Legion (Exorcist #2), by William Peter Blatty

Six stars

After having read William Peter Blatty’s iconic work, I was eager to see how this would compare. Labelled “the sequel to The Exorcist”, the book had me quite excited, hoping for something as stellar as that chilling tale that still resonates with me. However, with some similar characters and a loose plot line that extends past the original novel, there was little else that drew me to the piece. Perhaps this was an attempt to extend the horrors, but it went on some painful tangents that left me wondering why I took the time with this piece. Disappointed, but I suppose I can say I’ve read it.

Lieutenant William Kinderman is still working in DC, having spent years trying to come to terms with what happened back in 1971. He’s sent to a few new homicides that are grotesque and haunting in equal measure: a boy who is left crucified, priests murdered in horrible ways, and a nurse who has been slaughtered. They all bear a zodiac sign, a common marking by the Gemini Killer. Kinderman is ready to tackle whatever’s put before him, though he cannot shake the sense that it is nothing good.

Kinderman cannot believe what he’s seeing, as the Gemini Killer has been dead for 12 years. Can this be a copycat out there to keep the killings alive? Kinderman tries to come to terms with it all, working alongside a medical professional, and remembering some of the odd happenings in 1971, around the time Gemini stopped killing. What he comes to discover will haunt him even more, crossing the lines between living and dead in ways never thought possible.

I fully believe that some authors have the gift of being able to pen a novel and continue with that momentum for years to come, either adding to the series or branching out to explore new ideas. While I have only read two of William Peter Blatty’s novels, I am not sure if adding to The Exorcist series was the best idea, much like many of the film additions have been less than successful. Some things are best left to fester in the mind, without adding new layers.

The Kinderman character was odd from the outset and did not get much better as the novel progressed. I found him to be eager to talk in tangents and kept me scratching my head as to why I would care about what he said. His sleuthing skills may be quite effective, but he’s got little substance to really pull the reader in. Both his private and public lives seemed beige to me, even though he talked a big game. Perhaps I wanted something a tad more electrifying in a protagonist. Then again, I was surely playing a comparison game with the series debut and all that could be found within.

It is surely quite difficult to write a sequel to an explosive novel, even if there are some lingering questions. Blatty certainly has some interesting thoughts to share, but I don’t think I connected well with them. Even having read The Exorcist right before, this story did not flow well for me, nor did I find it an enjoyable experience. While there was a great deal of information and I could see the ‘continuation’ of sorts, I was not drawn in by either the writing or premise. The story did seem to make decent progress, even if I did not find myself enjoying much of the plot. There were many tangents that just left me wondering how they fit together, as though Blatty wanted to impress the reader with a bunch of random factoids. There was a loose ‘fear factor’, but I would not call it anything close to the chills found in the series debut. I’ll leave it to others to expound on the book. It was a pass for me.

Kudos, Mr. Blatty, for trying to keep the chills alive. It was tepid for me and I will stick to the original for my exorcism needs.

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

The Exorcist, by William Peter Blatty

Nine stars

A great re-read for this time of year. Here is my original review for your perusal.

WIlliam Peter Blatty’s groundbreaking novel caused many waves at the time of its publication, though it is thought that the accompanying movie might have been even more controversial. I chose to embark on this journey, more out of curiosity than anything else. Knowing the premise, I thought I would indulge before the season of ghouls and other spine-tingling things is fully upon us. Chris MacNeil is a screen actress and lives in Georgetown with her daughter, Regan. Quite the typical twelve, Regan enjoys some independence, but is happy to engage with her mother on a regular basis. When Regan begins to exhibit strange behaviours, Chris cannot help but seek out some medical advice, none of which yields firm answers. When the oddities begin to manifest themselves into verbal and physical attacks on others, Chris is left to grasp at straws and is pushed in the direction of a psychiatrist. The name she is given, interestingly enough, is Father Damien Karras. A Jesuit, Karras works in the parish just on the other side of the MacNeil home. When Karras agrees to come visit Regan, he is fearful, yet baffled as well, though will not jump to the idea of possession, even as Chris pushes for an exorcism. With no religious ties, the MacNeils seem highly unlikely to have a demon in their lives, but nothing else seems plausible. Karras takes an academic approach to the situation and, after numerous encounters with Regan and her alternate personality, he wonders if there might be something to this talk of demonic possession. Regan appears to have all the signs and exhibits numerous tendencies that Karras has found in scholarly articles over the centuries. With a desecration in the local parish church and the gruesome death of Chris’ friend, a local homicide detective is poking around, engaging with Karras at every turn, though no one freely shares the goings-on in the MacNeil home, which might explain at least part of these occurrences. After making his argument to the Church about the needs for some form of Catholic intervention, Karras proceeds to arm himself to enter Regan’s domain, ready to do battle with whatever is inside her. It is then that things take a turn for the worse and Karras’ entire being is tested. Blatty penned this sensational piece that, even close to a half-century later, will still send chills chills up the reader’s spine. Highly recommended for those who love a great thrill ride and can stomach some graphic descriptions and language.

In one of my previous reading challenges, I pushed members to compare a book to its screen adaptation, hoping to see the parallels and great differences. Having recently indulged in the cinematic production of this book, it is difficult for me to divorce the two, as they complement one another so well. I thoroughly enjoy watching this movie and have done so on multiple occasions. While it was produced in 1973 and some of the technology is understandably outdated, it packs a punch and was surely quite thrilling at the time. Damien Karras is a central character in the book and his presence is felt throughout, both through his personal struggles with his faith and the dedication he had when thrust into the middle of the demonic possession of a young girl. Karras begins as a distant figure, who struggles to come to terms with his mother’s illness and, upon her death, seeks to leave the umbrella of the Catholic Church. However, his character grows as he becomes a well-grounded scholar and seeks to understand what is going on with Regan MacNeil and her obvious struggles with mental stability. Chris MacNeil is also a key member of the story and her struggle to understand her daughter proves to be an ongoing theme the reader will discover. The angst and utter helplessness is something that any parent would struggle to accept, forcing Chris to turn to the experts, none of whom have the answers she wants. One cannot review this book effectively without mentioning Regan and the demon that appears to be embedded within her, as it is this that proves to offer the ultimate spine tingling. The struggles the young girl has and the demon displays push the book out of the realm of simple defiance and into an area not seen by many books of the time. The raw and unedited language proves useful—needed, even—to fulfil that complete sentiment of possession. Many readers may not like it, as I am sure scores found it problematic when the book was published, but it serves to take the book to a level that makes it all the more believed. A handful of other characters and a few interesting sub-plots keep the reader engaged and ready to see where Blatty is taking things. The story itself is quite well done and has been able to stand the test of time. While exorcisms are no longer commonplace, their allure has not diminished, be it in the published work or cinematic presentation. Blatty slowly develops the demonic aspect in such a way that the reader can see it creeping up and spiking at just the right moment. Layering the narrative with some key research, revealed by Father Karras, proves to substantiate the larger theme and keeps things from getting too fanciful. Those with a strong constitution and who can handle some strong language will surely find something in this book to keep them up late at night. I know I’ll likely put this on a list of books to read when I want a real chill, though will have to make sure the audio is not streaming when Neo’s around!

Kudos, Mr. Blatty, for keeping me enthralled throughout. I may have to check out some more of your work in the coming months, as you sure know how to tell a story!

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

Enemy at the Gates (Mitch Rapp #20), by Kyle Mills

Eight stars

In a series that is so full of action, Kyle Mills brings Mitch Rapp back for another sensational story. Having taken over with the passing of Vince Flynn, Mills had big shoes to fill, but has done a sensational job continuing this series yet again. When the world’s richest man is threatened, Rapp is sent by a new president to protect him, as well as learn who is leaking intelligence from the CIA. It will be one of the most harrowing missions Rapp has had to face, forcing him to wonder if he is ready to call it quits once and for all. Another winner that has me realising that there are some authors who know how to pick up the thread of a series and not ruin its momentum.

With the election of a new president, America is in for a sobering future. Anthony Cook has his own ideas on how to run things and does not allow others to shape his opinions. This includes well-established CIA Director Irene Kennedy or her prized operative, Mitch Rapp. Both have been whispered about through the hallowed halls of the White House, but Cook is ready to stop that and show that he holds all the power.

Kennedy brings some startling concerns to the president, that there is someone within the Agency scouring through sensitive intel and providing it to America’s enemies. The crux of the data leaks relate to Nicholas Ward, the world’s richest man. His work in the pharmaceutical field could change the lives of many, but if he falls into the wrong hands, there could be serious repercussions. President Cook agrees and allows Mitch Rapp to head out, in hopes of protecting Ward on the other side of the world.

In Uganda, Rapp is tasked with finding and keeping Ward out of harm’s way. However, there will be issues, as a ruthless warlord has his eye on the man and all that he could bring in the form of riches. Rapp will have to struggle through unfamiliar terrain to protect Ward and get to the bottom of what has been a secret laboratory that possesses Ward’s scientific work, all while remaining off the radar.

With no time to lose, Rapp must stay one step ahead and work with his skeleton crew, all while remaining in the shadows. Kennedy is relying on him, though it will be Rapp’s own intuition that propels him forward in this mission. No one is safe, least of all those who are not used to the tactics of cutthroat child soldiers in the jungles of Africa. Will Rapp finally realise that it is time to walk away, or does someone have a more drastic means by which to end Rapp’s career? A chilling story that keeps the reader guessing throughout.

I’ve enjoyed the Mitch Rapp series from the beginning and my curiosity has never waned. When Vince Flynn passed on, I was sure things would come to an abrupt halt, but Kyle Mills was able to take over the reins and keep things moving. He has done a marvellous job at seamlessly creating a new tangent in the series without losing the flavour that Flynn brought to his thrillers. While Rapp has surely aged and become more of a family man (unheard of, usually), there is still a lot of spark left. I have no complaints!

Rapp continues to dazzle in this piece, proving that he is both a force to be reckoned with and a highly entertaining character. His backstory long ago faded into the horizon, but he continues to develop effectively, including a makeshift family that only adds to his worry. Rapp proves to be gritty and soft hearted at the same time, though his questioning of missions and decisions has never waned. It will be interesting to see where the series will go from here, though I am sure Mills has some interesting choices to make before long.

In a genre so full of rough and tumble characters, Mills has to differentiate Mitch Rapp from many of the others who are covertly out there saving the world. He has done so, using strong writing and a great narrative to keep the reader intrigued throughout the process. Unique settings and strong characters help to keep the reader coming back, as well as utilising great character backstories throughout the process. While the series has lasted many years, one can only wonder where Kyle Mills will take it, or if it is time to branch off. I am eager to see what’s next or how revelations within this story will impact future Rapp publications.

Kudos, Mr. Mills, for another great piece. I am eager to see where you will take us in the coming years!

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

The Last Line (Tracy Crosswhite #8.5), by Robert Dugoni

Eight stars

A longtime fan of Robert Dugoni, I was pleasantly surprised to see this short story emerge in his latest series. A prequel of sorts that offers series fans a closer look of another of the SPD Homicide detectives, this piece offers a great tale that is sure to entertain. While Tracy Crosswhite is front and centre in the series, the work of Del Castigliano and Vic Fazzio gets some of the spotlight here. Both rookies, they work through a case that could open up more than a simple motive and cause significant issues for those in their own squad.

Del Castigliano has moved to Seattle for a new start in 1995. His life is in shambles and all he wants is to climb the ranks of the SPD. When he arrives at the scene where two men were found floating in the harbour, Del cannot help but wonder if there is more to the story than a simple drowning. However, his senior partner dismisses it as much of anything and tosses the background investigating to Del.

When something doesn’t add up, Del turns to fellow rookie detective, Vic Fazzio, for some help. Together, they poke around and learn that the two victims have ties to some drug running, but that there may be more to it. As Del and Fazzio try to piece it all together, they realise that they could be sitting on a powder keg that might explode if what they are hearing from interviews comes to light. It’s time to make some serious choices. A great short piece that proves Dugoni is a master, even when constrained by a page limit.

The Tracy Crosswhite series has been one I have come to love for many years, though it is not only the protagonist that pulls me in. The entire team has quirks and great aspects that make each of the eight novels highly exciting. Not only does Dugoni take us back in this piece, but he offers some great backstory on two of the members who work alongside Crosswhite regularly. This masterful short story has all the elements I need for a single sitting read.

Del Castigliano is surely the central actor in this piece, offering up some great backstory that helps put his time on SPD into perspective. Alongside his growth is that of Vic Fazzio, another familiar face to series fans. Some of his own backstory comes to life in this piece, which allows readers to see how they forged a connection that would eventually lead to a strong partnership.

Dugoni offers up an intriguing case that can be digested in short order, offering up just enough drama and controversy to keep it exciting. Great writing, paired with a strong plot and decent character development, kept me flipping pages for thirty minutes to get to the end in a single sitting. Now, while I have to wait for more Tracy Crosswhite, I feel as though I got my dose until the next novel emerges soon!

Kudos, Mr. Dugoni, for a great filler piece. How you keep up the stories with such high quality, I will never know. Don’t stop now!

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

And Tyler No More, by Stan Haynes

Eight stars

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

A great fan of all things political, I was drawn to Stay Haynes’ novel about a political assassination. Political history can be quite intriguing, as there are usually so many moving parts that help sketch out goings-on from a variety of perspectives. After ascending to the presidency, John Tyler begins to govern as though he possesses the powers of an elected leader. Many disagree, including one man who sees the country going in the wrong direction. Plotting action against Tyler will take more than simply desire, but the blowback could be even more troubling. Haynes does well to capture the reader’s attention in his piece, mixing history with some great character development.

The death of President Benjamin Harrison a month after he took office in 1841 shook America. Never had a president died in office, forcing constitutional scholars to scour the document to determine what would happen next. In the short term, Harrison’s vice-president, John Tyler, assumes the role, as denoted in the US Constitution. It is what happens next that leads to a great deal of confusion.

As Tyler begins ruling the country, he alienates many within his Whig Party. His views and actions push some to the brink, including Henry Clay, a powerful senator from Kentucky. Working alongside Clay is Monty Tolliver, a young man who idolises his boss. Tolliver speaks opening about his disdain for Tyler and the actions taken, spreading his sentiments to his best friends, Ben Gaddis.

As the years pass, Tolliver and Gaddis concoct a plot that would see Tyler removed from office, not on a political scandal, but through his death. While assassination is treason, these two men cannot stand idly by as President Tyler eyes bringing Texas into the Union and fomenting more division over the question of slavery. They draw up a plan and thought it foolproof, only to have things go awry and leave Ben injured.

After Ben turns up dead a few days later, possibly by his own hand, Tolliver begins to process what he has done, only to learn that there was something not entirely right about his friend’s apparent suicide. Working with a Washington City detective, Tolliver tries to get to the root of what happened, as well as keep secret the plot of his attempt on Tyler’s life. An intriguing piece of historical fiction, indeed!

While I had not heard of Stan Haynes before this novel, I was quite impressed with his writing. There is something for everyone’s in this piece, which offers readers a glimpse into a time gone by, as well as some great historical backstory around a small piece in pre-Civil War times. I can only hope that there is more to come, as Haynes has me eager to add to my knowledge of US history.

Monty Tolliver plays a central role in the story, working through not only his impressionable years, but also some key moments of self-reflection. The story offers a little backstory, but much of it is about the development of Monty’s views and sentiments about making such a rash decision as to plot the assassination of a sitting president. Haynes keeps him as a strong character throughout and left me wanting to know more about the man who would one day rise to claim a seat in the House of Representatives.

I would suppose that the greatest issue with writing historical fiction is to keep true to the events, while also developing a spot for characters to thrive and carve out their own paths. Haynes does this effectively, keeping the reader intrigued not only with the goings-on that match this history books, but also offering a personal glimpse into events. The strong narrative helped to keep this going, while using a plot that is likely not entirely well known (if not fictitious entirely). Great characters and some poignant moments helped keep the story moving, especially through two timelines. Short chapters made me want to push through, if only to get to the climactic moments and see how they played out. I will certainly look into some of Stan Haynes’ non-fiction work, but am hoping for more in the fiction column as well.

Kudos, Mr. Haynes for a great foray into the world of historical fiction. I hope others with a penchant for the genre take note as well.

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

Private Rogue (Private #16), by James Patterson and Adam Hamdy

Eight stars

Another collaborative effort by James Patterson and Adam Hamdy proves to be quite entertaining for the reader, as the Private series continues. Jack Morgan has built a strong detective agency the world over, though he is still happiest at home in Los Angeles. When a wealthy man comes to his offices and asks for his help, personally, Morgan cannot refuse, travelling to New York to begin the search for a woman and her children. What follows will take him to the far corners of the earth and test his resolve. A fast-paced story that keeps the reader intrigued throughout.

It was just another day for Jack Morgan and his team in Los Angeles, when a man of some means entered Private headquarters. He told a story of his missing daughter and grandchildren, who were somewhere in upstate New York, begging for help. While Private did not usually assist in simple missing person cases, there was something about this one that left Morgan feeling as though he ought to help.

Choosing to personally take on the case, Morgan flew to New York and began the hunt, alongside one of his Private New York colleagues. Searching and trying to be inconspicuous, Morgan was able to locate the family, only to discover that those searching for them have another motive. It would appear that the father figure of the group was on a covert mission in Afghanistan and may have something this group wants for their own.

Never one to bow to the pressure, Morgan made his way across the world to the deserts of Afghanistan’s to find a military pilot who may have all the answers, while also trying to stay one step ahead of a ruthless gang. It was a battle of survival, with a mission to reunite a family safely. A great addition to the Private series.

While James Patterson has often spread himself too thin in his writing, this was an exception to the rule. Working alongside Adam Hamdy, Patterson is able to elevate his series and keep the Private name on the level of some of the other strong series bearing his name. Great action, decent characters, and an entertaining plot, Patterson and Hamdy have great collaborative effort.

Jack Morgan takes centre stage in this piece, something that he does not usually do in the novels. His backstory is known to series fans, though there are some added elements here that can help intrigue the series reader. Decent development, both in a personal and professional sphere, keeps the reader in tune with how he works as a character and provides some needed depth to keep the series going.

Patterson and Hamdy work well to keep the story moving along and have decent narrative development throughout. The plot works well in this piece, allowing the reader to push forward with ease. Perhaps a few overused themes (Afghanistan, Russian operatives), but they worked well and did not get too clunky for my liking. This series flows well, though the interconnectedness of the novels is more the Private thread, than an ongoing storyline throughout. With Jack Morgan in the central role, there is more cohesiveness to the overall series, though reading any of the books as a standalone would not ruin things. I look forward to more of these stories soon.

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson and Hamdy, on a great effort. Your collaborative work is quite strong and I hope to see more of it.

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

Nick and Kate-1991 (Nick Ballard #0.5), by Anthony Steven

Eight stars

Having enjoyed the first two novels in the series, I readily accepted this prequel short story by Anthony Steven. While Nick Ballard and Kate Garvey have shown their abilities effectively in the series, this takes the reader back to their youth, at a time when they were both struggling with comprehending their abilities and keeping them from others. Steven keeps the reader informed, entertained, and intrigued throughout, as the next in the Ballard series has yet to be revealed.

Nick Ballard suffers the same plight as many teenage boys, with bullies at school and the awkwardness of semi-independence at home. He also has a secret, one that he has not shared. He can read the minds of those who stand before him, something that can be both beneficial and highly troubling. When a new teacher begins at the school, Nick’s abilities open new and haunting revelations that he will have to process.

Kate Garvey knows loss all too well. Her mother died when she was young and she’s forced into independence, as her father cannot handle it. When her best friend is murdered, Kate refuses to stand still and begins looking into it. This will, however, open new issues and could cost her everything, as someone is keen to keep the murder, and their lifestyle, a complete secret.

Two teenagers, whose lives have yet to intersect, work tirelessly to make a difference in those around them. It may be 1991, but they are keenly aware that the future could hold great things for them, if only they can shake themselves out of the troubles of their present.

While Anthony Steven’s work is not usually long and drawn-out, it is certainly filled with exciting twists that keep the story moving. The narrative is strong and holds the reader’s attention throughout. There is movement with the plot, something that never appears to wane throughout. While this is only the kernel of both Nick and Kate’s abilities, it provides a great setting and fills in some of the questions that series fan will likely have developed. I am eager to see where things go from here.

Kudos, Mr. Steven, for an interesting short story. Keep them coming, as I know your fan base remains curious.

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

Jailed (Cal Rogan Mysteries #7), by Robert P. French

Nine stars

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

Picking up soon after the last novel, Robert P. French offers Cal Rogan fans another electrifying novel that tackles crime on the streets of Vancouver. A young man is stuck in jail when he is convicted of murdering his girlfriend. His sister hopes to exonerate him by hiring Cal Rogan, who’s recently left his role as a private invetigator. It’s a case that is more complicated than meets the eye and Rogan will have to use all his resources to help, while being targeted for his inquisitive nature. French keeps the momentum going with another thrilling novel, which shows just how talented he continues to be.

Cal Rogan has turned over a new leaf, one might say, choosing to pursue academics rather than stay as a private investigator at the firm he helped build. However, when he is approached by a student on campus, he is intrigued about the case, where a young man is in jail for murder, having been convicted on some evidence that may have been tampered with by a crooked cop. Rogan agrees to approach his former colleagues, feeling that there is something to the claims, but makes no promises.

When Rogan arrives, he is able to sell the case effectively and have the team looking into what could be a major frame-up. It turns out the woman he is accused of killing was his girlfriend, part of a strict Muslim family. While Canada is a fairly open society, many of the strict beliefs espoused by the woman’s brother are chilling, particularly when he praises her death for sullying the family name.

While the investigation takes off in many directions, Rogan finds himself crossing paths with some disturbing members of a radical organisation who would like nothing more than to erase his constant queries. All this leads to some truly devastating actions that could put Rogan and those he loves in serious danger.

When a new angle emerges in the case, it provides additional suspects that could be involved, while also tossing the victim in a new light. Just when Rogan thought he knew what was going on, this turns things on its head and makes the streets of Vancouver all the more dangerous. Robert P. French delivers again and keeps the reader on the edge of their seat throughout this stunning novel!

I stumbled upon the early work in this series by accident, but could not put the books down as soon as I started. They are so full of intensity and drama, while also set on the streets of Vancouver, one of Canada’s great cities. Shedding light on the Canadian angle made me want to read the books even more, as I felt a sense of home with each chapter. Add to that, French has such a way with words and there is no doubt that this is a series worth the attention of any reader who loves the genre!

Cal Rogan has been through a lot in this series, yet he’s never lost the grit that makes him a stellar protagonist. Series fans have seen his exponential growth throughout the series, while makes for some wonderful development, as well as a little backstory that never quite goes away. Revisiting some of the early struggles he’s faced, Rogan is also able to assess how far things have come since those early days as a washed-out cop who relied on heroin to get through the tough times. Rogan has also amassed some wonderful characters to surround him, many of whom enrich the novel in their own way.

French has always had a talent with his writing, even if he tells you that he struggles at times. The narrative is always on point and moves along at such a pace that the reader must remain attentive or risk falling behind. Short chapters propel the story forward effectively and left me eager to see where things were going. Using Canada as a backdrop adds to the story and keeps me wanting to read more, something that makes me happy as I have finally found a strong investigative thriller set in my own backyard. Working with multiple plot twists and injecting some poignant ‘current events’ with mention of COVID, French does an amazing job of electrifying the story and keeping the reader enthused throughout. I cannot wait to see what’s to come and how I can be a part of it!

Kudos, Mr. French, for yet another powerful addition to the series. These books keep getting better and your ideas seem endless.

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

The Devil’s Hand (Terminal List #4), by Jack Carr

Nine stars

Jack Carr has developed a series that mixes captivating political intrigue with personal experiences working on the dark side of American covert missions. These novels not only force the reader to think about what’s going on around them, but also provides an exhilarating mission to keep the country safe from powerful enemies. While it has been two decades since the largest act of terror on US soil, few have forgotten. Some within the Administration want to ensure those responsible pay the ultimate price, feeling that the core planning group remains at large. A new threat is being developed, one that could cripple America once again. Will the country be ready and react, or remain hopeless once again? Carr proves that he’s one of the strongest writers in the genre.

After the attacks on September 11, 2001, America smouldered, but would not succumb. Twenty years of reflection and war on the enemy, showing their might, but also a means by which they plan, execute, and progress on the battlefield. This has not gone unnoticed by those who helped plan the previous attack, and it is high time for a new strike, one that no one will (again) see coming.

While the US has been trying to make sense of what happened those years ago, a new president emerges, with hopes of helping to heal and reset the direction into the future. However, he has ties of his own to September 11th and wants to take one more form of action before closing the book on this part of US history. James Reece, former Navy SEAL, is summoned to meet with POTUS and play a key role in eradicating a handful of men on US soil who plotted the attacks, but remained in the shadows.

While Reece is working to help his Commander-in-Chief, there are those within the US who see Reece as a loose cannon that mist be stopped,. Violating many of the rules and laws of American espionage, there are some who will do whatever they can to see Reece brought to justice for his actions and possibly neutralised. Still, it will take more than tattling to get it done effectively.

All the while, a diplomatic pouch makes its way into the United States and ends up in the hands of a young man. What’s inside will surely prove deadly if it falls into the wrong hands. A bioweapon that few knew existed could be unleashed with devastating effect and send America into a state of panic once more. Carr delivers a story that could so readily happen, making it all the more impactful.

While I enjoy counter-terrorism and espionage stories, they can sometimes be far-fetched or a tad over the top. In all four novels that Jack Carr has penned, none of them have been implausible, which makes the writing all the more worthy of notice. The ideas are strong, easily relatable, and full of action, forcing the reader to wonder ‘what if’ and ‘when’, rather than rest peacefully, knowing it is all guaranteed fiction.

James Reece is a wonderful protagonist in this piece, offering up some stellar one liners when the time is right. His backstory is less prominent in the novel, though there are still some flashbacks to substantiate what he is doing. His grit and determination are like no other and left me eager to see what he would do next. He is job-focussed, but shows a slight vulnerability when needed, adding depth to his character at the right time.

Carr writes in such a way that the reader cannot tell where the fiction ends and reality begins. Not only is this the sign of a great writer, but there is an disturbing sense of what might be intermingled with plot lines that add to their story. The narrative inched its way forward effectively, never giving the reader a reprieve from the action. The plot evolved well and seemed to take on a life of its own at just the right time. Mixing politics with espionage, Carr keeps the reader on their toes and wondering how to handle what’s been put before them. While not my usual reading fare, I could not put it down and am pleased that I took the time to read the latest in this series. Jack Carr is at the top of his game and others within the genre ought to take notice.

Kudos, Mr. Carr, for another winner. Keep it up and you will surely have many more fans admitting your work.

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

Final Chance (Final Trilogy #3), by Van Fleisher

Nine stars

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

After delivering two impactful novels in a series that mixes politics with forthcoming technological advancements, Van Fleisher presents perhaps the last story in his Final trilogy. Sticking with what works, Fleisher creates a story that will have readers thinking and highly entertained in equal measure. Near future social, political, and technological issues converge into a well-paced narrative that provides a glimpse into what might be and how some will stop at nothing to stymie progress. A great apparent conclusion to the series for Fleisher.

After the impact of both COVID-19 and political unrest in America, it is time to turn over a new page. However, subsequent US Administrations cannot find peace and solace with what awaits them on the horizon, but rather new and difficult problems. One of these is the ongoing issue of climate change, which has shown to be causing issues around the world: rising temperatures, destruction of natural resources, and large-scale deaths of humans, not to mention flora or fauna.

Seeking to curb these issues, a system of domed cities becomes a priority within the White House, using America as a testing ground for other parts of the world. Investing billions into the project, new agricultural domes emerge to serve as testing grounds for enclosed areas where temperatures can be controlled and people can live. This expands to cities, some of which are inter-connected to allow travel with ease.

By the late 2040s and into the 50s, there are other advancements taking place, in hopes of creating a new and sustainable world for all. As with any new advancements, there will be those who profit, as well as a handful whose source of gain is curtailed by change. A small cabal of powerful individuals who seek to eradicate the changes meets regularly, in hopes of hatching a plan to cut the progress off at the knees.

Using various methods, this group covertly seeks to erase progress by the current US Administration. Assassination attempts prove fruitful, as does the release of a new bio-weapon, all while technological progress continues into the 2060s. A few key figures seek to ensure that these few will not succeed, while trying to reveal their identities in short order. It will take a great deal of effort, but it might be the final chance to ensure the world is safe.

The Final series caught my eye a few years ago and I have kept up with them whenever Van Fleisher publishes a new novel. While the ideas may seem a tad tech-lite, when the reader gets into the novels, there is a substantial narrative and strong themes. Fleisher offers opinions throughout, but they are substantiated effectively and this turned into quite the political thriller, while also being entertaining for those who invest the needed time.

The central characters change throughout the piece, but Fleisher makes sure to provide strong ties between them. Political, scientific, and social actors intermingle effectively to support the story and provide something that is easily processed by the reader. Characters and themes may bear a striking similarity to current times, which is likely no mistake on Fleisher’s part.

While there is a slight hokiness to begin the novel, this is soon replaced by some strong themes throughout the narrative. The story takes on some wonderful perspectives and the reader is taking on quite a ride as they learn about what could literally be on the horizon in the next while. With strong plots emerging, Fleisher permits the reader some time to think about what they are reading, while also getting lost in the ongoing action and developments. Short chapters keep the piece moving and the reader can only wonder what awaits them, as they forge ahead with ease. Even though it’s all in the future, Fleisher remains grounded and does not ‘robotocise’ the story, or instil anything too outlandish as it relates to daily life. If this is to be the final novel in the series, it will be missed, but what a great way to tie things off. Van Fleisher is to be commended.

Kudos, Mr. Fleisher, on a great novel and entertaining series. I could not ask for anything better. I wonder what you have in store for us next.

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

Seat 7A, by Sebastian Fitzek

Eight stars

Always one to enjoy a psychological thriller, I am thrilled with the work of Sebastian Fitzek. With stories that confuse the mind and keep the heart pumping, Fitzek has the reader guessing by layering ideas and dramatic twists into a strong narrative. When a man boards a plane, he plans to see his daughter give birth and support her. However, someone has another plan, as he is coerced to ensure the plane goes down, or his daughter dies. Which to choose…? Fitzek at his best and keeps the reader wondering throughout.

Mats Krüger may be a well-known psychologist, but even he has his secrets. Having fled his native Germany after the death of his wife, Krüger has agreed to return to witness the birth of his first grandchild. Living in Argentina now, Krüger will have to fly around the world to arrive on time. This would not be an issue if he weren’t terrified of flying. Krüger’s willing to make the sacrifice, with a few failsafes in place.

After crunching the numbers, Krüger learns the safest seat on the plane and chooses to purchase that one. His desire to protect others has him also obtain seat 7A, statistically the most dangerous one on the flight, thereby ensuring no one else can have it. Everything seems destined to work and he makes his way on board.

While the flight is in the air, Krüger’s daughter, Nele, is kidnapped in Berlin and held by a deranged man with a twisted sense of retribution. Krüger’s made aware of this in-flight and given an ultimatum; crash the plane or Nele dies. As Krüger comes to terms with this, he learns of the complexity of the plan and how there are others on board he knows from his past, including one whose stability could teeter with one wrong move. Krüger will have to decide who matters more, Nele, or a plane full of innocent passengers!

Fitzek pulled me in from the outset and I never looked back, enjoying the fast narrative and plot development. There’s something to be said for his books, which are never quite as they appear. Pushing the protagonist (and the reader) to the brink works well for Fitzek, as he is always able to bring out stunning twists to keep the story alive.

Mats Krüger did well as the protagonist here, working through many of his own issues to help the larger public. There is substantial backstory presented throughout, as well as some harrowing development on board this massive jetliner bound for Germany. Krüger must show this true colours, as well as use his psychological skills to assess the situation, all while trying to save his daughter and unborn grandchild. There are some oddities that arise in the latter portion of the book, but we’ll call that Fitzek being himself and keeping the reader guessing.

Each Fitzek novel I have read has been both similar (psychological to the core) and vastly different. Each handles a significant struggle, but uses different techniques and approaches to tackle solving it, which keeps the reader wondering. All stand-alones, the novels allow the reader to extrapolate about situations and characters effectively. The narrative clips along, adding twists where needed and utilising short chapters to constantly gain momentum. The different characters flavour the story effectively and keep the reader entertained. While there are some odd moments in the latter chapters, I suppose this can all be tired up into the larger drama, for the reader who is willing to keep an open mind. While this novel has not scared me away from flying, I will surely keep an open mind about what might be going on around me during a flight.

Kudos, Mr. Fitzek, for another great piece that kept me guessing.

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:


Find Me in the Dark (Detective Harlow Durant #1), by Dea Poirier

Eight stars

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

Always eager to discover great authors that have never crossed my radar, I picked up this series debut by Dea Poirier. As I usually enjoy a dark police procedural with a strong backstory for the protagonist, Poirier pulled me in with the opening chapters and I could not get enough. A body found in a pile of snow could be a snowblower accident in upstate New York. However, when more bodies appear and Detective Harlow Durant receives messages instructing her to leave, it would appear that a killer is lurking in the shadows and targeting young women. Chilling and intense throughout, perfect for those who need something to keep them on edge.

While Plattsburgh, New York is no joy in the winter, when the Spring thaw commences, it is usually quite nice. However, this March may be the exception, when the body of a young woman is found sticking out of a snowbank. It appears as though she’s been there quite a while, encased in ice and preserved for all to see.

Detective Harlow Durant arrives on the scene to assess the situation before her. Part of the Bureau of Criminal Investigation, Durant has much to prove to her colleagues, as well as a number of secrets. For the time being, she’ll keep the case at hand and look for a break to make this a quick solve.

After identifying the victim from a list of missing person reports, Durant discovers that the woman lived two lives, depending on who knew her. Working alongside a new partner, Durant tries to piece it all together, only to find herself with more questions than answers. All the while, someone threatens her for being in town and investigating. Should she be heeding the anonymous advice?

When another body emerges in the snow, Durant knows that this is the work of the same person, but struggles to connect the dots. All the while, her secret past begins to emerge to her colleagues, some of whom are ready to pounce on her and cast her out. Durant will have to work through it all and find that one clue, buried out there, to tie the killings together, in hopes of locating a killer before it becomes a spree. A great series debut that has me wanting more.

While this was my first Dea Poirier book, it will certainly not be my last. This novel had all the elements I look for in a great thriller and kept my attention throughout. I found the narrative crisp and the plot ever-developing, which left me wanting to know more with each passing chapter. I cannot wait to see where Harlow Durant goes within the series.

Harlow Durant was a well-crafted protagonist with a great deal going on. If it’s not her sharp police work, it’s trying to handle many of the flashbacks to her fated childhood, with a father who led a double life and a mother who abandoned her at the worst time. Balancing these two areas of her life, Durant enriches the story with her presence and kept me wanting to learn more. Gritty as needed but also showing some slight vulnerabilities, she’s surely got a lot to show readers in the future.

Poirier knows how to write and deliver a strong thriller, of that I have no doubt. The narrative flowed well and kept gaining momentum at the perfect time, leaving the reader to wonder what was coming next. Using the small town setting, the story was not lost in the rush of the big city, allowing it to complement the plot as it thickened. Great writing and just the right number of twists keep the reader guessing until the final reveal, yet also opening new and chilling avenues for the next novel to come. I will be waiting anxiously, to see what Dea Poirier has for us next.

Kudos, Madam Poirier, for a stunning series debut that left me with some burning questions. I will certainly be back 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

Echoes of the Dead (Special Tracking Unit #4), by Spencer Kope

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

Spencer Kope returns with his fourth novel in this unique crime procedural series, using the abilities of two men to track people down using their own personal skills. The Special Tracking Unit is known around the country for their abilities, but it is the work of Magnus ‘Steps’ Craig, who can see ‘shine’ that adds new depth to the investigation. This may be the more harrowing case yet, with dead ends and a mysterious undertone that connects all those involved. Kope keeps getting better the more this series progresses.

Four men have been enjoying an annual fishing trip for the past two decades. It’s a way to escape their daily lives and enjoy a little camaraderie. When they don’t check in at the expected time, families worry and calls are made. Due to the notoriety of one man on the trip, Washington becomes involved, which means a call to the Special Tracking Unit.

Jimmy Donovan and Magnus ‘Steps’ Craig comprise the Unit, working together to locate those who have gone missing. Steps has a special ability, seeing each person’s unique ‘shine’ or glimmer they emit, which helps with tracking and forensic progression. However, it’s also a detriment, as has become apparent in cases past. Together, they travel to California and begin their investigation, only to land in the middle of something odd.

When one of the victims is apparently found on a park bench, things soon turn baffling. It’s not actually the victim, but a man who has recently died and been buried. This body, having been placed in a coffin, is now out and wearing one of the missing men’s clothes. As Steps and Donovan follow the local authorities, it’s revealed that this has been a body swap and someone was buried alive.

Unsure what to make of the killer or their antics, Steps and Donovan must continue working, trying to hone in on anything, including shine, to get answers. After a second body is discovered, it’s a race to learn the motive and rationale. What may be a political connection could also be something completely different, which only complicates the investigation. Time is running out and the body count keeps mounting.

I discovered Spencer Kope’s books and could not get enough of this unique take on the crime procedural genre. There is something refreshing about a unique take, while still keeping the reader completely attached to the story. Kope writes well and leaves the reader eager to see what awaits in this non-stop novels.

Steps and Donovan surely take centre stage in this piece, using their skills to track down not only the four missing men, but a killer with an axe to grind. While there is a little backstory when it comes to Steps, that is mostly a means of reminding readers what’s happened to him. Personal and professional growth is key in this novel, occurring throughout and keeping the series fan glued to what is to come. As the novels have progressed, I have become more attached to both men, eager to see what awaits and how they will progress.

Kope uses a strong writing style and sinister crime to lure readers into the middle of this piece. There’s nothing like a crime thriller to get the blood pumping, but it is the uniqueness of solving it that adds something special. A great narrative, with constant movement, helps catapult Kope to the top of the genre, while the story never loses focus on what’s important. One would not think that tracking the missing and those who have committed crimes could be so intriguing, though Spencer Kope has found a way, so much so that I cannot wait to see what he’s got coming in the future.

Kudos, Mr. Kope, for another winner. I can only hope that others will discover this series and find the same enjoyment .

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: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

The Burning (Clay Edison #4), by Jonathan Kellerman and Jesse Kellerman

Eight stars

Always eager when the father-son collaborative duo of Jonathan and Jesse Kellerman publish, I was happy to see the latest in the Clay Edison series. While his job may seem simple enough, Clay Edison always look for new challenges in the workplace. His latest case has a personal spin that he cannot shake, turning his world upside down as he seeks answers before his family learns what may be a bitter truth. Another winner in this series that keeps getting better.

While wildfires burn across California, some areas have taken to turning off power in order to conserve it. Such is the case where Clay Edison and his family live. After sending his pregnant wife and daughter away, both because of smoke and a lack of power, Edison forges ahead with his job as Deputy Coroner.

When attending the crime scene of a wealthy man who was shot and killed in his home, Edison makes a startling discovery in the victim’s garage. It would appear that Clay’s brother, Luke, has left his flash vehicle there, which is soon substantiated when running the tags. Hoping to make sense of it all, Deputy Coroner does what he does best and investigates, but Luke has gone missing and no one seems to know what’s happened.

At first glance, it is likely only a coincidence, but things begin to get even more troubling when Edison finds the bloody murder weapon at a gas station on the outskirts of town. Could Luke be guilty of a crime, just as he’s getting his life back together?

Leaving no stone unturned, Edison looks for Luke and tries to keep it from the family, but must soon admit what could be a horrible truth. Luke Edison might be guilty of another murder, this time by his own hand. Still, something does not seem right and Clay will stop at nothing until he vindicates the only sibling he’s ever known.

While I have never read any of the Jonathan Kellerman novels, I did take a great interest in Jesse’s solo work years ago. After a few collaborative flops, these two created the Clay Edison series and I could not get enough of the books. Filled with great stories and wonderfully dry wit, these were a refreshing perspective in a genre that is supersaturated with books. Unique angles and strong character development help the Kellermans develop something many reader can enjoy for years to come.

Clay Edison is a wonderful protagonist and keeps things working well throughout. His attention to detail and meticulous investigative skills are matched by a personal side that makes him approachable. This novel saw some great backstory development for Clay, permitting the reader a deeper gander in a life of sports, love, and sibling rivalry. Clay Edison connects well to the attentive reader, perhaps like no other book in the series to date.

The Kellermans have a great writing style and can create a powerful story with their collaborate efforts. The narrative clips along, creating strong scenes and wonderful descriptions for the reader, mixing crime and familial connections when they are both suitable. A handful of strong characters combine with plot twists that keep the reader guessing, this is another example of how established writers can use what they do best and make it even better. I can only hope that there is more to the series and that these two remain a strong team.

Kudos, Messrs. Kellerman, for another great novel. I am spoiled by you both and cannot wait for what’s 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 Volkswagen-sized Hornets’ Nest and other Misunderstandings, by Steven Scott Wallace

Eight stars

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

The curious and adventure-filled time that childhood provides is like no other, something Steven Scott Wallace proves in this short story. Apparently a tale pulled from the recesses of his mind and teenage life, Wallace tells of a summer where a freak accident left him in search of a hobby. This hobby may have been dangerous, but also proved fruitful and left him with drams of stardom. A piece many will be able to finish in one sitting, Wallace shows how youth and a little ingenuity bring forth the best stories to tell for generations.

While most of America was fixated on something else in the summer of 1974, southern Oregon’s Josephine County had an issue they could not ignore. Hornets were all over the place and nothing was going to stop them. Steve ‘Wally’ Wallace knew this all too well, as he tried to come up with a solution.

It was only after a freak accident while helping his uncle that Wally found himself with lots of time on his hands (pardon the pun) and a mind running on thirteen-year-old overload. He gave the hornet issue some thought and used the library to devise a plan that could not fail. All summer, Wally found and handled hornets’ nest around town and had made quite the name for himself.

Once school started, he was full of stories, only the discover a new and massive nest that needed his attention. While he had handled angry hornets before, this would be the ultimate battle. Wally and his friend devised a plan to kill the hornets and preserve the nest for their science teacher. While it seemed to work, on the day the nest was to be brought to school, Wally learned that things went horribly wrong and he might find himself in a load of trouble. Could his stardom be drowned out by wanting to brag one time too many?

This quaint story appears to reflect on some of the actual experiences by Steven Scott Wallace during his youth, though that is entirely unclear. Whatever its providence, it reads easily and proves to be a nice means of entertaining the reader who wishes to put a pause on all things chaotic in their life. The narrative keeps the reader curious and wondering as the plot appears to thicken, or at least as much as it can for one eager teenage boy. With a nice twist at the end, Wallace allows the reader a ‘wink and a nudge’ moment while they wonder if this is one of many stories that might be published before long.

Kudos, Mr. Wallace, for a nice little reprieve from what I usually read. I would love to get my hands on more of these stories, should they exist.

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

An Unreliable Truth (Desert Plains #3), by Victor Methos

Nine stars

Victor Methos continues with another great legal thriller, shifting the focus towards two defence attorneys who are trying to protect a man who won’t deny the crime his is accused of committing. Methos uses his great style to construct a powerful legal case and provides impediments on both sides of the aisle, as a man with diagnosed mental disease is set to be locked away for a long time. Chilling and reflective, Methos provides a stellar novel once again.

After the discovery of three bodies and a woman clinging to life in rural Nevada, the police are on the lookout for a suspect along the highways. After stopping Arlo Ward, they may have found their man; dripping in blood and fully cooperative with authorities. Ward admits to the killings, citing that he was encouraged by a demon. After signing a confession and detailed account of the crime, it appears to be a slam-dunk case.

When two defence attorneys, Dylan Aster and Lily Ricci, receive a call from an overwhelmed public defender, they agree to take a look at the case. Ward continues to speak openly about the murders and cooperates with whatever authorities want, something that does not bode well for any defence. However, the factor that Ward has been diagnosed with severe schizophrenia may help soften the blow, keeping him out of jail, per se, but still in a confined facility. Against their better judgment, Aster and Ricci agree to the case, hoping that it will help their fledging firm gain notoriety.

As Aster prepares his case, he’s given a key piece of information about Ward; he is likely innocent of any crimes. This type of schizophrenia manifests not only with intense delusions, but also a desire to seek the limelight. Arlo Ward likely wants fame and attention and could have stumbled upon the scene, only to create his guilt to get others to take notice. It’s a jarring admission, but will take more than simple testimony to sway a jury.

Paired against a strong prosecutor, Aster and Ricci will have to do all they can for their client. The evidence is stacked against him and Ward does not seem to want to back down from his claims of being guilty. As theories abound, there are also many secrets that come to light and additional lies that could damage both sides. It’s all or nothing in trying to convince a jury that a man who espouses his guilt is actually innocent of these crimes.

Whenever I take the time to read any of Victor Methos’ work, I am pulled into the middle of a sensational legal drama that keeps me thinking. The characters are realistic, the plot plausible, and the legal hurdles seem close to insurmountable. Still, I cannot help but lose myself in the intricacies and want even more. This is truly the sign of a great writer who has much to say.

While Dylan Aster and Lily Ricci were secondary characters in the previous novel within the series, they come out of the shadows to offer themselves up to the reader. Both are sharp legal minds, but have their own backstories that impede them throughout. Methos makes sure to touch on this, as well as how their thinking when it comes to a defence strategy differs greatly. Both bring much to the story and I found myself wanting to learn more, as the maze of legal representation got more difficult throughout the novel.

Methos does a masterful job of representing the story through the eyes of many strong characters and uses some intriguing plot twists to advance the narrative effectively. This is no ‘cookie cutter’ legal thriller, but rather one with many layers that keeps the reader on edge as things progress. Legal matters receive a great deal of attention, but it is the nuances of the individual characters that make the story even better. While I have read a number of Methos’ novels, this may be my favourite because of how it made me think about everything placed before me. That’s got to be worth something!

Kudos, Mr. Methos, for another great novel. I cannot say enough about your work and hope others discover it before too long.

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