Just got done reading the most recent books in some my favorite series:
The Invasion Year by Dewey Lambdin
I love a good sea adventure, and probably the guy with the best current series is Lambdin, revolving around series character Alan Lewrie. When we first met Lewrie, he was a young rake who ended up against his wishes in the Royal Navy (because his rather, even more of a rake, was trying to cheat him out of some money). In the beginning, the series seemed like it was going to be the Navy equivalent of George MacDonald Fraser’s utterly wonderful Flashman books. However, while Lewrie started out as a coward and a mutton chaser (i.e., he screwed anything that would sit still long enough), as the series progressed he, like many a young man, found military service and the passage of years maturing him. He’s still an extremely flawed fellow, and certainly remains a cynic, but if nothing else he’s transformed rather believably into a fierce fighting captain, even if peril in other circumstances still turns his guts to pudding.
If the series has a flaw, it’s that it’s kind of uneven. This is mostly because Lambdin is sticking with real historical chronology. So even though Lewrie somehow manages to find himself in the thick of things wherever something is happening, it remains true that the books taking place in actual war circumstances are a bit livelier (to me, anyway) than the others. Still, one of my favorite series, now a nice 17 books long. Let’s hope for at least 17 more.
World’s Greatest Sleuth! by Steven Hockensmith
I also like a good historical mystery, and one of the best series out there right now is the “Holmes on the Range” books, featuring “Old” Red Amlingmeyer (not really old, but runty, grumbly and tactiturn) and his younger brother Big Red Amlingmeyer. The latter is rather more loquacious, and chronicles the tales, acting as Watson to his brother, a man who although illiterate, is fascinated and inspired by Watson’s tales of (in this world real) Sherlock Holmes.
The latest book is probably the best so far. The Amlingmeyers are invited to Chicago for the World’s Fair, for a contest among detectives, including an C. Auguste Dupin analogue. Lots of humor, a vivid setting, and a pretty good mystery. This is the fifth book in the series, which is still getting stronger as it progresses. Good stuff.
I also recently read The Heroes by Joe Ambercrombie. The entire long book is based around what is basically an extended battle; Ambercrombie writes horrific war fantasy as well as anybody, but doesn’t come out like a nag about it, probably because he recognizes that (unfortunately) man is as drawn to war as he is repulsed by it, and probably always will be. Ambercrombie kicked off his universe with the really quite good First Law trilogy, which has been followed by a few books in the same universe with various characters from the other books drifting in and out. Cynical, often horrendously violent stuff, but really quite enjoyable at the same time.
Sadly, I was less enthused about The Sentry, the latest action / detective novel by Robert Crais. At one time Crais was one of the best guys out there ripping off Robert B. Parker’s Spenser novels (and there were a lot of such guys). Then, however, he apparently decided he wanted to be a SERIOUS WRITER, ala fellow crime novelist Dennis Lehane. The problem being that Crais will never be the writer Lehane is; few are.
In an odd choice, Crais has lately abandoned using his PI character Elvis Cole as the main focus of his books, and centered attention instead on Joe Pike, Cole’s sidekick and basically Hawk to his Spenser. The problem being that Pike was more interesting off on the sidelines, dispensing violence and being almost satirically laconic. Crais’ attempts to give Pike an interior life have ironically made him less interesting, and The Sentry continues that trend. The books are still readable, but they aren’t nearly as fun as the earlier books in the series, when Crais was writing at a level more in his wheelhouse.
So what have you guys been reading?