Monthly Archives: October 2013

The First Rule Of Ten


By Gay Hendricks and Tinker Lindsay



After dodging a serious gunshot injury, L.A. Homicide investigator and former monk Tenzing Norbu, turns in his badge to go private. The next day an ex wife of Ten’s former landlord, an ex musician named Zimmy, shows up and gives an enigmatic warning. The next day, she’s found dead. Ten calls Zimmy to find out he’s been harassed by an individual wanting to ‘help’ Zimmy collect past due royalties. Zimmy, however, is not the first and Ten has to make the connection between a hustler, a pig farm, and an enigmatic cult.

What a complex plot. There are all sorts of avenues here and I wanted to figure it out faster. This unfolds pretty well and did keep my interest.


Tenzing ‘Ten’ Norbu: 30, former monk, former Los Angeles detective in Robbery/Homicide, owns a cat, used to live in Paris with his mother, likes Sherlock Holmes novels, drives a 1965 Shelby Mustang and an old Toyota, became a private investigator after the LAPD, mother was an alcoholic, father was a Tibetan monk, avoids red meat

Mike Koenigs: 24, computer guru, likes to come up with new expressions, skinny, black curly hair and a Van Dyke beard, chalky complexion, drives an electric hybrid motorbike, was arrested for hacking as a teen, works as a security consultant

Barbara Maxey: 40s, thick blond hair with a little silver, tanned, divorced, former narcotics user, former cult member, drives a rusty Volkswagon Beetle

Bill Bohannon: Ten’s ex partner, married, has new twins, drives a minivan, has been a cop for almost twenty years, likes the Dodgers, was in the Army

Zimmy Backus: former musician and narcotics user, had been married to Maxey. Lives on an Oregon pear farm with new wife and child, smoking has rasped his voice, owns a dog, used to own Ten’s house

John D. Murphy: 77, western twangy voice, failed almond farmer, former cop, bad knee, two sons, one son died in the military, wife dead

Thomas Florio, Sr.: 70’s, compact, wealthy, wavy hair, has a son and a daughter

Lots of good characters here. Very good descriptions with just enough quirks to keep them from being droll. Distinctive personalities.


Good voices for everyone.


Written in first person from Ten’s POV. Profanity. A few punctuation gaffs. I did enjoy Ten’s reverting back to his monk training regimens, how he stayed focused and relaxed and acclimated technology into his peaceful home. This is also a different take on the cop-turned-PI in that Ten doesn’t jump right into the private eye business and actually has some difficulty getting started. Though he still uses his contacts from the police, he doesn’t rely too heavily on them and does use his zen abilities to fathom out problems. The cat is also a good side character and fits nicely with Ten. The story moves along steadily, not jumping too high or low. I kept wanting to urge the story along, to have a bit more action. This is a very good book for the first in a series. Look for The Second Rule of Ten.

My ranking:

Blue Belt



Sticks And Stones


by K.J. Larsen

K.J. Larsen


All Cat DeLuca wants is to chase cheaters and avoid her crazy family. But when she and her assistant, Cleo, find Walter, Cleo’s louse of a husband, dead, and Cleo is suspected, Cat is on the case. She soon uncovers evidence that Walter was blackmailing a lot of people. So who killed him? The construction company owner? The fashion diva? Or is this murder related to a decade’s old death that could also have been murder? With a beagle and a gun toting assistant by her side, a hunky FBI boyfriend and equally hunky bodyguard on her side, Cat has nothing to worry about…except her mother’s constant worrying, a priest praying for her soul, and a pesky cheater who won’t let himself be photographed in delecto flagrente…and a murderer on the loose.

Nothing new here for a plot, but what fun this is. Humor abounds in this tale and I need to pick up Larsen’s first novel, Liar, Liar. However, you do not need to read the first one (but you should) to be introduced to and her crazy family and fabulous workmates.


Caterina ‘Cat’ DeLuca: Chicago private investigator. Has three brother-all cops. Father is a cop. Has one sister. Attended Catholic school. Divorced. Owns a beagle. Drives a Honda. Cousin is a prosecutor. Likes Dr Pepper flavored lip gloss

Cleo Jones: One of Cat’s former clients, works at Cat’s office, husband ran away with her money, dog and sister. Drives a Camry-fast. Dyed hair. Squawky voice except when she sings. Likes guns

Leo: has a tattoo of a lion on his right hand, blue eyes, short brown hair, cop

Ken Millani: owner of a construction firm, member of a neighborhood council, Catholic


Tino: Deli owner, round face, former covert operative, drives a bullet proof car

Chance Savino: FBI agent, Cat’s boyfriend, handsome, tall, cobalt blue eyes, drives a Toyota Highlander Hybrid, also owns a 1959 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz

Jake Manovich: bookie, violent when his customers don’t pay, long blond hair, beer belly

Max: Tino’s friend, Cat’s former bodyguard, chiseled, muscular, Danish

Lots of fun quirky characters here. Everybody is a hoot.


Some good voices with Max calling Cat Kitty and Chance calling her DeLucky. Even the minor characters are great.


First person from Kat’s POV. A few instances of missing words and a couple of garbled sentences. The similarities between this group of characters and the ambiance of the story to Stephanie Plum are plenty. However, there are enough differences to keep you interested. I didn’t think there were too many laugh out loud moments, but I was constantly smiling throughout. Cat is a wonderful protagonist who worries about her weight, her mother, her age, and her appearance, all in a spunky humorous way. I want more of this character.

My ranking (despite the mistakes):

Blue Belt


The Lubyanka Strategy


by Robert Bonelli



An American CIA agent and a Russian FSB agent are both murdered in Moscow. Michael Clark, an independent contractor for the CIA, is assigned to ferret out the truth. However, Clark also works for a multi-national consulting firm, Bricksen Grove. One of BR’s clients is Enerprov, owned by Andrei Chekhov, who was involved in the murder of the agents. However, an even bigger danger looms as both Russian and American intelligence have detected a possible major terrorist threat.


Andrei Chekhov: 48, owner of Enerprov, father who was founder of the company is dead, degree in geology from the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology, three sisters, married with three daughters,

James Harris: Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, married, two sons, family is in the oil business

Peter Jenkins: 63, CEO of Bricksen, Grove, a global consulting firm based out of New York, tall

Michael Clark: 56, 5’10”, 160 pounds, fit, wife and daughter killed by terrorists, served in the Army, served in Desert Storm, works security for Bricksen, Grove, also is an independent contractor for the CIA

David Capella: 60, Clark’s CIA handler, tall, average build, receding hairline, wears glasses

Anya Petrova: 25, works with the FSB (former KGB) as an analyst, father also worked with the FSB and was killed at the beginning of the book, speaks English, shoulder length black hair, petite frame, brown eyes, attractive

Rushad Umarov: 48, works for Chekhov, 6′, athletic build, veteran of Chechnyan wars, Muslim, wife and children and parents were killed in the wars

Pavel Inavanov: Senior Vice President and head of security for Enerprov, big man, was a major in the Soviet army

Some good characters both good guys and bad guys. Pretty good background information on them. I didn’t like Anya. For a daughter trying to find out about the murder of her father, she seemed weak.


No distinguishable voices. Conversations were stilted and not the way I expected some of the characters to speak. I realize that dialogue in books isn’t written in the manner in which normal everyday people speak but there has to be some ‘natural-ness’ to the dialogue. Part of the problem is there are very few contractions and the Data android-like speech is unnatural.


This was a tough read because of the plethora of problems. Right from the beginning there was sense jolting, major distractions with unnerving combinations of past and present tenses within paragraphs and within sentences where the usage was incorrect.This was constant throughout the book and made paragraph and sentence comprehension difficult. Grammar and punctuation problems. Missing words. Misspelled words. Incorrectly capitalized words. Extra spaces between sentences. Unnecessary and incorrectly used tag lines. Unnecessary words in sentences. Unnecessary sentences. One example was telling the reader a phone call ended at the end of a chapter. Not needed since the reader understood the call would end. Scene shifts within chapters without either an extra space between paragraphs or some other indication such as a line or asterisks. Partly because of the tense problems, there was a lot of ‘telling instead of showing.’ Some details which would have made the short scenes a bit more enjoyable were missing.

A bit of profanity. Action scenes, again, informed, instead of showed. There was a lot of passive voice which lessened the intensity. Since the plot was initiated by the murder of a Soviet FSB agent, it was not quite believable that the CIA didn’t have more information about a veteran Soviet agent to pass along to Michael. It’s also not believable that the FSB would be so buddy-buddy with Clarke who works with the CIA so quickly or with the CIA in general or that Clarke would tell the Russians what his job is for the CIA. I realize the threat in the book dealt with both the Russians and the Americans, but I just don’t see spy agencies working so openly with each other without at least a bit of suspicion. I can see two opposing agents working together but not agencies.

I also tired of the over-usage of the word ‘chatter’ when referring to intelligence data. This and other examples showed how the writing needed to be a lot tighter. I looked back at some other low ranked reviews in order to be fair to those and this one. With everything taken together, I can’t give this a higher ranking than:

Orange Belt




cover large

by Wendy Corsi Staub



September 11, 2001 was a tragic date for many American, but the murders that occurred afterward were terrifying for Allison MacKenna. She barely survived the killer’s rage. Ten years later, MacKenna is married to a man who lost his first wife in one of the Towers on 9/11. She, Mack, and their three children have moved to a wealthy Westchester County housing development. They are dealing with Mack’s new promotion, which keeps him from his family more often, and with his insomnia. Soon, they will deal with a problem far worse. The man arrested a decade ago has died, and soon after, new murders occur, and the killer is using the signature of the original killer. When the deaths hit closer to home, Allison faces a terrifying situation…whether she can trust the man she married. With the new drugs he’s taking, he’s sleepwalking, but is he committing heinous acts without realizing it?

A good follow up plot to her first in this series, Nightwatcher. The killer has returned and terrorizing the main character. I’ve read similar plots before but Staub’s way of resurrecting the killer, though not new, is good.


Allison Taylor McKenna: 34, lives in Westchester, married, has three children. She and her husband have a BMW and a Lexus SUV. Father abandoned the family when she was nine. Mother died of an overdose. Grew up in Nebraska. Attended the Art Institute of Pittsburgh. Has a degree in fashion. Former fashion editor for a magazine. Drinks diet iced tea. Has a half brother.

James ‘Mack’ McKenna: 44, graying hair, green eyes, suffers from insomnia. Married to Allison. Likes the New York Giants. Was in a fraternity in college. Has a married sister. Is vice president of television sales. His first wife died on 9/11. Parents dead. Was a Big Brother in his early twenties.

Zoe Jennings: Attractive, brunette, used to be pudgy. Knows Mack from years before. Has had several cosmetic surgeries. Married with two children. Stay-at-home mom.

A lot of reflection about the past from Allison and Mack. We see a lot of internal thoughts from most of the supporting cast. Many times these reflections or diversions into various thought interrupt the scene. I found myself wanting to know more about and read more scenes with the killer because at least with the killer, the scenes are tight.


Pretty distinctive voices. However, dialogue and conversations are interrupted by flashback and recollections of recent conversations.


Book is divided into Parts. Chapters are headed by location/date. Written in present tense, although some sentences aren’t quite written correctly, mixing past reflective with present. Lots of background information from both Allison and James. Lengthy chapters.

The interruption of the scenes with flashback are very jolting and I found myself wanting to skip ahead to get to the gist of the scene. If the flashbacks were important, I felt they should have been put in their proper place. Staub does keep you guessing and even adds a surprising revelation at the very end to set up for the next book.

My ranking:

Blue Belt