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Polish Dragon P. I. (Midnight Cranes)

Polish Dragon P. I. (Midnight Cranes) by [Steve Zimcosky]

Still recovering from jat lag as a result of his last case, Tom Sipowicz, the Polish Dragon P.I., is needed yet again. This time he is asked to go undercover at MaGed Material Handling to get to the bottom of a couple of mysterious deaths, with suspicions of theft and drugs just to make things a little more interesting. As Tom makes his way around the warehouse, trying his best to blend in, his well trained eye is quick to pick out a few suspects and odd happenings among his new peers. With the help of some friends as well as his own set of skills, Tom soon finds just how deep the problem goes!

In The Polish Dragon P.I. (Midnight Cranes) by Steve Zimcosky, we again get to follow the intriguing exploits of Tom Sipowicz as he seeks to solve all manner of enthralling mysteries. This time he’s asked to help solve a couple of deaths at an international company that specializes in building hardwares. The president isn’t satisfied with the official report by the authorities, and Tom is recommended to him. Instead of his usual methods, Tom is asked to go undercover so he can better assess and observe those at the warehouse, knowing that at least one of them is potentially responsible for the deaths. This provides for an entertaining narrative twist that puts the P.I. in different situations. Along the way, Zimcosky does an excellent job of fully immersing the reader in the environment Tom is living and working in. The plot moves fast even with lots of details given to the reader throughout the story. 

Like the other books in this series, Midnight Cranes is a fun and quick read. Tom is the kind of character that is instantly likeable and seems to be capable of just about anything; a trait that provides him with his many adventures. The quick references to past books makes everyone seem more relatable and familiar, which makes the book even more enjoyable. 

Midnight Cranes is the perfect book for some light and fun reading that delivers intrigue and entertainment on par with a full length novel but Zimcosky does it in under 90 pages. This is a book that will excite long time fans of the series as they’ll find the tried and true protagonist in new situations, but new readers will enjoy the easy story and alluring mystery.

Pages: 213 | ASIN: B093MX47QX

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A Paranormal Casebook

A Paranormal Casebook by [Robert Lee Dean, Crissha Figarella, J.N. McLaughlin, R.L. Dean]

A collection of short stories from West Texas, A Paranormal Casebook by Robert Lee Dean starts strong. Unsettled spirits feature alongside our narrator, who begins as a deputy in a rural Sheriff’s Department. Each story weaves in elements of death, loss, and haunting as we learn about specters he encounters, year by year.

The tone of the chief character is sparse, becoming a welcome voice. We read terse descriptions, not unlike case reports, with the awareness of surroundings that law enforcement officers often have. This creates punchy prose with nothing outwardly violent, terrifying, or grotesque; we see these unexplained phenomena alongside one with feet solidly planted on the ground and who has a gun in their holster. Few ghost hunters can call for armed backup, although it may not be needed, yet it helps the reader maintain a sense of safety when confronted with the unexplained.

Ghostly folk tales as outsider art make this a unique entry in the genre. The author is not a writer by trade and didn’t set out to write a book. That these stories were recorded gives us a rare and unique perspective, as he had written them as fleeting notes and hadn’t kept them. Luckily, someone did.

Some tales in A Paranormal Casebook have the familiar feel of urban legend or folk tales but are fresh through the eyes of a cop. We follow this rational, friendly man with his worn cowboy hat and love of pizza into ghostly adventures easier than a skeptic or frenzied ghost chaser. This is a riveting collection of short stories, and if you are looking for something new in the paranormal genre and want just the facts, this is a great pick from the Lone Star State.

Pages: 89 | ASIN: B091N8ZCQV

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Rose’s Thorn: A Joe Erickson Mystery

Rose's Thorn: A Joe Erickson Mystery by [Lynn-Steven Johanson]

Rose’s Thorn is a wonderfully suspenseful and creative murder mystery. The plot centers around everyone’s worst nightmare: a seemingly quiet town turned into a hunting ground for a dangerous predator. Someone is violently abducting, raping, and killing the town’s young women, but there are so many clues that are missing. Not even the town’s police force is exempt from suspicion. Joe Erickson and Destiny Alexander must work together to create a profile of this vicious killer and put him away. But they have some chemistry of their own to spice up the plot.

Rose’s Thorn is fantastically woven with twists and turns that keep the reader guessing and on the edge of their seat. Each character is introduced in an artful and believable manner that gives the reader a sense of who they are right away. Even if that character does not stay in the story for very long. The action scenes as well are very compelling; it comes quickly and with heart-pounding intensity. There is also an element of dramatic irony that will make the reader want to shout at the characters and tell them what is going on! The characters are realistic and most are likable and relatable which makes the story that much more enjoyable.

It is a funny coincidence that a lot of these characters have names beginning with “J”. Joe himself is a unique take on the hardened cop in that he is not overly so. The audience is able to relate to Joe and see how he is affected by events and emotions unlike the common version of the trope, but we still get the sense that he is a tough guy who will get the job done. Even the minor characters who make small appearances are unique and realistic which draws the reader into the book even further as it appears to be completely plausible.

Rose’s Thorn is a riveting crime fiction that lures you in with a seemingly simple yet complex murder mystery and delivers an absorbing investigation for those that love police procedurals. I loved the plot, the characters (especially the strong female co-lead, Destiny), and the twists and turns. Author Lynn-Steven Johanson has written an thriller that anyone, teenage and up, could enjoy at any time. Just be sure to lock the door!

Pages: 271 | ASIN: B085SX5WNN

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Rats In A Maze

Rats in a Maze by [Peter Bailey]

Rats in a Maze by Peter Bailey is a wildly thrilling novel that is sure to keep you turning the pages long after midnight. The book follows the stories of Detectives Ray Fisher, Brad Lahoti, and the mysterious and alluring Jessica Sorenson. A puzzling case has the New York Police Department hard at work: two convicts end up drowned in a car, with explosives, but suicide is ruled out. So who is responsible and why are there so many loose ends? Surely their murderer hidden in the shadows must be dangerous or powerful to have avoided catching the attention of the higher-ups? Detectives Ray and Brad must team up to investigate this odd case outside of the traditional methods and procedures used by the NYPD.

Peter Bailey has written a novel with equal parts mystery and suspense. The plot is action-packed and the author does not neglect his character developments. The audience really gets to see who the characters are and ride along this roller-coaster of a book with them. Bailey does an excellent job of portraying his characters so realistically that they feel like real people. Each has their own personal troubles and strengths that lend them to becoming truly three-dimensional. Additionally, Bailey should be commended for his portrayal of a unique LGBTQIA+ character in a way that is non-stereotypical and welcomed by the others; it was a refreshing aspect of the novel. Even the villains of the story are well-thought-out and intriguing.

The only flaw in the book is the occasionally confusing passages that may leave out a detail here or there. Some of the nonimportant scenes in the book occur very quickly and almost too concisely to be followed completely. The first example of this is when a forensic examiner makes fun of Detective Lahoti for his sexuality. The jab was almost missed by me so its impact was lessened. But the confusing passages are few and far between and do not detract from the story as whole. Rats in the Maze is an electrifying read that is well-suited to being devoured in one sitting on a rainy day. It is incredibly fast-paced and will leave you desperate for more. I highly recommend this fascinating mystery adventure.

Pages: 199 | ASIN: B08JMC8VHJ

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The Case Of The Golden Helmet

Tom Thomas is nothing if not dedicated to his job with the Canada Revenue Agency. He devotes most of his life to ensuring taxes are paid, laws are obeyed, and citizens hold up their part of the bargain as tax-payers. When he is given a case that would have stumped any lesser investigator, Tom vows to bring the perpetrator to justice no matter how long it takes or how much groundwork he must put into the case. As he begins to follow the trail, Tom finds his way thwarted at almost every turn. Not one to give in, he digs in and applies every principle and resource to which he has access and sets out to pin one Harold Gerber.

The Case of the Golden Helmet, by Ted Ballantyne, is the story of one man’s investigation into a quite complicated case of tax evasion that spanned two countries and required the resources of multiple offices. To complicate matters, the perpetrator, Harold Gerber, engaged in a well-thought out money laundering scheme in order to avoid paying taxes. Gerber, the mastermind behind the complicated string of events, has his own simple reasons for refusing to pay taxes. His reasons are quite simple and straightforward, but they aren’t enough to keep him from paying his dues.

I was truly amazed at all of the background knowledge that went into the construction of what could have been a very basic plot. From cover to cover, Ballantyne details every phone call, connection, and favor called in in order to bring Gerber down. The author writes in a style that is technical and specific to the profession of tax investigation but manages to keep the dialogue from becoming bogged down in verbiage above the reader’s head.

This is quite a different style of realistic fiction and isn’t for all readers. I can’t say the book is anticlimactic, but readers who are looking for a book with drama or action will not find his particular style up their alley. Ballantyne has put a lot of work into creating a very specific type of read, and he has succeeded in creating a book for fans of technical writing–not drama.

Ballantyne’s characters are well written, his plot engaging, and the technical way in which he writes about tax laws is thoughtful and shows an unmatched dedication. The Case of the Golden Helmet is a compelling crime novel with a unique mystery that will hook fans of crime procedurals.

Pages: 143 | ASIN: B08KHCYTBP

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