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by Phoef Sutton
Prospect Park Books, December 2017
300 pages
ISBN: 1945551143

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Caleb Rush (aka Crush, all 6' 5", 230 pounds of him) finds himself involved in his ex-stepfamily, when K.C. Zerbe, his stepbrother, begs to complete his probation house arrest at Crush's loft, rather than at home with his parents. Zerbe had been Crush's best friend during the one year he was a member of the Zerbe family, after his mother Toni married Emil, the father and one of the biggest builders in LA.

Crush was the 16-year-old son of a Mafioso in New York City, but he and his mother ran off to LA to escape Caleb's becoming his father's go-to runner. They lived a hand-to-mouth existence, with Toni on the lookout for a good chance but mostly coming up empty. Until she found Emil Zerbe, that is. The Zerbe children did not take to Crush, another hell that he found himself in. But it only lasted a year before he and Mom were out on the streets again.

It is seventeen years later, and as we learned in the first two in the Crush series, Caleb has found his feet, after a stint in Iraq where he won a Purple Heart. He has become a very respected bodyguard who protects his neighborhood like a mother bear. He is, however, socially very immature, and no wonder, given his bringing up. His sidekick is his Tai Kwon Do sensei Gail, beautiful and smart, but Crush does not take romantic chances. In fact, he is quite a recluse until Zerbe moves in with him, ankle bracelet and all.

Zerbe does escape, but not before killing his abductor. Now all the Zerbes are in danger: the kids, Angela, with whom Crush had a brief hook-up sixteen years ago, and Noel, who is delusional and paranoid about everything including his family; Samantha, his mother's replacement as wife; and the heartless Emil who thinks the kidnapping is just a bluff.

The plot turns on the disappearance of Renee, a Zerbe cousin who disappeared sixteen years ago, and the building of the bullet train from LA to San Francisco, Emil's legacy dream.

Sutton started with a kid, Caleb Rush, in his first in the series, and now two novels later, Crush is in his early thirties. He is coming out of his shell. He might even ask a girl for a date. Who knows? Crush's fans wait in anticipation for #4 in the series. Get to it, Phoef Sutton!

Susan Hoover is a playwright, independent producer and retired college English teacher. She lives in Nova Scotia.

Reviewed by Susan Hoover, October 2017

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