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Songs of Innocence (Hard Case Crime (Mass Market Paperback)) Mass Market Paperback – July 1, 2007

4.4 out of 5 stars 49 customer reviews
Book 2 of 2 in the John Blake Mystery Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Aleas, the pen name for Hard Case Crime founder Charles Ardai, solidifies his reputation as one of the finer modern hard-boiled writers with his second John Blake novel (following 2004's Little Girl Lost). Blake, a young but already deeply scarred detective, has given up PI work—his last case cost him the life of his lover, and almost that of a dear friend, so Blake has taken a sedate job as an administrative assistant at Columbia University, where he's enrolled in a creative writing class. When a classmate and confidant, Dorothy Burke, dies in her bathtub, the police take one look at the plastic bag over her head and the copy of Final Exit nearby, and declare it a suicide. Dorothy's mother has other ideas and ropes Blake back into his old trade to pursue her suspicions that Dorothy was murdered. Before she died, Dorothy let Blake in on her secret life as a prostitute—information the police don't have—and he pursues that lead deep into New York City's violent underworld. Throughout, Aleas effortlessly channels the spirit of the pulps with crisp prose and an unrelentingly grim plot line, and his powerful conclusion will drop jaws. (July)
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From Booklist

Richard Aleas is the pseudonym of Charles Ardai, Hard Case Crime's publisher, but this is no vanity effort. And while he's obviously a fan of pulp paperbacks—from the words on the page to the girls on the covers—this is no mere mimickry, either: his boy-faced sleuth, John Blake (first seen in Little Girl Lost, 2004), brings the radio-age gumshoe into the Internet era without missing a step. In Songs of Innocence, the Internet is nothing less than the new boulevard of broken dreams. Blake has a knack for attracting "birds with broken wings"; his attempt to prove that his best friend, the beautiful and melancholy Dorrie Burke, didn't kill herself leads him deep into a seedy world of massage-table prostitutes who advertise by creating fake identities online. Some readers might want a bit more action and a bit less soul-searching, but with a sleuth named after a mystical, romantic poet, should we expect anything less? The truly noir ending leaves us guessing whether Blake will be back for Songs of Experience, but here's hoping. Graff, Keir
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Product Details

  • Series: Hard Case Crime (Mass Market Paperback) (Book 33)
  • Mass Market Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Hard Case Crime; Reprint edition (July 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0843957735
  • ISBN-13: 978-0843957730
  • Product Dimensions: 6.9 x 5.7 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,532,684 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Craig Clarke VINE VOICE on September 4, 2007
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Three years after private investigator John Blake solved the murder of his one-time ex-girlfriend-turned-stripper, he has retired from the business -- it simply took too much out of him. But when his close friend Dorrie Burke is found dead in her bathtub with a copy of Final Exit, and the police automatically rule it a suicide, Blake knows it must be murder. Because they had told each other that, if either felt that low, he or she would call the other and they would work through it together.

But when Dorrie's mother tries to hire him to find her daughter's killer, he refuses because he doesn't do that any more. Well, at least not for pay, as we soon find out when Blake throws himself into the New York underworld with the dedication and dumb courage of a man with nothing left to lose.

Reportedly, it took author Richard Aleas (an anagrammatic pseudonym of recent Edgar Allan Poe Award-winner, Charles Ardai) two months to write the first John Blake mystery, Little Girl Lost, and three years to complete its sequel, Songs of Innocence. (Incidentally, both are named after individual works by the main character's namesake, poet William Blake.)

Aleas's first novel was also one of the first released by then-upstart publisher Hard Case Crime (co-founded by Ardai). It didn't win the awards garnered by some of its fellows (though it was nominated for several), but it has stood the test of time better than most, and is now remembered as one of the best because, in addition to terrifically recapturing the detective novels of the past, it also embraces the present.

And it has something that others were missing -- a heart.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
I read Aleas' two books back to back. I really enjoyed Little Girl Lost, his first, and then was more than mildly disappointed by 'Songs of Innocence.' First of all, the whole story is awkwardly conceived. To fully understand what I am talking about you will have to have read both of the books. If you have, you cant help but notice that Aleas pretty much lifts the plot from his first story and re-uses it here. John Blake's love is found dead by himself and he tries to find out who killed her. Not only has this sap now had two of his women knocked off, but its left up to him to uncover what happened because no one else will give a damn. Coincidentally, both of his girl friends also led shady lives as adult entertainment practitioners. This fact brings Blake into contact with a host of dirty underworld figures.

Too much happenstance occurs here. Blake does not often detect, but events just happen to fall into his lap. The entire plot is crudely pieced together. The saving graces here are (A) the writing, and (B) the ending. Aleas is a gifted enough writer to stick around for as long as he wants. His stories are rich in mood and atmosphere. The ending is of the 'Dog Eat Dog' variety, unexpected and shockingly satisfying.

I hope that Aleas continues to try his hand at fictional writing. I look forwards to following his development as an author. However I would say that you would be better off staying away from this book. This is no where near as fun to read as 'Little Girl Lost' and the only reason I am bumping it up to three stars is the very good end.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Wow. Just wow. This is one of the best books I've read in the past year. it's about as dark as noir gets, beautifully written, with a gut-wrenching ending. This is the kind of book I start pressing on strangers in the street until they call the cops.
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I won't say anything about the storyline's details because these have been set out by other reviewers. Suffice to say that SoI grabbed me and kept me totally in its thrall all the way to the final heart-squeezing page. It's a knockout read and right in there as a defining surveyor's post of contemporary noir storytelling. Brilliant!

Compared to Little Girl Lost's predictability, SoI has all the intricacy of a Swiss watch - there's layer interwoven with layer and all along there are subtle clues about what is really going on with Dorrie Burke...if only you (and protagonist Blake) could see them in time. Blake's character is fully developed here as a loyal friend who is determined to do what is right for Dorrie - at no matter what personal cost. His angst is real and poignant. He is determined to the right thing for the right reason but, as they say, the road to Hell is paved with good intentions...

Aleas does a superb job with atmosphere and environmental descriptions. Subsidiary characters were clearly drawn and supercharge his storytelling.

Quite honestly there's nothing I can find to criticize in Song of Innocence...so an easy, and rare for me, 5-stars for a gripping and memorable story with a ripping ending.
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I'm fairly new to the Hard Case Crime series and was less than enamored with recent books like "The Vengeful Virgin" and "The Wounded And The Slain" HOWEVER, "Songs Of Innocence" completely blew me away! Without divulging too much information, I have to say that by the end of the book, I felt as though the floor had been ripped out from under me. I was heartbroken, physically shaken, and thoroughly satisfied at having embarked on John Blake's fictional journey. Through all of its twists and turns, stick with "Songs Of Innocence" till the end. You'll be glad you did...even if by that time you're not sure weather you want to cry or write Richard Aleas demanding a sequel! Well done, Mr. Aleas, well done, indeed!
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