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Archive for the ‘crime’ Category


The sequel to The Bone Tree, I could not simply avoid this book even if you paid me handsomely to do so. Though I have yet to read the first of the trilogy, Natchez Burning, I can’t help but still forging ahead to read Blood. Yes, I know I am violating some weird reader code of sorts but that’s how the Evil Parrot rolls. And to Mr. Iles credit, he wrote Bone Tree so well that it could have easily been a standalone. But, I will still be heading back to read Natchez Burning after all is said and done. And yes, even when I know the “spoilers”. But enough of the bollocks and on to the bleedy review.

The Bone Tree left us with a Penn Cage trying to pick the pieces of his life after killing Frank Knox (the head of a notorious Ku Klux Klan fringe group known as the Double Eagles) and the death of his fiancée that was killed in her quest to find the Bone Tree. And then along comes Lincoln Turner, Penn’s half-brother and product of an affair between Tom Cage(Penn’s father) and Violet Turner (an Afro-American nurse) and the shit hits the fan. Tom Cage is accused, by Lincoln, of causing the death of Violet Turner (Lincoln’s mother) and is arrested. Meanwhile, Snake Knox is still running around free and is back in the United States and he’s got revenge on his mind. To be precise: he has a bloodbath in mind for Penn Cage and his family. Teaming up with a white supremacist biker gang, along with his firearms-proficient, psychopath of a son (Alois Engels), Snake is determined to bathe the shores of Mississippi in a nice shade of red. And this they do with the grace and mercy of a pit filled with agitated water moccasins. Though Penn is not exactly a sitting duck, surrounded by private contractor bodyguards who are mostly former SEALs and Special Forces, he finds himself under the charms of a Serenity Butler, a journalist and former military officer that is quite the firecracker. And yes a lot of steamy stuff happen between Serenity and Penn … and they even sleep together too. Interestingly enough, as much the book could have been about the Snake and his ilk committing all sorts of vileness in the land, the real star of this book is the trial of Tom Cage. Now some you will read this and go, bloody hell I’m not going to read about some bloody courtroom drama … and you’ll be terribly wrong about this. This is a trial like you’ve never read one before. The showdown between Quentin Avery, the wheelchair bound defender of Tom Cage, and Shadrach “Shad” Johnson the prosecutor is the equivalent of watching a July the 4th celebration … using nuclear missiles that explode in midair. The trial if it were an action movie would be likened to a Jason Bourne movie filled with twists, turns and intrigue around every nook and cranny that you soon begin to dread things like sleep, bodily functions, and going to work. The trial (in my humble opinion) is Iles’ masterpiece, and there is a good chance that many of you will not guess the outcome of the trial. Of course, some of you would be cheeky bastards and skip ahead and read the bleedy outcome. Tsk, tsk … not very sporting mates, though I will admit that I was tempted to do the same, but you know what they say about patience being a good virtue and all that other bollocks.
After having read The Bone Tree, I must have been panting like a Pavlovian dog in anticipation of this sequel, and I when I finally got it, it was worth the wait. Blood is the South like you’ve never read it and sad reflection of the way race relations are today in America. Fiction hits home. The action inside and outside the courtroom is thick and stifling as monsoon humidity in a Louisiana bayou and strikes as viciously and relentlessly as a trod-upon copperhead. Forget grabbing you by the throat, Blood grabs you by the minerals and it is that good kind of pain (hope I don’t sound too fifty shady here … but there I said it) that you endure … willingly … all the way to the last page. Jolly good show, Mr. Iles.

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bone_tree_cvr

Ah yes, another one of those books that “whispered” to me. A cry for help, or perhaps the need to get out more? Oui? Non? Time will tell. This is my first book by Greg Iles and an 800-plus page to boot at that. Yes, quite the risk of my time … which turned out quite well (thank goodness … I’d hate to add this bloke to the list authors that owe me the life of their firstborn for my time wasted on their books). Well, enough of the bollocks, and let’s start with the bleedy book review. Shall we?

It starts with the murder of an Afro-American nurse, named Viola, in Louisiana. A murder that turns Dr. Tom cage into a fugitive and creates a rift with his son, Penn. Penn Cage, on the other hand, has a pile of steaming bollocks to deal with: he has started a war with a KKK fringe group called the Double Eagles. Penn’s fiancée, Caitlin Masters (yeah, I know thanks to a certain reality star that name creates a lot of neural twitching) is a journalist (that is probably part bloodhound) is on the scent of one of the biggest stories, of her career where Tom Cage is key to it all. In the center of it all, is the Bone Tree (hence the title of the book), a legendary killing site, somewhere amidst the tons of roving marshes and bayous, that was used to by the Double Eagles to conceal more than the remains of the forgotten. And just when you think it couldn’t get any worse we get to encounter the Knox clan. An A-class racist, misogynistic, psychopathic clan that literally has this stuff interwoven into their DNA and has ties to (no surprise here) the Double Eagles. The murderous ringmaster that leads this mayhem is a crafty, vicious little bugger named Forrest Knox, that is beguiling and calculating as serpent, and exceedingly vicious with probably just as equal a venomous bite to match. He also owns a “hunting lodge” that has been known to provide its members with occasional carnal delights from the local trough and the opportunity to hunt a bit more (allegedly) than exotic animals (hint: the ones that walk on two legs). And somewhere in there, is a connection to the JFK assassination, which dominates the book and Iles does a fascinating job on this that debunks the grassy knoll bollocks and offers another interesting possibility. And yes this is a linked with the Double Eagles.
Bone Tree waste little effort in grabbing readers by the throat and keep them riveted. The book reads like one big Machiavellian chess board, except some of the pieces aren’t really what they may seem and there is a lot of blood. Blood that flows hot and thick like humidity in Louisiana during hurricane season. Vendettas, revenge and murder are exacted with the stealthy and calculating viciousness of pissed off, silent, slithering water moccasin (on steroids). And this is not even half-way through the book. It is the South like you’ve never seen or read it. None of that hat-tipping, curtsying, mint dew lip drinking bollocks. Oh no, no, NO. And if you’re expecting happy endings … well … it is all merely perspective. Huh, you ask? Aye. There are little conflicts both internal and external. There are different quests: the quest for truth, the quest for revenge, the quest for power. And all paths converge on the enigmatic Bone Tree.
Iles uses a hybrid format, which apparently, is becoming rather common in most novels: first person narratives (Penn Cage) combined with third person narratives (everyone else). And at first it may throw folks off … for about a few chapters … but it is only matter of time before you find yourself wrapped up in the story and binge-reading your way through bodily functions, feeding times and possibly sensible sleeping hours. Caution to most readers: don’t become attached to characters. Trust me. You will love me for this. Or not.The good news is that this is part of a … (wait for it) … TRILOGY. The really good news is that this is the second book, and now I’ve got to go read the first book (bloody hell, what’s a bloke to do … decisions, decisions).

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otherson_cvr

I know, I know. It is that time of the year where we all get touchy and as the eggnog flows, most people want to curl up to something warm and fuzzy. The last thing you want to read about is about Swedish psychopaths. Alas, I missed that memo. Sorry chaps.

About a year ago (or so), I had reviewed Söderberg’s debut, The Andalucian Friend, and we were introduced to Sophie Brinkmann, the nurse, and her son, Albert. In Friend, one of Sophie’s patient was a drug kingpin named Hector Guzman who, seemingly, took a liking to her. Unfortunately, the moment Sophie started falling for his charms, that was the moment her world exploded as her path collided with a delightful (and frightening) array of characters that pretty much blurred the lines between good and evil. Actually, they practically erased the bloody line. Seemingly vicious gangsters that actually had somewhat of a moral compass and law enforcement officials that were morally void sociopaths that would render most demons speechless. All those roads (littered with corpses and drenched in blood) seem to lead to Sophie. Needless to say, not in a pleasant way. In the end of Friend, we find Hector Guzman in a coma and Sophie being offered a choice she can’t possibly refuse: take control of Hector’s affairs or face the possibility of being dirtnapped. Hmm, decisions … decisions.

Other Son opens, six months later, and we find Sophie managing the slowly crumbling Hector Guzman empire whilst being guided throught the proverbial shark-infested waters of the drug trade by Hector’s loyal and lethally efficient right-hand, Aron Geisller. Living her life constantly peering over her shoulder and bogged down by Aron’s security protocols, Sophie finds herself being pushed further and further to the edge of the abyss. To add to her troubles, Ralph Hanke (Hector’s rival) has become quite bold and vicious in his attacks as he sanctions the kidnapping of a Lothar Tiedmann, Hector’s illegitimate son. Sophie soon finds herself being tested by various cutthroat factions and being pushed into making decisions that raises Aron’s eyebrows … and that is not a good thing. Now I know what you’re thinking … it can’t get any crazier than this. And I have to say to you that you really don’t know Scandanavian crime novels. Enter Tommy Jansson (corrupt cop extraordinare), Antonia Miller (an actual decent cop with really good wits), Ove Negerson (a half-black, half-Swedish psychopath), and Miles Ingmarsson (a surveillance expert that seems to spends most of his time in strip clubs), Koen (a heroin addicted hitman) and the loveable bear of a Russian mafioso, Mikhail, returns. Aye, to say that the shit is about to hit the fan is, laughably, the biggest uderstatment of the century. There are more twists and turns than disorganized origami and intrigue is so thick that you can almost gag on it. The body count climbs (caution: try not to get attached to characters) and the blood spatters like something in Dexter’s wet dream. The race to the jaw-dropping (yet abrupt) conclusion will keep you riveted, fired up and jonesing for the next sequel by Söderberg.

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zero00_cvr

Several years ago, I wrote a review on Roberto Saviano’s Gomorrah. It is one of the few books out there embeds itself in your head, like a Taylor Swift song, and you never quite recover from it. Yes, it made an appearance as a coffee table book on the set of HBO’s True Detective (season two, episode eight … I think). And yes, my mind can be that weird, and I tend to notice stuff like that. And sure they made a movie about it (a bit over two hours long) and even though some complained about the violence, I had to chuckle. Even though the movie was close to three hours long, the violence was nothing compared to the book which is probably likened to a Quentin Tarantino wet dream. In Gomorrah, the author went to great lengths (and risk) to detail the many deeds and names in the criminal underworld in Naples. And it was not pretty. It pretty much kicked all that romantic bollocks about gondolas, floating in Venice, steered by serenading oarsmen … in the minerals with a steel-tipped Doc Martins boot. And for the most, many of us thought that it couldn’t get any worse. It turns out that I was wrong. Apparently, the world’s a wee bit more shitty.

Zero Zero Zero was Saviano’s immersion into the wonderful world of cocaine. Please note that the word “wonderful” is layered in unhealthy, blistering layers of sarcasm. In a sense, think of Saviano as Morpheus and Zero Zero Zero as a literary red pill. Sorry no blue pill on this run. He traces it’s humble beginnings from Colombia onward to its ever growing tentacles that have spread over the world. Yes, more precious than gold, silver and oil … this white powdery gold is in high (and growing) demand and every criminal element in the world wants to invest and control. Needless to say, the trip down the rabbit hole does not get pretty and it gets really deep, and makes the Mad Hatter seem quite sane. Filled with colourful characters, Saviano shows a stark industry that is built on terror, corruption and unbridled barbarism. From El Chapo (yes, that El Chapo) to the Los Zetas to Griselda Blanco … and the bloody list goes on. And the really messed up part is every criminal element in the world, even terrorists (who are looking for a means to finance their operations) are looking to get in on this cash cow. A shocking disclosure: America is one of the biggest importers of cocaine. Another shocking disclosure: Mexican cartels frown on pushers selling drugs to Mexicans (yes, you are reading this correctly), drugs are strictly for sale to the gringos. Actually, some cartels have been known to put Mexican addicts through rehab. Awww, you think, that’s so nice. Wait for it. There’s a catch: once they’ve gotten better, they’ve got to work for the cartels. And just say no is not an option. As Pablo Escobar used to say “plata o plomo”: silver or lead. Get paid or get dead. And the level of barbarism mentioned in the book is enough to make you lose your lunch, bowel control or lots of sleep: cartel murders and torture, the murder and torture of DEA’s Kiki Camarena, the training techniques of the Kaibiles (Guatemalan Special Forces) … oh joy. It gets better. To think of drug kingpins as just a bunch macho blokes walking around with .45s stuck in their waistband and puffing away on Cubans as they surround themselves with hot “chicas” … is as outdated as the printing press or using the “withdraw/pull-out” method as birth control. Some are even re-investing their ill-gotten gains into “research” and innovations such as submarines or submersibles (and no, I’m not kidding) and liquid cocaine. It is frightening what’s at our doorstep. Zero is basically a mirror that is held up to every addict or “recreational user” face, with a simple question: how much is your getting high really worth? The sad news is the price is extremely high, and many people are unwittingly paying that price in other parts of the world with unbelievable suffering and their lives.
Once again, Mr. Saviano does it again.Zero Zero Zero is a sobering read, not exactly for the faint of heart (at times) and for some, it just might be a wakeup call. Hope you enjoy the ride down the rabbit hole, mates. Morpheus, thy name is Saviano.

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findrs_kprs_cvr

It has been a very interesting summer, in terms of reading… that is, and I couldn’t help but notice the new Stephen King book sitting in the stacks, beckoning to me like a curvaceous Siren to a marrooned, randy sailor (wow, I seriously need to go out more). What can I say, perfect timing, yeah?
The new King book practically begins with a bang. A reclusive, iconic writer, John Rothstein, is the victim of a home invasion. But this is no ordinary home invasion. Led by Morris Bellamy, an obsessive fan, the object is, seemingly, the large amounts of money kept in the writer’s home safe, though to the Morris the real treasure is the pile of Moleskin notebooks filled with drafts of unpublished Jimmy Gold novels. After cold-bloodedly murdering Rothstein … and his accomplices, Morris hides his literary “booty” along with some piles of cash, only to be sent to jail (for life) on a totally unrelated crime. Something about a rape that he was to drunk to even remember. What a way for life to suck.
Several decades later, this “well-hidden” bounty is discovered by a young Pete Sanders who was simply wandering off the beaten path (literally) and his curiousity got the best of him. Pete Sanders family is enduring some tough times, since Pete’s father (apparently the bread winner) was injured in the Mr. Mercedes rampage (bloody hell, you say, a tie back to another King novel). Yes. And it gets better. So what does a young man do when he finds a significant amount of money? Instead of spending it on bling and other such bollocks, Pete does the “unthinkable” he anonymously mails portions of it on monthly (or was it weekly?) basis to (gasp!!!) his family in order to help them out of their financial crisis. Blimey, you say, a teenager that chooses to the most selfless thing with a large pile of money … King has sunk to a new terrifying low. Of course, good intentions aside, pillaged treasures soon finish and … some prisoners, despite the odds, get released back into society. And a certain convict is going to need his “hidden treasure” to fall back on. As the body count begins, a troubled Pete Sanders find himself embroiled with shady rare book dealers and eventually crosses path with Bill Hodges (yes, the retired detective from Mr. Mercedes). Also joining Hodges, is the boy wonder Jerome Robinson, an intelligent (now in college) black teenager who is a wisecracking, techie genius (also from Mr. Mercedes). Needless to say, it doesn’t take long for the suspense to rachet up at speeds that would redline your adrenaline guage, as the book races with break-neck speed towards a heart-pounding conclusion. Notable mention: Brady Hartsfield (aka Mr. Mercedes) also makes an appearance and even though he is physically incapacitated, there is something supernaturally brewing up in the mix. Alas, the saga of Mr. Mercedes is not quite over. And it is pure, premium King. Bloody fantastic.

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poisonerhb_cvr

Running title: The Poisoner’s Handbook – Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York

Chemistry has always been my first love. Yeah, I know … how nerdy of me, but yes there it is. Some of my best memories, spent as a teen, was amidst pipettes, test tubes and Bunsen burners preparing for the General Certificate Examinations O Levels. I think also having a really awesome girlfriend (my true first love …awwww) as a lab partner sort of helped. And of course, having a mum who was a chemist may have factored into that whole equation and my fascination of the chemical world. Alas, I have detoured … and I haven’t even started the review. So on with it … shall we?

So there I was amongst the stacks at work, when this book literally screamed at me. Alright, alright that was a bit melodramatic … I actually caught glimpse of it whilst researching another book and … it … yes screamed at me. A bloodcurdling scream. And so I had no choice but to check it out. Unfortunately, my choice of reading may have raised a few eyebrows from some co-workers and I may have destroyed several dating prospects, whilst reading, on public transit (trust me, several arched eyebrows and judgemental stares from gorgeous women sitting opposite you says a lot). But that’s how the Evil Parrot rolls. Oh, the things I do for my reading public.

Poisoner’s Handbook (contrary to its name) is a chronicle of the work of Chief Medical Examiner Charles Norris and toxicologist Alexander Gettler that basically gave birth to forensic medicine in the 1920s. Yes, surprise, surprise, it is not a book teaching you how to poison people … though …
Though thoroughly enjoyed by chemistry buffs (such as yours truly), it is also a great compilation of crimes and incidents that involved … well … poisoning and some astounding bits of historical facts. Though very scientific in its writing, most non-scientifically inclined readers will still find it a delightful read since Blum doesn’t overwhelm on technicality and is a delightful storyteller. Some disturbing facts include people dying from alcohol poisoning during the Prohibition … even when they were WARNED of the dangers of imbibing treated wood or ethyl alcohol. Even more shocking was the government (i.e. the wonderful folks in Washington) putting forth decrees that required the poisoning of industrial alcohols as a DETERENT to those willing to break the law for a drink. Needless to say, many still kept dying. Ah Prohibition, a time where people were literally dying for a drink. Then there was the radium poisonings of the women that painted radium dials on watches, where the radium (a radioactive element that have a half life of 1600 years) not only penetrated their bones, but caused rapid decay of bones and whilst most people exhaled carbon dioxide, radium victims exhaled radon gas. Aye, makes secondhand smoke sound like aromatherapy. Beyond the alcohol and radium poisonings, there were also those criminal poisonings where, for the most, it was easy to poison someone (in the 1920s) and even when arrested most people walked before David Caruso could put on his dark glasses to the on oncoming strains of The Who’s Won’t Get Fooled Again. And boy, did people love their poisons back then. It is good to know that if my future wife serves food that tastes too metallic (arsenic) or desserts that have a hint of almonds (cyanide) even when there is NO almonds present that maybe I might need to reconsider my marital status. This is precisely why I do my own cooking. Yes, the Evil Parrot is full of surprises … and yet he is still single. Pray tell. Also note to self: I’ve got to stop watching too much bollocks on ID, BIO and Oxygen.
So whether you’re reading it for the science, the crime or even a bit of history … or all of the above, Poisoner’s Handbook turns out to be a majestic read. And who knows, some of this information just might save your life someday. Hey, I’m just saying, mates.

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innocent_cvr

Will Robie is a very efficient assassin that works for the US government. There is no job too hard or tough that he can’t accomplish and he’s extremely resourceful. He is also the consummate professional: follows orders, no questions asked, complete the task/mission at hand. If you were stuck in a windowless and doorless box at the bottom of the Marianas Trench, he’d find a way inside to kill you. Of course, if you were stuck in a windowless/doorless box in the bottom of the Marianas Trench, you’d probably die of suffocation … and the possibility of the box crushing you due to the deep sea pressure at that depth. Aye, I guess Will won’t have to do much on that mission.. I have detoured … oh so slightly. When Robie is sent on a mission to kill woman in Washington, many red flags rise in Robie’s mind (since most of his assignments often involved enemies of the countries … in other words foreign wankers that deserve what’s coming to them). During the mission, he realizes that the something stinks more than year-old, unrefrigerated, brie cheese, when he notices that there were two young children at the mission sit e and they were supposed to be “collateral damage”. So in deciding against his orders things (rapidly) go south and soon Robie realizes that he is a marked man. On the run Robie, encounters a runaway named Julie Getty, on a bus, that is being stalked by … let’s just say … some tosser with very ill intentions concerning Julie’s life. After dispatching the killer (think Schwarztnegger on the a plane scene in the early part of Commando … what … you haven’t seen Commando … seriously, mate? … check it out … and Rae Dawn Chong is quite the bird in it … bloody hell … I’ve detoured … again), he escapes with Julie off the bus just in time to watch it explode. Soon Robie finds that his world along with Julie’s are more intertwined in the most diabolical designs of fate. To make things worst, Robie is joined with FBI super-agent Nicole Vance to investigate the bus bombing that HE survived. Needless to say, Vance has no idea that Robie was part of the crime scene and a delightful game of cat and mouse ensues, as Robie tries to keep ahead of Vance to hide his involvement. Think just about any episode of Dexter, where Dexter tries to outfox the Miami-Dade police on some of his handiwork.
An intriguing tale, Innocent keeps the reader guessing and at the edge of their seat where everything and everyone aren’t what they all seem to be. The action is quick, vicious but well paced. And Julie Getty, the runway, is not your typical teenager that seemingly keeps both Vance and Robie on their toes. Excellent read, and it is to my knowledge that this is one of many Robie books. I am eagerly looking forward to reading more about this Robie bloke. He intrigues me. And yes, queue up Commando on Netflix. It’s awesome, especially how he breaks that bloke’s neck on the plane. And you’d probably appreciate a cute Alyssa Milano. And yes, Rae Dawn Chong.

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