Hey there, little neglected review blog. Life’s been crazy, right? Right. Well, no time like the present to start gushing about stuff again. Let’s kick it back into high gear with a doozy, shall we?



I’m not even kidding about kicking this off right. Yesterday I finished the audiobook of Meg Gardiner’s Into the Black Nowhere, the sequel of UNSUB, and second in an installment by the same name.


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We meet up with Ash McKenna once more, this time as he’s filing to get his passport. It doesn’t take long to get caught up  on how he’s doing after the events in Portland: He’s living in a hippy commune in the Georgia woods, he intends to leave the country entirely and fly to Prague, and he’s dealing with what happened in Portland by drinking as much cheap whiskey as it takes to not be swallowed by his memories and fears. Also, that he has next to nothing. 

The commune, South Village, is owned and operated by a friend of Ash’s, Tibo, whom we met first in New Yorked. We learn that Tibo offered to make Ash head of security but haunted as he was by his past, Ash turned it down to instead work in the kitchen alongside a man names Aesop. Ash’s goal is to keep his head down, work, and stay drunk enough to get by until his passport comes in. 

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The Unloaded anthology is a collection of stories by crime writers featuring no guns. None guns. Maximum minimum guns. You can get none fewer guns in the stories featured in this anthology.

In and of itself, as a writer, ‘produce a compelling crime short without any guns’ is a brilliant challenge. How do you threaten somebody without a gun? How do you kill them? Yes, all sorts of different ways and methods come to mind but none are quite as easy, quite as, well, lazy yet effective, as just handling it with a gun. To ask a collection of crime writers like this to forgo the go-to problem solver in their fiction is a beautiful thing.

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Summary: When we return to Boo and Junior after Hard Bounce, they’re right back where we first met them–knocking heads and taking their own licks at the bar, as well as more snapshots into early life for the crew at St. Gabe’s.

There’s a scuffle over a gay couple making out at the bar, oblivious to the hostile reception of the crowd around them, their removal and ensuing beating.  There’s the man Boo finds beating a sprawled Junior in the ice and snow.

Then, there’s Boo following the lead singer of the booked band to a lounge called the Raja in an attempt to prevent him from getting too fucked up to finish the show. There Boo not only spots the woman he pines for on the arm of a British club owner and narcotics peddler named Ian Summerfield, but also alone and afoul of a rival security company. As a result of Boo breaking the boss of said security company boss’s nose, Boo and Junior know their company, 4DC, is in for a rumble. 

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Short summary: We meet back up with Ash McKenna outside Naturals, a Portland-based vegan strip club as he’s doing half of what he’s good at–getting hit. He’s working on keeping the other half, hitting back, tucked deep down inside and far away from the surface. Portland is just the latest stop in a tour of US cities Ash has been through lately, all of them following his departure from New York in the wake of a self-destructive quest to find a friend’s killer.  He’s doing his best to turn over a new leaf, to leave the drinking, smoking, brawling Ash he used to be firmly in the past where he belongs. So when one of the strippers, Crystal, asks for his help finding her daughter, it’s too much like his old life to agree to help. 

That is, until he’s forced in a trunk, warned to stay away from Crystal, and pistol-whipped by a man in a chicken mask. Then, it’s personal. Chicken Mask broke his cell phone and owes him a new one. 

Ash begins to unravel the mystery of where the daughter went while letting the new Ash unravel as well and in the end, finding who he was and always has been waiting for him under a thin veneer of sobriety and pacifism.  

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Short Summary: Miriam Black is back and set to see once and for all who’s the bitch-her or fate. Busy yet again ruining anything good in her life, she gets offered a hefty chunk of change to tell one man in the Florida Keys how he dies. It’s a questionable situation from the get-go but a few thousand dollars is a few thousand dollars. What Miriam sees waiting in store for the man, however, is enough to freak even her out and send her running; it’s not too often a stranger’s death holds a message just for her. Once more, inexplicably, the fates of others are intertwined in hers, in ways Miriam must unravel before it’s too late-too late for strangers, and too late for loved ones. But with higher powers guiding every move of her enemy, keeping them one, two, three steps ahead of Miriam, does she even stand a chance of stilling the hand of fate before it strikes what may be its cruelest blow yet?

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Story Summary: Meet Nick Valentine-Former cop. Current PI. A man with his ear out on the streets, Styrofoam cup cocktail at his lips, a pocket full of pills and chainsaw in his trunk. That’s not a euphemism.  A literal chainsaw. Valentine doesn’t have a ‘problem’, he’s perfectly happy staying as inebriated as possible as much as he physically can. He’s been called in by the chief of police to take a look at a suspicious ‘suicide’ of a bank manager. Also, meet Valentine’s dog, Frank Sinatra-Adorable. Fierce. Football humper.

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A little back story here-A good friend of mine, known to me as EmEfferson, has a show called “Freddy’s Fan Fiction”. It’s broadcast live, and consists of a panel of guests reading Fan Fiction. At the end of the episode, the guests pick elements to be included in a new, original work of fan fiction, written by one of the guests. Two weeks ago, I was given the elements “The Mario Universe, Dinosaurs, Clowns and Bangin'”. For some reason it occurred to me to write it first-person, noir/crime fic style. This was the result. Enjoy.

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Story Summary: Eric Carter is a Necromancer. The job title’s not the best but if it walks like a dead duck, talks like a dead duck and smells like a dead duck, he’s the man to talk to about it. He’s been out of LA for a while, learning about his abilities and doing work for minor gods and powers, bouncing around from hotel to hotel, town to town and state to state, no “home” to go home to. He’d left everything behind-his sister, his home, his friends- when he’d killed the crime boss who’d murdered his parents. The gangster’s second in command, Ben Duncan, offered Carter an ultimatum: Get out and stay out, or Ben would kill first Carter’s sister, then Carter. Fifteen years have gone by and true to the agreement, Eric Carter has stayed the fuck out of LA.

Until his phone rings.

And won’t stop ringing. 

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Story Summary: Atlanta Burns hasn’t had it easy as of late. When we met her in Shotgun Gravy, she had just returned to town and to school with fewer friends and a bigger reputation. Unable to let a group of bullies torment a stranger, Atlanta inadvertently befriended two boys, Chris and Shane, and intertwined herself in bigger drama with more powerful players than she could have ever imagined. Bait Dog picks up immediately after…well, let’s just say when Chris found himself troubled. 

When a classmate turns to Atlanta for help solving the murder of her dog, Atlanta laughs her off. Once her mother reveals their money and mortgage woes, however, the money the classmate offered is too tempting. In search of the culprit, Atlanta uncovers the ugly truth behind the disappearance of multiple dogs in the area. Following the bloody trail of bait dogs and unsavory teens leads do a much broader and more dangerous place-an illegal dog fighting operation, tucked away in the country and away from prying eyes. With a new cast of low-lifes and the return of the old, can Atlanta expose the operation for what it is before they manage to destroy her friends, her home, her (new) dog…and Atlanta herself?

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