‘THE LAST STRAW’ – (‘Pigeon – Blood Red’ – Book #2)
A black lawyer and a white enforcer with an unlikely history forge an uneasy alliance to protect the girl from a hit man with an agenda of his own.
After they find out that the crime boss is the father of the black teenage carjacker, Paul Elliott – lawyer and close friend of the witness’s family – begins counseling them.
As the long-simmering feud between Rico and John D’Angelo reaches boiling point, bodies start to pile up in rapid succession… and old scores will be settled.
Ed is a graduate of Oberlin College and Northwestern University Law School. For more than 37 years, he was a partner and practicing trial lawyer, with a national law firm in Cleveland, Ohio. In addition to an occasional trial, he wrote reams of briefs and opinion letters. He specialized in something called “insurance coverage,” which in general meant it was his job to evaluate whether or not a particular accident or loss was, or was not, covered by an insurance policy.
In 2008 he wrote an original, highly regarded legal treatise, called “Ohio Insurance Coverage,” but he didn’t count that text as fulfilling his quest to become a published author, since it isn’t fiction, and what he really wanted to do was to write fiction, especially crime fiction.
Originally from Gary, Indiana, Ed now lives outside Cleveland, Ohio
Visit Ed at his website
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“It’s always been said that you should write what you know. I may not have been on the run from an underworld hitman, but I do know law and I’m excited to be able to use that knowledge creatively as well as professionally.”
“Perry Brumfield unzipped his pants as he entered the bedroom and strode confidently toward the queen size bed.”
“He and Jerry had worked together and sometimes taken lives together. They both knew their roles were not immutable. They were the hunters today, but they could be the prey tomorrow.”
“‘And I was trying to protect me. It didn’t have to come to that. He’s lucky he was harmless.’
‘What are you talking about? If he was so harmless, why did you practically kill him?’
‘Because that’s what harmless guys get. Dangerous guys get something else.'”
“There was something both unreal and unseemly about a grown man, with a law degree to boot, fighting in the street with two teenagers, But this is what it had come to.”
“My father used to say no matter how far you travel. you can never change where you came from. I was so damned angry back there that for a while I almost forgot where I came from.”
“Friends can make you weak and they can get you killed.”
“He told himself that there must be a baser instinct in all of us and that in some people it lived close to the surface but that in others it was buried deep in the soul.”
“They were the hunters today, but they could be the prey tomorrow.”
Oh Yes! In a strange way and for some unfathomable reason, which is much against my better judgement, I am really beginning to ‘like’ the characters of Rico and Paul!
Although there is an ongoing background storyline, which traverses both books in the series to date, author Ed Duncan keeps you connected with all the pointers and facts that you need to know along the way, at just the right place and time to keep the action moving seamlessly along and without breaking the thread of the narrative or dialogue. You can definitely step into either book and read them as stand alone stories, which will have you hooked from the first line, to the very last word.
This traditionally written gangster storyline is gritty, complex and multi-layered, yet easy to relate to. Well constructed, visual and descriptive, with plenty of twists and turns, although with no real red herrings to negotiate or get tripped up by. The narrative and dialogue is pacey, crisp and punchy, honest and forthright, keeping true to the personality of the characters and easy to follow throughout.
Rico and Paul are two very complex characters, definitely from different sides of the tracks and thrown together by circumstances, who bear a grudging, yet healthy respect for one another. Although clearly they are never going to be friends, no matter how many times their paths may cross, they always seem to have one another’s backs when the situation demands! Both are slightly confused by the increasing and shocking realisation that they each have two sides to their personalities, which are often two sides of the same coin, depending on what action is necessary at any given point in time and in what circumstance, and I’m still not sure which of them is having the most difficulty reconciling themselves to this fact. However given that Paul generally operates on the right side of the law, as he is an attorney, he definitely has the most to lose from his relationship with Rico; although for Rico, every day and every job is a matter of life and death. It seems almost a matter of destiny that their lives seem to now be inextricably linked, with first one and then the other, repaying a debt, then going above and beyond, which results in an ongoing revolving door situation, with each feeling that they owe the other something.
Anti-hero Rico is always the cool, hit man for hire, although this time around I thought I might have detected a slight change in him. Perhaps he is an enforcer / killer who is developing a conscience, so maybe this would offer Ed the opportunity to develop him more into the guise of an ‘Equalizer’, problem solving character? However, I still think he actually enjoys killing far too much for that, so perhaps rather than a conscience, it would be fairer to say that Rico has developed his own self-imposed set of conduct markers and moral codes, which he sticks to whenever he can, although if he needs to go over and above … then he will, in a heartbeat! He knows that he can’t afford to get too soft or let down his guard, as that will put him and potentially others in danger, which is almost the outcome in this story, as Rico refuses to fulfil a contract on a young girl who has witnessed a shooting, leaving his arch enemy, John D’Angelo, charged with completing the job, whatever the consequences. It takes all the combined efforts of Rico and Paul to confine and minimise the situation, although the cost in human lives is still too much!
Both men have partnered with two equally strong women, again not natural ‘besties’, but both there for their menfolk when times get tough. Although neither of them are under any illusions about who ultimately controls their respective relationships, they both have a very strong moral compass and try to guide Paul and Rico down the path of the end needing to justify the means! This is a slowly evolving landscape, changing pace and shape, as the character dynamics unfold and are tried and tested, and one which I can’t wait to see if Ed might have expanded on in the third part of the trilogy. Rico definitely has a softer more compassionate side when he is with Jean and irrespective of her lifestyle, woe betide anyone who wishes any harm to her! Paul is the more emotionally damaged of the two men and his relationship with Evelyn is very much in its early stages, so it will be good to see if that can be developed for the good of them both.
I am very much hoping that Ed might decide to carry on with the series, past the original trilogy he had planned.
Before I read his excellent Guest Post “NOVELS or SCREENPLAYS“, I had already had the thought that these storylines would transition well into either film or television screenplays, as Rico would make a great new character to rival Jason Statham’s, ‘Arthur Bishop’!
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I personally do not always 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 4 out of 5 stars.