Wednesday, 16 December 2015

AB Negative, An Anthology Of Alberta Crime - Book Report #148

I first heard about this book from The Edmonton Journal.  I am a sucker for local stuff; too much media is set in New York or LA.  It's always refreshing to read something set in places I know.  Plus, I enjoy supporting local efforts whenever I can.

I can say the anthologist, Axel Howerton, who has a gritty entry here, does a terrific job of including a wide verity of genres to this collection.  That said the collection just kept getting better with each story.  I am so happy I bought it.

The book opens with Murder On The Mall by Randy McCharles.  52/100 - A straight up PI story, one of my favourites, our hero, Galloway, is on a case, trying to help a western wear retailer who is being shaken down for protection money.

It was a fine story, I liked that Galloway still has ties to the police department and there was a clever use of taxi cabs that could become a thing.

The only thing that took me out of the story was one bit of slang.  I have never heard a $20 bill referred to in much the same way Americans refer to their money.  That was a minor complaint, otherwise the story was very entertaining, quickly paced and believable.

Freezer Breakdown by Susan Calder - 52/100 - Vincent's mother has just died.  He's in his mid-forties and has spent much of it living with her. Now that she's gone how will he get by?

This was a quick read, a-day-in-the-life type of story.  It lacked a certain menace that I think the author was trying to convey. 

It felt more like a slice of literary fiction rather than crime fiction. 

Devil's Due by Axel Howerton - 53/100 - This was a fascinating story about a drug distributor, Devil, taking the time to give one of his underling-dealers a lesson about following rules. 

What comes is an epiphany of sorts for Devil. It's interesting how paradigm shifts occur. 

The story started out gritty and scary then took an unexpected turn. Well worth reading for anybody who is a fan of straight up crime fiction. 

Movable Type by S. G. Wong - 54/100 - There sure was a lot packed into this one. Nothing quite so satisfying than reading a story about corruption and it's uncovering. 

Plus it's set in a newspaper in the 1930's so it had some nostalgic charm. But the twist was the best. 

A Dead Reckoning  by Robert Bose - 55/100 - My goodness this was a fun story. It has very strong similarities to The Dresden Files and thankfully also had a good dose of humour. 

Tagged Boon is a fixer, of sorts, who is helping a woman to release a spirit from an artefact.  So there is a bit of occult here which is usually not my thing. But when it's done well, like this story, it can be a breath of fresh air. 

It was fun and I hope there is more from Bose out there. 

The Workman's Friend by Janice MacDonald - 56/100 - MacDonald's domestic flair is back in this quick cozy. 

Although the cozy is not my preferred genre of crime fiction, the author can create scenes that are vibrant in the imagination. 

A good addition to this volume. 

The Coelacanth Samba by Al Onia - 57/100 - Corporate shenanigans with an unusual murder. 

Darren McLean is an ex-RCMP officer gone private.  He is hired to find a missing executive from a small oil company. 

I found it very well written. Onia has a real grasp of who this character is and his confidence comes through in his writing. 

Cappy's Smart Monkey by Sharon Wildwind - 58/100 - What a cool, Calgary based Western this was.  I'm certain the recent flooding inspired this story of a planned heist upset by a storm. 

The characters were fully formed, believable and interesting. I felt like I was reading a classic pulp magazine story. I mean that in the best possible way.  Often short stories feel like they come from a larger work or stilted and rushed due to a short word count. This tale worked extremely well in it's space. 

Well done, indeed.

Silicone Hearts by Brent Nichols - 59/100 - A human PI is hired by a robot to find a missing robot. What follows is a violent and often funny exploration of the world of artificial humans.  Some are victims while others are heroes.

It reminds me of The Plutonium Blonde series of books (by John Zakour) blended with a bit of the Blade Runner movie. 

Very well done.

A Little Bit Easy by Therese Greenwood - 60/100 - A retired southern Alberta dairy farmer rents out a house on his property to a young woman from New Orleans.

She is very private and is doing some interesting improvements to the old house.  People being people it's hard not to get to know each other.

The story was vivid and well paced.

Butch's Last Lesson by R. Overwater - 61/100 - Oh my god. This one made my heart race. Not for fans of the "cozy."  This is hard neo-noir.


Hell Hath No Fury by Dwayne E. Clayden - 62/100 - This was probably my favourite of the bunch.  It starts off with our narrator getting a beating from three brothers of a woman he is involved with.  We find out later that he is a PI with a half brother on the police force.  Our guy takes a "domestic" case that quickly spirals from one suspect to another. 

Throughout the case he is stalked by the brothers and he is having difficulties getting a grip on the circumstances. 

The whole story delivered all the satisfaction of a novel and even left a plot points unresolved setting up a possible follow up.

Sudden Death by Jayne Barnard - 63/100 - Nope.  I think this one is my favourite.  It is pretty much a crime comedy of errors, written much like an Elmore Leonard novel.  There are lots of not very smart characters, all trying their hands a different crimes during a storm and the NHL playoffs.


The Mystery of the Missing Heir by Kevin P. Thorton - 64/100 - What fun, a Sherlock Holmes pastiche set in 19th century Ft. McMurray.  It also had a fun nod to the TV show Due South.

The real treat was in the merging of Holmes and northern Alberta.

This province has a lot of talent.


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