Monday, March 2, 2015

Shadows: A Jake Somers Novel by Don Castle Looks at Synthetic Drugs...

"About two weeks ago we received a report of a homicide over behind BMT, you know, the Bradford Master's Technical Institute. When the officers arrived they discovered a pretty young girl, carefully placed beside a dumpster, with a bullet hold in her forehead. Initial efforts to identify the girl were difficult because no identification was found with the body. Because of the missing purse the report was initially flagged as a potential robbery."
"This is beginning to sound a little too familiar." Jake said as he glanced over at Steve. "Have you been able to I.D. the girl yet?"
"We have, but so far there's nothing there that points to a suspect. She was enrolled at the college and living in a student complex not far from the campus. As the saying goes, "we're working on it". However I haven't told you the thing that pushed me to bring you and your staff into this thing."
Jake looked at him questionably.
"It was the girl's attire; the was neatly dressed, blouse, short skirt, calf high socks......and no shoes." The captain looked at Jake and Steve for their reactions and then continued. "That's right, no shoes. The detectives combed the area looking for any sign of a purse or wallet and her shoes. They found nothing."
"That's just too weird," said Steve.
"Yes, that's too weird and too strange to be a coincidence," Jake said, "You've got a double homicide on your hands."
"Exactly," replied the captain, "and if I hadn't seen Officer Thomas' report with your comments, I would have never put the two together. Does your agency have time for a new assignment?"

A Jake Somers Novel
By Don Castle

My name is Jake Somers. I'm
about six feet tall with dark
hair that's graying a little at the
temples. I'm told that I look a
little like Peyton Manning...on
bad day...I liked the Force and
the Force liked me but a freak
accident left me with a bum
leg acquired in a car chase
gone bad...

Jakes Somers and Steve Evans, both ex-cops have a small detective agency in Dallas. This is the first novel for me from this author and I'll mention that it was hard to get into the story. While the criminal investigation itself is great once you get into it, the early prologue and beginning chapters failed... It seemed like the author wasn't quite sure how to begin the novel, but after he got started with the actual case work, was able to grab the reader's attention. 

With that slow start, however, the reader quickly realizes a number of things--there are many small typos and a really repetitive manner of creating the early scenes between characters. To me it clearly indicated that the writer had insufficiently prepared to capture his reader's attention and hold it...A bad beginning that many times will stop the reader's interest completely.

This lack of a solid story also revealed itself when the writer had the local police turn over a case to this agency...Implausible? I think so. With a little imagination, the agency could have at least been called in to work with the police, but Jake was named the lead??? However, if you're willing to overlook this story flaw, Jack does do a great job at solving the case.

Some readers, like myself, might also feel that the sub plot, the marriage of Jake's office assistant, was not sufficiently defined to have such a major role in the book. It felt contrived and, in this reviewer's opinion, reflects further on the author's need to work on setting and character development outside of the police procedural portion.

I had two of my best operatives on the surveillance
but they could never pin down exactly how he was
moving the stuff. And I don't recall us ever seeing
anyone make a delivery to him. When you finally
charged him I just assumed that someone else had
uncovered information that firmed up your case."
"Well kind of." he said. "Evidently Taggard made
someone really angry. We started receiving
unmarked envelopes in our mail giving us
information about Taggard's business. When we
arrested  him and interrogated him he denied it.
He claimed that he only dealt in legal synthetics.
He claimed that he could sell and get the same
high from those without the legal hassle...
Two females had been found near dumpsters, the last one directly behind Jake's offices! Of course he went out to look around and was able to point out several issues to the reporting officer, which later led to Jake being contacted...

Jake and Steve immediately began their routine, which included checking out the first dumpster site. Small things missed can lead to significant information, so they were beginning to make headway.

Both victims had been attending college and had been seen with one of the professors... Taggard.

Mel Taggard was now dead... The bodies were piling up, surely they were connected in some way!

And then they learned that the DEA had started looking at Taggard for drug-related activities when one of his students O.D.

I admit that I was surprised, and disgusted, when it was noted that chemically based alternatives, including marijuana, are now being synthesized. And, unfortunately, via that process, if a synthesized drug is identified at the governmental level, then the recipe can be easily reformulated and a new product created!

Actually, it was through the news of a marriage and the needed preparations that more characters began to be considered. Although I thought the amount of detail was top-heavy, I did enjoy the relationship between Maria, the bride-to-be and Jake and his family. In fact, Maria had asked Jake to give her away since she had no family. A bit of humor comes into play also when Jake's lover, Shirley, and his mother become close friends, so that they would gang up on him in making decisions...

This is a good, solid story with the plodding, steady investigation that does indeed normally take place... No major ups or down and since the reader is brought in to the identification of the guilty individual, no real twists or surprises. I will say that the  murderer is apparently a manic-depressive and this characteristic was very well done as the individual was involved with others and with the flashbacks provided.

The tone of the book is similar to cozy mysteries, although I don't believe it really fits since the lead character is not an amateur. Still, it is worthy of your consideration, so do check out some other reviewers' thoughts and decide on this one! I got a 2012 paperback for review, but apparently it is now out in audio and that is being promoted at this time.


About the author: 
Don Castle enjoyed a successful career as an advertising executive, often using his talent for creative writing and storytelling as an outlet from the stress of his profession. He is the author of the Jake Somers mystery/suspense series PECAN GAP, DARK SOUL and SHADOWS, the winner of the 2014 Gold/1st. Place Feathered Quill National Book Award in the Cozy/Mystery category.

No comments:

Post a Comment