Monthly Archives: December 2014

Homeowner With A Gun

Homeowner With a Gun - Samuel Hawley

By Samuel Hawley



On the tragic night, Jeff Shaw is awakened by his wife who hears intruders downstairs. Shaw grabs his gun and the night ends in two deaths. The issue now is, the victims were members of a violent gang and Shaw and his family are now in fear for their lives. Two questions loom: How are the Shaws going to defend themselves against a gang? Why did they break into the Shaws’ house in the first place?

A timely dramatic plot for today’s society.


Jeffrey Shaw: 33, has two children, owns a van, produce manager at a supermarket, owns a Bersa Thunder .380, has a brother and a sister, former Army

Allison ‘Allie’ Shaw: Jeff’s wife, works at a property management company, owns a Pontiac Sunfire

Thomas Nelson Montgomery: black, 27, 5’7”, 163, has several nicknames/aliases, ex con for robbery/assault, works at a car wash, gang member

Jewel Montgomery: Thomas’ mother, works at Walmart

There are many more characters such as gang members and other bad guys. Some are…unique in personality. Most are characters you would expect to see in a story like this.


Voices do come through. Most of the gang members sound the same. Conversations don’t drag.


Profanity. Direct and straightforward writing. There’s a variety of angles shown: the gang members avenging their own; the ‘community leaders’ decrying perceived injustice; the stymied cops; neighbors.

Action scenes are, again, direct, no messing around. It’s an interesting snapshot of something that is plausible. Sure, some of it is jazzed up to make it interesting, but the ‘reality’ of the situation comes through.

So, as to rank. I thought for awhile about green, but when I looked back over the entire book, I remembered the fact the writing was solid, the story turned in a direction I didn’t expect, and nothing made me want to just get to the end to be done with it. So, with those points in mind-

My Rank:

Purple Belt



Stranger At Sunset


By Eden Baylee



Psychaitrist Kate Hampton is on a winter vacation in Jamaica at a resort owned by friends Anna and Nolan Pearson. This year is a bit different because the Pearson are not only just coming off cleaning up after a hurricane caused damage, but Matthew Kane is returning. Kane is a travel writer who panned the property. Kate, however, even with her eidetic memory, cannot figure out from where she knows Kane. At the resort, Kate and Kane meet other guests, each with their own problems…and secrets. And problems and secrets lead to violence…and murder.

Supposedly a suspense that wasn’t. As I mention below, I didn’t get the gist of the book.


Kate Hampton: psychiatrist, eidetic memory, long dark hair, has tattoos

Matthew Kane: 49, travel writer, gaunt face, late 40s to 50s, receding hairline, food and other allergies, mother dead

Annushka ‘Anna’ Pearson: Co-owner of Sunset Villa Estates in Jamaica, black hair, former model

Nolan Pearson: Anna husband, marine biologist, plays drums

Jack Campbell: doctor, tanned, psychiatrist, homosexual,

Ben: bearded, big frame, suffers from arthritis, professor, has a daughter

Nadine: Ben’s wife, 50s

Greg: 6’3”, voice,

Tom: Greg’s spouse, fashion designer

Jerry: short

A nice variety of personalities. Some people don’t have last names but there is sufficient background info to get a flavor for them.

I’m wasn’t too sure about Kane. His personality changes almost too abruptly. At the beginning he’s not very nice, but by halfway through, he’s hitting on Kate and nice to a boar (a person, not the animal). Kate, for the most part, bothered me as detail below.


Pretty straightforward. Some voices come through, especially the two from Tennessee. Some dialogue continuations after tag lines that didn’t have proper capitalization.


Book separated into Days with titled chapters. Some profanity. Some graphic descriptions.

Low tension for almost half the book.

Okay, now for the concerns. I didn’t quite understand the thrust of the story. There was no climax, per se, in where the killer was revealed in a scene of high tension and danger. In fact, I felt there was an anti-climax to the whole thing. I didn’t see where the other characters added much other than background scenery. A few received attention in scenes that didn’t make any difference to the story.

Kate’s strong relationship with a neighbor just fizzled in the end.

I was confused by the ending because it reveals a lot of background information regarding Kate that wasn’t foreshadowed very clearly. It was an information dump that, while fine, should have been piecemealed (if I can make this a verb) throughout. Kate, I thought was to be the central figure in the story, and I guess she was, but not as strongly as expected.

I think the main problem was there was no central theme other than wondering if Kane was going to write a better review for the resort. The other issues were sort of woven throughout that made the story unfocussed.

My Rank:

Camouflage Belt


The Boy In The Skull Mask


By Justin Wilson


A New Orleans patrol officer is found dead in an alley. When Detective Chavez and her partner Jackson Hyde start the investigation, they soon discover an abandoned building and more dead bodies, killed in a horrible fashion. Suspicion turns to a local crime lord but then the case turns bizarre. Chavez is attacked by creatures she can’t fathom or explain. Enter into the picture Zero Ozawa, monster hunter.

What better place for creepy supernatural stuff than New Orleans? There’s cops and monsters and strange individuals and a crime boss. Mix with a bit of a police procedural murder and you have a plot that titillates.


Renee Chavez: New Orleans detective, Latin American, short black hair, brown eyes, divorced, parents dead

Zero Ozawa: 16, blue eyes

Jackson Hyde: Chavez’s partner, former Boston cop, homosexual,

Grace Marshall: Medical examiner, short black hair, has a degree in criminal psychology

Thom Braddock: New Orleans Captain of Homicide, graying stubble for hair, dark eyes, strong physique, has a son

Marcus O’Mara: detective, smokes, steel colored eyes, black, lean, bald

Alex Roan: gangster, owns a nightclub, tanned, green eyes, brown hair

Michael Strauss: reverend, green eyes, drives a 2007 Volvo

Too many characters have green eyes. The cops don’t ‘feel’ like cops. Zero wears a mask and cops would never let the kid wear the mask while in interrogation.


Most of the conversations are okay but some of the bad guy monster lines are B-movie. Alex comes off with the best voice.

Tag lines that shouldn’t be tag lines. In one instance the tag line ‘he said’ was used in one bit of dialogue and ‘he said’ was used in the next bit. I had to go back to figure out who said what. ‘He said’ can’t be used twice in a row without some identifier.


Some profanity. From the beginning (the prologue), I discovered missing words, misspelled words, and incorrect words (‘are’ instead of ‘were’; ‘met’ instead of ‘meet’), tense problems. Within a couple paragraphs the author, on three occasions uses ‘he’ to denote a person but then uses ‘their’ or ‘them’. Their and them are plural and while a lot of authors do this, it isn’t correct. Use ‘him’.

Punctuation problems. Unnecessary words: dark skin complexion. ‘Complexion’ isn’t needed.

I also never had a real feel for the dark and mysterious city that New Orleans can be. More details are needed to bring the reader into the scene.

Some of the action scenes are difficult to follow because of the switch in POV. Sometimes in a single paragraph. Again, like dialogue, the use of ‘he’ gets confusing when the POV shifts.

All in all a lot of weak writing with numerous mistakes. I found it difficult to get into the story because my eye and brain kept running into errors. They cut into any enjoyment of a story.

My Rank:

Yellow Belt


Murder At Wisteria Pines


By Jon Randal



Struggling bookstore owner Raymond Hilary meets Colonel Cornelius Astor-Beaudry for the first time one evening and within hours is thrown right into a murder mystery with a voodoo slant. Actually, two murders have happened at Wisteria Pines estate. A maid and Angus Callahan, owner of the house. Suspects: Callahan’s children who may or may not be inheriting the family millions; Callahan’s partner or his wife, the latter of which may inherit Callahan’s business interests; a pair of land Louisiana land developers. Hilary tries to keep caught up on the racing mind of the Colonel as they search for a murderer.

I love it! A classic locked room mystery with all the ambiance of Britain set in the 1970s American south. Oh, come on, of course it’s been done before but who cares if it’s still a good story? It’s an updated Watson and Holmes but still a fine read.


Raymond Hilary: British, owns a bookstore, smokes a pipe, thin, drive an MK I MG Midget,

Cornelius Astor-Beaudry: has the title of Colonel, long curly hair, black eyes, bushy eyebrows, mustache, smokes cigars, wears reading glasses, wealthy, owns a 1952 Rolls Royce Silver Wraith, owns dogs

Roosevelt: black, the Colonel’s butler

Devaney: has the title of Captain, huge build, police officer

Alicia Callahan: auburn hair

Dorothy Callahan: Alicia’s sister, attended Tulane for theatre and dance,

David Callahan: Alicia’s brother, married, owns an art gallery

John W. Pickford: smokes a pipe, married

Richard Bayson: worked as a secretary to Angus Callahan, weathered face, muscular, has a tattoo on his arm

Tremaine LeVeaux: daughter worked for Callahan and was murdered

Dixie Lafayette: cook, had studied medicine at LSU, freckles, bosomy

Rich and varied characters all. Rich in the way of personalities and descriptions. A fine cast with special quirks and idiosyncrasies. Of course, as I mentioned, the Colonel is a modern Sherlock with Raymond his reluctant Watson. Roosevelt could be a more involved but peskier Mrs. Hudson with Devaney as Lestrade.

This comparison is cool and not a criticism. I don’t mind them. Roosevelt is a hoot and the Colonel’s driver is pretty interesting, too.


Wonderful accents and voice. The southern comes through, Roosevelt’s stereotypical black speech comes through. The Colonel can change tones and inflection on a whim from cynical to proper southern gentleman. I didn’t hear too much of Raymond’s British other than in some of the narrative.


Title chapters. First person from Hilary’s POV. Prosaic language harkening to a mystery set in the 1930s or 1940s England even though it’s set in the American south. (Makes sense since the main narrator is British.)

The pace stays high with a couple of places to take a breath. Then it’s back into the action. Not shoot ’em up action, just busy stuff with the Colonel in the middle of it or causing it.

Some overuse of ‘ly’ words. A couple of minor punctuation issues that was just noticeable not egregious and may just be the format or a miss in editing.

The writing, I think, could have been tighter in places. Those places are noticeable, but not too jarring to drive you out of the story. The book has some good doses of humor. The Colonel goes over the edge at times but not out of sight and that only makes the story a bit more enjoyable. I wouldn’t have wanted a staid and reserved Colonel nor do I want an overbearing ham or somebody who’s false in his personality.

Now, as for ranking. I can put aside the punctuation issues but not the ‘ly’. This barely (sorry for my use of an ‘ly’ word) keeps the book out of the brown range. However, do not mistake the rank given as an okay, average rank. I thought this a thoroughly (sorry again), enjoyable story, an delightful read, and would look forward to the next Colonel/Hilary mystery.

My Rank:

Blue Belt




By Dale Bryan Sahlberg



An ex Russian soldier steals a canister of nerve gas. A Russian mobster wants a strontium based generator. An occult group celebrates fallen angels. A terrorist known only as Remus is causing havoc with the oil industry. An enigmatic Russian, supported by some of the aformentioned fallen angels is vying for the top position in Russia.

…and there are a bunch of other chapters with stuff happening and people talking and doing things.

My biggest problem is I didn’t understand what was going on. There were a bunch of chapters that didn’t seem to connect or had tenuous connections to others. I spent most of the book confused by the randomness of the plot. This goes from Russia to Louisiana to New York to England to Iceland, and many more points on the globe. I don’t mind if a book is formulaic or otherwise predictable (if it’s a good story) and of course I enjoy the good plot twist or three, but don’t leave me hanging for so long without some comprehension about the overall thrust of the story.


Bohdan Alexei Federov: drives a Corvette, mother is Ukrainian, has a sister, doctorate in Economics from Princeton, wife dead,

Mark Carlson: reverend, married

Nikolaiv Kozlovsky: diesel mechanic, former submariner, married, portly

Ivan Sokolka: former submariner, bulky, grew up in orphanages and the streets, tugboat captain, married

Andre Du Bois: magazine photographer

Susan Henderson: 19, model

Arman Kumekov: former soldier, married with four children, runs a timber business

Yevgeny Yurkovich: mob leader, father was a captain and former mobster

…and many, many more. This may be where my aforementioned confusion came into play. Nearly every chapter introduced new characters with lots of information about them, but most had very minor roles. They were good characters and well thought out, but their relevancy to the big picture didn’t warrant the extensive biographies. There was no central character on which to focus, get behind, or care about.


A lot of tag lines other than ‘said’. Sometimes it’s okay, but there are way too many replied, answered, inquired, probed, responded, clarified, intoned, stated, etc., in this book. As I have heard many times, there is nothing wrong with ‘said’.

There was a glaring repetition in two characters from different countries using referencing whales when on their respective boats.

Otherwise, there were too many characters to get a sense of voice. Some were lighthearted while others were serious and lecturing. Some conversations, especially, the lectures, went on way too long and in the end, didn’t reveal but hints of…something.


Titled chapters. The author refers people speaking by description. He uses names, but then descriptions. Different descriptions for the person. (retired missionary, Princeton salutatorian, Christian theologian, etc.) He does this a lot. It’s distracting because at times I’m not sure who’s speaking or if he added in another character.

Lots of details on irrelevant things. A bit of missing punctuation.

Translations of passages into and from Russian and other languages. At first I thought they were okay, but translating the numbers one, two, and three seemed a bit much. It’s okay to explain local or national cuisine or certain phrases but the reader understands that Russians would speak Russian in their own country.

There was a chapter with a threat to the Alaskan pipeline and a subsequent code, but there was no follow up. Did the pipeline go boom? Did anybody solve the code?

I didn’t understand the terrorist’s importance.

I did enjoy the historical references. I understood a bit of what myIrin is and its overt Biblical reference. However, this was a drawn out book and some of the chapters had long build ups and a plethora of facts that were interesting but not necessarily relevant to what was actually important to the story. The author’s vast knowledge (or knowledge gained by extensive research) is impressive, but many times there is just too much thrown at the reader. I kept wanting to get to the point quicker.

The ending wasn’t a climax and I think the plan-whatever it was-was fulfilled. It just ended.

All in all, as I mentioned at the beginning. I just didn’t get it. Too much of an info dump to figure out, remember, and be interested in what the story was about. I thought about giving this a rank of Camouflage, but, even though there weren’t very many ‘mistakes’ other than those mentioned, I think with everything I didn’t understand, I have to drop it down to:

Orange Belt