SERENITY, A Shelby Alexander Thriller, Sweatshoppe Publications, an e-book by Craig A. Hart.

Plot/Characters: Shelby, a sixty-year-old former highly ranked professional boxer is living alone in the small northern Michigan town of Serenity. Long divorced and the father of Leslie who, now grown, finally no longer hates him, but rather is attempting, through frequent calls, to get him back together with her mother. His presence in the small town is from a desire to get away from the life he had devised after losing his last championship fight. He was ‘a fixer’, best defined perhaps as a sort of PI who did not always stay on the side of the law in his ministrations. One evening he looks out of his kitchen window and sees a figure in the snow. He investigates and discovers Jenny Ellis, a mentally challenged but friendly woman known by everyone. She is comatose, he brings her into the house and calls emergency but she dies before an ambulance arrives. Upon inquiry from Deputy Stevens, he learns that she had been struck on the head while in the woods but managed to regain sufficiently to make it as far as his house before collapsing. She is part of a family infamous for years as drug dealers, killers and more. Harper, the leader of the Elis clan offers Shel $10,000 to find the person responsible and from this seemingly simple beginning the reader is immersed in a tale of drugs, murder and some suspenseful activity involving a number of unusual characters; Ellis family members – Shepherd, the oldest, Gannon, the hulking, mentally slow and viciously mean youngest, and Ma, also mentally challenged; Norman Evans, an unusual, very nervous individual with surprising activities; Sheriff Wilkes, new, obnoxious and of questionable ability and agenda; Carly, beautiful and raunchy bar owner/attendant who is closely involved with Shel; Jerry McIntyre (Mack), retired Detroit police officer now PI and longtime Shelby friend. The story’s end was somewhat unexpected by this reader although hints had been there to observe.

Discussion: After a somewhat slow and uncertain (fortunately short) beginning, the author has set forth a thriller that moves well and includes activity well-described as appropriate to the characters. There perhaps is a sense that the character may not as yet have reached his ultimate characterization and portions may not be quite as smooth as desired. However, this is understandable as the first of a proposed series and no doubt will be rectified as it continues.

4* First of a purported thriller series.


New Order

NEW ORDER, Hidden Vampire Slayer, Book One, Amazon Edition by H. J. Lawson.

Sadie Meyer, waiting to be picked up by her boyfriend Arron – they are going to their Senior Prom with his best friend Ryder and his girlfriend Lakia – when she hears a piercing noise. She looks through the window and sees a car wrapped around a pole and creepy shadows and overhears through the closed windows part of a conversation: “That’s one of them on the list”. “Remus will reward us nicely for this kid.” And “Or we could keep him for ourselves”. She moves away from the window questioning how she could hear through the closed windows. Aaron arrives, they pick up the other two and head for the Prom. On the way she sees a vampire (?). No one else does. How could she? Such things are only fictional. After the prom, they head for the motel all of the guys have arranged for staying the night. There, an entire group of vampires attack the students and the story escalates into a state of attack and escape warfare as she gradually learns that she and some of her friends have an unexpected mission in life. Pieces of this, and bits of the projected activity are provided.

Discussion: The author’s depiction of places, action and reaction is nicely worded, although occasionally slightly confusing, so as to provide a pervading sense of not knowing ‘what to expect next’, possibly even something as dire as impending death and disaster for loved ones as well as for the protagonist herself. Generally speaking, this is a book and proposed series that, although lacking sufficient sophistication for the usual vampire devotee, should be of sufficient interest for younger readers of the genre to embrace.

3*        4* possible for young readers; 2* for usual devotee.