THE LAST SCOOP By Dick Belsky – a Jim Nesbitt Review

thelastscoopcoverThere’s something Dick Belsky delivers in all of his mysteries — spine-bending plot twists that leave you feeling like you’re riding a nuclear-powered rollercoaster instead of reading a book.

His soon-to-be latest, another Clare Carlson mystery, THE LAST SCOOP, is no exception. It’s Belsky at his best — fast copy, as they used to say in the journalism game; snappy patter that reads like dialogue between Rosalind Russell and Cary Grant; and, stunning revelations that leave you muttering: “I’m a smart guy, but I did not see that one coming.”

At the center of it all is Carlson, an ex-print journalist and Pulitzer Prize winner turned news director at a New York television station. She’s a terminal smart-ass and helluva reporter who loves to escape the newsroom and chase big stories.

A driven perfectionist at work and a train wreck in her personal life, she has three or four broken marriages that were clocked with a stopwatch between the altar and divorce court. Pretty typical for a journalist, a profession Belsky knows well because he played it at a very high level in New York and L.A.

She also has a big secret that would ruin her if ever revealed, proving the truth crusader was living a Big Lie.

In this story, Carlson is shocked to read about the murder of Marty Barlow, her mentor when she was a cub reporter just cutting her teeth. He taught her how to be a pro, how to be relentless in pursuit of a story and rigorous about getting it right and hewing to the facts, no matter where they led.

She also feels a ton of guilt because she blew him off after he came to her, a little wild-eyed about what he called the biggest story he’d ever chased, a blockbuster of corruption and murder, and asked for her help. She promised to meet him over coffee and never did. Now he was dead, another victim of what seemed to be another random and senseless New York murder.

To make amends, she starts to follow Barlow’s trail, talking her way past his submissive daughter and bastardly son-in-law to get her mentor’s notes and access to his computer. Sooner rather than later, mobsters are menacing her as she uncovers bent developers and a trail of corruption that seems to lead right to a rising star of a district attorney with her eye on the mayor’s office.

That ain’t all, folks. Barlow was also digging into the brutal and unsolved murder of a high school cheerleader in a small Indiana town and was convinced it was linked to the murders of nearly twenty other women scattered across the country. How all this fit into the corruption story mystified Clare, presenting a puzzle no reporter can leave unsolved.


R. G. Belsky – author

Belsky smoothly builds his rollercoaster like the master craftsman he is. And the result is a corkscrew trip at warp speed, rocketing through the curves and stomach churning drops.

Buy this ticket and take the ride.


The author provided an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.


Jim Nesbitt is the author of three hard-boiled crime thrillers set in Texas and northern Mexico that feature battered but relentless Dallas PI Ed Earl Burch — The Last Second Chance, The Right Wrong Number and The Best Lousy Choice. Available in paperback and Kindle at:

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The EYES of the NAKED – Litha Hermanus

The Eyes of the NakedFor world-wide readers, indeed also for a lot of South Africans in whose country this novel is set, the backstory will be an eye-opening look into the culture and traditions of Xhosa people on the one hand and urban black folk on the other.

Indeed, there are two stories, side by side, hardly touching except that the two characters were once married and share a son.

The man, Nakedi, inadvertently ensnared in criminality, takes his son with him as he goes on the run from the city to his childhood homelands of the Transkei’s Wild Coast. He finds that he has lost all empathy with regard to his childhood there and his relatives, but is coerced into going to look for his young cousin in Port St. Johns where the young man has run away to endure the right of manhood; circumcision, a ceremony of huge significant to Xhosa traditional culture. He needs to keep his identity a secret for two reasons.

One is his fear of the Cops, and the other is the fact that, as a Xhosa, he had circumcision by modern medical means and avoided the traditional way. His adventures are many and varied as he tries to come to terms with his cultural values and his responsibilities as a father.

Back in the city, his radio presenter ex-wife, Kele, in the meanwhile is lured to an underground hideout to be coached to announce the dawn of the new South African revolution, the awakening of the black nation. No more capitulating to the whites! – they advocate. Anyone who fails them, disappoints them, have fingers removed… So, here there is a suspense story to raise the heartrate. However, the writing is not as poetic as that in Nakedi’s story.

It is as if Kele’s tale is a thriller, while Nakedi’s is literature.

Litha Hermanus

Litha Hermanus – author

It would be a spoiler to say how these threads end, so the curious must find that for themselves. For me, the writing had moments of profound beauty and was positively poetic. There was a lot to think about in the sense of tolerance for the varied cultures and traditions of our fellow human beings. However, if there were conclusions to the two stories, they were just too subtle for me to grasp.

The cover was disappointing; and surely not the author’s fault. But thank you to Penguin Random House for the opportunity to review this ARC.

ISBN: 9781415210079. Penguin Fiction.

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BLOOD STONE – Irna van Zyl

Storm van der Merwe Series #3.

Blood StoneReviewing Irma van Zyl’s first in the Storm van der Merwe Series, I felt that with her feisty South African Police detective, the series would have huge potential. The stories continue to be gripping page-turners and the twists go on surprising.

Zipping between Cape Town, where her love-lorn ex-colleague, Andreas Moerdyk, also gets targeted by a really devious conspiracy involving a nasty gang-boss and a power-hungry mysterious pastor, Storm also flies to London when her own mother is nudged off the platform at Paddington Station and lies in hospital in a coma.

Mix in a humongously valuable diamond that has gone missing, and three major players in the fashion industry who are being murdered one by one, we have a really involved plot. Not to mention that both her boss/BFF and her boss/biological father are both inexplicably keeping her at arms’ length.

Irna van Zyl

Irna van Zyl – thriller author

Herein lies the rub. For my money it is just too complicated and winds up being a bit short on conviction. Which is not to say that this was not a fast tense read, however, and there will be a growing van Zyl fan base who will love it.

ISBN 9781485904250.

Thank you to Penguin Random House, SA for this ARC; a Penguin Fiction imprint.

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Tribes - eBookWhen you open one of Peter J. Earle’s novels, get ready to be swept up in a panoramic tour of South Africa after apartheid and Mandela.

This is the author’s home country and he captures it with an unblinking eye that takes in the land’s physical beauty as well as the squalor and decay of its cities and suburbs and the predators who roam its streets.

That’s the compelling backdrop of Earle’s latest book, TRIBES OF HILLBROW, which is equal parts a thriller, a mystery, a quest and a flashback to the bloody, post-colonial warfare of the mid-1960s in the Congo, where legendary mercenaries such as Mad Mike Hoare battled marauding Simbas eager to avenge a century of cruel Belgian rule.

Earle serves up this exotic mixture with a masterful hand, skillfully shifting between the quest of Megan Cameron, a young British woman searching for a grandfather she never knew she had, and Jake Malan, a stubborn and elderly South African pensioner and ex-merc who fought in those savage Congo wars.

Malan, diagnosed with cancer he assumes to be fatal, is bent on avenging the death of his best friend and next-door neighbor, Taffy. Malan found him dead at the head of the stairwell of his ransacked home shortly after a gang of Nigerian property hijackers started threatening him.

Soon, the Nigerians, based in a lawless section of Johannesburg known as Hillbrow, start to threaten him and a black woman and her two sons who have moved into the neighborhood. They have befriended Malan, who is surprised at how much affection he has for them.

This is a subtle point that Earle makes throughout the book — the struggle isn’t between black and white, it’s between good and evil. And in that sense, Earle’s story harkens an old Western tale of townsfolk setting aside their differences to battle the gun hands of a greedy cattle baron.

As is the case with all of Earle’s books, TRIBES OF HILLBROW takes you to a place you’ve never been, contains a great tale crackling with action shot through with empathy and introduces you to realistic characters struggling to live the life they’ve been dealt as best they can.


WJS_0349JIM NESBITT is the author of the series of hardboiled thrillers featuring P.I.  Ed Earl Burch.


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DEBBI MACK & MARIA PEASE – Their Sam Thrillers.

Two thriller authors – World Women’s Day, so I can’t say Authoresses – both with their Sam protagonists (protagonistas? heroines), both legal thrillers, or at least, of their Sams, one is a paralegal and the other a lawyer.

I am not comparing them; I just happened to be struck by their similarities (should that be Samilarities?) and by the fact that I got these e-copies both off  PROLIFIC WORKS for FREE at the same time. Worthwhile indie authors on this platform deserve all the reviews they can get, so when the mainline publishers that supply BOOK POSTMORTEM CRIME FICTION REVIEWS with ARCs dries up, I like to select from this handy source. And do my bit to give a little exposure to those often unrecognised writer bees.

LEAST WANTED –  Debbi Mack

Sam McRae Mystery #2:

Maryland lawyer, Stephanie Ann “Sam” McRae has to deal with two separate clients, both accused of murder. As she tries to get a handle on defending them, she finds that not only may the truth set them free, the cases may be linked.

And the closer she gets to that truth, the closer a killer stalks behind her.

I thoroughly enjoyed this mature writer’s LEAST WANTED, #2 in the SAM McRAE series.



Readable and exciting; Maria Murdock Pease is a master at raising the heartbeat and quickening the breath with superb chapter-end suspense. Whether to risk cardiac arrest and read on, or not, is a difficult decision for timid readers.

The protagonist’s occupation as snoopy paralegal is not entirely convincing, but I could not help but enjoy the brash red-blooded Sam Parker. I despaired for two big-brother-type male friends whose cautionary advice she keeps ignoring, to her potential peril. Thus her impetuous actions thrust her into the sights of really bad-ass people, and of course therein lie the thrills.


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LOST – James O. Born & James Patterson

LOSTAuthor James O. Born is going from strength to strength as I detect less James Patterson oversight in this exciting thriller.

It concerns an empathetic senior Miami detective, Tom Moon, who is seconded to lead an FBI task force tackling international crime. We warm to him as he deals with his ailing mother’s Alzheimer’s condition and young sister’s hard-partying disposition while fielding six trafficked kids in his care. He personally escorts them back to Holland from whence they were trafficked after the capture of their guide at Miami Airport.

In Amsterdam, his liaison contact is Marie Meijer, whom he grows to respect for her professionalism. A spark grows between them as they piece together clues which link two Russian crime syndicate brothers in both of their cities and the shape of the horrendous child enslavement network becomes apparent.

James O Born

James O. Born – author

My only criticism as to the plot is that “word on the street” more than once conveniently provides clues as to impending shipments of slave supplies heading to Miami without any convincing detail as to how this information is obtained.

Otherwise, it was a satisfactory read around the 4 star mark.

Thank you to Penguin Random House, SA, for this Century Imprint ARC. ISBN 9781780899534


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Jim Nesbitt on HOWARD OWEN and Willie Black

WJS_0349Jim Nesbitt is the author of three hard-boiled Texas crime thrillers, The Right Wrong Number, The Last Second Chance and The Best Lousy Choice. All three are available in paperback or Kindle at


Journalists are a clannish lot, particularly the ones who’ve got ink in their veins and an intimate familiarity with the charms of a hangover that requires a fistful of aspirin chased by the 90-proof dog that bit you the night before.

If you’re of a certain vintage, you hate what has happened to the calling you’ve followed for decades — the clickbait chase, the impermanence of the almighty blog, the primacy of the online edition, the withering layoffs and the elimination of the printed word on paper that stained your fingers and made the news a tactile experience enjoyed daily.

You hang on because this is what you’re good at, hustling after front-page glory for chump change, too proud, too old and too scared to change. You would be a guy named Willie Black, Howard Owen’s protagonist in Oregon Hill, the first of six mysteries that feature this dogged Richmond, Va. reporter.

Willie’s an old-school ink-stained wretch with a smart mouth, a bad attitude, a liquor-cured liver and a trail of broken marriages. He’s on the bad side of forty and demoted from the capitol press corps to once again cover the night cops beat, a place for rookies and burnouts.

But there’s still a lot of rebop in Willie’s game. He’s wily and deceptively tough. He had to be both to survive growing up in Richmond’s most redneck neighborhood as the half-black son of a father he never knew and a dope-addled mother who never met a man she didn’t like.

He’s working the beat when police find the decapitated body of a Virginia Commonwealth University student, a young woman about the same age as Willie’s semi-distant daughter. The cops quickly zero in on the victim’s boyfriend, an older guy who poses as a grad student to score with the seemingly endless supply of far younger co-eds.

One of Willie’s ex-wives is the boyfriend’s attorney and gets Willie in to see her client for an off-record chat. Willie is skeptical at first, but his reporter’s instincts kick in and he starts picking away at the case against the boyfriend — ignoring the orders of his bosses and the advice of the few cops who will talk to him.

Willie can’t help himself. He smells a story and keeps chasing the truth. This is where the author’s long experience as a newspaperman comes into play. Instead of morphing into a super sleuth, Willie remains exactly what he’s always been — a reporter. Owen knows newsrooms and journalists and keeps Willie — and himself — honest. No cheap tricks or shark jumping. This book bleeds authenticity.

Willie’s dogged pursuit inevitably brings him face-to-face with an old Oregon Hill nemesis who is now the homicide detective that put the boyfriend behind bars. There’s also the shadow of a killing that took place in the parking lot of a beer joint forty years ago and the murderous reckoning of an account everybody thought was closed.

Everybody but Willie Black.



If you ever worked at a newspaper, you knew a guy like

Howard Owen

Howard Owen – author

Willie Black. Hard-nosed and obsessed when chasing a story. Hard-drinking whether he was on the hunt or not. More ex-wives, back-street lovers and one-night stands with other reporters than Tanya Tucker’s had hot meals.

A smartass who never knew when to shut up. To bosses, cops or pols. Might get him demoted from the capitol beat to night cops, but he was too good a reporter to fire.

Newsrooms used to be full of guys and gals like Willie. Back when print journalism was lively, vibrant and bawdy fun. Back before newspapers went the way of the buggy whip and the steam locomotive and newsrooms became dead zones of empty desks and survivors doing the jobs of four or five of the departed.

Willie’s old school, pushing 60 and too stubborn and scared to change. Along with last night’s booze, Willie oozes authenticity. Which is why Howard Owen’s most durable character is so compellingly believable, book after book, a tribute to the author’s own ink-stained career.

In Owen’s latest book, Evergreen, Willie’s latest obsessive story chase is his own legacy — the black father he never knew, killed in a one-car wreck on a back road when Willie was a toddler, leaving him to be raised by his white mother in the most redneck enclave in Richmond, Va. He grew up during the deeply segregated early 60’s, when it was illegal for whites and blacks to marry, the Klan was a lethal terror and a mixed-race child was a shameful thing.

Willie, a survivor who has learned to skate through both the white and black world, has never bothered to learn about his father. That changes when Philomena Slade, a dying aunt on his father’s side who Willie reveres like a grandmother, gives him a last request — keep his father’s grave clean, a task she has been performing for decades.

Willie’s father, Artie Black, a jazz sax player and proud black man, is buried in a graveyard called Evergreen. It’s a remote, nearly-forgotten place, a “colored” burial ground overgrown with brush and littered with toppled tombstones — except the graves of a dwindling number of souls who still have family members alive who keep them clean.

At first, Willie reluctantly honors his aunt’s request — but little more. Gradually, curiosity kicks in and he starts asking his mother about his father. Her answers skim the surface as she talks about being smitten by his looks, musical talent and charm, but offer little more.

He tracks down two of his father’s running buddies — old men now who talk about deep friendship and fun times, but also darkly allude to his father’s penchant for trouble and his refusal to bow down to the white man, a fatal flaw in those times.

Willie can smell a story, but every time he pushes a little harder, the old men clam up. There’s a buried secret there and Willie is determined to dig it up, a quest that uncovers murders, betrayal, racist cops, Klansmen and the descendants of men with blood on their hands that want to shut Willie down.

He’s always been willing to pay the price for the truth he seeks. But this time, the cost includes pain and suffering for those Willie loves.



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(An Ed Burch Novel #3)

The Best Lousy ChoiceTake good note of the genre-tag: Hardboiled. Don’t take it lightly.

This, the third in the Ed Earl Burch series, is that in spades. If you can’t take the flow of bodily fluids in all its forms, in sickness and in health until death do they depart, so God help you.

Having followed PI Ed Earl Burch’s Texas boot prints from Dallas late nineteen-eighties to the harsh beauty of the West Texas border country all the way from THE LAST SECOND CHANCE through THE RIGHT WRONG NUMBER to THE BEST LOUSY CHOICE, I see no reason to grind out the spoiler details. But concentrate; there are a lot of characters, well painted with a master’s brush that blends them beautifully with the sunburned rocks, mesquite, horses and rattlers.


Jim Nesbitt – hardboiled author

Someone said Burch has the Old West sense of justice. I’d go with that. He doesn’t hold much truck with modern law, except to adroitly avoid it. He’s middle-aged, physically cracked, psychologically damaged and survives on a sharp brain, a sure .45, lots of whisky (with or without the “e”) and painkillers, and a bit of carnal care. If and when he can keep the nightmares at bay, like when he’s on a survival adrenalin high, he will probably make it through to help Jim Nesbitt provide us hardboiled junkies with a couple more unputdownables.

Loved it, especially the voice; the hard flowing chopped commentary, and the sardonic humour.

ISBN13: 9780998329420.

Published July 9th 2019 by Spotted Mule Press.

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TERROR MACHINE – Denison Hatch

Terror-MachineBoth the author, Denison Hatch, and his protagonist, NYPD detective Jake Rivett, have gone from strength to strength. I enjoyed the previous Rivett adventures a lot, but this tops the three as the determined impulsive investigator goes from undercover cop as a screamo rock band lead singer to an unwitting front-page police celebrity hounded by the press.

A truck full of explosives detonates in Bryant Park in the biggest terror attack since 2011. Jake finds a clue that leads the police to the bogus licence plate maker and the driver of the truck. But Abdul Hayat was a successfully settled immigrant from Pakistan, and there is no sign of militancy or discontent. However, a video of Hayat repeating his mission instructions to a store clerk like a robot convinces Jake that he has been programmed.

Katinka Johanssen has a grudge against her former professor who was obsessed with mind manipulation. She posts video after video denouncing him, and Jake and his fellows start to be convinced that she may be on the right track.

Denison Hatch

Denison Hatch – author

This is more than a satisfactory rip-action thriller, the characters are real to me, too. A modicum of control has begun to influence this loose-cannon cop as he falls in love with, and gets engaged to, Mona, a previous suspect. Rivett’s relationships, with Mona, the members of his band the Mystics, and his fellow officers, are richly brought to life.

And the further good news is that I suspect that this won’t be the last we hear of Jake Rivett!

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BEYOND THE TRUTH – Bruce Robert Coffin


Beyond the truthBruce Robert Coffin’s BEYOND THE TRUTH is a gritty and relentless tale of Detective Sergeant John Byron and his squad of Portland, Maine police investigators on the trail of truth about one of their own — Officer Sean Haggerty, who in the pursuit of two robbers shoots one while the other gets away.

The dead robber turns out to be a high school student and star basketball player. Haggerty thought he saw the muzzle flash of a gun before he fired. No gun is found on the scene and the second robber has disappeared like a ghost.

This sets the stage for a pressure-packed case that cranks up a media frenzy, angry protesters and nasty political infighting within the department and with a mayor determined to score points at police expense to further her political career.

At first, all signs point to bad shoot, which will ruin Haggerty’s career and leave an indelible black mark on the department. But Byron is a grinder who doggedly pushes his squad to dig deeper to find the hidden truth — be it the missing gun and second robber or confirmation that Haggerty shot an unarmed teenager. To lead his squad, Byron must compartmentalize his friendship with Haggerty and his duty to get to the bottom of this case. That’s just the first of many turns of the screw on Byron’s emotions.

It gets worse. An FBI agent lets Byron know that Haggerty, who is also the high school’s resource officer, is a suspect in an ongoing bureau drug case. All leads continue to lead to nowhere. The public’s fury builds. Then Haggerty is shot in a drive-by hit ordered up by convict doing time in the state pen — a bad hombre Haggerty put behind bars.

Bruce Robert Coffin

Bruce Robert Coffin – author

Although Coffin’s latest book is labeled a police procedural, at heart it is a mystery told from the cop’s point of view. The author is a former detective who uses his experience to tell a realistic tale of a high-profile police investigation — without histrionics, but with the unstoppable momentum of a freight train.

There’s plenty of action and knowing details about political infighting and the emotional toll paid by the officers investigating this case. But to find out the meaning of the title, you’re going to have to pick up a copy of Coffin’s latest. You won’t be disappointed and you’ll probably buy his other books.

Jim Nesbitt is the author of three hard-boiled Texas crime thrillers, The Right Wrong Number, The Last Second Chance and The Best Lousy Choice. All three are available in paperback or Kindle at




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