Wednesday, 22 November 2017

CHRISTOPHER FARNSWORTH - HUNT YOU DOWN (2017)


Synopsis/blurb…….

"Fast, fun and frenetic. A whip-smart edge-of-your-seat thriller," - Ernest Cline on Killfile

An unstoppable, high-concept action thriller for fans of Mason Cross and Lee Child.

John Smith is no ordinary gun for hire.

Smith is a man or rare gifts, and he knows your every thought . . .

Hired to track down a shooter targeting the rich and famous, Smith must complete his mission before another attack takes place. But when a website on the dark net is found to have connections to the murders, Smith realises that taking down a shadowy figure who has weaponised the internet will prove more difficult than he first thought.

And no matter how hard he tries, this criminal mastermind continues to remain one step ahead.

PRAISE FOR CHRISTOPHER FARNSWORTH:

'Slick, fast-moving fun' - Guardian


'Brilliant . . . Produces intelligent and knuckle-biting suspense. Many will want to read this novel in one sitting' - Publishers Weekly

I must admit I’m not usually one for reading books with elements of supernatural or paranormal or the unexplainable, so I was really surprised to find that I enjoyed this one as much as I did.  John Smith is a private contractor, formerly a CIA operative and the product of a years-old government experiment/project to develop ESP powers in a cadre of agents. Smith’s ability is the power to read minds. Hunt You Down is the second book in the Smith series after Killfile, so the back drop to his time as an agent and his training isn’t really explored here which isn’t that important. Smith’s use of his ability - which also includes being able to implant thoughts into someone’s head - has a consequence in that he absorbs and suffers some of the pain from the people whose minds he reads. In Farnsworth’s hands the ability and the limits of Smith’s powers and the subsequent downside sound plausible and I was readily convinced.

As an opener, Smith is body guarding a rich Russian kid when the pair get caught off guard and are briefly held captive. Smith does his thing and all his right with the world again. Moving on, we have an invite to a celebrity wedding. A reality TV star, who Smith rescued (probably first book) is getting married. The wedding doesn’t go to plan as a gang of armed men attack the party. Our man manages to limit the consequences of the sneak attack and is soon re-employed by the bride’s father to bring the attackers to justice. A fragmented mind-snatch thought offers up the word – Downvote - something which means nothing to our man.

Before long, we discover what Downvote is, where it originated from, how it has been corrupted and Smith has a new mission (tied up with his old one), and a new partner and a new target. Our target, also happens to have his own special weapon, a Chinese agent with abilities comparable to Smith’s. And an agenda.

The rest of our fast-paced tale is a bit of a globe-trotting manhunt. Trying to bring down Downvote and the brains behind it, all the while out-foxing a foe who is our equal in every way. Hunt You Down is a thriller, as opposed to my usual crime fiction reading.

Verdict – I really liked this one and a fair bit more than I was expecting to. The action and events are fast-moving. The plot was believable. Smith’s abilities were convincingly explained and with my doubts and scepticism parked at the front page, I was happy to go with the flow. There’s a fair bit of fun to be had when a protagonist can read an assailant’s mind and can anticipate his next move all the while accessing his not so secret thoughts. Farnsworth serves up a decent conclusion and overall lots here to like. If my TBR pile wasn’t so daunting, I’d happily back track and read the first John Smith book.

4.5 from 5


Christopher Farnsworth has his website here.

Read in November, 2017
Published – 2017
Page count – 368
Source – review copy from publisher, Bonnier Zaffre
Format - Paperback


Tuesday, 21 November 2017

2 BY CHRIS RHATIGAN





















A couple from Chris Rhatigan this week – one a collection of short stories and the other a 120-odd page long novel/novella (what’s the difference?)

Both of these are published by All Due Respect books, as well as two further goodies from Rhatigan – Race to the Bottom and The Kind of Friends Who Murder Each Other

From his website……

I’ve been involved in the crime fiction world as an editor, publisher, and writer for almost a decade.

Chris Rhatigan's website is here

His website is more concerned with his editing services than him blowing his own trumpet about his own work.

I've probably read a couple of his short stories around the internet, but none of his own longer pieces or collections. Time to break my duck I reckon.

Wake Up, Time to Die (2014)

Delusions of grandeur. Furby with an assault rifle. More convenience store robberies than ten seasons of Cops. This is Wake Up, Time to Die. Sometimes funny, sometimes disturbing, and always filled with bad coffee and cheap cigarettes, these stories highlight the weird crime side of Chris Rhatigan's repertoire.

 “Rhatigan is an expert at sketching out incidents that feel real, but are steeped in irony and dark humor.”
~Heath Lowrance  - author of The Bastard Hand and City of Heretics

 “Wake Up, Time To Die is noir cut with Novocain; sharp as a junkie’s needle, yet hazy as the morning after. Reality is a fatal disease and this stepped-on high is your cure. Medicate now.”
~Chris Leek - author of Smoke ’Em if You Got ’Em



Squeeze (2016)


Scumbag newspaper reporter Lionel Kaspar aimlessly wanders from one scam to the next. Trying to claw his way to anywhere, Kaspar fabricates news stories and blackmails a local bureaucrat. What little success Kaspar stumbles upon he wastes betting on sports and drinking. But when Greg Hulas, his competitor, starts investigating him, Kaspar becomes desperate to maintain his position.



Monday, 20 November 2017

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS WITH CHRIS WHITAKER

Chris Whitaker, author of Tall Oaks and All the Wicked Girls (on the blog yesterday), answers a few questions...




Is the writing full time now? If not, what’s the day job? 

I wish. I trade in the stock market but do so from home (with my own money) now, so no boss to answer to, though it hurts a lot more when I lose. I do write every day, usually into the early hours, which is why I look a bit ill all the time. 

Both your novels Tall Oaks and All the Wicked Girls have a small town America setting, yet I read you were born in England and spent 10 years as a financial trader in the city. I’m scratching my head here, can you explain why you aren’t setting your books in Watford or Stevenage, for instance?

It’s partly an escapism thing. I sit down at my desk and feel the need to move far from my street and town and life, I like that total separation. And America is just a great setting, with such a sprawling, varied landscape. I think there’s a little more freedom when it comes to police structure and guns etc, it lends itself very well to crime writing.   

What’s easier – a career in the City, or life as an author?

I’ve yet to find anything more difficult than writing a book. I did work very hard in the city, but there was a clear structure to my day, and a clear way of ascertaining whether it was a successful day (I made money or I didn’t). Writing is like beginning a journey and having no idea where you’re going or if you’ll ever get there. Did I make that up? God, I sound like a knob.     

What’s your typical writing schedule?

Write a little, delete a lot. And then ponce around on Twitter. I’ll do this until a deadline looms and then panic and write all night for weeks.  

Do you insert traits of family, friends, and colleagues into your characters?

I don’t think so. Though perhaps I do it subconsciously. I never set out to copy traits. I do like to tell people I’ve modelled a horrible character on them, it’s endlessly entertaining.    

How long was the debut book, Tall Oaks in conception, before it finally saw publication and hit the shelves?

Around two and a half years from slush pile (talent pool!) to shelves.   

Did the end result resemble the book you envisaged when you set out? Were there many bumps in the road along the way?

The end result was a long, long way from what I started with, though the heart was always there, a story about a small town trying to move on following the abduction of a child. Once my editor got involved the story went through some major changes. It’s a steep learning curve and if you’re precious about your work then you’re in for a rough ride, but I had such total faith in the team at Bonnier.

We lost a character, added a narrative, changed some plot points and massively tightened up the crime element.

Did you have to conduct a lot of research in respect of the settings for your books, or have you got a strong connection with similar places in the States?

No connection, all research, all painstaking. Maps, books, audio transcripts, interviews. There is no shortcut, I have to put in the hours and grind it out. I set my stories wherever I see them best.  

Was your latest book, All the Wicked Girls an easier book to write than your debut?

No, definitely not. It was a horror. It wasn’t just the weight of expectation, it was writing something fairly heavy and dark, in almost a different language, and writing from the perspective of a teenage girl.

Do you have a favourite from the two? Which would you press into the hands of a new reader first?

Ah there’s no way I could choose. Tall Oaks was my first born and led to so many brilliant things happening. ATWG was the difficult second child, waking me in the night and shitting on me, forcing me to neglect everything else in my life so I could focus on it. I love them both in different ways. So, read both. Or read one and I’ll come round and read you the other.  

Any unpublished gems in your bottom drawer?

Unpublished, yes. Gems, no.

Is there a current work in progress? How’s it going? Any hints as to what it’s all about?

I am currently writing book 3. It’s about a little girl looking for revenge. Her name is Emily. I’m just starting out so that’s all you’re getting I’m afraid.  

What’s the best thing about writing?

Getting to live in another world for part of the day. When it’s going well, when you’ve a strong sense of place, you know your characters and what’s in store, you sit down and before you know it you’ve written an effortless thousand perfect words, it’s the best job in the world. Working with some of the most creative, talented, lovely people I’ve ever met. Seeing the cover, holding the proof, the first reviews, having a laugh with the bloggers, the launch party.  

The worst?

I am unable to switch off. I’m distant when I’m working through a plot, I’ll be so utterly focused on the story I’m writing that the other facets of my life will take a back seat. I’ve never thought of myself as a selfish person but I become increasingly single-minded as I write.

What are the last five books you’ve read?

The Perfect Victim – Corrie Jackson

The Confession – Jo Spain
My Little Eye – Steph Broadribb
Dark Pines – Will Dean
The Tall Man – Phoebe Locke

All of them are absolute stunners, I urge you to grab them when they’re out.






Who do you read and enjoy?

G.J. Minett is a friend and also a master of the plot twist. He has a new one coming out soon, Anything For Her, and I just know it’s going to be special. Jo Spain. Dennis Lehane. John Hart. Cormac McCarthy. Sunjeev Sahota, I still think about The Year of the Runaways. I have to break from crime now and again.        

Is there any one book you wish you had written?

Harry Potter. I would be a hero to my children.




Favourite activity when not working or writing?

Lovemaking. Often alone.  

What’s the last film you watched that rocked you?

Sing. It was awesome.

TV addict or not? What’s the must watch show in the Whitaker household? 

Total TV addict. I’m finally watching The Wire and it’s perfect.



In a couple of years’ time…

Having still not delivered book 3, I will be avoiding my editor.  
----------------------------------------
Many thanks to Chris for his time and to Emily at Bonnier Zaffre for setting this up.

Chris is on Twitter@WhittyAuthor

Sunday, 19 November 2017

CHRIS WHITAKER - ALL THE WICKED GIRLS (2017)


Synopsis/blurb….

For fans of Lisa Jewell, Holly Seddon and Local Girl Missing, All the Wicked Girls is a gripping thriller with a huge heart from an exceptional talent.

Everyone loves Summer Ryan. A model student and musical prodigy, she's a ray of light in the struggling small town of Grace - especially compared to her troubled sister, Raine. Then Summer vanishes.

Raine throws herself into the investigation, aided by a most unlikely ally, but the closer she gets to the truth, the more dangerous her search becomes.

And perhaps there was always more to Summer than met the eye . . .
-----

'A very real, very rare talent' Sarah Hilary

'Chris is so amazing. He just has this real knack of creating characters that you're completely engaged with . . . I was hooked by his beautiful prose and by the end I was absolutely ruined' Lisa Hall, author of Between You And Me


Difficult to do this one any sort of justice in a review. After a slightly slow start, once I got into the rhythm of the book I really liked it and was loathe to put it down.

A 15 year-old girl, Summer Ryan goes missing and it isn’t the first disappearance that the small communities in the area have experienced. Several girls have previously vanished and the mythical Bird is responsible. Only he’s not just a made-up bogeyman to frighten the kids, he’s real.

Raine, Summer’s twin and the more wilful of the pair has little faith in Chief Black’s ability to find her sister, so takes to riding the lanes and countryside around Grace with a couple of misfits Noah and Purv to look for her sister.

We experience parts of the book through Summer’s eyes and gradually uncover her secrets and in time discover her fate.

I think I would have enjoyed reading this book, even without the mystery of the disappearance of Summer and the other girls. Whitaker paints an incredibly detailed picture of a small God-fearing bible belt community Grace. The town is in economic decline, work is scarce. There are limited prospects for the youth, criminality could be a legitimate career option.

Within our community we have the usual conflicts and shared histories. The twin’s father, Joe Ryan was sent away, jailed for a number of years and missed a large part of their childhood. Raine blames Chief Black and hates him with a vengeance. Uncle Tommy stepped in and looked out for the pair during Joe’s absence. Chief Black has issues. His authority is under threat. His own faith in his competence is shaky, perhaps the bottle and the magic medicine he injects between his toes isn’t the best way of dealing with things. The manic preacher, Pastor Lumen semi-retired after a stroke still holds great sway in the community. His replacement, the milder meeker younger Pastor Bobby has his own skeletons and burdens to carry. Him and his wife, Savannah are dealing with the loss of their baby son separately, their grief and guilt driving them apart. Savannah is Summer’s cello teacher and Bobby is an important influence in her life.

The two characters who gripped me were Noah and Purv. Almost brothers, one long-suffering at the hands of his abusive father, with bruises and welts Purv’s normality and Noah. Noah has his own burden to carry. His long dead dad was a lawman and died in an incident involving Chief Black, a death which many blame on Black. Orphaned, Noah lives with his ailing grandmother and his dream of following in his father’s footsteps may not be fulfilled. His growing fondness and love for Raine may not be reciprocated and could add to the load he carries. A load borne without self-pity.

It’s been a while since I shed a tear reading a book, but Whitaker pushed me close. The characters were that real and that haunting. Guilt, secrets, love, loss, grief, awakening, maturity, friendship, community, family – all resonate strongly throughout.

5 from 5

Chris Whitaker’s debut novel, Tall Oaks sits on the pile – not for too much longer. 


Read in November, 2017
Published – 2017
Page count – 448
Source – review copy from publisher Bonnier Zaffre
Format - paperback

Saturday, 18 November 2017

CHRIS SARANTOPOULOS - THE MAN BEHIND THE BAR (2017)


Synopsis/blurb...

The past never really stays hidden or forgotten. Ben Stingler left his past for a quiet life, until a young man steps in his bar, and brings with him all the things Ben tried to put behind him five years ago. An overdue debt is back on the table.

A short story

A 22 page short story and the opportunity to try out another writer's work for zilch via Instafreebie.

An ok story,  no stop you in your tracks turn of prose, no annoying clunky sentences, decent writing. Reasonable premise, though I kind of wondered about the hiding in plain sight option our man behind the bar took. Not wise in hindsight. Inevitable twist in the tale. I quite enjoyed it and I've read a lot worse in my time.

Enough there to not rule out reading more from the author in the future.

3 from 5

Chris Sarantopoulos has his website here

Read in November, 2017
Published - 2017
Page count - 22
Source - free copy via Instafreebie
Format - Kindle

Friday, 17 November 2017

VICENTE MORALES - REST IN PEACE, BABY (2017)




Synopsis/blurb.....

A teenager forced into the brutal world of sex trafficking. Dozens of murderous narcos with torture on their minds. The key to survival? A lone badass with a particular set of skills and an urge to kick some major ass…

Introducing the Badass Mexican Girl. 

Tasked with assassinating a pair of narcos who seduced and killed the wrong woman, the Badass Mexican Girl finds herself deep within enemy cartel territory. Armed with only an AS50 sniper rifle, a Glock, and a bad attitude, will this girl with no name be able to take on a swarm of homicidal enemy narcos and rescue an innocent victim of sex trafficking?

You’ll have to read this exciting thriller to find out…

Rest In Peace, Baby is the exciting prequel to the upcoming Badass Mexican Girl thriller series by Vicente Morales. If you like violent page-turners, tons of action from the first line, and an unhealthy dose of dark humor, then you’ll love Rest In Peace, Baby.

Get your copy of Rest In Peace, Baby and dive into the action today!

Another one from Instafreebie and probably the first one to come back and bite me on the bum.

The blurb sounds like it would be right up my street and it was pacey with plenty of action, but no real character development or depth if I'm honest. Consequently I had zero connection to the plot or emotional investment in the outcome.

We have an insanely high body count and fair to say the author delivers on the death and carnage part of the deal. Some of the action scenes seemed a little bit over-described. Every move, punch and kick or bullet described to the nth degree - a little bit more faith in the reader to join the dots up might have worked better.

There's a bit of a curve ball thrown when our Badass Mexican Girl gets a little sidetracked when on her mission to wipe out the Colombian drug supplier. A rescue mission is easily taken in the stride of our protagonist. And there's decent bit of scheming at the end to draw out our adversaries.

Bits of humour Morales injected into the book lightened the tone at points, especially when one of our vicious narco bosses got a rebound from his hot branding iron.

Sadly, overall a bit of a disappointment, but not a totally wasted effort. If you don't try you'll never know.

2.5 from 5

Vicente Morales has his website here.

Read in November, 2017
Published - 2017
Page count - 91
Source - copy via Instafreebie
Format - Kindle

Thursday, 16 November 2017

ANTHONY NEIL SMITH + VICTOR GISCHLER - TO THE DEVIL, MY REGARDS (2001/2011)


Synopsis/blurb....

Z.Z. DelPresto is a ne'er-do-well private eye who stumbles into trouble along the beaches of Alabama and Florida. But this time he may have waded out too far. The evidence appears to show him killing the seventeen-year-old girl he'd fallen for. But Z.Z. knows good and well he didn't do it, and now he's in the fight of his life to prove it. Throw in the girl's rich and ruthless parents, some cops who have been trying to put DelPresto away for years, a topless tourist and a stuttering psychic who knows all of tomorrow's sports scores today, and you have a story you just can't put down. 

Combine Gischler's colorful eccentricity with Smith's grinding noir, and you end up with this unique novella: To the Devil, My Regards. Originally published in 2001, Gischler and Smith now bring this crazy tale to Kindle, with a new cover by "Pokerben" Springer.

It's been a while since I read anything from either of these two authors after faithfully following them both more than a decade ago. On a bit of a downer after my last book, a quick pick-me-up was in order. Well - at 66 pages it was quick, and enjoyable but not amazing.

Mr Smith
We have a PI in the frame for murdering the daughter of his client. The client hired him to gather evidence on his cheating wife, not to sleep with his daughter and definitely not to kill her!

Z.Z. DelPresto surprisingly gets released from custody and works to clear himself. Managing to avoid the attentions of a hitman, turning the tables on him, having a steamy encounter with the dead girl's mother (who just happened to hire the would-be-assassin), an impromptu boat trip with a couple of unsuspecting tourists, and a few more deaths, DelPresto gathers the evidence and cracks the case. News Flash - he didn't do it!

Action, pace, humour, snappy dialogue, a bit of sex and a few decent twists before a believable resolution, I liked it. Worth a pound of anyone's money.
Mr Gischler

I'm sure they've written a lot better both before and since.

3.5 from 5

Smith's All the Young Warriors was one of my favourite reads of 2013. All the other books I've read from the pair were in my pre-blogging days.


Read in November, 2017
Published - 2001 (re-published 2011)
Page count - 66
Source - purchased copy
Format - Kindle