Sunday, August 26, 2012

Doing Max Vinyl (An Annie Ogden Mystery)







Title of the Book: Doing Max Vinyl (An Annie Ogden Mystery)
Author's blog: Frederick Lee Brooke
Author's page on: GoodReads
Available on: Amazon (in print and Kindle) and on other similar sites

Actually, I have read and reviewed the second book in this series, viz: Zombie Candy, earlier. So when, Fred offered me the chance to review his first book, I jumped at the offer. After all, it is in the first book, Doing Max Vinyl, when Annie makes her first entrance and her character continues to evolve.

Extract of the gist on GoodReads: Max Vinyl’s type of success story can only happen in America. Rising from humble beginnings, he has reached the height of the computer recycling racket. Problem is, he’s using Lake Michigan as his own personal profit center. Even that wouldn't have been a problem if his environmentalist girlfriend Tris hadn't found out his dirty secret. And while Max is devastated by his love crashing down around him, he’s about to learn that the rage of a woman scorned packs far more firepower and potential for destruction than he had ever imagined.

Iraqi War veteran Annie Ogden has spent three depression-filled months living in a cabin in a forest preserve trying to re-discover her purpose in life. When two of Max’s thugs threaten Annie’s sister, she is dragged into his corrupt world in an unwitting alliance with the environmentalist, Tris. And for Max, that’s really bad news. Will he hold up under the coordinated attacks of two angry women? Will Annie find the inner peace that has escaped her so far? As things spin completely out of control and complications mount, it’s all Max can do to stay one step ahead—until it’s all he can do to stay alive!

A farce full of hysterics and wholehearted chicanery, Frederick Lee Brooke’s first installment of the Annie Ogden mysteries is an incisive examination of corporate lunacy, greed and modern disconnection. Having received multiple four and five-star reviews on Amazon and Goodreads.com, Doing Max Vinyl: An Annie Ogden Mystery is loaded with razor-sharp dialogue, ingenious plotting—and so much fun it should be illegal!



My views:


The opening chapter began on a slightly slower pace than I would have expected. Max Vinyl has just sold 20 per cent of his computer recycling company - TSR Inc to the Koreans and is looking forward to enjoying his moolah running into three millions. But, then his troubles begin, and it has nothing to do with the Koreans or his ex wife.

After the slow paced first chapter, the book is one wild enjoyable ride, where a variety of diverse characters spring to life from the pages of the book. You learn more about each character as the book moves on.

Frederick Lee Brooke has dived deep into the mind of each character and brought to light what makes each person tick, be it Max whose obsessions seem to be money, women and his car collection - but he also has a caring streak and helps his elderly Aunt and Uncle, or the 'sexy tree hugger' Tris who once had a relationship with Max and is now out to seek revenge or Max's go-to-boys and ex convicts Tranny and Ike (the duo who actually dump E-waste into Lake Michigan). Once loyal to the 'Boss', now they have their daggers drawn and are out to get Max -- not because they think he is harming the environment, but because they think he dented their side business and made a killing by selling their sacks of 'stolen' mobile phones!

A few characters such Annie Ogden and Alden Sterling (the CPA whose laptop is sabotaged and of course Max will use the secrets hidden in it for personal gains) seem to be randomly placed in the book, at first instance, and for a brief moment you wonder what is happening. But then it all ties up and how!

In the opening chapter itself, Tris gets fired by General Manager Rodriguez (his hunch that she is trouble with a capital T proves to be true) and she walks out on Max forever (in fact for her the relationship between her and Max was long over). What had drawn her to Max was that he was environmentally conscious and ran a E-re-cyling enterprise but once she saw through this facade it was all over for her.

Annie, is introduced in a later chapter. A war-vet she has returned from Iraq and is trying to find herself and fit into a society which she had a role to play in protecting. While she does find a home in an abandoned forest rangers shack in Chicago itself, she is at a loss on what next. Alison, her waitress sister, flicks a GPS which the duo had left behind on the table. This GPS helps indicate where exactly the trash should be dumped into the Lake in the dead of the night and is invaluable. Understandably Max is hopping mad.

The duo break into Alison's flat, do not find the GPS but walk away woth a huge mobile phone collection - Alison's husband collects mobile phones as a hobby and is sentimentally attached to his collection. Alison is forced to return the GPS to the duo, but they do not keep their end of the bargain and do not return the hoard of mobile phones - they think this collection will garner them loads of cool bucks.

Now Max's trouble truly begin. Out walks Tris and in walks Annie - filling in the post of the Company receptionist. Her aim is just to get these mobile phones back and to protect her sister, Alison, but she ends up doing much much more. Of course she also meets Bob, the to-be-business partner of Alden Sterling and perhaps is able to ease her pain a bit (her guy was killed in the war and she is trying to get over this loss).

While Tris and Annie do not actually meet in person, both of them help bring an end to Max's dubious activities.

Max being attacked by his very own people, Tranny and Ike right there on the growing dumpster in the deep end of Lake Michigan (which has now almost reached the surface of the lake) was a fitting end, duly captured by the media cameras.

I loved the environmentally conscious angle the book has to offer. Illegal disposal of E-waste is truly a crime that needs to be tackled. It does more harm than good. The author has taken the trouble to accurately capture nature, the life of the sturgeon which has existed on this planet for ages and who now has to deal with the problems of E-waste, in its home - Lake Michigan, is one of my favourite chapters.

While E-waste is the main issue dealt with in the book, other issues are also sensitively dealt with in a subtle manner albeit through the various characters -- be it the childhood horror of coming face to face with a pervert, issues of alleged incest, low self esteem and the recourse to alcohol or sex with multiple partners, blackmail, the anguish which war vets continue to be plagued with....

The wide range of human characteristics ranging from loyalty, family bonds, care, love, friendship, romance, greed, brutality are all aptly covered in this book.

There are serious messages that the book delivers, but by tightly weaving in different characters with diverse backgrounds and through a tightly written unique story plot, the book is an entertaining and fun read.

I can almost visualize this book as an action packed fun movie.


Author's Bio:
Born and raised in the Chicago area, Frederick Lee Brooke graduated from Amherst College and studied writing at the University of Montana. He has worked as an English teacher, language school manager and small business owner. Having lived in Germany, France and Switzerland, he has also travelled extensively in Tuscany, the setting of part of Zombie Candy. The first book in the Annie Ogden series, Doing Max Vinyl, appeared in 2011 to wide acclaim.




Some useful information for a Greener environment:
GreenPeace: Electronics Campaign Timeline

National Geographic: Green Jobs and other benefits of E-waste