Anne Boleyn: A King’s Obsession (Six Tudor Queens #2), by Alison Weir

Nine stars

I have long been a fan of things Tudor and the work of Alison Weir. That she can create such masterful biographies and historical pieces is one thing, but to transform all that research into a piece deemed fictional (likely because of the dialogue) and allow a larger reader base to enjoy and discuss her work adds to the awe surrounding her. In this, the second book in her newest series, Weir takes the reader into the life of Anne Boleyn, whose short life offered much to Tudor and English history. Anne appears to have lived much of her life in the shadow of others, as Weir exemplifies throughout. In the early chapters, the reader seems Anne casting her gaze towards her older sister, Mary, who held her parents’ favour and made a name for herself at court. While following in her sister’s footsteps, Anne served in two continental courts before she was called home to spend time as a lady-in waiting to Queen Katherine. While Weir purports that Anne paled in comparison to her sister’s beauty, there were a few men who sought the younger Boleyn sister’s affections, including Sir Henry Norris and the King of England, Henry VIII. Dismissing the affectionate advances of both while serving at court, Anne tried to serve her queen as effectively as possible. The latter Henry would not desist in his approaches, as history has helped us see seemed to be his modus operandi throughout his reign. While Anne stood firm, she was counselled not to rebuff the king for too long and eventually entered into an agreement with him, serving as his mistress but would not engage carnally until there was a dissolution of his marriage to Katherine. Weir spends much time weaving together the narrative of the multi-year journey, during which time Henry VIII tried to divorce the pious Katherine, finding roadblocks to success within both Canon Law and the Catholic Church. However, Anne never seems to have that passionate magnetism to Henry VIII that history presented (and television purported fuelled her desire to betray Queen Katherine), which might be one of the largest surprises to me in the entire novel. Weir portrays Anne as living in the shadow of Queen Katherine during this time, as Henry VIII could be seen to cower when it came to confronting his first wife. The eventual ruling by the Vatican led Henry VIII to create the Great Schism and birth of the Church of England (known as the Anglican or Episcopal Church). This break offers a natural divide in Anne’s life, when she transformed from a simple woman into a dynastic member of history. Some may argue that it was less Anne than Henry’s decision to part ways with Rome, but it came about because of her and for this reason, I feel Weir’s elongated narrative about the lead-up is indicative to a great importance in the Anne Boleyn story.

With the dust still settling and the ink not yet dry on the new Royal Decrees, Anne agreed to marry Henry VIII with this impediment removed and soon bore him an heir, though it was not the son that had been sought. Still, Princess Elizabeth would be the apple of her father’s eye, at least until a son was forthcoming. Like Katherine, Anne’s attempts to have a son were troublesome, as each subsequent birth was either a stillborn or miscarriage. Fraught with concern, Anne was forced to battle with the others who held some confusing sway over Henry VIII, including his counsellors and Princess Mary, his daughter from Katherine. Anne was yet again forced to remain in the shadows, with the princess acting as pious as her mother in regards to the ‘true’ Queen of England. Add to this, the strain of the ongoing attempts to turn away from Rome and Henry VIII’s temper was much shorter, which left Anne to face his wrath over minute concerns at court. After numerous failed attempts to bring forth a son, Anne’s allure lessened in the eyes of King Henry and he sought pleasure elsewhere. With rumours swirling, Anne was forced to live in the shadow of these others, the new mistresses of Henry VIII. It was only when Anne pushed back and refused to allow other women to share Henry’s affections that she found herself on the wrong side of a charge of treason. Weir supports this latter part of the narrative well, as Anne struggles to understand why she has been subjected to this charge and the apparent false accusations of her unions with the likes of the aforementioned Sir Henry Norris and her own brother, George, surface. Anne struggles to pronounce her innocence and lives in the shadow of the Tower of London, her eventual home as she awaits a verdict of beheading. Struggling throughout, Anne was forced to accept her fate, which came about through a set of purported lies and scandalous behaviour. All this because she upset a man that she likely did not love passionately. A powerful second book in the series, Weir does a masterful job at bringing Anne Boleyn to life, as well as adding depth to some of the struggles that are peppered throughout the history books. A must-read or Tudor fans who enjoy the intricacies of that time period, but would also be of interest to those who love history and all things royal. 

I will admit that I have been significantly influenced in my views on Anne Boleyn by Natalie Dormer’s portrayal of her during the television programme, THE TUDORS. Her beauty, her air, and even the general conniving nature of the young lady-in-waiting lweft me with a strong sentiment of a less than lovely Anne. Reading this book has given me a new outlook on Anne and has helped me piece together a better understanding of things at court during that time. It is impossible to understand the true story of Anne Boleyn without an understanding of numerous other actors who played various roles. Weir develops these characters so well and tied them together wonderfully, allowing the reader to bask in a richer and more complete narrative. While there are surely historical inaccuracies (that I know my buddy read companion will be able to recite), the story flows so seamlessly as Anne ages and changes from a naive girl into a woman who seeks to hold her own. Weir offers up a slow, but consistent, transformation of Anne throughout the piece, which is further exemplified by chapters whose focus is a particular period in time. As I mentioned above, I feel that the only thing pushing this novel into the realm of fiction would be its use of dialogue, which could not have been substantiated with complete accuracy. Still, the reader can get the sense that they are right in the middle of these historical events and conversations, which is surely a positive aspect of Weir’s writing. The story is so rich and Anne has so much to offer, the reader will surely want to pace themselves, or at least pay special attention to the story, so as not to miss anything. Then, the eager reader (of which, I admit, I will not be one) can cross-reference things from the first novel and even into the third (when it is released) to see how Anne is portrayed as a minor figure there. The only major downside to the novel, in my humble opinion, is that the reader rides such a high when in the middle of it, that the crash thereafter and knowing that there is a waiting period stings even more. And don’t get me started on trying to get the two short stories that accompany this series to date. UK fans should rejoice that they can easily be acquired.

Kudos, Madam Weir for bringing a key Tudor character to light in this novel. I am eager to see what else you have in store for us in the coming years.

The Car Bomb (Detroit Im Dyin Trilogy #1), T.V. LoCicero

Seven stars

First and foremost, thank you to T. V. LoCicero for providing me with a copy of this book, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Returning to my independent author list, I found this piece. Having never read any LoCicero, I thought I would entertain his request to see how it worked for me. Set in 1992 Detroit, I was never sure what to expect, though the title and the cover image (a car engulfed in flames) left me wondering if this would be a gang-based thriller on the rough inner-city streets. How I have learned not to judge a book by its cover! In a quiet neighbourhood, a woman loads her children into the family car. When she turns the key in the ignition, it explodes and kills them all. ‘Face of the Channel 5 News’ Frank DeFauw learns of the incident and rushes to make some sense of it. DeFauw, a philandering man with deep celebrity roots in the community, has a way to extract information out of people and delivers it with aplomb to his watching public. Trying to piece everything together, DeFauw learns that Anthony Peoples was not on scene when his family perished and considers that this might be retribution for a drug-deal gone wrong. However, scouring the streets and making on-air pleas, DeFauw reaches out to Peoples and hopes that they can talk. Peoples spills the beans on a large bribery scandal that got him off charges of murder, but which also involves some of the high-ranking officials in Detroit’s judicial community. DeFauw tries to piece it all together while fighting the demons of his personal struggles and a wife who wants a divorce as he refuses to be faithful. However, gritty journalistic determination rushes through DeFauw’s veins and he will stop at nothing to air the truth, even if it costs him everything. A great story that LoCicero has created, the first in a trilogy of novels. A decent read for those who enjoy a little throwback when reading crime stories, peppered with some less than savoury backstories.

As I have said before, independent author reads tend to be hit and miss for me. Going into this one, I was not sure how it might play out, but LoCicero presented a strong story and peppered it with just the right amount of salacious activity by our protagonist on the gritty streets of Detroit. The characters are a wonderful collection of varied individuals, their characteristics bringing the story to life. LoCicero knows precisely how to pull the reader in while exuding some dislike towards some of the antics taken. While the story was not overly complex, it was enjoyable and flowed well, with short chapters and a few cliffhangers. The length of time it took me to complete the read should not be indicative of my enjoyment of the entire process. Life tosses up roadblocks at times, though when I was able to pick up the book, I flew through section with ease. LoCicero is not new to the writing game and it shows in this well-developed piece, which has me wondering about the second novel. Could DeFauw be back for more fun and games, or has he hung up his glitz to make room for a new and exciting journalist in town? Only time will tell.

Kudos, Mr. LoCicero for this enjoyable piece. I enjoyed how you brought the story and Detroit to life. I am happy that you reached out and asked me to review this book. Has me curious about more relating to Detroit.

Gwendy’s Button Box & The Music Room, by Stephen King and Richard Chizmar

Seven stars

Gwendy’s Button Box:

A wonderful collaboration between ‘King of Horror’ Stephen King and Richard Chizmar, who have been long-time friends but meshed their literary ideas into a single piece. This story is peppered with the New England flavour for which King is so well known and an innocent story that turns on a single item, something Chizmar surely influenced after being handed control of the story. Gwendy Peterson is an energetic girl who seeks to change herself before heading into middle school, where the teasing she has undergone will only get worse. When a mysterious man, Richard Farris, engages her in conversation, Gwendy soon realises that this is not a man who seeks to do her any harm. Rather, he has a special gift for her, a mahogany box affixed with eight buttons, their convex surfaces and varied colours quite alluring. Farris explains the importance of each button, warning her away from pressing the red, unless she is sure of what she wants, as it packs quite the punch. With that, Farris is gone and Gwendy is left to fend for herself. She hides the box from everyone else, pulling it out only to feed off the delectable sweets that are compartmentalised along one side. As the story progresses and Gwendy ages, she becomes tempted by the buttons, or at least the red one, and seeks to experiment. The result is anything but peaceful, but Gwendy knew that was a distinct possibility. With events around her playing out, Gwendy is left to wonder, could she be solely responsible? An interesting novella that pulls the reader in from the start and posits some interesting theories. A wonderfully entertaining read for any who enjoy some of the less macabre King work with this new spin that Chizmar brings to the writing process.

I have long been a King fan and can only hope that there will be more stories like this. King and Chizmar took on a seemingly innocent plot and allowed it to evolve and take shape, to the point that the reader is left to wonder just who Gwendy Peterson might be. She has moments of teenage naïveté that are contrasted nicely with some darker thoughts, especially when she knowingly uses the ‘red button’. However, there is little attempt by the authors to turn her into anything sinister. The same goes for Richard Farris, who balances precariously on the fence from being that creepy ‘man in the shadows’ to an innocent stranger who seeks to offer up something interesting, akin to the magic beans that Jack received for his cow. King and Chizmar take the story from there and allow Gwendy to apparently control her destiny, while also placing much burden at her feet. Did her pressing the button lead to various newsworthy calamities? Without going too far off the beaten path, King and Chizmar force the reader to wrestle with destiny and the influence of choices on the larger scale. Call it The Butterfly Effect through the eyes of a teenage girl. A wonderful story that packs a punch and offers up much entertainment, one can only hope that King has more of these ideas rumbling around and that Chizmar is on hand to help spin them, in the years to come.

Kudos, Messrs. King and Chizmar for this wonderful novella. I am impressed and the early hype is right; you two are a wonderful team!

The Music Room (written solely by Stephen King):

Pulled from a collection of short pieces that seek to flesh out what is going on in a popular painting, Stephen King offers up this for his readers. It is the low point of the Great Depression, with people starving and suffering just to make enough to eat. However, the Enderbys have found a way both to survive and entertain themselves at the expense of others. Various ‘guests’, picked up by Mr. Enderby, are placed in a sound-proof closet, left to fend for themselves, How will they make it? No one is quite sure. While the Enderbys consider themselves only thieves, picking the pockets of those who enter the room, the reader might have other ideas, as what goes in does not come out in the same form. An interesting tale, though not long enough to expound some of King’s true abilities.

The Outsider, by Anthony Franze

Nine stars

Yet another powerful legal thriller by Anthony Franze that left me rushing to review it. This novel pulls readers into a story that centres around the U.S. Supreme Court in all its glory. After graduating from a fourth-tier law school and saddled with enormous debts, Grayson ‘Gray’ Hernandez was lucky enough to secure a job as a Messenger within the U.S. Supreme Court. While he has always aspired to argue before the nine Justices, he finds pleasure in being able to surround himself with the history and regal (as well as legal) nature of the marbled halls. When he stumbles upon an assault in the Court’s underground parkade, Gray does all he can to help the victim, who ends up being the Chief Justice Edgar R. Douglas. As a thank you for the heroics, Chief Justice Douglas offers Gray a coveted spot on his staff, as a fifth law clerk. Forced to acclimate to the quick pace of the Court, Gray is shunned by his co-clerks, but soon proves his worth through hard work and dedication to the Court’s business. Meanwhile, the FBI is investigating the attack at the Court and a handful of homicides that might be related. Further digging leaves Special Agent Emma Milstein wondering if the perpetrator might come from within the Court, based on random items left around the crime scenes. Milstein approaches Gray to help with their investigation, hoping to crack the case wide open, tapping into his experience working within the hallowed halls. Gray accepts, adding this to the laundry list of things he must accomplish, most notably learning the ropes of his clerkship while not alienating his family and friends. Remembering his roots, Gray tries to live in both worlds and appease everyone. With a serial killer on the loose with a penchant for the Court, Gray is fingered as being a potential culprit, forcing him into hiding. However, Milstein stands by his innocence and scrambles to uncover the vast conspiracy, which might cost someone a reputation, or even a life. Rich with history and a quick-paced narrative, Franze has successfully offered the reader another winner. Perfect for crime fans who enjoy a little history peppered throughout, this is one not to put too far down the ‘To Be Read’ list!

Franze has the ability to breathe new life in the Court and all that it represents. The reader is not only treated to a wonderful setting on First Street Northeast, but much of its history comes to life as the characters develop throughout the novel. Key cases adjudicated before the Court find themselves mentioned and the reader cannot help but learn from the background provided. Pulling on a number of different personalities, Franze develops strong characters who clash at key moments, only adding to the dramatic effect of the overall reading experience. While the premise, murder, is by no means unique, Franze layers it and keeps the excitement building until the very end, pushing his protagonist to the limits to profess his own innocence. Some have drawn strong parallels between Franze and other authors in the genre, to which I firmly believe there is much merit. Captivating and full of nuances that the non-attentive reader will miss, Franze is sure to be one author many readers will discover and love, given the chance.

Kudos, Mr. Franze for another wonderful Supreme Court thriller. You pull out all the stops and leave the reader with a fabulous story in which they easily become enthralled.

He Said/She Said, by Erin Kelly

Eight stars

In a book that has garnered much attention on Goodreads, Erin Kelly treats the reader to a unique spin on an oft presented scenario. Splitting the story between an evolving past narrative and one set in 2015, Kelly leaves the reader unsure where to focus much of their attention. A complete solar eclipse is days away, which has Kit making all the last-minute preparations for an event he has marvelled seeing since 1991. Less excited is his wife, Laura, who is six months pregnant with twins. Their joint concern is not the crowds or the sun’s glare, but the potential sighting of ‘Beth’, who appears to be stalking them. It is only as the story progresses that the reader learns of events that transpired at the eclipse of 1999, where Laura came upon Beth and Jamie Balcombe, engaged in some primal sexual encounter. Laura was sure it was rape and alerted the authorities of this, while Jamie did all he can to convince her otherwise. Beth remained silent, though Laura would not let the victim’s state of shock allow a rapist to roam free. With the evidence collected, the matter was brought to trial, where Laura testified that she heard a faint ‘no’ uttered during the encounter. Balcombe presented a defence that it was only a rough sexual encounter, but completely consensual. After the trial and a guilty verdict, Kit and Laura found Beth showing up at their flat and trying to forge a friendship while supporters of Balcombe do all they could to smear the victim through any means necessary. Laura had to come to terms with what she saw, Kit stood by her, and Beth accepts nothing less than total belief that she was a victim in all this. With brief glimpses into the present, Kit violates the cardinal rule of staying off the radar, which begins a series of events that could have dire consequences. As the narrative picks up momentum, the reader learns more about eclipses, both solar and character, which flavours the story and offers many twists that take the story in unexpected directions. An entertaining psychological thriller that provides readers with a chilling view into the power of perception. Worth a read, even if the hype might be a little overdone.

I had heard and seen much about this over the past while and thought I would take up the recommendation of a friend of mine to give it a whirl. Kelly offers the reader some interesting perspectives as it comes to character development, building a persona in both the past and present simultaneously. The central cast develops and regresses throughout, depending on the perspective used. This forces the reader to balance everything before making a final determination on guilt or innocence. Using the solar eclipse, both literal and metaphorical, serves to present the reader with the essential aspects of the story, whereby the characters shine at moments and scurry away to hide at others. However, once all is revealed, there is an anti-climactic moment and a rush to understand what has just happened. Kelly builds the narrative up throughout and keeps the reader wondering, but also serves up large twists at just the right moment to turn the story on its head. This shows not only superior skill but also pulls the reader in and leaves them wanting more, even when the road ahead is, seemingly, free from any more surprises. 

If I might offer a single criticism that I feel jolted me out of the smooth delivery, it would be the use of legal terms during the trial portion of the book. Kelly flips between British and American legal terminology at will. While this might not disrupt the reader’s attention span, it left me confused and returning to double check the jargon, where I noticed the repeated error. Perhaps during the subsequent re-release of the book these erroneous phrases will be tightened up and the proofreaders scolded. 

Kudos, Madam Kelly for putting together this wonderful piece. I found myself enthralled at certain points and begging for more at others.

It Can’t be October Already: A Short Story, by Jeffrey Archer

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Jeffrey Archer, and St. Martin’s Press for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Lord Jeffrey Archer continues to prove that he is a wordsmith, showing off those skills in this wonderfully succinct piece. Patrick O’Flynn is caught red-handed as he is in the midst of committing a crime one October night. O’Flynn seems to be well-known to the authorities, all of whom wonder if it can, again, be October. As he is taken in and processed, O’Flynn continues to greet those who know him well. A brief encounter with the courts earn him six months in jail, which seems to play into the larger plan that he has concocted already. After he is sent off the Belmarsh, O’Flynn reveals his larger plan to his cellmate, at which time it all makes sense. Quick witted throughout this short piece, Archer keeps the reader guessing through to the ‘aha’ moment. Perfect for a coffee break and sure to impress a cross-section of readers.

I remain impressed with the work Lord Archer produces (or resurrects) at the drop of a hat. He has a way of pulling the reader in from the early pages and not letting up until the final phrase lingers in the air. While there is little time for character development, Archer does present enough backstory for the reader to feel some connection to O’Flynn. From there, it is the short back and forth as the narrative builds through to the end, where Archer injects his notable twist. Any reader who loves a full novel by this English master will adore the short stories that keep things light and highly entertaining. Well worth the invested time and effort.

Kudos, Lord Archer for this wonderful piece. I look forward to all you have going on and sketched out for future publications. 

The Chosen One, by Carol Lynch Williams

Eight stars

Carol Lynch Williams touches on a topic about which I have read a great deal over the past few months; a young woman trapped in a religious organisation. Writing this novella seemingly geared for the young adult population, Williams turns the focus onto a polygamous community and the plural wives mentality that turns innocent teenage girls into matrimonial dolls for the elders. Kyra Leigh Carlson is thirteen and has lived her entire life in a strict religious community, enveloped by the polygamist mentality. When the Prophet arrives one day to decree that she will marry one of the Apostles, her Uncle Hyrum, Kyra is beside herself with worry. Merely a girl, she has many of the typical feelings that a young person possesses: longing to grow-up, hoping to have innocent crushes, and discovering herself. Her eyes are by no means focussed on Hyrum, but turn, instead to a boy her own age, Joshua. The admiration seems mutual, though Kyra knows that she only has four weeks to get out of this mess before she becomes a child bride. Kyra’s only concrete contact with the outside world is through a mobile library, driven by a well-meaning young man, Patrick. Books that have been banned by the Prophet show her a world about which Kyra can only dream and freedom she knows she will never taste. The Chosen One by many, Kyra’s heart and mind must work in tandem to decide which she will follow. Physical abuse and banishment are only two of the many possible ways to keep those who stray from repeating their sin. Faced with a decision, Kyra knows that there is only one way out, but that choice could cost her everything she knows. A powerful story, Williams paints a realistic (from what I have read) version of the struggles inside polygamist sects ruled by fundamentalist Christianity.

A requested buddy read, I was not sure how I would stomach a young adult approach to the subject. I tend to find YA more interested in romanticizing the message and failing to penetrate to the core. However, Williams does a stellar job not to pull any punches (pardon the pun) by exemplifying just how far some of these groups will go to weed out errant thought. Further to this, there is the ongoing issue of pre-destined marriage that pervades the sect, both in the news and from those who have fled its confines. One cannot dismiss these as totally off the wall or without some merit and Williams does not shy away from revealing it as the foundation of her argument throughout. The characters within the story are top-notch and provide the reader with a realistic and varied sense of approaches to the theme. The narrative is crisp and yet what one might expect from a teenager at the helm, directing the story into corners that they might find important. Williams encapsulates the angst and struggle of a teenage girl faced with losing all she has ever hoped to find in life, as well as the fight for freedom, if only to define herself outside of what some prophet might decree.

Kudos, Madam Williams for getting to the root of this matter and presenting something for a younger audience. It was brilliantly portrayed and I am sure you will garner many fans for this and anything else you publish.

Never Stop on the Motorway: A Short Story, by Jeffrey Archer

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Jeffrey Archer, and St. Martin’s Press for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Lord Jeffrey Archer has made a name for himself, with spellbinding novels spanning over three decades. He has also proven to be equally talented when it comes to the short story, as is exemplified in this electronic republication of a past piece. Diana is a successful divorced mother of two, who enjoys life whenever possible. During her only childless weekend, she accepts an invitation to a country getaway. After a brief delay, Diana dodges commuter traffic and hopes to make up for lost time. However, she is soon being followed by a large van she cannot shake, its headlights glaring into her rearview mirror. No matter what she does, Diana is unable to lose this crazed driver, who follows her when she executes the most Bond-like driving off the A1. As panic sets in, Diana recollects some recent police alert about a serial rapist who has been targeting single women on the road. With this madman on her bumper, will she be the next victim? Archer weaves a wonderful story that keeps the reader on edge for the short time they are enveloped in this piece. Perfect for that coffee or lunch break, with just enough thrill to keep the heart pumping rapidly.

In all the years I have been reading Lord Jeffrey Archer, I have yet to be underwhelmed. His stories are always full of intrigue and he hashes out his characters with ease. In a short story, it is essential to pull the reader in and have them connect to the character, which Archer does as he spins the backstory needed to feel for Diana. From there, it is the swift development of the plot and some of the subplots that keep the reader pushing forward. Archer has that mastered here, leaving the reader to wonder about this mysterious van driver and how far things will go, even as Diana has her destination in sight. As with many Archer pieces, the end is where it all comes together, pushing the protagonist to the limits before injecting a wonderful twist. This is Archer at his best, bar none.

Kudos, Lord Archer for this wonderful piece, which I cannot remember reading in the past. You have such a way with words and I can only hope you will continue churing out masterful pieces for many years to come.

The Lucky Ones, 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 an unbiased review.

Yet another powerful thriller from the mind of Mark Edwards, pulling the reader into the middle of a serial killer’s rampage, fuelled by an interesting justification. DI Imogen Evans is on the hunt for the Shropshire Viper, someone who has been injecting victims with morphine. While the investigation intensifies, Evans learns of an odd connection between the three victims; something that could blow the case wide open. Is there a degree of ‘luck’ or ‘happiness’ tied to these killings, for both the killer and the victim? In a parallel narrative, Ben Holland has been struggling as a single father, back in the village of his youth. Raising his son, Ollie, and trying to begin divorce proceedings, Ben has been unable to find his niche as he struggled to redefine himself. With the Viper in the area, Ben is forced to confront his estranged wife, Megan, and her new beau, a glitzy television presenter. How will it all play out and does someone have a little ‘luck’ that they might be able to pass along to Ben, under the right circumstances? In this crime thriller that pulls the readers in many directions, Edwards shows how he has earned the reputation of being a fabulous writer. Perfect for those who want to up their heart rate and ponder where the killer might be lying in wait.

I have always found Mark Edwards to be at the top of his game and this novel only further exemplifies that. Working with this one-off novel, the key is to create characters who are both easy to explore and fast to present their backstories. Pair that with the ever-evolving storyline of a murder investigation and the reader is required to juggle a great deal and keep names straight in short order. Edwards writes in such a way that this is no impediment to the larger narrative and the reader is hooked by everything that is going on. Through the interesting technique of random chapters told through the eyes of the killer, the reader is able to discern a few key elements of the crime and crawl inside to better understand the ‘lucky’ mindset that might be feeling these murders. With a wonderful mix of short and longer chapters, the reader hangs on every word and utilises the cliffhanger moments to propel themselves towards the end, unsure how they were able to finish so quickly. Once Edwards has the reader in his grasp, there is no letting go, until the final sentence. Even then, there is an eerie quality of ‘what if’ that keeps the reader pondering. Stellar work by one who has earned the right to call himself great!

Kudos, Mr. Edwards for another wonderful thriller. How you come up with so many wonderful ideas leaves me baffled, but please do not stop. I can see scores of new fans flocking to you once they get their hands on this piece.

16th Seduction (Women’s Murder Club #16), by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro

Seven stars

Another piece that shows that Patterson knows how to choose some of his co-authors to produce entertaining writing. Working alongside Maxine Paetro to craft sixteen novels in the Women’s Murder Club, Patterson has been able to present high-impact writing peppered with some interesting legal and criminal angles. The world is beset with a new terrorist organisation, loosely called GAR, the Great Antiestablishment Reset, happy to wreak havoc at every turn. San Francisco is not immune, which leaves Sergeant Lindsay Boxer on high alert. After agreeing to see her estranged husband, Joe, they take a stroll close to Sci-Tron, the city’s science museum. An explosion rocks and destroys the building. Soon thereafter, Boxer overhears a man claim responsibility, almost unable to believe her own ears. After arresting him, this Connor Grant denies ever saying anything about being culpable and he is sent to trial for murdering twenty-five innocent people and injuring many more, including Joe. While Boxer braces for what is surely a major situation, Yuki Castellano, the lawyer of the Murder Club, assumes second chair in this major trial, pitting the wily District Attorney against Grant, who has chosen to represent himself. The trial is harrowing and far from a slam-dunk, leaving the verdict in the hands of the twelve-member jury. Meanwhile, Dr. Claire Washburn, the city’s Chief Medical Examiner (and, of course, another of the Club’s members) contacts Sergeant Boxer about a mysterious string of deaths, originally attributed to heart conditions. Further investigation shows that the deaths are connected by a strange injection in the buttocks that each victim exhibits. Could there be someone in San Francisco injecting people with some unknown narcotic? As the reader discovers, one Neddie Lambo is on the loose, playing up his detention in a psychiatric facility, but actually plotting a number of these random killings to feed his need for control. All this while Cindy Thomas is getting the inside scoop and reporting the news garnered from her fellow Club members, sometimes without their knowledge and consent. How will San Francisco survive all this and can Boxer rise above an Internal Affairs investigation for her actions as they relate to the Sci-Tron bombing? Patterson and Paetro offer an explosive ending to this sixteenth instalment to the series. A great story for series fans and sure to attract some new readers who have a penchant for quick read stories.

There is something about the Women’s Murder Club that has always kept me on the edge of my seat. While Patterson has stumbled at times, even with key authors around him, the annual return to this series keeps me believing that there is something worthwhile left in the author (the least of which is surely not Paetro’s involvement). The stories are poignant and while the mysteries are not always complex or psychologically thrilling, they move at a quick pace and keep the story from going stale. The strong central cast of characters continue to evolve and there is always a interesting flavour to the one-offs, particularly the criminal element. Patterson and Paetro always leave room for ‘just one more’, be it a chapter before bed or a new book in the series, fostering an ongoing hunger in the reader. Those short chapters propel the reader forward and can, like me, leave them wondering how they polished the book off in a single day. Surely not foundational work in the genre, but a wonderful escape that keeps pace with the swiftness the outside world has to offer. 

Kudos, Mr. Patterson and Madame Paetro for another great novel. I always look forward to what the annual revelation of the Women’s Murder Club will bring and you have not let me down.