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Mayhem, Murder and Marijuana: The Los Angeles Marijuana War by Arik Kaplan

Reviewed by Ray Palen

Mayhem, Murder and MarijuanaThe back cover of this novel tells a story almost as chilling as the one found between the covers. The author — Arik Kaplan is a pseudonym to maintain his true identity— literally lived this story. In 2011, immediately following the relaxing of laws in the State of California allowing medicinal marijuana dispensaries to open, he began aggressively purchasing legal medical marijuana locations in Los Angeles county.

The problem with things that sound too good to be true is that they usually are — or, at the very least, they come at a big price. ‘Kaplan’ found out that his involvement in this new industry was the literal equivalent of drawing a target on his own back. If he went through even a smidgen of what the characters in his novel experience it is indeed a wonder he lived to tell this tale.

MAYHEM, MURDER AND MARIJUANA: The Los Angeles Marijuana War makes “Boyz In the Hood” look like an episode of “Sanford and Son”. The fact that our humble author has received death threats at the mere thought of revealing what is contained in this book speaks to his and the stories credibility. Read the rest of this entry »

Occasional Crimes: A Thriller by Tucker Edwards

Reviewed by Suzanne Odom

Occasional CrimesWhat begins as an ordinary surfing trip to South America turns into something far more thrilling for three college students from California. Tim, Lee, and Chuck are college friends about to graduate. All have a passion for surfing and are always looking for the next big wave. Disenchanted about looking for a job after graduation, Tim and his friends decide to take one last big surfing trip. They make plans to go surfing in Mexico and possibly in Costa Rica and Nicaragua at the end of the summer. This should be a fun experience, giving them the chance to ride the best waves and hang out together.

Soon August rolls around, and it is almost time to leave for their trip. Tim buys a new truck and has a camper put on the back, so they can campout as they travel. Right before they leave, Tim meets a girl and they begin to date. She is as passionate about surfing as he is, and they agree to keep in touch while he is away. The three friends set out on their trip, excited about the places they will visit. Read the rest of this entry »

Strong to the Bone (A Caitlin Strong Novel) by Jon Land

Reviewed by Russell Ilg

Strong to the Bone“You may be able to walk on water, Ranger, but quicksand’s a whole other thing,” a character advised Caitlin Strong early on in Strong to the Bone.

And quicksand is pretty much what Caitlin finds herself mired in here in the superb ninth book to feature the stalwart Texas Ranger who’s as close to a female Jack Reacher as it gets. No, she doesn’t use her fists with the aplomb of Lee Child’s seminal series hero, but she more than makes up for that with her prowess as a gunman (or, more accurately, gunwoman), a skill she gets to use with typical frequency in her latest adventure.

But Strong to the Bone serves up a new kind of target in the form of the man who sexually assaulted Caitlin eighteen years before while she was a collegiate undergraduate. We’ve barely started flipping the pages before she rescues a woman from a bar basement who’s been similarly assaulted and barely taken a breath before learning that it was the same man who raped Caitlin all those years ago. And I haven’t even mentioned the book’s primary villain in the form of a neo-Nazi gang that’s appropriated a Texas ghost town as headquarters for the massive drug dealing operation their leader, Armand Fisker, has taken international.

Fisker, a man so prone to violent impulses that one scene finds himself dousing his own son with gasoline and flicking on a lighter before the terrified boy’s eyes, is somehow connected to a killer Caitlin’s grandfather Earl Strong hunted in the waning days of World War II. Did you know that Texas was home to over 100,000 Nazi prisoners of war in camps scattered throughout the state? Neither did I. In the flashback thread that’s become a staple of this sterling series, though, Earl Strong finds himself on the trail of one of them who escaped his camp after killing his three bunkmates. Why? What did they know? And what’s none other than J. Edgar Hoover himself doing on the scene?

Strong to the Bone, in case you haven’t figured it out yet, unfolds frantically and frenetically, serving up a smorgasbord of emotionally wrought angst garnished with characters of both misplaced and misconstrued morality. Fisker, for example, isn’t planning to unleash a catastrophic weapon upon the world when the book opens; that intention unfolds organically, lending Strong to the Bone a stunning spontaneity featuring characters who are truly in charge of the action.

Heading up that roster as always is Caitlin herself, whose own personal quest to at long last find her dragon lends the book a visceral quality to go with the visuals Land has always excelled at framing. But what’s truly special is her doubts about whether she really wants to kill that dragon, lest she lose the edge that has long defined her, as Land deftly stirs a pot that features the perfect blend of emotion and action.

The Caitlin Strong series is much deserved of the praise it has attained and many awards it’s won. But Strong to the Bone takes what’s always worked to a whole new level. A terrific, tumultuous tale of rare depth and prowess certain to solidify Caitlin’s place as the most polished and proficient female hero in thriller fiction today. Maybe that’s why none of Jack Reacher’s travels have taken him to Texas. Even he doesn’t want to risk messing with Caitlin Strong.

Hidden Sea by Miles Arceneaux

Reviewed by Lisa Brown-Gilbert

Hidden SeaProffering a literate jolt to the senses, miles Arceneaux’s Hidden Sea gives readers food for thought with its rich and captivating narrative of human trafficking in the Gulf of Mexico. Albeit this is a work of fiction, the story is based on the reality of sea-faring enslavement, which occurs within the South Sea of China. Readers will find this entertaining story stocked with a bevy of colorful characters artfully immersed in a briny mix of adventure, humor, political corruption and pirates, set in the Gulf of Mexico. Written by a trio of well-honed authors, known as Miles Arceneaux, writing as one voice, this makes the fifth addition in their series of Gulf Coast thrillers. Read the rest of this entry »

The Missing Factor: A Jim Factor Novel by Daniel C. Lorti

Reviewed by Suzanne Odom

The Missing FactorArms dealer Jim Factor has a great life, a thriving business, a loving wife, and an affluent lifestyle. The one time engineer has always run a legitimate arms business, until he is approached at a convention in Europe with a steal of a deal. Carlos Sengretti would like him to act as a moderator in negotiations with a client and will make him a large sum of money. After some discussion, Jim agrees to assist Sengretti with his deal and they decide on a payment amount. Jim believes he will just be a consultant and once the deal is finished, his services will no longer be needed.

Unfortunately, he is mistaken. Soon after the business is completed, Jim receives a phone call warning him of potential danger. The illegal deal has gone sour, and now he is suspected of leaking the deal to the United States Customs Service. His life is at risk and Jim must immediately leave the country without a trace. He cannot even tell his wife anything about the deal gone wrong, nor can he tell her where he is going. He quickly gathers cash and some clothing and leaves his housen eventually ending up at the bus terminal where he makes his escape to another city. Read the rest of this entry »

The Widows of Malabar Hill (A Mystery of 1920s Bombay) by Sujata Massey

Reviewed by Caryn St. Clair

The Widows of Malabar HillThe Widows of Malabar Hill begins what will hopefully be a long series with Perveen Mistry as the protagonist. Perveen is an Oxford educated lawyer working with her father in his law practice in the 1920s in Bombay, India. While at that time women could not be admitted to the bar and therefore could not represent clients in court, Perveen was able to preform much of the paper work of the law practice from writing wills to helping clients understand their legal positions.

As the book opens, that is where readers find Perveen. Her father is the executor of a recently deceased mill owner who leaves behind three widows and a number of children. The person acting as their guardian has presented a document signed by the three widows stating they wish to forgo their rightful inheritance and turn their dowry gifts over to the trust which the guardian controls. There are two concerns with the document. First there is some question regarding the signatures and secondly, the document also changes the focus of the trust’s mission, something that cannot so easily be done. Read the rest of this entry »

The Girl with Kaleidoscope Eyes: A Stewart Hoag Mystery (Stewart Hoag Mysteries) by David Handler

Reviewed by Caryn St. Clair

The Girl with the Kaliedoscope EyesStewart Hoag and his adorable dog Lulu return after a ten year absence. I had forgotten how much fun the pair is.

When Richard Aintree’s wife committed suicide, he abandoned his daughters and dropped out of site. Regina and Monette Aintree have grown up, moved on and created lives of their own. However, the sisters have not spoken in years. Now, out of the blue Monette received a letter from her father wanting to meet and explain his actions. Hoagie is hired to look into the authenticity of the letter and to write about the father-daughter reunion. If Richard Aintree is going to surface after all these years, it will be big news indeed. His one book was huge. Hoagie has mixed feelings about the project. He and Regina (Reggie) had a relationship at one time. Before traveling to Los Angeles to meet with Monette, he heads upstate to talk to Reggie about the letter and what he has been hire to do. Read the rest of this entry »

The Late Show by Michael Connelly

Reviewed by Allen Hott

The Late ShowConnelly introduces a new main character and she is going to be a great addition to his crew of unforgettable characters. Renee Ballard is a surfing young lady living and working in Los Angeles. She got her surfing background from her father while living in Hawaii. After he died (actually drowned) she moved to the states to be close to her grandmother.

Now she works as a detective for the Los Angeles Police Department and due to a confrontation with a supervisor about a year ago she is on The Late Show. That term in the LAPD is actually for those who work second or third shift on the force.

Ballard is a real hard charger and often works over and above her scheduled shifts. Once she becomes intrigued with a case she will work it day or night as long as she feels she is getting somewhere.. And it doesn’t take a lot to get her intrigued!! Read the rest of this entry »

The Body in the Casket: A Faith Fairchild Mystery (Faith Fairchild Mysteries) by Katherine Hall Page

Reviewed by Vickie Dailey

The Body in the CasketThis is the 24th installment in the Faith Fairchild mystery series. The third of which that I have read and reviewed. It is always a pleasure to read one of the Faith Fairchild mysteries. They are cleverly written and an enjoyable way to pass a couple of hours.

This story was quite intriguing as Faith is hired to cater a birthday party for a retired Broadway producer’s 70th birthday party at an exclusive manor house. The invited guests were all involved in the biggest flop the producer had. Faith is not only hired for her culinary skills, but her sleuthing skills as well.

The producer believes one of the guests is trying to kill him. While Faith plans a delicious menu (recipes at back of book) she uses her sleuthing skills via internet as to who would be most likely the killer.

I will tell you that I didn’t see it coming. I highly recommend this as a great read.

Pacific Homicide A Mystery (A Pacific Homicide) by Patricia Smiley

Reviewed by Caryn St. Clair

Pacific HomicidePacific Homicide introduces LAPD Homicide Detective Davie (Davina) Richards, a newly promoted office with a reputation for getting the job done no matter what it takes. She is also the daughter of a former LAPD officer whose last case led to the embarrassment of the District Attorney who now oversees “officer involved shootings.” This sets up the first of two plots in Pacific Homicide.

While her dad is now retired, the attorney has set his sights on Davie as a way to get his personal revenge for his embarrassment. Before her promotion, Davie shot a suspect to save her partner’s life. The shooting was ruled justifiable, but now, the DA has reopened the investigation of the shooting.

The first case she catches in homicide as lead detective is of a badly decomposed body of a woman found in the sewer system. The case leads Davie into the world of Ukrainian immigrants which although not a new plot in crime fiction is done well in Pacific Homicide. Read the rest of this entry »

Nothing Stays Buried (A Monkeewrench Novel) by P.T. Tracy

Reviewed by Caryn St. Clair

Nothing Stays BuriedHomicide detectives Leo Magozzi and Gino Rolseth are called to the scene of a murder in a park where a young woman is found strangled. A playing card has been left on her body. Before long, the detectives realize their murder is probably tied to another where a card was also left with the body. Because of the face of the cards are two numbers apart, they fear there are yet two more victims. Are their bodies yet to be found or were their cases investigated without anything tipping off they were tied to a bigger crime wave?

Meanwhile, the Monkeewrench Crew has been asked to investigate the disappearance of a young woman on her way to visit her father in rural Minnesota. Her car was found near the road, the dogs picked up her scent but lost it at a tree in the woods where her ring was found. Had she left the ring as a clue to let people know she had been there? Read the rest of this entry »

An Aegean April (Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis Mysteries) by Jeffrey Siger

Reviewed by Caryn St. Clair

An Aegean AprilChief Inspector Andreas Kaldis returns in his ninth case when he is asked to investigate the murder of a well known and respected citizen on the island of Lesvos. Lesvos is the destination for many of the refugees passing though Turkey on their way to Northern Europe, and the small island is overwhelmed with the numbers. The murder victim, Mihalis Volandes, thought he had a solution for the refugee problem, however he was having trouble getting anyone with authority to listen. The night he was killed-slaughtered really outside his home, a young man, Ali Sera, a refugee himself, had received a message asking him to meet with the victim at Volandes home. When he arrived, he found the victim sliced nearly in half. When the police arrived, they found a bloody Sera standing near the body.

Chief Inspector Kaldis is asked to look into the crime since while Sera was at the scene, much of the evidence doesn’t support him as the murderer. Read the rest of this entry »

Sunday Silence: A Novel (A Frieda Klein Novel) by Nicci French

Reviewed by Jud Hanson

Sunday SilenceFrieda Klein has had a long career as a successful psychotherapist and police consultant. Despite this, she fears it may all come to an end when a corpse is found under her floorboards. Klein is certain she knows who the killer is: a man who supposedly died seven years prior. However, when more bodies began to show up and two people close to Klein are kidnapped, it becomes uncertain as to whether it is the work of a copy cat or Klein’s old nemesis. Thus begins the race to find the culprit before anyone else falls victim.

Sunday Silence by Nicci French is the seventh entry in the Frieda Klein series. French has done a good job in creating a cast of characters that are both realistic and engaging, leaving the reader wanting more. Since this book was my introduction to both Nicci French and Frieda Klein, I am unable to compare it to the rest of the series. I can say that although I enjoyed the book overall, the ending left something to be desired. However, since it appears that the plot will actually be continued in a subsequent book, this is not necessarily a black mark. That said, I am looking forward to the next and am hopeful it will offer a believable resolution to this book’s unanswered questions. I would give this book 3/5 stars.

*A copy of this book was the only consideration given for this review.*