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Kirkus Reviews

 

Carnivals and crime converge in this Michigan-based thriller that, at its best, reads like a Coen Brothers screenplay.

“Hanky-pank,” not to be confused with “hanky-panky,” is at the heart of Sharp’s (Serpent’s Tongue, 2014, etc.) latest novel. It’s “Carnival slang for a game in which all players win but the prize is worth much less than the cost of playing.” That description also fits the lives of the book’s misfit characters, whose rewards in life are much slighter than the price they paid for them. Mentally unstable Roxanne Dewberry crashes her former prom date Dmitry’s wedding, obsesses over him for the next 10 years, and then winds up sharing her basement bedroom with him when he becomes a broke, blackout drunk. Her father, Oren, who’s spent a lifetime working carnivals, is “not a man who had aged well.” At 74, he requires an oxygen tank to breathe, and works for a man named Jiglot Jake, whose outfit “was bottom feeding as far as carnivals went.” Now twice divorced, Dmitry “Dime” Zimmer is in trouble with the cops for drunken driving. He works selling lots in a nonexistent cemetery for his boss, Pete, who’s rumored to have mob connections. After Dime loses his job and car, and has a bad experience with Pete involving a gun, Oren hooks him up with Jiglot. Working a hanky-pank on the circuit, Dime is able to avoid both the cops and Pete. But it’s a temporary dodge that ends in multiple murders.

The author provides a lot of engaging information about carnivals, from the people who work them to the plush midway prizes. Just as carnies have no chairs because the owners “want people to keep moving,” so does Sharp propel the action as he retains sympathy for his carefully drawn, albeit seamy, characters… The book’s unexpected conclusion, however, is strangely satisfying.

To quote The Band’s 1971 song, “Life is a carnival—it’s in the book”—and this one can be a dark ride


Review of No Regrets No Remorse
Reviewed by Kam Aures for Rebecca’s Reads (10/12)

"The business was advertised online as a problem solving service. She maintained YouTube and Facebook sites under an assumed name. Customers came to her after exhausting all other remedies. After the police and the lawyers failed, after reasoning, after complaining and self-help didn’t solve the problem, contact Human Pest Control.

The deal was half the money down and half on completion. No refunds for failure and no guarantee of success. She had learned about collections. The rule of the prostitute was her guide. That is, the perceived value of the service diminished significantly once the service was performed." (p. 17)

This is a description of Sydney Simone’s career choice, or at least her main source of income. As a cover, she works in the Rose Madder gallery as an assistant to Oscar Leopold, who was previously a lawyer, and is now a sculptor. Secretly though, she kills people for hire. In fact, right in the opening pages, one of her well thought out plans is put into action.

The pace of the book doesn’t slow from there. Oscar’s former partner, Roy, calls from jail, as he is being accused of murdering Big Jack. Ironically, Sydney checks her mail drop location after that and finds a large sum of money asking that he take care of Big Jack, but obviously someone already beat her to it. Sydney is put in a tough place as she joins Oscar in attempting to help Roy, while still running Human Pest Control.

"No Regrets, No Remorse" is a fast-paced, well-written mystery. I enjoyed all aspects of the story line, my favorite being Sydney’s Human Pest Control business. I was instantly intrigued after I read the first chapter where she completes one of her jobs just outside of Ann Arbor, MI. The secretive nature of her business made the book all the better.

I also enjoyed the interactions between her and Oscar. R.F. Sharp did a great job with character development. All of the main characters in the book were interesting and likeable.

If you are looking for a fresh, new mystery, then give "No Regrets, No Remorse" a try. Sharp won the Discover Mystery Award for his efforts in writing this novel. I look forward to more mysteries from Sharp in the future.

Review By Loukis Fourouklas in Fiction and More



This is one of those novels that make the reader feel conflicted when it comes to its heroine. Sydney Simone is unlike any other character I have met in crime fiction lately. She’s tough, way too smart, and has a lot of secrets. And she’s a hit-woman. She doesn’t take every single case that comes her way though; she’s just trying to make things right where the justice system had failed.
Killing the Ann Arbor guy was satisfying. A job well done. Her history showed no patience with child molesters. No regrets, no remorse. It had always been that way.
No regrets, no remorse? And she’s fighting the good cause? Is that even humanly possible? Well, for her it is. She is a loner and —to talk about contradictions— she leads a double life, and she has a very good friend, Oscar; whom she helps with his sculptures and his little art gallery, and when it comes to that with his investigations. He doesn’t know her secret, nobody does, and that’s for the best, because if he did he could find himself in harm’s way

Meeting Oscar for the first time had been pure chance. Sydney fled from Philadelphia after a job went bad, with the police and the client searching for her. She needed a place to live and preferably some cover. The situation in Philly had been ideal. She was the resident manager at a small motel, so didn’t need to get housing or utilities in her name. Housekeeping was done by a local mother and daughter who would fill in if she had to go on a mission. She was off the grid. But unforeseen things can happen no matter how careful the plan—like a son making a surprise visit to his father, who at the moment was being drowned in his pool by Sydney. She escaped, and wasn’t sure anyone knew her name but they had her description and that was enough to cause her to leave town, not even going back to the motel to pick up her belongings.

She needed a similar setup in Florida, so when she stumbled across the help wanted sign in the window of the Rose Madder Gallery she went in. Oscar was easy to charm, she got the job, and the room downstairs came with it.

Oscar provided the perfect cover at first for Sydney, but not before too long he became her lover, and then an ex-lover, and now they are best friends. He’s the only person in the world that she cares about and she’d do anything to protect him, even put herself in the line of fire.

 Her buddy, though an artist, is not as helpless as one would think. He doesn’t scare easily and when it comes to taking matters into his own hands he rises to the challenge. Here’s what happens when he comes face to face with some thugs in a deserted parking lot during the night. He just aims his handgun unflinchingly at them and says:

“This is a derringer. Often used by the police as a hideaway backup. It fires two .45 caliber bullets. If I shot you, say, in the knee…” He gestured with it again but not at the man’s knee, still aiming at his crotch, and stepped a little closer. The guy stepped back, looking to his friends for support. “You might not die from shock or blood loss if you got to a hospital right away. Of course, you might lose the leg since most of the socket and kneecap would be blown out. If you’re lucky, and my aim is off a little you might save it, but forget about playing basketball again or even walking without a limp. And at this distance I just don’t see how I could miss.”
During the investigation both Oscar and Sydney will find themselves in dangerous situations many times, since there’s more to the case than what at first meets the eye. And as if that’s not enough, at the same time, they have to organize an exhibition at the gallery, while Sydney also has to confront a man, who has somehow found out who she really is and is blackmailing her into taking a case.

The two heroes seem to be very different from each other, and yet the one complements the other. It’s as if there’s a secret bond between them, a bond that no people or facts, or even forces of nature, can break. Sydney is the fire in Oscar’s calm waters; Oscar is the earth that appeases Sydney’s winds of fury.



From the Library Journal, October, 2012:

 Sharp’s nifty and intricate plotting saves the day for this winner of the first Poisoned Pen Press Discovery Mystery Award. It’s hard to argue with the author’s fiery and satisfying conclusion.







Sydney Simone, a professional assassin and problem solver. Her website, www.HumanPestControl.com  describes her business.

Sydni Simone secretly operates HumanPestControl.com, a website dedicated to righting wrongs and avenging those that cannot be righted. She is ostensibly an assistant at the Rose Madder Gallery in West Palm Beach run by Oscar Leopold. Oscar thought he had left his law practice behind until his former partner Roy is arrested for murdering a television advertising attorney. Sydni’s new client ties in with Oscar’s case, leaving her with a problem. She sides with Oscar, turning down the case, but decides to keep the retainer. While she thought she was untraceable, somehow the client finds her and she now has to save herself, Oscar, and Roy, while still operating HumanPestControl anonymously.

Their investigation leads to a complex insurance fraud scheme that implicates Roy – perhaps he really is guilty. But Oscar becomes a target himself and is arrested, kidnapped and assaulted as he tries to find the true killer. He depends upon the skills and investigative talents Sydni for help while they deal with their continuing on-and-off affair, currently off. 

The story ranges from the corporate offices of South Florida to the backwaters of the panhandle. The bad guys are in danger of losing their careers, their freedom, or even their lives, and are dangerous and desperate. Everything is on the table. Oscar and Sydni, with their own lives at stake, make sure only the good guys prevail through deadly means and resolve their own complicated relationship in the process.

Other Books By Ronald Farrington Sharp

Winning the Divorce War 
Living Trusts for Everyone

Both Published by Allworth Press




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