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 Reviews: Cover Me in Darkness by Eileen Rendahl and Dating Death by Randy Rawls

cover-me-in-darknessCover Me in Darkness
Eileen Rendahl
Midnight Ink, December 2016
ISBN: 978-0-7387-5020-0
Trade Paperback

How do you live with yourself when you believe your little brother was murdered by your half-mad mother, apparently with your help? Amanda Sinclair has tried to put her youthful past behind her, has grown into an important job as a lead quality control testing scientist for a new and exciting company.

Out of that past she receives word that her mother has committed suicide. Far from settling her emotions and closing a door on that episode, she slowly begins to realize that the woman’s death may somehow be linked to the upcoming release from prison of the leader of a cult to which her mother once belonged. Beset by emotions, Amanda concentrates on final verifications of a new product in her lab and the results are raising questions about some of the reports already submitted.

Add a wise and sympathetic cop, suspicious but supportive colleagues and the keen observations of a talented author and here is a novel to be remembered.

While I’m not sure about the title, I strongly endorse this dark emotion-filled novel of suspense. It is very well written, insightful, thoughtful and the central character, Amanda Sinclair, comes alive on the page. The pace and the setting are well handled and easily evoke the locale. Although not for the more timid reader of murder mysteries, Cover Me In Darkness, is well worth the time and attention of serious readers.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, January 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.

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

dating-deathDating Death
Beth Bowman Private Investigator #3
Randy Rawls
White Bird Publications, April 2016
ISBN 978-1-63363-151-9
Trade Paperback

Randy Rawls writes a sort of brawling, booted, western-style detective novel. Except this detective is located in southern Florida. Beth Bowman takes no back seat to anyone and in her third adventure actually accepts an insane assignment from the local chief of police. She’s to bodyguard a flamboyant local pol who is due to spill all about crime in their city. Beth is to try to keep the pol alive until he can testify. It doesn’t go well, naturally and now Beth has to try to locate the killer.

That investigation doesn’t go well, either and after a number of fairly exciting adventures, Beth falls in with a homeless shelter operation wherein the street folks domiciled there happen to be the best undercover operatives in the city. So Beth, unable to get necessary help from officialdom, goes to the amateur league. You already guessed it. After stumbling over some pretty obvious clues and missing some others, everybody ends up on the same page and justice prevails, but not before a few dead bodies show up.

Well written and perfectly organized, Dating Death is a good weekend confection.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, August 2016.
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: Death, the Devil and the Goldfish by Andrew Buckley

Death, the Devil and the GoldfishDeath, the Devil and the Goldfish
Andrew Buckley
Curiosity Quills, December 2012
ISBN: 978-1-62007-125-0
Trade Paperback

Death has had enough. A pub in Ireland might have something to do with that, but still, he’s had enough. And the Devil is due for another sojourn on earth, his first in a few thousand years. One week outside the confines and agonies of Hell and he can’t wait. Being the Devil, he has a plan up his sleeve. I mean, why relax for a week when you can wreck havoc? He just hasn’t reckoned on the prophetic, telepathic powers of one goldfish called Jeremiah. The problem is, Jeremiah’s memory isn’t the greatest and…oh look, someone’s put a castle in his bowl.

I have to say, this book gripped me in the first page and didn’t let go until I found the last dizzying sentence. Anyone who can appreciate the sense of humour in the UK will love this book as it is delightfully hilarious with its absurd scenarios and the way everything flies in the face of logic. Admittedly, it was sometimes difficult to keep up with the story as it zigzagged from character to character but in the end, it was well worth it. The further on the story went, the easier it was to keep a hold on who was who and what they were supposed to be doing, or in some cases, not doing. I quite liked the whole storyline with Death and his new friend Gerald, formerly a penguin but now deposited in the body of a former Olympic swimmer who met an unfortunate end via a bus and a driver called Dante. See what I mean about the British humour?

There are a lot of laugh out loud moments so whatever you do, don’t drink tea when you’re reading this book. A visitor to the house who was doing some computer work with my husband even asked me what I was laughing at since I kept disturbing them with my loud and unpredictable cackle. At one point, I checked what page I was at and realised that I had ploughed through almost 150 pages without realising. Imagine my disappointment when I knew I only had forty pages left which has to be a sign of a good read. This story is brilliantly funny with a host of characters that are interesting and have enough quirks to keep psychiatrists in business for a millennia.

If you get the chance to read Death, The Devil and the Goldfish, I heartily recommend that you do and judging from the ending and epilogue, there just might be another title coming our way. Lucky us!

Reviewed by Laura McLaughlin, February 2013.

Book Reviews: Thorns on Roses by Randy Rawls, Nightwatcher by Wendy Corsi Staub, Fatal Induction by Bernadette Pajer, and A Dead Red Heart by R.P. Dahlke

Thorns On Roses
Randy Rawls
L&L Dreamspell, 2011
ISBN No. 978-1-60318-375-8
Trade Paperback

Currently Tom Jeffries is a private investigator.   Jeffries is an ex-Special Forces operative and an ex-Dallas police officer.   Jeffries is also on retainer with an elite Florida law firm. Jeffries has a habit of leaving his business card in various places.  He has a note on the back “If I can help, call me.” and he signs the card.  The police found a body of a girl and Jeffries is contacted to identify the body.  Jeffries is called because one of his business cards is clutched in the hand of the victim.  While at the morgue Jeffries states that he can’t identify the body and does not reveal that he knows the identity of the victim.

Jeffries’ best friend Charlie Rogers has been in contact with him regarding the disappearance of his stepdaughter, 17-year old Mary Lou Smithson.  Now Jeffries must make a call to Charlie to tell him the girl’s body is at the morgue.    Several weeks ago, Jeffries had given Lonnie, Mary Lou’s Mother, some of his cards.  Lonnie was concerned about her daughter, Mary Lou, who had taken a part time job at a supermarket chain.  Since Mary Lou had been working, she had been breaking rules and Lonnie could not seem to halt the rebellion and then she disappeared.

One clue on the body is a tattoo of a rose.  The tattoo is a connection to a gang operating in the area.  Jeffries vows to seek revenge for Mary Lou and so begins an exciting chase but the police do not appreciate his involvement in the case.  The law firm that Jeffries works for is afraid his vendetta will create bad publicity for the firm.  Abby Archer, an attorney, is assigned the job of watching over Jeffries and reporting back to the firm.  The relationship between the two is interesting to say the least.

This is one of the best books I have read in a long time. The characters are good, the story is excellent and there is never a dull moment.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, June 2012.

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

Nightwatcher
Wendy Corsi Staub
Harper, August 2012
ISBN No. 978-0062070289
Mass Market Paperback

Terrifying in more than one way, this novel holds the interest of the reader from the very beginning and just does not let go.  The book begins the night before the terrorist strike on New York on September 11, 2001.

Allison Taylor lives in Manhattan and loves it.   Allison is a style editor at 7th Avenue Magazine. Kristina Haines lives in the apartment above Allison’s and the two are neighbors.  Kristina is an aspiring Broadway actress.  The two visit in the laundry room from time to time and have exchanged keys to their apartments with each other in case of emergency.

Jerry Thompson is the maintenance man in the apartment building.  Kristina tells Allison that Jerry is creeping her out.  She says he is always watching her.  Allison assures Kristina that Jerry is harmless.  Jerry is a little slow but Allison feels that he would not hurt anyone.

Suddenly terrorists strike New York. The city is in a shambles.  All members of the police departments and the fire departments are called to the scene.  Many are trying to find friends and family of their own as well as looking for survivors.  Allison is forced to walk most of the way home from a late party.

Allison hasn’t seen Kristina since the tragedy and thinks perhaps she went to stay with a friend but when she goes to Kristina’s apartment to check she finds that Kristina has been brutally murdered.  Detective Rocko  Manzillo is in charge of the investigation.  He explains to Allison that although the department is short-handed the police will be at the apartment for quite some time investigating the murder.  Allison tells Detective Manzillo about Kristina’s fear of Jerry but Allison doesn’t even know his last name or where to find him.

This novel gives people who did not live in New York a better view of the city after the tragedy.  The murder investigation goes on in spite of Detective Manzillo being short-handed and working almost around the clock.  I am ready to read the next Wendy Corsi Staub novel called Sleepwalker.  There is an excerpt from the next book at the end of Nightwatcher.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, July 2012.

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

Fatal Induction
Bernadette Pajer
Poisoned Pen Press, May 2012
ISBN No. 978-1-59058-614-3
Trade Paperback
Also available in hardcover

Mystery, science, gypsies, and the assassination of President McKinley all play major roles in this novel.  Benjamin Bradshaw is a Professor of Electrical Engineering and is currently involved in an electrical competition.  The contest winner’s telephonic system will deliver music from the Seattle Grand theatre to homes throughout the city.  The reader can only imagine what this would mean to people sitting at home and able to hear music from the theater.

Bradshaw is sidetracked a bit when he finds a gypsy peddler cart abandoned behind his home.  The cart advertises “Ralph’s Redeeming Restorative, the Romany Remedy that Really Works”.  The inside of the cart revealed a little girl’s doll.  Bradshaw brings the doll in the house where he lives with his housekeeper, Mrs. Prouty, and his son Jason who is in the third grade.  Mrs. Prouty is indignant because the horse attached to the wagon has been busy in her garden.  Bradshaw is upset because he feels that the missing little girl may have witnessed a murder.

The city is in shock over the death of President McKinley.  The police department, many of whom are corrupt, could care less about a missing gypsy and the little girl who owns the doll.  Bradshaw decides that he is going to locate the child and goes to great lengths to search for her putting himself in danger.  At last he devises a scheme that will set a trap that he hopes will catch the killer.

This is the second book in the Professor Bradshaw series.  It is not necessary to read A Spark of Death, the first book in order to enjoy Fatal Induction.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, July 2012.

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

A Dead Red Heart
R. P. Dahlke
Dead Bear Publishing, 2011
ISBN No. 9781463582814
Trade Paperback

Lalla Bains is an ex-model and Aero Ag pilot and a wonderful character that I am looking forward to getting to know better. After giving up her modeling career as well as giving up a couple of husbands, Lalla is back in Modesto, California.

Lalla’s father is in bad health and so is his crop dusting business.  Crop dusting does not sound like a very complicated business but I soon found out that it is a very complicated business particularly when someone is sabotaging your company.

Sheriff Caleb Stone is the main man in Lalla’s life but when Billy Wayne Dobson, a man who is self-medicating his post-traumatic stress disorder, begins to stalk Lalla, she decides to take matters into her own hands rather than allow Caleb to handle the problem.  Caleb is talking restraining order and Lalla just can’t bring herself to allow the restraining order to be issued.  Billy Wayne is shy and easily startled and Lalla feels that she is better equipped to deal with Billy Wayne.

Mr. Kim’s Chinese restaurant is where Lalla locates Billy Wayne who appears to be in a drunken stupor.  When Lalla tries to wake Billy up he rolls over and she sees the blood stains spreading across his shirt.  Billy Wayne manages to give Lalla a cryptic message just before he dies.

The author introduces the reader to a number of characters that make this book a great read.   Rather than trust Sheriff Stone and his staff to find the murderer Lalla begins her own investigation into Billy Wayne’s death as well the problems behind her father’s crop dusting business and generally gets herself in a ton of trouble.

If Lalla pulls into your town in her vintage cherry red Cadillac, get ready for a lot of excitement.  This is the second book in the series but it is not necessary to read the books in order.  I look forward to reading more books by R. P. Dahlke.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, October 2012.