Saturday, March 28, 2020

The runner by Stephen Leather

Sally Page works for MI5 in a junior position known as a "footie" - a person who helps keep legends authentic by paying bills, shopping with loyalty cards, and keeping up a social media presence.  It's supposed to be a short term gig for a few months before agents move on to more exciting work, but Sally has been working as a footie ever since she knocked her boss back when he made advances one night.  It's not easy watching other footies come and go from their office hidden in a suburban house in Wimbledon, but Sally stubbornly remains professional and does her job, working away in the office.   It isn't easy working as a footie, the routine can be repetitive and boring, and because you work for MI5 you still have to follow all the rules of other agents and not tell anyone what you do.  

It isn't dangerous work being a footie, well not normally, that all changes when Sally goes on a coffee run and comes back to find her colleagues dead and armed men in the house.  Unarmed and not trained to work in the field, Sally does the only thing she can - she runs.  The men start to stalk and hunt her across the streets of London, and Sally's only hope is to reach the relative safety of Thames House and her colleagues.  As the men hunt her Sally runs, which may not seem like a lot, but Sally lives to run and she can run like no one they have ever seen before.  As she learns more about why the men are chasing her it does little to change the fact that Sally will need to keep running to save her life in a race against time, and against a determined enemy that thinks nothing of leaving a bloody swath of destruction in their wake.  

Thrillers can be a little hit and miss, especially if they try and be too clever - but The runner hit just the right note and was a thoroughly enjoyable and engrossing read.  Sally Page seems so ordinary, but she has a very unordinary time, dragging other people into the story along the way.  Stephen Leather has written a thriller that starts with an ordinary scene and slowly builds and develops so that you have the whole picture of what is happening, and the thrill of wondering what the ending will be.  Sally is a likeable and believable character, as are the other characters that help keep the action and storyline on track.  There are the expected characters, but they are well developed and don't come across as two dimensional or completely cliched.  

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Monday, March 16, 2020

Careless whiskers by Miranda James

Careless whiskers is the twelve book in the Cat in the stacks mysteries so this review contains ***SPOILERS***if you have not read the earlier books in the series.  I highly recommend that you read this series in order, so if you haven't read the other books in the series start with Murder past due before readng any more of this review.

Life is never dull for semi-retired librarian and archivist Charlie Harris, especially with his charming cat Diesel by his side, and an alarming knack for finding himself in the middle of murder investigations on a regular basis.  His life has quietly slipped into a routine since his last encounter with a murder mystery, and he is looking forward to watching the Athena College theatre production that features his daughter Laura in a leading role, carefully directed by his son-in-law Frank.  It is a very exciting time for the theatre department, but the actor who has the male lead has a reputation for being difficult and Laura and Frank are both feeling the pressure and the stress.

When Charlie meets the infamous Luke Lombardi he is everything he has been told to expect - good and bad, and it doesn't take long for the arrogant actor to make his presence known.  Pushing down his urge to protect his family, Charlie tries to stay out of the drama, but when Lombardi dies during a performance Laura becomes a suspect and he is determined to protect her.  As Chief Deputy Kanesha Berry and her team start working the case Charlie tries to stay out of the way, not an easy feat in a small town where it seems like everyone knows everyone else, and your family is involved.  There is more than one mystery for the team to deal with however, and the drama is not limited to the stage.  Can Charlie stay out of trouble long enough to help solve the case?

Careless whiskers is yet another charming and thoroughly engaging story in the Cat in the stacks mystery series.  Once again Miranda James has brought together an interesting cast of characters that bring drama and depth to the story, and once again familiar characters are like family not only for Charlie and Diesel, but also for us.  There are the interactions and conversations that we expect to see when Charlie in on a case, and there are the usual charming moments between Charlie and Diesel.  It would be all too easy for the series to become stagnant or terribly predictable, but James has managed to maintain the charm of the series, expanding the cast of characters over time to keep it grounded and realistic.

This is a fantastic series and I have recommended it to different people over the years, partly because I think it's great that there is a series with a librarian in the lead (professional pride and all), but also because the entire is relatable and charming.

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Into the fire by Gregg Hurwitz

Into the fire is the fifth book in the Orphan X series, so this review contains ***SPOILERS*** if you have not read the rest of the books in the series.  This is a series that really needs to be read in order, so start with Orphan X and read the sereis in order.

Evan Smoak is used to keeping secrets and hiding himself behind a facade - first as Orphan X, and more recently as the Nowhere Man.  Playing a role is more natural than being himself, and the longer he keeps up his walls, the harder it is for him to make connectons with those around him.  After taking out the President of the United States, he might finally have a chance to be free of his past, a fresh start leaving Orphan X behind forever - but is he also ready to leave the Nowhere Man behind?  The test of his resolve comes when he gets a call from Max Merriweather, whose cousin dropped him in the middle of a dangerous game of cat and mouse. 

When Grant is brutally tortured and mudered he spills the beans that he gave an isurance policy to his cousin, and now Max is the target, unless the Nowhere Man can help him.  With his apartment trashed, and not wanting to put Grant's family in more danger, Max is willing to follow Evan's instructions to go underground, but instead of solving the case straight away, Evan finds himself travelling down a rabbit warren of a conspiracy within a conspiracy, wrapped up in secrets and dangerous enemies that will stop at nothing to get what they want - and they desperately want what Max has.  When Evan is injured it makes his job infinitely more dangerous, and with people counting on him he has no time to recover.  In what might be his most dangerous case to date, the Nowhere Man will have to risk it all to get results - and the cost might be higher than he can bear if he doesn't get to the bottom of the conspiracy.

The Orphan X series has been a surprising find for me, I don't normally read pure thrillers but I saw Orphan X in a bookshop and the cover looked really interesting, and then the blurb was intrguing so I requested a copy and read it thinking I would recommend it to my brother (which I did), but I have been devouring the series ever since.  The pace of the action is spot on, keeping up a good pace that keeps everyhing moving without moing so fast that it feels like things are moing too quickly.  The action scenes are slick and well thought out, and the characters are well developed and all too easy to care about.  Evan is a complex character and feels realistic for what he has been through adn what he does, and the other characters add depth and reality to the series.  This is a superb series and I can't wait to the next one comes out!

If you like this book then try:
  • Orphan X by Gregg Hurwitz
  • The killing kind by Chris Holm
  • The spider heist by Jason Kasper
  • Breaking Creed by Alex Kava
  • The Postcard killers by James Patterson and Liza Marklund
  • Eeny meeny by M.J. Arlidge
  • Truth or die by James Patterson and Howard Roughan
  • Spare me the truth by C.J. Carver
  • 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

Friday, March 13, 2020

The list by Patricia Forde

Letta has spent her entire life in the protected world of the Ark, a safe haven for the survivors of a ravaged world.  The leader of Ark, John Noa, has worked hard to protect the people of Ark and his carefully laid out rules help everyone live together in a world that has drastically changed.  Everyone has their place, and for Letta her place is working as the wordsmith's apprentice, a role that has great responsibility but also allows her the privilege of learning and speaking words that are not List words.  The List is a list of 700 carefully chosen words that provide people with the words they need to communicate, but does not include the words that cause conflict and confusion.  There are specialist words, but they are carefully guarded and known only to the wordsmith and the people who need them. 

When Benjamin, the wordsmith, tells Letta that he is leaving the Ark to search for words she is not worried -- but then she receives word that he is dead and her world begins to slowly cave in around her.  With Benjamin gone it falls to Letta to be he wordsmith, and one of the tasks their leader has given her is to reduce the List even further, which goes against what Letta believes.  As Letta learns more about the world she begins to realise that nothing is what it seems, and that John Noa is keeping secrets from the people of Ark.  With people being hauled away by the gavvers for the smallest of transgressions, and with the arrival of a teenage boy who seems to know a great deal more about her world than she does, Letta is slowly realising that nothing is what it seems - and that a rotten heart beats at the centre of the Ark.

It takes something truly special to stand out in the world of books, and The list was one of those rare books that was a stand out from the beginning.  Seeing the world of Ark through Letta's eyes takes you on the journey with her, from innocent and obedient member of Ark through to wide eyed discovery that things are not what she thought - through to the heart break of betrayal and having the truth laid bare.  The theme of a dystopian future is not unusual, particularly over the past ten years or so, but Patricia Forde has created a world that is not too distant from our own, and that is accessible for younger readers than the traditional teen dystopian series.  It was easy to connect with Letta and her world, and Forde was clever with her world and character development without being too clever.

I recommended The list to a few people before I read it, and now that I have read it I am recommending it to even more people as it is one of those rare children's books that can be picked up by children, teens, and adults - and enjoyed equally by everyone.

If you like this story then try:
  • The Giver by Lois Lowry
  • The declaration by Gemma Malley
  • Nest of lies by Heather McQuillan
  • Breathe by Sarah Crossan
  • The barcode tattoo by Suzanne Weyn
  • Winter of fire by Sherryl Jordan
  • The limit by Kristin Landon
  • The world around the corner by Maurice Gee
  • Stone heart by Charlie Fletcher
  • Hollow Earth by John Barrownman and Carole Barrowman

Reviewed by Brilla

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

The perfect mother by Caroline Mitchell

Roz never intended to get pregnant, and it has left her with very few choices.  She's too Catholic to get rid of the baby, and she can't have a relationship with the babies father, so her only choice is to offer the baby up for adoption.  Wanting to give her baby the best chance of a good life, Roz signs up with an adoption agency, and she soon finds herself connected with a couple that seem perfect for her and her baby.  They are wlling to pay for her to come and live with them in New York through her pregnancy, and they will give her money that will set her up with a new life.  It's an offer that is too good to be true, the only catch is that Roz will need to agree to serecy because they want to pass the baby off as their own. 

Jetting off to New York is the start of an adventure for Roz, because although she has talked to the wife on the phone, she doesn't know exactly who they are.  The couple will only reveal who they are once Roz has signed a non disclosure agreement, and with very few choices left Roz signs the agreement and is introduced to the couple - Hollywood power couple Sheridan Sinclair and Daniel Watson.  It's overwhelming for anyone, especially a na├»ve Irish girl like Roz, and she is too in awe of the couple to question some of the odd things that seem to be happening.  Sheridan is by turns warm and friendly and old and controlling. Roz tries to get on with her, but Sheridan seems determined to control every aspect of her life.  When Roz starts finding articles about Sheridan and Daniel in unexpected places she can't help but feel a little paranoid, but as time marches on and she feels more and more like a prisoner she comes to realise that she has no idea who she is dealing with - and that she is completely at Sheridan's mercy.

The perfect mother is a tense psychological thriller that starts with a bang sometime near the present, and then goes back in time to bring you up to the present day through chapters that show you what is happening from the point of view of Roz and Sheridan.  The characters are well developed, and while the three main characters of Roz, Sheridan, and Daniel are the ones that have the most development and presence, thought has gone into the other characters in the book and they are developed enough to find their own places in the story without overwhelming the main characters.  The setting is interesting and lends itself to all sorts of possibilities, and it is all too easy for your mind to run away with the possibilities.

It is tempting to jump to conclusions through the novel, and there are little seeds and hints that make you want to guess what is coming - but in the end things did not go where I was expecting them too (somewhat unusual when you read heaps of crime and thrillers).  This was an excellent read, and I will be looking for more books from Caroline Mitchell to see if her other books are as good as The perfect mother.

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla