Tag Archives: Lawrence De Maria

Serial killer mystery features a wise guy PI and a deranged yet crafty villain

Shadow of the Black Womb, By Lawrence J. De Maria. St. Austin’s Press.  204 pages. E-book $2.99.

This is Alton Rhode Mysteries #8, one of three exciting series penned by Mr. De Maria. The title, drawn from the Delmore Schwartz poem “The Heavy Bear Who Goes with Me,” sets a minor key note of literary erudition that plays quietly through the novel. It reminds us of how the bodily self undermines the aspirations of our more noble and –  intangible – sense of identity. Alton observes the distance between who he is and who he might be. This awareness flitters through his perceptions. He senses an inescapable twinship between two sides of one person.  

Dark doubles and duality play out in other ways in the course of the novel, one that involves a serial killer addicted to his pleasure of murdering young children. The depraved addict has a score to settle. It is Halloween, and the masked killer has a pistol hidden in his plastic pumpkin. Cormac Levine is his target.

The mystery plot –- who is this murderous madman and what are his motives –- is interrupted so that we can drop in on Alton Rhode, the main narrator. We meet his tomcat, his dog, and his gorgeous, brainy girlfriend Alice Watts –  a philosophy professor at Barnard. The two enjoy New York’s cultural offerings. Their evening is interrupted by a call from Alton’s police force buddies, using a crime family figure as an intermediary because this enforcer would know how to get in touch with Alton quickly. Already we know that Alton is well connected on both sides of the law.

De Maria

A private investigator can handle some issues more readily than the police department or the district attorney’s office can. Alton rushes over to the Richmond Memorial Hospital (Staten Island) where Cormac Levine (“Mac”) is in a coma. We discover that Mac and Alton are old friends. Alton reveals that “I was a rookie cop when he cornered a child molester.” We might wonder if the child molester, now a child killer, is settling the score with someone who sent him to jail. . . .

To read the full review, as it appears in the May 24,2017 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the May 25 Naples, Bonita Springs, and Punta Gorda / Port Charlotte editions, click here: Florida Weekly – Shadow of the Black Womb

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Weaponized virus threat sends special CIA team into action

Thawed! by Lawrence De Maria. 175 pages. Kindle E-book $2.99. Cole Sudden C.I.A. Thrillers Book 3.

Not many novels open at research stations in Siberia, but Mr. De Maria makes his initial scene on the frozen tundra of Siberia a vivid attention-getter. We first meet Vadim Bylinkin, the Russian helicopter pilot who ferries supplies and contraband to the isolated super-frozen arctic stations. At a particular station, world-changing research is underway under the leadership of Grigor Rusayev. A joke about “Tundra Dick” sets the tone as Grigor drools over Katarina, the red-haired botanist on the research team. But what’s going on here is more serious. The lead scientist has brought to life (or something like life) an extinct virus locked in permafrost for 30,000 years. A virus that can be weaponized. thawed20162

The Russian military investigates after the research station suffers a disaster, but those who are after the virus turn out to be highly capable and totally dedicated Islamic terrorists who have infiltrated the Russian operation.

Meanwhile, at the Philadelphia Naval Business Center, the ever resourceful and of often sarcastic Cole Sudden is buffing up his second career as a novelist. Being a roguish CIA agent is clearly not enough for him. How far he can go with his Jake Harms mysteries without risking his hidden identity is an open question. The facility where he is meeting with CIA colleague Nigel Buss hides an agency team of assassins. That’s why Cole is there. They run activities best kept away from the headquarters campus in Langley, Virginia.

By establishing Cole as a novelist, Mr. De Maria can play games with his readers. The ways in which Cole Sudden’s writing career mirrors that of his creator makes for a lot of insider fun.

De Maria

De Maria

When readers discover that Grigor Rusayev is sharing information with two French scientists associated with the University of Marseilles, they will wonder about the consequences of an obviously illegal partnership.

The Russian military is sent into action after something goes horribly wrong at the research station. The disaster is first witnessed by Bylinkin from the air. Moscow assumes the Siberian situation and the virus research is under control. However, Islamic fanatics have infiltrated the Russian enterprise with their own jihadist agenda. . . .

To read the entire review, as found in the November 9, 2016 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the November 10 Naples, Bonita Springs, Punta Gorda / Port Charlotte, Palm Beach Gardens / Jupiter, and Palm Beach /  West Palm Beach editions, click here: Florida Weekly – Thawed!

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Diamonds and dames rough and smooth anchor PI’s kidnapping case

Facets, by Lawrence De Maria. St. Austin’s Press. 201 pages (equivalent). Kindle E-book $2.99.

Jake Scarne Thriller #6 is a steamroller of action and calculation. It begins with pieces of background, the first of which is set in 1990 at Catholic school for troublesome girls in mountainous Chamonix, France. A beautiful, self-assured blonde named Maura Dallas is characterized by her quick wit and aversion to discipline or conformity. For two years, she has roomed with her best friend, black-haired Argentinian Alana Loeb, another beneficiary of the school’s dependence on wealthy parents without whom it wouldn’t survive. Maverick daughters of such parents must be tolerated. The wealthy Dallassio family, deep into criminal activity, can make sure their daughter Maura graduates. FACETS(September2015)forphil

A scene in 1995 takes us to Boston where Maura is found flourishing on the Harvard Law Review and bedding down with Lucas Brandeford, one of the junior law professors and a rising star. Maura is a shrewd seducer and manipulator. Her brains are enough to get her through, but she hedges her bets with her body. As she is throughout her life, Maura is protected by Victor Anastasia, a senior enforcer and family bodyguard in the Dallassio criminal empire. When Maura dumps Brandeford, he sounds threatening. Anastasia rigs his arrest for cocaine possession, and the enraged suitor is forced to resign.

The main story, set primarily in New York, unfolds in 2015. It involves Maura’s rebellious and somewhat estranged daughter, Alana, a twenty year old Barnard student taking some of her classes at Columbia University. She is having an affair with an adjunct teacher, Luke Willet. Agreeing to take Alana to the airport, Willet drugs and abducts her. He has a very well thought out plan for a huge ransom, to be paid out in a mix of cut and uncut diamonds. Mr. De Maria describes the ingenious scheme in meticulous detail, hooking his readers for the rest of the journey.

De Maria

De Maria

Jake Scarne enters the story when he is hired by Maura Dallas , still a beauty in her mid-to-late forties. She is accompanied by Victor Anastasia, who knows Scarne’s agency partner, Noah Sealth. (Where does De Maria get these names?) Maura hires Jake’s team to find her daughter. She insists that there be no police involvement, and she explains how she’s received convincing evidence from the kidnapper that Alana is alive. Jake’s follow-up questions reveal what a pro he is and how much Anastasia and others have tried to do on their own. Maura explains that she has raised Alana as a single mother.

Jake is concerned that the ransom demand has not yet been made. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in November 18, 2015 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the November 19 Bonita Springs and Punta Gorda / Port Charlotte editions, click here: Florida Weekly – Facets

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Novel blends popular genres to please wide range of readers

The Hadron Escape, by Lawrence De Maria. St. Austin’s Press. 203 pages (estimated). Kindle edition $2.99.

Billed as a “Cole Sudden CIA Thriller,” this latest offering from the indefatigable Mr. De Maria mixes a dollop of imaginary WWII history, present day secret agent intrigue, and a twist on a familiar sci-fi “what if” into an exciting and spirited entertainment. Both fun and funny, “The Hadron Escape” features sex-addicted women who are (with one grotesque exception) amazingly gorgeous and a skilled, wise-cracking operative whose cover is being a writer of thriller novels. HADRON(August2014)

In 1945, mad German scientist Erik Zyster tells SS Colonel Boltke he has discovered the corpse of a nonhuman being. Boltke’s mindset misunderstands “nonhuman” for Jew, but that is not the depraved doctor’s point. He explains, “He had no penis. No testicles no genitals at all.” While Boltke passes this off as a birth defect or sexual aberration, Zyster reveals that the internal organs are unusually sized and positioned.

Jump to 1967. Colonel Boltke has long ago transformed himself into Walter Bannion. Mr. De Maria places him in a small Vermont town near the Canadian border. He had escaped from Europe to Argentina and lived there as Walter Bruschi for many years. When the Israelis captured Adolph Eichman, Boltke planned and executed his next transformation, establishing himself as Bannion in early 1962.

Soon after a minor skiing accident, Boltke/Bannion is surprised by a visit from Dr. Zyster. Zyster tells of his escape from the laboratory he headed, his disguise as a Jewish survivor, and his life since. Then he tells “Bannion” about recent stories describing alien corpses with characteristics just like those he had shown the colonel two decades ago. He also conjectures that aliens where spying on U. S research near Roswell, New Mexico.

De Maria

After adding some speculation about nuclear physics research and space travel, the author launches his main plot. However, first he must have Mossad agent Etan Soul, who has been tracking Zyster, wonder about Zyster’s companion at the ski lodge. After Zyster kills Boltke, Soul kills Zyster, but salvages his attaché case –which he soon ships to Tel Aviv with whatever remnants of the doctor’s research it contains.

The present time: Mr. De Maria builds context about recent U. S. security agency concerns, agency rivalries, and high-tech issues. A top security official receives a mysterious intercepted message regarding the Hadron Collider, the world’s largest subatomic particle accelerator. The message was sent from Commerce, Georgia to a destination in Switzerland where the Hadron is located.  The encrypted transmission has symbols that Laurie Gibbons, the security advisor with a direct presidential pipeline, has never seen before. She learns that Hadron activity distorts electronic transmissions, posing a big problem for code breakers. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the October 14, 2014 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the October 15 Naples and Punta Gorda/Port Charlotte editions, click here: Florida Weekly – Hadron Escape

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Staten Island comes alive in new thriller

“Madman’s Thirst,” by Lawrence De Maria. St. Austin’s Press. $4.99 e-book.

“Madman’s Thirst” is the second “Jake Scarnes” novel, following “Sound of Blood.” The author has also launched a second series with “Capriati’s Blood” featuring Alton Rhode. While the first Scarnes novel is available as a trade paperback, the other two thrillers by Mr. De Maria are so far offered only in e-book format. Regarding trends in book publication, the future is now.

Who would want a sweet high school beauty like Elizabeth Pearsall murdered? The two contract killers who tail her home from school could care less. It’s a payday. They plan to make the murder look like a botched robbery, but one member of the team, Lucas Gallo, gets carried away and rapes her. His partner in the caper, a cancer-ridden old pro named Banaszak, is disgusted. In the world of Jake Scarnes, any lowlife can have a bit of conscience. Banaszak kills Gallo and manages things so that there is no corpse to discover.

What’s likely is that Elizabeth’s father, the prizewinning newspaper editor of the “Richmond Register” (Staten Island, NY), is being sent a message. He leaves town in a hurry. What has he been poking into? Well, someone with a shoddy reputation, a former plastic surgeon named Nathan Bimm, has been adding to his real estate investments, buying up land on opposite ends of Staten Island. There is some talk of a NASCAR race track on one of the sites. Influence-peddling is rampant. A major crime family is involved, perhaps even the borough president. Two of Robert Pearsall’s best reporters have been digging into Bimm’s activities. Now Pearsall’s daughter is raped and slaughtered. The botched robbery ploy doesn’t hold up for long. 

A guy named Dudley Mack, an Irish gangster and funeral parlor tycoon, has a moral code of sorts. When he hears about a mysterious confession to a priest, perhaps by Banaszak, Mack gets his old buddy, private detective Jake Scarnes, involved.

From here on in, readers can enjoy Jake’s mix of cerebral and bull-headed detection. Strange thing, though, every lead he gets leads to someone who’s just been killed. Who is snuffing out all those who know about what lies behind the crime before Jake can extract new information? And just what does lie behind the race to buy up all that real estate?

Lawrence De Maria

Interesting characters abound. There is gorgeous and brainy Emerald (“Emma”) Shields, rising star in the Shields family’s media empire, Jake is strongly attracted to her, but she seems interested in a Donald Trump wannabe named Aristotle Arachne. What’s going on? Arachne is clearly among those involved in whatever Dr. Bimm has been up to. There is Jake’s secretary, Evelyn Warr, a great sounding board for the private eye and capable in every way. There is Beldon Popp, managing editor at the “Richmond Register,” whom Jake thinks is spending way too much time in the company of the rich and famous.

The real hero of the book may well be Staten Island itself. For all his attention to character and plot, Mr. De Maria does nothing better than evoking the feel of this forlorn piece of New York City. He lovingly paints its neighborhoods, restaurants, and saloons; its government buildings; its poorly maintained streets and facades; its history, sounds, and smells. . . .

To read this review in its entirety, as it appears in the June 21, 2012 issues of the Naples Florida Weekly and the Port Charlotte/Punta Gorda edition, click here: Florida Weekly – De Maria pdf

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