California Literary Review

Crime Fiction

Book Review: The Expendable Man by Dorothy B. Hughes

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August 29th, 2012

As befits a former poet, Hughes’s writing is economical yet stylish, atmospheric without being fussy. And as with almost any vintage detective novel, there are many pleasures to be had in the details of an earlier America.

Book Review: Broken Harbor by Tana French

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August 15th, 2012

Right out of the gate, French displayed a gift for rich psychological plots, complex characterizations, and evocative prose. With her fourth, Broken Harbor, she continues to mature as a writer and (one hopes) to delight and collect more readers across the English-speaking world.

Book Review: Harriet by Elizabeth Jenkins

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May 24th, 2012

Her measured and elegant style does indeed evoke Austen, and the grace of the writing makes the book all the more chilling. With pitiless clarity, Jenkins limns the process of self-deception by which four people, for the most ordinary of motives, bring themselves to commit murder by deliberate neglect.

Yes Academy, We Do Need To Talk About Kevin

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February 9th, 2012

This film will upset you. This film will follow you home and haunt you. This film takes courage to face. You will not forget We Need To Talk About Kevin.

Trailer Watch: Sherlock Holmes 2, The Woman In Black, Chronicle

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October 20th, 2011

This week is rife with compelling but problematic new trailers. Compelling but problematic but informative. Without excessive judgment before the fact, here are a few early impressions.

The Weekly Listicle: The Art Of The Heist

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August 12th, 2011

This week, I join forces with Brett Davinger to chronicle some of the best heists, rip-offs, and holdups ever put on screen. So just sit quietly and keep your hands away from the phone, where we can see them. This won’t take long.

Book Review: The Craigslist Murders by Brenda Cullerton

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July 26th, 2011

An interior “desecrator” who despises the bored super-rich housewives who can afford her services, she lives amongst people for whom money has dissolved away the real world, and takes her revenge by smashing their heads in with the poker which she carries wrapped in a yoga mat.

The Weekly Listicle: A Question Of Identity

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February 18th, 2011

Identity is a wonderful device for deception and suspense in storytelling. In some cases a whole plot hinges on whether or not someone is who they claim to be. The quest for identity, whether inwardly or outwardly direction, may lead to all manner of obsession, danger, and mischief.

“Let Me In!” Cries A Voice In The Night

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January 11th, 2011

A certain writer for the California Literary Review has thoughtfully distilled a whole year of reviews, reactions, and reflections into two comprehensive and well-researched essays entitled “The 10 Best Movies of 2010″ and “The 10 Worst Movies of 2010.” Having been too shiftless to organize a retrospective list of my own, I take grave exception. One of the most entertaining movies of the year failed to rouse sufficient praise or sufficient scorn in his heart to make either list.

Brighton Rock Rises Again. Graham Greene Abides.

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December 20th, 2010

Acclaimed screenwriter Rowan Joffé will try his hand at the directing game next year. For his debut, he has selected an auspiciously high-profile story. Brighton Rock, adapted from Graham Greene’s 1938 novel, is a captivating crime thriller and a chilling exploration of the human capacity for love, betrayal and violence. If all goes right, this will be one beautiful and scary film.

A Watchful Eye On… Sherlock Holmes

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December 15th, 2010

Sherlock Holmes as a strict Victorian period piece is over and done with, but the character still has potential in a new context. The only rule is not to stray from the unique faculties that make Sherlock such a distinctive and popular hero. If the story’s focus ceases to be the detective’s brilliant deductive logic, then the magic is lost and the character wasted. If, however, due attention and respect are paid to this detail, the rest is free and open to broader interpretation.

Movie Time Nostalgia, Part 2: North By Northwest Revisited

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September 25th, 2010

I got myself a videotape of Alfred Hitchcock’s North By Northwest at a young age, and proceeded to watch the ever-living hell out of it. I can’t recall having seen what you might call a grown-up movie before that, and a lot of dramatic films that I love now might not have held my attention then. But North by Northwest really has got it all.

Book Review: The Last Surgeon by Michael Palmer

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February 22nd, 2010

Garrity is an archetype, an ill-understood and imperiled hero who after overcoming every obstacle, exits hand-in-hand with the alluring heroine. It is part of the fun for our heroes to be bigger, somehow, than life, and for villains to be so brilliantly inventive and evil as to rival Satan himself. This fictional world of good and bad provides the reader with a comforting temporary escape from the real world with all its pesky shades of gray.

The Scarpetta Factor by Patricia Cornwell

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November 4th, 2009

She’s developed an enjoyable way of beginning novels in the middle of a story, letting her audience watch the characters carry out conversations and actions which they don’t yet understand, but which will be unravelled as the book continues. This must be an even harder trick than it looks, and The Scarpetta Factor is driven by the reader’s need to find out what the heroes know, as well as what the villains have done.

Rain Gods By James Lee Burke

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July 30th, 2009

Burke’s life has provided ample experience to draw from for his mysteries that feature world-wise and often world-weary characters that have come to the points in their existences where doing the right thing, helping others and standing up to evil sometimes just seems like the path of least resistance.

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