Monday 28 February 2022




Joe Hansom knew what his purpose in life was and he was good at it. Others speculated that if Hansom was on your trail he’d "hand some death out to you." Over the years that had been shortened up and Joe was now known over a large distance as "the hands of death."

A short novella enjoyed over the course of a lunchtime and another notch on the scoreboard, chalking up one more towards the yearly reading target.

A Western tale, a bounty hunter for a main character with one particular target in mind. We get Joe Hansom's back story, his unhappy childhood, his previous career as a surveyor's assistant, to present day role as a feared hunter of men.

In this busy tale, he attempts to deliver a baby and care for its mother, tend to her sister and her wounded flesh, survive an arson attack and a violent encounter with his quarry, Sutton (I think!) and capture himself a bride without hardly noticing.

Action, story, character, humour and outcome. A definite winner of a tale, complimented by the awesome narration by my favourite speaker of words, Theo Holland.

4.5 stars from 5

Definitely an author to try more from in the future. Hopefully another Hansom tale still pursuing his target.

Read – (listened to) February, 2022 
Published – 2017
Page count – 40 (0 hrs 54 mins)
Source – Audible purchase
Format - Audible

Sunday 27 February 2022


Another half dozen into the collection....

Hayley Scrivenor - Dirt Town (2022) - Net Galley review site

Rural Aussie crime? Deal me in.

Dirt Town by Hayley Scrivenor is an atmospheric crime novel set in rural Australia, for fans of Jane Harper's The Dry and Chris Whitaker's We Begin at the End.

Durton. Dirt town. Dirt and hurt - that’s what others would remember about our town....

When 12-year-old Esther Bianchi disappears on her way home from school in the small town of Durton in rural Australia, the local community is thrown into a state of grief and suspicion.

The detective.

As Detective Sergeant Sarah Michaels begins her investigation, she questions those who knew the girl, attempting to unpick the secrets which bind them together.

The mother.

The girl’s mother, Constance, believes that her daughter going missing is the worst thing that can happen to her. But as the search for Esther develops, she learns that things can always get worse.

The friends.

Ronnie is Esther’s best friend and is determined to bring her home. So when her classmate Lewis tells her that he saw Esther with a strange man at the creek the afternoon she went missing, Ronnie feels she is one step closer to finding her. But why is Lewis refusing to speak to the police?

And who else is keeping quiet about what happened to Esther?

Michael Craft - Desert Getaway (2022) - review copy from publisher, Brash Books

If it's published by Brash Books, invariably I want to read it.

Dante O’Donnell is white, gay and getting older every day. He has wasted his better years on starstruck dreams and the wrong men, so now he's working as a concierge for a vacation-rental outfit in Palm Springs, where the guests have far more baggage than what's packed in their suitcases. But when he finds a dead body floating in the swimming pool at one of his rentals, his own troubled past comes back to haunt him. So he turns for help to Jazz Friendly, a Black woman who, when she was a Palm Springs cop, nearly arrested him for murdering his husband, which he didn't do...not that he knows who did. Now Jazz is a struggling PI, her career derailed by racism. And with her marriage broken by booze, she's desperate to get custody of her kid. Dante and Jazz need each other to solve this murder...and to save themselves from personal and professional disaster.

"A wild romp through Palm Springs’ glittery underbelly. Fast, funny, and thoroughly enjoyable. An instant classic.” Tod Goldberg, New York Times bestselling author of The Low Desert

Ron Potts - Black Moon (1987) - purchased copy

A book which got a mention in one of my Facebook book groups and the rest is history...

'Have you come to take me back?' The threat of instant death hung behind the answer to that point-blank question...

Jim Walker knows how to kill like he knows every moving part of the vicious MAC-10 submachine pistol tucked beneath his oversize leather jacket. His body hooned into a bullet-hard, unstoppable death machine, he is the last of an elite Vietnam commando squad.

And now, the system that spawned him, turned him into the best fighter they ever had, was him banged up in jail. A hero in wartime, redundant in peacetime: he''s going to make them pay...

Because combat's in his blood: They come to kill you man! They come to blow your little-boy body away! Lying neck deep in the slimy mud, he is aware only that his M16 assault rifle is bucking in his hands like a thing alivv, belching fire...

David Putnam - The Sinister (2022) - review copy from author

No. 9 in Putnam's Bruno Johnson series and having enjoyed the first eight, it's one I'm looking forward to.

The Ruthless

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 perfect for fans of Michael Connelly and James Lee Burke

Bill James - Low Pastures (2022) - Net Galley review site

No. 36 in the long running Harpur and Iles series, a series I once harboured a fantasy of reading all the way through from the beginning. I've not quite discounted that notion yet, but I think I've read only a couple to date... You'd Better Believe It and Hitmen I Have Known

A well-dressed corpse found shot in the sand and gravel wharf sparks trouble for Detective Chief Superintendent Colin Harpur and his unpredictable boss, Assistant Chief Constable Iles.

The man is found dead in the local dockyard, shot from behind. Colin Harpur, examining the impeccably dressed corpse on his hands and knees, predicts the execution spells imminent trouble - and not just the unexpected arrival of his spiteful, brilliant boss, ACC Iles, at the two a.m. slaughter scene.

Iles' progressive attitude towards the local drugs trade has kept gang warfare off the streets, but now it seems jealous outsiders may be coveting the safe, ordered community he has so brilliantly created. Coveting too, the local property - for instance, drug lord Ralph Ember's luxurious mansion, Low Pastures, home to his unparalleled collection of china and porcelain.

Harpur and Iles are determined to protect their set-up at all costs - which includes protecting 'Panicking' Ralph. But Ralph has his own plans, and there are dark rumours about Iles on the wind . . .

Blackly humorous, delightfully eccentric and packed with sharp-tongued wit, this gritty British police procedural is a must-read for fans of Bill James' critically-acclaimed long-running Harpur and Iles series.

Simon Marlowe - The Dead Hand of Dominique (2021) - review copy from author

Essex villains, family feuds, a missing wife and mistress... what's not to like?

Steven Mason, a young career villain, needs to find his boss's girlfriend Dominique. Straightaway, he knows things are not going to be easy when he finds a dead hand in Mickey Finn's old fridge.

So begins a series of encounters: St Mary with a limp wrist; Dominique's husband Texas - a semi-retired gigolo; his vicious brother Greg; rent boys; a psychiatrist and a corrupt detective.

As Steven realises he's uncovering a bitter dispute between two gangs, so division and betrayal make him hunter and hunted. He will need to decide whom he can trust, torn between his loyalties and his attraction to his friend's girlfriend ... not to mention what the outcome will be with a caged parrot.

Saturday 26 February 2022



Aimee Trapnell reluctantly leaves her apartment on Manhattan’s Central Park West to return to her childhood home in Georgia for her father’s ninetieth birthday. Also on hand are her two brothers, wily Marsh and ne’er-do-well Trainor. With a forty-billion-dollar inheritance at stake, they’re willing to do whatever it takes to make the old man happy.

To their shock they learn that what their father wants for his birthday is to kill someone. He doesn’t care who it is. He just wants to know what it’s like to commit murder.

Betrayal, double-dealing, and fast-paced action set the Trapnells on a collision course with an unexpected villain. Their journey takes them from the swamps of Georgia, to Italy’s glittering Amalfi coast, to rugged Yellowstone National Park. 

Re-reading the blurb, I'm again reminded that this had the potential to be really entertaining, quirky, a bit off the wall and one that was right up my street. A couple of months down the road, all I can remember is a slight sense of disappointment.

Lots of the story has disappeared from my consciousness and I've no real desire to relive the book by flicking back through it.

Story - underwhelming. Characters - not especially interesting or likable, with the exception of Marsh who grew on me through the book. Pace - can't remember. Outcome - forgotten. Setting - Georgia mainly, I can't remember the other locations visited in the book.

Bits were entertaining. I think someone got eaten by an alligator, or maybe we were just supposed to think that? I can't recall. Money and a massive inheritance potentially is a motivating factor for some of the family. A thermonuclear weapon, in the form of a suitcase bomb is the main focus towards the latter portion of the book. It kind of starts out as one thing and morphs into something totally different.

I don't recall hating it and wanting to throw the book at the wall, but that's as positive as it gets.

3 from 5

Read - November, 2021
Published - 2020
Page count - 228
Source - purchased copy, previously Net Galley review copy which expired
Format - paperback

Friday 25 February 2022


 A couple from Adrian McKinty that have sat on the TBR pile a while.

One is a standalone novel and a bit of historical fiction, which isn't my preferred reading. The other is from the Sean Duffy series and has one of the clunkiest most awkward titles I've encountered on my book shelves. Maybe that explains why I haven't read them. I really need to get over myself sometimes.

Of recent times, I've read and enjoyed The Chain and The Cold Cold Ground. Others way back when before I started blogging .... Fifty Grand, Dead I Well May Be and his YA Lighthouse Trilogy.

The Sun is God (2014)

Colonial New Guinea, 1906. A small group of mostly German nudists, known as the Cocovores, live an extreme back-to-nature existence on the remote island of Kabakon. Eating only coconuts and bananas, they purport to worship the sun. One of their members - Max Lutzow - has recently died, allegedly from malaria. But an autopsy in the nearby capital of Herbertshöhe raises suspicions of foul play.

Recruited to investigate the circumstances of Lutzow's death, former British military police officer Will Prior sets sail for Kabakon accompanied by Captain Hauptman Kessler of the German army and travel writer Bessie Pullen-Burry, who joins the mission at the insistence of powerful landowner Emma Forsyth. At first, members of the eccentric Cocovored seem friendly and willing to cooperate with the investigation. They all insist the Lutzow died of malaria. Still, Prior is convinced that the group is hiding something.

With no conclusive evidence that Lutzow was murdered, and preparing to head home to Herbertshöhe, Prior and his companions are invited to a late-night feast supposedly given as a send-off for the visitors, but Prior fears that the intent of the "celebration" is not to fete the visitors but to make them the latest murder victims.

Police at the Station And They Don't Look Friendly (2017) 

Belfast, 1988. A man is found dead, killed with a bolt from a crossbow in front of his house. This is no hunting accident. But uncovering who is responsible for the murder will take Detective Sean Duffy down his most dangerous road yet, a road that leads to a lonely clearing on a high bog where three masked gunmen will force Duffy to dig his own grave.

Hunted by forces unknown, threatened by Internal Affairs, and with his relationship on the rocks, Duffy will need all his wits to get out of this investigation in one piece. 

Thursday 24 February 2022




It looks like ex-con Jack Palace’s troubles will never end when he is pressured by the mob to kill one of his best friends.

Jack Palace is trying to go legit with his own security company — but his old life keeps trying to pull him back in. A mobster named Sammy DiAngelo wants revenge for a killing that happened in Jack’s past. DiAngelo blames Jack’s friend Grover for the murder and gives Jack an ultimatum: kill Grover or be killed himself. Meanwhile, Grover has plans of his own. He wants to rip off the mob, and he needs Jack’s help to do it.

Jack is desperate to start a new life with Suzanne, a woman from his past … but is he desperate enough to kill?

My second outing with author A. G. Pasquella and his main character, Jack Palace. Season of Smoke is the third in the series after Yard Dog and Carve the Heart. I do think it's a series that might best be enjoyed in order, as a lot of events and character motivations are related to incidents from the earlier books. That said, I really liked this one.

Jack is an ex-con and is trying to go straight. The world doesn't seem to want to let him. There's a bounty on his head with a Mafia boss gunning for Jack. Jack's stuck between a rock and a hard place. Side with the Mafia and kill his friend and he might be off the hook, somewhat unlikely given Sammy DiAngelo's vindictiveness. Side with his friend and help kill DiAngelo, while also stealing his money and he kind of kisses goodbye to the straight life he had imagined for himself. A life that has become a little bit more complicated with the reappearance into his life of an old flame. 

Economic reality and a failing business are also help nudge him in a direction he really doesn't want to go. As tough as it is struggling to give up the drink, departing a life of crime proves to be a slightly more difficult obstacle for Jack to overcome.     

There'a real cadence and rhythm to the story here that kept me turn the pages. I really liked Jack as a character and I was rooting for him throughout to initially stay on the straight and narrow and make a success of his security business, especially as he had guys relying on him. Once his options became a little bit more limited, especially after the fire-bombing of his trailer and an encounter with 'Mr Butterface', a vicious sadist, woman abuser and hitman, I just wanted Jack to let rip and get on with things.  

Great writing, great story, cracking outcome and plenty of thrills along the way. There's an inevitability about the tale in that its pretty much a given that the life of ordinary citizen doesn't seem to be in Jack's future. A Toronto setting is another plus. I do like me some Canadian crime.

4.5 from 5

Carve the Heart was enjoyed a year or two ago. The series opener Yard Dog sits on the TBR pile. Not for much longer. 

Read - February, 2022
Published - 2021
Page count - 263
Source - review copy from author
Format - PDF file read on laptop

Wednesday 23 February 2022



Raised as siblings by an itinerant “gypsy” family, knife expert Bobby Cain, trained by the US military in the lethal art of covert eliminations, and Harper McCoy, nurtured by the US Navy and the CIA to run black ops and wage psychological warfare, are now civilians. Of a sort. Employing the skills learned from the “family” and their training, they now fix the unfixable. Case in point: Retired General William Kessler hires the duo to track down his missing granddaughter, a Vanderbilt University co-ed. Their search leads them to a small, bucolic, lake-side town in central Tennessee and into a world of prostitution, human trafficking, and serial murder. The question then becomes: Will their considerable skills be enough for Cain and Harper to save the young woman, and themselves, from a sociopath with “home field” advantage, a hunter’s skills, and his own deeply disturbing agenda?

“Skin in the Game is The Most Dangerous Game on steroids. Fast, relentless, and cunning.”
—David Morrell, New York Times Bestselling Author of Murder as a Fine Art

A different series to enjoy from new favourite author, D. P. Lyle. Skin in the Game is the first in his two book series featuring 'siblings' Cain and Harper. Prior Bad Acts is the second, which I hope to get to at some point.

Here we have a missing person case with Cindy Grant,  the granddaughter of a well known US military figure disappearing. Cain and Harper, well schooled in the dark arts of CIA black ops and with various dubious skill sets to burn, are co-opted to look for her. What they find is deeply disturbing.

A prostitution ring, with college girls for hire - sometimes for kicks, sometimes for money and a pimp chain, with the end man selling the girls to an anonymous customer. Cain and Harper have to discretely coax other girls involved in the network to talk, dealing with them sympathetically in order to find the pimps and get closer to the man at the end of the line, all the while battling the clock.

We have other victims. We have a twisted and cruel sadist. And we have a dynamic duo hunting him and his partners down. 

Fast-paced, violent and very full-on. I liked the investigation. I liked the dot joining and the quest from point A to B to C etc. I liked the take no prisoners attitude of Cain and Harper. As far as their employment is concerned, it's all off the books and deniable and therefore there aren't any rules or niceties to abide by. If the people you are dealing with don't have any mores or ethics, it's kind of helpful if you are of the same mindset.We get Cain and Harper's back story drip fed into the narrative. We understand the bond they share and for the course of the book they are fantastic company.

Overall - really enjoyable, slightly darker in content and tone than the Longly series and a bit of a page turner. I'm looking forward to the next one in the series soon.

4.5 from 5    

D. P. Lyle has five different series under his belt. I've enjoyed all of the books in his Jake Longly series -  The OC (2021), Rigged (2020), Sunshine State (2019), A-List (2017) and Deep Six (2016). 

Read - February, 2022
Published - 2019
Page count - 279
Source - purchased copy
Format - Kindle

Tuesday 22 February 2022




A young woman is missing, and her boyfriend is desperate to find her.

Desperate enough to hire Gertrude, Gumshoe.

Thrilled to have her first real client, Gertrude gets right to work. But is she ready for a real case? Can she catch a kidnapper without getting snatched up herself?

A bit of a cozy mystery and not my usual cup of tea, but I enjoyed it upto a point and at no time were my ears ever in danger of bleeding.

Gertrude - a geriatric busybody with a walker, an improbable, implausible, unlikely investigator - looks for a missing woman with the assistance of Calvin, a near neighbour. The missing woman didn't return home after arranging a meeting to settle an online Vardsale purchase. Gertrude sets up a fake profile and starts arranging local meets to question site users and hopefully snare a kidnapper. 

Needless to say she does and after a low speed car chase and another meet, gets kidnapped herself. It all ends how you'd expect.

Unbelievable, improbable, a real stretch and more, but somewhat surprisingly I was mildly amused and entertained. It did what it was supposed to do.

3 from 5

A couple of earlier books in the series have been enjoyed on Audible before - Introducing Gertrude, Gumshoe and Gertrude, Gumshoe: Murder at Goodwill

Read - (listened to) February, 2022
Published - 2017
Page count - 104 (3 hrs 16 mins)
Source - Audible purchase
Format - Audible 

Monday 21 February 2022

D. P. LYLE - THE OC (2021)


Thrill-a-minute crime fiction—infused with wry humor

Restaurant owner and former professional baseball player Jake Longly is hoping for a few weeks of fun with Nicole Jamison in the warm Orange County, CA sun—The OC, baby. After that, they'll be on their way to LA for the filming of Nicole's sure-to-be-a-hit screenplay.

On arrival, they discover that Nicole's friend Megan Weatherly, a local TV reporter, has picked up an anonymous stalker. Megan downplays any real danger, but her new intern Abby, as well as Jake and Nicole, don't agree. Bit by bit, as the harassment escalates and the shadowy man invades Megan's world, Jake calls in the big guns from back home in Alabama: Ray and Pancake. But will Ray's military black ops experience and Pancake's technical skills be enough to expose the predator in time?

The stalker is no fool and likely has a predatory history. He makes no mistakes and manages to cover his trail completely. So, how do you identify and locate the untraceable? How do you protect Megan from a potentially lethal phantom?

Suddenly the sunshine and safety of The OC seem more facade than reality. Jake and crew must punch through that facade and dig into the dark world of celebrity stalking. The clock is ticking.

Another enjoyable outing in the company of Jake Longly and girlfriend, Nicole. This time instead of the usual Gulf Coast setting we have an LA mystery concerning a stalker.

LA setting, celebrity stalking, escalations, a TV reporter, an investigation, uncovering a history of similar events - all with worrying outcomes.

I enjoyed this one a bit more than Rigged, the previous one in the series. Quite topical in the sense of a kind of  #MeToo scenario though there is a difference here. It's deplorable in that it's everywoman's worst nightmare - an unseen enemy, a potentially physical future threat, with an immediate emotional distress and anxiety. 

It's a serious subject, but still handled with a lighter, humorous touch in the some of the character interactions.

I've crammed all five of author D. P. Lyle's Jake Longly mysteries into one month's reading and it was time well spent. If he's back with a sixth, deal me in.

4 from 5

The previous four were -  Deep SixA-List, Sunshine State and Rigged.  

Read - January, 2022
Published - 2021
Page count - 305
Source - review copy from Edelweiss Above the Treeline
Format - Kindle

Sunday 20 February 2022




SHANGHAI IN 1990. An ancient city in a country that despite the massacre of Tiananmen Square is still in the tight grip of Commnist control. Chief Inspector Chen, a poet with a sound instinct for self-preservation, knows the city like few others.

When the body of a prominent Communist party member is found, Chen is told to keep the party authorities informed about every lead. And he must keep the young woman's murder out of the papers at all costs. When his investigation leads him to the decadent offspring of high-ranking officials, he finds himself instantly removed from the case and reassigned to another area.

Chen has a choice: bend to the party's wishes and sacrifice his morals, or continue his investigation and risk dismissal from his job and from the party. Or worse...

Death of a Red Heroine was a really interesting read for several reasons. It's a slow burner of a murder investigation where the main detective's efforts to find the victim's killer are hampered by political interference.  It's also a look inside the culture of a country, just about to undergo tremendous change economically. It does make me wonder why I sat the book on my shelf for over ten years before reading it.

I read this one slowly, about 15 - 20 pages a day over the course of the month, and I think this approach helped me enjoy the book more. The main character, Inspector Chen is thoughtful, intelligent and has a real sense of right and wrong. His moral compass compels him to continue with his pursuit of the killer, despite the danger to himself. He does have enough political savvy to at least act with some caution in his efforts. He's also a poet and there are a lot of passages in the book where we see how important his writing is to him. 

There's a great dynamic between Chen and his assistant Detective Yu and they work well together, despite Yu's initial doubts about the case and the partnership. I think it's a series I would enjoy reading more from if I crossed paths with another book in it. I don't think I could commit to reading them all - there's about a dozen in total. The partnership between the two is one I really liked, from initial caution and a slight resentment, mainly on behalf of Yu, to total confidence in each other. I would also enjoy seeing the author chart the changes in society as the country becomes more Capitalist in outlook, while still retaining its strong control over it's people.

It's also interesting to note that despite the massive cultural differences between the Western and China that in a lot of respects things are very much the same. Power, influence, connections, all seem to offer a shield against consequences. Laws are only meant to apply to the little people. Rules are for others. Nice to see that sometimes chickens come home to roost. 

4.5 from 5 

Read - November, 2021
Published - 2000
Page count - 480
Source - purchased copy
Format - paperback

Saturday 19 February 2022



Thirteen tales of Darlene Bobich!
The prequel to the successful "Dying Days" zombie novella
Includes a free preview of "Dying Days"

Fancying something a bit different I listened to this prequel offering to Armand Rosamillia's Dying Days series.

Zombie action, a strong and feisty female, a crumbling civilisation, loss, grief, strength, constant travel, close scrapes, danger, attack, death, sexually active undead, violence, 

I enjoyed reading something different to my norm and I'll read more in the series in the future, as I have a few in the Audible library. I'm not too sure how far you can take the story without endless repetition of attack, repel, attack, repel, repeat. I would have liked some explanation for the present state of affairs.

More to like than not and it did what it was supposed to - it entertained and took me away to another world for a few hours, in the company of a main character who I was rooting for.

3 from 5

Dying Days, the episode which comes after this was enjoyed a month before this one.

Read - (listened to) December, 2021
Published - 2012
Page count - approx 75 (2 hrs 32 mins)
Source - purchased copy
Format - Audible

Friday 18 February 2022


A couple from Canadian author, John Farrow (aka Trevor Ferguson).

Farrow has written nine books in his Emile Cinq-Mars series, mostly set in Montreal. I've only read one to date in the series - Ball Park - which I really enjoyed. I have high hopes of reading my way through the series. We'll see how that works out! 

Emile Cinq-Mars

   1. City of Ice (1999)

   2. Ice Lake (2001)

   3. River City (2011)

   4. The Storm Murders (2015)

   5. Seven Days Dead (2016)

   6. Perish the Day (2017)

   7. Ball Park (2019)

   8. Roar Back (2020)

   9. Lady Jail (2020)

Ice Lake (2001)

Only the back of the corpse's head is visible, the remainder of the body is concealed in the murk of the frozen lake. Pulled up by his hair through the circular ice fishing hole, the victim bears the mark of a single bullet through his neck. It's official: Detective Emile Cinq-Mars knows he was lured here, the unknown woman's invitation to meet at a familiar ice fishing spot now transformed into a murder investigation. Only there's something different about this crime scene, something that tells the veteran policeman that in some way, his nose is being rubbed in this murder - in some way, this is about to become very personal.

Emile Cinq-Mars is an old-style detective - independent, eschewing technology and teamwork in favor of his smarts, his intuition, and a few well-placed informants. But his world is as contemporary and immediate as today's headlines, where pharmaceutical companies will stop at nothing to get a jump on the competition in the battle to find an AIDS cure. This is the world of Ice Lake, where the murder victim's ties to a drug company soon spin out of control into a complex universe peopled by a beautiful native activist trying to save the world, the ruthless members of organized crime sects, and the macho cops of competing police factions. It's up to the beleagured Cinq-Mars to figure out the conspiracies and counter-conspiracies, the difference between would-be frineds and deadly enemies - before it's too late.

Like its predecessor, City of Ice, Ice Lake has raised the bar in the thriller genre, dazzling in its plot and strikingly intelligent characterization.

Perish the Day (2017)

A coed is found murdered on campus, her body scarcely touched. The killer paid meticulous attention to the artistry of his crime. Coincidentally (or not), a college custodian is also found dead.

While Detective Emile Cinq-Mars and his wife are visiting the area, an epic rainstorm assails the Holyoake, New Hampshire campus. Amid overflowing rivers and downed power lines, a thirs crime scene is revealed: A professor has been shot dead in his home. A mysterious note is found that warned him to run.

Coming up against campus secrets, Emile Cinq-Mars must uncover the links between disparate groups quickly before the next victim is selected  for an elaborate initiation into murder.

Perish the Day is a riveting new mystery that continues the Emile Cinq-Mars series of crime novels, which Booklist has called 'one of the best series in crime fiction' and Die Zeit in Germany has suggested might be the best of all time.

Thursday 17 February 2022



A BBC Two Between the Covers book club pick.

Question: what’s worse than being in a wheelchair?

Answer: being a f--k-up in a wheelchair.

After a car accident Jarred discovers he’ll never walk again. Confined to a ‘giant roller-skate’, he finds himself with neither money nor job. Worse still, he’s forced to live back home with the father he hasn’t spoken to in 10 years.

Add in a shoplifting habit, an addiction to painkillers and the fact that total strangers now treat him like he’s an idiot, it’s a recipe for self-destruction. How can he stop himself careering out of control?

As he tries to piece his life together again, he looks back over his past - the tragedy that blasted his family apart, why he ran away, the damage he’s caused himself and others - and starts to wonder whether, maybe, things don’t always have to stay broken after all.

The Coward is about hurt and forgiveness. It’s about how the world treats disabled people. And it’s about how we write and rewrite the stories we tell ourselves about our lives - and try to find a happy ending.

I must admit I'm a bit unsure whether this one was a novel or a memoir given that the main character in the book bears the same name as the author. As far as a reading experience goes, I doubt it matters either way. Sad to say I didn't enjoy this one nearly as much as I had hoped to.

Jarred is 26 and in a wheelchair after a car accident that killed an old girlfriend and left him paralysed from the waist down. Our tale flip flops between Jarred present day and Jarred as a young boy of 10 dealing with the death of his mother, and Jarred as an angry teenager, repeatedly butting heads with his alcoholic father. 

At 16 he runs away and has no contact with his father until the day he is discharged from hospital and unsuccessfully tries to put himself and his chair under the wheels of a lorry.

There's a lot of sadness, grief, guilt and rage present in every period of Jarred's life.  

It's a difficult read in a lot of places. Jarred pre-accident and post-accident is a bit of a tool. Having thankfully survived childhood and adoloscence myself, without the either loss of a parent or by being raised by barely functioning alcoholics maybe I'm not in a position to judge others less fortunate. My own scars are superficial in comparison. 

I suppose the book is brutally honest in it's portrayal of Jarred at all periods of his life. Maybe by the end there is a glimmer of hope for a brighter future and some healing. His relationship with his dad is in a better place. He actually calls him dad rather than the dismissive, Jack. His girlfriend, Sarah has helped soften him.

There's a beautiful scene where Jarred actually puts someone else ahead of himself. Sarah's brother, Marco is disabled and Jarred arranges a casino trip for the three of them. The joy this brings Marco is wondrous to behold and was the highlight of the book. Love, laughter, compassion, innocence, trust, warmth and kindness is present in abundance.    

I think I liked the second half of the book a bit more than the first. Jarred post-meeting Sarah is more bearable company than previously. I still found it hard to like him though. 

3 from 5

Read - February, 2022
Published - 2021
Page count - 313
Source - Net Galley reviewer site
Format - Kindle

Wednesday 16 February 2022

D. P. LYLE - RIGGED (2020)



Love triangle—motive for double murder? First loves are never forgotten. Ever. Certainly not for Tommy "Pancake" Jeffers. His first-kiss, sixth-grade love, Emily, who he has not seen since grammar school, is sliding toward divorce in the artsy Gulf Coast town of Fairhope, Alabama. Longly Investigations has been charged with looking into the finances involved. When Emily doesn't appear for their nervously anticipated meeting, Pancake's radar goes on high alert. Her body, along with that of Jason - one of two guys she has been dating - is found murdered, execution-style, Pancake calls in Jake, Nicole, and Ray. 

Who would have done this? Could it be the soon-to-be ex, who has an ironclad alibi; the other guy Emily was seeing - jealousy being a motive for harm; or do the drugs found in Jason's pocket indicate a drug-related hit? That world yields a host of suspects. As they peel back the layers of this idyllic community, dark secrets come to light and convoluted motives and methods of murder are revealed.

Perfect for fans of Carl Hiaasen and Janet Evanovich

Fourth in a five long series, all of which I caned during January. Enjoyable, but if I'm honest it's probably the one I liked the least in the series. 

Same likable characters; same Gulf Coast, Alabama setting; same banter, humour and dynamics between Jake and girlfriend Nicole, Ray, his dad and Pancake his best friend. I guess it was the story that just didn't quite catch fire for me.

A dead couple, drugs on the body and one of the corpses belongs to Pancake's childhood sweetheart Emily. Pancake is understandably upset and persuades Ray the head of Longly investigations to dig into things, in conjunction and cooperation with the local law.

Emily's soon to be ex-husband - now a widower - and her new boyfriend's background need investigating, as does the jilted beau who perhaps had more regard for a future with Emily than she obviously did. 

Drugs, family, marital strife, murder, investigation, criminal gangs, inheritance, loss, memories, small town life, suspects, motives and after 300 pages answers.

I didn't dislike it. I enjoyed it more than not, it's just I've enjoyed Lyle's other books more. As for comparisons, I've only tried a couple of Janet Evanovich's work with, those co-authored by Lee Goldberg, and Carl Hiaasen is a much ignored favourite author. I prefer Hiaasen so far, but Lyle's not too far behind.

3 from 5

Deep Six, A-List and Sunshine State are the first three in the series. The OC is the fifth and final series entry.

Read - January, 2022 
Published - 2020
Page count - 306 
Source - purchased copy
Format - Kindle

Tuesday 15 February 2022



Can you ever really bury a secret...?

After uncovering a web of corruption in No Deadly Medicine, Verity has to decide what she wants to do with her life now. Still mourning her husband, she's started to fill her time by chasing errant husbands and wives for money. Susanna Means approaches Verity believing that her partner, too, is being unfaithful...but as Verity looks into his life she realises he may be holding a much darker secret...

Short book and a brief review.  We have a short tale featuring a strong female investigator. 

I'm always bemoaning the fact that I don't read enough female authors without ever doing anything to redress the gender imbalance in my reading. A giveaway via Book Funnel for Even Money gave me the try before you buy experience.

Surveillance, a pub, a casino trip and some careful watching and some deeper digging. 

I liked the tale without being blown away by it. Decent writing, joined up plot, interesting enough main character. There was enough about the story for me to consider reading more from the author in the future, which was the whole point of the exercise. 

No Deadly Medicine is the first book in Martin's Verity Spencer series, if I want to take the plunge.

3.5 from 5

Read - January, 2022
Published - 2020
Page count - 58
Source - review copy from author via Book Funnel
Format - Kindle

Monday 14 February 2022




Serial killer’s message to PI Jake Longly: Two of those seven murders I confessed to are not mine—but I won’t tell you which two.

Jake Longly and Nicole Jamison are confronted with the most bizarre case yet. Serial killer Billy Wayne Baker now denies that two of his seven murders were actually his work. An anonymous benefactor, who believes Billy Wayne’s denials, has hired Longly Investigations to prove Billy Wayne right. Billy Wayne had confessed to all seven. Not only did the confessed serial killer have the motive, means, and opportunity for murder, but his DNA was found at each crime scene. Bizarre doesn’t quite cover it.

Jake and Nicole travel to the small Gulf Coast town of Pine Key, Florida, where three of the murders occurred. The local police, FBI, state prosecutor, and crime lab each did their jobs, uncovered overwhelming evidence of Billy Wayne’s guilt—and even extracted a full confession. Is Billy Wayne simply trying to tweak the system to garner another fifteen minutes of fame? It’s likely all a game to him, but, if he’s being truthful—someone out there is getting away with multiple murders. How? Why? And most importantly, who?

Dark clouds loom in the Sunshine State.

Sunshine State is the third in Lyle's Jake Longly series, following on from Deep Six and A-List and it was another enjoyable, entertaining read.

I liked the quirkiness of the tale. A convicted murderer who confessed to his crimes, claims to be innocent of two of the seven murders he was convicted of. Jake interviews him and believes him. I;m not a massive fan of the serial killer book, but here it's approached from the other side.

Jake, Nicole, Pancake and his dad, Ray try to unpick Billy Wayne's crimes to find the most likely cases that could conceivably have been committed by another party and then do some digging.

I like the characters involved in the investigation, all of whom I've met before. I like the dynamics between them all and the banter. The story itself was interesting and with the convicted killer's DNA found at all the crime scenes, if he hasn't killed two of the people, there are only a limited number of suspects who could have manipulated the scene. Lyle, kind of wrong-footed me in the suspect stakes.

Really enjoyable, a bit of a page-turner and all the elements I like in a book - story, pace, characters, setting and outcome. 

4.5 from 5

Read - January, 2022
Published - 2019
Page count - 344
Source - purchased copy
Format - Kindle

Sunday 13 February 2022




As Steve Regan goes deep undercover, he starts to have problems separating reality from fiction.

Working as an undercover cop, he operates in a world of duplicity. In order to stay alive, he often thinks, How do I know people are who they say they are?

Tempted by the riches of drug smuggling so he can help a loved one, Regan wonders whether he can go 'rogue' and cross the line.

Regan infiltrates a South American cartel headed up by a Miami-based Mob-connected drug lord, and getting involved in a million-dollar cocaine deal escalates the dangers of working undercover.

On his return to the United Kingdom from Miami, Regan discovers a plot to kill a leading barrister. Is this linked to the Mob and drug cartel?

Faced with a race against time through London to prevent the barrister’s murder, Regan is confronted by more questions and threats to his life. Just how far will the Mob go to protect its interests?

You will be shocked to discover the measures these gangsters will use to stay free and out of jail.

Based on a true story and inspired by the author’s real-life undercover days and bestselling memoir, his debut crime fiction story brings to life Steve Regan, a laid-back badass British undercover cop in the Steve Regan Undercover Cop Thriller series.

The title of the book is a nod to identity confusion often experienced by cops who are deep undercover.

If you like hard-boiled crime fiction or are a Jack Reacher fan, this book is for you. Original-concept crime fiction about an undercover cop written by a former undercover cop!

Discounting the prequel, The Secret, Who the F*ck Am I? is the first in Bentley's Steve Regan undercover cop series. I've read two and three in the series - Dilemma and Rivers of Blood and they were much better than this. I think if I had come to this one first, I doubt I would have read anything more by the author afterwards.

I may be in a minority and at the end of the day it's only one man's opinion. (44 reviews on Amazon UK, give an average score of 4.3/5 with more than half of the reviews a 5 star rating.) I found the plot weak, the way the story unfolded confusing, the dialogue stilted and the characters cardboard cut-outs. Apart from that, it was amazing.

Who the F*ck Am I? soon morphed into WHY THE F*CK DID I BOTHER?

Drugs, cops, criminals, shady lawyers, undercover work, secrets, conspiracies.... all ingredients I like in my reading - just blended together a bit amateurishly.

Bizarrely maybe because of my dislike of this one, I read another Audible book by the same author immediately after this and did actually enjoy it a lot more. I think there's an obvious improvement in the quality of Bentley's work the more books he writes. 

Sorry, but...

2 stars from 5

Read - (listened to) February, 2022
Published - 2017
Page count - 176 (4 hrs 24 mins)
Source - freebie
Format - Audible

Friday 11 February 2022




Mackenzie Allen Philips' youngest daughter, Missy, has been abducted during a family vacation and evidence that she may have been brutally murdered is found in an abandoned shack deep in the Oregon wilderness. Four years later in the midst of his Great Sadness, Mack receives a suspicious note, apparently from God, inviting him back to that shack for a weekend. 

Against his better judgment he arrives at the shack on a wintry afternoon and walks back into his darkest nightmare. What he finds there will change Mack's world forever.

In a world where religion seems to grow increasingly irrelevant The Shack wrestles with the timeless question, "Where is God in a world so filled with unspeakable pain?" The answers Mack gets will astound you and perhaps transform you as much as it did him. You'll want everyone you know to read this book!

I think I picked this one up years ago because of the cover. It gave off a Richard Laymon kind of horror vibe. The book itself couldn't be any more different, though you can't escape the fact that the abduction and murder of a child is truly horrific.

Spirituality, faith, grief, loss, family, anger, healing, forgiveness - all present in spades.

Did I like the book? Not particularly, but then I don't have a massive faith in a higher power. I think the book spoke more to the cynic in me than in any sort of eye-opening, spiritual awakening, St Paul on the road to Damascus fashion.

If some people found comfort in the book and got something out of it. Well done, I'm happy for you. 

Not my vibe.

2 from 5

Read- December, 2021
Published - 2007
Page count - 256
Source - owned copy
Format - paperback


A couple from a previously unheard of author, Jimmy Sangster. I would probably have remained in ignorance of him, if Lee Goldberg and Brash Books hadn't re-published all of his novels.

Sangster was English, worked in Hollywood and wrote about spies as well as a four book series featuring investigator James Reed. He passed in 2011. Link to his obituary in The Guardian here.

At some point in the next few years I hope to read most of these....

John Smith Mystery
   1. Private I (1967) aka The Spy Killer
   2. Foreign Exchange (1968)
Katy Touchfeather Mystery
   1. Touchfeather (1968)
   2. Touchfeather, Too (1970)
James Reed Mystery
   1. Snowball (1986)
   2. Hardball (1988)
   3. Blackball (1987)
   4. Fireball (2019)
   Your Friendly Neighbourhood Death Pedlar (1971)

Snowball (1986)

Sex, drugs and Hollywood provide the sizzle in this exciting mystery marking the debut of the engaging new sleuth James Reed, a former Scotland Yard investigator now living in Southern California who combines the best qualities of cool British understatement and impetuous American hard-boiled action.

Reed, an aspiring writer, has long since grown accustomed to the nonchalant hedonism of the Southern California film world. From the seductive comfort of his Malibu beach house - a generous gift from his ex-wife, screen supserstar Katherine Long - Reed halfheartedly struggles to sell his scripts. But his discovery of a body on the beach signals an ominous turn of events that draws him away from his typewriter and his beachcomber lifestyle back into the detective work he was forced to abandon years ago.

Reed is soon enmeshed in an old family obligation fraught with lethal consequences. The problem is Caroline, Katherine's sexy, spoiled daughter and Reed's former stepdaughter. Drugs are the issue, and from astonishing information supplied by Katherine's new husband-to-be, the secretive financier Peter Manheim, Reed discovers that Caroline's involvement is much deeper than anyone suspected.

Reed's clever investigation soon uncovers an elaborate cocaine network in the movie industry with sinister Mob connections. Another kinky complication is Caroline's ambidextrous boyfriend, a sleazy character whose sexual peccadilloes create havoc.

As Reed pursues his assignment through the glittering cicrcles of Beverly Hills and Hollywood and witnesses needless tragedy, he realizes he is a mere pawn in a thoroughly contemptible game. Through an astonishing act of vengeance, Reed brilliantly strikes back against his manipulative enemies.

Evoking the glitzy amorality and ruthlessness of Tinseltown's fast track, Snowball is a gripping and sophisticated tale of intrigue and murder. 

Blackball (1987)

Jimmy Sangster's first novel Snowball, featuring former Scotland Yard investigator James Reed, received critical acclaim for its gripping sdepiction of a world-weary expatriate sleuth who exhibited the best qualities of British reserve and cunning in the glitzy American setting of fast-track L.A.

In Blackball, James Reed returns - this time to challenge a sleazy blackmail scheme that has led to his arrest for rape purportedly committed one stormy night in a neighbor's house on the Malibu beachfront. All Reed remembers of the night in question was that he had accidentally stumble across his accuser, a prety blonde, when she was rifling through a safe in the nude. Reed only dimly remembered her facial features, but distinctly recalled that she was a natural blonde. Out on bail, Reed starts to track down the perpetrators of this puzzling frameup and uncovers more than he bargained for when his investigation leads to a reclusive, alcoholic millionaire with significant Las Vegas interests. What started out as a two-bit schemem escalates into an ominous affair with sinister implications. Shuttling between luxurious Nevada ranches, the brightly lit casinos of the Vegas strip, and the seamy venues of the southern Californian underworld, Reed patiently unravels a web of deceit and violence that inexorably leads him to a lethal
confrontation in the desert.

Jimmy Sangster, the author of numerous mysteries and screenplays, is an English scriptwriter, producer and director with extensive film and television experience in Hollywood. Snowball, the novel that introduced the sleuth James Reed, was published by Henry Holt in 1986. Sangster divides his time between London and southern California, where he is at work on a third James Reed mystery.