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.

Alexandria, Gregory Ness

Alexandria, Gregory Ness

Alexandria (The Sword of Agrippa Book 2)

Following their momentous discovery of the mysterious temple, Agrippa and Samia are working to unlock its mysteries, hampered by a series of elaborate mechanical lockouts. Their prize may well be worth any cost; the wisdom of the legendary Library of the Ages may be among the treasures. Two thousand years and more into the future, Roy Swanson’s research into dreams is attracting more and more attention, even as the world descends further into religious mania and a deep-rooted fear of science. Whether or not Roy will be able to solve the mysteries his research is throwing up before American money closes it down for good is another question entirely.

This second in the Sword of Agrippa series, Alexandria, follows the protagonists from the first novel, Agrippa and Samia, in the heyday of Roman Egypt, along with cameos of Roy Swanson and his research into dreams in an increasingly anti-science close-present. While I found that the proposed link between survivors of Atlantis and several of the ancient pantheons was an interesting twist on the story, I didn’t find that there was a great deal of movement, or resolution, in this book. Most of the questions lying open in the plotlines from the first novel are still open at the close of the second, so while the story was in itself quite enjoyable, there was no real feeling of closure of any of the story arcs. In addition, as with the first novel, I can’t help but feel that a strong copy-edit would help this book do justice to the originality of its plot. Overall, while this series is certainly worth the read, it would benefit hugely from some judicious tuning.

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.

Lightning Struck, Miranda Hardy

Lightning Struck, Miranda Hardy

Lightning Struck (The Roaming Curse Book 1)

Elysia is running again, fleeing from the fall-out of her uncontrollable ability to affect the weather—and the people who want to capture her, along with any members of her family they can lay hands on. When a mysterious package shows up in her anonymous hotel room, it leads her back to Florida, where she finds out that not only is she not alone, but her world is even stranger than she imagined.

Lightening Struck is a pleasant read, not delving too deeply into its characters or topics; a young-adult novel, where our teenaged heroine finds herself not only transplanted to a small Florida town, but also rapidly becomes the bone of contention between two of the outstandingly handsome and magnetic young men living there—as if the risk of causing hurricanes weren’t enough for any teenager. I enjoyed the treatment of Elysia’s ability/curse, and how her moods interacted with the weather, and several of the characters were entertaining to read. One thing I struggled with a little was that the book is written first person/present tense, which makes my brain itch, and I did find that the plausibility suffered in a few places, such as the romance angles. However, the finale was believable, if a trifle on the miraculous-happy end of the scale.

Sweet-pea’s Thief, J Cassidy

Sweet-pea’s Thief, J Cassidy

Sweet-pea’s Thief, J Cassidy

Sweet-pea has had her body stolen and been, for all intents and purposes, transported into a mirror universe version of her old hometown. Adopted by a pair of men who collect Old time, Sweet-pea seems to be a catalyst for disruption in the small community; beyond that, the roving dangers known as the Tin Men seem to be drawn to her. Sweet-pea wants nothing more than to find a way to get her own body back, but even that goal may have to be put on hold…

Sweet-pea’s Thief is a light, pleasant read, with good-hearted principal characters and villains who fall somewhere along the chaotic neutral scale. Sweet-pea’s many predicaments are eased by a series of loyal companions who support and educate her in how to survive her new circumstances each time, while the book’s settings are leavened by magic, time travel, and a touch of true love. Much as I enjoyed this book, I would have personally found it more compelling if the consequences hadn’t been so reliably softened by the lucky discovery of a faithful and useful companion at each turn in the story. However, I would recommend the read, especially for younger readers. It’s a solid fantasy adventure with a strain of Peter Pan to it that will appeal to a wide audience.