Saturday, January 28, 2017

Book Review: THE VIKING FUNERAL, by Stephen J. Cannell

Stephen J. Cannell
St. Martin's Press, 2002
351 pages
Crime / Police Procedural 

THE VIKING FUNERAL is the second book in the Shane Scully Series, and while it is the first book I have ever read by Cannell, it will not be the last.

The story is pretty straight-forward. We have LAPD Officer Shane Scully. A single father. He is in dating Alexa, also an officer with LAPD. And the relationship is pretty serious. The idea is to get married. Turn the three of them into a family.

Life is never that simple.

Not long ago Shane's partner, Jody Dean, committed suicide. It has not been easy for Shane to come to terms with the demise. Suicide was the last thing Jody would have ever done. Despite all of the proof, the photographs, the medical examiner reports, Shane cannot accept the obvious--that his friend is gone.

Compounding his denial, Shane is certain he saw his friend driving a car on the freeway. More than that, he knows Jody saw him. Bringing this up to the authorities can cause him the loss of his badge, the death of his career.

Unwilling to leave it alone, Shane begins to dig for answers. What he discovers is a possible rogue undercover operation. The group is known as the Vikings. Perhaps the initial intent was righteous, but currently the band of cops is out of control. Infiltrating the Vikings is the only way Shane will get the answers he seeks. But in doing so he risks losing everything he holds dear!

Mexican bankers, laundering money, and murder fill the pages in this thrilling cop novel. Stephen J. Cannell knows how to pace a mystery. He should. He has penned dozens of Best Sellers, and written some fantastic television series, and movies. I know one thing is certain, Amazon is going to love me as I begin ordering the other books in this series!

Phillip Tomasso,

author of the Severed Empire Series,
and The Vaccination Trilogy

Book Review: SNATCH, by Gregory Mcdonald

Gregory Mcdonald
Hard Case Crime / Titan Books, 2017 (1980, 1985)

446 pages
Crime / Noir / Satire

Gregory Mcdonald, who passed away in 2008, is best known for his FLETCH series. Yes. Fletch. That loveable, quirky crime solving journalist depicted by Chevy Chase on the big screen. Back-when I'd read a handful of the Fletch books, and loved them. Now, some two decades later, I am rediscovering Mcdonald's work.

SNATCH is like picking up a 45 record down at the music store. (Feel free to Google the reference if necessary). Hard Case Crime has re-released two novels under one title. SNATCH. And, just like that 45 RPM record there is clearly a Side A, and a Side B.

In the first novel, SNATCHED, we are looking at a kidnapping. Difference is, the abduction has nothing to do with money. When eight year-old Toby Rinaldi goes missing, his parents find themselves in the midst of a nightmare.

Teodoro is a Middle East Ambassador to the King, living in New York City. His wife, Christina, an American, is overwhelmed by the politics, and diplomatic life that seem to have driven a wedge into her marriage, and threatens her family.

There is a powerful article on the table. Resolution 1176R. It deals with closing, or not closing, the Persian Gulf to the shipping of oil. Whether passed, or dropped, the possibility of war hangs in the balance. Teodoro's presentation, and vote, could make all of the difference.

A phone call confirms it. Toby will either live or die based on how Teodoro votes. The choice is up to the ambassador.

Working with the king's secret security personnel, Teodoro does not trust anyone. And he has every right to feel paranoid. Something has gone wrong. There is more behind the kidnapping. Toby's life is in danger, and the vote is only a few days away!
SNATCHED was an easy, straight forward read. Some good twists. The characters were simple, but well drawn. Some of the best parts of the book pertained to Toby and his Kidnapper, Spike. The last forty, to fifty pages was packed with action. Fantazyland-style action. And the pages just kept turning, and turning. 


Unfortunately, for me, SAFEKEEPING was clearly the B Side of the 45, the lesser known song, if you will. It is meant as satire. I needed to continually remind myself of that while reading. It is nothing at all like the Fletch novels, and nothing at all like SNATCHED.

I saw some reviews compare SAFEKEEPING to the likes of Mark Twain. I did not see that. The story takes place during World War II. Our main character, the hero, if you will, is Robert James Saint James Burnes Walter. (Robby Burnes for short). The eight year old boy is in an England bordering school when he learns that his parents have died in a bombing.

The school informs the child in a very flippant way of the deaths. They inform Robby that he will be sent to stay with his uncle in New York City. Journalist Thadeus Lowry shows up hours late to retrieve his nephew. He is clearly self-absorbed, arrogant, and does not seem to realize no one takes him serious at all.

There is no sympathy, or questions asked about the death of Robby's parents. Thadeus seems indifferent about the death of his sister, Robby's mother, and more concerned with finding his next story--always looking for the byline.

The two get tangled up in some misadventures that, I presume, are meant to be funny, and ironic, and full of satire. Me? I either just didn't get, or just didn't care enough to try. The story reads easy. Smooth writing. For me, SAFEKEEPING was like drinking from the container in the 'fridge and expecting sodapop, only to end up swallowing milk. Milk's still good, but not when you are expecting soda. Perhaps I thought I was in for a noir-style story, and was a bit taken aback by getting something more Steinbeck-ish instead.

Phillip Tomasso,
Author of the Severed Empire Series,
and The Vaccination Trilogy

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Book Review: DARKNESS, TAKE MY HAND, by Dennis Lehane

DARKNESS,TAKE MY HAND is the second book in the Kenzie & Gennaro series. It was a whole lot darker than the first. A bit more disturbing. Many cogs in a mysterious wheel spinning at once. And I loved it.

Diandra Warren is worried. She is a professor and psychiatrist. When a young woman, Moira Kenzi, comes to her for help nothing adds up. Things get worse when the doctor receives a photograph in the mail. It is of her son. She now finds herself worried about his safety, as well as her own.

If the Irish Mob isn’t directly behind the silent threats, it could be Kevin Hurlihy, Jack Rouse’s right hand man. Either way, Kevin’s involvement spells trouble. The man has no heart, and is known for his unorthodox ways of dealing with things. Delivering pain, resorting to torture, and even killing people doesn’t faze him in the slightest.

Kenzie and Gennaro are hired. Diandra wants to be absolutely sure no one is after her son. The investigation involves a lot of shadowing, keeping the doctor’s son under constant surveillance. The best the private eyes can tell, there is nothing for the family to worry about.

Nothing to worry about, that is until a young girl is found dead. Crucified. Her hands and feet were nailed into the ground. On her was Kenzie’s business card. Although seemingly separate from Kenzie and Gennaro’s initial investigation, sins of the past are brought to the present.

Someone is killing people from the old neighborhood. And before each person is killed a photograph of that person is sent to someone they love. A serial killer is on the loose. The police and the FBI find one common factor in all of the cases. Patrick Kenzie. He is in some way tied to nearly each and every one.

When those Kenzie loves are threatened, are put into harm’s way, the joint investigation is stepped-up, but it may not be enough. Finding the one responsible is no easy feat. Bodies keep turning up. And it is clear that time is running out. Kenzie receives a simple threat, not everyone you love can live.

A fantastic, fast-paced, and gritty crime novel! DARKNESS, TAKE MY HAND just grabbed me from the depressing opening scene, until the very last page. I am finding this is common in the Lehane books I’ve read recently. He is quickly working his way up as one of my favorite authors!

Author of the Severed Empire Series

Monday, January 23, 2017

Book Review: ROSE GOLD, by Walter Mosley

Walter Mosley
Doubleday, 2014
308 pages
Crime / Private Eye

I will never forget seeing Denzel Washington in the movie, Devil in a Blue Dress. Thought it was one of the best films I'd ever seen. I then did some digging of my own. Learned that the movie was based on the book of the same name, by Walter Mosely. Ever since, I have been a devout fan, Devout.

ROSE GOLD is the 13th Easy Rawlins novel. Ezekiel "Easy" Rawlins is an African American private investigator. The books take place between the 1940s through the 1960s. It is some of the best noir, gritty, hard-boiled stuff on bookshelves.

Little by little Easy has done alright. A hard worker, he's saved up money, and takes care of his family. When not solving cases, he has a number of rental properties that he owns. He is a man of the people. Tough, and fearless, he has a heart of gold. Unfortunately, those in the know have no problem taking advantage of Easy's position.

When Easy's properties start failing inspections, and fees begin piling up, the timing couldn't be any worse. He is in the middle of moving, taking his family a few blocks away, into something a little bigger, a little better. With his money tied-up, he's forced to work on the rental repairs himself. But there is a time limit to get all of the work done.

So when Roger Frisk, assistant to the LAPD chief of police, shows up offering Easy work, and the promise of making the fines disappear, he has no choice but to see what's what. Turns out college student, Rosemary Goldsmith, is missing. She hasn't been seen on campus in weeks. It could be she took off, or quite possibly that she's been kidnapped. Foster Goldsmith, Rose's father, is the owner of Goldsmith Armaments. With a constant threat of war, Goldsmith's business in weaponry does very, very well.

Thing is, Frisk isn't hiring Easy to find Rose. He wants Easy to track down ex-boxer Robert Mantle. For a large paycheck, and his rental properties vanishing, all Easy needs to do is tell Frisk where Mantle is. That's it. Nothing more.

Except, nothing is ever as it seems, nor is anything that easy. The saying is, "If it sounds too good to be true . . . "

I said it earlier, I will mention it one more time. I am a devout fan of Walter Mosley and his writing. Thing is, as much as I want to recommend this book to you . . . I almost can't. Do yourself a favor. Go back to the beginning. Start with DEVIL IN A BLUE DRESS. Experience each of the Easy novels in order. So much happens in each tale, and carries on into the next book. (Can someone pick up Rose Gold and read it without having read the first in the series? Sure. Absolutely. It's just, me? Personally? I wouldn't recommend it. Do yourself a favor. Submerge yourself in Mosley's writing. If you like crime drama, noir, and solid characters . . . You don't want to miss out on someone I consider one of today's best crime novelists.

Phillip Tomasso
Author of the Severed Empire Series
and The Vaccination Trilogy

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Book Review: A DRINK BEFORE THE WAR, by Dennis Lehane

Dennis Lehane
Harcourt Brace & Company, 1994
267 pages
Crime / Private Eye

A DRINK BEFORE THE WAR is Dennis Lehane's debut novel, and the first featuring P.I.s Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro.

Boston. Mid-1990s. When the cleaning lady at the State House goes missing on the same day as some sensitive documents, three politicians simply put one and one together. They figure the best chance at finding the woman and getting back what had been taken would be if they hired Kenzie and Gennaro for the job. Bringing in P.I.s keeps the police out of it, and unwanted attention is the last thing they want, or need. Not to mention, Kenzie's deceased father is something of a legend, a Hero firefighter who saved two kids from a burning high rise.

Problem is, no one told Kenzie or Gennaro exactly what the documents were. When they find the missing maid, technically their job is done. An easy payday. Unfortunately, Kenzie also wants answers. He smells a fish. The politicians remind him a lot of his father, and maybe that is why isn't satisfied with just doing the job he was hired to do. He wants to dig,and find answers to the new string of questions that keep coming to mind.

When it turns out the documents are actually gut-wrenching, compromising photographs, the focus of the entire case shifts. As Kenzie and Gennaro find them selves in danger at every turn. It isn't just the politicians after the "documents." There are two, major, rival gangs interested in obtaining the information. Bodies start piling up.

With an amazing cast of characters, from detectives, and journalists, to reliable crooks, and state resources, the taut thriller is an amazing read. While years ago I'd read Mystic River, and Shutter Island, I am mad that it has taken me this long to get back into Lehane's books. You know what though? I'm here now. And I am enjoying the reads!

Phillip Tomasso
Author of the Severed Empire Series
and The Vaccination Trilogy