The Rain

The Rain(EBOOK)

By L. A. Frederick

https://www.amazon.com/Rain-Government-Mysteries-ebook/dp/B071PB9BX9/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1500412715&sr=8-1&keywords=the+rain%2C+frederick

Plot

I’m going to start off this review by saying there are so many things wrong with this book, I really don’t know where to begin. I’ll put some issues here in the plot category but some may belong in the Writing category. Maybe putting and * next to them as I move through the plot will help.

So, some chemical in the rain over New Hampton causes some people to mutate (turn different colors, unlock various super human or inhuman abilities). *However, some people already have special abilities that weren’t caused by the rain and have had them for years. Not explained.

A reporter wants to know the inside scoop on what the government is doing about this and especially what a Doctor Zhirkov has to do with it. *Nothing is explained how everything started, what the reporter was writing about, the origin of her story, or how she discovered Zhirkov’s name.

The mayor obsesses over ridding New Hampton of all criminals and wants Zhirkov to cure his son who, apparently, has a mutation that makes him a bad guy. *This isn’t explained either so I was lost when it concerned the mayor’s son. The mayor doesn’t seem to do much else, either, in regards to his job.

Then there’s a guy who plays an avenger, killing criminals. *Not sure where he comes from and I don’t understand his role other than to upset the mayor.

There’s sort of a P.I. who works for Zhikov and tries to find out about certain people in whom the doctor is interested. *Apparently, the doctor lost track of some of these special people after he discovered them years before.

And, of course, Zhirkov, who works out of a run down lab, doing experiments with some of the more-than-humans, including one who appears to be immortal. *Where he started, his background, and several other aspects of this part of the book isn’t explained either.

*This was a hodge-podge of characters affected either before the chemicals in the rain or after it rains, or by stepping into a fresh water puddle. Characters try to either survive or find answers or both.

Characters

Jack Whitlock: brown hair, blue eyes

Evaline Thornton: reporter, a bit over 5’, long blonde hair, late 20s, mother dead

Ivan Dash: mayor, has a son, grey white hair

Alexander Zhirkov: 60s, thin white hair, hook nose, wears glasses

Aurora: dark brown hair and eyes, tan

Several other characters and I liked nobody. Part of the way some of these people described is vague. Zhirkov is described as being mid to late 60s. Pick one. In fact, pick a specific age. The only way this works is if his age were being guessed at by another character, but that’s not how it’s written. Zhirkov is too enigmatic, tries to be too sly. Dash is a loon. Evaline has no spine. There’s a Doctor Fattal who is supposed to assist Zhirkov but doesn’t seem to accomplish anything other than asking a lot of questions and being confused. Another character is called the Homeless Man. His scenes are filled with: “Who am I?” questions, and he ends up being a worthless character. Too many characters to keep straight.

Dialogue

Dash yells a lot. Many characters have internal dialogues that don’t work. As for voices, nobody really stood out. Tag lines that aren’t tag lines. Punctuation errors on tag lines. People scream a lot. Scream is a word that should be used sparingly.

Writing

Profanity. Titled chapters.

Just about any mistake there is to make is made. Errors on: punctuation, grammar, misspelled words. Some chapters are present tense and some are in past tense with no rhyme or reason why. Tense problems within chapters.

The major problem is the author uses passive language throughout the book. Examples of descriptions: The man is six feet tall. He is wearing a shirt. Water is covering the street. The night is dark. The men are running. The man has a hook nose. This type of description and writing is used (if I may err here) constantly. This type of writing makes the book difficult to read because the narrator is distant from the character. Is and Are are usually followed by and ‘ing’ word which words show up a lot.

Too many details on unimportant things, when summation would be better.

Repetitive words and phrases: Jack washes his hands. Finishing, he reaches for a towel to dry his hands. Finishing, he throws away the towel. Also, people gawp too many times in this book.

Many things ‘begin’ and ‘start’ and these words tend to beget ‘ing’ words.

Nonsensical sentences.

Question: Zhikov uses only women guards at his facility. Why? This question isn’t answered but only men are affected by the rain or have extra powers, so this could be logical.

Question: Jack spends many days and nights out on the streets or in the wilderness. How does he survive? Food? Water? His experiences aren’t explained.

Question: Does it seem reasonable Zhirkov has seen these special abilities passed on but can’t remember how? He’s been studying these people for decades.

Problem: Darkmore is first shown wearing a hood and a mask. But, he gives Fattal a look with black eyes. How can anybody see the man’s eyes if they’re covered by a mask? If there are eyeholes in the mask, I that should be clarified.

– Another character’s name is the Shifter. I didn’t understand him but he has a cat. In one scene, the man dons a tracksuit. Then the author writes: The cat’s eyes stare knowingly at the tracksuit; it has not been worn in years. Really? The cat knows how long it’s been since the man wore the outfit?

This entire book was a mess with very weak writing, which made for a difficult read, and made little sense. Any action had no tension. There were no like-able characters, and the ending confused me because I missed the part of how it came to be played out as it was. 

My Rank:

White Belt

White

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Vessels

VesselscoverFinal

By J Man

https://www.amazon.com/Vessels-J-Man/dp/1521298254/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1499737201&sr=8-1&keywords=vessels%2C+j-man

Plot

The TREE corporation, manufacturer of much of today’s items we use everyday, has developed and released something brand new, something every household is expected to want and use. But what is the truth behind this new invention?

When I read the blurb, I thought this would be a fascinating sci-fi thriller. Unfortunately, the blurb didn’t reveal the multitude of problems and weaknesses in the plot and other aspects of the book.

Characters

Here’s the first problem. The characters. Almost every chapter introduces a new character.

Chet, Mary, Andreea, Pamela, Clare, and others. Chloe is the only repeat character shown and she’s a technician doing tests in the lab on the new invention.

So, I had to wait until the end to understand the role of all these characters…and even then I wasn’t sure about all of them. Because, for the most part, a new character was introduced, nobody really developed, not even Chloe. Because of this, I couldn’t care about anybody or get close to them. I couldn’t make the connections to the story or the reason for their inclusion…until, like I said, at the end. Sort of.

Robert is the CEO of TREE but his last name isn’t mentioned until the end…I think. And his character was never developed so his voice and actions were confusing.

Dialogue

Because of the many characters nobody really stood out for voices. Dialogue and conversations, for the most part were banal and blah or vague. Capitalization errors on tag lines. “I’m going to the store,” He said. No capital He.

Writing

Titled chapters. Short book. A bit of profanity. Each chapter is first person from that chapter’s character, which didn’t work for me and was too confusing.

Misuse of semicolons and run-sentences that commas should not have separated.

As mentioned above, I didn’t understand almost anything about this story throughout the read until the end when I had to think a bit.

Nothing was developed. No action. No detecting. No one person or a team figuring it out and putting it all together. At the end, it’s the cop talking to whom I assume is Robert and laying it all out for him, and, apparently the reader. Then the book ended. Just…ended. No resolution, no aftermath, no nothing.

This book’s chapters were based from a timeline that started at the convention with the big announcement of the new product, then proceeded through scenes before and after the convention. The lab tests before the convention with Chloe didn’t make sense and seemed to go nowhere and had no resolution or what happened after their apparent failure. What decisions were made to be ready for the big event?

So, to conclude with a bit of repetition. This book was confusing, did not develop properly, weak writing, a weak plot that seemed to bounce from place to place with no solid connections. If I hadn’t been reviewing this book, I would have given up a few chapters in. And if I may make one last comment: the book’s cover does absolutely nothing to attract a reader.

Giving a rank to this book was not a difficult decision:

White Belt

White

When The Sky Falls

cover

By Joseph Bendoski

https://www.amazon.com/When-Sky-Falls-Joseph-Bendoski/dp/1520951590/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1499483766&sr=8-1&keywords=when+the+sky+falls

Plot

It is 1988. Do you remember the scare Orson Wells gave America broadcasting War of the Worlds? That was considered a Sky Fall Event. William Stephenson has spent his life studying Sky Fall events, including the most recent in Portugal. The CIA is interested in this latest incident and sends in a team to help and learn from Stephenson. But is everyone’s motives true? Who put the latest Sky Fall event into motion and why?

As a premise, I think it’s pretty good. But the way it was laid out was…well, I find it difficult to explain. Really. I didn’t know what to make of it. Something seemed off, not totally left field stuff, but just leaning just shy of plum. Let’s see if I can delve into it in other categories.

Characters

Jay Nichols: works for the CIA

Trevor Benson: Nicknamed Costly. Works for the CIA

Silas Cooper: black hair, smokes cigars, works for the CIA

William Stephenson: Thin grey hair, average looking, wears hearing aids

Okay, there are a few other characters named Alvero, Jones, Alice, and Casey. They’re all CIA but they’re all a bit weird and, like I said…off. I didn’t know whether Alice was a total whack-job or cleverly clever. Jones was enigmatic and I didn’t understand the role of Casey.

There is an afterward to the book that mentions William Stephenson was an actual person who was a spy in WWII. The character in this book is loosely based on the real man.

One problem I had with these characters is I didn’t understand them. They were introduced and they did things and then I never felt the follow up with them. Just my opinion here. Nichols is a newbie agent, yet seems to turn pro pretty quickly, within months.

I just never was able to grasp any of the characters or feel close to them. The Afterward mentions in an earlier version that Nichols was actually named Nickels. There is one time that I caught the second spelling still in there.

Dialogue

Because Alice was so different, her voice came through well. So did Silas’. I didn’t have any problems with dialogue other than sometimes I didn’t quite understand the purpose of some of it.

Writing

Profanity. Titled Chaps and chapters are headed by quotes from Stephenson’s book.

Misspelled words and run-on sentences. Some sentences would have worked better with a period and separated.

To be honest, I enjoyed the anecdotes/small excerpts from Stephenson’s book at the beginning of the chapters more than the story.

I tried to grab onto some thread but found it difficult. There are a few twists here and there but, and I hate to be repetitive, the whole book seemed off, shaky, not on solid ground, hard to fully comprehend what was going on, and the reasons for it.

Take a chance or don’t. I just don’t know about this one.

My Rank:

Camouflage Belt

Camo

The Case Of The Invisible Souls

TheCaseofTheInvisibleSouls

R. Weir

SONY DSC

https://www.amazon.com/Case-Invisible-Souls-Jarvis-Detective-ebook/dp/B071SJPFTZ/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1498598688&sr=8-1&keywords=case+of+the+invisible+souls

Plot

The homeless in Denver are disappearing. Well, they’re accepting offers from strangers and never seen again. Didn’t they understand the rule about not accepting rides from strangers when they were children (okay, that’s not part of the plot. I’m having fun here). When private investigator Jarvis Mann accepts the case to look into the disappearances, he runs into trouble almost from the beginning. But that’s the nature of Mann’s cases.

For a short story, it’s a good plot. Very well laid out and presented. It might have made for a longer story, but for what it is, it’s pretty good.

Characters

Jarvis Mann: private investigator, drives a Mustang

Parker Turner: homeless, former military

Louise: silver hair

Brandon Sparks: construction company owner, 50s

Samantha: pastor, black, muscular, former military, tattooed, lavender/blonde hair

Some good characters. Jarvis might have been given a bit more background, but if you’ve read the previous books in the series, you would know.

Dialogue

Characters don’t speak in contractions. Not so much as other books, but enough to notice, but this is common with Weir’s novels. A couple ‘ly’ adverbs on the ‘he said’ tags, but not enough to get upset about.

Writing

Clean, no errors that I could see. No profanity. Pretty straightforward with some insight on the homeless issue. I have enjoyed several Mann plots and this one is no exception.

Yeah, pretty short review this time, but when there aren’t any major issues to point out, it’s just a matter of saying this is a good book and I wish more of my review books were as good.

My Rank:

Blue Belt

Blue

Deadly Decision

DEADLY DECISION NEW 5

By Gerald Darnell

Dad17

https://www.amazon.com/Deadly-Decision-Carson-Reno-Mystery-ebook/dp/B01LVZ5U1E/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1498527934&sr=8-1&keywords=Deadly+Decision%2C+darnell

Plot

1962. Tennessee. When Nathan Battle comes up on an accident, he meets a man with a briefcase full of money. There’s a fight and Nathan shoots the man and ends up with the money. Thus begins the tale of one decision that results in multiple murders, betrayal, and greed. The local police call in Carson Reno, private investigator, from Memphis to help track down the answers. Things start heating up when Nathan enters the picture and starts gathering clues.

I think this is an interesting plot with lots of angles. In some ways it’s simple, yet, in other ways, there’s complexity.

Characters

Carson Reno: Private investigator

Joe Richardson: associate in Reno’s agency

Lydia Longstreet: associate in Reno’s agency, has a sister who is dead, is a P.I. of her own, tanned, black hair

Leroy Epsee: county sheriff

Nathan Battle: married, has a brother

Titus Dunwoody: smokes, tattooed, drives a ‘55 Mercury, black hair

Joey Moretti: works for the mob, smokes.

I think the characters are fine except Carson didn’t show up until page 48 (in my epub version), and there are only 156 pages. Plenty of background information which isn’t bad, just a lot of it.

Dialogue

Here’s where some of the problems arise. There are a lot of tag lines that aren’t tag lines. Smiling, laughing, and such are actions, not pieces of dialogue. And there were others that were complete non-dialogue tags. There were punctuation and capitalization errors in the dialogue.

Maybe this goes toward character, but some of Reno’s dialogue showed a lot of over confidence.

Another problem with dialogue was there was a lot of repetitious talk within conversations. At times I wanted to jump in with, “Get on with it.”

Back to the tag lines, there was too much he shouted and he yelled.

Writing

Titled chapters. Profanity. Carson’s scenes are 1st person from his POV. Third person POV when other characters have their scenes w/o Carson.

This is one of the very few books I’ve read with pictures. Pictures of items (guns, beer, cars), and pictures of buildings read about in the book (motel, grocery store). They were okay, although no need to repeat them.

Ah yes. There was a LOT of repetition in phrases. Way too much. Once you have a character established, there is no need to use the first and last name of that character again except maybe at the beginning of a chapter where that person hasn’t been seen for awhile. Joey Moretti was introduced with the nickname Joey ‘get out of town’ Moretti. Great. Interesting nickname. But the author used that nickname almost every time Moretti was in a scene and some scenes had multiple uses. Once or twice is fine, but over and over gets tiring.

Ditto with the phrase everybody used, including the narrator when speaking of the mob. Every time ‘the boys on Beale Street’ was used after the first two times, I cringed. Enough already. This repetition became old and turned me off.

There was a bit of tense problems here and there.

Some other problems include:

– no explanation for how Joey survived at the beginning

– capital letters to stress words instead of italics (this was over the top when a couple characters had to yell at a deaf proprietor.)

– there’s a fight at Nathan’s brother’s house that involves Titus and Joey. After Titus shoots Joey, he yells to his girlfriend and the brother’s wife to get into the car, and yells where they’re going. Huh? You just shot a bad guy, don’t know if he lived, but you’re going to yell out your destination before you escape?

– there were a couple of surprise characters that were mentioned, but not enough, for me, to make the ending scene work. Hello? Where did you come from and how did you know all the particulars?

– Carson has a dog…named Carson. In a couple places, I had to read the sentence twice to be clear which Carson was being described.

– I don’t know, but I’m not sure if another name for Carson’s agency might have been better. It’s a bit schmoozy (can I make up a word to describe something that is a bit wrong, kinda, but doesn’t really work?) that he’d name it the Drake Detective Agency because, as he explains, the Reno Detective Agency would be confusing and not sound right, but everybody, at that time, was familiar with Perry Mason. Okay, but then to have a slight change in the woman from Della Street to Lydia Longstreet?

So, the rank. Now, this book is part of a series, and one that is farther into the series. Although I haven’t read the others, I would expect with each one, that earlier errors and problems would have been solved or severely minimized by this stage.

I thought for awhile to give this a Camouflage, but I think I have to be fair to those other Camo books.

My Rank:

Yellow Belt

Yellow

Pretty Corpse

cover

By Linda Berry

author

https://www.amazon.com/Pretty-Corpse-Linda-Berry/dp/1941058655/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1498219214&sr=8-1-fkmr0&keywords=Pretty+little+corpse

Plot

A serial rapist is terrorizing teens in San Francisco. Patrol officer Lauren Starkley finds herself involved with the third attack. Having a teen daughter of her own, she is now determined, against the advice and orders or those in charge of the investigation, to track down the culprit. Spending off hours talking to people and exploring the crime scene, she becomes the focus of the rapist.

I like the plot. It’s one with a dedicated and loyal cop after the bad guy. There’s a bit of romance and intrigue. My problem in this section (I guess it belongs here) is that the title doesn’t represent the plot. The only corpse is a cop who is shot.

Characters

Lauren Starkley: patrol officer, green eyes, 5’, drives a white Jeep Cherokee, widow, owns a cat, has a sister

Steve Santos: 40, partner of Lauren’s, solid frame, married with 2 children, thick dark hair

Lily Camino: police inspector, greying hair, brown eyes, wears glasses.

Jack Monetti: 40, police captain, dark hair, divorced with child, blue eyes, drives a Toyota Sequoia

Courtney Starkley: 14, Lauren’s daughter, red hair

Peter Duff: reporter, married with children

Some good characters. I wished Lily would have had more than one scene because she was the perfect authoritarian foil for Lauren’s bucking the system. She had one scene then left the story which made her background information moot. I thought she would play a more important role.

The other characters had good roles. Santos and another cop named Wong. There were others to make the sideline issues complete (Lauren’s parents, a teenage boy).

Dialogue

Pretty good voices. Santos and Wong sounded a bit similar. Lauren’s parents were good. Conversations didn’t wander and were kept fairly tight. The investigative side of police work sometimes gets technical, but there wasn’t any medicalese or scientific terms to worry about.

Writing

A small bit of profanity that probably could have been eliminated.

Other than that…well, I’m not sure what to write here. No grammar/punctuation/spelling errors that I could find. No improbable scenes or issues with time or action.

The amount of action was just about right and the tension might have been amped up a bit, but otherwise, it seemed to flow well.

I really don’t have any problems with this book. It’s a good, complete story. Okay, it doesn’t wow me to utter exhilaration, but I would read more of this author’s work. I think she has a grasp on solid writing and a decent story, and hope that she publishes more.

So, as to rank, I thought about Green, but based on the ‘clean’ writing and the fact I could sit back and enjoy the story without having to slog through errors and problems, I decided to bump it up.

My Rank:

Purple Belt

Purple

Fair Is Foul And Foul Is Fair

cover

By Larry Darter

author

https://www.amazon.com/Fair-Foul-gripping-mystery-thriller-ebook/dp/B071YB8R8M/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1497565282&sr=8-1&keywords=fair+is+foul+and+foul+is+fair

Plot

Ben Malone, P.I., is on the case of an escort who needs protection from a crime lord because she witnessed the murder of one of her clients. At least…that’s what she claims. When Malone accepts the case, he finds more than murder, he finds more murder, and narcotics, and human trafficking. And lies. Soon, he and his girlfriend are in danger. He’ll have to think fast to come out of this one alive.

I think it’s a good plot. There is a lot going on here with just enough complexities and twists to keep it interesting. Plot-wise.

Characters

Ben Malone: Private investigator, former homicide investigator, former Army, drives a Toyota Camry

Evania Sterling: escort, married, blonde, blue eyes, tall, drives a BMW Z4

Jaime Reyes: homicide investigator, has a sister

Nick Makara: white hair, portly, sixties, golfer, owns a shipping company

These are the main characters along with Sara, Ben’s girlfriend who is a psychiatrist. Coincidentally, at the same time I was reading this, I was listening to a Spenser novel and there are similarities between the characters. All Darter had to do was put in a large black man to accompany Malone…well, anyway…

The characters are fine. I think they’re well rounded with enough background information and descriptions. I thought Malone wasn’t as serious at the beginning as he might have been, but that could be his nature.

Dialogue

A lot of people don’t use contractions and it was enough to be noticeable and seem unnatural. Otherwise, the conversations went well. A bit long in the scenes with the FBI.

Writing

First person from Malone’s POV. Profanity. Small to medium-sized words are incorrect in many sentences.

The biggest problem I had with this is that although the book is a longer one than usual, it’s a fast read. The reason it’s lengthy is there’s a lot of unnecessary repetition and unnecessary information.

Example: Malone goes through a lot of adventure with Evania and Makara and when he finally gets around to spilling the story to Reyes, he spills it all. What I mean is, the author had more than a summary of every single scene when Malone relates the story to Reyes. I’m thinking, “Get on with it!” This lengthy diatribe could have been neatly summarized in about three paragraphs.

Example: There’s a lot of repetition of previous events when discussing things with the FBI.

Example: Evania’s story near the end was too long. After a bunch of slow time, this is an obvious filler before the climax.

Example: There is a scene detailing a meal. Do something with a chicken, cut up veggies, do something else with the chicken, grab a bowl for salad, do something else with the chicken…and so on. This and many other scenes tended to drag down the story. There is a lot of filler between the action parts and meeting with the FBI and before the showdown.

Speaking of the climax – it was anti-climactic. Little action and it ends quickly. Too quickly for the long set up.

Another problem is when Malone rescues Sara and they and Reyes are deciding their next plan of action, Malone cautions Sara not to be going out because he doesn’t want the bad guys to know she’s been rescued. A few minutes later, they all decide to go out to lunch…on a restaurant patio. What happened to being worried about being out in public?

A good plot, but some of the writing needed to be a lot tighter…and shorter.

My Rank:

Green Belt

Green

The Hanging Murders

cover 2

By Rex Carothers

author

https://www.amazon.com/Hanging-Murders-Cobb-Murder-Mystery-ebook/dp/B06XWDN2V6/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1497043060&sr=8-1&keywords=The+Hanging+Murders

Plot

1957. California. A serial murderer has returned after a fifteen year absence. Sheriff Cobb, though, is still drowning his sorrows over a failed marriage and the death of his wife and child with alcohol. When his former partner is killed, he makes the decision to find the killer. Thus begins a complex tale of murder, greed, corruption, and lust.

I accept books for review based on many things. Some are more important than others but all have a factor in my decision. The blurb given to me by the author or Amazon, the subject matter, book cover (yes, I do and you do, too so admit it), the author’s request, and whether any of the above catches my interest.

When I accepted this book, I expected a cool mystery with a serial killer, and a raw, gritty story. Raw, yes, but not in the way I meant. The plot, which I thought would revolve around the title, did not, for the most part. This was the first of many disappointments about this book.

Characters

Jim Cobb: County sheriff, wife and child dead, former army, mom dead

Jasper Fowler: Nickname of ‘Red’, county deputy, 63, burly, white hair

Merrill Cobb: Jim’s father, former sheriff

Conchita Ramirez: housekeeper/cook, has a sister

Archie Reid: 28, trucker driver, 6’, lanky, dark hair, pale blue eyes, former army

There are a several more characters. For the most part, they’re distinct and each has a role to play. There is one unnamed character which I’ll address later. And, for the most, part, I could ‘see’ the characters and thought they held their own.

A problem I had with Cobb, is he visits a dead guy’s house wondering where his secret cache is. However, he doesn’t spend too much time looking for it and comes away with some paperwork. Another baddie comes in and goes right for the hidey-hole. I thought Cobb was a bit incompetent in this area.

There’s a reporter who is really a throwaway filler character who pretty much disappears by the latter quarter of the book and isn’t mentioned again.

Dialogue

Again, not too bad, varying voices.

Writing

Profanity. This is a shorter book (141 pages in my Nook).

So, where to begin. This book has a lot of problems, so I’ll start with the POV. It’s first person from Cobb’s when he’s in the scene. But not always and that was weird. Either do it first person with him always or do it all third. Those not with Cobb (and some with as just mentioned) are third person from various POV.

Tense problems. The author writes sentences in present tense then in past tense and sometimes both in a sentence.

Misspelled and missing words. The latter really threw me because I had to go back and fill in the missing word to complete the sentence.

Punctuation errors. Commas thrown willy-nilly into sentences.

This book is chock full of sex, willing and unwilling. Very few characters don’t have sex or talk about previous sex.

There is a time problem. Archie visits his mom’s house and gets directions to a cabin. Subsequently, Cobb, coming back from another murder, where he spent a lot of time, stops at Archie’s mom’s house, then goes off to the cabin. The problem is that Cobb gets there first, there’s a gun battle and after a guy is arrested, Archie THEN shows up.

Before I get to the main issue, let me address this unknown character. There are three ‘sets’ of murders. The hanging murders (killer at the end is found and known), the murder of Haskel (killer at the end is found and known), and a series of random murders by this unknown guy driving a Chevy truck. Here’s the weird part of this – this latter killer is never named, and his identity is never discovered or revealed. So, why include him other than have his killings be mentioned a couple times by the regular characters who don’t seem to put much effort into investigating. It didn’t make sense. I kept trying to put one of the named characters in this role, but it turned out it wasn’t any of them and I’m sorry to play a bit of a spoiler here.

The main issue is repetition. Phraseology, descriptions, and parts of sentences are repeated…a lot. Red’s age is mentioned twice, the fact there were no suspects, no fingerprints, no evidence found in the previous killings is repeated. The last twenty pages has countless repetitions by various characters and the narrator of “Who killed Barton Haskel?” This repetition was bad writing and should not have been so prevalent in this short of a book.

With all of these problems, I quickly dropped my ranking and ended up having to go to the bottom.

My Rank:

White Belt

White

Sweltering Summer Nights

Tom Stone SSN Front Cover

By Lon Caslet Bixby & Don Simkovich

https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=sweltering+summer+nights

Plot

Anthony Angelino just wants to lead a decent life after narrowly escaping a trial for murder and drug distribution. However, old enemies come back to haunt him – an organized crime boss and the investigator who arrested him.

Decent plot with the expected issue for the characters to overcome.

Characters

Tom Stone: police detective, divorced with two daughters, drives a Jeep, owns a dog

Anthony Angelino: marijuana store owner, dark hair, drives a BMW

Alisha Davidson: attorney, caramel colored skin

Howard Wu: organized crime boss, married

I thought the characters were pretty distinct with enough background information. There were some side characters who helped: Sara, Anthony’s girlfriend, a young kid going through some problems being helped by Stone.

Dialogue

Pretty good. Some individuals I could hear well. Wu and some of the minor characters had either good voices or accents that helped. Conversations stayed on track with the right amount of information given.

Writing

Profanity.

May I make a comment on the title? I think titles are important because they helped attract the interest of the reader. Raiders of the Lost Ark, Kitty Kitty Bang Bang, The Case of the Velvet Claws. These titles interest a mystery or adventure reader.

So, when I see Sweltering Summer Nights I think of a gritty, dirty, raw, hot, sultry, sweaty, down the dark alley type of story. Maybe a bit of noir involved.

This story, however, had Frisbee on the beach with the dog and family in the park scenes. Yes, the hot weather was mentioned a few times, but most of the action took place…in the daytime.

In short, the story did not live up to the title. This may not be a major issue for some, but for me, the title aided in my decision to read the book.

It wasn’t a long novel so Anthony’s character was the only one to really develop. Yes, Stone began a possible romantic relationship, but the struggle of Anthony was the main thrust of the story. Because of that, I expected something grand at the end, but the chase scene and the it was almost anticlimactic.

Plus, there was no aftermath report. I could figure out Anthony and what probably happened to him, but did the crime boss or the councilman suffer? What happened to Sara?

A good read but lacking oomph.

My Rank:

Green Belt

Green

Killer On The Train

cover

By Bruce Alan Jensen

Bruce

https://www.amazon.com/Killer-Train-Hank-Carson-Mystery/dp/1545498903/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1496189578&sr=8-1&keywords=killer+on+the+train

Plot

It’s murder on a wine train tour in California. Hank Carson, retired police investigator, becomes involved in who killed the restaurant critic nobody liked. Add to that, a burgeoning romance between Hank and the lead investigator.

Good plot, however, the mystery almost took a caboose to the romance angle and the fact Hank, main character, didn’t have a lot to do with solving the mystery.

Characters

Henry ‘Hank’ Carson: former police investigator, 6’, smokes cigars, owns a black Lab, drives a motor home, freelance writer, divorced with daughter

Alicia Tomlinson: Agent for the State Bureau of Investigations, hazel eyes, 5’6” 30s, freckles

Charles Beaumont: wine train promoter, 5’11”, tinning white hair, husky, beard

Kevin Stafford: train chief of security, 50s, 6’, overweight

And there were a lot of other characters. This is a minor problem and I’ll put this here but it also goes in the writing category. For the first fifty pages there were a lot of characters introduced. Many of these were riders on the train and most of them were eliminated. This, to me, didn’t work because there were a lot of names thrown out and characters that were ‘thrown out’ because they were dismissed as suspects. By the time the list was narrowed, I had lost track (no pun intended), of the reasons for their being suspects.

Otherwise, I liked Hank and Alicia although Hank spends way too much time in this short story fantasizing about Alicia when, I thought, he should have been solving the case.

Dialogue

Okay. Conversations stayed on track (again not a pun here). Whether they dealt with the case or background info or emotions shared, conversations stayed succinct. However, there were capitalization errors on tag lines – “I went to the store,” She said. (Not an actual line, but an example of the error.

Writing

Profanity but just a little.

This was a shorter book so I expected the book to revolve around the case. You stick with the case, giving red herrings and clues and talking to suspects. Now, I’m not here to tell the author how to write a story. I will give my opinion on whether the way he/she writes it works for me. This book didn’t work.

– Hank, though the main character, wasn’t really directly involved in solving the case

– Hank spent way too much time on the road traveling-away from the case-playing with the dog and dreaming about Alicia

– There was a side incident of some gun play on one of Hank’s road trips that had nothing to do with the main plot and I didn’t see the point of it.

– There was a lot of filler stuff that had nothing to do with the mystery.

Now, as to this last point, I realize that part of the book was a developing relationship between Hank and Alicia, but again, this is a shorter book, and things need to keep moving. As mentioned, I felt the murder took second billing to everything else.

This wasn’t an action-packed story, though there were spurts of action here and there. The revelation of the solution was not a “A’ha!” moment and the ending wind down was, again, unimportant, especially the part with his daughter, because she was mentioned briefly and never shown until the end.

I thought about green for while but decided to drop it to:

Camouflage Belt

Camo