Tag Archives: Oceanview Publishing

Come Together

The Charlestown Connection: A Novel by Tom McDonald (Oceanview Publishing, $25.95, 272 pages)

Tom McDonald’s The Charlestown Connection has a little Umberto Eco in it at times.   In the book, a recovering alcoholic and former college football star (before a career-ending injury), Dermot Sparhawk, goes on a chase to clarify conspicuous circumstances surrounding his grandfather Jeepster Hennessey’s death.

The tale is set in the projects of Boston, where virtually every character, including Jeepster and Dermot, possesses varying degrees of shadiness.   In fact, the resolution at the end, though not technically illegal, walks a fine line of legitimacy.

When the clue, “Oswego” surfaces, it leads Dermot on a circuitous and unlikely journey that eventually brings closure to Jeepster’s eventful life.   In the process, suspected IRA members try to discourage Dermot from continuing on his quest; the FBI becomes involved, though this, too, is not what it seems; former inmates come into play both directly and indirectly; and the world of stolen art takes center stage in resolving the mystery.

The reader is occasionally thrown off course, by design and – as with most books of this genre – the chapters are short and the story moves along well.   The reader is brought into the story easily, though after about two-thirds of the way through, the momentum wanes.   The confluence of circumstances that finally come together and lead Dermot to the answer he seeks requires that the reader suspend belief to a large degree.   But, this is a novel – the type of novel people read to be entertained, and it certainly has its entertaining moments.

Recommended.

Dave Moyer

A review copy was provided by the publisher.   “…so entertaining you may want to read it twice.”   Portland Book Review

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A review of The Charlestown Connection: A Novel by Tom McDonald.

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Magic Carpet Ride

The Valley of Shadows: A Novel by Mark Terry (Oceanview, $25.95, 291 pages)

Mark Terry, author of the novels The Fallen and The Devil’s Pitchfork, has produced a “ripped from the headlines” novel about terrorists acting in the  U. S.   In The Valley of Shadows, members of Al-Qaeda plan to simultaneously attack five American cities:  Washington, D. C., New York City, Chicago, Dallas and Los Angeles.   So it’s up to five-person teams assigned to each of the targets to find the terrorists hiding in plain sight, and interfere with their plans to use dirty bombs and maybe nuclear weapons.

Our protagonist, Derek Stillwater, a wild, wooly and instinct-based troubleshooter for the Department of Homeland Security, is assigned to the L. A. team.   Derek and his four team members (who will be under the leadership of Cassandra O’ Reilly, Ph.D., of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence; a one-time flame of Stillwater’s who has little love or use for him now) have just 48 hours to complete their impossible mission.   Oh, and if this isn’t enough to heap on their plates, it seems that the terrorists plan to destabilize the U. S. national election by assassinating one of the two major party candidates for president.   The candidate plans to arrive at LAX for a previously scheduled southern California campaign stop.

Start reading this unique thriller and you’re likely to put almost everything else aside for the next 48 hours, or less, in real-time.   It’s an e-ticket, fast pass, wild ride from start to finish – from Islamabad, Pakistan to Santa Monica – that never takes a wrong turn.   Author Terry has done his homework, having been briefed by members of the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Federal Aviation Administration (an air traffic controller has a key role in the story), and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.   It’s clear that he – like his alter ego Derek Stillwater – has friends in high places, and he makes full use of inside information in the crafting of this all-too-realistic tale.

If you’re a fan of authors like Michael Connelly, Joseph Finder and David Baldacci, you may be ready to join the Mark Terry fan club…  And unless you plan to purchase a new Porsche Cayman S, you’re not likely going to experience a better ride.   Trust me on this.

Highly recommended.

Joseph Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher.   The Valley of Shadows was released on June 7, 2011.   “Terry mashes the action pedal to the floor in this solid Derek Stillwater novel.”   Publishers Weekly

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A review of The Valley of Shadows: A Novel by Mark Terry.

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We Won’t Get Fooled Again

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff: A Novel by Don Bruns (Oceanview Publishing; $25.95; 312 pages)

If you enjoy watching the television series Psych on the USA Network, you’re in for a similar experience reading Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff.   As with Psych, there are two buddies who are most likely under the age of thirty and who insist on having a career of their own making, namely private investigation.   Since More or Less Investigations has only recently qualified for a Florida private investigation license, and neither Skip Moore nor James Lessor [get it – more or lesser?] really knows how to conduct a professional investigation, it comes as no surprise that the fellows are ripe for some hilarious results when they begin sleuthing.

The setting for this humorous mystery novel is a second-rate carnival in South Florida where the number of serious mishaps has been increasing over the past year, enough so that the carnival owners are becoming paranoid.   James takes a job as the marketing director as a cover for investigating behind the scenes.   He convinces Skip, who actually has a “real” job selling home security systems, to spend the weekend at the carnival in the hope of figuring out just who is behind all the trouble.   James has been promised a couple of thousand dollars by Moe, the carnival operator, if he solves the mystery of who is behind the sabotage.

 The humor and antics are portrayed in a somewhat haphazard way that comes off as a bit of raw writing.   There are some abrupt plot turns that are not necessarily easy to follow.   Given the nature of the two main characters who are obviously unsure of where they are going with the investigation, the plot has to be disjointed.   James and Skip are hoping to make as much money as possible without getting hurt by the person or persons behind the carnival accidents, one of which ended in the death of a person on an amusement ride that failed.

The rest of the characters are pretty much as expected, a beautiful girl, a dwarf with a petting zoo and a bunch of carny workers.   Bruns does an admirable job setting the scenes for the action.   The dust and noise associated with a carnival are there along with the quirky outsider attitudes that seem to be required for a life lived from one shopping center parking lot to another.   The book has a cinema verite quality that enhances a somewhat thin plot.   But then, what else would a reader expect from a book titled, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff?

“We wandered through the show, watching carnies weave their magic, selling cotton candy, drawing a sparse crowd to the dart booth, pulling a senior couple to the Ferris wheel, and tantalizing customers with the smell of greasy meat, popcorn, and deep-fried elephant ears.”

Well recommended.

This review was written by Ruta Arellano.   A review copy was provided by the publisher.

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Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

Book of Nathan: A Novel by Curt Weeden and Richard Marek (Oceanview Publishing; $25.95; 264 pages)

“Dan Brown meets Janet Evanovich…”   Roxanne Black

Co-authors Curt Weeden and Richard Marek have teamed up to create a fascinating novel that is part mystery and part life lesson.   Their main character is Rick Bullock, formerly a successful Madison Avenue advertising man who turned agnostic soul saver when his beloved wife, Anne, died from a brain tumor.   Rick has refocused his life and manages a shelter for men in the inner city.   He knows his clients and when one of them named Zeus is accused of a high-profile murder, Rick makes it his task to prove the accusers wrong.

The first person narrative is an excellent vehicle for combining the disparate elements of the tale.   Rick’s thoughts and actions are consistent with a man of high moral principles.   Fortunately, the authors have resisted portraying him as a saintly type.   He is capable of trickery and a little arm twisting to obtain the resources needed to travel to Florida where Zeus is incarcerated.   Lacking funds for the journey, Rick calls in a favor from a buddy in his advertising past, Doug Kool, who is a fundraiser par excellence for a big nonprofit.

The team Rick takes to Florida is a rag-tag group.   Some of them are helpful for the mission (Doc Waters and Maurice) and one is a genuine bundle of precocious trouble (Twyla Tharp – no, not that one).   This reviewer was reminded of The Wizard of Oz and the pilgrimage that Dorothy made with her band of seekers.   Amazingly, the story line manages to stay reasonably tight and manageable regardless of the wide variety of characters.   Oh, did I mention that an extremely wealthy man also plays a part?   Indeed, the reader will discover more than the identity of the killer by the story’s end.  

The values and moral judgements presented are all too real and not off the scale of everyday issues we all face.   Kudos to Weeden and Marek for delivering their message in such an entertaining way.   Highly recommended.

This review was written by Ruta Arellano.   A review copy was provided by the publisher.

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A Tale of Two Cities

Silent Scream by Karen Rose (Grand Central Publishing)

Justice in June by Barbara Levenson (Oceanview Publishing)

Justice in June and Silent Scream have more in common than alliterative titles.   Each is a mystery/thriller set in a major U.S. city with a female protagonist that is devoted to her profession but has difficulty committing to a permanent relationship.   The cities where the action takes place are Miami, Florida and Minneapolis, Minnesota, respectively.   Both women are well-respected members of their communities.

Mary Magruder Katz is a criminal defense attorney in Miami who briefly struggles with her revulsion at representing a man who is being characterized as a terrorist.   Her current boyfriend is Carlos Martin, a wealthy real estate developer with an excitable Latin-American temperament.  

Detective Olivia Sutherland, over in Minneapolis, is the only female member of the city’s elite homicide squad.   Olivia and her partner are assigned to a construction fire when the charred remains of a teenage girl are found among the ashes.   To complicate matters, Olivia must work with fireman David Hunter while investigating this and similar subsequent fires with murder victims.   David is not just any fireman; he’s a genuine hero who works tirelessly on behalf of battered women and he had a weekend encounter with Olivia that still troubles her after two and a half years.

Here is where the authors’ styles set these books apart.   Barbara Levinson, author of Justice in June, is a member of the judiciary in Miami.   This is her second novel.   The crisp, spare descriptions of the characters and location provide more information about the local weather and scenery than they reveal about the feelings that Mary and Carlos have for each other.   Mary’s lack of true trepidation following an attack and a break-in at her house are confusing.   Levinson’s writing seems to derive from the transcription of a journal or legal case notes.  

The story is engaging from a legal perspective.   It is a book that would make a good selection for a young person who is entertaining thoughts of pursuing a legal career.   However, there are moral challenges to the justice system in this tale that are guaranteed to disillusion the most starry-eyed future attorney or judge.   This reviewer was amazed that a story set in steamy Miami is so dry and passionless.

Karen Rose, the author of Silent Scream, has penned 10 prior novels.   Rose, like Levinson, is a resident of Miami; yet she has elected to write about Minneapolis, a city that to this reviewer seems short on passion with a surplus of lakes.   Rose’s history as a writer goes back to her childhood when she was an avid reader and began writing for her own enjoyment.  

Rose has a well-developed writing style that is lush and highly descriptive.   Her novels are labeled as “romantic suspense.”   I was a bit skeptical about just how romantic the story would be.   Bodice rippers are plentiful but a well-written story is another matter.   This is clearly a book for mature audiences; although, given the sex on TV shows and in movies that teens are now daily exposed to, it is relatively tame.   What’s unexpected is the meticulous character development.   Heroes and villains alike are given ample background, motivation and feelings.

Knowing there are 10 prior books by Karen Rose to read while waiting for her next effort makes the waiting all the better.   Sorry Judge Levinson, this reviewer needs more than just the facts, ma’am.

Take Away:   Silent Scream, in paperback, is the one to read this summer.   Recommended.      

This review was written by Ruta Arellano.   Book copies were provided by the publishers.   

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