Shovel Ready by Adam Sternbergh

Shovel Ready

Let me give you the blurb first:

An addictive genre-blend of a thriller: the immersive sci-fi of Ernest Cline; the hard-boiled rhythms of Don Winslow; the fearless bravado of Chuck Palahniuk; and the classic noir of James M. Cain
Spademan used to be a garbage man. That was before the dirty bomb hit Times Square, before his wife was killed, and before the city became a bombed-out shell of its former self. Now he’s a hitman.
In a New York City split between those who are wealthy enough to “tap into” a sophisticated virtual reality for months at a time and those left to fend for themselves in the ravaged streets, Spademan chose the streets. His clients like that he doesn’t ask questions, that he works quickly, and that he’s handy with a box cutter. He finds that killing people for money is not that different from collecting trash, and the pay is better. His latest client hires him to kill the daughter of a powerful evangelist. Finding her is easy, but the job quickly gets complicated: his mark has a shocking secret and his client has an agenda far beyond a simple kill. Now Spademan must navigate the dual levels of his world-the gritty reality and the slick fantasy-to finish the job, to keep his conscience clean, and to stay alive.
Adam Sternbergh has written a dynamite debut: gritty, violent, funny, riveting, tender, and brilliant.”

Okay, after reading that, the only reason that I can see how this ARC landed on my doorstep is the two words, “classic noir”.  I typically don’t do sci-fi/dystopian and while I am quite handy myself with a box cutter, hit men in books are a dime a dozen. Somehow though, it was that hard charging noir rata-tat-tat style of writing that sucked me in right from the beginning.

The only problem was that then it lost me.  It seemed to go from Double Indemnity of the Future to I don’t give a care about any of these characters within about 100 pages. The noir tempo seemed to fail or be feigned at points and what started out as a book ended up reminding me of scripts that I read in my Scriptwriting 101 class.

What should have stayed along the lines of “You know how to whistle, don’t you Steve? You just put your lips together and …blow” (thank you Lauren Bacall in To Have and Have Not) turned into …

No, Mark. I said absolutely-

Persephone cuts me off.  Fiercely.

Look, I am very grateful for all that you have done for me, but I am not your f *&% daughter. I’ll do what I want. And I’m doing this. I need to.

There is a long silence. During which we all listen to the stillness of Chinatown.

Broken finally by Mina’s best Axl Rose falsetto.

Mop becomes mike stand.

Knock knock knocking on heaven’s door

I figure it’s time to call the meeting to a close.”

It was almost a farce and it lost me.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the book, it wasn’t like I threw it against the wall or didn’t finish or anything…it was just blah and there was no there, there, if you know what I mean.

Shovel Ready: A Novel by Adam Sternbergh

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Crown (January 14, 2014)
  • ISBN-10: 0385348991
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385348997

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Lucifer’s Tears by James Thompson

Lucifers Tears

Lucifer’s Tears by James Thompson

You have to like a character that describes his homeland as the ninth and innermost circle of hell, but can’t imagine himself living anywhere else. Meet Kari Vaara, a tortured Inspector in Helsinki. His face is marked with a scar from past battle, but it is the scars on his heart and mind that hurt the most and make him who he is.

His wife is pregnant. The last pregnancy, she miscarried and he blames himself. He is terrified that it is going to happen again. He has had a migraine for a year. It won’t go away. His siblings-in-law are coming from the States to help with the pregnancy. The ones he’s never met. The conclusion of his last case left nothing but bodies behind, including his partner and x-wife. The man has a lot of ghosts, just like his homeland, and therefore a lot on his mind.

Let’s add more to this poor Laplander’s plate. He is handed a horrific murder case and the politicos want him to frame an innocent man. One more thing, they want him to investigate a WWII hero for crimes against humanity and the guy just happens to have served with Kari’s grandfather. (Which means that if this hero was a bad guy, so was his granddad)

My thoughts-

There is so much to like in this sequel to Snow Angels that it is hard to know where to start. Kari Vaara is an imperfect human with his heart in the right place. Sort of like how I see myself. Don’t laugh.

Helsinki and the murder case is gritty and honestly, Thompson’s writing doesn’t make me want to visit there anytime soon. The language is graphic, the murder and ensuing investigation is horrific, violent and well, I will just say it, S&M related.

I learned a lot of Finland’s history in a way that didn’t feel forced or like learning. I like unforced learning and knew nothing of Findland’s part in WWII.

This isn’t a book for everyone. You have to be a fan of harsh, no-holds-barred noir for Lucifer’s Tears. Agatha Christie or Cozy Mystery fans need not apply. Still, I am a fan and it made for a page turner, finished it in less than a day.

Have you ever read any Finnish writers or books set in Finland? Lucifer’s Tears has left me wanting more.

Lucifer’s Tears by James Thompson

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Putnam Adult (March 17, 2011)
  • ISBN-10: 039915700X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0399157004