Flotsam and Jetsam (Torquil McKinnon #4), by Keith Moray

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to Keith Moray and Sapere Books for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Keith Moray returns to the Hebrides, where he recounts another Scottish police procedural/mystery full of local flavouring and helping to renew the reader’s love of Torquil McKinnon. West Uist is abuzz with the news that a Scottish antiques show has come to the island to broadcast a fortnight of programmes. Flotsam and Jetsam will launch with a local legend, Dr. Digby Dent, in hopes of shedding light on the man’s expertise in midges. When he doses himself with ‘liquid courage’ before appearing on television, things go awry and he is forced to spend some time in police custody. Upon his release, Dent attempts to make his way home, only to be found dead the following morning by one of the West Uist constables. Meanwhile, Torquil comes across a wee dog, strapped to a board while he is out piping one morning, sure that this was an attempt to rid the owner of the burden of responsibility. Incensed, Torquil will stop at nothing to find out who might have committed such a horrible act, though he is also busy with this investigation into Dr. Dent, which soon turns into an act of murder. Who might have struck down this local legend and are there others who are in danger? West Uist Police are on high alert and Torquil cannot rest until both his cases are resolved, which will be a feat unto itself, especially with his superiors barking orders. Moray brings readers another wonderful tale, sure to keep the reader enthralled until the final page-turn. Those who have enjoyed this series will surely enjoy this instalment, as well as any reader who enjoys a mystery with a true Scottish flavour.

When the publisher approached me to read and review early novels in the series, I was hooked. This novel was more of the same, taking me back into the rural Scottish community Moray developed. Torquil McKinnon is a character that many readers can enjoy, though has not become too one-dimensional so as to become boring. Torquil mixes a dedication to his job as leader of the constabulary with a strong connection to the locals, many of whom cross his path throughout this piece. Showing his softer side, Torquil exemplifies his connection to his canine friend and longing to be reunited with his bonnie lass. The handful of new, secondary characters proves to entertain the reader throughout this story, which presents the reader with some interesting social issues, both educational and entertaining. The various characters add humour and banter for the reader, but there is also a sinister aspect that helps propel the mystery perspective throughout. The story itself is quite well crafted, keeping the narrative flowing well, a bounce back from a less than stellar third novel. Longer chapters should not deter the reader, as the narrative flows well and keeps the reader hooked throughout. While some may be familiar with ‘big city’ and tangential police procedurals, the reader can enjoy this close-knit story that fills the pages with Scottish lore! I’ll gladly read the rest of this series, if only to learn more about McKinnon and the West Uist community.

Kudos, Mr. Moray, for this refreshing read. Perfect for my holiday time, as the story does not let up until the final page.

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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Bloody Sunday (Dewey Andreas #8), by Ben Coes

Nine stars

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

A fan of Ben Coes, I could not wait to get my hands on this latest Dewey Andreas thriller, which did not fall short in any way. After some of Dewey’s most harrowing experiences, he is ready to hang-up his gun and check out. The events surrounding the murder of his wife have proven to be too much for him and he dreams of nothing but life in the countryside. Trouble is, no one else seems to have that same dream for Dewey and hope he has a little more juice inside to run a few more ‘essential’ missions. When MI6 sends a top mission architect to the CIA, Jenna Hartford is somewhat bitter, but willing to try things on the other side of the Pond. Significant intel shows that the North Koreans have been stirring up the pot in the region with their nuclear testing and have a covert meeting planned in Macau with the Iranians. What these two American foes have to say and what plans might come for this remains unknown, but Hartford has an idea about how to extract it. Dewey is the key to its success, though he remains fixated on life after the Agency. A singlet persuasive chat changes his mind, if only for a time, and he agrees to make his way to the ‘Asian Las Vegas’, where the highest-ranking North Korean General awaits. While trying to execute a plan to force the news from the lips of the General, Dewey is struck with the same weapon and has only a short time to counteract the measure. The CIA learns a snippet of what North Korea has in store and it is nothing short of disaster, in a strike codenamed ‘Bloody Sunday’. Now, Dewey must try to stay alive and save himself before he can turn his attention to America, all while infiltrating the North Korean border, where spies and traitors are killed before breakfast. All eyes are on Dewey, as the countdown clock reaches its perilous final moments. Coes has done it again and brilliantly entertains readers in this fast-paced thriller sure to impress. Recommended for those who love the series and readers who cannot get enough political thrillers with an espionage twist.

I always look forward to a Ben Coes thriller, as I never know what to expect. Full of political and spy-based branch-offs, Coes always injects just the right amount of dry wit and suspense to keep me coming back. In the early stages of the book, the reader sees some interesting happenings inside North Korea and a flame lit under its dictator with a plan to finally strike on US soil. Counter that with Dewey Andreas, who is hellbent on avenging the life of his wife, and the story could not get more intense if it tried. Andreas has long be a rogue character, none more than at this point in time. He is fuelled by revenge and wants nothing more than to strike at the heart of those who have wronged him. However, he still has a little something left in him and Coes portrays his protagonist as being steel-willed to the very end, making moves that few could expect to work. The introduction of Jenna Hartford has its own interesting spins, though the reader will have to take the time to see what Coes has in store for her. She is surely an interesting addition to to series and, should she remain, could prove interesting. The handful of secondary characters add flavour to an already spicy novel and allows the reader to feel in the middle of the action. The story is great, though the nuclear threat is by no means a new theme in the genre. However, Coes goes about it in a wonderful manner and portrays both the North Koreans and Americans in a light I have not seen. The intensity of the narrative and the action build within it to reach the climax is wonderful and keeps the reader guessing and hoping. As an unrelated aside, those who have read the short story that Coes released ahead of this novel, Shooting Gallery, may notice that this novel (#8), actually precedes the short story (labelled as #7.5) from a chronological point of view. Both stories run independently to one another, so there is no risk of spoilers, but I did notice that early on and promised to put it into my review. There is never a lack of excitement when Coes at the wheel and I can only hope that more novels are in the works, even with a different character base after the North Korean fallout.

Kudos, Mr. Coes, for a stunning addition to the series. I am addicted and cannot wait to see what else you have in store for your fans.

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

The Outsider, by Stephen King

Nine stars

Stephen King has done it again with a powerful story that pulls the reader into the middle and will not let them go. Mixing his ability to write mysteries with a long-established foundation for the supernatural, this novel will impress the dedicated reader ready for an adventure like no other. When a boy’s body is discovered, murdered and sexually assaulted, many of the witnesses and evidence point to Terry Maitland. The town’s baseball coach, Maitland was described by many to be the salt of the earth, though Detective Ralph Anderson cannot discount all the information that he has at his disposal. Wanting to make a show of Maitland’s arrest, Anderson seeks to have Maitland taken into custody during a high-profile baseball game, in front of much of the town. While Maitland professes his innocence, Anderson turns a deaf ear, sure that the forensics are irrefutable. A solid alibi exists for Maitland being a fair distance away, with equally persuasive alibi witnesses and physical evidence, though Anderson chooses not to give this much merit. How can a man be in two places at once and does DNA lie? Anderson and others around him seek to explain this, but things go horribly wrong during the arraignment and Maitland’s innocence is now a footnote to a larger issue. When the evidence is extrapolated by a guilty Anderson, who cannot rest until he knows the truth, all eyes turn to Dayton, Ohio, where Maitland spent some of his time with family. A call is placed to the Finders Keepers Detective Agency, where one Holly Gibney is now running the show. Gibney, eccentric as ever, is curious and agrees to take the case, poking around and asking the right questions. She soon discovers that there is more to Terry Maitland than meets the eye and the case is blown wide open. What follows is a series of events that turns the small town of Flint City into the centre of a larger and more disturbing mystery, with ties to a piece of Mexican folklore. Is there a way to be in two places at once? Who is the mysterious man that appears in the dreams of many around town, making threats of violence? King offers up answers to these and many others in his latest piece of stunning fiction. Those who can stomach Stephen King will surely love this book, though his trademark meandering might turn the less than prepared off reading this stellar novel!

I will be the first to admit that it takes a certain kind of reader to enjoy Stephen King. His masterful ability to tell a story is surrounded by layers of tangential writing and minor characters seeking their time in the spotlight. However, if one can handle this sort of storytelling, there is a core tale that is almost addictive and one cannot walk away without being impacted. King does a masterful job here, focussing his attention on many people throughout the piece. Terry Maitland receives strong character development throughout the early portion of the novel, his life dragged through the mud as the accusations against him pile high. He seeks to clear his name, though the evidence appears to make this close to impossible. Ralph Anderson and Holly Gibney, though not the only others who share a significant amount of the spotlight, are two that will not soon be forgotten by readers. Anderson is the police official seeking justice over all else and not wanting to let his gaffes hang too long around him. Those who have read some of King’s recent material will know Gibney to be a central character in his Mr. Mercedes trilogy, where her unique style seems to have made its mark. Gibney divorces herself from the socially acceptable world and tells things as she sees them, no matter the consequences. Scores of other characters dot the narrative and push it forward, keeping the reader enthralled and wanting more, their characteristics sometimes a flash in the pan, but always appreciated. The story itself is complex and entertaining, full of King’s strong research and curious tangential commentary on life. What appears to be the thread the narrative will follow is soon abandoned for a different pathway, but one the reader can enjoy without too many mental gymnastics. I understand how many may not have liked this piece or found it too… odd for their liking. I know all too well that King can be difficult to digest and it takes a certain type of reader to understand him. That being said, I cannot praise this recent piece enough and await the next novel to see what else he has in store.

Kudos, Mr. King, for another winner. While I have been critical of some work you produce, you always keep me guessing and wondering what you have in mind when I crack open another of your pieces of writing.

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

Shooting Gallery (Dewey Andreas #7.5), by Ben Coes

Seven stars

Ahead of this summer’s latest full-length Dewey Andreas thriller, Ben Coes teases the reader with a short story with his high-octane protagonist. Andreas is down in Mexico, helping to facilitate a ransom payment and letting off a little steam. However, whenever Dewey wants to relax, trouble seems to follow him and it’s a bloodbath to some degree. When the newly sworn-in US vice-president’s son is kidnapped and held in Mexico, a few calls are made and Dewey is tasked with trying to facilitate a covert recovery. Heart still pumping from a barroom brawl, Dewey targets the likely location of the victims and sets a plan in motion. A tense situation could get worse, unless Dewey’s on his toes throughout the harrowing rescue attempt. Coes whets the appetite of his series fans and offers a teaser of the upcoming novel, sure to be as exciting as ever. Those who love Dewey Andreas pieces will surely enjoy this story, which helps lessen the waiting time until the explosive operative can entertain again.

I enjoy Ben Coes and his writing, hoping that his ideas continue to propel Dewey Andreas to new heights. While this was a short piece, the reader is tossed into the middle of the adventure and given no time to relax. Andreas is a rock-hard operative who just wants to enjoy a little downtime, though it seems to pass him by at every turn. With a new political player in the narrative, one can only wonder if this will prove to be a thorn in Andreas’ side over the next few novels. However, at this point, the narrative helps develop a few characters effectively enough to keep the reader satisfied, if only for a short time. The story was decent, though its brevity turned the rescue mission into something as swift as a flash-bang grenade reaction, tying off all the needed loose ends before the reader can truly enjoy what’s taking place. One might say that the bar fight that preceded this mission had more content to it, leaving the climactic event seem almost an essential afterthought. That being said, it has me ready to devour the next Dewey Andreas novel, which awaits me now.

Kudos, Mr. Coes, for this short piece that pulls no punches. I am happy to have stumbled upon this one and hope the novel is as exciting as this short piece.

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

The Doctor’s Plot: A BookShot, by James Patterson and Connor Hyde

Eight stars

Stumbling across this new BookShot within the recently released Murder in Paradise collection, James Patterson is collaborating with Connor Hyde to come up with this spine-tingling story. Abi Brenner is excited to have been hired as a new medical examiner in the Napa Valley. A Wisconsin farm girl, Abi and her husband, Jeremy, are trying to settle in to the California lifestyle and the pile of cases left by the previous M.E. who died in a freak accident. As soon as she begins working, Abi discovers some oddities in a handful of the bodies awaiting her analysis, all of whom died in a similar manner. Meanwhile, working at a local free clinic, Jeremy also finds himself surrounded by inexplicable happenings that he cannot simply consider coincidental. When Abi begins to poke around, she soon runs up against a wall, but will not turn away until she has answers. There’s something not right going on and she needs to raise a warning flag to those in a position of authority. Abi also has something she needs to tell Jeremy, but is not sure if she’ll have the time before someone tries to silence her for good. Patterson and Hyde have crafted a wonderful short story that will keep the reader guessing until the final sentence. Perfect for those who love Patterson BookShots, particularly of the medical and criminal variety.

This is the first collaborative effort to my knowledge between James Patterson and Connor Hyde, but I hope it will not be their last. The authors seem to have a great literary chemistry, whatever their contractual obligation might be related to this piece. Abi Brenner is a great character and she has some real pizzazz, mixing medical practitioner with all-around sleuth. She may be young, but she holds her own in this piece, keeping it light and yet poignant throughout. Because of his role in the piece, I will also call Jeremy an essential piece of the puzzle and give him protagonist accolades, developing his own narrative to propel the story in a few interesting directions. The handful of secondary characters offer an interesting glimpse into the sinister side to whatever is going on (read to find out) and keeps the reader wondering how large this web of deceit might go. The story itself is strong enough to keep my attention while also entertain me in the short space on offer to do so. It’s a BookShot, but not simply slapped together to fill space. Patterson and Hyde have invested some research and used the short-chapter trademark style that keeps BookShots crisp and interesting for the dedicated reader. I’ll gladly read another collaborative effort, should these two work together in the coming months or years.

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson and Hyde, for an interesting piece. Glad I took the time to check out this BookShot collection, as this story was sandwiched between two I had read before.

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

The Prodigal Sister (Esther and Jack Enright #3), by David Field

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to David Field and Sapere Books for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Victorian England comes alive when David Field writes, particularly its criminal element. In another Esther and Jack Enright tale, the reader is transported to yet another murder scene, full of mystery and intrigue. When a woman’s body is found dead on the train tracks late one night, the police are called in to investigate. Detective Constable Jack Enright and his uncle, Detective Sergeant Percy Enright are directed to begin amassing evidence and leads, in hopes of discovering what might have happened to young Marianne Ormonde, the presumed victim. While Jack begins sleuthing, Esther is learning the ropes of motherhood, home with baby Lily. Esther has seen much change in her life, though caring for a little one is surely the most trying experience she’s had to undertake. After seeking to advise Marianne’s brother, Edgar, of her suspected death, Jack and Percy are left to wonder if they have a viable suspect. Standoffish and unwilling to help, Edgar Ormonde tries to deflect knowing anything, though other witnesses place him not only at the scene, but aboard the same train his sister rode. Needing an insider’s glimpse into the Ormonde family, Jack persuades Esther to go undercover again to lay a trap. While Esther is happy to help, she can only remember how she was almost killed on Jack’s last two major cases. Using some unorthodox techniques, Esther is able to shake Edgar to the core, but will it be enough to have him confess to murder? Field presents another winner in this series, whose brevity should not indicate that it is anything less than stellar. Perfect for those who love Victorian murder mysteries and prefer something that can be read in short order.

I was recently introduced to David Field and his work, which seems to have found a decent niche in the genre. After devouring a few novels in the past week, I knew this entire series would be on my ‘binge’ list. Field uses Victorian England as an eerie setting, as well as a handful of strong characters to propel this story forward, turning a compact plot into something both exciting and easy to enjoy. Esther Enright, now married and a mother, plays a lesser role in this novel, though her presence is still felt. She has been forced to adapt to a significant change in her life and has periods when she cannot help but wish that her husband would accept a more mundane position within Scotland Yard. Jack, on the other hand, is thoroughly enjoying this detective position, but can see the wonders of being a father and his young family, something that he is sure to miss the more hours he clocks while chasing the scum of the city. Jack and Esther continue complementing one another so well as they work yet another crime together, in new and exciting roles. The secondary characters prove entertaining within the pages of this story, using Cockney speech and salty sayings to take the reader inside the less refined parts of London while also allowing a sense of being in the middle of the action. The story flows well, unique from the past two pieces, and keeps a decent pace, with quick chapters helping propel things forward. Field has but a short time to develop his narrative, but always injects humour and banter when time permits. The writing leaves the reader wanting to know more and pushing to find out how a lack of forensic technology might be used to corner a seemingly obvious criminal. Field has done a masterful job with these novels and I await a fourth book’s release in the coming weeks. I can only hope that Field will continue crafting these addictive stories for fans who find them so enthralling.

Kudos, Mr. Field, for this wonderful novel. I am eager to read more Esther and Jack stories and hope others will follow my lead.

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

The Queen’s Birthday Telegram: The Year of Short Stories, by Jeffrey Archer

Eight stars

Master storyteller Lord Jeffrey Archer has chosen to please his fans with a new venture; a short story released each month. Those familiar with Archer’s work will know that he can not only spin long and involved pieces, but also the short story that compacts adventure into a handful of pages. June’s story is brief, but very much a winner, when Albert Webber receives a telegram from from the Queen on the celebration of his one hundredth birthday. This is in addition to all the fanfare the town and his family have to celebrate this milestone event. When, three years on, Albert’s wife celebrates this same cake-worthy event, there is nothing that arrives. Hurt on her behalf, Albert waits for a time before placing a call to determine if there’s been a mix-up. A few transfers and cross-references later, it all becomes clear and Albert cannot help but chuckle. A wonderful re-release for Archer fans that can be read in a few moments, with a smile factor that will surely linger.

Lord Jeffrey Archer’s work is always full of unique perspectives, be they complete novels or shorter story such as this one. I am so pleased to have come across this collection and have reviewed each story based on its own merits. Now I await each instalment on a monthly basis, hoping they will be as interesting as the first half of the collection. This was definitely one of the faster reads, one that I remember devouring in a past collection. Even with a lack of character development, Archer pushes a wonderful story along to the reader, adding his trademark zinger by the final sentence. I have enjoyed all these pieces and now must be patient for the rest of the series to come, released for free each month to Archer fans!

Kudos, Lord Archer, for a masterful new story collection. How you find so many effective ideas that produce high quality publications I will never know.

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

True Fiction (Ian Ludlow Thrillers #1), by Lee Goldberg

Six stars

Needing a quick read, I turned to this series debut by Lee Goldberg, about which I have heard many good things. When an airplane crashes in Hawaii not long after take-off, the news outlets begin streaming coverage and countless people gasp in horror. However, thriller writer Ian Ludlow is not one of them. Hiding in his Seattle hotel while on a book tour, Ludlow knows that with this event, his life is in imminent danger. Coaxed out of hiding by his author escort, Margo French, Ludlow tells of how the CIA is trying to kill him after an authors’ retreat a few years before. At this event, Ludlow shared a potential plot idea that seems to have been replicated down to the smallest detail. Little does Ludlow know, it is not the CIA, per se, but Blackthorn Securities that has their eye on him and is responsible for the crash. Now it is up to Ludlow, with Margo by his side, to dodge Blackthorn as they zero-in on his location. What started as a fearful writer running for his life has become a high-stakes game of cat and mouse, with only one possible outcome. Fast-paced and with little time to synthesise the info, the reader is taken on this adventure as Goldberg tosses twists at every possible instance. Those who need a good beach read need look no further than Lee Goldberg’s new series.

This is my first time reading anything by Lee Goldberg, though it would seem he is well-established. He has a great ability to portray the ‘author writing about an author’ theme and not make it come across as corny, though does utilise the ‘cat and mouse’ thriller recipe well, injecting a little cheesiness when needed. Ian Ludlow (apparently Goldberg’s nom de plume?) is an interesting character, established in his writing capabilities yet always looking to stay relevant. His slightly geeky side mixes well with the fear of being caught by the giant bully and the story turns into his using some of the resources he has been able to cobble together as a writer over the years. The story progresses as he gains some courage, but the reader must also remember that some of the stereotypical ‘bad ass geek’ is on display here. Hokey at times, Ludlow does come across as somewhat enjoyable and I did find myself laughing while shaking my head on more than a single occasion. Margo French proves to be a nice counterbalance for Ludlow, as she has somehow been pulled into the middle of this adventure without wanting to be there. A dog-walker and amateur singer, French brings the sass and sarcasm to this party without becoming the helpless femme fatale. A handful of secondary characters flesh-out the wonders of this thriller novel, keeping the story edgy and propelling it towards what is sure to be a bloody conclusion. The story was by no means stellar, but it proved entertaining, which seems to be Goldberg’s goal, as he has written much for television and knows how to keep the audience enthralled. I’ll surely keep my eyes open for more of his work, though cannot rave about how wonderful I found the book or how it is likely some of the best reading I have done all year. Still, if you need something for a trip or lounging by the pool, Goldberg has just what you might want.

Kudos, Mr. Goldberg, for an interesting introduction to the series. I admit, I am intrigued and will see what else you have to offer.

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

The Night Caller (Esther and Jack Enright Mysteries #2), by David Field

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to David Field and Sapere Books for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

A continued exploration of Victorian England’s criminal underbelly through the eyes of David Field proves to be a wonderful escape for the curious reader. With Esther and Jack preparing to marry, there is much to do, including finding the perfect dress. In an attempt to counterbalance the drama of such an event, Esther finds herself offered a job working for the National Women’s Labour Alliance, a union hoping to bring support to women working across London. Still in its infancy, the Alliance hopes to be a driving force in changing work practices for the better and has a firecracker leading the charge. Meanwhile, Jack Enright has accepted a role as Detective Constable with Scotland Yard. His Uncle Percy, a long-time copper, has taken Jack under his wing and will show him the art of detecting. Their first case pertains to someone breaking into the homes of women and stealing their…unmentionables. With these thefts comes written demands that the women immediately distance themselves from the Alliance. While most events were undertaken when the women were away or sleeping, the culprit has become brazen and removed a few pairs from women while the knickers were still in place. Could this be a crime of a sexual nature and one of a sicko? Jack and Percy put their heads together and share what they know, bringing Esther into the conversation, only to see that she might have some insight. Working the case from two angles, Esther will try to sleuth out information from within the Alliance while Jack and Percy follow leads to nab the thief. Things take a significant turn when the thieving turns to murder, putting Esther in the middle of what could be an extremely dangerous assignment. As London looks to turn a page on its industrial history, a murderer lurks in the shadows, wanting to halt things before they get started. The wedding will have to take a backseat as long as there is a case to be solved, though nothing will keep these lovebirds from tying the proverbial knot. Another great mystery that reads so swiftly and with ease. Recommended for those who enjoy Victorian crime thrillers.

I was recently introduced to David Field and his work by an eager publisher. After devouring the first novel, I knew I would have to get my hands on the follow-up, which has proven to be just as entertaining. Field uses an intriguing setting, Victorian England, and some strong characters to propel this story into something both exciting and easy to enjoy. Esther Jacobs remains a strong protagonist as she uses her strong personality to enchant many of those she meets. Her role as a union member and clerk is not downplayed by Field whatsoever, but proves essential to the entire plot. She is both determined and willing to listen, which helps her sleuth undetected. Detective Constable Jack Enright’s passion for policing is apparent, which he has undertaken with gusto. Field paints his male protagonist as a dedicated copper and one who wants to rid the streets of this thief/killer, but also protect Esther. Jack and Esther complement one another so well, working the crime as effectively as their impending cohabitation. Field is able to develop this connection without making Enright appearing any less crime-focussed. The secondary characters again fit perfectly into this story, using their Cockney speech and wayward manner to take the reader inside the less refined parts of London while also allowing a sense of being in the middle of the action. The story itself flows well and keeps a decent pace as the chapters pass by quickly. With only a short time for Field to develop his narrative, there is little time for extemporaneous blather, but always a chance to inject some humour into happenings. The writing leaves the reader wanting to know more and pushing to find out who might be responsible for these dastardly crimes with female victims. Field has done a masterful job with these first two novels and I have a third awaiting my perusal. I can only hope that he keeps writing these sorts of mysteries for all to enjoy.

Kudos, Mr. Field, for this wonderful follow-up novel. I am eager to get my hands on more Esther and Jack stories and hope others will follow my lead.

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

Murder Solstice (Torquil McKinnon #3), by Keith Moray

Seven stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to Keith Moray and Sapere Books for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

In continuing this unique series, Keith Moray leads the reader back to the Hebrides, where he recounts another Scottish police procedural/mystery full of local flavouring. When Dunshiffin Castle receives new inhabitants, West Uist is abuzz and not entirely for the right reasons. The Daisy Institute has made its presence known and recruiting for their spiritual retreat and enlightenment programme. While many flock to the group, family members have begun complaining that those who join are kept away from outside communication. The leader, the esteemed Dr. Logan Burns, has professed that a local site, the Hoolish Stones, could be part of a larger enlightenment piece, which will be revealed at the summer solstice. With a news crew in West Uist to cover the lead-up to the solstice and all that Burns can tell about his programme, a local historian is ready to debunk the entire Institute however he can. Inspector Torquil ‘Piper’ McKinnon has been running his police detachment effectively, or so he thinks, though he is always being criticised by his superior on the mainland. With all the excitement, a new face turns up in town, Sergeant Lorna Golspie, seconded by the Hebrides Constabulary to report back and clean up what has become a lax detachment. McKinnon does not take well to this and pushes back in his traditional passive aggressive ways, which only angers the mainland even more. The peace and tranquility of West Uist is broken when the aforementioned historian turns up dead, possibly from a drunken fall, but there is something that does not seem right to some of the locals. As McKinnon and his team try to investigate, the uproar with the Daisy Institute increase and tempers flare. A second death forces a complete change in efforts from indifferent acceptance to active interrogation. Tranquility and peacefulness are pushed aside in West Uist, leaving anything but a fertile foundation for enlightenment. The local journalist reminds his readers and McKinnon about the double murder/murder-suicide back at the winter solstice, not six months before. It would seem that Torquil McKinnon and his team are sitting on a powder keg yet again, with no clear means of diffusing it, while also trying to handle Sergeant Golspie and her secondment mission. Another well-paced mystery has Moray convincing me that I chose well in turning to his series. Recommended for those who love police procedural with a different take.

When the publisher approached me to read and review the first few novels in the series, I was hooked by the opening lines. This third novel was more of the same, taking me back into the rural Scottish community Moray developed. Torquil McKinnon remains an interesting character, mixing a reputable career as a member of the constabulary with a strong connection to the locals, some of whom have come to call him a personal friend. There is little backstory here, but McKinnon’s policing and struggles with superiors who are away from West Uist remains central, particularly with the secondment of Golspie. Her presence does impact the novel in interesting ways that the reader will discover as they delve deeper and understand some of the nuances of the plot. The story is full of strong secondary characters, many of whom are new and gain entry into the narrative, shaping it effectively. These individuals, returnees and new folk alike, add humour and banter for the reader, as well as some sinister aspects, which one can hope will return in future novels. The story itself is decent and keeps the narrative flowing well, though I admit to liking it the least of the three novels so far. Discussion of cults and isolation is nothing new, though it did serve a purpose and as a bridge to get through the solstice theme, which Moray handled nicely. While some may be familiar with ‘big city’ and tangential police procedurals, the reader can enjoy this close-knit story that fills the pages with Scottish lore! I’ll gladly read the rest of this series (at five novels so far), if only to learn more about McKinnon and the West Uist community.

Kudos, Mr. Moray, for this wonderful piece. I enjoyed the story and its clipped delivery, which proves a refreshing alternative to much of what I have been reading.

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