Couple of orphans

 Here's a couple of book reviews that I wasn't sure what to do with.  The one wouldn't quite fit in a horror book post, and the other wouldn't quite fit in an action-series post, since it's a stand-alone.  But they're both too good to not tell you about 'em.  So, I'll just put 'em together here.

City of the Dead - Herbert Lieberman (Simon & Schuster - 1976)
Paul Konig is the chief medical examiner of New York City.  With 40 years of experience he's the top in his field; nobody knows more about the dead than he does.  He's not as good with the living, however, and he's haunted by his estrangement from his daughter Lolly, who's living somewhere in squalor and painting for a living.  Konig desperately wants another chance with her but the closest he can get is dealing with kidnappers who are torturing her until he pays a ransom.  And while this is going on, Konig is also trying to sort out a case of dozens of body parts fished out of the river, identifying the victims and discovering who killed them and chopped them up.  When this came out in paperback it was marketed to imply it might be some kind of zombie horror novel; zombies, definitely not, horror, well, it depends on how wide your definition is, because it's certainly VERY dark and brooding on the morbid, both in the physical details of death and on the deep dark places of the human soul.  Konig is a king in a silent kingdom, grown arrogant by his mastery over the dead, but with his daughter's situation and a scandal against his department brewing, Konig's world is coming apart like the mutilated bodies he deals with (and is doing a much better job putting back together), and he's becoming more of a slave to the incoming corpses than he is any kind of regent. Very well-researched crime novel dwells on the gory details and has a dark, oppressive atmosphere; even though Lieberman mentions often that things happen on bright spring days, the "weather" in this book always seemed foggy, cold, drizzly, and late-at-night in my mind, just because that's the sort of mood it projects.  It's a crime novel, not horror, but you can learn much about horror from it.  It was a little hard to get into at first but then it picked up.  Disturbing, powerful stuff -- be careful with it, because it'll throw heavy shade on you.

My copy is an old hardback without the dust cover, so scanning it wouldn't do you any good.  But there's another (good) review here, and you get a little shot of the paperback there.

Doomsday Mission - Harry Whittington (Banner, 1967)
Crime-writer extraordinaire Harry Whittington turns to the war novel with this Vietnam saga, written while the war was still on.  Six American soldiers lead forty Viet Cong defectors (who they can't fully trust) deep into enemy territory to destroy enemy supplies before the typhoon season sets in.  Or at least that's the part of their mission they know about.  Whittington does a good job characterizing the soldiers and setting up internal conflicts (the lieutenant makes seemingly-dangerous decisions that one sergeant - preoccupied with taking care of his men -- is very reluctant to follow) and his action scenes are numerous and hard-hitting.  Whittington's sideline as a smut writer comes into play a bit as one soldier "tames" a captured female VC by sexually stimulating her; what he does is kept vague but a long stretch of the book is devoted to it.  The action is almost constant and varied, from booby-traps to tunnel-rat work to all-out assaults with loads of gunfire and explosions.  No masterpiece, but a good solid battle novel.   You'll always in good hands with Harry Whittington. You should snag anything by him you can find.

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