What Happened to Joe French? is a novella written by Hector Rodriguez that follows the winding story of Joe French, a man who lives his life by impersonating, lying, stealing, and creating cons at every turn. The text opens with the mention of a puzzle hidden in the pages of the story, with a prize of 33 gold ingots. After that attention grabber, the story begins with a young man named Daniel describing his limited experiences with Joe, an older man that Daniel would often see at the family bar. When Daniel receives a package years later with 33 gold ingots and a letter from Joe, Daniel does his best to narrate how Joe came to receive the package and where Joe is hiding now. After this information is set, the story follows Joe from a third person view and plays through his story, most of which occurred in the US military. You’ll have to read to the end if you want to know how Joe scrapes his way through situations and problems of his own creation.
What Happened to Joe French? is entertaining in it’s unique ability to create curious, compelling and sometimes amusing situations. Joe has many close encounters with famous people of the early 1960’s, which gives this novel some star power and Hollywood intrigue. He even spends a good amount of time convincing people that he is Otis Redding, which he uses to his advantage enough to make it into the Bud Billiken Parade in Chicago.
While I thought the story was entertaining and I enjoyed following Joe through his misadventures and his near escapes, I felt that Joe had no good motivation for what he was doing in the story. I didn’t feel like there was a potent reason for the lies and the thievery. There is a couple mentions of a lost chance at love, but it does not feel connected enough to the plot.
As for the puzzle that is hidden in the pages, I have to admit that, while I definitely located a few of them, I was not able to find all of them, and some I wasn’t even sure were clues. For example, there is a mention of “Coca-a-cola”, which has an added “a” in the middle. Is this a clue, or just a spelling error? There’s no way to know! It all just adds to the fun of the novel, which if I had to sum up this novel in one word it would be just that, fun.
Pages: 142 | ISBN: 1684701856
Mismatched amateur detectives Casey Alton and (former biker gang leader) Smitty have solved some tough mysteries before. But this one may push them to do some truly creative actions on the edge of what’s legal. Casey & Smitty have a dilemma they have to solve… A longtime good friend of Smitty’s has been conned out of $2,000,000 dollars. The perpetrator’s a known ruthless and murderous crook. The friend has been beaten within an inch of his life to keep him quiet.How can they get the friend’s money back without being killed or worse? Run a racket on a racketeer? Run a hustle on a hustler? Out con a con artist? How do the movies fit into their plan? For the answers to these questions and more, read STAGED!
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The Obsession is a thrilling crime novel that follows Jackie as she finds that she’s being stalked by a serial killer. What were some ideas that drove the development of this story?
Many of the stalker scenes really happened to me. It seems surreal at this point in my life, but it was terrifying and frustrating at the time. Thankfully, the murders were not true.
Jackie is a missilier in the Air Force. Why did you choose this profession as Jackie’s career?
I was one of the first female missiliers. At the time, it was the only combat role a woman could hold. The Air Force has come a long way since then. Many writers start by writing what they know. This experience was very close to home.
There is a lot of good red herrings in the book and it makes you see everyone as a suspect. Was this planned or did this happen organically while writing?
A little of both. In real life, figuring out the stalker did take a while. There were many options, and technology simply wasn’t as it is today. A phone trace was extremely complicated. There was no caller id. Some of the red herrings were added in after I got the initial draft on paper.
This is book one in the Jackie Austin Mysteries series. Where will book two find Jackie and when will it be available?
Wind the Clock is out now. In it, Jackie goes to Germany where she is working for the inspector general’s office. There is a plane crash, and the situation looks very similar to a scenario she wrote for an exercise so she gets blamed for it. She has to figure out the real culprit to get OSI off her back. (The books do not have to be read in order.)
At first, Jackie Austin tried ignoring the phone calls in the dead of the night. Fresh out of Air Force missile training and no stranger to harassment, she shrugged them off as a prank. But when the calls didn’t stop, unsigned love letters started arriving, and things in her house seemed out of place, Jackie started to worry. Were the men on base playing a trick on her or did they not realize that she wasn’t interested? And just how far would this harasser go?
In the neighboring town of Sedalia, a more ominous situation was brewing. Yet another young, single woman had been mysteriously killed in an ongoing series of grim murders. With the police on alert but without any leads, it was only a matter of time before the killer found his next victim.
Could Jackie be his next target?
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A small-city newspaper publisher lies on his deathbed, unable to speak, looking at his eldest son in hate and heartbreak before he dies. A phone call commences a cross-country journey to a bloody destiny for a man who has existed in the shadows most of his life. Years in the past, a man’s desire to save his family’s legacy leads to an unthinkable deal with a devil, one that will one way or another destroy lives. And private investigator Randall Arthur must race against time to discover a long-held secret and to protect a family from utter catastrophe.
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Shadow Resistance follows the lives of three women that quickly become entangled due a series of life changing events. What was the inspiration for the setup to this thrilling novel?
Originally, the novel started out as my personal response to the extreme shift the country saw in November 2016. As a triple minority, I felt a sense of pain, outrage, and confusion when I saw so much of the progress that was achieved virtually undone overnight. The increase in outward hatred towards people classified as “others” that accompanied this shift was also a large portion of my emotional turmoil. I will admit, the very first rough draft began more from a place of anger. However, it is true that time does soothe the mind a bit and I wanted to change my tactics. I felt like perhaps instead of anger, I should come from a place of using historical facts within a (what I hoped) was a gripping fictional plot. I feel like sometimes themes and facts in fiction are much easier received by some who have a hard time seeing the same themes in real life.
Dom, Rose, and Layla are intriguing and well developed characters. What were the driving ideals behind their character development?
I definitely wanted this novel to be female forward, particularly females of color. All three characters are compositions of my outer self, my inner self, and/or people who are close to me. Dom is the character that is the closest to my outer self. Many people who know me personally reach out to me after the first 2-4 chapters and say, “You’re Dom.” I would like to hope most authors use an aspect of themselves and their outlook in their main characters and that it’s not a sign of some weird narcissism on my part. Like Dom I’m an extreme introvert and an empath. Some of the stories of her past are things that actually happened in my life. (I only wish I had her computer ability and money!) While I do have some personality traits of the other two women, Rose is a combination of my wife and another good friend of mine who is an educator. Layla is inspired by my best friend in some ways.
As far as development, I wanted each woman to have their own special skill to bring to the table. I knew I wanted a sci-fi component to the story as I am a pretty big nerd, so I made Dom a tech genius. I also wanted a psychological/behavioral psychology piece. As my wife is a therapist I chose that vessel for Rose. I have known people who have had an eidetic memory in the past, which fascinated me, so I definitely wanted that as well, which I assigned to Layla. As far as their back stories and other character development, those were just as much a surprise to me as they were to the reader. I didn’t plan much of that, it just became organic to the story.
This novel expertly uses history and modern social issues throughout the book to create a thought provoking story. What were some themes you wanted to capture in your novel?
First and foremost, we are all human. When you strip away the labels, the physical, emotional, gender, sexuality differences, we are humans. We focus so much more on trying to be more important and better than others that we forget we are pretty much the same. Actions have consequences, and often those consequences can last for generations. This was what I wanted to get across in the historical component of the novel. If we refuse to acknowledge and accept how history affects the present, we are doomed to repeat it in the future. Another important theme I wanted to embrace was the concept of community. It seems that in today’s social media world, we are connected with everyone but don’t have a true real community of support. Those are probably the major themes for this novel. I touched on others like religion, sexuality, education, policing etc that I hope to go into in future installments.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
Currently I’m working on two books. Of course, I have the 2nd installment of Shadow Resistance in the works. However, as I just released this novel less than 6 months ago, I don’t want to rush the production of the 2nd book. I am piecing out the main arc before I take it up in earnest. (But rest assured the cliffhanger is handled within the first few chapters.) I’m also working on another standalone mystery/thriller surrounding a grief support group. I don’t have an expected release date for either. I want to make sure they are up to the same caliber or better than my first novel, but I hope one will be ready to go by Q4 2020.
In this intriguing, page-turning, and slyly humorous tale, readers will find themselves pulling for three unforgettable women confronted with an unusual opportunity to address age-old social, political, racial, and economic hot-button topics. Dominique “Dom” Samuels is a wealthy, reclusive computer genius living a life full of anxiety evoked by tragedy. Her acute awareness of the injustices suffered by minority communities makes a logic-based artificial intelligence program of her own creation preferable to people. Until, that is, a man appears on her doorstep with an ingenious idea that turns her isolated existence upside down.Rose Jenkins is a tough but compassionate urban school counselor with a mission to protect at-risk youth from the heartbreak of drugs and violence that took away two of her brothers. When another brother, Robert, is released from prison, healthy and free from his addiction, he opens her eyes to a mysterious group with an entirely new take on social justice. Layla Green is a police crime scene technician who finds herself at the scene of a grisly murder with no physical evidence and an unidentifiable victim. Then Layla’s eidetic memory zeroes in on one solitary clue — a video game console. When a stranger helps Layla and her partner, Rachel Vasquez, access the console’s protected files, things take a twist none of them could have predicted.Shadow Resistance leads its readers on an innovative, thought-provoking journey — and to a new take on timely social topics. Even as this book serves up its compelling story, it delivers an invitation to step into the shoes of those who may be different by remembering the humanity of others.
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Mystery readers who love New York: this book is for you. Missing: A Finn Delaney New York City Mystery introduces 25-year-old Finn, a fifth-generation police officer from a family that reveres the NYPD. When an unlucky accident ends his NYPD career, Finn becomes the next best thing: a Private Eye. Finn’s new career is off to a rocky start, complete with threadbare office and octogenarian assistant. Luckily, Finn quickly moves beyond the so-called “cavalcade of crazies” and stumbles into his first serious case. Follow Finn as he searches for a missing person who NYPD claims is not missing at all.
In Missing, Robert L. Bryan explores duty, loyalty, and friendship. He also plumbs the depths of vice that simmer in the city: corruption, greed, and crime. Bryan hits his storytelling stride as the details of the case unfurl. The plot moves quickly with confounding clues, hints of danger, and a parade of compelling characters.
Bryan has a knack for provocative characters. Finn’s apparent lack of self-determination can be frustrating—he seemingly rode a conveyer belt from booties to NYPD blues—but he develops into a likable main character. Early client stories, like the time Finn tailed a cat, are charming but lose something in bullet point format. The reader groans when Finn’s most pressing professional dilemma involves a desk chair and cheers when he finally lands a case.
Still, Finn is inscrutable. Other characters respond to him with generosity and affection when he shows none. I think the women in Finn’s world would benefit from added nuance; they are often one-dimensional. Finn’s father is a bright spot: unwavering in his support and helpful when Finn needs it most. We should all be so lucky.
Fans of the boroughs will enjoy devoted descriptions of Queen’s minutiae. Every intersection is noted, every landmark observed. Do I see a Finn Delaney walking tour of Queens in my future? Yes, please.
The book doubles back at times with Finn uncovering clues already revealed; in one notable situation, Finn hits upon the lynchpin of the case twice in seven pages. The book is lightly sprinkled with errors in grammar and punctuation. Despite these minor distractions, Missing is a satisfying mystery and a good read.
Pages: 197 | ASIN: B07L9DBXDN
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Imagine just having gotten back from vacation only to find out your best friend’s cousin has been murdered.
This is what greeted Lieutenant Beaudry, a renowned but controversial officer who isn’t particular in living by the police handbook. He is known to solve cases by his own rules. Will he make sure not to ruin it this time after his recent dispute? Or will he tamper the evidence just like his close friend Nico did after seeing his cousin motionless in his car.
Tainted Evidence by Michael Kent could seem like your typical murder novel except that in this story the professional assassin knows the art of prosthetics, perfectly disguising himself and surpassing immigration officers. He also makes his murders seem accidental. Nobody is suspicious until an officer was present in court when the judge suddenly lost consciousness, and later on, his life.
I liked the plot, as it stayed close enough to reality to be believable and there weren’t too many tangled lies and deceit to unravel. The descriptions of scenes are so detailed that even my imagination played it in my head with vivid clarity. Michael Kent is able to offer picture perfect scenes for his superb characters to inhabit.
My favorite character in Tainted Evidence has to be Pat. The book depicted her as an independent woman who successfully came out from an undesirable marriage. She had a struggle with her ex-husband but managed to break free, started over, recovered until becoming fully independent. I admired how she took charge of her own new life, not being discouraged by her
past, and being able to live alone and even choosing the house she and Beaudry would live in. She is a perfect epitome of a strong woman in this day and age. As fierce as her character seems, she did maintain her soft side by being as understanding as possible to Beaudry’s hectic schedule.
I also appreciated the inclusion of Jimmy, an autistic boy with exceptional photographic memory and drawing skills. I applaud the fact that his talent has been highlighted instead of his lack of social skills. I think this is a good example of Michael Kent writing, he always plays to a characters strengths.
Interesting characters and a fascinating murder mystery will give any fan of the mystery crime genre plenty to enjoy.
Pages: 220 | ISBN: 0993713165
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Stella Ryman and the Fairmount Manor Mysteries follows an elderly amateur sleuth as she sets out to solve the various mysteries plaguing her retirement home. What was your inspiration for the setup to this engaging novel?
Thanks for the kind words. My inspiration came while I was hanging about in a Vancouver care home, preparing to help move an enormous television set into an elderly acquaintance’s bedroom. I wondered, what if I lived here? What on earth would I do with myself? How do you wake up every day knowing that people are responsible for you, but you are responsible for nothing (there seemed to be some possibilities for rebellion here.) We all need a good reason for getting out of bed in the morning. What would that be? Watching television? Complaining about the food? I thought Stella Ryman might come up with an intriguing Third Option.
Stella is a senior with a tenacity that I enjoyed reading about. What were some themes you wanted to explore while creating her character?
I love exploring these:
- Old or young, we need to serve the world somehow.
- Almost everything is funny from some angle, and nothing is ever quite what it seems.
- No life is over until the final breath passes (and maybe not even then, see Mad Cassandra Browning.)
- Even in dire circumstances, there are always new chances at happiness.
- Without connection to others, we’re all just bundles of cells in fleece warm-up suits.
I enjoyed the logical mysteries portrayed in the novel, they were always intriguing yet intuitive. What was the process like in developing the different mysteries in the book?
I’m glad you enjoyed them—they were fun to write. I wanted to explore ways Stella struggles to regain the symbols of power that she discarded from her world when she checked herself into Fairmount Manor Care Home: a handbag on her wrist, a best friend, freedom to walk outside if she likes, or fix herself a cup of tea, or enjoy solitude, and above all the power to help others and right wrongs. All the mysteries turn on these.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
The Extra: A Monument Studios Mystery, is next, in second edition on Amazon in April 2018 and, writing as Melanie Archer, Younger Men. a comedy, also on Amazon in April 2018. The second Fairmount Manor Mystery novel, Stella Ryman and the Mystery of the Mah-jongg Box, comes out this fall from Pulp Literature Press, along with the seventh of the Hertfordshire Pub Mysteries, published in Pulp Literature’s literary quarterly.
On this particular sun-and-shade April morning at Fairmount Manor, Stella Ryman no more entertained the idea of becoming an amateur sleuth than she did of entering next spring’s Boston Marathon. For not only was Stella eighty-two years old, but she had lately sold her home and a lifetime of gathered possessions and washed up at Fairmount Manor Care Home in such a state that she would have bet her remaining seven pairs of socks that she’d be dead in half a year.
But when money goes missing and an innocent woman stands to lose her job at Fairmount; when malicious poison pen letters find their way into the hands of staff and residents; and when a resident vanishes without a trace, Stella takes matters into her own hands. To hell with being elderly — Stella will break every one of the Director’s rules and slash all the institutional red tape in the place in her struggle to solve mysteries and protect the innocent. Over the course of the first five mystery adventures, Mrs Stella Ryman transforms from a woman on her deathbed to a force of nature and intellect. She’s a fish out of water, a stranger in a strange land, and an amateur sleuth trapped in a down-at-the-heels care home.
You’d be cranky, too.
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