• James McGee

Some more great lockdown reads...


Another cracker from one of the best crime writers in the business, this being the 30th book in the Prey series (according to John Sandford's website, though, weirdly, Amazon has it down as the 29th. Go figure). Any road, it means that Sandford's tough cop, Lucas Davenport, is back, this time on the hunt for a new threat, an extremist who would appear to be targeting the families of prominent politicians.


If you peruse some of those Amazon reviews you'll see that not all Sandford's US readers are happy with his latest choice of villain, a coterie of survivalist, gun-toting nut jobs that appears to have become an integral part of American society, even more so at the time of writing, if the newreel footage coming out of US towns and cities, most notable Kenosha, Wisconsin, are anything to go by. They seem to think that Sandford is turning a little too political and that he has no business declaring his liberal tendencies in his novels.


Whereas yours truly is frankly amazed it's taken him this long. If ever there was a seam worth mining it's American gun culture. As far as this fan is concerned it's simply a great read. Roll on the next one – that'll likely be a new Virgil Flowers adventure, so I'll be keeping my eyes peeled for that.


If you haven't read any Ace Atkins, you're in for a treat. His novels, set in the rugged hill country of northeast Mississippi and featuring former Army Ranger turned County Sheriff, Quinn Colson, are terrific. Wonderfully drawn characters and whip-smart dialogue make these essential reading for anyone who has a penchant for American crime (that'd definitely be me, then).


The first book in the series, The Ranger - The Revelators is Numero 10 - saw Colson returning from years of war to his home in Tibbehah County, there to take up the post of sheriff, a job previously held by his uncle, who supposedly committed suicide. Other voices, however, whisper murder. To discover the truth, Colson has to deal with everyone from corrupt politicians, meth runners, drug cartels and other assorted bad guys (and gals).


Atkins' previous Colson novel, No 9: The Shameless, managed to hack off a lot of his readers because it ended on a cliff-hanger and so they, like me, have had to cool our heels for a year to see how the story developed. The wait was definitely worth it.


Interestingly, with The Shameless, as with Masked Prey , there were more than a few American readers who weren't happy with Atkins' choice of bad guy, because he bore more than a passing resemblance to the Orange Loon currently occupying the Oval Office, in that he had terrible hair, itsy bitsy hands and was a rascist bigot with a liking for red neckties.


Doesn't mean it wasn't a great read, though, as is it's sequel: the book listed above. Do check him out.


Also, as if you didn't know, Atkins is the author of, to date, nine books featuring Boston private eye, Spenser, having proven to be a worthy torch carrier for the late, great, and much loved, Robert B Parker, author of the original Spenser novels. Sadly, Parker passed away in 2010 and other authors have written follow-up novels featuring his favourite characters - Jesse Stone, Sunny Randall, Everett Hitch and Virgil Cole - but no-one else has come closer than Atkins in capturing the mood of the original stories.


Weirdly, similar to the books mentioned above, this is also a landmark title in that it's James Lee Burke's 40th novel and it proves once again, notwithstanding the two guys I've just rated, that Burke is a brilliant writer.


His books, featuring Louisiana detective, Dave Robicheaux, are a wonderful mix of crime and romance and, in this latest instalment, he also throws in a twist of mythology and horror for good measure. What sets Burke apart from his contemporaries are his poetic descriptions of the towns and bayous of America's Deep South. As a result there's a unique rhythm to his writing that I haven't come across before, certainly not in the crime fiction genre.


In this story, Robicheaux finds himself pitted against two warring families with ties to the New Iberia criminal underworld. A young couple - a boy and girl, each an heir to their individual family, has gone missing. Robicheaux's attempts to uncover the teenagers' whereabouts bring him into contact with a New Orleans mafioso, who, in retribution for Robicheaux's search for the truth, hires a mysterious assassin to serve notice on Robicheaux and his veteran partner and loyal comrade-in-arms, Clete Purcel.


Beset by enemies who are determined to see him dead, Robicheaux, a recovering alcoholic, must also fight the demons that have tormented him both as a former soldier and a cop if he's to solve the case.


A tremendous read.