Red Light (Katie Macguire #3), by Graham Masterton

Eight stars

Continuing this series by Graham Masterton, I had high hopes it would be just as exciting as the previous two. Masterton builds on this police procedural collection set in rural Ireland, exploring a new set of graphic murders. While some may shy away from this, series fans know full well that Masterton has a reason for his detailed descriptions and things are revealed in a timely manner. A chilling series with themes sure to entertain the reader throughout, Masterton proves his worth yet again.

Detective Sergeant Katie Macguire has been working hard in Cork to keep the area safe and ensure no one breaks the law. She’s been synthesising a recent decision about her personal life which could impact her significant and pave the way for success. All this while a new senior official at the office has targeting DS Macguire in an effort to clean up the ranks.

After a man is found murdered with his hands removed, DS Macguire and her team begin their thorough exploration of what could have happened. Background information leads to the discovering that the victim was involved in the sex trade and there are whispers that he’s imported a number of girls from outside the country, many below the age of consent. DS Macguire cannot help but wonder if there is more to the story than meets the eye.

All the while, a woman lurks in the background, luring men into compromising situations before she strikes, wishing to send a message. She’s happy to explain to her victims that they are being targeted for preying on young girls, who are promised lavish lives only to send the young girls into a world of depraved sexual acts that leave them broken. Scared and yet defiant, these men try to justify their lifestyles before being given a hard choice; lose their left hand or manhood.

When more men turn up dead with similar hand injuries, DS Macguire works with her team to sift through the many men in Cork who are known for running girls on the streets or in private homes. One known well to the political elite for trying to show that the sex trade can be a legitimate means of work is sent a message that he will not soon forget. It’s time for the authorities to strike, but DS Macguire is distracted by some issues at home, which could leave her in a shambles. Masterton does it again with his strong writing, sure to impress series fans many times over.

Graham Masterton has developed this series in such a way that the reader cannot help but want to learn more. This is the second of his series that I have been reading, both of which I would tag as ‘addictive’ without hesitation. Masterton creates numerous plots that keep the reader hooked, sometimes for their graphic nature, while using a strong protagonist to push great underlying themes. I like how things series has been progressing and am ready to reach for the next, hoping to find some of the same ingredients.

Masterton has a strong storytelling ability that makes the reader take note from the opening pages. His narrative flow provides a smooth reading experience, while offering graphic murders to shock the reader to the core. While this may turn some readers away from reading this series, the discussions are quick and to the point, but are also with reason, providing rationale for the retributions. There are strong characters throughout the novel, each developing at their own pace. DS Katie Macguire receives more character development and personal backstory, essential for the protagonist’s relationship with the reader. The plot twists were plentiful in the book, as well as themes related to sex work and the trafficking of young girls. I devoured this book and remain eager to see how Cork will progress under the watchful eye of DS Katie Macguire. Graham Masterton shows his mettle once more and readers ought to take notice!

Kudos, Mr. Masterton, for another stellar story. Bring on more!

What She Found (Tracy Crosswhite #9), by Robert Dugoni

Nine stars

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

Excited to get my hands on the latest Robert Dugoni novel, I rushed to read it and learn more about the adventures of Detective Tracy Crosswhite. While things in Seattle have been running smoothly, Crosswhite has a great deal still going on, particularly with her work in Cold Cases. Dugoni continues to develop his protagonist in a story where the twists do not stop until the final page. A wonderful addition to the series.

Detective Tracy Crosswhite could not be happier working within the Seattle Police Department, especially with a new Chief of Police. While she has been able to make an impact, she knows that her daily work must not be shelved. When a local reporter approaches Crosswhite to help with the disappearance of her mother 25 years ago, the detective is keen to see what she can uncover. Anita Childress is keen to learn what happened all those years ago and how her mother could up and disappear without a trace.

While Lisa Childress was herself a roaming reporter in 1996, she knew that she could not rely on the memory of others to reveal the truth of many cases. Chasing down a lead one night, Childress simply vanished and her husband was presumed to have murdered her. Living under a veil of suspicion for years, the family soon became local pariahs. Now, Anita wants answers and is not sure her own reporting will be enough to fill in all the gaps.

With Detective Crosswhite now on the case, it would appear that Lisa Childress had been looking into some fairly damning stories, including one about drug trafficking through coastal waters where a police team could have been looking the other way. Might this have been a reason Childress disappeared and could have been murdered? Crosswhite is keen to discover the truth and pulls on some leads of her own, including the original investigating detective.

The more she learns, the less sure Detective Crosswhite is about what she is discovering, but it is only after a trip out of town that things really take a turn. With everything up in the air, a daughter seeking answers about her mother’s disappearance, and Crosswhite feeling the pull from her own family, the case ramps up. Guilty parties seek to hush the sleeping dog that remained quiet for many years, which could have dire consequences. Dugoni adds chills to an eventful thriller, perfect for series fans.

There is nothing like knowing Robert Dugoni has a new book ready for reading, as he is able to mix wonderful ideas with an addictive storytelling ability. I am always highly impressed with Tracy Crosswhite in her stories, especially as there is no lack of character development throughout the experience. Dugoni has a great handle on the series and one can only hope there will be many more books to come, as I am keen to see where things will progress from here.

There is nothing better than an author who has mastered the art of storytelling and knows how to convey their ideas well. Robert Dugoni has never had this issue and keeps readers on the edge of their seats. An easy flowing narrative make the pages melt into one another, as chapters rush by and the story progresses wonderfully. Key characters provide wonderful contrast throughout and there is nothing like seeing Tracy Crosswhite grow, personally and professionally, while those around her also advance in their own way. The plot proves unique and yet grounded, keeping series fans feeling that sense of life in Seattle is ever-evolving and crime is always being explored in new ways. While this is book nine, I can only hope Dugoni has a lot more for his protagonist to do in a series that has not lost its lustre whatsoever.

Kudos, Mr. Dugoni, for proving that some series can stand the test of time and additions, without getting stale. I want to see what Tracy Crosswhite has to show when she returns soon.

Broken Angels (Katie Macguire #2), by Graham Masterton

Eight stars

Eager to continue this series by Graham Masterton, I hoped to remain just as impressed. A police procedural set in rural Ireland, Masterton uses all the elements of a stellar backstory to chill the reader as they forge through this tale of abuse and horrific torture. Then again, those who know his work would expect nothing less of Graham Masterton. A winner in a series that has me completely enthralled already!

In County Cork, Detective Sergeant Katie Macguire has been trying to create new connections for herself while remaining at the top of her policing game. She’s pulled into the middle of a new case when a local priest is found tortured and murdered. A little hunting around shows that he may have been involved in some horrific abuse of local orphans in the past.

When the forensics from the scene point to genital mutilation with a harp string, DS Macguire and her team are surprised. While there is no love loss for Catholic priests by many, this seems to be slight overkill. They push to learn more, as a second victim turns up, also mutilated and with a similar string left at the scene. Someone is hunting Catholic priests with a murky past!

All the while, a man lurks in the shadows, having captured these priests when they least expect it. He speaks to them about their heinous actors and tries to get them to confess, hoping that their absolution will help lull them into a false sense of relief. Referring to himself as the Grey Mullet Man, there’s something he seeks but he is not completely forthcoming with his victims. Still, he is on a mission and will stop at nothing for answers.

While DS Macguire tries to solve this latest case, she is pulled in other directions by a new man in her life. Not a local, this man has high hopes of getting Macguire to accompany him back to America, where she will be able to reinvent herself. However, the killer out there has kept Macguire from making many of the needed decisions and she is now facing a new crossroads where her future is concerned. Masterton does a stellar job keeping readers enthused by this piece.

I thoroughly enjoyed a previous series of Graham Masterton’s, spurring me on to try this one. After devouring the series debut, I could not wait to get my hands on this book. In a novel that tackles a number of personal issues, Masterton touches on all of them effectively, while providing her reader with a chilling set of murders that weave their way into the mix. Captivating, disheartening, and suspenseful all at once, Masterton has the perfect recipe for a police procedural that is sure to garner a great deal of attention for those who take the time to read his books. I cannot wait to se how things progress from here.

Masterton has a way with his writing that makes the reader want to learn more through his storytelling. He develops a narrative flow that provides a smooth reading experience, while offering some ghastly events throughout, sure to shock the attentive reader. There are strong characters that fill the pages of the novel, permitting the reader to live thought them at various stages of the story. DS Katie Macguire receives more character development throughout, essential for the protagonist, keeping the reader connected to all that she has going on in her life. There were again some well-developed plot twists in the book, as well as the underlying discussion of abuse by priests in the Catholic Church, but Masterton offers his own perspective, which ended up being highly unique. I devoured this book and am again eager to see what happens with everyone in County Cork, especially some of the happenings with DS Macguire.

Kudos, Mr. Masterton, for another series I will be spending the summer enjoying!

Please Join Us, by Catherine McKenzie

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Catherine McKenzie, and Atria Books for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

When granted the chance to read Catherine McKenzie’s latest novel, I eagerly reached for the ARC. McKenzie weaves a great story that impacts the reader from the opening pages and grips them throughout the reading experience. Able to create a stellar read in a standalone thriller, Catherine McKenzie is one author worth noting for those who have yet to discover her magic. Happy to see she successfully penned Book #13!

Nicole Mueller has come to a crossroads in her life, with a career that seems not to be moving forward and a marriage that is not as exciting as it had once been. As she debates her options, the thirty-nine year old begins to realise that she desperately needs a change, which may be coming sooner, as her law firm is tightening its belt.

Nicole receives a cryptic email about Panthera Leo and how they would like to recruit her to join. They promise a great deal of success and connections, as long as she agrees to attend a retreat in rural Colorado. While Nicole’s husband, Dan, thinks that it is all a cult, Nicole is intrigued and agrees to attend. Nicole can only hope of opening new doors for her professional and personal lives with this weekend away.

After returning from Colorado, Nicole feels a sense of closeness with her ’pride’ the others in the group who attended the weekend. She hopes that her return to New York will be fruitful and that she can reap the benefits. As things begin to fall into place, Nicole has high hopes for Panthera Leo, though her questions are constantly shot down. All she must remember is never to decline an offer made or a request to assist others in the pride.

When one of the other pride members calls for assistance, Nicole is quick to head over. However, the legality of what is going on leaves her wondering if she might have made a poor decision. Nicole wants out and will take her old life once more, provided she can find a means of escape. As in the wild, leaving the pride is not that simple and could be a matter of life or death. McKenzie pens another great thriller sure to impress the attentive reader.

I have long come to enjoy the work of Catherine McKenzie, who is able to cobble together some great storytelling in a standalone thriller. She’s on point and keeps the reader engaged, while tackling some issues of the day in a flawless manner. Her narrative flows well and keeps the story moving along, with great plot twists throughout. I’m eager to keep reading anything she has to offer.

Catherine McKenzie has a way with her storytelling that helps keep the reader involved in the story. This could have something to do with her strong narrative, which takes the reader on quite the journey, or even with well-developed characters that popular many of the pages of the book. McKenzie’s able to use strong plot twists throughout to keep the reader from being able to predict the outcome, while offering teasers throughout. Perhaps one thing that did not mesh well with me in the narrative was how Nicole would commonly list things she had done, “called Dan, checked the dry-cleaning, ordered dinner” rather than letting the narrative explore them. With hyphens to denote the actual list nature of this in the story, it appeared McKenzie wanted to clip the word count or keep from having to develop these acts, some of which were non-essential to the larger plot. Other than that, I was fully engaged with the story and could not have asked for more.

Kudos, Madam McKenzie, for another great novel. I am eager to see what else you have coming, as your books always put me in a wonderful mindset.

White Bones (Katie Macguire #1), by Graham Masterton

Eight stars

Eager to get started on this series by Graham Masterton, I was not entirely sure what to expect. My past experience with the author included some well-paced novels steeped in horrific murders high left the authorities scrambling for answers. In this series debut, the police procedural angle remains, but the settling and protagonist proved highly unique. Masterton has done well to lay the groundwork for a stunning series, with DS Katie Macguire uncovering a chilling case that will shake her to the core in rural Ireland.

In County Cork, bones belonging to a number of individuals are uncovered. Forensic analysis turns up the skeletal remains of at lease eleven, with the thigh bones pierced and small dolls hanging from them. This looks to be the act of a serial killer, with many eyes turning to the landowners. However, in a baffling turn of events, the bones are soon identified as having been at least eight decades old.

Enter Detective Superintendent Katie Macguire, who has risen through the ranks due to her attention to detail. Following in the steps of her father, DS Macguire is keen to show that she has what it takes to make a difference in the Garda. As the case gains some momentum, a pagan angle is bandied about, having to do with sacrificing young women to receive great powers. While DS Macguire wants nothing other than to solve this old case, she is steered away by her superiors.

Meanwhile, someone is targeting young women once again, capturing them and putting the victims through excruciating agony. The justification is that it is all part of a larger ritual that cannot be ignored. As a missing woman gains some local notoriety, DS Macguire tries to work that case, while keeping the old one active in her mind. A suspect emerges and it seems the case is closed, until another woman goes missing and the eyewitness statements make it seem as though it could be the same abductor.

While DS Macguire is juggling all this at work, her personal life takes a significant turn for the worse. Trying to put the pieces back together will take more than a passing interest, though there is so much going on that DS Macguire cannot spare a moment. Will her home life prove to be a distraction or a needed buffer from a killer who appears to be trying to finish the pagan ritual from eighty years previously? All will be revealed in this captivating series debut by accomplished author Graham Masterton.

I knew that I would have to get into this series after rushing through some other work by Graham Masterton. I was not disappointed and felt myself enveloped in the action from the opening pages. Masterton does well to keep the reader enthralled as he builds a spine-tingling case and develops strong characters. While the series is long, I am up for the challenge and will be sure to dive into the next novel as soon as I can.

There’s definitely something about Graham Masterton that has me wanting to grab as many of his novels as I can. Not only are they on point, but they pull the reader in with ease and keep the momentum going until all comes together. A narrative that flows well keeps the reader with a clear understanding of what’s going on and provides a roadmap for a successful journey. Strong characters populate the story, allowing the reader to live through them with ease. Of particular note, DS Katie Macguire receives a great deal of backstory and development throughout, keeping the reader guessing what else there is to know, while also feeling the impact of much that is revealed in this piece. Some stellar plot twists and historic events keep the reader from knowing too much from the outset, but proves addictive and leaves the story with an eerie sense throughout. I am eager to see what happens with DS Macguire and how she will grow as a police officer, as well as a woman living in Cork. Graham Masterton has done it again!

Kudos, Mr. Masterton, for beginning things in such a strong way and leaving me wanting more. I am eager to see what is next and how the series will develop.

Drop Shot (Detective Jack Lisbon #5), by Blair Denholm

Eight stars

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

Happy to have the latest novel by Blair Denholm in hand, I eagerly devoured the book to see what Detective Sergeant Jack Lisbon turned up. In a story that exemplifies not only Lisbon’s abilities, but also a great narrative surrounding a murder, Denholm captivates the reader from the outset and keeps the action high throughout this piece.

Detective Sergeant Jack Lisbon has seen a great deal since he moved to Australia, but nothing has prepared him for the attitude that Roderick McAdam shows on the tennis court. A phenom who is tearing up the tennis world, McAdam makes short work of anyone who dares meet him on the court. However, after a particularly controversial win in a match Lisbon saw in person, many people begin to see the true side of McAdam.

The following day, McAdam is found murdered in a seedy hotel room, far from where he was staying. While his recent opponent is the prime suspect, DS Lisbon cannot help but wonder if there is more to it, particularly when McAdam was found in a compromising situation. Using the full force of the Yorkville Police, particularly forensics, DS Lisbon begins to peel back what truly happened to Roderick McAdam and who might be targeting him.

After travelling to the site of the upcoming Australian Open, DS LIsbon gets a clearer idea of McAdam as a player and person, as well as garnering some needed facts about who might have been holding a grudge against him. By the time he’s back in Yorkville, DS Lisbon has a clearer idea, but will need to work meticulously in order to properly target the potential killer. Denholm develops a wonderful mystery wrapped in some strong police procedural work to deliver a stellar new novel in the series.

Since first being contacted by Blair Denholm, I have been highly impressed with his Jack Lisbon series. Each novel offers a great look into the man and some of the cases he has come to face since fleeing the United Kingdom. Full of great character development and some strong narrative work, the story paces itself well until the final reveal. This is a great addition to a strong series and kept me flipping pages well into the night.

I enjoy police procedurals, particularly when there is a gritty cop at the helm. Blair Denholm has done well to develop Jack Lisbon throughout the series, offering insights into his personal life as well as progress working in Australia. The narrative proves strong in this piece and provides the reader with a great roadmap throughout the story. A number of great characters appear, some of the first time while others are repeats throughout the series. Plot twists abound and the reader is treated to something great without feeling as though they can predict things from the outset. While there is surely much to learn about Jack Lisbon, Blair Denholm continues to do well at adding depth and dimensions to his protagonist.

Kudos, Mr. Denholm, on another winner. I am excited to see what direction DS Lisbon may follow and the series progresses.

A Sacred Oath: Memoirs of a Secretary of Defense During Extraordinary Times, by Mark T. Esper

Nine stars

Always eager to get another glimpse behind the curtain of what was the Trump Administration, I gladly picked up this book by Mark T. Esper, the former Secretary of Defense. The book is a mix of revelations, insights, and explanations about how things worked in the Administration, as well as the decisions made that shaped America’s defense strategy for a time. Esper pulls no punches, though is also not overly harsh, while educating the reader about all that took place on his watch. Eye-opening at times, Esper seeks to educate on a vast array of subject, succeeding throughout this intriguing tome.

While many of the books I have read about the Trump Administration focus greatly on life within the West Wing, Mark T. Esper’s book offers a different perspective, which presents a ‘bigger picture’ of how things were done and the decision-making process. Esper gives some background on his life and how he rose through the ranks, before being asked to serve as Secretary of the Army and eventually at Defense. While it was surely an honour to do so, Esper makes clear that there were some really big shoes to fill and some concerns to address throughout the time he served in the Cabinet.

Esper lays the groundwork for some interesting discussions about how the Secretary of Defense and those under him serve the country and the president. While many would likely presume it is all wars and tank fighting, as well as rallying the troops before they head into battle, Esper explains that a great deal went on stateside to keep Defense running smoothly. There were troop deployments and the state of military families that needed to be handled, as well as some of the issues around base protocols and permissions to run things in a certain way. This theme comes back throughout the book, particularly when Esper was forced to make some strong policies that clashed with Trump and his ability to appease a raucous base of supporters. Two of the greatest clashes that receive much print related to flying the Confederate flag on military bases and using the military to quell protestors during some of the heightened clashes about race and police brutality. While Esper held firm, many could see that this pushback would not bode well for his long-term employment.

Esper also speaks at length about some of his work on the international scene. Throughout his tenure at Defense, Esper handled a number of situations where Iran found itself in the crosshairs. Esper sought to work with Trump and others in the Cabinet to come up with strategic, diplomatic, and military options to handle some of the Iranian issues. However, there were also issues on a higher level with China, which Esper discusses throughout the tome. China’s technological and financial power could not be ignored by the US, which Esper translated as being a strong threat to world peace and a balance on the Asian continent. Other players and allies, such as Japan, South Korean and India, also noticed China’s power in the region, something Esper tried to handle through diplomatic men’s as best he could. His insights offer the reader a better idea of the strategic games played by both sides to keep the peace and yet not miss possible moves that could significantly change the political scene.

Mark T. Esper offers a great perspective for those who seek to better understand the inner workings of the Trump Administration, not only from a West Wing perspective. He tackles tough issues related to his being Secretary of Defense, offering statistics and ideas about how America faced some of its enemies and allies through a tough time period. Esper pulls no punches in his easy to digest narrative, but does not seek to create a tell-all book to smear Trump or his sycophants. My interest is piqued to learn a little more about some of the other actors who played impactful roles. Esper presents his views in well-paced chapters and fills each with information key to better understanding the situation and those who played a role, especially Trump and some of the military actors who would run things for Defense. Esper does not come across as bowing down to Trump, but also knew when to challenge over biting his tongue. While i knew little about the man before reading this book, I have a new-found respect for him and how he tried to steer the country away from clashes at a time when the Commander-in-Chief was anything but leadership material.

Kudos, Mr. Esper, for a wonderful exploration of your time within the Trump Administration. I can only imagine what else you might have to say, should it not have to be vetted for publication.

Love/hate the review? An ever-growing collection of others appears at:

Death on the Nile (Hercule Poirot #16) by Agatha Christie

Eight stars

Diving into another Poirot mystery, I was presented with another story where the retired detective finds himself on holiday. This time, travelling along the Nile, Poirot trip upon a murder aboard a ship and the suspects are plentiful. Agatha Christie has penned a wonderful piece, based at least partially on her own experiences, keeping the reader wondering until Poirot points a finger and elucidates how it all took place. Poirot at his best, using all those ‘little grey cells’.

There’s nothing like travelling and getting the breeze in one’s hair, should they have any. Retired detective, Hercule Poirot, is attempting to do jut that while on a cruise traversing the Nile. All this relaxation is ended when one of the guests, Linnet Ridgeway, has been shot dead. Who might have wanted to end the life of this lovely, young woman who appeared unable to hurt anyone? Poirot is ready to begin piecing it all together, sure that there’s s a motive buried deep in the resentments of the other guests on the cruise.

Recollecting an earlier argument that he heard, Poirot wonders if there were more to the threat ‘put a pistol to her head’ than it appeared at first hearing. Then again, Linnet Ridgeway may have been more complicated than many would presume. After two additional guests are murdered, Poirot is sure there’s a cover-up taking place, with a murderer fuelled by a secret. Poirot forges onwards and hopes to piece things together before any further bodies appear or the murderer is able to slip away. Poirot at this best, showing Christie continues to pen wonderful mysteries.

I have found a number of these Poirot mysteries to be highly entertaining and educational in equal measure. Agatha Christie is able to pen wonderful pieces together and pulls the reader int o the middle of it all, while also making things light. Hercule Poirot knows how to pull evidence out of apparent nothingness, always keen to teach those around him. I will keep reading the series, in hopes of finding out more angles about how mysteries might b solved effectively.

Agatha Christie is amazing at the art of storytelling and I have thoroughly enjoyed many of her stories since beginning this journey. She uses a simple, yet effective, narrative and spins a story that most readers can connect with easily. Adding a new cast of characters with each story, there is always something for the reader to enjoy with a wide swath of people who cross paths with Hercule Poirot. Little development occurs with Poirot, but his daily interactions are still highly entertaining. Plot twists and surprising happenings keep the reader guessing until the final reveal, which is always quite detailed and thorough, a part of the Poirot mystique, I will be back soon for more Poirot and the mysteries that appear to follow him all over the world.

Kudos, Dame Christie. I am hooked and hope to remain dazzled the more I read.

Look Closer, by David Ellis

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, David Ellis, andG.P. Putnam’s Sons for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Having discovered the work of David Ellis through his collaborative efforts alongside James Patterson, I was eager to see how well things might go with his solo writing. Ellis offers up some gritty and well-paced stories, sure to capture the reader’s attention in the early pages. Ellis proves stellar his in craft and devises some wonderful plots that will keep the reader hooked well into the night as they try to reveal everything the story has to offer.

Wealthy Chicago couple Simon and Vicky seem as normal as they come. Simon is a law professor adored by all his peers while Vicky advocates for victims of domestic violence. While the pair seem as typical as they come, they may be harbouring a secret. One of them could well be a killer hiding in the shadows.

After a socialite’s body is found hanging in the colossal home of someone in the neighbourhood, the secret begins to fray at the edges. Details of marital infidelity, as well as a trust fund’s massive payout come to the surface and many begin looking for a suspect. Some suspect that Simon and Vicky might be involved, but others cannot discern where the truth ends and lies begin. It will surely prove to be a daunting task for whomever is involved in finding a killer.

As panic sets in and the truth must soon come to the surface, everyone is pointing fingers and trying to digest the truths placed before them. Nothing is as it seems, though no one could have suspected just how duplicitous their friends and neighbours could actually be. David Ellis does it again with a masterful story completely with a few twists the reader will not have seen coming. 

I have long enjoyed the work of David Ellis, both as a collaborator and individual author. His work evokes a sense of thinking and complete ‘buy in’ that I have found in few authors whose stories I read of late. Ellis combines a powerful writing style with great plot development to create the perfect mix for the reader who loves crime thrillers.

While many will bemoan the fact that the thriller genre is supersaturated with novels, David Ellis has a way of elevating himself above the rest and producing a stellar story with each publication. His narrative is strong and pushes along effectively to keep the reader on the edge of their seat, especially when he injects some plot twists no one saw coming. His characters are developed to the point of being easily visualised by the reader throughout the story. There is something about Ellis’ work that keeps the reader both entertained and enthralled in equal measure. This allows many to lose themselves in the piece and want to find more of his work, as has happened with me.

Kudos, Mr. Ellis, for another great piece. I cannot wait to get my hands on your next piece to see how things have evolved.

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.

The Father (David Galbraith Series #3), by John Nicholl

Eight stars

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

Happy to have the latest John Nicholl novel in hand, I rushed to settle down for a guaranteed chilling thriller. Those who have read many of his past books will know Nicholl tends to take things to the most intense and provide chilling detail about abusive situations he has come across in some of his past work. This was somewhat in the same vein, though the story was more one of a memoir that a childhood victim was compiling to publish for the world to read about the horrors of Dr. David Galbraith. Nicholl chills the reader and provides all the ingredients for a successful thriller.

Anthony Mailer has lived quite the life. It is only now, in his adult years, that he is able to look back at the horrors of his childhood, all of which occurred at the hands of Dr. David Galbraith, a child psychologist. Galbraith has been convicted of many sexual assault crimes against his child patients and Mailer wants to adds his own flavouring to the stories being bandied around.

Mailer spends much of the novel recounting the various people that he interviewed about his experiences, from parents to police officials and even those who worked alongside Dr. Galbraith, slowly piecing together the narrative to provide the reader with something a little clearer. A young boy, struggling at home, then thrust into the hands (and eventually lair) of Dr David Galbraith, where he becomes the latest plaything for this sexual predator.

As the story progresses, both Mailer and the reader discover just how depraved things got, as well as how clueless the family might have been to what was taking place. Mailer comes together with the abuse and tries to get a clearer picture, all in the hopes of sharing it with others, who may not fully comprehend the struggles that took place all those years ago. If that were not enough, Mailer struggles with his own family as to how he will face the truths that come to the surface, watching his marriage disintegrate before his eyes. While John Nicholl has penned a few other novels around Galbraith, this one hit home in a different manner and should have series fans eager to dive in!

I have long had an obsession with the books penned by John Nicholl, as they remind me of my years working in the Child Protection field. Nicholl pulls some of the most startling material and massages it into something chilling for the reader to enjoy, or at least gasp as they read. While this was not as detailed as some of the past books, it does offer something chilling and worth reading by the curious reader.

Nicholl has always been able to build a strong narrative, partially pulled from his past experiences. He adds details to keep the reader enthralled and leads the story along many curious paths. His characters are on point and quite realistic, likely from the realism these stories have at their root. Plot twists abound, forcing the reader to synthesise a great deal of information and expect what they least could have predicted. While all this works well, the impact this book had did not match the others in the David Galbraith series, of which this is apparently the third novel. There was a lack of horror and depravity, which may seem odd to mention. However, I have come to expect to be chilled to the bone, but was rather feeling as though I were watching things progress from on high, I think the memoir-style of this book did that, which is no fault of Nicholl’s. I came in expecting to be blown away and was simply highly impressed. That said, many others might find it chilling to the bone, especially new readers to this series.

Kudos, Mr. Nicholl, for another winner. I cannot wait to see what else you create in the coming months.

The Potrero Complex, by Amy L. Bernstein

Seven stars

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

After being handed this ARC by Amy L. Bernstein, I was curious to see how things would play out. Set in the near future, the story is a little mystery, with a peppering of dystopia and some self-discovery tossed in for good measure. Bernstein keeps things unique and memorable for the reader, even if the product may not have been something that gripped me as much as I would have liked.

Rags Goldner has been though a great deal after a pandemic has taken hold over the world for the last number of years. She’s seeking a fresh start and leaves with her partner, Flint, for a small Maryland town, hoping to find herself once more. The town of Canary offers much to Rags, including a missing teenager, who is all the talk of the town. Effie Rutter must be out there,but Rags must also cut through a bunch of emotional red tape to get to the truth. The mystery rages on with little hope of a simple answer.

While Rags and Flint try to pick up the pieces, they are faced with some daunting experiences that will push them to the brink. This is a new world, one where hope hangs by a thread and no one appears to know what waits around the corner. Both will have to pull up their bootstraps and face reality, even if it does not have all the answers they hope to find. Plus, with Effie still out there, someone has to care enough to push onwards and not let sensationalised journalism take over. Bernstein does well to paint a dreary picture, even if the content was not as tantalizing as I might have hoped.

Amy L. Bernstein has shown that she can write and has a great deal to say. Her delivery is strong and she has ideas to share, but it is perhaps the content that failed to grip me to its fullest extend. Dystopian novels are hit and miss for me, as are things surrounding some ominous larger event. Still, Bernstein does well to keep the story moving forward and kept me guessing how things might resolve themselves by the final page turn.

Good novels have a strong narrative, while great ones pull you in and won’t let go until all is settled. For me, Bernstein offered up something good and kept things flowing with ease. Her narrative is well-paced and allows characters to set their personalities as the larger story progresses. There are some wonderful plot twists and that helps the reader see how the protagonists evolve throughout the piece. I was not as hooked as the dust jacket blurb would have led me to hope, but that may be my short attention span these days. I needed something with more action and a quicker delivery. All the same, many readers may really enjoy Bernstein’s work and I wish them well!

Kudos, Madam Bernstein, for a great effort. I hope many find something wonderful in what you have to say and latch on.

Dumb Witness (Hercule Poirot #15), by Agatha Christie

Eight stars

Another Poirot mystery, a new chilling murder that requires solving! Agatha Christie puts a spin on murder and pulls her protagonist into the middle of it, sure to get the ‘grey matter’ of all readers bouncing with excitement. In a piece that forces clues to be assembled from nothing, Poirot appears to do so masterfully and with panache. Another winner in this ever-evolving series.

After taking a fall down some stairs, Emily Arundell was in quite the state. While many were sure the ball on which she tripped was placed there by her dog, Emily could not shake that someone in her family may have been involved, wanting to see her dead. She was so convinced of this that she penned a note to an old friend, retired detective Hercule Poirot.

Travelling to Arundell’s’s home with his longtime friend, Captain Arthur Hastings, Poirot seeks to poke around, only to learn that Emily Arundell has died. Could her concerns in the letter have been realised, even when there is no trace of murder? Poirot sets about interviewing those closest to the victim to see how they might have benefitted from her death and what it means to the larger picture.

As Poirot learns more, it becomes apparent that someone was up to something nefarious, though just what’s happened has not come to the surface as of yet. Poirot digs deeper and learns that the initial fall was more than simply tripping on a rubber ball, but who might have been trying to do away with Emily Arundell? Poirot and Hastings find clues and motives, but it will take much effort to piece it all together and make the final accusation. Christie does it again, keeping readers on the edge of their seats!

It is refreshing to read something that is free from all the extemporaneous flfuff that finds its way into writing these days. I was pleased to be able to push my way through this story and be highly entertained while the protagonist educated me on the nuances of mystery work. Christie pens great stories and i have loved this series since I started.

With crisp narrative writing, the story moves along at a wonderful pace, keeping me on my toes as I try to decipher what’s going on with every page turn. There is so much to follow, alongside a cast of unique characters, all of which Christie moves around the board with ease. I could not forget to mention all the plot twists that occur, cementing the greatness of the story with every reveal. Poirot shines again, using his unique mannerisms to extract the truth from a group of unwitting suspects. I am eager to see how things will keep progressing, even if that means diving head deep into a large number of books that remain in the series.

Kudos, Dame Christie, for another great piece that left me scratching my head.

Fatal Witness (Detective Erika Foster #7), by Robert Bryndza

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Robert Bryndza, andRaven Street Publishing for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Long a fan of Robert Bryndza and his writing, I rushed to get my hands on the latest DCI Erika Foster thriller. A short hiatus could not extinguish my eagerness to see how Foster would storm back onto the scene with a crime that is both chilling and mysterious. Bryndza picks up as though no time had passed and creates a stellar story sure to impress many who love the genre, as well as fans of Erika Foster.

Many changes are taking place for Detective Chief Inspector Erika Foster, not the least of which is a move to a new flat. While trying to iron out all the details of organising, Foster hears screams and rushes to the scene of a nearby apartment complex. There, a woman’s body is discovered by her sister and Foster is ready to call in the team to begin a new murder investigation.

Soon identified as Victoria Clarke, the body is found to have been mutilated by the killer. Foster and her team begin sifitng through the evidence and commence interviews, only to stumble upon something odd. Victoria was a podcaster and worked on something in the true crime genre. Her fans loved the work, but there would certainly be those who failed to see the glory in turning over every loose stone.

With a handful of potential suspects in Victoria’s life, Foster and her crew will have to narrow it down, especially when a second murder takes place, putting things into better perspective. Victoria Clarke must have been on the trail of a ruthless killer whose victims came from a single place. Now, it will be time for Foster to set the trap or risk being another victim. Bryndza does a wonderful job at laying the groundwork, letting things develop from there.

While I cut my teeth on this series by Robert Bryndza, I have also come to love some of his other recent thriller work. He has a way with words, spinning stories that are sure to impress the fans of the genre. Great characters and an ever-evolving DCI Erika Foster, the stories takes on a new life and keeps the reader flipping pages well into the night.

Bryndza has long been using a recipe for success when it comes to storytelling, proving the reader with a strong narrative on which things are sure to build. He builds up the suspense and keeps readers wondering, while injecting an entertaining list of characters to provide some great balance. Erika Foster receives some deserved development, both in a personal and professional sense. Plot lines crescendo as the story advances and the reader must wonder what is to come. The book reads so easily that I devoured it in under twenty-four hours, without needing to invest huge swaths of time or concentration. That’s my kind of summer read!

Kudos, Mr. Bryndza, for another success. I will have to keep my mind fresh as you publish both your series in tandem.

Cards on the Table (Hercule Poirot #14), by Agatha Christie

Eight stars

Back for another Poirot mystery, I reached for this curious tale by Agatha Christie. Poirot is back in England and finds a mystery fall into his lap while he is out for an evening. It’s swift, intense, and highly entertaining. I could not stop reading, as I needed to get to the heart of the matter to bridge things together, if you pardon the pun. Christie does well and keeps the reader on their toes.

The elusive and highly mysterious Mr. Shaitana has called a number of locals together for a night of bridge. This curious cross-section of people are eager to spend time with the man, who has stories from his travels all over the world. While there are nine who have gathered, Shaitana bows out and lets the four pairs of two play around two tables in different rooms, including retired detective Hercule Poirot.

As the night progresses, the games get more intense. When someone goes to check on Mr. Shaitana, he is thought to have been sleeping, but it turns out he is sitting by the fire, dead. He’s been murdered and it must have been one of the four people sitting in the room with him. Poirot, who was in the other room, begins his detective game, soon working alongside the authorities when they arrive.

It will take examination of the bridge scores, a thorough interview process with each of the players, and some background research to set the scene in order to cobble together the truth. By the end of it all, Poirot may have a suspect, but it will take more than simply. pointing a finger to bring a killer to justice. Christie uses nuances and wonderfully detailed writing to keep the reader highly entertained throughout the reading experience.

I have been quite fond of the Hercule Poirot experience undertaking for the past few months. Each story is not only exciting, but also full of wonderful mystery writing that is no longer the norm in today’s publications. Agatha Christie knows what she’s doing and keeps the reader entertained with many reveals they could not have seen coming. Brilliant work and it keeps me wanting to read more.

Christie has a way with words and setting the scene that leaves the mystery fan begging for more. A strong narrative leads this story along quote well, pacing things as needed to ensure that it will be a stellar reading experience. Great characters and strong development of each allows the reader to formulate their own views through tough process of determining the murderer. A few plot twists allows the reader to wonder if they could have predict future things from the get-go, I have really come to enjoy many of these stories, which are usually so different from one another. I am eager to see what else Poirot will discover as he proves himself to be one of the masters!

Kudos, Dame Christie, for another swift read. Wonder what’s coming next!

Murder in Mesopotamia (Hercule Poirot #13), by Agatha Christie

Eight stars

Back for lucky book number 13 in the Hercule Poirot series, I was eager to see what Agatha Christie would do with this story. The retired Belgian detective is not only sharp when analysing a crime scene, but also gets around the world with ease, helping those around him. With a different narrative perspective in the form of a nurse, the story transports the reader to an archeological dig in Iraq. Another great Poirot story sure to capture the interest of series fans and lovers of a good mystery alike.

When Amy Leatheran was assigned to help Mrs. Leidner, she knew it would be an adventure, but the degree may have passed her by. Along with his wife, Dr. Leidner and a group of others are on an archeological dig in Iraq. The dynamics are such that Nurse Leatheran is sure something’s up, but cannot place her finger on it.

As Mrs. Leidner begins having hallucinations and is worries about her safety, Nurse Leatheran cannot help but wonder if something sinister is on the horizon. A letter arrives for Mrs. Leidner, predicting horrible things will happen, which leads to her murder. Who could be the culprit and that motive might they have? it’s a mystery of the highest order, but there is a silver lining; Dr. Hercule Poirot is in the region and will stop by soon to lend a hand.

When Poirot arrives, he listens to the story and begins amassing some ideas. After another in the expedition turns up dead, having consumed a sizeable amount of poison, some wonder if it was the murderer’s guilty conscience that led to the act, while others are sure someone is lurking inthe shadows, ready to kill again when the time is right.

Poirot synthesises the facts and predicts what likely happened, even if it seems improbable to all those in the expedition. He is, of course, known for his outlandish mannerisms that usually lead to the correct answers. Someone is guilty and Poirot wastes no time in pointing his well-manicured finger in a certain direction. Christie presents a great mystery, free from the extemporaneous fluff that many stories penned today appear to have.

I have been enjoying these Poirot novels, as they are short enough to speed along and yet detailed enough to pull me in. Christie does well in exemplifying her abilities and keeps the reader entertained throughout the reading experience. Full of wonderful information and setting specific detail, the story moves along well and keeps the reader enthused until the final reveal.

Christie has worked with a few narrative perspectives throughout the series, but chose a new leading set of eyes for this piece in the form of Amy Leatheran. It helped keep the story moving along from a new perspective and allowed me to see how someone else perceives the great detective. A strong narrative and some formidable characters made this a great read. Add to that, some strong plot twists in a unique setting and the piece never fails to entertain. While there is still a large pile of books yet to read in the series, I am eager to forge onwards to see what else there is to come. Bring on more Poirot!

Kudos, Dame Christie, for a unique mystery. Let’s see what Poirot will discover next.

Cult of Darkness, by D.W. Whitlock

Eight stars

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

Having been handed this ARC by D.W. Whitlock, I was eager to see if the core of the novel proved to be as enticing as the dust jacket blurb. Having read some of his other work, I was prepared for a thrilling and intense read, which would surely pull me into the middle of the action. I was not disappointed, as Whitlock told a story of great interest and kept me wanting to delve a little deeper.

While drugs continue to find their way onto streets and in the hands of the most vulnerable, there is a power struggle much higher up that is just as dangerous. Mexican drug cartels are battling not only to get their product onto the streets, but to control distribution and sales to any and all who find themselves needing a hit.

Of those groups who are wrestling for control, one has risen above all others: the Riviera. Headed by the ruthless Kukulkan, members of the cartel have begun peddling fentanyl, a drug more powerful than anything else on the streets. Bodies are strewn all around pristine Mexican communities, proving that this is one battle that will not end easily.

When the son of a prominent local businessman disappears, a call goes out to Alex Schofield, whose time in the Delta forces and investigative techniques are second to none. Schfield enters the landmine that is Mexico, in search of a boy who may have become involved in something more complex than he could have imagined.

While Schofield has made a vow to himself, he may have to break it in order to save one boy from imminent danger. However, there are other demons creeping up that could seriously harm Schofield on a more personal level. D.W. Whitlock weaves a chilling tale that will surely leave the reader on the edge of their seats throughout this great story.

While I have read the other novel published by D.W. Whitlock, this one was more captivating and enthralling than its predecessor. Full of action and wonderful character development, Whitlock proves that he belongs in this genre an should be noticed by those who love reading books of this nature.

The test of a great book is the ability to pull the reader in with ease as the story progresses. Whitlock does that well, as his narrative builds to a crashing crescendo and takes the reader on a journey like no other. With strong characters and some wonderful development to keep the reader wanting to know more, Whitlock teases the reader throughout the process, while tossing in some great plot twists to keep things interesting. There is no time to take a break between page turns, as the action culminates in something well worth the wait. I will keep my eyes open for more by D.W. Whitlock and hope others take notice.

Kudos, Mr. Whitlock, for another great read. I’m eager to see what’s to come!