Finding AJ follows FBI Agent Jules as she searches for a serial killer through a zombie apocalypse. What were some themes you wanted to carry over from book 1 and what was a new direction you wanted to take in book 2?
The themes were quite different in Jacob’s Odyssey and Finding AJ. While the main theme in Jacob’s Odyssey was centered around Jake’s internal journey, the main theme in Finding AJ was Jules’ obsessive quest to find the serial killer known as the Calligrapher. However there is a common theme that runs through both novels, and that has to do with the incredible beauty of nature that surrounds us, yet the human race seems bent on self-destruction. At one point in Jacob’s Odyssey, Jake comments on how he’s always thought of the mountains surrounding the Salt Lake Valley as being as “eden-like” as any place on earth. There are beautiful descriptions of nature in both novels.
The town of Gideon is one of the last remaining towns in the apocalypse. How did you imagine a town would come together and survive in a time like this?
The only way the people of Gideon, or any other post-apocalyptic setting, could survive is by working together to solve any problems that came up. “Working together” is the key. Gideon had good leaders and the people there were willing to do their part in order to survive.
Jules is a determined FBI agent, but faces some tough decisions. What were some obstacles that you felt were important to her characters development?
The personal obstacles Jules needed to overcome had to do with her tendency toward being a self-reliant lone wolf. She generally doesn’t connect with or open herself up to others. She has difficulty giving her trust. She doesn’t let anyone in. It isn’t easy for her, but eventually she opens herself up and begins to connect with others. And she has to “trust” someone if she’s going to find the serial killer, and toward the end she finally does.
Will there be a book 3 in the Apocalypse Journeys series and where will that take readers?
There may be a 3rd novel. I’m not sure yet. It depends on how well Finding AJ does. Simple as that. If there is a third novel, it will combine characters from the first two novels. They will be at the underground government complex that is mentioned in Jacob’s Odyssey. This is the same complex where the virus was developed, and there are still experiments going on there. The conspiracy will be revealed, and virtually everyone (Jake, Sarah, Becky, Jules, Caleb, and others) will be in danger. Lukas Melzer will, of course, be there, as well as the new president of the United States. And deep in the complex are a host of grays (zombies), including the alpha called Eve. And don’t be terribly surprised if the Swimmer from Jacob’s Odyssey makes a return. He’s the baddest alpha around. Can’t leave him out.
Her search leads her to Gideon, Utah, a small town in the southern part of the state. There, amongst the 116 survivors, a serial killer hides in plain sight. There’s only one clue to his identity. Using a scalpel, he inscribes the letters AJ into the abdominal area of his victims–postmortem–in an ancient Chinese text called Tsao, the lettering precise and artistic.
Jules knows the key to finding the Calligrapher lies in discovering the identity of AJ. If she can find AJ, she can find the Calligrapher. But the Calligrapher knows who Jules is. Jules must survive the infected and find the Calligrapher before she becomes his latest victim.
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Dr. Jordan Chamberlain is a successful, beautiful, young medical examiner with the perfect husband, the perfect life, and perfect friends. Somewhat of a whiz, kid, she’s younger than most Medical Examiners and enjoys a bit of glamour whenever her forensic data is sent to trial. To an outside observer, Jordan has it all, until that is, her husband, Jason, announces without warning that he doesn’t want to be married anymore and Jordan’s perfect life crashes and burns around her.
Jordan buries herself even deeper in her work, temporarily embarking on a career consulting with the FBI’s Violet Crimes Division under the careful eye of college friends turned colleagues, who support her during her as she tries to rebuild her life.
Her future, however, is about to be compromised once more when she becomes the target of the serial killer she’s been pursuing.
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We meet the protagonist of Russ Melrose’s Finding A.J.: Apocalypse Journeys 2 as she sits on the side of a gravel road in the Mojave Desert, head in her hands. Jules is not the crying kind, but that’s exactly what she’s doing. The tough FBI agent pulls it together despite the crumbling world around her to work on a case that she can’t let go. A tough case for this tough agent is made tougher by the apocalyptic state the world is now in. The dead, also known as “grays” or the “infected”, walk the streets hunting for their next meal while Jules goes from town to town hunting for a serial killer whose case she hasn’t been able to solve.
Finding A.J. stands alone as a book even though it is part of a series. You do not need to know anything more than this book provides to understand the plot of this book. (But, I’d like to go back and read part 1 now!)
Jules is an independent, no-nonsense kind of girl. She is more than self-sufficient. She seems like she could be a loner and wouldn’t mind keeping it that way. However, she doesn’t stay alone for long. She finds a teenage girl in desperate need of her help and rescues her from her captor. Addy, the girl she rescues, then becomes sort of a foster daughter to Jules despite Jules’s objections. Addy would likely have been a loner too, but with the world falling apart and her recent captivity and abuse she needs to cling to someone. She needs someone to trust. That someone will be Jules.
Jules and Addy make an eventful trek to the town of Gideon. That is where most of the story plays out. Gideon is a town that is still hanging on, even if by a thread. There is still a mayor and policemen, which is more than can be said for many post-apocalyptic towns. A large chunk of the population has been infected and died, but anarchy hasn’t quite reached Gideon yet. The townspeople cling to any semblance of normalcy they can even while they are uprooted. Readers will get to know many of the people in the town. They will also be suspicious of everyone they meet. The townspeople all have jobs and duties to perform for the sake of self-preservation. The dead are walking, there is a killer among them, and all they have is each other.
Parts of the book reminded me of scenes from The Walking Dead. Tasks as simple as grocery shopping become major undertakings with the “grays” wandering around. Supply runs put many characters in danger. Every seemingly menial task becomes exceedingly difficult. You will breathe sighs of relief as plans come together, and hold your breath when they don’t.
The book is very well written. It is not hard to follow, and the plot flows well. Characters are well developed and enough backstory is given to assist with that development. As the events of the story play out, you will question each character. No one can be trusted. You will hang onto the edge of your seat waiting to find out who the serial killer is and if Jules can catch them.
Pages: 336 | ASIN: B07CZ4VS2R
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Book of Matthew Part I is a tale of forbidden love in rural Missouri in 1850 which was a tumultuous time in the U.S. What was the inspiration that inspired the setup to this intriguing novel?
It all began with a conversation. I had just started dating the man who is now my husband and we were still getting to know one another. He asked if I would vote in the upcoming election and I replied, “of course I will. My ancestors fought and died to give me the right to. Without their sacrifices I wouldn’t be able to vote, own property, read, let alone attend my university. I wouldn’t even be able to date you.” After that conversation I started to wonder how difficult it would have been to have an interracial relationship centuries ago and my first book was born.
I have always been a lover of suspense, mystery and horror so I decided to write in these genres. My goal was to create a Jack the Ripper sort of villain, while maintaining the drama, romance and personal conflicts that make characters relatable and memorable.
While growing up I noticed a double standard in regard to history. If you were white and you wanted to trace your lineage back to the Mayflower this was perfectly acceptable. People were intrigued to hear your family’s history and they encouraged and praised your vast knowledge of a bygone era… but if you were black you were often discouraged from learning anything about your ancestry. I was told things like, “Black people need to leave the plantation,” and “Black people live in the past and need to just forget things.” Yearning to educate myself about the past is not the same as living in it. I didn’t desire someone to blame or scapegoat, all I wanted was the same answers that other races of children were encouraged to seek out.
When I received correspondence from readers in England, France, Ireland and several countries in Africa they applauded my stories and said, “Wow! This was a fascinating look at American history.” Not Black history, nor African American history. Other countries acknowledge this topic as American history because that’s exactly what it is. When I am criticized for this subject matter my response remains the same,
I don’t write racist literature. Nor do I write black history. I write American history.
The book touches on sensitive social topics rarely discussed, slavery and the dynamic between master and slave. What were some themes you wanted to capture in this story?
The main theme I wanted to capture was that every form of this institution was morally reprehensible. When I grew up in school most of my teachers refused to teach this subject whatsoever. We would skip over huge chunks of our textbooks just to avoid it. The few who did teach about it romanticized the hell out of it, and made it seem acceptable because “most slaves were like part of the family” …I actually heard this more than once. What I desired to express in this story was that even if you were a house slave who was treated better than others and much like part of the family, merely being owned endangered your life because someone has diminished your social standing from that of a human being to that of a piece of property. This fact alone placed even the best treated of slaves at risk for kidnapping, rape and murder with no law enforcement to save them.
Second, I wanted to make it known that when some of us are slaves, we all are. Destitute white men, minorities and women of all colors were treated as second class citizens because of that system of inequality.
Third, I wanted to acknowledge all the people who were adamantly opposed to slavery and fought against it at every turn. 400 years of Americans are blamed and villainized for what some people did. Though slavery was socially acceptable, not everyone agrees with 100% of what is socially acceptable. Disagreeing with social norms is what makes us individuals. Fighting against corrupt social norms is what makes us heroes. The people who stood against these heinous acts are rarely recognized, but without them our society would’ve failed to evolve.
Sarah is a slave that is targeted by a serial killer that murders with impunity. What were the driving ideals behind Sarah’s character development?
The driving force behind Sarah’s character development was the total lack thereof I have witnessed in similar stories. In many of the plantation novels I have read the slaves are faceless one-dimensional victims who serve as little more than background for white main characters. The female slave characters were poorly developed and served as little more than objects of lust incapable of inspiring true feelings of love and affection. Reading a plantation novel with no black main characters is like reading Memoirs of a Geisha with no geisha. These stories failed to capture my attention and I found the characters unrealistic and totally unrelatable. When I wrote a book I was determined to make sure there were black main characters as well as white ones, and that ALL of my characters have depth and unique personalities. I wanted Sarah’s character to have hopes, dreams, ambitions, drama and romantic conflicts of her own. I yearned to put a human face on a slave character, an aspect rarely seen in books of this nature. Though there have been many forbidden lust stories in this genre I wanted to give Sarah an against all odds forbidden love story readers wouldn’t soon forget.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
Revelations: The Colburn Curse is a prequel to Book of Matthew that traces the Colburn family back to their beginnings in New Orleans, Louisiana. In this story Matt Colburn Sr. is a young plantation heir who has been given the duty of protecting an aristocrat named, Arial. He falls madly in love with the elusive heiress, but she is hiding a deadly secret that has made her the target of the Louisiana Strangler, a secret that endangers everyone she holds dear, especially Matt. This book is already available for purchase on amazon.com.
The Infinity series is based on the many star crossed lifetimes of Sarah and Matthew. I wrote this series for readers who enjoy historical suspense but prefer a tale with less violence and adult content. Three of the ten books are already available on amazon.com.
Book of Matthew II: Ancient Evil will be released December 2018.
Women of color are not a priority of law enforcement in 1800’s Missouri. They are not even considered human. These social injustices allow a serial killer to run rampant. Sarah, a beautiful black slave, finds herself in the crosshairs of a monster who murders with impunity. The only one concerned with her plight is the master’s son. Will Matthew find the strength to rescue this slave girl, even if he lacks the courage to admit he’s in love with her…
It’s Jack the Ripper meets Roots in this pulse pounding historical thriller. House of Whispers packs the chills of a Stephen King book, the romance of a Nicholas Sparks novel and the in your face irony of an M. Night Shyamalan flic.
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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 based on a tracker Cat Morgan. Dubbed the “witchy woman” by others, Cat Morgan is a mysterious and alluring character that is helped by forces beyond her understanding when finding murder victims. A chance encounter with a body in a dumpster leaves her meeting a handsome and rugged police officer, Kevin Hunter. Kevin is wary of her flimsy excuses for how she finds her victims and pushes aside his attractions in order to get her out of town. But life has other plans as Cat is drawn into a killer mystery where she finds herself a potential target for a crazed murderer. Will Cat and Kevin be able to work together to catch a killer or will Cat be another victim?
Sentinels of the Night, written by Anita Dickason, is a fast-paced mystery novel that involves the FBI, rituals and killers that make your skin crawl. Mysterious owls, fragmented dreams and sexy police officers join together to form a murderous jigsaw puzzle.
The new tracking team Cat joins is a group of fast thinking, switched on agents who each have their own unique attributes that they bring to the table. Their abilities reminded me a little of “Criminal Minds” and I loved seeing how their inexplicable skills join together to fight crime. They work hard and Scott, the boss, respects their unique perspectives and theories on the killer. Cat fits right in with the team however some begin to suspect how she comes up with pieces of evidence that become crucial to the case.
The story flicks between the perspective of Cat, Kevin and the killer, giving us an insight into how the killer thinks and acts. This only serves to build tension throughout the story and helps create the creepy and sadistic image of a murderer. The switch between characters also provides a small relief when the story line begins to ramp up in the eyes of a killer as he begins to hunt for his next victim. Anita Dickason’s description of the killer is one that will play on your mind for some time!
Anita Dickason is able to mix together a plot that is sexy with a dash of action, supernatural and mystery. I found the combination made the novel easy to read and hard to put down! I thoroughly enjoyed the tension that builds between Cat and Kevin and was eager to learn how their interactions would proceed further than a professional working relationship. The dynamics between the two mean that they often think on a similar wave length, which helps when Cat is trying to slide in clues that she has discovered through alternative means.
I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys a whodunnit style novel with a dash of romance and mystery! Sentinels of the Night is the perfect novel that will be sure to tick all of the boxes for any fan of crime.
Pages: 296 | ASIN: B06XK9PS3B
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Beth Nielson doesn’t need any more drama in her life. Her hectic job at the Willis Mortgage Company has become unstable, leaving her with a shaky future. What’s more, she’s dealing with a violent ex-boyfriend who is stalking her, and now a serial killer is on the loose in her city—and the monster is killing women who look just like her.
Meanwhile, her brother Russ has dedicated his life to building a time travel machine; he’s now completed it and is ready for experimentation. Beth hates the contraption and wants no part of it; she fears that possible paradoxes may tear their lives apart. Russ promises his sister that while traveling through time, he will not intermingle with the inhabitants of the past or the future, nor will he change history. Unfortunately, when Beth’s stalker threatens her, she flees by the only method available – the time machine. It sends Beth to a farm in the year 1860. With a broken-down machine, only time will tell if she can survive this challenging life while she waits and hopes that her brother will find her.
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In The Impostor’s Trail, we find Sean Kruger living out his golden years when a culprit Kruger feels responsible for losing six years ago pops up on the radar. What were the driving ideas behind Sean Kruger’s development throughout the story?
The concept of the novel originated with a short story written in 2013 titled, The Forgotten Brother Affair. The short story was featured on my website for about a year. After I completed the second book in the series, I was looking for ideas for the next one. Keeping in mind Kruger retires at the end of The Assassin’s Trail, there had to be a compelling reason for him to get back in the game. The return of the only serial killer to elude him during his FBI career seemed appropriately compelling.
In this installment, we find Kruger torn between righting a mistake he made six years prior and keeping his family safe. Facing pressure from his wife to stay retired and fighting his own internal need to bring the killer to justice, Kruger embarks on a journey of self-discovery. This journey finds our hero dealing with the conflict of seeking revenge and righteousness. I won’t reveal any more of the plot, but his journey gets intense.
You do a great job with descriptions as usual. It’s easy for the reader to picture either characters or settings in their mind. What is your writing process like?
Thank you for the compliment. I read a lot, making note of how other authors describe their settings and characters. During the journey to improve my writing techniques, more than one book on the craft of writing was consumed. Without exception, they emphasize a good writer must read. Read as many books in the genre you write as possible. I continue to do this, and try to learn from the best.
The majority of the settings used in my novels are places I have lived near or visited during a period of time when I traveled extensively. For instance, JR’s building in the downtown area is a real place. While in college, I thought it would be a great place to live. Alas, I could not afford the rent as a student. As a writer, the process of describing locations is how I see them in my mind’s eye based on personal experience. If I need to utilize a place I have never been, Google Earth is a great tool.
Describing characters is different, in my opinion. How a reader envisions a character is influenced by two factors. How the character acts and hints the author offers in the novel. I am not sure anyone has noticed, but I have never given a clear description of what JR Diminski looks like. This was done on purpose. He is a computer geek. But he is also self-assured and able to handle himself in dangerous situations. Let the reader fill in the blanks.
I enjoy the large cast in this story. If Hollywood came knocking who would you cast as the leads?
An interesting question. I really have not given it much thought. However, there is one character in the story who is already cast. Joseph’s character is described as bearing a remarkable resemblance to the actor Morgan Freeman. He is one of my favorite actors with a remarkable body of work depicting a wide range of different characters.
The rest of the cast I’m not sure about. Kruger would need to be a tall individual with an air of quiet self-confidence, Liam Neeson, Hugh Jackman, or even Christian Bale come to mind. Kruger’s wife, Stephanie is a woman who survived and prospered in the cut-throat world of big corporations. She would need to be an actress who projects a strong will and intelligence. Someone like Natalie Portman or Jennifer Connolly perhaps. JR Diminski is a tough call, maybe Titus Welliver or maybe Daniel Day-Lewis.
If the opportunity ever materialized, I am sure I would have little say in the matter.
How long do you see the Sean Kruger series going for? When will the next book be available?
Right now, with The Impostor’s Trail finished, I am working on a stand-alone JR Diminski manuscript. My oldest son suggested doing one and several friends agreed. However, the next Sean Kruger book already has a concept written, which is my version of an outline. The working title is The Cold Trail. Of course, this is subject to change. But with luck, and a lot of early mornings, I hope to have it out late 2018.
As far as how far will I take the series? Good question. My best answer is when the ideas for a good story stop, the series will stop. As an Indie Author, I don’t have a staff of assistants sitting around thinking up plot ideas, it just me, myself and I. Plus I am not subject to the demands a traditional publisher puts on popular authors. I don’t want to be, what I call, a book factory. Traditional publishers make their money by publishing books. There are a number of very popular authors and some Indie Authors who publish two and in some cases three or more books a year. How is it possible? If you write full-time, maybe. But I am not sure the plots are well thought out.
So for now, I will continue to take my time with each book and strive to produce quality, well-edited manuscripts, possessing realistic character driven story lines.
Over the Indian Ocean a Malaysia Airline jumbo jet drops from radar. Three hundred twenty-seven souls disappear with it; a woman in Rockford, Illinois is brutally murdered. Unrelated news events? Retired FBI agent Sean Kruger doesn’t think so. He suspects it’s the work of serial killer Randolph Bishop.
Now a college professor, Kruger has tried to live with the mistake he made while investigating Bishop six years earlier. It looks as though the only man to elude him, in his twenty-five year tenure with the FBI, has returned to seek vengeance on those who forced the man to flee the country. With his family in danger, Kruger comes out of retirement to find Bishop’s trail. A trail that leads Sean to question his own humanity.
Randolph Bishop joins the ranks of fictional serial killers such as Hannibal Lecter, Patrick Bateman and Anton Chigurh in this tale of revenge and justice. The Impostor’s Trail will keep you turning pages late into the night.
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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?
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Michael Pronko is a scholar and an on Japanese culture. He is also an excellent story teller that captivates readers and takes them on an adventure through his words. The Last Train is set in Tokyo, and even if you have never been to Tokyo, don’t worry, Pronko draws you into the life there. His attention to detail is not limited to the scenery, but the customs and mannerisms that make up the Japanese’s culture. There is extensive time devoted explaining the life and world revolving around the hostess clubs, not sex clubs, rather clubs where men go to find a woman to entertain them for a period of time, while drinking and getting their ego stroked. It is within this society of hostess clubs that murder mystery is flushed out. A killer, targeting foreign investors is using the trains as her weapon of choice.
The story revolves around Michiko Suzuki and the team of detectives that are investigating the train murders. Michiko is the daughter of a factory owner whose mother died when she was young. She was raised by her father and his workers. She learned early that business is not always neat and clean, and that sometimes getting their hands dirty and making backdoor deals is the norm there. As Pronko tells Suzuki’s story he alternates between current events and her memories of the past, telling how she got to where she is, and how she has picked her victims. The main detectives investigating are Hiroshi and Takamatsu. Hiroshi is an accountant that due to spending part of his life in America is fluent in English so he works white collar crimes for the police. Takamatsu is a homicide detective that pulls together his own dream team to work on this case. Their case takes a high profile turn and soon they’re dodging politics as well the cultural need to keep everything neat and tidy. Michiko tries to keep her activities low key but when several of her victims survive her plot, things get messy for her and the police.
One of the most fascinating things about this novel is not the mystery aspect. The murder is not a secret from the beginning. What is a mystery is why she is killing people, figuring out what drove her to this life. Hiroshi is a complex character as well, and his dynamic interactions throughout the investigations add to the plot as well as provide an unique look at the culture. Even though he is from Tokyo, spending time in America gave him a different perspective on the way things are done; whereas Takamatsu comes off as the typical Japanese man. They make an interesting and effective partnership. Having the diverse views interacting with witnesses and other characters makes for a dynamic story line, it is diverse and provides multiple views from different cultural perspectives. Much of the story takes place in Roppongi, here you see all the varieties of hostess clubs, the basic lounge style, mud wrestling, nude women, and the high-end invite only David’s Lounge. Each club gives readers a different taste of the culture.
Overall The Last Train by Michael Pronko is a well written and enticing look into the culture of Tokyo. The story behind Michiko Suzuki is compelling and engaging, you can’t help flipping the pages to see what she is going to do next and find out why her victims were chosen. Hiroshi connects well with everyone he interacts with so there is an emotional response from the reader. Pronko uses emotion, mystery and attention to detail to keep the reader engaged and wanting more. I look forward to seeing more from Pronko and hope he has more stories to tell with Hiroshi.
Pages: 348 | ASIN: B071DPXP7M
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