JULY JUSTICE! NEW TOUGH NOVELS BY S. A. COSBY, STEVE CAVANAGH AND GABRIEL BERGMOSER
My late July reading has been dominated by three tough tales of justice and violence by S. A. Cosby, Steve Cavanagh and Gabriel Bergmoser.
S. A. Cosby’s Blacktop Wasteland was the stand-out crime novel of 2020. A powerful heist novel with a large dose of social commentary and fine writing, it deservedly won praise and awards from around the world.
Now Cosby has followed it up with the equally impressive Razorblade Tears, about two fathers, one white and one black, seeking revenge for the murder of their sons. Both men were estranged from their gay sons, but when the boys are gunned down they decide to join forces and see that some form of justice is done. Together the two ex-cons set out on a mission of vengeance and redemption.
This is a blistering tale of lost opportunity and prejudice that powers along at a brisk pace. Cosby grips the reader’s attention from the telling first sentence – “Ike tried to remember a time when men with badges coming to his door early in the morning brought anything other than heartache and misery, but try as he might, nothing came to mind.” – and holds it all the way to the last sentence. Along the way he takes a sharp-eyed look at racism and homophobia and also paints a believable picture of the dark underbelly of America. His writing is emotional and compelling and the action has a cinematic feel to it. This is a superb piece of crime fiction.
Just as Blacktop Wasteland did in 2020, I expect that Razorblade Tears will dominate the crime fiction landscape in 2021.
Four and a half to five stars out of five!
Razorblade Tears was released in Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom in mid July.
Hot shot New York defence lawyer Eddie Flynn heads to Buckstown Alabama in Steve Cavanagh’s latest legal thriller The Devil’s Advocate.
When a young woman, Skylar Edwards, is found murdered, the local sheriff arrests the last person to see her alive, Andy Dubois. Andy is innocent of the murder, but with the help of the corrupt District Attorney, Randall Korn, enough evidence is manufactured to have him taken to trial. Everyone in Buckstown assumes that Andy is guilty, and when the local defence attorney assigned to him disappears, he has no chance of getting a fair trial.
Eddie Flynn is pressured into taking the case, and flies to Alabama to help. His presence is not taken kindly by the locals and as the trial date nears the violence increases and Eddie finds that he has to fight fire with fire in order to win, and to stay alive.
This is another fast moving, twisty crime novel by the always entertaining Steve Cavanagh. The story kicks off quickly and Cavanagh expertly guides his plot through a succession of surprises and enjoyable side stories to the exciting conclusion. The courtroom scenes are engrossing, and Eddie is his usual engaging self. The story is helped along by some truly nasty villains, and Cavanagh’s passionate swipes at racism, the death penalty and conservative American politics give the book a good boost of energy.
On the negative side, the characterisations could be more nuanced and occasionally run to stereotype:
“Brian Denvir, a bigot and fanatic who believed there were aliens in Roswell; a massive government conspiracy by the Democrats where the deep state operated a pedophile ring out of the back of a pizza parlor; and that the Nazis had at least gotten some things right – they’d just gone about it the wrong way.”
The writing, however, is fresh and crisp and Cavanagh is very good at building the suspense and holding interest. Despite some quibbles, it is very easy to settle back, suspend your disbelief and be entertained by Cavanagh and Eddie Flynn.
A thoroughly enjoyable romp that will satisfy Cavanagh’s many fans.
Four stars out of five for entertainment!
The Devil’s Advocate was released in Australia on 27 July 2021 and will be released in the United Kingdom on 5 August 2021. Thanks to Hachette for a copy of the book to review.
For pure excitement and suspense, Gabriel Bergmoser’s visceral The Hunted, was the most enjoyable of the several very good Australian crime debut novels in 2020, and was one of my favourite books of the year. It was a wild ride of a thriller that did nothing for the outback Australia tourist industry, but certainly impressed with its high adrenaline plot and fascinating characters.
Bergmoser has now followed it up with the equally exciting The Inheritance, which continues the adventures of the enigmatic Maggie. The book opens with Maggie hiding out in a sleepy North Queensland tourist town. Following a run-in with a dangerous drug cartel, however, she heads to Melbourne with some furious bikies on her trail and a bent cop as an ally. The cop is an old friend of Maggie’s late, unlamented father, who wants her help in retrieving a hard drive with information on a suspected serial killer. Of course, there are several influential and dangerous people who also want the hard drive for their own purposes. All of which leads to a dangerous journey and a blood soaked few days in Melbourne and thereabouts.
The Inheritance captures the pedal to the metal pace and thrills of The Hunted, but also adds a more substantial plot and important background information about Maggie. The story unfolds quickly and violently, and the book builds to a tough and bloody climax. Maggie takes a real battering throughout the story, but maintains the steely determination she showed in The Hunted.
In between the various shoot-outs and machete attacks, Bergmoser builds a dark, convincing picture of policing in Victoria and introduces an interesting array of characters. The dialogue is spot-on and to the point, and there are also some evocative, simple descriptions of Melbourne and the local countryside.
The plotting gets a bit wild at times, and you will never look at a letter opener in the same light again, but the end result is a terrific thriller that demands to be read in a single sitting.
A ferocious tale about a troubled heroine who makes most of the fictional tough guys look like introspective wimps. Four stars out of five!
The Inheritance is released in Australia on 28 July 2021 and in paperback in the United Kingdom on 4 November 2021.
Thanks to the Canberra Weekly and Harper Collins for a copy of the book to review.