Friday Foster (1975; USA; Colour; 90m) ∗∗½ d. Arthur Marks; w. Orville H. Hampton, Arthur Marks; ph. Harry J. May; m. Luchi De Jesus. Cast: Pam Grier, Yaphet Kotto, Godfrey Cambridge, Thalmus Rasulala, Eartha Kitt, Ted Lange, Tierre Turner, Jim Backus, Scatman Crothers, Paul Benjamin, Jason Bernard, Ed Cambridge, Julius Harris, Rosalind Miles, Carl Weathers. Friday Foster (Grier), an ex-model magazine photographer, goes to Los Angeles International airport to photograph the arrival of Blake Tarr (Rasulala), the richest black man in America. Three men attempt to assassinate Tarr. Foster photographs the melee and is plunged into a web of conspiracy involving the murder of her childhood friend, a US senator, and a shadowy plan called “Black Widow”. Tonally inconsistent and lightweight late entry into the Blaxploitation genre benefits from a strong cast including Grier and Kotto, but suffers from weak script and lacklustre direction. Based on the comic strip by Jim Lawrence. 
THE DARKEST GOODBYE by ALEX GRAY (2016, Sphere, 456pp) ∗∗∗½
Blurb: When newly fledged DC Kirsty Wilson is called to the house of an elderly woman, what appears to be a death by natural causes soon takes a sinister turn when it is revealed that the woman had a mysterious visitor in the early hours of that morning – someone dressed as a community nurse, but with much darker intentions. As Kirsty is called to another murder – this one the brutal execution of a well-known Glasgow drug dealer – she finds herself pulled into a complex case involving vulnerable people and a sinister service that offers them and their loved ones a ‘release’. Detective Superintendent William Lorimer is called in to help DC Wilson investigate and as the body count rises, the pair soon realise that this case is about to get more personal than either of them could have imagined . . .
This is the thirteenth book in Alex Gray’s William Lorimer series and is the first that I have read. Although Lorimer is the series’ primary character, this book focuses on newly appointed Detective Constable Kirsty Wilson. Her father is a well-respected DI who is about to retire and Kirsty is initially paired with troubled DS Len Murdoch – who has a gambling addiction and a wife suffering from MS – as her mentor. The mystery surrounds a secret organisation provided assisted death to terminally ill patients for money. The mystery is well-plotted, but there is little depth to the characters and the lead, Lorimer, is somewhat lacking in charisma. The story, whilst familiar procedural fare, is never dull and is crafted by a writer comfortable in her game.
The Italian translation is by Ettore Capriolo and the book (ISBN: 978-88-6998-052-7) is now on sale at a price of € 15.00.
SUR’s website also contains a link to a pdf extract from the novel.
Whiteout (2009; Canada/USA/France; Technicolor; 101m) ∗∗∗ d. Dominic Sena; w. Jon Hoeber, Erich Hoeber, Chad Hayes, Carey Hayes; ph. Christopher Soos; m. John Frizzell. Cast: Kate Beckinsale, Gabriel Macht, Tom Skerritt, Columbus Short, Alex O’Loughlin, Shawn Doyle, Joel S. Keller, Jesse Todd, Arthur Holden, Erin Hickock, Bashar Rahal, Julian Cain, Dennis Keiffer, Andrei Runtso, Roman Varshavsky. A U.S. Marshal tracks a killer in Antarctica, as the sun is about to set for six months. Antarctic setting adds to the atmosphere of this otherwise familiar genre thriller. Beckinsale is good in the lead, although she remains perfectly presented despite the hostile environment. Generates some tension and thrills despite lack of originality. Based on the graphic novel by Greg Rucka and Steve Lieber. 
THE HIGHWAYMAN by CRAIG JOHNSON (2016, Viking, 194pp) ∗∗∗½
Blurb: When Wyoming highway patrolman Rosey Wayman is transferred to the beautiful and imposing landscape of the Wind River Canyon, an area the troopers refer to as no-man’s-land because of the lack of radio communication, she starts receiving officer needs assistance calls. The problem? They’re coming from Bobby Womack, a legendary Arapaho patrolman who met a fiery death in the canyon almost a half-century ago. With an investigation that spans this world and the next, Sheriff Walt Longmire and Henry Standing Bear take on a case that pits them against a legend: The Highwayman.
Craig Johnson continues his output of Sheriff Walt Longmire mysteries – which has now stretched to twelve novels, two novellas and a collection of short stories – with this enjoyable novella. The “ghost story” elements give the story an sense of fun and mystery – although the mystery itself is straight-forward and doesn’t really produce any surprises and the scenario is never comedic. This is more about Johnson having fun with his characters with Walt supported by his long-time friend Henry Standing Bear. Their interplay is as witty and affectionate as ever. Whilst the book is never much more than a mild diversion until the next novel, An Obvious Fact published later the same year, it will satisfy fans of Johnson’s writing and characters.
Friends of Eddie Coyle, The (1973; USA; Colour; 102m) ∗∗∗½ d. Peter Yates; w. Paul Monash; ph. Victor J. Kemper; m. David Grusin. Cast: Robert Mitchum, Peter Boyle, Richard Jordan, Steven Keats, Alex Rocco, Mitchell Ryan, Joe Santos. After his last crime has him looking at a long prison sentence for repeat offenses, a low-level Boston gangster decides to snitch on his friends to avoid jail time. Mitchum is impressive in bleak tale, which features authentic staging of armed robberies and gun-running deals. Relentlessly downbeat and typical of its time. Based on George V. Higgins’s acclaimed novel. 
RATHER BE THE DEVIL by IAN RANKIN (2016, Orion, 310pp) ∗∗∗½
Blurb: For John Rebus, forty years may have passed, but the death of beautiful, promiscuous Maria Turquand still preys on his mind. Murdered in her hotel room on the night a famous rock star and his entourage were staying there, Maria’s killer has never been found. Meanwhile, the dark heart of Edinburgh remains up for grabs. A young pretender, Darryl Christie, may have staked his claim, but a vicious attack leaves him weakened and vulnerable, and an inquiry into a major money laundering scheme threatens his position. Has old-time crime boss Big Ger Cafferty really given up the ghost, or is he biding his time until Edinburgh is once more ripe for the picking?
Rankin’s twenty-first Rebus novel is an entertaining read and one that shows Rankin is extremely comfortable with his characters. In this one the plot is fairly ordinary based around two cases that weave into one. Rebus is now long-retired, but investigating an old case and still sparring with gangster Big Ger Cafferty. The interplay between the main characters is what works best in this book. Rankin otherwise plays to more conventional crime fiction tropes and as such the book feels closer to his earlier work than his later, more complex novels. Siobhan Clarke and Malcolm Fox are on-board as is Cafferty’s challenger for the control of the Edinburgh crime scene – Darryl Christie. The book continues the gangland arc from Even Dogs in the Wild and sees it through to a satisfying conclusion, that sets up the series for the future. Rebus himself, is coming to terms with growing old and bronchial problems. He has, however, lost none of his acerbic wit and doggedness. Seeing him work with, but outside of, the police has given the series a new lease of life.
JACK TAYLOR: SERIES 3 (2016, Ireland/Germany, Colour, 3 x 90m)
Iain Glen as Jack Taylor
Siobhán O’Kelly as Garda Kate Noonan
Paraic Breathnach as Father Malachy
Jack Monaghan as Darragh Noonan
Based on Ken Bruen’s crime novels. Jack Taylor is an Irish ex-cop, on the wrong side of forty who has become a finder with a sharp tongue and a soft heart. He takes on the cases the police won’t touch, no matter how hopeless. He’s pig stubborn. He defends the lost and the broken. He’s good because he looks where no one else looks, talks to the people no one else talks to. Moreover, he knows every back street in his hometown, Galway, knows the seed and breed of everyone in it. But small towns have big memories, and like Jack they are quick to anger and slow to forgive.
Iain Glen returns for a third series of Jack Taylor and his character has been mellowed. Gone too are Nora-Jane Noone as Kate Noonan (replaced here by Siobhan O’Kelly) and Killian Scott whose character is replaced by Jack Monaghan as Noonan’s nephew. The episodes are adapted from Ken Bruen’s novels with varying degrees of success, but this still remains an entertaining series with Glen compelling in the lead.
Cross (17 November 2016) ∗∗∗ d. Stuart Orme; w. Marteinn Thorisson. Guest Cast: Erin Gilgen, Alan McKee, Ross McKinney, Shane Robinson, Lalor Roddy, Killian Scott, Elva Trill, Sinead Watters. Misplaced passions come to the fore when a young man is found crucified. Joined by eager new assistant Darragh, Jack learns that the victim’s brother had been implicated in the death of a woman, and now her family are out for revenge on a biblical scale. Effective episode is more conventional in its thrills and mystery, But Glen is excellent as a slightly mellowed Jack Taylor. Traces of humour as well as the macabre. 
Headstone (24 November 2016) ∗∗∗½ d. Stuart Orme; w. Marteinn Thorisson. Guest Cast: Christopher Fulford, Ian Beattie, Fiona Bell, Diarmuid Noyse, Roisin O’Neill, Peter Campion, Simon Boyle. Jack is asked to locate a former nemesis of his who has been kidnapped and is being held for ransom, while also supporting Kate as she prepares for a major operation of her own. Grim and violent, but laced with dark humour. The plot is standard fare. 
Purgatory (1 December 2016) ∗∗∗ d. Charlie McCarthy; w. Marteinn Thorisson. Guest Cast: Laura Aikman, Rory Fleck Byrne, Christopher Fulford, Eva-Jane Gaffney, Sarah Jane Seymour. While still dealing with the fallout from the previous episode’s events, both Jack and Kate become involved with investigating the murder of a young intern who worked at the Irish branch of a large American game software company. This is probably the least effective of the three episodes in this series – the only one in all the series not directed by Stuart Orme. There is resolution to a number of arc threads that have been spread across these three movies. 
McCloud (TV) (1970; USA; Technicolor; 98m) ∗∗∗ d. Richard A. Colla; w. Stanford Whitmore, Richard Levinson, William Link; ph. Ben Colman; m. David Shire. Cast: Dennis Weaver, Craig Stevens, Peter Mark Richman, Diana Muldaur, Terry Carter, Mario Alcalde, Raul Julia, Shelly Novack, Julie Newmar, Michael Bow, Nefti Millet, Kathy Stritch, Albert Popwell. A marshal from New Mexico travels to New York City to deliver a witness who is supposed to testify in a murder trial. The rather mundane plot is secondary to character introduction and the liberal use of New York locations. Weaver has plenty of charisma in the lead and the street shots are authentically captured. Pilot for the McCloud TV series (1970-77), which became part of NBC’s Mystery Movie cycle. Inspired by COOGAN’S BLUFF (1968). Syndicated sub-titles: PORTRAIT OF A DEAD GIRL and WHO KILLED MISS U.S.A.? A reunion movie THE RETURN OF SAM MCCLOUD (1989) also followed. [PG]
Nice Guys, The (2015; USA; Colour; 116m) ∗∗∗ d. Shane Black; w. Shane Black, Anthony Bagarozzi; ph. Philippe Rousselot; m. David Buckley, John Ottman. Cast: Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling, Matt Bomer, Kim Basinger, Margaret Qualley, Keith David, Beau Knapp, Yaya DaCosta, Ty Simpkins, Jack Kilmer, Hannibal Buress. In Los Angeles in 1977, a private investigator and an unlicensed enforcer uncover a conspiracy when they team up to trace a missing young woman. Gosling and Crowe have a great chemistry and do their best with a lame script that struggles to find the balance between thrills and comedy. The result is a diverting entertainment that leaves you with the feeling it could have been so much better.