Book Review: Hunter's Chase (The Audiobook) by Val Penny

 

Val Penny is a fellow Swanwicker who has been looking out for me as things got rough over this past year. As a token of my gratitude, I agreed to take a look at the newly released audiobook of Hunter's Chase, the first book in her "tartan noire" series of detective stories, The Edinburgh Crime Mysteries, as part of a blog tour organised by Reading Between the Lines. I pick up copies of these books as soon as they're released, and often finish them in the space of a day.

Blurb

Hunter by name – Hunter by nature: DI Hunter Wilson will not rest until Edinburgh is safe.

Detective Inspector Hunter Wilson knows there is a new supply of cocaine flooding his city, and he needs to find the source, but his attention is transferred to murder when a corpse is discovered in the grounds of a golf course. 

Shortly after the post-mortem, Hunter witnesses a second murder, but that is not the end of the slaughter. With a young woman's life also hanging in the balance, the last thing Hunter needs is a new man on his team: Detective Constable Tim Myerscough, the son of his nemesis, the former Chief Constable Sir Peter Myerscough. 

Hunter's perseverance and patience are put to the test time after time in this first novel in The Edinburgh Crime Mysteries series.

Review

Hunter's Chase is a gripping mystery with an excellent cast of characters on both sides of the law. Edinburgh provides the mystery's urban setting, yet it also presents a small-town feel in which everyone knows everyone. 

Hunter is a determined investigator, and his team shares a great camaraderie. I especially like DC Mel Grant for her snarky dialogue, which is on par with some of Hunter's. Her scathing wit is especially noticeable during her interactions with Jamie Thompson, a burglary suspect detained at the beginning of the story, who found the first body. Another prominent character is DC Tim Myerscough, of whom Hunter is initially apprehensive, but soon gains his trust as the story progresses. In fact, all of the characters seem believable and realistic.

Sean Pia, who narrates the audiobook, has a great voice. It's very soothing, and fits the setting well. I must confess that I did pick up a few gaffes here and there, with lines being repeated, but that's not a major issue. It's a story that I get invested in early on, with some great twists, some funny lines, and even some truly poignant moments.

The Hunter's Chase audiobook is available via Audible here: https://www.audible.co.uk/pd/Hunters-Chase-Audiobook/B092CDB6ZX

About the Author

Val Penny’s other crime novels, Hunter's Chase, Hunter's Revenge, Hunter's Force, Hunter’s Blood, and Hunter’s Secret form the bestselling series The Edinburgh Crime Mysteries. They are set in Edinburgh, Scotland, published by Darkstroke. Her first non-fiction book, Let’s Get Published, is also available now and she has most recently contributed her short story, Cats and Dogs, to a charity anthology, Dark Scotland.

Val is an American author living in SW Scotland with her husband and their cat.



Cowboy Bebop Marathon - Wrap Up

 

Well, that was a fun experience, and got some use out of my Channel 4 membership. Now I wait another two years before they decide to close my account.

Cowboy Bebop still stands as one of my favourite animes, and one of my favourite shows of all time. The action is great, the characters are memorable, and the music kicks ass.

I love writing about characters who are misfits in their societies, and this show has these in spades. I feel for all the Bebop crew: Spike presents himself as a happy-go-lucky thrill-seeker, which hides a death wish over a shady past he's never been able to fully walk away from; Jet tries to present himself as a wise mentor, but his sense of morality isn't compatible with a society that's rife with corruption and isolates him from his few friends; Faye is a fish out water due to being in a cryogenic sleep for 54 years, and has been swindled by everyone she's known; Ed was abandoned by her absent-minded father, and her eccentric nature possibly conceals a state of denial over this.

What are my favourite episodes? Hmm...I'm trying to figure out whether I want to do a standard top ten, or my favourite comedic and dramatic episodes.

I'll do both.

My top five comedic episodes:

  1. Cowboy Funk
  2. Mushroom Samba
  3. Toys in the Attic
  4. Stray Dog Strut
  5. Speak Like a Child
My top five dramatic episodes:
  1. The Real Folk Blues Part 2
  2. Jupiter Jazz Part 2
  3. Black Dog Serenade
  4. Ballad of Fallen Angels
  5. Pierrot Le Fou
That's about it. Now I need to prep a project for Camp NaNoWriMo.

Until then, happy writing.

I mean, "See You, Space Cowboy".

Cowboy Bebop Marathon - Sessions 25 & 26: The Real Folk Blues (Part 1 & 2)

 

Well, it's the grand finale, and what a finale.

While Spike and Jet are sitting in a bar, they're attacked in force by hitmen. Although Jet is wounded in the leg, they escape with the help of Shin, a disgruntled member of the Red Dragon Syndicate. Shin explains that Vicious attempted to usurp power from the leaders of the syndicate, and they're now purging all of his former associates. Meanwhile, Faye encounters Julia, Spike's old flame who is also being targeted by the syndicate. She asks Faye to relay a message to Spike, saying that she'll be waiting. As Spike and Julia reunite, Vicious escapes his execution and assassinates the Red Dragon's leaders, taking over the syndicate. After Julia is killed, Spike heads to the Red Dragon's headquarters for the final confrontation.

This episode finally reveals this mysterious part of Spike's backstory through flashbacks: Spike and Vicious were both enforcers for the Red Dragons. When Spike had an affair with Julia, who was in a relationship with Vicious, he wanted to elope with her and leave the syndicate. As the syndicates don't allow their members to leave, Spike got into a shootout at an old church, in which he faked his own death and planned to rendezvous with Julia afterwards. However, Julia never showed, as Vicious had learned of her plan and told her to kill Spike or else he'd kill them both, after which she went into hiding.

There's a lot of action in both parts. The first part has the aforementioned shootout in the bar, along with a car chase as Faye helps Julia elude her assassins, and a space battle pitting the Swordfish and Red Tail against syndicate gunships. The second act features Spike and Julia having a running gun battle across rooftops, before loading himself up with guns and explosives and storming the syndicate's headquarters.

In addition to the action, we also get a fair bit of drama, and not just through the flashbacks. My favourite scene takes place just before the final confrontation; Spike returns to the Bebop and re-unites with Jet, who cooks him a meal. Spike tells a fable, and claims he hates it because it features cats, and he and Jet share a laugh. It's one of the few times I've seen them do this, and there's the underlying fact that Spike's upcoming battle is his fight and he's doing it alone. It may be the last time they see each other again.

This is probably one of the strongest episodes in terms of drama, and a great ending.

Bang.

Cowboy Bebop Marathon - Session 24: Hard Luck Woman

 

We're almost at the end. Two more episodes to go, but they're a two-parter so I'm gonna review them both together.

Faye studies the home video obtained in "Speak Like a Child", eager to find out who she is and where she's originally from. When Ed claims to know the location of the video, they change the Bebop's course and head to Earth. They travel to an orphanage where Ed once resided, and learn that Ed's father previously visited in search of her. Faye later encounters one of her school friends, who has now aged when she hasn't. Meanwhile, Spike and Jet pursue a lucrative bounty on Ed's father, Siniz Hesap Luften Appledehi.

This episode is largely focussed on Ed and Faye. It's largely comedic, showing that Ed's father is just as eccentric and quirky as she is. It turns out that he's a cartographer looking to create new maps of Earth (which is impossible due to the constant meteor showers). There's an action scene as Spike and Jet try to bring him in, but he easily subdues them. Then Ed appears and re-unites with him, revealing that she'd posted the bounty and it isn't as much as they originally thought.

As silly as this episode is, it's also downright depressing. Faye arrives at her childhood home, only to find it in ruins. Meanwhile, Ed's father offers her the chance to travel with him, but runs off to pursue another meteorite impact before she can answer. She ultimately decides to leave the Bebop and go after him, and Ein goes with her.

Well, I guess it's just a breather for the finale.

Cowboy Bebop Marathon - Session 23: Brain Scratch

 

"Cleansing the soul" always sounded rather ominous to me.

A mysterious figure known as "Dr Londes" has established a cult known as "Brain Scratch", which offers immortality through the upload of spirit to the internet. After a number of suspicious deaths and disappearances, a bounty is placed on Londes. When Spike notices Faye being interviewed as a member of Scratch, he and Jet conduct their own investigation. Spike takes the direct approach by asking Scratch members, while Jet tries to find those believed to have worked with Londes. Unfortunately, neither of them are able to yield results.

After the laughs of "Cowboy Funk", the way is being paved for some of the more dramatic episodes. This episode is kinda philosophical and depressing. One big thing that occurs is the cancellation of Big Shot, which provided a comedic tone while discussing the bounty of the week. There's not much in the way action, but I love the mystery. It's also interesting to see Ein get involved in the story; Jet uses a special headset to try and join Scratch, but it emits a high frequency which almost puts him into a coma until Ein senses something's amiss and bites him.

I must admit that there are times when I feel like it's re-treading the same ground as "Jamming With Edward" with a manhunt involving cyberspace, but that gives Ed something to do.

Londes provides an interesting philosophy on how television is the greatest and worst invention of all time, and how it's become a religion in and of itself. But the reveal of who Londes really is ends up being quite poignant. I'm not going to share the details on here.

Cowboy Bebop Marathon - Session 22: Cowboy Funk


This is my favourite episode, since I'm a big fan of westerns and because it's also one of the funniest episodes in the series.

Spike is going after a bounty known as "The Teddy Bomber", a serial bomber who targets high-rise buildings using explosives concealed in teddy bears. Unfortunately, his hunt puts him in competition with rival bounty hunter named Andy Von De Oniyate. At first, Jet and Faye are incredulous of Spike's story, but then encounter "Cowboy Andy" and find his destructive nature too similar to that of Spike's.

Being the egotistical prick that he is, Cowboy Andy steals the show in this episode. Hailing from a rich family, he takes up bounty hunting for the thrill of it and fashions himself as a Hollywood gunslinger: he uses a six shooter and a lasso, dresses like a cowboy, and even travels everywhere on a horse. He's accompanied by his leitmotif, "Go Go Cactus Man" which other characters can somehow hear (to the point where Spike thinks he's approaching when he hears someone whistling). Even when Faye spends the evening with him, he toasts his reflection in her eyes.

The other main "focus" character is the Teddy Bomber, although some audiences may be uncomfortable with his methods (this episode was pulled from broadcasts around the time 9/11 happened). There's a running joke in which he gives a monologue about his motive, but he's cut off or ignored every time he gives it. He actually gets angry when Spike and Andy are too busy bickering with each other to listen to him. He even sends a letter to Big Shot, dropping hints about his next target to lure the bounty hunters out, and includes his speech...which gets cut off because they ran out of time.

It all boils down to a final showdown between the two rivals, with a comedic payoff.

See you, space samurai.

Cowboy Bebop Marathon - Session 21: Boogie Woogie Feng Shui

 

Feng Shui is something I know little about, but it nonetheless intrigues me.

Jet receives a cryptic email from an old acquaintance, Pao Pu-Zi, whom he knows as one of the most prominent Feng Shui masters on Mars. His initial search takes him to a cemetery, where he finds Pao's tombstone. He meets Pao's teenage daughter Meifa, and they escape an ambush by a pair of assassins who bear a close resemblance to the Blues Brothers. As the rest of the crew speculate over Jet's relationship with Meifa, he learns that Pao was apparently killed in a hyperspace fluctuation while travelling to Jupiter. Having more questions, Jet accompanies Meifa as she searches for an item known as "the Sunstone". He later ambushes the Blues Brothers and learns they're from the Blue Snake crime syndicate, and were following Meifa in the hopes that she'd lead them to her father. Jet later reveals to Meifa that Pao was a consultant for the syndicate but wanted out, and had given information to Jet when he was a detective for the ISSP.

This is another episode which largely centres on Jet as he solves the mystery. It's interesting to see the plot unravel, and there's still some humour over the rest of the crew's speculation.

There's some great action, with Jet subduing the Blues Brothers, showing that he uses a less refined fighting style compared to Spike's martial arts techniques. We later get a cool dogfight as a Blue Snake ship pursues the Bebop into hyperspace while they're following a path the sunstone is leading them on. It provides a truly poignant ending as they use it to locate Pao.

That's about it. I'm hyped for tomorrow's session, which is one of my favourite episodes.

Book Review: Hunter's Chase (The Audiobook) by Val Penny

  Val Penny is a fellow Swanwicker who has been looking out for me as things got rough over this past year. As a token of my gratitude, I ag...