Quick Kick – The Vault


By Boyd Morrison




Tyler Locke’s routine commute on a Washington State ferry is interrupted by a chilling anonymous call: his father has been kidnapped, and a truck bomb is set to detonate on board in twenty minutes. When Tyler reaches the bomb on the boat’s car deck, he’s stunned to find classical languages expert Stacy Benedict waiting for him. She’s received the same threat, and her sister has also been taken.

In order to disarm the bomb, Tyler and Stacy must work together to solve an engineering puzzle—a puzzle written in ancient Greek. But preventing the explosion is only the first step; they soon learn the entire setup is a test created by a ruthless criminal who forces them to go on a seemingly impossible mission: uncover the legendary lost riches of King Midas.

Tyler and Stacy have just five days to track down the gold. Armed with an ancient manuscript penned by brilliant Greek inventor Archimedes, they begin a quest to unravel a two-thousand-year-old mystery whose answer is hidden within the workings of a cryptic artifact: the Antikythera Mechanism, a device designed by Archimedes himself. To save their loved ones and prevent their captors from recovering a treasure that will finance unspeakable devastation, the two scramble to Italy, Germany, Greece, and finally to the streets of New York City in a race against the clock to find the truth behind the story of King Midas.

My Analysis

Another adventure quest for a treasure of the ancients. I enjoy these.

An interesting aspect about this book is: no profanity. This would be one where I would have expected some, but no. This one has great action, some evil plots, but the language doesn’t drop into the gutter. For the most part, I think it works. It’s difficult to write dialogue where the good guys are being threatened and stay clean. It’s tough sometimes to write baddie dialogue without them becoming enraged.

Two main baddies in this one so one has to take second billing, but that’s okay. There’s enough to go around.

I like adventure quest stories, combining truth with fiction or speculation. Morrison does a wonderful job in this one and I’d read more.

My rank:

Blue Belt



High Stakes


By Dick Francis

0430 SOCIAL Racing



After Steven Scott, racehorse owner, decides to terminate his relationship with his horses’ trainer because of the trainer’s deceptions, his prize horse is summarily stolen. It’s only later that Scott realizes he owns a replacement. He knows there is a conspiracy between the trainer and an unscrupulous bookie. Scott, at the same tiem a new romance begins for him, decides to obtain justice for the crimes committed against him…in his own fashion.

Actually, this plot is one of Francis’ simpler ones. Unlike some of the others, you see everything up front, you know the baddies and no real surprises. Still, it’s Dick Francis, so you can’t go wrong.


Steven Scott: 35, wealthy through his making of toys, drives a Lamborghini.

Jody Leeds: 28, racehorse trainer, short, stocky, intelligent, competent at his job

Charlie Canterfield: 55, merchant banker, smokes cigars, overweight, attended Eton, smooth graying hair, deep set eyes, large nose, drives a Rover 3500

Ganser Mays: bookmaker, sharp nose

Alexandra Ward: American from Westchester, NY, early twenties, brown hair, has a sister, is a cook for weddings

Rupert Ramsey; 45, racehorse trainer, energetic

Owen Idris: Scott’s houseman, short, thin, has a daughter

Good solid characters. Each with a unique personality. Just enough depth to get a good feel for them. Actually I enjoyed one roughneck by the name of Bert Huggerneck.


Distinctive voices. Again, Huggerneck’s comes through the best with his ‘swearing’. The book mentions Canterfield’s Eton accent, but that he can adapt to the specific crowd.


First person from Scott’s POV. Typical Francis. The man was knowledgeable about horses and the horse racing industry so everything is factual and realistic. Action is quick and decisive and Scott’s narration of the action doesn’t drag. A bit of mild profanity. If I’ve missed any of Francis’ novels, that number is pretty low. Each has a connection to horses and horse racing even if a couple have a plot outside of racing. As I mentioned earlier, this is a simple plot so there are no surprises. You know what’s going on and what’s going to happen but that didn’t lessen the enjoyment of the book. This is one of his early books but a good one to add to my collection.

My rank:

Blue Belt


Dogs Don’t Send Flowers & Other Stories


By Gary Beck



Ken Kensington goes against family tradition and becomes an acting teacher who sidelines as a clown. He tries to write a play, has issues with a pesky landlord, and on top of that has problems with his adopted dog, Pard, who is overly…frisky. Ken has various thoughts to solve his pet’s sexual problem, including creating a newsletter with want ads, creating a television show, and contemplating visiting a Brazilian dog hotel.

So, that’s pretty much the entire book. The ‘other stories’ really didn’t exist because everything was connected throughout. However, there are issues that bring down the book.


Ken Kensington: teaches at Gotham University School of the Arts, does a clown act

Anitra Blavatsky: tall, bony, artist

Pard: dog, medium size, brown/white, terrier/shepherd mix

Mary Jane Kowalski: red hair, fair skinned

There are few other characters including one of Ken’s homosexual students. Each of the characters is distinct with interesting personalities. There isn’t any description of Ken and there’s no mention of his name until further into the book.


Not much, so there’s not too much to comment about. This wasn’t a book full of dialogue and there could have been more. What was there was fine, on point, conveyed the message


No profanity. I found one misspelling of Anitra’s name. Written in first person from Ken’s POV and written in a way that sounds like it’s non-fiction. I suspected something when the story became bizarre in respects to Anitra’s mentor ‘artiste’ who wanted to wrap everything in plastic.

Some nice humor and the over-the-top stuff didn’t go too far.

Okay, so we have a dog who is overly sexual and often frustrated because he isn’t allowed to have the full experience. Ken tries various ways to fulfill the dog’s needs. He loves his dog, but the common sense question I had was: why didn’t he neuter the animal and be done with it? Okay that question is answered and this makes for some quirky scenes, but the question hangs in the air with the crazy things he thinks of.

The major issue is one of repetition. This is a short book, but most chapters spend too much time reviewing the story so far, including review of characters and plot and bits and pieces of story line. This is not needed especially when the same material and the same phraseology is used time and time again. For instance, Pard and Ken go to visit Mary’s family several times because of issues within the Kowalski family and Pard is constantly dissuaded by the male dogs from mounting one or two of the female dogs. That’s fine, but it happens every time they visit, and it’s mentioned in other chapters for review. There is no need to mention Mary’s full name time and time again, or the nickname Ken uses for Anitra’s artist friend, especially since the guy isn’t a big part of the story.

I thought the ending was abrupt and didn’t resolve the issues. Ken’s play still hung in the balance trying to find a theater and nothing was resolved with the problem of his landlord wanting him out. Was anything solved with the issues with Mary’s family? Did Ken’s family accept him and his life?

The book ended when issues were coming to needing to be resolved, but weren’t.

My Rank:

Yellow Belt


Quick Kick – The Mobius Murders


By Brian Lumley




Harry Keough, aka the Necroscope, has always considered himself a master of the Mobius Continuum–a dimension existing parallel to all space and time and his personal instantaneous gateway to anywhere in the multiverse. But this is hardly overweening conceit on Harry’s part, for to his knowledge he is not unique; two other intelligences, with powers similar to his, do indeed exist. One such is the long-dead August Ferdinand Mobius himself, the German astronomer, mathematician, and discoverer of the eponymous Mobius Strip which led him to explore, posthumously, his previously conjectural Continuum; and the other is Harry s son, who has not only inherited his father’s mathematical skill but also the metaphysical talent by means of which the Necroscope converses with dead people in their graves!

Picture Harry’s confusion, then, on returning home via the Mobius Continuum from an adventure in Las Vegas, as he witnesses however briefly a flailing figure hurtling conscious but uncontrolled through the endless midnight of the Continuum. Who could this be–how can it be?–that a helpless, silently protesting other is rushing meteor-like across the Continuum’s Stygian vault? Moreover, if he hasn’t arrived here voluntarily, then what vile murderer has sent his victim on this monstrous journey to the end of life itself? For Harry is sure that this is neither his son s nor Professor Mobius’ doing.

Who and where is he, this Mobius murderer? It is a mystery that only the Necroscope can ever hope to solve–but at what risk to his own life?

My Analysis

I am a big fan of Lumely and have read just about everything he’s published. I started the Necroscope series awhile ago and read them to a friend who had problems focusing on the printed page for long period of time. I have enjoyed Lumley’s writing style, language, imagery, and the ability to tell a complex story and keep me interested.

This book, however, falls a bit short. Yes, it’s a shorter book. Yes, it contains some of Lumley’s phraseology and language usage. Yes, you get a snapshot of who Harry is. Yes, there is an evil villain who is defeated in the end.


I listened to the audio book and it mostly wandered around the metaphysics of what Harry is, can do, the Mobius Continuum, theory, math, and it all became jumbled. Fans and readers of Lumley will understand this book. Maybe my problem with this is because it was a short story, it didn’t have the flair, the complex storyline, the plotting from the good guys and the bad guys I enjoyed from previous. It certainly didn’t have much action until the end.

I enjoyed the background information and the evil-ness of the bad guy, but, again, a short story means get in, get it done, and get out. So, I didn’t get to enjoy the baddie like others in this series. Plus, this was a continuation of previous stories, so Harry is still looking for his wife and child (who must be how old by now?) and is still taking up with a werewolf girlfriend (and THAT whole issue and story needs to be resolved in a book…please Brian, resolve this? Finish it? Do something with it?)

Anyway, a good Lumley story that falls a bit short of his best work. I’ll bump it up from my original thought of Green only because, well, it’s Lumley and I enjoy his stuff. But watch it, okay? lol

My Rank:

Purple Belt


Playing Dead


By Allison Brennan




Fifteen years have passed since Claire O’Brien helped put her father in prison for killing her mother and her mother’s lover. Now her father has escaped and made contact, pleading with her to investigate possible evidence to prove him innocent. As a private investigator working fraud cases, she believes everybody lies and is reluctant to help. When she decides to track down the only lead her father gave her, she discovers more than what she bargained for.

Mitch Bianchi is an FBI agent with an agenda. He figures getting close to Claire will lead him to her father. However, he doesn’t know what to do with the feelings that have developed during the lie he’s perpetrated.

Meanwhile, a killer tries to prepared to eliminate any traces of his crimes.

Oft-seen plot but I haven’t read something like this in awhile and it’s a good, refreshing story. Some interesting angles, predictable problems, but still a decent thriller.


Tom O’Brien: ex Sacramento cop, was found guilty of killing his wife and her lover, father dead, has a scar on his stomach from being shot, black hair

Claire Elizabeth O’Brien: 29, 5′ 3”, Tom’s daughter, short black hair, private investigator who works fraud cases, drives a Jeep, owns two dogs and a cat, college dropout, has a tattoo on her right shoulder blade and on her thigh

Mitch Bianchi: FBI agent, trained in underwater forensics, likes diving, ex wife is his supervisor, was in the military, father was a prosecutor, has trouble following orders at times, physically fit,

Nelia Kincaid: brown eyes, had a son who was murdered, lives in the woods in Idaho, mother alive, divorced

Megan Elliott; Mitch’s supervisor and ex-wife, blonde, green eyes, stickler for rules


I think the dialogue is well written. Lots of internal dialogue. I think Nelia’s attitude and personality come through best.


Several flashback scenes that aren’t too long to drag down the story. Good and bad sex scenes. Some profanity. I expected more action and suspense and less PI and police investigation but that’s okay. Brennan keeps the story moving and the interest going by cutting off one lead but showing you another clue for Claire and the FBI to follow. Once pieces start falling into place, the action builds.

My Rank:

Blue Belt


Smoke And Mirrors


By Neil Gaiman




In the deft hands of Neil Gaiman, magic is no mere illusion . . .and anything is possible. In Smoke and Mirrors, Gaiman’s imagination and supreme artistry transform a mundane world into a place of terrible wonders—where an old woman can purchase the Holy Grail at a thrift store, where assassins advertise their services in the Yellow Pages under “Pest Control,” and where a frightened young boy must barter for his life with a mean-spirited troll living beneath a bridge by the railroad tracks. Explore a new reality, obscured by smoke and darkness yet brilliantly tangible, in this extraordinary collection of short works by a master prestidigitator. It will dazzle your senses, touch your heart, and haunt your dreams.

My Analysis

I used to love anthologies. Short fiction by horror or even mystery writers. As I’ve aged, I’ve become more selective and less gung-ho about them. I’ve learned that with anthologies, there are some pretty good stories, some average stories, and some less enjoyable stories.

This book is no exception. There are some pretty good stories in here. There are stories I shrugged an okay with and there were a few I just didn’t understand.

I listened to the audio and the author is the narrator. Now, when I first heard that he was the narrator, I cringed. I have longed held the belief that authors should not read their own material. There is one exception and if she ever gets around to it, I will enjoy her book that much more.

Anyway, Gaiman does a decent job of voices and his own ‘voice’ in writing.

Pick and choose. The one about the Holy Grail is good. So is the one about the man who goes a step too far in dealing with a murder for hire group. Ditto with the murder mystery in heaven.

My rank:

Green Belt


The Givenchy Code


by Julie Kenner




NYU student Melanie Prescott is trying to survive to earn her Master’s degree, have enough money to buy the latest in shoes, and wanting to see her parents when they come for a vacation. However, while on her latest gig as a dog walker, she receives not only a visit from her ex boyfriend, but a stranger gives her a coded message.

There’s an online game called Play Survive Win that has been very popular. However, somebody has taken the game into the real world…and Melanie is the target. She must play or die.

This was the first in the PSW game with Melanie. I read and reviewed the Manolo Matrix some time ago and enjoyed it. I realized, at the time, that there had been a story before and this is it. I like the light-heartedness mixed with the serious. It’s another stalker vs heroine, ‘most dangerous game’ scenario, but Kenner has a good version of it.


Melanie Lynn Prescott: 5’9”, blonde, attends NYU, has a B.S. in math with a minor in history and working on a Masters in History, prefers Mel but not Melanie, has worked as a short-order cook, a Circle Line ticket agent, and a cocktail waitress and a dog walker. Love shoes and handbags and Indian food.

Jennifer: 5’9”, Mel’s roommate, green eyes, black hair, works as a singing waitress, has two sisters

Todd Davidson: Mel’s former boyfriend, second year associate at a law firm,

Matthew Stryker: 30s, ruggedly handsome, tanned, physically fit, ex Marine, does freelance private security

Stryker? Really? Could you have a more soap opera hero stud name? Okay, okay, I like the story and I like the characters. Mel goes from almost swooning at times to serious math/puzzle solver to remembering how scared she is to be the target of a killer. There isn’t much depth to the other characters, and that’s okay, for the most part. This isn’t a character driven story. I would have liked to have seen a bit more from Stryker. Not sure what, maybe more Superman and less Clark Kent.


I enjoyed the internal dialogue from Mel. These conversation really bring her to life. Other dialogue stays on point and doesn’t drag down the story.


First person from Melanie’s POV. Third person from the POV of Stryker and the baddie. Some profanity. Relatively short chapters. The pace is quick and the tension is broken up nicely by the some light-hearted stuff as well as the building romance between Stryker and Mel. Although, I must induce a bit of reality. I didn’t quite buy the fact that one night Mel’s having sex with her ex, then the next day she’s going all girly when Stryker says or does something. Chalk it up to heat-of-the-moment-danger-builds-bonds, but it seemed a bit pat. The puzzle explanations are simple to understand but the puzzles themselves are teasing enough.

My Rank:

Blue Belt


The Invisible Investigation


By Lionel Touzellier



A decades’ old mystery is about to be investigated. Two scientists are assigned to dig into the mystery behind the assassination of President Kennedy, and uncover the truth. Following clues and leads and discussing theories, they reveal the life and times of the supposed killer, Lee Oswald. But, others are involved who do not want the information, who would like to bury the truth. Which puts our heroes in danger.

Okay, interesting plot and I thought an adventure awaits. Well, what I discovered is the adventure is a small part of the book and the rest is…let’s discuss that in the following sections.


Joshua Mandley: 31, doctorate, works at the New York Institute of Nanotechnology, parents dead, drives a Chevy Spark

Mei Wang: psychology professor at Columbia, long dark hair, black eyes, 5’2”, knows kung fu.

Leni Armstrong: NYIN director

Roy Harrison: 71, drives a Ram 1500 Laramie, ranch owner

William Kustler: attorney

Other characters including some Russian baddies. There is a bit of scratching under the surfaces with Joshua and how his parents died and some scenes in this book have him remembering those deaths and affecting him. And with how Wang was adopted. Both could have been delved into a lot more. Meanwhile, the authorities and the baddies don’t act like they should. I won’t play spoiler, but the CIA director would not act like he does in this book, especially with a nobody like Joshua. (Nobody in the director’s opinion).


Missed and incorrect punctuation on dialogue tags.

The big things in this section are: cheesy, B-movie dialogue from everybody during action or tense scenes. They don’t sound natural. In fact, everybody sounds the same. There’s no voice distinction in anybody. Too many ‘ly’ adverbs and vocalization or action attributes: he said with an obvious determined tone. (Not an actual example, just the type of over writing in the dialogue.)

Plus, there is a LOT of dialogue between Mandley and Wang. Way too much explanation on every minutiae of the investigation. Too much history. Too much explanation on material that could be summarized. Too much explanation on Oswald. Too many details. It was too much for me to stay focused or stay engrossed in the story.


Omnipresent POV, which in my opinion, is hard to do correctly, and in this case, it didn’t work.

Profanity that was overused.

Some repetitive words in a short amount of time.

This entire book was telling not showing. There was no tension in action scenes, no personal feelings or emotions (okay a bit from Joshua when remembering his parents’ death, but still it was telling, not showing).

A lot of over writing. Example: Perfectly motionless. Example: she saw the motorcyclist point his gun direct at her face. Three shots rang out. Shots that were certain to kill her.

There are more examples that became tedious to read.

Near the halfway point, we learn Joshua has a photographic memory and a bit later we learn Wang knows Kung Fu. Both of these attributes are told just in time to save the moment. They should have been brought out earlier instead of thrown in at the last minute to rescue the scene.

Harrison’s scenes, for the most part, are useless and filler. Plus, it didn’t seem he had enough time to lay out the clues that were found later in the story. How would he have known Wang would be in the investigation? Many of the clues are for her personally. Even his will has a clue for her. The Da Vinci Code type of chase after the next clue falls apart.

Wang and Harrison are on a plane to Dallas before they figure out that their trip is basically worthless. Shouldn’t they have discussed this before they got on the plane? They discussed everything else in great detail. And their trip is pretty worthless because when they meet Harrison, he tells them…nothing. Except the truth will come out. Then they leave without trying to get Harrison to spill what he knows.

A non-believable scene is when Harrison’s house is under assault from baddies. Yes, they use suppressed guns, but breaking into the house doesn’t wake the butler? Even with the alarms off? And how did they turn off the alarms?

A non-believable scene is when Wang and Joshua are running through the Dallas sewers. It had rained earlier. Why is there no mention of extra water in the sewers or the fact they would have had clothes wet?

There is a group of conspirators on a plane at the beginning who want to stop the investigation. Nothing more is mentioned of them and we never find out who they are.

No mention of what happened when the Russians discovered what they didn’t have in the way of clues.

This book is chock full of problems, stilted and cheap dialogue, too many details that, while interesting, tend to be overwhelming with the amount of information, overwriting, characters who don’t act like they should, punctuation problems, telling instead of showing, and no climax.

My Rank:

White Belt


Death Of A Monk

DOAM Front cover 8 July 2018

By Tanmoy Bhattacharjee


A young student and her professor are in a foreign land for a project. The professor has become the go-to guy for problems so when he and student take on a case of a missing person, they discover murder in a monastery. Who killed the monk? Why? Lots of suspects, ancient legends, and of course, secrets people want kept hidden. Can the professor and the student solve the mystery?

The plot involved all three of what I mentioned. A plethora of suspects, a bunch of legends and myths and everybody’s problems. For the most part it was an interesting plot.


Dr. Chatterjee: tall, potbelly, tin hair, mustache and beard, Ph.d in Microbiology

Mahrukh Khan: 23, project manager, masters in Bus. Administration, 5’, slim

Mrs. Thapa: innkeeper

And there are more or less a score of monks, some police and military personnel. At first I was a little disjointed by the non-monastic nature of the monks but understood it once their backgrounds were known. There are a lot of characters and I found it difficult keeping them straight, especially with each new one added. Khan has a masters at 23? A bit unbelievable but okay.


Khan’s and Chatterjee’s voices were pretty good. There was a lot of dialogue with explanations, but some of the clues were in the dialogue. This major issue here was missing or incorrect punctuation on tag lines.


Titled chapters. No profanity. Most of the story is 1st person in Khan’s POV.

Some missing punctuation.

Going through each monk’s history became tedious and could have been summarized. So could several of the long passages that detailed some of the major player’s and suspect’s histories. So could a lot of the detailed legends. Yes, they all played a relevant role, but the length of them was my problem. I realize this was a whodunit type of mystery, so there was little ‘action’. I felt disjointed at times when the story jumped from a missing person’s case to a murder, to a secret chamber (a’la Potter), to a theft.

In the end, I think the writing could have been tighter with some punctuation editing needed.

My rank:

Camouflage Belt


Hills Of The Silent Cries



By Viel Nast




Tomald purchases some land for farming. Upon arriving, he begins work but is haunted by screams…in his mind.

And…that’s about it. Yep, a guy who is haunted by screams that occur in on this new property, but in his mind.


Tomald: laborer

And…that’s about it. Yes, there is a sheriff, a landowner, and some military guards but Tomald is the main character. Not a lot of physical description of him.


Not much. Problems here include incorrect punctuation and incorrect capitalization on tag lines. “I’m going to the store”, He said.


This was a very short story and the third in a series of shorts about this fantasy land. However, the map at the beginning of the book was not necessary as not much of the land was seen in the story.

There was a time problem I didn’t quite understand. He leaves a bar to go to the manor house which is a four hour trip. After being told to come back the next day, he returns to the bar, then the next day returns to the manor house and gets there before dawn. This is a four hour trip each way. So, what time did he leave the bar, return to the bar, and did he leave at two in the morning to go back to the manor house? This supposing this land has the same length of days as regular earth. Wouldn’t it have made more sense to camp outside of the manor house?

This biggest issue I had was there was no explanation of the screaming. This was to be a nod to H.P. Lovecraft and that is why I accepted the book for review. There was a bit of history in the book about the area where Tomald has his property and a long time line at the end about this fantasy world but no mention of elder gods or anything related to Lovecraft’s mythos. And having no explanation left me wanting a lot more.

This was not much of a tale and for something to be in the vein of Lovecraft, I was disappointed.

My Rank:

White Belt