The Secret Witness (Shepard & Gray #1), by Victor Methos

Eight stars

Always a fan of Victor Methos and his writing, I was pleased to begin this new series. In stories that always pack a punch, Methos treats readers to the dual protagonists of cop and prosecutor, both of whom are trying to reinvent themselves. Gritty storytelling matches well with a deceptive killer to give the reader something exciting to explore and paving the way towards what could be a stunning new series. Methos at his best!

The opening line of an anonymous letter published in the local paper says it all: “This is Reaper speaking.” The announcement comes just after a couple is found brutally murdered in the vehicle, the scene quite similar to a string of killings years before. Sheriff Elizabeth Gray is not sure if she has a copycat on her hands, but she knows that she will not be able to do it alone.

After being permanently sidelined by an attack in the courtroom, Solomon Shepard is trying to make the most of his days. He’s left the legal world and has been writing, as well as lecturing on serial killers at the local college. However, when Sheriff Gray calls on him, he’s intrigued and ready to put some of his knowledge to practical use. The Reaper case is one he knows well and Shepard is ready to see just how intense being back in the field can be.

While sifting through the evidence, both Gray and Shepard realise that this killer will stop at nothing to be noticed and make the list of victims grow swiftly. Bloody discoveries will leave them both in the crosshairs of this new killer, seeking to be a part of evil greatness. What Gray and Shepard soon discover is that they had no way of predicting the truth that is revealed before them. Methos chills the reader to the core with this novel, the first in what could be a stellar series.

I have always enjoyed the work of Victor Methos, primarily because he gets to the heart of the matter with stunning legal and criminal analysis. There is a great deal for fans of both genres to enjoy here, particularly those who like something with more of a serial killer flavouring. Methos keeps things sharp and presents the reader with something that has them wanting more, which can only mean he better keep the stories coming.

At the heart of every good book is a strong narrative, which serves to guide the reader. Victor Methos does that effectively with a strong foundation that directs the reader throughout the story. Short chapters and great characters help keep the reader enticed, while providing something for all to enjoy. Plot twists abound, keeping the reader from being able to predict everything as it occurs, one of Methos’ great skills. I can only hope the series progresses soon with new and exciting ideas, as Methos has me curious about where things are headed.

Kudos, Mr. Methos, for another great story. I can only hope you have more ideas percolating.

Relentless (Brick Kavanagh #1), by Shawn Wilson

Eight stars

Always eager to to try new books and authors, I gladly accepted an ARC of Shawn Wilson’s latest novel. In order to get the full context, I chose to begin with the first in the series, which brings me to this review. Wilson provides the reader with a strong police procedural, adding depth and character development throughout, as she illustrates the struggles her protagonist has while working as a DC Homicide detective. Full of wonderful storytelling and some painful revelations, Shawn Wilson is one author worth reading for a stellar experience.

The DC area is always beautiful in the spring, but all this is dashed when a young woman’s naked body is discovered in the Tidal Basin. This calls for DC Homicide Detective Brian ‘Brick’ Kavanagh, who attends the scene in hopes of making some headway before forensics disappear and the young woman is left as a crime statistic.

As Kavanagh begins his investigation, he learns that this murder is tied to another, with close personal ties. He tries to peel back the truth from an ever-mounting pile of deception, but Kavanagh encounters fellow detectives who are keen to shelve this as a crime between minorities. Others may not care, but Detective Brick Kavanagh feels everyone deserves their fair share of investigative time.

After someone confesses to the crime, Kavanagh wonders if that is the end of it, as his colleagues seem happy to move on. However, the defence attorney might be his one chance to get to the truth. Upset by the lack of support DC Homicide offers, Kavanagh retires and begins investigating on his own. It’s only then that the dark truth comes to light and no one is safe. Who killed two innocent Guatemalans and how has Kavanagh risked the lives of everyone around him? Wilson does a masterful job in this piece stringing the reader along until the impactful ending.

New authors have always been a welcomed challenge for me, as I learn so much about them through their writing. While I have a list of go-to authors, I am happy to expand it when I come across someone who is worth my time. Shawn Wilson is one of those, as I have come to discover with this piece. She has grit and determination, allowing me to feel as though she could compete with others in the genre and perhaps surpass them. I am eager to get to the ARC of her latest book, in hopes that it is just as exciting as this proved to be.

Wilson works to build her narrative up from the opening pages, providing the reader with a stellar pathway throughout this police procedural. Her depiction of characters is spot-on and allows the reader to feel in the middle of the action, which adds more to the story. Plot twists keep the reader on the edge of their seat, as short chapters propel them to ‘read a little more’, which makes for a great reading experience. I am eager to add Shawn Wilson to my list of authors and hope others will try this book, in hopes of doing the same.

Kudos, Madam Wilson, for a stellar debut novel. I am eager to read more and see how I like your style.

TERF Wars (Jinx Ballou #4), by Dharma Kelleher

Eight stars

Catching up on my backlog of Dharma Kelleher novels, I realised how much I miss the author’s gritty delivery and unique perspective when it comes to crime. Kelleher’s novels approach the genre from a LGBTQ+ perspective, with the Jinx Ballou series adding a trans woman flavouring. Exploring the world of abuse and mistreatment of the trans population, Kelleher educates and entertains in equal measure throughout this piece.

Jenna ‘Jinx’ Ballou is a successful bounty hunter in the Phoenix community, having developed great skills tracking criminals when she worked for the police. Jinx has come a long way, having transitioned to a woman at an early age and has not suffered a great deal of the transphobic attacks that many of her friends have encountered. Her happiness is so strong that she is ready to marry her long-time fiancé, Conor, and the wedding is in only a matter of days.

When she is given the file of a accused murdered who killed a Black trans woman, Jinx takes on the case with gusto. This is a heinous crime and Jinx will not let anyone tell her otherwise. However, as she tries to track down the criminal, Jinx is set upon by a group, Womyn Born Womyn, a TERF (Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist) collective who want nothing but to spew hatred and violence. Jinx adds this to her motivation and sets out to capture a bail jumper.

When the case takes her to Vegas, Jinx finds herself in a heap of trouble and lands in jail for a night, but this will not deter her from getting to the bottom of what’s been going on. She will not rest until she captures the criminal, who has been stirring up added hatred for trans women and targeting Jinx with a number of social media ploys.

As the wedding approaches, Jinx can only hope that she will be able to complete the capture and leave it behind her. However, some have other plans and Jinx’s own wedding turns into a bloodbath, only adding to the intensity needed to re-capture the criminal. TERF or not, this group is one that cannot remain free to express their hateful views and the truth must come out. Kelleher does a wonderful job capturing the many themes of the book and provides the reader with some powerful reading.

I have been trying to remember how I stumbled across the works of Dharma Kelleher, to no avail. However it ended up working, I have been able to thoroughly enjoy each of the books presented to me, gathering information about topics to which I was clueless and themes that do not enter my usual reading experiences. Either way, it has been a stunning and eye-opening experiences, as well as being highly entertaining. I learn so much and appreciate the effort Kelleher puts into her pieces of fiction.

Much like her series involving a female biker gang, this collection of novels about bounty hunters extends well past what I might usually read. Adding the LGBTQ+ flavouring and I am completely out of my depth, but still love the reading experience. Kelleher offers up a strong narrative with known direction to keep me on my toes throughout, offering up characters who guide the story along and keep things entertaining in doing so. Plot twists that mirror societal issues help not only to surprise the reader but educate them on some of the struggles to which they might not have been aware. Gritty and full of relevant discussions, Kelleher offers readers a jagged view of things, refusing the dilute the arguments at any time. I can only hope that Dharma Kelleher has more to come and that others take a moment to explore the themes she has to offer.

Kudos, Madam Kelleher, another winner. I am happy to have caught up and am eager to see where your next novel will take me,.

Road Rash (Shea Stevens #4), by Dharma Kelleher

Eight stars

Back in the swing of things, I eagerly reached for another book by Dharma Kelleher. Her latest novel in the Shea Stevens series packs a punch and offers readers some insights into the LGBTQ+ world with some of Kelleher’s first-hand knowledge. The author adds more grit to this piece—a self-styled biker thriller—and keeps the reader on the edge of their seat throughout, while also educating on a variety of topics. I am always pleased when Dharma Kelleher pens another book and this was no exception.

Shea Stevens has always been a proud active member of the Athena Sisterhood Motorcycle Club, while managing a custom bike shop as well. When she is asked to help locate the daughter of two friends in a local ‘cult’, Shea agrees with some trepidation. She knows nothing about cults and will have to style herself slightly differently in order to get the needed information. Still, she is willing to make whatever sacrifice needed to help a friend in need.

After a significant road accident, Shea is shaken but not deterred from going undercover, where she learns just how strong the power of suggestion can be. Remaining as acute as she can, Shea locates the woman she is to help extricate, but the power of the cult has already taken hold. It will surely be a fight to get answers and remove a young woman from the clutches of a powerful group.

All the while, Shea’s niece is attending an overnight camp that is not entirely what it seems. This could mean real trouble for Shea and the other girls at the camp, especially after the shake-up occurring at the cult’s main facility. Shea will have to scramble to ensure everyone is safe and justice prevails, as tough as that seems from time to time. Kelleher offers up another winner and has me eager to see what else she’s got up her sleeve in the coming years.

I am unsure how I found Dharma Kelleher or her books, but I have not once regretted doing so. Kelleher not only knows how to write with ease, but her style is smooth and full of interesting tidbits about both bikers and the LGBTQ+ community. I find things easy to comprehend, without feeling things are watered down, and am always keen to see what I will take away from one of her novels. There is much to be said for keeping an open mind as a reader and Dharma Kelleher has done well to prove just how worthwhile such acceptance can be.

I often find myself either liking or being turned off by a book in the opening pages. Dharma Kelleher is able to lure me in with her storytelling abilities no matter my mood. This novel provides a strong narrative and keeps the reader engaged as they are along for the ride. There is a handful of strong, key characters, many of whom are back in this piece, which allows the reader to trace their development or be entertained by all they have to offer. Short chapters keep the story moving along and permits the reader to devour large portions of the story in a single sitting. There are great plot twists throughout, which mix well alongside the grittiness of what’s being presented. Dharma Kelleher may come across as a humble author, but she is surely one to follow, as she has a great deal to say, for those eager to listen.

Kudos, Madam Kelleher, for keeping me entertained throughout.

The Last Drop of Blood (DS Katie Macguire #11), by Graham Masterton

Eight stars

The binge is complete! While it took 39 days, the reading marathon was well worth the time invested. Graham Masterton proved sensational with his eleven novels and two short stories, pulling the reader deeper into the life and work challenges of Detective Superintendent Katie Macguire. The character development was great and the novels each packed a punch, while also offering some stunning story arcs that spanned multiple books. Masterton impressed me from the outset and never waned in his abilities, keeping me guessing how things would resolve themselves by the final page turn. A series well worth the time and full of stunning crimes for the reader to enjoy. So pleased I took the time for this series as the summer days sped along.

Detective Superintendent Katie Macguire is still stunned by the sexual assault she received at the hands of her superior, but refuses to let this derail her. There is too much going on and crimes in Cork will not stop while she picks herself up. When a blazing car fire contains the charred body of a respectable judge, the Garda are quick to open an investigation. Something seems off and DS Macguire has a personal connection to the victim, which makes this case all the more important.

While the case progresses, Cork is hit with an uptick in gang wars, as two rival groups plot bloody revenge on one another. The Garda sit idly by, trying to pick up hints of hits or possible acts of retribution. This is not lost on the media, who begin tossing DS Macguire under the bus, keen to show that she’s not kept her promise to quash criminal activity on city streets

One journalist in particular has targeted DS Macguire, creating sensational headlines and tossing mud in her direction, When salacious photos are also leaked, DS Macguire can only wonder if it is more than a journalist with a grudge. She pushes harder, only to learn that her reputation could be on the line.

As Cork buzzes with crime, the higher-ups in the Garda begin to posit that it might be time to end the DS Katie Macguire experiment in a position of authority. There is nothing more that can be done but DS Macguire is not yet ready to toss in the towel. As the series comes to a close, Masterton adds just enough spice to keep the reader hooked to the final paragraph. I am so pleased to see how things ended and can only hope that I find another great series to devour before too long.

Graham Masterton has made a fan out of me after reading some of his horror works, but this police procedural collection was even better. Full of nuances when to comes to crime, personal drama, and Irish lifestyles, Masterton has something for everyone. The series proved highly engaging, while also being full of character development that helped offer depth to offset the gruesome crimes that fill many of the chapters. I am sorry to let DS Katie Macguire and her Garda team go, but things ended on such a scintillating note that I am happy to recommend this collection to others.

Masterton has impressed me from the opening pages of the first novel through to the end of this piece, providing strong writing and deep character depictions that develop with ease. The good thing about reading a series in a binge format is that it permits the reader an opportunity to see character growth and storylines progress in short order, seeing the little things that casual readers may miss. The criminal aspect never left me feeling underwhelmed, as Masterton has shown he is able to chill the reader to the core. A police procedural thriller unlike any I have read before, the Irish flavouring adds something unique to my reading experience and I can only hope that others will flock to this series when time permits or they can find a way not to allow their TBR pile to topple down upon them.

Kudos, Mr. Masterton, for a great series and introducing me to some stellar Irish writing. Not sure what’s next but it will be hard to top this!

Blood Sisters (Shea Stevens #3), by Dharma Kelleher

Eight stars

Always pleased to get my hands on a book by Dharma Kelleher, I was happy to read the latest in the Shea Stevens series. Kelleher develops more grit and blood in this ‘biker thriller’, which has the reader speeding alongside as the narrative gains momentum. Kelleher pulls on a great deal of own experiences to entertain the reader effectively until the stunning conclusion. I am quite pleased to return to this series to see how Shea Stevens can pack a punch.

While running her motorcycle shop during the day, Shea Stevens is also an active member of the Athena Sisterhood Motorcycle Club. When a troubled woman approaches Shea and seeks the assistance of the Club, things take on a whole new angle. A dirty politician with a deep secret will stop at nothing to keep his transgressions from being known. This worries Shea more than anything. A visit to the state senator backfires and things turn deadly, all while Shea is seeking a truce.

All the while, a group from a rival gang area back for some retribution after they have been released from jail. It is sure to be a bloody affair, one that Shea cannot sanction with everything else going on. As the Sisterhood are trying to fend people off on two fronts, Shea has a personal issue that boils over and requires her attention as well. It’s sure to be a bloody mess, but Shea Stevens is not one to back down, even as her life hangs in the balance. Kelleher does a great job with this newest book in the series, sure to pique the interest of the open-minded reader.

I cannot remember how I stumbled upon the works of Dharma Kelleher, but I have not looked back since devouring the first novel. Her work is gritty, realistic, and impactful, without needing to be overly gruesome. The reader gets just what they need and can follow along with ease, as the narrative flows without issue. Great characters and issues that brings to the forefront topics that are only now seeing the light of day, Kelleher educates her readers as much as entertain them.

I always look for a strong opening to keep me enthralled with a book, something that proves to be central to this novel. Kelleher offers a strong narrative and provides the reader with something they can digest with ease. Key characters return for another round of fighting and self-reflection, which provides the reader with something entertaining as they get into some troubling issues. Plot twists emerge throughout, adding depth to the story and those characters in the middle of it all, which makes it all the more impactful try the closing pages. I may not know much about bikers or how they run their everyday lives, but Dharma Kelleher is surely a great teacher and I am ready to learn even more.

Kudos, Madam Kelleher, for a great piece that I could not put down!

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

Eight stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Begging to Die (DS Katie Macguire #10), by Graham Masterton

Eight stars

Forging onwards with Graham Masterton’s Irish police procedurals, I have reached the penultimate novel. Masterton dazzles with great crime stories and the stellar work of a handful of strong detectives. The writing shows wonderful flow and has significant Irish flavouring, which pulls the reader into the middle of the story and leaves them to feel as though they, too, are in Cork. A great read that has me eager to reach for the final novel in this series, especially with a stunning cliffhanger!

When a young girl is found begging on the streets of Cork, many wonder about her family. As she cannot speak English, the Garda are baffled as to how they will get any information. Even Detective Superintendent Katie Macguire is scratching her head, until a Romanian translator can be located. Though the information is slow to trickle out, DS Macguire and her team soon learn that the girl is alone and was brought to Ireland with a group of others to beg on the streets and given a merger cut of what they collect. A ruthless man, someone who has instilled fear into others, heads up this group, but his whereabouts remains a mystery.

Meanwhile, DS Macguire’s lover, Connor, takes on an undercover investigation to uproot an illegal puppy farm. He asks one too many questions and is severely beaten, to the point that his relationship with DS Macguire is put in jeopardy. The struggle is real, though no one is sure how to act and ensure a conviction is secured.

While DS Macguire inches closer to learning about the Romanian kingpin, she sees just how ruthless he can be, as bodies of other beggars are found with holes from a drill bit in their necks. Fear is an understatement and DS Macguire cannot convince anyone to break their silence. All the while, sick patients requiring emergency services are found dead, their life savings drained. There’s no shortage of work for DS Macguire and her team in this thrilling penultimate novel, which includes a stunning ending sure to shock many readers.

Graham Masterton shows his abilities with this well-paced novel, which keeps the readers on their toes until the very end. With a strong central plot line, the piece evolves effectively throughout and leaves the reader to wonder where things will end up by the final page turn. The series is rich with Irish references and idioms, such that there is no way the reader can deny feeling as though they are tucked in the corner of a Cork pub, watching things progress.

Masterton provides a strong horror background as he develops the crimes for this series, which may turn some readers away with their graphic depictions. Strong narrative development throughout helps build on an already great story, where characters find themselves developing with ease. Personal growth occurs for many of the characters, with DS Katie Macguire at the centre. Series fans will know she has overcome a number of hurdles from the first novel to this present story. There is so much Katie Macguire has shows readers and I am curious to see how Masterton chooses to tie things off with his star protagonist. Masterton weaves plot twists and cliffhangers into each story to keep the series evolving. I cannot believe how far things have come since I began reading this books earlier in the summer. Bring on the final novel and more crimes sure to chill the blood of many who are involved!

Kudos, Mr. Masterton, for keeping me enthralled at every turn.

The Avignon Affair (Vatican Secret Archives #4), by Gary McAvoy and Ronald L. Moore

Eight 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.

Gary McAvoy is back with more stellar writing, the primary reason I rushed to read the latest novel in the Vatican Secret Archive series. McAvoy again collaborates with Ronald L. Moore and they examine a new mystery that forces Father Michael Dominic to pull out all the stops, while evil forcers seek to take full advantage. McAvoy and Moore guide readers through a historical event shrouded in secrecy and show how a modern happening could be directly tied to its interpretation. With politics, action, and a little romantic triangulation, McAvoy and Moore offer up a cryptic story that is sure entertain a great cross-section of readers.

While in Paris for a funeral, Father Michael Dominic is called to Notre Dame Cathedral for a mysterious reason. A crypt said to hold the body of a fourteenth-century bishop has been recovered during restoration processes. What’s odd is that the skeleton has a cardinal’s ring on one finger and has two parchments hidden within the vestments. Baffled as to who it might have been and what secrets the parchments might hold, Father Dominic is asked to take them back to the Vatican to investigate.

All the while, major acts of terror rock the streets of Paris and its outskirts, proving that there is instability within the government. A high-ranking aristocrat calls for the French president to step down and allow the democratic process to choose his successor, while the country stands in awe. In a political vacuum, anything goes and this could be the perfect time for anarchy to reign supreme.

While Father Dominic seeks to better understand their mystery before him, a new King of France emerges and tries to wrest control of the country away from the political leaders, who have themselves sought to impose martial law; leaving little space for anything democratic to flourish. It’s only when Father Dominic uncovers some of the key mysteries about the body and parchments that France’s political turmoil becomes a little clearer and the play for power is central to the story.

As Father Dominic deciphers what is before him and France is torn, glimpses of what might be come to the surface, both for the country and with some of those with ties to the Vatican. Will something that took place during a temporary seat of the Pope prove to be the end to the Vatican as we know it, taking a country down with it? McAvoy and Moore weave a scintillating story that adds to the greatness this series has produced to date.

My relationship with Gary McAvoy’s writing began when he asked me to read his debut piece of fiction, which gripped me from the outset. The numerous themes develop a Vatican that proves complex and multi-layered, even when events take place well outside of Rome. McAvoy brings Ronald L. Moore back to collaborate, which proves a great choice, as the story finds new depth and complexity without getting overly heavy. Great character development, especially with the key people series fans know well, adds another aspect as to why the book should be read in short order.

There’s long been a spark surrounding this series, which exposes so many truths, fallacies, and ways to blend them together. The collaborative addition of Ronald L. Moore keeps the reader exploring new avenues of mystery while keeping themselves highly entertained. Laying the groundwork from the opening chapter, the narrative develops with each page, balancing historical happenings with modern goings-on, all of which culminates in a strong story that pulls the reader in. Explosive revelations, both political and religious, add depth to a series that has never lacked for adventure. Strong characters, particularly those who are back yet again and build on their past, help create an emotional connection for the reader. While there were some tense moments in the last novel about whether things might be coming to a close, the authors have spun new themes to keep the series going without any sign of letting up.

Kudos, Messrs. McAvoy and Moore, for another great piece in the series. I await your next adventure!

Fallout, by Carrie Stuart Parks

Seven stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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