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 »

Murder with Fried Chicken and Waffles (A Mahalia Watkins Mystery) by A.L. Herbert

Reviewed by Caryn St. Clair

Murder with Fried Chicken and WafflesMurder With Fried Chicken and Waffles was first released in 2015, but has been re-released this year in mass paperback form. I don’t know how I missed this book the first time around but I am glad I caught it now. The author, A.L. Herbert has given readers a mystery with a likable protagonist in Mahalia Watkins.

Halia, as she’s known to her friends, took a chance and opened an upscale restaurant serving soul food in Prince George’s County Maryland. Being a life long resident of the county she wanted folks to be able to go out for a nice meal without having to drive into Washington. By all appearances, her gamble has paid off. Mahalia’s Sweet Tea is packed most days for both lunch and dinner. They come for the fried chicken and waffles, macaroni and cheese, corn casserole and airy light biscuits and stay for the banana pudding and red velvet cake. The fly in the ointment was that Mahalia had to borrow some money from one smooth talking Marcus Rand to open her restaurant. This leaves her at his beckoned call. So when Marcus comes by asking for special dinner items for his guests, no matter how inconvenient she feels she must oblige.

If only the special menu items were the only problems Marcus brought down on Mahalia’s Sweet Tea. But sadly it isn’t. That fast talking smooth operator ended up dead on the kitchen floor of the restaurant apparently clunked on the head by one of Mahalia’s heavy duty cast iron skillets. If the body is found in the restaurant, the restaurant might be closed for days as a crime scene. And the customers! Would people still come to a place where a person was found murdered? On impulse, Mahalia and her cousin Wavonne lug the body outside and down the alley to behind the bookstore. Problem solved right? Wrong. From there the story takes off with plenty of twists and turns until Mahalia figures out who killed Marcus. Read the rest of this entry »

Two Kinds of Truth by Michael Connelly

Reviewed by Allen Hott

Two Kinds of TruthHarry Bosch is really divided in this one. First off he finds out that the DA from Los Angeles is coming to see him (Bosch now lives and works in San Fernando). What the DA was coming for was to advise Bosch that the LAPD was reopening a case that Bosch had solved many years ago. The case involved a guy named Preston Borders whom Bosch arrested for murder. Borders is serving a life sentence and the DA is looking to overturn that sentence, get Borders free, and then Borders will be paid handsomely for the wrong conviction and the time he spent in prison. The DA would get the notoriety and one of his attorneys would get a huge payment from the Borders’ payback.

Bosch immediately smells a rat and wants to go back and see what they feel was incorrect. However before he can get too involved with the digging into that old case he is called upon by the SFPD (for whom he works part time) to hunt for two murderers who entered a drug store and shot the owner and his son. As Harry watches the tapes taken from cameras in the drug store he feels immediately that though the owner (a pharmacist) was shot first, his son (also a pharmacist) was gunned down in a very horrible fashion. The owner was only shot once while the son, attempting to get out the back door, was shot three times even though it appeared the father tried to help him get away. Read the rest of this entry »

Written in Blood by Layton Green

Reviewed by Caryn St. Clair

Written in BloodIn Written in Blood, author Green introduces readers to Detective Joe “Preach” Everson. Following a common path, Green has given readers a flawed protagonist, though Preach’s baggage goes well beyond the ordinary. After suffering a tragedy as a young man, he had a sort of breakdown and fled his hometown of Creeksville, North Carolina. His life path from then until the book opens took him to Bible college, time as a church preacher, a prison chaplain and then as a police officer in Atlanta, where another incident led to another breakdown.

Here we reach the first thing about the novel that just doesn’t quite work. Pearch has returned to his hometown and has been hired as a police detective even though he has not been cleared to work from his breakdown. He promises to see a therapist who happens to be a relative. One has to question what police force would hire an emotionally unstable person as a detective and what therapist would risk his or her reputation and licensing to sign off on a deeply troubled soul who has suffered at least two emotional breakdowns to serve as a detective. But let’s accept this as written for the sake of the story. Read the rest of this entry »

Warning Light by David Ricciardi

Reviewed by Allen Hott

Warning LightThis is quite a story for those of us who enjoy adventure and also enjoy hearing and reading about the military, espionage, and all things tied to those areas of our lives.

Zac Miller, traveling as a technology consultant, is flying to Singapore when the aircraft is diverted due to mechanical problems (the Warning Light). Zac and the other passengers end up landing in Sirjan in the Republic of Iran. Walking from the aircraft, which was forced to land quite a distance out on the runway due to its size, Zac begins taking some pictures of the land behind the airport.

As they get to the terminal Zac is stopped and taken into a room where his camera is taken from him and he is in fact taken prisoner. The Iranians then take him to Colonel Arzaman of the Revolutionary Guards. Here he is questioned and realizes that Arzaman is going to hold him and further attempt to find out about Zac, his background, and what he is doing in Iran. Also at the same time unbeknownst to Zac, a young man matching his build looks, and attire takes Zac’s place on the plane. This is going to be a big part of the story later on. Read the rest of this entry »

The Undertaker’s Daughter by Sara Blaedel

Reviewed by Caryn St. Clair

The Undertaker's DaughterThe Undertaker’s Daughter introduces Ilka Jensen, a middle aged protagonist who has struggled with the loss of her father for most of her life. When she was seven, her father up and left moving to Racine, Wisconsin, never to be heard from again. That is never heard from again until now. Word comes that her father has died and named Ilka in his will. His estate cannot be settled until she signs off on the will Rather than leaving this to her attorney to handle for her, she decides to travel to Wisconsin and handle it herself. Of course things turn out to be more complicated than she expected. She finds her father has left everything to his current wife and two American daughters except his business, a failing funeral home. While I generally liked Ilka and found the book interesting, it was quite a bit different than I would expect from a Scandinavian crime author.

The first thing that struck me a bit out of the ordinary, was except for the very beginning of the book, when readers meet Ilka and her mother in Copenhagen, the entire book takes place in Wisconsin. I suppose there are other Scandinavian writers who set an occasional in America, but I found this an interesting way to start what appears to be a series. Read the rest of this entry »

A Death in Live Oak: A Jack Swyteck Novel by James Grippando

Reviewed by Jud Hanson

A Death in Live OakDuring an inter-fraternity event at a prominent Florida university, the unthinkable happens: the president of the university’s most prominent black fraternity, Jamal Cousin, is found along the river. Mark Towson, president of an equally prestigious white fraternity. The most damning piece of evidence is a text message with a peculiar message, sent from Towson’s phone. Towson is from a prominent family, which is how talented attorney Jack Swyteck comes to take the case. Tensions run hot and there is mounting pressure from all sides to obtain justice for Cousins. The D.A. is anxious to close this case quickly but Swyteck is convinced that there is more to this case than meets the eye. It will take all of Swyteck’s skill to get to the truth. 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 »