“The Prized Girl” — A Debut Mystery with Shocking Twists and a Surprise Ending

The Prized Girl of Amy K. Green’s title just wanted to know what it would be like to shed her beauty queen image and be a normal eighth-grade student. She never got the chance.

As this debut mystery opens, Jenny is already dead — raped, stabbed and discarded in the woods not far from her family home in a small New England town. Police promptly arrest a simple-minded, middle-age man who had been obsessed with the girl. To Virginia, Jenny’s alcohol-addicted, 20-something half-sister, the police investigation looks superficial, the suspect too convenient. So she worms her way into the case.

The characters — especially the two sisters, their parents, Jenny’s boyfriend and the detective — are complex and well-drawn. And Virginia’s relentless search for the real killer is filled with intriguing flashbacks, stunning twists and a shocking ending.

For the full text of my Associated Press review, please click here.


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Raymond Fleischmann’s Debut Thriller — My Review

Raymond Fleischmann’s new thriller, How Quickly She Disappears, is  a high-stakes cat-and-mouse game that will remind readers of the menacing dance between Hannibal Lecter and FBI agent Clarice Starling in The Silence of the Lambs.

Fleischmann tells his story with such skill that it is hard to believe this is a debut novel. The characters are well-developed and memorable, the rural Alaska setting is vividly portrayed, the plot is loaded with unexpected turns and the unrelenting suspense creates a growing sense of dread.

Best of all, the author tells the tale with the musical prose of a literary novelist at the top of his game.

To read the entire text of my Associated Press review, please click here.

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Thomas Perry’s “A Small Town.” — My Review

A Small Town, the 26th crime novel by Thomas Perry, begins with a violent prison break in the little town of Weldon, Colorado. More than 1,000 hardened criminals kill the warden and most of the guards, raid the prison arsenal and burst out to pillage the community. Overwhelming the local police, they break into houses, kill and rape families, set fire to buildings, and try to escape in stolen cars.

Most were promptly rounded up by state and federal authorities, but two years later, the 12 inmates who planned the prison break are still on the loose. The FBI has made no progress tracking them down, so the mayor of Weldon takes matters into his own hands.

The result is a slick, well written, but somewhat predictable revenge fantasy that combines the grim ambiance of Fox TV’s “Prison Break” with the vigilante violence of the John Wick movie franchise.

You can read the full text of my review for The Associated Press here.

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As Congress Considers 2 Impeachment Articles, I Suggest They Consider My List of 100

The two Articles of Impeachment being debated by Congress hardly cover reasons why Trump is unfit to remain in office. I suggest they consider  my list.  It includes only 100 articles because I tried to keep it short.

Resolution to Impeach Donald J. Trump, President of the United States, for high crimes and misdemeanors:

Article 1.  Cheats at golf.

Article 2.  “There are good people on both sides.”

Article 3.  Putin’s bitch.

Article 4.  “We need you to do us a favor, though.”

Article 5.  Rudy Giuliani.

Article 6.  Lies like the rest of us breathe.

Article 7.  Gutted clean air and water regulations.

Article 8.  Doesn’t like dogs.

Article 9.  Don Jr.

Article 10.  Global laughingstock

Article 11.  Megalomania.

Article 12.  “Grab ‘em by the pussy.”

Article 13.  Preschooler’s knowledge of American history.

Article 14.  Abandoned the Kurds.

Article 15.   Ben Carson

Article 16.  Kidnapped children and put them in cages.

Article 17.  Atrocious spelling and grammar.

Article 18.  Xenophobia.

Article 19.  Bill Barr.

Article 20:  Takes policy advice from Sean Hannity and the idiots at Fox & Friends

Article 21   Climate change denier.

Article 22.  Witness tampering.

Article 23.  Scott Pruitt.

Article 24.  Treats justice department as his personal law firm.

Article 25.  Shifted money from important programs for his fucking border wall.

Article 26.  Obstructing the Muller investigation.

Article 27.  Betsy DeVos

Article 28.  Maligned John McCain even after his death.

Article 29.  Branded our free press “the enemy of the people.”

Article 30.  Opened public land to despoliation by private interests.

Article 31.  Stephen Miller.

Article 32.  Rolled over for the gun lobby.

Article 33.  Trump University.

Article 34.  Serial violator of the emoluments clause.

Article 35.  That hideous orange makeup.

Article 36.  Mocked a handicapped reporter.

Article 37.  All those Nazi-style rallies.

Article 38.  Kissing up to Kim Jong-un and Erdoğan.

Article 39.  Brett “I like beer” Kavanaugh.

Article 40.  Gutting and undermining our diplomatic corps.

Article 41.  Palling around with the likes of Alex Jones, Lev Parnas, and Jeffrey Epstein.

Article 42.  Hush money payments.

Article 43.  Steve Mnuchin.

Article 44. Picking fights with gold-star families.

Article 45.  Stupid tariffs.

Article 46.  Pardoning war criminals.

Article 47.  Attacking the independence of the Federal Reserve.

Article 48.  Telling three women members of Congress to go back where they came from.

Article 50.  Eric.

Article 51.  Peeping at teenage beauty contestants.

Article 52.  Obstructing the impeachment investigation.

Article 53.  Claiming the constitution says “I can do anything I want.”

Article 54.  Pardoning Joe Arpaio.

Article 55. Blaming California for wildfires because it doesn’t rake its forests.

Article 56.  Throwing paper towels at Puerto Rico hurricane survivors and thinking he had accomplishing something.

Article 57.  Weakening our alliances.

Article 58.  Taking Putin’s word over our intelligence agencies about foreign election interference

Article 59.  Using a sharpie to alter a hurricane weather map.

Article 60.  “Russia, if you are listening . . . “

Article 61.  Serving McDonalds and Burger King meals to athletes at White House.

Article 62.  Muslim travel ban.

Article 63.  Spygate conspiracy theory.

Article 64.   Demanding staff study feasibility of putting alligators and snakes in a moat at our southern border.

Article 65.  Stealing from his own charity.

Article 66.  Ryan Zinke

Article 67.  Gutting federal science programs.

Article 68.  Claiming the president is immune from being investigated for anything.

Article 69.  Michael Flynn.

Article 70.  Wasting millions of taxpayer dollars on weekend golf trips.

Article 71.  A decades-long trail of not paying his bills.

Article 72.   Cheating on his taxes.

Article 73.  Corey Lewandowski.

Article 74.  Proclaiming a “middle class tax cut” that was primarily a massive tax cut for the wealthy.

Article 75.  Praising a congressman for body-slamming a reporter.

Article 76.  Describing a sex party to an audience of Boy Scouts.

Article 77.  Roger Stone.

Article 78.  Firing people by tweet.

Article 79.  “Only I can fix it.”

Article 80.  Making presidential calls on unsecure cell phones.

Article 81.  Striping security clearances from his critics.

Article 82.  Calling Danish Prime Minister “nasty” because she wouldn’t sell him Greenland.

Article 83. Disseminating Soviet propaganda and loony conspiracy theories.

Article 84.  Trying to kick transgender people out of the military.

Article 85.  Helping the Saudis cover up the murder of a journalist.

Article 86.  Using the CIA’s honored dead as a TV prop.

Article 87.  “Shithole countries.”

Article 88.  Paul Manafort.

Article 89.  Claiming “an absolute right to pardon myself.”

Article 90.  Serial philanderer.

Article 91.  Skipping ceremony to honor war dead on the Anniversary of D-Day because of a little rain.

Article 92.  Bone spurs.

Article 93.  Attempting to repeal Obamacare without a plan to replace it.

Article 94.  Tom Price.

Article 95.  A ridiculous comb-over and dye job that fool nobody.

Article 96.  Voter suppression.

Article 97.  Civil rights rollbacks.

Article 98.  Falsely claiming that three million illegal immigrants voted in the 2016 election.

Article 99.  Filling administration with lobbyists after promising to do the opposite.

Article 100.  Demonstrating, on a daily basis, that he is a sociopath.

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My Review of “Just Watch Me” by Jeff Lindsay

Riley Wolfe, the anti-hero of Jeff Lindsay’s  Just Watch Me,  gets his kicks executing spectacular robberies that no one else would even contemplate. His victims are always the super-rich, whom he despises as “smug, do-nothing, self-loving leeches.”

The plot combines the intricacies of caper movies such as “The Thomas Crown Affair” and “To Catch a Thief” with the creepy sensibility of the hit TV show “Dexter.” Unlike Dexter, Wolfe takes no pleasure in murder, but he displays no qualms about dispassionately dispatching anyone who gets in his way.

For the full text of my review for The Associated Press, please click here.


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My Crime Novel “Rhode Island” Makes Best of Decade List!

Thank you to Crimreads.com for including one of my novels, Rogue Island, on its list of the best crime novels of the last decade. Here’s is a photo my wife Patricia took of actor John Lithgow reading the paperback edition.

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A Brilliant Talk About the Writing Craft by the Great Patricia Smith

Please check out this video about the craft of writing by Patricia Smith. (I’d think it was brilliant even if I wasn’t married to her.)

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A Photo From the Estate of Gilded Age Robber Baron Jay Gould Finds It’s Way Home

This daguerreotype, which I just sold on eBay, has a penciled note inside the case identifying it as coming from the estate of notorious Gilded Age robber baron Jay Gould.

The buyer says: “I believe the baby is my great great grandmother Helen Day Miller Gould. The woman holding the baby strongly resembles adult pictures of Helen Day Miller Gould who was born two years after her husband.”

Helen Day Miller married Jay Gould in 1863.

I LOVE it when one of my finds ends up back where it belongs!

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My Review of “Blood in the Water,” a New Thriller Set in Boston

Jack Flynn does a fine job developing complex characters while keeping the tension high in Blood in the Water, his fast-paced yarn of intrigue, violence and personal betrayals.

His prose, for the most part, is tight and precise. And his setting — the waterfront docks and the mostly abandoned harbor islands that are unfamiliar even to most Bostonians — is vividly portrayed.

So is the weather, the action unfolding during a bitter winter that has clogged the shipping lines with ice floes.

To read the full text of my review for The Associated Press, please click here.




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The Vicious Cycle of Homelessness in America

We are repeating vicious a cycle that is as old as the settlement of America.

In colonial times, people who couldn’t take care of themselves, including homeless children, the mentally ill, old folks suffering from dementia, and those we used to call mentally retarded, were lumped together as “the indigent.” There were no public facilities for them, so local communities would “board them out.” That meant turning them over to farmers and shopkeepers who put them to work without pay and who were usually given a small public stipend for their care. The result was that many were horribly abused — fed slop, housed in chicken coops, and that sort of thing. There are even documented cases of some of these helpless people starving or freezing to death.

Horrified, physicians and do-gooders beginning in colonial times created various small institutions for them: orphanages for children and hospitals for those with mental problems, mostly major cities. By the 1840s, as the country’s population swelled, so did the number of such institutions, most of them funded by the states.. However, they proved to every bit as horrible as the boarding out system.

Starting in the 1840s, reformers such as Dorothea Dix toured those for the mentally ill and exposed overcrowding, filth, and physical abuse. Many “patients” were even chained to walls. Given the state of medical knowledge at the time, there was no effective treatment, so these places were just huge warehouses, and few who were admitted ever left. When they died, many were buried in unmarked mass graves.

Dix and a number of others led a nationwide movement to create decent, publicly funded asylums to provide humane care. (Note the word asylum, a word whose connotation, at least back then, indicated a safe and peaceful place.) The matter largely faded from the public consciousnesses until the 1950s and 1960s, when journalists (including me in Rhode Island) investigated the asylums and found all the same old neglect and mistreatment. In Rhode Island in the early 1970s, I toured buildings where thousands of people, most drugged into a zombie state, slept on concrete floors and spent their days sitting in or wandering hallways, often sloshing barefoot through puddles of urine.

In many institutions, including Rhode Island, the worst wards were in buildings named for Dorothea Dix.

By then, the availability of new psychotropic drugs offered the hope that some of these people, or at least NEW patients who hadn’t been damaged by years of abuse, could be “deinstitutionalized.” Some, it was thought, could be managed at home by their families. And those who could not, it was believed, could be cared for in small “group homes” that would be located in neighborhoods and operated by professional staff.

If done right, it could well have worked. But in practice, it has proved largely to be a return to something akin to the colonial boarding out system. It has failed miserably. Why? The group home system was never properly funded, nowhere near enough of them were created, some were operated by people who cared only for state money, and lots of folks objected to group homes in their communities.

So now, many who would once have been institutionalized sleep on the streets.

Today, some are advocating a return to the asylum system that was long ago proven to be a failure. It failed because of under-funding and lack of public oversight, but I see no reason to believe that there is a public will to do it right this time. And some of those who advocate bringing it back are concerned more about unsightly people on the streets than about taking proper care for them.

Meanwhile, it should be pointed out, at this point, that many of the homeless are NOT mentally ill or mentally deficient. Many are just people who can’t afford a place to live because they lost their jobs, are mired in addiction, or lack the skills to work in a modern economy. And I don’t hear anybody proposing a workable and humane way to handle them, either.

Meanwhile, the problem of homeless children was addressed earlier and somewhat more effectively with the creation of the foster child system. That has worked better than anything we have done for the mentally ill, but it still has significant and well-documented problems.


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