Friday, December 6, 2013

JournalStone's DoubleDown Series, Book III - Dog Days by Joe McKinney & Deadly Passage by Sanford Allen

4.5 of 5 Stars    Review copy

I'm a big fan of JournalStone's DoubleDown series which is modeled after the old Ace doubles.  You read one story, flip the book over and read another.  Plus, there's the idea of pairing an established author with a relative newcomer.  And although the stories are not of a shared world or even shared themes, they generally have something in common.

This time it's monsters.  I chose to start with Joe McKinney's Dog Days which begins with a quote from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Hound of the Baskervilles. One of my favorite stories as a kid.

It's 1983 and the Gulf Coast is in the wake of Hurricane Alexis and a shrimp boat has wound up in an old Pecan tree at the end of the road.  There are people aboard, dead people, eaten dead people.

Mark's dad, Wes, is a police officer with the Houston K-9 division, his dad's canine partner, Max, lives with the family which also includes his mom, who is a pediatrician.

The best way to describe this story and McKinney's writing style is that it's real. Real people in believable situations and from there the tension just builds.

I also enjoyed how the author made his ten-year old hero a reader.  Great line, "But as I read about Tarzan's battles with Kerchak, a real battle, and one far more savage, was raging down the street.  The real horror of that summer was just beginning."

Great story with some definite "Oh, Wow!" moments.

The other story is the debut novel from Sanford Allen, Deadly Passage, which starts with a strong opening line, "The beast climbed down its gnarled tree by cover of night."  I'm hooked.

Most of the action takes place on a slave ship, the Lombard, where something is causing the deaths of "cargo" and crew alike.  "The next morning, the crew discovered four more bodies, this time three women and the only child in the hold. Like the others, their flesh had gone pale gray, and once again, Hicks was at a loss to fully explain their demise."

Deadly Passage is disturbing on multiple levels, not only what's causing the deaths, but the circumstance of the slave trade and the treatment of the "cargo."  The truth can be painful.

Allen creates some strong prose in this story.  "Then the mate shrieked incoherently.  His cries continued amid a sickening tearing noise like a butcher separating the parts from a chicken with his hands."

The third entry in JournalStone's DoubleDown series is not perfect, but it's awfully close. Dog Days Deadly Passage is available as a signed Limited edition, Trade Paperback and ebook from and

I can strongly recommend this one.

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