The Hoodlum Army by Elizabeth Roderick

Genre: contemporary heist
Format read: ebook
CW: racist language, sexist language.
Rep: Hispanic, LGBT+, autism, fat rep, mental health rep
Rating: planchet

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review

When I first heard this book pitched as “A gender-bent LGBT Robin Hood retelling” I knew I needed to get my hands on it.

Robin and Maryanne have a chance encounter at a bank–a bank they are both trying to hold up at the same time. Through a comedy of errors, they end up making a get away together, and decide to team up in a string of heists. Robin hopes to get enough money to buy back her parents’ farm, which has been foreclosed on by a predatory bank. Maryanne wants to open up an enrichment program to teach kids life skills.

What they’d hoped would be a straightforward robbery or two quickly spins out of control. They aren’t getting cash fast enough, and with Maryanne’s cop ex and two corrupt FBI agents on their tail, they need help. Assembling a motley crew of accomplices, they lay low while preparing the scam of the century on the wold’s biggest wealthy asshole: Larry Lemon.

I really wanted to love this book so much. I love gender bent queer retellings. But I had a hard time getting into this book.

While it’s billed as a romance, there was very little tension. Robin’s attraction to Maryanne is extremely one sided until the very end of the book, when all of the characters conveniently pair off.

I found the characters to be more like caricatures, particularly the bad guys. They couldn’t have been more obvious if a spotlight had been shined on them from space. I would say they were completely unrealistic, but considering Lemon is clearly based on the orangutan in the White House, I guess I can’t really say that.

Our two leads hardly even had roles in the final scam, which involved no face-to-face with the “Prince John” they were trying to dupe.

Additionally, their schemes were poorly thought out. They left evidence all over the place, and handed out their stolen cash like candy. Apparently, in this world, serial numbers aren’t tracked. It really just underscores how incompetent the law enforcement officers are, particularly the corrupt FBI agents. They would have been fired long before they were assigned to the case if they were that bad at their jobs.

All in all, I just feel like the entire book could have gone further than it did. I had more empathy for the side characters than the leads, and it left me feeling disappointed.

Osgood as Gone by Cooper S. Beckett

Genre: mystery
Secondary genre: paranormal
Series: The Spectral Inspector vol 1
Format read: ebook
Content warnings: alcohol and RX abuse
Positive rep: LGBTQIA, polyamory, POC (SE Asian)
Rating: planchet-3

I received an ARC of this book in exchanged for an honest review.

Prudence Osgood has had it rough. A car accident left her with chronic back pain and debilitating headaches. Her ambition and willingness to please her old boss destroyed her hopes of having her own ghost-hunting television show–not to mention her relationship with her co-host and then girlfriend. To top it off, her polyamorous relationship with a married couple has hit a wall, leaving her shut out.

All this to say that most of her time is spent laying on the floor in varying states of not-sober, while her podcast, the Spectral Inspector, languishes in the bowels of the internet.

That all changes with a mysterious text message. After enlisting her tech-expert best friend, she tries to track down the unknown sender and decipher the cryptic message.

What she finds sends her on a mythical quest into ’90s rock music, a series of missing persons cases, and a reunion with Catherine Frost, her former co-host and ex. They’ll have to put aside their differences if they want to bring the missing home–including Catherine’s sister. Or stop the end of the world.

This book starts out as a hard-boiled detective novel, then delves into 90s nostalgia, music fandom, and finally takes a sharp left into Cthullhu-esque mythos.

I enjoyed all aspects of this book, though I do wish the supernatural had been sprinkled throughout the book, rather than just exploding at the end. It’s hinted at through Osgood’s dreams, but when I picked up the book I was expecting more of a ghost story than an end-of-the-world, old gods bent on destruction kind of story.

Still, I really loved the layering of the clues though music and hidden messages, and the chemistry and tension between the characters. If you’re looking for an indie book in the vein of Meddling Kids, then this is a good one to pick up.