42 of 45 people found the following review helpful
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.
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on March 3, 2010
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!
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
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...I thought that's why we left New York...The classics never die. Or Cang-Nelson/You'd think for once we'd get one where we only fight the bad guys.
This then, is an fast-paced entertaining story of a unique tight-crime solving/fighting-duo .
I don't want to give anything away, so I just close by saying/I can't for the author to pen his next dance.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
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.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
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. "Final Price" isn't centered on discovering WHO is murdering potential car buyers but on the way Shamus toys with his victims and exhibits his own sick form of humor before putting them out of their misery - and into death. If you want to settle down with a book which is simply meant to entertain you - much like a quick-paced suspense film - this should be right up your alley. If you prefer detailed characterizations you won't find them here, although there is enough to figure out why each of the main characters have their own weaknesses to fight.
If you read this one, you'll also get glimpses into Chinese-American culture and a sense of the challenges faced by car salesmen. The scenes set at the auto dealership are particularly evocative, with plenty of customers who are unpleasant, belligerent and bossy. It is easy to see why Shamus dislikes them, although the leap from loathing to murder occurs primarily because of early childhood experiences. You'll have to read the book to discover more about those.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
This was an interesting debut novel by J.Gregory Smith. Interesting because of its three main characters: Shamus, Chang, and Nelson...three flawed individuals who have difficulty relating to most of the people who come into their lives. Shamus is a New Car Salesman, who is a homicidal psychopath still trying to get approval from his dead "Gran" through acts of increasingly brutal violence (he keeps a picture of her and her ashes in the freezer of his fridge); Chang is a Chinese-American homicide detective haunted by the memory of the kidnapping/murder of a young girl he failed to rescue in time when he was a member of the NYPD; and Nelson, Chang's socially inept ex-NYPD partner,, has a unique "gift"...the ability to figure out what a serial killer thinks from the seemingly unconnected bits of evidence left behind by the killer after each brutal murder. The chapters switch from Shamus being humiliated by prospective car buyers who ultimately purchase their new vehicles elsewhere, which causes him to see red, as in a lot of the victims' blood, to Chang, who has his own issues with the DE State Police, his own ageing and ill mother, and his ex-wife (there are many references to Feng Shui, Zen, and Tai Chi...along with a few "Confucius Say,..." and "Ah, so." Charlie Chan-esque dialogue thrown in here and there when dealing with Sino-phobic "Round Eyes." , which just seemed silly to me.
While this was a fast-paced police procedural, the author didn't put me in the shoes of the characters. Most of the time, I simply didn't care much for them. For that reason, I gave it 3 stars.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
I loved this book- It was different from most murder mysteries because from almost the beginning we know who the murderer is and we quickly learn what drives him. This book has a unique way of making the reader care about the murderer and makes it hard to decide which person to root for- the murderer or the Police Detective on the case. I couldn't put it down once I started it and ended up staying away all night reading. If you are a fan of murder mysteries I highly recommend this book- however I do want to say that if you mind blood and guts you might want to skip this book as some details are slightly graphic. (Also I would say that if you are currently car shopping or have recently bought a car-esp from Honda) you might want to wait a while before reading this- it could totally freak you out.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
This thriller/mystery starts with a unique premise. A car salesman starts to kill every customer to whom he tried to sell but who went to another dealer ofr a better price. That will certainly effect you next time you go car pricing.
There are strong parts of this book. The first "hero" is Chang, a large Chinese detective who went to Delaware after a failure in NYC. He is assisted by his former partner, Nelson, who suffered a breakdown before leaving NYC. The detective has to to restrain a "dragon" that frequently wants to overtake him and do violence. The former partner is a geeky looking guy who has some sort of psychic power. The psychopathic killer is, well, a pyschopath. The renditions of the potential buyers are amusing.
The are also a few weak points. There is a stereotypical insecure boss who cares more about politics than police work and is always, seemingly without much reason, trying to hamper the investigation. The flashback references to the crime in NYC that they could not prevent are not well fleshed out. Chang's mother and references to the family's past and its encounters with the Tong are never really explained. Those last two points confuse more than enlighten the reader. The references seemed to have been short-hand versions of what may have added depth to the characters.
Back to good points. The writing is good. The mystery was based on the unique premise. The book obviously sets up Chang and Nelson to return as private eyes. With more fleshing out, these could be good and unique characters.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on February 13, 2010
The first half of the book is well plotted...the business of selling cars is spot on, Shamus is a trip and supporting cast members, Mom and Shu were very appealing but more or less disappeared as the book progressed. I liked Nelson; his quirky character made him an excellent sidekick. But then we get to Paul Chang with whom I just couldn't connect at all. Too many detectives in fiction nowadays carry horrific, endless and ultimately boring emotional baggage which they really cannot handle very well. I got tired of the dragon, the red mist, the nightmare and most of all Jennifer in about every chapter. Chang deserves a stay in a psychiatric facility and not walk around carrying a gun. I'm sure that Chang and Nelson were not meant to ape Charlie Chan and Number One Son, but a little sprinkling of Chan on Chang wouldn't have hurt his cold and bloodless character a bit. He is too wrapped up in self which is not all that interesting. The book towards the end was a little over the top but overall, it was worth reading. It seems a sequel is in the works which I will definitely check out, hopefully for the best price. The day after I paid $2.99 for the book, the price dropped to $1.99 (tongue in cheek...I really didn't mind the extra buck. That wouldn't even buy a cup of Earl Gray these days. I prefer Chai tea myself.)
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
I just really liked Final Price. It wasn't a world class page turner, or a literary masterpiece. But it was a great, fun book and a wonderful read.
The characters were terrific, from the strange antagonist who is a schizoid possessed car salesman, to the wonderful ex NY cop who is of Chinese decent and has a crazy, but smart and strong mother. There is the mother's ward/bodyguard/chef/assistant who is almost a mythical character. There is the wandering friend/savant/former partner of the main protagonist cop who has strange behaviors and goofy proclivities. And then there are all the supporting characters, from the jealous cops and petty local politicians, to the sleazy and ridiclous auto dealership dwellers, to the scummy customers who end up being the victims.
All are somewhat cartoon like in their larger than life persona's generally edgy behaviors.
The book was just so real and tells its story from the point of view of immersion in every day life. The car buying dynamic has always been a know bastion of sleaziness and terrible behavior, and it makes a wonderful backdrop to fun/violent story of Final Price.
A wonderful and breezy book, totally worth reading and enjoying