Blond Cargo

Blond Cargo

by John Lansing


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"A pulse-pounding thriller with a charming protagonist" (Kirkus Reviews).

Jack Bertolino’s son, Chris, was the victim of a brutal murder attempt and Vincent Cardona, a mafia boss, provided information that helped Jack take down the perpetrator of the crime. Jack accepted the favor knowing there’d be blowback. In Blond Cargo, the mobster’s daughter has gone missing and Cardona turned in his chit. Jack discovers that the young, blond, mafia princess has been kidnapped and imprisoned while rich, politically connected men negotiate her value as a sex slave.

A sizzling whodunit for fans of James Patterson and Patricia Cornwell, Blond Cargo taps into the real-life crime world to deliver a thrilling, action-packed story that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the explosive, unprecedented finale.

"An unyielding pace, vigorous characters and explosive ending." —Kirkus Reviews

“A fantastic read…This extremely fast and well-thought-out thriller will remind some of James Patterson’s early works. The action is great right up to the end and, luckily, Jack Bertolino will be staying on the fiction scene to continue his search for any and all bad guys to come.” —Suspense Magazine

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781501110283
Publisher: Gallery Books/Karen Hunter Publishing
Publication date: 04/25/2015
Series: Jack Bertolino Series , #2
Pages: 384
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 8.10(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

John Lansing is the author of four thrillers featuring Jack Bertolino—The Devil’s Necktie, Blond Cargo, Dead Is Dead, and The Fourth Gunman—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 producer on Walker, Texas Ranger, and the co-executive producer of the ABC series Scoundrels. A native of Long Island, John now resides in Los Angeles. Find out more on and follow him on Twitter @jelansing.

Read an Excerpt

Blond Cargo

  • 1

    Jack Bertolino moved briskly down the polished terrazzo floor of the American Airlines terminal at San Francisco International Airport. He walked past travelers who were deplaning, waiting to board, eating, drinking, and queuing up at ticket counters. Through the windows on either side of the crowded terminal he could see a line of Boeing MD-80s and 737s.

    Jack had his game face on. One thought only: take down the manager at NCI Corp who was dirty.

    Todd Dearling had been hired as one of five project managers, developing a new generation of semiconductors meant to challenge Intel’s control of the market. Yet the new engineer was plotting to steal the proprietary architecture for the company’s most advanced technology and sell it to an Argentinean competitor.

    Jack had done a thorough background check on Dearling and found no skeletons in the man’s closet, no gambling issues, no drugs, no priors; it was greed, pure and simple.

    Cruz Feinberg, Jack’s new associate, had arrived in Silicon Valley two days prior and wirelessly inserted a program onto Dearling’s iPad while the stressed-out manager was sucking down his daily chai latte at the local Starbucks. Any text or e-mail sent to or from Dearling was cloned and sent to Cruz’s laptop. A piece of cake to pull off for the young tech whiz.

    Jack was being well paid to catch the thief in the act—let the money and the technology change hands, and then drop the hammer.

    Todd Dearling had made reservations at the Four Seasons Hotel in East Palo Alto. A car would be waiting at SFO to ferry his Argentinean counterpart to the suite where the exchange was scheduled to take place.

    Jack had booked Cruz into that same suite two nights earlier, where he had set up wireless microcameras and wired the room for sound, to be routed to the suite next door, where Jack’s team would document the crime.

    Jack lived for these moments. Outsmarting intelligent men who thought they were above the law. Badge or no badge, Jack loved to take scumbags down.

    Ten minutes ago, Flight 378 from Buenos Aires had flashed from black to green on the overhead arrivals screen. Dressed in a gray pinstripe business suit and wheeling a carry-on suitcase, Jack walked toward a limo driver stationed near the exit door of the international terminal. The man held a sign chest-high that read EMILIO BRAGGA.

    Jack reached out a hand toward the driver, who was forced to lower his placard, shake Jack’s hand, and make quick work of grabbing up Jack’s bag. Jack headed quickly toward the exit, explaining to the driver that he was traveling light and had no checked luggage.

    As soon as the two men exited the building, Jack’s second employee, Mateo Vasquez, dressed in a black suit, moved into the same spot, carrying a sign that read EMILIO BRAGGA.

    Jack and Mateo had once been on opposite sides of the thin blue line, Jack as an NYPD narcotics detective, Mateo as an operative for a Colombian drug cartel. When Jack busted the cartel, he made Mateo an offer—spend thirty years in the big house, or come to work for the NYPD as a confidential informant. Mateo had made the right choice and Jack had earned himself a loyal operative when he became a private investigator.

    Thirty seconds later, the real Emilio Bragga walked up to Mateo, stifled a yawn, and handed off his carry-on. He was short and stocky with a rubbery face.

    “Buenos días, Señor Bragga. I hope your flight was acceptable?” Mateo asked deferentially.

    “Barely. First class isn’t what it used to be.” Bragga’s accented English was spoken in clipped tones. “Take me to the First National Bank. I have business to attend to.”

    Two hundred and fifty thousand dollars’ worth of business, Mateo might have added, but refrained.

    Jack arrived at the Four Seasons, generously tipped the limo driver, and hurried up the elevator to the suite where Cruz was waiting. Once Jack stripped off his suit jacket, he joined the young genius by his array of monitors.

    “They should make these baby ketchup bottles illegal,” Cruz said as he tried to pound the condiment out of the room service minibottle of Heinz. Growing frustrated, Cruz shoved a knife deep into the viscous ketchup and poured a heaping red mound onto his fries. Happy with the results, he chowed down on three drenched fries before wiping his hands on his jeans and returning his gaze to the computer.

    “It looks like he’s getting ready for a date,” Jack said as he took a seat. Cruz kept his eyes trained on the four screens corresponding to the four different camera angles of the room they were covering.

    “Guy’s squirrelly,” Cruz said, biting into his cheeseburger.

    They watched as Todd Dearling twirled a bottle of champagne in the ice that had just been delivered from room service, along with a tray of finger sandwiches and crudités. He was a slight, pale, middle-aged man with thinning hair that he kept nervously brushing back off his forehead. He shrugged out of his tweed sports jacket, but when he saw the sweat stains in the armpits of his blue dress shirt, he slid it back on. He hurried over to the thermostat near the door, appearing on a new screen, and turned up the air.

    Jack checked his watch and then his phone to make sure he was receiving enough bars to communicate with Mateo.

    “I’m getting a little nervous. You?” Cruz asked before sucking down the last of his Coke. He crumpled the aluminum can with one hand and executed an overhand dunk into the bamboo trash bin.

    Cruz’s mother was Guatemalan, his father a Brooklyn Jew who founded Bundy Lock and Key. That’s where Jack first met him. Cruz, who took after his mother’s side of the family, looked taller than his five-foot-nine frame. Dark-skinned, intelligent brown eyes, a youthful angular face, and at twenty-three, he could still pull off the spiky short black hair.

    “I’ve got some energy going,” Jack said, “but it’s all good. You’d have to worry if you didn’t feel pumped.”

    Just then Jack’s phone vibrated and the number 999 appeared on his text screen, code for It’s a go. Mateo and Emilio Bragga had just pulled up to the front entrance of the Four Seasons Hotel.

    “We’re on,” Jack said with a tight grin.

    In another minute, a loud rap on a door made Cruz jump. “Is that here?” he asked, and glanced over at the door to their suite.

    “No, it’s next door. Great sound, Cruz,” Jack said, trying to keep his newest charge calm.

    Jack and Cruz watched as Dearling’s image moved from one screen to the next, went over to the door, unlocked it, and ushered in Emilio Bragga. The man of the hour wheeled his carry-on across the white marble floor, pushed the retractable handle down into the bag, and gave Dearling an unexpected bear hug, lifting the thin man off his feet. Once the blush faded and he had regained his composure, Dearling was all smiles. He could smell his fortune being made.

    “First, tell me you have them,” Bragga said brusquely, his smile tightening.

    “I have them and more, Emilio. There are even some preliminary renderings for the next series of chips. Consider it goodwill,” Dearling said.

    He lifted the champagne bottle out of the melting ice with a flourish, dripping water onto his dress shirt.

    “A celebratory drink and then business.”

    “No, business first,” Jack said.

    “No. Show them to me. Now,” Bragga ordered, his voice unyielding.

    “Now we’re talking,” Cruz said to Jack, barely able to control his excitement.

    The next knock was more subdued than the first, just a quick double knock.

    “That’s here,” Jack said as he slid out of his chair and opened the door. Mateo was thirty-nine years old, tall, handsome, with striking gray eyes, long brown hair, and a thousand-dollar suit. He beamed at his old friend as he walked in, bumped fists, and moved into position behind Cruz, eyes trained on the computer screen.

    Emilio Bragga placed his carry-on luggage on the couch as Dearling pulled a slim buffed metal briefcase from behind the table and snapped it open on the tabletop. Inside was a series of blue, red, silver, and gold flash drives, seated in foam cutouts next to three bound technical binders.

    Bragga leafed quickly through one of the binders, visibly relaxed, and placed it back inside the case. He looked at Todd Dearling and nodded his head. Then he smiled.

    “This is the money shot,” Jack said. “Make it the money shot.”

    Emilio Bragga walked over to the couch, ceremoniously produced a key, and opened the lock. The sound of the zipper ratcheting around the circumference of the bag got everyone’s full attention. And then Bragga flipped open the canvas top.

    Two hundred and fifty thousand, in crisp, banded hundred-dollar bills. Jack’s team could almost hear Dearling’s breath catch in his throat.

    “You see those appetizers?” Bragga said, gesturing to the tray of crudités. “That is what this is.” He turned his gaze to the thick stacks of money like it was nothing. “Antipasto . . . before the meal.”

    The two men shook hands. The deal was consummated.

    It was all gravy now, Jack thought. He would contact Lawrence Weller, CEO of NCI, who would have Bragga quietly arrested at the airport and Dearling picked up outside his condominium, thereby avoiding any negative publicity regarding the security breach that could affect the value of NCI’s stock.

    “Start taking sick days as we get closer to the rollout date,” Bragga advised. “Then you’ll take a forced medical leave. I’ll set you up with a doctor in San Francisco who’s a friend. He’ll recommend you spend a month at a local clinic to recuperate while we launch and beat NCI to market. Six months later and with two million in your account, you’ll give notice and head up my division. Did I ever tell you how beautiful the women in Mendoza are?”

    Bragga’s speech was interrupted by another knock on the door.

    “Room service,” a muted voice said.

    “We’re good,” Dearling shouted as he moved toward the door while Bragga instinctively closed the lid of his bag, covering the money.

    Jack gave his team a What the hell? look. “Who are these jokers?”

    “Complimentary champagne from the management of the Four Seasons,” intoned the muffled voice.

    “Don’t open the door,” Bragga hissed.

    “Don’t open the door,” Jack said at the same time.

    But Dearling had already turned the handle.

    Three men dressed in navy blue blazers with gold epaulettes pushed a service cart draped with a white cloth into the room with a bottle of champagne in a silver ice bucket and a huge bouquet of flowers in a crystal vase.

    “Three men on one bottle,” Jack said as he pulled his Glock nine-millimeter out of his shoulder rig and headed for the door.

    “We weren’t the only ones who hacked his computer,” Cruz intuited.

    “Don’t leave the room,” Jack told him over his shoulder. He quickly exited the suite, followed by Mateo. Cruz nodded, but his wide eyes never left the computer screen.

    The lead man pushed the cart toward Dearling, but instead of slowing down, he muscled the cart up against the timid man’s waist, picked up speed, and forced him to backpedal across the room. Dearling’s eyes bugged, his face a mask of terror. The flowers and champagne tumbled off the cart, and the crystal vase shattered on impact. The champagne bottle exploded. Flowers and glass and water and bubbly flooded the slick stone floor. Dearling’s body slammed into the television set on the far wall; his head whipped back and splintered the flat screen. Glass rained down on the Judas as he slid to the floor behind the cart.

    Bragga placed himself in front of his bag of cash and took a gun barrel to the side of his head. The gash spurted blood, drenched his shirt, turned his legs to rubber, and took him down onto one knee. The gunman made a fast reach past him for the bag, but Bragga grabbed the thug around one thigh and tried to bulldog him to the ground.

    “I’m gonna shoot you, you dumb prick,” the gunman grunted, rapidly losing control of the situation.

    “So much for keeping it on the QT,” Jack said to Mateo as he kicked the door open and followed his gun into the room.

    The third uniformed man spun as the door smashed against the jamb and Jack’s fist exploded into his face. The man’s head snapped back, and blood streamed out of his broken nose. His arms flailed, and his gun was suspended in midair for a split second before the man and the gun hit the floor.

    The man who’d pushed the cart turned his weapon on Jack, who fired first, blasting the man in the shoulder. The force of Jack’s bullet propelled the gunman’s body backward onto the cart before he flopped to the stone floor, landed on his shoulder in the broken glass, and cried out in pain.

    The gun discharging in the close confines of the hotel suite stopped the action. The room smelled of cordite, the only sounds heavy breathing and Todd Dearling’s whimpering. Mateo picked up the third man’s pistol and covered Jack’s back.

    Jack turned his Glock on the second man. “Give me your gun or your friend’s going to bleed out,” he stated with extreme calm.

    Before Jack could take control of the weapon, Bragga stripped it from the gunman’s hand and smashed him in the temple with surprising violence. Then he swung the confiscated Colt back and forth between Jack and Mateo, stopping them in their tracks.

    “Nobody move and nobody follow,” Bragga said as he half-zippered the suitcase with one hand and picked up the carry-on bag.

    “Drop your weapons,” he ordered Jack and Mateo through clenched teeth as blood continued to drip down the side of his face. They complied, knowing he wouldn’t make it as far as the lobby. Bragga walked around the couch on unsteady legs, muscling the heavy bag. His eyes bored into Mateo, the “driver” who had betrayed him, and ordered him to clear the doorway with a sharp wave of his gun barrel.

    Mateo took a half step to the side, gave the short man just enough room to pass, and pistoned with his full two hundred pounds of muscle, leading with his elbow and hitting Bragga in the back of the head, just above the neck. The Argentinean went down hard.

    The overstuffed bag bounced on the floor, the luggage’s zipper split open, and a green wave of banded hundreds cascaded out onto the polished white Carrara marble.

    “That was a cluster fuck,” Jack said with disgust as he picked up his Glock and surveyed the carnage in the suite.

    Mateo collected the fallen weapons, grabbed a towel off the wet bar, and used it as a compress to stanch the first gunman’s bleeding wound. He was all business.

    “Call 911 and have them send an ambulance,” Jack said to Cruz, who he knew could hear him over one of the multiple microphones.

    “That was insane.”

    Jack turned around and found Cruz standing, wild eyed, in the hall directly behind him.

    “Call 911 and lock the door. Did we get it all?”

    “I copied Lawrence Weller and you on your cell, iPad, and laptop.”

    “Good man,” Jack said.

    “No, really, you, Mateo . . . man.” Cruz shuddered as he pulled out his cell and dialed the emergency phone line.

    Jack was not one normally given to second-guessing, but at the moment he found himself seriously questioning his new career choice as a private investigator.

    Muttering a curse, Jack holstered his nine-millimeter, crossed the room, and proceeded to snap plastic flex-cuffs on the broken assembly of thieves.

  • Customer Reviews

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    Blond Cargo 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 16 reviews.
    CMash More than 1 year ago
    When I first read the synopsis of this book, like you might just have done, the word sequel stood out to me.  But since the story sounded like something I would enjoy, I hoped that it was a book that the author would enlighten the reader of info from the first book when needed and he did.  I never felt that I was "lost" Words that came to mind while reading BLOND CARGO:  excitement, non-stop action, adrenaline pumping, page turning adventure, heart pounding pace, and sometimes even a bit of humor. Jack Bertolino, former LAPD and now PI is "paying back a favor" for mobster Vincent Cardona, to find his missing daughter.  But it's not your average "missing person" case.  Drugs, Sex trade, Mafia, Family, Children, Relationships, Exes, Contract hits, Action packed. This was the first time I read anything by this author and I was hooked by the first chapter.  By the third chapter, because of his amazing ability with the written word, my visual creation and the adrenaline that was pumping faster than my eyes could absorb, until the final page, Mr. Lansing was added to my "authors to read" list.  I will definitely be picking up the first in this series, THE DEVIL'S NECKTIE and hopefully there is a 3rd. Do I recommend this author and/or this book?  If you like action?  Then the answer is absolutely!!  
    cosimo More than 1 year ago
    I highly recommend this book to any reader who enjoys a fast paced, action packed story with interesting characters. This author, as he did in his last book, "Devil"s Necktie", continues to write snappy dialogue and has the ability to take the reader into every harrowing situation his main character, Jack Bertolino, finds himself.  I suggest not reading this book late at night if you have to get up in the morning as you will have a hell of a time putting it down!!!
    JerseyGirlBookReviews More than 1 year ago
    Blond Cargo is a riveting tale that takes the reader back into the seedy underworld of crime 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 returns the favor from mafia boss Vincent Cardona, and investigates the case of his missing daughter Angelica, the beautiful young blond mafia princess who has been kidnapped and imprisoned by rich and politically connected men who are negotiating her value as a sex slave. Jack's investigation leads him into the seedy underworld of the sex slave trade ring, where he finds himself caught up in a dangerous and deadly world that he thought he had left behind. This riveting realistic story is full of intrigue, action, drama, suspense, murder and dark humor that draws the reader in and keeps them captivated and turning the pages. As the reader follows Jack into the shady world of the sex slave trade, 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 takes him into the upscale areas and seedy neighborhoods of various California locales. It is a seedy and gritty world of drugs, gangs, sex slave trade, and murder ... all in the pursuit of finding and bringing Angelica home to her father. With a multidimensional cast of characters who leap off the pages; gritty dialogue and vivid interactions; richly detailed description of various California locales; and a no-holds-barred storyline that keeps the reader sitting on the edge of their seats holding their breath as the chilling trail of crime, sex slave trade business, and murders leads up to an explosive climax; Blond Cargo is one hell of a thrilling story that you won't be able to put down and leaves you wanting more!
    reececo331 More than 1 year ago
    Blond Cargo By John Lansing The book speaks about every new immigrant group bringing in the good and the bad to the country. Looking at this story those lines could not have been drawn clearer. Blond Cargo follows the highly controversial sex trade, where young women are enticed or kidnapped and forced into the sex trade. A young aspiring actress, Angelina Curtis has been missing for three weeks. Her father a crime boss and local   mafia head is desperate. Calling in a favor from a PI, Jack Bertolino, to find and recover his daughter. The case turns to the dark side of the Sex trade, drugs and outright theft.  Jack has bitten off more than he could chew. Will he survive numerous attempts on his life, his career and his mission? This book is a successfully drawn out adventure that could make movie watchers and critics unable to predict the outcome. A master piece of intricate design and a chess masters moves on plot and situation. 
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    1dachsmom More than 1 year ago
    Thoroughly enjoyed this book.  It was fast paced, full of twists and turns.  Now one of my favorite authors.  Don't miss this o
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Looking forward to the next adventure with Jack.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    U will too
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    I have had the pleasure of reading author Lansing's three published books and have enjoyed each of them. The Jack Bartolino series is about an ex police officer who gets caught up in some pretty unusual situations. Once he gets involved he has a readily accessible group of friends and contacts who appear always ready and willing to join his pursuits. Vivid scene images and tough guy types are are standard fare. In some ways, Mr. Lansing's series reminds me of the Travis McGee series by John McDonald. His other published work 'The Test' is a wonderful short story that moved me deeply. I had a similar experience while in my early twenenties. I had not thought much about those events for quite a few years. Upon reading John Lansings short story a few days ago, I find myself wondering "What if?" J M Lydon
    Laureth More than 1 year ago
    I grew up on old detective novels that my grandmother read and passed on to my mother and I. So I've read a LOT of the genre. Just this week I actually stopped reading one because almost immediately you realized it was more a morality fable than a detective story. This is why I was refreshingly surprised to read this book. In the first book, one almost got the sense that the main character, Jack, was a typical stubborn, intractable, machismo filled, private investigator. I was fine with this, because of my good memories of my grandmother's book, but I was due for a pleasant surprise. Part way through the first book in the series, The Devil's Necktie", Jack started to realize that his former police tactics might not always be what's needed (but don't worry, there's PLENTY of pulse pounding action all the same). And Blond Cargo serves up even more action, suspense and if you're paying attention, more of the education of Mr. Jack Bertolino. I suspect that Jack's on a rather fast learning curve as the smaller problems of the last book become much bigger problems here, and Jack is forced to examine how he interacts with the ones he cares about and the sacrifices he must make in the best interests of everyone. Along with trying to nurture a budding romance AND trying to find the missing daughter of a Mafia boss. And there's no loss of suspense over the main story, no, there are plenty of thrilling plot twists, as Jack realizes that the "search for the spoiled Mafia princess" is not because of her father's questionable business practices. Instead it's for a much darker and mysterious reason. If you love detective stories, police dramas, and thrilling action packed stories, you'll love this book! If you enjoy heroes with a few flaws, you'll love Jack Bertolino.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Jack Bertolino is my new hero. It's non-stop action, and an exciting page turner. I can't wait for the next book. Five out of five. Kim M
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Loved it. Page turner right from the start! Cannot wait for Jack's next adventure.
    Kshell More than 1 year ago
    LOVED this book!  It has it all....Intelligence, suspense, sexy, thrilling, and humor.  Excellent and fun read!  Can't wait for the next installment of Jack Bertolino.
    quaintinns More than 1 year ago
    A special thank you to Gallery Books and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Sexy Jack (Jack Bertolino and Associates NYPD officer turned LA PI), is back with Book #2 with John Lansing’s Blond Cargo with an action packed crime thriller, in search for a blond mafia princess. Vincent Cardona, a mafia boss (a mobster who abuses cigars, drugs, and booze, with a heart of gold) needs a favor, and Jack knew payback was coming. He just did know it would be this soon. He had taken it upon himself to station Peter outside Saint John’s Health Center while his son was drifting between life and death. Cardona’s enforcer had scared off Delgado, and that may have saved his son’s life. The unsolicited good deed was greatly appreciated by Jack and the debt weighed heavily. The request is to find Angelica Marie Cardona, his only daughter. His wife died giving birth and he raised her. Angelica, beautiful, blond, early twenties, with flawless skin and gray-green eyes (who did not get her good looks from her father). When he moved to LA and she turned thirteen, she did not want anything to do with him. He tried private schools, ballet, horses, and live in help and nothing helped, and he threatened to send her to the nuns. He has not seen his daughter in a month, around the time Jack’s son Chris was in the hospital. There have been two women (both blonds) murdered, and he has a bad feeling, as she has never disappeared for this length of time. The other girls were the same age and similar features, as Angelica. Money is no object, he wants his daughter found. Jack is taking the case; however, he has no clue what he will be up against. From multi-billion dollar Malibu mansions to million dollar customized and cigarette boats, billion dollar real estate, sexy cars, designer clothes, Cuban cigars, marinas, women, drugs, murder, cops, crime, gangsters, cartel, sex videos, Miami connections, sex slavery rings, rape, torture, mob, art, and some hot spots in Marina del Rey, Venice Beach and Santa Monica; private compounds, estates on the Pacific, the rich, and Vargus Development Group, are just a few of the mentions of this fast paced suspense action thriller. I have not had the opportunity of reading the debut, and first in the Jack Bertolino series; however, a few of the characters are back in book two: sexy DDA Leslie (with some sizzling sex scenes; with plenty of fury, sparks, and chemistry), and son Chris, still in pain, taking pills and seeing a neurologist, with a case of PTSD. With all the action, thrills, and danger, and added bonus with some human interaction with Jack's character (loving him), and his relationship with son, Chris, and love affair with Leslie. Looking forward to reading #1 (The Devil’s Necktie), and hopefully #3 in this riveting series! Fans of James Patterson will devour this series. (personally I prefer Lansing's style over Patterson).
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    did not connect with me