A dour but absorbing story about avaricious and disreputable characters.



A reformed convict aids law enforcement in a world teeming with corruption and moral ambiguity in Kyzer’s grim sequel to Brutus Nation (2016).

Kerry Douglas won’t have to serve the remaining four years of his prison stint thanks to the Athenian Union Interior Ministry, which has allowed him to join the United Vigilance. As part of this law enforcement group, he has free rein to make a “comprehensive strike against the criminal element.” He goes after the people who supply Athenia City’s citizens with the illegal drug NRG. Some unscrupulous types in his organization, however, have ensured that some NRG pills are coated with a lethal substance; this makes selling them a more serious crime, which allows law enforcement to hit drug pushers even harder. Elsewhere in the city, an owner of the professional sports team the Athenia City Grunting Hogs has a mysterious scheme underway involving the team’s co-owner, a drug lord who’s attempting to go legit. In addition, a local bookie chain is letting gamblers bet with home equity; those who lose too often also lose their houses. This particular venture, by the story’s end, links several characters’ stories together. Although Kerry’s battle against NRG ultimately turns explosive, Kyzer’s novel centers more on noir style than action. The narrative shifts through an impressive number of dubious characters, from a lawyer who works for a seasoned criminal to a couple of gambler friends roped in by the bookie chain. The author primarily establishes the cast members through dialogue—crisp exchanges packed with slang, offensive jabs, and humor, including numerous references to caffeinated energy drinks. There are a few scenes with multiple characters that are confusing and hard to follow due to the author’s minimal use of dialogue tags. The final act is somewhat predictable, but it resolves multiple subplots in a way that’s both satirical and convincing.

A dour but absorbing story about avaricious and disreputable characters.

Pub Date: Oct. 27, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5255-8082-6

Page Count: 174

Publisher: FriesenPress

Review Posted Online: Feb. 8, 2021

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Top-drawer crime fiction. The authors are tough on the hero, but the hero is tough.


Patterson and Ellis put their characters through hell in this hard-edged second installment of their Black Book series after The Black Book (2017).

A young girl is one of four people gunned down in a “very, very bad” K-Town drive-by shooting in Chicago. Police are under intense political pressure to solve it, so Detective Billy Harney is assigned to the Special Operations Section to put the brakes on the gang violence on the West Side. His new partner is Detective Carla Griffin, whom colleagues describe as “sober as an undertaker” and “as fun as a case of hemorrhoids.” And she looks like the last thing he needs, a pill popper. (But is she?) Department muckety-mucks want Harney to fail, and Griffin is supposed to spy on him. The poor guy already has a hell of a backstory: His daughter died and his wife committed suicide (or did she?) four years earlier, he’s been shot in the head, charged with murder (and exonerated), and helped put his own father in prison. (Nothing like a tormented hero!) Now the deaths still haunt him while he and Griffin begin to suspect they’re not looking at a simple turf war starring the Imperial Gangster Nation. Meanwhile, the captain in Internal Affairs is deep in the pocket of some bad guys who run an international human trafficking ring, and he loathes Harney. The protagonist is lucky to have Patti, his sister and fellow detective, as his one reliable friend who lets him know he’s being set up. The authors do masterful work creating flawed characters to root for or against, and they certainly pile up the troubles for Billy Harney. Abundant nasty twists will hold readers’ rapt attention in this dark, violent, and fast-moving thriller.

Top-drawer crime fiction. The authors are tough on the hero, but the hero is tough.

Pub Date: March 29, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-316-49940-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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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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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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