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Monday, September 11, 2023

25 To Life by John Lansing (VBT: Book Review / Contest Giveaway)

In association with Partners In Crime Tours, Jersey Girl Book Reviews is pleased to host the virtual book tour event for 25 To Life by John Lansing!







Book Review



25 To Life by John Lansing
Book 5: Jack Bertolino Series
Publisher: White Street Press
Publication Date: September 5, 2023
Format: Paperback - 284 pages
               Kindle - 2874 KB
               Nook - 933 KB
ISBN: 979-8988516613
ASIN: B0C8LQWNZ8
BNID: 2940167483699
Genre: Crime Thriller


Buy The Book:


Buy The Series: Jack Bertolino Series
Book 1: The Devil's Necklace
Book 2: Blond Cargo
Book 3: Dead Is Dead
Book 4: The Fourth Gunman
Book 5: 25 To Life


Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author/publisher in exchange for my honest review and participation in a virtual book tour event hosted by Partners In Crime Tours.



Book Description:

25 to Life is the fifth and latest installment in the Jack Bertolino series, written by John Lansing in the propulsive, cinematic, page-turning style he has become known for.

Gloria Millhouse, a beautiful African American law student, is working with the Project for the Innocent. She has done extensive research on inmate Carl Forbes, who she believes was wrongfully arrested, convicted and incarcerated for a crime he didn’t commit, the sexual assault and brutal murder of a teenage girl in Los Angeles twenty-three years ago. Gloria dies in a car crash on Malibu Canyon Road after questioning powerful, politically-connected men who were witnesses at Carl’s trial and knew the victim personally. Private investigator Jack Bertolino is brought on to discover the truth behind Gloria’s death. Was her crash simply a random accident or a conspiracy to prevent the courts from reopening the case and granting Carl Forbes a new trial? Jack believes that Gloria was murdered, and as the body count rises, it becomes clear that if Jack can find Gloria’s killer, he will also find the man responsible for the teenager’s assault and murder. And Carl Forbes can walk out of prison a free man.

Praise for 25 to Life:

“Los Angeles–based private investigator delves into a murder with ties to a wrongfully convicted man in Lansing’s detective novel.”

“The author packs this latest installment in the Jack Bertolino series with new and returning characters. Gloria’s mysterious death is the catalyst, but it’s this vibrant cast that truly propels the tense narrative. The author’s incisive writing sets Jack on the investigation right away, and succinct chapters breeze by as he compiles a suspect list and looks into a host of crimes. Even as the culprits become more apparent, Jack must still prove they’re guilty. It all leads to a superb ending and the unmistakable sense that this series is nowhere close to slowing down.”

“Razor-sharp characters propel a taut, suspenseful thriller.”
~ Kirkus Reviews


Book Excerpt:


ONE

Gloria was embarrassingly beautiful first thing in the morning. Her lively intelligent eyes, were the color of cocoa. Her perfect skin was a shade darker. She blew steam over the rim of her coffee cup, steeling herself for the day. Gloria mentally repeated the bullet points she wanted to make with her next group of interviewees.

Mug shots of Carl Forbes, a teenage African American boy, were taped to her mirror. A daily reminder of her life’s work. She quickly gathered her overflowing briefcase and iPad, and locked the apartment door behind her.

Gloria slid behind the wheel of her Fiat, the color of a pistachio, and headed for her first appointment with Councilman Mark Corcoran.

Gloria’s interview with the councilman wasn’t going well. Saying she worked with Project for the Innocent did her no good. Corcoran had agreed to give her ten minutes of his time, but the officious man had already checked his watch twice.

“I’m a big fan of your program,” Corcoran said. His unblinking eyes used to intimidate had no effect on Gloria. “But I believe your client is a guilty man. I followed the case—hell, we all knew the kid. Quiet type, lived a few blocks over, didn’t run with our set. Hard to believe him capable of such brutality, but he confessed to the crime.”

Gloria was prepared for this. “Carl says the arresting officers tortured the confession out of him. He was seventeen years old. Thirty-six hours without food or bathroom facilities. And look at the photograph, it’s clear he’d been beaten.”

The councilman glanced at the photo and handed it back. “He was picked out of a lineup.”

“Eyewitnesses are notoriously undependable. If the cops coerced the confession, it’s not a stretch to think they might have manipulated the lineup. And none of his DNA was found on, or in the victim’s body. Shelley Goldstein had been sexually assaulted before she was murdered. I believe Carl was set up. He’s already served twenty-three years for a murder he didn’t commit.”

Corcoran wasn’t moved. “Shelley was a lovely rich girl. None of the boys in our neighborhood stood a chance in hell with her. Sorry, but there’s nothing more I can add.”

“I was told you had a big crush on her.”

“We all had crushes on her. Who were you talking to?” All attitude now.

“I don’t reveal sources.”

Corcoran rose from his power desk, “Good luck with the case. I respect what you’re doing.”

Gloria understood an exit line when she heard one. She nodded, and walked out.

Gloria was early for her next interview. She grabbed a latte from her favorite coffee house, and took a window seat. She called Professor Ted Andrews who ran Project for the Innocent and filled him in on her less than stellar performance. Her mentor wasn’t pleased.

“It’s a little early in the game to be burning bridges” Ted said.

“I know, you’re right. I get it. But he was so arrogant.”

“Don’t beat yourself up. You’re doing a good job.” Ted counseled her to take a few days, consolidate her notes, and then they’d revisit the case. Not what Gloria wanted to hear. And then as an afterthought, “I think I’m being followed.”

That caught the professor’s attention. Gloria explained it was an SUV with tinted windows. She’d picked up a strange vibe. She made a few off-the-wall turns, and he was gone. She started questioning herself, said it was probably nothing. The professor reminded her when they exonerate one of their clients, someone else’s career and reputation sustains damage. It’s a dangerous business. He tells her to trust her instincts. Gloria took that to heart and signed off.

Hanna Cook was standing on the postage-sized porch of a tired California bungalow in Del Rey. She was pushing fifty but giving sixty a run for its money.

“So, what can I tell you about the bastard?” Hanna asked, droll.

Gloria shared a conspiratorial grin. Put the subject at ease, she’d been taught, and they might share their secrets.

“Do you remember the case? It was back in 2000. The sexual assault and brutal murder of a young co-ed.” Gloria reached into her briefcase, “This is a picture of Carl when he was seventeen.” She handed Hanna the photo.

“What did Kevin have to do with it?”

“I was hoping you could tell me. He’s on record as being part of the team who arrested the young man.”

“No,” she said wistfully, handing the photo back. “The less I knew, the better off I was. Kevin was an angry man who never should’ve been a cop. Went to his head. That, and the rye whiskey. Only thing that made him feel good … then it made him mean. When he wasn’t getting his kicks arresting dirt-bags, he’d start in on me.”

“Was he ever cited for physical violence?”

“Once or twice. It wasn’t like it is now. People with their cell phones, and cameras. And just try to arrest a cop back then for slapping around his wife…”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” Gloria said, and decided to drop the hammer. “Carl claims your ex, and his partner, beat him into giving a false confession.”

Hanna considered that. “I almost shot Kevin one night. Had his gun. He woke up staring down the barrel. I started to cry and he slapped the thing out of my hands and gave me something to cry about. First call I made after they unwired my jaw was to a lawyer.”

The conversation was going nowhere. Nothing but conjecture to corroborate her inmate’s story.

It was dusk as Gloria made her way toward Twin Dragon Restaurant. She glanced in the rearview mirror and saw a gray Ford Expedition several lengths behind her. Was it the same SUV she saw before? There were lots of SUVs in LA. When she checked again, it was gone.

Gloria pulled her car onto the side street next to the restaurant. All was quiet. She draped a sweater over her briefcase in the rear compartment, locked up, and hoofed it around to the front entrance to pick up her order.

Five minutes in and out. When Gloria emerged, her hands were full and the smell was incredible. She rounded the corner—and had to look twice to make sense out of what she was seeing. Broken shards of glass fanned out around the back of her car. She took another tentative step forward and could clearly see the shattered rear window of her Fiat.

Her heart pounded, and her breath came in fits and starts. She prayed she was wrong. Yet as she neared her car, her worst fears were realized.

Her briefcase was gone.

Her throat went dry, and she stifled tears. She set the bag of food on top of her car and took in the scene. She looked around her car, checked the traffic on Pico, and the quiet side street for anything out of the ordinary.

Nothing. No one who could have witnessed the break-in. No one who cared that she was caught in a nightmare.

Gloria did a quick mental inventory of everything in her briefcase and came to the sickening realization her iPad and four months of hard work had been stolen. In some instances, information and notes of interviews that took hours to create, and hadn’t been copied. The flood gates opened and tears streamed down her cheeks. Light-headed, she had to lean against the car to keep her balance.

Was it an opportunistic crime? The thief saw an object, did a smash and grab. Could it have been that simple?

What else could it have been? The SUV? Gloria knew she was paranoid now. Scared silly. She grabbed a few napkins out of her takeout order and whisked the shards of glass that had landed on her front seats onto the curb. She turned on her headlights and pulled out, driving toward home.

Her head was still swimming. Gloria pulled to a stop, grabbed her cell phone and called her father.

After she told him what had happened, he quickly replied:

“Look, darling, don’t go home to an empty apartment,” he said with a tenderness that belied his courtroom reputation. “I don’t want you to be alone. Drive over the hill and spend the night. We can file a police report in the morning and set you up with a rental car.”

“I’ve got Chinese.”

“Shrimp with black bean sauce?”

“And Kung Pao.”

“I’ll chill the chardonnay. I don’t want you to worry. Drive safely, honey.”

“Okay, Dad. Thank you.”

Gloria clicked off, feeling loved, and headed for the Las Virgenes exit off the 101.

Malibu Canyon Road was two lanes of driving pleasure. Winding blacktop cutting through deep canyons and steep cliffs with sandstone outcroppings. It came to a dramatic end, revealing the Pacific Ocean and Malibu.

She took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. The missing rear window of her Fiat created a strange whistle as she powered the small car around the curves at forty-five miles an hour. Her rumbling stomach got the better of her, and Gloria rummaged around the bag with one hand and plucked out a dumpling. She smiled, took a bite, and glanced at the rearview mirror.

A large SUV appeared around one rocky turn, moving fast, and she hoped the driver wasn’t going to be a pain, and force her to pick up the pace.

Gloria made short work of the dumpling and used two hands to maneuver around a tight curve. Her discomfort swelled as she realized the SUV was closing the distance. Headlights on high beam. Her body tensed as she realized the vehicle bearing down on her was a gray Ford Expedition.

Gloria wondered if she was going mad. It looked like the same car she’d seen before. No, it was impossible, she thought, but picked up her pace. Fifty miles an hour was pushing it around the tight curves, and as fast as she was willing to go. Screw the driver.

The SUV was tracking her now. Tight on her fender. Headlights blinding. She grabbed her cell phone and hit her father’s number with one hand. Gloria slid around the next turn, and the phone dropped out of her hand.

“Back off!” she shouted over the whine of air thundering through the broken rear window as her speedometer hit sixty miles an hour. The SUV loomed in her rearview and she instinctively pushed the car to sixty-five, white-knuckling the steering wheel.

Gloria drifted over the broken white line as a car blasted by from the opposite direction, horn blaring, scaring the crap out of her. She came dangerously close to skidding onto the narrow gravel shoulder and colliding with the sheer cliff face.

And then, oh Christ, she felt the SUV nudge the back of her car.

Gloria stomped pedal-to-metal. Her small sedan rocketed to seventy miles an hour.

The SUV tapped her rear bumper again.

Gloria’s eyes teared. She was losing it but fought to keep the car on the road.

The SUV slammed into her harder. “Stop it!” she cried.

And then the power punch. Five thousand pounds of steel rammed her compact car.

Gloria couldn’t hear her squealing tires over the sound of her own screams as she went into a death spin.

Gloria knew she was going to die a moment before her car came out of the 360 on the opposite side of the road, barreling toward the cliff at seventy miles an hour.

Her Fiat smashed into the rocky berm and went airborne.

Time stood still.

The only sound: the whistling wind and Gloria’s beating heart.

The rock-strewn riverbed grew in size, filling her field of vision as she dropped out of the sky and bore witness to her impending death.

The pistachio Fiat that had brought Gloria so much joy in life burst into flames on impact and enveloped her broken body.

***

Excerpt from 25 to Life by John Lansing. Copyright 2023 by John Lansing. Reproduced with permission from John Lansing. All rights reserved.




My Book Review:

In 25 To Life, the fifth book in the Jack Bertolino Series, the reader is transported back to Los Angeles as they follow private investigator Jack Bertolino on his latest investigative adventure.

Author John Lansing weaves a fast-paced crime thriller set in Los Angeles and written in the third person narrative, that follows the dangerous quest of retired NYPD narcotics detective now private investigator Jack Bertolino as he takes on the investigation of the death of Gloria Millhouse, a law student working with the Project for the Innocent, who had been doing research on the twenty-three year old sexual assault and murder conviction of Carl Forbes. As Jack undertakes the case on the request of Mayor Henry Waltham, he finds himself caught up in a dangerous and deadly game of cat and mouse.  

25 To Life is a riveting crime thiller that is full of intrigue, action, drama, suspense, murder, and dark humor. Jack's latest investigative adventure easily draws the reader in and keeps them captivated and turning the pages. As the reader follows Jack and his associates investigate the death of law student Gloria Millhouse and the conviction of Carl Forbes, the multitude of plot twists and turns will keep them guessing what will happen next. Jack takes the reader on a wild ride when his dangerous adventure ruffles the feathers of dirty cops and corrupt politicians. Jack engages in a dangerous cat-n-mouse game with people who are determined to stop his investigation into both cases, and as the body count rises, Jack's life is put in danger as he puts the pieces of the puzzle together, all in the pursuit of flushing out the killer and getting justice for Gloria and Carl.

With a multidimensional cast of characters who leap off the pages; gritty dialogue and vivid interactions; and a no-holds-barred storyline that keeps the reader sitting on the edge of their seats and holding their breath as Jack's latest riveting investigative adventure comes to an explosive climax.

25 To Life is one heck of a thrilling story that you won't be able to put down, and it will leave you wanting to follow Jack on more of his investigative adventures!


RATING: 5 STARS 
                                    
 




About The Author



John Lansing is the author of five thrillers featuring Jack Bertolino —The Devil’s Necktie, Blond Cargo, Dead Is Dead, The Fourth Gunman, and 25 To Life —as well as the true-crime non-fiction book Good Cop Bad Money, written with former NYPD Inspector Glen Morisano. He has been a writer and supervising producer on Walker, Texas Ranger, the co-executive producer of the ABC series Scoundrels, and co-wrote two MOWs for CBS. The Devil’s Necktie is in development at Andria Litto’s Amuse Entertainment, with Barbara DeFina attached as a producer. A native of Long Island, John now resides in Los Angeles.




Contest Giveaway

Win A Signed Copy Of 25 To Life
+
$25 Amazon Gift Card






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Saturday, September 9, 2023

Weekly Book Mail: 9/3-9/2023

 






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Saturday, August 26, 2023

Weekly Book Mail: 8/20-26/2023

 






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Monday, August 21, 2023

Fall's Hope by Heather Hummel Gallagher (Book Review)

 




Fall's Hope by Heather Hummel Gallagher
Book 3: Camden Lake Tales Series
Publisher: Independent Self Publisher
Publication Date: July 25, 2023
Format: Paperback - 202 pages
               Kindle - 1809 KB
ISBN: 979-8387783807
ASIN: B0BZ13XP4F
Genre: Women's Fiction / Coming Of Age



Buy The Book: 


Buy The Series: Camden Lake Tales Series
Book 1: Summer's Wisdom
Book 2: Winter's Truth
Book 3: Fall's Hope



Book Description: 


Brett has never met his daughter. Melanie isn’t sure she can trust him again. But can they reconcile his deceptive past and bond over discovering the whereabouts of his only child? 

Brett McGriff is on a straight road to becoming a veterinarian when he learns that somewhere out in the world he has a daughter. His new fiancĂ©, Melanie Piper, struggles when she uncovers the truth of his past after they move to California from Maine to start a new life. 

Brett’s conflicted heart worries about his future with Melanie and battles discovering the whereabouts of his only child. Will Brett learn that life can hold opposing desires and that he can triumph despite his uphill battles? 

Fall’s Hope, a heartfelt and persuasive piece of women’s fiction, is the third in the Camden Lake Tales series and is the backstory of Jamie’s biological father.


My Book Review:


In Fall's Hope, the third book in the Camden Lake Tales series, author Heather Hummel Gallagher weaves a wonderful women's fiction story that follows the backstory of Jamie Jacobson's birth father, Brett McGriff.

The author weaves a fascinating tale that easily engages the reader to follow Brett McGriff's journey as he deals with the knowledge that his ex-high school girlfriend Elizabeth Daniels had a baby girl and gave her up for adoption, and did not let him know until she sent him a letter two years later while he was away at college. 

Brett's story takes the reader from May 1978 through the Spring of 2015. Brett and his college girlfriend Melanie Piper graduate from college in Maine and settle in California where he attended veterinarian school at UC Davis. Brett has thought about his daughter every day since he read the letter, and wonders what her life is life throughout the years. Brett and Melanie get married in May 1983, and settle into their life in Pacific Grove, where he is a veterinarian, and Melanie has established a dog rescue. As the years go by, Brett still thinks about his daughter somewhere out in the world, and on his fifty-eighth birthday in 2014, he and Melanie are watching the news and see his ex-girlfriend Elizabeth featured on there, she is running for Congress and tells her life story and introduces the crowd to her daughter, Jamie. Brett is determined to finally meet his daughter, who lives not too far from them, and hopefully be given the chance to have a relationship with her. 

Fall's Hope is a heartwarming and thoroughly enjoyable story. You can't help but feel for Brett as his world changed after learning that he has a daughter somewhere out in the world, and how he learns to live with his desire to find her throughout the years, until fate finally provides him the opportunity he has dreamed about. The author takes the reader along for the ride as Brett's life unfolds from college graduation in May 1978 to his retirement in the Spring of 2015. Brett's story will pull at the heartstrings, and will leave the reader with a warm fuzzy feeling, and a satisfied smile. 

Fall's Hope is a compelling women's fiction story that will pull at your heartstrings and touch your soul. 


RATING: 5 STARS 





About The Author



Heather Hummel Gallagher is a New York Book Festival award-winning novelist of the Journals from the Heart Series.

A former high school English teacher turned novelist and ghostwriter, Heather followed her grandmother’s footsteps with the written word.

Born in Greenwich, CT, Heather soon left New England and spent her twenties and thirties traveling and living in every corner of the US. Eventually, she settled down and married for the first time in her early-fifties. She and her husband, Stephen, have two black labs, Sox and Lucy. They travel the country in their RV, where Heather satisfies her innate need for exploration.

As a ghostwriter, Heather has penned over a dozen books and counting. Her clients include corporations, politicians, philanthropists, dating coaches, real estate agents, public figures, and business leaders. With experience in both traditional and independent publishing, Heather's diverse background and knowledge of the industry appeals to many authors seeking a qualified ghostwriter.

By personal request from Arianna Huffington, Heather is a featured blogger in the Arts & Culture section of the Huffington Post. Her article titled "Why Agents Reject 96% of Author Submissions" gained remarkable attention in the industry, including ReTweets from Publishers Weekly and many quality literary agents.

Television, print, and radio coverage for her clients’ books include: The Today Show and other regional shows; Publishers Weekly, USA Today and the Washington Post; and in magazines that include: Health, Body & Soul, First, and Spry Living, a combined circulation of nearly 20 million in print alone. A contributing author in Successful eBook Publishing: The Complete How-to Guide for Creating and Launching Your Amazon Kindle eBook by David Wogahn, Heather shares her wisdom in a chapter on ghostwriting.

Heather's second career is as a land and seascape photographer. Her work is represented by Agora Gallery in the Chelsea District of New York City. A graduate with High Distinction from the University of Virginia, Heather holds a Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies degree with concentrations in English and Secondary Education.

Awards:
2009 Mature Media Awards, Merit Award: Gracefully
2009 New York Book Festival, Women's Literature: Whispers from the Heart
Noted as a top "Books for Grownups" by Publishers Weekly: Gracefully
Essays: Messages of Hope and Healing (Sunpiper Media, 2006) Blue Ridge Anthology (Cedar Creek, 2007)