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Spirits of the Heart

Posted by on Jul 9, 2018 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Spirits of the Heart

Mysterious Book Report No. 342

by John Dwaine McKenna and June Lynn McKenna

As the by-line shows, this will be a different—and special—MBR.  It’s not within our usual purview of crime and punishment, or murder and mayhem, nor even an exploration of the dark side of human nature.  Instead, it’s a goose-pimple inducing paranormal ghost and romance story which takes place at an addiction treatment center in Middletown, New York.  It’s a place that was once an institution for the criminally insane.  And because it’s for all of the ladies in the audience who aren’t hard-boiled crime enthusiasts, June Lynn McKenna has gallantly offered a woman’s perspective . . . so-you-know-who doesn’t screw-it-up.

Spirits of the Heart, (Erato Publishing, PB, $13.95, 312 pages, ISBN 978-0-9974326-4-0) by Frances Brown writing as Claire Gem, is part of her ongoing Haunted Voices series, and is, in our opinion, the best one so far.  It begins when Laura Horton returns from grad school in North Carolina to Middletown, New York; the place where she was born and raised.  Laura’s got a new degree, a new job as an addiction counselor, and not a dollar to her name.  She does have a plan though, to move into a spare room at her high school friend Angie’s house, where she lives with her boyfriend, Miller Stanford.  Then, after Laura gets a paycheck or two, she’ll find her own apartment and move out.  But . . . as every writer of fiction knows . . . the easiest way to make God laugh, is to make plans.  When Laura rolls into town flat broke, her car coasting on fumes, expecting a warm reunion with her gal-pal, she’s met at the door by a grumpy, half naked and towel wrapped hunk of manhood.  Angie, Miller tells Laura, has moved out, and relocated to Tampa, Florida.  Laura is devastated, out of options and stuck in a “puke green, two-story house” that sits right beside the cemetery of the old insane asylum, with a man who doesn’t want her there.  Miller and Laura come to an agreement of sorts, she can stay . . . but . . . it’s his house, his rules.  Laura tries her best to comply, but their relationship gets more and more strained, as strange, weird and unexplainable events start to happen on a regular basis.  Then, Miller see the ghost of a little girl and thinks he’s losing it.  But Laura sees her too, in this vivid, suspenseful and romance-filled novel from the award-winning pen of one of the hottest romance and supernatural fiction writers in the country.  Claire Gem’s Spirits of the Heart will keep you glued to each and every page, until your glasses get too steamed to read!

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Under Water

Posted by on Jul 2, 2018 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Under Water

Mysterious Book Report No. 341

by John Dwaine McKenna

The MBR is ever on the lookout for debut authors with arresting characters, compelling plots and above-average wordsmithing talent.  When we find one, we do our best to alert all of you, so that together, we can read and enjoy the writer and character as they grow.  Those types of people are hard to find, and when we do, it’s cause to celebrate . . . so put your party hat on, turn the TV off and fire-up the La-Z-Boy.  It’s time to read.

Under Water, (Kensington Publishing Corp., $25.00, 309 pages, ISBN 978-1-4697-0968-4) by Casey Barrett, is a great summer read.  It’s a dynamic first novel featuring a wise-cracking, tough and young, ex-competitive swimmer who was destined for Olympics Gold.  Then, his father disgraced the family by committing financial fraud and going to prison.  In a riches-to-rags story, his son Lawrence known as “Duck” Darley—destitute now—begins drinking, dealing drugs and quits the team, then watches as one of his teammates goes on to win four Olympic gold medals.  Duck, meanwhile, goes on, to deal a little dope that somehow became a lot of dope when I wasn’t looking.  At age twenty, Duck gets busted with a couple of pounds of weed and goes away for a couple years for possession with intent to distribute.  Once he gets paroled, he becomes a high-functioning alcoholic and pill-popper, who makes his living by finding things.  He’s not a PI.  That’s passé.  Instead, sort of like a superhero for hire, he’ll find out if your spouse is cheating, for example, with whom, where and how . . . and take pictures.  Now, more than a decade later, the mother of his old teammate contacts Duck to hire him to find her missing daughter, Madeline.  She’s eighteen, rich, a talented swimmer . . . and self-destructive.  She’s been missing for a week and Duck thinks it’s just another case of a spoiled, bratty runaway.  Then her roommate turns up savagely murdered and Maddie, as she’s known, becomes the primary suspect in the media.  The search soon turns deadly.  Duck is attacked and nearly beaten to death as the case sucks him ever-deeper into the morass of Olympic swimming, where lies and violence lie just below the surface, and every one of the competitors will do whatever it takes to gain the edge.  Duck didn’t win any medals, but he’ll win you over with his actions and flat-out bad-assivness.  He’s a winner!

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Dead Stop

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

Dead Stop

Mysterious Book Report No. 340

by John Dwaine McKenna

When the prestigious 2018 Colorado Book Awards were announced earlier this month, Dead Stop, (Thomas & Mercer, PB $15.95, 384 pages, ISBN 9781503943384) by Barbara Nickless was the Mystery Fiction winner.  These awards are sponsored by the Colorado Humanities Organization, and is the equivalent, in the MBRs opinion, of winning an Olympic Medal.  It’s so far up on our personal list of unobtaniums, that we’ll be cashing the first of our Publisher’s Clearing House checks and going to the White House to pick up a Medal of Freedom, before ever being nominated for, much less winning, a Colorado Book Award.  It is a mighty accomplishment, and Ms. Nickless is the most deserving of recipients.  Her work is nothing less than epic.

Dead Stop is the second installment in the saga of Sydney Rose Parnell and her K9 partner Clyde, a Belgium Malinois war dog.  They’re both ex-maries, Iraq War Vets—Sydney with Cemetery Services and Clyde with CIA Special Operations—who suffer from PTSD, and both of them see ghosts of those who didn’t come home.

Six months have gone by since the showdown and shootout with a violent gang of thugs that left Sydney Rose and Clyde physically and emotionally scarred, and barely able to continue in her job as a Special Agent for the Denver Pacific Continental Railroad.  She’s not sure she’s ready to handle another grueling, emotional and dangerous case . . . but heroes don’t choose their fights . . . and when confronted by evil, Sydney Rose rises to the occasion, battling with everything she has to save eight year-old Lucy Davenport, after her mother is murdered on DPC property, her father grievously wounded and her two older brothers killed in a home invasion and massacre.  While the police and FBI search for clues, Sydney tries to find the location of an obsolete railroad crossing number that was written on the wall of an abandoned property—next to a pair of dead bodies—just before the whole thing was blown sky-high by booby-trapped explosives.  The key to it all may be held by a retired DPC Special Agent with a history of cruelty, viciousness and criminality . . . but “Bull,” like little Lucy Davenport, is missing.  Are the cases related?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  The only way to know for sure is to read this award-winning, and fast-paced, action-packed, thriller-diller of a novel featuring two of the most endearing and toughest ex-jarheads you’ll ever meet.  Barbara Nickless is fast attracting legions of fans all over the world.  This is your chance to get in on the ground floor of what promises to be a much-loved and long-lived series, because the third of Sydney Rose and Clyde’s adventures, entitled; Ambush, is due in January 2019.  The MBR is all aboard and a Barbara Nickless fan for life!

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Don’t Skip Out On Me

Posted by on Jun 18, 2018 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Don’t Skip Out On Me

Mysterious Book Report No. 339

by John Dwaine McKenna

This weeks MBR defies genre.  Although noirish in tone, it’s unclassifiable by nature because it includes elements of several different styles.  It’s a tough guy story that could have been written by Hemingway or London, featuring a plot which might’ve come from Flannery O’Connor herself.  It’s a coming-of-age tale that professes hope but appears headed for tragedy, as both a young, and an old protagonist try to find their way in an unforgiving world.

Don’t Skip Out On Me, (Harper Perennial, $22.99, 269 pages, ISBN 978-0-06-268445-5) by Willy Vlautin, tells the story of Horace Hopper, a nineteen year-old with dreams of becoming a world champion boxer.  He’s ashamed of his mixed-race parentage; his mother was a Piute Indian and his father Irish.  Horace lives on a remote sheep ranch outside of Tonopah, Nevada with Mr. & Mrs. Reese, the elderly couple who took him in as a young boy, and raised him when he was abandoned by his own family.  It’s an emotional scar which runs so deep, that Horace thinks his only redemption will come from practicing the techniques in the self-help books he reads and re-reads.  They’ve convinced him that he can reinvent himself as a tough Mexican boxer named Hector Hildago.  He leaves the solitude of ‘The Little Reese Ranch’ and moves to Tucson, Arizona, and tries to establish himself as a boxer.  Back in Nevada, Mr. Reese is trying to hang on to a dying way of life that’s no longer economically viable.  Age has caught up with him and he’s no longer physically able to handle the hardscrabble ranching lifestyle he loves so well.  At opposite ends of the age spectrum, both men are trying to do the impossible.  Mr. Reese has intentions of leaving the lands and property to the boy he’s raised and loves like a son, while Horace dreams of returning as a world champion, wrapped in glory and redeemed in the eyes of all who know him.  Told in neat, declarative sentences that wring the readers heart out with every word, Don’t Skip Out On Me takes us into the fiercest of arenas to plumb the depths of the human heart.  It’s a journey that won’t be forgotten by any who take it!

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Dangerous Boys

Posted by on Jun 11, 2018 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Dangerous Boys

Mysterious Book Report No. 338

by John Dwaine McKenna

In the summer of 1984, a series of heat waves blasted the northeast United States in rapid succession, one after another.  It’s particularly hot in the old whaling port of New Bedford, Massachusetts, where the usual cooling ocean breezes have disappeared, leaving the city in a steaming humid mess of baking sidewalks, human sweat and bad tempers.  It’s where four lifelong friends are coming of age in a gripping new novel by one of the best crime fiction and horror writers in the country.

Dangerous Boys, (Down & Out Books, PB, $17.95, 308 pages, ISBN 978-1-946502-52-0) by Greg F. Gifune, is so compelling, you won’t be able to put it down; so well written, you’ll feel the heat and humidity; and so heartbreakingly real that you’ll feel sort of sorry for the lost boys at the same time you’re disgusted by their behavior, and utterly repulsed by their savagery and criminality.

Aldo, Richie, Dino, Fritz and Petie are young bad-asses on the verge of adulthood: too old to be doing what they’re doing, and too young to act like adults.  They’ve known each other since grade school, hung out and raised hell together.  Fact is, they’re thugs who’ve been committing petty crimes and getting picked up by the cops ever since they were seven years old.  Now it’s decision time, but only Richie Lionetti wants out.  He wants something better because he knows that they can’t continue as they are, and he doesn’t want the life of crime, or the dull, back-breaking, life-ending jobs his friends are destined for.  Richie dreams of getting out.  Out of the gang.  Out of his nowhere life.  And out of New Bedford, where his mother—his only living relative—is slowly killing herself with booze and heroin.  So, Richie agrees when Aldo proposes the heist . . . the really big-time job that’ll put them over the top, into the big leagues and a whole new dimension of criminality . . . the job that can’t go wrong if we stick to the plan.  Yeah.  Right.  This novel transcends time and space.  It drops the reader smack dab into the hottest summer imaginable, at the point of no return for the young protagonists in this dark, dark noir thriller that made the MBR an instant fan of the work of Greg F. Gifune!

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Sunburn

Posted by on Jun 4, 2018 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Sunburn

Mysterious Book Report No. 337

by John Dwaine McKenna

Memorial Day weekend is the traditional start of the warm weather season; a time for vacations, kicking back, relaxing and light summertime reading.  And hey, what could be better, we’re kicking it off with one of America’s most loved, respected and widely-read authors who’s always at the top of the NY Times bestseller lists.

Sunburn, (William Morrow/Harper Collins, $26.99, 290 pages, ISBN 978-0-06-238992-3) by Laura Lippman is a psychological suspense novel about a pair of lovers in a relationship based upon lies and secrets.  Polly and Adam meet in a bar in the small inland town of Belleville, Delaware.  She says she’s just passing through on her way out west: headed for Las Vegas.  Adam is more ambivalent, but also claims that he’s going to be somewhere else when summer ends.  That’s what they say, but it’s not what they do, because they’re both holding back elemental details about themselves . . . even as they’re inexorably drawn together into a passionate love affair.  Polly has a past: seedy, criminal and heartbreaking.  She may, or may not, have stolen a fortune from a defenseless child; and she’s run away . . . abandoned actually . . . her second husband and three year-old daughter.  Adam on the other hand, has a much shorter backstory . . . he’s a private investigator who’s been hired to find Polly, and the secret  cache of stolen money she’s suspected of squirreling away.  As the summer wears on, the lovers get more and more involved with each other, until the sudden, violent death of a co-worker.  It’s officially ruled an accident, but was it?  Will the star-crossed pair survive as a couple or will their deceits and personal failings catch up with them in the end . . .

The pace is relentless, while the suspense and psychological twists just keep on coming in this thriller from the hand of one of the most esteemed writers working in America today, and a great way to start your summer reading!

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The Hush

Posted by on May 28, 2018 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

The Hush

Mysterious Book Report No. 336

by John Dwaine McKenna

One of the awesomest young writers to come down the literary turnpike in the new millennium is a southern gothic wordsmith named John Hart.  The accolades, superlatives and awards directed at him keep piling up at an astonishing rate; making him one of the hottest new novelists; one that all thriller enthusiasts will want to be acquainted with.  He’s just finished an electrifying new installment in the saga of Johnny Merrimon, the pure-hearted prince of bad-assery we first meet in The Last Child. Now, he’s returned in The Hush, (St. Martin’s Press, $27.99, 418 pages, ISBN 978-1-250-01230-2).

Ten years have passed since Johnny Merrimon came home from prison and made the discovery that upended life in the small North Carolina town where he was born and raised.  The case was so sensational that books have been written about it and news people of all disciplines around the world have beleaguered him day and night, looking for additional gossip to add to the astonishing story.  Shunning all publicity, Johnny has taken up residence in the middle of a six-thousand acre swamp known as Hush Arbor.  It’s the last of a fifty-thousand acre tract that was owned, and lost, by his great, great grandfather in the decade before the Civil War.  But the chain of ownership has a flaw in it because the Hush, as it’s called by the locals, was first gifted to some freed slaves and reverted back to Johnny due to a certain clause that’s being contested by the descendents of the freed men.    Johnny’s prevailed in the court proceeding, but the decision’s been appealed, with the trial about to begin.  Johnny Merrimon however, is broke.  He ekes out a subsistence living from the land, and his only hope at trial is Jack Cross, a boyhood friend with a newly minted law degree, who specializes in tax law.  The other side is backed by a hedge fund billionaire who wants the land for a private hunting preserve where trophy animals thrive in profusion.  The Hush, however, is a notoriously strange place.  The local folk avoid it . . . for those who do enter it get lost, die, or come out catatonic; unable to talk because they’ve been scared out of their minds by something unspeakable that lurks out there.  It’s something evil and ancient, something cursed, unholy and undead.  All of which only adds to the legend of Johnny Merrimon.  Has he made a deal with the Devil . . . or is Johnny some sort of a supernatural being?  The only way to find out, is to read this thrilling novel for yourself and you, like the MBR, will be all in for the works of John Hart, the only writer to ever win the coveted Edgar Award in back-to-back, consecutive years.  To paraphrase legendary Texas songwriter Billy Joe Shaver: “John Hart is the real . . . real, real deal!”

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The Detonator

Posted by on May 21, 2018 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

The Detonator

Mysterious Book Report No. 335

by John Dwaine McKenna

Psychological thrillers are among the most popular of modern crime fiction works, because they give readers a long and hard look into the hearts and minds and motives of people who are far outside of the usual norms of society.  The Irish and Brits call them nutters . . . while we Americans simply call them what they are . . . crazy.  We’re fascinated and fearful, all at the same time, and that makes them irresistible to us, for humans are curious by nature.  It takes a masterful writer however, to look into that kind of a heart of darkness and create artful entertainment from such bleak material.

The Detonator, (Polis Books, $25.99, 287 pages, ISBN 978-1-943818-88-4) by Vincent Zandri is an electrifying psychological thriller involving a demolitions expert named Ike Singer.  He’s a man whose job was Master Blaster, the guy who blows those obsolete old multi-story buildings to smithereens, so that new ones can be put up in their place.  He was at the top of his profession fifteen years ago when a personal indiscretion resulted in an attempted murder and suicide.  It meant the death of his business partner and college best friend . . . and the loss of his license to practice the trade he loved so well . . . the occupation Ike Singer spent his whole life learning.  He’s been trying to make up for it ever since.  The father of a child named Henry—who suffers from a rare premature aging disease which has made him an old man with a terminal life expectancy of just twenty statue years—Ike and his wife Ellen are doing their best to make Henry’s last weeks and days of life as happy as possible.  Ike, having found satisfaction as a bomb disposal expert with the Albany, New York Police Department, has put the past behind, moved on with his life and kept his marriage intact.  He’s found peace.  But that peace is based on lies.  Lies which threaten to come to the surface when he and his family become the targets of a brilliant psychopath with a PhD in Super Nano-Thermite Explosives . . . she’s the daughter of his old partner . . . who wants to extract revenge for her family’s troubles by blowing up the Singer family and the City of Albany too.  The tension and suspense ratchets up with each page in this exciting, fast-paced and propulsive thriller that’s a blast, (Sorry, I can’t help myself sometimes . . .) from start to finish.  It’s a dynamite read all the way.  Enjoy!

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Green Sun

Posted by on May 14, 2018 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Green Sun

Mysterious Book Report No. 334

by John Dwaine McKenna

There’s plenty of reality TV programs these days that show viewers what cops are doing during their shifts, and what they’re putting up with from John Q. and Susie B. Public.  Now, a new book puts readers into the jump seat of a 1980s vintage squad car during the spring and summer of a new officer’s probationary period in Oakland, California. It lets us see what the newbie cop is experiencing, and thinking, in an emotionally charged thrill ride that starts in the first chapter and runs through the last page.

Green Sun, (Mulholland Books/ Little, Brown, $27.00, 336 pages, ISBN 978-0-316-46680-6) by Kent Anderson is the third book of a trilogy which began with Sympathy For The Devil and Night Dogs, more than twenty years ago.  Make no mistake however, Green Sun stands entirely on its own.  It tells the story of Officer Hanson, a Viet Nam war Special Forces veteran who—at age 38—gives up the comfort of a professorship to return to life as a cop in a city that’s awash in strife and racial conflict.  The Oakland streets are boiling hot under the summer sun.  They’re also armed and angry, gang and dope-infested, seething, mean and set to explode at the slightest provocation.  Hanson,  who’s fighting his own personal demons . . . sees Death, following him around at times. He’s an unconventional cop, who realizes, justice is an elusive commodity that comes in other ways than strict enforcement of the law.  He’s a lone ranger in hostile territory.  He works alone, without backup on an understaffed, poorly managed, outnumbered, badly-equipped, inefficient, brutal and outwardly racist police force, where truth be told, the cops are scared to death of the public they serve.  Hanson, who gave himself up for dead in Viet Nam, has long since made his peace with it and goes unafraid, where angels fear to tread, using respect, common sense and compassion instead of brute force to do his job.  But at the same time, he’s drinking himself to death, trying to keep his ‘mean streak’ bottled up . . . and inhibit his inner urge to kill everyone he comes in conflict with.  In a downward spiral, he meets an outspoken beauty named Libya and her irrepressive nephew Weegee, while at the same time, forming a dangerous friendship with Felix Maxwell, the biggest druglord in Oakland, based on their shared values of honor and fair play.  Read it and see for yourself, why Green Sun is drawing rave reviews from everyone.  Publishers Weekly puts it in the top ten mysteries and thrillers for Spring, but the MBR puts it in the top three.  It’s one you don’t want to miss!

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Killer Choice

Posted by on May 7, 2018 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Killer Choice

Mysterious Book Report No. 333

by John Dwaine McKenna

A harrowing ride into desperation, is how one commentator described this chilling suspense novel by a debut author who posits the following question:  How far would you go to save the life of the person you love most in the world?  That is what faces protagonist Gary Foster in this devilishly-twisted plot that puts an ordinary man into an impossible situation.

Killer Choice, (Berkley/Penguin Random House, $26.00, 342 pages, ISBN 978-0-399-58640-8) by Tom Hunt, takes place in the heart of the Michigan rust belt.  In a city with no industry, no jobs and no hope, Gary and Beth Fosters lives are looking up.  He’s opened a new retail store with his brother Rod, and Beth has finally been able to conceive after years of trying.  They are expecting a son in a few months and are overjoyed by the prospect of finally starting a family.  Then comes the phone call no one ever wants to get, Beth has collapsed.  She’s been rushed to a local hospital, unconscious and convulsing.  She has a brain tumor, cancerous . . . inoperable.  The only hope for the devastated couple and their unborn child is an experimental treatment that’s only available in Germany.  The cost: $200,000, is way beyond their modest, middle-class means.  Desperate, they try raising the cash through appeals to friends and a go-fund-me page on the internet.  Weeks later and with time running out, they’ve only managed to come up with a fraction of what they need.  Exhausted, afraid and running out of hope, Gary gets a mysterious phone call and an astonishing offer.  A stranger offers put up Gary the two-hundred grand he’s been despairing for . . . with just one little hitch . . . in return he’ll have to kill someone.  To Gary, who’s never even held a gun, much less fired one, it’s an impossible dilemma.  Can he go against every moral precept he’s ever had, to commit a heinous crime in order to try and save his beloved wife?  What would you do in his place?  Read the book and find the answers in this nail-biter of domestic suspense.

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