Last Dance in Phoenix Will Blow You Away

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I liked Last Dance in Phoenix by Kurt Reichenbauch. I liked it a lot. No, that’s not strong enough. Actually, I loved it. I loved it a lot. It is that good. As I immersed myself in this book, I had a feeling of déjà vu. I had the same feeling I got when I read my first book by someone who would quickly become one of my favorite noir authors. Now mind you, I don’t offer this comparison lightly because in my mind I am comparing him to a noir author who sits on the Mount Rushmore of current noir authors.

So who am I comparing Reichenbauch to you ask? As I read this book I kept mentally comparing him to the one and only Jason Starr. There is something about this book which brings me back to the first 5 books Starr penned in which his main characters were “every day men” who got swept up in a series of events that caused them to spiral out of control and the reader slowly started to see a new side of them emerge. Within this great book, Reichenbauch has created a character that follows this pattern.

Kent Starling is a rather boring accountant who seems to lead a boring existence. He is married, has no children, and works in a small cubicle at his boring 9 to 5 job. But when he gets an email from a friend he hasn’t heard from in years, his life gets turned upside down in ways he couldn’t begin to fathom.

As the book progresses, you begin to see Kent in a new light and discover that he isn’t the straight arrow you thought he was. You learn that there are many things, both from his past and in his current life, he would prefer remained hidden. As his life begins to become unhinged, his past secrets come out into the open and you see him slowly begin to sink into depravity.

This is one hell of a good read. Although I compare this work with Starr’s earlier works, Reichenbauch more than stands on his own and shows great writing talent with this release. His characters are fresh and believable, and the plot is fast moving and bold. I am thrilled to see that he has a previous book, Sirens, that I immediately purchased and added to my To Be Read pile.

Overall, this book impressed me immensely. It has been quite a while since I reacted to a new author like this and I am excited to see if not only his first book, but his next release, prove me right when I say this man has a great literary future in front of him. Consider me blown away by this book!

Highly Recommended.

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Angel Luis Colon is a Writing Genius

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Most purveyors of noir fiction have probably heard of Angel Luis Colon, and most would probably say they’ve really enjoyed the wide array of short stories he’s published in almost every well-known noir short story collection, noir webzine, or noir website around. His stories are tight, well-written pieces of literature that both entertain and leave readers begging for him to tackle a longer piece of fiction. Well that time has come, as he’s penned a novella entitled, The Fury of Blacky Jaguar published by One Eye Press. The only question was, would his talent be able to transcend the short story and stay intact as he tackles a longer story?

No suspense here . . . of course he knocked it out of the ballpark! This is one hell of a blast to read. This novella is violent, like a punch to the gut, and will leave you gasping for air. This is everything that is right with the seemingly new push to publish novellas. Colon wastes not a word and delivers a story that has no filler, just action packed scenes with witty dialogue. Every page, paragraph, and word is stripped down to only include parts that are vital to the story and that pays dividends, as the reader never has a chance to pause to catch their breath.

This pulpy little tale centers on Daniel Clarks—who nicknames himself Blacky Jaguar—as his prize possession, a Plymouth Fury is stolen. There’s no way in hell Blacky will sit by silently and take this slight without extracting full and violent revenge. Blacky, an ex-IRA hardman, goes into full bone breaking, murderous mode to find answers to where he can find his car and who needs to pay for taking what’s his. We follow him through the boroughs on New York as he leaves a trail of bloody carnage in his wake.

Hot on his tail is Special Agent Iris Delgado of the FBI. She has been searching for Blacky for over two years without finding a trace of him. Now she has him in her sights again, she is determined to get her man. Her quest is complicated by some unfinished business from a shared past. She’s well aware of the destruction Blacky is capable of, and knows time is not on her side to bring him to justice.

There’s no doubt in my mind that Colon has a great character in Blacky Jaguar and I am confident I will not be the only one who will beg him for another Blacky Jaguar book. Blacky is everything a noir character should be and Angel Luis Colon is everything a noir author should be. I look forward to his next novella and his first novel, which should both be forthcoming in the near future.

Highly Recommended

Bitter Water is a Smooth Read

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I just read the closing paragraph of Bitter Water Blues written by Patrick Shawn Bagley and I am already awaiting the next novel from Bagley. Bitter Water Blues is proof that Bagley has a wonderful career ahead of him as a noir writer and is sure to pen noir tales that will be deemed as “must reads” by lovers of noir, and dare I say, all lovers of great books.

Bagley has created a great cast of characters within this book. They come to life as the story evolves and he really fleshes them out and allows the reader to become attached to them. Their motivations are well explained and that allows the reader to understand them and become connected to the story.

Joey Kotex is a former mob enforcer who has decided to forgo the life of criminal enterprise and instead open a blues bar in Chicago and live out his life playing harmonica and listening to blues classics. But when the leader of the mob family he walked out on needs one more job completed, Joey finds his best friend kidnapped and his choice of a quiet life pulled out from under him.

Joey finds himself in the small town of Wesserunsett, on the lookout for a mob turncoat who holds a sex tape of the mob leader’s niece. Joey must find the tape, and kill the turncoat, or his friend will not live to see another day.

As the story evolves, Bagley introduces a wonderful set of secondary characters that are fun to read about and help propel the story forward.

Wanda is a police officer within the small town. She is happily stuck in the rut of her job, but has a pull deep within herself that tells her it may be time to move onto bigger and better things. But being torn between her desire for a fresh start and keeping watch over her parents leads her to spin her wheels and never really make a true effort to move forward.  She has a nose for crime and upon meeting Joey, senses something strange is happening. Her curiosity may hamper Joey’s ability to perform his job and make a quick getaway, which sets up a great showdown between a cop with a sense of honor and duty, and a former crook that just wants to get back to the peaceful life he has created.

This small, quiet town has its own set of undesirables. Hag is the local thug, fresh from jail on a drug charge and looking to set up his own empire through contract killings. He’s come to realize he needs to take what he wants and damn the consequences. He shows no mercy for anyone who gets in his way, even his best friend, Earl. Earl wants nothing more than to spend his life on a couch watching television and eating snacks that will add to his 300 pound plus frame. He has no desire to lead a life of crime, but his sense of loyalty to Hag makes it impossible for him to pull away from him.

The plot of the book begins to ratchet up as the chapters fly by. The inevitable conflict between the cast of characters feels like a slow burn throughout the book and that serves the reader well. Bagley lights a slow burning fuse in the opening chapter and the reader is on pins and needles waiting for the big explosion they know is coming. Bagley has a great knack for letting you feel the flame and anticipate the burn you know is forthcoming.

I loved the simplicity of the book. The bad guys are bad, the good guys are good, and the conflict seems straightforward in that regard. But the complexities of Joey Kotex, a man torn between the violence that simmers below the surface and the dream of living a simple life, allows this book to have a depth that lifts the book above the average noir offering. Bagley has penned a great book and if this book is any indication, seems destined for big things in the future. A lover of noir would be served well to jump on this train right out of the station and enjoy the ride Bagley is sure to take them on in the upcoming years. This is a strong offering right out of the station.

Highly recommended.

Monson Strikes Gold

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What do you get when you mix a man with a habit of drinking cough syrup to get high, a double murder, a horny as hell old lady, a cop who only thinks with one of his heads, and the creativity of Mike Monson? If you guessed a book that is wild, fun, and addictive, you hit the nail on the head!

This book opens with a boom…well actually the aftereffects of the booms of a double gauge shotgun as a drug-fueled double murder has occurred. The murder nets Miranda and Logan almost a million dollars in heroin, but leaves them with the problem of who to pin the murders on. As luck would have it, they have Miranda’s Uncle Paul, a divorcee with a cough syrup addiction, at their disposal. Even more convenient is the fact one of the murder victims is Paul’s ex-wife and he threatened both her and the other victim, who was the man she left Paul for. They set their plan into motion by planting the murder weapon on Paul and making certain that all signs point to him.

Paul’s mother, Mavis, is a funny and memorable character. She is a pot smoking, sex addicted GILF (Grandmother I’d Like to F***). When she meets Detective Fagan, who is investigating the double murder, she is more interested in being desirable than being helpful to Paul and trying to prove he is innocent.

Overall this is one of the best books I have read in a while. The story matter is serious, but Monson makes it a light, engaging read that had me laughing aloud and enjoying every chapter. Monson strikes gold with any book he pens or publishes and this book is no exception.

Highly Recommended.

Make a Pact to Read This Great Book

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Number Thirteen Press has released their 8th book and they seem to be pretty intent of kicking ass and taking names with this one! The Pact by Turlough Delaney is everything a tight book is meant to be…great plot that features murder, drugs, revenge, and sex…characters that come to life and illicit emotion from the reader…and an ending that closes the book with a bang and leaves the reader salivating for the next book by the author (and in this case the next book from the publisher as well!)

Revenge is in large supply for Santy, Leo, and Dean as they look to supply payback to local drug dealers for all the misery they inflict on the community they push drugs through. Santy is the ringleader and demands loyalty from Leo and Dean if they join “the pact” of taking out the trash that is peddling drugs to their neighbors. Once the Leo and Dean have sealed their deal with Santy, they begin to realize how far he is willing to go to rid the streets of the local dealers.

All is going according to plans until the three men realize the cops are onto them and the only way the cops would know about their murderous activities is if a “rat” turned them in. The race against time and the law is on and they need to figure out who has turned against the pact and betrayed their trust. Each man is forced to question everything they know about the others as they realize there is no one they can really trust.

I found this book to be a balls-to-the-wall ride that leaves the reader with torched finger tips from turning the pages so quickly and leaves the reader short of breath from anxiety as Delaney ratchets up the suspense till the book seems poised to explode from the tension.

At this point, I find myself looking forward to the middle of each month so I can get my hands on the latest release from Number Thirteen Press. Their plan is to release 13 books and then end the fun??? If they think they can give us these types of books and we are all going to let them ride off into the sunset after they publish 13 books, they are out of their bugging minds. I will start the revolution myself if need be. This publishing outfit needs to hunker down for the long haul and come to grips with the fact their business model is being forced into a new direction. We need them to just keep turning out books at this pace and never look back. Bravo to them for their ability to sniff out winners in a crowded publishing world. Bravo to Turlough Delaney for having written one of their strongest books (and if you have read their other 7 books you know that is a great compliment…if you haven’t read their other 7 books you are dead to me).

Highly recommended.

Dodging Bullets Hits Its Target

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“Nobody ever changes,” he said. “Human nature isn’t a light switch you can turn on and off. Some people are pieces of (trash) and they’ll stay pieces of (trash) their whole lives. That’s the way of things. That’s why men like me stay in business….(and) business is very good.”

Dodging Bullets by Joe McKinney is a very well-written tale of Peto Hurst, a low level heroin dealer who makes a big move to not only to get out of the heroin business, but to take a little extra with him and his girlfriend. The only problem with his plan is that the little extra belongs to the Mexican Mafia and their affiliates. Although Peto thinks his plan is well thought out, he quickly learns that even the smallest strings that are left unties and quickly unravel even the tightest of plans.

The book has many great secondary characters, from mafia henchmen to Pet’s love interest. I especially likes the chapters that Peto interacts with the mafia henchmen, as they are cruel and callous and McKinney does a great job describing their inner evil as they search for the missing product and seek answers and retribution. These secondary characters helped propel the storyline forward and really added depth to the book.

McKinney has written many previous works, but this was my first exposure to him. I found his writing to be very entertaining. He keeps his plots tight and his characters are fairly well developed. He started the book with a chapter that sucked me right into the book and refused to allow me to put the book down. I think that is essential for a reader like me. I have so many books on my To Be Read pile that a book needs to grab me from the get-go and keep the story moving at a breakneck pace. McKinney did just that with this book and that is what makes it a winner in my eyes. I will be seeking out more of his work and I recommend you do the same. This is a great introduction to him for all readers of crime novels.

Recommended

Hard Cold Whisper is a Dynamite Read

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Hard Cold Whisper by Michael Hemmingson was a breathe of fresh air, yet a return to a time when books had dames, money, and double crossings. There is so much to enjoy between the covers of this book and everyone should be running to get a copy.

David Kellgren is a process server and is prideful of the fact that he has never missed serving papers to someone he is seeking. He will go into the roughest, toughest neighborhoods and get the job done. On one tough job he meets Gabriella Amaya, who is the caretaker for her rich, dying aunt. Their relationship starts with an attraction that escalates into a full-blown affair. But their budding love is not enough for Gabriella, as she wants the freedom that will come with the passing of her aunt, as well as the millions of dollars she feels she is owed from her aunt’s estate. She sets out to seduce David into becoming her murder weapon, but David needs to be wary of his sexy, money hungry girlfriend, because things may not be as they seem.

I loved this book and will be looking for more books by Hemmingson. His writing style is tight and he doesn’t waste a word as he brings you into a world you will hate to leave when the story is over. The feel of this novel is the same one who get when you read older novels that are now labeled as the classics. The double-crossings, the woman who will seduce anyone in her path, and the man who is led by his heart (and a little by his loins) is a story that has been written before, but Hemmingson puts a nice spin on it and crafts a story that is all his own and is more than enjoyable.

Highly Recommended.

Stranglehold Will Get a Strong Hold on You

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I just finished reading Stranglehold by Jack Ketchum and I was absolutely floored by the strong writing, great plot, and Ketchum’s ability to just suck the reader into the world he created and have each chapter end with a feeling of dread and despair that forces the reader to read “just one more chapter” before they take a break.

Ketchum has created Arthur Danse, a true sociopath who likes to prove his superiority of everyone else in his world and actively seeks to bring people into his world just so he can prove to them that he is better than them. When he meets Lydia McCloud, a beautiful confident woman, he decides he must marry her, not because he loves her or needs her, but because he wants to prove to her she will not always be sheltered and protected.

After they are married, they have a child and that is when Arthur decides that he “owns” Lydia and he begins to ratchet up his controlling and dominating behaviors. He starts slowly and is soon attempting to control everything in his wife’s life and also his son’s life.

When Lydia begins to suspect Arthur’s dominating behavior has gone too far, she seeks to get her son and herself out of Arthur’s sphere of influence. Her only problem is Arthur is not going to let them go without a fight.

Ketchum mixes in some really great subplots and the way he allows Arthur to come to life on the page is a wonder to behold. I loved how Arthur was portrayed as a sociopath who only went further and further off the deep end as the novel unfolded.

This was an outstanding read and serves as my wakeup call that I need to be reading more Ketchum. Whether you are new to Ketchum or an avid fan of his, you will love this book. Grab a copy ASAP and get to reading this thrilling book.

Highly recommended.