Mystery readers who love New York: this book is for you. Missing: A Finn Delaney New York City Mystery introduces 25-year-old Finn, a fifth-generation police officer from a family that reveres the NYPD. When an unlucky accident ends his NYPD career, Finn becomes the next best thing: a Private Eye. Finn’s new career is off to a rocky start, complete with threadbare office and octogenarian assistant. Luckily, Finn quickly moves beyond the so-called “cavalcade of crazies” and stumbles into his first serious case. Follow Finn as he searches for a missing person who NYPD claims is not missing at all.
In Missing, Robert L. Bryan explores duty, loyalty, and friendship. He also plumbs the depths of vice that simmer in the city: corruption, greed, and crime. Bryan hits his storytelling stride as the details of the case unfurl. The plot moves quickly with confounding clues, hints of danger, and a parade of compelling characters.
Bryan has a knack for provocative characters. Finn’s apparent lack of self-determination can be frustrating—he seemingly rode a conveyer belt from booties to NYPD blues—but he develops into a likable main character. Early client stories, like the time Finn tailed a cat, are charming but lose something in bullet point format. The reader groans when Finn’s most pressing professional dilemma involves a desk chair and cheers when he finally lands a case.
Still, Finn is inscrutable. Other characters respond to him with generosity and affection when he shows none. I think the women in Finn’s world would benefit from added nuance; they are often one-dimensional. Finn’s father is a bright spot: unwavering in his support and helpful when Finn needs it most. We should all be so lucky.
Fans of the boroughs will enjoy devoted descriptions of Queen’s minutiae. Every intersection is noted, every landmark observed. Do I see a Finn Delaney walking tour of Queens in my future? Yes, please.
The book doubles back at times with Finn uncovering clues already revealed; in one notable situation, Finn hits upon the lynchpin of the case twice in seven pages. The book is lightly sprinkled with errors in grammar and punctuation. Despite these minor distractions, Missing is a satisfying mystery and a good read.
Pages: 197 | ASIN: B07L9DBXDN
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It is 1939 when the bullet-riddled body of an accounting clerk from a gambling ship washes up under the Santa Monica pier. As city homicide detectives tenaciously chase down their only clue—a fast, expensive, and very exclusive Bugatti—their investigation leads them into a tangle of competing gangsters all looking to muscle their way to a bigger share of illegal gambling.
Meanwhile, Los Angeles County deputy district attorney Cliff Thoms is leading a special squad searching for a pair of serial killers who have already killed four young women and are on the hunt for more. Thoms, with the help of a self-proclaimed psychic he doesn’t quite trust, risks lives and careers in a desperate gamble to catch his elusive quarry. As the two investigations collide and rush to a deadly conclusion, dirty cops, DAs on the take, mobsters, grieving families, and reformer politicians must attempt to distinguish lies from the truth. Unfortunately, they are all about to discover that even the truth won’t help them now.
In this fast-paced tale of murder and gangland intrigue, a gritty district attorney and a band of detectives set out on a quest to solve two separate crimes amid a corrupted 1939 Los Angeles.
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What is the meaning of success; titles, money, family, happiness? These are the questions Nata and Karl must face as their life makes dramatic changes from their carefully planned out future. Nata is fostered by working class parents Joe & Hetty, Karl comes from the upper-class elite. Nata’s biological father was abusive to both her and her mother, leading her to fear men, and especially any and all sexual contact. Despite her reservations Karl works his way into her heart and they marry with the intent of living full professional lives that does not include a family. Nata however finds out she is pregnant and together they must figure out how to adjust their life goals and ambitions to this new situation. While battling with his ideals about his personal life, Karl must make some choices about his professional career as a lawyer. Knowing what is right and knowing what you can make a difference with are gray areas when you’re a lawyer dealing with the upper-class elite.
On the surface this book starts off with the story of two people from different worlds coming together to make their relationship work through unplanned events, pregnancy. As the story deepens you see beyond the surface struggles or plans changing, you see the deep wounds that childhood sexual abuse brings; you see the residual effects of emotional abuse and withholding of love and support to a child. It changes the world view, it changes what is important in life. Nata and Karl could be anyone you encounter in the professional world. They are focused on their goals but when life turns things upside down, their struggles to connect and find a path forward are relatable. Unplanned pregnancy, changing life goals of prestige or happy home life, can they all be merged? Karl’s professional life is also dealt a staggering blow. He knows the difference between right and wrong but knows fighting against what is wrong in this case is career suicide. He takes the safe way out to save his career, but it nags at him. He continues to try and find balance between right and wrong.
While Karl is trying to find his way, Nata is trying to make peace with her past and the demons that follow her. It is a realistic view into how sexual abuse continues to hurt people well into adult lives and impact their life decisions. When her baby is born early due to a car accident she is thrust into even more challenging emotions, a premature birth, a child that will have lifelong medical needs, a husband that can’t come to terms with a non-perfect child. Lorraine Cobcroft’s ability to tap into those emotions and the mindset of a new mother experiencing them is profound. So often these things are glossed over for other more comfortable plot lines, however Mortgaged Goods puts these deep emotions and controversial topics right into the forefront of the novel, making them key points.
While the novel starts out looking like it will be a ‘lawyer takes on the corrupt upper tiers of society’ type novel, this book is so much more. Mortgaged Goods by Lorraine Cobcroft tackles deep emotional issues, sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, corruption of society, to include law enforcement, judges, and politicians. Through it all though, it is a novel about making a relationship work though the hard times, finding out what is truly important in life, and making the best of what life hands you, even when that is not what you have carefully laid out in your life plans.
Pages: 278 | ASIN: B018ZVWE5O
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“While Kenyatta initiated corruption, and made it a pastime for well-placed government officials, Moi institutionalized it and made it routine within all ranks of society.”
Looters and Grabbers, 54 Years of Corruption and Plunder by the Elite by Joe Khamisi is a detailed account of the historical and contemporary corruption plaguing the African country of Kenya. It details corruption from the highest levels of government down to average citizens. Each chapter is dedicated to a specific theme of corruption spanning from 1963 to 2017 and encompassing four presidencies; Presidents Jomo Kenyatta, Daniel arap Moi, Mwai Kibaki, and Uhuru Kenyatta.
I started this book thinking there would be some kind of a silver lining at the end, but there isn’t one. What you’ll find is a detailed account of the pervasive corruption that is literally everywhere in Kenya. Time and time again it’s shown how corruption is despised by all but is undertaken at every opportunity. It seems that anti-corruption is the political rallying call, but profit is always the underlying goal.
This is a historical book in that it does describe the rise of four of Kenya’s presidents, Kenya’s independence from Britain, and the development of Kenya’s modern government, but it does all of this with a focus on corruption; from it’s inception into it’s many manifestations in every part of Kenya’s government. One thing that I learned is how corruption in Kenya is not a local affair, but a global enterprise. European, Asian, and Western countries have had their turn profiting from corruption in Kenya.
One thing I did enjoy was how we get to see the country develop, through stories of corruption, into modern times. We go from President Kenyatta who is the first president when Kenya receives its independence from Britain, to president Uhuru who its noted as having a large Twitter following. At one point even mentioning Paul Manafort and his company helping the Kenyan President resuscitate his global image.
This is a good book for those interested in history, African culture, political science students, and most of all corruption. If you’re interested in learning how corruption is instituted, contributed to, and perpetuated, then this book is a master class in delivering specific examples.
What concerned me the most after reading account after account was that, as the author states, these are the corruption cases that we know about, and have been documented or reported on by the media. I’m sure there are plenty more that we don’t know about.
This book is exceptionally researched with a wealth of references. Joe Khamisi has done a fantastic job turning a list of corruption cases into a linear narrative that is compelling and thought provoking.
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Turning Blue: A Life Beneath the Shield is like reading Lawrence Hoffman’s diary. This is a not a fiction novel, it is all real life told from Hoffman’s voice. The book starts out when Lawrence is just a boy and his fascination with uniforms. We walk though his college and young adult life as he takes different jobs and finds his way eventually ending up taking the police officer exam for the NYPD. From here the book is a series of stories, like sitting and listening to a relative recount their life. As a reader you get to hear his emotions, see what he sees, and experience life on the New York city streets from the eyes of the police from the moment he takes his exam, to his retirement over 20 years later.
One of the first things that grabbed me in this book was the details of New York, Lawrence describing growing up on Long Island (LI) and the city boroughs and bodegas it was almost nostalgic. I could imagine his life growing up on LI with his friends and their experiences with school and sports and even the crazy neighbor that he ends up respecting and admiring as he grows older. I felt like I was in the city the way Lawrence described the locations and the people he encountered, it made me want to keep reading. Aside from the great detail of NYC, the book is just engaging. The chapters are all individual memories and stories and each one is entertaining. You follow his career and you feel like you are right there with him as his partner. Some moments are horrifying, others are deeply emotional and touching. This account isn’t political, it isn’t written to sway readers to love or hate the police, it is just an account of his life. It is told on such a realistic level, he explains all the police codes and jargon as he goes along so you don’t need to Google search to constantly look up what each code calls for. It is written for the novice level reader when it comes to police terminology. A lot of this is explained though his stories as it was explained to him by his peers. It adds to the authenticity for me, Lawrence isn’t trying to impress anyone with his technical terms or fancy language, it is all just plain and simple to understand so you can focus on the experiences.
Reading Turning Blue: A Life Beneath the Shield is like watching the life of Lawrence Hoffman play out in front of you. You can’t help but become attached and be transported to those streets of New York. Even the scary moment and horrifying experiences you are right there with him and you don’t want to stop reading, you have to keep going to see how things turn out. It is not a book of happy stories, it is not all horror and gore, it is real. Life is full of good and bad, and Lawrence shows it all, he doesn’t hold back on corruption or the really good people that care deeper than you can imagine. This book drew me in and kept my interest all the way though, it is a worthy read and one you won’t regret picking up.
Pages: 394 | ASIN: B01B54DUU6
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Follow Me Down is a thrilling novel that follows Lucas as he seeks justice for his family while uncovering corruption in the city’s largest real estate development company. What was your inspiration for this novel and the setup to the story?
The never-used subway beneath Cincinnati is real—built during the Depression but abandoned and sealed up. I lived for years near Cincinnati, both scared and intrigued by ghosts beneath my feet. When I later learned about the “urban explorer” subculture, I HAD to write the story.
One thing I really appreciated in this story was the authenticity of the relationships. What were some themes you wanted to capture while creating your characters?
Observant readers will notice one consistent theme for the four main characters: the plight of the underdog. Lucas, suppressed by corporate corruption. Alfred Blumenfeld, put down by cruel social mores, and Tricia Blumenfeld too, unwilling to play the part of the “good girl.” And Reuben, victimized for being short and Jewish. These characters deserved a voice and a shot at justice.
Lucas explores Cincinnati’s underground in this novel and the scenes were detailed and well developed. Why did you choose this setting for the novel?
In the story, protagonist Lucas reflects on a childhood experience descending voluntarily into a well on his grandfather’s farm. That scene resembles my own childhood “adventure.” What urban explorers do is just damn cool, risking capture and physical dangers in very cool places. Also, the noblest among these modern-day adventurers respect and revere the places they infiltrate. I admire them.
I find a problem in well-written novels, in that I always want there to be another book to keep the story going. Is there a second book planned?
Thank you! While I’m finished with Lucas for now, two new stories are underway. The first fictionalizes a true 1980’s battle between an auto manufacturer and an underdog labor union. The second, set in small-town USA, explores the plight of another underdog, a young woman unjustly blamed for a deadly accident.
Urban explorer Lucas Tremaine should buckle down and complete his Masters in Architecture, but the past torments him. Six years earlier, Drax Enterprises’ negligence killed his father and left his mother strung out on Valium. Lucas longs to punish the corrupt behemoth of Cincinnati real estate development, but what can one man do?
“Plenty,” says old Mr. Blumenfeld, Lucas’s boss and a former photojournalist with too many secrets. Evidence to bury Drax exists, he claims, but to find it, Lucas must breach the city’s welded-shut subway system. Lucas takes the plunge, aided by his best friend and moral compass, Reuben Klein.
The deeper the duo infiltrates the dangerous underground, the further back they turn the clock. They learn that Drax’s corruption intertwined with fascism’s rise in Germany. That campfire tales of a subway crypt were true. That no one can be trusted, not even Lucas’s boss.
Posted in Interviews
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Losing a parent is painful. It is earth shattering and completely disabling. Lucas Tremaine’s loss was due to negligence at Drax Enterprises. Even more than that, his mother was left dependent on valium to look remotely sane. He wished he could bring them to book but Drax is a big corrupt entity, what can one little guy do? He wished more than anything to exact revenge on the people who did harm to his family. Lucas wished all kinds of discomfort and unhappiness for the people who caused his father’s death. So blinded by the quest for revenge, it sometimes impairs his ability to properly collect and analyze the evidence.
Drax Enterprises will not pay for their sins in the conventional way, so Lucas needs to do some unconventional and dangerous things to get justice served. With the help of Reuben Klein, his best friend, they search the old underground subway system of the city of Cincinnati. The further they explore, the more sinister and complicated the corruption and fascism of Drax Enterprises gets. Lucas, Reuben and everyone who is near and dear to Lucas is in danger. Will Lucas find what he so desperately seeks? Will Drax Enterprises eventually pay for their sins? After facing three generations of Drax Enterprises leadership, will Lucas escape unscathed?
Follow Me Down by Gordon MacKinney is an intelligent thriller with a lot of ironic situations and lively conversations. The characters are complex but still relatable. Lucas’ need for vengeance is understandable to anyone and the reader will find himself rooting for him. This book is an interesting look into the lives of urban explorers. The reader gets to explore an underground rail systems not yet explored. The authors research and attention to detail is evident with the historical accuracy of the story. Gordon MacKinney’s description of the scenes is vivid and instantly transports the reader. One can almost smell the heavy air inside the tunnels. The love stories therein are especially heartwarming. The love between father and son is a beautiful narrative that is developed throughout the book. His admiration and love for his former boss and photojournalist, Alfred Blumenfeld, feels organic and true. I truly appreciated the authenticity of the character relationships in this novel.
Action, suspense and treasure hunts are among the simple pleasures. The adventures of Lucas’ endeavor are captivating and make for a great read. The end reveals a side of Tony Drax that you least expect, but makes for a good ending to the story.
Pages: 260 | ASIN: B0779GCH3V
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The Testimony of a Villain by Aaron Harrell is a dark, slick ride into the gritty alleys of the inner city. The book is not your typical crime thriller but one with a social lens that can only be given substance by one who has lived it. The reader follows Manuel Doggett, a boy who lost everything to be formed by the streets and remade in its’ dark image. He is out for retribution not redemption when an opportunity arises to have his vengeance on one of the murderers of his family.
Harrell provides a fresh and new take to the “true crime” thriller. His style is so firmly set in the bitingly grime reality of the inner city that the reader could even give this novel a new sub-genre of socio-economic thriller. The new threads do not stop there either, because the plot of the book itself is almost like a hero’s journey in reverse. Manuel is the classic anti-hero and one that does not once look to the audience for sympathy. Instead, there is only apathy towards almost everything, except towards the memories of his past.
The weaving of the inner city struggle and the complex inner life of Manuel makes this novel a stand out for readers of not only crime thrillers, but also those who wish to delve into the dark, broken mind of a man walking the line between light and shadow. The writing is fraught with graphic images of both violence and sex and is not for the weak-hearted.
I found myself enjoying the book from the start, because of the quick and realistic dialogue and the meta conversation about corruption, justice and social strata. There are a lot of binaries at play here, between the poor and wealthy, justice and injustice, and morality and immorality. Harrell does a fantastic job with surveying these issues, touching on them just enough without becoming too explicit. I can only guess at what Harrell’s personal experience has been with the inner city, but I very much appreciated the taste of authenticity that he lends to the narrative.
I find Manuel to be a compelling character. Most readers may find something akin to the backstory of Batman here, but there is a real human struggle that Harrell puts on display often.
Overall, I do believe that The Testimony of a Villain stands up to the best the crime thriller genre has to offer. It makes for a pleasurable read for any fans of such novels!
Pages; 489 | ASIN: B06XG6FYVH
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Author Victoria Bolton pays homage to the 1960s gangs of New York with her book Rude Boy USA. It’s the classic story of an underdog gang trying to take the seat of power in a world of murder, corruption, sex and drugs. The story follows the four members of Chimera; a gang led by the driven but big-hearted Bernie. John is his second in command; African American, good looking and unhappily married. Ben, the Italian American ex-veteran struggling with a drug addiction, is the little brother wanting desperately to be taken seriously. And Jerome, the well-adjusted African American with intelligence and a dream, is the son Bernie never has to worry about. Together they make up the misfit family of Chimera, flawed in their own ways and equally determined to make something of their lives.
These characters have numerous dimensions that create a clear picture with their narratives, but in contrast, the two female characters Bolton introduces, feel somewhat two-dimensional. On one side you have Edina who is a white, manipulative woman, both offensive and single-minded with her bigotry. And on the other side is Celia; a beautiful African American woman who is the angel to Edina’s devil, extremely attractive, with a heart of gold. Moreover, Celia’s motivations in the story stem from a desire to better educate herself, but are quickly reduced to a will they/won’t they love saga that overshadows her previous occupation. Though not an uncommon occurrence, the story would have only been meatier had the female characters received the same attention to detail as their male counterparts.
Character development aside, the story touches well upon racial tensions that would have been rife at the time. However, some situations err on the side of stereotype rather than exploring any deeper issues, but where it can, the story embraces some of the realities of the time and the author is able to keep the reader interested.
Nevertheless, this is indeed a crime thriller with a topic that has obviously been well researched by Bolton. She takes you deep into the heart of New York City and provides a picture of a community that the reader can see very clearly. Ultimately this feels like a story about loyalty and belonging to something. With an underlying romantic story threaded throughout, Rude Boy USA has something for everyone, with enough twists and turns to keep die hard thriller fans engaged and want to immediately pick up the next book in the series.
Pages: 283 | ISBN: B019E76CMY
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