Book Review: Quarry’s Vote by Max Allan Collins

Quarry’s Vote
The Quarry Novels #5
Max Allan Collins
Hard Case Crime, March 2016
ISBN: 978-1-7832-9891-4
Mass Market Paperback

From the publisher:  Now retired and happily married, Quarry turns down a million-dollar contract to assassinate a presidential candidate. It’s not the sort of assignment you can just walk away from without consequences – – but coming after Quarry has consequences, too.  The longest-running series from Max Allan Collins, author of Road to Perdition and the first ever to feature a hitman as the main character, the Quarry novels tell the story of a paid assassin with a rebellious streak and an unlikely taste for justice. Once a Marine sniper, Quarry found a new home stateside with a group of contract killers. But some men aren’t made for taking orders – – and when Quarry strikes off, on his own, God help the man on the other side of his nine-millimeter.

Quarry, who thinks of himself as a Vietnam-era relic, looks at himself at this stage of his life thusly:  “I was thirty-five.  I was getting bored with one-night stands and my own microwave cooking, I wanted some company and she seemed pleasant enough. She talked too much, but most people do.  She was beautiful, a terrific cook, and she kept out of my way.  What more could I ask?”  He’s been retired for nearly ten years, having used the name “Quarry” during those years when he was a paid assassin.  Written in 1987, the book at times seems prescient:  “We are coming into a fascinating election year.  The two parties – – depending upon whom they choose as their standard bearers of course – – should be in for a real battle. Think of it:  the highest office in the land up for grabs…we could have a true conservative in the White House . . .”   He turns down the offer, despite the big bucks involved.  And the situation leaves him deeply unsettled, threatening the life he has come to love, as people such as the ones making this offer don’t like to leave any loose ends.  Thinking of his wife, he muses “She was a sweet kid. I didn’t deserve her, but then who does deserve what they get in this life, good or bad?”

The ensuing tale of killers chasing a killer, who is in turn chasing them, is wonderfully well written.  A target is described as a “wealthy paranoid political crackpot who thinks the Soviets are after him.” When Quarry is asked “Are you a detective or an assassin,” he responds “Necessity has turned me into a little of both.”  When Quarry enters an upper-middle-class residence, he thinks  “It was the home of somebody who used to bowl but now golfs.”  His writing has been called “classic pulp fiction,” but my own take on it is that it is as enjoyable as anything being written contemporaneously.

Highly recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, February 2017.

Book Review: Echoes of Terror by Maris Soule

Echoes of Terror
Maris Soule
Five Star, March 2017
ISBN: 978-1-4328-3281-0
Hardcover

Skagway, Alaska, is a small northern community with a small police force. In spite of the tour ships that visit, bringing many short-time visitors, and an active tourist industry, major crimes are not part of their usual operation. The Chief of Police is recovering in the hospital from a procedure. A senior officer with a day off is not responding to radio calls and an oddly emotional woman stands at the intake desk announcing abrasively that her step-daughter, also just off a cruise liner, is missing. The lone woman law officer on the force, Katherine Ward, is assigned to take care of the woman.

It turns out the girl is the daughter of an extremely wealthy businessman, now in China. The case quickly becomes a kidnapping for ransom and then yet another young girl goes missing. Katherine Ward, an experienced police officer, is beset by conflicting pressures and the odd feeling that there are parallels here to an earlier case, one directly involving Ward. Readers will quickly realize that this is far more complicated than it seems, and with Officer Ward leading the way, we’re drawn into a brutal murder thriller.

The characters are well-delineated and the plot moves forcefully through the book to its conclusion. Along the way there are several surprises which add dimension and heft to the story line. Echoes of Terror is a worthwhile, interesting novel.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, June 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: It’s Always the Husband by Michele Campbell and The Devil’s Cold Dish by Eleanor Kuhns

It’s Always the Husband
Michele Campbell
St. Martin’s Press, May 2017
ISBN 978-1-250-08180-3
Hardcover

From the publisher—

Kate, Aubrey, and Jenny first met as college roommates and soon became inseparable, despite being as different as three women can be. Kate was beautiful, wild, wealthy, and damaged. Aubrey, on financial aid, came from a broken home, and wanted more than anything to distance herself from her past. And Jenny was a striver―brilliant, ambitious, and determined to succeed. As an unlikely friendship formed, the three of them swore they would always be there for each other.

But twenty years later, one of them is standing at the edge of a bridge, and someone is urging her to jump.

How did it come to this?

Kate married the gorgeous party boy, Aubrey married up, and Jenny married the boy next door. But how can these three women love and hate each other? Can feelings this strong lead to murder? When one of them dies under mysterious circumstances, will everyone assume, as is often the case, that it’s always the husband?

I’m kind of conflicted about this book because, while I think the story of these women’s friendship is interesting, I can’t say I actually liked them or the police chief very much. As college students, they seemed like an oddly matched trio and they aren’t really any more compatible as they get older. It’s all just a little sad in a way and, although it’s true I didn’t connect emotionally with any of the three, I was still compelled to keep reading.

The first section drags a bit or perhaps it would be fairer to say that the pacing is on the slow side, deliberately so, and that makes the contrast with the second section even more noticeable. That second section is when I began to pay attention and wanted to know what would eventually happen but I still couldn’t find much in any of these women to care about. Kate in particular is an enigma or, rather, everyone’s near adoration of her is the enigma as she is one of the most unpleasant, better-than-thou people you can imagine.

An awful event in their younger years cements their connection to each other and that secret from the past has deadly implications in the present. This is the interesting part, getting bits and pieces from earlier years that begin to come together now, but it doesn’t quite make up for my dislike of these people. All in all, this is not a book I was crazy about.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, June 2017.

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The Devil’s Cold Dish
Will Rees Mysteries #5
Eleanor Kuhns
Minotaur Books, June 2016
ISBN 978-1-250-09335-6
Hardcover

From the publisher—

Will Rees is back home on his farm in 1796 Maine with his teenage son, his pregnant wife, their five adopted children, and endless farm work under the blistering summer sun. But for all that, Rees is happy to have returned to Dugard, Maine, the town where he was born and raised, and where he’s always felt at home. Until now. When a man is found dead – murdered – after getting into a public dispute with Rees, Rees starts to realize someone is intentionally trying to pin the murder on him. Then, his farm is attacked, his wife is accused of witchcraft, and a second body is found that points to the Rees family. Rees can feel the town of Dugard turning against him, and he knows that he and his family won’t be safe there unless he can find the murderer and reveal the truth…before the murderer gets to him first.

There’s a special place in my reading heart for historical mysteries and I especially like the 17th and 18th centuries in America so this book was sort of calling my name. Happily, I was not the least bit disappointed.

Rees and his family don’t have an easy life on the farm and relations with his sister and his son are very strained but they’re basically content and Will is happy to be back home in Dugard. The politics of the time cause arguments among the townspeople and Will is frequently right in the midst of the fracas but he’s not really prepared for the physical fight he has with an old friend, Mac McIntyre. When another man, Zadoc Ward, is murdered, Constable Caldwell invites Will to come along to see the body.  It’s during his investigation with Caldwell that Will becomes aware of a certain animosity in the community towards him, much stronger than he had thought, but this murder is only the beginning of the attacks on the Rees family.

Ms. Kuhns has a real grasp on this time period and the nuances of the lives of people who experienced the Revolution and its aftermath. Her research is obviously extensive but it doesn’t stilt her writing at all and I could really envision the setting, the times and the people. Not everyone can write historical fiction well but this author certainly does and now I need to reward myself with the previous books in this series.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, June 2017.

Book Review: Solitude by Dean M. Cole

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Title: Solitude
Series: Dimension Space Book 1

Author: Dean M. Cole
Narrators: R.C. Bray and Julia Whelan
Publication Date: April 3, 2017

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Purchase Links:

Audible // iTunes // Amazon

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Solitude
Dimension Space Book 1
Dean M. Cole
Narrated by R.C. Bray and Julia Whelan
CANDTOR Press, April 2017
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

From the publisher—

Earth’s last man discovers that the last woman is stranded alone aboard the International Space Station. If you like action-packed novels, you’ll love the electrifying action in this apocalyptic thriller.

Can humanity’s last two unite?

Separated by the gulf of space, the last man and woman of the human race struggle against astronomical odds to survive and unite.

Army Aviator Vaughn Singleton is a highly intelligent, lazy man. After a last-ditch effort to reignite his failing military career ends horribly, Vaughn becomes the only human left on Earth.

Stranded alone on the International Space Station, Commander Angela Brown watches an odd wave of light sweep across the planet. Over the next weeks and then months, Angela struggles to contact someone on the surface, but as she fights to survive aboard a deteriorating space station, the commander glimpses the dark underpinnings of humanity’s demise.

After months alone, Vaughn discovers there is another. Racing against time, he must cross a land ravaged by the consequences of humankind’s sudden departure.

Can Vaughn find a path to space and back? Can Angela – the only person with clues to the mystery behind humanity’s disappearance – survive until he does?

I have to say I expected to like Solitude but I didn’t expect to be so wrapped up in it that I stayed up all night to listen to it. I literally couldn’t sleep till I knew what was going to happen in the next 30 minutes and the next and the next. I’m usually content to play an audiobook while I’m in the car running errands and then again the next time I go out but that was not going to happen with this one.

There’s not a lot I can say without running afoul of spoilers so I’ll just hit the high points. Solitude has been compared to a few movies, The MartianGravity and I Am Legend, the latter because of the last man aspect, not because of the vampires. The comparisons are not illogical but the kicker here is that we have the supposed last man on earth and the stranded astronaut in the same story and that increased the tension a hundredfold.

Another highlight is that, in most post-apocalyptic stories, the few people we care about have to cope with scavengers and killers but, this time, Vaughn knows he’s the last man so he has no worries other than where he’ll find the next bottle of beer and can of beans…and, of course, the knowledge that he’ll probably go crazy with such total aloneness. He’s especially affected by what happened to his mother and his friend, Mark. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to Vaughn, Angela is slowly starving to death on the space station and running a hopeless radio loop looking for someone, anyone. Granted, there are quite a few helpful coincidences but, then, that’s true in a lot of science fiction, particularly of the apocalyptic sort.

The structure of this book alternates between Vaughn and Angela and the narrators, as you might expect, do a great job with this. Both R.C. Bray and Julia Whelan have well-deserved excellent reputations as narrators and they most certainly did not disappoint with their clear tones, perfect pacing and their evocation of emotions. They had a great deal to do with my love of this book and my high anticipation of the next one. In the meantime, Solitude is going on my list of favorite books read in 2017.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, June 2017.

About the Author

Author, world traveler, and combat pilot turned commercial helicopter pilot Dean M. Cole writes from locales as remote as Equatorial Guinea and as romantic as Paris’s Champs-Elysées with his trusty sidekick and beautiful wife, Donna. A combat veteran, he flew Apache Attack Helicopters in the US Army’s First Cavalry Division.


License to kill revoked by the government, he traded in his attack helicopter for one of the transport ilk. When not weaving tales of alien apocalypse and redemption, he spends his days flying terrestrial aliens in IFOs (Identified Flying Objects) known as helicopters. No longer authorized to dispatch aliens he settles for dropping them off at oil rigs around the globe.

On the six months of time off his paying job affords, author, biker, and fellow Sci-Fi geek Dean M. Cole travels with his wife, builds airplanes and custom choppers, and writes his next tale of the apocalypse.

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About the Narrators

R.C. Bray

From an early age Audie, Earphones, and SOVAS Voice Arts Award-winning audiobook narrator R.C. Bray despised reading. Truly hated it with a passion.

And audiobooks? Even worse. Those were for people too lazy to read (not to be confused with those like himself who didn’t want to read to begin with).

R.C. eventually got older and wiser (he was always good-looking) and eschewing his capricious convictions fell head-over-heels with reading. Not just to learn words like “eschew” and “capricious” so he could use them in a bio line, but because someone was actually going to give him money to do it.

Note: R.C.’s gorgeous wife and three beautiful children begged him not to make this his official bio. Clearly he misunderstood.

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Julia Whelan

Julia Whelan is an actor, writer, and audiobook narrator. She is perhaps most well known for her acting work on ABC’s Once and Again and her award-winning narration of over 200 audiobooks (including Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl). Her debut novel is forthcoming.

After a healthy career as a child actor, Whelan attended Middlebury College and Oxford University, graduating with a degree in English and Creative Writing.

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Play an excerpt here.

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Follow the tour:

Jun. 14th: Spunky-n-Sassy (Spotlight + Audio Excerpt, Giveaway)

Jun. 15th: Avid Book Collector (Spotlight + Audio Excerpt, Giveaway)

Jun. 16th: Brian’s Book Blog (Review)

Jun. 17th: CGB Blog Tours (Spotlight & Audio Excerpt)

Jun. 18th: The Pursuit of Bookishness (Review)

Jun. 19thThe Bookworm Lodge (Spotlight & Audio Excerpt)

Jun. 20th: Read Day and Night (Review)

Jun. 21st: Shh I Am Reading (Spotlight + Audio Excerpt, Giveaway)

Jun. 22nd: The Book Addict’s Reviews (Review, Spotlight & Audio Excerpt)

Jun. 23rd: Book Reviews By Jasmine (Spotlight + Audio Excerpt)

Jun. 24th: Lisa Loves Literature (Author Interview & Giveaway)

Jun. 25th: Buried Under Books (Review & Giveaway)

Jun. 26th: Lomeraniel (Review, Spotlight + Audio Excerpt, Giveaway)

Jun. 27th: Lilly’s Book World (Review)

Jun. 29th: Joshua Gayou (Review, Author Interview)

Jun. 30th: Book Lover’s Life (Review & Giveaway)

Jul. 3rdRonelle Antoinette (Spotlight + Audio Excerpt, Music Playlist)

Jul. 4thDab of Darkness (Author Interview, Giveaway)

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Book Review: Deadly Shore by Andrew Cunningham

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Title: Deadly Shore
Author: Andrew Cunningham
Narrator: Greg Hernandez
Publication Date: January 31, 2017

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Purchase Links:

Audible // iTunes // Amazon

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Deadly Shore
Andrew Cunningham
Andrew Cunningham, January 2017
Narrated by Greg Hernandez
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

From the author—

It’s July 5th, and the Cape Cod roadways are clogged with tourists heading home from the holiday weekend and trying to outrun an approaching potentially catastrophic hurricane. But in the blink of an eye, their lives are thrown into chaos when terrorists bring down the bridges to the Cape. Instantly, a half million terrified people have no way to escape. And when the terrorists threaten to release anthrax on the captive population if their demands aren’t met, fear turns to all-out panic.

With time running out, Marcus Baldwin, a private investigator and former CIA operative, and Sara Cross, a disgraced ex-homicide detective, are brought together by a sole clue to the identity of the terrorists. They quickly realize that they may be the only ones with even a chance at stopping the plot before it’s too late.

With Hurricane Chad barreling up the coast on a path for a direct hit on Cape Cod, it becomes frighteningly clear to everyone trapped on what has now become an island – one way or another they are probably all going to die.

A while back, probably 15  or 20 years, there seemed to be a lot of natural disaster novels  and I snatched up every one of them I could find. They’ve been pretty scarce since then so, when I read the description of Deadly Shore, I had to have it and I mean to tell you, this is a good one. Not only do we have an approaching hurricane that keeps growing in strength, we also have a nifty terrorist crime going on. The hurricane doesn’t actually play a large physical role; it’s the looming threat of the storm that matters to the people on Cape Cod.

The hallmark of a good disaster novel is that all kinds of things happen that are beyond the pale, so to speak, definitely over the top and without much basis in reality. To truly enjoy it, you have to be willing to put aside your inclination to look for what doesn’t make sense and just go with the flow. Carrying out the dastardly plot in this book is as disbelief-suspending as it gets from the initial plan itself to the acquisition of the necessary materials to finding just the right group of henchmen to controlling all the pieces parts…well, you get the idea. Oh, and don’t forget the plethora of coincidences that not only bring together a former CIA operative and a disgraced cop but allow them to come across the perfect clues just when they need to. And I loved every minute of it 😉

As for the narration, a funny thing happened on the way to the finish. Usually, I’m very aware of the narrator’s ability to differentiate characters but, this time, I got all the way to the end before I noticed that Mr. Hernandez didn’t do such a great job with voices. And you know what? It didn’t matter. Mr. Hernandez has a really pleasing tone and is easy to listen to plus he has the ability to convey the tension and sense of doom a book like this needs. I might not  be able to quickly identify a character by the voice but Mr. Cunningham’s dialogue is written in such a manner as to let me know who’s talking when.

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed Deadly Shore and found myself hanging out in my driveway because I wanted to hear what would happen next. That, my friends, is a sign of an exciting audiobook, don’t you think?

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, June 2017.

About the Author
Andrew Cunningham

I was born in England, but have spent most of my life living in the U.S.—including  25 years on Cape Cod before moving to Florida. A former interpreter for the deaf and long-time independent bookseller, I’ve been a full-time freelance writer and copy editor for many years. A 4th-degree Master Blackbelt in Tang Soo Do, I finally retired from active training when my body said, “Enough already! Why are you doing this to yourself?” I’m married, with two grown children and two awesome grandsons. My wife and I spend as much time traveling as we can, and are especially fond of cruising the Caribbean.

​I have been gratified by the response to my books. When I published Eden Rising back in the spring of 2013, I had no idea what to expect. When I sold my first few copies, I was excited beyond belief that someone was willing to take a chance on it. Numerous books and thousands of copies later, I am still humbled by the emails I get from readers telling me that my books kept them up late into the night.

In October of 2014, Wisdom Spring made me an official Amazon Bestselling author, a thrill I never thought would happen. But it still comes down to being able to bring a few hours of escape to a reader. That’s what it’s all about for me.

WebsiteFacebookTwitterGoodreadsAmazon

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About the Narrator
Greg Hernandez

For more than 20 years I worked as a radio news reporter and news writer.  I spent half of my broadcasting career at ABC News Radio in the Washington, D.C., bureau.  I covered all the federal agencies as well as Congress and the White House.  I reported on a wide range of stories during my career, including financial and entertainment industry news.

I have worked as a federal government spokesman at three separate agencies for more than 20 years.  At the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA, U.S. Commerce Department), I introduced podcasting in 2005 just a few weeks before Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast of the United States.  The 19 podcasts I narrated and produced from August 2005 to June 2007 were downloaded more than 600,000 times during that period.  They’re still online at the following link.

http://www.noaa.gov/podcasts/podcast-archive.html

I enjoy narrating audio books because it gives me great satisfaction bringing to life books of all genres, especially mysteries and thrillers.

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Play an excerpt here.

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Follow the tour:

Jun. 21st:
Kristina Stanley (Spotlight + Audio Excerpt)

Jun. 22nd:
Dab of Darkness (Review)
Buried Under Books (Review)

Jun. 23rd:
CGB Blog Tours (Spotlight + Audio Excerpt)
The Bookworm Lodge (Spotlight + Audio Excerpt)

Jun. 24th:
A Book and A Latte (Review)

Jun. 25th:
Lomeraniel (Review, Spotlight + Audio Excerpt)
Jorie Loves A Story (Review)

Jun. 26th:
Between the Coverz (Review, Spotlight + Audio Excerpt)
Bound 4 Escape (Review)
Audio Audits (Review)

Jun. 27th:
Hall Ways (Review, Spotlight + Audio Excerpt)
The Book Addict’s Reviews (Review, Spotlight + Audio Excerpt)

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Book Reviews: Baby Shark’s Showdown at Chigger Flats by Robert Fate and The Right Wrong Number by Jim Nesbitt

Baby Shark’s Showdown at Chigger Flats
Baby Shark #5
Robert Fate
Robert Bealmear, July 2012
Ebook

For readers of racing, abrupt and heavily plot-driven novels, here’s a fine example. Plus, it’s very well written with unusual and intriguing characters set in the blasted climate of the vast Texas oil fields. The action begins in the very beginning. In Fort Worth, Texas in 1960. Otis and Baby are on their way out of their office to a surveillance job. By the time the chapter ends, one guy has been dispatched by car bumper, another by .38, a third would-be assassin by heavy-duty handgun slug and at least one thug semi-crushed where he sat in their vehicle.

The cops show up of course, and some minor nicks and scrapes are duly attended to. Meanwhile, snappy dialogue between Otis and Baby and a few other characters effectively establish the characters, professions and attitudes of some characters. And, importantly, we get the foundation of the plot. A vanquished adversary, a very bad person, has been released from the Texas Penitentiary on compassionate leave. Now, word is out he wants revenge, and he has a lot of help.

Well, there is almost no let-down in pace, narrative voice or dialog between the characters for the entire novel. A delightful, bloody thriller of a crime novel.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, September 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.

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The Right Wrong Number
An Ed Earl Burch Novel #2
Jim Nesbitt
Spotted Mule Press, February 2017
ISBN: 978-0-9983294-0-6
Trade Paperback

This novel is filled with wrong numbers. Nearly every character is wrong, is one you would not enjoy having dinner with. Most of us would be afraid to walk down a dark street or even have a beer with any of them for fear of getting caught in the violent wash of a sudden shoot-out. Make no mistake, this is what we call a nasty, hard-boiled murder story. There’s no mystery here. The bad guys are carefully identified and described. There are no good guys, even the cops are at best flawed and mostly getting through life by bending the rules whenever necessary.

This exciting, roiling, novel is set in Texas and the action, nearly constant, runs from throttlings in Houston to gunfire, rape and murder in Dallas, as well as several points in between. The southern border to Mexico is breached as well. The story follows ex-cop, and former homicide dick, former footballer, Ed Earl Burch. He is paying in pain for his history and the loss of his gold shield due to questionable actions. He is over-weight, under-paid, living half the time from paid gigs as a private detective who has a rep that he’ll take on any sort of case. He seems to live the rest of the time wound up in the naked, sweaty limbs of ex-wives, current girlfriends and sundry other females, all of questionable social status. The sex is often violent, sometimes brutal, explicit and frequent.

Burch becomes entangled in a complicated arrangement involving the transfer of large amounts of cash and illegal hard goods among banks and assorted gangs across international boundaries. Burch agrees to aid the wife of one of the principals in trying to wrest large chunks of money from her mate. Her attraction to Burch is not so much in desperately needed coin of the realm as it is in the use of her body. Their sex is frequent and frank and varied. The more they plan and maneuver, the more collateral damage occurs, to foe and friend alike.

The pace of the author’s writing is mostly fast, furious and relentless. Occasionally he lapses into rambling philosophical observations, but those too are well-written, as is the entirety of the novel. This is certainly not a crime novel with universal reader appeal, but it will have strong appeal to a particular segment of the reading public.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, May 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 Review: Jimmy and Fay by Michael Mayo

Jimmy and Fay
The Jimmy Quinn Mysteries #3
Michael Mayo
Open Road/Mysterious Press, October 2016
ISBN 978-1-5040-3607-8
Trade Paperback

Jimmy and Fay reads like one of those old gangster films from the thirties, mixing noir and glamour with a touch of the illegal thrown in to keep it interesting. Jimmy Quinn runs a speakeasy in New York City; his girlfriend Connie Nix and right-hand man Arch Malloy keep the business going. Someone has made dirty photos of the film “King Kong” but anyone can see the woman in the photos in not Fay Wray. Even so, the studio is anxious to make the story go away. They will pay $6000 to the blackmailers and Jimmy is tapped to be the go-between for ten percent.

“Jimmy the Stick” is not your usual good guy battling evil. He’s short, has a bum leg, and sometimes uses his cane as a weapon. The story focuses on the seedy world of stag films, corrupt cops and blackmail. Real life gangsters Meyer Lansky and Lucky Luciano provide background for the world of Prohibition in 1933 New York City. Plenty of colorful slang and details from the time period add to the solid mystery at the center of this story.

The author writes on film for the Washington Post and the Roanoke Times, and is the author of American Murder: Criminals, Crime and the Media. This is the third in the Jimmy Quinn series.

Reviewed by Susan Belsky, March 2017.