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Central Station (Ray DeLuca, #1) by Joseph Cariffe 

Action-packed and enthralling, I loved Ray DeLuca and cheered for him every step of the way. 

The son of an east coast Sicilian mafia boss, young Ray DeLuca, was part of “the life” but entered the Navy instead of following in his father’s footsteps. Sixteen successful years later and a SEAL Chief Petty Officer, he retires to pursue a career in protecting and serving with the San Francisco Police Department. However, on his very first shift at Central Station, he attracts the ire of the Watch Commander, Lt. Flynn, who takes any opportunity to criticize and embarrass him. 

Assigned to a two-officer black and white, Ray and his partner, Chinese-American Officer Hank Lau, patrol the Chinatown/Little Italy neighborhoods experiencing an upswing in gang activity. Chinatown, already home to the deadly Ghost Boys, has attracted the notice of a Sicilian mob family, and an influx of wise guys shaking down the business owners for protection money has the area teetering on the brink of an all-out war. 

When a domestic violence call goes south, and a Ghost Boy dies, Ray is marked for death with a $50K bounty on his head. Ghost Boys make several failed attempts on his life but still seem one step ahead of Ray at all times. One night while he’s out on a first date with his dream girl, four gang members confront the couple. Ray fights back, injuring two and sending them running. His date, appalled by the violence and frightened out of her mind, never wants to see Ray again. But worse yet, later that night, he is called into Central Station, where Lt. Flynn is gleefully waiting with the news that the thugs he fended off have filed charges and a complaint, intending to sue the city. But when Flynn blames Ray and takes the thugs’ side over his own man, Ray loses his cool standing up for himself and earning himself a suspension. 

With his gun, ID, and protection of his badge gone, Ray must now fend off continued attacks from the Ghost Boys on his own while waiting for his opportunity to defend himself, clear his name, and return to the job he loves. 

Central Station is a riveting crime thriller featuring the engaging and immensely likable Ray DeLuca. The action is non-stop as the story unfolds and we follow the main character through his trials and tribulations and the will-he-catch-him murder plotline. I was glued to this story from page one until the close, smiling almost the entire time. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and the family ate out while I was reading it. Who has time to cook when you’ve got such a page-turner in your hands?! 

Our man Ray is a charming guy with a successful career as a Navy SEAL behind him. He has a couple of relationships with different women during the course of the story, some of which, for a number of reasons, don’t flourish. Like Ray’s mother, though, I have high hopes. 

While the action and adventure commands center stage, I loved his interactions with his mother. Whenever he got a care package from home, I was dying to know what she’d sent this time. The discussions of her cooking had me enthralled and ready to head to Sicily (or at least the east coast.) One thing I didn’t go for was how her dialogue was written to convey her accented English, but I don’t know any other way the author could have accomplished this. I eventually got the rhythm of it, and it didn’t slow me down as much as it did initially. I also enjoyed the peek inside THE FAMILY, especially when Ray’s father was incarcerated. 

The book is GODFATHER long but literally full of exciting action. The author’s writing is smooth, comfortable, and compelling. It is also the author’s DEBUT novel. Amazing! I can hardly wait to see what comes from his pen next and for Ray DeLuca’s future adventures.

I recommend CENTRAL STATION to readers who enjoy crime fiction with a charming main character, police stories featuring organized crime and criminals, San Francisco settings, and non-stop action/adventures that will keep you on the edge of your seat. 

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from Reedsy Discovery.

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