Go Home, Afton by Brent Jones: A Gripping, Fast Read about a Would-Be Murderess

Go Home, AftonGo Home, Afton

by Brent Jones
Series: Afton Morrison, Book 1

Kindle Edition, 156 pg.
2018
Read: June 13, 2018
I have some potentially, slightly spoilerly thoughts in paragraph #9. Feel free to skip that, to help, I’ll write my conclusion first and then add that on as a post-script of sorts. Deal? Okay here we go:

I learned over time that the murderess without blood on her hands has a lot in common with a heroin-addicted streetwalker. Both crave a fix, and both are willing to do just about anything to get one. And the longer she has to wait, the more dangerous and erratic her behavior becomes.

Afton Morrison, our narrator, has a problem — she has this drive to kill someone. Multiple someones, actually. She’s not a female take on John Wayne Cleaver, though. She’s really at peace with the idea (as much as you can be). She wants her targets to be deserving (in a Dexter kind of way), and she wants to get away clean, so she can do it again. This isn’t your typical take on a Children’s Librarian from a small town public library, but, hey — maybe it should be. She’s found her first victim, follows him, knows his habits, is sure he’s the right guy and is all set to make her move. . . but can’t seem to find him when the time comes.

Meanwhile, she’s got to play supportive and attentive little sister to her brother who’s having trouble with his love life. She’s an unwilling mentor to a would-be over-achieving high school student. Plus, Afton’s finding herself with new and unexpected interpersonal connections — none of which she has time for, because he’s got to go kill a man. As soon as she finds him.

Also, other complications ensue — Afton may have a well-conceived plan, but she’s going to have a really hard time sticking to it once other people get involved.

I like Afton — as much as you can like someone like her. Her brother’s great, ditto for all the other complications in her life — good characters, and (generally) good people. I hope we can find out more about Afton and most of the secondary characters (there’s a couple I’ll ignore for now for spoiler reasons).

The writing could be tightened up a little bit. A couple of errors fixed — and I’m going off of an ARC, it’s possible they will be in time for the publication. I think some of the language used by a some of the characters (see Peter, a fellow librarian, in particular) goes over the line — he can be a creep, but when you make him that much of a creep, he becomes a liability. “Can we just spend time with the would-be murderess? I don’t feel quite so dirty reading about her.” But on the whole, the storytelling itself is strong enough that it makes up for whatever deficiencies one may find in the text.

A personal note to Mr. Jones: If you don’t stick to your schedule on the following installments, so I have to wait to find out what happens, I’ll…I’ll, I dunno. Tweet nasty things about your mother. Just sayin’ — I need to find out.

A fast, fast read that grabbed me from the first chapter and wouldn’t let me go until the end. And even then, it left me wanting more — soon. Thankfully, Jones has his 4-part series scheduled to wrap up this October. Go Home, Afton is as entertaining as it is intriguing with a protagonist you want to get to know better (even if she’s someone you’d like to see locked up in a treatment facility for at least a few years).

So, Afton is a great unreliable narrator. She’s not trying to be one — which is the best part. She’s reporting things to us as she sees them, but she can’t trust what she’s seeing and hearing. Which makes the reader pretty sure they know what’s going on most of the time — but they can never be totally sure.Thankfully, Afton is pretty up front about this. Neither she nor Jones are trying to play games with the reader. I can get behind that.

Disclaimer: I was provided with a copy of this book by the author in exchange for my honest opinion. The ensuing addiction was just a bonus.

—–

3.5 Stars

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Rescued by David Rosenfelt ★ ★ ★ 1/2 A tale of self-defense, an old flame and a truckfull of dogs

RescuedRescued

by David Rosenfelt
Series: Andy Carpenter, #17

eARC, 304 pg.
Minotaur Books, 2018

Read: May 4, 2018

At an early age, Andy Carpenter discovered that he couldn’t hit a curve-ball and therefore had to give up on his dreams of playing in the majors and fall back to following in his father’s footsteps and becoming a lawyer. His father, a lifelong prosecuting attorney, probably wished for something else, but for the many people that he’s defended in court, they wouldn’t have it another way.

This is the seventeenth novel in this series — I’ve talked here about nine of the previous sixteen. There’s part of me wondering just what I could possibly have to say about this one that I haven’t said at least once before.

Andy Carpenter is called to a nearby rest area — a truck containing sixty-one dogs was discovered with the driver shot. Andy and Willie were called out to help the police retrieve the dogs and care for them. The police are really not happy to see him there — Andy Carpenter at a crime scene? Not a welcome sight. But then he’s called away, there’s a prospective new client waiting for him at home.

Not that surprisingly, the potential client was also at that rest area earlier in the day. He actually tells Andy that he shot the driver — in self-defense, mind you. Sure, there’s a history between the two — Kramer (the client) had assaulted the victim and threatened to kill him, in fact. But that was years ago, and he had no current reason to. He just needs some help with the inevitable arrest. Andy believes him — he has to. Kramer is Laurie’s ex and she vouches for him — so much so that Andy pretty much has to take the case for her sake.

Honestly, Andy really isn’t that interested in helping tall, hunky and dangerous Kramer — ex-Military, ex-police, ex-licensed investigator. But it’s not long before he starts to believe that there’s something more afoot. And what was the deal with all the dogs?

All the regulars are along for this ride — Pete Stanton brings the law and order, we get a little more about the fun side of Hike that was introduced in the last book, Sam and his hacking crew dig up plenty of information, Marcus is his typical imposing self, Tara is as loyal as ever — and Andy gets a lot of courtroom time in. There’s a new prosecuting attorney for him to face off against — I liked her, and would like to see her against Andy again.

I don’t think it’s much of a spoiler here, because it’s pretty much the default in this series, but there’s a conspiracy behind the murder and they men behind it have decided to frame Kramer. This is one of the better — or at least one of the more grounded — conspiracies featured in these books. Up to a point, some of it was pretty hard to swallow — it just went a little over the top for my taste (but many of them do in this series). Also, this one features the best code names this side of Reservoir Dogs. Still, it was one of the more clever solutions that we’ve been treated to lately.

A thought about the series as a whole at this point: I would appreciate it if Rosenfelt would shake things up a little bit — I’m not talking about killing Hike or splitting up with Laurie or anything — just dial down the super-criminals a bit, maybe spend some more time with the client again. But there’s little reason for him to do that — the series moves like clockwork and is reliably entertaining. I only say this because I’m a fan — Rosenfelt is in danger of becoming a parody of himself (at worst) or just putting out cookie-cutter books (at best), I don’t want Andy Carpenter to become a Stephanie Plum.

This is not to say that I didn’t enjoy the book — because I did. Andy, Sam, Pete, Vince, Laurie, Tara and the rest are old friends that I enjoy getting together with every few months. Rosenfelt’s latest demonstrates what’s been true for years — this series is at the point where you can reliably count on each book for an entertaining read, a puzzling mystery, some good comic moments, a nice dog or two and maybe even a tug on the heart strings. They’re still charming enough to win over a new reader (and any of the books serve just fine as entry points) as well as satisfying the long-term reader. Rescued delivered just what I expected and left me satisfied — satisfied and ready to read number 18.

Disclaimer: I received this eARC from St. Martin’s Press via NetGalley in exchange for this post — thanks to both for this, it was a real pleasure.

—–

3.5 Stars

Rubicon by Ian Patrick: A thrill-ride that will stay with you long after the action ends.

RubiconRubicon

by Ian Patrick

Kindle Edition, 232 pg.
Fahrenheit Press, 2017
Read: May 31 – June 2, 2018

. . . there’s no money in policing unless you cross the line.

But that doesn’t mean that Sam Batford isn’t going to try.

Batford is an undercover police officer who’s after a kingpin of some repute and his guns and drugs importing. DCI Klara Winter is a no-nonsense head of a task force going after the same kingpin, Big H, more directly — phone taps, applying pressure to associates, interrogations, etc. Batford is assigned to her task force to supplement their intelligence. Neither want this assignment, and work to undermine it immediately. They do actually help each other out — but it’s almost despite their best efforts. Their mutual dislike, distrust and antagonism is one of the more interesting dynamics that I’ve run across lately.

We see most of the novel through Batford’s eyes, with the occasional glimpse from Winter’s perspective. It doesn’t take much to get a strong sense of Winter’s personality and thought process. Just from the volume, the reader ends up seeing things Batford’s way — whether or not they should.

Batford infiltrates Big H’s organization — at least to a degree — for one job. A large one, no doubt, one that would secure Winter’s career (and would do his own some favors). Like most undercover officers (especially in fiction), he cuts many legal and ethical corners to do so. There’s some question — as there should be — whether or not Big H really trusts him, and the constant testing, evaluation and insecurity makes for great reading — it’s an atmosphere you can almost feel through the words.

So Batford is doing what he can to get enough information to take down Big H, to gain his trust (and therefore access), to disrupt the flow of drugs and guns — and mostly to stay alive. If he can find a way to make a little money while he’s at it . . . well, he might as well. Winter just wants enough evidence to make some arrests — and maybe some headlines — so she can get the budget to keep her team working.

This is not a book for the squeamish — there are a few scenes I know that would cause some of my friends and readers to throw the book down in disgust (the same scenes will cause other friends/readers to fist pump their excitement — I’m not sure which of these bothers me more). There’s one scene in particular that made me think of the dental scene from Marathon Man (I’ve never watched the movie just in case they nail that scene from the novel).

There were two . . . I don’t want to say problems for me, but things that kept me from going over the moon with Rubicon: Batford works his way into this assignment by worming his way in to the trust of one Big H’s associates while they’re in Bali. Do Metropolitan Police Undercover Officers really get to globe-trot the way that Batford does? Is that a bit of Artistic License? Is it a sign of just how far outside the lines that Batford colors? Does it tell us that he’s not just a Metropolitan Police Officer? It’s a minor point, I admit — and it’s really easy to accept as kosher (but that doesn’t mean I don’t wonder), because watching Batford’s machinations there is fascinating.

Secondly, Batford displays a very particular vocabulary — I’m not sure if it’s London slang, or Ian Patrick-slang. I could believe either. I will admit that there were periods that the slang got in the way of the story. That’s probably on me — and some of it is Shaw’s two countries separated by a common language phenomenon. With a little bit of work, and a small amount of guesswork (and a willingness to go back and revisit a passage later), it was all accessible enough and perspicuous.

There’s a lot about this book that I’m not sure about — I’ve been chewing on it for a couple of days, and it’s going to take a few more at least. Patrick’s characters take a little chewing, I think. It’d be easy to put Batford in the “murky anti-hero” category and move on — but I’m not sure he fits there; I’m even less sure where Winter fits — she’s not the straight-laced cop you’re at first tempted to label her, nor is she just the figure that makes life difficult for our anti-hero to do what he wants (although she functions pretty well that way). But even if/when I decide how to categorize these two — then I have to decide what I think of them as these characters — are they good people? No. That’s easy. Are they good fictional beings in their particular roles? My gut says yes, and my brain leans that way, but I’m still working on that.

Either way, I’m enjoying chewing on the novel and these ideas — and I’m definitely getting my money’s worth out of this book, just having to think about it this much.

There is part of this evaluation that’s easy — the writing? Gripping. The pacing? Once it gets going, it’s a runaway train that you’re just hoping you can hang on to long enough to get through to the end. The narrative voice is as strong as you could ask, and even when you’re thinking this cop might be more deserving of a being handcuffed on his way to a long incarceration than his targets, you’ll need to hear his singular perspective on the events around him.

Strong writing (some of my favorite sentences of the year are in this book), characters that demand thinking about, a plot that you can’t wrap up in a tidy bow — this isn’t your typical thriller. Whether it’s your cup of tea or not, it’s one that you won’t forget easily.

—–

4 Stars

BOOK SPOTLIGHT: Rubicon by Ian Patrick

Today we welcome the Book Tour for the provocative Rubicon by Ian Patrick — frankly, half the reason that I’m happy about this is that now I can read all the great content that’s been put together for this tour. Along with this spotlight post, I’ll be giving my take on the novel here in a bit.

Book Details:

Book Title: Rubicon by Ian Patrick
Publisher: Fahrenheit Press
Release date: August 21, 2017
Format: Paperback/ebook
Length: 232 pages

Book Blurb:

Two cops, both on different sides of the law – both with the same gangland boss in their sights.

Sam Batford is an undercover officer with the Metropolitan Police who will stop at nothing to get his hands on fearsome crime-lord Vincenzo Guardino’s drug supply.

DCI Klara Winter runs a team on the National Crime Agency, she’s also chasing down Guardino, but unlike Sam Batford she’s determined to bring the gangster to justice and get his drugs off the streets.

Set in a time of austerity and police cuts where opportunities for corruption are rife, Rubicon is a tense, dark thriller that is definitely not for the faint hearted.

About Ian Patrick:

Ian PatrickEducated in Nottingham, Ian left school at sixteen. After three years in the Civil Service he moved to London for a career in the Metropolitan Police.

He spent twenty-seven years as a police officer, the majority as a detective within the Specialist Operations Command. A career in policing is a career in writing. Ian has been used to carrying a book and pen and making notes.

Now retired, the need to write didn’t leave and evolved into fiction.

 

Ian’s Social Media:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/IPatrick_Author
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Ian-Patrick/e/B075VB1MP4/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

Buy Rubicon direct from Fahrenheit Press:
http://www.fahrenheit-press.com/books_rubicon.html


My thanks to damppebbles blog tours for the invitation to participate in this tour and the materials they provided.

Trouble Makes a Comeback (Audiobook) by Stephanie Tromly, Kathleen McInerney: Not as good as its predecessor, but a heckuva fun read/listen

Trouble Makes a ComebackTrouble Makes a Comeback

by Stephanie Tromly, Kathleen McInerney (Narrator)
Series: Trouble, #2

Unabridged Audiobook, 7 hrs., 56 min.
Listening Library, 2016
Read: May 23-24, 2018

After the explosive ending of Trouble is a Friend of Mine, life has settled down for Zoe — so much so, she may have achieved “normalcy.” Her grades are good, she’s got a nice job, she’s dating the backup QB (maybe not the brightest guy, but he’s nice), and even has a couple of friends. The biggest stress in her life is the SATs just around the corner (she’s over-prepared but doesn’t believe it). Her mother’s got a new live-in boyfriend, and other than all the health food he’s insisting they eat, things are good on that front, too — better than they’ve been in years.

Which means, it’s time for Digby to come back to town and muck everything up. And boy howdy, he does a great job of that.He’s got a lead on his missing sister, and he wants Zoe to help. Oh, and he’s pretty sure there’s a drug ring afoot at her school, and he might as well take that out while he’s at it.

The drug story runs just like you’d think it would — maybe a bit too conventionally, really. But it does it’s job — giving Digby, Zoe and the rest an easier target than the quest for his sister. And is good for enough laughs and tension that it feels like more than just a distraction from the “real” story.

That story, the hunt for clues to his sister’s fate is huge. We learn so much more than we did in the first novel — and find out that so much that Digby thought he knew wasn’t quite right. In the end, this task feels out of the reach and capabilities of these two — even if it’s inevitable that they’ll get somewhere that the police, FBI, and other professionals never did.

I may not have done myself a favor listening to this so soon after the first novel — I may have liked it better with a cool-down period. Still, I just don’t think it’s as good. Which is strange, the story’s more focused, there’s less stage-setting needed — we know almost everyone already, the situation is clear, etc. But the story wasn’t as gripping, I kept waiting for something to happen — and when it did, it seemed too easy. Plus, the whole “high school story” thing — romantic relationships, etc. — was more significant to this book. None of this made it a bad book, just a “less-good” one. Still, plenty of fun, and I really want to get the sequel, which can’t be a bad thing, can it?

Nevertheless — I enjoyed the novel (and McInerney is a big part of that) — I laughed, I had fun, I enjoyed the tension, and might have even gotten wrapped up in the emotional moments. A strong sequel that does an admirable job of setting up a sure-to-be knockout final book in the trilogy.

—–

3.5 Stars
2018 Library Love Challenge

How It Happened by Michael Koryta: A great thriller to kick off your summer (and/or a Russo novel gone awry)

How it HappenedHow It Happened

by Michael Koryta

Hardcover, 368 pg.
Little, Brown and Company, 2018
Read: May 29 – 30, 2018

The rain had tapered off overnight and given way to a gorgeous day, the sky and sea competing for the deepest blue, a light wind pushing off the water, temperature nearing eighty. The air was scented with ocean breezes and pines and held only the faintest trace of humidity. A quintessential Maine day, more suited to July than May.

If you weren’t looking for a drug addict and self-confessed murderer, it would be a day to treasure.

This is one of those that comes down to the set-up. Because it’s executed practically flawlessly, and if you’re in for a penny, you’re in for the whole pound — and it’s a heckuva ride. You won’t want to get off until the end, and then you’ll be able to breathe for the first time in seventy pages or so. If you’ve read Koryta before, you have an idea what things’ll be like — and you’ll be right. If you’ve not read him before, you probably will make arrangements to familiarize yourself with him soon after finishing this.

So, what is the setup? FBI Agent/expert on eliciting/evaluating confessions from criminal suspects, Rob Barrett returns to the small Maine community of his childhood summers to investigate a missing persons case/potential double homicide. After weeks of work, he finally gets a seemingly reliable confession from Kimberly Crepeaux to what happened to the missing young people. It’s a harrowing confession, I have to say — I’ve read novels with less tension than her recounting of what happened that night. Kimberly is a drug addict, jailhouse snitch, and all-around unreliable person — everyone in town knows this. But Rob believes her (and you will, too).

But there are a couple of problems. Problem one: Mathias Burke is the man that Kimberly says is the murderer. Mathias is a go-getter of a young man, and has been since he was a kid — the dictionary might as well feature his picture under “industrious.” No one in town can believe anything Kimberly says about the way he acted that night — even the non-criminal aspects of it. None of it is characteristic of him. Problem two: the bodies aren’t where she says they were. In fact, they’re found miles away and seemingly killed in a different fashion, with the fingerprints and DNA of someone not Mathias Burke present.

So much for Kimberly’s confession — and Rob’s career. He’s shipped out to a field office in Montana, probably for the rest of his career.

But Kimberly sticks to her story, and convinces the father of one of the victims, Howard Pelletier, to believe her (and fear for her safety from Burke). Howard’s wife died when his daughter, Jackie, was young. He became the most devoted single father in history, and in time, she reciprocated. The story of Jackie and Howard would be enough for a novel, were it not for the murder. Howard’s insistence that Rob pay attention to Kimberly again and his need for answers brings Rob back for one more try at finding out how it happened.

Pretty good hook, eh? And like I said, once it’s set, Koryta reels the reader in just like the seasoned pro he’s become.

A strange thought occurred to me this weekend: this could very easily have been a Richard Russo novel — I’m not sure who the protagonist would’ve been — maybe the cafe owner or something. But Rob, returning to his childhood stomping grounds (however temporarily), Howard and Jackie would’ve easily have been fixtures — ditto for Mathias Burke (and even Kimberly, come to think of it). Mathias would be a major player, really — not the protagonist, but a lead character for sure, his troubled youth, his Horatio Alger-ish work ethic/success story, the way that this silly FBI interloper messed up his life, etc. The tangled lines connecting all these people would be seen more clearly, and traced back a generation or two, making everything more complex. Actually, the more I think about this, the more I want to see Russo write his take on these elements. Anyhow, this isn’t a Richard Russo novel — this is a Michael Koryta novel. So, it won’t be anywhere near as funny, the psychology will be presented in starter light, the tension level will be much higher, and the sense of right and wrong will be much less murky.

A knockout of a read — a great thriller to kick off your summer with.

—–

4 Stars2018 Library Love Challenge

Author Interview with Charles V Breakfield and Roxanne E Burkey

We’re back with Part 2 of the The Enigma Dragon: A CATS Tale by Charles V Breakfield and Roxanne E Burkey Book Tour stop. Be sure to check out the Spotlight and Giveaway post.

Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
Not really. We believe readers want to deal with the real author, rather than a wanna be.

Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
For us storytelling is all about being fresh, original, and entertaining.  Otherwise it feels as stale to us as it would the reader. In the Enigma Dragon, we answered the request to do a follow-on book featuring the CATS team. We wanted to retain the “grittiness” of this cyber hunting team, but we wanted it to be a fresh extension to its companion book The Enigma Gamers.  We believe readers will enjoy this compelling story.

Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?
We don’t see how that type of person could be an effective or good writer.  Even in our technical how-to manuals we were obsessed with debunking myths and delivering value.  We have to report though we get more amped up now on our techno-thrillers, than we did on data center upgrades.

What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
As part of the Texas Authors Association we have met some remarkable authors and poets. It is nice treat to exchange ideas and techniques with others in the field.  They put us on their website and we put them on ours in the Friends, Family, and Rock Stars category. Dr. Judith Briles, Mara Purl, Joann Giordano Wagner, Richard, Rieman, Jan Sikes, Ernie Lee, Kimberly Johnson Fish, and Caleb Pirtle III are some very talented authors we can count as friends.

Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
Each book in our series is crafted to stand by itself but also to contribute to the series overall.  With the Enigma Dragon – A CATS Tale we continue this team series. It is important each book stands on its own, though they are richer when read in order.

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Read more then go practice more writing.

How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
Our first book was more of an assembly exercise for the publisher and honestly not very satisfying.  Once we became INDIE authors we learned about all the backend processes which can and do consume a lot of writing time.  In the music world you read all the time where a small but talented group is told by audiences and even other well-known groups to start doing your own stuff. It was a defining moment for us as well.

What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
It would have to be paying for a genre editor to analyze our story.  She found things that we as authors simply did not see. This gave this story the extra polish that we are justifiably proud of.

Thanks to iREAD Book Tours for this content.