Book Reviews

Union Square Reviews

Mar 25, 2020



Union Square Reviews

Synopsis of Story:

Detective Kenny Elliot, equal parts hardboiled gumshoe and faith-based psychic, navigates his way through the most dangerous and paranormal cases of Tulsa’s underworld. Elliot is a magnet for the occult and extra-rational. On the verge of leaving the force to start a family, he finds himself drawn into one last case that involves a fellow officer who claims that a malevolent entity has taken over his body. Unable to ignore so ominous a threat, Elliot investigates the mystery, and is dragged deep into the machinations of an underground cult that threatens to unsettle the very social fabric of his city.
Acting opposite Elliot is the cult leader Ishmael, a disturbed individual with the power to remotely control, and even inhabit, the bodies of others. With an ever-growing army of mindless followers, Ishmael enters into a deadly game of cat-and-mouse with Elliot, pressing the stalwart detective to his limits. 


Official Book Review:
For those who enjoy elements of the supernatural with their detective fiction, Identity Theft: A Detective Elliot Novel by Bob Avey is an engaging read. Throughout, Avey displays a philosophical understanding of human nature, tying the characters’ theoretical debates to the demands of urgent, life-and-death situations. The conflict between Elliot and Ishmael is as much a battle over the human soul as it is a classic struggle between cop and robber. Identity Theft is a gripping meditation on the nature of identity, the corrupting influence of power, and how a person can lose control. Fans of psychological thrillers will be drawn in as Detective Elliot faces the impossible: putting a stop to a madman capable of turning any innocent bystander into his obedient drone. Avey doesn’t make it easy for his protagonist. He dials up the tension and suspense, and throws so much adversity Elliot’s way that he is transformed in the process. Identity Theft marries the intrigue of a detective novel with the mysterious horror of occult fiction in a page-turning style that will leave fans of both genres satisfied.


Author: Bob Avey
Publisher: Black Rose Writing
Pages: 281

Synopsis of Story:
David Blum is called back to his hometown of Champaign, Illinois, from his high-profile banking career in Chicago when his father passes away. At the funeral wake, he receives a card with an ominous message, “I need to talk to you about what really happened to your father.” But when he seeks out the note’s author, Hans Meier, he has disappeared. Blum also suspects he’s being followed. Apparently, there is more to his father’s death than a heart attack. “His father always seemed to be fighting one lost cause or another . . . Only this time maybe the cause had fought back.” Both Meier and Blum’s father worked at the University of Illinois. Investigating this lead reunites Blum with an old acquaintance of his father, Otto Feldmann, “a doddering old scientist with a demeanor more like a friendly dentist than a criminal.” Blum dines with Feldmann at his home, a lush compound full of flora and fauna experiments involving gene splicing that Feldmann asserts will be used to feed the world. Observing Feldmann’s compound increases Blum’s suspicions that he’s hiding his real research. He soon confirms Feldmann is investing huge sums of money in cutting-edge genetic manipulation to advance twisted genocidal beliefs. There are only days for Blum to reveal Feldmann’s plot before a global mass attack.


Official Book Review:
With The Pangaea Solution, Jacobs has created a complex thriller—melding elements of ecological science and genocidal ideology. The protagonist, Blum, leverages his FBI background in a credible way by exerting more brain than brawn. Great details establish the soon-to-be-realized science behind the planned attack, yielding a plausible but imaginative threat. Readers may lose interest during the lengthy segments describing banking records, and the suspension-of-disbelief necessary to accept the involvement of numerous shadow organizations is at times disrupted. Despite minor flaws, Blum’s debut is an impressive thriller with potential for a sequel.


A deft blending of action and science helmed by a believable everyday hero.


Author: Charles Jacobs
Page count: 358

Synopsis of Story:
Publish with Purpose is a valuable tool for authors at any level, but is particularly useful for those new to publishing. Alemany guides writers through exercises that encourage them to reflect on why they want to publish, what they hope to achieve, and how to meet their goals, which are imperative steps for any author who wants their book to have an impact. Through providing case studies that track authors' journeys to publication, Publish with Purpose demonstrates how exercising critical reflection can lead to thoughtful choices and actionable plans that will benefit an author's writing, their business, and most importantly, their readers. 


Official Book Review:
Alemany engages readers in soul-searching exercises intended to incite reflection that will enable authors to make thoughtful choices about their writing and the business-end of publishing. Publish with Purpose zeroes in on essential questions every author should ask, such as: who is your ideal reader and who is your ideal customer? Alemany argues that an author's ideal reader and customer may not be the same, and therefore, aspiring authors need to consider and understand both audiences. A 'Dear Reader' exercise guides aspiring authors through the process of connecting with their ideal readers and their needs. Similarly, a 'Dear Author' exercise provides an opportunity for authors to dream big and define what success would look like for their book. Finally, Alemany offers readers case studies that illustrate how these exercises impacted her own publishing experiences, as well as those of authors with whom she has worked. Throughout, Alemany channels the voice of an encouraging coach, offering guidelines that show how critical reflection can lead to setting and achieving goals. However, too often Alemany portrays the road to publication as a prescribed set of 'to-dos.' The limited number of case studies reflect a small portion of possible trajectories to publication, ignoring some of the road blocks authors may face, even if they follow Alemany's framework.


Publish with Purpose stands out from other books on publishing by focusing on purpose-driven writing and publication; however, it would benefit from encompassing a wider-variety of author experiences.


Author: Tara Alemany
Page count: 103
Publisher: Emerald Lake Books

Synopsis of Story:

Keriya Soulstar awakens after her battle with Necrovar to find herself halfway around the world. She still has her ancient sword with her and travels to Jidaeln to learn the art of sword fighting and hand-to-hand combat. She trains under the master of the school and discovers under his tutelage that she can wield magic. Keriya eventually leaves, with Viran as her prisoner. However, they soon realize they actually care for each other and continue on their quest to return to Keriya's homeland of Allentria as allies. Along the way, Keriya discovers more about herself and her abilities than she ever imagined, providing her the ability to raise an army and engage with Necrovar, which will likely happen in Book IV.

Official Book Review:

Mugdan has written an action-packed third book in her Shadow War Saga. In Dragon Blood, the focus is on Keriya Soulstar’s need and desire to become a better fighter so that she can finally and completely destroy Necrovar. Mugdan includes a romance in this book, which shows a softer side to Keriya, but is somewhat stereotypical because of who the love interest turns out to be. Unfortunately, this is not the only formulaic aspect Mugdan includes in the book. For those familiar with this saga, the third installment will not seem overly long at 557 pages, and it will not be difficult to familiarize oneself with the strange names and ideas associated with magic and dragons. For those picking up this book as a first read, the story line might drag on and not make sense in places, as there are numerous references to previous battles and encounters with characters who don’t actually appear in book III. However, Mudgan’s use of vivid details counterbalances the length and cliched parts, allowing the reader to dive deep into a world full of good and evil, which sets the stage for book IV and the bigger battle yet to come. 


Author: Elana Mugdan
Page count: 557
Publisher: Shivnath Production
Category: Young Adult Fantasy

Synopsis of Story:

Ray Hanley, a homicide detective with the Boston PD, stumbles on a strange new case that threatens to ruin the tentative truce between the Irish and Italian mobs, along with upend his personal life and career. A mutilated corpse is discovered, belonging to Danny the Mule, a foot soldier for the Irish mob. His murder is attributed to a serial killer called The Artist who is on a spree of bizarre kidnappings and murders. The Artist is partly motivated by personal revenge, selecting victims who have wronged him in the past. Mainly, however, he seems to view his killings philosophically as the basis of a new artistic medium—the so-called art of dying—in which his victims’ bodies are mutilated and displayed in public as exhibits.
As Hanley hunts after the psychotic killer he finds himself caught in a web of mob violence, political cover-ups, personal vendettas, and law enforcement incompetence. By the time he unravels the mystery and breaks the case wide open, his life is in shambles. With everything crashing down around him, Hanley must apprehend The Artist and rescue his hostages before he kills again.


Official Book Review:

Cavignano’s new detective novel, The Art of Dying: A Ray Hanley Crime Thriller is a compelling exploration of abnormal psychology. The book deftly blends the world of hard-boiled noir with that of the psychological thriller. Though a detective story at heart, it is also reminiscent of The Silence of the Lambs, or Jeff Lindsay’s Dexter series, with a splash of The Godfather and The Sopranos.
Cavignano excels at alternating between the idyllic domestic environment of the family home and the seedy underworld of Boston, in which a series of murders are coming to light. As each murder points to another, Hanley is pushed to his breaking point, taking bigger and bigger risks to pursue the truth. With The Artist, Cavignano has created a portrait of abnormal psychology every bit as memorable, nuanced (and harrowing) as Hannibal Lecter. 
It is rare that a work of detective fiction conjures a world of such gripping realism replete with twists and turns, false leads, and surprise reveals. The high-octane pace of the book is unrelenting, and readers will be brought along as they accompany Hanley from one lead to the next. A meditation on art, as well as on crime, The Art of Dying is a thriller through and through.


Author: Derik Cavignano

Pages: 320


Create your profile, start and join a book club, track your reading, and more.