Tag Archives: reading and reviews

Review: Payback (Lorenzo Carcaterra)

Payback begins with Detective Eddie Kenwood coercing a murder confession out of a young black man.

We then cut to Tommy “Tank” Rizzo watching his nephew Chris shoot hoops, and a tiny infodump about how Tank and his partner Frank “Pearl” Monroe were shot off the job and how Chris came to live with Tank – more specifically, how Tank’s brother and sister in law (Chris’ parents) were killed in an auto accident.

This is about the extent of how character development goes throughout the book. As this is book two in the series, perhaps we get to know the characters better in book one. Alas, I’ve not read it.

Tank and Pearl, ex-cops that they are, get thrown cases by the Chief of Detectives from time to time when the official NYPD detectives are overloaded. In this book, however, the focus is on determining if Tank’s brother – as his nephew insists – was murdered in that car accident, versus it being a real accident, and to find out is the company is laundering money for bad guys locally and from around the world. The secondary focus is on Tank and Pearl collecting evidence about Eddie Kenwood and more specifically, getting the young man who confessed at the beginning of the book out of prison.

Tank and Pearl run an investigative service, but there isn’t a ton of investigating of the main case done on the page – probably because it’s accounting, and pulling up spreadsheets and putting numbers all over the page would slow things down, as it’s difficult to put tension into that.

The better parts of the book are when Tank and Pearl actually go back into the field to get informants and cons to talk about Kenwood so they can build a case. Those parts are gritty and seem much more realistic (and are certainly much more interesting) than the primary case.

There are a number of murders, some tough guy talks by fixers from the accounting firm, a few scenes with Tank and his girlfriend, who is the daughter of a local mob boss with whom Tank is friendly, and who Tank brings in to help with the accounting firm parts, and an entirely unbelievable talk with the DA about blanket immunity for a group of Romanians up to and including murder if they have to be brought in to the accounting firm case.

Minus the group talks about the accounting firm, the book is a quick read, and fans of the genre will forgive the things like the DA’s immunity agreement, because those things make the story more interesting. Putting Tank’s brother’s death to rest by finding answers, but I think the two cases in this book would have been fine in a book devoted just to each.

Overall, a three star out of five read for me. Your mileage may vary.

Thanks to Random House/Ballantine and NetGalley for the review copy.

Review: One True Patriot (Sean Parnell)

One True Patriot opens with a terrific chapter: Eric Steele, an Alpha in the so-super-secret-it-doesn’t-exist Program has done a HAHO (high altitude, high opening) parachute into Syria to off some terrorist baddies.

This is the third book in a series, and in this one, someone is killing off Alphas, and taking an ear off the corpse as some kind of souvenir. There are things I have questions about in this book.

First, this Program of alpha killers is headquartered in the White House. Although they have to move in this book, situating this at the White House seems rather odd, especially when it appears they are near the West Wing. I’m not sue I’m buying this.

Like any other book in this genre, they apparently have access to passports, credit cars, documents, and cash, plus someone on the other end of wherever they go (like Paris) to provide them with weapons. This is fine – I expect it in the genre.

What I don’t expect is when SpecOps people get themselves killed because they forget, for some reason, that they are SpecOps with enemies everywhere. The first Alpha killed, sure. They didn’t know anyone was specifically hunting them, or even that they existed, after all. But the second kill – and the lone female Alpha -has let her guard down because she received a text message that the assassin was dead. I’d think it would have been a good idea to confirm it with HQ, but alas for her, she did not. It also takes them a tad too long to figure out that there’s no way the assassin could know how many Alphas there are without some inside information.

The Program, having been hit by Russian hackers and this mysterious assassin, pulls everyone in and basically closes up shop. Steele, of course, charges off to investigate and make things right.

There’s a ton of action and killing in the book, no worries about that. From the US to France, Germany, and Russia itself (in a prison, no less) and back again to the US to thwart an attack on political leaders, this book has it all.

If you’re a fan of the genre, definitely read it. Even if you’re not a big fan of the genre and you’re casting about for something to read, you could do a lot worse.

Three stars out of five.

Thanks to HarperCollins/William Morrow and NetGalley for the review copy.

Review: Rigged (DP Lyle)

Rigged is part of the Jake Longly series, and my first introduction to both the series and to DP Lyle.

The book opens with Jake in a courtroom, and Pancake (Tommy) in a bakery. The former wins his case, and the latter misses Emily, a woman he’s known since 6th grade and who he crushes on just as he did when they were young.

Emily is in the midst of a divorce, and her lawyer, Walter Horton, is the very same man who defended Jake at the opening of the book. Longly Investigations is hired to look into Emily’s husband’s finances.

Emily fails to show for a meeting and also does not show up for her job, which is unusual. Pancake heads out to look for Emily, only to find her and her boyfriend Jason dead, shot execution style.

We then get moving with the book, as Longly is pulled in to investigate (alongside the police investigation) who killed Emily. Her soon to be ex Sean has an iron tight alibi: he was on an offshore rig, working. Did he find a way to be in two places at one time? Or were the couple murdered by an unknown third party? The team consists of Pancake, Ray (owner of the Longly Investigations business) Jake (Ray’s son, Pancake’s friend), and Nicole, a stunning to all, perfect woman who doesn’t wear makeup because she doesn’t “need to” (and Mr Lyle, please run these things by a woman first).

The plot is decent, and the book is perfectly readable as a standalone, so the question of whether you have to have read the previous books is a no. The books switches back and forth between first an third person, and I found that to be irritating. Also equally irritating is Pancake’s supposed “love” for this woman since they were in sixth grade – this is mentioned over and over again, and I do not understand why writers do this. You told us once. Twice is fine. But past that? Enough. I was also left wondering way Pancake, so in love with this woman, made no attempt to contact her at all in the decades after sixth grade. There are some sex scenes between characters, and when they’re not having sex, but investigating Emily’s murder, we get sex-related dialogue. We get it. We do.

On the plus side, there is a lot of dialogue, much of it pretty snappy, and the book moves along at a quick but steady pace. It seems to me that the dialogue propels the book forward more than the main plot/investigation. The characters are well-drawn, and I imagine if I read the previous books they would be even more well developed for me. There’s enough humor in the book to keep it from being completely macabre. It was entertaining and light enough to be read at the beach or on a plane.

Three point five stars out of five for the teenage-like sex talk banter, four stars for everything else. I went back and forth, deciding between three stars and four.

Ultimately: four stars out of five.

Thanks to Oceanview Publishing and NetGalley for the review copy.

Review: The Burning Island (Jack Serong)

Eliza Grayling – a woman who tends to her aging, blind alcoholic of a father – is approached by Srinivas, a Bengali Indian. Srinivas has a tale to tell her of a ship, lost with all its cargo and passengers, many of whom were women. He is not unfamiliar with ships lost to the sea or the pirates who sail on them; indeed, he believes that the person behind the disappearance of this ship is the mysterious Mr. Figge, with whom he sailed when Srinivas was merely a young orderly on another ship that foundered many years ago.

In this time, though, with this ship, Srinivas wants to enlist the help of Eliza’s father Joshua, who is also acquainted with Figge, and who also has business to settle with a man Eliza had thought more a myth than monster.

Eliza, for her part, points out that her father is in no ship to put out to sea, and that he hasn’t sailed in many years. Joshua insists, however, and because Eliza decides she must go as well, to care for him, the three of them embark on a journey to the Bass Strait on a ship called The Moonbird, along with a pair of convict brothers, a doctor studying marine life, and the crossdressing master of the ship.

The narrative language is lush, at times soaring so high one might think it will never alight on the page again. There are brief moments when it skips along the line marking the abyss of purple prose, but dances away before falling in. The book is not a fast read, nor is it without the weight of being informed by actual events. Readers who stay with the book will be rewarded through its ups and downs by a story well and remarkably told.

Five stars out of five.

Thanks to Text Publishing and NetGalley for the review copy.

Review: Maniac (Harold Schechter)

Maniac: The Bath School Disaster and the Birth of the Modern Mass Killer

In 1927, a disgruntled and very pettily angry Andrew Kehoe detonated explosives he had planted under the Bath Consolidated School, killing 38 children and five adults (including himself). Kehoe had also set the buildings on his farm ablaze after killing his wife, as well as destroyed his equipment and tied his horses’ legs together so they were unable to escape the fire.

In the meticulously researched, quite detailed, and well-written Maniac, Harold Schechter provides the details leading to Kehoe’s destruction of the symbol on which he focused his rage and the man who ran it – in fact, the entire history of how the township of Bath came to be in the first place comprises the opening chapters.

Eventually, we get to Andrew Kehoe and his wife, Nellie, who move into Nellie’s family’s homestead after her parents die. By all accounts, Kehoe is quick to lend a hand when people need it, and asks nothing in particular in return. He is an upstanding member of the community, attends church, and in general never strikes anyone as anything other than what he is.

This changes, though, when the Bath Consolidated School is constructed and a tax is levied for its upkeep and the salaries of those employed there, from teachers to janitor. After a bad year on the farm, Kehoe’s rage is directed toward the school, the tax, and the head of the school. He manages to get himself elected to the Board, and immediately begins micromanaging what he can, attempting to torpedo the raise and vacation time of the head of the school, and instead of hiring someone to fix the issues that come up in the school – wiring, installing boilers, plumbing, and so forth – Kehoe, being a mechanically-minded man, does them instead. In his mind, he is saving the school money. In the process, he is also learning details he will use later in his nefarious plans.

When elections for the board come around again, to his shock, Kehoe is not supported by his party, having burned too may bridges with his aggressive and controlling ways. This fuels even more resentment.

By now months behind on his mortgage, Kehoe stockpiles 500 pounds of pyrotrol, an explosive used widely in WWI and manufactured in the millions of pounds by chemical companies in the US. He also purchases dynamite, which seems odd to us today, but both were considered normal ways to deal with things like boulders and tree stumps when clearing land for farming.

From this point, we get a ticking timeline of witness statements: from someone seeing Kehoe take crate after crate into the basement of the school, to movements of student and teachers in the school, to people who first notice Kehoe’s farm on fire.

As the clock ticks to 9:45AM, the destruction begins, with more details of where people were, inside and outside the school. Warning: there are some gruesome descriptions of injuries as the people of Bath start digging through the rubble. Included in this part of the narrative is how, after sufficient rubble had been cleared and the dead and injured counted, the men who went into the basement made the horrifying discovery that Kehoe had packed all of the pyrotel he’d purchased in various parts of the basements, all wired to the same ignition battery. The battery was apparently not strong enough to detonate all of the explosives – had it been, the school would likely have been just a crater in the ground, and much of Bath and many of its inhabitants would have been killed.

This takes about half the book. The second half is a discussion of mass (and not so mass) murders and how they are viewed by the public, including bringing up previous mass murders like Bath when subsequent mass murders make the news. It’s also a discussion about how atrocities like Bath can be readily forgotten because of other news – Schechter uses Lindbergh’s solo, nonstop flight from New York to Paris, for instance, as an example. But, he always returns to Bath. From Columbine to Whitman in the Tower to the Alfred Murrah bombing in Oklahoma to Virginia State to Parkland, he hammers on stories about those hearkening back to Bath, one of the earliest known intentional mass murders in our collective history.

The first half is definitely stronger than the second, and – and this is a point he makes – likely more interesting, because of human nature. The second half, however, is worth the time to read. While the book is geared toward US readers, it would likely be of interest to readers in other countries who take an interest in the history of mass killings (not serial killings; this is not the story of a serial killer).

Five out of five stars.

Thanks to Little A and NetGalley for the review copy.

Review: Death Rattle (Alex Gilly)

Nick Finn is an agent with Customs and Border Patrol. Mona Jimenez is a human-rights attorney attached to a firm that provides legal services for people caught crossing the border illegally.

Of course they’re married.

They also wind up being the trope-ish investigative team that looks into the murky death of Carmen,who was caught and placed in a detention center after crossing the border to escape her drug cartel-associated boyfriend. There’s also the spectre of dirty CBP agents, as Finn notices interdictions in one particular office is solely resulting in rounding up people illegally crossing the border, and zero drug traffickers or their mules.

The story takes a bit to get moving, and in my opinion, the actual opening of the book is a little ways in from where it starts here. However, it is a necessity to give us some information on our main characters.

Curiously enough, these two could just as easily been colleagues instead of husband and wife, as there’s no real zing in their relationship. Whatever the case, they do at least work well enough together to investigate what’s happening here and bring a little justice into play.

The setting and subject matter are certainly topical and important, the story is decent, and the writing is fine. Some of the Spanish in the text was not translated in the text – I’m not sure if this was because I was reading an ARC or if this was intentional, but it’s just a note for folks who may not be able to read the language.

A solid three star out of five read.

Thanks to Forge/Macmillan-Tor and NetGalley for the review copy.

Review: The Eighth Detective (Alex Pavesi)

An interesting premise, marred by a lackluster ending.

Not terribly long ago, I read The Eighth Sister, by another author. Now, The Eighth Detective (Eight Detectives, for the UK version) is here. Did I miss a memo?

In The Eighth Detective, Grant McAllister, a mathematician, once worked out a math formula for detective fiction – there must exist at least one victim, one detective, and so forth. As a proof of the claims he made, he wrote seven short stories, all of which contain one or more elements of his formula. He called the collection The White Murders, self-published one hundred copies, then moved to an unnamed island in the Mediterranean.

Julia Hart, ostensibly an editor with a small press, visits McAllister on his island, to sort the stories and edit them for publication.

The format of the overall book is this: one of the stories, which w find Julia is reading back to McAllister, then a conversation chapter, where Julia is reading the last line(s) of each story, then points out items that belong to his math theory, and then items that do not fit the story – inconsistencies. She asks if he purposely wrote these into the stories, and he claims he must have, but that his memory after thirty years have passed between his writing does not allow him to recall these things concretely.

There are seven stories comprising The White Murders, each with their own detective of sorts – that is, some have actual detectives, and some featuring amateurs. As each is read and discussed, more and more of the math is brought in, up to and including Venn diagrams. Each story is certainly what could be expected of the time they were written: crimes are solved by deduction and conversation (LOTS of conversation), and while some of the deaths are rather macabre, there are no lingering, lengthy, detailed description of the gore. If you expect to find car (or horse) chases or gunfights, you will be sorely disappointed. Think more Agatha Christie and less Robert Ludlum.

What we do not get, at least for most of the book, is any sort of character development of the two people about whom we should care the most: McAllister and Hart. Hart, from time to time, mentions an unsolved murder back in the UK of a woman with the last name White, and points out that elements of that murder appear in each of the stories. Was the impetus for these stories that murder? McAllister denies this was the case, and claims to not knowing he had placed these real life things into his fictional tales. He does, though, allow that perhaps he did so unconsciously do so.

As we reach the end of the book, we derive that Julia Hart herself is the eighth detective, looking into the very murder she has repeatedly questioned McAllister about. We also get more narrative of what she does when she leaves his company for the day and returns to her hotel, and that informs the big reveal at the end.

I’ll not go into spoiler territory, but all is not as it appears on this lovely island or with McAllister.

Toward the end, the stories became a bit tedious, as did the math. The explanations we get from Julia Hart were confusing at first, given the swaps she’d done with material and the way they were presented, and her “testing” of McAllister. By then, this reader, at least, knew what she suspected.

The stories…well, at least one did not contain enough clues for the reader to actually solve the crime, unlike the larger story that wrapped them. Instead, we get a monologue telling us how things were – the story with the department store fire, for instance, was terrible in this regard, and would be terrible in any era if one didn’t have ESP.

Overall, I’m giving it three stars out of five.

Thanks to Henry Holt and NetGalley for the review copy.

Review: The Girl Who Wasn’t There (Vincent Zandri)

Based on other reviews, I’m solidly in the minority here: this is not the sort of book I expect from someone who has won awards in their field (as the author has won the Shamus award from the ITW). I did not find the book to be particularly well-written or the story one that couldn’t be figured out abut 20% of the way in (based on markings in my Fire).

PROBABLE SPOILERS AHEAD

Sidney “Doc” O’Keefe has been released from prison, where he was incarcerated for ten years after being caught as the wheelman for two of his friends – friends who executed a Chinese family of four at the behest of their boss, a gangster named Rabuffo. Sidney assures the reader that he, himself, did not participate in the shooting of the family. Multiple times through the book, again and again. We get it, he’s innocent, even though I didn’t buy it the first time he told us and was even more convinced he was involved in nefarious doings the further the book rolled along. (I was right.)

Sidney and his wife Penny, along with their daughter Chloe, who is now 11, head to Lake Placid as a family rebonding thing. There they set themselves up next to another couple, the Stevens, and their daughter. Sidney and Penny decide to leave their daughter outside, paying with the daughter of total strangers, to go back to the hotel room and have some sexytime. Sidney finally admits he gave up Rabuffo to the Feds, and that’s how he was able to get his release.

First of all: who in their right mind leaves their child with complete strangers? Second, how is little vacation being paid for? The opening page says they sold their house to pay his legal bills, after which his wife and daughter moved into a one bedroom apartment, then a studio apartment. We get the answer to the former (idiots) but not really the latter.

When they go back out to the beach, their daughter is gone. The Stevens are of no help, and their daughter saw nothing. Thus we begin Sidney and Penny’s hunt for their daughter. They walk through the town, return to the hotel, where House Detective Giselle assures them they are scouring the hotel for her. Everything comes up empty.

They head to the police to file a report. The chief, Walton, makes no effort whatsoever to act like someone concerned for a missing child; instead he all but accuses Sidney of doing something terrible to her, being an ex-con and all. They head back to the hotel, and that night, hear their daughter calling for them. Sidney jumps up and sees what appears to be a man with his daughter. He heads out of the room toward them, and is promptly hit on the head. He shakes it off and goes after the man he saw, dragging him off a fence and pounding the crap out of him, trying to find out where his daughter is.

The next day, the guy he beat up is on tv telling a sob story about how he was just minding his business and Sidney just beat him up. The cops show up, and Sidney and Penny steal a jeep and head for the hills (literally). They find a vacant hunting cabin and hole up there, but naturally, the cops manage to find them in this one remote, abandoned cabin, bring a helicopter along, and start firing grenades at the cabin.

The book had, to that point, only made me shake my head from time to time. After that point, I just sighed and made myself go through the rest of it. It’s all a grand scheme, involving his lawyer, wife, the Chief of police, some weirdo named Gary (who they trust without a second thought, even though the book has already shown they shouldn’t be trusting complete strangers), one of Sidney’s friends from the massacre of the Chinese family, and the House Detective.

What they want is all the money Rabuffo has stored in a vault in his house, since Rabuffo has been fortuitously arrested by the FBI and his house is empty. For some reason, Rabuffo had keyed Sidney to the vault, via optical scan (what, none of them saw Demolition Man?) and entry code. And for some reason, the Feds and police and simply run crime scene tape around the place and then just went on their way, leaving no one at all to watch the place.

There are a bunch of deaths, by bullet and by strangulation by belt, and lost things (and people) found. Sidney lives, just like that – snap! – exonerated, and is reunited with Chloe.

It’s a short book at only 226 pages, and I really hope that the review ecopy I received is an uncorrected proof. There is apostrophe abuse, incorrect use of words that show why people should not rely on spellcheck alone (wrap for rap, for instance, right on page 3), tons of sentence fragments, and phrases that made no sense.

“I’m free, paroled for good if I keep my nose clean, as the rednecks like to say.”

I a fairly sure that keeping one’s nose clean is not just the purview of rednecks (or mothers wiping snot off a toddler’s face, for that matter).

Then there’s this, which I had to read a couple of times to understand what the heck he was saying – not to a person, just telling the reader something.

“You know, the big, black Suburban I drove to the house lived in by a Chinese family who owed my boss, Ricky Rabuffo, too much money.”

What? How about making that better, using active instead of passive voice, and using some of those commas on all the sentence fragments strewn everywhere?

It started off well: ex-con goes to the beach with his wife and daughter. Their daughter goes missing, and they need to find her. It was all downhill from there, with a too-many-people-involved conspiracy, short sequences where we have to question if Sidney is actually seeing something/having something happen to him, and lots of the author telling us things instead of showing them to us.

Two stars out of five.

Thanks to Oceanview Publishing and NetGalley for the review copy.

Review: Her Final Words (Brianna Lebuskes)

Lots of telling, far too little showing, and an ending that is anticlimactic.

Teenager Eliza Cook walks in to an FBI field office to confess to killing another (almost) teenaged boy. But she will only confess to Special Agent Lucy Thorne. When she lays out her confession, where to find the body, and hands over the knife used in the murder, she also makes a point to tell Lucy that a particular quote from the christian bible is carved on the boy. Then she clamps her mouth shut and refuses to say anything else.

For some reason, Lucy thinks there’s more to this story than just Eliza’s confession, and of course there is, because otherwise there would be no book. How does she arrive at this? Who knows. The Special Agent in Charge – Lucy’s boss – gives her three days to head to Knox Hollow and tease out any story that might be there. That was too bad, as it meant I’d have to keep reading this.

Don’t get me wrong: I didn’t hate it. I just didn’t really like it all that much. Lucy gets to Knox Hollow, meets Sheriff Wyatt Hicks, who has secrets, Eliza’s family, who have secrets, other members of their church (which is clearly one of those weird, cultish churches) who all have secrets, a deputy who works under Hicks, who also has secrets….you get the idea. It’s like the small town with secrets trope on steroids.

There are also a TON of characters introduced here. Cops, social workers, all the members of the church – if you’re not a fan of large casts, you might want to sit this one out.

Pretty soon, Lucy manages to find out that people – and especially kids – just vanish into thin air in this town, and another girl goes missing while she’s there.

For someone who only had three days to determine if there was something more going on in this secret-filled little town, Lucy didn’t seem to act with a whole lot of urgency. As she went around questioning people, she was often told she should speak to another party, and off she went, pinballing her way from person to person just because someone told her she should. I didn’t find her to be a deductive superstar.

The killer is given away before the ending – and it’s almost, but not quite, the author holding up a giant neon sign with an arrow pointing to the killer.

The ending was underwhelming, given that someone paying just a little attention could have seen it. The rationale behind the disappearances is semi-plausible, since people do oddball things all the time, in the name of something – in this case, in the name of some fundamentalist church. The whole thing wraps itself up with a bow, and all the loose ends are tied up.

Speaking of churches, there are some glaring errors about this cultish fundamentalist church: it’s highly unlikely they would have “Mass” and I’m almost 100% positive they would not carry rosary beads. Those things are part of the catholic rituals, and a cult, even one based on what seems to be the pentecostal flavor of christianity, is not going to have these things in their rituals.

We also don’t really get Lucy’s story: who she is, deep down, what drives her, what her backstory is. It doesn’t mean we need infodumps, but something would have helped me identify with her. As it is, she’s more like a “Hey, it’s that woman!” in a movie – a character actor whose face is familiar, but whose name you can’t recall.

The book shifts through time a *lot*, too. “Three weeks ago”, “Today”, “Two hours ago” and so on. After awhile, this annoyed me. I do not, in general, dislike timestamps on chapters, but if you’re constantly jumping around like this, you’re going to confuse the reader’s sense of time. If you do it almost constantly, then perhaps you should make it a series – even a duology, with all the events leading up to Eliza getting on a bus to go see Lucy to confess in one book, and then Lucy’s investigation in the second. It’s hard to get a real sense of what time it is, at least until Lucy reminds herself for the umpteenth time that she has to put this to bed by Monday, and it’s now (day) at (time) and well, she’d better hurry. But she doesn’t seem to be hurrying, and that’s a problem.

Overall, it’s readable. It simply didn’t grab me, which is a shame because I liked the premise.

Two stars out of five. Perhaps next time, Ms. Labuskes.

Thanks to Thomas & Mercer and Netgalley for the review copy.

Review: House Privilege (Joe DeMarco #14)

One of the best things about reading is stumbling across a series you didn’t know existed.

One of the worst things about reading is stumbling across a series you didn’t know existed.

I would say House Privilege falls into both of those categories for me. The first, because I do enjoy books like this, where a fixer works (mostly) behind the scenes to do things to support an Important Person, whether that Important Person is a politician, a big business/union leader, an athlete, and so on. The second, because it means that I don’t know the canon of that fixer: their history, their strengths or weaknesses, and how successful they’ve been in the past to fix something for their employer. As this is number fourteen in a series, I’d be inclined to guess that Joe DeMarco is fairly successful.

House Privilege opens with DeMarco returning to Washington, DC, after his equivalent of a mob no-show job was discovered with the political winds having changed the US government, and his Democrat boss John Mahoney lost his role as Speaker of the House. Those winds have changed again, and Mahoney is poised to reclaim the gavel and, by extension, return DeMarco to his post as Mahoney’s personal fixer. His first job seems relatively easy: check up on Cassie Russell, the only survivor of a small plane crash that killed her billionaire parents and that left Mahoney as her legal guardian, as Mahoney’s wife is out west, seeing to a terminally ill friend.

DeMarco dutifully heads to Boston, where he meets the girl and the Russell’s housekeeper, and finds Cassie thinks she will just stay in her parent’s home and doesn’t understand that isn’t quite how it’s going to work. But he doesn’t disabuse her of that thought, and heads out to meet the manager of the Russell’s trust, Erin Kelly, who appears to be capable enough, and when DeMarco asks her about a few things, has ready answers for how to handle them. He leaves, fairly confident that other than the girl’s ideas about where she will live, everything is fine.

Spoilers ahead….skip to SPOILERS END for the summary.


On his return to the Russell’s house to check in again on Cassie, the housekeeper gives him a name: Jerry Feldman. She overheard a conversation the Russells were having that indicated all may not have been well with Erin Kelly’s management of the trust, and that a CPA named Jerry Feldman was auditing the books for it. DeMarco heads out to find Feldman.

Feldman, unfortunately, has met his demise during a robbery of a convenience store, which seems rather coincidental, and DeMarco digs around, only to find that Erin Kelly is the niece of Mike Kelly, a notorious mobster in Boston. This raises the question for him – although not for us, having already received scenes between Mike and Erin that detail how angry she is that Cassie was not also killed in the plane crash and that she wants someone else killed as well – that perhaps Erin is not the chipper go-getter she appears to be.

DeMarco finds out that Feldman has been killed and believes Cassie may also be in danger, so he takes her up to a property owned by the Russells – a cabin in the woods, with few neighbors, and what neighbors there are a good bit of distance away. Pat McGuire, Mike Kelly’s top guy, has followed them there and attempts to kill Cassie. He is interrupted by a couple of teenagers (a young man and woman), and flees after shooting the young man and trying to shoot at Cassie as she swims away. One problem: McGuire has left fingerprints on the inflatable raft he used while there.

Now sure that Erin Kelly is a very bad person, DeMarco tells a Boston PD detective about all of it, but of course, jurisdictional problems are a thing. The NTSB, investigating the plane crash, won’t have a findings for awhile, and there are no direct links between any of it that he can prove.

DeMarco learns from Mahoney that there’s someone attempting to blackmail him with what are supposedly Mahoney cheating with a woman. Knowing that Mahoney does cheat on his wife, DeMarco meets with the blackmailer, who, it turns out, is a guy who was fired from his job for excessive absenteeism due to being an alcoholic, but who is now sober but in desperate need of money. He decides he just doesn’t have the heart to be a bad guy, and tells DeMaarco to forget it.

Meanwhile, McGuire, knowing he will be arrested once his prints are lifted, makes Mike promise that if anything happens to him that Mike will take care of McGuire’s elderly mother. Mike by now knows that his niece is in charge of billions of dollars and is considering how much he can wring out of her to keep her secrets – like the fact she came to him to get people killed, which has been captured on tape.

DeMarco realizes that the only solution is to keep the audit going, so it can be shown that Kelly was embezzling. He approaches the other two members of the three person board overseeing the trust (Mahoney is the third), and they agree the audit should proceed. A team shows up at the trust, taking everything and kicking Kelly out.

Before they get things locked down, Kelly accesses the trust funds electronically and transfers out over a hundred million dollars, then transfers those funds into other accounts at other banks, attempting to hide the trail. She then flees to London on her own passport and then to Montenegro under an assumed identity.

DeMarco turns to the investigative firm that had fired the blackmailer, and hires them to find Kelly, on the condition they hire the guy back and have him work on this case. They agree, since he had been one of their top investigators. They track Kelly to Montenegro, and DeMarco and his (now) crew, including the wannabe blackmailer, another operator from the investigative firm, and a disgraced doctor, head there. Mike Kelly also sends a crew there, to grab his niece.

The end is a caper. DeMarco and company put on a show to lure the bad guys into getting arrested, and act out their plan to grab Erin Kelly and hustle her out of the country. Back in the US, Erin Kelly is arrested for financial crimes and McGuire is arrested for attempted murder. Kelly thinks she’s maybe get four or five years, max, and McGuire is prepared to keep his mouth shut to protect Mike Kelly, but after he learns his mother has died while Mike Kelly was supposed to be overseeing her care, thinks Mike murdered her and considers talking. He then talks himself into believing she died of natural causes, given her age, and is prepared again to keep his mouth shut. He is stabbed while in jail, but survives, and tell DeMarco that all the dirt Mike Kelly has collected over the years on powerful people, and the tape with Erin Kelly saying she wanted people dead, is in a safe on a property he owns. Everyone is toast at this point except McGuire.

The book ends with Mahoney’s wife spending time with Cassie, and telling DeMarco Cassie will live with her in the Mahoney’s home in Boston, and the housekeeper and her husband will move with them. DeMarco is then sent off to Minnesota to deal with another matter.

SPOILERS END

Overall, it’s a good, fast read, and fun, too, if you enjoy stories about fixers that involve capers. While this is a book deep into the series character DeMarco, it can be read as a standalone, as enough information is given on DeMarco to know who he is and what he does. There’s only one infodump, and it’s a bit of a required one, to describe the no-show job Mahoney had created to stash DeMarco so he would be around to do whatever things Mahoney needed him to do.

I liked this quite a bit and will be going back to the beginning to read more about Joe DeMarco.

A solid 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Thanks to NetGalley and Atlantic Monthly Press for the advance copy.