Thursday, September 28, 2017

Written in Blood by Layton Green

Format: Amazon Kindle 
Genre: Police procedural
Rating: Enjoyed and recommend it

Disclosure: I was given an e-book version of Written in Blood by the publisher. I liked it enough to place a pre-order for a Kindle edition.

Joe "Preach" Everson is back in his hometown of Creeksville, NC as a detective on the town's police force. His return coincides with the town's first murder in ten years. If the murder of local bookstore owner Farley Robinson in the hipsterfied community wasn't shocking enough, it was staged to resemble Raskolnikov's murder of the pawnbroker in Crime and Punishment.

As the only detective with homicide experience, Joe gets the case. Assisting him is officer Scotty Kirby, competent but a publicity hound who hopes the case catapults him to greater things, such as TV.

Written in Blood is an entertaining and stimulating police procedural. I use the word stimulating because the many literary references add a fun complexity to the investigation. Because of the staging, there isn't an obvious motive, like a robbery gone bad. What does the staging have to do with the crime? Why Crime and Punishment? Is it a message? If so, for whom?

Tying the murder to a literary classic is a clever hook. It means that Joe and Scott not only have to follow the usual trails, like known associates, but also figure out how the literary reference fits in to the crime. Helping on the literary side, Joe has Ari Hale, a bookstore employee and, pretty obviously from the start, potential romantic interest.

Joe is a likable, interesting, and complex character. I put him slightly on the "defective detective" spectrum of characters. He doesn't have Monk's OCD or Holmes' aspergers characteristics but he does have a past that makes therapy a requirement for employment. One clue is his nickname, "Preach". I'll say no more on this.

The author has a good, flowing style of writing with no jarring notes and realistic dialog. Layton also has a wry way of describing things that generates a chuckle. Here is how he describes the chief of police:
Chief Higgins was full of seeming contradictions: an overweight vegan, a gun-toting liberal, and a North Carolinian who didn't care for any of the Big Three: BBQ, beer, or basketball. 
If you know anything about North Carolina you know that BBQ and basketball are practically religions.

This is a solid and intelligent procedural with good forensic details to keep the reader's attention. As you expect, the investigation takes off with false starts and goes off on many paths but still arrives at a logical (and pretty neat) conclusion that doesn't leave the reader wondering where that came from. I also have to confess that I was a literature major at university and found the dissection of the literary clues great fun.

I'm voting for this to become a series.

Layton Green currently lives in Durham, NC and is the author of the Dominic Grey series which I can also recommend. I reviewed the first of the Dominic Grey series, The Summoner,

Please take a look at his website -- Layton Green

Monday, September 25, 2017

Just Arrived

Fresh off the plane from The Book Lounge in Cape Town,  Fred Khumolo's books, Bitches' Brew and Dancing the Death Drill,. He was attending a book festival in Cape Town and I enlisted the help of the good people at Book Lounge to track him down and personalise two of his books for me. These books are headed for my TBR stack immediately.

Fred is from Mpumalanga, Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa and currently lives in Johannesburg. Hi holds an MA in creatice writing from Wits University. His desire to write started in high school and he is now a gifted writer who has contributed to the written word as a journalist, columnist, contributor, short story writer, and novelist.

His novel Bitches' Brew was the joint winner of the 2005 European Union Literary Award (now the Dinaane Debut Fiction Award). Touch My Blood, his autobiography was short-listed for the Alan Paton Prize for Non-fiction. He was runner-up for the 1991 Nadine Gordimer Short Story Award.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

A New Blog...Yes, Another One

I haven't made a blog post in nearly two years.

This seems like a good time, now that I'm retired, to return to blogging. With past efforts, I attempted to focus the blog on very specific subjects, crime fiction and African literature specifically. I found that too limiting and frustrating hence the creation of Mack's Stacks of Books...and stuff which is actually an accurate reflection of what my workroom looks like.

All the posts from previous blogs have migrated here. Those blogs will go away by December 3. I need a clean slate and don't want them lurking in the backgound.

This site is still under construction. The hyena photo in the header was handy when I started playing with header images and will likely change. Maybe. I kind of like it. If you're curious, it was taken by my father in the 1950s in Kruger National Park in South Africa and is not color corrected due to age.

I generally only write about books that I like so positive reviews will predominate. I hate the star system of reviews so I might just say "like and recommmend" or "don't like and don't recommend". We'll see.

I put "...and stuff" in the title to I can post non-book topics without guilt. Nature photographs, for example.

That's it for now.
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