Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Book Review: 'Serenity Avenged' by Craig A. Hart

Iowa author Craig A. Hart is both a writer and an editor: he has served as editor-in-chief for The Rusty Nail literary magazine, as manager for Sweatshoppe Media, and director of Northern Illinois Radio Information Service, an outreach that brought daily news and information to the visually impaired. His works have been published in The Orange Room Review, Voices, The Stray Branch, Red Poppy Review, The Mindful Word, Inclement, Right Hand Pointing, 7x20 Magazine, among others. In addition to writing fiction Craig has published self help manuals on writing and critiques of other writers’ works. SERENITY was the initial installment in a series he calls The Shelby Alexander Thriller series. – SERENITY AVENGED Is a very fine third installment in a series that grows in importance.

Craig has a fine grasp on character development, and when he launched a series based on a main character (Shelby Alexander) it is even more important that we get to know him quickly and watch his development grow. Craig supplied that in the first installment and in this book he sets in motion the grisly deed that is the focus of the novel: ‘Jimmy Holstine snapped awake. He sat bolt upright, his heart pounding so hard he expected it to burst from his chest. Blood roared in his ears, sounding like the ocean surf, but less relaxing. His eyes widened as he struggled to see in the darkness. Light sifted through the blinds from the street lamp on the corner, but not enough to give definition to objects in the room. Then again, he knew everything there. He scanned the perimeter, searching for anything he didn’t recognize. First stood his dresser, piled high with clothes—some clean, some not. There were more clothes on top of the dresser than inside the drawers, but Jimmy didn’t see the point of folding and storing clothing when he knew he would yank it out of the drawer within a day or two. To the right of the dresser was his guitar and new amp. He'd used the amp only twice. It was mostly hidden by its own pile of shirts and dingy jeans. He’d purchased it, far beyond his usual means, after a good month with Darkmore. Many times since, he’d wished he could sell it. He’d tried to twice, but these weren’t good times for selling things like pricey amplifiers, and pawnshops would only offer a fraction of its worth. So it sat, gathering dust and laundry, while he ran himself ragged for a boss he was growing to both fear and despise. Next to the amp was the closet door, slightly open. Jimmy thought he remembered leaving it that way. Or had he? He stared, trying to penetrate the solid blackness of the
closet’s interior, but saw nothing. If someone waited there, watching, they were safe from his probing eyes. After the closet should have been a space of empty wall, followed by the bedroom door. But the space was not empty. Something was there: a large, dark shape….’

Enter the plot as summarized by Craig: ‘A ruthless crime boss…a mansion with a chilling secret…a young man faced with the biggest decision of his life. When his daughter goes into premature labor, Shelby Alexander leaves his northern hideaway for downstate. No sooner does he drive into town, than things go sour. His ex-wife, Helen, faces deadly consequences after hard times force her to take desperate measures, setting off a dangerous chain of events. Racing against time to save those he loves the most and avoid unspeakable tragedy, Shelby faces down an evil crime lord, trained killers, and one of the closest brushes with death yet..’

All the ingredients are there, but it is the chef’s hand at mixing them that makes this novel so successful. This is a bite out of Middle America, bursting with flavor and atmosphere. The book is relative short – making for a fine evening’s read. Highly Recommended. Grady Harp, April 18

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.

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