The Judas Line

I do not receive compensation for reviews. I should note for the sake of full disclosure that The Judas Line was published by Camel Press the same company that published Cocaine Zombies and that Mark Everett Stone did provide a blurb for Cocaine Zombies. I do strive to be accurate in my reviews.

The Judas Line is a fast moving adventure that hits the ground running and does not let up. Jude Oliver comes from a family of assassins that go back to the time of Christ. He has been trained in military combat techniques as well as the use of modern weapons and magic. The story starts after Jude has left the family and gone into hiding. He has taken with him some very powerful and evil magic. Jude took thirty pieces of silver first provided to Judas of biblical fame. The silver contains thirty magic words. The family wants to get the silver back.

To hide the silver, and avoid detection by his family Jude has to keep it in a bath of holy water. Jude befriends an ex-military priest named Mike who provides the holy water. He also becomes the friend who will stick with him through a hellish adventure. The task to destroy the silver starts out as damn near impossible. They must locate and use the Holy Grail. Then their problems increase as they must fight Jude’s family of assassins who have the backing of hell.

We learn throughout the book about Jude’s childhood. His family is rich and powerful and will stop at nothing to get what they want. Jude is particularly gifted. Jude has mastered botanical magic and knows more magic words than his other family members in training. In most families this would make him popular. In his family it makes him a target for assassination.

Along the way Jude and Mike find some unusual magical help from various sources. These include Cain (the son of Adam and Eve), figures in Norse mythology, and elementals. Although, this seems like an odd cast of creatures to put together for a single book it does work.

The writing flows well and makes for an easy read. The dialog is funny and irreverent. The characters are likable and easy to root for. I would recommend this book as a fun and exciting read.

Last Wool and Testament

I do not receive compensation for my reviews. In the interest of full disclosure I should note that Molly MacRae did write a blurb for Cocaine Zombies. 

The story begins with Kath Rutledge traveling to Blue Plum, Tennessee for her grandmother’s funeral. When she arrives in town she is pulled over by Deputy Dunbar. I half expected her to be tossed in the poky like in a scene from Easy Rider. This did not happen and she didn’t go to jail. She didn’t exactly hit it off with the deputy either. Kath is smart, sassy and at times a bit obnoxious. Traits that are to her benefit along with her persistence.

Blue Plum is more akin to Mayberry than some backwoods Southern town. It is more quirky than xenophobic. I believe she even mentioned Opie Taylor at one point in passing. Rodney Dangerfield might refer to Blue Plum as “a nice place to fly over”. Yet, he would miss out on a lot of fun if he did.

Last Wool and Testament is a true mystery and as such I can’t say  much without giving too much away. I will say many of the characters are not what they seem. For such a small town it has a lot of secrets. Ivy owns a fabric shop and despite sounding like a generic little old lady she has her own secrets to hide. She is dead when the book begins but through her note and the other observations about her I feel as though I know her. She is not alone in this small town as far as hiding secrets.

Despite the small town setting a lot happens in Blue Plum. There are murders, snakes and even a ghost. The citizens tend to be quirky and a bit odd. These traits keep them from being boring or stereotypical.

The people who spend time at her grandmother’s store the Weaver’s Cat are helpful and interesting. Mel the owner of the local eatery (I am unsure if this is a nod to the Mel’s Diner in the old television show Alice) and Geneva (despite being dead) all lend a hand in helping to get to the bottom of the mystery.

Molly MacRae weaves an interesting tapestry (pun intended). She brings small town Tennessee to life. The characters come to life and ring true.

All and all my trip to Blue Plum was a good one. I suspect I will visit again when the next book in the series comes out. So light a fire, put on a wool shawl, let the cat sit on your lap and dig in. It might be good with rosemary olive oil cake with dark chocolate.

Horses and Bayonets

I appreciate the efforts the candidates from both parties made this election season. Cocaine Zombies is certainly not geared toward any political perspective. That said one of the more memorable lines in the political debates was Obama’s reference to horses and bayonets. Since drug addiction is a main plot point in Cocaine Zombies, I wanted to discuss the “war on drugs.” A war we as a nation have been fighting with horses and bayonets.

In the past twenty years of practicing law I have seen sentences for drug crime increase exponentially but the result has not been a proportional decrease in drug crime. The war on drugs has been devastating in terms of cost and loss of human potential. The last statistics I could find show on average it costs $31,286 per year to house an inmate. The cost of housing is a small portion of the overall costs of incarceration. This does not include the costs associated with the court system such as the salaries of judges, lawyers and probation services as well as many of the pension benefits of guards and staff.

I would argue this money for prison space is the smaller cost to society. The real cost is the loss of human potential and productivity. America imprisons more of her population than any other nation on earth. More than Russia or China. A whole impoverished segment of children are growing up without fathers because they are in prison. We are housing young and healthy individuals who should be paying taxes, not consuming government services.

Let’s throw out the bayonets and horses used to fight the war on drugs. I have seen some amazingly stupid crime in twenty years. I have seen cases involving unmasked people robbing stores with security cameras. People committing crimes they couldn’t possibly get away with—the type motivated by addiction. We need to discount the outdated idea of deterrence—that a person won’t commit a crime if the result is sure to be a long jail sentence. And let’s acknowledge the fact that prison doesn’t rehabilitate criminals. More than fifty percent of people released from prison reoffend.

What does work? I don’t know. I guess we need to experiment with different ideas and find out. What I do know is what does not work. Drug court has had mixed results, but it is a step in the right direction. Colorado and Washington State just legalized marijuana. Maybe that could have some impact. For the first time in ages there is a real discussion in politics by both parties about alternatives to prison. This has more to do with finances than anything else but it is a start. Drug abuse is a real problem that needs a solution. What does not work is locking people up for the rest of their lives.