Book Review: The Devil’s Necktie by John Lansing

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As part of my affiliation with PubShelf, I have been given a free copy of The Devil’s Necktie by John Lansing to read in return for an honest and fair review.

The Devil’s Necktie is crime thriller, its central protagonist a man by the name of Jack Bertolino, a retired inspector in the NYPD. After leaving the force, Jack relocates to California in the hopes of leading a quieter, more relaxed life away from the cut-throat world of drug cartels and gangsters. Jack wants nothing more than to enjoy the California sunshine, eat steaks from his beloved barbeque grill and tend to his tomato plants.

His seemingly idyllic existence is shattered by a call from an old informant, Mia. Jack immediately responds to her cry for help and agrees to meet her, surprised to find that she’s also made her way to California. The two of them end up in a passionate embrace, allowing years of pent-up sexual tension between them to overflow as they end up in Mia’s bed.

Jack leaves Mia sleeping, with the intention of questioning her appearance in California further the next day, not realising that once he leaves Mia that his world as he knows it will come crashing down around him.

Just minutes after he leaves, Mia is violently murdered in what looks to be a gang-sanctioned ‘hit’. The manner in which Mia is killed ensures that the message is clear – that someone has messed with the wrong people.

Due to being the last person to see her alive, Jack becomes the prime suspect in the investigation of her murder and it seems that not only the police are on his tail, hunting him down. Jack finds himself being set up to take the fall for the murder, while using every resource he has at his disposal to get to the bottom of Mia’s murder and just who it is trying to make sure that he goes down for it.

As Jack digs further, he finds himself getting deeper into an investigation that has far-reaching consequences. Old enemies return to haunt Jack, placing not only himself in danger, but the people he cares about too. Soon Jack realises that motives for Mia’s murder go much further than just a local gang hit, the people behind the brutal slaying have connections all the way back to the drug cartels of both Mexico and Columbia.

Bodies begin to pile up as Jack and his connections within law enforcement and government agencies try to track down the main players within the drug scene and it is not long before Jack finds himself on the hit list of some very dangerous people. He realises that this may be one hornet’s nest that he perhaps shouldn’t have kicked, but the cop within him refuses to let Mia’s death be in vain.

It’s a case of: ‘You can take the boy out of the NYPD, but you can’t take the NYPD out of the boy.’ Jack is a cop through and through, his instincts and thirst for the job will not let him drop the case, no matter who tries to convince him otherwise. Even Jack’s own family are placed at risk, yet Jack knows he cannot stop until the people responsible are punished.

This is a book full of thrills, spills, chases, gun fights, and explosions. The action moves well throughout the whole book and keeps the story going. The lead character of Jack Bertolino is a likeable guy, although one with a rather worrying dependency on pain medication. He’s a typical hardened cop and a man who sacrificed a happy home life in pursuit of results in the job. Jack’s a good guy without wandering too far into the realms of being perfect. He has faults and he seems to acknowledge them.

The cast of supporting characters are varied and help to keep the storyline engaging for the reader. The switching of perspectives between Jack and a number of the ‘bad guys’ worked well, it lent itself to giving a well-rounded understanding of the storyline as a whole, seeing through the eyes of several different characters.

From a personal point of view – I must stress that this is my own personal opinion – I found some of the violence and sex scenes to be a little too descriptive and too graphic at times and felt that the author could still convey the same kind of intention but with much less detail than was actually provided.

Another issue that I found with this book was the author’s tendency to ‘tell’ rather than ‘show’. I felt that, in places, too much emphasis was placed on describing the scene rather than what was happening in it. There were many mentions of roads, places, colours of cars etc. that – in my opinion – could have been cut to improve the overall flow of the story. I would have preferred to have less descriptive narrative and more emphasis on the action taking place, I felt that this would have made the story a touch sharper and provide the kind of impact that the book deserves.

I must stress that these are purely my own opinions, other people may think the complete opposite and enjoy the elements that I found distracting. The story is engaging, the characters relatable, this is the kind of book that will appeal to lovers of crime fiction and thrillers with its weaving plot and cast of many characters.

If you like crime thrillers and enjoy car chases, guns, explosions and lots of action then this book may very well be the one for you.

Profile of John Lansing:

John Lansing, author of The Devil's Necktie

John Lansing, author of The Devil’s Necktie

John Lansing started his career as an actor in New York City. He spent a year at the Royale Theatre playing the lead in the Broadway production of “Grease.” He then landed a co-starring role in George Lucas’ “More American Graffiti,” and guest-starred on numerous television shows. During his fifteen-year writing career, Lansing wrote and produced “Walker Texas Ranger,” co-wrote two CBS Movies of the Week, and he also co-executive produced the ABC series “Scoundrels.” John’s first book was “Good Cop Bad Money,” a true crime tome with former NYPD Inspector Glen Morisano. “The Devil’s Necktie” is his first novel. A native of Long Island, John now resides in Los Angeles.
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