I so wanted to like this book. It is the fulfillment of author Black's long-time dream of being published. However, while the writing is good, the first third of the book is the strongest part. The gears (like the hero's borrowed "beater" car) start grinding in the second third, and the final segment just peters out--despite a big-bang climactic warehouse scene.
One of the major problems I had was with hero Shade's romantic interest, Maria. She comes across as so stereotyped, so unbelievable, so lacking in any real depth that she's simply not viable as an adult female. As well, Shade's interaction with her and the descriptions of their exchanges (of one sort or another) are positively sophomoric and read more like a teenage boy's diary than a believable relationship.
Most of the males in the book sound alike; they speak the same ungrammatical lingo. There's more material on kickboxing than the narrative can handle, and the truth behind the death of illegal alien Carlos is so obvious that there are absolutely no surprises. Shade comes across as a bit dense and far younger than his supposed age of thirty.
On the plus side, there's some nice material about Shade's feelings for stray animals, and a number of scenes have great tension. Unfortunately, there's just not enough meat here to make for a satisfying meal.
The author is worth watching in the hope that the next book (assuming this to be the start of a series) will put some of his long-term police experience and understanding to good use in a more deeply felt, less mechanical effort that features grown-up people dealing in a more realistic fashion with issues more compelling than kickboxing championships and the loss of an uninsured set of upscale wheels.