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Money Shot (Hard Case Crime (Paperback)) (Hard Case Crime (Mass Market Paperback))
Money Shot (Hard Case Crime (Paperback)) (Hard Case Crime (Mass Market Paperback))
by Christa Faust
Edition: Mass Market Paperback

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hardcore Hard Case, 24 Feb. 2008
If you like your pulp thrillers action-packed and fast-paced, then you won't want to miss the hugely talented Christa Faust's Hard Case Crime debut. The murky world of hardcore pornography is at the heart of this pulsating novel; and that industry's trail of drugged-up human detritus is literally splattered throughout the story.

Angel Dare heads a modelling agency. She is a retired porn queen who agrees to put herself in front of the cameras again as a favour to a film director friend. The latest well-hung stud is on hand to partner Angel in what she believes to be a workaday porn-shoot. However the shooting and banging that follow are not the kind usually seen on a porn set. A briefcase full of money has gone missing. Its owner wants it back and isn't too fussy about how this is achieved. Angel's life spirals out of control the way lives do when a briefcase full of money goes missing.

Christa Faust manages to intersperse a lot of wry humour into the mayhem. Some of the porn stars' names that are dropped into Angel Dare's narrative had me chortling, particularly Busti Keaton and Heidi Ho. But this is a thrill a minute ride with Angel and her security man, Malloy, as they try to stay one step ahead of the pursuing baddies who believe that Angel has the missing cash. The violence that accompanies them is described in all its lurid and gritty detail.

Some have likened this novel to a Quentin Tarantino movie and the comparison is not at all far-fetched. Fans of his stuff should enjoy this novel as will those who enjoy Hard Case Crime's output. Brilliantly written, fast and furious and highly recommended.


The Devil Inside: Number 1 in series (Morgan Kingsley Exorcist)
The Devil Inside: Number 1 in series (Morgan Kingsley Exorcist)
by Jenna Black
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Buffy With Added Spice, 9 Feb. 2008
In this fast-paced paranormal thriller, author Jenna Black introduces us to tough-gal exorcist, Morgan Kingsley. This is a world where demons coexist with humans in the most literal sense: they inhabit their willing hosts' bodies. However, demons who break the law or force themselves onto unwilling hosts are liable to exorcism. Morgan hates demons. She can't understand why anyone would allow themselves to be possessed by one. And then, the thing she dreads most happens: Morgan discovers that she is unwittingly hosting a demon.

The copious amounts of sex that lace this story may not be to everyone's taste and, I suspect, may put some potential readers off. Personally, I enjoy reading erotic fiction and watching erotic films. However, what I most balked at in this novel was not the male homosexual S & M scenes which are relevant to the story, but Morgan's lusty antics with her boyfriend. These didn't really add much in my opinion and could have been left out or toned down with little detrimental effect on the story. I mean, "attractive girl has healthy sexual relationship with her boyfriend" doesn't really have to be spelled out for us if the story is not an out-and-out piece of erotica. However, these scenes are not prominent and they are well written.

Indeed, the standard of Jenna Black's writing is very high. Particularly good are the scenes in the book's later chapters that take place in the cavernous surroundings of an S & M club where we are introduced to the malevolent Shae, a nasty piece of work who I hope will return in further Morgan Kingsley adventures.

The concept of demons inhabiting humans in this story is one that I found fascinating. The demons have the ability to heal their hosts if they are injured (a boon to S & M lovers!) and to enable their hosts to perform acts of heroism that would otherwise be beyond them. I found myself wondering if the demons would be able to heal fatal illnesses and I pondered on the notion of how much of oneself would have to be suppressed when hosting a demon.

Overall, this is a really good read and I eagerly look forward to the next book in this series: `The Devil You Know'.


MR. MONK IN OUTER SPACE
MR. MONK IN OUTER SPACE
by Lee Goldberg
Edition: Hardcover

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mr Monk and the Cult Show, 30 Jan. 2008
A small carpet stain in his apartment drives Monk to seek refuge at his brother Ambrose's house. This reunion with his brother has a beneficial side-effect: when a murder connected with cult television show `Beyond Earth' is committed, Monk discovers that Ambrose is a renowned expert on the show.

Having a sci-fi show as one of the backdrops to this novel gives the author plenty of scope for comedy. There's a wonderful scene at a `Beyond Earth' convention involving some priceless packets of thirty-year-old breakfast cereal. Monk also recoils at the sight of the attendees in their `Beyond Earth' regalia, particularly those dressed as Mr Snork, one of the show's lead characters complete with trunk-like snoot.

As ever, Monk's assistant and friend Natalie Teeger chronicles this adventure; the events are told in the first person from her point of view in easy-going, humorous prose. We share her exasperation at Monk's obsessiveness while at the same time marvelling at his uniqueness.

One thing that has been missing from some of the previous novels in the series has been the lack of Captain Stottlemeyer and Lieutenant Disher in the stories. This is not the case with `Mr Monk in Outer Space', and, in my opinion, their presence in this story adds to the feeling that this could, and perhaps, should be turned into a television episode.

Lee Goldberg has really done the business with this latest Monk novel. Funny, clever and thoroughly compelling, this is the best in the series so far. Mind you, I think I might have said that about all the Monk novels.


Ghost of a Chance
Ghost of a Chance
by Dee Lloyd
Edition: Paperback

2.0 out of 5 stars The Ghost and Mrs Brzezynski, 26 Jan. 2008
This review is from: Ghost of a Chance (Paperback)
Sitting somewhere between the romance and paranormal genres, Dee Lloyd's novel, originally published in 2002, doesn't live up to its intriguing plot outline.

As he drives along a particular stretch of road near a construction site, the usually cognisant Bret's nerves start to jangle. The temperature plummets and a wailing saxophone suddenly drowns out all other sound. Then he sees her: a bright white figure, bloodied but recognisable as someone he knows. We soon learn that this is the ghost of a murdered woman. Her cryptic utterances at Bret's encounter with her lead to the dead woman's twin sister whose own life is now in danger.

For me, the novel's bright opening fades quickly as we are introduced to some amiable, but not very interesting characters. Blessed with swoon-inducing good looks, Bret also runs a security firm and is an ex-member of the secret service. All very handy when he falls for beguiling chanteuse, Milly, twin sister of the spectral Yvette.

The two main gripes that I have with this story are that the ghost isn't involved enough, and the murderer is revealed far too early so that any suspense is dissipated well before the novel's end. For a short novel, the narrative is quite plodding. The main characters are not particularly well drawn and you don't really care enough about them to be bothered about the romantic element.


Sally Lockhart Mysteries - (Ruby in the Smoke & Shadow in the North) [DVD]
Sally Lockhart Mysteries - (Ruby in the Smoke & Shadow in the North) [DVD]
Dvd ~ Billie Piper
Offered by Bee-Entertained
Price: £6.98

40 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Of All the Girls that are so Smart, 20 Jan. 2008
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This two-DVD set features the opening two stories based on Philip Pullman's Sally Lockhart novels. I should point out that I have not read any of the books in this series; this review is purely based on the DVD package. Both stories are feature length, running to approximately 90 minutes each. Disc one ("The Ruby in the Smoke") includes an interview with Philip Pullman. This is the sole bonus feature in the package, but both DVDs contain English subtitles if required.

`The Ruby in the Smoke' is set in England in 1874. Sally Lockhart (Billie Piper), a feisty young woman whose father has been killed in mysterious circumstances, now resides with her fusty Aunt Caroline. "What accomplishments do you have?" asks the spiteful elderly lady. Sally tells her that she has none save the ability to fire a pistol, speak Hindustani and to read an accounts ledger as easily as a newspaper. By the time she has removed herself from this stifling atmosphere, Sally is immersed in her first mystery. The catalyst for this upheaval is a cryptic note that she has received from Singapore concerning her father's untimely death. Much murderous mayhem and derring-do ensues when the eponymous ruby's existence becomes known.

Sally's business acumen comes to her rescue when she takes on the books at the lovelorn Frederick's (JJ Field) photography business in return for bed and board. He and capable cockney lad, Jim (Matt Smith), take on sidekick status as they are confronted by the vile and devious Mrs. Holland (Julie Walters in superb form) who will stop at nothing in order to secure the ruby for herself.

Matt narrates some small portions of the story via voice-over. Unfortunately, his `cor blimey' tones are a little grating here, and, thankfully, this device was not continued for the next story in the series, `The Shadow in the North'.

In this story, a weapon capable of widespread destruction has been invented. The villain of the piece is Axel Bellman (Jared Harris), a businessman who is not above using mass murder and blackmail to get what he wants. Sally has now gone into business as a financial consultant and is distressed to learn that one of her clients is close to financial ruin thanks to her advice to invest in a shipping company whose vessel has subsequently sunk in mysterious circumstances. The owner of this company? None other than Axel Bellmann. This tale also takes music hall acts and psychics into the mix as the faithful Jim and Frederick rejoin Sally in a new mystery.

The acting is uniformly excellent (notably from Julie Walters in the first story). Billie Piper grows into the lead role nicely. The first story calls for a more restrained and understated performance given her character's age and status. `The Shadow in the North' sees Sally blossom into a more determined and independent woman. This story is also a little lighter in tone than its predecessor; there's even room for a few jokes. I particularly enjoyed theatre manager, Bram Stoker (Owen Roe) reject the disappointed Jim's play script, "There's no future in vampire stories," Stoker informs him. In another scene, Sally visits the Patents Office to find out about Bellmann's business dealings. Here she encounters an awkward young clerk played to perfection by Nitin Ganatra. His mannerisms and facial expressions are hilarious and his discomfort is palpable when faced with the attractive Sally. His is just an incidental character, but I'm glad they included him. Both stories are highly visual with some stunning photography which captures the colourful opulence of the haves as well as the dingy squalor of the have-nots.

It would have been nice if some more bonus material could have been included such as cast and crew interviews or audio commentaries, but the Philip Pullman interview on the first disc is interesting as he talks about the process of writing his books and gives his thoughts on their translation to the small screen.

Both stories are quite involved, but utterly compelling, and with television of this quality repeated viewing is a pleasure.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 25, 2011 3:08 PM BST


The Descendants
The Descendants
by Kaui Hart Hemmings
Edition: Paperback

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hawaii Five, 13 Jan. 2008
This review is from: The Descendants (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
"The sun is shining, mynah birds are chattering, palm trees are swaying." The idyllic splendour of Hawaii is shattered for Matt King when his wife's somewhat hedonistic lifestyle catches up with her. After a boating accident, Joanie King is hospitalized in a coma with no chance of recovery. Matt begins informing family and friends of Joanie's imminent demise and while so doing, discovers that she has been having an affair. Should he, could he, invite his wife's lover to her bedside to say a final farewell?

Despite this sombre premise, the story, narrated by Matt King in the first person, is told in an easy-going style. Author Kaui Hart Hemmings' writing is fluid and compelling. The primary characters are Matt King and his two daughters, 10 year-old Scottie and teenaged Alex. Scottie's response to her mother's condition is to deliberately get herself stung by jellyfish. Alex is imbued with some of her mother's thrill-seeking tendencies. A recovering drug addict, she has been packed off to boarding school in an attempt to direct her life along more productive lines. When Matt plucks her back out of school, it's unclear as to whether or not she has completely kicked her self-destructive habit.

Matt's realisation that he now bears the sole burden of parental responsibility is both poignant and amusing as he is constantly flummoxed by his daughters' mood swings. As he tries to navigate his daughters through their emotional minefield, and to come to terms with his own feelings, another duty looms. His family is descended from Hawaiian royalty and some of their valuable land is proposed for sale. A number of property developers are eager to buy, and it is Matt's responsibility to decide, on his extended family's behalf, whose offer will be accepted.

An emotional melting pot simmers with themes of love, loss, grief, greed and familial misunderstanding. There are a number of blackly humorous moments peppered throughout. Many of these come courtesy of Sid, Alex's tactless `not-quite' boyfriend whom she insists must accompany them throughout their ordeal.

`The Descendants' is a fabulous read. With its almost paradisiacal location, it must have been tempting for the author to slip into travelogue mode at times, but she manages to keep the setting firmly implanted in the reader's mind without stemming the story's main thrust. Indeed, for a story whose central character is comatose, the narrative swims with life. Moving, sad and painfully funny, this novel is highly recommended.


Murderers Prefer Blondes (Paige Turner Mysteries)
Murderers Prefer Blondes (Paige Turner Mysteries)
by Amanda Matetsky
Edition: Mass Market Paperback

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Murder, She Wrote, 5 Jan. 2008
Paige Turner is a woman who wants to be a crime writer. Unfortunately, her name causes her colleagues no end of hilarity. She is the only female on the staff of a detective magazine and is regarded as little more than the office drudge. One of her routine tasks is to file the clippings of newspaper articles relating to crime stories. While engaged in this task one day, she comes across a photograph of a murder victim whom she recognises: a woman, slightly down on her luck, who recently visited the office in the hope of picking up some modelling work. Paige feels a certain affinity with the victim and decides to try to find her murderer. Paige also decides that she will write an account of her efforts in a bid to secure a writing job on the magazine.

Amanda Matetsky's first Paige Turner mystery is an excellent cozy mystery. Our heroine narrates the story in the first person in an informal, self-deprecating style, and the descriptive prose is nicely evocative of the setting and social standards of the time (1954 New York). The story moves at a good clip as Paige takes her first steps in amateur sleuthing, getting herself into various scrapes along the way including run-ins with the local mob representative. There's a hint of a romantic subplot, but this doesn't get in the way of the mystery and comedy elements. As cozy mysteries go, this is one of the better examples of the genre and it certainly makes for captivating reading.


The Funhouse [1981] [DVD]
The Funhouse [1981] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Elizabeth Berridge

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars All the Fun of the Fear, 30 Dec. 2007
This review is from: The Funhouse [1981] [DVD] (DVD)
During the early 1980s, slasher films were very popular; there seemed to be at least one released at the cinema every week. One of the best from this time is Tobe Hooper's `The Funhouse', a highly visual piece that has, at long last, been released on DVD.

Amy (Elizabeth Berridge) is all set for her first date with Buzz (Cooper Huckabee). Along with friends, Liz (Largo Woodruff) and Richie (Miles Chapin), they visit a travelling carnival. A ride on the ghost train gives them more than they bargained for when they decide to spend the night there.

There is little in the way of character development for our four friends. Their dialogue consists of little more than banalities. However, Amy seems to be almost hypnotically aware of the barkers trying to drum up trade for their various exotic delights. Their one-note patter seems to be directed at her, "Alive, alive, alive," intones one in an eerie invitation to peruse his collection of animal freaks.

The film is populated by weird characters, for example, the scavenging bag lady who spouts hellfire and damnation, and the truck driver who invites Amy's young brother, Joey (Shawn Carson), to take a ride with him before aiming a rifle at the boy. However, most of the tension is gathered from the carnival itself. There are a number of short, clipped scenes with Amy and company on various rides and amusements. For all its gaudy splendor, the carnival is presented in such a way that you feel its inherent malevolence is always about to surface. The sequences inside the funhouse are neatly handled. Its automated models, designed to scare the ghost train riders, become more spooky as they sit lifeless in the shadowy darkness, only to reanimate unexpectedly in front of our blundering foursome.

If you're a gorehound, be warned: for a slasher movie, there's not much on show here. Most of the violence happens off-screen. `The Funhouse' relies more on atmosphere for its chills and in this respect it achieves what it sets out to do. It does come a little unstuck with its lack of character development, and because we don't know enough about the characters' backgrounds, it's difficult to care overly about them on a personal level. Nevertheless, this is an effective piece of horror entertainment. It's a pity that the DVD includes no bonus material.


Sex Hex [DVD] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Sex Hex [DVD] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Under Her Spell, 26 Dec. 2007
Although this is not quite a sequel to George Freeway's "My Vampire Lover" (a.k.a. "K-Sex"), there are parallels that suggest that the original film's premise, a lesbian vampire preying on unsuspecting young women, has evolved a little. Chip the cable guy has morphed into Carl the ex-cable guy, now vampire hunter. Carl is played by Clancy Fitzsimmons (a.k.a. John Fedele) who turns in an impressively manic performance. "Sex Hex" is also written and directed by George Freeway who, as in "My Vampire Lover", also has a minor role in the proceedings here.

Sabrina Faire takes the lead as the mysterious Diane. A seemingly innocent secretary, she is in fact a vampire who satiates herself by gorging on the psychic sexual energy of her victims. To this end we have Jackie Stevens, AJ Khan, Darian Caine, Sativa Verte and Molly Heartbreaker as her unwitting prey. Diane is seen at various points topping up her power by means of ritualistic witchery. Thus powered up, she is able to telepathically pair her victims up for lesbian capers that we can all enjoy. Unless, of course, you prefer your lesbian vampire stories to be a little more traditional. There are no fangs, no blood, and our leading vamp takes no part in the couplings that she arranges. She's quite the voyeur, though, and she takes her clothes off quite frequently, too.

All the aforementioned ladies are lovely to behold, but the sex scenes are marred by the overuse of soft filter. This has the effect of blurring too much of the picture frame. Although the action is not impeded by this, it is disconcerting at times. I wish makers of sex films would stop with the visual effects: that's not why we buy them, guys.

As for the comedy, John Fedele is quite adept at this having had bags of experience on many of Seduction Cinema's offerings, both as an actor and as a director of photography. He is particularly good at playing the socially awkward, nitwit (see "Vampires Seduction", "Vampire Vixens" and "Mistress of Frankenstein" for other examples of this). In "Sex Hex", he can be seen hurling sexual obscenities at his pencil sharpener. . . .

Molly Heartbreaker is definitely my favourite tattooed lady. Her look has a gothic appearance to it that would suggest that she perhaps would have been more suited to the lead role. This is not to suggest that Sabrina Faire puts in a poor performance, far from it. It's just that Molly has the more standard look of a vampire, but she ends up playing a psychiatrist. Sabrina looks more like a psychiatrist, but ends up playing a vampire. However, we are rewarded in the bonus material with a naked Molly Heartbreaker showing us her tattoos. She obviously has a thing for fire as she has tattooed flames at various points on her body, "This is my burning bush," she explains. And very nice it is too. The bonus material also includes a behind the scenes featurette and an interview with Sabrina Faire.

If you enjoy cheap, soft-core sex comedies such as those mentioned above, then you'll probably enjoy this. If you don't, you probably won't.


Robbie's Wife
Robbie's Wife
by Russell Hill
Edition: Mass Market Paperback

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Crime of Passion, 23 Dec. 2007
With its air of brooding menace, its American leading man in a rural British setting and its stifled sexual passion, I was half expecting this novel to be something along the lines of `Straw Dogs'. However, my suspicions were unfounded and `Robbie's Wife' is both tantalising and engrossing with some surprising twists along the way.

A down on his luck American screenplay writer, Jack Stone, decamps to England to work on a project in Dorset. The cottage that he has rented for his stay turns out to be inadequate. He finds out that local farm owners, Robbie and Maggie Barlow take in lodgers. During his stay with them, Stone finds himself falling for Maggie - falling for her to such an extent that he begins to contemplate murder.

Hard Case Crime usually publishes reprints of pulp crime stories, but they have the occasional foray into original material. Russell Hill's excellent novel has its first publication here. Whilst times have obviously changed since the 1950s - which is when the bulk of Hard Case Crime's output originated - this novel, despite its contemporary setting and mores, still keeps to the spirit of the pulp fiction genre.

This is a novel that could appeal to a wider readership than crime fiction fans. I think it would also appeal to romance readers and to those who enjoy well written, character driven stories.


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