Review: Figure It Out for Yourself by James Hadley Chase

Review: Figure It Out for Yourself by James Hadley Chase

Figure It Out for Yourself
Figure It Out for Yourself by James Hadley Chase

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

My Rating: 3.75
Opening Sentence: One hot June afternoon I was witting in my office at peace with the world, and conscious that the world was, for a change, at peace with me, when Paula put her dark, lovely head around the door to shatter my pipe dream.

What it’s about: Vic Malloy had his life saved on a job and promises the man his services for free anytime he needs it. A few days later the man gets framed for murder and Vic finds himself in the middle of a strange and multi-layered plot with shady players at every turn.

This was fun. It felt like the perfect example of a classic Chase book where the plot keeps you on edge and guessing and you still don’t get all the facts right. The one thing this book can’t be accused of is having weak female characters. Every character felt grounded and forceful. Each had a stronghold and played their part well. The fact that Vic Malloy didn’t sleep with any of them pushes my admiration for both the women and Malloy himself further.
According to Goodreads this is the 2nd Vic Malloy book which is good because this is a character I would like to see again. I don’t know exactly what he really does, for the sake of this story we can say he was an amateur detective, I have the feeling he does whatever you ask of him. Also I really liked his train of thought. He thinks funny, for example:

The bell sounded shrill and urgent and startled me, probably because, up to now, the cabin had been as still and as silent as a poor relation at a wedding.

Kerman and I spent hours at Police Headquarters being questioned and cross-questioned by a furious, purple-faced fist-pounding Brandon and later by two quiet Federal agents who took us apart, laid us on the desk, poked us about with long inquisitive fingers, and weren’t over-fussy how they put us together again.

My yells for help would be as futile as a short-tempered man trying to slam a revolving door.

That last one really had me laughing when I imagined it. Vic had a way of stating things that made me glad to be in his head. Apart from which his assistants, Paula and Kerman, were also good for giving out a few laughs.
One random thing I am beginning to notice from my month of reading James Hadley Chase novels is that everyone smokes in his stories. It’s not even questioned. Any time two characters sit down together, male or female, they share a cigarette with each other without hesitation. That’s pretty cool if you ask me. People aren’t that cool anymore. Wish they were.

View all my reviews

Review: Lady–Here’s Your Wreath by James Hadley Chase

Review: Lady–Here’s Your Wreath by James Hadley Chase

Lady--Here's Your Wreath
Lady–Here’s Your Wreath by James Hadley Chase

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Opening Sentence: The boys, who had come to see Vessi die, were lined up before the bar.

Reporter Nick Mason gets offered ten thousand dollars by a mysterious voice on the phone to break open the case of the death of Richmond for whom the wrong guy has been framed. Reluctantly, but with ever increasing curiosity Mason finds himself being sucked into a multi-layered plot with dangerously colorful characters and dangers bigger than he was counting on.

Now this was fun. This was more like the James Hadley Chase I knew who knows how to spin a yarn that can have you confused and curious. Thank the Lord that the female characters in this book have more of a spine than the last couple of Chase novels I read. And no cringe-worthy cliches and dialogues from a demented villain in a wingback chair stroking a cat. Because that has happened in a Chase book before. Now I would be lying if I said I didn’t see the twist coming, and yet still enjoyed it when it came. There were times when I thought the main character seemed to be getting out of situations a lot easier than he should have. There were literally scenarios where he could have died that he casually walked away from. Not even ran away, walked away. Then again maybe because in the context of the story, he was never really a big player, just a nosy one.

What I liked:
Stronger female characters than I’m used to in Chase books
Lack of cliche dialogues
Lack of heroics from the main character, which makes him seem more human
An ending I actually agreed with.

What I didn’t like:
Dangerous scenarios that the protagonist literally walks out of unharmed.
The protagonist, who is supposed to be a writer by profession, seems to lack articulation when talking or thinking. Everything good is “swell” and all women are “dames” and nothing about him seems to indicate he makes his living with words
There seems to be a willingness to be blind to certain odd things happening right in front of the main character’s eyes.

View all my reviews

Review: The Whiff of Money by James Hadley Chase 

Review: The Whiff of Money by James Hadley Chase 

The Whiff of Money
The Whiff of Money by James Hadley Chase

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Opening Sentence: On this brilliantly sunny May morning, Paris was looking at it’s best.

Mark Girland is an ex CIA agent living is Paris who is hired to find the daughter of the future president of the United States and the 3 blue films she made, and to get the situation under control before they fall into the wrong hands and destroy the reputation of the candidate. ( This was back when scandalous and shameful information could actually stop someone from becoming the president of the United States.) Trouble was there were other people who were after the films (and the girl). People like the Russian Secret Service and a gang of very ruthless, very brutal, very determined international operators.

You can’t win em all. This was one of James Hadley Chase’s weaker works. There was too much male posturing and hubris for there to be any realistic substance to the story. First off, we’re talking about the CIA and the Russian Secret Service, and these people are portrayed as mostly stupid individuals with a lot of pride and ego. The protagonist was also barely believable. He felt more like the manifestation of a male fantasy to have a well-paying secretive job where you make all the right moves and make everyone else look dumb, and sleep with a lot of women. Speaking of which, the women characters in the book were annoying at best, and extremely dumb at worst. Their only role seemed to be that off air-headed dolls who jump into bed with everyone. There’s also the case of physical abuse. There seems to be a lot of that going on. It’s not even an issue, that’s how casually its mentioned. It’s normal for them to get smacked around for as little as not answering a question. That really didn’t sit well with me and had me disgusted with the whole story. Despite the fact that there were times I wanted to smack Gillian Sherman, the girl who the whole commotion is about, myself. As stupid as they come.
There were a lot of references to other Chase books throughout the story. The character of Herman Radnitz, who I have just been familiarized with in my previous Chase read,”You’re Dead Without Money”, is increasingly interesting and I am looking forward to seeing him again.
The other references made were to ‘Have This One On Me”, “This Is For Real” and “Believed Violent”.

There was little I liked about this so it seems unfair to list things I didn’t.

View all my reviews

Review: You’re Dead Without Money by James Hadley Chase 

Review: You’re Dead Without Money by James Hadley Chase 

You're Dead Without Money
You’re Dead Without Money by James Hadley Chase

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

My Rating: 2.5 Stars
Opening Sentence: With the temperature down to sub-zero and snow piling up on the sidewalks to me New York had become a hole in the head.

The story starts off with 3 small time thieves, sweet little Cindy, her father Joey and her boyfriend Vin, who decide to play it big and kidnap an actor, Don Elliot, for ransom. Ironically the actor they kidnapped was out of work, broke, facing crushing debts and on the verge of committing suicide to avoid his financial obligations. This results in the trio becoming a quartet in crime who plan a heist to steal a bunch of stamps valued at a million dollars. Since there are trust issues within the bunch and unknown outside forces at play for the stamps for reasons other than their financial value, there is so much potential for things to go wrong.
I enjoy a good heist story, especially if I like at least some of the characters. In this case I blew hot and cold towards them but still found them pretty likable in the long run. The story felt like more classic Chase, with a few nice curve-balls. The ending though will not be to everyone’s taste. It certainly wasn’t to my taste. I kind of felt that half way through the story the author changed his mind about the direction he wanted to go in and rewrote a different ending. It wasn’t at all what I was expecting it to be.
Readers familiar with James Hadley Chase will find a few of his little trademarks to smile at, like the mention of Sidney Fremlin from “Have a Change of Scene” and the story being told by Al Barney from ” An Ear to the Ground”. All in all a fun read.

What I liked:
No cheesy dialogue
Believable heist plan
No loose ends

What I didn’t like:
Ending
Joey’s character
Winding up too conveniently
Unnecessary dimensions
Possible change of heart by author halfway through story.

View all my reviews

Review: Mission To Siena by James Hadley Chase

Review: Mission To Siena by James Hadley Chase

Mission To Siena
Mission To Siena by James Hadley Chase

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

My Rating: 2.5 stars
This was like watching a movie. I can’t think of a better way to describe the experience of reading this book. It was exactly like watching an old fashioned Saturday night action-flick. This is the second appearance of the Don Micklem character, which was also mentioned in the book by some reference to the “Tregarth business ” from Mission to Venice. I have grown fond of these references in Chase’s stories of his other books. Especially if I’ve read the other book too.
This story was packed with a lot of happenings. There was murder, a kidnapping, a secret organization and a crackpot villain stroking a cat in his lap. Can you think of anything else that says old fashioned thriller movie quite like a crazy bad-guy that pets his cat while making evil plans. This concept is so cliche now that I almost couldn’t believe I was reading it in a serious setting. Then I reminded myself that the book was published in the 1950’s when things like this were quite the rage I imagine.
As for the story itself, it was exciting. Yes it had the stereotypes common to it’s time but since this is a time-pass novel and something probably read while travelling or looking for a quick-read, you can’t really complain can you?
Despite the fact that the ending felt slightly abrupt and maybe a shade anti-climatic, this book cost me no more than a day’s read and so all in all it was not a bad way to spend time.

View all my reviews

Review: Have a Change of Scene by James Hadley Chase

Have a Change of Scene
Have a Change of Scene by James Hadley Chase

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

My rating: 2.5 Stars

Opening Sentence: It didn’t begin to show until a month after the crash.

I really like James Hadley Chase books. I am not familiar with a lot of writers from his time obviously, but I am a fan of the vibe and sense of the time he gives in his writing.
Have a Change of Scene is a story of Larry Carr, a wealthy and successful jewelry salesman in Paradise City who loses his fiance in a car crash one night. After the trauma, the sense of loss and emotional pain disrupts his mental state leaving him bitter and angry. He is advised to have a change of scene and spend some time doing welfare work in a treacherous little town that soon turns his world upside down. He finds himself scared, and angry, and dangerous and testing his courage in ways that were unthinkable to him before.
This book was a little disappointing to me. I am a big Chase fan and I know his knack for spinning thrilling tales and gangster-style action adventures. This however fell a LITTLE short of the mark. Maybe because it lacked the punch I have gotten so used to in Chase novels. It could also have something to do with the fact that I didn’t find myself rooting for the protagonist at any given time. I didn’t find myself rooting for anyone at all in fact, and that kind of had me wishing that everything would just go wrong. Now I don’t want to be the type to give anything away. So I’ll just say I was hoping for a little more thrill than the one this ride offered.
Still I am enough of a James Hadley Chase reader to know that this was a rare miss in a truckload of hits that he’s delivered. This is still a fun read to pass some time with.

No favorite lines or quotes to take away from this one.

View all my reviews

Review: Doctor Sleep by Stephen King

Review: Doctor Sleep by Stephen King

Doctor Sleep
Doctor Sleep by Stephen King

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Opening Sentence: On the second day of December in a year when a Georgia peanut farmer was doing business in the White House, one of Colorado’s greatest resort hotels burned to the ground.

Stephen King once again proves he is the master of this game. This is a sequel to The Shining that is drastically different from it’s predecessor in terms of location, style and execution but in no way at all is it any less of a classic King novel.
Any lover of King will know that King has variations in his style of writing. He can execute bone chilling horror just as well as he tugs at heart strings, and this book is nothing if not an example of the latter.

Daniel Torrance, survivor of the horrors at the Overlook, is dealing with a past that haunts him. The Overlook and everything that happened since has brought him to a point in life where he wants to silence his mind and numb his Shining away by drinking. It wasn’t until hitting rock bottom on a night that will haunt him for years that he decides it’s time to fight his own demons and maybe other people’s as well. This brings him to a town where in time he will meet Abra Stone. A little girl so powerful that she could be dangerous, but blissfully unaware of her capabilities, which makes her a target for a cannibalistic group of soul eaters who prey on children with such powers.

Stephen King said there was some trepidation in writing a sequel to The Shining. His fear being that any classic as good as The Shining is very hard to live up to and chances are a sequel ruins things. He had nothing to fear because years later, even when the world has changed, King’s ability to push boundaries between supernatural and psychological horror has not. I also found myself inwardly squealing at the little nods to NOs4A2 by Joe Hill. When Charlie Manx and Christmasland were mentioned, I felt proud of knowing exactly what King was talking about.

What I wasn’t expecting, especially while reading a King book, was to fall in love. Daniel Torrance is such a beautiful man, and while I’m sure Mr. King won’t appreciate me gushing over his main character, I can’t seem to be able to help myself. The relationship of Dan and Abra is so pure that I was touched. Very few writers, and I mean VERY few writers, could have pulled it off with the beauty that Stephen King did. I’ve never read anything like it. There was so much substance to the story that I felt a deep emotional connection to it. My first instinct after finishing this book was to write a huge fan letter to Mr. King but it turns out I can’t. But needless to say Doctor Sleep is going to be one of my all time favorite Stephen King books and my unrivaled favorite read of 2016.

Have some Doctor Sleep fanart on your way out 🙂

doctor-sleep-art

Favorite Lines:
1. When you couldn’t sleep, when you were afraid to look around because of what you might see, time elongated and grew sharp teeth. (pg. 97)
2. There was something he hadn’t told Emil Kemmer; he was afraid that eventually he would get lost in a maze of phantom nightlife and never be able to find his way out again. (pg. 99)
3. That in turn made him think of some poem or other, one about how you could spend years running, but in the end you always wound up facing yourself in a hotel room, with a naked bulb hanging overhead and a revolver on the table. (pg. 569)

View all my reviews