The Doctor’s Plot: A BookShot, by James Patterson and Connor Hyde

Eight stars

Stumbling across this new BookShot within the recently released Murder in Paradise collection, James Patterson is collaborating with Connor Hyde to come up with this spine-tingling story. Abi Brenner is excited to have been hired as a new medical examiner in the Napa Valley. A Wisconsin farm girl, Abi and her husband, Jeremy, are trying to settle in to the California lifestyle and the pile of cases left by the previous M.E. who died in a freak accident. As soon as she begins working, Abi discovers some oddities in a handful of the bodies awaiting her analysis, all of whom died in a similar manner. Meanwhile, working at a local free clinic, Jeremy also finds himself surrounded by inexplicable happenings that he cannot simply consider coincidental. When Abi begins to poke around, she soon runs up against a wall, but will not turn away until she has answers. There’s something not right going on and she needs to raise a warning flag to those in a position of authority. Abi also has something she needs to tell Jeremy, but is not sure if she’ll have the time before someone tries to silence her for good. Patterson and Hyde have crafted a wonderful short story that will keep the reader guessing until the final sentence. Perfect for those who love Patterson BookShots, particularly of the medical and criminal variety.

This is the first collaborative effort to my knowledge between James Patterson and Connor Hyde, but I hope it will not be their last. The authors seem to have a great literary chemistry, whatever their contractual obligation might be related to this piece. Abi Brenner is a great character and she has some real pizzazz, mixing medical practitioner with all-around sleuth. She may be young, but she holds her own in this piece, keeping it light and yet poignant throughout. Because of his role in the piece, I will also call Jeremy an essential piece of the puzzle and give him protagonist accolades, developing his own narrative to propel the story in a few interesting directions. The handful of secondary characters offer an interesting glimpse into the sinister side to whatever is going on (read to find out) and keeps the reader wondering how large this web of deceit might go. The story itself is strong enough to keep my attention while also entertain me in the short space on offer to do so. It’s a BookShot, but not simply slapped together to fill space. Patterson and Hyde have invested some research and used the short-chapter trademark style that keeps BookShots crisp and interesting for the dedicated reader. I’ll gladly read another collaborative effort, should these two work together in the coming months or years.

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson and Hyde, for an interesting piece. Glad I took the time to check out this BookShot collection, as this story was sandwiched between two I had read before.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

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The Prodigal Sister (Esther and Jack Enright #3), by David Field

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to David Field and Sapere Books for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Victorian England comes alive when David Field writes, particularly its criminal element. In another Esther and Jack Enright tale, the reader is transported to yet another murder scene, full of mystery and intrigue. When a woman’s body is found dead on the train tracks late one night, the police are called in to investigate. Detective Constable Jack Enright and his uncle, Detective Sergeant Percy Enright are directed to begin amassing evidence and leads, in hopes of discovering what might have happened to young Marianne Ormonde, the presumed victim. While Jack begins sleuthing, Esther is learning the ropes of motherhood, home with baby Lily. Esther has seen much change in her life, though caring for a little one is surely the most trying experience she’s had to undertake. After seeking to advise Marianne’s brother, Edgar, of her suspected death, Jack and Percy are left to wonder if they have a viable suspect. Standoffish and unwilling to help, Edgar Ormonde tries to deflect knowing anything, though other witnesses place him not only at the scene, but aboard the same train his sister rode. Needing an insider’s glimpse into the Ormonde family, Jack persuades Esther to go undercover again to lay a trap. While Esther is happy to help, she can only remember how she was almost killed on Jack’s last two major cases. Using some unorthodox techniques, Esther is able to shake Edgar to the core, but will it be enough to have him confess to murder? Field presents another winner in this series, whose brevity should not indicate that it is anything less than stellar. Perfect for those who love Victorian murder mysteries and prefer something that can be read in short order.

I was recently introduced to David Field and his work, which seems to have found a decent niche in the genre. After devouring a few novels in the past week, I knew this entire series would be on my ‘binge’ list. Field uses Victorian England as an eerie setting, as well as a handful of strong characters to propel this story forward, turning a compact plot into something both exciting and easy to enjoy. Esther Enright, now married and a mother, plays a lesser role in this novel, though her presence is still felt. She has been forced to adapt to a significant change in her life and has periods when she cannot help but wish that her husband would accept a more mundane position within Scotland Yard. Jack, on the other hand, is thoroughly enjoying this detective position, but can see the wonders of being a father and his young family, something that he is sure to miss the more hours he clocks while chasing the scum of the city. Jack and Esther continue complementing one another so well as they work yet another crime together, in new and exciting roles. The secondary characters prove entertaining within the pages of this story, using Cockney speech and salty sayings to take the reader inside the less refined parts of London while also allowing a sense of being in the middle of the action. The story flows well, unique from the past two pieces, and keeps a decent pace, with quick chapters helping propel things forward. Field has but a short time to develop his narrative, but always injects humour and banter when time permits. The writing leaves the reader wanting to know more and pushing to find out how a lack of forensic technology might be used to corner a seemingly obvious criminal. Field has done a masterful job with these novels and I await a fourth book’s release in the coming weeks. I can only hope that Field will continue crafting these addictive stories for fans who find them so enthralling.

Kudos, Mr. Field, for this wonderful novel. I am eager to read more Esther and Jack stories and hope others will follow my lead.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

The Queen’s Birthday Telegram: The Year of Short Stories, by Jeffrey Archer

Eight stars

Master storyteller Lord Jeffrey Archer has chosen to please his fans with a new venture; a short story released each month. Those familiar with Archer’s work will know that he can not only spin long and involved pieces, but also the short story that compacts adventure into a handful of pages. June’s story is brief, but very much a winner, when Albert Webber receives a telegram from from the Queen on the celebration of his one hundredth birthday. This is in addition to all the fanfare the town and his family have to celebrate this milestone event. When, three years on, Albert’s wife celebrates this same cake-worthy event, there is nothing that arrives. Hurt on her behalf, Albert waits for a time before placing a call to determine if there’s been a mix-up. A few transfers and cross-references later, it all becomes clear and Albert cannot help but chuckle. A wonderful re-release for Archer fans that can be read in a few moments, with a smile factor that will surely linger.

Lord Jeffrey Archer’s work is always full of unique perspectives, be they complete novels or shorter story such as this one. I am so pleased to have come across this collection and have reviewed each story based on its own merits. Now I await each instalment on a monthly basis, hoping they will be as interesting as the first half of the collection. This was definitely one of the faster reads, one that I remember devouring in a past collection. Even with a lack of character development, Archer pushes a wonderful story along to the reader, adding his trademark zinger by the final sentence. I have enjoyed all these pieces and now must be patient for the rest of the series to come, released for free each month to Archer fans!

Kudos, Lord Archer, for a masterful new story collection. How you find so many effective ideas that produce high quality publications I will never know.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

True Fiction (Ian Ludlow Thrillers #1), by Lee Goldberg

Six stars

Needing a quick read, I turned to this series debut by Lee Goldberg, about which I have heard many good things. When an airplane crashes in Hawaii not long after take-off, the news outlets begin streaming coverage and countless people gasp in horror. However, thriller writer Ian Ludlow is not one of them. Hiding in his Seattle hotel while on a book tour, Ludlow knows that with this event, his life is in imminent danger. Coaxed out of hiding by his author escort, Margo French, Ludlow tells of how the CIA is trying to kill him after an authors’ retreat a few years before. At this event, Ludlow shared a potential plot idea that seems to have been replicated down to the smallest detail. Little does Ludlow know, it is not the CIA, per se, but Blackthorn Securities that has their eye on him and is responsible for the crash. Now it is up to Ludlow, with Margo by his side, to dodge Blackthorn as they zero-in on his location. What started as a fearful writer running for his life has become a high-stakes game of cat and mouse, with only one possible outcome. Fast-paced and with little time to synthesise the info, the reader is taken on this adventure as Goldberg tosses twists at every possible instance. Those who need a good beach read need look no further than Lee Goldberg’s new series.

This is my first time reading anything by Lee Goldberg, though it would seem he is well-established. He has a great ability to portray the ‘author writing about an author’ theme and not make it come across as corny, though does utilise the ‘cat and mouse’ thriller recipe well, injecting a little cheesiness when needed. Ian Ludlow (apparently Goldberg’s nom de plume?) is an interesting character, established in his writing capabilities yet always looking to stay relevant. His slightly geeky side mixes well with the fear of being caught by the giant bully and the story turns into his using some of the resources he has been able to cobble together as a writer over the years. The story progresses as he gains some courage, but the reader must also remember that some of the stereotypical ‘bad ass geek’ is on display here. Hokey at times, Ludlow does come across as somewhat enjoyable and I did find myself laughing while shaking my head on more than a single occasion. Margo French proves to be a nice counterbalance for Ludlow, as she has somehow been pulled into the middle of this adventure without wanting to be there. A dog-walker and amateur singer, French brings the sass and sarcasm to this party without becoming the helpless femme fatale. A handful of secondary characters flesh-out the wonders of this thriller novel, keeping the story edgy and propelling it towards what is sure to be a bloody conclusion. The story was by no means stellar, but it proved entertaining, which seems to be Goldberg’s goal, as he has written much for television and knows how to keep the audience enthralled. I’ll surely keep my eyes open for more of his work, though cannot rave about how wonderful I found the book or how it is likely some of the best reading I have done all year. Still, if you need something for a trip or lounging by the pool, Goldberg has just what you might want.

Kudos, Mr. Goldberg, for an interesting introduction to the series. I admit, I am intrigued and will see what else you have to offer.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

The Night Caller (Esther and Jack Enright Mysteries #2), by David Field

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to David Field and Sapere Books for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

A continued exploration of Victorian England’s criminal underbelly through the eyes of David Field proves to be a wonderful escape for the curious reader. With Esther and Jack preparing to marry, there is much to do, including finding the perfect dress. In an attempt to counterbalance the drama of such an event, Esther finds herself offered a job working for the National Women’s Labour Alliance, a union hoping to bring support to women working across London. Still in its infancy, the Alliance hopes to be a driving force in changing work practices for the better and has a firecracker leading the charge. Meanwhile, Jack Enright has accepted a role as Detective Constable with Scotland Yard. His Uncle Percy, a long-time copper, has taken Jack under his wing and will show him the art of detecting. Their first case pertains to someone breaking into the homes of women and stealing their…unmentionables. With these thefts comes written demands that the women immediately distance themselves from the Alliance. While most events were undertaken when the women were away or sleeping, the culprit has become brazen and removed a few pairs from women while the knickers were still in place. Could this be a crime of a sexual nature and one of a sicko? Jack and Percy put their heads together and share what they know, bringing Esther into the conversation, only to see that she might have some insight. Working the case from two angles, Esther will try to sleuth out information from within the Alliance while Jack and Percy follow leads to nab the thief. Things take a significant turn when the thieving turns to murder, putting Esther in the middle of what could be an extremely dangerous assignment. As London looks to turn a page on its industrial history, a murderer lurks in the shadows, wanting to halt things before they get started. The wedding will have to take a backseat as long as there is a case to be solved, though nothing will keep these lovebirds from tying the proverbial knot. Another great mystery that reads so swiftly and with ease. Recommended for those who enjoy Victorian crime thrillers.

I was recently introduced to David Field and his work by an eager publisher. After devouring the first novel, I knew I would have to get my hands on the follow-up, which has proven to be just as entertaining. Field uses an intriguing setting, Victorian England, and some strong characters to propel this story into something both exciting and easy to enjoy. Esther Jacobs remains a strong protagonist as she uses her strong personality to enchant many of those she meets. Her role as a union member and clerk is not downplayed by Field whatsoever, but proves essential to the entire plot. She is both determined and willing to listen, which helps her sleuth undetected. Detective Constable Jack Enright’s passion for policing is apparent, which he has undertaken with gusto. Field paints his male protagonist as a dedicated copper and one who wants to rid the streets of this thief/killer, but also protect Esther. Jack and Esther complement one another so well, working the crime as effectively as their impending cohabitation. Field is able to develop this connection without making Enright appearing any less crime-focussed. The secondary characters again fit perfectly into this story, using their Cockney speech and wayward manner to take the reader inside the less refined parts of London while also allowing a sense of being in the middle of the action. The story itself flows well and keeps a decent pace as the chapters pass by quickly. With only a short time for Field to develop his narrative, there is little time for extemporaneous blather, but always a chance to inject some humour into happenings. The writing leaves the reader wanting to know more and pushing to find out who might be responsible for these dastardly crimes with female victims. Field has done a masterful job with these first two novels and I have a third awaiting my perusal. I can only hope that he keeps writing these sorts of mysteries for all to enjoy.

Kudos, Mr. Field, for this wonderful follow-up novel. I am eager to get my hands on more Esther and Jack stories and hope others will follow my lead.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

Murder Solstice (Torquil McKinnon #3), by Keith Moray

Seven stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to Keith Moray and Sapere Books for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

In continuing this unique series, Keith Moray leads the reader back to the Hebrides, where he recounts another Scottish police procedural/mystery full of local flavouring. When Dunshiffin Castle receives new inhabitants, West Uist is abuzz and not entirely for the right reasons. The Daisy Institute has made its presence known and recruiting for their spiritual retreat and enlightenment programme. While many flock to the group, family members have begun complaining that those who join are kept away from outside communication. The leader, the esteemed Dr. Logan Burns, has professed that a local site, the Hoolish Stones, could be part of a larger enlightenment piece, which will be revealed at the summer solstice. With a news crew in West Uist to cover the lead-up to the solstice and all that Burns can tell about his programme, a local historian is ready to debunk the entire Institute however he can. Inspector Torquil ‘Piper’ McKinnon has been running his police detachment effectively, or so he thinks, though he is always being criticised by his superior on the mainland. With all the excitement, a new face turns up in town, Sergeant Lorna Golspie, seconded by the Hebrides Constabulary to report back and clean up what has become a lax detachment. McKinnon does not take well to this and pushes back in his traditional passive aggressive ways, which only angers the mainland even more. The peace and tranquility of West Uist is broken when the aforementioned historian turns up dead, possibly from a drunken fall, but there is something that does not seem right to some of the locals. As McKinnon and his team try to investigate, the uproar with the Daisy Institute increase and tempers flare. A second death forces a complete change in efforts from indifferent acceptance to active interrogation. Tranquility and peacefulness are pushed aside in West Uist, leaving anything but a fertile foundation for enlightenment. The local journalist reminds his readers and McKinnon about the double murder/murder-suicide back at the winter solstice, not six months before. It would seem that Torquil McKinnon and his team are sitting on a powder keg yet again, with no clear means of diffusing it, while also trying to handle Sergeant Golspie and her secondment mission. Another well-paced mystery has Moray convincing me that I chose well in turning to his series. Recommended for those who love police procedural with a different take.

When the publisher approached me to read and review the first few novels in the series, I was hooked by the opening lines. This third novel was more of the same, taking me back into the rural Scottish community Moray developed. Torquil McKinnon remains an interesting character, mixing a reputable career as a member of the constabulary with a strong connection to the locals, some of whom have come to call him a personal friend. There is little backstory here, but McKinnon’s policing and struggles with superiors who are away from West Uist remains central, particularly with the secondment of Golspie. Her presence does impact the novel in interesting ways that the reader will discover as they delve deeper and understand some of the nuances of the plot. The story is full of strong secondary characters, many of whom are new and gain entry into the narrative, shaping it effectively. These individuals, returnees and new folk alike, add humour and banter for the reader, as well as some sinister aspects, which one can hope will return in future novels. The story itself is decent and keeps the narrative flowing well, though I admit to liking it the least of the three novels so far. Discussion of cults and isolation is nothing new, though it did serve a purpose and as a bridge to get through the solstice theme, which Moray handled nicely. While some may be familiar with ‘big city’ and tangential police procedurals, the reader can enjoy this close-knit story that fills the pages with Scottish lore! I’ll gladly read the rest of this series (at five novels so far), if only to learn more about McKinnon and the West Uist community.

Kudos, Mr. Moray, for this wonderful piece. I enjoyed the story and its clipped delivery, which proves a refreshing alternative to much of what I have been reading.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

Texas Ranger, by James Patterson and Aaron Bourelle

Six stars

In another of his endless collaborations, James Patterson has called on Aaron Bourelle to work alongside him on this standalone novel. Part murder mystery, part protagonist self-discovery, this piece takes the reader down to the heart of Texas. Rory Yates is part of the elite Texas Rangers, one of only two hundred in the entire state. Best known for his quick draw capabilities, Yates has found himself in a few situations of shooting first and asking questions later. After one such event, he takes a call from his ex-wife, Anne, who’s been getting creepy messages and items left on her property. Yates makes his way across the state to check on her, only to find her dead body. Yates is soon cleared as a suspect, but has an idea who might be responsible and pushes the local police to investigate. While he may be a Ranger, this is one case that Rory Yates will not be welcome to join, officially. Back in his hometown and trying to chase down leads, Yates reconnects with his family and some of his former sweethearts, all of whom help stir up scores of emotions and memories from his time as a child and being married to Anne. With a killer on the loose, Yates cannot let his past cloud the present, even if it means turning down new love, or rekindling a past flame. When another person close to Yates turn up dead, stalked in the same manner, Yates is sure the killer has him in the crosshairs and will do whatever it takes, legal or not, to end this. Patterson and Bourelle have an interesting one-off novel here that seeks to pull the reader in from the outset. Perfect for those who have travel plans or need some beach reading. Patterson collaborations always fill a gap between substantive reads and this one is decent enough to recommend without hesitation.

I have come to realise that while many see the name James Patterson and flock to the book, I tend to give it a second thought, having been on the rollercoaster ride that is the Patterson Express. One can never know what to expect, particularly with one-off novels. That said, Bourelle has made a name for himself with some stronger collaborative efforts—Patterson’s BookShots—and so I trust something of a higher caliber when I see their joint efforts. This story worked well and kept me reading, which says a lot when it comes to the massive pile of books I have to read. Rory Yates is an interesting protagonist, by no means unique, but the spin put on this rough exterior cop is one that kept me intrigued throughout. I was not sure how Patterson and Bourelle might have approached him, but they did well to offer a hard-nosed man who demands respect with a soft side when it comes to those he loves. Yates has that ‘nothing will stop me’ mentality, perfect for a stubborn cop, though does not reek of ‘redneck traditionalism’, should such a stereotype deserve a formal label. The handful of other characters who influence Yates’ progress in the novel serve to eke out interesting tidbits about the protagonist and his backstory without taking the reader down too many rabbit holes and losing momentum throughout the narrative. The story is surely interesting, as it gives the reader a glimpse into how a cop might handle a murder investigation of someone close to them, though keeps a unique angle as the narrative progresses by tossing sub-plots related to self-discovery throughout. With little time to waste, the authors push forward and force the reader to juggle both types of storyline simultaneously. Using Patterson’s trademark short chapters full of cliffhangers, the story never has a chance to slow and the resolution comes crashing through the gates in the closing pages, with that lingering wonder throughout who might be responsible. My rating has nothing to do with the quality of the book, but more that I want to be blown out of the water, as Patterson has been known to do on the rare occasion. A decent story, but I would not offer up a ‘stellar’ label at this point.

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson and Bourelle, for your ongoing collaborative work. I can see wonderful things within these pages and hope you’ll find more time to write in the coming months and years.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

The Moscow Cipher (Ben Hope #17), by Scott Mariani

Eight stars

Scott Mariani is back with another Ben Hope thriller, placing him in the middle of another harrowing adventure to uncover mysteries that would shock the outside world. Yuri Petrov thought he had left his life as a Russian spy in the past. However, when approached by his former superior to help with a coded message that was found inside an old Moscow building, he is wary of what awaits him. After starting the process, Petrov realises that he must flee with his daughter, Valentina, to ensure they are both safe. Meanwhile, back at his compound in France, former SAS Ben Hope is enjoying his life of leisure, working for himself and at his own pace. An old acquaintance arrives with some worrisome news, his grand-niece seems to have been kidnaped by her father—Yuri Petrov—after she was not returned back to her mother in a timely manner. Hope, who spent many years honing his work in kidnap and ransom has much experience working with children and he agrees to help. Sent to Russia, Hope must find young Valentina and extract her quickly, though he is unsure what awaits him, having never ventured into this massive country. Met at the airport by a young guide, Hope begins his search, using intuition and cyber clues to locate Petrov and Valentina. It is at this point that Hope learns about ‘Operation Puppet Master’, a Soviet-era experiment that could control the mind of any subject and wreak havoc. With the Russians inching closer and Valentina his primary concern, Hope must not only extract the young girl, but ensure that Puppet Master in its resurrected form is terminated before it can be put to use. This may be the most harrowing adventure yet, for Hope cannot tell how to locate his enemies or what they might do after placing him in the crosshairs. Mariani has done well with this book and keeps the reader involved. Series fans will surely enjoy this one, as will those who like thrillers with a ‘revived Russia’ theme.

I have enjoyed Mariani’s work since I binge-read much of the Ben Hope series last summer. Each book serves to build on the previous novels, advancing not only story arcs, but well-balanced plots and timely situations. Ben Hope has undergone much change in these seventeen novels, progressing and regressing in equal measure, but there is always room for more, as the reader discovers with each passing piece. Hope is away from home for much of the book and his past does not rear its head throughout, but his compassionate nature is on offer for the reader to weigh against the deadly force he is willing to use against those who threaten his safety, as well as that of his client. A handful of supporting characters help keep the story moving, both key allies and those with dastardly intentions to wrestle control away from Hope. The story is one that seems to be reappearing in thrillers of late, the renewed rise of Russia and its cutthroat push to regain control, flexing muscles in an effort to return to past glories. Reality or fiction, Mariani paints a dark image of what could be to come, should the Russians possess or utilse Operation Puppet Master to its full effect. The reader is left to wonder and potentially quake as this spine-tingling technology is explained in depth, as well as the fallout that awaits. Could it already be in use, in communities around the world? Mariani leaves that opportunity open for discussion as the reader pushes through this latest novel in the Ben Hope series. There does not seem to be any loss of momentum, so one can only hope that Mariani has many more adventures in store for his rugged protagonist.

Kudos, Mr. Mariani, for another well-crafted piece. I thoroughly enjoy the mix of adventure and historical analysis you offer the reader. I am pleased to see another piece is ready for publication and eagerly await its release.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

Due Process (Joe Dillard #9), by Scott Pratt

Eight stars

Scott Pratt is back with another gritty legal thriller, the ninth in the Joe Dillard series. This piece is sure to impress series fans with more legal antics that only Dillard to justify in the cutthroat world of Tennessee law. After being picked-up by the police, Sheila Self professes that her intoxication is related to being drugged and gang-raped at a party held by the local college football team. A stripper and escort, Self explains that she was hired to perform at a house and was forceable attacked in the washroom. The authorities begin an investigation into the case as defence attorney Joe Dillard watches from the sidelines, refusing to become involved for personal reasons. However, when three black players are fingered as the culprits by Self, whose identification is nudged along by a tunnel-visioned investigator, Dillard agrees to meet with one young man and learns that the evidence is not only flimsy, but that the man before him could not be guilty. Dillard’s intuition is such that he will do everything he can to help his client, feeling that this is not a ‘sports team gone wild’ case as much as one divided along racial lines. With East Tennessee still teetering on the edge of racial acceptance, Dillard is sure that no matter what the evidence shows, race will become a key factor. Can he help his client get a fair trial? Will a young black man be safe when accused of raping a white woman? How will Dillard balance a trial with a wife whose cancer is back and getting worse? Pratt explores these and many other situations within the pages of this fabulously crafted novel. Series fans will be so pleased to see Joe Dillard back and should be ready to learn much. Also recommended to those who love a quick paced legal thriller, though beginning at the start of this well-paced series may shed additional light on the nuances woven into this novel.

I have long been a fan of Scott Pratt and the Joe Dillard series, which mixes legal matters alongside life in the southern United States. Pratt is able to convey a highly entertaining story for the reader, full of interesting characters, as well as legal matters torn from the headlines, but with a twist. Joe Dillard, who has seen much transformation throughout the series, returns with even more passion, both for his work and the family he has worked hard to keep together. His dedication to his wife is second to none and Pratt is able to mould his protagonist into being a highly compassionate man while also ready to cut the throat of anyone who crosses his path. The novel brings a number of returning characters into the story, each with their own development, though some advance more than others. The one-offs, as with many novels, prove to propel the plot and make a mark, though not usually indelible, throughout. The pace of the narrative is such that the reader loses themselves in the legal and medical matters, as well as the social commentary offered to depict the ongoing racial divide in Tennessee and surrounding area. Pratt does not pull any punches, painting Eastern Tennessee as being anything but inclusive, though it is necessary to bring his point home and the reader should see this as being more than a mere soapbox rant. Fans of the series are surely pleased to see Dillard back, on a brief hiatus to allow Pratt’s development of another series, equally enthralling. The banter within this series is well-constructed and keeps the reader from getting too bogged down in legal matters. I hope Pratt has many more novels in this series, as Joe Dillard does not appear to be losing steam whatsoever.

Kudos, Mr. Pratt, for another stellar novel. A quick read, but surely memorable and the perfect addition to any reading list!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

The Gaslight Stalker (The Esther and Jack Enright Mysteries #1), by David Field

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to David Field and Sapere Books for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Exploring Victorian England’s criminal underbelly through the eyes of David Field proves not only to be a harrowing experience for the reader, but one that pays off exponentially. In the summer of 1888, young Esther Jacobs makes her way down to one of the popular drinking establishments in search of her neighbour. While Esther does make her plea, it falls on deaf ears and the young seamstress returns home empty-handed. When she wakes the next morning, news of her neighbour’s murder brings Esther back to the seedy neighbourhood, shocked to learn the horrible news. It is there that she meets Constable Jack Enright, who tries to learn what Esther might have seen. Piecing together what other witnesses have mentioned, Esther is able to guide Constable Enright in the proper direction and turns into a valuable citizen on the investigation. It would seem that the slain woman was seeking to play her role as a prostitute for some local soldiers, something that baffles Esther. When more women turn up dead, also providing ‘nighttime services’, Esther and Constable Enright worry that a serial killer is on the loose, his murderous rampage leaving the victims horribly gutted. During their investigation, both Esther and Jack—as he likes to be known when not on duty—develop a romantic connection that seems to pose problems in the Enright household. Still, Esther holds firm to her love and yet is able to keep a level head when dealing with the police. As Scotland Yard is seeking a quick solution to this murder spree, Esther is able to weasel out some key information that might help find a murderer. The papers report letters attributing the murders to a ‘Jack the Ripper’, leaving London to wonder if their serial killer has been named, his identity still veiled. Field does a masterful job in weaving this historical murder mystery through a short narrative. Perfect for those who love mysteries set in the Victorian Era.

This is my introduction to David Field and his work, but it will surely not be my last. When the publisher asked if I would read this series debut, I did not hesitate to add it to my pile, especially after reading the dust jacket summary. Field hooks the reader from the outset, not only with his setting, Victorian England, but also with his ability to paint characters in such a colourful fashion. Esther Jacobs emerges onto the scene and her character develops quickly from there. An orphan who is working to keep her family business afloat, Esther’s naïveté is soon challenged with the rough speech of those around her and the murder investigation in which she finds herself working. Esther’s softness is complemented by Constable Jack Enright, who is new to the police, but whose family has deep roots within Scotland Yard and is well-established with money and prestige. While Jack is not ensconced in this lifestyle, Field injects some family members to show what money and power can do. Some of the secondary characters fit perfectly into the story, complete with their Cockney speech and wayward manner, allowing the reader to feel as though they are in the middle of the action. The story itself flows well and keeps a decent pace. With only a short time for Field to develop his narrative, there is little time for extemporaneous blather. Quick chapters keep the reader wanting to know more and pushing to find out who might be responsible for this string of murders. Plus, with the Jack the Ripper theme peppering the story, everyone is left to wonder if this might have been part of his early killings. I can only hope that Field keeps writing these sorts of mysteries for all to enjoy.

Kudos, Mr. Field, for this wonderful debut. I am eager to get my hands on the next Esther and Jack novel, which could be a very exciting series for sure.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons