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.

Searching for Sam, M G Atkinson

Searching for Sam, M G Atkinson

Searching for Sam

Finn is a chimera, a serial killer with a marked pattern: he kills paedophiles, pimps, and human traffickers. The kills span countries and continents, and they’re both recognisable and brutal. Interpol’s file on him is extensive, but quite apart from the fact the man is a ghost who rarely shows up on surveillance and never trips border controls, there’s a barely-voiced but very present reluctance to put him in jail. However, recently his system has changed, and he’s begun to leave clues – and Inspector Shelby of Interpol has to make some dubious choices if he wants to bring his man in.

Searching for Sam is one of those novels where the plot of the book hooked me and re-hooked me, and the editing yanked me out again just as often. The premise of a serial killer targeting the dregs of society, paired with the supernatural element to Finn’s story, made for an excellent read. The characters in general were well-fleshed out and very readable, from the diminutive Nova-bug to Finn himself, and avoided a number of the common stereotypes. Unfortunately, the technical side of the writing, from punctuation to homonyms to sections that would have benefited from judicious pruning to avoid pacing impacts, did not do justice to the author’s plotting and story-telling ability. If this book went through a thorough developmental and copy-edit, I can see it being a five-star read. As it is, I can’t in all honesty give it more than three.

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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.

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.

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.