Book Review: Bad Blood by Brian McGilloway

Bad Blood
DS Lucy Black #4
Brian McGilloway
Witness Impulse, June 2017
ISBN 978-0-06-268455-4
Ebook
Available in paperback late July 2017

From the publisher—

A young man is found in a riverside park, his head bashed in with a rock. One clue is left behind to uncover his identity—an admission stamp for the local gay club.

DS Lucy Black is called in to investigate. As Lucy delves into the community, tensions begin to rise as the man’s death draws the attention of the local Gay Rights group to a hate-speech Pastor who, days earlier, had advocated the stoning of gay people and who refuses to retract his statement.

Things become further complicated with the emergence of a far-right group targeting immigrants in a local working-class estate. As their attacks escalate, Lucy and her boss, Tom Fleming, must also deal with the building power struggle between an old paramilitary commander and his deputy that threatens to further enflame an already volatile situation.

As the entire world knows, the US is going through some real upheavals these days with very little “DMZ”—we’re becoming more polarized with each new jawdropping revelation or open-mouth-insert-foot blunder. What’s most disturbing to many of us is the seeming rollback in behavior towards others, particularly minorities, the LGBTQ community, the disadvantaged. I actually believe that’s not a change but, rather, evidence that those who are so hostile to others have always been so and have been hiding it until now when they feel emboldened by some of our leaders.

It’s kind of a relief to see such behavior front and center in Bad Blood although I’m well aware that these issues are not new anywhere but are symbolic of societal unrest that has been simmering for many years in much of the world. It’s a relief because, for just a few hours, it’s possible to tell oneself, “See, it’s not just us, thank heavens”. No, that’s not the most enlightened outlook but there it is, another reason to like this very good police procedural beyond all the bookish reasons.

Northern Ireland is an intriguing setting in many ways, not least of which are the Troubles and lingering ills that have so much effect on the people. Detective Sergeant Lucy Black and her colleagues have much to deal with beyond the simple facts of crime with vicious attitudes of hatred and racism making those crimes so much more intense. In this pre-Brexit atmosphere, you can feel the roiling emotions on both sides of the issue and the way murders and assaults are affected along with the added pressure to Lucy and others in law enforcement.

Besides being a bright woman dedicated to good, honest police work, Lucy is kindhearted, an attribute that stands her in good stead in her position with a unit that specializes in crimes against those who are disadvantaged. Working with her boss, Detective Inspector Tom Fleming, Lucy’s latest case is the murder of a teen, coming just after vandals graffitied the home of a Roma family. Before it’s all over, corruption in the police rears its very ugly head and some very disparate cases begin to intertwine.

This fourth in the series was my introduction to DS Lucy Black and I’m very glad to have made her acquaintance. Mr. McGilloway includes some in-depth looks at Lucy’s personal life as well as her work and I feel as though I know her quite well already but I’ll enjoy spending more time with her in her three earlier books.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, July 2017.

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Purchase Links:

Barnes & Noble // Kobo // Amazon

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An Excerpt from Bad Blood

The hall was already packed by the time Detective Inspector Tom Fleming arrived. The air was sweet with perfume and talc and, beneath that, from the farmers still wearing their work clothes, the scent of sweat and the smell of the earth.

The congregation were on their feet, being led in the opening hymn by Pastor James Nixon. Fleming smiled apologetically at those he squeezed past to get to a free seat in the third row from the back. The hymn finished, the assembly took their seats just as Fleming reached his, and settled to listen to the words of Pastor Nixon.

‘My brothers and sisters, it is a great honour to be here with you this evening and to see so many of you have taken the time to come and pray with me.’ His voice was strong despite his age, a rich baritone still carrying the inflections of his native Ballymena accent.

‘But it is a time of great challenge for us all. Daily, all good people face an assault on their morality with the rampant homosexual agenda that assails us and belittles everything we hold to be true and dear. Men of conscience are tried for refusing to make a cake celebrating homosexuality or print leaflets and posters furthering that agenda. And on the other side of the border, the Irish Republic has voted to allow homosexuals to marry, as if two women playing house is no different to the consummated union of a man and a woman. As if it is not a perversion which shames us all.

A few voices appended his comment with ‘Amen’.

Nixon raised his hands, acknowledging their support. ‘There are those who would silence me, silence us. They tell us we must accept homosexuals in our town, our shops, allow homosexual bars and public houses to operate on our streets. We must allow sodomites to teach our children and to corrupt our young. We must stay silent while a new Gomorrah is built next to our homes and farms, our shops and schools. They say I am dangerous. They say I preach hatred. They say I should be silent. But I say this: I say that there is no danger in truth. I say that there is no hatred in goodness. And I say that I will not be silent.’

Another chorus of ‘Amens’ greeted his proclamation, accompanied by a smattering of applause which began at the front and rippled its way through the hall.

‘I will not stand idly by as our families are exposed to sin and depravity. I will not countenance the laws of the land being used to protect profane persons, allowing them to indulge their lustful practices, forcing those of us with consciences to humour this lifestyle. It is an abomination. The people who practise it are abominations and, like those before them, they will end in fire and brimstone.’

Fleming glanced around at the others in the congregation. While one or two shifted uncomfortably in their seats, for the most part the listeners sat intently waiting for Nixon to continue.

‘Friends, only last week, I read of an African nation – a heathen nation, a Godless nation – who arrested two men for homosexual acts. One of these men was sixteen. Sixteen! And do you know what they did to the pair of them? They stoned them. They took them out of the town and they threw rocks at them until the pair of them were dead. And do you know what I thought? Shall I tell you?’

An elderly lady in the front row called out ‘Yes’, to the amusement of those around her. Nixon smiled mildly at her, as if indulging her.

‘Stoning was too good for those men. Every rock that struck them was a just reward for their sinfulness, their immorality, their ungodly behaviour. Every drop of their blood that stained the ground was a reminder that they deserved to die. It was the wages of their sin!’

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Excerpt from Bad Blood by Brian McGilloway. Copyright © 2017 by Brian McGilloway. Reproduced with permission from Witness Impulse. All rights reserved.

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About the Author

Brian McGilloway was born in Derry, Northern Ireland. After studying English at Queen’s University, Belfast, he took up a teaching position in St Columb’s College in Derry, where he was Head of English. He is the author of the New York Times bestselling Lucy Black series, all to be published by Witness. Brian lives near the Irish borderlands with his wife and their four children.

Catch up with the author:

Website // Twitter // Facebook // Goodreads

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Follow the tour:

 6/26 Interview/Showcase @ CMash Reads
6/28 Review @ Book Reviews From an Avid Reader
6/29 Guest post @ Writers and Authors
6/29 Showcase @ The Bookworm Lodge
6/29 Showcase @ Thoughts in Progress
7/01 Guest post @ Mythical Books
7/03 Interview @ A Blue Million Books
7/06 Review at Tales of a Book Addict
7/07 Review @ Bless their hearts mom
7/07 Showcase @ Bound 2 Escape
7/10 Showcase @ Bookalicious Traveladdict
7/11 Interview @ Cozy Up With Kathy
7/12 Review @ Blogging with A
7/13 Showcase @ The Reading Frenzy
7/14 Review @ The Book Divas Reads
7/15 Review @ Cheryls Book Nook
7/17 Review @ Buried Under Books
7/18 Showcase @ Curling Up by the Fire
7/24 Review @ Rabid Readers Book Blog
7/25 Showcase @ The Pulp and Mystery Shelf
7/26 Showcase @ Celticladys Reviews
7/27 Guest post @ Loris Reading Corner
7/28 Review @ A Bookaholic Swede
7/31 Guest Post at Romance Under Fire

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Book Reviews: Poisoned by Steve Shukis, The Boy Problem by Kami Kinard, and The Diva Wraps It Up by Krista Davis

PoisonedPoisoned
Chicago 1907, a Corrupt System, an Accused Killer, and the Crusade to Save Him
Steve Shukis
Title Town Publishing, September 2014
ISBN 978-099119381-3
Hardcover

Poisoned is the true account of a man tried and sentenced to life in prison for the deaths of six members of the Vrzal family. The mystery begins in 1903 with the death of the first victim, although at that point no whisper of murder surfaced. That would take several more deaths and a few more years.

It’s important to realize how corrupt officials of that time in Chicago, Illinois, could be. It seemed everything they did, every action they took, was first examined under the microscope of “what’s in it for me?” And some politicians were not above slanting facts in a direction they wanted them to go.

Too much crime in Chicago? Then trying and executing a murderer was bound to pander to outraged public opinion. Was he guilty? Well, that wasn’t necessarily the first criteria. And the burden of proof? That is what this book is all about.

A large city full of recent immigrants, many who knew little English, sets the stage for this case. In the early 1900s a great many Bohemians entered the states. The Vrzals were one such family. The Billiks another. Of this latter clan, Herman Billik was the patriarch. His occupation? It seems to have been bilking other hard-working immigrants out of their earnings. He was known as a fortune teller, a healer, and a magician. Rose Vrzal, wife of Martin and mother to a large family of children, contacted Herman and asked him to tell her fortune. Their relationship soon grew into a romance–on her side, at any rate. Billik seems to have been more in love with her money. Rose, we’re told, seems to have thought her husband and her children stood in the way of her happiness. And so the children, one by one until only three remained, died. So did her husband.

That short synopsis is a short outline of what happened. The book, Poisoned, tells what happened next. It takes the reader through the testimony of Herman Billik’s trial, the circumstances of how each person died, and what witnesses were allowed to say–what they were encouraged to say, true or not. One only hopes such a slap-happy trial could not occur today. Into the mix, a champion does emerge, one man who never believed the murders were perpetrated by the accused. Billik, by the way, escaped the hangman’s noose but was sentenced to life in prison.

Well researched, and complete with photos taken at the time, this is a book to put on your shelves not only because it’s a rousing good lesson concerning our justice system, but an extraordinary picture of life and death in those hard times.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, December 2014.
Author of Three Seconds to Thunder.

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The Boy ProblemThe Boy Problem
Notes and Predictions of Tabitha Reddy
Kami Kinard
Scholastic Press, May 2014
ISBN 978-0-545-57586-7
Hardcover

The Boy Problem (Notes and Predictions of Tabitha Reddy) by Kami Kinard is a story about middle school student Tabitha Reddy, who is desperately wanting to find “the one.” She goes as far as making several predictability charts that will determine when, where, and how she will find this new beau of her life, despite her best friend Kara telling her that it will never work. As an adult reading a story based during middle school years, I do not miss being 12 years old one second.

Along with the math equations and the shout out to a subject many middle school students most likely hate, Kinard does a nice job at depicting what the typical middle schooler is like. They think their parents are “super annoying and boring”, school is a time for them to catch up with their friends and the daily gossip and they are the age where they can make friends and enemies in a day – within the same person. After reading this and observing the children of the same age during youth group lessons, Kinard nails describing this age group on the head of the nail.

But in between the “boys, boys, boys” plot, Kinard also explores friendship and community. The main character, Tabbi, finds a friend in somebody whom she always assumed to be one of the most annoying students in her year because of the way she acts, dresses, etc. When her uncle and his family feel the effects of Hurricane Sandy hit their town, she sets up a cupcake fundraiser (and also uses it as a class project) to help out. The book is the second in a series but seems to stand-alone as well. If you have a child who is in the 5-8th grade range, this book is right for them – and they’ll most likely want a cupcake when they finish!

Reviewed by Kristina Akers, November 2014.

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The Diva Wraps It UpThe Diva Wraps it Up
A Domestic Diva Mystery
Krista Davis
Berkley Prime Crime, June 2014
ISBN 978-0-425-25814-9
Mass Market

Ms. Davis has created a delightful Christmas mystery. Set in a small town that is close to fanatical about celebrating the Christmas season with holiday cheer, Sophia and her neighbors vie to create the most spectacular interior and exterior house and yard decorations. Amidst putting Santas on the roof, wrapping several zillion lights around every immovable object in the neighborhood, and non-stop baking Christmas treats, one of the neighbors is murdered in the most un-Christmas-like manner.

Intrigue, convoluted family dynamics and Christmas goodies abound as Sophia and her friends try to solve the crime, much to the dismay of Sophia’s sweetheart, a member of the local police force. One of the neighbor’s extended and unwelcome family members arriving for the holidays further complicate the possible list of suspects. But with enough eggnog, spiced tea and chocolate coated treats, the questions are stripped away, leaving everyone aghast when the real murderer is revealed. Of course, not until the killer has cornered Sophia and her life is just a sugar sprinkle away from death.

If you are delighted by Christmas cheer and reindeer, mixed with your ‘who-dun-it,’ you’ll enjoy this cozy mystery.

Holiday recipes at the end of the book, some of which are incorporated within the story, add to the charm of this Christmas mystery.

Reviewed by Elaine Faber, July 2014.
Author of Black Cat’s Legacy.

Book Review: Choke Point by Ridley Pearson

Choke PointChoke Point
A Risk Agent Novel #2
Ridley Pearson
Jove, April 2014
ISBN: 978-0-515-15464-1
Mass Market Paperback

In the second novel in what is billed as an “international thriller series” (Risk Agent was the first entry), Ridley Pearson brings the return of John Knox, a man who has a useful ‘cover’ as a legitimate international exporter, and Grace Chu, a Chinese woman who was a former forensic accountant but has “recently proven herself a quick study of computer hacking.” She also holds a master’s degree in criminology from USC and, because of her former training with the Chinese Army, “is no slouch in field ops.” The fact that she speaks five or six languages is only a plus. They are both now occasionally employed by Rutherford Risk, a private security firm.

The book takes place for the most part in Amsterdam, although it opens briefly in Tunisia, where John is plying his trade, that is, until his old buddy David “Sarge” Dulwich finds him and coaxes him to take on a job in Amsterdam. Their long standing friendship goes back to the days when they were both working for a private contractor based out of Kuwait where John saved Sarge’s life, twice (once when the truck in which he was riding was hit by an IED). Both John and Grace find themselves becoming addicted to their new calling, their former professions seeming to have been a waste of their talents, and the adrenaline rush undeniable.

Their new assignment deals with child exploitation. They are joined, in a somewhat ambivalent relationship, by Sonia Pangarkar, a gorgeous reporter working on a story about “the poorer neighborhoods of Amsterdam and the European struggle with immigrants.” More than that, it is about a ring of men “who kidnap ten-year-olds and chain them to posts and make them work 18-hour days” in what are called “knot shops,” i.e., sweatshops where intricately hand-knotted Oriental rug knockoffs are made, with quantity demanded. And that’s the least horrific part of it. Rutherford Risk was called in as the work is seen as “typically unwanted by, or too dangerous for, others.” But Knox and Grace thrive on just that.

Thrillers are not, generally, my favorite sub-genre. But the author’s name beckoned to me. The book is undeniably exciting and suspenseful, densely plotted, and the three main characters very intriguing. It makes for enjoyable, good reading.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, April 2014.

Book Review: What You Wish For by Janet Dawson

What You Wish ForWhat You Wish For
Janet Dawson
Perseverance Press, September 2012
ISBN 978-1-56474-518-7
Trade Paperback

Daytime soap operas have nothing on Janet Dawson‘s latest novel. Vivid memories brought to bear on the present day as four friends struggle with personal and familial issues. From Latin America to San Francisco to Oregon, this a tale woven with strings of heartbreak, discovery, manipulation, and revelations.

Lindsey. Gretchen. Claire. Annabel. Four friends who met in college in San Francisco. Each went onto separate lives, but remained friends. Decades later Annabel suffers a stroke. Her daughter asks Lindsey to look into finding her real father. This is only the tip in this iceberg of a soap opera. Lindsey’s own daughter is back from college and still upset about not knowing HER father. Lindsey’s research into an El Salvadoran massacre brings to light an issue relating to Gretchen’s adopted son. Claire is angling for control of the board of directors at her company now that Annabel is incapacitated and what connection did she have with a coffee kingpin? Connections and complexities all culminate in the forever changing of lives between four friends who thought they knew each other.

Dawson does a wonderful job with detailing the past and making it relevant to the situations in the present. From college days to time in El Salvador, the intermingling circumstances make for an inevitable conflict between the parties involved. While some of the answers are easy to figure out, there are still some surprises left to keep the pages turning.

Reviewed by Stephen L. Brayton, February 2013.
Author of Night Shadows, Beta and Alpha.

Book Reviews: Safe Harbor by Rosemary McCracken, Revenge from Beyond by Dennis Wong, and Mannheim Rex by Robert Pobi

Safe HarborSafe Harbor
Rosemary McCracken
Imajin Books, April 2012
ISBN 9781926997452
Trade Paperback

Family is very important. Rosemary McCracken‘s suspense filled mystery shows us the value of family ties, especially when the unexpected happens. Set in around the New Year in frozen Canada, this book brings in various issues of family life with the overlying mystery of murder and killers on the loose.

Pat Tierney’s world is full of her two daughters, a new boyfriend, her dog Maxie, and her Toronto based financial investment career. Her world gets turned upside down when a strange woman leaves a five year old boy at her office claiming he is Pat’s late husband’s son. When the woman is murdered and the boy’s family is apathetic about the boy’s plight, Pat ends up caring for the child. The police suspect the killer is also out to get the boy and wouldn’t hesitate to remove any other obstacles. Digging into the case, Pat finds a connection with a refuge for immigrants seeking citizenship. Against the advice from her new boyfriend and the police to stay out of the case, she can’t help but be involved, especially when danger seeks her out.

There doesn’t seem to be any Safe Harbor in this book for the main character. It’s a tale where the average person delves into being an amateur private investigator. I liked the links with Pat’s investment firm, the clients, her coworkers, and the influential people in her life such as her daughters and boyfriend. McCracken does a good job with showing family values in some of the subplots. It’s a fast but enjoyable read.

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

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Revenge from BeyondRevenge from Beyond
Dennis Wong
Proverse Hong Kong, January 2012
ISBN 978-988-19935-1-9
Ebook
Also available in trade paperback

Take a trip back to ancient China’s Tang Dynasty. Where the Emperor rules and those under him speak in his name. Lawlessness is still common and murder abounds, for all the usual reasons. The same holds true for politics and corruption.

Quan Wu-Meng is just beginning his leadership in the Sui-chou District’s court. Almost immediately, the young judge encounters a murder. A struggling painter is found dead in his bed and Quan, along with the Coroner, begins the investigation. Quan must connect the following evidence: missing paintings, a political candidate with a shady background, and most intriguing, a dream begging for interpretation. The situation intensifies when the body of a rice merchant is discovered after an arson. However, there are more surprises ahead. Can Quan figure out the clues before those in power remove him from office?

Although I’m wary of mysteries set in foreign locales, this one was a quick and enjoyable read. The Chinese culture is explored, but I felt very in tune with the characters. This is a simple story with the culprits fairly easy to deduce. However, there are some very interesting bits of deduction, including a fascinating experiment to determine how a corpse didn’t die from a fire. The punishment for guilty parties is very extreme, but we’re talking about Imperial China. I’d love to read more Quan.

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

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Mannheim RexMannheim Rex
Robert Pobi
Thomas & Mercer, November 2012
ISBN 9781612184487
Trade Paperback
Also available in Kindle format

A monster fish. A depressed writer. A boy with a dream of becoming famous. A sheriff with some serious sociopath issues. These all combine to make for an excellent thriller by Robert Pobi. Don’t expect this to be some cheap Jaws knock-off. This goes so much, uh, deeper.

Gavin Whitaker Corlie, horror novelist, is a widower who can’t seem to get over his wife’s death. Contemplating suicide, he decides to move out of the crazy city. Buying a house in upstate New York on the shore of Lake Caldasac, he settles in to get his life together. Within a few days he encounters Finn Horn, a teenage fishing enthusiast who is slowly dying of cancer. All is not serene in the community lost in time. There have been strange disappearances on the lake and the local sheriff is not a big fan of rich city slickers. With more people missing and dying, danger lurking from local law enforcement, and winter approaching, Corlie and Finn make plans to capture the monster in the lake.

Pobi is a magician with words. His vivid descriptions took me lakeside and alongside with Corlie and Finn as they trolled on the water. This is a novel to display in any collection. Pobi is an author other authors need to read to learn how to write. The only disappointment about the book is that it had to end…or does it? Don’t think it’s over because the last chapter will shock your senses.

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