Saturday, February 25, 2017

Dr. Phil meets Natural Born Killers

Something Violent

By Kristopher Rufty

Publisher: DarkFuse

Pub. date: March 28, 2017

Rating: 3 & 1/2 out of 5 stars.

Dr. Phil meets Natural Born Killers.

Actually it is Dr. Ron. Ron McClure is the marriage counselor to the stars. He is bit of a celebrity himself through his books and TV appearances. When he is leaving a convenience store he is a bit torn about approaching a crying women through fear of getting involved but also tempted because she is quite beautiful. The woman finally approached him and the temptation of her beauty wins out...until she chloroforms and abducts him. When he awakes, he is tied to a chair. He discovers that his abductors are Seth and Jody, a serial killer team called The Sweetheart Killers. Lately Seth and Jody are having troubles. Seth doesn't want to kill with Jody anymore. Now they want Ron to fix them, to put the zing back into their killing spree, and save their relationship. Despite the obvious conflict of interest in helping two killers be successful in their chosen occupation, Ron agrees to try. After all, they are probably going to kill him either way.

What entails in Something Violent is a series of alternating flashbacks told by each other chronicling how they met and the events leading up to the crisis prompting the decision to kidnap the famous marriage counselor. In between, the hapless Ron gives his sage observations. This is a combination of horror tale and psychological crime thriller. But for me, it is also a satire of the bad couple romance thrillers we see occasionally popping up mainly in movies like Bonnie and Clyde, Badlands, and, as already mentioned, eNatural Born Killers. Seth and Jody are seriously unhinged but not so much that they don't want a special life with each other. So when the relationship falter , they act in the only way they know. They need to keep that homicidal spark that brought them together alive any way they can. The entire idea of a counselor struggling to save the joy of a behavior that will kill people, and probably himself, is deliciously perverse. Probably more so for myself since I am a retired therapist. Yet that is where the dark comedy comes in; A pair of killers struggling to find the humanity that keeps them together through their sociopathic thrills .

The other nice touch is hinted in the title. There appears to be a serial killer web site called Something Violent. Everyone needs a little support, I guess. This idea merges into the theme of the story and drives much of the narrative. How it does that will be left for the reader to discover. The author, Kristopher Rufty, does a nice job in moving the ideas along. There is lots of action and as should be expected in this type of dark thriller, lots of violence. The chain of events does call for a good amount of suspension of belief and if there is one main weakness, it is that the events often seems a bit to convoluted to come together comfortably. Yet I was able to exercise that suspension of belief mainly due to the fact that I saw it as a satire of serial killer tales, a kind of very dark comedy. The feel was enough to make me chuckle over the dilemma of Dr. Ron and his clients even in the goriest of passages.

In the last assessment, Something Violent gets my recommendation. It a clever take on the serial killer genre and remains entertaining throughout. It also makes me glad this couple never showed up during my counseling career.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

A paradoxical espionage tale.

Suan Ming

By Seb Doubinsky

Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform 

Pub Date: December 31, 2016

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars


In Seb Doubinsky's Suan Ming, remote viewing has become an essential tool for military espionage potentially leading to victories over Babylon's continuous war with The Chinese Federation. John DiMeglio is one of the best remote viewers and has been coaxed back to duty for a special assignment. The man he is working with, Greeley, seems to know his job and the mission starts regularly enough. But soon, DiMeglio realizes there is something odd about this mission. Counter-viewers are blocking and endangering him, the top brass isn't telling him everything, and wasn't his wife a blond?

Suan Ming is pure Philip K Dick styled science fiction with the possibility of alternative realities and parallel worlds on every page. It is also another of Doubinsky's novels that teases us with what is going on and makes us think outside the box. It seems straight forward at first but a few flashbacks, a mission that makes DiMeglio questions his perception of reality, and a blurring of dreaming and waking life blurs the initial mainstream feel. As is his habit in many of his works, Doubinsky adds some short poetic chapters between the action that prepares you for the journey. The ending of Suan Ming doesn't really wrap it up but is still a satifying climax that keeps you thinking after the first page. It is a fitting end to the literary puzzle and another fine effect by the author.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Not so elementary, my dear Watson

Cat Flap

By Ian Jarvis

Publisher: MX Publishing 

Pub Date: February 1, 2017

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Bernard Quist is a private investigator although he prefers the term "Consultant detective". He recently hired a young 19 year old black youth by the name of Watson to be his assistant. Lately the detective trade has been centered around tracking unfaithful spouses and working divorce cases. But when a somewhat seedy thug asks them to prove his fiancee did not die of a suicide, it takes them into serial killer territory with a string of murders involving employees of a pharmaceutical company.

Does Bernard Quist remind you of anyone in particular?

Cat Flap is a clever take-off on the Sherlock Holmes mysteries. But while Quist has a lot in common with the great detective there is plenty of reasons Quist is his own man. Ian Jarvis is clearly making a tribute of sorts to Sherlock Holmes but he is also successfully creating a detective that can stand on its own. This is a modern mystery complete with all the fixings of contemporary England but Quist seems slightly out of place. There is a reason for this but that must be kept a secret for now. Enter 19 year old Watson, a thoroughly contemporary but sometimes naive British lad with a sense for all the modern things that Quist seems clumsy around. There is an vast array of secondary and minor characters that add to the plot, perhaps too many. But it all makes sense in the end and the reader realizes that this was one clever ride.

But what really makes this novel work is the humor. It is a clever dry wit that shows up in the dialogue whether Quist is giving his eager assistant back-handed compliments or commenting on that which no one else gets. When the mystery takes a supernatural turn, the author is right there gauging the reactions of the characters and making a few odd quirks in the plot instantly understandable.

Overall, Cat Flap is a fun novel. It's hard to take it too seriously but easy to get caught up in the fun. While the Holmes pastiche beginning helps one get hooked, the novel soon becomes its own story. In fact, now that the character are introduced and developed, it might be good to dump the Holmes connection altogether in the next inevitable books. Quist is too interesting to play second fiddle.