The Line Up: The Chill by Ross MacDonald (1964)

The bride of newlywed Alex Kincaid has disappeared and he turns to Lew Archer for help. Who is Lew Archer you might ask? If you don’t know you need to find out. All I’m going to tell you is he’s a Philip Marlow/Sam Spade type working out of the suburbs and without a drinking problem.

Set after the war, this is noir without all the rough edges and more than enough twist, turns and messed up individuals to keep you occupied. Imitation is the best form of flattery and this is imitation with improvements. The missing person case turns into a murder investigation that branches out into four murder investigations and the wrongful murder conviction. Archer has a way of getting involved in trouble but handling problems with a determined resolve.

It is a novel about past mistakes and family. Not family in a good way but the way family really screws you up and how past mistakes can continue to mess with your life.

If you haven’t read Ross MacDonald, The Chill is a great place to start. MacDonald wrote nearly twenty Lew Archer novels. There are moments when Lew is lacking a little of that emotional intensity that you find in Marlow and Spade. What it does mean is the novel is all about the story and where you might lose out in the character you more than make up for in the writing and the plot. It is dizzying and yet all falls into place perfectly. At the end, the resolutions work but are anything but neat. With four murders and a wrongful conviction, neat is the last thing you’d want.


The Line Up: Crime Reviews

Welcome to The Line-up, a review of crime novels new and old. I reserve the right to review non-crime novels as well.

Straight off the bat, like the brains of a snitch found by an enforced, I telling you that I don’t include novels I really didn’t like.

If I don’t like a novel, I skim to the end and get on with my life. It probably means that I’m not going to make the hallowed heights of a full-time critic or professional review blogger, but hey, I don’t like the weather up there. What I do like is a well written novel that isn’t just part on an author’s ongoing attempt to squeeze the next purchase out of their readers.

Second thing you should know, this ain’t Wikipedia. I’m not giving you a run down of the author’s life, the publishing details or how well the thing sells. Half the time, I’m not even going to give you the full plot. What I will give is an honest reaction, which sometimes means me telling you how I felt or what I ended up drinking after I finished the novel. Or I might go off on one about character arcs. Who knows.

Reading a novel is all about the mood it puts you in (I can only hazard a guess at the mood 50 shades or Twilight puts their readers in). My reviews are going to be heavy on what I was thinking and feeling and light on the advert plot summaries. I hope you enjoy.

Check out the first Line Up: Ross MaDonald’s The Chill starring his detective Lew Archer.


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Femme Fatale: Ayesha

Ayesha, often referred to as She-who-must-be-obeyed, is the immoral goddess of an undiscovered civilization. Ayesha rules sometimes cruelly over a primitive civilisation that she has personally held in limbo and kept separate from the world. She has the power to enforce her deadly and decisive rule over her people for the merest transgression. Why is she maintaining a harsh rule as living goddess over a lost tribe? Because she is waiting for the reincarnation of her lost love, of course.

H. Rider Haggard followed his 1886 serialized adventure with a sequel Ayesha: The Return of She (1905), a spinoff She and Allan (1921) and a prequel Wisdom’s Daughter (1923) amid his 50 strong output of novels, showing us that there is nothing new in the franchise spinning desire to keep characters alive. Which is exactly what happens to Ayesha, she is kept alive by magical powers of her own combined with elemental powers kept hidden away from the world of men.

Men are powerless against her will and subjected to her beauty. To behold the immortal beauty of her face is to be lost forever in service and devotion to her. Even when she shows the terrible cruelty of her power and the men under her influence are morally outraged, they still can’t stop loving her.

How is she defeated? Well, she isn’t. There is no escaping She-who-must-be-obeyed, especially if you are the reincarnation of her lost love. The only thing you can expect is an eternity with a powerful and beautiful woman. It’s a hard life.

Up next is John Keats’ poem ‘La Belle Dame Sans Merci’ or ‘The Beautiful Lady Without Mercy.’  She is beautiful and she is bad.

Crimezine reviews the Galton Case by crime legend Ross Macdonald

Ross Macdonald is a great author. If you haven’t checked him out, what are you waiting for?


Crimezine The Galton Case. Ross MacDonald The Galton Case

California Crime writing legend Ross Macdonald has frequently been compared to Chandler, Hammett, and James M. Cain. A darling of crime writers and readers of discernment, Macdonald’s prowess as a crime writer has been highly influential down the years.

But there are others who consider his work difficult, and rather intellectually superior for their tastes, preferring instead the work of others such as the similarly named John D. MacDonald. [Of Travis McGee fame]. The startling reputations of both writers are unassailable. But of all the Macdonald’s writing in the crime genre—Ross Macdonald can be unquestioningly called, The thinking mans crime writer.

The Galton Case is a densely plotted psychological detective mystery featuring Macdonald’s hardboiled private eye Lew Archer. Macdonald once said it was his favorite novel, the best he ever wrote. Which is certainly saying something as he wrote some of the most…

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The Dilemma of Recorded Sports

Watching NFL games in the UK has taken off in a big way this year. The three international NFL games, although not the greatest games, have received a good deal of positive support and have been well attended.

By the way, this blog is a little off the usual topic.

Personally, I’ve always enjoyed watching American Football or just football if you happen to be American (the same can be said for English muffins). Channel 4, the British TV channel and consistent supporter of the NFL, has been showing late night NFL games for years (right now I am not going to comment on the fact they split the international games between two channels). On a Sunday night/Monday morning, Channel 4 shows the live Sunday night game, which I record because it is usually a good match-up.

My dilemma is how I watch the game because a three hour football game is a big commitment, especially at the beginning of the week, and it is all too easy to watch TV in fast forward, to rewind and rewatch.

I don’t want to get the score before I watch the game because I just won’t really watch the game. Did I mention three hours is a big commitment?

There have been really surprising games recently (49ers/Broncos and Packers/Saints) and some not worth watching (Bears/Packers). What I need is a comment about the game that doesn’t spoil the game. I need someone who has already watched the game who can say, “you have to watch this game” or “don’t bother.” Or someone who will say “skip the first quarter, skim the second, but watch all of the third.”

I’d like to say it would be a good idea for a new website (anyone know if this exists yet?), but really I think catering to my personal needs might not have great income potential. Oh well, no one tell me the score of the Colts/Patriots game, it’s sitting on my planner waiting to be skimmed.

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Forever or Maybe Just a Repeat of the Same

Ioan Gruffudd, formerly known as Mr Fantastic, is an immoral medical examiner with an English accent in the ABC series Forever.

I sat there watching the first episode thinking about the exec meeting that took place prior to the series getting a green light. Imagine the scene, it is the ABC executive board room, the walls are lined with framed posters of Lost, now a long forgotten memory of success, Supernanny and Ugly Betty, only barely hanging onto the wall after crashing and burning. A Nashville poster takes a central place, the whole network holding onto the vainest of hopes after only just renewing the twenty-something country and western musical drama. And then there is The Neighbors. Did I get that right? The Neighbors? People watch that? Sorry, I dunno.

The file into the room. Seriously suited execs. The spectre of Disney bearing over them, threatening to absorb them into the happy smiling wonderland of Disney productions. The meeting starts:

Exec 1: So what’s big?
Exec 2: Vampires are always good.
Exec 1: Been done.
Exec 3: Sherlock Holmes is doing well.
Exec 1: We’ll spend years in court getting rights to the name.
Exec 2: People like buddie cop shows.
Exec 1: Done to death.
Exec 3: Unbreakable was a good film. How about a film to TV series transition?
Exec 1: Too many film to TV shows. Did anyone actually watch Dusk till Dawn?
Exec 2: Couldn’t we restart the Highlander TV show?
Exec 1: Copyrighted.
Exec 4: I know, let’s put them altogether. We could have an immortal man who solves crimes with a genius IQ he has cultivated over hundreds of years and after getting involved with a police detective is contacted by a man who is also immortal who causes disasters to find other immortals.
Exec 1: Genius. The rest of you are fired.
Exec 2: Hey anyone know anything about Captain Scarlet?
Exec 3: No idea, why?
Exec 2: Ah nothing. My kid was talking about it.
Exec 3: I was looking forward to watching something called New Amsterdam.

CTG Reviews: Madras Miasma by Brian Stoddart

Love the location, time period and the name, Le Fanu. I wonder is there is any In a Glass Darkly in this novel.

crime thriller girl

Madras Miasma cover image Madras Miasma cover image

What the blurb says: “Madras in the 1920s. The British are slowly losing the grip on the subcontinent. The end of the colonial enterprise is in sight and the city on India’s east coast is teeming with intrigue. A grisly murder takes place against the backdrop of political tension and Superintendent Le Fanu, a man of impeccable investigative methods, is called in to find out who killed a respectable young British girl and dumped her in a canal, her veins clogged with morphine.
As Le Fanu, a man forced to keep his own personal relationship a secret for fear of scandal in the face British moral standards, begins to investigate, he quickly slips into a quagmire of Raj politics, rebellion and nefarious criminal activities that threaten not just to bury his case but the fearless detective himself.”

Madras Miasma is the first book in the Detective…

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