Killing the Presidents: Presidential Assassinations and Assassination Attempts, by Nicholas Vulich

Six stars

My love of all things historical, especially those of a political nature, drew me to this short book/pamphlet by Nick Vulich. It serves as an overview on American presidential assassinations, as well as attempts that have been made on POTUS. Vulich lays the groundwork for each assassination (Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley, and Kennedy), both historic and geographic, as well as offering a background on the assassin. Where possible, Vulich also discusses any legal action taken thereafter and sentence rendered by the courts. The latter portion of the piece looks briefly into the attempts made on presidents and how they failed, though this is far less encompassing in its detail. With direct quotes and a few references to eyewitness accounts, Vulich does well to show the reader what happened and the mindset of the person responsible for the act. A decent read for your morning coffee period.

Vulich likely never expected his printed piece to be anything other than a primer, and its superficial detail leads me to feel that is the case. It could be the basis for an explosive book, should each of the five assassinations be drawn out and explored with much historical documentation. It is surely something I would read, as I love lesser-known history that is not rote memorisation from history textbooks. While I noted that Vulich is not in the market to write such a tome, I wonder if any historian would take up the challenge and compile something of this nature. Where things fell short for me came in some of the typographical or grammatical errors, something that, in such a short piece, could easily have been caught by a third or fourth eye. In reading it once, they leapt out at me, which confuses me, as it made it through enough hands to be published (electronically) and pushed out to the public. Such things can sully a well-written piece and I cannot brush them off

Well done, Mr. Vulich for piquing my interest and making me want to read more on the subject. I will have to look around for some of your other work, sure to be equally as interesting.

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Chase: A BookShot (Michael Bennett #9.5), by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge

Seven stars

As Michael Bennett seeks a little of the BookShot spotlight, James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge concoct this high-impact thriller to lull series fans temporarily. As the book opens, a mysterious man is being stalked by two others, eyeing him in the corner of a hotel bar. A brief exchange in a bathroom leaves one injured and our man of mystery racing for the roof. A short confrontation ensues and soon a body is flying over the side, only to crash onto the busy New York streets. When Detective Michael Bennett of Major Crimes arrives, everyone knows this is serious. The body could have been tossed, but there is the possibility that someone is trying their hand at a new and exciting way of committing suicide. When the identification comes back, Bennett and all those around him are stunned. The body belongs to none other than Stephen Eardley, who was killed while fighting in Iraq. And yet, Bennett has seen the body and the identification was run three times to be sure. Bennett uses some influence to get an interview at the Pentagon, though he hits a brick wall and is ushered out before he can learn much of anything. A covert message makes its way to him, sending him out to Pennsylvania, where one Paul Haber might have some answers. Bennett travels out to investigate, but is ambushed and almost killed. As he narrowly escapes, he is left to find safety and try to understand how he has become the hunted and if the men aiming their high-powered rifles at him might know more about Eardley than meets the eye. A quick-paced story that will entertain most readers, not only fans of the successful Bennett series.

When I saw that this piece was listed as “9.5”, I made sure to wait until after I read BULLSEYE, though I ought not have worried. There is no connection to the previous full-length novel, nor should anyone with a general curiosity in BookShots feel they need to know the entire Bennett backstory. There is little time for character development, leaving Patterson and Ledwidge to assume the reader will well-versed in the Bennett clan and their home-based adventures. The plot is not unique to the point of being stellar, but the story flows well and keeps the reader hooked, as many BookShots successfully set out to do. With its poignant Bennett sarcasm, the story is able to be a little lighthearted without losing its impact and keeps the reader hooked until the epilogue.

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson and Ledwidge for making this a story worth reading on a Sunday afternoon. Quick read, high impact, well done!

The Front (Winston Garano #2), by Patricia Cornwell

Seven stars

Cornwell’s sequel to her Winston Garano novella series picks up the pace and gives readers a stronger sense of the man while showing more of the author’s abilities. Set a year after the previous story, Garano is again summoned to help Middlesex County DA Monique Lamont in her latest venture. Seeking to reshape her image after the horrific events of a year ago, Lamont dreams up the ‘No Neighborhood Left Behind’ initiative, where police across jurisdictions in Massachusetts can work together to solve cold cases. Garano is told the test case will be one down in Watertown, where a blind woman was sexually assaulted and murdered in 1962. Lamont offers up a contact for Garano down in Watertown, sending him down there to work. Stump is a take-no-prisoners member of the local police force, with an attitude that could cut diamonds, not hampered when she lost her leg in a motorcycle accident. While Garano begins working the case, he learns from Lamont that there may be another angle of great importance to this case; it could be the first crime committed by the Boston Strangler. Garano has no interest in the fame and political advantage this might have and seeks to piece clues together with a less than cooperative Stump. A YouTube video goes viral that paints the DA in a feminine light, forcing her to revamp her image yet again. When Lamont reveals the Strangler angle to the governor, she adds that she’s enlisted the help of Scotland Yard, as the victim was a British national in America for a year. Seeking to garner major headlines, she can see nothing wrong with this media grab, though few around her share the same enthusiasm. The more Garano works with Stump, the more he learns of her connection to Lamont, back when she was a ruthless prosecutor. Events transpired that put things in a whole different light for Garano and he seeks to solve the case to vindicate Stump more than anything. Through hard work and determination, Garano cracks the case wide open, but things take a turn away from the projected theory, which could jeopardise any advantage that Lamont might have thought she’d possess with a closed case. Cornwell invests more time and effort into this piece, which makes it a more cogent and enjoyable story, more in line with her Scarpetta work. Sure to lure the curious reader.

While the Garano novella series may have stumbled out of the block, Cornwell makes up for that with this piece. No only is our protagonist portrayed a more cutthroat manner, butting heads with Lamont at every turn, but we learn a little more about his grandmother, who raised Winston from age seven. A self-declared witch, Garano must steer his grandmother away from her casting of spells and keep her focus on safety as she advances in age. Cornwell also paints DA Lamont into a corner, touching extensively on the brutal rape she suffered in the previous story and building on it, both from the standpoint of image development and her political ambitions. Using the ornery Stump was a brilliant idea and her connection to Lamont solidifies the case more than the actual evidence, which drives the story forward. While the case itself was nothing outstanding, the assembled pieces did provide an ‘aha’ moment for readers, who could see the delicate nature of a criminal thriller before them. Cornwell does well to draw on her experiences while also differentiating these stories from anything Kay Scarpetta. I am curious to see if Winston Garano will return, as he has been shelved for eight years now. His brief appearance on the written page was well-placed, though he does pale to some of Cornwell’s other work.

Kudos, Madam Cornwell for a great novella. You have shown that you can impress, even in a shorter period of time.

Grace Sees Red (Manor House Mysteries #7), by Julie Hyzy

Eight stars

In her latest adventure from Marshfield Manor, Julie Hyzy brings another murder mystery to light and places sleuthing responsibilities in the capable hands of Grace Wheaton. While touring the Manor one morning, Grace receives a call from her assistant, Frances, who is highly distressed and in need of immediate assistance. Once Grace makes her way to the address Frances offered, it is soon discovered to be an assisted living facility. Frances uses her weekends to visit someone at the facility, her ex-husband, Percy, and has been doing so for many years. The surprises do not end there, as Grace discovers that Percy’s neighbour has died and Frances remains a person of interest in his suspicious death. There is no love loss between Frances and Gus, something she is happy to admit to anyone who will listen. However, Grace will not stand idly by and her her friend be dragged through the mud. Once Frances has retained counsel, Grace commences sleuthing, checking stories and trying to determine what might have happened to Gus. Could he have died naturally or taken matters into his own hands, as there is evidence of a possible insulin injection. Local law enforcement are less than keen to have someone poking around, though Grace does her best not to step on any toes. When the victim’s family arrives to handle the situation, Grace sees new avenues that may work in Frances’ favour. While all this is taking place, Grace handles an issue on the home front when her roommates’ winery is suddenly closed by an overzealous building inspector. She tries to quell disaster there by coming up with a plan that might solve everyone’s concerns, but Frances and her situation are not completely solved. When Frances is formally arrested, Grace knows that she cannot wait any longer and pushes her investigation into high-gear, calling in the assistance of anyone who might be able to help. Will Frances finally have to fess-up for her antics to rid herself of an annoying human, or is someone trying to frame her for the death? All is revealed in true Manor fashion in Hyzy’s latest novel, which is as cute as it is entertaining.

I never tire of a good Hyzy novel, for it allows me to shift into neutral, but also keep my wits about me. The stories are usually not very complicated, but they are layered with interesting characters, great bantering dialogue, and just enough mystery to keep me from figuring it all out in the opening chapters. Added to that, Grace Wheaton and her backstory are always developing, which keeps her from getting stale and allows Hyzy to take readers inside her drama-filled life. Much like the other series Hyzy successfully pens, Grace seems to fall into these mysteries as she denies leading the way towards them. Be that as it may, they are always highly entertaining and leave a cliffhanger at the end just tantalizing enough that the reader will curse having to wait another year. 

Kudos, Madam Hyzy for another hit in the series. One can only hope you have many more ideas, for things are far from going stale with Grace and the rest of the Marshfield gang.

At Risk (Winston Garano #1), by Patricia Cornwell

Six stars

Shifting gears, Patricia Cornwell pens a novella that introduces readers to a new character with many unique features. Winston Garano works for the Massachusetts State Police, assigned to liaise closely with one of the most power-hungry women who possesses the title of District Attorney. With her eyes on the Governor’s Mansion, she will stop at nothing to get a leg up, literally. While Garano is studying at the National Forensics Academy, he is summoned back from Knoxville to attend to some pressing business. The DA has decided she wants to toss her hat into the ring for the upcoming gubernatorial race and needs an edge. She’s created a new program she calls At Risk, utilising the up-and-coming technology of DNA analysis and seeks to apply it to an old case that might earn her praise and recognition. Funny enough, this case is a murder down in Tennessee, which will allow Garano to continue his studies while bolstering the DA’s image. Dismissing it, Garano mumbles to himself and prepares to head back south when a violent crime hits close to home and he receives a mysterious phone call about this new case, both of which propel him into action. Working alongside a fellow classmate and current Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Special Agent, Garano slowly commences piecing it all together. However, the crime in Massachusetts stinks to high heaven as well, forcing him to spend some time looking into this. What was an attempt to help smaller police forces may be a political battle for Massachusetts Governor and Garano cannot be in the middle of it. Cornwell does well in showing off her new crime minion in this shorter story, pulling readers into the fray with the greatest of ease.

It is said you write what you know, which is how Cornwell created and mastered such a wonderful character in Kay Scarpetta. With Winston Garano, things flow nicely and his backstory is one that is surely intriguing, but even with a hook such as his mixed African America/Italian heritage, he does not hold a candle to the great Scarpetta. I felt as though the story sought to skim the water, a filler, perhaps, between writing assignments, as it does not have the pizzazz for which Cornwell is known. I admit to using this novel to fill a small period of time before I launch myself into a larger project. The development of characters is decent enough and the story flows smoothly, though it seems to drift along in spots, as though there is nothing to hold it together and no impetus to draw the story out into areas not foreseen. I did not feel connected or pulled in to see more about Garano as I might have with other characters. That said, it is not a horrid piece of writing by any stretch of the imagination. I’ll finish things off with the follow-up novella and be able to offer something more cogent at that time.

Kudos, Madam Cornwell for attempting to branch out, though perhaps this is more a means of idling as your next Scarpetta masterpiece came to you.

Bullseye (Michael Bennett #9), by James Patterson

Six stars

Michael Bennett makes his return to the printed page in this thriller that puts him in the crosshairs of a determined assassin who has plans to significantly shift the political balance. When Bennett is called away from his family one weekend morning, he knows something is up. Summoned to work a joint operation, Bennett is soon read in on a piece of intercepted intel that concerns an assassination attempt on POTUS while he is in town to attend the U.N. General Assembly. In a harrowing piece of eye in the sky bravery, Bennett is able to stop the assassin while on a helicopter patrol, but fails to capture them. With a plot to kill POTUS still active, no one is taking any chances and Bennett begins investigating possible leads and suspects. Before long, he learns of a possible husband-wife team who could be involved, though he cannot narrow his scope too much at the present time. Meanwhile, the Bennett household is busy as ever, when they take in the star football player of the high school team on a temporary basis. While the eldest Bennett is busy chasing down an assassin, the boys soon learn that you may be able to take the kid out of the rough neighbourhood, but the neighbourhood remains in the kid. Drug dealers and illicit weapons become shocks they must face, which is more than they can handle, especially with their father working with the NYPD. Back on the streets, rumours abound that the kill plot might have been contracted to a ruthless assassin who plays no sides, choosing to to work for the highest bidder. Furthermore, there could be a Russian angle, one that reaches the highest levels of the Kremlin. In a world almost three decades into a Cold War thaw, frigidity between America and Russia could be building again, with state-sanctioned violence a distinct possibility. Bennett must rush to find the assassin before total chaos, while also determining if Russia is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, which could open a political chasm best not explored. Patterson and Ledwidge create an interesting novel, full of drama, but nowhere near as exciting as Michael Bennett in his prime. 

This is the second novel I have read in an many days that posits an America v. Russia political build-up. While I am not blind to the antics taking place in Moscow, could the blather of ISIS be waning as we return to a new war where former enemies renew their syncopated waltz on the political dance floor? While this may be the case, the interpretation of this is weaker and plays but a passing role in this novel, as Patterson and Ledwidge seek more to show Bennett’s heroic nature than a grasp of political chess play. As always, the Bennetts receive little mention, allowing for no real backstory progression, especially as Michael remains stagnant in his sentiments towards Mary Catherine. However the subplot line does offer some insight into the older children. The plot itself moves at a decent place and allows the reader to get a handle on the situation, though is nothing stellar or gripping to the point of holding the reader’s breath at every turn. As Michael Bennett and his brood approach ten novels, could things be winding down for him, leaving room for new and exciting possibilities, or will Bennet join Cross and Boxer as they catapult into an infinite number of novels, sometimes leaving the reader feeling tepid about their reading experience? Time will tell, but let’s not draw things out too long for the dedicated fan, seeking a decent reader.

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson and Ledwidge for an interesting addition to the series. Nowhere near as captivating as some of the previous work, but not the worst effort, by far. 

Let’s Play Make-Believe: A BookShot, by James Patterson and James O. Born

Seven stars

Back for another BookShot, I enter the world of the Jameses, Patterson and Born, as they seek to entice the readers with this interesting short piece. After being tossed to the curb by her wealthy husband, Christy Moore is looking to inject some excitement into her life. When she meets Martin Hawking, a recent divorcĂ©, the two seem inseparable. Like young lovers, they spend as much time together as possible and become infatuated with one another. A few weeks into this courtship, Martin suggests they play a game of make-believe, taking on roles and situations normally outside their purview. From an expensive dine and dash to temporarily taking possession of an expensive vehicle, Martin and Christy are living on the edge, when they are not partying it up and receiving late night visits from the police. However, the game soon intensifies and both become even bolder with their dares, going so far as to enter the mansion of Christy’s soon-to-be ex. They scout the place out and help themselves to a few items Christy feels entitled to have, no sense of consequences. Thereafter, it is a rollercoaster of emotions that pushes things well past illegal and into highly criminal, where both Christy and Martin are unable (or unwilling?) to play by the rules. How will Christy put a stop to things before they reach the point of no return? Could Martin’s game of make-believe be one where the rules do not apply? A well-crafted piece that speeds by as the reader gets more attached to the story.

I have been a fan of BookShots since they came out and find Patterson has done some of his best work (read: put his name to work authored by others) in these short stories, as he chooses the best of the best. While this piece read like something bordering on female infatuation at times, it did pick up its pace and soon had me wondering how things would end. With a prologue that lays out some fairly significant information, there was no way I was putting this one down until I saw how things came full circle. Patterson and Born develop two interesting characters in Martin and Christy, both spurned by recent marital issues and finding one another like oppositely-charged magnets. However, it was the pace of the story that lulled me into a sense of complacency, only to shock me as I reached the last half dozen, when the story takes a real turn. The ending alone made the story worthwhile and it is this that helps earn my choice to recommend it to anyone who has a spare few hours. Everything falls into place nicely, though there is by no means a happy ending in store.

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson and Born for this piece. I hope to see your teamwork again soon, either in full novel form or another exciting BookShot.

The Devil’s Work, by Mark Edwards

Nine stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Mark Edwards, and Thomas & Mercer for providing me with a copy of this book, which allows me to provide you with this review.

In his latest psychological thriller, Mark Edwards pushes things to the limit again while drawing the reader into a world of suspense and horror. After a four year hiatus, Sophie Greenwood is looking to get back to work in the highly competitive world of book publishing. Recently hired by Jackdaw Books, Sophie is living her dream, though it does stir up a little unease. Sophie has dreamed of working for Jackdaw since she was a little girl, but its owner, Franklin Bird, has kept her from living that dream until now. Introduced to her new team, Sophie seeks to acclimate herself to the hustle and bustle of the job while having numerous flashbacks to her early college days and best friend, Jasmine, who happens to be the granddaughter of the aforementioned Mr. Bird. As the days go on, things begin happening in the workplace that leave Sophie extremely vulnerable or off her mark, some of which might be tied back to her assistant, Cassie Said. Sophie has seen Cassie’s schoolgirl innocence change at the drop of a hat, producing a take-no-prisoners woman who will accept no blame for even the smallest foible. After her daughter briefly goes missing during a workplace event, Sophie begins to turn her concerns into outright accusations, sure that Cassie is trying to push her buttons. When Sophie’s husband, Guy, gets caught up in the mess and is found to be interacting with Cassie, home life takes a definite turn towards the frigid, leaving Guy and Sophie at a crossroads. While it could be a number of coincidences, Sophie cannot shake that there is something sinister going on, with her as the central target. While Sophie’s flashbacks continue, the reader sees a parallel in the dramatic update in that storyline with Sophie’s current paranoia. Could someone be trying to get rid of Sophie from her position at Jackdaw? She begins digging around and discovers there may be more going on that meets the eye. However, Sophie learns the hard way that sometimes things are best left alone, unless you’re willing to face the dire consequences. Edwards develops this thriller in such a way that no reader will be able to put it down until all is revealed.

Just as his biographical note states, Mark Edwards is an author of psychological thrillers where innocent people are pulled into extraordinary situations. This novel is by no means an exception to the rule. The reader is slowly pulled deeper into the plot until there is no escape. With a wonderful balance of present and past narratives, the reader views Sophie Greenwood as a well-adjusted student, then mum, who is looking to achieve her dreams. Life progresses peacefully until one event turns everything on its head and Sophie is forced to scramble in order to protect herself. All characters are highly realistic and keep the story flowing nicely, each with their own nuances, if not flesh-out backstory. It is the subtle progression of the plot and the fluid narrative that makes this book great, in true Edwards fashion. The author wants the reader to wonder, to ponder, to remain uncertain as they navigate further along. Edwards hits the reader with drama and action at the most opportune times, when their guard is down. One could almost say the reader is Sophie Greenwood, feeling her pain and understanding her angst. However, there is always that niggling wonder as to whether things are being extrapolated to fit what is easiest for Sophie to explain. By the time the reader reaches the end, everything comes crashing down and there is no doubt, though by then it may be too late for Sophie, and is surely past the point of no return for the reader. Mark Edwards will subsume you, if not invade your every thought. Beware reader, once you start this novel, you’ll never be able to put it down, even if you want to!

Kudos, Mr. Edwards for another stellar piece of work. Be it writing alone or part of a team, you never fail to impress.

Foreign Agent (Scot Harvath #15), by Brad Thor

Seven stars

Thor continues his meteoric rise in the genre with another novel pulled directly from potential headlines. After a brutal bombing that killed a group of American operatives seeking to destroy a pillar of the ISIS organisation, all heads shift back to Washington, demanding answers. How could an operation so important and long in the making be infiltrated and ruined, its key members obliterated? The assassination of a high-ranking Cabinet official is the second attack by ISIS, which increases the ire of all, made worse when it is flaunted all over the Internet. Worried that things will continue to spiral out of control, Scot Harvath is summoned by the White House to complete a reconnaissance mission and complete the kill order, no matter the cost. As he trolls through the ashes of the attacks, he finds himself in Europe, gathering essential intelligence and making new contacts. Meanwhile, the narrative focusses attention on Sacha Baseyev, whose youth was filled with hatred of all things Muslim after an attack on his village. Russian Special Operations have honed this hatred and sent him out to infiltrate ISIS at the highest level. However, in order to fit in, he might have to commit a few atrocities along the way. When Harvath learns that Baseyev is at the centre of the attacks on the Americans, he will stop at nothing to bring him down, as well as the cell of ISIS fighters around him. What begins as intel gathering soon turns into the most covert of missions in the deserts of Syria. No mission has been as dangerous, as covert, or as important as the one Harvath has undertaken. And, with plausible deniability the name of the game, there are no safety nets to protect him. With all this taking place, a keen senator lurks in the shadows, seeking not only to take down the POTUS, but also to uncover just what sort of illegal black ops are going ahead without congressional approval. Thor offers wonderful insights and pushes the envelope as far as he can to rile up the reader, at a time when ISIS teeters on the brink. Highly enjoyable for those with an open mind and a strong heart!

I have always enjoyed a good Brad Thor novel, as he mixes espionage and action with terror and bloodshed. While I have lamented many authors for writing about ISIS to the point of flogging a dead horse, Thor’s character, Scot Harvath, is not only able to spin his adventures so as not to make it a cookie-cutter narrative, but to instil some unique angles. While some may call it preaching (to the choir), I find his political spins not only poignant, but necessary to see the larger picture. It is the curious reader who will rush out to read this and see for themselves, but I can see much being made of these suggestions and look to the next five years, as political holdings in the region are sure to shift. Thor has always worked with a collection of well-developed characters and advances the Scot Harvath backstory seamlessly throughout his writing. The dedicated series reader will notice that while Harvath retains his job, he is always advancing in his personal life, as glacial as that might be. With plots pulled from the headlines, Thor is able to add his own flavour to events, but also to push away from the constant US v. ISIS that floods the airwaves and lesser novels in the genre. I can never be sure where Thor will take the reader, nor how close to peril Harvath will find himself. This might be part of the draw, and surely keeps me keen to queue up for the next instalment.

Kudos, Mr. Thor for this. You are aptly named, for you are a god of your genre and all-powerful when it comes to storytelling. Hammer out another novel for your adoring fans, will ya?!

The Night Stalker (DCI Erika Foster #2), by Robert Bryndza

Eight stars

Robert Bryndza brings DCI Erika Foster back for another thrilling story that will send chills down the reader’s spine. When the body of a prominent doctor is found in his own home, DCI Foster and her team arrive to investigate. Sprawled out naked and with a bag firmly affixed around his head, Dr. Gregory Munro appears to be living a secret life, supported by significant amounts of Flunitrazepam (Rohypnol) in his blood and gay pornography in his bedside table. Could the doctor have a lover who took things too far? As Foster heads up the investigation, she leaves no stone unturned, even if it is sure to offend many. When she hears that she is being considered for a promotion, Foster debates changing her unorthodox style, but cannot justify not being what makes her a decent detective. When a second man is found killed in a similar fashion, forensic evidence opens the possibility that the previous profile may be flawed and that a woman may be responsible. Foster is happy to forge ahead with this, much to the chagrin of her superiors, as female serial killers are extremely rare. All the while, the killer is using an online forum to vent about a life gone awry, one that may offer some insight into how the victims are chosen and how they are killed. With the case ramping up, Foster must come to terms with the two-year anniversary of her husband’s death, something that she thinks about everyday, though she remains numb to some of the nuances. It was not only Mark who died, but the entire team she led into a botched drug raid. Coming out of this inner-exploration, Foster realises the killer has come to visit her and left a calling card, which ups the ante and forces the investigation to move at warp speed. A third murder hits closer to home and Foster is forced to give up her leadership role when she makes a careless mistake, one that she does not feel is of her own doing. In true DCI Erika Foster form, she convinces her team to continue working on the case under the radar, even when they are reassigned. A single lead may blow the case wide open, but Foster will have to defy her superiors and put her promotion in jeopardy in order to bring a killer to justice. For many, it is a tough decision, but Foster is no regular cop! Another stellar piece of thriller fiction will keep the reader talking about this book around the virtual water cooler for a long time to come.

Bryndza offers an explosive follow-up to his highly successful debut novel. The Erika Foster character is still prominent, though her backstory receives little attention, save one chapter. Foster’s struggle with the loss of her husband and previous team is handled effectively, though still leaves the door open for more exploration in a future novel. It is presumed the reader knows DCI Erika Foster and the truffles that have brought her from Manchester. Bryndza successfully builds up his characters, such that the reader cannot help but like (or hate) them and want to know more, which he kindly offers in brief snippets as offshoots to the larger plot. Bryndza uses the narrative to propel the story forward effectively, leading the reader down many paths as the team follows leads and the killer ramps up their crimes. Bryndza shapes the story around the cat and mouse game that ensues, leaving the reader to watch and wonder how things will resolve themselves effectively. Not only that, but Bryndza offers up themes in this novel that pull on the heartstrings of many readers, from child pornography to abuse and even venturing into the world of neglect. These issues seek to offer the reader a chance to ponder what is important and realise just how horrid the world can be. One can only hope that Bryndza has a few more DCI Erika Foster novels in him, though this story ends with a cliffhanger that begs for at least one more, if only to resolve the tension.

Kudos, Mr. Bryndza for this wonderful novel that offers much to the police thriller genre and is sure to entertain the reader.