1989 (Allie Burns #2), by Val McDermid

Eight stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Duplicity (Brick Kavanagh #2), by Shawn Wilson

Eight stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Building Justice: Frank Iacobucci and the Life Cycles of Law, by Shauna Van Praagh

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Shauna Van Praagh, andUniversity of Toronto Press for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

For any reader who enjoys Canadian politics and legal analysis, this quasi-biography of Frank Iacobucci proves the perfect mix. In a piece that explores the life of a former Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, Shauna Van Praagh does a great job of exploring Iacobucci’s life, his legal thinking, and the personal touch he brought to serving his country through the law. In her detailed piece, Van Praagh touches on many key points about how the Canadian judicial system was shaped by Iacobucci’s decisions, as well as the compassion he brought to the judgements he penned throughout his various years on a few of Canada’s courts. A highly informative piece that provides the reader with a great understanding of the man and how one person can make a difference in the lives of many, one stone at a time.

Part of Van Praagh’s narrative explores Frank Iacobucci’s early years, including living in Vancouver as a child of Italian immigrants. While his name would leave many to believe that he bantered in Italian at home, Iacobucci’s parents insisted that he speak English alone and bond with others in his immigrant neighbourhood. His passion for the law showed from an early age, as Iacobucci’s announced that he would be a lawyer at twelve. His acerbic wit would surely help him and fuelled many great moments of banter for the young Frank, who found his own before too long.

After significant academic dedication, Frank Iacobucci left law school ready to change the world, though that would mean a great deal fo additional work. The author shows how his hard work paid off with a number of jobs, including serving as a law professor at the University of Toronto. It was here that his passion to teach others blossomed and would be a key theme in his daily activities thereafter. The more impact Frank Iacobucci made on the Canadian legal community, the more significant his jobs became: Dean of Law, Deputy Minister of Justice, and Chief Justice of the Federal Court of Canada. All of these positions would pave the way for his greatest ‘$5 a day’ job, puisne justice of the Supreme Court of Canada.

As Van Praagh explores, it was the ascension to the Supreme Court that allowed Iacobucci to do the greatest good. His compassion for those around him made him a justice that many admired. He sought not only to hear cases and decide on matters of law, but forge new pathways as Canada’s social and political agenda progressed. Iacobucci’s decisions were well-rounded and sought to explore Canada is it could be, rather than simply as it had been in the past. His is a fundamental means of proving that Iacobucci’s impact would be felt for many years.

Even after he retired from the Supreme Court of Canada, Frank Iacobucci helped shape Canada’s political and social landscape. He was asked to work with a number of groups and help adjudicate key issues , one of which, which is still resonating today. The handling of compensation for those who were forced to live in residential schools has long been a struggle and continues to haunt institutions responsible for this ‘scoop and run’. Iacobucci’s attention to detail made him a respected jurist for both the Canadian Government and the Indigenous community. While the wounds are by no means healed, it would appear that Iacobucci’s overseeing the progress has helped give a voice to those who were never asked for opinions, but rather served as sub-humans for decades, while having it legislated by others.

The premise of this book is strong, helping to educate the reader throughout the piece. It is also a great means of shining the light on a man who always liked to opera for others, rather than praise of his actions. The author uses one of Iacobucci’s tenets, that life is all about ‘building the cathedral’ that will be left for others, from the early stonecutter through to the assembly of a massive structure that can serve to help others. The author exemplifies this throughout the tome and helps argue that this is a style of living that does surely make the greatest impact.

Looking at the inner workings of the book itself, Shauna Van Praagh does well to outline the life and times of Frank Iacobucci. While I did not like the skipping around throughout the Iacobucci timeline, referring something more linear, I can see why she did this to make the greatest impact. The narrative was full of great detail, offering insights from others, both in passing and through detailed quotations. While this provided helpful, Van Praagh had an odd way of attributing quoted comments to those who made them, a means that appears (though I have never been a law student) to reflect legal texts than biographical ones. Chapters that build on one another, divided into three parts that mirror Iacobucci’s three stages of life, the shorty grew and created a telling piece for all readers to enjoy. While there are some heavier aspects, these are balanced by those of a lighter nature that easier to digest. This makes for a great read for many who are interested in the man and all he has done.

Kudos, Madam Van Praagh, for an insightful exploration fo the life and times of Frank Iacobucci. I learned so very much and am eager to learn more about him, with some additional research.

Fallout, by Carrie Stuart Parks

Seven stars

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

Always a fan of Carrie Stuart Parks and her writing, I was pleased to receive an ARC of this latest novel. Parks always brings her background in forensic art to the novels, tapping into what, for me, has been a unique approach to crime and investigation. That being said, she is keen to collect other breadcrumbs and scatter them throughout, giving the reader an exiting experience as they comb their way through the story.

LaCrosse, Washington is known for little and Samantha Williams likes it that way, An art teacher at the local school, Samantha becomes a hero when an SUV careens into the school and many are hurt. Having been in her own vehicle at the time, Samantha must come to terms with what happened, though is stymied when she cannot produce any proof of her identity to authorities, as it has been removed from her purse.

Confused and relying on others, Samantha must try to piece together what’s happened and who is trying to keep her from herself. Some of these answers begin to emerge when a reporter begins asking questions and digging deeper into Samantha’s past. Samantha soon realises that there are other odd goings-on in the area, including sets of remains that were long thought buried. Is there someone trying to stir up trouble? Samantha finds herself at the heart of it all, without any answers to offer.

At a local recovery house, Clan Firinn, some others are also trying to set things straight. There appear to be a number of mysteries all tied to an old government nuclear facility close to LaCrosse and no one is quite sure what to make of it. It’s this that triggers Samantha and memories of her past, not always good. The fallout is a spiralling like no other, as the truth emerges for all to see. What secrets await Samantha on her journey and how could learning about her past be the key to understanding the present happenings? Parks offers an intriguing piece that never stops evolving.

I remember discovering the works of Carrie Stuart Parks and being instantly pulled in by the world of forensic art. It was a branch of investigation I had never considered and appeared to have ways of really stirring up the pot. Since then, Parks has evolved her stories into one-offs that pack just as much punch, but focus on other perspectives as well, including a peppering of biblical references. Parks uses her strong writing abilities to pull the reader into the middle of the story and forces them to confront whatever the narrative is spinning. This works well, as she has a depth to her characters, which adds flavour to the story and keeps the reader feeling connected to whatever is going on.

One essential to a successful story for me would have to be a clear and developing narrative. Parks offers this as she concocts what she needs to keep things progressing throughout. The story moves and has many moments where it can gain needed momentum, be that through the introduction of a new character, plot twist, or even revelation that was once deemed inconsequential. Parks has had success in crafting her stories with these ingredients and continues to do so throughout this piece. However, there were times that I felt a disconnect to the story or its progression. I was not as affixed to events as I would have liked or even expected. The investigation into the accident that opens the novel, Samantha’s past, or even how Clan Firinn fit into the larger story; all of this proved hit and miss for me. This, in turn, created a sense of confusion or lack of excitement as I flipped pages. I saw a gem in some of the foundational narrative, but did not feel the impact as strongly as I might have liked. While I have seen this book marketed as Christian fiction, that should not deter readers. It does have some biblical references, but I would not consider it fuelling the progression or flavouring of the piece. Perhaps it is my mind space at the moment that has me feeling lukewarm, which is entirely possible. I have much respect for Carrie Stuart Parks and would encourage others to red this, as well as her other books, to come to their own conclusions.

Kudos, Madam Parks, for another well-plotted novel. I hope others see some of the strong aspects I did while reading.

Mystic Wind (Jack Marino #1), by James Barretto

Eight stars

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

When I noticed an ARC for this novel, I was intrigued to see if James Barretto could pen as stellar a legal thriller as the dust jacket blurb would have me believe. I was pleased to see how strong his story turned out to be, set in the early 1980s, but not lacking any of the great development found in more modern novels. Gritty and full of great legal drama, Barretto knows his stuff and has me curious to see where things are headed next.

Jack Marino had been enjoying working within the DA’s office as one of the star ADAs. However, after being attacked one night, he becomes a liability to his boss and is summarily fired. But, not before he attends a murder scene of a gruesome killing, where a man was shot, but no witnesses have come forward.

Two years on, Marino has found a place in corporate law, but is convinced by a judge to take a case of a defendant who spouts his innocence, even as the state is keen to put him away for life. This case is a hot potato, particularly because an immunized witness pointed the finger at the newly accused, a single father who has no forensic ties to the crime scene whatsoever. It also happens to be the case he attending on the day of his dismissal two years before. Is the new DA trying to make a name for himself and using a witness who cannot be prosecuted to spew falsehoods just to ensure a conviction?

As the pre-trial motions are coming to a close, Marino is blindsided when the prosecution files for the death penalty, forcing Marino to pull out every legal trick he can manoeuvre. With a judge who is anything but affable and a DA who is trying to secure election as governor, hoping to use this case as a show of law & order, Marino will have to be magical and keep the jury on his side for as long as possible. A brilliant series debut by James Barretto that should be noted by those who love a great legal thriller.

I love legal books, fiction and non-fiction alike. It’s the nuances of the law and how lawyers are able to make it work in their favour that has always interested me. James Barretto does a wonderful job at putting the law front and centre in this piece, using legal tactics and straightforward courtroom arguments throughout. The themes are strong and push the story along, which keeps the reader wondering how things will turn out when the foreman rises to deliver the verdict. I am eager to see how things progress with this series, as there is something about Barretto that has me thinking there is more to come and things won’t lessen in intensity.

Barretto offers a stellar narrative that keeps the flow moving forward with each passing chapter. Short chapters do not allow the reader to get complacent, as there is so I much to see and do throughout this book. Characters are plentiful, though the core ones do their jobs effectively, keeping the reader wanting to know more as the story progresses. Legal thrillers tend to have good plot twists, if done correctly, and Barretto knows his stuff in this regard. I’m ready for more and hope the wait is not too long!

Kudos, Mr. Barretto, for a stellar legal thriller. I am curious to see what else you have in store for your series and will keep an eye out.

Where Secrets Live, by S.C. Richards

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, S.C. Richards, andCrooked Lane Books for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

After receiving an ARC for this novel, I was eager to see how S. C. Richards would grow on me, as I have heard of her writing in the past. A strong story and well-developed ideas emerges early on, leaving me to lose myself in all the action and suspense. I am pleased to have had the time to devour this book and am eager to find some more of Richards’ work soon to whet my appetite.

After losing their parents at a young age, Liz and Meredith McCallister are forced to rely on their sibling connection. All this takes a turn for the worse when Liz learns that her sister was murdered. However, this is not the only mystery that Liz must shoulder at present. While trying to find her sister’s killer, Liz discovers that Meredith had a deep secret, one that could have fuelled the motive for her murder. Liz must come to terms with the fact that her sister had a child in secret, who is now a teenager and asking questions.

While piecing together both these mysteries, Liz is forced to confront a past that she and Meredith thought was buried away. Liz cannot stomach digging into all these dark corners, but soon realises that secrets may have been the one constant Meredith had in her life over all these years

Seeking some help from her step-mother, Liz discovers that the secrets continue to emerge, both held by Meredith and others. Liz looks back at her life and wonders how much of it took place under a rock, while those around her lived secret or mystery-filled lives of their own. It could prove to be the key to learning about Meredith’s murder, but the truth has a way of also derailing the bucolic nature of some people’s everyday, as Liz is learning all too well. What other secrets will emerge and how might Liz handle them all before things come crashing down before her? Richards does a masterful job weaving this tale of deceit and deception.

I have always enjoyed a good book where mystery and deception fuel the narrative flow. S.C. Richards has a knack for making things work well and keeps the suspense high for those who like it. A plot that twists throughout and some characters with strong backstories help turn this book into an enjoyable reading experience.

Richards has strong narrative capabilities and keeps the reader wondering how things will progress throughout. The characters who emerge are both multi-dimensional and well placed, keeping the story on track throughout. I enjoyed how it all added depth to the plot and provided some needed mystery, and the story progressed with ease. Richards never lets up, keeping the reader wondering until the end as the mystery finally has some resolution. I’d try another S.C. Richards novel in the future, if only to compare to this addictive piece.

Kudos, Madam Richards, for a great introduction to your abilities. I will have to see if I can get my hands on more of your books soon.

The Last Girl to Die, by Helen Sarah Fields

Eight stars

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

Always a fan of Helen Sarah Fields, I was eager to get my hands on this book. Fields has developed a masterful police procedural series set in Scotland, but this is one of her equally powerful standalone novels. Fields uses her knowledge of the Scottish countryside, love of mysteries, and ability to cobble together a great procedural novel to provide the reader with something entertaining and highly addictive in equal measure. Not to be missed by those who love a ‘wee great mystery’!

Adriana Clark had been missing for days; eleven to be exact. While the police did not seem to be taking much of an interest, her family decided to hire a private investigator to uncover the truth. Enter Sadie Levesque, who arrived on a small Scottish island off the coast with little to go on but her instincts. However, it was enough to spark a fire in her belly.

While wandering around the island, Sadie could not help but wonder if there was a reason for the lack of police interest. She also had to wonder if her being a foreigner—from Banff, in the Canadian Rockies—could be playing into the cold reception she received. All that changed when Sadie found Adriana’s body in a cave, penetrated with a shell and mouth filled with sand. The authorities took note, but even then it was an investigation they had no interest in sharing with Sadie.

Not wanting to let up, Sadie continued probing in the murder, only to discover that there were those who preferred the bucolic nature of the island to remain that way, hushing up any waves. After the discovery of another teenage girl, Sadie was sure that this could not be a coincidence and began looking at the possibility of a serial killer.

With one suspect catching her eye, Sadie started uncover the truth, only to realise that she was in way over her head. As the story progressed, truths Sadie could not have expected came to light, only to provide more concern for everyone’s safety. Sadie would have to act quickly to ensure there were no more bodies piling up off the Scottish coast, or at least point the authorities in the right direction. Fields does a wonderful job with this piece, sure to appeal to many who have a love for police procedurals.

I have long enjoyed how Helen Sarah Fields weaves her stories together, using local lore and idioms to keep the reader feeling as though they are in Scotland on a man (or woman) hunt. While her series work is my favourite, I can also enjoy her standalone novels, as they do not lack any of the action, narrative strength or quirky humour. There is much to be said for the versatility of Fields and her fans are sure to see that they need not worry whenever she publishes something new.

Fields make sure to get the story moving from the opening pages, This narrative technique is sure to grasp the reader from the outset and keep them glued to the story until the final pages, which is especially important with this novel. Strong characters and a plot that never seems to stay still help the shape this story as well, keeping the reader on their toes throughout the journey. I felt as though I were in Scotland from the opening paragraphs, as Fields is able to imbue such a strong sense of setting throughout the novel. If I had one point of contention, it would be that Sadie Levesque, a Canadian from my neck of the woods, speaks and narrates with obvious Scottish idioms, which appeared out of place. Perhaps it is my Canadianness that led me to say ‘we don’t say it like that’, but it is worth noting, even if it might be a minor point. Overall, one cannot fault Fields for a stellar piece of work and I am eager to see what else she has on the horizon.

Kudos, Madam Fields, for another great standalone thriller. Keep them coming, as you have a great fan in me!

What She Found (Tracy Crosswhite #9), by Robert Dugoni

Nine 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.

Excited to get my hands on the latest Robert Dugoni novel, I rushed to read it and learn more about the adventures of Detective Tracy Crosswhite. While things in Seattle have been running smoothly, Crosswhite has a great deal still going on, particularly with her work in Cold Cases. Dugoni continues to develop his protagonist in a story where the twists do not stop until the final page. A wonderful addition to the series.

Detective Tracy Crosswhite could not be happier working within the Seattle Police Department, especially with a new Chief of Police. While she has been able to make an impact, she knows that her daily work must not be shelved. When a local reporter approaches Crosswhite to help with the disappearance of her mother 25 years ago, the detective is keen to see what she can uncover. Anita Childress is keen to learn what happened all those years ago and how her mother could up and disappear without a trace.

While Lisa Childress was herself a roaming reporter in 1996, she knew that she could not rely on the memory of others to reveal the truth of many cases. Chasing down a lead one night, Childress simply vanished and her husband was presumed to have murdered her. Living under a veil of suspicion for years, the family soon became local pariahs. Now, Anita wants answers and is not sure her own reporting will be enough to fill in all the gaps.

With Detective Crosswhite now on the case, it would appear that Lisa Childress had been looking into some fairly damning stories, including one about drug trafficking through coastal waters where a police team could have been looking the other way. Might this have been a reason Childress disappeared and could have been murdered? Crosswhite is keen to discover the truth and pulls on some leads of her own, including the original investigating detective.

The more she learns, the less sure Detective Crosswhite is about what she is discovering, but it is only after a trip out of town that things really take a turn. With everything up in the air, a daughter seeking answers about her mother’s disappearance, and Crosswhite feeling the pull from her own family, the case ramps up. Guilty parties seek to hush the sleeping dog that remained quiet for many years, which could have dire consequences. Dugoni adds chills to an eventful thriller, perfect for series fans.

There is nothing like knowing Robert Dugoni has a new book ready for reading, as he is able to mix wonderful ideas with an addictive storytelling ability. I am always highly impressed with Tracy Crosswhite in her stories, especially as there is no lack of character development throughout the experience. Dugoni has a great handle on the series and one can only hope there will be many more books to come, as I am keen to see where things will progress from here.

There is nothing better than an author who has mastered the art of storytelling and knows how to convey their ideas well. Robert Dugoni has never had this issue and keeps readers on the edge of their seats. An easy flowing narrative make the pages melt into one another, as chapters rush by and the story progresses wonderfully. Key characters provide wonderful contrast throughout and there is nothing like seeing Tracy Crosswhite grow, personally and professionally, while those around her also advance in their own way. The plot proves unique and yet grounded, keeping series fans feeling that sense of life in Seattle is ever-evolving and crime is always being explored in new ways. While this is book nine, I can only hope Dugoni has a lot more for his protagonist to do in a series that has not lost its lustre whatsoever.

Kudos, Mr. Dugoni, for proving that some series can stand the test of time and additions, without getting stale. I want to see what Tracy Crosswhite has to show when she returns soon.

Please Join Us, by Catherine McKenzie

Eight stars

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

When granted the chance to read Catherine McKenzie’s latest novel, I eagerly reached for the ARC. McKenzie weaves a great story that impacts the reader from the opening pages and grips them throughout the reading experience. Able to create a stellar read in a standalone thriller, Catherine McKenzie is one author worth noting for those who have yet to discover her magic. Happy to see she successfully penned Book #13!

Nicole Mueller has come to a crossroads in her life, with a career that seems not to be moving forward and a marriage that is not as exciting as it had once been. As she debates her options, the thirty-nine year old begins to realise that she desperately needs a change, which may be coming sooner, as her law firm is tightening its belt.

Nicole receives a cryptic email about Panthera Leo and how they would like to recruit her to join. They promise a great deal of success and connections, as long as she agrees to attend a retreat in rural Colorado. While Nicole’s husband, Dan, thinks that it is all a cult, Nicole is intrigued and agrees to attend. Nicole can only hope of opening new doors for her professional and personal lives with this weekend away.

After returning from Colorado, Nicole feels a sense of closeness with her ’pride’ the others in the group who attended the weekend. She hopes that her return to New York will be fruitful and that she can reap the benefits. As things begin to fall into place, Nicole has high hopes for Panthera Leo, though her questions are constantly shot down. All she must remember is never to decline an offer made or a request to assist others in the pride.

When one of the other pride members calls for assistance, Nicole is quick to head over. However, the legality of what is going on leaves her wondering if she might have made a poor decision. Nicole wants out and will take her old life once more, provided she can find a means of escape. As in the wild, leaving the pride is not that simple and could be a matter of life or death. McKenzie pens another great thriller sure to impress the attentive reader.

I have long come to enjoy the work of Catherine McKenzie, who is able to cobble together some great storytelling in a standalone thriller. She’s on point and keeps the reader engaged, while tackling some issues of the day in a flawless manner. Her narrative flows well and keeps the story moving along, with great plot twists throughout. I’m eager to keep reading anything she has to offer.

Catherine McKenzie has a way with her storytelling that helps keep the reader involved in the story. This could have something to do with her strong narrative, which takes the reader on quite the journey, or even with well-developed characters that popular many of the pages of the book. McKenzie’s able to use strong plot twists throughout to keep the reader from being able to predict the outcome, while offering teasers throughout. Perhaps one thing that did not mesh well with me in the narrative was how Nicole would commonly list things she had done, “called Dan, checked the dry-cleaning, ordered dinner” rather than letting the narrative explore them. With hyphens to denote the actual list nature of this in the story, it appeared McKenzie wanted to clip the word count or keep from having to develop these acts, some of which were non-essential to the larger plot. Other than that, I was fully engaged with the story and could not have asked for more.

Kudos, Madam McKenzie, for another great novel. I am eager to see what else you have coming, as your books always put me in a wonderful mindset.

Look Closer, by David Ellis

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, David Ellis, andG.P. Putnam’s Sons for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Having discovered the work of David Ellis through his collaborative efforts alongside James Patterson, I was eager to see how well things might go with his solo writing. Ellis offers up some gritty and well-paced stories, sure to capture the reader’s attention in the early pages. Ellis proves stellar his in craft and devises some wonderful plots that will keep the reader hooked well into the night as they try to reveal everything the story has to offer.

Wealthy Chicago couple Simon and Vicky seem as normal as they come. Simon is a law professor adored by all his peers while Vicky advocates for victims of domestic violence. While the pair seem as typical as they come, they may be harbouring a secret. One of them could well be a killer hiding in the shadows.

After a socialite’s body is found hanging in the colossal home of someone in the neighbourhood, the secret begins to fray at the edges. Details of marital infidelity, as well as a trust fund’s massive payout come to the surface and many begin looking for a suspect. Some suspect that Simon and Vicky might be involved, but others cannot discern where the truth ends and lies begin. It will surely prove to be a daunting task for whomever is involved in finding a killer.

As panic sets in and the truth must soon come to the surface, everyone is pointing fingers and trying to digest the truths placed before them. Nothing is as it seems, though no one could have suspected just how duplicitous their friends and neighbours could actually be. David Ellis does it again with a masterful story completely with a few twists the reader will not have seen coming. 

I have long enjoyed the work of David Ellis, both as a collaborator and individual author. His work evokes a sense of thinking and complete ‘buy in’ that I have found in few authors whose stories I read of late. Ellis combines a powerful writing style with great plot development to create the perfect mix for the reader who loves crime thrillers.

While many will bemoan the fact that the thriller genre is supersaturated with novels, David Ellis has a way of elevating himself above the rest and producing a stellar story with each publication. His narrative is strong and pushes along effectively to keep the reader on the edge of their seat, especially when he injects some plot twists no one saw coming. His characters are developed to the point of being easily visualised by the reader throughout the story. There is something about Ellis’ work that keeps the reader both entertained and enthralled in equal measure. This allows many to lose themselves in the piece and want to find more of his work, as has happened with me.

Kudos, Mr. Ellis, for another great piece. I cannot wait to get my hands on your next piece to see how things have evolved.

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.