Book Reviews: That Left Turn at Albuquerque by Scott Phillips and Where Privacy Dies by Priscilla Paton @soho_press @priscilla_paton @CoffeetownPress

That Left Turn at Albuquerque
Scott Phillips
Soho Crime, March 2020
ISBN 978-1-64129-109-5
Hardcover

The author has assembled here an engaging and substantial cast of characters. That he is able to keep track of their criminal activities and their attitudes toward their fellow humans, as well as their active lives is quite impressive.

Most of the characters engage in illegal and scurrilous acts without apparent concern for the morality or humanity of their lives. Or for the impact their actions have on others, often innocent others. That most of their criminality is directed at other criminals may be seen by many readers as a mitigating factor. A significant number of the characters are imbued with some level of humor and see their fellow humans as actually funny at times.

Central to the story is down and out attorney, Douglas Rigby. His small, now solo practice is falling to pieces and he engages in several illegal enterprises in his attempts to stave off bankruptcy and total ruin.

Readers will be treated to bare-knuckle humor, tongue in cheek satire, up-tempo action, murder, mayhem, and a good deal of action. A somewhat peculiar, jaundiced look at society, propels the book from start to finish.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, May 2020.
http://www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com
Traces, Grand Lac, Reunion, Red Sky.

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Where Privacy Dies
A Twin Cities Mystery #1
Priscilla Paton
Coffeetown Press, May 2018
ISBN 978-1-60381-665-6
Trade Paperback

From the striking cover to the final resolution of murky death and the corruption by power and money of numerous characters, this rich and at times difficult novel will attract, enthrall and sometimes irk readers. Central to the story is the gradual growth of understanding and appreciation of two detectives in a Twin Cities law enforcement force titled G-Met. It’s an intriguing amalgam of special cops whose franchise covers multiple jurisdictions in the metropolitan region of East Central Minnesota. It’s an authorial creation with much interesting and intriguing potential.

Lead detective is tall lanky Erik Jansson, divorced father of a young son. He is not a typical cop one frequently finds in this genre. He’s paired with a new hire from a small city in southern Minnesota, Deb Metzger, a six-foot plus lesbian, who could competently handle the physical requirements of a corporate bodyguard. The two are not instantly simpatico and thereby inhabit a running source of minor conflict and mutual support which adds a fine level of benign conflict to the novel.

Although the title of the novel is a quickly understood clue to an important dimension of the mystery, this story turns on the deviousness and sometimes nasty inclinations of human beings who have enjoyed a high degree of success without the leavening factor of ethics and moral suasion. The narrative is tight, solid and delves neatly into ego, intrusion of technology, moral failure and the entanglement of those who would ignore their childhood schooling. A multiplicity of characters, crisp dialogue and an absence of unnecessary description adds to the richness of the novel. The novel competently reveals a fresh voice and a thoughtful look into the modern world of computer crime and our almost universal entanglement therein. I recommend this fine novel.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, March 2019.
http://www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com
Traces, Grand Lac, Reunion, Red Sky.

Book Review: In Dog We Trust by Neil Plakcy

In Dog We Trust
Neil Plakcy
ISBN: 2940000889596
Ebook available from
Amazon, Smashwords, B&N.

Steve Levitan is a convicted felon. Through a lapse in internal discipline, he did a little computer hacking and soon found himself in prison.  Released on parole, he returns to his home, Bucks county, Pennsylvania, where he obtains a position as a part time faculty, teaching English at a local college.

His marriage fell apart, which is another factor setting up everything that follows, murder, car chases, odd and interesting characters, such as a sort of hard guy named Santiago, Steve’s parole officer, and a couple of cops, one of whom is a long-time school buddy of Steve.

Then there is the dog.  Who names their dog Rochester?  The dog belonged to a dead woman, and dog and Steve bond almost immediately, although both seem to have serious issues with authority.

Without revealing too much, this is a very “now” detective novel, delving into computer and other crime.  How closely do you read your credit card statements? The novel  is well written, smooth and interesting. It’s always good when a crime novel teaches or reminds readers of information they should know.  This story does that, without preaching or lapsing into lecturing.  The classroom scenes and internal dialogues regarding student attitudes are authentic.  For anyone who enjoys a jaundiced look at small college academic life, this novel is a pleasure to read on another level.

Everything about this novel smacks of a professional, polished approach. The writing is smooth, the characters well developed, and they stay in character. The plot has been carefully laid out and proceeds at a good pace. It’s conclusion is satisfying. Then there’s the dog, Rochester.

Dog lovers will be pleased to know that the author refrains from anthropomorphizing the dog.  Undeniably talented, Rochester is helpful throughout the novel, but only in naturally occurring, that is, doggy ways. In Dog We Trust is a completely enjoyable way to spend a  reading afternoon.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, September 2010.