Tag: Police-Procedural

The Whites by Harry Brandt

Posted February 11, 2016 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Crime / 1 Comment

The Whites by Harry BrandtTitle: The Whites (Goodreads)
Author: Harry Brandt
Published: Bloomsbury, 2015
Pages: 333
My Copy: Library Book

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In the mid-90s, Billy Graves worked in the South Bronx as part of a special anti-crime unit. He made headlines when he accidently shot a ten year old boy, emotionally scarring Billy and damaging his career.  Eighteen years later, Billy has finally become a sergeant in Manhattan Night Watch. The Whites follows the life as Billy Graves as he gets a 4:00 am slashing of a man at Penn Station. However The Whites is much more than a police procedural, rather it covers the life of the people in working the night watch.

Harry Brandt is a pseudonym of crime writer Richard Price who has been acclaimed for his books, like Clockers. He adopted the pseudonym so he could explore his writing in a new direction. However, I have heard that the writing style turned out to be very similar to his other stuff. I have not read anything by Richard Price, but hearing it is similar I hope to pick up Clockers in the future.

What I think stands The Whites apart from a typical police procedural is the fact that Richard Price focuses mainly on the character development. I love exploring the lives of people working in a similar field and how the people are effected in different ways. Sure, Billy Graves is the primary focus and there is a great deal to do with the crime but Price really did a good job of not making this a typical crime novel.

The Whites is a fascinating read and the style of book I look for in police procedurals. The novel even made the Tournament of Books list, but I do not expect it to make it too far. It was a wonderful book but not something I would consider high literature. If you have some recommendations of other books similar to this, please let me know.

Under a Silent Moon by Elizabeth Haynes

Posted December 20, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Crime / 1 Comment

Under a Silent Moon by Elizabeth HaynesTitle: Under a Silent Moon (Goodreads)
Author: Elizabeth Haynes
Series: Detective Inspector Louisa Smith #1
Published: Sphere, 2013
Pages: 384
Genres: Crime
My Copy: ARC from Edelweiss

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A suspected murder in a farm outside a small English village, a young woman was found dead with blood all over the cottage. At the same time the police are called in to investigate what looks like a suicide by driving into a quarry. DCI Louisa Smith and her team are assigned this case, they discover a link between the two deaths, a link that sealed the fate of these two woman. It all happened one dreadful cold night under a silent moon.

Elizabeth Haynes’s novel Into the Darkest Corner was one of the best books I read in 2011. I still have both Revenge of the Tide and Human Remains sitting on my shelf and I probably should read them soon. I decided to read Under a Silent Moon first because it is her latest offer and I was interested to read her take on the police procedural genre. This is a new direction for this author and I really wanted to see how her style translated.

What I loved about Into the Darkest Corner was how dark and disturbing that psychological thriller was. It was the type of book that I loved but couldn’t recommend to everyone because it might have contained triggers; it felt too realistic and unsettling. Some of her dark psychological style is definitely in this novel but there is something so different about Under a Silent Moon.

The novel felt like a very technical police procedural, I have no idea how a detective investigates crimes, my knowledge comes from men like Philip Marlowe who are hard-boiled and so smart that you often miss the clues (sometimes I think the clues never existed in the novel). I’m not sure how accurate or researched this novel was, but I think it worked well; she got that balance between technical and plot right. I liked how this book had police reports, notes and other documents to help drive the plot and give the reader a deeper insight into the crimes.

The major problem I had was that I wanted something darker; this felt too much like a generic crime thriller but Elizabeth Haynes style was evident and I like how detailed the book was. It was a slightly different take on the police procedurals I’ve read but it also felt the same. I also didn’t think much of the characters, there could have been more to them and I know this is the start of a series so I suspect that will come in future books.

In turn, I want to like all the uniqueness of Under a Silent Moon; I definitely like Hayne’s style but I just think there are too many crime novels that are similar. Sure, they all sell well, I just like when I book stands above the rest. There are so many things that were great about this novel, and I will be reading the next chapter in the series when it gets released. I think I prefer the dark psychological thriller style found in Into the Darkest Corner and was secretly hoping for something like that. I probably should try Revenge of the Tide and Human Remains first but if you haven’t read Elizabeth Haynes before and are not afraid of something that will disturb you, then I recommend Into the Darkest Corner instead.

London Falling by Paul Cornell

Posted October 7, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Fantasy / 0 Comments

London Falling by Paul CornellTitle: London Falling (Goodreads)
Author: Paul Cornell
Series: Shadow Police #1
Published: Tor, 2012
Pages: 400
Genres: Fantasy
My Copy: Library Book

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Detective Inspector James Quill is about to complete a major drag bust, the type of bust that will launch his career. Then his prize witness went and got himself killed in custody. This mysterious death leads Quill to be recruited by intelligence analyst Lisa Ross into a special CID unit. The murder of his witness suspect Rob Toshack was not a normal one and soon Quill and the team find themselves investigating London’s sinister magical underground.

I’ve said this before, I have a hard time with fantasy but I overcome that by reading books like London Falling. This is a dark and gritty London police procedural/urban fantasy novel; I read it for the mystery and it’s an easy way into the world of fantasy. I’ve had some decent success with this tactic and now I’m faced with the problem of reading urban fantasy and not fantasy.

Let’s get all excited about the author for a moment. For those who don’t know who Paul Cornell is, he has written for Marvel and DC comic books as well as on the TV shows Robin Hood, Primeval, Casualty, Holby City and Coronation Street. The most important achievement and all that really matters is his involvement on Doctor Who; even writing a number of the novels and creating a spin off companion in Bernice Summerfield.

I will admit that I picked this book up solely based on the Doctor Who involvement but I read it because of the dark mystery. I don’t know what it is about English police procedures but for me I think they are far superior; they are not afraid to go dark and the whole police culture over in London in particular is fascinating. With so many cameras filming people’s every move it is interesting to see that the crime rate is still high. I suppose there are not enough men to watch and police every camera but the whole scene fascinates me.

I’ve read the first book in the Ben Aaronovitch series and while that was good, I found this was better. Aaronovitch adds humour to his novel and Peter Grant is a blundering rookie, whereas James Quill is as hard-boiled as they come and you know how much I enjoy that.  The only major issue I had was because this novel tells the story of the CID unit of four people, it is told in a third person perspective and I like the first person perspective in a novel like this just so I can get into the protagonist’s head. This wasn’t a major problem, more of a personal preference.

The book starts off as a police procedural and near the start I was hoping it would turn into something like The Wire but as the magical elements slowly got introduced the book departed from that whole feel and turned into a real urban fantasy affair. The book has a lot of flaws but I enjoyed the noir-ish style and was willing to forgive any shortcomings.

I believe this is the making of a new urban fantasy series and book two, The Severed Streets comes out in April next year.  If you are interested in London based police procedurals and want to try an urban fantasy novel then this is the one to go for you and obviously if you enjoy The Dresden Files series, I would recommend this one as well. It is rare for me to find a series to be excited about, I thought I had that in the Bobby Dollar series but I was disappointed with the second book, let’s hope this isn’t the case with this series too.

Gun Machine by Warren Ellis

Posted March 25, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Crime / 0 Comments

Gun Machine by Warren EllisTitle: Gun Machine (Goodreads)
Author: Warren Ellis
Published: Mulholland Books, 2013
Pages: 308
Genres: Crime
My Copy: Library Book

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Warren Ellis reimagines New York City as a puzzle with the most dangerous pieces of all: GUNS.

After a shooting on Pearl Street claims the life of Detective John Tallow’s partner, he unwittingly stumbles into an apartment stacked high with guns. When examined, it is found that each gun is connected to a previously unsolved murder. Someone has been killing people for twenty years and keeping each gun as a trophy. Tallow has been put on the case and with the help of two CSU employees they are soon on the hunt for what could be the most prolific mass murderer in New York History.

I recently read Warren Ellis’ Crooked Little Vein and while I enjoyed the book I felt it was missing something. Gun Machine has that missing element; blending Ellis’ humour this book offers the violence with that dark cynicism that his other book was missing. Gun Machine starts out with the loss of Detective Tallow’s partner and while he should be mourning this tragedy he has been forced into what could be the biggest case of his career. Pairing with a couple of gothic CSU agents to help with forensics, Tallow begins to uncover a huge New York conspiracy.

Tallow is the perfect lead for this type of story, stuck between hating his job and the sudden loss of his only friend and partner; he is thrown into the deep end with no help at all. He struggles to make sense of this room full of guns and with the help of his two misfit sidekicks they begin to form an unlikely team.

While Ellis does favour the hard-boiled genre a little, this is more of a crime thriller than anything else. The blend of humour and his cynical outlook are what make this book worth reading. Crooked Little Vein tried to blend the two together but ended up focusing too heavily on the humour and the weird fetishes to really work too well. Gun Machine seems to get that balance right, turning this into a purely entertaining escapist novel.

Gun Machine really works at what it sets out to do, not too heavy on the humour, violence or dark aspects. It’s been creating a buzz about it and it is well deserved, I loved reading this book and didn’t want it to end. Sure it’s not without its flaws but for the escapist element, this book really is worth reading.


Truth by Peter Temple

Posted February 19, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Crime / 0 Comments

Truth by Peter TempleTitle: Truth (Goodreads)
Author: Peter Temple
Published: Text, 2009
Pages: 287
Genres: Crime, Literary Fiction
My Copy: Personal Copy

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Inspector Stephen Villani stands in a luxury apartment, a young woman dead in the bath. He finds certainties of his life crumbling after the discovery of this murder. His four months as the acting head of the Victoria Police homicide squad have not gone well; first, two Aboriginal teenagers are shot dead and there is also no progress on the killing of a man in front of his daughter. A novel about murder, corruption, treachery and ultimately the Truth.

I didn’t realise this was the sequel to The Broken Shore when I started this novel but seeing Inspector Stephen Villani was only a minor character in the first book I thought it was ok to continue. But I wonder if I should have read them in order, because Truth never really clicked with me.

The novel was very difficult to read and hold my attention; the flashbacks, the sheer amount of characters and attempts at complexity made it really difficult to know what is what in this novel. It tried to be a gritty police procedural with some political aspects but never really seemed to click. While the main plot could have worked well, the flashbacks and cast size turned this book into a difficult book.

I’m surprised this book won the Miles Franklin award; I know a lot of people that loved The Broken Shore and hated this book so I can’t help but wonder if this book won based on the love of its predecessor. It was interesting to see Peter Temple’s character Jack Irish making an appearance in the book.

I just don’t see the appeal to this book but it wasn’t the writing style that made this book so hard to read. While this is the first Peter Temple book I’ve read, I can see why he is one of Australia’s better crime writers. I will try The Broken Shore sometime just to see why one was so loved and this one was so hated.

He Died With His Eyes Open by Derek Raymond

Posted November 24, 2012 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Pulp / 4 Comments

He Died With His Eyes Open by Derek RaymondTitle: He Died with His Eyes Open (Goodreads)
Author: Derek Raymond
Series: Factory Series #1
Published: Serpent's Tail, 1984
Pages: 224
Genres: Pulp
My Copy: Personal Copy

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Armed with a box of tapes as evidence, the detective Sergeant sets out to solve the brutal murder of a middle-aged alcoholic who was found dumped on the city outskirts. Murder is a dime a dozen in London and Scotland Yard has more serious cases to deal with. This rogue detective is haunted by the voices on these cassette diaries which leaves him with no choice by to find out why He Died With His Eyes Open.

Book One of the Factory series follows the unnamed Detective Sergeant in his quest to solve the crime of someone the rest of the city does not care about. Part police procedural, part noir, Derek Raymond has a refreshingly new take on the pulp genre. Not only the fact that it combines procedural crime to the plot or the fact that it’s set in London, but what stood out to me is that Raymond mixed the dark hard hitting hard boiled protagonist and gave him compassion. You don’t actually see the compassion by his actions; this detective feels as hard boiled as they come, yet he seems to care about solving the crime of someone that doesn’t really matter. This is what made He Died With His Eyes Open so great.

I feel like Derek Raymond should be compared to noir legend Jim Thompson, mixing the dark and gritty with a real psychological aspect. While at times Raymond’s writing is a bit sloppy and the plot isn’t as tight as the greats, there is something quite spectacular about this novel. It feels like a normal pulp novel, but there is also something refreshingly different about this novel.

The unnamed protagonist is such a strong character, full of mystery and tough as nails. He Died With His Eyes Open is an absolute must read for pulp fans, and I must admit I’m so glad to read a crime novel like this that is not set in America. The English slang and terminology throughout this book was a joy to read. I like to see new spins in the pulp genre when they are done remarkably well, and this novel does just that. Everything you want in a deliciously dark pulp novel plus so many extras; He Died With His Eyes Open is worth getting your hands on.

Mystic River by Dennis Lehane

Posted October 26, 2012 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Crime / 0 Comments

Mystic River by Dennis LehaneTitle: Mystic River (Goodreads)
Author: Dennis Lehane
Published: William Morrow, 2001
Pages: 401
Genres: Crime
My Copy: Personal Copy

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Dave, Sean and Jimmy where childhood friends, but things changed when Dave gets into a stranger’s car and the others don’t. Twenty five years later all three are completely differently people.  Sean is a detective, Jimmy is an ex-convict and Dave is just a shell of a man; never quite recovering from the emotionally scarring events of his past. Their lives come together again when Jimmy’s daughter is found brutally murdered, Dave returns home covered in blood and Sean is put on the case to find who killed Jimmy’s daughter.

Mystic River is a psychological thriller that never really felt right. Not to take anything away from Dennis Lehane; while this is the first book of his that I’ve read I think he has the talent to write dark, noir-ish psychological thrillers but maybe this is a bad example of his ability. The book opens with the childhood and Dave being abducted by the child molester, which while a terrible thing to happen it didn’t feel like Lehane hit the mark with the attempt to be dark and disturbing with this situation. Then the book seemed to drag on and on until the book finally started to pick up pace about half way through.

When it comes to the crime, I found it rather weird that they would assign the case to someone that knows the victim’s father. Sure it was twenty five years ago but to me it still felt like a conflict. Sure I don’t know too much about police procedure but to me that just doesn’t seem right. Overall, this book didn’t feel dark enough, the writer did seem to make it a dark thriller but I felt like it never got there and fell more into the area of predictable. When I read a psychological thriller, I expect a complicated and twisted story and I don’t think I got it here.

The book was entertaining and I’m glad to have read it but it wasn’t something I would recommend anyone else read. I hope Dennis Lehane’s other books are a lot better because while I can see what Mystic River is trying to achieve I think it fell too short. I think the emotions within this novel were too flat and this was the overall problem. I’ve not seen the movie but I wonder if the tension and emotion worked within it since this adaptation was well received.

Mercy by Jussi Adler-Olsen

Posted October 14, 2012 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Crime / 0 Comments

Mercy by Jussi Adler-OlsenTitle: Mercy (Goodreads)
Author: Jussi Adler-Olsen
Translator: Lisa Hartford
Series: Department Q #1
Published: Penguin, 2011
Pages: 512
Genres: Crime
My Copy: Personal Copy

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I often get worried when I pick up this Scandinavian crime novel but I recently read The Dinner and I thought I might try another Dutch author; turns out this was a Danish novel. Mercy is the first book in the series by Jussi Adler-Olsen which has been marketed for people that enjoy the show The Killing as well as Scandinavian Crime. I love this show so I wanted to give this book ago; well actually I picked up Disgrace and realised it was book two in the series so I thought I better read them in order. Mercy is the story of detective Mørck who has been put in charge of new department dedicated to trying to solve cold cases; one final attempt before they give up on the case completely. His first case is a missing person’s case; Merete Lynggaard vanished five years ago and everyone assumes she’s dead but will Mørck be able to solve this case?

It’s interesting to note that this book is also called The Keeper of Lost Causes in most countries, which is a subtle attempt at humour, to reflect what type of book you are getting into here. I’m not sure why Australia are marketing this book as Mercy but it works better for their marketing campaign to just draw on the success of the TV show The Killing. You have the usual elements that you’d find in a Scandinavian crime in this book; cold climate and dark disturbing themes but I think Adler-Olsen’s attempt at adding some light heartedness in to the mix really worked in his favour. It’s almost like a cross between a Scandinavian crime and a buddy cop movie; because Mørck’s assistant Assad really stole the show.

Department Q is a mixture of a hard-boiled style detective in Mørck and the light hearted, carefree assistant that oversteps his role and does whatever he thinks would be the most fun; Assad. Not only do the two characters have personality differences but the cultural differences as well lead to some entertaining reading. While Mørck is an interesting character without Assad this book would just be another boring, generic Scandinavian crime novel (no offense to those who like these novels, they are just not for me).

The crime and police procedural elements of this book are pretty standard, you have the typical hard-boiled character and the dark and twisted crime they are solving but it really was refreshing to read a book that takes the same style and puts a new spin on it. It has really worked well for Jussi Adler-Olsen and I truly can’t wait to read the next in the series. If it wasn’t for these characters this book would be a two star read; luckily I was really entertained with this one.