<i>An Old Fashioned Murder</i>: New Excerpt An Old Fashioned Murder: New Excerpt Carol Miller The 3rd Moonshine Mystery. <i>The Defense</i>: New Excerpt The Defense: New Excerpt Steve Cavanagh Eddie Flynn, a former con artist-turned-lawyer, realizes the two aren't all that different. <i>Assassin's Silence</i>: New Excerpt Assassin's Silence: New Excerpt Ward Larsen The 3rd David Slaton novel. <i>Fatal Thunder</i>: New Excerpt Fatal Thunder: New Excerpt Larry Bond The 5th Jerry Mitchell novel.
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A True Account of a Most Monstrous Act, and Other Strange Happenings…
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Showing posts by: Neliza Drew click to see Neliza Drew's profile
Jul 7 2015 10:15am

Fresh Meat: The Fraud by Brad Parks

The Fraud by Brad Parks is the 6th mystery in the Carter Ross series about the Newark, New Jersey journalist (available July 7, 2015).

The Fraud grabbed me from page one. I’d been reading another book before this one, a page or two at a time and falling asleep or getting distracted or picking up something else to read instead. Part of  the difference here is Brad Parks’ conversational writing style, like a friend is telling you a story over drinks. Part of it is the hook that starts the novel, the sort of semi-rhetorical question that could’ve fallen apart if he didn’t also make you immediately care about the characters:

It’s a hypothetical question every parent considers at some point:

Would you give your life for your kid?

Would you dive in front of a speeding eighteen-wheeler to shove your daughter out of the way? Would you let your son take your heart when his number didn’t come up on the transplant list? Would you place your head under the guillotine as part of some Faustian bargain wherein your child didn’t have to?

Oh, I know what you’re thinking, if you’re a parent: yes, yes, yes, and yes. Even if it was just to spare yourself the agony of burying your own kid, you’d make that sacrifice every time. Or at least that’s what you tell yourself you would do. What kind of selfish coward wouldn’t?

But hold on a second. Don’t answer yet. Because you still don’t know everything.

[Let's keep learning...]

Jan 26 2015 11:45am

Fresh Meat: Shark Skin Suite by Tim Dorsey

Shark Skin Suite by Tim Dorsey is the 18th humorous escapade of Florida serial killer Serge Storm, and this time, after binging on a collection of legal films, he's ready to try his own hand at  upholding the law (available January 27, 2015).

Tim Dorsey’s back with his 18th Serge Storm’s book, Shark Skin Suite. Now, given Dorsey’s plots are Florida headlines fed a steady diet of Coleman’s drug stash, run through the Florida Man Twitter feed, and frosted with incredibly creative serial murder, it means, given half my neighborhood in sunny South Florida has been foreclosed on – some places more than once – it’s only natural that the heart of Shark Skin Suite would be a foreclosure lawsuit, some slimy lawyers, and Coleman’s brother.

The biggest problem with a Dorsey novel, if you’re a big fan of believability, is parsing out the stuff that’s actually stuff that happened or stuff that happens so often no one notices anymore and the stuff that’s actually cranked up to eleven and three quarters. For example, I’m reading along and come to a part where a newly-minted lawyer figures out a way to get a bank to finally pay back the people it wrongly threw out of a house they’d paid cash for. My husband thinks it’s great, and ponders how the author came up with such an idea. My guess is he saw it on the news.  Yes, that’s a real news story, names and companies changed, of course. (It’s somehow even better the way Dorsey does it.)

[If only the real news was this exciting...]

Jan 6 2015 11:45am

Fresh Meat: Doing the Devil’s Work by Bill Loehfelm

Doing the Devil's Work by Bill Loehfelm is the third book starring Maureen Coughlin, an up-and-coming New Orleans police officer trying to rebuild her life (available January 6, 2014).

Doing the Devil's Work is the third book in the Maureen Coughlin series by Bill Loehfelm. In The Devil in Her Way, Coughlin was a probationary officer with the New Orleans Police Department. In the newest installment, she’s patrolling on her own, something she likes a little too much.

Officer Maureen Coughlin – OC on the streets – is fun to read. She feels real on the page, with the fears and follies of actual people. She worries and second guesses and charges ahead and has better twenty-twenty in hindsight. She’s also not a part of the breed of fictional supercops. She’s not a homicide detective; she’s not a detective of any sort. She’s just barely out of training and still on probation, which means the stakes for her screw ups aren’t always life or death, but could spell the death of her livelihood. Or her freedom.

[The stakes are high...]

Dec 1 2014 4:00pm

Fresh Meat: Gods and Monsters: Mythbreaker by Stephen Blackmoore

Gods and Monsters: Mythbreaker by Stephen Blackmoore is a standalone thriller where a new set of gods square off against the old regime, with mankind left in the middle (available December 2, 2014).

Mythbreaker by Stephen Blackmoore is the second book in the Gods and Monsters series (the first, Unclean Spirits was by Chuck Wendig), but each functions as a standalone tale. In the tradition of Neil Gaiman's American Gods, the series relies on the premise of gods walking the earth, not quite human, but not quite with their power of old. In Mythbreaker, the gods are converging on Los Angeles in search of a prophet who can bring them back to their original glory.

If you’re not familiar with Stephen Blackmoore, know that reading him is a bit like watching late-night Spike TV movies while riding a roller coaster. They’re full of fast-paced shenanigans, inventive swearing, and spectacular explosions, all blended with a dry wit and a knowledge of old-word mythology that’s encyclopedic – and demented. Seriously, he conjures references that even takes Google a few seconds to find and mashes them with underworld crime bosses, petty crooks, and any other pop culture references that seem handy.

Two Chroniclers, one leg breaker, a god and a couple of cyborg Terminator clones who are the embodiment of the Internet pile into a van. It sounds like a joke, but Fitz can’t figure out the punchline.

[Maybe they walk into a bar?]

Oct 1 2014 3:00pm

Fresh Meat: Tunnel Vision by Aric Davis

Tunnel Vision is the second book to feature Nickel, Aric Davis’s teenage sleuth and anti-hero (available October 1, 2014).

Nickel – no last name – was twelve in his last book-length case and while I’ve known twelve-year-old thieves and drug dealers, I can imagine why a few people found the character’s age a tad hard to swallow. In the follow-up, Nickel’s a few years older. He never gets specific about his age, but he’s old enough (and young enough) to be attracted to a sixteen-year-old Betty Martinez without it being weird.

 Told in somewhat alternating points of view that eventually intersect, the reader first meets Nickel on a very bad day. He’s hurt and angry and plotting some violent revenge as soon as he can get back to town and maybe get himself better put back together. What comes across best is that Nickel is a hard kid having some bad thoughts, and if he’s the good guy, things are going to get ugly. Fast.

Making your living as a criminal comes with its own list of unique risks, but I never thought one of them would be coming down on the wrong side of a setup. Call it naivete or whatever else you want, but I was sure I had myself in a good place, and the only way I was going to get burned was by someone I trusted. I knew that was possible – there were no illusions for me – but when it happened even my black little soul was caught off guard.

“Sorry,” Gary said to me, like that mattered when I was staring down the barrel of a shotgun and getting cuffed and being sent in off the books to a crooked juvenile internment camp.

Gary was my dealer, the loser I’d transformed with money and bags of high-grade marijuana into a kid with confidence. Gary would never betray me – I was sure of it – but I was wrong. The money got bigger and bigger, and that was that. Gary sold me out for a truck full of dope and a connection to move as much as he could harvest in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

I hope for his sake, he enjoyed the money, because his luck is about to change.

[That's quite a serious boy...]

Sep 24 2014 4:00pm

Fresh Meat: Mistress of Lies by Holly West

Mistress of Lies is the second book in Holly West’s series featuring 17th-century amateur sleuth Isabel Wilde (available September 29, 2014).

The events of Mistress of Fortune have left Lady Isabel Wilde shaken. Her best friend and confidant has run off, her business is lagging, and while she’s been spending more time with the king, she’s not so sure where that’s going either. His offer for her to move in is tempting, but Wilde is reluctant to find herself under his thumb again.

Meanwhile, a young beggar girl appears on her doorstep and claims to be the daughter of Wilde’s eldest brother, Adam. And though the girl holds up a ring Adam clearly crafted as proof, it goes against everything Isabel thought she knew about her brother’s last days.

My intake of breath was audible. The name she uttered, Susanna Barber, was that of my long-dead mother.

“What game are you playing?” I said, frowning. “Tell me your real name!”

“My lady?” Charlotte said, reacting to me. “Is something amiss?”

“She calls herself by my mother’s name!”

The girl’s eyes welled. “You’re angry. I’ve made a terrible mess of things, haven’t I?”

“Tell me the truth then,” I said. “Who are you really?”

“Tis the truth. My name is Susanna Barber, I swear it. My father was Adam Barber. I’m your niece.”

I stepped back, stunned. What she said was impossible. My brother Adam died of the plague in 1665, unmarried and without children.

[Is the girl telling the truth?]

Jun 11 2014 11:00am

Fresh Meat: Bliss House by Laura Benedict

Bliss House by Laura Benedict focuses on a historic Virginia house built in 1887, and despite its blood-stained and mysterious past, it remains alive and vibrant (available June 15, 2014).

Bliss House is a creepy, Southern gothic ghost story from writer Laura Benedict. It’s also a mystery, a whodunit and a howdunit. It’s a story of madness, of new beginnings. It’s loaded with lies and heartbreak and hope. It’s all that and more, yet it never feels unfocused or scattered. More like the solving of a puzzle. It’s a helluva book. 

One corner of the puzzle is Rainey Adams, who’s purchased Bliss House, a kind of tainted family heirloom, after the death of her husband and the maiming of her daughter in a freak accident. She and daughter Ariel are looking for different things upon arrival, and indeed they find them.

It was easier to think about those friends, the ones she had known several years ago, than the ones she’d left behind when she got out of the hospital.

Would they even recognize her if they saw her? Maybe She knew she was looking more like herself every day. In the hallway, she stepped into the powder room, turned on the light, and leaned close to the mirror. If she turned a certain way, her skin looked perfect. But that wasn’t the horror show side. Tilting her chin, just a little, she could see how new, pink-white skin was replacing the scar tissue.

[Don't forget to knock...]

May 27 2014 11:30am

Fresh Meat: The Bones Beneath by Mark Billingham

The Bones Beneath by Mark Billingham is the 12th Tom Thorne novel where the Detective Inspector must escort the very serial killer he caught on a trip to Bardsey Island where the killer will reveal his burial site (available May 27, 2014).

Tom Thorne is out of his element, out of his city, and largely out of control. He’s forced to escort a convicted serial killer, Stuart Nicklin from Scaredy Cat, to a remote island in search of long-missing bones.

It begins as a simple police procedural: bureaucrats have been given an opportunity to close an old case and they’re keen to close it.

The chief constable’s got this MP on her case. The papers are all over it. This woman needs to know about her son, to get...closure or whatever and as far as I can see there’s no good reason why we should be doing this.”

Him,” Thorne said. “He’s the reason why not.”

[Bellingham enjoys toying with his audience...]

May 3 2014 1:00pm

Fresh Meat: Wolverine Bros. Freight & Storage by Stephen Ulfelder

Wolverine Bros. Freight and Storage by Steve Ulfelder is the fourth installment in the Conway Sax Mystery Series about the part-time racecar driver, part-time private eye and full-time recovering alcoholic (available May 6, 2014).

Wolverine Bros. Freight and Storage is the fourth Conway Sax novel by Steve Ulfelder, but if you’ve missed the others, you shouldn’t have too much trouble following this one. Just know that it jumps into the action with both feet at the beginning before it slows down a little so the reader and Conway can both catch their breath.

The book also has one of the stranger names I’ve seen on a “mystery” bookshelf, but frankly, it’s more creative than the ninety-hundred-dozen versions of Evil-Dead-Death-Corpse-Blood-Bad. And, it’s fitting. The big sign advertising the storage company sits up on a hill, overlooking the characters, overlooking the land they’re fighting over, overlooking the story itself.

Her property spanned Route 142, a semi- main drag that wandered northwest- southeast. If you looked across that road, as we did now, you could see most of a HOLLYWOOD- style sign that read WOLVERINE BROS. FREIGHT & STORAGE. Harmon’s Follywood, the locals called it. Harmon being Eudora’s son. Steady guy, local cop forever. Respected.

Dull, if you asked me.

But nobody ever did.

Eudora seldom mentioned Wolverine Bros. Freight & Storage, and when she did, she mocked it. Hard to blame her.

[Nobody likes being mocked...]

Apr 30 2014 12:45pm

Fresh Meat: Plaster City by Johnny Shaw

Plaster City by Johnny Shaw is the second adventure in the Jimmy Veeder Fiasco series where the semi-reformed brawler agrees on taking a trip across the vast SoCal desert with Bobby to help him look for his missing daughter (available May 1, 2014).

So you know, I loved Johnny Shaw's first Jimmy Veeder “fiasco.” Yes, fiasco. Not mystery. Not thriller. Not adventure. Fiasco. If you haven’t read Dove Season, you won’t really feel lost if you dive right into Plaster City, but trust me when I say it’s a great read.

Jimmy’s the kind of guy who tries to do the right thing most of the time and for a variety of reasons, things just often seem to go haywire. Part of that is probably his choice in best friends—though do we really choose our best friends consciously or is that a little more of the universe’s doing?

For the previous twelve years, I couldn’t have been further from the pace and responsibility of farm living. Twelve irresponsible, insane, fun years. Twelve story-filled, don’t-tell-your-kids-ever, I-remember-eleven-out-of-the-twelve years.
Now I was farming one hundred sixty acres of alfalfa and driving my son to T-ball, right before I ran to the store to get tampons for my girlfriend. I had slammed on the brakes and jackknifed into a straight life.

Bobby was the chaotic ballast that held it all together.

Every time things felt crushingly dull, when life wasn’t as Norman Rockwelly as it appeared, when the bills piled up or the crops died, I’d get a call from the one and only Bobby Maves, my best friend.

[Jimmy and Bobby don't think, they act...]

Feb 17 2014 10:15pm

Fresh Meat: Brotherhood of Fear by Paul Grossman

Brotherhood of Fear by Paul Grossman is the third Willi Kraus novel, in which the Berlin detective's been exiled from his homeland by the rise of the Nazis (available February 18, 2014).

Paul Grossman’s third Willi Kraus novel finds its title character without any of his prestige and power, or even his home, but provides no shortage of trouble for the former detective.

It’s 1933 in Paris, and former Inspektor Willi Kraus has fled his home in Berlin to become one of thousands of Jewish refugees in France. Without papers or any hope of one day working as a police officer again, he’s done what refugees are forced to do worldwide and taken odd jobs to make some money, hoping to one day provide for his two boys, currently living with his late wife’s family across town. Of course, if he’d kept the job sewing fake eyes on fox stoles, there wouldn’t be much of a book, and Willi finds an organizer at the refugee center who offers him work as a private investigator—off the books.

A simple job—follow around a young university student for his parents—leads to murder and fraud and the eventual collapse of the French economy. And it turns out, despite flattering Willi with assurances and admiration, several people seem to completely underestimate the sleuth.

[No status, no papers, no respect...]

Feb 1 2014 11:30pm

Fresh Meat: Mistress of Fortune by Holly West

Mistress of Fortunes by Holly WestMistress of Fortune by Holly West is a debut mystery set in late-seventeenth century London featuring amateur sleuth, sometimes-mistress, and secret fortune teller Lady Isabel Wilde (available February 3, 2014).

Personally, I’ve never been a big fan of historical fiction. Years ago, to me, the genre was bloated by excess period details an author couldn’t seem to let go unshared and that left me turned off.

West hasn’t done that. She’s assembled a well-plotted story with enough setting and description to fully engulf the reader without reading like a textbook. In fact, she so well captures the era, you can almost smell the prisoners when she visits the gaol.

I knew from my incarceration at Marshalsea Prison that the gaoler’s wife had nearly as much authority as he did himself so I said, “I’ll speak to her.”...

She led us into the prison through a narrow hallway, and every step brought back memories of a terrible time in my life. The smells, which were bad enough outside, were now unbearable and I nearly retched, both from the stench and from the memories the surroundings prompted. Even worse was the noise; shrieks, shouts, groans, wailing—even barking dogs—seemed to reverberate from every corner. I wanted to cover my ears and run.

Mrs. Richardson stopped in front of a cell at the end of a dark corridor. Perhaps fifteen shackled prisoners, both men and women, crowded the small cell. There was no furniture, not even a bench, and most of the prisoners sat or lay on the floor. I had a sudden vision of myself lying on that hard stone surface, shivering with cold, the skin around my ankles worn raw by the unforgiving rub of the rigid iron manacles. I closed my eyes tight to shut out the memory.

Mistress of Fortune, like Isabel, Lady Wilde herself (who secretly caters to the elite as fortune-teller Mistress Ruby), is both exceedingly polite and terribly brutal.

[The Enlightenment's only casting a bare twinkle...]

Jan 23 2014 1:00pm

Fresh Meat: Tiger Shrimp Tango by Tim Dorsey

Tiger Shrimp Tango by Tim DorseyTiger Shrimp Tango by Tim Dorsey is the 17th book in his off-beat, humorous Serge Storms thriller series (available January 28, 2014).

Tim Dorsey is back with Tiger Shrimp Tango, another delightfully demented tale of manic reverence for all things Florida kitsch and homicidal glee (Glee, too — Serge and Coleman are a little obsessed). And in case you were worried Serge had run out of Secret Master Plans,

Au contraire,” said Serge. “This detective business is part of the biggest Secret Master Plan yet. That’s why we’ve driven back to Tampa. We have to attend the Republican National Convention.”

“Sounds boring.”

“Except it’s anything but,” said Serge. “Especially with Tropical Storm Isaac bearing down with gale-force situation comedy. And if I’m really lucky, I might run into Sarah Palin so I can help her out.”


“Because the woman of my dreams has fallen on hard times,” said Serge. “Last time I saw her, it was at a distance on TV in a department store, and she apparently has been reduced to working behind the counter at a Chick-fil-A.”

Don’t worry, Republicans aren’t the only ones on Serge’s radar. In fact, his biggest assignment has to do with dispatching a collection of scam artists that are so thoroughly Florida, they might have originated in the @_FloridaMan Twitter feed. And there’s plenty of mayhem and situation comedy.

[If a sit-com featured an occasional hit-man...]

Nov 4 2013 8:00pm

Fresh Meat: Purgatory by Ken Bruen

Purgatory by Ken Bruen is the tenth Jack Taylor crime novel of Galway, Ireland (available November 4, 2013).

Ken Bruen’s latest book, Purgatory, starts with a bang—fairly literally—and it’s all downhill from there.

Jack Taylor is washed out, washed up, and washed clean. Bounced from the Guards and not really interested in any more private gigs, Taylor is practicing the art of living a day at a time. None of that Zen stuff his friend Stewart’s into, not a proper twelve-step program, but more an acquired apathy that makes caring too hard to even feign.

The woman sat opposite me, didn’t ask, just sat. This used to happen a lot. People believing I had some inside track for finding things, people, solutions, and maybe answers. I’d found some answers, over the years, and they were always the wrong ones. Or right but for the wrong reasons. I’d given it up with the booze, the cigs, the Xanax.

Before she could speak, I said,


Knocked her back.

Her mouth made a small O of surprise. I knew the gig. The touching photo.

Some heart-kicking story.

Her son/brother/husband


Was a great/caring/lovable



Could I find him, what happened to him?

The whole usual awful parade of misery.

She tried,

“But, they said, you care.”

I said, “I don’t.”

And I didn’t.

Not no more.


[He's doesn't sound too sorry... ]

Oct 25 2013 9:30am

Fresh Meat: Montana by Gwen Florio

Montana by Gwen FlorioMontana by Gwen Florio is a debut mystery featuring war correspondent Lola Wicks (available October 25, 2013).

I’m no great fan of prologues. I find they tend to distract more than they add the majority of the time. At any rate, any book whose first chapter starts with a female reporter embedded with rebels in Kabul probably doesn’t need a prologue to get it going.

Of course, Lola doesn’t get to stay in Kabul — something she’s none too happy about. No matter how much importance she places on the story, her bosses back in Baltimore have found war-weary Americans don’t care and would much rather read about celebrity gossip or suburban politics. That, and budgets being what they are, foreign stories are just cheaper to pull off the wires.

“I’d be reporting on school boards,” Lola said. “Zoning hearings. Neighbors pointing lawyers at each other over a foot of property line.” She tossed the paperweight high. I dropped into her palm with a satisfying sting.

[So not exactly a war zone...]

Oct 8 2013 11:15am

Fresh Meat: The Double by George Pelecanos

The Double by George PelecanosThe Double By George Pelecanos features Washington D.C. private investigator and Iraq War veteran Spero Lucas (available October 8, 2013).

Spero Lucas returns and he’s a conflicted man. He’s a quiet man. But he’s a man of certain principles. One of those is that if he finds something valuable for you, he gets forty percent. Another is that each job is a job, not a vendetta and not a mission. Just a job. Well, at least in theory.

Lucas. is a returning vet, refreshingly, doesn’t suffer from a violent or haunting form of PTSD. He doesn’t have night terrors or hair trigger flashbacks.

“Your bike’s a little small for me,” said Dupree, cutting into a medium-rare New York strip. “Like those shorts you gave me.”

“You’ll sleep well tonight.”

“How about you?” said Dupree. “How do you sleep?”

“Fine.” said Lucas.

“I don’t have a problem with that, either. You believe everything you read, all of us vets wake up in the middle of the night in a full sweat. But I never have nightmares, Luke.”

“So you’re normal, whatever that is. You’re saying the war did nothing to you.”

That doesn’t mean he’s come back the way he went and it doesn’t mean he isn’t still finding the balance between right and wrong.

[Double-edged swords...]

Sep 29 2013 10:00am

Fresh Meat: Skating Under the Wire by Joelle Charbonneau

Skating Under the Wire by Joelle CharboneauSkating Under the Wire by Joelle Charboneau is a cozy mystery featuring Rebecca Robbins, the reluctant owner of a small-town skating rink (available October 1, 2013).

In the fourth Rebecca Robbins skating mystery, former exotic dancer, Danielle is nearly set to marry Pastor Rich; the rink’s officially off the market; and the only dead body is a senior citizen everyone assumes died of natural causes. So, everything should be fairly calm and boring in Rebecca’s world, right?

Well, normal for a woman whose friends include a roller derby team, the exotic dancer-turned-church-secretary, her Elvis-impersonating grandpa, her large-animal vet boyfriend and the boyfriend’s hat-wearing camel. Plus, she’s the maid of honor for the upcoming wedding, has an ever-expanding Thanksgiving dinner party to plan, and agreed to solve the Thanksgiving Day burglaries for her former high school English teacher, Mrs. Johnson.

“Mrs. Johnson gave me the list, along with a check for my fee. What are you doing telling people I charge a fee?”

Pop’s smile widened. “No one’s going to take you seriously if you don’t charge for your time.”

No amount of money was going to make me a legitimate source of detective work. “I run a roller rink, Pop. That makes me qualified to burn pizza and schedule birthday parties.”

My logic failed to impress my grandfather.

...“Pop, I can’t charge for investigating crimes.”

“Why not?”

“Because I have no training.” Duh.

My grandfather waved off my concern with a flick of his wrinkled hand. “Training is overrated. I’ve never had a singing lesson, and look at me now.”

Indeed moxie seems to be the prime qualification for most people around Indian Falls.

[We give thanks for this cornucopia of moxie...]

Sep 4 2013 10:00am

Fresh Meat: Shotgun Moon by K.C. McCrae

Shotgun Moon by K.C. McRaeShotgun Moon by K.C. McRae features Merry McCoy, an ex-con whose family ties threaten her quiet return to Hazel, Montana and put her back in danger of prison (available September 8, 2013.)

Merry McCoy has just stepped out of prison and her goals are simple: go home to Hazel, Montana and eat her way through a list of foods she hasn’t been allowed for four long years. Unfortunately, no sooner does she unlock the front door to her late mama’s ranch house than her cousin finds herself being questioned for the murder of the ex-boyfriend she’d been stalking. Merry doesn’t want anything to do with cops and just looking at the police station makes her a little weak and sweaty, but she has no intention of letting Lauri get railroaded if the girl didn’t do it.

Aunt Shirlene’s cigarette-etched voice rasped down the line. “Hey, it’s me. I’m down at the police station with Lauri.”

A tiny icicle of fear slid up Merry’s spine. “Why? What happened?”

“She... oh, God, you’re not going to believe this. She found Clay Lamente dead this morning. Sergeant Hawkins is getting ready to take her statement.”

“Jesus. Is she okay?”

“She’s a mess.” A pause. “I don’t know — there’s probably nothing you can do. I just thought...”

“Do you want me to come down there?”

Pleasepleaseplease don’t ask me to go into the police station.

[But ex-cons know how effective wishing is...]

Aug 12 2013 1:00pm

Fresh Meat: Strong Rain Falling by Jon Land

Strong Rain Falling by Jon Land is the fifth thriller featuring Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong, who confronts her family's past, dating from the Mexican Revolution, when the people and country she loves are threatened (available August 13, 2013).

Caitlin Strong is a fifth-generation Texas Ranger with a bad habit of leaving piles of bodies and bullets in her wake, and now someone has killed five children in the border ghost town of Willow Creek, a town from her family’s Ranger past. Meanwhile, killers are after Cort Wesley’s teenage sons, but no one knows why. Yet.

Miquel Asuna took a step toward him, playful glint gone from his gaze. “You ever think all these problems you got now started when you met her? I mean, goddamn, didn’t you used to be the most feared man in San Antonio, maybe the whole state of Texas, which is sure saying something, and nobody’d even dare look at you crossways. Madre de Dios, now you got death squads hunting your kids.”

Except, it doesn’t really start out with all that. Personally, I’d have moved the prologue to chapter two, maybe. The old-west flashback and modern-day sociopath opening left me a little “meh.” Once I got to Caitlin and Dylan, Cort Wesley’s older son, and their college tour, I tore through the rest of the book, flashbacks and sociopaths and all. It’s not that those opening elements aren’t important or interesting—they are—they just didn’t grab me. Your mileage may vary.

Caitlin has been touted as a strong female character. Her strength outside of gunfights was more apparent in earlier books, and given the race-against-the-clock nature of the plot, there’s little time for reflection or emotion aside from anger and fear. And, hoo-boy does she have a lot of anger, with attitude to spare.

“It’s Jones, Captain, and haven’t you seen what William Faulkner said about the past?”

“Just because it may not be dead doesn’t mean you don’t deserve to be, Jones,” Caitlin said, before Tepper could get his own response out.

[More anger and salty talk ahead...]

Aug 4 2013 12:00pm

Fresh Meat: Good Girl, Bad Girl by Christopher Finch

Good Girl, Bad Girl by Christopher FinchGood Girl, Bad Girl by Christopher Finch is a debut novel featuring private investigator Alex Novalis, who's hunting for a missing girl in the art world of 1968's New York City (available August 6, 2013).

Booted from his gig at the D.A.’s office investigating art crime—primarily forgeries and fraud—Novalis isn’t all that keen on the idea of hunting down a rogue teenage girl, especially one who’s technically an adult. He would also prefer not to be answering to her wealthy parents or skulking around his old haunts in pursuit of an artist he finds distasteful at best, a guy last seen with the blonde, ethereal (and aren’t they always in this sort of story?) Lydia Kravitz.

“...I don’t know if you believe in evil, but to me it is something very real, something tangible that curdles the soul. Lydia has that quality of curdling the soul. What makes it so much worse is that she appears to be such an innocent. An angel. It’s an illusion.

Good Girl, Bad Girl is quite noir and at times it’s hard not to picture the classic P.I. in his trenchcoat and hat, even though Novalis is a bit more modern, a lot more artsy, and way more enlightened when it comes to the “gals.” What he is, rather, is a guy who likes to drink well enough, but given a choice he’d pick a joint. He knows art, artists, and has good tastes, but he’s cynical though perhaps not so much as some of his friends in art scene.

[Nothing nice to say? Please sit by me...]