Book Review: Primal by D.A. Serra

PrimalPrimal
D.A. Serra
D.A. Serra, August 2012
ISBN 978-1-47819-803-1
Trade Paperback

From the author—

With everything at stake – what are you capable of?  What if the worst happens and you’re not a policeman, a soldier, or a spy with weapons training and an iron heart?  What if you’re a schoolteacher – a mom?  In this gritty crime thriller a family vacation takes a vicious turn when a fishing camp is invaded by four armed men.  With nothing except her brains, her will, and the element of surprise on her side, Alison must learn to kill or watch her family die.

By its very definition, a thriller should be just that, a book that gives the reader a thrill while he or she is vicariously living through the protagonist’s crisis, a book that makes the reader feel the intensity of the moment and experience at least a little bit of fear. In that regard, Primal does not disappoint, and the visceral collison of two families with very different moral essences is indeed intense, but there are a few things I didn’t care for.

First, I detest the use of present tense, especially in crime fiction, and the author is apparently not entirely comfortable with it either as there are a number of instances when she slips into past tense for a sentence or two. I really don’t understand why any crime fiction writer thinks using present tense is a good idea but I’m at least very grateful that the author didn’t also use first person.

Also, during the first half or so of the book, the entire part dealing with the events on the island, I felt as though I was reading the activities of a director in the midst of making a movie, complete with the occasional exclamation point to notify the actors that this is a moment of FEAR or EXCITEMENT. I suppose I should have expected this since the author is a former screenwriter and, in fact, this story first saw the light of day as a screenplay.

Another thing that added to the feeling of reading a movie script was the rapidly changing scenes and the sheer coincidences that took place, not to mention the uncanny luck of the protagonist. Add to those the shallow depictions of the hostages other than the family and you’ve got a movie in the making. Oh, and we mustn’t forget the guy who manages to move a quarter mile in a matter of minutes despite a horrendous impediment.

Then comes the second part of the book and this is where I felt Ms. Serra really showed her strength as a writer. Watching Alison’s descent into near-madness and being very unsure whether it really is madness or if she is right to be so afraid and on edge is a tale all in itself. All the media attention is certainly to be expected, as is the  abrupt cessation of that attention when another story grabs the spotlight. It’s also understandable that the police believe she is over-compensating for what she has gone through.

The heart of all this is the painful deterioration of not only Alison’s very existence but also the lives of those who care about her, whether they be her husband and child or other family or friends and co-workers. This part of the story is what forces the reader to keep on till the end because we simply must know—is it real or all imagined? I was confident that I knew the answer to that question early on but how it would be resolved was a different matter entirely and I’m glad I hung around to find out. When all is said and done, though, I think this would make a better movie than a book.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, February 2013.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

D.A. SerraABOUT THE AUTHOR

D.A. Serra

Deborah Serra was a screenwriter for twenty years and recognized by the Writer’s Guild for her long term continuous employment. She has written ten TV movies, four feature films, and numerous TV episodes including two years as a staff writer for NBC.  She worked for top producers, directors, and actors.  She has taught writing at the University of California, San Diego, Wofford College and at writers’ conferences nationwide.  Serra has now turned her attention to novels, and she was honored as a recent recipient of the prestigious Hawthornden Literary Fellowship, and as a semi-finalist for the William Faulkner-William Wisdom Creative Writing Award given by the Faulkner Society in New Orleans, LA.

Deborah’s  Website

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Virtual Author Book Tours

Book Reviews: King of the Dead by Joseph Nassise, The Girl in the Wall by Daphne Benedis-Grab, and Dog in the Manger by Mike Resnick

King of the DeadKing of the Dead
The Jeremiah Hunt Chronicle

Joseph Nassise
Tor, November 2012
ISBN 978-0-7653-2719-2
Hardcover

From the publisher—

In a devil’s deal, Jeremiah Hunt sacrificed his human sight in exchange for the power to see the hidden world of ghosts and all of the darker spirits that prowl the streets. Hunt uncovered a world of murder and magic that took his daughter from him and nearly cost him his life, but that was only the beginning….

Now Hunt is on the run from the FBI, who have pegged him as a mass-murdering dark sorcerer. His flight from the law is diverted to New Orleans when his companion, a potent witch, has a horrific vioiledsion of the city under magical siege. When they arrive, they realize that the situation is more dire than they could have imagined: the world of the living faces a terrifying attack by forces from beyond the grave. King of the Dead, the second book in this groundbreaking series, promises more of Nassise’s electrifying writing that will enthrall readers looking for a supercharged, supernatural thrill.

 

One of the best combinations that has come about with the tremendous growth of crossgenre fiction is crimefighting supernatural beings. Early players—meaning in recent years because crossgenre is certainly not a new thing—such as Harry Dresden (Jim Butcher) and Rachel Morgan (Kim Harrison) whetted our appetites and many readers, including me, are always on the lookout for more, especially those that are a bit different.

And Jeremiah Hunt is decidedly different. We’ve had central characters who can wizard or witch their way through life, or chase down bad guys while in the form of werewolves and vampires and such, but how often do we come across a guy who can see ghosts and all the scary things in the dark and can do so BECAUSE he’s blind? To make it even more unique, Jeremiah actually wanted his blindness, unlike so many who gain their abilities through no desire to be able to do these things. Jeremiah and his cohorts, a witch and a berserker, ought to be kickbutt.

Unfortunately, they don’t quite do it for me and I’m not entirely sure why. Part of the problem is a bit too much infodumping in an effort to bring the reader up to speed in this second book. I appreciate the effort because knowing some background helps when you haven’t read the earlier books in a series (a frequent happenstance for reviewers) but it’s a little too heavyhanded in this case. I was also a little put off by the shifting points of view—generally, I like that but the shifts were sometimes too abrupt and I would lose my connection to the story while taking the time to figure out who’s speaking.

Having said that, the worldbuilding is very good and I like these characters, especially Jeremiah. I’ve heard excellent reports about the first book, Eyes to See, so I think this may be one of those rare occasions when I should have read the first book first. King of the Dead interests me a lot and I think I’ll enjoy it much more if I start at the beginning.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, December 2012.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Girl in the WallThe Girl in the Wall
Daphne Benedis-Grab
Merit Press, December 2012
ISBN 978-1-4405-5270-0
Hardcover

From the publisher—

Ariel’s birthday weekend looks to be the event of the season, with a private concert by rock star Hudson Winters on the grounds of her family’s east coast estate, and all of Ariel’s elite prep school friends in attendance. The only person who’s dreading the party is Sera, Ariel’s former best friend, whose father is forcing her to go. Sera has been the school pariah since she betrayed Ariel, and she now avoids Ariel and their former friends. Thrown together, Ariel and Sera can agree on one thing: this could be one very long night.

They have no idea just how right they are.

Only moments after the concert begins and the lights go down, thugs open fire on parents and schoolmates alike, in a plot against Ariel’s father that quickly spins out of control. As the entire party is taken hostage, the girls are forced apart. Ariel escapes into the hidden tunnels in the family mansion, where she and Sera played as children. Only Sera, who forges an unlikely alliance with Hudson Winters, knows where her friend could be. As the industrial terrorist plot unravels and the death toll climbs, Ariel and Sera must recall the sisterhood that once sustained them as they try to save themselves and each other on the longest night of their lives.

One of the dreaded tropes of young adult fiction is femjep, female in jeopardy. This goes way back, to the days of “The Perils of Pauline” nearly a hundred years ago and earlier. At times, it seems as though many writers of young adult fiction can’t come up with a story without it, and that has led to a craving for those tales that feature girls with a brain, girls that can actually take care of themselves most of the time. It’s an even greater pleasure when an author is able to craft a story around a girl of, shall we say, substance, involved in a situation of jeopardy.

Ms. Benedis-Grab has accomplished this in spades with The Girl in the Wall and there are, in fact, two very capable girls, Sera and Ariel. The author makes good use of the hostage aspect and watching the girls cope with such deadly circumstances is knuckle-whitening. I literally raced from one chapter to the next and thoroughly enjoyed myself along the way. Some of Ariel’s behavior raised my eyebrows and Sera is faced with an impossible choice but I really liked both of these teens and found them highly interesting.The action is intense and frightening and I loved getting to know both Sera and Ariel.

This is a pair of girls I’d like to have by my side in a dark alley.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, December 2012.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Dog in the MangerDog in the Manger
Mike Resnick
Seventh Street Books, November 2012
ISBN 9781616147105
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Hired to investigate the disappearance of a Westminster winner, Eli Paxton stumbles into a web of intrigue.

A dog is missing. Not just any dog. The number one Weimaraner in the country and current Westminster winner.

Down-on-his-luck private eye Eli Paxton is hired to find him. Not exactly an elite assignment, but better than nothing. Maybe it will help him pay his rent.

It turns out to be anything but a routine case. People start dying in mysterious ways, a cargo plane goes missing, and someone is taking shots at him. It makes no sense. Even a top show dog isn’t worth that much.

Now the hunt is on. Paxton needs to find this dog to save his own skin. The trail leads to Arizona, then Mexico, and finally back to his hometown of Cincinnati—Where he finds the startling solution.

 

Dog in the Manger is a reprint of a book first published in the mid-1990′s and I’m just so glad somebody decided to dust it off. I’ve been familiar with Mike Resnick‘s work for many years but it was his science fiction that I knew—I had no idea he’d ever written a mystery.

Eli Paxton seems like the typical down-on-his-luck private eye and, in many ways, he is but there’s more to him than that. Whether he wants to or not, Eli cares about his cases; they’re more than just a paycheck. When he first agrees to find out what happened to Baroness von Tannelwald, he almost sees it as having sunk as low as the low can go, a desperate move by a man having a little difficulty making his income stretch to cover his bills and allow the occasional good seat at a Reds game. It can’t be all that hard to find a dog, especially when her handler, Hubert Lantz, is willing to pay a tidy sum for Eli to track her down, right?

But wait, why has everybody who’s been connected to Baroness in the last few days  disappeared—or turned up dead?

Mr. Resnick may not have spent his authorial career writing mysteries but Dog in the Manger shows that he clearly knows how to do it. This book has nasty criminal stuff going on as well as a good deal of sly humor and a true puzzle and Eli is a guy I’d like to hang out with. Luckily, we’ll get to see Eli again when his second book, The Trojan Colt, comes out next June and I must say I’m delighted to know he’s in my future.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, December 2012.

Book Reviews: A Wedding to Die For by Radine Trees Nehring, The Demands by Mark Billingham, Viral by James Lilliefors, The Prophet by Michael Koryta, and They Disappeared by Rick Mofina

A Wedding to Die For
Radine Trees Nehring
St. Kitts Press, 2006
ISBN No. 978-1-931206-01-3
Trade Paperback

Here Comes The Bride and this time it is Carrie McCrite who is getting married.  But she is confused about how to have a wonderful wedding but one that is appropriate for a mature bride and groom.

On the advice of her friends Henry and Carrie take a trip to inspect The Crescent Hotel in Eureka Springs, Arkansas.  Carrie immediately falls in love with the place and decides it is indeed a perfect place for a wedding.

In trying to plan the wedding Carrie and Henry are plunged into a vicious scheme to run a florist and his family out of Eureka Springs.  Certain residents are prejudiced and don’t want Chandra and Ashur Mukherjee, owners of Artistic Floral Designs of Eureka Springs, to continue business in their town.

Carrie and Henry make friends with the two and try to help them out through a bombing and a murder.  Other friends of Carrie and Henry join in to help as well.

But even in Eureka Springs Carrie can’t escape the ghost bride wearing red who has been haunting her dreams.

I enjoyed the characters in the books and the descriptions of the area.  Nehring tells a good story and gives a good description of how an older couple deciding on a wedding might feel.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, May 2007.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Demands
Mark Billingham
Mulholland Books, 2012
ISBN No. 978-0-316-12663-2
Hardcover

We are all creatures of habit, and Helen Weeks is no exception.   Helen, a detective for the police department and a single mother, stops at a newsagent every morning for her newspaper, gum and some candy.  As Helen is paying for her items three boys walk into the shop wrestling with each other and messing with the stock.  Javed Akhtar, the owner, chases the boys out of the shop.  Helen and the man behind her in the store are shocked when Akhtar locks the door to the shop and pulls a gun on his two customers.

So begins a situation that is terrifying to the hostages as well as the police attempting to see them released without harm.  The hostages are handcuffed to the radiator. Stephen Mitchell, the other customer taken hostage, seems to think that Helen can use her familiarity with Akhtar and her skills as a detective to miraculously rescue them from the situation.  But he soon realizes she has no power over Akhtar.

Akhtar orders Helen to get in touch with a detective named Thorne.  Helen knows Thorne since she dealt with him when her boyfriend was killed.  Helen learns Akhtar’s son, Amin Akhtar, was involved in a manslaughter case and sentenced to prison. Amin killed himself in Barndale Young Offenders Institution eight weeks earlier.  Thorne is familiar with the manslaughter case and had been surprised the boy got the stiff sentence that he did.

Akhtar does not believe that his son’s death was a suicide and he is demanding that Thorne find out what really happened.  Thorne is racing against time in his investigation into the boy’s death.  Two people’s lives are at stake and it is up to him to save them.  But first he must satisfy all of Akhtar’s questions and prove that his son was murdered.

As Thorne investigates, he finds more and more puzzling things about the conviction and the boy’s death – some that will come as a shock to Akhtar.  The story switches back and forth between Thorne who is seeking answers on the outside and Helen Weeks who is one of the hostages.  It is a race against time as the police outside the newsagent’s shop try to determine whether to go in with force or hope Thorne comes up with answers.

Mark Billingham introduced Sgt. Helen Weeks in the novel In the DarkThe Demands bring Weeks and Thorne together and this reader hopes for more adventures involving Weeks and Thorne.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, May 2012.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Viral
James Lilliefors
Soho Press, Inc., 2012
ISBN No. 978-1-61695-068-2
Hardcover

Two brothers separated by years and miles work together to stop an evil plan to spread a deadly virus that will change the world.  Charles Mallory is a private intelligence contractor and former CIA operative.  His brother Jon, an investigative reporter, is alarmed when a call from his brother Charles is not received as scheduled.  Charles is counting on Jon to be a witness to some event that he has yet to reveal to Jon.

Charles is investigating a lead found in a message left by his father in a safe deposit box.  He is acting undercover, using fictitious names but someone is alert to his movements and Charles knows that he is in danger.   When Jon begins to search for his brother Charles leaves clues that only his brother would be able to follow.  Jon is able to decipher the clues but is still lost as to what he is to witness.

Terrible events are happening in a remote area of Africa.  People go to bed at night and just never wake up.  A whole village is wiped out.  Charles is working against time to find out who is behind the scheme and figure out how to put a stop to it before there are more deaths.

The book shifts back and forth between Jon and Charles as well as some of Jon’s contacts in Africa.  The book is well written but at times, it was hard to keep the characters straight.  The descriptions are very graphic and not to be read by a squeamish reader. The entire plot is not revealed until well into the novel.  Viral is an exciting book that keeps the reader on edge.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, June 2012.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Prophet
Michael Koryta
Little, Brown and Company, 2012
ISBN No. 978-0-316-12261-0
Hardcover

Marie Austin was picked up on her way home from school, brutally attacked and killed.  The death of Marie had a profound effect on her brothers Adam and Kent.  The family was torn apart by the tragedy.  Both boys were outstanding football players.  Kent went on to become a coach at the high school.  Adam became a bondsman and private detective.  Adam felt responsible for his sister’s death.  He was to pick her up and give her a ride home from school but instead he picked up Chelsea Salinas and spent the evening with her.

Adam is still with Chelsea even though she is married.  Her husband is in prison.  Adam owns his parents house along with his brother Kent.  Adam has reconstructed Marie’s room to be exactly as it was when she was alive and spends many hours in Marie’s room.

Kent has married and loves his job as Coach of the local football team.  A championship is in sight and Kent is busy preparing his team.  Kent is also deeply religious and became involved in visiting prisoners.  Adam is furious that Kent has taken this road in life.  Adam still attends the games coached by his brother but there is no closeness between the two brothers.

This all changes when another girl dies.  A girl directly connected to Adam.  Adam vows that he will find her killer and avenge her death.  When a person connected to the young girl’s killing threatens Kent and his family, the two brothers join together to protect Kent’s family and stop the killer.  Although seemingly the brothers are working together, Adam keeps Kent in the dark about some facts in the case and strikes out on his own.

The Prophet is a very exciting book with characters that I loved.  As I neared the end of the book I postponed reading the final pages.  I just did not want this book to end.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, August 2012.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

They Disappeared
Rick Mofina
Harlequin MIRA, 2012
ISBN No. 978-0778313816
Mass Market Paperback

Cole Griffin is nine years old and his dream is to see Manhattan and that dream is about to come true.  Jeff, Cole’s father, is a mechanic and volunteer fire fighter in the family’s Laurel, Montana hometown.  Sarah, Cole’s mother, is a schoolteacher.  The family of three had been a family of four until Cole’s baby sister died.  Since Cole’s baby sister died, Jeff and Sarah had been holding the family together with a thread.  Neither parent is good at handling their grief and this has caused a rift in their marriage. The couple is hoping the rift can be repaired during this family vacation.  The decision to visit New York is two-fold.  Cole will have his dream fulfilled and Jeff and Sarah hope to be able to put their troubles behind them.

Fate has a way of changing the best-laid plans and the Griffin’s are thrown a curve when they pick up their bags at the airport. Cole picked up what appeared to be his bag but when the Griffin’s get to the hotel it is discovered that Cole has someone else’s bag.  None of the contents are Cole’s but he is fascinated with a tiny plastic toy jet that falls out of the bag.  Arrangements are made to meet with the owner of the bag that Cole picked up by mistake and the exchange is made but with a small but very important exception.  Cole left the plastic jet on the windowsill in the hotel.

When Jeff steps into a shop and leaves Sarah and Cole on the street the mother and son are abducted.  It seems the plastic jet is a very important piece in a group of terrorists plan.  The group has no concern for the lives of Cole and his mother and will take any step necessary to get the jet back.  When Jeff leaves the shop, he finds his wife and son gone.  Frantically Jeff contacts the police.

The police investigate but not to Jeff’s satisfaction.  Jeff begins his own investigation and surprisingly is a very good detective.  With his son and wife at risk, Jeff manages to finds clues faster than the police do.

The hunt is exciting and terrifying and always there is the fear of what the terrorists will do to Sarah and Cole before Jeff and the police can uncover their location.

Rick Mofina draws on his experience as a news reporter to bring the reader thrillers such as They Disappeared.  The story keeps the reader on edge as the danger mounts for the Griffin family. I’ve enjoyed many of Rick Mofina‘s books.  He always gives the reader an exciting story.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, October 2012.

Book Reviews: Good as Dead by Mark Billingham, Pocket-47 by Jude Hardin, Buried Secrets by Joseph Finder, and Hurt Machine by Reed Farrel Coleman

Good As Dead
Mark Billingham
Little, Brown, August 2011
ISBN: 978-1-84744-419-6
Hardcover, 392 pp., 16.99 BPS

[This book is the UK edition. It was released in the US in June 2012 by Mulholland Books under the title The Demands.]

This novel is the latest—the 10th—in the Tom Thorne series featuring a British cop of a different stripe.  His approach to solving a crime is to achieve a conclusion by any means.  And, in this book, he shows no mercy.

It begins when D.S. Helen Weeks enters her local news agent’s shop to buy her customary candy bar and ends up, along with another customer, as a hostage to the proprietor, who then demands that Thorne find the murderer of his son.  Some months before, Thorne had been the arresting officer when the boy surrendered for killing another lad in self-defense.  He received an eight-year sentence, rather an extreme incarceration based on the case.  While in prison, he was attacked and taken to the hospital where he was later found dead of an overdose of drugs.  His father refuses to accept the verdict that the death was a suicide.

Forced to reopen the case and “find the truth,” Thorne fights against time and Helen’s predicament.  The time frame of the novel is three days, which certainly speeds up the action both behind the closed doors of the shop, as well as vis-à-vis Thorne’s progress.  The psychological aspects of the hostage system:  the interchanges between Weeks and her captor, and the uncertainties of the situation, are manifested in the shifting conversations between the two.  In contrast are the fears and doubts of the police officials outside who cannot determine what, if any, efforts should be made to free the hostages and apprehend the news agent.  Thorne’s quick determination that the news agent’s belief is correct – – that rather than suicide, his son was murdered – – comes quickly, just as the various pieces of the puzzle are unveiled one by one.  Nevertheless, Thorne is really a delightful and intriguing character, and the well-written scenario moves forward briskly.  Recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, September 2011.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Pocket-47
Jude Hardin
Oceanview Publishing, May 2011
ISBN: 978-1-60809-011-2
Hardcover

I’m not sure the world needs another hard-boiled PI, but that is what we have in this debut effort, which has a hard time finding a consistent voice, and from time to time lapses into trite asides, for almost no reason.  Nevertheless, the book shows the author can write, and hopefully will settle on a method that doesn’t simply try to emulate Mickey Spillane (who, obviously, not only invented the genre, but is in a class by himself).

Nicholas Colt makes his territory in the Florida Panhandle and is retained by a woman to find and bring home her runaway 15-year-old sibling.  It doesn’t take him long to find the girl, holed up in the apartment of a pimp, and he takes her to his girlfriend’s apartment since the girl complains that she doesn’t want to go home since someone is out to kill her.  So he takes her the next day to his Airstream trailer, teaches her to fish, and then leaves her alone while he goes away for a short time.  In his absence she is kidnapped, setting the stage for a more complicated [and contrived] ending.

The title is another mystery to be solved, and the answer is almost beside the point, especially since it involves the death in an airplane crash of Colt’s wife and daughter 20 years earlier (another example of unnecessary and complicated contrivance in the novel). Let’s consider this book a learning experience, from which a much better effort will emerge.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, September 2011.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Buried Secrets
Joseph Finder
St. Martin’s Press, June 2011
ISBN: 978-0-312-37914-8
Hardcover

It is a hard task to review such a well-written novel, peopled by interesting characters and with a well-drawn plot, yet have reservations because it seems to reverberate with clichés.  There is Nick Heller, the second appearance by this former superspy turned Boston PI, who seems to be too good to be real.  He knows everyone and seems to be smarter than them all; and some of the other characters seem like cardboard figures, especially some of the FBI personnel.

Yet the book is exciting, even riveting, despite the fact that a major premise – – the loss of over a billion dollars by Marshall Marcus, an investment manager “who never had a losing quarter, unlike Warren Buffet” – – seems somewhat preposterous.  As does the source of the funds  he managed to “lose.”  The plot revolves around the kidnapping of Marcus’ daughter in an effort to force him to reveal a secret document which would provide a Russian oligarch business leverage. Marcus enlists Heller’s aid in rescuing the girl, and the chase is on.

Finder’s eye for detail is impressive, and he moves the story forward daring the reader to put the book down.  The action is at a pace almost too much to absorb, packed with all sorts of twists and turns. Despite the above reservations, this is a book to be read, and it is recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, October 2011.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Hurt Machine
Reed Farrel Coleman
Tyrus Books, December 2011
ISBN: 978-1-4405-3202-3
Hardcover
[It should perhaps be noted that the book is also being released in trade paperback]

Unlike the previous six novels in the series, this book is a lot more introspective and deep since Moe Prager learns he has stomach cancer.  This leads to a lot of looking at the past and present and less at the lighter side of life.  But that does not stop the formidable Moe from undertaking another tough task, made especially hard by the time restraints of his daughter’s upcoming wedding in a week and his own possibly limited lifespan.

After a pre-wedding dinner, Moe’s ex-wife and PI partner, who left him years before, accosts him outside the restaurant, asking him to look into the murder of her estranged older sister, one of two EMTs who refused to assist a dying man at a high-end bistro where they were supposedly having lunch.  Moe doggedly takes on the task, and therein lies a tale.

The tone of this book is a lot different from its predecessors, necessarily so in light of Moe’s serious illness.  That does not, of course, take away from the plot; it only reinforces the intensity of the various elements.  It is written with power and passion [albeit sometimes with too much schmaltz].  Let’s hope the doctors can save Moe and that he returns to his old self.

Recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, October 2011.

Book Review: The Demands by Mark Billingham

The Demands
Mark Billingham
Mulholland Books, June 2012
ISBN 9780316126632
Hardcover

A man who’s lost faith in the justice system. A mother with a young child held hostage. A detective who’s life is in transition desperate to find answers before more people are killed. A police force held in limbo, trying to decide the next step in a crisis. This is what Mark Billingham‘s latest novel brings the mystery world. Subdued intensity and a day by day progress report keep The Demands in demand.

London Detective Tom Thorne is called to a hostage scene. Another detective, Helen Weeks, is being held by Javed Akhtar, a newsagent. Akhtar demands Thorne find out the truth behind the death of his son, Amin, who was an inmate in a juvenile prison. When Thorne starts investigating, he discovers anomalies in the supposed suicide and determines murder has been committed. He also ferrets out secrets. Secrets about Amin which may connect to the original charge that landed him in prison, and secrets that may lead to a motive and a killer. Thorne races against time to provide answers, but will those answers be enough to save Helen?

There is a lot going on in this book with several scenes occurring at the same time. Interesting characters keep you moving closer to the edge. Billingham comes up with another winner in The Demands and shows us he can write like the best of them.

Reviewed by Stephen L. Brayton, March 2012.
Author of Night Shadows and Beta.