Thursday, 26 May 2022

BRIAN ASMAN - NUNCHUCK CITY (2021)


Synopsis/blurb...

You better nun-check yourself before you wreck yourself!

Disgraced ex-ninja Nunchuck “Nick” Nikolopoulis just wants to open a drive-thru fondue restaurant with his best friend Rondell. But when an old enemy kidnaps the mayor, and a former flame arrives in hot pursuit, Nick’s going to have to dust off his fighting skills and face his past. Plus an army of heavily-armed ninjas, a very well-dressed street gang, an Australian sumo wrestler with a gnarly skin condition, giant robots, municipal paperwork, and much, much more! From the rooftops to the sewers, Nick and his ex-girlfriend Kanna Kikuchi are in for the fight of their lives!

Also featuring the backup story “Curse of the Ninja” by Lucas Mangum!

Nunchuck City is a comedy/farce crime/thriller novel written by an author who obviously doesn't take himself or his characters too seriously. Or at the very least, he lets himself have a good time writing. It's my first time trying author Brian Asman's work and I do wonder if his other books are of a similar ilk.

Our tale as such concerns a city takeover by a bunch of bad ninjas as a prelude to more grandiose and expansive plans. Hero, Nick Nikolopoulis just wants to open a restaurant and with his dream now in jeopardy, reluctantly takes up his retired nunchucks and teams up with old flame Kanna to rescue the kidnapped mayor and restore order to Turbo City. 

Battles, fights, decapitations, cheese fondue, ninja death stars, ass kickings, trips through sewers and robotic flights and more ensue.

Personally, I can't fight. I never could. Let alone with weapons of a martial arts persuasion, some of which I've never even heard of (nunchucks excepted). I think even if I could and had awesome skills, I might draw the line at tackling a sumo wrestling giant, particularly one with a bulging colostomy bag in tow. The s*** hits the fan literally.

Action, violence, humour, craziness and a bit of a love story to boot, populated by madcap characters. There's definitely a good vs evil vibe coming off here, but it's all presented in a tongue in cheek fashion. Fun was had. 
  
4 from 5

Read - May, 2022
Published - 2021
Page count - 218
Source - review copy from a respected book publicist
Source - Kindle

Wednesday, 25 May 2022

BELLA OSBORNE - THE GIRLS (2022)


Synopsis/blurb...

Four old friends. Thrown back together after forty years apart. What could possibly go wrong?

In the 1970s, The Girls were best friends sharing a house and good times: Zara the famous diva actor, Val the uptight solicitor, Jackie the wild child and Pauline the quirky introvert. Now they're in their twilight years, and Zara suggests that they live with her to support each other through old age.

Initially, being housemates again is just as much fun as in their heyday. But then Zara reveals the real reason she asked them to move in with her, and suddenly things take a sinister turn.

As the women confront their demons they come under the spotlight of the press, the police and an angry parrot. With their lives spiralling out of control can they save their friendships and each other?

A bit of a change of reading pace with this one badged as general fiction/romance. I don't think I really got any romantic vibes from it (though Jackie one of our characters does seem to be on a permanent manhunt, maybe looking for love, but essentially seeking a provider). There was more than a smidgeon of mystery concerning the motivations of Zara Cliff regarding her girls. Why had she manipulated and reunited them?

I think I probably enjoyed this a bit more than I expected to. We have four main characters. Queen Bee is Zara, a famous actress and celebrity. Her girls are all slightly younger than her, but don't remind her of that! There's Val, a single, retired solicitor; Pauline, a widow and someone very alone and not in a great place mentally; and Jackie, a larger than life care provider.

In the 70s they shared a house in London for a period of time. Life moved on and they all drifted apart and went their separate ways. After an invite to Zara's surprise 80th Birthday Party and a brief reunion, Zara suggests that they all come and live with her instead of seeing out their days on their own. Zara has an ulterior motive which becomes clearer the further into the book we go. 

We get the girl's individual histories and come to understand their characters, their weaknesses and strengths, their secrets and their moral boundaries. We learn of their shared history and as well as reminiscing over their good times together, the jealousies and arguments are revealed, as well as the teeny tiny slightest bit of bitterness that remains between a couple of our cast.

From a very personal POV, I think I find the thought of reconnecting with friends from 40 years ago quite awful. I can't actually think of many things worse. Maybe it's a man thing? Maybe I'm generalising. It was interesting to see how quickly they picked up and re-established the bonds between them all. 

Zara is still the shot caller and alpha female, though at various times individually and collectively the others do stand up to her. It's a very unequal relationship though (most friendships are). It's distorted by money which equates to power. Zara does use this to exert control over the options her friends have, and although there is an benefit for each of them as a result of her actions, it's a stretch to consider her totally benevolent or altruistic. It's more transactional.

Another plus point in quite a humorous story was the dual settings of London and France, and the celebrity name dropping, in particular neighbour Felicity. Zara's chagrin at being pipped by her to a Rear of the Year title many years ago hasn't dimmed with the passage of time.

Before the end of the book we have a run-in or two with the French police, as well as some crossed wires and suspicion between our friends. Things work out for them all in the end.

Overall a fun read interspersed with some sadness as well. A bit of a reflection of life really. 
Enjoyable narration as well from the talented Julia Franklin. 


4 from 5

Read - (listened to) May, 2022
Published - 2022
Page count - 399 (11 hrs 35 mins)
Source - review copy courtesy of ISIS Audio
Format - Audible

Tuesday, 24 May 2022

BILL CRIDER - SHOTGUN SATURDAY NIGHT (1987)

 


Synopsis/blurb...

Sheriff Dan Rhodes knows it's going to be a bad day when Bert Ramsey arrives at the jail with a neatly wrapped arm and lays it on Dan's desk. He has another out in the truck, he tells the sheriff, and "a couple of legs, too, but they don't match up."

To Rhodes's relief, the severed limbs—part of a large cache Bert has discovered while clearing brush—are not evidence of a mass murderer at large in Blacklin County, but something more on a par with the usual emergencies the Texas lawman has to deal with: cows loose in the churchyard, ninety-year-old Mrs. Thurman's periodic attacks of "blindness" (which Rhodes cures by sending out a deputy with fresh light bulbs), and the like. Meanwhile, back at the jail, his attenuated employees are bristling about the new deputy, a highly qualified police officer, but a woman, and the air conditioner has collapsed during the heat wave. Plus his personal life has its own problems; does he or does he not want to marry Ivy Daniel?

Then Bert Ramsey is shot to death, and serious crime takes over. A tattoo on the body discloses that Ramsey was once a member of Los Muertos, a violent motorcycle gang from the city, and current members of the gang turn up in Blacklin County. There are questions: Where did the town handyman get the money to buy two color television sets, two VCRs, and a houseful of new furniture? Not to mention six thousand dollars in cash rolled up in a sock in Bert's dresser drawer. Dan Rhodes doesn't have access to the high-tech detection methods of city police—and probably wouldn't use them if he had. Dan has to talk to people and sift the facts from the lies. If he is careful, he believes, and keeps it up, he'll usually get results. "Keeping it up" involves tangling with Wyneva Greer, Ramsey's former girlfriend now living with a mysterious newcomer to the town, Buster Cullens. Buster becomes the next murder victim—of the same killer? Rhodes isn't sure. He soon tangles with the bikers, sustaining a certain amount of damage in the process.

Dan Rhodes is, in the words of Newgate Callender of The New York Times Book Review, "a quiet man, an honest man and a stubborn man," and it seems that no amount of violence is going to deter him from getting to the bottom of the murders in his relatively peaceful and beautifully evoked Texas county.

Shotgun Saturday Night is the second book in the late Bill Crider's 25 book long Sheriff Dan Rhodes series. I'm a bit late (3 months) getting to recording a few thoughts on the book and inevitably some of the details of who did what to who have faded. I do know I had fun listening to the story though.

Murder, bikers, money stashes, body parts, another murder, run-ins, an investigation and a lot more besides. It's an engaging small town mystery. Some humour, some action, some interesting and recurring characters and the introduction of a new lasting one.

We have a new deputy working for Rhodes, a cause of consternation. The fact that Ruth Grady is a woman hasn't escaped the notice of Hack and Lawton, the despatcher and jailer. I liked that Grady could easily outwit both of them through food and snacks and before too long have them eating out of her hand and acting like Rhodes is the one with the issue. There's also a continuation of Rhodes' romance with Ivy Daniels and life post-widowhood. 

Lots to like without assuming any kind of 'best ever - amazeballs' status.

4 from 5

Other Crider books have been enjoyed in the past. 
Outrage at BlancoPiano ManBlood Dreams (as Jack MacLane)Gator KillDead on the Island and A Time for Hanging. As well as this series opener and the one following this - Too Late to Die and Cursed to Death.

Read - (listened to) February, 2022 
Published - 1987
Page count - 160 (4 hrs 41 mins)
Source - Audible purchase
Format - Audible

PS Of interest only to myself. We have a Reverend Funk character. Cracking name. He really ought to be a soul musician but in actual fact is a pastor. Another tick in a box for an Alphabet Soup character challenge over on Goodreads. 

Monday, 23 May 2022

FRANK ZAFIRO - UNDER A RAGING MOON (2006)

 


Synopsis/blurb...

A violent robber is loose in River City. Meet the cops that must take him down.

Stefan Kopriva, a young hotshot. Katie MacLeod, a woman in what is still mostly a man’s world. Karl Winter, about to retire but with one more good bust left in him. And Thomas Chisolm, a former Green Beret who knows how dangerous a man like the Scarface Robber can be.

These are the patrol officers of River City – that mythical thin blue line between society and anarchy. They must stop the robber, all the while juggling divorces, love affairs, internal politics, a hostile media, vengeful gang members and a civilian population that isn’t always understanding or even grateful.

Written by a real cop with real experience, Under a Raging Moon is like a paperback ride-along. Enjoy the ride.

Frank Zafiro's River City series is one I have been meaning to get to for a while. I actually bought this one back in July, 2015. I didn't think it would take me around seven years to get to it though. Zafiro is now upto seven full length novels in the series, as well as associated short stories and three Stefan Kopriva novels.

It's a fast-moving tale of cops and in particular one robber. He's a robber with a voracious drug habit that needs feeding. The frequency and success of his strikes makes the whole of the River City PD look like mugs and that's a situation that can't persist.

Interesting characters, plenty of personal and professional histories and back stories, camaraderie, loyalty, friendship, animosity towards the brass - in particular one inept but ambitious leader, secrets, flings, depression, marital strife, drug addiction and a lot more besides. I was kind of reminded of an episode of Hill Street Blues.

Lots to like and enjoy. Setting, pace, story, humour, characters, conflict and outcome. My kind of book. I just need to get my backside in gear and get to the other six (and connected pieces).

4 from 5                        

Read - May, 2022
Published - 2006
Page count - 232
Source - purchased copy
Format - Kindle

Sunday, 22 May 2022

DAISY BATEMAN - A DISMAL HARVEST (2022)

 


Synopsis/blurb...

Autumn on the Sonoma Coast. A welcome chill is whipping through the crisp Pacific air, but something else is stirring in this rural California town…

Witty and down-to-earth Claudia Simcoe is sure that the gourmet harvest dinner being held at her artisan marketplace will wipe away any memories of the unpleasantness last summer. Not to mention give her a chance to figure out the bewildering relationship budding with her craft-beer-brewing neighbor, Nathan. But rather than dealing with carefully curated food and cautious flirting, Claudia finds herself thrown into the center of a murder investigation when a secret compartment in her market is tied to the death of a local lawyer.

At least this time she isn’t the prime suspect. Instead, it’s one of Claudia’s marketplace tenants who is wanted by the police: the locally-famed cheesemaker, Julie Muller. Determined to help clear her friend’s name—and to discover the history connecting her market to the murder victim—Claudia is forced to test her mettle as a detective once more. As she starts digging into San Elmo’s long-buried past, she is confronted with Prohibition-era mysteries, shady land deals, and a small town bursting with motives to kill the crooked lawyer. But just as she thinks she’s getting a handle on this investigating thing, another gruesome death brings Claudia dangerously close to the killer.

The second installment in Daisy Bateman’s Marketplace series delivers cozy mystery and charming humor as Claudia works to uncover the truth about the murders, her marketplace, and her feelings for her ruggedly attractive neighbor.

Another new-to-me author in Daisy Bateman and a slightly lighter mystery than those I usually read. We have the murder of an unlikable, dodgy lawyer with our main character, Claudia Simcoe doing a bit of amateur sleuthing to try and get prime suspect and friend, Julie Muller off the hook.

California setting, a backdrop of food, home brewing and a local marketplace, a small town community, a dead lawyer who has seemingly stitched up half the county with some shady dealings and some amateur sleuthing to get to the bottom of things. Interspersed in the investigation we have a tentative romance with a neighbour, some humour (not all of which hit the mark) and some local history regarding agriculture and prohibition time whiskey making. There are also a few references to the case covered in the first book in the series, but nothing to annoy me of make me feel as if I had missed a trick by missing Murder Goes to Market.

Most of Claudia's sleuthing seemed to involve gentle questioning with neighbours, friends and acquaintances while consuming delicious home cooked or home baked foods. We also have a low-speed tractor chase at the climax of the book.

Best book ever? No, not really but I was engaged and enjoyed it for the better part, while never exactly in shock or awe at any of the writing or turn of events. It did exactly what is was supposed to do - entertained and intrigued at the same time as I was curious to discover the identity of the guilty party. 

Overall - 3 stars from 5 

Read - April, 2022
Published - 2022
Page count - 232
Source - review copy from Saichek Publicity
Format - PDF read on laptop

Saturday, 21 May 2022

DAVID PUTNAM - THE SINISTER (2022)


Synopsis/blurb...

Bruno Johnson, shaken to his core, but still a formidable force—unrelenting when it comes to saving a child.

Ex-cop, ex-con Bruno Johnson and his wife Marie hide in plain sight from the law in an upscale L.A. hotel as Bruno heals from a run-in with a brutal outlaw motorcycle gang—and the loss of his son—a son he didn't know he had until it was too late.

Marie, now pregnant with her first child, fears Bruno may never fully recover. She knows that soon they must return to Costa Rica to rejoin their large family of rescued children—kids who owe their lives to Bruno and Marie's intervention.

But when Bruno's friend, FBI Deputy Director, Dan Chulack, pleads with Bruno to help rescue his kidnapped granddaughter, escape plans are put on hold. After exhausting all legitimate investigative avenues, Chulack seeks Bruno's brand of justice. With Marie's reluctant consent and her own special expertise, they plunge into the evil world of those who prey on children.

Meanwhile, Bruno's mother, a woman he has never known, appears asking for forgiveness—and Bruno's assistance—while bringing her own set of complications. Bruno finds his professional and his personal lives colliding in a pursuit that is excruciating and brutal.

The Sinister is the ninth entry in Dave Putnam's Bruno Johnson series and it's one of the few contemporary series I've religiously kept pace with. The main character is an ex-cop outlaw with a heart of gold and in particular a soft spot for neglected children. Along with kindred spirit, wife Marie and the help of his father, they have rescued young, abused and neglect waifs and spirited them south of the border to a better life.

Here we have another case where Bruno, puts his own freedom at risk to help a friend after his grandaughter had been kidnapped and the official investigation has stalled. It's a job tailor made for his skillset with his ability to conduct an investigation unbound by the usual restraints of officialdom.

Matters in the book are somewhat complicated by the reappearance in his life of his birth mother, a woman who has been absent for the vast majority of his life.

There's a lot of tension in the book, as Bruno, recovering from a gunshot and wanted by law enforcement himself, teams up with a feisty female detective to try and run down the kidnappers. I really enjoyed the relationships dynamics between Bruno, Helen Hellinger and an ex-con informant who has been coerced to help them. Bruno has to try and conceal his identity while working with Helen over fears she'll turn him in. As the book develops so the relationship between the pair changes and a level of trust develops. It's useful for both parties, but Helen especially as she later on she has her own uses for Bad-boy Johnson.

I liked how Putnam also manages to drop Bruno's back story into the narrative without actually slowing the pace or feeling like large chunks of previous tales were getting rehashed. It's a real testament to his writing chops that he can strike that perfect balance. With it being a year or so since I read the last one in the series, it was helpful to be reminded of some of the history involved.

The tangled investigation eventually makes some headway. Rules get broken and bent. The bereft FBI man puts his career on the line. Bruno's pregnant wife, Marie contributes. A best friend ex-gangbanger offers support and back-up along with a large canine and Bruno gradually gets to know his absent parent.  

Overall - action aplenty, excitement, loads of heart and soul and a satisfying outcome.  

4.5 from 5

The previous eight in the series have all been enjoyed. 

They are.....

Roll on 2023 and hopefully a 10th book!
    

Read - April, 2022
Published - 2022
Page count - 352
Source - review copy from author
Format - paperback

Friday, 20 May 2022

ANDY KAISER - IN TENTS (2019)

 


Synopsis/blurb...

Dario may not have his life figured out, but at least he has a job, a cell phone, and friends who care about him. That’s enough, until the circus comes to town. Soon after, a bloody attack puts his friend in the hospital and Dario begins to hunt for whoever is responsible.

As he investigates, Dario is pulled toward the dangerous and violent circus, its strange people, and the dark rumors of “Frank’s Show”. But the more he unravels the mystery, the more he realizes he must escape it all… before it kills him.

A bit of a blind punt taken on this one and I'm happy to say it paid off on this occasion.

Strange and weird and funny with splashes of horror and mystery all mashed up and blended together. I've not read Ray Bradbury's work for years, but was reminded of Something Wicked This Way Comes as here we have a battle of good vs evil.

Main character Dario is working at Weeko's Cave, a Native American tourist attraction, role-playing historical scenes for the tourists and struggling to get by. One day Mad Moon's Shining Circus comes to town and Dario is drawn towards it. 

Dottie, his female colleague/friend at the cave job gets attacked outside the circus grounds and ends up in hospital and Dario wants to find the culprit and teach him a lesson. This gives him a reason to revisit often.

He gets close to the owner, various barkers, stall holders and other connected people and strange things happen. The circus has secrets, some of which are shared with Dario. The circus also protects it's own and Dario also finds himself a target. 

Some of the scenes in the book are absolute comedy gold. The ripped top at the cave and the fight with the tourists, for one and in Gold Medal position - the discovery of Dario and the alligator woman naked in the cave by a granny and her family. Photos available on the Internet apparently!

There's some real tension in the book in places. Dario tries to win an Apache pipe for his friend, Weeko at a sideshow. Kaiser really held me rapt as Dario used his skills with a bow to try and overcome some mysterious forces opposing him. There's also some frights in the book, especially when Dario is pursued by malevolents intent on causing him harm. 

Some elements were inexplicable/unexplainable/logic defying but it was one of those stories that the supernatural/other worldly elements added to my enjoyment, as opposed to detracted from it. 

There's a lot in the book about family, friendship, support, looking out for each other and loyalty. Dario endures a few trials and tribulations. He gets sacked and nearly sacked more than once in the book, and suffers some physical loss but things turn out pretty well in the end. 

4 from 5

Read - (listened to) May, 2022
Published - 2019
Page count - 199 (4 hrs 49 mins)
Source - Audible purchase
Format - Audible

Thursday, 19 May 2022

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS WITH LINDA L. RICHARDS


Author Linda L. Richards - Endings and Exit Strategy and a lot more besides, dropped by to answer some questions on her reading and writing habits.... 


I see from your biography on your website you’re an editor, a journalist and an author. Which would you regard as your primary occupation?

Like most careers, mine has not been static. At this stage, I feel very fortunate in having my work somewhat in demand and it seems there is always a deadline looming. That’s a lovely feeling. I guess that was the long answer. The short answer is: author.

Which came first? I’m curious to know if the journalism led to the book writing, which then led to the editing.

I always knew I wanted to write novels, but I was afraid. What if you put a year of your life into something and no one cared?

And I was a journalist where one of the things you learn how to do is write, no matter what.

And I had a sharp eye and a good working knowledge of what is correct in many situations, so editing came up fairly early.

One day I had the courage to write a whole novel. And by then I had the expertise — from journalism and also editing — to be competent about the material.

So tell the story. (Novelist.) Tell it in a way that will be comprehensible. (Editor.) And write the whole thing while also getting the details right. (Journalist.)



*I’m soon to read your latest offering – Exit Strategy.  Can you pitch it to a potential reader in 50 words or less? (*Exit Strategy and its predecessor Endings have both been read/enjoyed now) 

High tech startup meets hit woman for an unexpected ride. Think Elizabeth Holmes. But with killing.

It’s your 13th published work since Mad Money dropped in 2004. Which one are you most proud of?

I’m always the most excited about the book I’ve just finished. I guess that’s natural. You spend a lot of time and emotion immersed in this world you’ve created. And if you don’t think the book you’ve just 
completed is the best thing you’ve done… well, what would that say?

Which would you press into the hands of a new reader first?

I guess Endings. Though they stand alone, Endings precedes this book in series. Also, it becomes available in paperback mid-April 2022.

That said, I would like to tell you, these books are not for everyone. There is a sort of spiritual darkness here. She is struggling towards the light, always, but that’s a subtlety not everyone gets. Also the  narrating character is a hit woman: she kills people for money. Some people find it difficult, because as narrating character you’re seeing the world through her eyes. And yet at least some of what she does is morally reprehensible. Some people find that uncomfortable. I understand that. 

Can you remember what your first published piece was?

My first published pieces were journalism. 

You’ve written three different series, several standalone novels, a novella and some non-fiction. Does a series character and book require a different approach to a standalone novel?

All of the first books in my series began as standalones. That is, I did not conceive a series. I imagined a story and created main characters and before the book was complete, I had conceived of further adventures that were outside of the scope of that single book. I had to keep going to discover what 
happened! 

Similarly, how different is the approach to non-fiction writing to fiction? More research maybe?

For me, non-fiction is so much more work! Or maybe it is just the type of non-fiction I’ve been writing. It’s really difficult because you must – you must – get everything right. 


In fiction, of course, you must get everything right, but sometimes it’s a matter of POV. I’ll give you an example. In Exit Strategy the main character learns something about daytrading. It is explained to her in broad terms. And she’s not a stock market expert, so the shape of the thing is all that is needed. But if you were writing a book about daytrading, you’d have to explain it all ad nauseum and every little bit of what you say will be held up to scrutiny, and rightly so: people will be making decisions based on what they read. That’s quite a lot of responsibility. But, honestly, in a novel, if you don’t feel like explaining something, you can just take a broader view. “He had a gun in his hand.” Not: “He had a Ruger Birdshead-Style Wrangler revolver in his hand.” Nobody even wants to hear that. You can blur the lens a bit with fiction, I guess that’s what I’m saying. With non-fiction, every observation must be razor sharp.

Do you have a typical writing schedule? 


I really don’t have much of a schedule about anything. I don’t know why. It must be how I’m made. I’ll get up at any old time and just start working. Or I’ll go for a hike and work after that. Or play tennis or go to yoga and then work. Hmmmm… when I think about it, most of my life these days involves extremely physical activity and writing. 

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

I don’t. Most of the time, the characters appear so abruptly, I’m just taking them in, sharing what I’m observing about them.

When you have an idea and you sit down to construct your story – do you know what the end result is roughly going to look like?

Not at all. I’ll begin with a concept. Not even an idea, really. Just a “what if?” And then I just sit down and kind of watch the movie. That’s the first draft. It gets more difficult after that!

How long from conception to completion did Exit Strategy take? Was it a smooth process or were there many bumps in the road along the way?

The reason that’s a difficult question is that so much of what is “writing” looks like every other thing. Swimming. Taking a bath. Hiking. When my work in progress is where it needs to be in my mind and heart, I’m noodling on it all the time.

That said, each of my books tend to take about a year, including all noodling and writing and editing.

Did the end result mirror both your expectations at the start of the process, or is it a very  different book to what you imagined?

In some ways, it’s very different. I didn’t even really know who the ultimate bad guy would be until I wrote the scene. I was so surprised with whodunnit!

Without spoilers, does the main character from Exit Strategy offer some scope for a continuation or sequel?

Yes. I recently signed a deal with Oceanview for two more in the series. I know for sure that book 3 will be called Dead West. I think it is slated for publication in 2023.

And I’m seeing plot arcs for many more books. They just come to me as I work on the current book. It’s really rather lovely.

Are there any unpublished gems in your bottom drawer? 

Yes, sure. I recently showed one of them to my agent. One that I thought was terribly good when I wrote it a decade ago. And she responded by telling me I’m a much better writer now, which I find interesting and heartening. I’m pleased at the idea that I’m getting better all the time. That’s certainly the aim.

What’s the current project in progress?

Dead West.

Moving on….

What are the last five books you’ve read? 


Blacktop Wasteland by SA Cosby

The Turnout by Megan Abbott

Hell and Gone by Sam Wiebe

Atlas of the Heart by Brené Brown

The Four Pivots: Reimagining Justice, Reimagining Ourselves by Dr. Shawn Ginwright

Who do you read and enjoy?

Honestly, the list is so long. I started to say and then stopped myself. So many terrific writers creating today!

Favourite activity when not working or writing?



Currently tennis. Mostly and always hiking and yoga. Often cooking.

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

Ted Lasso. 


What are the last three pieces of music you’ve listened to?



Formation by Beyonce; 4 Mains by Wim Mertens; Blister in the Sun by Violent Femmes

-----------------------------------

RANDOM TRIVIA FUN QUESTIONS 

What’s your favourite vegetable?



They are all wonderful. It’s difficult to have a favorite! Maybe asparagus.

When did you last have a cat fight?


I’ve never been involved in something that might be described in that way. (Though this morning my cat bit my ankle when I didn’t get to his breakfast quickly enough.)

Have you ever been thrown out of a bar or a club?

Yes. A long, long time ago. That’s all I’ll say.

Do you have any tattoos?

No. Or piercings. Even my ears.

What was your first pet’s name?

Mimi.

What’s the worst meal you have ever eaten?

I haven’t had one. If it’s bad enough to be described as “worst” I just won’t eat it. Life is too short to eat bad food.

Do you have any irrational fears?

Yes.

 --------------

Many thanks to Linda L. Richards for her time.

All of her social media links — and more! — can be found here:

https://linktr.ee/lindalrichards 

I'll give you a couple though...

Websitehttps://lindalrichards.com/wp/ 

Twitter https://twitter.com/lindalrichards

Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/lindalrichardsauthor/ 

------------

Check out both of her 'Endings' series books below. Thank me later!

Endings (2021)

How far can a profound personal loss drive someone toward darkness?

What would it take for you to kill someone for money? And if you did, who—or what—would you have become? These are the question one woman faces when she loses everyone she loves and everything she has. When the opportunity arrives to reinvent herself as a killer for hire, she takes it. She's good at it—and if she doesn't do it, someone else will.

Then everything changes when she learns about a serial killer so horrible she vows to find him and kill him until—overcome by self-doubt—she seeks redemption rather than vengeance.

Fans of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Dexter will love Endings

Look for Exit Strategy, the next book in the series, coming May 2022

Exit Strategy (2022)

A shattered life. A killer for hire. Can she stop? Does she want to?

Her assignments were always to kill someone. That's what a hitman—or hitwoman—is paid to do, and that is what she does. Then comes a surprise assignment—keep someone alive.

She is hired to protect Virginia Martin, the stunning and brilliant chief technology officer of a hot startup with an environmentally important innovation that will change the world. This new gig catches her at a time in her life when she's hanging on by a thread. Despair and hopelessness—now more intense than she'd felt after the tragic loss of her family—led her to abruptly launch this career. But over time, living as a hired killer is decimating her spirit and she keeps thinking of ending her life.

She's confused about the "why" of her new commission, but she addresses it with her usual skill and stealth, determined to keep the young CTO alive against the ever-increasing odds.

Some people have to die as she discharges her responsibility to protect this superstar woman amid the crumbling worlds of high finance and future technical wonders.

The spirit of an assassin—and her nameless dog—permeates this struggle to help a young woman as powerful forces mount against her.

Fans of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Dexter will love Exit Strategy

Exit Strategy stands on its own and follows Endings in this series.

Wednesday, 18 May 2022

LINDA L. RICHARDS - EXIT STRATEGY (2022)


 

Synopsis/blurb....

A shattered life. A killer for hire. Can she stop? Does she want to?

Her assignments were always to kill someone. That's what a hitman—or hitwoman—is paid to do, and that is what she does. Then comes a surprise assignment—keep someone alive.

She is hired to protect Virginia Martin, the stunning and brilliant chief technology officer of a hot startup with an environmentally important innovation that will change the world. This new gig catches her at a time in her life when she's hanging on by a thread. Despair and hopelessness—now more intense than she'd felt after the tragic loss of her family—led her to abruptly launch this career. But over time, living as a hired killer is decimating her spirit and she keeps thinking of ending her life.

She's confused about the "why" of her new commission, but she addresses it with her usual skill and stealth, determined to keep the young CTO alive against the ever-increasing odds.

Some people have to die as she discharges her responsibility to protect this superstar woman amid the crumbling worlds of high finance and future technical wonders.

The spirit of an assassin—and her nameless dog—permeates this struggle to help a young woman as powerful forces mount against her.

Fans of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Dexter will love Exit Strategy

Exit Strategy stands on its own and follows Endings in this series.

Exit Strategy was my second outing with author Linda L. Richards after the enjoyable Endings. Exit Strategy picks up with our solitary, unnamed hitwoman and main protagonist. Here she is tasked with preventing a killing as opposed to carrying one out.

Again I enjoyed this one. It's almost a study in human psychology..... loss, bereavement, solitude, fragility, dark thoughts, coping mechanisms, a pet dog as a companion and comforter, a closer connection to her handler and almost a kind of mental health therapy conducted through their ever increasing contact and conversations. There's a sixth sense at play as her anonymous handler senses that she may have reached the end of the road both as far as her career as a killer goes and with life itself. She's offering her an alternative path.  

Her mission is to save the brains of a technology company that is about to launch some revolutionary tech. Interestingly the woman she needs to save is her handler's daughter. We disappear down a rabbit hole of science, secrecy, finance, technology, investment, stock manipulation with either potential massive profits or unimaginable ruinous losses, research, beta testing, implementation schedules, failures and setbacks, romance, surveillance, burglary, sham meetings, keyboard warriors issuing threats, missing persons and investigation.

Against this ongoing drama, there are also some family matters from the past that both open up old wounds and also offer the potential for some healing and a reconnection with her former life. Always assuming our unnamed heroine is brave enough to face it.

Thoughtful as well as exciting. Linda L. Richards manages the perfect blend of an evolving story featuring an unidentified danger and attempts to thwart it, with a character trying to figure out whether her life has any real purpose or value. 


Another rock solid read.

4 from 5
 
Read - May, 2022
Published - 2022
Page count - 288
Source - review copy from Net Galley 
Format - Kindle

Tuesday, 17 May 2022

LINDA L. RICHARDS - ENDINGS (2021)



Synopsis/blurb...

How far can a profound personal loss drive someone toward darkness?

What would it take for you to kill someone for money? And if you did, who—or what—would you have become? These are the question one woman faces when she loses everyone she loves and everything she has. When the opportunity arrives to reinvent herself as a killer for hire, she takes it. She's good at it—and if she doesn't do it, someone else will.

Then everything changes when she learns about a serial killer so horrible she vows to find him and kill him until—overcome by self-doubt—she seeks redemption rather than vengeance.

Fans of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Dexter will love Endings

Having acquired a copy of the second in this series, Exit Strategy (published today) I thought I would see if I could squeeze reading the first book - Endings - into my busy reading schedule. I'm glad I did.

Endings requires a slight suspension of disbelief insofar as we have a slightly unlikely career change for our unnamed female protagonist after a profound loss. Her child and husband were caught in a house fire. Her child died, her husband survived briefly before being put out of his misery. We learn the marriage was possibly in its death throes anyway.

While in the hospital the woman hears a tale of woe from the bed next door and decides to help offer a form of retribution - death in return for money. One job begets another and before long our disconnected, tieless, nothing to live for woman has carved out a connection to an underground network and takes on kills for hire, something she is quite adept about. 

While enduring a life of isolation with no friends or surviving relatives in her orbit, she has managed to retain some sense of humanity. A big story breaks about a killer on the loose, William Atwater. Atwater has been abducting and disappearing children. Our main lady decides to do something about it.   

I enjoyed the premise of the book. All the while we are in the main character's head and we share her sense of loss, her grief, her anger and rage. We also see her efficiency at work in her new profession. Her methodical planning and her coolness in getting close to her targets and her ability to execute those plans and literally err..... execute.

When she gets a bee in her bonnet about William Atwater, there is a different kind of skillset needed to turn detective in tracking him down; as well as the services of a roving reporter, his team and the visions of a medium. 

Like I say there's a few occasions when you have to take a leap of faith and go with the author where she wants to take you. I was more than happy to do so on this occasion. It was my first time trying author, Linda L. Richards' work and definitely not my last.

Exciting, tense, full of action and more than a little violence, also a little bit sad on occasions, but never less than gripping. I really enjoyed it. 


4 from 5

Read - May, 2022

Published - 2021

Page count - 305

Source - review copy Edelweiss - Above the Treeline 
Format - Kindle

Monday, 16 May 2022

KELLY CREIGHTON - SOULS WAX FAIR (2022)



Synopsis/blurb...

More than a literary thriller.

Powerful men can get away with murder...for only so long.

After a life of hardship, Mary Jane McCord's life in Rapid City, South Dakota, finally hits a sweet spot. She finds happiness and her singing career takes off. Everything is looking up until she uncovers the dark and secret obsessions of two high-profile men.

Twenty years pass but the people closest to Mary Jane have not forgotten.

Will they bring the truth out into the light?

'Beautifully written.'
Sarah Stewart Taylor (Maggie D'arcy mysteries)

'A compelling and brilliant read.'
Sharon Dempsey (Lainey and Stowe mysteries)

A tough, slightly complicated read with the author using multiple timelines and POVs, but one which was well worth persevering with.

The book spans a period of over twenty years and at it's centre is MJ McCord, a young woman with dreams of a career in music. Without spoiling things, things do not end well for MJ.

We explore...

ambitions - political, power, entitlement, sporting, musical; 
family - secrets, lies, neglect, loss, mistakes, resentments, jealousy, disagreements, a yearning for, marital discontent, long memories; 
sins - abuse, suspicion and worse;
small town life 
.... and eventually a reckoning and a kind of balancing of the scales.

The main characters in the book were well developed. Most of them, with possibly one exception - John - weren't especially likable. People were taken advantage of and suffered. 

I did find it a bit difficult to keep track of everyone in the book and where we were in the timeline, as to what had happened before. I think I got the gist of it all in the end. I would perhaps have preferred a more linear telling of the tale, but hats off to the author for taking a few risks with the book.

Overall I enjoyed it. The outcome was one I was hoping for after events of the past were clarified. 
I liked the setting as well. I don't think I have visited South Dakota in my reading before.

3 from 5

I've encountered Kelly Creighton's work before in the Alternative Ulster Noir anthology. 

Read - May, 2022
Published - 2022
Page count - 362
Source - review copy from author
Format - Kindle

Sunday, 15 May 2022

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS WITH KELLY CREIGHTON

Author Kelly Creighton (Souls Wax Fair and a lot more besides) was kind enough to answer a few questions on her latest book and more.

Is the writing full time or is there a day job? Can you offer us a potted biography of yourself? 

I am a full-time writer these days. However, I do other bits and pieces. I facilitate creative writing workshops for schools and community groups, mentor new writers, and teach English as a foreign language.


*I’m soon to read your latest offering – Souls Wax Fair.  Can you pitch it to a potential reader in 50 words or less? (*Finished and enjoyed!)



After a life of hardship, Mary Jane McCord’s life in Rapid City finally hits a sweet spot. Her singing career takes off. Everything is looking up until she uncovers the dark and secret obsessions of high-profile men. Twenty years pass but the people closest to Mary Jane have not forgotten.

That was hard! I’d like to add that it is a literary thriller, and more. A little bit experimental.

I believe it’s your fifth novel after your three book DI Harriet Sloane series and a standalone novel – The Bones of It, plus a couple of short story collections and a book of poetry. 

Which one are you most proud of? 


I am immensely proud of The Bones of It because that was where I found my voice after shelving my first (unpublished) book. The Sloane books are important as far as my portrayal of a female detective and the societal themes I deal with. I get most satisfaction out of writing the procedural books because they are a puzzle I set and have to work out myself. It’s great fun, and weird. 

But as a writer, I’m most in love with Souls Wax Fair. When I finished writing it, I felt bereft of the story, the setting and the characters. Every time I read from it I feel the most pride. 

Which would you press into the hands of a new reader first? 

It depends on the reader and what they like. Even with the series, I don’t mind if the books are read out of order or as standalones. There is a lot of great art and literature out there to compete with. 

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

No. I do, however, insert scenarios from real life here and there. When people are telling me about mad things that happen to them, they usually add, ‘Kelly, you could put it in a book.’ It makes me laugh, and it’s a good gauge of how quirky something is if someone thinks it’s like something I would write. Real life is stranger than fiction, after all. 

Are there any subjects off limits?

No. The difficult subjects draw me to them. I like fiction that disrupts my comfort zone (a bit). It is all down to how the subjects are handled. Some people would prefer to read about nicer things, but I do write about violence quite a bit; it’s one of my recurring themes. There’s nothing nice about it but plenty to say on the matter.


How long from conception to completion did Souls Wax Fair take? Was it a smooth process or were there many bumps in the road along the way?

I got the kernel for the story in 2016. It was quite slow going until I visited South Dakota in 2018 and was able to research the place and write the book properly. It probably took two years from then, although after each draft I was setting it aside and working on another project, so it didn’t take the full two years. Still, it’s been a long process to get it out into the world.

Was there one spark or germ of imagination which started the story off in your mind?


It was more like three story ideas in my ideas folder coming together and taking shape. Then it was announced that Donald Trump was going to run for president. 


I believe it has a very different location – South Dakota, compared to your previous work, most of which seems to be set in and around Belfast. Do you have a connection with the location in the new book? How did you come to set the book there?

The book had to be set there because it’s said to be the most patriotic place in the States. Hence, Mount Rushmore. The weather was very changeable. These are themes in the book. It’s a place with a history of violence. Living in Northern Ireland, it always feels like I have some understanding of that. The places had great names, Badlands, Black Hills, etc. I got really interested in these wide-open spaces and how that made people feel isolated, or not as the case may be. 

Are there any unpublished gems in your bottom drawer? 


I think so. I’m excited about what is to come. 

What’s the current project in progress?

I’m editing Sloane book 4. I will also have a Sloane Christmas story set in the past. There is a new book tapping away, but I have to ignore it for now. It’s too easy to get distracted by the shiny thing. 

I recently read the anthology Alternative Ulster Noir which you had a story in. Do you think yours was the best of the bunch? Who’s was the worst Simon’s or Gerard’s? Spill the beans please.



That’s hilarious. I loved all the stories and was pleasantly surprised at how well they complemented each other. Simon edited the anthology, and as an editor he was brilliant at giving us complete freedom. Luckily he liked what I wrote, which was a relief. Alternative Ulster Noir has been a wonderful project to be involved with. The launches have even had live music from Simon and Gerard’s band. It’s not fair that they get to be great writers and musicians!

Moving on….

What are the last five books you’ve read?

Murder in the Neighbourhood by Ellen J. Green

A Certain Hunger by Chelsea G. Summers

Alternative Ulster Noir edited by Simon Maltman

Queering the Green edited by Paul Maddern

Seattle Noir edited by Curt Colbert

A mix of crime, stories and poetry.

Favourite activity when not working or writing?

General spending time with the family or playing with my three dogs is my favourite. I’m glad you didn’t say the word ‘hobby’, because I think that for writers writing is our job and our hobby. It’s a bit all-encompassing that way. Well, except for those musician types…

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



Probably Parasite. It is phenomenally good and surprising. 

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

TV addict for sure. Writer James Murphy has a show (Crime Scene) on Belfast247. He knows I am a true crime buff and that I love my crime TV in general, so for the last year I have had a slot on his radio show reviewing crime TV. That’s my go-to genre, but I do like trashy reality TV too. 

What are the last three pieces of music you’ve listened to?


I am obsessed with Fleet Foxes, so they have been on a loop constantly. First Aid Kit and Michael Kiwanuka are other favourites.

-----------------------------------

RANDOM TRIVIA FUN QUESTIONS

What’s your favourite vegetable?

Sweet potato. 



When and where did you last have a cat fight? School, church, a sleazy neighbourhood bar?


On the page. Problems with Girls (DI Sloane 2) has quite a good catfight. Anyway, I’m a dog person. I can bark but I don’t use my claws.

Do you have any tattoos?

A few. I’ve designed tattoos for others in the past and have designed a new one for myself. Just have to get around to booking an appointment.

Do you have any irrational fears?

I have lots of irrational fears. I think that’s due to an overactive imagination. But I’m a big believer in ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’. My fear of boredom is the worst. 

What’s your favourite holiday destination?



Glastonbury Festival in Somerset is my favourite place in the world. I’ve been a few times and now it’s been quite a while since I’ve been. I’d love to go back but I’m a bit irrationally afraid to. It is quite the bootcamp and I’ve been sitting at a desk for too long. 

When did you last tell a lie?

Yesterday. It was only a little one to save someone’s embarrassment. I don’t bother with bigger lies. My memory is so rubbish I would never be able to remember what I said to cover my tracks.

----------

Many thanks to Kelly for her time. 

You can catch up with her at the following haunts. 

https://kellycreighton.com


https://fridaypressbooks.com


Her laatest offering Souls Wax Fair was released earlier this month.

Souls Wax Fair

More than a literary thriller.

Powerful men can get away with murder...for only so long.

After a life of hardship, Mary Jane McCord's life in Rapid City, South Dakota, finally hits a sweet spot. She finds happiness and her singing career takes off. Everything is looking up until she uncovers the dark and secret obsessions of two high-profile men.

Twenty years pass but the people closest to Mary Jane have not forgotten.

Will they bring the truth out into the light?

'Beautifully written.'

Sarah Stewart Taylor (Maggie D'arcy mysteries)


'A compelling and brilliant read.'

Sharon Dempsey (Lainey and Stowe mysteries)