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Hooker Avenue
by Jode Millman
Review

My thanks go out to Nicole, representing the Meryl Moss Media Group, for securing me a review spot.

As ever, additional thanks go out to NetGalley, for their excellent download and review service.

HOOKER AVENUE – (Queen City Crimes #2)

Cover image of the book 'Hooker Avenue' by author Jode MillmanThe Queen City Crimes series is inspired by true crimes in the Hudson Valley.

Being a Good Samaritan is hazardous.

Amid a violent Hudson Valley thunderstorm, Jessie Martin discovers a woman lying unconscious in a roadside ditch.

The badly beaten victim, Lissie Sexton, a local prostitute, claims she’s escaped the attack of a killer.

Jessie’s more than a causal driver who passes by: she’s a criminal-defense attorney. And Lissie is more than an ordinary hooker. She’s the key witness in a cold case under investigation by Jessie’s estranged longtime friend, Detective Ebony Jones.

And now Ebony can’t find her witness. Jessie’s new boss has sent Lissie into hiding. If Jessie reveals Lissie’s location she compromises her client, her firm and her professional ethics. If she doesn’t, she risks alienating not just Ebony but the entire police department backing her. 

Cover image of the book 'Hooker Avenue' by author Jode Millman

JODE MILLMAN

Image of author Jode Millman
Photo by Evangeline Gala (www.evangelinegala.com)

Jode received her BA and JD from Syracuse University, and while studying at NYU Law School she served as a contributing editor to “The Kaminstein Legislative History Project: A Compendium and Analytical Index of Materials Leading to the Copyright Act of l976.” Concentrating on law and literature, she obtained her MA in English Literature from Eastern Michigan University, and has taught at Detroit Mercy Law School and Marist College.

Her debut thriller novel, The Midnight Call, was released by Immortal Works Publishing in 2019; winning the 2020 Bronze IPPY Award, the 2020 American Fiction Award, the 2021 Independent Press Award for Legal Thriller, was a 2021 Book Excellence Award Finalist, was short-listed for the 2019 clue Award and received the First Place Blue Ribbon as “Best Police Procedural” by Chantireviews.com.

Presently, Jode co-hosts and co-produces the Backstage with the Bardavon Podcast, which invites the listener backstage for intimate conversations with musicians and performers appearing at the Bardavon 1869 Opera House in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. and UPAC in Kingston, NY. The podcast is available on Itunes, Spotify and GooglePlay.

She is a member of Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, Sisters In Crime and Romance Writers of America. Her legal column can be found in InSincC, The Sisters in Crime Quarterly, and her reviews can be found at Booktrib.com and the New York Journal of Books.

Jodé is a life long resident of Poughkeepsie, New York, which serves as the setting for her legal suspense novels. In her writing, she draws upon her experiences as an attorney to capture the tensions that arise when a small community is rocked by tragedy.

Visit Jode at her website

Connect with Jode on Facebook

Follow Jode on Twitter

Cover image of the book 'Hooker Avenue' by author Jode Millman

FIRST LINES

CHAPTER ONE

There was no  doubt about it. Jessie Martin felt a storm brewing.

Without warning, the blue sky darkened to an ominous purplish gray. A blade of lightning sliced open the sky, releasing a sudden downpour, and illuminating the Hudson Valley landscape as though it were a grainy black-and-white photograph. Seconds later, a crack of thunder shook her car.

Staring ahead through the blurry windshield, Jessie gripped the leather steering wheel as her heart mimicked the rhythm of the windshield wipers battling the deluge. It felt as though the world was ending, and all she wanted to do was get home to her boyfriend, Hal Samuels, and her baby, Lily.

Cover image of the book 'Hooker Avenue' by author Jode Millman

MEMORABLE LINES

“Before Ryan’s murder, she’d trusted the criminal justice system wholeheartedly. But that was before she’d almost lost everything she cherished. She couldn’t face another attack on her integrity and professionalism without imperiling the fragile sanity she clung to like a life preserver”

.

“She smiled to herself, knowing that personal plans were a fluid proposition when you were a cop”

.

“The rules of professional conduct required a lawyer to represent his or her client to the best of his or her ability and abide by the client’s decisions. Would she have used any legal means to exonerate a client, even if it meant endangering another attorney’s license? Jessie feared her answer to the question. She was a litigator, a gladiator, like every other attorney. When representing her clients, she had done, and would do, everything legally permissible to protect them. Even if, like Jeremy, it meant catering to the whims of a madman”

.

“Three women were missing; one of them, another old friend. It appeared that death haunted her like a bloodhound. First, Ryan. Now, Becky. Although they weren’t the same degree of friendship with her, they were threads woven into the fabric of her life. Without them, the material snagged, weakening her structure and threatening to unravel her life”

.

“Jessie eyed Ebony. As a lawyer, her words had been her sharpest weapons, slicing her adversaries through the heart. Her hands never got dirty, and the only blood on them was from paper cuts. Conversely, Ebony infiltrated the trenches and clawed her way through the shit to ensure public safety”

.

“There was no denying that whores surrounded him. Not just the women on the flat screen, but the political whores who’d attended his meeting. He replayed his own conciliatory words and wondered whether he was one as well”

.

“She followed the highway across the bridge, comparing her own life to the river’s flow, swift and steady. She’d weathered obstacles – near death, loss and betrayal – which were like the boulders protruding through the turbulent current. Those hurdles may have slowed her down, but they’d never beaten her”

Cover image of the book 'Hooker Avenue' by author Jode Millman

REVIEW

“Being a good Samaritan is hazardous”

Based on a true-life crime investigation which must have been so distressing, soul destroying and utterly devastating for so many families, I am almost loathe to admit that I enjoyed this book so much. However, whilst place names are real (and yes, there really is a Hooker Avenue in Hudson Valley, PA) and many of the pertinent facts surrounding the case are correct; all other names and references appear to be fictional, which does help to absolve my conscience somewhat, and justifies my treating this as a work of fiction for review purposes. The blending of fact and fiction has been so sensitively and seamlessly executed, that it is impossible to know where one ends and the other begins, and purely from a police procedural point of view, I haven’t read such a well constructed, immersive and engaging interpretation of the genre, for some time now.

Just to bring you up to speed with the story…

Disgraced attorney, Jessie Martin, finds herself playing the Good Samaritan whilst driving home in the dark, during a particularly wild storm. She comes across what looks like a body in a roadside ditch, although when the inert form suddenly moves, she realises that she must act quickly, as this is now a life-saving mission which she cannot undertake alone. Along with the emergency rescue services, Jessie’s one-time best friend, Detective Ebony Jones and her partner Zander, are in attendance. In an atmosphere of tension and discord, the former ‘besties’ can hardly bare to speak to each other, setting the pattern for a case which grows exponentially and will eventually involve several State forces and the FBI, forcing Jessie and Ebony to call a truce to hostilities, in the name of justice.

When it becomes clear that this is no accident, and although initially reluctant to cooperate with the authorities, a very feisty victim begins to let her mouth run, divulging more than she ever intended to and enough to lead Ebony, Zander and Jessie to believe that her beating is certainly no isolated incident. To complicate matters even further, Jessie and her baby daughter are living with District Attorney Hal Samuels, so law enforcement from all sides of the spectrum are jostling for position, in trying to unravel the whys and wherefores of an angry woman’s ranting and raving, but from their own individual perspectives, not as a single cohesive team. The victim Lissie, eventually gives enough information away to cause a sudden scramble to coordinate similar unsolved cases  and disappearances from across the region, which to everyone’s shame, have hitherto been pretty much treated in isolation and ignored, given the various and unorthodox lifestyles of drugs, alcohol and prostitution, led by the victims.

It soon becomes apparent that Lissie’s partner Kurt, although he is abusive, was not her assailant and is not a suspect for the most heinous of crimes, however his major drug and larceny ring also comes in for unwanted attention, which yields a great result in itself and will see him removed from circulation for some time to come. Lissie is keeping tight-lipped about the identity of her attacker, for whom she genuinely has no name, and despite the inter-service rivalries and individual tensions in the room, which are beginning to spiral out of control, it is only Jessie who is ultimately able to reach out to her for help in bringing the perpetrator of so many potential cases, to book. Lissie drives a surprisingly hard bargain and has been quite astute at deceiving a thoroughly obnoxious and nauseating Kurt; so recognise her spirit, decry the way of life she thinks she had no option but to take, or applaud her resilience and strength; you can’t help but admire her strength and tenacity.  When, from the details Lissie is able to provide, the search is narrowed down to a mere handful of suspects, it doesn’t take long for the team to find their man. Despite Ebony potentially jeopardising the entire operation, an arrest is made, although the horrendous and ghastly discoveries which follow, will test the mental and physical stamina, and well being of the entire team and haunt them for some time to come.

For the victim’s families, closure is going to be all they have to cling to, although for everyone else involved a good result is heralded and rewarded, with all of them living to fight a new battle another day and maybe, just maybe, some of those old rivalries and wounds can be healed, if not entirely forgiven just yet.

This well structured, powerful and highly textured, multi-layered storyline, was intense and full of atmosphere from beginning to end. Even though I didn’t want the book to be finished, I found myself reading ever faster and turning the pages more quickly, in my haste to see what twist the author had added in next, which was going to change my way of thinking all over again. I suppose I missed the very obvious connection between Jessie and Lissie and that was even more scary, because I could see how that kind of scenario might actually happen in real life, with potentially devastating consequences. It certainly shook Jessie to her very core. Relentless and face paced, told in short well signposted chapters, with a crisp no nonsense narrative and dialogue, replete in descriptive detail, which afforded a very visual sense of time and place, this infinitely tangled web of lies, deception, manipulation and control, definitely kept me on my toes. Everyone was looking for the angle, in their attempts to avoid revealing their own individual secret agendas and weaknesses.

As with so many fictional detectives, lawyers and investigators, Jessie is really carrying an awful lot of baggage and secrets, although I get the feeling that this case has really set her back on track a bit, both professionally and personally, so it will be interesting to see how she develops in her role, assuming of course that the series is expanded and continued, which I sincerely hope it is. On the whole, the cast of characters were quite authentic, compelling and believable, despite their emotional complexities, which often made them rather raw, passionate and prone to being volatile, when they could have done with keeping their cool and using their heads a bit more. I found myself being able to relate to them, in a strange way, even Lissie, whose background only came to light right near the end and was one of those jaw dropping, ‘never judge a book by its cover’, moments. Even Duvall Bennett, although definitely the disgusting and reprehensible perpetrator he is portrayed as, has a motive which if examined, would surely constitute some form of PTSD, in modern day mental health developments. It didn’t make me detest him any the less, and yes, he knew exactly what he was doing making him cold and calculating. Once again, some fictional license was brought to play around this character and I may not have had quite so many ‘what if’ thoughts about the real life offender.

For those of you with an interest in the true background storyline, below is a link to the original news story as it was reported…

Kendall Francois – The Poughkeepsie Killer – Bodies On The Floor (wickedwe.com)

I also really want to go back and read and author Jode Millman’s previous book The Midnight Call where we are first introduced to the character of attorney Jessie Martin. Don’t get me wrong, although there are references to Jessie’s first case in this book, the backstory is filled with more than enough detail to keep any series reader happy, yet without short-changing any new reader just joining the journey. It’s simply that the case sounds really intriguing and I want to know more!

A complimentary download of this book, for review purposes, was made available for review.

Any thoughts or comments are my own personal opinion and I am in no way being monetarily compensated for this, or any other article which promotes this book or its author.

I personally do not agree with ‘rating’ a book, as the overall experience is all a matter of personal taste, which varies from reader to reader. However some review sites do demand a rating value, so when this review is posted to such a site, it will attract a well deserved 5 out of 5 stars!

 

Written by
Yvonne

I can’t remember a time, even as a child, when I haven’t been passionate about books and reading.
I began blogging, when I realised just how many other people out there shared my passion for the written word and I have been continually amazed at the wealth of books that are available and the amount of great new friends I have made, from literally 'The Four Corners Of The World'.

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16 comments
    • The ‘real’ murderer, looks and sounds even worse than the fictional one Jode portrays in the book, and he is pretty gruesome!

      Towards the end of my review, I left a link to the news story about the murders as it broke, it is really worth a few minutes reading time.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment 🙂

    • Not a series I have ever watched, although there have been British equivalents over the years.

      In that respect, then I agree this is probably a similar style of format. However, as police procedurals and criminal investigations go, it is well rendered and interesting enough to hold my attention throughout.

      Without reading the press coverage of the ‘real’ crime, I would never have been able to tell where fact stopped and fiction began, the narrative and dialogue were really seamless!

      Thanks for stopping by and I hope that all is well with you 🙂

  • This sounds rather interesting. I’ve just read a True Crime book, my first ever, and quite enjoyed it to be honest, so don’t feel guilty at enjoying a fictional version of one. A good book is a good book. And I think we’ve actually touched on the Hudson Valley as we’ve been to Albany which I think is its northern border. Beautiful area.

    • I have read a few True Crime Fiction books now and to be fair, they have all seemed honest representations of the actual events. I think that if I came across one which had been so sensationalised as to cause grief or upset to anyone involved in the actual event, that might make me think twice about participating in the genre further.

      I generally review as if the book was a work of pure fiction, because as you so rightly point out ‘a good book, is a good book’. If I was reading the actual non-fiction version of events, that would be something completely different!

      The area does look particularly stunning from the pictures I have seen, although these crimes were so horrendous that it might have taken the shine off the ‘armchair travel’ a bit. The fact that ‘Hooker Avenue’ does exist is even better, although it was originally not so named because of the obvious connotations.

  • I’ve read very little “true crime” or even crime fiction based (loosely or otherwise) on fact. This sounds like a good story. It’s good that it held up on its own, but I hope you’ll be able to go back and read the first since you want to know more!

    • Books #1 and 2 are separate stories and only related in so much as they provide an insight into the relationship between Jessie and Ebony, Jessie and her first husband, and exactly what Jessie did to get herself fired from her position in a law firm.

      To be honest, I have probably gathered enough snippets from this book to work things out for myself, however I am genuinely interested in reading the first story.

      I am still a little on the fence as to whether fictionalising a horrific factual event should be the ‘done’ thing. It is happening on quite a regular basis now and the genre is gaining in popularity, although I have to admit that I generally try and separate the two elements, reading and reviewing as if the story was purely a work of fiction.

  • Based on a real crime, so definitely interesting, albeit a bit gruesome. I’m glad you’ve enjoyed the book, it looks like it was written very well too.

    • This perpetrator and his heinous catalogue of crimes, was gruesome to say the least, whether you are reading the media accounts of the real life case, or this excellent fictionalised adaptation of events.

      As with all books, as it seems these days, the early reviews and ratings are a little mixed, but for me personally, the writing style and execution of the plot, were excellent and I was on the edge of my seat all the time I was reading. 🙂

  • Hmm! This sounded so familiar, like one of a number of cases covered on the various True Crime tv series I occasionally watch, that it came as no surprise to learn that it
    was indeed based on a true-life crime investigation. Your review however is so enthusiastic that is me wondering …
    Maybe one to make a note of for future reference. I shall certainly be visiting the site to read the original news story, thank you for the link.

    • We don’t tend to watch too many of those true life crime series, so I was quite willing to take this story at face value, along with the couple of other books I have read from the genre just recently.

      My only concern when an author fictionalises a true life story, where the people and the case are instantly recognisable, is that they don’t do any disservice to the victims or their family, as that could be quite distressing. I assume there has to be some collaboration, so that the facts don’t become too distorted, I would hate to think that a media article was treated as the gospel truth and storified!

      • I must admit Yvonne, I do sometimes wonder at how quickly some true crime cases are fictionalised and televised. I remember reading an article which looked at ‘how early was too early’ which made for very interesting reading … if only I could remember where it was I read it.

        • I suppose if an early televised adaptation helps to solve a true crime case, then it is never TOO early!

          However, when a true crime story is fictionalised into a book, it generally takes much longer and to my way of thinking at least, then doesn’t really have any positive impact on the case and only benefits the author.

          If I can put aside the fact that the events really happened to someone and treat the book solely as a work of fiction, then it certainly makes for great reading!

          PS. I hope you received my email reference the future of Fiction Books Blog! 🙂

    • A gory gruesome crime thriller, definitely – especially as it really happened!
      This is also a well constructed and structured police procedural too. I am hoping that Jessie and Ebony become involved in more cases where they have to work together!

      Thanks for stopping by 🙂

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