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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.

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.

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.

The Lover’s Portrait, Jennifer S Alderson

The Lover’s Portrait, Jennifer S Alderson

The Lover’s Portrait: An Art Mystery (Adventures of Zelda Richardson Book 2)

Zelda Richardson is done with web design. She’s tired of living in the USA. She’s decided to turn her life around, and take a Masters in Museum Studies in Amsterdam. However, with stiff competition to make it to the final cut of students accepted, Zelda takes on a volunteer internship with the Amsterdam Museum, hoping for something that will bolster her résumé. She doesn’t expect that a short internship supporting the Stolen Objects museum display will end with her trying to prove provenance on a disputed painting from World War II, and no one expects where that investigation will lead—or the calibre of the opposition.

The Lover’s Portrait is an intricate and well-written story, prefaced with the welcoming, culture-loving face of modern Amsterdam, and underlaid by the city’s wartime past—a past that rises like the tide to infiltrate Zelda’s research assignment. Jennifer S. Alderson is particularly adept at sketching in the complex connections between her characters’ pasts and their present-day actions and motivations, pulling the whole together in a fast-paced and credible plot that is supported by the detail of Zelda’s experiences as she tries to piece together the scattered shards of history. I can absolutely recommend this book to any fans of mystery or art looking for their next read – it will not disappoint.

Cheaters, Peter A Stankovic

Cheaters, Peter A Stankovic

Cheaters

In Cheaters: A Markus Doppler Thriller, a serial killer is running loose in Sydney. A string of women have been turning up dead, missing one front tooth, and with no other real common denominator aside from their gender. The Sydney police call on Markus Doppler, a recently-retired detective, to come in and lead the team on the case. Markus, with a mounting body count and little by way of leads, is trying to balance catching a killer with a relationship with the first woman he’s had serious feelings for since his divorce, met via the Cheaters website – a site advertised as a way for people looking for no-strings sex to meet.

This book is a well-laid out mystery story, constructed to keep the reader guessing right through to the grand reveal and playing on the ongoing theme of websites set up for married couples to experiment beyond their marriage. I found that the sheer number of secondary characters was overwhelming in the beginning, meaning that for me the story only really found a unifying factor about a tenth of the way in, and the constant point-of-view shifts became confusing in sections. However, Peter A. Stankovic does manage to pull all these disparate threads together for the finale, and the locations and characters are solidly convincing. Certainly worth reading for mystery readers who don’t like all the answers handed to them on a plate.

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