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Wednesday 31 May 2017

‘Falling into the Mob’ By Steve Zousmer

Published by Permanent Press,
31 January 2017.
ISBN: 978-1-57962-436-1 (HB)

From the publisher:  At 59, facing a dull and lonely future, Phil Vail yearns for a way to put vigor and purpose into his remaining years.  Then he finds the Mafia.  He is riding a commuter train, enjoying a chat with the younger woman sitting next to him when they encounter three drunks threatening violence and rape. Phil is powerless and terrified but the woman is neither:  her father is the caporegime of New York’s Sforza crime family and a cell call brings her three mobster brothers who deal out brutal punishment.  Phil is appalled but fascinated.  In subsequent contacts with the woman he finds himself falling in love and his fall takes him deeper into the Mob.  Then comes the game changer:  a crazy-seeming offer to become a crime boss himself, an offer he cannot refuse.  Phil sees the dark comedy in his situation but tells the story earnestly in a first-person account describing his emotions, reflections and surprising leadership as well as adventures including a sensational brawl with a Mafia kingpin in a posh Manhattan restaurant, a near-death experience in a karate dojo, and a spectacular stunt to force the hand of the FBI.

This novel had me hooked from the first page, something that seldom happens, I must admit,  But the opening scene, which has our protagonist falling in love and falling into the mob in quick succession, is written in so engaging a fashion that it has the reader swiftly engaged in the tale.

Phil, divorced for 3 years and with a 26-year-old son, is 20 years older than Sylvia, the woman who entrances him immediately.  A former client, who also was his last-remaining client, decides he wants to run for the presidency of the US.  His description in this regard may sound familiar to many:  “He had no elected-office experience, no campaign experience, no voter constituency, and no political agenda.’  The author also speaks of a high-lever meeting which takes place in a venue whose guests include “a celebrity real estate mogul who pushed to the front eager for camera time,” a description which might also sound familiar.

Our protagonist muses that he “was finally getting the hang of gangster rock ‘n’ roll.”  The novel references writings and writers including John LeCarre and William Shakespeare, just an example of the erudition and simply wonderful writing found here.  A very fast and terrific read, the novel is highly recommended.
Reviewer: Gloria Feit

Steve Zousmer spent half his career as a journalist, mainly with ABC News, and the other half as a freelance speechwriter for the CEOs or presidents of about 30 major corporations. His ABC assignments included chief writer of Good Morning America and 20/20, senior producer of Nightline, and writer for Harry Reasoner and Peter Jennings. He also wrote documentaries for Discovery, Audubon, Smithsonian World, and National Geographic. He is a graduate of Stanford and Columbia Universities and served as a United States Navy officer in Vietnam. He has written six books: two novels, three books on writing, and a Smithsonian book on evolution in the Galapagos.

Ted and Gloria Feit live in Long Beach, NY, a few miles outside New York City.  For 26 years, Gloria was the manager of a medium-sized litigation firm in lower Manhattan. Her husband, Ted, is an attorney and former stock analyst, publicist and writer/editor for, over the years, several daily, weekly and monthly publications.  Having always been avid mystery readers, and since they're now retired, they're able to indulge that passion.  Their reviews appear online as well as in three print publications in the UK and US.  On a more personal note: both having been widowed, Gloria and Ted have five children and nine grandchildren between them.

‘Sympathy for The Devil’ by William Shaw

Published by Riverrun,
4 May 2017.
ISBN: 978-1-78429-726-8

It's 1969 and a high-class prostitute named Lena but known as Julie Teenager, should be in her flat awaiting her next client but Florence her maid is puzzled to find her place empty.

Detective Sergeant Cathal Breen is called in to investigate when she is found murdered. He is soon convinced that it is one of her clients who killed her but which one? There now begins the difficult task of tracing them all. The only names the police have to go on are made up ones by Florence based on their appearances.

Breen finds out that the local beat policemen were warned to keep away from Julie's road at night. Who could be responsible for such as order? Could there be a policeman with influence involved or does it go even higher? When Breen digs deeper and seems to be getting nearer the truth, more murders are committed.

His pregnant girlfriend, an ex-police officer, Helen Tozer, is bored now she has given up work and insists on helping Breen. The more they discover the more they are convinced that politics come into it, especially involving Russia and the exchange of spies. As Helen becomes more involved Breen begins to fear for her safety, with good reason. He also has the creepy feeling that he is being followed but he wonders if he is getting paranoid or is whoever is responsible just very good at it?

It all leads to a great finale but it leaves Breen wondering if he really wants to carry on as a policeman.

Another great story well written, from William Shaw, I do like his books. I particularly enjoyed the nostalgic feeling of the sixties, I remember all the events he describes well. It is easy to forget how different lives were without mobile telephones, they really do have their uses!

A really good book full of intrigue which keeps the reader guessing right until the final pages. Hurry up with your next one William! Highly recommended.
Reviewer: Tricia Chappell

William Shaw was born in Newton Abbot, Devon, and lived for sixteen years in Hackney. For over twenty years he has written on popular culture and sub-culture for various publications including the Observer and the New York Times. A Song from Dead Lips was his first novel. He lives in Brighton.

Tricia Chappell. I have a great love of books and reading, especially crime and thrillers. I play the occasional game of golf (when I am not reading). My great love is cruising especially to far flung places, when there are long days at sea for plenty more reading! I am really enjoying reviewing books and have found lots of great new authors.

Tuesday 30 May 2017

‘Live by Night’ by Dennis Lehane

Published by Abacus,
13 December 2016.
ISBN: 978-0-349-14287-9

1920s America, with prohibition in full swing. Small-time crook Joe Coughlin was nineteen when he fell in love with Emma Gould, ‘moll’ of one of the town’s key liquor bosses ...

This page-turning gangster story begins seven years later: Joe’s on a boat, with his arms bound and his feet in a bucket of cement. It then goes straight back to the main story, his first heist, where he meets Emma, and followed his journey from petty criminal to the respected and feared organiser of a major liquor racket. The third-person focus is on Joe throughout, so we’re taken right into his world, feel share his shock and pain as the world double-crosses around him, and sympathise with the choices he makes. He’s a likeable gangster, endearingly naive and loyal, vulnerable in his love for the enigmatic Emma, and unwilling to kill. He’s surrounded by a cast of equally-vivid characters: his police chief father, his ruthless best friend, Dion, and top shark Maso Pescatore. The historical background is casually, convincingly done, with deft references to cars, costume and current events. There’s a high body count, though the violence isn’t too graphic, and you need to stay alert on who’s working for who, because that changes frequently. The action builds up to a breath-holding climax and a satisfying conclusion.

A roller-coaster thriller which takes you to the heart of the Prohibition mob world.
Reviewer: Marsali Taylor

Dennis Lehane was born and raised in Dorchester, Massachusetts.. Since his first novel, A Drink Before the War, won the Shamus Award, he’s published nine more novels since then. Lehane was a staff writer for HBO’s The Wire, and is a writer/producer on HBO’s Boardwalk Empire. He has taught fiction and literature at the Harvard Extension School, the Stonecoast MFA Program, and Tufts University.
Before becoming a full-time writer, Mr. Lehane worked as a counsellor with mentally handicapped and abused children, waited tables, parked cars, drove limos, worked in bookstores, and loaded tractor-trailers. He and his wife and children divide their time between Boston and Los Angeles.

Marsali Taylor grew up near Edinburgh, and came to Shetland as a newly-qualified teacher. She is currently a part-time teacher on Shetland's scenic west side, living with her husband and two Shetland ponies. Marsali is a qualified STGA tourist-guide who is fascinated by history, and has published plays in Shetland's distinctive dialect, as well as a history of women's suffrage in Shetland. She's also a keen sailor who enjoys exploring in her own 8m yacht, and an active member of her local drama group.  Marsali also does a regular monthly column for the Mystery People e-zine.

A review of her recent book Ghosts of the Vikings can be read here.