The Gumdrop House Affair, volume 2 in The Monk Mysteries, takes readers on a journey from the untimely death of Saul Greenberg, the financial officer for the Diocese, through the gruesome discovery of a horribly decomposed body no one can seem to explain, to the recurring appearance of the menacing turquoise eyes. Timony McKeever’s characters, Sergeant Jack Laskey and Father William Butler are both painfully aware of the presence and part played in the string of violent acts by the evil they refer to as “The Ugly.” Somewhere between Aunt Rhoda’s World Famous Apple Cobbler and Mona Monahan’s famed Gumdrop House lies the answer to the Laskey and Butler’s questions.
Mysteries top my preferred reading list, and The Gumdrop House Affair ranks among my favorites of recent years. Not having read volume 1 in the The Monk Mysteries, I don’t feel that I was lost. Readers need not read the first installment to fall nicely in step alongside Laskey and Butler as they struggle against “The Ugly.” McKeever does an excellent job bringing readers up to speed on his main characters’ backgrounds.
By far, the McKeever’s character, Aunt Rhoda, is my favorite among the many players in this work. Her strength and no-nonsense attitude permeates every scene in which she is featured. She is capable of curing most any ill with her frying pan alone–that includes the odd home invasion.
The Gumdrop House and its proprietor, Mona Monahan, are as unique as they are colorful. The Gumdrop House is a place of refuge and operated by Mona with open arms and no judgements. Mona is yet another of the author’s strong female characters. The account she relates of her face-to-face encounter with her grandfather, a mobster in his own right, demonstrates her tenacity.
Dialogue is one of McKeever’s most obvious strengths. The author transports readers to the scene of the crime with the colorful conversations between Laskey, Mona, Paisley Bob, and the rest of his lengthy list of players. Nowhere is this more evident than in the most violent and climactic scenes. I am not a fan of excessive profanity, but McKeever uses it sparingly enough and in the most appropriate circumstances to drive home his characters’ emotions.
Within The Gumdrop House Affair, the author intersperses an added layer of first person observations of Deputy Chief Thomas Dugan between authentic dialects and heated exchanges in order to explain his characters’ choices and actions. I truly appreciated this additional twist in McKeever’s writing. He gives his writing the feel of the classic detective novel with these ventures into the mind of one of his characters. This introspection is a welcome addition to the already engaging tale.
Fans of the mystery genre will not be disappointed with Timony McKeever’s police drama. Each of his characters has a rich personality and is portrayed in vivid detail. The multifaceted plot addresses everything from inherent evil to the corrupt dealings within the Catholic church itself. From beginning to end, McKeever’s mystery installment is laced with humor and brimming with everything that makes for an authentic and enjoyable thriller.
Pages: 266 | ASIN: B06Y4S6P44
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Action Men and Silly Putty follows Jack and Andy as they try to find what is so important about a teddy bear from 1915 that Jack purchases at an estate sale. What was the initial inspiration behind the setup to this fun novel?
This might seem strange, but I don’t know if I can even explain how certain ideas came to me, except that the bear and estate sale set up must have stemmed out of my interest in antiques. I watch both Pawn Stars and American Pickers and refer to them both collectively as “the guys.” I’ll pick up the remote and say, “Let’s switch it to the guys,” and, by that, I mean switch it to the History Channel for one of those two shows. I also have an Antiques Roadshow book at home, and in it, there is a … guess what? 1915 Steiff teddy bear. That is where I drew some of the details for the bear. I suppose that photo of the bear drew me in more than a lot of the other items in the book. How I figured out how to involve this bear in a crazy plot is harder to explain.
It might interest you to know that my Jack Donegal character first appeared in a short story that was not a mystery, featuring Jack and a supporting character, Ellen Danforth, the owner of the Salvador Deli. Andy Westin wasn’t yet even a character which is interesting for me when I reflect on it, because, by now, I’m equally attached to both characters! It was a friend who suggested that I write a mystery. I had already established Jack as a toy inventor before I entertained the thought of him as an amateur sleuth, so the estate sale and the bear was one way to get my characters to stumble into a mystery for them to solve.
Jack and Andy have a unique and often humorous relationship that lends well to the overall lighthearted mystery of the book. What were some themes you were trying to capture when writing their characters?
For a long time, I was interested in the absent-minded professor type character or the eccentric scientist character. I liked characters such as Caractacus Potts in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Dr. Emmett Brown in Back to the Future and was interested in some real life stories about scientists or inventors in history who had some quirks. My dad is actually a retired scientist and inventor, although not in the field of toys and, as a child, earned the nickname of “absent-minded professor” from his family. Dad and Jack do not share all of the same quirks … but perhaps a few of them. I’m also kind of fascinated with the individualist, and Jack is that. He doesn’t mind being different or dressing in his own unique style. I thought I’d rather make him a confident individualist than an awkward nerd, although he’s definitely still a nerd too by some definitions.
I really wanted Andy to be, more or less, his complete opposite. He’s the sensible, organized, in-the-moment practical guy who also has a kind of humorous way of looking at things. I wanted the balance of the two different extremes, so they can help one another out, as well as the comedy from being a sort of “odd couple.”
I enjoyed the twists and turns throughout the book. Did you plan the novel before writing or did it come organically while writing?
It was more like the second option. The story developed more spontaneously as I wrote, but I might have planned several scenes or chapters ahead when the creative juices were really flowing.
What is the next book that you are writing and when will it be available?
I am actually working on several things. The next book to come out fairly soon is unrelated to this series but is an illustrated children’s book called The Journey of Digory Mole about a little mole who turns a mountain into a mole hill. I have one other “Action Men” book already available and that is Action Men and the Great Zarelda which is a little shorter, a Kindle book novella. The two guys have a mystery adventure with a suspicious female illusionist. I also have a mystery short story for Kindle, starring a female sleuth, English professor, Grace Darby. That one is titled The Lit Club Mystery. I have several stories in the planning for both mystery series and even hope to do a spin-off series for kids starring Jack Donegal’s niece and nephew. Right now, I have a related mystery serial, Action Men with Duct Tape as a blog on my website, https://susan-joy-clark.com. I will likely publish that as a book when it is complete.
Jack Donegal is an engineer, toy inventor and the head of his own toy company but not a detective until he stumbles into a strange situation. While on a business trip, he stops to purchase a 1914 teddy bear at an estate auction. While still on the auction grounds, armed thugs, who mistake him for a Dalton Starks, seem to think he’s in possession of something they want. Although police rescue him from his first encounter with criminals, Jack and Andy Westin, his marketing manager, roommate and friend, begin to think there’s something special about this teddy bear to make it interesting to criminals. They engage in a cat and mouse hunt with various members of the criminal world, but who are the cats and who are the mice? With the help of their combined wits and various technical gadgetry including toy parts and prototypes, Jack and Andy help bring several criminals to justice. With two personalities like those of Jack and Andy, there is bound to be some silliness along the way in this comedy mystery.
Posted in Interviews
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If you were waiting to find out what happened to Craig Breedlove, then look no further. Brian Gallagher returns to the mind of Breedlove and his unnatural obsessions in Serial K Returns. Once again, we find ourselves in the mind of a serial killer: we witness the world from his point of view and become intimately aware of what exactly drives him. It’s unclear how much time has passed since the first book and the second, but Breedlove appears to be a bit older than he was the first time he tangoed with the FBI. Ryan O’Callahan and Lea Pucci also make their return in this continuation of Serial K. Their relationship has progressed but how far these two will get in their renewed chase with Breedlove awaits us in this book.
Gallagher is good at making his characters seem like real human beings. Perhaps that is why there is so much profanity when they speak. While there is a certain level of profanity expected from a crime-thriller for adults, and we know from experience that Breedlove doesn’t have the largest vocabulary, it does detract from the tale when reading about FBI agents discussing a case and they are prone to swear every five seconds.
If that’s not something that makes you put down a book, then you won’t be disappointed with what’s left within the pages of this novel. While not perfect, the core of this story is very entertaining. This is not Gallagher’s first novel and his experience shows. The story flows better than the first one. He also cleverly intersects two different characters from two different books into the same world. This is exciting for those who enjoy reading stories that take place in the same universe. It shows a careful sense of world-building to have these two different stories connect on such a base level without feeling forced or contrived.
I felt that there was some unreal character development on behalf of Breedlove in the last few chapters. Breakthroughs in his own perception of the world and how he comes to view the people who are chasing him happen quickly. There is no concrete resolution on what will happen to Breedlove by the end of the novel, this may be Gallagher setting the stage for a third installment of the series, however. So, there might be something to look forward to in the end.
If you like reading edgy stories that push the boundaries than you will enjoy this second piece to the story of Craig Breedlove in Serial K Returns by Brian Gallagher. It’s a gritty diamond in the rough that would have benefited from another edit, but is otherwise very entertaining. The thought process behind Serial K Returns is just as forward-thinking as it was the first time in Serial K. Getting into the mind-space of a serial killer; identifying what drives them and what moves them to kill is not an easy task. This where I believe Brian Gallagher shines, and where Serial K Returns stands out from the rest. This will have you wondering how much of Breedlove do you see in yourself.
Pages: 299 | ASIN: B06Y3JNCSZ
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Sentinels of the Night is an action-packed novel that follows tracker Cat Morgan who uses forces beyond her understanding to find murder victims. What was the inspiration behind this story and how did you turn that into a novel?
I’ve always been intrigued with characters who have an extra edge, that ability to overcome adversity and danger. Add to that my infatuation with Native American myths and legends and Scottish and Irish folklore, and you have the backdrop for my characters.
In Sentinels of the Night, I created an elite FBI unit—Trackers. Each has a secret, that extra edge that defies reason and logic. Tracker Cat Morgan’s paranormal element was pulled from a Native American myth.
As for the plot, I have twenty-seven years of law enforcement experience. I served in patrol, undercover narcotics, advanced accident investigation and the SWAT team. I was a unit sniper. Several incidents in the book were based on those experiences. Early in my career, I crossed paths with a serial killer who was convicted on eleven counts of homicide. I have never forgotten the dead look in his eyes. That memory was the basis for the serial killer.
Cat Morgan is a mysterious and alluring character. What were some of the trials that you felt were important to highlight the character’s development?
The character had to deal with issues she couldn’t ignore. While her extraordinary gift added to her investigative ability, it made her different and there was the ever-present fear of rejection if her fellow agents found out.
I enjoyed the tension that builds between Cat and Kevin. Was their relationship something that was mapped out or did it grow organically?
It developed as I began to add depth to the characters. Kevin questioning his sanity as the plot progressed added another dimension of trust.
What is the next novel that you are working on and when will it be available?
I published the second of the Tracker novels, Going Gone! about two months ago, and a third is on the way. I hope to have it completed by the end of the year.
FBI Tracker Cat Morgan has an unusual talent, one she has successfully concealed, even from her fellow agents. That is–until she finds a body with a strange symbol carved on the forehead during a stop in Clinton, Mississippi and crosses paths with the town’s rugged police chief, Kevin Hunter.
Despite his instant attraction to the sexy agent, Kevin is suspicious of her presence at the crime scene and isn’t buying her dubious explanations. He wants her out of the investigation and out of his town.
The discovery of another mutilated body with the same symbol sends Cat back to Clinton, and this time she isn’t leaving. To stop the killer, Cat must find a way to overcome Kevin’s distrust and will face an impossible impasse–truth or lies.
But will either one matter, when the killer fixates on her for his next sacrifice?
Posted in Interviews
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