Category: Authors

Murder in Greasepaint: A Rock Cobbler Case by Whiskey Leavins / Z-View


Murder in Greasepaint: A Rock Cobbler Case by Whiskey Leavins

Trade Paperback: 242 pages
Publisher: Independently published (March 30, 2022)

First sentences…

“STOP IT! We’re not clowning around here. Just put it down, why don’t you?”  I used my best cop voice.

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

The first thing you notice with Murder in Greasepaint is another very cool painted cover by Rafael Andres.  Andres also did the cover to Leavins’ first book, The Devil’s Own Piss.  I’m happy to see this partnership continue.

Rock Cobbler is a detective with the Santa Lacrimosa PD.  An apparent suicide at the local clown college, gets Cobbler’s number called.  What looks to be an open and shut case turns out to be murder.  Rob Sofritas aka Mr. Rubadubdub was tortured, stabbed and then thrown from his dorm window.

Sofritas was well-liked and had a bright future in clowning.  Did jealousy lead to Sofritas’ murder?   He also came from money.  Blackmail gone wrong? Then there’s the nasty rumor about Sofritas’ affiliation with a clown faction and their legendary fights to gain control of an artifact that supposedly gives power to those who posses it. Did Softitas have the item?

With so many leads, Cobbler seeks the assistance of Professor Wiggles aka Corine D’Ambrosia.  From their first encounter, Cobbler finds himself attracted to her.  She’s beautiful, smart and also a suspect.  D’Ambrosia may have nothing to do with the murder, or she may be setting Cobbler up for a fatal pratfall.  One thing’s for sure, clowning ain’t no joke.

Hat’s off to Whiskey Leavins for finding the perfect balance of suspense and humor.  While we meet many colorful characters, they’re believable because of the way Leavins presents them.  The situations are humorous and sometimes silly, but we never lose sight that the danger is real.  I was especially impressed with the exchanges between Cobber and D’Ambrosia.  They reminded me of the flirting patter we’d get in an old Bogart/Bacall film.  Also kudos to Leavins for bringing back three characters from The Devil’s Own Piss.

Whiskey Leavins has another winner.  This is his second novel in a row that has earned my top rating.  I hope he goes for a trifecta.    Murder in Greasepaint earns 5 of 5 stars.

Rating:

Murder in Greasepaint Trade Paperback

Murder in Greasepaint Kindle

HELL CHOSE ME by Angel Luis Colón / Z-View

Hell Chose Me by Angel Luis Colón

240 pages
Publisher: ‎ Down & Out Books (February 2, 2019)

First sentence…

Charlie Ryan’s head cracks against the bar top with a satisfying thud and snaps back up like a rubber ball – blood gushing from the shiny new gash at the bridge of his nose.

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

Bryan Walsh is a hit man.  Which is a strange profession for someone with a conscience.  Walsh justifies his kills by saying, “The bad choices his targets made put them in his sights.”  Walsh uses the contract money to provide life support for his comatose brother.  The medical bills are crushing.

Each hit pushes Walsh further to the edge,  After each kill, Walsh is visited by his victim’s ghost.  The ghosts fade in and out, haunting Walsh.  Is his mind playing tricks or are the ghosts are real?

When his contact for a hit lowballs him,  Walsh thinks something’s up… or maybe he’s just paranoid.  Then he’s immediately offered another job (violating the rule to never work back to back hits).  Walsh is sure something’s not right,  but he needs the money so…  

It was a simple hit until someone unexpected showed up.  Now Walsh is on the run with the knowledge that he and his brother are marked for death.  Unsure of who he can trust, Walsh must figure out why things went south and who he needs to kill to fix them.

Angel Luis Colón has created an interesting character in Bryan Walsh.  He’s far from the genre hitman.  I liked the supernatural aspect of Walsh interacting with the ghosts of those he’s killed.  Was it his mind playing tricks?  Walsh has an interesting backstory and we see how his decisions led to his current situation (just as he blamed his targets for their decisions putting them in his path).  This was my first book by Angel Luis Colón, but it won’t be my last.

Hell Chose Me rates 4 of 5 stars.


Hell Chose Me Trade Paperback
Hell Chose Me Kindle

IQ by Joe Ide / Z-View

IQ by Joe Ide

Trade Paperback: ‎ 352 pages
Publisher: ‎Mulholland Books

First sentence…

Isaiah’s crib looked like every other house on the block except the lawn was cut even, the pain was fresh, and the entrance was a little unusual.

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

Isaiah Quintabe is a quiet kid with a superior intellect.  While IQ is still in high school, his older brother and guardian, is killed in a hit-and-run accident.  Alone and afraid he will be sent to a home, IQ begins to earn money from neighborhood folks needing help.  When IQ finds a runaway daughter word spreads.  Soon he is getting requests for assistance with “cases the police can’t or won’t touch.”  The cases don’t pay much and sometimes the reward is food or tires for his car.  Because money is tight, IQ takes in a roommate.  Dodson is a low-level drug dealer that IQ knows from the ‘hood.  Both IQ and Dodson hope the arrangement is temporary.

When Dodson brings IQ a case offering real money, there’s an understanding that Dodson will assist. The potential reward is too good to pass, so IQ agrees.  That’s how they begin working for a big time rapper whose life was threatened.  Soon IQ and Dodson find themselves up against a cold-blooded killer with an attack dog the size of a small bear, and a large list of suspects who’d benefit from the rapper’s death.  Before it’s over IQ and Dodson are on the killer’s list.  Identifying the killer and who hired him will save the rapper’s life as well as their own.  If they can.

Joe Ide has created a unique character with Isaiah Quintabe.  It’s impressive how Ide sets up the first IQ book.  Ide gets in background information, early cases, and IQ’s unlikely partnership with Dodson while at the same time keeping the story moving.  Everything, the settings, the characters and the dialogue, all ring true. Because of this, when Ide introduces the killer and his beast-dog, we buy it.  Ide has created memorable characters and a great first story for our modern day Sherlock Holmes.  I loved IQ and look forward to more of his adventures.

IQ rates 5 of 5 stars.

IQ Hardcover
IQ Trade Paperback
IQ Kindle

PAYBACK is FOREVER by Nick Kolakowski / Z-View

Payback is Forever by Nick Kolakowski

Trade Paperback: ‎ 170 pages
Publisher: ‎ Shotgun Honey Books (March 24, 2022)

First sentence…

While the shootout paused so everybody could reload, Miller wondered whether the clown was still alive.

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

Miller is a successful thief and a not so successful gambler.  This causes him to take a job with a couple of crooks he doesn’t know.  The job goes sideways, the mooks attempt to double cross Miller, and several civilians are killed.  Not all is lost since Miller gets away with the loot.

Now Miller’s on the run.  When he’s offered a job to provide protection for a “simple” transaction, Miller knows there’s no such thing as simple in his line of work.  But the money is too good to pass. Miller needs the payoff to get away and lay low.  Of course nothing is as it seems (boy, it that true!) and Miller is going to learn that Payback is Forever.

Kolakowski has created a great throwback to the Gold Medal paperbacks my grandpa and I used to read.  I blazed through it, enjoying every page.  Payback is Forever is full of interesting characters – crooked crooks, midget hitmen, a ventriloquist with a wise-ass dummy, a sexy love interest and more.

Payback is Forever rates 4 of 5 stars.  If this sounds like something you’d dig, what are you waiting for?

Payback is Forever Trade Paperback
Payback is Forever Kindle

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SAFE AND SOUND by J.D. Rhoades / Z-View

Safe and Sound by J.D. Rhoades

Hardcover: ‎ 288 pages
Publisher: ‎ Minotaur Books; First Edition (July 10, 2007)

First sentence…

“You’re lucky one way, you know,” the man said.

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

Jack Keller is in his girlfriend Marie’s office as she is talking to a potential client.  A young girl is missing and presumed to be kidnapped by her divorced father who happens to be AWOL from the Special Forces.  When the client learns that Keller is also former military she asks Marie to bring him on to assist.  Marie and Keller reluctantly agree.  Soon enough Keller and Marie find themselves at odds with a group of AWOL Special Forces soldiers, the FBI and a sadistic mercenary named DeGroot who is putting together a team of his own.  Keller has no idea what they’re all after but knows that even if he figures it out, all his training may not be enough to keep Marie and her son alive.

J.D. Rhoades has created a fast paced action thriller.  A hero is only as good as the villain he is up against and DeGroot is one of the best (meaning he is one of the worst).  Safe and Sound rates 4 of 5 stars.

Safe and Sound Hardcover

Safe and Sound Kindle

Safe and Sound Mass Market Paperback

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AT THEIR OWN GAME by Frank Zafiro / Z-View

At Their Own Game by Frank Zafiro

Trade Paperback: ‎ 282 pages
Publisher: ‎ Code 4 Press

First sentence…

So far, I’ve been to jail three different ways.

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

Jake Stankovic should have known better.  After all, Jake was a cop.  He knew the trouble sleeping with another man’s wife could cause.  But Helen was worth the risk.  She was sexy, seductive and Jake was in over his head before he found out Helen was married to Kyle Faulkner, a hard-case detective from his precinct.  When Helen stops seeing Jake, divorces her husband and leaves town without a goodbye, Jake plans to move on with his life.  Detective Faulkner has other plans.

When Jake gets into an off-duty fight, Faulkner uses his pull to get the charges trumped up.  Jake’s forced to take a plea that costs him his job and jail time.

But that was a few years ago.  Since then Jake has run a two-man crew dealing in stolen goods.  Matt and Brent look to Jake for jobs and have agreed to his rules.  They work only with Jake.  They don’t deal in drugs. They don’t do anything on or off a job that would draw attention.  They keep a low profile.  Things have worked out well for the three… until recently.  With the country in an economic downturn, folks aren’t buying their goods.  Jake and his crew need money, and when a great opportunity falls into their lap, they agree to break their rules.  Just one time… for a big drug deal.

The drug deal goes sideways and the crew’s money is taken. Getting the cash back will mean going up against a motorcycle gang.  Then Detective Faulkner makes it clear he has Jake in his sights again.  Jake fears one of his crew might have turned rat.  Any one of these things would be trouble enough.  Could it get any worse?

And that’s when Helen returns with a simple favor…

At Their Own Game is one of my all-time favorite books.  It totally resonated with me.  Zafiro has created realistic characters and placed them in a story that moves.  The plot takes unexpected twists while still following the tropes expected in a classic noir.  The dialogue is realistic.  I flew through the story both wanting to see how it would end and not wanting it to end.  At Their Own Game is a novel that I will want to read again.  It’s that good.

At Their Own Game rates 5 of 5 stars.

At Their Own Game Trade Paperback

At Their Own Game Kindle

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DEAD DOGS by Manny Torres / Z-View

Dead Dogs by Manny Torres

Trade Paperback: ‎ 200 pages
Publisher: Moonshine Cove Publishing, LLC (August 14, 2020)

First sentence…

Phobos sat like a derelict Buddha on top of the broken newspaper machine, dusty, a little greasy, a little crusty around the edges. .

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

Phobos and Chuck are buddies living on periphery of civilized society.  They’re the guys we see (or look away from) hanging outside the 7-11 or your local bank if the free coffee is better there.  They’ve chosen this life and move through it partying with friends when times are good and finding a way when times are lean.

Phobos and Chuck are in debt to a local crime boss wannabe.  Boots Tumbler’s empire includes dog fighting, drugs, stolen goods and he’s looking to expand.  Tumbler has Phobos and Chuck cleaning up after dog fights and sometimes the bodies they dispose aren’t canine.  When Tumbler orders Phobos and Chuck to drive a couple of Tumbler’s associates on a cross-country trip, it puts them on a collision course with hired killers looking for their own payback.

Torres takes us into a world few of us would want to live in, yet we know exists not far from where we sit.  Where other writers romanticize life below the poverty line, Torres has us experience it without rose colored glasses.  We see, smell and feel what it means to be Phobos and Chuck.  Neither are heroes in the traditional sense, but we pull for them because they come across as real human beings.  Which, perhaps surprisingly, makes the crazy characters they meet more believable.

I wouldn’t want to live the life of Phobos or Chuck, but I enjoyed riding along with them in the Great White.  Torres has created (or perhaps just expertly described) a world where larger than life personalities look to get ahead no matter the cost to others, while some folks just look to get by.  I wouldn’t be surprised if Phobos and Chuck have future adventures (or we learn about some in their past).  El Alacran is ripe for a tale or two as well!

Dead Dogs rates 4 of 5 stars.

Dead Dogs Trade Paperback

Dead Dogs Kindle

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THE BIG BLOWDOWN by George P. Pelecanos / Z-View

The Big Blowdown by George P. Pelecanos

Trade Paperback: ‎ 314 pages
Publisher: ‎ Minotaur Books; First Edition (first (September 24, 1999)

First sentence…

Pete Karras dreamed.

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

Peter Karras, Joe Recevo, Jimmy Boyle and Perry Angelos are four kids growing up together in Washington, D.C. in the 1930s.  Their lives will separate and then come back together in ways none of them could imagine.  Boyle will become a cop and Angelos an accountant.  Karras and Recevo will become collectors for a loan shark named Burke.

When Burke becomes upset with Karras’ disrespectful attitude and unwillingness to come down hard on some families struggling to repay their high interest loans, Burke orders Recevo to betray Karras.  Recevo sets up his childhood friend and lures him into an alley where another of Burke’s goons is waiting with a baseball bat.  Karras is badly beaten and left to survive or not.

Karras, Recevo and Burke along with Jimmy Boyle and Perry Angelos will cross paths again in bloody confrontation that will leave many of them dead.  Pelecanos creates a story that has layers and substance.  None of his characters are without flaws.  They come across as real people.  The “good” guys don’t always win or survive.  If you’ve read other of Pelecanos’ novels you may recognize some characters which adds to the realism of the universe he’s created.

The Big Blowdown is another winner from George P. Pelecanos.  It rates 4 of 5 stars.

The Big Blowdown Hardcover
The Big Blowdown Trade Paperback

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ICE STATION by Matthew J. Reilly / Z-View

Ice Station by Matthew Reilly

Hardcover: ‎ 390 pages
Publisher: St. Martins Press (September 1, 1999)

First sentence…

It had been three hours since they had lost radio contact with the two divers.

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

When a team of American scientists at a remote Antarctic ice station send a radio message that they have discovered a metal ship buried deep in the ice, the race is on.  Military units from several countries are quickly dispatched to claim the discovery.  Lieutenant Shane Schofield and his small team of marines are the US’ closest squad so they are sent to secure the discovery at all costs until reinforcements arrive.

When they arrive at the ice station they discover the three divers who went down to the ship are missing. To make matters worse, a hostile military force is quickly approaching.  Soon Schofield and his team are fighting against military units from two countries, unknown creatures from below and the possibility of a traitor on their team!

If you’re a fan of non-stop action that would tire Indiana Jones, then Ice Station is for you.  Once Reilly gets the ball rolling (and he does quickly), the action never lets up.  Reilly puts in his characters in crazy situations and they survive by skill, wit or luck… that is, if they survive.

I kid you not when I say after reading a Matthew Reilly book, you’ll feel like you’ve been put through the ringer.  But if you’re a fan of non-stop over-the-top action (and from time to time I am), then you cannot go wrong with Ice Station.  It earns 5 of 5 stars.

Ice Station Hardcover

Ice Station Paperback

Ice Station Kindle

Ice Station Mass Market Paperback

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JACK REACHER: NO PLAN B by Lee Child and Andrew Child is Coming!

Lee Child’s Jack Reacher novel are already best seller and with the popularity of the Reacher television series, they should sell even more.  We’ll find out this October 25th, when No Plan B, the new Jack Reacher novel premieres.

The gripping new Jack Reacher thriller from the #1 New York Times bestselling authors Lee Child and Andrew Child. The plan: It’s coming Fall 2022. No Plan B.

In Gerrardsville, Colorado, two witnesses to the same tragedy give two different accounts. One guy sees a woman throw herself in front of a bus in what authorities will call a suicide. The other witness is Jack Reacher. And he sees what actually happened: A man in a gray hoodie and jeans, moving like a shadow, pushed the victim to her death—before swiftly grabbing the dead woman’s purse and strolling away.

Reacher follows the killer on foot, not knowing that he is part of something much bigger and far-reaching . . . a secret conspiracy with many moving parts, with powerful people on the take, all involved in an undertaking that leaves no room for error. If any step is compromised, the threat will have to be quickly and quietly and permanently removed.

Because when the threat is Reacher, there is No Plan B….

THE DEVIL TAKES YOU HOME by Gabino Iglesias!

The Devil Takes You Home by Gabino Iglesias is on my to-be-read list.  I’m a fan of Iglesias’ Zero Saints and love the plot of The Devil Takes You Home.  Check it out and see what you think,

From Bram Stoker, Anthony, and Locus award-nominated author, Gabino Iglesias, comes a genre-defying thriller about a father desperate to salvage what’s left of his family, even if it means a descent into violence –both supernatural and of our own terrifying world.

Buried in debt due to his young daughter’s illness, his marriage at the brink, Mario reluctantly takes a job as a hitman, surprising himself with his proclivity for violence. After tragedy destroys the life he knew, Mario agrees to one final job: hijack a cartel’s cash shipment before it reaches Mexico. Along with an old friend and a cartel-insider named Juanca, Mario sets off on the near-suicidal mission, which will leave him with either a cool $200,000 or a bullet in the skull. But the path to reward or ruin is never as straight as it seems. As the three complicated men travel through the endless landscape of Texas, across the border and back, their hidden motivations are laid bare alongside nightmarish encounters that defy explanation. One thing is certain: even if Mario makes it out alive, he won’t return the same.

The Devil Takes You Home is a panoramic odyssey for fans of S.A. Cosby’s southern noir, Blacktop Wasteland, by way of the boundary-defying storytelling of Stephen Graham Jones and Sylvia Moreno-Garcia.

Evidence Points to NEW Suspect as the ZODIAC KILLER!

Speculation as to who the Zodiac Killer was, is always a popular topic.  There are so many folks who have done extensive research and most often they come up with the usual suspects.  Not so with Jarett Kobek.  Kobek did the research, but facts led him down a different path to a new, viable suspect named Paul Doerr. 

Tim Molloy at MovieMaker provides an excellent overview of Kobek’s findings in his piece Zodiac Killer Revealed by His Love of Comic Books, Author Says.  Molloy’s article is definitely worth a read.  It details how a card sent to police/newspapers listed four ways the Zodiac planned to kill: “By Fire, By Gun, By Knife, By Rope”.  Many Zodiac researchers linked the quote to the 1952 Western comic book, Tim Holt #30.  Kobek took this finding and ran with it.

Kobek realized that the number of comic book collectors at that time was relatively small.  His next step was to start researching comic book fanzines of the era.  Paul Doerr’s name came up in letters to the fan magazines.  His writing style and the content of his letters struck Kobek as being similar to the Zodiac’s.  Then Kobek discovered that Doerr was on the mailing list for renaissance fairs.  Of course in one of the Zodiac attacks he was wearing a Medieval executioner’s hood.  In other letters Doerr talks of killing and making a bomb.  Click over to Molloy’s piece for full details.

Jarett Kobek’s book, How to Find Zodiac lays out the evidence leading to his belief that Doerr was the Zodiac Killer.  Here’s the synopsis…

“A scruffy masterpiece of criminology. It seems to me that either Kobek’s painstaking deductions are correct, or we must urgently revise the laws of probability.” – Alan Moore, author of From Hell

Dear Reader,

This is not the Zodiac speaking. The one thing that I ask of you is this, please read this book. It is called How to Find Zodiac. Being that this book is about the Zodiac, it offers a new suspect. The theory is probably correct. At the moment the theory is unproven. But the idea is a bomb waiting to go massive. Can you see the flaws in the hunting method or will you just agree and say case closed. Either way one thing is true. Zodiac can never look and seem the same after you read this book. It was written by Jarett Kobek.

It will be interesting to see how Zodiac researchers react to Kobek’s research and suspect.

MURDER IN GREASE PAINT by Whiskey Leavins

Usually I like my crime fiction to be hardboiled and serious.  But there are times when a bigger helping of humor is a nice change of pace.  Murder in Grease Paint by Whiskey Leavins looks to be a prime example.  I loved Leavins’ The Devil’s Own Piss and Other Stories. So picking up his latest offering is a no-brainer.  Check out the synopsis and see what you think.

Washed up pitching prospect, Rock Cobbler, now a hotshot detective with the Santa Lacrimosa PD likes working alone as much as he likes bourbon. That is to say, a lot. One rainy night at Santa Lacrimosa Clown College he finds himself looking out a dorm room window. Down below lay the hilariously twisted body of Mr. Rubadubdub, apparently tossed from that very same window.

The investigation into the defenestration of the promising young clown will lead Rock through dive bars, contemporary Christian clowning performances, and down into the seedy underbelly of clown lore. He will discover what no non-clown should know; like the existence of dangerous, rival clown factions that will stop at nothing in search of clown dominance and the possession of one particular venerated clown relic. To crack the case, he will have to match wits, and game, with the alluring Professor Wiggles. Will Rock take a pie to the face? Or will he solve the case before more clowns die?

Murder in Greasepaint is equal parts Chandler, Christopher Moore, Bozo, and Bourbon.

HELL CHOSE ME by Angel Luis Colón

I’ve been on a roll finding new (at least to me) excellent crime fiction authors/books.  Today we have Hell Chose Me by Angel Luis Colón. My order is in.  Check out the synopsis and see what you think.

Bryan Walsh is a killer for hire. He is haunted by those who have fallen by his hand. He will stop at nothing to avenge his brother’s death.

When a lifetime of bad karma finally lands on Bryan’s doorstep and leaves his brother dead, he must survive long enough to find the killers and get his revenge, but as the path only grows bloodier, Bryan may not be able to handle the steps he’ll need to take against his enemies.

As he becomes more unstable and his past crashes into his present, Bryan must decide if vengeance is worth becoming the monster he always denied or if he could find a another path; one that could lead to something like redemption.

AT THEIR OWN GAME by Frank Zafiro

At Their Own Game by Frank Zafiro arrived at my house yesterday.  If it sounds like something you’d like, you know what to do.

Book #1 in the SpoCompton Series

Jake Stankovic has been flying below the radar for years, dealing safely in stolen property crime with his two-man crew. But times are tough, so he decides to step up to the big money with a drug deal. Everything that can go wrong, does. The deal goes bad, a vengeful detective sets his sights on Jake, one of his crew might be a turncoat, and a woman from a long past affair suddenly reappears. All of this would be complicated enough on its own, but for Jake, it’s even worse.

The woman is the detective’s ex-wife.

And Jake Stankovic used to be a cop.

Now Jake must face new problems and old vendettas in an all-in proposition with lives on the line. He has to find a way to get his money back, keep the girl, and beat everyone involved… At Their Own Game.