Monday, August 18, 2014

GHOST IN THE MACHINE by ED JAMES - A REVIEW




This is the author's first novel in the series about DC Scott Cullen. He has been a full detective for only a short period of time, and has a very strong ambition to move higher within the Department. He is assigned a missing persons case, which turns out to be that of a young and recently-divorced mother. Friends relate she had a date with a new man in her life, but she never returns to pick up her son and is never seen again - alive.

When DC Cullen investigates her case, which has now become her murder after her brutalized body is found, he discovers a tangled web of deception, and as the body count rises, finds his own life caught up in this twisted scenario. Someone is using an Internet social media site, Schoolbook, to manipulate the victims' lives and set them up for the kill. Who is the Ghost in the Machine?

I couldn't put this one down. The storyline is a very well crafted mystery and the characters are believable and engaging. The police procedural aspect of this novel never becomes routine or stale and it clearly illustrates how a police investigation can never be done in a straight line. Around every corner is a new twist and clue. At times, the police can continue to move forward; however, most times, they are thrown ten steps back and need to regroup and begin again at square one.

What brought an especially fascinating sense to this story was the inclusion of current technology. The Internet, with all its promise and available knowledge, can also be used to obscure and confuse and harbor dark secrets. The police use technology to aid in their investigations, but killers use it too for their own evil purposes. Is there a balance between the two? Does one serve to counter the other? Who can say...

I recommend Ghost in the Machine to anyone who loves a classic mystery and enjoys tagging along with the police (via the printed page, of course) as they investigate a series of murders. There are others in the series, and information can be found on the author's website here.  Check it out for all his work and sign up for his newsletter to get word on his new releases.  I did!

Friday, June 27, 2014

A TASTE OF OLD REVENGE - A REVIEW




When you have the owner of an auto restoration garage with a bullet in the back of his head, an unidentified nude dead man in an empty lot, and a convenience store robbery with a dead clerk, who do you call?  Turner Hahn and Frank Morales, of course; two homicide detectives from the South Side Precinct.

Turner and Frank are long-time partners, as well as close personal friends.  They are that rare kind of team, each of them possessing dogged determination to solve their assigned cases, yet each without the destructive ego factor that would fragment and undermine their investigations.  They think as one and they function as one, and with their latest, they will need to draw heavily on their collective strength, instincts and experience.

During their investigations, doors long closed will be opened and secrets revealed, including some from their personal lives.  Victims' painful memories will touch their lives, and they will discover yet again that evil wears many faces.

Join Turner and Frank on this 24/7 ride-along, but keep your eyes open and make sure you stay sharp.  These two never hitch a ride on the safe train.  They go wherever a case leads them, and dark and dangerous surprises await them with their latest.  Will they be able to untangle the web of lies and deceit that waits for them at the end of the line, or will they become victims themselves as conspiring and powerful forces converge?

B. R. Stateham takes you inside the mind of both cop and killer, and doesn't set you free until you've had the grand tour of both.  Don't start this one until your calendar's free because you can't put this one down until it's done.  You can get your copy here.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

STALK ME: A REVIEW



That evening began much like any other.  Luc and Beth Jordan on holiday, not only recuperating from an attack on Beth by a mugger, but taking a break from the stresses of purchasing their new home.  They were on their way to have dinner at a favorite restaurant, Beth at the wheel, and Luc amused at something on his cell.  The road ahead was clear, and all was well.  Beth looked away from the road for a brief moment, her gaze meeting Luc’s, and in that split second, her life would be changed forever.

After striking the camper, their car flipped upside-down.   She smelled gasoline, and knew she had to get them both away from the vehicle.  Severely injured and confused, she made her way out of the car and onto the road.  She crawled toward the sound of footsteps on gravel.  Was it another driver who had come upon the scene and stopped to assist them?

Lying face down on the roadway, as she turned, she could see a pair of feet and tried to cry out.  She was weak and it was more and more difficult to keep her head up, all the while fighting to remain conscious.  She must tell whoever is there that Luc is still in the car, suspended over the airbag.  She raised her head and saw someone standing in front of her.  As soon as she tried to speak, a foot swung back and kicked her square in her face.  Before she sunk into total darkness, she heard the crack of her teeth and jaw as they shattered.

When she next awoke, she turned and saw Luc on a gurnee next to her.  Paramedics and emergency vehicles had arrived.  She also saw a crowd nearby, kept back by yellow police tape, all leaning in to get a closer look at her and Luc.  She turned back to her husband again, and in the midst of his pain and confusion, she heard him mumble “Sorry…”.

Beth could now see the crowd holding up their phones to film the grisly scene.  Rage gave her the strength to stagger to her feet and head straight for the ghouls who were recording the most horrific day in hers and Luc’s lives.  She lunged at them, prepared to strike, and they retreated, yet continued to record.  She heard the med-evac helicopter arriving as she was restrained and returned to her gurnee by paramedics.  Mercifully, she lost consciousness.

Weeks later, on awakening from coma, she learned her husband did not survive the crash.  On discharge from the hospital, she would be staying at her brother’s place, and it was from her brother that she learned film clips of the scene of hers and Luc’s accident had been uploaded to the Internet.  It was traumatic and heartbreaking for her, but she knew she had to see them.  It was then her real nightmare began.

Something in the clips is all wrong.  Beth’s questions do not bring answers--only more questions.  Those she seeks the truth from disappear or are murdered, and she soon finds herself the target of a stalker.  The closer she gets to uncovering the details and reasons behind the events of that night, the closer she gets to crossing paths with a brutal and unrelenting killer.  Still, she must solve this puzzle--for the sake of her husband’s memory, and to save her own life.

Stalk Me is a dark peek into the dangerous side of technology.  We all have phones, we all have the Internet.  These are wonderful tools for accessing and sharing information.  However, given the depraved curiosity some humans possess to record and share with the world the pain, humiliation, suffering and death of their fellow creatures under the guise of entertainment, these tools can prove deadly in their own right.

You witness a shocking event, you record it, and you post it so your friends can view it and you can sit back and regale them with tales of what a precarious position filming that occurrence put you in.  What you fail to remember is that once your ‘work’ is out there, viewing it is not restricted to you and your buddies.  Anyone and everyone can see it--even those involved in the event, and it can be traced back right to your front door…

Richard Parker thrilled us with Stop Me and Scare Me, and he has hit the heights yet again with this, his third stand-alone novel.  Stalk Me will draw you in, it will excite you, it will upset you, and it will terrify you.  Most definitely another must-read from Richard Parker.

Available today from Amazon here.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

TERRIBLE MINDS FLASH FICTION CHALLENGE: 200 WORDS, PART FOUR

Well, here we are at Part Four of this incredible writing challenge.  I chose an untitled piece, and I sure can't think of what to call it, so I'll leave that for whoever finishes this up in Part 5.  I really hope someone does too--lots of ways this could end.  So, here is one started by Adrienne, continued by j, continued by Smoph, and lastly, by me.  It comes in now at 803 words.  Please enjoy.

UNTITLED

Part 1 of 5 (Adrienne)

The trio looked at the fence in front of them.  It was a simple chain link, but it had to be about ten feet high, and the razor wire on top added another two feet.  He was expecting this, but he was not expecting to have two girls on his coat tails.  He could take care of himself, now he was pretty sure they would all die.

Except for his heavy breathing and the muffled sobs from the girls, it was silent.  The setting sun was hidden by an ominous sky, promising rain at any moment.  He knew what happened when the rain came, so he needed to move fast.  He surveyed the barrier one more time, but froze as the wind brought an all too familiar smell.  He turned to face the direction they were running from.  The trees edging the clearing began to sway as the wind picked up.  He could hear the soft pattering of rain on the leaves.  The air rushed out of his lungs as the storm descended upon them, bringing with it more than just wind and rain.  The three had to move now or accept certain death.

They were coming.

Part 2 of 5 (j)

He picked up one of the girls and hung her on the fence as high as he could reach.  Then he did the same with the other.  Knowing what was coming, he had to take a steadying breath before he started up.  A lost moment was better than panic.

At the top, he threw his coat over the razor wire.  It would help, a little.

He flipped himself over the fence.  He’d taken some damage but it wouldn’t kill him.  For a moment, he thought about leaving the girls.  The things coming out of the woods would find the girls first, give him a bigger head start.

Shit.  When had he gone soft?

He hung himself back over the fence.  The wind tore into him but it was that or what was left of his soul.

He stayed as still as possible while the girls climbed over him.  They were slow.  The sun was probably already down but it was hard to tell with the storm moving in.

Where were they?  Shouldn’t the damn things be on top of them already?

Finally, the girls were over the top.

He pulled himself off, ignoring what he left behind.  Then he dropped down and pulled the girls off the fence.

Part 3 of 5 (Smoph)

What they had to do was find shelter, and fast.  He didn’t fancy being out in inclement weather with these young girls and they were better off hidden from their pursuers.  He could see a barn, edges blurred in the falling dark.  Shelter and a hayloft to hide in were too appealing to pass up.

He set off at a slow jog, the girls struggling to keep pace, their tired feet dragging in the dirt.  He made them go around the barn, through a stand of trees behind, and in through a smaller back entrance with a door that squeaked traitorously.

They waited until it was dark before slowly edging the huge barn doors closed.  With a penlight that grew ever weaker, he showed them the way up to the hayloft, tucked them into some canvas and took watch.  He would wake one to take his place so he could catch a few hours later.  As a precaution, he pulled up the ladder.

An urgent tug on his arm and he was sitting bolt upright, straight from sleep.  Wide blue eyes looked to him out of a terrified face.  Beyond her, there was the squeal of a door on its hinges.  Their hiding place had been discovered.

Part 4 of 5 (me)

“Show yourself.”  The rancher’s voice was deep and menacing.  “I know you’re in here.  I can smell you.”

“Please,” the man said quietly, as he slid the ladder down.  “I have children with me.  We only seek shelter.”

He sent the girls down the ladder; both were crying.  Once he climbed down, he pushed the girls behind him.  He hoped he would be killed first.  He could not bear to witness the murder of innocents.

“I know who you are,” the rancher said.  “You are the ones being hunted.  Do you know what would be done to me if it became known I harbored such as you?”

The man knew all too well.

“I know they’re close,” the man began.  “But, if we move quickly, we can distance ourselves from you.  Or, let the young ones go and I will remain.  When they come, they will decorate you as a hero.”

Both girls wrapped their arms around the man’s legs tightly, tears streaming down their faces.

The rancher stepped back out of the doorway, motioning for them all to go.  The death of these humans would not be on his conscience.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

TERRIBLE MINDS FLASH FICTION CHALLENGE: 200 WORDS, PART THREE

For Part Three, I picked up an untitled starter from Shane Vaughan, which was added to by Paul Them. Part Three comes in at a total of 594 words.  I'm going to give this a working title of Going Home to make it easier to follow.  I hope someone picks this up to continue.  I can see this one going lots of different ways. Please enjoy.

GOING HOME

He is cold. It's always cold around this time of year. The sun decides it's had enough and pops off for a quick solstice nap. Not that he minds. He's used to the cold by now. 

He props his collar up, puffs his scarf to cover all exposed skin; all that dead, gray skin. He tucks his gloves down over the wrists and sucks on the butt of his last cigarette. Damn things never last. His wife used to say it'd give him cancer, not that it matters now. He lowers his woolen packer hat over his brow and stares at his reflection in a shopfront window. He used to recognize himself, now what is he?

It had all happened so fast; the heart attack; cracking his head on the tile floor; the ethereal sensation that he was losing life, as though it were seeping out of a hole somewhere. And then the doctors. The nurses. The scalpel. He saw it all, from outside his body. He watched as they operated, trying so heroically to save his life, but in the end the line went dead.


So what the hell is he doing back on Winthrop street in high Winter, and how did he return?

- - - - -

The door to the shop swung open and closed to a chime of bells. Instinctively, the man flicked his cigarette to the ground and stamped it out. He turned from the window to face a young woman.

“Hello, John,” she called.

John stared at her awhile. He had lived in this town for most of his life and frequented Winthrop Street, but he did not know this woman.

“I didn’t think you’d recognize me,” she continued, beckoning him to join her.

John stumbled forward, his legs stiff and robotic. With each painful step he took, he stared at the red-haired woman before him. She gazed at him with warm eyes and her thin lips formed a half-smile.

When at last he reached her, she took his hand and led him off Winthrop onto Northup Lane. They walked silently past farmlands with overgrown pastures but no horses there to graze; past a lake where a fisher had cast his nets but no fish there to be caught.

They ascended a hill and reached a wooden bench overlooking those vast, empty acres. “Why did you lead me back here?” John ventured.

The woman dropped his hand. “This,” she cautioned, “is your last chance.”


- - - - -

John was confused. Why was he feeling pain and being led through the town he grew up in by this woman? How did she know his name? Would there be no resting in peace for him?

“What’s going on?” John asked, frightened, knowing he didn’t really want an answer.

“Look out into that field, John, and remember. It was a cold November night. You were 17 and out with two of your friends for one last good time before graduation. Do I look familiar now?”

John wasn’t sure how it was possible, but he began to feel sick to his stomach.

“You’re the one we…, I mean the girl they…, I only…” He had blocked out the memory of that night which was now forcing its way back in with a vengeance.

“I know,” she said with a deep sigh. “You only watched what they did. Then, you left town and never looked back. I didn‘t pull through.”

The sudden onslaught of sleet was stinging his face.

“I didn’t…, I’m so…, am I forever damned?” John began to cry.

“Not yet,” she said quietly. “Not quite yet.”

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

TERRIBLE MINDS FLASH FICTION CHALLENGE: 200 WORDS, PART TWO

This is Part Two of the Terrible Minds challenge.  I chose a dark little scene created by Simon B and added my spin to it.  This now brings this little tale to 396 words.  I'm calling it Jesper, simply so it has a title; although, it can, and most likely will, be changed every step of the way, if it's picked up for Part Three, etc.  I really hope someone does continue this, and I'm sure Simon does too.  I've placed his original starter in bold type and my continuation follows.  Please enjoy.

JESPER
WHUM
Jesper was lying on a floor somewhere. He was certain of that.
He managed to open his eyes for a brief moment before they overruled his decision and squeezed themselves shut again. It was bright. He shifted position with a grunt. Body parts were beginning to form an orderly queue to complain about their recent treatment.
WHUM
Jesper spent a few moments panning for gold in the murk of recent memory. Not even a glimmer. The floor was oddly warm. Under different circumstances it might’ve been quite nice.
After some trial and error, Jesper found a way of squinting that allowed him to survey his surroundings without blinding him. He peered tentatively through his lashes, trying to discern shapes from the resulting fuzz.
WHUM
He was in a room maybe eight feet by five. The walls, floors and ceiling were brilliant, stinging gloss white. A solitary bulb set crudely into the ceiling was the only fixture Jesper could make out – no windows, no furniture.
A sudden sneeze forced Jesper’s eyes shut again. He lifted an aching arm to wipe his nose with his sleeve and was only momentarily surprised to find there wasn’t a sleeve there at all.
WHUM
As he brought his right arm closer to his face, the ache became a steadily intensifying pain.  He shut his eyes tightly, then forced them open as wide as he was able.  For a brief moment, he believed a second glance would reveal a more favorable result.  It did not.

From his right shoulder down, his arm was wrapped in several layers of gauze, secured with small metal clips and encased in a clear plastic sheath.  His eyes continued on past the small stump at the end, as if his will alone would cause his obviously absent hand to appear.

WHUM

Jesper screamed.  He sat up and quickly took inventory.  His other arm remained intact, as did both his legs.  To his great relief, both feet were still attached.  His head felt as if it had been placed in a vice, and the pain in his right arm was so severe that tears were beginning to sneak into the corners of his eyes.

“Please,” he gasped.  “Why?”

“Mr. Riley…Jesper if I may,” the voice was deep and menacing.  “Do not concern yourself about the minor procedure performed.  A mere trifle, Jesper.  A mere trifle.

WHUM


Monday, November 25, 2013

TERRIBLE MINDS FLASH FICTION CHALLENGE: 200 WORDS

What an incredible writing challenge Terrible Minds has offered this week.  Actually, it is only Part One of a five-part challenge.  This week, we are to write the start of a story (200 words max).  Next week, we take someone else's 200 words and add 200 more to continue it.  Then, the following week, do the same and so on until a 1,000 word story is complete.  Here's the link to the challenge so you can join in.

My offering for Part One of this challenge comes in at 198 words.  It is only a beginning, and I really hope someone picks it up and continues it.  I'd love to see where this could go.  But, for now, here's Reunion.  I hope you enjoy.

REUNION

They are waking up slowly, one by one.  It has been so long since we have been together--so much time and distance between us.  Fate stepped in and assisted with my plans for our ten-year reunion.  Their surprise will be my sublime pleasure.  I will greet them with a smile, as they often did me.  Mine will be counterfeit.  Too.  As I watch and wait, I remember.

Our childhood games.  Simon Says go play in traffic.  Hide and Seek, and I am left for dead.  Scrabble dictates slit your wrists.  The promise of friendship broken as it was pledged.  Rejected, abandoned, deceived.  Ah, the sweet memories of my youth.

These three companions, these three acquaintances, these three schoolmates, these three abominations.  I did not fit with them.  Or anyone.  They still pulled.  And pushed.  And tormented.

The bars and floor of their cage are wired.  In my heart, I know they will be pleased with this game I have selected.  It will be so familiar.  So typical.  So fitting.

Wake up, my friends.  My very dear friends.  Let us share one last stroll down memory lane.  One more, before I flip the switch and turn on my hose…