Monthly Archives: January 2017

California Smoke


By Hank Shaeffer



Ex-vice cop Eddie Fuentes just got bounced from the Oakland P.D., not an easy thing to do. Now he’s back in Redwood County, trying to figure out how his dope grower dad went off a bridge. And there’s this very sexy redhead who’s a little too good to be true.

Shanna Black is a drug lawyer in the crosshairs of a DEA investigation. She thinks Eddie could be part of her exit strategy — if only she can lure him into a certain situation without her client finding out.

Meanwhile, there’s a professional killer with a maniac for a kid brother and a shotgun-toting mom. And don’t forget Eddie’s old pool hustler pal, Russell George, a Native American developing his own little project called the Redwood Casino.

Sorry, I couldn’t think of any other way to describe the plot, so I took the blurb from Amazon. Let me say, there is a lot going on in this story. It’s complex with connections here and there.


Eddie Fuentes: former cop, blue eyes, light brown hair, dad dead

Shanna Black: lawyer, red hair, divorced, smokes

Russell George: American Indian, graying long hair

Dick: President of West Coast Lumber, thin blond hair, pale blue eyes

Actually, despite the comments below, the cast is interesting. A nice variety of personalities who develop throughout the book.


Good voices, but a lot of conversations with few beats between people speaking. I think this is one of the problems I had with this book is that everybody talks. A lot. Too much sometimes.

Otherwise, there are tag lines that shouldn’t be. …” she smiled. Smiled is an action, not a way of saying something.


Profanity. Titled chapters.

Okay, so problems I had with this. This book goes on for a long time with little action. There are many stories happening and I’m not a big fan of four or five subplots, especially with this many characters. For me, the story took awhile to develop and to get every story line straight and I admit, I lost track of things about half way through. I didn’t understand why certain things occurred other than to have another story going on.

Having this in mind, the book was clean of errors.

For me, this book was long and drawn out and I lost interest. One of the reasons is I thought this would be more humorous and it wasn’t.

My Rank:

Camouflage Belt



The Old Lady Detective Agency


By Ryan Herrin



I present senior citizens Pam Breck and her friend Betty. Pam thinks everyone is up to nefarious deeds. When a local flea market is robbed, Pam and Betty are on the case. That is if Pam can keep from thinking about a mysterious pony-tailed man she swears is a criminal, and if she can stop thinking Betty might be the mastermind behind the robbery. Betty would rather watch junk television, buy an accordion, and figure out the brown stain on a tissue in her purse.

Okay, I like it and it kind of, sort of, almost works.


Pam Breck: multiple divorces, has a son, long silver hair, wears glasses, has a younger sister, drives a Buick Skylark

Betty: has a shot glass and porcelain figurine collection, has a dog, has children, curly dyed hair, multiple divorces

Ernie: flea market manager

Jared Massey: music dealer

Estelle: security guard

Albert: wears glasses, Pam’s son, 350 lbs.

Michael Wilson: owns a Pontiac

A lot of good characters. Some don’t have last names. If Betty’s was mentioned, I didn’t catch it. Pam’s didn’t show up until long into the book. Not too much description of characters so I wasn’t sure about Betty. I liked her and she was a good tag-along for Pam the go-getter.


For the most part everyone had a distinctive voice. Conversations tended to be short.


Too many semicolons at the beginning and they were misused.

No profanity

Some tense problems here and there.

Although I enjoyed the story I thought that it was a bit over the top. I felt that the author tried to hard to always add comedy. Comedy is tough in stories. There were a lot of repetitions that didn’t seem to go anywhere and some of the expository thoughts detracted from the main story. I thought there should have been more emphasis on the actual case, more clues, more witnesses. As mentioned, I liked Betty but she was pretty scatter-brained which, again, detracted from the main story. Maybe less extra stuff. The gang of women Betty and Pam hang with were mentioned and I thought they might have played a larger role.

Generally, some tighter writing was needed.

The action and tension were low. Maybe Pam and Betty needed to be in more danger.

Also, in regards to the actual mystery, I don’t think the case was ‘solved’ by anyone. Betty received her spotlight moment but I didn’t make the connection between Pam’s investigation and the solution. Pam’s Nero Wolfe or Ellery Queen’s gather-the-suspects-in-one-place-and-explain-everything faltered a bit.

If this is to be a series, it has potential, if a bit of reworking.

My Rank:

Green Belt




By Elizabeth Young



Terrorist plan to repeat the attack on America done by the Japanese in World War II. Hot air balloons filled with poison drop over various parts of the country. It’s up to the President and his team to find and stop the terrorist before worse attacks occur.

I think this was an ingenious plot. It lacked a central hero/heroine or hero team out searching for the bad guys.


Carmen: works at an electronics store, black hair

Raul: Carmen’s brother, works for the CIA

Elliot Bradley: U.S. President, former physicist and CEO of Markham Controls

Ahmed al Kodari: terrorist, has a twin sister

Maya Tchernov: 65, Defense Secretary, blonde hair, blue eyes, 4 star General, former lawyer and governor, parents dead, has a sister, widow

…and too many more. You need a roster and a time line to keep everyone straight and up-to-date. Though the characters were pretty good, I felt there were too many. I couldn’t focus on anyone in particular, because the story bounced from character to character.


Fairly good voices once you understood who the characters were but nobody shined. Too many.


Chapters headed by date.

As mentioned above, for me, I wanted a central figure to be in search of the terrorists throughout. There were a couple, but they weren’t central. The Washington team never left Washington so they became talking people who kept having meetings.

Low tension. Almost no real action.

The Prologue was not a prologue, it was a statement of information.

There was a bit of confusion at the beginning with time.

An incorrect name was mentioned in one chapter.

Relatively short chapters.

So, as always, my ranking reflects my enjoyment of the book. Others may find it intriguing. I found it a pretty even keel throughout.

My Rank:

Green Belt


The Price Of Justice


By Vincent S. Green



When the wife of a high ranking military man is brutally murdered, and her ex lover is arrested for the murder, Jack Garret is called in to try the case for the defense. Paired with attorney Cameron Wells, he soon runs afoul of people who want the case over, the defendant found guilty and everything hushed up. What could cause such violence? Jack and Cameron risk their lives to discover the truth.

I think is a wonderful plot and I wish the book had gone on longer to really explore everything.


Jack Garret: 45, attorney, former special ops, widower, has a son

Cameron Wells: attorney, former military intelligence, martial artist, blonde, freckles, hazel eyes, rank of Colonel

Frank O’Connor: judge, 50s, chestnut hair, rank of Colonel

Phillip Rubie: short, gray flecked black hair, brown eyes, fixer for the CIA, has a daughter, first wife and daughter dead

Norman Harris: Lt. General, tall, lanky, married (at the beginning)

A good array of characters. I would have liked the book to have been longer to explore each of them a bit more. As it was, a lot of information had to be absorbed pretty quickly.


I think Frank’s voice came through pretty well. Phillip’s daughter’s does, too.


Titled chapters. Profanity.

This is a relatively short book and I think therein lies the problem. This is a great story but details aren’t explored. There is good action, especially at the climax and even afterward. This is an intricate plot but it moved very fast. Within the first 50 pages, Jack’s son is kidnapped and I wondered why it was done so soon. Jack and Cameron hadn’t discovered anything yet. This could have been drawn out a bit more with scenes of the baddies talking and plotting, Jack and Cameron gathering clues. The trial was hardly a blip and that could have been a fun time. The super weapon wasn’t explored very much. It showed up, did its thing and hardly a word afterward. I thought it was a cool thing that needed to be shown more and explained more. No word on how it was made, what the deployment power was and where it went after everything was done.

A nice small twist at the end that was foreshadowed throughout.

My Rank:

Green Belt




By V. L. Towler


A small Louisiana town’s police department receives a box with a severed finger. Enter Lula Logan, forensic anthropologist. With the help of the police department, she investigates a series of severed fingers and murders. What does a film producer and a politician have to do with the case?

I thought this would be a gritty, dark murder mystery. Instead it turned out to be a study into black life with the mystery as a small print second billing.


Lula Logan: black, dark brown hair, maroon eyes, 5’5”, forensic anthropologist, works at a university

Nate Padgett: captain of the Criminal Investigations unit, blut-grey eyes, black hair

Devon Lemonde: Junior police detective, Creole black, attended Nakadee University, married with children

Aggie Shear: auburn hair, forensic pathologist, divorced

Wally: Knights of Columbus member, former military

There are a few other characters: Bebe, Melvyn, Richard included. I think the author did a good job of providing a lot of background info on the important characters. I think the characters are well-rounded. I don’t know what Wally is. Part of the police department? Homeless? An eccentric who occasionally provides the cops with information? I just don’t know.


Good voices and accents and phraseology. I thought some of the dialogue went on too long and the conversations tended to delve into extraneous matters.


Book was separated into Parts. Titled Chapters. Chapters headed by date and time, scene changes headed by time

Okay, let me discuss this next part for just a bit. When I read a book, I expect the story to be something related to the back cover blurb. When it falls short of my expectations, I lose interest. As mentioned above, I thought this was going to be a good dark murder mystery. When Lula and Bebe spent page after page after page in the first part of the book discussing life for blacks in general, in Louisiana, their own lives, I lost interest in the story. I perked up whenever there was another finger or corpse and I could get back to the mystery, but for the most part, I lost interest. The scenes with the politician, although the topic related to the story, were a sideline that I didn’t care about. The mystery, as mentioned, was simmering, but never very action-oriented. A lot of interrogation, a lot of talking.

There was a videotape discovered. Writing page after page of the dialogue on the videotape was fine, but a repetition of this wasn’t needed.

I felt the tension was low, the ending climax was too long and mostly dialogue and the Epilogue wasn’t an epilogue but rather a “Hey, this is the end and stay tuned for the next mystery featuring Lula.”

I’m giving this a Green Belt because the grammar, punctuation, and spelling were okay and the voices were better than a lot of books. The story and plot, as a whole, wasn’t exciting for me.