Book review: Hat Dance

March is finally here, and hopefully warmer weather will soon be upon us. I can’t wait. I’m tired of the cold and the ice. Be that as it may, I have a new book to share with you, this time by author Carmen Amato entitled Hat Dance. You can find out more about the author on her website, on Twitter, and on Amazon. Enjoy!

Hat Dance_final_300pxWhen Emilia Cruz joined Kurt Rucker, an American who ran El Palacio Réal, one of the most luxurious hotels in the city, she thought it would simply be a night out at a restaurant her salary could never afford. Kurt soon announced that another resort in Belize was interested in him to run their property, and he wanted her to join him to check out the potential offer. Never could she have guessed that before the date was over, losing Kurt would be the least of her problems.

In Carmen Amato’s novel, Hat Dance, we meet Emilia, who works as a detective with the Acapulco Police Department, and who helped close down a casino that was a front for organized crime. Kurt took her to El Tigre, an upscale restaurant, where they ran into the popular mayor of the city Carlota Montoya Perez, and the head of the police Union, Victor Obregon Sosa. As Kurt and Emilia leave, their night comes to halt when a bomb tears through El Tigre.

Seen as a potential assassination attack on the mayor, Emilia quickly finds herself in an escalating game of political theatrics, navigating the inflated egos of the powerful while trying to solve a complex case. Complicating it even further is her assignment to a new partner who is openly disdainful of her, and a police lieutenant who appears incompetent.

Adding to her drama, she agrees to accept a personal case on the side, a missing person’s report which alienates her from her partner even farther. In a city where corruption is rampant, and the powerful are known to be on the take, can Emilia get to the bottom of the case before others are hurt or killed?

What Carmen has done is to create a story rich and powerful. The storyline is dynamic, with several threads woven to create a varied tapestry, of lives intersecting at a specific moment in time, of lives hanging in the balance, all depending on her and a reluctant partner to solve a high-stakes case. I enjoyed this book and I hope you will too.

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Previous Review – Solid Rock

Book Review: Marsh Island

November is halfway over, and Thanksgiving is next week. Black Friday is next, which officially kicks off the holiday shopping season. Are you ready? If between the festivities, and the shopping, you begin aching for a moment of peace, please check out this week’s selection. I’ll be reviewing Marsh Island by Oliver F. Chase. You can find him on Twitter.

51XFSc1hJzL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Phoenix Private Investigator, Phil Pfeifer, a retired Army Ranger, made a career of exposing cheating husbands for spurned wives. It wasn’t especially lucrative, but it paid the bills, and the danger was nothing out of the ordinary, that is until Bernice Trimble came into his life.

Mrs. Trimble, first hired the P.I. to investigate the disappearance of her husband in Mexico, and if he could, to expedite an official death certificate to collect on a million dollar life insurance. Once done, he thought no more about her and the ugly episode south of the border, that is until she found him again 18 months later.

What follows is a series of false leads, intrigues, and mysteries that put Pfeifer’s life on the line. With the dying Trimble sure that her husband is alive, this begins the most treacherous case to date. At risk is his career, his life, and at one point even his sanity. For what? To chase the ghost of a man he believes to be dead?

Even after many warnings from his friends and who he believes to be men with mob ties, he continues relentlessly, unsure himself why he refuses to quit. The job puts him in the crossfires, and the biggest mystery is why. Why should his attempt to find a dead man for a grieving wife jeopardize his life? More importantly to him, who is behind the threat?

Marsh Island is a thriller to its core. It’s twists and turns kept me reading, searching for answers. The storyline kept me turning to the next page, only to become more determined to find the answer. Page after page, Mr. Oliver had my heart racing, and my adrenaline coursing though my body, watching and waiting to see what came next.

And I’m still waiting…

This book is the first of the Hirebomber Series, and is bookended by our antagonists, but the book proper is solely the realm of our private eye. We follow him as he fights to find the answers, struggles to survive, and witnesses death.

I found the book as a whole to be well-written, but felt that the prologue seemed a bit unwieldy, only paying off late in the book. It served its purpose to give back story, but I think it could have been better served incorporated into the story. As is, it postpones the beginning of Pfeifer’s narrative, and almost caused me to put down the book.

But after reading the book from cover to cover, I’m glad I persevered. I became engaged with the main character. I felt his frustration at some of the characters who stood in his way, and became enraged by the obvious corruption of many. His was a simple life, only complicated by the desire of a dying woman, and which might end in his ruin.

In spite of its shortcomings, this is a very good book. If you are a fan of exciting thrillers, ones that get your heart pumping, books that are impossible to put down, I wholeheartedly recommend this book. You won’t be sorry.

Marsh Island goes on sale this Friday, November 22, 2013.

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Next Review –  Rogue Hunter: Dark Space
Previous Review –  Lucky Sevens

Book Review: Lucky Sevens

November is here, and with it comes the beginning of the holiday season. Today also kicks-off National Novel Writing Month, and of course, an all-new book review for you to enjoy. Today’s selection is by Cynthia Vespia. You can find her on Facebook and Twitter, as well as her business page Original Cyn Advertising.

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Lucky Sevens © 2013 Cynthia Vespia

What city better epitomizes the struggle between good and evil, sinners and saints, than Las Vegas? Sin City is the American capital of indulgences, of gambling, sex, drugs and alcohol. Vegas is a hedonist’s oasis, where the wealthy congregate, where power resides, where lives and dreams are made and broken. It’s where fortunes are won and lost, and where ultimate price is sometimes paid.

Luck Sevens by Cynthia Vespia follows a motley crew of characters, each with their own journey, their lives intertwined by Saints and Sinners, a casino and main setting for our story.

When casino owner, Charles Vega, is found dead, after appearing to have jumped from his suite at Lucky Sevens casino, the place is sold, rebranded as Saints and Sinners, and life goes on. It’s just another day in the city of sin.

Luca “Lucky” Luchazi, head of security for Lucky Sevens, survives the transition and remains at his position. Lucky’s mentor, friend, and father figure, Vega, built Lucky Sevens from the ground up, and after Vega’s death. Though his job consumes much of his time, he bemoans the changes brought about by the new owners.

The driving force behind the story is the power play between Eddie Zeder and his main headliner, magician Chris King. Zeder, forced to drop out of law school by his father in order to manage the property, is at once out of his league, but has the desire to manage Saints and Sinners to finance his personal addictions to cocaine and later meth.

King, who’s own draw is beginning to wane, had been attempting to hijack control of the casino from the previous owner, only failing due to Vega’s untimely death. After the set back, King attempts to take the reins from Zeder, and a battle of wills ensues, one where not only egos are at stake, but lives are seen simply as collateral damage.

Lucky is caught up in the in-fighting, struggling to maintain order. He is at odds with his boss, who he sees as a petty egotist, and King. As the death count begins to rise, his own life is at risk, as he tries to get to the bottom of the situation. Once Brooklyn, Lucky’s ex, becomes involved, a woman who he still cares for and deeply loves, he knows that he must do what he can to protect her, while trying to protect his tenuous hold on his job.

There’s a lot of elements at play in this book. Like I’ve already mentioned, there’s the war for control between Zeder and King, and their disregard for anyone who stands in their way to power. There’s Lucky’s struggle with accepting his mentor’s death and seeing old Vegas make way for the new. There’s the heartbreak of a failed relationship, and the lingering feelings between the two. Add to it an element of black magic, and you have a recipe for a great book, or the potential for a mess.

Happily, Cynthia delivers, offering a action-packed, sordid tale of sex, drugs, and the pursuit for power. In lesser hands, this would have been a belabored collection of stories that would have clashed, but Cynthia expertly manages to bring to this story to life.

There were, I felt a few missed opportunities. I would have liked to have seen the black magic angle play out a little more, especially during the climax of the story. I felt as though there was no denouement. The action fell away, leaving me wanting more.

Still, this was a very enjoyable read. The best stories invite you in, as if you are experiencing the action yourself. I felt very much as if I were looking at the events unfold through Lucky’s eyes. The few negatives I found were minor, and are outweighed by the positives.

As such, I would recommend this book if you like a compelling story. This is very much a book with adult themes. Sex features prominently a several key scenes. They are written in a tantalizing manner, without becoming obscene. Drugs and alcoholism are on display as well, but again, serve as a function of the story.

The book is now on sale, with a portion of the proceeds going to benefit the Colon Cancer Research Program at Cedars-Sinai in honor of Cynthia’s mother and father.

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