Book Review

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Spring begins in March, technically; let’s hope the weather gets the message and warms up a little bit! Just in case you are trapped inside by an uncooperative Mother Nature, here are some book selections to keep you entertained.

Benjamin Black is the pseudonym of John Banville, an award-winning Irish author of literary fiction. As Benjamin Black, he writes a series of popular mysteries featuring the alcoholic pathologist Quirke and his sidekick, Detective Inspector Hackett. Set in 1950s Dublin, the Quirke novels have an Irish noir atmosphere that send the reader back in time. This month, Benjamin Black moves in a different direction, giving us The Black-Eyed Blonde, a noir novel set in southern California which features Raymond Chandler’s iconic private Philip Marlowe as its main character. If you enjoy hard-boiled crime novels, if the glamour and seediness of 1950s Los Angeles appeals to you, this is your book. Black does an excellent job of channeling Raymond Chandler and creating a believable dame in distress, the requisite bad guys who want to keep Marlowe from the truth and snappy dialogue that is almost cinematic. Philip Marlowe is a tough guy with a tender heart, a keenly developed sense of justice and a personal code of honor to which he adheres no matter the repercussions. If you like Lee Child’s Jack Reacher novels, give The Black-Eyed Blonde a try.

New Yorker readers will recognize the name Bob Mankoff; he is the cartoon editor for the magazine and was a cartoonist for the New Yorker for many years before that. His memoir, How About Never—Is Never Good For You?: My Life in Cartoons, is out this month. As well as covering Mankoff’s life—his childhood, parents, early drawing experiences and education—it covers the evolution of his cartooning style and describes his favorite cartoonists and how they influenced his successful career.  What makes a cartoon funny? How do editors decide which cartoons to include? What road does a cartoon travel to get into the New Yorker, and how can an unknown cartoonist become one of the chosen few? This is by no means a definitive biography about Bob Mankoff, but as a look behind the scenes of the New Yorker it is entertaining and educational.  The perfect read for an aspiring cartoonist or a rabid New Yorker fan!

Owen Laukkanen’s third Stevens and Windermere novel is out this month, and I must apologize for being late to the party on this author. Those of you who have read The Professionals and Criminal Enterprise, his two previous crime thrillers, are already familiar with his fast-paced, action-filled stories. After reading his newest, Kill Fee, I am heading back to catch up on his earlier books. In Kill Fee, Stevens, a special agent with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, and Windemere, an FBI agent working in Minneapolis, are enjoying an off-duty coffee on a park bench when they witness the professional killing of an elderly billionaire. Who did it? And why? Questions only multiply as they track down the sniper’s car, only to find it was apparently rented by the Department of Defense. When a man with a tangential connection to the billionaire is found murdered and a link to Killswitch, an assassination for hire company, is found, the two agents race against time to find the mastermind responsible. Kill Fee will keep you on the edge of your seat!    

Susan Taylor has been in the book business since 1982.
 

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