3 Stars, Driven Press, Literary Fiction, Reviewed by Lisa, Rodd Clark

Review: Rubble and the Wreckage by Rodd Clark

Title: Rubble and the Wreckage (A Gabriel Church Tale: Book One)

Author: Rodd Clark

Publisher: Driven Press

Pages/Word Count: 254 Pages

At a Glance: Not a bad story, but doesn’t live up to its fullest potential.

Reviewed By: Lisa

Blurb: Gabriel Church knows you can’t take a life without first understanding just how feeble life is, how tentative and weak it stands alone. If you desire murder, you hold a life in your hand. Whether you release it to grant life or grip tighter to end it, it is at your command and discretion. Gabriel is a serial killer with a story he wants told.

Christian Maxwell studied abnormal psychology in college but chose instead to focus on a career in writing. His background comes in handy when he thinks of writing about a serial killer. He can’t think of anyone more qualified to write the story of Gabriel Lee Church, and do so in the murderer’s own words. It’s been done before, but never with a killer who has yet to be captured or convicted.

There was never anything more than a gentleman’s understanding between the two men that Christian would record Gabriel’s life story. The killer did not ask for his complicity in any crimes, nor did he ever ask for his silence. Christian’s interest in the man, though, is fast becoming something more than academic. When the writer and his subject become unexpected friends and then lovers, the question remains: What is Gabriel’s endgame . . . and why does he want his story told?


Review: The mind and motives of a serial killer are rich soil from which an author may reap myriad plots. The killer, after all, is the ultimate antihero—immoral, unrepentant, an insane man skirting social norms while participating in the day-to-day lives of unsuspecting humans. This while he studies and bides his time, the predator awaiting a moment of inspiration and a viable opportunity to present itself so he may successfully cull an unwitting sheep from the herd of victims.

Abnormal psychology and atypical behavior are the norm in Rodd Clark’s Rubble and the Wreckage, a book with a fantastic premise and a wealth of suspense that should have been waiting to unfold within its pages. There are no definably sane characters found in this novel, other than the possibility of it being Gabriel Church’s victims, but amongst the living, they are each suffering from bouts of psychopathy, sociopathy, or simply display a disturbing penchant toward obsessive bouts of fantasy.

Christian Maxwell is the author who, through feats of investigative prowess and deductive reasoning, has discovered the identity of this book’s antagonist, Church, a prolific serial killer. There may be some suspension of disbelief required to accept Maxwell has done what neither local authorities nor the FBI have been able to accomplish; Church having admitted to committing some forty murders across state lines, yet eluding capture. Christian, however, tracks Gabriel Church down in Seattle and sets out to interview the man, thus hoping to collect enough material to pen the ultimate biographical account of a killer, in that killer’s own words, while he remains at large and unfettered by the legal system.

As is expected with a premise such as this, there are questions raised, the most significant perhaps being Christian’s legal and ethical obligation where Gabriel’s crimes and identity are concerned. This is addressed in a couple of ways—the first being Christian’s own admitted antisocial personality, which allows him the leeway to behave other than how we’d expect; though, to his credit, he does suffer pangs of doubt and conscience from time to time. The second is Church’s own charisma and magnetism to which Christian, who had up to then been portrayed as asexual, succumbs as the two men spend more time together. When the question of God comes into play during the interview process, the names Christian, Gabriel (man of God), and the obvious Church all play cleverly into the story’s plot as well, as the religious motif contrasts the ultra-secular behavior of these characters, also juxtaposing quite nicely Gabriel’s justification for doing what he does.

Of course, as Christian and Church delve into a sexual relationship, the chemistry and composition of the biographer/killer relationship changes as well, bringing along with it the expected complications and questions, the most complex being what sort of a future can these men possibly have together, regardless of whether or not Christian’s book is published? Will Gabriel quit killing for Christian, or will Christian deign to accept his lover is a mass murderer? This case in point provides for the greatest of conflicts and ultimately, would be the saboteur of any sort of relationship.

There is a lot to sink one’s mental chops into in this novel, much of which I enjoyed, but where I feel this book fails itself is in the execution. The third person omniscient narration offers a great deal of telling but not much showing throughout. All the murderous events being recounted in hindsight, told in third person rather than in the first in Gabriel’s own words, leaves the reader with the unfortunate byproduct of a peripheral view of the crime scenes. The result of this detached delivery, in what could have been a quite chilling narration, is no more effective in eliciting an emotional response to the events as they occurred than if one were reading a newspaper article about the crimes weeks, months, or years after they’d occurred—somewhat dry and rote.

Sadly, this same sense of detachment plagues the development of these characters and the relationship between Christian and Gabriel as well, again leaving the reader a spectator of the events as they’re being told rather than our being drawn into the privacy and intimacy of their growing bond by being made privy to more dialogue rather than an extensive narrative prose. This issue coupled with the apparent lack of a good solid editing to smooth transitions, eliminate grammatical errors, and do away with extraneous or repetitious content which neither advanced the plot nor further developed the characters were each a detriment to this novel’s delivery.

As the dénouement of Rubble and the Wreckage approaches, the snake in the tree of knowledge is introduced and becomes the metaphorical apple of temptation upon which Church feeds. This particular character appears every bit as atypical as either Church or Christian, fantasizing a meet-cute with Church, then displaying a stalker level of behavior which placed her dead-center on target as a convenient means of climactic catalyst for the two men. I must say this character felt more a caricature than a portent of conflict at times but did provide a viable means for the author to wind down to the end of this novel, and was also the perfect method for allowing Church to display his “Scorpion” nature to Christian’s “Frog”, which I enjoyed.

Rubble and the Wreckage is labeled the first book in the Gabriel Church series. As this book seems to have concluded quite decisively, I’m not sure where the next will go, but there’s a wealth of chills and horror which could be tapped into with this character. I can only say I hope it’s mined more effectively in the books to come. Overall, this wasn’t a bad novel, not by any stretch, but, as I see it, simply didn’t live up to its fullest potential.


You can buy Rubble and the Wreckage here:

All Romance eBooks

All Romance eBooks

4 Stars, Boroughs Publishing Group, Mystery/Suspense/Action Thriller, Reviewed by Tina, Susan Mac Nicol

Review: Love and Punishment by Susan Mac Nicol

Title: Love and Punishment

Author: Susan Mac Nicol

Publisher: Boroughs Publishing Group

Pages/Word Count: 245 Pages

Rating: 4 Stars


Someone is leaving a trail of bodies throughout London, and Detective Anthony Parglietto is determined to end the violence. Then he’ll return to the man he loves.

Tough, street-savvy, and used to dealing with lowlifes, Flynn Parker is the last person Anthony thinks he has to protect. Then the Bow-Tie Killer strikes close to home and the world turns upside down. Right is wrong, black is white, and a policeman might become a monster. But in the name of love, justice must be served. In the name of love, pain can be endured. In the name of love, a man can taste the very essence that defines him. Continue reading

Anne Barwell, Dreamspinner Press, Reviewed by Jackie

Review: Shades of Sepia by Anne Barwell

Title: Shades of Sepia (The Sleepless City: Book One)

Author: Anne Barwell

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 210 Pages

Rating: 5 Stars

Blurb: A serial killer stalks the streets of Flint, Ohio. The victims are always found in pairs, one human and one vampire.
Continue reading

All Romance Ebooks, Self-Published, Taylor V. Donovan

“Six Degrees of Separation” Heats Up This Series By Degrees

“Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet.” – Jean-Jacque Rousseau

It took six years to capture John Wayne Gacy, ten to catch Ted Bundy, and Gary Ridgway, two decades and a body-count numbering in the grotesque.

Leviticus’ murderous exploits haven’t lasted nearly as long or reached the Green River Killer’s numbers, but it has spanned several states and has targeted a very specific victim: all of them gay men, all of them fitting a very specific physical profile, all of them sacrificed for the greater good of the pure and the righteous. Lev is set to cleanse the world of their homosexual stain, one corpse at a time.

The psychopath who kills in the name of righteousness and virtue is still on the loose, but the FBI is very near to closing in on him. They know his motives, they know his profile, and they now know his name. The trick is going to be catching him before he has the chance to hurt anyone else and eliminates the one man he sees as the driving force behind his killing crusade. A kidnapping and case of mistaken identity came close to derailing the entire investigation, but Sam Shaughnessy and company didn’t become the best at what they do by giving up or by allowing the criminals to stay a step ahead of them for too long.

The Leviticus case hasn’t been resolved yet, but the case of the ever-evolving relationship between Sam and his not-boyfriend, Mac O’Bannon, moves toward a resolution that comes with some closure of past wounds and a revelation that Mac fears might send Sam away for good. One of the best things about this book for me was the evolution of Sam himself, (who can be the very definition of frustration at times!) and the way in which he and Mac finally make peace with exactly where they stand with each other.

As with the first book in the series, Six Degrees of Lust, Taylor V. Donavan has brought her ensemble cast of characters together for more intrigue, mystery, family drama, danger, romance, and some pretty steamy moments between the two men who play their relationship like a strategic game of chess, sometimes planning several moves ahead, sometimes taking a risk and sacrificing a piece of themselves for the sake of capturing the greater prize later in the game.

It’s easy enough to say I want everyone’s stories to be front and center in the next installment and will be happy with whoever comes next, but I would especially like to see what Ms. Donovan has cooked up for S.A. Logan Brandenburg and a certain someone. These characters are easy to like, and I even like the characters I don’t love so much for bringing a healthy dose of frustration into the lives of those they seem to live to torment.

Like a criminal investigation, the storyline in the By Degrees series is unfolding methodically, with twists and turns, false starts and careful plotting. I’ve become so invested in the solving of this case that I’m sorry (almost) that I read this book so quickly, knowing that there’ll be quite a wait for Book Three.

I’d definitely recommend giving this series a good seeing to in the meantime.

Reviewed by: Lisa

You can buy Six Degrees of Separation (By Degrees Book 2) here:

All Romance Ebooks, MLR Press, Taylor V. Donovan

Taylor V. Donovan’s “Six Degrees Of Lust” Might Leave You Many Degrees Of Anxious For A Sequel

“Some rules are nothing but old habits that people are afraid to change.” ― Therese Anne Fowler

Taylor V. Donovan’s Six Degrees of Lust is a novel that’s part murder mystery and part relationship mystery, with a heavy emphasis on the relationship and even more on the mystery of how Sam Shaughnessy and Mac O’Bannon are ever going to overcome the stop-sticks they keep throwing in the road they’re traveling toward something that could be more than the carefully planned sex-without-strings arrangement they’ve mapped out. Only time will tell.

There’s a serial killer on the loose, and he’s systematically preying on young gay men in several states. If he can’t save these sinners from an eternity in Hell, he’ll gladly speed along the process in getting them there to save the world from their evil ways. This killer has a pattern, means, mode, and plenty of psychologically radical motives to justify raining judgment and retribution down upon the unholy predators who prey on other men, and it’s up to Sam and his crack team of agents with the New York Federal Bureau of Investigations to find the killer and bring him to justice.

Mac has some problems of his own to solve, as well, namely that he’d made a promise to his family five years earlier to stay in the closet for the sake of his father’s small town Texas political career. Years of pretending to be straight has taken its toll on Mac, who’s been hiding his sexuality from his best friends, and had spent years in a secret relationship with a closeted man who treated Mac like a dirty secret rather than a boyfriend. Now that the agreement Mac had made is set to expire in a matter of just a few short months, he’s counting down the days to living his life as a proud and openly gay man, while his family is busy reneging on their end of the bargain and trying to get Mac to give up the “phase” he’s going through so he can settle down with a nice woman and spare them the humiliation of having a gay son.

A chance meeting between Sam and Mac in the airport—Mac on his way into New York City, Sam on his way out—creates a few sparks. That is, if you can call it a spark when a lit match is introduced to a puddle of gasoline. A split second decision by the very emotionally unavailable Sam to give Mac a business card and an invitation for a hook-up leads to one of the most complicated beginnings to whatever it is they’re trying to build that I’ve ever read.

Six Degrees of Lust is an ensemble piece, which means that while Sam and Mac are the main protagonists in this installment of the series, they’re supported by a huge cast of players, including one who’s a cold-blooded, self-righteous killer, as well as those who have the potential to become the main characters in their own novels as this series moves forward. I was highlighting names on my Kindle like crazy as I was reading, because with as many people as were being introduced, I wasn’t sure until I’d finished who was going to be significant and who wasn’t. Well, guess what? I’m still not sure to some degree, because, although I could guess, I still don’t know who the killer is! Yes, Taylor V. Donovan’s thrown in some clues to decipher, but has offered a few likely suspects, so the serial killer is still on the loose and is free to continue terrorizing young, blond, and beautiful gay men well into the next book.

Sam’s carrying some significant baggage since the loss of his child and the end of a marriage gone horribly wrong, which is the linchpin of all his emotional hang-ups and the reason he doesn’t give anything of himself, or want anything from anyone in return. Until Mac, that is, a man whose skills at negotiating and navigating Sam’s moods and masks is slowly causing the agent to begin bending and outright breaking some of his own carefully constructed boundaries.

Patience. That’s what this book and series takes, patience. Don’t expect hearts and flowers romance, don’t expect everything to be neat and tidy by the end of this book. Do expect some steamy smexy bits, though, and to find yourself guessing at every turn who the killer is. Do expect to wonder whose books will be coming up next, too. I know I am. Also expect to ask yourself why is a young androgynous boy a significant cog in this machine, and will Sam and his team catch this psychopath before he has the chance to kill again?

I trust Taylor V. Donovan to know where she’s going from here and to get me there one clue at a time. I’m anxious to see where she’s taking me next.

**And as an addition, Taylor has written a free ficlet called 60 Percent Proof that gives in a little added detail to something very significant that happens in Sam and Mac’s relationship. Definitely don’t read this before you’ve read the book, but most definitely read it after.**

Reviewed by: Lisa

You can buy Six Degrees of Lust here:

Marshall Thornton, MLR Press

It’s A Murder Book Of Murder – It Even Says So In The Title – Boystown Book 5: Murder Book by Marshall Thornton

There is only one sin, only one. And that is theft. Every other sin is a variation of theft… When you kill a man, you steal a life. – Khaled Hosseini

Nick Nowak’s lover is sick with AIDS, back in the earliest days of the disease when fear and ignorance had the medical community scrambling to figure out how it was being transmitted and was at a loss as to how stop it, let alone how to treat the patients who seemed sadly destined to succumb to it. Bert Harker was a police detective until he became too ill to fulfill his duties with the CPD, but just because he’d left the force didn’t mean that he’d left behind the instinct or the desire to see justice served in the murders of five young gay men. The Bughouse Slasher is out there, somewhere, and Bert’s got the Murder Book and the will and more than enough desire to hunt him down, even if it’s the last thing he ever does.

It’s 1982 and the police not only have a serial rapist/murderer on their hands, but they’ve also got their hands full trying to solve the Chicago Tylenol murders, a crime with no clues, no suspects, and little hope of ever being resolved, a crime which eventually took seven lives. The CPD’s investigative priorities are overwhelmed by the tainted Tylenol case, relegating the recently low-lying Bughouse Slasher’s crimes firmly on the back burner; until, that is, he strikes again. And this time, for Nick, things get all too personal, and all too real. And thanks to Harker, Nick now has the tools he needs and the clues that will become integral to piecing together a killer’s identity, propelling the private investigator into a hunt for the monster who brought death to Nick’s doorstep.

Nick tells this story in all its raw emotion, drawing the reader in, page by page, exposing his pain and the conflict he experiences when secrets are unearthed and circumstances shift the outcomes of a carefully orchestrated plan, playing them out in a way that wasn’t supposed to be. He is a man who is struggling to achieve some sort of equilibrium in a life that’s been thrown horribly out of balance.

I’m going to be honest; I was just a wee bit concerned about reading this book. It’s the fifth in the series, after all, and not having read the first four novels, I was afraid every piece that’d been added to its foundation in the previous books would be lost on me and would then leave me entering Nick Nowak’s world at a major disadvantage. This installment of the series is most certainly a significant piece in a much larger puzzle in Burt’s life, but trust me when I tell you my worries were quickly laid to rest as I got drawn further and further into this tautly written cat-and-mouse mystery, where the line between who’s the cat and who’s the mouse blurs the link between the serial killer and the man who’s driven to stop him.

If you don’t like the idea of delving into a series mid-stride, then absolutely begin at book one and work your way forward to this one. I can’t speak to those first four books, but let me tell you, I loved this one just fine.

You can buy Boystown Book 5: Murder Book here: