In Her Tracks (Tracy Crosswhite #8), by Robert Dugoni

Eight stars

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

Robert Dugoni is back with another Tracy Crosswhite police procedural procedural, but adds a certain twist to keep the reader guessing. It’s been a tough go for Seattle PD Homicide Detective Crosswhite, but she is not one to let bumps in the road derail her work. Returning from maternity leave, Crosswhite is forced to take a position she does not want, but tosses herself into the work. She discovers an intriguing case that appears to be without strong leads. When Crosswhite is pulled into an active case, she finds her spark again, much to the chagrin of a captain who wants her under his foot. The missing and presumed dead have a voice in Detective Tracy Crosswhite, but she will have to breathe life into their cases before they go cold.

While she loves motherhood, Tracy Crosswhite cannot wait to get back to work. Returning to the Seattle PD’s Homicide Team, Crosswhite hopes to have her position back. However, her wily captain has other ideas, citing that they need to fill the spot while she was on maternity leave. Offering her a position as the cold case detective—one that everyone is sure Crosswhite will decline—it’s a chance for Tracy to decide what she wants next. A pep talk with the retiring detective leaves her willing to give it a shot, if only to scuttle the plans of her nemesis for a while longer.

Crosswhite scours the list of cases and finds one that piques her interest. A little girl went missing when her father took her to a corn maze and was never seen again. Part of a bitter custody battle, the little girl made numerous comments about how her parents fought before the separation. As a beat cop at the time of the disappearance, the father pulls on the heartstrings of Crosswhite, but she must remain objective.

Working on a few of the leads that go nowhere, Crosswhite is pulled into the middle of a fresh investigation with her former partner. A young jogger has gone missing in a local park and no one saw anything. Canvassing the neighbourhood, Crosswhite comes across three brothers who live together but seem to be hiding something. With nothing concrete to assert her claims of guilt, Crosswhite will have to pursue a few options on the sly.

While her missing girl case is going nowhere fast, Detective Crosswhite finds herself fixated on this jogger and how she could have disappeared into thin air. There’s something that is not adding up and those who know Tracy Crosswhite understand that she is not one to let opportunity slip through her fingers. She’ll use all her resources to get to the bottom of it, even if it means putting her future in jeopardy with a captain who wants her head on a platter.

There’s something about this series that has always kept me fully engaged and wondering. Robert Dugoni has crafted a stellar cast and writes so fluidly as to keep the reader on their toes. New ideas emerge with each novel and the series gets better the deeper into the characters Dugoni pulls the reader. I can see this being one series that will not get old any time soon.

Tracy Crosswhite is a stellar detective in her own right, having grown effectively over the last number of novels. Her grit and determination are like no other and she keeps her eye on the prize throughout, hoping to make the most of what is offered to her. Balancing work with motherhood has been tough, but Crosswhite has found a balance, even though it has come at the cost of her preferred job. It will take all she has inside her to solve the cases placed at her feet, while dodging the obstacles of suspects and a captain with an ax to grind. There is mention throughout her cold case investigation about how a missing child can tear a family apart, something Crosswhite knows all too well from her sister’s disappearance. Guilt is nothing new for Detective Tracy Crosswhite, which makes her all the more intriguing as she strives for truth.

Dugoni creates a string of strong secondary characters in this piece that complement Crosswhite when the need arises. Pulled from a variety of sources, those who fill the gaps and keep the reader intrigued offer their own spin on these missing persons cases. Some are straightforward while others prefer to present deceptive fronts, all of whom work well to keep the reader wondering what’s to come. The recurring cast is always welcome, but I also enjoy how Dugoni has created new and one-off characters that keep things exciting for all readers.

There’s something to be said for the novels in this series, as they take police procedurals to a new level. While there are the essential elements found throughout, Robert Dugoni uses his strong writing abilities to create a certain magnetism that pulls the reader into the middle of the case and won’t let go. The narrative pushes along effectively and keeps the reader on their toes until the very end, when the pieces finally come together. It’s a piece that may reveal itself slowly, but once the momentum is started, there’s not tapping on the brakes. Short to mid-length chapters propel the reader forward and keep the story on track, as much is revealed with each page turn. I can only wonder what’s to come and how Dugoni will continue to shape his core set of characters with new and exciting hurdles.

Kudos, Mr. Dugoni, for another winner. Your work is some of the best in the genre and I can only hope you have many more ideas to share soon.

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

Legacy of War (Courtney #19), by Wilbur Smith and David Churchill

Eight stars

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

Having followed the Courtney saga for many years, I was overjoyed at the release of another novel. While Wilbur Smith has been using the assistance of other authors over the past while, the books are usually still of high caliber. With the Second World War ended, the most everyone is breathing a collective sigh of relief. However, it is still a time of and for change. Not everyone in Germany is happy with the new divided country. Additionally, there are rumblings of independence along the African continent. Smith and David Churchill bring readers another great piece in this long saga, providing much for the reader to enjoy throughout.

As the world is still coming to terms with the end of the Second World War, there are a number of truths that cannot be ignored. The largest of which is that German dictator Adolf Hitler is finally dead and Europe can relax, to a degree. While the Nazis are no longer a threat, Europe has been taken over, in a sense, by the conflicting ideologies of American capitalism and Soviet communism. Saffron Courtney surveys things from London and is relatively pleased. Her husband, Gerhard, is free from a concentration camp, and they can focus on their connection once more. However, Konrad von Meerbach, Gerhard’s brother with strong affinity for the Nazis, seeks to regain power and bring a new wave of national socialism to his native land.

While all this envelops Europe, the African continent is becoming more boisterous. The colonial empire has developed cracks, particularly in Kenya. There, the locals have begun trying to drum up support for a complete overthrow. Their current target are those who are sympathetic to the British. Blood will flow and that is sure to cause issues for the Courtney family, all the way up to the patriarch, Leon. As Kenya balances on the precipice, the Courtneys must wonder what the future holds for them in the country of their forbearers.

When Konrad arrives in Kenya to pay a visit to Gerhard and Saffron, it is anything but cordial. He has a plan and wants nothing other than to instil fear. Could a simple visit begin a chain of events that leads to Gerhard’s demise once again? With Kenya less than stable, there are many factors that could easily cause issues for all involved. The Courtney family is in serious trouble and Saffron may be the only means by which things do not completely unravel. A nice addition to the series that proves there is still something left to explore in this series, which has entertained for over a generation.

While I was quite late to the party when it came to the Courtney series, I loved the early novels that spun wonderful tales of mystery across the African continent. However, as Wilbur Smith aged, he chose to partner up with others, sometimes lessening the impact of the novels and diluting what has been a strong Courtney saga. David Churchill appears to do well in complementing Smith’s work, keeping the 20th century series alive and well. At least that’s something series fan can look forward to with this piece.

Saffron Courtney does well as a protagonist in this piece, offering the reader some great insights into how to handle living in both Europe and Africa. The story uses her experiences on both continents, as well as some historical events that developed in the background. Saffron reminds readers of the richness of the Courtney family over the decades, as well as her own personal growth. There is some wonderful character development to be had and series fans will likely enjoy how all the pieces have come together.

Smith and Churchill have used a strong collection of supporting characters as well, all of whom enrich the story in their own way. Be it the rise of independence in Kenya or the residue of Nazi support in Germany, those who grace the pages of the book prove highly entertaining for the reader. There is a lot to cover in the book and these secondary characters do well to keep the reader on point throughout.

As it relates to the overall story, I found myself enjoying parts of the book and seeking to skip over others. There is a definite richness in the narrative, particularly as it relates to historical events, pulling the reader in and keeping the story on a strong pathway. However, there are other times when things appear to drag and left me wanting to hit the ‘turbo’ button to get back to the action. The character development and richness of the Courtney saga cannot be ignored here, as those who have followed the collection have come to know. All that being said, this is not a book (or a series) that can be started at any point. There is too much backstory that emerges to ‘catch up’ in a single book. With short to mid-length chapters, the authors keep the book moving and the action growing. There’s much to discover for the curious reader, even if the writing style and delivery can sometimes not match the traditional Wilbur Smith approach.

Kudos, Messrs. Smith and Churchill, for another instalment of this strong series. While I may not like all of them, I have come to enjoy the ongoing drama!

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

Instinct, by Jason M. Hough

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley,Jason M. Hough, Gallery Books, and Skybound Books for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Always one to try something a little different, I excitedly grabbed for this novel by Jason M. Hough, which mixes the intensity of a thriller with the mystery of small-town America. When a police officer in a small Washington community is thrust into a leadership role, she begins to notice that the locals are not acting as they should, or at least how she expects they would. Is there a reason or is this all something wonky about small town life? Hough keeps the reader guessing throughout and makes quite the impact in doing so.

After leaving Oakland PD, Mary Whittaker is still trying to acclimate to life in Silvertown, Washington. It’s small—population 602, small—and the locals seem happy to keep to themselves, but also come up with some typical issues. Learning all she can from the local chief, Whittaker is determined to make her impression on the town and its citizenry. It won’t be easy, but it’s one challenge that Whittaker is bound and determined to overcome.

When the chief takes an unexpected leave of absence, Whittaker is left to run things on her own. She takes a call out of town when a hiker is attacked by a bear, unable to understand why he did not react. After interviewing his companion, it would seem that the man who had little love of nature simply gave up and waited for fate to take its course.

There are other oddities around town, like the introverted teenager who loves gaming but chose to wander out into the woods and died. Or the woman who loves her twins and yet left them at home while frolicking in town. Some call it a reaction to the new cell tower that was erected, but Whittaker thinks that there is more to it. This is one mystery for which she’ll not let the gossips create a narrative.

As she tries to piece things together, Whittaker discovers what might be involved in all the shenanigans, but she is not yet ready to commit to that response. She probes a little deeper, only to see that losing one’s instinct is the least of the town’s concerns, though she might not live long enough to report it to others. A chilling piece that keeps the reader thinking until the very last page flip.

I have never read anything by Jason M. Hough and I am kicking myself for that. In a piece that is full of action and intrigue, I found myself fully committed throughout the process and could not wait to see what was coming next. Hough keeps things on the mysterious side, without venturing too far out of reality. Still, there’s something a little eerie in the story and how things play out.

Mary Whittaker is a strong protagonist in this piece, keeping the reader informed of both her back story and how she develops throughout. Still trying to get used to country or small town life, Whittaker must tackle policing on an entirely new level. While she struggles at times, the reader can see some wonderful development throughout, which enriches the story as well as advancing the narrative.

Hough offers up some wonderful supporting characters in this piece, all of whom do their own thing to make the story all the better. While small town life is not always full of excitement, there is something about the various characters in this piece that flavour the narrative effectively and keep the story moving. Those the reader thinks they know are soon showing another side, which only adds depth to the piece and keeps the reader wanting to discover a little more.

The story itself sounds typical small town, something is going on and the townsfolk are acting oddly. However, Jason M. Hough takes it a step further and delves into some interesting discussions, both on a character level and with the psychology of a person. What makes someone do something and can override those instincts or inhibitions? He tackles this with a strong narrative that progresses throughout, easily taking the reader on many a journey. Additionally, there are some wonderful ‘aha’ moments, as the reader tries to make sense of things with the numerous reveals throughout. The plot stays intense and there are no lack of twists as the piece progresses. A mix of chapter lengths has the reader begging for more, as they read well into the night. I cannot wait to see what else Hough has penned, so that I can compare and enjoy things in the future.

Kudos, Mr. Hough, for a great piece that has me curious. You are definitely on my radar.

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

Turn a Blind Eye (Detective William Warwick #3), by Jeffrey Archer

Eight 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.

The newest novel in Jeffrey Archer’s latest series is always reason for some excitement, at least for those who have a penchant for the author’s attention to detail. DI William Warwick has been through a great deal of late and feels that his actions might merit demotion or worse. However, his superiors at the Met have other ideas, using him to coax out those who have gone rogue. It will be a secret mission that could cost Warwick everything if he is caught, but ensure another promotion if he is successful. Archer at his best in this piece, which keeps his many fans on the edge of their seats.

As the case of Assem Rashidi, notorious drug lord, is set to go to trial, William Warwick is promoted for his work on the arrest. DI Warwick is not sure if he ought to be happy about this, or expect to be punished because of all the corners that were cut in the sting operation. Still, he’s happy to be a part of the action and will follow whatever plan is put before him.

DI Warwick is given a daunting task to help discover whether others within the Metropolitan Police have been acting in a corrupt manner. It will not only be difficult, but highly dangerous, as no one likes a leaker. Amassing his team, DI Warwick begins targeting a young detective who is surely living beyond his means, which is likely related to receiving kickbacks.

The Rashidi trial comes before the courts with DI Warwick as one of its key witnesses. Two others in the Warwick family are heading the Crown’s case—Sir Julian, the ever-present father, and Grace, his sister—prepared to put away this seedy character as soon as possible. The case will be difficult, with a strong defence headed by Booth Watson QC, but the Warwicks are determined, if nothing else. The case hinges on identification and Rashidi will do anything he can to lead everyone off his trail.

Meanwhile, Beth Warwick has been tending to her new twins while William is away working. She knows the life of a detective’s wife is anything but glamourous, but finds ways of keeping herself busy. Oddly enough, this includes spending some time wit ha new friend, Christina Faulkner, who happens to have been recently divorced from William’s greatest foe, Miles. When a series of events thrust Christina into a massive fortune, it becomes apparent that corruption inside the Met is much deeper than first expected.

Juggling the trial and some of his own sleuthing, DI Warwick gets to the heart of the matter, in hopes of rooting out those who would try to bring the Met to its knees. It will be a challenge, but there’s nothing that DI William Warwick holds closer to his heart than ensuring no one is turning a blind eye to justice. Well, perhaps family is a little more important, but that’s for another story!

Anyone familiar with Jeffrey Archer and his writing will know that there are numerous subtleties found within each story. Be they linking pieces that keep a series connected or off the cuff remarks that come back to mean something later, Archer keeps his readers on their toes throughout. This book is no exception, creating a series about William Warwick, a character who was mentioned throughout the Clifton Chronicles as being the main protagonist of Harry’s popular series. Now, the reader can see all the buzz that the novels created directly, as Archer takes on the role of Harry Clifton to breathe life into the idea.

William Warwick is a fabulous protagonist and grows effectively throughout the series. He has been promoted and works on showing his leadership throughout this piece. However, he cannot stop looking behind him, as there are those who would love to see him fall flat on his face. Added to that, Warwick a new father to twins, which forces him to divide his time between work and home life, never easy at the best of times. The reader sees some solid development throughout, perfect as things heat up ahead of the fourth novel.

Archer is never one to create flat characters, even those who are in a supporting role. The cast of this novel offer great depth and excitement throughout, as the story shifts to numerous plot developments and settings throughout. There are those who complement Warwick well, as well as individuals who flavour the narrative such that the impediments are clear. Never a shortage of action fills the pages of this book, with Archer providing wondering entertainment in the form of his minor characters.

The story itself was strong and began soon after the previous novel ended. This is always hard to do, as Archer must bridge the excitement that ended the last piece with a new sense of pizzazz immediately. There is no issue with the flow of the story or pulling the reader into the centre. I found myself lost in the story with a great deal of ease, leaving me to want even more with each chapter. The narrative pushed along well and kept me begging for more, with short chapters that teased as much as they propelled the story forward. Archer has a style I have come to love and I cannot get enough, so I am happy to know that the next piece is hot on the heels of this one, due out in November. What a treat that will be, as DI William Warwick has much to do in the coming years.

Kudos, Lord Archer, for another winner. You never seem to slump in my opinion, which makes seeing your books all the more exciting for me.

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

House Standoff (Joe DeMarco #15), by Mike Lawson

Eight stars

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

Returning with the fifteenth book in the Joe DeMarco series, Mike Lawson brings something new to the discussion to keep readers on their toes. While DeMarco has made a name for himself as the ‘fixer’ for Speaker of the House of Representatives, he disputes the title and the sentiment that he is under anyone’s thumb. After learning that a friend was murdered in rural Wyoming, DeMarco makes his way out there to do some investigating of his own. What he discovers is not as open and shut as some would believe. A great piece with just the right amount of grit to fit the DeMarco norm. Recommended to those who enjoy a looser crime thriller with a handful of potential suspects.

Joe DeMarco’s earned quite the reputation as a fixer for John Maloney, current Speaker of the House of Representatives. While the two men have worked together in the past, DeMarco does not want his reputation tainted, as many see the senior politician as troublesome. With the Speaker out of the country on official business, DeMarco hopes to be able to get some golf in and relax, enjoying the quiet.

However, he learns of the death of a long-ago friend, Shannon Doyle, in rural Wyoming. Doyle is a popular author who was said to be researching her latest novel when she was murdered in a robbery. The local authorities were convinced it was a trucker who might have been passing through and wanted to score something to pawn. DeMarco is not buying it and chooses to leave DC to begin an investigation of his own.

Upon his arrival in Wyoming, DeMarco realises that things are a lot different than in DC, with a slower pace and a greater deference for the law. DeMarco approaches the local FBI to explain his presence, as well as some of his sentiments, though he is stonewalled before he gets too far. It would seem the local authorities have their own ideas and do not want anyone from outside poking their heads around.

Once DeMarco gains access to Doyle’s cloud account, he discovers a journal that she’s been keeping about the locals, something that tells quite the story about all of them. It gives him a better idea as to who might have been ‘colouring outside the lines’ and what motives they may have to want her quieted. Working the angles as best he can, DeMarco hones in on a few possibles, only to uncover a larger crime. The murder of a Black Lives Matter protestor seems to have been neutralised, though Shannon Doyle had some proof that could upend things quite substantially.

DeMarco is not one to leave stones unturned and he goes blazing in, pointing fingers where he feels the need. The murderer is in town, of that DeMarco is sure, but trying to choose the correct person is important. It’s sure to cost him something or other, but one can only hope his life’s not in jeopardy.

I’ve been reading and enjoying Mike Lawson’s work for a number of years, always finding the mix of crime and politics to my liking. While Joe DeMarco does come across as a man who is happy to blur the lines, his dedication to justice cannot be disputed. DeMarco takes matters into his own hands with this piece, but is happy to fight for what he feels is right as he salvages the reputation of a woman for whom he cared a great deal.

Joe DeMarco is the perfect protagonist for this piece, mixing his gritty determination with strong sleuthing skills. His background with familial connections to the Italian community does not hurt his reputation, though he does not want to rely on it, as he tries to live the clean life. With a little backstory on his ties to Shannon Doyle, DeMarco’s character evolves slightly in the fight for justice. His investigative skills are on display throughout this piece, showing that a little attention to detail can go a long way, even if it causes some with the local police more than a few headaches.

Lawson creates some strong supporting characters for his protagonist as well. Moving the piece out to Wyoming, there are few recurring characters in the book, save for a few who receive passing mention, allowing DeMarco to rule the roost as it were. Those who help create the Wyoming flavouring to the story emerge throughout as key characters and ones that add depth to the story. The reader will likely enjoy this ‘small town’ feel, with locals who wish only to stick to what they have always known and frown on outsiders who try to poke their noses where they do not belong.

The story was well presented and left much of the politics out of the mix. This is more a crime thriller than anything political, allowing Lawson to expand his writing style. There is a little of everything in the piece, with some much needed humour to offset some of the darker revelations that come to the surface. Quick chapters balance nicely with a narrative that moves at a clipped pace. The reader is sure to get into the middle of the story with ease and find themselves devouring the book in short order. Who knows what’s next for Lawson and how he will approach the series. It’s done well for now, though I wonder if DeMarco is pining for more golf time than having to smash heads to get answers.

Kudos, Mr. Lawson, for another winner. I am glad to have found the series and an eager to see what’s to come!

Be sure to check for my review, first posted on Mystery and Suspense, as well as a number of other insightful book summaries by strong reviewers.

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

Mother May I, by Joshilyn Jackson

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Joshilyn Jackson, and Harper Audio for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

There’s little I find more exciting than stumbling upon another author whose writing is electrifying. While many others may know Joshilyn Jackson and her thrilling style, it was only when I received this book to review that I was pulled into the middle of a story that left me reading (listening) well into the night. When a baby is kidnapped right from under his mother’s nose, panic ensues. Bree Cabbat must come to terms with her loss and try to rectify it without alerting too many others. However, this kidnapper has a plan and Bree finds herself jumping through hoops to get her son back, only later realising the motive behind the madness. Jackson offers a chilling tale that will prove highly addictive, once the reader finds themselves fully committed to the story. Recommended to those who love a chilling thriller full of twists and ‘aha’ moments.

The day started off poorly for Bree Cabbat when she noticed an old woman dressed in black—the proverbial witch, if ever there was one—peering into her bedroom window. Alerting her husband to the intruder, Bree’s worries were dismissed as a lack of sleep and ‘baby brain’. Bree’s upbringing in rural Georgia may not have been ideal, but she has transformed those years into something special, turning out to be an amazing mother to two teen girls and a new baby, Robert.

While at the girls’ school one afternoon, horror strikes Bree. Robert is kidnapped when she’s distracted in the drama room, snatched from his infant seat. It is only later that the same witch woman is seen in the school parking lot. Bree enters panic mode and is ready to do anything to save her son. When a call comes in, Bree is prepared to do whatever it takes to save Robert.

Bree is directed to undertake a confusing act to prove her loyalty to Robert. She must drug one of her husband’s legal partners at the firm and slip away, waiting fur further instructions. Given the pills she must use, Bree follows the instructions she’s given, only to realise that the plan has taken a horrible turn. What should have only knocked the man out has killed him and Bree is left with the guilt, on top of not yet having Robert back in his custody.

Confiding in a former cop and family friend, Bree soon learns that there was another recent kidnapping of a little boy by the same woman, who insists that all this is being done with her daughter’s assistance. Bree uncovers something that may connect the two cases, though she is not yet ready to bring it to the authorities or any media outlet. The more she understands about a distant past, the clearer things become as to why these two families were targeted.

Confronting her husband, Bree learns about his college years and how he was not the man she thought he might have been. However, this stroll down memory lane is not bringing Robert back any faster. Bree must work within the confines of what she can do and try to locate this pair of vindictive women before Robert disappears for good. A mother’s dedication to her baby crosses paths with another’s search for justice, however twisted it might be. This is one explosive story that will leave the reader enthralled as they try to see which maternal instinct is stronger.

While I may have never read anything by Joshilyn Jackson before, I can see the allure. Her storytelling is second to none and the flow of the piece keeps the reader in the middle of the gathering momentum. The piece pulls on the reader’s heartstrings while also telling of a sordid past that fuels the present kidnapping plot. Which side is innocent is up to the reader to decide, though the tangled web presented herein makes that determination all the harder to decipher.

Bree Cabbat is a strong, if somewhat harried, protagonist. Her role as doting wife and mother is balanced nicely with a fearful woman who wants her family back. As she story unfolds and she learns of a past to which she was previously unaware, Bree finds herself acting outside of the realm she might usually be comfortable inhabiting. Her dedication to finding her son is fuelled by maternal instinct, though she is equally concerned about the issues she learns relating to her husband’s past. The reader will feel Bree’s determination throughout this piece, never stopping when it comes to doing what she feels is right, even as she knows it could have dire consequences.

Jackson has used a handful of strong secondary characters to fill in some of the gaps throughout the narrative. There is a chilling undertone in the narrative and one that requires a cast of characters to bring it to life. Jackson does so effectively by painting vivid narratives with key characters, all of whom complement the larger story. Characters play their chosen roles well and the reader is gifted with a strong story throughout.

While I was not sure what to expected as I started this piece, I came to see just how talented Joshilyn Jackson was when I allowed myself to connect to the narrative. A story that appears to be a simple kidnapping takes a turn when certain twists are added to the narrative. The reader is pulled into the middle and left to wonder what might happen and how baby Robert might be used as a pawn to exact some form of revenge for past wrongs. Working with mid-length chapters, Jackson portrays her characters effectively and builds a plot that is as vivid as it is chilling. This is one book that really kept me wondering throughout and I binged numerous times just to get a better understanding of what was going on. I will definitely be back for more Joshilyn Jackson in the coming months.

Kudos, Madam Jackson, for winning me over. Your writing style and story development are surely worth additional exploration.

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

Stung (Arthur Beauchamp #8), by William Deverell

Nine stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, William Deverell, and ECW Press for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

The arrival of a new Arthur Beauchamp novel is always reason to celebrate. It shows that William Deverell has been hard at work, using his unique style to craft a truly Canadian legal thriller that has layers of strong plotting and even better off-the-cuff comments about the world in which we live. Deverell does not disappoint with this piece, which takes the reader on many an adventure, with a court case that is sure to pique the interest of those who enjoy such things. Highly recommended to those who love courtroom dramas, as well as the reader who has a penchant for all things Canadian.

It was all about the honeybee, or at least that’s what they said. Chemican-International is touting their new pesticide, Vigor-Gro, which has been useful to hep farmers and their crops, but has been wreaking havoc on the bees that try to pollinate. Rivkie Levitsky is working with a group of young eco-friendly people, all of whom are trying to make Chemican see the error of their ways. Their latest ploy is to get inside the Canadian plant outside Sarnia, where they will be able to stop things, at least temporarily.

All the while, Arthur Beauchamp (that’s “Beech’m”) has been enjoying life on his tract of land in Garibaldi, British Columbia. With his wife away serving as a Member of Parliament, he’s taken to enjoying the farm life and still thinking back on his many courtroom victories as a criminal defence attorney. Beauchamp has also been using more of his time to tend to local issues, which includes blocking an American company from mining the resources out from under him. While Beauchamp has a few minor dust-ups with the law, he’s peaceful for the most part.

Once Rivkie and her crew strike at the local Chemican plant, they cause quite the stir, which begins an extensive police investigation. The ‘Sarnia Seven’ are collected after the evidence is gathered and a few well-timed sting operations locate their lair. Helping out an old friend (and with the insistence of his wife), Beauchamp agrees to defend five of the members, prepared to use the necessity defence. While Beauchamp is not as familiar with it, he understands that arguing the act of sabotage was needed to protect the larger community—read: the bees—though this will be a hard sell.

In the lead-up to trial, Beauchamp must not only handle the cross-country travel to meet its his clients and co-counsel, but also handle some issue on the home front that he would likely prefer stay on the back burner. It’s going to be a lot to take on, especially as he has a long record of victories in the courtroom, matched against a Crown Prosecutor with an equally long string of victories. This is sure to be one trial no one wants to miss.

As the trial comes to a head, it will not only be a necessity defence that Beauchamp presents, but one vilifying Chemican-International. Fallout from the pesticide has not only been hurting the bees, but there are studies that show human consumption, albeit minutely, has been causing issues as well. Beauchamp must push this line of inquiry against the Crown’s insistence that it is futile, while the judge is keen to see things wrapped up swiftly. Add to that, there are issues within the jury that could cause things to topple over before closing arguments are finished. Beauchamp will have to use all his legal prowess, but even that might not be enough.

I discovered the wonders of William Deverell a number of years ago. His writing is not only detailed and highly addictive, but also layers the wonders of the Canadian legal system, putting a spotlight on its nuances, contrasting nicely with the supersaturation of American law in the genre. Of particular note, the Arthur Beauchamp series offers the reader a great escape into some true Canadiana with subplots that are second to none. Any reader who has the patience to sift through many of the tangential plot lines will not be disappointed with the series.

Arthur Beauchamp is a great protagonist in yet another novel. A brilliant legal mind, as is mentioned throughout the series, Beauchamp does not come across as pompous or egotistical. Quite the opposite, he struggles to sink into the background and enjoy retirement. Deverell places him in numerous sticky situations throughout the story, both of the legal and personal variety, which adds to the reader’s enjoyment. Those who have followed Beauchamp throughout the series will see how certain pieces connect in this novel, while others are new and exciting additions to an already full plate. Deverell does showcase the wonderful legal mind Beauchamp possesses, particularly in the courtroom, though the reader is not inundated with legalese that is sure to leave them befuddled.

The cast of secondary characters is quite complex and all encompassing, which adds to the depth of the narrative. The story takes place in various domains and tackles a few interconnected plot lines, all of which require strong characters to keep the momentum up. Deverell delivers unique and enjoyable characters, some of whom complement each other well, while not losing the reader in the tangential nature of the story. There are returning faces that add flavour to the story, as well as first-timers, some of whom I hope will return, should Arthur Beauchamp have more steam to offer in another novel.

The story itself was one of the best I have read from William Deverell. While it was a Herculean effort due to the details, most of his novels are, though they flow with ease. There is so much going on that the reader must almost keep a scorecard to set matters straight. Arthur Beauchamp is on display throughout, tackling so many interesting aspects of his life, as well as the case. The story is split into three narrative perspectives, which adds depth to the piece and keeps the reader pushing ahead. Add to that, Deverell has separated the book into chapters, as well as sub-chapters, which effectively serve to divide up the action for the reader. The flow of the book is not lost with the repeated divisions, though some may wonder why a more traditional approach was not taken. The narrative is sprinkled full of tongue-in-cheek moments, which lightens the mood in what is surely a high intensity piece. One cannot escape some of the science related to the topic at hand, though Deverell handles it effectively, educating the reader without drowning them in minutiae. I can only hope there is more to come, as Arthur Beauchamp is one character who never is at a loss for dramatic interactions.

Kudos, Mr. Deverell, for another stunner. I love the mix of courtroom, rural Canada, and flashy crime thriller aspects. You are in a league all your own and I hope others discover your magic. Pardon the pun, but there is a real ‘buzz’ in this piece, well worth the attention of the masses.

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

On Harrow Hill (Dave Gurney #7), by John Verdon

Nine stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, John Vernon, and Counterpoint Press for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

The arrival of a new John Verdon thriller is sure to excite many who have loved past novels with Dave Gurney helping on yet another homicide investigation. Gurney, a former NYPD Homicide Detective with many years experience, has a way not only with coming to assist many of the rural New York communities, but also finds himself growing in unique ways. With this case, which has layers upon layers of oddity, Gurney agrees to head to the community of Larchfield, where his former partner is running the show. However, there is nothing routine or textbook about what he discovers, save the increasing number of bodies piling up. Verdon is at his best with On Harrow Hill, and this is one book sure to impress anyone who takes the time to read it.

Dave Gurney has been enjoying retired life, though he seems never to be able to get into the swing of things before he’s called upon to help with another homicide. When his former partner asks for a favour, Gurney cannot say no, remembering their time on the NYPD together and the night Gurney was almost killed. He agrees to come to Larchfield, a small community that has no experience with crime, let alone murder.

The town’s wealthiest man, Angus Russell, has been found murdered inside his mansion on Harrow Hill. During the preliminary investigation, forensics uncovered a print and some blood of the suspected killer, Billy Tate. This should make it a fairly simply open and shut case, save for the fact that Tate died in a freak accident the night before and is currently in a coffin, awaiting burial. Baffled by this, Gurney tries to deal with the widow, though she is anything but helpful, wanting to tie up all the loose ends so that she can return to the lifestyle to which she has become accustomed.

If that were not enough, there’s a disturbance at the morgue and the Tate coffin’s been opened. Analysis shows the baffling proof that it was destroyed from the inside out, which is substantiated by some surveillance video that show Billy Tate alive and well—at least as well as someone who was struck by lightning and fell from a church steeple can be—before he leaves the building.

Given barely enough time to wrap his head around that, Gurney and the local authorities discover that two more bodies have turned up, one likely murdered on the way to the Russell killing and one soon thereafter. Might Tate have been resurrected and begun an odd killing spree? The mysteries continue with a massive manhunt started.

As Tate’s involvement with a satanic movement comes to light, Gurney follows new leads to help put some order to the case. Fanning the flames is a religious movement committed to ‘saving the town’ from the zombie satanist, while a reality news website has made it their business to add as much glitz and spin to things as possible. Gurney must wrestle false leads away from these two sources, while also protecting himself, as his property is targeted at one point.

While Billy Tate remains on the lam, Gurney and the others will have it find a motive that explains it all, while also capturing the killer before more bodies turn up. From whispers about a sordid past through to opponents of Tate’s personal beliefs, there are no shortage of people offering themselves up as potential victims, though Dave Gurney does not seem dissuaded in the least to catch yet another sadistic killer!

John Verdon does a masterful job in yet another thriller in this series, pulling the reader into the middle of the case in the opening chapters. His attention to detail and wonderful subplot development makes this book one that the reader will want to devour as quickly as possible, as I did. Using a few tangential leads to keep things interesting, there is no lack of intensity as the narrative builds, right up to the final reveal that had me shaking my head.

Dave Gurney cannot catch the break that retirement was supposed to bring him. If it’s not being asked to help out yet again, he’s thrust into the middle of a new household project his wife has for him (this time an alpaca farm)! While personal growth and backstory may not be something to which he is subjected throughout, the reader can see how his methodical thinking helps to shape the pace of the story and solving the crime at hand. He is by no means indestructible, though he tries to take it all in and find the core issue, working it through to a reasonable conclusion. However, resurrection and satanic belief might be a little outside Gurney’s ability to comprehend, even with 25 years in NYPD Homicide.

Verdon develops a handful of key secondary characters in this piece, who are essential to the success of the novel. There is no shortage of personalities in this piece, all of whom work their own angles to enrich the plot and keep the reader wondering. While it is not a whodunit with a few potential killers the reader must suss out, there is much to be said about those who make up the foundation of a small community. Some complement Gurney and some prove to be essential roadblocks to solving the crime.

This was perhaps the best Verdon piece I have read, though I have loved them all a great deal. The flow of the story is perfect, revealing much as the narrative builds. Verdon has done well to develop this quirky, layered story that is not a simple A to Z crime thriller. Rather, the reader must wade through some distracting side stories (as Dave Gurney does too) to get to the heart of the matter. With a mix of chapter lengths, the reader gets hooked and then finds themselves sitting for long periods just to get a better understanding of what’s going on. While it is not your typical crime thriller, its uniqueness makes it one readers will want to explore and challenge themselves with throughout the journey.

Kudos, Mr. Verdon, for a book I could not stop reading. I hope others are ready for as wild a ride!

Be sure to check for my review, first posted on Mystery and Suspense, as well as a number of other insightful comments by other reviewers.

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

The Beirut Protocol (Marcus Ryker #4), by Joel C. Rosenberg

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Joel C. Rosenberg, and Tyndale House Publishers for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Joel C. Rosenberg is back with another of his nail-biting thrillers that pulls together many of the current goings-on in the Middle East and their delicate political interactions. Special Agent Marcus Ryker is in the region as an advance team with the Diplomatic Security Service, scouting things out before the signing of a major peace treaty. However, things go terribly wrong and he soon becomes a pawn of a ruthless regime seeking to flex its own muscle in the region. Rosenberg aptly covers all the perspectives with strong actors and leaves the reader feeling as though they are in the middle of the action in The Beirut Protocol. Recommended to those who have loved his work in the past, as well as the reader who cannot get enough of political thrillers.

It seemed like an easy mission for Marcus Ryker and his team, all part of the US Diplomatic Security Service, as they worked ahead of the upcoming peace treaty signing between America and the Saudis. However, along the Israel-Lebanon border, Ryker and his team are captured by Hezbollah and taken to a compound. It’s only later that Ryker’s identity is discovered after some brutal interrogating and torture techniques.

While no one in the White House is yet aware of what’s happened, the news travels to Tehran quickly. Iran is in the middle of its own political vacuum, with the Grand Ayatollah having died and a new man about to be chosen for the job. Whomever assumes the role, their support of Hezbollah is almost guaranteed and having Ryker will prove to be a gift no one could imagine.

While Ryker tries to get himself out of the clutches of Hezbollah, he musty act quickly. He’s a wanted man, having scuttled a number of plans by America’s most ardent enemies. It will require a great deal of planning and determination if Ryker hopes to make it out alive. Still, the rewards could be monumental, particularly if it means the Americans and Saudis can move ahead with their peace treaty, which is sure to open the door to more tranquility in the region.

Joel C. Rosenberg has long been a favourite author of mine, not only because of his political thrillers, but also since he knows just how to lay the groundwork for a plausible story. Many who are familiar with a number of his series will recall that he predicted some of the major events in the region in the late 1990s and into the 20th century, almost foreboding the events that would lead to clashes that pit countries and regions against one another today.

Marcus Ryker has been a great protagonist throughout the series. Rosenberg has been able to develop him effectively throughout the series, mixing a strong determination with some key personal backstory. The series has become more intense because of Ryker’s presence and one can only hope that Rosenberg is not entirely done with this man, who seems at ease no matter where he finds himself in the world, or which enemy awaits him.

Rosenberg’s creation of strong secondary characters is like few others I have seen before. Each actor plays a key role in the larger narrative and keeps the reader enthralled as they learn about how political and social situations are seen through a number of lenses. While it can be hard to keep the countries and their politics straight, Rosenberg has a great list at the start of the book to provide the reader just what they need to keep the plot flowing with each actor and the flavour brought to the narrative. While there are usually a large number of actors being used, Rosenberg is always spot-on about how he hopes to effectively utilise those who push the story forward.

The overall story was, as usual, amazing and well-paced. Rosenberg understands the nuances of the region to provide the reader with something to keep them on their toes. The writing is of high caliber and keeps the reader interested throughout the story, with key moments of dialogue to paint an even more intense picture of how the machinery of Middle East politics works. With short chapters that push the reader to keep the story going, Rosenberg jams much into his writing and does not let the reader rest on their laurels at any time. With a plot that is well-paced and full of twists, the reader is never left knowing what is to come, which helps to add new layers of thrills to an already stunning piece.

Kudos, Mr. Rosenberg, for another winner. I cannot wait to see what you have next for your fans and how the future of the region will shape your writing.

Be sure to check for my review, first posted on Mystery and Suspense, as well as a number of other insightful comments by other reviewers.

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

Everything is Mine, by Ruth Lillegraven

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Ruth Lillegraven, and Amazon Crossing for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

There’s nothing like a little mystery to keep a family on its toes. Such is the case in this latest piece by Ruth Lillegraven, in which a couple is pulled apart not only by their work, but a long-standing disinterest in one another. When a man is found murdered at a hospital, one is fingered as the prime suspect, only to profess their innocence. Everything is Mine is an apt title for this piece, though one wrong move and it could all disappear.

Clara and Henrik have a somewhat quiet life on the outskirts of Oslo, where they enjoy time with their twin boys. While they seem to have a routine between them, neither is all that happy in the relationship, or so it seems. Henrik is a doctor in the A&E, specialising in paediatric medicine, while Clara is a politician with a bright future. Their independent spheres serve them well, as the narrative depicts throughout.

When an angry father brings in an unconscious young boy directly to Henrik at work, something is amiss. The father insists that it was a fall from a tree, but something is not adding up. A major brain bleed and countless bruises of various ages cover the boys body. Rushed into surgery, everyone tries their best, but the boy cannot be saved. Henrik knows it was child abuse, but allows his mind to drift and does not report it to the authorities. During a brief confrontation, Henrik directs the father to a prayer room, what little good it will do him.

When the authorities arrive soon thereafter, Henrik is kicking himself, sure that they are here to discuss the abuse. However, it is the murder of the father outside the prayer room that has everyone buzzing. Henrik has not hidden his disdain for the man, but says that he knows nothing about the murder.

Meanwhile, Clara has been trying to get a piece of legislation through parliament that deals with protecting children of abuse. While it is scuttled by the Minister of Justice and Prime Minister, Clara cannot help but wonder if there is something more going on. She is determined to ensure it sees the floor for debate, but is stonewalled at every turn.

When another body turns up close to where Henrik found himself after his shift, he is taken into custody and questioned extensively. While there, more bodies turn up, at a time when Henrik could not have acted. Could his innocence hinge on these ongoing murders? How will Clara react when she learns the truth and what can she do to keep her job from overtaking her? Lillegraven reveals it all as the story reaches its climax.

Having never read anything by Ruth Lillegraven previously, I was intrigued to see how things would go with this book. I found myself highly impressed with the writing, even in translation, and sped through the book to see how it all came together. This is certainly an author well worth my time and I will have to see what else she has to entertain me.

Henrik proves to be the central character in this piece. He struggles with his life, not only as a doctor, but a father and an almost forgotten husband. He is by no means innocent in the marriage, having been stepping out for a long time, though feels it is justified because of how poorly Clara treats him. When faced with adversity, Henrik buckles down and shows his true colours, though they are sometimes muted by those around him.

Lillegraven uses a strong cast of secondary characters to tell her story, pushing a gripping murder mystery into the middle of a busy emergency room. She’s apt to pull on a great cross-section of characters throughout the piece, many of whom come together nicely to fit into the nooks and crannies of this piece. The reader need not worry about a lack of perspectives, as many of these characters offer their own narratives throughout.

The story was easy to follow and kept me entertained throughout. I cannot say that there was a time I was checking my watch or tapping my toe. Lillegraven constructs a powerful piece on chid abuse and builds it from there, keeping the reader wondering throughout. With a strong narrative that takes in the perspectives of many, the story pushes forward through short chapters. Questions arise at various points in the story, answered only by forging ahead and waiting to see what else is to come.

Kudos, Madam Lillegraven, for a thrilling mystery like no other. I cannot wait to see what else you have written and whether they match up to this piece.

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