February 3, 2014
Since many of you are mystery, suspense, and crime readers, I thought I’d share a new author I found that I think is fantastic. I’m always looking for new authors and not much is more exciting than finding a fresh new voice. Also, just so that you’ll know, when I do reviews, I don’t describe the plot, and I don’t ever give away spoilers, I simply try to relate what I felt about the book and how the writing affected me. You can get book descriptions on the product page. So without delaying any longer, here’s my take on…
They Die Alone, by Christopher Bartley
I grew up watching Bogart and Cagney films, and hiding at the top of the steps so I could watch the Untouchables, which didn’t air until past my bedtime. The Maltese Falcon is near the top of my list of all-time favorite movies. I prefaced my review with this for comparison and to let you know, I’m a picky S.O.B. when it comes to movies or books dealing with noir. If they’re not good, not authentic, it doesn’t take me long to put them down.
I picked up Christopher Bartley’s book, They Die Alone, almost expecting it to be bad, only because that’s been my experience with most author’s attempts to repeat the hard-boiled magic of a Dashiell Hammett or Raymond Chandler. Much to my surprise, and delight, Bartley delivers. He not only delivers, but he does it with such style that I’m sad I read it so fast.
Someone might make arguments that a few of the secondary characters were too “familiar.” I thought about this and I’d say no. To recreate a piece of work from this era, an author must immerse the reader in that era, and a great deal of it depends on the characters, not just the setting. The magic of what Bartley did with the characters is that he did make them familiar, and yet, he made them different enough that they surprised me. I don’t know what Bartley’s background is, but somewhere he grew up with Irish and/or Italians, because he paints them well.
Ross Duncan, the main character, is done particularly well. He’s got his own style and he’s a character I’d like to spend more time with. And Bartley’s voice and storytelling hit the right spot. To me, this is imperative if I’m going to enjoy a few hours with a book. The storytelling has to be interesting, like an old country road, with twists and turns, and a few rolling hills.
Bartley also does a magnificent job with the setting. I felt as if I were plunked down right in the middle of depression-era Chicago, rife with the aftermath of the Roaring Twenties and still reeking with the corruption at all levels of politics and law enforcement.
This is one of the best books I’ve read in the past year, and I am eagerly awaiting the next one from Bartley. Give this one a shot. You won’t be disappointed.
Since I read this book, Bartley has published a handful of other novels. I’ve started his second one, and it seems to be as good as the first. I’ll do a review of it when I finish. If you have any doubts, take a look at the reviews. This book has a whopping 4.9 average with more than 50 reviews! You don’t get that with a shoddy book. Do yourself a favor and pick this one up. I guarantee you, you’ll end up buying the whole series. If you want to find out more about Chris, I’ve included his information so you can stalk him.
Christopher Bartley, a pen name, is a clinical psychologist and a professor at the University of Hawaii in Hilo, Hawaii. He also directs research at The Menninger Clinic in Houston, Texas. He conducts clinical trials, epidemiology, and mental health services research, mostly with prisoners and combat veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder. He has written over 200 scientific publications, including a recent paper on military suicides, alcoholism, and psychiatric illnesses among Union Forces during the U.S. Civil War.
Anyone who signs up for my mailing list will be entered into a drawing to win a copy of Bartley’s book, They Die Alone(gifted from Amazon).
Thanks for stopping by, and let me know if you want to see more reviews of books I’ve read.
He lives in Texas where he and his wife have an animal sanctuary with 45 loving “friends.”