Close to Home (Tracy Crosswhite #5), by Robert Dugoni

Nine stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Robert Dugoni, and Thomas & Mercer for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.
Adding another explosive novel to the Tracy Crosswhite series, Robert Dugoni has answered the call of his fans to create another superior story. Pulled from the headlines, Dugoni draws on some heart-wrenching topics to add depth to this fifth novel. After young D’Andre Miller is struck and killed in a hit and run while walking home, Tracy Crosswhite and her partner, Kinsington ‘Kins’ Rowe make their way to the scene and begin an investigation. With no vehicle, it might be like finding a needle in a haystack, with a grieving family breathing down their necks. After someone calls in a vehicle matching the evidence left at the scene, Crosswhite and Kins trace it back to a member of the Navy, one Laszlo Trejo. He denies being in Seattle at the time of the crime, though admits his vehicle was stolen overnight. As things are heating up, Trejo makes a call and JAG lawyer Leah Battles appears to lay the groundwork for whatever defence she can formulate. Trejo continues to claim his innocence, even when evidence points in the direction of his being placed at the intersection where Miller was struck. While juggling this agonising case, Crosswhite has her own issues at home on which to focus. With a biological clock that continues to tick, she has agreed to seek some intervention surrounding not being able to get pregnant. With the support of her husband, Dan, Crosswhite takes her last apparent avenue to bring a life into the world, though the prospects are poor. In other events around the Violent Crimes Squad, Detective Delmo ‘Del’ Castigliano is still reeling at the death of his niece from a heroin overdose. Forced to hold the family together, Del tries to track down the person who derailed his niece’s life after she’d recently completed rehab. When he discovers that she has been sold a highly-potent form of heroin, Del will stop at nothing to run up the supply chain to get to the creep who destroyed his family. Del liaises with Celia McDaniel, working in the D.A.’s office on the rise in drug offences. Del and Celia tackle the legal angles and soon find themselves trying to come to an agreement to remove the dealer from the street before another family is torn apart. When the Article 32 hearing arrives for Trejo, Battles is hoping to score at least a few points before a court-martial. However, a key piece of evidence paralyses the prosecution and all eyes shift to Battles, who was the last person with the box of evidence. A killer going free, a young life taken due to heroin, a budding romance, and the perils of pregnancy. All of these are issues that strike close to home in this latest Dugoni legal thriller that will keep the reader enthralled until the last sentence. Series fans will flock to this and newbies will surely find their curiosity piqued.
I have long been a fan of Dugoni’s work, as I find it flows so easily and keeps the reader’s attention. The growth of Tracy Crosswhite has be prevalent throughout the five novels, allowing the series reader to explore her from various angles. The exploration of her maternal side here is poignant, as her work within Violent Crimes has her consoling witnesses and families on a daily basis. However, she is left to be stoic, even in the face of her own personal tragedies. Dugoni does well to build on this throughout the story, adding aspects of Dan’s interpretation. All this, while Crosswhite keeps her detective skills sharply honed to find a killer. The added storyline involving Del Castigliano pulls on the heartstrings of the reader as the family regresses after the death of a young woman. As Dugoni mentions in his Acknowledgements, he cannot fathom the depths of despair that these people must face, but has tried to put a face on it to allow further character development for Del. Dugoni’s use of other characters pulls the story in many directions, all of which prove useful to the overall story arc. The premise of the novel is timely, even if the drug-related storyline takes second chair to the hit and run. The reader is able to relate to both stories, or at least is given enough to allow them to connect, without dwelling too long and losing the narrative’s momentum. Dugoni’s writing style allows the chapters to flow with ease and the narrative to keep things fresh, which makes digesting the book in short order a real treat for the reader. The only issue with this, is the need to wait for the next instalment, though Dugoni seems to be able to churn them out so easily without losing their quality. I hope many will find Tracy Crosswhite to their liking and add this series to a teetering ‘to be read’ pile. It is well worth the gamble.
Kudos, Mr. Dugoni for impressing yet again with an explosive thriller. You touch the heart while spinning a crime and legal thriller like no other in the genre.

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The Alchemist’s Secret (Ben Hope #1), by Scott Mariani

Eight stars

In this first full-length novel, Scott Mariani propels Ben Hope into the middle of an ancient mystery, some would rather have left in medieval times. Hope is enjoying his life as a former SAS operative, ensconced in the world of K&R (kidnap and ransom), particularly when the victims are children. When Hope is approached by a wealthy man to help him find a manuscript that purports to hold alchemical secrets, skepticism surfaces and the mission is declined. However, upon learning that this might be the only way to help the man’s granddaughter, a crisis of conscience arises and Ben agrees to take the case and commences the search for the Fulcanelli Manuscript. Steered towards Paris, Hope begins searching for his manuscript that is said to hold keys the Elixir of Life. He encounters a controversial American scientist, Dr. Roberta Ryder, who has her own feelings about this document and seeks to come along, having always wanted to examine Fulcanelli’s notations. However, someone is trying to steer her astray and keep Ryder on the radar of the police. Immortality being what it is, many others are searching for the Manuscript, including a dark organization, Gladius Domini. They will stop at nothing to uncover the secrets and have targeted Hope and Ryder for extinction, if that is what it will take. Headed by a powerful man within the Catholic Church, Gladius Domini purports to be acting in the name of God. As the search continues, a psychiatric patient who has read large portions of the Manuscript might hold some key aspects that Hope will require in his search. However, self-inflicted injuries and incoherent babble led to a deadly outcome. Could these rantings still be useful? Hope and Ryder do all they can to find the truths of the Fulcanelli Manuscript while trying to keep Gladius Domini at bay. As the story progresses, the reader travels with Hope and Ryder on a dangerous trail from Paris to the ancient Cathar strongholds of the Languedoc, where an astonishing secret has lain hidden for centuries. Might Hope lose his life trying to extend that of a sick girl? Mariani storms onto the scene with this new series and keeps readers hooked from the opening paragraphs. An exciting adventure that mixes the devotion of Jack Reacher with the historical obsessions of Robert Langdon. Not to be missed by fans of either protagonist.

Asked by a friend if I would try this series, I decided to stop procrastinating once and for all. I thoroughly enjoy the premise of the Ben Hope series and found that the character, while similar in some regards to the two men mentioned above, also individualises himself nicely. Hope brings much baggage and fast-paced decision making from his time with the SAS, but also a penchant for dedication. He pulls on an ability to decipher codes and hidden messages, while peeling back historical understandings of items not known to many beforehand. It is still early in the series, but I can begin to see an interesting foundation for the Ben Hope character and Mariani offers up some interesting backstory about Ben and his reason for being involved in K&R, pieces that were not clear even with the three short stories that precede this novel. The story is by no means unique, but its development and content does have a degree of individuality, such that the reader will likely want to take a look. Without getting too weighed down with religious symbols, the Fulcanelli Manuscript offers up the one things many have sought for so long, the answer to eternal life. I’d surely use it to read and review all the books that teeter on my ‘to be read’ list. You?!

Kudos, Mr. Mariani for starting the series off with a bang! I am very curious and hope to read more about Ben Hope and his various adventures in the coming weeks.

Bring Him Back (Ben Hope #0.7), by Scott Mariani

Eight stars

Scott Mariani offers up another wonderful early story about his strong-willed protagonist, Ben Hope, in this short piece. After the traumatic kidnapping of her son by a crazed ex-husband, Jessica Hunter looks to Ben Hope for some answers. While the police are working to find Carl, they have been unable to find any solid leads, forcing Hope to take measures into his own hands. While poking around, Hope is able to find some definite clues that point to the mindset of Drew Hunter, though nothing seems to match the man who appeared at the family home. In a case that takes him to Italy and eventually the Principality of Monaco, Hope chases down leads left by, of all people, Carl. What he finds is a narrative that differs greatly from a crazed father trying to capture his son for his own. Instead, there seems to be a degree of trying to save his son from a clueless mother and a new step-father who is not the doting parental figure he tries to portray. With Carl found, the story takes a new turn and twists in ways that will force Ben Hope to show just how sharp his former-SAS skills can be after retiring. A well-paced piece that will appeal to Ben Hope fans and new series readers (such as myself) alike!
I have read three short stories to commence by Ben Hope binge read and I have a good sense of the man, up to now. Gritty and full of pep, Hope seeks to balance the world after seeing some of the worse aspects in his time with the SAS. However, not only does Hope pack some military might, but also a keen eye for sleuthing, which is exemplified here in spades. What lies ahead for the full-blown novels, I have no idea, but if Hope is as exciting there as he has been here, I know I am in for a wonderful ride. The story seems to be one that has two portions, the early stage that develops as the reader would expect, but then there is another, found when a twist falls into place. That twist takes the narrative and the theme in an entirely new direction and keeps the reader from being able to predict things until the very end. That Hope is a kidnap and ransom specialist proves only to be part of the alluring equation in this piece, as Mariani offers up his protagonist’s full skill set to keep the narrative clipping along. I can only hope that there will be more of this determination as the series develops. I am ready to dive in to the full-length novels to see where they will take me.
Kudos, Mr. Mariani for keeping me curious and ready to explore the world of Ben Hope. I have heard much about this series and can only hope (pun intended) that things progress as nicely as they have up to this point.

The Tunnel (Ben Hope #0.6), by Scott Mariani

Eight stars

Continuing on what is sure to be an interesting journey, I am slowly making my way through the works of Scott Mariani, particularly those involving Benedict ‘Ben’ Hope. In this short piece, Hope has recently left the SAS behind and is a freelancer. Having dabbled a little in the world of Kidnap and Ransom, Hope stumbles upon a former colleague, whose drunken stupor leads him to spill the beans on Operation Solitaire, a highly-covert operation from seven years before. Hope begins to explore Solitaire and those who were involved, learning that many chose to end their lives prematurely, though the circumstances do not entirely add up. All this leads to Liam Falconer, head of the Operation and former superior to Hope himself. After stalking him to his home in Scotland, Hope confronts Falconer with the information he has in his possession, soon learning not only the details of the Operation, but also some of its justification. Now it is up to Hope to make a major decision, with Falconer standing before him. It’s Christmas Eve, 2004. How much cheer does Hope have left? A wonderful piece, short though jammed with wonderful information to keep fans of Ben Hope excited while serving the purpose to lure new fans, such as myself, deeper into this complex series. A great read for beach or rainy day alike.
As I still try to hash out the premise of the Ben Hope character, this piece has done a great deal. Providing the reader with context and backstory, Hope’s past comes alive as Mariani lays out some of the groundwork to present a man that will push through many an adventure in the years to come. Hope’s military background and attention to detail will come in handy as his sleuthing skills are sharpened, but it's the character himself that keeps the reader wondering. The premise of the story was great, set before the backdrop of a snowy Christmas Eve, though the contents of the plot are anything but joyous. I have a much better understanding of Hope and how he portrays himself, but this one-man sleuth will surely have many interesting angles to explore as I find myself deeper into the series and more connected to all those who appear in the stories.
Kudos, Mr. Mariani for another early gem. I can only hope that you have more in store for us and that the Ben Hope character continues to evolve on the written page and in your mind while to place him in numerous adventures.

Passenger 13 (Ben Hope #0.5), by Scott Mariani

Eight stars

After much debating and considering, I have decided to tackle Scott Mariani’s best-selling Ben Hope series. Where better to begin than in the beginning, while Hope was still an active member of the SAS? After an intense tour in Iraq, Hope seeks to enjoy some of his downtime in Wales. However, it’s 2003 and the world is still on edge from the attacks in America and one that shook London. Ben discovers that a close friend (and former colleague) crashed a small plane between the Cayman Islands in an apparent act of suicide. Unsure how Nick Chapman could ever have done something so outlandish, Hope heads there to sift through the ashes and the blowback of the scandal. Soon after he arrives, Hope meets up with Chapman’s daughter, who is equally as baffled about the suicide, even though there is apparent evidence of Nick’s depression within the medicine cabinet. Before his eyes, Hilary Chapman is mowed down and her mobile phone is stolen, the only piece of evidence that Hope has showing that Nick was aware that something was going on. As he tries to piece things together, Hope learns that Nick was a popular pilot and had no reason to do anything so rash. After the authorities prepare their final report, all the passengers from that doomed flight are accounted for when cross referencing the company’s sales, save one; Larry Moss. Jumping on this, Hope seeks to track down Moss and who he might have been. Could this thirteenth passenger hold the key to the entire debacle? A highly curious opening piece in the Ben Hope series, this short story surely has my interest piqued and will surely do the same for many others who have been wondering about the origins of the Ben Hope character and how get got out of the SAS.
When a friend of my suggested I try Mariani’s series, I was quick to take up the challenge, as I have heard much about Ben Hope over the years. It is hard to put a finger on how to describe Ben Hope, for this is only a drop the bucket of the overall character development. I see a lot of other characters with whom I am familiar, but Mariani has done a wonderful job of keeping things somewhat unique. Hope has no family, no ties outside his military work, and seems more than willing to help those he calls friends. With a sleuthing ability, Hope is sure to uncover many mysteries as the series progresses, which has me very interested in seeing where things might go. This short story lays the groundwork for what is sure to be a great collection. I enjoyed the quick pace and the story’s constant advancement. One can only hope that the remaining short stories to begin this collection will keep me as interested before diving into a full-fledged piece of writing.
Kudos, Mr. Mariani for hooking me already. I cannot wait to see where you will take Hope and how you will develop his character in the many novels to come.

Enemy of the State (Mitch Rapp #16)

Eight stars
First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Kyle Mills and Simon and Schuster Canada for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.
Continuing the highly popular Mitch Rapp series, Kyle Mills surely impresses Vince Flynn fans (and the late author’s estate) with another stellar novel. Still healing from his latest mission, Rapp has decided to settle down a little and build a colossal estate just outside the D.C. area. When news from a reconnaissance mission in Morocco reaches him, he is somewhat surprised to learn that Saudi Prince Talal bin Musaid has been caught providing large sums of money to ISIS. However, no one is more surprised and shocked than the current POTUS, who has come to despise his predecessor’s ignoring the proof that the House of Saud was implicit in the September 11th terror attacks. Nonetheless, with an ailing King Faisal, there is a need to cut off this financial pipeline before the country falls into new hands, those who might be more than willing to fuel terror attacks on America and give the new caliphate a crown jewel. When the head of the information directorate appears for a meeting with the president, lines are drawn in the sand. Aali Nassar refuses to be dictated to, though promises to support America, while secretly in charge of the ISIS financing and eyeing the chance to overtake the country’s government once the king is dead. Rapp is summoned and told explicitly that he must handle things, but it is a completely rogue mission against an ally. Rapp chooses to distance himself from the Agency, tendering his resignation and sending shockwaves around the international intelligence community. Rapp collects a band of covert misfits to assist him with the task at hand. What could be a simple mission goes somewhat haywire and Rapp is caught on video. Unable to publicly defend him, POTUS agrees to Nassar’s request to use American support to locate Rapp and force him to answer for his crime. All the while Nassar is happy to hunt down the one man who might foil his plan to fund ISIS and bring about a Middle East superpower to rival the Americans. The question remains, who is the real enemy of the American state? A sensational thriller that will keep Mitch Rapp fans on the edge of their seats. Perfect for them and anyone else who enjoys a little politics with their covert operative novels.
This novel goes to show that there are rare occasions when authors can continue a series effectively and with honour. I have admired Kyle Mills for a long time and this addition to the Mitch Rapp series exemplifies that many times over. Rapp is a complex character and has been since Vince Flynn first had him make his way onto the printed page. Wrestling with demons from his past and seeing those closest to him die has, in some regards, taken the edge of this man. However, even with a softer and more family-oriented side, Rapp remains sharp when called to defend his country. Mills effectively shows these two sides and keeps Rapp as entertaining as he has always been. Other characters help to advance the story and offer something to flavour Rapp as the protagonist, but there is little backstory spun in this piece. Much is a forward thinking approach and, as some readers may posit alongside me, perhaps Mitch Rapp is winding down and hanging things up in the coming years. Far be it from me to say that Mills has any intention of doing so, but there are signs, albeit somewhat subtle. The story remains fresh and can be pulled from the headlines, though it is not a flogging of ISIS in the usually overdone approach. The plot remains complex enough that the reader can find new approaches and something fresh on which to connect themselves without bemoaning the words ‘America’ and ‘ISIS’ in the same paragraph. Kudos to Mills for that, in a genre that seems hung up on pitting the US against this somewhat elusive military band of less-than-merry men. Newcomers to the series might want to begin where it all started to get a good feel for Mitch Rapp and his countless adventures, but I am sure series veterans will bask in all there is within this novel.
Kudos, Mr. Mills for keeping things interesting from beginning right until the last sentence. You have always kept things respectable and full of intrigue and for that I am sure Vince Flynn would be forever grateful.

The Frozen Dead (Commandant Martin Servaz #1), by Bernard Minier

Eight stars
In my attempt to explore more dark mysteries translated from another language, I stumbled upon French author, Bernard Minier. Bringing a new meaning to the word ‘noir mystery’, Minier uses his debut novel to delve into the depths of despair, stereotypical for literary pieces emanating from the author’s homeland. When a body is discovered dangling from a cliff, Commandant Martin Servaz is called to the scene. Much to his dismay, the body is that of a decapitated horse. Sure that someone has played a macabre joke, Servaz tries to remove himself from the case, feeling that his skills could be better used elsewhere. Early investigation shows that DNA evidence of Julian Hirtmann accompanies the horse’s corpse, which proves to be even more interesting, in that he is a Swiss serial killer and locked down in the mental asylum in a nearby French community. Servaz is intrigued and finds himself newly committed to the case, curious how a super-max facility could be porous enough to have one of their most notorious patients slipping out. On the same day as the horse is discovered, Diane Berg arrives to take up employment at the asylum. A Swiss psychologist by trade, Berg learns much about the facility and their less than mainstream means of treating patients. Non-anesthetized electro-shock therapy, graphic virtual reality with body probes, and countless medicines no longer used in the treatment of psychiatric patients all find themselves used on a daily basis, with a director who prides himself on these unorthodox measures. Back on the outside, Servaz is called to the scene of another body, this time a man who is found hanging under a bridge. He, too, is found to have Hirtmann’s DNA, however, there appears to be no tie between the patient and the reclusive chemist. Servaz is baffled, particularly when he arrives at the asylum and cannot find a means by which anyone would be able to escape or to return unnoticed. When Servaz learns that the community also lived through a number of teen suicides, all by hanging, he wonders how much more the locals can take. Further probing can only help to open old wounds and forces Servaz to wonder if he is doing so more out of curiosity than necessity. Servaz finds himself distracted as well by his daughter, who is beginning to exhibit odd behaviours, so much so that he has her tailed. What he discovers shocks him a little, but that proves to help his case, if only a little. Berg continues to probe inside the asylum, trying to answer her own questions, but her inquisitiveness might be unknowingly acting as a secondary investigator for this truly baffling case. A wonderfully dark piece that pulls the reader into corners of the story that are anything but pleasant, Minier exemplifies that the language barrier does not lessen the impact of this thriller. Perfect for those who enjoy macabre pieces with a protagonist who is anything but uplifting.
While no expert, I have read a number of mysteries whose original publication language is not English. I find them scintillating and require the reader to play a much more active role than in some of the pieces penned in my mother tongue. Minier portrays Commandant Servaz in much the same way as my Scandinavian police officers, fighting his own demons and with a personal life more jagged than peaceful. Servaz seems to have an agenda all his own, surrounded by colleagues who are anything but sycophants. He struggles to piece together the clues, but always ends up positing the most outlandish possibilities, some of which prove fruitful as he synthesizes the statements made by reluctant witnesses. Minier is able not only to tell his dark mystery, but also create a decent backstory for a few of his characters, whose lives away from the office and the case at hand show that they, too, have secrets they prefer not rise to the surface. The story remains dark and the element of equine torture pulls the reader in from the early going. What else might Minier have in store for the reader? Exploration of the asylum angle only further baits the reader and keeps the story from becoming too predictable. Slow to develop, but with a constant sense of forward movement, Minier pulls the reader along and keeps things from becoming too easy to discern. These are the best types of novels, as the reader can never tell where a twist will take things. Minier’s debut novel has me curious and I will certainly be back for more in the near future.
Kudos, Mr. Minier, for pulling me in and finding a new fan. I can only hope that others will be as intrigued to read this and the other novels in which Martin Servaz makes an appearance.

Snap Judgment (Samantha Brinkman #3), by Marcia Clark

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Marcia Clark and Thomas & Mercer for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Marcia Clark is back with the third instalment of the Samantha Brinkman series, perhaps the best novel yet. After Alicia Hutchins is tired of her controlling boyfriend, Roan Sutton, she chooses to dump him to relieve herself of the burden. In an act of apparent retribution, naked selfies of Alicia appear online for all to see. This ‘revenge porn’ puts Alicia in a tailspin and her body is found a short time later. Might Roan have taken the next step and killed the young woman who sought to defy him? It would appear so, though the ante is raised yet again, after Roan’s body is discovered a short time later, hanging from the ceiling. Early conclusions point to suicide, but Alicia’s father, Graham, is being eyed by the police as the case could have a homicidal element. Enter Samantha Brinkman, whose criminal work has earned her quite the reputation. Brinkman agrees to take on the case, loving the price tag that goes along with it, and tries to delve even deeper into the investigation. Working alongside her investigator, Alex Medrano, Brinkman begins to peel back the layers of the case, unsure what they will find. Alicia seemed to have been a sheltered young woman who was finally coming out of her shell while interacting with other college students. Could Roan and his controlling ways have been used on other women before Alicia? Might the revenge porn angle be one that he has used before? As questions about the case continue to emerge, Brinkman is visited one night by a man with deep roots in the cartel community. He’s come to call in on a favour that Brinkman has promised him after she was caught breaking the law for another client. Brinkman has been ordered to find a witness who is in protective custody, ready to finger a member of this elusive man’s family. Unable to turn to Alex, who is unaware of Brinkman’s law breaking, she turns to her father, Dale Pearson. Together, they must grease the wheels to find this young woman, whose life story brings up more dirt than either could have imagined. Tales of abuse and molestation, with a handful of younger sisters still at home, Brinkman finds pity for the woman in custody and will do whatever she can to protect her from the death that awaits her once she has been outed by the cartel. Working these two major cases and a slew of other meat and potatoes, Brinkman has little time for herself. Trouble is, there is a time limit on both and patience is not a virtue anyone seems to have for the time being. A wonderfully crafted piece of work that will keep the reader guessing until the very end. Highly recommended for legal thriller fans and those who enjoy the fast-paced writing that makes Clark a master of the genre.

Whatever people seem to feel about Clark in her past life, she has shown that she has the ability to craft excellent legal thrillers that do not miss a beat. Filled with relatable storylines and themes that could easier pulled from the headlines, Clark pulls the reader in from the opening paragraphs and provides enough drama to keep them hooked until the very end. Samantha Brinkman is both a complex and easily relatable character. Not only is she a lawyer with a solid reputation, but she is keen on fighting for her clients and will leave no stone unturned. Her jaded past has not left her defeated, but fuels her to find the best in everyone, or at least to see past their outer layers. She remains determined to discover the whole story, even if it places her clients in an uncomfortable position. Surrounding herself with the likes of Alex and Michy, her office runs effectively and her caseload is anything but boring. A recently discovered father in Dale Pearson has helped her find someone in whom she can feel familial pride, though their relationship is anything but traditional parent-child. Clark injects secondary characters who keep the story moving forward and fuel interesting twists to keep the reader curious throughout. The story takes legal and personal turns that no only make for a great story but are plausible, permitting the reader to feel at home as they lose themselves in the book. Clark’s legal past and blunt delivery help create a story that has everything needed for a superior legal thriller. I cannot wait to see what else Clark has is store for her readers and where she will take Brinkman in the years to come. And the question that I have been asking for a while now, when will Rachel Knight ever make an appearance in Samantha’s life?

Kudos, Madam Clark for another wonderful novel. I am amazed at how thoroughly captivated I am by everything you write. I know you have a large following, and for good reason! 

A Criminal Defense, by William L. Myers, Jr.

Nine stars

Exploring the world of William L. Myers, Jr., I had hoped to be dazzled by his skills and dedication to the genre. Legal thrillers are a dime a dozen, but well-crafted ones are much harder to come by. Mick McFarland is a gritty Philadelphia lawyer trying to make the world a better place, one case at a time. However, he is in private practice, so his clients must also have the money to pay for his expert legal advice. While handling some meat and potatoes casework, a stunning bit of news hits the wire; a well-known investigative journalist, Jennifer Yamura has been found at the bottom of her stairs, dead. What’s worse, McFarland’s long-time friend, wealthy businessman David Hanson, was seen by the police fleeing out the back door. After being retained, McFarland starts in damage control mode, learning that Hanson is clear in his innocence, but that there was a sexual relationship in play with Yamura. However, early discussions and evidence points to the fact that Hanson could well have killed Yamura, or was at least in the house with her dead body and had been cleaning up any sign of his presence. McFarland goes into pitbull mode, but must stay one step ahead of his client and three of the salivating District Attorney’s Office, where senior ADA Devlin Walker has his eye on burying Hanson. While the case is progressing and heading towards a trial, McFarland must face a number of personal struggles involving various members of his family: a wife whose family is money rich but cannot see past their country club lifestyle, and a brother who is now the firm’s investigator, but who harbours a past filled with less than savoury decisions. As guilt exudes from Hanson’s pores, McFarland must trust that his friend is telling the truth and that he is innocent of murder. Could Yamura’s flashy news reports on dirty cops have met with retribution? Might there be another jealous lover who wanted her out of the way? Or, worst of all, might Hanson be colluding with others to cover-up this crime and lying to McFarland at every turn? Whatever the answers, McFarland will stop at nothing to craft ‘a criminal defense’. A stunning legal thriller that mixes all the ingredients to deliver a story that will keep the reader hooked until the bitter end, and what a twist awaits there! Myers is surely an author who knows how to connect with his audience and deliver a realistic account of life in criminal law.

This being his debut novel, I had to use this book as my first impressions of Myers. It serves as a wonderful starting point and the legal nuances embedded into the story keep the reader engaged. Myers is able to create a wonderful set of characters, developing them as the narrative builds. Mick McFarland is surely a lawyer of note, whose work ethic and personal foibles make for a highly entertaining protagonist. Myers develops him in many ways and does not shy away from offering the good, the bad, and the ugly, though not in equal measure. Branching out from there, Myers fills the story with a wonderful cross-section of legal minds, money-grubbing business folk, and those who see themselves as above the fray. Peppering them throughout the narrative allows the story to mutate into something more than a courtroom drama, as lives are placed in the balance. Myers is also keen on showing that a lawyer’s work is never tied to a single case, forcing a precarious juggling act to keep a firm afloat. McFarland is forced not only to deal with clients, but also other lawyers and shady witnesses, in hopes of providing the best defense that money can buy. Myers shows that his first foray into the genre has been a great success and I cannot wait for his follow-up, another standalone, out in the early part of 2018.

Kudos, Mr. Myers for such a wonderful opening salvo into the world of cutthroat readers and reviewers. Your legal know-how will surely propel you to the top of the pack, given time and great word of mouth.

The Late Show (Renée Ballard #1), by Michael Connelly

Eight stars

As if he did not have enough on his plate, Michael Connelly has decided to launch a new series (or at least a standalone) that takes a new approach to policing, still in the busy city of Los Angeles. Renée Ballard is a well-established detective with the LAPD, working the ‘late show’, police talk for the 11pm-7am shift. It’s mostly picking up the scraps of the nightlife and directing cases to daytime divisions, but police work all the same. Called out whenever the need arises, Ballard is left without closure or any sense of propriety on the cases she catches. Working alongside a jaded partner, Ballard is forced to contain her excitement for the cases that come her way. During a single shift, two monumental cases land in her lap: the assault of a transgender prostitute, left for dead in a parking lot, and a shooting at a nightclub with three victims left to die in their own blood. Ballard chases up leads as best she can, in hopes of being able to see something through and bring some closure for herself. While chasing down some evidence on the assault, Ballard learns that the victim has odd marking on his body, as if there might be words embedded in the flesh. Could this be the work of someone using a less than typical weapon? Meanwhile, at the club, the shooting appears to be a form of ‘house cleaning’ with the suspected shooter likely known to the three victims. Just as Ballard is trying to liaise with the day shift and move on from the shooting, some evidence pointing to a fellow cop emerges. Worse, it could be her former partner, who hung her out to dry. While trying to confront him, Ballard discovers that he has been shot. Could this be yet another act of senseless violence in a city where gunfire competes with cricket chirps? While wrestling with her own personal demons, Ballard is taken captive for poking her nose around on these cases, but no one knows she’s gone missing. Will the lights go out for Ballard on the late show once and for all? Perfect for those who have come to love the Bosch series, Connelly flavours this book with just as much energy, though differentiates it in numerous regards.

When I heard that Connelly intended on beginning a new series, I was not sure how well it would go, as he was so very busy. My worry intensified (I know, I worry about things I cannot control) when I discovered it would be another cop series, thinking that it might be a female Bosch or, worse yet, one in which the main character stayed on the narrow path. However, Connelly has been able to craft the Renée Ballard character to reflect the same grit of the LAPD, but with strong differentiations from the(in)famous detective. Ballard offers readers an interesting perspective, not only as a woman, but one who is single and not tied down to anyone else, save her dog. Having met her fair share of issues on the job, Ballard has had to make a name for herself and, at times, reinvent the person she wants to be on a force that still seeks to shuffle her to the side. Working that night shift makes her seem like a paper pusher and set-up for the glorious day shifts, who are able to score all the points and win glory at every turn. However, Connelly offers enough in this character that the reader can, at times, forget that and focus on wonderful police work. The story is strong and keeps the reader hooked, juggling a few cases simultaneously. While it is impossible to dream up new and exciting new angles to the crimes of the L.A. streets, Connelly chooses cases that can expand as the narrative explores the darker sides to the underworld. Keeping things realistic and succinct, Connelly is able to tell his story and utilize his characters effectively, while not getting too far-fetched. With almost two dozen Bosch novels to his name and a genre that is saturated with crimes in the big city, Connelly has been forced to show how Renée Ballard is not only unique, but also deserves a spot on the scene. I am eager to see when and where she will make her next appearance, as Connelly has a sure winner here.

Kudos, Mr. Connelly for a wonderful teaser novel to get the reader curious. Admittedly, I cannot remember reading about Ballard before in your writing, but I wonder if you have any hopes of bringing Haller or Bosch in to liaise at some point, should this book take off and lead to a larger series.