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The Shadow District

Posted by on Dec 4, 2017 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

 The Shadow District

Mysterious Book Report No. 313

by John Dwaine McKenna

Iceland, positioned at the top of the world between Europe and North America, is a land of active volcanoes, long winter nights and some of the best noir writers in the world.  Case in point . . . the newest crime fiction thriller by international best-selling author Arnaldur Indridason is a meticulously plotted murder mystery that combines elements of an unsolved World War II homicide with a present day suspicious death.

The Shadow District, (Thomas Dunne/Minotaur Books, $25.99, 344 pages ISBN 978-1-250-12402-9) by Arnaldur Indridason, opens in 1944 with the death of a young woman in the seedy “Shadow District” of   Reykjavik, Iceland.  The city is occupied by British and American forces who are staging men and materials in preparation for the soon to come invasion of Europe.  American G.I.s there are getting romantically involved with Icelandic women in what’s called The Situation by the locals, who bitterly resent the foreigners competition.  The homicide is being investigated by a Reykjavik detective named Flóvent and a Canadian military officer named Thorson, who are finding it difficult to gather any information about the murdered woman.  At this point, the novel changes to the present day death of a ninety year-old man, smothered in his bed.  A retired Reykjavik detective named Kónrad is asked to carry out an unofficial investigation into the old mans death.  He discovers that the unsolved wartime murder is a piece of the puzzle in the contemporary killing.  Alternating between the present day investigation and the wartime police inquiry, the novel depicts two investigations separated by decades.  After discovering that two girls were attacked in similar circumstances, Kónrad begins to wonder if the police arrested the wrong man all those years ago.

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The Ways of Wolfe

Posted by on Nov 27, 2017 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

The Ways of Wolfe

Mysterious Book Report No. 312

by John Dwaine McKenna

I always look forward to any new work by James Carlos Blake, because he’s a master of noir.  He’s not the most prolific of authors, but he’s surely one of the most polished in all of crime fiction.  He’s tackled historical figures such as John Wesley Hardin, Poncho Villa and John Dillinger, among others, with such an adroit touch that extreme violence seems almost like an ordinary occurrence or normal behavior.  His books are masterpieces in my opinion.  Lately, he’s invented a fictional family called the Wolfe’s, who live on the border down at Brownsville, Texas and whose roots go deep into American and Mexican soil.  Their story began in the 1840s with the Mexican-American War, and now, in his fourth novel about the family: The Ways of Wolfe (The Mysterious Press, $25.00, 290 pages, ISBN 978-0-8021-2577-4) James Carlos Blake delivers a spirited and lively story about Axel Prince Wolfe.  Twenty-some years ago Axel, then a college student and the heir apparent to the Wolfe family’s prestigious Texas law firm and it’s “shade trade” criminal enterprises, was involved in a high-end armed robbery that went disastrously wrong.  It was an event from which Axel Prince Wolf drew a thirty-year prison sentence . . . to the absolute horror of his family.  Two decades later, with eleven years still to go, all he wants to do is meet the young woman his daughter has become while he’s been incarcerated.  He teams up with a young Mexican inmate named Cacho, whose ties to a Mexican Drug Cartel give them the resources to make a prison break.  After the breakout in which three deaths occur—Axel and Cacho become the objects of a massive manhunt on both sides of the border in this propulsive and exhilarating novel.  But that’s just the beginning of this thrilling crime fiction yarn from the pen of a master.  Read it for yourself and see why I never miss a new work from one of the smoothest and most interesting of all contemporary crime fiction writers.

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A Promise To Kill

Posted by on Nov 13, 2017 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

A Promise To Kill

Mysterious Book Report No. 311

by John Dwaine McKenna

 

This is part 2 of our introduction to an exciting new hero in crime fiction named Clyde Barr.  He’s the altruistic world traveler, the sometimes mercenary war fighter, and a man who’s always on the side of the underdog.  He’s the creation of author Erik Storey, a writer who displays many of his character’s attributes.  Storey’s worked at times, as a wilderness guide, dog sled musher and a hunter, as well as a ranch hand who spent time living alone in a cabin, up in Colorado’s Flat Top Wilderness.  He’s also a crack shot with any kind of rifle.  Now, hard on the heels of his world-wide best-selling debut: Nothing Short of Dying, comes Clyde Barr’s second electrifying adventure.

A Promise To Kill ( Simon & Schuster, $26.00, 288 pages, ISBN 978-1-5011-2418-1) by Erik Storey, finds Clyde Barr wandering alone near the Colorado-Utah border, trying to wrap his mind around the rescue of his sister and the loss of the dearest person he ever knew.  He’s living off the land again, when he stumbles across an elderly man in the throes of a heart attack.  Barr comes to his rescue and barely makes it to the regional hospital in time to save the old man’s life.  The ER is run by the man’s daughter, a Ute Native American woman named Lawana.  With his desire for solitude no longer an option, Barr agrees to fill in until her father recovers, and help the woman and her son Taylor run a small ranch.  It’s his first experience living among the Ute Nation on a reservation, and it’s where he finds a small, half-abandoned Ute Village overrun by a one-percenter motorcycle gang called The Reapers.  They just showed up one recent day and started taking over.  They’re harboring a secret . . . something so deadly it could have consequences for the whole world.  As the conflict between the gang and the town escalates; it gets more violent by the day and Barr is drawn ever deeper into a deadly battle that may not have a winner.  This is a gripping, edge-of-your-seat tale that will keep you turning the pages until the wee small hours of the morning.  The MBR called the first novel one of the most exciting debuts it’s ever seen . . . and the follow up is equally as gripping.  Readers, now’s your chance to get in on the ground floor of what promises to be an epic thriller series!

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NOTE:  Just a reminder, there will no Mysterious Book Report next week, Nov 24th.  It’s Thanksgiving Day and we’ll all be in a football daze and food coma for the duration.  But don’t fret, we’ll return the following week with MBR No. 312: The Ways of Wolfe.

 

 

 

 

Nothing Short of Dying

Posted by on Nov 6, 2017 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Nothing Short of Dying

Mysterious Book Report No. 310

by John Dwaine McKenna

We’re excited here at the MBR, to bring you part I of an event that only comes along once in a blue moon and is scarcer than two-buck Chuck at a gang-banger’s ball.  It’s our awesome two-fer . . . just like the five-to-seven happy  hour at the  He Ain’t Here Lounge . . . we’re giving ya two for the price of one and doing the same author two weeks in a row!

The first, Nothing Short of Dying (Simon and Schuster, PB $9.99, 392 pages, ISBN 978-1-5011-6073-8), by Erik Storey is one of the most exciting debut novels that the MBR has ever reviewed.  It introduces a character named Clyde Barr who’s part mountain man, part mercenary and part American hero.  After serving a short prison sentence in Mexico and being away from his beloved western home for sixteen years, world traveler and freedom fighter Clyde Barr makes it back to the USA, where he is decompressing, by himself, in the western Colorado wilderness, out near the Utah border.  He’s enjoying a venison dinner by the campfire when he gets a panicked cell phone call from his sister Jen.  Frantically, she begs 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 search for the  sometimes drug addicted sister he hasn’t seen in more than a decade.  Having no other alternative, Clyde begins by looking in the western Colorado village that he grew up in, and swore he’d never go back to.  That’s where he meets Allie.  She’s the woman who’ll change his life, and make a stand with him, fighting a host of drug lords and their henchmen.  Clyde doesn’t know where his sister’s being held, by whom, or how he’s going to rescue her.  He only knows that nothing short of dying will prevent him from saving her.  The non-stop action begins on page one and carries through to the stunning end of this electrifying novel.  Clyde Barr is a character all crime-fiction enthusiasts are going to want to be in touch with.  The MBR, like Lee Child’s Jack Reacher, “Is gonna keep an eye on this guy.” Author Erik Storey is a natural-born storyteller and world-class talent who’ll keep us all engrossed, entertained and enthused for a long, long time! Oh yeah.  He’s just that good . . . and hey . . . stay tuned . . .

Part II

A Promise to Kill

Mysterious Book Report No. 311

by John Dwaine McKenna

is coming next week.

 

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The Trust

Posted by on Oct 30, 2017 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

The Trust

Mysterious Book Report No. 309

by John Dwaine McKenna

The Troubles, as the conflict in Northern Ireland during the 1970s, 80s and 90s became known, has long been an area of interest for the MBR.  The sectarian violence there pitted Protestant Unionists—those in favor of remaining in the British Commonwealth—against Catholic Republicans—who wanted to join the Republic of Ireland—in some of the worst violence the world has ever seen.  Commonplace were the bombings, targeted assassinations and street brawls which took hundreds, if not thousands of lives.  The British army was called in to maintain order and became the focus of violent attacks, while at the same time perpetrating murderous acts against the Catholic freedom fighters.

Now, a fascinating new novel by a Chicago trial attorney, educator and writer named Ronald H. Balson has revisited what’s become known as the second Irish civil war.  His new work, The Trust (St. Martin’s Press, $26.99, 356 pages, ISBN 978-1-250-12744-0),  begins with Chicago Special Investigator Liam Taggart getting a call from his estranged cousin Jan in Belfast.  She informs him that his Uncle Fergus has died  and Liam must return for the funeral at his Uncle’s request.  Liam’s been estranged from his family, friends and native land for sixteen years, and swore he’d never go back again.  Under duress he returns, only to find his family still embittered by his departure, his Uncle Fergus shot to death, and he himself named the sole trustee of a secret trust . . . into which his Uncle has left his entire estate . . . to be distributed only after his killer is found.

It’s an astonishing last will and testament in which Fergus had anticipated his own death, and it opens doors into a past Liam had long ago closed.  Troublesome memories like the death of his parents, his service as a CIA agent, and the sudden end of his engagement with a woman named Annie Grossman.  As he digs deeper into a past he doesn’t want to reopen, Liam faces increasing danger with every passing day, as one-by-one, members of his family are being murdered.  Are The Troubles coming back to haunt the family, or is a serial killer on the loose?  The answer can only be found by reading this compelling, fast-paced and electrifying novel.

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A Game of Ghosts

Posted by on Oct 23, 2017 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

A Game of Ghosts

Mysterious Book Report No. 308

by John Dwaine McKenna

We’ve saved the best for last.  Our final submission for this years MBR Freak Fest is by the undisputed heavyweight king of Gothic Noir Crime Fiction.  His name is John Connolly.  He’s an Irish writer who’s been atop worldwide best sellers charts for ages.  His Charlie Parker private eye series is noirish crime fiction with a supernatural twist that will leave you gasping for breath and begging for more.  Charlie Parker, you see, might be one of the thirteen fallen angels who were cast out of heaven . . . who is trying to redeem himself and get back into God’s good graces . . . or not.  We’re never quite sure.  He hangs around with two associates named Louis and Angel, who’re two of the most violent and vicious characters in all of crime fiction.  They could be angels, or demons, in human form, but they’re always protecting Charlie.  There’s never an answer given, it’s up to the reader to decide and it’s one of the most delicious and intriguing aspects of the series.  The most current novel, which came out in late spring, is A Game of Ghosts, (Atria/Emily Bestler Books, $26.99, 464 pages, ISBN 978-1-5011-7189-5),  Charlie Parker is still recovering from near fatal wounds when he’s given an assignment by an FBI agent named Edgar Ross to locate a private detective named Jaycob Eklund who has disappeared.  When he vanished, Eklund—no ordinary investigator—is tracking a series of horrendous homicides and disappearances, each of which are linked to reports of hauntings.  The more he searches for answers to the disappearances, the deeper Parker is drawn into an otherworldly realm in which a monstrous figure known as Mother rules a crumbling criminal empire in which mortal men seek bargains with angels.  It’s a world in which the innocent as well as the guilty are pawns in a game of ghosts.

In A Game of Ghosts, John Connolly has delivered his most electrifying, compelling and propulsive read since The Black Angel.  If you are not already a fan, you will be after you read this novel.  If you are a fan, don’t worry, we should see another installment about April or May of next year.

And incidentally, The Black Angel is one of the scariest paranormal reads the MBR has ever encountered.  If you get a chance to read it, look up The Ossuary at Sedlac in the Czech Republic and you will be changed forever.  It is something you will never forget.  Late at night when I cannot sleep, I have found myself wondering what sort of mind could conceive of something that’s simultaneously so beautiful and so monstrous at the same time . . .

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The Blinds

Posted by on Oct 16, 2017 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

The Blinds

Mysterious Book Report No. 307

by John Dwaine McKenna

Next on our October freakfest is a novel by Adam Strenbergh, the creative demento who conjured up the Edgar nominated Spademan novels.  Spademan’s the sometimes kind-hearted assassin, who operates in a destroyed, dystopian New York City.  This time however, Mr. Sternbergh’s come up with a standalone that takes place in Texas.  Who knew, or would’ve guessed, that the author’s attention would shift from Gotham to west Texas, but happily, he has . . . and it’s a dandy!

The Blinds, (ECCO/Harper Collins, $26.99, 382 pages, ISBN 978-0-06-266134-0) by Adam Sternbergh happens in a small, fenced-in village of cookie-cutter cement block homes that house about four dozen people, all of whom have voluntarily had their memories wiped clean.  They know that with exception of a few WITSEC protectees . . . the innocents . . . they’re all criminals, guilty of notorious and terrible crimes.  They’ve all been given new names on arrival, chosen from a pair of lists of celebrities and politicians; taking one name from each list.  No one knows who they were, only who they are.  They’re free to leave at any time.  As their induction instructor tells them: “This may not be a prison, and it may not be purgatory, but it’s sure as hell not paradise, either.  This is the Blinds.” It’s a hundred miles in any direction across sun baked, waterless desert terrain to civilization, and just one working vehicle in the whole place; a worn-out pick-up truck that’s used by sheriff Calvin Cooper.  Truth is, nobody’s much interested in going because they can’t ever return if they do.  Since no one knows if they’ve committed a crime or witnessed one, they’re all pretty sure that death lies waiting outside their rough sanctuary.  It’s been like that for eight years . . . ever since the first arrivals came.  The lone exception is young Isaac Adams.  He was born to his mother Fran, who was secretly pregnant when she was one of the first few arrivals in the brand new town.  Then, shortly after the novel begins, eight years of quiet routine is shattered by a suicide, quickly followed by a murder.  Nothing will ever be the same, as more and more secrets are exposed and so many ugly truths are brought to light, including sheriff Coopers, that none of the four dozen residents will ever be safe or secure again.  When the institute, who built and controls the Blinds takes a greater controlling interest however, the fate of everything, and everyone and all of the Caesura—the official name of the Blinds—is in jeopardy.

Like, Mr. Sternbergh’s two other novels The Blinds is unique, genre-bending, and mind-altering . . . while at the same time it’s thought-provoking, noirish, gritty, and beautifully well-written . . . it’s entertaining as hell and more fun than free tickets to a carnival.  Count me a fan for life.  Sternbergh’s the best talent to come along since Stephen King hisself!

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The Changeling

Posted by on Oct 9, 2017 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

The Changeling

Mysterious Book Report No. 306

by John Dwaine McKenna

It’s become a tradition.  Each October, in observance of All Hallows Eve, the Dia de los Muertos and JDM’s birthday—which is on Halloween—the MBR reviews works of the paranormal, otherworldly and unexplained.  The weird, supernatural and bizarre stuff that’s outside of our usual focus on murder, mayhem and mankind’s general savagery.  All in good fun of course . . . for no writer of crime fiction could even begin to compete with the actual news of the day . . . which is the strangest of all.  We’re kicking it off this year with a fantasy thriller that’s part legend, part immigrant folk tale and part magical reality, all intertwined with a family saga of love, tragedy, loss, violence, revenge and redemption which will so enchant readers that they’ll stay locked-on each and every page until the end.

The Changeling, (Spiegel & Grau/ Penguin Random House, $28.00, 431 pages, ISBN 978-0-8129-9594-7) by Victor LaValle, has an edgy quality to it that will cause the parents of small children to look in on them a bit more often as they sleep and double-check, making certain all the doors and windows are locked tight.  That’s because the basic premise of  The Changeling is innumerable folk tales in which unattended babies are stolen by malevolent ghosts, goblins, ghouls or demons.  It’s an age-old theme that’s re-imagined with modern values, as a young book dealer named Apollo Kagwa wants nothing more than to live an ordinary life and be a great father to his newborn son, Brian.  Brian’s named for Apollo’s own father, who mysteriously disappeared when Apollo was a child.  Life’s good for the Kagwas until Emma Kagwa, in a fit of post-partum depression, commits an unspeakable act of violence . . . and disappears.  Until that point in the novel Apollo had been an ordinary man living a regular existence.  Now broken-hearted, he sets out on a mission of retribution and revenge, and unwittingly thrusts himself into a fantastic magical realm right in the heart of New York City.  It’s a world where illusions are fact, witches are real, and the utterly grotesque has taken shape, form and life.  It’s where Apollo Kagwa will learn that “Monsters aren’t real until you meet one,”  as the author writes on page 328  before letting his imagination run free as he explores what it means to be a father, a husband and a hero . . . all within the confines of a classic fairy tale.  The Changeling is epic in detail, magnificently written and awesome in scope !

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She Rides Shotgun

Posted by on Oct 2, 2017 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

She Rides Shotgun

Mysterious Book Report No. 305

by John Dwaine McKenna

Some authors hit the bookstores in high gear and never stop producing exciting and original works that become award-winners and best-sellers almost overnight, because readers get excited and tell their friends about it.  Word-of-mouth spreads like wildfire and the writer establishes a bigger fan base with each new book.  Our author this week deserves just such chit-chat.  His first novel combines pathos and humor; discovery and loss; brute force, gangsters and gunfights all overlaid with a growling awareness of the power of love.

She Rides Shotgun, (ECCO/Harper Collins, $26.99, 257 pages, ISBN 978-0-06-239440-8) by Jordan Harper is about a man and his eleven year-old daughter on the run.  Nate McClusky has run afoul of a prison gang called Aryan Steel.  The President of the skinhead group has sent out a kite—a written message—greenlighting the killing of Nate McClusky, his ex-wife and their young daughter Polly.  The message is received by all of “the dirty white boys,” the Aryan Steel brothers and their affiliated gang members, hanger-oners and wanna-bes, in the entire state of California.  Nate is told by another inmate about his death sentence, just as he’s being released from the state penitentiary at Susanville, and goes to warn his ex-wife.  When he arrives, it’s too late to save her, or her husband . . . they’ve both been murdered.  Determined to save the daughter he fathered, but doesn’t know and never thought much about, he shows up at Polly’s school in a stolen car and takes her away.  Essentially kidnapping her and the brown teddy bear,  that’s her inseparable ally.  And so begins an unforgettable odyssey that’s part rescue, part voyage of redemption and part discovery of the power of love coupled with the strength of filial bonds.  As they struggle to survive, Polly taps into an inner strength she didn’t know was within her and blossoms into a strong, confident young woman with a will to overcome any obstacle.

She Rides Shotgun is a first novel that displays the deft touch and sure hand of a more experienced wordsmith, and it has a plot with more twists and turns than the road to perdition.  It’s a hard-boiled yarn you’ll think about long after you’ve read it.  Jordan Harper’s an author to keep a lookout for . . . I can’t wait to see what comes next!

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Exit Strategy

Posted by on Sep 25, 2017 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Exit Strategy

Mysterious Book Report No. 304

by John Dwaine McKenna

One year ago, (MBR 254,) we alerted readers to a new series by award-winning, New York Times best-selling author Steve Hamilton that featured an anti-hero protagonist named Nick Mason.  Mason’s the guy who, in order to get out of serving the last fifteen years of a twenty year sentence in a maximum security prison, makes a Faustian bargain with a super-criminal named Darius Cole.  Mason gets out, but he’s nowhere free.  He’s at the beck and call of a mysterious cell phone.  When it rings, Mason must answer immediately and do whatever he’s told to by the voice on the other end.  Failure to do so will result in his ex-wife and daughter—who he would die for—being killed.  Otherwise, he lives like a king.  But as Cole himself says, Don’t confuse mobility with freedom.  The novel was a smash hit.  Now Hamilton’s back with a second, even better Nick Mason yarn.

Exit Strategy, (Putnam/Penguin Random House, $26.00, 287 pages, ISBN 978-0-399-57438-2) by Steve Hamilton starts off with a bang.  Literally, as Mason gears up to take out Darius Cole’s once-trusted accountant.  The man’s in WITSEC, witness protection, prepared to testify against Cole in his upcoming retrial, and guarded 24/7 by a team of a dozen hand-picked U.S. Marshalls.  They’re specially-trained and they’ve never lost a witness.  That doesn’t mean they never will, because Nick Mason’s a lethal weapon and his skills keep getting better and better, no matter how reluctant he is to use them for the benefit of Darius Cole.  Mason’s character is intriguing . . . he is protecting his daughter and her mother . . . by being a killer on behalf of an evil man and it’s eating him up.  That’s why he has to come up with an exit strategy in order to save himself from a life of involuntary servitude and ultimately, an ignominious death.  Author Hamilton opens the book with:  You kill one person it changes you.   You kill five . . . it’s who you are . . . and begins a rock n’ roll thrill ride that won’t quit or let up until the last page . . . where you’ll be wishing and hoping for more of the same . . . and soon.  Really. Really. Soon!  Steve Hamilton proves once again why he’s one of the best crime fiction writers in America today, if not the entire world.  Thriller readers—do yourself a favor and get to know this Edgar award winning author.  You’ll be a fan for life, and glad you did!

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