Authors Showcase: Suspense on the Prowl

The Book: Code of Thieves

The Author: Joyce Yarrow

The Story:  Full-time private investigator and part-time poet Jo Epstein travels to New York and eventually to Russia to help clear her emigre stepfather.

Who’s framing him for murder? Who’s sending him threatening messages in Russian nesting dolls (matryoshkas)?

She uncovers secrets in his past and in the honor-bound code of the criminal “vory,” as she risks life, limb and treasure to keep the man her mother loves alive and safe.

Review by Patricia Harrington: The author establishes a sympathetic, intelligent protagonist in Jo Epstein, a private investigator. Jo has a connection to Russia through her mother’s husband, Nikolai, and when a corpse is found in the elevator where her mother and husband live, Jo begins a journey to help/absolve her stepfather.

Her journey is one of investigation, intrigue and immersion into the often cruel and little understood history of Russia – and the old Soviet Union. The protagonist/investigator is intelligent, empathetic and gutsy. The reader is drawn along with Jo on her journey, like a silent, fellow traveler and companion.

And like the nested dolls of the Matryoshka, when taken out one by one, so are the clues that the investigator follows. Sometimes they are obscure, sometimes chilling, with views into a cruel world, until the story’s final climax. The reader is provided a vicarious journey into history, intrigue and investigation right up to the closing page. The author provides an intelligent, challenging and enjoyable read.

Review by Deborah Shlian: “Code of Thieves” is the second mystery in author Joyce Yarrow’s Jo Epstein series. Her protagonist, Jo Epstein, is a feisty red headed New York PI who moonlights as a bouncer at Scandal’s, a nightclub featuring poetry slams. Jo has moved her PI office from the walk-in closet of her apartment to space at Scandal’s where she not only hopes to acquire new clients, but where as a sometime poet herself, she can gauge and even judge her competition.

In this story, Jo’s latest client is her stepfather Nikolai, a Russian émigré, who claims he’s being framed for murder. Only because she loves her mother (Ruth) does Jo reluctantly accept the case that thrusts her into an intricate plot leading from the streets of New York to modern day Russia.

Yarrow is a wonderful writer- her prose and dialogue are crisp, her pacing perfect and her descriptions original. One of my favorites is the description of Scandal’s: “Scandal’s was like a woman dressed down every night, progressively shedding her layers of respectability. For dinner she wore her business clothes- hosting those who were out to impress a client with trendy insider dining and phony “I bumped into so-and so” stories. The poetry slam loosened things up-definitely casual-but some basic coherence was still required to deliver words from the stage. It was after hours when Scandal’s jettisoned her inhibitions and stripped to her undies, sleek lingerie, thongs, whatever was handy. At that point it was my job to prevent bad things from happening- to keep an eye on what went on in the bathrooms that wasn’t related to hygiene, to listen for voices that crossed the boundary from boisterous to confrontational, and to make sure it was the drinks, and not the police, that kept coming.”

The Book: Seals IV: Freedom

The Author: Roger Grubbs

The Story: Super human? Some say yes! To be considered the best of the best, one must endure the most intensive training known to man. The Navy SEALs are made up of a group of such unique individuals. Physical conditioning alone will not guarantee success. The mysterious ingredient that is absolutely essential is referred to as “fire in the gut!” Only those displaying this unexplainable trait will survive under the most extreme conditions and will make it to the end. It is this super human strength of the soul that allows a person to endure the intense training, thus earning them the right to be included among the best of the elite forces.

Navy SEAL Commander Bart Nelson (the Ghost) is such an individual. His Captain and companion, Chelsea Steele (the Hammer) is a demolition expert considered among the men as a SEAL, unofficially of course. Being drawn together from retirement to help a friend in trouble has set things in motion.

With the help of Chelsea’s sister Vanessa (Big Trouble), this team of former Navy SEALs has made it their job to take on the global problem of human trafficking. Taking down the enemy with a vengeance, they soon learn this business spans the globe and is spiraling out of control. With only each other to watch their backs, this group of Special Forces is determined to meet this battle of momentous proportions head on. After rescuing thousands of young women worldwide, they are now faced with an even bigger problem. They must free those entrenched in modern day slavery. They refuse to rest until there is freedom for all!

Review by Christmas “gumdrop:” In Freedom, the author gives us a glimpse of the underworld of human trafficking on the Ivory Coast and in the diamond mines of Africa. While truly an eye-opening account, it brings to light the plight of young boys and girls being forced against their will to work as laborers for others.

It explains how most have been kidnapped or sequestered under false pretenses, only to be enslaved with no escape other than death. While horrible at best, this is an educational tool used to show that slavery does still exist. Is there anyone willing to help these poor souls? Yes, the Navy SEALs, led by Bart Nelson. Tastefully written. Highly recommended.

A Review by Mr. Crow: When we bring up the subject of human trafficking, most people are horrified of the thought but ignorant on the subject. While sweeping it under the rug and trying to forget that it exists, thousands of young innocent victims are being swallowed up in this industry every day. With this global problem thriving as a $32 billion dollar business, it is no wonder they have so much power; and they prefer that people turn their head. It makes it much easier for them to accomplish their goals.

Yes, slavery was prevalent in the past. Most people believe that slavery was done away with after the Civil War, but figures prove that slavery is very much alive today. It still exists, and it is worse than ever before. SEALs IV – Freedom takes a look at the labor used in cocoa plantations and diamond mines in an attempt to open our eyes to what is happening here and now.

Visit the Ivory Coast and South Africa in this tantalizing story of how the SEALs are attempting to make a difference where human trafficking is concerned.



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