Lie With Me, Andy Lanyon

Lie With Me, Andy Lanyon

Lie With Me

Lie With Me is a violent, twisty, absorbing contrast of humdrum and extraordinary that covers all the ground between true love, manipulation, and murder.

Alex is a successful psychiatrist, practising in Melbourne. He isn’t enthralled with his job or his marriage, but they don’t make him violently unhappy. Like a number of people, he’s accepted that his hopes and dreams must come second to paying bills and the mortgage, and he accepts that by the lights of society, he’s fortunate – he’s had to make no sacrifices that make his day-to-day unbearable. However, when a new patient comes into his practice, Alex little expects that his entire life will be irrevocably changed.

Lie With Me is a very well-written story. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I picked it up, but the technical side is completely and refreshing solid, and I read the book in one sitting. At some points, the story struck me as stretching the bounds of credulity, and possibly the side story of the female student’s disappearance could have benefited from some advance breadcrumbing (if that’s a word), but as a whole the story made for an engrossing read. Alex’s repression of his desires, both intellectual and physical, to conform, is a theme bound to strike a chord with a wide audience. While the consequences of change for him are extreme, well, we don’t pick up books to read about an average experience in the life of the average Joe next door (all right, I concede there are people who read auto-biographies, but I count that self-inflicted). All in all, I found this a very readable story.

Into the Dark, J A Schneider

Into the Dark, J A Schneider

Into the Dark

Into the Dark is a chilling ride through the implosion of a marriage and the exposure of a years-old murder. Annie Lamb is a new mother and an Art History professor, on the verge of burnout juggling a career, her child, and her marriage. Psychologically delicate, Annie is anxious to avoid creating friction in her life, even if the demands of avoiding it add to the stress that’s threatening to eat her alive. Her husband and stepson are resolutely mute on the tragic death of Ben Lamb’s previous wife; too traumatic ever to be discussed. However, as Ben’s behaviour veers increasingly into the erratic, Annie has to choose between losing her fragile peace…or losing herself.

As ever, news of a J. A. Schneider release triggered a Pavlovian grab for my tablet, and as ever, the read didn’t disappoint. I continue to be impressed by the author’s story-telling ability; I’m not keen on fragile, vulnerable types, and I’m generally a tough room with mysteries, but J. A. Schneider’s mysteries are delightfully dark, twisty, and original, and by page two I’m usually lost to the world. The psychological disintegration in this story starts out subtle, couched in the kind of marriage that anyone might experience, and escalates rapidly into a very real danger that pulls every fact and action into question. The snowball progression paints a shocking, page-turning image of how quickly normal can shred beyond recognition. This is an expertly-written thriller, well worth the read.

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.

The Venom Protocols, John Murray McKay

The Venom Protocols, John Murray McKay

The Venom Protocols

The Venom Protocols  is a thriller with a twist on the typical genetically-enhanced military solution gone wrong scenario. Charlotte was all but living on the streets when she jumped into the middle of an alleyway fight. When she came around in hospital, she discovered she’d saved the life of a Mob enforcer – leading to Charlotte becoming the local Mob’s ace-in-the-hole. Unlike most ex-junkie teenage girls, Charlotte had an affinity for any weapon that came handy. Unfortunately those skills came with a price, and Charlotte found herself one unintended massacre ahead of jail-time, trying to find out what made her how she was.

The basic story for the book is a solid classic that fans of the TV show ‘Dark Angel’ will be familiar with, albeit with a semi-mystical twist that adds interest. I found the underlying concept to be good, but the protagonist didn’t really keep my attention; Charlotte read as a bundle of sensory information and not much else, and didn’t elicit much sympathy as a character. The two drag queen secondary characters, Richard and Peter, were the ones that stole the show, to my mind. In addition, there were minor ongoing technical issues in the book. While they weren’t major enough to derail the read completely, they were annoying.

I couldn’t help but feel that this book would have profited from a bit more character development, to draw the reader in, and a detailed copy-edit to keep them from being yanked out of the story by absent punctuation or a clunky bit of phrasing.

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