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review 2017-09-18 22:16
Lightning Men
Lightning Men: A Novel - Thomas Mullen

Darktown #2

By:  Thomas Mullen 

ISBN: 9781501138799

Publisher: Atria 

Publication Date: 9/12/2017

Format: Hardcover 

My Rating: 5 Stars + 

 

From the acclaimed author, Thomas Mullen who introduced readers to the hit, Darktown landing on my Top Books of 2016 —racial integration of Atlanta’s police department in 1948 — with an explosive multi-layered complex follow-up: LIGHTNING MEN. 

Racial violence and corruption continue in 1950’s Atlanta, with African-American police officers, Boggs and Smith. 

As they say in the South, these two find themselves in a "heap of trouble.” (Among others). 

“Hot Atlanta” is not just sizzling. It is blistering. Fiery. Tensions and emotions run high. Loyalties are tested between family and law. Color lines are threatened. Moral lines are blurred. 

The second in the Darktown series, Mullen uses his hard-boiled crime, cop procedural, to explore post-WWII racism in the South. 

The highly anticipated character-driven LIGHTNING MEN is much more than just a crime-fictional thriller. It is infused with critical historical details and timely controversial subjects we face today.

“Any candid observer of American racial history must acknowledge that racism is highly adaptable.” – Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow 

Highly-charged, Mullen turns up the intensity with characters facing moral, family, social issues and compromises. 

Tensions rise. From racial prejudice, moonshining, drugs, greed, conspiracy, Klansmen, fascist Columbians, white supremacist, corruption, bigotry, violence, Jim Crow laws, preachers, shootouts, paybacks, fear, power, and segregated neighborhoods.

In Darktown, we met rookies: Officer Lucius Boggs and his partner, Tommy Smith. 

From different backgrounds, their office was housed in the basement of the Negro YMCA, a makeshift precinct. They were not even allowed to arrest white men, nor allowed to drive a squad car. They could not patrol outside of the Negro neighborhoods that constituted their beat. No respect and little support. 

Only ten black officers patrolled those thousands of souls. A third of Atlanta were black, yet they were crowded into only a fifth of the land. 

Boggs and Smith had not taken bribes; however, with two years on the force, it appeared half of the white officers took bribes, so how long would the Negro officers resist? 

They were tiring of their powerlessness. The son of a preacher, Boggs was all too familiar with the fallibility of men, even men with power. 

Denny Rakestraw (white) is distrusted by his fellow officers for his suspected role in the disappearance of his former partner, Lionel Dunlow. 

Rakestraw is not a racist but finds it difficult to fit in with his fellow white cops and work with the ten black cops. Neither side, fully trusts him. 

Denny’s problems increase when his Klansman brother-in-law, Dale Simpkins, gets involved in a plot to stop the influx of African-Americans into his neighborhood, Hanford Park. 

Some cops are part of the Klan. Will they accuse one of the richest men in Atlanta of selling moonshine and marijuana?

Boggs had come to respect McInnis over the last two years. He had stuck up for his charges during a few disputes with white officers. How far can he go to protect them? 

Boggs (preacher’s son) is dating Julie with a young son, Sage. Soon to be married. His family opposes the relationship since she is not of their social status. She has a secret past. She is intimidated by their prestigious family. 

When a black man, Jeremiah is released from prison after five years, things get personal. Boggs life gets complicated when he learns the connection. 

Two years earlier, Boggs came close to resigning his position and had second thoughts after a near-death experience. Now, he is unsure again.

Too many mistakes that weighed heavily on his soul. He is sure there would be more guilt and an awkward relationship with his partner. Can he remain as a cop? 

Events will lead each character to major soul-searching. Smith had crossed another line as well. He was afraid. 


. . . The Armor. The façade victims’ families typically wore when they needed to protect themselves or the memory of their loved ones. Folks who wore The Armor sometimes had secrets to hide. 

The Armor was firmly in place as they parried the officer’s attempts to learn more about the deceased. They wore The Armor to keep the cops from learning things. The secrets. . . 

The Armor was worn by the innocent, who had nothing to hide but their dignity, and they were so deeply offended to be questioned by these employees of the corrupt City of Atlanta, these paid enforcers of Jim Crow, that they refused to play along. They may be innocent, hurt, or protective. 

. . . “And lines are only ideas people dream up, to govern what should be possible, to keep you from moving toward the forbidden.”


Three policemen struggle. Each has an agenda and react in different ways to protect. Loyalties are tested. Family versus law. 

Can they continue to work with one hand tied behind their packs without the proper support to do their jobs? Will the latest emotional events, their actions, and tensions make them second guess their current careers? Will they continue to serve and make Atlanta a better city, or is it a useless effort? 

After violence and a shootout, will Hanford Park be transformed? Will the lines between white and black be blurred after the postwar crowding, pushing blacks into areas formerly considered whites-only (without violence)? 

From racial politics and struggles of history, Mullen does not miss a beat! 

The complex emotions of each character are portrayed in depth, making the characters jump off the page. Others threaten lives. Others protect. Struggles both interior and exterior. 

Complications. Affairs interrupted. Old scores settled. Blood feuds magnified. Pride. Costs were high. Greed. 

Hard-boiled. Explosive. Riveting. Timely! 

Love this enthralling series and looking forward to seeing what is in store next for Smith and Boggs. 

When reading of Boggs at his dad’s house for dinner with Julie, reminds me strongly of Greenleaf (a favorite show) and their preacher/family dinners. Heaven forbid, their children do not follow their well-laid controlled plans. 

Movie-worthy! For those who enjoy good crime fiction, and historical fiction as Mullen meticulously traces the civil rights movement through his well-written crime stories and cop procedurals, that involve "real" characters you come to care about. 

Fans of TV mini-series: Underground, Greenleaf and Queen Sugar will enjoy this intense series as well as Michael Connley’s Harry Bosch and Greg Iles' Penn Cage series. 

In addition to the early digital reading copy (thank you) provided by NetGalley and Atria, I also purchased the audiobook, narrated by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II – for an award-winning performance. Just finished. 

Move this series to the top of your list. If you reside in the South, this is a “must read.” Especially for those of us who found (find) Atlanta our home for many years. Another Southern winner! 

JDCMustReadBooks

****
Due to post-Irma, residing in South Florida with water damages, power outage, cell towers, and loss of internet for nine consecutive days; no gas, grocery, or mail service – late posting my review on pub day. Let's hope Maria does not pay us a visit. 

Yay! Today we have internet restored, power, cell towers, and mail service! Back in business. Ordered the hardcover copies of both DARKTOWN and LIGHTNING MEN for my personal library. So excited, they are out for delivery today, from Amazon! (Love the covers) Looking forward to receiving my copies. (Now, I have to figure out how to get the author to autograph) my copies. 

Busy catching up with posting reviews and my blog. Thanks everyone for your patience.
 
 
 

City on the verge of a race riot in ‘Darktown’ sequel


Thomas Mullen’s new novel examines brotherly hate  

By Tray Butler - For the AJC

 
 
 
 
Source: www.judithdcollinsconsulting.com/single-post/2017/04/19/Lightning-Men
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review 2017-09-14 03:12
You'll Be the Death of Me! by Stacia Wolf
You'll Be the Death of Me! - Stacia Wolf

You’ll Be the Death of Me! stars Allison Leavitt, a successful mystery author, and Jay Cantrall, a Los Angeles police detective who’s been temporarily transferred to Spokane after a scandal. They happen to be neighbors in the same apartment building, and although they’re both instantly attracted to each other, they also don’t entirely trust or like each other.

Allison is leery of men who only want to date her for her money, doesn’t really think that sex (aside from masturbation) is all that great, has body issues (due to some scars and, possibly, her curviness), and is still working through her feelings of guilt and terror over a past traumatic event. The only man who interests her anymore is fictional: Detective Ben Stark, one of the main characters in her mystery series. Shockingly, Jay looks like both Allison’s mental image of Ben and the image of Ben on the proposed cover art for Allison’s next book. She can’t decide whether she’s interested in Jay because he looks like Ben, or because she’s just interested in Jay.

Meanwhile, Jay is leery of women who are more interested in his celebrity twin brother than they are in him. To be honest, he has trust issues with women in general at the moment, since it was his ex-girlfriend’s lies that resulted in the scandal that got him sent to Spokane. But there’s something about Allison that keeps drawing him in. Allison, her best friend Paige, and a landlady with an annoying Chinese crested dog that she believes can do no wrong make it hard for Jay to keep to himself.

I spotted this in a used bookstore clearance section a while back and snatched it up primarily because it was a Samhain Publishing title. Some of those can be difficult to find or incredibly expensive now that the publisher has shut down operations. What if it turned out to be really good and I missed out on it? And if it wasn’t good, well, it only cost me $2.

It didn’t take me long to figure out that I’d picked up a stinker. Allison in particular seemed to have way more issues to deal with than could properly be handled in such a short book, and the whole thing about Jay’s twin seemed incredibly contrived. In general, these two characters needed to spend at least a few months getting to know and trust each other before I could believe in them as a couple. Instead, they were together for maybe a week or two, enough time to drool over each other and have sex, but not enough time to truly trust each other once the issues readers could see from a mile away started cropping up.

I hated them as a couple so much. Anytime Jay made any kind of small talk that touched on money or Allison’s job, Allison immediately assumed that he was just another guy hoping she’d pay his bills in exchange for sex. I was more forgiving of Jay’s blowup when he inevitably spotted Allison’s newest cover art, but their arguments after that made me dislike them both.

They both refused to listen to or believe each other. In fact, Allison somehow still

believed that Jay was after her money even after he blew up on her about the cover art. How did she think that was going to work? Did she think he was simultaneously going to snarl at her for being more interested in his brother or her fictional character than in him and convince her to pay his bills? Besides that, a true gold digger wouldn't have cared if she only liked him because he looked like her character or his twin brother. It should have only taken a second or two of thought to realize that her conclusions didn’t make any sense.

(spoiler show)


But logic wasn’t exactly the author’s strong suit and, unfortunately, the result was extremely inconsistent main characters. For example, after spending most of the book up to that point thinking that Allison knew full well the effect she had on men (or at least on him in particular), on page 79 Jay suddenly divined that Allison was uncomfortable with her body and reacted accordingly. Then there was Allison, who spent most of the book saying that she’d never orgasmed while having sex with a man and could only get off while thinking about her fictional detective. Despite that, on page 104 this thought suddenly popped into her head: “it had been way too long since she’d made love.” Huh?

I hated how the author wrote about Allison’s issues with sex. Jay couldn’t even fathom that someone might not enjoy sex and became fixated on the idea that Allison’s previous lovers just hadn’t done a good job. He, of course, would do better.

“What did Allison need? Love, passion, romance? Him. She needed him. She needed him to teach her the better side of sex.” (106)

I could imagine him saying that out loud and me laughing in his face.

Sometimes things happened just because the author wanted/needed them to happen, and not because they particularly made much sense. For example, at one point Jay and his partner, Pearce, were doing a stakeout and Pearce, for some unknown reason, decided that he absolutely had to make up with ex-girlfriend right then and there. So he asked her to come see him during the stakeout. Yeah, you read that right. And then when the suspect recognized him and the stakeout went bad, Ping (the Chinese crested) accidentally got loose and Jay injured himself trying to avoid him. Allison blamed herself for Jay’s injury because she hadn’t kept a tight enough hold on Ping’s leash, and so she felt obligated to help him out a bit while he recovered. Pearce told her she shouldn’t be so hard on herself...and failed to say anything about his part in the whole incident. In fact, not a single person blamed Pearce for Jay’s injury, and there were no consequences for his actions. The author literally orchestrated the entire thing just to force Allison and Jay to spend more time with each other.

The book had other issues, but I think I'll wrap things up here. You'll Be the Death of Me! was a quick read, and yet it still wasn't worth the small amount of time it took to get through it. Even the dog wasn't very appealing.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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review 2017-09-13 18:14
Naked in Death by J.D. Robb
Naked in Death - J.D. Robb

A high-end prostitute, and a senator's granddaughter, is found dead in her bedroom. She was shot three times (in the head, the heart and the groin), her body obscenely arranged on her bed. The case goes to Lieutenant Eve Dallas, the murdered woman's familial ties demanding utmost secrecy proving quite a challenge in catching her murderer.

And then, another prostitute is murdered, with an identical MO...


This was a bit different from her NR ventures into romantic suspense; first because it's set in the future (nice world building) and second, because it was grittier without the usual flourishes and poetic descriptions.

The heroine was familiar, though, prickly, self-sufficient, stubborn, independent... But needing someone to anchor her, to care for her, to care about her.
The hero was also familiar with that special combination of alpha and beta, confident in his "masculinity" to let the heroine lead, determined to be there for her no matter how hard she pushed him away.
I loved both Eve and Roarke and they were absolutely perfect together. No wonder this series is so long with two strong protagonists to lead.

The mystery was intriguing and gripping, the pace absolutely spot on, the suspense engaging, the truth (when revealed) chilling and a real surprise, since I didn't see it coming...

Amazing characters, wonderful romance and great suspense. What more could anyone want?

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review 2017-09-07 18:44
Cute cozy and magical mystery
The Witch and the Dead - Heather Blake

 

Once this squared was called, I headed immediately over to Murder By Death's Cozy Mystery list. In case anyone didn't know, she is (to me, anyway) BLs unOfficial Cozy Mystery guru. She did not disappoint! I was able to find a cozy mystery rated at least 4 stars with a Halloween-ish vibe. Thanks Murder By Death :)

I gasped. In a once-hidden nook created by a tower of boxes lay a skeleton fully dressed in men's clothing. By the thick layer of undisturbed dust covering the skeletal remains. I guessed he'd been there quite a long time. 

This is book seven in the Wishcraft Mystery series that follows Darcy, a witch, as she attempts to solve murder mysteries. It was a little overwhelming at first with a whole island of characters greeting me but once the family, friend, and side-eyeing relationships were realized, this turned into a super cozy mystery. This story begs to be accessorized with big fluffy socks and a big mug of hot chocolate.

"I've been asked by the Elder to investigate the matter." 

The first half of the story is our heroine Darcy just taking a stroll through town and encountering people who help piece together the final days of Miles, the body found in her aunt's garage. Scandal and heartache get revealed with each discussion and our mystery is born. Since this is the seventh in the series the magical part of the story, the different kinds of witches living on the island, isn't stopped and explained. However, the way the author does great woven in explanations for any newcomers. The only thing I missed starting here was the initial excitement of some relationships just starting up, here Darcy's relationship with the town police chief is already established, while her sister Harper's relationship is going through a rough patch I couldn't truly feel as I didn't have an emotional tie to it. 

The large cast of characters were all wonderfully fleshed out, adding so much dimension to the story; I could happily read a story individually staring all of them. Darcy was easy to like and follow along with providing a great lens to view the story from. The author was able to touch on deeper subjects without weighing the story down in emotional angst. This was such a sweet, easy, entertaining, and kept me guessing for a while mystery with a tint of Fall/Halloween fun.

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review 2017-09-03 15:23
White Face by Edgar Wallace
White Face (Detective Sgt. - Edgar Wallace

A man ends up stabbed to death on a street in London's Tidal Basin, victim of the almost mythical murderer roaming the streets of London, the Devil of Tidal Basin. But why is another bandit (this one not of the killing, but of the robbing kind) suddenly sighted in Tidal Basin as well?


Unfortunately the mystery wasn't as engrossing as in its predecessors, the pace was also rather stutter-y, there were too many side-stories (that ended up somehow connected), and even more seemingly random characters thrown into the mix.

I lost interest before chapter six, and never regained it.

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