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on 26 October 2011
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
As part of Amazon's Encore series, this is a self-published book that Amazon have picked up to `mainstream' publish, with shows the days of dodgy, sub-standard vanity publishing are long gone, because this is a very well written and packaged book indeed.

Final Price is not a whodunnit, it's a `how will they catch him' tale and a good one at that. Shamus works for a Honda car sales showroom in Delaware and finally has had enough of the awkward customers who take him for a ride, beating him down on a deal, getting close to buying then suddenly going off to buy from elsewhere- usually the nearest rival- who undercuts by a handful of dollars. So he decides to get his own back and teach them a lesson....violently. In steps Chang, a Chinese man mountain detective and his sidekick Nelson, an autistic crime analyst, and the chase begins.

Organised into fifty-odd short sharp chapters, this rattles on at a fair pace and is a good, snappy read. Okay so it's formula writing, but so what. Sometimes you want to pick up a book and know exactly what you're going to get and enjoy it just for that alone, like wearing a favourite old coat. By introducing intriguing, awkward characters into his book J. Gregory Smith has successfully added extra dimensions to the formula and it works a treat. It's also entertaining to get the perpetrators view of things first hand, even slightly sympathising with him at some points, and to see also he is not the cold, perfect, well organised serial killer we like to imagine such criminals to be, but a rather more bumbling, opportunist and actually human loser that makes him uncomfortably at times, more than a little understandable.

Having said that J. Gregory Smith doesn't let too much cod psychology, navel gazing or literary pretension get in the way of his driving narrative, and he never loses sight of the fact he has a tale to tell...and a very well told, if slightly predictable one, it is too.
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Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )|Verified Purchase
Paul Chang is a Chinese American homicide detective, who has left New York to live in Wilmington, Delaware, for reasons which unfold during the novel. Nelson Rogers is Changs old partner, who also relocated to Delaware, and is bored in a new office role. The two reunite to chase a serial killer who is murdering his annoying customers. In a way, this novel reminded me of another book I enjoyed recently, which also had a similar plot: The Craigslist Murders (Melville International Crime). Like that novel, in this story the murderer is not a secret to us, and we see the story from his viewpoint as well as from Chang's.

I thought this was a very well written debut, with Chang and Rogers a likeable pair, who I hope reunite in future novels. I thought the scenes in which the murderer chose his next victims were especially well done and, as the violence escalated, the story became a race against time - with Chang battling not only the murderer, but his superiors. Enjoyed this very much and will certainly look out for more from J. Gregory Smith.
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Shamus a high flying car salesman knows all the tricks , but some customers are so unreasonable that they need special treatment . This is not a "who dunnit". We know that from the outset. More a "can they catch him". The well crafted descriptions of Shamus's negotiations with the most outrageous time wasters led me to believe , I regret to say , that they deserved a good killing and indeed that is what they got.
Paul Chang aided by his sidekick Nelson is put in charge of the case . They have "baggage" from their past and have been sideways promoted to the sticks. They also have their own problems which the author enlarges on nicely without detracting from the pace of the chase.
Lots of suspense, lots of action and a fair amount of humour. This is a good , lighthearted murder thriller.
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on 15 November 2011
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I think many of us can feel a certain empathy for Shamus Ryan especially when despite our best efforts, and no little time and trouble, we are fobbed off with a farago of lies. Still, would we resort to murder? think.
And, who cannot feel sympathy for those among us having to fight tooth-and-nail to justify some very necessary course of action in the face of obdurate stupidity from some self-interested and less than astute jobsworth and/or glib P.C. smooth-talker.

Unfortunately for Paul Chang and his 'unofficial' partner, and fortunately for our villain this is the scenario in Wilmington P.D. Colleagues seem more interested in seeing our flawed hero receive his commeuppance than catching the killer. Unlike detective Chang I was mystified by our serial-killer's constant changes of M.O. Indeed I thought I'd encountered a killer with A.D.H.D. but that's probably what happens when your grandmother lives(?) in the fridge.

The breakneck pace is partially achieved through a high-octane combination of short paragraphs and very short chapters, also the impression that no-one in Wilmington appears to drive anywhere at anything less than full throttle, nevertheless I found the story diverting if less than totally satisfying (This, unfortunately, is something that it shares with the Audiobook version of 'Poodle Springs' in my opinion)

Poodle Springs
 Poodle Springs
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VINE VOICEon 8 October 2011
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Paul Chang, a 6foot four inch Chinese -American detective has his own ways of doing things , ways that are sometimes frowned on by his superiors. He is a homicide detective with the local police in a small city in Delaware. He transferred there from New York and is struggling with the way life and crime in what seems like a small town to him , is taking place .He is a great creation by the author and we also learn in the course of the book that he has a friend who is a neurotic but very clever and astute genius . He too came from New York . Very soon the duo are drawn into the hunt for a killer and we see both the criminal's and the detective's side of the case. There are a lot of gory details and Shamus Ryan the killer and local car dealer is sometimes seen as a person who you would side with as his victims seem to deserve what happens to them , being mainly time wasting car buyers .Final PriceFinal Price At times I hoped he would get away ! That is until you get into Chang's mind , then I was rooting for him to catch the sadistic s.o.b .
This is a finely written and imaginative book and the ending gives us hope that there will be more of Chang and his sidekick Nelson Rogers . I really enjoyed the book and look forward to meeting the tall Chinese detective again soon . Highly recommended and a real page-turner .
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VINE VOICEon 27 November 2011
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This book is different from the usual thrillers I read in that the killer is known from the start. As others have said, the amusing encounters of the salesman with his potential customers certainly ratchet up the frustration he feels and after a short time I found myself sympathising with him to an extent. When the murders are mounting up it's strange to find yourself thinking 'stop pushing so hard because you'll regret it'. Certainly the latter victims are totally unsympathetic characters encouraging an emotional link to the killer ... until the brutality really ramps up.
I quite liked the detective character and his partner even more so. As is usual these days, they have their quirks, history and dark drives. Also familiar is the senior officer obstructing the pair who you instantly know will ignore or skirt the missives from on high.
All in all a quick read with escalating levels of violence, re-establishment of relationships and a pair of detectives written and set for a series I think. Would I follow any future series though? On this outing, I'm afraid not.
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VINE VOICEon 7 October 2011
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
As some other reviewers have noted, it's hardly an original concept to have an American detective (and in this case his partner) with demons and a backstory and yet it would be churlish to dismiss a book purely on that basis. After all, detective fiction has been going on a long time and as someone who thinks that it's not been bettered since the days of Sherlock Holmes I wouldn't suggest that everything else since has been without merit.

This isn't a "whodunit" as we learn fairly early on that it's car salesman Shamus Ryan responsible for the murders (and they do pile up) and as we get chapters from his narrative point of view we know exactly why he commits his crimes.

What makes it enjoyable is that Paul Chang and Nelson Rogers (which may or may not be a nod to Prince, but either way it raised a smile for me) are a likable pair, even with their foibles, and you really are willing them on against all the odds that they face.

Written in short, snappy chapters with changing viewpoints, Final Price is far from a "classic" but it is a well written and enjoyable detective story that is well worth a read.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 29 August 2011
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The United States of America may have a lot of police officers and detectives on the payroll but it seems every one has some form of past or demons that follow them around. With his former partner taken on board behind his bosses back, Paul Chang, a Chinese-American detective on the end of many a racist remark, is shoved out of New York to Wilmington, Delaware because of a kidnapping investigation that went wrong is on the trail of a killer whom has a propensity to leave his first few victims covered in groceries. More cereal than serial killer.

That the reader knows who the perpetrator is makes J. Gregory Smith's re-published venture into the crime genre more of a `how-they-going-to-catch-him' than a `whodunit'. (This was originally self-published.) It's not a spoiler to reveal the villain, Shamus Ryan, is a car salesman, and those who are in the business of selling will be able to relate to rude, obnoxious and frustrating customers that Ryan comes into contact with. Fortunately, unlike him, we're all able to shrug our shoulders and get on with it. Mind you, that he had a weird grandmother didn't help his state of mind. In fact, it's reading what Ryan has to contend with that generates some sympathy - especially the couple who, after messing him around all day, go to another dealer in town and save $28!

Though he does appear to be over reliant on the use of staccato sentences at times, and despite it flagging in a couple of places, the author manages to keep the story flowing through two different viewpoints. Will the killer slip up and tell us the mistakes he's made and will those chasing him realise? Each of the 55 chapters has its own sub-title, and many have a time and location so you know where the story is taking place, but some of these are only two pages in length. Having read this, I can imagine it as a midnight B-movie. Not the best crime/thriller you'll read but an interesting choice nonetheless.
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Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Final Price is published under the Amazon Encore programme, the stated aim of which is to identify books which may have been self published or published by a small publisher, but which are worthy of a much wider audience. This was originally self published and it is easy to see why it qualified for this programme. Police investigatory mysteries have been done to death from every angle so that it is difficult for anyone to come up with something different, but this one certainly is different.

The plot concerns the frustrations of a car salesman, and the author must understand this well as apparently he had to deal with some very difficult customers in a former life. However, whereas most people would stew in silence about the totally unreasonable behavior of some of their time wasting customers, Seamus Ryan takes affirmative action and goes after the worst of them. The story is told from the point of view of Paul Chang, a Chinese American detective who is assisted by his odd associate, Nelson, and also from the point of view of the serial killer.

It is hard to take this book totally seriously as the main characters range from eccentric to totally bizarre. Seamus is clearly psychotic and appears to be driven by communing with his dead grandmother's ashes which he keeps in the freezer. Chang who, at 6 foot 4 is huge by Chinese standards, has to keep 'the dragon' under control and in its cage - in this case the dragon is a metaphor for his temper rather than being used in a drug related sense and Nelson is, well, just very odd.

There is no mystery as to the identity of the killer as this is revealed almost from the word go so the story is really about how Chang investigates the crimes. The link between the victims is so obvious and the perpetrator leaves so much evidence at the crime scenes that even the most dimwitted policeman could be expected to latch on before very long so there are no huge insights or leaps of imagination in cracking the case.

Not usually something I would mention, but the title of the book is quite clever. One of Seamus' more tedious customers kept insisting on getting the 'Final Price' for the car he was negotiating for. Of course, what he and a number of the others really did pay was the 'Final Price' which was a lot more than they bargained for when Seamus goes after them.

So to summarise, this is quite an entertaining book and very easy reading. It is also short so most readers will get through it very quickly. It is certainly not a serious crime mystery where the answers are gradually teased out and tension is high. Highly recommended, particularly for all salesmen who will undoubtedly identify with Seamus' motives if not his actions!
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VINE VOICEon 10 July 2012
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Reading the blurb for Final Price, I was struck by two things. Firstly, I thought that this book would focus predominantly on a man slowly going insane until he snaps, and then the ensuing police investigation. I was wrong. Instead, Final Price begins after the antagonist, Shamus Ryan, has already snapped; the narrative flits between the perspectives of Ryan and his pursuers, but does still provide the psychological exploration of Ryan's motives that I desired. The second thing I noticed was just how clichéd the investigators sounded - any character description that includes the words detective and neurotic instantly sets alarm bells ringing. And yes, the detective characters are largely clichéd - Chang, the out of place, fiery, big-time-cop-now-working-in-a-smaller town, has been seen a million times, and Nelson Rogers, the neurotic cop coming off a breakdown, is about as frequent too. However, the portrayal of these personality points by the author does allow the cliché to be largely overlooked.

Final Price is told in a series of short chapters, rapidly flitting between Chang, the main protagonist, and Shamus Ryan, the main antagonist, as their lead. This not only serves to move the plot forward at a brisk pace (admittedly helped by the large number of murders that spatter the narrative) but also to allow both characters' backstories to be explored and psyches to be examined. For me in a book, plot and character development are equally important, and it is the mark of a skilled writer to be able to do both at the same time. Thankfully, J. Smith is a skilled writer. Whether it's whilst investigating a crime scene, or discussing things with his partner/friend, Chang's personality is constantly being built upon and developed. Equally for Ryan, whether conducting a car deal or breaking into a house (or something altogether more grisly), his motives and state of mind are being expanded upon and examined.

Where the author really excels, however, is in not patronising the reader. It is a pitfall of far too many thriller writers to tell their audience what to think. J Gregory Smith, in contrast, presents the facts and viewpoints to the reader, and leaves them to deduce the links. It is a real credit to the author that this never seems tiresome or unnecessary, as well as demonstrating his confidence in the strength of his characters and their portrayal. And this confidence isn't misplaced - it's rare that I actually find myself rooting for the heroes in a novel (what can I say, I find bad guys more interesting), but in Final Price the author does manage to inject an urgency into proceedings, particularly toward the book's conclusion.

In concluding, this is a novel of clichéd characters - aside from Chang's Asian heritage and its effects - that is still very enjoyable. By no means has J Gregory Smith rewritten the rulebook on this one, but he has introduced three interesting characters backed by a well-paced fast moving plot that adds together to produce a great read. In choosing to mainstream publish Final Price, Amazon Encore have given their stamp of approval to Smith's work, and I for one agree with their decision. This is a worthwhile read, with interesting characters. And I have since ordered its sequel.
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