Book Reviews: The One That Got Away by Joe Clifford and Murderabilia by Carl Vondereau @joeclifford23 @DownAndOutBooks @CarlVonderau @midnightinkbook

The One That Got Away
Joe Clifford
Down & Out Books, December 2018
ISBN: 978-1-948235-42-6
Trade Paperback

An upstate small town where almost everyone has at least one scurrilous or dangerous secret, is the fall setting for this story. Alex Salerno is the flawed, inept and persistent hero of this long and winding tale.

A decade ago she was one of several girls in the town, located in upstate New York, who was abducted and held for unnamed assaultive practices in a dark space. Waiting there, she knew the other girls had been killed. And then, a small miracle, she is rescued by the local detective who becomes her lover. Her abductor now resides in prison.

The experience, naturally, has permanently damaged Alex’s psyche and her life in New York State, at least as she relates it, is fraught, unrooted and filled with booze, drugs and impermanence. For uncertain reasons she has now returned to her home town to meet a reporter who may or may not be preparing a story for the local paper on the history of that time when so many young women and girls had been abducted and murdered.

She knew her abductor was in jail and the reporter was focusing on the later disappearance of another teenager named Kira Shanks. The rambling torturous plot is further obscured by the belief in some corners of this conflicted community that the man now held in a nearby mental institution was not responsible for Kira Shanks disappearance.

As the plot slowly unwinds and layer after layer of a depressing community are revealed, against her better judgement and with menace ever closer, Alex Salerno persists in sticking her nose in unwanted sometimes dangerous places. She is physically and mentally abused and even her tenuous family ties in the town are stressed. The narrative blends the viewpoints of several characters and at times readers may be confused as to who is speaking. Ultimately some of the mysteries and secrets of this town are resolved but one is left wondering about the future life of Alex Salerno.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, January 2020.
http://www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com
The Case of the Purloined Painting, The Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky.

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Murderabilia
Carl Vonderau
Midnight Ink Books, July 2019
ISBN 978-007387-6130-5
Trade Paperback

A dark, intense story of murder and family destruction, this novel, after a slow start, will engage readers in a way that will leave them in thoughtful contemplation of family relationships.

Will McNary has a successful career as a private banker who works with individual clients on their financial investments and other monetary activities. He’s married with two young children and living in San Diego. His life is generally calm and ordinary, although he’s feeling a little heat in the form of competition from other officers of the bank. His sister Polly and their aging mother share an unsettling secret.

When Will was a child of only eight, his father was sent to prison for murdering and butchering several women. He compounded his heinous crime by posing and photographing the women, pictures that were circulated and sold on the underground market. McNary’s father was convicted and when the novel opens, has been in prison for more than thirty years. Now, a copy-cat killer linked to Will’s father has emerged, one who appears to be targeting Will and his family.

The story follows Will along a sordid twisting trail as he attempts to protect his loved ones, help law enforcement find the vicious copy-cat, and plumb the emotional depths of the knowledge that he is the son of an incredibly twisted killer.

The novel is well-written and once moving along its trail, enthralling. I hesitate to call it a page turner, however, for those readers attracted to the truly dark side of humanity in several of its manifestations, this carefully crafted story is insistently engaging.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, January 2020.
http://www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com
The Case of the Purloined Painting, The Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky.

Book Review: Justice by Joseph Badal—and a Giveaway! @JoeBadal @suspensemag

Justice
The Curtis Chronicles #3
Joseph Badal
Suspense Publishing, November 2019
ISBN 978-0-578-55928-5
Trade Paperback

A lot of action, a lot of characters, a tight story and several clichés. For anyone looking for an action-packed beach-read here’s one that should fill the bill. The story is tight, cleanly presented and nicely resolved. It spans the Western Hemisphere from the United States to Nicaragua and back.

Mathew Curtis and his wife, Renee, travel the globe. He’s a medical man, a former doctor, who travels the world lecturing about his company’s orthotics products. His wife often travels with him, in part because they have been targeted in the past by a smart but deranged human trafficker.

Lonnie Jackson is a wealthy, evil schemer with a world network of drug dealers and smooth-talking recruiters of young women, ostensibly for low-level but honest jobs in western cities. The reality, of course, is quite different. Jackson blames Matt and Renee for his family’s deaths and has waited years for revenge.

Jackson is living and thriving in Nicaragua. Matt Curtis comes to Costa Rica next door for a medical conference. Jackson plans a vicious kidnapping and murder. Meanwhile in Washington and Bulgaria, plans and events crawl toward a vortex of insane violence. The question is always, will Renee and Matt survive and be reunited?

The pace of the novel is relentless, the writing is strong and spare. For some readers, the patterns will be a problem. The bad guys have rotten teeth and terrible breath, the CIA and most of the U.S. government is corrupt to some degree, the good-looking and smartest, most adept, people are the small group of Matt’s friends, former military men, who come together to help in the direst of circumstances, using all their skills and expertise.

There are a couple of interesting twists toward the end of the story which are truly unexpected. They provide an intriguing basis for later novels, grab reader’s attention and remain just out of reach for fans of this novelist.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, January 2020.
http://www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com
The Case of the Purloined Painting, The Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky.

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Giveaway

To enter the drawing for a print copy
of Justice by Joseph Badal, leave
a comment below. The winning name
will be drawn on Monday evening,
January 20th. Open to residents
of the US and Canada.

Book Review: T-Minus by Shannon Greenland @SEGreenAuthor @EntangledTeen @XpressoTours

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T-Minus
Shannon Greenland
Published by: Entangled Teen
Publication date: August 6th 2019
Genres: Thriller, Young Adult

A terror with no answer needs a girl with no limits.

I am the daughter of the first female POTUS, and today is about to become the longest day of my life…

24 hours—that’s how much time I have to save my mother before terrorists assassinate her. But now my father and brother are missing, too. This goes deeper than anyone thinks. Only someone on the inside would know how to pull this off—how to make the entire First Family disappear.

I can’t trust anyone, so it’s up to me to uncover the conspiracy and stop these madmen. Because little do they know, they picked the wrong person to terrorize.

My name is Sophie Washington, and I will not be a victim. No one, I repeat no one, is taking me or my family down. But the clock is ticking…

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / iBooks / Kobo

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Once I got past the rather eyebrow-raising premise of this book and let myself go with the flow, so to speak, I had a good time watching Sophie fight back when the unthinkable happens to her family. What makes her story so intriguing is that her family is the First Family, not your everyday family in the local neighborhood. To say the stakes are much higher is not an overstatement.

Mind you, Sophie isn’t entirely alone in her fight against whoever the bad guys are. In fact, a strong and very appealing element here is the connections among Sophie’s friends and, of course, her family. Trust is in short supply among the people who are supposed to protect her family but she reaches out to the teens in a special training program that she believes she can count on.

As you might expect in an action adventure tale, the potential outcome is high risk as is the level of tension and the pace is unrelenting. Occasional flashbacks gave me a few moments to calm down just a little and I appreciated that although perhaps they occurred a little too frequently. There are plenty of false leads and red herrings along the way but I have to say the ending held some surprises (that’s a good thing) as well as satisfaction,

With today’s attention to domestic terrorism, this story packs an especially vivid wallop, whether it’s realistic or not. Sure, an attack of this type on the president and her family is less likely than an attack on a school or food festival but the point is that literally nothing is beyond possibility when extremists have an agenda. Frightening stuff, indeed.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, August 2019.

About the Author

Things you should know about me: I write novels! Some have won awards. Others have been bestsellers. Under Shannon Greenland (my real name) you’ll find spies, adventure, and romantic suspense. Under S. E. Green (my pen) you’ll find dark and gritty fiction about serial killers, cults, secret societies that do bad things, and whatever else my twisted brain deems to dream up. I’m on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. I also have a website and a very non-annoying newsletter where you can keep up to date with new releases, free stuff, and my mild ramblings about my travels. I have a very old and grouchy dog. But I love him. My humor runs dark and so don’t be offended by something off I might say. I mean no harm. I live in a small Florida beach town, but I’m most often found exploring the world. I eat entirely too many chips. I also love math!

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter

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3 $5 Amazon gift card

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Book Review: Scared to Death by Rachel Amphlett

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Title: Scared to Death
Series: A Detective Kay Hunter Novel #1
Author: Rachel Amphlett
Narrator: Alison Campbell
Publisher: Saxon Publishing
Publication Date: October 2, 2017

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Purchase Links:
The Author // Audible // iTunes // Amazon

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Scared to Death
A Detective Kay Hunter Novel #1
Rachel Amphlett
Narrated by Alison Campbell
Saxon Publishing, October 2017
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

From the publisher—

“If you want to see your daughter alive again, listen carefully.”

When the body of a snatched schoolgirl is found in an abandoned biosciences building, the case is first treated as a kidnapping gone wrong.

But Detective Kay Hunter isn’t convinced, especially when a man is found dead with the ransom money still in his possession.

When a second schoolgirl is taken, Kay’s worst fears are realized.

With her career in jeopardy – desperate to conceal a disturbing secret, Kay’s hunt for the killer becomes a race against time before he claims another life.

For the killer, the game has only just begun….

Scared to Death is the first book in a new crime thriller series featuring Kay Hunter – a detective with a hidden past and an uncertain future….

Rachel Amphlett is an author who’s new to me and I am SO glad to have found her. She has no career background in law enforcement as far as I can tell but she certainly has crafted a fine police procedural.

When an abducted teen is found dead—after an emotionally-wrought build-up—Kay Hunter thinks this might be something more than a kidnap-for-ransom gone bad, unlike others on the force. With  a small team, the detective develops one lead after another into who might have killed Melanie in such evil fashion, following several paths, but when a second girl is taken, the pressure mounts to an unbearable level. A prime suspect is let go when the evidence against him is considered too weak but Kay is sure that he’s involved and that time is running out for Emma very soon.

It’s not easy to write a story as gruesome as this one is at points but it somehow fits better and is slightly more palatable in the hands of a British police department. Part of this is because British police are generally depicted as a bit more “average Joe” than Americans, a little less gung ho and certainly they don’t go in guns blazing. In the case of this story, Ms. Amphlett has also allowed her characters to have baggage without it overwhelming their lives. These detectives cope without turning into drunken, psychologically damaged people who have to struggle to get by each day and that is a very welcome change from so much American crime fiction. I especially appreciated Adam, Kay’s husband, who is a s supportive and caring as any husband can be.

As for the narration, Ms. Amphlett couldn’t have chosen a better woman to play the part of Detective Kay Hunter than Alison Campbell. Her evocation of the investigator is nearly perfect and she handles all other voices quite well, including the males. Ms. Campbell was indeed a large part of my enjoyment of Scared to Death and I’m glad I can dive into the next book, Will to Live, right away.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, March 2018.

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About the Author

Before turning to writing, Rachel Amphlett played guitar in bands, worked as a TV and film extra, dabbled in radio as a presenter and freelance producer for the BBC, and worked in publishing as a sub-editor and editorial assistant.

She now wields a pen instead of a plectrum and writes crime fiction and spy novels, including the Dan Taylor espionage novels and the Detective Kay Hunter series.

Originally from the UK and currently based in Brisbane, Australia, Rachel cites her writing influences as Michael Connelly, Lee Child, and Robert Ludlum. She’s also a huge fan of Peter James, Val McDermid, Robert Crais, Stuart MacBride, and many more.

She’s a member of International Thriller Writers and the Crime Writers Association, with the Italian foreign rights for her debut novel, White Gold sold to Fanucci Editore’s TIMECrime imprint, and the first four books in the Dan Taylor espionage series contracted to Germany’s Luzifer Verlag.

Website // Twitter // Facebook // Goodreads // Instagram

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About the Narrator

I’m a Bristol-based actress who trained at Bretton Hall and the University of Leeds. I’ve been involved with a huge range of projects and love a bit of variety of life!

I’m lucky to be a verstile performer – think everything  from Shakespeare, to  interactive theatre, comedy, solo shows and a whole host of different voice work.

I’m experienced in devising, improvisation, multi-roleing, immersive theatre and voice acting,

I have a lot of fun performing across the UK and round the world with the award-winning Natural Theatre, specialising in immersive, interactive theatre in surprising places.

I also teach youth theatre, facilitate theatre workshops and am experienced in corporate roleplay and presenting.

I’m represented by Louise Alexander at BAM Associates

Website

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Play an excerpt here.

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Book Review: Until the Beginning by Amy Plum

Until the BeginningUntil The Beginning
Sequel to After The End
Amy Plum
Harper Teen, May 2015
ISBN 978-0-06-2225634
Hardcover

Juneau and a now convinced Miles are trying to find the imprisoned clan members being held somewhere in New Mexico. When Miles is shot and they have to hide from his father as well as the group that Whit, former shaman of the clan, is working with, Juneau is tested. Not only must she cloak them, the vehicle and the cabin with invisibility, she has to save Miles’ life. That results in her making a frightening choice and giving him Amrit. If she doesn’t he’s certainly going to die. He survives and begins to develop his own powers as they return to the road.

The closer they get to where the clan is held captive, the more challenging things become. Juneau has to become more comfortable with modern technology, while Miles has to wrap his head around the fact that not only was Juneau telling the truth about her powers, but he has them as well and must learn to use them quickly because he has no choice.

They have to break into a private hunting preserve that’s guarded by mercenaries as well as a sophisticated electric fence. Once inside, they not only have to deal with someone desperate to get the Amrit, but must free the clan as well as rescue separately held hostages. Things are further complicated by the arrival of the other party interested in the formula just when it looks like Juneau and Miles are ready to make their escape.

The first part of this book is slower paced than book one, but that’s because Juneau and Miles are getting to know each other while she’s wrestling with how reality contradicts almost everything she was led to believe as she grew up in the Alaskan wilderness. However, once they start the rescue effort, the action is fast and furious, leading to a very satisfying ending. If you’ve read book one, you will certainly enjoy this one. If you haven’t, you’re in for a double treat.

Reviewed by John R. Clark, MLIS., January 2016.