Watching You, J A Schneider

Watching You, J A Schneider

Watching You, J. A. Schneider

A dead girl from a rich family, a menacing text message, and a taunt tacked to the still-warm corpse with a hatpin. With an ever-expanding list of suspects and very little hard evidence, Detective Kerri Blasco and her partner are front and centre in the hunt for a killer, under the unforgiving glare of both a media spotlight and their superiors. With the case rousing spectres from Kerri’s past, the stress is beginning to tell, and it’s open to debate if the case will crack first – or if Kerri will.

Watching You is a gritty, fast-paced sequel in the Kerri Blasco detective series, for the first time with a plot focussing on Detective Blasco herself. J. A. Schneider’s outstanding characters and trademark twisty plotting are a combination guaranteed to pull you into the story from the first page; trying to figure out whodunnit will keep you there. This series offers an outstanding combination of mystery, psychology, and realism, and the third in the series is no exception. The desperation of the case permeates the writing, dragging you into the characters’ desperate race against time to find and stop a killer, and the character development is stellar from the protagonists right through to the smallest roles. This is a book that any readers of crime mysteries are guaranteed to fall in love with.

The Girl at the Bar, Nicholas Nash

The Girl at the Bar, Nicholas Nash

The Girl at the Bar

Rebecca is a high-flying cancer research scientist, one of the most sought-after minds in the field. Ragnar is a down-on-his-luck ex-trader battling bipolar disorder, hanging out in bars in between job searches. When Rebecca goes missing shortly after their one-night stand, Ragnar becomes a person of interest overnight – and determined to find Rebecca, even if it gets him arrested. However, when the body count starts growing and the press gets involved, the stakes only get higher…

The Girl at the Bar is a police thriller, where the evidence is deceptive at best and the origins of the crime are buried and forgotten in decades-old events. The plot is plausible and twisty, and although those who like to try and follow the breadcrumbs of evidence through the plot and figure out the criminal themselves are going to find slim pickings, the final revelation is nicely handled. The pacing is also largely good, and the characters are refreshingly original, with perfectly imperfect motivations. The things keeping this book from a higher rating were mostly technical; there are editing errors apparent throughout, and a critique to polish some occasional awkwardnesses out of the delivery would have made this story a top-rank read. Definitely something that crime fiction fans will enjoy.

Bad Analysis, Colin Knight

Bad Analysis, Colin Knight

Bad Analysis

Craig Wilson works for Canadian Intelligence, a loner whose work is too good to allow him to be retired while his frequently divergent opinions make him unpopular with his bosses. However, when the brewing of a new terror crisis in the slums of Europe sends vibrations through the webs of the international intelligence community, Wilson’s instincts are triggered. The death of an old friend in British Intelligence, and an uncharacteristically cryptic message left behind him only strengthen Wilson’s feeling that there’s something very far amiss – but will he be able to unravel it in time to avert a tragedy?

Bad Analysis is an excellently-paced spy thriller, hitting all the right notes of intrigue, duplicity, and desperation. The protagonist is sufficiently flawed to be credible, and the case is convincingly built on a series of tiny details, luck, and hunches. The conflict between the politic aspirations of Wilson’s bosses and the very real danger posed by their myopia is an especially nice touch. Unfortunately, the stellar plotting and story of this book was badly undermined by the technical aspects of the writing, especially in the punctuation. This is the kind of book that would easily hit five stars if not for the fact I had to stop on multiple occasions to figure out where the comma should have gone, and what the most likely meaning of the phrase had been intended to be.

The Last Prophet, Michael J Hallisey

The Last Prophet, Michael J Hallisey

The Last Prophet

Riley McKee is a brilliant trauma surgeon, one of those rare people able to connect the dots and save a life while others are still fumbling for a diagnosis. With her best friend and fellow surgeon, Genevieve Neugold, she shares an obsession for riddles and puzzles, and a compulsion to save lives. However, when Riley’s determination to solve a centuries-old mystery gets her killed, Genevieve is drawn into Riley’s last and greatest puzzle – the secret of healing the sick and bringing the dead back to life.

Michael J. Hallisey’s The Last Prophet is a twisty story of murder, crime, and hidden connections, from Riley’s CIA brother to the secrets hidden in the lost paintings of Caravaggio, carving a path across time and space from a modern trauma wing in America to one of the last hidden bastions of the ancient Knights Templar. Think Indiana Jones meets the Da Vinci Code. The only thing standing between this book and a much higher rating was strictly technical; the author’s detailed research and depth of knowledge occasionally impacted the pacing of the story, and the punctuation was odd to the point where it was frequently difficult to figure out if someone was talking or not, and if so, who. It’s a shame, because with a solid edit under its belt, this book would be a top-flight read. As it is, definitely worthwhile, but there are issues that impact the read and will sometimes yank the reader out of the story.

Becoming the Wolf, R H Neil

Becoming the Wolf, R H Neil

Becoming the Wolf: A White Wolf Justice Thriller

JD Ward is ex-military, currently working as a police officer in the outskirts of Cincinnati. With a chief who respects him enough to assign him the nasty cases, a partner who gives him hell on a regular basis, and a young family, JD’s time is pretty much fully spoken for, and that’s before the local motorcycle gang starts gunning for him. After that, it’s going to take all the tricks JD knows to keep himself alive and his family safe…especially with the military reaching out to reclaim their own.

Becoming the Wolf is an interesting take on the crime thriller genre, where the lines between upholding the law and applying military training and tactics to dispense summary justice on the streets become increasingly blurred. JD starts out as a clean-cut young officer trying to make something of his career in a small-town department, but he quickly escalates to sawn-off shotguns and execution killings in the sewers and schools of his town. The argument for whether upholding the letter of the law, or enforcing what an individual perceives as its intent with force, is one of the primary threads of this novel.

Unfortunately, while the ethical points being raised are well worth the read, the writing style of the book as a whole didn’t draw me in. There’s definitely a strong argument for dialect in dialogue, but the incidence of American slang usage in the narrative kept pulling my attention off the storyline, and a certain tendency to tell rather than show in some areas didn’t really help. However, the dialogue often came to the rescue, well-written and frequently entertaining.

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Seven Lives, Simon Phillips

Seven Lives, Simon Phillips

Seven Lives

She’s an agent for the British Secret Services, recruited for special assignment during the Troubles of the early 1990s, and sent undercover so often that she’s all but forgotten her original identity. For years, she’s followed orders, obtained information, killed the targets she’s pointed at, until a new assignment pulls her back to the UK, and the old, familiar tale of the Irish troubles. Following the trail of one of those rarities, a female IRA operative, she unknowingly pulls on threads that were meant to stay hidden, and the fallout spreads in a domino trail of deaths.

Seven Lives is a spy thriller set in the years when a pager was more common than a mobile phone, and the Internet was little more than a theory, against the bloody background of the ongoing violence of the Northern Irish conflict. The plot is complex and well-constructed, and the characters are clearly well-envisaged. For me, it was the technical aspect of the story that prevented this book from getting more stars. There were a number of repetitive editorial issues in the text, and in places the narrative would have benefited immensely from some polishing to remove the traces of awkwardness that detracted from the otherwise excellent read. I really feel that a strong edit would take this from a three-star rating to a four- or even five-star read – the book is well-paced and twisty, and certain to please thriller fans.

Seven Lives cover

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