3 out of 4 stars
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The Black Kiss of Death by Keon Smith is a crime thriller about drug dealers and the criminal underworld, Book 1 of The Montega Chronicles. Salideen, a half-black, half-Saudi arms dealer supplies weaponry to Cuban drug lord Diego Elcano. Meanwhile, on the docks of Los Angeles, Charles White and his crew wait for the Russian Mafia to arrive with two kilograms of cocaine they plan to buy. When the deal sours, just as White has planned, he takes Russian mob boss Zelinski home, steals from his personal safe and kills his wife.
Heading to Las Vegas to launder half the money, White happens across Salideen and his beautiful wife Brenda. White sleeps with Brenda while Sal is sleeping off his exhaustion in his hotel room. Sal later puts White in contact with Verningo Castor, a Colombian drug lord, to buy cocaine with the other half of Zelinski's stolen money. White meets Castor's stunning daughter, Pearl, and they later run away together to get married. Unfortunately, Castor has already promised his daughter to Diego Elcano. With Sal and Elcano already close business associates and Sal also working with White, things are about to get interesting...
This book is nicely presented, with some great fonts used for the title page, chapter headings, and leading characters. The writing is of high quality right from the start, with strong sentence construction, decent word choice, and solid description. There is some great punchy writing, such as: "...one of his men opened up on the Russians with an assault rifle and chopped them down like lumber." The dialogue from gang members is excellent, sounding truly authentic all the way through.
The world into which Smith carries his reader is rich with appropriate detail, such as the high-quality clothes worn by the drug dealers and the accessories they carry. This adds extra realism in tandem with the great dialogue, plus the sex and violence inherent in the criminal underworld. There are violent scenes of murder and retribution as you would expect in the seedy world of drug dealers. A lot of sudden deaths come out of nowhere, a real shock, as they no doubt would in the real world.
There is plenty of sex in this book, which makes sense with the amounts of money and drugs involved. The only possible negative is that Smith writes sex scenes - and describes women's bodies - from an extremely male-oriented perspective. For example: "Her robe flew open, exposing her goodies." This and other similar description fits the tone of the story but still seems a little coarse and sexist. However, I applaud the realism and the fact that these depictions suit the gritty "gangster" feel of the rest of the book. For this reason, I feel this book targets a male audience more than a female one.
The errors in this book are minor, such as missing or misplaced punctuation or an occasional misspelled word. I found a few items of description slightly "off", but I feel an editor might reword these as well as proofreading to fix the errors. One example is: "Six stories down, Philip's body went splat like a bag of spaghetti sauce." While I like the simile, the phrase "went splat" is a little cartoonish, and could be replaced with "split" or "exploded". Another is: "Without hesitation two shots were fired, killing them dead." Here, it would be enough to simply say "killing them".
Though it has its faults, I was really impressed by this book's gritty and realistic portrayal of the seedy criminal underworld of the large-scale drug dealer. With an edit, I believe it would be worth 4 stars. At present, I rate The Black Kiss of Death 3 out of 4 stars. It is a powerful crime novel which I would recommend to any crime fan who is undeterred by plenty of sex and violence.
The Black Kiss Of Death
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