Tag Archives: money laundering

Enemies within attempt to provoke U. S. war abroad

Nowhere on Earth, by Vincent J. Sachar. Divont Pubishers. 334 pages. Trade paperback $12.25.

What if high-ranking elected government officials as well as major security agency personnel were engaged in a plot to undermine official U. S. policy? What if they had a plan to force the U. S. into a war in the Middle East? What would be the chances of such a plot being successful? What would it take to detect and thwart it? Who would it take to lead the charge? noecoverjavier

The answer to the last question is that it would take a man with many names, one of which is Kent Taylor. Taylor, a former Navy SEAL LCDR, is a man with unusual skills and a dark background. The damage he has seen and done has made him a lot of enemies. His simple cover story is that he died many years before this threat was set in motion. He is leading a secluded life with his wife on the island of St. John, one of the U. S. Virgin Islands. For his own survival and that of other family members, he has become imprisoned in paradise.

Now that all comes to an end. He finds himself teaming up with three FBI retirees to fight the rogue group that sees its interests requiring that the U. S. be manipulated into a foreign war. The skills of Taylor, former FBI Special Agent Bill Gladding, and former agents Jonas and Sally Blair combine to lead the battle. Others play roles in assisting them, just as many other characters play rolls as part of the rogue effort. Some readers may find just too many characters to sort out.

Mr. Sachar builds his plot out of seemingly disconnected pieces, jumping from location to location, crisis to crisis, character to character, outlining the major plot by defining the dots that have to be followed and linked. You know, follow the dots.

A major dot is a large upstate New York company named Bergam Industries. Its legitimate businesses have cloaked illegal doings like money laundering, and something is going on that involves the secret presence of African visitors. Smuggling perhaps?



One employee suffers a mysterious accidental death. Another, suspicious and fearful, brings computer jump drive to his lawyer’s office. This lawyer just happens to be the aforementioned Jonas Blair. The man mysteriously disappears. After Blair is threatened by thugs who arrive to retrieve the stolen property, he brings Taylor and the others into the effort to stop the network of rogue officials and operatives.

A scene in the Congo, yet another dot on the plot map, reveals an African man in hiding, He is in the service of U. S. interests. But which ones? The legitimate ones or the pretenders?

To read the entire review, as it appears in the December 28, 2016 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the December 29 Naples, Bonita Springs, and Punta Gorda / Port Charlotte editions, click here: Florida Weekly – Nowhere on Earth

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Money laundering, revenge, and romance drive business-savvy novel

Entangled, by Mark Dossey. CreateSpace. 316 pages. Trade paperback $14.99. Kindle Ebook $3.99.

This new title continues the saga of Ally Kendall that debuted in “XC97” (2014). The two titles now comprise the Ally Kendall Series. Set in the corporate world, these titles provide special interest to those readers interested in business issues. In addition, Entangled gives new life to a murder mystery once thought resolved. entangledcover-ebook-2

In the earlier novel, Prestige Pharmaceuticals, headquartered in Zurich, took over the much smaller Newark-based Integra, allowing the Integra-developed cancer drug XC97 to gain wide distribution quickly. A romance between Ally and Stephan Egbert, sole owner of Prestige Pharma, became red hot. Ally is the chief PR officer for the both companies, though originally an Integra executive.

A few years later, what has been going smoothly begins to fall apart on both business and personal levels. Ally questions the depth of her love for Stephan, whose hermitlike commitment to his company signals his lifestyle inflexibility. Sex is great, but Ally wonders if that’s all there is. At thirty-two, she’s contemplating a marriage with children – but this seems unlikely with Stephan. And she’d rather be living full-time in the U. S., not a change that seems possible for Stephan. Planning to cool the relationship, she is frank about this with Stephan, who is crushed by her news.

Stephan is also crushed by an explosion that brings down his huge estate, leaving him seriously injured and suddenly homeless. Shortly before, the dazzling headquarters of Prestige had been demolished by what looked like a terrorist attack.



One mystery has to do with the cause of the attacks and the person or persons behind them. There is no doubt that they are linked. However, at first it’s more of a mystery for the characters; readers witness the commission of the monstrous deeds.

They seem to be acts of revenge committed by someone alert to the shady history of Prestige, once run by Stephan’s father. The elder Egbert kept its balance sheet impressive by running a massive money laundering operation through it. Now the company is impoverished and disgraced – another blow to Stephan, who was entirely innocent of his father’s criminal behavior.

The game is afoot to settle old scores, and much of the plotting has to do with following the schemes and actions of relatively minor characters. The case of who murdered the Integra founder is reopened, and the events in Newark and Zurich become woven together. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the July 27, 2016 issue of the Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the July 28 Naples, Bonita Springs, Punta Gorda / Port Charlotte and Palm Beach Gardens / Jupiter editions, click here: Florida Weekly – Entangled

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Dog-gone murder mystery rattles Daytona

Hair of the Dog, by Susan Slater. Poisoned Pen Press. 238 pages. Trade paperback $14.95. Other editions available.

I don’t remember reading – or even reading about – a novel centered on the greyhound racing business. Now Susan Slater has come up with a dazzler set in Daytona. The third “Dan Mahoney Mystery,” it of course follows Dan and his fiancé Elaine Linden through the investigation of claims against Dan’s employer, United Life and Casualty. Five premier, well-insured greyhounds insured by this company have died in a fire at the dog track, or so it seems. HairoftheDogCover

Conveniently, the case provides the impetus for the couple to consider moving permanently to Florida; after all, why should these characters live far away from their creator?

Distraught Dixie Halifax, co-owner of the slowly failing track and casino, has the dog’s ashes in five urns lined up on her desk.

The initial investigation has led to the arrest of Fucher Crumm, and man with some developmental challenges who works at the track. Fucher is charged with arson committed to cover up the murder of Jackson Sanchez, the principal kennel owner at the Daytona Beach Kennel Club and Poker Room. Those who know Fucher can’t believe he could possibly be guilty of such deeds. He’s a gentle soul without guile. Has there been a rush to judgment?

Another curious fact is that the pool of blood under Jackson’s corpse is not his own. Furthermore, in the course of the investigation two other people connected with the dog track turn up dead.



Dan has his hands full with all that’s happening at the track, even though his main interest is whether or not the insurance company should pay off on the policies covering the dogs’ lives. When the cremains turn out to have only human DNA, the question becomes: what happened to the dogs?

Dear reader, that is not for me to answer.

Dan also has his hands full because of his mother’s infatuation with a man who may not be whom he appears to be. In fact, even Dan’s mother Maggie is suspicious of the Lothario who has been wooing her. Maggie turns to Elaine in an attempt to find out if Stanley is on the up and up. Elaine is studying to get a private investigator license in order to team up with her future husband. Her teacher, ex-FBI agent Scott, allows her to make the investigation of Stanley part of her curriculum.

The two story threads get tied together over the discovery that the track and casino operation has been corrupted by a money laundering operation. Guess who is part of it? . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the September 2, 2015 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the September 3 Naples, Bonita Springs, Punta Gorda/Port Charlotte, and Palm Beach/West Palm Beach editions, click here: Florida Weekly – Hair of the Dog

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A fine debut novel exposes an American South often overlooked

A Tree Born Crooked, by Steph Post. Pandamoon Publications. 234 pages. Trade paperback $15.99.

I almost missed this one, which is among the most original and striking Florida novels I’ve encountered in my almost nine years of walking this beat. No gorgeously hued Sunshine State here. This is the Florida of grit and grime state: the North Florida that is really Southern, rather than the South Florida that is mostly Northern. Atreeborncrookedfrontcoveronlyat300dpi

If you can hold your liquor, or even if you can’t, jump into the beat-up pickup and come along for the ride. You’ll need plenty of antacid, bandages, and your weapon of choice.

The plot focuses on the reluctant homecoming of James Hart. James has survived a youth of petty crime and various kinds of self-destructive behavior. Estranged from his family, he has for a time now abandoned his reckless former life and become a responsible, if lonely, citizen. James returns to Crystal Springs, Florida after receiving a rather impersonal announcement about his father’s funeral. He comes home too late, and it’s unclear if he is really welcome.

James is viewed as someone who betrayed his family, rather than as someone who escaped a debilitating environment. For most who stay, Crystal Springs is a dead end: run down businesses, too much drinking and drugs, and no sense of a future. Success means pulling off a robbery and getting away with it.

In fact, such is the sordid dream that has backfired on James’s younger brother, Rabbit, who is caught up in a dangerous caper as well as a drug habit. Suddenly, it is James’s duty – should he choose to accept – to help Rabbit survive his bad decisions. Reluctantly, James gets involved in extricating Rabbit from a situation in which Rabbit is accused of stealing money from a local money laundering scheme.  Rabbit had learned that a pile of cash would be temporary stashed at a local strip club. The Alligator Mafia, a small-time mob connected to larger ones – is breathing down his neck.



Rabbit and his cohorts are biting the criminal hand that already feeds them, and they will pay for this big time. The heist does not succeed as planned, and the strip club owner’s men are looking to get that money back and send a message.

James travels with Rabbit, their cousin Delmore, and the beautiful but haunted Marlena Bell (who “could switch from a pistol to a pillow” with ease) on a rather half-baked plan to save Rabbit. It involves chasing down Marlena’s father, Waylon, who has played a part in the theft. Their scheme makes sense while you’re reading the book, but the logic starts to unravel when you try to remember it.

However, is does get us on the road from North Central Florida across the Panhandle to and through Tallahassee and back again. What is important on this journey, and throughout the novel, is Steph Post’s perfect pitch representation of her characters’ dialogue, desperation, and determination along a stretch of nonstop action.

To read the entire review, as it appears in the May 27, 2015 Fort Myers Florida Weekly, the May 28 Naples and Bonita Springs editions, and the June 4 Punta Gorda/Port Charlotte edition, click here Florida Weekly – Steph Post 1 and here Florida Weekly – Steph Post 2.


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The Man Who Asked to Be Killed

by Gary Garth McCann. A Few Good Books Publishing. 302 pages. Trade paperback $14.95.

Buddy Smith, a 28-year-old Annapolis lawyer, works for his cousin Mac, who just happens to be the governor of Maryland. Buddy doesn’t work a state government job; he serves as legal counsel to the trust that holds Mac’s business interests.

The governor’s older sister, Thea, runs the highly successful corporation GBC, in which Mac remains a silent partner. It had been built by their late father. When Thea is murdered, Mac is not only rocked with grief, but also seems to feel that he and those around him are in danger. Why he feels this way is not made clear until one quarter through the book.

Until then, author Gary Garth McCann, in The Man Who Asked To Be Killed, provides a detailed history of Buddy’s life, including his lifelong crush on Mac’s second wife, the beautiful but emotionally fragile Kat. Hey, but wait a minute. Buddy is engaged to marry Lynn, whose snooty father thinks Buddy is a low-class loser. Then there’s a guy named Randall, Kat’s first husband, a morally marginal fellow with whom Buddy is still somewhat friendly. These high-school relationships die hard.

Buddy’s life is on hold until the house that he and Lynn are planning to occupy is ready. Meanwhile, Buddy lives with Mac. Their proximity is a mixed blessing, exposing each to the best and worst traits of the other and testing their friendship while compromising their privacy.

The investigation of Thea’s death involves the investigation of similar shootings, at first suggesting a serial killer with a more or less random selection of victims. Soon, however, it looks more like the killer is hiding the motive for shooting Thea by creating the appearance of randomness.



Assuming Thea was a carefully selected target, perhaps her management of GBC needs to be explored. Indeed, we learn that the company had long been infected by a money-laundering operation. Perhaps Thea had learned something that threatened the criminal enterprise behind it.

Now, people close to Thea might be close to information that could get them killed. Mac is not only disconsolate over her death, but also fearful for his own life and the lives of others. He has sent Kat and her son (who is not Mac’s child) away. Their safety is one issue; the likely collapse of their marriage is another.

Buddy, positioned as the narrator, serves as Mac’s confidant and counselor. He observes how Mac feels trapped: He will either be a mob victim like his sister or a prisoner because of his knowledge of — and indirect benefit from — the illegal activities within GBC.

Mac decides to resign from the governorship, and Buddy helps frame the timetable for a meeting with federal agents at which Mac might be able to strike a deal. Off and on, Mac shows and expresses suicidal tendencies.

Is he the title character? It seems so for a while, but there’s another candidate who fits the bill more closely.

Buddy, much to his regret, accompanies Mac on a resort vacation. Buddy proves susceptible to ethical misconduct. He cheats on Lynn, though it seems later that the women luring him into betrayal were part of a set-up.

As the likelihood of arrest or death by assassination looms larger and larger, the suspense thermometer rises higher and higher. However, several other aspects of the novel rival this center of interest. . . .

To read the entire review, as posted on November 4, 2014 to the Washington Independent Review of Books, click here:  The Man Who Asked to Be Killed | Washington Independent Review of Books.

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