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THE LAST GOOD SAMARITAN

A complex, multilayered thriller that sometimes overly depends on coincidence.

An ex-cop discovers a drug cartel’s huge money stash—but the group will do anything to get it back.

Jack Williams doesn’t feel like a lucky man as this thriller opens. He’s an experienced former Marine sniper, MP, and detective with the Denver Police Department, but now drives trucks for a living. Many would call Jack a hero for shooting a pedophile in the head to prevent him from assaulting a terrified 8-year-old boy, but an “ambitious DA” tried to make an example of the cop. Though Jack didn’t serve jail time and was convicted on lesser charges, he was dismissed from the force and then his wife divorced him, gaining custody of their two daughters and moving to California. But Jack’s luck seems to turn when he’s driving on a steep, winding Colorado mountain pass at 3 a.m. The cargo van ahead misses a curve, hurtling over the side; acting as a good Samaritan, Jack climbs down and discovers two passengers, dead or dying. Plastic-wrapped stacks of $100 bills and other clues tell Jack that the van was transporting Mexican cartel money, probably for laundering. Believing he’s left no evidence behind, he works out a careful plan to safely retrieve, store, and launder $120 million with the help of his lawyer, Henry Berman, totally loyal because it was his son Jack saved from the pedophile. In the Caribbean, whose offshore banks will discreetly take large cash deposits, Jack will start a cover business—perhaps in private charter security. He’s set to make a better life for himself and his daughters—except his luck again turns bad. The cartel wants its money back and a ruthless killer is soon on Jack’s trail. Meanwhile, Ray Cruz, a DEA undercover investigator, becomes embedded with the cartel bigwig whose cash was in the van, and a Caribbean figure plays a double game. When Jack’s family is put in danger, he must use all his skills to tip the balance of luck again in his favor. Thomas (The Kingdom Shall Fall, 2017, etc.) offers a great hook in this well-plotted tale—the windfall that might be too hot to handle. The details of getting, storing, and laundering the money are compelling, and the author thinks through what it would take. Dialogue and police/military elements are also well handled, with a strong air of authenticity. For example, when Jack must undertake a military-style mission, a friend explains the weaponry: “With the fucking kick and impact expansion of the hot 7.62 NATO 175-grain hollow-point round this bitch fires, close is all you’ll need.” The pace is slowed down somewhat by attention to inessential facets or logistics, as in this passage featuring Felix Brillo, a cartel member, and Ray: “After getting Felix situated in the rear seat with his seat belt on, the pilot stored their bags in a small compartment and told Ray to join him in the front.” And at times, the plot relies too much on events extremely convenient to Jack or on coincidence (including one involving a financial matter).

A complex, multilayered thriller that sometimes overly depends on coincidence.

Pub Date: April 11, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-9965607-3-3

Page Count: 385

Publisher: Time Tunnel Media

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2019

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A LITTLE LIFE

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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FIREFLY LANE

Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of...

Lifelong, conflicted friendship of two women is the premise of Hannah’s maudlin latest (Magic Hour, 2006, etc.), again set in Washington State.

Tallulah “Tully” Hart, father unknown, is the daughter of a hippie, Cloud, who makes only intermittent appearances in her life. Tully takes refuge with the family of her “best friend forever,” Kate Mularkey, who compares herself unfavorably with Tully, in regards to looks and charisma. In college, “TullyandKate” pledge the same sorority and major in communications. Tully has a life goal for them both: They will become network TV anchorwomen. Tully lands an internship at KCPO-TV in Seattle and finagles a producing job for Kate. Kate no longer wishes to follow Tully into broadcasting and is more drawn to fiction writing, but she hesitates to tell her overbearing friend. Meanwhile a love triangle blooms at KCPO: Hard-bitten, irresistibly handsome, former war correspondent Johnny is clearly smitten with Tully. Expecting rejection, Kate keeps her infatuation with Johnny secret. When Tully lands a reporting job with a Today-like show, her career shifts into hyperdrive. Johnny and Kate had started an affair once Tully moved to Manhattan, and when Kate gets pregnant with daughter Marah, they marry. Kate is content as a stay-at-home mom, but frets about being Johnny’s second choice and about her unrealized writing ambitions. Tully becomes Seattle’s answer to Oprah. She hires Johnny, which spells riches for him and Kate. But Kate’s buttons are fully depressed by pitched battles over slutwear and curfews with teenaged Marah, who idolizes her godmother Tully. In an improbable twist, Tully invites Kate and Marah to resolve their differences on her show, only to blindside Kate by accusing her, on live TV, of overprotecting Marah. The BFFs are sundered. Tully’s latest attempt to salvage Cloud fails: The incorrigible, now geriatric hippie absconds once more. Just as Kate develops a spine, she’s given some devastating news. Will the friends reconcile before it’s too late?

Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of poignancy.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-312-36408-3

Page Count: 496

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2007

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