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.

Shoeless Child, J A Schneider

Shoeless Child, J A Schneider

Shoeless Child (Detective Kerri Blasco) (Volume 4)

One woman shot and another killed, and the only witness is a small child so traumatised by seeing his mother wounded that he’s unable to speak. When a person of interest to the case shows up dead in a local park, the pressure on the police to find the killer begins a very public build-up. Detective Kerri Blasco and her partner have a pile of coincidental evidence, far too many suspects, and no solid leads – and their boss is after them to close the case fast, before the killer leaves another dead body monogrammed with an angry emoji.

Shoeless Child is the fourth in the Detective Kerri Blasco series; with tense pacing and J. A. Schneider’s characteristic twisty plotting, this story doesn’t disappoint. For me, this author has a unique gift for taking character types that usually make me sigh in exasperation and winding them into the story in such a way that their helplessness supports vital areas of the storyline. It’s this ability, along with the delightfully complex plots, that has kept me reading, spellbound, through all the Detective Blasco books. They’re dark, suspenseful, and intelligent reads where you may be certain that you’ve nailed the perp in the first five chapters, but you’ll change your mind in every chapter after that until the reveal takes you completely by surprise.

The Vestals Conspiracy, Tomasz Chrusciel

The Vestals Conspiracy, Tomasz Chrusciel

The Vestals Conspiracy: A Prequel Novella To The Nina Monte Mystery Thriller Series

Professor Oliveri has made some astounding archaeological finds in his time; even now, approaching retirement age, he’s a well-known name in Italy. Nina Monte, a respected expert in her own right, has been his friend and colleague since she was his student over a decade ago, so when the Professor contacts her with news of a ground-breaking discovery concerning the Vestal Virgins, she drops everything to meet with him. However, the Professor is more closely watched than he ever realised, and even before Nina arrives, news of his discovery has spread.

The Vestals Conspiracy is a great prequel to the Nina Monte series, showcasing everything that makes these thrillers worth reading; intelligent, original characters, great world-building, and adventures with a flavour of danger and history. Author Tomasz Chrusciel’s ability to evoke the areas in which his stories are set provides a fantastic underpinning to the plots. I also enjoy Nina Monte as a protagonist. She’s highly educated, quick-thinking, and has a low tolerance for bullshit, as well as enough small flaws in her self-confidence to make her thoroughly plausible as a character. However, what really made this prequel for me was the way that the author managed to weave archaeological record into a millennias-old conspiracy and an equally ancient prophecy to add that thrill of ‘what-if’ to the read.

Matters Arising from the Identification of the Body, Simon Petrie

Matters Arising from the Identification of the Body, Simon Petrie

Matters Arising from the Identification of the Body: A Guerline Scarfe Investigation

Titan is a hostile environment. When people die, it’s the job of someone like Guerline Scarfe to make sure that all the details are correctly recorded and all angles are examined to ensure that the future of Fensal’s citizens is as safe as it can be. The investigation into the death of Tanja Noor Hainan Morgenstein should have been one like any other – despite her influential parents. However, when Guerline starts asking why the daughter of one of Titan’s most influential families would have committed suicide by Titan right outside an airlock, her investigation starts sprouting inconsistencies.

Matters Arising from the Identification of the Body is a well-written mystery thriller in a science-fiction setting. Details of terrain and technology add to the backdrop, but the author has resisted allowing them to overwhelm the story. The characters are well-developed, and while Guerline is at first glance the epitome of the harassed separated parent with a spoiled child, her obstinacy makes her the ideal protagonist for the plot. The final plot twist reveal was particularly nicely handled, with enough presaging to make it credible without giving the game away too early. Overall, this was a thoroughly enjoyable read – there’s something there for everyone from detective mystery fans through to die-hard sci-fi readers.

Icarus, David K Hulegaard

Icarus, David K Hulegaard

The Noble Trilogy: Book One – Icarus

Miller Brinkman is a private eye in small-town 1950’s USA, with his usual cases whatever the widely-respected town sheriff doesn’t want or doesn’t have time for. However, when Jane Emmett, the town’s problem child, vanishes abruptly from the public eye and a rumour is spread that she’s been sent away to school, her only friend begs Brinkman to find out what happened to her. Following the clues left in a disturbing series of Jane’s diary entries that indicate something very different than an involuntary departure to a finishing school, Brinkman has no idea of what he’s about to discover…

Icarus combines two of my favourite genres in a page-turning read. With an economical turn of description that allows the spotlight to shine on the events of the plot, author David K. Hulegaard creates an atmospheric mystery with enough darkness woven into it to keep the reader on edge. Brinkman, our protagonist, comes with enough human flaws to make him plausible and keep him from the superhuman trope. All of the characters show excellent development, with enough background to make them solidly real in the story without straying into the territory of the fatal info-dump, and many with the characteristically ‘small-town’ scandals and links that support the main plot. All in all, I don’t give out five stars very often – this book definitely earnt them.

J159, Renee Logan

J159, Renee Logan

J159

To ensure the perfect neutrality of a juror, the Pure Juror System was developed, whereby the system would pick jurors, and provide for their needs in an isolated environment for between three and five years. Despite the system’s efforts to keep knowledge of the calendar date from the jurors, Eddie knows he must be getting near the end of his term. However, until he sees a familiar face on a courtroom camera, and a drone drops a covert note into his walled garden, he doesn’t realise that it’s been much longer than that…or what fate the system has reserved for him and others like him.

J159 is an unusual and technically excellent thriller, where the protagonist has everything to lose but almost no agency in the story. Having the Eddie so totally isolated and reliant on others for everything, including his food, shades the development of the plot with remarkable contrasts. While Eddie can do nothing to affect his fate beyond wear a ball cap outdoors, others are putting their lives at risk to break open the secret behind the system. This is a set-up with the potential to backfire spectacularly in the wrong hands, but author Renee Logan did an outstanding job of the character development, and handled the dribs and drabs of information interspersed by Eddie’s day-to-day very well. The underlying structure of the plot is used to hammer home to the reader the sensation of ‘hurry up and wait for someone else to save your life’. A must-read for fans of suspense.