Book Review: The Gangster, by Clive Cussler and Justin Scott

cv_the_gangsterHe heard footsteps. Then labored breathing.

The hobo limped into the trees. He saw Bell, plunged a hand into his coat, and whipped out a knife in a blur of starlight on steel.
Run? Thought Bell. Not and turn his back on the knife. He grabbed the heavy satchel to block the knife, and formed a fist.

My first – but definitely not my last – foray into Cussler’s works, The Gangster, is a well-constructed presentation of the early 20th Century New York world of the wealthy and the poor; the exploited immigrant workers and the old money family; the gangs and the victims; the murderous and the law keepers.

It revolves around the ever-growing enterprise of Branco, who has driven his way up from being a labourer on the run, to putting himself at the top of the criminal killing chain. His scheming is well-spread and well-executed, all the while working in secret. His final goal? Well, let me just say…someone as high as one could get in 1906 America.

In his way to the top are the city police and the highly respected Van Dorn Detective Agency, whose top agent Isaac Bell had met Branco years earlier when involved in hi-jinks while at Yale.

Fast-paced, the shifts in scene turn the tale to something as close to an action movie as any novel can get, while the prologue allows new readers such as me (or am I the only one?) an effective introduction to both characters.

This is Cussler’s ninth in the Isaac Bell series, co-authored with Justin Scott (as have been all but the first). I would have appreciated seeing the credits for the artwork prefacing sections of the book; they are a perfect “match” to the style and setting.

Reviewed by Lynn McAnulty-Street, also on her own blog Red Penn Reviews

The Gangster
by Clive Cussler
Published by Michael Joseph, imprint of Penguin Random house NZ,
ISBN: 9780718182861

For earlier titles in the Isaac Bell series, visit the author’s official site…

Book Review: The Gentleman’s Club, by Jen Shieff

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_the_gentlemans_clubThere are three central characters in The Gentleman’s Club, the debut novel by Jen Shieff: Hairdresser and brothel owner Rita, Hungarian immigrant engineer Istvan – who is on assisted passage, and mixed up sixteen-year-old Judith. These three characters create their own stories, but are all involved in the resolution of a child slavery crime.

The plot is a mix of romance, intrigue and determination. We follow Rita as she hopes for success of the opening of her girls’ boarding house; Judith as she is determined to do ‘right’ by the three orphan girls she has been paid to escort from England to a new life with adoptive families in New Zealand; and Istvan as he pursues his simple goal of finding work, a new life, and as he assists Judith.

The main settings are Rita’s establishment and the Brodie Home for orphaned children, run by Mr Lindsay Pitcaithly. Other characters create a mesh of personalities and problems, all of which are resolved neatly in the end. But it’s the “how” they are resolved which makes this a fascinating picture of 1950’s New Zealand life – when the NZ culture was still formative and followed much of Mother England’s, except for the kiwi “can do” attitude to any problem that arises.

Shieff has researched the times and culture of the age thoroughly, and has enabled the setting to come to life with references to familiar places, people and customs.

Reviewed by Lynne McAnulty-Street

The Gentleman’s Club
by Jen Shieff
Published by Mary Egan Publishing
ISBN 9780473327422