Saturday, March 4, 2017

The Big Mango Is A Juicy Thriller. Take a Bite!

It's always a pleasure to discover a author, especially when they write a story that makes you wish you were young again and ready to take on the world. After stumbling across and reading the debut novel of Jake Needham, I thought to myself, "What took me so long to find this guy?".

The Big Mango asks a question that every top adventure story has asked since the days of Professor Challenger. What would you do if given the chance to change your life and search for lost treasure? Would you grab it with both hands?

If you crave a little excitement, the answer is...Hell, Yeah! And that's exactly what this story's hero, Eddie Dare, does when he is asked to join the hunt for $400 million dollars that disappeared days before the collapse of South Vietnam. And why not? Twice divorced, with a distant son and a law practice that just pays the bills, he's doing okay. It's just enough anymore. His closest friend, a Native American nick-named Winnebago, thinks he's crazy. But with nothing to else to bind him down, he joins Eddie, if only to watch his back. Soon the odd pair find themselves in Bangkok, Thailand thanks to the efforts of a mysterious stranger and a finder's fee of a hundred grand.

The last man who had any inkling of where the missing money went is an old army buddy named Harry Austin. All three men served together in Vietnam, and all three hauled the money to safety in Thailand, though only Harry knew at the time what was really in those crates. Now Harry's dead, recently killed in an accident just outside a Thai brothel. It's up to Eddie to track down the money, though he hasn't a clue. He starts with an expat newspaper reporter named Bar who's made Bangkok his home. As this trio fumble around, a number of interested parties join the search, including a DEA agent and Harry's widow. It's hard to know who to trust because almost everyone in Thailand is not who they appear at first glance. Friend or foe? Sometimes it's simple. If a motorcycle pulls alongside and the rider whips out an envelope and hands it to you, they might be a friend. If they pull out a gun and start shooting...well, you'll figure it out.

This wild romp through the streets and back alleys of Bangkok reeks of danger, spice, sex, and something else that maybe should have been cleaned up and tossed in the trash. But it's a blast, sometimes literally, and you'll want to join in the fun. C'mon...don't you feel lucky? With Jake Needham as your guide, what could possibly go wrong?

Just remember. If a motorcycle ever pulls alongside you at a stoplight in Thailand, and the rider reaches for something hidden, prepare to duck! Now get up off your backside. If you can't find a lost treasure to hunt for, pick up The Big Mango. It's a hidden gem, and you'll get a real kick out of it.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Debt To Pay Is Worth Every Penny

When the author of a popular series dies, the series sometimes dies with them. Such might have been the case with Robert B. Parker and the popular Jesse Stone novels. But the series has been taken over by Reed Farrel Coleman, a dues-paying crime writer with multiple awards in the genre.

Still, it's difficult to continue a series when another writer has to duplicate the flavor of a series for fans who have come to expect a certain style. But Coleman pulls it off with his latest contribution in the Jesse Stone saga, Debt To Pay. The publisher has made an excellent choice.

Jesse Stone is facing major changes in his life. He's fallen in love, and his ex-wife is getting remarried. Jenn wants him at her wedding, a sort of final farewell to their relationship. Jesse declines, even after a friendly phone call from Hale Hunsicker, Jenn's fiancee, which makes it clear that he would be welcome. But Jesse changes his mind when Mr. Peepers, a sick killer with a taste for revenge sends him a picture of Jenn with a veiled threat. Mr. Peepers was once shot by Luther 'Suitcase' Simpson, one of Stone's officers and Peepers blames Jesse, among others, for it. He's a master of disguise who appears out of the mist like a phantom and subdues his target before they even realize they're in danger. He then delights in torturing his prey before killing them, sometimes with the victim begging to be put out of their misery.

With some clever detective work, Jesse discovers that Mr. Peepers may have already dispatched one of the men on his hit list; Gino Fish, a local mobster who originally put Stone in contact with Mr. Peepers. But the stress of protecting Jenn and watching his own back causes Jesse to begin drinking again. Jesse has plenty of allies in his hunt, including Hale Hunsicker, a wealthy real estate developer with a first rate security team, Stone's girlfriend Diana (an FBI agent) and Detective Healy, from the Boston Police department. Will it be enough? No one is safe with Peepers on the loose, and as each person close to Jesse falls under the gaze of this psychopath, the reader is left with the impression that anyone one of them could be the next victim.

Parker's straightforward style keeps the story going at a good clip. Readers will enjoy the chase. Coleman gives enough backstory to satisfy a new reader of the series without bogging down the pace for those familiar with the series. Pick up this novel and start reading. If you don't have the cash, put it on your credit card. It's a small debt to pay, and worth every penny.