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Vileness, Rowan Waters

Vileness, Rowan Waters

Vileness (Samantha Brooks Thrillers Book 1)

In a twisty tale of betrayal and good intentions gone bad, Vileness follows Samantha Brooks as she begins to work as an agent for her brother’s network, working with victims of domestic violence to help them disappear and escape their abusers. However, when Sam moves to small-town USA, she starts to break one of the rules of the network…she starts to get involved. And once involved, she can’t help but realise that the details of the escapes she facilitates simply don’t match up…

With a compelling plot and characters, Vileness made a very strong start to the Samantha Brooks Thriller series. Personally, I would have chopped the opening chapter, where the past of a journalist you barely hear of again in the rest of the book is covered, but the main story more than compensated. Sam is a particularly refreshing heroine to read about: she doesn’t expect a knight on a white horse to ride to her rescue, and she’s not afraid to chase down unpleasant facts. The romance is a pleasant side-line to the main plot, without any attempted take-over of the storyline, and the action is reasonably plausible and well-paced. I also found that the writing was, with a few exceptions, well-edited, which allowed me to focus on the story rather than wrestling down my inner editor. I’ll definitely be watching for more releases from this author – this was a really enjoyable crime / thriller read.

Sherlock Holmes and the Cult of Cthullu, James G. Boswell

Sherlock Holmes and the Cult of Cthullu, James G. Boswell

Sherlock Holmes and the Cult of Cthulhu

When a series of gruesome murders among London’s upper crust stymies Scotland Yard, Inspector Lestrade reaches out to Dr. Watson and Mr. Holmes for help. Between the brutality of the stab wounds to each victim and the inevitable presence of a hidden symbol near each body, it’s up to Sherlock Holmes to prove a mundane connection between the murders where everyone else is pursuing a supernatural option…including his faithful partner, Dr. Watson.

Sherlock Holmes and the Cult of Cthullu was an enjoyable homage to the great consulting detective, with all the conflicting theories, and daring disguises a reader might expect. I found the final rationale for the murders was very plausible, although Holmes’s capture and imprisonment location slightly less so. It was clear that author James G. Boswell had done significant amounts of research into the period to support the plot; I did find that Watson marvelling at scenes of Victorian London pulled me a little out of the character, as these scenes would have been commonplace for him. This tendency also somewhat impacted the pacing in the beginning of the read. Happily, it largely disappeared after the early scenes of the book, and aside from that, the technical side of the writing was very clean, which I always appreciate.

Searching for Sam, M G Atkinson

Searching for Sam, M G Atkinson

Searching for Sam

Finn is a chimera, a serial killer with a marked pattern: he kills paedophiles, pimps, and human traffickers. The kills span countries and continents, and they’re both recognisable and brutal. Interpol’s file on him is extensive, but quite apart from the fact the man is a ghost who rarely shows up on surveillance and never trips border controls, there’s a barely-voiced but very present reluctance to put him in jail. However, recently his system has changed, and he’s begun to leave clues – and Inspector Shelby of Interpol has to make some dubious choices if he wants to bring his man in.

Searching for Sam is one of those novels where the plot of the book hooked me and re-hooked me, and the editing yanked me out again just as often. The premise of a serial killer targeting the dregs of society, paired with the supernatural element to Finn’s story, made for an excellent read. The characters in general were well-fleshed out and very readable, from the diminutive Nova-bug to Finn himself, and avoided a number of the common stereotypes. Unfortunately, the technical side of the writing, from punctuation to homonyms to sections that would have benefited from judicious pruning to avoid pacing impacts, did not do justice to the author’s plotting and story-telling ability. If this book went through a thorough developmental and copy-edit, I can see it being a five-star read. As it is, I can’t in all honesty give it more than three.

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The Burgas Affair, Ellis Shuman

The Burgas Affair, Ellis Shuman

The Burgas Affair

Boyko Stanchev, previously of the Burgas Police Department and now an agent with the State Agency for National Security, is drinking too much, smoking too much, and on the verge of running what’s left of his career into the ground. When an attack blows up a tourist bus full of Israeli tourists outside Burgas airport, he’s forced to confront his past, his choices, and not least, the female Israeli agent assigned as his investigative partner.

The Burgas Affair offers a fascinating close-up of Balkan and Israeli politics, and the setting, largely in Bulgaria, was vividly evoked. From my perspective, the settings and the backdrop to the story were the strongest facets of the read, although the character of Stanchev is skillfully written and dislikeable to a degree that merits applause. The underlying plot structure of the book is well-constructed and full of surprises. I did feel that the relative level of emphasis given to the romance detracted from the level of attention that the mystery itself deserved; tying all the stray elements of the attack and its circumstances together into a convincing storyline struck me as the more interesting part of the book. Certainly an enjoyable read for any readers of political thrillers.

Beacon Hill, Colin Campbell

Beacon Hill, Colin Campbell

Beacon Hill: A Resurrection Man thriller

If someone were to refuse to file charges for six bullet holes in their house in Yorkshire, people would start asking questions. When the same thing happens in Boston, Jim Grant, the ‘Resurrection Man’, is the only one willing to buck the system and keep digging, especially given the non-complainant’s ties with the Boston police force. What Grant uncovers is a tangled mess that looks fair to drag him into his own past – and may add another colourful layer to his story.

Beacon Hill is a detective thriller, featuring a Yorkshire cop transplanted to the gun-toting New World. Jim Grant is an interesting character who portrays himself as far more stupid than he actually is, with a past that’s hinted at but about which not a lot is revealed. While this book is clearly a sequel, the story stands strongly alone, even if some of the references might be clearer with knowledge of previous book or books. The action is well-written and relatively plausible, and the plot benefited from detailed development. I found that in places the minutiae of the Boston locations didn’t really add to the storyline, but the author restrained it from getting to any level that would impact the pacing. Certainly something for fans of the genre.

Habitat for Human Remains, Scott A Lerner

Habitat for Human Remains, Scott A Lerner

Habitat for Human Remains: A Samuel Roberts Thriller

Samuel Roberts is an attorney with a tendency to get caught up in investigating the supernatural. When one of the town’s more prominent estate lawyers contacts him, asking him to represent someone in custody for murder, Samuel hopes for a nice easy murder trial with nothing supernatural about it. Unfortunately, between creepy old houses and alleged murder victims connected with S&M clubs, his nice clean murder trial is taking stranger turns by the minute.

Habitat for Human Remains is the fifth in the Samuel Roberts Thriller series, and while it is undoubtedly readable as a stand-alone story, there were a few places where I felt I was missing references to earlier novels. They didn’t pose any significant impact to following the plot, which is a solid thriller/horror structure. The writing includes some excellent turns of phrase, but that is balanced in some areas by a feeling that the descriptions of the protagonists clowning is a little contrived; I would have enjoyed the humorous interludes more, I feel, with a little more ‘showing’ and less ‘telling’. For me, the pacing was one of the strongest points of the book; while the plot climax could possibly have been played for more impact, overall there were no slow parts to the read and the plot kept me engaged. My only serious problem with the technical aspect of the book was the number of homonyms that sprinkled it. I can honestly say this was an enjoyable read; the plot was well-thought out and imaginative. A solid copy-edit would help the story to shine.

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