Anne Bonny #BookReview The Power Of The Dog by @donwinslow #AmericanNoir #CrimeFiction #Mexico #Cartels #DEA “A fantastic insight into the real ‘war on drugs’”

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The Power Of The Dog by Don Winslow
My Own copy from TBR mountain
Synopsis:

Drug lord Miguel Angel Barrera is head of the Mexican drug federación, responsible for millions of dollars worth of cocaine traffic into the US and the torture of those who stand in its way. His nephew, Adan Barrera, is his worthy successor.

Art Keller is a US government operative, so determined to obtain revenge for a murdered colleague that his pursuit of the cartel veers dangerously towards an obsession outside the law. This is a world characterised by its brutality, yet all Winslow’s incredibly varied cast – including a high class prostitute, an Irish hitman and a charismatic Catholic priest – are all in their own ways searching for salvation.

My Review:

I don’t quite know where to begin with this review. The novel is so in-depth and detailed about the cartel lifestyle and Mexican/American political systems that enabled it. It that it is incredibly hard to breakdown. The characterisation is brilliant, the author slowly builds the characters up as the plot unravels. You are left under no illusion what an immensely tough job it must be to enforce DEA law and attempt to stop the cartel’s flow of drugs. Not only are the police facing a criminal network that spans the globe and is savage and violent in its approach. But they also face dirty cops, bribed officials and people who would put themselves above the good of the country and its citizens.

‘A lot of money goes into bribes.
silver or lead’

The prologue opens in El Sauzal, Mexico 1997. Art Keller our protagonist and US operative is at the scene of a violent and bloody murder. 19 bodies lay slain, including a mother and baby. The death toll is 10 men, 3 women and 6 children. The victims were lined up against the patio wall and shot, execution style. Some of the family members show signs of torture, leading the cops to believe this is gang/cartel related. One lone victim remains, who was forced to watch the violence take place.

The novel goes on to describe the various methods of torture for crime committed. For example, traitors are shot in the back of the head and informers in the mouth. Life is the cartel is far from easy.

‘El poder del perro’ – The power of the dog

From the start the novel has a violent and explosive opening. However, the novel does go on to detail various areas of Mexico, who is affected by the cartel trade which includes the poor and just trying to get by citizens. But it also covers the policing, how a multidisciplinary team approach is desperately needed. But no one trust each other.

Art Keller is new to Mexico at the opening of the novel, but the end he is accustomed to the harsh way of life/death the cartels live by. At the beginning he is suffering flashbacks from his tour in Vietnam.
I wondered myself, which would be worse war? Or the war on drugs?

The DEA has been in operation 2yrs and Nixon has recently declared his ‘war on drugs’ stance. This is as the same time Art find himself recruited from the CIA to the DEA. Art is an experienced soldier, but I believe at the beginning he was naïve at just how integrated the cartel structure is into everyday life. His boss Tim Taylor hates him, and he is isolated and alone in and new to Mexico. This is when he first meets Adan Barrera. . .

‘Years later, Art would have given anything in the world to have just killed Adan Barrera on the spot’

‘A partnership made in hell’ – Art Keller & Tio Barrera

There are a wealth of characters from Father Juan to Nora Hayden, it would be impossible for me to break down all the details of who fits into the plot and where, just know that each individual mentioned is relevant and they all play a part no matter how big or small in the formation of a divide.
Which will sit Art on one side of the fence and the cartel on another.

Art is also dealing with his own new marriage and personal problems. He is a complex character and there is so much more to Art than first meets the eye.

‘The only redemption for having a bad father is being a good one’

Art has adapted the motto YOYO aka you’re on your own. A motto that when dealing with the cartel will serve him well, as you never know who you can trust.

When Art’s colleague Ernie Hidalgo goes missing, all hell breaks loose the DEA will stop at nothing to return one of their own.

“If I have to. . . I’ll start a fucking war” – Art Keller

Adan Barrera’s character also evolves. He is quite the strategist and manages to ensure he is top-dog of the cartel empire. But how long can that last for?
And how quickly can you be taken down or killed?

Adan also has a daughter that suffers a rare genetic condition. He personally feels responsible for this and it causes a huge rift in his marriage. With both him and his wife, ready to accept full responsibility for the condition.

‘Neither god nor science can help his daughter’

The novel goes on to explain Adan’s rise within the organised infrastructure of the cartel drug trade.

‘Adan Barrera has reinvented the drug business’

The cartels are comfortable with the situation of buying the very police sent to stop them, they see it as a franchise, a business expense.

‘Just look the other way, be someplace else, see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil and the monthly payment will be there in full and on time’

The cartel trade runs into profits of $8million a WEEK, yes that is a WEEK!!!!!! It is easy to see that every man, woman or child just has a price tag attached. Except one man, Art Keller can not be bought and will not be put on the pay roll.
It just might be his downfall and he knows it. . .

‘He’s only sure that either he will kill Adan or Adan will kill him, and those are the only two ways this thing can end’ – Art Keller

This novel has a deeply layered plot, that covers politics, corruption, flow of drugs, cartel wars, deception and violence. The last 20% is very intense and sets the scene perfectly for the next novel in the series The Cartel. Which I already have sat on my tbr pile.
A fantastic insight into the real ‘war on drugs’.

DW
Don Winslow
Website
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Currently Reading – 35% in:
The Force
The Force by Don Winslow
Synopsis:

Everyone can be bought. At the right price…

Detective Sergeant Denny Malone leads an elite unit to fight gangs, drugs and guns in New York. For eighteen years he’s been on the front lines, doing whatever it takes to survive in a city built by ambition and corruption, where no one is clean.

What only a few know is that Denny Malone himself is dirty: he and his partners have stolen millions of dollars in drugs and cash. Now he’s caught in a trap and being squeezed by the FBI. He must walk a thin line of betrayal, while the city teeters on the brink of a racial conflagration that could destroy them all.

***Although I am reading this via kindle, I urge you to sample the audiobook. The narration is fantastic. In fact, so fantastic I actually own it in both kindle & audio.***

Anne Bonny #BookReview American By Day by @derekbmiller 4* #CrimeFiction #NewRelease #AmericanNoir @TransworldBooks ‘It’s not a justice story but a story of a broken justice system’

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American By Day by Derek B. Miller
Review copy
Synopsis:

She knew it was a weird place. She’d heard the stories, seen the movies, read the books. But now police Chief Inspector Sigrid Ødegård has to leave her native Norway and actually go there; to that land across the Atlantic where her missing brother is implicated in the mysterious death of a prominent African-American academic.

America.

And not someplace interesting, either: upstate New York.

It is election season, 2008, and Sigrid is plunged into a United States where race and identity, politics and promise, reverberate in every aspect of daily life.

To find her older brother, she needs the help of the local police who appear to have already made up their minds about the case. Working with – or, if necessary, against — someone actually named Sheriff Irving ‘Irv’ Wylie, she must negotiate the local political minefields and navigate the back woods of the Adirondacks to uncover the truth before events escalate further.

My Review:

This novel is an impressive blend of Nordic Noir and American Noir. It’s not a justice story but a story of a broken justice system.

Police Chief Inspector Sigrid Odegard of Oslo, Norway has only recently been exonerated in a tough case where deadly force was used. When she is summoned to her father’s residence. Her father, Morten is 69yrs old and lonely. He is estranged from his son; Marcus and we learn that this is surrounding past issues when their mother Astrid died. Marcus has never truly gotten over the death of his mother, he has blamed his father and fled to the US. Marcus seeks a better life, a fresh start, but will he find it?

Over the course of the conversation between Sigrid and Morten, we learn that father and son had been in contact via letter recently. That the written communication began seven months ago and ended abruptly a week ago. Morten is concerned and urges Sigrid to investigate. When I say ‘urges’, I mean he already has her flight booked.

On the journey we learn that Marcus had acquired a position at a university and had recently found love. Sigrid is an unusual character she applies rational thought and almost immediately begins compiling the ‘data’ she has surrounded her own brother. She is apprehensive about entering the USA, regarding it as a weird place.
The contrast between the society and way of life in Norway and America is intriguing throughout the novel.

When Sigrid arrives at Marcus’s apartment she is greeted by a hooker named Juliet. She tells Sigrid that not only is Marcus missing but that local Sheriff Irving Wylie has been asking questions regarding the death of Marcus’s girlfriend Lydia.
Did Marcus commit murder?
What kind of mess has Sigrid walked into?
Can she find Marcus before the police?

Alone and in a foreign country, Sigrid know she has to confront the situation with the Sheriff head on. But what she uncovers just leads to more mystery and suspicion. Sigrid often clashes with Irv about police tactics and attitudes. Especially when the case leads to the past police shooting of an unarmed African American boy named Jeffrey, who was just 12 years old.

‘In Jefferson County alone there had been almost two dozen police shootings that had left someone dead. Eighty percent of those dead were black despite fewer than ten percent of the population being black. Everyone knew something was off, but event by event, every shooting sounded right and reasonable. But how could that be?’

When Sigrid gains access to Marcus’s computer files, she learns this case is so much deeper than she originally believed. The novel deals with the issue of institutionalised racism within the police force and the aftermath of trauma for the community of the murdered victim. When I read the scene of Jeffrey’s death, I became as angry as Sigrid, at the injustice of it all.
But can Sigrid take on the American justice system and find her brother?

The novel is set in the 2008 election season and the potential of Obama as president plays out in the background. It is impossible to ignore the political, social and race themes within the novel. This is a detailed crime fiction novel, that I can see being very popular amongst readers of the genre. 4*

DBM
Derek B. Miller
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Anne Bonny #BookReview The Last Good Place by @RobinBurcell #CrimeFiction #AmericanNoir #SanFrancisco @BrashBooks #KrugAndKellog #Series

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The Last Good Place by Robin Burcell
Synopsis:

Sgt. Al Krug and his younger, college-educated partner Casey Kellog are investigating a string of strangulation killings when another victim is found at the Presidio…but a surprising, violent incident at the crime scene makes them wonder if everything is what it seems. The two miss-matched cops, with sharply conflicting approaches to detective work, are under intense pressure to get results. It’s a race-against-the-clock investigation that propels them into the deadly intersection of politics, real estate, media and vice… the fertile, fog-shrouded killing field of a ruthless murderer.

My Review:

This novel is the fourth in the Krug and Kellog series and my first read of the author. I was drawn to the plot surrounding a high-profile serial killer case such as the landmark strangler. I also enjoy American hard-boiled detective fiction novels and this one did not disappoint. Although I wasn’t keen on all the themes within the novel, that was more due to my personal taste, rather than the writing of the novel.

The novel opens with San Francisco resident Marcie Valentine heading out for her morning run. She takes the same route every morning with her best friend Trudy Salvatori. Only this morning not only is Trudy late, but Marcie is planning her downfall.
A Deadly downfall indeed.

Later that morning at Presidio promenade a dead body is discovered, strangled. Is this the work of the landmark killer? Who is the victim Marcie or Trudy?

Enter local cops Sgt Casey and Sgt Al. These cops are opposites in their personalities. But that only enhances the story telling. Casey is a young idealist, he believes in sticking to the rules by the individual letter. His partner Al on the other hand, is a seasoned cop. A widower in his 50s and old skool in his values. They’re on the case of a murdered witness in a drug dealing case. When they are summoned to the homicide at golden gate bridge. With something to prove to himself and his fellow cops, Casey is eager to take the case.

The landmark strangler has struck four times in the last four months. Leaving the bodies at famous San Francisco landmarks. The most recent corpse is not only at the golden gate bridge but the cops can see a clear view of Alcatraz from the scene. Is this this high-profile killer they so desperately seek? Or is this a mere coincidence. Al is cautious to jump to conclusions, without all the clues and evidence. But Casey is just too damn keen.

At the scene the cops are informed that it is park ranger territory, meaning it falls under their jurisdiction. But Casey refuses to let go of the case. They eventually agree to work alongside park rangers Becca Windsor and Glenn Powers. It isn’t long before the scene becomes chaotic, with witnesses and suspect on site. Casey and Al find themselves staring at the dead body of their alleged perpetrator.

The investigation uncovers various secrets and lies in the victim’s personal life. The tension amongst the neighbours is plain to see. There is various spin off themes, that leave you questioning if the victim was the intended target after all. Is someone else now at risk from the landmark killer?

Casey continues to be mocked by his fellow cops. But gets a sense of smug satisfaction when he is handed the murder book for the landmark killer.
Can Casey solve the case or is he just an over confident rookie?

The media pressure and obsession with the case also plays a part. Local journalist Jenn Barstow has her own personal agenda in gaining access to reporting the case. She is not afraid to go to great lengths to find a way into cop’s lives.
The media demand that the FBI be brought in, which leaves Casey desperately trying to align the clues and solve the case.

‘Dead hookers don’t sell papers. Murdered white women do’

When the victim is found to have ties to a local politician, the media think nothing of politicalising the entire case. Which only serves to make the case tougher for the cops to solve. As people begin to fret about their own reputations, they become tight lipped. Casey and Al must find the killer!

The novel has a fantastic ending, which I think will shock some readers. For me personally, I wasn’t overly engrossed in the theme of politics within the novel. This is not the authors fault at all. Under the current political climate, everyday life has fast become politicalised. Therefore, I enjoy my novels to be a form of escapism. It is also worthwhile noting, that the novel was published in November 2015 and it is not current politics that is the focus.

I found the characters believable and the plot very layered.
A fantastic piece of American noir set in San Francisco. 4*

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Robin Burcell
Website
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***Kindle Ebook available for just £2.99 in the UK***

Anne Bonny #BookReview The Secrets On Chicory Lane by @RaymondBenson 5* Genius @skyhorsepub #CrimeFiction #AmericanNoir #DeathRow

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The Secrets Of Chicory Lane by Raymond Benson
Synopsis:

Sixty-one-year-old Shelby Truman, a romance novelist, has received a request to visit her childhood friend, Eddie, who is on Death Row. Though mentally ill, Eddie is scheduled to be executed for the disturbing, brutal murders of his wife and unborn child.

As Shelby travels home to Texas for the unnerving reunion, she steps back into memories of her past, recalling her five-decade-long relationship with Eddie in order to understand what led the beautiful but troubled boy who lived across the street to become a murderer. Shelby and Eddie used to visit an abandoned fallout shelter in his backyard, their “secret hiding place” where they could escape Eddie’s abusive father, enjoy innocent playtime, and, later, adolescent explorations. As they grow increasingly close, a tragedy occurs one July fourth, an event that sets in motion a lifelong struggle against an Evil—with a capital “E”—that has corrupted their all-American neighborhood.

With only a few days left for Eddie to live, Shelby braces herself for a reunion that promises to shed light on the traumatic events that transpired on her street, changing everything Shelby thought she knew about the boy on Chicory Lane.

My Review:

This novel lost me hours of sleep! I became engrossed in Shelby and Eddie’s past. Which resulted in not getting to sleep until 4am, which is quite a stretch even for me!
The story is just so brilliantly written, that you can’t finish one chapter without reading the next three and so on and so forth.
When I did eventually finish the novel, I was wide awake and consumed by the intricate storyline and what I had just discovered about Eddie.

*If you are going to read this novel, I would advise picking a morning hour. Especially if you value your sleep.

The synopsis is very intriguing and straight away I wanted to learn about Shelby as a writer and as Eddies childhood best friend. I was desperate to unravel Eddie’s past and couldn’t read the pages quick enough.
What I read, was one of the most powerful novels!
This novel was my 75th book of the year so far and the 8th on my list of favourites of 2018. It really is THAT good!

The opening offers a glimpse into the world of a bestselling author and I loved that the protagonist Shelby was a writer by profession. She receives a letter via overnight mail from Limite, Texas. She knows from the envelope that it is from Eddie’s attorney Robert Crane Esq. She is instantly curious as to where this will lead. She has not seen Eddie in 20yrs and her previous attempts to help with his court case, were declined.

‘The thing is, I’ve always thought about Eddie. We go way, way back, to when we were children living in Limite’

Now here is where the novel hooked me! Eddie is an incarnated inmate on death row. He is imprisoned for a violent and heinous crime. A crime Shelby KNOWS, he committed. Shelby comes across as a rational, educated and mentally sound woman. So why does she care? What friendship from the past, could tie you to such a person?
I didn’t find this novel to be of any form a psychological thriller and by that, I mean that I never thought Shelby was misleading me or leading me into a huge twist.

‘Why the hell does Eddie want to talk to me?’

We learn that Eddie’s lawyer has exhausted all attempts to appeal and that Eddie is scheduled to be executed, in just four days. Shelby is actually already pre-arranged to be in the area for a park dedication. She agrees to meet with Eddie prior to his execution. So, begins an emotional rollercoaster of a journey.

As Shelby makes her way to the town of Limite, is also where she internally recalls her childhood with Eddie. This becomes the narration for the novel. It is beautifully written but is also haunting. After I finished the novel, I felt emotionally drained and will admit I shed a little tear.

Shelby narrates her story on Chicory Lane and what took place in the summer of 1966. A summer Shelby would come to learn the true depths of human pain and the parental blame game.

‘I truly believe that evil – with a capital “E” – visited my neighbourhood that summer of 1966. It slithered inside at least three houses that I know of, and set about destroying lives and delivering misery’

The unique bond and life long connection between Eddie and Shelby is played out over various eras. The 60s, 70s and 90s all add depth to the story. The social and moral ‘norms’ are relevant to the theme and plot. At times the innocence of childhood is beautiful to read. But the vulnerability to abuse both physical and psychological lingers over the children’s path into adulthood. This may have a ‘coming of age’ feel at times, but it takes a very dark turn. . .

‘We all knew that Eddie was guilty of murdering the woman he was living with at the time’

The nature of Eddies crime is horrifying. This is not a crime of passion or an accident. But when you begin to understand Eddie as a child, adolescent and young man. You see that there were early warning signs of a broken mind. During the trial Eddie is hailed as ‘Evil Eddie’ in the headlines. This is a town that has demonised, the once ostracised little boy. At the time of the murder Eddie is thought to have been off his meds. During the sentencing at court Eddie curses the jury with a satanic spell.
This is NOT your average case!

Eddies lawyer reports that Eddie has always refused medical and psychiatric help from staff within death row. That he suffers from depression and anxiety and has retreated into his own world. Shelby organises a potential 4hr visit. But will Eddie talk to her? Will what he says make any sense, after years of solitary confinement?

We learn that as a child Eddie was cute, introverted and a keen art student. He is regarded as ‘weird’ by his peers and his only friend in the world is Shelby. Their young friendship blossoms into childhood love. I began to wonder if this was the only love Eddie had ever truly known? Did Shelby’s eventually rejection push him over the edge. What lead Eddie to commit the crime that shocked the world. . .

‘Evil Eddie made a statement for all the world to see’

Eddie grew into an eccentric young man. An outcast, a bad boy and a school dropout. Eventually he signs up to a career in the military, where he is swiftly sent to Vietnam. The relationship between Shelby and Eddie is on and off throughout the years. In one sense she watches Eddie struggle more and more with each growing year. She believes his service in Vietnam was a tipping point.

‘The experience pushed him further into darkness, and he came home a changed young man’

Despite the struggles Eddie has faced, with his family, friendships and social quirks. Shelby still insists the answers lay within Eddies psychology.

‘Eddie could not have been in his right mind when it happened’

Eddies mother was sickly during his childhood, his father was a bully and would regularly beat Eddie for minor infractions. The only person to show Eddie kindness in the neighbourhood, other than Shelby was Mr Alpine. Eddie would often venture to his residence alone. Mr Alpine is thought of as a local celebrity to the kids, as his brother is the towns major.
What I wanted to know was why does Shelby refer to him as a monster?

After the death of Shelby’s brother. Shelby is blamed by her mother who struggles with alcohol and prescription drug abuse all Shelby’s adult life. Suddenly both of them find their fundamental relationships flawed. What does this mean for their future.

‘In many ways, both our mothers were similarly damaged’

The novel has some strong themes of mental illness. But it also covers the other various social situations that contribute to a decline in one’s own sanity. Imagine being the most hated and talked about resident on your street. Imagine every neighbour knowing your past, and the fact that your own father couldn’t stand the sight of you. Being mocked and ridiculed by the local children and knowing that no one truly cares.
Except Shelby Truman.

A powerful novel of childhood trauma seeping into an adult’s psychology. Shelby’s patience and understanding towards Eddie is true kindness and unconditional love. I wish more people in society, thought a little more like Shelby, than adapt a bullying/shunning culture labelling a person a weirdo and invalidating their life experiences.
Tremendously moving. 5* Genius

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Raymond Benson
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#Review Down The River Unto The Sea by Walter Mosley 5* #CrimeFiction #NewRelease @orionbooks @orion_crime #AmericanNoir @mulhollandbooks @wnbooks

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Down The River Unto The Sea by Walter Mosley
Synopsis:
Joe King Oliver was one of the NYPD’s finest investigators until, dispatched to arrest a well-heeled car thief, he is framed for assault, a charge that lands him in the notorious Rikers Island prison.

A decade later, King is a private detective, running his agency with the help of his teenage daughter, Aja-Denise. When he receives a card in the mail from the woman who admits she was paid by someone in the NYPD to frame him all those years ago, King realises that he has no choice but to take his own case: figuring out who on the force wanted him disposed of – and why.

At the same time, King must investigate the case of black radical journalist Leonard Compton, aka A Free Man, accused of killing two on-duty police offices who had been abusing their badges to traffic drugs and women into the city’s poorest neighbourhoods.

In pursuit of justice, our hero must beat dirty cops and even dirtier bankers. All the while, two lives hang in the balance: Compton’s, and King’s own.

My review:

‘My maternal grandmother always tells me that every man gets what he deserves’

13 years ago Joe King Oliver was a cop. Not just any cop, one of the NYPD’s finest officers. When he is framed for a sexual assault and thrown in Rikers. Jail isn’t easy for any man, but it’s certainly not easy, when you come face to face with convicts you apprehended. Rikers will chew up and spit out dirty cops or leave them for dead……

‘Just a few days and I’d switched allegiances from cop to criminal. I thought that was the worst thing….. but I was wrong’

We then learn of Joe’s present-day life. The life he has managed to build after his police record and good name was ruined. He is now a private detective, working mostly mistress cases or whatever comes his way. His teenage daughter Aja helps him with his business and he has an often-volatile relationship with his ex-wife Monica. His best friend and fellow cop Goldstone, has helped him get on his feet and thrown some cases his way. But his life changes the day he receives a letter from his alleged victim. She claims she was forced into testifying and now she has turned her life around, she wants to make amends.
Joe is given the chance to clear his name!

‘The law is a flexible thing – on both sides of the line – influenced by circumstances, characters, and of course wealth or lack thereof’

At the same time Joe is also accosted to take on the case of Leonard Compton aka A Free Man. The case is one that strikes at the heart of what Joe believes.
As Leonard claims he was set up my two dirty cops.
Eugene ‘Yolo’ Valence and Anton Pratt are the two cops in question. When Joe does some digging, he quickly learns of their criminal endeavours, selling drugs to kids and kids to child molesters. It’s a murky world we live in and one Joe can’t clean-up on his own!

“I learned that reading is important, that law is an ever-changing variable equation, and that a man is fool if he works alone” – Joe

The introduction of new characters, is something always relished in any Walter Mosley novel. They always have a backstory and usually described with a witty one liner such as ‘wise as a prophet and crafty as a fox’. Mosley’s writing is second to none!
Walter Mosley writes about his characters with such exceptional detail, you get the impression he has observed people and the various ways they carry themselves.

‘There comes a time when a man has to stand up and be heard; a time when their hearts do not outweigh his freedom’ – Joe

The plot has added suspicion, suspense and mistrust. When Joe also discovers the downfall of his past, may be linked to another dirty cop! Where does he go from here? How does he solve corruption that has spread with the police force?

“I learned that anyone can be brought low no matter how high or powerful they are”

The novel explores Joe’s past, Yolo & Pratt’s child victims, police corruption and the real meaning of justice. This is without a doubt diverse literature for the intelligent eye. The dialogue is first-rate, the characters are authentic not ‘perfect’ examples but flawed real people with deep pain. The novel continues to develop right to the last page. I love the way Walter Mosley writes. He adds his iconic style and wisdom to every sentence.
In my opinion, he really is a writing legend! 5*

“You have to love what you do or you end up hating yourself” – Joe

WM
Walter Mosley
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