Sunday, May 31, 2015

"Without the rocks, the stream would lose it's song." Proverb

U.S. District Judge, Diane Manchester is abducted just prior to her determination on the case against a Colombian drug lord. Complicating matters is that Diane is age forty-three and eight months pregnant with her first child.

Max Freeman, private investigator, and former Philadelphia cop, works for Diane's husband, Billy, a black lawyer from Philadelphia who preferred to remain behind the scenes, juggling law and investment work.

No words are uttered by Diane's abductors. Her head is covered and she can't see  the people who are holding her captive.

Officials are perplexed because there is no follow-up ransom demand. Since Diane was working on the case of the Columbian drug lord, Max speculates that it might have a connection with that.

With funds and input from Billy, Max looks into Diane's prior cases. Billy gives Max the details of the most likely cases where Diane sent a person to prison and now that person's sentence is over and they might be free from prison and want a revenge kidnapping.

The premise of the story is sound but Diane isn't permitted to talk to the people who abducted her, and they don't talk to one another in her presence.  Author Jonathan King fails to create a sympathetic character. Even though Diane is past her eighth month in pregnancy and worried about her child, the reader will find it difficult to relate or sympathise with  her or her wealthy husband.

One minor character, one of Diane's abductors, is a young woman and she feel remorse for abducting Diane.
This character is sympathetic as we share her thoughts as Diane attempts to communicate with her about the baby.

The middle section of the story was slow and the conclusion was a surprise, perhaps too much so without sufficient foreshadowing.  I enjoy the work of Jonathan King and will look forward to his next novel.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Devil or Angel, whoever you are

In "Devil's Harbor," we learn of Nick Finn, a Marine Interdiction Agent for Customs and Border Protection.

Nick and his partner (who is Nick's brother-in-law) Diego Jimenez track a phantom boat off the Los Angeles coast. However the boat disappears before they can reach it. However, they do come across a floater that had lost parts of the floater's body to sharks.

Not long after the above events, they see a suspicious boat that refuses their order to stop. When they catch the boat, a gunfight erupts and Nick kills the shooter in self defense.

Things begin going badly for Nick after this shooting, Nick's wife, Mona, a top notch attorney asks Nick to see a counselor about the shooting but he refuses and takes solace in alcohol.  Mona helps him in the beginning but can't reason with him about the alcohol so moves out of the house.

As people begin doubting Nick, drinking becomes his crutch. When another person close to him is killed, Nick has a mountain of guilt and decides to continue searching for the killer by himself.

He looks into the boat that had been connected to the floater. The captain is Linda Blake. Through circumstances, Nick is forced to work with Linda and they travel to Mexico where Linda adds another element to the story.

There are many twists to the plot and it becomes a cat and mouse story with mounting suspense.

The last segment of the story is powerful but there were too many villains and Nick's spiritual awakening was long in coming.

3 1/2 stars moving to 4 for powerful conclusion.

dead money run GIVEAWAY


If You've Got the Money, I've Got the Time

As I was enjoying "Dead Money Run," by J. Frank James, I associated the hard boiled character of Lou Malloy with Dashiell Hammett's Sam Spade. The fact that Hammell was a former Pinkerton Detective helped him with creating realistic dialogue and that is what there is plenty of in this novel. I'm sure that if Humphrey Bogart was with us today, he could play the part of Lou Malloy on the big screen.

Lou Malloy is released from prison after serving fifteen years for robbing a casino of fifteen million dollars. A few months prior to his release, Lou received a letter telling him about his sister's murder. As Lou later learns, his sister, Susan, was doing something honorable when she was tortured and murdered.

The action packed story has Lou (think Sam Spade) taking one step at a time, eliminating gunman and getting closer to who was responsible for his sister's death.

Lou has the good luck to team up with Hilary Kelly, a private eye, hired by the insurance company who paid the claim to the Indian Casino for the money Lou stole. Hilary is suppose to befriend Lou and have him lead her to the money but she falls for him and becomes his partner.

Various criminals are after Lou and he is able to dispatch them with ease. (I'm still seeing Bogart with the gun and maybe blowing on the barrel of his gun as he shoots another goon.

There are a number of levels to the story. On one hand there is the family love Lou shows for Susan. She was only fifteen when he was sent to prison. He seems to feel an inner regret that he wasn't there to protect her. We also see the friendship and emotional connection between Lou and Hilary. Finally, there is the friendship between Lou and Crusher, Lou's powerful protector in prison and right hand man in this story.

Overall, this is a gem of a story as if one of the classic hard boiled novels was recently found and released.

Don't miss it.

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4.  Giveaway ends June 18, 2015
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Monday, May 25, 2015

"First the tide rushes in and plants a kiss on the shore" Lyrics

In "The Journal of Popular Culture," Scott R. Christianson writes about tough talk and wisecracks. "...the hardboiled detective/narrator talks all the time to the reader. He talks tough and he talks smart but mainly - as the narrator of the story as well as the protagonist - he talks a lot."

As an example of the above, Robert Parker's wonderful P.I., Spenser, demonstrates in Parker's "Stardust," published in 1990.

Spenser is asked to protect a spoiled, temperamental TV star, Jill Joyce. She stars in TV's Fifty Minutes and has been filming the TV show from Boston.

The story in "Stardust" seems realistic as we learn that someone has been harassing Jill and she demands protection. She shows that on the TV show she may be a star but off screen she's something else.

When violence erupts and someone on the TV crew is killed, Spenser goes into action to find the killer.

Jill drinks to excess and seems like a sex starved nymphomaniac, but underneath her outward persona, Spenser recognizes fear and vulnerability.

He investigates her background and learns things that make him sad to see. How can someone who had to rise above misfortune gain the public spotlight? And, at what cost?

There are lessons of endearment and loyalty that Spenser demonstrates to his own love, psychologist, Susan and we see the empathy Spenser shows for a number of people associated with Jill whose lives have also been shattered.

For a dish of mystery topped with a flavoring of humor, this can be the main course.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Can killing be good?

A sister's love for her sister comes to the front in Allison Leotta's "A Good Killing."

The story was inspired by the real-life Jerry Sandusky case and captures the reader's attention from the first page and keeps running.

Anna Curtis is a sex crimes prosecutor in Washington, D.C. She puts her career on hold and comes to Michigan to defend her sister Jody from a murder charge.

Small town life is depicted and the love of football is well illustrated. High school football dominates the life of Holly Grove, a town not far from Detroit.

Owen Fowler,the town's beloved football coach is dead and Jody Curtis is charged with the crime.

The pacing of the story is right on the mark as current action is separated from the incidents of Jody's life as a fifteen-year-old. She is a high school athlete competing in the high jump and searching for something she could do that would surpass her older sister who is a star and a college student at that time.

Coach Fowler becomes Jody's mentor and life seems grand. Then, something happens and Jody's dreams are shattered.

Anna shows intelligence and determination as she defends her sister. She's coming from her own emotional roller coaster as she has just called off her wedding.  A high school friend and Afghan War vet and amputee, helps in the investigation. He is well described and the kind of character the reader will want to succeed.

The dialogue flows smoothly and small town life jumps from the pages. It's the kind of story the reader will want to turn the pages gripped with the suspense and emotional upheaval of the story.

I received a free book in return for my honest review.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Murder on Easter Island

In a complex story that travels from Oklahoma to New York City to Easter Island, Daniel "Hawk" Fishinghawk uses his skill as a detective and his keen intelligence to help solve difficult mysteries.

Daniel is considered the best of the best in the NYPD. The Commissioner is contacted by the U.S. State Department to assist the Chilean Government with a unique murder on Easter Island. A killer there has been killing tourists at night and cannibalizing their bodies.

Daniel gets right to work and learns the history of the island which the natives call Rapa Nui. He also learns the language from a legendary woman who is ninety-four-years old. She reminded me of granny on the Beverly Hillbillies with her gutsy attitude and determination.

The killing of tourists has been kept out of the news because of what it would do to the tourist trade but when another person is murdered and cannibalized, the news gets out.

The Chilean government sends a new detective out who brings in his own investigators and mostly ignores Daniel.

The story is divided into three books, in the first, the murders and investigation takes place; in the second book, Daniel goes into a cave like structure and is transported back in time. He learns what happened in Rapa Nui to cause someone to want to murder tourists to their land. He also falls in love and becomes a hero to the natives. Book three brings him back into current time to deal with the killer and Daniel's new life.

This is a paranormal type of story where the reader must suspend their view of reality to be transported to the fictional and supernatural world.  Some of the action and the manner in which the time travel takes place wasn't explained to my satisfaction and I had difficulty with the story.

Free book for an honest review.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

In love and War

In "Ruins of War," World War II history and a tormented serial killer combine for a satisfying and intelligent read.

Mason Collins is a former Chicago homicide detective who was fired from his job, allegedly, for accepting kickbacks.

He's assigned to Munich, Germany CID in 1945. The city is divided into military segments after the end of the war. Collins's first assignment is to view the victim of a murderer.  The action ratchets up as Collins gets an investigation unit working on the case and the killer selects his next victim.

There's a snag when Collins' boss would rather go after a gang that was partially made up of U.S. deserters and there was a connection to the U.S. while the killer had murdered a victim who was initially unidentified.

What particularly drew me to the story was the World War II setting and the vivid descriptions of Munich with bombed out buildings, multitudes of orphans, and many displaced persons. These DP's came from people who were freed from concentration camps, German and U.S. deserters, soldiers who came from counties where they were forced to fight for Germany such as Czechoslovakia and general criminals.

Mason shows his tenderness in helping to feed orphans and in his desire to do justice and find the killer - at all costs and the reader relates to him and hopes for his success.

The excellent descriptions of primary and secondary characters was another entertaining element to the story. The suspenseful story had me turning pages late into the night.


Wednesday, May 13, 2015

From time to time, life can seem helpless

"...ride along with this. You don't have to be bleeding to be hurt."

These words are spoken by Lucas Davenport of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.

Travelers are a group who move from city to city, panhandling, not engaging in criminal activity, just staying on the move.

Syke and Henry are travelers who make contact with Lettie, a student at Stanford and Lucas Davenport's adopted daughter. Lettie befriends the couple and buys them a meal, then gives them her cell phone number when they tell her they will be in near her hometown in the future.

Later, Syke and Henry travel to a Juggalo Gathering. This is where groups of young people gather, paint their faces, smoke dope and dance.  Before going, they tell Lettie that there is one dangerous person who attends these gatherings, his name is Pilate and he enjoys inflicting pain..

Pilate is a Charles Manson type character. He is crazy and enjoys hurting and tormenting others. He thinks that runaways, homeless people or travelers make good subjects of his violence since no one would miss them. He has a group of followers, the women prostitute themselves and turn over their paychecks to him and the men do his bidding, stealing and selling dope.

There is quite a similarity between Pilate and Charles Manson. One of Pilate's early victims was a blond, pretty entertainer who Pilot mutilated and murdered. This event reminded me of Sharon Tate's murder by Manson. Pilate feels like a god who can do whatever he wants to a person without reprisal.

I have read many crime novels and am happy to say that John Sanford has created a fresh plot with clean, dialogue that flows like a police training film. The secondary characters are also unique and create a desire in the reader - to learn what will happen with them.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

There's a tree in the meadow with a stream driftin by." Song Lyrics

Like many other readers, I enjoyed "Natchez Burning,"  and wanted to learn what happened to the characters.' "The Bone Tree" carries on the story and gives the reader a second installment of an epic trilogy.

The novel features a mixture of real and fictional characters, during the story, we read of events with Fidel Castro and Lee Harvey Oswald.

The central character is Penn Cage, "Mr. Mayor."  He is an attorney and was formerly a district attorney in Houston. To Penn, family is the most important element.  When his wife, Sarah, died at a young age, it brought Penn and his little daughter, Annie, close together. In fact, it is Annie who feels protective about Penn.

Penn's father, Dr. Tom Cage, has been in medical practice for nearly fifty years. In the deeply segregated town of Natchez, Mississippi, he treats everyone alike. He's even helped a number of black patients who were being sought by members of the Klan. Dr. Cage He's loved by many of his patients and, being a former combat medic in Korea,  he doesn't back down from a fight.

Penn is engaged to Caitlin Masters, the editor of "Natchez Examiner." She's recently discovered that she's expecting a child but that doesn't slow her down in seeking a good story.

The Double Eagles is a breakaway KKK group. They're made up of a number of vicious men who are militant separatists. The have a past they would like to remain hidden and don't like Penn and Caitlin digging into past murders in Natchez.

Tom Cage is on the run from the police because he's accused of killing his former nurse, Viola Thomas. She is dying of cancer and came back to Natchez to die. Her son, a disbarred attorney from Chicago, accuses Tom of murder and, as a result, the legal authorities are looking for Tom.

Beneath everything else was the Double Eagle plan to assassinate JFK. Not to give away plot, but the FBI is looking into this part of the story.

Gres Isles is a story teller above all else. He's able to weave the segments of this novel together into a suspenseful plot. I enjoyed the story and the chase for the evidence about these former Klan members.

It's also a timely story in that the black community is treated like second class citizens and the crimes against them are often ignored.

At over 800 pages, I felt the story could have benefitted from tightening up the plot and not having so many details and fillers about JFK and RFK and their dislike for a New Orleans Mob figure and their desire to deport this crime lord.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Choose your friends carefully, your enemies will choose you." Arafat

Ready for a page turner with excellent suspense and supersonic tension? Rick Morina's "Full Tilt" is right on the money.

Kate Page is a reporter with "Newslead," the newswire service. The agony of her sister, Vanessa's loss is with her every day. Kate was with Vanessa when their foster parent's car flipped over and crashed into a river. Their foster parents were killed and little Vanessa's hand slipped through seven-year-old Kate's frozen fingers and Vanessa was carried downstream. Her body was never found.

Kate has a renewed sense of loss whenever she would speak to grieving parents in the process of her work.

One day, she gets a call from police in upstate New York. An item of jewelry has been found that Kate described to the Children Searchlight Network. A police department upstate found the item, a Guardian Angel chain. They want Kate to identify it if it's the same one she described her sister as having.

What is important about the chain? Kate's parents gave one to each of the girls with their names engraved on the charms. Since Kate began work at "Newslead," Kate has specialized in stories of missing persons, serial killers and runaway children.

Kate travels upstate and identifies her sister's charm. two bodies had been found, one was a woman badly burned and a man with a suicide note. This opened an official investigation when there are complications regarding the suicide note.

What results is a manhunt as more victims are discovered. Each victim is another person Kate fears might be Vanessa. When it isn't, she feels sorry for the victim's family's loss and Kate fears that the time to save Vanessa or mourn her death, is near.

A terrific novel but with over one hundred characters, it was a task to keep track of who they all were and how they were important to the story.

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