As you may recall, a few weeks ago (now, about a month really) I received an email from a marketing source asking if I might be interested in receiving a FREE copy (did I mention the book was FREE?!?) of Joel Goldman's latest work, "SHAKE DOWN". The marketing person contacted me via this blog (as she apparently contacted a few other MS bloggers) and asked if I would be interested in the copy, then write a review of the book on CHEESE. The word "FREE" kept flashing through my mind (as does the word "cheap" when my friends reference me), so I decided to investigate.
I soon discovered Joel Goldman was a well-established author, having published four, prior novels in series: Deadlocked , Cold Truth , The Last Witness , and Motion To Kill ...none, of which I must confess, had I previously read. I was actually astonished I had not been made "privy" to his work until now because I am primarily a crime/mystery/medical/fiction reader (at a 5th grade level). I quickly learned Mr. Goldman was, himself, a lawyer in Kansas City, the setting in which all of his novels are placed. I decided to investigate further.
I discovered Mr. Goldman's website here and unearthed his email address. I sent him a personal email, explaining the reason for my contact and the request that had been made of me (trying to verify the legitimacy of the marketing person). I also emailed the marketing person with questions: 1) How did she find my blog and why? (I worried my blog URL had been written on some obscure bathroom wall "for a mediocre time call"), 2) Did she really understand my readership? All TWO of you? And the fact this blog is an MS related blog? And finally, 3) Was the book copy really FREE? LOL
The marketing person responded quickly, telling me she had done a search for blogs RELATED to the type of neurological disorder of the main character in "SHAKE DOWN" (and the same neuro disorder Mr. Goldman now lives with)...and any blog she found with an email address connected was sent an invitation like I had received. Oh, and "yes", the book was FREE. I let her know I had also emailed the author to determine the legitimacy of her request...all appeared on the "up and up"...and I agreed to the offer. Mr Goldman DID responded to my email as well, which was a very kind and thoughtful communication.
"SHAKE DOWN" arrived less than a week later...when I was in the throws of my recent relapse. I felt some responsibility to "get it read" quickly, but couldn't seem to concentrate for more than 20 minutes at a time...the curse of IV Solumedrol. I was trying to read even during my infusions with the distraction of being poked and prodded and experiencing the wonders of "metal mouth" while attempting to savor the words on the pages. Once the Soly effects began to wear off after round 2 of steroid infusions, I picked the book up again...and, I COULDN'T PUT IT DOWN!
"SHAKE DOWN" begins with the first chapter written in ethnic/cultural language of the inner city of Kansas City. Not being from this culture and with only moderate exposure (given my pasty white American background) I found the first chapter to be somewhat difficult to read and follow...as if the characters were speaking a foreign language (to my inbred Midwestern Caucasian ears). Do not be fooled by this if you run into the same "interpretation" difficulties as I did. The chapter is only 7 pages long and sets the scene for the remaining almost 400 pages...and the story takes off like wild fire from there!
As quickly as Chapter 3, the reader is introduced to Jack Davis, the main character of the book. Jack is a long time FBI agent, in the middle/prime of his life and it is revealed he has been suffering through a crescendo-ing neurological condition (sound familiar, MS-ers?!?). This condition begins developing at the same time his wife has left him...both "conditions" he has unsuccessfully tried to deny away. The description of the condition and the symptoms are written with a bold clarity...the obvious insights of the author's own experiences...and with a diagnosis revealed toward the end of the book (and one I am NOT going to announce here...read the book. LOL)
Jack Davis is living with an unpredictable movement disorder that soon dominates his personal and professional life...a condition he can no longer ignore when it is discovered by coworkers during the height of an intense FBI investigation. He suffers demoralizing loss when he is asked to step aside from his position due to his neurological condition, which he is no longer able to cover up or ignore. And from this place of uncertainty and fear of the unknown, Jack Davis takes the reader down the twisting and sometimes painful path of self-discovery, while dealing with the losses and changes that occur with any chronic, neurological condition...a path he has side-stepped for most of his adult life.
Joel Goldman weaves an intense crime mystery into the forefront of the novel while never losing sight of the main character's personal thoughts and condition. It is apparent the author has done painstaking research into the working function of the FBI as well as criminal investigations...something a "forensic junky" like me can lose myself in! The intrigue in the criminal plot of the novel as well as the descriptive scenes of murder and investigation grabbed my interest throughout the book. The novel is filled with obvious examples of true crime made fiction...as well as the real Kansas City interspersed in detail amidst the lives of imaginary characters. And, as is case in point of ALL great mystery/crime reads, the final outcome of the "who done it" plot remains a mystery until the ending pages...keeping my eyes in the book searching for answers.
So, enough said about writing styles, crime, and mystery...I really CAN'T say much more without giving away important parts of the novel. Which, if you're like me, sometimes even reading the back cover of a book is TMI (Too Much Information)...it can spoil my own desire to uncover key information myself. With an MS brain, it's good to try to figure out the plot on my own...keeps my brain cells functioning! And, if you are into this type of novel, I highly recommend the read...functioning brain cells or not.
What truly captured my attention about "SHAKE DOWN", was actually NOT so much the mystery and intrigue (although this was quite good) of a fiction novel, but the REALITIES of the neurological condition and descriptions of how the condition affected the life and relationships of the main character...an all too real situation that I could relate to in my own life. This part of the novel spoke with clarity to the vulnerability anyone with a chronic disease faces when discovering the disease is altering the course of their life. Joel Goldman is able to transfer his personal experiences into the life of a fictional character, bringing this character out of the pages to a somewhat frightening level of reality...the unknown path and course of a chronic, neurological condition. I commend him for his honest presentation, his vulnerability, and his ability to place into words those thoughts and feelings we ALL face when dealing with chronic diseases...MS-related or not. And for this, I award Mr. Goldman "Honorary MS Club Membership"...I'm sure he'd be THRILLED out of his gourd to accept this award. NOT!
The novel appears to be schedule for release April 1st, so you can head on over to Amazon.com or any other retailer and get a copy...you can't HAVE mine...it was FREE...LOL
**Editor's Note: I was not paid to write this review. Therefore the opinions expressed are mine without monetary influence...except that the book copy was...you guessed it...FREE. And I personally may be CHEAP, but my opinions come with a cost. Often to my own detriment.**