Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Man, the Brits love mysteries

I was at the town library yesterday and decided to peruse the mystery DVDs. I've done so and checked out some videos in the past, but it didn't really hit me until then just how many of the shows they have are British. By and large our cousins across the pond outnumbered the domestically made fare and it made me think about just how much in general the Brits love a good mystery. Certainly our TV networks over here aren't slackers when it comes to producing a police show (hell, Hallmark even has a channel specifically for mysteries*), but nothing on the level BBC and the other channels over there are putting out.

I think the Brits have us beat on quality too. The broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox) tend to play it safe and come out with cookie cutter shows. They also tend to cling to the really successful shows until they've long since grown long in the tooth (*coughcoughSVUcoughcough*).

We could and should take lessons from the British when it comes to mystery television. Certainly wouldn't hurt.

*When it isn't airing Christmas movies.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

A book review omnibus

I was planning on doing individual posts for each of these books, but given how faulty my memory is when it comes to books I've read weeks or months ago, I decided just to do a quick review in a single post.

NYPD Red - James Patterson & Marshall Karp. Not a bad book, but I'm not sure if I'll read any of the sequels. Very much reads like one of those cops shows you'd see on a broadcast network like ABC or CBS.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10.

The Sins of the Father - Lawrence Block. I'm most definitely a fan of the Matthew Scudder series. I think this is where I decided that I was going to like detective fiction. Scudder is a flawed, but noble man. I plan on writing a whole post about him sometime this year.

Rating: 8 out of 10.

Time to Murder and Create - Lawrence Block. See above.

Rating: 8 out of 10.

The Godwulf Manuscript - Robert B. Parker. So I pretty much read this because I have vague memories of watching reruns of Spenser: For Hire with my mom back when I was a kiddo. The book was very short, but told a good story for its length. Not a great book, but good enough to make me want to read more in the series.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

Last Bus to Woodstock - Colin Dexter. This book had more red herrings like a cannery. Did not expect the reveal of who the killer was at all and I loved it. The only thing keeping me from reading the next book is that none of the libraries in my area have it.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Housekeeping note: Imported posts

I just imported a few mystery related posts from an old book blog of mine, so that's why there's suddenly a bunch of posts that pre-date the intro.

Also, hi, I didn't forget about this blog and plan on posting here now that I'm solidly a fan of the mystery genre. Expect reviews to follow shortly.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Oh look, an intro post

Welcome to Call The Detective, a blog about the mystery, detective, police procedural, and crime fiction genres in both their prose and visual formats. The name's Jason and I'm somewhat of a newbie to those illustrious genres. I say somewhat because while it hasn't been until the last couple of years that I've started reading them, I've been a consumer of the various forms of mystery fiction ever since I was a lad. TV shows like Murder, She Wrote, Hunter, Father Dowling Mysteries, and more were what I watched growing up. But as I said, it wasn't until the last few years that I finally started reading the books and found that I enjoyed them a lot more than I thought I would.

Alas, I assumed incorrectly that while television mysteries and cop shows were fun to watch, the written forms wouldn't be. I couldn't have been any more wrong! While there have been books that I quit on, I have generally enjoyed the ones that I have finished.

So content-wise, expect posts about what I'm reading, "reviews" (and I can't emphasize those quotation marks enough because I am terrible at writing reviews) of books/short stories I've finished, any and all mystery/crime/cop shows or movies I've watched, and that sort of thing. Fair warning, I'm not a total devotee to the genres, so don't expect a high volume of posts, but this blog should be fairly active. I should also note that I have a side blog on Tumblr of the same name that will feature shorter posts and act as a supplemental to this longer form blog.

And I guess we're off to the races! I'll talk more about my favorite books, TV shows, and movies in future posts, so be on the lookout for those.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

My mysteries and thrillers bookshelves

I recently spent time (and sanity) moving the bookcases in my room around so that they weren't all in one cramped space. I also did a bit of organization and gave one of my big cases over to my collection of thriller and adventure novels. Check them out below. Excuse the crappy quality of the pictures - my phone is crap and I can't take a steady picture to save my life!

So this is the Shelf O' Mysteries. It's a hodge-podge of books I've picked up from various secondhand sources such as thrift stores, library book sales, etc. The pictures might be too blurry to make out the titles, so here's a brief rundown:

Shelf #1: Mostly Martha Grimes' Richard Jury books mixed with Sherlock, Thomas Harris, and Robert Galbraith.

Shelf #2: Tony Hillerman's Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee series, P.D. James, Henning Mankell, John Mortimer, and Alexander McCall.

Shelf #3: Almost entirely John Sandford's Lucas Davenport series, with Dorothy Sayers, Peter Mayhew, and Ruth Rendell mixed in.

Now to the other bookcase.

I'm almost tempted to call this the "Adventure Shelf" because of all of the thrillers and action-thrillers on here.

Shelf #1: Tom Clancy, Michael Crichton, and Clive Cussler make up the bulk of this shelf. There's also a Ted Bell, a C.S. Forester, and a couple Vince Flynns as well.

Shelf #2: W.E.B. Griffin and John Grisham by and large. Jack Higgins, John Jakes, and two John le Carre's round it out.

Shelf #3: The rest of the le Carres, along with Robert Ludlum, and Matthew Reilly. This shelf also contains four history books: two by Cornelius Ryan, another about the Boer War (I can't remember which), and one about the American frontier. Those are there because they're adventures. Terrible, heartbreaking adventures, but adventures all the same.

Like I said before, my book collection is a hodge-podge from secondhand sources, but they're still pretty good. I try to choose books that I'm confident that I'll actually read and then do my best to follow through with that confidence. Doesn't always work out that way, but so it goes.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

2017 in review

2017 ended several weeks ago and I have to say, it was a most fruitful year for my reading. Here's a list of all the books I read:

1. Tooth and Nail - Ian Rankin
2. Assassin's Apprentice - Robin Hobb
3. His Majesty's Dragon - Naomi Novik
4. Old Man's War - John Scalzi
5. The Ghost Brigades - Scalzi
6. Night Train to Rigel - Timothy Zahn
7. The Last Colony - John Scalzi
8. Dragonflight - Anne McCaffrey
9. Phule's Company - Robert Asprin
10. Trading in Danger - Elizabeth Moon
11. Shards of Honor - Lois McMaster Bujold
12. Marque and Reprisal - Elizabeth Moon
13. Shotgun Saturday Night - Bill Crider
14. Cursed to Death - Crider
15. To Tame a Land - Louis L'lamour
16. Barrayar - Lois McMaster Bujold
17. The Warrior's Apprentice - Bujold
18. The Mountains of Mourning - Bujold
19. Pacific Vortex! - Clive Cussler
20. Killing Floor - Lee Child
21. The Mediterranean Caper - Cussler
22. The Prisoner of Zenda - Anthony Hope
23. The Baker's Boy - J.V. Jones
24. Spinneret - Timothy Zahn
25. Around the World in Eighty Days - Jules Verne
26. Devlin's Luck - Patricia Bray
27. Devlin's Honor - Bray
28. A Call to Duty - David Weber, Timothy Zahn
29. Rules of Prey - John Sandford
30. Altered Carbon - Richard K. Morgan

The good: While I only read four more than what I did last year, I'm more than satisfied with thirty. I'm also pleased with the increase in the number of SF from I believe nine in 2016 to fifteen in 2017. I also like that I read nine SF books in a row because I've never read nine books of any genre in a row before. I usually manage two, sometimes three in a row, but never nine.

Another thing I'm happy with is the variety of books. I read more mysteries and added in some classic lit, thrillers, and even a western. I plan on continuing this trend in the 2018, but that's another post, I suppose.

The bad: All good must have a bad and for me, it was the decline in my fantasy reading. The year before last I read eleven, but could only muster five last year. Even more startling is the the five month gap between the second fantasy book, His Majesty's Dragon, and the third, The Baker's Boy. I had picked up other fantasy books in the interim between the two, but The Baker's Boy was the only one I read to completion. I can honestly say that I have no clue why I went through such a drought but it happened and hopefully I can move on from it.

2017 also marks the last year that I'm focusing on the quantity of books read. I originally did it because I just wanted to track how many I could read in a year and after more than doubling in 2016 what I read in 2015, I wanted to see if I could go further. I did and I'm realistic enough to recognize that thirty books is probably my limit. I still plan on keeping track of what I read, but I'm not shooting for a specific total.

Instead, I'm going to focus on the quality of what I read and try to broaden my horizons, but that's another post for another day.

Friday, December 29, 2017

RIP Sue Grafton

Because much like the year before it, 2017 has to get in a few more celebrity deaths in before it ends. Sadly, that death is Sue Grafton, author of the popular Alphabet mystery book series.

I'm not going to BS and say that I'm a die hard fan of Sue Grafton. Unfortunately, I haven't gotten around to her books yet other than skimming A Is for Alibi once. But that was enough and she was immediately added to my TBR pile. I was planning on starting it next month.

The thing that first caught my attention was obviously the naming scheme. A series where every book is named after a letter of the alphabet? That piques your interest enough to at least pick up the first book and check it out. After that, the writing goes to work. I don't read a lot of mysteries, but the writing on the first ten or so pages of A Is for Alibi sure did their job.

As for the Alphabet series, fans of Kinsey Millhone have another, smaller reason to mourn. Sue Grafton was in the process of writing the final book, Z is for Zero, when she died and according to her daughter, Grafton doesn't want the book to be finished by someone else. Not a tragedy on the scale of Grafton herself dying, but certainly body blow for fans of the series.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Rules of Prey is done with

I said I was going to try and finish it by Thursday and I did. I really enjoyed it. The ending felt a bit rushed, like Sandford was trying to end the thing as quickly as he could without running the entire train off a cliff. It doesn't hurt story, but the resolution just felt abrupt.

Rating: 8/10.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Rules of Prey: John Sandford writes a pretty fine book

I haven't finished this book yet, but I can't not talk about! Rules of Prey, the first in the Lucas Davenport series, is just a damn good mystery.

Davenport is a police lieutenant working in Minneapolis who has to track down and stop a deranged serial killer known as maddog (real serial killers don't capitalize their names, apparently). This is one seriously twisted individual who gets off on watching the moment his victims die. He also leaves one of his rules behind on each of his victims, hence the title of the book. The story shifts between him and Davenport as the POV characters, with the former either planning and committing his murderers or watching the media coverage of it, while Davenport's chunk of the book involves the aforementioned attempts at catching maddog, as well as following his private life.

I really like Davenport. On one hand, he sort of fits the mold of the stereotypical lone wolf tough guy who, prior to the story, has killed five men in the line of duty in separate incidents and cleared on every one. Yet, the views into his private life show a depth that makes the character likeable. My favorite thing is that Davenport has a very lucrative side job designing table top role-playing and wargames. As a self-described nerd, I really dug that bit of originality. It's like if Colombo wrote fantasy novels or something.

We see other parts of his private life as well, such as his relationships with Jennifer Carey and Carla Ruiz. Carey is a reporter with one of the news stations in town and honestly, I don't like her. She constantly waffles between caring for Davenport and wanting to form a relationship with him, and acting like a total asshole to him while digging for any kind of scoop she can report on. In one instance, it ruins a character's life when she not only outs him as a suspect in the murders, but also as a gay man. Rules of Prey came out in 1989, so public knowledge of his orientation isn't exactly going to help him even after he's been completely cleared of suspicion.

Carla Ruiz is notable for being the only one of the maddog's victims to survive. She manages to fight him off and leave me badly bruised for his trouble in the process. Davenport takes a liking to her and vice versa and they end up forming a relationship of sorts while she's hiding out in his cabin in the woods. I'm pretty sure there's some serious ethical problems with a police lieutenant having a romantic relationship with a crime victim, but I don't recall it ever being addressed.

maddog himself is interesting because of his day job as a mild mannered lawyer. It's established in the first chapter that he's two scoops of nuts. He refers to all of his victims as Chosen and himself as the One. He only kills when he finds a new Chosen and even then, only when the urge to kill reaches an unbearable point. Fair warning for those who might be triggered by it or otherwise not okay with depictions of sexual assault, but yeah, there's sexual assault. maddog rapes his victims before he kills them, though in one case he admits that he doesn't have to in order to get off on the murder itself. Fortunately, it's not graphic or even remotely detailed, so there's that.

But man, John Sandford can ratchet things up to 11 real damn quick. There's a scene in the book where the police are staking out the home of a TV reporter Davenport has been feeding false information to in the hopes that the maddog will try and attack her and get caught in the trap. He almost does, but manages to flee, which leads to one hell of a clusterfuck between a pair of cops and a homeowner. Basically, during the foot chase, maddog crosses through a backyard and riles up a pair of dobermans. Those dogs attack the first cop as soon as he jumps into the yard and his partner naturally comes to his defense and her own and shoots them. Well, about this time, their owner bursts into the backyard with a shotgun and not knowing what the hell is going on, opens up and shoots the second cop twice. Her partner then avenges her by blowing the homeowner away. The ensuing chaos allows the maddog to escape. It's an utterly wild scene.

I'm aiming to finish Rules of Prey tomorrow and I believe it's building to a satisfying climax.

I've pretty much committed myself to the mystery genre

And maybe I ought to be committed!

So anyways, the public library in my town does a book sale twice a year and the second one was last week. The last two days are a bag sale where you can fill up a bag for $3 ($1 on the last day) and it's one of my favorite times of the year because I can stock up on books for cheap. Now, in the past, I've had a habit of buying a ton of books and unfortunately never reading them, so this time I went a different route. They didn't have much in the way of science fiction and fantasy that piqued my interest, so I decided to focus on buying mysteries instead.

And buy, did I ever. Counting the ones I already owned, I now have an entire small bookcase full of mystery novels. There's too many to name individually, but here's a rundown on all I grabbed:

Twelve of Martha Grimes' Richard Jury
Nine of Tony Hillerman's Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee and John Sandford's Lucas Davenport
Seven of Dorothy L. Sayers' Lord Peter Wimsey
Two Alexander McCall Smith (The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency and The Sunday Philosophy Club), John Mortimer (Rumpole and another book), and Ruth Rendell's Inspector Wexford
One Sue Grafton, Dennis Lehane, Jo Nesbo, and Karin Slaughter.

So yeah, it's a lot. I plan on easing myself into the genre rather than diving headfirst. I've read a few mysteries before, so that should help the transition.