True Fiction (Ian Ludlow Thrillers #1), by Lee Goldberg

Six stars

Needing a quick read, I turned to this series debut by Lee Goldberg, about which I have heard many good things. When an airplane crashes in Hawaii not long after take-off, the news outlets begin streaming coverage and countless people gasp in horror. However, thriller writer Ian Ludlow is not one of them. Hiding in his Seattle hotel while on a book tour, Ludlow knows that with this event, his life is in imminent danger. Coaxed out of hiding by his author escort, Margo French, Ludlow tells of how the CIA is trying to kill him after an authors’ retreat a few years before. At this event, Ludlow shared a potential plot idea that seems to have been replicated down to the smallest detail. Little does Ludlow know, it is not the CIA, per se, but Blackthorn Securities that has their eye on him and is responsible for the crash. Now it is up to Ludlow, with Margo by his side, to dodge Blackthorn as they zero-in on his location. What started as a fearful writer running for his life has become a high-stakes game of cat and mouse, with only one possible outcome. Fast-paced and with little time to synthesise the info, the reader is taken on this adventure as Goldberg tosses twists at every possible instance. Those who need a good beach read need look no further than Lee Goldberg’s new series.

This is my first time reading anything by Lee Goldberg, though it would seem he is well-established. He has a great ability to portray the ‘author writing about an author’ theme and not make it come across as corny, though does utilise the ‘cat and mouse’ thriller recipe well, injecting a little cheesiness when needed. Ian Ludlow (apparently Goldberg’s nom de plume?) is an interesting character, established in his writing capabilities yet always looking to stay relevant. His slightly geeky side mixes well with the fear of being caught by the giant bully and the story turns into his using some of the resources he has been able to cobble together as a writer over the years. The story progresses as he gains some courage, but the reader must also remember that some of the stereotypical ‘bad ass geek’ is on display here. Hokey at times, Ludlow does come across as somewhat enjoyable and I did find myself laughing while shaking my head on more than a single occasion. Margo French proves to be a nice counterbalance for Ludlow, as she has somehow been pulled into the middle of this adventure without wanting to be there. A dog-walker and amateur singer, French brings the sass and sarcasm to this party without becoming the helpless femme fatale. A handful of secondary characters flesh-out the wonders of this thriller novel, keeping the story edgy and propelling it towards what is sure to be a bloody conclusion. The story was by no means stellar, but it proved entertaining, which seems to be Goldberg’s goal, as he has written much for television and knows how to keep the audience enthralled. I’ll surely keep my eyes open for more of his work, though cannot rave about how wonderful I found the book or how it is likely some of the best reading I have done all year. Still, if you need something for a trip or lounging by the pool, Goldberg has just what you might want.

Kudos, Mr. Goldberg, for an interesting introduction to the series. I admit, I am intrigued and will see what else you have to offer.

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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Texas Ranger, by James Patterson and Aaron Bourelle

Six stars

In another of his endless collaborations, James Patterson has called on Aaron Bourelle to work alongside him on this standalone novel. Part murder mystery, part protagonist self-discovery, this piece takes the reader down to the heart of Texas. Rory Yates is part of the elite Texas Rangers, one of only two hundred in the entire state. Best known for his quick draw capabilities, Yates has found himself in a few situations of shooting first and asking questions later. After one such event, he takes a call from his ex-wife, Anne, who’s been getting creepy messages and items left on her property. Yates makes his way across the state to check on her, only to find her dead body. Yates is soon cleared as a suspect, but has an idea who might be responsible and pushes the local police to investigate. While he may be a Ranger, this is one case that Rory Yates will not be welcome to join, officially. Back in his hometown and trying to chase down leads, Yates reconnects with his family and some of his former sweethearts, all of whom help stir up scores of emotions and memories from his time as a child and being married to Anne. With a killer on the loose, Yates cannot let his past cloud the present, even if it means turning down new love, or rekindling a past flame. When another person close to Yates turn up dead, stalked in the same manner, Yates is sure the killer has him in the crosshairs and will do whatever it takes, legal or not, to end this. Patterson and Bourelle have an interesting one-off novel here that seeks to pull the reader in from the outset. Perfect for those who have travel plans or need some beach reading. Patterson collaborations always fill a gap between substantive reads and this one is decent enough to recommend without hesitation.

I have come to realise that while many see the name James Patterson and flock to the book, I tend to give it a second thought, having been on the rollercoaster ride that is the Patterson Express. One can never know what to expect, particularly with one-off novels. That said, Bourelle has made a name for himself with some stronger collaborative efforts—Patterson’s BookShots—and so I trust something of a higher caliber when I see their joint efforts. This story worked well and kept me reading, which says a lot when it comes to the massive pile of books I have to read. Rory Yates is an interesting protagonist, by no means unique, but the spin put on this rough exterior cop is one that kept me intrigued throughout. I was not sure how Patterson and Bourelle might have approached him, but they did well to offer a hard-nosed man who demands respect with a soft side when it comes to those he loves. Yates has that ‘nothing will stop me’ mentality, perfect for a stubborn cop, though does not reek of ‘redneck traditionalism’, should such a stereotype deserve a formal label. The handful of other characters who influence Yates’ progress in the novel serve to eke out interesting tidbits about the protagonist and his backstory without taking the reader down too many rabbit holes and losing momentum throughout the narrative. The story is surely interesting, as it gives the reader a glimpse into how a cop might handle a murder investigation of someone close to them, though keeps a unique angle as the narrative progresses by tossing sub-plots related to self-discovery throughout. With little time to waste, the authors push forward and force the reader to juggle both types of storyline simultaneously. Using Patterson’s trademark short chapters full of cliffhangers, the story never has a chance to slow and the resolution comes crashing through the gates in the closing pages, with that lingering wonder throughout who might be responsible. My rating has nothing to do with the quality of the book, but more that I want to be blown out of the water, as Patterson has been known to do on the rare occasion. A decent story, but I would not offer up a ‘stellar’ label at this point.

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson and Bourelle, for your ongoing collaborative work. I can see wonderful things within these pages and hope you’ll find more time to write in the coming months and years.

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

Private Princess (Private #14), by James Patterson and Rees Jones

Seven stars

James Patterson has returned for another collaborative effort with Rees Jones to add to the ever-expanding Private series. This novel, like many of the others, takes readers around the world and into a high-stakes game of sleuthing and action, with an international twist. Jack Morgan, head of Private, the international investigation service, is back in London. This trip is anything but a chance to sightsee or make one of his random check-ins with the local offices, for he has been summoned by Princess Caroline, third in line for the British Throne. After being hurriedly whisked off to her residence, Morgan meets with the royal, who explains that a dear friend of hers has gone missing, a woman with a wild streak and great tabloid fodder. Never one to turn down a challenge, Morgan begins his investigation, sure there is more to the story than the princess is willing to tell. While doing so, Morgan engages with the head of Private: London, Peter Knight. It would seem Knight is on a case to explore an apparent suicide of a well-to-do gentleman whose daughter wants to keep scandal from the tabloids. When Knight and Morgan compare notes, they realise that there is more to each of their cases than meets the eye. Joining efforts, some semblance of closure can be found, but there remains an overarching mystery whose narrative remains a leaden weight for both men and their cases. Morgan’s trip across the Pond has also allowed him to attempt a revisiting of an old flame, though time has all but extinguished those possibilities. When an old foe from a past U.K. case resurfaces with deadly intentions, Morgan cannot simply leave. He is invested and soon has malice pulsing through his veins. Jack Morgan and the entire Private: London enterprise are on this new mission, refusing to back off until all is right again. Trouble is, Jack Morgan’s luck may have finally run its course. An interesting addition to the series, returning to a British locale. Jones and Patterson spin a decent tale, sure to be of interest to those seeking a beach or travel read, but also worthy of those who have followed Private through its long series run.

Having long been a fan of Patterson and followed this Private series over the years, I can say with some confidence, that this was a decent addition to the series. Patterson and Jones have returned to a familiar spot, using characters seen before, and extrapolating on some of the plots left to dangle during a previous novel and short story. Jack Morgan, the ever-present character that finds himself in all Private-based stories surely plays more of a central role here, offering the reader a further glimpse into his past and some of the grit that makes him a worthy addition to each series piece. More focus on the likes of Peter Knight and some of the other local Private folks is also refreshing for the series fan, as some will be able to pull on past skirmishes and character development. The story is by no means phenomenal, but it follows a decent Private layout, playing out with at least two cases running parallel and eventually merging. Morgan’s personal story here proves to be a third plot, though it, too, seems to have some ties to the early cases, something the attentive reader will notice. While I cannot say Private is one of Patterson’s premier series, it is one that can be enjoyed if read independently or as an entire collection. Rees Jones should be applauded for helping keep the story on task and relevant, as well as stronger than some of the past pieces in this series. I’ll surely keep my eyes peeled for more when they are released.

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson and Jones, for a great effort. While I cannot admit to being mesmerised, I enjoy this lighter reading material.

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

12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, by Jordan B. Peterson

Seven stars

When asked if I would take a leap of faith (pun evident later in review) and read Jordan B. Peterson’s book, I was slightly hesitant. Surely, I could take something away from this and learn how to incorporate it all into my daily life. If not, I would be able to drum up some interesting discussions with people about the content. Peterson argues effectively that life has become chaotic for most people, as he has witnessed in his profession as a clinical psychologist. His analysis of this chaos can, and should, be rectified by better understanding twelve rules that can assist the wayward person to find their way and live a more productive and less erratic life. While I choose not to delve into all twelve, some interesting insights did emerge as I made my way through this piece, including that humans are not alone in their struggles, nor are their reactions unique. Early in the tome, Peterson makes strong parallels between human inter-personal relationships and those of lobsters. Making some fundamental ties to the two, Peterson seeks to convince the reader that there are strong correlations that cannot be dismissed, simply because the two groups seem so vastly different. From there, the narrative takes an interesting tangent, exploring the lack of self-care that people have, whereby they are more concerned with the health of pets than with themselves, at times. His argument seems to be that it is essential to look inward and fix that which is reflected in the mirror before trying to ‘save the world’. The burden of the world’s issues is chaotic and can be too much to handle, but making that one change—the self change—can bring stability. Core tenets such as listening to what others have to say and trying not to compare one’s self to everyone else seem to fill much of the narrative, as Peterson seeks to push the idea of the inner view to betterment, rather than one of comparison. No one is entirely perfect, so it is a waste to try modelling a life based on the outward appearance of others, be it their physical display or attributes. Rather, taking the time to stop and reflect will lead the reader to acquire the needed tools to betterment. These twelve rules do seem well-grounded and based on a number of years of experience that Peterson has garnered, through study and interactions with patients, and so the reader need not think this is a twelve-rule modern stone tablet set of commands. Those who enjoy learning and analysis of behaviour may enjoy this one. I found some tidbits highly thought-provoking, but I am not yet sure if I will return to take more detailed notes for personal betterment.

I will be the first to admit that I am not one for self-help books or those that seek to point out flaws with a recipe for success. I suppose that is the primary reason I chose this book for the Equinox Book Challenge, to push myself out of a comfort zone and face some of the raw aspects of my being. While I was interested in most of what Peterson had to say, I found some of it troubling, especially if the message was meant to go out to the general public. While I will admit that the West is strongly a Judeo-Christian society, particularly the general rules and moral pathways laid out, it is an ever-evolving society that cannot be boxed in. While done effectively, Peterson used numerous biblical passages and stories to assert his points, both the flaws that have been around for centuries and the solutions that have been followed when listening to God. At no point did I feel that Peterson sought the reader to ‘find Christ and be saved’, but such ongoing reference to these stories boxes the reader into knowing them before being able to make the correlations. Peterson does explain the stories and then explores how God was trying to communicate something to the mortal individuals, but there can be a sense of inculcation, even if not intended. To reach out to the largest cross-section, removing the faith-based narrative may help. Secondly, I would venture to say that this piece straddles the fence between academic and useful for thought-provoking argument, rather than helpful to the masses who might need it. While the core tenets are laid out in the rules and a brief description of them, the discussion is quite detailed and thorough, perhaps too much to truly get the meat out of the piece. Peterson knows his stuff and has much to say on the topics, but perhaps too much to effectively leave the reader with something to take away. Biblical reference, personal experience, historical context. They all occur within each discussion of the different rules, but it is traversing the entire narrative to find the thread of discussion that can leave the reader wondering what they just read and where this all began. I admit that I enjoyed the meandering discussion and numerous insightful viewpoints, but if the premise of the book is to find twelve keys to successfully slaying the chaos dragon, it may be best not to meander along the countryside and forget the task at hand. Soldiers in the battle need clear rules of engagement. That being said, perhaps people enjoy the discussion and as I admit to not being keen on this genre, I am speaking for myself alone. Whether I enjoyed the content, the method of delivery, or even the message, Peterson does craft an effective book and keeps the reader engaged throughout. Canadian content is always nice to see and he personalises the journey, rather than speaking from an ivory tower down to the lowly masses. I can applaud him for that and am pleased to see that type narrative flowed so well and seemed to present a clear understanding of the topic at hand.

Kudos, Mr. Peterson, for your helpful insights into the world of removing chaos. I’ll keep the book for future reference and be sure to speak to others about it.

This book fulfils Topic #5: First and Last? in the Equinox #3 Reading Challenge.

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

Hangman (Detective William Fawkes #2), by Daniel Cole

Seven stars

Daniel Cole is back to continue his thriller series that had readers gasping at the cliffhanger ending. Riding the wave of his debut success, Cole presents this follow-up that appears to lack the intensity and grit of DS William Fawkes’ initial case. With Fawkes away and on the lam, all eyes turn to newly-promoted Detective Chief Inspector Emily Baxter. While the Ragdoll killer is safely locked away, the case lingers and everyone remains on edge. When a call come in from New York City, where a body identified as ‘William Fawkes’ has been found, Baxter agrees to travel and investigate this oddity. Before she makes it out of the country, she visits Belmarsh once more to see the Ragdoll, only to be trapped in the middle of an event that leaves him dead and Baxter significantly spooked. Upon her arrival in NYC, DCI Baxter liaises with some of the local and federal authorities as more murder scenes emerge, victims bearing ‘puppet’ and ‘bait’ inscriptions on the body. Might there be a connection to Ragdoll that’s crossed the Atlantic? Baxter is equally baffled when news from the Met reaches her that other killings of a similar style have been taking place in the UK. How can all these killers be connected without a clear threat to bind them? As Baxter continues to investigate, she follows a lead that turns the case on its head, but media outlets have chosen to broadcast it before it can be properly analysed. Might there be a central leader who has ordered these murders, as odd and unrelated as they seem? Witnesses have recounted that the killers seem almost detached from the events, leading many to wonder about some form of mind control. Religious symbolism and the talk of cultish behaviour begin to flood Baxter’s investigation, forcing her to come to terms with the fact that this might be more than just tracking down a killer, but someone who holds a handful of strings and can make followers dance on command. Cole surely has devised an interesting way to ‘string along’ the reader, though to substance of the story is not as strong as I would have hoped. Fans of the debut will likely want to take the plunge, if only to discover what Cole has planned, but all the hype this book has received is lost on me.

It is disappointing to find a writer dedicate so much of their time to a debut that skyrockets, only to find the follow-up limp along. I was captivated by Cole’s first piece and could not wait to get my hands on this one (which had been getting some great reviews), but found it fell short of the mark. The story had potential, as did the characters, but delivery of both seems to have been rushed or not cultivated enough to pique my interest. With DS Fawkes gone (spoiler alert?), the narrative pulls DCI Emily Baxter into the spotlight. She has strong ties to Fawkes, but is also trying to make a name for herself in the Met, where women are still rapping on the glass ceiling. Her energetic attitude and interest in getting dirt under her nails is unequally balanced by her desire to fill shoes that do not fit. I found myself constantly trying to like Baxter as a character and investigator, but nothing stuck for me, either in her personal or professional life. This is unfortunate, as the protagonist is the one who leads the reader along through the case at hand. A smattering of other characters on both sides of the ledger also lacked the complexity that I felt this book needed, especially with the set of crimes being offered up to the reader. I needed to feel angst and confusion as well as determination to let nothing stop justice from making its mark. Instead, I felt things kept circling the drain, hoping to find some action or sicko moment that would spring the narrative to life. Cole had all the ingredients for success, but the mix did not work for me. Others will surely agree and I can defer to them. The story had much possibility, especially utilising two venues, but fell flat and left me wanting more and needing to feel a stronger connection. Even the central mastermind became beige, leaving me wishing I had known this before rushing to seek enjoyment with this second novel. Perhaps I needed to let Ragdoll ferment before rushing into this one, but whatever it was, this did not work and I am sorry. A third novel in the series is surely a while off, so I will have time to gather my thoughts before then.

Kudos, Mr. Cole, for attempting to keep things running effectively. If you had to have a less impactful novel, thankfully it was this second, as your debut is the net that will catch you many fans. As I know your potential, I’lol likely come back for another read and hope for better things.

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

Wave of Terror, by Jon Jefferson

Seven stars

Jon Jefferson has created this intriguing science-based thriller that stirs up some interesting possibilities for 21st century terrorism. While completing some research on the Canary Islands, astronomer Megan O’Malley is angered to see that her telescope images are blurry and the placement of the instrument is constantly bumped out of place. However, when she places some calls, she is baffled to learn that there are not anomalies with the telescope and no seismographic documentation to explain any earth tremors, the usual suspects for such erroneous images. Megan is sure of what she’s seen, the photos acting as concrete documentation that something’s happened, no matter how minute. Digging a little deeper and running some of her own tests, Megan soon learns that the official seismic information has been altered online, helping to hide the actual tremors, but from what? Discussing these findings with a British academic, Megan learns that there has been chatter about some tsunami-like waves bound for the Eastern Seaboard of the United States. Security experts have downplayed this as hogwash, as there is nothing to suggest that there are any seismic shifts that could bring this about. FBI Special Agent Christopher ‘Chip’ Dawtry seems to feel that there is more to Megan’s story than many will admit and begins to follow the trail, even when he is ordered not to give it any credence. Tracking her down and coming to offer his assistance, Chip works with Megan to reveal the truth before they can be targeted for extermination. As they learn just how deep the plot runs, Chip and Megan must convince the authorities before the seismic technology creates an act of terror that would make September 2001 seem like a warm-up act. Jefferson does a decent job with this End of Days thriller, mixing the right amount of science to keep the reader wondering about how plausible this might be in the coming years. Those seeking a lighter fare in their reading may enjoy this piece.

I have read a number of Jon Jefferson novels, though he was always collaborating with William Bass in the Bone Field series (with their great ‘Jefferson Bass’ moniker). The story proved to be entertaining and the premise quite engaging at a time when terrorism has become stale and any mention of ISIS or Al-Qaeda has many readers walking away. Jefferson creates quite an interesting character in Megan O’Malley, whose passion for the skies is matched by her inability to get her point across in social situations. Megan remains the academic damsel in distress, unable to defend herself effectively when the guns and blades come out. She comes across as passionate, even though the reader may find it hard to connect to her throughout the narrative. Equally complicated is Chip Dawtry, who has a dedication to his work and a passion for security that clouds his ability to be as open and engaging as the reader may like. Sticking the two together, and peppering many other secondary characters, makes for an interesting story that keeps a decent level of energy throughout. The premise of the story is decent, a new form of terrorism hidden within scientific occurrences, as well as some developing organisations to strike against the Americans, though I felt that the overall piece failed to grip me to the extent that I had hoped. The story had some decent foundations, though it seemed only to skim the surface when it came to creating a thriller sensation. The science is strong but the narrative needed more to push things into full-fledged panic mode. Perhaps I am trying to compare Jefferson’s solo work against his collaborations, which I enjoy tremendously. Jefferson’s past work with Bass is surely a stronger effort, though I am sure this is only an anomaly and there is more to come in the next novel. Catastrophic thrillers do tend to have a hard time not becoming too cheesy in their delivery.

Kudos, Mr. Jefferson, for a valiant effort on your own. I like what you have and hope you’ll be able to sculpt something even better next time around.

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

The Fairy-Tale Detectives (The Sisters Grimm #1), by Michael Buckley

Seven stars

Needing something a little shorter to fit into my reading schedule, I turned to this series debut by Michael Buckley, which takes readers behind the scenes and into the stories of the Brothers Grimm. Sabrina and Daphne Grimm have been shipped off from one foster home to another for many years. What they’re told that their paternal grandmother has agreed to take care of them, though Sabrina becomes very dubious, having heard that the woman died many years ago. However, after meeting the slightly eccentric woman and seeing family photographs, the girls are more apt to believe these tall tales. The transition from NYC to Ferryport Landing is a shock, though not as much as the truth behind their ancestry. Grimms have long been around to ensure that Everafters are protected, but also abide by all the rules, keeping humans from locking them away. That being said, the form of protection offered is isolating them in their current township and not permitting any further exploration. Surely a factor in all the resentment. Grandma Grimm explained further that she is a form of detective, working to puzzle together some of the odd happenings around Ferryport Landing while also battling the sinister ways of Mayor Charming, once an English prince and now a power-hungry fool. With Sabrina and Daphne on board to help, they come across a house that’s been flattened by what one can only presume is a large boot, beanstalk leaves surrounding the property. The girls watch their grandmother in action as she opens up the investigation and begins positing what might have happened. However, as luck would have it, a giant returns to the scene—large boot and all—where he scoops up Grandmother Grimm, leaving the girls in a sense of panic. A new mystery on their hands—how to retrieve their grandmother—the girls seek the assistance of other Everafters, while dodging some of the more nefarious characters who cross their paths. One can only hope that this will have a happy ending for all. Buckley uses some strong fairytale references, sure to entertain the young adult or teen reader, surely the target audience for this book.

Sometimes you need a reading break, but are not fully prepared to turn to the newspaper funny pages. In those cases (or when I need something shorter), I turn to YA books, where I can usually suspend my belief system and yet still be entertained. Buckley provides that here with this first novel in what looks to be a fairly developed series all about the Sisters Grimm and their detective capabilities. Mixing the story of two humans in a community full of Everafters (read: characters from fairytales), Buckley is able not only to provide the reader with some semblance of a connection to previous well-known stories, but also twist the character to suit the story, such as the sheriff who was once one of the three pigs but has since become a corrupted and hoofed authority figure. Buckley seeks not to create fully believed scenarios, but at least entertain with the characters who pepper the pages of this story. The plot is decent for what it is and I was impressed with the flow, keeping the story moving without getting too bogged down in silly humour (though what might be right in line with the age range for the piece). It served its purpose for me and I will try to use the age-appropriate filter here, seeing Neo return to these books in a few years when he is a strong individual reader and criticising my review for being off the mark.

Kudos, Mr. Buckley, for such a wonderful debut piece. I think I may return for more in the future, as there is something fun about these stories.

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

The Hanged Man (The Bone Field #2), by Simon Kernick

Seven stars

Simon Kernick is back with another thriller set amid the bodies of The Bone Field, where readers saw DI Ray Mason and PI Tina Boyd work together to discover the horrible collection of unidentified bones. Still baffled by their findings, Mason and his partner are called to a rural home, where a woman lies dead and a half-penned suicide note leads them to believe that her husband, Hugh Manning, might have decided to stay alive a while longer. The deeper Mason digs, the clearer the story. Manning might have been visited by others seeking to silence him once and for all. For what, no one is yet sure. However, when the first of the bones is attributed to a woman who was presumed missing, the case opens wide and Mason soon learns that Manning may be the key to the entire Bone Field case. With a ruthless gang looking for Manning, it will only be a matter of time before the case goes cold again, forcing Mason to take matters into his own hands. With the help of his current girlfriend, PI Tina Boyd, Mason pushes not only to protect Manning, but also to bring the killers to justice and identify all the victims in short order. Trouble is, the criminal element rarely play by the rules. Kernick does well with this sequel and keeps the reader enthralled until the final pages as the mystery developed throughout. Those familiar with Kernick’s work and fans of darker police procedurals will likely enjoy this piece.

I discovered Kernick last year when the debut in this series crossed my path. I remember being interested, though was not sure how I felt about the story. I decided to give this one a chance to see if some of the loose threads might be tied off and the level of mystery heightened. I am pleased I took the gamble, though there were times I felt things took a while to gather momentum. Kernick’s interesting plots leave me feeling that I will try some more of his books in the near future. DI Ray Mason is an interesting character, having invested much of his time in police work, but now tied to Tina Boyd, who has both sobered him and kept him always looking behind his back. While he is still reckless at times, he also loves to get to the heart of the matter in a sensible way, hoping to stay alive a while longer. Still, he struggles with a relationship and being close to someone else. Boyd, for her part, seems to feel the same (and I will admit I have not ventured into her series that Kernick has padded with numerous novels). The cast of secondary characters prove believable and help push the story along, though I did not find any of them shone enough to jump off the page. The story, veiled in the Bone Field mystery, was decent and showed just how jaded some in the criminal world tend to be and what lengths they will go to get what is needed. Filled with interesting tidbits that trace back decades, Kernick has done well here and keeps the reader wondering, which is the sign of a well-crafted novel.

Kudos, Mr. Kernick, for creating this timely sequel, as fans sink their teeth into this new series, which has much potential.

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

Sweetpea, by C.J. Skuse

Seven stars

After having written a number of Young Adult novels, C.J. Skuse turns to her darker side in penning this piece, rich in angst and homicidal actions. Rhiannon Lewis hates her life and most of those who cross her path. Using a series of diary entries, she explores this hatred by tipping her hand to the reader. Many of her entries begin with a list of those she despises the most and why they rub her the wrong way. Be it people from the news, those at her place of employment, or people with whom she must interact in public, Rhiannon cannot let things flow off her back. As the narrative progresses, the reader learns that Rhiannon was once famous for being the sole survivor in a horrific attack on a daycare facility, though she suffered significant injuries. These injuries seem to have numbed her ability to truly care for others, while also helping to foster a sense of vigilante behaviour, which she uses to restore balance in the world. Rhiannon has many secrets, but none darker than the need to punish those who have wronged the innocent and to harm people who do not serve a useful purpose in her day to day life. The narrative is full of these struggles and the list of personal enemies that Rhiannon finds troublesome seems to grow as time passes. That being said, a personal event turns everything on its head and forces Rhiannon to reassess her life and the choices she’s made; a new feeling for this seemingly cold and emotionless woman. Whatever the struggle, Rhiannon Lewis will not be the same by the end, though no one can truly tell how she’ll turn out. Skuse offers a very dark and demented path through this novel, sure to interest those who enjoy personal struggle and protagonists with deep and homicidal secrets.

I chose this book on the recommendation of a friend, who knows how much I enjoy a twisted tale. I was not entirely sure what to expect, but did hope for some psychological thriller that would keep me up well into the night. Instead, I pushed through this personal journal of a twenty-something woman who has a hit list a mile long and many deep secrets she wants to keep from others. Rhiannon is quite the repulsive character, particularly because of her attitude towards the outside world. As she mentions throughout the narrative, she has a ‘me’ side and a public persona to uphold, a difficult act to support through troubling times. However, her Dexter-like duality might serve to better underscore her struggles on a daily basis. The reader cannot help but feel a ray of sympathy for her, though surely dislikes her ongoing attacks on anyone who is not perfect. With a cast of varied secondary characters, Skuse is able to prop up her novel with a vast array of fodder to fuel Rhiannon’s fire, though no one can be sure when things will take a significant turn. The story itself is decent, though there are surely segments that drag and left me wondering how long it would take to push through. This is definitely not a fast-paced piece, nor is it something with mysterious crumbs left throughout the narrative. The reader must dedicate themselves to getting to the very end, where more surprises lie in wait. I am happy to say I made it, though the journey was anything but simple. Still, Skuse kept me wondering and guessing, with some significantly curious means of tying up loose ends by the final few entries.

Kudos, Madam Skuse, for a great piece, which differs greatly from your usual fare. I am eager to see what else you might bring up for publishing in the coming years. I know I’ll keep an eye open!

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

Jack the Reaper (The Hunt for Jack Reacher Series #8), by Diane Capri

Seven stars

Diane Capri has returned to add to her Hunt for Reacher series, taking a slightly different approach to events. After an explosion in a home, everyone is presumed dead, including the elusive Jack Reacher. FBI Agents Otto and Gaspar have been two steps behind him for so long and now, it would seem, things have gone frigid. However, after the controversial document dump, TrueLeaks, transcripts of a telephone call speaking of Reacher being alive and well, which means Otto and Gaspar must rush to New York to continue their investigation. All the while, General MacKenzie ‘Nitro Mack’ Parnell has come to learn of a sizeable amount of money being hidden away in an New York apartment, money that was tied to an operation he sanctioned years ago. Now, Parnell wants what he feels is his and will stop at nothing to retrieve it. Nitro Mack has a history with Reacher as well, someone who had little love loss for his superior while still serving in the military. As Agents Otto and Gaspar piece together a better understanding of what is going on with Reacher, they are soon following the track of Parnell’s mess as he hunts down the money. As more bodies pile up and the money is nowhere to be found, everyone begins to wonder if, like Reacher, it’s disappeared in plain sight. Capri does well to stand alone while keeping Reacher true to his nature. A decent effort that Reacher fans may like, though the series grows and stands on its own merits.

As she tends to do with each novel’s introduction, Capri pays homage to Lee Child and his creation of the Jack (none) Reacher character. She speaks of how each novel she writes parallels with one that Child has created, which allows the reader to read them one after the other and notice the chronological ties. I have never done so and feel that Capri’s work can stand alone, though the elusive nature of Reacher from Child’s novels is just as strong in this series. Otto and Gaspar remain central characters here and pose no threat to overpowering one another. Many of the past novels have developed their characters, but here, it would seem as though they are in neutral and the focus is strictly Reacher and Parnell. Capri’s glimpse into Otto’s personal thoughts and a run-in within her apartment is about as in-depth a character reveal as the story offers. The secondary characters, as with the mainstream Reacher stories, change each time, though they are well placed here to deliver a strong story. While the story was good and paced itself well, I found it difficult to affix myself to everything that was going on. I wanted to, as I love Reacher, but this piece seemed less focussed on Reacher and more on how the agents would eventually fall in line with Parnell’s antics. It could be an anomaly of the series and I will not rake Capri over the coals for my own sense of confusion. Overall, a decent effort and I am eager to see if she can redeem herself with the next book, highlighted at the end of the narrative.

Kudos, Madam Capri, for keeping Jack (none) Reacher alive between Lee Child novels. You do well on your own and it shines through with each novel you produce in this series.

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