Suzy Spitfire is a take-no-bull fugitive on the run. Her best friend Aiko, who was her father’s lab assistant and is also on the run, wants to see her and she’s taking a big risk by coming back to Earth. She wastes her time at the bar flirting with Ricardo until Aiko shows up. Her friend reveals the location of a top-secret Artificial Intelligence her father developed for the government, and also informs her that her dad’s death was a murder, not an accident. Almost on cue, the bar is raided by the feds. Ricardo comes to their rescue (while stealing a case of whiskey on the way out) and they are on the run again, this time with a price on their heads and Special Forces on their heels.
With the feds, a fleet of pirates, and a criminal gang all gunning for them, this crew of outlaws has nowhere to turn. Blurr, the Special Forces commander, has no qualms about using extreme methods to get what he wants. Getting to Suzy – and the secrets she knows – would be even better.
I really got into the rapid-fire action. There’s never a dull moment in this book. Suzy is a larger-than-life antihero who would rather shoot than talk, and when she does speak, it’s usually a string of smartass remarks. Surrender is for weaklings and arguments are best ended with her pistol set on “stun” so she can mock the loser later. The action escalates through the book, with the crew of the Correcaminos Rojo bouncing between criminals, pirates, and the law, trapped on posh spaceships, hell-hole prisons, and domed spaceports. Her banter with Ricardo is fun, and her inability to keep her mouth shut gets her in trouble more than once.
Along the way, Suzy begins to second-guess her impulse to fight and starts listening to Ricardo. There may be a lot more to the guy besides his stunning good looks and bad poetry. She realizes she might be falling for him, but she can’t be sure that he’s not working for one of the factions trying to chase her down. It makes for a nice romantic subplot that may or may not involve bullets before it’s all over.
I also liked getting occasional glimpses into the stories of the people on the other side of the fight. Getting insight into what was going on behind the action provided a break between fight scenes and added a lot of scheming and intrigue. I don’t want to get into spoiler territory, but getting the inside scoop on other key characters added a lot of excitement to the story.
If I had to criticize one thing, it would be that the action gets a little repetitive. Several encounters with enemies are similar, but the great thing is that none of these situations resolve in the same way. It was nice to see the characters playing to their strengths and weaknesses, and the author does a great job at blending screwball humor into the mix. There is a minor loose end concerning a secondary character, but that might be covered in a sequel.
I would absolutely recommend this for a quick, fun, summer read. It’s a great blend of over-the-top action that reads like classic pulp fiction, and characters who play their tropes for all they’re worth. Suzie Spitfire Kills Everybody will leave you smiling.
Pages: 297 | ASIN: B072PXT1P7
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Nate knelt beside the dead girl. This wasn’t his first homicide, it wasn’t even the first dead prostitute he’d investigated. It wasn’t the first strangling death he’d been assigned to. But, this one bothered him.
Maybe it was her youth, she appeared to be in her early twenties. Maybe it was her looks, as death had yet to rob her of her beauty. Maybe she reminded him of his own daughter, Lizzie, who was only a few years younger. Maybe it was something else entirely.
The big detective looked over the body, careful not to touch or disturb her. He had one of the best crime scene technicians, Winston Rawls, and he did not want to make his job harder.
“Look at her fingernails,” Rawls observed from the other side of the body.
“What about them?”
“Most of them are broken and some are torn free of the quick. Some are missing.”
Nate slowed his visual scanning of the girl and focused on her hands. Rawls was right, the nails were ragged, broken, and torn. Some of her fingers ended with just the bloody fingertips.
It made his injured finger hurt. Maybe this was why this murder haunted him from the start.
The girl’s hands were bagged in plastic to preserve evidence that hopefully was there. Gently, Nate lifted a hand, holding it on his open palm. He looked at the girls eyes, that looked down and away from him.
“I don’t know what happened that led you to this place. I don’t know why you chose to live the life you did. But you deserved better than this.”
Rawls looked at Nate with an expression that asked, “What are you doing?”
Nate glanced at the technician and then focused again on the girl’s hand.
“I promise you, I give you my word, I will find who ever did this to you and I will bring him to justice. I will hold him accountable for this. Rest assured.”
Gently, as if he didn’t want to wake her, Nate lowered the girl’s hand to the pavement. He stood and Rawls stood with him.
“Do you want to tell me what that was all about?”
Nate studied the bearded tech, “I made her a promise.”
“Nate, you and I both know solving the death of a streetwalker is one of the hardest crimes to solve. Unless she was killed by her pimp, or another girl jealous of her, the doer is a complete stranger. There’s just not enough to tie the two people together.”
Rawls shook his head, “You’ve worked more of these than I have. You know how difficult this is going to be.”
Nate looked at Rawls, placed a hand on the technician’s shoulder, “I made her a promise.”
He turned and walked from the alley, giving the technician a controlled wave, “See you at the morgue.”
The Tenth Nail is the story of a homicide detective obsessed in finding the killer of a streetwalker. It is fast paced, with well developed characters and a twist at the end most will not see coming.
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A Burning in the Darkness follows Father Michael serving at an airport when he becomes the prime suspect in a heinous crime. What was the inspiration to the setup to this thrilling suspense novel?
Essentially it was the opening set up/dilemma. An anonymous voice in a darkened confessional confesses a murder to Father Michael Kieh. Circumstance and evidence points to the Michael’s guilt but he remains faithful to the Seal of Confession and doesn’t betray the identity of a young witness. Michael’s dilemma is between remaining true to his ideals or saving himself from a long prison sentence.
Father Michael Kieh is an intriguing and dynamic character. What were the driving ideals behind the characters development throughout the story?
In relation to Michael, I often asked myself: Is it possible to be so good that it becomes self-destructive? Is it possible to have the same degree of love and imaginative sympathy for the entire human race as one’s family and not be overwhelmed? Even asking the question seems exhausting and tiresome but the answer is self-evident. You would be overwhelmed to the point of physical and psychological destruction. Yet Michael comes close to this form of destruction.
Michael’s childhood was forged in the horrors of the Liberian civil war, but he chose a life dedicated to the Good. Michael has the moral freedom and strength to be different to his environment. He was a child witness and was protected from harm so he knows the importance of the strong protecting the weak. But we all need a little selfishness to survive. And Michael certainly has a smattering of selfishness because he is not afraid to assert his need for love as a strong-willed lover. But the reader roots for Michael because he refuses to betray his higher ideals. I wanted the novel to justify Michael’s faith in the ideals of putting the needs of others who cannot protect themselves before your own needs. It’s easy to talk the talk on this, but entirely different to walk the walk when you have to make a big sacrifice.
I wanted to write a page-turner novel, but the action explores a deep morality without, I hope, being preachy and self-justifying. It’s also important to me that whether you’re a diehard atheist or fervent believer that you will be engaged by Michael’s character, dilemma and beliefs.
When you first sat down to write this story, did you know where you were going, or did the twists come as you were writing?
I wrote a 5 or 6 page outline which I tinkered around with for a year or so, not sure if it was working as a story. This gave me the main plot and character points. It was more like what they call in the movie/TV business ‘a treatment’. I’m a film school graduate, so it was part of my training. I spoke to a close friend of mine about the story and he encouraged me to write it. (By the way, I work as a cinematographer on TV drama.)
I find a problem in well written novels in that I always want there to be another book. Are you writing another book? If so, when will it be available?
Your kind and positive response makes me want to write another. Most of my time and effort has been spent getting A Burning in the Darkness published. Michael’s story is complete so there’s no room to revisit it. I am working on an outline for another novel. Actually, mostly researching it at this point.
A Burning in the Darkness took me a good 7 years to write. That’s too long! I’d also like to write a novella in the meantime. Maybe 80 to 100 pages. I’d like to be able to do it in about 6 months, but I’m a slow writer.
Sadly I lost my wife to breast cancer 18 months ago. I have three amazing teenage children who are the best thing about my life, but being a single dad and working to keep them fed and housed takes up a lot of time. But that’s my primary responsibility. Nevertheless, my kids are also a powerful source of moral strength and determination. And somehow writers always find the time to write.
A murder at one of the world’s busiest airports opens this simmering crime story where a good man’s loyalty is tested to its limits. Michael Kieh is a full time faith representative serving the needs of some of the 80 million passengers, but circumstance and evidence point to his guilt. His struggle to prove his innocence leads him on a charged journey that pitches love against revenge.
Michael’s loneliness was eased by a series of brief encounters with a soul mate. When she confides a dark secret, he is motivated to redress a heart-breaking injustice. Together they must battle against powerful forces as they edge dangerously close to unmasking a past crime. But Michael faces defeat when he chooses to protect a young witness, leaving him a burning spirit in the darkness.
Michael’s commitment to helping those in need was forged in the brutality of the Liberian civil war. Protected by a kind guardian, he too was a young witness to an atrocity that has left a haunting legacy of stolen justice and a lingering need for revenge. More poignantly there is a first love cruelly left behind in Africa because of the impossible choices of war. When Michael and his former lover find each other once again they become formidable allies in proving his innocence and rediscovering their lost love.
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Once again we are plunged into the world of Sean Kruger and his particular brand of justice in The Assassin’s Trail by J.C. Fields. While reading the first novel in the series is not necessary, it does provide excellent backstory for those who like to know everything. We follow Kruger once again as he gets pulled into another debacle. While he might groan about it, Kruger is excellent at his job and his reputation precedes him. With such greatness comes great expectations. Can Kruger deliver? Or will the case be his undoing? Hold on tight for a wild ride as we follow our favorite FBI special agent as he hunts down his prey. Fields shows us crime drama at its best: twists, turns and heightened anticipation for the good guy to win. The question then becomes, at what cost?
You can tell this is not Fields’ first time writing a book. A lot of attention and care went into the crafting of this story. A complication that can arise when writing a book in a series is losing track of subtle details and hoping your readers don’t notice. Happily, there is none of that in this installment of the Sean Kruger novels. The way Fields’ crafts the world of Kruger is deliberate and very well done. There is no shortage of action and readers will find themselves glued to the pages in order to find out what happens next. Some true crime stories can lag in the middle or when there is no action present making them almost a chore to read. You won’t find that here and even if crime drama isn’t your thing, this is a hard book to pass up. It’s not filled with useless jargon or procedures and policies only die-hard fans or those who work in the field can understand. This was truly a piece meant for the reader.
What makes a good story in this genre is suspense, action and realism. If the crime is too outlandish or the way the criminal is discovered is too unrealistic it can ruin the entire experience for the reader. Fields understands this and crafts the tale to reflect that. Readers will need to prepare their hearts for the twists and turns in this book as Fields’ expertly dangles disaster in front of us. There are no complaints about this easy to read and equally easy to enjoy story.
There is so much to gain and so little to lose from enjoying The Assassin’s Trail by J.C. Fields. The action is well paced and the story doesn’t suffer for it. The realism makes our main character, Sean Kruger, that much more relatable. While he is a special agent with the FBI he really just wants to enjoy his life. That is something we can all relate to. Kruger doesn’t seem able to catch a break on the work-life balance of things. Things will come to a grinding halt though as Kruger is faced with the greatest decision of his career. Is this the end of Special Agent Sean Kruger? You’ll have to read it to find out! You won’t be disappointed.
Pages: 317 | ASIN: B01JAW1VI8
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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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In the lobby of a prestigious Wall Street investment firm, one man is dead and another seriously injured. The man accused of the crime now a fugitive.
When the Director of the FBI personally orders Special Agent Sean Kruger to New York City to find the fugitive, Kruger questions the reason. Told to shut up and do his job, he starts looking into the case. What he finds is troubling. Eye-witness accounts seem contrived with little variance between individual testimonies. The more he hears, the more he feels someone is manipulating the story.
As the investigation unfolds, he discovers the only information known about the fugitive is a HR file from a former employer. Public records of the man do not exist.
The fugitive is a ghost. A ghost who has disappeared.
When Kruger unearths information the investment firm lied about the incident in the lobby, he learns there is a possibility the fugitive was defending himself. He also discovers another individual is searching for the fugitive. An individual who has no interest in allowing the truth to be discovered.
When the cat and mouse game turns lethal, Kruger must use all of his skills and experience to find the truth, protect the fugitive, and ultimately stay alive.
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Suspense, intrigue and subterfuge. An agent chasing a fugitive who knows more than is healthy for him. What begins as a cat-and-mouse game evolves into a spectacle that is sure to entertain all readers. The Fugitive’s Trail by J.C. Fields appears to be the first book in a series centering on the skills of Special FBI Agent Sean Kruger. His son now off to college we meet Kruger as he sells his home and moves into a condo where he hopes to just relax and quietly move about his business. Relaxation is not so easily found for our agent. No sooner does Kruger make a romantic connection with his attractive neighbor than he is pulled into a man-hunt. Will Kruger catch this so-called fugitive and bring him to justice? Or is the thought of justice much more subjective than previously thought?
For a debut novel this is a fantastic piece of work. Any reader can tell that a lot of time and effort went into crafting this adventure. Fields has done his research in this area of crime fiction and it all feels quite realistic. Understanding how major organizations like the FBI, CIA or even the local police department work can be a daunting task for a new writer. Fields is clearly comfortable with this topic and has either studied or done enough research to become so. What’s unsettling with this genre is the matter of how loose-lipped certain agents can be when they are in the comfort of their home with their significant other.
Fields does a great job describing the scenery, particular points of interest and characters in general. The main characters in this particular book have their back stories fleshed out under the pretense of first-dates. Instead of feeling forced, this is a natural stage for such information to be shared. A clever trick indeed.
If there are any drawbacks it would be when Fields describes the race of a character. Using such phrases as ‘the black guy’, ‘the white guy’, or the ‘girl of Asian descent’ seems rather bland in comparison to how he describes other aspects of the book. Opportunities to describe a characters skin tone with more grace are missed here and it grates hard to read such a stereotypical and flat profile. Other parts of the character are described with more elegance which is what makes this particular aspect stand out.
If you are looking for an adventurous crime-drama where the elements of surprise and intrigue hide around the corner then The Fugitive’s Trail by J.C. Fields is a must-read. Quick-paced with easy to digest chapters and interesting characters you can’t go wrong by adding this to your collection. Besides, aren’t you curious to see just what happens when Kruger does catch the fugitive? The delectable twist shouldn’t be missed.
Pages: 307 | ASIN: B00WS00FW8
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Sarah Wesser, a high achiever in the middle of her law degree, decides to return home for the summer after two life-changing phone calls. One phone call is a rejection from an internship and the other is the terrible news the children of her high school friend JoBeth have been kidnapped. Sarah returns to her hometown of Eight Mile Junction to be involved in a law case that will shock the county. Between trying to please her father who is determined to mould Sarah into an image of perfection and working with lawyers to save the fate of JoBeth, Sarah learns that the people and life she left behind may not be what it seems.
The Heart to Kill, written by Dorothy Place, is an edge of your seat crime novel based around Sarah, a high-flying law student, who returns to her hometown of Eight Mile Junction- a place where red clay is born under your nails and will stain your hands, no matter how far or wide you travel. The reader will be kept on their toes as Sarah dives in to assist lawyers who are trying to save her friend JoBeth from the wrath of small town mentality.
An emotive story line will leave the reader feeling mixed emotions of empathy and horror whilst determining whether JoBeth is innocent or guilty of such a horrific crime. At times, you feel as though you are part of the jury as the story delves into the intricate details that have lead to the terrible tragedy involving the two children.
JoBeth seemingly had it all. Married within months of leaving high school, to her sweetheart Phillip, she soon follows the small town trend by having two beautiful children. However, this soon falls apart and JoBeth is left divorced, lonely and obsessed with chasing a Cinderella fantasy. When Sarah returns home, she discovers there is more to JoBeth then the sweet, lovable high school girl she left behind. JoBeth appears as a broken shadow of herself which leaves the reader to wonder- what events impacted JoBeth severely enough to break her soul?
Meet the lawyers- a group of men who are banding together to try and save the fate of JoBeth.
The lawyers are built around a “boys club” mentality, meeting for golf and chortling with the DA before heading to the courtrooms. Suave but mysterious, one of the lawyers is Al Westfall whom is a private man that many find difficult to read or engage with. He can appear callous and cold however catches the eye of someone you would least expect.
Meanwhile, Sam Wesser, (Sarah’s father) is a powerful, dominant character who controls the family in the same way a conductor controls an orchestra. Desperate to seek his approval, Sarah and her mother bend and heed to his every demand. His methods of parenting and his relationship with his wife teeter on the edge of emotional abuse and leave the reader feeling empathetic to Sarah’s desire to rebel.
I would recommend The Heart to Kill to anyone who enjoys a court/crime style novel. My only qualm was that I wished the novel was longer!
Pages: 200 | ISBN: 162288129X
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There is madness in the world that few can ever understand. What drives a person to get out of bed in the morning or take a life in the evening is different for every person. Steven Pajak carefully crafts a story for us that involve mindless torture; endless agony and that special breed of mental instability psychological thrillers enjoy so much. While Wolves Among Sheep is meant to be a book introducing Jack Monroe, a United States Deputy Marshal, it really focuses on the relationship between Jack’s brother Michael and unstable, disgruntled former employee Robert Elliott Lang. As readers we are roped into a fascinating situation where a single man seeks to completely destroy the life of another for reasons only he could possibly understand. With heart in throat and eyes glued to the page readers will want to desperately know the why and crumble when it’s finally revealed.
Pajak knows his craft well and is very good at describing the slow, torturous break down between Robert and Michael. Michael has the things that Robert wants and is seen to be the one who has denied our antagonist all that could have been his. Robert desperately needs help and the signs pointing to his devolution have been visible for a long time. Perhaps it’s because he’s just another name in the email directory or because he’s that difficult, creepy guy that no one really wants to befriend but the fact remains that Robert does not get the help he needs. Instead, he gets a target: a person whose life he can work towards crumbling as carefully as possible. We know quite early on in the tale that Robert is a man who is not below putting dead rats in cars and forwarding incriminating emails in order to destroy a relationship. We know all of this but the hypnotic destruction pulls the attention and causes us to question what we read.
If there were to be any areas where Pajak could improve it would be simple editing. There are a few spelling mistakes and words that are potentially mistyped. This is not Pajak’s first time at the rodeo so he knows how to write a good story. That is what makes the minute, yet noticeable, editorial issues stand out even more. Unless you’re extremely particular about these sorts of things they will not ruin the story for you, but they will be obvious.
Wolves Among Sheep takes its readers on a dangerously slippery trail. There are aspects of Robert’s behavior that seem almost normal; those small little tics that are easily over looked. While Jack is instrumental in hunting down Robert after he has successfully destroyed any semblance of a ‘normal’ life for Michael, the story truly revolves around our protagonist and antagonist. The tale would not be the same if Jack were not in it, however, so it is important to note that his existence is necessary to reach the conclusion Pajak came to.
Readers who enjoy a good psychological thriller along the lines of Dean Koontz and Stephen King will not be disappointed with the creepy tale Steven Pajak offers for consumption.
Pages: 220 | ASIN: B01LYY5ZJ1
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In Ted Korsmo’s Wayzata the author reaches way back into literary Americana to dust off an old fedora. While the book takes place in the titular Minnesotan suburb, the tale carries all the trappings of a 1920’s era hardboiled LA noir. The protagonist, a dour, serious-drinking gumshoe, is even named Carroll – a clear nod to Carroll John Daly, the founding father of the genre. Wayzata’s pages rumble from beginning to end like a Packard 8 overflowing with smoke, booze, hard luck women, philandering eggs, and quirky ne’er-do-wells.
Korsmo respects the genre, the material, and the framework. He attends all the logic and sensibilities of Carroll LaRue and his contemporaries as best a modern writer can. For those who have a fond attachment to hard boiled detective stories, there is a great deal to love in Wayzata. Korsmo distinguishes his novella by placing it, not in L.A. or New York or Chicago, but in suburban Minnesota, and this offers up whiffs of bucolic charm that are atypical for a noir. Subsequently, the author plays a deft hand with comic relief. Just as the correctly cynical and self-destructive protagonist threatens to swamp the reader, Korsmo careens him right into an oddball local, usually, to amusing effect.
I wouldn’t say this is an attempt at resurrecting a genre, because hard boiled detectives have never truly gone away. Generously, one could say this book is more of a reminder. At it’s best, Wayzata is a new recruit into a club that has fallen somewhere between forgotten legend and simply esoteric. Inherently there are problems with a new entry into such a well stocked category, and they are twofold. Firstly, there is absolutely no dearth of hardboiled detective material – some pieces, in fact, are Iconic American literature – so in 2016 it’s hard to justify a new novella as much more than a nostalgic sandbox. Secondly, the hard boiled detective novel, even as subject of periodic revivals, was at it’s best during the era depicted. The content was meant to be de rigueur. Wayzata suffers from this disconnect because the actual detecting gets short shrift as Korsmo pours most of his creative energy into rebuilding the verisimilitude of a world and a character set that are completely alien to modern readers. Much more effort is expended selling the setting, jargon, and early modern sensibilities than is put toward mystery or suspense. The narrative plot of Wayzata is frequently waylaid by paragraphs of hard-boiling.
Wayzata earns a three-star rating, because when Korsmo is at his best, the story delivers some familiarity, some freshness, some humor, and a bit of suspense, but there is a boundary between an authentic aesthetic and a tableau of that same aesthetic. At points Wayzata is an enjoyable read that flows well and finds rhythm within itself. At other points it is very hard to ignore the performance.
Pages: 186 | ASIN: B00MBOYRVQ
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