Third Degree: 3 Authors, 3 Novellas
Three different and unique novellas, each focusing on different issues and situations.
Cut Lose All Those Who Drag You Down
by Ross Klavan
Ross Klavan starts us off with a different take centering around a crooked reporter with mob connections. The plot is driven forward when his oldest friend, ex Dr. Solly, shows up on his doorstep with a tale that drives home the true meaning of child neglect, justified bad actions, multiple marriages that result in his friend marrying the reporter’s ex-wives, and a child called Silent Adam, who barely acknowledges the world or people around him.
Our narrator is our reporter, who has been married and divorced eight times, and has very close ties—one through Tanya, the other through Lisa—with two mob bosses. Lisa is the niece of Paul Lozano, the mob boss who was gunned down outside the steakhouse. Ex Dr. Solly is there bringing us to Mage, the reporter’s ex, who was married to Solly. But somehow she winds up killing herself—or did he have something to do with it? There’s a hidden secret that’s not revealed until the end of this twisted tale of revenge, murder, child neglect, abuse, and corruption when you learn the truth about why ex Dr. Solly is on the run and has to hide.
The events take on flashbacks to what led up to the present, and the author and narrator allows us to meet Mage and learn of her relationship with the narrator, and then with Solly. The sad part and harsh reality are that their son suffered from their breakup and her death, even though he is not aware she is totally gone. The visits with her were off and strained, and the unique way they created this mechanical voice that would shout orders for Silent Adam to get ready or leave for school was quite unique. Many who read this might want such a device. Silent Adam does not let anyone into his world and seems closed off, as if it will protect and shield him from anymore sadness, loneliness, or fear.
This story takes many turns and Solly reveals a lot about himself as the author shares his relationship with Mage—how they both divorced themselves from caring about Silent Adam—and the reveal at the end when the reporter learns just why he found him on his doorstep, but not before he has a one night stand with Lisa. Tanya is his true love, or so he thinks, and for some reason he keeps coming back to her. Seeing her watch her husband killed at the poker table had to have been dramatic. But the ending is unique as we learn the consequences of dealing with the mob, double crossing them, and causing the death of someone close to them. Just what is the fate of our ex-doctor Solly? What role does our reporter play?
Let us just say I cannot reveal what happened or my source, and you the reader will have to decide if justice is done. Crime pays in this case—if you can get away with it. Find out what the reporter decides to do when we learn that Silent Adam was left alone with no one to tend to him, and ex Dr. Solly repents—or does he? The ending will leave you wondering where our reporter will wind up.
Fran Lewis: Just reviews
By Tim O’Mara
Imagine two guys on a truck dealing with trips to bring molasses and other sweets to different locations. But, when the venues keep changing and the product is not what you might think, the delivery guys get tossed around and sent to unknown locations, as they are now carrying expensive coffee. Drivers are added, some female, who they would like to get to know better. Aggie and Cornell work for a man named Robert, who is into many things, mostly illegal. They find themselves on unique paths as the coffee deliveries are made, and the rest you just will not believe.
Smuggling cigarettes, maple syrup, and coffee, and changing locations, lacking sleep, and having to deal with Robert, whose mind and instructions shift from second to second, Aggie and Cornell are drafted, along with others, uncovering a child sex trafficking ring and the man in charge—Mister Coffee, as he is called. But the author creates the takedown as if it is an episode on CSI or Criminal Minds as there are teams, ear mics, and more hoping to catch this guy in action and take down his operation. The scenes are graphically depicted. The amount of planning is scarce, as Robert allows his teams to take their places, letting them know when to advance and hopefully get the young girls to safety. But do they understand what is happening? Do they want to go home, or will they just go back to what they were doing? Innocent young girls lured into believing they are going to get careers in modeling or other areas are forced into prostitution by these sleezy liars. Mister Coffee is well connected and has a huge client list. But what happens when the first takedown occurs, and these rich guys are caught on tape—will they rat him out?
Comparing the flavors of coffee to the color of people’s skins provides us with a unique way that these young girls are classified and sold by this man. As the plan comes into light and we hear Robert’s rationale, we wonder where and how he comes up with a plan to take this trafficking ring down, how his three teams are going to coordinate, and what the end result will be. After the first sting, the girls are taken out and the clients are taped but leave. Hoping this is the last they have heard of them, the second is in place. But will they finally get Mister Coffee? And if they do, how will justice be dispensed?
An ending that is a total surprise not only to readers, but to Aggie and Cornell, when author Tim O’Mara throws a wrench in the final plans and justice is done, but not how you would expect. The final scenes come to light and the teams hope to free the rest of the girls. Is this going to be the end of this ring? Are they going to try and find more, and what is the fate of these girls?
When all is said and done the outcome will let you know that the author has more deliveries and more adventures for both Aggie and Cornell in the future.
Fran Lewis; Just reviews
The Fifth Column
By Charles Salzberg
Anti-Semitism is at the root of this story as author Charles Salzberg brings back Jake to take on the German American bund that is terrorizing Jewish children, business owners, and community members throughout the city. Jake Harper just got a job reporting for The Daily Mirror and runs into a young boy named Davy who is badly bruised. With the right motivation and talking to him more like an older brother, he learns that this young boy was beaten up by a gang of older kids from another school because he is Jewish. Was this an isolated incident, or was the bund still active in America?
Researching the story will be difficult, but first he must do the stories that his editor assigns him. After going to a restaurant with his girlfriend, the waitress makes sure he receives a note with a number to call, and when meeting with her he learns some valuable information. Why didn’t Helen tell what he learned to the police? Were they loyal to Hitler too? What she reveals would take down the Detroit aircraft plant where planes are being produced. A group of workers, part of the bund, have been taking parts away and making sure that anyone using these planes will die. Damaging them is just the start. There is more out their defacing property, beating Jewish people, Catholics, and Blacks, and anyone they claim—according to Mr. Mueller, who meets with Jake—is not pure. Aryans are the only people who deserve to live, and loyalty to Hitler and the Third Reich is where he stands. But when are they planning their dangerous plot, and where? Can he stop it? Can he trust the person at the paper who he asked to try and decode the papers?
Jake meets with a rabbi who puts him in touch with a man named Neil Ness and using the papers he gives the other reporter things begin to fall into place. He meets with Pastor John, who introduces him to George Higgins, and the information he conveys and what he learns is riveting. It alerts Jake that this bund is still operational in America and is planning to blow up different places. If not stopped there will be more deaths—Jewish, Catholic, gays, and anyone that does not fit the Aryan model. Prejudice, hate, anti-Semitism, and racism are at the heart of this novella, reminding us that Hitler was real, his death camps are still a reminder of what he did, and the hate within the hearts of so many still lingers today. Author Charles Salzberg brings these and many other issues to light in this outstanding novella. Hope he brings Jake back again.
Fran Lewis; Just reviews