The Atlas Defect, A J Scudiere

The Atlas Defect, A J Scudiere

The Atlas Defect (The NightShade Forensic Files, Book 3)

Eleri Eames was born with a silver spoon in her mouth and a mystic for a grandmother. Her uncanny string of successful profiles for the FBI left her facing an inquiry into whether she’d been involved…until NightShade scooped her and her instincts up and put her to work. With her partner, Donovan Heath, Eleri is following up on a report of ‘weird’ bones in a national forest – in a snowstorm. Happily, the snow isn’t a problem for Donovan’s nose – the fact that ‘weird’ might be an understatement, on the other hand, is liable to crack open something that no one wants to see the light of day.

The Atlas Defect was a highly enjoyable read, offering plausibly imperfect characters and an original slant on shape-shifters. Despite being the third in the NightShade Forensic Files series, I had no trouble reading it as a standalone; there was enough back-story evoked as the adventure progressed to flesh out the characters, without leaving the pacing bogged down in an info-dump. ‘GJ’ Janson was the only real weak point in the story for me; she went to far too much trouble to insert herself into the investigation to roll over that easily when push came to shove (trying not to drop too many spoilers here). Other than that, the plot contains a nice mix of macabre and mystery, the pacing is good, and the twists were nicely handled. Certainly one to add to your to-read list.

White Out, T.N.M. Mykytiuk

White Out, T.N.M. Mykytiuk

White Out

The energy industry has plans for the Arctic, and leading those plans, using a ground-breaking airship and an exploratory submersible, is a mixed team of geologists, Rangers, and marine salvage experts. However, when a mysterious hot spot shows up during the exploration of the lake bottom, matters get complicated; the hot spot is located in the wreckage of a Cold War-era Soviet bomber. Every department of the US military wants to get its hands on it, and the hell with national jurisdiction. Add to that a Russian exploratory team that’s more than happy to boost good core samples or any experimental weaponry from the Unified Drilling team, and the stage is set for an explosive conflict.

White Out is an engaging, well-paced thriller that takes the stark, beautiful setting of the far North, and adds international crime rings, military secrets, and an experimental blimp to the mix. The cast of characters, featuring the obligatory set of not-very-ex military, in this case working the marine salvage angle, not to mention the crooked Russian and his gorgeous secretary, are well-handled and develop their own individual quirks as the story progresses, adding depth and colour to the book. The action sequences weave neatly into the storyline, avoiding getting bogged down in pseudo-military jargon or superhuman action stunts. Author T.N.M. Mykytiuk has created a plot guaranteed to please readers of classic adventure thrillers; a highly recommended read.

Exodus ’95, Kfir Luzzatto

Exodus ’95, Kfir Luzzatto

Exodus ’95

Exodus ’95 follows the entrepreneur Dan Ze’evi and a woman known as Claire Williams on the treasure hunt of a millennium; one fraught with factions desperate to get their hands on the final prize and either exalt it or destroy it. Between them, Dan and Claire hold all the pieces of the puzzle. Whether or not they’ll survive long enough to attempt to put them together is a whole other question; one which everyone from Egyptian nationalists to Russian industrialists are eager to test.

Kfir Luzzatto’s novel will delight thriller fans. The settings are brought alive by little details and evocative description, forming an engrossing backdrop for the plot, and the adventure, while extraordinary, is well-paced and plausible. I did find that the Mossad involvement acted as something of a Hail Mary save – they swoop in, pull our protagonists out of trouble, and then really fade out of the story. As one of the premier global intelligence agencies, I would’ve frankly expected them to be much harder to shake, once they had the scent of the case. Aside from that, I found this read to be truly excellent – unique, peopled with a strong cast of characters, and technically excellent, which I deeply appreciate. Definitely a highly recommended read.

The Azrael Initiative, K Hanson

The Azrael Initiative, K Hanson

The Azrael Initiative (Kayla Falk Series Book 1)

Kayla Falk is an engineering student, whose biggest concern is her graduation project. Unlike most students, she even has a guaranteed job waiting for her at graduation: working for her best friend’s dad. Her plans are looking good, but sometimes the sayings about best-laid plans love to prove themselves, and an attack on her university throws Kayla, and her best friend Olivia, into the middle of something neither of them had ever considered. When two teens beat off a terrorist cell, it’s not only the news outlets that take notice…

The Azrael Initiative is a strong contender in the YA adventure field, picking two teens out of utterly normal lives and catapulting them into extraordinary circumstances. I found that the storyline was well-constructed, with enough breadcrumbs leading to the twist to make it plausible, but not enough to be a dead giveaway. However (without dropping a ton of spoilers) there were some elements that made suspending my disbelief tricky as I read, not least that neither of our two heroines apparently asked any more questions than ‘where do I sign?’ before involving themselves once the pivotal tragedy had struck. The convenient villain’s diary that gives away the whole background was another. On the whole, though, this was an entertaining, well-paced read, and the absence of useless females was a refreshing change.

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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.