Archive for September 2012

Black Fridays by Michael Sears


Jason Stafford has nothing. He was once a top Wall Street trader living the high life, but after a getting in over his head with falsified profits and fraudulent trades, he finds himself at the end of a two year jail sentence with no money, an estranged ex-wife who has his only son, and seemingly no future job opportunities. You can imagine his surprise when the CEO of a large Wall Street firm asks Jason to investigate the trades of a junior trader who recently died in a boating accident. Intrigued by the prospect to work in his old environment and desperate for any kind of income, Jason accepts.

As he begins to reclaim his professional dignity, Jason also is determined to gain custody from his alcoholic ex-wife. Jason Jr., nicknamed "the Kid", has been diagnosed with autism and is not getting the care he needs. With his ex just as unstable as his son, Jason is shocked to learn that the Kid is locked in a room all day. Risking his parole, Jason flies to Louisiana to retrieve his son. When he returns to New York, son in tow, Jason is forced to reevaluate his life, and learn to live with his unique son.

Meanwhile, Jason's investigation is revealing a larger conspiracy than even he expected. As he digs deeper into the web of fraud he attracts the attention of Wall Streets power players as well as agents from the FBI. When he uncovers a system that will certainly rock the entire financial institution, Jason must decide what to do with the information. If he makes the wrong decision, it could cost him his life.

With this excellent debut novel, author Michael Sears enters the thriller genre with a bang. His knowledge of Wall Street brings a unique perspective to the story. This timely tale of financial deceit flows at a perfect pace, never getting bogged down in the details that are presented. While the thriller side of the story is entertaining, it is the father-son relationship that really places the novel on a higher level. Jason's adjustment to becoming the guardian of his autistic son is the secret to this story's success. Sears subtly crafts the two characters, making the reader truly care about the son and root for the Father's redemption. I will admit that the secondary characters were not as strongly conceived as Jason and the Kid, but the focus on the two far outweighed the lack of development in the others. Overall, "Black Fridays" is a thriller with heart that I highly recommend.

For more information, visit the author's website, Amazon, and GoodReads.

(week 38, book 42)

Stranger in the Room by Amanda Kyle Williams

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Last year, I encountered and was delighted by the novel, The Stranger You Seek by Amanda Kyle Williams. Williams introduced the crime fighting detective, Keye Street, an Asian American, recovering alcoholic, female private investigator, raised by her adopted family in Atlanta, Georgia. Street was a refreshing addition to the female protagonist sub-genre of mysteries. Combining her quirky sense of humor with a startling mystery, Williams struck gold with her first novel.

In this second installment in the Keye Street series, we find Street getting on with her life, after the events of the previous novel. The high profile of her last case has lead to increased business for her private investigation firm, so much so that she and her stoner tech guy Niel are working harder than ever before. Her relationship with A.P.D. Lieutenant Aaron Rauser is slowly becoming more serious, and life seems to be in a good place.

When Keye receives a terrified call from her cousin, Miki, about an intruder in her home, she is skeptical of her accusations. The police on the scene find no evidence of an intrusion, and, given Miki's history of drug abuse and mental illness, Keye humors her cousins claims, but has no real intention to find anything. On top of this, she is investigating a strange case for a family who received an urn of chicken feed and concrete mix instead of their dead mother's ashes. Keye and Niel travel to the small town, ironically named Big Knob, to investigate this strange event. As they did deeper they uncover a shocking conspiracy that is sure to shock the small town.

Miki's claims become validated when a corpse, fitting the patterns of a sting of murders being investigated by Aaron Rauser, is discovered in her apartment. Even worse, the killer has set his sights on Miki and Keye as his next victims. The novel takes a "cat and mouse" turn as Keye races to discover the identity of the murder before he catches up to her.

Author Amanda Kyle Williams continues to expertly mix her quirky sensibilities with hear racing suspense in this followup novel. Keye Street is the kind of character that you instantly fall for and root for the entire novel. The story moves quick and consistently provides shocking twits and turns, keeping the reader thoroughly entertained. I felt that the resolution to this one was a bit too neat, but this novel is definitely worth the read.

For more information, visit the author's website,

(week 37, book 41)

This Bright River by Patrick Somerville


Ben Hanson is no stranger to mistakes. Recently released from prison, he understands that he made errors in both his personal and professional life. Now, free from confinement and with new sobriety, Ben wanders though life, searching for some kind of meaning. When his uncle Denny passes away, Ben's father, Jack, invites him to move back to his hometown to help settle his late uncle's estate.

Upon his arrival, Ben is flooded with memories of his past. He recalls the tragic death of his older cousin, Wayne, a tragedy that still haunts his family. As he begins to delve into his uncle's estate, fragments of the past come to light, all adding to the mystery of Wayne's demise.

In the same town, Lauren Sheehan is also trying to rebuild her life. Escaping from a violent ex-husband and abandoning her medical career, Lauren has returned to her hometown in search of a fresh start. In the small town, it is now surprise that the paths of Ben and Lauren intersect. Having no true past relationship, the two slowly become interested in each other. As time passes, their troubled lives become intertwined, creating a connection that they could have never imagined. Together, they kindle a romance and attempt to move on with their lives before their negative past catches up with them.

Going into this novel, I was unsure of what to expect. Normally, I try to steer clear of any "romance" novels, but this story offered much more. By slowly presents fragments of the two characters lives, mostly through flashback from each character's recollections, Somerville provides just enough information to keep the reader wanting more. Intricately imagined, the characters seem like genuine people who have had a rough go at life. Drawn with a sense of reality and empathy, it is easy to get behind Ben and Lauren and to truly care about them. While the writing is really great, I will admit that there were times when the change in time and narrator got a bit confusing. In certain moments Somerville slowed the pace of the plot, focussing more on character development that advancing the narrative. Fortunately, this attention to character made it impossible to stop reading. At times, this novel can be hard to digest. The themes of family drama, second chances, and suspenseful drama permeate this fascinating novel making it a completely engaging read.

For more information visit the author's website,

(week 36, book 40)

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