& The Rest

Reading and Diversity

Reading & Diversity

Reading books about criminals, thugs, and lowlifes is an escape for me. Hell, reading books about people like me acting in complete desperation is even an escape, an odd one I will grant you that. I also enjoy reading books by authors that are different than me, an old white straight guy.  I try to search out for these authors, but given my choice of genre is dark crime fiction, the pickings are slim in the small press world.

So I branch out in the mystery genre to the more popular stuff like serial killer thrillers, cozies, psychological thrillers, police procedurals, and PI book. And when I read these, I am usually disappointed. Hell, I’m even more disappointed when I read these books published by the Big 5, look at my reviews of Meg GardinerCJ Tudor, and Steve Hamilton as proof. The way many of these books resuscitate old worn tropes I find tiring and lazy, but many readers do find pleasure in them.

Here’s my problem. If I don’t try are read books outside of what I like, the authors I review will skew 85% male and 15% female, 85% white and 15% writers of color. I know this because those were my stats from last year. Not only is that an issue for readers of this blog, but most importantly this is an issue for me as a reader. Reading over a large pool of writers gives me an opportunity to hear voices that I would not normally be acquainted with and I like that.

So I continue my search of books in the expanded mystery genre that includes many writers who I am unfamiliar with in hopes of finding something good, something I enjoy. And, boy, do I like finding them.

For example, the only reason I picked up Marietta Miles’s “Route 12” was that it was written by a woman and I’m more than happy I read it. “Route 12” has stuck with me these past two years like no other book and it is one I believe that should be in the canon of contemporary crime fiction. Seriously, it’s that good.

I’ve also been lucky a few more times in my search of the mystery genre with JJ Hensley’s “Bolt Action Remedy”,  Leye Adenle’s “Easy Motion Tourist”, Stephen Mack Jones’s “August Snow”, and Lilja Sigurdardóttir’s “Snare”.  Even with all the crap I have to sort through, these are the books and writers that make it worthwhile to read outside my comfort zone.

This post started as a review of Carol Wyer’s “The Birthday” (Bloodhound Books), but it changed drastically as I wrote. “The Birthday” wasn’t for me at all, but if you dig the typical police procedural that is out there today, this may be for you. Buy: Amazon

Thanks for stopping by Unlawful Acts and reading this article.

Reading & Diversity

Into the Black Nowhere by Meg Gardiner

into-the-black-nowhere-by-meg-gardiner.jpgI’m not seeing it. I try and try – I’ve read both of Meg Gardiner’s UNSUB series – and I’m not seeing what the attraction is. And a shit load of people supposedly like these books. I say “supposedly” because, as I said, I’m not seeing it.

Gardiner begins Into the Black Nowhere with the hero of UNUB, Caitlin Hendrix, joining the famed Behavioral Analysis Unit of the FBI. As Gardiner over explains:

The Behavioral Analysis Unit was a department of the FBI’s National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime—a branch of the Critical Incident Response Group. Its mission involved investigating unusual or repetitive violent crimes. Critical incident response meant that when a hot case came to the BAU, it acted, and fast, because time was limited and people were in danger.

Seriously? Does anyone crime fiction reader of any age no know what the BAU is? It may seem that I’m nitpicking here, but how about this, “UNSUB was the FBI’s term for the unknown subject of a criminal investigation.” It goes on and on like that.

Forgetting about Hendrix’s accelerated training to go from a Portland-area sheriff’s office to the famed BAU, Gardiner’s dependence on the reader’s suspension of disbelief only gets worse. From a town of over 4,000 where we are told 70% of the kids go to the public high school which three of the victims graduated from none knew each other. All five victims were between the ages of 19 and 26. The math doesn’t work out. I’m befuddled. Where as Don Winslow blurbed it to be an “unrelenting page turner”, I was relenting with every page I turned.

Of course Hendrix is the only one on the team, a team of experience FBI agents, that has the tropey gut feel and identifies the serial killer before anyone else. The BAU comes up with a list of seventy-five suspects and the agent in charge lets Hendrix spend her valuable time targeting her suspect. Oh, she turns out the be correct of course, but really? A rookie FBI agent knows more than everyone else. This sort of bullshit continues page after page.

Gardiner is probably a wonderful person which is the only reason why I can imagine the likes of Winslow, Steve Hamilton, and Lisa Scottoline love this book. Stephen King blurbs, “Simply put, the finest crime-suspense series I’ve come across in the last twenty years.” Really, Stephen, really? What about Stieg Larson or Michael Connelly or Ian Rankin or Tana French or … fuck it who cares. The UNSUB series is not that good and King should be ashamed.

I pushed my way through Into the Black Unknown so you won’t have to. You should stay away from this one and I’ll be staying away from the third installment as it is going to happen just like we’ll all wake up tomorrow to another fucked up tweet from Donald Trump. My disdain for this book is so great, I really have to question your tastes if you loved it. Severe, I know, but as I said, I’m not seeing it.

Amazon: AU CA UK US


UNSUB by Meg Gardiner

UNSUB focuses on the return of a serial killer called The Prophet who was active in the 90s. The book opens with a young girl named Caitlin being woke up by the yelling of her father on the phone. Her father, a detective, was telling someone the next time the killer would strike. Caitlin sneaks into their garage which for some reason her father uses as a war room of sorts, the walls covered with photos of victims, “Faces. Flesh. Open eyes. Jagged slices. Blood. Her head began to pound.” Her father notices her in the garage and runs in saying, “Don’t look, Caitlin. Close your eyes.”

This was the first of my many problems in the believability of UNSUB, who puts pictures of dead men and women up on the walls of their house? (I mean other than the killer.) If it was just that I’d probably wouldn’t even mention it, but it wasn’t. The next chapter, Catilin is now part of the sheriff’s department and they are raiding a drug house at night. They manage to capture all the bad guys and the house is declared all clear. Except it isn’t. A noise is heard on the kitchen ceiling and the officer in charge says, “Upstairs. Two bedrooms. Go.” Wait. What? The house was cleared without checking the upstairs? It’s like we’re not even trying at this point.

It should be obvious that my tastes are not in line with regular America and I’m okay with that. I just read that UNSUB will be a TV series on CBS. That seems about right.

Amazon: CA UK US