A fast-paced adventure with some emotional weight.


Guam-based U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Randall Dexter “Dex” Kevan Jr. becomes involved in a high-stakes gold theft in Charles’ novel.

Early in this novel, Dex’s father, also a soldier, leads a company of troops on a reconnaissance mission in Vietnam in 1969, and Tech. Sgt. McGovern joins the team. After the mission is scrubbed, McGovern’s group is killed by North Vietnamese troops, and Dex’s dad is wrongly labeled a deserter. Later, in 1986, Dex, an Air Force cargo specialist, helps offload artwork and other goods from various aircraft. When he discovers 137 gold bars onboard a plane, he learns that ousted Philippines leader Ferdinand Marcos seized his people’s property and that the United States government must return it to its rightful owners—but it turns out that gold is illegal for Filipinos to own, aside from jewelry. Instead, Dex plots to steal it, enlisting his colleagues Airman 1st Class Ernie Crenshaw, Airman 1st Class Angelina “Angel” Perez, and Tech. Sgt. Warren Gubler in his plan. Soon Filipino Col. Talan Madulás, the head of Marcos’ death squad, realizes the gold is missing and gives chase. Air Force veteran Charles’ novel feels entirely authentic, and his extensive knowledge of military aircraft and procedure lends weight to Dex’s exploits, as when the character actually steals the gold from a C-141 aircraft. The author’s prose style is largely crisp and direct. When Angel escapes capture, for instance, she chooses a clipped pronouncement over lengthy explication: “I’m no longer defenseless.” At times, the dialogue becomes a bit unrealistic (“I’ll have to check the possibility once I get off duty”), but this detracts only slightly from the compelling, well-paced plot. Similarly, some of the characters’ backstories feel underdeveloped, but every player proves memorable nonetheless—especially for such a relatively compact narrative.

A fast-paced adventure with some emotional weight.

Pub Date: Aug. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-73395-885-1

Page Count: 270

Publisher: Valkyrie Spirit Publishing

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2020

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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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