Category Archives: Reviews

Don’t Get Caught

Midwest Book Review

Legal thriller readers will find Don’t Get Caught a powerful story made all the more intriguing by its roots in a real crime that occurred in the Midwest. Jamie Stoudt loosely bases this story on these events, fictionalizing the narrative for added dramatic impact.

Victor Driscoll is a respected Minnesota statesman who runs a truck leasing company. Narrated by his son, Victor’s activities, business, and dubious actions are revealed with a wry tone of truth and insight:“His little business had more customers than he could count, but they all needed financing, and Dad claimed all bankers were bastards back in the seventies. He was well educated, a veteran, a great salesman, and everybody’s friend. Unfortunately, he didn’t know a damn thing about heavy trucks, so that first day of business at Minnesota On-Road Equipment Company (More-Co) was one step on the long and exciting journey toward its failure.”

Respected in the community, Victor Driscoll is also a war hero. But his sons Kelly and Ryan become involved when evidence of fraud emerges to threaten everything Victor has built from the leasing business. The truths they discover about their father’s activities and subterfuge will shake the community.

The sons, too, hold different goals in becoming involved in the investigation. Ryan only wants to exonerate his father, while Kelly wants the real truth to come to light. It seems unlikely that either can achieve their goal by hiring foul-mouthed, temperamental office manager/investigator Margaret Kratski and equally feisty, angry ex-Marine Donna Carlasccio to help them track down the truth and perps.

As the unlikely foursome embark on an adventure of exposé and discovery, readers will findDon’t Get Caught replete in moral and ethical conundrums, dubious business operations and concepts, and a sense of the times that brings the economic, social, and political milieu to life.

Vic Driscoll is playing a dangerous game, indeed. It’s one that will ultimately threaten his reputation and his wealth, and which draws his sons into the future of More-Co Leasing in ways neither could have anticipated.

To callDon’t Get Caught a legal thriller alone would be to do it an injustice. The political, social, and psychological twists and turns, spiced by irony and humor along the way, reach out to readers with more than just a foray into legal concerns.

Jamie Stoudt is especially skilled at portraying confrontations between characters which are action-packed, spicy, and wry:“The look Rhonda Jane gave me could weld steel, but once she figured out that a staredown might take the rest of the week, she gave it up. “I need to talk to my attorney.” Rhonda Jane got out of the booth and stormed toward the kitchen and the back offices. The sheriff turned toward his lead deputy and said, loud enough for her to hear, “Lane, please follow Ms. Teske, and if she picks up anything other than her purse, give me a shout. If she heads to the ladies’ room, follow her in. She can pee at home.”

Stoudt’s ability to capture moral, ethical, family, and interpersonal dilemmas against the backdrop of a bigger picture involving schemes and plots creates a thriller filled with satisfying twists and turns.

Don’t Get Caught is fast-paced, nicely populated by intriguing characters, and filled with questions about motivation, good and bad intentions, and business interests gone awry.

Thriller readers are in for a treat.

Back Again

Midwest Book Review

Jamie Stoudt’s debut novel Back Again holds many surprises; not the least of which is its powerful, well-organized plot and voice. Debut novels can either make or break a writer. This one’s a clear winner from the start: “Wendy Halstad was in church, up front, all alone, in a jar. She was dead, ashes to ashes and all that. Massive heart attack, fifty years old, no warning, no symptoms, no time to say goodbye. Just kerplop, and that was that.”

This ironic observational style weaves through the story with a finesse unusual in a first novel. As readers absorb the story of a woman who seemingly returns to life and returns years after the funeral detailed above, showing up at her husband’s workplace, the story embraces new possibilities.

Why has Wendy returned? There’s always unfinished business to attend to, but Wendy has her sights set on something special…tasks that embraces Michael’s living world in a different way.

If you could return from the dead, would it be for small concerns, or bigger-picture objectives? Wendy’s newfound mission to improve not just the town or her husband but the world serves as a driving force for good even as its roots stem from an impossible scenario.

As Jamie Stoudt focuses on a ‘noble scheme’ for conflict abatement, humor remains a steady stream through meetings, ambitions, and impossible discussions: “Excellent!” Melinda nearly yelled. “The link between the elimination of coal and the advent of fully renewable! Why haven’t I heard of this before?”

“Umm… because I’m an itty, bitty cog in a giant industrial conundrum?” Peter replied.

Melinda let out a howl. “How did you get out of MIT with a sense of humor intact?”

Peter responded modestly, “They figured they either had to graduate me or shoot me. Nobody’s a very good shot up there.”

As a newfound fixer with a new purpose to life, having left and returned to it with a different perspective, Wendy spreads her message and purpose everywhere. Along with it are altered perceptions of those around her and their rationales for good and bad choices alike: “…a young man shot me there as well, in front of the Al-Hakeem Mosque in Minneapolis. It turned out that he was a caring fellow who was somewhat confused.”

Crowley chimed in, “And this ‘caring young fellow’ shot you.”

“Three times, actually, but he apologized, and I helped him with an alibi.” And she shrugged. “What can I say? It’s not about me. It’s about humans rejecting nonsense, dogma, and their self-imposed limitations. Killing each other in the name of god. It’s about intellectual growth, after thousands of years of near stagnation.”

As she cultivates a newfound purpose to life, Wendy will change it not just by her resurrection, but by her responses to the adversity in the world, from personal to political and beyond.

Jamie Stoudt’s novel is delightful, weaving together new perceptions of social ills, individual responsibility, the effects of resurrection on the world, and business ventures that create new underlying values for living life.

Perhaps his finest achievement in writing this story is how one individual’s miraculous appearance and revised attitude slowly begins to change the world around her.

Stoudt takes a tone in his story that resides somewhere between the processes of a business novel and the evolution of a miracle. The fact that Wendy has no real idea of exactly why she’s come back again, but proceeds to live a vastly revised life that ripples out to affect everyone around her, makes for an intriguing read that blends social and political transformation into the notion that revising attitudes and lives is an achievable goal for an individual.

Readers who choose Back Again will delight in its unusual combination of pragmatic systems assessment (business, social, and political) and personal relationships changed by not just Wendy’s appearance, but her newfound approach to life. It’s highly recommended reading for its original perspective. If at times it all seems too positive…that’s a big plus in a literary environment more commonly filled with angst, these days.

More reviews.

“It’s phenomenal. It’s so touching, with some good humor, and I love these characters and the plot. You have a great voice – looking forward to finishing this one and reading the next two. 

Well done!”

Caitlyn, Stillwater, MN

“Read Back Again in one sitting!  Enjoyed it very much.  Loved your take of life on the island.  Great read, Jamie!”

Royce, Cornelius, Oregon

“Great book!”

Kathi, Centerville, MN

“I can’t wait for the movie!”

Gayle, Vadnais Heights, MN