Review: Honky Tonk Samurai by Joe R Lansdale


Title: Honky Tonk Samurai {Hap and Leonard #11}

Author: Joe R Lansdale

Published: Mulholland Books Feb 2016

Status: Read from February 07 to 09, 2016 — I own a copy {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

Honky Tonk Samurai is the 11th book by Joe R Lansdale to feature the entertaining adventures of best friends Hap ‘a former 60s activist and self-proclaimed white trash rebel’ and Leonard ‘a black, gay Vietnam vet and Republican with an addiction to Dr. Pepper and vanilla cookies’.

Their language may be crude, their banter often tasteless but it’s impossible not be charmed by these redneck tough guys whose hearts are usually in the right place. Hap and Leonard may have casual regard for the law, but they share a strong sense of justice, they fiercely defend each other, those they love, and those who need their help.

“I don’t think we ask for trouble, me and Leonard. It just finds us. It often starts casually, and then something comes loose and starts to rattle, like an unscrewed bolt on a carnival ride. No big thing at first, just a loose, rattling bolt, then the bolt slips completely free and flies out of place, the carnival ride groans and screeches, and it sags and tumbles into a messy mass of jagged parts and twisted metal and wads of bleeding human flesh. I’m starting this at the point in the carnival ride when the bolt has started to come loose.”

In Honky Tonk Samurai, Brett, Hap’s live in lady, purchases Marvin Hanson’s private detective agency now that he has been rehired as police chief. The new agency’s first client is an elderly woman who blackmails Hap and Leonard into searching for her granddaughter, who has been missing for five years. Their investigation leads them to an upscale dealership selling much more than just cars, and puts a target on their back.

The plot is fairly simple and a bit of a stretch, but its all in good fun. There is plenty of action and violence on offer as Hap and Leonard, with a little help, take on a biker gang, the Dixie Mafia and a psychotic brotherhood of assassins. The humour is cheeky, often coarse, but the rapid fire banter is laugh out loud funny.

Readers familiar with the series will welcome appearances from characters such as Vanilla Ice, Cason and Jim Bob Luke. Lansdale’s descriptions of the characters that populate his novel are as colourful and vivid as ever.

“That’s when the door opened and a lady came in who was older than dirt but cleaner. She had a cane, which explained the cricket, but the elephant walk was a little more confusing, as she wasn’t much bigger than a minute. She had more dyed red hair than she had the head for. That hair seemed to be an entity unto itself, mounded and teased and red as blood. You could have shaved her like a sheep and knitted a sweater with all that hair, maybe have enough left over for at least one sock or, if not that, a change purse. Her face was dry-looking. She had a lot of makeup on it, as if she were trying to fill a ditch, or several. Her clothes were a little too young for her age, which was somewhere near to that of a mastodon that had survived major climate change but was wounded by it. She had on bright red tight jeans and a sleeveless blue shirt that showed hanging flesh like water wings under her arms. Her breasts were too big, or maybe they were too exposed; the tops of them stuck out of her push-up bra. They looked like aging melons with rot spots, which I supposed were moles or early cancer. “

The last few pages came as a shock but I breathed a sigh of relief when I learned that another Hap and Leonard book (Rusty Puppy) is on its way, and I’m looking forward to the premiere of Hap and Leonard on Sundance TV in March 2016.

Available to purchase via

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Review: Darkest Place by Jaye Ford


Title: Darkest Place

Author: Jaye Ford

Published: Random House Feb 2016

Read an Extract

Status: Read on February 08, 2016 — I own a copy  {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

I should have known better, being familiar with Jaye Ford’s previous novels. I picked up Darkest Place at 2am to read a few pages before bed and didn’t put it down til I finished the last page, just minutes before my husband’s alarm woke him for work at 5am.

After enduring years of guilt, heartbreak, and regret, Charlotte Townsend has finally found the strength to leave her past behind. In a new town, with a new apartment, and a new name, Carly has enrolled in college and is looking towards her future, but three days into her new life she wakes to find a stranger in her bedroom. When the police answer Carly’s call for help, they find no sign of the man and assure her it was likely a crime of opportunity. Though shaken by the intrusion Carly refuses to let the incident destroy her fledgling confidence…until then it happens again, and then again.

Darkest Place is an absorbing tale of psychological suspense. The tension builds slowly, gathering momentum until you realise you are holding your breath in anxious anticipation.

“She wants to scream. It’s building in her chest. Trapped there, scratching at her lungs as though her ribs are the bars holding it back. She hears breathing. Not her own. Deep and unhurried. It whispers across her face like a warm cloth. It turns her skin to ice. She lashes out. Hits, twists, kicks. She sees it in her mind, feels it in her muscles. But it doesn’t happen. She doesn’t move. Neither does he. She sees him now. A shape in the darkness. Above her, black and motionless. He is watching. She watches back. Fear roaring through her bones, pulse thumping in her ears. Her voice is wedged in her throat now and choking her. No. Something else is squeezing, pushing down, making blood pound in her face. Warm hand, hard fingers. She doesn’t want to see. Doesn’t want to feel. She shuts her eyes. Waits. “

Carly is a complex character, and given her emotionally fragility, I was never quite sure if I could trust her perception of events as the story progressed. The police certainly have their doubts about the reliability of her reports, and Carly’s psychiatrist offers a rational opinion that could explain her experiences, but I was sympathetic to her distress.

“She caught sight of herself in the mirror. Hair a mess, face tear-stained. Dark-ringed, pale, wild-eyed. And she spun away, the image burned onto her retinas. Distraught, panicked, confused. She looked like Charlotte. No, worse than that. She looked crazy.”

I have to admit I was ambivalent about the ending, though it works within the context of character and story, I didn’t find it wholly satisfying, though I can’t really reveal why I feel that way without the risk of spoilers. Nevertheless, there is closure and a sense of triumph and hope.

Darkest Place is Ford’s fifth novel and I would say her best to date. Clever, thrilling and gripping.

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Also by Jaye Ford reviewed at Book’d Out

Review: The Big Rewind by Libby Cudmore


Title: The Big Rewind

Author: Libby Cudmore

Published: William Morrow Feb 2016

Status: Read from February 02 to 03, 2016 — I own a copy  {Courtesy the publisher/Edelweiss}

My Thoughts:

I couldn’t resist the premise of Libby Cudmore’s debut novel, The Big Rewind. I have a cracked vinyl case full of mix tapes, including the odd one or two given to me by ex-boyfriends that I have never been able to throw away, even though I haven’t had a working cassette player in more than a dozen years.

Wannabe music journalist Jett Bennet is rocked when she discovers the bloodied body of her neighbor and friend KitKat while dropping off a mis-delivered package containing a mix tape full of songs about love and heartbreak. Despite a lack of grounds, police suspicion falls on KitKat’s missing boyfriend Bronco, but Jett, who temps as a proofreader at a private investigation firm, speculates that the mysterious compiler of the mix tape may have motive, and with the help of her best friend, Sid, hunts for the sender.

The Big Rewind is a murder mystery and a love story. As Jett searches for the person responsible for KitKat’s murder, she reminisces about her romantic past, browsing her own collection of mix tapes from former lovers. On her mind is the one that got away -Catch, even as her feelings for best friend Sid begin to change.

“There isn’t a better feeling in the world-not an orgasm, not a first kiss, not even that glorious soaring sensation you get when those first few notes of a new song pierce your chest and fill your whole body with absolute bliss-than acknowledgement that your mix tape was not only received and played but enjoyed. It’s a dance of sorts, balancing songs you think the listener will love while trying to say everything that otherwise dries up in your throat before you can get out the words.”

I liked Jett, though given she is aged only in her mid twenties or so, her sense of nostalgia is a little excessive and her fixation on her lost loves is a little unhealthy. Her motovation for solving the murder is a little flimsy but she unpicks the mystery in a way that makes sense given her lack of experience.

The Big Rewind has a turn of the century hipster vibe what with Jett’s mentions of Trader Joe’s, French Press coffee makers, kale and pot brownies, and visits to vegan bakeries, strip joints, retro vinyl record stores, and basement clubs which is a little painful, but also kinda fun.

What I probably enjoyed most was Jett’s eclectic taste in music, dozens of songs mostly from the 1980’s are referenced throughout the novel, playing to mood and emotion.

The Big Rewind is a quick and easy read, quirky and fun.

Want a playlist to listen to while you read? You might like to start with the following songs mentioned:

Keep Me in Your Heart – Warren Zevon
What You Doing in Bombay – Tenpole Tudor
Simply – Sara Hickman
Champagne – July for Kings
Truly Madly Deeply – Savage Garden
Pure – Lightning Seeds
The Book I Read – Talking Heads
2 became 1 – Spice Girls
All for Love – Bryan Adams
She is My Sin – Nightwish
I’m Gonna Be (500 miles) – The Proclaimers
Bury My Lovely – October Projects
Key West Intermezzo (I Saw You First) – John Mellencamp
Sunrise – Simply Red
Waiting for the Weekend – The Vapors

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Review: Rain Dogs by Adrian McKinty


Title: Rain Dogs {Sean Duffy #5}

Author: Adrian McKinty

Published: Allen & Unwin Jan 2016

Status: Read from January 14 to 17, 2016 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

Adrian McKinty gives DI Sean Duffy another ‘locked room’ mystery to solve in his fifth Irish police procedural novel, Rain Dogs.

“No note, a missing notebook, a shoe on the wrong foot.”

When the shattered body of an English journalist is found in the locked grounds of Carrickfergus Castle, it is assumed the young woman committed suicide but something is not quite right and Duffy can’t leave it alone.

With the patient assistance of Lawson and McCrabban the Irish detective unravels a shocking conspiracy with roots in the highest echelons of power spanning three countries. It’s an interesting puzzle solved by Duffy’s intuition, dogged investigative skills, and disregard for authority, which I enjoyed trying to figure out. Lily Bigelowe’s death also pits Duffy against an old friend leading to a life and death confrontation.

Set against the Belfast’s “Troubles’ and referencing real events, this story, as are McKinty’s others, is well grounded in time and place. Riot police are a necessity at every public event and as a matter of course Duffy checks under his car every day for a bomb. The wintry weather underscores the bleak social and political atmosphere, and Duffy’s dismal personal life.

Madness, rain, Ireland, it all fits.”

I’m enjoying this gritty series, entertained by Duffy’s dark wit and the strong, interesting plots. I’m looking forward to the next.


Available to purchase from

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and all good bookstores.

Review: Try Not To Breathe by Holly Seddon


Title: Try Not To Breathe

Author: Holly Seddon

Published: Corvus Jan 2016

Status:  Read from January 19 to 20, 2016 — I own a copy  {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

Try Not to Breathe is Holly Seddon’s debut novel, an interesting story of psychological suspense which has been picked up by publishers worldwide.

The story unfolds through the perspectives of three main characters; Alex Dale -a barely functioning alcoholic working as a freelance journalist, Amy -who has lain comatose for fifteen years after a brutal attack by an unidentified assailant, and Jacob -Amy’s teenage sweetheart who has never quite been able to let her go. Their lives become entwined when Alex, writing a story about a medical breakthrough in communicating with patients in a persistent vegetative state, recognises Amy from the reports of the crime at the time, and becomes obsessed with her story.

Slowly Seddon allows Alex to unravel the mystery by digging through media and crime reports and speaking with Amy’s family and friends. Despite his misgivings, Jacob, Amy’s boyfriend at the time of the attack, agrees to cooperate with Alex. He has secretly been visiting Amy regularly for the last decade and now with his wife about to give birth to their first child is desperate for closure.

There are a number of red herrings in the plot though honestly it’s not difficult to guess the identity of Amy’s attacker fairly early on. Still the author maintains the general tension well as Alex pieces the circumstances together.

Seddon’s characterisation of Alex is the star of this novel. Deeply flawed, Alex is an alcoholic whose drinking has destroyed her marriage, career and friendships. She devotes a few hours every morning to her freelance work and then begins drinking at noon til she passes out, waking up with soiled sheets and little memory of her nights, to repeat the cycle again. As Alex delves into Amy’s life she is forced to exert more control over her drinking if she has any hope of seeing justice done.

Amy’s dreamy, confused narrative meanwhile lends a real sense of poignancy to the story and ensures the reader doesn’t forget the reality of the tragedy. And though Amy’s possible level of awareness is in reality unknowable, her plight is heart wrenching.

Try Not to Breathe (though I’m at loss to explain the relevance of the title) is an impressive debut novel with an intriguing premise and well drawn characters. I’m looking forward to seeing how this author develops.

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Review: Splinter the Silence by Val McDermid


Title: Splinter the Silence {Tony Hill & Carol Jordan #9}

Author: Val McDermid

Published: Atlantic Press December 2015

Status: Read from January 13 to 14, 2016 — I own a copy  {Courtesy the publisher/netgalley}

My Thoughts:

“Men like him, they loved women. They understood the kid of life that suited women best. They knew what women really wanted. Proper women didn’t want to be out there in the world, having to shout the odds all the time. They wanted to build homes, take care of families, make their mark and exercise their power inside the home. Being women, not fake men.”

Val McDermid’s ninth novel, Splinter the Silence, reunites the formidable team of Carol Jordan and Tony Hill in the hunt for a stalker determined to teach feminists a lesson.

In the aftermath of the tumultuous events in The Retribution and Cross and Burn Carol Jordan has buried herself in rural Bradfield, spending her retirement renovating her late brother’s property and drinking far too much. When she finds herself arrested for DUI there is only one person she can ask for help, Tony Hill, who is determined to dry her out. In order to distract Carol from her demons, Tony raises his concerns about the recent suicides of two women who had been the victims of a barrage of online vitriolic and threats. What begins as an abstract exercise quickly develops into a legitimate case and when Jordan is offered the opportunity to come out of retirement to set up a ‘flying’ major case unit, she can’t resist. Calling on former colleagues including DS Paula McIntyre, computer whiz Stacey Chen and of course, profiler Tony Hill to join ReMIT, Carol and her new team dig deeper, identifying a cunning serial killer.

Splinter the Silence is evenly split between developing character and the investigative plot.

It’s been a tough year or so for Carol in particular, who has faced several professional and personal challenges. Despite choosing to retire, it’s obvious that left to her own devices she is spiralling downward, and she needs help to get it together.

Commonwealth Cover

Also very much in focus is the complicated relationship between Carol and Tony,

“She didn’t think there actually was a word for the complicated matrix of feelings that bound her to Tony and him to her. With anyone else, so much intimacy would inevitably have led them to bed. But in spite of the chemistry between them, in spite of the sparks and the intensity, it was as if there was an electrical fence between them. And that was on the good days.”

Readers familiar with the series will also appreciate catching up with Paula, Stacey, Ambrose and the introduction of new team members.

The investigation highlights a topical subject – that of the extreme cyber-harassment too often visited on women via social media. The ReMIT team tracks down some of the worst offenders who have hurled vile abuse and threats of violence at the victims in an effort to identify in what manner they may have contributed to their deaths as they try to formulate a case.

As their inquiry coalesces, McDermid gives the killer his own narrative to illuminate his motives and methods. While I think this reduces the tension somewhat, it does lend the mystery an interesting cat-and-mouse quality as the police team closes in.

Splinter in Silence is a well crafted tale from award winning McDermid. A strong addition to a popular series that fans should enjoy as I did, it’s not one for a new reader to start with though. I’m looking forward to further developments in the series.

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Also by Val McDermid


Review: That Empty Feeling by Peter Corris


Title: That Empty Feeling {Cliff Hardy #41}

Author: Peter Corris

Published: Allen & Unwin January 2016

Status: Read from January 07 to 08, 2016 — I own a copy  {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

An obituary in his morning newspaper has Cliff Hardy, PI, reminiscing about a decades old case that still haunts him, in Peter Corris’s, That Empty Feeling.

A long lost heir, a federal undercover cop, and an oil scam tangle to create a mystery that pits Hardy against an old enemy, a greedy wife and corporate corruption. There is betrayal, abduction, murder, and a surprising romance. Hardy gathers evidence, chases down hunches, trades information, and occasionally explodes into violence.

The spare prose and dispiriting tone reflects the noir genre. The pace is unhurried and the reading easy.

That Empty Feeling is the 41st book to feature the iconic character of Cliff Hardy, several of which I have read over the years, and which I always enjoy.

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Review: Grand Slam by Kathryn Ledson


Title: Grand Slam {Erica Jewell #3}

Author: Kathryn Ledson

Published: Penguin AU January 2016

Status: Read from December 26 to 29, 2015   – I own a copy (Courtesy the publisher)

Erica Jewell can’t worry about hunky hired gun, Jack Jones, and his commitment-phobic ways right now. She’s flat out managing Dega Oil’s sponsorship of the Australian Open tennis tournament, and doing a pretty good job. That is until a devastating oil-rig explosion sends Dega’s reputation and share price plummeting.
Public outrage over the incident upsets Emilio Méndez – the Open’s biggest drawcard – and he wants to cut all ties with Dega. When Erica is sent to calm him, superstitious Emilio becomes convinced he needs her by his side to win. He demands she stay close, and the media annoyingly misinterprets their relationship, much to Jack’s irritation. Meanwhile danger lurks, threatening Emilio and Erica, and she must race against time to discover: Who’s trying to kill them and why?
From the elite inner sanctum of the Australian Open to the packed halls of Chadstone Shopping Centre, can Australia’s favourite accidental heroine save her job, Emilio, and her so-called relationship with Jack Jones?”

My Thoughts:

Review to come

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Review: Fall by Candice Fox


Title: Fall {Archer & Bennett #3}

Author: Candice Fox

Published: Random House AU December 2015

Status: Read from December 21 to 21, 2015   – I own a copy

If Detective Frank Bennett tries hard enough, he can sometimes forget that Eden Archer, his partner in the Homicide Department, is also a moonlighting serial killer . . .
Thankfully their latest case is proving a good distraction. Someone is angry at Sydney’s beautiful people – and the results are anything but pretty. On the rain-soaked running tracks of Sydney’s parks, a predator is lurking, and it’s not long before night-time jogs become a race to stay alive.
While Frank and Eden chase shadows, a different kind of danger grows closer to home. Frank’s new girlfriend Imogen Stone is fascinated by cold cases, and her latest project – the disappearance of the two Tanner children more than twenty years ago – is leading her straight to Eden’s door.
And, as Frank knows all too well, asking too many questions about Eden Archer can get you buried as deep as her past …”

My Thoughts:

Review to come


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Review: Recipes for Love and Murder by Sally Andrew


Title: Recipes for Love and Murder {Tannie Maria #1}

Author: Sally Andrew

Published: Canongate Books September 2015

Read an Extract

Status: Read from November 27 to 30, 2015   – I own a copy

Meet Tannie Maria: A woman who likes to cook a lot and write a little. Tannie Maria writes recipes for a column in her local paper, the Klein Karoo Gazette.
One Sunday morning, as Maria savours the breeze through the kitchen window whilst making apricot jam, she hears the screech and bump that announces the arrival of her good friend and editor Harriet. What Maria doesn’t realise is that Harriet is about to deliver the first ingredient in two new recipes (recipes for love and murder) and a whole basketful of challenges.
A delicious blend of intrigue, milk tart and friendship, join Tannie Maria in her first investigation. Consider your appetite whetted for a whole new series of mysteries . . .”

My Thoughts:

“Recipe for Murder
1 stocky man who abuses his wife
1 small tender wife
1 medium-sized tough woman in love with the wife
1 double-barrelled shotgun
1 small Karoo town marinated in secrets
3 bottles of Klipdrift brandy
3 little ducks
1 bottle of pomegranate juice
1 handful of chilli peppers
1 mild gardener
1 fire poker
1 red-hot New Yorker
7 Seventh-day Adventists (prepared for The End of the World)
1 hard-boiled investigative journalist
1 soft amateur detective
2 cool policemen
1 lamb
1 handful of red herrings and suspects mixed together
Pinch of greed
Throw all the ingredients into a big pot and simmer slowly, stirring with a wooden spoon for a few years. Add the ducks, chillies and brandy towards the end and turn up the heat”

Full review to come

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