A messy but entertaining crime caper.

THE LICK

In this debut novel, the appearance of old enemies throws a master thief’s heist into jeopardy.

The unusually named Lesson Day runs a successful crew of thieves. It’s mostly a family affair, including his father, Tha Pope; his brother, Learn; and a couple of trusted associates. They’ve pulled off some big jobs in the past, and Lesson has already earned enough money to move his family into a ritzy suburb outside of Detroit. Now, Lesson has his sights on a haul of truly epic proportions: robbing Walmart on Cyber Monday, right at the end of the busiest shopping weekend of the year. Lesson figures that if they do it right, he and his team can walk away with almost $5 million in cash. Such a score would be enough for the crew to leave the high-stakes world of heists behind. Lesson himself has plans for investing in real estate in Detroit’s revitalized downtown. He has mapped out the whole lick down to the last detail: security systems, armored trucks, time windows. But as Tha Pope warns Lesson, no lick ever goes just as planned. While Lesson and the crew are in mid heist, a giant wrench is thrown into the works when two old foes—Savage Keith and Juman—return to town. They’ve been in exile in Ohio ever since they tried to murder Lesson years ago, but they’ve come home to kidnap the thief’s mother, Rocci, and his wife, Ashanti. Can Lesson pull off the heist, save his family, and keep everyone out of jail? It may prove too tall an order for even him. “You wanna start upgrading,” his father warned him before the heist. “But remember this, Lesson, when you upgrade, no matter if you win or lose, you take the team up with you, or down with you.”

In this series opener, Ali creates a vibrant and surprisingly believable world, full of big personalities and lively exchanges of dialogue. The prose is often on the sloppy side, but the author manages to build tension when he needs to: “There was panic in Tha Pope’s voice. Tha Pope was trying to get Lesson’s attention, but Lesson was silent. He saw the truck still sitting in front of the Wal-Mart, but Lesson, Jameer, and Goob were out of his line of sight, and he didn’t have time to maneuver the drone into a better position. He also didn’t want the Wal-Mart security team to see the drone and become suspicious.” There’s a recursive quality to the writing, and Ali manages to repeat nearly every piece of information a few more times than is necessary. Even so, the book is highly readable, leaning into pulpy archetypes and cinematic flourishes to keep things fun. Lesson is a compelling protagonist even when he is doing and saying unfortunate things, and readers will be happy to follow along and see just how he manages to sort it all out. The novel ends in an intriguing place, followed by sample chapters from the forthcoming sequel.

A messy but entertaining crime caper.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-73575-090-3

Page Count: 383

Publisher: Master Plan Publishing

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2020

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Crave chills and thrills but don’t have time for a King epic? This will do the job before bedtime. Not that you’ll sleep.

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LATER

Horrormeister King follows a boy’s journey from childhood to adolescence among the dead—and their even creepier living counterparts.

Jamie Conklin sees dead people. Not for very long—they fade away after a week or so—but during that time he can talk to them, ask them questions, and compel them to answer truthfully. His uncanny gift at first seems utterly unrelated to his mother Tia’s work as a literary agent, but the links become disturbingly clear when her star client, Regis Thomas, dies shortly after starting work on the newest entry in his bestselling Roanoke Saga, and Tia and her lover, NYPD Detective Liz Dutton, drive Jamie out to Cobblestone Cottage to encourage the late author to dictate an outline of his latest page-turner so that Tia, who’s fallen on hard times, can write it in his name instead of returning his advance and her cut. Now that she’s seen what Jamie can do, Liz takes it on herself to arrange an interview in which Jamie will ask Kenneth Therriault, a serial bomber who’s just killed himself, where he’s stowed his latest explosive device before it can explode posthumously. His post-mortem encounter with Therriault exacts a high price on Jamie, who now finds himself more haunted than ever, though he never gives up on the everyday experiences in which King roots all his nightmares.

Crave chills and thrills but don’t have time for a King epic? This will do the job before bedtime. Not that you’ll sleep.

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-7890-9649-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Hard Case Crime

Review Posted Online: Dec. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2021

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Densely plotted and replete with incident if you can overlook the insufferable narrator.

WIN

Memo to fans who’ve longed for Windsor Horne Lockwood III, the moneyed, omnicompetent buddy of sports agent Myron Bolitar, to snag a starring role of his own: Beware what you wish for.

Nothing would connect privileged Win with the murder of the reclusive tenant of an exclusive Upper West Side building if the police hadn’t found a painting inside Ry Strauss’ apartment—a Vermeer belonging to Win’s family that was stolen long ago while on loan to Haverford College—along with a monogrammed suitcase belonging to Win himself. The two discoveries tie Win not only to the murder, but to the Jane Street Six, a group of student activists Strauss led even longer ago. The Six’s most notoriously subversive action, the bombing of an empty building in 1973, left several innocents accidentally dead and the law determined to track down the perps. But except for Vanessa Hogan, whom Billy Rowan tearfully visited soon after the bombing to beg her forgiveness for his role in bringing about the death of her son, no one’s seen hide nor hair of the Six ever since. The roots of the outrage go even deeper for Win, whose uncle, Aldrich Powers Lockwood, was killed and whose cousin, Patricia, to whom he’d given that suitcase, was one of 10 women kidnapped, imprisoned, and raped in an unsolved crime. These meaty complications are duly unfolded, and gobs of cash thrown at them, by the ludicrously preening, self-infatuated Win, who announces, “It’s good to be me,” and “I can be charming when I want to be.” As if.

Densely plotted and replete with incident if you can overlook the insufferable narrator.

Pub Date: March 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5387-4821-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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