Saturday, March 29, 2008


Like a number of bloggers it appears, I received a request to read and review SHAKEDOWN by Joel Goldman. At first I thought - wow, somebody thinks that I actually have readership - and second I thought - well, she must think that I'm eloquent if she wants ME to review a book. Then, I discovered that I wasn't the only one. Then I decided - sure, I'll get a free book out of it and maybe it'll be a good one.

The reason we MS bloggers were targeted is due to the uncertain nature of our disease, the often physical limitations experienced due to the disease, and most importantly the fear of telling others about our MS lest it jeopardize our relationships, job security or retirement plans. You see the author, Joel Goldman, has a movement disorder and he weaves issues surrounding a yet-to-be-diagnosed neurological condition into the story, a condition which threatens the main character's job and personal relationships.

Here's the Rundown:

Best-known for his Edgar and Shamus nominated Lou Mason thrillers, Joel Goldman's SHAKEDOWN is the launch of a new series featuring Special Agent Jack Davis. In the author's words, Davis is "a man in mid-life whose mission is to give a voice to the voiceless victims of crime, to speak for the dead."

Jack Davis is also hiding a secret from the world that may jeopardize his career --- a worsening movement disorder. When his secret is discovered while working a crime scene, Jack finds himself dealing with the fallout on both professional and personal levels, changing his life forever.

In SHAKEDOWN, Davis must come to terms with what is happening to his body while trying to do the work he is meant to do: solve crimes. Accepting his body's changes while trying to work is an all too familiar struggle for author Joel Goldman: Goldman himself has been diagnosed with a movement disorder.
From the Back Cover:

The lives of three people collide over mass murder at a Kansas City residence that Special Agent Jack Davis has carefully staked out for weeks. Kate Scranton, whose job is spotting lies for high-priced courtroom lawyers, is convinced that mild-mannered Latrell Kelly knows something about the crime. But Latrell is hiding far more than Kate can guess. And with Jack half-blinded by an imploding personal life, and someone on his own side leaking crucial information, they're headed straight for the ultimate danger zone...
What Critics are Saying:

"[SHAKEDOWN is] Goldman's latest terrific thriller.... Goldman's surefooted plotting and Davis's courage under fire make this a fascinating, compelling read." ---Publishers Weekly

"SHAKEDOWN is a really fine novel. Joel Goldman has got it locked and loaded and full of the blood of character and the gritty details that make up the truth. Page for page, I loved it." ---Michael Connelly

"SHAKEDOWN is a chillingly realistic crime novel --- it's fast-paced, smartly plotted, and a gripping read to the very last page. Joel Goldman explores --- with an insider's eye --- a dark tale of murder and betrayal." ---Linda Fairstein
Interview with Joel Goldman, from his website:

Q: So what is Shakedown about?
A: Jack Davis is a fifty-year old FBI agent who is haunted by the murder twenty-years ago of his young son. His marriage is crumbling and his daughter is in love with an undercover FBI agent who may have crossed the line and dragged her with him. Kate Scanlon is an expert in the facial action coding system that reveals the truths hidden in micro facial expressions that flash by in the blink of an eye. When five people are slaughtered in a crack house Jack has under surveillance, his world explodes. He turns to Kate for help in tracking the killer and gets more than he asked for.

Q: Jack Davis is a departure from the Lou Mason. What makes him unique?
A: Jack Davis is a man in mid-life whose mission is to give a voice to the voiceless victims of crime, to speak for the dead. In the midst of a murder investigation, he loses control of his career, his family and his body. He has to dig deep to hold on to the people he loves and the world he believes in.

Q: How does he do it?
A: Jack only trusts the hard evidence. He has to open himself to the more subtle clues of human emotions that are hidden behind our facial masks.

Q: Is the facial action coding system real?
A: Absolutely. Dr. Paul Ekman, a psychologist, developed it in the 1970’s. Check out his website, for more details.

Q: Will we see Jack Davis in another thriller after Shakedown?
A: I'm working on a sequel to Shakedown titled The Dead Man.

Q: Anything else in the pipeline?
A: I wrote a short story titled Knife Fight that will be published in 2008 in a mystery anthology sponsored by the Mystery Writers of America. Linda Fairstein is the editor and I'll be in great company.

Q: You have a page on your website called Crime Scene. What's that about?
A: One of the things that make any story come alive is where it takes place. That's certainly been true for me. My books are set in Kansas City, my hometown. Great writers make the setting where the story occurs as real and influential in the story as any character, whether it's a neighborhood, city, county or region. With Crime Scene, I'm going to explore those places and how writers bring them to life and ask readers to share their favorites character places with me.

Q: What drives your stories?
A: That's a great question and it took me about two and a half books to figure that out. About midway through my third book, Cold Truth, I realized that I was writing about families and their conflicts as much as I was writing about murder and mayhem. The conflicts that stem from family relationships are textured, nuanced and varied. It's impossible to run out of ideas. All I have to do is ask myself what happens when things go wrong.

Q: Do you start with the characters or the plot?
A: I start with the names. I create an inventory of male and female names, usually from newspapers and obituaries. Once I get started, I don't like to flop around trying to decide a character's name. After that, I focus more on the characters because their strengths, weaknesses and relationships will drive the plot.

Q: What advice would you give to someone who wants to be a writer?
A: Just do it. The hardest thing for some people to do is to start. Writing a poem, a story, a play or a book seems overwhelming. Many people have told me that they want to or plan to write a book but they never do anything about it. If writing really is in your blood, the hard part won't be starting. It will be stopping.
More details are available - SHAKEDOWN and Joel Goldman.

So here's what I thought:
Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.

Jack Davis, an FBI agent in Kansas City, MO, is five years from retirement when an unknown medical problem threatens to end his career. Problem is Special Agent Davis has been getting the "shakes" more frequently and with more intensity while he has attempted to hide it from those around him. The cause of the seizure-like shakes is unknown and Jack is reluctant to go to the doctor, presumably for fear of what the doctor may say is the cause of the problem.

The night that someone enters the home of local drug dealer, Marcellus, a house which has been under FBI camera surveillance, and proceeds to brutally murder five people in the house, Agent Davis is seen suffering from one of his "shaking" spells in the backyard of the crime scene. Almost immediately, Agent Davis is taken off active duty, must surrender his gun and badge, and is placed on medical leave. This all happens near the beginning of the book and we know who the killer is. So where's the murder mystery or the thrill of the chase?

Well, as it turns out, the mystery lies not in solving this particular case but in discovering who is leaking information to whom regarding a much larger ongoing investigation. While Agent Davis is supposed to be on leave and off the case, he can't stay out of it and enlists the help of a local Kansas City, KS, cop to conduct some independent investigation of his own. All the while, his secret regarding the "shakes" is now known to those around him, including coworkers, friends, and family, threatening his career and his personal relationships.

Joel Goldman manages to keep the pace throughout the book, only reveiling the key answers to all the secrets very much near the end of the book. The answers truly are a surprise...and I won't give you any clues. But I will let you know that SHAKEDOWN is not a "chick flick" book. There are no steamy love scenes and only a hint of potential unfulfilled desires. Does that make it a man's book? I don't know. The focus of the book is on the process of solving the crimes. In total there are a dozen murders, a couple of missing people, secret hideouts, dead drug dealers, emergency surgery, and an adorable adopted pup.

The book was an easy read, fast paced, and has an intriguing story. Some questions remain unsolved, thus providing material for a sequel. Basically, SHAKEDOWN provides a nice introduction to the main character FBI Special Agent Jack Davis and the important characters in his life. I plan to pass my copy onto my dad and I think that he will enjoy it.

April 1, 2008
384 pages; $6.99
ISBN-10: 0786016108
ISBN-13: 978-0786016105

If you are interested in Joel Goldman's books, I added a widget below where you can go directly to Amazon to purchase this or any other of Goldman's other crime mystery novels.

Please note that this is not a paid review or advertisement, it is however my opinion. If you were to purchase one of the books I have included on the sidebar, I would receive a very small percentage as an Amazon Associate (full disclosure).

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