Monthly Archives: June 2014

The Cull-Bloodline


By Eric J. Gates

Eric J Gates


When a serial killer, known as the Blood Sucker kills the partner of FBI Agent Amy Bree, she is forced out of the Bureau. In short order, she is returned to work by an enigmatic Monsignor with connections to the Vatican. She’s partnered with a computer hacker formerly of the NSA. Together, they continue the search for the Blood Sucker. Unbeknownst to them, the killer is also hunting them. To further cloud the issue, they aren’t getting the full story of just what kind of monster is on the loose.

Oh no! Not another vampire story. Weeelll, yes and no. I won’t play spoiler, but this plot is, for me, better than some of vamp stuff I’ve read in the past.


Amy Bree: FBI agent in the Behavioral Science Unit, attended M.I.T., intelligent, likes puzzles, father worked at a hotel, grew up in Bar Harbor, Maine, has a younger brother

Santiago Cancelli: Monsignor, works out of the Vatican, late 40s, Spanish mother, Italian father, studied in Madrid and Rome, parents were murdered

Katie Lindon: 62, short, frail, spiky gray hair, gray eyes, teeth stained, in the story near the beginning she becomes Amy’s partner, father worked father worked as CIA station chief in Britain, mother was British, excellent computer hacker, formerly with the NSA, wears glasses, suffers from migraines

Marshall: Director of the FBI, overweight, sexist

Hugo DiConti: French, Jesuit priest

I really enjoyed Katie. Spicy. Intelligent. Strong-willed. I liked Amy’s intelligence but I didn’t really ‘see’ her, maybe because I didn’t get a physical description.

Good mix of characters. Generational type personalities from senior Katie to youthful Amy. I would have like some physical descriptions about Amy. Didn’t really get a mental image. No first name for Marshall. I liked DiConti except for the reasons listed below.


Not too bad for character voices. I don’t think conversations diverted into left field but dialogue was a bit wordy and ‘lecture-ish’ when building up to explanations and the climax.


Chapters vary in length. Some punctuation problems, misuse of semi-colons and other minor examples. Some misspelled words. Some overuse of ‘ly’ and ‘ing’ words, uh, especially (sorry, couldn’t think of another word) during the action scenes, although those scenes show good tension. A couple instances of profanity. I mention this next one because I catch it more often in books nowadays as, of late, we have been discussing it in my writers group. Actions that are put together that shouldn’t or can’t go together. This is not a real example, but the type I see a lot in this book: ‘He entered the room, putting down the book.’ This implies that both actions are going on at the same time and in this case they can but it doesn’t sound good. Make this sentence either two sentences or change the tense of the present action to past. I also saw a few instances where a series of verbs needed to be the same tense within the same sentence.

Reviews shouldn’t be about ‘what I would have like to have seen’, even though I do insert a bit of this from time to time. What I mean is, I try not to say, “Well, the plot should have had this or the author should not have included this part. Or it would have been better if the main character did such-and-such.” I’m not here to say what I would have done had I written this.

This being mentioned, I would have like to have seen more suspense or shadowy plans made by DiConti and his secret dark operatives in the Vatican. The reason I mention this is because-and this relates to Character-I liked DiConti and because he was referenced by Katie-and disliked by her-I wanted more of his behind the scenes schemes. For being a thorn in Cancelli’s side, he has a minor role.

This reminded me of J. Thompson’s, Night Blood. I haven’t read it-yet-but reading the back cover blurb, this book runs a ragged parallel. Gates has taken the historical views of vampires and given it a different spin. It’s intriguing and a lot better than some of the ‘traditional’ stuff, some of which has been popular in recent years. This is the beginning of a series and it might be worth taking a look at book two.

My Rank:

Purple Belt



The Origin Of Murder


By Jerold Last



While vacationing in the Galapagos Islands, private investigator Roger Bowman and his professor wife become engaged in a murder mystery when a dead body is found floating of one of the islands. With a ship full of passengers, there’s no end to the suspects. Naval officers with suspicious stories? San Francisco sisters who are more intelligent than they act? An over friendly tour guide? Then, two more bodies are discovered, with the same M.O. Who’s safe? Are the murders related to drugs? Illegal fishing? And just what connection might there be to a previous murder occurring a week before the Bowmans arrived?

Murders in foreign lands always give me pause. But this one sounded exotic enough to try. I like the remote location. Different from the typical estate in the country. Stuck on a ship in the islands brings a new angle to a mystery.


Roger Bowman: 6’2”, 190 pounds, married with son, private investigator, owns two dogs, fluent in Spanish, former detective with the LAPD, kows martial arts

Barbara Kaufman: speaks Spanish, has a sister, studied at the U. of California-Berkley, lives in San Francisco, works at a publishing house, dark hair, brown eyes, pretty

Suzanne: Roger’s wife, biochemistry professor at UCLA, father dead, inherited wealth, 5’8”, athletic, long blonde hair, fluent in Spanish

Bruce: 5’7”, nanny for the Bowman’s son, former navy SEAL, homosexual

Raul Vonhorst: early 30s, handsome, knows many languages, lives in Quito, tour guide

Vincente Aleman: Brigadier General in the Ecudorian Air Force

Michael Smart: recently married, lives on a Naval base, Lt. Commander

Linda Smart: Michael’s wife

A nice variety of characters. A world-wide cast. You learn bits and pieces about each as the story progresses. One problem I had was that Suzanne and Bruce were too prevalent. Roger’s the PI and former homicide detective, yet his wife plays logician in discussing the murders and Bruce does the snooping. I wanted more of Roger’s knowledge and investigative abilities shown. Instead, he’s relegated to an almost second tier character.


Lengthy, lecture type conversations when dealing with historical details. Interesting, but run on and needed to be broken up into shorter paragraphs. When these lectures occur, there are no distinction of character voices. Everybody sounded like a museum guide. Even a lot of the normal conversations weren’t natural but rather more like an information dump. Too wordy and explanatory. There was a discussion between Roger and Aleman that sounded more like an interview than a chat. Also, in some of the conversations, facts or information were given which had been previously given or known.


Titled chapters with quotes from Darwin. First person from Roger’s POV. There wass a lot of switching tenses. This is just an example, not an actual pair of sentences from the book: I walked into town. The town is big.

There was a LOT of information overload. A plethora of factoids about the Galapagos and Ecuador and though I like a bit of history and education in my mysteries and adventures, this was was like wading through an encyclopedia with a bit of murder thrown in to break up the lectures. Most of it had nothing to do with the plot or moving the story forward. Even the information regarding the suspects came in chunks that nobody would divulge so freely at one time, or at last in that manner. A couple of punctuation errors, but nothing distracting. No profanity. There is too much build up time to the climax. Way too much unnecessary information (with more factoids) and discussion regarding the mission Bruce takes to get needed evidence.

My Rank:

Green Belt


On The Rocks With A Twist


By Jay Stritch



Alex, a freshman at university is invited into and subsequently accepted by a circle of four other students who tend to live live in as free manner as possible. However, they each harbor secrets and hide problems that, as time passes, become more suspicious to Alex. When Alex discovers evidence they’re involved in crimes, will his reactions and decisions get him into more trouble?

I’m not quite sure what to think of this plot, especially the way it was presented. I don’t see this plot a lot but it is familiar. This was taken from a bit different angle than others and there was a touch of surreal-ness to it.


Alex Longley: university student, works at the campus cafe, parents died when he was eleven

Diana Dakin: university student, beautiful, long curly hair, tried to be a Hollywood actress

Ben: university student, tall, claims his grandfather was the conductor on the Titanic, says he owns a cat

Leo Sasik: university student, smokes, plays guitar

Rose Dakin: university student, Diana’s sister

Peter Beck: university student

I felt I was looking at the characters through a very thin veil. None were entirely clear or focused. Leo, I thought, was the strongest and I so I was able to see him in a less blurred light. The rest didn’t come off strong enough to be…relevant. I didn’t feel a connection to them. Their roles were not distinctive enough to show me that they mattered. Alex had a crush on Diana so she was next in line for strength, but the author kept her so hidden and subdued. Peter and Rose, though included in the group, didn’t stand out, had no personality that grabbed me.


There are individual voices to the characters but the differences are subtle and could be stronger. Leo’s is the most distinctive because he’s a strong character. I kept looking for a point to the conversations, a reason, that they moved along the story.


Titled chapters. Story told as if Alex is speaking to the reader.

Okay, I have a slight issue with some of the problems in the writing. I was offered a free download and in this version there was a plethora of problems an editor should have caught. Punctuation/sentence problems, especially in dialogue. Where there should be a period there is a comma as if the conversation is continuing, but the sentence is new. Or sometimes there is a comma at the end of a sentence as if it is introducing the dialogue but it should be a period. Tag lines sometimes are capitalized when they shouldn’t be (…” She said.), or there are lines acting as tag lines that shouldn’t be. Misspelled words. Some sentences run on when there should be a definite period and break. This makes it difficult to stay ‘in’ the story. Incorrect words (‘then’ instead of ‘than’).

So, I’m about at the halfway point when the author writes back and mentions that some of the problems have been corrected, i.e. misspelled words. I requested three sample chaps to check on the others mentioned above. Although I didn’t see any misspelled words (I certainly hope they were corrected throughout because diamonds are not weighed in carrots), there is still the problems with tag lines. Not as bad in the chapters I reviewed again, but still existing.

I did enjoy the ‘twist’ at the end and actually, without playing spoiler, there is a double twist which set it up for a future happy ending.

There isn’t much ‘action’ as in shoot ’em up/explosions. A lot of explanation, conversation, introspection. I don’t think the story dragged as much as I wanted a bit of action, some deep tension that I could grab hold of and ride with.

I’m left with the problem of ranking. The corrected misspellings and some of the tag lines helped. I debated a long while about this because, like a previous story with a lot of problems I had to be fair to the potential reader and to my decision regarding previous ranks given based on the problems encountered. Thinking about it in this way, before the corrections I really should have given this an Orange belt. But I will give a benefit of the doubt to the corrects said to have been fixed and based on what I’ve seen and other issues involved here, I’ll have to stick with:

My Rank:

Yellow Belt


Baron Franklyn Must Die


By Allen Scudwry

author photo


It is the 24th century. Mankind has traveled and inhabited many planets. And wherever the population goes, crime follows. A drug kingpin known as the Baron has gone untouched by authorities for years. Now, two Interpol Agents, Susan Myers and James Banahan, are tasked with bringing down the crime lord. However, they’re not the only people interested in the Baron. An enigmatic individual, by the name of Weston, is on the trail.

This is your galaxy. This is your galaxy on drugs. Lol. Just kidding. So many sci-fi books are about conquering races and civil wars and kingdoms falling and it was nice to see a change of pace to, basically, a police investigation of a narcotics dealer.


Susan Myers: Interpol Agent, parents murdered when she was a child, excellent marksman

James Banahan: Interpol Agent, around middle age, atheist

Weston: vigilante, large build,

Franklyn: drug kingpin, round features, has the title of Baron

Bramnst Pedersen: suffering from drug abuse, incarcerated in mental institution

Only surface detail on the characters. There is background info on Myers, but I didn’t ‘see’ any of the characters because there were scant physical descriptions. ‘Large’ or ‘rotund’ or ’round’ does not convey very much. You get a sense of Banahan’s serious demeanor but the baddie could be so much more ‘bad’. Franklyn’s minions could be so much much more oily and nasty or if they’re sycophants, show that aspect. I like Weston but not much is told about him. Countless pages of background information are not needed, but give me something more. Also, there is one scene that confused me about Franklyn. He’s a drug lord, a criminal, yet his assistant had to explain what Interpol was? Unless there is hidden meaning here, one would expect a criminal to understand law enforcement.


Some tag lines have extra stuff, either an action or telling the reader the way the dialogue was spoken. Not just through ‘ly’ adverbs, but other wordy descriptions. Some of this is unnecessary as the tension of the scene should convey the attitude of the speaker. There are instances where the first word of the continuation of dialogue after a tag should have been capitalized because the line is a separate sentence from the one before the tag.


Titled chapters. At times, narrator jumps from 3rd person close to 3rd person overview and back again. A bit distracting when it should stay close. Some unnecessary profanity. There was a saturation of ‘ing’ and ‘ly’ words, in particular in the chapterat the mental institution. Once noticed, it was difficult not to spot them at every opportunity. Once noticed, the realization dawned of how the entire writing style lacks strength. Sentences could be tighter, some of the wordiness deleted. I did enjoy some of the descriptions which helped bring me into the story because I could visualize the scene better. With sci-fi, this is a must and I think this story contained some fine detail. The technology was not ‘in your face’ or over the top, but believable. The aliens were interesting enough and held my attention.I considered long and hard about the rank, but the more I read, the more I couldn’t get past the weakness of the writing. Usually when I give a rank this low, there are spelling errors and punctuation problems, but despite some good points, I have to be fair and give this a:

Yellow Belt


Tables Turned


By Ian David Oakes



A woman who, for weeks has seen a gang of teenagers vandalize and terrorize her neighbors, ambushes one of them when one of the vandals breaks into her house. All she wants is the answer to one question: Why?

It’s a short story with not much depth. Yet, there is a bit. I expected a bit of a tale of avenging and redemption or a twist. Again, there is a bit of both.


Unnamed woman: husband dead, has an eight year old son, works at Starbuck’s, smokes

Rosie Greene: 16, black hair, has a sister

Other minor characters. Surface information. No name for the main character but in one sense, the name may not be needed because the reader can put him/herself in the role of the woman and see things from her point of view a bit better. However, I didn’t see as much depth as I would have liked from Rosie. I see the ‘character development’ an author strives for in Rosie, but I wanted it drawn out more. Could have drawn out the woman’s relationship with her husband a bit more and shown how that affected her current life.


Forced. For a story like this, I wanted the dialogue between the woman and Rosie to be drawn out a bit more, some ups and downs. There is some, but not enough to really grab me and shake me up. I wanted more intrigue, more cleverness.


Present tense, first person from the main character’s POV for most of the story. Short chapters. Quick read. Profanity. I wanted more give and take, more depth, more ups and downs in the tension. This is the type of story that the reader wants to get excited about reading. How far does the woman go? How far will she go? Does Rosie have some clever plan up her sleeve? There’s little action and surface drama. Because it’s written from the woman’s POV, I didn’t get to be inside Rosie’s head and thoughts and feelings until the end. By that time, I knew what was happening. The irony in the story at the end was good but the main story lacked meat. Yes, it’s a short story and an author can do only so much with shorts, but this could have been a little longer and been more grabbing.

My Rank:

Camouflage Belt