The Dargan Prophecy


By John Paul O’Prey



When the Duggan brothers, Terry and Tom, discover an ancient archaelogical site on their neighbor’s land while searching for their dog, the community sinks into controversy and murder. First, there is a member of a Druid sect who is found murdered at the site days later. Then the discovery is made that the woman was pregnant at the time of death. The owner of the land, Joe Beatty, is investigated for several sexual assaults, and several people, including the Duggans are witnesses to unexplained phenomena.

This is a complex soap opera-ish type of story with a bit of the weird thrown in. However, the strange aspects-the prophecy-was hard to follow and understand.


Lucy Feeney: Druid, has two brothers

Dominic Phelan: 51, bishop, has a brother

Terry Duggan: owns a dog, separated from wife

Tom Duggan: married, Terry’s brother, smokes, first wife dead, has a child that is not his own

Joe Beatty: coach, married, has a son

Lorcan Delargy: archaeologist, doctorate, wears glasses

Neasa Lafferty: 60ish, freckled, olive green eyes, graying brunette, psychic, married

Barry McLaughlin: archaeologist

A lot of decent characters but no detailed physical descriptions for most, so it was hard to get a mental image of them.


I think there are some good voices here. Conversations stay on track, but they pretty much had to with the length of the chapters and the quick scene changes and time changes. Some of the dialogue, particularly with the police, seemed a bit forced, a bit unnatural. Not that a cop would say these things, just the manner, the phraseology, was off. Heated conversations are on the verge of being formalized. There’s anger but veiled, held in check.


Short chapters. A bit of profanity. Tense changed from past in one chapter to present in the next chapter for no apparent reason, then back to past in the following chapter. I found it difficult to judge passage of time. For instance, in one chapter, Lucy has been persuaded to stay around for three days to see if she can’t be talk out of her involvement in her religion and two chapters later, it sounds as if she left the religious group. But there is no discernible time element.

Some tense problems in a few sentences including dialogue. Example: “If I confronted her directly I feared she may never tell and just leave me.” This should have read “…I feared she might never have told me.”, since the woman being discussed is dead and the person is saying what might have happened.

The story is a bit difficult to follow and I’m not sure whether it’s the vagueness of the characters, the dialogue or the way it’s written throughout. I found myself going back and re-reading from the beginning of the chapter, then catching up to where a particular character left off from the last time he/she was highlighted.

Tension is very low. I would have thought the discovery of the corpse would have been played up a bit more. Little and subdued action.

My Rank:

Camouflage Belt


The South Hills Conspiracy


By L. Anthony

Lance Web


2008 – Philosophy professor David Trutanich has disappeared and Andrew Powell, former police officer, who only wants to be retired, is persuaded to look into the matter. Rumor has it Trutanich discovered a terrorist plot using student loans. Or maybe Samantha Collier, the professor’s fiance of many years is involved. Not too far into his case, he meets up with an attractive ex U.S. Marshall, Stacie Regent. Meanwhile, Andrew’s son, an undercover officer, is in the middle of an investigation of a student of David’s…and what he discovers hits close to home.

Much of this plot is set in the past. Scenes involving David, Samantha, Andrew, and his son, Jesse, show how events lead up to the present day 2008. I don’t mind the premise, but the more got into it, I discovered I couldn’t quite get into it.


Andrew Powell: widower, former LAPD Captain, former Chief of South Hills PD, former commandant of the South Hills Academy, 6’3”, 200 pounds, former military, has a sister, drives a motorcycle

Jesse James Powell: Andrew’s son, dropped out of West Point, attended South Hills Academy, tattooed,

Stacie Regent: 44, formerly with the U.S. Marshall Service, had breast cancer, tall, brunette, full lips

Samantha Janie Collier: 24, attends Oxford, athletic figure, red hair, attended USC, 5’10 ½”, plays pro volleyball, has a B.A. and a B.S., drives a red 1970 Nova SS, has a brother, dad makes soap

David Alexander Trutanich: 6′, holds a doctorate, curly dark brown hair, wears glasses, attended USC, runner, teaches philosophy, vegetarian, ancestry is German and American Indian, dad is a history professor, mom is a tutor

I’m giving character profiles as listed when I read them, not necessarily how they are in the beginning of the story or how they might have changed throughout the years.

Arthur Stratford: attorney, portly, bald, white beard

Average characters. I didn’t find myself caring about any of them. They weren’t interesting. No depth that I could grasp and empathize with.


The only voice I distinguished was Samantha’s mother. Everybody else sounded similar. Conversations weren’t exciting, didn’t spark anything. One conversation, later in the story between Jesse and his father that revealed a very important discovery had Andrew reacting as if he’d just been told the car wouldn’t be fixed until next Thursday.


Fairly lengthy chapters headed by date, location and a quote. Scene changes are noted by location. A few misspelled words. In one of my books, I do a THEN and NOW type of story, so I’m familiar with going into the past to work up to the future. However, as I mentioned before I just couldn’t keep hold. I didn’t see where a lot of the scenes moved the story along. The past scenes showed the character changes up to 2008, but I just couldn’t quite settle in. Maybe it was the lack of action or real tension. The places where action could have been skipped over the potential danger. Even some of the conflict between Samantha and her mother didn’t have much bite. The story ran slow. Didn’t drag, just didn’t have much momentum.

My rank:

Camouflage belt  


Akhmed And The Atomic Matzo Balls

Akhmed Front Cover Only - High Res


By Gary Buslik

Gary with Cigar


What do to the leaders of Iran, Venezuela, and Cuba, a liberal professor, his soon-to-be wedded daughter, Gilligan’s Island, a bunch of mutated termites, and, of course matzo balls all have in common? They’re part of a weird plot in Buslik’s latest book. Iranian president Akhmed discovers that matzo balls can be infused with radiation and detonated. So he plans to bring them to south Florida, distribute them, and kill a bunch of people, thereby disrupting the American economy. However, there are problems. The Venezuela president would rather be a vitamin salesman; a Chicago professor is trying to get handle on discovering he has a daughter; said daughter has problems with…just about everybody; and there are a bunch of pork hungry termites on the rampage.

A wild and deviously conceived plot full of possibilities and angles. This is not your typical spy thriller or murder mystery, or political intrigue. This is…different.


Akhmed: Iranian President, used to own a cockatiel

Hazeem: Akhmed’s assistant, interpreter

Leslie Fenwich: thick red hair with gray streaks, wears reading glasses, head of Depewe University’s English Department, speaks with a faux British accent, thin, likes to use big words, atheist, divorced, smokes

Diane Weinberg: 40s, Leslie’s former student and lover, attended Depewe, wide hips, has an M.A.

Karma Weinberg: 27, Diane’s daughter, red hair, has a fiance, used to be a vegan and totally ‘green’, now a conservative, owns a Mercedes SUV

Henri Charbonnay: Haiti’s commerce minister

Alex Gleason: chapter head of the British West Indies Benevolence Club

A nice array of characters, but everybody’s a doofus. Karma, with her constant spew of profanity and insults, is just annoying, while the leaders of the countries involved are sometimes too over-the-top.


Everybody, even the foreigners sounded American and sometimes juvenile Americans. I don’t mind Leslie using large complex words but when the leaders or other nations and/or their assistants start using them, or the narrator attributes these words to their thoughts, it becomes a bit distracting. One section has a letter from Leslie to Cuba’s president that runs for almost three pages. Half way through I wanted to skip to the point of the letter because it ran on and on. Some of the conversations run along the same line. Leslie sometimes can’t get to the crux of the conversation because he’s too busy searching for the correct word nobody ever uses, and I think makes up words as he goes along.


Book separated into Parts. Lengthy chapters. Each scene break is indicated with a black termite. Profanity. The author must have had a dictionary and thesaurus nearby because this is a story with an explosion of words. A plethora of adjectives and large, luxurious words that would not normally be found in 99.99% of conversations, thought patterns, or narration. While I don’t mind a little flair and extravagance, sometimes, it was a bit overwhelming. Humor is fine in books and I enjoy it and use it in my books, but it must be parsed accordingly. Too much and the reader loses focus. A lot of this over the top, which is what I believe is the intent, but sometimes (as in the case of over 90 ‘si’s in a row-Spanish for yes, in this case when a character meets an attractive woman, and yes, I did count them) it’s too much. Sometimes less is more.

I will say the descriptions of things and people are wonderful and unique The creative juices flowed in this area.

I thought a long time before deciding on a rank. The too much in-your-face attempts at humor were too much. There needed to be a straight man character or two to offset the loony-ness or eccentricities of everybody else. However, as I mentioned descriptions and similes and the use of words were very enjoyable. They made me think about my own writing and how I can manipulate words, try something new.

So, with material on both sides of the scale, I decided on:

Purple Belt




By Theresa Odom-Surgick



Myra Vandelyn has died. Niece Rachel, nephew Devin, their cousin Delia and a few others are set to inherit. However, family secrets can’t stay hidden. Lurking in the shadows is another with a vendetta against Devin for the crimes he’s committed. Plus, let’s not forget about budding romance.

It’s a good soap opera type story with Christian overtones.


Devin Vandelyn: parents abandoned him and his sister as children, alcoholic, drives a gray Buick Century

Rachel Vandelyn: Devin’s sister, religious

Michael Stern: sister-dead-was affianced to Devin, cigar smoker, owns a restaurant and a limousine

Jovan Wilkins: attorney, father-a former lawyer-suffers Alzheimer’s, runs his own small firm

Trevor Danison: private investigator, 5’10”, blond, handsome, religious

Delia Vandelyn: singer, Devin’s cousin

George Vandelyn: Delia’s great-uncle, mentally challenged, cook

A good variety of characters. They felt soap opera-ish which isn’t necessarily bad, but I didn’t get mental images because there were almost no physical descriptions. ‘Handsome’, ‘attractive’, and ‘beautiful’ are too vague.


Devin talks aloud to himself. It’s okay, but a bit unnatural. Tag line problem: Incorrect to start a piece of dialogue with a tag line, then later within the same piece of dialogue, end with a tag line. Example: Defeated he said, “It’s not here. Where is it? I bet Rachel must have hidden it somewhere. I’ll check her room. That has to be where it is,” he said… Use one tag line, not two. Otherwise, except for one particular character’s, voices weren’t very distinct. Not that they all sounded the same although a few used similar phrasing. A few characters sounded too formal or the conversations just didn’t seem natural to the situation.


Titled chapters. POV shifts within chapters. Shift in tenses in a few sentences. Punctuation problems here and there. Some overuse of ‘ly’ words. No profanity. Religious aspects throughout. No real action, no surprises.

My rank:

Camouflage Belt


The Surgeon’s Son

upload master to sednd

By Catherine Putsche

Catherine Putsche


A surgeon kidnaps teenage girls and performs his own operations on them. When one girl is found alive, the police have hope that they can gather enough evidence to bring the monster to justice.

Okay, there is more to this story which involves too much personal material (Gracie’s recovery after being rescued; a guy and his dog; Victor’s domestic problems with his mother and family), some of which doesn’t seem to have relevance to the story. What police procedure is included is mostly long passages of dialogue. The premise is good but the actual story was disappointing.


Marty Bride: Detective Inspector for the Greater Manchester police department, married with teen daughter

Victor Barnes: 49, 6’4”, short black hair, tall, stocky, surgeon, serial kidnapper/killer, face disfigured as a teen, father-dead-was a neurosurgeon, square jaw, father dead, mother a nag, drives an SUV,

Gracie Peterson: 14, junior equestrian

Veronica Barnes: 39, Victor’s sister, Manhattan lawyer, blonde, pale green eyes

Amanda Belgrade: served 26 years in Homicide

Steven Flynn: worked with the child exploitation department

Harriet Jones: forensic clinical psychologist

I found it ironic that even though Victor once tried to kill his sister when she was a baby, and his mother discovered the act, his mother still gave him most of her affection. Information is given about some minor characters that has no relevance to the story. Otherwise I didn’t connect with any character.


Gracie sounds too much like an adult for her age. Her words and those of her parents after she was rescued aren’t believable. She’s been missing for weeks, mutilated, but the phraseology is too proper, with no expected emotion. Ditto with her parents. They introduce themselves as if they were picking their daughter up after a school function. In fact, many characters sound very formal and proper and the emotional impact from the situation at hand doesn’t exist or else the words used aren’t what those people would say.


A bit of profanity. The problems, though are almost too numerous to list. Severe POV jumps within the same scene or within the same paragraph, even POV shifts to people who aren’t even in the scene. Very distracting.

Scene shifts within a chapter with no signifying symbol (*) or an extra space. Some misspelled words. The dog’s name is spelled different from chapter to chapter.

Many sentences are written incorrectly with the wrong word or words or phrasing used. (Example: He took his role he took extremely seriously as he and his wife Diana teenage daughter, Alana, had gone missing one year prior to the Peterson investigation at the age of sixteen.) From this sentence it sounds as if he-Marty is narrating here-his wife, and teen daughter all went missing at the same time when it is revealed later that the only person missing was his daughter.

Repetitious words or phrases. Punctuation problems. Continuity problem: Victor is shown to be ten years older than her sister in one chapter and eight years older in another.

Mixture of tenses in a few sentences. Unnecessary explanations: She nodded, signifying a yes answer. She shook her head indicating a no answer. This type of thing isn’t needed. The reader understands what a nod means.

Misuse of ‘ing’ words. Example: Victor grabbed Katie’s hand off the floor in a hurry making his way to the door locking it, checking twice it was locked, running to the large chest freezer that was located in the next room, grabbing a bowl of ice and placing the hand on top, once again locking the door.

In the above sentence, besides the missing punctuation, the use of all those action words in the ‘ing’ form implies that Victor was doing all of those things at the same time and that isn’t possible.

Captialized words that shouldn’t be. Run-on sentences, some that don’t read sensibly. Missing words in sentences that would make them sound normal. Grammar problems. Nonsensical use of italics for both flashbacks and dreams.

One note. About a week after I wrote this review (but several weeks before posting), I received an email from the author asking me to take a look at a revised copy of the book. I’m going to assume some of the spelling mistakes were corrected but she mentioned dialogue changes and although I didn’t see too much change in the parents’ there was a change in one of the kidnapped girl’s. Unfortunately, the changes made her dialogue worse to read.

Basically, this entire story was a mess with weak writing, characters I found annoying, and dialogue I would have liked to have skipped.

My Rank:

White Belt


Trigger Finger


By Jackson Spencer Bell



Kevin Swanson is having problems. In February, he killed two home invaders. Months later, while on a radio talk show, a strange caller disputes his story. From that moment, his life goes awry because he starts analyzing the series of events, all the while other events plague him. He’s involved in other crimes, playing the hero. But what is the truth? What was the real story? And who is the Bald Man?

This is a strange story that gets stranger by the page. More than a bit surreal, this one is different from the other ‘memory loss’ tales.


Kevin Swanson: 36, lawyer, has a teenage daughter, has an older Marine brother, owns an AK-47, dark thinning hair, grew up in North Carolina, father-dead-was a heart surgeon, mother-dead-was an alcoholic, owns a BMW, took martial arts as a youth

Allie Swanson: Kevin’s wife, walnut colored hair, wears glasses

Craig Montero: Kevin’s lawyer

Robert Koenig: psychologist, thin, graduate of Emory University and Georgia University, wears glasses, beard stubble, bald

Billy Horton: broadcaster, overweight, messy gray/white hair, married

Brandon Cross: 24, mentally retarded, was physically and sexually abused as a youth,

A couple minor characters use the same expression or is said to use the same expression as other characters. I think part of this can be chalked up to being part of the plot, but it maybe could have been done with less ‘obviousness’.


I found Kevin’s brother, Bobby, a little over the top. Yes, he’s an in-your-face military guy, but, especially the scene where he talks about getting mugged was a bit much. Ditto with Kevin’s conversations with the Bald Man or when faced with a desperate situation. I realize that he explains his ‘condition’ but it was a little unbelievable. Much of the profanity used in the conversations were unnecessary.


Written first person from Swanson’s POV. Profanity. Quick read. The first part of the book is mostly flashback material which, while it’s okay to use, it needs to be used sparingly. I wanted to get into some good action quicker. For much of the first third or so of the book there is a lot of flashbacks in Koenig’s office. Some misspelled words. The action scenes are quick and decisive.

However…an author shouldn’t leave his reader confused as to what the truth is. Yes, there are stories which leave you with a cliffhanger, which leave you guessing as to what might happen next but the story is, for the most part, wrapped up and explained. In this book, I thought I knew what was happening, but at the end, I really didn’t, especially about a specific incident with his wife at the very end. I was confused after the last page and while I can accept some twist and surprises, this time I didn’t understand.

Maybe this has to do with the characters and maybe this part should be in the character section because certain parties don’t act as they do in this book. Police have rules and guidelines and procedures and it wasn’t believable how they reacted to Kevin’s involvement with crime. I don’t want to play spoiler other than to say, their reactions-could?-be part of the overall plot and story. However, I think this area as well as others could have been subtler, more shaded, thereby adding strength to the writing and the story. Because I was confused at the end, this area only added to the confusion. I really enjoyed the plot and the mental games were wonderfully conceived. Because of the concerns mentioned, though, I can’t go higher than:

Camouflage Belt


Presidential Intentions

Presidential Pursuits Cover Setup.indd

By Douglas J. Wood

Pres. Pursuits Close Up Smith with Tilt Color


This is the story of the life of Samantha Harris. From her time in high school, through college, her time as a lawyer and prosecutor, and on into politics, where she ends up running for the office of United States President on the Republican ticket against Hillary Clinton. Throughout the story you see many important snippets and their affect, including her father’s death, her son’s death after an involvement in a secret mission overseen by President Bush, and her feelings regarding issues such as abortion and the death penalty.

This is not the plot I expected. I expected a campaign story, the tension, the give and take of negotiation, of lies behind the curtain and secret deals, later to be revealed. Instead, I received ‘This Is Your Life’ book.


Samantha Price Harrison: 58, 5’10”, brunette, Married, Republican candidate for President, father-a former banker-dead from bone cancer, has a brother, has a daughter, son killed overseas, attended Stanford, former employee in a law firm, former prosecutor, former House of Representative member from Virginia, former Virginia governor, high school valedictorian and senior class president

Ben Harrison: Samantha’s husband, was a Stanford professor, dying of heart failure, parents dead

Zachary Watts: Samantha’s campaign manager, former lawyer

Amanda: Samantha’s daughter, married, had an abortion

Morgan Green: Bowling Green County attorney

Some wonderful characters here. Of course, as I mentioned above, we get to see a lot of depth into Sam, but also some good stuff from Ben and Amanda. Lots of other sideline characters, even actual people such as Bush and Clinton. I wanted more from Zachary, though because he was presented as one whose ethics might be questioned. He turned out to be someone who wanted to run along the party line. That’s okay and I’m glad Sam decided to buck his system but I wanted more from him. I wasn’t too sure about Amanda’s last minute development near the end. Seemed ‘pat’ and a bit unbelievable.


I think everybody held their own. Conversations stayed to the important matters being discussed. Some of Sam’s internal dialogue was a bit much.


Chapters headed by quotes, date, and location. Some profanity. The story jumps in time from the present to various dates in the past, showing the life of Samantha. Sometimes it was distracting because there was no order to the jumps. High school to law firm to prosecutor’s office to college, etc. POV jumps within a heartbeat threw me. Solid writing otherwise with one misspelled word that I caught. The author writes very well, proper grammar and sentence structure. It was nice to read a book where I wasn’t stumbling over incorrect tag lines and punctuation flubs or too many adverbs (‘ly’ words). As I mentioned I thought this was going to be a drama not a fictional biographical account although some of the scenes were interesting. I did enjoy the courtroom battles and the scenes with Bush and Jeremy. There was no ‘action’ per se. I smirked a bit at some of the political opinions given but that didn’t affect my judgment. I debated over the rank for a bit and was going to give it a green. After rethinking, I realized that, because I give lower ranks to weak writing, I have to take into account the strong writing of this one, so even though it didn’t play out the way I expected, I’ll give this a

Purple Belt


The Insanity Plea


By Larry D. Thompson



Dan Little has suffered paranoid schizophrenia for years. When he’s arrested for murder, he calls his younger brother for assistance. A lawyer in Houston, Wayne reluctantly steps in for the defense. With a former basketball star turned attorney, a computer hacker and another partner, Wayne starts gathering materials for an insanity defense. The opposition isn’t sitting still. The killer is still out there…and the star witness for the prosecution.

I didn’t reveal any spoilers here since you know who the bad guy is right away. This is good standard courtroom thriller with a hard look at mental illness.


Wayne Little: civil trial lawyer, once a prosecutor, drives a Nissan Armada, lean, muscular, black hair, gray eyes, 6’4”, played basketball in high school, attended Texas University the University of Houston, dad dead

Dan Little: Wayne’s older half brother, former lawyer, suffers from schizophrenia, played football in high school, attended UT law, divorced

Duke Romack: black, lawyer, former NBA player, 6’10”, drives a Lincoln Navigator

Claudia Jackson: black, lawyer who works with Little, Duke’s girlfriend, Harvard Law,

Rita Contreras: 28, 5’4”, black hair, second generation Mexican, attended University of Houston, Master in computer science, lives next door to Wayne, former private investigator

Frederick Parke: early 50s, sandy blond hair, criminal profiler, likes skiing, owns a Hummer and a Corvette, holds a doctorate, 6′ tall, teaches at the University of Colorado

Katherine Rasmussen: assistant district attorney, fundamentalist Christian, stocky, gray hair, round face

Harry Klein: mid fifties, Little’s former employer, District Attorney, large frame

Too many books have characters who blend. Here we have a nice cross section of ethnic and gender blends. Yes, most of Little’s associates are lawyers, but each comes from a different background.


Pretty good voices from each of the characters. Some of the sentences seem a bit forced or trite, but it’s not too bad. Conversations stay on point, don’t wander.


Relatively short chapters. A bit of, but not much, profanity. Omniscient POV. There were no real twists or surprises and I hoped for something. Pretty even keel throughout. Good tension with the killer. Sometimes, internal dialogue ran long and sounded unnatural. A few minor grammar errors but nothing distracting. As mentioned above, this is solid story with some fine characters.

My Rank:

Blue Belt


The Cull-Bloodline


By Eric J. Gates

Eric J Gates


When a serial killer, known as the Blood Sucker kills the partner of FBI Agent Amy Bree, she is forced out of the Bureau. In short order, she is returned to work by an enigmatic Monsignor with connections to the Vatican. She’s partnered with a computer hacker formerly of the NSA. Together, they continue the search for the Blood Sucker. Unbeknownst to them, the killer is also hunting them. To further cloud the issue, they aren’t getting the full story of just what kind of monster is on the loose.

Oh no! Not another vampire story. Weeelll, yes and no. I won’t play spoiler, but this plot is, for me, better than some of vamp stuff I’ve read in the past.


Amy Bree: FBI agent in the Behavioral Science Unit, attended M.I.T., intelligent, likes puzzles, father worked at a hotel, grew up in Bar Harbor, Maine, has a younger brother

Santiago Cancelli: Monsignor, works out of the Vatican, late 40s, Spanish mother, Italian father, studied in Madrid and Rome, parents were murdered

Katie Lindon: 62, short, frail, spiky gray hair, gray eyes, teeth stained, in the story near the beginning she becomes Amy’s partner, father worked father worked as CIA station chief in Britain, mother was British, excellent computer hacker, formerly with the NSA, wears glasses, suffers from migraines

Marshall: Director of the FBI, overweight, sexist

Hugo DiConti: French, Jesuit priest

I really enjoyed Katie. Spicy. Intelligent. Strong-willed. I liked Amy’s intelligence but I didn’t really ‘see’ her, maybe because I didn’t get a physical description.

Good mix of characters. Generational type personalities from senior Katie to youthful Amy. I would have like some physical descriptions about Amy. Didn’t really get a mental image. No first name for Marshall. I liked DiConti except for the reasons listed below.


Not too bad for character voices. I don’t think conversations diverted into left field but dialogue was a bit wordy and ‘lecture-ish’ when building up to explanations and the climax.


Chapters vary in length. Some punctuation problems, misuse of semi-colons and other minor examples. Some misspelled words. Some overuse of ‘ly’ and ‘ing’ words, uh, especially (sorry, couldn’t think of another word) during the action scenes, although those scenes show good tension. A couple instances of profanity. I mention this next one because I catch it more often in books nowadays as, of late, we have been discussing it in my writers group. Actions that are put together that shouldn’t or can’t go together. This is not a real example, but the type I see a lot in this book: ‘He entered the room, putting down the book.’ This implies that both actions are going on at the same time and in this case they can but it doesn’t sound good. Make this sentence either two sentences or change the tense of the present action to past. I also saw a few instances where a series of verbs needed to be the same tense within the same sentence.

Reviews shouldn’t be about ‘what I would have like to have seen’, even though I do insert a bit of this from time to time. What I mean is, I try not to say, “Well, the plot should have had this or the author should not have included this part. Or it would have been better if the main character did such-and-such.” I’m not here to say what I would have done had I written this.

This being mentioned, I would have like to have seen more suspense or shadowy plans made by DiConti and his secret dark operatives in the Vatican. The reason I mention this is because-and this relates to Character-I liked DiConti and because he was referenced by Katie-and disliked by her-I wanted more of his behind the scenes schemes. For being a thorn in Cancelli’s side, he has a minor role.

This reminded me of J. Thompson’s, Night Blood. I haven’t read it-yet-but reading the back cover blurb, this book runs a ragged parallel. Gates has taken the historical views of vampires and given it a different spin. It’s intriguing and a lot better than some of the ‘traditional’ stuff, some of which has been popular in recent years. This is the beginning of a series and it might be worth taking a look at book two.

My Rank:

Purple Belt


The Origin Of Murder


By Jerold Last



While vacationing in the Galapagos Islands, private investigator Roger Bowman and his professor wife become engaged in a murder mystery when a dead body is found floating of one of the islands. With a ship full of passengers, there’s no end to the suspects. Naval officers with suspicious stories? San Francisco sisters who are more intelligent than they act? An over friendly tour guide? Then, two more bodies are discovered, with the same M.O. Who’s safe? Are the murders related to drugs? Illegal fishing? And just what connection might there be to a previous murder occurring a week before the Bowmans arrived?

Murders in foreign lands always give me pause. But this one sounded exotic enough to try. I like the remote location. Different from the typical estate in the country. Stuck on a ship in the islands brings a new angle to a mystery.


Roger Bowman: 6’2”, 190 pounds, married with son, private investigator, owns two dogs, fluent in Spanish, former detective with the LAPD, kows martial arts

Barbara Kaufman: speaks Spanish, has a sister, studied at the U. of California-Berkley, lives in San Francisco, works at a publishing house, dark hair, brown eyes, pretty

Suzanne: Roger’s wife, biochemistry professor at UCLA, father dead, inherited wealth, 5’8”, athletic, long blonde hair, fluent in Spanish

Bruce: 5’7”, nanny for the Bowman’s son, former navy SEAL, homosexual

Raul Vonhorst: early 30s, handsome, knows many languages, lives in Quito, tour guide

Vincente Aleman: Brigadier General in the Ecudorian Air Force

Michael Smart: recently married, lives on a Naval base, Lt. Commander

Linda Smart: Michael’s wife

A nice variety of characters. A world-wide cast. You learn bits and pieces about each as the story progresses. One problem I had was that Suzanne and Bruce were too prevalent. Roger’s the PI and former homicide detective, yet his wife plays logician in discussing the murders and Bruce does the snooping. I wanted more of Roger’s knowledge and investigative abilities shown. Instead, he’s relegated to an almost second tier character.


Lengthy, lecture type conversations when dealing with historical details. Interesting, but run on and needed to be broken up into shorter paragraphs. When these lectures occur, there are no distinction of character voices. Everybody sounded like a museum guide. Even a lot of the normal conversations weren’t natural but rather more like an information dump. Too wordy and explanatory. There was a discussion between Roger and Aleman that sounded more like an interview than a chat. Also, in some of the conversations, facts or information were given which had been previously given or known.


Titled chapters with quotes from Darwin. First person from Roger’s POV. There wass a lot of switching tenses. This is just an example, not an actual pair of sentences from the book: I walked into town. The town is big.

There was a LOT of information overload. A plethora of factoids about the Galapagos and Ecuador and though I like a bit of history and education in my mysteries and adventures, this was was like wading through an encyclopedia with a bit of murder thrown in to break up the lectures. Most of it had nothing to do with the plot or moving the story forward. Even the information regarding the suspects came in chunks that nobody would divulge so freely at one time, or at last in that manner. A couple of punctuation errors, but nothing distracting. No profanity. There is too much build up time to the climax. Way too much unnecessary information (with more factoids) and discussion regarding the mission Bruce takes to get needed evidence.

My Rank:

Green Belt



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