The Devil’s Due by CM Raymond & LE Barbant

Narrator: Ben Smith

Publisher: Smoke & Steel Press (2017)

Length: 2 hours 53 minutes

Series: Book 1 A Jack Carson Story

Raymond’s Page ~ Barbant’s Page

Set in a small town in Iowa, the story opens with the mysterious Jack Carson, who goes by Jack York. He’s obviously on the run from something and the local bartender, Maizey, is the first to call him on it. There’s something very odd about Jack. The Feds are very interested in finding him, believing he has the answers concerning an exploded building. Jack is also searching for something, a girl in a photo he carries with him. However, his quest is waylaid as he becomes entangled in the local illegal going-ons.

This was a fun story that reminded me of The Jack Reacher series but it has a touch of the fantastical since our Jack has some special, otherworldly abilities. The opening of the story requires some focus since the authors drop us directly into the middle of Jack’s life. We have to figure out that he’s on the run, what he’s on the run from, and what abilities he’s hiding. I was intrigued from the start and the tale held my attention all the way through.

Jack’s got quite a bit on his plate already, but he entangles himself with the local small town criminals when he defends the bartender Maizey in a little bar brawl. While this is a little cliched, it’s a useful plot device to suck our beleaguered hero into the local bad guy antics.

Mr. Hill runs most, if not all, of the town’s illegal activities and his two main henchmen take a decided interest in Jack. When they turn up rather injured, Mr. Hill makes it clear that Jack can either work for him or Mr. Hill will turn him into the Feds. So our Jack is hired on as muscle for Hill’s crew. That doesn’t go as expected, as you might imagine and Jack finds himself in an even tighter position. Now he has to decide whether to stand with the town against Mr. Hill and his crew, or flee from Iowa continuing to hide from the Feds.

There’s really only 3 female characters in this tale. There’s Maizey, who has a little mystery to her and is an interesting character. Then there’s a female Federal Agent hunting Jack who is continuously underestimated by her coworkers. She has potential but has very little time in this story. Then there’s the girl in the picture. She’s basically a place holder now. We don’t know if she’s a grown woman or an actual girl, we don’t have her name, and we don’t really know why Jack is searching for her (though I have this impression he wants to protect her). So I would have liked a better gender balance with the characters since there are plenty of male characters in this story.

The action and the twists and turns of the story were well done. They are well interspersed among quieter moments in Jack’s life, many of which were his various chats with Maizey. By the end, some things are resolved but other things are left hanging. It’s not until near the end that we learn it was a science lab that was destroyed but since that’s in the book’s description, I don’t mind mentioning it in this review. This mysterious girl in the photo is still a big question mark. The source of Jack’s special abilities and his limitations are also big question marks. While there’s plenty to build upon here in future books, I would have liked a bit more info on Jack’s personal quest to find this mystery girl.

All in all, it’s an entertaining listen and a solid start to a new action-packed series. I really like this little twist of Jack’s special powers. I look forward to learning more about his past.

I received a free copy of this book.

The Narration: Ben Smith was pretty good for this book. He had distinct voices for all the characters and his female voices were believable. He did speak a bit fast but with the Audible app, I could slow it down and it sounded normal. Occasionally, there were a few mouth noises and at least once, he repeated a short sentence. He did a really good job with the various emotions the characters had.

What I Liked: The lovely cover art; Jack’s troubles – all of them piling on him; Maizey isn’t your typical bar tender; Mr. Hill makes a great villain to hate on; the various mysteries surrounding Jack; the Feds hunting Jack; how Jack leaves the town.

What I Disliked: Could have used more female characters; could have used a few more loose ends tied up.

Depravity by Emilie J. Howard

HowardDepravityWhere I Got It: Review copy

Narrator: J. Scott Bennett

Publisher: Emilie J Howard (2015)

Length: 11 hours 17 minutes

Author’s Page

Lehem, Iowa, 1979: it’s a small ranching community, tight knit, a little afraid of outsiders, and into rodeos and parades. Pretty soon they won’t know what hit them. This story is told in three parts, but it’s a tight story and one part flows right into the next.

Peter Carston is fresh out of high school and new to the Sheriff’s department. He’ll be receiving some tough on-the-job training with the mayhem that’s about to ensue. There’s a new stranger in town; he’s exceedingly polite and it’s obvious from the beginning that he knows something about the bloody messes that happen during the full moon. He’s the second son of the Warfield family and not very happy to claim the name. Unknown to Peter, his family history will make him a target.

So things come to a head with the second son and the story enters Part II. The eldest Warfield son arrives in town and tries his best to make amends for the mess that occurred in Part I. Still, Peter and the rest of the Sheriff’s office aren’t quick to trust. Their fears are soon validated as yet more bodies keep turning up. The Warfield brothers have a dark family history which comes to light as the city girds it’s collective loins for the show down. Part III continues the grudge match with an unexpected assailant.

On one had, the story has a Western genre feel to it – good guys with high morals protecting the common people. On the other hand, this is so a horror tale with it’s body count and twisted villains. It’s an interesting mashup and I wasn’t convinced that it would work. The beginning is pretty darn slow and the manner-minding young hero (Peter) was pretty boring. However, the bad guys are very interesting and it’s really them who steal the show and carry the story forward.

There’s an asylum and some twisted human experiments. Then the Warfield patriarch has some pretty warped ideas of family loyalty. Toss in some demented members from a mercenary band and you have yourself one big fuster cluck. This book definitely explores a few different faces of depravity.

There’s not many ladies in this story which might explain the steady decline of Lehem. Peter has a high school sweetheart that has to be protected and coddled all the way through. There’s only one female police office and she’s nameless, on and off the screen in a jiffy. Then there’s the lost love of one of the Warfield’s and her young son. She too is admired for her beauty and coddled throughout the book. Really, the only interesting female character is the loud, obnoxious sister of one of the unfortunate murdered souls.

I very much enjoyed Howard’s Cold Hollow and I can see echoes of that same genius in this book but it was not the same fully engrossing experience. I enjoyed the initial mystery and then the reasons behind the insane killings. I even reveled a little in taking out the last few bad guys. I will continue to explore this author’s works.

I received a copy of this book at no cost (via the narrator) in exchange for an honest review.

Narration: J. Scott Bennett did a good job with feel of the story – light Western twang for most of the characters. His cultured accents for the rich Warfield family were well done. His little kid voice was spot on.

What I Liked: Interesting mashup of horror and Western; the belligerent sister; excellent bad guys; the reasons for all the bad behavior; beautiful book cover. 

What I Disliked: Few women and they were mostly coddled; the good guys were rather boring for the most part; started off a bit slow.

The Eighth Day by Michael O'Neal

O'NealTheEighthDayWhere I Got It: Review copy via the author (thanks!).

Publisher: Self-published (2014)

Narrator: Robert Martinez

Length: 9 hours 42 minutes

Author’s Page

In a small town in Iowa, life turns messy for highschool senior Jay Anderson. He is accused of a drug crime he didn’t commit. Luckily, his friend Kathy sways the jury and gets him acquitted. But more than that is going on in this small town. Pretty soon Rachel, Ryan, and Jeff are pulled into the mystery as well. It seems some sort of sickness is spreading through out their town, making people irritable and paranoid. Men in suits with an unusually large armament show up. Pretty soon, the 5 friends have to leave the town or end up in a bad way.

In this action flick, the teens take on fantastic abilities while trying to save their friends and family, and perhaps the entire nation. It’s a mix of genres, with some gene splicing going on, alien life, conspiracy theories, and a touch of Christian morals lacing through it all. Jay and Kathy get the most page time and have the most character growth in the book. Ryan and Jeff play important second fiddles as the 5 travel the USA, then to Russia, and finally the Caribbean. Rachel often became non-existent in the narrative as she had so few lines; in fact, I had completely forgotten that she had traveled with the guys until her voice reappeared near the end.

The story starts off strong, with it’s mystery asteroid, the men in suits, and Jay prosecuted on false drug charges. The plot started to drift a bit after that, the various threads spreading so thinly that I wasn’t sure where the story was going. But during the final quarter of the book, the author brings it all back home and does a good job of wrapping it up. So if you started this book and felt that you were getting a bit lost, keep going – it all makes sense at the end.

Through out the tale, the kids do some fantastical things. Granted, two of them have some unusual biological abilities, but that doesn’t give them the ability to win trials or parachute jump successfully or fly airplanes (all on the first try). So I felt certain scenes were definitely stretching my ability to part with sensible reality. I wanted to root for the kids, but I also felt they weren’t truly equipped to do some of the things they accomplished in this book. Plus, many of the adults were written as simple obstacles meant to be pushed over by these young heroes. They didn’t have to struggle too much against the social norms or government system. There you have my one real criticism about this book. So, if you have a great ability to suspend disbelief, then check this book out.

Through out the book were touches of Christian morals and beliefs. I am not Christian, and for the most part, these didn’t bother me, until the last little bit of the book. There, I felt that the author was borderline preachy at points. By that point, I was invested in the book and wanted to see how it all turned out more than I was annoyed by the Christian moral advice. If you are into Christian fiction, then you would probably enjoy this little addition to the storyline.

I felt that Kathy did a good job of rescuing one of the guys as often as she needed rescuing. I would have liked to see more female characters. We have Kathy, her friend Rachel, someone’s mom, and much later in the book a female Navy or military officer. There is a plethora of male characters.

Over all it was an entertaining listen once I suspended by disbelieve and became attached to the two main characters. I also liked the addition of a dolphin later in the story.

Narration: Robert Martinez did a really good job with this story. He had a good range in voices and accents, making it easy to keep track of characters. Also, the characters were often thinking to themselves, so Martinez made the extra effort to put those lines into an internal dialogue sound. There was also a fighter pilot scene and he made it sound like the dialogue was coming over a radio. Very good performance!

What I Liked:  Fun, fast-paced action flick; Kathy makes a great female lead; plenty of plot lines that the author does a good job of tying together at the end. 

What I Disliked: The kids accomplish great feats that defy my ability to suspend my disbelief; there are few female characters.