Sunday 28 February 2021


Synopsis/blurb ....

Angela Tamanaka, called Angel by friend and client alike, is a beautiful young prostitute working for an escort agency in Manhattan.

Leonard Csrter is ex-Special Forces and has been living off the grid ever since he returned from overseas to work as a hit-man.

Their two worlds collide when Angela witnesses Leonard executing one of her clients, who also happens to be a high-profile gangster, and they soon form an unusual alliance as they take on one of New York's toughest crime organisations.

Just before he died, Angel's client hinted at a large sum of money hidden in a safe house. For Angel, it will provide an escape to a new life - but can she trust Leonard? And can they get to the stash before the gang track them down...?

BOOM! My kind of book....... a hit man, an escort, the mob, money, a drugs deal, a life off the grid, back-story, a cop, revenge, family friction, bereavement, military service, a robbery plan, the man in the middle, dreams and ambitions, trust or betrayal.

Fast-paced, decent storyline, New York setting, interesting characters, shifting relationship dynamics, a plot I was fully invested in to see how it all worked out, satisfying ending. I do find criminal sorts more interesting fodder than law abiding citizens. A perfect length.

5 from 5

When Solomita is on form there's no one better.

Solomita has been enjoyed before, probably not as often as he deserves..... Keeplock (as David Cray), Dancer in the FlamesThe Striver and The Monkey in the Middle (pre-blog days) 

Read - February, 2021

Published - 2011

Page count - 196

Source - owned copy

Format - hardback

Saturday 27 February 2021




Smart, bored, attractive and single, Mattie Brooke is a not quite over-the-hill waitress in the tiny town of Dip, Washington. She's lived all but one year of her life in Dip, and not much of what goes on there escapes her eye. But then, not much of what goes on in Dip is worth noticing. Not much, that is, until a traveling salesman named Tucker Harris drifts into town. Mattie cuts out on her steady guy just long enough for this stranger to introduce her to his bizarre brand of safe sex, and after Tucker splits Mattie figures to go on with her life the same as before. Fat chance. What begins as sassy complicity in a capricious tryst triggers a subtle and vertiginous slide into hell, with no stops for beer or introspection. A hell so deceitful and complete that, less than one revolution of the earth around the sun later, Mattie suffers the horrible revelation that there will be no saviour capable of rescuing her sanity - let alone her life. In the darkness of this devastation it seems the best she can hope for is a mercifully swift termination ...

But wait. There is one possibility. It won't of course come for free. Nor is the price her soul, not that. Merely everything in it.

"There'd been a woman in this room when last he'd been conscious. Why so there was, sqealed the little devil, who now began to tune the surface of Tucker's cortex, stretching its surface like the skin of a kettle drum, by means of hidden software burnbuckles, to raise its pitch, which was the voice of the devil itself, and testing it with a pair of crusty mallets, unspeakably atrophied shrunken heads mounted on the tibia of Cesare Borgia."

Death Puppet was my second outing with author Jim Nisbet about eight years after enjoying his thrilling Lethal Injection. I had a few WTF moments, both at the beginning and close to the end, but otherwise I really liked it.

At the start I did wonder what I was letting myself in for with a few pages, suffering some French poetry. Towards the end I don't know if I lost track or wasn't paying close enough attention, but I didn't know if I'd landed in some kind of sci-fi western as some strange goings on confused me. Maybe the little devil in Tucker's head was doing similar damage to my own?

Other than that, it was pretty damn good. 

A woman meets a strange man. He meets her fish. He leaves the next morning. She goes to work. Meets two other men. Quits her job. Goes with the men to her on/off boyfriend's where something unexpected is going on. The strange man from earlier is known to the boyfriend and her two companions, a situation which fills her with dread. Over the next few hours, madness and mayhem ensues. Not everyone survives. She gets her job back.

I liked the connectivity between the characters. I enjoyed the fact that I didn't know initially what was happening. I liked the back story of the boyfriend and his parents and his mother's letters. I liked the woman's painfully acquired knowledge that her hopes and dreams of a particular future would never be realised, that she didn't really know her man at all, that the window of opportunity for a much more fulfilling life had escaped her.. 

I loved the scene with the stranger and the woman and the fish - turbo charged with electricity and sex and death and eroticism. I loved the scene in the cafe with the regular customer and the owner and his shotgun and their confrontation with the two hippies and Mattie and a coffee pot.

Strange, interesting, entertaining, at times weird. Nisbet did irritate me at times with his big incomprehensible words, liberally sprinkled together in clusters ..... concatenation, thanatophage, contumely.... nope, not tempted to look them up.

Overall 4 from 5

Hopefully I'll read one of the other ten or so Nisbet's on the TBR pile before another eight years has passed.

Read - February, 2021
Published - 1989
Page count - 244
Source - owned copy
Format - hardback

Friday 26 February 2021




In her second mystery, Ellie Stone - a young reporter in 1960s' upstate New York - plays by her own rules while searching for a killer, putting her own life at risk.

A dead girl in the woods. Three little oil spots on the dirt road. A Dr. Pepper bottle cap in the shallow grave. And a young reporter, armed with nothing but a camera.

Evening is falling on a wet, gray, autumn day in upstate New York. Ellie Stone, twenty-four-year-old reporter for a small local daily, stands at a crossroads in her career and in her life. Alone in the world, battling her own losses and her own demons, Ellie is ready to pack it in and return to New York a failure. Then she hears the dispatch over the police scanner.

A hunter, tramping through a muddy wood north of the small town of New Holland, has tripped over the body of a twenty-one-year-old society girl half-buried in the leaves. Ellie is the first reporter on the scene. The investigation provides a rare opportunity to rescue her drowning career, but all leads seem to die on the vine, until Ellie takes a daring chance that unleashes unintended chaos.

Wading through a voyeuristic tangle of small-town secrets, she makes some desperate enemies, who want her off the case. Dead if necessary.

No Stone Unturned is the second in author James W. Ziskin's Ellie Stone series after Styx & Stone, which I read back in late 2013. I enjoyed that. I enjoyed this. I'm not sure why it took me six or seven years to get around to following up, probably the volume of books competing for my attention I suppose.

A strong, feisty female protagonist, a young woman's murder, a clueless police chief - ergo an amateur  investigation led by our intrepid reporter, aided in part by the victim's father's sanction.

I do like a small town mystery where the inhabitants all have secrets they would rather remain private. Some of these concern a notorious motel which is the local hook up joint of choice, complete with it's own peeping Tom - a young Hispanic man with a camera. He's a ready made suspect for a not so diligent sheriff. Some secrets concern the Boston college which the victim attended; concealed relationships with students and professors alike, both avenues of investigation. In her home town, there are old childhood friends and contacts from school that demand scrutiny as well.   

I quite liked the slow drip, drip uncovering of information by Ellie. Some she uses to advance her own inquiries, some she uses to aid the sheriff and try and steer him in the right direction. Some is used to keep her in a job at her newspaper. As a young female in the early 60s, her ambition and abilities are often disregarded because of her gender. Not least in her role at the newspaper, where nepotism in addition to her sexuality see her continually under pressure and having to fight her corner.

Decent pace, interesting setting both locale wise and the timing of the novel. Ellie has worked for Kennedy's campaign, in a town where the bumper stickers mainly advocate Nixon. Great main character - she knows her own mind. She likes a drink and a roll in the hay - on her own terms. Strong, independent, intelligent and pretty fearless, as she refuses to be cowed when receiving threats. I like her a lot. 

Decent outcome - all questions answered, with a satisfying conclusion.

Overall - very good.

4.5 from 5

To date Ziskin has written seven books in his Ellie Stone series. I think I have a few more on the pile. Hopefully I won't leave it so long before my next encounter.

Read - February, 2021

Published - 2014

Page count - 272

Source - review copy from publisher Seventh Street Books

Format - paperback

Thursday 25 February 2021




Flagler Beach Florida is quite the small town, eclectic and quirky... and filled with many unique characters.

And JandJ Fitness has more than its share of locals who are enjoying a perfect Sunday in town with exercise and so much more!

The third book in the Flagler Beach Fiction series.

Contemporary Fiction and a fun beach read!

Includes 10 short stories set in JandJ Fitness

Another Audible outing with Armand Rosamilia and a collection of his short stories. He’s written half a dozen or so series of stories set in Flagler Beach, Florida. Each collection is set in and around a local (fictional, I assume) landmark. These 10 concern the owners and customers of J and J Fitness.

No crime or mystery content really, just everyday folks dealing with everyday issues..... dating, attraction, flirting, weight, eating, poor self image,  hangovers, friendship, marital difficulties, employment/unemployment woes, difficult family situations, a professional sports goal
and a serious injury and recuperation.

The married couple - names escape me - offer support, guidance, advice, motivation and inspiration, as required. I really liked the pair. 

Overall, I really enjoyed the collection of tales with some overlapping characters. It was quite uplifting with a sense of community and care at the forefront.

The more I listen to this author's work, the more I enjoy it. 

4 from 5

Belford Stories (1) (non-crime/mystery) and Dirty Deeds (1) (mystery content) have been enjoyed recently.  

Read - (listened to) February, 2021
Published - 2013
Page count - 93 (2 hrs 41 mins)
Source - Audible purchase
Format - Audible

Wednesday 24 February 2021




Evan Tanner is a globetrotting adventurer to put Indiana Jones in the shade. Not only has he had his sleep centre destroyed in the Korean War but now he has been on extended vacation ... in the deep freeze for over 25 years!

Thawed but not shaken, Tanner has a lot of catching up to do. No sooner than he's reacquainted himself with Minna, his 'adopted daughter'  and now a beautiful woman and mastered the Internet, than he is recruited for another covert assignment - to destabilise the government of Burma (or should that be Myanmar?) and he finds himself in Rangoon (or is that Yangon?).

Mix in exotic surrounding, an exiled Russian beauty, foreign intrigue, cross and double cross, a mysterious dead man and you have an edgy and entertaining puzzle that only Lawrence Block could have created.

The eighth and last Evan Tanner mystery, Tanner on Ice was an enjoyable read a few months after the seventh was devoured. Thankfully this time there were none of the irritating and odd troubling episodes from the earlier books where Tanner has inappropriate dalliances with some of the fairer sex. I'm far from a prude, but really? This time the dalliances occur but with an age acceptable companion.

In brief.... Tanner after getting himself defrosted catches up with his old handler, his sort of daughter and a quarter century of political events and upheavals and embarks on a mission to Burma. 

The usual shenanigans occur.... death threats, surveillance, spy stuff, dead bodies, temple visits, drug plants, encounters with the police, imprisonment, escape, romance and a long walk to freedom disguised as a Buddhist monk. 

A good fun read, with humour, snappy dialogue, action, incident, sex, social commentary (albeit a wee bit out of date) in an exotic setting. Top notch entertainment.

I must have read over 50 Lawrence Block books of various types and lengths in every format possible since I started recording my reads back in 2012. With the odd exception, I pretty much love everything of his I've encountered. 

One series - Evan Tanner - has now been conquered. Scudder, Keller, Bernie and Chip await.

4 from 5

Read - February, 2021
Published - 1998
Page count - 256
Source - owned copy
Format - paperback

Monday 22 February 2021




She wants to escape
He wants to save her
But nothing is what it seems

Singapore 1954 and once again, private investigator, Ash Carter is caught between the government and the criminal gangs. It's time for Carter to choose.
Escape now or stand and fight?

Another trip slightly out of my comfort zone to the fifties and Singapore with Murray Bailey's latest Ash Carter Mystery Singapore Fire. I don't read too much set back this far and hardly anything at all with an Asian setting. Probably the last one that springs to mind, is the author's previous Carter book - Singapore Killer, which I enjoyed early-ish last year.

Here we have Carter trying to outwit a criminal king pin, Andrew Yipp and escape off into the sunset with the man's niece, Su Ling - the love of his life. At times the read is uncomfortable, namely because of Yipp's grooming of his niece from an obscenely young age. Pretty vile behaviour in any cultural or historical context. Ling is anxious to escape from her uncle's control, but there are more than a few obstacles in the way.

I liked the setting and the sense of concern of the British over the political situation with the first portents of an Empire losing it's iron grip. There are stirrings of discontent and a wiff of change in the air. For now the British remain in charge.

Criminal gangs, a dead prostitute, a counterfeiting operation, Communist gold, smuggling, Chinese New Year celebrations, the docks, the sea, a road trip or two, a murder investigation, the odd bout of fisticuffs, kidnap, a female investigative journalist - an early ardent supporter of women's rights, and a lot more besides. Fair to say it's a busy book with lots of different strands the author juggles before we arrive at an unexpected outcome.  

I think it would be fair to say I liked it as opposed to loved it. It's a solid if not spectacular mystery and one which I read in a couple of days. I liked the main character, Ash and his sense of right and wrong. I enjoyed his fearlessness when confronted with difficult situations. If he has a failing, it's probably that he is too trusting. Not everyone plays the game by the same rules he does.

Overall - 3.5 from 5

Read - February, 2021
Published - 2021
Page count - 315
Source - review copy from author
Format - Kindle




Martin Garrett had it all, or at least he thought he did. That all changed the day he woke up to a Dear John note from his wife. His twenty years of reinvention and hard work undone in the time it took to read a single paragraph.

If he thought his day couldn’t get any worse, he was wrong. Seems he can’t outrun his past forever, and now he has to pay.

One way or another the truth will out.

Join Garrett as he journeys into the abyss. A man at war with himself, raging against the world.

An enjoyable slice of Brit grit indie crime fiction from Mark Newman. 

Fast-paced and tough, with a main character combatting a few issues, the least of which is his wife giving him the heave hoh. However bad that is, Martin Garrett's life has just taken a further turn for the worse. He might be going down, but not without taking a few casualties with him.

I really enjoyed this tale of one man's woes. Our main character in the space of a few days, deals with some marital woes full on, revisits some old haunts and finds himself reminded of a past and a father he tried to forget, has a few issues with his boss at work that he is unable to suppress and contain any longer, finds a new lady and brings himself to the attention of a local gang of criminal scrotes, while getting stalked by a policeman.

Busy, brutal and very satisfying. I liked this one a helluva lot. It's not my first outing with Mark Newman. I like the directness of his stories which are backed up by interesting, developed characters whose woes and difficulties you become invested in. When Martin Garrett's story comes to a climax, Newman still delivers another twist.

4 from 5 

Two of the author's earlier works have been enjoyed before - In For the Kill and Violence in the Blood. I look forward to reading more from him in the future. 

Read - January, 2021

Published - 2020

Page count - 186

Source - review copy received from the author

Format - Kindle

Sunday 21 February 2021




The Switchback family has inhabited Crawford County since before the War Between the States, and it has eked out an existence, and even prospered, by virtue of hard work and honesty. Peter Switchback, Jr., is the current inhabitant of the family estate and caretaker of the farm and in many ways stands as a symbolic paragon of virtue. The Morgan family has been in Crawford County at least as long as the Switchback family and has made its way in the world by means of greed, pride, and dishonesty. Sheriff Cecil Morgan is the third in his line to hold his office, and like his ancestors, he is an avowed enemy of the Switchback family and all that they stand for.

The life of Crawford County plays out through the course of short tales told by several of its inhabitants, some tragic, some whimsical. The stories wind their way through the lives of Switchback and Morgan, framed by several ponderings of moral philosophy and existence. We are faced with Peter Switchback's obituary in the opening of the story, and the balance works its way to that eventual outcome.

A bit of a punt taken on this one, probably because the cover drew me in. I have a weird aversion/fascination/attraction to animal masks. The book relates different episodes or incidents from a small place in the US, somewhere in the South and probably a figment of the author's imagination. To be fair I haven't Googled it to check. The narrator definitely had a strong southern accent which added to the stories and did evoke the setting in my mind.

I had a hard job tracking all the characters in the book. Each anecdote or tale has a different narrator or storyteller and I didn't really get the vibe from the blurb of the two different families and the sort of good vs bad opposites.

Some of the incidents are trivial, some humorous, some sad. We encounter death, love, grief, friendship and a lot more in the course of the book.

One pearl of wisdom from the author remained ..... hating, affects the hater, more than the hated...... or something like that.

I enjoyed the book, despite the lack of connection I felt between the different characters. It wasn't a waste of my time and I was never bored. A book which kind of passed the time before finding my next great read.

3 from 5

Read - (listened to) February, 2021

Published - 2015

Page count  - 208 (5 hrs 12 mins)

Source - Audible purchase

Format - Audible

Saturday 20 February 2021




A new political thriller from the author of bestselling novel The Essay. 

Lester Yates is the notorious Egypt Valley Strangler, one of the country’s most prolific serial killers. Or, is he? Yates is two months from his date with the executioner when Ohio Attorney General Hutch Van Buren is presented with evidence that could exonerate him. But Yates is a political pawn, and forces exist that don’t want him exonerated, regardless of the evidence. To do so could derail presidential aspirations and change the national political landscape. Yates’ execution will clear a wide political path for many influential people, including Van Buren, who must battle both the clock and a political machine of which he is a part.
Robin Yocum has been compared with E. Annie Proulx for his authenticity of place, and Elmore Leonard for his well-laid plots and perfect pacing. Arcade is thrilled to publish The Sacrifice of Lester Yates, which is Yocum at his best: suspenseful, political, and smart.   

Third time for me with Robin Yocum and his latest book, The Sacrifice of Lester Yates. The previous two of his were 5* STAR bangers in my opinion. This one while really good was a tad below the level of those earlier reads. Why? I don't know, maybe because I kind of guessed where it was going at around the halfway point.

A death row inmate, a ticking clock and a sense that an innocent man is getting railroaded.

I really enjoyed the book. I could buy into the plot, though it wasn't quite as subtle as previous Yocum books. The main character, Hutch Van Buren is likable, not lovable. With the countdown to the impending execution date of Lester Yates, there's an urgency to the narrative, though it doesn't have the breakneck pace of a thriller. Instead we have a driven investigation into the murder for which death row inmate, Yates was convicted and a concentrated effort looking at the murder of another of the Egypt Valley Strangler victims.

I liked the cold case nature of events..... the assembling of a trusted team, with interns and a lead investigator, the division of duties, the re-visiting of police reports and the digging for old surveillance tapes and credit card receipts, hunting down old press reports on the Strangler's victims, the re-interviewing of old witnesses and the distressing opening up of old wounds for still grieving families, all against a back-drop of political interference, masquerading as concern and a tight deadline.

Politics, corruption, control, career ambition, enablers, rivalries, infidelity, loyalty, popularity, a sense of omnipotence and superiority, set against a man with a nagging conscience in a dogged pursuit of truth and justice.

Overall - tremendously satisfying.

4.5 from 5

A Welcome Murder and A Brilliant Death have been enjoyed before. I've a few more from Robin Yocum to look forward to.

Read - February, 2021
Published - 2021 (in April)
Page count - 336
Source - review copy from Edelweiss - Above the Treeline site
Format - Kindle

Friday 19 February 2021




After escaping a CIA team sent to capture him in Bangkok, Stone finds himself on a brand new mission. One of his buddies who saved his life in the Vietnam war has been captured in Cambodia and needs to be rescued. Mark Stone, again joined by his fellow mercenaries Terrance Loughlin and "Hog" Wiley, goes in search of his friend, but ultimately is captured. 

Tension mounts as his team works to find and free him. While a huge US Strike on the camp is imminent, Stone is subjected to various torture techniques and abused, resulting in him fighting for his very life. 

This action-packed follow up to the first volume in the series M.I.A. Hunter is a must-listen for Stone fans and readers of men's adventure/war fiction.

Another slice of action/adventure/war fiction which despite the predictability of the outcome I enjoyed. When a series runs to 15 or 16 books, you know that however much jeopardy the main character finds himself in, he is going to get out of it and live to fight another day, or in Mark Stone's case - fifteen. 

War setting, a few bumps with some CIA ops who you kind of feel might be on the same team - but no, another POW tip off, and another rescue mission launched , Cambodian jungle, a hike, a surveillance op, capture, torture, forced labour, mining, a raid, rescue, firefights, multiple deaths, ambushes, freedom, the end.

I'm not being unduly flippant. I quite enjoyed it, but I wasn't especially blown away - unlike some of the characters in the book. The pace is snappy. You can't doubt our main character's patriotism or loyalty to those he fought with. Stone expresses an anger and disillusionment with government at what he feels is their betrayal of the soldiers that were left behind. In a slightly different context, I think that can be a common trait for all citizens at one time or other, especially during hard times - a sense of disenfrachisement maybe because of unemployment, economic downturns or pandemics and lockdowns. Maybe it's more so for people who have actually served and seen combat. 

Back to the book, I had fun, I was entertained, I was invested in the story and wanted to see what twists and turns and hardships our band of brothers endured before the inevitable outcome. What else is a book supposed to do? 

Bang for my buck!

3.5 from 5

The first in the series, M.I.A. Hunter was enjoyed a month or two back. I'll be happy enough listening to another Mertz/Buchanan offering in a month's or so's time.

Read - (listened to) January, 2021 

Published - 1985

Page count - 180 (4 hrs 20 mins)

Source - Audible purchase

Format - Kindle

Thursday 18 February 2021




The quest for justice throws private detective Mark Shaw straight into the path of the deadly cult leader Terror. When Shaw’s uncle’s death went unresolved Shaw inherits Farset Investigations and vows to bring the killer to justice. The hunt takes the west Belfast man into the sights of two worldwide murderous organisations. His life, his family and his team are all at risk, but there is no turning back. The self-proclaimed, Terror, alter-ego of Belfast Chronicle reporter, Caleb Doyle, has vowed to rid the world of people who he has deemed are #famousforallthewrongreasons. His worldwide following, is all too willing to do his will. The Prophet, global leader of The Enlightenment Movement, has total and absolute control of his acolytes. He will stop at nothing to retain his power, the great wealth he has amassed and to cover up the many crimes and misdemeanours of those who act in his name, with a trail of blood, bribery and corruption in their wake.

I quite liked this book, without ever being stunned or amazed. We have a Northern Ireland setting - a plus and a likable main character, Mark Shaw looking into the death of his uncle, an investigator alongside a Liverpool policeman. The murderer is known to the reader and we are privy to not only his identity, but his thoughts and deeds and plans. The death of the uncle is one of a few murders in the book.

I'm not usually a fan of the demented crazed killer with a skewed logic and a cunning plan, but here with his proximity to Shaw and his inveigling into the investigation to bring him down, I was happy to go with it.

There are a few additional elements to the story which I quite enjoyed ..... a cult/religious angle, escape from said cult and recovery, a kind of grooming situation of a vulnerable young woman, and a social media angle with the killer promoting his own actions online and gaining followers.

The Rise of Terror is the first in a three book trilogy from author James Murphy. From what I can tell it's the author's debut novel and I guess that shows in places. There's a tendency to over explain with too much detail. Every action seems to be illustrated instead of implied. A bit more - show, not tell - would have cut down some of the word count and made for a faster, leaner story in my opinion.

Overall more to like than dislike and I'm interested enough to see how the second book in the trilogy - The Terror Within - reads. Dark Light rounds off the trilogy.


3 from 5.

Read - January, 2021
Published - 2016 
Page count - 289
Source - review copy from author
Format - ePUB read on laptop

Wednesday 17 February 2021




Set on the sunny Gulf Coast of Florida, Harbinger centers around two lifelong friends and fishing charter boat partners, Boyd Tomlin and Hicks Ledoux. Boyd is the serious one who always makes sure things get done, and Hicks is the carefree one who always makes sure everyone has a good time.

But times aren’t so good. They are struggling to get charters, and bills are coming due. In desperate need of money, they consider smuggling drugs to make ends meet. By chance or fate, they meet two beautiful sisters who will change everything—a young Ania and her kid sister Karolyn. Hicks is immediately attached to the brash, confident Ania while Boyd gravitates toward Karolyn.

As romance blossoms, Boyd and Hicks quickly find themselves embroiled in the world of illegal drug trade, romance, danger and violence lurking around every corner.

A prequel book to Zafiro and Wilsky's Ania series and one which kind of blindsided me because I forgot that's what it was.

Two dudes and a boat and a heapload of debt and a failing charter business, and one with an ailing parent and a feeling of being trapped with no easy way out. Boyd and Hicks have problems. One of them frets over them and stews, but as long as his father is alive (not for too long) selling the boat or spending on the boat or their business isn't happening. Hicks can mostly ignore and immerse himself in chasing women for uncomplicated no strings sex, unless of course he has Boyd bending his ear. 

I quite like the set-up and the way the story unfolds with alternating chapters from our two main characters. Boyd with some heavy bills coming due for his father's worsening condition, agrees to a suggestion from Hicks to get involved in a bit of weed smuggling. The money isn't life changing, but might keep them ticking over. At around the same time, they become involved with a couple of sisters, Ania and Karolyn. Sex and romance follows and very soon and at the behest of the more dominant sister, Ania some scheming takes over. Plans for a rip-off ensue, one with a big pay day which might give them a future.

Decide in haste and repent at leisure. Needless to say things don't follow the script.

I really enjoyed this one. I liked the friendship between the two guys and the ying and yang with them. Both are fairly easy going and likable, but one more serious and uptight, one with a couldn't care less outlook. In some respects they're each other's opposite. I could buy the descent into criminality and the self justification for their actions. Money woes bring a pressure which mangle clear-headed thinking and befuddle the synapses in the brain. I liked the scheming of Ania as she bent the guys to her will. I enjoyed the differences between the two sisters - one cold and calculating - Ania, the other - Karolyn subservient to her older sister, happy enough for Ania to make the decisions. 

The outcome was unexpected and a real punch in my guts, as I had forgotten a key component of the book. Pretty damn perfect to be honest.

4.5 from 5

I'm looking forward to the next one in the series - Blood on Blood - as soon as I've gotten over this one.

Frank Zafiro - one of my 2020 reading discoveries and highlights - has been read before. This was my first time reading Jim Wilsky.

Read - January, 2021

Published - 2018

Page count - 228

Source - purchased copy

Format - paperback

Tuesday 16 February 2021




Today is Owen Hunter’s first day in the coastal city of Costa Buena, California. He’s the new owner of Rockafellers, a vintage record store struggling to find customers. Much of that is due to Headbangers, a competitor with a better product mix and an aggressive owner.

There is also a local do-gooder group who wants Owen to fall in line with their vision for a kinder, gentler Costa Buena.

None of that worries Owen, though, because he is determined to be the number one used-music store on the boardwalk—even if that means stepping on a few toes. But when a murder occurs shortly after his arrival, he’s identified as prime suspect number one.

Owen Hunter must clear his name fast because he can’t afford to have a bunch of nosy cops poking around.

For Owen is a man with a secret that he must protect at all costs. The U.S. government has invested a lot to keep him safe, but his enemies will stop at nothing to find him.

Do prosperity and happiness await Owen in this coastal community?

The second in the author's three book Cozy series and another fast-paced, humorous romp with our ex-biker hitman turned snitch, now enjoying a life in witness protection and a second new identity after blowing his cover the first book - Cozy up to Death.

Owen, as he is now known, is a record store owner in a quiet Californian coastal town. A peaceful existence awaits. Yeah right.

A punch up with a competitor, a wheeler dealer hawking stolen goods, an attempted shakedown by some skateboard punks, a run in with a community busy body, a murder, a failed burglary, a suspicious cop, community activism fighting against an intransigent landlord, a cat, protests, suspicion. Owen's been in situ a few days and has already worn out his welcome.

Roll on book three - Cozy up to Blood and undoubtedly another town, another identity. 

Good fun, decent pace, interesting characters, enjoyable setting, a murder mystery plot - not unduly convoluted or complex, but executed satisfactorily. Ticks in a lot of the boxes.

4 from 5

Read - February, 2021
Published - 2020
Page count - 279
Source - review copy from author
Format - Kindle

Monday 15 February 2021




I get paid to erase problems.

Did your extramarital affair produce an unwanted complication? Family problems? Just want to enjoy your midlife crisis by yourself?

That's where I come in. For a fee I'll take care of it. A big fee.

Only, I'm not going to do what you think. I'm not going to save you from them, I’m going to save them from you.

My second outing on Audible with author Armand Rosamilia following on from his Belford Stories. Dirty Deeds had me back in more familiar crime fiction territory with the first in Rosamilia's Dirty Deeds series.

Listened to and enjoyed a month ago, though some of the finer details escape me... ie the main character's name and those of the supporting cast, mainly his assistant and the FBI agent with a hard-on for him and a passion to bring him to justice for murder of the multiple variety. All our agent has though is suspicion and no hard evidence.

Our main man though ain't a murderer, though he does discretely advertise as such. He'll take a contract for a killing, usually a family member and he'll disappear them, but not in a permanent sense - finding adoptive parents and new identities, while palming the coin offered.

Here, one of his previous jobs comes back to bite him on the bum. A kid he relocated years ago has appeared back on the radar and the mobster who paid for the hit on his son, wants words with our man. Our man's troubles are only beginning.  

It's a busy book with plenty going on. We get back story for the main man - he's a baseball card trader by day and has no money worries. His assistant is one of his previous saves. The cop who is after him, far from proving an adversary seems more like an ally and they have more in common than previously thought. You can't always outrun the past.

I'm very sketchy on detail and I probably should have penned a few bullet points shortly after putting it down, but hey hoh. I enjoyed it. I wasn't bored. The main character is likable and whilst the whole set-up saving kids scenario is a bit of a stretch it's an entertaining one. I kind of think the ending is unresolved, just an obvious lead into the cunningly titled sequel Deadly Deeds 2.

3.5 from 5

Rosamilia's Belford Stories was enjoyed a month or two back.

Read - (listened to) January, 2021
Published - 2016
Page count - 208 (4 hrs 59 mins)
Source - Audible purchase
Format - Audible   

Sunday 14 February 2021




Ten guests have gathered at an isolated summer estate amid the Thousand Islands. The occasion is a surprise party to celebrate Rosa Sill's 25th birthday, the day she inherits the family fortune. But one surprise awaits them: the party quickly turns to a case of murder.

Violet Cornichon, the Society-Girl Detective, is on-hand, and it is up to her to gather all the clues and point them toward the suspects…or is that the potential victims. Because the killer is hardly finished with his deadly night, with bodies turning up, murdered in terrible and brutal ways. Which begs the old-fashioned question: whodunit?

"This book might well have been titled THE LAST MYSTERY, since it is most definitely the mystery to end all mysteries."

--from the Introduction by L.A. Morse, Edgar award-winning author of THE OLD DICK

I don't read enough (any) GA type fiction to know the author's intention here, whether he's poking fun at the genre or paying homage. He's certainly having some fun, judging by the fact that he's put this out under a pseudonym and written the introduction to it under his main publishing name. Even if I'm unfamiliar with a lot of Agatha Christie's work, And Then There Were None springs to mind immediately.

A cast of ten on the island gets whittled down to one or none in fairly short order - I can't actually remember as to be honest I probably wasn't paying too much attention by the time I got to the end. I think I was probably bored and a bit tired of it long before the finish. Some books you get swept up in, other you count the pages or the % bar on the device.

Interesting premise, I suppose - though hardly original. There's a book within a book set-up at the start which I liked. The main focus of the book is an amateur detective who is a try hard. She fancies cracking the first murder, then the next, then the one after, as a means of getting some publicity which will rescue her ailing business. Every time she has a plausible theory and a suspect, the party she identifies is the next victim. She's also in competition with her brother, a man who she resents as he inherited the family fortune (a battle of the sexes type thing - with male entitlement and privilege coming to the fore). The fact that he has mostly squandered his inheritance is another strike against him. 

Other characters...... a housekeeper, a cook, a lawyer, an old military man, a fiance, a hen-pecked wife and some forgotten others. Along the way there are or at least the possibility of an escaped madman murderer, hidden identities, illegitimacy, fraud and hidden treasure. Probably a few more things besides.

The conclusion when it came was a bit of a weird one.

It was a bit of a different reading experience from my usual fare and I'm undecided what I thought overall. I'm glad I read it though. Very different from the author's The Big Enchilada which I read and enjoyed a lot more a long long time ago. 

Overall - probably a 3 from 5 - just.

Read - January, 2021

Published - 1984

Page count - 239

Source - purchased copy

Format - Kindle

Saturday 13 February 2021




His power began in the ancient world, long before you and I were born. He is the master vampire. And he's here. Now.

Imagine a vampire brought back to life by a crazy old man in a sleepy coastal village. Imagine a horror so unspeakable, so threatening, that no one is safe. No one is immune. Now imagine yourself the only person in town who believes the truth, the only person who can halt the terror. Then keep your eyes wide open. Look over your shoulder. Because this isn't your imagination. This is for real.

Sleep only if you dare…

My third time reading Dave Pedneau's work, after previously enjoying APB (crime fiction) and Night, Winter and Death (a werewolf tale). How Dear the Dawn is a vampire tale. I suppose it's a horror novel with large elements of crime fiction. 

After the initial encounter between the bad guy and the first victim, the police think they have a missing person to track down. Our first victim has joined the ranks of the undead and quite likes her new situation, which has given her an insatiable bloodlust. Cue, a respectable body count, an irritated master - you don't survive to be several hundred years old without operating with some measure of caution and an increasing level of urgency with the police investigation. The police team consists of a grumpy detective and a rookie patrolman who has been roped into the investigation. Along the way the rookie has a relationship going with the best friend of the first victim.

Despite the other wordly nature of the protagonists, I quite liked the set-up and the characters involved. As the crimes increase and the victim count rises, certain witness statements and incidents lead one of the cops to suspect the true nature of what is happening ..... bodies drained of blood, a corpse disappearing from a morgue, etc etc... Typically the lead detective is resistant to this line of thought until such time as he can't ignore the evidence of his own eyes.

Best book ever? No, but I was happy enough to go with the flow. I enjoyed the book via Audible so the fact that I was "reading" while otherwise working made it a win/win situation. I would probably not had read the book if I had a physical or digital copy to read.

I have more of Dave Pedneau's books available to listen to in future. There's a lot worse ways of spending my time.

3 from 5

Read - (listened to) January, 2021

Published - 1987

Page count - 225 (8 hrs 48 mins)

Source - Audible purchase

Format - Audible

Friday 12 February 2021




Nolan has spent his life pulling heists, and now he’s ready to retire. But one job after another keeps pulling him back in. Casino robberies, bank jobs, airplane hijackings – it’s all in a day’s work. But when things go wrong and lead starts flying, can the old man and his young partner in crime make it out alive…?

My kind of book. We have a professional thief Nolan, thought to be retired but sucked back into the one more job scenario. Fast-moving, action packed and chock full of incident. Skim Deep is the ninth entry in the author's Nolan series and having enjoyed the other eight, it was like catching up with an old friend.

It's a busy book. We have a trip to Vegas, a wedding, a robbery - which doesn't involve Nolan or his young apprentice John, but is a set-up which is intended to make Nolan the fall guy. All the while Nolan is in the cross hairs of an old adversary from previous books and adventures. 

Lots to like..... characters, relationship dynamics, conflict, setting, pace, problems for our main men to deal with and overcome, some fisticuffs and the odd bout of kidnapping, surveillance, revenge, pay days, negotiations, a bit of romance and a satisfying outcome.

It's been over 30 years since the last entry in the series, I'm hoping Max Allan Collins doesn't leave it quite so long next time.

4.5 from 5 

Previously enjoyed...... 

Read - January, 2021
Published - 2020
Page count - 240
Source - review copy from Edelweiss - Above the Treeline reviewer site
Format - ePUB read on laptop

Thursday 11 February 2021




Sometimes half an inch is all that stands between life and death.

Abraham Snow’s career ended with a single shot. Left for dead, the undercover operative barely survived an assassin’s bullet. After a long and painful recovery, Snow retires. He returns home to rest and recuperate only to get swept up in the family business, one just as dangerous as his previous profession. When he thwarts an assassination attempt on a diplomat that endangers his sister, Snow leaps into action to keep his family out of a highly trained killer’s crosshairs.

SNOW FALLS is the first book in the continuing adventures of Abraham Snow.

An enjoyable action packed novella and the first in a series featuring Abraham Snow, an undercover government agent. 

We open with Snow on an operation, one which ends with a bullet to the chest and his long term target walking away from him. We pick up during Snow's recuperation and convalescense. He's returned home and catches up with his grandfather, brother, sister and father. Snow has an easy relaxed relationship with his grandfather and is pleased to see his siblings. There's an elephant in the room though - his dad. I quite like the unexplored tension in the relationship between Snow and his father, I'm hoping for more details in further books of the series. 

Background - his grandfather founded a successful security company which employs most of the family. Currently there's a big operation in hand - protection to a overseas client, one who Abraham is aware of from his government work. The man in question is a bad guy. Cue a sniper attack which Abraham foils.

The aftermath includes - a chase, a stand-off, an escape and some digging as to who and why the man pulling the strings wants the target dead.

Short, sharp, action-packed and satisfying. There's an interesting main character, ably supported by his surrounding family and an old childhood friend who works as a government agent for the FBI. There's a decent pace throughout and a smooth cadence to the narrative. Regarding the plot, there's nothing overly complex or convuluted, just rapid fire good old fashioned entertainment.

I look forward to trying more from this series and some of author Bobby Nash's other books as time allows.

4 from 5

Read - (listened to) February, 2021 
Published - 2014
Page count - 110 ( 2 hrs 37 mins)
Source - Audible purhcase
Format - Audible

Wednesday 10 February 2021



Blake's dead. His wife killed him.
The question is: which one?

The only thing the three women had in common was their husband.
And, as of this morning, that they're each accused of his murder.

Blake Nelson moved into a hidden stretch of land - a raw paradise in the wilds of Utah - where he lived with his three wives:

Rachel, the chief wife, obedient and doting to a fault.
Tina, the other wife, who is everything Rachel isn't.
And Emily, the youngest wife, who knows little else.

When their husband is found dead under the desert sun, the questions pile up.
But none of the widows know who would want to kill a good man like Blake.

Or, at least, that's what they'll tell the police...

A cracking whodunnit from Cate Quinn with Black Widows, set against a back-drop of the Mormon faith and a somewhat unconventional family dynamic in Utah. One man, Blake Nelson and three wives, Rachel, Tina and Emily. Blake is dead and it looks like one of his wives has done it. 

I liked the way the story unfolded with chapters alternating between the three wives and their perspectives on the situation. 

Rachel ...the first wife, a troubled past, suppressed memories, secrets, obedient to a fault, naive and an innocent in the bedroom, jealous of her "two sisters"

Emily.... wife #2, the youngest, scatty, issues with intimacy, and at odds with her husband. She knows a thing or two about Rachel.

Tina..... wife #3, a former bad girl, found Blake and found some faith, a convert, a former addict and hustler with street smarts, 

There's an ongoing police investigation into the murder with the likelihood that one of the above did it. 
I liked how at varying times in the narrative my thoughts as to who the murderer was changed. The author did a great job in juggling all the balls and keeping me guessing. I liked the cops assigned to the case and their relationships with the women, at times levitating between support and an almost friendship to hostility and belligerence as they sought to solve the murder.

Gradually we learn more about the situation. Gradually the relationship between the three women changes from tense and resentful and jealous to one where they work together (mostly Rachel and Tina) to learn about more of Blake's secrets..... a possible 4th wife addition, a land deal, money issues, extended family relationships.... a lot of which he kept from the wives. We have a Vegas road trip with some bar-hopping as well as a raid on a church. It's all a bit of an eye opener for Tina.

I enjoyed learning more about the Mormonism and the splits and schisms over polygamy, which is still practised by a minority, but which is frowned upon by most. I got myself a crash course in their habits and values and the inequality between the genders. I liked the community apart from a community feel of the family of four and the friction and rejection of elements of them from the true believers - ie those more aligned with, for what of a better word, mainstream Mormonism.

I read this one in two days flat which considering its close to 450 pages long and one of those days was a workday, is testament to way in which I was absorbed by the story and the necessity to see what happens next. The multi-viewpoint worked well here, as you don't spent too much time in one character's head, so the perspective of the book changes frequently. No chance of boredom, or sense of drag.

Overall - a really satisfying, exciting and somewhat educational read.

4.5 from 5

Read - February, 2021
Published - 2020
Page count - 448
Source - review copy from publisher - Orion
Format - trade paperback ARC

Tuesday 9 February 2021




A Late-Night Phone Call. A Voice from the past. An Apparent Suicide.

The phone call came on a Tuesday evening in the middle of August. Harry Starke hadn't heard from his old school friend in almost five years, and he hadn't thought about him in almost as long. Tom Sattler wanted to meet, and it wouldn't wait until morning. But when Harry arrived at Sattler's home less than an hour later, he found him lying in a pool of blood with a single gunshot wound to his head and .22 revolver lying close to his hand.

Was it suicide, or was Tom Sattler murdered? If so, by whom and why?

The search for answers plunges Harry into a far-reaching investigation that involves murder, corruption, organized crime, and duplicity. As always, there’s a twist in the tail.

My second outing with Blair Howard and his PI, Harry Starke after previously reading the series opener, the somewhat imaginatively titled - Harry Starke.

Here we have a suspicious death of a former friend and the subsequent fall-out, including Starke's investigation which involves him working with his on/off girlgriend, Kate - a cop - and his own team. Further deaths occur, with the possible motives including money and family reasons. 

The intial victim, Tom Sattler is a financial trader in a partnership with three others and responsible for millions of dollars of investor's money. The fund is underperforming and the partners are under pressure. One of the investors is laundering mob money. Either shortly before or after the death, an insider with access to account details has ghosted the account funds, all $350m into the ether i.e. an untraceable account somewhere else.

I quite enjoyed it without ever feeling stunned or amazed by events. It was interesting insofar as there were several possible suspects for the nefarious goings on and several reasons why. I was curious to find out what happened without really feeling invested in the outcome. Along the way Harry and Kate kind of resume their relationship. Harry, also manages to get horizontal and dirty dance with another beautiful woman - a press journalist with an interest in events. On occasions Harry gets to show how tough he is. Here it's standing up to the mobster and his goons

One thing does kind of strike me as slightly improbable, but maybe I'm being picky. Starke runs an office and has employees. Presumably he has overheads and bills and his staff would like to get paid? In the two books I've read, him and his team to a greater or lesser extent devote hours to investigating stuff without ever doing any paid work, to the best of my recollections.

Oh yeah, I forgot. It's fiction and you make stuff up and you suspend disbelief and buy into whatever the author is trying to sell you, if you wanna have a good time. Silly me. The paid work is the stuff that Harry does inbetween times and that Howard doesn't put in his books.

Blair Howard's writing style is smooth, with no real awkwardness to it. There a flow to the story and its kind of easy listening. There's nothing standout that makes you go wow and rewind though for another listen. 

I think an Audible format is perfect for me to devour these books as they aren't overly complex or convoluted. I might enjoy them less if I was accessing them via the printed page. Maybe listening to a book while working is a bit of a win/win situation.

Blair Howard has written over a dozen Harry Starke books and I have most of them in my Audible library, so I'll continue to listen for a few more yet.

3 from 5

Read - (listened to) January, 2021
Published - 2015
Page count - 282 (8 hrs 23 mins)
Source - Audible purchase
Format - Audible


Monday 8 February 2021




Javon Swift is stuck in a bloody feud for the family business. His uncle Grady has married his mother before his father's body could go cold. Tiffany is a police officer claiming that his father was a confidential informant, and wants him to follow the leader. His best friends are trying to build their own drug empire. It doesn't help that he's fallen in love and has a crooked police officer trying to extort him for his father's hidden stash of money.

All this is going on while Javon is quickly losing track of who he is. He wants out of the drug game, but the only career path in front of him is that of a snitch, a role he doesn't want to play. If he's out, he's going to lose his friends, and he has nowhere to turn. To survive it all, he'll need to go places he's never gone before, and do things he didn't think he was capable of. The question is how far he can go, before he stops recognizing himself?

I'm a sucker for trying new indie/self-published authors. Sometimes it works out well, sometimes it doesn't. This time it did - despite the book suffering from a plethora of avoidable typos.

Decent storyline. A young man, involved in the family business - selling drugs, but given the crappy end of the stick from his resentful uncle - the man who bedded his mother before his father was cold in the ground and who he thinks might be responsible for his father's death.

I quite liked this one. The main character Javon has a lot to contend with. Family-wise there's an obvious rift with his mother. He resents her for picking up with his uncle so soon after his father was killed. His uncle has taken over his father's business and is constantly on Javon's case over money and poor job performance - despite giving Javon a crappy pitch and rubbish product. When Javon shows a bit of an independent streak he's accused of stealing from him. The tension between the two escalates throughout the book and is obviously headed towards a confrontation which will only leave one of the pair standing.

He has some decent friends that look out for each other and in the course of the book he cultivates new ones, while still maintaining the dream of a straight life and some closure on his father's death. 

Best book ever? No, but I liked the characters, the set-up, the fast-pace, the action, the connections and conflicts on display, the involvement of the cops - good and bad and the outcome. Just a bit let down by some careless proof reading or editing. I can forgive the odd typo and grammatical error, but there's more than one or two to contend with here.

Overall 3.5 from 5

Read - January - 2021

Published - 2020

Page count - 130

Source - review copy from Voracious Readers

Format - Kindle