Not Forgiven, Neven Carr

Not Forgiven, Neven Carr

Not Forgiven

Not Forgiven, the riveting sequel to Forgotten, follows Claudia Cabriati’s efforts to discover what lies behind the traumatic break in her memories and uncover the truth.

With the enigmatic Saul at her side, Claudia is chasing down the last of the loose ends that came out of the case they just solved—and all of them are leading back to Araneya mansion where Claudia spent her childhood. However, neither of them in their darkest moments imagined the picture that those threads might form…

Neven Carr’s thrilling follow-up novel in the Araneya Mystery series brings back the all-star cast from Forgotten and follows the inevitable tightening of the bond between Claudia and Saul. Showcasing one of the author’s trademark twisty plots, Not Forgiven explores the psychology and impact of institutionalized violence, PTSD, and human perception, staged in the dramatic scenery of Australia and leading to the grand reveal of several cold-case murders, as well as shedding a bit more light on Saul’s murky past. The pacing manages to combine suspense with explosive action to create an environment for the reader that few other books I’ve read can equal. I’d recommend this book to readers of mystery, action, or romance—this book combines all of them and does it well.

Darkness is Coming, S M Smith

Darkness is Coming, S M Smith

Darkness is Coming

Darkness is Coming is an cyber-hacker thriller on the international scale, where the shots fired are both literal and metaphorical. Taryn Booker is an up-and-coming cyber-security expert in a social media network when her job takes on a very personal turn; hackers make a try for her accounts. Back-tracing the attack to a Russian outfit draws her into an investigation that will lead from New York to Russia to Jerusalem, and put her in the line of fire more than once. On whether she can survive and disrupt their plans hangs the fate of her entire city.

Author S M Smith has created a plausible and well-paced thriller, focussing on the underbelly of the online world. Cyber-attacks are a less -common topic in thrillers, and the level of knowledge that went into the writing added to the interest of the read. Booker is an engaging protagonist, intelligent and willing to go the extra mile, and even the anti-hero faces the unusual dilemma of being too bright to fall mindlessly in line with doctrine. I did note one or two cases of what I call ‘the sentient boob’ issue, where breast tissue goes off for a little shimmy of its own under its pink blouse, but thankfully the character to whom said boobs belonged was strongly enough written otherwise that her boobs didn’t become a focus. In summary, I’d definitely recommend this book to fans of Tom Clancy and international crime thrillers.

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Quick Fix, J Gregory Smith

Quick Fix, J Gregory Smith

Quick Fix (The Reluctant Hustler Book 1)

Quick Fix is a thriller whose protagonist showcases just how many ways trying to get rich quick can go wrong. Kyle Logan is down on his luck and trying to drown his sorrows in a bar when he’s served with divorce papers. Assaulting the lawyer who served them was one of those ideas that sounded better than it turned out to be, and Kyle finds himself reliant for income on an old associate running an art forgery con. Unfortunately, to con the South American Mob and the Irish Mob, you have to either be intelligent or lucky, and it’s remotely possible that Kyle and his associates don’t have what it takes…

While overall this is perfectly readable thriller, I have great difficulty getting into characters whose stupidity is the foundation of most of their troubles, and Kyle, with alcohol-fuelled impulse control issues and lousy judgement, was hard for me to really care about. This is one of those stories where each brilliant idea to fix the mess that the characters have got themselves into goes increasingly wrong, and most of the tension comes from watching them dancing along the disaster curve. That said, the author has a good sense of when to add a touch of detail to add realism to a setting, and one of the strongest elements in Quick Fix was the pacing. The storyline is well put together, and there were very few places where I felt any urge to start flicking ahead.

Shifting Identities, Cris and Clare Meyers

Shifting Identities, Cris and Clare Meyers

Shifting Identities (Criminal Elements Book 3)

Shifting Identities combines the excitement of an international vault heist with shape-shifting shenanigans. Carlos, reluctant apprentice criminal and shape-shifter, didn’t realise that the job description came with trips to Europe included when he joined up. However, between ancient European magical families, rival criminal groups, and deadly intrigue, he doesn’t have much time left over to admire the scenery. With Grace, the outfit’s con-woman, he has a key role to play in the group’s latest adventure, and a lot of very fast learning to do…

The latest instalment in Cris and Clare Meyers’ urban fantasy series, Shifting Identities, moves the focus onto Grace and Carlos. Featuring a high-speed tour of Western Europe and vault-breaking that includes deadly magical traps, this book is well-paced and filled with the series’ signature dialogue-centred adventure. I found that the underlying focus on Carlos’s growing into his place within the group allows for his ongoing education to inform the reader without straying into info-dump territory, and the glimpses into Renee’s much-hinted-at past were suitably intriguing. One of the strong aspects of this series is a solidly-developed magic system; a system that includes downsides, and isn’t the magical equivalent of duct tape for any situation. That, and a divergent cast of characters, makes this book, and the series, very enjoyable to read.

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.

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