Go to Homepage   Brian Lawrence: Nightshade


Yellow Creek Publishing, LLC (E-book),
ISBN [Unlisted]
I confess. I savor reading and watching cops and P.I.'s blow the villains to smithereens. Even better, the victim, in self-defense at the very last minute, kills the attacker. These goons never "walk."  

Nightshade by Brian Lawrence follows a similar premise. An ordinary "Joe" -- Larry Ballard -- wreaks revenge against drug lords after a professional shooter screws up a daytime hit at a St. Louis park. Ballard watches the assassin's automatic mow down his wife Jennifer and four-year-old son Drew. Neither survive. The hitman takes the fall for his boss. He pleads murder one to killing two drug dealers, receiving life with no parole. The deal, however, hinges on reducing the charges for Larry's wife and son to second degree manslaughter. Larry seethes at their lower legal "value." 

What's a guy to do? Assume a new identity, avenge his loved ones and become a vigilante. On a whim, Larry tosses a sprig of nightshade, the deadly plant, on his first "victim," the drug kingpin. The "Nightshade Killer" is born. 

Good news -- Larry's a success. Bad news -- the book's a misfire. 

This reviewer kept waiting for the proverbial kitchen sink. The writer details each character's every movement and thought. For example: 

When Mooky asked where he was going, the officer, while cuffing him, said Detective Martin wanted to talk with him. Another officer joined them and the two guards escorted Mooky to a patrol car outside the main police station. Then they drove two blocks to DCI where they parked out front. The two officers, flanking Mooky, walked him into the building. The lobby was small containing an old green couch and a few wooden chairs. A small wooden table sat in the middle, covered with magazines. One officer punched in the code to open the metal door. Once inside, they made an immediate right and walked up a set of stairs, then down one hall, made a left, and went halfway down another hall. 

Lawrence introduces plot line after plot line. These secondary plots detract from the main narrative, pushing Larry himself out of the story. We lose further insight into Larry's character.  

The author leaves loose ends. One character spies on another. We never learn the outcome of the spying. Minor characters receive as much description as major ones. The same confrontations occur over and over.  

The writing plods along. Even Larry, almost paralyzed after his wife and son's deaths, moves faster. Then, the author rushes to the finish.  

Nightshade constitutes a diatribe against drugs and the legal authorities' inability to stop this epidemic. The last chapter reads like a sermon. The conclusion? Screw the legal system. Take matters into your own hands.  

Plugging drug scumbags through vigilante justice conflicts with the legal system. That kind of controversy can electrify a book. Sadly, Nightshade lacks the literary punch to imbue its avenging angel with a semblance of life, much less provoke reader debate. 

Lynn I. Miller

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