Five very different books came across my desk recently and some of them looked very interesting. Sadly, they did not live up to the covers' hype.

One of the most promising was Live by Night (Hachette NZ), written by Dennis Lehane, the author of Shutter Island, a book that kept many a reader awake at night.

Live by Night involves Joe Coughlin, who, we learn at the start of the book, is about to swim with the fishes with his feet firmly encased in concrete.

The book is a look at his life and loves as he rises from a small-time hood to a full-time gangster and back to a small-time hood. Intertwined with Coughlin's life is that of his first real love, Emma Gould. Gould is the mistress of one of Boston's meanest gang bosses and she sells out Coughlin to save her own life. Eventually, Coughlin moves on and up and deals with the gang bosses while still carrying a torch for Gould. There is a delightful twist to the plot regarding getting firearms off a boat stranded in Florida. But it is a book best read fast over a weekend.

Sutton, by J.R. Moehringer (HarperCollins), is one of those frustrating books that has passages of story in the present then uses italics when telling the story in and of the past. Willie Sutton was born in the squalid Irish slums of Brooklyn and is one of life's losers, spending a fair proportion of his life behind bars. Like Coughlin in Live by Night, he falls in love with a woman and that love haunts him all his life. Sutton is spending a day out with a reporter and a photographer in an ''exclusive'' deal on one of his worst crimes. It is seriously dreary at times. There is a nice unusual touch about Sutton coming to terms with his lost love, but the book is hard going.

Thankfully, The Bat (Harvill Secker) has been published and we can all know why Harry Hole - the creation of Jo Nesbo - is such a troubled man. The Bat is the first Harry Hole thriller and it has troubled me why my favourite anti-hero is, well, so troubled. But the book reveals all during Hole's trip to Australia. The book is certainly not up to recent Nesbo standards, but at least it retrospectively sets the scene.

Harlan Coben has been a favourite author in the past and Seconds Away (Hachette NZ) starts promisingly. Basketball jock Mickey Bolitar and his new friends Ema and Spoon find themselves at the centre of a murder investigation involving their classmate Rachel. Again, the book drifts away from the reader on so many levels before returning to what becomes an over-the-top ending. Readers are asked to suspend logic to digest this book.

The writing factory known as James Patterson has combined with Michael White to produce another in the Private series, this one entitled Private OZ (Random House). Authors and publishers decry that people do not buy actual books these days, instead downloading them legally through sites such as Amazon or illegally through file-sharing sites. This latest output by Patterson could be seen as a reason for never again buying a book. Some chapters are but a few paragraphs long. Some pages have large expanses of white with two sentences at the top of a page to end a chapter. There is a happy ending of sorts for the beautiful people and pain and anguish for the rest. Read it if you must, but you have been warned.

 - Dene Mackenzie is a Dunedin writer.


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