Magic City (Thorn Series #9) [NOOK Book]


A novel based on real events and newly declassified documents, Magic City is to Miami what L.A. Confidential and Chinatown were to Los Angeles.  It evokes a time in our nation's history when powerful men were willing to do whatever they thought necessary to achieve their goals.

A simple black and white photograph taken during the 1964 Cassius Clay-Sonny Liston fight on Miami Beach may hold the key to a horrific, politically-motivated ...
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Magic City (Thorn Series #9)

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A novel based on real events and newly declassified documents, Magic City is to Miami what L.A. Confidential and Chinatown were to Los Angeles.  It evokes a time in our nation's history when powerful men were willing to do whatever they thought necessary to achieve their goals.

A simple black and white photograph taken during the 1964 Cassius Clay-Sonny Liston fight on Miami Beach may hold the key to a horrific, politically-motivated crime forty-two years earlier.  After it suddenly appears on display at a trendy Miami gallery opening, the photograph is burned in an act of arson that sets off a modern-day murder spree, reaching from the quiet neighborhoods of Miami to the back corridors of the White House. 

What the killer didn't know is that there is one remaining copy. When it falls into Thorn's hands, he and everyone he loves become the target of madmen and trained killers, each of whom has his own powerful motive to see the photograph destroyed forever and its mysteries kept hidden.

To find retribution for the death of a loved one, Thorn joins forces with a dangerous enemy to solve a maddening puzzle. At its center are two families from very different worlds with their own dark secrets.  Unraveling this dangerous riddle shakes the foundation of his bond with both Alexandra and his closest friend, and sends him on a deadly journey. But cover-ups have a way of disintegrating over time, especially when someone like Thorn is pounding on the door.  Magic City is an epic crime thriller--exposing the past of a city in a time capsule of a novel.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
On February 25, 1964, in Miami, Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali) beat Sonny Liston to win the world heavyweight championship. The same evening, a family of Cuban exiles is brutally murdered, along with four militiamen who have sworn to liberate their homeland. The murders are never solved. Forty years later, enigmatic series hero Thorn (Blackwater Sound) is visiting Alexandra in Miami when two men attempt to steal a photograph in his possession that was taken during the Clay/Liston match. Thwarted in their efforts, the two persist, leading Thorn into a search for answers that uncovers corruption in Miami's government and a CIA plot to facilitate a second invasion of Cuba after the Bay of Pigs fiasco. In his 14th novel, Hall has written a gripping tale of dirty politics, love gone wrong, murder for hire, and international intrigue that is impossible to put down. Highly recommended for all popular fiction collections.-Thomas L. Kilpatrick, Southern Illinois Univ. Lib., Carbondale Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A 40-year-old photograph triggers a spate of killings in southern Florida. Snake Morales is the son of a Cuban exile. The biggest night of his life came in 1964, when he was 12 and his idol Cassius Clay beat Sonny Liston right there in Miami. Later that night, masked men and a masked woman broke into his house, killing his father (organizer of a small anti-Castro militia), his mother and his devout sister Carmen. Snake killed one intruder with a machete and mangled the hand of another, but his failure to save Carmen, the love of his life, consumed him. Stanton King, the charismatic young mayor, and his wife Lola adopted Snake and his kid brother Carlos, but this provided no relief. Fast-forward to 2004, when the washed-up former mayor notices a photo of the fight that shows him sitting beside four clandestine types. Realizing the photo could compromise national security, King goes bananas. He has Snake and Carlos burn every copy they can find. Carlos, "still a junior high punk," kills the photographer for kicks. Enter Thorn, that free spirit of the Keys (Forests of the Night, 2005, etc.), along with his main squeeze Alexandra and her grouchy father Lawton, who has the last remaining copy of the photo. Thorn and Snake form an uneasy partnership to unravel the tangled history behind the incriminating photo and the Morales family massacre, which was both a crime of passion and a CIA plot. There are murders galore, but the premise-that national security is still at risk-isn't credible, and the crazed avenger Snake is a troubling protagonist, neither hero nor villain in a genre that craves tidy definitions. Factor in four bad guys with separate missions tripping over each other, and the resultof all the fits and starts is more confusion than suspense. Disappointing. First printing of 75,000. Agent: Caroline Dawnay/PFD
From the Publisher
"Another outstanding chapter in one of the genre's most consistently first-rate series." —-Booklist Starred Review
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781429917070
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 3/6/2007
  • Series: Thorn Series , #9
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 130,654
  • File size: 339 KB

Meet the Author

James Hall

JAMES W. HALL lives with his wife, Evelyn, and his dogs, Carrie and Stella, dividing his time between south Florida and North Carolina.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One "You hate Miami." "It's not my favorite dot on the map," Thorn said. "But I don't hate it." They stood on the pine dock that rimmed the boat basin. Sugarman set his new laptop on the seat of a canvas deck chair. He'd been showing off the computer, and Thorn had been trying hard to feign interest as Sugar flashed through dozens of digital photos of his twin daughters, zoomed in and out on their beautiful smiles, showing Thorn how to filter away messy backgrounds, crop off the edges. Now Sugar took a swallow of his Bud and watched Thorn tug his red-and-white bobber toward the center of the basin. It was a muggy April afternoon, closing in on suppertime with the sun drifting behind the sabal palms on the western edge of Thorn's property. A gust off the Atlantic riffled the lagoon, and for a moment the water went opaque, then a moment later the breeze died and the rocky bottom came back into focus fifteen feet below. "You ever spent seven consecutive days in Miami?" "Not that I recall." "You'll freak, Thorn, you'll break out in boils." "Oh, I'll survive." "So what's the deal? Alexandra's quitting her job? Going to do search and rescue full-time?" "She and Buck have to pass final certification. But yeah, Miami PD is setting up a team. She's first in line." "Lost children, old people wandering off? Cadavers?" "That's the idea." "That's why she hasn't been down lately? This extra work?" "Part of the reason, yeah, but I've been going up there. All of us slogging around the Everglades. I mind Lawton while she and Buck search for scented dummies." "First I heard of that." Thorn gave another light tug on the line. "It's interesting work. Puzzle solving, following clues." "Not just the dog sticking its nose up in the air, then taking off?" "A little more complicated than that." "Well, that mutt's smarter than I thought he was," Sugarman said. "He's a Lab. Even the dumb ones are smart." Thorn watched his bobber drifting with the incoming tide. "Twenty years snapping photos of corpses, working around hard-ass homicide cops, I see how she'd find search dogs more stimulating." Thorn was silent, focused on the bobber. Sugar said, "Why doesn't Lawton come down here, spend seven nights at scenic, relaxing Club Thorn?" He gestured at the house behind them, the one-story Cape Cod where Thorn had grown up. Tucked in an insolated cove, it faced into the steady Atlantic winds. Fifteen years ago when Kate Truman, his adoptive mother, died, Thorn shuttered the place and settled into a stilt house a few miles south on the opposite side of the island. Then last year a fire turned his stilt house to cinders, and all these months later, he still hadn't found the heart to clean up the debris, much less rebuild. So he'd returned to the white wooden house where he'd spent his youth, opened it up, aired it out, and for the past few weeks he'd been adjusting to the ghostly echoes. Scenes from his youth replaying at odd moments, a whiff of a baseball glove, a moldering fishing rod, would set off long rambles through his teenage years. "While she's in Tampa taking her tests, she gave me a list of projects she needs done, a roof leak, that kind of thing. So I putter around while Lawton's at day care, take charge of him in the evening. Seven nights, how bad is that?" "Alex never really liked the Keys, did she?" "She likes it fine, but all the driving back and forth gets old, an hour each way, traffic getting worse all the time. Her life is up there." "In Miami." "Yeah, Miami. The streets, the hum." "And your life is here, the water, the hush." "You trying to say something?" Sugarman tightened his lips. "All right. You want the barefaced truth?" He drew a wary breath. "Ever since Alex stopped coming down here, you've been seriously gloomy." "Oh, come on." "I'm serious. Bleak. Moodier than usual." "Funny, I thought I was feeling pretty bubbly." "You? Bubbly?" "Relatively speaking, I mean. Relatively bubbly." "Okay, so when's the last time you tied a bonefish fly?" Thorn tugged his line, scanned the basin. "A month ago? Two months?" "Two's about right." "So what've you been doing for income?" "I'm getting by." "You're surviving on chunky peanut butter and beer. Raiding the penny jar. Can't even afford Red Stripe, drinking Budweiser, for godsakes." "You volunteering to be my financial planner?" "Tell you what I will do," he said. "I'll go up there myself, babysit the old man. Lawton and I get along fine. You stay here, get to work." "Nice try," Thorn said. "But I need to do this." "What you need is to get back to what makes you sane." "So now I'm insane?" "You're mopey, Thorn. And you been hitting the longnecks hard. Starting early, a six-pack before the sun goes down. You need to get your groove back, my man." "My groove?" "Oh, jeez, now I get it." Sugar shook his head. Something so obvious taking so long to dawn. "You're thinking about moving up there, aren't you? That's what this is about. Desert the Keys, move in with Alexandra. Jesus, Thorn. That's it, isn't it? Live in freaking Miami." "Here it comes." Thorn nodded to his left. "Ten o'clock, five yards." He angled to his right along the dock and tugged the bobber so it was floating a few feet ahead of the big snook's path. "And, hey, what's with the bobber?" Sugar said. "Where's your fly rod?" "I want to catch this fish, not play with it." Sugarman leaned out and watched the snook swim past the finger mullet that dangled below the bobber. He and Sugar went back to grade school. Though it felt like they went back further than that. Brother yin and brother yang. Sugar was the only guy on earth who could give Thorn the level of shit he did. Tell that kind of truth. He'd been a Monroe County sheriff's deputy, now a security consultant, a term he liked better than private eye. Half Jamaican, half Norwegian. Pale blond mother, Rasta father. A lucky blend. Inherited the laid-back genes of the ganja man and the chiseled cheekbones and long limbs and elegant moves of his lovely mom. Her cold focus. After those two abandoned him when he was still a toddler, his scruples were shaped by a foster mom who raised him in the tropical poverty of Hibiscus Park, Key Largo's ghetto. Crack houses and heroin dens, rusty cars up on blocks; the only lawful neighborhood business was a hubcap stand along the overseas highway. After a childhood like that, Sugarman had developed an indestructible gristle at his core. He grew up quiet and clear-minded, a man so strictly principled, so secure in his humane convictions, that on countless occasions he'd served as Thorn's true north, hauling him back onto the proper path just as Thorn was about to lurch over some fatal precipice. Sugar peered into the lagoon. "Damn, that's no snook. It's Orca, the killer whale." Thorn watched the snook glide across the basin to the mangrove roots that curved into the basin like the bars of an underwater cage. "It's checking an escape route. It'll try to cut me off on those roots." Sugar said, "Did I see that right? All those leaders streaming off her mouth? There must be a dozen hooks in her lip." "At least." "What do you figure? Fish that size, it's got to be ten, twelve years old?" "Closer to twenty-one," said Thorn. "Twenty-one? And how'd you arrive at that?" "One of those leaders is mine." "Same snook? Oh, give me a break." "I was standing right here when she broke it off. Kate and I were fishing together. That fly was one of my first attempts at a ghost streamer." "So that's what this is about, fixing some youthful error?" "I saw it a couple of weeks ago, all those leaders dangling. I figured I should clean her up. Been out here every night since. Sort of a project." "Well, that's a first. Thorn getting emotional about a fish." "A creature like that, it's entitled to a decent old age without dragging around a nest of monofilament." "Maybe those are her medals. An old warrior, she might be proud of them. Shows 'em off to her snook friends." The snook curved away from the mangroves and made another pass at the finger mullet, checking it over, then once again coasting off. "You might be about to add one more hook to the collection." "I'm a better fisherman than I was twenty years ago." "She could be a better fish." Thorn stepped out on the dock and towed the bobber closer to a rotting piling. Trying to reassure the fish, make it feel secure with structure nearby. A second later the snook reappeared and in a flicker it crashed the bait, then ran so fast that it almost snatched the rod from Thorn's grip. Instead of charging to the mangrove roots like she should've done, the fish headed for the mouth of the basin and the flats beyond. But hauling all that heavy line wore her down fast. The drag was set light, reel shrieking as the big fish tore toward open water. "Not a smart move," Sugarman said. "For an old warhorse like her." "Gotten lazy. Cutting corners. She didn't do that twenty years ago." Thorn tightened the drag, then pumped the rod, reeling on the down stroke. As the hook dug in, the fish broke from the water, jumped high into the rosy evening air, twisting and trying to buck loose. She flopped hard on her side and startled a school of baitfish into a flurry of pirouettes. That one jump was all she had. As the snook reached the entrance of the basin, Thorn leaned back on the rod and turned her around. The snook made a couple of halfhearted zigzag runs, but as Thorn worked her back toward the dock, it was clear the old girl's iron will had melted. As he cranked her the last few feet, she was docile. "Getting old is hell." "Tell me about it," Sugar said. Thorn hauled the fish to the dock and handed the rod to Sugarman. He knelt and found a safe grip on her lower jaw, then heaved her up onto a wet towel he'd laid out and began to work with his pliers, clipping, prying, snapping the barbed ends off the hooks, curling them free. Half a minute later when he was done and the snook's lip was clear, he lowered the fish back into the water and stroked it back and forth until it recovered and glided forward and was on its way without a backward glance or nod of gratitude. Left behind in the water was a faint cloud of blood. "Sometimes you have to hurt them to fix them." "Words to live by," Sugar said. "She'll be fine in a day or two." "Your good deed for the year." Sugarman knelt to the basin and washed the slime off his hands. "You're hereby absolved, my son, and are now free to return to your dissolute ways." Thorn watched the satin gloss of the sunset water, gold and pink ripples spreading out in perfect V's behind the departing snook. "You're right about Miami." "Which part?" "That I'm considering a move." Sugarman was silent, staring at the darkening horizon. "I'm trying it out, is all. An audition. Driving up tonight; Alexandra leaves first thing tomorrow. I'll give it a week, see how it feels, if I can cope. Maybe stay a little longer after she gets back. But even if it works, Sugar, I'll always have one foot here. I'll never leave the Keys, not really." "This her idea or yours?" "Mine. Alex wouldn't ask me to do it." "She means that much to you." "She does. Yeah." "We're talking marriage here? Picket fence, weekend barbecues?" "I'm talking about seven days in Miami. See how it feels." Sugarman nodded and looked up at the dying blush in the sky. "Well, promise me one thing." "Name it." "It's a big bad city, and you're an island boy, Thorn, spent your entire life on this damn rock, which makes you just one notch above a country bumpkin. Promise me you'll keep your head down, okay? Stay cool." Thorn smiled. He'd been dreading this conversation, the effect it would have on Sugar--and on him, too--speaking the words out loud. "I'll be good," Thorn said. "Flowers in my hair, peace and love." Sugarman lifted an eyebrow and gave him a dubious smile. "Weird shit goes on up there, Thorn. And I do mean weird." Sunday afternoon on South Beach. Across Ocean Drive the art deco hotels stood like a row of sno-cones drizzled with tropical syrups and speckled with peppermint. She was there to shoot a man. Her only requirements: He had to be Hispanic, tall and slinky. The slinkier, the better. Tall and slinky. Like him. Cloudless sky, surf splashing, ocean spangled with white diamonds. Nearby a radio thumped with rap music, loud enough to cover the percussion of her Walther Red Hawk. Men strutted the strand, where sheets of surf unfurled before them. Gusts scented with sea foam and baking sand, coconut oil. The riotous screech of gulls. An electric buzz inside her head. A buzz. A buzz. She had no schedule. Only came to shoot when the dark column of static rose up her spinal cord and the drone began around her head, the hateful buzz. She sat in her aluminum beach chair. A floppy straw hat shading her face, hair tucked under. Hiding behind sunglasses with white square frames. A brown towel lay across her lap, concealing the sleek black pistol with its smooth molded edges, lustrous black frame, eight-shot rotary magazine. Loaded with pellets. Lead lumps with cinched waists and pointy tips. Shaped like minarets. Twice the weight of BBs. Sent flying by spurts of pressurized gas. Lethal, oh yes, if the muzzle was snug against an ear, fired into the soft interior channels, one after the other, or into an eyeball. That could bring death or leave them pleading for it. From the distance she was shooting, no, not fatal. Oh, but at five hundred feet per second, what a beautiful, vicious sting. Her days of killing were finished. All done. No more guns and blasts of gore. This was more fitting. Sting, not kill. More fitting for a woman her age, her station. Her twisted history. So many targets on parade today. So many men in their cocky Speedos, the bulge of crotch. The flaunting display. They swaggered by. A mouth like his. Like his. An unbroken pageant of nearly naked men. So many, many Hispanics. The dark hair, insolent smiles, long lashes. Sensual macho lips. She saw one coming. Red clingy suit. Head high, dark wraparounds. Tightened her finger. Tensing to a pound of pressure, two, then backing off. Letting this Speedo pass. This bulge of prideful meat. She wasn't ready yet. Too quick. Too early. No reason to rush. Drew her hand from beneath the towel, wiped her palm dry. Slid it back inside, fitted her fingers to the molded stock. The molded stock. She waited, watched them pass. Looked down the beach. The crowd around her drowsing, talking, reading paperback novels and magazines. She was simply one of them, a lady in late middle age, basking in the sun. No one knew. No one ever knew. Five minutes passed before she spotted an even better one. Forty yards off, ambling the hard-packed sand, with gold around his neck; long, loose limbs; a gaudy lump in his black thong. Watching him approach, that smug stride. Deciding, yes, this was the target for today. To hush the drone, the nagging hum inside her skull, the buzz buzz buzz. Curling the finger. Fifty feet, forty, coming into range. She aimed for the crotch, the tender thighs. Navel to knees, that was her zone. He slowed, then halted, stooped for something in the retreating surf. A white chip of shell. He stood, holding it. Examining. A sensitive fellow. A willing target. She squeezed and squeezed again, then once more. Three quiet plonks lost amid the noise around her. He dropped his shell, slapped a hand to his thigh, looked down to see the blood drooling from a tiny hole. He crumpled to his knees, a husky roar. "I'm shot! Someone shot me!" At the brim of his thong, a second puncture in the flesh. Then she saw the ragged slash in the nylon crotch. Three for three, a notable day. Sting, sting, sting. As once she was stung. Shrieking women ripped up their towels and blankets, fled. A panicked exodus, which she joined. Simply another woman padding up the hill of sand toward Ocean Drive. A Jeep roared up. Beach patrol. It had been happening for years. Blamed on gangs, soulless teens. A dangerous prank. Police were on alert but always came too late. She mounted the dune. The buzz had toggled off. Sweet silence swimming up her spine. Brain quiet. Buzz gone. Just the ocean, the restless sea. While on his knees on the hard-packed sand, the man, the random man, screamed and screamed and screamed. Copyright © 2007 by James W. Hall. All rights reserved.
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Table of Contents

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Based on real events, and newly declassified documents, Magic City, like L.A. Confidential and Chinatown, evokes a time in our nation’s history when powerful men were willing to do whatever they thought necessary to achieve their goals. A simple black and white photograph taken during the 1964 Clay-Liston fight on Miami Beach sets off a modern-day murder spree that reaches from the quiet neighborhoods of Miami to the back corridors of the White House. When the last remaining copy falls into Thorn’s hands, he and everyone he loves become the target of madmen and trained killers, each of whom has his own powerful motive to see the photograph destroyed forever and its secrets kept hidden.  To find retribution for the death of a loved one, Thorn joins forces with a dangerous enemy to solve a maddening puzzle. Unraveling this dangerous riddle shakes the foundation of his bond with both Alexandra as well as his closest friend, and sends him on a deadly journey into the dark heart of Magic City. But cover-ups have a way of disintegrating over time, especially when someone like Thorn is pounding on the door.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 8 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 8 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 29, 2010

    Great Series

    I really enjoy James Hall and his alterego Thorn

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 23, 2010

    Good thriller

    The James W. Hall series is a good read

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 27, 2008

    Shoot Out In Miami

    I just heard this on a playawaydigital. Another form of audio books. This was a wild ride but worth it. There were too many players for me to handle. The good cops were Alex, Thorn,Sugarman. The dirty cops Staten King,Pauline C,Lola. Next hitmen turned bad Snake,Carlos,Runion,Lola. There were more but going thur 7 AAA batteries in 1 wk. I think I would have bought the book. Only 39 Chapters and listening for 11.5 hours. It's a page turner & your glued to your seat. I also spent mornings walking my niece to her bus stop not wanting to turn this off but instead changing the batteries. Whew!!! Now your turn....

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 25, 2007

    A reviewer

    The last time we saw Thorn, he had become something of a superhero, singlehandedly foiling modern-day pirates in an entertaining but improbable adventure. Perhaps this is why Hall stepped away from his favorite character for awhile. The result is this fine book which is one of the best Thorn novels and stands with the best of any recent 'coastal mystery' novel. The story centers around a photograph taken at the Miami Liston-Clay fight. Late in the book we find out why this photograph is so significant. The bumbling Cuban wards of a former mayor are perhaps too buffoonish but most of this work is a quick and seamless read with Hall's great touch at character development, plenty of suspense, and detailed and credible looks at the early sixties in Miami. Highly recommended.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 17, 2007

    Great - I read in one day

    I have not read any previous 'Thorn' books, but, intend to start. Hall had many twists and I was surprised by the ending. I would recommend for any crime fans and for those who like to read with a Florida setting!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    zany crime thriller

    While the world is stunned when the brash Louisville Lip Cassius Clay defeats Sonny Liston in Miami to win the boxing heavyweight championship, nearby mass murders occur. Someone viciously kills three members of the Cuban exile Morales family and four militiamen loyal to the patriarch. Twelve years old Snake and his younger brother Carlos are the only survivors, but the older sibling vowed vengeance one day. Mayor Stanton King and his wife adopt the orphaned Morales brothers. The mass murders are never solved. --- Four decades pass with the mass murders back in 1964 remaining a cold case. King sees a photo from the first Clay-Liston fight that has him sitting with four covert operatives. He sends his two adopted boys after each copy they can find Carlos kills the photographer. He and Snake come after Lawton, father of Alexandra, whom Thorn is visiting. Thorn stops them but they escape. They try again, which motivates Thorn to learn why. --- MAGIC CITY is a tense thriller as an incident related to a major boxing match forty years ago comes home to roost for a former big city politician. The story line is action-packed though most readers will ignore King¿s assertion that a photo from the Clay-Liston first fight in 1964 could impact national security as implausible even with the current administration reclassifying documents from the 1950s. As the good (Thorn), the bad (Snake), and the ugly (Carlos) tangle, others want the photos too in James W. Hall¿s zany crime thriller. --- Harriet Klausner

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 9, 2010

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    Posted January 24, 2011

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