Empty Promises
by Nick Shepherd
Dorrance Publishing

"The continued improvement of his health was easy; adjusting to his new name was not."

Miguel Perez is a tennis pro at a country club who devises a plan to fuel his cocaine habit by dealing the drug to the mothers of his students. He meets Harry Edison one night when delivering Edison's son, Steve, home after he becomes too drunk to drive. The elder Edison—rich, powerful, and forceful—tells Miguel on this fateful night, "I am your future." When the head of a local drug smuggling ring, Dr. Mortello, hears of Miguel's side business selling cocaine, he sends a couple of his henchmen to attack him and deliver a warning: stop or face worse consequences. Miguel has connections of his own and calls on his brother, Eduardo, who is himself a member of a Mexican cartel, to help him deal with the situation. However, Eduardo gravely underestimates the reach of Mortello. Steve is killed, and Miguel is badly injured outside the gates of the Edison mansion. It is evident that Mortello will continue coming after Miguel as long as he lives. Thus begins Miguel's new life as the privileged Tony Martinelli, surrogate son of Harry Edison and newest employee of Edison's company, Madison Investments.

The book also follows the growing relationship between Peter Augsbury and Abby Mortimer. Abby is mourning the death of her fiancé, Tony, while Peter has recently lost his wife and unborn child. Strange and dangerous occurrences in Abby's life lead Peter to suspect that Tony is somehow connected to these events. In fact, as Peter investigates Tony, he discovers many unsavory facts about him and becomes convinced that Tony had never been honest with Abby about his life. Peter is filled with questions. Is it possible that Tony is not dead? Did Abby know about his cocaine habit? Is there a connection between Tony and Harry Edison? Could he have misjudged the woman he loves? But Peter is determined to find answers and soon becomes embroiled in the mystery of Tony Martinelli.

This action-packed, fast-paced novel takes readers on an adventure that entails murder, corporate fraud, drug trafficking, and kidnapping. The author does a wonderful job of keeping characters, timelines, and plots consistent as chapters jump between past and present in this multi-dimensional crime novel. Shephard's descriptive language and well-rounded characters make this an enjoyable read. The writing is crisp and fresh, and the shifts between past and present are smooth and easy to follow. There are plot twists that completely catch the reader off-guard, which is always a plus in crime drama. From high-speed chases to throat-catching fear, the dramatic tension is at times palpable. There are a few truly monstrous characters in this book and, on occasion, extreme violence. Of course, this is understandable in a book that examines the theme of good vs. evil. Though a few of this drama's cast members are definitively evil and others downright angelic compared to them, Tony Martinelli's character encompasses the human capacity to act both benevolently and malevolently within one's life.

Shepherd's novel captures the reader's attention from page one and keeps it throughout. Fans of crime fiction will find a winner in this intriguing romp through the worlds of Wall Street, addiction, and Mexican and American drug cartels. The romantic aspect of the story helps break up the heaviness of these criminal elements within the novel. It is a memorable read with plenty of entertainment value.

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