The Big Kahuna by Janet Evanovich, Peter Evanovich: Jinkies, that was a bad book

The Big KahunaThe Big Kahuna

by Janet Evanovich, Peter Evanovich
Series: Fox and O’Hare, #6

Hardcover, 301 pg.
G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2019

Read: June 5 – 6, 2019

♪ ♫ ♬ Where have you gone, Lee Goldberg
Readers turn their lonely eyes to you
Wu wu wu
What’s that you say, Ms. Evanovich
Lee Goldberg has left and gone away
Hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, hey ♬ ♪ ♫

(with apologies to Paul Simon, Art Garfunkel, Lee Goldberg, Janet Evanovich, Mrs. Robinson, Joe DiMaggio, my parents, teachers, Vogon poets… but dang, I spent a day and a half singing that to myself)

I’ve (purchased and) read all the previous novels at least once, read most of the short stories/novellas, and listened to all of the audiobooks of the series up to this point. I was a fan, maybe not the biggest fan — I expressed issues and reservations from time to time, but I knew I could expect a fun adventure, some fun banter, a little ridiculousness, and a clever crime story when I picked up a Fox and O’Hare novel. But when the inimitable Lee Goldberg departed, I got nervous — Evanovich has slipped in recent years (as I’ve discussed), and I don’t think she cares or notices. Still, I wasn’t sure how much of the success of these books were up to Goldberg and how much was Evanovich finding a spark in new characters that wasn’t there anymore in her Plum franchise/cash cow. Well, I think I’ve solved that mystery to my satisfaction — it was Goldberg.

I’m so, so relieved that I didn’t buy this thing. I’m sorry the local library did, too, although I’m glad I was able to take advantage of this.

First off, there wasn’t much of a con. It’s an adventure story — there was a little bit of a con at the end, but on the whole, there’s no reason for Nick Fox to be around for the whole book. As such, we don’t get most of the team showing up. Only Kate’s father, Jake, comes along.

Which is fitting, really — he belongs in adventure story. His basic approach of this retired guy who can pull off the occasional save with military equipment/connections while not liking to talk about that kind of thing has been exchanged for an older super-soldier that gives no evidence of being reticent about anything or all that old.

A new member of the team is introduced — he’s supposed to be the voice of reason keeping the destruction of private property to a minimum, and to do all the paperwork that Kate seems to ignore. First I think they did this already, and it didn’t work too well (the character was alright, but a dufus — I can’t remember if it was the same guy or not). Secondly, Kate — not their boss — told him about the super-secret arrangement with Nick Fox while in Fox’s presence and in a very casual manner. It just felt sloppy. Lastly, the character is the least-realistic character I think this series has ever produced — there’s no universe in which he makes it as an FBi agent for a month — much less be expected to be an agent that can keep things going well for this partnership.

There are a bunch of non-criminal types that really don’t need to be around but keep showing up anyway — they aren’t amusing, they aren’t well-conceived characters, they’re around to complicate plots and to be funny. They rarely succeed at the latter.

The primary villain (who I won’t name because he’s not revealed for quite a while) wasn’t actually that bad, and if they’d used him better, I wouldn’t be complaining about it at all. He just didn’t get the chance to be anything but briefly intimidating and then a pawn for Nick and Kate (making you wonder if he really wasn’t that intimidating after all). His primary accomplice was the person who did most of the work. She seemed half-baked (maybe three-quarters), and wasn’t all that convincing — her scheme (for lack of a better term) didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. Her henchmen were pathetic and uninteresting.

Nick Fox . . . was a shell of the character. He’d traded in his usual between-assignment shenanigans for some dumb scheme about social media coaching, using a pseudonym that showed none of the panache characteristic of Fox. There was little reason for him to be around for most of the book, other than to make bad advances toward Kate.

Kate, meanwhile, seemed less competent than usual. A bit more clueless about criminal activity and Nick Fox, and fairly dependent on her father for the more action-hero-y stuff. Which didn’t seem right, either. She said “jinkies” so much I wondered if she’d been Velma in a previous life — a trait I don’t remember belonging to her. Of all the characters, she seemed more herself than the others — still, she seemed off.

The relationship between the Kate and Nick really doesn’t make sense. Some of what’s said between the two of them makes me think that this volume takes place between Books 3 & 4 rather than after Book 5. Although that makes the whole explanation for Cosmo even worse, because I think it was Book 3 that got Kate shackled with the paperwork partner last time. The last chapter of The Big Kahuna takes the nice relationship that was developing between the two protagonists during the Evanovich/Goldberg run and ruins it — and ruins the timeline, too. If this takes place after Book 5, it’s meaningless (as is a lot of what happened before). If it takes place after book 3 (which makes the most sense), it ruins the arc of 4 and 5. Then again, it’s not like the Plum books have a real timeline, it looks like the Evanovich2 run will follow that. It’s not about development anymore, it’s not about growth of character or relationship — it’s about churning out books that’ll sell.

The whole thing felt like a Stephanie Plum book that Stephanie, Joe and Ranger forgot to show up for — but reasonable facsimiles thereof did. One of the great things about the previous novels is that they didn’t feel like Evanovich, or completely like a Goldberg. That’s out the window. And the book, en toto, suffered for it.

I’ve spent far more time and space on this post than I intended to (and still haven’t touched all my notes), so let me wrap this up. A year or two back after I spent time critiquing a book that I gave two stars to, one of my readers asked if I gave that novel 2, what would it take to get a 1? I said a book would have to make me mad, not just disappoint. Probably, on merit, I should give this two stars — there were some good moments, I have to admit (although while writing this, I seem to have forgotten them). But as I was thinking about that, I remembered that conversation, and well…this book as made me mad. It took a solid and reliably entertaining series, with good characters and ruined them. Just ruined them. I might give it one more try, just to see if they learned anything from this disaster (my guess is that sales won’t suffer much and they’ll learn nothing). But, without a different co-author, I can’t imagine why anyone would read these books again.

—–

1 Star

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Stumptown, vol 1: The Case of the Girl Who Took her Shampoo (But Left her Mini) by Greg Rucka, Matthew Southworth: A solid noir in Rose City.

Stumptown, vol 1Stumptown, vol 1: The Case of the Girl Who Took her Shampoo (But Left her Mini)

by Greg Rucka, Matthew Southworth (Artist)
Series: Stumptown, #1

Hardcover, 159 pg.
Oni Press, 2011

Read: May 31, 2019

Small confession: while I’d heard of this comic, I wasn’t in any rush to read it. But then I saw the trailer for the ABC adaptation and pretty much had to. Glad I did, I have to say.

Dex Parios is a P.I. in Portland, OR; apparently is the guardian for her developmentally delayed (I’m not sure, just guessing) brother; and a very poor gambler. The latter lands her in a great deal of debt to the Confederated Tribes of the Wind Coast. Thankfully(?) the woman who runs her favorite casino is willing to exchange her debt for some P.I. work — her granddaughter is missing. Dex is a sloppy gambler, but isn’t stupid.

But this is no ordinary missing teen/young adult. As soon as Dex starts looking for her, she’s threatened away from the case, had the biggest gangster in the state (and probably then some) try to hire her as well (not instead of Grandma, just call him first), locked in her own trunk, shot (thankfully hitting the vest she had on under her clothes), and harassed (and lied to) by said gangster’s young adult kids. The danger and the second job offer convince Dex that she need to find the girl– and fast.

It’s a great story, a pretty murky beginning gets worse due to complications and narrative time jumps. The more you learn , the more you want to understand. The solution is quickly arrived at, but it takes a long time to get things in order. Things are tricky and Dex’s trying to keep everyone involved alive and maybe even (relatively speaking) honest.

I really liked it, but it felt…slim? As this collection is primarily about introducing the characters and world as well as telling the story, I’m not that annoyed by it. But I hope the next collection is more substantial (not much, but some).

Southworth’s art was fitting. It’s not the most gorgeous book ever, but it shouldn’t be. The word “noir” is the best one I can come up with — dark colors, lots of shadows, hard lines — it fits. It’s noir. It’s also very dynamic, there’s a good sense of motion to it. I can’t imagine better art for Rucka’s story.

Great characters, a good story, art that’s a perfect complement to both. This collection nails it. I’m coming back for more Dex and Stumptown.

—–

3.5 Stars

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Dead Inside by Noelle Holten: Wherein I babble about a smidgen of the fantastic elements of this book

Dead InsideDead Inside

by Noelle Holten
Series: DC Maggie Jamieson, #1Kindle Edition, 293 pg.
Killer Reads, 2019

Read: June 1 – 3, 2019

I honestly don’t know what to say about this gobsmackingly good mystery. There are so many things I want to say, but I’m quite aware that no one will stick around to read all of them (and, well, I have to go to work, too — I don’t have that much time). I’m very tempted to leave my mid-point check in to stand, I inadvertently hit the essentials that I’d want to talk about now. I’m also thinking of a rant about the really lousy book blurb (no offense to anyone) because you keep waiting for all the events it describes to occur, and it was late in the book for all of it to happen — which I found distracting. But what do I know, might be too hard a sell without it. There’s no way I can do justice to all the characters — we’re talking a cast the size of Abercrombie’s The First Law or Martin’s A Clash of Kings. I could talk about how this could be an extremely preachy, issues book — but Holten so skillfully dodges that, letting the circumstances do the work while she tells a compelling story — and ultimately that’s more effective (and affecting) than the alternative. I could go on and on about the way that Holten constructed the mystery component of this novel — with enough suspects to satisfy Agatha Christie or Rex Stout, cleverly placed clues (and red herrings), and a very satisfying reveal or two. Or I could speculate about why someone who so clearly knows what she’s doing could introduce a series character with a book that doesn’t focus on the series character.

See what I mean?

Let me start with this and see where I go from here…yup, that’s right. It’s stream of consciousness time, boys ‘n girls. Outlines are for wimps.

The day this released, I wrapped up reading another book — which had this great ending (that I didn’t expect) — a wistful, romantic, ending to a fun, funny and exciting read. I was in a great mood, and noticed that I had more time before dinner would be ready, so I decided to dip my feet in the water with Dead Inside. I read the prologue — a first-person near-nightmarish description of a fearing what her drunk husband would do to her when he got home and pretending to be asleep to delay the inevitable (all for the sake of the little girl on the other side of the wall). So much for that happy mood — this prologue is one of the best bits of writing I’ve had the pleasure to encounter this year — it can compete with some of the best of The Power of the Dog — culminating in two sentences that shattered me. I remember practically dreading returning to the book after that, I wasn’t sure I could handle 400 pages of intensity. Thankfully, I was able to get back to that good mood by remembering the other book (and, sure, spending time with the people in my life that aren’t fictional creations). But that prologue stuck with me until I was able to get back to the book (although, almost a week later, I haven’t totally shaken it).

A quick, but important, aside: I know several of my readers have a pretty strict “No Rape” policy — and I’m not one to convince anyone against that. Rapes happen in this book — but you don’t get a play-by-play. It’s all either in past tense (e.g., “my husband raped me,” “sex was forced”), or an expression of fear that it might happen. It’s all matter of fact, completely un-exploitative, and necessary. If that’s too much, so be it — spare yourself putting this aside and don’t pick it up. But speaking as someone who has DNF’d in the past because of rape scenes, I’m telling you this is the way it should be dealt with in fiction.

Now, following the Prologue, the book drops the first person narrative, pulling us back to a more detached third person as it introduces us to a large cast of characters (the comparison to Martin was hyperbolic, but it doesn’t feel that way) — domestic abusers, domestic abuse victims, people in denial about being either of those, probation officers, police officers, police consultants, and so on.

The novel largely focuses on two characters — and I will, too — but there are plenty of other candidates. First, we have DC Maggie Jamieson — temporarily reassigned from a Homicide team (for reasons alluded to, but not really made clear — for her good, though) to a new team focusing on domestic abuse. The whole “reassigned to get away from homicide” part doesn’t work out too well for her when the domestic abusers her team is supposed to be working with start being killed. She’s smart, ambitious, haunted — an interesting combination, to be sure. She’s a good cop, and its nice to see that when it happens. Maggie happens to be the series protagonist, but you’d be excused if you didn’t pick that up until the last chapter. Our other person of focus is Lucy, a tough, no-nonsense probation officer working with the same population (largely). At home, however, that toughness disappears to be replaced with a timid spirit focused on placating/not angering her husband so he won’t beat her (or worse). The two “versions” of Lucy really couldn’t be more different from each other without a MPD diagnosis (or an origin story by Stan Lee). The Prologue, we quickly learn, was from her Point of View and things haven’t gotten better for her since then.

These two are surrounded by compelling, damaged, a well-fleshed out characters. Not every man is depicted as an abuser/potential abuser — and many of those who are depicted in that way are done so with a little bit of empathy for what made them that, while not flinching from condemning their actions and the pleasure they derive from it. Similarly, not every woman is depicted as an abuse victim or enabler. Some are — and they’re shown with the same kind of empathy. Thankfully, some of the damaged men and women are shown as hard workers, trying to make the world better, despite their own circumstances. It’s good to be reminded those people exist.

In short, Holten writes humans, not caricatures or types.

Not only is the cast of characters large — so is the suspect list. The only people in the book not worthy of suspicion were the murdered themselves (and at least one of them would’ve were on the list for a bit). Holten did a great job of giving the reader reasons to suspect everyone. There was a pretty significant clue introduced about one character and I put in my notes that it was a goof on her part, or the most scarlet of red herrings you could imagine. My favorite candidate turned out not to be the one — I didn’t figure they would be, I was just relishing the idea of one particular dark horse. The perpetrator/perpetrators (I’m not telling) is/are the only real possibility(ies) at the end of the day, everything clicked for me about the time it clicked for the police — and yes, I’d considered the correct solution, but liked my idea better until I saw what Holten was doing. A very satisfying solution. Better than the solution — the end of the book is so hopeful it comes as a relief (and feels almost foreign to the rest of the book).

Anyone who’s taken an Intro to Psychology class knows the syndrome where you start unconsciously diagnosing everyone you encounter/know with some sort of psychological disorder (those who’ve gone on to take Intro to Abnormal Psychology are probably aware of the more acute version of this — how graduate students get through the program with any kind of social life intact is beyond me). I had a version of this thanks to this book — I kept seeing people I work with, saw in stores, etc. as victims, abusers, enablers, and so on. Hotlen got in my head, no doubt about it. As I said the other day, “While I’m loving every second of this book, I’m having a hard time shaking the bleak outlook on life and humanity that seems to be part and parcel of this novel….Seriously, read a few pages of this book and see if you’re not willing to replace humanity as the apex predator with something careful and considerate — like rabid pit bulls or crack-smoking hyenas.”

Dead Inside is not an easy read — but that’s because of the subject matter, the realism of the characters and circumstances, not a problem with the author. This isn’t the cops dealing with a larger-than-life genius serial killer — rather, it’s the everyday reality for too many. Just this time tinged with a spree killer making a grim circumstance worse for some. It’s a gripping read, a clever whodunit, with characters that might be those you meet every day. As an experience, it’s at once satisfying and disturbing — a great combination for a reader. You won’t read much this year that stacks up against Dead Inside and you’ll join me in eagerly awaiting what’s coming next from Holten.

—–

5 Stars

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The Girl Who Could Move Sh*t with Her Mind by Jackson Ford: The Title Says Almost Everything You Need to Know About this Rollicking Adventure

The Girl Who Could Move Sh*t with Her MindThe Girl Who Could Move Sh*t with Her Mind

by Jackson Ford
Series: Teagan Frost, #1


eARC, 496 pg.
Obit Books, 2019

Read: May 28 – 29, 2019

Not unlike James Alan Gardner’s All Those Explosions Were Someone Else’s Fault from 2017, the title, The Girl Who Could Move Sh*t with Her Mind tells you all the important things about this book that you need to know before picking it up — although I think this book does a better job of following through with the tone of the title throughout the book. The voice, the attitude and the defining characteristic of the protagonist (at least as most people are concerned) is all right there. If the title turns you off, don’t bother buying/borrowing this novel, you’re going to hate the experience. The same goes for the first few pages — if you’re not amused and/or intrigued by Teagan’s personality and narration within the first chapter, just stop and go find something else. If you’re amused and/or intrigued? You’ll be in for a good time. If you’re amused and intrigued? Well, my friend, settle back and enjoy.

Teagan Frost is our titular girl, and she…well can move sh…aving cream with her mind. She has psychokinetic abilities (not telekinetic, she’s touchy about that distinction) — or pk, as she calls is. Teagan will slowly describe her abilities to us as she has opportunity — and eventually will spell out to someone where those abilities came from (surprisingly far from the beginning — which I appreciated). But for the initial plot all you need to know is what the title said.

She’s part of a pseudo-governmental espionage team that acts a lot like judge and jury without bothering with the formalities. No one, or almost none of her team wants to be on it, but the shadow-y figure that calls the shots is forcing them all to be part of it (including Teagan — don’t get the idea that she wants to be some pk wielding super-hero/secret agent — she wants to work in a kitchen somewhere until she’s good enough to start her own restaurant). The rest of the team have various skills that prove handy in their tasks, but she’s the only one has any kind of extra-ordinary abilities. Actually, as far as anyone knows, Teagan is the only person alive who can do what she does.

That is, until a dead body is discovered — and the victim could not have been killed by anyone but a psychokinetic. Naturally, there’s a tie to both Teagan’s teams recent activities and the location they were in the night before. The police are looking for them (not that they have an explanation for how the victim died, but they expect someone can), and some of the higher ups in the government want to take care of Teagan without worrying about due process (those who live by the sword and all) — and if that “take care” involves dissection or vivisection so they can figure out how her pk was given to her . . . well, who’s to complain? Teagan doesn’t have a lot of time to clear her name, but she’s going to try. As are most of her associates — if she does down for this, they will to.

Time prevents me from talking about all the things I want to, but that should be enough to whet the ol’ appetite. It’s a fun book and not one you need to know much about first. There’s a lot of action, plenty of snark, some violence, some banter, some mystery, some heartbreak. There’s a very Cas Russel/Peri Reed feel to this book and this world. But something that feels entirely fresh at the same time. I’m not sure that’s technically possible, but it seems it. So it can appeal both to fans of Cas and Peri, as well as those who didn’t care for them/don’t know who they are.

There’s a lot of depth to the characters, a lot more than you’d expect — which is one of the great parts about this book. As you learn more and more about what’s really going on around the murder victims the more you learn about Teagan and her team/found family (ditto for Teagan, actually). There are plots revolving around romance and friendship plots that are legitimately surprising — in a pleasant way, nice to see someone going the way Ford does, making the choices he makes for his characters. While I’m on the subject, it wasn’t just in characterizations/relationships that Ford surprised me — he did it throughout. Even when I was saying “Well of course, ____ was really doing ___, there’s no other explanation” to myself, that was a heartbeat after I said, “What??!?! No, that can’t be right!” I’m not saying I couldn’t see anything coming, but the ratio of surprises to telegraphed moves comes out in Ford’s favor.

There are a number of X-Men parallels, going on here — all of which would appeal to Teagan (some of which she mentions). Which is a nice touch. It’s probably also something that deserves more space than I’m giving it — I’m stopping myself, because I think I could go a long way down this particular rabbit hole. I’d love to ask Ford about it.

Now, there’s one character that I think Ford messed up — he’s part of a government clean-up crew that comes to take Teagan into custody. For some reason, he hates Teagan with some sadistic vengeance, and isn’t afraid to tell anyone that. It’s senseless and motionlessness (yeah, I know sometimes people hate others for no reason — I can accept that in real life, I can’t accept it in fiction. There has to be a reason). Which is strange, as little as we understand this jerk, we know the murderer and the individual prompting them to act. Technically, we know more about the killer than we do about Teagan for most of the book. Which just makes the clean-up guy even stranger.

I expect in future installments, we’ll get an explanation for the hatred and I’ll shut up. But not until then. Ford may be playing a long game here, but this is a short game world. Ford’s set up a lot for future installments, really (you won’t figure out just how much until the end — unless you’re smarter than me, then maybe you’ll see some of it coming) — but that doesn’t stop this from being a wholly satisfying experience.

So much of the time when I’ve been reading lately I get wrapped up in evaluating a book (for good or ill), wondering why an author did this or that, and what that might mean for the book as a whole, what that might say about the writer, etc. There’s nothing wrong with that — at all. But every now and then, it’s nice to stop the critical thinking and just enjoy a book. I’m not saying I did that wholly (and my lengthy notes can testify to that) — but in a real sense I did. I got lost in Teagan’s voice, the action, and wondering just how far the killer (and the individual pushing him to be one) would go, and who’d be lost in the process. I didn’t worry about what I was going to write, but about what Jackson Ford had written. I appreciate that.

I think this is one that could be better on a second (and then maybe on the third) read, once you can take your time and not race to find out what happened, or be dazzled by Teagan’s personality. If I’m wrong, and Ford’s just razzle dazzle — well, you’re left with a fun read with snappy prose and an more-entertaining-than-most protagonist/narrator. Either way, The Girl Who Could Move Sh*t with Her Mind is a book I recommend without a hint of hesitation (if you pass the simple tests from my first paragraph).

Disclaimer: I received this eARC from Orbit Books via NetGalley in exchange for this post — thanks to both for this.

—–

4 Stars

✔ A book with a curse word in the title.

In Medias Res: Dead Inside by Noelle Holten

As the title implies, I’m in the middle of this book, so this is not a review, just some thoughts mid-way through.

It’s been so long since I’ve done one of these, I’d forgotten it was a thing I do. Whoops.

—–

Dead Inside
Dead Inside

by Noelle Holten

Book Blurb:

When three domestic abuse offenders are found beaten to death, DC Maggie Jamieson knows she is facing her toughest case yet.

The police suspect that Probation Officer Lucy Sherwood – who is connected to all three victims – is hiding a dark secret. Then a fourth domestic abuser is brutally murdered. And he is Lucy’s husband.

Now the finger of suspicion points at Lucy and the police are running out of time. Can Maggie and her team solve the murders before another person dies? And is Lucy really a cold-blooded killer?

I’m at the 55% mark — and I’m hooked. Holten’s got this way to get into your head. While I’m loving every second of this book, I’m having a hard time shaking the bleak outlook on life and humanity that seems to be part and parcel of this novel.

Seriously, read a few pages of this book and see if you’re not willing to replace humanity as the apex predator with something careful and considerate — like rabid pit bulls or crack-smoking hyenas.

This is a slow build of a book — given the blurb, I figured the bodies would have piled up by now, but they haven’t (much). Slow, but things are happening and the story telling is gripping – pulling you further and further in with each chapter. I don’t have a clue who the killer is, but I think the motive is clear (but, honestly, if it’s something else, I’d be impressed that she did such a great job faking out the reader). I’ve got a list of candidates for the killer, and could make a case for each one — but again, I halfway expect Holten to shock me.

Unless everything falls apart in the next 40% or so, this is probably going to end up as one of the best Mystery/Crime Fiction novels of 2019.

Instant Karma by Todd Morr: Nasty, brutish, and short (I mean that as a compliment)

Instant KarmaInstant Karma

by Todd Morr


Kindle Edition, 120 pg.
Fahrenheit 13, 2019

Read: May 24, 2019

           Teller was the next to clue in, he sprung from his chair drawing his service revolver while Doyle started crawling for the back exit. The shooter was tall, wearing wraparound shades, a black baseball cap turned so it was shading the back of his neck, and a long leather trench coat. He had a gun in each fist, big semi-automatics with extended magazines. Teller was thinking this guy was an idiot, the kind of dumbass who thinks John Woo movies are documentaries, until he took two in the chest.

The gunman alternated firing each gun. Teller fell to floor and bounced the back of his head off the hard tile, putting him to sleep. Jones had just cleared his pistol when a bullet caught him in the shoulder, spinning him around. The next two bullets hit him in the back and sent him sprawling face first to the floor.

Nah, I didn’t give anything way (really). That’s at the 3% mark. The real action comes later. But that’s a good taste.

I hate being trite. I hate being cliche. I don’t want to say the same thing that everyone else in the world is saying. I don’t want to be the 3487th person to say that Instant Karma is Tarantino-esque. But you read this book and not say something like that, I dare you (like Ralphie’s classmate, Schwartz, I’ll skip to the coup de grâce — I triple-dog-dare you to).

Let’s start with a underworld organization that may or may not exist — Instant Karma, Inc. (think of a West Coast Murder, Inc., with a smaller staff) and the intimidation (and worse) they inspire by maybe existing. Then you’ve got yourself an aging, but still vital, yakuzza Mr. Yasuda (called Mr. Burns by everyone not in his presence due to his age/resemblance to a certain Nuclear Plant owner) who disapproves of the man his daughter is sleeping with (and who expresses that disapproval in extreme fashion). That man is a disgraced ex-cop named Hondo, a security consultant for people like Mr. Yasuda/Burns. His daughter is an ex-kindergarten teacher who decided she was devoting her prime years to a bunch of annoying kids and decided to toss that career to the side to have fun and make bad choices (see: Hondo). Throw in a couple of cops who are hewing a little too close to the line; some people in Yasuda’s organization who want to make a name for themselves; a recovered addict and her pastor; and a lot (I mean a lot) of bullets and blood. Throw all that into a blender and this book comes out.

I want to keep this post as snappy as the book, so I’m not going to get bogged down in plot details — just know that there’s a few people just trying to stay alive and get a little bit of happiness in their lives, and there’s a whole lot of other people who are willing to stop them (and anyone else who’s in the way).

There’s a lot of humor in this book, as well as the action — some nice character moments and a lot of heart (frequently coming from directions you don’t expect). It’s also one of the most violent books I’ve read this year (actually, probably the most violent book this year to date). It’s about vengeance, hope, justice, love and a hope for a little bit of peace — but little of that is as flashy as all the violence.

I’m glad this weighs in at a slim 120 pages — I’m not sure I could’ve take much more. This is like a good double-shot of espresso — why waste time sipping a cup or two to get your caffeine fix? Knock back the 60 ml and move on with your day. This quick read feels all the quicker because of the pacing of the narrative, the action of the scenes and the smoothness of the prose — the adrenaline rush doesn’t hurt either. I’m not sure I can say enough good about it, actually. I had a blast, and bet that you will, too.

Okay, I’ll stop now and get out of the way so that the the 3488th Tarantino comparison can get underway.

—–

4 Stars

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COVER REVEAL: The Community by Joe Hakim

Welcome to The Irresponsible Reader’s part in the Cover Reveal for Vanessa Robertson’s Death Will Find Me — although, guessing by the people taking part in this Reveal, geography/time zones, etc. at this point, it’s more of a Cover Confirmation. Still, welcome. Pretty pictures ahead.

But first, some words. In particular, words that you’d find on the . . .

Back of the Book

Scotland, 1920.
Meet Tessa Kilpatrick; heiress and war-time covert operations agent.

Finding her husband – the feckless James – with another woman at a 1920s country house party, she demands a divorce. But when his body is discovered in a lonely stone bothy the next morning, Inspector Hamish Rasmussen sees Tessa as his only suspect.

Back in Edinburgh, links to another murder convince Rasmussen of her innocence. He enlists her help and together they set off on a pursuit that will bring Tessa once again face to face with the brutality of war as well as revealing to her the lengths that desperate people will go to in order to protect those they love.

Will Tessa be able to prevent a final murder or will she become the killer’s latest victim?

This book will be perfect for anyone who’s enjoyed the work of Catriona McPherson, Sara Sheridan and Jessica Fellowes.

You’ve got to love a blurb that uses a word like “feckless,” don’t you? It’s such a fun word, it’s a shame you have to use it in a disparaging way. Also, I now know that “bothy” is a thing.

This book will weigh-in at 262 pages and will be available on Feb. 20 from Amazon UK and US (I’m not sure about other Amazons).

Without further ado…

The Cover


That’s pretty eye-catching, isn’t it?

I particularly like the “W” and the little dashes next to the “Me” — I’m not sure why those are the points that catch my eye, but they do. Also, Tess’ eyebrows (I’m assuming this woman is our heiress and war-time covert operations agent) look like the kind of eyebrows that should be arched when someone tells a lie or says something that the Tess objects to. Sorry, I’m blathering here, but I feel compelled to talk about the cover a little . . .

But wait, H.C., you say — I have an e-reader and a limited imagination. What will the cover look like for me? Well, I’m glad you asked. It’ll look like this:

And if you’re wondering what a few paperbacks would look like stacked up next to each other (you know, in case you wanted to set up a display in your bookstore, or, I don’t know, your living room or foyer), it’s look like this:

And if you had a couple of paperbacks and an e-reader on the back of a unicorn, it look like — nah. Just kidding… I don’t have the graphic for that.

Now, I’ve done my part — I’ve revealed and/or confirmed the cover. So it’s your turn, follow this link to sign up for Vanessa Robertson’s newsletter (you’ll also receive special offers, new release details, and a welcome gift delivered right to your inbox). Better yet, go pre-order the book at Amazon UK or Amazon US.