Tag Archives: Washington DC area

One to Go by Mike Pace

Oceanview Publishing. 365 pages. $26.95.

Posted on Washington Independent Review of Books, January 5, 2015

Are dreams or demons driving the protagonist of this thriller?

Deux ex machina is not only a literary device, but also a theme in this unusual genre-crossing novel. Billed as a paranormal thriller, One to Go raises suspense by manipulating readers into wondering if the supernatural occurrences and personages perceived by the central character are hallucinations, hoaxes, or true manifestations of the spirit world — both godly and ungodly.Tom Booker’s high-pressure life as an underling lawyer in a world-class DC law firm pits the demands of the firm against his responsibilities as a father. The pressure has already ruined his marriage, but he is trying to hold onto his relationship with his 7-year-old daughter. Maintaining two households and paying alimony have compromised Tom’s lifestyle, and he often has to make excuses when his promises to young Janie are sacrificed to the demands of his superiors at the firm. To deal with these pressures, Tom has been relying on liquor way too much.As the story begins, Tom is supposed to bring his daughter and her friends to a field trip. Delayed by running into the head of the law firm on his way to the office garage, he is fearful about how angry his ex-wife, Gayle, will be if he once again doesn’t come through.Traffic conspires against him, too, and Tom is surprised to see the girls in his sister-in-law’s minivan. Wondering about a change in plan, Tom is forced into an accident. He awakens after a blackout to see the minivan teetering on the edge of the road and about to fall into the river. Janie’s face is pressed against the window. . .  .

To read the entire, juicy review, click here:  One to Go | Washington Independent Review of Books

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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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