Saturday, February 25, 2017

Crimson Lake by Candice Fox

Former detective Ted Conkaffey fled from Sydney when the powers that be decided not to proceed to trial with the charges filed against him, and he has settled in the small Cairns town of Crimson Lake.  It seems crazy to move to a small town when you are hiding out, small towns have a tendency to know everyone else's business, but so far no one has connected the new resident to the disgraced detective who was charged with the kidnapping and brutal sexual and physical assault of a 13 year old girl.  The case may never had made it to court, but Ted's case has already been heard in the court of public opinion - and he was judged guilty, not to mention a disgusting piece of human garbage. 

In the quiet backwater town his only excitement so far has been the arrival of an injured goose and her offspring, who have proved to be a remarkable balm for his wounds.  For a man who has lost everything - family, career, reputation - it is amazing what a difference an over protective mother and her fuzzy little goslings can make.  When his lawyer asks him to look up a local woman and reach out to her it is the last thing Ted wants to do, but he is also intrigued about what he could possibly do for someone else when his own life is so messed up.  It turns out that Ted might have got it wrong - it was not so much what he could do for her, but what she might be able to do for him.

Amanda Pharrell is a convicted murderer who has served her time and re-joined her community, taking the extraordinary step of qualifying as a Private Investigator.  There first meeting is almost like a blind date, Ted is not sure what to expect but it is probably not a heavily tattooed woman who seems to have a few screws loose.  Which is fair considering Amanda probably wasn't expecting a bitter and depressed former detective who likes the bottle a little too much.  The trial case for a potential partnership is the disappearance of a local author, the local celebrity.  It is a challenging case because nothing is what it seems, and because their progress is grudgingly scraped away under the watchful and disruptive presence of two beat cops who have their sights set on Ted. 

Being on the wrong side of the law is never easy, but it's worse when you were once counted as one of the good guys.  It's a race against time to solve the disappearance before Ted is exposed to the local community as the resident paedophile - or killed outright.  Dealing with Amanda's idiosyncrasies and the police harassment is bad enough, but a tenacious reporter is also stalking Ted to try and get an exclusive interview, and she is proving to be very tenacious indeed.

Last year Candice Fox co-authored a Bookshot novella and a full length novel with James Patterson, books that I enjoyed so I picked her book Hades up and tried to get into it - but something just didn't sit right with me and I never got beyond the first few chapters.  When I picked up Crimson Lake it was with a certain amount of caution as I didn't want to be disappointed again - but I shouldn't have worried because I was hooked on the story from start to finish.  The character of Ted Conkaffey practically leaps off the page and into your psyche from the first page, and when Amanda joins the story it felt like the story had a much needed local voice and flavour that helps you settle into the small town of Crimson Lake quickly and easily.  It would have been easy for Fox to choose to have a completely "normal" person to balance out Ted and what is happening to him, but Amanda is a perfect fit because she is haunted by her own past and her own demons.

One of the quirky things about Crimson Lake is that there are no chapter numbers, so you have no idea how many chapters you have read - an interesting technique, as are the short and punchy chapters.  It feels like Fox has been influenced in a good way by her work with Patterson, the story is finely crafted with enough description and characters development to help you fully visually the world, and enough pace with the novel to keep you moving along with the action and the drama.  It feels very much like this is the first book in a series and I genuinely hope that (1) it is the start of a new series because we NEED to learn more about Ted and Amanda, and (2) that we don't have to wait too long for a sequel!

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Do not disturb by A.R. Torre

Do not disturb is the sequel to The girl in 6E, and while you can read and enjoy this book on it's own, you will understand more and enjoy more if you read the books in order.  I highly recommend reading The girl in 6E first so there aren't any ***SPOILERS**** when you read the review for Do not disturb.

It has been a few months since Deanna let her inner monster out of the box, and while she seems to have settled back into her life a hunger bubbles under the surface, pushing her to push her limits.  Her relationship with Jeremy is both exhilarating and terrifying, a hint of normalcy that seriously tests her ability to maintain control.  With Jeremy by her side she can leave her apartment and re-enter the normal world, but there is always a doubt about her ability to control herself - a doubt that Jeremy seems oblivious to.  It seemed like she could never have a normal life, but with each day it seems as though she might just be able to do it - as long as she leaves the knives at home.

Having a boyfriend is a novel experience in more ways than one - not many boyfriends would be okay with their partner working as a sexcam operator.  Luckily it is not a huge deal, because working the sexcam is what has given Deanna the freedom to live her life.  Working as JessReilly19 has made her a lot of money, and with that money comes safety and security - not to mention the ability to live in an apartment with little or no actual human contact.  It is a safe way for her to make money, a chance to manipulate people without putting their lives at risk, or exposing her to the risk of hurting others. 

When one of her clients tries to push "Jess" into meeting in real life, his increasing pressure results in him being banned from her sexcam feeds, and then her private website.  It's normal practice for this to happen, but this time Deanna has started a dangerous game of cat and mouse because they man she banned has power, money, and after several years in prison a burning desire for female company.  Her former client has a burning desire to find "Jess" and punish her, but he has no idea what he is up against.

The girl in 6E was a genre bending series opener that defiantly refused to be pushed into a single category and had scenes that were pretty confronting - both in terms of being pretty explicit, but also because of the glimpses we get into Deanna's mind.  Do not disturb picks up a few months later and while the content is drifting towards more of a romance than a sexually explicit/erotica vibe it is still a pretty intense read.  Book one was a bold and brave move for author A.R. Torre, and she has built on that first novel to include a broader range of challenges and emotions for Deanne and her readers. 

Getting restless in her apartment opens up a whole new world (literally) for Deanna, and her growing relationship adds new challenges and opportunities.  One of the most intense things about this story is the parallel story with the recently released rapist who fixates on Deanna and is on a collision course with all her pent up desires and need to kill.  This series is something of a guilty pleasure for me because as soon as I say she is a sexcam worker most people can't take anything else I say seriously (or they look at me strangely), but this is a very good series, and the author obviously has a good understanding of human nature and the challenges we all face getting through each day.  Deanna is smart and fierce, and she knows how to get what she wants (even if that does scare the pants off the people around her!).

If you like this book then try:
Reviewed by Brilla

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Orphan X by Gregg Hurwitz

Evan was only a child when Jack Johns came into his life and changed it forever.  Through years of training Evan changed from a child lost in the system, to a highly trained member of the Orphan programme.  For years he roamed the globe completing covert operations for the American government, a lethal assassin who could move through the world with barely a ripple.  He never questioned orders, never hesitated, and over time he has made his way onto the most wanted list for countries - including his own.  He is the ultimate burnable resource, if he is compromised he will be disavowed and on his own.  Working alone, Orphan X moves through the world with only one real connection - his handler Jack Johns.

Freeing himself from the Orphan programme comes with a cost, but years later Evan puts his unique set of skills to good use helping people in need.  His mission is simple - help one person one time, and then when his mission is complete they pass the details of the "Nowhere man" onto a single person who needs help.  It is a simple system, and until now no one has been able to track him down.  His elaborate set up of safe houses and safe vehicles helps him blend into almost any environment, and years of training mean he is almost impossible to capture or kill.  His system of checks and balances have kept him untraceable and safe for years, but nothing lasts forever.

When a new case falls in his lap Evan is surprised it comes so quickly, which makes him cautious - just as well as his new case is more dangerous than he anticipated.  As he tries to balance his increasingly normal life in the real world, with the increasingly dangerous shadow world he has grown up in, Evan is walking a knife's edge.  The people after his client are professionals and they are going to test all of Evan's skills.  They say you aren't paranoid if people are really out to get you - guess that means Evan isn't paranoid.

As a professional librarian I try and keep an open mind and read as widely as possible, because you never know when you are going to be asked for a book recommendation.  I don't tend to stray too far into the thriller genre because the books can very quickly get bogged down in detail that you have to read through to get to the story underneath - luckily that was not the case for Orphan X.  Gregg Hurwitz has created a believable and relateable character in Evan Smoak, a flawed imperfect person who has somehow managed to rise above his training to become a compassionate yet oddly clinical guardian angel.

The action and drama are carefully balanced into a whole that keeps you turning page after page until the end because you can't believe what is over the page, and because each time you turn the page you get hints of what is to come which means you keep turning the pages until the very end!  Sprinkled throughout the novel are technical references that lend authority to the story, but not to the point where your eyes glaze over.  Hurwitz has done a wonderful job of creating Evan as a character, he has his flaws and his quirks, and despite his training he has managed to hold onto his humanity.  Over time it is clear that his humanity is starting to win - but it may be at a cost.  An amazing debut novel, and hopefully it doesn't take too long for book two to arrive so I can see what is next for Evan Smoak.

If you like this book then try:
  • The killing kind by Chris Holm
  • Breaking Creed by Alex Kava
  • The Postcard killers by James Patterson and Liza Marklund
  • The basement: A novel  by Stephen Leather
  • City of the lost by Kelley Armstrong
  • Eeny meeny by M.J. Arlidge
  • Truth or die by James Patterson and Howard Roughan
  • Dead secret by Ava McCarthy
  • Never never by James Patterson and Candice Fox
  • Darkly dreaming Dexter by Jeffry P. Lindsay
  • Kiss the girls by James Patterson
  • Kill me if you can by James Patterson and Marshall Kamp

Reviewed by Brilla

Thursday, February 16, 2017

The sleeping beauty killer by Mary Higgins Clark and Alafair Burke

The sleeping beauty killer is the fourth book in the Under suspicion series that began with I've got you under my skin by Mary Higgins Clark.  While you can read this book on it's own, there are some ***SPOILERS*** if you have not already read I've got you under my skin.  I recommend reading the first book in the series before reading any others.

Television producer Laurie Moran has been riding the wave of success with her television series Under Suspicion - which has tackled the seemingly impossible task of investigating cold cases using the innovative technique of bringing the witnesses and potential suspects together at the scene of the original crime.  The three specials they have already filmed and released have been well received, the formula seems to work well - and the sttractive and intelligent host doesn't seem to hurt either. 

It is time for Laurie to come up with a new special, and it seems like she has the perfect one on the hook when it falls through.  It may have been fate looking over her shoulder though, as a new potential case has literally fallen into her lap.  Fifteen years ago Katherine "Casey" Carter was sentenced to prison for the death of her fiancĂ©e, and she was dubbed "Crazy Casey" because she kept saying she was innocent despite the evidence. Getting studio boss Brett to allow her to run with the story is only part of the battle, she also has to deal with one of the most powerful families around, and deal with being saddled with a new host with dubious credentials.  Laurie isn't afraid of a challenge - which is just as well because this is the most complicated and challenging case yet!

Mary Higgins Clark and Alafair Burke have found a winning formula with this great series - it has strong characters that have developed across the series, a simple yet believable premise, and some truly intriguing cases.  I was wondering if they would further develop the series as it was running the risk of becoming truly formulaic, but The sleeping beauty killer does shake up the expected formula - mainly because of the introduction of a new host for the show which has allowed the writing partnership to explore relationships in the series in new ways. 

The book also varies the formula because it tackles a case that has already been solved in a court of law - which is brilliant because it opens up the potential for the series at a very early stage.  I also found the plot of The sleeping beauty killer to be more complicated, but in a good way.  I like to be challenged by what I am reading, and like to see if I can figure out what is happening before the big reveal at the end and I did not see this one coming which was something of a thrill.  This series is thoroughly enjoyable and has a formula that works, and with each new book in the series it just gets better and better because we are starting to know more about the characters and their personal lives. 

I read book two and three out of order which was not too big a deal, but you really need to read the first three books before tackling this fourth book in the series.

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Saturday, February 11, 2017

The Cinderella murder by Mary Higgins Clark and Alafair Burke

The Cinderella murder is the second book in the Under suspicion series that began with I've got you under my skin by Mary Higgins Clark.  While you can read this book on it's own, there are some ***SPOILERS*** if you have not already read I've got you under my skin.  I recommend reading the first book in the series before reading any others.

After the success of her first television special for the Under Suspicion series, producer Laurie Moran us under pressure to find the next unsolved crime to feature.  The series has a very specific type of crime it focuses on, and while there are lots of unsolved crimes out there, not everyone is willing to take their chances with a trial by media.  Laurie has already chosen the next story for the series, but it may be tricky to get all those involved in the original case in front of the camera. 

Twenty years ago college student Susan Dempsey rang her parents to tell them she wasn't going to make it home for her fathers birthday because she had an audition for a role in a new movie - it was disappointing for her to miss the birthday party, but when the Police called to say they had found her body her parents were devastated.  Because Susan was found lying in a park with one shoe on and one shoe off the case was dubbed the Cinderella murder by the press - a name that stuck much to her mothers disgust.

In a surprising turn of events Laurie and her team are able to bring together all the people involved in Susan's life at the time of her disappearance, and as the filming progresses it becomes clear that everyone has secrets.  It is up to Laurie and her team to break through all the secrets and lies to uncover the truth, and hopefully bring some peace for Rosemary - the mother who has mourned her daughter for twenty years.  Laurie and her team are playing with fire though, some people don't want their secrets to come to light, and once you have killed someone it easier to do it again, and again.

This is a well written series that keeps you guessing right up until the end of each book - with little hints and clues that you have to unravel to try and stay ahead of Laurie and her team.  I like it when an author challenges you to think about what you are reading, and Mary Higgins Clark and Alafair Burke have managed to do that time after time.  These books also have a deep understanding of what makes people 'tick', and the authors use chapters told from the perspective of the different characters to flesh out the story without distracting from the 'real' story.  Using different perspectives and short chapters helps keep this story moving while also allowing us to see the people behind the story.

I accidently read book three before book two but it did not spoil the story at all - but in recommending this series it is really important to read the first book in the series first.  I have also found that it pays to read book three before starting book four!  This series is lots of fun to read because it is challenging to figure out whodunit before Laurie and her team can figure it out, and the switching perspectives means that you get a full reading experience because you get to experience the story from all sides with all the motivations and secrets that keep things very interesting indeed.  Hopefully there are many more books to come in this series because it has become one of my favourite series of all time.

 If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Monday, February 6, 2017

Red right hand by Chris Holm

Red right hand is the sequel to The killing kind and while it can be read separately I recommend reading the series in order before reading anymore of this review as there are ***SPOILERS*** about what happens in The killing kind in this review.

You life can change in an instant, and in the case of one man it changes for the worse when he is caught up in an act of terror.  Frank Segreti walked away from his criminal past when he walked into the FBI to confess his sins and bring down his former employer, but he died when the safe house he was in was blown to kingdom.  It was a blow to the case because they hadn't finished debriefing him, but it was also a more personal lose for the agents involved in the case because federal agents died in the same explosion.  Years later a family trying to recreate an old family photo inadvertently drags Segreti back into the public eye when they capture him on their home movie - quite impressive for a dead man - but now his life is in danger once again.

FBI Special Agent Charlie Thompson was drawn into the Segreti case through an odd stroke of luck, and now she is being told to stand down rather than following up on the case and trying to bring Segreti in.  In an act of desperate inspiration, and most likely career suicide, Agent Thompson reaches out to hitman with a conscience Michael Hendricks.  Hendricks may be the only chance Segreti has of making it out of this mess alive, and the only chance Agent Thompson has of getting Segreti back into the fold safely to testify against the Council.  If Hendricks accepts the job he will be waltzing into an active disaster zone crawling with cops and federal agents that would love to bring in one of the FBIs most wanted criminals.  The bad guys have the power and enough weaponry to take on a small army, but Hendricks is determined to bring down the Council no matter what the cost.

I read The killing kind last year and immediately put my name on the holds list for Red right hand because I couldn't wait to see what was next for Michael Hendricks and the people in his life.  Chris Holm writes well, keeping his story moving at a blistering pace that doesn't leave you time to get bored or distracted because the next piece of the puzzle or next explosive action scene is just over the next page.  While the story is fast paced, it is not shallow - you still have time to make connections to the characters, and over the course of the novel you get a feel for who the different people are and what makes them tick.

If you like to read books that are well written, have enough detail to keep you interested but not so much detail that you drown in facts and descriptions - then you will probably love this series.  I don't usually stray too far into the action genre, more paddling in the thriller/crime end of that particular genre pool, but there is a lot to like here.  I have to confess that I was more than a little bit miffed (and then laughed) when I read the blurb on the front of the paperback edition from The Sunday Times which describes it as "Roaring tough guy fun" because although Hendricks is a tough guy this is not a book the guys should have all to themselves, there is a lot for the girls to like here too!  Hopefully we don't have to wait too long for another book in the series.

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Private Delhi by James Patterson and Ashwin Sanghi

Private Delhi is the second book in the Private series set in India.  You can read this book independently but you will get more out of it if you have read Private and Private India first so you can get to know some of the characters before jumping into the action. 

After the events in Mumbai it seemed like a miracle that Jack Morgan was able to convince Santosh Wagh to stay with Private, let alone set up a brand new office in the bustling city of Delhi.  It is a fresh start for Santosh and his team, although it can be difficult to leave the demons of the past behind and so Jack stopping by to check on progress is no surprise - but the case that has landed in their laps is a surprise. 

A young couple seeking some privacy for a romantic encounter stumble across a hidden body disposal factory, where the remains of an unknown number of victims have been disposed of in barrels full of corrosive acid.  Bad enough, but when the remains are found on property belonging to the Government it pushes the grisly scene into a political conspiracy.  The two arms of the Delhi government are at war with each other - each side determined to bring down the other and seize power for themselves. 

With one side controlling the Police and access to information, the other seeks out the help of Private - but there is more going on than meets the eye.  A killer is loose in the streets of Delhi, a killer with a very specific MO who is meticulous in their planning and very focused on their targets.  No one is safe from this calculating and careful killer, and the team of Private Delhi is going to have their work cut out for them if they hope to catch the killer before they make their final strike.  In a city where corruption is rife and nearly anyone can be bribed, how do you solve the case that no one officially wants solved?

Private is an interesting and diverse series, introducing the reader to a large cast of characters and some truly amazing cities all over the world.  In the case of Private India and Private Delhi Patterson has partnered with Ashwin Sangha and the result is a world brought to life in all it's rich and uniquely Indian flavour.  India has a long and colourful history of government corruption and bribery, and Patterson and Sanghi embrace that fact without flinching and use it to weave a web of secrets, conspiracies and corruption that is completely believable and absorbing.  A great addition to the Private world.

If you like this book then try:
  • Private by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro
  • Private London by James Patterson and Mark Pearson
  • Private games by James Patterson and Mark Sullivan
  • Private # 1 suspect by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro
  • Private Berlin by James Patterson and Mark Sullivan
  • Private Oz by James Patterson and Michael White
  • Private India by James Patterson and Ashwin Sanghi
  • Level 26: Dark origins by Anthony E. Zuiker and Duane Swierczynsk
  • The postcard killers by James Patterson and Liza Marklund
  • Level 26: Dark origins by Anthony E. Zuiker and Duane Swierczynski
  • The survivors club by Lisa Gardner
  • The surgeon by Tess Gerritsen
  • Vodka doesn't freeze by Leah Giarrantano
  • Zoo by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge
  • NYPD Red by James Patterson and Marshall Karp
  • The basement: a novel by Stephen Leather
  • Step on a crack by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge
  • Darkly dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay

Reviewed by Brilla