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Five Decembers

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In this extraordinary novel of World War II, an American police detective trapped while trailing a killer overseas struggles to survive with only the help of a total stranger and his daughter, who risk their lives to protect him. FIVE DECEMBERS is a gripping thriller, a staggering portrait of war, and a heartbreaking love story, as moving and unforgettable as ALL THE LIGHT In this extraordinary novel of World War II, an American police detective trapped while trailing a killer overseas struggles to survive with only the help of a total stranger and his daughter, who risk their lives to protect him. FIVE DECEMBERS is a gripping thriller, a staggering portrait of war, and a heartbreaking love story, as moving and unforgettable as ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE. "Read this book for its palpitating story, its perfect emotional and physical detailing and, most of all, for its unforgettable conjuring of a steamy quicksilver world that will be new to almost every reader." Pico Iyer December 1941. America teeters on the brink of war, and in Honolulu, Hawaii, police detective Joe McGrady is assigned to investigate a homicide that will change his life forever. Because the trail of murder he uncovers will lead him across the Pacific, far from home and the woman he loves; and though the U.S. doesn't know it yet, a Japanese fleet is already steaming toward Pearl Harbor. This extraordinary novel is so much more than just a gripping crime story—it's a story of survival against all odds, of love and loss and the human cost of war. Spanning the entirety of World War II, FIVE DECEMBERS is a beautiful, masterful, powerful novel that will live in your memory forever.


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In this extraordinary novel of World War II, an American police detective trapped while trailing a killer overseas struggles to survive with only the help of a total stranger and his daughter, who risk their lives to protect him. FIVE DECEMBERS is a gripping thriller, a staggering portrait of war, and a heartbreaking love story, as moving and unforgettable as ALL THE LIGHT In this extraordinary novel of World War II, an American police detective trapped while trailing a killer overseas struggles to survive with only the help of a total stranger and his daughter, who risk their lives to protect him. FIVE DECEMBERS is a gripping thriller, a staggering portrait of war, and a heartbreaking love story, as moving and unforgettable as ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE. "Read this book for its palpitating story, its perfect emotional and physical detailing and, most of all, for its unforgettable conjuring of a steamy quicksilver world that will be new to almost every reader." Pico Iyer December 1941. America teeters on the brink of war, and in Honolulu, Hawaii, police detective Joe McGrady is assigned to investigate a homicide that will change his life forever. Because the trail of murder he uncovers will lead him across the Pacific, far from home and the woman he loves; and though the U.S. doesn't know it yet, a Japanese fleet is already steaming toward Pearl Harbor. This extraordinary novel is so much more than just a gripping crime story—it's a story of survival against all odds, of love and loss and the human cost of war. Spanning the entirety of World War II, FIVE DECEMBERS is a beautiful, masterful, powerful novel that will live in your memory forever.

30 review for Five Decembers

  1. 5 out of 5

    David Putnam

    Wow! This one is a wow. What a heck of a read. I’d say hell of read but I’m not sure I can say hell in a review. This one is my favorite of the year. Hands down. Stunning. As soon as I started reading it I passed the word to reader friends, one of which, wondered like me, how this author slipped under our radar—how could this be a first novel? He researched it and found the author is none other than one of my favorites, the author of Poison Artist, (if you haven’t read Poison Artist you are miss Wow! This one is a wow. What a heck of a read. I’d say hell of read but I’m not sure I can say hell in a review. This one is my favorite of the year. Hands down. Stunning. As soon as I started reading it I passed the word to reader friends, one of which, wondered like me, how this author slipped under our radar—how could this be a first novel? He researched it and found the author is none other than one of my favorites, the author of Poison Artist, (if you haven’t read Poison Artist you are missing a real treat. It’s up there with Chandler), Johnathan Moore. This book reminds me a little of LA Confidential by Elroy. It’s epic and spans five years during world war two. It’s got romance, violence, and most of all good ol’ story telling. This is not one to miss. The book is written in third person from one point of view. The historical time period, the setting takes on its own character with equal importance to the main character. Loved the details. The descriptions of Japan and the aftermath of the bombing is nothing short of brilliant and at the same time horrifying. David Putnam author of the Bruno Johnson series.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Paromjit

    This stellar Wartime Noir from James Kestrel packs an emotional punch that left me reeling, it is powerful, profound and moving, whilst defying genre classification. It is December 1941 in Honolulu, Hawaii, and the hard boiled ex-military Detective Joe McGrady is called to a gruesomely macabre double murder scene, a young male victim, who turns out to be the much loved nephew of an American Admiral, and a Japanese woman who is much more difficult to identify. Joe is an outsider not trusted by hi This stellar Wartime Noir from James Kestrel packs an emotional punch that left me reeling, it is powerful, profound and moving, whilst defying genre classification. It is December 1941 in Honolulu, Hawaii, and the hard boiled ex-military Detective Joe McGrady is called to a gruesomely macabre double murder scene, a young male victim, who turns out to be the much loved nephew of an American Admiral, and a Japanese woman who is much more difficult to identify. Joe is an outsider not trusted by his fellow police officers, feeling alone, channeling his emotions and love towards Molly. He has a hunch when he kills a man who returned to the scene of the crime, that there was someone else involved. Whilst his boss tries to dictate the murder inquiry, Joe is determined to go his own way, helped by the political heft of the grieving Admiral. As another victim with a similar MO is discovered, Joe finds himself sent to hunt the killer, ending up in British ruled Hong Kong. For those familiar with WW2 history, you will know that the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour is coming and leads to the entry of the U.S. into the war. As Joe finds himself in a Hong Kong prison, the U.S. consulate unable to help him, the war comes for him, and takes him to Yokohama in Japan where he becomes aware of the identity of the murdered woman and the surprising motive behind the killings. He is taken in and saved by Kansei and Sachi Takahashi, at great risk to their own lives. Trapped in their home for years, Joe learns Japanese from Sachi, and becomes intimately aware of the cost of war from a Japanese perspective, including the unprecedented horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Never once does Joe forget the murders, even on his return to Hawaii and the case has been closed, he pursues the killer, no matter what the cost. Kestrel details man's inhumanity in war, as things becomes ever bleaker, amidst a devastating horror of mass deaths, heartbreak and losses, it is love that holds people together, a reason to live, and this is all too painfully true for Joe too. The wide ranging cast of characters in the story is what grabs the reader, from the likes of Molly, Emily Kam, to the Takahashis and Kate, they had me invested right from the beginning, up to the final pages of that poignant ending. This is unforgettable historical fiction, a mesmerising noir that turned out to be one of my books of this year, and which, if there is any justice in the world, should be hugely successful. A book for everyone, and one I strongly recommend. Many thanks to the publisher for an ARC.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Kemper

    Heads up! This one goes on sale today. Don't miss it. I received a free advance copy of this from the author. It’s a Hard Case Crime novel set in Hawaii just weeks before the infamous Pearl Harbor attack occurs on December 7, 1941. I pretty much feel like that’s all I need to say to convince people to check it out. But fine, if you want to know a little more, then keep reading… Joe McGrady is a police detective in Honolulu who is called to a gruesome double murder. Things get complicated when one of Heads up! This one goes on sale today. Don't miss it. I received a free advance copy of this from the author. It’s a Hard Case Crime novel set in Hawaii just weeks before the infamous Pearl Harbor attack occurs on December 7, 1941. I pretty much feel like that’s all I need to say to convince people to check it out. But fine, if you want to know a little more, then keep reading… Joe McGrady is a police detective in Honolulu who is called to a gruesome double murder. Things get complicated when one of the victims turns out to be a relative of a prominent Navy admiral and the other is a young Japanese woman. With tensions high, Joe’s boss just wants the case solved as quickly and quietly as possible, and McGrady ends up hot on the trail of the killer across the Pacific. However, the outbreak of World War II derails the investigation as well as Joe’s life. This is one of those books that’s tricky to review because I don’t want to say much more about the plot because it takes some surprising twists that end up being the best part of the of the story. So I don’t want to spoil those, but then I can’t really dig into some of the particulars. What I can say is that this is a novel built on making readers feel like they’re in a particular time and place, and James Kestrel does a superior job of that. From describing the streets and people of Honolulu in 1941 to several other locations, you get all of the atmosphere without it feeling like a bunch of regurgitated facts from a history class. The plotting is also very well done as it mixes the realistic grind of detective work with some of the historical details of the setting. For example, one clue revolves around how there were no Packard dealerships in Hawaii at the time so that type of car was very rare on the islands, but trying to track down a particular one means spending hours reviewing car registration records. There’s a lot of great procedural bits about trying to track down a killer in the era before computer databases and modern forensics. Even the methods of communication play a part with cables being a key element to how things unfold. Character work is another strong element with Joe McGrady being the kind of complex figure you want at the center of this kind of story. As an ex-soldier with no family to speak of, Joe is a loner who didn’t grow up in Hawaii so he’s seen as an outsider even by his fellow cops, and it’s evident from the start that he’s not entirely trusted by them. The feeling goes both ways as Joe deals with the agenda of his boss and others. His one real connection is his growing feelings towards the woman he’s been seeing, Molly. The story also plays off the readers knowing that World War II is about to start to good effect. Kestrel drops a few well-placed ominous hints that foreshadow that the whole world is about to go sideways even as Joe is hoping to get the case wrapped up in time to spend a romantic Christmas with Molly. It makes the whole thing one of those books where you’re tensed up the entire time, and just wish that you could warn everyone in it what’s coming. It’s a fantastic crime novel that takes the classic tale of a determined detective hunting a killer and turns it into the tragedy of one man who gets caught up in epic historical events.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Dave

    "Five Decembers" is one book that's even better than advertised. In an absolutely breathtaking exciting thriller scheduled for an October 2021 release, James Kestrel (a pseudonym for a current author) offers us in one fell swoop a Hardboiled mystery, a historical war story, a star-crossed romance, and just an endless adventure that you never want to end. For a book that tried to be all these things at once, Five Decembers succeeded in every way, telling a fascinating mystery that has more sides "Five Decembers" is one book that's even better than advertised. In an absolutely breathtaking exciting thriller scheduled for an October 2021 release, James Kestrel (a pseudonym for a current author) offers us in one fell swoop a Hardboiled mystery, a historical war story, a star-crossed romance, and just an endless adventure that you never want to end. For a book that tried to be all these things at once, Five Decembers succeeded in every way, telling a fascinating mystery that has more sides than a prism, telling a war story that shows how destructive the war was personally to people on all sides, and offering a touching but tragic romance. It all starts (although it doesn't end there) in pre-war Honolulu in the days leading up to that one fateful day when the bombers appeared over the lush Hawaiian skies and awakened a sleeping giant. But, this is not a military story about the men who went off into battle. Rather, it's the story of a civilian -a local Honolulu police detective given the most unsolvable case ever -a murder out in the hills that barely makes sense. Joe McGrady immediately finds himself fighting for his life and then is whisked across the Pacific to find a small clue in the Far East as the war in the Pacific erupts and there's no way home. Wherever Joe thought this would lead, he could never have imagined the twists and turns his life would take over the next five Decembers. Over the course of these years, Joe has to come to terms with who he is and what he is capable of. What is a man when he is floating without a life preserver bereft of all that grounds him in this world? The writing style was fantastic, drawing the reader into every page. There was no moment in the story not wound up with tension, with excitement, with anticipation. It authentically felt like a novel from the postwar era, not something brand new. It's impossible to say enough good things about this work. Many thanks to the publisher for providing an advance copy for review.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Charles Ardai

    I am the publisher of this book, so I'm hardly unbiased -- but before I choose to publish a book I'm a simple reader, and I only choose books that knock my socks off when I read them, and this one knocked my socks so far off, I think they're in orbit right now. What an exceptional piece of storytelling this book is. I don't remember another book I've read in years that had the powerful emotional impact this one has. It goes places I could never have guessed it would; it makes you fear for the ma I am the publisher of this book, so I'm hardly unbiased -- but before I choose to publish a book I'm a simple reader, and I only choose books that knock my socks off when I read them, and this one knocked my socks so far off, I think they're in orbit right now. What an exceptional piece of storytelling this book is. I don't remember another book I've read in years that had the powerful emotional impact this one has. It goes places I could never have guessed it would; it makes you fear for the main character's fate, and grieve with him, and hope with him, in ways that are rare indeed. I found it a literally breathtaking book, and I hope other readers will give it a chance when it comes out in October. (I know that asking people to try a book by an author they've never heard of is asking a lot -- there are just so many books and no one has the time to read more than a small fraction of them. But when, once in a very long while, a book this good, this special, comes around...it's worth it.)

  6. 4 out of 5

    Brandon

    A few weeks ago, I received an email from publisher Hard Case Crime offering up e-galleys of a forthcoming novel entitled FIVE DECEMBERS, which is due for release later this year. In said email Charles Adari, founder and editor at Hard Case Crime, called FIVE DECEMBERS “one of our best books ever” and also provided praise from both Dennis Lehane and Megan Abbott (two of my favorite writers) to boot. How could I say no to a book with those accolades? I received an advanced copy from the publisher A few weeks ago, I received an email from publisher Hard Case Crime offering up e-galleys of a forthcoming novel entitled FIVE DECEMBERS, which is due for release later this year. In said email Charles Adari, founder and editor at Hard Case Crime, called FIVE DECEMBERS “one of our best books ever” and also provided praise from both Dennis Lehane and Megan Abbott (two of my favorite writers) to boot. How could I say no to a book with those accolades? I received an advanced copy from the publisher in exchange for a review. FIVE DECEMBERS begins in Honolulu, Hawaii shortly before America enters the Second World War. HPD Detective Joe McGrady is sent to investigate a murder on the outskirts of town and upon arrival, he’s treated to a gruesome crime scene. Believing that the man responsible has fled the country, Joe sets out to Hong Kong in an attempt to track the killer down. Arriving in early December 1941, Joe’s boots are barely on the ground before he’s accused of a crime he didn’t commit and thrown in the slammer. Of course, history tells us that by the 7th, the US is attacked by Japan and all hell breaks loose in the Pacific. I’d really like to stop things there because it’s probably best to go into this one not knowing much more than what I’ve already said. FIVE DECEMBERS is one of the best modern crime fiction novels I’ve read in quite some time. It begins with a murder on a small scale and expands into something so much more, while never straying focus far from its central mystery. The novel’s protagonist, Joe McGrady, is an unremarkable man, but that’s what makes him relatable. He’s the everyman, the guy you can’t help but sympathize with and root for when things look their most bleak. The reader is right there beside Joe during every struggle and every heartbreaking revelation. I’ve used this saying many times before, but FIVE DECEMBERS is truly the definition of a page-turner. In the acknowledgements, Kestrel states that the original manuscript for FIVE DECEMBERS had tipped the scales at nearly seven hundred pages, but through advice from his agent, he cut it down to just over four hundred. So, based on that alone, you know this is a tight read. I often harp on books for being too long and overstaying their welcome, but I’d love to read the full, uncut original story. Even when the novel’s nail-biting conclusion arrived, I wasn’t ready to be done with it. I absolutely loved this book and I truly cannot wait for the world to read it this fall when it hits bookstores. James Kestrel’s FIVE DECEMBERS is an emotionally-charged crime novel shaped by the tragic years of a world at war, a story that is relentlessly hopeful in the face of unrequited devotion and doomed love. FIVE DECEMBERS is due for release on October 19th, 2021 from Hard Case Crime.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jamie

    Given the time and place one can safely assume from the outset that the gory double murder mystery the story opens with will likely undergo some tumultuous twists and turns. And yet I was not expecting anything nearly so ambitious as what develops. The murder investigation, with roots deeply buried in the war itself, gets completely turned upside down in short order, swept up in the devastating events and upheaval of World War II. It's an amazing story, filled with suspense, heartfelt romance, gu Given the time and place one can safely assume from the outset that the gory double murder mystery the story opens with will likely undergo some tumultuous twists and turns. And yet I was not expecting anything nearly so ambitious as what develops. The murder investigation, with roots deeply buried in the war itself, gets completely turned upside down in short order, swept up in the devastating events and upheaval of World War II. It's an amazing story, filled with suspense, heartfelt romance, gut wrenching tragedy and an unrelenting tension throughout. Joe McGrady is a hollowed out police detective who won't be derailed from the trail of a sadistic killer despite having his life totally upended in the wake of momentous historical events, or perhaps because of it. Kestrel brings the streets of WWII era Hawaii, the south Pacific and the far East alive with his vibrant and gritty portrayals of societies on the brink. Thanks to the publisher for providing me with an advanced copy for review.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Col

    Synopsis/blurb ... Major new hardcover launch by an acclaimed author: a gripping thriller, an unforgettable portrait of war, and a heartbreaking love story, on par with ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE. Read this book for its palpitating story, its perfect emotional and physical detailing and, most of all, for its unforgettable conjuring of a steamy quicksilver world that will be new to almost every reader. Pico Iyer December 1941. America teeters on the brink of war, and in Honolulu, Hawaii, police det Synopsis/blurb ... Major new hardcover launch by an acclaimed author: a gripping thriller, an unforgettable portrait of war, and a heartbreaking love story, on par with ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE. Read this book for its palpitating story, its perfect emotional and physical detailing and, most of all, for its unforgettable conjuring of a steamy quicksilver world that will be new to almost every reader. Pico Iyer December 1941. America teeters on the brink of war, and in Honolulu, Hawaii, police detective Joe McGrady is assigned to investigate a grisly homicide that will change his life forever. Because the trail of murder he uncovers will lead him across the Pacific, and though the U.S. doesn't know it yet, a Japanese fleet is already heading toward Pearl Harbor. This extraordinary novel is so much more than just a gripping detective story--it's a story of survival against all odds, of brutality and ruthlessness, of love and loss, all unfolding against the backdrop of the most cataclysmic conflict of the 20th century. Spanning the entirety of World War II, FIVE DECEMBERS is a beautiful, masterful, shocking novel that will live in your memory forever. ------ My take ... An absolute banger of a book - breathtaking, addictive and a proper page-turner. Highly recommended. I doubt that I'll be able to do the book justice here. Trust me - just read the bloody thing. We have a cracking story with a multiple murder investigation which straddles the slight inconvenience of World War II and the incarceration for our main character, the lead detective, Joe McGrady. He loses his liberty but finds something else by way of compensation. Murder, investigation, loss, war, opposing sides with common goals, imprisonment, an alliance, secrecy, romance, the passage of time, solace, comfort, end of conflict, freedom, a resumption of enquiries, and a continued pursuit of justice and/or retribution. I really loved this one. There's a tremendous sense of time and place with the book kicking off just prior to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour. Through Joe McGrady's war experiences we also see another side of Japanese society and some disquiet with the direction the country's leaders have taken Japan. After nearly five long years, we also view the devastation that war has taken on the country and on it's people with civilians bearing the brunt of America's military muscle. As well as an ambitious overview of the times, there is also a sadistic and brutal double murder to be solved; one which has an impact on a personal level with the undoubted sufferings of the victims and the ongoing pain of their relatives. One of the best books I've read all year. 5 from 5 James Kestrel is a pseudonym for a well-established author. Having done a bit of sleuthing to uncover his identity, I'm happy to say I have a couple of his books on the TBR pile already. I'll be bumping them a bit closer to the top. Read - September, 2021 Published - 2021 Page count - 432 Source - review copy from publisher Hard Case Crime Format - PDF read on laptop http://col2910.blogspot.com/2021/10/j...

  9. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    Five Decembers finds Honolulu Police Detective Joe McGrady being called to investigate a brutal double murder within days of the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. His investigation ultimately leads to the Philippines, where things go south for our detective, then there's the attack on Pearl Harbor. To tell anymore than this would be a disservice to the reader as it would spoil some of the plot points in the rest of the book. All I can say is read this. It's honestly one of the best books I Five Decembers finds Honolulu Police Detective Joe McGrady being called to investigate a brutal double murder within days of the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. His investigation ultimately leads to the Philippines, where things go south for our detective, then there's the attack on Pearl Harbor. To tell anymore than this would be a disservice to the reader as it would spoil some of the plot points in the rest of the book. All I can say is read this. It's honestly one of the best books I've read this year. You want to turn the pages as quickly as possible to find out what happens next, but you also want to take your time and soak in the vivid imagery of Hawaii that the author gives us and also take our time when he describes the vast death, destruction, and impact the war inflicted. The plot is amazing and I found myself really enjoying getting to know the characters and following along on their journey and with the investigation. When I reached the end, I was disappointed it was over. I am grateful to Hard Case Crime and author James Kestrel for allowing me to read an ARC in exchange for my honest review.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Chiara Liberio

    Warning: absolutely unputdownable! Joe McGrady, war veteran and now Honolulu PD detective is called to investigate the brutal dual murder of an unknown Japanese girl and an Admiral’s nephew. He is a man who keeps himself to himself and likes to act solo -- has a few scars of his own and has developed a hard shell. Now he appears to have found a girl he likes. The investigation takes him to Hong Kong, where he should stay a few days – he has already made romantic Christmas plans, but we are bitin Warning: absolutely unputdownable! Joe McGrady, war veteran and now Honolulu PD detective is called to investigate the brutal dual murder of an unknown Japanese girl and an Admiral’s nephew. He is a man who keeps himself to himself and likes to act solo -- has a few scars of his own and has developed a hard shell. Now he appears to have found a girl he likes. The investigation takes him to Hong Kong, where he should stay a few days – he has already made romantic Christmas plans, but we are biting our nails as he hops on that clipper because we know war is going to break out. When Hong Kong is invaded and Pearl Harbour attacked by the Japanese, he is cut off from all he has: at this stage, we are totally gripped with his destiny as a man isolated in an enemy country, his love story, his investigation and the man who keeps eluding him. The novel, spanning five Decembers, becomes epic as the war takes him through Asia... Reconstruction of time and place is superb, both in Honolulu and in Asia, and everything is vividly portrayed: there is no waste of words here and all details you encounter are functional to plot development. You visualise the period cars, the Pan Am clipper (that clipper!), the busy cable rooms, the way women behave. The novel is truly well paced and skillfully plotted, with twists and turns that have you constantly hold your breath. It merges elements of hardboiled crimefiction into a tale of survival and a sweeping historical novel that looks at little known issues, such as Japanese pacifism and more. It has all the elements of a good thriller and tells a universal tale on the brutality of war and individuals caught in mechanisms larger than they are, trying to survive and act according to what they believe in. Everything is covered in a patina, distanced as if in a period movie, or as if to say some deeds are a thing of the past. Great reading experience.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    Full disclosure—I am a huge fan of the Hard Case Crime line of books—I’ve read all of them from day one. But I was surprised nonetheless when Hard Case Crime’s publisher Charles Ardai invited me to preview an upcoming release-Five Decembers by James Kestrel. I just finished the book(literally minutes ago) and was blown away and had to post this five star review. The book is so many things—a love story, a gruesome murder investigation, a war story, a hard boiled adventure and survival story—-and Full disclosure—I am a huge fan of the Hard Case Crime line of books—I’ve read all of them from day one. But I was surprised nonetheless when Hard Case Crime’s publisher Charles Ardai invited me to preview an upcoming release-Five Decembers by James Kestrel. I just finished the book(literally minutes ago) and was blown away and had to post this five star review. The book is so many things—a love story, a gruesome murder investigation, a war story, a hard boiled adventure and survival story—-and it does all those things so well-the writing is so compelling and literate without being obtuse-its fun to read and moving at the same time. And at its heart the book a tale of 1941-1945(hence 5 Decembers) and what the world was like then-so different from now—its like going in a time machine to inhabit a lost world. Enough. If it seems like I’m gushing , its because I am. Read the book and be transfixed and transported.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Candace

    "Five Decembers" was the perfect novel to keep me in the air conditioning during a roasting hot Labor Day weekend. It's big and juicy, filled with a good mystery tied to history, a disaffected detective, dangerous love, fab settings, and a satisfying ending. The "couldn't put it down-ness" is certainly 10. Set in Honolulu and across east Asia in from 1941 to 1946 , "Five Decembers" begins when Honolulu detective Joe McGrady catches a case where two young people were slaughtered in a most brutal w "Five Decembers" was the perfect novel to keep me in the air conditioning during a roasting hot Labor Day weekend. It's big and juicy, filled with a good mystery tied to history, a disaffected detective, dangerous love, fab settings, and a satisfying ending. The "couldn't put it down-ness" is certainly 10. Set in Honolulu and across east Asia in from 1941 to 1946 , "Five Decembers" begins when Honolulu detective Joe McGrady catches a case where two young people were slaughtered in a most brutal way. We get a feel for what it was like to live in Honolulu during that time, easygoing yet with that frisson of anxiety for the something that is about to happen. Before the story is over, Joe will have come too close to world-altering bombs, escaped a Japanese concentration camp, have found a life-saver, and never forgotten his case. "Five Decembers' has a great pulpy cover and some cool pulpy talk, but it is much more than that. A treat awaits you! Thanks to Edelweiss and the publisher for access to this title in exchange for an honest review. Candace Siegle, Greedy Reader

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jim

    This fantastic novel is a grand example of the crime novel bursting out of its genre confines. Besides being a crackling good detective story, it brilliantly illuminates how the world can be disrupted in an instant and how such disruptions can affect even the seemingly most unrelated matters. Somebody needs to make a limited tv series out of this immediately. A remarkable and poignant book.

  14. 5 out of 5

    OutlawPoet

    Five Decembers manages to meld an epic war novel with a striking crime novel – and does it extremely well! The historical details are so vivid that I felt like I was living in the setting. The story itself? Heartbreaking. The author does noir so well, from the language to the overall darkness and edge that permeates everything. A thoroughly engrossing novel that completely immersed me in another time and place. Five well deserved stars. *ARC via Publisher

  15. 5 out of 5

    Ed

    Five stars for Five Decembers! A starkly original combination police procedural, historical fiction, spy novel and love story about a Honolulu police detective seeking justice in a world detoured by war. His long odyssey in finding a brutal killer powers this remarkable work of fiction. Highly recommended.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jim Thomsen

    The next time an author defends the tired tropes of the crime genre — the alienated loner, the hard-bitted, hard-drinking cop, the knight-errant in tarnished armor, the one good lawman in a corrupt world, and insists they're just giving readers what they want — you can point out their lack of imagination and their unwillingness ro challenge themselves to do better by handing them a copy of James Kestrel's FIVE DECEMBERS. FIVE DECEMBERS starts as a cop procedural and ends, more or less, as one. A The next time an author defends the tired tropes of the crime genre — the alienated loner, the hard-bitted, hard-drinking cop, the knight-errant in tarnished armor, the one good lawman in a corrupt world, and insists they're just giving readers what they want — you can point out their lack of imagination and their unwillingness ro challenge themselves to do better by handing them a copy of James Kestrel's FIVE DECEMBERS. FIVE DECEMBERS starts as a cop procedural and ends, more or less, as one. All good as far as they go. But in between is one of the greatest second acts of all time, in my opinion — a twist that gives epic scope and sweep to what at the time was shaping up to be an early Ross Macdonald type of tale but ends up somewhere in James Jones or James Michener territory. Simply put, James Kestrel — then pen name of Jonathan Moore — looked at the entirety of the American involvement in World War II, and saw a rare and unique opportunity there. A better than one than a novel — a third of a novel in which Honolulu police detective Joe McGrady's life is both frozen and changed forever. A third of a novel that allows him to move into the third act after the war with the procedural elements all still pretty much in place, waiting to be put together. And it's only through what McGrady went through during those four years that allows him to finish the work that was so rudely interrupted by the bombing of Pearl Harbor and subsequent events completely out of his control (yet might have been in his control had be been his third-act self in the first act). Genius. I won't belabor that — you can read the book's summary for yourself — other than to say that any author who sees middles as expositional slogs that serve merely as impediments to the third act should read FIVE DECEMBERS and open themselves to be awakened to a whole new palette of possibilities for structuring their own work. Beyond that, FIVE DECEMBERS is simply first-rate company, passage to passage and page to page, sleek but never slick, confident but never cocky, of its genre and of something far beyond it (yet never untethered to it). The prose mostly serves the story, but occasionally steps outside of it to offer pity commentary on the character and his challenges, adding a satisfying introspective layer to the mechanics of the plot: "He tried to stick to his routine. He was aware what it was doing to him. The routine kept him quiet. The quiet was growing inside him. A deep black space. It was easier to let it grow than to look at it. If it spread far enough, it would erase him. That was okay." FIVE DECEMBERS is a testament to the impeccable taste of the editors at Hard Case Crime, a testament to the restless curiosity of its talented creator, and is one of the very best works of crime fiction released in 2021.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Joseph Maniscalco

    Hard Case Crime is a highly regarded publisher of crime and suspense novels, both original and classic. Their backlist is filled with authors’ names that fans of the genre would instantly recognize. But ultimately the publisher almost always finds its books stocked in bookstores’ mystery sections and not in the fiction shelves. "Five Decembers" by James Kestrel breaks the familiar pattern. The author, Kestrel, is the pseudonym of an author, who admits in an afterword of writing seven earlier no Hard Case Crime is a highly regarded publisher of crime and suspense novels, both original and classic. Their backlist is filled with authors’ names that fans of the genre would instantly recognize. But ultimately the publisher almost always finds its books stocked in bookstores’ mystery sections and not in the fiction shelves. "Five Decembers" by James Kestrel breaks the familiar pattern. The author, Kestrel, is the pseudonym of an author, who admits in an afterword of writing seven earlier novels and receiving details about firearms from an expert. So is Kestrel primarily a genre writer who would fit nicely in Hard Case Crime’s catalog? The difference is that "Five Decembers" transcends the genre formula and familiar tropes. This novel features a policeman, includes a few murders, and moves at a pace that most crime writers would envy. It starts with a bang, and then halfway through stuns and surprises the reader. This is a novel about World War II, about honesty and devotion, about man’s inhumanity towards others, and about love. So does "Five Decembers" belong in the Hard Case Crime catalog? Absolutely. But to call this book, which encompasses a span of five Decembers notably beginning with December 1941, a mere crime story is a great injustice. The book is one to savor, as the author takes us on a journey which solves a crime and keeps a promise.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Mark Miano

    I’m a regular reader and huge fan of Hardcase Crime. Recently the publisher, Charles Ardai, reached out with an offer I couldn’t refuse. HCC was publishing a new novel in October 2021 - FIVE DECEMBERS by James Kestrel - and Charles believed so much in this book that he was offering to let me read a free ARC in exchange for a review. If you want to know a little about what it’s about, plot-wise, the back cover copy does a good job: December 1941. America teeters on the brink of war, and in Honolulu I’m a regular reader and huge fan of Hardcase Crime. Recently the publisher, Charles Ardai, reached out with an offer I couldn’t refuse. HCC was publishing a new novel in October 2021 - FIVE DECEMBERS by James Kestrel - and Charles believed so much in this book that he was offering to let me read a free ARC in exchange for a review. If you want to know a little about what it’s about, plot-wise, the back cover copy does a good job: December 1941. America teeters on the brink of war, and in Honolulu, Hawaii, police detective Joe McGrady is assigned to investigate a homicide that will change his life forever. Because the trail of murder he uncovers will lead him across the Pacific, far from home and the woman he loves; and though the U.S. doesn't know it yet, a Japanese fleet is already steaming toward Pearl Harbor. But if you want to understand what this book is really like, consider this. As soon as I finished this extraordinary novel, I went and pre-ordered a hardcover copy of the book. This story is one that is going to stick with me a long time and I want to commemorate that feeling by putting a tangible copy on my shelves. I also want to say thank you to Charles and HCC in the most direct way possible, by putting my money where this reader’s heart is. The book is more than 400 pages and the story is gripping enough to make you want to tear through them. The only thing that slowed me down is Kestrel’s clean, sparkling prose. In the acknowledgments section, he mentions that he ultimately trimmed this book by about sixty thousand words - a novel in and of itself. A piece of me wishes he’d left it there because I enjoyed so much the time spent with Joe McGrady. This is a very, very good one - even a great - and I envy those of you whom haven’t started it yet. You’re in for a real treat.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Ross Cumming

    Joe McGrady is a Police Detective in Honolulu in December 1941, when America is on the cusp of war with Japan. He is assigned to a brutal murder case that has links to the U.S. Navy and his investigation leads him to Hong Kong in pursuit of the murder suspect. He is stranded there during the Japanese invasion and sees out the war in highly unusual circumstances, with a family that bear a link to the case he is investigating. On return to Honolulu after the war, he finds that circumstances have c Joe McGrady is a Police Detective in Honolulu in December 1941, when America is on the cusp of war with Japan. He is assigned to a brutal murder case that has links to the U.S. Navy and his investigation leads him to Hong Kong in pursuit of the murder suspect. He is stranded there during the Japanese invasion and sees out the war in highly unusual circumstances, with a family that bear a link to the case he is investigating. On return to Honolulu after the war, he finds that circumstances have changed drastically and the only true certainty in his life is that he must return to Hong Kong and resume his pursuit of his suspect. This is another cracker of a novel in the Hard Case Crime series and one that I can only describe as an epic noir. The story is very much told in the noir genre but the span of the novel, not only in its timeframe but also in the various themes it explores, such as love, betrayal and loyalty. There is so much of the story that I can’t reveal for fear of spoiling it for future readers but I did think this book had everything. It starts out very much as a Police procedural as McGrady and his partner investigate the murder on Hawaii but it becomes apparent the suspect has fled the island and McGrady sets off in pursuit. We also get a flavour of how the islands are gearing up for the impending war and the political situation at the time. McGrady’s war is spent very differently to that of his compatriots but we get a great insight into life in Japan and also the vast destruction that was inflicted by the American bombing campaign in the final days of the war. A brilliant genre crossing novel from an author that I haven’t previously heard of and a great addition the to the Hard Case Crime catalogue.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Sam

    I read an advance copy, so I was kind of obligated to read this(it shunted my poor Donald E. Westlake's Double Feature off the top of my reading list) but man am I glad I bothered Charles Ardai enough to get a copy. I'm always a little wary of books that don't seem to have a single bad review, sometimes it comes off like the publisher or author paid them off with whiskey behind the scenes, so I approached Five Decembers with caution, especially as it came from an author I'd never heard of before I read an advance copy, so I was kind of obligated to read this(it shunted my poor Donald E. Westlake's Double Feature off the top of my reading list) but man am I glad I bothered Charles Ardai enough to get a copy. I'm always a little wary of books that don't seem to have a single bad review, sometimes it comes off like the publisher or author paid them off with whiskey behind the scenes, so I approached Five Decembers with caution, especially as it came from an author I'd never heard of before and wasn't one of the old steadys that Hard Case Crime regularly put out whose styles I'm used to and love(Westlake, Block, King, those guys). I also was weary of the length, being a 60 year old in a 25 year olds body, I'm always complaining movies are a half hour too long. I like my pulp noir lean and mean, and 423 pages is not that at all. One last possible strike is the setting, the World War 2 Pacific. Not only has this era been explored in nearly every possible angle, but as I've set up a show that I'm writing in WW2 Singapore, this is a time and place I've been researching for years. Any mistake would pull me out of the novel faster than a .30-06 from an M1 Garand hits the target at 50 feet. Kestrel had a whole bunch of stuff to overcome in order to win me over and man does he stick the landing. This book is magnificent. It's frankly a shocking debut, as what kind of idiot releases their magnum opus as their first(?) book? The mystery is engaging, the settings beautifully laid out and wonderfully transporting, the characters dynamic and believable, and the prose simple, effective, and lovely. There's a neutrality to the narration that avoids judging the characters that works so well at allowing the reader to, and yet every word flows into the next like a river. I finished the book in two days and could not put it down. I went in with very little knowledge, and I think you should too. Allow Kestrel to sweep you back in time and entertain and thrill you. This book rocks. I cannot recommend it enough.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Mark

    I was given an advance reading copy of Five Decembers by the publisher. From the moment I started reading James Kestrel's Five Decembers, I was immersed in a time and place I've never experienced, but found entirely believable. Early 1940's Hawaii, Pacific islands, Hong Kong and Tokyo all come alive, giving this book a lyrical quality missing from many hard-boiled tales. Combine the setting with Hawaii PD Detective Joe McGrady's journey to solve two brutal murders while his life is set on fire by I was given an advance reading copy of Five Decembers by the publisher. From the moment I started reading James Kestrel's Five Decembers, I was immersed in a time and place I've never experienced, but found entirely believable. Early 1940's Hawaii, Pacific islands, Hong Kong and Tokyo all come alive, giving this book a lyrical quality missing from many hard-boiled tales. Combine the setting with Hawaii PD Detective Joe McGrady's journey to solve two brutal murders while his life is set on fire by world war, and you have a story that makes for compelling, non-stop reading, all the way to the wintry conclusion. Five Decembers is a terrific addition to the Hard Case Crime library. In his acknowledgements at the end of the book, Kestrel mentions that he has written seven books, but Five Decembers is apparently the first book with the byline James Kestrel. What is his real name? What are his other books? Asking for a friend who wants to read them!

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jake

    I received an Advance Reading Copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Those who know me know that I’m a big fan of the Hard Case Crime label. I collect the novels and make a commitment to read at least one a month. Publisher Charles Ardai has made a point to reach out extensively to the HCC fan community; passing out ARCs and bonus copies before they go on sale. A few months ago, some of us got an e-mail asking to review Five Decembers in advance to get the word out I received an Advance Reading Copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Those who know me know that I’m a big fan of the Hard Case Crime label. I collect the novels and make a commitment to read at least one a month. Publisher Charles Ardai has made a point to reach out extensively to the HCC fan community; passing out ARCs and bonus copies before they go on sale. A few months ago, some of us got an e-mail asking to review Five Decembers in advance to get the word out on the book. While I like the HCC label, I don’t hold back from criticism if necessary. Look at the tag at my past reviews, you’ll find me calling out some duds. I’m not swapping access for a good review. So here’s my review… This is one of the best books Hard Case Crime has ever published. I don’t know much about James Kestrel’s work but wow, the dude knows how to plot, plot and plot. For an HCC novel, this is a dense, layered epic that works well. Set before and during World War II in various parts of the Pacific Ocean, it takes the reader on a multi-year journey, successfully mixing the hardboiled nature of 40s and 50s crime novels with the epic feel of a war story. Driving its protagonist into the depths of war, it still never loses its crime novel heart. I’d recommend going into this book knowing as little as possible because it takes a lot of twists and turns that feel organic. Every time I thought I had an idea of where the story was going to go, it juked me in a new and amazing way. My only real complaint is that the protagonist, Joe McGrady, encounters multiple women in the story who could perhaps be written more effectively. With one exception, don’t want to spoil which one, the female characters, especially the AAPI ones, are overly sexualized. Again, I can’t say how without spoiling but I think the author could have done better in this regard. Other than that, this is an excellent novel, one of the best crime stories I’ve read this year and unquestionably a great addition to the Hard Case Crime label.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Michael Davis

    An incredible novel coming in October from Hard Case Crime. But don’t let that stop you. Five Decembers is so much more than just a crime story that takes place during WW2. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to read it in advance and immediately pre-ordered the book as soon as I finished. Full disclosure; I collect this publisher. James Kestrel is a name I will keep on my radar in the future whoever the publisher. Personally, as an old movie buff, Five Decembers, was like sitting in a theat An incredible novel coming in October from Hard Case Crime. But don’t let that stop you. Five Decembers is so much more than just a crime story that takes place during WW2. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to read it in advance and immediately pre-ordered the book as soon as I finished. Full disclosure; I collect this publisher. James Kestrel is a name I will keep on my radar in the future whoever the publisher. Personally, as an old movie buff, Five Decembers, was like sitting in a theater watching a really good Warner Brothers picture from the late forties early fifties. I kept casting and recasting the book as I read along. Bogart could be the lead or with a cheaper budget, Robert Young. Maybe Cagney as the partner. Or Ward Bond. I kept thinking of William Bendix or Frawley. The ladies. Take your pick of them. Bottom line was I felt totally immersed in the story and enjoyed every minute of it. Highly recommended.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Brian Lively

    I was provided an advance copy by the publisher. Five Decembers represents some of the best work Hard Case and the crime genre has to offer. I completely understand now why the publisher is excited about this one. James Kestrel has written a story about the casualties of war while managing to keep the war in the background. I loved it from beginning to end. It begins with a compelling murder mystery just a few weeks before one of the most infamous days in American history and quickly starts throwi I was provided an advance copy by the publisher. Five Decembers represents some of the best work Hard Case and the crime genre has to offer. I completely understand now why the publisher is excited about this one. James Kestrel has written a story about the casualties of war while managing to keep the war in the background. I loved it from beginning to end. It begins with a compelling murder mystery just a few weeks before one of the most infamous days in American history and quickly starts throwing one gut punch after another. Just when you think things are looking up and you know where it's going, another dark twist awaits to dig that trench knife in a bit deeper. Over the years Hard Case has introduced me to quite a few new authors. I was somewhat disappointed to find that James Kestrel is actually a pseudonym for a published author. Fortunately, as a long time reader I had a few PI skills at my disposal and was able to figure out the authors real identity using some of the information in the copy I was provided. Needless to say, I've already scoped out which of his previous books I'll read next.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Trevor Denning

    Hits all the right notes

  26. 4 out of 5

    Claudette Gabbs

    Great book. Loved every minute of it. Read my full review here: https://rottiegirl-2.blogspot.com/202... Great book. Loved every minute of it. Read my full review here: https://rottiegirl-2.blogspot.com/202...

  27. 4 out of 5

    Scott Cumming

    Joe McGrady is just trying to have a whiskey or two after his shift when he is called back to check on something for the Honolulu Police chief. The discovery of a body sets in motion an epic set of events starting on the eve of America's involvement in WW2. This is a great story that is written in a plain mild-boiled style. I guess my one criticism is that the book doesn't give much more than what the story delivers. While I always wanted to know where the story was leading, I never felt too much Joe McGrady is just trying to have a whiskey or two after his shift when he is called back to check on something for the Honolulu Police chief. The discovery of a body sets in motion an epic set of events starting on the eve of America's involvement in WW2. This is a great story that is written in a plain mild-boiled style. I guess my one criticism is that the book doesn't give much more than what the story delivers. While I always wanted to know where the story was leading, I never felt too much for Joe as a character. I think this book is bound to be a success for Hard Case Crime, but it wasn't one that I felt as invested in as other readers.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Seth Nelson

    This book was hard to put down. With chunks of crime, hardboiled detective, history, spy, and foreign intrigue. One of the best Hard Case Crime novels that I've read. Extremely well written with lots of twists and turns. This book was hard to put down. With chunks of crime, hardboiled detective, history, spy, and foreign intrigue. One of the best Hard Case Crime novels that I've read. Extremely well written with lots of twists and turns.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Amy Warren

    Thank you Charles Ardai and Hard Case Crime for sending along the advanced reader copy of this masterful epic. You know a book great when, upon finishing it, your first thought is,"I wish it had been longer." In late November 1941, Honolulu detective Joe McGrady catches a double murder case, where one of the victims is related to an admiral in the Navy at Pearl Harbor. He is soon sent overseas to follow the trail of the murderer, which is where he is on December 7th 1941. From there, the reader g Thank you Charles Ardai and Hard Case Crime for sending along the advanced reader copy of this masterful epic. You know a book great when, upon finishing it, your first thought is,"I wish it had been longer." In late November 1941, Honolulu detective Joe McGrady catches a double murder case, where one of the victims is related to an admiral in the Navy at Pearl Harbor. He is soon sent overseas to follow the trail of the murderer, which is where he is on December 7th 1941. From there, the reader gets a taste of what life was like overseas as an American during the years of World War II. Despite being isolated and having his whole life upended, Joe--a decent man with integrity--never forgets his victims or his purposeful mission for justice. A fast-paced thriller of a story, FIVE DECEMBERS is a book you won't be able to put down. Highly recommend!!

  30. 5 out of 5

    Justin Speck

    I subscribe to Hard Case Crime’s newsletter and was offered a free copy of the book on the condition that, if I liked it, I’d tell my friends. Well, I certainly liked it and I will be telling my friends. It’s one of the best thriller/mysteries I’ve read in a while. I’m going to be keeping an eye out for future James Kestrel books and I’m going to pre-order this one for my dad for his birthday. Do yourself a favor and check it out.

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