Cheaters, Peter A Stankovic

Cheaters, Peter A Stankovic

Cheaters

In Cheaters: A Markus Doppler Thriller, a serial killer is running loose in Sydney. A string of women have been turning up dead, missing one front tooth, and with no other real common denominator aside from their gender. The Sydney police call on Markus Doppler, a recently-retired detective, to come in and lead the team on the case. Markus, with a mounting body count and little by way of leads, is trying to balance catching a killer with a relationship with the first woman he’s had serious feelings for since his divorce, met via the Cheaters website – a site advertised as a way for people looking for no-strings sex to meet.

This book is a well-laid out mystery story, constructed to keep the reader guessing right through to the grand reveal and playing on the ongoing theme of websites set up for married couples to experiment beyond their marriage. I found that the sheer number of secondary characters was overwhelming in the beginning, meaning that for me the story only really found a unifying factor about a tenth of the way in, and the constant point-of-view shifts became confusing in sections. However, Peter A. Stankovic does manage to pull all these disparate threads together for the finale, and the locations and characters are solidly convincing. Certainly worth reading for mystery readers who don’t like all the answers handed to them on a plate.

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Bounty, J D Cunegan

Bounty, J D Cunegan

Bounty

In Bounty, the ass-kicking sequel to Blood Ties, Jill and her partner Ramon are called to investigate a gruesome murder – just another wonderful day in Homicide, or so they assume. However, Dr. Roberts’ murder quickly turns out to be only the start of Jill’s problems, as his death threatens to bring the top-secret modifications she underwent in the Army out in public – something the military and the unscrupulous billionaire who bankrolled the research will do anything to prevent. Jill is reluctantly forced to face the fact that to solve this case, she may have no option but to reveal her other identity to the world.

J D Cunegan’s storytelling adds that little something extra to this book to mix Bounty’s vigilante struggles, Jill’s investigative work, and the interpersonal relations between the characters into an explosive plotline. Facing the loss of her badge and betrayal by the one person she was certain she could trust, Jill’s struggle to keep going and stay alive makes for a powerful page-turner, her strength as a character making the fantasy elements eminently plausible. Studded with double-crosses, deadly stunts, and corruption in high places, this book is guaranteed to keep you turning pages right through to the end.

Forest: Loss, Love, Legend, Rod Raglin

Forest: Loss, Love, Legend, Rod Raglin

Forest: Loss, Love, Legend

In FOREST: Love, Loss, Legend, Rod Raglin introduces Mathew Bennett, a washed-up foreign correspondent, estranged from family and friends, and dealing with PTSD by drowning it in alcohol. Faced with a bleak future, Mathew doesn’t expect to hear from the small town where he grew up twice in one day, and certainly not in the form of a battered treasure map and a safety deposit key. It’s up to Mathew to face down his oldest memories and find out what really happened to his missing father in some of the toughest country to survive in on the planet – the forests of Canada’s Pacific Northwest.

Rod Raglin’s novel offers a compelling story, with daily life in small-town BC layered over a much stranger story of forest myths peering through from the shadows. Mathew’s character, a hard-bitten journalist, epitomises the contrast between the cynicism of modern society and his half-buried, childhood memories of the extraordinary. Tellingly, the contradictions between the two are making him doubt his sanity and his priorities. FOREST: Love, Loss, Legend neatly encapsulates the battleground of humanity’s greed for natural resources versus the cost to the environment in Mathew’s experiences, right down to his local town’s gang leader’s willingness to do whatever it takes to find out where Mathew’s father allegedly struck gold. Mathew faces weather, illness, beatings, and guns as he reforges ties with his oldest friends and finds out the reality behind the myths and memories. This is a compelling story, studded with evocative detail and underlaid by a very real question – definitely worth the read.

Reviewed for Readers’ Favorite.

Fall, Leaves, Fall, Mike Driver

Fall, Leaves, Fall, Mike Driver

Fall, Leaves, Fall

Fall, Leaves, Fall begins entirely mundanely, on a wet, gray day, on a bus into the small English town of Cletherwood. James Bridge, let go from his latest job, is going back after twenty years to where all his nightmares play. He’s going home, despite the memories, seeking refuge, with nowhere else to go. The Romans thought that the area around Cletherwood was haunted by malign spirits. As far as James is concerned, that may well be true – but his own ghosts are much more recent.

Mike Driver’s use of characterisation in Fall, Leaves, Fall is outstanding. James is damaged, neurotic, and more than slightly unstable, but he’s also a survivor, and his first-person narration is peppered with small, humanising touches. We’ve all known someone a little bit like James, and the authenticity of that character brings the events unfolding in the plot onto a much more personal level, all of it framed in the wet dreariness of an English town in early winter. The horror elements are drawn in via memories, dreams, and flashbacks, leaving the reader to wonder whether the events are real, or figments of James’s imagination. The mystery is also well done, the first person allowing the author to leave the final twist to be as much a surprise to the reader as to James.

Unclaimed Acre, Bryce Gibson

Unclaimed Acre, Bryce Gibson

Unclaimed Acre

Bryce Gibson’s Unclaimed Acre opens in the south of the United States, where Levi Stanley has just lost his job in Atlanta, and, strapped for cash, is reluctantly contemplating a trip back to small-town Devlin to sell his family home. Scourged by old memories, Levi hasn’t set foot in the town since his mother’s funeral two years ago, and the nightmares about his prospective trip have already set in. His history has a long reach as far as Levi is concerned, and the closer he gets to Devlin, the more the past drags him in, from the smell of squash rotting by the road to the old haunted church, until Levi begins to wonder if he isn’t in his own, real-life ghost story.

Unclaimed Acre offers a detailed, evocative view of life in the southern states, bringing the scents and sounds and mosquitoes to life in the pages. Devlin itself is a lovingly set scene in all its multiple moods and weathers, right down to the best squash casserole to buy at the annual festival. Bryce Gibson’s depth of knowledge of his subject matter shines through in the scene-setting. I did find that the story itself lagged somewhat on its way to a well-foreshadowed, but somewhat anticlimactic ending, as to some degree the level of detail, while setting the reader very well in the scene, detracted from the tension of the story. However, for anyone looking for a relaxing read in a southern setting, this would definitely be a worthwhile read.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Blood Ties, J D Cunegan

Blood Ties, J D Cunegan

Blood Ties

Cops, a heroine in black leather, and an evil billionaire – J D Cunegan’s Blood Ties has a lot going for it out of the gate. Jill Andersen, a veteran turned cop, is finally beginning to mend fences with her estranged brother when she gets called onto a murder case that sends shockwaves through the entire department with its similarity to the murders that their ex-hero detective, Paul Anderson, is facing the death penalty for. With less than a week until Paul is executed, the entire department is desperate to find proof that Paul’s conviction should be overturned, but time is not in their favour.

Blood Ties is a fast-paced mystery, contrasting Jill’s personal life, with her father facing execution, her relationship with her brother on thin ice, and her alter ego all conspiring to add complications to her professional life in the Baltimore PD. J D Cunegan’s characters are well-developed, the intricacies of Jill’s past being evoked by every aspect of the case despite all her efforts to keep her secrets. The storyline is equally well written, showcasing plot twists at every turn in the investigation and culminating in a nicely-done reveal in the last few pages. High-recommended for readers of mystery and urban fantasy alike, this tale of vigilantes, villains, and police has a little something for everyone.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.