Horseplay – Norm Boucher

Horseplay: My Time Undercover on the Granville Strip
by Norm Boucher
Edmond Gagnon‘s review May 05, 2021 

For his first true crime novel, I think retired police officer Norm Boucher hits the nail right on the head in recalling and writing about his personal experiences while working undercover in one of the worst heroin neighborhoods in Canada.

Being a retired police officer, with some experience working in narcotics, I was impressed how the rookie author checked all the boxes in putting together a book that gives an unadulterated view of what life is really like on the street within the heroin subculture.

Horseplay takes readers into the underbelly of society, revealing what went on behind the scenes in the early 80’s, in one particular area in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Trafficking Chen by Edmond Gagnon

My Latest Novel – Available June 1st or by Pre-order

10 books in less than 10 years. (I pat myself on the back) My latest novel, Trafficking Chen, takes readers back to Norm Strom’s working days in Street Crimes. The Detective tries to balance his personal struggles with the demands of his job.

Here is the introduction:

Human Trafficking has affected countries across the world for centuries, and continues to do so today. There are countless victims.

Trafficking Chen is the heartfelt story of one victim, Chen, a young Chinese girl taken from her family home in settlement of her father’s outstanding gambling debt. Forced into slave labor by a powerful Chinese Triad, she becomes a servant to the rich.

Chen comes of age, and must serve using her own body to satisfy her master’s sexual appetite. She becomes a prostitute and is shuffled around her own country. Eventually the Triad ships her and others like her, overseas, to Canada.  There she is sexually exploited and put to work as an exotic dancer in their chain of strip clubs.

Street Crimes Detective Norm Strom mostly investigates property-related crime, but he receives a tip from a confidential informant about illegal Asian women dancing at a local club. While trying to handle his personal issues, Strom joins a task force investigating possible human trafficking in his city.

Early Reviews:

You know those old View Master reels? You put one in the device and peer in . . . It’s a scene. You look closely and become involved with the subject. You don’t want to leave but you are compelled to click down and rotate the reel to the next image. It is related, but different and again so interesting! And so it goes, every click a new exciting scene. Trafficking Chen is like that. A story that dares you to turn the page – but you can’t look away from this engaging narrative of dark events that are written from a whiskey-tinged razor-sharp voice of experience. Real cops, real victims, real bad guys intertwined in a race that will keep you powering through. Enjoy the views! Kay T.

In his latest Norm Strom Crime novel, Trafficking Chen, author Ed Gagnon continues his winning streak of in-depth storytelling and intrigue. As a former Police Detective, Gagnon’s books offer readers an authentic insider’s view of how every day crimes – robbery, vice crimes, etc. – are committed, but more importantly, how they are solved. For fans of the main character, Det. Norm Strom, they will get a dose of reality, as his crumbling private life starts to impede his professional judgment when he begins to investigate a human trafficking case involving a local strip club. A parallel storyline shows the struggles and courage of a young 14-year-old girl, Chen Shen, who is violently taken from her Shanghai home and forced into prostitution, which leads her half way around the world to Canada . . . and onto Det. Strom’s radar.

John Schlarbaum – Author of “Abandoned -A Jennifer Malone Mystery”

Final Justice – W.E.B. Griffin

Final Justice
by W.E.B. Griffin
Edmond Gagnon‘s review Apr 30, 2021  


I had to check other reviews for this one to find out if wasn’t just me that thought it sucked. Not even sure if it was deserving of one star, I was only able to trudge my way through fifty pages. The only thing I garnered from that read was who the protagonist was.


The book is just over 500 pages, with very small font, and could have easily been less than half that. Call me silly, but I really don’t need to know things like the history of a police car or every little detail of the police department, including ranks, numbers, descriptions, etc.


I’ve complained about fluff in other novels, and haven’t read this author before, but my best description is that it is a plethora of useless facts and information that totally distract from the story – if you can figure out what exactly that is.

Edge of Danger – Jack Higgins

Edge of Danger (Sean Dillon, #9)
by Jack Higgins
Edmond Gagnon‘s review Apr 28, 2021 


I find it strange how Jack Higgins took a perfectly good thriller and turned it into a lack-luster story that was barely worth the three stars I gave it.
I struggled through the first half of the book, trying to figure out what was bothering me so much, and I came up with a few things.
The characters all seem to be rich, drink only champagne no matter the occasion, and lack any type of empathy or emotion throughout the story.
Those same characters lack description, thus giving the impression they all look the same and are cut from the same cloth.
Even the action scenes were dull.
I’ve read two other Higgins novels and have now been disappointed twice.

The Summons – John Grisham

The Summons
by John Grisham (Goodreads Author)
Edmond Gagnon‘s review Apr 23, 2021 


I was anxious to try some different Grisham novels after scoring a handful at a local store that’s going out of business. The story is not about any of the author’s usual characters, but the intro made it sound interesting.


It’s about an old judge who dies and leaves a secret behind, something to trouble his only surviving heirs, his two sons. The plot dragged from the beginning and was a much slower read than I am used to. I skimmed through the fluff, waiting for something useful to happen.


The main character is a law professor – his quirks bolstered my opinion of such academics, who may be smarter than the average bear, but have no street smarts and lack common sense.


But I forged ahead, hoping our protagonist would wizen up.
It never happened, making the ending predictable and in my opinion, a let down. I can’t call it a happy or sad ending and perhaps that’s exactly what it’s meant to be.

Rogue Lawyer – John Grisham

Rogue Lawyer (Rogue Lawyer, #1)
by John Grisham (Goodreads Author)
Edmond Gagnon‘s review Apr 11, 2021 

John Grishams’s done it again…gone and proved he can create a totally new character, base the next series on him, and write a great story. The prolific author introduces us to Sebastian Rudd, a street litigator who is even more gritty than the Lincoln Lawyer.
The Rogue Lawyer is done a bit different than Grisham’s other courtroom dramas, in that it contains five parts, with different clients and their individual stories, giving readers perspectives from both the innocent and guilty.
Like Mickey Haller, Rudd uses his vehicle for an office, but for different reasons. He represents the lowest of the low, whom no one else will take on as clients, thus making him very unpopular. I don’t give five star ratings very often, but this book was a very good read and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The Equalizer With Queen Latifah

I’ve been biting my tongue since watching the latest reboot of The Equalizer, starring Queen Latifah. I can’t say I remember much about the original 1980 television series, starring Edward Woodward as Robert McCall, a retired CIA agent who spends his time helping desperate people in desperate situations.

The series was rebooted with movies in 2014 and 2018, starring Denzel Washington as McCall. The storyline was the same, and I thought Denzel was perfect for the role, one similar to the character he played in Man on Fire. When I heard of the new TV series coming out I was kind of hoping he would be continuing his role.

To say I was shocked and skeptical when I saw that Queen Latifah was given the role of Robyn McCall is an understatement. Queen Latifah. Really? McCall is now retired, but billed as the best agent the CIA ever had. The woman has to be near 300 pounds, with a caboose that barely makes it though doors. Watching her waddle pains me, trying to believe the fight scenes where camera tricks and edits make her look faster than Bruce Lee.

McCall also has a teenage daughter in this latest version, something else that totally contradicts what the CIA would look for in it’s operatives. But as we’ve always been led to believe, you’re never really out of the company. Perhaps this is why our new Equalizer still has access to professional computer hackers and an assortment of fancy weapons.

I have to admit I’m still watching the show, mostly because I like the storylines, but I wince every time I see Latifah faking an action scene. They don’t even try to make her look thinner or more like an action hero – she has a wardrobe that is very unflattering for a large female spy. I’m sorry but watching her in this role is like seeing Mr. Rogers as the next James Bond.

The Late Show – Michael Connelly

The Late Show (Renée Ballard, #1; Harry Bosch Universe, #29)
by Michael Connelly (Goodreads Author)
Edmond Gagnon‘s review Mar 24, 2021  


I really like Michael Connelly and the unique characters he’s created over the years to carry the stories in his crime novels. I wasn’t sure about his latest, Renee Ballard, at first, but grew to understand and eventually like the new crimefighter more as the plot unfolded.


LAPD Detective Ballard is no Harry Bosch, but she is a good cop with her own style, perhaps more representative of the newer breed of crime investigator. In ‘The Late Show’ Ballard is not only challenged by the serious cases that come her way, but she has to stand up for herself and fight to regain her good reputation that was sullied by a former boss.


The story is a bit slow at first, but the intrigue and action build at a good pace. The twist thrown in near the end completely took me by surprise.
I think Renee Ballard is a good addition to Connelly’s cast of characters.

The Cook’s Shop Redux

Where in Windsor can you find a restaurant with excellent food and service that’s been around for 40 years? The answer is the new old Cook’s Shop Restaurant. Spencer Dawson, took the reigns when the former owner retired from the business he started in 1980. The cozy dining room and Italian menu remain mostly the same, with a few minor changes to both. The old meat display case is gone but the natural stone walls and romantic setting remains the same.

The new owner introduced himself to Cathryn and I, taking the time to explain how he strived to keep fan-favorites on the menu, and brought in a few new recipes handed down by his grandmother. Her homemade bread was the first thing to knock our socks off – a sliced loaf that was crispy golden on the outside and a cornbread texture on the inside, served with a soft herb butter. The wine list covers all bases and quite reasonably priced.

We talked about Dawson’s idol, Lino, the previous owner, who just happened to grace us with his presence moments later. We were lucky enough to chat with both men and capture a few photos of the two most passionate restaurant owners I’ve ever met. Our Caesar salads were delivered on their departure from our table, the original recipe that Dawson said he had to retain in order to prevent a riot.

I forgot about the Escargot – large and tender snails served on a bed of mushrooms sautéed in garlic butter and served in phyllo pastry. We had time for another slice of bread before the salad. Our waiter, Moe, was Johnny-on-the-spot and never far from our table. I ordered the Spaghetti Carbonara, with double smoked bacon, and asked to have it on the creamy side. Yep, more sauce to soak up with the bread. It was one of the best pasta dishes I’ve ever had.

Cathryn ordered the Rack of Lamb, four thick portions stacked over a pea and mushroom risotto. Sitting on my hands was all I could do to resist snatching some while she was away from the table. It was juicy, tender, and cooked to perfection. Sadly, we couldn’t finish the last two pieces of bread. Our meals were quite generous in size.

Although we were both stuffed, I needed a pieced of cheesecake. They had two and I went for the salted caramel. Not too rich, it had the perfect combination of sweet and saltiness. We both loved every part of our meal and enjoyed the experience of meeting both the old and new regime. Giving the Cook’s Shop a 10 out of 10 was a no-brainer.

Watch for Dawson’s future plans, while he renovates the whole building, possibly adding another restaurant and living quarters above that.

The Wrong Road – Jack Bennett Sr.

I just finished reading, The Wrong Road – A Crime Story, the second book by fellow local author Jack Bennett Sr. More a short story or novella, Bennett weaves a tale of a young and impressionable man from Windsor, Jimmy Burns, who wants to become a somebody by hanging with the wrong crowd.

Burns figures the best way to impress the local stripper he’s taken a shine to, is by showering her with money that he doesn’t have. The solution to his dismal situation is to resort to crime in order to improve his cash flow. Burns soon learns that he’s being taken for a ride and decides to strike out on his own, continuing a cross-country crime spree.

The story finds Burns digging a deeper hole for himself, before he meets the woman who might actually help turn his life around.

The Wrong road is an interesting story and an easy read. I give it 3.5 stars out of 5. It is available locally through the author or at Story Tellers Book Store in Windsor.