Shelf Control #216: The Fade Out by Ed Brubaker and Sean Philips

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Welcome to Shelf Control — an original feature created and hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies.

Shelf Control is a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up! For more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out my introductory post, here.

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cropped-flourish-31609_1280-e1421474289435.pngTitle: The Fade Out: The Complete Collection
Author: Ed Brubaker (author) and Sean Philips (illustrator)
Published: 2018
Length: 360 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

A bold new paperback edition of the Eisner Award-winning graphic novel―now finally collecting the entire story in a single edition!

An epic graphic novel of Hollywood in the early days of the Blacklist, THE FADE OUT tracks the murder of an up-and-coming starlet from studio backlots to the gutters of downtown Los Angeles, as shell-shocked frontman Charlie Parish is caught between his own dying sense of morality and his best friend’s righteous sense of justice.

A picture-perfect recreation of a lost era, THE FADE OUT is an instant classic from the bestselling team of Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, who are joined by acclaimed color artist Elizabeth Breitweiser.

How and when I got it:

I bought a copy about a year ago.

Why I want to read it:

It’s been a while since I’ve read a graphic novel (or featured one as a Shelf Control pick). A family member recommended this to me last year — she swore it was one of the best graphic novels she’s ever read. My reading habit when it comes to graphic novels is really almost exclusively sci-fi/fantasy, but given the rave review, I thought I should give this one a try. It does sound good, and I liked the illustrations when I quickly paged through it.

What do you think? Would you read this book? 

Please share your thoughts!

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Book Review: The Dry by Jane Harper

Title: The Dry
Author: Jane Harper
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Publication date: May 31, 2016
Length: 328 pages
Genre: Crime fiction
Source: Purchased
Rating:

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

A small town hides big secrets in this atmospheric, page-turning debut mystery by award-winning author Jane Harper.

In the grip of the worst drought in a century, the farming community of Kiewarra is facing life and death choices daily when three members of a local family are found brutally slain.

Federal Police investigator Aaron Falk reluctantly returns to his hometown for the funeral of his childhood friend, loath to face the townsfolk who turned their backs on him twenty years earlier.

But as questions mount, Falk is forced to probe deeper into the deaths of the Hadler family. Because Falk and Luke Hadler shared a secret. A secret Falk thought was long buried. A secret Luke’s death now threatens to bring to the surface in this small Australian town, as old wounds bleed into new ones.

The Dry is a twisty tale of murder and secrets set in a rural Australian community, where drought has dried up farms and rivers and brought the entire town to the brink of natural and economic ruin.

Federal Investigator Aaron Falk is drawn back into the web of gossip and lies in the town of Kiewarra when he returns home for a funeral — the funeral of his former best friend, who appears to have slaughtered his wife and son before turning the shotgun on himself. It’s horrifying and ugly, and the town is roiling with unhappiness.

At the same time, Aaron’s reception by the town is hostile. Twenty years earlier, he was suspected of murdering a classmate and was forced to flee with his father in the face of threats and aggression. The people of Kiewarra have a long memory, and no one — especially the dead girl’s family — wants to see him back among them.

But Aaron and the local police officer both believe something is off about the deaths of Luke’s family. Something about the crime scene just doesn’t add up, so Aaron stays to help pick through the witness statements and other bits and pieces of clues. Meanwhile, his memories of the events of 20 years earlier are coming back strongly, and he’s finding himself plagued by that unsolved mystery as well.

I was very caught up in the story of The Dry and just could not stop reading! The murder itself is gruesome and terrible, and it’s shocking to see how the different pieces fit together. Aaron is an impressive main character, smart and determined, but also flawed and haunted by his past and his regrets.

It was fascinating to get a view of the small-town politics and power plays, and I found the description of the drought-ridden environment and its dangers really powerful. Who knew that a scene with a lighter in it could be quite so scary?

I’m rating this book 3 1/2 stars, because I did enjoy it quite a bit, but also felt certain pieces of the mystery were a little on the obvious side. Given that I don’t normally gravitate toward crime stories, I was surprised that I liked The Dry as much as I did!

In fact, I think at some point I’ll want to read more of this author’s work — my book group friends recommend her books highly! **Save

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Take A Peek Book Review: Lethal White by Robert Galbraith

“Take a Peek” book reviews are short and (possibly) sweet, keeping the commentary brief and providing a little peek at what the book’s about and what I thought.

Synopsis:

(via Goodreads)

“I seen a kid killed…He strangled it, up by the horse.”

When Billy, a troubled young man, comes to private eye Cormoran Strike’s office to ask for his help investigating a crime he thinks he witnessed as a child, Strike is left deeply unsettled. While Billy is obviously mentally distressed, and cannot remember many concrete details, there is something sincere about him and his story. But before Strike can question him further, Billy bolts from his office in a panic.

Trying to get to the bottom of Billy’s story, Strike and Robin Ellacott—once his assistant, now a partner in the agency—set off on a twisting trail that leads them through the backstreets of London, into a secretive inner sanctum within Parliament, and to a beautiful but sinister manor house deep in the countryside.

And during this labyrinthine investigation, Strike’s own life is far from straightforward: his newfound fame as a private eye means he can no longer operate behind the scenes as he once did. Plus, his relationship with his former assistant is more fraught than it ever has been—Robin is now invaluable to Strike in the business, but their personal relationship is much, much trickier than that.

My Thoughts:

Yet another tense, tight murder mystery from the pen of Robert Galbraith, a.k.a. J. K. Rowling… who obviously can do no wrong when she sits down to write a book.

In this 4th book in the Cormoran Strike series, Cormoran and Robin are both more successful and more troubled when the story opens. Book #3, Career of Evil, ended at a wedding… and Lethal White picks up right at the very same wedding, showing us all sorts of consequences and aftereffects that we could only previously imagine. The tensions each carries following the wedding spill over into their professional lives, as they deal with their respective relationship partners while trying to build their detective business now that they’ve become incredibly famous (thanks to the events of Career of Evil).

The mystery in Lethal White is two-fold, kicked off by the ravings of a schizophrenic man who finds his way into Strike’s office, and then deepened when the firm is hired to investigate a case of high-politics blackmail, which soon turns into a murder investigation. There’s danger and red herrings galore, and Cormoran and Robin are at their detective-y best as they charge off to investigate, interrogate, and stir up oodles of trouble for the rich and famous.

At 650+ pages, Lethal White is a BIG book, and the plot threatens to collapse under the weight of its endless twists and turns. The convoluted schemes and interconnected alibis and misleading clues keep things interesting, but I felt at times as if the story might have benefited from straight lines occasionally. The coincidence meter is on high alert in this book, as the double-mystery is awfully conveniently interwoven. I had to suspend my disbelief big-time over Cormoran’s powers of deductive reasoning and his ability to draw connections out of seemingly thin air.

At the same time, Cormoran and Robin are a great duo, working well together and playing off each other’s strengths. The complications of their personal lives make for a diverting and engaging side theme throughout the book, and is the piece I’ll be most anxiously awaiting in book #5, whenever that might be coming.

I’m really loving this series, and can’t wait to see where the story goes. Meanwhile, I’m delighted that I watched seasons 1 – 3 of the TV adaption, C B Strike, over the summer. It was terrific way to get a refresher on the story thus far, getting me totally ready to dive into reading Lethal White. Highly recommended!

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The details:

Title: Lethal White
Author: Robert Galbraith (J. K. Rowling)
Publisher: Mulholland Books
Publication date: September 18, 2018
Length: 656 pages
Genre: Mystery
Source: Library

Take A Peek Book Review: Career of Evil

“Take a Peek” book reviews are short and (possibly) sweet, keeping the commentary brief and providing a little peek at what the book’s about and what I thought.

Career of Evil

Synopsis:

(via Goodreads)

When a mysterious package is delivered to Robin Ellacott, she is horrified to discover that it contains a woman’s severed leg.

Her boss, private detective Cormoran Strike, is less surprised but no less alarmed. There are four people from his past who he thinks could be responsible – and Strike knows that any one of them is capable of sustained and unspeakable brutality.

With the police focusing on the one suspect Strike is increasingly sure is not the perpetrator, he and Robin take matters into their own hands, and delve into the dark and twisted worlds of the other three men. But as more horrendous acts occur, time is running out for the two of them…

Career of Evil is the third in the highly acclaimed series featuring private detective Cormoran Strike and his assistant Robin Ellacott. A fiendishly clever mystery with unexpected twists around every corner, it is also a gripping story of a man and a woman at a crossroads in their personal and professional lives.

Cormoran Strike is back, with his assistant Robin Ellacott, in a mystery based around soldiers returning from war.

My Thoughts:

Does it still need to be explained that Robert Galbraith is a pen name for J. K. Rowling? Are we all clear by now?

Good. Moving on.

The Cormoran Strike series keeps getting better and better! In this third installment, the murderer strikes particularly close to home. As Cormoran and Robin sift through the clues, they bring up a host of nightmares from each of their pasts. Meanwhile, all the attention means that their business is on the brink of failure thanks to all the negative publicity, and the threat posed by the unknown murderer is scary and unpredictable. Neither of them are safe, but neither wants to back down.

Meanwhile, we get occasional chapters told from the psycho killer’s point of view, and boy, are they disturbing! His obsession and cold-blooded determination to kill and mutilate is just horrific to read, especially as it’s all so matter of fact.

Beyond the murder mystery, which is complicated to the extreme, one of the delights of this book is seeing the relationship between Cormoran and Robin continue to unfold and deepen. Their trust in one another leads them to open up in ways that they haven’t previously, even as their unacknowledged feelings and fears lead to misunderstandings, anger, and near disaster for their partnership.

In general, I enjoyed Career of Evil very much, perhaps even more than the second book in the series, which just struck me as overdone in some ways. My one quibble is the same quibble I often have with J. K. Rowling’s writing: She seems to take inordinate amounts of pleasure in describing unsavory or sad sack characters as being just completely repulsive physically, with stringy hair or dandruff or body odor or any number of other unattractive qualities:

“The man on the door was squat and neckless… ”

“Tempest, whose black bob had certainly been dyed and who wore thick, square black-rimmed spectacles, was his physical opposite: pale, dumpy and doughy, her small, deep-set eyes like raisins in a bun.”

“He turned his head and Strike saw scalp shining through the thinning roots…”

“Eyebrows as thick and bushy as tiger moth caterpillars overhung her puffy eyes.”

It gets to be too much after a while, in my humble opinion.

Actually, I had one more quibble with Career of Evil: The tiny detail that finally enables Cormoran to have the major breakthrough and solve the mystery is… a tiny detail, so trivial that I find it close to impossible to believe that this man would have noticed and identified this teensy element and have the entire solution hinge upon that discovery. The rest of the mystery’s resolution worked for me, but that one thing — no.

Other than that, though, I’m really having a great time reading the Cormoran Strike books, and hope there are many more to come. This book’s mystery is solved by the end, but the door is still open for more adventures and complications for Cormoran and Robin and their partnership.

Added bonus: It’s so exciting to know that BBC is developing a Cormoran Strike Mysteries TV show!

Finally, a reading tip: This is a big, densely plotted book with (it feels like) a thousand characters and backstories to keep straight. The lives and details of the various suspects can easily blend together, and I found myself constantly having to flip backwards and forwards in the book to keep straight which clue went with which suspect. Keeping it all in order is part of the challenge and the fun — but I’d recommend saving this book for a time when you know you’ll have minimal distractions and plenty of concentration!

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The details:

Title: Career of Evil
Author: Robert Galbraith (J. K. Rowling)
Publisher: Mulholland Books
Publication date: October 20, 2015
Length: 489 pages
Genre: Mystery
Source: Purchased