The Last Woman in the Forest, by Diane Les Becquets

Seven stars

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

Diane Les Becquets presents readers with an interesting thriller that straddles two timelines to potentially track a serial killer’s path. Marian Engström loves working with tracking dogs and has been employed on a number of sites to locate movement patters of a number of animals. While on a site in Northern Alberta, Marian meets Tate, one of the coordinators. Their connection is strong and they grow closer at a rapid pace. During one of their post-coital chats, Tate reveals that he’s seen a dead body while on the job, one of the victims of the Stillwater Killer, a serial murderer who has been targeting women across the western United States. In a flash forward segment, Marian approaches one of the long-time investigators of the Stillwater Killer, Nick Shepard, to reveal this information. In a constant flip-flop between the present day and months ago, the reader discovers the ongoing closeness that Marian and Tate find, as well as the current investigations that Nick uncovers as he pokes around this Tate revelation. What follows is a series of coincidences that neither Marian and Nick can ignore, especially as they relate to Tate’s whereabouts during four concentrated killings over the past few years. When Nick delivers some of his chilling news, Marian can only wonder if she really knew the man she came to love and what her role might have been in the larger web Tate wove for himself. A chilling tale that keeps the reader wondering until the pieces all begin to fit together. A decent read, recommended to those who like criminal thrillers with a nature flavouring.

Having never read Diane Les Becquets before, I was not sure what I might expect, though the dustcover blurb did pull me in quickly. The premise of the story worked for me and I felt a strong connection to the characters throughout. Marian proves to be an interesting protagonist, whose passion for dogs and nature seeps from her in many ways. The reader is able to learn much about her through the actions she takes in camp and the conversations she has with others. That she has struggled of late is not lost on the attentive reader, though there is much to be said for her passion to do right by those around her, human and canine alike. Others within the story offer interesting flavours, particularly Tate and Nick, pushing the story in interesting directions to keep the reader wondering what is going on. I can only surmise that Les Becquets was trying to offer up an eerie sentiment with her writing, which succeeded as she spun a wonderful tale for all to discover. While the story was strong, it seemed somewhat disordered. I understand the concept of flashbacks and revelations, but there seemed a jilted ‘ping-pong’ effect, bouncing the reader through trying to keep information straight. I found it somewhat confusing to continue the flip-flop, especially as the revelations could have been revealed in ‘real time’ and then a few small remembrances used to refresh the reader’s memory. Les Becquets does offer something interesting when speaking of the stories related to the murder victims, drawn loosely on some of her own experiences. While the preface was the tale of one such young woman, there are summary chapters to give the reader a better understanding of how the other women met their demise and what choices they might have made. Quite effective on the writer’s part and it keeps the reader connected throughout. A decent piece whose only downfall is what I felt to be a lack of smoothness in its narrative delivery based on chronology.

Kudos, Madam Les Becquets, for your great piece that really gets to the core of a chilling tale. I would like to try some more of your work to see if it is as intriguing.

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 Eighth Sister, 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.

While Robert Dugoni is the author of two successful series, his standalone novels grip the reader just as effectively. There is something refreshing about an author who has so many ideas and whose name is indicative of stellar writing and plausible storylines. Charles Jenkins has been out of the spy game for many years. After serving as a CIA field agent in Mexico City, he left abruptly and eventually began work on his own security company. Four decades on, Jenkins has found solace in his wife, Alex, as well as a son, with a second child on the way. When a former Agency colleague pays a visit, Jenkins knows that it is not a friendly check-in, especially after all this time. Jenkins soon learns that a number of Russian women are turning up dead in and around Moscow. While this is nothing concerning on the surface, they were all feeding secret intel to the Americans, part of a group called the ‘Seven Sisters’. While these women were excellent at their jobs, none knew they were anything but isolated individuals defying Mother Russia during her time as the USSR. With the rise of Putin and a new authoritarian regime, whispers of the Seven Sisters re-emerged, especially since Putin was once a KGB officer and keenly interested in the rumours. Now, it would seem that there is an eighth sister working for Putin and the FSB; one who is tasked with sniffing out these traitors. Enter, Charles Jenkins, who is being sent to Russia under cover of checking up on one of his client’s former offices, to seek to have the newest sister reveal herself and let the Americans take it from there. However, when Jenkins’ mission is compromised, he becomes the hunted inside Russia, while the CIA denies any knowledge and will offer no help. Back in America, Alex is given instructions by her husband to leave their home and seek out David Sloane, a friend and established Seattle attorney. While Sloane and Alex know nothing of what is going on, they can only hope that Jenkins still has the antics he possessed forty years ago to extricate himself from this mess. Little does he know, his fight to get away from the FSB is only the start to the headaches that await him. Another stunning novel by Dugoni that reignites old Cold War drama, alongside some stunning legal developments. Recommended for those who love stories of espionage, especially the reader who is a longtime fan of Robert Dugoni’s writing.

I always flock to a new Robert Dugoni novel, knowing that I will not be disappointed. Even his standalone pieces keep me intrigued, helping to fill the void that arises when I have to wait for the next instalment of his popular Tracy Crosswhite series. Dugoni enjoys filling his novels with details that are more poignant than fillers, keeping the reader educated as well as entertained from the opening paragraphs until the tumultuous final sentences. The development of his protagonist, Charles Jenkins was quite effective, hinting at a past within the Agency without offering up too many details. Pulling on this and linking it effectively to the Cold War-esque storyline helped the reader see the connection, as well as seek to know a little more. As the story progresses and Jenkins finds himself on the run, the reader learns a little more about Jenkins and his family, a core part of why he has stayed off the grid for so long. The story also tests Jenkins’ resolve to better understand just how far he can go as an agency plant to extract needed information with ease. Working with that is a handful of characters, both in Russia’s FSB and back in America, trying to help Jenkins flee the trouble in which he finds himself. Dugoni effectively juggles both sets of characters, developing a strong espionage theme throughout as the race to safety (or elimination) mounts with each passing page. Of particular note in the inclusion of David Sloane into the story. Longtime fans of Robert Dugoni will know that this was the author’s first series protagonist and an effective lawyer he was. I cut my teeth on that series and respected Dugoni the more I read of it. Sloane, still a Seattle attorney, plays an effective and essential role, giving fans a jolt of excitement to see him back on the page. The story was quite strong, particularly in an age when Russia is back to play a key role on the international political and spy scene. Dugoni keeps the chapters flowing and the action mounting as the struggle for freedom becomes more desperate. Dugoni is on the mark with this piece and it goes to show just how masterful an author he has become.

Kudos, Mr. Dugoni, on another splendid addition to your writing list. I am always eager to see what you have in store for fans and was not disappointed with this effort.

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

The Malta Exchange (Cotton Malone #14), by Steve Berry

Eight stars

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

Steve Berry returns with another Cotton Malone thriller, sure to impress series fans that those readers who love peeling back some of the mysteries history has left unsolved. Cotton Malone arrives on Malta with a mission to intercept a collection of letters that could ruin Britain if they see the light of day. These letters were written between Winston Churchill and Italian dictator Benito Mussolini during the Second World War, pertaining specifically to the possession of Malta. While this mission does not seem too difficult, there is more to the story than meets the eye, particularly as it relates to Malta. Long guarded by a security force, the Knights of Malta, the country has been the gem sought by many autocratic leaders, including both Mussolini and Napoleon Bonaparte. However, it is not simply the land they seek, but a secret that could change the face of world domination. This secret, Nostra Trifectà, holds information that many within the Vatican have long hoped would never be found, as its contents could change the Church forever. Vatican City is abuzz, with the death of the recent pope and a conclave about to begin. Over one hundred cardinals are making their way to cast ballots to elect a new leader for the world’s Catholics, but there is a twist. One contender seeks to use a great amount of information he has amassed to turn the tides in his favour, while using the secret enforcement arm of the Vatican to keep all hurdles out of his way. While Malone discovers what is going on, he is joined by others from his former employer, the Magellan Billet, to stop this and finally uncover the Nostra Trifectà. It will take more than brains and a little brawn to discover the secrets hidden in Malta and bring them to Vatican City before the doors of the Sistine Chapel are closed for the commencement of the Papal Conclave. Will this be one adventure through history’s lesser-known mysteries that even Cotton Malone will not solve? A highly captivating story that will hold the reader’s attention until the final pages, as they seek to decipher fact from fiction. Recommended for those who enjoy Steve Berry’s work, as well as the reader who finds solace in historical mysteries where much of the accepted truths are put to the test.

There’s nothing like a Steve Berry novel to get the brain working. He is able to pull on the lesser-known parts of major historical events, pulling the reader into the middle of an adventure, where there is much to learn. Berry’s protagonist, Cotton Malone, has been a wonderful staple throughout the series, moving from an active role as a Magellan Billet agent to a quiet bookseller with a passion for rare documents. While Berry does not offer a great deal of back story or development, Malone is effective in this book by showing his attention to detail when it comes to ciphers and hidden codes. Malone is able to lead his group through mysteries while always flexing his muscles when needed. Berry’s use of a number of secondary characters, both returning from the series and unique to this book, to help move things along, particular as it relates to those who serve as antagonists throughout. The story is interesting on multiple levels, as it tackles some of the events surrounding Mussolini’s fall from grace, the history of the island of Malta, as well as papal conclaves and the role the Catholic Church has long played in the world. Juggling these plots, Berry is able to advance many interesting historical possibilities, as well as injecting some history that may not be readily known to the reader. As with all of his novels, Berry embeds both fact and fiction within the narrative, leaving the reader to decide what to believe, at least until Berry sets the record straight at the end of the story. Tackling the power of the Catholic Church and how a collection of documents, Nostra Trifectà, could derail much of what is known or expected, as well as the power that the pope and his entourage. Set against the mysterious island of Malta, I was able to enjoy the second book in as many months on this island that lays between Italy and the African continent. I am eager to see what else Berry has in store for Malone and the other members of the Magellan Billet in the coming months. It’s always nice to see something that bears Steve Berry’s name, as the reader is guaranteed a jam-packed read.

Kudos, Mr. Berry, for another winner. I learn so much with you at the helm and your ability to tell stories is second to none.

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

Vermin, by William A. Graham

Nine stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, William A. Graham, and Black & White Publishing for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

William A. Graham seeks to impress with his debut novel, set in the heart of Scotland, with an interesting investigative twist. Allan Linton is a private investigator with a great deal of sleuthing experience. Before grabbing his magnifying glass and tweed coat, he worked as an investigative reporter for one of the dailies in Dundee. Now, he’ll take on most any case that crosses his desk. When a gentleman darkens his door, Linton is not sure what to expect. Handed a school photo of a young woman, Linton is asked to locate her as soon as possible. The gentleman before him is acting as a go-between, so Linton cannot even tell who is client might actually be. While he and his ‘associate’ begin looking into the case, other locals reach out for assistance on a variety of matters, including Linton’s own daughter, Ailsa. As Linton scours through records and pulls on all his contacts to locate this woman, the reader discovers much about the story that brought Allan Linton into his current employ and how he almost lost it all to Ailsa’s mother. When Linton thinks that he may have a lead in the case, things take a turn for the worse and it’s a mad scramble to ensure that he, and Ailsa, remain safe from some of Dundee’s criminal element. Graham does well to keep the reader intrigued with this debut novel. Recommended for those who like a quick investigative thriller (does such a genre exist?) that can be read in a few hours!

I will admit, it was the dust jacket blurb that caught my attention with this one. I knew nothing of Graham and shelved this piece closer to its publication date. However, as soon as I started, I will pulled into the middle of the story and learning about Allan Linton. A fairly down to earth guy, Linton proves to be the perfect protagonist for this short piece. He offers much back story in a few long and meandering chapters, giving the reader some context throughout the novel. With his own development, both on cases and in his personal life, Linton easily becomes someone the reader can enjoy throughout this piece. Those around him prove also to do well at entertaining and offering some of their own flavouring. Should Graham allow this to launch a series, I can see some definite character development happening in upcoming novels. The story was simple and somewhat hokey, but in a good way. Simply put, it went from A to Z with a few offshoots, but keeps the reader’s attention throughout. Complex plots and numerous twists are kept from the pages of this book, but its entertainment value cannot be matched. I can only hope William A. Graham returns soon with more to offer the reader, for I will certainly queue up to see what else he plans on publishing.

Kudos, Mr. Graham, for a great debut. I can see much potential and I hope others will jump on the bandwagon as well.

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

Open Carry, by Marc Cameron

Eight stars

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

Established author Marc Cameron has branched out to create a new series, full of all the excitement his fans have come to expect, but with a few new twists to lure in more followers. Arliss Cutter is proud to work for the US Marshals, though being assigned to Alaska has come to be less exciting than he’d hoped. Spending days with his team hunting down fugitives makes for interesting, though not always enthralling, work. When Cutter is contacted to help a small local police detachment on a rural island in the state, he jumps at the opportunity. A teenage girl has gone missing and the list of suspects is quite long, owning to the fact that a reality television program is in the middle of production. When two members of the crew also go missing, Cutter must try to determine if this is all connected or just a matter of overly curious folks in a rural setting. As Cutter connects with some of the locals, he learns a little more about the indigenous population and their deep roots in the area. Meanwhile, someone has arrived with a vendetta to settle, one that Cutter had better diffuse before things get out of hand. In a story that takes readers on many twists and turns, Marc Cameron shows why he is top of his genre with this fast-paced novel. Recommended to those who have enjoyed Cameron’s work in the past, as well as the reader who enjoys a thriller set outside the major metropolitan areas.

When I heard that Cameron was beginning a new series, I had mixed sentiments. I have read authors who seek to expand their writing base, but their core series tends to fade and fans lose out on strong writing. However, it would seem that Cameron has a wonderful collection of ideas in this novel, which could be a standalone or the start to a new and successful series. Arliss Cutter is a great character whose grit and ‘bad cop’ mentality is balanced with his love of his extended family and roots in the state. Cutter shows his affinity for those in his inner circle, even as he chases the scum of the earth around on a daily basis. His tunnel vision works well in this story, as he gets to the heart of the matter in short order. Others around him add interesting flavouring to the narrative and could, given the chance, show more depth in future pieces. The story may not be completely unique, but Cameron’s use of the Alaska setting and some of the locals adds a certain individuality that will keep the reader wanting to know more. Short chapters and an ever moving narrative keeps things clipping along and allows the reader to discover just how talented Marc Cameron is at the art of writing. I would hope to see more Arliss Cutter in the future, but am not worried if Cameron returns to his core series for a time. Either way, the reader is in for a treat!

Kudos, Mr. Cameron, for a wonderful piece. I am eager to see where you take us next.

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

The Current, by Tim Johnston

Seven stars

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

In my first exploration of Tim Johnston’s work, the novel took a journey that may literally chill the reader to the bone. On their way back from college, two young women stop for gas in the middle of winter. A simple fill-up soon turns sour when one is assaulted by two men who prey on her solitude. After fending them off, the women rush to their vehicle and continue on their way, hoping the worst is behind them. Bright headlights soon creep up in the rearview mirror and the vehicle is bumped off the road, teetering on the edge of a body of water. In the moments before they lose consciousness, both women vow to get through this together. When Audrey Sutter wakes, she is in the hospital with significant injuries. Her friend was not so lucky, having perished before a passer-by called the authorities. Now, with her fractured memories (and bones), Audrey must relay what she knows to the sheriff, who tries to formulate a suspect list. Audrey’s father, Tom, is a former sheriff himself and will not stand idly by as he seeks to locate the perpetrators. However, this proves harder than it seems and leads go colder faster than the ice water in which his daughter was once submerged. With a cold case coming to the surface and the local sheriff choosing to run things at his own pace, those who sought to kill Audrey remain at large, but are they watching so that they can finish the job? Johnston weaves an interesting tale that seeks to control the reader’s experience like a strong-willed river current. With all the elements for a successful novel, I am not sure why this one missed the mark for me.

Having sampled no past work by the author, I am required to let my gut and first impressions steer me. Johnston utilised many of the needed elements to craft a decent novel, including a crime and assault to open the story. However, it would seem that there was a supersaturation of information that diluted much of the delivery. Audrey Sutter, who plays at least a partial protagonist character, proves to be somewhat likeable, though I did not feel a strong connection to her. She’s young and is forced to come to terms with much loss in short order. Still, I would have liked to feel as though her fate (and finding the person/people who tried to kill her) meant more to me. The same goes for many of the other characters who crossed the pages of the book, including the retired cop Tom Sutter. Instead, many of the names and their backstories blended together to form a giant wad of narrative goop. Johnston had some great ideas amidst the various tangential storylines, something that I think might better have been developed in a series. While the central crime does recur, there are so many people with insights on different plots that the reader is forced to parse through all the discussions and keep things straight. Johnston has a strong writing style and I applaud this, but I could not find a level of comfort to pull me through this piece. Best of luck for those seeking a story with lots to offer, but too much to digest.

Kudos, Mr. Johnston, for your efforts. Not my cup of tea, though the premise drew me in from the outset.

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

House Arrest (Joe DeMarco #13), by Mike Lawson

Eight stars

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

In a well-paced political thriller series, Mike Lawson has been able to develop his Joe DeMarco character quite effectively. This latest instalment of the series takes readers on a journey in which DeMarco may be in the middle of the excitement, but plays little role in its overall resolution. When a Republican congressman is gunned down in his office, the FBI swoops in to take control of the situation in short order. During routine preliminary interviews, Joe DeMarco offers up an alibi that appears solid, but has been completely fabricated for no known reason. An anonymous tip sends the Feds to DeMarco’s office, where they find a great deal of forensic evidence that points to DeMarco. He is detained and it would seem as though this is an open and shut case. However, DeMarco’s boss, current House Minority Leader John Maloney, is sure that someone is framing DeMarco to cover their tracks and pushes to have some of his contacts work diligently to uncover the truth. While DeMarco is in prison awaiting trial, he is targeted by a hardcore Mexican gang who seek to eliminate him. With no rational reason for this, it may be part of a larger scheme. Meanwhile, a powerful businessman stands in the shadows, saying little, but pulling strings in such a way that no one can tie anything to him. With the mid-term elections on the horizon, DeMarco’s fate hangs in the balance, if he can live long enough to see it through, forcing Maloney to pull out all the stops at arm’s length to get his fixer from being eliminated. Another great novel by Lawson that entertains series fans as much as those just discovering the author. Recommended to those who have journeyed along with Joe DeMarco from the start, though this novel could attract many one-off fans, as it works as a standalone.

I always await the latest releases by Lawson, as they fit nicely into my reading schedule and can usually be devoured in short order. The mix of politics and a mystery with limited time for resolution always has me enjoying the story and much of the development throughout. Joe DeMarco has evolved a great deal through the process, though the series fan will see that he is coming to the end of his illustrious career, not entirely because of his lack of usefulness. Working on vague and undisclosed projects for his boss, DeMarco has been able to keep a low profile and work effectively. His development throughout the series is shown in this novel with crumbs of backstory tossed around, as well as some personal angst as he awaits someone else to save him, a concept unknown to the ‘fixer’. The other key characters help propel the story forward, making their regular appearances within the narrative. The shift away from being helpers in the cause to the solution to DeMarco’s woes is an interesting twist and adds new layers to the story. The overall presentation is fast-paced and keeps the reader wondering how the cat and mouse game will work, with the killer’s identity fairly certain from the get-go. However, it is the pulling together of pieces and the results of the election that could truly shape the book progress and impact any further novels in the series. Lawson has delivered a dandy here, not to be missed by those who have followed DeMarco from the beginning all those years ago!

Kudos, Mr. Lawson, for another great story. I am eager to see how you will take that ending and make it work moving forward.

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

The Hiding Place, by C.J. Tudor

Eight stars

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

After the great success of her debut novel, C.J. Tudor returns with another psychological thriller that straddles two time periods to bring readers an enthralling novel. Joe Thorne left the village of Arnhill after a problematic childhood that included some tragic personal events. Now, armed with a teaching degree and having fled his last posting under a cloud of suspicion, Thorne is back to teach at the local academy. While many years have passed, Arnhill seems to still be the same speck on the map, with the problems flowing through to the next generation. As Thorne tries to acclimate himself to old grievances, he is reminded about his sister and her desire to chum along with him when she was a precocious eight. As he has memories of the events that led to her disappearance, Joe sees things differently and remembers the great changes in Annie when she turned up two days later. This led to an Annie he did not recognize, which snowballed into a fatal car accident that left Thorne orphaned. Struggling with those memories and how to handle his new crop of students, Joe Thorne’s recent past catches up to him and creates a gaping void. However, someone holds the truth to his past and a deep secret that he has spent decades trying to hide. With nothing to lose, Joe Thorne forges to rectify some of the pains of his youth and avenge Annie’s disappearance at the hands of another, while burying everything else a little deeper. Tudor presents another masterful psychological thriller that keeps the reader guessing as the story unravels at break-neck speed. Recommended for those who enjoyed her debut, as well as readers who like a little chill in their novels.

I admit that I was not as enveloped in Tudor’s opening novel as some, but I did find there to be some redeeming qualities, which is why I was happy to return for another go. Tudor makes no excuses for her writing style, which mixes a well-balanced narrative and flashback chapters to fill in the backstory gaps. Joe Thorne has an interesting role in this novel, living in both the past and present, while offering the reader a smorgasbord of development and backstory on which to feast. While he is a loner of sorts, the reader can see a Joe who has a purpose, even if it is fogged in an odd connection to his sister who died in a horrible crash many years ago. Many of the other characters prove useful vessels, both to propel the flashback sequences forward and to offer sober revisiting in their older incarnations. Tudor does well to keep the reader involved while also keeping large gaps out of the narrative. The guesswork left to the reader is interesting, though there are some nagging aspects that plague the narrative until the final chapters, rectifying an entire story’s worth of confusing in a single reveal. Tudor paces her story well and keeps the reader on edge, only pushing the final piece into place in time for the reader to catch their breath and end the intense novel.

Kudos, Madam Tudor, for another winner. I quite enjoyed this piece and hope others will find as many chills as I did throughout.

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

The Girl Without Skin (Greenland #1), Mads Peder Nordbo

Seven stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Mads Peder Nordbo , and Text Publishing Company for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

While I quite enjoy Scandinavian murder mysteries, there are certainly degrees of quality, as with any genre. I stumbled upon this piece by Mads Peder Nordbo and liked the dust jacket blurb, hoping it would live up to the synopsis. Learning that Norbdo works in Greenland offered me some hope that he would be able to shed some unique light on the setting, as well as the story’s development throughout. Danish journalist Matthew Cave is sent to Greenland to cover their upcoming elections. However, there is a sensational story coming out of the small community of Nuuk, which demands Cave’s attention. A man is found on the ice, his organs removed in a brutal manner. While it surely could be one of the many wild animals in the region, the cuts seem to precise and clean to be anything but that of a knife blade in a human’s hand. As Cave begins to investigate a little more, the body count increases and the severity of the attacks seem to be growing as well. Cave pokes around and discovers a connection to a set of crimes from back in 1973, where small children were kidnapped. As the community is reeling, Cave’s editors are demanding answers and sensational coverage, which he is not yet ready to offer. Following the trail, Cave discovers that some of the missing children have reappeared, as though they were dropped from the sky decades later, with no past and for no known reason. As he wrestles with his own personal demons, Cave must follow this case through to the end, even if the results are anything but satisfying. An interesting story that Nordbo makes his own, though there was some element missing to make it stellar. Those who like Scandinavian mysteries may find something worthwhile herein, though I felt the flow and entire premise fell a bit flat for my liking.

What is it that defines a Scandinavian mystery? Must the author hail from that region to be given this classification? Perhaps the story must take place within those countries defined as ‘Scandinavian’? I ask this because the story takes place entirely in Greenland, which may be part of the Danish territories, but the flavour of the novel is definitely unique. Nordbo uses this unique approach to flavour his novel in such a way to allow it to stand out, as well as some of the biographical information I provided above. Much of the setting and the societal norms differ greatly from those used in the numerous Scandinavian novels I have read, though this uniqueness is not entirely unwelcome. Matthew Cave is an interesting character and proves to be a worthy protagonist. Receiving his surname from his father, a member of the American military stationed in Greenland, Cave left the area at the age of four to settle in Denmark. This strain from any father figure proves to be a recurring issue throughout the novel, as does the loss of his wife and unborn child, thereby erasing his chance to be a father. Nordbo uses this thread to push the story along, as Cave seeks to piece together some of the happenings to those children from 1973 and the resulting murders in more modern times. Cave proves to be an effective journalist, but I did not feel a connection to him, which may be more to do with the style of writing that Nordbo offers. Many of the other characters who grace the pages of this book are a mix of gritty members of the police or community members, who mix a Danish and local indigenous culture into their daily lives. Nordbo tosses names and terminology around with ease, leaving a reader not entirely adept with either to flounder. Still, I was able to make some general connections and limped my way through the piece. The story’s premise was decent and I am pleased to have been able to follow it, but it was also weakened by a lack of flow and jilted writing. A mix of short and longer chapters, the story seemed to sputter along and I could not entirely tell if it was the translation that was causing me such distress or a lack of cohesive writing in whatever language. I have often said that Scandinavian novels seem to offer a seamless transition when translated, but this was surely an exception. I noticed that this was the first in what might be an upcoming series, so I am not sure if I want to continue when the next piece surfaces. That being said, I am forewarned and forearmed, should I choose to continue. Other readers preparing for this undertaking should be as well.

Kudos, Mr. Nordbo, for a decent effort, though it missed the mark for me. I can only hope that others find something stellar in this writing, as it did not meet by, admittedly, high expectations.

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

The Rule of Law (Dismas Hardy #18), by John Lescroart

Eight stars

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

Returning to add to his legal thriller series, John Lescroart crafts another winner that pulls much of the previous novels together, while offering interesting pathways for narrative development. Dismas Hardy continues to excel as a defence attorney in San Francisco, having seen many changes in the field of criminal law. From those who arrest suspects to the leaders seeking to put them away, Hardy is now forced to stomach a new District Attorney, the victor after a friend’s election falls short for a third term. This permits his old firm to cobble itself back together, slowly, though the law continues to evolve at break-neck speed. Hardy’s assistant of many years has gone missing from her desk, an anomaly not lost on the attorney. When she returns, Phyllis McGowan wishes not to speak of it. Days later, Phyllis is arrested at the office, charged as an accessory to the murder of an immigration coyote. It soon becomes apparent that Phyllis’ brother, Adam McGowan, has recently finished a prison term and is working with undocumented immigrants to America. A swift indictment in the grand jury and a DA who wants to take the case himself are only two aspects that are troubling to Hardy. When SFPD Detectives blow the whistle as well, Hardy is sure that the rush to judgment is meant to hide something else. It is then that the reader learns of a shootout from years before that this new DA is sure he can use to nail many of the prominent members of the legal and police community, creating his own witch hunt, which includes Hardy and those closest to him. By bending the rule of law, the DA might be setting his crosshairs on ridding San Francisco of some key players in the legal community, all while harbouring his own dark secret. Another great legal thriller for fans of Lescroart to enjoy. While the series is long and quite involved, for reasons I’ll discuss below, this one might actually work as a standalone for the curious reader looking to dive in.

I have long been a fan of Lescroart’s novels, particularly the multiple series than connect this larger San Francisco collection. These novels are rich with legal banter, but have also helped tie the reader down to a core group of characters, who weave their lives together in different ways and with varied degrees of importance, depending on Lescroart’s omnipotent decisions in that particular publication. Dismas Hardy, long the staple of the series and a strong protagonist, plays another central role in this novel. While the reader does not get a great deal of backstory, there is some development of his character as a defence attorney. Hardy has long had a passion for the law, something that is equalled only by that of those in his close circle. Lescroart shows that Hardy is willing to rise above and defend anyone in need of a legal mouthpiece, particularly when that person has been an essential part of his sustained profession. The handful of other series regulars also show themselves in ways that help progress their individual storylines, without crowding the pages with too much to remember. There are also those who are new to the scene, some who will surely appear only in this book, while others who might become new regulars, given the chance. Lescroart uses them effectively and pulls the reader into the middle of the story, while sifting through much of the questions left to simmer in previous novels. On that note, while Lescroart admits in his acknowledgments that this piece of writing was meant to tie off some loose ends rather than develop new and exciting plot lines, I could not help but notice an odd feature used throughout. While I understand that authors will sometimes remind readers about characters and situations in a series, as a refresher of sorts, there is some expectation that anyone jumping into the middle of the series ought to have a passing understanding. Lescroart repeatedly uses the “abc—xyz123–def” technique, overindulging in the editorial aside. While this can be done effectively, Lescroart uses it to remind the reader of so many of the names and places mentioned. Rather than using what I would call a more refined technique, the reader or forced to leap over these ‘bar hurdles’, for lack of a better word, and the momentum is lost. I do not remember seeing things as much in past pieces, though I will readily admit that I spent years choosing the audiobook version of Lescroart’s series. Still, this is a strong series that I hope many will discover in their own time. It spans decades (of writing), but novels can surely be devoured in short order.

Kudos, Mr. Lescroart, for another winner. I am eager to see where to take things, with many of the developments or resolutions presented with this novel

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