Back a few months
ago I stopped doing FFB Reviews because I felt bad that so many of the reviews
were repeats from the archives. I am not reading/reviewing anywhere near what I
used to do. That had led to a lot of repeat reviews. In recent weeks with all
the pandemic stress that is part of our lives every single day, it has come to
mind that maybe reminding you of good reads is not a bad thing. When this
review came up on my memories deal on FB the other day, it seemed like a good
place to start. So, for this final Friday in July 2020, I offer you my review
of the first issue of a short lived and very good magazine that featured short
tales of Crime Fiction.
Crime Syndicate Magazine: Issue 1 certainly delivers on their idea of “A
Magazine Of Crime Fiction.” From the distinctive cover to the eight short tales
selected by Guest Editor Eric Beetner and Founder/Editior-In-Chief Michael Pool
the first issue delivers in all aspects. As these are short stories and therefore
it is not possible to say much without creating spoilers, the barebones
descriptions below will have to suffice.
After a brief
introduction from Michael Pool, the issue opens with “So Close” by Eric
Beetner. He knew his wife, Shelly, was having an affair with a neighbor named
Robert. Their affair has been going on for awhile now so he isn’t surprised to
find them together at the house. He just never thought he would find them like
Suppose a family
member died because of a crime. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a fully loaded
clone ready to resume life and relationships if the worst happened? Reporters
and other folks call the idea “victim replacement.” Those who work in sales prefer
to call it “Restoration” in the tale of the same name by Art Taylor. No matter
what you call it, sometimes customers have to have an additional incentive to
make the sale.
One of the drawbacks
of social media is that you can find out what others think about you. There are
even a website that serves as the “premier consumer review site for mafia
thugs, hitman, and muscle. Based in Hoboken, New Jersey the man known as Jackson
“Jack the Hammer” Palmer isn’t getting good reviews. For Jack, an online diary
helps him vent in “Jack The Hammer’s Online Identity Crisis” by Jeff
Marco is always a bit
of a jerk when the cards are going his way. For Darius they often don’t and the
Berretta next to him isn’t helping with that. The poker game just the latest
clash between the two in “On Tilt” by James Queally.
Danny needs a miracle
in the form of 10k by next Tuesday or some very bad men are going to come to his
airstream camper and do some very bad things to him. Tyler “The Plumber”
Anderson is the bookie who most definitely wants his money in “Dee The Friendly
Grizzly’s Little Miracle” by Nick Kolakowski.
Zeke is out and now
Don and Jackson need to get to work in “God May Forgive You” by Paul Heatley. A
score needs to be settled.
The familiar theme of
being cheated on is just one small piece of “Tuning The Old Joanna” by Tess
Makovesky. Roy just needs to prove it by catching her in the act. To do that is
going to require surveillance and that will not be easy.
Trooper Alvin Mags is
working undercover in “The Line” by C. J. Edwards. The job is dangerous and
that was before things got seriously complicated.
The first issue ends
with an interesting interview with Eric Beetner. He talks about writing,
upcoming projects, and quite a lot more.
Crime Syndicate Magazine: Issue 1 was a mighty good read. The eight short
stories selected are far more complicated than their brief spoiler free
explanations above. These are reads of depth that will surprise experienced
mystery readers. Notably very funny with “Jack The Hammer’s Online Identity Crisis,”
each short tale has quite a lot going on. Simply put, there is not a bad one in
the bunch. Crime Syndicate Magazine: Issue 1 is a real treat for mystery
and crime fiction readers.
Recently, Lesa Holstine did a piece on her favorite
books of the year so far. We talked about it a little bit and I quickly realized
with the way my mind works—or more accurately does not work—these days, it
would take some effort on my part to go back and try to figure out what my top
five or six books would be. I had planned to do so, but then things here went whacky
as folks know and I did not get around to do it.
With the month of July nearly over, it seemed to be a
good time to come up with my favorite books
read/reviewed from January 2020 thru June 2020. Therefore, the resulting list
“Set in Mason Falls,
Georgia, The Good Detective by John
McMahon is a complicated novel of family history, legacy, southern tradition,
and in one major way, redemption. In this intense police procedural, deals are
made with the devils you know to get not just what you want, but what you need.”
The rest of my review from last February can be found here.
The sequel, The Evil Men Do, is also very ghood and my review
from March can be found here.
Shadows: A Detective Bryon Mystery by Bruce Robert Coffin
is the first book in a police procedural series. Set in Portland, Maine, and
the surrounding area, it features Detective Sergeant John Bryon and his team of
detectives. Internal politics and rivalries play a role in this complicated
police procedural where former officers are dying a variety of ways.”
The rest of my review from April can be found here.
My review of the second book in the series, Beneath The Depths ran
in May and can be found here.
“It is 1982 as The Off-Islander: An Andy
Roark Mystery by Peter Colt
begins. Andy Roark came home from Vietnam with more than a trace of
post-traumatic stress disorder and an inability to easily fit back into the
normal chaos of everyday society. He tried college, the police force, and these
days works as a private investigator in Boston.” The rest of myreview in April can be found here.
“Imagine, if you will,
the possibility of crossing from this plane of existence into another one built
on a role playing game. Where the decisions you made in setting up your
character and your abilities, as well as ones made by all of the players in
your group, could have life and death consequences within moments of your
arrival. That magic, vampires, goblins, and more are totally real as is your
ability to fight as a warrior and maybe heal yourself and others depending on
the severity of the injury and what you chose moments before here in this
world. That is the world as it exists for the characters in Outpost: Monsters, Maces
and Magic Book One by Terry W. Ervin II.” April was a good reading month
and the rest of my review can be found here.
“Sordid: Five Crime Stories by Harry Hunsicker is a collection of
five previously published tales. As made clear early on, these are “Five Crime
Stories about Amputee Strippers, Drifters, Meth Heads, and Other Lost Souls.”
The read is exactly as advertised. This is not a cozy style read. This is
graphic, often violent, and is a very good read.” The rest ofmy May review can be found here.
Sparks: A Riley Reeves Mystery by Michael Pool is the
first book in what promises to be a highly entertaining series. There are
numerous references to an earlier case which was the focus of the story,
“Weathering The Storm,” in The
Eyes of Texas: Private Eyes From The Panhandle To The Piney Woods anthology
edited by Michael Bracken that came out last year. While it is not
necessary to have read that short story before reading this novel, it would not
hurt as those events still have personal repercussions in this novel set more
than a year later.” The rest of my review from last May can be read here.
There you have it. Six of
my favorite books of the year so far for the first six months of the year.
Eight if you count the sequels. Nine if you count the referenced anthology
which is also really good. No matter how you count them, these books are some
mighty good reading as I see them.
She was lucky to have escaped with her life when the intruders
came for her that cold and snowy night. She had been ready and had a plan, but
as often happens with plans, things went sideways from the point her door
crashed inward. She fled into the night and by sheer luck survived and got to the
vicinity of Painter’s Mill, Ohio. There is one person there she knew long ago
that might help her now: Kate Burkholder.
That one person is Chief of Police Kate Burkholder. Many
years ago, Kate Burkholder and Gina Colorosa were friends. Good friends who first
met by happenstance, bonded, and soon went through the academy and joined the
force together. Once employed as police officers, their inner natures took over,
and what had been a close friendship frayed and then broke irretrievably.
All these years later, Gina Colorosa is a wanted fugitive
and in a world of trouble. She desperately needs Kate Burkholder’s help. Can Gina
Outsider: A Novel Of Suspense by Linda Castillo is the latest in her long running series
featuring Kate Burkholder. It is also a heck of a good read with a lot going on
at different levels. Part mystery, part police procedural, and with a lot of
reflection about how our inner nature as well as our experiences shape us to be
the people we are now, the read powers along at a steady pace to the inevitable
violent conclusion deep on a snowy winter night.
Even when you see it coming one hundred pages out, that
final confrontation is very intense. Outsider: A Novel OfSuspense
by Linda Castillo is an intense very good read and is strongly
recommended. Unlike earlier books in the series where it was best to have
read the preceding books, this one can be read and enjoyed by readers new to
For another take on the book, make
sure to read Lesa Holstine’s review.
A coyote found the body
first as it lay at the base of a pagoda in Thailand Plaza. Driven by the fires
that had consumed Griffith Park moving her natural food sources away, the
scrawny coyote took off a chunk of thigh before the flashing lights and sirens
of the first officers to arrive on scene sent her scurrying off elsewhere this
Paramedics and firefighters
soon add to the scene further snarling traffic. Not only does that snarl of
traffic make it harder for morning commuters, it slows down the arrival of
Detectives Tully Jarsdel and Morales. Five years on the force and new to
homicide, the death of a person who was possibly tortured and then cooked alive
at high temperatures much like your Sunday dinner roast, becomes his case to
solve as lead detective in One Day You’ll Burn: A Novel by Joseph
This police procedural
combines a horrific case full of mystery in with elements of history and
philosophy to create a compelling and intense read. Jarsdel walked away from a
very promising career in academia and did so with tremendous personal
repercussions that continue years later. His background is going to play a
major role in the case as events unfold. A role that may encourage Morales and
others to lay off the jokes for a while.
In addition to the main
storyline, there are several secondary storylines at work in this debut police
procedural. One of which involves the killing of family pets and may disturb
some readers. Intense and very complicated, very graphic at times, One
Day You’ll Burn: A Novel is a
different read than a lot of the police procedurals you come across. It is also
incredibly good and very much recommended.
For another take on the
book, make sure to read Lesa Holstine’s review. I would not have read the book without this review by Lesa. The second book of the series, What Waits For You, is currently
scheduled to be released on January 5th.
The Hook (Severn
House, 2020) is the fifth book in the Raymond Donne series by Tim O’Mara. Donne
is a former policeman in the Williamsburg, New York, area, who took up teaching
after an injury. He teaches special education students at a school in the same
neighborhood where he used to walk a beat. The story opens with the discovery
of a body on the roof of the school. The victim is Maurice Joseph, a recovering
drug addict doing community service at the school, showing the students how to
grow plants hydroponically. His real job was with a small technology security
firm start-up, owned by a friend of Donne’s.
particularly eerie about this death is that the murder was committed by bow and
arrow. The fatal shot had to have been delivered from one of the surrounding
tall buildings, but determining which one is going to be a challenge. The autopsy
report conveys the stunning information that Joseph was full of fentanyl. His
wife and his friends are shattered a second time, as they believed he had fully
kicked the drug habit.
Called to the
scene is Detective James Royce, with whom Donne has a history. Royce has
several caustic comments to make, comparing Jessica Fletcher and Cabot Cove to
Donne. With Donne’s journalist girlfriend Allison, who uses a drone to take
photos of the crime scene after being denied access, the three make a
compelling set of characters. Allison’s thirst for her next big story and
Donne’s need to protect privacy and information sources force the two to
continuously seek a balance acceptable to them both.
business partner finds out that he had accepted security work unknown to the
partner, contravening their agreement. He asks Donne to sit in on the meetings
with this unknown customer who says he is looking for his missing stepson but
the ex-cop in Donne doesn’t think what the man is saying adds up. Donne feels compelled
to become involved to help the partner and to justify his faith in Joseph.
investigation takes him back to the rehab center where Joseph spent two years.
His inquiries cross Allison’s latest story lead in a surprising way that
creates a secondary story thread. It all wraps up nicely with a few loose
threads that will no doubt lead to the next book. Tight plot, nicely sequenced
action, engrossing read. Recommended.
·Hardcover: 240 pages
·Publisher: Severn House
Publishers; First World Publication edition (March 3, 2020)
also have reviews and giveaways of more mysteries for your summer
reading-"Nothing Bundt Trouble": A Bakeshop Mystery by Ellie
Alexander, "Red Hot": A Red Herring Mystery by Dana Dratch (the
giveaway on this book is an ebook), "Jane Darrowfield, Professional
Busybody" by Barbara Ross, and "Still Knife Painting": A Paint
and Shine Mystery by Cheryl Hollon
those who prefer to listen to Mysteryrat's Maze Podcast directly on KRL, you
can find the player here for the latest episode which features the mystery
short story "Crime of Passion" by Guy Belleranti, read by local actor
have another special midweek guest post that went up during the week, this one
by mystery author Jean Rabe where
she talks about the dogs in her books, and about her latest book "The Dead
of Jerusalem Ridge." You can also enter to win a copy of the book
The Six-Gun Tarot by R.S. Belcher is the debut novel
for this author and the first book of a planned series. It is a book that is
considered a “weird western.” Those are
books where dark fantasy, occult, and various other paranormal type elements
are part of the tale. That is certainly the case here as the read has fantasy,
occult, and horror elements in this tale set in the old west. Because it is set
in that time, some of the language used in the story is reflective of that
period and would not be acceptable in our current society.
Deep in the desert in 1869 Nevada, there sits the town of
Golgatha. It is a place that attracts the weird, the lost the outcast, and
those who like to forget their past. While there are many unique characters in
this town, there are three characters, heroes if you will, that the story
primarily revolves around as it unfolds.
The Sherriff is a man who has been hung until dead three times.
The mark of the noose is still vivid around his neck. Some say he is dead now
and others say he can never fully die. His Deputy is “Mutt” and so named in reference
to the fact that he is a half breed son of Coyote, the Native American
Trickster God. Mutt is half man and half coyote and has the ability to transform
between the two forms. The third is a young boy who is on the run from his
past. In the present, he guards a magical eye that used to belong to his father
before he died.
These unique heroes must combine forces to battle a coming evil
that threatens to end the world. If the city of Golgotha falls, the world will
not be far behind it.
The Six-Gun Tarot by R.S. Belcher combines action,
humor, mystery, and more into a really enjoyable read. One of my favorite
aspects of the book is how it really pulled me into that world. There are a lot
of throw away lines between characters that reference lots of different events
that show these characters have been working together and dealing with weird
things for some time now. For example,
there is a debate between characters if what is going on could be caused by Rat
People and as things progress, they start arguing whether there really are rat
people or if other folks are faking things. It is funny when you read it in the
book though it may not appear that way here.
The next book in the series is The Shotgun Arcana
and I am on hold through the library for that one and the following book, The
Queen of Swords.
My reading copy came to me from the Audelia Road Branch of the
Dallas Public Library System.
(Down & Out Books, 2020) by Paul D. Marks is the first title in his new
historical mystery series featuring Bobby Saxon. Set in Los Angeles during
World War II, it is an absorbing glimpse of a time and place where Hollywood’s
overriding presence pushed the ongoing international crisis to the back of daily
consciousness. The sight of service members in uniform on leave or on their way
to their next assignment, a gold star in a window, the headlines of the
newspaper served as reminders but largely everyone is taken up with the
entertainment industry and finding their place in it.
is no different. He loves big band music and considers a place in a band the
most wonderful job anyone could have. He plays a mean piano and quite
accidentally is offered a temporary spot in the premier black band of the time.
He is in seventh heaven, even though being the only white member of a black
band is not an enviable position in racially charged Los Angeles. His bubble of
happiness explodes quickly, when a couple of suspected Nazis and known racists
are killed at the club where the band is playing, and a member of the band is
arrested. The police have no real reason to arrest the man, it’s just he’s
black and there, and they can mark the case solved.
The leader of
the band Booker Taylor tells Bobby he can have a permanent place with the band
if he finds the real killer and Booker gets his sax man back. Bobby knows
nothing about being a private investigator but jumps in at the deep end. He
attends all of the private detective movie showings he can find to learn what
his next steps should be. He meets the police detective in charge of the
inquiry and researches the background of the victim. Along the way he meets the
gangster Tony Leach who owns the club where the murder took place. Leach isn’t
happy about being closed down due the police investigation and decides not to
be offended by Bobby approaching him. Their interactions are entertaining.
Bobby knows he’s sticking his head into an alligator’s mouth but he is
convinced Leach knows something that could help him.
has a number of surprises in it and a complexity that is hard to convey in a
brief review. It is redolent of the era and offers perceptive insights into
race, gender and identity, all relevant to the present day. The mystery itself
is well done with a clue here and a clue there as Bobby puts the pieces
together. I know this book is supposed to be the first of a series although I
don’t quite see how a sequel might be set up. However, Marks is clearly a
creative guy so I will be happy to wait and see. In the meantime this
atmospheric, well-crafted book is highly recommended.
Been awhile since I mentioned this, but I am still an Amazon Associate. So, every time you click through one of my links and buy somethi...
Supporting The Blog
In my wife's memory and honoring a promise I made to Sandi, the blog continues...at least for now. If you would like to make a donation of support, you can do so at the links below. Most of the donated funds go to the purchase of medical supplies for me. Some of it goes to the purchase of various short story anthologies and collections which eventually are read and reviewed here.