The Pretender’s Gold (Ben Hope #21), by Scott Mariani

Eight stars

A longtime fan of Scott Mariani’s work, I turned to this latest novel in the Ben Hope series, which has never let me down when it comes to excitement. With some new twists and great characters, the story gained momentum throughout and kept me hooked until the final pages. Ross Campbell came across quite the discovery one day in the Scottish Highlands, locating a large cache of gold coins dated back to the middle of the 18th century. He’s smart enough to hide them away, but not to keep his mouth shut about their existence, as he brags around town. Campbell is found days later, floating in a body of water, possibly a freak accident that did him in. His business partner, Ewan McCulloch, is left to handle everything and receives an odd call late into the night about having seen a band of men drowning Campbell. The mystery caller refuses to identify himself, though tips his hand that he is a local poacher. Ewan reaches out to his uncle, Boonzie McCulloch for some help, as he is not sure how to handle things. The elder McCulloch has some time on his hands and travels from his home in Italy to offer some assistance. Ewan stumbles upon some of the coins before his uncle arrives and tries to forewarn him with an email and an attached photo. Ewan’s attacked and put in hospital before Boonzie arrives, which only makes things all the more mysterious. When Boonzie himself fails to alert his wife, the plot thickens even more. Enter Ben Hope, who receives a frantic call from Boonzie’s wife and agrees to make a trip up to the Highlands to sort it all out. When Hope arrives, he thinks this might be a simple case of peeling a Scot away from his single malt bottle, but soon learns that there is more to the story. Working with a local police constable off the books, Hope learns that Boonzie’s disappearance and the beating that Ewan took might be tied to one another. When he sees a photo of the coin, he’s sure that it is all part of a larger and more sinister scheme. As the hunt progresses, Hope learns of a man who claims he is part of the bloodline of a Scottish monarch and wants the gold for himself, thinking that it might have been hidden away to keep it safe. In a game of cat and mouse, Hope must battle his henchmen and try to find Boonzie alive, all while trying to make sure the coins don’t fall into the wrong hands and leave him with nothing. There will be danger and Hope has everything to lose, including a dear friend and a young woman who’s come to mean a little something to him. A great addition to the Ben Hope series that proves Scott Mariani still has it. Recommended to those who like a good thriller set away from the big city, as well as those who have followed and enjoyed Ben Hope from the beginning.

I cannot remember who pointed me in the direction of these books by Scott Mariani, but once I started, I could not get enough. The stories are quite good and the series builds effectively, with strong characters and an equally captivating set of plots that are different enough so as not to appear cookie cutter. Ben Hope has long outlasted a backstory, but he continues to forge ahead and uses the past to his advantage as he finds himself in hew and exciting adventures. His determination to help others remains strong, even though it has cost him a great deal in the past. He is gritty, hard working, and never one to shy away from a fight. Mariani uses a strong cast of secondary characters in this piece, as usual, all of whom help build a stronger plot and provide the reader with something on which they can be well pleased. Offering a number of perspectives, the story is flavoured with the banter and interaction of all those who grace the pages of the book. A strong story that, admittedly, opens with a few tangential aspects, gets stronger as it finds its legs, permitting the reader to find their pace and enjoy it from there. Mariani jam-packs a great deal of history and information into his piece, but the reader is never left scrambling, as it almost seems natural in how it is delivered. With a mix of chapter lengths, the reader is lulled into a sense of comfort, then dropped a cliffhanger and they push onwards in hopes of learning more, only to find themselves lost in the strong narrative and superior storytelling. That this is the 21st novel in the series does not faze me, as I have come to enjoy them all!

Kudos, Mr. Mariani, for another winner. I am eager to see where you will take the series next, as it seems you are never out of ideas.

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

Fifty-Fifty (Eddie Flynn #5), by Steve Cavanagh

Eight stars

Continuing with Steve Cavanagh’s great legal thriller series, I was pulled into this one from the opening pages. I tried to crack the case quickly, but only found myself more confused (in a good way) as things progressed. When two calls come in to 911 dispatch, they tell of a horrible attack on Frank Avellino, former mayor of New York City. The calls are placed by his daughters, Alexandra and Sofia, each pointing the finger at the other for the attack and sure that their sister is out of control. When police arrive, they take both girls into custody and arrest them for what turns out to be a murder. In a lottery system of sorts, lawyers flock to sign up the Avellino sisters, including Eddie Flynn. He’s able to sign Sofia Avellino, the quieter and more troubled sister, whose self-harm may be an impediment to her mental stability. With a DA salivating to nail at least one of the sisters, an offer is made to both in hopes that one will flip. The law firm representing Alexandra tries to rush the offer, which does not sit well with junior associate Kate Brooks, who also cannot stand the sexual harassment that she’s suffered by one of the named partners. In a bold move, Kate goes out on her own and convinces Alexandra to sign with her, sure that they can win the case by targeting Sofia as the weak link. While Flynn wants to destroy the DA’s case, he must keep the Alexandra attack at bay, worried that his own client will crumple under pressure. With a biased judge trying to work against him, Flynn will have to pull out all the stops to keep Sofia from facing the ultimate punishment, while trying to get to the bottom of what really happened that night at the Avellino mansion. With great plots and a handful of exciting characters, Cavanagh has penned what may be his best novel in the series to date. Recommended to those who love a good legal thriller, as well as the reader who has come to enjoy Eddie Flynn in all his glory.

Having binge reading the previous novels in this series a while back, I was forced to wait for the release of this novel. The wait was definitely worth it, as Steve Cavanagh does not hold back with the intensity and the legal maneuvering throughout. His focus on Eddie Flynn again is ideal, though there is little time or effort put into the backstory, but rather the ever-evolving legal career of a man who was once a great con artist with ties to organised crime. Flynn uses his strong legal mind the move through the minefield that is this case, where two sisters are pointing the finger at one another, with his own client the weaker of the two. Flynn’s gut says that she is telling the truth, though there is always the veil of mystery that keeps things from being too clear-cut. With a handful of strong supporting characters, Flynn pushes through to seek justice and the truth, not always the same thing. Cavanagh injects a number of strong characters on all sides of the story to keep things interesting and leaves the reader wondering what to expect. Included in this is a ‘she’ character, presumably one of the sisters and the actual murderer, as a perspective and storyline all her own evolves throughout the book, leaving the reader to wonder if it could be Alexandra or Sofia. In a story built on the she said/she said narrative, Cavanagh keeps the reader wondering throughout as to which sister is telling the truth and who might be lying. There are clues on both sides, but only one can be guilty, or so it would seem. With great build-up and a stellar court proceeding, the narrative catapults the reader into the middle of the action and will not let go. Chapters of varying lengths keep the reader hooked, particularly when ‘She’ is interspersed throughout, and the culmination will be a reveal the reader has sought from the opening pages. Likely the best of the series I have read, I can only hope that there are more to come soon, as Cavanagh has the gift for writing in this genre.

Kudos, Mr. Cavanagh, for another winner. I will have to read your standalone piece to keep myself busy as i wait for another Eddie Flynn novel.

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

The Summer House, by James Patterson and Brendan DuBois

Eight stars

Renewing their collaborative efforts, James Patterson and Brendan DuBois present readers with an intense and thrilling read in this new standalone novel. Working a military investigation angle, the authors do more than pump up the US Military, able to spin a mystery like few others I have read of late. In a small Georgia community lies a large house, referred to by locals as the Summer House. However, after seven civilians, including one child, are slain there, the moniker Murder House seems a better fit. Under 48 hours after the bodies are discovered, four Army Rangers are arrested and taken into custody. Enter the Army Criminal Investigation Division (CID) and Major Jeremiah Cook. When Cook’s team is summoned from Virginia, they are tasked with going down to ensure that the Rangers receive the justice they deserve, as well as discover the culpability that may be involved. When Cook and his team arrive, they receive cold shoulders from the local sheriff and police force, as well as the local military personnel. It would seem that the case is fairly straightforward and any more people snooping around is an insult to all involved. However, Cook has his Army psychiatrist attempt to interview the Rangers to get a better idea of what happened, coming up short as they shut down. Soon, one of the Rangers takes drastic measures so as not to share anything. The local D.A. is happy to move forward, hoping for some capital crimes to boost his notoriety. While Cook feels that things are moving along, he cannot help but wonder if he is missing something, as though there is more to the story that no one wants to share. When his commanding officer is temporarily replaced, Cook is told the team is being sent home and their report will be buried. Could there be a cover-up involved to ensure no truths see the light of day? Working on a hunch and without permission of his superiors, Cook sneaks off to the other side of the world to get some answers, hoping his hunch is more than a gut feeling. As the list of witnesses diminish and increased violence leads some of posit that someone’s trying to erase the truth, the CID team must act fast to get some answers for themselves and the locals. A thrilling ride that leaves the reader in the middle of an intense read throughout. Patterson and DuBois have outdone themselves with this piece. Recommended to those who love investigative novels with a military twist, as well as the reader who enjoys some of Patterson’s better collaborative efforts.

I know I tend to whinge when it comes to James Patterson and his numerous publications, but I have a standard that I prefer not be violated in order to sell fluff novels. Patterson has been able to find some quality collaborators over the years and this is one instance in which the novel lived up to the hype. Brendan DuBois injects a great sense of plot and development here and I applaud him for that. The entire CID team can be considered the protagonists of the piece, offering their unique characteristics and perspectives to solving the case at hand. All of them chip in to bring their expertise to the table and much is revealed throughout. Backstories and some evolution in the characters occur throughout, allowing the reader a sense of connection to each of them in their own way. Some of the secondary characters do the same, spinning subplots that keep the story moving ahead and flavouring the narrative so as not to lose any of the momentum. The story itself was unique in a way, as it sought not only to solve a basic crime, but to dig a little deeper and force the reader to think. With a strong narrative that takes on a variety of perspectives, the reader can feel entirely surrounded by the action and in the middle of the developments. Able to effectively break Patterson’s trademark short chapter style without sacrificing fast-pace action, the story clips along and the reader begs to know more before the end. I was pleasantly surprised by this book and the collaborative effort that went into its creation. While I suspect it will be a standalone, I would not mind more in a series, as long as Patterson does not sacrifice quality for quantity, as seems to be his downfall of late.

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson and DuBois, for a great novel that came out of nowhere. I am hope others who are on the fence about Patterson give this one a try and see what a good collaborator can do for a novel.

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

House Privilege (Joe DeMarco #14), by Mike Lawson

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Mike Lawson, and Grove Atlantic for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

A great fan of Mike Lawson’s work, I could not wait to get into this book, which features the great protagonist, Joe DeMarco. After slipping out of some troubling legal issues, Joe DeMarco is ready to work again. That being said, he’s not sure if he still has a job, as Speaker of the US House of Representatives, John Mahoney, has asked that he keep his distance during the congressional elections. After Mahoney wins his Boston seat again, DeMarco is brought back into the fold, the fact that he was revealed as a ‘bagman’ of no interest to Mahoney. DeMarco is given a very delicate task by his boss, serve as a proxy guardian to Cassie Russell, the goddaughter to Mahoney, at least until Mrs. Mahoney can return from a trip. Cassie’s parents were killed in a plane crash and the teenage girl is now the recipient to a sizeable, multi-billion dollar trust. Mahoney wants DeMarco to keep an eye on her and ensure everything is running smoothly with the trust for a couple of days. DeMarco begins his inquiries, only to get an odd feeling about the Russell lawyer and trust overseer, Erin Kelly. It would seem that Kelly feels she has control of it all and needs no assistance from DeMarco. After speaking to Cassie and the hired help, DeMarco is pushed in the direction that Kelly may not be all that she seems, which is only further solidified when an accountant who was performing an audit turns up dead in a convenience store shooting. Kelly is the niece of Boston mob boss, Mike Kelly, a man with few scruples when it comes to how he runs his business. When DeMarco feels that Erin may have been responsible for the plane crash, he takes his investigation into high gear and pushes some buttons to get a reaction. Meanwhile, Erin Kelly has turned to her uncle to kill Cassie and DeMarco, as they seem to be onto something they should not know. What follows is a game of cat and mouse that will see DeMarco up against ruthless killers and a woman whose greed for money trumps any sensible bone in her body. Lawson does well painting a vivid picture with this novel, sure to impress series fans. Recommended to those who love a good crime thriller, as well as the reader who has followed the progress of Joe DeMarco and Mike Lawson from the early days.

There’s nothing like a little Boston politicking mixed with the flavour of some mob justice to turn a book into something the reader is not able to put down. Lawson has done well with this, his fourteenth novel in the series. Joe DeMarco is still the gritty character he’s always been, with some wonderful pizzazz and a down to earth nature. He cannot hide from the past his father brought to Boston, but DeMarco is not one to sit idly by and let that shape him. Working with John Mahoney is never dull and this case is another example of that. The reader is able to see a softer and more parental side to Joe DeMarco, though no one can expect things to fall into place immediately. Others within the book find a way to make a mark and resonate throughout the narrative. This may not have all the grit one expects in a Lawson thriller, but there are certainly some brilliant parts and the characters surely shape that throughout. The story was strong and worked well throughout the different settings and situations that occur. The story never loses the momentum it has, while the criminal element keeps the reader guessing what will come next. Likely one of the best DeMarco thrillers I have read to date, the novel kept me intrigued until the final page turn.

Kudos, Mr. Lawson, for a great addition to the series I cannot wait to see what else you have in store for DeMarco.

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

The Curator (Washington Poe #3), by M.W. Craven

Eight stars

After a decent wait, M.W. Craven is back with his sensational Washington Poe series and a mystery that will leave chills up the reader’s spine. It’s Christmas and everyone seems to be in a giving mood, though some are doing more than others. At three separate gatherings over the holidays, severed fingers are found with no trace of their owners. Enter DS Washington Poe of the National Crime Agency and his expertise in serial crimes. Alongside his civilian partner, Matilda ‘Tilly’ Bradshaw, they liaise with the Cumbrian authorities to determine what’s been going on. After a slow process, the fingers are identified, though the people to whom they belong are found murdered. Poe and Bradshaw work to find ties between the victims, but come up short. However, one of the clues leads to a man who breaks down soon after being taken in for questioning. He has been participating in a Black Swan Challenge, an activity run on the dark web by a secret administrator, where challengers are given daily tasks with increased risk to themselves and others. These victims could be tools of a larger and more ominous game, with an administrator who remains highly elusive. When Poe receives a call from an ostracised federal agent in the United States, he learns of The Curator, a mysterious entity who is able to convince victims to rise up and take back control by exacting murderous revenge on those who wronged them. Scoffed at even by those in Cumbria, Poe cannot take The Curator seriously. It is at this point that a similarity between the three victims falls into place and Poe must wonder if he should have accepted the aid given to him with open arms. Might The Curator be running a puppet show of sorts, using a scorned individual to exact a violent act to balance the scales? Poe and Bradshaw work with the locals to hone in on any other victims, as well as who could be a killer in waiting. It will take patience and perseverance, something that Poe usually has in spades. A wonderful instalment in the Washington Poe series that will keep readers devouring this book in short order. Recommended for those who enjoy a chilling thriller, as well as the reader who has come to love all things Washington Poe.

I arrived a little late for the Washington Poe game, but caught up quickly and found that M.W. Craven writes just the sort of book I love when I want some dark thriller writing. Mixing some psychological mind games with a dash of humour, Craven knows how to pen a sensational novel that will keep people talking. Washington Poe is back, fresh from two of his most exhilarating cases, and ready to tackle another. His work is paced and his attention to detail makes sure he rarely misses anything. Balancing his police work with the ever-looming news about his past, Poe is able to keep himself busy, even when he is not actively processing case details. Poe’s characteristics are balanced by Tilly Bradshaw, whose personality is textbook literal, which makes their interactions all the most interesting. Bradshaw is work and only work, though her inability to understand nuance and sarcasm makes for some wonderfully lighter moments in the middle of the case. Tech savvy and always ready with a theory, Bradshaw is the perfect yin to Poe’s yang. A handful of others keep the reader on their toes as they meander through the case, adding flavour to an already rich narrative. The story, like the previous two novels, is top notch and keeps the reader wanting to know more. Mixing great banter with a narrative that pushes along, Craven has created a story that readers will want to keep reading. This is aided by short chapters that lure the reader to ‘read just a few more’ until the experience is one that cannot be stopped until all is known. Craven’s passion for writing appears on every page and this is another one of those crime thrillers that many will be talking about well after they finish the novel, as they pine for the next book and what Poe will discover then!

Kudos, Mr. Craven, for a great addition to the series. You won me over and I hope others will find their way to your Washington Poe (and other) series in the months 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

Relative Silence, by Carrie Stuart Parks

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Carrie Stuart Parks, and Thomas Nelson for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Always a fan of Carrie Stuart Parks, I was eager to get my hands on this novel. Drawing on some of her past life experiences (no pun intended), Parks brings the story to life in this mystery that evolves throughout the reading experience. Piper Boone has suffered a number of traumatising experiences in her life, including the loss of her daughter fifteen years ago. However, on her more recent radar is being involved in a shooting rampage with the gunman seems to have been approaching her. It was only the quick actions of a mystery man—eventually identified as Tucker Landry—that saved Piper from likely death. While she works with the locals on Curlew Island in South Carolina, Piper tries to track her protector down and offer some thanks. She also finds herself wrapped up in a mystery when her island neighbour appears to have gone missing without a trace. The Boone family have all come to the island for the annual shareholders meeting, which brings up some old wounds or at least ones that Piper has not addressed for some time. After meeting and befriending Tucker, Piper works with him to create a composite sketch of the shooter, which helps the police hone in on the man responsible. With secrets coming to light, Piper and Tucker begin to wonder if the whispers of a family curse could be somewhat valid and work to discover if there is anything to substantiate. While she has been sitting on much for a while, Piper finds the courage to address the loss of her daughter and seeks answers that have, until now, been dismissed as part of a horrible afternoon fifteen years ago. Slowly, things come together and Piper realises that the Boone family has more in their closets than well-pressed clothes. Someone has been trying to divert attention away from the truth and it might be Tucker’s insistence to turn over every rock that finally brings some answers, as painful as they could be. A strong piece that reminds me of some earlier work of Parks’ I read, this is one that will have readers talking for a while. Recommended to those who love a good family mystery, as well as the reader who enjoys novels where secrets prove to reveal much about the foundation of truth.

I remember stumbling upon the work of Carrie Stuart Parks because of her unique use of a forensic artist as protagonist, which opened things up and created a story I could not resist. While she has strayed from that—sometimes more effectively than others—this novel breathes new life into her work and left me quite pleased. Piper Boone may be meandering through life after the loss of her daughter, but she is by no means giving up. Her determination has left her eager to seek answers, even if it means stepping away from the protective canopy that her well-to-do Southern family has erected. She feels many emotions and puts herself out there, seeking basic answers and refuses to cower away as life passes her by. Parks uses her effectively to convey this and many other emotions throughout the piece. Resurrecting her forensic artist character in Tucker Landry, Parks brings back some new and exciting life to the story, as he, too, has a past that is not entirely filled with sunshine and lollipops. Tucker works through his own past and seeks to help others, including crack the mysteries surrounding the Boone family wide open, even when others would prefer they stay buried. The use of a handful of secondary characters permits Parks to develop a strong story with a few key plot lines that keep things exciting for the reader. The story flows well and keeps its momentum throughout, adding plot twists throughout to keep things from being too predictable. With a mix of chapter lengths, the reader finds themselves pulled into the middle of this South Carolina mystery and wanting more throughout. While this may be a standalone novel, I can see the potential for Tucker and Piper to return again, in some form or the other. Either way, this is one of the stronger novels that Parks has written and I hope others find things within that help them to see the same!

Kudos, Madam Parks, for a great piece that kept me guessing throughout. Your fans will surely appreciate this piece, as we wait to see what else you have in store in the next year or two!

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

Power Play (Killer Intent #3), by Tony Kent

Eight stars

Keeping the fast pace of his previous two novels, Tony Kent delivers this explosive thriller that straddles both sides of the Atlantic. When Pan-Atlantic Flight 16 explodes on its way from London to New York, all passengers and crew are killed, including a charismatic candidate for President of the United States. Soon thereafter, Nizar Mansour turns himself in, admitting that he planted the bomb in his role as a luggage handler. With a suspect in custody, the British prepare to get the entire story and share it with their American counterparts. In New York, Joe Dempsey has accepted a new investigative role with the International Security Bureau, overseen by the UN Security Council. When Dempsey is asked to discreetly investigate the terror plot, he is pointed in the direction of the White House, where some believe President John Knowles might have had a hand in ensuring his opponent could never challenge him at the polls. When Dempsey begins to poke around, he learns that his questions are not only met with a stone wall, but that he has made no friends. Back in London, Michael Devlin has been asked to serve on the defence team for Nizar Mansour, where they uncover that there was a quick confession as soon as the US Secret Service showed up, only adding to the theory that the highest levels of the US Government might be involved. With his tenacity, Devlin pushes and soon finds himself in the crosshairs alongside Dempsey, where their silence is the only thing sure to keep the plot under wraps. When Dempsey and a Secret Service agent begin working together to peel back the layers on the plot, they discover that things run deep and could be tied to a time when John Knowles was a Marine, working on a mission in Afghanistan. Trying to stay one step ahead of those sent to kill them, they travel to the desert land and seek answers that could be at the root of the plot to see a presidential candidate killed and a country held hostage by its own leader. A brilliant book that touches on the politics and legal aspects of terror and the battle to combat it. Kent has outdone himself with this piece and is sure to impress his followers. Recommended to those who enjoy something with a little grit, as well as the reader who has come to enjoy Tony Kent’s style and delivery.

It is hard to believe that it was only a week ago that I began this series, which has pulled me in from the outset. Working on a simple premise and delving deeper with each novel, Tony Kent has done well to develop his characters and plots with some fabulous writing, as well as powerful themes based on politics and the British legal system. Joe Dempsey is back in the protagonist’s chair, working his magic at cracking a terror plot wide open, not caring where it takes him or who falls to the wayside during the investigation. Kent has honed his skills since his appearance in the debut novel, adding new and exciting aspects to the man’s personality and character, which helps him become even more exciting for the reader. Michael Devlin is still a strong player in this piece, though his star shines with a little less lustre, which does not indicate that he is without any development. He and Sarah Truman are still a force in this book and show it both in their professional lives as well as some of the personal news that comes to pass for them. Many of the other characters do well to keep the story sharp and keenly interesting to the curious reader, who has little about which to worry when it comes to entertainment value. Kent shapes his story with strong characters whose uniqueness flavour the narrative at every turn. The plot of this piece may not be entirely unique, but Kent presents it in such a way that the reader cannot help but connect with the story and want to know every detail. I was fascinated to see how things would progress and what twists would arise as the plot thickens. I am a fan and have made sure to keep Tony Kent on my radar, hoping others will read this series and do the same.

Kudos, Mr. Kent, for a great addition to the series, which never left me waning for a moment.

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

Interviewing the Dead (Carlyle and West #1), by David Field

Eight stars

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

Never one to pass up the opportunity to read anything by David Field, I rushed to get hold of the debut novel in this new Victorian crime series. With a wonderful premise and keen attention to detail, Field keeps the reader’s attention throughout this fast-paced novel. It’s the late Victorian Era and Jack the Ripper is simply a passing memory for the people of London’s East Side. However, after some bones are unearthed during the construction of an underground station, problems arise. A woman arrives on a country-wide junket to tell fortunes and send messages from the dead to the local population, including that two centuries before this very ground was the dumpling place during a plague outbreak, including those that were unearthed. This means that there are many unsettled souls angered at being disturbed and they have turned their ire on the locals. Soon thereafter, people begin to die unexpectedly and some are seen to act in very suspicious ways,. The people turn to their local Wesleyan street preacher, Matthew West, but he has no idea what’s going on. He, in turn, seeks the medical advice of Dr. James Carlyle, a surgeon at the local London Hospital. While both men come from completely different perspectives on the subject of spirits, they are united in wanting to find out what’s causing all these deaths. Investigating as best they can, West and Carlyle must seek the assistance of a detective, who serves to fill in some of the gaps. When West finds himself on the wrong side of a murder charge after being attacked outside, Carlyle makes a discovery that could help to explain what’s going on. Someone’s been spiking the beer with a potent drug, one not usually found in the region. It’s up to West and Carlyle to find out who and why before the death toll mounts and talk of the dead haunting the streets of London gets any more out of hand. Well-paced and the perfect book to pull the reader in for a day of reading, David Field shows that he is not one to run out of ideas. Recommended for those who love a good Victorian mystery, as well as the reader who has come to enjoy the work of David Field.

Having cut my teeth on Field’s first Victorian mystery series, I was pleased to see him come back to this era, which gives him the chance to delve deeper into the history, medical advancements, and sociology-economic situation of the time. He paves the way for what is sure to be an exciting series with two strong protagonists. Matthew West is a young man who serves no specific flock as he counsels the homeless and those he encounters on his walks through London’s East Side. Still new to the profession, the reader can see the cracks in his character as he tries to be upstanding without yet being able to ignore some of the baser urges that are tossed before him. He seeks to help, but is still largely naive when it comes to matters of deeper thinking. This contrasts nicely with Dr. James Carlyle, whose medical knowledge and life experience make him the more grounded of the two. Carlyle educates West (and the reader) to some of the medical and psychological know-how as it relates to neuroses and poisoning. He reveals some interesting facts about the case, while also trying to parent his daughter, who seeks to stir up the pot with her women’s rights movement, a great sub-plot. Other characters work well within the confines of the piece, offering a great deal of flavouring to an exciting story. Built on a wonderful premise, Field pulls on some of the sentiments around spirits from the day, as well as the rise in mediums who seek to communicate between the two worlds. With a mixture of chapter lengths, Field pulls the reader in before offering them longer explanations to give the book some depth. The narrative flows really well and is peppered with great cockney slang to add a layer of realism to the banter between characters. I cannot wait to see what else the West-Carlyle duo undertake in upcoming pieces, hoping that Field has many ideas to share with his fan base.

Kudos, Mr. Field, for another winner. I am pleased to see us back in Victorian times, where my appreciation for your writing began. Perhaps the attentive reader may see some crossover mentions from the other series?

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

Marked for Death (Killer Intent #2), by Tony Kent

Eight stars

After thoroughly enjoying the first novel in this series by Tony Kent, I turned to the second, which did not disappoint. Kent pulls some of his key players back into the mix, spinning a new and complex story that will keep readers wondering as they make their way through the journey. The body of Phillip Longman is gruesomely discovered in his home, crucified against a wall. The former Lord Chief Justice has surely crossed paths with many a criminal element during his time on the bench, but it is up to DCI Joelle Levy and her team within the London Met to sift through all the possibilities. Levy has quite the past, having served within Israel’s security services. Her grit and determination will make the work pay off, though some leads tend to lead down rabbit holes, baffling many along the way. Recently appointed QC barrister Michael Devlin is still trying to understand why this honour has been bestowed upon him, fighting with his confidence. Devlin works as defence counsel and has made it his goal to help defend his client, even if the man refuses to cooperate in his own defence. Devlin begins to see that there may be some other factors at play, ones that will disrupt the flow of justice and send an innocent man to jail. While Devlin shares this with his fiancée, Sarah Truman, she is trying to report on the ongoing Longman investigation. Devlin and Truman discuss some of the cases that the Lord Chief Justice must have seen during his rise to power, but also some demons that might be lurking in a key case Devlin remembers from years ago. When a key suspect is found, all the pieces begin to fall into place, though it will take more than a few coppers and Levy’s determination to capture the man who seeks retribution for what was done to him. Chilling in its delivery and yet so well paced that the reader will feel fully ensconced in the action, Tony Kent has done a brilliant job here with this piece. Recommended to those who love slowly evolving police procedurals, as well as the reader who has a penchant for British legal dramas.

I believe that it was a recommendation of a friend that I try this series that brought me to discover Tony Kent. While his writing can be a tad intense and heavy, the stories prove to be some of the best that I have read in a long time. Kent uses a mix of characters and great plots to keep the reader wondering through the maze that this novel offers. Michael Devlin and Sarah Truman return for another exciting adventure, though they are now firmly affixed together, romantically and somewhat on a professional level. The reader who has read the opening novel will see some great progress in their relationship as well as the depth that the characters offer. Adding the likes of Joelle Levy to the mix creates a new character on which the reader can hone their interest. Levy’s backstory is interesting and adds some great flavour to this novel, which is already brimming with exciting twists. The handful of secondary characters proves useful to push the plot forward and flavour the narrative effectively, keeping the reader focussed on everything that is going on. The story was quite strong and kept my attention throughout. Twists and turns left me wondering where Kent was seeking to direct the reader, though the depth of writing made the novel’s length quite justified. There is a mix of long and shorter chapters, keeping the reader on their toes throughout the experience. The writing is such that the book does not take as long as it would seem, showing that Kent can push the narrative forward without issue and has left me wanting more, as I read for the third novel in this series. I cannot wait to see what’s to come, as Kent has yet to disappoint.

Kudos, Mr. Kent, for a great continuation to the series. I am eager to see what’s next, as I pull the next book out to devour soon.

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

The Dime Box, by Karen Grose

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to Reedsy Discovery and Karen Grose. for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Interested in some Canadian crime fiction, I thought that I would tackle Karen Grose’s book to see if it held up to all the hype. Greta Giffen is all of nineteen years of age and already an orphan. When she is seen rushing out of her father’s palliative care room, the nurses know something is up. Ian Giffen is dead in his bed and the authorities can only wonder if and how Greta might be responsible. While being interviewed, Greta takes the detective (and reader) back through her life, one in which she was forced to live under the controlling thumb of Ian Giffen. She reveals much about her home life, something she tried to get away from at every turn. As the story progresses, the reader learns more about the hardships that befell a young Greta and how she coped, with a small dime box as her most trusted companion. When the investigation heats up and Greta seems certain to be guilty, she adds new layers to her story in order to explain things away. However, there is no disputing that Ian Giffen is dead and that she was the last person to see him alive. Where the investigation will end up is anyone’s guess, though the reader will have to travel this long and twisted route to get to the truth. A well-paced debut novel by Karen Grose, sure to pique the interest of the curious reader. Recommended to those who enjoy novels with flashback/forward narratives, as well as the reader who likes to read books set in rural Canada.

I love books set in Canada, particularly when I can somewhat relate to their setting. There is so much to take away from them, rather than flipping through yet another book situated on the gritty streets of America or even into Europe. Grose does well in her development of the setting, but it is the evolution of Greta Giffen that steals the show. Nineteen going on fifty, or so it seems, Greta has much to tell the reader in this ever-revealing story that tells a story in quite the jagged fashion. The reader learns much about the life of this young woman, from foibles to heroic struggles to define herself and find out the truth that might set her free. Other characters throughout offer a wonderful dose of grit and determination, leaving the reader wondering what awaits them in the next chapter or two. The story was decent and told in a unique way. While I love the flashback/forward used in the book, at times I thought it got to be too much; the lines of the narrative too fluid for me to truly grasp where things were headed. Grose has developed this thriller effectively, but I had wished for a little more grounding. The short chapters and numerous cliffhangers kept me wanting to read on (which I did) to learn just what Greta had been doing and how things fell into place. Well-written and easy to read, I will keep my eyes open for more by Karen Grose in the coming years!

Kudos, Madam Grose, for a nice debut that kept me thinking. I hope others trip upon this piece and offer similar praise.

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