Review: <i>The Temptation of Forgiveness</i> by Donna Leon Review: The Temptation of Forgiveness by Donna Leon Doreen Sheridan Read Doreen Sheridan's review! <i>Black and White Ball</i>: Excerpt Black and White Ball: Excerpt Loren D. Estleman PI Amos Walker and hitman Peter Macklin together for the first time! Review: <i>Dodge City</i> by Tom Clavin Review: Dodge City by Tom Clavin David Cranmer Read David Cranmer's review! <i>Death by Dumpling</i>: Excerpt Death by Dumpling: Excerpt Vivien Chien The first book in the new Noodle Shop Mystery series.
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Showing posts tagged: San Francisco click to see more stuff tagged with San Francisco
Mar 10 2016 1:00pm

Jim Brodie Returns in Pacific Burn: A Q&A with Barry Lancet

Read this exclusive Q&A with author Barry Lancet, and then make sure you're signed in and comment for a chance to win a copy of all three Jim Brodie thrillers!

Barry Lancet broke onto the scene in 2013 with his debut novel, Japantown, the first in his acclaimed Jim Brodie series. Brodie, an antiques dealer and Japan expert, was called to help police decipher the only clue at an otherwise perfect murder in San Francisco’s Japantown: an obscure Japanese character left at the grisly crime scene.

Hailed as the next Jack Reacher, Brodie captured the imagination of readers and critics alike. The author, a former editor and expat living in Japan, was praised for weaving in Japanese art, history, and martial arts into the fast-paced story. Japantown landed on several “Best Debut Novel” lists, took home the Barry Award, and was optioned for television by J. J. Abrams’s production company.

Lancet’s second Brodie novel, Tokyo Kill, successfully avoided the sophomore slump. A Shamus Award finalist for “Best PI Novel of the Year,” Tokyo Kill was declared a must-read for Asian leaders by Forbes magazine because of the way the story bridged the Japan–China gap when a 96-year-old Japanese WWII vet is forced to confront his violent past in an unexpected way.

Lancet has kept the momentum going with his newest novel, Pacific Burn. In this third installment, things heat up when Brodie’s artist-friend Ken Nobuki is shot and the assassin nearly takes out Brodie. What seems like a random act of violence, soon reveals itself to be a larger plot—one that may relate to an alleged cover-up concerning the nuclear plant meltdown in Fukushima, Japan. Ripped from the headlines, Brodie’s latest outing is already receiving strong buzz and is arguably the best in the series.

Lancet was kind enough to answer a few questions:

[Read the Q&A with Barry Lancet]

Feb 24 2016 11:00am

Time of Fog and Fire: New Excerpt

Rhys Bowen

Time of Fog and Fire by Rhys Bowen is the 16th book in the Molly Murphy Mystery series where Molly's husband Daniel takes a secret service job in San Francisco, and Molly fears he is imminent danger and must travel across the country to help her husband (Available February 23, 2016).

Molly Murphy Sullivan's husband Daniel, a police captain in turn-of-the-century New York City, is in a precarious position. The new police commissioner wants him off the force altogether. So when Daniel’s offered an assignment from John Wilkie, head of the secret service, he’s eager to accept. Molly can’t draw any details of the assignment out of him, even where he’ll be working. But when she spots him in San Francisco during a movie news segment, she starts to wonder if he’s in even more danger than she had first believed. And then she receives a strange and cryptic letter from him, leading her to conclude that he wants her to join him in San Francisco. Molly knows that if Daniel’s turning to her rather than John Wilkie or his contacts in the police force, something must have gone terribly wrong. What can she do for him that the police can’t? Especially when she doesn’t even know what his assignment is? Embarking on a cross-country journey with her young son, Molly can’t fathom what’s in store for her, but she knows it might be dangerous―in fact, it might put all of their lives at risk.

[Read an excerpt from Time of Fog and Fire here...]

Feb 11 2016 11:15am

False Starts: A Memoir of San Quentin and Other Prisons by Malcolm Braly

Previously, I wrote an appreciation of Malcolm Braly’s 1961 prison novel Felony Tank as part of my Lost Classics of Noir series for Criminal Element. I singled out the book for being a noteworthy and under-appreciated work of edgy crime fiction, as well as a standout tale about life behind bars. There’s a reason—besides his writing talent—that Braly (1925-1980) wrote so well about his prison life, via Felony Tank and his more celebrated correctional facility novel, On the Yard (1967): he spent the majority of his adult life in penal institutions.

Thanks to Stark House Press’s new reissue of Braly’s 1976 jailhouse memoirs, False Starts: A Memoir of San Quentin and Other Prisons, those of us with an interest in the author can now read his non-fiction account of the penitentiary existence.

False Starts is really more than a prison memoir, despite its subtitle. It’s more like a full autobiography up to that point in the writer’s life. In the first chapter, Braly describes his childhood and early teen years in the parts of California where he was raised, letting us see how, and perhaps why, he drifted into the life of crime that found him detained behind bars for so many of his adult years.

[See what lead him down this path...]

Dec 12 2015 2:00pm

The Man on the Washing Machine: New Excerpt

Susan Cox

The Man on the Washing Machine by Susan Cox is a debut crime novel about Theophania Bogart, a former Englishwoman who flees to San Francisco and gets caught up in a smuggling operation and a series of murders, who has to race to find the killer before they find her (Available December 15, 2015).

When former party girl and society photographer Theophania Bogart flees to San Francisco to escape a high-profile family tragedy, a series of murders drags her unwillingly out of hiding. In no time at all she discovers she's been providing cover for a sophisticated smuggling operation, she starts to fall for an untrustworthy stranger, and she's knocked out, tied up and imprisoned. The police are sure she's lying. The smugglers are sure she knows too much. Her friends? They aren't sure what to believe.

The body count is rising and Theo struggles to find the killer before she's the next victim or her new life is exposed as an elaborate fraud. But the more deeply entangled she becomes, the more her investigation is complicated by her best friend, who is one of her prime suspects; her young protégé, who may or may not have a juvie record; her stern and unyielding grandfather, who exposes an unexpected soft center; and the man on her washing machine, who isn't quite what he appears, either.

Chapter One

Nothing was different about the Wednesday morning Tim Callahan died. Tim was a petty thief and a bully. I can’t think of anyone who’ll miss him, but being thrown out of a three-story window seems like more punishment than he deserved.

When I woke up, fog was obscuring my slice of Golden Gate Bridge view but sun was expected later, which is fairly typical. I pulled on jeans after a quick shower, and gathered my emotional resources to face another day of lying to every single person I knew. The effort took a toll I hadn’t considered when I moved here eighteen months ago. All the same, for no particular reason I was feeling more hopeful that morning than I’d been for a long time. The dim sum aroma from Hang Chow’s down the block was more appealing; the air a little crisper; colors a little brighter. If I’d been less absorbed with how my friends would react if they found out the truth, I might have wondered what the hell was wrong with me.

[Read more of The Man on the Washing Machine here...]

May 9 2015 11:30am

Fresh Meat: Blood Ties by Nicholas Guild

Blood Ties by Nicholas GuildBlood Ties by Nicholas Guild is a thriller pitting San Francisco homicide detective Ellen Ridley against a serial killer who she suspects of being a hacker and codebreaker with the U.S. Navy (available May 12, 2015).

Women are everywhere in Blood Ties. It can sometimes seems as if women are totally MIA in crime thrillers, except as victims, and some would argue, in disproportionate numbers compared to males. I’m not sure that’s true in general, but I do know that it’s not true in this book.

The lead detective, Ellen Ridley, has worked her way up to Homicide (“the Holy Grail of police work”) after years in uniform. She is the first to connect three different homicides to a shadowy killer she and her partner call “Our Boy.”

Our Boy is a sadist. He’s a recreational killer and his victims are women. One of the victims is just 17, and Ellen first met her as a 13-year-old stealing canned tuna fish to survive because her mother abandoned her.

[Not much of a reason for Mother's Day there...]

Mar 24 2015 11:30am

Fresh Meat: Knuckleball by Tom Pitts

Knuckleball is a noir novella by Tom Pitts set in San Francisco during a busy baseball weekend when a well-liked police officer is gunned down (available March 24, 2015).

With its ever-sprouting skyscrapers, Google buses, and $12 juices, contemporary San Francisco is an unlikely setting for Noir. Not that San Francisco can’t work as the backdrop for other types of crime stories. After all, felonies are committed by all socioeconomic classes (I’m looking at you, Robert Durst). But as a location for the doomed, dark stories spun in traditional Noir, modern-day San Francisco, where the sky (and rent) is literally the limit, is an incongruous choice, to say the least.

Yet somehow, Tom Pitts continues to successfully mine San Francisco for exactly these types of sordid tragedies. In his first full-length novel, Hustle, Pitts wrote about the neglected corners of the skid row Tenderloin neighborhood like only an insider could. In place of hedge fund managers, venture capitalists, and software engineers were male street hustlers, drug addicts, and blackmailers. For Knuckleball, a shotgun blast of a novella from short fiction specialist One Eye Press, Pitts takes us into San Francisco’s Mission district. Not surprisingly, this is not the Mission of trendy restaurants and expensive boutiques, but the original, working class Mission, the barrio, populated with families, corner tiendas, and of course, hustlers of all stripes.

[You're in for a memorable trip...]

Jan 31 2015 1:00pm

So Close to Freedom: Visiting Alcatraz

Alcatraz, that most famous of American correctional facilities, has been a national park longer than it was a Federal prison. It housed Federal inmates from 1933 to 1963, a mere 30 years. The island’s history goes back much further. Its name comes from the Spanish for Island of the Pelicans, though the birds no longer nest there. It was reserved as a military installation in 1850 and served as a military prison from the Civil War until 1946.

“The Rock” was for the worst of the worst in the Federal Prison system. The waters of San Francisco Bay separated escapees from freedom. There were two well-known escape attempts; in 1946, prisoners overpowered guards and took them as hostages, in what would be later the Battle of Alcatraz. This was immortalized in 1947’s Brute Force, starring Burt Lancaster, a film very violent and gritty for its day. It’s also highly fictionalized, but worth hunting down. The more famous escape was fictionalized in the Clint Eastwood vehicle, Escape from Alcatraz, and it was recently proved, using tide tables and by tracking the currents, that the three men who took rafts into the bay might have survived. There were reported sightings of the escapees, particularly at the funeral of one prisoner’s mother, that give credence to the idea. And with the San Francisco skyline so tantalizingly close across the water, inmates were bound to have dreams of freedom on their minds.

[So close, and yet so far...]

Jan 6 2015 2:00pm

The Body Snatchers Affair: New Excerpt

Marcia Muller and Bill Pronzini

The Body Snatchers Affair by Marcia Muller and Bill Pronzini is the third historical mystery in the Carpenter and Quincannon series set in late-19th century San Francisco (available January 6, 2015).

Two missing bodies and two separate investigations take Carpenter and Quincannon from the heights above San Francisco Bay to the depths of Chinatown’s opium dens.

For John Quincannon, this is a first: searching a Chinatown opium den for his client's husband, missing in the middle of a brewing tong war set to ignite over the stolen corpse of Bing Ah Kee.

Meanwhile, his partner, Sabina Carpenter, unsure of the dark secrets her suitor might be concealing, searches for the corpse of a millionaire, stolen from a sealed family crypt and currently being held for ransom.

With the threat of a tong war hanging over the city (a war perhaps being spurred on by corrupt officials), Carpenter and Quincannon have no time to lose in solving their cases. Is there a connection between the two body snatchers? Or is simple greed the answer to this one?

And why is the enigmatic Englishman who calls himself Sherlock Holmes watching so carefully from the shadows?

Chapter 1


Hacquette’s Palace of Art, on Post Street near Market, was one of San Francisco’s most fashionable restaurants. Not only was the menu extensive and the cuisine reputed to be outstanding, it housed a considerable number of preeminent works of art—fine paintings, marble carvings, hammered silver plaques and cups. Many different types of curios adorned the walls as well, among them redwood burls and other uniquely shaped and colored wooden items. An elaborate rococo bar occupied one side of the large dining room; tables covered with immaculate white linen were arranged throughout, as well as upon a balcony opposite the bar.

[Continue reading The Body Snatchers Affair...]

Nov 2 2014 12:00pm

Fresh Meat: Black Karma by Thatcher Robinson

Black Karma by Thatcher Robinson is the second in the White Ginger series, featuring San Francisco’s souxun, or “people-finder,” Bai Jiang, assisting the police to locate a man whose track leads her to intelligence agencies and war merchants (available November 4, 2014).

Who is this thirty-year-old beauty, this mother and wealthy Chinese-American woman who stashes a knife up her sleeve and can karate kick her way out of a circle of underworld thugs? Her name is Bai Jiang.

Bai Jiang is also the detective the SFPD hires when a sting goes wrong, which is exactly what happens when one million dollars of the department’s money disappears along with heroin also worth that amount. Three people, including a police officer were killed, and it all went down in the SOMA, a section of San Francisco.

[Someone didn't do their job...]

Sep 13 2014 11:00am

Bogie and Bacall: Dark Passage (1947)

In tribute to the late Lauren Bacall, we’re looking at the four classic films she made with husband and screen partner Humphrey Bogart between 1944 and 1948: To Have and Have Not, The Big Sleep, Dark Passage, and Key Largo. Last week we looked at Hawks’ The Big Sleep. Today we’ll look at Delmer Daves’ Dark Passage.

Dark Passage doesn’t get any respect. It’s a fine film noir that has two things working against its reputation: 1) a hokey stylistic device, and 2) the fact that it is the least of the Bogart/Bacall vehicles.

I’ll deal with each of these criticisms in a moment. First however, the plot: Bogart plays Vincent Parry, a convict who has just busted out of prison when the film starts. He’s picked up by a talkative motorist named Baker (Clifton Young). It doesn’t take Baker long to figure out that Parry’s a fugitive, so Parry slugs him, takes off on foot and is picked up by another motorist. She’s Irene Jansen (Bacall), and surprisingly she already knows who Parry is and wants to help him. It turns out that Parry was convicted of killing his wife, and Irene followed his trial in the papers, convinced of his innocence. Before long, Parry undergoes a facelift and sets out to track down his wife’s killer.

[That's a tricky bit to pull off...]

Jul 28 2014 3:00pm

City of Ghosts: A New Excerpt

Kelli Stanley

City of Ghosts by Kelli Stanley is the 3rd historical mystery featuring investigator Miranda Corbie as she travels the United States during the early days of WWII (available August 5, 2014).

June, 1940.

For the United States, war is on the horizon.

For Miranda Corbie, private investigator and erstwhile escort, there are debts to be paid and memories—long-suppressed and willfully forgotten—to be resurrected. Enter the U.S. State Department and the man who helped Miranda get her PI license. A man she owes. A man who asks her to track a chemistry professor here in San Francisco whom he suspects is a spy for the Nazis. Playing along may get Miranda a ticket to Blitz-bombed England and answers about her past…if she survives.

Through sordid back alleys and art gallery halls, from drag dress nightclubs to a Nazi costume ball, Miranda's journey into fear takes her on the famed City of San Francisco streamliner and to Reno, Nevada, the Biggest Little City in the World…where she finds herself framed for a murder she never anticipated. Forced to go underground, Miranda soldiers on alone, determined to find the truth about a murder, a Nazi spy, and her own troubling past.

But Miranda will have to learn the difference between reality and illusion, from despair to deceit and factual to fake, as she tries to get her life back…and navigates a City of Ghosts.

Chapter One

Miranda watched as the thin arm, pocked and dotted with needle points, snaked under the dirt-gummed bars of the pawnshop.

[Continue reading City of Ghosts by Kelli Stanley...]

May 6 2014 12:30pm

Now Win This!: Four Knaves Sweepstakes

You bet we've got four knaves for you: Jimmy, Moe, Alex... and, uh, Dismas? This handful of trouble includes fresh titles from Johnny Shaw, Reed Farrel Coleman, Marc Guggenheim, and John Lescroart—such a deal!

This Sweepstakes Has Ended

This is NOT a Comments Sweepstakes. You must click the link above to enter.

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. A PURCHASE DOES NOT INCREASE YOUR CHANCE OF WINNING. Sweepstakes open to legal residents of 50 United States, D.C., and Canada (excluding Quebec), who are 18 years or older as of the date of entry. Promotion begins May 6, 2014, at 12:30 pm ET, and ends May 20, 2014, 12:29 pm ET. Void in Puerto Rico and wherever prohibited by law. Click here for details and official rules.

[See all the suits in this sweepstakes...]

Apr 2 2014 7:00pm

Critical Damage: New Excerpt

Robert K. Lewis

An exclusive excerpt from Critical Damage by Robert K. Lewis, the second dark crime novel featuring former San Francisco cop and recovering junkie, P.I. Mark Mallen (available April 8, 2014).

When ex-cop and recovering junkie Mark Mallen is asked to track down two very different girls who have gone missing, he doesn’t think twice about putting himself in harm’s way to find them. Bloodied and bruised, Mallen shakes down the pimps and hustlers who could crack the cases wide open,leaving no stone unturned in San Francisco’s criminal underground.

But something isn’t right. Somebody’s trying to scare Mallen off, and it’s no ordinary street thug. With heat coming at him from all angles, Mallen’s search for the truth leads him to men who will stop at nothing to make sure their twisted desires never see the light of day.


Chapter 4

Mallen and Gato drove around the Mission district of San Francisco all afternoon, Gato asking everyone he knew if they’d seen Lupe. It was turning into late afternoon when Gato’s cell rung. He checked the number, then answered.

Si?” Gato listened for a moment. Motioned to the glove box for something to write on. Mallen opened it up and found a pen, some .357 shells, a couple condoms, and a menu for a Chinese restaurant. He grabbed up the pen and menu. Nodded to Gato that he’d take down the address. “Bernal district. Corner of Jarboe and Bradford,” Gato told him. “White house, ugly red trim.”

Mallen wrote all this down. Not too many houses with red trim. Gato listened a bit more, then said, “Okay, thanks,” and hung up. He grinned as he looked over at Mallen, saying, “Think we got him, bro.”


“Lupe’s pimp, vato. Teddy Mac.”

[Continue reading Critical Damage by Robert K. Lewis...]

Mar 31 2014 4:00pm

Fresh Meat: Hustle by Tom Pitts

Hustle by Tom Pitts is a gritty, harsh story of two male prostitutes from San Francisco who attempt to blackmail a wealthy lawyer in order to get off the streets and out of the business (available April 1, 2014).


Despite all the good authors working in the field today, most noir is not exactly what you'd call mainstream. In noir's stubborn allegiance to darkness and loss, fuck-ups and crackpots, it may never be.  From a fan's perspective, this is exciting.  It means noir remains an area not entirely sullied by commercial concerns, and the result is books that can take risks.  Tom Pitts' Hustle is that sort of book, a fearless exploration of a bleak, harsh slice of the world.  In its frank portrayal of drug-addicted male hustlers angling and scrambling to survive, it's a novel with a transgressive edge, and you don't have to read very far into it to sense it will take you where it needs to go, not where it thinks the reader may want to travel.     

We're in San Francisco, present day.  Donny and his friend Big Rich are two addicts with no jobs who make whatever money they can as street prostitutes.  Donny seems to be in his late teens; Big Rich is a little older.  They are best friends who look out for each other, and Rich serves as a mentor to Donny.  They are part of a group of boys who hustle, and from page one, Pitts gives us a clear-eyed view of their tight community:

...Down on that corner, everybody knew each other.  Everybody was into each other's business.  The boys depended on each other for information.  Information was survival.  They all knew the regulars, the older men who would cruise the corner in their luxury cars.  They got to know who was married, who liked to party, who liked it freaky, and who was HIV-positive.  Some of the tricks didn't care who knew, but some liked to keep it a secret.

[Taking it to the streets...]

Dec 7 2013 10:15pm

Chronicling San Francisco’s Outlaws: Jack Black and Malcolm Braly

San Francisco's Grant Ave and Jackson St., Chinatown 1926San Francisco has always embraced the weird, the outrageous, and the rebellious. From the raucous times of the Barbary Coast, to the howling poetry of the Beats, to the free love of the hippies, letting your freak flag fly is not just a slogan in the City by the Bay, but a way of life.

All of that uninhibited freedom, though, has at times fostered a sense of lawlessness in San Francisco. For every sailor who awoke in a brothel in the Barbary Coast, another awoke on a ship, kidnapped by “Shanghai” Kelly; while the Beats were reciting poetry in North Beach, Sonny Barger was forming the notorious Oakland chapter of the Hells Angels; and as the hippies were frolicking in Golden Gate Park, the Zodiac Killer was tallying victims all across the Bay Area.

It’s not surprising, then, that two great crime books to come from San Francisco were written by authors with checkered pasts. You Can’t Win by Jack Black, and Shake Him Till He Rattles by Malcolm Braly, were penned by career criminals who straightened out in time to capture their respective eras in San Francisco history. Though written decades apart, the books share a voice that is particular to that of an ex-con. It is a voice that is tough yet empathetic, unflinching yet forgiving. It is neither self-pitying nor self-flagellating. It is the voice of a life lived hard.

You Can't Win by Jack BlackYou Can’t Win, first published in 1926, is the autobiography of Jack Black, who was at various times a burglar, a convict, a dope fiend, a “yegg,” and a member of the Johnson Gang of thieves. Black crisscrossed the country at the turn of the 20th century, learning his craft (thieving, not writing) from a cast of characters so vivid, their names alone will make you smile: The Sanctimonious Kid, Salt Chunk Mary, Sticks Sullivan, Foot-and-a-half George, and Montana Blacky, to name just a few. After many visits to San Francisco, Black eventually settled down in the city, his decision no doubt influenced by his stay in nearby San Quentin prison.

Open to any page in You Can’t Win and you will see why it was the favorite book of William S. Burroughs, who wrote the introduction for the AK Press reissue. Black’s teeming prose, his rat-a-tat-tat rhythm, and his use of street slang are obvious influences on the Beats, especially Jack Kerouac. You Can’t Win is also stuffed with delightful old time colloquialisms: professional thieves were “yeggs,” cops were “bulls,” opium was “hop,” and everyone was addressed as “kid,” no matter their age.

Black tells us at the beginning of the book that he is going to write about the things he stole during his life as a thief just as he took them, “with a smile.”

[How Cities and Criminals Evolve...]

Sep 29 2013 7:30pm

Ironside: A Fresh Look for an Old Stalwart

The cast of NBC's new Ironside, L to R: Kenneth Choi, Brent Sexton, Blair Underwood, Pablo Schreiber, Neil, Bledsoe, and Spencer GrammerHere comes Ironside, starting October 2nd. It would appear that the only things the forthcoming broadcast, now set in New York, has in common with the original, 1967 version of the series is the name, the broadcasting network, and that the main character is in a wheelchair. We will find out whether that is indeed the case once Blair Underwood gets going as Robert Ironside and takes the viewers into “the gritty world of the NYPD,” according to NBC’s official words about the impending premiere: “He’s a fearless cop, who won’t stop until the guilty are brought to justice. Ironside is clearly a force to be reckoned with and a man who is willing to break the rules."

No man is an island, so the creators, amongst them Executive Producer Michael Cales (The Sopranos, Rescue Me) and Director Peter Horton (Deception and Grey’s Anatomy) have supplied him with support. Gary Stanton (Brent Sexton) is Ironside’s former partner, presumably before a bullet took Ironside and made him a paraplegic, two years prior to him forming a specialist task force utilizing his skills and techniques to get the bad guys. He also gets to grips at some point with a fitness instructor during the 13 episodes as, according to Blair Underwood, Ironside “is still able.” A prime-time network broadcast of 10p ET/9p Central means, I suspect, that will mostly be left to the imagination.

Two characters is not enough, of course, so enter Virgil (Pablo Schreiber), Holly (Spencer Grammer), Teddy (Neal Bledsoe) and Ironside’s, no doubt, long suffering boss, Ed Rollins (Kenneth Choi). Together they will serve up justice in this remake of a long running series which aired in 195 episodes from September, 1967 to January, 1975.

I loved the as a youngster and found Raymond Burr as Chief Robert T. Ironside completely mesmerizing. My homework would have been done if he had told me to do it.

[How much does the new series resemble the original?]

Aug 18 2013 4:00pm

Fresh Meat: Tell No Lies by Gregg Hurwitz

Tell No LIes by Gregg HurwitzTell No Lies by Gregg Hurwitz is a thriller set in San Francisco about a therapist working with ex-cons who becomes involved with a hit list of murder victims (available August 20, 2013).

Gregg Hurwitz’s latest novel is, at first glance, a fast-paced thriller. But it’s also a suspense story that unravels slowly, giving readers just enough to keep them guessing until the final pages. These two seemingly opposite characteristics really work together, and Hurwitz creates a roller coaster ride of sorts, speeding up the action and then pulling back at just the right time.

Daniel Brasher is a therapist who works nights leading a support group for convicted felons trying to get back on track. He finds letters in his work mailbox, addressed to unknown recipients, providing a kind of hit list. The deadline is midnight, and the victims are told to admit what they’ve done or they will die. When Daniel alerts the police, they are too late to save the first victim. When the second is identified, Daniel is there when the murder takes place, but helpless to stop it.  What follows is a race to find out why the killer is targeting these people, who the next victim will be, and why Daniel is caught up in the middle.

The characters are well written and extremely realistic. Daniel comes from a rich family but chooses to follow his heart rather than continue in the family business.  His wife, Cristina, is of Mexican descent and has more causes than Daniel. She works as a community organizer trying to help tenants who are being evicted from their homes. Theresa Dooley is a female, African-American homicide detective, who gains respect from other detectives for her police skills and doesn’t let her minority status affect her work.

And then there’s Evelyn Brasher, Daniel’s mother. I have to admit that Eveyln was one of my favorite characters. I say that I am admitting it because she is a truly unlikeable person.

[What does therapist Daniel think about his mother....hmmm?]

Apr 1 2013 9:30am

Untold Damage: New Excerpt

Robert K. Lewis

An excerpt of Untold Damage, the first novel in the series featuring former San Francisco undercover police officer Mark Mallen (available April 8, 2013).

Estranged from his wife and daughter, former undercover cop Mark Mallen has spent the last four years in a haze of heroin.

When his best friend from the academy, Eric Russ, is murdered, an address found in his pocket points to Mallen as the prime suspect. Mallen sets out to serve justice to the real killer. But first, he’ll have to get clean and face the low-life thugs who want him dead.

Chapter 1

“Gold in Peace, Iron in War.” – SFPD motto

Mallen woke up with the needle still in his arm.

Waking up with the pin still in him was something new. First time, actually. Made him think of how Vodka was the last drink a chronic drunk can take. Because their stomach’s given out from all the abuse heaped on it. Vodka was the last stop before a coffin. The last line in the sand, crossed. That bit of knowledge was just like waking up with the needle still in you. He yanked it out. Threw it onto the scratched coffee table.

[Read the full excerpt of Untold Damage by Robert K. Lewis]

Feb 4 2013 10:30am

Fresh Meat: This is Life by Seth Harwood

This is Life by Seth Harwood is the second Jack Palms mystery, set in San Francisco (available February 19, 2013).

I grew up in the ’80s and fondly remember the action movies of that era. They were exciting and full of edge-of-your-seat thrills. Violence was a big part of those thrills, but one of the things I firmly remember from watching those movies as a kid was how utterly terrifying the violence could be. Gunshots were loud! When people were hit by them blood exploded from their bodies! Violence wasn’t glamorized, it was ugly and painful. So the best of these films managed to be both visceral and exciting, but also give you a sense that death and destruction were forces that you didn’t want to be part of your world. Those are hard stories to tell because fun and grim consequences are not easy things to balance, but writer Seth Harwood does an admirable job in his latest thriller to hit print, This is Life.

[It is all about the balance...]

Jan 29 2012 11:00pm

1963’s Alcatraz shares issues with Age of Telegraph

I know it’s a time travel show, but that doesn’t mean I should receive the whole storyline ages before it happens.

Having now seen 3 hours of Alcatraz,  the new J.J. Abrams-produced para-crime show, I’m a little concerned that the clumisiness of the backstory dumps and inconsistent characterization may not mellow with time the way I dearly hope. Here’s a smattering of gripes explaining why I worry they may be writing this promising premise for those who are not sharp or not paying attention (a bad assumption to make about crime or sff fans, IMO).

On March 21st, 1963, Alcatraz officially closed. All the prisoners were transferred off the island. Only that’s not what happened. Not at all.

They disappeared! Staff and prisoners alike, poof, and now they’re back, popping back up in 2012 like floating ducks in a carnival game. In this post, spoilers will pop too, so be warned. If you haven’t seen any of the show yet, you can go watch the first three episodes of Alcatraz online and come back.

[Abandon ye all hope, those who read more]