Rule of Law, by Randy Singer

Nine stars

Randy Singer is back with another legal thriller that speaks to the heart of some matters currently taking place in America, though seeks to rise above the current political rhetoric. Paige Chambers is a young lawyer with her entire life ahead of her. After meeting Patrick Quillen, she is positive that she has met the man that she wants in her life for the long-term. Quillen is a SEAL and deploys on a mission, leaving her surrounded by other SEAL spouses. Paige waits patiently for Quillen’s return, but the raid to save two kidnap victims goes terribly wrong. Sitting in the Situation Room and watching this live, US President Amanda Hamilton takes decisive action not to have the bodies retrieved, but curses her reliance on the CIA Director’s intel, which fuelled the rescue operation. When news reaches Paige, she is devastated and cannot cope with the size of the loss. She receives cloak and dagger information that President Hamilton may have known the mission was set to fail but chose to send in the SEALs all the same. Reluctantly working with renegade lawyer, Wyatt Jackson, Paige begins to probe into these allegations, but must protect not only her source, but the information that she received. As soon as the legal action commences, high-ranking White House and Administration officials begin creating roadblocks and accusations of their own. In a case that makes its way to the hallowed halls of the US Supreme Court (SCOTUS), Paige and Wyatt will have to remain one step ahead of the legal behemoth that is the United States Government. Where has the truth been hiding and will it see the light of day? No one is quite sure, though all eyes are firmly focussed on what may be the most controversial SCOTUS of a generation. Singer pulls the reader into this story with such ease that there is no escaping this military/legal/political thriller. Fans of all three genres will enjoy this piece immensely.

I have long enjoyed Randy Singer and his writing style, which meshes a fairly significant legal matter with a high-octane storyline, teasing out the most notable and headline-worthy aspects of a piece of American law. His use of characters is always poignant and adds depth to the story without distracting from some of the strong legal points that may intrigue the reader. In this piece, Singer admits that his release of this book is quite timely, but has purposely created a dichotomous Administration from that which is sitting in the Cabinet Room with the current Tweeter of the Free World. The military issues are also quite current and well-presented, which shows that Singer has his finger on the pulse, both in what is going on with the drone program and how Americans (as well as the world) might feel about it. Layering the law with politics is tough, particularly when trying not to have them tightly bound, but Singer is effective in his presentation of both the legal aspects that come to the forefront and the political flavour that permeates the three branches of government. Any reader who enjoys seeing the executive and judicial branches juxtaposed will find much joy in this book, as nothing is guaranteed, event when facing the nine Justices of the SCOTUS. While Singer does not hide his ‘other hat’, that being a pastor, his novels are not filled with the need to inculcate the reader to ‘see the light’ or ‘find Christ and be saved’, though there is passing reference to Christian holidays, prayer, and a lack of ‘saucy’ language. This may appeal to a larger group of readers, particularly those who bemoan unnecessary cursing. Overall, a wonderfully written novel that builds on many legal and newsworthy matters that will surely stir up much debate.

Kudos, Mr. Singer for another wonderful piece of legal writing. As always, you hit the nail on the head and have left me wanting more. Alas, I will have to wait a time, though you can be sure I will queue up for whatever you publish next.

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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A Column of Fire (Kingsbridge Series #3), by Ken Follett

Eight stars

Ken Follett again took a lengthy hiatus before penning this third novel in the series, which is reflected in the writing and shall be discussed below. Kingsbridge, with its cathedral and mighty bridge, again proves to be the initial backdrop of this thoroughly researched tome, set in the 16th century. The great community emerges in the opening pages of the novel, where the reader encounters Ned Willard, returning after a period away. As the snow falls, causing the great Cathedral to disappear, the symbolism of quick changes becomes apparent. However, there is more brewing in Kingsbridge and England as a whole, which pushes the narrative into a fiery discussion soon enough. Queen Mary Tudor is on the throne and has turned the country back to its Catholic foundation, which is causing some concerns amongst her subjects. Forced to flee Catholicism under Henry VIII, people took up with the new Church of England and sought to pave the way for Protestantism in the country. Kingsbridge monastery, so important in the first two novels, lost its firmament under the King and the monks were dispersed. However, as Queen Mary appears to be terminally ill, there is talk of the succession. Two camps emerge: those wanting continued Catholicism turn to Mary, Queen of Scots (and France); and those who seek to lessen the constraints of religious conformity turn to Princess Elizabeth Tudor, half-sister to the current queen. The battle lines are drawn and the choice turns the country against itself. Ned finds himself in an odd position as he witnesses this and takes up a post with the Elizabethan camp, only to become one of her most trusted advisors. Plots to kill Elizabeth emerge alongside attempts to get Scottish Mary to return to the land of her birth to claim what some feel will rightfully be hers. When the Queen dies, it is left to Parliament to make the choice, which Follett illustrates as being highly controversial and problematic, but Elizabeth soon ascends reigns as the first of her name. The new Queen riles up everyone by seeking tolerance and acceptance of any form of Christianity in England, choosing not to side with either Protestants or Catholics wholeheartedly. What follows is a collection of stories that emerge throughout Europe, using a handful of characters who illustrate the religious persecution of both Protestants and Catholics, using the Pope and various monarchs to play Christian chess with their subjects as they shed blood to see their branch of the religion succeed. Ned is placed in a position to not only try to win back the love of his life, but to accept fate and try to reinvent himself, while England is being torn apart. Follett illustrates this battle over decades, while the characters evolve but still have time to prove as scandalous as ever (what would a Kingsbridge novel be without some drama?!). By the end, Follett has shown that religious intolerance is by no means a new thing in the world, but that it can be traced back centuries, where ‘soldiers’ were blinded to acceptance and sought to outmanoeuvre their labelled enemies. A sensational addition to the Kingsbridge series, though it does not entirely fit with the other two novels. Fans of historical fiction will surely love this tome, alongside the most open-minded and ‘tolerant’ Kingsbridge series fans. Patience is a must before tackling this novel, so be wary if you seek a quick story and easy to decipher characters.

When I read the preface to Pillars of the Earth, I learned that Follett was not entirely comfortable with the subject matter when he first wrote that book. He knew little of the religious nuances of the Church, but has shown that age and dedication to research have changed his abilities. While I have some issues with this book, I cannot deny that the research and thoroughly intricate cast of characters make this one a must read for dedicated readers and fans of history. Follett is again forced to use scores of characters to flesh out the story, some pulled from the history books and others completely of his own imagination. As with the previous two books, occupations are varied, as are the social standings of those who grace the pages of this book. However, the characters from history dominate and thereby lead the story, forcing the ‘nobody’ characters to fall into line. There is still a thread of love, romance, rape, and deception, but it proves to be a garnish in a larger story that speaks of intolerance at a time when religion in Europe was (d)evolving. The dedicated reader will surely find a few characters onto whom they can latch and find some solace, though there are an equal number who can be hated for their actions. The story of this novel is well developed and presented in a methodical way, such that the reader can see not only the issue at the core of the story, but its fermentation over the decades. This leads me to my primary issue with the book, which is that it does not fit nicely into how Pillars and World Without End places Kingsbridge at the centre. There is action in Kingsbridge and the Cathedral does bear mention on occasion, but a great deal of the story takes place elsewhere, which lessens the impact of the community that readers have come to love. For Follett fans, the influence of his recently completed Century series is blunt in this narrative and plot development. Follett develops mini-stories throughout Europe, presenting characters who exemplify the religious issues in Spain and France, as well as in England, the attentive reader will remember such ‘branch-offs’ over the aforementioned trilogy. The reader learns of these struggles and waits to see how the numerous spheres will come together and eventually meld into a single storyline. While I am not a professional author, I might suggest that Kingsbridge have remained the central focus of the story and Follett show how this continental war and numerous assassination attempts on the country’s monarch affected the locals. Alas, that was lost and Ned Willard, a Kingsbridgean, is the major glue that binds the story to being a part of this other trilogy. With numerous monarchs who flex their muscle throughout to show how Catholicism is the only way, I can easily find justification to have this work for my reading challenge and I can only hope that others will find the thread of my argument and agree. While I found this to be the weakest of the three novels in the series, I still enjoyed it a great deal. I would recommend it to those who have made their way through the others two, in hopes that they will find as much enjoyment in the historical references as I did.

Kudos, Mr. Follett, for such a stellar piece of historical fiction. Some of those threads you left blowing in the wind might make for an interesting fourth novel, though I am not pushing for another round, unless you’re eager to return to Kingsbridge proper.

This book fulfills Equinox I (A Book for All Seasons) Book Challenge for Topic #3: A Book About Royalty

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

Parting Shot (Promise Falls #4), by Linwood Barclay

Nine stars

Linwood Barclay adds to his already popular Promise Falls series with this latest novel, a mystery that takes readers on an interesting ride into the world of revenge. When Cal Weaver is hired to protect Jeremy Pilford, who was accused of backing over his girlfriend when extremely intoxicated, he cannot predict the degree of difficulty this assignment brings. Seen as having been coddled by his over-protective family, Jeremy earned the nickname ‘Big Baby’ and has been the victim of significant online mockery. The barbs that have sailed around through social media are beginning to take shape in real life, with rocks tossed through windows and death threats showing up in various forms. Weaver decides to help shield Jeremy by taking him into protective custody, at least until things settle down. Meanwhile, Detective Barry Duckworth is sent to investigate an assault that has everyone very confused. Brian Gaffney has been found wandering around Promise Falls, unable to remember what’s happened to him for the past few days. What’s even more concerning is the vulgar phrase that has been tattooed to his back; something apparently related to a dog he killed years ago. As Duckworth begins poking around, he discovers that Gaffney was last seen in a dive bar, though video surveillance sheds some interesting new light on the entire investigation. Nothing seem to make sense, but Duckworth will not give up, even as he seems to be stepping on some familial toes by pressing hard to solve this latest case. When a body is discovered in an abandoned car, things take a significant turn and Duckworth notices an anomaly that might explain the Gaffney assault. While Cal Weaver hides away with Jeremy, they revisit some of the key aspects to the case and something does not seem right. When Duckworth and Weaver are eventually able to compare notes, everything gets a little clearer, only to go opaque once again. Is there something going on in Promise Falls that will halt both Duckworth and Weaver from solving their respective cases? In a style all his own, Barclay pulls the reader into the middle of this wonderful story and will not let go until the very end, where a cliffhanger awaits. Promise Falls series fans will surely enjoy this one, which stands outside the professed ‘trilogy’, but still has close tie-ins throughout the narrative.

I have long been a Linwood Barclay fan, especially his Promise Falls work. The psychological aspects keep me wondering and the slow development is done in such a methodical manner than I cannot help but want more, even when the final chapter is complete. The varied cast in the novels is effectively used, with a strong focus on the Duckworth and Weaver characters. Both men have made their marks in the aforementioned series trilogy, but this novel allows them some additional growth. Barclay surrounds them with a number of repeat minor characters, as well as some new faces to keep the story fresh. Backstories and present-day development is thorough and highly useful to the attentive reader. The story itself, two mysteries that soon find common ground, is quite intriguing, especially with the other branch-off plots that thicken the overall delivery. Barclay is able to keep the different narratives running in parallel without confusing the reader too much. Add to that, things flow so effortlessly that the reader cannot help but want to forge onwards just to see how it will all play out. Wonderfully presented and filled with a number of poignant references to past Promise Falls events, Barclay has surely kept his fans appeased with this novel and is sure to find many new readers rushing to find his books in their various forms.

Kudos, Mr. Barclay, for keeping me hooked from the get-go. I hope you have not ended this trip to upstate New York, as I have become quite fond of Promise Falls.

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

World Without End (Pillars of the Earth #2), by Ken Follett

Nine stars

After a lengthy hiatus Ken Follett returns to the series with a second epic tome, (if you pardon the pun) building on the Kingsbridge Cathedral theme laid out in Pillars of the Earth. It is now the mid-1300s, two centuries after Tom Builder, Jack, Aliena, and Prior Phillip helped shape this community. Their presence is felt through ancestral breadcrumbs and mentioned throughout the complex narrative that seeks to breathe new life into Kingsbridge. The narrative develops early with the emergence of four children in the forest: Gwenda, Merthin, Philemon, and Caris. These four come from their distinct social, economic, and ancestral ties to Kingsbridgeons of old, but whose appearance will prove important throughout the book. While hiding, the children witness the torture of a knight, Thomas Langley, who is able to escape, but not before burying a secret document, which might be the reason he has been chased and tortured. Langley seeks to enter the priory and become a monk, where he will be protected from the outside world and able to devote himself to a new life. With the Cathedral casting a daunting shadow on the town, the economic stability of Kingsbridge seems less stable, as the Fleece Fair may suffer without a new bridge to transport much needed items from outside. The town of Shiring might profit, though locals are not yet ready to admit defeat and put off any construction for the time being. That gamble is foreboding, as there is chaos when the bridge does collapse and hundreds are caught on it, killing them in various forms. The Priory must take action, but the need for a new Prior takes precedence. Politics meets religion in this election as barters and bribes see young Godwyn assume the role, whose iron-fist is supported by his controlling mother. The new bridge commences, but not only after thorough examination and potential architectural analysis is done. Saving a few coins over stability becomes a strong issue, though the symbolic nature of the bridge, connecting economic stability to the town that seeks to link itself to new life, becomes apparent throughout the narrative. As time passes, those aforementioned children grow as well, finding themselves looking to take on trades or turn to the Church for solace. It is here that the drama of the novel builds and social interactions turn to lust and sexual dominance. Forbidden love is tested and sexual control is exerted, sometimes against the will of one participant. Much is asked about that document that Thomas Langley hid away, but there is more on the horizon to keep the locals concerned. After a time away, Merthin returns with an ominous gift from abroad, leaving Kingsbridge under the cloud of plague. No one is entirely safe and, like the bridge, many perish. Families are decimated and yet Prior Godwyn espouses that this is an Act of God, forcing some to swallow the hard pill of religious retribution. Follett illustrates this well throughout, as the sobering clash of complete devotion to God is weighted against the early understanding of disease transmission. Will prayer save you, or might precautions prevent infection? Even as Kingsbridge suffers, the Cathedral stands firm, though there is a need to revisit its foundations, at least in part. The symbolism of a renewed strengthening of part of its body parallels nicely with the constant rejuvenation of the populace and those who can trace their ancestral lines from the early founders of the town. Plague and general injury fuels a discussion about building a new hospital to treat the injured in one location and isolate those who are contagious in another, though this becomes a new religious and political discussion. What awaits Kingsbridge on the horizon is anyone’s guess, but there is surely no stagnancy when it comes to dramatic development, as scores of plots emerge throughout. Follett has emerged to develop another stunning piece that adds to the drama of his opening novel, yet leaves much room for further development, answered with the most recent (and final?) instalment in the Kingsbridge saga. Fans of Pillars will likely enjoy this piece, though there is still a need for patience and determination to sift through a much more character-developing based piece, which sees a generational development, rather than that of a stone structure. Highly recommended for those who have time and interest in a slowly evolving narrative.

After admitting that he was out of his comfort zone with the opening novel, Follett continues tilling the soil with this an amazing series. Equally as epic in its development and final delivery, Follett is forced to use scores of characters to flesh out the story he wishes to present. Moving the story ahead two centuries, the characters will all differ from those found in Pillars, though the lineage that is mentioned and some of the mere characteristics of those featured herein allows the reader to feel a strong connection to all involved. Certainly, there will be some names who grace the story throughout and others who play their smaller roles to support, though the thread is not lost in the narrative. The four children who emerge from the beginning all branch out and develop their own lives, but it is impossible for the reader not to trace their growth (physical, emotional, and social) through the time period of this story. Love, death, rape, and domination all feature significantly and no character is kept completely protected from these themes. While Kingsbridge Cathedral stands strong in the background, readers are able to draw parallels between its development and the new architectural piece, the Bridge, that keeps all aspects of the town occupied. Politics seeps in as council and the Priory weigh in on the issue, forcing the higher-ups to also issue their own decrees. The symbolism of the experience is not lost on the attentive reader, though the political and economic arguments differ slightly. Kingsbridge is no longer a speck on the map, though it is still a developing community, receiving scant attention at times. As plague swept across the continent, Kingsbridge must suffer alone and find its own footing, but exemplifies resilience in the face of disaster. Follett is clear to instil these themes throughout, no matter the narrative twists presented. Again, some have criticised the book for being too long or too detailed, going so far as to inject the words “thick” and “monotonous” into their comments. I acknowledge these issues, but counter that this is not the type of novel that can be both rich and brief. Follett has surely taken a massive chunk and must process it, leaving only the most dedicated to synthesise it. There is no shame in admitting that the book is not for everyone, but those who are able to patiently remain enthralled, many gifts shall be granted. Follett has a purpose for taking the reader on this journey, particularly since he did such a wonderful job with the opening novel. I applaud that this is not a novel meant to appeal to the masses, for there seems to be an inherent dedication required before committing to the journey back to Kingsbridge. There is still much to be seen and more generations to come, their lives shaped by the firmly rooted cathedral, priory, bridge, and so much more. Follett has so much to offer and the journey is one that has me extremely excited.

Kudos, Mr. Follett, for returning to this piece and building on its greatness. I am pleased to have been able to come back and read this again, fulfilling a reading challenge requirement, but also reminding myself why I love this type of story.

This book fulfills Equinox I (A Book for All Seasons) Book Challenge for Topic #1: A Book set 500+ Years Ago

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

The Caller (Robert Hunter #8), by Chris Carter

Nine stars

Returning for yet another stunning psychological thriller, Chris Carter proves why he is the master of the genre. Detective Robert Hunter is again ready to find the most depraved killers in Los Angeles. As part of the LAPD’s Ultra Violent Crimes Unit, Hunter and his partner, Carlos Garcia, place it all on the line to find those with psychopathic tendencies. When a young woman receives a video call from her friend, it looks to be a simple ‘face to face’ catch-up. However, things take a terrible turn when a killer is involved and requires answers to two basic questions. Failure to reply in a set time frame and the caller (the victim whose phone placed the call) will face the consequences. After failing to answer the second, seemingly benign, question, the killer smashes the caller’s face into a container of glass shards, forcing the other to watch through the cellphone screen, helpless. When Hunter and Garcia arrive to begin looking for clues or leads, they discover the most basic description of the killer will take them nowhere, as a sadistic mask was used and voice-altering technology negates any digital breadcrumbs. With his mind that works exponentially faster than anyone else, Hunter begins trying to piece things together, while also juggling a potential new romantic interest. Called away to a second scene, Hunter not only discovers the body of a middle-aged woman, but a husband who seems more focussed on revenge than grief. It is here that the man, dubbed Mr. J, begins his own hunt for the killer, using his personal and work contacts to follow his own trail. While Hunter and Garcia marvel at the evil the killer is inflicting on the victims and those forced to watch, Mr. J is making headway of his own. It’s now a race to see who will find the killer first and what sort of justice will come from the apprehension. Carter stuns fans with another wonderful piece and reminds me why I enjoy his dark thrillers so much. Series fans will likely be highly impressed, alongside new readers who will be pulled in before they can turn away.

It was years ago that I stumbled upon Chris Carter and his work. I have never looked back, nor have I wanted to. Using Robert Hunter as the protagonist and weaving together his varied and quite unique backstory, Carter creates a detective who not only strives on finding the killer, but also wants to get inside his mind. No killer is too deceptive and no crime too horrible to keep Hunter from asking the tough questions, even if he is the only person interested in the discussion. From this point, it is the cast of characters that flesh out the story, with a sadistic killer, whose methods and madness make the book for me, at the centre of this game. It is the thought process, the inherent justification, that really interests me more than anything else. Some may say the story is too gruesome or that the narrative is too reliant on the weak female. To those people, I offer my raised eyebrow and surmise that they ought not to have stumbled into this genre if they wanted something prim, proper, and pitiful. The crux of these novels are their disturbing aspects and that issues pulled from the headlines or social norms can be placed under the microscope. I thoroughly enjoy them for that reason and I would encourage anyone who can relax their literary gag reflex to join the party as well. You will not be disappointed.

Kudos, Mr. Carter, for delivering another stellar novel. I am eager to see what awaits us in the coming months. By then the trolls and vapid complainers will surely have found something else to enjoy.

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

Malicious (Mitchum #2), by James Patterson and James O. Born

Eight stars

James O. Born returns to work alongside James Patterson again in the follow-up BookShot of the Mitchum series. Readers will likely remain impressed with this piece, as it has all the impact of a great short story without losing any of the needed character and story development. Mitchum enjoys his quiet life in upstate New York, where he can deliver his daily newspapers and run an unofficial P.I. business on the side. When his brother, Natty, calls with a problem, Mitchum seems skeptical. However, when a homicide is involved, the brothers reunite, post haste. Mitchum learns that a high school friend has been slain, potentially by a fellow drug dealer. As one who ‘enhances recreational activities’ himself, Natty can attest to the fact that there are some out there who want nothing more than to bury Peter Stahl, but not before discovering the secret he has about a new and ‘hot’ commodity for the street. As Mitchum works to iron out all the details, he learns that Natty is deeply in love with the deceased’s wife, which could prove to be a problem. Before Mitchum can learn much more, Natty been hauled away to jail, the primary suspect in the murder. It is now a race to find the true killer and clear Natty’s name, forcing Mitchum to look under every rock, where corrupt figures wait for their slice of the pie. A wonderful follow-up piece that pushes the reader into the middle of the action as Mitchum forges ahead at top speed. BookShot fans will surely enjoy this piece, both for its excitement and quick pace.

This weekend of BookShot reading has proven to be highly useful and I have come across a number of wonderful pieces. James O. Born surely has a handle on this series, which continues to build, and avid readers can only hope that Patterson will turn to him many more times in the future. While short, the story allows more character development as it relates to Robert ‘call me Mitchum’ Mitchum, both from a familial perspective and with his own personal sentiments. The reader can enjoy a dash of sarcasm and some heartfelt emotion without missing out on what ends up being something worth the hour of reading time. The story is by no means unique, but it holds the attention of the read throughout, paced with short chapters and quick development. Anyone who needs a decent filler between major reading assignments can turn to this piece and not be disappointed. I can only hope that Mitchum will be back soon, rising to the top amidst the supersaturation of BookShots in the e-book domain. Readers ought to keep an eye out for these and will surely find something to appeal to their thriller side.

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson and Born for another great collaboration. I enjoy how the Mitchum series is shaping up and hope you have more in store in the coming months.

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

Hidden (Mitchum #1), by James Patterson and James O. Born

Eight stars

James O. Born works alongside James Patterson in the first of this BookShot series that will have readers hooked and quite curious as they travel to upstate New York. Mitchum enjoys the quiet life in Marlboro, away from the fast-paced living of NYC, but still surrounded by a community that thrives on the daily bustle. When he learns that his niece, Bailey Mae, has gone missing, this unofficial P.I. takes matters into his own hands. Working with the local sheriff’s detachment and those around town, Mitchum learns that three shady individuals have been seen around town. Bailey Mae’s famous coffee cakes prove a useful trail, though when two elderly residents are found murdered in their home and a fresh cake sits on the counter, Mitchum becomes more concerned. His past training as a Navy SEAL allows him to forge headlong into the search, still trying to determine who these strangers might be and if they are involved in the kidnapping, or if Bailey Mae is somehow involved. Forced to turn to his drug-dealing brother, Mitchum uses whispers on the street to help him track down any evidence that might lead to Bailey Mae’s safe return. Time is running out, but family ties seem to be unbreakable for Mitchum, fuelling his determination to bring a happy ending to this small town. A quick and captivating story for BookShot fans and those who need a little thrill with their coffee. Patterson and Born have a recipe for success here!

I am on a roll with my current BookShots binge, having found some real winners out there. There is usually little time for character development, but the authors have been able to weave the story of Robert ‘call me Mitchum’ Mitchum into the fabric of this thriller. The small town feel to the story is not lost on the reader, as Mitchum combs through the residents to garner enough clues to help solve the case. Additionally, the vast array of characters on offer may prove useful if the series continues past the next-known published piece. The story itself is interesting and the short chapters keep the story propelling forward without the reader feeling too stuck in any single environ. Patterson and Born work well together and bring the story to life, just as I would expect with a BookShot, which leaves little time to catch one’s breath. I need to get my hands on the next story in the series, as I am still highly impressed with what I’ve read.

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson and Born for this great collaboration. Mitchum is in good hands if you two remain vigilant at keeping the stories as entertaining as this debut.

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

French Twist (Detective Luc Moncrief #3), by James Patterson and Richard DiLallo

Seven stars

The advantage to a BookShots binge is that you can get through a variety of stories in short order, picking and choosing the genre or characters without needing to commit for too long. In the recent instalment of the ‘French’ series, I am able to bask in the work of James Patterson and Richard DiLallo, as they bring their Detective Luc Moncrief back for more fun in NYC. Armed with his partner (and potentially a romantic interest), K. Burke, Moncrief is baffled when they are called to investigate the death of a New York socialite while she is out shopping. There is no clear motive or cause of death, though the fact that this is the third death of a wealthy woman in short order has the top brass of the NYPD breathing down their necks. Without a concrete lead, Moncrief and Burke accept an invitation to attend the Kentucky Derby, where they watch the favoured horse come out well ahead of the competition. However, a threatening letter and murdered horse in the stables leaves the owners less than calm and Moncrief is prepared to take the lead on the investigation. With the next major race to be held in Baltimore, Moncrief can still keep an eye on things while returning to New York. Following up on some potential leads, Moncrief and Burke interview the hired help of the three victims, only to learn that these women appear to have nothing in their backgrounds that could cause any issues, but their marriages are anything but iron-clad. It it only when one of the ‘nannies’ is seen purchasing a clear baggie that Burke feels they have to do some reconnaissance of their own. Meanwhile, the Preakness is run and the horse storms out ahead again, leaving only one more race to complete the Triple Crown, an illustrious honour rarely seen in horse racing. With bookmakers tossing massive odds against a clear sweep and the pressure mounting, Moncrief and Burke had better find their killer in the Big Apple, allowing them the chance to watch horse-racing history and watch their favourite equine take a bite out of the competition. An interesting story by this well-established writing duo that will likely leave fans of this series wanting more, though I am not entirely sure if I would mourn the loss of Luc Moncrief and his stuffy-shirt antics.

While I find that James Patterson can be a little hard to stomach, some of the recent BookShots that I have read show potential. DiLallo helps to augment Patterson’s style of short chapters and to the point storylines. The characters remain somewhat annoying to me, particularly Detective Luc Moncrief, who is an annoying detective on loan from the upper echelons of France’s elite police system. Paired with a somewhat down to earth Katherine ‘K’ Burke, they complement (though rarely compliment) one another as they tackle some of the most obscure crimes in NYC. The story is fairly interesting, though Moncrief finds a way to make it seem a little sillier than first presented. Exploring what might be one of the real issues of the glamorous women of the world, the authors take the reader down a few rabbit holes before presenting a plausible and scandalous explanation for the list of victims. Interesting and surely one of the more productive BookShot duos, there is surely much to be said for a full-length novel option involving these two New York detectives.

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson and DiLallo for keeping things interesting throughout. I can only hope that your partnership allows for more collaboration in the near future.

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

The Medical Examiner (Women’s Murder Club #16.5), by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro

Eight stars

Continuing a mini BookShots binge, I found myself gravitating to another piece that links one of James Patterson’s long-running series, The Women’s Murder Club. Working in collaboration with Maxine Paetro, Patterson has been able to keep these stories entertaining and usually of high quality, amidst a number of hit and miss attempts at writing. With Detective Lindsay Boxer on a much needed vacation, the Club is down to three active members. Dr. Claire Washburn arrives to work on Monday and finds herself scanning the weekend carnage that’s made its way into the Medical Examiner’s Office. When she hears a sound within one of the shelves, Claire discovers that one of the dead bodies is anything but deceased. After a time, Joan Murphy is able to explain that she has no idea how she was shot or who might have been found in bed with her. The faux death can be explained by catalepsy, a rare condition but one that has many people still confused. Claire is baffled by the entire experience and when the SFPD are called in, they begin trying to decipher what happened. News leaks to another Club member, Cindy Thomas, whose crime beat with the San Francisco Chronicle is sure to reach a number of people. Detective Richard Conklin discovers that the mystery man is a second-rate actor, but still Murphy denies knowing anything. When approaching the husband, Conklin learns that he and Murphy have a loving, but distant relationship. Further investigating reveals that Murphy and her ‘man’ were likely part of a hit deemed complete, so there may be someone out there waiting to kill Murphy once and for all. Cindy and Claire both make their way to Murphy’s home, independently, where more trouble awaits. With Lindsay out of the picture and the pieces not fitting together nicely, Claire and Cindy will be forced to turn into sleuths before the killer re-emerges. A great story that never loses its momentum and shines the spotlight on another of the Club members. Series fans will likely enjoy this bridge as they wait for the next full-length novel.

I am a fan of some of Patterson’s series and this is surely one that I have followed from the get-go. Paetro brings an interesting flavour to the writing and the stories are usually fairly well-crafted, full of humour and intrigue, even when the characters step aside and allow Lindsay Boxer to get much of the development. I applaud Patterson and Paetro for placing Boxer on the shelf and turning the attention to other Club members. While Claire’s backstory is not fully developed here, the reader can see some progress and curious nature in her personality, taking her out of the ME’s office, yet still on the job. I can only hope that future stories (BookShots even) will allow Cindy and Yuki to receive much of the attention, as it proves highly refreshing. The story itself worked well, introducing the reader to catalepsy and turning the tables on what was an expected double murder. While things sped by in this short piece, the reader is kept informed and forced on a quick adventure as the story develops. Told with the traditional short chapters for which Patterson is so well known, things come to a swift end with most of the threads tied off. Well presented and whetted my appetite for another Women’s Murder Club novel. Bring it on!

Kudos, Mr. Patterson and Madam Paetro, for another great piece of collaborative work. I am impressed to see that the momentum has not waned and your work keeps readers interested.

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

Detective Cross (Alex Cross #24.5), by James Patterson

Eight stars

After a hiatus, I am back reading BookShots and revelling in some of the superior work that James Patterson has to offer with one of his original series, Alex Cross. While out running, Chief of Detectives Bree Stone (married to the aforementioned Dr. Cross) receives a call that a bomb is set to explode. She calls in resources around the National Monuments and helps diffuse the situation. Meanwhile, Alex Cross is serving his suspension and awaiting trial, having returned to his psychology practice for the time being. After Stone calls him, he drops everything and tries to offer a psych profile of the sort of person who might be capable of this. Narrowing in on a homeless military vet, Cross and Stone think that they might be making headway, only to have more bomb threats called in, forcing the evacuation of the area. Some are simply threats, but others pack an actual explosive punch, leaving the authorities to play roulette with how to handle things. Cross has been seeing a patient who has a military past working with IED (improvised explosive devices) and seems to have a means of helping the investigation. With a pattern emerging, the bomber is likely soon to be in the crosshairs, but then things take a definite turn and no one can be sure of the next move, even this illustrious Dr. Alex Cross. An interesting piece that speaks not only to Patterson’s ability to write independently, but also tackles an issue that is close to the hearts of many. Series fans will surely enjoy this as they wait for the looming trial of their favourite fictional character.

I’ve often said that Patterson can be hit and miss, particularly when he teams up with others. This series, his longest running, is usually quite good and goes to show that he still had ideas to keep the reader hooked. Alex Cross has been through much in the more than two decades that he has graced the pages of novels, though he seems to have a need to remain front and centre. Still, with his wife as Chief of Detectives, it is difficult to keep her too far in the background. The Cross-Stone connection in this story is one that proves they can stand on equal footing, as well as when Cross utilises his patient to help, rather than string her along for the ride. The story itself seems plausible, which makes it all the easier to swallow. The issue, veterans’ rights and the proper recognition of those who have come back stateside, particular those with debilitating injuries, is front and centre throughout the narrative. Patterson handles it well and gets to the core of the issue without trivializing things. My second book today that pointed the corrupt and ignorant nature of Congress on such fundamental issues, so there must be a theme here. Thankfully, I need not get in the middle of this contentious issue and can remain firmly rooted on my Canadian reader perch, enjoying the view.

Kudos, Mr. Patterson, for enthralling your fans with this short story. While BookShots are supersaturating the market, it is nice to see that some are still of such high calibre.

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