Book Review: The Man in Milan by Vito Racanelli @racanelliauthor @PolisBooks

The Man In Milan
Vito Racanelli
Polis Books, November 2020
ISBN 978-1-951709-27-3
Hardcover

On an April evening at Sutton Place in New York City, NYPD detective Paul Rossi finds a well-dressed dead man in the gutter. He’s been terminated by two carefully placed bullets, one in the chest, the other to the back of his head. It’s obviously an execution. Turns out the deceased is a former fighter pilot from the Italian Air Force.

The murder, then the precision-like burglary and destruction of the pilot’s estranged wife’s apartment, lead the detective team of Rossi and partner Hamilton P. Turner, into a morass of international intrigue, corruption, and more death.

Rossi, Italian-American and Detective Turner, a multi-talented African-American poet, opera buff and former lawyer are sent to Rome, following leads and beset by a nasty reporter from a New York rag who had been contacted by the dead pilot. The question is why?

The answers apparently lie in an old mystery. And while the story winds its convoluted way through Italian society, several more deaths occur, including three women who are casually cast aside, leading, I suspect, some readers to question the attitude of the author to the values of women in the story line.

The plot moves at a reasonable pace, logically follows discovery after discovery, with some clever bits to strengthen the narrative, to a rational conclusion. The narrative concludes with the open possibility of further adventures of these two detectives.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, December 2020.
http://www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com
Traces, Grand Lac, Reunion, Red Sky.

Book Review: The Fairfax Incident by Terrence McCauley

The Fairfax Incident
Terrence McCauley
Polis Books, June 2018
ISBN: 978-1-947993-05-1
Trade Paperback

Set in Manhattan in the years between the World Wars, Nazi spies are stepping up their game. WWI set many (most) of the American populace against anyone of German ancestry, and the rising Nazi party is using their resentment to recruit men, money, and resources to a battle they believe this time they’ll win. From those highly placed in society to the lowliest, loyal Americans will need to be vigilant and ruthless in rooting them out, because murder and blackmail are the Nazi’s standard operating tools.

Charlie Doherty, a New York City police officer, at great personal risk saved a wealthy, highly-placed gentleman’s son when the boy was kidnapped. After Charlie was discharged from the force by his crooked boss, Mr. Van Dorn set him up as a private detective. Now, on Van Dorn’s recommendation, a Mrs. Fairfax has asked him to look into her husband’s apparent suicide. What Charlie finds as he investigates is not only a gathering of cold-eyed killers, but a beautiful seductress and a plot that will rock the country.

The novel, fast-paced, full of tension, and featuring great characters reads like old noir, pulp fiction. This is one of those books you don’t want to put down, and I, for one, will be looking for the next Charlie Doherty adventure.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, March 2019.
Author of Five Days, Five Dead, Hereafter and Hometown Homicide.

Book Reviews: Where Hope Begins by Alysia Sofios with Caitlin Rother and A Conspiracy of Ravens by Terrence McCauley

Where Hope Begins
Alysia Sofios with Caitlin Rother
Pocket Books, September 2009
ISBN: 978-1-4391-3150-3
Hardcover

This is an interesting and at the same time, an appalling story. How is it that even relatively uneducated people, mostly women, can succumb to such abuse for years without speaking up? After all, this family, under the destructive thumb of their patriarch, Marcus Wesson, wasn’t living in some isolated desert camp. They lived in a home in an urban center, Fresno, California. Some of them worked, even if most never went to school and while they were obviously in thrall to an evil man, some of them, especially Marcus’ wife, Elizabeth, should have spoken out.

It is also hard to accept that this “family” was not known to local authorities.

Reporter Alysia Sofios is assigned to a case of mass murder of nine children in their home. She soon breaks protocol by becoming intimately involved with the surviving family, helping them create a more normal life. The book is the story of that deepening involvement and the reporter’s gradual entanglement with the Wessons. Finally, although her intentions are benign, echoes of Marcus Wesson’s control and manipulation of his offspring seem to be descending on Alysia and her decisions regarding the family going forward.

Ultimately, the emotional/straightforward style of the narrative becomes a little tedious. Still this is a story well-told and should be examined by members of every social service agency in the country where suspicions of out-of-the ordinary family situations arise.

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.

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A Conspiracy of Ravens
James Hicks Series #3
Terrence McCauley
Polis Books, September 2017
ISBN: 978-1943818716
Trade Paperback

A classic thriller from an experienced, award-winning thriller writer. This is by no means McCauley’s first rodeo. I do confess that while the link of the title to an earlier book, A Murder of Crows, is apparent, the meaning of the title in the context of this novel is obscure to me.

The story is another fraught episode in the continuing saga of James Hicks, now Dean of a super-secret intelligence operation, privately funded, operating as much as possible in secret from somewhere in the Northeast. The group is called The University. Most of the operatives and executives are labeled with college-centric titles. Hence, the former Dean of the agency is called the Trustee.

Mr. Hicks leads a rambunctious organization of marvelously talented shooters, mission planners, analysts, translators and the most advanced technicians in the world. This University operates a highly sophisticated satellite system designed to monitor and counter both friendly (CIA) and unfriendly (China, Russian GRU) computer and surveillance, banking and law enforcement systems.

Ducking drone-carried bombs, machine and shotgun-toting killers, Hicks zooms about the world, thwarting killers, meting out hard-fisted lethal justice, all with the help of a wonderfully varied cadre of close and talented associates.

The characters are distinct, consistent, lethal and fit into the thriller mode comfortably. For fans of this kind of crime novel, everything is presented in plain, straightforward, brutal and realistic language. The one truly intriguing and off-kilter character, Roger Cobb, plays an unusual, really close, friend of Dean James Hicks, a character worth a closer look.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, November 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.