A true crime memoir that reads like a thriller! The takedown of the notorious street gang, MS-13, is described in Operation Devil Horns.
“A special agent is never—ever—off duty.”
MS-13 expanded from El Salvador throughout Central America to Los Angeles and finally San Francisco’s Mission District. Local cops were unable to stop the gang’s crime and violence. The city’s sanctuary status ties their hands. Sanctuary cities vow not to deport illegal aliens or help the federal government to do so, which takes away a significant law enforcement tool. The San Francisco Police Department was unable to deport illegals to break up the gang. Enter the feds.
Santini, a federal special agent, finds two gang members, Diego and Casper, to report on the gang’s activities. By threatening them with deportation and offering the carrot of legality and witness protection, he was able to turn two hardcore gang bangers into rats. His goal was to use the federal RICO statute, already used to break up mafia families, against the 20th Street MS-13 gang.
Operation Devil Horns is a superb book. It is perfect for true crime and mafia fans. However, it is also highly recommended for thriller readers. I loved getting a behind the scenes story about how gangs work and how law enforcement brings them down. 5 stars!
Thanks to the publisher, Rowman & Littlefield, and NetGalley for an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.
Posted in Mystery & Thrillers, New Books, Non-fiction Tagged with: memoir, Oct 9 2018, true crime
In Be Our Ghost, Kate and her grandmother, Liza, run a bed and breakfast in coastal Oregon. When a local businessman is found dead, they investigate to exonerate a local business owner. Soon they are uncovering oodles of secrets in this fine cozy mystery.
Norman wants to open a large arcade in small town, Sully’s Landing. When he is found dead shortly before the planning commission’s vote, suspicion falls on commission member, Doug. Doug, the outspoken owner of the town’s hardware store/pub/restaurant, has venomously opposed the arcade and was seen near the scene of the crime. Liza is convinced that Doug cannot be the murder. As Liza and Melanie investigate, they are assisted by Cindi, their millennial assistant at the inn, and Orville, the inn’s mysterious laughing ghost.
I loved the small town setting in coastal Oregon. All the characters were believable. The mystery was clever and the writing well done. My only complaint was that I want more of Orville’s history and motivation. Why is he haunting the inn? How do they know his name is Orville? Also, other than cooking breakfast, we rarely see the mechanics of running the inn, which would be an interesting subplot.
Be Our Ghost is the third book in the Merry Ghost Inn Mystery series but it works fine as a stand-alone. The characters are engaging, and the mystery is intriguing. It is an excellent choice for a blustery fall afternoon read for cozy mystery fans. 4 stars!
Thanks to Crooked Lane Books and NetGalley for an advance copy in exchange for my honest review.
Posted in Mystery & Thrillers, New Books Tagged with: cozy mystery, Oct 9 2018
The Witch Elm was an acceptable family drama but not much of a thriller.
Toby is a lucky privileged jerk. His girlfriend, Melissa, is a sweet bubblehead. After celebrating his ability to talk his way out of a possibly career-ending mistake at work, Toby goes home. There he surprises two burglars, who promptly beat the tar out of him. While his broken ribs and tailbone will heal, his facial scars and head injury possibly will not fade with time. Toby’s lucky days are over.
While recuperating, Toby stays with his Uncle Hugo, who is dying of brain cancer at Ivy House. When a skull is discovered in the Witch Elm, Toby decides to investigate. Toby is literally the worst detective ever. However, he does stumble over some secrets.
Overall, I didn’t like the pacing of the Witch Elm. It seemed overlong with an extremely slow build to the mystery. While the conclusion was shocking, I’m not convinced that it was worth the six hours of my time to get there. If this had been marketed more as literary fiction rather than a thriller, the pacing would have made more sense. However, it is hard not to rate this based on the author’s previous excellent Dublin Murder Squad series. The Witch Elm is recommended only for fans of family drama and literary fiction rather than mystery or thriller fans. 3 stars.
Thanks to the publisher, Viking Books, and Edelweiss+ for an advance copy in exchange for my honest review.
Posted in Literary Fiction, Mystery & Thrillers, New Books Tagged with: family drama, Oct 9 2018
All kinds of lunches, dinners and holiday meals are included in Simply Bento.
This cookbook includes Japanese, sandwich, noodle, rice and sushi bento recipes. It has a full chapter featuring vegan bento recipes and another for low carb bento. Each entree’s recipe comes with suggestions for side dishes and a make-ahead plan. Most recipes include a beautiful full color picture.
As a lover of Japanese culture through manga and anime, I want to create a real bento box for myself. Only three things stand in my way: being gluten free; not having any time to cook anything, even breakfast, in the morning; and not being a great chef. While this cookbook doesn’t provide allergen information, the recipe ingredients can be easily reviewed and substituted if necessary. The second issue means that almost all of these recipes have to wait for the weekend for me (and I assume many others) to have the time to cook them. Many of the cooking techniques require at least a medium skill set. If you are a beginning chef, it’s probably better to start with an easier book.
I loved the instructions for loading up your pantry with Japanese staples. Simply Bento includes instructions to make most of the Japanese sauces, like teriyaki and sweet and sour, from scratch. I also loved the cute side dishes like cherry tomatoes stuffed with cottage cheese and Tako (octopus) Sausage made with cocktail franks. Some of the recipes are traditional Japanese and some are Americanized like Taco Rice, Hamburger and Hot Dog Bento.
Love Japanese culture? want to try something different for lunch? Have an extra 30 minutes in the morning and some good knife skills? Simply Bento is highly recommended for you. Unfortunately, due to the lack of nutritional information, I have to take off 1 star leaving Simply Bento with 4 stars.
Thanks to Quarto, Race Point Publishing and NetGalley for an advanced copy.
Posted in Non-fiction Tagged with: Cookbook, Japanese, Oct 9 2018
Light and easy cozy mystery set in the world of talent agent, Kay, who provides animal actors to television and film productions. Bird, Bath and Beyond is a nice afternoon’s entertainment with no graphic violence or language.
Celebrity parrot, Barney, is the sole witness to the death of television star, Dray. When Detective Bostwick asks Kay to question the parrot, she explains that it takes hours to teach parrots to speak specific phrases. Immediately, Barney says “Put down the gun.” When Bostwick arrests a suspect, the suspect asks Kay, who is also an attorney, to represent them. Since Kay is an entertainment lawyer, she calls on a defense attorney for help. However, she decides to also try to find the real murderer.
Bird, Bath and Beyond is the second in the Agent to the Paws Mystery series but can be read as a stand-alone. The humor and animals are the best part of this cozy mystery. There are many funny sub-plots such as her new gigantic dog, her theatrical parents, her love interest and her aspirational assistant. Despite some red herrings, the mystery was relatively easy to solve.
This book is recommended to readers of Stephanie Plum who want a more family-oriented read. 3.5 stars!
Thanks to the publisher, Minotaur Books, and NetGalley for providing an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.
Posted in Mystery & Thrillers, New Books Tagged with: cozy mystery, dogs, Oct 9 2018
A killer is stalking Wheatfield, a miracle is seen at the local church and Virgil Flowers is on the case in Holy Ghost.
The mayor of tiny Wheatfield Minnesota was selected as a joke. However, he and his teenage partner come up with a con that might just save the town.
The Virgin Mary is appearing at the local church. The faithful are flocking into town. The general store recently opened by the con men is doing an excellent business. There is just one problem. Someone is shooting the faithful. Virgil Flowers, Bureau of Criminal Apprehension agent, is called in to track down the shooter.
While Holy Ghost is a good police procedural, I missed the craziness that usually follows Flowers around. I enjoyed the plot and the characters. The comedy of country scammers figuring out who the killer was ahead of Virgil and the police was priceless. I was utterly wrong about the killer’s identity but I don’t see a way anyone could have figured it out before the reveal.
While this isn’t the best of the series, Holy Ghost is still very good. While it will be frustrating to armchair detectives, it is recommended to thriller readers and fans of the series. 4 stars!
Thanks to the publisher, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, and NetGalley for providing an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.
Posted in Mystery & Thrillers, New Books Tagged with: Oct 9 2018, Virgil Flowers
Melding hard-boiled noir with a post-Facebook breach world is a brilliant idea. When nothing is private, the world’s only choice is to turn to Analog Volume 1.
In 2023, Jack is a Ledger Man, a paper jockey hired to move confidential papers from place to place. He also literally broke the Internet. Now people have no privacy at all. Many welcome the all access. For those that don’t, Jack is hired.
The government wants to break up Jack’s monopoly on confidentiality. “Aunt Sam” uses Jack’s loved ones to coerce him to breach his clients’ documents. An old enemy returns forcing Jack to retreat. Jack is in hiding but not for long…
Analog Volume 1 has excellent worldbuilding. The art is suitably dark. I just wish that the characters were more fleshed out. I’m unclear about the back stories and underlying motivations of all three main characters: Jack, his father and Oona, Jack’s girlfriend. I also expected more sarcastic humor from the author of Deadpool. Hopefully, future volumes will fulfill my wishes. I will definitely pick up the next one because the setting is incredible.
Putting noir characters in a future setting has been done before. Fans of those tales like Blade Runner and Looper will enjoy this dark look into the future. 3.5 stars.
Thanks to Image Comics and Edelweiss+ for an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.
Posted in Graphic Novel, New Books, Science Fiction Tagged with: Oct 9 2018
Warning: The Book of Onions contains no onions at all. Instead it contains darkly humorous single page cartoons about life.
Have you ever wondered how Ronald McDonald got his job? Or whether kitchen matches are happy to be chosen for important jobs? Even if you have never had any curiosity whatsoever, I guarantee you will enjoy this madcap dive into the bleakness of life. I doubt you will soon forget the panda face of war. If war turns men into animals, you really do not want to know what it turns the animals into.
Laugh-out-loud moments make this the perfect waiting room read. Some of the themes are rather dark so the Book of Onions is not for children. However, for everyone else it is great. 4 stars!
Thanks to Andrews McMeel Publishing and NetGalley for an advanced copy.
Posted in Graphic Novel, Horror, New Books Tagged with: ironic, Oct 9 2018