A rigorous, thoroughly engrossing mystery from a writer with immense potential.

GOOD LOOKIN'

A JOE TURNER MYSTERY

A debut crime drama focuses on a fight for justice involving a lawyer and his obscure, young client accused of murder.

Criminal defense attorney Bequette spins a serpentine thriller chronicling the treacherous life and career of a Bay Area public defender much like himself. Joe Turner is a hard-hitting lawyer but finds himself rattled after a hulking murderer threatens his life and he narrowly escapes unharmed. Following that traumatic shake-up, he is appointed by a court to represent Oakland IceBoyz gang member Darnell Moore, who, at 19 years old, stands accused of the coldblooded, drive-by shooting death of rival Cashtown gangster Cleveland Barlow. The case frustrates Turner in that it suffers from a lack of direct evidence, as video surveillance on the street corner where the murder took place never shows Moore shooting Barlow, though a purported witness testifies otherwise. As the case develops, Moore proves to be a difficult, unreliable defendant, withholding critical details about his firearm possession (“That’s not my gun”) and misleading investigators about his alliances with the IceBoyz gang. Running alongside the case is the backstory of 9-year-old twin brothers Damon and Jesse Wendell, who are forced to tolerate another in a series of “too good to be true,” incapable foster fathers. They are tormented by relentless schoolyard bullying and sexual abuse by their current foster parent, which results in deadly retribution.

In-depth details embedded in the narrative reveal Turner to be a tough yet sensitive single Northern California legal professional prone to stress-drinking and flourishes of loneliness. His dynamic interplay with Andy Kopp, the wiseacre personal injury attorney with whom he shares an office, offers comic relief as Kopp’s wife attempts to set Turner up with an eligible woman to soothe his single man’s ennui. The simmering romance that ensues effectively leavens all of the hardcore defense attorney’s spadework nicely. Both storylines, Moore’s murder trial and the twins’ history of drama at home, eventually coalesce into a surprising intercourse of criminal defense and childhood self-defense and vigilante justice. These narrative elements bring the case to a rousing climax and a shocking conclusion that readers won’t see coming. Written from Turner’s first-person perspective, this series opener presents the protagonist as a resilient lawyer. At times, his behavior suggests he might be better suited as a detective, until the courtroom antics begin and he pokes holes in the prosecution’s case against Moore, who he believes is innocent. A father of twin boys, Bequette drew from his experience raising them, which bolsters the book’s authenticity. Short chapters keep the action and the momentum at a quick pace as Turner draws closer to exonerating his client amid a firestorm of twists and turns. Kudos to the author for inserting a bombshell zinger into the thriller’s last chapter; it’s a doozy. Anchored by a likable hero, this zesty, addictive tale incorporates plenty of criminal hijinks and courtroom melodrama and will satisfy fans of suspense novels and literary crime dramas.

A rigorous, thoroughly engrossing mystery from a writer with immense potential.

Pub Date: May 24, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5092-3570-4

Page Count: -

Publisher: Wild Rose Press

Review Posted Online: March 19, 2021

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Light on suspense but still a solid page-turner.

THE LAST THING HE TOLD ME

When a devoted husband and father disappears, his wife and daughter set out to find him.

Hannah Hall is deeply in love with her husband of one year, Owen Michaels. She’s also determined to win over his 16-year-old daughter, Bailey, who has made it very clear that she’s not thrilled with her new stepmother. Despite the drama, the family is mostly a happy one. They live in a lovely houseboat in Sausalito; Hannah is a woodturner whose handmade furniture brings in high-dollar clientele; and Owen works for The Shop, a successful tech firm. Their lives are shattered, however, when Hannah receives a note saying “Protect her” and can’t reach Owen by phone. Then there’s the bag full of cash Bailey finds in her school locker and the shocking news that The Shop’s CEO has been taken into custody. Hannah learns that the FBI has been investigating the firm for about a year regarding some hot new software they took to market before it was fully functional, falsifying their financial statements. Hannah refuses to believe her husband is involved in the fraud, and a U.S. marshal assigned to the case claims Owen isn’t a suspect. Hannah doesn’t know whom to trust, though, and she and Bailey resolve to root out the clues that might lead to Owen. They must also learn to trust one another. Hannah’s narrative alternates past and present, detailing her early days with Owen alongside her current hunt for him, and author Dave throws in a touch of danger and a few surprises. But what really drives the story is the evolving nature of Hannah and Bailey’s relationship, which is by turns poignant and frustrating but always realistic.

Light on suspense but still a solid page-turner.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7134-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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For devoted Hannah fans in search of a good cry.

THE FOUR WINDS

The miseries of the Depression and Dust Bowl years shape the destiny of a Texas family.

“Hope is a coin I carry: an American penny, given to me by a man I came to love. There were times in my journey when I felt as if that penny and the hope it represented were the only things that kept me going.” We meet Elsa Wolcott in Dalhart, Texas, in 1921, on the eve of her 25th birthday, and wind up with her in California in 1936 in a saga of almost unrelieved woe. Despised by her shallow parents and sisters for being sickly and unattractive—“too tall, too thin, too pale, too unsure of herself”—Elsa escapes their cruelty when a single night of abandon leads to pregnancy and forced marriage to the son of Italian immigrant farmers. Though she finds some joy working the land, tending the animals, and learning her way around Mama Rose's kitchen, her marriage is never happy, the pleasures of early motherhood are brief, and soon the disastrous droughts of the 1930s drive all the farmers of the area to despair and starvation. Elsa's search for a better life for her children takes them out west to California, where things turn out to be even worse. While she never overcomes her low self-esteem about her looks, Elsa displays an iron core of character and courage as she faces dust storms, floods, hunger riots, homelessness, poverty, the misery of migrant labor, bigotry, union busting, violent goons, and more. The pedantic aims of the novel are hard to ignore as Hannah embodies her history lesson in what feels like a series of sepia-toned postcards depicting melodramatic scenes and clichéd emotions.

For devoted Hannah fans in search of a good cry.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-2501-7860-2

Page Count: 464

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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