Book Review: Denied by Mary Keliikoa @mary_keliikoa @CamelPressBooks @tlcbooktours

Denied
A Kelly Pruett Mystery #2
Mary Keliikoa
Camel Press, May 2021
ISBN 978-1-60381-783-7
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

A high-risk pregnancy. A dangerous secret. When her case turns deadly, can this investigator avoid racking up a fatal debt?

PI Kelly Pruett’s search to locate a former classmate’s missing father ends in what appears to be a tragic accident. But putting the pieces together that led to that fateful night will require Kelly to play a high risk game of chance with a killer willing to gamble everything to win.

As private investigators go, Kelly Pruett has one quality that sets her apart to my way of thinking. Like Goldilocks and her bears, Kelly is not overwhelmingly good at her job nor is she TSTL. No, this lady falls right in the middle, meaning she has the smarts she needs most of the time but occasionally goes haywire. In other words, she’s normal and I really appreciate that.

Kelly was injured on the job in her first book and is still recovering but, let’s face it, an overload of cheating significant others can be a tad boring. Hearing from an old friend whose estranged dad is missing gives Kelly the chance to work on something a little more interesting. Little does she know this case is going to turn ugly all too soon and she’ll find herself up against the mob.

In this second adventure, Mary Keliikoa continues establishing Kelly as a woman of thought and determination, one who does her best to balance work with her personal life, especially her deaf daughter. I like Kelly and I’m already anticipating book # 3.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, July 2021.

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Purchase Links:
Barnes & Noble // Kobo // Amazon // Indiebound

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About the Author

Mary Keliikoa is the author of the Lefty and Agatha award nominated PI Kelly Pruett mystery series and the upcoming Misty Pines mystery series featuring Sheriff Jax Turner slated for release in September 2022. Her short stories have appeared in Woman’s World and in the anthology Peace, Love and Crime: Crime Fiction Inspired by Music of the ‘60s. A Pacific NW native, she spent a part of her life working around lawyers. Combining her love of legal and books, she creates a twisting mystery where justice prevails.

When not in Washington, you can find Mary on the beach in Hawaii where she and her husband recharge. But even under the palm trees and blazing sun, she’s plotting her next murder—novel that is.

Find out more about Mary on her websiteInstagramTwitter, and Facebook.

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Book Review: Dead If You Don’t by Peter James

Dead If You Don’t
Roy Grace #14
Peter James
Pan McMillan, July 2018
ISBN 978-1-5098-1635-4
Hardcover

Two nightmares face Detective Superintendent Roy Grace almost immediately in the latest novel in this wonderful series of police procedurals.  First is a bomb threat in the Amex Stadium, the new home of the Albion football team in the first game in the Premier Leagues. Roy is attending with his son Bruno and notices an unattended camera in an empty seat a few rows in front of him.  Acting intuitively he grabs the instrument with merely seconds left on a timer and rushes out of the arena, tossing it as far as he can.  It doesn’t explode, but is meant to reinforce an extortion demand.

The second is the disappearance of a young lad while his father met and spoke with a client at the match.  Later, he receives a ransom demand for a quarter of a million pounds.  Grace spends the rest of the novel attempting to save the boy, while any number of murders and other mishaps arise under the purview of his High Crimes Unit.

The Roy Grace novels specialize in the meticulous attention to the investigative process in solving crimes, and Dead if You Don’t carries on this tradition.  It sometimes seems tedious, but that’s what police procedurals are all about (and give authors the chance to introduce all kinds of red herrings).  Perhaps, in this novel, this technique is carried a bit too far, with solutions offered with merely a second or two before it is too late, but we can recommend it nevertheless.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, June 2018.

Book Review: A Reckoning in the Back Country by Terry Shames—and a Giveaway!

A Reckoning in the Back Country
A Samuel Craddock Mystery #7
Terry Shames
Seventh Street Books, January 2018
ISBN 978-1-63388-367-3
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

When Lewis Wilkins, a physician with a vacation home in Jarrett Creek, is attacked by vicious dogs, and several pet dogs in the area around Jarrett Creek disappear, Police Chief Samuel Craddock suspects that a dog fighting ring is operating in his territory. He has to tread carefully in his investigation, since lawmen who meddle in dog fighting put their lives at risk. The investigation is hampered because Wilkins is not a local.

Craddock’s focus on the investigation is thrown off by the appearance of a new woman in his life, as well as his accidental acquisition of a puppy.

Digging deeper, Craddock discovers that the public face Wilkins presented was at odds with his private actions. A terrible mistake led to his disgrace as a physician, and far from being a stranger, he has ongoing acquaintances with a number of county residents who play fast and loose with the law.

OK, let’s deal with the elephant in the room. Yes, dogs are a crucial part of this story and they’re involved in bad things. Yes, harm is done BUT it’s important to note that most of it is offpage and it’s not gratuitous in the least. The central theme, that of dogfighting, is an evil in our world, one that causes many people to look the other way because the horror of it is so difficult to comprehend. Even if you’re squeamish about animals being harmed, I strongly encourage you to read this book to learn more about how this works and why it so often seems to escape scrutiny that could help stop it. Besides, all the dog activity here is not bad; there’s a little fellow named Dusty you won’t want to miss.

Dogfighting is not what brings Samuel to the home of Lewis and Margaret Wilkins, though, and discovering why this man is missing keeps him busy around the Thanksgiving holiday. This is a lake family, meaning vacationers, so they’re not well known in Jarrett Creek and Samuel is the only member of the police department on hand. He’s doing the best he can but no one is prepared when a body is found, a body that has been savaged.

Technically speaking, the investigation of a violent death should be run by the Department of Public Safety but they rely on Chief Craddock to get things started. It doesn’t take long for him to see that this is going to be complicated and leads take him in several directions. Dr. Wilkins was apparently not a pleasant man and he had some serious problems including a malpractice suit and high stakes gambling. There’s also the question of how and why dogs would have attacked him.

On a more personal note, Samuel has reason to question his relationship with Ellen when he meets another woman and he also takes in a tiny puppy he found near the crime scene. He won’t keep the dog, of course, because he doesn’t want one but Dusty is there for now and Samuel’s resistance just might be futile. Certainly, he offers a bit of a distraction as Samuel and his deputy, Maria, follow those disparate leads to come to a final conclusion.

I was just as puzzled as Samuel almost to the very end and, even then, there were a few surprises. Once again, Terry Shames has captivated me with not only a terrific story but with Samuel himself, a man of great integrity and the wisdom and confidence of his years but one who isn’t afraid to challenge himself on a personal level. A Reckoning in the Back Country is going on my list of best books read in 2018.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, May 2018.

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To enter the drawing for a trade
paperback copy of A Reckoning in
the Back Country by Terry Shames,
leave a comment below.
The winning
name will be drawn
Monday evening,
May 14th. This
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Book Reviews: IQ by Joe Ide and Righteous by Joe Ide

IQ
An IQ Novel #1
Joe Ide
Mulholland, September 2017
ISBN: 978-0-3162-6773-1
Trade Paperback

From the publisher:  East Long Beach.  The LAPD is barely keeping up with the neighborhood’s high crime rate.  Murders go unsolved, lost children unrecovered.  But someone from the neighborhood has taken it upon himself to help solve the cases the police can’t or won’t touch.  A high school dropout, Isaiah Quintabe has an unassuming nature that disguises a ferocious intelligence.  Most people call him IQ.  Word has gotten around:  If you’ve got a problem, Isaiah will take care of it, his rates adjustable to your income or lack thereof.  Because of his unconventional business model, cash is getting tight for Isaiah, forcing him to take on the case of a rap mogul whose life is in danger.  The list of suspects includes a socially inept marksman who never misses, a crew of hangers-on that conceals that one man with a dangerous agenda, and an attack dog the size of a horse.  IQ finds his investigation encompassing much more than he bargained for.  No one expects a kid from East Long Beach to have what Isaiah’s packing – – a blistering intellect, an incredible sense of percepti9on, and some serious skills behind the wheel.  It all adds up to one major advantage:  When you come from nothing, nobody sees you coming.

 

This is the first in a very original new series from Joe Ide, an author of Japanese-American descent, who has created an even more original protagonist in IQ, in a book which won the Macavity Award for best first novel.

The year is 2013.  In the opening pages, we meet Isaiah, an unlicensed detective described as six feet tall and rail thin, his roommate, Juanell Dodson, 17, who has been sharing IQ’s apartment since the death of the latter’s beloved brother, Marcus, 25 years old, in a hit-and-run incident in 2005 which completely devastated IQ. We also meet Juanell’s sometime girlfriend, an innocent teenage girl named Deronda. We are told that IQ had more work than he could handle but not many who could pay him.   A client who could “pay his per diem gave him enough income to support himself” but often the only compensation given him would be “with a sweet potato pie or cleaning his yard or one brand-new radial tire if they paid him at all.”  In one instance payment came in the form of a chicken named Alejandro.  After his brother’s death IQ dropped out of school and quit the academic decathlon team he was on.

IQ likes rap because “music without words let him fill his head with images of his own making or no images at all.”  Juanell brings IQ a new case, if they can split the fee, the client being one Calvin Wright, a rapper known as Black the Knife. Juanell tells IQ “you lucky you got skills, son, ‘cause if you had to survive on your personality you’d be working at the morgue with dead people.”  But the team does just fine.

The author creates some fascinating characters here, primarily of course IQ, and a book that won’t soon be forgotten.  One of the many glowing reviews of this book [from fellow author Ben Winters] ended with the words “you’ll be as excited as I am for a sequel.”  I couldn’t, and can’t, disagree, and when that sequel was published, less than a month ago, I read it as soon as I could, the result of which can be found in the review which will be written as soon as this one concludes – it’s every bit as excellent as is this debut novel and, like this one, is highly recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, November 2017.

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Righteous
An IQ Novel #2
Joe Ide
Mulholland Books, October 2017
ISBN: 978-0-3162-6777-9
Hardcover

From the publisher:  Ten years ago, when Isaiah Quintabe was just a boy, his beloved brother was killed by an unknown assailant. The unsolved crime has gnawed at his gut and kept him up nights, boiling with anger and thoughts of revenge.  The search for the killer sent him plunging into despair and nearly destroyed his life.  Now, Isaiah has a flourishing career, a new dog, and a near-iconic status as a PI in his hometown of East Long Beach, but a chance encounter reopens a wound that never fully healed.  He has to begin the hunt again – – or lose his mind.  A case takes him and his skeptical don’t-call-me-a-sidekick partner, Dodson, to Vegas, where Chinese gangsters and a terrifying seven-foot loan shark are stalking a beautiful DJ and her deadbeat boyfriend.  If Isaiah doesn’t find the couple first, they’ll be murdered.  Awaiting the outcome is the love of IQ’s life:  fail, and he’ll lose her.  Isaiah’s quest is fraught with treachery, menace, and startling twists, leading to the mastermind behind his brother’s death, Isaiah’s own sinister Moriarty.  Rich with action, suspense, and ingenious surprises, Righteous confirms Joe Ide as one of crime fiction’s most exciting new voices.

 

To say that Marcus was “the best person in the world” is only an understatement to Isaiah.  He’d never gotten over his brother’s death, which haunts him more each day, and he is determined to track down the person responsible.  Everything that follows in this second book in the series stems from that.  And this book is everything that the initial book led the reader to expect from this author.  And the more he discovers leads him to only one conclusion:  “This was no accident.  This was a hit.”

Chapter One introduces Janine Van, a young Asian woman working as a DJ, whose name as a DJ is Dama, so chosen because “it was different and the Chinese word for weed.”  Only 21 years old, she gets paid $750 a set, and plays 2 sets a week, but the gambling she does in her hometown of Vegas eats up her paychecks very ably. Now she and her boyfriend Benny are deeply in debt; the 20% vig has now raised that debt to $9,000, $1400 for the vig alone.  She loved Benny, but he was a lousy gambler, “More than half the debt was his.”  The loan shark is getting very impatient for his money, Janine and Benny were living out of a seedy motel room, “a dump to begin with,” and the collector, a man named Balthazar, was seven feet tall, from Saskatchewan, “right across the border from Montana.”  Their reaction to the unpaid debt is to dump Benny in a 360 acre, 200 foot deep landfill, threatening to give the same punishment to Janine if the debt isn’t paid by the end of the week.

The author has a new assortment of fascinating characters to whom his readers are introduced in this book, including Sarita, a young woman who had been Marcus’ girlfriend “back when Isaiah was in high school, and he’d always had a crush on her.”   The bad guys in this series entry are pretty frightening, and there’s a great deal of violence and gunplay, reader be warned.  But the tale is brilliantly told, Isaiah a fascinating protagonist.  Can’t wait for the next in the series!  And this entry, as was the first one, is highly recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, November 2017.

Book Review: Lucky Penny by Ellie Ashe

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Title: Lucky Penny
Series: The Miranda Vaughn Mysteries #3

Author: Ellie Ashe
Narrator: Teri Schnaubelt
Publication Date: April 7, 2017

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Purchase Links:

AudibleAmazoniTunes

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Lucky Penny
The Miranda Vaughn Mysteries #3
Ellie Ashe
Ellie Ashe, April 2017
Narrated by Teri Schnaubelt
Downloaded Unabridged Audio Book

From the author—

A year after her acquittal on fraud charges, former financial analyst Miranda Vaughn is finally getting her life back. Not only does she have a chance for romance with her sexy neighbor, FBI Agent Jake Barnes, but she’s also got a new job…one that’s taking her to a vacation paradise!

Perched above the crystal blue waters of Lake Tahoe, the Whispering Pines Resort & Spa is a local landmark and a popular destination for the rich and famous who are stressed out from being rich and famous. And down on the water’s edge is the Lucky Penny Casino – an abandoned shell of a once-stylish casino. Max Emmerson, the owner of the Whispering Pines Resort, used to own the Lucky Penny, and he wants it back. Miranda’s job is to get Max’s finances in order so he can borrow the money to buy the casino, and make sure nothing jeopardizes his gaming license. Easy, right?

But the nice boring accounting job spirals out of control with the addition of a Hollywood film crew, an underground gambling ring, and Jake going undercover at the resort as a newlywed – with another woman. As Miranda and Jake each dive into their investigations, they can’t deny their growing feelings for each other. But it’s more important than ever that they keep their attraction hidden. Especially since someone at the resort is watching them very closely, and is willing to do just about anything to keep them from uncovering the truth.

Fair warning to readers new to the series: I had no trouble jumping into it with the third book but those who are chronologically-driven probably would prefer to read in order. I’m just sayin’  😉

Technically speaking, Lucky Penny is a cozy that doesn’t quite meet the so-called requirements because it doesn’t take place in a small town, most of the characters don’t start out as bosom buddies and the protagonist isn’t a cook, crafter, organic farmer, bookseller, yogi, petsitter, etc., etc., etc. So, let’s just call it a cozy chick-lit caper, OK?

Miranda is a very likeable character who got in some legal trouble a while back and, although she was acquitted, her career is in shambles so she takes on a freelance job at a casino, one that she might not have been offered in the past but it could be a real boon for her. Naturally, what seemed to be a pretty simple task, not to mention a free luxury vacation, turns out to be much, much more. Before she knows what’s happening, Miranda is in the midst of financial shenanigans, an illegal gambling investigation, the filming of a movie and a couple of twisty turny romantic developments.

I could do without the woman-has-to-choose-between-two-guys routine but the romantic elements weren’t too intrusive and the various mysteries were entertaining enough plus the main players are appealing. Bottomline, I liked the story and the narration of the audio edition was a big plus. Ms. Schnaubelt is a very good reader with an easy tone and excellent pacing, clear diction and she does different voices quite well. Her interpretation of Miranda is especially good, exactly the right touch to pull me into Miranda’s world. Both Ellie Ashe and Teri Schnaubelt bring Miranda and crew to life.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, May 2017.

About the Author

USA Today best-selling author Ellie Ashe has always been drawn to jobs where she can tell stories—journalist, lawyer, and now writer. Writing quirky romantic mysteries is how she gets the “happily ever after” that so often is lacking in her day job.

When not writing, you can find her with her nose in a good book, watching far too much TV, or trying out new recipes on unsuspecting friends and family. She lives in Northern California with her husband and three cats, all of whom worry when she starts browsing the puppy listings on petfinder.com.

WebsiteTwitterFacebookGoodreadsAmazon

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Play an excerpt here.

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About the Narrator

Teri Schnaubelt is a Chicago-based actor, voice actor and audiobook narrator with over 100 titles, including NY Times Bestsellers.

WebsiteTwitterFacebook

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Follow the tour:

Chasing the Dollar (Book 1)

Apr. 16: CGB Blog Tours (Spotlight & Audio Excerpt)

Apr. 17: Dab of Darkness (Review)

Apr. 18: Guilty Indulgence Book Club (Review, Spotlight & Audio Excerpt)

Apr. 19: Desert Rose Reviews (Review, Spotlight, Audio Excerpt & Giveaway)

The Book Junkie (Spotlight & Interview)

Apr. 20: Lomeraniel (Review, Spotlight & Audio Excerpt)

Apr. 21: The Book Junkie (Review)

Apr. 22: Bound 4 Escape (Review)

Between the Coverz (Review, Spotlight & Audio Excerpt)

Dropping the Dime (Book 2)

Apr. 23: CGB Blog Tours (Spotlight & Audio Excerpt)

Apr. 24: Dab of Darkness (Review)

Apr. 25: The Book Junkie (Spotlight)

Apr. 26: Desert Rose Reviews (Review, Spotlight, Audio Excerpt & Giveaway)

Apr. 27: Guilty Indulgence Book Club (Review, Spotlight & Audio Excerpt)

The Book Junkie (Review)

Apr. 28: Lomeraniel (Review, Spotlight & Audio Excerpt)

Apr. 29: Bound 4 Escape (Review)

Between the Coverz (Review, Spotlight & Audio Excerpt)

Lucky Penny (Book 3)

Apr. 30: CGB Blog Tours (Spotlight & Audio Excerpt)

May 1: Dab of Darkness (Review)

May 2: Read Day and Night (Review)

The Book Junkie (Spotlight)

May 3: Spunky-n-Sassy (Spotlight & Audio Excerpt)

May 4: Desert Rose Reviews (Review, Spotlight, Audio Excerpt & Giveaway)

May 5: The Book Junkie (Review)

May 6: Between the Coverz (Review, Spotlight & Audio Excerpt)

May 7: Buried Under Books (Review)

May 8: Lomeraniel (Review, Spotlight & Audio Excerpt)

May 9: The Book Addict’s Reviews (Review)

May 10: Guilty Indulgence Book Club (Review, Spotlight & Audio Excerpt)

May 11: terriluvsbooks (Review, Author Interview & Giveaway)

May 12: Bound 4 Escape (Review)

May 13: Celtic Lady’s Reviews (Spotlight, Audio Excerpt & Giveaway)

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Book Review: Titans by Victoria Scott

TitansTitans
Victoria Scott
Scholastic Press, February 2016
ISBN 978-0-545-80601-5
Hardcover

Guilt is a heavy burden, even more so when you’re a teenager with two sisters and are part of a family teetering on the edge of losing everything. That’s life for Astrid Sullivan. Both her dead grandfather and her dad turned family stability into chaos because of their gambling addictions. With her father laid off and jobs for blue collar workers almost nonexistent, her family is falling apart and about to lose their home..again. Older sister Dani is escaping by spending all her time with a boyfriend, while Mom deals with stress by sneaking out at night and taking care of the neighborhood gardens. Home life stress is exacerbated because everyone’s avoiding talking about it.

Astrid and her best friend, Magnolia, who aspires to become a small businesswoman by selling her artful hair decorations, started hanging out near the racetrack when they were thirteen and have spent the past five years watching the mechanical horses, called titans, race. Astrid is a math whiz and spends part of her racetrack time using that skill to calculate how jockies could better run a race.

When she and Magnolia help an older man who is dizzy and weak while at the races one afternoon, little do they know that it’s the start of an adventure of a lifetime. Rags, the man they helped, and his friend Barney, have a secret. They have an early model Titan, one with artificial intelligence, something the newer 3.0 models don’t have. When the announcement that one rider will receive an entry into this year’s race series with the $50,000 fee waived, the men ask Astrid if she’s interested. Is water wet? Heck yes, she’s interested, especially with a $2 million prize up for grabs.

How they get a horse that has been sitting unused for years, into shape, how Astrid and Magnolia get mentored in social skills, what pitfalls are involved as the races get more competitive and how her choice affects her family life, make this an incredible read. Teens (and adults) who love a great adventure yarn with lots of action will devour the book. I could not put it down.

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

Book Reviews: A Well-Respected Dead Man by Tricia Allen and Bad Monkey by Carl Hiaasen

A Well-Respected Dead ManA Well-Respected Dead Man      
Tricia Allen
Five Star, August 2003
ISBN 0786254416
Hardcover

Former prosecutor, David Weather, member of a prominent Dallas family, is living in hard times. Suspected corruption in his family has lead to his dismissal from the prosecutor’s office. Now, long time family friend and area gambling ruler, Willie Peabody, is dead, murdered, and David is a prime suspect.

The story, replete with unusual twists and turns and a truly clever resolution, is set against a real-life Texas disaster. In 1947, a ship docked at the Texas City seaport catches fire. Inadequate fire-fighting resources fail to stop the fire and when the freighter Grandcamp explodes, the real disaster is instant and widespread. From all over Texas, help and the curious flood to the seacoast. Meanwhile, as the line goes, back at the ranch….

Author Tricia Allen, in her second novel, has fashioned a real ripsnorter, populated with incredible, bizarre and wonderful creatures, not the least of which is Weather’s family. Grudges, feuding criminals, missing bank robbery money and Texas-style politics are judiciously blended by the author to make this a clever, enthralling novel. As big as all of Texas and twice as complex, where dead thugs are almost as revered as politicians.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, July 2013.
Author of Red Sky, Devils Island, Hard Cheese, Reunion.

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Bad MonkeyBad Monkey
Carl Hiaasen
Alfred A. Knopf, June 2013
ISBN: 978-0-307-27259-1
Hardcover

Here we have a crime novel from an established writer who demonstrates a tendency to aim well-considered darts at various and sundry established elements of our society, such as Medicare. In most cases, the author’s aim appears to be true, but he’s using a scatter-gun approach. Sometimes less is more. The novel has a simple plot at its core. A scammer who has taken the federal government for millions of dollars through a fairly elegant illegal operation in south Florida hangs it up when the Feds inquire begin to close in. His method of avoiding arrest is bizarre to say the least.

Meanwhile a reasonably competent Key West detective named Andrew Yancy, now demoted to restaurant inspector, formerly of the Miami Police Department, is tasked by the local sheriff to dispose of a human arm, brought up by a fishing boat off the keys. Seems like a simple task, right? Unfortunately for various law enforcement agencies in South Florida and the Bahama Islands, Yancy thinks there’s something fishy about the arm. And in spite of the distraction of a plethora of pulchritudinous, sexually available women, throwing themselves at Yancy’s feet he soldiers on, determined to bring a murderer to justice and get back his detective’s shield.

Hiaasen is a wonderful writer. He generates a rolling thunder of forward movement and then chucks a nasty wrench into the works that sends the story off in a seemingly totally different direction. He is clever and inventive. Yes, of course there are crimes, including murders and there are many strange and sometimes wonderful characters, effectively used—mostly—by the author to illuminate his concerns about the social milieu which he observes in often minute detail. Reading this book put me off restaurant meals for at least a week.

Yes, there is a monkey. A pet Capuchin, ill-trained, ill-mannered  and possessed of the worst temper and too many anti-social “skills.” The novel is by turns sweet, acidulous, slow, nasty, dark, hilarious, and confusing. Sometimes the pacing and cleverness are enough to take your breath away. Bad Monkey is essential Hiaasen.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, September 2013.
Author of Red Sky, Devils Island, Hard Cheese, Reunion.