Cold, Cold Bones (Tempe Brennan #21), by Kathy Reichs

Eight stars

It is always an adventure when Kathy Reichs is at the helm of another novel. A mix of thrilling adventure and forensic science await the reader, who is never quite sure what is around the corner. This twenty-first novel in the series is strong and keeps the reader guessing, providing proof that Reichs is back and ready to keep the quality high. Straddling both past and present, the story keeps the reader engaged until the very end, as things finally come together. Another great piece by Reichs, who has shown that she’s not afraid to take risks.

While snowy weather is not common, it does happen around Charlotte. Dr. Temperence ‘Tempe’ Brennan is prepared, as she spends a great deal of her time up in Montreal, one of Canada;s largest cities. Still, it’s an adventure, as those around her try to cope, including Tempe’s daughter, Katy. As the two prepare for a nicer meal at home after Katy has returned to civilian life from a stint in the military, their tranquility is broken by the sight of a box on the porch step, which contains a recently removed eyeball.

Baffled as to what the eyeball means, Tempe reports it to the police and her colleagues at the morgue, only to be rattled again when she is sent to investigate a mummified body that is eerily similar to a case from her past.

More cases pile up and Tempe cannot shake the parallels to files from her past work in Charlotte and across Canada.

While she tries to piece the present and past cases together, Tempe’s forced to come to terms with a more personal issue when Katy does missing after volunteering at a men’s shelter. Worried and sure that someone is watching her, Tempe tries to remain one step ahead, while worried that Katy may have fallen prey to this copycat killer. Who is next on the list and how will Dr. Brennan be able to guess what awaits her? All the while, Katy’s disappearance eats away at Tempe, who cannot fathom the loss. Reichs dazzles in this piece, while keeping the forensics high and the twists plentiful.

Novels of revenge can be wonderful, as long as their basis is grounded in something the reader can understand . Kathy Reichs uses her great abilities, not only with forensic anthropology, but also writing, to keep the reader engaged and on the edge of their seats. While she waned for a while in her publications, this is a return to some of the stellar pieces I began in the early part of the series. There is something for everyone and great asides, which serve to humour and educate the reader in equal measure. Reichs packs a punch and keeps the reader guessing until the end, when she brings it all together, as any great thriller writer would.

I remember discovering Kathy Reichs and her writing many years ago, bingeing the early novels in this series, so as to discover how forensic anthropology might be a worthy angle of investigating crimes. Now a full-fledged fan, I am always eager when Kathy Reichs publishes a new piece, hoping that it will pack as much of a thrill ride as some of the early novels. With a great narrative and stellar pacing, the story begins well and keeps getting better. Solid characters, some of whom are regular faces for series fans, keep the piece moving and add needed flavouring when things demand it. Twists are plentiful, as are moments of pure education, so the reader can better understand what is happening before them. Reichs’ own work as a forensic anthropologist is highlighted throughout, as is her passion for both Charlotte and Montreal. Those eager to find a series that will take the reader on a ride need look no further, though do not expect anything superficial, as this is a hefty topic!

Kudos, Madam Reichs, for keeping your fans appeased and penning a great novel. Where are you headed next it’s Tempe and those who surround her?

Rising Tiger (Scot Harvath #21), by Brad Thor

Eight stars

When it comes to novels in the thriller genre, one need look no further than Brad Thor. Always keen to pluck out some struggle on the international scene, Thor proves insightful and highly entertaining as he presents his novels in a no holds barred manner. Pushing away from the over-flogged Russia and ISIS angles, Thor turns to China and India as new domains, where democracy and international safety hang in the balance. With operative Scot Harvath on the scene, the reader can be assured of something intense and full of action. Another Thor winner, sure to keep series fans quite content.

After a US operative is killed in India, the Americans are not ready to turn the other cheek, but must retaliate with some subtlety. Sending Scot Harvath into the region seems the most propitious way to handle things, though it will require much coordination to ensure things go smoothly. Harvath has not spent much time in India, but is ready for a new and difficult challenge.

After arriving in country, Harvath is paired up with a rugged former cop, whose job is not only to show him around, but also help tease out information from locals who may not be as happy to speak with a westerner. Harvath and his host learn a little more about the Indian underworld, in hopes of targeting a gangster who is said to have ruthless ways of dealing with his enemies. Harvath sets his sights on the man and hopes that a little cat and mouse play will lead to a quick capture, or extermination.

All the while, China is raising the stakes with a new and terrifying weapon. Using members of the Indian Army as test subjects, the Chinese hope to create new wave technology, blasting their enemies into submission, while doing a number on physiological aspects of the body as well. Harvath knows all too well what threat the Chinese hold and is sure that this is only the beginning. Working to catch a killer is but one aspect of the mission, but Scot Harvath cannot do it alone. He will need the help of a few locals to harness learning the ropes in a country whose rulebook differs greatly from American covert operations. Thor does a masterful job with this novel to keep the story fresh and the angles sharp.

While series fans have seen a great deal of transformation in Scot Harvath and the stories, there is something familiar with this piece that ties it all together. Well-paced and full of action, Thor painters a picture of a new 21st century threat and how conventional means will not work to solve the problem. Brad Thor is an author like no other, leaving the reader to dazzle in his abilities throughout this high-octane piece.

The world of espionage and covert operations requires constant tweaking to remain relevant without getting too technical. The reader needs to feel as though they are in the middle of the action, but also understand what is going on around them. Brad Thor’s narrative pace is such that things are ever-evolving, but at least not to the point that the reader feels left behind. A handful of returning characters help connect this piece to many of the others, while new faces help add a flavouring not seen in past Harvath novels. There is great character development, such that I want to know more about some of the newcomers, which I hope means they will be back soon. Plot twists emerge throughout, but things stay relatively true to current goings-on in the world, allowing the reader to feel as though they are part of the current international operative network and can trade the threats presented as real and potential in the coming years. I am eager to see how much more Scot Harvath has left in him, though am not tiring of his presence or how Brad Thor is developing the series.

Kudos, Mr. Thor, for another winner in this collection of intense novels. I wait to see what’s next in your arsenal and trust you will dazzle once more.

A Hideous Convention (Bombay Crime Bureau #0.5), by Krishnaraj HK

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to Krishnaraj HK for providing me with a copy of this short story, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

I was pleased to be handed an ARC for this short story, which proves to be highly entertaining. As I am one who always enjoys a great police procedural, I was eager to sink my teeth into one that uses an Indian flavouring to advance the story. Well-paced and with a few twists to keep me forging onwards, I was pleased to begin my journey reading Krishnaraj and his work.

After an early-morning vehicle accident claims the lives of two people, a teenaged boy is the only survivor with answers as to what’s might have happened. Scanning the scenes the police cannot answer all their queries, but are fairly certain that sleeping at the wheel as the likely cause of the vehicle veering into the path of an oncoming truck. However, Forensics may have something else to say on the matter, which leads Dev Shinde, Senior Superintendent with the Bombay Crime Bureau, to take a closer look.

When a container of pills are found in the glove box, Superintendent Shinde wonders if there may be more to the story. He digs a little deeper to learn that the family has a history of addiction, including the teenager who was on his way back from a facility with his parents. As Superintendent Shinde probes a little more, additional secrets begin tumbling out, which only adds motive and depth to this road incident. Might there be more than a freak accident to investigate here? Who might have wanted others in the vehicle to suffer and how did this all come about? A great introduction to the Bombay Crime Bureau. I look forward to the full-length novel to come.

It is always a gamble when an author approaches you, in hopes of you reading their work. The pressure is on, but I am happy to keep things honest throughout the review, as this is the only way an author will grow. I readily accepted this police procedural short story by Krishnaraj and hoped that it would whet my appetite for the upcoming novel with the same cast of characters. The story is strong and follows well, creating twists throughout to keep the reader on their toes. There are some good characters whose backstory will surely be developed as the series takes root. I am eager to see where things are headed and am happy to have taken the gamble with this piece.

Police procedurals the world round rely on strong narrative direction, particularly for those who are not familiar with the local customs or system of law. The reader is led quite nicely along with this piece and Krishnaraj keeps things moving at a brisk pace. Characters offer some depth, as well as comic relief, throughout the piece, which opens the door to some great development, once the series gets rolling. Plot twists throughout keep the reader on their toes, but also provide some ‘aha’ moments as Krishnaraj surely does not want things to become too predictable. I am glad that I took the time to read this shorter piece and await news on the full novel, which is sure to come soon.

Kudos, Mr. Krishnaraj, for reaching out and providing such a nice introduction to your series, I am eager to see how things go.

1989 (Allie Burns #2), by Val McDermid

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Val McDermid, andGrove Atlantic for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Always eager to to read the works of Val McDermid, I readily reached for her latest novel. Allie Burns and her journalistic prowess are back for another adventure, using the backdrop of history to spin a story like no other. McDermid packs of punch with this novel, which explored a number of issues from 1989, both social and historical, while providing her reader with something well-worth their invested time. I can only wonder where McDermid will take things next, but am sure fans are in for another treat.

Allie Burns has come a long way in a decade. Now in a senior role within the Sunday Globe, Allie has come to terms that her passion for investigative journalism must be shelved as she tries to cater to readers with tabloid-style writing. Sent to cover the Lockerbie memorials after a plane exploded over the small Scottish town, Allie soon realises that she is meant to be a pretty face digging in the mud of societal grief.

After tripping upon a story about AIDS in Edinburgh, Allie discovers that there is more to it than labelling the city as the disease’s European hotspot . A drug trial aimed at stemming the effects of HIV is quickly stopped by UK authorities. As Allie digs a little deeper, she learns that trials for the drug continue in East Germany, though little is known about what’s going on. Allie vows to get answers and heads behind the Iron Curtain to get to the truth.

While in East Germany, Allie learns much about the pharmaceutical industry, but has another hot potato story land in her lap. The apparent suicide of a media magnate has ties to Nazi Germany and Allie is keen to get to the bottom of this as well. While she tugs on a string or two, Allie soon realises that she has unraveled quite true story and won’t stop until she gets to the truth. The world is changing around her, but Allie Burns is one woman who won’t watch it pass her by! Another stunning story by Val McDermid that will keep the reader flipping pages well into the night.

I have long enjoyed the work of Val McDermid, who never shies away from controversial things while highlighting the wonders of Scotland. There is so much going on in this piece that it is difficult to summarise with ease. McDermid encapsulates a great deal within the pages of this book and keeps the reader wanting to know more. Society and the world at large come under the microscope in this piece, which is both reflective and refreshing in equal measure.

McDemrid is able to develop a strong narrative from the outset, which serves to guide the story along for most of the ride. There are strong themes that resonate out of what McDermid has to say and she’s keen to address them in detail. Great characters offer the reader some entertainment throughout, though it is the depth to which they take the novel that is their greatest purpose. A few key plot twists, complementing the historic goings-on, prove to be the best part of the story and keep the reader learning as they make their way through this gripping tale. I wonder if there is more. to come and what year Mcdermid will choose next.

Kudos, Madam McDermid, for a great piece and wonderful collection of historical moments. You never ceases to amaze.

Storm Tide (Courtney #20), by Wilbur Smith with Tom Harper

Eight stars

It is always a pleasure to return to the world of the Courtney family, especially when Wilbur Smith is the literary tour guide. In this twentieth novel in the Courtney series, Smith tosses things back to the late 18th century once more, as the American War of Independence looms, as well as some other topical adventures for the current Courtney to face. Full of history, drama, and just a little humour, Wilbur Smith proves that he is one of the greatest historical storytellers I have read. A return to greatness after some lacklustre collaborative work.

It’s 1774 and Rob Courtney is still coming into his own. Having spent much of his life along the east coast of Africa, Rob knows little of the exciting life that awaits him on the open seas. He decides to put his dreams into reality after a death in the family and sets off aboard a ship for England, with only a family heirloom to accompany him.

Rob discovers that life in Africa is but a speck of what is going on in the world. He finds himself. lapping up a life of adventure, though soon comes to understand that dreams cost money and he is soon to run out. With an offer to join the British Navy, Rob finds himself back on the open waters and sailing towards the American colonies, where an uprising is beginning to make things quite tense. It is then that Rob Courtney finds true adventure, following in the steps of his ancestors, who never turned away from danger and risk.

Arriving on colonial shores, Rob begins fighting to keep Britain in change, while being seduced by the beauty of a woman who wants to show him how gracious she can be. As Rob gets more ensconced with the battle, two distant relatives emerge on the other side of the fight; young men who will stop at nothing to toss off the yoke of British rule. Rob’s eyes are soon opened up to many new perspectives when he sets sail for other parts of the Americas, including the importance of freedom and that love cannot always follow societal rules. A stunning addition to the Courtney series, Wilbur Smith does well with a little help from a secondary author.

I remember discovering the wonders of the Courtney family years ago, as Wilbur Smith was setting the groundwork for some of these other novels. The stories were always rich with history, social revelations, and stunning narrative development. Smith has not lost his gusto, adding depth to the pieces all these years later. I can only hope there are a few more to come, as they surely capture the reader’s attention and force them to think a little harder.

Wilbur Smith has tackled some of the thorny issues related to African colonisation and how the white minority wrestled with their role generations ago. In this piece, the story looks not to colonisation, but rather the slave trade and uses some strong narrative pathway to express how things were back in the latter part of the 18th century. Smith keeps things on edge with some wonderful characters, each of whom play an important role in telling how things progressed, while using historical events to keep the reader connected with fact. Plot twists throughout with some detailed discussions of societal norms force the reader to remain attune with what is going on, as they piece together much of what Smith has expressed in past books over a handle of generations. Long live the Courtneys, which Wilbur Smith seems keen to do!

Kudos, Mr. Smith, for another great piece. Keep them coming as best you can!

The Accomplice (Eddie Flynn #7), by Steve Cavanagh

Eight stars

Glad to return to the world of Steve Cavanagh and the Eddie Flynn legal thrillers, I turned to the latest instalment of the series. Cavanagh takes an interesting approach to the law and investigation in a piece that shows just how on the ball the author can be when it comes to the world of serial killers. A strong story and great characters help elevate the book and make me yearn for more as soon as possible.

Eddie Flynn has been enjoying his legal practice for the last number of years, choosing who he represents and making sure criminal defence work receives as stellar a reputation as possible. When his team is approached by a lawyer to take on the defence of Carrie Miller, arguably the most hated woman in America. Carrie is the wife of Daniel Miller, also known as The Sandman, a horrific serial killer who is still on the loose. While Carrie professes to being innocent of any wrongdoing, the court of public opinion is clearly ruling against her.

While Eddie is hesitant to take the case, he’s persuaded by something deep inside him. Preparing to defend her on charges of being an accomplice to murder, Eddie knows that it will be an uphill battle, exacerbated by the fact that his client has skipped bail. Add to that The Sandman is lurking in the shadows and still killing, when he makes a bold move; kidnapping one of Eddie’s team members and promising to release her only when Carrie is exonerated.

As the drama in court heats up, events around New York are also changing, such that the truth evolves with each passing hour. While Eddie may have a lock on helping Carrie, the truth about The Sandman soon comes into question, leaving some to wonder if Daniel Miller’s as sinister as many would believe. It will take Eddie’s best work to save his client and a team member from sure chaos. If anyone can do it, it’s Eddie Flynn! Cavanagh does a wonderful job at keeping the reader thoroughly engaged throughout.

I remember stumbling upon the Eddie Flynn series and bingeing the first few novels. Since then, I have tried to keep my eyes open for new submissions by Steve Cavanagh, all of which open my eyes to new angles of American criminal defence. Cavanagh knows his stuff and keeps the reader completely engaged as they progress through the story, making this the perfect piece for any who have a penchant for legal thrillers.

The strength of the story is founded in Cavanagh’s ability to cobble together a powerful narrative, as is usually the case. He uses this as a means of leading the reader along a path that keeps the momentum going and provides a collection of stunning revelations along the way. Great characters, whose presence make for a more entertaining read, return and provide some lighter banter at times, as the subject matter is quite intense. Plot twists and reveals help the reader remain on the edge of their seat and leave little room for mass predictability. I have always enjoyed when Steve Cavanagh writes and will eagerly await his next book, which I hope is in the works now!

Kudos, Mr. Cavanagh, for keeping me entertained and highly in tune with the world of legal thrillers.

The Neon Punch (Eddie Flynn #0.1), by Steve Cavanagh

Eight stars

Always a fan of Steve Cavanagh’s Eddie Flynn series, I was happy to stumble upon this extremely short piece that could be considered an early preface to the collection. Eddie Flynn has always been a favourite character of mine and this piece, while brief, was a great addition to the collection of legal thrillers that Steve Cavanagh has penned. A glimpse into his past life provides the reader a great look into Flynn’s dicier days before the law took over.

Eddie Flynn may not have always been a lawyer, but has had a way of reading a room, as well as those he is trying to play. In this piece, Eddie Flynn is in Vegas and trying to dupe a professional gambler out of a large pot of money. Just as things are getting tense, a woman appears and seems interested in making a scene. When Eddie intervenes, he finds himself on the wrong end of a punch to the gut. Poker chips fly and a commotion ensues. What follows is proof that Eddie Flynn is a master and knows just how to turn things to his advantage. A great piece by Cavanagh, perfect for a short coffee break.

Steve Cavanagh has a wonderful ability to pull the reader in swiftly. His Eddie Flynn character is not only entertaining, but his backstory is one many readers will find intriguing. This very short piece does not delve too much into that area or character development, but does provide a context as to where Flynn came from and how his pre-law life was just as important as those cases he tries and helps investigate in the series to date. I stumbled upon this piece while reading the latest legal thriller and am pleased to have added it to my list, as well as how it helps enrich the overall Eddie Flynn experience.

Kudos, Mr. Cavanagh, for a great piece that took only a few minutes to digest!

Genesis (Detective Robert Hunter #12), by Chris Carter

Nine stars

Pleased to get my hands on the latest Chris Carter thriller, I eagerly read the book to see how things would progress in yet another police procedural with psychological thriller undertones. Detective Robert Hunter is back for another in-depth exploration of a psychotic killer whose motives only become apparent after a significant amount of analysis. Carter provides the reader with a stunning story that takes things to gruesome levels, but never loses its momentum. A great thriller in line with other novels in the series, proving Chris Carter can impress and captivate with ease.

Detective Robert Hunter has long been a valuable member of the Ultra Violent Crime division of LAPD Homicide, investigating the most heinous crimes committed. While this may be the case, he has always seen it eat away at his inner self, which leaves Hunter to wonder how much energy he has left.

When he and his partner are called to the scene of a brutal murder, where the victim has been hung up with a giant fish hook, Hunter begins to wonder if he has reached the edge of the depravity people could inflict on others. With a piece of poetry left at the scene, Hunter and others within the LAPD begin to ponder if this message has a deeper meaning.

When other killings occur with completely different motives, it is only the line of poetry that connects them all together. Hunter must use all the resources at his disposal to determine what’s going on and how to connect the dots. It is only when taking a step back and syntheising the evidence that Detective Hunter makes a possible connection, though this is not guaranteed to come to fruition.

With time running out and another victim sure to be targeted by the killer soon, Hunter will have to try to stay one step ahead. How does the killer choose their victims and what motive ties them all together? Hunter and the rest of the team will have to make sense of this, taking things back to the beginning, the so-called genesis of the killer’s motivation. Chris Carter impresses with a story that leaves no time to catch one’s breath, but keeps the reader turning pages well into the night.

I have always enjoyed the writing of Chris Carter, who pulls out all the stops in order to hook the reader from the opeeening pages. In a story that provides a substantial amount of narrative progression, Carter also adds his trademark collection of gruesome killings, which help the reader take note. Great storytelling and intricate puzzling together of clues provide the reader with an entertaining experience while chilling them to the core.

Chris Carter has never suffered from an inability to captivate, no matter the angle of his story. He uses a strong narrative to set the scene, adding highly descriptive moments and short chapters to keep the reader intrigued and wanting to read more. The characters, which series fans will have come to know well, continue to have depth to their personal backstories and fit together effectively for the overall experience. Plot lines emerge throughout, with twists to keep the story from being too predictable. The story is built on layers, which are slowly pulled back in order to get the the kernel. However, even atthat point, nothing is completely linear. There is a chilling aspect to the piece that Carter instills with each of his publications, though this is offset with great background development, keeping things from being too gory. I have seen the strain the series has taken on Detective Robert Hunter, but he is just so strong a character that I hope Carter has more to come.

Kudos, Mr. Carter, for another chilling thriller that cements your place at the top of the genre!

Duplicity (Brick Kavanagh #2), by Shawn Wilson

Eight stars

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

Always eager to to try new books and authors, I gladly accepted an ARC of Shawn Wilson’s latest novel. After familiarising myself with the debut novel, I dove into this one, which was just as intense. Wilson creates a stellar mystery with some strong themes and keeps the reader guessing until the final page turn. I cannot wait to see how former cop Brick Kavanagh progresses as Shawn Wilson develops this series.

While the DC area is always wonderful, former homicide detective Brian ‘Brick’ Kavanagh needed a change. A trip to his ancestral homeland of Ireland proved useful, choosing to return stateside only because of the visa requirements. However, Brick did not leave Ireland empty handed, having struck up a romantic connection with a flight attendant who spends much of her time in Chicago.

Brick is looking for something to bide his time and agrees to help a criminologist talk about cold cases to one of her college classes. Choosing one, Brick begins revisiting a hit and run that came to nothing, primarily because the accused was able to hide behind diplomatic immunity. All the same, it is something to keep him occupied and once Brick finds a thread, there’s no knowing where it will lead.

While away on a brief trip to Chicago, Brick hopes to strengthen his relationship and see if it is going anywhere. However, a panicked call from his former partner, Ron Hayes, has Brick rushing back to DC. Ron’s wife and twin babies have been kidnapped and they are nowhere to be found, though clues begin popping up. Brick will have to tap into all his detective experience to help piece things together, but the direction in which things are going seems baffling.

Both cases progress rapidly; the cold case showing signs of a potential motive lie the kidnapping a sinister revelation. Brick might have wanted to let sleeping does lie with this case, as it seems his poking around has someone highly agitated. Still, Brick Kavanagh is not one to turn his back on progress and will open whatever doors are before him, even if they could cause harm. How will Brick be able to juggle two intense cases and bring justice to them both before more people are hurt? Shawn Wilson weaves another great story in her latest novel, not to be missed by those who love something intense and unputdownable.

I enjoy discovering new authors, as they are a formidable challenge for me. I find some who are best left behind me, but others, like Shawn Wilson, who earn a spot on my list of those I will gladly follow. A great writing style is balanced with poignant plot twists, all of which create something well worth my while. In a genre full of authors who purport to have what it takes to spin a police procedural into something fabulous, Wilson excels and should rise to the top for those seeking something worth their reading time. I just hope there is more to come before too long.

From the opening pages, Wilson builds up her narrative to create a mystery that has all the elements of success. The story flows easily and is aided by strong characters who add flavour where it is needed. Short chapters keep the reader pushing forward before realizing they are neck-deep in the story and cannot put it down. Plot twists emerge throughout that keep the reader on edge and wondering what awaits them. I can only hope that Shawn Wilson will keep up this calibre of writing, as I devoured both of the first two novels in the series. There’s something about Brick Kavanagh that has me eager to come back, whenever the next novel makes its way to readers.

Kudos, Madam Wilson, for another great piece. You have a fan in me!

The Secret Witness (Shepard & Gray #1), by Victor Methos

Eight stars

Always a fan of Victor Methos and his writing, I was pleased to begin this new series. In stories that always pack a punch, Methos treats readers to the dual protagonists of cop and prosecutor, both of whom are trying to reinvent themselves. Gritty storytelling matches well with a deceptive killer to give the reader something exciting to explore and paving the way towards what could be a stunning new series. Methos at his best!

The opening line of an anonymous letter published in the local paper says it all: “This is Reaper speaking.” The announcement comes just after a couple is found brutally murdered in the vehicle, the scene quite similar to a string of killings years before. Sheriff Elizabeth Gray is not sure if she has a copycat on her hands, but she knows that she will not be able to do it alone.

After being permanently sidelined by an attack in the courtroom, Solomon Shepard is trying to make the most of his days. He’s left the legal world and has been writing, as well as lecturing on serial killers at the local college. However, when Sheriff Gray calls on him, he’s intrigued and ready to put some of his knowledge to practical use. The Reaper case is one he knows well and Shepard is ready to see just how intense being back in the field can be.

While sifting through the evidence, both Gray and Shepard realise that this killer will stop at nothing to be noticed and make the list of victims grow swiftly. Bloody discoveries will leave them both in the crosshairs of this new killer, seeking to be a part of evil greatness. What Gray and Shepard soon discover is that they had no way of predicting the truth that is revealed before them. Methos chills the reader to the core with this novel, the first in what could be a stellar series.

I have always enjoyed the work of Victor Methos, primarily because he gets to the heart of the matter with stunning legal and criminal analysis. There is a great deal for fans of both genres to enjoy here, particularly those who like something with more of a serial killer flavouring. Methos keeps things sharp and presents the reader with something that has them wanting more, which can only mean he better keep the stories coming.

At the heart of every good book is a strong narrative, which serves to guide the reader. Victor Methos does that effectively with a strong foundation that directs the reader throughout the story. Short chapters and great characters help keep the reader enticed, while providing something for all to enjoy. Plot twists abound, keeping the reader from being able to predict everything as it occurs, one of Methos’ great skills. I can only hope the series progresses soon with new and exciting ideas, as Methos has me curious about where things are headed.

Kudos, Mr. Methos, for another great story. I can only hope you have more ideas percolating.

Relentless (Brick Kavanagh #1), by Shawn Wilson

Eight stars

Always eager to to try new books and authors, I gladly accepted an ARC of Shawn Wilson’s latest novel. In order to get the full context, I chose to begin with the first in the series, which brings me to this review. Wilson provides the reader with a strong police procedural, adding depth and character development throughout, as she illustrates the struggles her protagonist has while working as a DC Homicide detective. Full of wonderful storytelling and some painful revelations, Shawn Wilson is one author worth reading for a stellar experience.

The DC area is always beautiful in the spring, but all this is dashed when a young woman’s naked body is discovered in the Tidal Basin. This calls for DC Homicide Detective Brian ‘Brick’ Kavanagh, who attends the scene in hopes of making some headway before forensics disappear and the young woman is left as a crime statistic.

As Kavanagh begins his investigation, he learns that this murder is tied to another, with close personal ties. He tries to peel back the truth from an ever-mounting pile of deception, but Kavanagh encounters fellow detectives who are keen to shelve this as a crime between minorities. Others may not care, but Detective Brick Kavanagh feels everyone deserves their fair share of investigative time.

After someone confesses to the crime, Kavanagh wonders if that is the end of it, as his colleagues seem happy to move on. However, the defence attorney might be his one chance to get to the truth. Upset by the lack of support DC Homicide offers, Kavanagh retires and begins investigating on his own. It’s only then that the dark truth comes to light and no one is safe. Who killed two innocent Guatemalans and how has Kavanagh risked the lives of everyone around him? Wilson does a masterful job in this piece stringing the reader along until the impactful ending.

New authors have always been a welcomed challenge for me, as I learn so much about them through their writing. While I have a list of go-to authors, I am happy to expand it when I come across someone who is worth my time. Shawn Wilson is one of those, as I have come to discover with this piece. She has grit and determination, allowing me to feel as though she could compete with others in the genre and perhaps surpass them. I am eager to get to the ARC of her latest book, in hopes that it is just as exciting as this proved to be.

Wilson works to build her narrative up from the opening pages, providing the reader with a stellar pathway throughout this police procedural. Her depiction of characters is spot-on and allows the reader to feel in the middle of the action, which adds more to the story. Plot twists keep the reader on the edge of their seat, as short chapters propel them to ‘read a little more’, which makes for a great reading experience. I am eager to add Shawn Wilson to my list of authors and hope others will try this book, in hopes of doing the same.

Kudos, Madam Wilson, for a stellar debut novel. I am eager to read more and see how I like your style.

TERF Wars (Jinx Ballou #4), by Dharma Kelleher

Eight stars

Catching up on my backlog of Dharma Kelleher novels, I realised how much I miss the author’s gritty delivery and unique perspective when it comes to crime. Kelleher’s novels approach the genre from a LGBTQ+ perspective, with the Jinx Ballou series adding a trans woman flavouring. Exploring the world of abuse and mistreatment of the trans population, Kelleher educates and entertains in equal measure throughout this piece.

Jenna ‘Jinx’ Ballou is a successful bounty hunter in the Phoenix community, having developed great skills tracking criminals when she worked for the police. Jinx has come a long way, having transitioned to a woman at an early age and has not suffered a great deal of the transphobic attacks that many of her friends have encountered. Her happiness is so strong that she is ready to marry her long-time fiancé, Conor, and the wedding is in only a matter of days.

When she is given the file of a accused murdered who killed a Black trans woman, Jinx takes on the case with gusto. This is a heinous crime and Jinx will not let anyone tell her otherwise. However, as she tries to track down the criminal, Jinx is set upon by a group, Womyn Born Womyn, a TERF (Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist) collective who want nothing but to spew hatred and violence. Jinx adds this to her motivation and sets out to capture a bail jumper.

When the case takes her to Vegas, Jinx finds herself in a heap of trouble and lands in jail for a night, but this will not deter her from getting to the bottom of what’s been going on. She will not rest until she captures the criminal, who has been stirring up added hatred for trans women and targeting Jinx with a number of social media ploys.

As the wedding approaches, Jinx can only hope that she will be able to complete the capture and leave it behind her. However, some have other plans and Jinx’s own wedding turns into a bloodbath, only adding to the intensity needed to re-capture the criminal. TERF or not, this group is one that cannot remain free to express their hateful views and the truth must come out. Kelleher does a wonderful job capturing the many themes of the book and provides the reader with some powerful reading.

I have been trying to remember how I stumbled across the works of Dharma Kelleher, to no avail. However it ended up working, I have been able to thoroughly enjoy each of the books presented to me, gathering information about topics to which I was clueless and themes that do not enter my usual reading experiences. Either way, it has been a stunning and eye-opening experiences, as well as being highly entertaining. I learn so much and appreciate the effort Kelleher puts into her pieces of fiction.

Much like her series involving a female biker gang, this collection of novels about bounty hunters extends well past what I might usually read. Adding the LGBTQ+ flavouring and I am completely out of my depth, but still love the reading experience. Kelleher offers up a strong narrative with known direction to keep me on my toes throughout, offering up characters who guide the story along and keep things entertaining in doing so. Plot twists that mirror societal issues help not only to surprise the reader but educate them on some of the struggles to which they might not have been aware. Gritty and full of relevant discussions, Kelleher offers readers a jagged view of things, refusing the dilute the arguments at any time. I can only hope that Dharma Kelleher has more to come and that others take a moment to explore the themes she has to offer.

Kudos, Madam Kelleher, another winner. I am happy to have caught up and am eager to see where your next novel will take me,.

Road Rash (Shea Stevens #4), by Dharma Kelleher

Eight stars

Back in the swing of things, I eagerly reached for another book by Dharma Kelleher. Her latest novel in the Shea Stevens series packs a punch and offers readers some insights into the LGBTQ+ world with some of Kelleher’s first-hand knowledge. The author adds more grit to this piece—a self-styled biker thriller—and keeps the reader on the edge of their seat throughout, while also educating on a variety of topics. I am always pleased when Dharma Kelleher pens another book and this was no exception.

Shea Stevens has always been a proud active member of the Athena Sisterhood Motorcycle Club, while managing a custom bike shop as well. When she is asked to help locate the daughter of two friends in a local ‘cult’, Shea agrees with some trepidation. She knows nothing about cults and will have to style herself slightly differently in order to get the needed information. Still, she is willing to make whatever sacrifice needed to help a friend in need.

After a significant road accident, Shea is shaken but not deterred from going undercover, where she learns just how strong the power of suggestion can be. Remaining as acute as she can, Shea locates the woman she is to help extricate, but the power of the cult has already taken hold. It will surely be a fight to get answers and remove a young woman from the clutches of a powerful group.

All the while, Shea’s niece is attending an overnight camp that is not entirely what it seems. This could mean real trouble for Shea and the other girls at the camp, especially after the shake-up occurring at the cult’s main facility. Shea will have to scramble to ensure everyone is safe and justice prevails, as tough as that seems from time to time. Kelleher offers up another winner and has me eager to see what else she’s got up her sleeve in the coming years.

I am unsure how I found Dharma Kelleher or her books, but I have not once regretted doing so. Kelleher not only knows how to write with ease, but her style is smooth and full of interesting tidbits about both bikers and the LGBTQ+ community. I find things easy to comprehend, without feeling things are watered down, and am always keen to see what I will take away from one of her novels. There is much to be said for keeping an open mind as a reader and Dharma Kelleher has done well to prove just how worthwhile such acceptance can be.

I often find myself either liking or being turned off by a book in the opening pages. Dharma Kelleher is able to lure me in with her storytelling abilities no matter my mood. This novel provides a strong narrative and keeps the reader engaged as they are along for the ride. There is a handful of strong, key characters, many of whom are back in this piece, which allows the reader to trace their development or be entertained by all they have to offer. Short chapters keep the story moving along and permits the reader to devour large portions of the story in a single sitting. There are great plot twists throughout, which mix well alongside the grittiness of what’s being presented. Dharma Kelleher may come across as a humble author, but she is surely one to follow, as she has a great deal to say, for those eager to listen.

Kudos, Madam Kelleher, for keeping me entertained throughout.