Water (Zack Wilder #1), by N.J. Croft

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to N.J. Croft for providing me with a copy of this novel, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

I was yet again excited when N.J. Croft asked me to read a beta copy of her latest publication in the Zack Wilder series. This one proves just as exciting as the novella series debut, with a massive mystery and a number of potential suspects. When FBI Special Agent Zack Wilder has something go horribly wrong during some undercover work, he’s whisked off to help with a case of water contamination that has claimed the lives of many. Confused as to why he might have been personally chosen, Wilder works with a local EPA agent to get to the bottom of things. What begins as some corporate finger pointing turns sinister, especially after the chairman of the local company thought responsible turns up dead by an apparent suicide. Wilder receives anonymous texts demanding that he shut things down or his secret will be revealed. When more mass water poisonings take place, Wilder is sure there is something more to the story. He’s equally worried that someone will learn of his position within the Fulcrum, an organisation he has been a part of since age 4. Working both cases, Wilder discovers that nothing is quite as it seems and he may be the prime target. A brilliant piece by N.J. Croft that kept me enthralled throughout.

FBI Agent Zack Wilder is working undercover with his partner, but things go horribly wrong when a botched raid leaves her dead. This is the second of his partners who have died in the line of duty over the last few months, leaving him a little leery. What’s worse, he is quickly shuttled off by his superior to help with a water contamination case, something about which he knows little.

As Wilder begins working with EPA Agent Dr. Olivia Bishop, they learn that the contamination in the water could not have been a simple dumping from the local factory, as its concentration levels are far too high. Rather, it must have come at the hands of an individual seeking to make a point. Dr. Bishop’s ex-husband is part of an environmental group and has a motive, but she is sure that he was not involved in any of it. Wilder receives an anonymous text warning him to close things down or his ‘secret’ will be revealed to all, which likely means his role in the Fulcrum. Wilder wants to keep that under the radar and does his best to close the case, just as a local businessman commits sluice and claims responsibility for the contamination.

No sooner than that case is closed off, than another contamination takes place and Wilder rushes off with Dr. Bishop and his newest partner. Things continue to make no sense, with contamination levels higher than could be naturally occurring. When another business owner suffers a brutal and apparently self-inflicted death, Wilder is told again that he must shut things down. Is there someone out there who knows of his role in the Fulcrum? Could all of this be Fulcrum related and there is a rogue member seeking to end him?

After being given a lead that Hoover Dam might be a subsequent target, Wilder rushes there, only to find himself caught in the middle of a trap. He’s left to protect himself and almost dies when concrete comes crashing down around him. Now, Wilder is sure that someone wants him dead and that there has to be a Fulcrum connection. Reaching out for help, Wilder learns little, but knows that he will have to watch himself or risk dying. Who is behind all this and how will Wilder uncover the truth? A thrilling piece by Croft that has me begging for more!

I have long have an interest in the work of N.J. Croft, as she pushed me outside of my comfort zone while tackling issues of science and scientific discovery. There is a degree of science to this book, in that the discussion of water contamination weaves its way into the early portion of the book, but it is not technical, nor are the issues overly complex. Rather, it is a book filled with a wonderful narrative and strong character development, while also allowing the reader to delve a little deeper into the Fulcrum and what that means for Zack Wilder. After reading the opening novella, I was very eager for this piece and am happy that I got to read it so quickly.

Special Agent Zack Wilder is back with more and keeps the reader highly entertained with both his curious backstory, as well as some wonderful development in the present. His lack of relationships may leave some baffled, but he is by no means a stranger to the ladies, as things progress in an interesting manner within the pages of this book. All that being said, his focus in the job, as well as keeping his secret about being part of the Fulcrum. Grit and determination fuel him throughout and his is not prepared to let anything stand in his way from getting answers, while always being leery about who or what awaits him around every bend. I cannot wait to learn more about him in the next year or two.

As with the introductory novella, there was much action throughout to keep the reader attentive and curious about what is to come. The limited backstory served to keep Zack on point and yet there is much about the Fulcrum that Croft will have to share in the coming novels. A swift narrative keeps the reader engaged from the outset and allows them to wonder about what awaits for Zack and others. The plot was complex enough that it could not be easily predicted, while not tangling anyone up in knots as they made their way through it all. Short chapters keep the reader on point and forging ahead, allowing me to say “just a little more” on numerous occasions. I cannot wait to see what else is to be revealed for all to see in the coming years and. how the Fulcrum will play a key role in it all.

Kudos, Madam Croft, for a great series that keeps me curious and wondering with each flip of the page.

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

The Fulcrum (Zack Wilder #0.5), by N.J. Croft

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to N.J. Croft for providing me with a copy of this novel, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

I was pleaded and excited when N.J. Croft asked me to personally read a copy of her latest publication, a novella to begin a new and exciting series. Always one to push the limits of science and add a powerful thriller to propel the story forward, Croft has again found success in this piece. When FBI Agent Zack Wilder is contacted by an old Army buddy, he’s intrigued. The man was the sole survivor of a plane crash that is not quite as it seems. Pushing a little deeper, Agent Wilder discovers that there were some experiments being undertaken by a group known as The Fulcrum, one Wilder knows all too well. After coming face to face with a woman from his past, Wilder realises that there’s more going on and no one is safe unless success is guaranteed. A chilling tale that paves the way for Croft’s new thriller series.

FBI Agent Zack Wilder wants nothing more than a decent partner and regular work. Both of those wishes are stymied when he is assigned a new partner who has targeted him for harassment and outright criticism. When Wilder receives a random call from an old friend he knew during his time in the military, it’s time for a meeting. Little does Wilder know, but it’s about to open a can of worms like no other.

Sergeant Ethan Hawkins tells the story of a mysterious plane crash that killed everyone else on board, all members of Wilder’s former military unit. While it’s being reported as an accident, Hawkins is sure there is more to the story and that it was an attempt to wipe everyone out. Wilder listens and discovers that Hawkins had been subject to debilitating headaches prior to the trip. Could there be a connection?

While trying to keep Hawkins safe, Wilder and his partner seek to put some of the pieces together. They soon encounter Layla Perrault, who is an old friend of Wilder’s and is the first to blow the lid on his ‘orphanage upbringing’. Wilder and Layla were both handed over by their parents to The Fulcrum, a group seeking to hone the intelligence of families, particularly their children. It would seem The Fulcrum has been using soldiers in some of their new technology testing, seeking to create those who have no free will and can do anything they are told.

As Wilder digs a little deeper, he discovers that it’s got something to do with controlling the brain with a tiny device. This may seem innocent enough on the surface, as the technology has been used to help others in a variety of situations, but in the hands of the wrong people and it could be deadly. Wilder must try to bring The Fulcrum down, knowing full well the power they possess and the implications of his learning too much. A wonderful way to begin a new and exciting series for N.J. Croft.

While science and scientific discovery has never been my area of greatest interest, N.J. Croft has always piqued my curiosity with the books she writes on the subject. There is much to her storytelling, which mixes scientific explanation alongside controversial uses, always sure to generate a stellar thriller. The story moved quickly and has just enough twists to keep the reader intrigued, particularly with the ending.

Agent Zack Wilder storms onto the scene effectively, offering a little backstory and some development to whet the appetite of any curious reader. He’s gritty and determined, but also hungry for answers, which propels his investigation and the story forward. Croft has left many threads dangling, which i hope will be handled as the series progresses.

Strong supporting characters offer the reader some insight into what’s going on, while also pushing a number of questions to the forefront. There’s so much to learn and so many moving pieces, Croft hints at what is to come and challenges the reader to guess at the direction things will take.

While this was only an introductory novella, there was much action throughout. The backstory is developed well and there’s much left to the imagination for the time being. The narrative moves at a quick pace and allows the reader to gather some of the basic information, while also wondering what’s to come. Short chapters keep the reader on point and forging ahead, while the twists throughout keep the story from being too linear. I found the pace just to my liking and the ending opens up many possibilities about where The Fulcrum is headed and how the series might progress, given time.

Kudos, Madam Croft, for a great start to a series. I hope you have more with these characters soon, as I am quite curious.

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

The Descartes Evolution, by N.J. Croft

Eight stars

Eager to sink my teeth into something with a little pep, I turned to this book by N.J. Croft. Full of mystery and intrigue, it also opens up the world of terrorism and unique weapon technology in a story that will have readers flipping pages until they reach the climactic finish. N.J. Croft has done it again, stunning readers with a story that seems to come out of nowhere with influences that are, quite literally, out of this world. Recommended for readers who have enjoyed Croft’s work in the past, as well as those who prefer terrorism thrillers.

Jenna Young always knew that she was special, particularly when her father explained that she had a rare, genetic illness that could only be managed with experimental medication. When he died in a car accident, Jenna receives a letter from him through his solicitor, asking that she see one of his colleagues for more of her medication, using the codeword ‘Descartes’. Unsure what to do, Jenna visits a friend and confides that she needs help, revealing all she knows. The next day, her friend is found murdered.

Luke Grafton has been keeping an eye on a group using the name Conclave, sure that they are behind the staged suicide of his father years before. Luke will stop at nothing to dismantle them, hoping that he can learn their truth purpose along the way. When members of Conclave appear to target a young woman, Luke does all he can to save her, while remaining unsure what Jenna Young might have that they want.

On the run, Luke and Jenna forge an unlikely connection. Jenna shares her news and wonders what ‘Descartes’ might have to do with everything, which triggers Luke to dig a little deeper. It would seem that Conclave have been working on something experimental, potentially useful in a terrorist attack. Descartes, its codename, seems to have had some success during testing on the African continent, but no one is quite sure when or where it will be unleashed.

Off her medication, Jenna begins to feel a lot different, though she cannot entirely understand why. Could it be that her illness is taking over her body? When Luke makes note of it, both he and Jenna realise just how important she could be the Conclave and the larger Descartes mission. That will mean they must stay one step ahead of everyone, while also not resting on their laurels.

This is another stellar piece by N.J. Croft, which keeps the reader attentive until the very end. There’s action throughout and even a few moments of cheesy romance for those readers who enjoy that in their thrillers. Posing some moral and ethical questions along the way, Croft keeps the reader wondering until all comes together in the final reveal.

Jenna Young and Luke Grafton play wonderful dual protagonists in this piece. Coming from vastly different backgrounds, their personal stories are developed throughout the narrative, while they appear to develop effectively as the story progresses. Both have had death befall them, though neither can adequately explain what’s happened or how things will turn out. As with many Croft pieces, there are sparks and something blossoms, though this cannot (and should not) deter them from focussing their attention on the task at hand.

There is an effective secondary cast throughout the book that complements the protagonists, as well as helping to shape the larger story. With a few key subplots, these individuals serve to push the narrative forward in a number of ways. Great dialogue banter and effective action on the page shows that Croft has been able to properly manage the direction of the piece through the supporting cast on offer. As many of the novels are standalones, there is little chance of reemergence, forcing each character to make their mark in this single novel.

The story as a whole was quite thought provoking and kept me wanting to know more. The thrills were apparent throughout the piece, taking the reader through many twists and turns, leaving little time to catch one’s breath.

In those few lulls, Croft takes the reader into something more for the soft hearted reader, with a few romance scenes that do not add much to the overall depth of the piece. I get the desire to (pardon the pun) flesh things out a bit, but it seems more filler than useful for my reading experience.

With a mix of chapter lengths, the reader can find themselves riveted and pushing forward to see where things are headed, while stopping should the need arise.

Even as a standalone, the novel has all the reader could need with a strong story, well presented characters, and a twist at the end that will baffle at least a handful.

Kudos, N.J. Croft, for another winner. I always enjoy your novels and cannot wait to see what’s next in line!

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

The Wall, by N.J. Croft

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to N.J. Croft for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

With the political circus in full swing across America, N.J. Croft’s newest book looks to provide readers with some insightful foreshadowing (and foreboding) of what could come, should ‘The Wall’ become a reality. With a chilling plot and some great characters, Croft offers readers a glimpse of the dystopia that awaits if America’s four year nightmare does not end on January 20, 2021. In the not too distant future, America stands on its own. After the Loyalty Party swept into power, President Harry Coffell, Sr. took the helm and began enacting some essential laws, including the building of a wall to protect the country from outsiders. He justified that after the recent pandemic, closing the country down would keep citizens free from disease, something Coffell touts as being the best way to return America to its past greatness. With the literal wall comes a digital one, where outside signals are blocked and ongoing technical research is banned. The only change at the top comes in the form of President Harry Coffell, Jr., who is happy to continue his father’s legacy with new and stricter rules to keep America for Americans. Within this administration, Kate Buchanan is at the helm of threat assessments for Homeland Security, looking for issues and passing them up the line. She’s personalised a secret program to synthesise the threats that emerge and offer some predictive analysis about what might be coming down the pipeline should certain things occur. What she discovers is something that could really rock the country. Meanwhile, Gideon Frome has returned to take up a senior position with the Secret Service, after being removed from the capital and sent to defend the Wall. Gideon has an interesting past, with a brother who went missing and labelled a rebel to American advances. After Kate devises a plan to trick Gideon into providing an essential piece of information, she is able to unlock additional databases within her program. With this knowledge, the ultimate plan of both POTUS and the Party emerges, which is even more terrifying than first thought. As Kate and Gideon begin to see that anyone who stands in the path ends up ‘accident prone’, they must race to dismantle an all but certain plan to keep democracy at bay and allow President Coffell to hold firm to power for as long as he desires. Soon the horrid epiphany comes to the surface: the Wall is not only meant to keep others out, but to keep Americans in, forever. Chilling in its approach and poignant in today’s political arena, Croft gives readers something to consider before November 3, 2020 and well into the future. Recommended to those who love political thrillers, as well as the reader who finds dystopian novels to their liking.

I discovered N.J. Croft earlier this year and cannot get enough of these novels. Not only are they poignant, but also provide the reader with something to think about throughout the reading experience. This piece utilises two protagonists to push the story forward, each bringing their own perspective to the story. Kate provides the reader with her insights into what America is becoming, based on the revelations of her computer program and the whispers that emerge through predictive reasoning. Her backstory provides the reader with some context about the larger storyline of a sister and pulls in her fellow protagonist. Kate’s character development comes to light as she better understands what I call the Coffell Doctrine—plan to see America remain under Martial Law and away from democratic elections—and uses her knowledge to attempt a derailment of the entire system for the love of her country. Gideon, on the other hand, has a vastly different backstory and his life experiences surely shape the man he has become. Interrogated and sent to defend the Wall, Gideon has war stories and injuries all his own, as well as an awkward dislike for the Coffell Administration, yet has been given a ‘crown jewel’ position within the Secret Service. While he is tasked with protecting the president, Gideon sees what is going on, if only with Kate’s help, and must decide which is more important to him. There are other characters who make an impact on the story and keep things moving in some very interesting directions. Croft creates those on both sides of the struggle and does not hold back in filling in many gaps as they relate to the larger plot developments. The story was quite strong and on par with some of the ‘crazy times’ America is experiencing under its current POTUS 45 administration, though this book certainly takes this a lot further. One can only guess that there is a degree of tongue in cheek here, though it does provide the insightful reader with some ideas of how far things could go if given the chance to push martial law and suspect elections. All that being said, there will be some who surely feel that Croft has gone too far, but they are also those who tend not to see the slippery slope on which they are standing or hope that blind faith will solve all the political and social woes that have befallen America. In a novel that propels the narrative forward with strong chapters of various lengths, Croft uses quotes by past US president to flavour what is to come in each new section. This keeps the reader guessing while also showing how presidential foreshadowing can effectively shed light on where things have gone at present. However one takes it, this is an eyebrow raising piece and I am pleased to have had the time to read it and ruminate before I watch Americans go to the polls (or mail in their ballots) on November 3rd. The rest is up to them!

Kudos, N.J. Croft, for this piece which kept me thinking throughout. I applaud your work and am so pleased to have tripped upon your writing by scouring Goodreads and locating some great recommendations.

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

Disease X, by N.J. Croft

Eight stars

At a time when it seems the world has been turned on its head, it is sometimes fun to read a book that encapsulates a similar pandemic feel. N.J. Croft released this book just before widespread public knowledge came out about COVID-19, with some eerie, loose parallels—though nothing like those in Dean Koontz’s The Eyes of Darkness. Dr. Elijah ‘Eli’ Vance is a virologist working at Johns Hopkins, happy to be in a lab and trying to work through many a challenging study. When he is called upon by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to fly down and investigate an issue in Mexico, Vance is forced out of his comfort zone. Vance and a team of highly trained scientists across numerous fields make their way to the zone, accompanied by US Army Captain Riley Hawkins. While Vance gets acclimated to the region, he discovers an odd, flu-like illness has taken hold in a small village. The symptoms may be mild, but someone with some clout obviously thought it was something. Unable to pinpoint what it could be, Vance and the team begin taking tests to determine the voracity of this illness. What begins as a mild irritant soon turns deadly, as people showing symptoms are dead within two days. Putting fluid samples under the microscope, Vance discovers that this is not bacterial, but also no virus he’s encountered before. All this pushes him into a spiral of flashbacks to his childhood, when a strain of Ebola wiped out his family while on a mission in Africa. Vance tries to pull it together, acting as a teacher for the curious Captain Hawkins, as they become closer on many levels. With a mortality rate of 100 percent, Vance is able to determine that the virus has been contained within the hot-zone, though there may be ties to a bat bite, leaving him to wonder about a rabies strain. He’s ready to return to Washington and try to work out the specifics of what’s been going on, hoping to work on stronger ties with Hawkins, who seems to have taken quite the liking to him. Unbeknownst to everyone, a handful of tourists, who were in the hot-zone for a day or two, have made their way to Mexico City and are returning home around the world. With this comes the spread of this mystery, as other health officials sound the alarm. As Vance collects data from Japan and within the continental United States, he’s alerted to a high-level secret. What does the US Military know that they are not sharing and how does this mystery disease tie-in to a plane crash in Alaska a decade before? All this comes to the surface, as Dr. Eli Vance is juggling unknowns in this high-impact thriller. Another winner by N.J. Croft, who seems almost prophetic in their writing of a pandemics in the 21st century. Recommended to those who like medical thrillers of a sort, as well as the reader who enjoys something with a chill factor during their isolation reading time.

I stumbled upon N.J. Croft a while back when a fellow reviewer on Goodreads was writing about two other books the author has recently released. While those were steeped in history, this book slid its way onto the Amazon site as well, not yet revealed as being the ‘perfect book to scare the crap out of people already worried with COVID-19 news’. Croft develops this story with ease, unknowingly helping the curious reader to better understand some of the more scientific side to virus testing and its spread. Dr. Eli Vance serves as the protagonist in this piece and is ready to represent. He is the scientific eye of the piece, serving to educate the reader through his discussions and actions, while also baffled by what he’s seeing in this evolving pandemic. His harsh exterior is a shell for the vulnerability that he has seen and the reader can surely understand what brought him to work so hard to find answers when no one else is able to do so. There is a handful of other characters who complement Vance throughout, bringing their expertise—or naïveté, in the case of Captain Riley Hawkins—to the story and help educate the reader as well. The dialogue and interactions serve as a more energetic means of passing along needed information to the reader, where the subject matter is something dense but surely important for the layperson to follow the thread of the narrative. With strong writing and a keen eye for the hook to keep the reader pushing forward, N.J. Croft does well to mix action and education throughout, as things get intense with the development of this pandemic. The reader is treated to some medical thrills, as well as a conspiracy that could only come with a country keen to play god, which adds depth and intrigue to what is already a very exciting read. A mix of chapter lengths, alongside relatable characters, leaves the reader wanting to know more and able to get lost in the story without things getting too clunky. Croft has done their research, providing the reader with the needed scientific elements to understand what is going on, without getting too ‘academic journal’-ish in doing so, all while making things seem highly plausible (more so now, as many people are in COVID quarantine or were not too long ago). A great find that helped me better understand what’s going on (as well as the conspiracies that no one is talking about).

Kudos, N.J. Croft, for this stunning read. I hope others take the time to check this one out, without getting too conspiratorial about its plot as they compare it to the news about COVID-19. Leave that to the aforementioned Nostradamus Dean Koontz and his novel!

This book adds to the Topic #7: Catastrophe selections of the Equinox #10 reading challenge.

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

The Lost Tomb (Lost #1), by N.J. Croft

Eight stars

I leapt into the world of N.J. Croft on the recommendation of a friend, which appears to have paid off well. After devouring the opening novella, I turned to this book, which I was sure would offer more insight into the mysteries of Genghis Khan. Rather, it packs a thrilling punch and takes things in some other, but entertaining, directions. Noah Blakeley works in a highly trained group for the American Government, searching out and neutralising terrorist groups. Working inside Project Arachnid, he is alerted to the news that his ex-wife, Dr. Eve Blakeley, was killed in a plane crash in Russia. Not only that, but Blakeley must now relocate to the United Kingdom to take care of his three estranged children. As Blakeley gets his feet under him, he begins poking around into what Eve had been doing, learning a little about her Genghis Khan work and what she was trying to find. The more he uncovers, the stronger the sense is to Noah that Eve was killed by a group seeking to protect all things related to Khan’s resting place, as a strong legend surrounds what could happen when the secret location is revealed. Noah makes plans to travel to Russia and potential Mongolia to uncover what was known and get to the root of it all. Working alongside an apparent colleague of Eve’s, Noah realises that he may have taken on more than he should. A call from back in the UK reveals that someone’s kidnapped his daughter and wants the whereabouts of the secret tomb discovered. Fuelled by determination, Noah does all he can, knowing that one false move could see him dead and his daughter’s body sliced by a sick group calling themselves the Descendants of Genghis Khan. All this, while a major terrorism conference is set to open in Russia, where many world leaders will attend and could be killed. An exciting follow-up to the novella, Croft keeps the reader guessing as they travel down many a rabbit hole in order to discover the truth from centuries ago. Recommended to those who need a little adventure in their lives, as well as for readers who enjoyed the opening novella.

I am happy to have taken up the N.J. Croft challenge and will surely explore some of the other novels that have been published but are not part of this small collection. While I was expecting more Dr. Eve Blakeley, Croft chose to explore things from the other side of the coin, offering up Noah instead. A gritty man with a military background, Blakeley has the domestic life parachuted into his lap, as he makes the best of a horrible situation. However, given the right mix of situations, he shows his true colours and can battle with the best of them. His hard exterior is offset by a love for his pre-teen daughter, whose life is all but certain. Croft utilizes his protagonist well and presents a handful of other secondary characters whose presence keeps the story moving effectively. There is truly a mix of action with emotional connection in a story that seeks to build off the previous novella, while also standing on its own. The story works well and has a few twists that take the plot in unforeseen directions, while a mix of chapter lengths allow each to build on one another. Croft writes in such a fashion that the reader is left wanting to know more. I will gladly try another of the standalone novels, as this reader worked well and kept me intrigued until the final reveal.

Kudos, N.J. Croft, for a great (though brief) duology, which got me at least a little curious about Genghis Khan. I hope others discover all your work and your fan base increases.

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

The Lost Spear (Lost #0.5), by N.J. Croft

Eight stars

On the recommendation of a friend, I chose to look into the world of N.J. Croft’s work. I stumbled upon this free novella, which appears to introduce a new series and thought it the best place to begin. Dr. Eve Blakeley has had a life-long ambition to track down the whereabouts of the Spirit Banner of Genghis Khan, a spear wrapped in horse hair that is said to possess the soul of one of the world’s great terrorists. Stolen from its Mongolian home in the 1930s, Blakeley is given the opportunity to fulfil this goal while supervising an archeological dig. After some reticence, she agrees, but not before she is mysteriously visited by MI6 Agent Zachary Martin. Blakeley and Martin come to discover there may be more to the dig than meets the eye and proceed with caution. While in Mongolia, Blakeley finds herself living her dream, though it is much more dangerous than she might have expected. As Martin makes a covert appearance alongside those in the archeological group, both he and Blakeley come to terms with issues in their respective pasts that could trigger problems at any minute. Finding the Spirit Banner is anything but a simple task and things turn deadly as both sides—those who want the mystery revealed and those happy to bury it deeper—clash in the Mongolian desert. Blakeley is pushed to the brink, but also offered a second life-altering opportunity, if she can survive this one! An exciting piece by N.J. Croft that gets the blood pumping and hooks the reader to try the full-length novel next. Recommended to those who have a little time on their hands they need to fill, as well as the reader who likes an historical thriller with lots to tell!

I am happy I took the time to read this novella, as it proved to be well worth my time. With a captivating concept, N.J. Croft keeps the action going and the story moving at a clipped pace. Dr. Eve Blakeley is a decent character whose backstory is revealed a little with this piece. I was intrigued by her need to fulfil some long-awaited goal and yet finding that it is more than she expected, which may be why I chose her for my reading challenge (see below). A recent divorcée, Blakeley must put family before ambition, but the stakes are sometimes too high to ignore. I am eager to see what else the author has in store for Blakeley, as hints are made in the closing pages of the book about a new and even more dangerous adventure. Others in the piece work well to fuel both sides of the issue, offering the reader something exciting throughout without getting too silly. Croft mixes action with emotional connection to the topic at hand, which is expressed in keen dialogue between poignant characters. The story may not have been earth shattering, but this novella serves to pave the way for more, something the reader can discover in the full novel that follows this piece. With short chapters that build on one another, Croft keeps the reader wanting to know more. I am eager to sink my teeth into more work by the author, specifically the novel that follows this short piece.

Kudos, N.J. Croft, for a great introduction to your work. Your travels have surely helped hone your skills at storytelling, which are on offer here in spades.

This book fulfils Topic #2: Travel Buddy, of the Equinox #10 Reading Challenge.

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