by Joel Goldman

I am
old enough to remember a day when the best of genre fiction was
published in paperback, readily available at the corner drugstore
or the supermarket. I’m beginning to see evidence of a return
to those days, and part of Exhibit “A” would be
SHAKEDOWN by Joel Goldman.

Goldman takes a hiatus from his series featuring Kansas City
attorney Lou Mason, keeping the geographical locale the same while
giving a guided tour of its back streets (where the buses
don’t run). He sucks you in right at the beginning with his
streetwise account of Marcellus Pearson, a drug-dealing gang leader
who gives money to the mother of one of his fallen soldiers for her
son’s funeral and some extras. However, none of the folks you
meet in the first few pages of SHAKEDOWN are going to be around
long, as they are done in by Latrell Kelly, a neighbor of
Marcellus’s whose blasé appearance belies a cunning
intelligence and, as we quickly learn, a sociopathic

The sudden, violent deaths of Marcellus and his associates attract
the attention of FBI Special Agent Jack Davis, who questions the
timing of the murders. Jack has been leading a team that has had
Marcellus and his operation under surveillance and wonders if
perhaps there was a law enforcement leak that led to the murders.
But Jack has problems of his own. He is in the midst of a divorce
and is experiencing violent trembling episodes that leave him
momentarily incapacitated. Worst of all, his daughter Wendy is
romantically involved with a member of his team. Ultimately, Jack
is involuntarily placed on medical leave until the etiology and
severity of his condition can be determined.

Jack begins his own clandestine, unapproved investigation into the
murder of Marcellus and his crew. He is aided by Kate Scranton, an
expert in the decoding of facial expressions and, incidentally, a
budding romantic interest for him. Immediately Kate sees that Jack
is a force to be reckoned with, even as he sets his sights
elsewhere, inadvertently stirring up a situation that leads him to
places he never expected and placing those he loves most in
significant peril --- though the greatest danger is to

It is impossible to say too much about Goldman’s
characterization and plotting in SHAKEDOWN. Jack is a riveting
character who is quite difficult to forget. A great deal of the
book is told in the first person, from Jack’s viewpoint;
Goldman perfectly captures his down-but-not-out,
seasoned-but-not-weary voice, encapsulating the attitude of a man
near the end of his career but wanting to go out on his own terms.
As for the plotting, the novel contains not one but two mysteries
that slowly dovetail into each other. The resolution of one of
these puzzles is known early to the reader but not to Jack. The
solution to the other mystery remains unknown to both reader and
character until almost the conclusion. Watching Jack unravel both
problems is an unforgettable experience.

While all is resolved at the conclusion, there remains plenty of
fodder for a sequel, and more. A Jack Davis series would be a good
thing; let’s hope for one.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 23, 2011

by Joel Goldman

  • Publication Date: April 1, 2008
  • Genres: Fiction, Thriller
  • Paperback: 397 pages
  • Publisher: Pinnacle
  • ISBN-10: 0786016108
  • ISBN-13: 9780786016105