Towel Day ’19: Some of my favorite Adams lines . . .

(updated 5/25/19)
There’s a great temptation here for me to go crazy. I’ll refrain from that and just list some of his best lines . . .

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

  • Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so.”
  • This must be Thursday. . . I never could get the hang of Thursdays.”
  • “You’d better be prepared for the jump into hyperspace. It’s unpleasantly like being drunk.”
    “What’s so unpleasant about being drunk?”
    “You ask a glass of water.”
    (I’m not sure why, but this has always made me chuckle, if not actually laugh out loud. It’s just never not funny)
  • He had found a Nutri-Matic machine which had provided him with a plastic cup filled with a liquid that was almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea.
  • In those days spirits were brave, the stakes were high, men were real men, women were real women and small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri were real small furry creatures from Alpha Centuari. And all dared to brave unknown terrors, to do mighty deeds, to boldly split infinitives that no man had split before . . .
  • “Look,” said Arthur, “would it save you a lot of time if I just gave up and went mad now?”
  • The ships hung in the sky in much the same way that bricks don’t.

The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

  • It is a curious fact, and one to which no one knows quite how much importance to attach, that something like 85 percent of all known worlds in the Galaxy, be they primitive or highly advanced, have invented a drink called jynnan tonnyx, or gee-N-N-T’Nix, or jinond-o-nicks, or any one of a thousand or more variations on the same phonetic theme. The drinks themselves are not the same, and vary between the Sivolvian “chinanto/mnigs” which is ordinary water served at slightly above room temperature, and the Gagrakackan “tzjin-anthony-ks” which kills cows at a hundred paces; and in fact the one common factor between all of them, beyond the fact that the names sound the same, is that they were all invented and named before the worlds concerned made contact with any other worlds.

Life, the Universe, and Everything

  • The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy has this to say on the subject of flying.There is an art, it says, or rather, a knack to flying.The knack lies in learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss.

(It goes on for quite a while after this — and I love every bit of it.)

  • “One of the interesting things about space,” Arthur heard Slartibartfast saying . . . “is how dull it is?””Dull?” . . .”Yes,” said Slartibartfast, “staggeringly dull. Bewilderingly so. You see, there’s so much of it and so little in it.”

So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish

  • Of course, one never has the slightest notion what size or shape different species are going to turn out to be, but if you were to take the findings of the latest Mid-Galactic Census report as any kind of accurate guide to statistical averages you would probably guess that the craft would hold about six people, and you would be right.You’d probably guessed that anyway. The Census report, like most such surveys, had cost an awful lot of money and told nobody anything they didn’t already know — except that every single person in the Galaxy had 2.4 legs and owned a hyena. Since this was clearly not true the whole thing eventually had to be scrapped.
  • Here was something that Ford felt he could speak about with authority.”Life,” he said, “is like a grapefruit.””Er, how so?”

    Well, it’s sort of orangy-yellow and dimpled on the outside, wet and squidgy the middle. It’s got pips inside, too. Oh, and some people have half a one for breakfast.”

    “Is there anyone else out there I can talk to?”

  • Arthur had a swordfish steak and said it made him angry. He grabbed a passing waitress by the arm and berated her.”Why’s this fish so bloody good?” he demanded, angrily.”Please excuse my friend,” said Fenchurch to the startled waitress. “I think he’s having a nice day at last.”

Mostly Harmless

  • A common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools.

Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency

  • If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, we have at least to consider the possibility that we have a small aquatic bird of the family anatidae on our hands.
  • Let’s think the unthinkable, let’s do the undoable. Let us prepare to grapple with the ineffable itself, and see if we may not eff it after all.

(I’ve often been tempted to get a tattoo of this)

The Last Chance to See

  • “So what do we do if we get bitten by something deadly?” I asked.He looked at me as if I were stupid.”You die, of course. That’s what deadly means.”
  • I’ve never understood all this fuss people make about the dawn. I’ve seen a few and they’re never as good as the photographs, which have the additional advantage of being things you can look at when you’re in the right frame of mind, which is usually around lunchtime.
  • I have the instinctive reaction of a Western man when confronted with sublimely incomprehensible. I grab my camera and start to photograph it.
  • Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so.

And a couple of lines I’ve seen in assorted places, articles, books and whatnot

  • I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.
  • A learning experience is one of those things that says, “You know that thing you just did? Don’t do that.”
  • The fact is, I don’t know where my ideas come from. Nor does any writer. The only real answer is to drink way too much coffee and buy yourself a desk that doesn’t collapse when you beat your head against it.


Towel Day ’19: Do You Know Where Your Towel Is?

(actually updated and slightly revised this 5/25/19!)

           The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy has a few things to say on the subject of towels.

A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. Partly it has great practical value. You can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapors; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a miniraft down the slow heavy River Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (such a mind-bogglingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.

More importantly, a towel has immense psychological value. For some reason, if a strag (strag: non-hitch hiker) discovers that a hitch hiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush, face flannel, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet weather gear, space suit etc., etc. Furthermore, the strag will then happily lend the hitch hiker any of these or a dozen other items that the hitch hiker might accidentally have “lost”. What the strag will think is that any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still knows where his towel is is clearly a man to be reckoned with.

Hence a phrase that has passed into hitchhiking slang, as in “Hey, you sass that hoopy Ford Prefect? There’s a frood who really knows where his towel is.” (Sass: know, be aware of, meet, have sex with; hoopy: really together guy; frood: really amazingly together guy.)

One of my long-delayed goals is to write up a good all-purpose Tribute to Douglas Adams post, and another Towel Day has come without me doing so. Belgium.

Next year . . . or later. (he says for at least the 4th straight year, a work ethic I like to believe Adams would recognize)

Last year, I did a re-read of all of Adams’ (completed) fiction. For reasons beyond my ken (or recollection), I didn’t get around to blogging about the Dirk Gently books, but I did do the Hitchhiker’s Trilogy:

Adams is one of those handful of authors that I can’t imagine I’d be the same without having encountered/read/re-read/re-re-re-re-read, and so I do my best to pay a little tribute to him each year, even if it’s just carrying around a towel. Although, I do have the planet logo from the series tattooed on my forearm — so I do carry around a tribute to him constantly. I’ve only been able to get one of my sons into Adams, he’s the taller, thinner one in the picture from a couple of years ago below. is the best collection of resources on the day, recently posted this pretty cool video, shot on the ISS by astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti.

Even better — Here’s an appearance by Douglas Adams himself from the old Letterman show — so glad someone preserved this:

Love the anecdote (Also, I want this tie.)

Killer Thriller by LeeGoldberg: The Best-Selling Author/Hapless Hero Ian Ludlow Returns to Save the Day Again

I wrote about half of a post about this book to go up yesterday. But I realized I’d spent a lot of time talking about things I really didn’t care about, and hadn’t spent any time talking about the bits I did care about. But I couldn’t turn the ship around (much to my annoyance). So, I let one more day go without a post — a truly annoying trend for the week/month. This isn’t quite what I wanted it to be. But it’s done. So that’s a start.

Killer ThrillerKiller Thriller

by Lee Goldberg
Series: Ian Ludlow Thrillers, #2

Kindle Edition, 277 pg.
Thomas & Mercer, 2019

Read: May 21 – 22, 2019

           “…I want Ludlow under constant and total visual, audio, digital, and personal surveillance,” Yat added. If anybody in Beijing asked about it, he’d explain that it was part of his ongoing investigation into Wang Kang’s activities, which wasn’t far from the truth. Those were always the most effective lies. “Mobilize every resource that we have.”

“Including the assassins?”

“Especially the assassins,” Yat said.

In True Fiction, Lee Goldberg introduced us to Ian Ludlow — former TV writer, now thriller writer extraordinaire — who discovered (the hard way) that terrorists were using his fiction as a playbook. Then he had to go on the run for his life from these people who didn’t appreciate the fact that he’d be able to identify what they were doing. Running alongside him (frequently behind, more frequently ahead of him) was the poor girl who was supposed to schlep him from bookstore event to bookstore event in Seattle. Margo didn’t like Ludlow, but finding their fates bound together, she threw herself into surviving — and is very likely the reason he did survive.

Not only did they survive, they uncovered and defeated a group within US Intelligence that were actively plotting against the US. It’s a highly improbable story that didn’t feel that improbable — yet was told in a way that played up the tension, the suspense and the fun. It was one of the funniest and most enjoyable books I read last year.

Now it’s time for the inevitable sequel — Killer Thriller — and Lee Goldberg has somehow done what almost every good sequel strives to do (and few succeed) — he tells pretty much the same story with just a couple of differences, yet does so in a way that feels completely fresh and original — in most ways, superior to the original. I don’t think it’d be hard to take a semi-thorough outline of both novels to compare against each other and find that they’re freakishly similar. But I only thought about that when I sat back to think about the book and its predecessor. While reading, I didn’t care about True Fiction or any similarities the current book had to it. I just had too much fun while reading the sequel I couldn’t be bothered to compare it.

Which is a pretty neat trick, really. It’s like when Chandler Bing said, ” Oh–I think this is the episode of “Three’s Company” where there’s some kind of misunderstanding.” Just because every episode of Three’s Company featured a few misunderstandings — it didn’t keep things (usually) from not being funny. The same kind of thing here — just because Ludlow and Margo are once again thrown in to the middle of things they’re not ready for, it doesn’t keep the action scenes from being riveting and the funny bits from being funny.

So, if you haven’t read the first book, let me tell you a little bit about Ian Ludlow. He’s overweight, doesn’t take care of himself in anyway, shape or form. He doesn’t seem to be attractive (and bounces between knowing it and forgetting it). His ego is pretty big, but he’s also realistic about himself. He’s lazy about everything but his writing — and he could likely be more disciplined about it. Okay, based on what we’re told about his greatest creation, Clint Straker — imagine the combination of Bond and Reacher — he’s pretty lazy. Still, he comes up with incredible plots (don’t take my word for it, take the word of people who based terror campaigns on his work). Deep down (Margo would argue very, very deep) he’s a decent guy. Especially for the 15-25 minutes a day he’s not hitting on some unwilling woman, or thinking about hitting on her.

Margo, meanwhile, is a would-be singer/songwriter, a former dog walker, and is really vocationally lost. She’s smart, she’s tough, and adaptable — even if she’s still trying to figure out how to adapt after the events of True Fiction. She’s picked up some self-defense skills along the way, which will prove to be handy.

Ludlow brings Margo with him to Hong Kong to act as his research assistant and hopefully relax a little from the stress that’s eating at her from her recent harrowing experiences (almost being killed counts as harrowing, right?). He’s going to Hong Kong to do a little promotion for the studio that’s turning his first Straker book into a movie. While there, he wants Margo to scope out some places and things he can use in his upcoming novel. In this novel, the Chinese government is waging a secret campaign to take over the US through political manipulation and selling us cheap products they can use to spy on us. Straker’s going to fight against them in Hong Kong, so he needs some local color.

Once in the hotel (and on the hotel’s wi-fi), a group of Chinese espionage agents tap into Ludlow’s laptop and make an unsettling discovery. The plot laid out in Ludlows “novel” is ridiculously close to the plan this same group has spent years devising and implementing to take over the US government through manipulation, cash, and fear. Clearly this man’s novels are just a cover story, he has to be the most wily of secret agents — using this preposterous writer character as a cover for his actual abilities and mission to stop this Chinese plot.

So the Chinese begin their dangerous game of cat and mouse with the “spy” Ian Ludlow. It’s more of a cat-and-clueless-yet-incredibly-lucky-mouse game. But you get the point. But hey, it works. Think Inspector Gadget and Penny — without the robotic arms and sentient dog.

Like Ludlow, Goldberg spent a lot of time as a writer/producer of television. And in both books he does a great job of lampooning the men and women writing, directing and starring in TV and movies. You can’t help but feel Goldberg exorcising some personal demons as he does so — particularly in the table read scene and everything that Damon Matthews (the actor playing Straker) says and does. Incidentally, I’m sure any parallels people might draw between Matthews/Straker and Cruise/Reacher are completely unintentional on Goldberg’s part. For my money, if doing this sort of thing helps Goldberg deal with the frustrations that seem to plague most TV writers/screenwriters, I hope he keeps pouring out his frustrations on the page — I love ’em.

Goldberg seems to have learned a lot from the Fox and O’Hare books he co-wrote with Janet Evanovich — there are huge chunks of this book that feel like they were originally planned for one of them. Whether Goldberg repurposed the scenes or was just influenced by his time with that series really doesn’t matter — the sensibility that made that series work so well is making this one work very well, too.

From the big things — like fight scenes or car chases — to the way he describes a Washington D. C. restaurant, to little touches like the way that someone smuggles information out of China, Goldberg is at the top of his game — which is an accomplishment. I think I’ve read almost 30 of his books and there are maybe one or two that are more satisfying than Killer Thriller. Thrills and laughs together — and maybe maybe a little surprising character depth and development (just a bit, we don’t want Ludlow to stop being a cad and a loser), this is a whole lotta fun. You can come into this one fresh, you won’t appreciate the changes in character (particularly Margo), but you’ll have just about as much fun as the rest of us.


4 Stars

2019 Cloak & Dagger Challenge Humor Reading Challenge 2019

Reposting Just ‘Cuz — True Fiction by Lee Goldberg: A Writer on the Run

Here’s the second of my Lee Goldberg reposts for the day — by the time you read this, I’ve probably finihsed the sequel to this one, which might be even more fun than this. Do yourself a favor and check out these books — but first, let me try to lay out the argument that you should.

True FictionTrue Fiction

by Lee Goldberg
Series: Ian Ludlow Thrillers, #1

Kindle Edition, 248 pg.
Thomas & Mercer, 2018
Read: July 20 – 21, 2018

“Sorry I’m late,” Ian said. “I’ve been on the run all morning.”

It was a line worthy of Clint Straker and Ian knew it. He couldn’t stop being a writer, always thinking of the next line in one of his thrillers. But he was living a thriller now and it was no thrill at all.

This is one of those books that’s super easy to write about — if you like the premise of the book, you’ll like the book. It’s just that simple. The tricky part is finding someone who wouldn’t like this premise.

Ian Ludlow, television writer turned thriller novelist, can’t believe his eyes — a terrorist attack in Hawaii went exactly the way that he designed and he’s pretty sure that someone is trying to kill him. Ludlow was part of a group of writers (movie, TV, novelists) that came up with some scenarios for the CIA that terrorists might use, so the CIA could design counter-measures. This is a thing that actually happened (maybe still does) following 9/11, because writers have much better imaginations than government employees do. One of those scenarios is playing out in real life and Ludlow doesn’t know what to do. Clearly someone out there doesn’t want Ludlow spreading the word that he’s the source for this attack.

Before he realizes what’s happening, Ludlow is running for his life and has dragged Margo along with him. Margo’s a dog-sitter, house-sitter, aspiring musician, and occasionally drives authors visiting Seattle to their signings. That’s how this poor girl gets sucked into Ludlow’s mess — she saves his life (and then he returns the favor), dooming her to having to run with him.

Add in some over-the-top villains (I hope, see below), and Goldberg’s signature wit and solid writing, and you’ve got yourself a winner.

This is a fast fun ride featuring about the most unlikely of all thriller protagonists. Ian Ludlow isn’t really in any kind of shape; he has no skills with hand-to-hand combat, cars, or weapons — his people skills are suspect, really; all he has going for him is a pretty agile mind. Margo’s a little better off, but not much. They quickly run to the home of one of Ian’s friends who lives off of the grid and is paranoid enough he’ll believe their story. Which may not really be the strongest of qualifications, but they can’t afford to be choosy. The three of them will have to figure out a way to survive — and possibly stop whoever it was behind the attack.

Does anyone else remember Condorman? The Disney film about a comic book writer/artist who accidentally (very accidentally) becomes a super-spy? I was 7 or 8 when it came out and loved it. Anyway, I had a flash-back to that when Ludlow stumbles his way into taking out one of the many assassins that come after him — one of the many times I had an honest audible response to this book (not a book I recommend reading in an ICU ward, for what it’s worth, people tend not to like noises there).

Now, I called the villains over-the-top. I’m not really sure they are — they seem over the top, but there’s a little part of me wonders how hard it really would be for someone to pull off something like this. John Rogers, of Leverage, frequently talked about how some of their over-the-top bad guys were watered down versions of the real thing (because no one would believe the real thing). Take my word for it, I don’t have time to track him down saying it. Let’s put it this way — they’re perfect for this book, and like just about every thriller villain ever, it’s best that they stay inside the book.

While he’s telling a very fun story, Goldberg takes a little bit of time to satirize thrillers, thriller writings, and thriller heroes — I loved every bit of that. It helps that Goldberg writes and reads the same books he’s satirizing, so you know he does it with love and honesty. Some of the excerpts from Ludlow’s books are just awful, it must’ve been hard to write (but so much fun). Ditto for the TV shows that Ian’s friend Ronnie starred in, I really hope that those are things that Goldberg made up for this book (and fear they aren’t).

This feels like Goldberg and Evanovich’s Fox & O’Hare books, or maybe The Man with the Iron-On Badge (which features a protagonist only slightly more likely than Ian) — not his more serious work like King City. The story moves quickly, deftly and will leave you smiling — I can’t imagine Goldberg writing a disappointing book at this point, I just don’t think he can. Pick this up, you will be entertained.


4 Stars

Reposting Just ‘Cuz: — King City by Lee Goldberg

So, I couldn’t get anything written tonight — and Lee Goldberg’s on my mind, so I thought I’d repost a couple of the many posts I’ve done about his books (which is probably less than 50% of what I’ve read). Here’s one from Goodreads before I started this here blog.

King CityKing City

by Lee Goldberg

Paperback, 246 pg.
Thomas and Mercer, 2012
Read: July 4-5, 2012

One part Jack Reacher, one part Jesse Stone, this first installment in Lee Goldberg’s new series reads like a Western set in the 21st century.

Tom Wade, a rigorously scrupulous cop is assigned to a part of King City so crime and poverty-ridden that city officials pretend it doesn’t exist. He’s sent there because the police force is overly-politicized where it isn’t overtly corrupted, and they can’t fire such an upstanding cop–but maybe his new post will lead to him being killed.

Wade is fully aware of this, but accepts his new post with gusto–he has a chance to make a difference and sets out to do so in as splashy a way as possible.

This isn’t a subtle book with complex characters–and doesn’t try to be. The characters are pretty much the dictionary definition of “stock,” the good guys are good, the bad guys are really bad–and that’s that. A fun, straightforward testosterone-y action book. Hopefully the first of many.


3 Stars

Opening Lines: Killer Thriller by Lee Goldberg

We all know we’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover (yet, publishing companies spend big bucks on cover design/art) (also, this has a great cover). But, the opening sentence(s)/paragraph(s) are fair game. So, when I stumble on a good opening (or remember one and pull it off the shelves), I’ll throw it up here. Dare you not to read the rest of the book.

from Killer Thriller by Lee Goldberg:

           Ian Ludlow’s UCLA creative writing professor insisted that the key to being a successful novelist was writing from personal experience. That’s why the professor was the author of five unpublished novels about sexually frustrated novelists who toiled in obscurity while teaching talentless and ungrateful students how to write.

So Ian ignored his professor’s edict and wrote escapist adventure stories that had nothing to do with his own mundane life. That’s how he flunked the class but eventually became a writer for TV shows like Hollywood & the Vine (half-man, half-plant, all cop!) and the author of the internationally bestselling series of action thrillers about Clint Straker, freelance spy for hire.

“And that’s how I ended up here,” Ian said, standing in front of a hundred people at Seattle’s Union Bay Books on a warm Saturday night.

It took precisely two sentences to make me chuckle, and two paragraphs to make me remember just how fun Ian Ludlow is as a character. It doesn’t get much more efficient than that.

Going Dark by Neil Lancaster: An Action-Packed Thrill Ride, an Interesting Spin on the Hero, and a Dynamite Plot

Going DarkGoing Dark

by Neil Lancaster
Series: Tom Novak Thriller, #1

Kindle Edition, 314 pg.
Burning Chair Publishing, 2019
Read: May 15 – 17, 2019

So Tom Novak came to the UK as a refugee from Bosnia at the age of twelve and was raised in Scotland by a wonderful couple. He joined the military, did a lot more than many soldiers had to and then came home and became a cop. He’s driven and focused — one could argue that he’s obsessed with the job — he’s talented and frustrated with the attitude of many of those above him in ranks and how little they’re able to accomplish for the common good. When given a chance to use his background to infiltrate a group of Serbian criminals who are engaging in human trafficking, prostitution, and immigration fraud he jumps at it. The primary target is a lawyer who is defrauding the government, innocent refugees, and young girls — while making a lot of money — but if he can take out the Serbs funneling girls to him, well that’s just icing on the cake.

I loved the pacing of the undercover work — it’s not one of those where the UC officer meets the bad guy and almost instantly gets taken into their confidence — there’s work, there’s time involved. Now, Lancaster takes care of most of that work and time with a time jump and a summary sentence or two. But that’s okay, the book would’ve slowed down considerably and added a few dozen pages to show us all that. He’s not giving us a play by play of UC work here — and he has the qualifications to do that — it’s not that kind of book, it’s a Thriller. He makes the nod to reality, and then keeps things moving so that the book can get to the exciting stuff.

It’s after the time jump that things go horribly, horribly wrong. Evidence goes missing and the bad guys know who Novak really is and put out a hit on him. Clearly, the police have a leak and Novak can think of only one way to survive — and maybe uncover the leak and still take care of his criminal targets — that’s by (title alert!) by Going Dark. He hops off the grid, grabs a burner phone and a phony ID he’s had ready for just such a contingency, makes a call or two to people he can trust and sets about doing what he can (which is plenty).

Like many action heroes, focus on martial arts, physical fitness, weapons and police procedure doesn’t leave a lot of time for things like learning a lot about tech, hacking, and the like. So one of the favors he calls in (from outside the police force, because he really doesn’t trust anyone there right now) results in getting loaned this nice young computer savant named Pet. Pet’s awesome — she can do pretty much everything that Novak wants, and doesn’t care what rules she breaks while doing so — and is perfectly willing to risk her neck for this relative stranger. Sure, she strains credulity a bit, but she’s entertaining enough that you really don’t care (besides, just about everyone else in the book is as realistic as you could hope for. Every thriller needs a couple of larger than life characters, might as well make it a fun techie girl in addition to the super-solider/cop).

With Pet’s help, Novak goes on the hunt for everyone involved in his precarious situation — both within and without the Metropolitan Police. And you know it’s not going to go well for anyone he finds.

You’ve really got three criminal groups at work here — the Serbs (a couple of brothers, their mother, and eventually their father); the lawyer and his brother; and the corrupt police. The Serbs are your typical rough and tumble crooks who don’t care much about their victims, the people they use or the necessity of violence — they know what they want and will do what they can to get it. Links to war criminals and larger criminal groups back home, make them more dangerous. You’ve seen the type before, you’ll see them again — and Lancaster nails their characterizations. He possibly does better with the sleazoid lawyer. It took no time at all for me to want bad things to happen to him, and then things got worse. He feels all-too-real and all-too-horrible. The same sentence could be applied to their inside-the-police tools, but I’m not going to say anything more about this group because I’ll end up giving something away. So, let’s just leave it there. Really this is a pretty impressive group of opponents for our fledgling hero to go up against, larger-than-life assistant or not.

The thing that sets Tom Novak apart from so many super-cops/soldiers/spies that the Thriller world are his particular background and his current psychology. The two are likely related, but lets ignore that. While you can’t say his childhood was as horrible as many are, or as it could’ve been given some of the events that surrounded him. It left an impression on him, it set him apart from his peers and still shapes him — he’s quick to tell anyone who says something that he’s not Scottish, or English, or anything else he’s tagged with. He may have adopted (willingly or not) his new country, but that’s not who he is at his core. More than once — particularly after things get violent — that we’re shown Novak’s emotional/psychological state. It’s not what one would expect — it’s not what he’d prefer to see — but it’s who he is. He knows he’s different, and his self-awareness helps the reader get insight. I don’t want to get into details at this point, but I really hope that Lancaster and his readers get to explore this more.

This is Lancaster’s first novel and it shows some, but really he’s pretty impressive. I really thought that early on, Lancaster had set up a particular ending. And boy did he not deliver at all. It wasn’t as narratively satisfying or expected as what I thought — but it was a lot more realistic and practical. And Novak is nothing if not practical, so it was fitting. And I always appreciate when an author makes you think you’re going to get something and gives you the opposite (in a way that’s justifiable, and not lazy or clumsy, anyway). Technically, there was an awkward phrase or two, but nothing major — I did think he stumbled pretty early by giving us the same information in two back-to-back paragraphs. But those were minor hiccups and it wasn’t long before I was too wrapped up in the story to remember them.

This is the second book I’ve read recently largely based on the recommendation of Ian Patrick, at this point, I’m thinking of just paying him a monthly fee to curate my TBR. It’s just a fun read, with the right amount of touches of realism to ground the more fantastic elements. The undercover stuff feels authentic (but what do I really know); the bureaucracy reeks of realism (but DS Novak’s complaints seem different than Sam Batford’s, Peter Grant’s, or Washington Poe’s — to name a few); the inciting crime feels as “ripped from the headlines” as anything that Dick Wolf has done; the characters are solid; pacing and twists are as well executed as you could hope and the action is right up there with the seasoned pro’s. All in all, I’m not sure what more you could want from a debut — I’m hoping I get the chance to see more from Lancaster and more about Novak tout de suite!


4 Stars

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