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Kill Me, Darling by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins

Once again Max Allan Collins has turned a fragment from the collection of unpublished Mickey Spillane notes and stories into a winner of a new Mike Hammer novel in “Kill Me, Darling.”  The latest in the series that was entrusted to Collins by Spillane shortly before he died is, in my opinion, the best of the Hammer series.

The settings are very well-researched 1950’s New York and Miami while the great Mafia families held sway over most of the major cities in the U.S.  The Mike Hammer we meet in this installment is older, wiser, and trying to recover from an extended bender.  The four month drinking stint comes about when Mike’s girl friend and assistant PI, Velda, walks out on him.

What motivates Mike out of his drunken stupor is the murder of a cop Velda used to work with on the NYPD. Mike wants to find out who killed the cop and also finally recognizes that Velda’s disappearance may be related to a case the cop was working to bust a gangland drug lord named Nolly Quinn.  When Mike finds out that Velda has become Quinn’s girl friend and companion in Miami Beach he sets out for the southland.  Mike skillfully plays along with the local cops, local press and a bevvy of some of the top mafiosi in the country in order to outwit and out-gun Quinn and save Velda.

The plot and the action are totally absorbing.  The new Mike Hammer is a more likeable guy having dried out and gained a little bit of savvy on how to win friends and influence people.  Despite Hammer’s improved awareness of how to more effectively get things done with and through others he still stays true to the rough, tough and deadly Mike Hammer image.  This is a Mike Hammer who can be equally appreciated by the usually male fan of hard-bitten graphic detective novel  and women who enjoy a thriller built around an interesting  storyline, atmospheric location with a more sophisticated and people-aware protagonist.  Now I can say I actually like this Mike Hammer and don’t just appreciate him academically as a classic icon.

Nice character development, Max!  Keep ’em coming.  “Kill Me, Darling” is highly recommended.

Liz Nichols

(Reviewed from a supplied copy.)

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The Job by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg

The Job” is the latest in the collaboration between Evanovich and Goldberg in their “A Fox and O’Hare Novel” series.  In this series FBI agent, Kate O’Hare is tasked with managing a famous art thief, turned FBI informant, Nick Fox.  They get into some pretty hair-raising situations as they skirt along the edges of what is legal– and go over the edge quite often– in order to catch murderers and drug lords.  The action is non-stop and gives this series the kinds of qualities that one finds in action adventure movies.  That stands to reason, since Goldberg is a screenwriter and TV producer and at least one of Evanovich’s books has been turned into a movie.

In “The Job” Nick and Kate recruit some of the criminals Nick has worked with before, along with Kate’s own father, to pull a scam on a major Latin American drug lord living under an assumed identity in Marbella, Spain.  The story begins with someone apparently assuming Nick’s identity and committing art robberies in several cities around the world in order to attract Nick’s attention.  That individual is a former associate of Nick’s who just wants him to help her by taking revenge on a drug lord who killed her brother after he performed plastic surgery on the criminal.  Nick and his crew pull off a scam to make the drug lord believe he is financing the salvage of millions of dollars in gold and jewels from a shipwreck off the coast of Spain.  It’s an ingenious ruse, if one that is a little hard to believe could be pulled off so quickly or inexpensively.

Like most of Evanovich’s works “The Job” is a fast read and an entertaining plot.

Liz Nichols

 

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Body Work by Sara Paretsky

In “Body Work” private detective, V.I. Warshawski of Chicago gets involved with a performance artist who has an engagement at a local bar to allow people who attend the performance to paint on her nude body various drawings and messages. The performance and the resulting body paintings are displayed by video on the Body Artist’s website.  Warshawski originally got involved because her young cousin, Clare, got a job taking drink orders at the bar, Club Gorge, and she is concerned for her cousin’s safety.

It turns out that an Iraq War vet who comes in to see the show gets irate one night during the performance when someone paints the logo of a body armor company that provided the protective wear for the military and confronts the Body Artist and her helper, Nadia, publically.  There are also some thugs who hang out at the performances making lewd comments and writing strange messages on the Body Artist for the world to see through the website.

One night after a particularly controversial performance Nadia is attacked and killed in the alley of the bar.  The Iraqi War GI is arrested on suspicion of her murder and is taken to a hospital with a severe head injury.  Warshawski is hired by the GI’s family to prove that he did not touch Nadia.  In the long (almost 450 pages) of unraveling the case, V.I. endangers herself, Nadia’s family, Chad the GI and many others as they find out things about the body armor company and about a drug lord who appears to be operating some kind activity at Club Gorge.  The owner of the club, at least, is deeply in debt to one of the leading drug lords in Chicago.

Body Work” had a particularly complex plot and, through most of the book, is absorbing. It is easy for the reader to gain empathy for the characters who are being terrorized and hurt.  At times it seems as if V.I. is never going to be able to solve the case, and the ending, probably with some realism, does not provide a fairy tale happy ending for everyone and justice is not entirely done.  There is a sufficient stand-off to get everyone back into their normal lives and to clear the GI from suspicion.  V.I. gets paid in the end, and her agency can survive another day.

Recommended, especially for lovers of the V.I. Warshawski series by Paretsky.

Liz Nichols

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