The Unusual Suspects (Grimm Sisters #2), by Michael Buckley

Eight stars

Needing a short filler novel and wanting something lighter, I turned back to Michael Buckley and his Sisters Grimm collection. The stories pull on some of the characters that have emerged in the Grimm fairytales and place two modern sisters in the middle of the narrative, tasked with uncovering various criminal acts. Sabrina and Daphne Grimm have been living with their grandmother for the better part of three weeks. While they have already uncovered a significant crime in Ferryport Landing, they have not been enrolled in school. With a threat to send them back to foster care in New York, the girls are marched to the local elementary school and placed in classes. While Daphne is sent to be taught by Ms. (Snow) White, Sabrina ends up with a crotchety old man who wants nothing more than to rid himself of the students in class. Sabrina has a rough first day of class and ends up staying after school, only to discover her teacher murdered and the classroom filled with odd webs. Working alongside their grandmother, the Sisters Grimm begin poking around and bring their friend/foe Puck along to offer his own insight. Drawing blanks, the sisters turn to the age-old clash of humans versus Everafters—the latter group being those who gained fame in a Grimm fairytale, but are not able to escape Ferryport Landing under any circumstances—which could account for this dastardly attack at the school. Sabrina forges ahead and sticks her neck out, not caring who she offends, to get to the bottom of it. What she discovers leaves everyone clueless and powerless to stop the plan that could wipe Ferryport Landing off the map once and for all. Full of wonderful fairytale characters and interesting banter, Buckley has fashioned this YA novel into something that readers of all ages can enjoy.

I read the series debut not long ago and enjoyed the premise that Buckley presents. While not my normal reading, the series has an entertaining aspect to it, particularly when I need something short to bridge me through. The premise of the Grimm sisters is interesting and while it is not explored completely here, there is a little character development to whet the appetite of the ever-curious reader. Sabrina is the sarcastic pre-teen who is not happy with the pat on the head, needing to know things and refusing to listen to authority. Her younger sister, Daphne, is still pie-eyed and wants to love everything, but the jaded views spewing from her sister leaves her beginning to question everyone. Peppering the narrative with fairytale characters, some of whom do not match their depiction in the stories we all know well, the reader is able to enjoy a flavourful story that keeps things interesting and provides twists at just the right spots. The story, a YA mystery, is decent and the plot paces itself effectively. There are moments I found myself more connected to the story than I might be with many adult thrillers that I regularly enjoy. Buckley has a way of mixing sarcasm with plot development to keep the narrative intriguing and allowing the reader the chance to chuckle between scenes. Lengthier chapters keeps the reader pushing forward, if only to reach the next benchmark before turning in for a while. Buckley has an entire collection of novels in this series that I will have to discover before too long. A nice cliffhanger left me wanting to know a little more.

Kudos, Mr. Buckley, for another great addition to the series. I hope teens and adults alike discover this series and enjoy it as much as I have already.

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

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Full Disclosure, by Beverley McLachlin

Nine stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Beverley McLachlin, and Simon & Schuster Canada for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

In her first piece of published fiction, former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada Beverley McLachlin storms onto the scene with this courtroom thriller that will keep the reader guessing until the final chapters. Jilly Truitt is trying to establish herself as a competent defence attorney in Vancouver. Having been brought up in the foster care system, Jilly has seen just how dark things can get and found a way to move towards the light. Having been mentored by the best when she was fresh from law school, Jilly now finds herself face to face with the same man who taught her how to shape the law to her favour. When millionaire Vincent Trussardi hires her to defend him on a murder charge, things do not look good, but Jilly is up for a challenge. Having been accused of killing his wife, Laura, Trussardi proclaims his innocence and will not accept anything less than being fully exonerated. As soon as she begins preparing for trial, Jilly is warned by many to drop this legal hot potato as fast as she can, as there are secrets and mysteries that could easily trip up her defence. Still, Jilly sees potential and will use this to springboard her to greater success within the Vancouver legal community. However, with the case progressing, Jilly hits a few snags but cannot be deterred; she is in for the long-run. At trial, Crown Prosecutor Cy Kenge will do whatever it takes to bury his former protégé, forcing her to see that some people do not deserve their day in court. With the city watching and everything on the line, Jilly must decide if Trussardi’s defence is worth all she has to offer. McLachlin does well with this, her debut novel, and will have those who love the genre raving about this for years to come!

Having followed former Chief Justice McLachlin throughout her time on the High Court, I was ecstatic at the opportunity to read her first novel, a wonderful career change since her recent retirement. McLachlin uses all her legal skills and injects the perfect amount of realistic plot and dialogue to help the reader relate to the story, be they from Canada or not. Jilly Truitt is a wonderfully crafted character, whose backstory is somewhat murky, but is revealed throughout the narrative. Jilly seeks not only to better understand herself, but the world around her, as well as how her clients could get into the messes in which they find themselves. The reader will notice some character development throughout the piece, both inside the courtroom and with her personal life. McLachlin surely knows how to breathe life into her characters, which is equally exemplified in the others who populate the intense narrative. Working together, there are enough crumbs left that the attentive reader could see a series emerging, giving just enough to pique curiosity. The plot is strong and the crimes believable to the point that they are realistic. The story moves through case preparation and into the courtroom, where McLachlin utilises her legal expertise to deliver banter where needed and testimony summary at other times. While the chapters are not extremely lengthy, there are some who bulk up the narrative, though they pass with ease as the reader forges ahead and makes the most of the experience. The reader is ready for all McLachlin has to offer and finds themselves treated to a wonderful legal thriller. There is enough Canadian content to give it a wonderful flavour, though the Canadiana does not inculcate the reader at every page flip. Highly recommended and one can hope that there is more Jilly Truitt to come in the near future.

Kudos, Madam Former Chief Justice McLachlin (is this the correct title, anyone?), for such a stellar debut. I will be encouraging anyone who enjoys the genre to read this and judge for themselves.

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

Red Alert (NYPD Red #5), by James Patterson and Marshall Karp

Eight stars

Working to continue their successful series, James Patterson and Marshall Karp return with a fifth novel in the NYPD Red series. The premise of NYPD Red is to protect or investigate the city’s most elite, offering a protective barrier from the masses. Detectives Zach Jordan and Kylie MacDonald are well versed with the job and have seen almost everything the city has to offer. While serving as part of the mayor’s security detail, Jordan and MacDonald witness a bomb explode at a fundraiser, killing one man and sending shrapnel all over. Working with few leads and at a significant disadvantage, Jordan and MacDonald try to find answers where none exist. As they are headed home, awaiting some of the evidence to be processed, the detectives are called to the scene of another potential crime. A high-profile New Yorker known for her kinky sexual interests may have died during auto-erotic asphyxiation, though there are a few indications that the safety measures were not in place and she was murdered. Dog-tired and unable to piece anything together, Jordan and MacDonald agree to meet after a few hours’ rest, when they can think straight. Upon returning somewhat rejuvenated, they learn that wiring at the scene is the trademark of a well-known Aussie bomber who has been locked away in a Thai prison for over a decade. Soon another bomb explodes and all hell breaks loose. While Jordan and MacDonald try to make sense of it all, their ‘sensual’ case gains legs when a video surfaces involving the victim and a respected judge with a request for blackmail money. The judge seems not to care, proud that he’s been caught on tape but NYPD Red cannot let this go without some action. A bumbling attempt to pay the random and trap the killer goes wrong, but there is little time to waste, as a new lead sends Jordan and MacDonald to the other side of the world for some interviews they never thought possible. With two key crimes on their plate and the mayor screaming for closure on both cases, NYPD Red will so whatever it takes to up their solve rate, even if it costs them their jobs. Patterson and Karp are brilliant in their delivery and series fans will surely love this story that does not let up until the final page.

I have long been a fan of the series and feel this is one that Patterson has done well over the last few years. The delivery is both succinct and detailed at the same time, keeping the reader engaged and guessing as the cases unfold. As always our protagonist detectives offer up their witty repartee while also finding themselves in the middle of some personal development. The platonic and sexual tension builds throughout and keeps the reader wondering if something will happen and both sides will finally acknowledge what has been brewing for so long (and was in place for a while). The secondary characters keep the crimes charged and permit the reader to see the cases develop in unique ways, allowing the story to ebb and flow as needed. Newer crimes and unique presentations keep the story from going stale. Patterson’s trademark short chapters allows the reader to push through this piece in short order, keeping them entertained without being too fanciful. Karp does well in the collaboration and the reader can surely hope for more in the coming years by these two, who have a wonderful series that continues to gain momentum.

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson and Karp, for another great addition to the series. I hope to see more in the series soon, which seemed to take a hiatus for a while.

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

Hangman (Detective William Fawkes #2), by Daniel Cole

Seven stars

Daniel Cole is back to continue his thriller series that had readers gasping at the cliffhanger ending. Riding the wave of his debut success, Cole presents this follow-up that appears to lack the intensity and grit of DS William Fawkes’ initial case. With Fawkes away and on the lam, all eyes turn to newly-promoted Detective Chief Inspector Emily Baxter. While the Ragdoll killer is safely locked away, the case lingers and everyone remains on edge. When a call come in from New York City, where a body identified as ‘William Fawkes’ has been found, Baxter agrees to travel and investigate this oddity. Before she makes it out of the country, she visits Belmarsh once more to see the Ragdoll, only to be trapped in the middle of an event that leaves him dead and Baxter significantly spooked. Upon her arrival in NYC, DCI Baxter liaises with some of the local and federal authorities as more murder scenes emerge, victims bearing ‘puppet’ and ‘bait’ inscriptions on the body. Might there be a connection to Ragdoll that’s crossed the Atlantic? Baxter is equally baffled when news from the Met reaches her that other killings of a similar style have been taking place in the UK. How can all these killers be connected without a clear threat to bind them? As Baxter continues to investigate, she follows a lead that turns the case on its head, but media outlets have chosen to broadcast it before it can be properly analysed. Might there be a central leader who has ordered these murders, as odd and unrelated as they seem? Witnesses have recounted that the killers seem almost detached from the events, leading many to wonder about some form of mind control. Religious symbolism and the talk of cultish behaviour begin to flood Baxter’s investigation, forcing her to come to terms with the fact that this might be more than just tracking down a killer, but someone who holds a handful of strings and can make followers dance on command. Cole surely has devised an interesting way to ‘string along’ the reader, though to substance of the story is not as strong as I would have hoped. Fans of the debut will likely want to take the plunge, if only to discover what Cole has planned, but all the hype this book has received is lost on me.

It is disappointing to find a writer dedicate so much of their time to a debut that skyrockets, only to find the follow-up limp along. I was captivated by Cole’s first piece and could not wait to get my hands on this one (which had been getting some great reviews), but found it fell short of the mark. The story had potential, as did the characters, but delivery of both seems to have been rushed or not cultivated enough to pique my interest. With DS Fawkes gone (spoiler alert?), the narrative pulls DCI Emily Baxter into the spotlight. She has strong ties to Fawkes, but is also trying to make a name for herself in the Met, where women are still rapping on the glass ceiling. Her energetic attitude and interest in getting dirt under her nails is unequally balanced by her desire to fill shoes that do not fit. I found myself constantly trying to like Baxter as a character and investigator, but nothing stuck for me, either in her personal or professional life. This is unfortunate, as the protagonist is the one who leads the reader along through the case at hand. A smattering of other characters on both sides of the ledger also lacked the complexity that I felt this book needed, especially with the set of crimes being offered up to the reader. I needed to feel angst and confusion as well as determination to let nothing stop justice from making its mark. Instead, I felt things kept circling the drain, hoping to find some action or sicko moment that would spring the narrative to life. Cole had all the ingredients for success, but the mix did not work for me. Others will surely agree and I can defer to them. The story had much possibility, especially utilising two venues, but fell flat and left me wanting more and needing to feel a stronger connection. Even the central mastermind became beige, leaving me wishing I had known this before rushing to seek enjoyment with this second novel. Perhaps I needed to let Ragdoll ferment before rushing into this one, but whatever it was, this did not work and I am sorry. A third novel in the series is surely a while off, so I will have time to gather my thoughts before then.

Kudos, Mr. Cole, for attempting to keep things running effectively. If you had to have a less impactful novel, thankfully it was this second, as your debut is the net that will catch you many fans. As I know your potential, I’lol likely come back for another read and hope for better things.

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

Against the Law (Edward Hall #1), by Jay Brandon

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Jay Brandon, and Severn House Publishers for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Jay Brandon has crafted this wonderful legal thriller that pulls the story into the courtroom, where a woman’s life hangs in the balance. Edward Hall is startled to hear from his sister, Amy, who finds herself in some legal hot water. Dr. Hill is accused of killing her estranged husband, Paul Shilling. Amy admits to being at his home, though is adamant that she did not gun him down. Edward may be compassionate to her plight, but has issues of his own. Edward recently served jail time for a crime committed at the Houston courthouse when he was an up and coming star in the DA’s office. As such, he has had his licence suspended and is still technically not able to practice law. That does not deter Amy in hiring her brother, who is sure that he can offer some much needed advice. As the trial approaches, Edward realises that he may be put in the position of defending his sister and will have to face the ramifications of his legal issues later. When they are assigned a strict judge for the murder trial, Edward cannot help but remember that this woman was once his colleague at the DA’s office and is intricately tied to the crime he committed. Giving it his all, Edward must face insurmountable odds to defend his sister, though her defence is weak and a key piece of evidence has been placed before the jury, sure to tip the scales against them. Facing a potential death sentence if she is convicted, Amy must hope the brother she has always idolised can pull out a miracle in the courtroom, where he’s made quite a name for himself. Brandon does a wonderful job with this story, pulling on heartstrings and legal manoeuvres alike. A wonderful read for anyone who enjoys a legal thriller with the courtroom as the key setting.

This is my first Jay Brandon novel, but I am sure it will not be my last. He writing strength comes not only from his legal descriptions, but also the detailed characters and delivery throughout this piece. Edward Hall is a wonderfully complex character that shapes the direction of this novel on numerous occasions. The backstory on offer is well balanced with some of the development throughout the novel, as short as the timeline might be. Seeing not only the legal drama that Hall has overcome but the personal and familial struggles he suffered do pull the reader into the middle of it all, perhaps in hopes of trying to personalise him and tipping the scales in his favour. Amy Hall Shilling is another wonderful character who seems to undervalue the extent of the legal hot water in which she finds herself, more focussed on her innocence than the trial and pitfalls that continue to crop up. Brandon does well to portray her as the lost sheep, seeking her brother to guide the way, even when he is barely able to keep his head above water. The story is intriguing, and what it lacks in uniqueness it makes up for in its alluring legal antics. The story flows well and keeps the reader guessing until the very end, hoping that Edward will be able to pull a rabbit out of the proverbial hat when faced with such trying odds. Brandon has done a masterful job and keeps the narrative moving such that the reading experience will surely lead to late nights for the reader.

Kudos, Mr. Brandon, for this powerful piece. I am eager to read more of your work in the coming years.

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

Ragdoll (DS William Fawkes #1), by Daniel Cole

Seven stars

Daniel Cole emerges on the scene with this thought-provoking debut thriller that will have readers wondering until the very end. Detective Sergeant William Fawkes has recently returned to the Metropolitan Police Force after a significant absence. After one of his cases—the Cremation Killer—went to trial and the accused was found not guilty, Fawkes took measures into his own hands. The loss still haunts him and he feels the pain of it every day. When his colleagues are called to a murder scene close to his home, Fawkes is curious what’s turned up. What they discover is as sadistic as it is curious; a body of parts sewn together to create a single whole. Fawkes is pulled into the middle, hoping to identify the various parts and discover if they are other murder victims. When Fawkes’ ex-wife, a journalist, receives a list of future murders and dates they will be completed, everyone takes notice. Most interesting of all, Fawkes is listed as the final victim, a fortnight away. The team rushes to locate the potential victims and provide protection, though this killer is conniving and has a way around all the usual measures that are taken. With each passing day, another victim is that much closer to being crossed off the list, including Fawkes, who has no clear idea what awaits him. This might be one killer who cannot be stopped until the ultimate revenge has been accomplished. Cole offers up a wonderful story that keeps the reader’s attention throughout. Solving the crime is only half the battle and those who enjoy the genre ought to give this one a try.

I enjoy new authors who wish to elbow their way onto the scene in sensational fashion. Daniel Cole does just that, though there are some who surely cannot stomach his work. I’ve always said that not all books are to the liking of everyone, which does not diminish either the book or the reader. In this instance, Cole seeks to pull William Fawkes into the middle of this story and show his merit. Fawkes is a man who is addled with guilt for past failures while also being determined to get to the root of the case, no matter its level of difficulty. He does not like to ‘colour in the lines’, but does seem to get results, even when things seem hopeless. This could be both his greatest asset and most significant downfall. Others around him help create a tension-filled experience, working in unison at times or providing firm roadblocks around which Fawkes will have to navigate. Cases such as these require a strong villain, one who can fan the flames and keep the reader wondering what awaits them as the narrative continues. The sensational discovery of the ‘rag doll’ is surely something that hooked the reader, though it is the intricacies surrounding the various victims makes for an interesting sub-plot. The story is decent and flows well, though there are times when things become slow and some readers (mentioned above) may have chosen to bow out when the going got rough. Still, there is significant intrigue, which kept me wanting to push forward to discover how it all ‘stitched’ itself together. Cole has done well to lay the groundwork for an interesting series and I will read the follow-up novel to see how things progress with Fawkes and the rest of the Metropolitan crew.

Kudos, Mr. Cole, for this wonderful debut. You’ve received a great deal of hype and I can see how many have come to love you work. I am eager to see if the second novel is as exciting as this one became.

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

The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell, by Robert Dugoni

Nine stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Robert Dugoni, Lake Union Publishing for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

In his latest standalone novel, Robert Dugoni shows just how versatile he can be with his writing. His dazzling prose and wonderful ability to convey a story will warm the heart of many readers throughout this powerful novel. Sam Hill was born just outside the Bay Area to two loving parents. As he tells in the early part of the story, the love his parents showed him was unlike anything else in the world. However, Sam was born with a unique feature—red irises, called ocular albinism—which would come to haunt him in the years to come. Though it did not affect his ability to see, Sam was scorned by other young children and faced a significant issue trying to get into the local Catholic school. However, his persistent mother never lost the faith and Sam was soon enrolled alongside the other pupils. His eyes did cause many an issue, helping him develop the moniker, Sam Hell. This did not deter him, though kept the other children from playing alongside him. Friends with Ernie Cantwell, a young black boy—the only in the school—Sam discovered that some children take things to extremes and was severely bullied. As hew grew, Sam and Ernie remained the best of friends, soon adding Michaela ‘Mickie’ Kennedy to their brood. As the story progresses, the reader learns of Sam’s older years and how things developed for him, allowing life lessons and personal epiphanies to shape his way of life. With each part of the book flashing forward to 1989, the reader is able to discover a ‘modern’ narrative and how Sam has used all those lessons to shape what came to be his greatest moments, influenced deeply by his mother. Those fans of Dugoni’s work will marvel at this personal story that has all the ingredients his police procedurals as well. Those seeking a touching story that does not get too sappy will also love this and may develop a love of Robert Dugoni’s writing in general.

I have long loved the writing that Dugoni puts out and find myself completely captivated by his current series set in Seattle. However, it is wonderful to see an author step away from his/her comfort zone and develop an ability to write with an entirely new set of characters and plots. Dugoni does this so effortlessly and pulls the reader in the middle of an emotional story that holds the reader’s attention until the very last phrase. Sam Hill is a wonderful character whose maturation is a fundamental part of the story. His backstory and ongoing character development provides the reader with a rich understanding of the issues that he faces as a child with a physical trait that distinguishes him from others. Secondary characters, such as Ernie and Mickie provide a wonderful flavour for the story and are offset by the more grounded Mr. and Mrs. Hill, who have their own quirks. The vignettes that occur within each part of the larger story provide a wonderful collage of moments that, when sewn together, provided a powerful set of characters that convey a powerful message. I almost could not tell that this was Dugoni, so used to his mystery and police stories, though I am blessed to have seen how detailed he made the entire experience. Dugoni offers up some wonderful themes throughout the piece and arcs them together effectively, touching the reader at just the right moments. The short chapters help push things along and the spiritual nature of the narrative does not create a Christian inculcation, but surely serves as an effective theme in Sam’s life and the reader’s experience with this novel.

Kudos, Mr. Dugoni, for such a powerful book. I can only hope to read more standalone novels of this calibre in the years to come.

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

The Collector (The Bone Collector #2), by Fiona Cummins

Eight stars

Fiona Cummins’ second novel holds all the intensity of the first, captivating the reader yet again. Picking up soon after the first novel ended, Cummins envelops the reader in this thriller, tantalising them with her wonderful abilities and cliffhanger moments. Clara Foyle is still missing, having not been found when the police raided one of the residences of the Bone Collector. In a gaffe during transport, the Bone Collector got loose and fled, remaining off the radar. These developments have been haunting DS Etta Fitzroy ever since, forcing her to come to terms with the horror of a child that has been lost. While she remains determined to find Clara, DS Fitzroy must wait for a significant clue to emerge. Meanwhile, after settling in rural Essex, the Bone Collector, now going by the name Mr. Silver, is trying to reestablish himself, much of his work still unfinished. He has found an apprentice who will be able to help him with his work while also trying to decide what purpose Clara might serve. Saul is a teenage boy forced to care for his alcoholic mother alone, after his father fled. Filled with angst and animosity, he is the ideal candidate to work alongside Mr. Silver, though he is still not entirely sure what is in store for him. After a new victim is lured to the beachfront house and killed for her bone anomaly, Mr. Silver has found his legs and is back in business. All that he needs to do now is tell the world he’s back, with a cryptic message affixed to the skeleton of a rabbit. DS Fitzroy is ready to resume the hunt, but will she be prepared for what Mr. Silver has planned now, and with someone to help? Cummins keeps up her electrifying story and leaves the reader stunned as they push through to see how it will all come to play out. Those who enjoyed the first novel in the series, as well as readers who love a good psychological thriller, will love this second piece.

Fiona Cummins has not lost the momentum she developed with the start of this series, pushing the genre out of its comfort zone. This only goes to show that Cummins is ready to use her ideas and reshape an already crowded genre, pushing her to the top of the list, amongst other powerful writers. Etta Fitzroy is still superb cop who has been processing the difficulties of a jaded work-home balance and a husband whose forced her to rethink her life choices. Armed with the failure to apprehend the Bone Collector once and for all, with Clara Foyle still out there, DS Fitzroy must work even harder not to botch the case again. The Bone Collector—Mr. Silver—has regrouped and sees the benefit of cultivating a new generation to continue his macabre museum of bones and medical anomalies. He’s found Saul and will do whatever it takes to ingratiate himself with the teen, hoping to fill a massive gap in the boy’s life. Still, there is much work to be done and many lives hang in the balance, as well as victims that must be culled around the country. Cummins offers some great backstory here to explore where the penchant for bones and murder might have originated, providing the reader with wonderful insight. The story is just as strong as before, flowing well through chapters full of information and cliffhanger moments. It would appear that date and time stamping each chapter poses the dual benefit of providing the reader some context and showing that Clara is still missing, and has yet to be recovered. This chill is not lost on the attentive reader, who wonders what is in store for the victim who has touched the lives of many characters in this book. Cummins does a magnificent job at injecting thrills and suspense into her narrative, leaving things hanging as she forces the reader to beg for more.

Kudos, Madam Cummins, for another award-worthy novel. I hope others will see what I have discovered and pick up this series in short order.

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

The Triple Frontier (Jericho Quinn #7.6), by Marc Cameron

Seven stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Marc Cameron, Kensington Books, and Pinnacle for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

In his latest novella, Marc Cameron brings Jericho Quinn back for another high-octane adventure, this time way out of his comfort zone. The Triple Frontier—the area where the sovereign states of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay converge—is extremely dangerous. Drug running and human smuggling are common, creating a zone where the authorities have all but stopped trying to enforce the law. Bo Quinn is down in the region with a group of rich Americans to ride their motorcycles around the country. While travelling one morning, they are ambushed by a group of locals, though Bo is able to activate his SOS and GPS beacons before being tossed into the back of a van and led away. Back in America, Bo’s older brother, Jericho, receives word that the beacon has been activated, but cannot raise his sibling over the phone. Panicked, Jericho prepares to make his way down to South America, though his close friends will not let him go alone. On a rescue mission, Jericho prepares to head into the unknown, though is promised the help of a local when he arrives. Meanwhile, a ransom note comes in, seeking $3 million, only to be trumped by another offer of five million. Could rival cartels be using Bo and his clients as pawns in a larger battle? By the time they reach the Triple Frontier, Jericho and his entourage realise that this is one mission that will not end peacefully. When an unexpected individual shows up to offer Jericho added support, the mission takes on an entirely different flavour. Jericho forges ahead into the unknown in hopes of trying to clean up the mess that is this hostage situation without alerting the formal authorities. Faced with kidnappers who have nothing to lose and seek a major payday, the end result is anything but predictable. Cameron provides an entertaining addition to the Jericho Quinn series that fans of the collection will surely enjoy as they wait for the next full-length book.

Marc Cameron has done well crafting the Jericho Quinn series over the past numbers of years. While he has taken on some additional series work elsewhere, fans of the novels have been biding their time with some novellas, though their quality remains at the highest calibre. While much attention has been spent on Jericho and his interesting backstory, Cameron has only recently shed any light on the life of the younger Quinn, Bo. In this piece, the reader is able to see just how resilient Bo can be when faced with trouble, cool under pressure and ready to fight for what he feels is right. As the premise of the piece is an intense rescue mission, Jericho is still able to take centre stage in this story and does so, showing a compassionate side when it comes to protecting his family. Some of the secondary characters on both sides are able to keep the attention focused on the fast pace of the rescue mission, adding interesting flavours to the narrative. The story remains a ‘cookie cutter’ effort to save those who are being held captive, but it is the way in which Cameron approaches the story and how he is able to inject some much-needed humour into the dialogue to lighten the mood. With a narrative that clips along, the reader is swept up in this novella that has as much action as any of the stories that Cameron has published to this point. That being said, I eagerly await something longer in the near future.

Kudos, Mr. Cameron, for this entertaining piece. I can always count on something interesting and full of adventure when you write.

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

Deadly Secrets (Detective Erika Foster #6), by Robert Bryndza

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Robert Bryndza, and Bookouture for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Robert Bryndza is back with another Detective Erika Foster novel that takes the reader on a heart-thumping adventure in a thrilling police procedural. While headed out for Christmas lunch, DCI Foster comes upon a recent murder scene and decides to lend a hand. What she finds is a slain Marissa Lewis, her body frozen to the ground after having had her throat slit the night before. Lewis, a burlesque dancer who used the name Honey Diamond, was quite well known around the community, though not always liked. It would seem that she was quite popular with some of the local men, though used her wiles to blackmail them and pad her own bank account. With the investigation in full-swing, Foster begins using some CCTV footage and witness statements to determine that the killer was likely wearing an odd gas mask, a photo of which appeared in a document dump from emails of an early suspect. As a number of those on the police radar take drastic measures not to be fingered for the crime, Foster and her team hear of a man attacking people in a similar gas mask. Might the cases be connected? When an urgent call from Manchester pulls Foster away from the case, the team turns to DI Moss, who is unsure if she can handle the pressure of being in charge. With the case heating up and leads emerging from numerous parts of Marissa Lewis’ life, Moss takes a gamble to bring the case to a close, all while DCI Foster wrestles with demons from her past. Bryndza keeps the reader guessing throughout this piece, with captivating twists in a story that will keep series fans up late into the night.

I have long enjoyed the writing of Robert Bryndza, particularly his work with DCI Erika Foster. Some may call the series too superficial for their liking, but there are times with a quick read police procedural checks all the necessary boxes. As with the previous five novels, this piece allows the reader to develop a closer relationship to Erika Foster, foraging through her personal life to touch a nerve, while also helping to build-up her strong police presence. Bryndza also seeks to personalise Erika’s struggle to move on after the loss of her husband and the pitfalls of finding that balance between work and a personal life. Foster remains a sharp character who answers to no one and seeks to find the minutiae in each piece of evidence to determine its validity. The handful of secondary characters in this story continue to develop as well, as Bryndza does offer scraps of information to flesh-out their work and personal lives. Readers can enjoy seeing this growth, which provides interesting sub-plots and offsets the intensity of the crimes central to the narrative. The story is clear and flows well, taking a few tangents, if only to allow the reader to be befuddled alongside the coppers. Bryndza weaves his narrative around two sets of crimes and merges them at just the right moment, only to leave gaps that need to be filled to solve the larger murder investigation. Through his use of short and choppy chapters, Bryndza offers up a story that cannot easily be put down and forces the reader to forge onwards, begging to know how things resolve in this high-impact case. To call the story addictive would be an understatement, even if there are police procedural purists who remain bitter on the sidelines.

Kudos, Mr. Bryndza, for another captivating novel in the series. I am eager to see how things will continue to evolve with DCI Erika Foster and her team in the coming novels.

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