Wednesday, June 29, 2011

CR3 #55: The Case of the Guilded Fly by Edmund Crispin

This is another work in my summer mystery series. Set in the late 30s in England, it's sort of an upper-crust society murder. The main character (the Watson, of the piece) is journalist Nigel Blake, on holiday to his college town of Oxford. Although the narration is a third-person limited-omniscient, Nigel is character who does most of the heavy lifting. The main detective is Gervase Fen, a professor of English literature, a friend of Nigel's who has done some detecting before. The rest of the characters are members of a repertory theater company, gathered with the playwright, his companion, the Oxford organist, and several other hangers-on, all of whom become suspects when a widely disliked member of the company is murdered days before opening night.

The mystery is quite twisty, and I couldn't figure it out until the end when it was all laid out for me. I did have trouble for a while keeping all the characters straight, as there are eleven or twelve of them, and several are very similar. There were times when things got a bit dull, since it was just page after page of characters speaking to one another about what had already happened. There was not much action of any kind in it.

I know this book is part of the "Golden Age" of mysteries, but it was just slightly too boring for me. I'm not saying I won't try another mystery by Crispin, as he may have worked out the problems in later works. However, I'm not inclined to ever read this one again.

Monday, June 27, 2011

CR3 #54: Her Wyoming Man by Cheryl St.John

(Disclaimer: I won this book for free in a giveaway on Goodreads.com. Doesn't mean I shall be even slightly less critical than I normally would.)

Her Wyoming Man is the story of Ella, who begins the story as a high-class hooker in Kansas City during the late 1800s (I think, I can't recall if any specific dates were ever given). After a change in circumstances, Ella and a few of the other women from the "house of pleasure" make a run for it, answering an ad from a city in rural Wyoming that needs marriage-worthy women. Ella quickly finds herself married to a young widower named Nathan, who has three small children and political aspirations. How long can she keep her past a secret? And what will happen if it comes out?

In general, this is a pretty standard Harlequin-style romance. The heroine is beautiful, the hero is dashing, there is a certain amount of conversation, a problem comes up, is overcome, and everyone basically lives happily ever after. It is not especially original, but the story is serviceable, and the characters are fairly likeable. The sexy bits were pretty good, though definitely not explicit. I really only had two issues with it; my first problem was the sometimes dizzying switches in perspective--the story is mostly from Ella's point of view, but often it moves to Nathan's, generally without warning, often mid-paragraph. My other problem was purely personal--I had trouble enjoying the story because I was so dreading the point when the truth about Ella's past comes out.

I'd recommend this for anyone who enjoys the occasional fluffy historical romance. It's a great way to spend a rainy evening or an afternoon lying on the beach.

Friday, June 24, 2011

CR3 #53: Bag of Bones by Stephen King (King REreview #1)

At the moment, I am running low on new books. Partly because I am running out of space to store them (I have a gigantic Ikea bookshelf, I just haven't had the wherewithal to shift all our furniture around to create a space and then put it together), and partly because as I mentioned before, it's summer. I lose motivation in summer, which is not helped by the fact that I managed to complete the full Cannonball. I'm waiting for some new ones to arrive, but what to do in the interim? As I stood in front of my bookshelves the other day, the idea came to me: Stephen King. I own nearly all of his books, and have only reviewed a few. New goal: Re-read and review all (previously unreviewed) King works I own. That should keep me busy during any slow points. Plus, it will give me the opportunity to think a little more critically about his works and express what it is that I enjoy about them to others.

I have already done Cannonball reviews for a few of his works:
1. The Cell
2. The Gunslinger
3. Lisey's Story
4. The Drawing of the Three
5. The Wastelands
6. Wizard and Glass
7. Under the Dome
8. Hearts in Atlantis
9. Song of Susannah
10. The Tommyknockers
11. The Bachman Books

Hmm. That is more than a few, huh? Okay, well, anyway, now you know that there are more coming.  On to today's addition to the list!

Mike Noonan is a reasonably well-known author of thrillers. His life was going along just fine until his wife Johanna died of an aneurysm one sunny August day. After her death, Mike finds himself totally unable to write. Merely opening the word-processing program on his computer causes intense panic attacks. He has several unpublished novels put away to live on, but when four years go by and he is no closer to being able to write again, he decides a change is in order. Mike packs himself up and goes to his summer house in northern Maine, Sara Laughs. Not long after he arrives, he finds himself wound up in the custody battle of a young mother fighting to keep her daughter, having increasingly disturbing dreams, and having experiences inside the house that can't possibly be real. As time passes, he discovers the deep, dirty secret of the small Maine town, and what it has to do with the angry spirits of Sara Laughs.

This is a traditional ghost story, though filtered through the Stephen King lens. I actually didn't like this one the first time I read it--I much prefer King's more ensemble-type stories, and sometimes find myself a little annoyed at his writer characters. However, on second reading I found that I liked it a lot better. I am usually a fan of old-fashioned ghost stories--the kind wherein the ghost is haunting for a specific purpose, rather than being a simple random evil presence--and this surely fits the bill. The characters are interesting, although there were points where I found Mike to be a little dense (of course, all horror story characters HAVE to be a little dense sometime, or the story would end awfully quickly). I enjoyed the character of Kyra, who might be a little precocious, but still struck me as adorable. The plot was interesting and made sense, though I thought it got bogged down a bit in places. I also would have liked to see the "history" information spread out through the book a little more--as it is in IT, for example--rather than piled up in a big discovery at the end.

On the whole, I'd say this book is definitely flawed, but it also had some genuinely spooky moments, and some interesting wordsmithing. I'd probably rate it about a 3 of 5.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

CR3 #52: The Seven-Per-Cent Solution by Nicholas Meyer

A few weeks ago, I was sitting around with nothing to do, unable to watch TV because The Boyfriend was thoroughly engaged in some sporting event. I found myself in front of the computer, poking around through the Netflix OnDemand list. Suddenly, I remembered the Pajibans recent flurries of praise for the BBC's Sherlock and figured I might as well give it a try.

Ten minutes in, I was completely hooked and already bemoaning the fact that only four episodes had been made. I mentioned this in a previous entry, but bring it up again because it led me back to the original source material. I already own the collected works, but upon further investigation, I discovered that (unsurprisingly, really) some other authors have created their own Holmes tales. I happened to purchase The Seven-Per-Cent Solution simply because it seemed to be the top-rated of the group.

In this story (purported to be a lost work of Dr. Watson, dictated years after the death of Holmes), Dr. Watson tells the story of what REALLY happened during the period that Sherlock Holmes was thought to be dead (spanning Doyle's stories "The Final Problem" and the one about the airguns, the title of which I can never remember). Watson tells us that the truth is that Holmes had fallen victim to his cocaine addiction, and required serious treatment. The doctor manages (with the help of Mycroft Holmes and a twisty plan) to get Sherlock to Vienna, where he places him in the treatment of Sigmund Freud. From there, a mystery begins to unfold.

I enjoyed the story very much, and felt that the characters were fairly true to the original works. Meyer did a good job with his "alternate history," and I also enjoy the footnote "corrections" and additions the author made on Dr. Watson's "original manuscript." The plot itself was perhaps a little thin when it came to the mystery, but as I said, the characters were enjoyable, there were some very exciting parts--a wild chase on a train, for example--and the little in-jokes to readers familiar with the previous works were enjoyable. I would definitely recommend this for any fan of Sherlock Holmes.

Huzzah! I have completed the Cannonball Read! Fifty-two books read and blogged! I AM A GOLDEN GOD!

...Okay, well maybe not. But I AM very pleased with myself. Now I have to decide whether stop here, or to continue on and attempt the death-defying double Cannonball. I'm not sure I could actually do fifty-two more before the end of the year, but I don't see why I shouldn't try. Might be interesting to see how far I get, at least.

Monday, June 20, 2011

CR3 #51: The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey

I was talking to my mum the other evening, and she asked about what I'd been reading lately (partly because she is genuinely interested, and partly because I pass along a lot of my books to her, and she hoping to get some good stuff instead of YET ANOTHER BOOK about a horrific fire or shipwreck or something). I said that since it is now summer, I have shifted into trashy fiction/mystery gear. I explained that is what summer is for...even though I am no longer in school and thus get to pick ALL my own reading material. I then went on to explain that my latest trash mystery was a defense of Richard III, using historical documents to show he was innocent of the murder of the two young princes. She said "That doesn't sound trashy at all."

Tey's detective Arthur Grant is laid up in the hospital after a painful accident. He has hurt his back, is unable to move, and is slowly losing his mind from inactivity. Soon, a friend drops by with a stack of photos, some of famous historical criminals and some of their alleged victims. One reproduction of a painting catches his eye, and soon he finds himself trying to gather all the information he can on the infamous King Richard III. With help from his friends, Grant begins to investigate the case against Richard (using his modern methods of detection). He discovers in short order that everything he thought he knew about the situation could very well be false.

Tey quotes historical documents as she lays out her case for the innocence of Richard, as well as pointing the blame in another direction. Obviously, hers is not the first book to bring this information to light (a fact that is mentioned within the text itself) but it does so in an easy to read and entertaining way. I enjoyed the character of Detective Grant, and was right there with him as he reveled in his discoveries and vented his frustration. The story moved along a good clip, tying the historical facts together in an unintrusive literary frame. I felt like I was learning, but not being lectured to.

I'd definitely recommend this to anyone who is interested in historical mysteries or in quiet detective stories.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

CR3 #50: The Circular Staircase by Mary Roberts Rinehart

The Circular Staircase was written in 1908 by Mary Roberts Rinehart, a woman many considered to be the "American Agatha Christie." This particular novel is one of the first mysteries in the "Had I but known" style, in which the first person narrator is telling the story from a point after the events, and often throws in small hints about the danger that is to come.

In this particular case, Rachel Innes--a middle-aged spinster--decides to take a house in the country for the summer, along with her niece and nephew, whom she has raised for most of their lives. The house, Sunnyside, turns out to have some very strange issues, including many suspicious things that go bump in the night. As if that wasn't bad enough, shortly after they arrive, a man is shot in the house during the night, even though all the doors were closed and locked. Soon, both of Miss Innes's wards are wrapped up in the mystery, and the house continues to be haunted by noises and uninvited guests. Miss Innes, along with Detective Jamieson and the comedic maid Liddy, manage to untangle the deadly mystery.
  
This is not a bad book, and the mystery was logical but not easily figured out. Some of the dialogue was funny, and the characters were relatively well-written. One thing that I did find a bit disconcerting was the casual racism throughout the book. The character of Thomas the butler is written as a blatant Uncle Tom stereotype, and the other characters make flippantly disparaging remarks--i.e., using the word "darkies" and discussing their tendency toward laziness, stupidity, and inability to handle money--in passing conversation. It's not unusual, I suppose, for the time the book was written, but it feels very strange now that a character in a book can be nonchalantly racist. Nowadays, racism is used as an indicative character trait, not just some conversational filler.

Aside from that small issue, this is a tolerable book, though it's nothing special.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

CR3 #49: Under Observation: Life Inside a Psychiatric Hospital by Lisa Berger

So it looks like my new obsession for fall (once I'm done with the summer's mystery challenge) will be mental hospitals. I checked my to-read list and discovered about six mental hospital-related books.

Lisa Berger spent about a year observing one unit at Massachusetts's McLean Hospital (for more information about McLean's history, here is a link to a previous review). The book was written in cooperation with the doctor-in-charge of the unit she observed, and benefits greatly from his observations. She focuses on a few specific patients over the course of two weeks (roughly the average stay for a patient in the hospital.) They each have different issues, and are treated in different ways. The book also gives some information about how new psychiatric drugs are developed, what the new (in 1992, anyway) advances in mental health are, and the different ideas regarding the treatment of psychological problems. There is also a certain amount of discussion on the way things like insurance companies and profit margins effect the treatment of patients at McLean.

On the whole, this isn't a bad book. The observations are good, and the characters are life-like. The only problem I had began with the introduction, which explains that the book is not entirely true, but (due to issues of ethics and patient privacy) that the patients portrayed are not real, but rather "compositions" made up of many different patients the author and her consulting physician observed. That took me out of things quite a bit, because I found myself thinking about how the patients portrayed were more fiction than reality. It also made me wonder which parts of the entire book are true and which are not. Another down side is that some of the chapters talking about drug research and brain chemistry can be a little dull for someone who is not particularly science-minded.

I would probably only recommend this to someone who is deeply interested in the subject but not bothered by the fictional aspects of the story. It's not really a book for the mildly interested.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

CR3 #48: The Laughing Policeman by Per Wahloo

(Okay, let's get this out of the way right now: Per Wahloo is a funny name. I know I shouldn't laugh because it's Swedish and for all I know Wahloo is just as average in Sweden as Smith is here. But come ooooooon! Say it to yourself: Per Wahloo. Now out loud. And again. And again. See?)

I have only recently become aware that the Swedes are quite the mystery novelists. I bought Steig Larsson's Lisbeth Salander books, and enjoyed all three to varying degrees. After that, Amazon.com started getting very Scandinavian in its book recommendations. I tried to explain that just because I enjoyed one Swedish mystery did not mean that I wanted to explore any further. However, Amazon can be very stubborn when it so chooses. Unsurprisingly, so can I when I make my mind. No Swedish books, goddammit! My motherland (or like 1/8 of my motherland, anyway, being something of a mutt) has no literary pull on me!

Unfortunately, I had reached a point where I was at a loss for things to read. My obsession with disaster books has waned considerably, and my WWII fascination seems to be in hibernation at the moment. It's summer! My strongest instinct is to read mind-rotting junk, because THAT'S WHAT SUMMER IS FOR! I happened to wasting time on Facebook when I came across a "Book List Challenge" of "100 Best Mystery Novels of All Time." I do like mystery novels, and it turned out I'd never even heard of most that were listed. Clearly, something had to be done! Luckily, it also turned out that used mystery books are extremely cheap, so I ordered some. One was the previously reviewed Fer-de-Lance, and another was The Laughing Policeman.

The Laughing Policeman begins with a mass murder on a Stockholm bus. A mysterious suspect managed to gun down nine people--including a young police officer--in just a few minutes and escape without leaving a clue. The police are stymied--they aren't even sure who all the victims are, and have no idea what the motive could be. The whole force pulls together (including some out-of-town guests who are called in to assist) and combine intuitive thought processes with old fashioned police work to solve the crime and find out who murdered one of their own.

This is apparently one of a series of books featuring Detective Martin Beck. I guess this book falls somewhere in the middle of the series, but I didn't feel like I was terribly lost having not read any of the previous novels. I'm sure I'd appreciate the character development more if I'd had four or five books to watch it develop, but this can definitely be read on a stand-alone basis without any problem. The characters were mostly well-written, though some of their personal interactions were a little strange. Also, the only women in the books were either whores, victims, harpies, or sex objects (kind of weird since Wahloo apparently co-wrote this with his wife.) There were no strong female characters, but since it was written in the mid-seventies, I guess I shouldn't be too surprised. The plot moved ahead reasonably quickly, and there were very few jumps in the logic of what was happening. My only problem was one that I often have with foreign literature--I had a bit of trouble keeping the names straight. I had the same issues with Larsson's books--here there were characters named Gunnar, Guntar, and Grunvald all running around detecting, and it took me a while to be able to recognize who was who. However, the characters' personalities soon became distinct and I had no more problems.

On the whole, I'd recommend this, and I plan to see if I can track down the other books in the series.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Random Things That Are Not Book Reviews

For that four of you out there who read this blog on a regular basis, you must be getting exceedingly tired of my endless book reviews. I'm not going to STOP with the books, mind you, but I thought at least today I could talk about something different. Besides, I also watch MOVIES!

1. Cannonball Fail #1: Before I get into movies, I have to make mention of my first Cannonball Fail. I tried to read Jane Austen's Sense & Sensibility, but after about 100 pages, I just had to throw it against the wall and give up. I couldn't stand any of the characters--I wanted to take every single person in that story out behind the barn and beat him/her unconscious with a rock. They were all so snooty and archaic. Anyway, I very very rarely give up on a book--sometimes I take...very long breaks, but I nearly always come back and finish--but I couldn't do it. I don't really understand my problem, either. I know several bright, interesting people who truly enjoy Jane Austen's work. And I enjoyed the film based on this book (though I felt that Emma Thompson would have made a much better couple with Alan Rickman than with that stuttering ninny Hugh Grant.) Oh well. Can't win them all, I guess.

2. I am really disappointed by this whole "Congressman Weiner Sends Photos of His Junk to Young Women" scandal. It's a shame that someone who could have been such a beneficial force for the democratic party turned out to be a slave to his penis. Seriously, dude. Have you learned nothing from...every celebrity who has been caught in one of these stupid scandals since the internet began? Don't you know that the girls are GOING TO SELL THE PICTURES? They may weep about how intrusive everyone is and how their lives will never be the same and oh woe is me, Gloria Allred, why has this happened to me? Why won't the media leave meeeeeee alooooone? What they will NOT do is delete the damn pictures and then be like "What pictures?" Do not ever think they will delete the pictures and keep their mouths shut. There is no money or trashy tabloid fame in that. "Ohhh, I just had to tell my story!" Why? How exactly are you enriching the national discourse? ARGH! I am so annoyed by the whole situation. Just once I'd like a politician I like to turn out NOT to be a pervy hobbit-fancier*.

3. The Boston Bruins are in the Stanley Cup finals. I would like to believe it is possible for them to win, but in my (admittedly limited) experience with them, they are really just trying to find the most frustrating and heart-crushing way possible to lose. I have to say I do love when one of the local teams is in championship contention, because the whole city gets excited about it. Total strangers are talking to one another in bus stations, and wearing their related gear with great city pride. I've been pretty lucky since I moved here--the local teams have been having a rather impressive streak of successful seasons. Even someone who was totally anti-sports (like yours truly) can't help but be swept up in it all.

4. The other night, Netflix finally had a copy of  Death Race 2000 to send me (the darn film has had been listed as "Long Wait" for about a year). Turns out it is one of the cheesiest films I've ever had the good fortune to be exposed to. For those who are unfamiliar, this is NOT the Jason Statham version but rather the original, where the Death Racers are out on the open roads, trying to both cross the country first AND kill the most pedestrians. David Carradine stars as the masked driver Frankenstein, and he can strip down to his wee speedos all he likes, Jason Statham is going to beat him every time in that competition. Also, he doesn't really measure up in growly witticisms or intense glaring. The whole movie was a cheese fest, and the cars were like something out of Wacky Races. The second best part of the whole thing was that a movie made in 1975 could predict (to an almost eerie degree) our current world of reality TV and government-by-media-based-terror. The best part was that Sylvester Stallone was in it, back before he had the clout to demand that he not appear short in movies. Plus, he spends most of the movie dressed as a gangster (except a notable scene wearing only a towel) and smears cake on people's faces. Good show.

5. On a related note, after finishing up Death Race 2000, I felt the need to continue into a "Sylvester Stallone Marathon." Here's another embarrassing fact about me: I love Sylvester Stallone. I love him almost as much as I love Nic Cage, and for many of the same reasons. First off, they both started out hotter than all hell. Come on, you can't tell me that early 80s Stallone was not attractive! Hell, even in the early 90s he was still doing all right. Okay, yeah, then he stuffed his face full of botox or plastic or wombat glands or whatever and had his eyelids sewed to his forehead and did every steroid in the universe and now he's kind of scary like a Michael Myers Halloween mask. But still! I'm not a fan of the Rocky movies, and I found Rambo rather upsetting to be honest ("That man needs to be in a hospital being treated for his PTSD! It's not right that he's been left to wander the roads alone without any psychiatric treatment!"). Where it's at is definitely Stallone's comedies. I adore Demolition Man and Tango & Cash. I like Judge Dredd a lot. I even giggle at Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot! Something about his whole "muscle-bound--but still intelligent!--jerkface in an upside down world" scenarios tickles my funny bone. And his voice just makes it that much better. The Boyfriend does not get the appeal, but I think that's because he is totally immune to the draw of camp. I keep hoping that one day, Stallone and Cage will share the screen somehow. Should that happen, I might just explode with joy.

6. Another thing I've been enjoying recently is the BBC show Sherlock. The first season is currently available via Netflix OnDemand, and so far (two episodes in) I've been very impressed. The relationship between Holmes and Watson is just as I always pictured it to be--less combative, as in the recent film version--and more of a symbiotic and occasionally truly affectionate friendship. Benedict Cumberbatch (is that not the most British name you could possibly imagine? I think the only one I can make up that even comes close is Second Leftenant Percy Q. Hufflefufshire, which, BTW, is what I am going to name my dog, should I ever get one) makes a great Holmes--you can often see the wheels in his head actively turning. Martin Freeman (whom I really enjoyed in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and look forward to as Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit) is also quite good as Dr. Watson. He's a slightly more complex character than Watson was originally written in the stories, and he does a great job showing both the frustration and the awe that dealing with Holmes on a daily basis inspires. If you have the technology, I highly recommend watching these. There's only 4 episodes in series one I think, so it's not a giant commitment.

So yeah. Apparently I had a lot to say and didn't even get to half the movies I intended to mention, as well as my obsession with NBC's The Voice and the reasons I hate watching Rafael Nadal play tennis. Guess I will have to save those for another entry.




*"Pervy hobbit-fancier" is the invention of the hilarious Cassandra Clare in The Very Secret Diaries. If you have time, and enjoy Lord of the Rings, you should read them. I laugh until I snort every single time.

Monday, June 6, 2011

CR3 #47: Fer-de-Lance by Rex Stout

As far as I can tell, this is the first of Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe mysteries (it's tough to be sure, because there are so many and they are not labled "Number 1 in the Series!" as they bloody well should be.) I had never read any of the previous books, but I greatly enjoyed the short-lived television show A&E put together a number of years ago (2001? Was it really a whole decade ago?) with Timothy Hutton as narrator Archie Goodwin and Maury Chaykin as the titular Wolfe.

The basic set-up takes place in the 30s, and has Nero Wolfe as the eccentric genius, and Archie is sort of his eyes and ears (and legs and arms--Wolfe is both hugely fat and somewhat agoraphobic, so Archie does pretty much everything that requires leaving the house.) In this particular adventure, a young Italian immigrant comes to Wolfe requesting that he locate her missing brother. Shortly after that investigation begins, a mysterious murder occurs on a golf course, and Wolfe suspects that the murder and the disappearance might just be connected. Archie (who narrates the tale) soon finds himself running all over New York, tracking down golf clubs and airfields and a number of other important clues.

The main draw of this novel is the narration itself. Archie is a great character, both witty and charming and frustrated and occasionally childish. His voice is very engaging, and I enjoyed following the mystery from his perspective. The character of Wolfe is not as developed, although his pride at being an "eccentric genius" is definitely kind of fun. The plot moves along at a good clip, and I never found myself bored or anxious to skip ahead. I will say that I figured out "whodunnit" rather before the book decided to make the reveal, but since it was not an "aha!" ending, that wasn't such a problem.

I definitely enjoyed this, and will probably pick up other books in the Nero Wolfe series. It made a great summer read: not totally mindless, but definitely easier on a heat-melty brain than some of the things I've been reading this year.

Friday, June 3, 2011

CR3 #46: Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman

Fat Charlie Nancy didn't really understand his father at all. Imagine his surprise when he discovers that his recently deceased father was the personification of the mythical figure Anansi. He's also very surprised that he has a brother--an out-going, magical party boy named Spider--that he never knew existed. Once Spider shows up, Fat Charlie's calm, normal, boring life takes a turn for the crazy. He has to ask for help from some strange sources, and discovers that his father had some fairly dangerous enemies. Besides all that, his fiancee may be falling for Spider and his boss might be a high level criminal out to frame Fat Charlie. It's a wild and satisfying ride.

At first I was excited about the book, since the character of Anansi is featured in American Gods. However, it started out pretty slowly. It took me a while to warm up to Fat Charlie--in the beginning, he was kind of a whiny fuddy-duddy, but eventually he gets it together and becomes a pretty cool hero. The side characters are great, and the plot moves along fairly quickly. It has parts that are funny, weird, sad, and scary, all within the same novel. I'd definitely recommend this, perhaps for after American Gods, since Anansi Boys is kind of a spin off.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

CR3 #45: Pronto by Elmore Leonard

Elmore Leonard's work (so far as I can tell) is populated by a rich and eccentric group of characters. Each one has a distinct personality, and each seems to act for reasons that make sense with his personality--I never got the feeling a character was doing something just to suit the author's plan.

The main character of Pronto is Harry Arno. He's an aging bookie who has been forced into retirement earlier than planned by local crime lord Jimmy Cap. In fact, he hasn't just been forced into retirement, he's been chased right out of Miami. Harry's insistence that he's been set up by the local feds in order to get him to testify against Jimmy falls on deaf ears, and soon men with shotguns are turning up outside Harry's apartment. The US Marshall service sends Marshall Raylan Givens (yay!) to keep an eye on Harry, but Harry is just a little too slippery for his own good. Soon, Raylan is chasing Harry through Italy, with Jimmy Cap's men close on his tail.

It's a good story with solid characters. I was--as always--happy to see Raylan Givens, though his character in the book is a little less charming than Timothy Olyphant plays him on Justified (the beginning of the show actually picks up right where this book ends). The side characters were also entertaining, and I was invested in what happened to them (even though Harry is not particularly likable, the people around him were). Even the bad guys were written to be interesting and at times sympathetic. The plot moved along briskly, and I never found myself feeling either bored or rushed. The way the story ended left some openings, but was not unsatisfying. On the whole, I'd recommend this to anyone who likes a well-written crime caper.