Author Archives: sirsteve
By Linda Berry
A serial rapist is terrorizing teens in San Francisco. Patrol officer Lauren Starkley finds herself involved with the third attack. Having a teen daughter of her own, she is now determined, against the advice and orders or those in charge of the investigation, to track down the culprit. Spending off hours talking to people and exploring the crime scene, she becomes the focus of the rapist.
I like the plot. It’s one with a dedicated and loyal cop after the bad guy. There’s a bit of romance and intrigue. My problem in this section (I guess it belongs here) is that the title doesn’t represent the plot. The only corpse is a cop who is shot.
Lauren Starkley: patrol officer, green eyes, 5’, drives a white Jeep Cherokee, widow, owns a cat, has a sister
Steve Santos: 40, partner of Lauren’s, solid frame, married with 2 children, thick dark hair
Lily Camino: police inspector, greying hair, brown eyes, wears glasses.
Jack Monetti: 40, police captain, dark hair, divorced with child, blue eyes, drives a Toyota Sequoia
Courtney Starkley: 14, Lauren’s daughter, red hair
Peter Duff: reporter, married with children
Some good characters. I wished Lily would have had more than one scene because she was the perfect authoritarian foil for Lauren’s bucking the system. She had one scene then left the story which made her background information moot. I thought she would play a more important role.
The other characters had good roles. Santos and another cop named Wong. There were others to make the sideline issues complete (Lauren’s parents, a teenage boy).
Pretty good voices. Santos and Wong sounded a bit similar. Lauren’s parents were good. Conversations didn’t wander and were kept fairly tight. The investigative side of police work sometimes gets technical, but there wasn’t any medicalese or scientific terms to worry about.
A small bit of profanity that probably could have been eliminated.
Other than that…well, I’m not sure what to write here. No grammar/punctuation/spelling errors that I could find. No improbable scenes or issues with time or action.
The amount of action was just about right and the tension might have been amped up a bit, but otherwise, it seemed to flow well.
I really don’t have any problems with this book. It’s a good, complete story. Okay, it doesn’t wow me to utter exhilaration, but I would read more of this author’s work. I think she has a grasp on solid writing and a decent story, and hope that she publishes more.
By Larry Darter
Ben Malone, P.I., is on the case of an escort who needs protection from a crime lord because she witnessed the murder of one of her clients. At least…that’s what she claims. When Malone accepts the case, he finds more than murder, he finds more murder, and narcotics, and human trafficking. And lies. Soon, he and his girlfriend are in danger. He’ll have to think fast to come out of this one alive.
I think it’s a good plot. There is a lot going on here with just enough complexities and twists to keep it interesting. Plot-wise.
Ben Malone: Private investigator, former homicide investigator, former Army, drives a Toyota Camry
Evania Sterling: escort, married, blonde, blue eyes, tall, drives a BMW Z4
Jaime Reyes: homicide investigator, has a sister
Nick Makara: white hair, portly, sixties, golfer, owns a shipping company
These are the main characters along with Sara, Ben’s girlfriend who is a psychiatrist. Coincidentally, at the same time I was reading this, I was listening to a Spenser novel and there are similarities between the characters. All Darter had to do was put in a large black man to accompany Malone…well, anyway…
The characters are fine. I think they’re well rounded with enough background information and descriptions. I thought Malone wasn’t as serious at the beginning as he might have been, but that could be his nature.
A lot of people don’t use contractions and it was enough to be noticeable and seem unnatural. Otherwise, the conversations went well. A bit long in the scenes with the FBI.
First person from Malone’s POV. Profanity. Small to medium-sized words are incorrect in many sentences.
The biggest problem I had with this is that although the book is a longer one than usual, it’s a fast read. The reason it’s lengthy is there’s a lot of unnecessary repetition and unnecessary information.
Example: Malone goes through a lot of adventure with Evania and Makara and when he finally gets around to spilling the story to Reyes, he spills it all. What I mean is, the author had more than a summary of every single scene when Malone relates the story to Reyes. I’m thinking, “Get on with it!” This lengthy diatribe could have been neatly summarized in about three paragraphs.
Example: There’s a lot of repetition of previous events when discussing things with the FBI.
Example: Evania’s story near the end was too long. After a bunch of slow time, this is an obvious filler before the climax.
Example: There is a scene detailing a meal. Do something with a chicken, cut up veggies, do something else with the chicken, grab a bowl for salad, do something else with the chicken…and so on. This and many other scenes tended to drag down the story. There is a lot of filler between the action parts and meeting with the FBI and before the showdown.
Speaking of the climax – it was anti-climactic. Little action and it ends quickly. Too quickly for the long set up.
Another problem is when Malone rescues Sara and they and Reyes are deciding their next plan of action, Malone cautions Sara not to be going out because he doesn’t want the bad guys to know she’s been rescued. A few minutes later, they all decide to go out to lunch…on a restaurant patio. What happened to being worried about being out in public?
A good plot, but some of the writing needed to be a lot tighter…and shorter.
By Rex Carothers
1957. California. A serial murderer has returned after a fifteen year absence. Sheriff Cobb, though, is still drowning his sorrows over a failed marriage and the death of his wife and child with alcohol. When his former partner is killed, he makes the decision to find the killer. Thus begins a complex tale of murder, greed, corruption, and lust.
I accept books for review based on many things. Some are more important than others but all have a factor in my decision. The blurb given to me by the author or Amazon, the subject matter, book cover (yes, I do and you do, too so admit it), the author’s request, and whether any of the above catches my interest.
When I accepted this book, I expected a cool mystery with a serial killer, and a raw, gritty story. Raw, yes, but not in the way I meant. The plot, which I thought would revolve around the title, did not, for the most part. This was the first of many disappointments about this book.
Jim Cobb: County sheriff, wife and child dead, former army, mom dead
Jasper Fowler: Nickname of ‘Red’, county deputy, 63, burly, white hair
Merrill Cobb: Jim’s father, former sheriff
Conchita Ramirez: housekeeper/cook, has a sister
Archie Reid: 28, trucker driver, 6’, lanky, dark hair, pale blue eyes, former army
There are a several more characters. For the most part, they’re distinct and each has a role to play. There is one unnamed character which I’ll address later. And, for the most, part, I could ‘see’ the characters and thought they held their own.
A problem I had with Cobb, is he visits a dead guy’s house wondering where his secret cache is. However, he doesn’t spend too much time looking for it and comes away with some paperwork. Another baddie comes in and goes right for the hidey-hole. I thought Cobb was a bit incompetent in this area.
There’s a reporter who is really a throwaway filler character who pretty much disappears by the latter quarter of the book and isn’t mentioned again.
Again, not too bad, varying voices.
Profanity. This is a shorter book (141 pages in my Nook).
So, where to begin. This book has a lot of problems, so I’ll start with the POV. It’s first person from Cobb’s when he’s in the scene. But not always and that was weird. Either do it first person with him always or do it all third. Those not with Cobb (and some with as just mentioned) are third person from various POV.
Tense problems. The author writes sentences in present tense then in past tense and sometimes both in a sentence.
Misspelled and missing words. The latter really threw me because I had to go back and fill in the missing word to complete the sentence.
Punctuation errors. Commas thrown willy-nilly into sentences.
This book is chock full of sex, willing and unwilling. Very few characters don’t have sex or talk about previous sex.
There is a time problem. Archie visits his mom’s house and gets directions to a cabin. Subsequently, Cobb, coming back from another murder, where he spent a lot of time, stops at Archie’s mom’s house, then goes off to the cabin. The problem is that Cobb gets there first, there’s a gun battle and after a guy is arrested, Archie THEN shows up.
Before I get to the main issue, let me address this unknown character. There are three ‘sets’ of murders. The hanging murders (killer at the end is found and known), the murder of Haskel (killer at the end is found and known), and a series of random murders by this unknown guy driving a Chevy truck. Here’s the weird part of this – this latter killer is never named, and his identity is never discovered or revealed. So, why include him other than have his killings be mentioned a couple times by the regular characters who don’t seem to put much effort into investigating. It didn’t make sense. I kept trying to put one of the named characters in this role, but it turned out it wasn’t any of them and I’m sorry to play a bit of a spoiler here.
The main issue is repetition. Phraseology, descriptions, and parts of sentences are repeated…a lot. Red’s age is mentioned twice, the fact there were no suspects, no fingerprints, no evidence found in the previous killings is repeated. The last twenty pages has countless repetitions by various characters and the narrator of “Who killed Barton Haskel?” This repetition was bad writing and should not have been so prevalent in this short of a book.
With all of these problems, I quickly dropped my ranking and ended up having to go to the bottom.
By Lon Caslet Bixby & Don Simkovich
Anthony Angelino just wants to lead a decent life after narrowly escaping a trial for murder and drug distribution. However, old enemies come back to haunt him – an organized crime boss and the investigator who arrested him.
Decent plot with the expected issue for the characters to overcome.
Tom Stone: police detective, divorced with two daughters, drives a Jeep, owns a dog
Anthony Angelino: marijuana store owner, dark hair, drives a BMW
Alisha Davidson: attorney, caramel colored skin
Howard Wu: organized crime boss, married
I thought the characters were pretty distinct with enough background information. There were some side characters who helped: Sara, Anthony’s girlfriend, a young kid going through some problems being helped by Stone.
Pretty good. Some individuals I could hear well. Wu and some of the minor characters had either good voices or accents that helped. Conversations stayed on track with the right amount of information given.
May I make a comment on the title? I think titles are important because they helped attract the interest of the reader. Raiders of the Lost Ark, Kitty Kitty Bang Bang, The Case of the Velvet Claws. These titles interest a mystery or adventure reader.
So, when I see Sweltering Summer Nights I think of a gritty, dirty, raw, hot, sultry, sweaty, down the dark alley type of story. Maybe a bit of noir involved.
This story, however, had Frisbee on the beach with the dog and family in the park scenes. Yes, the hot weather was mentioned a few times, but most of the action took place…in the daytime.
In short, the story did not live up to the title. This may not be a major issue for some, but for me, the title aided in my decision to read the book.
It wasn’t a long novel so Anthony’s character was the only one to really develop. Yes, Stone began a possible romantic relationship, but the struggle of Anthony was the main thrust of the story. Because of that, I expected something grand at the end, but the chase scene and the it was almost anticlimactic.
Plus, there was no aftermath report. I could figure out Anthony and what probably happened to him, but did the crime boss or the councilman suffer? What happened to Sara?
A good read but lacking oomph.
By Bruce Alan Jensen
It’s murder on a wine train tour in California. Hank Carson, retired police investigator, becomes involved in who killed the restaurant critic nobody liked. Add to that, a burgeoning romance between Hank and the lead investigator.
Good plot, however, the mystery almost took a caboose to the romance angle and the fact Hank, main character, didn’t have a lot to do with solving the mystery.
Henry ‘Hank’ Carson: former police investigator, 6’, smokes cigars, owns a black Lab, drives a motor home, freelance writer, divorced with daughter
Alicia Tomlinson: Agent for the State Bureau of Investigations, hazel eyes, 5’6” 30s, freckles
Charles Beaumont: wine train promoter, 5’11”, tinning white hair, husky, beard
Kevin Stafford: train chief of security, 50s, 6’, overweight
And there were a lot of other characters. This is a minor problem and I’ll put this here but it also goes in the writing category. For the first fifty pages there were a lot of characters introduced. Many of these were riders on the train and most of them were eliminated. This, to me, didn’t work because there were a lot of names thrown out and characters that were ‘thrown out’ because they were dismissed as suspects. By the time the list was narrowed, I had lost track (no pun intended), of the reasons for their being suspects.
Otherwise, I liked Hank and Alicia although Hank spends way too much time in this short story fantasizing about Alicia when, I thought, he should have been solving the case.
Okay. Conversations stayed on track (again not a pun here). Whether they dealt with the case or background info or emotions shared, conversations stayed succinct. However, there were capitalization errors on tag lines – “I went to the store,” She said. (Not an actual line, but an example of the error.
Profanity but just a little.
This was a shorter book so I expected the book to revolve around the case. You stick with the case, giving red herrings and clues and talking to suspects. Now, I’m not here to tell the author how to write a story. I will give my opinion on whether the way he/she writes it works for me. This book didn’t work.
– Hank, though the main character, wasn’t really directly involved in solving the case
– Hank spent way too much time on the road traveling-away from the case-playing with the dog and dreaming about Alicia
– There was a side incident of some gun play on one of Hank’s road trips that had nothing to do with the main plot and I didn’t see the point of it.
– There was a lot of filler stuff that had nothing to do with the mystery.
Now, as to this last point, I realize that part of the book was a developing relationship between Hank and Alicia, but again, this is a shorter book, and things need to keep moving. As mentioned, I felt the murder took second billing to everything else.
This wasn’t an action-packed story, though there were spurts of action here and there. The revelation of the solution was not a “A’ha!” moment and the ending wind down was, again, unimportant, especially the part with his daughter, because she was mentioned briefly and never shown until the end.
I thought about green for while but decided to drop it to:
By Khaled Talib
The Pope has been kidnapped. Ayden Tanner, part of a secret organization, leads a team around Europe and the Middle East to find him. He is up against a powerful organization…The Sword.
Okay, so this plays out like a shaky parallel to a James Bond type adventure. There are elements of JB floating around, but there are also problems
Gregoire: Pope, thin hair, button nose, French, attended Soronne U., Masters in Art and Museum Studies, paints, fluent in 4 languages
Ayden Tanner: 35, member of the League of Invisible Knights, for British SAS
Willem Van Der Haas: 46, Dutch senator, 5’6”, gold flecked blue eyes, golden hair, smokes cigars
Isabelle Gaugler: Belgium, League member, 5’7”, green eyes, brown hair, former army
Guy Cisse: beefy, 6’, thin lips, League member
For the most part, the characters were…okay. I thought the bad guys of the Sword, though vicious, broke down under minimal threat without a lot of pressure put upon them to talk. Ayden and Guy tried to keep the humorous banter up, but sometimes it didn’t fit.
There were other characters throughout and they were…okay. I just didn’t get into them as much as I thought I would. There’s Ayden’s Vatican contact who is a magnet for danger every time Ayden shows up to talk. There’s Haas, which, though he seems like a cool villain, didn’t get as much play as I thought he might.
Yeah, there’s some stereotypical movie dialogue and some stuff the League members said that didn’t work all the time.
The conversation between Ayden (League member) and Cavallo (other secret organization) when they first meet went on for pages and went something like this:
Cavallo: Who are you guys?
Ayden: We’re here to help.
Cavallo: Yes, but who are you?
Ayden: We’re people who want to find the Pope.
Cavallo: Yes, but who are you?
Ayden: People who want to help.
And so on and so on. Then these two work together without finding out too much about each other.
There were tense problems and POV issues
Otherwise, this was a shorter book, which meant the author had to get on with the action-and there’s a lot of it-without developing a lot of character. There’s an effort, but with so many characters involved, there wasn’t time to deal with the cool stuff of the good guys and the cool stuff of the bad guys because they’re too busy running around Europe shooting at each other. Not saying a lot of shoot ‘em up is bad, but I think the author hurried a bit with the deaths.
So, as to rank. I considered Camo because of the dialogue, but then the enjoyability factor played a part and I found that it wasn’t quite there. I’m not saying this is a bad book, just things here are there bothered me or seemed off or not ‘real’ or together.
By Richard V. Rupp
When a Fresno IRS agent is murdered in his office, FBI agent Dick Hartmann and his team, including a new graduate, are called in to investigate. The trail soon leads them to a gang in Fresno and a plot for massive identity theft. From California to Mexico, Hartmann is on the job ready to take down the bad guys.
I thought the plot pretty interesting. I’m not sure the unfolding of it worked, at least not all the time. As I went through the story I discovered some problems.
Dick Hartmann: FBI agent, has a sister, played football at UCLA, former Army, crew cut blond, blue eyes
Coleen Ann Ryan: new agent, attended Villanova, has siblings, former lawyer, dark hair tinged with red
Daniel Lee: FBI agent, attended USC
Brian Brooks: FBI agent, attended BYU
Harriet Foster: black, FBI agent, former Army intelligence
Robin: Carlen-Murray: FBI agent
And there are a bunch of bad guys and more authority figures. For me, the problems started here. I like the characters, but didn’t see much of the FBI guys in action. A lot of it settled around Dick (which was fine) and Coleen. I had hoped to see a bit more of what the others contributed. There was a large chunk of the book that dealt solely with the bad guys and I kept waiting for the story to go back to the investigation by the FBI. But every time it did, here are more good guy authority figures being introduced.
I thought the voices were pretty good, including the bad guys.
However, the internal dialogue ran long for many characters. People don’t think in such long passages.
Tag lines had capitalization errors.
Some of the dialogue was ‘B’ Movie or became more ‘loose’ as the story progressed. When one of the bad guys starts his short soliloquy philosophizing on the nature of the gangs, I didn’t feel that worked and added nothing to the story.
As mentioned I thought it started out pretty well.
My issues concerned:
- The time the agents spend relaxing and away from the investigation, especially when down in Mexico. One or two times worked but every time they do something intensive or travel someplace, Dick tends to say, “Okay, everybody take a break.” Which is fine, but when down in Mexico, most of the team didn’t do anything except relax. So why are they down there? Their expertise didn’t come into play.
- Speaking of the Mexico portion of the book, as mentioned, there is a large chunk that focuses on the bad guys escaping to Mexico and hooking up with a drug king. This entire segment was okay but it could have been shorter. I wanted to get back to the FBI and the investigation. Instead, many, many days pass until the story reverts to the agents. When it did, there was no explanation on the time element. Does the story go back to when the bad guys entered Mexico or does it pick up from the previous chapter after many days have passed? As I read, I figured out it seemed to go back, but that should have been clarified. And again, they don’t seem to get too excited about ‘rescuing’ the girl that joined the bad guys and alleviating the father’s fears. When the climactic battle happens, there isn’t any aftermath scene with the father.
So, as to rank. I thought about this for awhile and considered purple, but as the dialogue faltered and the plot/scenes went a bit wonky and I realized that a lot of the good guys weren’t used much, I had to down grade.
By Russ Colchamiro
Marcus Powell. Astronaut. Testing the newest in warp spacecraft. Out beyond where his mission stated. Encounters another similar spacecraft. Follows into another dimension and end on an alternate Earth in the middle of skirmishes between two cultures. Wants and plans to go home. Meanwhile back on Powell’s Earth, another man has planned and schemed for decades…to go home.
So, a sci-fi with dimensional stories. There’s a bit of action, a bit of Indian lore, a bit of philosophy. A plot that turned out a bit different than what I thought.
Marcus Powell: astronaut, married with daughter, dad dead.
Harlan ‘Buddy’ Rheams, Jr.: CEO of Taurus Enterprises, former oilman, white receding hair, liver spots.
Dale Aranuke: technician
Keela Amos: long red hair, blue eyes, fit, married
Malcolm Quincy Reno: Nickname is Chill, middle age, pot smoker
Some interesting characters some of which there is decent back story and information. More could have been done in this area but there was a lot of backstory on Harlan that took up a lot of the book.
Good voices. Chill’s came through as well as Keela’s and a couple others. I felt during the backstory part there was a lot of dialogue.
Titled Parts. Profanity.
Okay, so let me discuss the backstory. It starts with Marcus on his flight and entering the alternate dimension, meeting the inhabitants of the other earth. Then it jumps back to tell the story of Harlan. The problem I had with this was I thought it too long. You know the story already, really. Plus, there’s not much action that happens and by the end of this section I was ready to return to Powell’s earth to get some more of that world. This chunk of story could have been shorter to show more action with Marcus. There are the expected battles with the enemy on the other Earth, but his time in the other dimension could have been developed a bit more.
There was a bit of mental telepathy shared by various characters. There was some Indian aspects which I didn’t quite understand and didn’t seem to fit with Marcus and the other Earth. I thought it might connect up, but instead it was a lengthy bit in regards to his wife.
So, a pretty good sci-fi with some interesting characters and the expected deaths. One minor problem I, encountered was a time problem. Keela, on alternate Earth, mentions her husband has been gone two years. Then we have a section where you see her husband land on ‘real’ Earth in 1953. He, like Marcus, flew through a wormhole but he flew from alternate Earth to get to ‘real’ Earth.) Since the beginning of the story is present day, let’s round off the time to sixty years since her husband has been on ‘real’ Earth. Do the math. 2 years alternate = 60 years real. 1 year would = 30 years. Keep halving that and you have the time Marcus spends on alternate Earth being roughly a week or close to it. That would equal almost 1 year real Earth time. However, the present day story on real Earth doesn’t last a year before Marcus returns. It’s minor, but sci-fi fans will take note of the discrepancy.
Anyway, I’ll give this a:
By Michael Wills
1975. Richard Scott would like to reacquaint himself with his daughter. He hasn’t been a role model father. When Scott comes across a beached raft with two IRA men, he discovers some secret plans. Now, Scott is on the run from the IRA, but when they involve his daughter, his goal is to rescue her.
I have no issues with the plot. I think it’s a good premise and brings back some of the 70s thrillers.
Richard ‘Scottie’ Scott: university marketing agent, smokes, divorced, brother dead
Tina: Scottie’s daughter, long black hair, university student
Ellen: drives a blue Morris Minor
Jean: Scott’s ex wife
There are bad guys and there are college students, the latter of which help Scott through his problems. However, I have a problem with some of the characters. While I like some of the college students, I didn’t think they were distinctive enough. I wanted a bit more personality from each.
I wanted more from Tina. She was kidnapped and I wanted more than one scene with her where POV switched around. Should have been more from her, especially at the end. Especially since she’s on the cover.
The bad guys weren’t bad enough. Here are a group of IRA rebels planning on blowing up several targets, killing and injuring scores of people and yet at least one of them is worried that they shouldn’t hurt their kidnapped victim because she’s supposedly innocent?
Here’s another issue. The bad guys didn’t sound like bad guys. They sounded like executives discussing deals and deciding every now and then to be tough. The college students had some individual voices, but not enough. Jean was irritating because all she did was harangue Scott. If she was so desperate, and didn’t think her ex was going to be reliable, why didn’t she call the police or someone else for help?
Too many people spoke without using contractions and it didn’t seem natural.
Continuity problem with dialogue. In one scene the bad guys are talking and one says she doing okay and eating. A few paragraphs later, another bad guy asks if she’s eating.
No profanity. Some chapters and scene changes are heading by date.
While the author did a good job of getting around not having cell phones and computers, I thought the scenes with breaking the code were too complex. I enjoyed how they figured out the code, but it didn’t seem tense enough. A lot of the action didn’t seem too intense.
Clean writing with no errors that I caught.
I just had problems with character and dialogue and, though I won’t play spoiler, I thought the ending was a bit abrupt. It might have been drawn out a bit. The way it was written didn’t work for me. I’m not saying the ending wasn’t an interesting way to end the book, but another way of writing might have made more impact.
I considered ranking this a camouflage, but because of the issues with dialogue and characters I must drop it down one.
By Timothy A. Price
When Kyle King gets fed up with the behind-the-times police department, he quits and starts a private investigations firm with a geeky computer nerd partner. Their first case deals with a troll who is writing vicious statements against an aging actress.
That’s about it and though a good plot, doesn’t fully develop or have much to it because the story is pretty short. (Only 27 pages on my epub version).
Kyle King: cop (at the beginning before he quits), drives a Chevy, slightly built frame, 30s
Ally: 20s, wears glasses
Jane Lake: 70s, actress, fit
Cherida Lake: Jane’s daughter, 30s, has a daughter
Anthony Lyons: Jane’s manager, 50s, greying hair
Some typical characters. I did enjoy the camaraderie between Kyle and Allie. Kyle is more into the technology side and Ally is more into the self-promoting social media side. It was interesting that as a computer nerd, she didn’t know about Bitcoins.
Pretty standard and each voice fit the character. There were some B-movie bits here and there but for the most part, okay.
As mentioned, a short story. Little action and not enough computer investigation, not enough drawing out of details, not enough suspects, not enough meat. I won’t play spoiler, but I guessed the culprit from the moment the character entered the story. I think this story could have been drawn out, developed and the result would have been a cooler more enjoyable story. Maybe the next story in the series…