Crown Jewel (Simon Riske #2), by Christopher Reich

Eight stars

Christopher Reich returns with a new Simon Riske novel, sure to dazzle the reader with this high-speed thriller set in Europe’s poshest domains. When Simon is approached to help foil a major cheating ring at a high-end casino, he jumps at the opportunity, not least because the mission has him going to Monaco. Wanting to mix a little business and pleasure, Riske decides to enter himself in a car race, rubbing elbows with some of the richest men who have a need for speed. While casing out the baccarat tables in Monaco, Riske thinks that he has uncovered a high-tech scheme that is draining the casino of millions, though must collect enough information to substantiate his claim. During some of his down time, Riske encounters Victoria ‘Vika’ Brandt, a blue-blood who is trying to come to terms with the death of her mother. While Vika is certain it was no accident, the police refuse to hear of it, claiming suicide. Riske cannot help but put himself into the middle of things and is soon trying to make the needed connections. When Vika is attacked, Riske will stop at nothing to bring the perpetrators to justice, a band of Eastern Europeans who are as cutthroat as they are ruthless. Working to track them down, Riske makes some interesting discoveries in the casino investigation, which could open up more danger for everyone involved. There’s another piece to the puzzle, one that Riske has not factored in, but could bring the entire investigation crashing down before him. Reich has outdone himself with this one, sure to please those who are fans of his work.

I have long been a fan of Christopher Reich and his work, which pushes the reader well outside the box they may be used to when reading thrillers. The novel and its characters provide much entertainment, while also educating the reader about the lifestyles of the rich. Simon Riske is a wonderful protagonist, still new to the scene and therefore leaving much for Reich to develop. Once a criminal himself, Riske has been able to turn towards the good and serves as an investigator with the intuition needed from a past life in a gang. His attention to detail and ability to make himself blend in prove highly effective, but he is also one who is susceptible to the wiles of beauty and speed, though not always at the same time. His grit and rough edges help to develop a man that many on both sides of the law would not want to cross, though some will test this theory. Vika Brandt offers a refreshing counterbalance to Riske in this piece, at times playing the hapless heroine, but also a woman who does not see herself as royalty, even though she has a title. Together, they are able to open new pathways in the investigation, though there is certainly some chemistry between them that cannot be discounted. Others who find themselves peppered across the pages of the book help to develop a stellar thriller, with their various backstories and desired outcomes, usually clashing with the protagonists. The story is strong, taking the reader in a few directions without appearing fractured or out of sorts. The action is fast-paced and continues to grow as the narrative builds, keeping the reader wondering what is awaiting them in the next chapter. Reich has a handle on this genre and continues to impress. I can only hope there is more to come in short order!

Kudos, Mr. Reich, for another winner. You know how to write thrillers that take the reader to far-off locales without losing them in the process.

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

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The Take (Simon Riske #1), by Christopher Reich

Eight stars

Christopher Reich is back with the debut novel in a new series, which has much potential to grow into something electric and throughly entertaining. After a well-orchestrated heist in Paris leaves a Saudi prince’s convoy disrupted and a large sum of money stolen, the thieves realize that they have an added prize for their efforts; a letter containing security secrets that could be fatal if they fell into the wrong hands. When a member of the American Government arrives in London to speak with Simon Riske there is little interest in taking on the case of recovering the letter. However, once the name of the lead thief is revealed, Tino Coluzzi, Riske changes his tune. With a sordid past of his own, Riske crossed paths with Coluzzi when they were both part of the Corsican Mafia and ran the job that saw an armoured case robbery go awry and Riske take the fall. Now, RIske wants nothing more than to retrieve this mystery letter, if only to help the country of his birth and exact some form of revenge on Culuzzi. As Riske searches, Coluzzi has begun trying to contact the Russian Government, hoping to sell them the letter, but there seems to be little interest. That said, both Riske and Coluzzi are in trouble, as the SVR—Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service—is happy to collect the letter and exterminate these two in the process. As Riske works with a member of the Paris police, he offers just enough information to receive the assistance he needs, remaining one step behind Coluzzi but in the crosshairs of the Russians. This might be one adrenaline rush too many for Riske, long since out of the business. Reich does a masterful job at keeping the story clipping along and providing readers with proof as to why he is a master of the genre. Perfect for those who love a good thriller that mixes espionage with a dash of police procedural.

I have long admired Christopher Reich as a masterful storyteller, both for his storylines and the characters he uses. There is little doubt that this new novel will lay the groundwork for an exciting series, using this debut to develop a strong character who has straddled both sides of the law. Simon Riske’s backstory is on offer here, as Reich returns to shape him throughout the narrative. Abandoned and shipped off to France as a teenager, Riske turned to the only family that accepted him, the Mafia, to make ends meet. However, his epiphany came at a time when he could weigh his options and make a life-changing decision to use his past to effect change. Fuelled with this animosity, Riske is sent on a collision course to clash with his former friend in a case that leaves no stone unchecked. Some of the other characters peppered throughout the narrative provide key elements to the story that advances effectively. Even with a large number of characters, Reich is able to juggle the many storylines and deliver an effective narrative that does not bog down or leave the reader flipping back to recollect how everyone fits together. There are many loose ends woven into the story and this leaves the reader to wonder what might be coming next, while also providing Reich with an opening to explore them further in future novels. Reich is succinct in his writing and keeps the reader wanting to know more, pushing onward with these well-paced chapters. The technical jargon is present, more to inject realism than to drown the reader in minutiae. Readers can easily lose themselves in the story and yet demand more, leaving Reich to decide if this is a pathway he wants to continue, having laid such a powerful foundation.

Kudos, Mr. Reich, for such an explosive debut novel in the series. You are sure to captivate scores of new fans with this piece. I cannot wait to see what other ‘risks’ you’ll take with your next publication.

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