A Deadly Divide (Rachel Getty and Esa Khattak #5), by Ausma Zehanat Khan

Nine stars

Having binged all novels (and a short story) in the series to date, I can assert that Ausma Zehanat Khan seeks not only to tell a story to the reader, but to impact them with her powerful narrative and poignant topics. While the issues likely occur all over the world, Khan debunks the ‘Canada is a peaceful place of love and harmony’ with these novels, using her knowledge of Islam and through the genre of police procedurals. After a shooting at a mosque in a small Quebec town, Community Policing sends Esa Khattak and Rachel Getty to be part of the team to investigate. While the local priest was discovered with one of the guns in his hands, it was a paramedic of African descent who was seen fleeing soon thereafter and speaking in Arabic that garners the most attention. All this, while the Premier of Quebec is trying to balance new legislation that neutralises outward religious symbolism and practice with keeping everyone safe. While Khattak and Getty seek to work as part of the team, there are blogs and a call-in radio show that are fanning the flames about assimilation and vilification of all things Islamic. The community is torn, though the fires of xenophobia burn hot and no one is yet ready to douse them. While Khattak and the rest if the investigators seek to work on leads, they face a local white supremacist group that hides their views behind wanting to keep Quebec ‘pur laine’ or as traditional as possible. Getty sees that these sentiments may have leaked into the police force, compromising the investigation at its highest level. Meanwhile, Khattak receives some news that shakes him to the core, placing his spot in the investigation and personal safety at risk. Might this small community be a microcosm of the larger sentiment about the Muslim community in Canada? Could Khattak’s future with Community Policing be coming to an end? And what of his decision to settle down with a woman he only recently admitting to loving? Khan does not stop in her chilling tale and forces the reader out of their comfort zone as they explore the propagation of hate in Canada and the sparks that lit the fire. Highly recommended for fans of the series, as well as the reader who is prepared to invest the time and emotional effort it takes to understand all the issues on offer.

Khan seems keen to work outside the box and deliver a set of powerful novels that tell more than a simple police case with a killer on the loose. She wants the reader to see the deeper level of Islamic beliefs and the generalised treatment received in Canada and on the world stage. This novel really punches Canada in the stomach, deflating the ‘love everyone’ mentality that the country seems to have. With xenophobia on full display in other parts of the continent, Khan places the microscope on Canada and shows all the pitfalls that have emerged, particularly with the recent legislation in Quebec, shielded behind ‘Quebec values’. Esa Khattak returns to be both the face of the law and Muslim-Canadians, which proves to be the most difficult of all in this novel. Torn between trying to find the mass shooter and yet not compromise his personal or religious views becomes the struggle he cannot overcome. While sifting through the ashes of what’s happened, he is constantly a target of ridicule and generalisations. This only hurts his ability to do his job and causes insurmountable grief at the worst times. His need to decide about the future of his place within Community Policing is key and Khan uses this subplot as a real punch to series fans who have come to adore him. Rachel Getty is still on a steep learning curve when it comes to the job, though she knows all too well what it is like to be targeted. Bigotry and sexism are rampant in law enforcement agencies, something that cannot be stopped with a memo or two. That being said, Rachel has also become highly protective of her boss, Khattak, and seeks to shield him from the onslaught, whenever possible. Getty can no longer rely on her wit and intuition, but must challenge those who are outrightly fanning the flames, even if it costs her a position at Community Policing. This struggle is real and could lead to some major changes within the organisation. Khan uses a great cross-section of characters, each of whom plays an integral role in the larger narrative. The complexity of this story demands something out of the usual collection, though Khan handles it masterfully. The reader is taken on a wonderful ride throughout and can see first hand just how problematic things can become. From hate group members to those within the police, there is an inherent bias or racism that cannot be erased or hidden. The series reader will know that the stories take on a life of their own, with a narrative full of twists as the plot thickens. There is much to be gleaned from the story, with facts and sentiments woven into the fabric of the piece, which allows the attentive reader a more impactful story. Khan will not sugarcoat and rarely lets the reader sit back and ‘enjoy’ the progress of the case. She has a message and it is one worth hearing, even if it tells of something we do not want to admit.

Kudos, Madam Khan, for putting this topic out there. It needs to be discussed and the current situation in Canada is turning your work of fiction into something of a reality with each passing day!

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

Advertisements

Mercy (Brigham Theodore #2), by Victor Methos

Eight stars

I am still riding the high of discovering Victor Methos and am happy I returned to read his two legal thrillers set in Salt Lake City. This second book packs as much punch as the debut, while pulling on the heart strings of those readers who wish to be pulled in. Brigham Theodore has set himself up for success, still fairly new to the legal profession. After the untimely death of his previous boss, Theodore has set-up with two colleagues to run their own firm. His reputation for being a passionate criminal defence attorney has earned him some decent work, including the case of Ted Montgomery, who is accused of murdering his terminally ill wife. Theodore must use all his powers of reasoning to understand how to approach this case, as Ted does not deny filling his wife with morphine, but states that it was at her wish, when the doctors could not help her end the excruciating pain. Up against a District Attorney still out for blood, Theodore will have to act fast and use all he knows to help shape the case in his favour. While trying to juggle that, a major event at the firm almost knocks him off his track and forces some real introspection about the law and how conniving it can be. When some evidence comes to light, Ted does not want it used, but it might be the only way to keep the jury from convicting him. Brigham Theodore may be new to the profession, but he has a lifetime of experience as it relates to saving one’s skin. Another great piece by Victor Methos, which pulls the reader into story from the opening pages. Recommended for those who love a good legal thriller, as well as the reader who enjoys something they could complete in a single sitting.

Methos continues to work well with various legal topics, bringing his experience as a lawyer into his characters and plot lines. Brigham Theodore is again at the helm and entertains the reader as he educates them on what he has learned. He may be somewhat ‘wet behind the ears’, but is also determined to fight for what is right, earning him quite the reputation in the Utah legal community. In this novel, his morals and judgement is tested at every turn, though he refuses to be swayed by the pressure of his legal superiors. Theodore struggles with his personal life, though he is trying to piece all the moving parts together effectively. There are a number of of other characters who make am impact and help move the story along efficiently. Gritty prosecutors seek to box Theodore into a corner while the numerous clients who come to the office have their own interesting legal issues that require immediate answers. A strong narrative is matched with a case no green lawyer has any chance of winning, which comes to deliver a wonderful story that does not let-up at all. Methos knows how to craft a great novel and uses the courtroom effectively to tell the story and its pitfalls. I am happy that I came back to try some more Victor Methos and hope others find the time to read his work.

Kudos, Mr. Methos, another great piece. I’ll have to come back again soon to see what else you have up your sleeve.

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

The Neon Lawyer (Brigham Theodore #1), by Victor Methos

Eight stars

I was intrigued when I discovered Victor Methos last month and vowed that I would come back to try some more of his work. Stumbling upon a short legal thriller, I thought that this would be the perfect addition to my vacation reading list. Brigham Theodore has just passed the Utah Bar and the ink on his certification is still drying as he seeks employment. While many of the firms in Salt Lake City snub him, he finds one willing to take a chance on him. Handed a murder trial in his first week, Theodore is in full panic mode, but can only hope that what he’s read about criminal procedure will be enough. A young woman is accused of gunning down the man who is set to have raped and murdered her six year-old daughter. With five witnesses, Theodore will have a hard time arguing her innocence, but is ready to do whatever he can. Arguing diminished capacity, Theodore enters the courtroom as green as they come and stumbles through the trial agains a man set to be the next District Attorney. While Theodore may be new to the profession, he is not completely inept and pulls out some interesting legal arguments to intrigue the jury. It will take more than a few unique legal tricks to keep Theodore’s client from facing the death penalty, but his willing to do what he can to help a woman full of guilt and agony at the loss of the only thing she holds dear. Methos is strong with his delivery and keeps the reader guessing as the story progresses. Recommended for the reader who enjoys a good legal thriller, as well as those who enjoy something compact for easy reading.

It was a Goodreads banner that led me to Victor Methos and I am happy to say that this second novel was as impactful as the first. Methos works well with the subject matter and compresses it into a story that could be read in a single day. Brigham Theodore has much to offer in this piece, though his wet behind the ears nature can something offer a stumbling block to a legal blockbuster. Theodore is still unsure how to handle himself and the cases at hand, but he is determined to find answers and stumbles into the arms of a woman who can guide him through the maze that is criminal law. Without being too optimistic, Theodore can only hope that the law he studied is applicable in the courtroom, though he is faced with a prosecutor who is out for blood. In this mid-length novel, there are a great deal of other characters who make am impact and help move the story along. From the accused who is trying to process what she may have done, to the prosecutor who has more to worry about than this simple case, and even a fellow member of the firm who uses his naïveté to her advantage, Methos offers much on which the write can build a better understanding for the story and the law. With a strong narrative that does not stop throughout and a plot that pits the hapless lawyer against the legal system, Methos knows how to craft a great novel. In a piece whose central focus is the courtroom, the story turns on the smallest thing. I am happy that I came back to try some more Victor Methos. With a second novel in the series, I am ready to leap right in.

Kudos, Mr. Methos, another great piece. I have enjoyed both pieces greatly and will read the second book in this series eagerly to see how it fares.

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

Jack of Spades (Hunt for Reacher #8), by Diane Capri

Eight stars

In her latest instalment of the Hunt for Reacher series, Diane Capri takes readers close to the elusive man’s family, or so we are led to believe. FBI Special Agent Kim Otto continues to track down Jack Reacher, following some leads up to a small town in New Hampshire. It’s here that she believes she can make some headway, as it appears to be a town full of Reachers. No one admits to knowing Jack Reacher or being a part of his immediate family, but Otto is not giving up. She’s honed her investigation on Reacher’s nephew, who is headed out to California to get some answers from the uncle no one seems to know. While he travels there, a Canadian couple who was intricately involved in a recent Jack Reacher sighting in Laconia, New Hampshire now holds onto a duffle bag that could bring them much trouble. With the rightful owners ready to shed blood in order to get what they feel belongs to them, Otto will have to keep an eye out for trouble while also looking for the man who has continually been one step ahead of her. With a new partner and her old one offering nuggets of wisdom, Kim Otto will have to work quickly or face another dead-end situation. A great addition to the Hunt for Reacher series, permitting Capri to build on some of the most intense Reacher work that Lee Child wrote not long ago. Recommended for series fans, as well as the reader who enjoys a quick read that packs quite the punch.

I have long loved anything Reacher, so when I stumbled upon this series, I am eager to see how it would all tie in. While Capri loosely hints at the benefits of reader the associated Lee Child work alongside her own, I enjoy going at it alone and doing by best to make sense of everything. Capri offers some wonderful characters and delves deeper into some of the cases that appear in Jack Reacher novels. Kim Otto has grown tremendously in this piece, coming into her own and finding ways to run the investigation effectively, even when she’s paired up with a new partner. Others do well in their participation of the story, sometimes adding to the initial introduction they received from Lee Child, while others make their mark for the first time. The story moves quickly and leaves little time for pandering around, as there is much to accomplish in short order. Capri has honed her skills and shows that she is not only in-tune with her close friend, Lee Child, but is able to complement his work and provide a deeper look into some of the central characters who may offer valuable insight into finding Jack Reacher!

Kudos, Madam Capri, for another wonderful addition to the series. I am eager to see if Otto will ever catch Reacher, or if this is a game of cat and mouse destined never to end.

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

A Dangerous Crossing (Rachel Getty and Esa Khattak #4), by Ausma Zehanat Khan

Nine stars

Returning to her full-length novels, Ausma Zehanat Khan takes the reader into another of the crises facing the Muslim population today, with a Canadian flavouring in this police procedural. Two bodies turn up on a Greek island, one a French INTERPOL agent and the other a Syrian refugee. A Canadian NGO has been processing Syrians for relocation in North America and its founder has gone missing. After a rocky time for the Community Policing Section, Inspectors Esa Khattak and Rachel Getty are back on their feet. Khattak is approached by his close friend, Nathan Clare, that it was his sister, Audrey, who has been heading up Woman 2 Woman and is nowhere to be found. A series of emails between Nathan and his sister provides some assistance in trying to put the situation into context, though it is not enough. Khattak remains highly professional, knowing that he is still being eyed for any misstep. However, the Canadian Prime Minister is also trying to make a difference in his image as it relates to the refugee crisis and has given Khattak free rein to work. Khattak and Getty work angles in and around Toronto, where they learn more about the NGO, but it will not be enough. They travel to the Greek island, where there is much more to learn about the influx of refugees from Syria and surrounding countries. Khattak learns of the European distaste for these ‘migrants’ and must come to understand how a world of haves can refuse help to those who are fleeing nothing. There is also the iron fist of the Syrian government, happy to slay anyone trying to escape the country. Khattak and Getty will have to work hard, not only to understand the Syrian crisis, but to locate Audrey Clare and determine who committed the murders that started this entire investigation. There are more secrets, layered inside bureaucracy and deceptions meant to keep the truth from seeing the light of day. A brilliant piece that packs a punch, allowing Khan to portray a powerful message that will not let the reader ignore the issue at hand. Recommended to those who have loved the series to date, as well as readers who enjoy something deeper that allows them to learn a little while being entertained with great storytelling.

Khan has yet to let up with her full-length novels, keen on addressing some of the major issues facing the more vulnerable portions of the Muslim world. With the current refugee crisis in Syria, the novel seeks to focus much of its attention on the plight of those fleeing horrible conditions while also trying to settle in a new homeland that is both helpful and accepting. Esa Khattak again becomes the voice of reason when it comes to the treatment of Muslims, offering his perspective and insights into the acceptance that Canada has for those in need. He must balance this with the knowledge that his own job is on the line, forcing him to make choices that are not only prudent, but can easily be explained up the chain of command. There is, again, some backstory that relates to his own family, which is embedded into the larger narrative and allows the reader to better understand him, if only for a time. Rachel Getty has her own role to play in the story, torn between trying to see things from a perspective not her own while wrestling with emotions as they relate to a man who is not even formally in her romantic sphere. Series readers will have seen hints throughout but it is all coming to a head, forcing Getty to decide which path to take. There are countless others who find themselves a part of this book. Each character brings something to the narrative and helps to shape the messaging that Khan wishes to portray. I have come to see that she uses her characters with a real intention and does not drop a subplot or individual into the narrative for no reason. It is the attentive reader who can extract the needed information and add it to the story being told. This enrichment makes the reader all the more aware of what is going on and helps to push along the intended message. While the Syrian situation has been going on for a while, it was only after reading this book that I had a better understanding of how things have been going. Refugees come from all parts of the world, but it is more than just opening the border as a compassionate nation. There are politics around refugees and migrants that surpass safety of those in need. These decisions are surely quite difficult and somewhat precarious, forcing politicians to think of a number of interests before making a decision. Khan definitely knows how to fuel the fire with this book (and her others), making it a wonderful choice for a reading group not hesitant to have clashing opinions.

Kudos, Madam Khan, for making me think. I need that when reading, even as I sit here on vacation.

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

Ice Cold Heart (Monkeewrench #10), by P.J. Tracy

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, P.J. Tracy, and Crooked Lane for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

In the latest instalment of the Monkeewrench series, P.J. Tracy shows an ability to lure readers in from the start and hold their attention throughout. During a severe cold snap in Minneapolis. Homicide detectives Leo Magozzi and Gino Rolseth find themselves seeking anything to spice up their work lives. When a woman, reported missing by her husband, turns up dead, things take an interesting turn. The body was obviously tortured, its head wrapped in tape and some investigating proves she was killed meeting someone off a BDSM site. Magozzi and Rolseth are sure they have a twisted individual on their hands, though there is little to offer a concrete list of suspects. Meanwhile, the Monkeewrench crew have been contracted to work on a cryptocurrency scam that has siphoned millions of dollars (both actual and digital) from individuals. Baffled as to how to track down this specific criminal, the group look to unique approaches and find a few leads that end up blurring lines with the MPD murder investigation. How these two cases, as well as an ICE hunt for a former Baltic war criminal, meld together is only the beginning. While the mercury dips lower outside, the case has the ability to heat things up quite effectively. There is little hope for calm while the killer lurks somewhere and waits to strike again. A well-plotted tenth novel in the series that will have those who have followed along throughout wanting more, as well as the reader who enjoys a fast-paced police procedurals set outside the typical American locale.

My attention was turned to this series last summer when I binged the entire collection. I was hooked from the outset and devoured many of the books along the way, learning much about the characters while being highly entertained. Tracy shows a strong ability to writer effectively, yet does not lose her reader with too many facts. One could make the argument that Leo Magozzi is a protagonist in this piece, but I felt strongly that there was a general equality to the characters and therefore, no one stole the limelight. Working a variety of cases in unique fashions, the Homicide team of the MPD and the Monkeewrench crew balanced the story out effectively. There was surely some character development, which will help series fans get more out of the story, but it was peppered throughout the narrative, rather than embedded in a single section. With short chapters, Tracy pulls the reader into the middle of the case and forces them to read ‘just a little more’ before agreeing to stop, albeit reluctantly. The plot was decent and varied nicely, bringing different cases together nicely in unexpected ways. I was pleased to see that things are going well for Tracy, whose mom-daughter team faced a tragic loss a few years ago. The quality is strong and I am happy to see things are still coming together. This is a series worth the attention of the reader who wants something light and easy to digest.

Kudos, Madam Tracy, for another great piece. You know how to tap into the best parts of mystery/criminal writing and I am always pleased to see when you have something new to offer your fans.

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

A Death in Sarajevo (Rachel Getty and Esa Khattak #3.5), by Ausma Zehanat Khan

Eight stars

With three successful novels in the series, Ausma Zehanat Khan takes her Canadian police procedural on a slightly different path with this short story. As the piece opens, some of the fallout from past cases has made its way up to the Parliament of Canada, with an inquiry into the actions undertaken by Inspector Esa Khattak. In what appears to be an attempted whitewashing by the committee chair, Khattak is forced to deflect the blame and ensure it is clear that the Ministry of Justice authorised his actions. Supported by his partner, Rachel Getty, Khattak seeks not to be the sacrificial lamb in an attempt to erase Community Policing from its perch within the larger police family. After a stunning revelation, Khattak is free to leave and sets his sights on Sarajevo, where a long-ago friend seeks his help. Amira Sarac was said to have died during the war in Bosnia, but there are some loose ends that lead some to believe that she may have worked with the Bluebird Brigade—comprised of female soldiers—for longer than first thought. Peeling back what little is known about Sarac’s final mission, Khattak is able to locate not only her final resting place, but also some interesting tidbits about her past. While nothing will bring Amira Sarac back to those who love her, there’s a chance that her memory will live on for many years. An interesting short story that will surely be of interest to those who have followed the series to date, though there are few major revelations to be found here. Recommended to those who enjoy the Khattak-Getty novels, as well as the reader who likes a quick read to fill a gap.

While Khan has used her three previous novels to tackle major issues with Canada’s acceptance of the Muslim community, this piece is a break from that intensity. Khan offers up the first portion to tie off some threads that have been dangling for a while, including how Khattak will do when faced with some of the revelations related to his actions. While that alone could have made for a great short story, adding the Sarajevo subplot not only lengthened the piece, but gave it some heartfelt depth. Khattak remains his usual self, determined to tell the truth and not allow anyone to derail what he knows to be true. His passion for others shines through, even when some would see him vilified for his actions. Rachel Getty takes a backseat, but it is apparent that her passion to see Khattak receive the accolades he deserves surely strengthens the relationship she has with her superior. The reader is also permitted another small glimpse into her personal life, when her father makes an appearance at the hearings. The story flew by and proved to be as entertaining as it was compact. While I would recommend reading the series from the beginning, this one could be tried as a standalone to get a handle on the writing, characters, and the larger themes that Khan wishes to put forward in her books. I am eager to get back to the novels, to see what else Khattak and Getty come across as they try to help those in need within Canada’s minority community.

Kudos, Madam Khan, for another great piece. I needed this short story to help me reset my mind, but am ready to dive right in to see what else you have in store for series fans.

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

Among the Ruins (Rachel Getty and Esa Khattak #3), by Ausma Zehanat Khan

Nine stars

My ongoing exploration of the Canadian police procedural series by Ausma Zehanat Khan took an interesting turn with this novel. Building off some of the series momentum and likely some ideas Khan wanted to put into action, the story shifts away from Canada and into a more complex world where democracy is anything but presumed. After being cleared of any wrongdoing during a recent inquiry, Esa Khattak is taking leave from the Community Policing Unit, if only to reset himself. His choice is to venture into Iran and explore some of its beauty and his cultural roots. While playing tourist, Khattak is approached by a Canadian official, asking that he take some time to explore the death of Iranian-Canadian filmmaker Zehra Sobhani. Known for her controversial films about the authoritarian regime in Iran, Sobhani was killed inside one of the country’s most notorious prisons. Khattak begins trying to piece together the narrative without tipping his hand and letting the regime know what he is trying to accomplish. Khattak has inquisitive questions that will garner needed answers, especially for the family back home, but it also leaves him on the radar of some in positions of power with Iran, where one false move could cost more than a visa suspension. Liaising with his partner, Rachel Getty, back in Canada, Khattak begins to understand a little more about Sobhani and her political views. It becomes apparent that Sobhani has quite the interest in the time when Iran accepted the Shah, whose attempts at democratic renewal fell flat when power intoxicated him. However, the push towards democracy in Iran has returned with the Green Birds, though the regime is eager to repress anything that might lessen its power. The rationale for Sobhani’s murder may be less obvious than first expected, though it will take all that Khattak and Getty can handle to reveal truths buried or ignored in a country where the rules change on a daily basis. Stunning in its delivery, Khan does not disappoint with this third novel in the series, touching on issues that reverberate as much today as when it was written. Recommended for series fans and those readers who are eager to explore authoritarian regimes and their attempts to suppress democratic transparency.

This series has grown on me in short order, touching not only on Canadian police work, but the less understood side of the Islamic world. Khan has chosen to take a look at political expression and suppression inside an authoritarian regime, where dissidents are treated worse that any other criminal. With subplots that touch on a number of key points, Khan forces the reader to think outside the box as they devour this novel. Esa Khattak’s arrival in Iran adds an interesting flavour to the story not seen before now. While Khattak seeks to return to some of his cultural roots, he is thrust into the middle of an active investigation. Still reeling from some of the treatment he faced within the Canadian policing community, Khattak cannot help but notice he is needed, even halfway around the world. His exploration of Zehra Sobhani‘s life and how she agitated her country of birth proves to be of great interest and provides a wonderful contrast with the expectations many readers would expect. Rachel Getty spends most of her time in Canada, exploring the local roots to Sobhani’s larger narrative. She is able to grow by exploring these central tenets and comes to have a better understanding of Islam and its political nuances, particularly when compared to Canada. There are a slew of other characters, including those within Iran’s Revolutionary regime, all of whom illustrate the wonders of these contrasting ways of life. With a subplot focussed on the torture of political prisoners, the story takes on a much darker perspective and provides some interesting approaches to policing in foreign countries. With a narrative that flows well and takes the reader on many interesting journeys, Khan shows just how adept she is at telling a story. Her views are substantiated with ‘pulled from the headlines’ moments and a great deal of history, some of which is explained to the curious reader. While Iran faces many issues in present geo-political realms, there was a time that it had strong democratic views and worked quite effectively on the world scene. Strongly reactionary to suppression, the people of Iran have seen much change over the years and Khan is keen to illustrate this, while making it clear that democracy has never been entirely silenced. Another must-read for those who want to explore other sides of the Islamic world with a Canadian twist.

Kudos, Madam Khan, for another great story. I was pulled in from the opening pages and could not stop reading. I love that I can be entertained and educated in equal measure with such ease.

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

The Sixth Wicked Child (4MK Thriller #3), by J.D. Barker

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, J.D. Barker, and Hampton Creek Press for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

As the riveting 4MK trilogy comes to an end, J.D. Barker offers the most explosive novel to date. Chilling in its delivery and full of unexpected twists, fans of the series should brace themselves as all the pieces finally come together. As the 4MK cases continues to gain momentum, the obvious suspect remains Anson Bishop, who turns himself in to the authorities. However, there are more victims that keep emerging, a single message binding them all together in his sick and twisted web. While this would seem to be a slam-dunk case, the fact that the bodies appear almost simultaneously on opposite sides of the country is an issue, denoting that this could not be the work of a single man. While minds stir about this, a hospital becomes the scene of a lockdown, as a virus makes its way through the air and chooses even more victims to add to the horror. While trying to shed some light on the entire situation, Chicago PD and FBI investigators listen to Bishop tell a complex story from his past, one that could reveal more about the real killer than first suspected. All comes to light in a set of diary entries, which could prove to be the best piece of evidence on offer. If he is to be believed, Bishop can finger a rogue cop as the real killer and the one with the greatest motive to shut the investigation down. Trouble is, everything is marred in a fog and what is on paper seems too outrageous to accept. Truths will be revealed and a killer’s identity shall be unmasked, but it may be too much for some to accept as they attempt to wrap their minds around what’s gone undetected and how many other lives have been cut short. A troubling novel, though one that fits right into the series and allows Barker to show just how sadistic things can get with a serial killer, given the opportunity. Recommended to series fans and those who want out of their comfort zone.

The concept for this series caught my attention when it was released and I knew I would have to find the time to add this to my ever-growing list of books to read. From the outset, the story pulled me in and kept me wanting to know more, especially since the serial killer stood out as being highly unique in their actions and the thrill of the chase. Returning as a quasi-protagonist again, Sam Porter offers the reader some insight into his personality and desire to get this killer off the streets. While there is no time for backstory, the reader does learn some interesting aspects about his life as well as how he is seen by his colleagues. Porter has little time for banter, wanting to get to the root of the matter, but fearful of tripping up and costing the investigation its best lead. He will have to remain level-headed and stay the course, or risk it all. Anson Bishop remains the other character to share the spotlight, though Barker seems to want to share the glory all around. Depicted as the mastermind killer, Bishop has a lot to say and won’t let himself face all the blame without opening up one more can of worms. What he reveals is both troubling and shocking, proof that may turn the case on its head, should anyone want to listen. In a story packed with interesting characters, Barker leaves no stone unturned in an attempt to flesh-out the truth, chilling the reader as the plunge deeper. The story remained strong throughout, climbing in its intensity through short chapters that tease just enough to keep the reader wanting to know more. I love this technique, as I find myself devouring things without being able to stop, promising myself and those around me that “one more chapter” will do. Matched with that, use of a diary to tell a captivating backstory leaves nothing to the imagination. In. trilogy set over six days, any reader wishing to binge the series can do so and feel the full impact of the story, allowing Barker to take over control and leave the reader at his mercy. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and the series, which brings together some great writing, strong narrative guidance, and a plot that has more twists than it does answers. Not to be missed, for those who have the stomach for the adventure.

Kudos, Mr. Barker, on another great book. I have loved everything of yours to date and cannot wait to discover more.A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

The Blackened Heart (Six Tudor Queens #1.5), by Alison Weir

Eight stars

Alison Weir has set about on a new venture, a series about the six wives of Henry VIII. Weir has chosen to add further depth to the series by intersperse the novels with short stories that bridge them better together. This piece introduces the reader to Margery Orwell, an energetic young girl who was sent to work for Sir John and Lady Peche. There, Margery learns how to serve and act as a lady while honing her skills about being around those of importance. While in the employ of the Peches, she finds herself interacting with young men: dancing, carrying on, and finally in a tryst that sees her with child. After Sir Peche helps her with the predicament, Margery is sent to court with a recommendation to serve Queen Katherine. There, Margery discovers that the Tudor Court is like nothing she has ever seen, especially with the philandering Henry VIII roaming around. When Katherine learns that the King wishes to annul their marriage, she refuses to accept it, which also goes for her retinue of ladies-in-waiting. Margery stands by her Queen, even as Katherine is banished to a rural dwelling. Staying with Katherine through it all, Margery makes a shocking discovery one day in the market. As she returns to spend time with Katherine, Margery is able to stand tall, knowing that she has made the right choice when it comes to the politics of Tudor marriages, even if many at Court refuse to admit the same. Another wonderful short story by Alison Weir that depicts some of the lesser-known characters in the larger Tudor saga. Recommended for those who love all things Tudor, especially fans of Alison Weir’s detailed historical fiction work.

I have long had a passion for the writing style Alison Weir uses, especially as she pens pieces about the Tudors. While many may know of these six wives Henry VIII took, there are those characters who stood in the shadows, while still being highly important. Margery Otwell was one, with a passion to learn balanced with the inevitable curiosity of teenage womanhood. Even as Margery finds herself in a bind, she refuses to give up and is able to ascend to the Tudor Court and in a position to serve Queen Katherine. Many of the others who find themselves on the pages of this short story influence the narrative and add flavour to an already strong piece. The curious reader will find much of interest within this story, weaving together interesting bits of Tudor history, though Weir remains coy about just how much is fact over fiction. With an easy to comprehend storytelling ability, Alison Weir is a delightful author for those seeking to wade into all things Tudor. This series has begun with a strong foundation and is sure to remain riveting, based on the many other books I have read that bear the author’s name. Bring on the queens (and more of these short stories that link them)!

Kudos, Madam Weir, for another wonderful story that connects two of the strongest wives of Henry VIII. I can only imagine there is a great deal more to come with future publications.

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