Book Review – THE DRY (2016) by Jane Harper

THE DRY by JANE HARPER (2016, Abacus, 404pp) ∗∗∗∗

The Dry (Paperback)Blurb: Who really killed the Hadler family? In the small town of Kiewarra, it hasn’t rained for two years. Swept up in the worst drought to ravage Australia in a century, the town crackles with seething malice and unvoiced grudges. Tensions in the community are at breaking point when three members of the Hadler family are suddenly brutally murdered. Everyone thinks Luke Hadler, who committed suicide after slaughtering his wife and six-year-old son, is guilty, but is he just an easy scapegoat? Policeman Aaron Falk returns to the town of his youth for the funeral of his childhood best friend, and is unwillingly drawn into the investigation. As questions mount and suspicion spreads through the town, Falk is forced to confront the community that rejected him twenty years earlier. Because Falk and Luke Hadler shared a secret, one which Luke’s death threatens to unearth. And as Falk probes deeper into the killings, secrets from his past and why he left home bubble to the surface as he questions the truth of his friend’s crime.

Jane Harper’s debut novel is a confident mystery thriller with an evocative closed community setting. The book links together two mysteries – one in the present, the other from twenty years earlier. Harper’s detective hero, Aaron Falk, is linked to the mystery from the past via his friend, Luke Hadler, who along with his family are the victims of the mystery of the present. Both are seeming suicides and may be linked. The book unravels these mysteries through clever use of flashback passages, frequently interspersed with the present day case. Chapters and scenes are edited so as to keep the reader turning the pages. The characters are vividly drawn and the reader is left guessing right up until the reveal. A strong debut for a proposed series.

Film Review – DEATH WISH (1974)

Image result for death wish 1974Death Wish (1974; USA; Technicolor; 93m) ∗∗½  d. Michael Winner; w. Wendell Mayes; ph. Arthur J. Ornitz; m. Herbert Hancock.  Cast: Charles Bronson, Vincent Gardenia, William Redfield, Hope Lange, Stuart Margolin, Stephen Keats, William Redfield, Jack Wallace, Jeff Goldblum. A New York City architect becomes a one-man vigilante squad after his wife is murdered by street punks in which he randomly goes out and kills would-be muggers on the mean streets after dark. Sensationalist crime thriller became influential because of its subject matter and its connection with the public due to the time at which it was filmed, rather than for the quality of the product. Gardenia’s performance adds a level of class to this crowd-pleaser, but Winner’s direction is inconsistent and lacks subtlety. Film debut of Goldblum. Based on the novel by Brian Garfield. Four sequels followed. Remade in 2017. [18]

Book Review – THE REDEEMERS (2015) by Ace Atkins

THE REDEEMERS by ACE ATKINS (2015, Corsair, 370pp) ∗∗∗∗

Blurb: He is only in his early thirties, but now Quinn Colson is jobless – voted out of office as sheriff of Tibbehah County, Mississippi, thanks to the machinations of county kingpin Johnny Stagg. He has offers, in bigger and better places, but before he goes, he’s got one more job to do – bring down Stagg’s criminal operations for good. At least that’s the plan. But in the middle of the long, hot summer, a trio of criminals stage a bold, wall-smashing break-in at the home of a local lumber mill owner, making off with a million dollars in cash from his safe, which is curious, because the mill owner is wealthy – but not that wealthy. None of this has anything to do with Colson, but during the investigation, two men are killed, one of them the new sheriff. His friend, acting sheriff Lillie Virgil, and a dangerous former flame, Anna Lee Stevens, both ask him to step in, and reluctantly he does, only to discover that that safe contained more than just money – it held secrets. Secrets that could either save Colson – or destroy him once and for all.

The fifth novel in Ace Atkins’ Quinn Colson series is the closest the author has come to emulating one of his writing heroes – Elmore Leonard. The story is populated with the type of characters Leonard employed in many of his crime novels set in the modern west. The plot itself is slight, being centred around a robbery, but the character interaction, double-crossing and the bigger picture of Colson’s mission to put Johnny Stagg behind bars keep the pages turning. Atkins has a great handle on his characters and embellishes them through their salty dialogue. Whilst the plot itself reaches a conclusion, some of the domestic threads that have ran through the series are left loose. there is also a signal in the series taking a change of direction in its final pages. Another strong addition to an excellent series.

Film Review – THE HOLLOW POINT (2016)

Image result for the hollow point 2016Hollow Point, The (2016; USA; Colour; 97m) ∗∗  d. Gonzalo López-Gallego; w. Nils Lyew; ph. José David Montero; m. Juan Navazo.  Cast: Patrick Wilson, Ian McShane, James Belushi, Lynn Collins, John Leguizamo, Nathan Stevens, Michael Flynn, Karli Hall, Heather Beers. A new sheriff of a small town along the U.S. & Mexico border investigates a drug cartel deal that went horribly wrong. Dark, violent modern Western. Efficiently made but the sensationalist script leaves us with no-one to root for and there is little in terms of scope outside of its formulaic chase thriller premise. McShane fails to convince as a Texas sheriff and Wilson struggles to hit the right note as his deputy. [15]

TV Review – KOJAK: THE CHINATOWN MURDERS (1974)

Image result for kojak season twoKojak: The Chinatown Murders (TV) (1974; USA; Technicolor; 95m) ∗∗∗  d. Jeannot Szwarc; w. Jack Laird; ph. Vilis Lapenieks, Sol Negrin; m. John Cacavas.  Cast: Telly Savalas, Michael Constantine, Sheree North, Tige Andrews, Roger Robinson, Dan Frazer, Kevin Dobson, George Savalas, Leonardo Cimino, Milton Selzer, Robert Ito, Victor Argo, Vincent Baggetta, Patrick Adiarte, Val Bisoglio. A series of gang-member murders in Chinatown starts a war. Kojak finds out that those murders were blamed on rival gangs in order to take over the territory from old families by a new gang. This feature-length episode opened Kojak’s second season. Despite attempts to inject some scope through its plot, the story is really nothing more than standard TV fare, albeit heightened by Savalas’ charismatic performance and a lean script. [PG]

Film Review – MONA LISA (1986)

Image result for mona lisa blu-rayMona Lisa (1986; UK; Technicolor; 104m) ∗∗∗∗  d. Neil Jordan; w. Neil Jordan, David Leland; ph. Roger Pratt; m. Michael Kamen.  Cast: Bob Hoskins, Cathy Tyson, Michael Caine, Robbie Coltrane, Clarke Peters, Kate Hardie, Sammi Davis, Rod Bedall, Zoe Nathenson, Joe Brown, Pauline Melville, Hossein Karimbeik, John Darling, Bryan Coleman, Robert Dorning. An ex-con gets a job as a driver for a beautiful high-priced call girl, with whom he forms an at first grudging, and then real affection. Dark film explores the seedy side of the London underworld. Hoskins is perfect as a man out of his time and Tyson equally as good. Caine is imposing as the boss of the operation. The film twists in a way inspired by the pulp fiction it openly emulates. Hard-hitting and shocking finale. All backed by Nat King Cole’s timeless hit. [18]

Film Review – THE LONG GOOD FRIDAY (1980)

Long Good Friday, The (1980; UK; Colour; 114m) ∗∗∗∗½  d. John Mackenzie; w. Barrie Keeffe; ph. Phil Meheux; m. Francis Monkman.  Cast: Bob Hoskins, Helen Mirren, Eddie Constantine, Dave King, Bryan Marshall, Derek Thompson, Pierce Brosnan, George Coulouris, Paul Freeman, P.H. Moriarty, Daragh O’Malley, Alan Ford, Leo Dolan, Patti Love, Olivier Pierre. A prosperous English gangster, is about to close a lucrative new deal when bombs start showing up in very inconvenient places. British gangster thriller is powered by a charismatic performance from Hoskins and a classy one from Mirren. The tension builds as Hoskins begins to untangle the plot and the finale has one final twist to offer. Only the now dated electronic score by Monkman jars in this otherwise classic genre thriller. First theatrical film role for Pierce Brosnan. [18]

Film Review – JACK REACHER (2012)

Image result for jack reacher 2012 blu-rayJack Reacher (2012; USA; DeLuxe; 130m) ∗∗∗½  d. Christopher McQuarrie; w. Christopher McQuarrie; ph. Caleb Deschanel; m. Joe Kraemer.  Cast: Tom Cruise, Rosamund Pike, Richard Jenkins, David Oyelowo, Werner Herzog, Jai Courtney, Vladimir Sizov, Joseph Sikora, Michael Raymond-James, Alexia Fast, Josh Helman, Robert Duvall, James Martin Kelly, Dylan Kussman, Denver Milord. A homicide investigator digs deeper into a case involving a trained military sniper who shot five random victims. Cruise delivers an excellent performance, despite being miscast, in this well-crafted crime thriller. The plot is involving and the action scenes well-staged. Pike offers strong support as the lawyer and Duvall shows up late in the day to add some class. Based on the novel “One Shot” by Lee Child. The character from Child’s book series is described as 6’5″ tall and weighing between 210 and 250 pounds (Cruise is 5’7″ tall). Followed by JACK REACHER: NEVER GO BACK in 2016. [15]

Film Review – FUZZ (1972)

Image result for FUZZ BLU-RAYFuzz (1972; USA; DeLuxe; 92m) ∗∗∗  d. Richard A. Colla; w. Evan Hunter; ph. Jacques R. Marquette; m. Dave Grusin.  Cast: Burt Reynolds, Jack Weston, Tom Skerritt, Yul Brynner, Raquel Welch, James McEachin, Steve Ihnat, Bert Remsen, Peter Bonerz, Dan Frazer, Stewart Moss, H. Benny Markowitz, James Victor, Tom Lawrence, Vince Howard. Police in Boston search for a mad bomber trying to extort money from the city. Well-intentioned attempt to bring Ed McBain’s “87th Precinct” novels to the big screen. Colla struggles to find the right balance between serious crime drama and the humour drawn from the everyday police work, by occasionally lapsing into slapstick. The result is a hodge-podge of good and bad execution. Brynner appears all too late as the charismatic villain, whilst Reynolds adopts his usual persona. The result is entertaining but decidedly uneven. Inhat’s final film. Hunter adapted his own novel written as Ed McBain. [18]

Rebus to return to our TV screens

Being a huge fan of Ian Rankin’s Rebus series of crime novels I was delighted to hear today Rankin’s announcement that Eleventh Hour Films have bought the TV rights. The books will be adapted by fellow Scot Gregory Burke and the adaptations are likely to be longer format, given Rankin’s previous comments, than the previous series starring John Hannah and Ken Stott.

Burke says: “It is an honour and a privilege to have the opportunity to work on adapting an iconic character like John Rebus for television. As someone who has grown up and lives in South East Scotland, Ian Rankin’s best-selling books provide the perfect material to make a thrilling series about crime in the modern world.”

Ian Rankin adds: “I’m so thrilled and honoured that Gregory Burke is bringing his outstanding storytelling talent to Rebus. As far as I’m concerned it’s the perfect match, allowing the character of John Rebus to emerge in all his complex three-dimensional glory.”

This is great news to celebrate during the 30th anniversary of Rankin’s debut Rebus novel Knots & Crosses.