Monthly Archives: January 2013

The First Domino


by Dennis Collins



Tired of his job and wanting to be higher up on the Mafia chain, Joe Pellerito decides to make a name for himself by murdering three Detroit police officers. Unfortunately, the mob has adopted a more subtle relationship with authority. The Family would rather work behind the scenes.

Otis Springfield, in charge of the triple homicide, is also dealing with the death of his mother and the discovery of his father’s wartime record. Springfield and his task force slowly uncover a possible suspect Pellerito. Unfortunately, the head of the mob has also discovered Joe’s crimes. Pellerito is forced to flee and it’s a race between the Mafia and the police to capture a man who only wanted a little recognition for his efforts.

I liked the premise of the story. It’s something a little different. The subplot regarding Springfield’s father was interesting.


Joe Pellerito: Dispatcher for a gravel hauling company, father was in the Mafia, named after a boxer whose real name wasn’t Joe, physically fit, was barely edged out of playing college football, black hair

Otis Springfield: Black, new Acting Lt. in Detroit homicide, father was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross in WWII where he also died, athletic stature, tall, married with children, only child

Albert McCoy: Sergeant in Detroit homicide, dust colored hair, hunts partridges, not computer savvy, wants to be an author, grew up in farm country

Michael O’Conner: private investigator and reserve police officer with computer skills

Although there are definite backgrounds for each character, I didn’t find them too exciting. I also thought Pellerito lacked intelligence and common sense. A man on the run would not immediately flee to a foreign city where his relatives live and act the way he does while trying to create a new existence. This would be, and was, the first place the mob looked and soon after, the cops discovered the Italian connection.


No distinctive voices. Every conversation sounded similar.


Relatively short chapters. Two instances of mild profanity which is okay, however, the story is about cops and mobsters. There is no need to overdo the bad language, but both parties would definitely use more colorful words.

The action was quick and precise. However, there are obvious problems. Spelling and punctuation errors, including missing quote marks at the beginning of paragraphs in extended dialogue. Pellerito is spelled with two L’s most times, but with one ‘L’ at least once. A lot of little things didn’t seem either plausible or believable. One instance has the cops thinking the killer may have worn surgical gloves while driving a stolen truck. No explanation is given for this conclusion.

My ranking:

Yellow Belt



The Lost Sister

The Lost Sister cover

By Russel D. McLean



Private investigator J. McNee deals with each case on a personal level, maybe too much. He is dealing with an incident the previous year where he was manipulated into exposing his dark side and killing another man. Mary Furst, a teenager, is missing and McNee can’t help but be more than an police observer and advisor. Suspects include a crime lord McNee hates, an ex boyfriend, and Mary’s art teacher, Deborah. Enter Wickes, who claims to be an investigator from Glasgow. He tells McNee a story concerning Deborah, their relationship, and the fact Mary is actually Deborah’s mother, given up through a surrogacy arrangement. However, McNee soon discovers Wickes has a violent side and may not be telling the truth. That truth, however, is complex, and McNee finds himself struggling with finding Mary while battling internal demons threatening to rise again.

Don’t worry about the plot because it’s secondary to the characters. The premise is only to delve into personalities and how the past affects the present.


J. McNee: Scottish private investigator. Former cop. Lost his wife some years ago to a car crash. He tends to put his all into cases, even up to the point of disaster.

Cameron Connolly: Wheelchair bound small newspaper reporter. Gives McNee work in exchange for stories.

David Burns: Missing girl’s great-uncle and godfather. Dundee crime lord. Has a history with McNee.

Ernie Bright: DCI. In charge of the missing girl case. Former supervisor and mentor of McNee. Has a tarnished history with Burns.

Susan Bright: Cop, Ernie’s daughter. Friend and one time lover of McNee’s She tries to keep McNee from going over the edge.

Jennifer Furst: Mary’s mother. Doesn’t think the police will find her. Thinks her daughter has run away.

Deborah Brown: Not seen until the end, but discussed throughout. She was the birth mother of Mary but gave up the baby to Jennifer. However, she couldn’t sever the emotional ties. Clinically depressed throughout her life.

Wickes: Large man, bearded. Developed a relationship with Deborah after she suffered a violent episode with Burns’ thugs. Unstable with a vicious temper

Most of the characters are shown to have major faults. Their past actions create strife with friends and colleagues.


Not much and not important. Much of the conversations are intermixed with narrative story telling. Could have been fewer ‘aye’ used by every character as well as much of the profanity.


Short chapters. Short fragmentary sentences. Even though it’s set in Scotland I didn’t really feel drawn into the country despite some words used (aye, arse, shite). But, the story is character driven so setting isn’t all that important. I thought the profanity a little much. I know cops and PIs use it frequently, but I thought this story didn’t require it. A few instances here and there is all that was necessary. Minimal action but again, it was all about McNee and his view of the world and the people around him. I thought McLean would delve a little bit more into certain aspects (McNee suffers a panic attack but once), but this is still a fairly decent story.

My ranking:

Blue Belt


The Demands


By Mark Billingham



London Detective Tom Thorne is called to a hostage scene. Another detective, Helen Weeks, is being held by Javed Akhtar, a newsagent. Akhtar demands Thorne find out the truth behind the death of his son, Amin, who was an inmate in a juvenile prison. When Thorne starts investigating, he discovers anomalies in the supposed suicide and determines murder has been committed. He also ferrets out secrets. Secrets about Amin which may connect to the original charge that landed him in prison, and secrets that may lead to a motive and a killer. Thorne races against time to provide answers, but will those answers be enough to save Helen?

It’s a plot seen before. Some typical ‘secrets’ that may even be expected. Still a nice mystery.


Helen Weeks: detective in the Child Protection Unit, mother of a young son, chews gum in place of smoking, addicted to chocolate, Boyfriend was run down just over a year previous at a bus stop

Tom Thorne: detective in the Area West Homicide unit in London but wants to transfer to another unit, selling his flat, losing hearing a bit in right ear, drives a BMW, recently broke up with girlfriend after a miscarriage, likes country music

Javed Akhtar: newsagent (also sells drinks and snacks), short, prematurely balding, usually smiles, mid 50s, former banker, married with two children and one deceased

Stephen Mitchell: short hair, soft high voice with a trace of a London accent, married, banker

A nice array of characters, from the gung-ho cop wanting to go in with guns ablaze to the various prison inmates and friends of Amin. A few minor characters to round out the story who aren’t all that important.


Good give and take between cop and bad guy, between cop and coroner, between hostage and hostage taker. Some lengthy explanations but nothing boring.


Various lengths of chapters. Many chapters contain different scenes as the focus shifts to different areas of the story all happening at the same time.

I know the story covers only a few days so to speed things up, they have to cheat a little on forensic facts. However, I’ve learned a few things in seminars with people with actual police and investigatory experience. Unless there is some new thing on the market, under the best of circumstances, DNA analysis cannot come back in under three days. Billingham talks hours. A minor mistake many people wouldn’t catch, basically because we’ve been dumbed down by shows such as CSI.

Otherwise, the action is subdued. Some profanity but not over used. Many British terminology, but that’s understandable. At times I felt it could speed up a bit. It didn’t necessarily drag; there were just some long moments of stuff I wanted to get through quicker.

My ranking:

Purple Belt


The 500


by Matthew Quirk



He’s a former con man trying to live a respectable life. He’s worked hard to get through Harvard and to pay his mom’s medical bills. After being hired by a powerful consulting firm, the Davies Group, Mike Ford looks forward to the good life full of perks he never imagined. However, within a year he finds himself falling back into habits from his past, and learning new ones. His assignments for the Davies Group have him barely escaping the authorities. Henry Davies, founder of the company wants to control the 500 most influential people in Washington, D.C. However, one man won’t buckle under. Ford, against everyone’s advice, digs into the practices of the Davies Group in order to save his own life and maybe the life of several others.


Mike Ford: 29, degree from Harvard law and Kennedy School, mother dead, father in prison, former con artist, lock picker, former Navy man, has an older brother

Henry Davies: CEO of the Davies Group, a high priced consulting Washington D.C. firm moving the movers and shakers of Washington, former government man in several administrations, soft spoken but with a powerful influence, own estates in Chevy Chase, Tuscany, and California, wears glasses, guest lectures at Harvard

William Marcus: a top man at the Davies Group and Ford’s supervisor, late 40s, physically fit, background a mystery, reddish brown short hair, occasional smoker

Annie Clark: Senior Associate at Davies Group, black curly hair, blue eyes, speaks several languages, attended Yale

Very good character profiles. Everybody is included, from the high powered baddie in Davies to his lieutenant to the skuzzy Representative to the Supreme Court judge to the dirty foreigner. A nice cast showing the slightly dirty to the extremely corrupted individual.


Short conversations. More narrative than anything. Fairly defined voices.


First person from Ford’s POV. Occasional profanity. There are several instances where Quirk interrupts the current scene to explain something from the past. These threw me for a bit because I kept drifting back a few pages to remember exactly where and why he had started this backtracking. Tense action scenes with adeptness know-how from a character with a criminal background. Just enough details and descriptions to bring you into the scene without over doing it. Good knowledge of the ways Washington works.

My ranking:

Brown Belt