Category Archives: Alibi

Review: Darkness at the Edge of Town by Jennifer Harlow

Title: Darkness at the Edge of Town by Jennifer Harlow
Iris Ballard Series Book Two
Publisher: Alibi
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length:360 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

A complicated, charismatic forensic psychologist tries to rescue her brother from the clutches of a maniacal cult leader in this edge-of-your-seat psychological thriller from the author of Beautiful Maids All in a Row.
 
After catching an infamous serial killer, Dr. Iris Ballard has become a TV sensation. Exhausted from her appearances on the talk-show circuit, she’s looking forward to some quality time with Luke Hudson, her former FBI partner and on-again, off-again lover. The last thing Iris wants is to get pulled back to her dying Rust Belt hometown, but after the frantic call from her mother, she doesn’t have a choice.

Iris is a disgrace in Grey Mills, Pennsylvania, but her twin brother has gone and outdone her. Billy has abandoned his fiancée, drained their checking account, and quit his job to join a cult called the New Morning Movement. Expecting to find something sinister at play, Iris is eager to destroy the quixotic hold they have on her brother. And that means outwitting the cult’s cunning, sadistic founder, Mathias Morning.

Iris has logic and reason on her side. But Mathias doesn’t play by society’s rules. Just as Iris begins to lose hope, her investigation leads her to cross path with the DEA. And now she needs to save Billy’s life before they’re both caught in the crossfire.

Don’t miss Jennifer Harlow’s first electrifying Iris Ballard thriller:
BEAUTIFUL MAIDS ALL IN A ROW

Review:

Darkness at the Edge of Town by Jennifer Harlow is a mesmerizing mystery with a unique premise. Although this latest release is the second novel in the Iris Ballard series, it can be read as a standalone (but it would be beneficial to read book one since prior events are frequently referenced).

Dr. Iris Ballard is riding a wave of sudden fame when her mother calls her to tell her that Iris’s twin brother Billy has joined a cult.  Despite her reluctance to return to the dying town of Grey Mills, she nonetheless drops everything to check out the cult and ensure Billy is alright.  Infiltrating the New Morning cult is her best way of uncovering the truth about whether or not the charismatic leader Mathias Morning is on the up and up, so Iris immediately begins her investigation. With sympathy for the cult members warring with her instincts that Mathias is a cunning grifter, Iris asks her former mentor Sheriff Tim Hancock to unofficially help her find out the truth about Mathias and his followers. Despite her best efforts to keep her activities hidden from her friend, FBI Agent Luke Hudson, he discovers what Iris is up to and insists on joining her when her investigation unexpectedly becomes complicated.

Iris is a very complex and flawed protagonist with a rather tragic backstory. However, she seems to have finally overcome many of her issues in the aftermath of her encounter with a psychopath.  Her return to Grey Mills shows her just how much of her family’s lives she has missed in recent years and she freely accepts the blame for the chasm. However, Iris cannot help but feel a twinge of pain when she realizes the depth of resentment and anger directed towards her from her loved ones. Just as she is trying to deal with her complicated familial relationships, she is also trying to untangle her feelings for Luke. Their history is a jumbled mix of professional and personal and Iris is extremely leery of opening herself up to heartbreak and the possibility of wrecking their friendship.

Concentrating on finding out the truth about Billy, Iris quickly insinuates herself into New Morning where she immediately notices several red flags about the cult.  Knowing she runs the very real risk of someone recognizing her due to recent publicity, she works quickly trying to identify the people she meets.  With Sheriff Hancock’s assistance, many of Iris’s suspicions about the members are quickly validated but she cannot help but feel compassion for them since she fully understands the psychology of how cult leaders ensnare their followers. She remains frustrated by her lack of progress in learning Mathias Morning’s true identity and just as Iris is on the verge of giving up on bringing Billy safely home, her investigation takes a shocking turn.

Darkness at the Edge of Town is an unusual but thoroughly captivating mystery.  Iris is fully aware of her faults and weaknesses and she definitely continues to be a work in progress as she tries to rescue her brother from Mathias’s clutches. Luke is level-headed and very concerned for Iris’s safety once he learns the truth about why she is in Grey Mills. Jennifer Harlow’s portrayal of how cults attract and keep followers is chillingly realistic. The novel is a bit of a slow burner but the story quickly gathers steam and hurtles to an action-packed and exciting conclusion.  Old and new fans are sure to enjoy this second installment in the Iris Ballard series.

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Filed under Alibi, Contemporary, Darkness at the Edge of Town, Iris Ballard Series, Jennifer Harlow, Mystery, Rated B, Review, Suspense

Review: The Kill Sign by Nichole Christoff

Title: The Kill Sign by Nichole Christoff
Jamie Sinclair Series Book Four
Publisher: Alibi
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense
Length: 288 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

Security specialist and PI Jamie Sinclair finds herself in deadly waters off the steamy Gulf Coast in this combustible thriller from the award-winning author of The Kill Box.

Never in her life has Jamie Sinclair anticipated a weekend getaway more. After four months apart, she’s flying to Mississippi to see her would-be boyfriend, military police officer Adam Barrett. Barrett’s currently stationed in the same Gulf Coast town where Jamie got her start as a private investigator, and she’s equally excited to reconnect with her old mentor, Ray Walther, and his pregnant wife, Corinne, who’s Jamie’s best friend.

But all hopes for a relaxing and romantic weekend are shattered when a dirty bomb explodes on a riverboat packed with military, killing dozens of soldiers. In the chaotic aftermath, Jamie believes that she spots the bomber—and recognizes him from her past. As Barrett and Jamie race to catch the terrorist before he strikes again, Ray and Corinne become targets themselves. And this time around, Jamie won’t let a little thing like the law keep her from protecting the people she loves most—no matter the cost.

Review:

The Kill Sign, the fourth installment in Nichole Christoff’s Jamie Sinclair series, is a spellbinding mystery about an investigation into a deadly explosion on a riverboat.

Jamie Sinclair is looking forward to her weekend getaway with Lt. Colonel Adam Barrett, who is now stationed at Ft. Donovan, Mississippi.  Returning to the base where she lived many years ago with her now ex-husband stirs up a bittersweet mix of memories about her failed marriage and her unexpected career path as a private investigator. Happy to reconnect with her mentor Ray Walther and his wife pregnant Corinne, Jamie does not know what to think when she finds out Ray has taken Brandon “Bran” Laurent on as a partner in his investigation firm.  Equally disquieting are her suspicions about Corinne’s relationship with Bran.  Trying to put these unpleasant thoughts out of her mind, she and Adam head to the riverboat for a military function but Jamie is surprised to see two familiar faces on board as well.  After a stunning explosion leaves forty one people dead and several others wounded, Jamie decides to investigate the case on her own after Adam is assigned to the federal investigation.

Jamie immediately recognizes the bomber as Eddie Jepson, a man she knows from her time working with Ray.  She cannot help but wonder how on earth a self-serving scam artist like Eddie could pull off such a well-thought out attack.  She is also rather puzzled by Eddie’s apparent  connection to Ray’s new partner, Bran.  And she is also quite curious about the reason both men were so interested in live lingerie model Monique Wells right before the bomb exploded.  The deeper Jamie digs into the case, the less things add up and as her investigation takes one shocking turn after another, she is thrust into the dangerous world of high stakes gambling, homegrown terrorist plots and a search for a missing stripper.  Jamie becomes even more confused once Corinne goes missing but she is determined to find her friend before it is too late.

The investigation into the bombing moves at a breakneck speed, but Jamie has a great deal of difficulty figuring out how the pieces of the puzzle fit together. Jepson is an unlikely terrorist and Jamie wants to talk to him before the feds take him into custody. She is also deeply suspicious about Bran and the information she uncovers does little to dispel her misgivings about him. Jamie is also quite shocked about some of the changes in Ray but she is even more concerned about what is going on with Corinne. Another murder on the heels of Corinne’s disappearance makes it imperative that Jamie get answers to her very troubling questions, but will she discover the truth in time to save her friend?

Jamie has barely begun tracking down leads when DEA Agent Marc Sandoval arrives in town.  While his assistance on the case is appreciated, he further complicates her already confusing relationship with Adam.  Not one for long term commitments, Jamie is spooked by the direction Adam seems to want to take their romance.  Marc is not at all shy about letting Jamie know his interest in her runs much deeper than friendship.  Jamie is conflicted by her attraction to Marc but she is in love with Adam. Isn’t she?  Hmm, an interesting love triangle  but which man will Jamie choose?

The Kill Sign is a suspense-laden, action-packed mystery that will keep readers on the edge of their seats as Jamie’s investigation takes some very unexpected detours.  With plenty of plot twists, red herrings and clever misdirects, Nichole Christoff adroitly conceal the truth about the incongruous crimes right up until the novel’s pulse-pounding adrenaline-filled conclusion. Another outstanding addition to the Jamie Sinclair series that old and new fans are going to love.

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Filed under Alibi, Contemporary, Jamie Sinclair Series, Mystery, Nichole Christoff, Rated B+, Review, Suspense, The Kill Sign

Review: The Kill Shot by Nichole Christoff

kill shotTitle: The Kill Shot by Nichole Christoff
Jamie Sinclair Series Book Two
Publisher: Alibi
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Thriller
Length: 289 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

In an explosive thriller for readers of Lee Child, Alex Berenson, and Brad Taylor, P.I. and security specialist Jamie Sinclair finds herself caught in a dangerous game of international cat-and-mouse.

Jamie Sinclair’s father has never asked her for a favor in her life. The former two-star general turned senator is more in the habit of giving his only child orders. So when he requests Jamie’s expertise as a security specialist, she can’t refuse—even though it means slamming the brakes on her burgeoning relationship with military police officer Adam Barrett. Just like that, Jamie hops aboard a flight to London with a U.S. State Department courier carrying a diplomatic pouch in an iron grip.

Jamie doesn’t have to wait long to put her unique skills to good use. When she and the courier are jumped by goons outside the Heathrow terminal, Jamie fights them off—but the incident puts her on high alert. Someone’s willing to kill for the contents of the bag. Then a would-be assassin opens fire in crowded Covent Garden, and Jamie is stunned to spot a familiar face: Adam Barrett, who saves her life with a single shot and calmly slips away. Jamie’s head—and her heart—tell her that something is very wrong. But she’s come way too far to turn back now.

Review:

The Kill Shot by Nichole Christoff is an action-filled and engrossing political thriller/mystery. This pulse-pounding second installment in the Jamie Sinclair series is a very absorbing novel with plenty of twists and turns that keep the pages turning at a blistering pace.

Jamie Sinclair is thrilled and honored when her father, a retired Army officer and senator, entrusts her with a sensitive mission escorting a State Department courier from DC to Britain and back again. With little information about the assignment or much time to prepare, Jamie and Katie deMarco set off on their journey and upon landing, they are quickly besieged by an unknown assailant. Despite Jamie’s best evasive maneuvers, the pair continue to be targeted by unknown attackers but help arrives from a very unexpected source, which just adds to Jamie’s mounting confusion about her latest case.  Stonewalled by her father’s chief of staff, Jamie relies on old college friend Philip Spencer-Dean for assistance and when her suspicions about Lt. Colonel Adam Barrett’s puzzling involvement are confirmed, Jamie utilizes his highly specialized skills as well. But, as Jamie soon discovers, the stakes are incredibly high in this extremely complex and dangerous game of political intrigue where nothing is at it appears.

Jamie is still the same very capable and tremendously talented sleuth introduced in The Kill List but her strained relationship with her father hinders her case. She is extremely flattered by his faith her in ability to protect Katie, but Jamie soon realizes that his political agenda means he has not been completely honest about what awaits her in Britain. One of Jamie’s strengths is her loyalty but this also becomes one of her greatest weaknesses where both her father and her old friend Spencer-Dean are concerned. There is enough double dealing and behind the scenes maneuvering going on that Jamie does not who to trust and she completely misses obvious clues that would have led her to the truth well before she found herself and those entrusted to her care involved in a number of life threatening and precarious situations.

The Kill Shot is another high octane adventure starring the very intrepid and highly capable Jamie Sinclair. It is an exceptionally well-written and intriguing novel and Nichole Christoff once again mystifies readers with a series of clever misdirects and plot twists. Although this latest offering easily stands on its own, I highly recommend the entire Jamie Sinclair series to fans who enjoys mysteries with a strong female lead.

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Filed under Alibi, Contemporary, Jamie Sinclair Series, Mystery, Nichole Christoff, Rated B, Review, The Kill Shot, Thriller

Review: The Kill List by Nichole Christoff

kill listTitle: The Kill List by Nichole Christoff
A Jamie Sinclair Novel
Publisher: Alibi
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery
Length: 279 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

In this taut debut thriller, Nichole Christoff introduces a savvy private investigator with nerves of steel—and a shattered heart.

As a top private eye turned security specialist, Jamie Sinclair has worked hard to put her broken marriage behind her. But when her lying, cheating ex-husband, army colonel Tim Thorp, calls with the news that his three-year-old daughter has been kidnapped, he begs Jamie to come find her. For the sake of the child, Jamie knows she can’t refuse. Now, despite the past, she’ll do everything in her power to bring little Brooke Thorp home alive.

Soon Jamie is back at Fort Leeds—the army base in New Jersey’s Pine Barrens where she grew up, the only child of a two-star general—chasing down leads and forging an uneasy alliance with the stern military police commander and the exacting FBI agent working Brooke’s case. But because Jamie’s father is now a U.S. senator, her recent run-in with a disturbed stalker is all over the news, and when she starts receiving gruesome threats echoing the stalker’s last words, she can’t shake the feeling that her investigation may be about more than a missing girl—and that someone very powerful is hiding something very significant . . . and very sinister.

The Review:

Nichole Christoff’s mystery series starring Jamie Sinclair is off to a strong beginning with the first installment, The Kill List. This action-packed and intriguing mystery is quite riveting with plenty of unexpected twists and turns. A great cast of characters, a very descriptive writing style and a baffling mystery are just a few of the reasons this debut novel is so entertaining and impossible to put down.

The Kill List opens with private investigator Jamie Sinclair using herself as bait for a stalker and then quickly segues into a request from her ex-husband to help find his kidnapped daughter. Upon arrival at Ft. Leeds, Jamie is besieged by memories of when she lived on the post as a teenager. But it is coming face to face with her ex-husband Tim Thorp and his new wife Brandy that she finds most disconcerting. Setting aside her unease, Jamie is quick to begin the search for three year old Brooke. But the investigation is soon hampered by interagency squabbling and the discovery that Tim has been less than honest with her.  With the help of military policeman Lt. Colonel Adam Barrett, she uncovers and follows several possible leads with little regard to her personal safety.

Jamie is a strong, tough and gutsy lead character who does not let anyone tell her what she can or cannot do. She is still hurting from her divorce but finding Tim’s daughter is more important than her broken heart. She is tenacious and clever and at times, she acts before she thinks, with sometimes disastrous results. Jamie has a strong moral compass but she is also willing to bend a few rules to get to the truth.

Adam Barrett teams up with Jamie right away and helps her throughout the investigation. He is keenly observant, patient and caring, but he never lets sentiment get in the way of duty. While he is not afraid to ask Jamie probing questions about her personal life, he does not press her for more than she is willing to reveal.

The investigation into Brooke’s disappearance is full of puzzling and seemingly unrelated clues. The search for the kidnapper yields a few promising leads, but the trail quickly goes cold. Jamie’s attention is diverted when the stalker escapes during a court appearance and comes after her. The novel really becomes suspenseful as Jamie finds herself in one dangerous situation after another. Thankfully Adam offers her a safe haven when it becomes apparent that her life is in danger, but from whom? The kidnapper? The stalker? Both?

The Kill List is a suspense-laden and fast paced novel that fans of police procedurals are going to love. The mystery element of the storyline is brilliantly executed and nearly impossible to solve. The characters are multi-faceted and well developed. The plot twists are outstanding and Nichole Christoff brings the novel to an absolutely shocking and dramatic conclusion.

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Filed under Alibi, Contemporary, Jamie Sinclair Series, Mystery, Nichole Christoff, Rated B, Review, The Kill List

Review: The Red Hot Fix by T.E. Woods

hot fixTitle: The Red Hot Fix by T.E. Woods
A Justice Novel (Book Two)
Publisher: Alibi
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery
Length: 284 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

In the white-knuckle follow-up to her explosive debut novel, The Fixer, T. E. Woods returns with another tense, intricate thriller.
 
What do you say, Morton Grant, Chief of Detectives? You got what it takes to find me? Show me a move. . . . Or I’ll have to show you one of mine.

A little more than a year after the Fixer killings, Detective Mort Grant of the Seattle PD once again has his hands full. In the last four months, seven men have been murdered in seedy pay-by-the-hour motels: first strangled, then tied with rope and set on a bed of crushed mothballs, with a red lipstick kiss planted on their foreheads. Speculation abounds that the killer is a prostitute who’s turning her tricks into dead men. The press has taken to calling her “Trixie.”

As Mort follows scant leads in the case, he can’t help but feel continued guilt over his involvement with the Fixer. Though the public holds her up as a folk hero, a vigilante who seeks justice when the system fails, Mort cannot shake the fact that serious crimes have been committed. And though legend says she has vanished, Mort knows exactly where the Fixer is—and he’s conspiring to keep her hidden.

As Trixie strikes again, Mort suddenly finds himself and his family in the crosshairs. Because these new murders are not random, and their perpetrator is hell-bent on luring Mort into a sick and twisted game. If he’s not careful, he’s going to need Fixing.

The Review:

The Hot Fix by T.E. Woods another suspense-laden and puzzling mystery starring Detective Mort Grant and his colleagues Jimmy DeVilla, Micki Petty and Jimmy’s canine partner, Bruiser. Lydia Corriger is also back in action, but in this outing, she takes more of a peripheral role since she is still attempting to shed her “fixer” persona.

As with the first book in the series, The Hot Fix consists of a few story arcs that slowly merge together. The primary storyline focuses on Mort’s investigation of a serial killer nicknamed “Trixie”. Several men have been found murdered in pay by the hour motels and evidence from the crime scenes points to a single killer. Working on the supposition that Trixie is a working girl, Mort hopes that a local support group for parents who have lost children to prostitution can provide him insight into what would turn a hooker into a killer. Mort’s interest is piqued by the charming founder but is the grieving widower ready for a relationship?

One of the other subplots involves a highly successful and wealthy family whose business interest include a sporting goods company and ownership of a professional basketball team. Self-made businessman Reinhart Vogel has turned over the reins of the store to his stepson Pierce but the two do not see eye to eye on a planned business expansion. Reinhart’s wife Ingrid is in charge of the basketball team, but with their spot in the playoffs threatened by a glory hound player, Vogel overrides her decisions and eventually assumes control of the decisions for the team. This part of the storyline ultimately ties in with Trixie, but it takes about half the book for the threads to connect.

Lydia’s portion of the storyline is independent of the serial killer investigation but she does provide valuable information for Mort once he has Trixie in custody. Much of Lydia’s story centers around a neglected girl that she meets while trying to put her days as a vigilante behind her. When Lydia uncovers the truth about the young girl, she tries to find justice through normal channels, but when that fails, will she take matters into her own hands?

Since The Red Hot Fix is the second novel with the same characters, we see firsthand the progress they are making with their various issues. Mort is still deeply grieving not only the loss of his wife, but he is also dealing with his guilt over the circumstances surrounding his daughter Allie’s disappearance. This troubled relationship is neatly balanced by his close relationship with his son Robbie and the two of them once again join forces during the investigation. Mort is also distressed over his decision to hide Lydia’s crimes but ultimately he knows he made the right call. They are still close friends, but Lydia’s fears of someone discovering her true identity force her to limit their contact.

Lydia’s character is most intriguing and she is struggling to put her past behind her. Watching her try to balance the disparate sides of her personality is quite fascinating. She is a warm, compassionate and caring woman and readers experience this side of her as she nurtures her relationship with Maizie, the young child she befriends. However, once she discovers Maizie’s secrets, the dispassionate, methodical killer emerges and I honestly had no idea exactly how this part of the storyline was going to be resolved.

The Red Hot Fix is a little slow until about the half-way point, but once the secondary storylines come together, it becomes much faster paced. T.E. Woods once again keeps readers off-balance with a number of unexpected twists and turns and she brings the novel to a dramatic and unexpected conclusion . Shocking revelations about Mort’s daughter neatly set up the next novel in series and I am eagerly anticipating the resolution of their uneasy relationship.

Read my review of The Fixer HERE.

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Review: The Fixer by T.E. Woods

fixerTitle: The Fixer by T.E. Woods
Mort Grant #1
Publisher: Random House
Imprint: Alibi
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery
Length: 312 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

T. E. Woods delivers a fast-paced thriller—the first in an electrifying new series—peopled with sharp, intriguing characters and more twists and turns than a corkscrew.

Never a doubt. Never a mistake. Always for justice. Never for revenge. She’s the person you hire when you need something fixed—permanently. With a strict set of criteria, she evaluates every request and chooses only a few. No more than one job per country, per year. She will only step in if it’s clear that justice will not be served any other way. Her jobs are completed with skill and precision, and never result in inquiry or police investigation. The Fixer is invisible—and quite deadly. . . .

In the office of a clinical psychologist in Olympia, Washington, a beautiful young woman is in terrible emotional pain. She puts up walls, tells lies, and seems to speak in riddles, but the doctor is determined to help her heal, despite the fact that she claims to have hurt many people. As their sessions escalate, the psychologist feels compelled to reach out to the police . . . but it might be too late.

In Seattle, a detective gets a call from his son. A dedicated journalist, he wants his father’s expertise as he looks into a suspicious death. Together they follow the trail of leads toward a stone-cold hired killer—only to find that death has been closer than either could have imagined.

The Review:

Vigilante? Or cold blooded killer? The line between the two is definitely blurred when it comes to T.E. Woods’ debut mystery, The Fixer. Part murder mystery, part psychological thriller, there are plenty of shades of gray in this compelling whodunnit. An abundance of twists and turns make guessing the killer’s identity next to impossible and I have to confess, I was rooting for the murderer throughout the entire novel.

The fixer is who you call when justice has failed and with her clear cut rules, she is certain her victims deserve the punishment she is about to deliver. Carefully planning each killing, silently stalking her victims, her murders have gone undetected for years. Until now. A tenacious reporter reaches out to his cop father and together they uncover a pattern that will lead them to straight to the unsuspecting killer.

Savannah Samuels, a beautiful but emotionally fragile young woman, seeks therapy from Dr. Lydia Corriger, a well established psychologist with a thriving practice. Savannah is quite mysterious and very reluctant to reveal any of her secrets but she is quite clear that she has done horrible things. Lydia is troubled by Savannah’s inability to open up, but her perseverance eventually pays off, and she is stunned by Savannah’s revelations.

Lydia’s concern for Savannah draws her into the murder investigation of a local grad student. In an effort to discover the possible link between his death and her patient, Lydia contacts the cop on the case, Mort Grant. Mort’s investigation is at a standstill and he is quite eager to talk to Lydia. Despite his feeling that she is hiding something, Mort is drawn to Lydia and when their paths later cross, they begin forming a tentative friendship.

It takes a while for the various storylines to comes together, but once they do, The Fixer becomes impossible to put down. The characters are fascinating and the mystery is incredibly intriguing but I was consumed with trying to guess the fixer’s identity. Just when I thought I had the story all figured out, T.E. Woods throws in a MAJOR plot twist that I never saw coming. All in all, it is a very clever mystery with a unique storyline and I am very eager to read the next book in the series.

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Filed under Alibi, Contemporary, Mort Grant Series, Mystery, Random House Digital, Rated B, Review, TE Woods, The Fixer