The 19th CHRISTMAS – James Patterson & Maxine Paetro

BPM_0001.jpgLike a lot of Mr Patterson’s thriller factory product, there are ups and downs. The ups are some of the most exciting crime thrillers on the planet. The downs probably more disappointing due to the comparison. Especially with the long-running series like Alex Cross, Michael Bennett and The Women’s Murder Club.

Let me say right away that I enjoyed this one as it kicks off, The 19th Christmas, in the last mentioned series. Sergeant Lindsay Boxer and her partner, Rich Conklin features mostly, going from what appears to be a relatively quiet Christmas to a full-throttle search for a killer going by the name of Loman.

Reporter, Cindy Thomas and DA Yuki Castellano are involved in trying to free an incarcerated man from prison, convinced that he is innocent. The fourth member of the Club is on holiday, so does not feature.

Maxine Paetro

Maxine Paetro – author


James Patterson – author

Loman is the master of the Red Herring. He causes so much mayhem that the San Francisco PD go from relaxed to cancelled-leave in a heartbeat; incidents all over the city and dead bodies everywhere. 90% of this thriller is well knit and unputdownable.

In the final furlong, the winner goes lame and eventually stumbles along to finish.

Many thanks to Penguin Random House SA for an ARC. A Century Imprint – ISBN 978178089435.

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CRISS CROSS – James Patterson

Criss-crossOne red herring after another has Alex Cross darting from one copy-cat murder and kidnapping scene to the next, all different except for one detail: an added taunt from an enigmatic psychopath calling himself M. Even the witnessed electrocution of a killer Cross put behind bars is followed by, “You messed up big time, Dr. Cross.” Can it be the man’s family out for revenge?

Slowly  a noose of threat closes in on his family. Yes, that family beloved of all Alex Cross/Patterson followers; wife Bree, grandma Nana Mama, sixteen year old track star daughter, precocious ten year old son, Ali. That family.  Then a kidnapping of a member of that family finally drives our detective/therapist to despair and drink, satisfactorily filmed by M to feed his desire for revenge…


James Patterson – author

I enjoyed this Cross rendition more than some of the previous in the series, and less than others, but never knowing what M’s motives were was a disappointment. Perhaps the only clue I can find is a reference to a fantastically good plastic surgeon, so, perhaps in the next adventure we’ll find out who crawls out of the woodwork. But the lead in to the follow up novel slightly weakened the finale, and, for me, made it uncomfortable.

Many thanks to Random House SA for an ARC. A Century Imprint.

ISBN 9781780899459.

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BLUE MOON – Lee Child

(Jack Reacher #24)

Blue MoonAs usual, wanderer Jack Reacher can’t help standing up for the downtrodden and the underdogs. Approaching an unnamed medium sized American city, Reacher notices an enticing envelope protruding from a dozing old man’s pocket and the interest taken by a fellow passenger on the Greyhound bus on which they are all travelling.

Thanks to his intervention, a mugger fails to mug, but Reacher can’t help but observe the old man’s troubles are much worse that he tries to let on. Reacher gets involved in the warfare of rival gangs; the Albanians and the Ukrainians have the city evenly shared, east or west of the main street.

So far, so good, as a setting for a Reacher backdrop. For the undiscerning reader, no doubt an easy no-quit thriller, and with a few sighs of disappointment, I enjoyed it in a three-star kind of way.

Lee Child 1Earlier Reachers, even as recent as THE MIDNIGHT LINE, were undoubtedly five start stuff  which, along with millions of other crime fiction/thriller readers, I loved. However, never were there so many accurately gunned-down bodies of inaccurate gunmen, ever. Half pile up in the west, and fifty percent trickle their blood into the sewers of the east. They’ve been Reached. Oh, sorry, is that a spoiler? Abby, the waitress, his by-the-way gun-toting side-kick and lover, is less than believable.

Admittedly, Reacher is aging just a little and the persona compensates satisfactorily.  But the characterization of the cast of other folks is rather lacking and shallower than earlier offerings in this thus far highly successful series.

Thank you, Penguin Random House South Africa for this ARC.

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The Giver of StarsBrilliant. Sometimes I regret sticking to crime fiction, and this is one of those times. Well, someone dies and someone goes to prison, but that’s not really what this enchanting story is about.

Meeting handsome American, Bennett Van Cleve, touring with his father in England, Alice marries him and escapes to the wilds of Kentucky with them. Soon her world sours and she regrets her impulsive decision, until she meets the gutsy Margery O’Hare who bows to nobody.

Margery has started a horseback library and together with three other women deliver books and magazines to the far-flung cottages in the wild mountain country in all weathers to accomplish their goal: to spread literacy and the love of books. Against her father-in-laws wishes, Alice joins the team and gets to love the forests, hills and people.  Changing the lives of both children and adults is all the reward they need; but sometimes it is a battle against social prejudice.

And sometimes a vindictive few who find Margery and her team a threat whom they are determined to quash, will go to extreme lengths to eradicate their endevours.

I admit I would never have selected this book by choice, suspecting it to be less than exciting, but thanks to Penguin Random House – SA for sending this ARC. An un-putdownable delight.

A Michael Joseph Imprint, ISBN 9780718183233.

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KILLER INSTINCT – James Patterson & Howard Roughan

Killer InstinctA terror attack on New York’s Times Square interrupts Professor Reinhart’s lecture. Knowing his partner was taking their adopted daughter there as a treat has him headed that way at breakneck speed. C4 explosive packages rip the Square apart, followed by a second attack by a squadron of bomb-carrying drones when the cops and swat teams have moved in. Detective Elizabeth Needham, now in the Terrorism Task Force, narrowly escapes with her life, and saves that of her boss, Evan Pritchard at the same time. With further carnage planned, she needs Dr. Dylan Reinhart’s razor mind to connect some seemingly disparate dots. Thus she is reunited with her old partner from MURDER GAMES to which this is the sequel.

One of the dots is a mysterious killer, Sadira Yavari, who plays a major role in the story and is the twist in the tale. Another is the fanatic terror controller, known only as the Mudir, who finally zeros in on Reinhart himself. There are at least two occasions when Reinhart has the Mudir in his sights but doesn’t pull the trigger – most frustrating; I was yelling “Shoot the mother!” at the page – due to questions to which he needs the answers.

Then there is the whiskey-swilling computer hacker who always comes up trumps, and Reinhart’s ex-CIA father whose aim is still pretty good, as well as being in the right place at the right time.


James Patterson – mega author

The back-story of Dylan Reinhart and his marriage partner, Tracy, with their adopted baby girl, is not totally convincing. Keeping the secret from Tracy that Reinhart was once in the CIA is supposed to be the big betrayal, when Reinhart finally admits this, which causes Tracy to leave him, taking the child. Again, not convincing, but these in-house gay lives apart, the action and ripping pace, in typical Patterson style, makes up for any flaws. The Roughan/Patterson partnership has proved to be a great one.

A Century Imprint ISBN 9781780899411from Penguin Random House; thank you PRH-SA, for the ARC.

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THE SECOND SLEEP – Robert Harris

An interesting concept; eight hundred years have passed since the scientific IT revolution collapsed in about 2025.

The Second SleepWith the world, then, so over-populated that when electricity and IT failed, thousands starved and millions from the cities overwhelmed the countryside in search of food, stealing it from the farms and each other, resulting in the decimation of civilization and the death of most of the world’s populace. Most of that is left to our imagination, and quite why the electrical power failed, is never clarified.

In rural England a young priest is sent by his bishop to bury the elderly priest there, only to discover the man was digging out ancient artifacts from the age of disaster, which is forbidden by the Church which is as all-powerful in these second Dark Ages as it was in the first. The priest’s discoveries and adventures rock his very foundations. Heresy rears up to challenge him and his vow of chastity is shattered.

Robert Harris 1

Robert Harris – author


However, while the writing is up to this brilliant author’s usually great standard, I found the story slow and tedious. The conclusion as well was, for me, unsatisfactory. The characters are interesting but somehow not entirely convincing.

Thank you to Penguin Random House – SA for this ARC. Herewith an honest review.

ISB 9781786331380.

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(Jack Ryan Universe #27)

Enemy ContactAn intricate, suspense-building sequence of events is laid out; a series of disastrous incidents indicating evidence of a massive security breach in the world’s most secure firewall ever designed. The whole of the US security is cemented in this impregnable fortress. What cannot have happened, however, has.

US President, Jack Ryan Senior, is also finding that the Senate is being blocked by a certain senior senator whose integrity has never been in doubt up to this point. Therefore, any investigation into her possible links to a suspect organisation must be handled with the utmost delicacy and discretion.

A wonderfully tense and gripping introduction keeps one glued to the first 150 pages until Jack Ryan Junior is sent to Poland to connect with a beautiful and brilliant Polish agent, Liliana Zaleski.

Then we take a break from the intensity of the plot to enjoy a 200 page travelogue, swanning around Poland, enjoying historical sites and lip-smacking Polish nosh. If thriller readers like taking such breaks, then well and good. Otherwise, skip that, and, not having missed much of the plot, it takes off again with breath-taking action and hammers its way to a satisfactory finale.


Mike Maden – author

The research is convincing, gun-buffs get their share of weaponry description, war enthusiasts their offensive ops attacks and original action scenes. Mike Maden is a fluid and convincing writer, but for me, these Jack Jr. stories, sadly, miss the mark. This is a weak throwback colt from a strong racing stable. It should be put down.

Thank you to Penguin Random House SA for this ARC.

ISBN 9780241398012.

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DEATH on the LIMPOPO – Sally Andrew


Death on the Limpopo

Tannie Maria, that agony aunt with rescue recipes from the Klein Karoo is back, much to my delight. She is busy with answering calls for help in her column, with suitable recipes and advice of the heart via the stomach, when a feisty investigative journalist, Zaba Kani, roars up on her Ducati bike. It is soon evident that she is in danger, so Tannie Maria lets her hole up at her own home, inexplicably drawn to the woman. Another colleague joins them, but before long the journalists are threatened and attacked.

Tannie Maria’s boyfriend, Lieutenant Henk Kannemeyer is not happy when Maria not only helps Zaba, but agrees to go off on a road trip with her all the way to the Limpopo River on the far border of the country where they hope to find answers to some heavily guarded political as well as personal secrets. Quite rightly so, because the dangers are frequent and harrowing, but Maria is too stubborn to allow Henk to persuade her to turn around.


Sally Andrew – author

Okay, that’s the gist of the plot, but the mouthwatering nosh consumed all through the narrative has one drooling all over the pages, and maybe the recipes at the end are just as finger-lickingly exciting as the nail-biting finale.

There is a delightful sprinkle of tongue-in-cheek humour that further adds spice to an already delectable dish.

If you are having your first nibble on this delightful series, here is my taste of Tannie Maria and The Satanic Mechanic:

Thanks to Sally and Penguin Random House SA for this UMUZI imprint ARC.

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The Family Skeleton Series #6.

Publishing Date: September 24, 2019. That’s tomorrow, folks.

The Skeleton Stuffs.jpgDelightful light reading – very light, I might add – involving the most unlikely pair of investigators readers of cosy mysteries have met in a long time. Alright, Georgia, the English teacher at one of the town’s two colleges is pretty acceptable, but her fellow sleuth is the family skeleton who lives in the attic, spending a lot of his time surfing the Web and making spreadsheets to list all the suspects, and clues, in their latest mystery.

Georgia’s teenage daughter reports that the family dog has brought home a human femur, which turns out to not belong to their friend Sid. They backtrack the dog to a vacant lot where a hoarder’s home once stood and show the police the site where human remains are found.

Who do they belong to?

How did the owner die?

Sex, age, manner of death?

The police are stumped, but a friend of Georgia’s admits to having a clue they must keep in confidence. So, of course, now it is up to Georgia and Sid.

All good spreadsheet stuff, which has Sid’s bony fingers tapping his computer keys and scratching his skull thoughtfully, sometimes in a detached fashion as Sid can disassemble at will, allowing his skull, hand and cell phone to travel inconspicuously in a bag with Georgia to observe the various sites of interest at will without scaring the rest of the populace.

Leigh Perry

Leigh Perry – author

The little tidbits of clues lead to the college, its museum and various college businesses that flourish, or fail, as a means to teach the students about that big bad world out there. There is romantic romping, daily college student dealings, family fun, perpetual puzzles, copious curious characters and tenuous trust.

Not cliffhanger stuff, but I enjoyed this a lot.
Thank you to Alex Sprague – (Q. M. Hall | Marketing and Publicity Intern) for this ARC from Diversion Books, via NetGalley.

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KNIFE – Jo Nesbo

KnifeDevotees to Jo Nesbo’s Harry Hole series, and others that have gripped us to follow them avidly, get pretty fond of the main characters. Take Rakel, for instance. Harry’s saving grace, I would have said, and Harry needs all the grace he can get, between drinks. So, maybe nobody is surprised when she leaves him. But hey! He’s going to win her back, right?

No, he doesn’t. Mr Nesbo doesn’t grant us that simple little bit of feel-good; us, his faithful followers. No. He actually does far worse than that, but I’ll leave what that is to the unsuspecting readers who manage to avoid the spoilers.

Harry just carries right on being a drunk jerk, playing straight into the hands of the first serial killer that Harry put away, so that Harry is set up with all the evidence needed to put him behind bars for brutal bloody murder. And he was too pissed to remember whether he is innocent or not.


Jo Nesbo – author

Too many side tracks, Mr Nesbo. Too many irrelevant back-stories regarding inconsequential people while you kill us with suspense regarding Harry, our to-be ex-hero, until the last 150 pages where you regain at least some of your brilliant reputation and the brittle Harry starts to get his act together.

Not my favourite, I’m afraid. But thank you to Penguin Random House, South Africa for the ARC, anyway.

ISBN 9781787300774

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