A weekly alert for followers of crime, mystery, and thriller fiction.
Shaft’s Revenge, by David F. Walker (Dynamite Entertainment). The last year has been a red-letter time for fans of Ernest Tidyman’s 1970s New York City private eye, John Shaft. November brought the publication of Steve Aldous’ The World of Shaft, a comprehensive study of the character as he’s appeared in various media. And David F. Walker, who in late 2014 began delivering a new series of Shaft comic books (more recently collected as Shaft Volume 1: A Complicated Man), has now debuted a second series of adventures for that “cat who won’t cop out,” Shaft: Imitation of Life. Walker is also offering Shaft’s Revenge, the first new Shaft novel brought to market since Tidyman’s The Last Shaft in 1975. I haven’t yet received a copy of this 288-page work, but Walker—in an interview with Comic Vine—explains that its story “takes place shortly after Shaft’s Big Score , which was the third book by Tidyman,” and that it finds the gumshoe being “hired by Knocks Persons, the godfather of Harlem, who appeared in the first novel [Shaft, 1970]. Knocks knows he is about to be killed, and he basically hires Shaft to find his killer. As he works the case, Shaft is caught up in the middle of a conflict between corrupt cops and the killer of Knocks.” Walker adds that this book gave him the chance to “explore some of what makes Shaft tick, including aspects of his youth. We learn stuff about Shaft in this book that has never been revealed before, stuff that even he didn’t know about, which serves as something of a second mystery within the story.”
Another familiar face turns up in The Sign of Fear (Simon & Schuster UK), Robert Ryan’s fourth outing for Sherlock Holmes’ aging but faithful companion, Doctor (or, more recently, Major) John H. Watson, following last year’s A Study in Murder. It’s now 1917, and London is under assault by German bombers, a barrage that seriously unnerves the local citizenry. Watson, already grieving after the loss of one friend, is struck again by news that another warfront ally has been lost during a torpedo attack on the English Channel. Then his concert-going comrade, Sir Gilbert Hastings, is snatched, along with four others, and a ransom demand follows, telling of the ghastly events destined to take place if those demands are not satisfied. Anxious for help, Watson accepts it from a most unlikely source: ruthless German spy Miss Pillbody, aka the “She Wolf.” Although their aims are ultimately different, their investigative efforts prove fruitful, exposing a dastardly, high-level plot. Ryan’s portrayal of Watson as compassionate, intelligent, and surprisingly brave for an old gent is most satisfying, and his careful suspense-building makes this series well worth the reading time.
Click here to see more of this season’s most-wanted books.