The Last Alibi (Jason Kolarich #4), by David Ellis

Eight stars

While my exploration of David Ellis’ series starring Jason Kolarich has come to an end, it surely did not wane with this fourth novel. A story in which Kolarich finds himself in the crosshairs of a killer is only made better when our protagonist is tied up in knots and left as the accused in a murder trial. After a series of highly troubling events that left Jason Kolarich addicted to pain medication, he tries to hide all this from those around him. However, he is caught up by a new courtroom stenographer, Alexa Himmel, with whom he is soon in a heated relationship. Kolarich is approached by a man who says that he might soon be framed for the murder of a woman and wants advice. A new challenge for Kolarich, but one he is happy to decipher for his hourly fee. It would seem that James Drinker feels that someone is out to pin a number of murders on him, leaving Kolarich to help him creat an alibi that will be useful should the authorities pay him a visit. However, with each subsequent visit by Drinker, Kolarich comes to feel that his client may be a serial killer who is using attorney-client privilege to all but confess. Ready to break all the rules and ensure Drinker is taken into custody, Kolarich violates the state bar’s ethics and points the police in his direction, all while distancing himself from his law firm and falling down the rabbit hole of addiction and a trust with Alexa. However, even Alexa has her limits and she soon creates a situation where Kolarich chooses to keep her at bay. Their rough patch is documented in texts, emails, and voicemail messages. When Alexa turns up dead in his apartment, Kolarich is sure Drinker is behind it, but has no concrete proof. This game of cat and mouse gets harder when Kolarich is put on trial for the murder, forcing his partner, Shauna Tasker, to show off her legal skills. Kolarich is fighting for his life, while the elusive James Drinker hides in the shadows and uses the legal advice he received to exact bloody revenge. Might Jason Kolarich finally have met his match? Ellis does a formidable job with this piece, which keeps the reader guessing in this multi time period narrative. Recommended to those who have loved the series, as well as the reader who needs a legal thriller of the highest caliber.

David Ellis is an author I should have discovered long ago. He keeps his story strong and his characters ever-evolving in a genre that is so crowded with writers these days. As the series reader will know, Jason Kolarich is an evolving character whose backstory and character development never takes a break with Ellis in the driver’s seat. From the loss of his family through to some of his less than stellar relationship choices, Kolarich has always been able to use his gritty work ethic to rise to the occasion. However, with this piece, the tables are turned and Kolarich must rely on others as his life hangs in the balance. While Shauna Tasker has been a secondary character throughout, she peeks through to get a stronger role in this novel, receiving her own narrative perspective. This gives the reader additional first-hand information about the protagonist and some backstory that might have been missed with Kolarich off-hand comments in past novels. The handful of other key characters help propel the story forward and keeps the reader full enthralled with the progress of all things related to the piece. Ellis does well with this story, painting the characters into some interesting corners before pushing out and weaving together perhaps the best story to date. There is no point in the book when there narrative wanes and the mix of chapter lengths works well to give the reader something they can thoroughly enjoy. While it seems David Ellis has moved to working in collaboration with a popular author, I would love to see more of this series or read other standalone work, as this was a wonderful treat for me to discover!

Kudos, Mr. Ellis, for a series that is surely binge-worthy. I will be back for more of your work as I can get my hands on it.

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

The Wrong Man (Jason Kolarich #3), by David Ellis

Eight stars

As my journey through the standalone work of David Ellis continues, I remain highly impressed with all he has to offer. His pieces shine and keep me wanting more, as they explore the legal world with a peppering of current events to keep the plot even thicker. Jason Kolarich has earned his reputation for being a gritty lawyer, mainly because he will go to the mat for his client, no matter their plight. When he is approached by a woman seeking help for her nephew, Kolarich is intrigued, but cannot fully commit quite yet. Tom Stoller is a former Army veteran who is now living on the streets. He is accused of killing Kathy Rubinkowski with a shot to the head. He was found with her belongings on his person and was apologizing for the act, an all but certain ticket to conviction. However, Kolarich sees a great deal of PTSD in Stoller and hears that he was involved in a shooting of a young girl while overseas. Could this be plaguing him after all this time? While Kolarich agrees to take the defence, he is visited by someone with ties to the local mob, asking some highly hypothetical questions. Kolarich is also coming out of his shell on a social level, creating ties with a woman who could prove more useful than a romantic tryst for him. Unable to push the trial into a continuance, Kolarich seeks to pry into the PTSD, but his client clams up and will be of no assistance with that. However, some background on the victim shows that her work at a law firm had her wondering about representation surrounding some highly intriguing substances, things that raise many a red flag for Kolarich. Might Kathy Rubinkowski have been killed for what she knew, leaving Tom Stoller as a scapegoat? Working as hard as he can, Kolarich seeks to convince others of this theory, even as the ADA seeks a slam dunk conviction, to no avail. In the background, something is going on that could make the trial and any verdict matter less than a hill of beans. A great piece that pulls on the heartstrings as well as keeping the reader fully committed. Ellis does so well with this and I’d recommend it to all who love gritty legal thrillers.

David Ellis is an author whose individual work I should have discovered long ago. His attention to detail and ability to pull the reader into the middle of it all cannot be missed. Jason Kolarich remains an integral part of the books and leads the story throughout. His grit and determination help him defend his clients as best he can, without getting caught up in the minutiae of their lives. His legal antics remain aboveboard, but tend to push the case in some interesting directions. He is not afraid to use his silver tongue in court and then pull out some needed fists to combat injustice as he sees it. Other characters help to add depth to the novel in ways that are highly effective. I found the story taking many turns and the strong characters made it all the more effective as the journey continued. The story took on some interesting topics that I feel Ellis handled well, without losing the legal angle that makes these novels so much fun to read. Layering situations and plot lines atop one another makes for some great storytelling and has me reaching for the final book in this series.

Kudos, Mr. Ellis, for more great legal writing. I will do my best to forge into the final novel right away.

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

Breach of Trust (Jason Kolarich #2), by David Ellis

Eight stars

Continuing my journey through the standalone work of David Ellis, I can see that he is able to hold his own, not needing a popular author to prop him up (which is how I have read his work in the past, a collaborative effort). This legal thriller is another example that there are gripping series right under my nose that I should be discovering and devouring. Jason Kolarich was surely a complex character in the opening novel and suffered much. As this book begins, the reader gets some more backstory on the case of State Senator Hector Almundo and corrupt practices that led to the death of a store proprietor. This was also around the time that Kolarich lost his wife and daughter in a freak auto accident. Saddled with this, Kolarich’s spiral into depression saw him try to isolate himself. However, he has the legal spark inside him and found a way to dust himself off. When the wife of one witness from the Almundo case comes to see him, asking that he help find out why her husband was killed, Kolarich is interested, though he is not sure if it will open a Pandora’s Box best left locked. Almundo is so thankful for the exoneration that he helps Kolarich score a lucrative job vetting state contracts in which kickbacks are going directly to the governor’s campaign coffers. While Kolarich is keen to stay on the up and up, someone alters his memo and the US Attorney is prepared to charge him in the scheme. However, there is a way for him to save his hide, by acting as a confidential informant and offering up bigger fish. Kolarich agrees, somewhat hesitantly, and begins working on the inside, only to discover this is a highly dangerous venture. In an operation that sees Kolarich climb the rungs of power within the state, he discovers that there is more to the Almundo case than he thought and that targets may be tied to a ruthless man in the governor’s mansion, with many around him equally as dirty. If only Kolarich can get what he needs to clear himself, and get answers for a grieving widow as well! Ellis has done it again, pulling me in and making me want more. Recommended to those who love legal thrillers that are anything but cookie cutter cases, as well as the reader who likes a side of gritty in their books.

David Ellis does so well on his own, though I can see what some of his more recent work is tied to a popular author, where he can still write and ensure some higher royalties as well. Ellis crafts strong legal stories with plot lines that never stop. Jason Kolarich continues to be a worthwhile protagonist with a past that is more thoroughly revealed in the opening section of this book. His grit and determination emerge throughout as he puts himself on the line to help others (while trying to stay out of prison himself) and he never stops playing all the angles. While he may not always make the best choices, he stands by them and works himself out of the corners into which he paints himself. The reader learns more about his post-family life with a law partner and a practice that is mildly successful, alongside a peppering of other characters whose presence serve the purpose of the narrative. More grit than courtroom acumen in this piece, Ellis and Kolarich both exemplify the darker and more troubling side of the law and legal antics. The reader encounters many writing flavours throughout, blended to make a stellar final product. Never losing momentum, Ellis offers the reader something they can enjoy, as they contemplate reaching for the next novel in the series.

Kudos, Mr. Ellis, for another great thriller. I am bingeing the series, so I will grab for the next book right now!

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

The Hidden Man (Jason Kalorich #1), by David Ellis

Eight stars

Choosing to begin a new series, I turned to David Ellis, with whom I am familiar through his collaborative writing. Focussing on his standalone work, I turned to this legal thriller, which kept me riveted throughout the process and begging for more (thankfully, there are three more books). Little Audrey Cutler is taken from her bed one night in 1980, stolen from under her mother’s watchful eye. The police turn their attention immediately to Griffin Perlini, a known paedophile in the area. However, Perkins denies having anything to do with it and Audrey cannot be found anywhere on the premises. Twenty-six years later, Audrey’s older brother, Sammy, runs into Perlini in public. Soon thereafter, Perlini is found murdered and Sammy is the most likely suspect. When criminal lawyer Jason Kolarich is approached by a mysterious Mr. Smith to defend Sammy Cutler, he is not sure he wants the case, A best friend to Sammy in their childhood, Kolarich remembers the tragedy well and is not sure if he can be of proper assistance. However, this Mr. Smith is quite convincing and Kolarich agrees to take the case, but is forbidden to seek any continuances or additional forensics. Under great pressure, Kolarich begins his defence prep, trying not only to ensure his client’s innocence, but build a case against Griffin Perlini, if only to give Sammy an out for having committed the crime. In the midst of the preparation, Kolarich learns that his brother has been nabbed with guns and drugs, likely facing a long time in jail. Juggling these two cases simultaneously, Kolarich learns that there is more to each case than meets the eye and that Mr. Smith may not be a Good Samaritan, but a man with an agenda all his own. Fighting against the clock and the legal hurdles before him, Jason Kolarich will have to show his acumen as a defence attorney, or someone will surely suffer, both emotionally and physically. A wonderful start to an intriguing series, David Ellis has me hooked. Recommended for those who love a well-plotted legal thriller as well ad the reader who enjoys getting lost in the fast-pace of a great novel.

I have long known of David Ellis as one of the stronger collaborators with a very popular author, but I wanted to see some of his work where he might be able to come out from the shadows. Ellis does well on his own, crafting powerful legal thrillers that never stop developing. Jason Kolarich is a wonderful protagonist, whose life has not always been very easy. Growing up in an abusive household, Kolarich learned early to fight his own battles and protect those closest to him. This determination served him well when he and Sammy Culter were kids and spilled onto the football field when he made it to college. However, anger may have clouded his judgment, something that Kolarich had to nip in the bud in order to properly defend his clients. Gritty and stopping at little, Kolarich is ready to defend those who need him, while pushing others out of his way. Other characters serve to develop the plot well, impeding Kolarich ruthlessly, but also helping to extract the best information possible. Ellis has created a handful of wonderful characters who enrich the novel in many ways. The reader is treated to countless flavours throughout the book, all of which blend together effectively. With a strong plot and a few legal cases that are time sensitive, Ellis pulls the reader into the middle of the story quickly and never loses the momentum to keep the piece on track. With a mix of short and longer chapters, the reader is ready to tackle “a little more”, which ends up being a sizeable chunk. This series debut has me wanting a whole lot more, something that bodes well as I binge this series.

Kudos, Mr. Ellis, for this fabulous legal thriller. I am not sure why I waited so long to read your solo work!

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

Unsolved (Invisible #2), by James Patterson and David Ellis

Nine stars

James Patterson collaborates with David Ellis—one of the authors who is able to keep his pieces on track—for this sequel that will chill the reader almost as much as the original piece. Emmy Dockery is back, still licking the wounds after having blown the lid off a serial killer who masked his crimes under the radar, but she refuses to rest. Seeing links in apparent accidental deaths, Emmy is connecting dots and trying to make a case that a new serial killer is on the loose. However, her superiors at the FBI refuse to listen and want her to keep the investigation where it belongs, on the back burner and during her downtime. For now, Emmy is tasked with helping to crack a case that has the country talking, the nighttime bombings by Citizen David, an anonymous activist trying to representing the ‘little guy’. With news leaking to the public through a keen reporter, all eyes turn to Emmy as the one fuelling that fire. Emmy’s fiancé, Harrison ‘Books’ Bookman, has taken a step away from his past with the Feds and is working in a bookstore, trying to keep her from getting too far off the beaten path, though failing miserably. As the Citizen David investigation heats up, a killer lurks in the shadows, one who has been committing crimes that Emmy is discovering, though no one is yet ready to admit it. ‘Darwin’ is hiding in plain sight, masking his appearance and developing a backstory that will cover any tracks that might be visible. While Emmy is breathing down his neck, he seeks to throw everyone off the scent while also monitoring Emmy from afar. As the investigation heats up and Emmy is finally able to convince someone that there might be something to her off-duty sleuthing, the hunt for the mole intensifies, straining resources and the relationship Emmy needs so badly. But, will this serial killer get the best of everyone and create a pile of unsolved cases, while killing at random? Patterson and Ellis show why they are a masterful duo in this novel that will have the reader wanting to read on until the very end, stopping only when necessary. Recommended to those who loved the early Patterson novels, before he sold out, as well as the reader who loves a decent thriller.

I will be the first to admit that I have only a vague recollection of reading the debut in this series. This is not indicative of a poorly penned novel, but only that I read and review so much. However, after looking back at the review, I can remember a little more and knew I enjoyed it. The same can be said here, as I devoured this piece in short order, loving the twists and turns the authors presented. Emmy Dockery is a protagonist that the reader will easily enjoy, even if she becomes annoying at times. Her ability to get to the root of the issue and dedication is not lost on the attentive reader, even if she is socially stunted and unable to walk away from scouring for Darwin. The connection she has with Books is an on/off switch, but it is apparent that they need one another throughout this book, again. There are a handful of strong supporting characters, all of whom serve to intensify an already strong story with their own character development. One can only wonder if Patterson and Ellis will be back for another novel in the series and use some of these folks to help propel things even further. The story is strong and works well with this cast of characters, keeping the reader wondering throughout. The authors have used a few subplots to keep the overall storyline moving forward and it keeps the reader wondering, as they use their omnipotent view to amass all the information and are able to see the thriller from all angles. I’d gladly return to see if Emmy Dockery and her group have another case in them, though it would seem that anytime Patterson and Ellis work together, the magic follows.

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson and Ellis, for another stellar novel. I am happy to see this collaboration working effectively and can only hope it continues.

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

The Black Book, by James Patterson and David Ellis

Eight stars

James Patterson has again teamed up with David Ellis, offering a wonderful standalone thriller that keeps readers on the edge of their seats and up late into the night. In a narrative set in the ‘past’, Billy Harney and Kate Fenton are hardworking members of Homicide in Chicago. While tailing a suspect, Harney makes the decision to raid a brownstone, which opens up a new and troublesome revelation; this is a brothel visited by the city’s rich and powerful men. During the raid, a ‘little black book’ goes missing, with names that could bring even more of the rich and famous to their knees or serve as strong blackmail fodder. All eyes turn to Harney, who must try to clear his name, when it is presumed he pocketed it. As Fenton begins a power struggle with her partner, Harney must find out who is trying to frame him, adamant that he knows nothing of the book. With the case against the defendants caught in the raid fast approaching, Harney works with a hot-shot prosecutor, Amy Lentini, to ensure his testimony is flawless. Her icy exterior soon melts and she turns up the heat with Harney, which only clouds both their judgements. In a parallel narrative, set in the ‘present’, Harney is found naked, in bed with Lentini, while Detective Fenton lays on the floor. All three have been shot and the two women are dead, with Harney clinging to life and a bullet lodged in his skull. As the story continues, it appears Harney is being blamed for the murder, unable to remember anything from the past as it relates to the lead-up to the shooting or anything he may have learned about the black book. As the reader braces for an ever-evolving rollercoaster ride, the story takes twists and turns with everything centred around a list of names and the people will do anything to hold all the power. A powerful thriller that shows Patterson has the ability to rise to the occasion, with the right author at the helm. Highly recommended to any who enjoy losing themselves in quality writing.

I have often said that James Patterson’s writing has waned in the past few years, his lustre buried under many mediocre novels. However, when David Ellis comes to partner, their cooperation produces stellar writing and offers the reader a literary treat. While it may be a standalone, the novel offers an array of superior characters, wonderfully crafted to push the narrative forward without getting caught up in the minutiae. Working with the parallel narratives, Patterson and Ellis keep the reader guessing, while forcing a constant mental gear switch as the story develops, layering a revealed past with a present that is just as murky. If the reader can handle this mix, they are in for a punch to the gut during the numerous plot twists, which only adds the the overall flavour of the piece. Dark, but peppered with some dry humour to keep the reader smiling, Patterson and Ellis know the perfect recipe for a fast-paced thriller.

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson and Ellis for joining forces again and showing that there is never an end to your abilities. I know I am in for a treat when your names grace the cover and hope to see more of your collaborative efforts soon.