Month: June 2015

Review, interview, excerpt of DUKE CITY DESPERADO

I am very excited to be a part of the blog tour for Max Austin’s DUKE CITY DESPERADO.

REVIEW: Duke City Desperado

DUKE CITY DESPERADO By Max Austin Random House Publishing Group-Alibi (June 9, 2015) Mystery/Thriller

Max Austin has done it again! This is the third in the series and I’ve enjoyed every book. Each book stands alone with Albuquerque and crime as the common element.

DUKE CITY DESPERADO starts out with Doc, on a three-day high, and Dylan driving around until Doc decides he’s going to rob a bank through the drive-thru. As you can imagine, it didn’t go well. Doc is captured and Dylan in on the run.

Austin is a master at storytelling. His pacing is flawless as he takes the reader down alleys and over rooftops with  Dylan as he desperately tries to stay ahead of two FBI Agents and one crazed Mafia prince. In the midst of the mayhem is a Goth girl who becomes Dylan’s fan girl and his ex-girlfriend’s sister who rally’s her girlfriends to deliver a message to the guy who hit her sister. One of Austin’s strengths are his characters. Dylan is no mastermind, he’s more of a master at bad decisions but the kind-hearted kid has dumb luck on his side and you can’t help but root for him. Doc is self-serving but still you like him just a bit. The Chicano ladies justice league is a hoot.

This is a fun, fast read with plenty of surprises. Don’t just read the book – read the series.

Interview with Max Austin:

Your latest releases is DUKE CITY DESPERADO, book 3 in the Lawbreakers series, a series that has two things in common – crime and Albuquerque.  Why  choose Albuquerque for a setting?

I live in Albuquerque, so the research is easy to do. Albuquerque is a wonderful town for crime. We have a real mix of cultures, and that often puts people on collision courses. We have our share of crooks, like most cities of half a million, and they often do dumb stuff that makes fun stories. Plus, it’s a beautiful setting, with the mountains and the sunsets and the Rio Grande valley. Lots of different landscapes to work into the plot.

Is Dylan’s character in DUKE CITY DESPERADO fashioned after anyone you know?

No one specifically, though my two sons are around Dylan’s age, and we used to joke that all of their friends were named Dylan. Also, I teach undergrads in the Honors College at the University of New Mexico, so I spend a lot of time around young people.

What is the one question you wish an interviewer would ask you?

At a recent event here in Albuquerque, somebody asked how I knew so much about guns and shooting. First time I’d ever been asked that. The answer: I get it all from the Internet. I haven’t fired a gun in 40 years.

What is the one book you wish you’d written?

The Maltese Falcon

What’s next for you?

I just finished work on a new crime novel set in Albuquerque. A woman hijacks the wrong semi from the truck stop in the center of town. Soon, the bullets are flying ….

EXCERPT:

“Attempted bank robbery is a federal crime,” she said. “We take such crimes very seriously, no matter how ridiculous the attempt.”

Doc felt his face go warm.

“Also,” Aragon piped up, “threatening people with a bomb is an act of terrorism. And you know how seriously we take terrorism.”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Doc said. “Did somebody find a bomb?”

“No,” Agent Willis said, “but even pretending to have a bomb can be a crime. Particularly if that pretense is used to rob a federally insured bank.”

“Again, I don’t know what you mean. I was in an accident. You can see from my face that I’ve been injured. I probably have a concussion or a hematoma or something. I don’t really remember what happened before the car wreck.”

The agents exchanged a smile. That made Doc feel worse.

“Let me refresh your memory,” Aragon said. He tapped the iPad a few times, then tipped it up so Doc could see the screen from across the table. “This is security video from the bank. We’ve got tons of video from the scene, but I snipped this little bit especially for you.”

The screen went fuzzy for a second, then leaped into focus. The driver’s-side window of the white van filled the screen, Doc right there in living color. No disguise, not even wearing his sunglasses. A bald-faced bank robber.

In the video, he held up the gray garage-door opener—and clearly that’s what it was; how had he ever thought anybody would believe differently?—and shouted, “This is a holdup! I’ve got a bomb! Hand over the money or I’ll push this button and blow us all to kingdom come.”

Aragon tapped the tablet to pause the video. Doc’s face froze on the screen, eyes wild, mouth open in a snarl.

“Do we need to go on?” Aragon asked. “I’ve got another clip you’d enjoy. It shows the moment of impact when the van hits that light pole. It’s like slow motion until the air bag pops you in the face. The boys were talking about setting that one to music, putting it on YouTube.”

Doc stared at his cuffed hands on the tabletop. If the feds were trying to shame him, it was working.

“We’ve got you on every camera outside that bank.” Willis leaned toward him, tapping her finger on the tabletop for emphasis. “Plus, we’ve got eyewitnesses, we’ve got your stolen vehicle, we’ve got your fingerprints on the ‘detonator’ you threw from the van.”

Doc watched his thumbs work against each other, fiddling with his ragged nails.

“We’ve got you,” she concluded. “The only question now is how many years you get to spend in a federal penitentiary.”

He winced, which made his puffy face hurt.

“You know what we don’t have?” she said, and Doc felt the faintest flicker of hope. “We don’t have your partner.”

“My partner?”

“The passenger in the van. The one who bailed on you.”

Aragon tapped the screen, and the video of Doc vanished from the screen, replaced by a view of the front end of the Ford van as it pulled up to the teller window. The van was partly under an awning, but there still was enough glare on the windshield that you couldn’t really see who was inside. Then the passenger door flung open and Dylan jumped out, running before his feet hit the ground. Aragon paused the video, catching Dylan in mid-stride, his arms pumping, the hood of his gray sweatshirt cloaking his head.

“You can’t see his face,” Doc said. “Is it that way in all the pictures?”

“We’re asking the questions here.”

Doc smiled, though it hurt to do so.

“You don’t know who that is,” he said. “You can’t find him unless I help you.”

Agent Willis tilted her head to the side, looking him over, as if deciding how to carve him up.

“We’ll find him,” she said. “Tell us a name, where to start looking, this whole thing could be over a lot quicker.”

“I don’t care about quick. What I want is a deal. I give you his name, and I walk away.”

“Never happen,” she said.

“Then I get a reduced sentence, some probation or community service or something. I wasn’t in my right mind anyway—that much is clear. Nobody in his right mind would try to rob a drive-through bank. It’s just not feasible.”

The agents gave him stoic stares.

“I had ‘diminished capacity,’” Doc said, suddenly remembering that term from who-knows-where. “Because of drug abuse. I was diminished.”

Their expressions didn’t change.

“So this kid,” Doc said, “he, uh, takes advantage of my condition. He tells me we ought to rob the bank. Tells me to drive up to the window.”

“It was his idea?” she asked.

“Yeah! This is not the sort of thing I would’ve ever done on my own. I mean, check my record. I’ve been convicted a few times, sure, but it’s always been penny-ante stuff related to my drug abuse problem. I’ve never touched a bank.”

Aragon frowned. “So he suggested you rob a bank, just drive up like you were picking up some tacos, and they’d hand over the money. And you were so far gone on crank, you bought that?”

“I didn’t have any choice!” Doc heard a chunking noise inside his head, the sound of a shovel digging him in deeper. “The kid had a gun. He made me do it!”

The agents leaned back in their plastic chairs, making faces, as if Doc had unleashed a bad smell rather than an implausible lie.

“The teller saw no gun,” Willis said.

“It was all his idea,” Doc insisted. “Catch him and ask him yourself. You’ll see. I was a victim here.”

She shot her partner a look, then said, “If it was the kid’s idea, then why did he run away?”

“I don’t know. I guess he chickened out once things were under way.”

“This kid,” she said, “this armed desperado who made you do terrible things. Does he have a name?”

“Do we have a deal?”

Aragon said, “Do we need to watch some more videos?”

Doc sighed.

“Dylan James,” he said. “His name is Dylan James. He’s twenty-four years old. And I don’t have the faintest fucking idea where he’s gone.”

Interview: RM Cartmel author of Wine and Crime Fiction

RMCARTMEL_GARDENBorn into a military family, R.M. Cartmel was educated at Sherborne School in the South West of England and at Oxford. Cartmel served as a practicing doctor for over three and a half decades. As a novelist Cartmel combines two of his lifelong loves—writing and traveling throughout France’s exquisite Burgundy region.

Tell us about your new release and why you chose this genre. The Charlemagne Connection is the second in a series of mystery crime fiction books, featuring a rumpled, quietly spoken French detective called Truchaud. The first three books of the series take place over one wine-making year, and are all set in the vineyards of Burgundy.

Charlemagne_cover_webWhat led you to write this book? Quite simply I was looking for a crime fiction book set in the vineyards of Burgundy, and I couldn’t find one, either in English or in French – so I set about writing it, and one book led to another…

Did you have an interesting experience in the research of this book? Any number of interesting experiences, but I guess if I had to single one out it would be becoming part of the wine-making community in this tiny but fabulously special corner of France. Everyone I spoke to in the course of researching the book has been amazingly helpful and welcoming, to the extent that last October found me working at the Domaine de la Vougeraie, being generously inducted into the secrets of making really top-quality wine. A real privilege.

Do you have a favorite writing place? Sitting under a sunshade outside the Café du Centre in Nuits Saint Georges, ideally with a glass of xxxxx within easy reach.

Is it a series? Yes – after the three set in France, I am taking my detective overseas. Undoubtedly to Oregon. Probably to Australia. Where else? We’ll see.

Tell us about your characters. Commander Truchaud is the central character, and is a figure who arrived fully formed in my mind one day, creased crumpled raincoat included. He is the younger son of a wine-making dynasty, and, as with many younger sons the world around, found that the family business couldn’t quite support him as well as his older brother, so went off to Paris to join the police. He has had a profoundly affecting love affair with a woman whom he failed to marry, and a marriage with a woman with whom he failed to make things work. He is an extremely good policeman, an honourable man, and not entirely happy.

Why is the setting important? All this series of books are wine & crime mysteries, linking the pleasures and processes of wine-making with the puzzles and plots of crime fiction – without the vineyards in which the books are set, the crimes would not have happened, and their stories could not have been told.

What makes the book uniquely yours? They combine three things which I am deeply passionate about – the subtleties of wine-making, the subterfuges of a good mystery novel, and writing. As well as being a doctor for all of my adult life, I have also been a writer whenever I had the chance. Now I have tucked my stethoscope away, and let my writer’s imagination have full rein.

This interview also appeared in the June 2015 issue of The Book Breeze.

Mystery Reviews

Keeper of the CastleGhosts, literal and figurative, haunt the books I’ve been reading of late. KEEPER OF THE CASTLE, by Juliet Blackwell (Obsidian, 2014,$7.99) finds construction contractor and part-time ghostbuster Mel Turner working on the reconstruction of a Scottish castle in San Francisco. Problems arise when not one, but two ghostly manifestation send the workers scurrying. Then the body of a nosy city official turns up, and Mel’s construction crew comes under suspicion. Mixed stones from two different sites, a fierce Scottish nationalist, and an archeological expert with his own agenda, all play a part in this solid entry in the Haunted House Renovation Mysteries.

This old HomicideAnother construction site in California is the scene for THIS OLD HOMICIDE, by Kate Carlisle (Obsidian, 2015, $7.99). Shannon Hammer loves her small town, Lighthouse Cove, and its quirky inhabitants. The quirkiest is Jesse Hennessey, one of Shannon’s father’s old war buddies, whose tall tales of sunken treasure, have always been taken with several shakers of salt. Then Shannon finds Jesse dead, apparently of natural causes, but strange things are happening in the house next door.. Mysterious midnight visitors tear the place apart, looking for buried treasure. A woman turns up, claiming to be Jesse’s fiance. Is the story Jesse told about finding an old Spanish wreck true? And why is Shannon’s nemesis, Whitney, trying to take over the management of the annual Valentine’s Day festivities? It all comes together in a cosmic, comic confrontation, and Shannon solves not one, but two mysteries. A fun read.

Snow White Red-HandedMaia Chance’s SNOW WHITE RED-HANDED (Berkley, 2014, $7.99) shifts to Germany in 1867. Ophelia Flax is an actress out of work, who finagles herself into a job as  lady’s maid to  the wife of an American millionaire who has just taken over a German castle with a connection to a fairy-tale past. Was Snow White an actual princess? Someone seems to think so; there are tales of buried treasure, and a possible gold mine worked by very short people. Then her boss is found dead, poisoned by an apple! Ophelia must deal with German police, student secret societies, and faded aristocrats before she can uncover the secret of Snow White’s tomb  and face down a fiendish killer. There’s more to come in this series that crosses Historical with Occult mysteries.

Pagan SpringThe past is very much part of the present in G.M. Malliet’s PAGAN SPRING (Minotaur, 2014, $15.99), when Max Tudor, ex-MI5 and now Anglican priest in Nether Monkslip, finds himself in the middle of yet another murder. A newcomer to the village, actor Thaddeus Bottle, dies after attending a dinner party, where Max is one of the guests, and Max suspects poison of a particularly rare kind. There are plenty of suspects, starting with Mrs. Bottle, who has been the target of Thaddeus’s bile for years. But what does a pair of elaborate earrings have to do with the case? And why does the charming French hairdresser blanch at the sight of striped wallpaper? The truth is stranger than anything Max has known during his career as secret agent, and once again, old sins cast long shadows. The War is never over for some people, and the solution to the mystery is locked in emails sent to someone who can never read them. A jaunt into the English countryside, with dark overtones.

These reviews were provided by Roberta Rogow for her column Roberta’s Ramblings in the June 2015 issue of The Book Breeze.

YA Review: JESUS JACKSON by James Ryan Daley

Jesus JacksonJESUS JACKSON by James Ryan Daley

Poisoned Pen Press ~ October 2014 ~ 4.5 Stars

Prior to the opening of the story, Jonathan and his older brother, Ryan agreed there were too many contradictions in the Bible for it to be true. So, they began a quest to find a religion based on truth. While they sought answers, they began a list of the errors in organized religion which unfortunately their extremely devout mother found. She called in the local priest to save the day. That was how Ryan ended up at St. Soren’s and now Jonathan is stuck in the same place.

Freshman, Jonathan Stiles questions everything in his world from life to faith to his brother’s sudden death. The last high school that Jonathan wanted to attend was St. Soren’s Academy since he doesn’t believe in God. However, his mother decided that because his older brother did well there once he stopped questioning God and became a football star, Jonathan will follow the family tradition. This will force him to stop his claims of being an atheist. Reluctantly he goes to the first day of class only to discover what he believed; he will be hammered by religion. As if things aren’t bad enough, his older brother dies the same day and this only adds to Jonathan’s suspicions that he’s surrounded by evil. A stranger in a white leisure suit who hangs out at the school track, Jesus Jackson, the title character encourages Jonathan to seek out the truth not only of the so-called accident, but also of life. Jesus also promises to help Jonathan rediscover his faith in this coming-of-age story.

A fascinating character, Jonathan sets out to solve the mystery that the local police either can’t or won’t. He has an unlikely ally, another boy who thinks there isn’t a scientific basis for religion. The two boys begin hunting for clues and answers to their questions. Meantime, Jonathan finds himself hating the show of grief the other students make. He really doesn’t feel like they even knew his idolized brother, not the way he did. And how could Ryan play the party game? Or had he decided there might be a God after all? If Ryan continued to be an atheist, where is he now? Or could there actually be a Heaven?

The teen characters are well drawn and Jonathan’s questions as well as his attempts to deal with his grief feel Shannon’s Space continued authentic. However, the adults don’t have as much depth and while one would hope that Jonathan could turn to someone in this situation, there really isn’t anyone who can help including his parents. Jesus Jackson may be a figment of his imagination or could be real, but at times Jesus’ dialogue borders on platitudes voiced by TV preachers. St. Soren’s is a typical high school and the scene where the students build a “rainbow shrine” to Ryan feels like a clichéd response to a tragedy. The fabulous description only adds more pathos to the situation and the reader will want to rage along with Jonathan.

The authentic setting, likeable hero and realistic dialogue will entertain most readers. While this is a story about a boy in search of faith, the religious elements don’t overshadow the plot. Like Jonathan, readers will want to know what happened to his brother and Mr. Daley doesn’t leave us with unanswered questions. It will be interesting to see what he comes up with in his next story.

This review was provided by Shannon Kennedy for her column Shannon’s Space in the June 2015 issue of The Book Breeze.

Review: KEEPER OF RUNES AND THE TOWER OF SHADOWS by Andrew D. Cratsley

Keepers of RunesKeepers of Runes and the Tower of Shadows by Andrew D. Cratsley

CreateSpace Independent Publishing ~ May 2014 ~ 3.5 Stars

Blurb: Haunted by his sordid past, Corinth emerges from his solitude within the eternal forest around Enzlintine. Eager to serve, he is sent away under the ruse of a mercenary to quell the troubled region plagued by Khalid, the Lord of Conquest. Unsure of his companions, he discovers a world unlike the one imparted by his vain race. The trail of deadly contracts leads them to a mysterious tower inhabited by an unforeseen evil. It forces them into greater dangers to retrieve an unknown object, under the escort a young girl it claims as his ward. Offering her assistance to flee in exchange for her safety, her charm and peculiar lineage forces the noble soldier of fortune to question his precious ideals while seeking refuge. They race towards a frigid wasteland to find the bane of the evil that stalks them, while battling assassins, ominous creatures, and the forces of Khalid.

Review: Appointed to the Sage Guards, newly knighted Enzlintine elf, Corinth sets off on a quest to discover why people and other creatures disappear on a major trade route. Along the way, he’ll deal with a group of hired swords – mercenaries and his own prejudices. Corinth finds himself battling his cultural indoctrination more than his adversaries. Elves come first and everyone else is not just second class, but actually lower than that, even or perhaps especially his allies.

This book had tremendous potential that unfortunately wasn’t totally realized. The well described setting provided a wonderful backdrop for the ensemble cast of mercenaries. However, they weren’t as well developed and at times it became difficult to connect with them or Corinth. Another problem was the constant use of unnecessary dialogue tags and when the conversation wasn’t linked, it meant regular re-reading to discover who said what and when which slowed the overall pacing.

However, despite the many flaws, this remained an interesting read especially when Corinth discovers the tower and Rieka joins his team to defeat the evil all of them face. Since this story is part of a series, it will be enjoyable to see what happens next.

This review was provided by Shannon Kennedy for her column Shannon’s Space in the June 2015 issue of The Book Breeze.

Interview: Clea Simon author or Pru Marlowe Pet Noir Mysteries

Clea-glasses-insetClea Simon author of Pru Marlowe Pet Noir Mysteries

Tell us about your new release and why you chose this genre. In my new cozy mystery, “Kittens Can Kill,” Pru Marlowe, the bad-girl animal psychic, answers a call to pick up a kitten … and finds a the body of a prominent lawyer. When the three daughters of the dead lawyer start fighting over who was responsible for his death – even suggesting that the kitten was involved – she has to get involved to sort things out, and to save the kitten. (This is the fifth in my Pru Marlowe pet noir series.)

What do you hope readers take with them after reading your work? I hope readers find Kittens Can Kill coverstraight-ahead fun and enjoyment! But beyond that, I hope that they learn a little from Pru about animal behavior. Everything she notes is real – I’ve researched animal behavior. And as she points out, animals don’t act on cruelty, greed, jealousy, or rage. Only humans do that!

Do you people watch for character inspiration? I do indeed! My characters may not always be likeable, but I trust that if you take the time, you’ll understand them … you’ll see why they act like they do and maybe you’ll even sympathize a bit with them!

Tell us about your characters. My main characters in this series, the Pru Marlowe pet noir mysteries, are Pru, who is kind of a bad girl. A city girl who came home to her small town, she’s a fish out of water… and she’s not always happy with it. But even if she thinks she’s tough, she’s no match for her even tougher tabby, Wallis. Wallis always comments on Pru’s life – and because Pru is an animal psychic, she can understand what Wallis says – and Wallis always has tons of catitude!

Who do you feel is your target audience? Are your books geared for an older generation? My books are geared for readers, pure and simple! And since there is not explicit sex or violence, they’re safe for younger readers, too.

Review: THE MARK ON EVE by Joel Fox

The Mark on EveTHE MARK ON EVE

By Joel Fox

Mystery Bronze Circle Press (Jan 2015)

In 1717, Eve pleads with a witch to spare the life of her beloved as his ship attempts to return to harbor during a big storm but instead the ship sinks and Eve is cursed by the witch to walk the earth until she kisses the lips of her love once again.

Eve tries to keep a low profile during her long life so as not to arouse suspicions but when present day Eve takes an assassin’s bullet meant for a presidential candidate, questions arise and she catches the interest of a reporter.

There is a lot to like about this tale. The pacing is excellent but I did find the constant shifting from one time to another jarring. I think I would have preferred a little long stay in each time period.

There are many storylines in this tale: the witch and her son, the reporter, Eve’s interaction with politically active women through the ages, the treasure hunter seeking Eve’s lover’s sunken ship, the blackmailing of the presidential candidate and of course the reporter who has more questions than answers about Eve.

I had trouble buying the reporter’s personal interest in Eve and the storyline involving the step daughter felt contrived but this is an intriguing read.