Book Review: Justice by Joseph Badal—and a Giveaway! @JoeBadal @suspensemag

Justice
The Curtis Chronicles #3
Joseph Badal
Suspense Publishing, November 2019
ISBN 978-0-578-55928-5
Trade Paperback

A lot of action, a lot of characters, a tight story and several clichés. For anyone looking for an action-packed beach-read here’s one that should fill the bill. The story is tight, cleanly presented and nicely resolved. It spans the Western Hemisphere from the United States to Nicaragua and back.

Mathew Curtis and his wife, Renee, travel the globe. He’s a medical man, a former doctor, who travels the world lecturing about his company’s orthotics products. His wife often travels with him, in part because they have been targeted in the past by a smart but deranged human trafficker.

Lonnie Jackson is a wealthy, evil schemer with a world network of drug dealers and smooth-talking recruiters of young women, ostensibly for low-level but honest jobs in western cities. The reality, of course, is quite different. Jackson blames Matt and Renee for his family’s deaths and has waited years for revenge.

Jackson is living and thriving in Nicaragua. Matt Curtis comes to Costa Rica next door for a medical conference. Jackson plans a vicious kidnapping and murder. Meanwhile in Washington and Bulgaria, plans and events crawl toward a vortex of insane violence. The question is always, will Renee and Matt survive and be reunited?

The pace of the novel is relentless, the writing is strong and spare. For some readers, the patterns will be a problem. The bad guys have rotten teeth and terrible breath, the CIA and most of the U.S. government is corrupt to some degree, the good-looking and smartest, most adept, people are the small group of Matt’s friends, former military men, who come together to help in the direst of circumstances, using all their skills and expertise.

There are a couple of interesting twists toward the end of the story which are truly unexpected. They provide an intriguing basis for later novels, grab reader’s attention and remain just out of reach for fans of this novelist.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, January 2020.
http://www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com
The Case of the Purloined Painting, The Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky.

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Giveaway

To enter the drawing for a print copy
of Justice by Joseph Badal, leave
a comment below. The winning name
will be drawn on Monday evening,
January 20th. Open to residents
of the US and Canada.

Book Review: Stealing the Scream by Theodore Carter

Stealing the Scream
Theodore Carter
Run Amok Books, September 2019
ISBN 978-1-7327097-7-5
Hardcover

This novel’s back cover blurb describes the plot as follows: “In 2004, masked thieves stole Edvard Munch’s ‘The Scream’ from an Oslo museum.  STEALING THE SCREAM is a literary leaning, humor-laced crime novel that re-imagines the event, offering a tantalizing account of what happened through fictional characters and ending with a tense climax and a satisfying if unexpected ending to the art-world mystery.”

The central character is a very wealthy corporate CEO, Percival, who gives up his position and moves to London along with his house manager, Lucinda, and his chef, Will, to become a painter.  Ultimately, he finds a way to have his work seen in major art museums around the world.

The writer of the blurb and I see this book very differently.  I see no humor in it.  Rather, I see a man whose obsession takes over his life and leads him into a downward spiral if not into madness then at least into a major depression with grandiose features, a man who has no regard for the people he lives with, and no interest in anything other than his painting and his view of himself as an artist.  In short, I found him to be an unlikeable character who sees others simply as there to serve him.  For these reasons I cannot recommend this novel, but I recognize that there are others who regard Theodore Carter’s writing highly.  Accordingly, they might see the “literary leaning, humor-laced” writing that escapes me.

Reviewed by Melinda Drew, August 2019.

Book Review: Provenance by Laney Salisbury and Aly Sujo

Provenance
Laney Salisbury and Aly Sujo
Penguin Press, July 2009
ISBN: 978-1-59420-220-9
Hardcover

Stunningly comprehensive, this real-life tale of one of the most elaborate and wide-spread art cons in the history of the world is at the same time a real page turner. It is very easy to turn an examination like this into an in-depth passionless academic examination of the development and actions of a high-level immoral thief and his minions. These authors have not done that. Rather, they have produced a novel-like high-wire examination of the people and those who consciously or inadvertently aided and abetted the talented counterfeiter, and his masterful, flexible Svengali, the consummate con artist, John Drew.

Of course, their weaving, dodging path of destruction through the British art scene in the mid twentieth-century was supported in great measure by the lustful desires for acquisition of great art by relatively unschooled but wealthy “patrons.” Many of these supporters of artistic creators and their art seemed to care more about the public and private recognition they received for their art collections, and supposed taste, than they did for the actual art and artists.

After reading this reportage, one is forced to wonder who now, in the halls of their mansions, look upon their prized, often expensive, framed pictures and wonder if they are real, or are they too, victims of this great con. Because art experts, as reported by these authors in this meticulously researched book, aver that there are demonstrably hundreds of still unrecognized fakes, valued in the multiple thousands of dollars, hanging in homes and museums and offices all over the world. It gives one pause, and it should.

A stunning work everyone interested in the world of making and collecting art should read.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, June 2018.
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: Exit Strategy by Charlton Pettus

Exit Strategy
Charlton Pettus
Hanover Square Press, May 2018
ISBN: 978-1-3350-1692-8
Hardcover

Life certainly offers a myriad of choices, but Jordon Parrish narrowed what was available to him when everything seemed to be going belly-up.  A brilliant scientist and co-head of his public company (albeit for some strange reason listed on the Hong Kong exchange rather than on NASDAQ here in the States), the experiment he was working on, which the company hoped would be a bonanza, showing no progress, the company’s finances in a shambles and his marriage going on the rocks, he looked to possible solutions, narrowing them down to suicide (which would kill any insurance), or selecting a secret organization that would give him a new identity, allowing him to disappear, care free.

Of course, he chooses the strategy that allow him to exit from all his woes, and he is relocated to Tokyo, where eventually he begins to miss is wife and two children.  Provided with another chance, he is moved to France, but the same nostalgia for his family arises.  Apparently the “Exit Strategy” is not to his taste, and not what he wished for.  The remainder of the novel describes his efforts to extricate himself from his hidden life and return to his former one.

This is a first novel, and it is well done, at least up until the denouement which, to this reader at least, is overdone.  The author has written a thriller, but has ended it with a heavy hand, rather than a subtle conclusion.  Perhaps he’s seen too many movies.  On the whole, however, the book certainly is well-written and satisfying, and can be – and is – recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, June 2018.

Book Review: Dying to Live by Michael Stanley

Dying to Live
A Detective Kubu Mystery #6
Michael Stanley
Minotaur Books, October 2017
ISBN:  978-1-466-88156-3
Hardcover

The sixth in the series featuring detective Kubu (“hippopotamus” in Setswana, the language of Botswana), this novel has an unusual plot:  a secret plant indigenous to the desert, for which three men are murdered, is the basis for this mystery.  The pathologist Dr. Ian MacGregor, who does the autopsy on a bushman found dead in the desert, discovers an aged body containing youthful organs.  He calls Kubu when he suspects the man was murdered.  It turns out the victim was a highly respected witch doctor who treated a variety of “patients” with a secret potion promising a long life.

Thus begins a long, complicated investigation, in which Kubu is assisted by the first female CID detective, a case that expands when another witch doctor turns up murdered and a visiting anthropologist from the United States goes missing.  As if that’s not enough to keep him busy, Kubu is confronted by another case in which controlled substances, powdered rhino horn, is being smuggled out of the country.  Kubu suspects the two cases are inter-related.

Just as important to this novel, as well as the series, is Kubu’s home life, his relationship with his wife, Joy, and his daughter Tuni, and adopted daughter, Nono, who is HIV positive and suffers a breakdown causing considerable concern until a prescribed cocktail of medicines can be formulated to stabilize her condition.  These aspects give the writing team who authored the book the opportunity to show how human Kubu is, as well as the detective’s well-known appetite.  Other constant features of the series are the atmosphere and characteristics of the Batswana (the people of the nation).  We await the seventh novel in the series after recommending the sixth and current one.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, January 2018.

Book Reviews: A Legacy of Spies by John le Carré and The Trespasser by Tana French

A Legacy of Spies
John le Carré
Viking, September 2017
ISBN: 978-0-7352-2511-4
Hardcover

The Cold War may have ended many years ago in real life, but not for John le Carré, who has now written a fascinating book derived from two of his earlier George Smiley novels, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.  Smiley merely plays a background role in Legacy.  Instead, Peter Guillam, his disciple, who retired from the Circus (the British Secret Service) to the family farmstead in southern France, plays a central part in the story.

Peter receives a letter summoning him to London where he is instructed to review files and interrogated about an operation during the Cold War in which an operative and a source were killed.  It would appear that a potential parliamentary inquiry or even a civil action blaming Peter and others for the deaths and seeking monetary damages, brought by the offspring of the two unfortunate victims, is possible.

As Peter reviews the material, le Carré recreates the times and travails of the period, as we relive through the actions of the characters conditions in East Berlin and the spy craft during the Cold War.  It is history recreated with all the tensions of the period, excellently written with humor and panache.

Recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, November 2017.

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The Trespasser
Dublin Murder Squad #6
Tana French
Penguin, August 2017
ISBN: 978-0-1431-1038-5
Trade Paperback

Antoinette Conway and her partner, Stephen Moran (who she brought on board in the Dublin Murder Squad after working with him in a previous novel) are the newbies in the elite Irish police group, and as such, only receive humdrum domestic dispute assignments.  Until one day the gaffer hands them what turns out to be a murder case of a pretty young woman.  The case turns out to be anything but a simple lovers quarrel.

Antoinette, the only female on the squad, takes a lot of guff from other members (who want her anywhere else), and her resentment shows throughout the book.  While she enjoys her work, she contemplates leaving for an offer in the private sector.  Meanwhile, she has a murder to solve as her first lead detective case and goes about it diligently if somewhat misdirected by an experienced detective assigned to work with the partners for reasons not revealed until the end.

One criticism I made in the previous novel by Tana French was that it was tedious and slow reading.  The same is true of The Trespasser.  One has to plod through a couple of hundred pages of continual repetition before it all begins to make sense.  And then, and only then, does the reading become enjoyable and worthwhile and the plot begin to come together.  The novel would have been rated at a higher level had it not been for this criticism.  Certainly, Ms French writes well and creates clever plots.  One could wish she would now turn her attention to some judicious editing.  That said, the novel is recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, August 2017.

Book Review: Not Dead Yet by Samie Sands

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Title: Not Dead Yet
Series: AM13 Outbreak Series Book #4
Author: Samie Sands
Publication Date: June 20, 2017
Genres: Science Fiction, Horror, Post-Apocalyptic

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Purchase Links:

    

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Not Dead Yet
AM13 Outbreak Series Book #4
Samie Sands
CreateSpace, June 2017
ISBN 978-1548162498
Trade Paperback

From the author—

The AM13 Outbreak has affected everywhere, the entire world has experienced infection.

Victims of the virus are no longer human, they’ve changed, become something scientifically impossible. With their loss of human function and their new lust for flesh, there’s only one word to describe them…

Zombies.

The world is divided as everyone tries to work out how to survive. Many have already lost their lives 
in the fight, but there are still a few who are not dead…

Yet!

This book is a little different from many because each chapter brings us a new scenario with new characters. In some ways, that’s good since we get to see how people around the world cope with what has become a full-scale zombie apocalypse. On the other hand, it means I couldn’t make any real connection with any of them.

In another departure from the norm, each protagonist reacts in different ways, some of which really got my attention, like the one who’s actually devolving into a zombie after being bitten. One character has a perhaps hopeless belief that she can find her way back to a loved one through hundreds of miles of devastation and zombies; another is a bit of a warrior who’s flummoxed when he comes across a pregnant woman.

A lot of the author’s attention is on other things going on with the characters besides the virus and I did appreciate that but, when all is said and done, this book left me a little dissatisfied because each chapter ends with no resolution and I really wanted to know what happened to each person. The ending, though, came in proper zombie fashion so, all in all, I enjoyed Not Dead Yet with some reservations.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, November 2017.

About the Author

Samie Sands is a 28 year old freelance graphic designer who has recently decided to follow her lifelong dream and use her creativity in a new way by writing.

She has a degree in Media Studies and PR and has already had articles published in a number of e-zines, including one of the most popular pieces at Zombie Guide Magazine. She has also had short stories included in a number of successful projects.

She lives in a small seaside town in the UK, but loves to travel to gain inspiration from new places and different cultures.

Author Links:

Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram * Wattpad * Amazon * Goodreads

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