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.
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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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Simon Leigh is your average, ordinary advertising sales rep, nothing like the “Mad Men” of legend. He’s a regular guy, the steady sort, very dependable. If he’d been a bit more ambitious, perhaps he wouldn’t have lost his job and his wife over the span of two months. Now living in a boarding house, with no job leads in sight, he feels like he’s lost everything. At least he still has his dog to talk to. Like most dogs, Eric’s conversational skills aren’t that great, but his voice comes through loud and clear. Simon needs to do something exciting. He needs to go chase tennis balls.
Opportunity knocks when Simon meets his new neighbor, Archie. He seems friendly, but there’s something not quite right about him. When Archie offers him the chance to make a lot of money doing something that’s not even remotely steady or dependable, let alone legal, it launches Simon into a bit more excitement than he bargained for. Simon blunders into a world of stolen cars, robbery, car chases, narrow getaways, murder, and corruption. Through it all, the only one he can trust is Eric.
If you enjoyed Guy Ritchie’s films Snatch, or Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, this is the book for you. Simon can’t catch a break for love or money, and his awkward, middle-class lifestyle could have never prepared him for a situation quite like this one. He is caught up in events both terrifying and absurd, and his old life is falling apart. Author Paul Casselle does a brilliant job with Simon’s character, playing his anxieties so perfectly that every reader will find something familiar there. Even when Simon attempts to do the right thing, his social ineptness, timing, and circumstance seem to work against him. Even Simon works against himself, sometimes acting against his own self-interest with hilariously cringe-worthy effects.
The supporting cast is also full of surprises. His other neighbor, Rebecca, seems like the candles-and-incense type, but like everyone in the book, she’s much more than she seems. She has a stronger stomach for violence than Simon, but for the most part, she could use some anger management courses. Archie bounces between a manic temper and everyone’s best buddy, hitting all points in between. His cohort Tommy Dragon looks like a tattooed gangster, but he’s got his own agenda. It’s clear why Simon prefers to confide in Eric than any of the “partners” involved in the scheme.
Conversations with Eric could easily be adapted as a screenplay for a successful film. It’s is the kind of crime comedy that is filled with both nail-biting tension and awkward, sometimes absurd humor. Of course, this is a crime novel and the author doesn’t shy away from the violence and bloodshed of this illegal enterprise. I highly recommend this for fans of British comedy or the type of cringe comedy found in American TV shows like Curb your Enthusiasm.
Pages: 353 | ASIN: B00XRMZPCG
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The Ryder Quartet is a crime/mystery series written by Ian Patrick, and consists of Devil Dealing, Gun Dealing, Plain Dealing, and Death Dealing. Devil Dealing is about a police investigation of an illegal gambling unit, where one of the department’s own is behind the operation and finds himself face to face with the consequences of his misdeeds. Gun Dealing is the story of an intense search for the gangster Thabethe which tests the ethical and moral judgment of the detectives involved. Plain Dealing focuses on cops who kill four thugs in an execution style shooting and try to cover it up, and Thabethe makes an appearance again as the eye witness to the shooting and tries to include Jeremy Ryder in with the corrupted cops out of spite. Finally, Death Dealing, tells the tale of the criminal’s determination to take down Jeremy Ryder for good. Their prime target has become his family.
Each of the books in the series build upon each other. Elements from previous novels carry over into the next one, building the tension and suspense of the series. Patrick takes a close and harsh look at the corruption within the police force in these novels, and focuses on the Durban, South Africa area as his setting. Often readers don’t think much about the settings in the books they read, but Patrick makes an effort to make the setting stand out, which makes you want to learn more about the area. It takes a strong author to make readers interested in the real life setting of a book, and Ian Patrick is such an author.
I enjoyed the book, but there were rare moments where I was grudgingly reading through paragraphs of unnecessary detail and commentary and I wanted to get back to what I enjoyed most about the novel, which was the characters and the core plot. Ian Patrick takes readers on a roller coaster ride through South Africa. The series is full of twists and turns that will leave the reader almost breathless. It’s nearly impossible to guess what will happen next. It is evident that Ian Patrick does his research for each of these novels. He writes with an air of authority and knowledge on the subject. Readers get an in depth look into what drives someone to committing evil acts and thoughts. This series is as much a look into the human psyche as it is a look into moral and ethical corruption. In most novels the villain becomes a sort of secondary character, but in the Ryder Quartet they become the main characters.
The Ryder series as whole is one that I would recommend to anyone who enjoys mysteries, crime thrillers, and even those who enjoy a good psychological novel. Each book left me asking, ‘what will happen next?’ And sure enough, I didn’t see the twist coming.
Pages: 826 | ISBN: 1519539622
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