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False Flag

Posted by on Feb 19, 2018 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

False Flag

Mysterious Book Report No. 322

by John Dwaine McKenna

In the world of espionage, The business of spies is lies, which makes it impossible at times, to distinguish between friend and foe . . . because all covert operations are designed to advance the interests and objectives of the spying country.  Put it another way and the axiom becomes: TRUST NO ONE.  They all lie all the time.  And nowhere is this illustrated better than in a thrilling new spy yarn in which a trusted ally and friend becomes a deadly enemy.  False Flag (Blackstone Publishing, $26.99, 320 pages, ISBN 978-1-5047-9772-6) by John Altman, posits a scenario in which a rogue Israeli Mossad agent attempts to mount the deadliest terrorist attack the world has ever seen against the United States, while leaving behind a set of clues that implicate Iran.  In spy jargon it’s known as a false flag, and the hope of the renegade agency is to create an incident which will lead one’s ally and friend—the USA—to go to war in retaliation against the enemy state.  Which, in this case is Iran, where crowds routinely chant: Death to America and Death to Israel, with depressing regularity.  The plot is accidentally uncovered by an elderly Israeli-born woman named Dalia Artzi, who’s a lecturer at Princeton University in the art, tactics and history of warfare.  And although she’s considered a genius in her field, Dalia’s life experiences have left her a pacifist, and her only son a prisoner in the hands of Islamic fanatics.  She’s reluctant at first, to get involved.  But her strong Jewish faith, which has instilled in her a desire to try and make the world a better place, compel her to do otherwise.  And so, Dalia is pitted against another Israeli citizen, a young Mossad agent known only as Jana, who’s as deadly as she is dedicated and beautiful.  Thus begins a game of hide-and-seek-to-destroy that begins in Washington state and culminates in Washington, D.C., with stakes that are impossibly high, to prevent an act that’s unspeakably evil.  False Flag is so eerily prescient and electrifying that readers of all ages and sizes will find it hard to put down.  It’s a thriller of thrillers because it’s so entirely possible, and utterly plausible in today’s raucous, unstable, uncivil, unpeaceful and war-torn world.  False Flag is bound to become a classic among spy novels!

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Night Blind

Posted by on Feb 12, 2018 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Night Blind

Mysterious Book Report No.  321

by John Dwaine McKenna

Iceland sits just below the Arctic Circle, about midway between Greenland and Scandinavia.  At  the northernmost  point of the volcanic island is the city  of  Siglufjördur . . . where in late November, “The darkness comes and curls around you like a  furry black cat,”  and it doesn’t even think about getting light again until sometime in February.  Some of the people living there get depressed by the long dark night, others find comfort in it somehow, and still others—like Reykjavík lawyer Ragnar Jonasson—put their time in the dark to creative use, writing some of the best crime fiction of the new millennium.  In his newest work to be translated into English entitled,  Night Blind, (Minotaur/ St. Martins, $25.99, 213 pages, ISBN 978-1-250-09609-8), series character Ari Thór Arason, one of two local policeman, is starting to feel claustrophobic in the small fishing village as the fall rains and the creeping darkness begin closing in.  It’s a quiet town where nothing much ever happens . . . the kind of place where no one bothers to lock their doors because everyone knows every one else.  This idyllic quiet is shattered when the local police chief is killed in the dead of night at a deserted house on the edge of town.  It falls upon Ari Thór to solve a pitiless, arcane and increasingly complex murder, which involves the new mayor from out of town, and a psychiatric ward in the capital city of Reykjavík.  When his old boss is called in to replace the murdered chief, it becomes obvious to Ari Thór, that the murder can’t be solved without the help of the local citizens, and he’ll have to improve his image with them in order to do his job.  As the mystery deepens with each passing page and Ari Thór is forced to spend more and more time on the case, his relationship with his girlfriend—the mother of his son—becomes strained to the point of fracturing.  Atmospheric, tense and complex, Night Blind has a memorable and absorbing plot that will keep you guessing until the startling denouement . . . which will take you totally by surprise.  Ragnar Jonasson has translated fourteen Agatha Christie novels from English into Icelandic, and her influence shines brightly in his work . . . so much so in fact, that he’s being hailed as the Prince of Icelandic Noir!

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Bluebird Bluebird

Posted by on Feb 5, 2018 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Bluebird, Bluebird

Mysterious Book Report No. 320

by John Dwaine McKenna

One of 2017s most outstanding novels was first released in the last quarter of the year, and we were so inundated with other books to review that we weren’t able to report on it.  The MBR regrets that and intends to rectify things immediately.

Bluebird, Bluebird, (Muholland Books/Little Brown & Co, $26.00, 303 pages, ISBN 978-0-316-36329-7) by award-winning author Attica Locke, took the reading world by storm with her novel of ethnicity, kin, honor, prejudice and justice in the east Texas town of Lark.  It’s a place that time and progress have forgotten . . . where race is  ever present . . . and fairness is hard to come by.  East Texas is where a black man named Darren Mathews grew up and escaped from the first chance he got.  Now, he’s a Texas Ranger with an Ivy League education who’s being inexorably pulled back down Highway 59 to his red dirt roots by the deaths of a black, middle-aged lawyer from Chicago and a young, local white woman.  Both of their bodies washed ashore in the Attoyac Bayou within a couple of days of each other and it’s stirred up a boatload of simmering racial tensions, resentments and reexaminations of old, scabbed-over injustices that have been festering for decades.  What seems at first to be another racially-motivated crime turns out to be a more complex and disturbing tragedy, with roots hidden deep in the social fabric of a culture which no longer exists, except in myth.  Ranger Darren Mathews is a modern day knight-errant, duty and honor-bound to solve a crime that conceals at its heart a devastating secret which could cost him his career, his family and possibly his life.

Attica Locke has written one of the most compelling, thought-provoking and provocative novels to come down the literary pike in an ordinary lifetime, because at its heart, is that which we’re all reluctant to acknowledge and discuss openly: race and relationships, and how all of us . . . black, white, red, brown and yellow are going to live together in peace and harmony after everything that’s gone before.  And, oh yeah, wrapped up neatly in the middle of it all, is an exceptional murder mystery that’ll keep you guessing up until the very end.  Bluebird, Bluebird is genre fiction raised to the level of art.  It has masterpiece written all over it!

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The Quantum Spy

Posted by on Jan 31, 2018 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

The Quantum Spy

Mysterious Book Report No. 319

by John Dwaine McKenna

It’s indisputable that the next war will be fought in cyberspace.  Some scientific and military experts believe in fact, that World War III has already begun . . . that the opening skirmishes are evidenced by the endless hacking attempts on the most secure of websites . . . where our adversaries are going after America’s commercial, financial, governmental, scientific and military secrets in hopes of besting the United States by destroying the economy and infrastructure.  By doing so, the enemies of America could defeat her without firing a shot.  Because of this, the race is on to build ever more powerful and faster computing machines.  And the fastest, most powerful of all is a computer based on quantum mechanics . . . something so outlandish that when he discovered it, Albert Einstein himself was baffled, and thought he’d made a mistake somewhere in his equations.  He was in fact, never able to find the mistake, which predicted that something could exist in two different places at the same time.  But in fact, they can.  They’re only able to do so for a fraction of a second however, and there’s the rub.  They’re unstable.  But they’re the basis of the fastest computers ever dreamed of, and all of the advanced countries in the world are racing to develop the first quantum computer . . . which would give the owners of that technology the absolute ability to take over every other computer in the world.  It’s the subject of a pulse pounding new thriller entitled The Quantum Spy, (Norton, $25.95, 320 pages, ISBN 978-0-393-25415-0) by David Ignatius, in which the United States has achieved a breakthrough in quantum computing that will allow them to dominate the field for the foreseeable future.  Unfortunately however, the technical details wind up in the hands of the Chinese Ministry of State Security less than 48 hours later because there’s a spy—known as a mole—embedded deep in the American Secret Services.  It’s up to a CIA officer named Harris Chang to catch the traitor.  Thus begins the gripping cyber-thriller which goes from the city of Singapore, to the Pacific Northwest, to the mountains of Mexico and beyond.   The investigation is intense, obsessive, destructive and ultimately uncertain, due to the leaks exposing our deepest secrets . . . or are they false trails to deceive the Chinese?  Chang, a west Point graduate and decorated combat veteran, will begin to question everything he knows about honor, duty, and country, as well as his heritage, loyalty, morality, and ultimately, the truth.  This novel is a sophisticated and up-to-date look at contemporary spying and the consequences of the cutting edges of science.  It is a nail-biter of the highest order.  If you, like me, love spy novels, don’t miss this one . . . it’s absolutely positively one of the best and most current espionage tales since Barry Lancet wrote The Spy Across the Table!

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Paradise Valley

Posted by on Jan 25, 2018 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Paradise Valley

Mysterious Book Report No. 318

by John Dwaine McKenna

Our author this week needs no introduction, as his name has become synonymous with the modern American West.  We’re referring of course, to the prolific and award-winning Wyoming writer C.J. Box, and his beloved character, Joe Pickett; the iconic Wyoming Game Warden, all-American good guy and dedicated family man.  Now, Mr. Box has another character that the MBR thinks will become just as iconic, and just as beloved by readers.

Paradise Valley, (Minotaur Books, $27.99, 340 pages, ISBN 978-1-250-05104-2) features a female detective named Cassie Dewell, who’s been trying to catch a serial killer known to law enforcement as The Lizard King.  He’s a long-haul tractor-trailer driver who kills truck stop prostitutes, known slangy as Lot Lizards.  Cassie almost caught him three years ago, but he escaped and continued his indiscriminate and wanton cross-country bloodshed.  Cassie herself is now working for the Bakken County, North Dakota, Sheriff’s Department.  She’s set what she thinks is a fool-proof trap, luring him and his truck into a local depot.  But the plan goes horribly wrong, he escapes again, and Cassie is blamed for the failure.  She is disgraced and loses her job after an inquest by her political enemies lays all the failure on her.  At the same time a boy named Kyle Westergaard disappears.  He’s a troubled teen Cassie was mentoring, who’s been telling anyone who’ll listen, that he’s going on a big adventure.  Cassie agrees to try and find him, while at the same time, she’s hunting for The Lizard King.  She’s on her own following two faint trails which converge in the remotest of places . . . where the indefatigable woman will have to fight for her life.  This one is a thriller-diller from start to finish.  It’ll keep every reader nailed to the page as thrill follows thrill, and adventure follows adventure, as a plucky and determined brave woman hunts for a monster who’s terrorizing the highways.  C.J. Box is at his best.

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Righteous

Posted by on Jan 15, 2018 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Righteous

Mysterious Book Report No. 317

by John Dwaine McKenna

Isaiah Quintinabe—one of the most original sleuthhounds to ever grace the pages of mystery and crime fiction—is back in a second installment that’s equally as good, or better than his Edgar-nominated first, which was entitled simply IQ.

Righteous, (Mulholland Books/Little Brown & Co, $26.00, 326 pages, ISBN 978-0-316-26777-9) by Joe Ide, finds IQ on a mission.  He’s the high school dropout from East Long Beach, California with a shy mannerism and world-class intelligence.  He’s the neighborhood guy who solves cases that the cops can’t or won’t be bothered with.  Ten years ago, his beloved older brother Marcus was killed by a hit and run driver.  It’s an unsolved case that broke his heart, keeps him awake at night and eats at his soul.  Isaiah was determined to solve the mystery, but unable to do so, and it plunged him into despair, almost destroying his life.  Now, his career is flourishing, he has a new dog and an elevated status in the community as a Private Eye.  But, when a chance encounter reopens that old wound, Isaiah is compelled to start the hunt for his brothers killer all over again.  Then, as if that’s not enough, his brother’s old girlfriend . . . whom Isaiah has a secret crush on . . . asks him to rescue her half-sister Janine, she’s a beautiful DJ and degenerate gambler who, along with her deadbeat boyfriend, is being stalked by Chinese gangsters and a sinister, seven-foot tall loan shark in Las Vegas.  It’s a quest full of treachery, twists and terror from which he may not survive.  Let’s hope he does, because IQ is one of the most original and coolest characters to come down the literary pike since Sax Rohmer penned his first Dr. Fu Manchu novel.  The MBR is all in for Joe Ide and Isaiah Quintinabe and can’t wait for the next installment!

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The Downside

Posted by on Jan 8, 2018 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

The Downside

Mysterious Book Report No. 316

by John Dwaine McKenna

The MBR is kicking off the New Year 2018 with one of the best caper novels to come our way since The Sting was made into a movie back in 1973.  It features one of the most unique bad guys in current crime fiction.  His name is Finn and he’s a professional thief who calls himself the last of the hard hats, that’s because he only steals big things . . . like a tractor-trailer load of new luxury automobiles, or heavy machinery . . . even a couple of railcars full of exotic ores for processing high strength steel.  Finn’s a guy who isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty, knows how to operate anything with a motor and has a hand-picked crew of men with calloused hands, dirty fingernails and larceny in their hearts.  We meet them all in The Downside, (Mysterious Press/Open Road, PB $14.99, 286 pages, ISBN 978-1-5040-4461-5) by Mike Cooper.  Finn is fresh out of prison and flat broke.  He’s contacted by a beautiful woman named Emily who’s the executive assistant to a shady Wall Street billionaire who wants to finance Finn’s next job.  It’s easy . . . all he has to do is break into a high security commodities warehouse and make off with fifty million dollars worth of the precious metal Rhodium.  Big and heavy, it’s right up Finn’s alley.  He reassembles the very same crew from his last job, the one that put him in prison for seven years, and prepares to tunnel into an unbreachable vault.  His only problem?  Somewhere in his crew of construction workers is a turncoat . . . the rat who put him in prison.  Determined, focused, and wary of everyone, Finn lays out a plan and starts buying heavy equipment to do the job.  This novel moves at breakneck speed and never slows down, with a blue collar anti-hero you’ll be rooting for, long before the novel comes to it’s dynamic conclusion.  The MBR is fascinated by Finn, and looking for more of him from the award winning pen of Mike Cooper, which is the pen name of author Mike Weicek.

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The Ghosts of Galway

Posted by on Dec 18, 2017 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

The Ghosts of Galway

Mysterious Book Report No. 315

by John Dwaine McKenna

We’re winding up the year here at the Mysterious Book Report with one of our favorite Irish authors.  His name is Ken Bruen; a writer who’s witty, campy and filled to the brim with what can only be called Irish Noir.  It’s a mixture of delicacy, violence, grief and guilt as depicted by his iconic, unforgettable and utterly devastated character named Jack Taylor.

In his newest adventure, The Ghosts of Galway, (Mysterious Press, $25.00, 330 pages, ISBN 978-0-8021-2733-4), Jack is recovering from a failed suicide attempt.  He’s broke, alcoholic, friendless, and desperate.  An ex-cop, he takes a job as a security guard . . . rock-bottom of the barrel in career choices as far as Taylor’s concerned.  But when his Ukrainian boss learns about his newest employee’s resume, he enlists Jack in a scheme to steal a notorious book of heresy.  It’s called  The Red Book,  and it’s rumored  to be in Galway, in  the possession of a rogue priest . . . who stole it from the Vatican archives.  Although it goes against his grain, Jack is so down and out, he  agrees to steal it in return for an envelope stuffed with cash.  It’s at this juncture that Em, the madwoman who’s been a focal point in Jack’s life over the past two years, reappears with an agenda of her own . . . one that includes an interest in The Red Book.  Soon after, Jack is ensnared in ever-escalating violence, as a series of attempts are made on his life.  At the same time, ghosts out of his past return to haunt him . . . all the way to the point of madness . . . as he is consumed with personal guilt.  Jack Taylor is one of the most unforgettable, unique and cherished characters in contemporary crime fiction.

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**Reminder – no MBR the week of Christmas and New Year’s**

2017 Best Books of the Year

Posted by on Dec 11, 2017 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

John Dwaine McKenna’s

2017 Best Books of the Year

It’s the holiday season and Christmas is just two weeks away . . . which means . . . It’s time for the MBRs Best Books of the Year List. The emphasis this year is on debut novels by exceptional talents.  They’re presented here in no specific order, the list is not weighted, which means that number ten is equally as significant as number one.  So, Merry Christmas to all, we hope you get to read some, or all, of these awesome novels and receive plenty of others under your tree as gifts!

Best Books of the Year 2017

MBR # 271                Dancing With The Tiger, by Lili Wright

Art-theft, art forgery, a meth addicted looser, a drug lord collector with a taste for the best, a disgraced professor, his daring daughter and a stone-cold hit man are just a few of the elements in this impressive debut which features the folk art mask carvers of Mexico.  They’re all competing for a priceless antique mask that’s been looted from Montezuma’s tomb.  It’s the most powerful of all the festival masks; El Jagurao, the Tiger, who holds the power of life and death over everyone.  Lili Wright’s first novel is a literary masterpiece.

 

MBR # 276                 The Far Empty, by J. Todd Scott

A gritty crime debut set in the stark Texas borderlands where an unearthed skeleton throws a small town into violent turmoil.  Could it be the remains of Caleb Ross’s mother, who disappeared without a trace, more than a year ago?  Does Caleb’s father, the vicious sheriff of Murfee, TX have anything to do with it?  An unforgettable border noir from a first-time author we’ll be hearing a lot more from.

 

MBR # 280                 Darktown, by Thomas Mullen

Try to imagine what your life would be like if you were one of the first two black policemen on the 1948 Atlanta, Georgia police department, and your wildest guess won’t even come close to what Tommy Smith and Lucas Beebee routinely put up with every day in one of the most talked about novels of the year, from the author of The Many Deaths of the Firefly Brothers.  An awesome read that has action on every page.

MBR #281                  IQ, by Joe Ide

Another impressive first novel which takes place in the south Los Angeles ghetto.  That’s where Isaiah Quintabe, known simply as IQ, uses the techniques of Sherlock Holmes to solve crimes the Los Angeles Police Department simply won’t spend any time on.  IQ is an entertaining, infectious and endearing character who gets under your skin right away, and one you won’t soon forget.  And, hey!  Stay tuned, his second  novel, Rightous, will soon to be reviewed in the MBR .

 

MBR # 283                 Revolver, by Duane Swierczynski

This meticulously plotted and intricate novel takes place at three different times,  from three different points of view.  The first is Stan Walczak, a Philadelphia cop who’s gunned down in a bar in 1965; second is his son Jim Walczak, who follows his father into the Philly Police Department in 1995; and lastly, in 2015 Audrey, Jim’s daughter, who’s studying for her Master’s Degree in forensic science.  This is one of the most intriguing and complex reads of the year and one of the most enjoyable.

 

MBR # 285              Blue Light Yokohama, by Nicolas Obregon

A first time author with a mind-bending novel that has folks all around the world taking notice.  If you like intense, complex and convoluted plots, this one’s for you.  In Tokyo, Japan we find police inspector Kosuke Iwata . . . a man with a boatload of personal grief.  After an unexplained and long leave of absence, he’s transferred into Division 1, the Tokyo Homicide Department.  He’s given a female partner who has a shakey, unreliable history with the TPD, and tasked with solving a serial murder case that’s so disturbing, the first detective who caught the case committed suicide.  It involves the ritualistic slaying of an entire family.  This one will keep you up all night.

 

MBR # 290              The Spy Across The Table, by Barry Lancet

The fourth, and most electrifying, of his highly-acclaimed international thrillers.  Jim Brodie, a San Francisco art dealer, martial-arts master, fluent Japanese speaker and principal of Brodie Investigative Services in Tokyo, is in Washington D.C. attending a Kabuki play at the Kennedy Center, when two murders occur right in front of his eyes.  One is his old college roommate and the other is a Japanese designer and longtime friend named Sharon Tanaka.  They’re killed by a Spanish speaking professional killer who escapes, unknown, undetected and unharmed, leaving Brodie devastated.  Shortly afterward he’s summoned to the White House and given a directive that puts him in the crosshairs of the most deadly spy in China, as Brodie tries to rescue a hostage whose mind contains NSA coding secrets.  Her name is Anna and she’s Sharon Tanaka’s daughter.  The action, tension and mystery begins with the first sentence and expands throughout every chapter thereafter.

 

MBR # 300                           American Static, by Tom Pitts

One of the finest noir yarns we’ve read in years.  It opens at warp speed and never slows down, and begins when a young man named Steven gets attacked in a small northern California town.  He is beaten senseless and robbed of his backpack, which contains everything he owns.  Everything he owns includes a brick of high grade marijuana he got on credit and planned on selling in San Francisco.  But his real trouble begins when he’s befriended by a man named Quinn.  Apparently a savior, but really the devil in disguise, Quinn is leaving a trail of dead bodies in his wake.  This one is what noir is all about: unceasing action, a blood-soaked trail and a breathtaking denouement.  One of the best noir yarns ever, according to the MBR.

 

MBR # 301           The Force, by Don Winslow

The Force has drawn rave reviews from everyone who’s seen it, including the MBR, because it could become the defining work of its genre.  Danny Malone, NYPD Detective Sergeant, is a highly respected and decorated cop who works a drug, gang and murder infested part of the city as the leader of Da-Force.  It’s an elite unit with unlimited authority to go after gang-bangers, drug-slingers, and gun-runners in Manhattan North.  They’re the bravest of the brave with more busts, citations and gun fights than any other unit in the NYPD.  They’re respected and feared wherever they go throughout the city . . . and they’re dirty.  It’s heartbreaking, full of drama and pathos—and it’s unforgettable because—all Danny Malone ever wanted to be was a good cop.  If you only ever read one cop novel in your life, this should be it.

 

MBR # 305                  She Rides Shotgun, by Jordan Harper

A man and his eleven year old daughter are on the run.  An awesome first novel combining humor, discovery and loss, as well as brute force, gangsters and gunfights aplenty . . . all of which is overlaid with a growing awareness of the power of love.  Nate McClosky has been green-lighted for death by a prison gang known as Aryan Steel.  He ran afoul of the president and shot-caller while still incarcerated at the Susanville State Penitentiary, and now his whole family, including his ex-wife and daughter, is under a shoot on sight order.  Too late to save his ex-wife, Nate is determined to save his daughter Polly at all costs.  He picks her up from school in a stolen car and spirits her away in this dynamic and propulsive chase novel.

 

MBR #274                       Redemption Road, by John Hart

One of last year’s brightest and best literate crime novels, it was first published in May 2016.  It’s the story of a small southern town full of lies, secrets, betrayal, and unbearable tension, but it’s also filled with such drama, suspense and understanding of human shortcomings that every page groans with the weight of it all.  It begins when an ex-cop named Adrian Wall is released from prison after serving 13 years for homicide and returns to his small town home, where a thirteen year-old boy named Gideon waits with a gun to kill him for murdering his mother.  And that’s just the first chapter of this dynamic thriller.  It’s a novel you’ll think about long after you’ve read it.

 

MBR # 310                  Nothing Short of Dying, by Eric Storey

One of the most exciting debut novels the MBR seen this year.  It introduces a character named Clyde Barr who’s part mountain man, part mercenary, and part American hero.  After a short jolt in a Mexican prison, Clyde returns to Colorado and is decompressing in the wilderness out by the Colorado-Utah border.  He’s enjoying a grilled venison steak when he gets a panicked call from his sister Jen, begging him for help.  The last thing she says is, they’re going to kill me, and then the phone goes dead.  So begins the first chapter of a desperate and driving search in which Nothing Short of Dying will prevent him from rescuing his sister . . .but first he has to find her.  The non-stop action begins on page one and carries through to the stunning conclusion of this electrifying novel. Clyde Barr is a character all crime fiction enthusiasts will want to be in touch with.

That’s it.  That’s our list of Best Books for the year 2017.  We hope you get a chance to read some, or all of them, and look forward to 2018, when we’ve got a whole new and exciting list of crime fiction, thrillers, spy yarns and whodunnits to explore together.  Until then Merry Christmas, Peace on Earth and Goodwill to all.

John Dwaine McKenna

Colorado Springs

December 2017

The Smack

Posted by on Dec 11, 2017 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

The Smack

Mysterious Book Report No. 314

by John Dwaine McKenna

The mean streets of Los Angeles are the setting for a new kind of novel that combines action with the troubles of the real world.  It’s about people on the hustle, people who swindle others out of their money . . . they’re called griftersGrifters have no conscience, no guilt, they’re only interested in parting the suckers from their money.  Have you ever gotten a telephone call about a free vacation, an inheritance from an unknown relative, or a plea for help from an imaginary grandchild?  If so you’ve been targeted for a scam.

The Smack, (Muholland Books, Little Brown & Co, $26.00, 352 pages, ISBN 978-0-316-32762-6) by Richard Lange is about a grifter named Rowan Petty.  He’s a con man who’s flat broke, living in cheap hotels, wondering how he got there and looking for his next big score.  Petty’s working as a telephone scammer in Las Vegas when an old acquaintance turns up with a rumor of a huge cash hoard in Los Angeles.  And quick as a wink, Petty and his girlfriend head for the City of Angels.  His target is two million bucks that have been squirreled out of Afghanistan by a tough US Army sergeant.  He stole the money a few thousand at a time over a period of years from the US and Afghanistan governments, shipped it back to LA where he has it stashed in his old ‘hood’, and guarded by one of his gang-banger buddies.  It’s a compelling, fast-paced noirish adventure with a bunch of gun battles and dead bodies in the rear view mirror.  Petty is an anti-hero for the ages . . . tough, smart and utterly despicable.  He’ll cheat an old woman out of her life savings, while at the same time he’ll fascinate any reader of crime fiction.  This novel is edgy, smart and timely and we hope, the first in a series featuring an unlikely antihero . . . and although the author claims it’s a standalone, the MBR feels that Petty’s just too damn cool to let disappear.   I couldn’t stop reading . . . it’s a rush!

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