Reviews, interviews, and other views; plus giveaways, etcetera.

I've decided to do things a little differently, especially when it comes to reviewing books; I find I have a lot less time available to write detailed reviews, so once a month (at least) I'll write down my thoughts on a few titles, and I'll rate the books.

My rating system doesn't consist of giving between 1 and 5 stars, or thumbs up and thumbs down; instead, I decided I'll be awarding between 1 and 5 thumbprints:
1 = not good (but you won't see many of those because I hate wasting time on negativity)
2 = not bad (but one or two major flaws; I probably wouldn't recommend reading it)
3 = great book (some flaws but none major)
4 = very entertaining (missing a little something to make it 5 th)
5 = excellent (will become a classic on my list of all-time favourites)

In which I talk about books I’ve read but haven’t had the time to review in length.
THE EXPATS by Chris PAVONE (Crown). A novel…3 ½ thumbprints
--This novel has been receiving a lot of good press lately, especially with its shortlist nomination for the Edgar Award’s Best Novel. But it didn’t completely do it for me. Don’t get me wrong, it is a very clever plot filled with intriguing and well-developed, complex characters, and the writing is top notch. A couple and their kids move from the US to Luxembourg because the husband gets a lucrative job in computer security for major banks. His wife, Kate Moore, leaves her employment with the government to become a housewife. They make friends with other expats but some of them don't seem to be who they claim they are. The problem for me is the very slow pace; it felt like chasing a snail in the dark --you know it's there somewhere but you need to be patient. The storyline expertly moves back and forth in time, revealing only parts of the main plot here and there, as if sweeping a flashlight in the dark (until you finally see the snail); it’s all fine, but slowing down the pace by following a character while she’s going through a normal day, with nothing important happening to improve the story, just makes me drowsy and I almost put the book aside at some point. But Pavone had already hooked me and I was curious enough to want to know how everything would get resolved. It is possible to keep the reader's interest in a slow-paced novel (as in Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl) and although this is far from being a page-turner, I’m still recommending it and giving it 3 1/2 thumbprints --but it could have been a 4 ½.

NANCY DREW and the CLUE CREW: #1 Small Volcanoes by Sarah Kinney and Stefan Petrucham, illustrated by Stan Goldberg (Papercutz). A new series of graphic novels for kids…3 thumbprints
--Age group 8 to 12, stories based on the Carolyn Keene (a pseudonym) classic Nancy Drew mystery novels. They have a Scooby-Doo visual quality to them, and at only $7,99 CAN/$6,99 US, they're well worth the prize. In this one, Nancy and her friends are trying to solve the mystery of the missing volcanoes; one day after everyone handed out their science project in class, the volcanoes are nowhere to be found. When they are suspected of the deed, Nancy and the Clue Crew decide to get on the case to find out who's really guilty.
You can also find an already popular series of Nancy Drew graphic novels for an older age group (12 to 16) with 19 issues available (and probably more on the way) plus two out-of-series issues Nancy Drew, Vampire Slayer. Papercutz is the name behind other popular graphic novel series, like Garfield, Geronimo Stilton, and Thea Stilton. For more about the quality books of Papercutz, visit the website.

KISS AND TELL by T. J. COOKE (self-published eBook) a novel…3 thumbprints
--An intriguing plot that spends just a little too much time describing the background story to explain the present situation involving the apparent kidnapping of a young girl. The background story is interesting but I kept wanting to go back to the present time to learn the fate of that little girl. The main character, Jill Shadow, the child's mother, was interesting enough to hold my attention; her background and overall story, although a bit difficult to believe at first, were very well described. It makes her a believable and complex character with a shady past that she wants to hide from almost everyone, especially those at the law firm where she works. Cooke keeps the tension building at a good pace and you'll keep guessing, as I did, until the very end.
THE YELLOW BIRDS by Kevin POWERS (Little, Brown) a novel…4 ½ thumbprints
--Not crime fiction but amazingly good; an emotionally-charged look at the reality of soldiers’ lives during the Iraq war, its psychological effects on the field and the aftermath back on home soil. The narrator, Private John Bartle, recounts his experiences from his time training at Fort Dix (New Jersey) to fighting at Al Tafar (Nineveh Province) and then back in Virginia. Simply great writing and storytelling. The Yellow Birds was shortlisted for the National Book Award and totally deserving of it; the winner (Louise Erdrich’s The Round House) must be really great. The Yellow Birds is up there with Karl Marlentes’ Matterhorn (2010) and Pat Barker’s Regeneration Trilogy (1991).

In which I try to tell you about interesting stuff you might not have heard of yet.

(picture from Louise Penny's blog)
--The CBC-TV adaptation of Louise Penny’s first novel, Still Life, has started, last October, in the Eastern Townships (the region where most of her stories take place) with British actor Nathaniel Parker (The Inspector Lynley Mysteries, a long-running BBC series) will play the role of Inspector Armand Gamache, a very different character than Lynley. Penny’s second novel, Dead Cold, will also be adapted but she is waiting to see the results of Still Life before signing for other adaptations. (CBC-TV is the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation). For more about this, click here.

In which I list a few books I’m looking forward to read.

--EVIL IN ALL ITS DISGUISES by Hilary DAVIDSON (Forge) March 5th
--RATLINES by Stuart NEVILLE (Soho Press) available
--DEAD LETTERS: stories of murder and mayhem by Chris F. HOLM (self-pub) available as an eBook only
--GUN MACHINE by Warren ELLIS (Mulholland Books) available
--THREE GRAVES FULL by Jamie MASON (Gallery Books) available
--THE ANNALS OF UNSOLVED CRIME by Edward Jay EPSTEIN (Melville House) available, description of the book reads: the product of more than 40 years of investigative work: an insightful guide to some of the most controversial and mysterious crimes of the last 200 years. I think I’d like to read this.
-- HARVEST by Jim CRACE (Random House) available; not crime fiction but one of my favourite writers.


In which I giveaway a book (or two...and even three this month!). Just because.


--To celebrate the release of Lawrence BLOCK’s new novel, HIT ME, I have a copy of his September 2011 HARD CASE CRIME novel GETTING OFF (1st edition hardcover).

--To celebrate the TV adaptation of her Inspector Gamache series, I have a signed copy of Louise Penny’s 2012 novel, THE BEAUTIFUL MYSTERY  (in hardcover from Minotaur Books).

--To celebrate the release of Hilary Davidson's third Lily Moore novel, EVIL IN ALL ITS DISGUISES, I have a copy of her previous one, 2012's THE NEXT ONE TO FALL (in hardcover from Forge).
All you need to do is tell me which of these books you’d like to win (you can all three but you can't win more than one) and include your name and address, before Saturday, March 16th at 23 h 59 (11:59 pm) Montréal Time. I’ll announce the winners on Sunday, March 17th. You need to be 18 years or older, and a resident of Canada or the US.

No, it’s not a new pasta dish. It’s stuff that might not be about crime fiction but of some interest nonetheless (maybe just to me).
--The crime festival I’d like to go to: QUAIS DU POLAR in Lyon, France. This is it’s from March 29th to April 1st. Some of the names from the incredible list of authors attending this year: Donna Leon, Gillian Flynn, Jeff Abbott, Jean-Christophe Grangé, Jeffery Deaver, Harlan Coben, Henning Mankell, P.D. James, Peter May, Roger Smith.
--Barnes & Noble Nook revenues for the fiscal third quarter is down 26% compared to the same period last year. Here’s the full article on GalleyCat.
--The Criterion Collection website posted a very interesting and detailed analysis of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much in an essay by Farran Smith Nehme, here.
--Andrew Nette of the excellent blog Pulp Curry convinced me to sometimes ignore my reading list. Here’s his posting about it.

--And the last word comes from Steve Weddle at Needle Magazine:


Talk to you soon,
March 3rd, 2013



  1. Some cracking stuff there, Jacques. I totally agree with your take on the Kevin Powers book. Fascinating. And wasn't the language sumptuous.

  2. Hi there! Nice to keep up with all the goings on over here. Thanks for all the news! Anonymous-9 (Hard Bite)

  3. Thank you for your comments and for taking the time to pass by. The door is always open, spread the word, please.