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Poison Makers by Jimmy Olsen

Jimmy Olsen, Poison Makers, book review, On My Kindle Book Reviews

Source: I received a free print copy in exchange for an honest review.
Genre: Mystery, Thriller & Suspense
Format: eBook, Print
Publication Date: June 17, 2011

Back Cover

In Poison Makers, as in Things In Ditches, Jimmy Olsen once again turns the traditional mystery on its head and shakes out stories of diplomats run amuck, deadly Cuban lovers, Caribbean voodoo and New York City car chases. Not a drug dealer, terrorist or serial killer in sight, but a protagonist, Edgar Espinosa-Jones (EJ), a reader can root for.

A story that can be dark, but with uncontrived thrills that provoke both laughter and apprehension. Characters appear from the depth of Haitian Vodoun and Catholic Santo Domingo, and are little different from those who live next door to us, even if some are zombies. EJ accepts an assignment from his enigmatic mentor Garrett Yancy to investigate the seemly innocent death of U.S. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic, Adam Quist. His first job is to interview one of the Ambassador s daughters at a secret rendezvous in Port-au-Prince, Haiti where he is drawn to her by an uncanny intensity as they travel dark streets toward a forbidden voodoo ceremony. Soon after, EJ is in terror for his life, running and hiding until he can find nowhere safe and is forced to make his last stand. Live or die.

Poison Makers is anything but the usual mystery. Set in the turbulent 1970s, the Caribbean seethes with political intrigue, revolutionaries, superstition, violence and EJ s own tangled love affairs. With the help of his best friend, a crooked Dominican cop, EJ s split nationality (Dominican/American) and quirky view of life combine to solve the mysteries at whatever cost.


Readers are immediately drawn into the mystery and suspense of the plot as Adam Quist, the U.S. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic, is poisoned. The perpetrators of the act cover their tracks, leaving authorities to believe that Adam died of a heart attack.

Not everybody believes that the Ambassador died of natural causes and our protagonist, EJ, is assigned the task of investigating the Ambassador's death. With the Ambassador's attractive daughter, Olivia, EJ finds himself exploring the mysteries of voodoo and fighting for his life to solve the case.

Poison Makers is unlike any mystery that I have read, and I have read a few in my time. I found myself enthralled within the first few lines of the book as the perpetrators carried out their plot to kill the Ambassador using voodoo, and followed with bated breath as Olsen guided me through dark back alleys and bustling streets to give me a glimpse of a rich and mysterious culture as the brilliant and thrilling plot unfolded.

The characters are as fascinating as the setting. For readers who are familiar with the culture, it is apparent that Olsen is drawing from personal experience to create characters that match the setting. Olivia is anything but the stereotypical daughter who suspects that her father has been murdered. She is worldly, calculating, articulate, and enigmatic. EJ is not what most people might consider "the guy next door;" however, he is pretty incorruptible given his line of work and a culture in which reciprocity is prevalent.

While the setting and the characters were impeccably written, what really sold me on the book was the fact that I was unable to predict the ending. I had an idea of who the guilty party was, but Olsen kept me second-guessing myself until the very end; which, in my humble opinion, is the mark of an outstanding mystery author.

Filled with insights about a culture that believes in curses and zombies, corruption, and suspense, Poison Makers is not a conventional mystery. If you are looking for an unconventional mystery that will transport you to a place that you have never been without leaving the comfort of your home, Poison Makers is the book for you.

About Jimmy Olsen

Jimmy Olsen, Poison Makers, book review, On My Kindle Book Reviews
Jimmy Olsen, author. Courtesy of Goodreads.
Jimmy Olsen didn’t start writing fiction until he was well past 40. In the tradition of American writers like Jack London and Louis L’Amour, Olsen spent much of his life seeking adventure. He began scuba diving in 1961 at age 13 and continues today. A machine-gunner in Vietnam, after two tours he settled down awhile, married, started a family and graduated college with a BS in English.

Still at college, he published his first national story in a diving magazine. A year later he moved his family to Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic where he taught at a private American school and started the Republic’s first professional diving school, Scuba Dominican, C por A. Hearing rumors of shipwrecks and gold, Olsen and a small group of adventurers discovered the site of the French Man-O-War Imperial and several other vessels.

After five years in the Caribbean, Olsen completed his MA at the University of Alabama and returned to writing, taking a job with a daily newspaper in Athens, Alabama for a year before becoming an editor back home in Minnesota. This lasted four years before the thirst for adventure overtook him again and he was back in the diving business, traveling to dive destinations from the Caribbean to the South Pacific. The snorkeling scene in Thing In Ditches comes directly from the author’s own rich experiences.

Jimmy Olsen has written two additional novels, Scuba, due to be released next year and YR-71, a Vietnam seafaring adventure set near Da Nang. In addition, he’s completed 20 short stories, some set in his native Minnesota and others from around the globe. Several of these have recently been sold and will soon be in print. Olsen continues to travel extensively, returning to the Dominican Republic to dive his old haunts only hours before Hurricane Georges.

Equally at home at the keyboard of a computer or his ancient Royal, Olsen spends his writing days in a north woods setting without even the basic comforts such as running water or electricity and at his modern office in the city. He has three children, now grown, and lives with his wife in Minnesota.
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I would like to thank Jimmy Olsen for providing me with a hardback, signed copy of his book. It is rare to receive print copies of books that I review and even more rare to receive signed copies of print books.