Category Archives: debut novel

Book Review: Casey’s Last Chance – Fast Paced Noir Mystery

Casey's Last ChanceCasey’s Last Chance

By Joseph B. Atkins

Casey Eubanks has a job to do. It is distasteful, but this could be his last chance at getting a new start in life. If anyone needed a break, it was Casey, but if history holds, he will need nothing short of a miracle.

His only way out is to break the union organizers at a factory in Memphis. Easier said than done in 1960, wages are low and the factories are holding all the cards. Men and women work way too many hours a day with little or no breaks. Sweatshops are the norm, not the exception and the women in this particular shop are treated poorly no matter their age. Even pregnant women are expected to work long and painful hours or there are others in line waiting to take their place.

Casey sets up on a hill overlooking the rally, setting his rifle scope on the beautiful dame in charge. Ah, there is always a dame in a good noir, and Casey’s Last Chance is no exception. Ana Gadomska gave Casey every opportunity to kill her. Unbeknownst to her, she was the perfect target standing stock still in the crosshairs of his scope, but for reasons only known to him he did not pull the trigger.

That is when things go from bad to worse for the hitman. The local police were going to take him out, but lucky for him his is a better shot. When Gadomska and her bodyguard find out about the scheme and go after Casey, he ends up jumping from the frying pan into the fire by kidnapping her.

It seemed like a good idea at the time, but now Casey is back to where he started before he took the deal. But he has doubled is trouble. Not only does he have the original people after him but now he has the cops and the wealthy owner of the factory putting a bounty on his head.

Casey’s Last Chance is a perfect noir mystery. It is gritty, has rough characters and the main character is no angel. The writing style takes me back to the old Alfred Hitchcock Magazines I read as a very young girl. Even though his wings are tarnished, I was fond of Casey and pulled for him even in spite of his shortcomings as a person.

Atkins is currently teaching journalism at the University of Mississippi. He is a US Army Vietnam Veteran, a noted journalist and former congressional correspondent. He has written previously published short works of fiction and a non-fiction book entitled Covering for the Bosses: Labor and the Southern Press.

I highly recommend this book for fans of noir mysteries. It is complex, fast paced and true to the genre. I’m looking forward to seeing more of Atkin’s work.

 

Copyright © 2016 Laura Hartman

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy that I can keep for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was not expected to return this item after my review.

3 Comments

Filed under Book Review, debut novel, Mystery, Noir Mystery

Book Review: Dear Zoe by Philip Beard – Heart-Breaking But Beautiful Novel

Dear ZoeDear Zoe

By Philip Beard

196 pages

September 11, 2001 was a tragic day in U.S. history. Tess’ three-year-old sister Zoe died that day, just as countless others did. Many died in the terrorist attack, but others like Zoe died in other places where the magnitude of their death only devastated a family, not a nation. But each and every one are tragedies nonetheless.

In Dear Zoe, fifteen-year-old Tess begins to write a letter to the little sister who will never read it. She tells Zoe little things about her life that she may have told her when she got older. Like how they decided as a family to name her Zoe. She also tells her about how the family she left is coping with the hole left in their lives when Zoe died.

Tess is actually Zoe’s step-sister. Her mom and step-father married when Tess was young, after her mom divorced her real dad, who still plays a part in Tess’ life. He isn’t necessarily a bad person, but is more of a dreamer and sometimes a schemer who always finds a reason not to work.

David, Tess’ step-father, is a hard working family man who loves her. He didn’t really know much about being a father, but got better at it as the family grew with two more daughters, Emily and Zoe. Tess always thought of Em and Zoe as her sisters, never “half” or “step”, loving them both with her whole heart.

After Zoe’s accident the little family imploded. The only one that seemed to be “normal” was Em. The seven-year-old has always been wise beyond her years, but losing the little sister she adored and watching the rest of her fragile family float away from her was way too much for a first grader to handle.

This book is quite possibly one of the best books I have ever read. The underlying sadness of Zoe’s death mixed with the joy she brought to the family in her three short years is heart-breakingly beautiful. Now Tess has to grow up fast and could easily take the wrong path when it is practically dropped in her lap.

Em is the one that broke my heart. She was so lost without anyone to tell her life would be ok I wanted to bring her home to keep her safe until her family was well enough to do it themselves. Em made me cry more than once as she watched her family disengage from the life she knew and she was too small to get it back.

Beard is an extraordinary author. He creates characters that are so well developed they don’t just seem real; they ARE real to the reader. Tess grows up in the year it takes her to write this love letter to Zoe, and it is not without pain. We are swept along through her loss of innocence, hoping she will make it through this personal journey without too many scars.

This is Beard’s first book, and has since written two more, Lost in the Garden and Swing. I’ve read Swing and plan to order Lost in the Garden today. It is rare to find an author that can write in so many different voices and make all of them come to life. The stories he tells are rich and full, giving the reader enough details to pull you into the world he has created with his words without a hint of slowing the flow of the intricately beautiful plot.

I read a lot of books. Only a handful of authors amaze me. Philip Beard is one of them.

Copyright © 2015 Laura Hartman

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy that I can keep for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was not expected to return this item after my review.

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Filed under 9/11, Book Review, coming of age, coping, debut novel, family, Philip Beard

Book Review: The Perfect Game by Leslie Dana Kirby – A Grand Slam for this Debut Author!

The Perfect Game The Perfect Game

By Leslie Dana Kirby

331 pages

Lauren and Liz Rose are excited to be living in the same city again. Lauren moved to Scottsdale, AZ after finishing med school, Liz moved to Arizona with her husband Jake Wakefield, when he became the star pitcher for the Arizona Diamondbacks. The women are especially close because they lost their parents in an accident as children. Even though they were raised by a loving grandmother, they cherished the memories of their parents and the time they spent with each other.

After a grueling night in the ER, Lauren hears the devastating news that her sister is dead. She has been brutally murdered in her home in an apparent robbery while Jake was on the road. She had just seen Liz, and her sister told her she had some big news that she would share later, but now it was too late. The only thing Lauren wants is justice for her sister.

Things go from bad to worse for Lauren as the police are diligently collecting evidence against the killer and it appears to be her. She is furious and adamant that she is innocent, but the investigation is relentless. When Jake helps shield her from the police and press, they found comfort in each other. They spent time together, mostly discussing the case, memories of Liz and baseball.

Because she lived in California, Lauren didn’t know Jake very well. She believed they could become friends until the police arrested him for her sister’s murder. The prosecution had a tough job ahead of them. Everyone knew and loved the gorgeous hunk of a man who was the darling of the Diamondbacks. Who doesn’t love a man that pitches a perfect game and how on earth could he ever kill his wife?

It is said the best defense is a good offense, and that is the tactic used by Jake’s lawyer. To prove reasonable doubt, he implies the police were correct in the first place, and Lauren is the true killer. The press is having a field day, capitalizing on the sensationalism of the trial.

I cannot believe this is Kirby’s debut novel. The Perfect Game grabs you in the first few pages, taking you on the roller-coaster ride of emotion with her characters to the end. You get into the heads of Jake, Lauren, the lawyers and police because her descriptions and backgrounds of all of them are solid and believable. I found myself wanting to yell, “No! Don’t trust him!”.

It is fast paced, with smart dialog that puts you in the ER and courtroom with the characters. The plot is solid, throwing a few curve balls at the reader just when you think you’ve figured it out. As far as I’m concerned, Kirby not only hit one out of the ballpark with this book, it is a grand slam.

Copyright © 2015 Laura Hartman

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy that I can keep for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was not expected to return this item after my review.

2 Comments

Filed under baseball, Book Review, books, debut novel, poisoned pen press