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STARRED REVIEW - november 2015

Brack Pelton, an Afghanistan vet and owner of a Charleston, SC, bar, intervenes when a man tries to abduct a young woman and her little sister in the parking lot. The woman is shot, and Brack is compelled to find her murderer. With the help of Brother Thomas, pastor of the Church of Redemption, and his Marine friend, Mutt, Brack gains access to the African American community in south Charleston. As he investigates, Brack's liquor license is suspended by the state and Mutt's bar is firebombed. Someone doesn't want the truth coming out. VERDICT Brack is angry at the world, and taking risks is the only way he can appease his discontent. He wants to be a better man, but his rage is easy to ignite. His second outing (after Southern Heat) continues this series's page-turning excellence. Readers can feel the low-country humidity.

library journal review of southern heat

Starred Review - February 2014

Troubled Brack Pelton, a young widower and ex-Marine recently back from his Afghanistan stint, is mostly guided by self-preservation. When Reggie Sails, his beloved, crusty bar-owning uncle, is shot and killed in a Charleston, SC, alley, Brack captures only Reggie's puzzling final words. His uncle left him clues here and there, and Brack attempts to assemble a fuller picture of the man's dealings. Mysteriously, Reggie had been working with an informant who fed him documents about an environmental cover-up in the region. Brack meets with him, but, soon after, the informant is killed. Fighting back, Brack assembles an unlikely team ranging from Reggie's high-society ex-wife, a gutsy newspaper reporter, and a minister with valuable connections. But the villains have no moral compass, and everyone on Brack's side is vulnerable. Brack must fire up his Marine training and power through. VERDICT Hop on board for a hard-edged debut that's fully loaded with car chases (particularly Mustangs), war veterans, old grudges, and abundant greed. A choppy start belies a well-executed plotline enhanced by the atmospheric Palmetto State setting.

KIRKUS REVIEW of southern heat

An emotionally wounded war veteran finds new purpose in a search for his uncle’s killer.

After former dirt-track racer Brack Pelton lost his wife to cancer, he nearly followed her, first by drinking too much and then by volunteering for suicide missions as a Marine in Afghanistan. Now that he’s home in South Carolina again, with only a dog for company, he’s about to meet his uncle Reggie when he hears shots and finds Reggie bleeding in an alley. As his uncle is dying in his arms, Brack hears him whisper, “Ray...Ray shot me.” This sends Brack on a quest that takes him from Charleston’s most fashionable houses to its seediest shacks. He discovers that, as Reggie’s heir, not only does he own a waterfront dive, a sizable piece of highly desirable property and stashes of money hidden in crab pots, but he also has more friends than he thought. Reggie’s ex-wife Patricia Voyels, who is also the owner of the local news station, and her star reporter, Darcy Wells, as well as the Rev. Thomas Brown and a lawyer who served in Vietnam with Reggie all help Brack pursue a convoluted case of corporate greed and misused federal funds. Although one suspect is far from surprising, Brack isn’t alone when he’s nearly blindsided by the ending of this solid debut.

Burnsworth’s choppy storytelling is even less polished than his hero. But the people and the puzzle keep you reading and wanting more.


A South Carolina veteran who recently brought his uncle’s killer to justice has another murder to solve.

Brack Pelton lost his wife to cancer. Although he nursed a death wish in Afghanistan, he’s inherited his uncle’s bar on the Isle of Palm near Charleston, and his life has recently been improved by the friends he made while investigating his uncle’s murder. New trouble finds him when he walks out of his friend Mutt’s decrepit bar to find a man attacking a woman named Willa Mae with a little girl in tow. Brack knocks the assailant down, but he rises with gun blazing and shoots Willa Mae. Shaken, Brack calls his friend pastor Brother Thomas, who arrives to claim little Aphisha just before the police arrive. His determination to find Willa Mae's killer may be the least of Brack’s problems, because a politically powerful family bent on putting his bar out of business manages to get his liquor license at least temporarily suspended. Brack’s also distracted by another friend from his uncle’s case, stunning TV reporter and investigative journalist Darcy Wells. There’s definitely a spark between them, but Darcy’s engaged to a professional student, though she seems in no hurry to set a date. Along with attractive Detective Rosalita Warrez, they start digging into a dangerous world of drug dealing, prostitution, and political skulduggery. As they maneuver against a slick professional killer, they’re forced to use every trick in their arsenal.

This second case for Brack (Southern Heat, 2014) is marked by a challenging mystery, quirky characters, and nonstop action.