In the Darkness (Zoe Bentley #2), by Mike Omer

Eight stars

Mike Omer is back with another impactful thriller that presents another ruthless serial killer out for some twisted revenge. Dr. Zoe Bentley is a star within the FBI’s Behavioural Analyst Unit (BAU), using her skills to profile some of the country’s worst killers. Bentley is still coming to terms with the knowledge that an acquaintance is on the loose, a serial killer in his own right. Zoe’s sister, Andrea, appears to be a target, which leaves everyone feeling a little less than safe. When Bentley and her partner, Agent Tatum Gray, receive word that there appears to be a sick killer down in Texas, they take a particular interest. Someone using the online handle ‘Schrodinger’ has posted an extended video of burying a woman alive, which includes streams of both the grave digging and inside the makeshift coffin. When asked by the San Angelo PD to assist with this, Bentley and Gray fly across the country, though Andrea’s safety remains a concern. When they arrive, Bentley and Gray scour the crime scene photos and posted video for clues, but things are slow going. When another woman goes missing, Bentley tries to better understand the psychological aspects of the crime. She learns as much as she can about the famous Schrödinger Box thought experiment, including the nuances of what is supposed to be inside the box itself. When another link appears, it would seem that things are ramping up at an unexpected rate. Bentley and Gray must work quickly to solve this case and stop the disappearances. Meanwhile, Andrea is haunted by the constant fear that she will be attacked, which only makes her all the more paranoid. Things on both fronts soon take a turn for the worse, leaving the reader to pay close attention during the latter chapters of the book. Omer has developed another stunning novel that takes the reader into the mind of someone divorced from reality. Recommended for those who love a good psychological mystery that keeps the mind racing throughout.

I thoroughly enjoyed Omer’s debut novel in this series, as it pulled me in from the early chapters and would not let go. This was another wonderfully crafted piece that mixes sadistic killings with a psychological angle. Zoe Bentley proves yet again to be a wonderful character, whose attention to detail works wonders in her work life. Wanting to get to the core of those whose minds she seeks to analyse, Zoe does all in her power to better understand those who wreak havoc. All the while, she must battle with the knowledge that her sister, Andrea, remains a potential target. With a narrative offering parallel advancement of the plots, the reader is able to see the dedication that Zoe possesses. Other characters offer wonderful flavours to the story and complement the narrative effectively. Omer is able to craft wonderful individuals to keep the story fresh and the reader fully engaged. The story is strong and takes the reader into the depths of a killer’s mind, which also serves to entertain throughout. With short chapters, the pages seem to flow by without much effort, matched with a strong story and insightful perspectives.

Kudos, Mr. Omer, for another wonderful novel. I know you have other series and I may have to give them a read through before long.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:


Cause to Hide (Avery Black #3), by Blake Pierce

Eight stars

Blake Pierce’s ongoing Avery Black series keeps getting better, taking the reader on many an adventure while being faced with unique serial killers. While Avery is trying to work on strengthening her relationship with her daughter, Rose, there is the looming realisation that her partner is also becoming her boyfriend. Dan Ramirez is quite the catch, though the fact that he and Avery spend so much time together is both a blessing and a curse. When they are called to the scene of a charred body, both Avery and Ramirez are baffled about what lays before them. A body, so charred and yet the bones seem almost pristine, leaves little doubt that they have a killer who thinks outside the box. Could this be the work of an arsonist or even someone with experience working in high-heat environments? With little to go on with the body, the Homicide Squad is baffled about what sort of killer they might be hunting, and what type of victim is being targeted. With the case heating up—pun intended—there has to be a pitfall, which comes in the form of another strain between Avery and Rose. While the local resources seem almost exhausted, the FBI enters the fray and this creates quite the turf war. In the middle of it all is Detective Avery Black, whose passion for solving the case supersedes all else. Will yet another kill end up in the hands of the Boston PD, or might the leads in this case go up in smoke? Pierce offers yet another great mystery that keeps readers speeding through the narrative to get to the climactic ending. Recommended for series fans, as well as the reader who likes fast-paced mysteries.

Just as things get intense with the series, Blake Pierce tosses a curveball and pulls the reader in yet again. Avery Black’s personal growth seems to spin out of control, depend on the relationship she is trying to foster. Her start-stop with Rose is an ongoing theme that will keep the reader entertained, though there has to be some clarity after the countless jolts to their already fractured connection. Meanwhile, Avery is working to find out just how she feels about Dan Ramirez, though she worries about getting too close, particularly since they work shoulder to shoulder. These struggles, as well as some emotional struggles all her own keep Avery busy throughout this case. When wearing her detective cap, Avery Black cannot be stopped, keen to find the killer and set things straight once and for all. The reader will see the passion she has for her work, which continues to strain the personal relationships she wants so badly to build. Others surrounding Black are able to support her throughout this piece, particularly Dan Ramirez. He is again prominent in the book, becoming closer to Black as they explore the personal side to their partnership. The story proved to be strong and held my attention, offering a unique killer who is no match for Avery Black, though there is again some guidance in the form of a past acquaintance of Avery’s to guide her along the path. The mix of shorter and more developed chapters proves helpful to guide the reader as they rush to get deeper into the narrative. Turning to new and exciting ways to kill, Pierce has lined up yet another curious killer who lurks on the streets of Boston.

Kudos, Mr. Pierce, for leaving me wanting more. I am eager to see what else Avery Black will find in the coming novels.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

Cause to Run (Avery Black #2), by Blake Pierce

Eight stars

Continuing with Blake Pierce’s Avery Black series, I sought to learn a little more about the protagonist and her various skills. As the novel opens, it would seem that Detective Avery Black has earned more than simply a new title within Boston PD’s Homicide Squad. Partnered up with Dan Ramirez, they are also loosely trying to define a romantic relationship, while not letting it get between their work assignments. After a heroic hostage negotiation, Black and Ramirez are called to the scene of a crime aboard a yacht—at the mayor’s request, no less—where a woman’s body is found, with an odd star traced upon it. Black and Ramirez begin their investigation, invading another jurisdiction, and soon find themselves in the middle of a gang fight. Have no fear, Black pulls out some of her martial arts training, stunning both the gang and those on the force around her. Still no further ahead with her case, Black continues to inch closer to her daughter, Rose, who is about to take early acceptance to college. Their rocky past is something that Avery hopes to erase, though it will not be easy. It would seem that as soon as work calls, Detective Avery Black is out the door, leaving everything else to perish. However, when she is stumped, she turns to the only person who appears able to help. A visit to see Howard Randall, the man she defended in court when she was still a criminal attorney, may hold all the answers. While others frown on this Hannibal/Clarice interaction, Black secretly likes the information she can gather. Randall seems to fill a father role that is missing in her life. Working off a new angle, Black tries to push ahead with the case, though comes to notice that everything in her world is coming apart: Ramirez is distancing himself, Rose is scorned that she is again losing her mother, and the Homicide Squad no longer has her back. All this takes her back to her childhood, when she had no one to help. With a killer on the loose who continues to play games, Black will have to compartmentalise for a while longer and let the pieces of her life fall where they may. Another great novel in the series that keeps the reader on their toes. Recommended for those who like shorter mysteries and police procedurals, as well as the reader who enjoys female protagonists.

The gamble to continue with the series has paid off already, as I am fully committed to seeing where things go. Avery Black remains a complex character, whose backstory is woven into the present-day storyline. The reader learns of her horrible upbringing and how she was tossed into foster care, which hardened her when she realised no one could protect her. This may have benefits, but it is destroying her relationships in the presents: familial, romantic, and professional. Her work ethic is like no other, though this tunnel vision could be troublesome in the bigger picture. An ongoing interaction with serial killer Howard Randall seems to be working, as long as Black can stay at arm’s length, though there is surely something Blake Pierce wants the reader to know without saying it quite yet. There are others that surround Black and support her throughout this piece, including Dan Ramirez. He is more prominent in the book, though still stands in the shadow of the overly single-minded Black. Their interactions are sometimes strained, though I really cannot wait to see if they can shake off the dust and prove to be great partners. The story was again strong and held my attention with a number of hints sprinkled throughout the narrative. A mix of shorter and more developed chapters will keep the reader forging ahead and making sure they can solve the case before the killer gets the better of everyone. Adding a little education within the narrative also provides the reader with some additional treats, should they feel the desire to take it all in. I have the next book ready and should begin it now, as Avery Black waits for no one.

Kudos, Mr. Pierce, for impressing me again with your strong story. I cannot wait to see what twists await me.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

Cause to Kill (Avery Black #1), by Blake Pierce

Eight stars

After having Blake Pierce recommended to me, I was asked to try the Avery Black series, which is full of great thrills and packs a punch with its concise mysteries. In this series debut, Pierce introduces the reader to his protagonist, Avery Black. A former criminal defence attorney, Black left the profession after one of her clients—Howard Randall—was released and killed just to prove to his attorney that he was a serial killer. Now, an officer with the Boston PD, Black has scored a position on the coveted Homicide Squad. When a sorority girl goes missing after a Harvard party, her friends are baffled. This is nothing like her and she has no reason to disappear. When a body is discovered, the victim is the missing girl, but there is some form of natural drug in her system. This is substantiated when CCTV footage shows her wandering around with a mysterious man. Black and her team are baffled and push the limits to find clues, only to be faced with another victim from a different local college. There does not seem to be any tie between the two, leaving Black to ponder how to approach finding a suspect. She turns to Randall for some assistance, which is like playing with a nest of vipers. There is a chance that he could help, but Black runs the serious risk of being played yet again. With time running out and a killer on the loose, no one is safe. Black will have to check her pride at the door, while searching for this elusive killer. If that were not enough, Black is constantly reminded of how she walked away from her own family when things were at their most difficult. Pierce entices the reader well with this easy to read thriller that leaves them wanting more. Recommended to those who need a quick jolt with a short mystery. Perfect for the reader seeking a beach or travel read as well.

This may have been my first Blake Pierce read, but it certainly will not be my last. I have read many mysteries in my day, but this one was both quick to read and easy to comprehend. Pierce adds twists throughout, but keeps the pace of the narrative such that the story does not get bogged down with too many details. Avery Black is a complex character that will surely take a while to unravel. Her backstory with the law is one that Pierce had better expand upon, both the legal career and the foibles with Howard Randall. It was this mistake that cost Black her family and makes the revelation of her estranged teenaged daughter, Rose, all the more interesting. Parachuted into the Boston PD Homicide Squad, Black will have to climb the ladder, hampered both with being a woman and for her sensationalized backstory. I am eager to see how things occur, as she is surely gritty and well-grounded when it comes to homicide work. There are others that surround Black and support her throughout this piece. I hope some cops and even civilian characters find their way into other books within this series, as there are many unanswered questions that Pierce has offered up in this debut. The story was strong and held my attention, so much so that I was able to devour this book in two days. I am glad to have six books within my grasp, as I will surely roll through them all and find breadcrumbs in each that will hopefully come together as a strong story arc. I will forge ahead with this series and see what else Pierce has in store. If all goes well, I may even have to find a few more of his series to read!

Kudos, Mr. Pierce, for luring me in with this strong story. I cannot wait to see how Avery Black matures under your guidance.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

The Victim, by Max Manning

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Max Manning, and Sourcebooks Landmark for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Max Manning develops an interesting approach to this story, using the narrative to tell two stories with loose parallels. This approach will work for some but leave other writers scratching their heads. Perhaps this was the intended end result, though I leave that to the individual reviewer. Gem Golding decides to stop in at the local store for someone on her way home from work. Little does she know, but her life is about to change quite dramatically. While in the parking lot, she is approached by a man who pulls out a knife and attacks her. It is here that Manning offers his literary fork in the road. In one version, Gem bows down to the man and allows him to take her car, injuring her in the struggle. Thereafter, she must live with the pain of being victimised and she becomes part of the headlines as the search for the attacker heats up. Personal loss follows and she is left waiting for the police to catch the man who turned her life upside down. In the alternative reaction, Gem refuses to stand down and eventually maims her attacker, receiving praise in all media outlets and helping the police as much as possible as they hunt down the attacker. As each story progresses, the reader learns more about the story from a variety of angles: Gem, her boyfriend, the attacker, the police, and even a journalist. All this comes together in a heart stopping culmination, where the reader can decide which of the two Gems they choose to be the true protagonist of the story. An interesting approach that will keep the reader thinking until the final page flip and shape the story throughout. Recommended to those who enjoy something a little different with their reading experience, particularly the reader who enjoys parallel narratives.

I have never read Max Manning before this novel, though this was surely an interesting introduction. The premise of this novel permits the reader to feel as though they are reading two stories in one, weaving the plots together and interchanging characters at will. Gem Golding is hard to gauge, particularly because it really depends which of the two you pick as your ‘true protagonist’. She can either be a weak and vulnerable woman who has to deal with having been attacked and then facing personal tragedy that only compounds the event, or she is a strong woman who overcame adversity and is lauded in the media as a hero for stopping what could have been a violent attack. Manning offers both these women up but does not seem to lean in either direction. There is a great supporting cast who works effectively to promote either Gem—interesting that both versions of the story use the same supports—and are helped along by an effective narrative. While some are surely more endearing than others, Manning creates a wonderful character base throughout. The story, while unique, is also well written and allows the reader to move between the two parallels with ease, hoping to find a happy home with a different set of readers. Short chapters push the story forward and keeps the reader wanting to complete the reading task in short order. I’ll definitely try some more Manning in the future, particularly if he uses this same technique in other novels.

Kudos, Mr. Manning, for this curious approach to a thriller. I am intrigued and I hope others find this style as enticing as I did.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: A New History of a Lost World, by Steve Brusatte

Nine stars

Steve Brusatte takes the reader deep inside his extensive research as a palaeontologist to explore the world during the time of the dinosaurs. Offering thrilling facts and great anecdotes, this is one piece sure to be talked about for years. Choosing to discuss a topic that has likely enthralled most readers at some time or another, Brusatte seeks to help the reader better understand the world at the time of dinosaurs, including how Earth changed to facilitate dinosaur emergence, the various ecological and atmospheric happenings that helped support their existence, and some of the accepted theories about their extinction. Tackling hundreds of millions of years in this piece, Brusatte makes the journey highly informative and light-hearted, providing the reader with numerous facts about the time, as well as stories from past palaeontologists who discovered many interesting facts, based on fossils. Looking to explain some of the groupings of dinosaurs, Brusatte offers up some interesting tidbits about their connection and how they evolved over time, contrasting them with others—how and why the T-Rex differed from the brontosaurus, for example—and providing a better understanding of how they lived. With detailed discussions and an entire chapter dedicated to the most famous of all dinosaurs, Brusatte also seeks to dispel some of the myths that books and films have sought to use to their advantage. He also takes the latter part of the book to engage the reader in the evolving debate over dinosaurs as being predecessors to birds or simply distant relatives, and ends with a thrilling discussion of dinosaur extinction. The world of dinosaurs comes alive, making the journey one of constant learning and fact-based discussion, superimposed with some of his own personal experiences on the hunt for new discoveries. Those with an interest in the subject will likely find this a wonderful read, which mixes some technical discussion of the world of palaeontology and suspected means by which these creates lived millions of years ago. Recommended to those who are curious about the subject, in hopes that it will spurn discussion and further personal research.

I like to think that I took an interest in dinosaurs as a child, perusing them at museums when given the opportunity. I saw some of the movies based on Michael Chritchton’s books as well, which instilled some of the fear factor as it relates to the more carnivorous reptiles. However, unlike Brusatte, I did not have the same passion he possesses, which makes my reading of this book a little more of a challenge. Those who know me and my reviews will understand that I love to learn, something that Steve Brusatte helped with repeatedly in this piece. His detailed discussion, not only of the setting but its key players of the time, brought history to life in a way I had not thought before. As the narrative progressed, layering other discoveries from an earlier era helped to add depth to this book, which spends part of its time focussed on Brusatte’s studies and personal explorations. One theme that emerges throughout is that the evolution and downfall of the dinosaurs was by no means sudden—as in, a single event, per se—or uniform, but rather part of the evolutionary process the Earth undertook over time. Biblical literalists will bemoan much of the research and discussion that denotes the millions of years this took, but Brusatte is able to support his arguments with strong facts and details from many digs throughout the world. With easy to comprehend chapters that lead the reader throughout the dinosaur process, Brusatte offers much for the reader who may be a layperson when it comes to fossils and excavation. Brilliant in its delivery, it is one piece that should not be missed by anyone with an interest in the subject.

Kudos, Mr. Brusatte, for pulling me in from the opening chapters and helping me to appreciate more of the world’s early inhabitants. I would love to delve into some of your other published work!

This book fulfils the July 2019 requirement of the Mind the Bookshelf Gap Reading Group.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

The Russian (Rob Tacoma #1), by Ben Coes

Seven stars

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

Steeped in politics, both recent and from the Cold War era, Ben Coes is back with a new thriller that is sure to provide his fans with something about which to talk for a while. When two prominent US politicians are assassinated on American soil within minutes of one another, many suspect a planned hit. Tracing the histories of both men back to battling the Russian Mafia, many are sure this is retribution, organized by the powerful Odessa Mafia that has been controlling cities around the country for years. Feeling that there is an ongoing threat within the country that is only getting stronger, POTUS enacts a little-known codicil to the US Constitution, which will permit the ultimate retribution. After receiving the needed approval by a congressional group, a two-man team is assembled to act off the books, hunting for those responsible for the killings. One of these two is Rob Tacoma, former CIA operative who wants nothing to do with the plan. However, when something goes wrong, he sees red and will do all in his power to avenge those slain by these Russians. The hunt is on and there are truly layers of false leads, while Tacoma seeks those responsible, including the elusive Kaiser. There will be blood and bodies, but all that seems minor, as Tacoma is driven, perhaps just as much as Dewey Andreas, who is detached from this adventure. Full of twists and turns, Coes shows that he is in touch with the genre and knows how to spin a powerful tale. Recommended to those who have enjoyed some of Coes past novels, as well as readers who enjoy spy thrillers.

I have long been a fan of Ben Coes and cannot get enough of Dewey Andreas. However, I have to be patient and turn my attention to Rob Tacoma, a minor character in the past who takes a front and centre role here. Tacoma seeks the quiet life, away from the bullets and bloodletting, but seems to be pulled back in when America needs him most. Sounds like Andreas, no? With little time for backstory, Coes injects Tacoma into the middle of this adventure, pushing the limits at every opportunity. With his determination and timely delivery of ‘gun justice’, Tacoma knows what needs doing and acts swiftly. Others around him serve to keep the story going, through the layers of Russians are always interesting to see, particularly the way in which Coes portrays them throughout the narrative. With short chapters and wonderful narrative momentum, Coes pushes the story along. While I cannot completely decipher why, I felt this piece lost a little of the sharp edge with which Dewey Andreas novels have come to be known. Still, I was able to progress through in short order. A great summer read, as the pages seem to melt away. I cannot wait to see what Coes has in store next!

Kudos, Mr. Coes, for another great book. While perhaps not the best, we all need a little downtime, like Dewey!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

Tudor Dawn (The Tudor Saga #1), by David Field

Eight stars

David Field begins a new series that is perfect for fans of the famed Tudor monarchy in England. In a tale that parallels historical record, Field is able to recount the life of the man who would become Henry VII, pulling on a great deal of history rarely touched by historians who seek to broadly present his accomplishments. Beginning in his youth, Henry was a sickly boy, but always determined to make the most of that which was placed before him. Son of Edmund Tudor (1st Earl of Richmond) and Margaret Beaufort provided a strong beginning in what would be an interesting early life. Watching his English homeland shaped by political and monarchical instability, Henry came of age during the War of the Roses, a collection of battles that would see England’s foundational base shift significantly and that would play a key role in Henry’s later life. Wrestling control away from a rival group seeking the throne, Henry’s ascendancy to power was helped along by a strong-willed uncle—Jasper—and determined mother, as Field effectively shows throughout. In his adulthood, Henry sought to leave an impact on history and in his own life, seeing allegiances shift throughout and never sure whom he can trust. However, the question of marriage loomed over him, forcing Henry to look for a partner, if only to assuage the worries of his family. His marriage to Elizabeth of York—daughter of Edward IV and niece to the rival Richard III—proved significant. With the English Throne in his sights, Henry did all he could to pave the way towards his own ascendancy and defeated Richard III on the battlefield to end the War of the Roses and secure the English Throne, thereafter becoming Henry VII, first of the Tudor monarchs. Ruling England, Henry sought political alliances to strengthen a still weak country, looking to the continent, where he worked to create marriage pacts for his children (something history will show proved fruitful with influence both on the Continent and in Scotland), especially his eldest son, Arthur, and Katherine of Aragon. While few could recount much of Henry’s early decisions as monarch, many will know how things progressed through his children’s lives. Field is prepared to offer five more novels to develop this exciting time in English history, which one can only hope will be as well developed as this opening piece. A powerful debut that will keep Tudor fans rushing to learn a little more about the era and its key characters. Recommended to those who enjoy the Tudors and especially the reader who wishes to learn as they are highly entertained.

David Field has a writing style that pulls the reader in from the opening pages. He seeks to mix the wonders of history with an easy to understand fictional account. His characters are quite relatable and seem to fit nicely into the historical goings-on. Henry, who serves as protagonist throughout, finds himself coming to terms with England’s ever-changing dynamic. He never sees himself as leadership material but steps up when the time comes to represent England effectively. Field does well to depict the evolution of his life from a sickly youth to a man whose world is shattered when his first son dies before ascending to the throne. There are a handful of key characters whose presence helps to develop this complex time in English history, especially during the Civil War that saw two rival Houses vie for control. The story stood out as strong, weaving history and fictional accounting of events together like many other Tudor writers I have read in the past. Field argues effectively in his note to readers that Henry VII has received so little discussion in the history books, and yet his life was full of many curious paths and tidbits that historical writers could have a field day (pardon the pun). While I admit that I sometimes struggled to make things stick in my mind, this is not from a lack of strong writing by Field or a disinterest in the topic at hand. Those who enjoy learning something will be able to use Field’s attention to detail while they open their mind to the birth of the Tudor Dynasty. A powerful piece that should not be missed, though surely not as breezy as his other series, set in the Victorian era.

Kudos, Mr. Field, for a great start to this series. I will keep my eyes open for the remaining five books, seeking to learn a little something to further my knowledge of all things Tudor.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

The Starling Project (Harold Middleton #3), by Jeffrey Deaver

Eight stars

After two novels created by a collaboration within the International Thriller Writers, Jeffrey Deaver has decided to continue the series with a creation all his own. In an Audible exclusive, this full-cast dramatisation pulls the reader back into the middle of the action and adventures of Harold Middleton. As leader of the Volunteers—a loose enforcement branch of the International Tribunal for Justice—Harold Middleton finds himself in rural Mexico. With his full team of Volunteers and some UN Peacekeepers, Middleton attempts to serve a search warrant on a known criminal kingpin, though things take a violent turn. Fleeing the region, Middleton has two massive hard drives and word that a Starling Project might be in the works. While teaching a course at Georgetown, Middleton is called to the scene of an odd bank robbery, where he and the Volunteers are trying to free a number of hostages. Things do not go as planned, but a few more Starling leads come to fruition. Discovering the project is actually a single person’s plot to manipulate massive sums of money, Middleton will have to act quickly if he wants to prevent massive disruptions and the possibility of future acts of violence. Working in the world of finance and accounting, Middleton and his Volunteers are out of their comfort zone, but spurred along by the need to protect millions—even billions—of innocent lives. Deaver does well in this interesting piece, which mixes the excitement of the Middleton series with an interesting dramatic effort. Recommended for those who loved The Chopin Manuscript and The Copper Bracelet.

I thoroughly enjoyed the first two novels in this series, listening to them in their original audiobook format. It was only when I chose to re-read the first book for my reading challenge that I discovered that Deaver penned a third novel in this series, or at least an audio equivalent. Harold Middleton played a central role again, which keeps the reader attentive to pick up any scraps about his character. Rather than adding to his actual backstory, Deaver delves deeper into exploring the International Tribunal for Justice and how it works, including Middleton’s role. It is an intricate organisation and Middleton plays a major role in its forward momentum. Readers familiar with the protagonist and his ‘second job’ will enjoy learning a little more. Other characters emerge to play key roles in the story, though I could not find any repeat characters from the past two novels. Still, the banter and development of many sub-plots was stronger with this collection of characters. The story proves to be a unique experience for those not used to ‘full dramatisations’. Quite honestly, it was as though I were watching a movie with my eyes closed, with different voices for each character and no narration. I saw some people did not like this approach, but I found it interesting, even if it were a little confusing at times. Deaver does well putting together this story and delivers it in such a way that the reader cannot help but feel right there. I know it has been years since Deaver published any Middleton work, but I would gladly keep reading if he, or the ITW returned for another round of thrills and chills.

Kudos, Mr. Deaver, for this interesting approach to the Middleton series. There is so much going on here and I did feel an active part of the story.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

The Copper Bracelet (Harold Middleton #2), by Jeffrey Deaver (and fifteen others in the International Thriller Writers)

Eight stars

Under the auspices of a new form of writing project, the International Thriller Writers (ITW) worked to create a second audiobook story in this series with many top-name contributors. This book is again led by the opening and closing chapters by Jeffrey Deaver, along with many other members of the ITW group. Harold Middleton is front a centre for another adventure, hunting down terror suspects with NATO. After a shoot-out, Middleton discovers that one of the victims is sporting a copper bracelet with unique markings. Calling in some assistance from his close friends, Middleton discovers that bracelet has ties to a group with an interest in ‘heavy water’. As Middleton seeks to trace down the potential threat, he discovers that there is more to the story, including a mysterious Scorpion, a faceless leader with plans to bring major devastation in the near future. With a massive construction project in India turning heads around the world, there is speculation that Scorpion might strike. The project, already raising anger between India and Pakistan, could be the tipping point of a new regional war, centred in Kashmir. Middleton thrusts himself into the middle of it all, learning how disastrous things could get if Scorpion is not stopped, only to learn that there are others with invested interest in the terror plot, which could significantly disrupt the international balance of power. Another great collaborative effort that allows the reader to see many writing styles synthesised into a single novel. Recommended to those who like literary patchwork of this nature and fans of international mysteries.

I vaguely remember reading the first two books in this series, when they were newly released on Audible. I enjoy the premise of putting many authors together to carve out a decent story, offering them each a small piece of the pie. The story is strong and the constant character advancement provides the reader a definite treat as things progress, much like the series debut. Harold Middleton returns with more adventure and has shown that his amateur sleuthing, paired with some firepower, leaves him ready to tackle any international situation. Surrounding himself with a handful of returning characters, Middleton is able to work his way through the story, showing both his power and a personal vulnerability in the form of his family. The twists and turns cannot always be predicted, with so many authors in the mix. That said, there is surely succinct development within each chapter, as the author has only a short time before they hand it off to another. The story is a great collaborative effort for something of this size. The reader who can fathom the complexity of intertwining so many writing styles in a single piece will not be as judgmental with the final product. This effort is one that will have me turn to Jeffrey Deaver, who took on a solo effort to pen a third novel in this series.

Kudos, Mr. Deaver et al., for completing another of these unique writing assignments for readers to enjoy. I have always loved the challenge the ITW pushes on its members to work outside their comforts to appease the reading public. A brilliant idea properly executed.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: