Monday, July 25, 2011

East on Sunset

By Ken Mercer

Will Magowan, after being fired from the LAPD for substance abuse, only wants to enjoy his new job in security at Dodgers stadium. He wants to try to provide some comfort and prosperity for his pregnant wife. However, Erik Crandall, an ex con addicted to steroids, is out of prison looking for retribution. Crandall accuses Magowan of stealing drugs back at the time of his arrest and wants the money he could have earned by selling the product. It’s a battle of wits and strength as Magowan struggles against apathetic cops and a reluctant informant as he struggles to save his family while unearthing dirty secrets from his past.

A bland title and a standard story about a disgraced ex-cop trying to put his life together up against an ex-con with a grudge. There’s nothing real unique and a fan of police thrillers will be able to deduce the bad guys in about five seconds.

Will Macgowan: 42, trying to get back to living. Regrets the past mistakes and willing to move on.

Erik Crandall: Ex con who bulked up through the use of steroids. However, the drugs are causing headaches and uncontrolled rages.

There’s the pregnant wife who gave Will another chance but now is unsure if everything is going to work out with the new baby coming along. There’s the ex partner who dies. There’s the ex confidential informant who reluctantly gives a bit of assistance to Will. And of course, there are the cops who can’t, don’t, or won’t help.

Standard characters with a few unique quirks.

Again, nothing special. To the point.

Short chapters make for quick scenes and fast action. Author Ken Mercer doesn’t delve too much into details. It’s just a fast read with no big surprises. This is his second book with Magowan but don’t feel the need to read the previous book first. Still this story is enjoyable.

My ranking:

Green Belt

Monday, July 18, 2011


by Jeff Abbott

The title of this book pretty much sets the pace for this action packed thriller. Within it pages are all the best aspects of a very enjoyable good versus evil plot: intrigue, spies, double crosses, foreign locales, technology used for nefarious purposes, a good hearted hero, and the obligatory nasty bad guys.

CIA agent Sam Capra barely escapes a bombing in one of the Company's London offices, saved by a telephone call from his pregnant wife, who immediately goes missing. Capra then endures months of interrogation, a destruction of his reputation, and is reduced to a bartending job, watched over by a suspicious Agency. Knowing he's bait for the real bad guys, he promptly escapes his handlers. Before he can even begin to seriously search for his missing wife and newly born child, he is recruited by a shadowy organization to help recover a kidnapped industrialist's daughter.

I like the concept because it shows a dark side of government, bad guys intent on ruling the world, and secret organizations in the shadows with power at their fingertips. The story also brings in technology in the form of DNA weapons. (You'll have to read the story for details.) There is a little bit of Robert Ludlum floating throughout with Capra as a lone spy using his skills against a James Bond type nemesis, with bad guys around each corner and in every city. This is a very enjoyable plot very easy to understand.

Sam Capra: CIA agent viewed by his agency as either a traitor or a fool. His skills include parkour, which is a trendy new activity that includes a lot of jumping, agility, balance, strength, and risk. He uses these and other skills in his battles against the enemy. He's determined, intelligent, and knowledgeable. He is loyal to people until he finds evidence destroying the loyalty. He is loving and caring and only wants to return to a good life with his wife, new baby, and his job of rooting out the bad guys.

Edward: The typical bad guy. Narcissistic, self serving, ruthless, evil. He uses people until they have served their purpose. He utilizes terror and abuse like a master chef in his kitchen. He's intelligent and conniving and you shudder during his scenes wondering what nasty thing he'll do next.

Howell: Capra's interrogator during the beginning chapters, who tries to rein him in during the rest of the story. Even from the beginning you don't like him even though he tries to come across as friendly and only wanting to help. Slowly, throughout the story, his true self is revealed.

Mila: You don't discover too much about her. She's very veiled. She presents herself as a 'take me or leave me and good luck with your life' type of person. You find out she has a soul but does hesitate when dealing her brand of justice.

Very well written, slight humor in places, doesn't drag on with long soliloquies or dreary longwinded conversations. Foul language is kept to a minimum.

The chapters aren't too long and the action keeps you moving through the story. It doesn't drag. Sentence structure is basic but intelligent. There is enough description to bring you into the scene but not too much you are distracted by extraneous material. The technology is easy to understand, the action is precise, concise, and true. The violence is not graphically presented, but there is enough detail for you to cringe in fear for the innocent and feel satisfied with the deaths of the guilty. My ARC was 400 pages, but it didn't seem like a lengthy story. The ending set up a sequel should Abbott decide to continue Capra's adventure. I was a little disheartened by the story not having a closed door at the end, but like I said, another story could relieve the ache.

My ranking:

Brown Belt

Monday, July 11, 2011


By Weyman Jones

Katherine Lyons, the owner of a professional meeting planning company is convicted of killing her younger lover. Her son, Michael, is convinced she’s innocent, chalking up the killing (and a couple others) to someone involved an animal rights organization that is protesting a drug company client of Lyons’. During his investigation, Michael encounter his father who he hasn’t seen in years, a detective convinced the case is closed and several associates connected with the dead man who are unwilling to divulge too much information lest secrets be revealed.

It’s an interesting plot, if you can grasp some of the connections. For instance, the killer is knocking off indirect links to the pharmaceutical company, not the company executives themselves. Then add in a case of shady investments and a Caribbean island narcotics haven and you have a web of entanglements to move through.

Mike Lyons – Chief Operating Officer of his mother’s company. 24, but acts and thinks as if he’s older.

Katherine Lyons – Mike’s mother. She is described as a ‘controlling’ person but controlling through warmth and caring. However, in her one major scene, she doesn’t come across as ‘power woman.’

Bart Lyons – Mike’s father. Runs security for the pharmaceutical company. Militaristic. Vietnam vet.

Detective Marks – Homicide detective

Charlotte – Is the third person in Lyons’ company. Girlfriend of Mike’s until the trial.

I had problems not totally believing the characters. None of them acted true. The killer seemed too nonchalant. The detective (I think his first name is Justin but you don’t really know because it’s never mentioned except in one phone conversation where he could be lying) doesn’t act like a typical homicide investigator. As I mentioned, Katherine doesn’t seem like a company executive. She rambles a lot. Bart seems the most realistic except near the end when his character’s foundation becomes a little shaky. It’s not that these are surface characters, although that’s part of the issue, but it’s as if you have a person who is just half out of phase with him- or herself. Nobody seems to act like they should in a given situation, but are just a little bit off.

Forced. The cynicism, the profanity, the wit, the emotions exhibited in conversations, all seem to be a struggle or, similarly to above, off for the characters with whatever they’re involved.

Detailed with lots of extraneous information. There is a lot of description, almost too much in many chapters. Jones constantly interrupts his actions scenes with various descriptions which are somewhat distracting. I wasn’t sure what type of story it really wanted to be. It starts near the end of a court room trial, then moves along to some personal stuff with the detective, then bits here and there with Lyons sticking his nose into the case. Marks finally does a little investigating. A disjointed time period on the Caribbean island and a strange hostage situation lasting a little too long.

My ranking:

Yellow Belt

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Deed to Death

By D.B. Henson

Realtor Toni Matthews does not believe her fiancée, Scott, killed himself at his construction site. The police won't listen, Scott's brother is contesting the will, and Toni soon finds herself in mortal danger when she starts discovering clues that point in a different direction than suicide.
Who killed Scott and who's trying to kill her? The brother? Scott's supposed girlfriend? A construction worker who disappeared after Scott died? Scott's partner? Toni must use her intelligence to stay one step ahead, even to the point of playing dead. It was too late for her fiancée and the damaging information he discovered and left for her. Who can Tony trust before she finds it's too late for her?

This is not something totally new, but fresh enough to enjoy. There's enough suspense and clues to keep the reader guessing

Toni Matthews – Realtor. Estranged from her mother. Has a lot of friends in the business and with her husbands construction firm. Is feeling on top of the world and looking forward to a happy life until her husband dies.

Brian Chadwick – Scott's brother. Reporter. Kept his distance from Scott after high school graduation because of a sister's death. Thinks Toni is only after Scott's money. Doesn't mind a bit of B&E and 'bug' work to keep track of Toni's movements.

Mark – Lawyer. In love with Toni and only wants the best for her. He hopes maybe Toni will come to love him now that Scott's dead.

Clint Shore – Scott's partner. He was the behind-the-scenes man while Scott was the promoter.

Jill Shore – Clint's wife. Part of friendly foursome with Scott, Clint, and Toni.

Fairly defined characters. The author provides enough insight into each to keep them interesting. There are good supporting characters and mystery aficionados will recognize at least one of them is guilty.

Straightforward, nothing complex, nothing exciting or deep.

Fairly clean. Some profanity, but nothing extreme. Short chapters, tight scenes. Mildly intense action. This reader didn't think the book was a 'page-turner' or a 'non-stop action, can't put it down till the end' story, but a well written mystery with enough red herrings to keep you guessing.

My ranking:

Green Belt