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:

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:

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:

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:

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: