Monthly Archives: March 2013

Lucky Bastard

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By S. G. Browne

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http://sgbrowne.com/

Plot

Nick Monday, San Francisco private detective, is also a luck poacher. He has the ability to take other people’s luck, process it, and sell it. Unfortunately this day is not to be a lucky one for him. First he gets hired by a woman claiming to be the mayor’s daughter to retrieve her father’s luck. Then he is bullied by two federal agents to give a Mafia boss some bad luck. Then the Mafia King wants Nick under his employment. Oh, and let’s not forget about another enigmatic scooter riding girl with whom Nick would very much like to get acquainted. Nick soon finds out bad luck and past actions have a way of catching up with him.

I love the concept. It’s a strange idea but Browne lays it out very nicely. This is an intricate plot with a lot going on but Browne keeps it straight.

Characters

Nick Monday: private investigator in San Francisco, luck poacher, real name is Aaron, 33, , likes routine, not a believer in heaven or hell, eats Lucky charms and likes Mentos, apple fritters and cappuccinos and mochas, mother died in a car accident when he was nine, emotionally estranged from his father, came from Tuscon three years ago, likes brunettes and attracts female baristas, sister is also adept at luck poaching but quit, never good at…(lots of things: geography, tact, finesse, making decisions, irony, idioms, etc.)

Scooter Girl: cute, clear skin, delicate jaw, drives a scooter

Doug, aka ‘Bow Wow’: gangsta rapper wannabe, Nick’s under-the-table assistant, Irish/Italian, superstitious, father died when Doug was ten

Wonderful characters. Unique. Even the bad guys. Sure, some of them are the usual cast from detective novels, but their descriptions aren’t. Thug One, Barry Manilow, Tuesday Knight. The names are great and their quirks are heightened by Nick’s view of them.

Dialogue

Nick is the wise cracking PI. The thugs are typically thuggie quiet. The bad guy, the sister, the femme fatales…all have their distinctive voices.

Writing

First person from Nick’s POV, present tense. The majority of the story takes place in a single day. Lots of similes and stories of lucky incidents from history to relate to present day. Browne did some good research to throw in factoids every so often. A few unnecessary bits of profanity. Lots of humor, including many lines about sex. Very well presented. Fairly quick read. Very enjoyable. I hope to Nick Monday again.

My ranking:

Red Belt

Red

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Paradise Falls

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By Jonnie Jacobs

Jonnie Jacobs

www.jonniejacobs.com

Plot

Caitlin Whittington is the second girl to go missing in five months. Her mother, Grace, now married to a second husband, is of course devastated. When Grace discovers a possible connection between Caitlin’s disappearance and her stepson, Adam, things go from bad to worse.

Meanwhile, Rayna Godwin, lead investigator on both cases has her own problems. Her desired laid back life in small town Paradise Falls, Oregon, is ruined by the girls’ disappearances. They bring up memories of her own daughter’s kidnapping and murder years before. Adding to the problem–her ex lover, FBI agent Neal Cody has been assigned to help out.

Characters

Grace Whittington: works as an administrative assistant at the college

Adam Whittington: Grace’s stepson, gangly, likes history, Straight A student, introverted

Rayna Godwin: detective, slender, short honey-colored hair, green eyes, her daughter was murdered, former detective with the San Jose PD, her husband died of cancer, owns a hamster, snacks when nervous

Neal Cody: FBI agent, was assigned to the case of Rayna’s daughter’s murder, now divorced but married at the time he was lover of Rayna’s, soft voice, long legs, middle brother of three, played high school baseball

Jacobs tries to have two main characters (Grace and Rayna) with a third (Adam) also seeking the spotlight. Because of this I didn’t get a deep feeling about anybody. Both Rayna and Grace exhibit emotion, but because of the similarity of their situations, the differences are difficult to spot. Cody isn’t as strong as I expected and I wanted to see more depth in the main suspect, Adam.

Dialogue

Nothing too unexpected. Voices vary minimally except, surprisingly, with the minor characters of Adam’s mother Caitlin’s father.

Writing

Chapter lengths vary. Most mysteries will give you a rollercoaster of highs and lows. In this story, the crests weren’t very high and the lows were too long. Just about the time I was starting to drag, the next phase of the mystery was revealed but each was sort of expected. It did speed up near the end but not quite enough to up…

My Ranking:

Purple Belt

Purple

Darkness All Around

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By Doug Magee

dougmagee

http://dougmagee.com/

Plot

Sean Collins left Braden, Pennsylvania at a bad time in his life. He was an alcoholic, his marriage was falling apart, and one of his friends, Carol, had been brutally murdered. Ten years later, he has recovered from an accident that nearly took his life. He’s also remembering pieces of his past and those pieces are telling him he may have killed Carol. Returning to Braden, he finds his former wife, Risa, married to a high school friend, Alan Benson. Benson is in the middle of a hot campaign for Congress. The lives of Alan, Sean, and Risa are about to change when more of the truth is revealed.

I like the premise at the beginning but as I continued to read, it lost energy.

Characters

Risa Tuvic: runs a bar/restaurant her father opened, thin, sandy hair, green eyes, fifteen year old son plays football, on her second marriage, cheerleader in high school, attended Allegheny College

Sean Collins: Late 30s, Risa’s first husband, alcoholic, faded scar on right temple, father committed suicide on the day he graduated Penn State, former substitute teacher, born in Philadelphia, plays piano, likes jazz

Alan Benson: Risa’s current husband, father was in politics, running for Congress, attended Yale, friends with both Sean and Risa in high school, played football in high school

Average characters with no excitement to them. There is also a reporter who is featured in several scenes but there is no background information on him.

Dialogue

Soap opera like.

Writing

There’s no energy in this story. The action scenes are quick and the final climactic scene lacks punch. Lots of profanity, especially by Alan. Too much of Sean wandering or running around in the woods. The ‘surprise twist’ was too pat and would have been more enjoyable if more clues were scattered throughout.

My ranking:

Camouflage Belt

Camo

On Borrowed Time

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By David Rosenfelt

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http://www.davidrosenfelt.com/

Plot

Richard Kilmer has found himself in this situation. He’s a magazine writer living in New York. He’s met a wonderful woman by the name of Jen. They date and fall in love and on a trip upstate meet her parents. He asks her to marry him and she accepts. So perfect, right? However…on a side trip, they encounter a freak storm and have an auto accident. Kilmer escapes relatively unharmed but Jen has disappeared. In fact, she’s disappeared completely from his life. Nobody he talks to remembers her. Not his friends, not the person Kilmer remembers as her mother, nobody. This starts Kilmer on a search for answers, but who can he trust. Who is real? What is real?

This book is one of the reasons I enjoy reading. Sometimes I can figure out the plot, where, it’s headed, and maybe even figure out the ending. This one…not so much because of the way Rosenfelt parcels out information. Most of the above happens before page 25. I’m not giving anything else because to do so would be to ruin the story. The enjoyment of reading is that I am not always one step ahead, that I can be surprised, that I don’t have the Holmes’ deductive reasoning. For me, I love the intensity of a well crafted plot and how it’s presented. I don’t mind being unable to figure out the mystery.

Characters

Richard Kilmer: 29, magazine writer, lives in New York, sports fanatic, attended the University of Pennsylvania, father dead

Juice: Nickname taken from O.J. Simpson, tracking Kilmer’s movements and conversations, has a niece, can be hired to kill targets

Two characters are all I’m giving you, because, like the plot, to describe more would be to ruin the story. I will say that there are some memorable characters even if details are lacking. Rosenfelt does not delve too much into background but gives just enough to keep them interesting. There is a cop, a private investigator, a federal agent, a psychiatrist, a sister, but for me to try to provide details would be unfair to the reader. I will give this – nobody is boring or unimportant. If anything, I wanted his buddies to be more involved in the plot than they were.

Dialogue

Pretty good voices. Conversations are not long. There are a few medical and security explanations but nothing that cannot be understood.

Writing

First person from Kilmer’s POV and third person from various others’. Short chapters with no numbers. Quick action. Very tight and controlled writing. As mentioned above, Rosenfelt gives just enough information each time to keep you moving. I didn’t think the story dragged at any point because there was always something new to provide more questions. Rosenfelt is fair, though, because the clues are there.

My ranking:

Brown Belt

Brown