Only two things are expected of book bloggers: that they read and then write about the books they read. I've been keeping up my end of the bargain on the first of those expectations but have been avoiding the latter the way a biker avoids a skunk. Time to make amends, but only up to a point. Here's a brief sample of what I've been enjoying recently. More titles to come, as and when I get my act together.
MIXED BLOOD by Roger Smith. This book was recommended to me by a favorite author, Dave Zeltserman. Sometimes, a person may recommend a book to me and I find myself going, ugh, why? Relax, that wasn't the case here. Dave hit this one right on the money. Smith's debut novel is a gripping narrative about an American bank robber running from his past only to find that his future in South Africa will feature a home invasion, and more danger and pitfalls than he could have dreamed when he went on the run. The finely drawn characters are so far from stereotypes, so fresh and original (even the ever-popular corrupt cop) that you can look for other authors to start reworking Smith's creations into something of their own. The ending is suitably noir-bleak, inevitable, and breathtaking. Here are the first two chapters. Take five minutes and at least read the first chapter. You won't want to stop.
Another recommendation came from Seth Marko over at The Book Catapult. EVERYTHING MATTERS! by Ron Currie, Jr., is not crime fiction - my usual fare - but is an engaging novel about a man who was born with the knowledge that the earth would be destroyed on his 36th birthday. Given that knowledge, would anything you do matter? What could have been a depressing tale instead is something altogether wonderful. Take a minute to read Marko's review here; he says it all much better than I could.
DARK END OF THE STREET by Ace Atkins. This is the first Atkins book I've read, and it won't be the last. I've already added one of his standalones to the TBR stack. Dark End of the Street is the third book in a series, but never mind. I didn't need the earlier books to appreciate this one. In this story, music prof and ex-NFLer Nick Travers agrees to help a close friend find her long-lost brother, Clyde James, a mentally disturbed soul singer. But there are a lot of very strange, very violent people taking an interest in Nick's search. The story references many great blues and soul songs, to my great delight. Case in point: the book's title is that of a classic soul song, co-written by Chips Moman and the immortal Dan Penn. The song has been recorded by many artists, most notably the late James Carr. And the troubled character of Clyde James bears more than a passing resemblance to James Carr. Atkins also paints a clear portrait of what the gambling industry has done to northwestern Mississippi.