An intelligent, fast-paced and well-constructed novel about financial crime.


An FBI agent investigates a possible Ponzi scheme with the help of his new assistant, who may have an agenda of her own.

Sean Murphy, a longtime FBI agent, is between assignments after having gained “quasi-star” status. Why only quasi? “I happened to have saved the Pope. Unfortunately, I did it only once,” he says in his typically wry manner. His new assistant, Britney Hyde-Woods, seems too young for her job, leading Murphy to wonder how she got where she did. When Murphy’s wife receives an unexpected overseas inheritance, it seems like a good opportunity to take a week off, check it out and assign Britney to report on a white-collar crime question: whether a Ponzi scheme could actually succeed for the perpetrator. According to Britney, the answer is no: “It seems the perp always gets caught.” Back in the States, the Murphys—looking for a firm to invest with—come across A.H. Brown and Company, but there’s something about young Miles Brown that Murphy just doesn’t like. The agent explains, “Maybe it was the way he almost wrapped himself in the flag when he talked about investing. Like the importance of, the beauty of, America was all about making money.” The Murphys go with another firm, but he asks Britney to run a sting: Pose as a wealthy investor and see if Miles and Andrew might be running a Ponzi scam. What Murphy doesn’t know is that Britney is already romantically involved with Andrew, and all her research about countries without extradition treaties might have an ulterior purpose. Burson (A Partner’s Hidden Life, 2011, etc.), partner in a CPA firm, makes good use of his financial background in constructing this tight, well-paced and well-researched story. Details—whether of investment schemes, FBI bureaucracy or the workings of small planes—are clear and contribute to the plot. Murphy makes for a likable narrator, though he is somewhat antediluvian in his approach to bright, ambitious young women: Britney’s “attitude could kindly be called a combination of strong willed and free spirited. Unkindly, she would be labeled as a bitch.” Is that unkind, or sexist? It’s hard to imagine a strong-willed and free-spirited man being “labeled” as anything. The novel’s substandard punctuation and spelling also need a cleanup to avoid looking sloppy. Sean Murphy’s adventures continue in A Partner’s Hidden Life.

An intelligent, fast-paced and well-constructed novel about financial crime.

Pub Date: Dec. 21, 2009

ISBN: 978-1439268179

Page Count: 366

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Dec. 10, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2013

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A YA novel that treats its subject and its readers with respect while delivering an engaging story.



In the ninth book in the Bluford young-adult series, a young Latino man walks away from violence—but at great personal cost.

In a large Southern California city, 16-year-old Martin Luna hangs out on the fringes of gang life. He’s disaffected, fatherless and increasingly drawn into the orbit of the older, rougher Frankie. When a stray bullet kills Martin’s adored 8-year-old brother, Huero, Martin seems to be heading into a life of crime. But Martin’s mother, determined not to lose another son, moves him to another neighborhood—the fictional town of Bluford, where he attends the racially diverse Bluford High. At his new school, the still-grieving Martin quickly makes enemies and gets into trouble. But he also makes friends with a kind English teacher and catches the eye of Vicky, a smart, pretty and outgoing Bluford student. Martin’s first-person narration supplies much of the book’s power. His dialogue is plain, but realistic and believable, and the authors wisely avoid the temptation to lard his speech with dated and potentially embarrassing slang. The author draws a vivid and affecting picture of Martin’s pain and confusion, bringing a tight-lipped teenager to life. In fact, Martin’s character is so well drawn that when he realizes the truth about his friend Frankie, readers won’t feel as if they are watching an after-school special, but as though they are observing the natural progression of Martin’s personal growth. This short novel appears to be aimed at urban teens who don’t often see their neighborhoods portrayed in young-adult fiction, but its sophisticated characters and affecting story will likely have much wider appeal.

A YA novel that treats its subject and its readers with respect while delivering an engaging story.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2004

ISBN: 978-1591940173

Page Count: 152

Publisher: Townsend Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2013

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A short, simple, and sweet tale about two friends and a horse.

Mary's Song

From the Dream Horse Adventure Series series , Vol. 1

A novel tells the story of two spirited girls who set out to save a lame foal in 1952.

Mary, age 12, lacks muscle control of her legs and must use a wheelchair. Her life is constantly interrupted by trips with her widower father to assorted doctors, all of whom have failed to help her. Mary tolerates the treatments, hoping to one day walk unassisted, but her true passion involves horses. Possessing a library filled with horse books, she loves watching and drawing the animals at a neighboring farm. She longs to own one herself. But her father, overprotective due to her disability and his own lingering grief over Mary’s dead mother, makes her keep her distance. Mary befriends Laura, the emotionally neglected daughter of the wealthy neighboring farm owners, and the two share secret buggy rides. Both girls are attracted to Illusion, a beautiful red bay filly on the farm. Mary learns that Illusion is to be put down by a veterinarian because of a lame leg. Horrified, she decides to talk to the barn manager about the horse (“Isn’t it okay for her to live even if she’s not perfect? I think she deserves a chance”). Soon, Mary and Laura attempt to raise money to save Illusion. At the same time, Mary begins to gain control of her legs thanks to water therapy and secret therapeutic riding with Laura. There is indeed a great deal of poignancy in a story of a girl with a disability fighting to defend the intrinsic value of a lame animal. But this book, the first installment of the Dream Horse Adventure Series, would be twice as touching if Mary interacted with Illusion more. In the tale’s opening, she watches the foal from afar, but she actually spends very little time with the filly she tries so hard to protect. This turns out to be a strange development given the degree to which the narrative relies on her devotion. Count (Selah’s Sweet Dream, 2015) draws Mary and Laura in broad but believable strokes, defined mainly by their unrelenting pluckiness in the face of adversity. While the work tackles disability, death, and grief, Mary’s and Laura’s environments are so idyllic and their optimism and perseverance so remarkable that the story retains an aura of uncomplicated gentleness throughout.

A short, simple, and sweet tale about two friends and a horse.

Pub Date: N/A


Page Count: -

Publisher: Hastings Creations Group

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2016

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