Perfect Kill (D.I. Callanach #6), by Helen (Sarah) Fields

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Helen Fields and Avon Books UK for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Returning to this stellar police procedural series, I was eager to discover how Helen Fields would tackle some of the major cliffhangers she left for readers. She’s surely spun things around and developed a multi-pronged storyline that will keep series fans talking and the reader enjoying this one until the final page. With DI Luc Callanach on the outs with his boss at MIT Police Scotland, he has agreed to make his way to France and help out an old INTERPOL colleague. When they discover the remains of a body—its internal organs removed—Callanach is baffled about who or what might be lurking in the shadows. Some preliminary DNA traces it back to a missing Scottish boy, forcing Callanach to get on the phone with DCI Ava Turner, this aforementioned boss and past love interest. Turner takes the call and agrees to make the notification, but is working some cases of her own. Someone has discovered the body of a man, shot in the head. Found in a seedy part of Edinburgh, there are some obvious signs of trying to clean up the scene. Add to that, a young man has gone missing out of thin air and no one can make sense of it. While both cases progress, Callanach learns of an underground organ transplant ring and tries to infiltrate it, but must be extremely delicate, while DCI Turner’s leads send her on a few wild chases, including to a pig farm. Both Turner and Callanach must also tackle feelings from their recent amorous tiff and news of a friend that leaves them broken. With two additional underlying plots related to people in captivity, this book leaves little time to breathe or process. Fields has done it again, with a stellar piece of writing. Recommended to those who love this series and need another reason, as well as the reader who loves a police procedural that leaves it all out on the field (pun intended).

I discovered this series a while back and cannot get enough of it. The mix of Scottish and French beliefs adds depth to the story and a layer of humour I have not found elsewhere. Luc Callanach remains a wonderful protagonist, still smarting from some of his choices, but eager to help back in France. His police work is balanced nicely with an air of compassion, both for Ava, as well as those around him on the case. We do not get much more back story, or even processing what happened, but Callanach does well keeping things professional as best he can. Contrasting nicely with this is DCI Ava Turner, whose supervisory role has been violated again, but she is still trying to shake off the feelings she has for Callanach. Compartmentalising these is difficult, but she as a few major cases on her plate, let alone the news of a friend’s illness. Juggling all this, as well as professional interactions with Callanach begin the wear her down to the nub. Others make recurring or new appearances and keep the story fresh, from all angles. Fields has done well to develop some characters who pull the reader in, while others are surely repulsive enough that no one wants near them. The plot was strong and worked well for me, balancing a Scotland and France angle, tying things together effectively without muddying the waters too much. There is that ongoing Callanach-Turner strain that has kept the series on edge for a while, which does not dissipate here. As series fans scream for some resolution, they also bask in the awkwardness that continues throughout. I am eager to see where things are headed, as this series never disappoints.

Kudos, Madam Fields, for another stellar instalment in the series. I hope you have many more ideas for your crew!

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

Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line, by Deepa Anappara

Six Stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Deepa Anappara and Penguin Random House Canada for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Delving into to the darker side of life in India, Deepa Anappara presents readers with this most impactful mystery. With close to two hundred children disappearing off Indian streets daily, this story about a missing child leaves the reader feeling a little less than comfortable. Jai may only be nine years old, but he seems to know just how life ought to be. When a boy goes missing in his school, Jai works with some of his friends to locate the young boy. Well-versed on police procedurals from his time watching television, Jai is sure hat he can lead a brigade just like on the screen. He’ll come across a great deal fo poverty, with people who will do and sell anything for their next meal, and travel late into the night to the far reaches of the city, all in hopes of capturing a killer, just like those on television. Refusing to back down, Jai encounters a number of stumbling blocks along the way, including incompetent police officers, members of gangs, and even the mysterious djinn, a spirit with a penchant for children. Forgetting the danger that creeps up regularly Jai will not return without answers, all in a place where another missing child is swept into the rubbish bin and forgotten. Jai refuses to ignore his intuition, even as those around him write him off as foolish. An interesting take with a strong backstory, surely of interest to some readers. That being said, I could not effectively connect with the story and it left me needing more to sustain my attention.

I am always fascinated to learn about new countries and cultures, particularly when the reader hails from that part of the world. Deepa Anappara not only spent her early life in India, but has written extensively about child disappearances and poverty on the streets. She brings much to the table in this piece, using a number of essential young characters to give the story a different perspective. The use of Jai and his friends helps to enrich the story for a reader who may know little about life on the streets or the horrible statistics about missing children. As this young boy looks for his classmate, he is fuelled by the sense that he, too, can locate someone in short order, as though he were closing a case before the credits scroll, like his favourite television personalities. The cast of characters seems to work well, different from one another and always trying to provide additional flavouring when it is useful. The story itself was well crafted and paces itself relatively well. I suppose I found myself lost in the shuffle from character depictions and how things developed. There is a strong story and the narrative keeps the reader intrigued, but I could not find a place on which to latch myself. Like many of the faceless people who see and hear nothing, I felt as though the essential aspects of the book passed me by. To see that others enjoyed it is pleasing, though I am surely going to sit in the minority outside the tent and say that this book was not one I found stellar.

Kudos, Madam Anappara, for shedding some light on the horrors of missing children. I trust many will find the pieces I could not in this novel and give you the praise you seek.

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

A Cold Trail (Tracy Crosswhite #7), 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.

Returning for another instalment of this series, I turn to Robert Dugoni and hope that the quality remains high and the plot twists plentiful. I was not disappointed with this novel, which returns to some roots and provides a core storyline that many series fans will surely enjoy. Tracy Crosswhite is on the mend, with a newborn and an energetic husband. As they renovate the home Dan’s parents once owned, Tracy is back in Cedar Grove, alongside all the memories of her youth. When a house fire kills a local journalist, the town is abuzz with the news, though it is something she was working on that has Tracy more than interested. New revelations about a case from two decades before have come to life, casting doubt that a young woman’s death was at the hands of the same serial killer who murdered Tracy’s sister. The local police are happy to let Tracy use her Seattle skills to help uncover the truth, though she remains uncertain if she wants to thrust herself into the path of danger yet again. When Tracy sees the ME’s report, she is left to wonder if a new batch of suspects might have had motive to kill. Now, all those who have seen the report are dying, likely not from the natural causes to which things have been attributed. Meanwhile, Dan has been doing some legal work in town, helping a store owner negotiate with the town council about buying his property. The council lawyer seems to be pushing hard to offer a settlement, but Dan cannot be entirely sure if there is more to the story. When someone targets Tracy at the house while Dan is away, everything becomes a little more real and the fragile balance of work and home life come crashing together. Might both Tracy and Dan have taken on more than they can chew in Cedar Grove? Another great piece in the series that has me devouring the story and hoping for more. Recommended to series fans who need a little Tracy Crosswhite fix, as well as the reader who loves a small-town mystery with big-city thrills.

I have loved this series since I first got my hands on it and this book has not disappointed whatsoever. Dugoni has a great handle on the characters, plot, and development, even as he juggles a few writing commitments at this time. Returning to Cedar Grove is surely tough for Tracy Crosswhite, where the memories of her childhood linger and knowledge that her sister’s murder two decade before remains on the minds of everyone she sees. Tracy is forced to face many of these fears and the people she knew growing up, though she sees many of them in a new light. Her struggles with that are balanced with the unknowns around being a new mother and trying to do what is best for her daughter. Throughout, the reader can see the pull of both worlds, as well as Tracy trying to define how her life as a detective might be permanently changed, what with a little one who depends on her. This is nicely offset with her husband, Dan, who has some of the same issues, but more that Tracy is thrusting herself into danger. He struggles to determine if he should and can be that protector for his family, while also keeping up a legal practice. Introspection for both characters enriches the story immensely. There are a handful of others who grace the pages and add depth to an already jam-packed story, keeping the reader attentive to all the clues and possible motives that lurk behind every corner. Dugoni does well to bring the story ‘home’ in a sense, allowing Crosswhite and the others to focus on the small picture, which is actually part of the larger one (if that makes sense). With a mix of short chapters that propel the reader forward and longer ones that set the stage for more excitement, this novel is one that can be tackled in short order, as the pages melt away. A legal thriller and police procedural rolled into one, this is one of Dugoni’s best in the series.

Kudos, Mr. Dugoni, for another stellar piece of work. I am so very excited to see how well things are going and cannot wait to see where you take your readers next.

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

Repeal the Second Amendment: The Case for a Safer America, by Allan J. Lichtman

Nine stars

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

As I sit north of the 45th Parallel, I look down and notice that there is an issue with gun violence in the United States. No matter where one gets their news, it is plastered all over the place and has been for decades. Guns killing innocent people for no reason. Yet, as the blood flows and creates rivers of red across floors and asphalt, politicians have done little but ask for prayers directed to the families of victims, while gun manufacturers and the National Rifle Association (NRA) spouts that it is people killing people, not guns. Other countries have been able to notice the gun violence and legislate strong measures against it—take, for example, New Zealand in 2019–but America chooses to do nothing, citing something called the Second Amendment to the US Constitution. Known as the ‘right to bear arms’, this has been the battle cry of the NRA and the hardcore right in America, but there’s something that’s missing here; something that Allan J. Lichtman professes throughout this book and I have said all along. It was never an individual right in that amendment, nor should it be. But, that’s the controversy behind Lichtman’s desire to see the Second Amendment repealed a new measures put in place.

The premise of the book is quite simple, people do not understand the amendment and spew inane falsehoods spoon-fed to them. Lichtman opens the book with a chilling discussion of some recent episodes of gun violence and how everyone was quick to point blame at a deranged killer, rather that discuss the issue of gun availability. From there, he takes the reader back to look at how guns were introduced into the region, brought from Europe, and how the firearm found a home in the Thirteen Colonies. After the play towards independence, the political figures sought to enshrine when and how guns should be made available, presenting the Second Amendment to the US Constitution. Lichtman discusses how the constitutional conventions and speeches by the Founding Fathers shaped the intention of this amendment, laid out as being the right of the collective to bear arms in the form of a militia, particularly at a time when invasion was still possible. Moving forward, Lichtman explores how guns were of little issue in America for decades after that. Politicians began seeking to regulate guns in the early 20th century, which led to some questions about how to define the Second Amendment in contrast to this. The early NRA had no issue with the collective idea of gun ownership for the greater good, fixated on its role of promoting gun ownership for sport and education. However, with the rise of assassinations in the 1960s, there was a greater push to legislate gun control, keeping firearms out of the hands of just anyone. This was met with a newly politicized and fiery NRA, who turned their views towards the individual right to possess firearms. With massive amounts of money used to influence politicians, any meaningful change seemed paralyzed. Lichtman discusses these issues at length, culminating in challenges wth legislation violating the Second Amendment in the courts, some reaching the Supreme Court of the United States. Shockingly, when things reached that point, one of the Court’s great intellectuals and originalist thinkers, Antonio Scalia, completely forgot his long-held views of accepting laws through original meaning of the Founding Fathers. Instead, Scalia sided with this view of individual rights and the ongoing accessibility of people to possess firearms, in the pocket of the NRA.

As Lichtman scans the horizon to see where things have come in America, seeing an NRA bound and determined to use the Second Amendment’s bastardized interpretation to fill their coffers and hand guns over to anyone and everyone, the need for change seems dire. Citing former Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, John Paul Stevens, Lichtman explores how Congress might go about dismantling this thorn and repeal the Second Amendment. It will not be pretty or easy (with threats of money and slander by the NRA), but will rid the country of a horribly misconstrued constitutional crutch that has helped fuel the bloodshed. Paralleling the repeal with that of Prohibition in the 20th century, Lichtman shows how it would work and which actors would need to stand tall. He ends with a post-repeal America and the need to tighten or create laws to keep America from falling into the hands of the NRA or their apparent abyss of money. Whether it will work is another question, but it is always nice to speculate.

When I was asked to read this book by the publisher, I could not wait to sink my teeth into it. These were the arguments I had long made in my own discussions of the Second Amendment and I found myself agreeing with a lot of what Lichtman had to say. The tome is full of wonderful facts embedded into an easy to comprehend narrative. While there are aspects that have academic explorations, Lichtman keeps the arguments simple enough that anyone could understand. He does not hide his bias, though I cannot see how one could remain entirely neutral on this topic, offering up some fiery criticisms of those who stand idly by and spout vapid sentiments when people—children especially—are dying in senseless ways. While the chapters are not massive, the information encapsulated within them makes for an impactful read and kept me nodding throughout. I was especially interested in Lichtman’s proposal to repeal the Second Amendment, knowing how difficult a process it is (as any constitutional change should be) and where the pitfalls lie with enemies waiting. This is a sobering read for anyone looking to stir up a little controversy at the dinner table or amongst those with strong opinions. If only a discussion could be had where both sides agree on the wording of the topic at hand, leaving well-rounded and firmly grounded ideas to sway opinions.

Kudos, Mr. Lichtman, for not shying away from the controversy. This will take longer than November 3, 2020 to make America great again, but if we can oust the clown, surely this circus can be quelled.

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

The Other People, by C.J. Tudor

Seven stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, CJ Tudor, Ballantine Books, and Random House Publishing for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

I enjoyed the first two books offered up by CJ Tudor and hoped that the same could be said for this third book. While it has received high praise on Goodreads from a variety of people whose views I hold in high regard, I could not find myself as drawn to this piece as I stumbled my way through it. While driving home from work one day, Gabe sees his daughter in the back of a vehicle. He cannot see the driver and has no idea what Izzy might be doing on there. When he calls home to check-in, he learns that his wife and daughter have been murdered. Holding true to what he saw, Gabe has spent the past three years trying to find Izzy and those who may have taken her. Kate is a waitress at one of the late-night diners that Gabe frequents while searching for his daughter. She seems to be living a quiet life, but there is something in her background that could raise some real issues. Fran and her daughter, Alice, are on the run and must steer clear of mirrors. All three of these storylines progress throughout the novel and yet they are inextricably intertwined. As Gabe learns about the ‘other people’ and their purpose, he begins to understand a little more about why he saw Izzy that night. There are additional revelations to come, allowing Gabe, Kate, and Fran to come together in the oddest manner, all part of the larger ‘other people’ plan. There are mysteries and plot twists piling up on top of one another here, which the reader may enjoy as the story gains momentum. Those who have an open mind to the supernatural and can fathom some of the reaches that Tudor tends to make will enjoy this one, though I found that it did not pull me in as much as I would have liked.

While I tend to like stories that are grounded in reality—realism, I suppose, is a better word—I have always found CJ Tudor was able to mix it up a bit by peppering some great mystery into her pieces as well. Her previous two novels sent chills down my spine and left me wanting more, but this third standalone left me shrugging my shoulders as I prepare to duck from all the rotten tomatoes fellow reviewers are likely to lob in my direction. The premise was strong and the opening portion of the book had some potential, but I felt the momentum lagged in the middle and tried to find itself moving into the resolution portion of the book. With three loose—sometimes weak—storylines progressing throughout, the reader is left to wonder how it all fits tougher. Gabe has the most prominent storyline, though his search for a daughter he is sure is not dead ends up being a meandering rather than a passion-fuelled need to know by a father demanding answers. The introduction of the ‘other people’ had great potential as well, but I was left wanting more grit and added scare factor. Maybe I wanted too much, but, as a reader, I should be able to hold those authors I hold in high regard with such expectations. Tudor has not yet attained the abilities of her idol, Stephen King, but I will not give up on her anytime soon. We all have off days and perhaps it is I who is wrong here, based on the sentiments of many others!

Kudos, Madam Tudor, for a great attempt. I may be the one who is off when it comes to this book, but I suppose you cannot please everyone all of the time.

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

House on Fire (Nick Heller #4), by Joseph Finder

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Joseph Finder and Penguin Group Dutton for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

As Joseph Finder returns with a fourth Nick Heller novel, the reader is pulled into the centre of a wonderful story with action that does not dissipate. When Nick Heller learns that an Army buddy of his has died from an overdose, he is stunned and rushes to help however he can. Learning that Oxydone, a nasal inhaler, is likely to blame, Heller heads to the funeral slightly upset that it was a VA prescription that ended his friend’s life so early. After the service, Heller is flagged down by a mysterious woman, Susan ‘Sukie’ Kimball, daughter of billionaire Conrad Kimball. It would seem that Kimball’s pharmaceutical company, which manufactures Oxydone, might have buried studies that showed the addictive nature of the drug, releasing it to an unsuspecting public. When Susan brings Heller to her father’s birthday party, he hopes to find a hard copy of the report and blow Kimball Pharma out of the water. It would seem others are looking for dirt on Kimball, but everything remains smoke and mirrors. Another birthday guest turns up dead and Heller can only wonder if there is a killer trying to silence any information leaks. Determined to find the report, Heller embarks on a mission behind high-security, unsure what else he will uncover. Inching ever close, Heller will have to put himself in harm’s way to get to the truth, but can never be sure it will yield the ultimate prize. Prepared to bring down the House of Kimball, Heller must ensure he is not a casualty in the larger scheme. A nail-biting thriller that will keep the reader enthralled until the final reveal. Recommended to those who love a good thriller, as well as the reader who enjoys plots pulled from the headlines.

I have long enjoyed the work of Joseph Finder, as it pushes the boundaries of the genre in new and exciting ways. Finder has been able to keep his readers intrigued as he touches on social issues in a relatable way with an exciting narrative. Nick Heller remains a great protagonist with this piece, his substantial backstory finding new ways to make it into the narrative. Heller is passionate about protecting the reputation of those close to him, even if he finds himself helpless to their foibles. A trained PI, Heller has numerous ways to get to the bottom of a situation, sometimes sacrificing his own well-being to get the needed information. Gritty and never afraid to rock the boat, Heller finds himself in many situations that push him to the brink. There are others who find themselves influencing the narrative in a variety of ways, helping to push the story along which enriching the overall reading experience. In a piece whose primary focus is drug addiction and overdose, Finder turns to Big Pharma and points the finger there, as many have found themselves hopelessly addicted. Another poignant social issue receives its due here as the reader is pulled to the centre and forced to decide for themselves. Finder has a knack of delivering just what is needed at the perfect moment.

Kudos, Mr. Finder, for another winner. I hope others find this one to be just as exciting.

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

Deep State, by Chris Hauty

Seven stars

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

In his debut novel, Chris Hauty takes the reader on a ride with this political thriller. While the premise is there, the book exemplifies that Hauty is a screenwriter and much of the needed impact was missing throughout. Hayley Chill has done well while serving her country. Stationed in Texas, Chill bided her Army time boxing and showing that she ought not be taken for granted. When she is discharged, she scores a coveted position in Washington, as an intern to the President’s Chief of Staff, Chill receives many of the unwanted jobs, but keeps a stiff upper lip. Saving her boss (and POTUS) on one occasion earns her the gratitude of the Commander in Chief. When Chill discovers the Chief of Staff dead in his home one morning, she cannot help but wonder if it was murder. Soon thereafter, she is targeted by someone close to her in an apparent attempt to shut her up. Chill cannot help but wonder if there is a conspiracy being run by Deep State, the faceless group that actually pulls the strings in DC. The more she probes, the closer Chill feels she is to the truth, but only helps to reveal how vast and all-encompassing the threat is, with POTUS at the centre. An ultimate strike is in the works, though Chill will have to be neutralised in order for it to be effective and rid America of a controversial leader. Hauty has a good framework here for a wonderful thriller, but there are some issues that I cannot ignore. Some may enjoy the political nature of this book, while others might want to wait for the movie (as this book reads like a film adaptation).

I loved the premise of this book when I read the dust-jacket cover, hoping that it would be a real poke at the circus that is Washington these days. Things began well, with a nice protagonist in the form of Hayley Chill. She has a backstory that ingratiates the reader to her, with a poor childhood and a gritty determination to succeed. Arriving in Washington, Chill does not know what to expect and tries to fit in where she is already an outcast. As the novel progresses, the reader learns a little more about Chill’s sleuthing abilities, but also how she can make poor choices that will sink her if she is not careful. Others find themselves serving as interesting place-markers in a piece that tries to be political and a thriller with an evil cast of characters. The story had the makings of a successful novel, but needs a great deal more meat to keep the narrative moving at a break-neck pace. More politics, added deception, and slow reveals would have made this book so much better. It may have taken 500-600 pages, but something of that caliber would be worth the read. The twist at the end was surely redeeming, but does not save the overall mediocre quality. I found it difficult to process the present tense narrative, as Hauty uses it throughout and then adds odd ‘this activity would come to haunt X a decade down the road’ sentiments at various points. Perhaps another shortcoming when a screenwriter tries to move to novels. There was so much potential here and I was hoping for a great deal more. I can only hope that Hauty can find new ideas and expand on them, or turn this into a movie, where brevity is sometimes an asset.

Kudos, Mr. Hauty, for the interesting story. I cannot say that I ‘stayed up all night’, as your editor mentioned in the ARC I read, but there is some potential.

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

The Abduction (Carver and Kramer #2), by A.A. Chaudhuri

Nine stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, A.A. Chaudhuri, and Endeavour Media for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Returning with a thrilling follow-up to her explosive debut novel, A.A. Chaudhuri takes readers back into a world where the criminal element are highly deceptive and calculating at the same time. When a group of masked men storm into a London law firm, they choose a handful of hostages, including one partner, before disappearing. Amongst those huddled under the tables is Maddy Kramer, still trying to come to grips with crimes committed at her last law firm. DCI Jake Carver arrives to take control of the situation and begins his investigation, which includes who these men might have been and why the hostages were chosen. When the hostage takers reach out to Nigel Davenport, one of the firm’s senior partners, he learns that he must pay the ante or face ruin. A timetable is offered and Davenport is eager to do what he can, fearing his secrets will be revealed to the world. No one seems the wiser, as deadlines arrive and demands are met. When the hostages are released, one would assume that this is the end of it, but Carver and Kramer have other plans, looking into a rape allegation against Nigel Davenport, back from his days at Cambridge. Why would the hostage takers want this old crime brought to the surface and how deep does the devastation run? As Carver and Kramer seek to dig a little deeper, they realise that the hostages themselves, as well as the entire situation at the law firm, seems a tad off kilter. Working as best they can under strict deadlines, these two discover an errant thread that might unravel everything, or lead them nowhere. Well-paced and full of excitement, A.A. Chaudhuri knows how to pen a great thriller. Recommended to those who love British police procedurals that hold little back, as well as the reader who likes to see a case from both sides of the coin.

I was so very impressed with Chaudhuri’s debut novel that I kept my eyes peeled for this second piece, sure that it would pack just as much punch. I was not wrong, as some of the returning characters create a strong narrative and help shape what turns out to be quite the unique set of facts. Maddy Kramer is back as a legal associate, having taken some time off from her last firm and just getting herself situated amongst a new set of names and faces. It would seem she cannot shake the cloud of trouble that follows her, but she is just as willing to be in the middle of any adventure, as long as DCI Carver is there for the ride. Balancing her sleuthing abilities with a new spark romance, Maddy is able to find new and interesting aspects to the overall story that helps shed some light onto what is going on. DCI Jake Carver does well as he investigates, but remains baffled about the hostages and the rape angle. He won’t let that stand in his way, but is fighting his internal demons about this new connection he and Maddy Kramer seem to possess. Together, they are able to dig a little deeper and reveal truths that some might have wanted hidden for as long as possible. Others make their presence known on the page and help to shape this story, which is almost two in one. The hostage taking and the motives of those in charge offer one line of inquiry, but this rape allegation from decades before does not dissipate and might be an especially important part to the larger abduction. Chaudhuri offers readers some great plot lines while pushing a strong narrative and unique characters. Seeing the story from both angles—that of the investigation and the hostages—helps to create a full-circle experience and allows the reader to discover just what is going on at all times. While the romance between Kramer and Carver was to be expected, it is not overdone and does not distract from the overall experience. I would gladly read more novels with these two at the helm and can only hope that A. A. Chaudhuri has something in mind for the coming months, with fans eager to learn more.

Kudos, Madam Chaudhuri, for another winner. I can only hope that others are an enamoured with the novel as I find myself being.

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

Don’t Forget Me (Levi Kant #1), by B.C. Schiller

Seven stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, B.C. Schiller, and Amazon Publishing UK for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

New to the world of the husband-wife duo calling themselves B.C. Schiller, I was not sure what to expect. The short dust jacket blurb had me intrigued about this novel, though I was not entirely confident this had ‘translated’ onto the written page, if you will pardon the pun. Dr. Olivia Hofmann nervously checks the post and discovers yet another postcard with an apology and no more. It has been five years since Dr. Hofmann’s husband and young daughter have disappeared without a trace, which coincides with the brutal murder and incineration of a teenage girl, Lisa Manz. While meeting one of her clients, Hofmann discovers that he is holding onto a rucksack belonging the Manz and might have key answers to the crime, or be the murderer himself. When Hofmann agrees to meet him at his home the following day, she watched him fall from his second storey window, a shadowy figure seen pushing him. Dr. Hofmann reaches out to her acquaintance, Levi Kant, who was the detective on the Manz case, but who was removed close to its resolution when he was shot by another perpetrator. Armed not only with the rucksack, but also a diary that Lisa kept, Hofmann and Kant begin trying to piece things together, including discovering who this mystery ‘doctor’ was who is mentioned in the diary and is surely involved in abusing Lisa Manz. When someone targets Hofmann with a vehicle, trying to wipe her out, the panic level increases, but nothing will stop Kant from revealing the truth, something he has wanted to discover for the last number of years. A decent piece of crime work, though it did not jump off the page for me. I suppose those who enjoy quick thrillers will want to give this a try, though I cannot see it being catapulted to the top of many to-be-read lists.

As this was my first experience with B.C. Schiller crime writing, I have no outside context other than this novel. While the premise was good, I was left wanting much more, as I could not help feeling the entire experience was a tad beige for me. There seems to be a race for protagonist here, between Dr. Olivia Hofmann and Levi Kant. Hofmann takes centre stage early and the reader learns about her agonising confusion about a missing child and husband, though she seems to have been able to focus on her work. In an industry that has little downtime, Hofmann must juggle her patients and a mentally ill father, whose acuity is diminishing by the day. Still, she finds time to break away and join this impromptu investigation into the death of a teenager. Levi Kant, on the other hand, was one of Vienna’s great detectives, only to have his work come crashing down when a bullet entered his leg. Now teaching at the police academy, he has always wondered about that one case that slipped through his fingers. With a Jewish backstory that some may find intriguing, Kant is also a man of many passions in his current life, which he shares throughout. Others find their way directing the story in their own way, some effectively and others simply popping up to play their part and evaporating again. The story was decent and I cannot be entirely sure if the plot’s strength was ‘lost in translation’ or if I am simply setting the bar too high. I did not dislike the book entirely, but I had hoped for a more meatier tale to keep me fully captivated. The chapters were short and I flew through the book in short order, so I cannot say it was a laborious task whatsoever. I’d likely give the series another try, should something else be published, but I am not making any promises.

Kudos, Mr. and Mrs. Schiller, for a decent plot. While the delivery was not there for me, I may be asking too much all at once.

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

Crossroad, by W.H. Cameron

Seven stars

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

New to the world of W. H. ‘Bill’ Cameron, I was not sure what to expect, but the dust jacket blurb had me wanting to uncover all the nuances of this book. After some troubling times in Boston, Melisende ‘Mel’ Dulac is given a generous opportunity by her estranged husband’s family. She travels to Oregon and is accepted without issue. Unsure what else to do, she takes a job working alongside them as an apprentice undertaker, which has many interesting stories that come along with it. When she witnesses the town football star in the midst of raping a girl, she presses to have charges brought, which does not ingratiate her with many of the townsfolk, but Mel is not all that bothered. However, when she comes upon a multi-vehicle crash along that same stretch of road a few days later, she is forced into action and discovers an abandoned newborn on the side of the road. Rather than doing the dutiful thing, she leaves it, which catches the local paper’s headlines and she is thereafter branded uncaring. However, when she goes to show a family member the body of one of the accident victims, it has gone missing. Could she have misplaced the body and let it disappear? Things only get worse when, at the crematorium, all the bodies from the wreck have apparently been incinerated, leaving no evidence on which the authorities can work. Stripped of the county contract for body removal, Mel turns to seeing who might be trying to run her out of town. Between this and her constant conversations with her deceased brother, Mel cannot tell what is real and how active an imagination she might have. Other things begin happening and it would seem she is again the target some some wrongdoing. Trying to clear her name turns out to be Mel’s main goal, as well as learning more about this rural community and who might have lost a newborn on the side of the road. The mysteries continue to pile up, as Mel seeks to define herself. Those who enjoy slowly revealed thrillers with extensive flashbacks will surely find something in this piece. I was not entirely sold, though am not soured at the same time.

With no previous work to gauge my sentiments, I have to use this piece as the sole yardstick to determine how I feel about Cameron’s work. There is surely a great deal going on within it, with some strong writing and decent character revelations. Melisende has a pile of issues that could—and should, perhaps—be the topic of its own book. From a lacklustre childhood in which her parents all but abandoned her when her brother died, to a marriage that flew off the rails and saw her institutionalize before her husband disappeared, Melisende has lived a full life and is not yet thirty. Her coming West is likely an attempt to reinvent herself, through she is far from docile and quiet while meeting new people. Her gritty attitude surely works in her favour, though she is trying to step on toes and take no prisoners, which is surely not how things are done in Oregon. There is so much for the reader to take in about Melisende that I almost wonder if Cameron ought to have scaled back or, should he have plans for a series, to slowly pepper throughout the narrative of a few books. Others serve as interesting place-settings in the larger plot reveal, complementing and impeding the protagonist throughout. There is a little mystery, some coming of age, and even a few attempts at trying to mend fences, all developed as Melisende crosses paths with others. While some readers panned this book harshly, I found there to be some decent writing and a strong plot throughout. It dragged significantly in the opening portion, but was also weighed down with many flashback portions—some in the middle of a chapter of present-time events—that surely added some confusion for some readers. I can see a great story in here, but some of it needs to be left out or spread into a few books. Melisende is intriguing and I would read more involving her, though I wonder if Cameron wanted to toss it all onto the wall to see what might stick. A mix of chapter lengths kept things moving at times when the pace had almost reached January molasses, which helped me forge ahead and keep an open mind. I’d try another book because of the subject matter, but I really hope many of the constructive comments are incorporated, as I have no patience for a repeat.

Kudos, Mr. Cameron, for this decent mystery. I trust you’ll find your way, as Melisende is, with your next publication.

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