Book Reviews: American Static by Tom Pitts and A Case of Vineyard Poison by Philip R. Craig

American Static
Tom Pitts
Down & Out Books, June 2017
ISBN: 978-1-943402-84-7
Trade Paperback

This novel is a long, detailed, twisting trail of a plot. Along the way two small-town cops, and readers, encounter many characters, nearly all of whom are consummate criminals in that vibrant, unusual city, Bagdad by the Bay, San Francisco. It follows the unwanted adventure of a rural California student, carrying weed from Humboldt County for friends to deliver to recipients in the city. Robbed and beaten at bus stop, Steven is collected and succored by one of the most relentlessly evil personalities one is ever likely to meet in a single story.

The student, Steven, left penniless and beaten in a small northern California town, is carrying a load of marijuana to people in San Francisco when he is set upon, viciously beaten and robbed. An interested bystander offers Steven a ride to` San Francisco with a stop or two along the way. There is a brief suggestion of connection between the young men who robbed and beat Steven, and Quinn, driving a stolen vehicle, who dispatches a prominent winery owner.

Two policemen from Calisto set out to find Quinn who has disappeared into San Francisco and begins a horrifying series of vendettas against the employees of a major crime figure in the city. His primary motive is to find the daughter of the crime figure, a strung-out teenager living on dope and the streets.

Somehow, Steven, now terrified of Quinn, connects with the girl, Teresa, and they flee together. The chase is on. Quinn after the teens, a corrupt cop chasing Quinn, followed by two Calisto cops and everybody under threat from the crime boss and his killer crew.

Complicated, slick maneuvering and sudden brutal murder is the hallmark of this well-designed novel. I lost count of the number of murders, shootings, knifings, beatings and car chase events. Suffice it to write, the novel is excellently conceived, full of abrupt violent action. I give it a strong recommendation of type.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, December 2017.
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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A Case of Vineyard Poison
A Martha’s Vineyard Mystery #6
Philip R. Craig
Avon, July 1996
ISBN: 978-0-380-72679-0
Mass Market Paperback

This novel is part of an extensive series of mysteries set on Martha’s Vineyard.

Vineyard wedding bells are about to chime for J.W. Jackson and Zee Madieras. Zee’s bank account is suddenly one hundred thousand unexplained dollars richer. The bank calls it a glitch, and two days later the money has disappeared. Coincidentally, the college student lying dead in J.W.’s driveway, done in by a dose of locally grown poisonous herbs, recently withdrew a hundred grand from her own account.

Ex-cop J. W. Jackson is intrigued. Intrigue deepens when he is suddenly attacked by a local paramedic. The path he follows introduces readers to a number of interesting characters on the island and a scheme to parlay computer expertise into a massive swindle.

This novel is not as violent nor as action filled as are earlier books in this series. There are several lengthy passages about the island and about fishing. However, the cerebral gymnastics around the solution to the murder are presented in an interesting way and the vividly descriptive passages touring Martha’s Vineyard and fishing, cooking and eating are interesting and judiciously blended with the murder mystery. Craig is a good writer and the dialogue is expertly used to further the plot and provide a pleasant experience for any reader.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, August 2017.
http://www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com
The Case of the Purloined Painting, The Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky.

Book Reviews: Wickedpedia by Chris Van Etten and Deadout by Jon McGoran

WickedpediaWickedpedia
Chris Van Etten
Point Horror, July 2014
ISBN 978-0-545-41587-3
Trade Paperback

 

Cole Redeker is a straight A student, a champ on the debate team, and works at perfecting his pie crust recipe. Such a perfect son that his parents learn to accept his friend Gavin, a slacker who plays bass in an awful garage band. Gavin’s two favorite phrases are “It’ll be fun. I promise.” And “Told you so.”

Cole’s auburn haired girlfriend, Winnie, choir soloist and tennis player, dumps him for Josh, the school’s star soccer player. When Cole discovers that Josh has been copying his history essays from Wikipedia, he and Gavin hatch a plan. History teacher Mr. Drick frowns on sloppy and lazy research, and knowing that Josh is writing a paper on serial killers, Cole plants false Wikipedia articles full of ridiculous facts. When Josh is caught, he is put on academic probation and suspended from the team.

When Josh’s best friend and teammate is discovered dead in the gymnasium, Gavin discovers a Wikipedia entry that foretold his particularly gruesome death. When another friend is partially blinded and burned by poisoned eye drops, Cole realizes that someone is after the students and wonders who will be next.

A good portion of the story is told by Instant Messages among the various students. While the deaths are horrible, the details are not lingered on. Still, not a book for the easily upset.

Reviewed by Susan Belsky, September 2015.

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DeadoutDeadout
Carrick & Watkins #2
Jon McGoran
Forge, June 2015
ISBN 978-0-7653-7008-2
Mass Market Paperback

A three-day visit to Martha’s Vineyard to visit an old friend who is working there, keeping track of bees needed to pollinate crops, turns out to be more than Philadelphia detective Doyle Carrick and his girlfriend, Nola, probably bargained for.  They discover the bee population is fast disappearing and the cause is a mystery.  Nola gets a job manually pollinating plants on a farm and Doyle ends up hanging around, then becoming embroiled in helping to solve the situation.

A lesser plot is the love interest: Doyle and Nola’s hot-and-cold relationship; her association with the young, handsome employer, making Doyle jealous; and his relationship with a beautiful female scientist, raising an equal emotion in Nola.  Of course, both these other characters play a vital role in the main plot.

The action is fast and furious, and the plot moves forward at a rapid pace.  And to boot, there are additional facets to complicate the reader’s progress, including high stakes corporate machinations.  (And we probably learn more about bees and genetics than we ever wished.)

Recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, June 2015.