Book Review: The Deep Dark Descending by Allen Eskens

The Deep Dark Descending
Allen Eskens
Seventh Street Books, October 2017
ISBN 978-1-63388-355-0
Trade Paperback

Minneapolis homicide detective Max Rupert never got past his wife’s Jenni’s death over four years ago—the verdict was that she was killed by a hit and run driver. But a former friend who is a defense attorney sent him a CD that contains a recording of two men discussing the murder of Jenni. Jenni stumbled upon something that she shouldn’t have, perhaps in her job as a hospital social worker, that leads to a contract being put out for her murder.

When Max learns that she was murdered, he is determined to hunt down the killers. With copies of evidence from police files that he is not supposed to have, he begins to follow a trail that he hopes will lead to the man who ordered his wife’s murder. He becomes obsessed with revenge. On a frozen lake near the Canadian border he comes face to face with his wife’s killer.

Readers who enjoy the intense, gripping mysteries of John Sandford and Steve Hamilton may want to add USA Today bestselling author Eskens to their “to read” list. The Deep Dark Descending is his fourth book.

Reviewed by Susan Belsky, November 2017.

Book Review: The Ultimatum by Dick Wolf

the-ultimatumThe Ultimatum
A Jeremy Fisk Novel #3
Dick Wolf
William Morrow, January 2016
ISBN 978-0-0622-8686-4
Mass Market Paperback

Merritt Verlyn, loosely patterned on WikiLeak personage Julian Assange, is arrested and held in jail pending trial.  Then a series of sniper attacks begins, with the continued threat of one person being killed each day until Verlyn is released from prison.  Detective Jeremy Fisk takes the lead in an effort to stop the killer who has brought the City of New York to a standstill.  Meanwhile a Mexican cartel has placed a contract on the NYPD intelligence detective, adding to his woes.

Thus begins an exciting chase with plenty of action.  Originally, Verlyn, who possessed thousands of classified and sensitive documents, released a few to Chay Maryland, an investigative reporter for the New York Times, including Fisk’s unlisted home address, exposing him and others to vast dangers, setting up a conflict for the need of secrecy vs. Second Amendment rights.  The question of how this will be resolved is another interesting development.

The conclusion is far-out, more suited to a technocratic motion picture, perhaps, but makes for more and more thrilling descriptions, a specialty of the author, the writer, producer and creator of the TV series “Law & Order”.  Part of a series, the novel is a page-turning stunner, and is recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, June 2016.

Book Review: Rainy Day Women by Kay Kendall

RainyDayWomenCOVER.fh11Rainy Day Women    
An Austin Starr Mystery #2
Kay Kendall
Stairway Press, July 2015
ISBN:978-1-941071-18-2
Ebook
Also available in trade paperback

It takes a while to figure out that the novel is set in Canada of the 1960’s or perhaps early in the  next decade. The novel also takes a while to sort out some tangled threads and get moving. Even then, the pace is deliberate and, in today’s frenetic world, almost ponderous.

Our protagonist is an amateur investigator named Austin. She’s one side of an uneasy triangle; the other sides being her oppressive and  surly husband, David, and her infant son Wyatt. What Austin has going for her is an insatiable curiosity and a lively analytical mind.  If the pace of the novel matched Austin’s more assertive tendencies, things would move along rather more briskly. That would be a good thing.

Austin, over the objections of her husband, flies across the continent to  Vancouver upon the call for help from long-time girl friend, Larissa, who may or may not be suspected by the RCMP of murder. Austin has  adventures traveling, encounters a fair share  of weird and undesirable characters, and eventually sorts out Larissa’s difficulties. The characters and the setting all have unrealized potential which one hopes will be pursued in subsequent novels.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, July 2016.
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: Casey’s Last Chance by Joseph B. Atkins

Casey's Last ChanceCasey’s Last Chance
Joseph B. Atkins
Mojo Triangle Books, February 2015
ISBN: 9781941644171
Trade Paperback

This is one powerful exploration of corruption, random violence and murder in the deep south. In the southern United States during the second half of the Twentieth Century, a wealth of divergent forces warred over various resources using every known technique to corrupt law enforcement and keep poor and minority residents in their places. Industrialists and manufacturers fought against union organizers, the KKK raised flaming crosses against African-Americans and immigrant Latinos, and Martin Luther King led a burgeoning civil rights movement into rampant but peaceful civil protest.

Some of this unrest looms on the horizon in July, 1960, when the novel opens. Casey Eubanks, hustler and poolshark is running from arrest out of Jonesboro, South Carolina for the accidental shooting of his cousin in a local bar. He takes bad advice from an acquaintance and fellow hustler and agrees to a murder contract. He’s supposed to erase a union organizer who is agitating for better pay and better living conditions in a mill in southern Mississippi. When the plan goes awry Eubanks instead murders a local corrupt cop and we’re off on a classic dark run.

The author nails the descriptive elements of the territory Casey travels through and he nails the increasingly dark psychology that drives Eubanks through sleeepless nights in dingy motels and brushes with the law on light-less nighttime deserted roadways. Readers will meet a host of characters all nicely detailed. The mood is somber throughout, even when Casey hooks up with a rogue FBI agent and a free—lance reporter trying to bring down a sprawling ex-Nazi cabal of the worst kind of criminal.

The dialogue is crisp and relevant, the mean streets are the meanest and the pace of the story is compelling. The author not only nails the physical elements of the south, his characterizations are among the most accurate for this kind of novel I have read in a while. Bravo for a gritty, dark and thoughtful novel.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, March 2016.
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 Reviews: Death Takes Priority by Jean Flowers and World Gone By by Dennis Lehane

Death Takes PriorityDeath Takes Priority
A Postmistress Mystery #1
Jean Flowers
Berkley Prime Crime, November 2015
ISBN 978-0-425-27910-6
Mass Market Paperback

One of my dearest friends works for the Post Office, so I was pleased to find this book about Cassie Millar, who trades life as a manager in the Boston Post Office for a job as postmistress in her small hometown in the Berkshires.  Cassie’s been away for a long time, so she’s only gradually finding old friends and making new ones.  She loves her new job, though, until the day she unlocks the door and finds that someone has stolen several stacks of phone books.  Why?

Then a body turns up in the nearby woods, and Cassie’s lunch date, a handsome antiques dealer, is arrested.  Concerned for her new friend, Cassie starts asking questions.  She finds answers, new friends and some very dangerous people before she’s done.

I enjoyed spending time with Cassie and learning about the workings of a small town post office and will certainly buy the next book.

Reviewed by Marilyn Nulman, December 2015.

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World Gone ByWorld Gone By
Dennis Lehane
William Morrow Paperbacks, January 2016
ISBN: 978-006-235181-4
Trade Paperback

The life Joe Coughlin has lived began in The Given Day as a young man rebelling against his stern police captain father in Boston, and continued in Live By Night as he turned to a life of crime, rising in the ranks to run the rackets in Florida and elsewhere.  Now, World Gone By brings the story to a conclusion.

This segment takes place around the time the United States entered World War II and takes a deep look at Joe’s machinations as he operates between the various elements of society, government and the disparate areas of their less reputable members with whom he comes into contact.  At the same time, we see Joe as a doting father of a motherless son, having lost his Cuban wife in a horrible murder at the end of the last novel.

For all his money and power, the fear of death always pervades a gangster’s life, and the plot has Joe learning that a contract has been taken out on his life, his murder scheduled for Ash Wednesday, less than a week away.  The steps Joe takes to learn of the plot and what to do about it has ramifications for the remainder of the story, which is as about well-written and -plotted as anything recently read.

This novel, as the entire trilogy, is highly recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, January 2016.