Reviews of Busted

Bustedby Michele I. Khoury is a riveting story with characters that readers will enjoy. Twenty-four-year-old artist Gina McKenna is literally broke and she is about to spend the last of what she had left when a rich businessman buys one of her paintings and asks her to do more. She is slowly sucked into his world of wealth and opulence and, when she falls for him, she discovers that Miguel Lopez is a ruthless drug lord and he kills anyone who comes between him and his business.

A new player comes into the game, DEA Special Agent Bobby Garcia, who has been looking for any means to bring down the mastermind behind the drug distribution network in Southern California, a mission that quickly turns personal with the overdose of his teenage daughter. There is a lot waiting for the reader in the plot as relationships become complex and dangers multiply. Who will be left standing when the curtain falls?

Michele I. Khoury’s novel is a gem, the kind of story for readers who love suspenseful plots, character-driven writing, and well-developed conflicts in what they read. I loved the cast of characters and Gina is well-thought out and developed with mastery. The reader will love the role she plays in the story and how she evolves through it. Yes, there is content for mature readers like steamy sex, violence, and foul language. The story is fast-paced and absorbing, the writing balanced, with impeccable world-building. Busted is a page-turner, as exciting as it is entertaining.”≤/p>–Reviewed by Arya Fomonyuy for Readers’ Favorite


Every once in awhile, something unexpectedly pleasant happens. Imagine my surprise when I was researching Reader’s Favorite and discovered Busted had been awarded 5 out of 5 stars. The review happened last summer, and I didn’t even know about the award.

Busted, by Michele Khoury“In Khoury’s debut novel, a struggling painter who’s looking for an art dealer meets a drug dealer instead—and danger ensues.

Short on rent and desperate for cash, Regina “Gina” McKenna is about to get a citation for attempting to sell her paintings in a Laguna Beach, California, park without a permit when Jason Cavalieri, owner of Cabaret Restaurant, comes to her rescue. He buys a painting on the spot and invites her to a party, promising that he’ll introduce her to his wealthy friends. Instead, he entangles her in his secret drug-dealing operation—and a murder plot—just as Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent Bobby Garcia homes in on Jason’s business partner, Miguel Lopez, as a suspect in his investigation. The action unfolds in short, punchy chapters as Gina tries to extract herself from Jason’s grip while the police and the other drug dealers try to find out how much she knows about her new benefactor. In one especially exciting scene, a criminal dangles from a plane in midair, desperately trying to climb back inside before he plummets into the Pacific Ocean. Orange County is known for its beautiful coastline and sunny skies; Khoury’s story shows a darker side, including a growing housing crisis and a failing war on drugs. The protagonist’s anxiety is palpable as she cold-calls art galleries and passes out homemade fliers to try to sell her work so that she can pay for the small space she rents from a family who’s struggling to pay the mortgage. Deputy District Attorney Tom Halloway, who develops a soft spot for Gina while he works on her case, is also quick to provide statistics on how legalizing drugs would save resources and reduce crime. Gina is shown to be naïve but scrappy, and when she lands in jail for a crime she didn’t commit, she cowers before shifty inmates and unscrupulous guards—until a street-savvy prostitute shows her the ropes, giving her a fighting chance.

A fast-paced, often thrilling tale, with the economic plight of an artist living in a high-rent neighborhood as an unexpected bonus.”

–Kirkus Review

Busted, by Michele Khoury, is a well-written and exceedingly heartfelt debut novel about cocaine and its abuse. What separates Khoury’s work from other similarly-themed volumes are found in her characters’ thoughts and exploits when it comes to legalization. Never a simple issue, Khoury’s characters are human and conceived as though the author is personally familiar with each. As such, the answers to the related, difficult, and interconnected journeys of her three main characters will have readers questioning their own biases. This is a brave work, part ‘Traffic,’ part ‘Magnolia,’ all original. Kudos to this author for a gutsy, profound effort. Busted heralds the arrival of a bold new voice. ”
—Joel Eisenberg
Author, The Chronicles of Ara

Recommended Nonfiction Reading

Gray, Judge James P. Why Our Drug Laws Have FAILED and What We Can Do About It. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2001. Print.

Gray, Mike. Drug Crazy: How We Got Into This Mess and How We Can Get Out. Taylor and Francis Group, 2013. Print.

Rempel, William C. At the Devil’s Table: The Untold Story of the Insider Who Brought Down the Cali Cartel. Random House, 2011.

For writers: Wheat, Carolyn. How to Write KILLER Fiction. Santa Barbara, California: John Daniel and Company, 2003. Print.

Recommended Fiction Reading

Katie Arnold’s book, Point Dume, 2010.

Don Winslow’s books:

  • The Power of the Dog, 2006.
  • Savages, 2011.
  • The Kings of Cool, 2013.
  • The Cartel, 2016.
Book Club Discussion Questions

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