Friday, August 27, 2004

Cornwell Funds Scholarships

Author Patricia Cornwell is ponying up another 20 grand for scholarships to the University of Tennessee's National Forensics Academy. (The "body farm" at UofT -- where they study the decomposition rate of corpses -- was used as a model for the one in her book.)

Cornwell takes a lot of shots in the mystery world, due to her eccentricities, politics and overall loopyness, but gestures like this show she's not all bad.

She also has a new book coming out in a couple of weeks that's supposed to be pretty good. If it is, I'm sure that will help restore her reputation a bit as well.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

2004 Booker Longlist Announced

Well, the Booker Longlist has been announced.

2004 has been characterised by an almost complete lack of big names and previous winners, which is completely reflected by the list:

Chimamanda Ngozi - Purple Hibiscus
Nadeem Aslam - Maps for Lost Lovers
Nicola Barker - Clear: A Transparent Novel
John Bemrose - The Island Walkers
Ronan Bennett - Havoc, In Its Third Year
Susanna Clarke - Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
Neil Cross - Always The Sun
Achmat Dangor - Bitter Fruit
Louise Dean - Becoming Strangers
Lewis Desoto - A Blade of Grass
Sarah Hall - The Electric Michelangelo
James Hamilton-Paterson - Cooking with Fernet Branca
Justin Haythe - The Honeymoon
Shirley Hazzard - The Great Fire
Alan Hollinghurst - The Line of Beauty
Gail Jones - Sixty Lights
David Mitchell - Cloud Atlas
Sam North - The Unnumbered
Nicholas Shakespeare - Snowleg
Matt Thorne - Cherry
Colm Toibin - The Master
Gerard Woodward - I'll Go To Bed at Noon

Now, the Longlist doesn't exactly mean much (the Shortlist is the important one, after all), but the above one seems pretty good to me - there's a good range. Of course, there are several books and names I've never even come across before - which is nice to see. The only one that jumps out at me as a surprise is "Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell" by Susanna Clarke, which is receiving some pretty considerable pre-publication hype. An 800+ page fantasy novel, it's a story of two leading magicians in the 19th century, and I'm rather surprised that I want to read it quite as much as I do. If it went on to win (very unlikely, (I would bet on The Line of Beauty at this stage), which is a shame) it would certainly be very significant indeed.

* For an illustration of how much Clarke's book is being hyped-up, go here. Given that the book can only have been on sale for about three days, and that it will be shipped from Japan (this is dubious), and that it will be available in about a month anyway, £122.00 is a pretty impressive price. Not even Stephen King ARCs get much more than a hundred, in my experience (which, we all must admit, is limited).


Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Bouchercon 2004

For the 2nd year in a row, I am moderating a panel at Bouchercon (the World Mystery Convention) that I have no idea what the hell it's about.

The title is "Thinking Dirty: The New Noir." The panelists will be Charlie Stella, Victor Gischler, David Corbett and Terence Faherty.

With terrific writers like those guys I'm sure it will be interesting! I just wonder what I'm doing there.

If there's anything you'd like me to ask them, please leave a comment!

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Let's start with some bad news: Louis de Bernieres has returned from the Edinburgh to find that his house has been broken into and his laptop stolen, along with 50 pages of his next novel, A Partisan's Daughter.

The Independent have a rare interview with Dean Koontz.

The Guardian reviews Michael Dibdin's latest Aurelio Zen paperback, Medusa.

At The Times, Marcel Berlin's looks at the latest (heavily European) crime fiction, including the latest from Henning Mankell, Andrea Camilleri and Carlo Lucarelli.

The Spectator reviews Alexander McCall Smith's In The Company of Cheerful Ladies.

And, finally, at The Observer Peter Guttridge also looks at the latest crime fiction, including books by Mark Billingham and Elmore Leonard.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

I was first informed of this almost two months ago, but repeatedly forgot to mention it. In the USA, Minette Walters' latest novel Disordered Minds will not be released in hardback. I don't know whether it's coming out as a large-paperback, or as a paperback original (in which case, have Berkely got their eye on an Edgar next year?), my researches are continuing - although I suspect the former from the price quoted amazon. I have every confidence that I'll be proved wrong. Doubleday hardbacks, from amazon.ca, are relatively easy to get hold of if you have to have one.

I'd also better get these links out before the week ends and they have to be paid for:
The Sunday Times reviewed Alexander McCall Smith's In the Company of Cheerful Ladies, and as well as Steven Saylor's latest Roman mystery, The Judgement of Caesar (candidate for the Historical Dagger, it seems.) They also had quite a bit more concerning the ever-present Mr McCall Smith, but not where you might at first expect... (Although, it does make perfect sense)...In the Travel section.

Given that the world is currently swamped in all things Greek, why not test your knowledge of Greek myth with The Guardian's quiz. The subject being one of my major interests, I'm rather pleased to report an eminently healthy ten out of ten.

Another piece of information which might interest you (and might not)... Now, this is potentially old news that's already been discussed and considered with great relish, but if it has it's completely passed me by, because it came as a surprise to me: M Night Shyamalan (of The Sixth Sense and Signs fame) will direct the film of Yann Martel's Booker winning sucess, Life of Pi.

This article from The Scotsman highlights the effect of McCall Smith's sucess on his small Scottish publisher, and we stay in Scotland again, as this article from The Sunday Herald considers Edinburgh's claim to being "World City of Literature".



Monday, August 16, 2004

Beantown Crime

Yesterday's Boston Globe had an interesting article on that town's prominence in crime fiction.
With so much fiction gone bad out there, how is it that Boston and its neighborhoods continue to churn out so much of the good stuff? Is it something about the Boston character? Is it the city itself, its brownstones and triple-deckers? The history of so many fantastic true crime stories, from the tales of "Whitey" Bulger to the Boston Strangler to the Irish gang wars to Charles Stuart? Or maybe just the way we talk? In this story, there is no pat ending, no neat resolution. Not even the city's biggest names in the genre agree.
They go on to talk to Dennis Lehane and Robert B. Parker, each of whom shares some insight on their hometown as well as the writing process.

The article also presents "Five of the best Boston crime novels":
  • MYSTIC RIVER By Dennis Lehane

  • THE FRIENDS OF EDDIE COYLE By George V. Higgins

  • PROMISED LAND By Robert B. Parker

  • THE BIG DIG By Linda Barnes

  • SO LIKE SLEEP By Jeremiah Healy
  • Sunday, August 15, 2004

    20 Second Book Reviews™

    Denise Mina - Deception (Little, Brown $23.95)
    A psychiatrist is convicted of murdering a serial killer and sentenced to a long prison term, leaving her desperate husband behind to find out the truth about what really happened. Told in the form of his rambling diary, the story never seems to take off. Although Mina’s prose is compelling enough, her characters aren’t particularly interesting and the plot suffers from rigor mortis.

    Kent Harrington - Dark Ride (St. Martin’s Press, OOP)
    An excellent debut in the tradition of James M. Cain, filled with lust, violence and misery – the perfect recipe for noir. Dark Ride is the story of a man’s desperate descent into the dark pit of despair. Some of the twists are a little predictable, but the overall level of writing is very high.

    Chuck Hogan - Prince of Thieves (Scribner, $25)
    This story of a hard luck Boston bank robber starts off promising enough with a fascinating heist, but soon degenerates into a lackluster story of doomed love. Flat characters, overly verbose prose and a lack of suspense condemn this un-thrilling thriller to the bargain bin.

    Victor Gischler - Gun Monkeys (Dell, $6.99)
    A wonderful hard boiled mystery that unfortunately escaped my notice until now, Gischler’s debut is everything crime fiction should be. From the delicious characters to the dark humor, from the rampant violence to the machinegun plot, Gun Monkeys has all of the elements to succeed. One of the best first novels I’ve read in some time.

    Saturday, August 14, 2004

    Next year James Patterson's publishers openly admit to yet another co-author, with the publication of his new thriller Honeymoon (which sounds truly awful, may I say). The lucky chap this time is Howard Roughan. Oh yes, and it's going to be published on Valentine's Day. How lovely.

    Also: Greg Iles's next thriller seems to be called Blood Memory (originally reported to be called Indelible, that has changed now for obvious reasons), and next year Margaret Atwood is to publish another collection of [mostly] previously published essays/journalism/critical work, Curious Pursuits.

    The working title of Lindsey Davis's 17th Falco novel? See Delphi and Die.

    And let's not forget that Ben Elton is about to hit the shelves again...

    After the unqualified sucess that was the first lines quiz, (distinctly unqualified - thus far, in any case), I move onto firmer ground today.

    Firstly, a profile of Alexander "Sandy" McCall Smith from The Independent. I've purchased all of his No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency novels, but I've yet to read a single one, which grieves me. Because they do, after all, sound so good. I also want to say a hearty "well done" to Mr McCall Smith for scorning the:
    "aggressive, vulgar, debased" attitudes of profane works such as D B C Pierre's Vernon God Little. In response, the writer and Independent columnist Terence Blacker flayed McCall Smith's "weirdly simple-minded" idea of literature, and pointed out that inoffensive optimists enjoy a far smoother ride to mainstream acclaim than darker novelists.

    Now, I'm sorry, but am I alone in thinking that that's just wrong? "Darker" novelists - as opposed to those such DBC Pierre, who aren't dark but are just dirty - don't seem to me to suffer much more than anyone else. Ian McEwan can be almost frighteningly dark, as can Ruth Rendell and a whole host of other writers, none of whom have had to struggle particularly much to achieve mainstream attention. Besides, if you are "dirty" rather than properly "dark", you don't particularly deserve an easy ride to mainstream acclaim anyway. DBC Pierre should count himself lucky - any ex con-man who can hoodwink an entire Booker panel into voting for what is essentially unimportant, self-indulgent, needlessly vulgar crap ('scuse language), should also.

    Sorry about that. I'm still rather angry at how awful that book was. The other day, I removed it from my bookshelf and launched it [hard] out of the window to the stones below. The result was that it was satisfyingly bent and crumpled, and I felt a whole lot better.

    Now, for news of what is probably (as always) going to be one of the bestselling hardback books of next year, John Grisham's latest. According to his American publisher, it looks to be titled The Broker.

    And, what did the folks at the Edinburgh Festival think of Tamburlaine Must Die? Well, I think it would be accurate to say they thought it "ok". Among the various opinions cited were that it was a bit long (a long short-story, but of novella length); a great take on a kind of "boys adventure" yarn; that Louise Welsh had probably, in narrating as a first-person Christopher Marlowe, "bitten off a bit more than she can chew"; that Louise Welsh had taken the reader into the mind of the narrator very well indeed, and that that sense of place which made The Cutting Room so good was a bit lacking. As always, none of the reviewers actually got to the most important question: did they enjoy it? I suspect that, though they didn't say so, they did.

    It's that time of year again: Coming up to Autumn, and the bookshops are about to burst with new novels. Boyd Tonkin at The Independent lists the major names to expect (I'm eagerly awaiting the latest from Ian Rankin, Jose Carlos Somoza, Karin Slaughter, Terry Pratchett, and Henning Mankell, among others) and he also puts forward a list of 10 books by less familiar names which "will guarantee you a trend-bucking, herd-scorning fictional autumn", which includes Natsuo Kirino's Edgar-nominated Out, which I'm already planning on snapping up as soon as it's released.

    Lately, I've been getting e-mails asking if people can send me their book, or making sure I'm "aware of it". Of course, thousands of like e-mails go out all the time, but with every one I still wince inwardly and silently whimper "no, no! don't send this to me - send it to a proper review person".




    Thursday, August 12, 2004

    In the beginning, there were the words

    As promised, here's the umpteenth review of Louise Welsh's Tamburlaine Must Die, along with the article on "reviewese", the cliched reviewer-speak which most critics are guilty of. I read the article with gritted teeth and a slightly anxious expression as phrases I have used in the past were paraded in front of me like a line of ex-lovers (not, of course, that I have any ex-lovers; or event current ones, by the way. Just to set the record straight).

    Also, here's a review, from last Sunday's Times, of James Lee Burke's latest.

    Without further ado, I shall move on to my main business of the day...

    As I don't have much to say, and found myself in a bored moment, I decided to concoct a quiz-type affair. I'll give the first lines of about 15 crime novels (well, with one or two exceptions), and as a note you give me the novels from which they come. I'm afraid that all the person who gets the most right will gain is the prestige of having got the most right. (I'm assuming that someone's going to participate; if not it'll be rather embarassing and I'll just have to answer myself.) I don't think they're too hard, and I've tried to include a good mix. Answers in a couple of days, I expect.

    Number 1: "Four of us drove together to Cheltenham races on the day that Martin Stukely died there from a fall in a steeplechase."

    2: "The snow in the mountains was melting and Bunny had been dead for several weeks before we came to understand the gravity of our situation."

    3: "My earliest memories involve fire."

    4: "The evening sky was streaked with purple, the color of torn plums, and a light rain had started to fall when I came to the end of the blacktop road that cut through the twenty miles of thick almost impenetrable Angola scrub oak and pine and stopped at the front gate of Angola penitentiary."

    5: "I could never decide whether "Mad Annie" was murdered because she was mad or because she was black."

    6: "The man in the house was going to kill himself."

    7: "In eighteenth-century France there lived a man who was one of the most gifted and abominable personages in an era that knew no lack of gifted and abominable personages."

    8: "Eunice Parchman killed the Coverdale family because she could not read or write."

    9: "The terror, which would not end for another 28 years - if it ever did end - began, so far as I know or can tell, with a boat made from a sheet of newspaper floating down a gutter swollen with rain." (NB: not actually from a crime novel.)

    10: "It was the summer of love and I had just buried my husband when I first went back to see the resevoir that had flooded my childhood village."

    11: "It was a warm spring night when a fist knocked at the door so hard that the hinges bent." (NB: it's not thought of as a crime novel, but it is. I think this one's probably a bit obscure.)

    12: "The house on Silverlake was dark, its windows as empty as a dead man's eyes."

    13: "I did not kill my father but I somtimes felt I had helped him on his way." (Again, not really a crime novel.)

    14: "The cold dusk gives up its bruised color to complete darkness, and I am grateful that the draperies in my bedroom are heavy enough to absorb even the faintest hint of my silhouete as I move about packing my bags."

    15: "Ten days after the war ended my sister Laura drove a car of a bridge." (Again, not really a crime novel.)

    Finally, once again not from a crime novel, but I think it's funny so I want to include it...

    16: "The rumour spread through the city like wildfire (which had actually often spread through Ankh-Morpork since its citizen's had learned the words "fire insurance".)

    Have fun :)




    Saturday, August 07, 2004

    Miscellany (and confession)

    I'm in an very good mood today. To gain insight into why, I'll have to reveal to you my terrible, terrible secret which even the bravest and most shameless of people dare not admit : I like Big Brother (UK version, only). I know; there's no need to tell me: I should be ashamed at liking such a pointless mind-numbing TV show, but I refuse to watch soaps and other reality shows, don't smoke, take drugs or drink (much), so I feel I am allowed this one single vice. Anyway, after 10 weeks and no small amount of mental self-torment, transexual Nadia was lead night led to victory like the proverbial lamb to the slaughter. I care not about the opinion of any nay-sayer or critic of the programme, though, because she deserves it entirely. There is one fact that, for me, has justified the programme's existence entirely: I have never seen any person, ever, who was so grateful (at finally being accepted for who she is) that they simply collapsed speechless with tears. It was heart-warming, I must admit. And I mean that very deeply.

    Anyway, now that any good opinion you might ever have had of me has been irrevocably shattered, I'll move on...

    Margaret Cannon's crime column at the Globe and Mail is up, with positive reviews across the board, tackling new releases such as Sue Grafton's R is for Richochet, Kill the Messenger by Tami Hoag (I am ANNOYED that I have to wait almost four months for this still, on top of the numerous times it's been delayed), and David Hewson's Lucifer.

    Candidate for the most frustrating online newspaper? Surely the award must go to The Telegraph, updated weekly at best. Well, maybe it's not a huge frustration, but it is somewhat annoying. Today they have a great article on the cliches of reviewerspeak - some of which I'm shamefully guilty of - which I'd love to share, and a review of Louise Welsh's Tamburlaine Must Die. Incidentally, the novella is going to get reviewed live on national TV next Friday, when NewsnightReview comes from the Edinburgh Festival. Ian Rankin will be one of those on the panel. I shall of course watch it and let you know what they think.

    They've also got an article on the "Da Vinci Code Pilgrimage" phenomenon, highlighting the huge rise in visitors that the Louvre and Roosslyn Chapel are seeing since the publication of the book. Links will come in due course.

    The Spectator delivers yet another review of Carlos Ruiz Zafon's tremendous gothic/romantic/historical thriller The Shadow of the Wind.

    Finally, want to know how to make my year? Well, showing an hour-long programme on Ruth Rendell and her work is no bad start. I heard rumours of this several weeks back, and I'm officially in a very good mood. But you already know that.


    Friday, August 06, 2004

    Dan Brown? Sorry, who?

    Well, over the past couple of days it would be fair to say that The Guardian has well and truly jumped on the "The Da Vinci Code" wagon. On Wednesday we had Jonathan Freedman's analysis of the book's popularity, and today we have a profile of its author, Dan Brown.

    Freedman does a good job, and the main reason, I'm certain is of course marketing, and controversey which leads to publicity which leads to sales. Now, I also have a little theory of my own: the pleasures it offers are childlike ones. Games, codes, puzzles, things to solve. Secrets. Many bestsellers, I think, tap into something of childhood, and I have long thought that it's why crime fiction is so popular.

    The only thing I would like to take issue with is contained in the following paragraph:
    There are conventional, publishing-industry explanations for this success. The book does what thrillers are meant to do, hooking you early and keeping you there. The writing may be basic to leaden, the characterisation slim to non-existent, but this is an author who knows how to do suspense. Every one of the 105 short chapters ends on a cliffhanger: the bedside clock may say 3am, but you can't help yourself. As Brown would put it: Just one more chapter.

    My issue is largely pointless, but I'd just like to say that no, Mr Brown does not know how to do suspense. Suspense of a kind, possibly, but not proper suspense. He doesn't create suspense, he just keeps you in it. Holding things back for a couple of chapters is not suspense. Breaking scenes in half and inserting a chapter break so that readers go for "one more chapter", is not suspense. Readers don't put the book down not because they want to find out what happens next, but because the scene hasn't damn well ended. It's an incredibly annoying trick of the Patterson kind, and is not, in my book, suspense. Anyway... I'll leave that there.

    Faye Kellerman fans aren't getting a proper novel this year - she's a far more sedately writer than her husband has been of late, which is probably wise. The next full-length novel from her, after this year's co-authored Double Homicide, is Straight Into Darkness, due in the second half of next year. Currently, anyway.

    In an interview with his UK publisher early this year, Reginald Hill said that his next novel would not be an entry in his Dalziel and Pascoe series, making it his first departure from their grand company in about 5 years. Now, amazon.co.uk isn't a particularly wonderful source, but it's relatively reliable and I've heard no news from anywhere else, so I choose to believe it (for the moment) when it tells me that that next novel will now be called Mickle Cross, due next July. Advice? Expect it within a two-month bracket.

    Have you ever heard of The Glass Key award? Well, you have now. It's the award Scandinavia gives for the Best Nordic Crime Novel of the Year. Winners include Henning Mankell (well, duh) Karin Fossum and Peter Hoeg. And Arnaldur Indridason, of course, who is unique for having not only won it twice, but having won it two years in a row. His English language debut Jar City (which is up next on my pile) won it, as did the sequel, Lady in Green, which joins its predecessor in translation next year. I'm getting rather excited about Indridason, I must say - one German critic has said "Iceland now has its own Mankell", and if that's true them my future in reading looks bright yet again. Oh, and, all this information? From this article. It also provided me with the truly impressive fact that during April 2003 four of his novels had a place on the Icelandic Top Ten Bestsellers list.

    I'll close with a word on what I'm reading now. The Last Six Million Seconds, by John Burdett, set during the final days before Hong Kong was handed back to China. Burdett first came to a mild form of fame last year with his novel Bangkok 8, which impressed many people. I saw several say it was one of their favourite debuts the year, but in fact, it was Burdett's third novel (following Seconds, and a legal thriller called A Personal History of Thirst.) So far, my verdict on this one is very good indeed.




    Tuesday, August 03, 2004

    Fiona says it's best...

    The trouble with computers is that they go wrong. One of the most annoying things I am ever told is that a computer "only does what you tell it to", or a variation on this theme. Rubbish. A load of absolute, absolute rubbish. DBC Pierre couldn't do better if he tried. My computer frequently does things I don't tell it to do; that no one tells it to do. Like little automated people, they do exactly what they want, at will. Well, at times. We are at their mercy, I tell you.

    Anyway, that's why I've been effectively out for the count for the week. I've had to find (*gasp*) other things to do.

    Anyway, while I was away David gave his list of favourite reads of the year, and I thought I would do the same. Now, so far I have been delighted with 2004. It's been the best year in crime fiction since, ooo, 2001 (which was a seriously good year.) 2004 has seen fantastic returns from Boris Starling and Mo Hayder after 3 years, and Caroline Graham's first book in 5. There's been a glut of excellent foreign fiction published, too, as well as some particularly great books from the usual crowd - Donna Leon, Joanna Hines, Ruth Rendell, Michael Connelly and Minette Walters - with some excellent prospects still to come - Ian Rankin, a second Javier Falcon novel from the brilliant Robert Wilson, and Jose Carlos Somoza has a second novel translated into English after the Gold-Dagger-winning, rip-roaring piece of brilliance that was The Athenian Murders. Anyway, let's begin...

    Excellent Reads (I've attemped to put them in some kind of order, but take it with a pinch of salt)
    1. Henning Mankell - Firewall
    2. Boris Starling - Vodka
    3. Donna Leon - Doctored Evidence
    4. Ruth Rendell - 13 Steps Down
    5. Minette Walters - The Tinder Box (only a novella, but better than every single one of her previous three books)
    6. Joanna Hines - Angels of the Flood
    7. Boris Akunin - Leviathan
    8. Carlos Ruiz Zafon - The Shadow of the Wind
    9. Mo Hayder - Tokyo
    10. Val McDermid - The Torment of Others

    Not-Excellent-But-Still-Very-Good Reads
    Reginald Hill - Good Morning, Midnight (actually, this should probably go on the above list, but I thought I had too many in it)
    Michael Connelly - The Narrows
    Peter Robinson - Playing with Fire (would have made it to the above list if Robinson had selected a different person who "dunnit")
    Caroline Graham - A Ghost in the Machine
    Mark Billingham - The Burning Girl

    Of those, I would of course be delighted if Mankell took this year's Gold Dagger for Firewall. Delighted. (I know speculating is entirely pointless, but I'm going to do it, because I can and I like to.) I also think there's a good chance he might, as well. After all, if those wacky folks at the CWA can give Walters' Fox Evil the Gold, they could stoop to anything (by the way, on vacation I met yet ANOTHER person who disliked it intensely). The Shadow of the Wind would also have a terrific chance, if only it were slightly more of a crime novel. As it is it's more just a completely charming historical adventure/period romance/gothic mystery/slightly supernatural thriller, and will probably be passed by entirely. Boris Starling should win something for Vodka, because it's a Russian thriller of genius, but as I've already allocated a rightful victor for the Gold Dagger, Starling will have to settle for the Ian Flemming Steel Dagger, which is actually more what it is.

    As for the Silver Dagger, well, if Boris Akunin doesn't get that I'll be very surprised indeed. I know absolutely anything can happen, but if The Winter Queen was good enough for the shortlist last year, then Leviathan definitely is this, and the HEAP of praise it's recieved surely marks it out as a strong contender indeed. It would win the Gold but, as someone on Val McDermid's forum (I think) pointed out, new wave novels never get better than Silver. As I say, even at this relatively early stage, I'll be incredibly shocked if it doesn't win.

    Mo Hayder and Mark Billingham might also be in with a chance as well. Billingham's the current darling, and I'm sure they're just itching to give him an award. The same goes for Michael Connelly, as the CWA have never quite gone the extra mile and given him a dagger, but unfortunately The Narrows just isn't nearly strong enough, I dont think. (The MWA seem very keen to give him an award too, but I don't think The Narrows is strong enough to win the 2005 Edgar, either. Though I'm sure they'll try.)

    Anyway, that's enough pointless speculation on my part. Besides, I only ever seem to have come across two or three of the books on the shortlist, so I'm likely to be disappointed. At least you now know what would win what if Fiona was in charge.

    *By the way, the various shortlists are announced in September, most of the winners on November 9th.








    Monday, August 02, 2004

    A Man of Horrible Skills

    My latest review is up on January Magazine, and it's a long one: over 1500 words on Rain Storm, Barry Eisler's latest thriller featuring Japanese-American hitman John Rain.

    Here's the summary:
    Just when he thought he could retire from the assassin business, Japanese-American John Rain is sucked into an assignment in China that has him jousting with an Algerian smuggler, a hillbilly sniper and an exotic, formidable woman with her own agenda.
    Eisler is a very gifted writer and this is his best book yet. The Rain books (this is the 3rd) should definitely be on your reading list.