Saturday, December 10, 2016

A Taste For Murder - Burl Barer & Frank C. Girardot, Jr.

A Taste For Murder
Burl Barer & Frank C. Girardot Jr.
WildBlue Press

True Crime

When Angie and Frank Rodriquez got married, t was perfect.  The year was 2000, the start of a new millennium.   Frank, a former military man, worked at Angel Gate, a kind of boot camp for at-risk kids.  All he really wanted was to do his job, then go home and spend time with his family.  With Angie and her teenaged daughter, Autumn, Frank got that family.  It was great for Angie, too.  She’d been though a lot during her life, including the death of her infant daughter, Alicia.  Frank gave her stability, a good future, and a dad for Autumn.

Less than a year later, Frank was lying on the bedroom floor, dead.  According to Angie, Frank started feeling sick on Tuesday.  On Thursday, Angie took him to the ER, where the doctors diagnosed him with probable food poisoning and sent him home.  Sometime late Friday/early Saturday, he died.  The first officer on the scene thought things seemed “off,” and so did the coroner.  But the autopsy showed no physical defects.  Meanwhile, the new widow was looking for a completed death certificate to collect Frank’s life insurance.  No cause of death; no money.  Very soon, the new widow seemed eager to play amateur sleuth.

This is a very interesting case.  Angie is a complex and, in the end, fascinating individual.  The way the narrative is arranged, though, she becomes most interesting literally ‘at the end’ of the book, in the Authors’ Commentary.  This section is well-written and adds an extra dimension to the whole situation.  I can’t help wishing that this theory/information had been woven into the main narrative.  I think that most true crime readers are looking for this bit of extra depth.  That aside, the writing keeps everything moving along at a nice pace, and the case itself is more than involving enough to keep the reader’s attention. 

Rating:  6 ½
March 2016

ISBN: 978-1-942266-35-8 (trade paperback)

            978-1-942266-36-5 (ebook)

Friday, December 02, 2016

The Operative - Gerald Brandt

The Operative
A San Angeles Novel
Gerald Brandt

Futuristic Thriller/SciFi

Note: If you have not read THE COURIER, the first book in this series, this review will spoil just about everything.  If you wish to read it unspoiled, stop reading this, now.

Only a year ago, Kris was a 16-year-old courier, scratching out a subsistence living as a courier in the lower reaches of San Angeles.  The whole coast has been built up, level by level, over the years.  Now, in 2141, there are seven of them.  The lower Levels are completely enclosed in a grey substance called fibercrete; a ceiling only a few stories tall; and lit by Ambient lights to simulate night and day.  The lower Levels contain the water purification and sewage systems and the poor who can’t afford to migrate to the upper levels.  The upper Level, Level 7, contains the wealthiest citizens, fresh air, open land, and the sun.

When she first arrived at ACE Boot Camp, Kris was uncomfortable with all that sky, over her head, going on forever.  She’s used to it now, and is progressing her training.  ACE is the group that essentially rescued her last year; saved her life.  They’re engaged in an underground battle against the huge corporations that control the world and everyone in it.  And she’s been able to spend quality time with Ian, an ACE agent only a little older than herself.  He’s been through the same training; he seems to see the world through clear eyes.  He’s been, very literally, her lifeline for the past year. 

When the transports arrive one dawn, Kris is outside the camp.  She sees the explosions, hears, the shooting, and figures that they’ve finally come for her.  They race for San Angeles, hoping to find shelter and help.  Their transport is shot out of the sky and crashes through part of the fibercrete wall on Level 1, the bottom level.  Ian is pinned and tells Kris to get out while she can; he’ll find her.  To her shame, she leaves him; watching as the enemy executes the few survivors.  They take Ian alive, giving her hope.  At least she knows the lay of the land here.  Her former occupation serves her well, as she and another refugee from the camp make their way away from the crash site.  It doesn’t take long to figure out who might have been behind this crazy attack.  He’s still angry with her for being the loose thread that unraveled his master plan last year.  He’s dangerous, and he has Ian.

The first novel started with the narrow focus on Kris, the opened up to expose the layers of the story and society; this novel does almost the opposite.  While there’s still very much a rebellion fomenting against the all-powerful corporations, the driving force of this narrative is Kris’ determination to get Ian back.  There’s plenty more going on, including other characters left hanging at the end of THE COURIER, but it always goes back to Kris and her personal need to find Ian.  It’s a little strange, knowing what we already do (and considering what we discover over the course of this story) that this should be the case, but it works as a mechanism to get from the Kris who was a tough teenager without connections to the Kris who has seen and learned a lot more of life and is willing to stand up and fight.  She’s still a fresh character in a fascinating world, and I’m interested in seeing what happens next.

Rating: 7
November 2016

ISBN# 978-0-7564-1204-3 (hardcover)