Blaze In, Blaze Out – A 5 Star Review and a Snippet
I wrote in my last post about the great fortune I had recently with my writing. Well, it’s continuing this week.
I woke up this morning to a 5 Star Review for Blaze In, Blaze Out from BestThrillers. It reads:
The Bottom Line: A superb crime drama simmering with suspense and deep character studies en route to an explosive finale.
Joseph Lewis’ latest novel tells the story of two lawmen who find themselves hunted by killers loyal to a Ukrainian kingpin. The book opens in Chicago’s Cook County Criminal Court, as a jury finds Dmitry Andruko guilty on illegal weapons trafficking and murder. Before disappearing into the prison system, Andruko – with a turn of phrase and a threatening look – puts Detective Pat O’Connor on notice that he’ll forever be looking over his shoulder.
O’Connor also has other reasons to feel like he has a target on his back. He’s central to the next case, which could do even more damage to Andruko and his organization. Those fears are realized when three suspicious characters follow O’Connor and his partner, Detective Paul Eiselmann, to a restaurant. Later, Sasha Bakay and Misha Danilenko – suspects in several unsolved murders in and around Chicago and employees in Andruko’s empire – show up at a family soccer game.
But O’Connor, having been under the gun for so long, decides to go ahead with plans to unplug on a fishing and hunting trip. Readers of Lewis’ Betrayed will already know the group going with him: Detective Jamie Graff and four boys: Brett, Brian, George, and George’s half-brother, Michael Two Feathers. But are the Wisconsin woods remote enough to discourage Andruko’s contract killers? Lewis employs chapters told from the killers’ points of view to great effect, building suspense as both groups stalk their prey.
Featuring a taut, deliberate plot that builds to a crescendo, Blaze In, Blaze Out is a welcome break from end-to-end breathless action thrillers. Rather than relying on gimmicks, Lewis has created a village of sturdy characters that he moves in and out of his novels, and he centers their development around engrossing police procedurals. Since much of the boys’ individual coming-of-age stories begin in Betrayed, readers are strongly encouraged to read both books in tandem.
I am blown away, speechless, and humbled. I honestly felt good writing Blaze, and I felt good at the finish. I am pleased others feel the same way.
Here is another snippet for you. In a previous post, I gave you chapter one. In this snippet, a portion of chapter two, the verdict was guilty on all three counts, and as a way of saying thanks for their work, the prosecution team asked O’Connor and Eiselmann to a celebratory lunch. The idea was to celebrate and relax before the two detectives head back home. Here is a portion of chapter two:
TGI Friday’s sat in the middle of a battery of hotels and motels near Midway Airport. O’Connor and Eiselmann had wanted to get on the road as quickly as possible, but they didn’t feel right saying no to an early lunch and a goodbye with the prosecution team.
The restaurant was empty except for a man and woman in power suits sitting at one of several high tables in the bar area. What looked like a mother-daughter combination sat facing each other in a booth in the main eating area. Other than that, it was a little early for the lunch crush that would surely arrive within the next hour.
Out of habit if not a precaution, the group chose a table in the back rather than a booth. Neither O’Connor nor Eiselmann liked having their back to any door. Not in their line of work. An added benefit to sitting in the back away from everyone was that they could talk about whatever came up without anyone paying attention. Besides, O’Connor and Eiselmann wanted to move quickly if need be, and a booth wouldn’t allow for that. They weren’t necessarily anticipating anything other than a celebratory and leisurely early lunch before the two-hour ride back to Waukesha, Wisconsin, which could be more or less depending upon traffic. But they didn’t want to take chances.
O’Reilly raised his glass of iced-tea and said, “Thank you for your work on this case. We wouldn’t have gotten the conviction without you.”
Glasses clinked and heads nodded. O’Connor smiled.
“What’s next for you?” Keene asked. “Do you have anything you’re working on?”
O’Connor shook his head and said, “Nope. A soccer game tonight. Paul’s son, Stephen, is the starting goalie on the North team. He’s only a freshman but he’s good.”
He didn’t add that he wanted to keep an eye on Brian Evans, the adopted son of Jeremy and Vicky Evans. Ever since they had gotten back from Arizona searching for the missing boy, Brian hadn’t been doing well. According to Brian and confirmed by Jeremy, his therapist described his condition as PTSD. The intermittent nightmares and hand tremors were just two of the symptoms. He wasn’t eating or sleeping well, either.
“This weekend, Jamie Graff and I are taking four of Jeremy Evans’ kids fishing in Northern Wisconsin.” He shrugged and said, “Unplugging and getting away.”
“Sounds wonderful,” Sullivan added. Then she laughed and said, “Not so much the fishing, but the Northwoods and unplugging.”
They laughed along with her.
“You’re not going?” Keene asked Eiselmann.
Paul shook his head and said, “I’m going to spend a quiet weekend with my wife and kids. Putz around the house. Maybe a movie or something. Nothing much.”
“How are the boys?” O’Reilly asked. “It’s been, what? Two years since the kids were set free from that ring?”
“Were you involved in that?” Sullivan asked.
Pat liked the look of her. Long dark hair and dark eyes matched her olive complexion. More importantly to O’Connor, she had a great smile and a great mind.
“Pat and I headed a team that freed about a dozen kids from a warehouse in Long Beach, California.”
“Jesus, I can’t imagine,” Sullivan added. She shut her eyes and shook her head. “How can any of those kids have a normal life after what they’ve been through?”
O’Connor sighed and said, “It’s been a journey for them. Some are further along than others.”
“There was a boy . . . Brett, I think,” O’Reilly said.
It occurred to O’Connor once again how sharp O’Reilly’s mind was. He remembered names, faces and details others might forget.
“Brett McGovern and his brother, Bobby,” Eiselmann said.
“Brett was the kid who rallied the kids in Chicago. He saved Pete Kelliher’s life, but took a bullet in the shoulder and almost died,” O’Reilly said as he squinted in the memory.
“Were both boys there?” Keene asked.
“No, just Brett. However, his uncle, Tony Dominico was molesting Bobby. The uncle was the guy who set Brett up to be snatched off the street, and then he used that to blackmail Bobby into sex.”
“He’s a piece of shit,” Eiselmann muttered.
“He’s in for life without parole in a maximum-security prison in Indiana,” O’Connor added. “Both Brett and Bobby are doing okay. The two have developed into quite the athletes. Football, basketball and track. Bobby and one of the twins, Randy, wrote several songs that might be recorded by Tim McGraw.”
“No way!” Sullivan said.
O’Connor nodded. “Both sing and play guitar. Bobby’s also a helluva piano player.”
“The others are doing pretty well,” Eiselmann said.
O’Connor said, “Do you remember George?”
“The Navajo boy,” O’Reilly said.
“About two months ago, George found out he had a half-brother. Same father, different mother, raised in different families on different parts of the reservation. Michael is living with Jeremy and Vicky now.”
“He’s the youngest of the boys. An eighth grader. He could be George’s twin,” Eiselmann said.
“But the two are different. George is quieter and more serious. Michael is outgoing and playful,” O’Connor said.
“How many kids do Jeremy and Vicky have?” Keene asked.
“Seven. Brett and Bobby are Vicky’s sons by a previous marriage. Randy and Billy are twins and the first of Jeremy’s adoptions. Then George came during the summer of shit.” O’Connor glanced at Heather Sullivan and said, “Excuse the language.”
She waved it off.
“Brian was adopted last year,” Eiselmann said. “His parents died. It was ugly. They had never recovered from Brian’s twin brother, Brad, dying the same summer all the other crap happened.”
“I think Brian suffers the most,” O’Connor said. “About two months ago when we were out in Arizona, Brian almost lost his life protecting Brett, George, Michael, and George’s friend, Rebecca.”
“He survived, but has scars around his right eye,” Paul said. “Some on his arm and shoulder, and the side of his head.”
Pat added, “He wears glasses as a precaution because the cornea on his right eye was damaged. But, he’s managing as best he can.”
“He’s a neat kid,” Paul said. “My stepson hangs with him sometimes. He’s the captain of the soccer team, and he’s only a sophomore. He also kicks for the football team.”
O’Connor smiled and said, “From the left hashmark, Brian kicks with his right foot. From the right hashmark, he kicks with his left. I don’t know of any other kicker anywhere who does that.”
O’Reilly said, “Usually kickers use one leg, their dominant leg, right?”
Eiselmann laughed and said, “Usually. The way Brian explains it, he says that in soccer, you have to use both feet and both legs or you become one dimensional.”
“What are their ages?” Sullivan asked
“The twins, Brett, George and Brian are sophomores in high school. They’re sixteen. The twins turn sixteen in October. Bobby is a freshman and Michael is an eighth grader. A house full of boys.”
“Wow! I can’t imagine that,” Sullivan said with a laugh.
“It’s a special family,” O’Connor said. “Jeremy and Vicky do a great job with them. And there are some of us who help out where and when we can.”
“Like the fishing trip this weekend,” Keene said with a smile.
“Something like that,” O’Connor said. He felt himself blush.
“You forgot to mention the four dogs and the horses,” Eiselmann said.
“You’re not serious,” Sullivan said.
“Part wolf, part dog. Smart as hell,” Eiselmann said.
“The horses are kept at Jeff Limbach’s stable,” O’Connor said.
“Limbach? Not the writer?” Keene said.
“The same. He, Jeremy, and Jamie Graff worked at Waukesha North High School back in the day. Jeremy taught social studies and was the head basketball coach before he became a counselor. Jeff was an English teacher before he became a full-time writer, and Jamie was the School Resource Officer before he became Chief of Detectives for the city. They were known as the three J’s.”
“Do you work with Graff?” Keene asked.
Eiselmann shook his head and said, “Sometimes. We’re with the sheriff department. He’s with the city police.”
A few hungry patrons, looking like businessmen of some sort to O’Connor, entered and sat in a booth in the main area. A couple of younger women entered and chose to sit at a high table in the bar area. O’Connor didn’t know how to categorize them.
The conversation switched to sports, to cases, and anything light and casual. It was enjoyable and relaxing for O’Connor, who being single, seldom socialized outside of work. He was able to push away the thought of the long drive to Wisconsin in grinding traffic.
That changed when three men strolled in. Big and bulky. Dark five o’clock shadows on two of them. Dark, slicked-back hair. Sport coats with a tell-tale bulge under the arm indicating a shoulder holster.
I hope that sparks your interest. I’ve included the book cover and the links to both Blaze In, Blaze Out and for Betrayed for your convenience.
Blaze In, Blaze Out – New Release!
Purchase your copy prior to January 6, 2022, and receive a 15% discount. Use the promo code: PREORDER2021
Detectives Eiselmann and O’Connor thought the conviction of a Ukrainian gang lord meant the end. They forgot that revenge knows no boundaries, vindictiveness knows no restraints, and ruthlessness never worries about collateral damage. A target is a target, and in the end, the target will die.
Betrayed: A Maxy Award Runner-Up! A Literary Titan Silver Book Award Winner! A Reader’s Favorite Award Winner! An Author Shout Honorable Mention!
Now Available in Audio Book, Kindle, and Paperback!
A late-night phone call, a missing kid, a murdered family, but no one is willing to talk. A promise is made and kept, but it could mean the death of a fifteen-year-old boy. Seeing is not believing. No one can be trusted, and the hunters become the hunted.