Books of Exceptional Quality

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The Bookcast presents reviews of the indie author books that have received the “Exceptional Quality” designation.

While every book we introduce you to on The Bookcast is of high quality, a handful are of exceptional quality. Read our reviews here, and follow the links back to our interviews with their authors.

The Traveller

by Garrett Addison

“Wake, eat, work, pause for food, continue work, break for the evening, food, drink, sleep.   Repeat.”

Such is the life of the narrator of Garrett Addison‘s novel “The Traveller.” A businessman with family-work balance issues, his hamster-wheel existence is directed in large part by a boss he has come to believe is pure evil, a woman whose sadism appears to respect no bounds.

Listen to our interview with Garrett Addison.

As “The Traveller” opens, he’s been summoned on yet another long-distance assignment. His wife prophetically declares, “This trip won’t be like the others.”

The narrator – who is never named – steps off his long, red-eye flight feeling oddly confident and preternaturally competent, and launches into his assignment with unusual aplomb, assertiveness, even arrogance. Emboldened to defy his bitch-of-a-boss he treats himself to perks he figures he deserves, on the company credit card.

Soon he is juggling competing job offers with a cool audacity, displaying none of the timidity or self-loathing he has grown accustomed to under his bitch-of-a-boss.

Our narrator’s story takes on a more leisurely pace as we approach the end of the first half of the book, and the reader may begin to wonder if the rest of the story will turn out as dry as a board meeting. But then the plot takes a sudden and sinister turn and we can do little but hang on tight as the book races toward an end that is both surprising and not, a relief with a nervous chuckle.

And just when you think the story has ended, wait. There is more, a climax that is as satisfying as it is delicious.

A recurring motif in Addison’s book is “priority” – precisely the conundrum our narrator must face and solve. His dilemma will be unnervingly familiar to millions whose work demands leave them absentees in their families.

Likewise his visceral desire for revenge. As Addison pushes us to the brink of what we would consider acceptable a final dastardly act by the boss-bitch may inspire even the meekest of us to cheer him on.

And ultimately, you will cheer for “The Traveller.”

“City of Woe”

by Christopher Ryan

Christopher Ryan comes from a family of cops, and it shows. And he was an award-winning crime and politics reporter, and that shows, too, in his hardboiled mystery-thriller “City of Woe,” a compelling story of the hunt for a particularly nasty serial killer — who may or may not be a demon — in New York City.

The case is overseen by partners Frank Mallory — a family man whose father was a cop before him, and who has turned his back on the Catholic faith of his youth — and autodidactic, salty-tongued, self-described “single, fat and sloppy” Al “Gunner” Gennaro

Listen to our interview with Christopher Ryan.

Even before the first murder victim is really cold, a second body turns up. Then a third, each found with literal calling cards, index cards upon which the killer has scrawled increasingly menacing messages apparently intended to taunt Mallory and Gunner.

The detectives methodically complete first the jigsaw puzzle’s edges, then begin filling in to the center, but Ryan skillfully keeps us from too easily guessing what the finished thousand-piece puzzle will look like.

Ryan also sensitively confronts the ill-defined boundary separating mental illness from demonic possession, and — in spite of Mallory’s dismissal of any possible spiritual explanation — manages to convince the reader that each can be mistaken for the other.

ryanchristopherChris Ryan combines a deep knowledge of literary classics and a love of classic rock with a knowledge of New York that rivals Richard Price and Lawrence Block. Ryan’s dialogue stands with Carl Hiaasen. His suspense may remind you of Jeffery Deaver.

Ryan’s dialogue is crisp and memorable. When Gunner. gushing over the homemade lasagna awaiting him at Mallory’s house, says of Mallory’s wife Gina, “I love that woman. You ever get killed in the line of duty, I’m marrying her.” Mallory retorts, “It comes to that I’m shooting you before I die.”

His descriptions are fresh and original:

  • “Mallory frowned, brows meeting to confer at the bridge of his nose like old, insincere friends at an upscale bar.”
  • “The storm door, in the later rounds of a bout with the elements, had already taken a standig eigh count..”
  • “[Gunner] probably thought she was cute. Of course he would; she met all his requirements: she had her limbs, a pulse, at least one working eye.”

Ryan has a sharp eye for detail that is occasionally very graphic (there is a memorably horrific scene at a hotel – two, in fact).

The book suffers only slightly from a smattering of misspellings and grammatical errors, but none that should seriously distract the reader.

“City of Woe” is the first book to receive The Bookcast’s “Book of Exceptional Quality” distinction. Our choice was an easy one.

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