Friday, August 12, 2016

Killed At The Whim of A Hat

Jimm Juree #1: “Killed At The Whim of A Hat” by Colin Cotterill. Jimm Juree is an out of work reporter who has just moved with her family to the village of Maprao, on the coast of southern Thailand. There is a lot happening in this 374-page murder mystery, including skeletons discovered in a VW van buried on a farmer’s property, plus the murder of an abbot at the temple. Jimm’s mother’s dog has been poisoned, and renters have stolen everything out the room they were staying in. Wanting her name back in press, Jimm investigates the mysteries, while trying to stop her mother, Mair, from killing the person that killed her dog. In the first half of the book we not only learn about the two big mysteries, but we get to meet Jimm’s family and the town folks, as well as the local police. Although we don’t see a lot of action, this is more literary than noir, the writing is entertaining, and the characters are fun. Each chapter begins with a quote from President George W. Bush, taken from one of his speeches. Jimm’s dissertation at university was to select a famous speaker, and she was stuck with America’s ex-president (I loved the quotes). The murder of the abbot will take many turns, before the surprising case comes to a close. However, the mystery of the submerged VW van with two skeletons doesn’t truly end till the final pages and it, too, has a few surprises. A fun story, and highly recommended.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Paperback Parade #94

PAPERBACK PARADE #94, August 2016. $15.00 (U.S.A.), from Gary Lovisi, Gryphon Books, P.O. Box280209, Brooklyn, New York, 11228-0209. This 100-page issue contains articles by Gary Lovisi, Bill Crider, Richard A. Lupoff, Richard Greene, Tom Johnson, Richard L. Kellogg, Graham Andrews, and Philip Harbottle. With articles on King Kong, Milton K. Osaki, Matchless Paperbacks, Earl Norman Spy Series, Philip Wylie, PEC Sleaze Spy Series, Isaac Asimov, and much more. It is also filled with paperback covers in color. The is the issue that contains Tom Johnson’s 11 page coverage of the Earl Norman’s Burns Bannion paperback series.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Jade Lady Burning

Sueno & Bascom #1: “Jade Lady Burning” by Martin Limon. Army CID agents, Sgt. George Sueno and Sgt. Ernie Bascom work out of 8th Army Headquarters in Seoul, South Korea. When a young prostitute is found murdered, her body sexually brutalized, and the room set fire, the Korean National Police want an American GI blamed, though they seem to know who the killer really is. The American system wants to point to a young soldier, also. But CID agent Sgt. Sueno doesn’t like the smell, and thinks an American soldier is being set up to take the fall. Before the case is over, the investigation goes to the top command, and girls are killed, and Sueno and Bascom find themselves at the wrong end of the stick.
         In the end, Sueno and Bascom are split up, with Sueno shipped to the DMZ, and we’re told they never work together again. This should have been a stand-alone novel. Yet the book must have caught on, and the publisher asked for more, for they’re back in the next book, and the next, and next and next. I did thoroughly enjoy the story, though it was slow and could have used more action.

         Sgt. Sueno narrates the story and Bascom appears to merely be a sounding board. Or maybe he’s there just as a drinking partner. The best part about this book is its setting, South Korea. It’s a different world than anywhere else. It’s where crime starts from the top and works its way down, and when it’s too high, there is no way to police it. I was with the MPs in Korea, and knew many CID agents in Korea and elsewhere. Sueno and Bascom didn’t sound like any I had ever ran into. The CID I knew were always a tad above the rest of us GIs, and would not act in the manner these characters did. But this is fiction, and the characters are part fact and part false. They start sounding more like hard drinking private detectives after a while, not straight shooters trained by military intelligence. But I definitely plan on reading more stories featuring Sueno & Bascom.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

The Tattoo Murder Case

“The Tattoo Murder Case” by Akimitsu Takagi. This was originally published in Japan in 1948, but translated to English by Deborah Boliver Boehm in 1998 and reprinted. It’s the summer of 1947 and Japan is recovering from WWII. American Occupation is evident, as the people struggle to rebuild their lives after the horrible war. Black market and crime is rampant, and among the backstreets prostitution and illegal tattoo studios are rampant. Although outlawed, tattoos are a big business in Japan, and considered an art. Some people believe having their whole bodies tattooed actually heightens sexual desire. The Edo Tattoo Society even holds competitions for the best body tattoo.
            The story introduces the reader to Kenzo Metsushita, the younger brother of Detective Chief Inspector Deiyu Metsushita (also called Matsu the Demon and the Locomotive for his bull-dog persistence into criminal investigations). Kenzo, now back from the war, has returned to university where he picks up his medical studies in hopes of becoming a police forensic investigator. He wants to study the art of tattoos, thinking it will help him in future investigations, as the criminal element use tattoos as a mark of identity. Attending the Edo Tattoo Society contest he meets a beautiful woman named Kinue Nomura, the mistress of black market and businessman, Takezo Mogami, the older brother of an old friend Kenzo knew in college before the war. The younger brother, Hisashi Mogami, introduces Kenzo to Kinue and a brief affair begins. Very brief, because Kinua Nomura is found murdered in her home a few days later in a locked room. Actually, just her head and lower extremities of arms and legs are found. Her torso containing the full tattoo is missing.
            Kenzo wants to help his brother, Matsu the Demon work the murder case, but he becomes a mere foil in the investigation, as if someone is using him to further confuse the police investigation. There are four main suspects: Takezo Mogami, Hisashi Mogami, Sensei Heighiro Hayakawa (a professor of Tattoos for the university), plus a minor gangster who was once the lover of Kinue. In truth, the police have not even solved the locked room mystery after several months. Kamizu Kamizu, a late-comer to the case, was known as the Boy Genius before the war, and even now is a medical and mathematics genius, among other subjects. Plus, he speaks about seven languages. Now back from the war also, Kenzo explains the case to him and the boy genius says he can solve the murder within a week.
            Kyosuka Kamizu was the hero of the story, even though he doesn’t appear until half way into the book. He takes over the case and quickly brings it to a close, explaining everything to the stumped investigators, and was really a Japanese version of Sherlock Holmes. The story was well written, although the phraseology was more modern than 1947, which I’m sure was the work of the translator. We do get a feel for the period, but it’s light. Overall, this was a fun story, and we learn a lot about Japanese body art.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Vulture Peak

Sonchai Jipecheap #5: “Vulture Peak” by John Burdett. Bangkok’s GMP GNP is prostitution and drugs, but occasionally more vulgar crimes surface. But this is where the police are as corrupt as the worse criminals, and this includes District 8, ruled over by Colonel Vikorn, head of the police. His only honest cop, Sonchai Jipecheap, is delegated the crimes that must be solved to keep the colonel in good with American FBI and CIA. In fact, the Americans want to elevate Colonel Vikorn to Mayor of Bangkok, on his way up to governor. But his nemesis, General Zinna is running against him, so Vikorn’s top detective must solve a big case this time. It must be a case big enough to put Vikorn at the very top of the political field. The colonel points him towards the gruesome trade in body parts, run by Lily and Poly Yip, twin sisters from Hong Kong, who are operating across Asia. China is providing executed prisoners, while the twins gather customers around the world. Already billionaires, they have much power in Asia, and are under the protection of General Zinna. It’s up to Sonchai and Detective Chan from Hong Kong to bust the case, but Chan is a little bit crazy, and the beautiful prostitute named, Om, sidetracks Sonchai. The case seems to lead back to a mountain mansion in Phuket, called Vulture Peak. A fun series, well written, with a descriptive look at Bangkok.