Sunday, December 21, 2014


NO WAY TO DIE by M.D. Grayson is the second in his Danny Logan Mystery series. While it is an enjoyable excursion into the world of PI’s, I did experience some problems along the way. protagonist in this yarn is Danny Logan, a private detective that heads his own agency called, appropriately enough, Logan Private Investigations. In this story, Logan tackles what caused the death of mathematical genius Thomas Rasmussen. Rasmussen had ostensibly gone to Seattle’s Discovery Park for a morning run, but was found dead in his carwith one bullet through his head. With no signs of foul play, there’s even a note in Rasmussen’s own handwriting left at the scene stating his reasons for committing suicide. Using the “if it walks like a duck” case-solving methodology, homicide detective Inez Johnson is convinced it’s a pretty much an open-and-shut case, but Katherine Rasmussen, Thomas’ wife, disagrees. Katherine has grave doubts about the conclusion that her husband took his own life and hires Danny Logan to find out if her instincts are right.

NO WAY TO DIE documents the investigation, and in the course of it, we learn about Thomas Rasmussen and his company called Applied Cryptographic Solutions, ACS to people in the know. We also meet Rasmussen’s right-hand skank, oops, I mean, “associate” called Holly Kenworth. Then there’s something called the Starfire Protocol. Didn’t I tell you Rasmussen was a mathematical genius? Well, the Starfire Protocol is his baby. He and a handful of employees have been working on the top secret technology for years, but rumors about its potential game-changing attributes have leaked out into the cyberworld of geeks. How could it not? If implemented, this program would make all known PK (private key) cryptology key management obsolete. And in case you don’t know what that means either, this code is the security that keeps your info safe and out of bad guy’s hands. Bad guys like Nicholas Madoc, I might add.

As the tale progresses, we also find out more about Danny Logan, his compadres, lifestyle and obsession with Tony Blair. No, not that Tony Blair. This one is his associate Antoinette Blair. He’s been carrying a torch for her for years and there’s nothing worse than unrequited passion to drive you crazy and impair your judgment. It perhaps accounts for the incredibly poor judgment that Logan demonstrates throughout this novel and it’s one of the reasons I’m not more enthused about this book.

I don’t do SPOILERS. I don’t, but this is one case where I’m tempted to give a few secrets away. Why? Well, because Logan does so many incredibly stupid things that I wonder why people keep coming to him for anything other than guitar lessons. While I think M.D. Grayson is a talented author, this type of deviation from what Logan is purported to be makes for an inconsistent read. Consequently, there are patches of reading that are about as good as you can get, but then you come to one of these hare-brained decisions and you just sort of blurt out to no one in particular, “Why the heck would anyone in their right mind do that?" It makes for a pretty spotty plotting and completely pulls you out of the mood of the story. And there are at least three notable bone-head moves that make you go hmmmmm. Without giving anything away, they are:
1. Tell a possible suspect where the device that Rasmussen very well may have died for is being kept.
2. Not check out a suspect’s story. I mean, he’s investigating, right? So why would he take somebody’s word for what happened when he could actually find out if it’s the truth?
3. Walk in on a situation when he could have easily called for back-upor even the police. And he’s a military guy? And he’s never heard of teamwork? Really?

The answer to these and other life’s questions is, and I’m guessing here, that M.D. Grayson has a plot-driven story going on. All these three extremely unlikely situations occur because they set up incidents that happen later on. But if an author has gone on for about twenty pages lauding someone’s professionalism and credentials, you can’t turnaround and have this same guy make potentially fatal mistakes because he’s an imbecile. If you want to make him an idiot, than do so and be done with it, but this wavering back and forth doesn’t cut it. And I’d like to quickly add that the climax of one of these faux pas is a pretty good twist, but a writer should always have their characters get themselves into situations and dig themselves out of it. When writers try to manipulate action, it comes off as disingenuous and ruins the picture they’re trying to paint. And there were other ways of setting up the incendiary moments other than have your main character have these rather large brain synapses.

All in all, I enjoyed NO WAY TO DIE and understand all the good reviews and fans that M.D. Grayson has attracted. I definitely would recommend. I very much appreciate his attention to detail, and except for the problems mentioned, NO WAY TO DIE is a good read. I most especially loved the location and the wonderful descriptions of Seattle. I found it easy to sink into this setting. The characters themselves are also interesting, but because of the three very questionable actions of Logan and the unevenness of the writing, I’m giving NO WAY TO DIE a final score of 3.7 stars which rounds up to four. 

Thursday, December 18, 2014


This book is dreadful—as in stunningly, blindingly, stupidly bad! How in the world this insipid piece of marauding trash ever got this many decent reviews is astounding! Almost as astounding as the lack of clarity, storyline, plot, or any element of writing that would have turned this into a novel! While there are no typos, there’s no English either! No flow, nothing that would turn words found in the dictionary into something approaching what is considered professional “writing.” In other words, any semblance between this and writing is purely coincidental! The language in this book is the kind of English you jot on a notepad and stick to the door for the plumber to read! “Be back in five. Leak in tub. Toodles.” Would you like to read over three-hundred pages of that? Well, me neither. It’s why I stopped! 

Perhaps you think I’m being harsh, but there isn’t anything that would be considered punitive enough for putting this up for sale given that the Salem witch trials are no longer a viable option. And, really, someone close to Andrea Hurst (as in family member – somebody that loves her and humanity), should take that laptop away and just smash it … we’re talking to smithereens. Consider it an intervention! And, no, I don’t care if she promises to only go on Pininterest because you just know this type is going to try again! She’ll be pecking on the keys, using bits and pieces of bestselling stories that do work, all in an attempt to patch together something that will ultimately make us bleed out our eyes and beg for the torture to stop! In the words of Roberto DurĂ¡n, “No mas! No mas!” I mean it, Ms. Hurst, but let me tell everyone else some specifics of why this is one book that should be woodchipped.
For starters, the wet-noodle protagonist, Cathy, mentions a “dream” she’s had. It’s fairly important since it proves there’s a thing such a “fate,” yet in the first chapter, there’s only a vague reference to it. It’s this: “Those startling blue eyeslike the man in her dream.” I’m thinking, what dream? Am I supposed to know about a dream? It made no sense whatsoever. None. Their meeting hinges on this dream and there’s no description of it? When did she have it? When she was a child? Yesterday? The day before yesterday? I’m thoroughly confused, and on a hunch, I decide to go on Amazon and peek inside. I peek inside the Kindle edition (the one I downloaded), and it begins where mine does at: CHAPTER 1THE SUMMER OF 1977. I then go on the page where the paperback is featured and peek in that one and discover there’s supposed to be a prologue! Yes, folks, THE ENTIRE PROLOGUE THAT STARTS in THE SUMMER OF 2007 IS MISSING!!! This brings me back to those reviews I mentioned earlyninety-eight of which are five-star! Most of which PROMINENTLY proclaim “KINDLE EDITION!”
You mean to tell me that one hundred seventy-five “verified” customers read this book and that NOT ONE NOTICED THE PROLOGUE IS MISSING BUT ME? Is that even possible? It’s so unlikely as to be unbelievable that seemingly not one person, not even those doling out five stars, noticed that chapter one made no sense! You tell me what’s going on! I understand that what people like is subjective, but this is not! This is a mistake that no one noticed? Or mentioned? I’ll leave it to you to decide.
When we get past the extremely sloppy mistake of deleting an entire prologue and uploading the remaining crap … I mean, manuscript, we get to focus on the rest of the problems which are all the words contained on the pages! There are such riveting phrases as: “Jamie ran his fingers through the red soil. It looked rich with nutrients.” WHAT? Which nutrient stood out for him? The nitrogen? Calcium? How about phosphorous? Hey, let me guess! This guy can probably also smell snow, right? Fascinating. And that chopping up of sentences? Get used to it! It’s how this book is written. And speaking of writing, I’m being this hard on Andrea Hurst because in her bio it says that she’s an “instructor in creative writing at the Northwest Institute of Literary Arts.” This woman teaches writing? No, way, no how, brown cow! She should be TAKING a course, not GIVING it!
The writing is pedestrian at beston par with the Dick and Jane “See Spot Run” primers given to first-graders. Nonetheless, Tracey Garvis Graves, New York Times bestselling author, and the never-turn-down-a-chance-at-promoting, Melissa Foster, wrote glowing reviews? I’m telling you that the only way ALWAYS WITH YOU should be connected to the New York Times is if the book was mentioned in its own obituary! Example: “ALWAYS WITH YOU expired from dullness on February 5, 2014.” If the book met its end on that date, it would have been one day before publication which would have worked out perfectly!  
I recommend you save yourself time and money and pass this one by. And if Andrea Hurst ever publishes a book again, I strongly suggest she use white-colored font that matches the pages. Me? I’m going to do something that I’ve never done before and try to get a refund. If you bought this, you should do the same. Better yet, give it to someone you hate. I’m giving this zero stars. 

Sunday, December 14, 2014


Key West Was Never This Dangerous! 

hI’d never read Mike Dennis so I took a chance on his mystery/thriller SETUP ON FRONT STREET. The first in the Key West Nocturnes series, it’s written in a gripping noir style that’s hard to put down.   

I experienced a few problems getting into the first chapter. The mention of the word guayabera four times in a row had me counting its usageand this type of fault-finding is never a good thing. It means the reader is not focused on what they should be and I just kept wondering why the author didn’t just use “shirt” or another synonym instead of repeating the word so often. There was also an awkward transition that I felt could have been handled in a better way, but I pressed on discovering that Mr. Dennis started hitting his stride in the second chapter. By the fifth, when the main character had a heart-to-heart with BK, the Boy King, I was hooked! 

Don Roy Doyle is the protagonist in this yarn. It’s his exploits that help propel this nifty story to its explosive conclusion. The story begins with his release from prison. He’s served time for a jewelry heist that he and some pals committed back in the day. Instead of ratting out his accomplices, he took the fall and now he’s back, looking for his cut of the take. 

We follow Donny as he drops in on his old friends. These vignettes fill in the blank spaces and give us excellent character studies of Doyle and his former associates. I should add that the language is something that works in shocking us out of complacency. Don Roy and the other members of this motley crew are not like anyone I’ve ever met. These are not the people that sat around my family’s Thanksgiving table discussing the merits of the acidic balance of cranberries on the palate, but the rough-around-the edges tool helps establish that we’re not in Kansas anymore and that these guys are not politically correct. They’re self-centered, mercenary, and out for what they can get. Yes, sometimes mutually beneficial alliances are formed, and once in a blue moon, a friendship is forged, but for the most part it’s just a matter of taking whatever they can grab. 

It doesn’t take long for Don Roy’s confrontation with a bar owner to rattle some cages. It seems that his demanding to be paid his fair share opens up a whole can of worms. It even threatens his relationship with his old flame Norma. Norma is a wonderful character in her own right, and her presence lends so much to explaining what makes Don Roy tick. All I’ll say about their reunion is that chapter seven is beautifully written and downright poignant. In it, I believe Mr. Dennis has perfectly captured the disenfranchised. I mean, what do people who do not think of themselves as fitting into society do with themselves? How do they eke out a living? Why they become outlaws, working outside the structure that does not accept them, making up their own set of rules as they go. This is what happens to Doyle, but in viewing him from the perspective given in chapter seven, Don Roy is injected with humanity and we begin to feel real sympathy for him. It didn’t seem possible in the beginning, but Norma is the vehicle that allows us to view Doyle’s squishy center. 

Of course, the unthinkable happens and this passion that he feels for her is tested in every possible way, including by what she did while he was in prison. It ain’t pretty, but there was a real truth in the honesty of the writing. I found it compelling, and from there, it’s foot-off-brake time for all the rest of the way. 

Taut and complex, this is very well-constructed and enjoyable. Doyle is the maestro that orchestrates a scheme on the fly that will deflect a testy ex-mayor, the Russian mob and a desperate housewife. The plot thickens and all the disparate pieces come together. Just why was Doyle setup and whose true colors will eventually show? Further, who’s behind it all and will Doyle ever get his freakin’ money? Only getting street cred for time served hardly seems fair, but, man, do we find out! 

While the conclusion of the mystery was extremely satisfying, the ending was lacking something. I wanted something more in that final chapter. It’s my only real quibble and in writing this review, I’m shifting back and forth between giving it either four or five stars. However, since this is a blog, I can give it any dang number I want! Therefore, I’m giving it four and a half instead of five. 

I highly recommend Mike Dennis and SETUP ON FRONT STREET for those that like hard-boiled tough guys with hearts of gold. Of course, in reading a novel this good, a high benchmark has been set. It means that the next story I choose has a big guayabera to fill.

and a half!!!!

Friday, December 12, 2014

This is the kind of story that keeps you turning pages!
There are so many things to love about HOUSE OF BLUES, the fifth entry in the Edgar Award-winning Skip Langdon Series. It’s unputdownable! Magnificently-constructed, the atmosphere of New Orleans is set in all its steamy contradiction. Half alive, half dead, the city is as complex as a Louisiana gumbo simmering on the stove and just as tasty. The characters are steeped in complexity and quirkiness, their depth all neatly conveyed by Ms. Smith’s ability to turn a phrase. 
The murder of a grumpy old man, who is, in fact, a bully, gets this novel off to an exciting start. After all, his wife, Sugar Hebert, only goes to run an errand and boom! She comes back to find her husband dead, and the rest of her family gone … as in disappeared … vanished. Wha’ happened? Are they dead as well or have they seeped into the woodwork like all the other secrets she’s been hiding? But it’s not just her, I mean, EVERYONE in this story has them! They make for very dirty, dirty, dirty consciences (did I mention “guilty” ones also?), but that doesn’t deter Skip Langdon from pursuing the leads and tracking down who did what to whom. She’s going to find those missing persons if it’s the last thing she does, and it just might be.
You meet so many diverse individuals on this journey that it’s difficult to fit them all in. And each is so exquisitely crafted that it brings a tear to the eye of a mystery lover like myself. Oh, and the choice of words! Somebody has been working in their vocabulary garden and pruned the orchids until a purity of thought was achieved. Some of my favorite passages? The recipe for successful writing: “Sit staring at paper until drops of blood form on forehead.” Then there’s an explanation of what green, blue and gold people are and, of course, a story on the planet where spaghetti grows. These are just absolutely perfect examples of how you amplify a character and turn them into being downright fascinating. I couldn’t get enough.
If you’re a lover of mysteries, or the written word, do yourself a favor and pick up this bad boy. In fact, I’ll relate a story to properly describe the experience of reading this novel. I used to work second shift in lower Manhattan. Consequently, I always took my break around 10:00 PM. I would go outside and eat my snack on a bench by the water. The evening would be perfectly still with the moon high up in the sky and the river tranquil. Every night around this time, a singles cruise ship that featured jazz would sail its way into view and approach. A sleek, white boat, its open decks allowed it to be seen … and heard. I’d hear the rich, sexy notes of a saxophone and the utterly cool, cool music and the heartbeat of that percussion. The gentle sound of laughter and conversation from the crowd spilling out onto the decks would fill in the syncopation as would passions erupting from those falling in love. That’s what HOUSE OF BLUES is … it’s a mystery found deep in the night when you’re being swept out to sea. 

I'm giving it five stars.