Review: HANGMAN’S GAME “the very best sports-themed mystery in years.”

hangmans-game.jpgAnother review in, from Booklist: “Syken, a veteran Sports Illustrated editor, nails the pro-football milieu. His mystery is also spot-on. He engages a moody, lonely protagonist in a very complex mystery in which nothing is as it seems, at least until the conclusion, when Gallow and the reader can see it very clearly in the rearview mirror. This is the very best sports-themed mystery in years and a robust debut novel. Don’t miss it.”

Made my day. Very grateful.

Review: Hangman’s Game “a great read for sports lovers and mystery lovers.”

I was forwarded an early review of Hangman’s Game (which comes out August 18) that appeared on a blog called A Book Lover’s Best Friend. While I was ready to go on the defensive when the reviewer began by saying that he/she (not sure) hates football, I was gratified to see that the reviewer read along anyway and enjoyed it, declaring Hangman’s Game to be “A great read for sports lovers and mystery lovers.”

I’m grateful for the kind words, and happy to see the Nick Gallow can be appreciated by readers who don’t particularly care for football.

Dry Bones in the Valley by Tom Bouman

Just read Dry Bones in the Valley, a fine novel by Tom Bouman which won this year’s Edgar Award for best first mystery.  It takes place in a rural township in Northeast Pennsylvania where many residents have been newly enriched after selling their land’s mineral rights to fracking companies. The fracking angle is a rich one, but what I will remember most about Dry Bones in the Valley is the brief love story Bouman doles out in small tastes through the middle of the narrative. The story involves the book’s protagonist, widower and police officer Henry Farrell, and its themes of loneliness and loss echo through the book’s larger plot. When Farrell was younger he imagined he wanted to be a mountain man. He was traveling cross country and out on a trail in Wyoming when encountered a woman named Polly. They talked for little while and played music together, and he was smitten but didn’t know what to do about it. He continued on his travels for a while, but then decided to double back to Wyoming and stop by the store where she had said she worked. “She smiled so big when she saw me that I knew love right then, then and for all time. I think about it when I need to.” I’ll be looking forward to more from Tom Bouman.

Eleven by Patricia Highsmith; or, Attack of the Killer Snails

eleven

Two of the eleven short stories and Patricia Highsmith’s collection Eleven involve killer snails. When I mentioned this to my lady friend, she asked ”Did Patricia Highsmith lose a bet with her editor?” and then lamented that Highsmith hadn’t worked killer snails into all the stories, if only for a cameo. There are some very good stories in the collection—I really liked Another Bridge to Cross, about a widower traveling in Europe. But still: snails.

The first of the killer snail stories, The Snail-Watcher, was mostly just strange. The second, however, was kind of great, and absolutely memorable. Most of the story is a long action sequence described so vividly I remember it more like a movie I had seen.

In that story, The Quest for Blank Claveringi, a man sails to an island in the South Pacific that is rumored to be home to giant snails. He wants to be the first to verify the giant snails’ existence and thus create a legacy for himself (his name is Avery Clavering, and he intents to name the snails after himself) . He gets to the uninhabited island, which is 3 miles by 1 mile, and it has tall trees but has been completely cleared of low-lying brush. After searching our hero finds a giant snail, about 25 feet high, asleep in a ravine, and he takes photos. The snail begins a slow pursuit of Clavering, and so after a while does a second snail, who has chewed through the line tethering his sailboat to the shore. The boat is a half-mile out to sea, and this guy is stuck on the island, and the snails are closing in. The chase goes on for days. The snails are slow, but they never stop.