A Killer’s Alibi (Philadelphia Legal #3), by William L. Myers Jr.

Nine stars

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

The reader can be assured of a well-developed legal thriller when William L. Myers Jr. is at the helm. His attention to detail and captivating stories keep the story enthralling until the final pages, and this book is no exception. When James ‘Jimmy’ Nunzio is found in a warehouse, holding a bloody knife with a body on the floor, there appears to be little doubt that he is to blame. A high-ranking official in a Philadelphia organized crime family, Nunzio has a long list of beefs, including a rival New York family, to whom the victim belongs. When Mick McFarland is called upon to serve as defence counsel, he is hesitant, though intrigued all the same. McFarland interviews his client, but is left feeling as though there is something missing from the story and Nunzio remains coy about certain aspects of that night, promising to reveal all in good time. Meanwhile, Mick’s wife and other law partner are involved in some Innocence Project Work. Darlene Dowd was convicted of murdering her abusive father years ago, but a deathbed letter from her own mother reveals that a neighbour may have some important evidence and the murder weapon. Piper McFarland and Susan Klein begin to explore this new evidence, in hopes of being able to free Darlene once and for all. With the help of the firm’s investigator, Piper and Susan learn that there is more to the story than an abused teenaged girl who resented her father’s actions and took justice into her own hands. While Mick is trying to plan for his own trial, he discovers that he may have taken on more than he can handle, placing himself and all those around him in a mafia squabble that can only end in bloodshed. Learning of an intended payback, Mick must do all he can to get to the bottom of this case—including this mystery evidence the defendant is holding—before more innocent people suffer the consequences. A powerful story, with great courtroom action, that does not relent until the final paragraph, Myers shows why he belongs at the top of his genre. Highly recommended for those who love substantive legal thrillers that seek not only to tell a story, but offer realistic characters to add depth.

I can remember stumbling upon Myers’ first novel and being fully engrossed. This was a story that had both substantial legal arguments and characters who were more than simply vessels to pull the narrative along. Myers has taken the time to flesh-out his characters and injects personal attributes to which the reader can surely relate. Mick McFarland is a wonderful father and husband, as well as an accomplished lawyer who does not shy away from controversy. While his mind does seek loopholes, he is not afraid to work or to spend time trying to help his clients, no matter their circumstances. His passion for the law and those around him can be seen throughout and he proves to be a wonderful protagonist sure to anchor this series for years to come. Other returning characters offer their own distinct flavours and propel the story forward at break-neck speed. The attentive reader will see some of the smaller characteristics that Myers injects to keep the story light, but not superficial. This helps keep things from getting stale or overly burdensome. Dealing with both sexual abuse and family blood feuds cannot be easy, though Myers tackles both and presents wonderful spins. There is a delicate balance that Myers has found, one the attentive reader will see as they progress through this novel. The story is strong and reads well, mixing light banter with serious legal arguments, as well as some personal subplots some of the characters must face. Myers has a way of writing in which chapters seem to melt away, though he does not shortchange with detail or plot development. Anyone new to Myers should probably start at the beginning of the series—more to learn of the character and plot developments from their infancy—though I suppose this book could act as a standalone. Speaking of that, this book does stand apart from others in its genre and William L. Myers Jr. should be an author with whom readers familiarize themselves. It is worth the time and effort!

Kudos, Mr. Myers, for another winner. I am pleased to have been able to experience an advance copy of this book, as it allows me to drum up additional support ahead of publication.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

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The Hangman’s Secret (Victorian Mystery #3), by Laura Joh Rowland

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Laura Joh Rowland, and Crooked Lane Books for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Laura Joh Rowland takes readers back to Victorian England to continue this mystery series that proves addictive from the opening pages. Sarah Bain and Lord Hugh Staunton have worked well together in the past and, after some results in a recent kidnapping case, have been hired by Sir Gerald Mariner to work at a recently acquired newspaper. Sarah’s skill at photography is sure to help sell copies, alongside the passion she and Hugh have for solving crimes. When they are sent to a murder scene on a tip, Sarah and Hugh discover a decapitated man. He is soon identified as one of the hangmen used across England to execute those deemed worthy of death. During an encounter with the local police, a competition ensues to see who will find the killer first. Sarah and Hugh begin poking around and learn of the hangman’s ties to a ruthless killer, one Amelia Carlisle, who ran a baby farm and was found to have murdered many of the little ones in her care. Working undercover of sorts, Sarah and Hugh make their way to the prison to learn a little more about Carlisle, where they meet the select group who witnessed the hanging. Between learning about this, Sarah’s half-sister comes to call, where she admits that she may have seen their father. Benjamin Bain was thought to have died over two decades before, having disappeared after a clash with the police. However, Sarah came to discover that he had a second family, using a pseudonym. She also discovers that he is wanted as a person of interest in the rape and murder of a young girl, around the time of his disappearance from the Bain household. With new information, Sarah his determined not only to find her father, but clear his name of this heinous crime. When new revelations surrounding the Carlisle execution leaks to the press, Sarah’s job is in jeopardy, though she has other matters on her mind. A killer is on the loose, targeting those who know all about the execution, but Sarah is also keenly aware that there are secrets in her own family that must be revealed before she can learn the truth for her own peace of mind. Rowland has penned another winner, full of great plots and interesting characters. Recommended for those who love mysteries set in Victorian England that have unique twists.

I chose to read the first two novels in the series before jumping into this one, as I felt that it would help enrich the experience. I am pleased that I did so, as Rowland effectively lays the groundwork for this book and develops her characters well in the first two pieces. This novel is just as exciting, set another year or so after the Mariner kidnapping and two years after the Ripper scare made headlines. Sarah Bain remains an interesting character, sure to interest most readers for her relatability and constant curiosity. A photographer by trade, Sarah uses her amateur sleuthing capabilities again in this novel, accentuated by grit and determination to get to the answer. Rowland did well to develop her into a quasi-investigative reporter, utilising all her skills. Lord Hugh Staunton remains her effective sidekick, though it is his interest in keeping things secretive about his true identify that acts as the form of development the reader must accept in this piece. Hugh has been disowned by his family for his homosexuality and his recent relationship could cost everyone a great deal, if it becomes public. Some of the secondary characters shape the story effectively, particularly Police Constable Thomas Barrett. PC Barrett struggles with his love for Sarah and his dedication to the job. His superiors have made it known that Sarah is not welcome to poke around, leading to some interesting secret keeping and revelations between Barrett and Sarah throughout. Overall, the story worked well and kept my attention through to the final sentence. Wonderfully developed in the middle of Victorian England’s most crime-filled years, Rowland captures the feeling of those dark and troubled streets in London’s less savoury neighbourhoods. Rowland has created an interesting series that mixes history with key elements of a decent mystery. I will keep her on my radar and hope that she continues this wonderful series that is both highly entertaining and easy to read.

Kudos, Madam Rowland, for keeping the series fresh with new ideas and established storylines. Victorian England comes alive in your descriptions and I hope the series will continue in the years to come.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

Threat Level Alpha (Dan Morgan #7), by Leo J. Maloney

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Leo J. Maloney, and Lyrical Underground for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Leo Maloney is back with another novel in the Dan Morgan series, pushing the limits while enthralling the reader with this high-impact story. The Zeta Division has changed significantly over the last number of years, particularly with some of the hard work that Dan Morgan has put in to make this elite organisation extremely effective while remaining covert. Choosing to take a well-deserved holiday with his patient wife, Morgan counsels Alex, his daughter and one of Zeta’s newest operatives, to watch herself over the next little while. Alex Morgan may be young but she is prepared to handle any situation tossed at her. When Zeta learns that a biochemistry professor, nicknamed Dr. Armageddon, has been espousing a virus that kills the entire human population to create a ‘reset’, Alex is sent to infiltrate the group and learn all she can about any future plans. While she soaks up the college life, her parents are chased down by a group of Russian operatives, whose target is surely Dan Morgan. While he expects trouble, this is an old friend/foe seeking Morgan’s help with a piece of highly delicate intel. It would appear a Chechen terrorist group has gathered old Soviet documentation on a biological weapon that could wreak havoc on large portions of the population. These terrorists must be stopped at any cost or things could go sour quickly. Just as Alex seems to be making headway posing as a college student, the Chechens arrive on campus to force Dr. Armageddon and a group of students to work on the Soviet weapon or die trying. Morgan must keep his cool while waiting to hear what is going on, knowing that Alex’s life could be in extreme danger. If this were not enough, a terror group in the Philippines has stormed into an international gathering, seeking to maximise the body count to make a point. Maloney has done it again with this stellar read that pulls the reader into the middle of this entertaining piece. Those who enjoy the Dan Morgan series will surely want to get their hands on this novel, as will readers who enjoy stories that mix espionage and political intrigue.

I am always in the mood for Leo J. Maloney’s work, as it weaves an exciting story and does not let the reader breathe until the final sentence. Maloney has a way not only with words, but is also able to engage the reader with strong writing and believable dialogue. Dan Morgan takes a backseat in this novel, forced to wait as his daughter tries to extricate herself out of one of the most harrowing experiences in her young life. Alex proves to be not only an endearing character, but also has the grit needed to make it in the Zeta Division. Her passion for the work and ability to blend in proves to be the perfect mix. Alex comes out of her shell and proves that she can emerge from the shadow cast by her father, surely a formative point in the series. There are other strong characters whose secondary role help push the story forward while ramping up the action as well. Working two key plots in tandem, Maloney forces the reader to pay close attention, as each storyline has its own importance to the overall advancement of the series. The novel moves away from some of the traditional ‘terrorist’ pieces, turning not only to a Russian enemy, but also new forms of weapons. Looking towards biological warfare, Maloney hints at what might be to come, if not in reality, then at least in this genre that is jam-packed with authors striving to ascend to the top of the pack. Maloney is there and with more stories of this nature, he is sure to remain there for the foreseeable future.

Kudos, Mr. Maloney, for another great novel. I cannot say enough about your writing and hope others will discover you soon!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

Broken Ground (Inspector Karen Pirie #5), by Val McDermid

Eight stars

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

I am always pleased to find a new Val McDermid novel ready to be devoured, particularly because she has a few strong series that I have come to enjoy. After a devastating personal loss, Detective Chief Inspector Karen Pirie is back. Shuffled off within Police Scotland to head-up the new Historic Cases Unit (HCU), Pirie begins work on a rape/murder from three decades ago. With only the description of the assailant’s vehicle, Pirie begins combing through records well before thorough databases were created. Meanwhile, two treasure hunters are combing rural Scotland with a hand-drawn map, seeking the ultimate prize, two motorcycles from around the end of the Second World War. After locating the spot and digging through much peat, they locate not only the crates, but a body that’s suffered numerous gunshots wounds. What adds to the intrigue is that a number of artifacts on and around the victim date it back no earlier than 1995. DCI Pirie is called to the scene and thus begins her meatier case, trying to locate what might have happened. With the peat preserving the victim’s body, an identification is possible, as is some other history about the man left in the bog. With Pirie working this case, she must also juggle all that is going on with her other investigation, turning up many forgetful witnesses and belligerent individuals. However, Pirie is not one to give up easily and she soon creates a document trail that may solve both cases in short order, if only she can get a few key pieces of evidence to line up properly. That will require assistance from higher up the chain of command, always a daunting task. McDermid provides the reader with some excellent insight in this well-established series. Recommended for those who enjoy DCI Karen Pirie in action, as well as readers with a keen interest in cold cases.

It has been a while since I read Val McDermid, but doing so always proves to be a worthy task. She’s able to get to the heart of the matter in a timely fashion, while also building up her setting and characters effectively, thus keeping the reader fully committed. DCI Pirie proves to be a great character who has evolved since the beginning of the series. Still handling the death of her husband, Pirie is only now coming out of the fog. She’s able to keep her mind sharp and wits about her as she tackles some less than simplistic police work within the HCU. Added to that, there is the strain of a less than compassionate superior and Pirie must forge ahead just to stay above the fray. Many of the other characters found within the novel develop effectively over this time and show that their presence is not only essential, but entertaining for the reader. Juggling a few cases can be tough for both the police and the reader, trying to keep facts and witnesses straight, though McDermid writes in such a way that it is reasonable and usually straightforward. The reader is able to digest the larger story with ease, helped sometimes by short chapters that keep the narrative’s momentum. Those familiar with McDermid’s work will know she does well to keep the sarcasm high between intense moments, balancing the reading experience. McDermid’s writing holds out until the final sentence and readers will surely be pining for more in the near future.

Kudos, Madam McDermid, for another winner. I love your writing and ideas, hoping you have a few more pieces to dazzle your fans in the coming months.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

Those Who Go By Night, by Andrew Gaddes

Six stars

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

I was keen to give the work of Andrew Gaddes a try, as it explores not only a mystery, but includes a dose English history, which can be highly entertaining. When a beggar is found murdered and placed in a compromising position on a church altar in Bottesford, panic ensues in the small English town. It is the mid-14th century and Rome has a firm grasp over its congregations. Worried that something will come to pass, the Bishop of Lincoln agrees to send an emissary, Thomas Lester, to investigate and report back. However, it would seem the Archbishop of Canterbury has his own man in the region, looking to explore whether the pagan rituals rumoured to be rife in the area might need a more powerful fist to quell them. Lester comes upon a community with many colourful characters, all of whom offer plausible reasons for being the killer. As Lester works, he must worry that the killer could strike again, all the while trying to protect this corner of England from being painted in a poor light. There is little time and Lester possesses an explosive secret that he cannot let the general public discover, as it could undermine his abilities to bring order to the region. Lester’s personal and professional lives clash in this piece, pinning criminal law against that of the Church, as well as personal morals that seem to conflict with ecclesiastical tenets. Gaddes does well to offer up a decent tale that will keep the reader wondering until the very end!

I enjoy historical mysteries, as they are usually able to mix curiosity with education in equal measure. Gaddes bit off quite a bit here and presented the reader with a decent narrative, though it missed the mark for me. Thomas Lester’s character has some interesting aspects, including his ties to the Church and ability to retrieve information from most anyone he meets. He may be a Church emissary, but he is human and his personal longings cannot be completely neutralised, even with a religious background. Gaddes portrays Lester as a gritty man who seeks the truth while trying to deflect his own personal opinion on occasion, which is a struggle throughout the piece. His Templar background is sure to offer some additional flavour to an already complex character, as the reader will see throughout. Many of the other characters serve to offer interesting perspectives to fill the narrative with different angles, sure to offer up a discussion amongst those who enjoy book bantering. Witchcraft, Church resistance, and wariness of outsiders prove to be themes embedded in the many characters Gaddes offers to the curious reader. While the story seems sound and the narrative progresses nicely, I could not find myself connecting with it throughout. I am no perfect reader, but something had me skimming rather than basking in a story that could have been so enjoyable. Perhaps it was the lure of the dust jacket blurb, but I expected so much more for my personal reading pleasure. It fell short for me, though I cannot expect that others will feel the same. Try it and offer your own opinions, for Gaddes certainly has the tools for a successful novel. Perhaps I am just not seeing the diamond embedded herein!

Kudos, Mr. Gaddes, for what certainly could be a stellar piece. I can only hope that others see something I did not. I will give you the benefit of the doubt and wait to see what you serve up next to the curious reader!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

We, The Jury, by Robert Rotstein

Nine stars

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

Robert Rotstein has developed this unique legal thriller, told from the perspective of the other side of the courtroom. Rather than putting the reader in the middle of a courtroom drama, the story unfolds as the legal banter is wrapping up and the case is sent to the jury. David Sullinger is accused of having murdered his wife, Amanda, the day before their 21st wedding anniversary. According to David, he was subjected to significant and ongoing spousal abuse, which led him to act in self-defence at the time he plunged a pickaxe into her skull. Told from multiple perspectives, the book opens with the judge offering jury instructions, which are bumbled, and proceeds to the deliberations in the case. In a narrative that offers the jury members’ own perspectives on the case, as well as other officers of the court (judge, bailiff, lawyers) and even some outsiders, the reader learns more about what supposedly happened through recollections of evidence presented. Additionally, Rotstein offers some outside information on the judge, who is showing signs of mental distress due to personal matters, trying to hold it all together. With tidbits of testimony added within various chapters, the reader becomes a juror themselves, as they see the arguments made in deliberation, before a decision is made. Quite the story and highly unique! Rotstein is sure to impress those who enjoy legal thrillers with a different perspective, especially the reader who likes to be the thick of a courtroom drama.

I thoroughly enjoy legal thrillers and courtroom dramas, as they are not only entertaining, but highly educational. Rotstein peppers a little of everything in this case, which sees a man’s freedom hang in the balance. Spousal abuse against men remains a new defence, though it is one that has been rolled out here. Taking the perspectives of the jurors provides the reader with a unique glimpse into what they know, how they feel, and what influences their voting. The banter between these individuals—the least legally trained but with the most legal power in a case—is amazing and Rotstein infers a great deal throughout. The characters are plentiful and each has their own perspective, which allows the reader to watch as development and flavour mix to create the most entertaining set of individuals. The story is quite well done, offering great insight into how the same set of facts can be interpreted so many ways by a group of eight (see an early explanation in the story about how eight can serve on a jury in California) common citizens. With short chapters and a variety of perspectives, the reader will not get bogged down in the legal or personal minutiae of the characters, but will seek to see how things end up when the foreperson presses the red button, indicating a decision has been reached.

Kudos, Mr. Rotstein, for such a great book. I will recommend it to anyone who enjoys legal pieces, as you have a wonderful handle on the genre.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

House of Ashes, by Loretta Marion

Seven stars

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

Loretta Marion develops a story that straddles time and geography to bring the reader into the centre of numerous mysteries that come to a head in an energetic ending. The small Massachusetts community of Whale Rock has been home to the Mitchell family off and on for over eight decades. When one of the largest homes in the area caught fire eighty years ago, the fallout created a curse that permeates the region to this day. Cassandra ‘Cassie’ Mitchell’s great-grandparents perished in the fire that some believe was part of a larger curse they brought from England. At present, Cassie has an issue of her own, as her two tenants have recently disappeared into thin air. Could this be part of the ongoing curse or some other nefarious act? Leaving behind a few odd clues, including a piece of rope tied with unique knots, Cassie is determined to get to the bottom of the mystery. However, she also has a gallery showing booked and must finish a number of paintings, some of the bucolic community of Whale Rock. With the authorities turning up nothing and the FBI admitting that Cassie’s tenants never existed, at least by those names, the mystery only thickens. With a parallel storyline exploring events leading up to the aforementioned fire, additional backstory and knowledge about this Mitchell Curse come to light, which could explain some of the present-day anomalies. An interesting tale that will pique the interest of some, though I found myself less than committed throughout the reading experience.

This is my first experience with Marion’s writing, which left me curious to see what sentiments came to the surface. Her attention to detail and nuanced placement of clues is second to none, as is her seamless ability to write in both past and present while keeping both stories poignant. I remain baffled as to why I could not grasp the entirety of the story. I did not feel the connection to the characters or plot, though both seemed to be well grounded. Cassie Mitchell proves to be an interesting woman, who has struggled finding her niche as she seeks to rebuild a bridge with her older sister. Cassie’s determination to get to the bottom of the mystery while also living her life at present is something that Marion develops throughout with a strong narrative and decent dialogue. I’m left to wonder if I was just not in the proper mindset to tackle this book, as there are many characters who pop up and serve to push things in a forward direction. The premise was decent, using a past curse to explain away some of the issues taking place, without getting too supernatural with the entire plot. Still, I needed something more that shook me in my seat as I flipped the pages of this book. Perhaps others will find something stellar in this book or with the author and to them I offer my complete support. It just did not come together for me.

Kudos, Madam Marion, for a decent piece of writing. While I may not have been captivated, I do not feel that I will be in the majority.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

A Murder by Any Name: An Elizabethan Spy Mystery, by Suzanne M. Wolfe

Seven stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Suzanne M. Wolfe, and Crooked Lane Books for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Suzanne M. Wolfe takes the reader into the darker sides of the Elizabethan Court with this murder mystery, using a great deal of detail to bring out the unique flavour of the time. Queen Elizabeth has been reigning over England for close to three decades and has earned the favour of many, both within her Court and in the general public. When the youngest of the ladies-in-waiting is murdered, the Court is abuzz with gossip and Her Majesty is enraged. Found on the high alter of a church, the killer must surely have been seeking to make a statement like no other. Elizabeth turns to the one man she feels is up for the task of locating the killer and bringing them to justice, Nicholas Holt. A spy in his own right, Holt will be able to use his deceptive ways to lure information out of many in order to quickly bring the case to a close. With his connections to Court and possessing a seedy background, Holt will stop at nothing to bring the killer before Elizabeth. However, this might be a more difficult task than first thought, as Her Majesty is far from regal in its traditional form and seeks immediate answers. When a second lady-in-waiting is slain, Holt knows that he is running out of time. If he cannot produce the killer soon, it will be his head on a platter before Elizabeth. Working every angle, Holt travels to ascertain not only clues but motive, remaining as covert as possible. Wolfe delivers an interesting mystery that is sure to pique the attention of some who enjoy their murder mysteries in a historic setting.

This is my first experience with Wolfe and her writing, which left me eager to see what sentiments came as I read this piece. She has a wonderful attention to detail and brings out that 16th century flavour in her story without leaving the reader too bogged down in references or phrasing. That being said, my mind could not grasp the entirety of the story, as I sought something a bit quicker and that would pull me in. Her character development is decent, as Nicholas Holt is painted to be a wonderfully dedicated man, even if he has a background that might be anything but pure. Using a handful of supporting characters, including Elizabeth I, proved useful, not only to advance the story, but also to add strength to the setting. While the story is one of mystery with a peppering of espionage, Wolfe dutifully uses some of the historical goings-on of the time to add to the potential motive. With England standing as a Protestant stronghold, might the Catholics have perpetrated this to poke at Elizabeth? Could the anti-Semitic sentiments of the time be the basis for these murders? All this, keenly woven into a narrative that flows with ease and keeps the reader guessing. I thoroughly enjoyed the historical angle, even if the story did not pull me in as much as I would have liked. Wolfe is to be commended for her attention to detail, which will surely appease many of those who seek to read this book.

Kudos, Madam Wolfe, on an interesting tale. I trust that many will enjoy this piece, for it certainly has much to offer the curious reader.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

In Her Shadow, by Mark Edwards

Nine stars

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

Mark Edwards is back with another spine-chilling novel that takes the reader inside the eerie world of communication with the afterlife, yet another branch of psychological thrillers. Jessica is the proud mother of two children, though it would seem her youngest has begun acting out at school. When she arrives to speak with the teacher, Jessica learns that Olivia has been making many comments about her friend, Izzy, who’s died. Although Olivia is only four, Jessica refuses to take any chances and soon learns that her daughter is speaking about a member of the family. It would seem that Izzy, Olivia’s aunt, died after leaping from her balcony at home, not long after little Olivia was born. How might Olivia be communicating with her aunt, save through some sort of spirit portal? Thoughts of this nature remind Jessica of a situation from her own youth, when she and Izzy were visited by an uncle’s spirit who was highly disruptive. Jessica refuses to believe that Olivia has any contact with her dead sister and pushes the limits to find out who might be feeding her daughter such information. However, the evidence keeps piling up that Olivia has a way to speak to ‘Izzy’ and there are things that few others ever knew, yet they seem to be coming from Olivia’s mouth with ease. The entire situation opens up new fears in Jessica when Olivia admits one night that Izzy was pushed and murdered by someone. Could there be some truth to this? If so, how much does Olivia know and can her connection with Izzy help re-open a police investigation? Edwards uses his skills to lure the reader deep into the story and soon the story has taken over their entire brain, forcing them to race forward and discover what’s happened before turning off the light at night. Perfect for those who love Mark Edwards’ work, as well as the reader who enjoys blindsides throughout.

I have long enjoyed Mark Edwards and his writing, finding myself susceptible to his style of narration so much that I lose track of time. Even when I want to read only a few pages, I find it hard to put down one of his books until I have resolution to the mystery at hand. Edwards has a wonderful way of connecting the reader to his characters, especially a strong-minded protagonist like Jessica. The reader learns much about her throughout, both her backstory and current development as she fights to get to the bottom of both the Izzy and Olivia situations. There is much to discover and the story peels things back slowly enough as to keep the reader flipping pages, but not too quickly as to be a let-down. Alongside Jessica are a handful of other characters, all of whom bring their own flavour to the story, particularly those who crossed paths with Izzy in the days and weeks before her death. Edwards keeps the reader wondering if it could have been murder and who might have the most plausible motive to end the life of this interesting woman. That also serves to promote Izzy into the role of secondary protagonist, as flashbacks and extensive dialogue throughout resurrect her personality throughout the entire piece. Edwards effectively weaves past and present into a seamless plot and keeps everyone guessing until the very end. The story was brilliantly executed and the reader will surely find themselves surrounded by possible culprits and mysteries they ask themselves, all while the narrative forges onwards. With clipped dialogue that keeps the story realistic, Edwards leaves little time to ponder, as each chapter presents new and interesting perspectives to keep things from going stale. I have yet to find a dud when Mark Edwards is at the helm and hope many readers will follow me and get hold of this book in short order.

Kudos, Mr. Edwards, for another winner. I hope those who have yet to discover your writing style do so soon, for you have a great deal to offer the genre and those who love it so very much!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

The Confession, by Jo Spain

Eight stars

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

This is my first venture into the writing of Jo Spain and it will surely not be my last! Spain offers a well-developed novel that mixes the thrill of a mystery with the intrigue of a multi-voiced narrative that seeks to explore an act of extreme violence. While Harry and Julie McNamara are watching television one evening, someone discretely makes their way inside and repeatedly strikes Harry across the head with a golf club. A panicked call to the authorities after the attacker has fled finds Mr. McNamara taken to the hospital, clinging to life. Detective Sergeant Alice Moody takes the lead on the case, trying to ascertain who might have wanted to attack McNamara, a rich Irish banker. With Harry clinging to life in a coma, the reader discovers one John Paul “JP” Carney has been arrested in conjunction with the attack, though he seems not to remember the event, or have any reason to have approached the McNamara manse. The story offers a present-time narrative through the eyes of DS Moody, who is trying to build a case and discover a motive that Carney may have had. Julie McNamara and JP Carney offer up their own perspectives, both as backstories and with flashes of present-day, as it relates to the larger McNamara crime. Was the attack on Harry McNamara completely random? How might JP have ever run in the same circles as a powerful banker? Why has Julie been so hands-off since a suspect was detained? All this and more fills the reader’s mind as they push through this novel. Spain leaves the reader wondering until the very end as they, like DS Moody, slowly peel back the proverbial onion to see the core of the crime. Perfect for those who like mysteries that slowly develop and then come together with a BANG!

This being my first venture into the world of Jo Spain, I was not sure what to expect. It would seem that she has quite the following, with an established novel series already, but I cannot help but feel that this standalone novel could convince many to take a gamble on more of her work. Spain does a masterful job of using her characters to propel the story forward, in that interesting ‘multiple perspective’ narrative. This allows the reader to develop a closeness with Julia McNamara, JP Carney, and DS Alice Moody independently and as a larger whole. There is much backstory, as mentioned above, for the latter two characters, while Moody seeks to keep her chapters in the present and focussed on the case. The reader can feel more of a closeness to Julia and JP, thereby helping them to have a better idea as to the foundation of the attack that saw Harry McNamara injured so grievously. Taking the time to develop these characters in short order fuels the momentum of the story and enriches the narrative for the curious reader. The story proves to be quick paced and is a mystery that has little downtime as the authorities race against the clock to gather needed evidence. How could an attack on a wealthy gentleman who has no ties to the attacker have played out? What role, if any, did the wife have to the man who came in wielding a golf club? Who was Harry McNamara, away from the headlines he generated because of his profession? All this and more enters the fray in a narrative that flows through short chapters jammed with information. The dedicated reader will surely polish this off quickly, but be left with a wonderful residue as it all comes together, demanding more of Spain’s work in short order.

Kudos, Madam Spain, for a wonderful piece. While it was my first of your novels, it will surely not be the last!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons