Glide, by Alison Jean Lester

Six stars

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

I always enjoy discovering new authors, something that comes with the territory as an active book reviewer. When asked to read the latest piece by Alison Jean Lester, I obliged, keeping an open mind and sense of curiosity. The novel explores human connection on a variety of levels, including how deep it can run, even with the impediment of memory loss. Lester leaves much for the reader to consider throughout.

Leo is excited that his wife, Liv, will soon be home from her trip to Norway and has been preparing for her arrival. It’s also Liv’s birthday, something else to celebrate. When a knock comes at the door, Leo finds himself face to face with Morten, Liv’s half-brother. Not wanting to appear rude, Lee invites Morten inside and they await Liv’s return. All the while, Leo cannot shake that he has heard nothing about Morten in all the time Liv has been in his life.

When Liv is delayed for unknown reasons, Leo and Morten get to know one another a little better and take some time to travel around New England, a day trip that proves somewhat fruitful. The days pass, and still no Liv, though she does call and leave a message that she will be home soon. Leo is still unsure what’s going on, as this does not seem to be the wife he’s known.

When Liv does arrive back in Boston, she has no memory of anything, unsure what’s happened to her. Leo takes her in for some tests and discovers that it is some form of amnesia. It could take days or weeks to rectify things, but Leo will not give up. This may explain the oddities, though Leo is determined to get all the pieces back in order as soon as possible.

Due to her memory loss, Liv knows nothing about Morten, which is to be expected. However, something seems off and Leo cannot entirely put his finger on it. During an explosive moment of memory regeneration, Liv is able to connect the dots and remembers Morten, though not as he has presented himself. It’s up to Leo to synthesise it all and determine what’s going on, as well as how best to move forward. It is only then that Leo learns the truth about Morten and how significantly this man has disturbed things.

There is no doubt that Alison Jean Lester can write, as her story flowed fairly well throughout. The premise was strong and kept me intrigued throughout. It is a well-paced story set in Boston, with strong Norwegian undertones throughout. Lester leans on this at times, keeping the reader wondering how strong the European connection will be to the overall reading experience.

Leo remains the protagonist throughout, discovering much about himself and those around him. He struggles with a past that is full of peaks and valleys, though is also trying to come to terms with much in his present life, things that he could not have expected to experience. Slowly, he comes to terms with these bumps in the road, though it is not entirely clear how well he can cope with too many unknowns floating around him.

The story moved along well, keeping the reader entertained as the narrative gained some momentum at various spots. The twists and plot reveals kept things from being too predictable, though there were no gasping moments in my opinion. With decent characters and a clearer plot line, I cannot fault Lester on her efforts. However, the entire experience came off as a little too folksy for me. Perhaps I am too used to cutting edge thrillers and mysteries that offer grit, but it lacked some chilling drama that the pretence of the story left available. Things seemed too calm and docile, particularly when the revelations that come to the surface. There was a moment in the latter portion of the book, but it, too, fizzled into a form of resolution before too long. Again, that could be on me, though I was hoping for something a little more intense and chilling, rather than gliding from one revelation to another, if you pardon the pun.

Kudos, Madam Lester, on a well-written piece. I hope others take note and enjoy the twists you embed into your writing.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

Crimson Lake Road (Desert Plains #2), by Victor Methos

Eight stars

Victor Methos is back with another explosive legal thriller that pits a sharp prosecutor against a killer whose penchant for art is likely only surpassed by the outward unlikelihood of their being capable of the crime. Methos knows how to tell a story, which is apparent yet again, keeping the reader on the edge of their seats throughout this piece, set in the heart of Nevada.

Having done all she feels is possible as a US Attorney, Jessica Yardley has decided to retire, or at least take on a new position elsewhere. However, all that is put on hold when the body of a woman is found, mutilated. The eerie nature of the scene is heightened when it’s discovered to replicate an African artist’s painting.

A month later, one of Yardley’s own friends is attacked and barely escapes alive, likely a potential victim of the same killer. As the case mounts, a suspect emerges, one Dr. Michael Zachary. Yardley agrees to prosecute the case and begins putting everything together, even though Zachary is a pillar of the community. The evidence does not lie, at least as far as Yardley’s concerned.

Pitted against a young and stellar defence attorney, Yardley will have to do everything she can to ensure a win, including consult her ex-husband, a serial killer himself, to get insight into how a murderer thinks. If this is the only way to ensure success, Yardley’s not past take that route. When the case takes a significant turn, Yardley begins to second-guess her choice to lead the prosecution, but it’s too late to bow out now.

Victor Methos is one of those authors whose books I stumbled upon quite by accident. It only took me a few chapters of the first book to realise that this was an author I could easily come to enjoy ad I have keep my eyes open for his work ever since. Methos mixes stellar narrative work building a strong crime before turning things over to the courtroom, where the real magic happens. Those who enjoy that mix of crime and legal ramification will thoroughly enjoy this piece by Victor Methos.

Jessica Yardley plays a central and intriguing role in this novel. Balancing work as a US Attorney with being the mother to a mathematical genius, Yardley’s life is never dull. Add to that, her ex-husband was convicted and is serving time for serial murder. The reader can see great character development throughout, with the odd foible here and there, as well as some backstory related to a time in life when things were simpler. Methos does well with his protagonist and keeps the reader wanting more.

The recipe for a great legal thriller is to have the reader feel the need for intervention through the commission of a crime or wrong and then taking the story through the courts to show how it can be adjudicated, not always turning out as expected. Methos does that well and keeps the reader wondering what legal twists await as the case progresses. While there appears to be a slam-dunk case here, nothing is guaranteed. The strong narrative pushes things along and thickens the plot, while the handful of key characters breathe energy into the story. Working a few subplots into the larger story, Methos keeps the reader’s mind always spinning and wonderful what awaits them. Highly entertaining, to say the least!

Kudos, Mr. Methos, for another great legal thriller. I cannot wait to see what else you have in store for fans.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

Old Blood (DI Jamie Johansson #3), by Morgan Greene

Nine stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to Morgan Greene for providing me with a copy of this novel, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Picking up immediately after the last novel came to a screeching halt, Morgan Greene provides readers with an explosive continuation to this stunning series. DI Jamie Johansson has grown so much in the past two novels (as well as her prequel trilogy) that series fans can only wonder what she will do with some of the news she garnered while almost dying in the middle of the ocean. Greene writes so fluidly that it is hard to believe that he’s not Scandinavian himself. A chilling piece series fans have come to expect!

DI Jamie Johansson has so many questions after almost dying, many of them related to a powerful and secretive organisation that may be responsible for killing her father. As Johansson prepares her next move, she must come to terms that Imperium Holdings will stop at nothing to remain in the shadows, even if that means killing those who pose a risk.

Forced to take on a new partner, DI Johansson struggles with this, as well as the apparent suicide of her superior officer, something that stinks of Imperium intervention. While she appears indifferent, Johansson wants nothing more than to race out and pull back the curtain on this group.

After losing her position within Stockholm Polis, Johansson begins her covert mission, travelling to other parts of Scandinavia. She’s immediately targeted, but it only lights a new fire under her to get answers before she can be snuffed out as well. Working an angle in Norway, Johansson pairs up with some unlikely individuals to try getting to the core of the Imperium organisation. It is only then that Jamie Johansson learns how deep and wide the group has become and what secrets they hold in their possession.

I remember stumbling upon the first novel in the prequel series, hoping that Morgan Greene would be as talented an author as some of the early hype led me to believe. I could not get enough of Jamie Johansson, who was working within the Met, and I soon became addicted to the series. When things moved to Sweden, as newly-promoted DI Jamie Johansson was seconded while she looked into her father’s apparent suicide, I became even more obsessed and Morgan Greene was one of my newest favourite authors. His writing moves from being well-crafted police procedurals to ranking right up there with some of the great Scandinavian noir authors I have had the pleasure to read. This guy is the real deal for sure!

DI Jamie Johansson has come a long way in these three books (as well as the prequel trilogy), both on a personal and professional level. Her attention to detail is matched with a grittiness that will not permit her to ignore a lead. Able to hold her own, Johansson sometimes has a difficult time following direction, but it is usually because she is determined not to let evil win again. I can only imagine where this series will take her, or what else Greene has in store for his protagonist, but I am eager to be a part of the journey.

For those who have read a number of Scandinavian noir novels, especially those that have been translated, there is a sense of fluidity to the narrative. I often comment that I am baffled that the likes of Jo Nesbø, Søren and Lotte Hammer, and Jørn Lier Horst can write so easily in another language and have their translated work come across as smoothly. Greene follows in their footsteps, without the need for a translator, telling complex stories in plot-heavy novels and keeping the reader thoroughly captivated until the final page turn. Not only is the narrative strong, but there are great characters, a strong sense of forward momentum, and powerful story arcs that do not fizzle at the end of the novel. Greene can tell a story but always leave the reader thirsty for more, something that I have found since discovering his work in October 2020. This is one author worthy of putting on your radar, if you have not already.

Kudos, Mr. Greene, for another stunning novel. It’s only been a year, but I am eager to see what the next twelve months of reading your work will do to me!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the Law, by Mary Roach

Nine stars

Any reader who stumbles upon the work of Mary Roach may begin by being baffled, but is soon enthralled to learn some of these little-known scientific discoveries or actions being taken around the world. In this latest book, Roach explores the world of animals and their ‘bothersome activities’, as well as how humans have come to react. While it may seem odd at first, once the reader gets into the book, it becomes apparent what has been going on, even if some of the human reactions are unique or downright far-fetched. Peppering the narrative with great editorialising and some humour, Roach pens another winner that will educate while entertaining the curious reader.

Murder is rampant in the animal kingdom, and not just among animals. Roach uses the first few chapters of her book to explore how animals and humans have come to collide and the results when humans straw the short straw. From bears roaming around in forests and mountain ranges in Canada to trampling elephants in rural India, animals have taken their share of victims over the last number of years. It’s such an issue that there are reactionary teams tasked with tracking down the offending animals and, at times relocating them, though capital punishment is not always off the table as well. Human-animal interactions have long occurred outside the traditional hunting mindset and the results, when humans are not properly equipped, can be downright devastating.

Roach also takes readers on an interesting exploration of how smaller animals, fowl and four-legged, have caused havoc in a variety of ways. From flying buzzards who end up in the engines of planes to small rodents who target farmers’ fields, Roach documents the ways in which animals have come to become more of a pest than their beauty offsets. While she cannot always surmise a rational reason, she shows that there are many scientists working around the world to study or offer countermeasures, some of which are truly alarming, if you pardon the pun. Part human invasion on animal terrain, part curiosity on the part of creatures, Roach has the reader chuckling as they push through these chapters with glee.

Discussion of humane ways in which humans have come to rid themselves of these pests is at the forefront of the discussion, though Roach saves it for the latter chapters. While the types of reactionary measures humans have when ‘pushing back’ against anima,s is almost inexhaustible, there has to be a degree of humanity, so as not to turn culling into torture. Roach takes the time to explore this, from use of glue traps to tasers designed to stun an animal. Technology has allowed a number of new products to flood the market, many of which take humanity into account. However, there are still those who prefer the ways of their ancestors, which may include arcane items sure to kill or mortally maim an animal and send it into agony for the hours it will take to succumb. Another perspective few take into account, but a formidable area for education.

As with many of her other books, Roach presents her findings in a serious manner, while added some frivolity to the experience. This helps offset some of the darker or more troubling sections of the narrative, as well as permitting many readers to visualise that which they have not seen before. Roach writes in such a way that the narrative becomes a well-painted picture of what she is trying to express. Organising her findings in clear chapters helps to keep the reader engaged without drowning in too many details. Still, there’s something to be said about how vast the subject matter proves to be, as Roach is able to fill her book with anecdotes and lived experiences, not simply research she culled from books over the years. With a light-hearted presentation, Roach has made yet another reading experience one that I enjoyed and left me wondering where she will take readers next. Wherever that might be, I am happy to have a front row seat!

Kudos, Madam Roach, for another stellar exploration on some of the lesser-known scientific areas of everyday life. I applaud you for your efforts and cannot recommend you enough to the curious reader.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

Mirror (Alex Madison #3), by Adam Southward

Eight stars

The work of Adam Southward is both chilling and addictive, as I have come to discover with the first two books in this series. There is more than the ‘thrill of the hunt’ found within the pages, as Southward explores things on a psychological level, educating the reader on the nuances of the human mind and how little we know about its true workings. The story is strong and pulls the reader in, while discussing some of the most horrid ways humans treat one another, using depravation and abuse to instil control. A dark, yet captivating, read for any reader willing to take the plunge.

When Eva Jansen disappears from a psychiatric ward, no one takes notice, not only because she is simply a patient, but because her records have been expunged from the system. The history of the woman is known to few, but those who notice are assured that there is something sinister going on.

A covert meeting with a nurse from the ward with forensic psychologist, Alex Madison, yields many questions and concerns. Madison wonders about what is going on within the walls of that facility, especially when he discovers one of the doctors has been overseeing the release of a number of female patients before their treatment is complete. Madison also learns that Eva possesses a unique ability to read minds, pulling thoughts to the surface that are buried deep inside.

All this pique’s Madison’s interest, as it sounds a great deal like a criminal group he’s been chasing for years, with deep pockets and connections around the globe. Madison’s worked previous cases of people with mind controlling abilities. Might Eva be in their hands, her abilities a weapon that could be more useful than a crate of guns or an unstable chemical?

A number of events lead Madison to feel he’s being watched and his family is in danger. He must get to Eva before something horrible happens, particularly as he is one of the few who is aware of what’s happened. Working with a group of police officials, they follow a lead to Spain, where Madison learns that Eva is an item in a highly secretive auction that disperses women and girls to the highest bidder around the world. It’s a race to get answers and free Eva before she disappears for good.

Adam Southward is able to pull the reader into the middle of his stories with such ease, painting a vivid picture with a simple narrative. While some may applaud this feat, it must be noted that the images conjured up from the story are rarely uplifting or positive in nature. There is a true sense of depravity throughout, but the underlying attempt to help sweeps away the utter despair that serves as a theme throughout.

Many of the characters who appear throughout are well-constructed and serve a purpose. Fans of the series will know Alex Madison well and the struggles that he has had to endure, from addiction to marital strain and trying to connect with a daughter who is able to love and despise him in equal measure. Madison’s character develops well throughout, complemented by many of those who surround him throughout the different points of the book. Eva Jansen, suffering her own horrible life, offers up some intriguing backstory and development, though some might see a degree of regression as well, particularly in the latter portion of the novel. The author does an amazing job at portraying the characters in such a way that the plot is regularly enhanced.

Southward uses some excellent scientific and psychological angles to serve as underlying themes throughout the book, some of which Alex Madison comprehends, while others are mysteries that appear in some of the darker portions of the narrative. The story flows well and moves along with ease, aided by chapters that educate the reader while propelling things in a forward direction. There is so much to take in, from the struggle Madison has with his ongoing desire to topple the criminal organisation through to the treatment of Eva and many others, leaving the reader to try to keep pace. Not your typical ‘quick read psych thriller’, but maybe that’s for the best!

Kudos, Mr. Southward, for another stellar novel. I marvel at how much I absorbed throughout this reading experience.

Be sure to check for my review, first posted on Mystery and Suspense, as well as a number of other insightful comments by other reviewers.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

The Last Days of John Lennon, by James Patterson, Casey Sherman, and Dave Wedge

Nine stars

While I have struggled with James Patterson’s writing for a number of years, there are times that he comes up with a gem, this book being one example of that. While it strays from his usual fare, Patterson has collaborated with Casey Sherman and Dave Wedge to pen a non-fiction piece about John Lennon and the Beatles. The authors pull together a succinct, yet comprehensive, history of the group, with a primary focus on Lennon, documenting his rise to fame and tragic murder in December 1980. Easy to digest and packed full of exciting details, this is a great book for those who love all things Beatles or those, such as myself, who know little but have always been curious.

The book takes readers as far back as the early days when found Liverpudlian youths were jamming around and trying to make music. It was the 1950s and society had yet to catch-up to the new craze of rock n’ roll, with many clubs and the older generation passing it off as scandalous and even devilish. The authors explore how these four boys came together to make music and solidified the new sound to appeal to the younger generation.

As the book progresses, the rise of Beatlemania takes over and many of their key moments are explored, both within the music scene and through their personal lives. The authors present a wonderful summary, getting into just enough detail to leave the reader wanting more. It is understandable how these four young men swept the world with their own style of music and how it captivated their fans in a variety of ways.

There is no shortage of post-Beatle exploration, particularly how the overpowering Yoko Ono arrived on the scene and all but led to the end of the group. However, it is not that simple, as the authors argue within the pages of this piece. The attentive reader will see the breadcrumbs and follow everything that happened to bring this about, culminating in four solo careers.

An eerie moment throughout the book are the short chapters focussed on December 1980, where Mark Chapman is plotting what he will do to John Lennon. While not entirely clear most of the time, Chapman has his reasons and impetus to target Lennon, as well as a piece of literature to fuel his fantasies. This is a great mix within the larger narrative and provides the reader a wonderful balance between what is going on and how it will all come to an end. I enjoyed the mix and its foreboding made the book even better.

While I am no music aficionado, I have often wondered about the history of the Beatles. Trying to comb through documents to see how they came to be, rose to power, and came crashing down all appealed to me, as well as some of the underlying commentary related to Mark Chapman. The narrative flow was perfect, offering just enough information to pique my interest, though not drowning the reader with dates, details, and name dropping as well. Short chapters offer that Patterson tease that fans of his work are used to seeing, pushing the larger story along. Well-rounded and full of interesting moments about which I had no idea helped keep me connected to the piece and wanting to learn more, at my own pace. I’m happy that I took the time to explore this book and everything I took away from the experience.

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson, Sherman, and Wedge. Your investigative work with this piece really caught my attention. This is a great collaborative team for non-fiction, investigative writing.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

Should We Change How We Vote?: Evaluating Canada’s Electoral System, edited by Andrew Potter, Daniel Weinstock, and Peter Loewen

Nine stars

As Canadians head to the polls to cast ballots for their federal representatives, I thought it apt to take some time and sharpen my mind with an academic discussion of voting in Canada. This book is a collaborative effort and amassed a number of short essays on voting in Canada, presented at two conferences in the fall of 2016. While the discussion is robust, the attentive reader will not find a definitive decision within, but rather the theme that many speak of electoral reform, but no one can clearly take the leap. While strong on the ‘academic flavour’ it is a good read for those with a passion for the subject.

The impetus for such a book (and the essays within) came from a 2015 campaign promise by the Liberal Party of Canada that, should they win, it would be the final election fought under Single-Member Plurality (‘first part the post’ in the vernacular). However, as soon as the party ascended to power, they completed a half-hearted effort before shelving it. While discussion surrounding electoral change is nothing new in Canada, actual serious consideration at a legislative level has been far from resonating.

The collection of essays within explore the current electoral system used in Canada, while also touching on many of the alternatives, most popularly Proportional Representation, Single Transferable Vote, and Alternate Vote. So as not to cause readers of the review to suffer severe eye glazing, I will not delve into the specifics, but I surmise that many who enjoy this type of reading will know the systems well.

Arguments surrounding the feasibility or desirability of changing from our current system are plentiful, with some academics exploring that there is more to the discussion than simple ‘fairness for all’. Constitutional discussions arise, as do those about how ‘fair’ and stable an alternative might be to creating a government that could serve effectively and keep Canada on track. While this area of Canadian politics has long been something I enjoyed, new and intriguing discussions arose, making me think again about some of my foundational thoughts about electoral reform.

The collection is a great cross-section of thoughts, ideas, and perspectives when it comes to elections in Canada and the need for reform. Nothing is entirely clear-cut, especially in a country as diverse and cleaved as Canada. While the country strives for strong, majority governments, there is something to be said for those who must rely on the support of other parties, ensuring a larger support base across the country.

At the time of posting this review, Canada awaits news of its 2021 General Election, with the likelihood of another minority Parliament. I sit here, working at one of the polling stations, where single-member plurality is being used. I will continue to follow the discussion on electoral reform at all levels of government and keenly read about many of the options and possibilities that arise. Democracy at its best when people can cast a ballot, even if some feel certain ballots offer a muted result. If you have not fallen asleep reading this yet, you likely know to what I refer.

Kudos, contributors of all stripes, for opening my eyes to all the possibilities when it comes to electoral reform in Canada. I’m sure the discussion will be long, divisive, and varied.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

The Red Book (Black Book #2), by James Patterson and David Ellis

Eight stars

I admit that I have have struggled with James Patterson’s writing for a number of years, as books appear for sale faster than anything I have ever seen. Quality suffers, but money surely flows into the Patterson bank accounts, causing those who respect a good book to feel a slight offence. Whenever Patterson works alongside David Ellis, the quality appears high and there stories rise above many of the other novels that adorn the Patterson name. This was another stunner, keeping the reader gripped until things come to an abrupt halt in the closing chapters, resonating long after putting the book aside. Ellis surely makes it clear that some Patterson collaborations are worth a second look!

Detective Billy Harney has been through a great deal over the last while and all he wants is a strong distraction. He’s pulled into the Chicago PD’s Special Operations Section (SOS), an elite group that looks to bring hope to a city that has been ravaged by crime and corruption. It’s a start, and after many of the things that Harvey has seen, it’s just what the doctor’s ordered.

After a drive-by shooting on a known drug corner leaves a woman dead, Harney is keen to use his position on the SOS to help find answers, some of which are deeply seeded in politics, something on which Chicago thrives. Harney and his family have a strong presence on the CPD and use finely-tuned instincts to work cases that do not appear as straightforward.

Harney learns that there are numerous victims lying in the morgue, all with a common tattoo. What looked like a drug-deal gone wrong now has a deeper and perhaps more sinister criminal element. All three were women, working the streets. While a pimp angle is possible, these women are foreign, leaving Harney to wonder if human trafficking might me more the crime of the day.

As Harney is keen to ask the tough questions, he turns over a few rocks that reveal more than answers. By working this case and confronting those who may be behind the killings, Harney has to face a dark secret of his own, one that could cripple him forever.

The Patterson-Ellis connection has never let me down in the past and this novel proves the chemistry between them remains strong. Well-paced writing and a sensational plot prove to me that there’s a great deal of potential when the reader invests time in this sort of novel. While I am not convinced that Patterson has changed his ways (alas, the book titles keep flooding the market), I know how to hone my searches to find golden nuggets.

Billy Harney impresses in this book and connects with the reader from the opening lines of the novel. His grit and determination emerge, assisted by a strong cast of characters begging to be noticed. While police procedurals are a dime a dozen, the authors craft a protagonist the reader wants to know better. Great backstory is balanced with some development throughout, even as Harney’s darkest secrets come out.

With so many novels on the market, set in the ‘big city’, it’s tough to make a mark on readers who seek something unique. The authors may not have something that will leave an indelible mark, but their style is sure to impress the reader who loves the genre. A strong narrative flows throughout and keeps the reader on their toes, with momentum increasing with every page turn. There’s something dark, yet hopeful, as the story progresses and I could not get enough, devouring the book as swiftly as time permitted. I’ll keep my eye on these two authors, as I have in the past for their collaborative efforts, and hope the series continues in the coming years!

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson and Ellis, for high quality and easy reading!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

The Fulcrum (Zack Wilder #0.5), by N.J. Croft

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to N.J. Croft for providing me with a copy of this novel, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

I was pleaded and excited when N.J. Croft asked me to personally read a copy of her latest publication, a novella to begin a new and exciting series. Always one to push the limits of science and add a powerful thriller to propel the story forward, Croft has again found success in this piece. When FBI Agent Zack Wilder is contacted by an old Army buddy, he’s intrigued. The man was the sole survivor of a plane crash that is not quite as it seems. Pushing a little deeper, Agent Wilder discovers that there were some experiments being undertaken by a group known as The Fulcrum, one Wilder knows all too well. After coming face to face with a woman from his past, Wilder realises that there’s more going on and no one is safe unless success is guaranteed. A chilling tale that paves the way for Croft’s new thriller series.

FBI Agent Zack Wilder wants nothing more than a decent partner and regular work. Both of those wishes are stymied when he is assigned a new partner who has targeted him for harassment and outright criticism. When Wilder receives a random call from an old friend he knew during his time in the military, it’s time for a meeting. Little does Wilder know, but it’s about to open a can of worms like no other.

Sergeant Ethan Hawkins tells the story of a mysterious plane crash that killed everyone else on board, all members of Wilder’s former military unit. While it’s being reported as an accident, Hawkins is sure there is more to the story and that it was an attempt to wipe everyone out. Wilder listens and discovers that Hawkins had been subject to debilitating headaches prior to the trip. Could there be a connection?

While trying to keep Hawkins safe, Wilder and his partner seek to put some of the pieces together. They soon encounter Layla Perrault, who is an old friend of Wilder’s and is the first to blow the lid on his ‘orphanage upbringing’. Wilder and Layla were both handed over by their parents to The Fulcrum, a group seeking to hone the intelligence of families, particularly their children. It would seem The Fulcrum has been using soldiers in some of their new technology testing, seeking to create those who have no free will and can do anything they are told.

As Wilder digs a little deeper, he discovers that it’s got something to do with controlling the brain with a tiny device. This may seem innocent enough on the surface, as the technology has been used to help others in a variety of situations, but in the hands of the wrong people and it could be deadly. Wilder must try to bring The Fulcrum down, knowing full well the power they possess and the implications of his learning too much. A wonderful way to begin a new and exciting series for N.J. Croft.

While science and scientific discovery has never been my area of greatest interest, N.J. Croft has always piqued my curiosity with the books she writes on the subject. There is much to her storytelling, which mixes scientific explanation alongside controversial uses, always sure to generate a stellar thriller. The story moved quickly and has just enough twists to keep the reader intrigued, particularly with the ending.

Agent Zack Wilder storms onto the scene effectively, offering a little backstory and some development to whet the appetite of any curious reader. He’s gritty and determined, but also hungry for answers, which propels his investigation and the story forward. Croft has left many threads dangling, which i hope will be handled as the series progresses.

Strong supporting characters offer the reader some insight into what’s going on, while also pushing a number of questions to the forefront. There’s so much to learn and so many moving pieces, Croft hints at what is to come and challenges the reader to guess at the direction things will take.

While this was only an introductory novella, there was much action throughout. The backstory is developed well and there’s much left to the imagination for the time being. The narrative moves at a quick pace and allows the reader to gather some of the basic information, while also wondering what’s to come. Short chapters keep the reader on point and forging ahead, while the twists throughout keep the story from being too linear. I found the pace just to my liking and the ending opens up many possibilities about where The Fulcrum is headed and how the series might progress, given time.

Kudos, Madam Croft, for a great start to a series. I hope you have more with these characters soon, as I am quite curious.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

Gated Prey (Eve Ronin #3), by Lee Goldberg

Eight stars

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

Having discovered the world of Lee Goldberg a few years ago, I have been pulled into the middle of this great series. The reader is sure to remain on the edge of their seat throughout. Goldberg’s television background shines through in the narrative, providing a story that would be perfect for the small screen. Eve Ronin is a detective used to fame, though she’s had to struggle with how that stardom has strained the relationships she has with colleagues. Goldberg does a masterful job in short order with a police procedural sure to tug on the heartstrings.

Eve Ronin has had a meteoric rise within the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, having made detective faster than anyone else in recent memory. This comes with some issues, as many believe that she leapfrogged over others who have been putting in time and effort. While she’s happy with her position, it is still a daily struggle to be recognised as worthy.

Ronin and her partner, Duncan Pavone, are working undercover to capture some violent home invaders in a honey trap, who have been targeting rich couples within gated communities. When the sting yields a band of bandits, things go sideways and the suspects’ bodies lay in pools of blood. Surely not what Ronin and Pavone had in mind.

While some would call this an open and shut case, Ronin is not so sure. The targets might be part of a larger crime ring and Ronin is determined to get some answers. Working inside the gated community, she stumbles upon a young woman who gives birth to a stillborn. What seems like a horrible, yet simple, situation soon gets more complicated when the M.E. makes a startling discovery.

As Ronin digs a little deeper on both cases, she cannot help but wonder if this is a trap and whether someone’s targeted her directly. She’s trying to stay focussed, but even Pavone cannot lock Ronin into being positive. Something’s got to give as Ronin tugs on numerous threads in order to get to the heart of justice.

Lee Goldberg does well with his storytelling, leaving the reader to feel as though they are part of a great television drama. Strong writing with just enough humour to keep the reader from getting too bogged down, this series is coming into its own and flows extremely well. One can hope that Goldberg will keep things moving for the foreseeable future, as there’s something special about what he’s started.

Eve Ronin continues to dazzle and show her gritty side as she progresses in the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department. Squabbles aside, her rise in the ranks has been helpful for her, as she makes a name for herself and slowly earns the respect of her superiors. Her dedication to the job is apparent and she’s surrounded with some strong supporting characters, some of whom have made appearances in the previous two books. Goldberg has a wonderful way of developing his characters so that they seem quite relatable to the reader.

In a story that seems ripped from television, Goldberg keeps the energy high throughout. A strong narrative that keeps gaining momentum throughout, Goldberg is able to spin a tale that can easily be visualized by the attentive reader. Shorter chapters push the story forward and begs the reader to ‘try just a little more’ before putting it down. This is a great series and I can only hope that Goldberg has more in store for Ronin in the coming months.

Kudos, Mr. Goldberg, as you continue to impress me with what you publish.

Be sure to check for my review, first posted on Mystery and Suspense, as well as a number of other insightful comments by other reviewers.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: