Rules of Prey

Rules Of Prey_JohnSandford_9134890

THAT’S SIX!

5 STARS

Three characters control the outcome of this story. One is a cop, one is a lawyer and one is a television reporter. Each one is ruthless, manipulative, vicious, highly intelligent, a player and a killer of either body or soul.

Lucas Davenport is the cop. He is also a highly successful creator of fantasy/combat computer games. His ability to strategize on the fly, to think multiple steps ahead of the current action and to utilize violence with little remorse makes it difficult for him to play nicely in the sandbox with others not of like mind. Even though his ability to lead a squad of officers is virtually non-existent, he is still one of the most successful vice and homicide detectives in Minneapolis PD’s history.

Now a lieutenant, he is a division of one, a specialist in gathering intel from a vast street network, forwarding the tips and whisperings on to the appropriate squads for follow-up. Keeping his own hours and reporting only to the Chief of Police, he often works a parallel path with the official investigation teams. As a result, to date and still in his early thirties, he has killed five men in the line of duty.

Lucas Davenport is a predator, whether the hunted is a suspected criminal or the next intelligent and attractive woman on his dance card. He despises the first and he respects the other. But the quest for either is still a hunt that has well-established rules of prey.

The lawyer is maddog, one word and spelled in lower-case, but his real name is Louis Vullion. He appears to be that sub-genre of psychopath who is broken from birth. And with parents who were as remote and isolated as the Texas ranch on which he was raised, there appears to have been no chance for repair. He has always known he was “wrong,” and he has willingly chosen to play that hand rather than seek psychological help.

Like Lucas, maddog is adept at gamesmanship. Like Lucas, his strategies are focused on the guilty and the women, even if, to maddog, they are one and the same. Like Lucas, his kill count is at five. And like Lucas, as he demonstrates with each raped and knifed body, he has very distinctive and formulated rules of prey.

Jennifer Carey is the TV reporter, and she has been one of Lucas Davenport’s bed partners for about three years now. At her core, Jennifer is a sociopath. She is one of those media people that adds to the callous reputation of the breed. She uses every tool at her disposal – lies, threats, bribes, blackmail, tears, her gender, even her biological clock – to get what she wants personally or professionally.

And she does so without a single care for the consequences or collateral damage to the people she targets in her stories or in her life. She is every bit as adept at gamesmanship as Lucas and maddog. However, with little sense of ethics, she has few rules to limit her actions, and definitely no defining rules of prey.

In this first entry of the Prey series, which is still in production after nearly 25 years, John Sandford creates, in Lucas Davenport, a character that is atypical within the normal detective genre of its time. As far as timelines go, Davenport is a contemporary of Robert Crais’ Elvis Cole and Robert B. Parker’s Spenser. However, he is a cop rather than a PI, and he works out of the Twin Cities rather than LA. He isn’t witty like Cole or Spenser, and he does not have a lethal sidekick.

Davenport writes computer code and bad poetry and he doesn’t flaunt his wealth. He pays as much attention to his mental health as to his physical one. He accepts full responsibility for his actions and their consequences, personally and professionally. Yet, in the end he is a stone cold killer with a badge, a vigilante when justice cannot or will not prevail.

The action in the story – mental, physical and emotional – is well crafted, realistic and logical. Because we know the identity of the killer from the first page, there are no mysteries for the reader to solve, no red herrings to wade through. There are, however, more than enough bumps, grinds and mistakes on everyone’s part to make the story one that builds tension steadily to the point where sleep becomes highly over-rated.

The attacks and murders are vicious and graphically described. Also graphically detailed are maddog’s internal monologues between killings. The man is not an egotistical maniac with delusions of grandeur or superiority. He is an intelligent but broken little man with a psychological compulsion to kill that has besieged him since he was a toddler. Quite frankly, Sandford’s portrayal of maddog makes you feel sorry for the man. Not sorry enough to want him to survive, but sorry for him, nevertheless.

As you reach the final pages of the book, Sandford closes down the story arc without a cliffhanger ending or a police-related hook for the next novel. He does leave a personal hook involving Lucas, however.

Unfortunately, what Sandford does not do is dispatch Jennifer Carey – literally or figuratively. One can only hope that that particular circumstance will come soon. Believe me, she is one character that possesses a kind of evil that every female reader recognizes and has well and good reason to fear.

Cover Art From Goodreads

Free Fall

Free Fall_RobertCrais_292210

WE SEE JOE PIKE’S EYES

5 STARS

Jennifer Sheridan stands, wavering, in the open doorway of Elvis Cole’s office for some time before she can finally make herself cross the threshold. In her defense, it must really be hard to tell a perfect stranger, even a private investigator, that you suspect your fiancé has morphed from a wholesome collegiate football hero into a dirty cop.

Four months ago, Mark Thurman changed. He went off to work one day, his usual upbeat self, and came back a different man. Something happened on his job as a plainclothes REACT officer working the gang scene in South Central LA, but he refuses to talk about it with Jennifer. In fact, he refuses to talk much about anything anymore. As a result, their relationship is circling the drain and Jennifer wants to know why.

A few minutes after Jennifer leaves, Mark Thurman shows up on Cole’s doorstep. Only he doesn’t hesitate. He and his partner, Floyd Riggens, barge in and warn Cole off the case, telling Cole that he has a new girlfriend and that he will tell Jennifer, not Cole. Cole refuses Thurman’s demands and Riggens, reeking of booze and brandishing his service weapon, proceeds to attack Cole. Needless to say, that comes to an unhappy conclusion – for Riggins.

It’s easy for Cole to see that Riggins is part of Thurman’s problem. But his LAPD and media contacts pinpoint the problem more succinctly. Several months prior, Mark’s REACT team set up a sting on a pawnshop purportedly dealing in illegal arms and ammunition. In the course of the bust, the pawnshop owner, Charles Lewis Washington, was beaten to death.

The Washington family filed a wrongful death suit against the team even though the review board judged it a righteous kill. But, shortly after the investigation closed, two things occurred, one unusual and very obvious, the other totally unobserved. The unusual incident was that the Washington family dropped the wrongful death suit with no viable explanation and, in the wake of the Rodney King debacle, that was unprecedented.

What wasn’t noticed, at least not immediately, was that all arrests and investigations into the Eighty-Deuce sub-sect of the Crips had stopped. Apparently, with so many other gangs on the streets to attract the cops’ attention, it was easy for the brass to lose sight of one group.

However, Cole learns, in short order, that the real owner of the pawnshop in question is Akeem D’Muere, the leader of the Eighty-Deuce. It is only a short leap in logic for Cole to figure that the death of Washington wasn’t so righteous after all, that D’Muere possesses evidence of that fact, and that D’Muere is essentially holding the REACT team hostage regarding his gang’s activities. Little does Cole know just how deep that hold goes or how far over the line the REACT team leader has already stepped.

In “Free Fall,” Robert Crais created a hard-boiled thriller that would go on to be an Edgar nominee for best novel in 1994. Crais builds the tension slowly, taking the case in a logical and plausible direction from its inception through the normal research and surveillance stage, with a side or two of B&E thrown in for good measure.

And just when it seems as if Mark’s version is really the truth of the matter as far as his relationship with Jennifer is concerned, Crais throws the first twist. Now there is reason for both the reader and Cole to suspect that Mark is not a cheating cad at all but an unwilling accomplice to murder who is lying to protect Jennifer from the blowback. Then, as the story arc builds on that suspicion, Crais tweaks that arc a few degrees, making Cole need Joe Pike – and his guns – for a lot more than back-up surveillance.

However, the defining moment in Crais’ story arc is the scene where Cole’s case goes from being professional to being personal. And by “personal,” I mean Cole facing death, not by bullet or beating but by lethal injection at the hands of the State. Frankly, I would not be surprised if that one scene sealed the book’s nomination for the highest award presented under the Edgar program.

As I write this review in the last month of 2014, it has been 21 years and at least 12 more novels for Elvis Cole and Joe Pike since this entry was published. Thus, those of us just now reading the series know that they survive this. Even realizing that, by the conclusion of this one scene, the tension created by Crais at this point will practically force you to choose between the book and the normal daily activities of eating, sleeping and earning money.

I can only imagine how the reader in 1993 must have felt as Crais’ main twist played out over the next 140 pages. Those readers didn’t have more novels in the series to assure them that all would be reasonably well in the end. In fact, they didn’t know whether this book was, in actuality, the end of the series. Quite frankly, in 1993, it must have been difficult for even the most jaded mystery reader not to skip to the last page to see if Cole and Pike survived.

Cover Art From Goodreads

Key West Connection

Key West Connection_RandyWayneWhite_88374

“FIVE DAYS, SEVEN HOURS AND THIRTY-SOME MINUTES LATER”

4 STARS

Dusky MacMorgan is a happy man, at least as happy as a recent Vietnam vet who worked Special Ops as a Navy SEAL can be. He has a beautiful wife and twin sons who love him dearly. He has his best friend from Nam working as a fishing guide on the same island. He has a commercial fishing boat that suits him perfectly. He has exactly what makes him happy – until he doesn’t have anything left but his boat.

Dusky’s first step into Hell occurs when his best friend is murdered at sea by drug runners intent on hijacking his boat. Another guide happens to see the hijacking through binoculars, pulls the body from the ocean and radios Dusky, who is only a few miles away. Dusky runs them down and kills the two hijackers that the fellow guide said were on the boat. Unfortunately, the guide didn’t see the third man. Dusky manages to overpower the man and is about to fatally dispatch him when a Coast Guard helicopter arrives overhead.

The Coast Guard arrests that third hijacker, but before the sun goes down, Benjamin Ellsworth is essentially a free man. It seems Ellsworth is on the payroll of a U.S. Senator and a team of Federal agents quickly appear, make the charges disappear and have Ellsworth on his way by the day of Dusky’s friend’s funeral. And this is not good for Dusky.

On the hijacked boat, Dusky had recognized Ellsworth as a narcissistic, egotistical and cowardly SEAL officer who had commanded his unit at one point in Nam. And before the Coast Guard arrested him, Ellsworth had told Dusky that he would get him for what he had done and that he would pay.

Five days, seven hours and thirty-some minutes later, Dusky paid. After the funeral of his friend, Dusky sent his wife and children home while he quietly walked the streets and docks of Key West, grieving both his friend’s death and the fact that his killer had gone free.

Heading back to his house about sunset, he felt it before he heard it. Moments later he saw it – his car in pieces and the bodies of his wife and children scattered about his yard in much smaller pieces.

It was supposed to be Dusky in that car. Most evenings, about sunset, it was his habit to drive back to the docks to check his boat’s moorings and security. But he was on foot that night and, apparently, his wife decided to check the boat for him. At this point, everyone who meant anything to Dusky is dead. And now, the guilty must pay.

This is Randy Wayne White’s debut novel, written when he used the pseudonym of Randy Striker. Originally published in 1981, the version I had access to was printed in 2006 and included an Introduction that explained how the book – and its characters – came into existence. According to White, this first of what would eventually be seven Dusky MacMorgan adventures was written in nine days on a manual typewriter with very little use of Wite-Out or re-typed pages.

The novel is full of clichéd dialogue, just like the average person really speaks. The dialects of the Southern island characters are spot on. The product placement and the physics of operating the size boat he commands are accurate and visually clear.

The action sequences feel, at first, a bit over the top. But then, when you read their details a second time, remembering the physical characteristics and backstory of Dusky MacMorgan, they feel more plausible. And White does not make anything easy for Dusky in his quest for revenge. In fact, more things go wrong than right, not because of poor planning or poor judgment, but because Dusky cannot possibly predict everyone’s every choice.

White writes Dusky as an intelligent and capable man, with the capacity to both access and evaluate his emotions. You feel that you are right there seeing, thinking, and feeling exactly as he does. It is a clear ride through his mind even when he explores the reasons he considers committing suicide and the reasons why he doesn’t.

Randy Wayne White’s Doc Ford series is far more sophisticated than that written about Dusky MacMorgan. However, this first entry in that first series is nothing to complain about. The character of Dusky may be more extroverted than that of Doc Ford and the action may come a bit faster and more in-your-face, but White’s ability to get to the heart of the matter and the heart of the man is clearly evident in both.

Cover Art From Goodreads

Lullaby Town

Lullaby Town_RobertCrais_425090

WHEN KEEPING ONE’S WORD MEANS KEEPING ONE’S LIFE

4 STARS

Peter Alan Nelson wants to find his ex-wife and his child. As he explains to Elvis Cole, when they divorced, she asked for nothing. She just left and he hasn’t seen or heard from her in ten years. However, as he brags to Cole, his ex-wife surely must have heard about him and seen him in the media since he is currently the third largest grossing film director in Hollywood and dubbed worldwide as the King of adventure films.

According to Peter, Karen Shipley Nelson was barely twenty when she and Peter divorced. According to her agency photos, she was an attractive girl. According to the outtakes of an audition tape Cole viewed, she was a giggling simpleton with the acting skills of a cardboard box. And according to every source Cole has, Karen Nelson is nowhere near LA.

Three days after being hired, Cole locates her 3000 miles away in Connecticut. But Karen Nelson is no longer the stereotypical Valley Girl. She is poised, confident, well-dressed, has a college degree and a real estate license, and is a vice president and manager of the town bank. She is also Karen Lloyd.

Cole quietly and steadfastly confronts Karen with a picture and facts relating to her actual identity and past. Karen quietly and steadfastly denies being that person. However, her body language clearly tells an opposing tale. Regardless of her denials, Cole has done his job; he has found Karen Nelson. All that is left to do is to fly back to LA in the morning and give Peter Alan Nelson the facts of her whereabouts.

Later that evening, as Cole approaches his motel room, two thugs with heavy Bronx-style accents accost him from a stairwell. With an iron pipe and beefy fists to back them up, the thugs attempt to persuade Cole to leave town permanently. Elvis quickly takes the two down, but before he can get answers to questions about Karen Lloyd, he is struck hard behind his ear. Oops, third thug!

Pulling himself up out of the gravel, groaning from the kicks and the beating he received, Cole knows that he is not flying back to LA in the morning. Karen Lloyd has made this personal. Game on!

Of course, as Cole patiently sniffs out, Karen Lloyd is not really the problem. Charlie DeLuca, son of the high-ranking, NYC mafia capo, Sal DeLuca, is the problem. Eight years ago, Charlie and Sal happened upon a waitress struggling to raise her toddler son and going to college part time. Several weeks later, Sal told Karen about a job opening at a bank. She got the job as a teller and got her life back on track.

Then Karen was asked to pay back the favor. Sal wanted her to open an account for him, deposit his funds and then transfer those funds to an offshore account, all without alerting the Feds. Naïve to the nth degree and grateful for what Sal had done to help her, Karen agreed. But it didn’t take too many of these “favors” for Karen to wise up to the fact that she was laundering funds, that Sal was Mafia, and that she was in his pocket.

In the meantime, Karen totally re-invented herself compared to those days as a teenager married to Nelson. Once she figured out Sal’s true intentions, she refused all payment from him for her deeds. She has given the initial funds he paid her all those years ago to charity and has kept records of every transaction she has done for the DeLucas since she figured out their illegality. Upon learning these facts, Cole decides to help Karen escape the mob’s grasp and calls in Joe Pike as backup.

Unfortunately for Cole, Pike and Karen, the egocentric and narcissistic Nelson is used to people rushing to fulfill his every whim. Thus, he doesn’t understand why Cole isn’t rushing to do what he wants done the way he wants it done. So Nelson hires a second detective to follow Cole. Elvis makes the tail, but the other PI has already seen Cole and Karen together and sent Karen’s location back to Nelson. Cole is just barely able to intercept a furious and self-centered Nelson before he can blindside Karen, turn his child’s world inside out and run into DeLuca.

At this point, the plot that Crais has been methodically building shifts from a story about finding a person who doesn’t want to be found into a terror-filled tale of survival. First, Karen tells Charlie DeLuca that she is finished without consulting with Cole first about the soundness of that idea. Secondly, Nelson is stupid enough and egotistical enough to think that his reputation and his demands that Karen be released mean a wit to DeLuca. And these actions leave nothing between them and death but Cole and Pike.

Crais has written a story that builds slowly and then suddenly bursts into a page-turner. Cole’s smart-alecky speech fades away, replaced by cold, intense verbal logistics. Pike’s mercenary skills come full forward against a certifiably insane enemy and his soldiers. And Peter Alan Nelson, the acclaimed King of Adventure Films, learns just exactly what it means to be Indiana Jones in a pit full of snakes.

Only the third in a series that currently contains over 15 novels featuring either Cole or Pike as the main protagonist, this book has one feature different from the first two – it has a hook that could lead to a future novel. It is possible that we have not seen the last of the DeLucas.

Cover Art From Goodreads

Stalking The Angel

Stalking The Angel_RobertCrais_425095

“THE WAY OF THE WARRIOR IS DEATH”

4 STARS

Elvis Cole has been hired by the international hotel magnate Bradley Warren to find an original copy of the Japanese Hagakure, which has been stolen from Warren’s safe. Worth over $3M, the Hagakure is a centuries-old document that outlines every aspect of acceptable conduct for the samurai. This national treasure is not owned by Warren but is on loan from the Tashiro family with whom Warren does considerable business.

The theft is already being investigated by the LAPD, but Warren needs the book back in less than a week. The Tashiros are coming to inspect their latest hotel venture in Little Tokyo and to attend the Pacific Men’s Club banquet where Warren is to be named Man of the Month. They expect to see the book there on display and Warren expects Cole to make that happen.

Cole has only been on the job one day when Warren’s wife, Sheila, receives a call threatening to burn down their house with her in it unless Warren stops the search for the book. At this point, Cole brings Joe Pike in on the investigation and for additional security. However, a narcissistic and self-important Warren dismisses the threat out of hand.

It becomes very clear to both Cole and the reader that having someone harm his wife or his 16-year-old daughter, Mimi, will not hurt Warren in the slightest. Also clear is that only a perceived or actual failure in business can cause Warren even a moment of pause. When a second call is received, this time threatening Mimi’s life, Warren simply asks Cole to provide additional presence but business will proceed as usual with no changes to routine or to the awards banquet.

Coincident with the threats, Cole has found a connection between the theft and the LA organization of the Japanese yakuza, a group the news media compares to the American mafia. But Cole quickly learns that the yakuza is far older and far different than any mafia-type syndicate, actually stretching back to the days of the samurai. So for the American branch of the yakuza to have an original copy of what amounts to their ultimate code of ethics and behavior would be a major coup.

POSSIBLE SPOILERS FOLLOW:

Cole and Pike are able to link the theft to Nobu Isida, a yakuza middleman, to Eddie Tang, a young yakuza assassin, and to Yuki Torobuni, the head of the LA yakuza faction. And Cole is systematically narrowing down the book’s location when Mimi goes missing from the hotel just before the awards banquet is to start.

As Cole searches for Mimi now, as well as for the book, he is blindsided when he learns that the teenager is a chameleon – mousy, invisible and somewhat homely by day and an overly made-up femme fatale by night. It seems that she has been a very frequent nighttime visitor to Torobuni’s dance club and is Eddie Tang’s girlfriend.

From this point on, the plot has more twists and turns than a mountain road. They are complicated twists and it is as hard for the reader as it is for Cole to tell truth from lies. And, unfortunately, that old saw about “assumptions” comes back to kick Cole right in the you-know-what. But metaphorical kicks are not the only ones in this book. The fight scenes are MMA caliber and Crais writes them in a manner that is visibly coherent, realistic and violent unto death.

Crais also provides us with our next glimpse into that laconic entity that is Joe Pike. When Cole and Pike locate a translation of the Hagakure rather than the original, Pike becomes absorbed with its tenets. And his new understanding of what drives the samurai plays out quite forcefully in the final fight scene.

Another major scene that Crais creates for Pike occurs at the beginning of Chapter 8. When Cole goes to a firing range to retrieve Pike, he finds him shooting at multiple targets to the beat of Bob Seger’s rendition of “Old Time Rock and Roll.” If you will take a few moments before you start Chapter 8 to preview that song on iTunes and get the beat in your head, when you read the scenario, Crais’ words will jump on to your mental video screen, complete with soundtrack. And you will have an image of Pike and a jaw-dropping respect for his abilities that will stick in your mind for a long time.

As good as the storyline and its overall execution are, two aspects of this book caused me to drop my rating by one star. First, Crais has Cole, in his internal monologues, comment on what he thinks are inane actions or unacceptable comments from other characters by saying “These ___!” or “That ___!” filling in the blank to make phrases like “These cops!”, “These guys!”, “That Bradley!”, or “That Pike!” The first few times this occurred, it was 1980’s colloquialism. The next twenty times, it was annoying. By the fiftieth time, it was absolutely obnoxious.

The second reason for reducing my rating is the title, as in the fact that I can’t reconcile the title with the storyline. “Stalking” meant something considering how long some of the stakeouts that Cole and Pike went on lasted. But “Angel?” Not a clue! Oh, well, that Crais!

Cover Art From Goodreads

The Judas Goat

The Judas Goat_RobertBParker_1430624

CAPTAIN MIDNIGHT

4 STARS

It’s 1976 and the Montreal Summer Olympics will be starting soon. But that is of no consequence to Spenser at this point. What is important is the job that the highly successful head of an international conglomerate, Hugh Dixon, has hired him to do. Dixon has retained Spenser as a bounty hunter.

Several months ago, Dixon’s wife and two daughters were killed in the terrorist bombing of a London restaurant. Dixon himself was made a paraplegic. Conscious throughout the entire ordeal, Dixon memorized the faces of the nine perpetrators, eight men and one woman. Now Dixon wants revenge – $2500 per head or $25K for the entire lot. And he doesn’t care if Spenser offers them up to the police dead or alive.

Supplied with pictures of the terrorists, Spenser leaves Boston for what could be an indeterminate time and he leaves Susan for the first time since they met. He’d rather not do either, but, for those readers who were not yet adults in 1976, $25K was a lot of money in those days. Add in a virtually unlimited expense account and Dixon’s verbal assessment of him as Captain Midnight, and Spenser knows what he needs to do.

It takes six days for Spenser to get a response to his ad in the London paper offering a reward for information on the bombing. And he spots the female terrorist who is waiting to see who picks up the message at the hotel desk. Upon checking out the location specified for the meet, Spenser discovers that it is a killing field, with no cover to protect him. And when he returns to his hotel room, that becomes a killing field, too.

Despite being shot the night before, Spenser shows up at the rendezvous point, albeit well disguised facially. He spots the female terrorist again, eventually sees her signal an unseen accomplice that the meet is a bust, and follows her home. Spenser knows that he has now found his Judas goat, the person who can lead him to the rest.

Spenser also knows that he needs help if he intends to stay alive. So he contacts Hawk, the free-lance and very successful enforcer and ex-prizefighter that we met in Parker’s last book. Hawk comes to London and the hunt resumes.

The terrorists know what Spenser looks like, but they don’t know about Hawk, or his appearance, or his mad skills. And it will take all three of those facts for Spenser and Hawk to survive as they travel from London to Copenhagen to Amsterdam to the Montreal Olympics, following the Judas goat to the source of the problem.

This is not a long book, only 181 pages in hardback, with a moderate font. But it is an intense book, ripe with descriptions that are full of scenery or emotion one minute and violence and psychosis the next. We get to see three European cities through Spenser’s literate eyes. We see both the professional and personal relationships between Spenser and Hawk solidify. We find Spenser less of a smart aleck in this book and Susan seems much more accepting of what he is and what he does.

What we don’t get in this book is an accurate depiction of the passage of time, and for that I have lowered my rating of the book. The start date is unclear; and while the initial days of the operation add up, the span between successive events becomes increasingly hazy. The next thing we know, the action has moved to the Montreal Olympics, which makes it July, and Spenser’s bullet wound has completely healed. Then, when we get to the last chapter, which appears to be somewhat of an epilogue, it is unclear if only days have passed since the final denouement or if it’s been weeks.

Time is part of reality. When time is not, or cannot be, accounted for easily, a person’s story becomes not only confusing but also a bit suspect. And this is truth whether a cop is eliciting an alibi from a person of interest, a parent is questioning a teenager who has missed curfew, or an author is writing a tale of suspense, terrorism and death.

Cover Art From Goodreads

Michigan Roll

Michigan Roll_TomKakonis_3610602

VICIOUS AND VIOLENT

1 STAR

Several weeks ago I read a review of this book that likened it somewhat to the works of Elmore Leonard. Since I like Leonard’s works, was actually reading an Elmore Leonard book at the time, and was intrigued by the review, I checked the book out from the library as it is not currently available as an e-book.

Oh, what a mistake that was!

There truly are similarities to Leonard’s works, particularly in the way Kakonis does not hesitate to use racially denigrating remarks, sexually degrading terms and really inventive profanity. And like Elmore Leonard, Kakonis’ main villains are psychopaths, drug kingpins and mobsters. And again like Leonard, the protagonists are seriously flawed.

However, unlike Leonard, Kakonis does not give the reader a break in either the vocabulary or the psychosis. There is no humor here at all, no lightness, not even a momentary smile to break the viciousness that is in the minds, the speech and the actions of these characters, villains and protagonists alike.

Even though I often read psychological thrillers and hard-boiled mysteries, I only made it to page 43 in this one before I had to call it quits. In this book, there are two particularly nasty bad guys, Shadow and Gleep, who have been dispatched by a drug kingpin to recover some product stolen by our female protagonist’s brother.

I made it through their aggressive sexual observations at the beach; I made it through the expressive verbal threats they made to an apartment manager. I made it through the threats of sexual torture and Shadow’s use of his knife on a female friend of the brother. Then Shadow and Gleep beat the brother’s roommate senseless, trying to get information on the brother. I got through that. But, after getting the information, Shadow forces the roommate’s hand into the garbage disposal and turns it on. When Kakonis described the bone chips and the blood spraying up into the sink, I couldn’t take anymore. I lost it – my patience, my open-mindedness and my dinner. I slammed the book shut and read not another word. Frankly, if this was where we were on page 43, I just couldn’t imagine the depth of the depravity I would have to read through before reaching the end on page 288.

I read for enjoyment, not to be made violently ill or emotionally distraught. And when I say that this book is not for the feint of heart, I know whereof I speak. Apparently, today, my heart was feint.

Cover Art from Goodreads