A movie superstar’s shocking on-set death gets the wheels rolling in this increasingly bizarre Hollywood thriller.
Axel Hawk and Zoe Burns, mostly platonic (not his choice) partners at the A TO Z private investigation agency, are hired by starlet Lacey Sills to pursue her suspicions that the death of Montilladan, Hollywood’s “most beloved and most detested star,” is not as it seems. Early on, Wyatt delivers a jaw-dropping revelatory twist. After a reference to Errol Flynn and dialogue that might have been lifted from a 1930s B movie—the director tells his star, “I love ya, Monty. I really do. I love ya”)—there’s another surprise: The story actually takes place in the present day. There are plenty of other surprises to come, some so ludicrous as to be entertaining in their own rights. Some of them are related to out-of-left-field characters. Axel, for example, is an aspiring Shakespearean actor prone to dropping quotes from the Bard of Avon. That doesn’t play well with a cop who has a grudge against him from a previous case. “It’s bad enough…I got to associate with someone who acts in Shakespearean productions,” he growls in all seriousness to Axel. Wyatt doesn’t write with authority or verisimilitude about moviemaking or PI work, which undermines the credibility of his narrative. Similarly, dialogue can be stilted: “I am in a constant state of dolor from the loss of my loved one,” Lacey moans to Axel and Zoe. But if, as one character muses, the movie rights to the story are ever in play, then Wyatt has provided some vivid set pieces that should make for fun viewing. Among them are Axel’s sky-diving entrance on Zoe’s patio, a bathroom beating in which Zoe shows off her prodigious martial arts skills and a warehouse set-to. Montilladan, in particular, could be a game-changing role for an actor who could pull off its seemingly impossible chameleon-esque demands. As a character named Tinker says: “Personally, I don’t think that anyone would believe this.”
A highly organized, informative discussion of the immigration system in the United States.
In this politically charged environment, Afrasiabi manages to broach the volatile issue of immigration in a well-rounded, surprisingly effective framework that combines case studies, historical research, statistical analysis and personal anecdotes to detail the current issues and propose solutions. Invocations of Kafka, “The Twilight Zone” and “Alice in Wonderland” prove warranted as illustrations of the often surreal circumstances that confront immigrants facing deportation. Immigrants usually lack access to quality legal representation, while their situation can be made doubly difficult due to language barriers and significant cultural differences. Afrasiabi incorporates his work with colleagues and students at the Chapman University School of Law to deftly weave together the facts of several compelling cases and their underlying legal issues, with a genuine sense of suspense as readers wonder if justice will be truly be served. Occasionally, though, the narrative becomes overwrought—two federal laws passed in 1996 are “dark storm clouds depositing their sleet”—although, considering the life-changing effects of court decisions, it’s difficult to overstate the ramifications: extralegal rendition of individuals with pending cases and the de facto deportation of native-born children whose parents are deported. Afrasiabi also addresses the legacy of various anti-alien laws in California, as well as marriage equality for same-sex couples when one partner is a noncitizen. As the subtitle asserts, Afrasiabi employs his additional experience in the field of property law to contrast the stark differences between immigration judges and constitutional judges, like their qualifications, vetting processes and even the oaths they take. His arguments culminate in seven concrete reforms proposed in the conclusion. In order to make the immigration system more just and effective, Afrasiabi claims the solutions are closer than we may think; we can implement procedures and safeguards already in place within the constitutional courts.
A persuasive, valuable addition to the ongoing immigration reform debate.
Walkley pits CIA agents against a maniacal Saudi prince intent on starting World War III in this debut thriller.
Delta Force operative Lee McCloud, aka Mac, finds himself in Mexico, trying to rescue two teenage girls kidnapped by a drug cartel. But things go from bad to worse when the villains don’t play by the rules. Framed for two murders he didn’t commit, Mac has two options: go to prison or go to work for a CIA black-op group run by the devious Wisebaum, who hacks into terrorists’ bank accounts and confiscates millions of dollars. However, there’s more going on than meets the eye; Saudi Prince Khalid is in possession of nuclear canisters, with which he hopes to alter world history. Khalid also dabbles in trafficking young women, and harvesting and selling human organs. When Wisebaum’s black-op team targets Khalid’s father, the action becomes even more intense. With so many interweaving subplots—kidnapped girls, Israeli undercover agents, nuclear weapons and a secret underwater hideout—it could be easy to lose track of what’s going on. But the author’s deft handling of the material ensures that doesn’t occur; subplots are introduced at the appropriate junctures and, by story’s end, all are accounted for and neatly concluded. Mac is portrayed as a rough and ready action-hero, yet his vulnerabilities will evoke empathy in readers. He finds a love interest in Tally, a hacker whose personality is just quirky enough to complement his own. All Walkley’s primary characters are fleshed out and realistic, with the exception of Wisebaum—a malicious, double-dealing, back-stabber of the worst ilk; the reader is left wondering about Wisebaum’s motivations behind such blatant treachery.
Despite this, Walkley’s beefy prose and rousing action sequences deliver a thriller to satisfy any adrenaline addict.