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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Once again Max Allan Collins has turned a fragment from the collection of unpublished Mickey Spillane notes and stories into a winner of a new Mike Hammer novel in “Kill Me, Darling.”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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Girl Gone by Gillian Flynn

A friend recommended that I read “Girl Gone,” and I’m glad I picked this book up.  It is the most perfectly constructed psychological thriller I have ever read.

The book is almost equally divided by chapters written in the voice of Nick Dunne alternating with chapters written in the voice of his wife, Amy.  They start out as a typical New York professional couple.  She writes quiz questions and he writes articles for a magazine.  Amy is a trust fund child who’s parents capitalized on her childhood by writing the “Amazing Amy” series of children’s books.  The happy marriage storyline ebbs into the unemployed Nick and Amy take over as they become increasingly disillusioned about their marriage.  Then Nick discovers that his mother is sick with cancer and his dad’s Alzheimer’s is getting beyond the ability of his sister, Margo’s ability to cope, so Nick convinces Amy to buy a bar in Nick’s hometown in Missouri and they move.  Amy hates this new life.  Long story short, Amy disappears and Nick is suspected of murdering his wife.  I won’t reveal more of the plot in order to let readers discover the ingenious plot for themselves.

The plot twists and turns as more clues of the alleged murder are revealed.  Nick fervently believes (or is he just trying to make the detectives think he believes??) that his wife is alive and orchestrated everything.  He uncovers a couple of witnesses who were on the receiving end of Amy’s vengeance in the past and that gives him the idea that maybe Amy is playing an elaborate and deadly joke on him.  Or, has Amy actually been kidnapped and held hostage against her will?  One twist after another will keep the reader turning those pages as fast as they can.

I can’t emphasize enough to my mystery reading friends, read “Girl Gone.”

Liz Nichols


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