New Release! RUSSIAN MOJITO, Detective Emilia Cruz Book 7

New Release! RUSSIAN MOJITO, Detective Emilia Cruz Book 7

IT’S NEW RELEASE DAY!

RUSSIAN MOJITO, Detective Emilia Cruz Book 7 is out now and on sale for Kindle for $0.99!

To promote the book, both PACIFIC REAPER and 43 MISSING are also on sale!

It’s a limited time event, so grab your copies now.

 

RUSSIAN MOJITO is a real crime fiction cocktail! Here’s a bit of the Amazon description:

Driven to the edge by her own secrets, can the first female police detective in Acapulco give Russia a dose of Mexican justice?

Survivor of a deadly cartel ambush, Detective Emilia Cruz returns to Acapulco to recover from the trauma. Before she can catch her breath, however, her penniless stepfather is kidnapped by a ruthless gang.

At the same time, a Russian guest is murdered by a cold-blooded killer in the luxury hotel managed by her boyfriend, Kurt Rucker.

As the kidnappers terrorize Emilia’s family, more Russians are killed in a gun battle that rocks Acapulco. Emilia discovers a strange connection between the triple homicide and fuel thieves robbing Mexico’s underground gas pipelines.

Still coping with the emotional fallout from the ambush and a secret that could end her police detective career, Emilia finds herself on a midnight stakeout, watching and waiting for the fuel thieves. But she’s really on a collision course with the killer . . . And his Russian boss.

To get a sample of the book, click here.

 

National Public Radio — “A thrilling series”
CrimeMasters of America — Poison Cup award, Outstanding Series 

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CARMEN AMATO

Mystery and thriller author. Retired Central Intelligence Agency intel officer. Dog mom to Hazel and Dutch. Recovering Italian handbag addict.

 

Detective Emilia Cruz series

Find the Detective Emilia Cruz mystery series on Amazon

Book review: AUNTIE POLDI AND THE SICILIAN LIONS

Book review: AUNTIE POLDI AND THE SICILIAN LIONS

AUNTIE POLDI AND THE SICILIAN LIONS by Mario Giordino is a delicious whodunit, yet for this book review, it defies easy categorization. It’s one part Inspector Montalbano series by Andrea Camilleri and one part Don Camillo series by Giovanni Guareschi. Add a light sprinkle of AUNT JULIA  AND THE SCRIPTWRITER by Mario Vargas Llosa and you have a wickedly funny tale that is truly original.

Poldi is the nickname of Isolde Oberreiter, a 60-year-old German woman whose Sicilian husband recently passed away. Descriptions of her evoke Elizabeth Taylor in the 1970’s—caftans, bouffant black hair, imperious manner, lots of alcohol.

She takes a house in a small village in Sicily to be near her three sisters-in-law. Poldi, an ex-hippy, ex-costume designer, and the daughter of a German cop, plans to sit on her new rooftop terrace, look at the sea, and drink herself to death.

To refresh your memory, Sicily is the roughly trapezoidal island positioned at Italy’s toe, eternally waiting to be booted into the Mediterranean. A ferry trip across the Straits of Messina is a grand introduction to Sicily’s charms: almond and lemon groves, picturesque towns with cobbled streets, olde worlde trattorias where the locals meet for coffee, and pizza joints run by the Mafia. (Also creepy guys pestering women for phone numbers but, alas, I was 20 and this probably wouldn’t be an issue now.)

Related post: Book review: THE DOGS OF ROME

Poldi’s plans take a left turn when a young man who does odd jobs for her is murdered. As Sicilian law enforcement bumbles about, Poldi decides she will solve the crime herself.

Along the way, Poldi makes several enemies, runs into a poetry-spouting aristocrat and his Doberman, and is threatened by both a Mafia talisman and a dangerous intruder. She also becomes enamored of a detective who actually seems to know what he is doing.

In the end, Poldi unravels the case with the help of her sisters-in-law and the handsome detective, but the case nearly unravels her, too.

Related post:  2 Tickets to Venice

Part narrator and part Greek chorus, Poldi’s unnamed and unemployed German nephew shares her story with us. From his room in her attic, he’s perpetually writing the first chapter of a novel we know will be quite terrible.

It took great skill to craft a book this way and it shows. His narration never intrudes, but like the Vargas Llosa book, is a charming addition to the main plot. Descriptions are priceless, ranging from wryly humorous to laugh-out-loud funny. Dialogue deftly transitions from Poldi’s escapades to her brisk discussions with the nephew.

If you know a bit of Italian or simply love Italian food, you’ll appreciate AUNTIE POLDI AND THE SICILIAN LIONS all the more. The author doesn’t assume you are intimately familiar with Sicily, however, only that by the end of the book, you’ll never want to leave.

Thank goodness, Poldi’s second mystery, AUNTIE POLDI AND THE VINEYARDS OF ETNA, came out earlier this month.

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CARMEN AMATO

Mystery and thriller author. Retired Central Intelligence Agency intel officer. Dog mom to Hazel and Dutch. Recovering Italian handbag addict.

 

Detective Emilia Cruz series

Find the Detective Emilia Cruz mystery series on Amazon

Mystery author Sandra Nikolai: Poisons, pressure, and everyday heroes

Mystery author Sandra Nikolai: Poisons, pressure, and everyday heroes

Canadian mystery author Sandra Nikolai writes the excellent Megan Scott/Michael Elliott series featuring a ghostwriter and an investigative journalist. Sandra and I have watched each other’s series grow book-by-book, while indulging in a shared love of chocolate almonds.

1. Carmen Amato: Sandra, thanks so much for stopping by. Your series set in Canada drew me in from the start because it was different than the norm with two main characters—a ghostwriter and a reporter. Why did you go in this direction instead of a police procedural or private detective series?

Sandra NikolaiSandra Nikolai: Happy to be here, Carmen. There’s something intriguing about a hero that everyone admires, whether it’s a feisty female cop (winks) or a shrewd private detective. Because I liked the notion of everyday people helping to solve crime, I created my heroes based on the premise of ordinary characters facing terrifying situations. No one represents the everyday hero better than ghostwriter Megan Scott, a young woman with high ethical standards whose sheltered world is turned upside down when she is accused of murdering her husband and sets out to clear her name. Add investigative reporter Michael Elliott, a daring young risk-taker who pursues justice despite dangerous and unpredictable circumstances, and you have the creation of an interesting duo.

The difference between Megan and Michael is their approach to investigating a crime. Where Michael is cool and trusts his instincts, Megan is cautious and analytical. Her interest in his sleuthing activities and her aptitude to decipher the tiniest details convince him to take her along on some of his ventures. For Megan, a covert outing provides an exciting break from her “boring” job as ghostwriter of non-fiction material, but it fulfills another purpose. It enables her to pull Michael back from the brink of death when necessary. Megan’s curiosity occasionally lands her in trouble too, so it works both ways.

2. CA: How do you create multi-dimensional fictional characters, including your lead characters Megan Scott and Michael Elliott? Where do you look for inspiration when creating characters?

SN: For each of my lead characters, I create a chart that includes their family and work history, physical appearance, personality traits, and behaviors. To produce well-rounded characters, I also describe their fears and aspirations, likes and dislikes, and preferences for food, clothes, and music. I go through a similar routine—though not as elaborate—for secondary characters. I might add information to the charts as the main characters develop from book to book in the series.

Inspiration for my characters comes many sources—the news, movies, crime case studies. I do a lot of research to find tidbits of information that I can develop and weave into my stories to make the characters and their actions credible.

3. CA: Poison figures in more than one of your novels, in crafty ways. How much research do you do and how do you keep it organized?

SN: I can thank Shakespeare for inspiring the poison scenes! (laughs) Okay, on a more serious note, once I research the poison or drug I want to use in the story, I keep the relative website links, notes, and photos in a computer folder so I can easily refer to them. For my novel Broken Trust, a mystery that highlights the current fentanyl overdose crisis, I researched how the medical community and law enforcement dealt with people affected by the drug. I read personal stories about youths who unwittingly took fentanyl-laced street drugs and died, and about other users who lived but suffered devastating physical and mental consequences. The research process dug up a lot of disturbing information, but I wanted to accurately depict the growing dilemma that first responders face today as one of the elements in the story.

4. CA: Your characters are rooted in Montreal, but your novels travel beyond to other parts of Canada. Why is Canada a good setting for a mystery? How do you use setting to create and build suspense?

SN: Canada is a vast country with settings ranging from small towns to large cosmopolitan cities—much like the United States. The weather can vary immensely from coast to coast and temperatures can fluctuate widely, even within a twenty-four hour period. Having lived in Montreal for decades, I used that city as the setting for my first book, False Impressions. When I decided to continue the series, I varied the settings for subsequent stories. I also ensured each new story occurred in a consecutive season and used the weather to heighten suspense when possible. For example, False Impressions takes place in Montreal during a sizzling summer; Fatal Whispers in Portland, Maine in the cool fall; Icy Silence in a suburban college school during a winter ice storm, and so on. I don’t have a title for book #6 yet, but a rainy autumn is the season of choice.

5. CA: You can invite any author, living or dead, to dinner at your home. What are you serving and what will the conversation be about?

SN: I’d invite Louise Penny, Canadian author of the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series set in the fictitious village of Three Pines, Quebec. Still Life, her first book in the series, won multiple awards including best first crime novel in Canada and the United States.

We’d enjoy French onion soup topped with cheese toasts, steak frites with a glass of red wine, and a slice of sugar pie for dessert—menu selections mentioned in her detective series. We’d chat about her insightful Inspector Gamache and the artsy, quirky, and sociable inhabitants of Three Pines. On a personal level, we’d compare notes on our experience living in La Belle Province of Quebec and discuss how it influenced our choice of characters, plots, and settings. It would be magnifique!

6. CA: Can you leave us with a quote, a place, or a concept from a book that inspired you?

SN: “Writing is its own reward.” – Henry Miller

Thank you for inviting me, Carmen!

Sandra weaves ordinary characters into extraordinary, life-threatening situations, using the premise that evil often lurks in familiar places. Her popular, fast-paced mystery series featuring ghostwriter Megan Scott and investigative reporter Michael Elliott has earned rave reviews internationally from fans who love the challenge of solving heart-pounding whodunits. Visit www.sandranikolai.com to find out more.

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CARMEN AMATO

Mystery and thriller author. Retired Central Intelligence Agency intel officer. Dog mom to Hazel and Dutch. Recovering Italian handbag addict.

 

Detective Emilia Cruz series

Find the Detective Emilia Cruz mystery series on Amazon

Sally Andrew’s deadly and delicious Tannie Maria mysteries

Sally Andrew’s deadly and delicious Tannie Maria mysteries

I’ve never been to South Africa and the only thing I know about the Afrikaans language is that it is derived from Dutch. But in the Tannie Maria mysteries, RECIPES FOR LOVE AND MURDER and THE SATANIC MECHANIC, author Sally Andrew weaves a spell to reveal both country and language.

Recipes for Love and MurderMaria van Harten is a widowed foodie living in South Africa’s Klein Karoo region. With an English father and an Afrikaans mother, she straddles two of the many ethnic groups that form South Africa’s history and culture. As with many women of a certain age, she’s referred to as Tannie Maria, or Aunty Maria.

Maria lives out of town, with chickens to keep her company as she sits on her stoep (porch). She drives a blue bakkie (truck), and is at peace with the kudu, springbok, and other wildlife that stray into the action. More importantly, she’s either cooking, planning to cook, or thinking up recipes. Tantalizing treats with Afrikaans names, like potjie, meat and vegetables baked in a fire—the South African version of a luau—or dessert dumplings called botterkluitjies, grace nearly every page.

We first meet her in RECIPES FOR LOVE AND MURDER, in which Maria becomes the advice columnist at the Klein Karoo Gazette in the town of Ladismith, answering letters and emails with wisdom and recipes suitable for the lovelorn and aggrieved. A correspondence with a women who seeks advice, then later ends up dead, sends Maria–as well as her boss Hattie and the paper’s single investigative reporter Jessie–into a maze that includes the dead woman’s female lover, a cruel husband, and strange doings at the local grocery store.

Maria ends up in perilous danger. Not to mention the risk of losing her heart to a dashing detective with a chestnut moustache who owns a lamb named Kosie.

THE SATANIC MECHANIC draws us even more deeply into both the South African bush and Tannie Maria’s backstory. Her late husband was abusive and his memory is getting in the way of Maria’s new romance with detective Henk Kennemayer of the chestnut moustache.

As her friend Jessie interviews Slimkat, a Bushman tribal leader celebrating a major lawsuit against a diamond company for the rights to traditional land, Maria joins a PTSD therapy group led by a mechanic who once dabbled in the satanic arts. When Slimkat is fatally poisoned in front of Maria, Henk investigates, but her therapy group becomes an additional focus of attention when a member is killed during an outdoor session.

Could the two murders be linked? Is the satanic mechanic a killer as well as a healer? What will Maria bake for the group when it’s her turn to bring dessert?

Andrew has a beautiful writing style that effortlessly draws us into this rough, yet exotic setting. South Africa’s troubled past and unsettled society play pivotal roles, but the poetry found in Maria’s Klein Karoo will captivate you.

Maria and Henk’s relationship is tender and authentic. Plants, birds, animals, and food become real experiences for us as much as for Maria. The books are peppered with Afrikaans terms, which are not italicized as is usual with a foreign language. The format suggests that English and Afrikaans are so entwined as to be impossible to separate.

I love unique mysteries in which the setting is integral to the plot to the extent the story simply could not take place anywhere else. The Tannie Maria novels are perfect examples and I can’t wait for the next. Highly recommended.

Note: carmenamato.net uses Amazon Affiliate links.

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CARMEN AMATO

Mystery and thriller author. Retired Central Intelligence Agency intel officer. Dog mom to Hazel and Dutch. Recovering Italian handbag addict.

 

Detective Emilia Cruz series

Find the Detective Emilia Cruz mystery series on Amazon

The real story behind 43 MISSING

The real story behind 43 MISSING

43 MISSING, the latest Detective Emilia Cruz novel, is fiction but is based on a true, unsolved crime.

A big, terrible, words-fail-me unsolved crime.

43 Missing

In September 2014, forty-three students from the Ayotzinapa Normal School disappeared while in Iguala, Guerrero attempting to commandeer buses to take them to a rally in Mexico City. Three years and dozens of arrests later, the details around the crime are still sketchy and the families of the missing still do not have closure.

Neither truth nor bodies have been found.

I was just beginning the Detective Emilia Cruz series in 2014 when the 43 students disappeared. As time went on and the aftermath became spotted with half-truths and confusion, I wondered if I should write about it. Fiction has been my way of bringing awareness to the scores of Mexicans missing amid the country’s drug violence, but this crime and the possible secrets behind it, were almost unthinkable.

If Detective Emilia Cruz took on this investigation, I had to bring honesty and compassion to the project while creating both a believable motive and a firm resolution.

Research

As I researched the book that would become 43 MISSING, Francisco Goldman’s reporting in The New Yorker provided crucial details. I met him in October 2017 and thanked him for the superb reporting. He in turn praised the work of John Gibler, whom Goldman quoted in one of his articles:

“Scores of uniformed municipal police and a handful of masked men dressed in black shot and killed six people, wounded more than twenty, and rounded up and detained forty-three students in a series of attacks carried out at multiple points and lasting more than three hours,” Gibler wrote to me in an e-mail. “At no point did state police, federal police, or the army intercede. The forty-three students taken into police custody are now ‘disappeared.’ ”

https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/crisis-mexico-disappearance-forty-three

The motive for the assault on the students in the city of Iguala, not far from Acapulco, remains a mystery. One hypothesis reported by OpenDemocracy.net and other outlets which sparked my interest is that “the police were not after the students, but their bus . . . carrying shipment of drugs and/or money, which corrupt officers were trying to recover.”

https://www.opendemocracy.net/democraciaabierta/manuella-libardi/ayotzinapa-three-years-later-new-light-few-answers

The novel 43 MISSING tackles many of the real anomalies related to the case, including a discredited motive, how the 43 bodies were disposed of, and multiple identical confessions.

https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/the-missing-forty-three-the-mexican-government-sabotages-its-own-independent-investigation

https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/the-missing-forty-three-the-governments-case-collapses

“Damning”

The case quickly became a political hot potato and still is. In 2016, the Organization of American States was called in as a neutral party but its investigation withered. James Cavallaro, Stanford law professor and human rights expert who led the effort, had this to say in an interview with Americas Quarterly magazine:

Americas Quarterly: Mexico’s attorney general has called this “the most comprehensive criminal investigation in the history of law enforcement in Mexico.” What does that say about law enforcement in Mexico?

James Cavallaro: Unfortunately, given the results of the investigation, it’s quite a damning statement. It’s a damning statement because we don’t know what happened to the 43 students, we don’t know where they are, we don’t know who was responsible, we don’t know how they died. None of the most important questions have been answered. And if that’s what the most comprehensive investigation in the recent history of Mexico can produce, any rational observer should be extremely concerned about the state of criminal justice in Mexico.

http://www.americasquarterly.org/content/oas-human-rights-chief-galling-errors-obstruction-case-43-missing-mexican-students

As I write this at the end of 2017, most pundits say the families will never know what happened. While the mystery of the 43 missing is solved in fiction, I pray that it will some day be solved for real.

Click here to read Chapter 1 of 43 MISSING.

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CARMEN AMATO

Mystery and thriller author. Retired Central Intelligence Agency intel officer. Dog mom to Hazel and Dutch. Recovering Italian handbag addict.

 

Detective Emilia Cruz series

Find the Detective Emilia Cruz mystery series on Amazon

New Release! PACIFIC REAPER, the New Detective Emilia Cruz Novel

New Release! PACIFIC REAPER, the New Detective Emilia Cruz Novel

New release!

Detective Emilia Cruz goes up against the cult of Santa Muerte, Mexico’s forbidden saint of death in PACIFIC REAPER, the 5th novel in the series set in Acapulco.

Without giving anything away, early reviews say REAPER is the most powerful Emilia Cruz mystery yet. But you be the judge. Get REAPER on Amazon and please remember to leave a review.

In case you missed the run-up to REAPER, check out some background on the cult of Santa Muerte and read Chapter 1 for free:

When Detective Emilia Cruz Meets Santa Muerte

Background to PACIFIC REAPER

PACIFIC REAPER, Chapter 1

Thanks to great readers like you, PACIFIC REAPER debuted on Amazon’s Hot New Releases list for the International Mystery and Crime category next to some of the genre’s heaviest hitters. Matt Chase’s stellar cover art held its own next to the likes of Jo Nesbo’s THE THIRST.

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CARMEN AMATO

Mystery and thriller author. Retired Central Intelligence Agency intel officer. Dog mom to Hazel and Dutch. Recovering Italian handbag addict.

 

Detective Emilia Cruz series

Find the Detective Emilia Cruz mystery series on Amazon

Book Review: Midnight Sun by Jo Nesbo

Book Review: Midnight Sun by Jo Nesbo

For those mystery lovers who reveled in Jo Nesbo’s Harry Hole series, his new stand-alone novel Midnight Sun will be a bit of a surprise. Midnight Sun is easier on the blood pressure than Harry, with a sympathetic protagonist and the wooded setting of Norway’s  remote Finnmark province, home to Norway’s indigenous Laplanders, also known as the Sami people.

Related: Visiting Norway, Mystery Author Style

Ulf is on the run from an Oslo drug kingpin named The Fisherman and gets off the bus in the Sami village of Kasund. It’s a random choice but a lucky break: Ulf meets Lea and her son Knut who buy his story of coming for the grouse hunting. Ulf is soon installed in a hunting cabin with the rifle of Lea’s late husband, thought to be drowned at sea.

As Ulf considers what to do next, his backstory unfolds. It includes a drug-dealing past, his daughter’s death from leukemia, and his inability to shoot a rival dealer. He’s got a pile of money from the rival dealer, which The Fisherman wants back, and Ulf knows the hunt is on until The Fisherman sees Ulf’s dead body.

Like The Blackhouse by Peter May, I had the feeling that Nesbo wanted to write about a place and people that get little attention. He did so very well, using Ulf as the outsider looking in and sharing his experiences with us. Nesbo serves up great local color: the reindeer scratching its antlers against the cabin, the sun shining at all hours, the Sami’s homemade hooch and 3-day celebrations. Nesbo also gives us a window into a local brand of puritanical Christianity that both helps and hinders Ulf’s situation.

The plot was hugely satisfying, if largely linear and without the heft of the Harry Hole series.  I would have liked more about the remote Finnmark plateau; the harshness of the weather, the psychological impact of 24 hour days so close to the Arctic Circle, the (only hinted at) tension between the Sami people and central government in Oslo.

Verdict: A nicely paced thriller with a unique and absorbing setting.

Book Review: The Man Who Smiled by Henning Mankell

Book Review: The Man Who Smiled by Henning Mankell

Books starring the depressed Swedish police detective Kurt Wallander are growing on me, but not as fast as the portrayal of him by British actor Kenneth Branagh.  I like the book plotlines, the descriptions of rural Sweden, the nice balance of character introspection and action. His perpetual unhappiness, stilted dialogue, and self-searching angst are part of Henning Mankell’s moody style, and Branagh captures it perfectly.

In THE MAN WHO SMILED, Wallander can’t come to grips with the fact that he killed a man in the line of duty. He’s drinking himself into oblivion, emerging briefly for a sex-addict’s blurred holiday in Thailand. After an intervention by his grownup yet unseen daughter Linda, he takes his angst to the windswept beaches of Jutland and plans to retire from his job as senior police detective in Ystad, Sweden. But an old friend approaches him to investigate the death of his father, then later turns up murdered. Wallander pulls himself together and heads back into his police career.

He’s been gone for over a year. The squadroom has changed, notably with the addition of a young female detective. As I write a mystery series about a lone female detective in a squadroom full of hostile men, this character really resonated with me. Her attitudes, dialogue and action scenes were very well done.

The book showcased the way Wallander pieces together multiple murders. I enjoyed the pacing of the discovery of clues and the logic thread which made the mystery one of the best in the Wallander series.

But there was one epic fail and it surprised me, given that the rest of the book came together so well. The wrong part would have been very easy to leave out or adjust to make sense. Without giving it away, it involved a switch by the bad guys after the good guy was dead and they simply could have taken the clue when they left the scene of the crime. Or Mankell could have left the original item to be found as the clue. Either way the plot elements would have hardly been affected.

I often look for solid motive in a mystery. The bad guy’s motive was a bit thin, but Mankell sold it as an appalling disregard for human life. It worked—but barely.

Book Review: Doors Open by Ian Rankin

Book Review: Doors Open by Ian Rankin

Ian Rankin is one of my favorite mystery writers, with robust, imaginative characters that are true to their environment, beautifully paced plots, and locations that I’ve visited and love despite the flaws he exposes. Up front I’ll admit that I’m prejudiced in favor of his Detective Inspector John Rebus books. My favorites are Resurrection Men, the Falls and Exit Music.

DOORS OPEN by Ian Rankin is a standalone suspense novel with a plot that revolves around Edinburgh’s art scene. The main character, rich and bored Mike Mackenzie, ends up with two unlikely cohorts in a scheme to steal paintings from the National Gallery of Edinburgh. The partnership is anything but smooth–no one truly trusts anybody in this novel, for good reason–and soon the action is complicated by thugs and cops.

Rankin’s heavy in the book, Chib Calloway, is a reincarnation of Big Ger Rafferty in the Rebus books, but with a bit less finesse. “My town, my rules,” the character snarls at one point.

The ending has a bit of a wow factor, in that everyone gets what is coming to them, but the book moves more slowly than the Rebus books. The theme of doors opening, as in new opportunities, is overused and soon gets tiresome. While I won’t say don’t give it a try, if you’re looking for a great suspense novel set in Scotland, go with one of Rankin’s Rebus novels. They are all 5 star winners.

P.S. A movie was made from the book, starring among others, Stephen Fry who in his youth starred opposite Hugh Laurie in the wonderful Jeeves and Wooster BBC series based on the P.G. Wodehouse books. Others will recognize him as Mycroft Holmes in the Robert Downey Sherlock Holmes movies.

Fry obviously couldn’t keep the DOORS OPEN movie from a lukewarm reception, however, and it only rates 5.9 out of 10 on imdb.com: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2371315/

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