Monthly Archives: January 2018

Blood Harvest


by Terrence Dicks


I don’t usually review science fiction and never before reviewed a Doctor Who novel. I am a huge fan of the television series. Many of the books, unfortunately, are either confusing, contain a lot of low points, or just don’t keep my interest. This one, however, was quite different in that it had a private investigator as a major character, adding a bit of mystery. So, I ask for your indulgence on this rare foray into a review of this type of book.


A private investigator in Prohibition Era Chicago is asked by Al Capone to check upon a new player in town. This persona, known as Doc (in reality a Timelord called the Doctor) has opened a new speakeasy. This is not good in a town run by mobsters who have a habit of warring with each other.

Meanwhile, Bernice Summerfield, one of the Doctor’s companions is on an alien planet once ruled by vampire overlords. Tensions are high between the villagers who are content with governmening themselves and the Lords, who seek to have dominance. When Bernice runs afoul of a strange creature in the vampire’s former lair, it appears as if the pestilence has returned from the undead. And who is the enigmatic woman who seeks to aid Bernice?

While war seems inevitable between the mobsters on Earth and between the factions in which Bernice is in the middle of, shadowy figures lurk behind the curtains of both scenes. Individuals whose intent is the destruction of the Doctor.

This is touted as a sequel to the television episode entitled State of Decay where the 4th Doctor and Romana face vampires. Added to the mix is are the scenes in gangster land Chicago. I’musually wary about sequels, but it’s not just a return to the vampire planet and there is the mystery of unnamed individuals. I found it easy to follow and a good plot to satisfy Who fans. And I am one.


The Doctor: the ‘7th’ Doctor, Scottish burr, short, Timelord, uses the moniker John Smith

Dorothy ‘Ace’ Gale McShane: the Doctor’s companion, tough, brunette, tough, likes explosives

Dekker: Private investigator, smokes, drinks

Al Capone: mobster in Chicago

Bernice ‘Benny’ Summerfield: one of the Doctor’s companions, archeologist but was expelled from university before she received credentials

Lady Romanadvoratelundar: former companion of the 4th Doctor, Timelord, long- fair-haired, high forehead

Personally, I want to name my first daughter Romanadvoratrelundar. Awesome name! This story, unlike some other Who novels have characters I like. Even the bad guys, though somewhat typical, are good. They didn’t bore me. Of course with Who books, I see the characters as they were portrayed on television.


Adequate attempt at capturing the gangsters’ voices as well as the natives of the planet. Good use of the local lingo of the time.


Sometimes Doctor Who books become too technical, as if the author wants to show off his/her science or physics knowledge. This one easy to follow, which is what I look for in not just Doctor Who books, but in other sci-fi stories. I’m not a fanatic of sci-fi and one has to really capture my interest for me to read. This one had a good blend of lightheartedness and suspenseful tension. This moved well with nothing dragging and no difficult to understand technological gab. Good use of time-period slang (pineapple for grenade, doll). The PI wears the typical trench coat and fedora. (Of course I’m not complaining because the PI in MY books wears the trench and hat.) First person POV when it’s Dekker’s scenes.

My Rank:

Blue Belt



The Burgas Affair

The Burgas Affair by Ellis Shuman 400x625

By Ellis Shuman



When a terrorist blows up a bus killing innocent people in Bulgaria, Boyko Stanchev and Ayala Navon are thrown together to help investigate the case. However, each of them have personal issues to deal with that may hamper their efforts. The problems they run into are leads that go nowhere and a people from Stanchev’s past who may be out to kill him. Will the two be able to survive long enough to solve the case?

This story is based off of a true event-the bus bombing-that occurred in 2012. Although the plot was laid out well with the important parts all there, I felt the book a tad long, especially when the two main characters are put together to run down a lead or two, then split up, then are back together for another couple leads, then split up, then…yeah, you get the picture. I also felt some of the back story was too lengthy.


Boyko Stanchev: 35, works for the Bulgarian State Agency for National Security, smokes, divorced, dark eyes

Ayala Navon: 28, Israeli Intelligence analyst, thick black hair, dark eyes, brother dead

Ivan Zhekov: commander of the Burgas District Police Directorate, stocky

Kamen Petrov: detective

There’s also a bad guy named Damian, also known as The Hunter who is the antagonist in the story. I think the characters were well developed. A lot of information regarding the two main characters including culture, family, and history. This is where the back story becomes lengthy. Interesting and the relevant points are part of the story.


Sometimes weak, especially by Ayala, but otherwise voices are pretty good.


Some profanity, but not too much.

Clean with no mistakes that I found.

Pretty decent story with some good action. The climax was good, although I didn’t quite understand the part concerning Navon and the danger she faced and why it turned out the way it did. I was a little off on that point.

The twist-a traitor-was not difficult to comprehend and, really, there is only one person it could have been.

I found it interesting that the original case, the bombing, was solve to completion…just as the real event hasn’t yet been completely resolved.

Still, a pretty good smooth story and if you like a lot of back story, this one is it.

I’ll give it the rank I chose because, for me, the extra stuff could have been trimmed, but I still enjoyed the main story.

My Rank

Green Belt


Her Final Watch

Her Final Watch (1)

By Marguerite Ashton

MA_New_photot_7b9 (1)


A stripper/escort is murdered and Lily Blanchette is on the case. With a new partner, a new pregnancy, still dealing with the death of her husband, and an exasperating mother, Lily has her hands full. Add to that an involvement with the local mob, well, Lily will have to use all her skills to survive.

But there’s more to the story. Who has secrets that would be devastating or deadly if revealed? Well, pretty much everybody.

What a complex plot. The more I read, the more complex it seemed to become. Put a mystery in the middle of a soap opera.


Lily Blanchette: police detective, widow, pregnant, black (light skinned), black hair, brown eyes, father dead

Jeremiah Mills: police detective, black, 5’2”, trying to quit smoking

Ibee Walters: Assist D.A., bleached blonde

Evan York: police detective, blue eyes, dark hair

Diamond Reese: 27, strip club manager, long wavy brown hair

Several more including Lily’s mother and the mob guys-father and son.

All pretty well developed although I thought Walters would play a bit more of a role than she did. Each had distinctive character. Jeremiah comes across as a smart aleck at the beginning, which surprised me. Because of his history, I thought he might have been a bit more reserved. He comes around, though.


Not too bad. Good give and take, back and forth. Conversations flowed well. A little heat shown. I could have used a bit more emotion in some of the dialogue at times but everybody had his/her own voice.


One mistake that I caught in passing. Spelling error but otherwise clean.

Chapters headed by date and/or time.

I thought it was a well-developed story that didn’t end quite the way I thought. I won’t play spoiler, but not all ends well and tied up in a bow.

Complexities abound but the author handled them well. A cop and mobster story and the profanity was kept in check and not overused.

I don’t know what else to say. A strong story with good action and character development. A tidy mystery with other background info to keep it interesting and moving.

So, to rank. I thought about previous stories and the enjoyment factor and decided this one rated:

Purple Belt


Beacon Hill


By Colin Campbell



Jim Grant is not having a good day. First, he rescues a kidnapped child and irritates on of Boston elite when investigating a shooting. But he is blamed for being on the scenes in the first place and proceeding in all the wrong manners. However, the shooting turns out to be more involved than Grant imagined. Bucking authority, he steps deeper into danger and discovers a scheme with international implications.

Interesting plot. I enjoyed Grant getting in deeper and in more trouble as the story goes along and him defending himself. The plot opens up more and more and the revelation is pretty astounding.


Jim Grant: British, cop

Daniel Hunt: drives a white Mercedes, wealthy

Terri Avellone: Grant’s girlfriend, pharmaceutical representative

Bill Hoyt: 35, police captain

There are a few more characters but almost none are given any physical description. Maybe one or two here and there. This made it difficult to have a mental picture of them. For the most part, I thought the characters were pretty good, each playing to his/her role.


Grant has a decent voice as does his girlfriend. Hunt is distinguishable and Hoyt does the angry captain bit pretty well. Conversations stay on track


Book is in Parts.

There is a bit of POV switching here and there and the omnipresent POV sort of works. Maybe it’s my preference to have a scene stay with a particular character. Switch on the following if desired.

Other than that, I have no problems with the story. I didn’t see any grammar/punctuation/misspelling errors. The story rolled along pretty well with no drag time. Some good actions scenes.

Some of the writing could have been tighter, but it was nothing to get too distressed over.

Basically, a decent story and the climax was worthy of some of the cool hero-defeats-villain movies.

I thought about the rank and though it’s not quite Purple, I thought it’s a very strong

Green Belt


The Legend Of Dollaretta

The Legend of Dollaretta Vol 1. Cover

By Cherry Gunzenhauser

New canvas


Vampire Demice Chevalier is still having difficulties with her aunt’s recent death. Her mother enrolls her in a convent that instructs teen vamps. In this convent, though, strange things happen. Rumors and secrets abound. Plus, there’s a story that nobody is supposed to tell-but do anyway-about a previous student long ago whose passion was dolls. It is said that death surrounded her and she is said to still be around…

Not long after Demice-call me Demi- arrives, there is a suicide…but was it really suicide. Or an accident…or something more?

So, a convent for vampires. With a tale of a previous student said to maybe still haunting the convent. Interesting.


Mariya Chevalier: married with daughter, sister dead.

Demice Chevalier: Mariya’s daughter, dark hair, plays piano

Gaby: freckles

Angelica: dark hair

Alek: Demice’s cousin, mother dead, dark hair

There are several other students and the Mother Superior type nun. With this type of book, information is scant and background information comes when it’s spoken about.

One concern I had was that at the beginning, there was a short story of the origin of vampires. Then we jump to the convent of vampire students…but after that there’s hardly any mention of their being vampires. A few rules (don’t drink any other student’s blood), but hardly any discussion or characterization of their vampiness. I thought the vampire aspect might be played up more.


Demi’s voice and the head nun’s voice come through. The other female students sound similar but that may be because they’re all teen females (Okay, okay, no emails chiding me on my stereotyping. Work with me here). But many of them are snarky and cynical.

Because of the type of book this is, there is a LOT of dialogue. A lot of explanation, repetition of concerns and issues.


Since this is a graphic novel, I’ll add in art, since that is part of what makes a cool comic book/graphic novel. The story and the artist go hand in hand. I’ve seen great art and crappy story and the other way around. The art in this book was a bit manga-ish with everybody having pointy chins and similar hair. This made it a bit difficult to distinguish some characters. When Dollaretta is featured or between chapters, the art is color, otherwise it’s black/white.


Going back a bit to the repetition of questions/issues, this made me wonder if the story was going to conclude or develop past a certain point. For instance, there a scene where some of the students go to the cemetery to find closure after one of the students dies. I thought there might be more action or some supernatural woo-woo going to happen. But during the long walk, there were questions and partial explanations, but I don’t know that it advanced the story any.

Not much action. A little eerie stuff with Demi during the nights and a brief introduction to Dollaretta.

The book ended on a minor cliffhanger and when it did I wasn’t for it. Not the cliffhanger, the ending. It was like I walked into a sudden brick wall after enjoying the stroll in the park. Whoa! That’s it?

Well, yeah, that’s it…until you pick up the next volume which will continue the story.

That was my main concern. A good intro, a bit of development and a sudden ending that left me wanting more explained/concluded before it ended.

My Rank:

Green Belt