The Green Pearl Caper by Phyllis Entis

Narrator: Tom Lennon

Publisher: Quintzy Press (2016)

Length: 7 hours 30 minutes

Series: Book 1 Damien Dickens Mysteries

Author’s Page

Set in and around Atlantic City in 1979, private investigator has been arrested in connection with the murder of Celine Sutherland, one of three adult daughters of a local well-connected and rich family. Now he’s been bailed out by the youngest daughter, Susan, and he has to work hard to clear his name.

Parts of this book felt like they were set in the golden age of black & white movies and noir detective stories (perhaps the 40s or 50s) and some parts definitely feel solidly centered in 1979. The blend worked well with this story since our hero, PI Dickens, is a bit of a stereotype. It’s this well-known stereotype that let me slip into Damien’s life easily and pick up on the mystery right away instead of worrying about what he was all about. The cliche is complete with beautiful, efficient, and single secretary Millie Hewitt, who has a thing for her boss. Which brings me to the part that didn’t work so well with this 40s mashed up into 1979 – gender roles. I would have been happier with a bit more depth to the ladies in this tale.

Many years ago, Damien saved a young Celine Sutherland, and it’s a bit of a tragedy for Damien that she is now dead by his gun, with him neatly framed for it. With big money in play, there’s a list of potential culprits. Tracking down clues is a challenge in 1979 without computerized records, the internet, or cell phones. I quite enjoyed watching Damien and Millie do their best to dig up info without getting on the bad side of the law or a solid beat down from questionable parties interested in the case.

I did get a little chuckle out of some of the character names. Like Damien Dickens made me wonder if the author is a Dickens fan. Then we have Detective James Holmes, who makes me wonder if the author is a Sherlock Holmes fan as well. It was fun to see these little potential nods to other great authors.

The mystery itself was pretty good with enough hints to guide me in the right direction but not so many as to narrow down the choices to one person over the rest. At least, not until the big reveal near the end.

I received a free copy of this book.

The Narration: Tom Lennon did an OK job. First, he’s perfect for Damien Dickens. He sounds like a hard used PI who’s down on his luck. His female voices could use a bit more femininity. There were a few times where the volume of the narration changed, and while these variations weren’t enough to damage your hearing, I prefer a smooth recording.

What I Liked: Quintessential PI story; the setting of 1979 Atlantic City; Damien has past history with the victim; Millie is great at her job; the mystery itself and how it unfolds.

What I Disliked: Sometimes the story felt more 1940s than 1979 and sometimes this worked and sometimes this didn’t work (like with gender roles).

What Others Think:

Christian Writers

On My Kindle

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.