Thursday, September 7, 2017

Cut short (ebook) by Leigh Russell

Detective Inspector Geraldine Steel has just moved into a new apartment in Woolsmarsh and is looking forward to a fresh start - she was not expecting a killer to be lurking in the shadows of what seems to be an idyllic place.  The first murder victim was discovered by accident, her strangled body found buried under leaves in a park popular with families in the community.  It seems like an average murder inquiry, until the second body is found and public pressure mounts for the police to find the killer quickly before he can strike again.

The case is not going to be easy to solve though as there seems to be no connection between the two victims, and some of the potential suspects seem to be unusually averse to dealing with the police which makes it more challenging to sift through the clues.  Determined to prove herself Steel throws herself into the case with her trademark single minded focus, but that focus on the case leaves her on the outs with some of her new colleagues, and to a certain extent from her new boss.  As the case gains more attention and everyone waits for the next victim, Steel finds herself facing threats at home because someone knows she's with the police and is determined to leave their mark on her life.  Can Steel and her team solve the mystery before another victim is found, or will the killer get away with murder?

I find British police thrillers to be rather hit and miss - some are exceptional reads, while others are complete misses where I give up after a few pages.  Cut short fell somewhere in the middle of the field, but was definitely towards the better end of the spectrum.  I liked DI Geraldine Steel from the start, mostly because she seems like a real person right from the beginning, coming to terms with the loss of her long term relationship and uncertainty around her new team.  The rest of the police in her unit also feel very real too, people you can recognise without drifting too far into the cliche - a nice change from some of the other crime novels around at the moment.

One of the best things about the way Cut short was written is that the story unfolds from two different sides - the side of Steel, her police colleagues and the community - and the side of the killer who we initially see in short glimpses, but over the course of the story we come to see him more and understand what his motivation is and what is happening.  This switching point of view technique is overused by some, but Russell uses it to great effect and I stopped noticing after the first few times, as the story flowed seamlessly.  A great read and I have already gotten my hands on book two in the series to see what happens next for DI Steel and her team.

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Buried heart by Kate Elliott

Buried heart is the final book in the Court of fives trilogy and this series needs to be read in order for the most enjoyment!  This review contains ***SPOILERS*** if you have not read the first two books in the series so read Court of fives and Poisoned blade before you read anymore of this review (you have been warned).

Jessamy thought she knew what it meant to live in two worlds, but she is starting to realise that she never really knew either world.  Her father is part of the Patron class and has risen to the rank of General, something he always dreamed of but it meant leaving behind his Commoner wife and the daughters they raised together.  Despite everything that has happened Jessamy strives to find a place in Patron society, even if the only way she can do that is to run in the Fives, a game she suspects has its roots in the beliefs of her mothers people - the Commoners that have been suppressed and oppressed by the Patron class for centuries.  The only bright spark in her life is her secret relationship with Prince Kalliarkos - but even that is not a real safe haven in these uncertain times.

When a foreign force threatens the people of Efea no one is safe, Patrons and Commoners alike are in danger from the invading force and the forces fighting for control from within.  With every passing day Jessamy finds her eyes opened by the corruption and greed that drives the Patron class, and with each day she finds herself drawn into the Commoner rebellion that is growing in strength.  A time is coming when Jessamy will need to choose a side, and it will be a difficult and heart wrenching decision to make.  On one hand she has the chance to free her mothers people and save her country from corruption before the new king is corrupted - but that would mean turning against her father and her love.  On the other hand if she sides with her father and the new king then her mothers people will suffer for centuries to come - except for those killed for their part in the uprising.  What path will Jessamy follow - and what will it cost her?

I was surprised by just how much I enjoyed the Court of fives trilogy, partly because so many fantasy series aimed at teenagers seem so focused on being clever and original that they seem to miss the point - that their stories need to be readable, and that their worlds need to be believable.  I loved, loved Jessamy and her world, partly because she was flawed and made bad decisions.  It was also clear that she was having to work through the story, figuring things out for herself rather than having the answers dropped in her lap in a neat package.  It was also somewhat heartening that although Kate Elliott did tone down some of the violence and depravity of war, she didn't entirely shelter her teen audience, and you get a real sense of the loss and the death that is involved in a tricky and twisted story such as this.

There is a strong mythology that underlies this trilogy, and while magic isn't an all powerful force that saves the day, it does lay a solid and believable foundation on which this story is built.  In our not so distant past it was not uncommon for contries to invade each other and take control, burying the indigenous culture under their own.  This is also true of hundreds of years of religious 'conversion' where indigenous cultures were converted from their own belief systems so they could be saved.  I may be wrong, but there is a distinct feeling that the world of Efea has a middle Eastern feel, or maybe from Egypt.  I didn't get a chance to read the novella that goes with the series, but this is a highly recommended series and I hope that Elliott writes more series aimed at teenagers because she created a world and characters that I came to care about and that is a rare thing these days. 

The best part is that I read the series as an adult and found plenty to enjoy so this is one of those unique series that adults and teenagers can enjoy together.

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Thursday, August 31, 2017

The end (ebook) by James Patterson and Brendan DuBois

Owen Taylor and his team are about to embark on their last mission together. Like all their missions it is a black op on foreign soil - if they are caught they are on their own, disavowed by the nation they serve.  It should be a relatively straight forward mission, get in, take out the bad guy, and then get out - but things take a sideway twist right from the start and Taylor soon realises that they may not make it out of this op alive. 

When Taylor beats the odds and survives the mission it seems like a small victory, especially when he finds himself facing challenges in his new life in small town America.  His State mandated shrink tells him that settling in will take time, but it is pretty clear that his new neighbours don't like him much and would be happier if he moved on sooner rather than later.  Too bad they don't know they have a highly trained killer living in their little town, maybe if they did they wouldn't push him quite so hard.

This is another great book from Patterson and DuBois, and knowing that there is a sequel just around the corner made it even more enjoyable.  Owen Taylor is a great character and the story moves along at a great clip, although there was a patch in the middle where it feels like I missed something, but otherwise it was a great read devoured in one sitting.

If you like this book then try:
  • The witnesses (ebook) by James Patterson and Brendan Dubois
  • The shut-in by James Patterson and Duane Swierczynski
  • The house husband by James Patterson and Duane Swierczynski
  • Private Royals by James Patterson and Rees Jones
  • Heist by James Patterson and Rees Jones
  • Black and Blue by James Patterson and Candice Fox
  • Let's play make-believe by James Patterson and James O. Born
  • Chase by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge
  • Airport code red by James Patterson and Michael White

Reviewed by Brilla

Monday, August 21, 2017

Dark water by Robert Bryndza

Dark water is the third book in the Detective Foster series and while you can read it alone I highly recommend reading the series in order for best enjoyment and to avoid **SPOILERS*** - so start with The girl in the ice and then The night stalker.

DCI Erika Foster and her team are looking for drugs that were hastily dumped in a quarry lake when they stumble across something unexpected - the skeletal remains of a child.  It is an unexpected discovery that quickly escalates when Erika learns that the remains belong to Jessica Collins, who disappeared over twenty years ago on her way to a birthday party.  The discovery of the remains means Jessica's disappearance has gone from a cold case to a red hot one, and even though she is now deals with drug cases Erika is determined to be part of the case, and uses her connections to elbow her way into the lead investigator role for the team. 

It is a daunting task, especially after all this time, and the case has been tainted by the failure of the lead detective at the time who has now slunk away into obscurity.  Erika is determined to solve the case and prove herself as missing out on promotion has stung in more ways than one.  Bringing in some of her trusted former colleagues will help with the case, but Erika doesn't realise that her team is facing not only a mountain of evidence that may lead nowhere - there is also someone who will stop at nothing to prevent them from learning the truth.  Untangling the web of secrets, half truths and outright lies will take time, and while the case was cold, Erika is now in a race against time to solve the mystery surrounding the disappearance and death of little Jessica Collins.

This is an enjoyable series, and the author has continued to develop and grow his characters while also growing in his skills as an author.  This has been my favourite book of the series so far because for the first time we get to connect with Erika outside of the office because of her relationship with her family, and her new relationships with her colleagues.  The first two books were an introduction and to keep the story moving the details of her life were a little sketchy and roughly outlined, but here it feels more like we are really getting to know the real Erika (which was something of a treat).  I wasn't expecting to like this series quite so much, but I am now waiting for book four to arrive so I can see what happens next.

If Bryndza continues to hone his skills as a writer, and continues to write psychological thrillers that you can sink your teeth into then he has a bright future as an author because his books are readable but also challenge you to think about what you are reading, and challenge you to guess how things are going to end.  A very good read, and I recommend trying to read it in a single sitting so you don't miss any of the clues along the way!

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Thursday, August 17, 2017

The Store by James Patterson and Richard DiLallo

Jacob and Megan Brandeis are a dying breed, authors of books that you can find in a brick and mortar store - something that is quickly dying out thanks to the convenience of the Store.  It might have started small, but the Store has grown into a massive super company that not only conveniently supplies everything you need, but based on your data can recommend things you didn't even know you wanted or needed.  When their publisher tells them that the book they have been working on for the past two years is no longer going to be published because of changes in the market they reach out in desperation to the Store to see if it can be published and after a promising start their hopes are dashed and they come up with a new plan - write a book about the Store instead.

It seems like a simple plan, even though it means moving their two children Alex and Lindsay to small town Nebraska where the Store has their massive distribution centre.  It is a huge change in lifestyle and comes with some strangely lavish perks - including a house that seems too good to be true, a school with all the high tech gadgets you could wish for, and the convenience of drone deliveries from their local stores.  It all seems too good to be true, and the Barndeis family quickly discovers that being part of the Store family also means something darker, with hidden surveillance and claws in the velvet glove the Store extends to the family.  It soon becomes clear that Jacob is struggling to tow the company line, and standing out from the crowd at the Store is not necessarily a good thing.  As his family is sucked into the 'cult' of the Store, Jacob finds himself slowly but surely on the edge - and once he tips over their may be no coming back.  Surely Jacob is overreacting, surely the Store is just a convenient and savvy way to shop - or is it?

I was eagerly looking forward to The Store, mainly because Patterson writes some amazing speculative fiction about what might be just around the corner - fiction that makes you think about what is happening in a fresh light.  While the Store doesn't have a name other than the Store, it does seem to be based around the idea of a company similar to Amazon, and I have to confess that it was hard not to compare the Store to Amazon as I was reading (sorry Amazon!).  One of the most interesting, not to mention scary, aspects of The Store is that all the freedoms people have lost in the book are freedoms they gave away - they weren't stolen - and it makes me wonder how many people think about the information they give away every day, and the special treatment companies get each day.  For younger generations it is perfectly natural to post a lot of personal information online, and it was interesting to see the divide between young and old clearly expressed in the book - but in a way that makes the older generation seem out of touch and 'dated' rather than in the right.

The Store was devoured in a single sitting and when I reached the end it was a very satisfying feeling to have reached the end - especially with the way the book ended.  Patterson is an expert at making you wonder what is happening right to the end, and The Store is no exception.  This book may not appeal to all of Patterson's fans because it is more speculative fiction than thriller or crime fiction, but I found it well crafted and expertly drawn out to give you maximum enjoyment and maximum time to figure out what is going on.  This is the kind of book that would make an amazing movie because it is a tense psychological thriller that makes you question what you know, and makes you wonder what you would do in the same situation.  If the Store really existed would you be content to let them rule your lives completely, or would you fight to keep your personal freedoms and choices?

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Fifty fifty by James Patterson and Candice Fox

Fifty fifty is the third book in the Detective Harriet Blue series which started with Black & Blue (Bookshots) and Never Never.  To avoid ***SPOILERS***, and for greatest enjoyment, I highly recommend reading the other books in the series before reading this review.

Detective Harry Blue has been living life in a weird limbo ever since she got back from her last assignment.  To everyone else she is the volatile and temperamental detective who can go off at any moment, a trait that everyone think she shares with her brother.  Harry is focused on proving that her brother is innocent and getting him out of jail - not easy when her fellow detectives are convinced they have their man, and that trial by media has convinced the public that he is guilty before the trial even begins.  When her temper gets the better of her and she lashes out, Harry finds herself bundled up and shipped off to the middle of nowhere to get her out of the way and prevent her from making a life changing mistake.

The sleepy little town of Last Chance Valley almost seems too small to have any real problems, there are only 75 people living in the town and everyone seems content to live in the small town for their entire lives.  There are a few teenagers that take the chance as soon as they can and leave for the 'big smoke' as soon as they can, but the single police officer based in the town has been mostly able to cope - until now.  Someone has big plans for Last Chance Valley, a detailed manifesto has been found that is full of notes about spree killers - what drove them to kill, how they planned their attacks, and what made them succesful.  

When Harry is welcomed to the town with a rather spectacular explosion and a first victim it becomes clear that the killer is real, and when the town decides that they already know who the killer is Harry has her work cut out for her as she tries to prevent small town justice.  Saddled with a partner who thinks that he knows everything and who is determined to see terrorists around every corner, Harry is in a race against time to prevent not just another death - but the death of the entire town. Everyone has their secrets in a small town, and sometimes those secrets turn deadly - especially for outsiders.

This is the third book in the Detective Blue series and the second full length novel and I love this series even more now that I have read Fifty fifty.  My favourite Patterson series is the Detective Michael Bennett series, and the Detective Harriet Blue series is now a firm second favourite - not only because of the character, but also because Patterson and Fox have found a seamless writing style that drags you into the story and keeps you rooting for Harry even when you know you really shouldn't!  If you enjoy reading this series then I highly recommend trying Crimson Lake by Candice Fox, which was released between Never Never and Fifty fifty - it is highly readable and sucks you into the story in much the same way as a James Patterson thriller does.

It was a long, slow, agonising wait for Fifty fifty when I heard it was coming, and then it was almost over too quickly because I couldn't put it down once I started.  This is a highly readable series, and it was nice to read a book set in our part of the world, even if it was across the ditch in Australia.  All we need now to make this series perfect is for Harry to be sent on a joint task force assignment to New Zealand!

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Friday, August 11, 2017

The night stalker by Robert Bryndza

The night stalker is the second book in the Detective Foster series and while you can read it alone I highly recommend reading the series in order for best enjoyment and to avoid **SPOILERS*** - so start with The girl in the ice if you can.

It starts with the death of a doctor in a quite suburban neighbourhood, his body discovered naked and displayed on his bed.  It looks like a sexual encounter gone wrong, or at least that is what it is supposed to look like - but DCI Erika Foster is not convinced. especially when a date rape drug is found in his system.  All signs point to an accident at first, but when it becomes clear the easy conclusion is that it was a hate crime against a gay man.  DCI Erika Foster never goes for the easy option, she wants to actually solve the case, and when a second body is found with the same signature she is the first to reach the conclusion that they are dealing with a serial killer - and she soon discovers that her opinion is not a popular one.

With an oppressive heatwave beating down on London tempers are short and her superiors have little patience for her insistence that a serial killer is on the loose - especially when her opinion differs from that of the pet forensic psychologist.  Erika is used to following her gut and it is telling her that  the killer not finished with their task, and it is a bitter victory when a third victim is found and the police arrest a suspect.  With her personal and professional lives colliding, and with the Night Stalker just out of reach Erika may have no choice but to go rogue to get the job done - a tough choice at the best of times for a police officer, but this time a promotion is on the line too.

The DCI Erika Foster has been a great find, and while the writing is not as polished as some of the more established authors, Bryndza has a knack for creating real characters that are well rounded and feel genuine.  Foster is something of an anti-hero, she is flawed and likes to go against the rules, but she is also damaged after the deaths of her husband and team which makes it more understandable.  The team around her have personalities and their own little quirks that make them distinct personalities - some are a little on the clichéd side, but you get that with all genres.  One of the parts that makes this series seem so real is the politics in the office, you can see the scheming and manoeuvring happening around Erika as things move forward, and it is very clear that at least one of the senior staff doesn't like her - which makes it more realistic when things go wrong.

This has been an interesting series so far and I am currently waiting for book three to arrive so I can find out what is going to happen next.  Erika's world has expanded between book one and book two, and from blurbs about the next book it looks as though her personal life is going to expand as well.  A very readable series that has short punchy chapters that sucker you in and keep you hooked.

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Missing by Kelley Armstrong

Reeve's End is a small town that is content to be a small town, but every year teenagers leave in search of an education, a job, or a new life - and a good number of them never return.  Winter Crane is one of those planning to leave, she has her sights set firmly on medical school and works hard to get where she needs to be.  Getting good grades, working for the local doctor, and earning money tutoring are all part of the plan - finding a young man in the woods is definitely not part of the plan.  Lennon got himself in a spot of bother in the woods, and thanks to Winters quick thinking and medical skills he is on the mend - at least until he vanishes on her, leaving her with the knowledge that her friend is missing. 

Determined to find out what is happening in sleepy little Reeve's End, Winter starts investigating the kids that have left and never returned and makes a startling discovery along the way.  When Lennon's brother Jude arrives in town things get even more complicated - he is keeping secrets from Winter, and despite wanting her to share everything she knows, he is keeping secrets close to his chest.  When it appears that her sister may be one of the missing kids it gets really personal for Winter, and she is determined to discover what happened to her friend and to Lennon because it may lead her to what happened to Cady.  It won't be easy though, because someone is playing a deadly game with Winter and they are not afraid to make her permanently disappear to keep their secrets.  

I have read a lot of teen thrillers over the years and it takes a very skilled author to keep you hooked on the story while challenging you to figure out what is really happening - and Armstrong was a very skilled author indeed with Missing.  There are hints and clues through the story that point to different ideas and different suspects, and when you finally reach the very satisfying ending the clues all make sense and reward you for paying attention throughout the story.  That well crafted story is matched with characters that you really care about - Winter and Jude are a perfect balance for each other, and the other characters that come in and out of the story add their own parts without distracting or straying too far into the path of being a walking cliché.  

If you are looking for a solid thriller to read that is well crafted and well written then you pretty much can't go wrong with Missing.  I read this as an adult reader and thoroughly enjoyed it, so this is not one that only teens get to read and enjoy!  

If you like this book then try:
Reviewed by Brilla

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Jinx High by Mercedes Lackey

Jinx high is the third book in the Diana Tregarde series, but like the first two books Children of the night and Burning water, it can be read independently as the stories are quite separate.  

Something strange is happening in the small town of Jenks - apart from the alarmingly high number of students from the local high school who turn up dead in tragic circumstances.  So many have died, and there have been so many weird things happening that some people have taken to calling it Jinx High.  One of the students is Derek "Deke" Kestrel, who has found himself in the rather surprising position of being the boyfriend of the most popular girl in school.  Fay Harper is brave, bold, rich and not afraid to go after what she wants, and Deke is pretty content to go along for the ride - but when they are involved in a car accident that just doesn't make sense he starts to have the weird feeling that something isn't quire right.  Deke isn't the only one who feels that something isn't right, his dad Larry feels it too - but he knows just who to call on for help. 

When Larry reaches out to her Diana Tregarde is just wrapping up an author tour and is more than happy to spend time in Jenks checking out what has Larry worried - the fact she can go incognito as a visiting author for the honours English class is a bonus.  Diana doesn't know what to expect, but the last thing she would have expected was a powerful magic user who knows how to use Blood and Sex magic.  Someone has their hooks into Deke and the other students, and it is a real puzzle trying to figure out who.  Deke is blissfully unaware of the danger he is in, and he has no idea just how close the danger really is.  Finding a magic wielder is hard enough when they are covering their tracks - but through in teenage hormones, drugs, sex and rock and roll and you have a recipe for potential disaster.

I ran out of library books to read while I was on leave so decided to browse my own shelves for something to read and realised that I haven't read the Diana Tregarde series in a while - so I read the series from start to finish over the course of three days.  Like the other books in the series Jinx High can be read by itself, and it is a blend of urban fantasy and horror.  It is not my favourite in the series, but it is a solid read and has the added bonus of introducing us to one of the characters from her other series (the first time the SERRAted Edge books cross over with the world of the Guardians.  It is a shame there aren't more books in this series because it has a great grounding in the real world and has solid mythology that makes the world of the Guardians very believable.  One touch I love too is that all the books in the series have touches of other cultures which makes them more interesting than your standard "white man" magic story.

It may be tricky getting hold of the books in this series these days, but if you can get your hands on them and like authors like Patricia Briggs, Kim Harrison and Tanya Huff then you are bound to enjoy them.

If you like this book then try:
  • Children of the night by Mercedes Lackey
  • Burning water by Mercedes Lackey
  • Blood price by Tanya Huff
  • Summon the Keeper by Tanya Huff
  • Precinct 13 by Tate Hallaway
  • Spiders bite by Jennifer Estep
  • Dead witch walking by Kim Harrison
  • Angel's blood by Nalini Singh
  • Cast in shadow by Michelle Sagara
  • Kitty and the midnight hour by Carrie Vaughn
  • Moon called by Patricia Briggs
  • Cry wolf by Patricia Briggs

Reviewed by Brilla

Saturday, July 22, 2017

The girl in the ice by Robert Bryndza

Detective Chief Inspector Erika Foster is still recovering, physically and emotionally, from a raid gone wrong when she is called in to be the lead on the case of a missing London socialite.  The missing person is young, beautiful, and rich, the daughter of a Lord who is not afraid to use his connections to get what he wants.  The case takes an immediate turn for the worse when the missing girls body is discovered, submerged in a frozen lake, on the same morning that Erika joins the team.  With the intense media interest, and pressure from the family to find the killer quickly it is all Erika can do to try and put the brakes on the investigation so that they investigate thoroughly without rushing to conclusions. 

When she finds herself on the wrong side of the victims family it soon becomes clear that Erika and her team are not looking for the while truth - the family wants a quick and tidy closure to the case that doesn't expose their dirty little secrets.  Determined to do the best job possible Erika continues to dig into the case, despite the mounting personal cost.  Blocked from access to the family she looks for answers to the questions that no one seems to want her to answer, and that puts her squarely in the cross hairs of the killer.  Erika has a reputation for getting the job done, but this time she might be fighting a losing battle.  The stakes have never been higher, because if she can't unravel the case the next victim might be Erika herself.

I have found books in the crime/thriller genres can be very hit and miss, especially when it comes to books set in the United Kingdom.  There are some brilliant authors out there writing British crime drama, and then there are some that I just can't get into - luckily The girl in the ice was one of the better ones.  There are some parts of the book that didn't flow as well as others, or seemed a touch too convenient, but it was a story that kept up the tension from start to finish and kept you guessing about who the killer was and why.  It is unusual for an author to be able to keep the pool of potential suspects so large right up until the end, and Bryndza kept the tension at just the right pace to keep you hooked and caring about what happened to the characters.  Apart from Erika the other characters are not particularly well defined, but that works for me, you discover more about the characters as you read the story which makes it more palatable and believable than if you get their full biographies at the start.

Like a lot of modern crime authors Bryndza has kept his chapters short and to the point, using chapters to move the action along without chopping and changing perspective constantly within the same chapter.  This was not the most polished read, but most authors in this genre take a few books to really polish their style, and there is a lot about the characters to like which means you don't really notice until you start comparing it to other reads.  A twisted and well thought out read that was well worth the time - especially the last 100 pages or so when the action and tension really ramps up as Erika closes in on the killer (and they close in on her).

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla