Protagonist: Jim Phalen, Liquor store worker
Series?: Standalone (written in 1959)
Setting: Smalltown America
Jim Phalen has a dead end job,lives in a dead end rooming house,and has a dead end life. And he's in lust with Felice, the dangerous young wife of the local bank manager. She's one of the most dangerous femmes fatales I've ever read. This is a nasty nasty book, filled with nasty nasty people. Here's one of my favurite lines:
'She was beating his head in with a hammer. It was a ball and peen. She was using the peen.'
I loved it, but after reading it I wanted to have a bath and hug a kitten.

SALTY - Mark Haskell Smith
Protagonist: Turk Henry, heavy metal guitarist and recovering sex addict
Series?: Standalone
Setting: Thailand
Turk and his ex-model wife, Sheila are in Thailand. It's probably not the best place in the world for a recovering sex addict to go on holiday, but Turk is coping...just. And it gives him something else to think about when his wife is kidnapped while on an elephant trek. Turk thinks it's a straightforward case of kidnapping for ransom, but the rather annoying bloke from the US Embassy seems to think that terrorists are now kidnapping people off the back of elephants. Mark Haskell Smith is agreat at creating larger than life characters and an equally outrageous plot while making you care about the characters and delight in the twists and turns of the plot. Funny, lewd, rambunctious and...salty.

Protagonist: Baby Shark
Series?: First
Setting: Texas, 1950s
Kristin Van Dijk is a teenager with an unusual life, travelling around with her father, a pool hustler. One night, they are in the wrong place at the wrong time and a gang of bikers rape Kristin, kill her father and the son of his friend, Henry Chin. Henry takes Kristin home to his ranch to recover, to heal, and to pass the time while a private detective look for the men who killed her father and destroyed her life. While the physical scars fade, the mental scars remain. Kristin learns self defence, how to shoot, and how to play pool. And then the PI reports that he has located one of the bikers. BABY SHARK is a sometimes harsh and violent story of revenge and retribution, but it's never without hope.

Protagonist: Lieutenant Jonathan Stride
Series?: 1st
Setting: Duluth, Minnesota (with a couple of trips to Las Vegas)
When a teenage girl disappears, Stride is doubly keen to solve the case because she's the second teenage girl to disappear in the space of a year. Part police procedural, part legal thriller, I'm not really sure what I felt about this one. It was intriguing, kept me reading, and I liked the passage of time during the case. Characters...hmmm...I couldn't warm to many of them. Stride was an interesting character but I didn't really feel I got to know him, although I felt I got to know his partner. I thought the portrayal of the missing teenager was excellent and felt we got to see the impact she had on people. At times there felt to be just a wee bit too much stuffed into this book. My major problem with it though was the ending, which I really didn't like. However, it was a really entertaining read, a quick one despite its length, and I enjoyed the writing. I shall definitely read the second in the series.

Protagonist: Barney Mandell
Series?: Standalone (written in 1951)
Setting: Chicago
Barney Mandell is a simple guy with a rich wife, he's an ex boxer who's been away for a couple of years, and he's really looking forward to seeing his hot tomato of a wife again after two years in an Asylum for strangling a parrot. He's the only man in the city who's actually got a certificate saying he's sane. He's probably also the only guy in the city with a dead blonde in his bathroom. 144 pages of non stop pulpy action. A book full of beautiful dames, big palookas and honest joes. Fast paced, loads of plot and great characters. Pulp fiction at its best.

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