Tag Archives: Shelby Alexander

‘Serenity Engulfed,’ by Craig A. Hart

I’ve been going through Craig A. Hart’s Serenity series, reviewing as I went. I’ve enjoyed them and told you so. What I didn’t mention so much was the books’ weaknesses, which (sadly) are very apparent in the fifth installment of the series, Serenity Engulfed.

Shelby Alexander, former Detroit boxer and semi-legal “fixer,” has moved back to his home town of Serenity in northern Michigan (lower peninsula). His hopes for a peaceful life have been disrupted by appeals from various neighbors to help out with problems requiring a tough pair of fists.

In Serenity Engulfed, Shelby’s daughter Leslie, with whom he has recently reconciled, is kidnapped. The kidnapper is an old enemy, recently released from prison. Meanwhile, a local prostitute asks for his protection from a man who’s been brutalizing her.

Serenity Engulfed, sadly, seems to testify to a failure of creativity on the author’s part. His prose has always been adequate at best, but it looks as if he’s now run out of plot ideas too. This book is all about dealing once again with enemies Shelby has fought before, and replaying plot situations we’ve been through before. And the ending was – in my view – entirely implausible.

I was disappointed with Serenity Engulfed, but I’m a forgiving type. I’ll probably read the next book, to see if the author gets his bearings again.

‘Serenity Submerged,’ by Craig A. Hart

I’m enjoying Craig A. Hart’s Shelby Alexander series, set in the Michigan lakeside town of Serenity. Serenity Submerged is Number Four in sequence.

Shelby is a retired boxer who moved home to Serenity for a quieter life. So far his success in that regard has been negligible. This time out, a woman comes to see him, identifying herself as an FBI agent. She shows him a man’s picture and asks if he recognizes him. Shelby doesn’t admit it, but he’s shocked to see that it’s his friend Fritz, a resort owner. When he goes to ask Fritz about it, he learns that Fritz has a dark past. He’s holding some money that some bad people want very much. And now, apparently, he’s been located.

Meanwhile, a group of three criminals come into town, on the hunt for Fritz. Two are merely tough guys, but the third is a monster – a tall, ugly brute who looks like Frankenstein’s monster with a messed-up face.

Anyone who’s been following this series will know that Shelby and the monster are destined for a fistfight.

Serenity Submerged is a well-done “small” thriller – I like stories where the stakes are kept personal, instead of end-of-the-world stuff. The characters are fun – I especially enjoy the interplay between Shelby and his ex-cop friend Mac. And there were surprises. Plus some interpersonal relationship stuff for the ladies.

Recommended, with cautions for the usual suspects.

‘Serenity Avenged,’ by Craig A. Hart

This is the third in Craig A. Hart’s “Serenity” series of thrillers, starring Shelby Alexander, retired boxer and ethical thug, who has retired to his home town of Serenity, Michigan. For peace and quiet, which he never gets.

In Serenity Avenged, Shelby drives in haste to Grand Rapids, where his daughter is in the hospital with pregnancy complications. There he is reunited with his ex-wife, Helen. His feelings for Helen are definitely mixed. They get more mixed – but also protective – when he learns that Helen has large gambling debts. But when the loan shark threatens their daughter, he moves into action.

There were elements in this book that I liked. I like the male banter between Shelby and his friend Mack, though it’s overdone in places. I like Shelby himself as a character, and the hints of conservativism that sneak out through the narrative now and then. I liked a new character who faced some serious moral dilemmas and made the right decisions at a cost to himself.

But Serenity Avenged wore out my suspension of disbelief. We’re getting into heavy thriller territory here, to the extent of including a psychopathic supervillain with a secret lair. That seemed (to me) kind of out of proportion for a loan shark in Grand Rapids. Villains like that should be plotting to overthrow the nation or the Anglo-American alliance or something.

So I’m done with this series, at least for now. Your mileage may vary. Cautions for language and intense violence.

‘Serenity Stalked,’ by Craig A. Hart

We move along now to book two in Craig A. Hart’s “Serenity” series, set in a fictional town in Michigan. In Serenity Stalked we find our hero, ex-boxer and ex-“fixer” Shelby Alexander, continuing his affair with Carly, a much younger woman. When Carly tells him she’s being pestered by an old boyfriend, who happens to be married, Shelby (against Carly’s wishes) decides to have “a little talk” with him.

When the old boyfriend turns up murdered shortly thereafter, along with his family, the local sheriff – who does not like Shelby at all – makes him his prime suspect.

But the real killer is watching. He’s an accomplished serial killer, and now he’s focusing on Carly as his next victim. The reader will spend considerable time in his creepy company as he makes his plans to eliminate Shelby and take Carly for his own purposes.

True to the form of the first book, Serenity, Serenity Stalked is a fairly straightforward story, opting for action and suspense over mystery. Our hero is reactive in his actions, but fortunately for everyone his reaction time is fast and his fighting skills superior. And there’s a nice surprise at the end. For the action fan, Serenity Stalked offers value for money.

I may read the next one. Haven’t made up my mind yet.

‘Serenity,’ by Craig A. Hart

This book is not to be confused with the science fiction TV series, “Serenity.” However, you could plausibly cast Nathan Fillion as the hero.

Shelby Alexander, hero of Serenity, is a former prizefighter. After that he became what he calls a “fixer,” solving people’s problems through the application of violence. Finally, in his ‘60s, he has returned to his home town of Serenity, Michigan (northern Lower Peninsula) for a more peaceful life.

Not going to happen.

One night Shelby looks out his window and sees a human figure huddled in the snow by his barn. He finds a woman there, a local character named Jenny Ellis, mentally retarded and the only well-liked member of her family. The Ellises are local outlaws, known to be involved in the drug trade. Jenny dies before help can come.

Then, to his surprise, Shelby gets a visit from Jenny’s brother Harper, the head of the family. He wants Shelby to investigate Jenny’s death. Bigger criminals from Detroit are moving into the area, trying to take over the Ellis drug operations. Shelby has no desire to work for the Ellises, but he did like Jenny, so he agrees to look into it.

Before long he’s got people shooting at him, and the new sheriff – very possibly corrupt – is trying to frame Shelby for murder. But Shelby has handled worse.

What you’ve got here is a pretty simple story. This is not a cerebral mystery. In fact, Shelby Alexander never once deduces anything – he reacts to events and generally solves problems with his fists. Action is the watchword here, and in those terms the book is pretty good. There were also moments when Shelby expressed opinions on the social conservatism side, so I liked that.

Serenity is pure entertainment, probably aimed at male readers, and I recommend it after its kind. Cautions for the usual.