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The Cowboy

Don’t judge a book by its cover–or its title either. ‘The Cowboy’ immediately makes me think of a Western, but it is most definitely not. Manuel A. Melendez weaves a frightening tale. He brings to life a shadowy character known as The Cowboy who is killing nurses and doctors. Detectives Jon Delgado and Bill Crocitto realize there is a link between the victims. They must solve the case and get The Cowboy off the streets. Initially they only have the word of a drunk who says he knows who The Cowboy is. More clues start to lead to the Cowboy, that’s when things start getting really interesting.

This story is set in New York, I felt like I didn’t get a proper sense of the setting itself, but that didn’t detract from the book because this was all about the characters for me. The Cowboy is a frightening character, a true bogeyman. Initially, when we read a little about his background and how he was breathed into life, I had some sympathy for him, for everything he had to go through. As we learn more about his upbringing, the reasons he kills doctors and nurses, I gave some thought to the nature/nurture theme. I know which side of the fence I fall on with that debate, but the author did a superb job of making me think.

The two detectives were, in some ways, portrayed as a comedy duo, but they had a serious side. I loved the relationship they had with each other, seeing how they balanced each other out. Sometimes I felt the outcome of their arguments with their superior was a little contrived but overall it didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the book.

The last character was Rebecca. Her description and how she deals with The Cowboy made me think of the phrase ‘though she be but little she is fierce’. That I think is an appropriate description of Rebecca. She was my favorite character, perhaps because I’d like to think I’d behave as she does in the face of fear.

The Cowboy is riveting hard-boiled mystery with a haunting antagonist. If you’re looking for a Western, this isn’t the book for you. If you want something gritty, with a blood-curdling crime, then don’t wait. Pick this up today.

Pages: 393 | ASIN: B084QLMVPB

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Crimson Dreams

Rose has not lived the easiest of lives and doesn’t exactly have too many people who will miss her when she’s gone. When she is presented with the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to travel to England to restore a Victorian era home, she doesn’t immediately jump at the chance due to her own plethora of misgivings and fears. Vaughn, the homeowner, is a convincing individual, indeed, and coerces Rose into making the trip. His motives, however, aren’t what Rose assumes, though his intentions may just have a far-reaching impact on Rose’s life. Once the two reach Vaughn’s home, Rose’s life is no longer her own, and the world as she thought she knew it is forever changed.

Crimson Dreams, by Georgiana Fields, is the story of one woman’s introduction to the world of the Dhampir. The time-traveling Vaughn plays an important role in Rose’s transformation from unsuspecting designer to Dhampir sidekick and part-time detective. The two make a perfect team, and the sexual tension between them is both palpable and handled tastefully by the author.

Vampire stories are among my favorites, and I am always more than critical of details and plot holes. Fields, however, is one author to be commended and followed closely. She has set up quite the scenario with Rose’s leap from modern day to the year 1900. The inclusion of Jack the Ripper and the current onslaught of killings in modern day Atlanta is timely and keeps the two dimensions flawlessly linked. Rose makes the ideal partner for Vaughn as he goes about assisting Scotland Yard in finding the killer.

Fields writes some of the most memorable and relatable secondary characters. It is easy for such characters to get lost in a plot so involved, but she has managed to involve Sara and Aileen in parallel plots that both hold readers’ interest and keep them invested in their stories. Good writers know how to do this; excellent writers actually get it done. Fields has mastered it.

One element that always seems to lack in many vampire stories is that of emotion. Fields’s book, however, is brimming with second-guessing, empathetic moments, and remorse and regret. Vaughn is unlike any other character in this genre. He is somehow more human in his emotions than most I know. Fields has blended a vast array of powerful emotions into a fictional character and succeeded in creating a story for the ages.

It is not often that I want to immediately reread a book, but Fields has grabbed my attention, focused it with laser-like accuracy on her characters, and hypnotized me with her unique and engaging plot. An absolute must-read for anyone who even thinks they enjoy a good vampire story.

Pages: 452 | ASIN: B07GQBW359

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Death of a Bully (Polish Dragon P. I.)

Death of a Bully (Polish Dragon P. I.) by [Steve Zimcosky]

A reunion is supposed to be fun, right? A lovely time to speak with friends you haven’t seen in far too long. Not this time. In Death Of A Bully, a reunion turns deadly, and everyone is wondering who did it. John is a well-respected attorney and philanthropist who gets murdered. An investigation starts and the search for the killer is on. While trying to locate the real killer, we learn that John was the high school bully. Everyone has a motive so the reader is left wondering who, out of all the possible suspects, could it have been!

Steve Zimcosky has written a page-turner with an unexpected twist that I was not prepared for. Just when I thought I had it all figured out, I was wrong. I felt sorry for certain characters, particularly Mark and Tom. I felt sorry for Mark because he was wrongly accused of something he didn’t do. I felt sorry for Tom because I liked his character and I empathized with him in certain parts of the book. I was a little surprised that Jack forgave his mother as quickly as he did. It was still an interesting twist added to the story, and I couldn’t put the book down because I was eager to see what would happen next. In the end, I didn’t agree with the reasoning that Emily had, but I know that everyone has their own way that they feel about things, and it didn’t stop me from finishing the book.

Death of a Bully is a short, but thrilling read. The writing style is engaging and the book is easy to follow and alluring. This is more of a suspenseful whodunit novella, Steve Zimcosky is able to deliver a riveting tale in under 100 pages. If you are new to Steve Zimcosky’s work than this is a good starter book for you that will introduce you to his literary style.

Pages: 87 | ASIN: B08DSL6GK8

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Demons of Divine Wrath

Demons of Divine Wrath by [Edward Izzi]

Demons of Divine Wrath by Edward Izzi is a fiction thriller about two murders tied to works of art stolen from the Uffizi Museum in Florence 75 years ago by the Nazis during World War II. Hermman Kalkschmidt dies in his apartment in Munich of an apparent gas leak. But the police detective soon suspects that things are not as they seem. Then six months later, another man is found dead in a hotel suite in Chicago. It is clear from the start that Don Carlo Marchese’s assassination is not a contracted mob hit. When newspaper reporter Paul Crawford begins to dig into the matter, he discovers an unexpected Vatican connection. Can Paul uncover why the mobster was killed, and what happened to the stolen artwork?

This book had a complex story line with many different threads that all tied back to the discovery of the stolen artwork. It was interesting to read the part that took place in 1943 Florence. I liked learning how all the pieces of the story fit together and how the mobster’s assassination in Chicago was connected to the murder of an eighty year old man in Germany. I was surprised by who had ordered the hit on Hermann Kalkschmidt when that person’s identity was revealed. I was intrigued to find out what happened to the hidden artwork after it went missing again. The ending of the book had a surprise twist that I didn’t expect.

The story started out a bit slow with a lot of description of settings and characters. For the first couple of chapters we’re introduced to new characters but no connections are yet made between the characters making it feel a bit disjointed. I felt that there were a lot of unnecessary detail throughout the book; such as airline flight number, seat assignment number, and street addresses.

Otherwise, I thought Demons of Divine Wrath is a riveting crime thriller with an engrossing plot that is propelled by captivating characters. This is yet another suspenseful whodunit novel by Edward Izzi.

Pages: 405 | ASIN: B07VMZJHM9

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Potential Vengeance

Mike Mallow
Mike Mallow Author Interview

In The Country Dark follows a journalist and a childhood friend as they become targets of a reclusive rural crime lord. What was the inspiration for the setup to this thrilling story?

My wife was working as a Human Resource Manager at a nursing home. She aways had tons of framed pictures of our family on the walls. It made me uneasy since this was a room where she regularly terminated people. This sometimes generates bad blood, and our pictures were all there to select for potential vengeance.

Cabel and Troy are intriguing and well developed characters. What were some driving ideals behind their character development?

I had two childhood friends who passed away in their 20s. Both had somewhat of a reckless streak, which inspired the main flaw behind Troy’s personality. Cabel became somewhat of a surrogate to have the conversations with his old friend that I no longer could. As their development progressed, I was able to really drill down on the nostalgia the fuels reunions later in life.

The novel explores the darker side of rural West Virginia communities. What were some themes you wanted to focus on in this book?

The main thing I wanted to focus on are the more realistic aspects of rural life. Lack of opportunities in employment, a community that turns their back to young struggling residents, and the fatalism engrained in family legacy. Those things together breed the resentment and desperation that gives birth to the drugs and crime that are rampant across Appalachia today.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

“Burning Without Knowing” – another Appalachian Crime Novel. This one is about copper thieves exposed in southern West Virginia. It’s still in the outline stages, but is promising enough to start composing this winter. Hopefully it will be ready for an early 2022 release.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

Darkness is everywhere. It lurks just below the surface, waiting to rear its ugliness, even in small serene West Virginia communities. The darkness of murder and drugs puts a disenchanted journalist and recently reunited childhood friend in the crosshairs of a reclusive rural crime lord. The unlikely pair, navigating a trail of past traumas, broken dreams, and small victories, try to find a way to shine a light on the dark underbelly of their community before the darkness becomes their own.

El Camino Drive

John Valentino isn’t going anywhere fast. The middle aged, Detroit-based Detective has just been suspended from work after beating a colleague to a pulp, his marriage has fallen to pieces, and his drinking has spiraled out of control. Haunted by the events surrounding his father’s murder almost forty years before, John is self-destructive, bubbling over with rage and guilt, making him the prime suspect when his father’s killers start turning up dead. But is John really capable of putting an end to his family’s decades old vendetta, or is there someone else moving through the city undetected, enacting their long-awaited revenge?

The gripping new novel by renowned crime author, Edward Izzi, El Camino Drive, is an easily-accessible thriller, which delivers its readers jolt after jolt. Cleverly constructed twists and turns will keep most crime fiction fans guessing until the very end, with a range of secondary characters weaving in and out of different decades and narratives. John’s troubled present is interwoven with his father’s own checkered history, and Izzi is more than capable of handling the slips in time to probe family ties, trauma, addiction, justice, and redemption. 

You can’t help but like the book’s flawed protagonist, with his blatant disregard for authority and often misplaced good intentions, however little time is spent with female characters, who are all too often rated on their physical appearance and little else. 

Police procedurals play a relatively minor role in El Camino Drive, which is carried along more by the strong dialogue than by the usual detective work you would expect of a whodunit. Due to his suspension from the force, John is instead left to negotiate a minefield of long-standing vendettas, long-lost familial connections, as well as the contemporary dating scene. The premise is unique enough to engross most thriller, mystery, and crime fiction readers, however tweaks to the prose in order to create a more vivid, atmospheric read, would help attract a wider audience.

El Camino Drive is an immersive and enjoyable follow-up to Izzi’s earlier work. A modern take on American pulp fiction, El Camino Drive can alternate between fast, furious, and sleazy, almost like a video game plot turned novel.

Pages: 463 | ASIN: B08F4DPNMN

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Literary Titan Book Awards September 2020

The Literary Titan Book Awards are awarded to books that have astounded and amazed us with unique writing styles, vivid worlds, complex characters, and original ideas. These books deserve extraordinary praise and we are proud to acknowledge the hard work, dedication, and imagination of these talented authors.

Literary Titan Gold Book Award

Gold Award Winners

A Little Bit Extraordinary by Esther Robinson

A Saint and a Sinner by Stephen H. Donnelly and Diane O’Bryan

Literary Titan Silver Book Award

Silver Award Winners

Mountain Heat by Natrelle Long

Pandora’s Gardener by David C Mason

 

Visit the Literary Titan Book Awards page to see award information and see all award winners.

 

Pompeii: the Peacock Murders

Pompeii: The Peacock Murders’, written by Lorraine Blundell, is set in the interesting and famous city, Pompeii, as young women start disappearing and a series of unique and recognisable murders are occurring throughout the city. It follows characters Cletus Asper, an undercover investigator, and his assistant Felix as they attempt to solve these bizarre murders and delve into the horrors of the past. All the while, the active volcano Vesuvius erupts.

This is a historical mystery thriller set in Pompeii and filled to the brim with interesting and engaging characters. To start off with the best aspect of the novel is the setting, Pompeii.

Lorraine Blundell went through great lengths to accurately portray this renown city and it is evident in all aspects of the story. From the ‘simple tunics’ to the ‘silk-made stolas’, from the ‘volcanic lava paved stones’ to the ‘coloured frescoes of peacocks and theatre masks’, it’s obvious that the setting is packed with historical accuracy. Not only this, but it is consistently told in engaging ways, not once did I find myself skimming any of these parts.

An abundance of characters appear throughout this novel, which can be troublesome, as sometimes a reader does not get the chance to understand, relate, or even like the characters of a novel if there are so many of them. Pompeii: The Peacock Murders evades this well in some areas and not so well in others. A few times, I found myself interested in a character only for them to never appear outside of that page. That being said, those that were explored were done well and Blundell did a good job in showcasing motivation and interests.

Other than the setting, one of the biggest aspects of this novel is the mystery. When this was first introduced, it was very intriguing and a bit heart-breaking. And while it continued to be so, eventually Pompeii: The Peacock Murders turned more to the motivations of characters, which is not harmful. In fact, it’s the opposite because doing so expanded our knowledge and judgement of certain characters. The reveal was satisfying, some readers will definitely guess who the culprit is but even though my prediction was right, it was still satisfying. And that, in my opinion, is the sign of a great mystery.

Ultimately, this is a fantastic historical fiction novel that was an enjoyable read and those who love this genre will have much to dive into.

Pages: 288 | ASIN: B08G4JX8ML

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