The Potrero Complex, by Amy L. Bernstein

Seven stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to Reedsy Discovery and Amy L. Bernstein for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

After being handed this ARC by Amy L. Bernstein, I was curious to see how things would play out. Set in the near future, the story is a little mystery, with a peppering of dystopia and some self-discovery tossed in for good measure. Bernstein keeps things unique and memorable for the reader, even if the product may not have been something that gripped me as much as I would have liked.

Rags Goldner has been though a great deal after a pandemic has taken hold over the world for the last number of years. She’s seeking a fresh start and leaves with her partner, Flint, for a small Maryland town, hoping to find herself once more. The town of Canary offers much to Rags, including a missing teenager, who is all the talk of the town. Effie Rutter must be out there,but Rags must also cut through a bunch of emotional red tape to get to the truth. The mystery rages on with little hope of a simple answer.

While Rags and Flint try to pick up the pieces, they are faced with some daunting experiences that will push them to the brink. This is a new world, one where hope hangs by a thread and no one appears to know what waits around the corner. Both will have to pull up their bootstraps and face reality, even if it does not have all the answers they hope to find. Plus, with Effie still out there, someone has to care enough to push onwards and not let sensationalised journalism take over. Bernstein does well to paint a dreary picture, even if the content was not as tantalizing as I might have hoped.

Amy L. Bernstein has shown that she can write and has a great deal to say. Her delivery is strong and she has ideas to share, but it is perhaps the content that failed to grip me to its fullest extend. Dystopian novels are hit and miss for me, as are things surrounding some ominous larger event. Still, Bernstein does well to keep the story moving forward and kept me guessing how things might resolve themselves by the final page turn.

Good novels have a strong narrative, while great ones pull you in and won’t let go until all is settled. For me, Bernstein offered up something good and kept things flowing with ease. Her narrative is well-paced and allows characters to set their personalities as the larger story progresses. There are some wonderful plot twists and that helps the reader see how the protagonists evolve throughout the piece. I was not as hooked as the dust jacket blurb would have led me to hope, but that may be my short attention span these days. I needed something with more action and a quicker delivery. All the same, many readers may really enjoy Bernstein’s work and I wish them well!

Kudos, Madam Bernstein, for a great effort. I hope many find something wonderful in what you have to say and latch on.

Cult of Darkness, by D.W. Whitlock

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to Reedsy Discovery and D.W. Whitlock for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Having been handed this ARC by D.W. Whitlock, I was eager to see if the core of the novel proved to be as enticing as the dust jacket blurb. Having read some of his other work, I was prepared for a thrilling and intense read, which would surely pull me into the middle of the action. I was not disappointed, as Whitlock told a story of great interest and kept me wanting to delve a little deeper.

While drugs continue to find their way onto streets and in the hands of the most vulnerable, there is a power struggle much higher up that is just as dangerous. Mexican drug cartels are battling not only to get their product onto the streets, but to control distribution and sales to any and all who find themselves needing a hit.

Of those groups who are wrestling for control, one has risen above all others: the Riviera. Headed by the ruthless Kukulkan, members of the cartel have begun peddling fentanyl, a drug more powerful than anything else on the streets. Bodies are strewn all around pristine Mexican communities, proving that this is one battle that will not end easily.

When the son of a prominent local businessman disappears, a call goes out to Alex Schofield, whose time in the Delta forces and investigative techniques are second to none. Schfield enters the landmine that is Mexico, in search of a boy who may have become involved in something more complex than he could have imagined.

While Schofield has made a vow to himself, he may have to break it in order to save one boy from imminent danger. However, there are other demons creeping up that could seriously harm Schofield on a more personal level. D.W. Whitlock weaves a chilling tale that will surely leave the reader on the edge of their seats throughout this great story.

While I have read the other novel published by D.W. Whitlock, this one was more captivating and enthralling than its predecessor. Full of action and wonderful character development, Whitlock proves that he belongs in this genre an should be noticed by those who love reading books of this nature.

The test of a great book is the ability to pull the reader in with ease as the story progresses. Whitlock does that well, as his narrative builds to a crashing crescendo and takes the reader on a journey like no other. With strong characters and some wonderful development to keep the reader wanting to know more, Whitlock teases the reader throughout the process, while tossing in some great plot twists to keep things interesting. There is no time to take a break between page turns, as the action culminates in something well worth the wait. I will keep my eyes open for more by D.W. Whitlock and hope others take notice.

Kudos, Mr. Whitlock, for another great read. I’m eager to see what’s to come!

Hooker Avenue (Jessie Martin #2), by Jadé Millman

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to Reedsy Discovery and Jodé Millman for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Having been handed this ARC by Jodé Millman, I dove into the series debut first, in hopes that they would complement one another well and keep me intrigued until the final page turn. Millman does well and keeps pace in this second novel, which does not leave the reader tired at any point throughout the intense thriller.

Jessie Martin is back as a great legal mind in upstate New York. The young lawyer has a lot to prove and is ready for most anything that comes her way. While driving home in a torrential storm, Jessie comes across a woman who is in dire need of assistance. Thinking that she can be a Good Samaritan, Jessie tries to help, only to find herself pulled into the middle of something far more dangerous.

When Detective Ebony Jones answers the call and attends the scene, Jessie is torn while also filled with emotions. Ebony was once Jessie’s close friend, but something’s happened, an event that is best left shelved until things quiet down. Ebony and her partner have actively been persuing a number of sex workers who have up and disappeared, their bodies assaulted by some unknown assailant. With a live victim, things could be different, but Ebony will have to act fast, putting her row with Jessie to the side.

Jessie is offered a great new position in a law firm, one that will help her as a single mother. However, this comes as a significant cost and impedes her from being able to work the case alongside Ebony. When her employer becomes the attorney for the woman who was attacked, Jessie must straddle two worlds and hope that she can work effectively without putting added strain on her disintegrating friendship.

While working through the case, Jessie must also deal with a personal life that is in a spiral. One man seeking to win her heart and another wanting her dead for past legal transgressions, Jessie Martin will have to face things head-on, in hopes of making a difference in the lives of many. This is one time in her life that Jessie wished things were simpler and without drama. Millman does it again with a great piece that stirs up emotion and suspense in the same breath.

Jadé Millman offers readers something stellar to contemplate as they read this piece, mixing drama and legal matters into a single story. There is a great deal going on herein, providing the reader a great deal of excitement in a series that is gaining momentum. I have high hopes for Millman and her exciting protagonist, who is growing on me bit by bit.

Millman uses a strong narrative throughout the piece to keep the reader in the middle of all the action. With a decent amount of character development and some plot twists, the reader is drawn into all the drama with each turn of the page. Serving as a legal thriller on the one hand and a crime story on the other, Millman mixes them well, developing a constant depth to her protagonist, Jessie Martin. I am eager to see what comes of this series and how Millman will continue developing things for her fans.

Kudos, Madam Millman, for another great piece. You are evolving as the series progresses and I hope things continue to advance accordingly.

The Midnight Call, by Jodé Millman

Seven stars

After being handed the newest novel by Jodé Millamn, I thought it best to start at the beginning of this series. Millman develops a decent story for most readers, tapping into some emotional and high-intensity stuff from the outset. While it was not the most captivating legal thriller I have read, it was decent enough to pass the time.

Jessie Martin is a decent lawyer whose education helped pave the way to a successful career. Then, late one night. she got a call she was hardly expecting or prepared for, with chilling news. Jessie’s friend and long-tome mentor, Terrence Butterfield, seeks her help after admitting that he killed someone.

Sending Jessie into a spiral, she tries to compose herself while trying to come to terms with Terrence’s admission. Now she has a decision to make; should she help the man or stay a fair distance away? Jessie cannot turn her back on the man who made her who she is today, but doing so will certainly bring out a great deal of risk to all parts of her life.

As Jessie goes to help Terrence, she is pulled into something even more sinister when a body is discovered in his home. Might Terrence have been playing on Jessie’s emotions from the get-go, trying to get her to help him, while remaining a horrible monster all along? Jessie will have to trust her gut and legal instincts to get her out of this mess before too long. Millman does well with this series debut to paint quite a picture for the reader!

Many who know my reading likes would expect me to fawn over this book, particularly because of all the twists it appears to present. Jadé Millman offers readers something to contemplate throughout this piece, with some strong plot ideas and a decent delivery. I would not call it stunning, but it did keep me thinking and pondering what I might expect as the series continues.

Millman offers a decent narrative throughout the piece, keeping the reader in the middle of things as the story unfolds. There is a decent amount of character development and some plot twists that are sure to keep the reader wondering well into the night. While a legal thriller on the one hand and a crime thriller on the other, Millman is able to mix the two fairly well, without knocking me over with either. I am eager to see what is to come with this series and whether Jessie Martin will make more of an impact on me in the follow-up story, for which I have an ARC ready to read.

Kudos, Jodé Millman, for a decent debut. Let’s we where things go in the next novel!

Crux, by Robert Hamilton

Six stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to Reedsy Discovery and Robert Hamilton for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Having stumbled upon this book by Robert Hamilton, I was eager to give it a chance. It was the dust jacket blurb that piqued by attention, as it seemed Hamilton would use this book to explore a number of intriguing platforms. While he does do that effectively, I was not as mesmerized as some other reviewers, feeling as though I could not connect with parts of the writing and themes presented to me.

The premise of the book is that America is fraying at the edges and being left on the brink. From the vein of religiosity that flows through the country through to some of the barbaric means by which animals are treated to put food on the table, the country is teetering on the brink. The story’s central character, Dr. Thomas Pickett, wrestles with these issues and how he sees the country turning away from being a leader to covering things up for the almighty dollar. At the heart of the matter is the strain this puts on democracy, in its truest form, taking control from the voter to those with power and influence. Nothing new there, but the concept is as blunt as can be.

While the writing was easy enough to comprehend, I was not pulled in by it and felt the aforementioned blurb was more scintillating than what I was presented with throughout the reading experience. I can see what Hamilton sought to do, using fiction writing as a worthwhile soapbox to air his concerns and ideas. There is no doubt that Hamilton understands many of the issues he discusses, going into great depth at various points of the narrative. For me, it fell short and left me wondering if I had missed something. I noticed others lauding the book and its themes, but I cannot let others steer me into thinking I am the issue.

Short chapters worked for Hamilton, helping to gain momentum throughout the reading experience. I was able to sit and read chunks at a time without issue, but kept hoping something would resonate within me and leave me wanting more. This could be a one-off or just my personal struggles at this point in time. Whatever the reason, I remain unsure if I will seek more by Robert Hamilton to avenge this novel’s lack of a spark for me.

Kudos, Mr. Hamilton, for your efforts, even if it did not work for me. I hope others continue to find greatness in your writing.

Shot to the Heart (DS Jack Lisbon #4), by Blair Denholm

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to Reedsy Discovery and Blair Denholm for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Having binge-read the DS Jack Lisbon series, I have finally reached the ARC that Blair Denholm requested I review. Things have been a whirlwind, allowing me to discover a little more about DS Lisbon, both as a police officer in Australia and the sordid past he left behind in the United Kingdom. Finally able to visit his daughter in the UK, Lisbon arrives and sets out on quite the adventure with Skye. When she is kidnapped in plain sight, Lisbon is distraught, but knows that he must be very careful. It’s likely that some of those he upset before fleeing to Australia have planned this and seek long-awaited retribution. Lisbon will have to work off the books, including getting some assistance from a colleague Down Under, in order to bring Skye back safely. Denholm does really well to add new layers to the series, exciting readers who have been waiting for a novel like this.

After many years away from his daughter, DS Jack Lisbon has finally returned to the United Kingdom. While his ex-wife is leery, she allows them out for a few days together. While in a park, Skye is kidnapped in plain sight and this leads Lisbon to panic. His sordid past has likely come back to haunt him, when he was suspected of killing a prominent member of the boxing community. Could this crime have been planned for years, simply awaiting Lisbon’s return?

Told not to contact the authorities, Lisbon is left with few options, but refuses to stand idly by. He reaches out to a few of his contacts from before he left the country to help him locate Skye quickly. With a ransom demand and a time limit, Lisbon will have to follow all the rules, while panicking on the inside. A few clues help get the ball rolling, but Lisbon will be some trusted assistance from a colleague back in Australia, well off the radar of the kidnappers.

Inching closer to a likely location for Skye, Lisbon and his ragtag team begin to formulate a plan, but have little guarantee that it will work. Skye’s life likely hangs in the balance, as these criminals have no morals and are willing to do whatever it takes to get what they need. Lisbon makes his move, fuelled by the love of a father, in hopes that it will be all that Skye needs to be returned to him safely. Denholm ups the ante once again and makes this the best novel in the series to date.

Blair Denholm has done a great deal with this series in short order. While I was not sure what to expect when I started the books a few days ago, I have seen a great deal of progress with the series and DS Jack Lisbon, specifically. Strong writing and great plot lines have helped create a captivating collection of novels sure to attract the attention of the curious reader who enjoys quick police procedurals.

DS Jack Lisbon has come full circle in this series. Those who have followed the novels from the start will know that Lisbon fled the UK under tense circumstances, but little has been fully hashed out about it, save some mention in a prequel novella. Now, Lisbon is back and able to spend time with his daughter, Skye, who has always been simply a passing reference in other books. Seeing a more personal side to his character, Lisbon exemplifies the love a father has for his child, stopping at nothing to bring balance once again. Denholm has built things up well and this novel was just what the series needed to add new depth to a tense collection.

Blair Denholm has mastered the art of storytelling and uses this series to catapult DS Jack Denholm into a new realm. With a strong narrative that pushes forward, while using personal angst to flavour the writing, the story gains momentum as the hunt for a missing girl reaches new heights. Great characters leave the reader wanting more, while also complementing the protagonist throughout this piece. I have waited for this plot line, ever since early mention of Skye Lisbon appeared in the first novel. The inevitable heartache Lisbon feels with the kidnapping of his daughter is matched by the tension between the copper and those seeking to destroy him. Denholm impresses yet again and leaves the reader wanting even more. I can only hope DS Lisbon will be back soon for more suspenseful investigating.

Kudos, Mr. Denholm, for adding new tensions to a great series. Thank you for having me read this series, which I devoured in short order.

Silent Slipper (Julia Fairchild #5), by PJ Peterson

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to Reedsy Discovery and PJ Peterson for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

After recently discovering the cozy mysteries of PJ Peterson, I call myself an excited fan. Peterson presents a lighter mystery in interesting climates, which provides the reader with something to pass the time and feel entertained. Julia Fairchild and her sister, Carly Pedersen, have decided to travel on a vacation, leaving their troubles and love interests back home. While out on the beaches of the British Virgin Islands, they find a woman’s body floating in the water, with a lovely necklace and single slipper next to it. Things soon heat up, as Julia and Carly work with the local police to see what’s going on and how a criminal enterprise might be up to no good. Peterson delivers another great story that I devoured in a single day!

Julia Fairchild has a knack for finding mysteries and murder whenever she packs a suitcase. She promises her sister, Carly, that things will be different on this, their anticipated girls’ getaway to the British Virgin Islands. Ready for the sun and sand, Julia and Carly stroll along the beach, only to discover the body of a woman floating in the water. While she is an accomplished doctor, Julia can do nothing and decided that it is best to document the scene and alert the authorities. They notice that the woman has only a single slipper and a medallion of sorts that apperars to be religious in nature. The etching is nothing that either Julia or Carly can read, adding to the mystery.

When Julia and Carly approach the police chief, he orders an autopsy to get some answers. The toxicology shows significant drugs in the victim’s system, leaving many to wonder if there might be a criminal element using the island to distribute their product. While she is itching to help Julia stands down and allows the authorities to take the lead.

While Julia and Carly wait to see how they can help, they come across a group filming a moving along the coast. Intrigued, they make friends with some of the actors and hope to score roles as extras, if only for a day or two. The costumes and footwear worn by the cast bear a striking resemblance to those the victim had on when she was found. Might there be a connection?

When a few of the extras chosen for the film go missing, Julia and Carly can no longer sit on the sidelines, itching to help find out what is going on. It is sure to be dangerous, particularly in a part of the world they do not know, but the sense of adventure is more than either can ignore. PJ Peterson keeps the reader flipping pages well into the evening, as she did with me once again!

I discovered PJ Peterson’s work through the Reedy’s site, after another author spoke highly of her work. I was taken with how easily I could read and review the previous books in this series and can only hope they will continue in the years to come. Peterson mixes an easily digested story with some dazzling settings to provide the reader with something intriguing that is sure to keep them flipping pages. Everything flows well and the end result is a cozy mystery that has just enough spice to keep things interesting.

Julia Fairchild is again in the driver’s seat for this novel, though her focus is more on the case at hand than swooning any men. She is becoming very ‘Jessica Fletcher-esque’ as she stumbles upon a number of mysteries wherever she might be, while also keeping things on point with her witty remarks. I have seen much growth in her (and Carly) over the series and hope it continues into the future.

The key to a great mystery is to have all the elements in order without revealing too much at the early stages. PJ Peterson has it all and uses her skills well to allow the reader to become one with the story without feeling too bogged down. A great narrative that clips along keeps the reader in the middle of the action. Plot twists find themselves developing with ease, though the reader is not lost when things take place. Fabulous settings, described in an effective manner, keep the reader feeling as though they are part of the action, with local characters adding to the flavour. I have devoured all the books in the series to date and cannot wait for more, whenever they might arrive.

Kudos, Madam Peterson, for another winner in my eye. I am so pleased to have been shown your work and am happy to read anything you put in front of me.

The Opus Dictum (Father Michael Dominic #5), by Gary McAvoy

Nine stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to Reedsy Discovery and Gary McAvoy for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Always eager to read the work of Gary McAvoy, I rushed to begin the latest featuring Father Michael Dominic, which did not disappoint. Exploring another angle of Vatican-based politics and sinister goings-on, McAvoy takes readers through a historical event and provides strong modern action to support it. In this case, all relates to a more recent event, where a mysterious briefcase finds itself in the Vatican Archives. What it contains could not only reveal the existence of a powerful group thought defunct, but also change the path of the Catholic Church forever. It will be up to a handful of dedicated individuals to stop this before it’s too late. Another winner by Gary McAvoy that will have those ho love a good thriller on the edge of their seats.

It was early morning one June day in 1982 that Roberto Calvi was discovered hanging under a bridge in London. A man with quite the reputation, some called Calvi “God’s Banker,” for his ties to the Vatican Bank, though it was some of his other connections that left many to wonder if he had upset the wrong person. Missing from the scene was an important briefcase Calvi had the night before, filled with important documents that could cause a great stir if they were revealed. The mystery was never solved, leaving many to wonder if these incriminating documents might still be out there.

Fast forwarding to today, Father Michael Dominic is excited to have a new assistant working with him in the Vatican Archives. There are so many documents in need of reviewing and digitizing that he cannot be sure where to begin. When the Calvi briefcase turns up, it opens quite the conundrum for all involved. Father Dominic knows a little about the briefcase and upon discovering some of its contents, he is eager to learn more. There is proof that a powerful Catholic organisation, Opus Deus, and an outlawed Masonic group P2, have been working together. Not only that, but a safe deposit key could hold the answers to a great deal more.

Working as quietly as they can, Father Dominic and his team try to uncover the mysteries from the briefcase, discovering a cache of diamonds and gold, as well as digital breadcrumbs to more. Before they can make their move, others learn of the discovered cache and make their move to get it back, hopefully to silence any chance that the secret will come to light.

While Father Dominic must head to Geneva to help rescue an old friend, one of his nemeses finds a way out of prison and plots revenge on the priest. With the backing of Opus Deus and P2, Father Dominic’s life could be in danger, especially with what he knows. Upon the discovery of a document called the ‘Opus Dictum’, a truly horrifying plan could soon be in motion, which will deeply change the Catholic Church for the foreseeable future. After the surprise announcement of a new conclave—the election of a pope—causes a stir, Father Dominic knows that his time is limited. Should the Opus Dictum come to fruition, the face of the Church will forever change, and not likely for the better. As cardinals gather and the ceremony begins, two men stand at odds and hope to become the new voice for the Church. Gary McAvoy does a sensational job with this piece and left me eager for more. I cannot wait to see where things go from here.

I have followed Gary McAvoy on this journey since its inception and never found myself straying. The themes that emerge are on point and I am regularly pulled in by the approach of his plot lines. The Vatican is a complex and multi-layered organisation, as is the Catholic Church in general. McAvoy finds ways, through history and artifacts, to bring the story to life and create thrilling adventures for all to enjoy. His characters grow exponentially throughout and the stories connect well together. This is a series that gains momentum with each novel and never seems to lose its way.

Father Michael Dominic continues to impress as the protagonist of the series. His backstory is a little complicated, as series fans will know well, but it is matched by some of the awkwardness he hides in the present that keeps it all highly exciting. A devout Catholic who loves working in the Archives, Dominic finds mysteries fuel him and will stop at nothing to uncover the truth before him. While he may not hunt out danger, there are those around him who seem to attract it, creating an adventurous journey through each of the novels in this series. I am eager to see, with some of the revelations made in this book, how things will change for Father Dominic moving forward and whether there will be a significant shift in his role.

The key to a strong thriller novel is whether the reader can feel themselves begin a part of the action, rather than a passive bystander. Gary McAvoy creates an electric buzz around his stories and puts the reader right in the middle of everything that is going on. His narrative builds with each passing chapter, developing more mysteries and curiosities, while the plot twists repeatedly to keep anyone from knowing exactly what will happen. Intertwining modern events with historical goings-on makes for an explosive story that could go one of many directions. Strong characters, particularly those who reappear and build on their past developments, help create an emotional connection for the reader, as they are swept up in everything that is taking place. While McAvoy packed this book with history and highly descriptive settings, I know this is not the end. While I will have to patiently wait for the next instalment, it will surely be well worth it to see how things continue to play out for all involved.

Kudos, Mr. McAvoy, for another stunning story. You never cease to amaze me with your writing.

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

One Will Too Many (Julia Fairchild #4), by PJ Peterson

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to Reedsy Discovery and PJ Peterson for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

When I received an ARC of this novel, I could not help but be both excited and uncertain. Usually, it is the complex, hearty crime thriller or mystery that piques my interest, though I have found a few gems when I can turn off my brain and let a ‘cozy mystery’ entertain me. I took the leap, though chose to read the three previous novels beforehand, devouring them in a handful of days. Peterson won me over early and I could not stop the momentum of this quick read series of novels. Dr. Julia Fairchild is home and enjoying her medical practice, when she’s asked to attend a fundraiser at the local theatre. Learning of some controversial goings-on at the event, a local banker is soon found dead in his home. The situation surrounding the death proves to be suspicious, fatal alcohol poisoning, but not the variety usually found on the liquor shelf. Further inquiries show that there may have been many who had a beef with him and with the reading of his will, things could get really messy. Always the sleuth, Julia dons her cap again to help get to the bottom of it all in short order. Peterson does a masterful job at impressing the reader once again with this piece.

Dr. Julia Fairchild enjoys jet-setting, but sometimes there is nothing better than staying close to home. When she is inviting to fill a last-minute vacancy at a charity auction in town, she hesitantly agrees, but not for the reasons one might think. While there, she rubs elbows with some of the local upper crust and discovers a little more about a local banker, Jay Morrison. His life is full of secrets and being recently divorced, those skeletons are sure to march out of the closet.

Morrison’s girlfriend calls Julia the next day to say that she cannot reach him. Julia is happy to help and they go in search of Jay, who seemed to be having quite a good time at the fundraiser. It’s only then that they discover Jay’s body in his home, dead for reasons unknown. What could have been a massive medical incident is soon ruled a homicide by the coroner, opening up some interesting discussions with Julia in the centre. Always one keen to unravel a mystery, Dr. Julia Fairchild is on the case, albeit in an unofficial capacity. What did Jay Morrison do to cause such grief to someone that they may have wanted him dead?

Working on the assumption that it was some type of alcohol poisoning, Julia tries to piece it all together, only learning that the secrets Jay held were even more complex than first thought. His ex-wife has no love loss for him, there are some who held him responsible for massive losses with certain accounts at the bank, and someone emerges to claim a family connection and seek restitution for being kept out of a previous inheritance. Who was Jay Morrison and what was he keeping from everyone?

All this, while Jay Morrison’s will is about to be read and monies dispersed. Julia will have to work fast, using a nephew who is on the police force, to find the killer before it’s too late. Money has a way of mucking things up and this may be the messiest situation Julia’s come across yet! PJ Peterson pulls the reader in and entertains them in short order once again. Brilliant and just what I needed this week.

PJ Peterson succeeds yet again with one of her novels, without needing a complex storyline to keep the reader enthused. A simple story with great characters and a plot that never rests on its laurels, Peterson presents the reader with something well worth their while. I can only hope that there are more of these books in the works, as I cannot wait to learn more about Dr. Julia Fairchild or some of those around her.

Dr. Julia Fairchild continues to develop as a strong protagonist, using more of her backstory to shape the novel and flavour the narrative. Series fans will revel in learning more about her personal life in this piece, though there is also much to be said about her development throughout this piece, particularly with the story’s focus in Parkview, Washington (yes, we finally learn when she lives!). While Julia is the ultimate amateur sleuth, she is also trying to solve the mystery of her personal connection in a romantic sense, as the reader is introduced to Alex, her latest beau. There are some key moments around this relationship, which Peterson handles well as she uses it to formulate a decent subplot. A well-rounded character who seems full of surprises for the attentive reader.

PJ Peterson offers up another strong cozy mystery, which competes well with many of the other books that fill the genre. It’s highly entertaining without being overly frilly. There is a depth to it that keeps the reader wanting to know more, though does not drag on, allowing its completion in a day or two. The narrative flows well, as did the other novels, building from the opening pages. This early momentum serves as a great pace and keeps the reader turning pages while losing track of time. The plot offers a few twists and is not overly predictable, without blurring the lines between plausible and far-fetched. Strong characters and quick dialogue make for an enjoyable read. Peterson can surely write and keep the reader’s attention until the final page, where a cliffhanger teases at more to come soon. Overall, it makes the reading experience all the more enjoyable and guarantees that I will reach for the next novel as soon as it becomes available!

Kudos, Madam Peterson, for another winner. Thank you for reaching out with this novel, as it allowed me to discover a new series that I have placed on my reading radar!

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

They Only Wear Black Hats, by Edward Izzi

Nine stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to Reedsy Discovery and Edward Izzi for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Edward Izzi returns with another of his stunning thrillers, sure to captivate the reader’s attention from the opening pages. Taking this crime story down a dark rabbit hole, Izzi mixes history, murder, and a secret society to formulate a novel that will leave readers talking well into the future. Detroit PD Detective Mike Palazzola has enjoyed his work within the Third Precinct, but knows that crime will always be a part of his day to day work. When a string of odd murders are accompanied by the placement of black bowler hats, he’s sure a serial killer is on the loose. Little does he know the complexities tied to these killings, as a friend and journalist tries to uncover a group whispered to be called the Archangels. Directives will be made, people will die, and Palazzola will have to decide how to act before it’s too late! Izzi impresses once again with this scintillating story of secrecy and retribution.

Detroit has long been a place where crime runs rampant, something that DPD Detective Mike Palazzola knows all too well. Working out of the Third Precinct, he has been in the middle of a number of high-profile and gruesome murder investigations, some with children as victims. While the cases seem strong, when those accused make their way to court, they are released on a technicality, proving major flaws with the system. All Palazzola can do is grit his teeth and keep protecting his city. Soon thereafter, all those who were released turn up strangled to death, slices on their body, and a black bowler hat next to them.

While out with Justine Cahill, a gritty journalist, one evening, Palazzola notices a group of men wearing the same bowler hats entering the private back room of an Italian restaurant. Their mysterious nature raises some concerns with both Palazzola and Cahill, but the restaurant staff remain tight-lipped about who these men could be.

Unbeknownst to anyone else in the restaurant, these men are part of the Malizia Society of Detroit, an organisation dating back to 1927. While they use the cover of anonymous Archangels, doing charitable work around Detroit, they are actually a secret group doling out their own form of justice for those who slips through the cracks. Their meetings discussions are highly secretive and the use of three assassins to offer needed punishments keeps them from being identified.

Palazzola and Cahill begin their own sleuthing into who these Archangels might be and their history, the FBI leans on them to steer clear, as they, too, have been looking into them. While Palazzola knows when to take his foot off the gas, Cahill sees a story that could catapult her into national stardom, as well as revealing a group of murderous thugs no better than the mafia. These men are everywhere in Detroit society and it is not entirely clear who can be trusted.

As more bodies emerge, the story takes a darker turn, alternating between modern Detroit and the history of the Malizia Society, which has ties to a group from Italy back in the time of the Borgias. While Palazzola knows something must be done, he worries that one wrong move could mean a heap of trouble. He will have to act swiftly, but with extreme caution, not wanting to be the next person with a black bowler hat next to his murdered corpse. Izzi has done it again! A brilliant thriller that kept me intrigued until the final page turn, with something for patient readers in the last chapters.

It was a fluke that I discovered Edward Izzi’s writing a few years ago. While each of his novels is a standalone of sorts, this was completely independent from his loosely connected Chicago Vatican books. The writing is strong, with great plots that pull not only on duplicity, but also history to bolster their foundation. Izzi keeps coming up with strong ideas and I cannot recommend him highly enough.

Mike Palazzola plays a significant role throughout the novel, though he shares the limelight with Justine Cahill and one prominent original member of the Malizia Society. These three forge ahead, with their own backstories and development, working their way through the struggles they encounter. Therefore some wonderful revelations throughout the piece, as well as dicey moments when confronted by the truth of what these Archangels have been doing.

Edward Izzi seems never to run out of great plot ideas for his novels, which develop in numerous ways. The stories are usually dark and intense, with a graphic nature to them, but are not gruesome to the point of being stomach churning. The narrative flows extremely well and keeps the reader engaged, as much is revealed in due time. Chapters that propel the plot along are the centrepiece of the novel, with strong doses of history and flashbacks. While this will likely remain a standalone thriller, there is a chance that Izzi will utilise a technique he has for creating cameos of certain characters in other books of his. I would encourage anyone with an interest in a more complex crime thriller to check into some of his books, as you won’t be disappointed.

Kudos, Mr. Izzi, for another stunning novel. I may not be your loudest fan, but I can assure you, I am in the top five!

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