Book Review: Fools’ River by Timothy Hallinan

Fools’ River
A Poke Rafferty Thriller #8
Timothy Hallinan
Soho Crime, November 2017
ISBN: 978-1-61695-750-6

The author writes in an afterword: “I had a vague idea when I started writing Fools’ River that it might be fun to bring together three or four simultaneous stories and see whether I could tell them all in a very compressed span…”  And so he did, relating several threads within 36 hours.

So we begin with Edward, the leading man in a play with Miaow, Poke Rafferty’s adopted daughter, begging Poke to find his father who is missing for 12 days; the travail of the father, one of a series of men lured by sex and imprisoned while his capturers milk bank accounts and credit cards; the life and times of Lutanh, a boy-girl, which permits descriptions of the seedier side of Thailand and its sex-obsessed trade; then there is Rose, former bar girl, married to Poke for seven years and now bearing his child in a difficult pregnancy, and mother of Miaow; and lastly Poke’s constant worry about Rose, while attempting to find Edward’s father.

The descriptions of the corruption of the Bangkok police is penetrating as are observations of the sex establishments: the Cherry Girls, the bars and of the farangs chasing after them.   Each of the sub-plots is fast-paced and absorbing and brings the reader along to a thrilling finish.


Reviewed by Ted Feit, November 2017.

Book Review: Death’s Way by Christopher Valen

Death's WayDeath’s Way
A John Santana Novel
Christopher Valen
Conquill Press, March 2014
ISBN No. 978-0-9800017-7-8
Trade Paperback

John Santana, St. Paul Homicide Detective, is called to a death scene in a downtown hotel room. The case at first glance appears to be a case of autoerotic asphyxiation gone wrong. She was choked by the plastic bag over her head that evidently was to serve as a safety device but the victim passed out before she could get the bag off. There was a silk scarf around the waist of the corpse and hooks of a red bungee cord bound around her waist was attached to a second strap that stretched up her back, around her neck, and down to the waist strap again. From all appearances, this death was an accidental suicide but Santana always considered death by strangulation a homicide until proved otherwise.

The hotel room was actually a spacious, private suite. Santana searched the purse left in the room and found a driver’s license identifying the deceased as Catalina Diaz, twenty-two years old. The purse contained no keys or cell phone which was unusual since most people carried a cell phone and keys of some type to an apartment, house or car. He also found a small envelope containing five one hundred dollar bills and a business card for a Dr. Philip Campbell.

John’s partner, Kacie Hawkins, checks and finds that Catalina Diaz had used the same hotel two weeks earlier. Hawkins has her car towed to the impound lot. According to the key log, Diaz entered the hotel room at 9:32 p.m. the previous night and never left. Philip Campbell checked out at 6:00 a.m. this morning. Santana and Hawkins search the victim’s condo in downtown St. Paul and Santana finds a couple of items commonly used in Day of the Dead celebrations in Mexico. He also found a picture of Diaz with a woman he thought was probably Nina Rivera, Diaz’s roommate. Santana also finds a list of the names of three men hidden in a drawer.

A woman brings her daughter to the police department with a story of a similar death six years before. This strange story captures Santana’s interest and he searches for connections between call girls and their involvement with powerful men. This is just a brief summary of the beginning of the case.

The story is very exciting and is a fast read and many of the details will be shocking and hard to imagine. Detective John Santana is a complex character and the reader gets to know him better with each novel. I’m looking forward to the next one.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, March 2014.

Book Reviews: The Hanging by Wendy Hornsby and The Past Never Ends by Jackson Burnett

The HangingThe Hanging
Wendy Hornsby
Perseverance Press, September 2012
ISBN 978-1-56474-526-2
Trade Paperback

Who knew film making could be so deadly? A camera rolls, interviews taken, edits done afterward. But what happens if you capture a death on film? It’s another snap-action case for Maggie McGowan.We catch up with the investigative filmmaker on a stint at a local community college when death enters the hallowed halls, it’s shutter speed to the final cut.

Who killed Park Holloway, president of Anacapa Community College? Maggie MacGowan, investigative filmmaker on a short-term contract teaching film production is on the case. And she has plenty of suspects: The art student whose award winning project Holloway wanted scuttled? The college’s fund raising chairperson who discovered Holloway’s illegal financial shenanigans? The interim vice president of the college? A donor who was duped by Holloway? While Maggie deals with a new love in her life and seeking background information for one of her students, she steps closer each day to exposing the killer. Will her final film project end in her death?

This one was full of subplots that were tendrils away from the main mystery, but they rounded out the characters to keep them interesting. Hornsby does a good job of bringing in pertinent background information about Maggie so that new readers to the series aren’t left with questions. I think those tidbits entice and urge readers to pick up previous mysteries to find out the whole story.

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


The Past Never EndsThe Past Never Ends
Jackson Burnett
Deadly Niche Press, July/2012
ISBN 978-1-62016-003-9
Trade Paperback

What does a man do when haunted by a death? What does he do when another man wants the death of a woman investigated? How does he cope with an ailing mother, pesky clients, a no nonsense judge, and a new romance? Well, if you’re Chester Morgan, you do the best you can and hope the best will out.

In a bustling Oklahoma city, attorney Chester Morgan enjoys his law practice, treats his clients better than other attorneys would, and just wants to see justice done. Weeks after finding the corpse of a prosperous and honest-as-the-day-is-long oilman in the YMCA pool, Morgan is caught up in another enigmatic case, the death of a stripper/hooker in the desperate side of town. The problem: nobody in authority will tell him anything about the death. So, Morgan starts investigating and discovers the sleazy side of life, from dirty cops to a mother who pimps her daughter. And what do the tenuous connections to the oilman’s death mean?

Compelling characters, intriguing mystery with well scattered evidence. I must admit, there are punctuation/grammar/spelling/phrasing errors and Burnett tends to wax nostalgic or philosophical at times, however, the basic plot kept me turning the pages. Like Morgan, I longed to see the puzzle solved and justice done

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