Ice Cold Heart (Monkeewrench #10), by P.J. Tracy

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, P.J. Tracy, and Crooked Lane for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

In the latest instalment of the Monkeewrench series, P.J. Tracy shows an ability to lure readers in from the start and hold their attention throughout. During a severe cold snap in Minneapolis. Homicide detectives Leo Magozzi and Gino Rolseth find themselves seeking anything to spice up their work lives. When a woman, reported missing by her husband, turns up dead, things take an interesting turn. The body was obviously tortured, its head wrapped in tape and some investigating proves she was killed meeting someone off a BDSM site. Magozzi and Rolseth are sure they have a twisted individual on their hands, though there is little to offer a concrete list of suspects. Meanwhile, the Monkeewrench crew have been contracted to work on a cryptocurrency scam that has siphoned millions of dollars (both actual and digital) from individuals. Baffled as to how to track down this specific criminal, the group look to unique approaches and find a few leads that end up blurring lines with the MPD murder investigation. How these two cases, as well as an ICE hunt for a former Baltic war criminal, meld together is only the beginning. While the mercury dips lower outside, the case has the ability to heat things up quite effectively. There is little hope for calm while the killer lurks somewhere and waits to strike again. A well-plotted tenth novel in the series that will have those who have followed along throughout wanting more, as well as the reader who enjoys a fast-paced police procedurals set outside the typical American locale.

My attention was turned to this series last summer when I binged the entire collection. I was hooked from the outset and devoured many of the books along the way, learning much about the characters while being highly entertained. Tracy shows a strong ability to writer effectively, yet does not lose her reader with too many facts. One could make the argument that Leo Magozzi is a protagonist in this piece, but I felt strongly that there was a general equality to the characters and therefore, no one stole the limelight. Working a variety of cases in unique fashions, the Homicide team of the MPD and the Monkeewrench crew balanced the story out effectively. There was surely some character development, which will help series fans get more out of the story, but it was peppered throughout the narrative, rather than embedded in a single section. With short chapters, Tracy pulls the reader into the middle of the case and forces them to read ‘just a little more’ before agreeing to stop, albeit reluctantly. The plot was decent and varied nicely, bringing different cases together nicely in unexpected ways. I was pleased to see that things are going well for Tracy, whose mom-daughter team faced a tragic loss a few years ago. The quality is strong and I am happy to see things are still coming together. This is a series worth the attention of the reader who wants something light and easy to digest.

Kudos, Madam Tracy, for another great piece. You know how to tap into the best parts of mystery/criminal writing and I am always pleased to see when you have something new to offer your fans.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:


The Sixth Wicked Child (4MK Thriller #3), by J.D. Barker

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, J.D. Barker, and Hampton Creek Press for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

As the riveting 4MK trilogy comes to an end, J.D. Barker offers the most explosive novel to date. Chilling in its delivery and full of unexpected twists, fans of the series should brace themselves as all the pieces finally come together. As the 4MK cases continues to gain momentum, the obvious suspect remains Anson Bishop, who turns himself in to the authorities. However, there are more victims that keep emerging, a single message binding them all together in his sick and twisted web. While this would seem to be a slam-dunk case, the fact that the bodies appear almost simultaneously on opposite sides of the country is an issue, denoting that this could not be the work of a single man. While minds stir about this, a hospital becomes the scene of a lockdown, as a virus makes its way through the air and chooses even more victims to add to the horror. While trying to shed some light on the entire situation, Chicago PD and FBI investigators listen to Bishop tell a complex story from his past, one that could reveal more about the real killer than first suspected. All comes to light in a set of diary entries, which could prove to be the best piece of evidence on offer. If he is to be believed, Bishop can finger a rogue cop as the real killer and the one with the greatest motive to shut the investigation down. Trouble is, everything is marred in a fog and what is on paper seems too outrageous to accept. Truths will be revealed and a killer’s identity shall be unmasked, but it may be too much for some to accept as they attempt to wrap their minds around what’s gone undetected and how many other lives have been cut short. A troubling novel, though one that fits right into the series and allows Barker to show just how sadistic things can get with a serial killer, given the opportunity. Recommended to series fans and those who want out of their comfort zone.

The concept for this series caught my attention when it was released and I knew I would have to find the time to add this to my ever-growing list of books to read. From the outset, the story pulled me in and kept me wanting to know more, especially since the serial killer stood out as being highly unique in their actions and the thrill of the chase. Returning as a quasi-protagonist again, Sam Porter offers the reader some insight into his personality and desire to get this killer off the streets. While there is no time for backstory, the reader does learn some interesting aspects about his life as well as how he is seen by his colleagues. Porter has little time for banter, wanting to get to the root of the matter, but fearful of tripping up and costing the investigation its best lead. He will have to remain level-headed and stay the course, or risk it all. Anson Bishop remains the other character to share the spotlight, though Barker seems to want to share the glory all around. Depicted as the mastermind killer, Bishop has a lot to say and won’t let himself face all the blame without opening up one more can of worms. What he reveals is both troubling and shocking, proof that may turn the case on its head, should anyone want to listen. In a story packed with interesting characters, Barker leaves no stone unturned in an attempt to flesh-out the truth, chilling the reader as the plunge deeper. The story remained strong throughout, climbing in its intensity through short chapters that tease just enough to keep the reader wanting to know more. I love this technique, as I find myself devouring things without being able to stop, promising myself and those around me that “one more chapter” will do. Matched with that, use of a diary to tell a captivating backstory leaves nothing to the imagination. In. trilogy set over six days, any reader wishing to binge the series can do so and feel the full impact of the story, allowing Barker to take over control and leave the reader at his mercy. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and the series, which brings together some great writing, strong narrative guidance, and a plot that has more twists than it does answers. Not to be missed, for those who have the stomach for the adventure.

Kudos, Mr. Barker, on another great book. I have loved everything of yours to date and cannot wait to discover more.A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

Nothing Ventured (William Warwick #1), by Jeffrey Archer

Nine stars

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

Having loved Jeffrey Archer’s Clifton Chronicles, I was pleased to see this new series that will have my fellow fans just as excited. Those who remember Harry Clifton and his prodigious career as a writer will remember the William Warwick novels that were the author’s bread and butter. Archer has decided to shed some light on these, writing a series of novels about the man who climbed the ranks of the police service. In this series debut, William has decided not to follow in his father’s footsteps and refuses to read law. Instead, he chooses the path of art history before enrolling in the police academy. After passing his entrance exams, Warwick is sent to the beat, where he garners some much needed experience under the tutelage of a seasoned copper. When given the chance to write the detective’s exam, he soars through the experience and is soon assigned to Art and Antiquities, using his attention to detail and past academic experiences. Warwick has much to learn, but is also tossed out to juggle a number of cases, all of which take him in different directions and has him meeting book forgers, currency schemers, and even traffickers in stolen artwork. While not entirely won over by his son’s choices, Sir Julian Warwick QC can see the benefits to Warwick’s choices and works with him on a side project. It would seem the woman who has caught young DC William Warwick’s eye has a secret she has tried to keep her herself. However, as Warwick grows fonder of Beth Rainsford, he cannot fight the urge to unravel yet another mystery. A brilliant launching pad to what I hope will be a sensational series, Archer does not disappoint readers with this piece. Highly recommended to those who love Lord Archer’s writing style, as well as readers who like a light and fast-paced police procedural series with artistic flavourings.

In my long reading career, I can say that I have long loved every opportunity that I have had to curl up with a Jeffrey Archer novel. His ability to keep the story simple and yet enthralling is second to none, while also developing strong characters and a plot that keeps the reader wanting more. As I mentioned above, this is an interesting project, one in which Archer almost assumes the role of Harry Clifton in crafting these stories that appeared throughout the Clifton Chronicles. William Warwick serves as a wonderful protagonist whose early rise as an officer of the law is documented here. From his passion for police work on the beat through to his intuition and ability to find clues where others fail, Warwick is both in tune with his surroundings and a character worthy of the reader’s attention. The novel portrays both his personal and professional sides, injecting the needed passion in each to develop a well-rounded individual who enriches the larger story. There are many threads left dangling, which Archer will hopefully tie-off or add to in the subsequent novels of the series. Others enrich the story and the plot lines, complementing Warwick where possible, but also developing sub-plots that could emerge in future novels. The story was strong and introduced the reader to this most formidable character. While some may worry that there is a need to know the Clifton Chronicles to read this piece, the Warwick novels are independent of the previous series, though I am sure devout fans of Clifton will see tie-ins when Harry mentioned the novels throughout his time as a protagonist in Archer’s earlier work. A mix of short and longer chapters, as well as Archer’s use of themes from past novels—art, policing, court proceedings—allow this series debut to be one that is sure to garner much discussion and anticipation between novels. I, for one, cannot wait to see how William Warwick will rise through the ranks to the pinnacle of his career.

Kudos, Lord Archer, for this great start. As you mentioned in the author’s note, I can only hope you will survive the entire journey as you dazzle your countless fans.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

Ghost Fire (Courtney #17), by Wilbur Smith and Tom Harper

Seven stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Wilbur Smith, Tom Harper, and Bonnier Zaffre USA for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Having long been a fan of the Courtney series, I was pleased to see Wilbur Smith back with the seventeenth instalment. Working alongside Tom Harper, they trim back the family tree—or at least seek different branches—with another of the flashback novels that explores an earlier group of the popular family. Set in mid-18th century India, Theo and Connie Courtney have grown up as British subjects in the East India Company. When fighting breaks out, a proxy theatre of the Thirty Years War, Theo and Connie are left to fend for themselves after their parents perish. After Theo and Connie have a falling out, the former joins the fight to quell the local uprising, while Connie finds herself captured and detained. Theo’s friendships on the battlefield to keep Calcutta from falling lead him to make a promise to one of his comrades. When the dust settles and presuming that Connie is among the dead, Theo sails for the Thirteen Colonies, where he delivers news of a man’s death. With nowhere else to go, Theo connects with the locals and begins a new round of trials and tribulations. Meanwhile, Connie is well and saved from her Indian prison by a soldier who wishes to take her to France. However, her keen eye and attention to detail works well for Connie, who sets foot on French soil with a story of being a widow. She injects herself into French society as best she can, while Theo is across the world, also brushing shoulders with the French, though for completely different reasons. As Courtneys, they have gumption and while they may not admit it, there is a fire within them to survive, no matter what is put before them. In a tale of blood, fighting, and perseverance, Smith and Harper use this interesting flashback novel to bring their point home In this series that has seen much ebb and flow throughout its development, this one remains relatively strong. Fans of the series may enjoy this one, though it is sometimes hard to become enthralled with an era that differs greatly from the original series.

I have long enjoyed the work of Wilbur Smith, though this is the only series of his I have read (save, the intertwined Ballantynes). His attention to detail and wonderful characters are second to none and they fly off the page, enticing the reader to learn more about them, no matter the time period covered. In this piece, Smith and Harper develop both separate and intertwined narratives for the two protagonists. Theo Courtney is full of the energy of his ancestors and descendants, wanting to fight for what he feels is right. His split from his sister is partially pig-headedness and partially passion clouded in anger. As the narrative progresses, the reader can see how Theo uses all that is before him to make the most of the experience, though he is prone to finding trouble. By contrast, Connie seems happy to let life lead the way, though she is by no means a helpless damsel. Her independence is muted by the time, though she remains cunning and finds ways to get what she wants, through both her mind and with her own looks. Many of the other characters offer interesting perspectives throughout the novel, complementing the protagonists throughout. While this era is not one that I enjoy in this series, I must applaud Smith and Harper for keeping things interesting and on point. I struggled at times with the narrative, though was able to pick-up on the poignant parts that kept the narrative moving forward. Rich with history and told in numerous locales, the story rises above some of the other books in the series to keep the reader curious until the final pages.

Kudos, Messrs. Smith and Harper, for a decent addition to the series. It may be that the era is not of interest to me, but I can surely see a great deal of potential within the pages of this novel.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

The Victim, by Max Manning

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Max Manning, and Sourcebooks Landmark for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Max Manning develops an interesting approach to this story, using the narrative to tell two stories with loose parallels. This approach will work for some but leave other writers scratching their heads. Perhaps this was the intended end result, though I leave that to the individual reviewer. Gem Golding decides to stop in at the local store for someone on her way home from work. Little does she know, but her life is about to change quite dramatically. While in the parking lot, she is approached by a man who pulls out a knife and attacks her. It is here that Manning offers his literary fork in the road. In one version, Gem bows down to the man and allows him to take her car, injuring her in the struggle. Thereafter, she must live with the pain of being victimised and she becomes part of the headlines as the search for the attacker heats up. Personal loss follows and she is left waiting for the police to catch the man who turned her life upside down. In the alternative reaction, Gem refuses to stand down and eventually maims her attacker, receiving praise in all media outlets and helping the police as much as possible as they hunt down the attacker. As each story progresses, the reader learns more about the story from a variety of angles: Gem, her boyfriend, the attacker, the police, and even a journalist. All this comes together in a heart stopping culmination, where the reader can decide which of the two Gems they choose to be the true protagonist of the story. An interesting approach that will keep the reader thinking until the final page flip and shape the story throughout. Recommended to those who enjoy something a little different with their reading experience, particularly the reader who enjoys parallel narratives.

I have never read Max Manning before this novel, though this was surely an interesting introduction. The premise of this novel permits the reader to feel as though they are reading two stories in one, weaving the plots together and interchanging characters at will. Gem Golding is hard to gauge, particularly because it really depends which of the two you pick as your ‘true protagonist’. She can either be a weak and vulnerable woman who has to deal with having been attacked and then facing personal tragedy that only compounds the event, or she is a strong woman who overcame adversity and is lauded in the media as a hero for stopping what could have been a violent attack. Manning offers both these women up but does not seem to lean in either direction. There is a great supporting cast who works effectively to promote either Gem—interesting that both versions of the story use the same supports—and are helped along by an effective narrative. While some are surely more endearing than others, Manning creates a wonderful character base throughout. The story, while unique, is also well written and allows the reader to move between the two parallels with ease, hoping to find a happy home with a different set of readers. Short chapters push the story forward and keeps the reader wanting to complete the reading task in short order. I’ll definitely try some more Manning in the future, particularly if he uses this same technique in other novels.

Kudos, Mr. Manning, for this curious approach to a thriller. I am intrigued and I hope others find this style as enticing as I did.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

The Russian (Rob Tacoma #1), by Ben Coes

Seven stars

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

Steeped in politics, both recent and from the Cold War era, Ben Coes is back with a new thriller that is sure to provide his fans with something about which to talk for a while. When two prominent US politicians are assassinated on American soil within minutes of one another, many suspect a planned hit. Tracing the histories of both men back to battling the Russian Mafia, many are sure this is retribution, organized by the powerful Odessa Mafia that has been controlling cities around the country for years. Feeling that there is an ongoing threat within the country that is only getting stronger, POTUS enacts a little-known codicil to the US Constitution, which will permit the ultimate retribution. After receiving the needed approval by a congressional group, a two-man team is assembled to act off the books, hunting for those responsible for the killings. One of these two is Rob Tacoma, former CIA operative who wants nothing to do with the plan. However, when something goes wrong, he sees red and will do all in his power to avenge those slain by these Russians. The hunt is on and there are truly layers of false leads, while Tacoma seeks those responsible, including the elusive Kaiser. There will be blood and bodies, but all that seems minor, as Tacoma is driven, perhaps just as much as Dewey Andreas, who is detached from this adventure. Full of twists and turns, Coes shows that he is in touch with the genre and knows how to spin a powerful tale. Recommended to those who have enjoyed some of Coes past novels, as well as readers who enjoy spy thrillers.

I have long been a fan of Ben Coes and cannot get enough of Dewey Andreas. However, I have to be patient and turn my attention to Rob Tacoma, a minor character in the past who takes a front and centre role here. Tacoma seeks the quiet life, away from the bullets and bloodletting, but seems to be pulled back in when America needs him most. Sounds like Andreas, no? With little time for backstory, Coes injects Tacoma into the middle of this adventure, pushing the limits at every opportunity. With his determination and timely delivery of ‘gun justice’, Tacoma knows what needs doing and acts swiftly. Others around him serve to keep the story going, through the layers of Russians are always interesting to see, particularly the way in which Coes portrays them throughout the narrative. With short chapters and wonderful narrative momentum, Coes pushes the story along. While I cannot completely decipher why, I felt this piece lost a little of the sharp edge with which Dewey Andreas novels have come to be known. Still, I was able to progress through in short order. A great summer read, as the pages seem to melt away. I cannot wait to see what Coes has in store next!

Kudos, Mr. Coes, for another great book. While perhaps not the best, we all need a little downtime, like Dewey!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

Layover, by David Bell

Seven stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, David Bell, and Berkley Publishing Group for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Being an avid traveller and a great fan of thriller novels, I was sure that the latest David Bell story would pull me in and leave me wanting more. There are few as busy as Joshua Fields, who logs hundreds of thousands of miles in the air each year. With that type of lifestyle comes a great deal of time spent in airports. During one layover in Atlanta, Fields runs into a beautiful woman and they share a drink at an airport bar. With both of their flights soon to board, Fields and this mystery woman prepare to go their own ways, though a scintillating kiss has Fields wanting more. He rushes to find her and boards her plane to Nashville, only to be rebuffed. Unsure of what to do next, he tries to find out all about this Morgan Reynolds, only to discover that her friends have listed her as missing. It is then that some of the pieces fall into place for Fields, who wonders if Morgan is hiding from someone. Renting a car to find Morgan, Fields finds himself in a small Kentucky college town. Much is soon revealed and none of it is quite as it seems. The local police take an interest in Fields and tie-in a larger investigation to a missing businessman and a valuable item that is also nowhere to be found. Could Morgan Reynolds be a completely different woman from the one who shared a drink with Joshua Fields? This may be the kick in the pants that Fields needs to steer clear of others while between flights. An interesting thriller, though not as impactful as I would have liked. Perhaps a little turbulent, but not in a way that would have me tossing out recommendations at this time.

I enjoy newly discovered authors, particularly when they have a collection of books from which to choose. This was my first David Bell novel, an author who comes with many recommendations from those whose opinions I value greatly. Joshua Fields proves to be an interesting, if not somewhat flimsy, character. While he is master of the skies, he seems oddly drawn to a random woman and races to learn more about her. Perhaps I ought to have used this as a yardstick for how he would develop for the rest of the novel, as he thrives on naïveté and silly choices. Juggling his work life and this obsession, Fields seems to have turned himself into an amateur sleuth, while still making some silly choices. Contrast that with Morgan Reynolds, who is always one step ahead of everyone and whose actions have repercussions that few could have foreseen. While I was no more attached to her as a character, I suppose I valued her journey a little more. With a handful of other characters, including a detective who seeks to juggle work and home responsibilities, the story moved forward and came to some expected resolution. There was nothing inherently wrong with this piece, though I was hard pressed to find that spark that left me dying to flip the page or hope for another novel in the series. David Bell is capable at his craft, keeping the chapters short and the cliffhangers coming. I may have to try some of his other work, which has received many accolades, before making a final opinion of this author.

Kudos, Mr. Bell, for entertaining your readers. Like the title, this book is likely best read to kill some time while travelling this summer.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

The Elizabeth Tudor Conspiracy (The Marquess House Trilogy #2), by Alexandra Walsh

Eight stars

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

After an explosive opening novel in her Tudor trilogy, Alexandra Walsh returns with another instalment, building on some of the mysteries revealed in the opening piece. Perdita Rivers and her sister, Piper, are still trying to wrap their heads around the fact that their grandmother left them a massive estate and countless pieces of her research. However, with that comes the fear of being hunted by an elusive part of the British Government. While away for a wedding, the sisters discover new mysteries tied to the knowledge that Catherine Howard—Henry VIII’s fifth wife—had twins by the king, but they were hidden away. Now, in a mystery that ties to the reign of Elizabeth I, Perdita and Piper learn what became of the twins and how Elizabeth contemplated the Tudor secession based on this information. In secret correspondence, Elizabeth and her closest ladies discussed the news, using jewels to pass the most important of all their news. However, with Philip II of Spain seeking to overthrow Elizabeth and trying to take over the English Throne, the Tudor line (and England herself) are in dire straits, particularly because news of the Howard twins has somehow made it to the continent. As Perdita learns more, she stumbles to discover how it was all revealed and what Elizabeth did to protect herself and the Crown from Spanish interference. Told in two timeline narratives, Walsh keeps the reader hooked until the final pages with this mystery that still has one final piece to tie it all together. Wonderful in its presentation, fans of Tudor history will enjoy this piece, as long as they can keep an open mind about fictional accounts. Recommended to those who love a good historical mystery, as well as those who love the life of the Tudors.

Having read a few other books by this publisher, I was offered an early copy of the first novel in the series. When I noticed a second book was ready for pre-release, I leapt at the opportunity, knowing that Alexandra Walsh would not disappoint. The detail found in this book forces the reader to decipher truth from fiction throughout, hoping the find the thread of the story and using newly unearthed pieces of the historical narrative to entertain the curious reader. Perdita’s character has less of a backstory in this novel, but her ability to piece together some more of the Tudor history keeps the reader enthralled throughout. Seeking to uncover some of the lesser known aspects of Tudor history and genealogy fuels a great narrative and allows the reader to feel fully involved in the process. Other characters in the novel, including Elizabeth I, provide an exciting flavour to the story, serving not only to propel the history of the story forward but also offering exciting plots for the reader to enjoy throughout. The premise of this book was as exciting as the first, building on some of the scandalous revelations. Walsh spins an effective and plausible version of events, which she substantiates in her author’s note at the end of the piece. So much to digest and some ideas that could offer Tudor fans much to consider as they rush to the history books to cross-reference some of the narrative’s most outlandish claims. All in all, a wonderful read and it has left me pining for the third book.

Kudos, Madam Walsh, for another wonderful novel. This series has me curious and I hope to learn more in short order.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

Fragments of Fear, by Carrie Stuart Parks

Seven stars

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

One can usually expect something intense when Carrie Stuart Parks is writing, spun with the uniqueness of her forensic expertise. I did not feel as much of that here with her one-off novel and wish for more of the series that pulled me in while teaching me all about forensic artists. Evelyn McTavish is suffering, having just buried her fiancé. ‘Tavish’ to many who know her around her New Mexico home, has to find some normalcy in her life. When she receives an odd phone call from the local dog pound, Tavish is pulled into the middle of a series of events that could put her in much danger. Somehow identified as the owner of an acquaintance’s dog, a man who soon appears murdered in his own home, Tavish must try to get answers while dodging those who would seek to hurt her. As the story progresses, more becomes known about the larger story and how Tavish may have stumbled into the middle of things inadvertently. All she thought she knew goes up in a puff of smoke, leaving more confusion. As the tension ramps up, no one is safe and any hope of a peaceful solution goes out the window. In a piece that left me feeling very distance and detached, I pined for the Parks from her past novels. While I may have missed out on much by not feeling connected to the story, I cannot offer a strong recommendation, but do hope readers will look to her past work for something I would highly suggest checking out soon.

Sometimes authors have hit or miss moments, much like a well-rounded readers who travel through the world of fiction and non-fiction over long periods of time. I know that I enjoy Carrie Stuart Parks and her writing, but felt as though there was something missing from this piece. Tavish is an interesting woman with an artistic background, but I never found myself able to fully connect with her. She seems to have found herself in the middle of a larger mystery and by doing so, she struggles to find which way is up. It could be that the story rushed by and I never ‘caught on’ to her as a character, but it was almost as though I was waiting for the big Tavish reveal to hook me. Others found their place throughout the story and kept me wanting to find just a little more to pull me into the piece, but I was sadly unable to latch on. The premise, from what I ascertained, was decent, though the mystery did not get to the depths I had hoped it might. I know that established authors with strong series are sometimes judged based on that as a yardstick, which is surely what I am doing here, but I cannot help myself. I needed more and while I may be in the minority, as a reader, my own opinion matters as much as the major reviewers and slew of those on Goodreads or other sites. I can hope that this was an anomaly for me and that we will return to the powerful and addictive novels before too long.

Kudos, Madam Parks, for the effort, as I know there was much that went into this piece. It was likely not my cup of tea, which surely happens. Not all readers can be enamoured all the time!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

I’ll Never Tell, by Catherine McKenzie

Eight stars

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

One can usually expect something stellar when Catherine McKenzie is at the helm and this book was no exception. Layering family dynamics with an over-arching mystery from years ago, McKenzie offers readers a wonderful treat as the story progresses. The MacAllister family have long been associated with Camp Macaw, the staple summer retreat they own and run for children in the Quebec Townships. However, with the death of the MacAllister parents, the adult children gather together on the property to discuss what is to come of the land they knew all too well as teenagers. Will it be sold or portioned off and who will have the final say as to what happens? At the reading of the will, the group is surprised to learn of the parameters around which all this must be decided, something that Mr. MacAllister devised to unite and divide the group one final time. This rag-tag group must decide if their one brother, Ryan, should be permitted to inherit something, but the choice must be unanimous and they have forty-eight hours before the vote. This brings to mind a tragedy from two decades before, when a young camper, Amanda Holmes, was found, assaulted on a distant part of the camp’s property. The scandal caused ripples that almost shut the facility down and Ryan was deemed responsible. Though he denies being involved, it was largely a foregone conclusion. Now, with the family back together and grown, they must face the gruesome facts again and get to the truth, or bury it once and for all, while also letting their formative time at Camp Macaw drift away on the summer breeze. With flashback chapters that help build the Amanda storyline as well as present-day struggles, this story will keep the reader at the centre of the action and leave them wanting to cast their own decisions before all is said and done. A great mystery that entertains in short order. Recommended for those who love Catherine McKenzie’s work and the reader who enjoys stories where family secrets turn truths upside down.

I have always come to find Catherine McKenzie’s work quite detailed and her stories hit home in ways I could not have predicted. Both the characters and the plot pulled me in from the get-go and I found myself fully committed before too long. In this piece, McKenzie offers up a quaint camp community, where a family has come to remember their parents and try to put all else aside. However, there is little chance of that, with the tragedy of years before facing them during the reading of the will. The reader meets the entire group, as well as a few adopted members of the MacAllister clan, all of whom have their own lives now, but also played key roles during the summer of 1998. What did happen to Amanda Holmes and how did things go so wrong? McKenzie offers interesting flashbacks throughout this piece to develop that narrative, as well as plotting the whereabouts of each character at key points during the night of the event. The reader can make their own presumptions, though it is the truth that seems to elude everyone. With strong characters who help shape the story and a narrative that pushes the plot forward, McKenzie offers a gritty mystery that is sure to keep the reader guessing and wondering until the very end. Camp Macaw’s future may be in doubt, but it is the strength of the MacAllister family that remains the real x-factor throughout. Brilliantly devised and executed, it is no wonder Catherine McKenzie has so many fans and seems to add more with each novel she publishes.

Kudos, Madam McKenzie, for another wonderful piece. I can only hope that others will see some of the nuances I found while reading this book.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: