half, with its collection of various misfits planning a heist, I found overlong and the stakes not high enough. Its hard to feel that Arthur, our hero, is in any genuine danger either (obviously because the first-person narrative guaranteed that he lived beyond the outcome of the plot) and everything was a little too languorous to be compelling. But the book has aged well even if Arthur’s character hasn’t.  [Read more…]

The Parallax View (1974 USA)

At 12:30pm, 22 November 1963, Jewish rag trade man Abraham Zapruder shot his JFK film from one angle of Dealey Plaza, Dallas — and 12 other people also shot film or photos at the moments of assassination, all from different angles (or points of view). Not to mention the many other people who were present that day to witness it, who also saw things from their own point of view. Some folks saw movement in the grassy knoll, others didn’t. The Parallax View states that many conspiracies work because relatively few people are in on the whole joke; some are involved in the set up, some in the telling, and some in the punchline, but only a precious few are given the whole picture, making detection almost impossible.  [Read more…]

Shattered (1991 USA)

Wolfgang Petersen directs this suspense thriller with some skill, so most intelligent viewers should be intrigued enough to be seduced by it up till the very end. Even though Shattered has been compared to Alfred Hitchcock movies and the novels of Agatha Christie, it does go a lot further and is far more daring then anything that Agatha Christie or Alfred Hitchcock ever wrote or directed. The reason it seems that so many people are turned off by this motion picture is that it not only went the full nine yards to tell it’s mystery/suspense story with an out of the blue surprise ending, but it goes the entire length of the football field in telling it. [Read more…]

The Passenger (Lisa Lutz)

book cA fun 304 page romp. Tanya Pitts husband is dead at the bottom of the stairs. She assumes he fell down them, because she had nothing to do with his death. Instead of calling the police, she decides to “cut and run” as the Americans say. She packs a bag, grabs what money she can find and takes off into the night. It becomes apparent early on that this isn’t the first time Tanya has had to run. After making a phone call to a mysterious man, she requests a new name with credentials and some cash. Hair coloured, disposable phones in hand, Amelia Keen is born and off to find a new back roads town to start over in. The big question is why?
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A Cry In The Night (Mary Higgins Clark)

This is classic MH Clark. She takes the reader to the edge of anticipation, excitement, and makes you feel like you are hiding in a closet/wardrobe/cupboard – take your pick,  peeking in on what’s happening. I like all her older novels but none of the ones she’s written in the last 20 years. If you don’t mind having an unorthodox protagonist then this novel (first published in 1982) is fantastic and eerie–not every book has to have a strong leading character. Our heroine is pretty passive by modern western standards, virtually helpless, and this may upset the feminists and others who are used to women being more pro-active these days. [Read more…]

Slayground (Richard Stark)

This is the fourteenth entry in Richard Stark’s (the writer’s real name Was Donald E Westlake) excellent series about Parker, the amoral criminal whose carefully-laid plans almost always come undone because of some unforeseen accident or because of an act of carelessness by one of the other crooks involved in the plan. In this case, it’s the getaway driver who screws everything up. This is not the driver that Parker would have preferred, but it’s the driver that Parker had to settle for. And it’s Parker who will now have to pay the price. [Read more…]

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