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.

Killing Sanford, Mike Kershner

Killing Sanford, Mike Kershner

Killing Sanford (Gary Cannon Book 1)

Gary Cannon is an assassin, working for Sanford International Holdings. Killing Sanford sees Gary reluctantly working on US soil, with a quadruple hit slated to take place in Omaha. He hopes that sticking to field protocol will shift the intense unease that’s been dogging him since he climbed out onto the runway, but old nightmares continue to dog him as he makes his reconnaissance of the targets. Eventually, driven by the nagging sense that something is badly amiss, he calls in the details of one of the hits to his HQ, only to find that he’s pulling on the tail of something bigger and much more dangerous than he’d anticipated, bound up in old history.

Mike Kershner’s style features cameos of the history underpinning Gary’s current situation, the story weaving between 1976 Omaha and the period just after WWII and later, describing the events leading to the founding of Sanford International. Killing Sanford pulls this off better than many stories, with the various timelines transitioning smoothly from one to the other. I did find that the pacing of the story was held back by the level of description, and in places repetition, as well as the writing style, which was awkward enough in places to pull me out of full immersion in the storyline. Aside from that, however, the plot was strong, with some interesting twists and turns. Definitely a good read in the Jack Higgins genre for thriller fans.

Who By Water, Victoria Raschke

Who By Water, Victoria Raschke

Who By Water (Voices of the Dead Book 1)

Jo Wiley is one of those anomalies: an American living in Slovenia. With a group of friends, she manages a tea house in Ljubljana and keeps the various aspects of her social life strictly separate. When Jo accompanies a friend to the opening of a new archaeological exhibit in town, the worst she’s expecting to have to deal with is being polite to a slimy bar owner who fancies himself irresistible to women. She’s not expecting to see one of her lovers murdered, or to suddenly receive a warning from her dead father…

Who by Water layers realistic fantasy and fantastic reality over the ancient setting of Slovenia’s capital, weaving in allusions to the Catholic Inquisition, witch hunters, and older than both, the Roman settlement of Iulia Aemona that preceded the city. Victoria Raschke’s writing provides an eminently plausible scenario of ancient artifacts and psychic abilities drawn to Ljubljana’s historic nexus, with Jo Wiley, our pragmatic protagonist, front and centre with a talent for speaking to the dead that she wasn’t aware she possessed. I found the pacing of the novel was excellent, and while some of the characters hinted at far more backstory than was actually explored in the book, the story was well-written and a highly enjoyable start to the series.

The Atlas Defect, A J Scudiere

The Atlas Defect, A J Scudiere

The Atlas Defect (The NightShade Forensic Files, Book 3)

Eleri Eames was born with a silver spoon in her mouth and a mystic for a grandmother. Her uncanny string of successful profiles for the FBI left her facing an inquiry into whether she’d been involved…until NightShade scooped her and her instincts up and put her to work. With her partner, Donovan Heath, Eleri is following up on a report of ‘weird’ bones in a national forest – in a snowstorm. Happily, the snow isn’t a problem for Donovan’s nose – the fact that ‘weird’ might be an understatement, on the other hand, is liable to crack open something that no one wants to see the light of day.

The Atlas Defect was a highly enjoyable read, offering plausibly imperfect characters and an original slant on shape-shifters. Despite being the third in the NightShade Forensic Files series, I had no trouble reading it as a standalone; there was enough back-story evoked as the adventure progressed to flesh out the characters, without leaving the pacing bogged down in an info-dump. ‘GJ’ Janson was the only real weak point in the story for me; she went to far too much trouble to insert herself into the investigation to roll over that easily when push came to shove (trying not to drop too many spoilers here). Other than that, the plot contains a nice mix of macabre and mystery, the pacing is good, and the twists were nicely handled. Certainly one to add to your to-read list.

White Out, T.N.M. Mykytiuk

White Out, T.N.M. Mykytiuk

White Out

The energy industry has plans for the Arctic, and leading those plans, using a ground-breaking airship and an exploratory submersible, is a mixed team of geologists, Rangers, and marine salvage experts. However, when a mysterious hot spot shows up during the exploration of the lake bottom, matters get complicated; the hot spot is located in the wreckage of a Cold War-era Soviet bomber. Every department of the US military wants to get its hands on it, and the hell with national jurisdiction. Add to that a Russian exploratory team that’s more than happy to boost good core samples or any experimental weaponry from the Unified Drilling team, and the stage is set for an explosive conflict.

White Out is an engaging, well-paced thriller that takes the stark, beautiful setting of the far North, and adds international crime rings, military secrets, and an experimental blimp to the mix. The cast of characters, featuring the obligatory set of not-very-ex military, in this case working the marine salvage angle, not to mention the crooked Russian and his gorgeous secretary, are well-handled and develop their own individual quirks as the story progresses, adding depth and colour to the book. The action sequences weave neatly into the storyline, avoiding getting bogged down in pseudo-military jargon or superhuman action stunts. Author T.N.M. Mykytiuk has created a plot guaranteed to please readers of classic adventure thrillers; a highly recommended read.