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Final Price (A Paul Chang Mystery Book 1) [Kindle Edition]

J. Gregory Smith
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (92 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Wilmington, Delaware is one of those cities that feels more like a small town. Neighbors know one another, and businesses cater to the needs of the citizenry. But what happens when the local car salesman suffers one lost sale too many, when one more customer decides to buy from the competition because the price is too high, interest rates aren't friendly, or that shade of blue just won't work? In J. Gregory Smith's electrifying thriller, Final Price, Shamus Ryan's frustration works like a thorn under his skin until psychotic urges take over and he commits murder—serial murders, in fact—his victims chosen from prospective clients who dared to walk away. With Smith's chilling scenes of massacre, readers are pulled into the vortex of a warped mind, one man justifying heinous acts, and two detectives running a race against time, trying to solve seemingly random killings. Paul Chang, a Chinese-American homicide detective, is struggling to understand why these murders are taking place. Assisted by his neurotic partner, Nelson Rogers, Chang goes after the killer with logic, tenacity, and no small measure of fear.

Written from the perspectives of Detective Chang and Shamus Ryan, readers quickly find themselves seeing the world in unique—and often disturbing—ways they never expected. With dark humor and gritty suspense, Smith has crafted a refreshing and surprising thriller.

Editorial Reviews Review

Amazon Exclusive: John Burdett Reviews Final Price

John Burdett is the highly acclaimed author of three nationally bestselling thrillers (Bangkok 8, Bangkok Tattoo, and Bangkok Haunts) starring the incorruptible Sonchai Jitpleecheep, a Bangkok cop who has seen more than his share of corpses and thugs. He is also the author of The Last Six Million Seconds and The Godfather of Kathmandu. Read his exclusive guest review of J. Gregory Smith's Final Price:

I believe J. Gregory Smith knew two things when he sat down to write Final Price: it had to be a thriller; it had to be different. He has succeeded on both counts. The best of his innovations is that the narrative is binocular: we see the world through the eyes of Paul Chang, a Chinese-American detective, and Shamus Ryan, the car salesman. It is not so much a whodunit (although this question is a major driver at the beginning) as an eleventh hour rescue, where the outcome of the epic battle between Chang and Ryan is cleverly held in the balance.

One good idea does not, of course, make a book novel. In addition to the double narrative we have an intriguing nexus of psychoses amongst the main characters, both the cops and the bad guy. Chang’s demon is also his strength. I won’t spoil the fun; suffice to say that when he loses it, he really loses it in a way he is unable to share with his boss:

Chang found a pay phone and used his shirt to muffle his voice when he called for an ambulance. He wiped the receiver with his sleeve.
The dragon slid back into its cage to digest its meal. Chang stepped into an alley and vomited his dinner onto the oily bricks.

His assistant and former partner, Nelson Rogers ("the human lie detector"), is also a maimed hero; veteran of too many murder investigations, he is a sensitive who pays a high price for his otherworldly intuition in the form of internal suffering and wrecked health both mental and physical:

Nelson stopped rocking and spoke to her still form. "You were already dead before he did that bit with the French bread, weren’t you? Why’d you let him in? Did you know him? Were you friends? Why did you give him control and then fight later? Help me out."

As for Shamus Ryan--if you don’t like the color of the car he’s trying to sell you, watch out!

It is not easy to write a police thriller that doesn’t resemble all the others. Readers rightly expect the genre to fulfill the basic requirement of page-turning distraction; at the same time the author must bring something fresh and new to the template. What Smith does most convincingly is to show an urban pathology that is simply everywhere, but which may be made to work for the good guys as well as the bad. Most impressive is the way Smith’s shifting perspectives convince us that an extreme of sinister lies behind the flashing neon of used car lots, Vietnamese minimarts--not to mention police departments. --John Burdett

(Photo © Joanne Chan)

A Q&A with J. Gregory Smith

Question: What initially inspired you to write this story?

J. Gregory Smith: Following layoffs in the PR industry, I worked for nearly a year selling cars. The industry is structured to foster distrust between the customer and the salesman and the aggravation that comes with reaching or losing a deal can be maddening for both sides.

I got the idea for this story during a 12-hour shift on a snowy day with no customers. What if, instead of venting about a lost sale in the break room, a salesman completely flipped out? What if he tracked down his most infuriating customers?

Shamus Ryan was born.

Wilmington, Delaware, is a city that feels more like a small town where everyone seems to know everyone else. But people from every walk of life come through doors of a car showroom, and Shamus knows annoying victims come in all shapes, sizes, colors and religions.

That set the table for a race against time for the cops to figure out the pattern before the next victim turns up.

Question: What authors or books have influenced your writing?

J. Gregory Smith: Stephen King, both as a reader and as a writer. I’m amazed at his output and variety of stories. Same goes for Dean Koontz. In terms of writing, King’s On Writing was both instructive and inspiring. I keep his phrase: "The story is the boss." at the front of my mind when I’m working on a book.

Also, I love the no-nonsense practical approach of James N. Frey, author of How to Write a Damn Good Mystery.

Question: What research did you do while writing your book?

J. Gregory Smith: I like to think of nine months of car sales as "in depth research," and it probably was, though I must admit it was due to lean times for me in the PR business.

I did more pure research when it came to building the character of Paul Chang. His personal history is a tightrope walk between traditional Chinese culture and American. As a result, he can function in both but is never entirely comfortable in either. I had to research elements of his culture and used that also to build the Shu and his mother’s characters.

Question: Is there any character you most identify with? Why?

J. Gregory Smith: I suppose there’s a bit of me in most of the characters, at least enough to connect and empathize with them. My neighbors looked at me a little funny when they knew I sold cars and then wrote a novel about a serial killing car salesman, but I certainly don’t identify with him.

I understand Shamus and can relate to his initial sense of frustration, but the killer lacks any sense of humanity for his victims and follows his psychopathic urges wherever they lead him.

I can identify with some of Nelson’s goofy traits, which I exaggerate for effect. Chang was the hardest character to build because I needed him to be edgy and complicated, even dangerous, but ultimately a force for good in the world. He’s a blend of people I’ve known from several different Asian cultural backgrounds, along with a healthy dose of material I made up.

Question: Have you considered trying your hand at other genres?

J. Gregory Smith: Yes. I think for now, my predominant style is thrillers, but I have written a young adult fantasy called Prince Dale and the Crystal Mountain. The first draft read like an insult to the intelligence of kids everywhere. When I stopped trying to write down to some preconceived level and just tell the story, I found the characters gained depth and personality and the book improved immensely. It made the Quarterfinals in the 2010 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, but at the moment I’m holding on to it while I work on some other projects. I really like the story, though, and I have some sequels in mind if it ever finds a home.

Question: Have you always wanted to be an author? What other careers have you pursued?

J. Gregory Smith: I’ve wanted to be a writer as long as I can remember, but other than some short stories never pursued it seriously until after grad school in 1993. It dawned on me (slow learner) that if I was ever going to be a real novelist, I needed to sit down and write one. Which I did. I finally finished a complete manuscript with a beginning, middle and end. It was green as grass and absolutely unfit for publication.

But it did prove I could write one. Final Price is my second, and the finished product is the result of at least a dozen re-writes, professional coaching and editorial expertise, and many patient, generous friends.

And one very supportive wife.

After receiving my MBA, my main career was public relations in Washington, D.C., Wilmington, and Philadelphia. I’ve also sold mortgages and, of course, cars.

Question: What's it like to have a book published for the first time?

J. Gregory Smith: It might be bad form to dip into the bag of clichés, but it really is a dream come true.

Question: What's next for you?

J. Gregory Smith: I have another completed thriller called Noblesse Oblige that I hope to get published, and right now I am writing the first draft of a sequel for Final Price, tentatively titled Legacy of the Dragon.

From Booklist

The opening chapter of this energetic debut is told from the perspective of a Wilmington, Delaware, Honda salesman as he madly and gleefully robs, torments, and ultimately kills an elderly Vietnamese couple in their neighborhood grocery. He’s enraged because they bought their Honda from another dealership. The body count quickly rises, and as it does, the salesman becomes more sadistic, and we learn how he got so crazy. Paul Chang, the Chinese American cop pursuing the deranged car salesman, is a former NYPD detective who left in disgrace and is now a Delaware State Police detective. Smith alternates points of view from the killer to Chang, as we hear Changs backstory and learn of his reliance on meditation and visualization to rein in the “Dragon,” i.e., his own capacity for uncontrolled rage. Chang’s former NYPD partner, a burned-out but spookily insightful investigator, is another memorable character. Toss in some Delaware politics and a broken-down Wilmington newspaper columnist hoping to return to the Big Apple, and you have a brisk, hard-to-put-down crime novel. --Thomas Gaughan

Product Details

  • File Size: 350 KB
  • Print Length: 295 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1935597183
  • Publisher: Thomas & Mercer (November 2, 2010)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003JTHMQ4
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #145,918 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
42 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Hard Driving Mystery with Cars, Guns, Murder & Mayhem October 30, 2009
Final Price by J. Gregory Smith

A quarter finalist in the 2009 Amazon Breakthrough Novel contest, this book deserves to be looked at carefully. Most of us have purchased a car at one point or another. I doubt many of us have considered the car salesman's point of view, let alone a psychopathic car salesman. Shamus the car salesman does not take rejection well. His reaction to rejection is investigated by the largest Chinese American State Trooper in Delaware and his emotionally vulnerable sidekick.

Price paints a vivid portrait of a tortured soul inflicting his inner demons on those who he feels has wronged him. Those of us who have sold for a living recognize some of the frustrations in dealing with a fickle, often unreasonable and frequently unpredictable customer. Doing your best to please someone and feeling maligned and misunderstood is painful. Luckily most of us are able to shrug off the bad, revel in the good and move on with our life. Shamus Ryan's soul was shriveled long before he started selling cars. Price does a nice job inferring his past without detailing it, this provides a lot of room for the imagination to flourish.

Paul Chang struggles with his own demons and endeavors to stay on the sane side of the emotional precipice that Shamus cheerfully drives over. Paul's loyalty to his former partner his endearing and his pain is clear. I think Price painted his characters well. The book is a good mystery and provides a modicum of motivation to consider the feelings and stresses of those who sell for a living.

I recommend the book for a first effort this is outstanding.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I may never shop for a car again March 3, 2010
By Knipfty
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I debated between 4 and 5 stars. This book is so good that I may never shop for a car again.

The author puts the reader in a situation that they are all too familiar with and turns the world upside down. The car salesman goes bad and turns on his customers in such a sick and gruesome ways. You really get inside his head that by the time the book ends, you want nothing to do with the car buying experience. Or maybe you will shop differently the next time...

This book was a real page turner and worth the price of admission. Good Job Greg!
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Detective Paul Chang & his side kick, Nelson Rogers are a unique combination of East/West. In this case, both have met & formed a bond that can't be broken. Both have failed in a previous investigation in New York's Finest. It's not that they failed, per se, but that politics got in the way. This then becomes my cup of tea: stories of this genre, where the polticization of the justice system throughout has become endemic and unacceptable to the author's protagonist characters. Thus, when the broken-up-duo gets teamed-up again, trying to stop a serial killer, the small town turns out to be just as innocuous to politicization as their big brother cities. So endemic, it is taken for a given, & thus accepted as harmless as the air we breath(also polluted). The reason I have given this aspect so much ink, is why I liked this novel so much. It doesn't scream it out in the story, as I have, it simply plays out as part of the story.
That said, another part of the author's story writing I enjoyed was his crafting of the common professional salesperson's rejections(NO!), toward an extreme predjudice response(DIE!). We all learn to handle rejection, but Shamus Ryan, car salesman, won't take no for an answear. No doubt, some readers will be buying their next car with a little more care in the way they dance around: NO!
The East/West combination is a interesting backdrop to the story in their characters development. The way the author draws Chang/Nelson's view point/He was a large man with a shaved head, wide nostrils, and bushy eyebrows. Nelson once called them two caterpillers crawling across a pink bowling ball. Or Chang's response when hearing his ex wife respond: That's Great!/ Fake enthusiasm over ice. Or Chang-Nelson/Who did the leak?... Not on the phone. It's political now...
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining, but lacking in writing style October 24, 2010
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The characters are very well defined and curiously interesting. The concept of the Chinese detective with hidden strengths he struggles to keep under control and his buddy Nelson who has the ability to "read" people and situations make a good story outline. The author has trouble fully realizing the potential of conveying to the reader exactly what is happening. A mention of some mythical or spiritual Chinese item or saying is then left unexplained. There are also many instances of "he said, he said, he said...", so that you lose track of who is saying what. It isn't "Chang says, Nelson says", etc., it is just the pronoun. Gets confusing!

All in all, a good book that could have been much better. I do recommend it to anyone who enjoys a light, quick read.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Anyone who has ever held a sales position where profits depended on commissions may understand a bit about the killer in this one. Car salesman Shamus Ryan doesn't just dislike customers who walk away from a deal. He goes even further and finds ways to demean customers who turn down his deals. He also seeks the ultimate revenge - murder. The murders add up quickly when Shamus finds his sales pitches aren't getting the results he desires, especially when other sales people are breathing down his neck. Every customer who walks away from a deal is seen as a betrayer. Meanwhile, detective Paul Chang and his partner, Nelson Rogers, try to find Shamus.

They have considerable trouble figuring out how the "clues" point to any specific type of murderer. Meanwhile, both detectives have their own internal demons and painful losses. Detective Chang lost his girlfriend because of his job and nightmares. Rogers seems to be on the autistic spectrum, making his social life difficult (to say the least). He is also recovering from a breakdown but his instincts for solving crimes are still sharp and he helps Chang in vital ways. This case has the potential to help offset his past difficulties.

Although there is enough information provided by the author to get a basic idea of each character, there aren't overly detailed psychological descriptions. The information about each character is given in short bursts while the main emphasis is strictly on the murders. I disclosed the identity of the killer in the previous paragraph because it is revealed early on and the info isn't a spoiler.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Thanks to amazon for the free book.
This book is free to download in amazon kindle store. I am happy to own it.
Published 2 months ago by V Roy
5.0 out of 5 stars well written, with unique narrator
I loved this book so much I immediately bought the next two. I loved them, too! Really well written, with a unique narrator, fighting his own demons as well as bad guys.
Published 6 months ago by La Serenissima
4.0 out of 5 stars This was a fun, engaging read that kept me totally involved on ...
This was a fun, engaging read that kept me totally involved on my subway rides to and from work. My rides seemed so quick because I had something good to read! Read more
Published 7 months ago by Marj-BK
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting characters
I chose this rating because it was a little difficult getting behind the characters at first. I probably would've enjoyed it more had I read previous books about these same... Read more
Published 8 months ago by d marsh
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Some parts just didn't flow right for me.
Published 8 months ago by Emily J. Furtado
2.0 out of 5 stars Did not enjoy at all
Could not get into it. Did not enjoy at all. Did not finish reading it.
Published 8 months ago by A reader
2.0 out of 5 stars One Note
This is the first book by J. Gregory Smith I've read. I'm not sure I'll try any more. It seemed one note with no lightness to break the intensity of the plot. Read more
Published 8 months ago by J Ryan
5.0 out of 5 stars a good read
This book introduces characters that are likable and memorable for their unique traits. The author manages to get you caught up in the thought process of the characters and this... Read more
Published 10 months ago by Drgnlk1963
3.0 out of 5 stars So-so
My first Paul Chang mystery and I found it so-so. Chang struggled with a dragon and the salesman had a Gran that he struggled with that really didn't add to the story. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Dave
4.0 out of 5 stars Fast and excellent read
This book left me wanting to read the 2nd book. The 2 characters are brave, smart and quirky. His problems and solutions are interesting.
Published 10 months ago by Brkpnt
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More About the Author


Greg Smith is the bestselling author of the thrillers, A Noble Cause and the Flamekeepers as well as the Paul Chang Mystery series including Final Price, Legacy of the Dragon and Send in the Clowns all published by Thomas & Mercer.

Prior to writing fiction full time, Greg worked in public relations in Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and Wilmington, Delaware. He has an MBA from the College of William & Mary and a BA in English from Skidmore College.

His debut novel, Final Price, was first released as a self-published work before being signed to Thomas & Mercer and re-released. Greg is now working on new thrillers as well as a YA fantasy series.

Greg currently lives in Wilmington, Delaware with his wife, son and dog.

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