Review: The Greeks of Beaubien Street by Suzanne Jenkins

Detroit Detective Stories

Book 1 of The Greektown Stories

 

Title: The Greeks of Beaubien Street

Subtitle: Detroit Detective Stories

Author: Suzanne Jenkins

Genre: Family Saga, Mystery

Year of Publication: 2012

Published by: Jenkins Associates LLC

Series: The Greektown Stories

Rating: 3/5 stars

Note: I purchased this book as a freebie. However, this aspect didn’t influence the review I wrote or the rating I gave this book.  In this review, you will find only my honest thoughts and opinions about the book I’ve read! This book contains adult themes and language!

The Greeks of Beaubien Street is the first instalment in Suzanne Jenkins’s mystery/family saga series The Greektown Stories which revolves around Jill Zamos, a Greek American detective who lives in Detroit with her large family. In this first book, she works on the case of a murdered young woman named Gretchen Parker, whose lifeless naked body was found in a remote alley. At first glance, the premise of the book should form the main plot of the novel. However, there’s also a secondary plot through which we enter into the universe and day to day life of Jill’s family. Even though I’ve enjoyed reading about Jill, her father Gus who owns a grocery store and the lives of their other relatives, I felt that their family history (seasoned with problems like infidelity, misunderstandings and rivalities between the in-laws) overshadowed the plot about Gretchen’s death. There’s also an esoteric aspect thrown into the novel (Jill has visions linked to the murders) which don’t make sense here. I think that a detective should work with evidence and logic to solve a case, not with visions. However, Jill is not only superstitious and spiritual, but also intelligent, observant, professional and caring when it comes to her father and her brother who suffers from a mental disorder.

If you think that some of the issues of the Zamos family are a bit questionable, such as a dark secret that threatens to break the family apart, just wait and see (I mean read) how Gretchen’s life has been. It’s such a disturbing issue that my mind wasn’t capable of imagining it.  I know that I’m very vague, but I don’t want to get too deep into the subject because it makes me cringe. Though this book is part of a series, I hoped that the narrator would state clearly who actually killed Gretchen Parker, but the ending was very abruptly and I was still left with unanswered questions. That’s definitely not a good sign for a mystery book.

I really feel that there are too many characters and stories for a single book (or first instalment) and I totally understand why other readers were disappointed by this book because they were predominantly interested in the mystery. Though the two plots are loosely linked to Jill and the theme of family and its dark secrets, they belong to very different genres and as much as I would like to tell you otherwise, they don’t go well together. It’s like the author couldn’t decide if she wanted to write a mystery or a family saga and ended up writing about both.

Even though the novel needs another round of editing, I enjoyed reading about Jill’s extended family, her childhood, the relationships between the in-laws, traditions, Greek cuisine, Jill’s colleague Albert Wong who is a gay Asian American character I liked and Alex, Jill’s Polish boyfriend who loves art, but ended up working at the morgue. Most of the characters are pretty well-developed and there were some I liked such as Jill, Gus and Albert, but there were also some I really despised. However, now, after a few months after reading the book, I can’t say that I remember all the relatives Jill has.

In the end, I think that the novel would have been better either as a mystery or as a family saga, not both. I’m not particularly recommending it because it has some disturbing stuff in there and not everyone has the stomach to read about that subject. Also, I’m not planning on reading the rest of the series.

Review: Passion, Power & Sin by Mike Wells

 

Book 1 of Passion, Power & Sin

 

Note: Passion, Power & Sin is a freebie as well as all of Mike Wells’ first instalments in this series!

Title: Passion, Power & Sin

Subtitle: The Victim of a Global Internet Scam Plots Her Revenge

Author: Mike Wells

Genre: Financial Thriller

Year of Publication: 2014

Self-Published

Series: Passion, Power & Sin

Rating: 3.5/5

Have you ever wondered what would you do if you fell behind on your mortgage and you were to lose the house of your parents? This is the situation Heather Bancroft from Passion, Power & Sin has to face. Because she is in desperate need of money to save her North-Carolina house, the twenty-four-year-old woman moves to New York City hoping to get a good job fast, solve her financial issues and live a far better life than she did at home. Unfortunately, she ends up having a poorly paid job at a PR firm where her bosses belittle and treat her like their servant. Being stuck in a rut and with the approaching foreclosure procedure, Heather takes a leap of faith and enters into the world of illegal gambling with the help of an anonymous Friend in Need who sends her strange emails with obscure betting information and accurate predictions.

“If these predictions kept coming in as steadily as they had been, and she could keep betting on them, she might be able to save her mother’s house.” (Loc. 2613)

At first glance, Heather is clearly naïve and a dreamer, but she’d rather gamble and win a significant amount of money than asking her wealthy boyfriend David Windsor to help her, which is a sign of pride because she would feel humiliated and in more debt to do such a thing. However, even if Heather is an independent woman who wants to take matters into her own hands, she also makes mistakes, some of which are pretty stupid, but, I can’t blame her because she is in a desperate situation and she needs money fast regardless of her safety. For example, one of the emails she receives force her to go to a well-known metropolis, where she wants to bet on a sporting event, but she ends up tangled in the underbelly of that city. Though this part of the story was the most gripping and suspenseful, I think that your safety is more precious than anything else in the world and it’s not worth risking it. Though it’s pretty hard to root for Heather because she got involved in illegal betting, even if it was for a noble cause, I wanted to see her safe and I was curious to read about how much money she would win in order to save the house.

I love the way we enter into Heather’s mind and we observe how the psychology of addiction works. Though Heather does this questionable activity to save her family from debt, we cannot overlook the thrill she gets and the addictive effect of gambling just like in the case of narcotics or alcohol.  Similarly to a drug addict, Heather hides her shady activities from everyone else, including her roommate Percy or her boyfriend David. This book outlines scary yet fascinating aspects of the human mind; motivation and what despair can do to you. I also think that this story is pretty realistic because any naive or desperate person under financial pressure can fall victim to an Internet scam which may seem benign at first, but very nasty later.

I enjoyed the pacing of this novel, the suspenseful moments that drove me crazy with anticipation, the characters are morally grey and pretty realistic, the simple writing that makes the book easy to read and vivid descriptions of New York City and of another famous metropolis whose culture is very different from the one Heather grew up in. As for what I didn’t like about this book, I anticipated a twist by the end of the novel to turn everything upside down and to prepare the reader for the sequel. Unfortunately, I didn’t see any resolution for the first instalment and I was a bit disappointed. Also, I couldn’t find a section of the blurb in this book. Therefore, without a clear-cut resolution, the story was left hanging in mid-air as well as my expectations. However, I’m still interested in picking up the second book just to see what happens next to Heather.

Did any of you read this book? What do you think about it?

Review: Black Widow by Mike Wells

 

Book 10 of Lust, Money & Murder

Title: Black Widow

Author: Mike Wells

Genre: Crime, Thriller, Suspense, Espionage

Year of Publication: 2017

Self-Published

Series: Lust, Money & Murder

Rating: 4/5 stars

Note: “I was provided with an advanced reader copy of this book so I could give an honest review.

Warning: Lust Money & Murder is a book series where every book is the continuation of the previous one. If you haven’t read the first book and you are interested in doing so, please return to my review after finishing it, because this article contains spoilers from the first book!

In case I haven’t bored you enough or even annoyed you with my favourite espionage series, today I’m going to write a few paragraphs about Mike Wells’ most recent book in this series, Black Widow, where Elaine is forced to confront and relive her past.

Six months after the events from the ninth book, Elaine Brogan receives an unexpected visitor, whom she hasn’t seen in years.  Kathy, whose identity I won’t reveal, came to Elaine’s farmhouse to ask for help and to reveal a terrible truth about Patrick Brogan’s death. As if the reencounter with this strange yet familiar person wasn’t enough to shock Elaine, now she was to cope with her old wounds too. In order to find out the truth about the suspect aka Spyro Leandrou aka Kathy’s husband, Elaine needs to go to Santorini (Greece) and pose as a governess for Leandrou’s illegitimate son. Meanwhile, Luna goes to Pittsburgh to investigate Patrick’s case.

Kathy is a character I didn’t like that much because she had the gut to appear again in Elaine’s life out of the blue to seek help because she feared for her life. No wonder Elaine reacted the way she did in the first chapters because she didn’t trust Kathy even a bit.  However, things might begin to change in Greece, where the two will pretend to be employer and employee. Kathy is apparently refined and ladylike; instead, she’s insecure and she hasn’t quit her lifelong vices. The thing that annoyed me the most about her was the way she got rid of the Canadian governess. Okay, I understand that Kathy needed to make room to facilitate Elaine’s access into Spyro Leandrou’s house, but the way Kathy did it made me shake my head in disapproval, to say the least.

As for Spyro Leandrou, who is a criminal, according to what Kathy and Cattoretti said: the Greek tycoon seems to have a good side too: he shows his unconditional love to his son Alex, for whom he provided a thorough education both for his mind and body. On the other hand, if we look at Kathy and Elaine’s relationship, it will change a bit for the better; Elaine discovers qualities and abilities Kathy didn’t seem to have before.

This book was pretty steady-paced (with a few exceptions) because Elaine, Luna and Dimitry go on this new mission to gather information and to enable Elaine’s access to Leandrou’s criminal activity. The book has beautiful descriptive passages about Dubrovnik (Croatia), Oia and Fira (Santorini, Greece) which made my heart swell with joy because I’ve visited those places at least twice until now. The narrator makes fun of the unspoken rules of Greece, which seem very strange for Westerners, as well as Dimitry’s mentality, which I can understand to a certain point. Anyway, it was an interesting read and I’m really curious to see what happens next.

Review: Escape from Sudan by Mike Wells

Book 9 of Lust, Money & Murder

 

Title: Escape from Sudan

Author: Mike Wells

Genre: Crime, Thriller, Suspense, Espionage

Year of Publication: 2016

Self-Published

Series: Lust, Money & Murder

Rating: 5/5 stars

Warning: Lust Money & Murder is a book series where every book is the continuation of the previous one. If you haven’t read the first book and you are interested in doing so, please return to my review after finishing it, because this article contains spoilers from the first book!

Blood diamonds, she thought. That’s exactly what these are. She felt almost as superstitious as the Africans now, as if the pink diamonds themselves had somehow caused all this hardship and death.” (Loc. 2421-2423).

As some of you already know, Lust, Money & Murder is one of my favourite series and, even though I’ve taken a break from it for a few months, here I am writing a review for the ninth book, which is entitled Escape from Sudan.

Elaine Brogan reveals her true identity to Stanley Ketchum, but the former-CIA agent doesn’t believe that the pretty blond is a U.S. Secret Service agent, but ‘some gold digger who was working with Raj to get her hands on the diamond mine”. (Loc. 456-457) Therefore, in order to push the mission forward, Elaine must convince Stan to cooperate and she hopes that he will not inform Raj about her (and Luna’s) unofficial investigation on Malik and his illegal smuggling. Will Ketchum’s conditions change the initial plan? How will Cattoretti react? Caught between Cattoretti’s plan and the investigation, Elaine Brogan must also cope with the frequent attacks from the Janjaweed warriors, who constantly follow them.

Meanwhile, back in Tangier, Nick LaGrange has problems of his own: from questioning his wife’s relationship with Cattoretti, finding out the truth about Isabella, to being held prisoner by some Ukrainian gangsters. What’s real and what isn’t? How will Nick manage to escape and what other risky missions will he have to go on?

This book was an emotional roller-coaster for me because some plans change; others almost fall apart due to dangerous situations, mistrust or new information, which took me by surprise as if they punched me in the face. This novel is one of the bloodiest of the entire series and almost everyone gets shot or hurt at least once. I was shocked, I was surprised, sometimes even disgusted, but I laughed when a character or a scene was funny and I rooted for Elaine and Nick to escape from the life-threatening situations they were into. You never know how things will end even when you are inches away from finishing the book.

Review: Blood Diamonds by Mike Wells

Book 8 of Lust, Money & Murder

 

Title: Blood Diamonds

Author: Mike Wells

Genre: Crime, Thriller, Suspense, Espionage

Year of Publication: 2016

Self-Published

Series: Lust, Money & Murder

Rating: 4/5 stars

Note: I was provided with an advanced reader copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

WarningLust Money & Murder is a book series where every book is the continuation of the previous one. If you haven’t read the book series and you are interested in doing so, please return to my review after finishing the previous book, because this article contains spoilers from it!

Towards the end of Book 7, Elaine Brogan is obliged to join forces with Giorgio Cattoretti, in order to bring Raj Malik down as a revenge for what Malik did to her and Nick. According to Cattoretti, Raj’s wealth is based on the profit he makes from smuggling diamonds from a secret cave in a war zone from central Africa. Though Elaine thinks this mission is very risky, she wants to bust Raj for everything he has done, while the Italian mastermind is most of all interested in the rare pink diamonds themselves. For this mission, Elaine has to track down Stanley Ketchum, the ex-CIA agent who supplies Raj Malik with the precious diamonds and to use her charms to find out the exact location of the mine and to give the coordinates to Cattoretti.

Meanwhile, Nick, who escaped from the black site with the apparently mute nurse, Alisha, discovers that she is actually Isabella, the woman who blew up one of his undercover missions from the past that might have killed him. Though Nick is disgusted with what Isabella did to him a few years ago, he wants to know if she was linked in any way to the attack from the black site and to those who hold Elaine hostage. Though the reencounter with Isabella stirs some mixed feelings in Nick, he is equally worried about what had happened to Elaine and even insecure at the thought of her being again with Cattoretti. Even if Isabella’s presence annoys Nick, he reluctantly accepts her offer to help him look for Elaine, in exchange for a service he has to return.

Elaine’s journey through Northern and Central Africa is remarkably built and written through the way Mr Wells depicts and outlines the local cultures of Morocco, Chad and Sudan, the issue of poverty, war and extremism, international aid and dangerous encounters with wild animals. Though changing her identity is a piece of cake for Elaine, I think that here she plays her best role pretending to be a Texas trophy wife with the purpose of seducing Stan and hoping she will have the opportunity to see the diamond mine up close.

Will she get what Cattoretti wants without making Stanley too interested in her? I’ll let you find out for yourselves.