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Juárez Dance by Sam Hawken

February 18, 2013 by  •
Juárez Dance by Sam Hawken“You are a killer. Here’s a man I want you to kill. I’ll pay you. What else is there?” – Lorena Ruiz

For American hitman Cooper Townsend, there actually was nothing else for many years. A man with a healthy dose of moral apathy, Townsend settled in Juárez, Mexico after a brief apprenticeship with an older assassin and set about making a fine living as a contract killer, primarily for one of Juárez’s largest crime organizations.

The book opens with Townsend taking care of a job back in the States before heading home to Juárez, where he’s met with an interesting job opportunity from his main employer, Señor Barriga–work close protection for the man during a week of negotiations with one of the organization’s biggest competitors.

It seems that depending upon how successful the negotiations are, Townsend may be needed to make a hit on the man, and posing as Barriga’s bodyguard is the best way for Townsend to get inside the gated community and the man’s home for the recon that will be needed should the hit be green-lit.

While spending time at the potential target’s estate, Townsend meets an alluring young woman, Lorena Ruiz, who kindles feelings in him he wasn’t aware he was capable of. When Barriga tells Townsend to stand down on the hit, Lorena approaches him with a proposal of her own, one that sends Townsend down a deadly path from which there will be no turning back.


The Expats by Chris Pavone

February 18, 2013 by  •
Driving Alone by Kevin Lynn HelmickKate was still getting used to the idea of strolling around a foreign city with absolutely no concern that someone might, for any variety of reasons, want to kill her.

When Kate Moore’s husband, Dexter, comes home one day and announces that he’s received an extremely lucrative offer to move the family from Washington, D. C. to Luxembourg for a high profile IT job in online banking security she’s secretly relieved, and not for the reasons one may ordinarily expect. Sure, not having to worry about money anymore and living a posh European lifestyle are appealing, but it’s the life she’ll be able to get away from that’s most appealing to Kate.

Kate has a secret. A big one. Her husband has no idea that when Kate heads off to Atlanta or LA on a business trip, her ultimate destination is more likely to be Prague or Veracruz. Kate, you see, is a C.I.A. agent. In a supervisory position for several years now, she more than had her day working covert ops in the field, and the years of missions and keeping secrets has taken its toll. She’s ready to leave the spy life behind.

Unfortunately for Kate, the spy life isn’t quite finished with her.

Shortly after their arrival in Luxembourg, Dexter begins acting very strangely, keeping both secrets and odd hours. Given all the secrets she’s kept from him, however, Kate tries to give him the benefit of the doubt. But when another American couple shows up on the scene–and shows a little too much interest in Kate and Dexter–her old instincts kick in and Kate begins pulling at threads. The mystery that unravels will change everything she thought she knew, about her husband and herself.


Driving Alone by Kevin Lynn Helmick

February 15, 2013 by  •
Driving Alone by Kevin Lynn Helmick“Demons. Yep, they always come when yer drivin alone.” – Feather Dane

Though he doesn’t literally have “Born to Lose” tattooed on himself, Billy Keyhoe would seem to have been given the karmic equivalent of the mark. Twenty-nine years old, his life has been most notable for its failure to launch. The only thing he’s proven himself any good at is smoking, drinking, and beating on his girlfriend.

Even he’s bright enough, however, to realize he’s hit a new low when in a fit of jealous rage he delivers a particularly savage beating one night, so he grabs a few things and hits the road in his beater of a ’66 Caddy. His intention is to put Waycross, Georgia in the rearview and start over somewhere in West Texas.

When he spontaneously decides to rob Earl’s 66 during a stop for gas on the way out of town, that goes about as well as the rest of his life, netting him a whopping $29 and a pissed-off clerk unloading her shotgun at him for his efforts.

Things seem to take a turn for the better when Billy picks up a beautiful hitchhiker named Feather. He realizes it’s kind of odd she was just standing at a crossroads in the middle of nowhere, but Billy has no idea how truly odd things are going to get before their journey is over.

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Mannheim Rex by Robert Pobi

February 14, 2013 by  •
Mannheim Rex by Robert Pobi“Don’t worry. Whatever’s out there is going to find us before we find it.” – Finn Horn

Still reeling from the sudden death of his wife a few months prior, bestselling horror author Gavin Corlie decides to get away from it all by moving from New York City to the small town of New Mannheim in upstate New York.

Based on a photo and nothing more, Corlie purchases a huge, old house on the shore of Lake Caldasac, not knowing the reason the property has been vacant for decades is because there are rumors it is haunted.

In fact, Lake Caldasac itself seems to be cursed, with an alarmingly high number of people–both locals and tourists–disappearing while out on the lake. Local fishermen are so wary of the lake, they’ve given up fishing it entirely. All but one, that is.

Thirteen-year-old Finn Horn lives and breathes fishing. He doesn’t let the fact he’s wheelchair-bound slow him down, going out daily in his specially modified skiff. He particularly likes fishing on Lake Caldasac, and doesn’t understand why everyone else stays off the lake–until the day his boat capsizes and he nearly drowns.

Having seen Finn, complete with his trademark bright red sombrero, out on the lake early in the morning on the day of his accident, Corlie takes an interest in the boy and goes to visit him in the hospital when he learns of the near-fatal event. Upon arriving at Finn’s room, he’s surprised to learn that Finn not only knows who he is, but that Finn assumes he’s there because of what happened on the lake…after all, wouldn’t a famous horror author be interested in a real live monster?


The Speed at Which We Perceive Threat: Some Reflections by Richard Godwin

February 13, 2013 by  •
Richard Godwin is both an accomplished author and a damn interesting individual. I’ve previously reviewed two of his book here on the site (Apostle Rising and Mr. Glamour), and he’s been a guest once before as well (“Intoxicated Reality”). Today he’s back to ruminate a bit on fear and threat, and how we perceive them.

Richard GodwinHave you ever feared invasion?

A stranger’s hand on your wife in that quick uncertain moment you realise you may have been considering her your property all these years?

The enemy.

Who is he?

The armies that want to lay siege to your city.

And you are powerless and that powerlessness corrupts you as much as all the time you were in power.

From the founding of the America Republic in 1776 to the present day there has been fear of invasion within American culture: of entry into the body politic and economic and into the body-mind system by forces which might impose change, as well as fears of internal disruption which might subvert the national obedience consensus.

Since the British left in 1814, the national boundaries have been invaded militarily only once until 9/11: by Pancho Villa and forces from the Mexican Revolution, who burned Columbus, New Mexico, in 1916.

To separate out some of the fears, six basic categories predominate:


Dead Things by Stephen Blackmoore

February 12, 2013 by  •
Dead Things by Stephen BlackmooreWith luck she’ll be able to tell me what killed her. And then I can go kill it. – Eric Carter

Normally an investigator isn’t going to be able to ask a murder victim who their killer was, but then Eric Carter isn’t a normal investigator. He’s a necromancer, someone able to see and communicate with the dead. It’s a skill he’s leveraged into a career of sorts, traveling from place to place hiring himself out to whoever needs a wayward or troublesome ghost or spirit taken care of.

He comes from a family of mages, but when his parents were killed fifteen years ago Carter left LA and hasn’t seen his sister since. Of course, before he blew town he tracked down the man responsible for his parents’ deaths and dispatched him in particularly gruesome, and final, fashion.

When he’s called back to town with news that his sister has been brutally killed in her own home, Carter vows to find her killer and settle the score. Upon visiting the scene of her murder, however, Carter discovers that whoever killed her deliberately did so in such a fashion that did not allow his sister to leave a ghost behind–all that’s left is an Echo, a supernatural recording of his sister’s last minutes of life.

And as Carter watches the echo of his sister’s murder play out, he’s stunned to see the killer write a message on the wall in blood, one they erase before leaving the scene. Why write a message and then wipe it away before anyone can see it? Because the killer knew there was one person who would be able to see it even after it was gone: “WELCOME HOME, ERIC.”


Songs About Dead People by Stephen Blackmoore

February 11, 2013 by  •
I am always fascinated by what music, if any, authors use to fuel their writing fire, so it is with great pleasure that I welcome Stephen Blackmoore to the blog today. Not only is he here to talk about his newest release, Dead Things, the followup to last year’s highly successful City of the Lost, but he’s going to share a little about the grooves he finds compelling enough to move both him and the dead.

Stephen BlackmooreA lot of writers find their inspiration in music. Songs that speak to them, songs that help them tell their stories.

I’m no different. Like a lot of writers I put together a playlist for whatever book I’m working on. The songs help me keep the thread of the story when I’m not actively writing. The downside is that I’ll put together this list, add to it throughout the duration of the project, and that will be pretty much the only thing I listen to for months on end.

I did this when I wrote DEAD THINGS, an urban fantasy about a necromancer, Eric Carter, who’s forced to come back to Los Angeles after fifteen years to find his sister’s murderer. There’s a lot of death in the story. The guy’s a necromancer. He sees ghosts, talks to them, makes them dance. But the core of the story is about dealing with change. Fifteen years is a long time and when Carter comes back to a home he thought he’d never see again, he’s forced to deal with the fallout of his leaving.

So when I picked out songs I chose ones that spoke to me about the characters, specific story points or the themes I was working with. A lot of them deal with death, or change or making bad decisions. Themes that DEAD THINGS is about. And then I listened to them. A LOT.

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The Green Lady by Paul Johnston

February 8, 2013 by  •
The Green Lady by Paul Johnston“Screw the devil. We’re in Hades’ kingdom, and we have to get out.” – Alex Mavros

As the 2004 Summer Olympics descend upon Athens, half Scots half Greek private investigator Alex Mavros finds himself living with best friend Yiorgos Pandazopoulos (a.k.a. the Fat Man), having finally been kicked to the curb by his perpetually high-strung, and slightly unstable, girlfriend, Niki.

And while the Fat Man is having an intense love-hate relationship with the games–the unabashed Communist is appalled at the obscene amount of money being spent…but loves sitting in front of the TV going on about it–Mavros would just assume have a break from it all.

That opportunity presents itself in the guise of a new job, when he’s approached by the wife of one of Greece’s wealthiest businessmen, Paschos Poulou, with the request that Mavros find their fourteen-year-old daughter, who’s been missing for over three months. Surprised he’d not heard about it before, Mavros is informed that the family has keep a media blackout on the situation, and has been telling friends the girl is on a trip abroad.

Instructed not to talk to the police, who are conducting their own investigation, or any of the family’s friends or associates, Mavros finds himself in the frustrating position of starting an investigation without being able to pursue any of the normal avenues of inquiry one would explore in a missing persons case. Events take an even more bizarre turn when the bodies of two people who were tortured before their deaths turn up in the vicinity of the two towns Mavros manages to follow his smattering of clues to. Neither of the victims is the missing girl, yet there’s something familiar to Mavros about the manner of their death…something which signifies a potentially deadly turn of events for the PI.

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The Silver Stain by Paul Johnston

February 7, 2013 by  •
Paul Johnston“Crete isn’t like the rest of Greece, my friend. We have our own ways of justice.” – Haris Tsifakis

When Athens, Greece based private investigator Alex Mavros is hired by a Hollywood production company to help locate a missing member of the crew, he pretty much assumes he’ll be heading into a strange new world.

Of course, he thought that strange new world would be the hustle and bustle of a big time Hollywood production, not the island of Crete. As he soon discovers, however, Cretans have their own way of doing things, a way foreign to even other Greeks.

Mavros is tasked with finding the personal assistant of the film’s leading lady, something the local authorities haven’t shown much interest in as the missing woman is an adult and there are no signs of foul play.

The film’s producer and director have given Mavros the green light to do whatever he needs, however, as their star is refusing to work until her friend is found. Mavros is good at what he does–he’s never failed to find a missing person–and before too long he’s managed to track the woman down.

And that’s when the mysteries really start to pile up.

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Bringing a PI Back from the Dead by Paul Johnston

February 6, 2013 by  •
I am incredibly pleased to welcome frequent visitor Paul Johnston (he has his own category in the site archive) back to the blog today. From psychological thrillers to mysteries to futuristic to poetry, the man can write it all. Today he’s here to explain how you can’t keep a good character down…even if there is a seven year hiatus.

Paul JohnstonBringing a PI Back from the Dead

No, not Sherlock. Between 2001 and 2004, I wrote three novels featuring half Greek half Scots missing persons investigator, Alex Mavros. I studied ancient Greek when I was a kid, then the modern language and literature at university; I lived on a small Aegean island for six years in the 90s; and I now spend most of my time in Nafplio, a beautiful seaside town in the Peloponnese. So writing novels set in Greece was inevitable. The career of Mavros has been less straightforward.

The first three novels came out in rapid succession: A Deeper Shade of Blue (later republished as Crying Blue Murder) in 2002; The Last Red Death (winner of the Sherlock Award for Best Detective Novel and featured/reviewed earlier on this site) in 2003; and The Golden Silence in 2004. I was following a template laid down by the late, lamented Michael Dibdin in his excellent Aurelio Zen series set in Italy – use a different location for each book, forcing your detective to come to terms with different customs, mentalities and so on (Zen was a cop rather than a PI, but the principle holds). This meant I could create a composite picture of Greece, alluding both to the modern world and each region’s complex back story, from ancient through Byzantine, Frankish, Ottoman and modern times. Greece really is one of those countries that has too much history.

Being an ambitious fool, I also wanted to make every book different in terms of its location within the crime and thriller genre. Crying Blue Murder was a rural noir set on an island full of white houses; The Last Red Death was a political thriller that rooted contemporary terrorism in World War Two and the terrible Civil War that ensued; and The Golden Silence was an urban gangster story.


Sparkle by Rudy Yuly

February 6, 2013 by  •
Sparkle Rudy YulyFeeling bad about lousy business was equivalent to wishing someone would get killed. The job was ghoulish enough as it was. – Joe Jones

Death is in the news every day, and if people stop to give it a second thought they most likely think of the void left in the lives of the living, the emotional mess it creates when someone dies or is killed. Very few people, however, think about the nuts and bolts of death–the literal mess it makes.

Brothers Joe and Eddie Jones have not only thought about it, they’ve made it their business. Literally. Sparkle Cleaners, their Seattle-based janitorial service, specializes in crime scene cleanups. Theirs is a unique tag team, with Joe acting as the face of the business and Eddie the actual cleanup man. And anyone who’s ever used Sparkle Cleaners will tell you, no one can clean a crime scene like Eddie.

He’s so good, Sparkle Cleaners gets the inside line on jobs from members of the Seattle PD, including Detectives Louis and Bjorgesen. When they call Joe to schedule the cleanup of a triple murder–a husband, wife, and their six-year-old daughter–they couldn’t possibly have foreseen the chain of events that would unfold…or that it would get even more complicated when Sparkle is assigned to the cleanup of a seemingly unrelated massacre of six people at a club in Chinatown.