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It was March 21, according to the folded newspaper that sat ignored on the bar beside my right elbow.
Remains Hint at Horror in Mexico!
It was supposed to be one of the happiest days of my life.
But I never made the ceremony. That made it one of the saddest.
Instead, I'd been hiding out in the corner of this old bar, counting down the minutes until the happy-hour crowd left me alone and Bill the bartender dimmed the lights to make ready for some serious drinking, serious disappearing. If only vanishing were possible.
Horror in Mexico!
The world's business.
The blues in Albany!
After five slow hours inside Bill's I could tell you exactly who came and went like clockwork. An old man who called himself Kenny P. C. ("P for Pretty," he slurred, a toothy vampire smile on his ruddy face. "C for Cute.") and dressed himself in blue polyester slacks, white rayon shirt, and matching blue jacket. A man far older than his years who sat five stools away from me toward the middle of the bar and drank bottom-shelf scotch. Until the head bob began and the space between the bar and his forehead became narrower and narrower. Until the bets were placed for which final bob would send his skull bouncing off the hardwood. At which time he was escorted to the door, stage right, a taxi already warmed up and waiting for him just outside the picture window.
Then there was the woman in Sears jeans and white cotton T-shirt who'd come in sometime around one-thirty. She had a pockmarked face and frizzy gray hair. She smoked Pall Mall 100s, one off the other, and carried on one hell of a conversation with herself in a South All-benny accent. On three separate occasions she found her way over to me, set her hand on my thigh, told me how sad and lonely I looked, then offered her body. All three times I told her no. Finally, I flipped her a twenty from my honeymoon bankroll, just to shut her up.
Maybe I liked being lonely, I told her.
And then there was the young Mohawk Indian kid who sat four stools down from me, whose hands shook so bad he had to use them both to lift his whiskey glass off the bar, bring the rim to his thick lips.
I'd gotten to know them all during my disappearing act at Bill's.
I had no way of knowing if my fianc?e, Val Antonelli, or my best man (and lawyer), Tony Angelino, had attempted to contact me. No idea if they wanted to contact me. As I removed the pinned carnation from my breast pocket and set it down on the bar, I knew that by now I had to have been recognized. That I wasn't invisible. And if I had been recognized, then I was also sure that Val and Tony knew exactly where to find me.
I blamed the Albany cops.
Maybe I had no idea what their names were or what precinct they worked out of (though Albany wasn't that big). But as a former maximum-security warden, I'd had gained enough experience over the years to be able to sniff out a cop at twenty paces. It was never the uniform that gave them away. No cop would dare enter this or any other bar for a drink dressed in his on-duty blacks.
The cops who came into Bill's were almost always young, almost always dressed in generous-cut Levi's jeans, immaculate running shoes, maybe a pastel-colored polo shirt or Notre Dame sweatshirt pulled over broad, iron-pumped shoulders. They wore gold Irish Claddagh rings on their middle fingers, and their flattop hair always had that wet, just-out-of-the-gang-shower look.
And man, talk about the overwhelming aroma of Aqua Velva.
But if all this were not enough to convince me that the young dude ordering a pint of "Half and Half" was one of Albany's Irish finest, then I could be certain when he wrapped his arm around Kenny P. C.'s shoulder and addressed the drunk by his first name. Naturally, Kenny would ask the cop if he could spare a couple of bucks. But then the cop would pull out the empty pockets of his jeans, allow them to hang there like little white wings. He'd hold his hands in the air and say, "Kenny, even Jesus Christ Himself could touch only so many lepers."
You could always spot a cop at Bill's Bar and Grill, because everybody knew cops drank for free.
As a former lawman I knew that the cops must have come and gone immediately after the eight-to-four shift or right after the four-to-midnight action shift. Just in time for last call. I'd seen quite a few of them during my afternoon inside the bar. Maybe I'd gone a little out of my mind by then, but I knew they spotted me just as easily as I spotted them. I also knew that it was only a matter of time until one of them placed a call to Tony's downtown law practice to let him know where the hell I was. Tony, in turn, would tell Val. On the other hand, why should she waste her time looking for me? Why even make the effort? I was the one who had left her standing at the altar all alone. I was the one who, for five long hours, had been pissing away our honeymoon money on beer, whiskey, and regrets.
The wind whistled. Even with my blazer on, I could feel the cold March air on my back. I sipped beer from a long-neck bottle, fired up a smoke, and for the hundredth time that afternoon, hit the playback button in my brain.
It had just started snowing as I'd passed the stone pilasters marking Albany Rural Cemetery's south-side entrance. Snowing hard in mid-March. I had pushed on past the old iron gates, feeling stiff and cold in the brand-new wedding-day blazer and loafers. Shuffling toward the plot that had been home to my first wife, Fran, for almost three years now.
As usual, I was running late.
Posted May 4, 2011
I Also Recommend:
Vincent Zandri, in my opinion, has got to be THE best thriller/suspense novelist out there. All his books reach out, grab you into the story, and put you on a roller coaster of up,downs, twists and turns like never before. He uses skillful writing, life-like characters, and plot lines that leave you thirsting for more. He's unforgettable characters become one with the reader, as the reader follows along and feels as if Zandri uses them for the plot line. It becomes real. It becomes incredibly real. AWESOME-NESS!
Godchild is the sequel to The Innocent, where we first meet Jack "Keeper" Marconi, former warden. This time, 3 years later, he's a PI, a little down on his luck. He's about to get married, but he stops to visit his deceased wife, Fran, at the cemetery, when he has a spotting of the black Buick and man that was responsible for the death of his first wife, 3 years ago. So what happens next? His friend, Tony (this guy is SUPER DUPER mafia like!) gets him a PI job trying to safe the life of Renata, a writer thrown into a Mexican jail for trying to smuggle drugs. Wow. After he takes the assignment, the heat turns up and the suspense gets rolling at a fast-action pace. Totally worth the time NOT putting the book down (though I don't think the kiddos would agree with that!)! Feeling a part of the story, I loved the blood pumping, panting breath feeling of reading Keeper's second story. Like The Innocent, this is an un-put-downable novel.
Of course, I am not going to give away spoilers but I must confess, that if you like thrillers, suspense, or just a plain greatly written novel, then I suggest you start right here and now, with this FABTASTIC 5 star book! It is not overly confusing with the scenes and events, so it could double as a stand alone, though I HIGHLY recommend that you read it as a sequel to The Innocent. I think you may fully understand Keeper's story better if you read them both. Definitely give this book and it's rockin' great author a chance. You'll find, while there is a touch of humor, this is a noir crime novel and novelist BETTER than any Stephen King! Rock on, Vincent Zandri!
1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 13, 2011
This is the first book of his I have read. And it was just as suspenseful as I had hoped it would be. It didnt take long to get hooked into the story and characters. And the story kept moving at a great pace though out the book.
The characters were complex but interesting and full of secrets that added to the story. Obviously you follow Keeper though the story. But why did seeing the man he thought killed his wife, keep him from getting married two years later. Why is this woman on the run in Mexico, and why is he hired to find her. What is the secret behind her book, Godchild. The book has almost constant twists and turns and new questions pop up almost as fast as old ones are answered. But though it all the reader never gets lost or left behind.
This is a classic suspense story. And any lover of suspense novels should not miss it.
Posted June 3, 2011
The noir genre and I have an uneasy relationship. On the one hand, pitch black noir can entertain like no other. The characters are always in varying degrees of damnation, the violence is brutal, the alcohol/drug abuse is ubiquitous and nothing about the plot is as it seems.
On the other hand, there are certain noir stereotypes that never go away. If you've read one, you've read them all. There's the PI with the tortured past who drinks too much. There's the female in need of saving from something. There's the corrupt cops, politicians, lawyers and whatnot. There's the grim, forboding tone to the writing.
Vincent Zandri's "Godchild," the second in the Keeper Marconi series, has all of these things. Keeper is a PI with a tortured past who drinks too much. He gets hired to break a woman out of a Mexican prison. Because of the involvement of corrupt officials, things go haywire pretty quick.
If this was any other writer, I probably wouldn't've made it through all of "Godchild." The noir cliches were piled on thick. But this is Vincent Zandri. There's something about his writing style that I admire. It's the brisk pace of the action. It's knowing when to slow down and evaluate what's going on in the characters' heads. It's the way a backstory critical to the plot is slowly revealed throughout the novel.
Simply put, "Godchild" is full of noir cliches. But there's a big difference between well-done noir cliches and using a stereotype in place of the creative process. Zandri (who I made me a fan with "The Remains") is definitely the former. His writing has a voice, which is the most difficult and hardest to define thing for a writer to create.
I mentioned this is the second in the Keeper Marconi series. I hadn't read the first, "The Innocent," but that didn't matter. Readers will have no problem catching up. In all honesty, I bought "Godchild" first because the price dropped to 99 cents in May. Just my luck, "The Innocent" came down to 99 cents for June. I'll be reading that one next.
Posted May 16, 2011
Godchild is a mystery suspense crime thriller.
Jack "Keeper" Marconi is about to get married but before doing so, he visits the grave of his first wife, who was killed by a hit and run driver in a horrific accident. As Jack is saying his goodbyes, the Black truck with The Bald Man, pulls up and taunts Jack. However, no one believes him, not even his best friend and Jack fails to attend his wedding, leaving his bride standing at the alter. After getting drunk and shooting up a bar, Jack is asked to take on a case to save a rich American woman from a Mexican jail.
Renata Barnes is a rich socialite and method writer who has been accused of drowning her own son just so she could write believably about her newest book. This time she's writing about burriers, rich woman who become courier's of drug, smuggling them across the border. They do it for the thrill and not about the money. Renata gets herself caught, arrested and her future doesn't look good.
Keeper is hired by Renata's husband to find her and bring her back. But Jack is being removed from his element and placed into unknown terrorities. Will Jack be able to save Ms. Barnes from the evil drug lords or will she end up in a nameless grave like the ones she has witnessed. When Jack realizes that The Bald Man was also at the funeral of Renata's child, he realizes that things may be interconnected in ways he hasn't fully understood yet and time is running out for all parties involved.
I wasn't really impressed with the character of Jack, he seemed a bit of a wimp to me and every time he got caught, I was rolling my eyes and groaning. He just came across as a bit of an oaf who through luck only, gets the job done. I found him to be cliched and stereotyped and his dialogue was stiff and disjointed.
I liked the back story concerning Renata and her child, the twists and turns in that story were enjoyable to read. However, it wasn't enough for this reader to state this was a great book, more along mediocrity and droll. The plot was the only thing keeping the story afloat. The Bald Man as a "bad" guy name was hilarious when I first read it and I immediately thought of "The One Armed Man" from "The Fugitive".
I have never had the opportunity to read a Vincent Zandri book before and had only heard good reviews but this reader isn't sold, maybe I needed to read "The Innocent" to further understand the machinations of Jack, even though Godchild is promoted as a stand alone novel. Maybe it was the format in which I read it in, I am not a huge fan of eBooks, they lack depth that is needed to read a book properly. Or maybe I am just not a huge fan of this writing style...I am not going to say this is a good nor a bad book, I'll have to leave that to you, the reader, I just know this reader didn't enjoy the experience, and was looking for more intelligence and substance from such a renowned author.
Posted January 26, 2011
GODCHILD by Vincent Zandri
Published by StoneGate, Ink
At the request of the author, a galley PDF version was sent, at no cost to me, for my honest opinion.
Snyopsis (borrowed from Amazon): He wanted justice, truth, revenge...whichever came first.
Prison-warden-turned-P.I. Jack "Keeper" Marconi understands the criminal mind. And he knows what it takes to break a man. His own life came apart the day a black Buick broadsided his car--and his wife died horrifically in the seat beside him.
Years later, on the eve of his second marriage, Marconi catches a split-second glimpse of the driver who killed his wife. Suddenly hurtled back into the past, he is determined to take one last shot at hunting him down. That is, until he is offered a job he can't refuse: to bust a beautiful woman out of a hellish Mexican prison. Now Keeper's chase through Mexico follows a trail of bodies and lies back home: to the truth about a woman on the run, to a man sitting behind the wheel of a black Buick, and to a story that someone will kill to bury....
My Thoughts and Opinion: If you have followed my blog since May of 2010, when I was first introduced to this author, Mr. Vincent Zandri and I read his novel Moonlight Falls, this review will not come as a surprise. I was hooked and became even more so with his subsequent novels, The Remains and The Innocent and even his digital short, Pathological, and this latest book, Godchild, didn't disappoint. This is a sequel to The Innocent, picking up with former Warden (Keeper) Jack Marconi but is a story that can stand on it's own. The story starts off slow like a train departing an Albany station and picks up speed nonstop across country at warp speed to Mexico with a short lay over to break into a Mexican jail to rescue an American female writer who is incarcerated and then back to Albany. The story line takes place over a 2 week period. But does someone really want her rescued? Why is it that someone wants Keeper Marconi to be the one to rescue her? Where, why and how does the drug cartels have anything to do with rescuing Renata Barnes? And what does all this have to do with the accident that tragically killed Keeper's wife, a case that he has never solved?
Godchild is a pure Noir thriller, not to be read if you are alone, especially at night unless your doors are bolted, the windows locked and the drapes closed. Zandri is a genius story teller, alternating chapters between characters, whereas you have to keep reading to find out where he left you off with his cliff hanging chapters. Bone chilling!! Frightening!! By far his scariest!! Hitchcock and Stephen King combined. Brilliant!!! I can't wait to see what's next. He just keeps getting better!!!!
My Rating: 5
Posted December 9, 2008
A beat-up Buick with tinted windows slams into the side of a Ford Bronco, killing the passenger. The hit and run driver, a bald man with a long earring and a mustache leaves behind a shattered person because Jack ¿Keeper¿ Marconi cannot adjust to life without his beloved wife Fran. He resigns as a prison warden to become a sleuth. Years later, Jack is remarrying. However, just prior to the ceremony, he stops at the cemetery to visit Fran. He sees the same car that caused his spouse¿s death, but the driver takes off before Jack can confront him or even obtain the plates. <P> He stands up his fiancee to get drunk at his favorite watering hole, but ends up shooting up the place. Jack¿s best friend andd attorney Tony not only keeps him out of jail, but also sends him on an assignment. He is to spring Renata Barnes, wife of a producer who runsan public for the politicians from the Monterey Prison. She was arrested for smuggling drugs, but authorities believe her husband has something to do with her present troubles. Jack sees a picture of the bald man at the funeral of Renata¿s child and realizes that several seemingly different events are interconnected, but cannot see why or even how. <P>The Mexican justice system is examined under chilling detail in GODCHILD, a thriller that persuades readers to complete it in one sitting. Jack may have suffered a traumatic loss, but continues to fight back as his grieving and ordeal strengthen his resolve, backbone he will need on his current assignment. Vincent Zandori is a terrific novelist who has written a superb crime thriller. <P>Harriet KlausnerWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 29, 2011
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