Tuesday, 19 January 2021

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS WITH ERIC BEETNER

Eric Beetner, author of Two in the Head which was enjoyed and on the blog yesterday was kind enough to answer a few questions for me regarding his writing, his books and brussel sprouts, as well as a few other things.   




I’m guessing the book writing’s maybe not full time? If not, what’s the day job and can you give us a quick biography of yourself?

Good guess. I’m very lucky in that my day job is also a creative endeavor. I’m a TV editor and
producer. So I’m not a cubicle jockey in a tie and dress shoes. My whole world is story and structure and keeping things lean. I think a lot of that translates into my fiction. I’m working on a show you would certainly know - Top Gear. But the U.S. version which I have to say this latest iteration is the best yet. And I mean that sincerely. I’ve long admired the editing style of Top Gear UK as the best in the biz so it’s quite an honor to be the Co-Executive Producer and lead editor of the US version.

I’m currently reading your latest offering Two in the Head which drops soon – published by Down and Out Books. Can you pitch it to a potential reader in 50 words or less? 

(Finished reading - very good, plus it's now available!)


It’s a weird book and my hardest yet to summarize. Basically it’s this: A crooked DEA agent tries to extricate herself from the drug lords who pay and control her. They try to kill her in retaliation and she ends up splitting into two people - her good side and her bad side. The bad Samantha tries to destroy the good Samantha and everything she loves. A whole lot people die and things blow up.

You’ve written over twenty novels, including several short series and several collaborations with other authors, novellas and multiple short stories, across several genres. You have a popular podcast and you design book covers. Is there anything you don’t turn your hand to?

Not much. I’ve done western and horror too. I’m lousy at traditional mysteries and I wouldn’t even try a locked room story. I’m not smart enough to extricate myself from a plot like that. I admire those who do it well.

I’ve also been a musician, a painter, an actor. Jack of all trades, master of none.

Do you have a personal favourite among your prodigious output? Is that like asking if you have a favourite child?

My favorites are usually the ones not published yet. Someday I hope they make it out into the world so I can see how wrong I am.

Which one would you press into the hands of a new reader?

I usually steer new readers to either Rumrunners or The Devil Doesn’t Want Me. Based on reader feedback and reviews, etc. those are my most popular books and I think they both represent me well as a writer. If you like what you see there you can trust you’ll like the other books too. 



Can you remember what your first published piece was and when?

I don’t and I should! It had to be an online zine short story in one of the webzines that is long since dead. Thuglit published a story of mine, Ditch, and that was one of the first, but not the first. It was a big deal for me, though

Do you have a favourite format - short story, novella or novel and a favourite genre to work in?

I think I like novels best, though shorts give you that immediate satisfaction. And my books tend to be on the shorter side. Maybe my ideal length skews more toward a novella, but I like a story where many things happen and a character can go through changes. And I like straight ahead crime stories and noir best, though neither of those sell all that well.

Do you have a typical writing schedule?

I’m a late night writer. I do it after my family goes to bed. There is less distraction from the world in general at night, which is I prefer it for all aspects of life.

Do you insert family, friends, and colleagues into your characters? 

Sometimes. For Two In The Head I borrowed more names than usual. Calder and Rizzo are sons of a good friend. They were about 5 years old at the time I wrote the book. They still have a ways to go before they can read it. But it’s a slippery slope using names because the assumption is the character is also a proxy for the name, but most of the people I write about aren’t anyone you’d want as your namesake. Naming a character after someone isn’t always a compliment, sometimes it’s revenge.

When you have an idea and you sit down to construct your story – do you know what the end result is roughly going to look like? Are you a plotter, or do you make it up as you go along?

I am an outliner. It comes from my screenwriting background. I like to know where I am going so I don’t waste time meandering on the way there. I’m not big on rewriting or revisions so I try to have it set in an outline before I really get going. It’s another film production technique. Pre-production is key to a smooth shoot so why not pre-produce your book so the writing itself goes easily?

Are there any subjects off limits? 

I’m not big on torture or rape. I don’t like serial killers but they’re not off limits. Generally, unless
you’re trying to be shocking with excessive violence or violence toward women or children which is off-putting, then nothing should be off limits. There is an audience for everything. 

I'm curious to know how a co-authored project works. Is it a vastly different process to a solo project? 

Every team works a bit differently. I’ve had really good luck. I was smart enough to team up with great writers who are also nice people. The books I’ve co-written were also done as two first person narrators so the writing is still fairly solo. The plotting takes place by kicking emails back and forth and agreeing on a storyline. From there you go off and write your chapter, hand it off and wait for the other chapter to come back and you make minor adjustments and tweaks as you go. 

More scope for disagreements and stress, or double the fun? (Though I don't actually know that writing is fun, it seems like bloody hard work from this reader's limited knowledge.)

I’ve had good luck as I said but I don’t always recommend it to others. It is fraught with pitfalls and it if fails you have to be able to walk away and stay friends and say it didn’t work out but no harm.

Back to the current baby, how long from conception to completion did Two in the Head take? Was it a smooth process or were there many bumps in the road along the way?  


It went smoothly. It’s a wild concept so keeping the rules I had given myself for this story that departs from reality was the hard part. Giving good Samantha limitations on what she could do, since she literally can’t do anything wrong - like speeding when she is trying to rush home to save her fiancé’s life - was tough but also really fun writing myself out of those limits.

Did the end result mirror your expectations at the start of the process, or is it a very different book to what you imagined?

It’s what I imagined. I tried to channel my inner Duane Swierczynski or Victor Gischler for this one. I had a lot fun just going for broke with the action. 

Not having gotten too far along with my reading, and without spoiling it for me, is there scope for a continuation with your main lead character from Two in the Head, or is it a one-shot only outing?

This one is a standalone. I wanted the stakes to be real. Anyone can die at any time. Nobody is safe.

Are there any unpublished gems in your bottom drawer?


I am sitting on five unpublished manuscripts currently. Working on a new one, too. Gems? We shall see. So far, no agent wants to take me on so the books might all suck. Who knows? 

What’s the current project in progress?

I’m very early on to a new novel about an old guy settling a very old score. I like writing about people with age and history. I find them rich mines of stories to tell. Plus, I’m not so young anymore myself.

What’s the best thing about writing?

Getting to see a story you’d want to read come to life. I write because I think of a story and I say, “Oh, I’d want to read that” So I get to!

The worst?

The business of it is really heartbreaking most times. It’s that meeting of art and commerce that is a necessary evil of any creative endeavor. 

Moving on….

What are the last five books you’ve read?

The Hundred Dollar Girl by William Campbell Gault

I’ll Bury My Dead by James Hadley Chase

The Cipher by Isabella Maldonado

Murder In Old Bombay by Nev March 

When These Mountains Burn  by David Joy




Who do you read and enjoy?

I always look forward to a new Joe R Lansdale book. Owen Laukkanen never lets me down. Brett Battles. Laura McHugh, Ken Bruen, John Rector. And I love diving into my shelf of vintage novels and finding old books that have been forgotten.




Is there any one book you wish you had written?

Only about a million of them.

Favourite activity when not working or writing?

I love volleyball and I haven’t been able to play since Covid. I miss it terribly.

What’s the last film you watched that rocked you?

A French Thriller called Lost Bullet I really enjoyed.


TV addict or not? What’s the must watch show in the Beetner household?

It’s my business so I watch a lot of TV guilt free. My viewing habits are totally different from the rest of my family. I keep trying to get my wife to watch Ted Lasso, though. It’s not too dark for her, even though she’ll watch hours of true crime documentary stuff that is way darker than the shows I watch. 


My daughter will watch The Office (US version, sorry) on a loop 24/7 if we let her.

What are the last three pieces of music you’ve listened to?

I constantly have music on. I recently got a new guitar so I’ve been plucking away at learning some songs lately. I will spare anyone from having to listen to me, though.

-----------------------------------

RANDOM TRIVIA FUN QUESTIONS

What’s your favourite vegetable?

Brussel Sprouts. If my ten-year-old self could hear that he’d think I’m nuts




When did you last have a fist fight?

Never. I’ve come close, but I’ve avoided them all my life. 

Have you ever been thrown out of a bar or a club?


Nope. I don’t drink so I think that gets back to why I’ve never been in a fistfight either.

Do you have any tattoos?

Surprisingly, no. By all accounts I’m exactly the kind of person who would. Now my wife doesn’t want me to so despite having several that I’d probably like to get, I remain ink free

What was your first pet’s name?

Fang, a cat

What’s the worst meal you have ever eaten?

Hard to say. It’s about context really. I’ve had some dreadful tasting meals, but sad roadside grease bomb food when there is just no other alternative is often the worst. Or that one time meeting my girlfriend’s parents and they had so badly over-salted the meal that none of us could choke it down but I did my damndest to be polite and make a good impression. That was pretty bad.

Do you have any irrational fears?

No. I’m not afraid of much. Probably should be.

What’s your favourite holiday destination?

Anywhere with my family, really. We don’t get to go many places so I don’t have a lot of experience to pull from, but as long as we’re together we can make any place a good time.

When did you last tell a lie?

I lie to my kids all the time. It’s fun

------------

Many thanks to Eric for his time.

Visit him at his website - ericbeetner.com   

Catch his Writertypespodcast - here

Follow him on Twitter@ericbeetner



and check out his books! Starting with his latest.....


TWO IN THE HEAD

When Samantha awakes she is half buried in bricks and the smoke still swirls in the air. The car bomb didn’t kill her—small miracle. Her unfocused eyes see a figure coming nearer. A shape she recognizes somehow. As the person passes by the orange glow from the car fire’s light, she sees the face. Her face. But how?

The other Samantha stands over her and regards her twin. Something is off about this new face. It is her, sure, but harder somehow. The new Sam turns and walks away, back toward the building she came out of before her car exploded. Back to see the two drug kingpins in the top floor offices. And somehow Samantha knows—back to take the deal she just turned down.

Samantha Whelan is a DEA agent, and not always a straight and narrow one. She’s been taking bribes and doing favors for Calder and Rizzo—twin brothers and big players in narco traffic in southern California—for years. She turned down a deal that night, a deal to make her millions, but it meant killing her fiancé, an assistant district attorney building a case against Calder and Rizzo. And it meant betraying her DEA brethren more deeply than she had so far. It was too much. So Calder and Rizzo tried to blow her up.

What happened then…she split. Samantha became Samantha and Sam. Two halves of the same person. The good side and the bad side. The two opposing forces living within her for so long were now free to fight it out to see who will win control.

So begins a nightmarish rocket ride for Samantha to save her life and the lives of everyone she holds dear before Sam, her bad half, can burn it to the ground.

Praise for TWO IN THE HEAD:

“Two In the Head is a straight shot between the eyes. A gangbusters plot, punch-drunk pace, and gut-punch action propel this black hearted thriller fr



Monday, 18 January 2021

ERIC BEETNER - TWO IN THE HEAD (2021)

 


Synopsis/blurb....

When Samantha awakes she is half buried in bricks and the smoke still swirls in the air. The car bomb didn’t kill her—small miracle. Her unfocused eyes see a figure coming nearer. A shape she recognizes somehow. As the person passes by the orange glow from the car fire’s light, she sees the face. Her face. But how?

The other Samantha stands over her and regards her twin. Something is off about this new face. It is her, sure, but harder somehow. The new Sam turns and walks away, back toward the building she came out of before her car exploded. Back to see the two drug kingpins in the top floor offices. And somehow Samantha knows—back to take the deal she just turned down.

Samantha Whelan is a DEA agent, and not always a straight and narrow one. She’s been taking bribes and doing favors for Calder and Rizzo—twin brothers and big players in narco traffic in southern California—for years. She turned down a deal that night, a deal to make her millions, but it meant killing her fiancé, an assistant district attorney building a case against Calder and Rizzo. And it meant betraying her DEA brethren more deeply than she had so far. It was too much. So Calder and Rizzo tried to blow her up.

What happened then…she split. Samantha became Samantha and Sam. Two halves of the same person. The good side and the bad side. The two opposing forces living within her for so long were now free to fight it out to see who will win control.

So begins a nightmarish rocket ride for Samantha to save her life and the lives of everyone she holds dear before Sam, her bad half, can burn it to the ground.

Praise for TWO IN THE HEAD:

“Two In the Head is a straight shot between the eyes. A gangbusters plot, punch-drunk pace, and gut-punch action propel this black hearted thriller from Eric Beetner.” —J. Todd Scott, author of The Far Empty and Lost River

Fast, frantic and fantastic fun. From the off, Beetner's prose is pedal to metal and never lets up. Sometimes I read to learn something about the world and sometimes I read for the sheer joy of getting caught up in another world .... a distraction with crazed characters, manic energy, an insane plot and the thrill of discovering what happens next. You can probably guess which category this one fits into.

We have a twist on the age old good vs evil question with the conflict fought primarily between our main character, good Samantha and our other main character bad Samantha; with the surrounding world of the DEA, work colleagues, some bad dude drug dealers, a fiance, friends and extended family caught up in the fall out from Sam's - get this - splitting into two after a failed attempt on her life. It's a crazy set-up, but in Beetner's hands I was happy to go all in and buckle up for the ride.

I don't think I've read anything quite like it before. Madder than a box of frogs and completely off the wall. 

Underneath though, it does give a slight pause for thought in respect of the consideration of personality and the many facets that compose it. Whether a person chooses to behave with decency and compassion and a respect for fellow man, or if self is all important and the main raison d'etre. All of us I guess have conflicting emotions and drivers and constraints. There's a cracker of a sentence which explains things better than I can....

"Everyone has two sides. The good side holds the door open for a person on crutches. The bad side realizes the cashier gave you back too much change and says nothing. Even Mother Theresa gave the finger every now and then."

Overall - great fun and a timely reminder that I ought to spend more time with Eric Beetner's books.

4.5 from 5

The Year I Died Seven Times, RumrunnersWhite Hot Pistol and Over Their Heads (with J. B. Kohl) have been enjoyed before.

Read - January, 2021

Published - 2021

Page count - 242

Source - review copy from author

Format - PDF read on laptop

Sunday, 17 January 2021

FRANK ZAFIRO - SUGAR GOT LOW (2021)

 


Synopsis/blurb....

SUGAR GOT LOW contains a tale of grifters, a prequel story to the well-regarded Ania series, several trips back to River City and one to La Sombra, Texas. Enjoy a Walter Mitty homage set in San Francisco and a deadly day in Roman Britain, the heartbreaking story of a junkie and the suspenseful one of a murderer in a black car. And at the end of it all, you'll experience the dark but inspiring title story of perseverance that was only made possible because of a misunderstood lyric.

Four-time Derringer finalist Frank Zafiro weaves a lucky thirteen tales drawn from throughout his career with one thing in common - characters you may love or hate, but will certainly feel.

A fantastic collection of short stories from Frank Zafiro, one of which I think I've encountered before - A Concrete Smile and one which tangentally connected to characters encountered in Zafiro's novella, In the Shadows of El Paso.

One of the highlights of last year's reading was discovering Frank Zafiro's writing, both as a solo author and in tandem with Colin Conway. I hope to read more from him this year.

The 13 tales in the collection are....

Adam Raised a Cain .... cops, a culture, trust, peer pressure, hobson's choice, consequences, family traits, 

A Gyro and a Glock ..... A Guns and Tacos Season One tale featuring drugs, crime, friendship, betrayal, and a gun and a taco

Details in Black ....... family - past and present - a sense of loss and a search for a connection and some car trouble

Long Burdens ..... a cop in a town beholden to a rich man, contemplating retirement, one more job before he goes

Lowest Point .... a patrol cop, a late night call, a gunshot in a family home
 
Party Dress ..... loss, loneliness and regret

Prank Call ..... juvenile behaviour, consequences, eight years of regrets and plenty of time to scheme for revenge

Walking Through .... cops, secrets, identity, hidden selves

Walter’s Night  ..... a computer nerd gets shut down

Run Its Course ..... a cop off duty, loose lips sink ships, a guest appearance from Eryk the bar owner,

The Concrete Smile ...... A Grifter's Song tale - the series opener with Sam and Rachel, a pair of con artists

Titus, My Brother | (By Frank Scalise) .... Roman Britain, brothers in battle

Sugar Got Low ...... growing up, isolation, bullying, family troubles, finding your way

A bit of everything in this collection...... cops, grifters, junkies, alcoholics, bars, prison, soldiers, addiction, petty crime, gangs, cons, greed, partners, family, revenge, loss, grief, betrayal, death and survival.

I don't think there was one story in the collection that I didn't enjoy, which is unusual as there's usually a couple in these collections that doesn't resonate or satisfy. This time I could take something from every tale. It's incredibly hard to make a reader care about characters and/or events and outcomes in the time taken to read short prose. Zafiro manages it every time. 

Favourites - Prank Call, A Concrete Smile and Run Its Course.

4.5 from 5

Previously I've enjoyed (co-authored with Colin Conway) - Code Four (2020) - Badge Heavy
(2020) 
- Never the Crime (2020) and Charlie 316 (2019) and on his own Chisolm's Debt (2013) (as Scalise, Frank) - The Hardest Hit (2011) 
and In the Shadow of El Paso (2015) 

Read - January, 2021
Published - 2021
Page count - 324
Source - review copy from author
Format - Kindle read via laptop

Saturday, 16 January 2021

2 BY ROBIN YOCUM

A couple from American author Robin Yocum. Yocum is the author of half a dozen novels, of which I've read two and really enjoyed them both - 5 STAR READS, the pair of them!



My intention is to catch up on his back catalogue and read his next one which drops a bit later this year. He's highly recommended. I think part of the attraction for his books is that they are all set in Ohio. It's not a region that features too much in my reading. I have a tendency to gravitiate towards US crime and mystery fiction, but a lot of it is set in and around New York, LA, San Francisco or Chicago. They're are places I love to visit, but I do like spreading my wings further afield.

The full list of his books is as follows:

Favorite Sons (2011)

The Essay (2012)

A Brilliant Death (2016)

A Welcome Murder (2017)

A Perfect Shot (2018)

The Sacrifice of Lester Yates (2021)


Favorite Sons (2011)


A riveting novel in which old friends must excavate the formative event of their childhood - a murder - and determine how to pit truth against justice.

Narrator of Favorite Sons Hutch Van Buren is fifteen years old, playing sports and searching for arrowheads in a small industrial town in Ohio with his three closest friends when an altercation between the comrades and Petey Sanchez, a troubled seventeen- year-old, leads to Petey's accidental death. Together, Hutch and his friends become ensnared in a web of secrets and moral dilemmas. A local ne'er-do-well goes to jail for the crime while the boys keep their pact of silence. Each boy shoulders the burden of truth in his own way as each attempts to leave the past behind.

Thirty-three years later, in 2004, Van Buren is the prosecuting attorney in Summit County, Ohio, and a candidate for state attorney general when he learns that he and his boyhood friends weren't the only ones keeping a secret about Petey's death. A convicted sex offender in need of a favor attempts to blackmail Van Buren in return for his silence. Van Buren must decide between his political career and the duty of the office he has sworn to uphold. With the clock ticking, Van Buren has a week to seek out his boyhood friends and search his soul while he sorts out three decades of deceit he helped create.

Favorite Sons is a wonderful, suspenseful novel with nuanced, memorable characters and unpredictable plot twists.


A Perfect Shot (2018)

A local basketball star in a small Ohio town tries to remake his life in middle age, but instead must confront a murderer and the prospect of leaving his hometown and giving up everything that once gave his life meaning. Nicholas "Duke" Ducheski is the most important man in the eastern Ohio steel town of Mingo Junction. Nearly two decades after he made the winning shot in the state championship
basketball game, he remains much adored and the focal point of community pride. Hardly a day passes when someone doesn't want to talk about "the game." Now approaching forty, Duke no longer wants to be defined solely by something he did when he was eighteen. So he decides to parlay his local popularity into a successful restaurant--"Duke's Place." But no sooner does he get his restaurant up and running than disaster strikes. One day, "Little Tony" DeMarco, his brother-in-law and a known mob enforcer, comes into the restaurant and murders Duke's oldest friend. Now Duke faces the hardest decision of his life. DeMarco thinks he's untouchable, but Duke discovers a way to take him down, along with his mob superiors. To do so, however, means leaving Mingo Junction and sacrificing his treasured identity as the town legend. And if he follows through, what will remain of his life?

Thursday, 14 January 2021

RED HAMMOND (aka ANTHONY NEIL SMITH) - XXX SHAMUS (2013)

 



Synopsis/blurb....

Hopper Garland is good at finding lost girls. When his last target tries to take her life upon being discovered, he begins to rethink his career as a private eye. However, a persuasive offer from a sexy woman has him back on the case, chasing a missing sixteen-year-old pregnant girl from the swampy ruins of post-Katrina New Orleans to the neon grime pf Las Vegas. Along the way he'll have to contend with a rogue's gallery of henchmen, pornographers, and his own incestuous sister. After he makes a del with a sociopathic murderer who believes he's found the secret to eternal life, Hopper will relearn that old saw: some things are better off left alone.

"XXX Shamus is the most transgressive PI novel ever written. It's also one of the best."

- Allan Guthrie

"There are a lot of people that think they like it tough and raw, a lot of hardboiled wannages. Okay, you tough readers. You like it so raw? Time to put up or shut up. Stick your face into the pages of XXX Shamus. Turn away before the last page and I'll kick your fucking teeth out. Take it. Take it all."

- Victor Gischler

XXX Shamus is one I bought seven or eight years ago when it was originally published, and for someone bizarre reason never actually got around to reading until now. Despite the fact that I have enjoyed a few other books from the author.

Well it's probably not one I'll be buying my mum for her birthday...... funny, hilarious, dark, dirty and downright disgusting. It's a PI tale and the hunt for a missing pregnant girl, but it's also pornographic and probably one which will alienate or put off a lot of readers. A lot of the sex depicted is taboo. I kind of felt like I needed a scorching hot bath and a good scrub with a wire brush and dettol after I finished this one. It reminded me a lot of author Tom Leins and his Joe Rey stories. The visceral descriptions of the action kind of ooze off the page and seep into your pores.

If any of the above kind of leads you to believe I didn't enjoy the book, you'd be wrong. I loved it. 

It's harsh, brutal, unforgiving and it depicts a world and happenings that a lot of us would be happier ignoring and pretending that it doesn't exist. Pornographic films, minority tastes, exploitation of minors and the vulnerable, with money to be made and desires to be sated.

Interesting main character in Hopper Garland. Deeply flawed for sure, but he's aware of his weaknesses and his failings. Underneath, his heart is in the right place and in some respects he's a victim himself, a subjugate to a much stronger personality. For much of the novel, and in tandem with his investigation, there's a bit of a love story developing and the hope that Hopper can break free and enjoy a happier life and be a better man. There's a case to solve first though.

Very, very good though definitely a minority taste. I'll be keeping hold of this one for a re-read in another ten years or so to see if my reaction has changed.


4.5 from 5

Anthony Neil Smith (aka Red Hammond) has been enjoyed before - Yellow Medicine, The Drummer, Psychosomatic, All the Young Warriors, The Cyclist and To the Devil My Regards (with Victor Gischler). Maybe more - my lists don't go back far enough! 

Read - November, 2020

Published - 2013

Page count - 234

Source - purchased copy

Format - paperback

Wednesday, 13 January 2021

COLIN CONWAY and FRANK ZAFIRO - BADGE HEAVY (2020)

 


Synopsis/blurb.....

When the Spokane Police Anti-Crime Team (ACT) was formed, the expectation was that its efforts would make a dent in the city’s rising crime rate. In only its first few weeks of existence, the team has done even better than hoped for, racking up arrests and seizures of guns, drugs, money, and stolen cars. Everyone from the mayor to the citizenry seems happy with ACT’s swift results.

But there are darker agendas surrounding this team. Bonds of loyalty are being forged, secret schemes made, and suspicions are focused in all directions. In the midst of run-and-gun police work, officers will discover that not everything is as it seems. Who to trust becomes a life and death question for everyone involved.

In this third installment of the Officer Tyler Garrett saga, the stakes have risen even higher. Garrett seeks to solidify his position. Officer Gary Stone undergoes a surprising metamorphosis. Captain Farrell tries to bring the situation to a head. Rookie Jun Yang struggles to find her place, while Officer Ray Zielinski must repay a debt that threatens to land him in greater danger. Meanwhile, Detective Wardell Clint continues to gnaw at the bone of the case that has consumed him for almost two years.

Third installment of the four book Charlie 316 series from co-authors Colin Conway and Frank Zafiro and another cracker of a cop novel. I think what I enjoy about this series is the blend of on the street in your face uniformed policing, the investigative angle with the plainclothes detective trying to solve an ongoing case (albeit under the radar), and the depiction of politics of the job. There's a competitive hierarchy, there is jealousy and resentment, and secrets within the department. There's also the push back which the head of the PD gets from the Mayor as he strives to maintain his position of authority, fending off some scandals which have affected his council. There's conflict within the Spokane PD, as a hush hush undercover operation continues to try to flush out a corrupt cop on the Q.T. 

Pace, character, action, personality, good cops, bad cops, rookie cops, jaded cops, teamwork, family fallout, union involvement, poor choices, career jeopardy, corruption, wrong-doing, surveillance, scheming, manipulation and at the conclusion of the book some high drama, which is kind of shocking, but also kind of expected, when taking into account the high stakes our main combatants are playing for.

The ending leaves things poised perfectly for the series closer - Code Four.

Lots to savour and enjoy. There's a sense of realism which comes through in the writing and perhaps is to be expected with both authors having a background in the police service. There's no whitewashing of the boys in blue, but rather a warts and all portrayal of a modern police force trying to do its best for its community. Good apples and the odd bad one, make for exciting reading!

4 from 5

The first two in the series - Charlie 316 and Never the Crime were enjoyed earlier in 2020.




Read - November, 2020
Published - 2020
Page count - 438
Source - review copy from one of the co-authors
Format - Kindle for laptop

Tuesday, 12 January 2021

BLAIR DENHOLM - KILL SHOT (2020)

 


Synopsis/blurb....

When only one brand of justice will do...
A body found in the mangroves, mutilated beyond recognition.

What at first appears to be a crocodile attack is soon established as a shocking murder.

Can ex-boxer Detective Sergeant Jack Lisbon solve the mystery before the sleepy town of Yorkville goes into total meltdown?

When a popular MMA fighter disappears, police now face a possible double homicide. The list of suspects grows longer, but no one in the closed fighting community is talking. 

Join DS Lisbon and his partner Detective Claudia Taylor on a heart-thumping ride through the steamy tropics of Northern Australia as they hunt for a killer out of control.

My second outing with Detective Sergeant Jack Lisbon after the introductory novella Fighting Dirty saw the ex-London cop relocating to the other side of the world. Kill Shot is a near 250 page long novel which offers more time in the company of the seemingly reformed cop; a man who left London in disgrace. He's cleaned up, gotten his act together and is part of a formidable investigative double act with partner Claudia Taylor.

Here we have a suspected murder, though mutilation by crocodile seems to cloud the issue, a missing person, and the murky world of MMA, gyms, drugs, fighting, rivalries, money woes, another body or two and a couple of cops - Lisbon and Taylor - trying to make sense of it, while one endeavours to stay sober, not break too many rules and re-establish some form of contact with his young daughter on the other side of the world. 

I liked the book. There's an interesting crime to be solved. I enjoyed the backdrop of the testosterone filled world of the fighting circuit, with the competition between fighters and coaches, one which our lead cop understands with his own background as boxer. 

There's a decent blend of backstory to Jack Lisbon and a balance between his personal issues and the case. He works well with his female partner and they make for an interesting team. Claudia is a strong character and mostly manages to curb Lisbon's reckless instincts in taking a few liberties with witnesses and procedure. Not always though.  

The investigation is murky and blunted and struggles to make any real progress until some previously concealed CCTV footage cracks it wide open, albeit a tad conveniently. As it stalls, there's the added pressure of media involvement and ire with some bad press coverage - probably another unwelcome aspect to modern policing in a social media age.

Decent pace, enjoyable Australian setting with a blend of urban and rural as the investigation takes them out into the sticks, before Lisbon and Taylor with some assistance, get their answers.

Overall verdict - another enjoyable outing in the company of author Blair Denholm.  

4 from 5


Read - December, 2020
Published - 2020
Page count - 247
Source - review copies received from Reedsy and the author
Format - ePUB read on laptop