To Speak for the Dead by Paul Levine

To Speak for the Dead by Paul LevineGreat minds think alike. But maybe slightly addled ones, too. – Jake Lassiter

There’s a lot of great thinking going on in To Speak for the Dead, the novel that first introduced former Miami Dolphins linebacker turned lawyer Jake Lassiter to the world. Unfortunately for Lassiter, there’s a fair bit of questionable thinking going on as well.

The book opens with Lassiter defending Dr. Roger Salisbury in a civil malpractice suit brought by Melanie Corrigan, widow of wealthy developer Philip Corrigan. It’s the widow’s contention that Salisbury’s negligence caused a ruptured aorta resulting in her husband’s death. With the help of testimony from his friend and expert witness Dr. Charlie Riggs, retired after 20+ years as Miami-Dade’s Chief Medical Examiner, Lassiter secures a verdict in favor of Salisbury. Case closed, book over. Right?

Wrong. Author Paul Levine is just getting started, and you ain’t read nothing yet. Salisbury has barely cleared the courtroom before Corrigan’s daughter, Susan, informs Lassiter that Salisbury and Melanie have actually known each other for ages, and it’s Susan’s contention they conspired together to kill her father. The lawsuit is just a smokescreen.

Not willing to sit back and let Susan stir up trouble unopposed, Melanie goes on the offensive with accusations of her own, and before Lassiter knows it he and Riggs are performing an illegal exhumation of Philip’s body in effort to get to the bottom of things…that’d be some of the addled, questionable thinking.

The Devil She Knows by Bill Loehfelm

The Devil She Knows by Bill LoehfelmWhen your girl-on-a-dark-street alarm goes off, you listen. Every damn time. – Maureen Coughlin

It’s only a few pages into author Bill Loehfelm’s newest book, The Devil She Knows, that Maureen Coughlin’s girl-on-a-dark-street alarm goes off, and it keeps ringing for 300+ pulse-pounding pages.

Twenty-nine year old Maureen is slogging her way through life working never-ending shifts as a waitress at The Narrows, a wannabe upscale bar located in a rough part of Staten Island. She knows if she doesn’t do something to make a major change in her life soon she’s gonna end up a “lifer” on the bar scene, a fate she’s desperate to avoid.

She soon has more to worry about than long hours and bad tips, however, when leaving the bar in the wee hours of the morning she inadvertently stumbles upon the bar manager, Dennis, giving oral sex to local hot-shot and candidate for Senate Frank Sebastian. Quickly understanding that what she’s seen puts her in an awkward position – and one Sebastian may find to be a threat – Maureen assures both men she has no intention of breathing a word of it to anyone.

And she wouldn’t have, until she learns the next day that Dennis has been found dead on the railroad tracks not too far from The Narrows. Though the police are inclined to chalk it up as either an accident or suicide, Maureen can’t help but wonder if something more sinister happened. When she returns home to find her apartment has been broken into Maureen becomes convinced Sebastian killed Dennis to keep him quiet, and that she’s next.

The Razor Gate by Sean Cregan

Razor Gate by Sean Cregan“We as a species have a deep need to believe that there is a purpose to our lives, something greater than ourselves.”
– Shepherd Arcus

Death. It’s not a pleasant topic under even the best of circumstances. And even though we all know we’re going to die eventually, the idea that there are things we can do to live healthy and prolong our lives gives us at least some feeling of comfort and control.

But what if you knew exactly when you were going to die? Not only did you know, but that it was exactly 1 year away and there was absolutely nothing you could do to prolong or prevent it? That’s the situation facing the “Clocks” in author Sean Cregan’s The Razor Gate.

Someone in Newport City has developed a powerful new medical technology, and unfortunately for the populace it’s being used in a terrifying way. People are being randomly taken, injected with a fatal virus, and returned. Sometimes they’re returned to where they were taken from, other times they wake up in a random location. Always, however, they find a note informing them they have exactly one year to live, and that their countdown to death is irreversible. They have been given The Curse.

Blow by Blow: When Do Reviewers Reveal Too Much? by Bill Loehfelm

Today I welcome Dr. Bill to the blog to talk about blow jobs. Ok, Bill Loehfelm’s not really a doctor, he’s an author, but he will be talking about blow jobs. At least with regard to how a pivotal scene in his latest book, The Devil She Knows, has been blown (sorry, couldn’t resist) by nearly every review to date. In all seriousness, The Devil She Knows has been receiving rave reviews, including stars from both Publishers Weekly and Booklist. I’ll be posting my review tomorrow, but for now I’ll tun things over to Dr. Bill.

Bill LoehfelmThe reviews for The Devil She Knows have been the best of my career, which is, of course, a good thing. You always believe that your new work is your best, and it helps if the people reading it think the same way. The best of the best, from Booklist, was also my first review with the word fellate used in the opening line, or anywhere else in a review for that matter.

I’m learning to live with the fact that reviews, good or bad, can be spoilery. As a crime fiction author, I do my best to pack as much suspense and as many surprises into the book as possible without destroying the story’s credulity, and though I understand the challenges of reviewing (like making the point of what captured your interest) I still get a little tweaked when someone reveals a surprise I’ve carefully arranged and timed. And I emphasize a little, because gratitude for the time and effort always comes first – even when I get toasted.

Plus, reviews are one of the only ways to see if certain choices land with the intended impact; the audience never quite sees the work exactly the way the artist intended, and I find that fascinating and part of the fun.

In The Devil She Knows, a key early event gets mentioned in every review – one that I had planned as a surprise and a shock, though that’s a hope I have since abandoned. (Obviously, since I’m discussing it here) No one, it seems, can resist talking about a blow job. Especially when that blow job, or more specifically, witnessing it, is the critical act that sets the plot in motion. (If a politician gets head after hours in an empty bar and no one is there to see it, is it still a scandal? ‘Cause it is if someone does see it.) It’s been fun watching the euphemisms abound in the varying publications.

The Serial Killer’s Daughter by Heywood Gould

The Serial Killer's Daughter by Heywood Gould“You don’t have to get your ass in trouble protectin’ somebody who’s not bein’ honest with you.” – Detective Sergeant John McVickers

Too late. The Serial Killer’s Daughter, the latest offering from Heywood Gould, screenwriter of Fort Apache, the Bronx, doesn’t even make it into double digit page numbers before college senior Peter Vogel finds himself in a world of trouble.

When Peter, an English major and teaching assistant, strikes up a deal with beautiful classmate Hannah Seeley to ghostwrite “A” papers for her in exchange for sex he thinks it’s a deal that’s too good to be true. He should have trusted his big head not the little one, because after a brief but intense relationship Hannah disappears without explanation.

Peter finishes out his final semester, graduates, and moves on to a teaching placement job all the while wondering what happened to Hannah. When she suddenly reappears on his doorstep, in a completely different city no less, Peter has no idea the whirlwind of trouble she’s brought with her.

He finds out soon enough, when on their very first night together home invaders descend upon Peter’s apartment. He manages to fend them off, and is initially reassured when the police inform him the attackers have been located…until he learns they are dead in an alley a stone’s throw from Peter’s apartment. That they were known drug users causes the police to believe either Peter or Hannah are involved with drugs, and that the crime was not random. Well, the police were half right anyway.

Wolf’s Paw by Tristan de Chalain

Wolf's Paw by Tristan de ChalainAre not all our struggles and trials really the same? The never-ending quest to fully appreciate who we are, why we are, and of what depths and heights we are truly capable? – Sharon Denholme Proctor

Aaron Ryan is an incredibly dangerous man. Early in his enlistment in the military he was pegged as having the special talent and right temperament to make him a covert intelligence agent. He was trained accordingly, and over time only became more and more deadly as his skills evolved to keep pace with his near sociopathic personality.

Neill Proctor is a plastic surgeon who works at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia. He and his wife, Sharon, also a physician, are originally from South Africa. Their time there during the horrific events of the South African Border War exposed them to the brutalities that men are capable of inflicting upon one another.

Unbeknownst to the Proctors, it also exposed them in passing to Aaron Ryan, himself in the region during the war in his capacity as a covert operative. Little could they have known they would cross paths with Ryan again, and that the horror they sought to escape would not only follow them to the U.S., but show up on their very doorstep.

My Cinematic Alphabet

My Cinematic Alphabet Once again Le0pard13 over at It Rains… You Get Wet has hipped me to another cool meme that’s making its way across the blogosphere. This time it’s My Cinematic Alphabet, which looked like such fun I couldn’t resist giving it a go.

I based my answers on films I never tire of watching, and while there were a few clear cut choices most were pretty difficult…except for Z, for which I legitimately have no answer. All in all I think the list is a pretty accurate reflection of my general taste in movies.

What, if anything, it says about my personality in general, well, I leave that to those who know me to decide.

A is for Aliens
B is for Blade Runner

Waiting For Pops by John Philip Riffice

Waiting For Pops by John Philip Riffice“People do what they want to and don’t do what they don’t want to. That’s all there is to it.” – Johnny Ryba

Young Johnny Ryba’s life is shattered the morning he wakes to the news his dad, his Pops, has been killed in a car accident. Up until that morning Johnny’s little corner of the world in 1950’s Chicago had been perfect, at least as long as Pops was around. Sure his mom drinks a little too much and his younger, special needs sister is a handful at times, but Pops always came through.

Even when he worked extra shifts to make ends meet, Pops always made time in the evenings and on weekends to spend with Johnny and his sister. Once Pops is gone, however, Johnny is left to deal with both his mother’s ever increasing downward spiral into alcoholism as well as the abuse that accompanies it. Through it all Johnny remembers Pops and the things he taught him, the way a “decent man” behaves.

Those memories of what a decent, hard-working man his Pops was carry Johnny through his teenage years and into adulthood, serving as the foundation upon which Johnny builds his life. And just when you think Johnny’s reached the point where he’s comfortable with himself, with life, author John Riffice throws one of the wickedest curves I never saw coming into the mix.

Borrowed Trouble by JB Kohl and Eric Beetner

Spoiler Alert: Key details from One Too Many Blows To The Head are revealed in Borrowed Trouble.

Borrowed Trouble by JB Kohl and Eric BeetnerLast time I set out to help someone things didn’t go too well. – Ray Ward

Ray’s luck isn’t faring much better in Borrowed Trouble, authors J.B. Kohl and Eric Beetner’s sequel to One Too Many Blows To The Head. Still mourning his brother’s death and the resulting carnage that followed, Ray is disarmed when he receives a package from California in the mail from his sister containing a reel of 8mm film and a plea for help.

The film depicts a brutal sexual assault, and as disturbing as that is, what makes the package truly disturbing to Ray is that to his knowledge he doesn’t have a sister. The letter contains enough details, however, to convince him that it’s legit. Determined not to lose another sibling, Ray resolves to do everything he can to help her.

Being as he’s a second-tier boxing manager in Kansas City, Ray’s not entirely sure how to go about things and so turns to his former nemesis – and now former police officer – Dean Fokoli, who’s working as a private investigator. Making it clear that he’ll be coming along, Ray hires Fokoli to go to Hollywood and track down his sister. Little could they have imagined that the film Ray was sent was only the tip of the iceberg, and that the bright lights of Hollywood only serve to cast even darker shadows.

this letter to Norman Court by Pablo D’Stair

this letter to Norman Court by Pablo D’Stairthis letter to Norman Court is a novella consisting of 22 sections (each around 1250 words) I am releasing by way of serializing the piece across blogs, by reader request.

A little hub site is set up at that has a listing of the blogs that have featured or will feature sections—please give it a look, get yourself all caught up if the below piques your interest. It is my simple hope to use this as a casual, unobtrusive way to release this material to parties interested.

As of now the 22 slots have all been requested (cheers to everyone for that) but if you enjoy what you read please do get in touch with me via I welcome any and all comments on the piece (positive, negative, or ambivalent) or general correspondence about matters literary.


Pablo D’Stair

The Cleansing Flames by R.N. Morris

The Cleansing Flames by R.N. MorrisNo, you couldn’t leave anything to the people. You had to take up the cudgels on their behalf, even if it meant a few hundred of them were incinerated in the process. – Demyan Antonovich Kozodavlev

The Cleansing Flames, the fourth book in author R.N. Morris’ series featuring Russian Magistrate Porfiry Petrovich, finds spring creeping upon St. Petersburg. But as the snow and ice recede, the fires begin to burn. Fresh on the heels of revolution in Paris, pockets of radicals in Russia’s capital are sowing the seeds of revolution. Part of their manifesto includes setting fires to notable properties in order to burn down, literally and figuratively, the symbols of the perceived failures of Tsar Alexander II’s reforms.

Amidst this chaos, Porfiry and his partner, junior magistrate Pavel Pavlovich Virginsky, are called upon to investigate a body found in the newly thawed Winter Canal. An anonymous tip to Porfiry alerts him to the possibility there are larger implications to the body than a simple murder, implications which lead Porfiry’s investigation in the direction of the radicals at the heart of the city’s unrest.

Virginsky, for his part, takes advantage of a random meeting with a man believed to be one of the revolutionaries by using the connection to infiltrate the group. The further he gets into the group, however, the more he finds himself sympathizing with their cause. As events continue to unfold Virginsky’s loyalties are put to the test, forcing him to choose between his head and his heart.

The Last Red Death by Paul Johnston

Paul JohnstonLike the gun-slingers in the movies, there were things you couldn’t say no to, there were things you had to do. – Grace Helmer

At its bare-bones, The Last Red Death has a deceptively straightforward premise: a woman who witnessed the murder of her diplomat father when she was a child returns to the county where it happened and hires a local private investigator to help her track down the man responsible for the murder. As with any great thriller worth its salt, however, things aren’t that straightforward.

The woman, American Grace Helmer, didn’t witness a random act of violence or mugging gone wrong. No, her father was murdered by Iraklis, a rogue offshoot of the Communist Party in Greece which was responsible for a string of terrorist activity in the 70s. And the investigator she hires, Alex Mavros, is himself searching for someone, his brother, who was last seen at an underground resistance meeting thirty years prior.

Further, the recent murders of two high-profile businessmen, both marked with Iraklis’ signature calling card, seems to herald the return of the group after over a decade of dormancy. Tracking down the answers Alex and Grace want may get messy, but like those movie gunslingers, there are some things you just have to do.

On Death – Not Necessarily Terminal, Not Necessarily Red by Paul Johnston

Today I am pleased to welcome Paul Johnston for a guest post. Though he’s criminally under-the-radar here in the States, Paul is the accomplished author of three different series: the Matt Wells series (featuring investigative crime reporter Wells), Quint Dalrymple series (crime-SF crossover novels set in a futuristic Edinburgh), and the Greece-set Alex Mavros series. It’s that last series Paul is talking about today, and from which The Last Red Death, the book I will be reviewing tomorrow, comes.

Paul JohnstonThe second of my Greece-set novels, The Last Red Death, first saw the light of day in 2003 and was republished in 2009. So why the hell am I writing about it now?

Some background. I was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, and studied classics there and at Oxford. But the formative period in my life was the six months I spent as a somewhat ham-fisted tour guide in Greece between school and college. Obviously I was already fascinated by ancient Greek literature and history, but the experience of the ‘real’ country and its people turned me on to the modern culture and language – to the extent that I changed my degree and ended up majoring in Modern Greek.

From then on, I was interested only in returning to the country to live, something I finally managed in 1987. I’ve been moving between the UK and Greece ever since, but now spend much more time in our new home in Nafplio, a beautiful seaside town in the Peloponnese, about 100 miles southwest of Athens.

After writing a series of five crime-SF crossover novels set in a futuristic Edinburgh, I finally found the time (and publishing contract) to do what I’d really been wanting to do for years – write crime novels set in Greece. Note: this was in 2000, well before the current financial woes that are ripping the country apart – back then there wasn’t much crime, apart from corruption. But there was no shortage of other problems. One of them was the caustic effect of sudden tourism-based prosperity in previously dirt-poor island communities. I wrote about that in A Deeper Shade of Blue, republished as Crying Blue Murder.