Nine Elms (Kate Marshall #1), by Robert Bryndza

Eight stars

Returning with a new series to captivate fans, Robert Bryndza delivers a knockout punch with Kate Marshall crime thriller. Back in 1995, DI Kate Marshall was hot on the heels of the Nine Elms Cannibal, a serial killer with a taste for flesh. While working the case, Kate almost becomes a victim herself, but is able to capture the killer, none other than her boss, DCI Peter Conway. Flash forward fifteen years, Kate has left the Met and is now teaching Criminology, able to lecture about the horrors she and the various female victims suffered. When she is contacted by a family seeking answers about their missing daughter from 1990, Kate is intrigued, wondering if this might have been one of Conway’s early victims. As she prepares to head out to meet the grieving family, Kate is contacted about a possible resurgence of the Nine Elms killer, though Conway is safely tucked away in a psychiatric ward. While trying to trace some of the last known whereabouts of the long-missing woman, Kate discovers that some of the new crimes mirror those from 1995. Meanwhile, Peter Conway might be locked away, but he is receiving messages from ‘a fan’ who admired his work and is ready to help him escape. Conniving but also highly calculating, this fan will stop at nothing to ensure Conway’s path is kept clear, placing Kate and the one she holds dear in the crosshairs. Kate’s already cracked open the case once, but now she will have to rely on her intuition and help from some skeptical coppers to bring down another killer, while keeping Peter Conway locked away forever. Bryndza does a formidable job of keeping the reader on their toes and wanting to know more. Recommended for those who have loved Bryndza’s Erika Foster series but need a new angle, as well as the reader who enjoys police procedurals with cunning antagonists.

Having throughly enjoyed all of Robert Bryndza’s past work, I could only hope that this new literary pathway would work well and not be a one-first flop. I was pulled into the story from the opening pages and wanted to learn more about Kate Marshall as soon as I could. Marshall has an interesting backstory, not the least of which that she was romantically involved with the man who was her boss and ended up being a serial killer. From there, the revelations and shock of the entire situation pushed her into academia—as well as into numerous drunken stupors—though she kept her passion for police work. Now, with life changes that have chilling aftereffects, Kate is pulled back into the investigation she swore she’d seen to its end, and cannot stop herself from wanting to help. With more to lose than her own life, Kate risks it all as the reader sees her take major risks and gambles everything. Others help keep the story riveting, including Peter Conway, who appears to be the innocent bystander in his psychiatric ward, until someone pulls him into the middle of a serial murder spree again. The balance between Kate and Conway is again apparent, as they flashback to 1995 and a connection that yielded more than they both could have expected. The entire cast work well together to tell a story the reader will want to hear and the intensity never lets up. With a strong story and chapters that coax the reader to push forward, Bryndza proves why he is the top of his genre and readers who are just coming to hear his name will rush to read more in short order. A great launch to a new series, though one can hope there is more Erika Foster to come, even if in a crossover effort.

Kudos, Mr. Bryndza, for keeping me up late trying to crack the case wide open alongside Kate Marshall. I cannot wait to see what else you have in store for fans.

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

Blue Moon (Jack Reacher #24), by Lee Child

Eight stars

Turning to the latest Jack Reacher thriller, I was very eager to get my hands on it to see what Lee Child had concocted for his most versatile protagonist. The story opens in a nondescript American town that is run equally by Ukrainian and Albanian organized crime. There is a clear demarcation of territory and neither side can really admit to liking the other. Jack Reacher is on his way to said town, aboard the local Greyhound bus. He eyes a man on board who has quite a bit of cash and is at risk of being a mugging victim. After they disembark, Reacher saves Aaron Shevick from just that fate and befriends him. Shevick is secretive, but eventually admits that the money is to pay off a loan that the Albanians have given him. When no one shows up, Reacher counsels his new friend to stay calm, though neither of them realize that the Ukrainians have taken over the loan business and are in an open war with the Albanian mob. When Reacher learns why the Shevicks are forced to receive such lucrative amounts of money, he takes it upon himself to settle things once and for all. However, while the Ukrainians and Albanians are off killing one another, he paints a shiny new target on himself and the Shevicks. With the help of a young lady who knows the organized crime goings-on and some military vets, Reacher engages in his own war to rid the town of these strangling influences. Wherever Reacher is around, the blood will flow and this may be a river rather than a trickle. Another winner from Lee Child in this stellar series that has not lost momentum. Recommended to all Jack Reacher fans, as well as those who love their thrillers told with unique plot lines.

While some seem to bemoan the length of the Reacher series, I have come to love all the twists and turns that Lee Child is able to use, particularly in the ‘modern’ novels. Just when I think that Reacher has done it all, we find a new situation for him to conquer. While there is little room for any backstory in this piece, Reacher remains the rugged and highly interesting man that many series fans have come to expect. Arriving as trouble is laid at his feet, Reacher never shies away, but also does not initially invite it. If there be a damsel in need of taking to bed, Reacher will somehow find a way to do it, but is sure to treat her with respect and bring her in on the plant to solve whatever issue seems to be taking place. Reacher uses his brain as much as brawn and lets no one intimidate him. Even here, with two crime families seeking his head on a post, he is ready to tackle whatever comes before him. Others are just as exciting to find within the narrative, from the down and out Shevicks to the ruthless mob bosses who ask questions after shanking those who cross them. Child has done well to ramp up the excitement and keeps the reader on the edge of their seat as things come to pass. The story is strong and uses some tried and tested Reacher techniques of always moving ahead, while trying to get to know the surroundings. I could not help but notice the mix of seriousness and humour, which always makes these novels a little more enjoyable. I cannot wait to see what is to come, be it more short pieces or full novels, depending on how things turn out for dear Jack!

Kudos, Mr. Child, for another winner. Your fans will likely praise this as another success, which I wholeheartedly do.

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

Don’t Forget Me (Levi Kant #1), by B.C. Schiller

Seven stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, B.C. Schiller, and Amazon Publishing UK for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

New to the world of the husband-wife duo calling themselves B.C. Schiller, I was not sure what to expect. The short dust jacket blurb had me intrigued about this novel, though I was not entirely confident this had ‘translated’ onto the written page, if you will pardon the pun. Dr. Olivia Hofmann nervously checks the post and discovers yet another postcard with an apology and no more. It has been five years since Dr. Hofmann’s husband and young daughter have disappeared without a trace, which coincides with the brutal murder and incineration of a teenage girl, Lisa Manz. While meeting one of her clients, Hofmann discovers that he is holding onto a rucksack belonging the Manz and might have key answers to the crime, or be the murderer himself. When Hofmann agrees to meet him at his home the following day, she watched him fall from his second storey window, a shadowy figure seen pushing him. Dr. Hofmann reaches out to her acquaintance, Levi Kant, who was the detective on the Manz case, but who was removed close to its resolution when he was shot by another perpetrator. Armed not only with the rucksack, but also a diary that Lisa kept, Hofmann and Kant begin trying to piece things together, including discovering who this mystery ‘doctor’ was who is mentioned in the diary and is surely involved in abusing Lisa Manz. When someone targets Hofmann with a vehicle, trying to wipe her out, the panic level increases, but nothing will stop Kant from revealing the truth, something he has wanted to discover for the last number of years. A decent piece of crime work, though it did not jump off the page for me. I suppose those who enjoy quick thrillers will want to give this a try, though I cannot see it being catapulted to the top of many to-be-read lists.

As this was my first experience with B.C. Schiller crime writing, I have no outside context other than this novel. While the premise was good, I was left wanting much more, as I could not help feeling the entire experience was a tad beige for me. There seems to be a race for protagonist here, between Dr. Olivia Hofmann and Levi Kant. Hofmann takes centre stage early and the reader learns about her agonising confusion about a missing child and husband, though she seems to have been able to focus on her work. In an industry that has little downtime, Hofmann must juggle her patients and a mentally ill father, whose acuity is diminishing by the day. Still, she finds time to break away and join this impromptu investigation into the death of a teenager. Levi Kant, on the other hand, was one of Vienna’s great detectives, only to have his work come crashing down when a bullet entered his leg. Now teaching at the police academy, he has always wondered about that one case that slipped through his fingers. With a Jewish backstory that some may find intriguing, Kant is also a man of many passions in his current life, which he shares throughout. Others find their way directing the story in their own way, some effectively and others simply popping up to play their part and evaporating again. The story was decent and I cannot be entirely sure if the plot’s strength was ‘lost in translation’ or if I am simply setting the bar too high. I did not dislike the book entirely, but I had hoped for a more meatier tale to keep me fully captivated. The chapters were short and I flew through the book in short order, so I cannot say it was a laborious task whatsoever. I’d likely give the series another try, should something else be published, but I am not making any promises.

Kudos, Mr. and Mrs. Schiller, for a decent plot. While the delivery was not there for me, I may be asking too much all at once.

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

Crossroad, by W.H. Cameron

Seven stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, W. H. Cameron, and Crooked Lane Books for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

New to the world of W. H. ‘Bill’ Cameron, I was not sure what to expect, but the dust jacket blurb had me wanting to uncover all the nuances of this book. After some troubling times in Boston, Melisende ‘Mel’ Dulac is given a generous opportunity by her estranged husband’s family. She travels to Oregon and is accepted without issue. Unsure what else to do, she takes a job working alongside them as an apprentice undertaker, which has many interesting stories that come along with it. When she witnesses the town football star in the midst of raping a girl, she presses to have charges brought, which does not ingratiate her with many of the townsfolk, but Mel is not all that bothered. However, when she comes upon a multi-vehicle crash along that same stretch of road a few days later, she is forced into action and discovers an abandoned newborn on the side of the road. Rather than doing the dutiful thing, she leaves it, which catches the local paper’s headlines and she is thereafter branded uncaring. However, when she goes to show a family member the body of one of the accident victims, it has gone missing. Could she have misplaced the body and let it disappear? Things only get worse when, at the crematorium, all the bodies from the wreck have apparently been incinerated, leaving no evidence on which the authorities can work. Stripped of the county contract for body removal, Mel turns to seeing who might be trying to run her out of town. Between this and her constant conversations with her deceased brother, Mel cannot tell what is real and how active an imagination she might have. Other things begin happening and it would seem she is again the target some some wrongdoing. Trying to clear her name turns out to be Mel’s main goal, as well as learning more about this rural community and who might have lost a newborn on the side of the road. The mysteries continue to pile up, as Mel seeks to define herself. Those who enjoy slowly revealed thrillers with extensive flashbacks will surely find something in this piece. I was not entirely sold, though am not soured at the same time.

With no previous work to gauge my sentiments, I have to use this piece as the sole yardstick to determine how I feel about Cameron’s work. There is surely a great deal going on within it, with some strong writing and decent character revelations. Melisende has a pile of issues that could—and should, perhaps—be the topic of its own book. From a lacklustre childhood in which her parents all but abandoned her when her brother died, to a marriage that flew off the rails and saw her institutionalize before her husband disappeared, Melisende has lived a full life and is not yet thirty. Her coming West is likely an attempt to reinvent herself, through she is far from docile and quiet while meeting new people. Her gritty attitude surely works in her favour, though she is trying to step on toes and take no prisoners, which is surely not how things are done in Oregon. There is so much for the reader to take in about Melisende that I almost wonder if Cameron ought to have scaled back or, should he have plans for a series, to slowly pepper throughout the narrative of a few books. Others serve as interesting place-settings in the larger plot reveal, complementing and impeding the protagonist throughout. There is a little mystery, some coming of age, and even a few attempts at trying to mend fences, all developed as Melisende crosses paths with others. While some readers panned this book harshly, I found there to be some decent writing and a strong plot throughout. It dragged significantly in the opening portion, but was also weighed down with many flashback portions—some in the middle of a chapter of present-time events—that surely added some confusion for some readers. I can see a great story in here, but some of it needs to be left out or spread into a few books. Melisende is intriguing and I would read more involving her, though I wonder if Cameron wanted to toss it all onto the wall to see what might stick. A mix of chapter lengths kept things moving at times when the pace had almost reached January molasses, which helped me forge ahead and keep an open mind. I’d try another book because of the subject matter, but I really hope many of the constructive comments are incorporated, as I have no patience for a repeat.

Kudos, Mr. Cameron, for this decent mystery. I trust you’ll find your way, as Melisende is, with your next publication.

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

A Minute to Midnight (Atlee Pine #2), by David Baldacci

Nine stars

Continuing some of his masterful writing, David Baldacci returns with a second novel in his Atlee Pine series, which delves even deeper into a mystery three decades in the making. After a dust-up while on duty in Arizona, FBI Agent Atlee Pine agrees to take a vacation of sorts. As she is still trying to piece together clues about her twin sister’s disappearance thirty years before, Atlee heads to rural Georgia with her Bureau assistant. When they arrive in Andersonville, Atlee sees that things are mostly as she remembers them, though her presence has brought people out of the woodwork. Filling in some gaps in a narrative that Atlee had created, the disappearance of Mercy Pine remains a massive mystery. Remembering that she and Mercy were excitable six year-olds at the time, Atlee wonders if her mind was slightly foggy about how the mystery man got into their room. Discussing the matter with some who knew her parents at the time, Atlee begins to see that much of the story she knew hinges on misconceptions, though she is not yet ready to give up. While there, the body of a woman turns up, someone that none of the locals can identify. Could this be a coincidence, or is someone trying to send a message? Atlee begins working the case, though must follow the lead of an investigator with whom she has a poor history, as she is visiting in an unofficial capacity. When more bodies turn up, Atlee must wonder if there is some symbolism to the entire experience and whether someone in Andersonville might have played a part in Mercy’s disappearance while her parents were clueless and incapacitated. Atlee has no intention of leaving the Deep South without answers, but the one who is most forthcoming might be locked away on the other side of the country. A strong story that keeps the reader engaged until the final reveal, with a wonderful cliffhanger, Baldacci has found new and exiting ways to mix story and character development in this piece. Recommended to those who love a good police procedural with a great deal of investigating, as well as the reader who has long been a Baldacci fan.

I have long been a fan of David Baldacci’s work and enjoy his constant new ideas for series that seem to come out of his publications as fast as I can read them. I remember enjoying the debut novel in the Atlee Pine series and found this one to be just as enjoyable, as the tensions mount surrounding Mercy Pine’s disappearance in 1989. The story uses Atlee’s ongoing curiosity about her sister’s disappearance to permit the reader to see some of the backstory that she brings to the novel. What Baldacci has done by sending Atlee to Georgia is offer up more backstory and fill in gaps to create a fuller and more complex Atlee Pine for the reader to enjoy. There are numerous moments of revelation that even Atlee could not have predicted, which thickens the plot. Her development in the present is tested as well, as she tries to define herself as an FBI agent while seeking answers for a past that remains so shrouded. Others who make appearances in the novel prove to be just as exciting and allow the reader to better understand the larger picture. Be they friends of the parental Pines or those who have crossed paths with Atlee in her adult life, Baldacci leaves no path untraveled and this enriched the story for me. I loved the concept of the return to Georgia. While a friend of mine on Goodreads ‘pined’ (pardon the pun) for a full-on investigation into the Mercy disappearance, the fact that another case takes centre stage pleased me. While I want to know everything about Mercy Pine and her kidnapping, I think it is too soon in the series to solve this electrifying mystery. Readers need more Atlee Pine chipping away, as she is greatly defined in the novel as “the sister who was not taken”. I feel Baldacci is doing well by stringing the reader along for a while longer. The dialogue and characters are both believable and worth investing the reading time to discover, as Baldacci never lets things go flat. The dedicated reader will likely come out of this reading experience happy they took the time to read this book, if only to learn more about Atlee Pine and the struggles with which she wrestles daily.

Kudos, Mr. Baldacci, for another winner. I could not read this one fast enough and am eager to see what’s coming next.

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 Fire (Renée Ballard #3, Harry Bosch #22), by Michael Connelly

Eight stars

Michael Connelly returns to continue the torch passing between two of his key police detectives, doing so in brilliant ways that will keep the reader talking for the foreseeable future. Harry Bosch is privy to an unexpected gift when attending the post-funeral party of his first partner at the LAPD. A murder book from a case back in 1990 holds much, though it would appear nothing has been done in almost three decades. He brings this nugget to Renée Ballard, his quasi-partner, who continues to light it up within the LAPD on her night shift. Working off the books together, they pry into the past and seek to determine who might have shot John Hilton, a homeless drug addict. While not an heir to the hotel fortune, Bosch and Ballard work the case as they would any other, looking into gang ties and other clues that drop at their feet. In a case from so long ago, it is hard to find those who might remember, or choose to share. While juggling the case, both find themselves caught up in some other work. Bosch is brought in by flashy defence attorney—and his half-brother—Mickey Haller, to find the killer of a judge. Haller is sure his client is being used as a scapegoat, though the evidence is strong. Ballard finds herself looking into many cases on the ‘late show’, including a fire that killed a homeless man in his make-shift tent home. While the Hilton case gains a little steam, Bosch and Ballard will have to do whatever they can, as gangs are lifelong and bringing up old skirmishes have a way of angering people anew. A wonderful addition to the series that sees Ballard stealing more of the limelight in what could be a significant change for series fans. Recommended to those who love a gritty police procedural, as well as the reader who has long enjoyed Bosch in all his permutations.

I can usually count on Michael Connelly to come up with a strong story when Harry Bosch is involved. I can now say that Renée Ballard fits that statement as well, as she seems to be a ‘Bosch-lite’, but still just as determined. This new partnership is working well and keeps the story moving at a fast pace. Ballard continues to be a star on the night shift, pushing through cases and working as hard as can be, but also finding time to dig through old cases with her quasi-partner/mentor Bosch. Her backstory remains unchanged, but she seems to be creating more of a name for herself, which is helpful as the series looks to be moving towards her as the sole protagonist. Connelly lobs a bomb of sorts for the attentive reader, as they learn more about Bosch and what awaits him. Could this be a way of moving away from the star detective and making room for Ballard to have a solo career? Only time will tell. With a brief appearance by Mickey Haller, some readers—myself included—may pine for more Haller-centred novels, which could surely keep Bosch working. That being said, I love these crime thrillers, no matter which angle—police or lawyer—takes centre stage. The story was strong and kept me curious throughout. The banter between the two protagonists is further enshrined as Connelly uses first-person narratives for each of them, providing insight and first-hand knowledge as the plot thickens. A mix of chapter lengths keeps the reader guessing which twist awaits, though there is surely no limit to the action and intensity. I have come to enjoy Ballard as she seems to take over the storyline, though have come to see that Bosch’s 22nd novel sees him as gritty as ever, which I hopes does not end too soon.

Kudos, Mr. Connelly, for another wonderful piece. You bring your stories and characters to life in these novels and I hope you have many more ideas in the near future.

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

Crossroads: A Flathead Valley Mystery, by James L. Thane

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to James L. Thane and Moonshine Cove Publishing, LLC, for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

When James L. Thane approached me with the opportunity to read his latest book, I could not resist. A long-time friend of mine on Goodreads, I wanted to explore this other side of Thane through his own writing. Dave Matthews is a lawyer in the community of Flathead Lake, close to Kalispell, Montana. He’s had some struggles and personal struggles in the past, but leaps at the chance to help when his friend, Steve Helstrom, is accused of murder. It would seem that Toby Martin and Helstrom were seen fighting outside a bar the night before. A few hours later, Martin was found bludgeoned with an axe handle, conveniently found in the back of Helstrom’s pickup truck. Sure of his friend’s innocence, Dave does all he can to probe into the case, looking for alternate motives that others might have for killing Mr. Martin. The deeper he looks, the more possibilities that Dave finds, though few want to have their lives turned upside down. As this is Montana, Martin’s connection with the forestry industry cannot be ignored, placing a handful of environmentalists on a potential suspect list. With little time to lose, Dave pushes ahead and finds himself a target of some ire, which does not seem to bother him much. As the narrative reveals throughout, Dave Matthews has his own issues that require processing and some skeletons in his closet that appear eager to resurface. This may be Montana, but things are anything but bucolic in the back woods. A wonderfully crafted legal thriller that keeps the reader hooked until the final reveal. Recommended to those who need something a little different in the legal thriller genre, as well as those who want a quick read sure to leave them wanting more.

As I mentioned above, James Thane has been on my radar for a long time, though it is usually his reviews and comments upon which I have focussed. Able to read some of his own writing, I was highly impressed with his style and delivery. Setting the story in Montana, away from the glare of the big city, Thane forces the reader to move their attention to the details and developments found within the narrative. Dave Matthews is not only a great legal investigator, but also finds himself trying to keep his own life balanced. Thane offers a great deal of backstory within this piece, sketching out his protagonist effectively. With some romantic foibles in his recent rearview mirror, he suffers also with staying one step ahead of impending intoxication, which appears to be be salve of choice for the pain. Matthews’ grit to find answers and fight for justice serves as a key theme throughout the piece and allows the reader a personal glimpse into the man’s life, while his forward development occurs in the narrative. There are many others who help make the novel a great standalone, highlighting life in Montana, something that Thane’s own background surely helped shape when he developed all his characters. The story was strong, perhaps more so because it kept things simple and away from the chaos of large law firms and police forces. Thane does well to portray a legal thriller with bare-bone basics, perhaps a more effective approach than many of the books in his genre that I have read. I applaud Thane for his writing, using short chapters to propel the story forward. If his other novels are as easy to digest, I will certainly need to find them and continue enjoying this branch-off of a popular genre.

Kudos, Mr. Thane, for this wonderful novel. It was a pleasure to read and I cannot wait to get my hands on more, while I encourage others to do the same.

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

The Guardians, by John Grisham

Eight stars

In John Grisham’s latest novel, the reader is taken back to the Deep South and into another interesting realm of the legal world; post-conviction appeals. The novel explores the particulars of death row inmates who feel that their innocence has been ignored as the system chewed them up and spat them out. Enter Guardian Ministries, headed up by Cullen Post. A former public defender, Post burnt out from the workload and became an Episcopal priest, after which he used his two vocations in tandem. Post has a bare bones staff in Savannah, Georgia, and six active files that require his help. After standing with one of his clients and being mere hours from an execution, Post is revved up to fight the good fight for any of his clients who might need him. When Quincy Miller writes to Guardian Ministries, the team cannot help but want to help. Accused of the murder of his lawyer, Keith Russo, Miller has sat in jail without a lawyer or advocate for over two decades. A black man in a small Florida community of Seabrook, Miller could not expect justice to find him. Now, with the odds stacked against him, Cullen Post will do all he can. Revisiting witnesses who may have perjured themselves and a prosecutor who sought blood, Post finds new hope for a man who had all but given up. However, there is a killer out there, someone who is surely not keen on having the truth of the Keith Russo murder uncovered. Someone who will stop at nothing to silence Quincy Miller at any cost, even if they use the State of Florida to do it for them. A thought-provoking piece that shows the power of Grisham’s abilities. Recommended to those who love Grisham’s ‘little guy’ legal thrillers, as well as the reader who seeks a well-paced novel about the law and all its flaws.

I’ve seen many people land on both sides of the fence with this one, some loving the latest Grisham thriller, while others call it cliché and blame it on the author’s writing longevity. Both have their points, but I cannot help but seeing what I did and judging it accordingly. The story may not be anything new, but the players and the details are fresh and offer up an insightful look into the legal system and how the scales are not always balanced. Cullen Post serves the role of protagonist well, though he wants no praise for his work. Rather, he seeks answers for his clients, all of whom have reached the end of their proverbial ropes. Post knows the system and how many have been left to languish in prisons until a shiny needle is inserted in their arms, but his compassionate side will not stop him working hard. Able to squeeze his way in to see people with his priestly collar, Post does all he can the entire justice sees the light of day, or at least fight until the bitter end. His backstory is clearly defined in the early chapters and his growth throughout will surely make him a character with whom the reader will have no trouble connecting, given the chance. Others make their imprint on the story and will touch the reader’s heart—should they let it out as they read—with Grisham’s great ability to personalise those who appear on the page. The story creeps along but is also tangentially exciting with all those who play a role in the various plots. The piece itself is one of hope where little exists and exoneration where the game is already determined. Grisham pushes the ‘little guy’ throughout, revealing much about the legal system that does not make the news. Things will not change because of this book, but perhaps a few readers will better understand that which is left to be forgotten and think twice about the law’s ugly underbelly. With a mix of shorter and lengthy chapters, Grisham pulls the reader in from the outset and allows them to see what innocence looks like, even if it is not glamorous.

Kudos, Mr. Grisham, for another winning piece. Some may call it repetitive, but perhaps they are the people who wish to keep their heads in the clouds, or buried deep in the sand.

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

The Shield (Blake Jordan #6), by Ken Fite

Eight stars

Adding to his high-octane series, Ken Fite delivers another winner that will keep readers enthralled as they make their way through the sixth novel. Blake Jordan is visiting the White House with his family. While they enjoy conversation and banter, an explosion rocks the East Wing, sending panic throughout the building. While Jordan is curious to find out what is going on, information is sparse, particularly since he no longer works within the intelligence community in any form. It’s soon determined that someone has accessed White House air and ground space with drones that carry some explosives. How this could have happened has Jordan and many others baffled. Called into temporary service to help stop the threat, Jordan discovers the perpetrator, but also come to realise the true mastermind is a man he knows well form his past. Meanwhile, a man with significant tech experience has been kidnapped and is forced to hack into some of America’s most powerful drones. With the terrorist group in control of the drones and weapons, it’s time to destroy parts of America unless a key demand is met in shot order. Jordan must work quickly, as there is little time to waste and for some, death is no impediment. Fast-paced and full of action, Ken Fite shows why this series is worth the reader’s time. Recommended to those who enjoy political thrillers, as well as the reader keen to find a short read that does not wane in its action.

I stumbled upon this series through Amazon and devoured the first few books in as many days. Ken Fite has an amazing way of telling a story without the need of much window dressing. He gets to the point and ramps up the action from the opening page. Working with Blake Jordan again, Fite builds on his past experience to put him where he is now and then pushes the protagonist a little more. There is mention of some backstory, but much of the book revolves around his gritty abilities as he seeks to defend the country he holds dear. Other characters, both returning and new arrivals, work well to keep the story moving at a quick pace. While there is the overdone aspect of Islamic terrorism, it is handled in a way that will not leave the reader feeling they have read it all before. The story moves quickly, much like the other books in the series, which only adds to its greatness. Binge reading this collection is not only an enjoyable experience, but also easy to accomplish. Ken Fite is emerging as a high-class author in a genre that is supersaturated already. I can only hope he has many more ideas for his fans to enjoy.

Kudos, Mr. Fite, for another winner. I keep my eyes peeled for when you are writing and am so pleased to have been able to read this so soon after publication.

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 in Waiting: Mary Tudor Takes the Throne (Tudor Series #5), by David Field

Eight stars

David Field is back with another instalment of his Tudor series, educating readers about this history of this most entertaining of monarchical dynasties. Those who have followed the series to date will know that Henry VIII is gone, forcing the offspring to assume their time on the throne. Edward has served and died young, followed by the controversial Jane Grey. Now, it is time for Mary to ascend, though things are far from smooth for her. As she seeks to return England to its Catholic roots, Mary will have to remove all the Protestant hierarchy and reestablish a connection with Rome. While these may seem pressing, she also has the concern of offspring, having no one to whom she is betrothed. While Parliament seeks a fine Englishman for her, Mary has her eyes set on international connections, seeing an option in Philip of Spain, a country still a sworn enemy to England. Mary is adamant that she knows best, forging ahead with an alliance in memory of her mother. In the shadows is the young Elizabeth, who is happy to honour her sister, but far from a sycophant. Elizabeth has her own life to live, which seems to ruffle Mary’s feathers and she is called before the queen. When Mary appears to be pregnant, the Royal Court awaits formal news of an heir and Elizabeth must accept that her position in the secession must wait. However, not everything is always as it appears and Elizabeth’s role becomes all the more important, for herself and England as a whole. A wonderful mix of English history and some fictional interpretations, Field continues to dazzle with this piece and the series as a whole. Recommended to those who love all things Tudor, as well as the reader who finds historical fiction right up their alley.

I have long enjoyed the work of David Field, reading anything of his on which I could get my hands. His work here with the Tudors is of particular interest to me, as I enjoy this time period in English history. The story seeks to tell a double narrative, with the power that Mary has acquired as she tries to reshape England in her Catholic image, while Lady Elizabeth waits her turn and forges bonds of her own around Court. Field builds up both women throughout the piece, hinting at their differences and similarities in equal measure. This time is history was surely harrowing and with powerful women at play, it is an added layer of excitement. The story takes place over a short time period, but is full of history and political intrigue, leaving the reader to find themselves in the middle of what was an important time. A quick read with easy to digest chapters, Field has shown that he is a master at historical fiction without drowning the reader in the minutiae. As the Tudor dynasty is coming to an end, Field will have to pull out all the stops in the sixth novel. I cannot wait to see how it all comes together.

Kudos, Mr. Field, for another wonderful novel. I have thoroughly enjoyed all you’ve written and cannot wait for more.

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