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Rituals of the Dead, Jennifer S. Alderson

Rituals of the Dead, Jennifer S. Alderson

Rituals of the Dead: An Artifact Mystery (Adventures of Zelda Richardson Book 3)

Rituals of the Dead is a tense mystery thriller that combines the sedate world of Dutch museums with a decades-old murder on the far side of the world. Zelda Richardson is an American expatriate, working as an intern to support her Master’s thesis in Amsterdam, when her research starts dragging up details that don’t quite mesh with the official version of events. Her off-books work almost costs her her internship, and that’s only the beginning of the trouble. Can Zelda figure out how the facts tie together before the consequences catch up with her?

Author Jennifer S. Alderson has a unique gift for taking a setting that should be incredibly tranquil, and smoothly weaving in the oddities that make her case until the calm of the academic atmosphere is well and truly overturned. Zelda isn’t a hardboiled and capable detective; in fact, she’s the opposite; timid and willing to allow people to treat her badly in case standing up for herself causes her to lose her position, but driven by curiosity to investigate the threads that don’t quite tie in. The world-building in this series is also outstanding, built on detail but without beating the reader over the head with a litany of research. Fans of mystery and crime will definitely enjoy this book.

Androdigm Park 2067, JMJ Williamson

Androdigm Park 2067, JMJ Williamson

AndroDigm Park 2067

Androdigm Park 2067 takes on the themes of AI, the pursuit of hedonism, and mixes them with a murder mystery in this intriguing sci-fi story. When Shelby goes into the nightclub known as Lucifer’s Pleasure Cave, he’s expecting someone to resist arrest, which happens, and not expecting to have to rescue the attractive barmaid – which also happens. When Scarlet turns out to come with her own high-powered enemies, Shelby’s caseload suddenly doubles down, and he finds himself in more trouble than anyone needs.

This story started out with very much a dystopia feel. It stirred in the concepts of AI, resistance to AI, and a government actively pushing sex to its populations to avoid any insurrection, and introduced the protagonists; a bounty hunter / cop trying to compensate for his own perceived failures, and an ex-sex junkie. As they form a reluctant team to uncover and stop their enemies, Scarlet and Shelby find themselves drawn into a series of strange adventures. Not the least of these was that they found themselves forced to enter a virtual dreamland set around Camelot and the Knights of the Round Table, which did feel a little contrived to me, but overall, I found the concepts of the story were interesting, and the writing itself was well-paced.

The Long Road to Missouri, Bowdoin

The Long Road to Missouri, Bowdoin

The Long Road to Missouri: The Pivot Papers Chapter One

The Long Road to Missouri offered an interesting combination of thriller and horror. Missouri is ‘retired’, otherwise and unofficially known as too much trouble, and too well-connected, to kill. He’s living in a trailer in the backwoods and enjoying his solitude when the police shake him down for information on the murder of a detective—which he didn’t commit. When Missouri finds out that the corpse had had its right hand hacked off, he realises that he is involved, like it or not…and that involvement is likely to jeopardise his retirement.

When I started reading this book, it came across as a standard crime thriller, and then the supernatural elements started threading in. To be honest I found the mix of the action and supernatural elements was very well done; the lack of fanfare, and the victims’ disbelief, were both very effective tactics to build the effect. To help all that along, the scene-setting contained just enough to provide a mental backdrop without spending pages on detail. Unfortunately the ending feels more like a pause than a conclusion, and I’m not desperately fond of that type of finale. However, the book was well-written and thoroughly edited, and very much an enjoyable read; John le Carre with flavours of Anne Rice.

Meet the author:

  • Any sign of author online gratefully received – The Snarky Bookworm
Vileness, Rowan Waters

Vileness, Rowan Waters

Vileness (Samantha Brooks Thrillers Book 1)

In a twisty tale of betrayal and good intentions gone bad, Vileness follows Samantha Brooks as she begins to work as an agent for her brother’s network, working with victims of domestic violence to help them disappear and escape their abusers. However, when Sam moves to small-town USA, she starts to break one of the rules of the network…she starts to get involved. And once involved, she can’t help but realise that the details of the escapes she facilitates simply don’t match up…

With a compelling plot and characters, Vileness made a very strong start to the Samantha Brooks Thriller series. Personally, I would have chopped the opening chapter, where the past of a journalist you barely hear of again in the rest of the book is covered, but the main story more than compensated. Sam is a particularly refreshing heroine to read about: she doesn’t expect a knight on a white horse to ride to her rescue, and she’s not afraid to chase down unpleasant facts. The romance is a pleasant side-line to the main plot, without any attempted take-over of the storyline, and the action is reasonably plausible and well-paced. I also found that the writing was, with a few exceptions, well-edited, which allowed me to focus on the story rather than wrestling down my inner editor. I’ll definitely be watching for more releases from this author – this was a really enjoyable crime / thriller read.

The Janus Enigma, William R Dudley

The Janus Enigma, William R Dudley

The Janus Enigma (The Janus Chronicles Book 1)

The Janus Enigma offers a twisty, intriguing blend of sci-fi, dystopia, and thriller. Calder is a trouble-shooter for hire in the Outer Levels of Janus, with a past he’s walked away from and a present that’s going to take all his contacts and all his skills to stay alive in. When one of the most influential women on Janus hands him a missing person to track and an exorbitant fee to do it, Calder’s instinct is to be wary – but even he didn’t suspect just how far down the rabbit hole the case would take him.

I loved the opening of this book. With elaborate scheming, insider agents, and the immediate threat of inventive physical mayhem, the story started out strong and managed to keep the momentum going. The plotline showcases plots within plots, anti-heroes, centuries-old secrets, and an innovative solution to interstellar travel. Best of all, the author managed to resist the temptation to drown the story in details. The characters were strongly-developed; Sunny O’Malley and Calder in particular, but Mexican Charlie with his constantly-changing physiognomy was another of my favourites. Even the smallest of walk-on parts read like a person, not a cut-out, which I totally appreciated. Overall, this book was well-written, well-edited, and had all the elements to get and keep my attention – definitely worth reading.