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: