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Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Conviction, by Robert Dugoni - a review

Troubled teen Jake has had a couple of brushes with the law since witnessing his mother’s brutal murder and ends up living with his step-father, attorney David Sloane, who is a high-profile lawyer branded as ‘the one who never loses.’ In an attempt to help the boy stay out of trouble they go camping, and are joined at the last moment by an old friend, detective Tom Molia, and his younger teen son TJ.

The boys bunk together the first night in a motel in the little town that will act as the spring-board for their wilderness adventure. Jake robs a local convenience store after-hours and unwittingly drags young TJ into his misadventure. By the time the two fathers awaken the next morning their boys have been arrested, arraigned and sentenced by a backwoods judge with a quick sense for judgment. Think Dan Ackroyd in the ’91 flick Nothing But Trouble but remove any sense of humor. Both teens are sentenced to a locally run boot-camp style detention center, Fresh Start.

When Sloane is unable to get an appeal or a new trial the two fathers make plans to find a way to get their boys released, no matter what it takes. When they start investigating the judge, Earl Boykin, and his ties to the community a path of deceit and greed opens to them unexpectedly. The boys meantime find themselves being used as forced slave-labor for the warden and being abused by a couple of long-term psycho inmates that the guards let handle their dirty work. It becomes clear that there is a force working with them, behind the scenes, and so the plan to rescue the boys is hatched, however neither tandem is fully prepared for the scenarios they find themselves in as the book rushes to a close.

Dugoni will have you on the edge of your seat in an unstoppable force of energy that makes sure you can’t put the book down once you start.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Lola Quartet by Emily St. John Mandel - a review

There’s no going back. Once high school is over, just like Bruce Springsteen says, there’s nothing but ‘glory days,’ rehashing what might have been. The Lola Quartet gave their last performance of the year from the back of the truck and that too was when Gavin last saw his wannabe-girlfriend, Anna, as she stood in the outskirts of the woods. He looked for her but she was just gone. Rumors that she was pregnant where supposedly authenticated when his band mate and best friend Daniel disappeared about the same time.
They all moved on but Gavin more than the others. He got the college degree that sent him to New York to work as a high-powered journalist. Addicted to the infamy, he started glamorizing his stories with quotes that he thought his boring subjects could have said ignoring their real world answers, until the inevitable happened and he had to leave, head hung low.
The shame took him home to swampy steamy Florida from where he escaped to avoid the omnipresent heat. His sister found him work with her firm, flipping homes going into foreclosure, and also showed him a photograph she took of a ten-year-old girl, the spitting image of Gavin; no mistaking the Japanese ancestry. Daniel is now a small town cop, Anna’s sister Sasha works nights in the town diner, and the last member of the band, Jack is living a drug-addled life in a tent in a friend’s back yard. Gavin uses the skills he learned as a top-notch reporter to put together the big picture and track down what appears to be the daughter he never knew about.
The lives the four led since high school took them down paths no one could have imagined, and what Gavin learns shocks and scares him to the core. Be prepared to be surprised.

Triple Crossing by Sebastian Rotella - a review

As a journalist, Rotella tells it the way it is, straight talk, all facts about life south of the border. A Pulitzer finalist, he found many stories he could never fully substantiate, tales all fascinating but unprintable for a newspaper. Taking all these fables, gossip, innuendo, and rumors, he works them into a border story the likes of which you have never read and treats us to his debut novel.
Valentine Pescatore, a wannabe street punk from Chicago is given one last chance to straighten up his life and with the help of an uncle, has found his way to the Border Patrol. In his personal life he is a loose cannon; his supervisor’s a dirty cop and life is an alcohol-fueled thrill-a-minute. He receives a warning after he is suspected of chasing a cholo into Mexico, but finds himself given a reprieve if he rats out his supervisor.
Pescatore finds himself in a gunfight and ends up driving his wounded supervisor to the underworld bosses in Mexico, but once there can’t leave. He goes undercover, joining in the illegal activities and reaching out to agents in the US—when able—to let them know he is alive and working from deep inside the organization.
As the story progresses, we are introduced to the triple border, Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay, the heart of all smuggling, where Arabs and Chinese mix into the flow and money of illegal activities as they move up through Central America hitting the border we are all more familiar with.
With his life in jeopardy, Pescatore does his best to keep the blurry lines between right and wrong straight as he works to keep his cover. Suspecting he is playing the double-agent game, his superiors make arrangements to setup the gangsters; everyone comes in guns blazing. The final scenes will drop your jaw in amazement.
Rotella treats us to a wild ride into unfamiliar territory with the ferocity that the cartels hand out on the streets of Mexico; brutal, punishing, and final.

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