Black Label by James L’Etoile/Review by Sheila Sobel

Black Label
James L’Etoile

Level Best Books
July 20, 2021
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Black Label by James L'Etoile Reviewed by Sheila Sobel

Waking up naked in a stranger’s bed with an alcohol-fueled raging headache and no memory of how she got there is a woman’s worst nightmare. But the nightmare is just beginning for Jillian Cooper, the rising marketing star at Dynalife Pharmaceutical, she just doesn’t know it yet. All she can think about now is quietly escaping the richly appointed San Francisco apartment and getting home to her migraine medication and the welcome relief it will bring. Maybe then she’ll be able to sort out the murky details of exactly what happened.

But her swift and stealthy exit is delayed when the newscaster from a still-playing television announces that her boss, CEO Jonathon Mattson, has died. Disoriented by the pain in her head and shocked by the news, she flees the apartment, signals for a taxi and spots the newspaper headlines, which boldly claim that billionaire Mattson was murdered.

It’s Monday? The last thing Jillian remembers happened Friday.

Before she can make it home, David Paulson, Dynalife’s COO, summons Jillian to headquarters for an emergency meeting, where her run-in with Jonathon Mattson on Friday gets blown out of proportion. It doesn’t take long for Inspector DiManno—waiting to interview her in the acting CEO’s office—to consider her the prime suspect in Mattson’s murder.

After leaving the Dynalife offices and regrouping long enough for her migraine medication to kick in, Jillian returns to the apartment where she woke up. There, she discovers that not only is the apartment vacant and has been for months, but the doorman she saw as she exited the building that morning was not the actual doorman. Jillian’s confusion turns to fear, as her situation is either an elaborate set-up to cast her as a killer or she’s sliding into dementia just like her mother—both equally frightening.

With the police waiting outside her home and nobody she can trust, Jillian decides her only recourse is to hide in plain sight as one of the many anonymous homeless people that populate San Francisco.

The mystery deepens when Jillian meets a recent parolee whose possessions include a Dynalife prescription bottle filled with Bosphizion, the very HIV drug that she and her boss fought over before he was killed.

Can Jillian discover the truth behind the madness that has become her life?  She has no choice. Her freedom depends on it. Maybe even her life.

James L’Etoile’s latest thriller, Black Label, has a ripped-from-the headlines plot which explores the depth of Big Pharma corruption and just how far one company is willing to go to sustain their exceptional level of greed.

James L’Etoile uses his twenty-nine years behind bars as an influence in his novels, short stories, and screenplays. He is a former associate warden in a maximum-security prison, a hostage negotiator, facility captain, and director of California’s state parole system. He is a nationally recognized expert witness on prison and jail operations. He has been nominated for the Silver Falchion for Best Procedural Mystery, and The Bill Crider Award for short fiction. His published novels include: At What Cost, Bury the Past, and Little River -The Other Side of Paradise. Look for Black Label in the summer of 2021 from Level Best Books. You can find out more at

Sheila Sobel’s Middle-Grade work-in-progress, TIME FLIES was a finalist for the 2020 Killer Nashville Claymore Award. Her debut YA novel, Color Blind, won the 2017 Killer Nashville Reader’s Choice Award for Best YA Fiction and was a Finalist for the 2017 Silver Falchion Award for Best YA Fiction. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, two dogs and a cat.