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Jocelyn's War
There’s a war in the streets. The vicious Ghost Knights biker gang, suddenly flush with cash and guns, is challenging the Mob for control of the city. No one is safe as bodies fall and houses go up in flames. Danny Rinker is a young Mob soldier, but he’s keeping his distance from the fighting. Encouraged by Jocelyn, his new girlfriend, Danny spends his days in the local bar he finally owns after years of struggling. While his friends are out making names for themselves, Danny finds in the velvety touch of Jocelyn’s lips all the action he’ll ever need. From a chance encounter, Danny learns a secret that goes to the heart of the Ghost Knights’ newfound power. If he can unravel a twenty-year-old mystery, Danny will be the one who takes the bikers down once and for all. But Jocelyn is not all she appears. She knows things about this war that her lover can’t even imagine. Danny is about to discover that Jocelyn is a warrior, and even if it breaks her heart, she will carry on her fight to the end.
This complex and gritty third Journeys Down a Long Dark Road work (after Tina and the Big Bad Wolf & Other Stories), which stands well alone, follows two crime outfits clashing in the Philadelphia suburbs. After his release from prison, Bobby the Beast, former sergeant-at-arms of the Ghost Knights Motorcycle Club, begins a war with the mob to reestablish his gang’s credibility. His secret weapon is Jocelyn, a young woman with a sordid family history, who seduces Danny, the son of a mafia bigshot. When Danny’s bar is attacked by the Ghost Knights, Danny launches an investigation, while Jocelyn grapples with her capacity for betrayal.

Dale crafts a world of ruthless characters who unfortunately lack the necessary interiority to engage the reader’s sympathies. Danny and Jocelyn’s relationship is treated somewhat as a romance, but it’s tumultuous and occasionally violent, and readers may find it hard to cheer the lovers on. Moments that provide insight into Jocelyn’s motives (such as needing money to send her younger sisters to college) are welcome but rare. Nearly every character is a murderer, a backstabber, or an abuser, and the protagonists employ disturbing racist language. However, the willingness of many characters to betray one another or change sides adds memorable twists and strengthens the plot.

Keeping track of who’s who is difficult in this sprawling story, which spans multiple generations with interrelated narratives and tangled backstories. It’s peppered with flashbacks, memories, and lengthy monologues about the past, and is most compelling when the characters’ histories tie into their present-day actions. The plot itself is frequently gripping, and fans of the mob genre will appreciate the scenes of bloody action.This thriller will hook readers looking for a twisty story full of characters they’ll love to hate.

Takeaway: Family drama, violence, and a femme fatale make this thriller appealing to fans of mafia stories.

Great for fans of Dennis Lehane’s Live by Night, James Patterson’s Don’t Blink.

Production grades
Cover: A-
Design and typography: B-
Illustrations: -
Editing: B-
Marketing copy: B+