Categories
Biographies, Memoirs, Nonfiction Crime

ARC Review — Last Call: A True Story of Love, Lust, and Murder in Queer New York by Elon Green

Thank you so much to Celadon Books for the free advanced copy of Last Call in exchange for a. Honest review! All opinions are my own!

I am coming to love the true crime genre, except this book reads more like a history/biography.  The author focuses on the victims and the history of, and violence in queer New York City, paying little eventual attention to the trial and investigation of the murderer himself.  On that front I am staying neutral on rating and recommending as a true crime!

Quick Facts:

  • Title: Last Call
  • Author: Elon Green
  • Publisher & Release: Celadon Books, 3/9/12
  • Genre: true crime, history
  • Length: 260 pg
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟 & neutral, check it out if the content sparks interest

Here is the synopsis from GoodReads:

The Townhouse Bar, midtown, July 1992: The piano player seems to know every song ever written, the crowd belts out the lyrics to their favorites, and a man standing nearby is drinking a Scotch and water. The man strikes the piano player as forgettable.

He looks bland and inconspicuous. Not at all what you think a serial killer looks like. But that’s what he is, and tonight, he has his sights set on a gray haired man. He will not be his first victim.

Nor will he be his last.

The Last Call Killer preyed upon gay men in New York in the ‘80s and ‘90s and had all the hallmarks of the most notorious serial killers. Yet because of the sexuality of his victims, the skyhigh murder rates, and the AIDS epidemic, his murders have been almost entirely forgotten.

This gripping true-crime narrative tells the story of the Last Call Killer and the decades-long chase to find him. And at the same time, it paints a portrait of his victims and a vibrant community navigating threat and resilience.

Overall this is not a bad read at all.  I am left to assume that there’s either not a ton of info available on the trial and murderer, his motives or interviews, or that’s just not what the author was primarily getting at. I think the murders themselves were well described and covered as well as the investigation, but the trial and post apprehension of the killer was practically nonexistent so my curiosity is only amplified now.

The odd part is that the book was SO painfully detailed up to that point that the ending felt bizarre.  There are pages and pages on unrelated things like where the victims’ parents’ went to high school, and a whole chapter on a piano player who was not even involved in the killings except as someone that played in the bars and spotted the killer once. I just frankly don’t care about that guy’s time on a cruise ship or where the murder victims parents grew up.  For all those minute details, the trial consisted of about… Heck I don’t know, one or two pages?

The book offers a fairly comprehensive history of certain gay bars and queer violence in New York City, among other towns, but the majority of the book is about the victims more than the crimes.  Some parts of their lives were actually interesting, and other parts, like sex life details and queer metro life such as “subway sammies” made me cringe a little bit as a healthcare worker.

Tracking the history of law enforcement and queer violence was probably where the book shined most.  Some parts seemed to have some organizational issues (for example, one random paragraph mentions another serial killer spotted in a bar, and he was never mentioned again), but the history of the bars and violence, right up through Cuomo Sr and Giuliani were well organized and presented in interesting ways.

The killer was portrayed in the final section of the book with a brief look at his college years and professional career, not in any kind of chronological order.  It doesn’t seem like a huge effort was made to find where he did the killings or even why, as no true motive was established. The only part of the trial consisted of one family member’s statement so I guess it was all based on the victims families?  Where is the detail for this part of the story? I’m guessing sealed court documents or something but this is just not mentioned.

Overall: I know the author wasn’t focused on the killer, but he could have trimmed some of the inane details and had plenty of page space to at least talk about the post apprehension and trial period.

Last but not least: I think it’s time for a good old fashioned @OneReadingNurse medical digression! Right at the end, an interviewee mentions PReP on the last page of the book.  I guess I don’t think about AIDS much in healthcare these days unless it is noted that a patient is HIV or AIDS+, but the piano player from above asserts that the Queer community  assumes undetected HIV is the same thing as uninfected, which seems scary to me. PReP is covered by most insurances and asserts between 74-99% effectiveness based on the goal of use, according to the CDC.   https://www.cdc.gov/hiv/basics/prep.html It seems affordable and/but I didn’t realize people even in 2020 are just turning to drugs vs safe sex practices? What about other STDs? I guess that guy’s statement would require more research but it seems like the last thing the author wants readers to think about is how there are still extremely unsafe sexual practices occuring, which is something these people definitely need to be aware of.  I didn’t know it, anyway.

Thank you again to Celadon Books for my copy!!  I am stating neutral on the rating and again say check it out, releasing 3/9, if it sounds up your alley!

Categories
Crime Historical Fiction Mysteries Suspense

Book Review: Germania by Harald Gilbers

Thank you so much to Thomas Dunne Books & St Martin’s Press for the lovely finished copy of Germania in exchange for an honest review! All opinions are my own!

I would start by profusely apologizing for my turnover time on this book, reading has been a little bit impossible as my work schedule still averages 4-5 12hr nights a week! The good news is: this is my last back logged book!! Literally all my books now are publishing in February or later! Yay for small victories and let’s hope the pandemic winds down soon so the hospital can go back to normal

Anyway anyway, without further adieu..

Quick Facts:

  • Title: Germania
  • Series: Richard Oppenheimer #1
  • Author: Harald Gilbers (tr. Alexandra Roesch)
  • Publisher & Release: Thomas Dunne Books, December 2020
  • Length: 348 pg
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟⚡ yes for mystery/investigative/WWII fans!

Here is the synopsis from GoodReads:

From international bestselling author Harald Gilbers comes the heart-pounding story of Jewish detective Richard Oppenheimer as he hunts for a serial killer through war-torn Nazi Berlin in Germania.

Berlin 1944: a serial killer stalks the bombed-out capital of the Reich, preying on women and laying their mutilated bodies in front of war memorials. All of the victims are linked to the Nazi party. But according to one eyewitness account, the perpetrator is not an opponent of Hitler’s regime, but rather a loyal Nazi.

Jewish detective Richard Oppenheimer, once a successful investigator for the Berlin police, is reactivated by the Gestapo and forced onto the case. Oppenheimer is not just concerned with catching the killer and helping others survive, but also his own survival. Worst of all, solving this case is what will certainly put him in the most jeopardy. With no other choice but to further his investigation, he feverishly searches for answers, and a way out of this dangerous game.

In Germania, Richard Oppenheimer used to be a detective for the Berlin police, but as a Jew under Hitler he is now forced to work a menial job. One SS agent is stumped when a serial killer starts leaving desecrated bodies in front of WW1 memorials, and he consults (forces) Oppenheimer to help catch the killer. Amidst air raids and bombs and constant fear of death in the rubble of Berlin, Oppenheimer and Vogler try to solve this case.

The setting felt so real as well with rubble strewn streets, frequent rain fall, bombed out buildings, and foreigners from everywhere.  It ties in perfectly with the blackouts, oppressive and depressing overall atmosphere of the book.

So much danger, whether from the constant air strikes, Hitler’s regime, or a truly brutal killer, makes this a quietly exciting mystery.  Oppenheimer is clever and an observant investigator, so many pages are spent as he puzzles out the case to his new boss, Vogler.   Some thoroughly brutal descriptions of desecration were enough to really give me the chills about this killer.

I liked the characters too, Richard knows that his life is hanging by a thread but he still feels the thrill of being back on the case.  He is an inherently good person.  I think Vogler is too, he would never admit it but he sticks his neck out for Oppenheimer quite a bit and has at least a small streak of humanity.  I would have liked a little more from the killer – they had a few paragraphs here and there but it was hard to tell when he was the one being featured, and the glimpses were small! I think he had a good and believable arc to insanity though.

As he is investigating, Oppenheimer learns that he is not being told all the facts.  That says, he does a phenomenal job with what he is given.  It’s definitely more of a literary investigative mystery than a thriller, although some parts are exciting.  I don’t know much about German history at all so it was also interesting to read about landmarks, architecture, and some of Hitler’s less than popular Aryan breeding and spy schemes.

It is also my first German translated book.  I don’t think a lot of German words and phrases translate well, which created some blocky language and curious phrases at times, but not enough to affect enjoyment.  Gilbers is a history proficient theater writer, so I felt like I was getting an accurate portrayal of Nazi politics as well as a dramatic and depressing atmosphere.

I definitely couldn’t figure out why the party cared so much about one murderer… But… You’ll find out why when you read it!

I took the 1.5 stars off for the book being a little anticlimactic – I think Oppenheimer should have been more present during the criminal apprehensions, but his role was only to figure out who did it. Also without knowing the German history I had to look up quite a few abbreviations, and lord knows that German words are a mouthful to pronounce. All the points for setting and atmosphere though and for the characters.

I think this is a wonderfully human mystery and would recommend to anyone interested!

Categories
Biographies, Memoirs, Nonfiction Crime

Book Review: Trial by Fire by Scott James

Thank you so much to St. Martin’s Press for the finished copy of Trial by Fire in exchange for an honest review and feature!  All opinions are my own!

Quick Facts:

  • Title: Trial by Fire
  • Author: Scott James
  • Genre: Nonfiction, true crime
  • Publisher & Release: Thomas Dunne Books, October 2020
  • Length: 384 Pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 yes for those interested!

Here is the synopsis from Goodreads:

In only 90 seconds, a fire in the Station nightclub killed 100 people and injured hundreds more. It would take nearly 20 years to find out why—and who was really at fault.

All it took for a hundred people to die during a show by the hair metal band Great White was a sudden burst from two giant sparklers that ignited the acoustical foam lining the Station nightclub. But who was at fault? And who would pay? This being Rhode Island, the two questions wouldn’t necessarily have the same answer.

Within 24 hours the governor of Rhode Island and the local police commissioner were calling for criminal charges, although the investigation had barely begun, no real evidence had been gathered, and many of the victims hadn’t been identified. Though many parties could be held responsible, fingers pointed quickly at the two brothers who owned the club. But were they really to blame? Bestselling author and three-time Emmy Award-winning reporter Scott James investigates all the central figures, including the band’s manager and lead singer, the fire inspector, the maker of the acoustical foam, as well as the brothers. Drawing on firsthand accounts, interviews with many involved, and court documents, James explores the rush to judgment about what happened that left the victims and their families, whose stories he also tells, desperate for justice.

Trial By Fire is the heart-wrenching story of the fire’s aftermath because while the fire, one of America’s deadliest, lasted fewer than two minutes, the search for the truth would take twenty years.

I hadn’t heard of this tragedy but after a quick Google search (not recommended video viewing for the faint of heart) I became quickly interested. A reporter live at the scene, ironically there for a feature on safety, caught video of this rapidly unfolding horror show that created a mystery for years to come. This is an extremely readable and fast moving book for a nonfiction!

In Trial by Fire, Scott James looks at everyone’s side of the story. From the club owners to the club and band managers, the fire marshall, the foam company that sold the wrong insulation to the club owners, plus survivors, families of the deceased, and more, I feel like a really wide and unbiased portrayal of events was covered here. James even brings in Rhode Island history and legal precedents to set the scene for encountered attitudes and court proceedings. I appreciated the full disclosure elements too.

I think the most interesting part for me was how the media was so biased, and totally seems to have f**ked up a lot of the coverage and facts. The governor tried to clamp down on false information and the club owners tried to stay out of the crap slinging, but there is a really huge issue with bad media coverage and people rushing to believe it. I did learn a lot about how media works though. Another interesting part was … Well… I’m a nurse and love medical bits. I was morbidly fascinated while reading about people’s skin melting off as they tried to be pulled to safety, toxic smoke inhalation, flash points, and triage. Also the hospital coverage and burn treatments, especially the pulmonary advancements were super interesting to me. Thinking about this from a first responder perspective is truly horrifying. I can’t even imagine being inside or outside and just hearing all the screams stop, it’s too terrible to process fully 😳

I learned a ton about everything from fire in general to safety codes, history, the legal system, and human nature by reading this book. I really highly recommend for anyone interested in true crime or investigative journalism type reads. Also there is a huge humanitarian aspect to the book and personal stories of many survivors and victims, if you enjoy a bittersweet success story.

Thank you again so much to St Martin’s Press (Sara thank you!) for my copy, all opinions are my own!

If anyone has read this and/or wants to discuss it, feel free to leave a comment! Thanks for reading!

Categories
Crime Fantasy Paranormal Science Fiction

Book Review: Night Terrors by Tim Waggoner

Thank you so much to Angry Robot Books for the finished copy of Night Terrors in exchange for an honest review!  This is a perfect Halloween time book.

Quick Facts:

  • Title: Night Terrors
  • Series: Shadow Watch, #1
  • Author: Tim Waggoner
  • Publisher & Release: Angry Robot Books – 2014, reissued October, 2020
  • Length: 352 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ yes for Urban Fantasy fans!

Here is the synopsis from Amazon:

When you dream, you visit the Maelstrom. Dream long enough and hard enough, and your dreams can break through into the living world.

So can your nightmares.

And who’s there to catch the dreams and nightmares as they fall into reality?

Meet the Shadow Watch. Pray you never need them…

I am usually not an urban fantasy reader at all, but Night Terrors was an absolutely perfect #Spooktober read.  Certain humans are able to dream their nightmares into creation, and then become ideators.  No longer needing sleep, the humans and their dreams – called incubus/incubi) – tend to stay together in the real world.  With violent tastes at night time and a desire to live freely on Earth, an agency called the Shadow Watch has developed to keep the order in both Earth and Nod, the alternate realm.

This book kept me flying through the pages.  There isn’t much info dumping so you get to learn the world while experiencing the action.  Audra is a Shadow Watch agent and her partner is her incubus, a delightfully homicidal clown named Mr Jinx.  During the day these creations take on normal aspects, and Jinx turns into an art loving papa bear.  At night though he wreaks havoc on rogue Incubi with Audra and an arsenal of funny weapons.

Or they try anyway. They completely botch a case and end up going rogue to foil a plot against the two realms.  Jinx and Audra are both funny and interesting characters, so are the other host of humans and Incubi in the book.  A giant dog and pirate man, some terror being called The Darkness, and a living hearse are some of the other awesome characters.  The banter is about as amazing as you’d expect from this group.

Add in some psycho villains, sci fi level weapons, and a Circus Psychosis complete with a group of insane clowns, and you have Night Terrors.  It’s probably the most fun I’ve had reading a detective type novel since Men In Black, and oddly enough I was getting some Daughter of Smoke and Bone vibes, in the creation and alternate world aspects as well as ridiculous looking chimaera/Incubi.

I wish the end was a little less easily resolved, but I am 100% on board for book 2 to find out more.

Thank you again so much to Angry Robot Books for the review copy! As always, all opinions are my own 🖤

Categories
Crime Horror Paranormal

ARC Review: Comanche by Brett Riley

Quick Facts:

  • Title: Comanche
  • Author: Brett Riley
  • Publisher & Release: Imbrifex Books, Sept 1st 2020
  • Length: 336 pages
  • Rating & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟⚡ probably

Here is the synopsis from Amazon:

Like a cylinder in a six-shooter, what goes around, comes around.

In 1887 near the tiny Texas town of Comanche, a posse finally ends the murderous career of The Piney Woods Kid in a hail of bullets. Still in the grip of blood-lust, the vigilantes hack the Kid’s corpse to bits in the dead house behind the train depot. The people of Comanche rejoice. Justice has been done. A long bloody chapter in the town’s history is over.

The year is now 2016. Comanche police are stymied by a double murder at the train depot. Witnesses swear the killer was dressed like an old-time gunslinger. Rumors fly that it’s the ghost of The Piney Woods Kid, back to wreak revenge on the descendants of the vigilantes who killed him.

Help arrives in the form of a team of investigators from New Orleans. Shunned by the local community and haunted by their own pasts, they’re nonetheless determined to unravel the mystery. They follow the evidence and soon find themselves in the crosshairs of the killer.

Thank you to Imbrifex Books for the advanced copy in exchange for an honest review! All opinions are my own.

Raymond and LeBlanc are two Private Investigators from New Orleans, and they are called to Comanche, TX, to help investigate some brutal murders that have the local authorities stumped.

The settings were extremely well done, whether 1800’s Comanche or present day was being described. The local flavor was there plus the small town politics and family drama. I loved how much Ray and Leblanc love food too, all the talk about NOLA specialties had me hungry. The weather and layout and setting in general played a big role in the book, and it was well done so that I felt like I was there.

The murderer…well… It’s either a person, a ghost, or a person emulating a ghost, and he is a pretty scary entity. I stay away from most ghost and horror stories out of fear but this one was manageable. The legends surrounding Comanche and The Piney Woods Kid and then ghosts in general were pretty well done, and I think they took a predictable but interesting route to track down and stop the killer.

I liked the characters too, I would definitely read more from Ray and Leblanc and McDonald, the psychic.

A few notes: the action was definitely good and heart pounding at times but got a little bit repetitive. The book also does not use quotes, which provided for a smooth reading experience but was an adjustment to get used to. As far as how repetitive the book was in general, I felt like maybe it was a novella or shorter work that got brought to novel length.

Lastly, time for the OneReadingNurse medical rant©: I get that Raymond is an alcoholic and this was done tastefully. It felt real, the struggle is definitely real. What I didn’t love was how after Ray’s hand got pulverized – yes, pulverized – they were making a huge deal out of him taking a prescribed percocet. I get that people can get addicted to anything but 5/325 (mg oxycodone to tylenol) is a standard percocet and for the love of everything I get concerned when patients are afraid to take narcotics for legitimate acute problems. I don’t love seeing that feeling perpetuated in shows because pain and lack of activity post procedure is a much bigger issue than the taking of a medication as prescribed.

Anyway – yes I would recommend it but be aware of the format in case the style will throw you off


P.S: I really am trying to stay active on booksta and here but my brain and body and life in general suck right now.  I’m trying but will only be writing for author ARC requests and book tours for a bit.  All my plans for self published fantasy month… Ah… Like I said, I’m trying

Categories
Crime Suspense Thrillers

ARC Review: Sweet Dreams by Peter Leonard

Quickfacts:

  • Title: Sweet Dreams
  • Series: not listed
  • Author: Peter Leonard
  • Publisher: Rare Bird Books
  • Release: Sept 8th, 2020
  • Length: 287 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⚡ Maybe

Thank you so much to Rare Bird Books for the advanced copy of Sweet Dreams by Peter Leonard.  The book was provided in exchange for an honest review, all opinions are my own.  A quick disclaimer that the synopsis on the back varies slightly from the Amazon description and both are subject to change before the final edition.

Here is the synopsis from Amazon:

Kate McGraw, the lone female on the US Marshals fugitive task force, is on the trail of homicidal bank robber when she is shot by a drugged-up ex-con. While she is in the hospital recuperating, a mysterious stranger leaves a bouquet of flowers in her room. Days later Kate is discharged. Still recuperating, she sees a man in a car parked on the street watching her apartment. This is the third time she has seen him. Kate gets the license number, follows and confronts him and discovers he’s her estranged father, Frank Galvin who disappeared when she was six. Frank tells her he’s been in prison for the last eighteen years, arrested for armed robbery. He tells her he can help her catch the bank robber.

As Kate and Frank try to rekindle their relationship, Frank helps Kate and her team zero in on Ray Skinner, the dangerous sociopath who has now robbed seven banks and murdered two people. Feeling the heat of law enforcement breathing down his neck, Skinner discovers the identities of the US Marshals who are pursuing him and goes after Kate.

Filled with real-life characters and pitch-perfect dialogue, Sweet Dreams will have you on the edge of your seat until the climatic final scene.

When the synopsis gives away every single plot twist, the goal of the book becomes fleshing out these points in a way that keeps the reader interested. In this case there should be action, drama, banter, relationship building, and mystery involved in the chase.  When the bad guy is given we need something else to keep us reading, the how and the why and the danger.  I honestly would re-write the synopsis due to the book needing to pack a few more punches.

The characters are a mixed bag but I like them so far.  Kate is the first US Marshal I have read about other than John Sandford’s Davenport, which is what drew me to the book.  The marshals have a level of jurisdiction and bad-***ery that can make for pretty interesting reads.  Kate is sassy and young and holding her own on a task force that is essentially a boy’s club.  The other marshals look out for her and I enjoyed their banter quite a bit.

While I enjoyed the banter, the lingo had me scratching my head.  I think people familiar with crime/cop/taskforce lingo will enjoy this more.  The book is filled with terms like “G-ride” and “primary” and “beat” and while I just went with the flow, I think I didn’t really grasp a lot of what I read at first.

I am also absolutely not believing how quickly Kate and Frank reconciled, their meeting was way too easy and while she needed him, it didn’t feel authentic or half as incredulous as I could imagine anyone would have felt.

The action keeps moving at a steady pace, and I definitely was able to read it pretty quickly.  I was never bored, but with the synopsis giving away so much, the questions became: How will they catch Skinner? Will he hurt anyone important? What motivates him?  These questions were all answered but it felt extremely anticlimactic at the end.  There was a good build up so I was expecting a grand show-down and it just didn’t happen. Then the book seemed to just end without very much resolution.  There was a second plot line involving a judge that was threatened and I honestly found that more interesting than the robber plot line.

The bad guy himself had a few chapters from his point of view that helped flesh out his background, but I never felt as threatened or as impressed by him as I should have, except for the part where the title of the book comes into play.  That was pretty good, pretty creepy for sure.

I just think with fewer spoilers the book would have been a lot more interesting.  I recommend to fans of Elmore’s writing, Peter seems to be following in his style. I might read a second book featuring Kate and the Marshals. If you are a fan of crime sprees and federal agents and books where the chase is the biggest component, give it a try!

Categories
Biographies, Memoirs, Nonfiction Crime

ARC Review: Magnetized – Conversations With A Serial Killer by Carlos Busqued

  • Title: Magnetized
  • Author: Carlos Busqued
  • Translator: Samuel Rutter
  • Publisher & Release: Catapult- June 2020
  • Length: 192 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ for true crime fans
Here is the description from GoodReads:

A riveting psychological portrait for readers of true crime classics such as My Dark Places, The Stranger Beside Me, and I’ll Be Gone In the Dark, one of Argentina’s most innovative writers brings to life the story of a serial killer who, in 1982, murdered four taxi drivers without any apparent motive.

Over the course of one ghastly week in September 1982, the bodies of four taxi drivers were found in Buenos Aires, each murder carried out with the same cold precision. The assailant: a nineteen-year-old boy, odd and taciturn, who gave the impression of being completely sane. But the crimes themselves were not: four murders, as exact as they were senseless.

More than thirty years later, Argentine author Carlos Busqued began visiting Ricardo Melogno, the serial killer, in prison. Their conversations return to the nebulous era of the crimes and a story full of missing pieces. The result is a book at once hypnotic and unnerving, constructed from forensic documents, newspaper clippings, and interviews with Melogno himself. Without imposing judgment, Busqued allows for the killer to describe his way of retreating from the world and to explain his crimes as best he can. In his own words, Melogno recalls a visit from Pope Francis, grim depictions of daily life in prison, and childhood remembrances of an unloving mother who drove her son to Brazil to study witchcraft. As these conversations progress, the focus slowly shifts from the crimes themselves, to Melogno’s mistreatment and mis-diagnosis while in prison, to his current fate: incarcerated in perpetuity despite having served his full sentence.

Using these personal interviews, alongside forensic documents and newspaper clippings, Busqued crafted Magnetized, a captivating story about one man’s crimes, and a meditation on how one chooses to inhabit the world, or to become absent from it.

Magnetized is one of my first forays into the true crime genre. I love fictional serial killers and thought it would be fascinating to read into the mind of a real one!

I was right. I read this in two sittings and have no regrets. Melogno recounted his early life, what he remembered of the crimes, and about his life in prison in as much concrete detail as he can. One psychiatrist noted that his answers were so concrete that he was probably somewhere on the autism spectrum.

From a terrible early life where he learned no coping skills, to a dysfunctional post-military life, it was pretty fascinating to hear Melognos’s accounts. The utter lack of emotion i:n the book is also a factor because it was noted multiple times that the killer essentially didn’t have emotions. He seemed logical enough though and had some funny anecdotes, my favorite being about Pope Francis and the Satan worshipping chalice.

My favorite part as a nurse was seeing how absolutely terrible some of the psychiatric treatments are. I was totally horrified by the sleep therapy, quantity of drugs used, and general conditions of the hospitals described.

Overall i would totally recommend this to any fan of true crime and serial killer related novels.

Possible upsetting content involving animal abuse and child abuse, also murders being described.

Thank you so much to the publisher for my free copy in exchange for an honest review, all opinions are my own

Do you read true crime? Recommend me some good ones below!!

Categories
Crime Thrillers

ARC Review: The Hiding Girl by Dorian Box

  • Title: The Hiding Girl
  • Series: Emily Calby, #1
  • Author: Dorian Box
  • Publisher & Release: Friction Press, 6/15/2020
  • Length: 304 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ yes for entertainment value

Thank you so much to BookishFirst and Friction Press for my advanced copy of The Hiding Girl by Dorian Box! All opinions are my own!

Here is the synopsis from GoodReads:

Twelve-year-old Emily Calby was a good girl from a religious family in rural Georgia. She loved softball, her little sister and looking up words to get her allowance. Then two men came and murdered her family. Somehow Emily escaped. Only the killers know she survived.

On the run in a fugue, she makes an unlikely ally in a ruthless ex-gang member who takes her in. Overwhelmed by guilt for failing her family, she persuades him to train her to kill before setting out alone on a terrifying journey for justice. Nothing will stop her—not cops or creeps, not even her own splintering mind.

Through it all, Emily fights to hold onto hope and the girl she once knew, kept buried deep inside. A testament to the boundless limits of love, sacrifice and the will to survive, The Hiding Girl is the first book in the Emily Calby Series.

While it is no literary masterpiece, all three hundred and four pages of The Hiding Girl had me hooked. Emily’s family is brutalized and murdered, although she manages to escape before the criminals set the house on fire.

Weeks later Emily meets Lucas, a giant of a man who sells her a masterpiece of a fake drivers license. Lucas might be a 6″5 ex-army turned murderer and etc, but he is a good person at heart and sees some of his sister in Emily. He takes her in off the street and teaches her how to defend herself, use a knife, and shoot a gun.

While I really don’t ever see this happening in real life, it made for a great story. Emily started working out with Lucas’ girlfriend, Kiona, and became at least a little more formidable if not still naive. Lucas doesn’t seem like a typical criminal, he even gets Emily a birthday present. Which is a gun. And Kiona smacked him. I really enjoyed their dynamic. Also found/mismatched families is one of my favorite tropes in any genre!

Emily just wants to find the two men who savaged her family and extract justice. Can she do it after only a month of training in Lucas’ house? The pacing just flies too – I think I read the whole book in two sittings.  Emily is resourceful and interesting while on the road too, the second half of the book takes her on a search for the bad guys.

I don’t think Lucas was supposed to be hilarious, but watching him try to deal with an annoying 12 year old white girl was pretty funny at times. She should have been terrified of him. I think this is a good race-transcending book for the current day and age too. There is also a psychological element involving repressed trauma, which I appreciate as a fan of psychological thrillers.

This is book one of a series and I definitely can’t wait to read the next.  A good series intro has to present the main character/s with an interesting background and a purpose going forward if nothing else.  Box definitely accomplished this. I 100% want to spend more time with these characters and hopefully see Emily grow up and into herself.

Recommended for people who can suspend disbelief long enough to watch a very brave, broken, and determined little girl learn the ways of life from a gun waving not-quite gangster. Some mature content involved.

Have you read it? Want to discuss it? Let me know!

Categories
Crime Suspense Thrillers

ARC Review: The Nemesis Manifesto by Eric Van Lustbader

  • Title: The Nemesis Manifesto
  • Author: Eric Van Lustbader
  • Length: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Forge Books
  • Release: May 19, 2020
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ probably

Thank you to Bookish First and Forge for the raffle win ARC! I loved his work in the Bourne series and was psyched to have a chance to read this one early.

Here is the description from GoodReads:

Russian meddling, American fragmentation, and global politics collide in this action-packed, international thriller.

In The Nemesis Manifesto, New York Times bestselling author Eric Van Lustbader,the master of the smart thriller,”* delivers an epic and harrowing adventure of the predatory forces that are threatening the very fabric of democracy and kicks off a compelling new series with a singular new hero for our time.

Evan Ryder is a lone wolf, a field agent for a black-ops arm of the DOD, who has survived unspeakable tragedy and dedicated her life to protecting her country. When her fellow agents begin to be systematically eliminated, Evan must unravel the thread that ties them all together…and before her name comes up on the kill list.

The list belongs to a mysterious cabal known only as Nemesis, a hostile entity hell-bent on tearing the United States apart. As Evan tracks them from Washington D.C. to the Caucasus Mountains, from Austria to a fortress in Germany where her own demons reside, she unearths a network of conspirators far more complex than anyone could have imagined. Can Evan uproot them before Nemesis forces bring democracy to its knees?

As the description makes obvious, The Nemesis Manifesto has a massive scope.  It is a classic spy novel with modern day conspiracy theories and such a tangled web of operatives and agencies that I could hardly keep track of the layers of intrigue. It was very well written and so full of action that it was quite hard to put down at times. From Washington D.C. to Russia, Georgia to Germany, arching eyebrows to immaculate suits and a Russian mafia style  blood feud, this is a huge sweeping MUST for fans of spies and international intrigue

The book introduced Evan Ryder.  She is a truly kick ass agent, proficient and deadly and wanted all over the world.  After a small dissertation on why females do or don’t work as agents, the book smoothed out and let her do her job. There was a fairly slow start in general but once the action started it moved so quickly.  The other female agent, Brenda, seemed to be there to serve as an example of a bad female agent.  She was a bit of a mental loose cannon which issues that seemed to stem from seeing her dad in a compromising position.  For example there was some clearly consensual sex going on in her adult consensual relationship, but then as soon as she found out the guy was a double agent she started on a rape tirade and made all sorts of terrible field agent decisions.  Crying rape is never cute and omg did I want to reach through the page and shoot her!  Thankfully throughout the book a handful of other agents, and ultimately Evan was there to bail her out.

Other than a few analogies and similes that seemed a bit over-written, the writing was fantastic and I don’t have much to say about it. The author is a strong storyteller.

Other than Brenda, my other small qualm is that I don’t know if quite enough loose ends were wrapped up.  We were dealing with everything from a hilariously childish interagency blood feud to some fucked up family ties to Nazis, and somehow the DOD got thrown back in at the end.  Nemesis seemed to provide a lot more questions along with their answers, and I never quite understood how things pieced together.  Why were they ever targeting Butler, and what happened to him?  I think, maybe these questions are going to be the basis of book 2, which had it’s own can of worms opened up by a minor cliffhanger.

The most impressive part was how relevant the plot is to today’s world.  The American left and right are so obnoxiously far divided that it almost feels believable that Russian based dezinformatsiya is fueling it.  Why not?  They were alluding to a Trump type of POTUS as well, and it was even more interesting to consider who else in the international committee could be involved.

Last but not least – it’s time for the @OneReadingNurse infamous medical rant.  The book states a patients IV was pulled, and the nurse rushed to “put the needle back in.”  Guys that is not a thing, once we get it into the arm THERE IS NO NEEDLE, just a plastic cannula.  There is NO way to reinsert it.  Huge cringe moment but otherwise the book passes inspection.

Overall I would definitely recommend this to anyone who likes international thrillers and spy / black ops novels.  There’s even a little agent holding a gun on the cover.  Thank you again to BookishFirst and Forge for my copy.  It releases in May so keep an eye out for it or preorder now!

Categories
Author Interviews & Guest Posts Crime Thrillers

“Alone Under the Lights” – Guest Post by Author Alan Orloff!!

Alone Under the Lights

I grew up in a sheltered environment. Wasn’t exposed to much crime (thank goodness). So when I decided to write crime fiction, I quickly realized I needed to do some serious research. And not just book or internet research. I needed to get some hands-on experience (no, I didn’t rob a bank!). I took a Citizen’s Police Academy. 

Many jurisdictions offer these programs; if you’re interested, check with your local PD. Most require an application, but I don’t think the admission requirements were too stringent (I believe they conducted a background check—I got in anyway).

The academy was about twelve weeks long and consisted of a weekly meeting and several field trips. At each meeting, we’d learn about a different aspect of police business. The undercover gang cops told us what their jobs entailed. The drug unit showed us a display of all the illegal drugs available on the streets. We got a K9 demonstration. We got to use radar (LIDAR) guns on actual vehicles (alas, we couldn’t arrest anyone). We went to the shooting range (I put all my shots right in the center circle—don’t mess with me!). We toured the county jail, which was fascinating in a terribly depressing way.

And we got to go on a Saturday night ride-along.

At first, we handled a few routine incidents. A too-loud party. Some possible gang activity (nothing there). A DIP (drunk-in-public). Interesting and a little exciting.

Then we got a call over the radio. “We have a report of individuals running through the Community Center parking lot with rifles.”

Things just got a lot more interesting. And a lot more exciting.

The police officer flipped on the siren and we went screaming through the streets, then roared into the Community Center parking lot. Another cruiser was already there, it’s doors flung open, empty. My officer unstrapped the shotgun from between the seats and said, “Don’t go anywhere!”

“Don’t worry,” I croaked.

Then she jogged off across the neighboring ball fields. Leaving me. Alone. Under the bright lights of the parking lot. Did I mention I was alone?

With armed individuals running around?

I shimmied down in the seat until I could barely see out the window. And waited. Alone.

After what seemed like two hours (only about fifteen minutes, in retrospect), the officer came back with a few teenagers playing around with air rifles. 

Crisis averted. Luckily. But I often think what might have happened, and it still makes me shudder. Those kids could have been shot!

I prefer writing about crime over being involved with crime.

Alan Orloff’s thriller, PRAY FOR THE INNOCENT, won the 2019 ITW Thriller Award for Best E-Book Original. His debut mystery, DIAMONDS FOR THE DEAD, was an Agatha Award finalist; his story, “Dying in Dokesville,” won a 2019 Derringer Award (“Happy Birthday” was a 2018 finalist); and “Rule Number One” was selected for THE BEST AMERICAN MYSTERY STORIES 2018. His first PI novel, I KNOW WHERE YOU SLEEP, was released from Down & Out Books in February

Alan loves cake and arugula, but not together. Never together. http://www.alanorloff.com

A note from OneReadingNurse: I want to thank Ellen at Booksforward PR for making this guest post possible, and Alan Orloff for writing on his experience at the Citizen’s Police Academy!   My review of his most recent book, I Know Where You Sleep, can be found at https://onereadingnurse.com/2020/03/17/book-review-i-know-where-you-sleep-by-alan-orloff/ !  Thank you guys for checking out this guest post. Show your support by liking or dropping a comment so I can keep bringing you guys more great content!!