The Last Drop of Blood (DS Katie Macguire #11), by Graham Masterton

Eight stars

The binge is complete! While it took 39 days, the reading marathon was well worth the time invested. Graham Masterton proved sensational with his eleven novels and two short stories, pulling the reader deeper into the life and work challenges of Detective Superintendent Katie Macguire. The character development was great and the novels each packed a punch, while also offering some stunning story arcs that spanned multiple books. Masterton impressed me from the outset and never waned in his abilities, keeping me guessing how things would resolve themselves by the final page turn. A series well worth the time and full of stunning crimes for the reader to enjoy. So pleased I took the time for this series as the summer days sped along.

Detective Superintendent Katie Macguire is still stunned by the sexual assault she received at the hands of her superior, but refuses to let this derail her. There is too much going on and crimes in Cork will not stop while she picks herself up. When a blazing car fire contains the charred body of a respectable judge, the Garda are quick to open an investigation. Something seems off and DS Macguire has a personal connection to the victim, which makes this case all the more important.

While the case progresses, Cork is hit with an uptick in gang wars, as two rival groups plot bloody revenge on one another. The Garda sit idly by, trying to pick up hints of hits or possible acts of retribution. This is not lost on the media, who begin tossing DS Macguire under the bus, keen to show that she’s not kept her promise to quash criminal activity on city streets

One journalist in particular has targeted DS Macguire, creating sensational headlines and tossing mud in her direction, When salacious photos are also leaked, DS Macguire can only wonder if it is more than a journalist with a grudge. She pushes harder, only to learn that her reputation could be on the line.

As Cork buzzes with crime, the higher-ups in the Garda begin to posit that it might be time to end the DS Katie Macguire experiment in a position of authority. There is nothing more that can be done but DS Macguire is not yet ready to toss in the towel. As the series comes to a close, Masterton adds just enough spice to keep the reader hooked to the final paragraph. I am so pleased to see how things ended and can only hope that I find another great series to devour before too long.

Graham Masterton has made a fan out of me after reading some of his horror works, but this police procedural collection was even better. Full of nuances when to comes to crime, personal drama, and Irish lifestyles, Masterton has something for everyone. The series proved highly engaging, while also being full of character development that helped offer depth to offset the gruesome crimes that fill many of the chapters. I am sorry to let DS Katie Macguire and her Garda team go, but things ended on such a scintillating note that I am happy to recommend this collection to others.

Masterton has impressed me from the opening pages of the first novel through to the end of this piece, providing strong writing and deep character depictions that develop with ease. The good thing about reading a series in a binge format is that it permits the reader an opportunity to see character growth and storylines progress in short order, seeing the little things that casual readers may miss. The criminal aspect never left me feeling underwhelmed, as Masterton has shown he is able to chill the reader to the core. A police procedural thriller unlike any I have read before, the Irish flavouring adds something unique to my reading experience and I can only hope that others will flock to this series when time permits or they can find a way not to allow their TBR pile to topple down upon them.

Kudos, Mr. Masterton, for a great series and introducing me to some stellar Irish writing. Not sure what’s next but it will be hard to top this!

Blood Sisters (Shea Stevens #3), by Dharma Kelleher

Eight stars

Always pleased to get my hands on a book by Dharma Kelleher, I was happy to read the latest in the Shea Stevens series. Kelleher develops more grit and blood in this ‘biker thriller’, which has the reader speeding alongside as the narrative gains momentum. Kelleher pulls on a great deal of own experiences to entertain the reader effectively until the stunning conclusion. I am quite pleased to return to this series to see how Shea Stevens can pack a punch.

While running her motorcycle shop during the day, Shea Stevens is also an active member of the Athena Sisterhood Motorcycle Club. When a troubled woman approaches Shea and seeks the assistance of the Club, things take on a whole new angle. A dirty politician with a deep secret will stop at nothing to keep his transgressions from being known. This worries Shea more than anything. A visit to the state senator backfires and things turn deadly, all while Shea is seeking a truce.

All the while, a group from a rival gang area back for some retribution after they have been released from jail. It is sure to be a bloody affair, one that Shea cannot sanction with everything else going on. As the Sisterhood are trying to fend people off on two fronts, Shea has a personal issue that boils over and requires her attention as well. It’s sure to be a bloody mess, but Shea Stevens is not one to back down, even as her life hangs in the balance. Kelleher does a great job with this newest book in the series, sure to pique the interest of the open-minded reader.

I cannot remember how I stumbled upon the works of Dharma Kelleher, but I have not looked back since devouring the first novel. Her work is gritty, realistic, and impactful, without needing to be overly gruesome. The reader gets just what they need and can follow along with ease, as the narrative flows without issue. Great characters and issues that brings to the forefront topics that are only now seeing the light of day, Kelleher educates her readers as much as entertain them.

I always look for a strong opening to keep me enthralled with a book, something that proves to be central to this novel. Kelleher offers a strong narrative and provides the reader with something they can digest with ease. Key characters return for another round of fighting and self-reflection, which provides the reader with something entertaining as they get into some troubling issues. Plot twists emerge throughout, adding depth to the story and those characters in the middle of it all, which makes it all the more impactful try the closing pages. I may not know much about bikers or how they run their everyday lives, but Dharma Kelleher is surely a great teacher and I am ready to learn even more.

Kudos, Madam Kelleher, for a great piece that I could not put down!

Building Justice: Frank Iacobucci and the Life Cycles of Law, by Shauna Van Praagh

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Shauna Van Praagh, andUniversity of Toronto Press for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

For any reader who enjoys Canadian politics and legal analysis, this quasi-biography of Frank Iacobucci proves the perfect mix. In a piece that explores the life of a former Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, Shauna Van Praagh does a great job of exploring Iacobucci’s life, his legal thinking, and the personal touch he brought to serving his country through the law. In her detailed piece, Van Praagh touches on many key points about how the Canadian judicial system was shaped by Iacobucci’s decisions, as well as the compassion he brought to the judgements he penned throughout his various years on a few of Canada’s courts. A highly informative piece that provides the reader with a great understanding of the man and how one person can make a difference in the lives of many, one stone at a time.

Part of Van Praagh’s narrative explores Frank Iacobucci’s early years, including living in Vancouver as a child of Italian immigrants. While his name would leave many to believe that he bantered in Italian at home, Iacobucci’s parents insisted that he speak English alone and bond with others in his immigrant neighbourhood. His passion for the law showed from an early age, as Iacobucci’s announced that he would be a lawyer at twelve. His acerbic wit would surely help him and fuelled many great moments of banter for the young Frank, who found his own before too long.

After significant academic dedication, Frank Iacobucci left law school ready to change the world, though that would mean a great deal fo additional work. The author shows how his hard work paid off with a number of jobs, including serving as a law professor at the University of Toronto. It was here that his passion to teach others blossomed and would be a key theme in his daily activities thereafter. The more impact Frank Iacobucci made on the Canadian legal community, the more significant his jobs became: Dean of Law, Deputy Minister of Justice, and Chief Justice of the Federal Court of Canada. All of these positions would pave the way for his greatest ‘$5 a day’ job, puisne justice of the Supreme Court of Canada.

As Van Praagh explores, it was the ascension to the Supreme Court that allowed Iacobucci to do the greatest good. His compassion for those around him made him a justice that many admired. He sought not only to hear cases and decide on matters of law, but forge new pathways as Canada’s social and political agenda progressed. Iacobucci’s decisions were well-rounded and sought to explore Canada is it could be, rather than simply as it had been in the past. His is a fundamental means of proving that Iacobucci’s impact would be felt for many years.

Even after he retired from the Supreme Court of Canada, Frank Iacobucci helped shape Canada’s political and social landscape. He was asked to work with a number of groups and help adjudicate key issues , one of which, which is still resonating today. The handling of compensation for those who were forced to live in residential schools has long been a struggle and continues to haunt institutions responsible for this ‘scoop and run’. Iacobucci’s attention to detail made him a respected jurist for both the Canadian Government and the Indigenous community. While the wounds are by no means healed, it would appear that Iacobucci’s overseeing the progress has helped give a voice to those who were never asked for opinions, but rather served as sub-humans for decades, while having it legislated by others.

The premise of this book is strong, helping to educate the reader throughout the piece. It is also a great means of shining the light on a man who always liked to opera for others, rather than praise of his actions. The author uses one of Iacobucci’s tenets, that life is all about ‘building the cathedral’ that will be left for others, from the early stonecutter through to the assembly of a massive structure that can serve to help others. The author exemplifies this throughout the tome and helps argue that this is a style of living that does surely make the greatest impact.

Looking at the inner workings of the book itself, Shauna Van Praagh does well to outline the life and times of Frank Iacobucci. While I did not like the skipping around throughout the Iacobucci timeline, referring something more linear, I can see why she did this to make the greatest impact. The narrative was full of great detail, offering insights from others, both in passing and through detailed quotations. While this provided helpful, Van Praagh had an odd way of attributing quoted comments to those who made them, a means that appears (though I have never been a law student) to reflect legal texts than biographical ones. Chapters that build on one another, divided into three parts that mirror Iacobucci’s three stages of life, the shorty grew and created a telling piece for all readers to enjoy. While there are some heavier aspects, these are balanced by those of a lighter nature that easier to digest. This makes for a great read for many who are interested in the man and all he has done.

Kudos, Madam Van Praagh, for an insightful exploration fo the life and times of Frank Iacobucci. I learned so very much and am eager to learn more about him, with some additional research.

Begging to Die (DS Katie Macguire #10), by Graham Masterton

Eight stars

Forging onwards with Graham Masterton’s Irish police procedurals, I have reached the penultimate novel. Masterton dazzles with great crime stories and the stellar work of a handful of strong detectives. The writing shows wonderful flow and has significant Irish flavouring, which pulls the reader into the middle of the story and leaves them to feel as though they, too, are in Cork. A great read that has me eager to reach for the final novel in this series, especially with a stunning cliffhanger!

When a young girl is found begging on the streets of Cork, many wonder about her family. As she cannot speak English, the Garda are baffled as to how they will get any information. Even Detective Superintendent Katie Macguire is scratching her head, until a Romanian translator can be located. Though the information is slow to trickle out, DS Macguire and her team soon learn that the girl is alone and was brought to Ireland with a group of others to beg on the streets and given a merger cut of what they collect. A ruthless man, someone who has instilled fear into others, heads up this group, but his whereabouts remains a mystery.

Meanwhile, DS Macguire’s lover, Connor, takes on an undercover investigation to uproot an illegal puppy farm. He asks one too many questions and is severely beaten, to the point that his relationship with DS Macguire is put in jeopardy. The struggle is real, though no one is sure how to act and ensure a conviction is secured.

While DS Macguire inches closer to learning about the Romanian kingpin, she sees just how ruthless he can be, as bodies of other beggars are found with holes from a drill bit in their necks. Fear is an understatement and DS Macguire cannot convince anyone to break their silence. All the while, sick patients requiring emergency services are found dead, their life savings drained. There’s no shortage of work for DS Macguire and her team in this thrilling penultimate novel, which includes a stunning ending sure to shock many readers.

Graham Masterton shows his abilities with this well-paced novel, which keeps the readers on their toes until the very end. With a strong central plot line, the piece evolves effectively throughout and leaves the reader to wonder where things will end up by the final page turn. The series is rich with Irish references and idioms, such that there is no way the reader can deny feeling as though they are tucked in the corner of a Cork pub, watching things progress.

Masterton provides a strong horror background as he develops the crimes for this series, which may turn some readers away with their graphic depictions. Strong narrative development throughout helps build on an already great story, where characters find themselves developing with ease. Personal growth occurs for many of the characters, with DS Katie Macguire at the centre. Series fans will know she has overcome a number of hurdles from the first novel to this present story. There is so much Katie Macguire has shows readers and I am curious to see how Masterton chooses to tie things off with his star protagonist. Masterton weaves plot twists and cliffhangers into each story to keep the series evolving. I cannot believe how far things have come since I began reading this books earlier in the summer. Bring on the final novel and more crimes sure to chill the blood of many who are involved!

Kudos, Mr. Masterton, for keeping me enthralled at every turn.

The Avignon Affair (Vatican Secret Archives #4), by Gary McAvoy and Ronald L. Moore

Eight stars

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

Gary McAvoy is back with more stellar writing, the primary reason I rushed to read the latest novel in the Vatican Secret Archive series. McAvoy again collaborates with Ronald L. Moore and they examine a new mystery that forces Father Michael Dominic to pull out all the stops, while evil forcers seek to take full advantage. McAvoy and Moore guide readers through a historical event shrouded in secrecy and show how a modern happening could be directly tied to its interpretation. With politics, action, and a little romantic triangulation, McAvoy and Moore offer up a cryptic story that is sure entertain a great cross-section of readers.

While in Paris for a funeral, Father Michael Dominic is called to Notre Dame Cathedral for a mysterious reason. A crypt said to hold the body of a fourteenth-century bishop has been recovered during restoration processes. What’s odd is that the skeleton has a cardinal’s ring on one finger and has two parchments hidden within the vestments. Baffled as to who it might have been and what secrets the parchments might hold, Father Dominic is asked to take them back to the Vatican to investigate.

All the while, major acts of terror rock the streets of Paris and its outskirts, proving that there is instability within the government. A high-ranking aristocrat calls for the French president to step down and allow the democratic process to choose his successor, while the country stands in awe. In a political vacuum, anything goes and this could be the perfect time for anarchy to reign supreme.

While Father Dominic seeks to better understand their mystery before him, a new King of France emerges and tries to wrest control of the country away from the political leaders, who have themselves sought to impose martial law; leaving little space for anything democratic to flourish. It’s only when Father Dominic uncovers some of the key mysteries about the body and parchments that France’s political turmoil becomes a little clearer and the play for power is central to the story.

As Father Dominic deciphers what is before him and France is torn, glimpses of what might be come to the surface, both for the country and with some of those with ties to the Vatican. Will something that took place during a temporary seat of the Pope prove to be the end to the Vatican as we know it, taking a country down with it? McAvoy and Moore weave a scintillating story that adds to the greatness this series has produced to date.

My relationship with Gary McAvoy’s writing began when he asked me to read his debut piece of fiction, which gripped me from the outset. The numerous themes develop a Vatican that proves complex and multi-layered, even when events take place well outside of Rome. McAvoy brings Ronald L. Moore back to collaborate, which proves a great choice, as the story finds new depth and complexity without getting overly heavy. Great character development, especially with the key people series fans know well, adds another aspect as to why the book should be read in short order.

There’s long been a spark surrounding this series, which exposes so many truths, fallacies, and ways to blend them together. The collaborative addition of Ronald L. Moore keeps the reader exploring new avenues of mystery while keeping themselves highly entertained. Laying the groundwork from the opening chapter, the narrative develops with each page, balancing historical happenings with modern goings-on, all of which culminates in a strong story that pulls the reader in. Explosive revelations, both political and religious, add depth to a series that has never lacked for adventure. Strong characters, particularly those who are back yet again and build on their past, help create an emotional connection for the reader. While there were some tense moments in the last novel about whether things might be coming to a close, the authors have spun new themes to keep the series going without any sign of letting up.

Kudos, Messrs. McAvoy and Moore, for another great piece in the series. I await your next adventure!

Fallout, by Carrie Stuart Parks

Seven stars

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

Always a fan of Carrie Stuart Parks and her writing, I was pleased to receive an ARC of this latest novel. Parks always brings her background in forensic art to the novels, tapping into what, for me, has been a unique approach to crime and investigation. That being said, she is keen to collect other breadcrumbs and scatter them throughout, giving the reader an exiting experience as they comb their way through the story.

LaCrosse, Washington is known for little and Samantha Williams likes it that way, An art teacher at the local school, Samantha becomes a hero when an SUV careens into the school and many are hurt. Having been in her own vehicle at the time, Samantha must come to terms with what happened, though is stymied when she cannot produce any proof of her identity to authorities, as it has been removed from her purse.

Confused and relying on others, Samantha must try to piece together what’s happened and who is trying to keep her from herself. Some of these answers begin to emerge when a reporter begins asking questions and digging deeper into Samantha’s past. Samantha soon realises that there are other odd goings-on in the area, including sets of remains that were long thought buried. Is there someone trying to stir up trouble? Samantha finds herself at the heart of it all, without any answers to offer.

At a local recovery house, Clan Firinn, some others are also trying to set things straight. There appear to be a number of mysteries all tied to an old government nuclear facility close to LaCrosse and no one is quite sure what to make of it. It’s this that triggers Samantha and memories of her past, not always good. The fallout is a spiralling like no other, as the truth emerges for all to see. What secrets await Samantha on her journey and how could learning about her past be the key to understanding the present happenings? Parks offers an intriguing piece that never stops evolving.

I remember discovering the works of Carrie Stuart Parks and being instantly pulled in by the world of forensic art. It was a branch of investigation I had never considered and appeared to have ways of really stirring up the pot. Since then, Parks has evolved her stories into one-offs that pack just as much punch, but focus on other perspectives as well, including a peppering of biblical references. Parks uses her strong writing abilities to pull the reader into the middle of the story and forces them to confront whatever the narrative is spinning. This works well, as she has a depth to her characters, which adds flavour to the story and keeps the reader feeling connected to whatever is going on.

One essential to a successful story for me would have to be a clear and developing narrative. Parks offers this as she concocts what she needs to keep things progressing throughout. The story moves and has many moments where it can gain needed momentum, be that through the introduction of a new character, plot twist, or even revelation that was once deemed inconsequential. Parks has had success in crafting her stories with these ingredients and continues to do so throughout this piece. However, there were times that I felt a disconnect to the story or its progression. I was not as affixed to events as I would have liked or even expected. The investigation into the accident that opens the novel, Samantha’s past, or even how Clan Firinn fit into the larger story; all of this proved hit and miss for me. This, in turn, created a sense of confusion or lack of excitement as I flipped pages. I saw a gem in some of the foundational narrative, but did not feel the impact as strongly as I might have liked. While I have seen this book marketed as Christian fiction, that should not deter readers. It does have some biblical references, but I would not consider it fuelling the progression or flavouring of the piece. Perhaps it is my mind space at the moment that has me feeling lukewarm, which is entirely possible. I have much respect for Carrie Stuart Parks and would encourage others to red this, as well as her other books, to come to their own conclusions.

Kudos, Madam Parks, for another well-plotted novel. I hope others see some of the strong aspects I did while reading.

Ice Queen (DI Jamie Johansson #6), by Morgan Greene

Eight stars

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

I was pleased to be handed an ARC for this novel, the ninth in the Jamie Johansson collection and sixth in this DI Johansson series. Greene does a formidable job at advancing his protagonist effectively and keeps her criminal investigations on point. With some stellar narrative techniques and a story that never allows the reader to catch their breath, there is something electric about this novel, which is said to be the last in this vein of Jamie Johansson novels. Greene impresses and eager readers should devour the entire collection soon.

Tying off some loose ends from a previous case, DI Jamie Johansson is permitted to sit in on an Interpol interview. It is then that she realises that there is much more to the story than her investigation uncovered, with some whispers of new and brutal crime along the Finnish border. However, Interpol officials seem more interested in the Russian angle, hoping to nab someone swiftly.

After reluctantly being given the green light, DI Johansson and her partner make their way up to Leppasalmi, a town that does not see much light for three winter months. While the locals have come to accept the danger at night, locking themselves away at dusk, DI Johansson cannot accept this and uses her penchant for finding crime to see what’s been going on.

Local lore talks of an Ice Queen who hunts those who have committed some grievance, though specifics are never revealed to DI Johansson. However, the killings are both brutal and focussed, using killing tools from bygone eras and in different parts of the world. As DI Johansson inches closer, she is caught in the web of the Ice Queen and may soon become one of the bodies left as a deterrent to those who would think to dethrone Her Majesty. Scrambling for answers while juggling some personal struggles of her own, DI Jamie Johansson makes a move to help the residents of Leppasalmi, even if it is the last thing she does! Greene weaves a stunning story together and keeps the reader on the edge of their seat throughout.

I can be guaranteed of a great read when Morgan Greene is at the helm. It was a random ‘would you read my book?’ request by the author that got me hooked on Jamie Johansson and her criminal adventures, something I have never regretted. Greene has done so much to develop Johansson’s character, moving her from the UK to Sweden, where crimes are just as sadistic. However as mentioned in the author’s note, there is something new on the horizon for DI Johansson, which is sure to spice things up for series fans who have come to adore this gritty copper with a backstory like few others.

Greene uses his quick writing style to pull the reader into the middle of the story by the end of the second chapter. There’s so much going on and the action seems never to wane. Throughout the story, a handful of new and recurring characters make themselves known and keep the reader highly entertained. That said, as Greene admits in his personal note, he may have piled on too many things with too many characters to be easily digested in a single story. Great plot twists and a criminal vein of happenings keeps the story focussed and allows the reader to feel attached to what’s happening. With a smattering of Swedish and Finnish, the reader can feel as though they are in the middle of the case and in rural Sweden, where English is not common. I cannot say enough about Morgan Greene or the series, though I am interested to see what the new perspective will do for the series. While I have always said that there’s no need to fix something that’s not broken, I can see the advantage of the odd tweak to make things run a little more smoothly. I await the tenth instalment with anticipation.

Kudos, Mr. Greene, for another winning piece!

Dead Men Whistling (DS Katie Macguire #9), by Graham Masterton

Eight stars

My binge of Irish police procedurals continues with more novels by Graham Masterton. He continues to impresses with stories full of action, criminal goings-on, and strong detective work. There is a great flow to the writing that appears only to get better as Masterton weaves Irish-themed ideas to add an even more flavourful story for those who have followed from the beginning of this collection.

When the body of a Garda officer is found beheaded, many within the Cork police community wonder if it could be terrorism. However, the odd insertion of a tin whistle into the neck stump adds a curious angle to the investigation. Detective Superintendent Katie Macguire wants to get to the bottom of it, especially if someone is targeting her colleagues.

After another Garda is found murdered, with the same whistle placement, DS Macguire is sure this is a pattern. While she would love to deal solely with this, she has some personal matters that require her attention, namely her new lover. While he is a detective working on some dog fighting cases, he appears to have taken matters into his own hands after burning down the home of a known criminal.

When the two victims of the Garda attacks are confirmed as whistleblowers against their colleagues, things fall into perspective and DS Macguire is keen to see who might be targeting those who want to ensure everyone follows the rules. Three other whistleblowers are identified and placed into protective custody, but they are not entirely safe from whoever is targeting these Garda.

Juggling everything tossed at her, DS Macguire makes the best of it while trying to stay one step ahead of the hungry media folk who surround her at every turn. She is also receiving a great deal of pressure from her superiors, some of whom have voiced a concern at letting a woman climb the ranks of the Garda. A murderer (or group) is out there and DS Macguire will have to stop them, as she is about to ‘blow the whistle’ herself on some happenings that come to her attention. Masterton is brilliant once again and keeps the reader on their toes throughout this stellar piece of writing.

Graham Masterton weaves more Irish police procedurals in this intense series that uses graphic and sometimes gruesome murder as a means of catching the reader’s attention. Strong themes, set in the heart of Ireland, provide this series with a flavouring to which I am not accustomed, but thoroughly enjoy. The author is able to build on character development with ease and finds new ways to add depth to storylines that cross from one novel to the next.

Masterton blends his love of horror writing with a strong sense of mystery and police investigation. The strong narrative development is apparent throughout, as this book is only the latest in a collection of strong pieces. Personal and professional growth is apparent amongst many of the characters, especially DS Katie Macguire, who has had a number of hurdles in her way that require some attention. This is as it should be with a strong protagonist in a longer series, allowing the reader to build stronger ties as they read more. Masterton offers plot twists and cliffhangers to keep the series evolving, which has left me scrambling to get hold of the next book as soon as I can post a review. While there are only a few books left in the series, I am ready to tackle those that remain and see just how intense things get for DS Macguire and those around her.

Kudos, Mr. Masterton, for another great read.

Mystic Wind (Jack Marino #1), by James Barretto

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, James Barretto, andOceanview Publishing for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

When I noticed an ARC for this novel, I was intrigued to see if James Barretto could pen as stellar a legal thriller as the dust jacket blurb would have me believe. I was pleased to see how strong his story turned out to be, set in the early 1980s, but not lacking any of the great development found in more modern novels. Gritty and full of great legal drama, Barretto knows his stuff and has me curious to see where things are headed next.

Jack Marino had been enjoying working within the DA’s office as one of the star ADAs. However, after being attacked one night, he becomes a liability to his boss and is summarily fired. But, not before he attends a murder scene of a gruesome killing, where a man was shot, but no witnesses have come forward.

Two years on, Marino has found a place in corporate law, but is convinced by a judge to take a case of a defendant who spouts his innocence, even as the state is keen to put him away for life. This case is a hot potato, particularly because an immunized witness pointed the finger at the newly accused, a single father who has no forensic ties to the crime scene whatsoever. It also happens to be the case he attending on the day of his dismissal two years before. Is the new DA trying to make a name for himself and using a witness who cannot be prosecuted to spew falsehoods just to ensure a conviction?

As the pre-trial motions are coming to a close, Marino is blindsided when the prosecution files for the death penalty, forcing Marino to pull out every legal trick he can manoeuvre. With a judge who is anything but affable and a DA who is trying to secure election as governor, hoping to use this case as a show of law & order, Marino will have to be magical and keep the jury on his side for as long as possible. A brilliant series debut by James Barretto that should be noted by those who love a great legal thriller.

I love legal books, fiction and non-fiction alike. It’s the nuances of the law and how lawyers are able to make it work in their favour that has always interested me. James Barretto does a wonderful job at putting the law front and centre in this piece, using legal tactics and straightforward courtroom arguments throughout. The themes are strong and push the story along, which keeps the reader wondering how things will turn out when the foreman rises to deliver the verdict. I am eager to see how things progress with this series, as there is something about Barretto that has me thinking there is more to come and things won’t lessen in intensity.

Barretto offers a stellar narrative that keeps the flow moving forward with each passing chapter. Short chapters do not allow the reader to get complacent, as there is so I much to see and do throughout this book. Characters are plentiful, though the core ones do their jobs effectively, keeping the reader wanting to know more as the story progresses. Legal thrillers tend to have good plot twists, if done correctly, and Barretto knows his stuff in this regard. I’m ready for more and hope the wait is not too long!

Kudos, Mr. Barretto, for a stellar legal thriller. I am curious to see what else you have in store for your series and will keep an eye out.

Dead Girls Dancing (DS Katie Macguire #8), by Graham Masterton

Eight stars

Those who have followed me closely this summer will know that I am currently in the middle of an epic binge of Irish police procedurals by Graham Masterton. The author never ceases to impresses with a collection whose crimes prove as chilling and graphic as anything I have come across. The narrative flow is smooth and characters develop throughout the series, adding something for those who have followed from the opening novel. Masterton shows how he can use Irish-themed ideas to keep the series flowing, educating and entertaining in equal measure.

A fire in Cork’s downtown core leaves many dead, including an entire dance troupe. Of those who survive, one little girl is unclaimed and since she is not speaking, there is no way to track her. Detective Superintendent Katie Macguire works as best she can to help her, but there’s something not entirely right about the situation or this young survivor.

While the investigation turns to an arson inquest, DS Macguire is forced to deal with her own personal issues, which includes trying to understand what’s going on with her current lover. He has a secret he failed to share with her, but seems keen to make a future with her, no matter what the cost. Another love interest emerges and complicates the scenario, especially since there is a workplace aspect. Then again, DS Macguire never does things in a straightforward manner.

As the investigation takes on new importance, there is an IRA angle that could explain it all. DS Macguire and her team must be careful, as this could leave more bodies in the wake of these discoveries. The little girl could be the key to it all, though learning the truth about her identity could create even more trouble for the Garda. Politically rich and full of Irish flavouring, Masterton keeps the series strong with another stellar novel.

Graham Masterton has created something well worth the attention I have been giving it. With strong themes, set in the heart of Ireland, this is a police procedural that will tug on the reader’s lapels and not let go throughout. Themes related the political goings-on and regionalism prove successful in keeping the tension up, while providing the reader with something new and exciting. What luck I had in discovering this series and how pleased I am that things have been going so well.

Masterton is at the top of his game with this collection of novels, though he was a household name for many who love the horror genre over the last number of years. There is strong narrative development, both within the book and throughout the entire series, allowing the reader to get a sense of what is going on and stray focussed. Character development builds with each novel, offering a cast that is reliable and permits the reader to see growth. The development of DS Katie Macguire is most prominent, as should be the case with any strong protagonist, but it is primarily her personal life that keeps readers intrigued. Masterton supplies great plot twists and countless cliffhangers to leave the series ever-evolving, which has me rushing back to find the next novel as soon as I complete a review. I can see things getting more intense with these novels, which only means that Masterton is honing his skills even more.

Kudos, Mr. Masterton, for keeping me highly entertained throughout.