“No Good Son” by J.L. Vaughan
Kindle edition, 211 pages
Published Dec. 31, 2015
I started this book with an open mind. The synopsis seemed intriguing enough.
A former thief (the term “thief” is a gross understatement) named Mike comes out of hiding after making a promise to set things right and pay for his sins. He’s drawn back into his nefarious past as he tries to convince his partner-in-crime – his older brother, Jarrod – that what they’ve been doing is wrong. But does Jarrod want to be saved from a lifestyle of theft and destruction?
Meanwhile, Mike quickly falls for a spunky barista, knowing the past he is trying to leave behind could put her life in jeopardy.
Mike is talked into helping Jarrod and the third member of their crime team, Nathan, with one more job involving one of Seattle’s most notorious families. But Mike comes up with a plan of his own, and everything goes haywire.
I wanted to like this book. And I appreciated certain aspects of it. Redemption is a huge theme throughout, and the irony of Mike trying to set things right while participating in yet another criminal act – thinking he can rescue his brother in the process – is really interesting. He attempts, or at least considers, turning himself in to the authorities so many times it becomes kind of humorous. Try as he might, the poor guy just can’t seem to get busted.
That being said, the action all takes place in a matter of two days. I know events have to be accelerated a bit in such a short time fram, and maybe I’m being overly skeptical (yeah, I know, it’s fiction) but I found it a bit ridiculous that Mike’s love interest Elizabeth is so quickly drawn into his world. She almost felt shoehorned into the story in order for the author to add a romantic element.
Another reviewer wrote about how she got to the point where she was skimming through the book because it went off the rails. I can almost pinpoint the moment when that happened for me – never mind the fact that fast cars and what they can do is discussed ad nauseum. (Pardon the stereotype, but this is such a guy book.)
Jarrod’s long-winded story of how he, Mike and Nathan began their life of crime had me rolling my eyes so many times I thought they’d get stuck in the back of my head. I can tell the author really loves writing fight scenes, because he goes into a gratuitous amount of detail about who hit whom, how much blood was shed, etc. If I hadn’t been reading it on my cell phone, I probably would have thrown this book across the room several times. Tone it down, dude! We don’t need a play-by-play every time someone gets jumped.
I liked what the author was going for as he wrapped up the story, with Mike still trying to make amends, and how there’s an element of mystery about his past right up until the last couple of pages. It read a bit like a cheesy Hallmark movie script, but I’ll allow it.
Overall, this book has good bones. I just think it needed a lot of slash-and-burn editing. As a journalist, I’ve been trained to the point where creative writing isn’t as fun for me as it once was. But Vaughan crosses the line into being overly descriptive. I’m not stupid; I can fill in some sensory details on my own. Just set the scene and get on with it.
Trim down some of the B.S. and I might give “No Good Son” at least 3 stars instead of 2.
I received an ebook of “No Good Son” from the author, in exchange for an honest review.
About the author
J.L. Vaughan grew up in a Christian home in a small farm town in Eastern Washington
State; the son of a school teacher and small business owner. After finishing his college education in North Dakota he took on a career in aviation.
He finished his first novel while living under the backdrop of Washington State’s Olympic Peninsula. J.L.’s latest novel takes place under the gray skies of the Seattle area. J.L. lives in Washington State and spends most of his free time out enjoying those still unpopulated places of the Pacific Northwest.