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East on Sunset: A Crime Novel by Ken Mercer
Review by Joseph B. Hoyos
Minotaur Books Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780312558376
Date: 07 June 2011 List Price $25.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /

Will Magowan has returned to Los Angeles after successfully destroying a meth lab operation in the small mountain town of Haydenville, California. He has reunited with his estranged wife Laurie, who is now expecting their second child, and he's also landed a comfortable job as a security guard at Dodger Stadium. Unfortunately, an insane, steroid-addicted bodybuilding freak, Erik Crandall, has just been paroled; he torments Will and his wife, claiming that Will, when he worked as an LAPD Narcotics detective, stole a pound of fentanyl during a drug bust. Now Erik is demanding $500,0000 - the street value of the fentanyl. During his investigation into Erik's accusations, Will uncovers an evil conspiracy that has resulted in the deaths of his former LAPD coworkers.

Ken Mercer's East on Sunset is as equally fast-paced and intriguing as his debut Slow Fire. I found myself swiftly turning pages as the tension increased; I constantly feared for the safety of Will and Laurie's unborn child. I adore Will and Laurie Magowan, as if they were my own neighbors, and I didn't want them to lose another child. In Slow Fire, the reader learned that it was the tragic death of their son Sean from a wasp sting that caused Will to spiral downward into the depths of depression and seek solace from heroin he confiscated during drug busts. This tragic death and Will's addiction nearly tore their marriage apart. Thankfully, Will and Laurie are together again, but for how long? Thinking that a 240-pound musclehead, who suffers from roid rages, was stalking Laurie simply sent chills down my spine.

When I was younger, I once lifted weights religiously. Weight lifting is the best exercise for toning and shaping your body. However, there are some people at the gym whose entire lives seem wrapped around the flat bench. Men constantly bench press increasingly heavier and heavier weights until their huge, bulging pecs look like breasts. Why? Anabolic steroids compound this narcissistic, sadomasochistic condition. Erik, who is a victim of the judicial system, turned to steroids in his desperation to survive prison. He entered as a tall, skinny man and left looking like the Terminator.

Weight lifting in prison is a controversial issue. Some politicians complain that inmates shouldn't be allowed to lift weights because it turns them into "super criminals"; other politicians, such as Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, argue that it should be treated as an earned privilege. After reading about Erik's prison rape, I see it as a form of self-defense; however, the steroids must be kept out. It was because of desperation that both Erik and Will became addicted to drugs. The true villains in this novel are the ones who actually absconded with Erik's fentanyl.

East on Sunset explores the realistic possibility of a convict seeking revenge on the police officer (or former police officer in the case of Will) responsible for their incarceration. Will feels the helplessness that an ordinary citizen experiences when reporting a stalker. There isn't much the police can do until the stalker commits a serious crime. Will's predicament is further hindered by the fact that he is a former junkie who was kicked off the police force. His testimony is unreliable. Will begins to believe the world is teaming up against him. Even his own wife refuses to allow him to bring the gun he's bought into the house; he must leave it in the car. Eventually, out of anger, he takes the law into his own hands, which has disastrous consequences.

Is Ken Mercer busy working on a sequel to East on Sunset? Let's pray that he is. The reader can't help but wonder what sin from Will's past must he pay for next. East on Sunset is the second novel in a new series that is highly recommended for fans of crime drama. It is a standalone but readers should get in on this promising series from the beginning. Other new crime drama series that are highly enjoyable and show a tremendous amount of potential have been recently published by Minotaur and written by Douglas Corleone (One Man's Paradise and Night on Fire), Brad Parks (Faces of the Gone and Eyes of the Innocent) and Russel D. McLean (The Good Son and The Lost Sister).

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