The Trespasser by Tana French

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I’m a huge fan of mysteries, crime fiction, detective fiction and all encompassing subgenres. Currently, my favorite crime fiction writer is Tana French. I’m a huge fan of her novels, last year I read all five of them back to back. Last week, her sixth novel, The Trespasser, came out. I picked it up and devoured it as fast as possible.

The Trespasser is about Detective Antoinette Conway and her partner Steven Moran. The newest and least popular members of Dublin Murder Squad who are usually stuck investigating routine domestic crimes considered less glamourous by senior members of the squad.

Their latest case looks like the usual domestic lover’s murder. Aisling Murray, a 20 something attractive young woman is found dead, her head smashed against the fireplace, her apartment prepared for what appears to be a dinner date. Yet, several peculiarities and loose ends give our detectives room for doubt and cause to investigate deeper. The investigation reveals numerous secrets and unexpected turns, some dangerous for the main characters.

Tana French’s novels, like all great detective stories, are more than a mystery or a police procedural. The main focus is on character and theme. The main character, Antoinette Conway is your typical bad girl cop who doesn’t need anyone or anything. The older squadmates hate her and downright harass and haze. But she isn’t portrayed in the cliche tough girl with a heart of gold that ends up loved by everybody. French shows the alienation and loneliness of being the loner and the badass. She shows how being the know it all tough guy/girl is a fault and pushing everyone away is detrimental.

So, the sixth book in the series was great. Now I eagerly wait for the next one and try to search for more crime fiction with the same depth and character.

 

 

Cirsova: Heroic Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine #3

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During one of my recent adventures through the blogosphere, I came across Cirsova and Cirsova Magazine. Reading the mission statement and description intrigued me so I picked up the latest issue. I put my current read on pause and read the excellent stories found in issue number 3.

Wow! Finally, some fantasy short stories that capture my imagination. Finally, short stories filled with action and adventure!

Before I give a more thorough review I want to make it clear that I really enjoy the short story. I own numerous collections and compilations of everyone from Hemingway to Gaiman. I even have active digital subscriptions to Analog and Asimov’s.

Yet, I often find myself being bored with a lot of modern SFF shorts. The last issue of Asimov if DNF’ed 90% of the stories. There seems to be a recent trend in the short story world away from action, adventure, and heroism. The focus seems to be on the literary, the urban, the fairytale magical, or magical realism in the vein of Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

A good example of this is the Hugo Award winner The Water that Falls on You From Nowhere by John Chu. A well-written story that I find excruciatingly boring and barely Fantasy. It seems that so many SFF writers come out of literary circles and workshops that Fantasy has become as monotonous as your stuffy slice of life short story in the New Yorker.

So how do I like my fantasy? Adventurous, mysterious, massive, and wild. I want to read stories that take me back to when I first cracked open my AD&D players guide and ran my friends through skeleton filled dungeons and protected villages from goblin raids. I want to be transported to worlds where Barbarians pit their swords and strength against evil serpent worshiping wizards. I crave stories filled with adventure and mystery. Fabulous ancient ruins filled with unspeakable horrors, vicious creatures, and evil wizards.

Cirsova Magazine is attempting to provide exactly what I am looking for. A pulp revival magazine focused on action and adventure, and issue #3 succeeds while leaving enough room for improvement that will keep me looking forward to the next issue.

 

The issue has several exciting adventures. A heavy focus on the Age of Sail mixed with magic in two stories, space piracy, futuristic space mercs, and sword and sorcery reminiscent of Conan. My favorite of the bunch was Clock’s Watch, an urban fantasy Lovecraftian possession story that begged to be turned into a full novel.

Cirsova is an indie publication so they need all the help and word of mouth. So if you love pulp adventure Fantasy and Sci-Fi hop over to Amazon and pick up the digital copy. It’s easily worth the price of a medium coffee at Starbucks.

P.S.

Because I linked to a Tor.com short story I didn’t like I will link to one that I loved. Give this one a read for The Hell of It.

 

The Builders by Daniel Polansky

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After about a year or so of hearing Daniel Polansky brought up whenever dark gritty fantasy was discussed I finally got around to reading some of his stuff. I picked up his Hugo-nominated novella, The Builders as a quick read between larger novels.

The Builders is an anthropomorphic grimdark western. A band of violent, gun-slinging, talking animals  goes on a suicidal revenge quest. It uses the standard plot of 7 Samurai and The Magnificent Seven; a leader, here a one-eyed scarred mouse named The Captain, gathers his band of violent comrades for a bloody showdown.

The Builders succeeds in fun and execution but falters in the end. The early scenes where each animal is introduced are pure fun. Bonsoir the French Stoat is the standout reminding me of Val Kilmers Doc Holiday. Unfortunately, it seems Polansky really enjoyed the idea of a violent western with anthropomorphic animals but was over it by the time finale which felt crowded and rushed.

Overall The Builders was a quick fun read well worth the time. It left me with a positive impression of Polansky’s writing; enough for me to push his other novels towards the top of my to-read list. I personally would have enjoyed these characters in a longer novel format.

I also enjoy the idea of the novella format itself. The length is ideal for a quick read over coffee and the 2.99 price point  for a polished product seems fair to me. I hope the trend of novellas being released on Amazon continues.

So if you enjoy anthropomorphic animals, gritty westerns, and a snarky written voice pick up The Builders and enjoy.