Trial by Fire (Joseph Antonelli #7), by D.W. Buffa

Seven stars

Just when you thought D.W. Buffa might have run out of ideas, he comes up with another stunner to keep the reader—and Joseph Antonelli—on their toes. Having basked in the limelight for many years, Joseph Antonelli is much pickier when it comes to the cases he will take. Instead, he is happy to stay in his corner office at the San Francisco law firm he calls home and watch the legal world spin on its head. When he is approached by one of the partners, asking him to appear on television, Antonelli is not quite sure that he’s game. However, when one of the firm’s clients owns a network with a top-rated legal talk show, one must sometimes accept the pressure. While on a panel discussing a current homicide trial, Antonelli meets Daphne McMillan, a lawyer in the D.A.’s office, and Julian Sinclair, a brilliant law professor whose knowledge of criminal proceedings is second to none. Sinclair comes off as quite docile, but there is a spark within him, so much so that Antonelli convinces him to join the firm. When Sinclair calls Antonelli one night, it is anything but a social call. He woke to find a murdered Daphne McMillan in his home. While they were having an affair, Sinclair denies that he was involved and requests Antonelli’s assistance. In whirlwind fashion, the trial is upon them, though media outlets have wasted little time passing judgment on Julian Sinclair. As Antonelli tries to put forth a defense and narrow in on the repulsive way Mrs. McMillan’s husband treats women, it all falls on deaf ears. Trial in the court of public opinion seems to be the only place justice is being heard. Angered by the farce, Antonelli works to find a new way to bring truth to the headline grabbers, though he will have to be conniving and convincing in equal measure. Buffa takes the legal thriller theme and expands it in this piece, which pushes Joseph Antonelli to his limits. Recommended for series fans who have enjoyed the collection to date, as well as readers who find unique thrillers to their liking.

I have enjoyed binge reading this series by D.W. Buffa, particularly as he uses his protagonist to push the envelop a little further than might normally be expected. These are a wonderfully complex set of novels that pit the protagonist against a legal world that has embittered him over the decades. Antonelli has become a celebrity in the legal world, which leads him to become more choosy with the cases he agrees to defend. Added to that, he comes to terms with the fact that no one wants to sit through a trial when there are talking heads who will dice and splice before delivering the verdict that everyone ought to accept. Antonelli wrestles with this throughout, though is able to use traditional lawyering to make sense of it all. Older and more job-focussed, the reader does not get the energetic lawyer that many have come to expect. Others make one-off appearances, even with Antonelli home in San Francisco. Some may have hoped for more of a homecoming theme, with recognizable names and characters, but that is surely not the case here. The story followed much of the same recipe as in past novels, but did not seem to come across as effective as in the past. The trial—usually a central focus—is almost a forced hurdle in the middle of the novel and there is little spark in the courtroom. I was disappointed with this, though one might expert that Buffa wanted to turn to other projects and needed an effective way to end Joseph Antonelli’s legal career. That being said, Joseph Antonelli does make a return (call it an eight book?) in Necessity, which returns the protagonist to his wonderful role as defense attorney. An interesting progression in the series, though I was not entirely convinced of its effectiveness. I would recommend readers begin at the start of this series and not use this novel as a litmus test for others.

Kudos, Mr. Buffa, for keeping Joseph Antonelli fresh and exciting, though perhaps it is time that he hang up his wing-tips.

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 Brief (Charles Holborne #1), by Simon Michael

Six stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to Simon Michael and Sapere for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Always a fan of a decent legal thriller, I jumped at the opportunity when offered this opening novel in Simon Michael’s 1960s London series. Charles Holborne is a barrister who has acquired his share of enemies. Shunned by the Jewish community when he chooses to forget his roots, Holborne must also handle a heavy criminal case load and deal with the fallout of lost cases and angered clients. One can also not forget the numerous other legal minds whose reputations he has tarnished while working in London. However, someone has been watching him and waiting to strike at just the right moment. Playing on the marital strains and are building within the Holborne household, someone seeks to frame him for a significant crime. Forced to take things into his own hands, Charles Holborne must risk his life and reputation to save them both. A decent story, though it did not pull me in enough to call it riveting. Those who enjoy legal stories may like this one, though I remain on the fence at this point in time.

I cannot say that Simon Michael hooked me with this novel, launching a series that appears to keep growing. That being said, the story wad sound and the characters appeared to have some depth. Set in London’s early 1960s, the story surrounds legal practices of the time and some of the criminal element that stalked the streets. Charles Holborne proves to be an interesting character whose legal mind and gritty determination help him forge compromises while also creating an ever-growing list of enemies. His personal life is full of issues as well, including a wife who has come to realise that she will need to look elsewhere for love and a romantic connection. Other characters make an impact on the story, though I was not as connected as I would have liked. The premise of the story was decent, though I felt the first half dragged and the second sped by too quickly for me to feel a decent connection to much of anything. I am not entirely sure if I will return for more, though I suspect Michael has a great deal to offer, even if I did not develop the needed connection to enjoy this reading experience. There was less legal intrigue than I might have hoped and it left me wanting much more. I may be in the minority here, but sometimes that’s a decent spot to inhabit, as I swim against the tide.

Kudos, Mr. Michael, for your efforts. Not entirely to my liking, though surely others may differ from my opinion.

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

13-Minute Murder: A BookShot, by James Patterson and Shan Serafin

Seven stars

Note: This is a review solely of this short story, not the collection of three BookShots found in the published work bearing the same name. Please search each of the other two stories individually, as they were read and reviewed previously, also independently.

It is always nice to curl up with a BookShot to pass an hour or so, watching James Patterson and his collaborator try to sell the reader on their latest short story, with limited space for character and plot development. In this piece, Patterson invites Shan Serafin to join him on a journey into he world of hit men. When Mike Ryan and his associate are given a hit, it could net a payout that allows them to hang up their guns and live an honourable life. They find themselves on the campus of Harvard University, plotting the takedown of the son of a Croatian mob boss. Weighing all the factors, Ryan gives the green light, but things go horrible backwards, forcing him to scramble and try to make sense of what’s going wrong. This spirals into a manhunt for the person who ordered the hit, something that will cause much bloodshed as the body count mounts. When things get personal, Ryan finds himself willing to risk it all to find answers he never thought important before. Racing around Boston, Mike Ryan will cross paths with some of the more ruthless men to get answers, risking life and limb with little regard for anyone. An interesting story that develops in short order, but is not as gripping as I would have liked. BookShot fans may like this one, though the collaboration is far from Patterson’s best work.

I find myself drawn to BookShots, more because they are quick to digest than their stellar writing or plot development. James Patterson can be hit or miss with them, as he tends to be with all his writing, leaving the reader unsure what to expect when they start. This was a strong mediocre piece, with some interesting character presentation and a somewhat plausible plot, but I had hoped for something more gripping, with the premise laid out before me. Mike Ryan has been in the business of killing people for over a decade and has it down to an art. He sketches out the kill, the escape, and the blow-back fairly well, developing a great plan while also promising his wife that he will make an honest man out of himself before long. When faced with this last kill, things go wrong and the reader can see how he handles the unknown, while rubbing elbows with mob men who have no heart when it comes to killing those who cross them. Other characters are peppered throughout the piece and they move the story in somewhat of a forward direction, though some of the grittiest characters lack the sharp edges one would expect. It could be the limited space or the need to limit the plot, but I was left wanting much more from many of these characters. The plot had possibilities, especially when dealing with the criminal underbelly, but there was an noticeable lack of grit and action, as Mike Ryan sought retribution and tried to make this final kill one that would mean something. Shan Serafin does well to complement the Patterson juggernaut, though I was not entirely sold on their collaborative effort.

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson and Serafin, for a decent output. I can see a lot of potential between you two, though I was not sold on the end product here.

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

When No One is Watching, by Joseph Hayes

Seven stars

Joseph Hayes puts forth an interesting premise in his novel, which sees two men—once best friends—take drastically different paths after a horrible night. After winning a significant legal case, Blair Van Howe and Danny Moran are celebrating together, allowing the champagne and anything else to flow freely. It is at this party that Van Howe divulges that he plans to announce a run for Congress the following morning. On the ride home, Blair sits behind the wheel, while Danny is barely able to stay conscious, both highly intoxicated. A near miss on the road turns fatal when a family swerves and slams into a tree, eventually killing the driver. Panicked and with Danny unconscious, Blair checks in on the victims before fleeing the scene, knowing full well that this will ruin any political ambitions. With a history of drunken stupor, Danny is the perfect scapegoat for the accident and is left to face charges. Blair announces his candidacy and is swept away by the political machine, while Danny faces ruin and is subsumed by the guilt of tearing a family apart. Danny accepts guilt for everything, choosing to turn his life around after serving jail time, even though some who were investigating are unsure of the truthfulness of the narrative. Meanwhile, Blair’s meteoric rise to fame continues until he has his eyes set on the White House. A sure winner, it is only a matter of time before ‘President Van Howe’ will be elected, though begins making noise about the accident and what may really have happened. Two men, one night, a brutal crime. One has served the punishment, but will the real criminal ever be brought to justice? Hayes leaves the reader wondering in this thriller that evolves over a decade. A decent quick read for those who like novels where all is known, it is just a matter of getting from A to B.

I have read a few of Hayes’ books over the last while and enjoyed them all. The characters push the story in some interesting directions, forcing the reader to live through their lives in order to get to the root of the plot. While Blair Van Howe and Danny Moran open the novel as the purported protagonists, it is Moran who takes the lead. The reader is able to see his spiral down after a single night of drinking, where rock bottom has cost him everything. Saved by the help of AA, Moran is able to put the pieces of his life together, though he never forgets the pain he caused one family. Still, he has shouldered the blame for it all, not thinking twice about his former best friend, Blair. Hayes creates a soft and sweet character here, perhaps the vessel that all things can be right if you find yourself and something on which to connect, in this case, AA. Meanwhile, Blair rides success from a run for Congress, a gubernatorial race, and then sets his eyes on the one place every politician dreams of finding themselves, the White House. However, as clean a life as he has been known to have, that one secret in his closet may be come out at the worst possible time. He seems detached from it all, ready to let others clean up the mess and hope for the best. His rise is literally handed to him over a number of pages, with no development, leaving the reader cheated of what could and should have been wonderful development. Others grace the pages of this book and provide the reader with a decent push forward, though there is nothing that will prepare them for the final handful of chapters in the book, when things get real, while still lacking the needed grit with the fodder Hayes has in waiting. The novel has a great premise and decent delivery, but there was so much time spend on Danny ‘finding himself’ and so little on developing the Blair rise to power, something was missing, as if the political aspect was tacked-on later to give it more pizzazz, but was not polished properly. If it had to be done in a single book, there needed to be more meat throughout, as this one seemed to meander for a bit, push forward a number of years, and then slowly develop some grit with too few chapters to really make sense of it all. Hayes does well, but it lacked the knockout I know he can deliver. A decent read for a beach day or when the rains keep the curious reader inside.

Kudos, Mr. Hayes, for a great novel. It needed just a little more teeth to make this novel sensation.

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

The Ripper Secret, by James Becker

Seven stars

Popular author James Becker (one of his many pseudonyms) brings readers an interesting take on the Jack the Ripper murders, injecting his own speculation into this piece of fiction. While traveling through Jerusalem in 1870, Charles Warren comes upon a spectacular find that will surely flourish in the right company. However, this menorah is anything but an innocent artefact, particularly when another man, Alexei Pedachenko, had hoped to take it for himself. Fast-forward to the streets of London in 1888, where Pedachenko has been able to catch up to Warren, who is now a commissioner with the Metropolitan Police. Rather than simply ask for the menorah, Pedachenko wishes to create havoc for the man who caused him such distress. After reading about the murder of a prostitute on the streets of Whitechapel, Pedachenko devises a plan that will not only get him the sacred menorah, but also push Warren out of his job. While penning notes to Warren under an alias, Pedachenko shows that he is serious, by killing women in the dead of night and leaving mocking notes. Warren is aware what is going on, but refuses o budge. As the spring turns to summer, the bodies continue and Warren is racked with guilt, but still unable to find it within himself to cede the treasured find. Pedachenko is happy to let the blood flow under the guise of Jack the Ripper, masking his crimes with all sorts of errant clues, all in the hopes of pushing Warren to the brink. It will be a game of cat and mouse, though Pedachenko shows no hint at ending his spree and Warren must decide how to retaliate. An interesting bit of fiction, which allows Becker to entertain rather than solely educate. Those who want a quick read may enjoy this book for its entertainment value.

Unsolved crimes are always fun to think about and James Becker has added a little fuel to the fire. While neither purporting to have evidence about Jack the Ripper, nor wanting to discount much of the history that has been created, Becker develops this piece of fiction to suit his own needs and entertain the reader in equal measure. Charles Warren is a decent character, a man whose stubbornness and cowardice fuel a string of murders throughout 1888. While he watches London go mad with worry, he sits on the one thing that could stop the killings, waiting this murderer out while investigating through official channels. Alexei Pedachenko is a much more interesting character, seemingly fuelled by the desire for a sacred item and yet turning to murder to get it for himself. Both men offer an interesting push and pull, keeping the story moving without being all that sensational in their own right. The story was decent and full of what one presumes are factual bits of information about the killings. Becker has done well to educate the reader as they make their way through the story. That being said, I was a little put off that the idea of the Jack the Ripper murders surrounded a menorah and that revenge was the sole rationale behind it all, though I suppose stranger things have come to pass when it comes to motives. While surely not one of Becker’s stronger novels, it was a quick read and allowed me to fill some time between more stimulating undertakings.

Kudos, Mr. Becker, for a decent book that educates and entertains. I may have to look into another of your ‘alternate history’ stories, though might wait a bit before getting too committed to that idea.

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

Death in Shanghai-La, by Yigal Zur

Seven stars

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

Approached by Yigal Zur to read this thriller, I jumped at the opportunity to expand my horizons. Set in both Israel and India, the story encompasses both cultures intensely, giving the reader a literary smorgasbord on which to feast. Dotan Naor enjoys life in Israel, running a somewhat profitable business returning individuals who have been displaced against their will. When he is approached by a long-time friend, Naor agrees to help, though his latest target is less than eager to make the journey back from India. As the story progresses, Naor returns from India, though he’s hit a snag when the target is incarcerated for trying to traffic drugs. Just as he gets settled, Naor is informed that a friend has been found in India, decapitated at the hands of a band of terrorists. It would seem that there are a few cases of Israelis being killed by this roving group of rogues. As emotionally attached as Dotan Noar feels, he refuses to return to India—a place about which he knows a great deal—happy to have two feet planted on Israeli soil. However, the story has been garnering a great deal of press and Naor is convinced to travel across the world to get answers. Armed with his journalist, Naor travels to the rural part of the country, crossing into the contested zone between India and Pakistan. Seeking answers, Naor finds himself in Kashmir, trying to understand the struggles and what might have fuelled a ferocious attack on his friend. Working through the cultural differences in a far-away land, Dotan Naor will try to bring answers home without becoming an Israeli statistic, if he can help it. An interesting thriller that seeks to open the reader’s mind, Yigal Zur has done a decent job. While this novel did not resonate fully with me, I can see the allure for others.

I always enjoy opening my mind to new authors and cultures, particularly when the story pulls me in from the outset. While I cannot say I am fully sold, the thrills were high and the banter such that many will surely find much to enjoy in Zur’s work. Dotan Naor proves to be an interesting character, whose experiences helping those in need shapes both his personality and development as a character. The reader will be able to find something of interest as they seek to better understand this man in both his natural and adopted environs. The other characters that surround him prop Naor up and fleshes out the nuances in his character. The story proves decent, serving to introduce the reader to the wonders of India, as well as the intricacies of the local political situation. Zur draws on both the caste situation in India and the religious clashes with Pakistan’s large Muslim population, both of which help to add additional flavour to the narrative. The thrills occur throughout, with a murder investigation in full swing. The reader is pulled into the middle of it all with this high-impact story. I did find myself less than fully enthralled, but it could just be me having an off day. I suspect that others will enjoy this novel, brief and full of action, even if I had my own difficulties.

Kudos, Mr. Zur, for this interesting novel that spans two very different cultures.

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

Crashing Heat (Nikki Heat #10), by Richard Castle

Seven stars

In the latest instalment of the Nikki Heat series, Richard Castle continues to weave interesting tales about his two protagonists, while peppering the narrative with an entertaining mystery. Still enjoying married life, NYPD Captain Nikki Heat and Jameson Rook are at an awards ceremony, though they itch to find a private place to ‘express their love’. After Rook wins another award for his gritty journalism, he and Heat must come to terms with the fact that he will be leaving for upstate New York on a teaching assignment for a semester. Before they can lament this, burgeoning journalism student Chloe Masterson comes to express excitement that he will be one of her academic and journalistic mentors in the coming weeks. Loving the attention, Rook promises to touch base with her while he is there, glad to have a fan hanging on his every word. After Heat and her team get a case, Rook agrees to stay in touch, making his way out of town. Heat is surprised to hear from him so soon afterwards, though it is anything but good news. Rook appears to have come into contact with local law enforcement, after young Chloe’s naked body showed up in his bed, murdered. Heat drops everything and heads to help her husband, not asking the obvious question that burns in her mind. When Heat arrives at the local precinct, there is quite the surprise awaiting her, one that will stretch the understanding she and Rook have with one another. Bound and determined to clear Rook’s name, Heat begins working with the locals to uncover what Chloe Masterson may have been investigating and how Rook could possibly be involved. In a case that will take Rook back to his student days, Heat must find a way to explain what’s happened to the victim and exonerate her husband, while also trying to see if their relationship is as strong as she thought. Sometimes the greatest secrets reveal much about a person, as Rook and Chloe know all too well. Corny at times in its delivery, this is a decent addition to the Heat series, one Castle has been building over the last number of years. Recommended for those who want a quick read in the mystery genre, as well as fans of the series.

There is the old adage that one should never compare books to their cinematic interpretations. The same can be said about books and their respective television shows. I was a fan of the Castle program when it aired, waiting for a new book to drop each season to see how it tied into the storyline. However, I became a little startled about just how corny and cheesy the books became, particularly as the love interests of the books’ protagonists paralleled those on the show. Stepping back, I can see that these books are pure entertainment and that tying myself up in knots can only serve to annoy me, rather than allow me to fully enjoy what is going on. Nikki Heat has climbed the NYPD ladder for the past number of books, having secured a spot as captain. Her ascent has been well documented and based on courage and merit, something that she brings to work on a daily basis. Her abilities are great, though she could not do it without the help of her author sidekick and husband, Jameson Rook. Turning to the affable and punny Rook, there is something about his worldliness that helps solve cases, though he is able to grate on the reader’s nerves without trying. Rook seeks to show just how in touch he is with things, even when he is the one in the hot seat. The handful of other regulars almost take a backseat in this one, particularly because the central case is out of NYC. Still, Castle peppers the story with some interesting one-offs, none more than someone from Heat’s long-ago past. The reader may enjoy some of the banter that ensues, though it barely covers some of the cheesy dialogue that serves to help ensure one’s eyes are still able to roll upwards. The idea for the book was decent, offering something for the reader to enjoy, though the stories do not lend themselves to being blockbusters. A good read, as long as the reader knows what they are getting themselves into. Perfect for beach or travel reading, with just a touch of audible sighing.

Kudos, Mr. Castle, for a great addition to your series. It served the purpose I hoped it would and for that I am ever grateful.

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

The Vatican’s Last Secret, by Francis Joseph Smith

Six stars

With this historical thriller, Francis Joseph Smith pulls the reader into the middle of a dramatic plot that melds the Nazis with key figures within the Vatican during the waning days of the Second World War. With the end of the War all but done, a group of key Nazis load up as much of their riches as possible. Travelling off the Allies’ radar, a long procession of train cars seek to make it to safety, with the riches out of the hands of the victors. When the Allies catch up to the cache, some of it is missing and the presumptive claim is that the Vatican is holding onto it, something the Holy See denies, but never substantiates. Moving to the present day, an elderly former Nazi tells his son of another hidden cache that sits in rural Germany and should be collected before others note its whereabouts. Soon thereafter, two men begin the trek to find it, while higher-ups in the Vatican also seek to get their hands on the riches, while remaining coy about their interest. In a story that flashes back to wartime Europe, the narrative shows that someone within the Vatican wants to silence any chance of a smear campaign, while also amassing additional riches for its own coffers. Blood shed at the hand of protecting the Holy See may be fully justified by some, but the secrets being protected could never be publicly understood or accepted. The race is on to find this last collection of riches and to uncover the Vatican’s darkest secret tied to the Second World War. An interesting piece with a strong premise, but whose momentum dwindled at times. Those who like thrillers and can handle highly tangential storylines, this book may be for you.

The cover and premise of the book caught me from the outset, though I will admit that the deeper I got into the book, the less enthralled I became. There are many subplots to keep the narrative moving forward, though they get muddled and diluted with all the action. In a story that is so long, one must hope the author can keep building the momentum, rather than have it inch along that the aforementioned train cars full of riches. The variety of characters add some flavour to the story, though there was an obvious need for a tighter connection between reader and characters on the page, which may have helped propel the story forward. The historical premise was quite interesting, particularly the race to uncover (or cover-up) the truth about the riches and the Vatican’s connection, but things just lasted too long. Smith does well to splice in current and flashback chapters, which substantiate the narrative foundation, but I became lost after a time and simply sought a resolution. What could have been a stellar thriller that left readers wondering just how much Vatican officials would deny turned a little lugubrious and needed a kick in the literary posterior. Then again, maybe it’s just me… but other reviews will shed light on it.

Kudos, Mr. Smith, for a valiant effort. I wonder if the story could/should have been split into a duology or trilogy… or editors done better work tightening it up. Premise was there and I could surely see potential.

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

Mind Games, by William Deverell

Seven stars

Returning to another William Deverell novel early in my 2019 Reading Challenge, I turned to one that has been collecting virtual dust for a while. Deverell’s novels can be hit or miss, depending on the reader’s engagement with the characters and story. In this piece, Dr. Timothy Dare finds himself visiting fellow psychiatrist Dr. Allison Epstein, filled with a number of issues that could use the detached analysis of an established therapist. Dare brings these issues to the therapeutic couch, including an impending hearing on professional conduct, a patient who is likely a serial killer, and Dare’s own relationship struggles. Throughout the novel, Epstein opens each chapter with some session notes and excerpts from the conversation before the narrative switches to Dare recounting, in detail, the happenings that fuel the discussion. The reader can see the ongoing struggles that Dare has with his fiancée and how an attractive patient plays on this, soon pushing him to the brink and turning a spurned seduction of her therapist into Dare having used his power to persuade her into a tryst. At the same time, Dare and Epstein appear to be forging a platonic bond, one that could have troubling fallout the further things spin out of control for the beleaguered Dr. Dare. As the intensity ramps up, the reader is subjected to many troubling revelations in a story whose ending builds in intensity. Deverell does well with this piece, whose mind games are plentiful, for reader and character alike!

I have come to realise that when I begin something by William Deverell, I am never sure where it will take me, or if I will find myself committed to the cause. This novel steers away from legal matters, for the most part, keeping those readers who revel in Deverell’s masterful presentation of Canadian law from becoming too excited. Rather, focus remains with Drs. Dare and Epstein, both sifting through the detritus of the former’s life choices. Dare bears all and shows the writer that his life is anything but smooth sailing, learning much in therapy as he tries to glue the pieces back together. Epstein appears to be the bystander, forced to sit through her patient’s narcissism as he deflects many of his poor life choices. Some of the other characters who grace the pages serve as narrative vessels to push the story along, much needed in this psychological piece that has some coming of age alongside self-discovery. Deverell does well trying to weave a patchwork of ideas and vignettes together to create a cohesive novel, though I do wish it had been one where the courtroom was the primary setting, not a therapist’s office. Still, as with all Deverell books, the name of the game is thinking and piecing it all nicely together.

Kudos, Mr. Deverell, for your hard work and dedication to the cause. I do enjoy novels that force me to think a little, though the mind games here may have been a bit much so early in the reading year.

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

High Crimes, by William Deverell

Seven stars

With 2018 coming to a close, I chose to try one final William Deverell novel. With his vast knowledge of the Canadian legal system and experience with clients involved in many criminal activities, Deverell brings a unique realism to his writing, though asserts that it is all fiction. In this piece, the story opens in a Newfoundland courtroom, where a wily lawyer has been able to turn the tables and help his client elude conviction. Thereafter, there are whispers by drug trafficking kingpin Peter Kerrivan of a plan to bring a new and highly potent form of marijuana into Canada, directly under the noses of both local and American officials. Gathering a small group of diligent workers, Kerrivan is able to facilitate a trip to Columbia to check out the product, literally tons of ‘female bud’ marijuana. From there, it will have to makes its way up the coast and back through Newfoundland, where distribution is sure to garner hundreds of millions of dollars, should all go right. However, RCMP and DEA officials have been tipped off, but must play their cards right, in order to ensure the law is on their side when they intercept the drugs before arriving in Newfoundland. If that were not enough, lawyers await to tie government officials in knots and possibly keep anyone involved out of prison. It’s an adventure on the high seas that no one could have predicted. Deverell does well to keep the reader hooked throughout this novel, which finds new and exciting ways to tell a story of dealing, trafficking, and using in 1980s North America. Some who are familiar and enjoy Deverell’s writing may enjoy this one, though it is written in his highly dense style, which is sure not to appeal to all readers.

As Canada has recently legalised cannabis use by its citizens, there are some interesting aspects to this novel that make it a worthwhile read. However, very little of Deverell’s premise involves personal use of the product, but rather massive shipments through numerous borders, all while eluding authorities during America’s War on Drugs. Deverell fills the pages with information, drug-use, and legal meanderings to give the reader interesting angles on the entire business of the drug trade. While there could surely be called a few protagonists, many of the key players melded together for me, leaving a general group of ‘drug runners’ who seek to make their millions by taking a sizeable gamble. These include one fellow whose personally recorded journal is placed within the pages of various chapters. The story is strong and its ideas are quite interesting. That said, I am not sure I was ready for as dense a read as Deverell offered, as I was sifting through the narrative and trying to extract precisely what themes were being presented. However, the story flowed well and kept my attention, educating and entertaining me in equal measure. While not my favourite piece, I am happy to have given Deverell another chance to impress me in the final days of this year!

Kudos, Mr. Deverell, for another interesting novel. I love how you make me think while I read, even if my brain is not always able to compute what you want the reader to understand in short order.

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