Category Archives: Crime

Neon Prey (A Prey Novel) by John Sandford

Reviewed by Allen Hott
Lucas Davenport, who used to be the governor of Minnesota’s number one crime solver, still works at solving crimes. But now the former governor has moved on to Washington and from afar he uses Lucas as his number one U.S. Marshall. So whenever there is a strange crime going on anywhere in the West Lucas gets the call and off he goes.

This time he starts off meeting a different FBI agent in New Orleans along with a couple of other agents, Bob and Rae, whom he has worked with on other occasions. It turns out that they not only are hunting a killer but this particular guy is also a cannibal. Although not a perfect one in that he does kill the person first and then usually cuts them open and eats the liver or other intestinal organs.

The killer, named Deese, was on bail for doing other criminal activities in his job as a muscle for hire by loan sharks and others. He skipped out on his bail procedure and was on the loose but still actively doing various crimes as he worked at earning more money.

Don’t Wake Up: A Novel by Liz Lawler

Reviewed by Dianne Woodman

Imagine waking up stripped of your clothes, strapped to an operating table, and threatened with unimaginable physical cruelty. This is what happens to Dr. Alex Taylor, who works at a hospital in Bath, England. After Alex’s terrifying experience, she is convinced that she was violated, however, no physical proof exists that supports her story. Alex’s life takes a downward spiral, as she tries to convince everyone the attack was real and not a delusion. She starts drinking too much. When a pregnant nurse dies, Alex is convinced the same person who tortured her is responsible. No one believes Alex’s allegation. It appears as if Alex needs psychological help, and deadly incidents involving her only make things worse. Relationships with her colleagues and boyfriend suffer, and Alex worries she is losing her grip on reality.

In Don’t Wake Up, Liz Lawler expertly utilizes multiple third person point of view. Lawler only switches character perspectives between chapters or scenes, and it is clear whose eyes readers are looking through. The majority of this engrossing story is told from Alex’s perspective, but readers are also shown the viewpoints of key characters and their reactions to Alex’s claim of an attack. The different viewpoints pull readers deeper into the heart of the story in which Lawler skillfully interweaves not only things such as criminal acts, police investigations, prejudice, disloyalty, jealousy, violence, and dedication but also the effects of psychological trauma, overindulgence in alcohol, and reliance on anxiety medication.

The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town by John Grisham

Reviewed by Allen Hott

A somewhat different book for Mr. Grisham. Although it is very involved with the legal world it is a non-fiction book. Grisham had seen some news articles about this unusual case and decided to follow it. And then he turned it into The Innocent Man. From all indications it is definitely a case of an innocent man who gets completely and unfairly tried and convicted by the authorities.

Ron Williamson had been a fairly decent ballplayer in his youth and actually was signed by Oakland Athletics to a minor league contract. Sadly he never had enough talent to hang on in the minors nor make it to the big leagues. He pretty much hung around Ada, Oklahoma and got by. He had many friends and he was always out in public somewhere. Most of his time when he wasn’t working he was hanging out in bars and saloons.

The One That Got Away by Joe Clifford

Reviewed by Jud Hanson

The One That Got Away by Joe Clifford is an average novel in terms of quality. While Clifford is the author of the successful Jay Porter series, this book is not nearly as good as those. The plot is interesting enough, although not particularly original.

The story starts out with potential and will likely be intriguing enough to hook most readers. However, by the midway point, the book just ambles along and suddenly ends. While I can and do recommend that readers try out one of Clifford’s Jay Porter novels, I can’t really strongly recommend The One That Got Away. As a result, I can only justify a 2/5 star rating.*

A print copy of this book was the only compensation received in exchange for this review.*

The October List by Jeffery Deaver

Reviewed by Allen Hott

The October ListI am a Deaver fan and read almost all of his books BUT this one is so completely different I am not sure what comes next. The story is a good one and I am sure if he had written it in the right order it still would be a top seller. I’m sure this is is a best seller for him but it is weird!

The first chapter is actually Chapter 36 and is the ending of the book! Yes, you read that correctly. Chapter 1 is actually at the back of the book and though it is the last chapter it is actually the beginning of the story!

In essence it is a story about a lady, Gabriela McNamara, (as she is known part of the time but uses aliases also) who is an undercover cop and at the same time she works as an undercover person for a big time criminal. Now the reader won’t know all of this right away as some of it comes out at the ending (or in Chapter 1 if you will at the end of the book).

Baby’s First Felony (A Cecil Younger Investigation) by John Straley

Reviewed by Caryn St. Clair

Baby's First FelonyBaby’s First Felony brings back Cecil Younger and the wonderful setting of Sitka, Alaska. Before even starting the book, I would strongly urge readers to turn to the end and read through the A Guide to Avoiding a Life in Crime. The rules as outlined are referenced frequently, so you might want to keep a book mark there as well.

Cecil is called to the jail to arrange bail for a client who asks that he go pick up a box containing things that will prove her innocence which she left with friends. Two things about this cause Cecil angst. First, the box contains money. Lots of money. And secondly the place she left the box is the house where a friend of Cecil’s daughter’s friend is now living and a place that his daughter Blossom has run off to when her mother gets on her nerves. But that is just the beginning of Cecil’s problems. There are drugs a kidnapping and a murder to contend with causing Cecil breaks nearly every one of his rules as outlined in the book.

Along with the criminal plot is an interesting side story involving the use of humor as therapy for autism leading the book to be packs with jokes as told by Todd, the sort of adopted son of Cecil. Some of these are really pretty funny. There is a very brief note at the end of the book lending credence to this as a real therapy. This also brings in the very real issue of who has a right to post someone’s comments on line.

The Last Stand by Mickey Spillane

Reviewed by Allen Hott

Having been a Mickey Spillane fan back in the 40s and 50s I was looking forward to The Last Stand when I read about how the manuscript supposedly was found in good condition and ready to be published. I feel certain that there was some work done to it by Max Collins who wrote the introduction.

Overall the book is pretty good but not exactly what I expected. To begin with it is in fact two separate stories. The first one, A Bullet for Satisfaction, is a Spillane type and basically centers around a police officer, Captain Dexter, who is heading up an investigation into the killing of a major political figure. Dexter and his partner, Fred Jenkins, begin digging into the case and find several attorneys who are politically active seem to have had some encounters with Mayes Rogers, the murdered politician.

Illegal Holdings (A Valentin Vemeulen Thriller) by Michael Niemann

Reviewed by Jud Hanson

Illegal HoldingsGlobal Alternatives is an NGO funding agricultural improvements in Mozambique by a small charity named Nossa Terra. Trouble brews when a nearly 5 million dollar outlay from Global is suddenly nowhere to be found. Nossa Terra insists they never the full amount, while Global claims the opposite. Since the original source of the funds is the United Nations, the Secretary General sends in veteran investigator Valentin Vermeulen to determine what happened to the money. It isn’t long before Vermeulen realizes that Nossa Terra is correct and that something very irregular is happening. As Vermeulen doggedly pursues the truth, he becomes the target of someone who doesn’t want Vermeulen to succeed and will try to stop him at any cost.

Illegal Holdings by Michael Niemann is the third book in the Valentin Vermeulen series and the first one that I have read. Niemann is a new author for me and one that I will be returning ­ to in order to read his other books. I believe that this new series has great potential because Niemann draws on his real life experiences, both as a child in Germany and in academia from his work on South Africa. This allows him to create characters and plots that are both engaging and realistic. I look forward to future books in this series and give this one 4/5 stars.

*A copy of this book was the only consideration given in exchange for this review.*

Written in Blood by Layton Green

Reviewed by Caryn St. Clair

Written in BloodIn Written in Blood, author Green introduces readers to Detective Joe “Preach” Everson. Following a common path, Green has given readers a flawed protagonist, though Preach’s baggage goes well beyond the ordinary. After suffering a tragedy as a young man, he had a sort of breakdown and fled his hometown of Creeksville, North Carolina. His life path from then until the book opens took him to Bible college, time as a church preacher, a prison chaplain and then as a police officer in Atlanta, where another incident led to another breakdown.

Here we reach the first thing about the novel that just doesn’t quite work. Pearch has returned to his hometown and has been hired as a police detective even though he has not been cleared to work from his breakdown. He promises to see a therapist who happens to be a relative. One has to question what police force would hire an emotionally unstable person as a detective and what therapist would risk his or her reputation and licensing to sign off on a deeply troubled soul who has suffered at least two emotional breakdowns to serve as a detective. But let’s accept this as written for the sake of the story.

Mayhem, Murder and Marijuana: The Los Angeles Marijuana War by Arik Kaplan

Reviewed by Ray Palen

Mayhem, Murder and MarijuanaThe back cover of this novel tells a story almost as chilling as the one found between the covers. The author — Arik Kaplan is a pseudonym to maintain his true identity— literally lived this story. In 2011, immediately following the relaxing of laws in the State of California allowing medicinal marijuana dispensaries to open, he began aggressively purchasing legal medical marijuana locations in Los Angeles county.

The problem with things that sound too good to be true is that they usually are — or, at the very least, they come at a big price. ‘Kaplan’ found out that his involvement in this new industry was the literal equivalent of drawing a target on his own back. If he went through even a smidgen of what the characters in his novel experience it is indeed a wonder he lived to tell this tale.

MAYHEM, MURDER AND MARIJUANA: The Los Angeles Marijuana War makes “Boyz In the Hood” look like an episode of “Sanford and Son”. The fact that our humble author has received death threats at the mere thought of revealing what is contained in this book speaks to his and the stories credibility.