Posted in Book Reviews, Novels

REVIEW: The Peaceful Valley Crime Wave by Bill Pronzini

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*No Major Spoilers*

Nothing much happens in Peaceful Valley, Montana. And that’s just how Sheriff Lucas Monk likes it.

Aside from the occasional drunken brawl or minor disturbance out on the reservation, he hasn’t had to resort to his fists or sidearm in years.

That is, until mid-October, 1914, when the theft of a wooden cigar store Indian sets off a crime wave like nothing Lucas has ever seen. Teenager Charity Axthelm goes missing, Reba Purvis’s housekeeper is poisoned with cyanide Reba is sure was meant for her, and Lucas’s gut tells him that this is only the beginning.

It’s not long before the first corpse shows up, bringing the peace in the valley to a thundering end.

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I have read and reviewed a few Westerns on this blog before. Some include The Ballad of Black Bart by Loren D. Estleman, The Hunger by Alma Katsu, Holmes on the Range by Steve Hockensmith, and recently, Modo: Ember’s End by Arthur Slade. Let’s return to the frontier in The Peaceful Valley Crime Wave by Bill Pronzini! 

I enjoyed how the book starts with the theft of the local cigar store Indian, and the chaos grows from there. Sherriff Monk takes the chaos in stride and does his best to investigate with the clues the case threw at him. Next, the attempted murder of a local busybody and her housekeeper. Finally, the murder of a local young woman who supposedly ran away with a traveling merchant.

First of all, I fell in love with Sherriff Monk. I agreed with his idea of justice and doing things more or less by the book. His dry sense of humor had me chuckling along as he’s questioning witnesses and looking for clues. He is honest, and he’s willing to let his deputies participate in the investigations. 

Out of the three central mysteries, I think the attempted homicide by poisoning ended up being my favorite. I think the idea of a murderess killing wealthy bachelors and taking their money and moving to a new town to start again is fascinating. The case reminded me of the frontier serial killer, Belle Gunness.

Overall, I enjoyed The Peaceful Valley Crime Wave. There was plenty of action, mystery, and old fashioned justice. What caused this sudden and brief crime wave Sherriff Monk isn’t sure of by the time the last case wraps up. Maybe Montana is just dull enough to cause people to go a little batty. 

I would recommend this novel for lovers of westerns, mysteries, and historical fiction. I think you should give this a read if you’re looking for a great western mystery. The Peaceful Valley Crime Wave is an entertaining read that I enjoyed from beginning to end.

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Posted in Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Novels

REVIEW: Honky Tonk Samurai (Hap and Leonard #9) by Joe R. Lansdale

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*No Major Spoilers*

Only Hap and Leonard would catch a cold case with hot cars, hot women, and ugly skinheads.

The story starts simply enough when Hap, a former 60s activist and self-proclaimed white trash rebel, and Leonard, a tough black, gay Vietnam vet and Republican with an addiction to Dr. Pepper, are working a freelance surveillance job in East Texas. The uneventful stakeout is coming to an end when the pair witness a man abusing his dog. Leonard takes matters into his own fists, and now the bruised dog abuser wants to press charges.

One week later, a woman named Lilly Buckner drops by their new PI office with a proposition: find her missing granddaughter, or she’ll turn in a video of Leonard beating the dog abuser. The pair agrees to take on the cold case and soon discover that the used car dealership where her granddaughter worked is actually a front for a prostitution ring. What began as a missing-person case becomes one of blackmail and murder.

I was recommended this series through a user on Reddit. Someone was looking for novels about gay detectives, and this was one of the recommendations. I chose this novel purely on the title, the other novels in this series have unique titles as well so let’s jump into Honky Tonk Samurai!

This novel is one of the more memorable detective novels I’ve read. Honky Tonk Samurai is filled with colorful characters, non-stop action, and redneck/Texas humor. I will say that the language used is very vulgar. So if you’re not into that kind of thing, you might want to pass on this one. In defense of the choice words and jokes, I felt like that was part of the charm.

Hap and Leonard have great chemistry! You can tell they’ve been through a lot together. Leonard made me laugh at his love of vanilla cookies and Dr. Pepper. That kind of reminds me of myself, I love cookies and Dr. Pepper.

The main plot twist left me baffled, but in the end, it all made sense once all of the pieces were put together. So bonus points for me not guessing the mystery! Usually, I’m able to figure out the mystery about halfway through the book. This one kept me guessing and I really liked that about it.

More on Hap and Leonard’s chemistry, with them being like brothers from another mother, it was a nice change of pace from a lot of the other stories I’ve read in recent weeks. Leonard, I’d say, is the rougher of the two characters even though he’s gay. He’s one that does not mess around when it comes to protecting those that need it. Hap, on the other hand, is more of the mediator type, kind of like keeping the rough part of Leonard in control when necessary.

Overall this book was something new and interesting that I’d never heard of or thought to look up, the subject matter was a bit different but extremely interesting! If you like a story about rough and tough southern boys and some redneck action, this is most definitely the book for you! Although, like I said if crude and vulgar language isn’t your thing then this book is kind of a pass.

Posted in Book Reviews

REVIEW: Holmes on the Range (Holmes on the Range #1) by Steve Hockensmith

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*No Major Spoilers*

1893 is a tough year in Montana, and any job is a good job. When brothers Big Red and Old Red Amlingmeyer sign on as ranch hands at a secretive ranch, they’re not expecting much more than hard work, bad pay, and a few free moments to enjoy their favorite pastime: reading stories about Sherlock Holmes.

When another hand turns up dead, Old Red sees the perfect opportunity to employ his Holmes-inspired “deducifyin'” skills and sets out to solve the case. Big Red, like it or not (and mostly he does not), is along for the wild ride in this clever, compelling, and completely one-of-a-kind mystery.

“You can follow a trail without even knowing you’re on it. You start out just ambling, maybe get to thinking you’re lost–but you’re headed somewhere all the same. You just don’t know it until you get there.” – Holmes on the Range by Steve Hockensmith

As much as you hear about how Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s fictional detective Sherlock Holmes affected pop culture, you really don’t see it much outside of the United Kingdom. I am thrilled to see a western twist on the Sherlockian mystery subgenre. It makes the western genre unique and intriguing, not knowing who’s behind the murder until the unveiling at the end of the novel.

The Amlingmeyer brothers are just trying to survive in the late 1800’s America. When they stumble unto a murder mystery too difficult to ignore, they are in for an adventure. Lives and reputations are at stake as Old Red starts to meddle in places where he doesn’t belong.

The unlikeliness of a poor ranch hand solving an intricate mystery made the Amlingmeyer brothers’ struggle to solve the mystery all the more difficult. Old Red was more of an illiterate Sherlock Holmes and Big Red more of a brother trusting his kin. Big Red and Old Red is the only family they have left, so there’s no other choice but to stick together when things get dicey.

I would highly recommend this novel for lovers of westerns, mysteries, and Sherlockian style storytelling. This novel will leave you guessing until the big reveal, and even then you may be surprised to learn the answer to the mysteries.