Fifty-Fifty (Eddie Flynn #5), by Steve Cavanagh

Eight stars

Continuing with Steve Cavanagh’s great legal thriller series, I was pulled into this one from the opening pages. I tried to crack the case quickly, but only found myself more confused (in a good way) as things progressed. When two calls come in to 911 dispatch, they tell of a horrible attack on Frank Avellino, former mayor of New York City. The calls are placed by his daughters, Alexandra and Sofia, each pointing the finger at the other for the attack and sure that their sister is out of control. When police arrive, they take both girls into custody and arrest them for what turns out to be a murder. In a lottery system of sorts, lawyers flock to sign up the Avellino sisters, including Eddie Flynn. He’s able to sign Sofia Avellino, the quieter and more troubled sister, whose self-harm may be an impediment to her mental stability. With a DA salivating to nail at least one of the sisters, an offer is made to both in hopes that one will flip. The law firm representing Alexandra tries to rush the offer, which does not sit well with junior associate Kate Brooks, who also cannot stand the sexual harassment that she’s suffered by one of the named partners. In a bold move, Kate goes out on her own and convinces Alexandra to sign with her, sure that they can win the case by targeting Sofia as the weak link. While Flynn wants to destroy the DA’s case, he must keep the Alexandra attack at bay, worried that his own client will crumple under pressure. With a biased judge trying to work against him, Flynn will have to pull out all the stops to keep Sofia from facing the ultimate punishment, while trying to get to the bottom of what really happened that night at the Avellino mansion. With great plots and a handful of exciting characters, Cavanagh has penned what may be his best novel in the series to date. Recommended to those who love a good legal thriller, as well as the reader who has come to enjoy Eddie Flynn in all his glory.

Having binge reading the previous novels in this series a while back, I was forced to wait for the release of this novel. The wait was definitely worth it, as Steve Cavanagh does not hold back with the intensity and the legal maneuvering throughout. His focus on Eddie Flynn again is ideal, though there is little time or effort put into the backstory, but rather the ever-evolving legal career of a man who was once a great con artist with ties to organised crime. Flynn uses his strong legal mind the move through the minefield that is this case, where two sisters are pointing the finger at one another, with his own client the weaker of the two. Flynn’s gut says that she is telling the truth, though there is always the veil of mystery that keeps things from being too clear-cut. With a handful of strong supporting characters, Flynn pushes through to seek justice and the truth, not always the same thing. Cavanagh injects a number of strong characters on all sides of the story to keep things interesting and leaves the reader wondering what to expect. Included in this is a ‘she’ character, presumably one of the sisters and the actual murderer, as a perspective and storyline all her own evolves throughout the book, leaving the reader to wonder if it could be Alexandra or Sofia. In a story built on the she said/she said narrative, Cavanagh keeps the reader wondering throughout as to which sister is telling the truth and who might be lying. There are clues on both sides, but only one can be guilty, or so it would seem. With great build-up and a stellar court proceeding, the narrative catapults the reader into the middle of the action and will not let go. Chapters of varying lengths keep the reader hooked, particularly when ‘She’ is interspersed throughout, and the culmination will be a reveal the reader has sought from the opening pages. Likely the best of the series I have read, I can only hope that there are more to come soon, as Cavanagh has the gift for writing in this genre.

Kudos, Mr. Cavanagh, for another winner. I will have to read your standalone piece to keep myself busy as i wait for another Eddie Flynn novel.

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

Fifty Fifty (Detective Harriet Blue #2), by James Patterson and Candice Fox

Nine stars

Candice Fox has teamed up with James Patterson again for the next instalment in the Harry Blue series, picking up soon after the cliffhanger of the series’ first full-length novel. Harriet ‘Harry’ Blue has a lot on her plate as a Detective Inspector within Sydney’s Sex Crimes Unit. However, nothing could prepare Harry for the arrest of her brother, Sam, as the Georges River Killer, perhaps one of Australia’s most sinister serial murderers. Sam professes his innocence and Harry cannot help but come to his aid. One morning, outside the courthouse, Harry loses her cool and pulls a stunt that places everything in jeopardy, including her career. Sent away to rural Australia again, Harry finds herself in the middle of nowhere, Last Chance Valley, to be specific. While driving his route, a trucker found a red backpack with an interesting personal journal inside. It lists a plan to wipe Last Chance off the map, alongside its seventy-five (yes, 75) residents. Harry works with the only cop in the town and receives a rude welcome when a bomb explodes and kills the former Chief of Police. Harry seeks to take charge, but its elbowed out of the way by Counter-Terrorism Task Force member, Elliot Kash. After some chest beating, Harry and Kash are able to come to some sort of agreement, albeit a fragile one. Back in Sydney, Harry’s partner, Detective Edward Whittacker, is trying to keep an eye on Sam’s trial, where some of the evidence is not making sense. On the day of Sam’s arrest, a new victim was taken, Caitlyn McBeal. While she does not meet the victimology of the others killed by the Georges River Killer, a university student got away and saw the killer grab her. McBeal is being held and may hold the key the entire case, though there are no solid leads. Whittacker is joined by a less than noble ‘Tox’ Barnes, who will stop at nothing to prove that Sam’s been framed for the crime. As Harry gets sporadic updates, she continues to seek answers about the journal and revels in the information it provides. Her interviews lead her towards a teenager with little to lose, who seems to be typecast as a terrorist because of his ancestry. While Harry is not entire sure which was is up, she’s come to realise that Last Chance Valley is a place where dreams die and differences spark retribution. As she seeks to obtain answers, someone is targeting her and starts putting the end plan into motion. Splitting her worry for Sam and the residents of Last Chance Valley down the middle, Harry will have to focus in order to bring justice for at least one of the cases. A wonderful follow-up story that keeps the reader hooked until the very end, Fox and Patterson prove to be an explosive team as they continue developing this new and exciting series. Fans of Fox’s work will see her flavour in the writing and likely enjoy it, though anyone who finds pleasure in a police procedural will likely applaud the effort.

From a kernel developed in the BookShots collection of short stories, Fox and Patterson come together for a wonderful early start to this series. Their writing styles have similarities, though I feel a strong thread of Fox’s writing in this story, set throughout Australia. Harry Blue is a tough character to crack, though she is revealed throughout the narrative, which offers both her empathetic side and a significant backstory offered in pieces throughout. Complemented by the likes of others, the story takes on a life of its own through the narrative, which seamlessly switches between the two locales and fleshes-out characters for the reader to love (or hate)! The story is well presented and while there may be some flights of fancy, it remains a firmly rooted piece of fiction that dedicates much of its time to the deserted areas of Australia, positing how this distance from ‘city life’ might create an odd persona for those living in Last Chance Valley. Fox and Patterson keep the intensity high as they allow the reader to see things through the eyes of the Georges River Killer, though are careful not to tip the narrative into revealing too much at once. The pace is great and the short chapters, for which Patterson is known, fuels an intense read that does not stop until the final cliffhanger. Brilliant in its execution, one can only hope that Patterson and Fox will continue their partnership, but also realise if Harry Blue is suffering from burnout, when the time comes.

Kudos, Mr. Patterson and Madam Fox, for keeping me curious about what is to come. You work magic together, as well as showing you can stand alone and present great thrillers, given the time and effort.

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