UNDER THE ICE – Rachael Blok

JBPub_0002.jpgJenny is a new mother; exhausted, tearful, brittle. She finds herself sleep-walking, barefooted in the snow, down to the nearby lake which seems to have a hold on her. Her visions include shadowy figures and threatening whispers. Inexplicably, barely remembered childhood memories of her late mother surface.

A young girl’s body is found under the ice there. Jenny hands a phone that she finds there to the police, but how to explain that, when searchers had already covered the ground?

DCI Maarten Jansen heads up the police team. With Christmas only a week away the pressure is on to solve the case, then another girl goes missing.

And once again, Jenny is so involved as to become a suspect, but Jansen keeps faith in believing that she somehow holds a vital key. However, the gap between Jenny and her mystified husband continues to widen as her involvement increases.

Rachael Blok

Rachael Blok – author

Most of the time, I loved the author’s staccato sentences and flash images, although sometimes they got a little overdone. Nonetheless, her characters are beautifully sketched and warmly real. The whodunnit factor is great and the answers and twists are convincing.

Thank you to Jonathan Ball Publishers, South Africa, who are distributing this Head of Zeus Imprint, for an ARC. ISBN 9781788548014.

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DOMINO ISLAND – Desmond Bagley

JBPub_0001.jpgA gem of a thriller from a long-dead author’s stored archives, and it is a cracker. Desmond Bagley’s tight adventure novels were sometimes spoiled for me by his inclusion of Land Rovers cc the sixties where his gaffs about them used to steal from their fluidity. (…wound down the window; they slid aside. …tracking device hidden inside the rear bumper; they had bent pipes on either side, no bumper in which to secrete anything, etc. ) Which is rather petty, I know, but there it is.

No Landys on Domino Island, luckily. The plot is a whodunnit situation when a rich businessman/politician, David Salton’s body is found too decomposed, after four days in an open boat in the Caribbean sea, to really establish the cause of death. Two Insurance Assessors are sent from London to clear up the mystery surrounding the circumstances and give the go-ahead to release the funds.

Campanilla is an island republic with an unhappy poor class, a corrupt government, a tax haven banking elite and a tourist-flooded casino. So politics, riots, police, power and economics all have some sort of stake in, or are influenced by, the death. Not least his widow and his mistress.

Ex-military, exceedingly stubborn, with an instinct for irregularities, Bill Kemp is at the top of his game, and although he sends word that the death is as the coroner described, death by natural causes, he has to dig deeper when his associate is beaten up and dies from his injuries.

A great three-sixty twist rounds off a great read.

Desmond Bagley

Desmond Bagley – thriller author

Desmond Bagley died in 1983 with not only a long list of thrillers to his name, but several unpublished works, some of which have since seen light of day. This story went from the archives into the hands of Curator, Michael Davies, and Bagley fans can be very grateful that it did.

Thank you to Jonathan Ball Publishers, South Africa, distributing for Harper Collins, for this ARC for honest review.  ISBN 9780008334642

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ONE MORE LIE – Amy Lloyd

If one had to sum up this chilling tale of psychological suspense, I would use the word uncomfortable.

One More LieWith a new name and an ankle monitor, Charlotte, the adult, is released back into the world. Try as she might, she can’t forget prison or the fearful interrogation for supposed past deeds which put her there as a child. She and her only friend, Sean, were found guilty of murdering a disabled child, but much as she would like to forget what transpired afterwards, she cannot remember what actually happened. The police suspected the weird Mr Sampson for awhile, for who would think two young children could be capable of such a heartless act? Then, despite her denials, her fingerprints were found on the toy the boy dropped. And the lies begat more lies…

The public is outraged when it is discovered that, on release from prison, the taxpayers’ money is squandered on new identities and relocation, not to speak of the lady psychologist, Dr Isherwood, who plays a part in the story far beyond the call of duty.

Sean’s story of then and now also segments her story, then and now. Neither are endearing persons which robs the reader of empathy, although Sean’s battle between his prison-built anger and a remnant of decency make his character an interesting contrast to Charlotte’s timid loneliness.

Certainly, the curiosity about the final denouement will keep some readers ploughing on to the final twist, but I fear others might succumb to frustration and give up. However, the writing is excellent and the depth of the characters is well plumbed.

My thanks to Penguin Random House, South Africa for this Century Imprint ARC.

ISBN 978178089826.

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THE POTENTIAL – David A. Davies

The PotentialLook no further if you are after a thriller of character depth, plot twists and factual settings.

In Bonn, Chris Morehouse, a UK citizen working as a chauffeur for the CIA, is driving the US Ambassador when an attack is made to either kidnap or assassinate him. Natural defensive instinct and excellent judgement enables Chris to save the man’s life and causes the CIA to take another look at him for further training.

Dare Chris hope for a life of excitement beyond that of a security driver? Although a fit ex-special forces soldier, he is also fallible and screws up from time to time. But the action follows him like a dog on a leash. The terrorists don’t know what, or who, he saw during the attack. Who is behind the attackers; what is their agenda and is Chris in danger from them as well?

Yes. A whole set of deadly pieces lie embedded in the puzzle.

The action lunges from Germany to the USA, to the Middle East in a series of linked threads where most of the players have their own intriguing, convincing back-stories. The telling is fluid and engaging, even with a large amount of figures in the tapestry, but the only fault I find is the flip from one Point-of-View to the next and back in the same sequence. Sometimes the same paragraph.

Safely a good start to a potentially great series; thank you to www.prolificworks.com for this free copy which I selected to review. Assuredly, we will accept further ARCs from David A. Davies if he cares to send them over.

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WINTER SISTERS – Robin Oliveira

Mary Sutter #2.

When the 1879 blizzard that devastates Albany, New York, finally releases its killer grip, close family friends, husband and wife, of Dr Mary Sutter and her physician husband, have both lost their lives. But more troubling is the fact that their two daughters of ten and six are missing.

The two doctors and their friends search for weeks, to no avail, until they are unexpectedly found and taken to the home of the doctors. The elder girl has been savagely misused; the younger untouched.

The story is one of family compassion, of defending the weak, of righting wrongs in the face of prejudice and bigotry. It is at once a who-dunnit as well as a look at historical women’s rights and the power of courageous family love attempting to heal the damage caused by arrogant and powerful men.

Robin Oliveira

This is a compelling mystery, at once exciting, shocking and heartwarming. Easy reading as well as gripping, the characters are well fleshed. Going on from the story of Mary Sutter, the midwife who became a Civil War surgeon, it features possibly too many characters, initially confusing, who might not be there if not for the previous book, MY NAME IS MARY SUTTER.

Herewith an honest review. Thank you for this Penguin imprint ARC to PENGUIN RANDOM HOUSE, South Africa.

ISBN 9780399564260.

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RUN AWAY – Harlan Coben

Run AwayYour eldest daughter has run away; she does not want to be found. Then you see her in a park, busking. You hardly recognise her, so wasted, so shrunken and filthy is she; but you can’t help yourself reaching out to beg her to come home. Her boyfriend tries to stop you. You punch him, and the crowd turns on you as your daughter flees.

So begins a father’s nightmare search.

Simon Greene is not persuaded by his wife, to leave their daughter alone to the drugged existence she has chosen. After all, they have tried the rehab route before to no avail. But, seeing his determination, she reluctantly comes along to help find her. Gunfire in a filthy tenement block erupts. That’s when his world shatters into even smaller pieces.

Secrets. Just how shocked is he to find who is keeping secrets from him, and how far will he go to keep secrets from even his own nearest and dearest?


Harlan Coben – author

More importantly, would he kill to protect them?

And who is murdering young men all over the USA and what connection do they have to an isolated cult known as The Truth? And to Simon’s daughter?

This is another top-notch Coben twister I could not put down.

Herewith an honest review. Thank you for this Century imprint ARC to PENGUIN RANDOM HOUSE, South Africa.

ISBN 9781780894263

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THE SECRETARY – Renee Knight

The SecretaryThe plot is centred on the relationship between the absolutely discreet and loyal secretary, Personal Assistant Christine Butcher, and her driven ruthless boss, supermarket mogul, Mina Appleton. It is Christine’s post-traumatic diary of the events leading up to that present situation. She has fled to a place of safety, so the reasons for that are at once intriguing, and create the read-on fever.

The pace is slow. So slow that the desire to find out what exciting happening is going to be created – for me, anyway – there is temptation to skip ahead.

The characters: the ruthless business woman, whose own father is her first victim, does not hesitate to descend to underhand, if not downright illegal, methods of self enrichment. She is aided and abetted by her obsessively loyal secretary. But somehow they did not quite gel, sadly. Christine unrealistically loses her grip on a loving husband and daughter as she becomes enslaved to her obsession to be the perfect secret keeper. The two characters should have been fictionally real, but they are not totally convincing.

Renee Knight

Renee Knight – author

Three quarters of the story reflects on how Christine gets trapped in a snare largely of her own setting, and the last is what she decides to do about it.

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

ISBN 9780857522856.

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NEVER TELL – Lisa Gardner

Never Tell.jpgExcellent! A thriller, a whodunnit until the last moment with more twists than a corkscrew. This is my first Lisa Gardner, but wow! Where has she been all my reading life? She has 20 previous novels to her name. Her 10th in the Detective D.D.Warren Series, picks up three main points of view – 2 in the first person present, which I have never encountered before, but I think she got away with it.

There is D.D. herself, a sergeant in the Boston PD, supposedly now a supervisor, but still keen to get her hands dirty at the coal-face.

Her so-called CT, confidential informer, Flora Dane, is maybe even more interesting. She is a survivor, turned vigilante, who here, where she recognises the victim on TV news in a shooting, is forced to confront her own traumatic history for clues to D.D.’s current case. Her memory that her nemesis, the evil now dead but ever-haunting, Jacob Ness, met with the present victim, requires that she revisit the past, despite swearing never to do so.

Then there is the suspect, pregnant Evie, with a smoking gun in her hands as she stands over the body of her husband when the cops break down the door. D.D. recognises her as the same Evie of sixteen years before who accidentally shot her own mathematical genius father with a shotgun. Her guilt seems a slam-dunk, but she is a part of a family capable of keeping a host of surprising secrets, and that includes those of her dead husband.

Lisa Gardner

Lisa Gardner – author

With an intriguing, credible plot of twists, the action is fast, the tension breath-robbing and the characters well-sketched. Bravo! If Gardner hasn’t yet won the title of Thriller Queen, it is high time.

Herewith an honest review. Thank you for this Century imprint ARC to PENGUIN RANDOM HOUSE, South Africa.

ISBN. 9781780897738.

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CELTIC EMPIRE – Clive Cussler & Dirk Cussler

Celtic Empire.jpgA DIRK PITT NOVEL – An entertaining adventure packed full of action and our well-known heroes: Dirk Pitt, and all his NUMA team, plus his son and daughter, Summer and Dirk Pitt Jnr. all behaving heroically and surviving, of course. Well, mostly, anyway. Yes, I enjoyed it, more than some.

Adventure? Absolutely! And it rockets around the globe from ancient Egypt to modern Egypt, Scotland and Ireland, by every conceivable mode of transport, with the baddies never far behind, and sometimes ahead.

But, thriller? Not really. To me thrillers entail a real uncertainty as to the survival of folk the reader has gotten reasonably fond of, the demise of whom would be somewhere between sad and heartbreaking… No chance of that here, but I do love the weave of historical links, stolen artefacts and hieroglyphic clues which are the hallmark of a Cussler adventure. Add a dash of deadly disease, purposeful industrial pollution and some maniacs manipulating menacing macho men, and we have nonstop excitement.


Clive Cussler

Dirk Cussler - author

Dirk Cussler – author

Maybe unintentionally, but a case can be made for this plot to be a war of the sexes in a sort of misogynistic way, given the objectives of the baddies. I can’t expand on that without introducing spoilers, but, come to think of it, the tale will be less popular with the ladies that male readers, I fear.

Herewith an honest review. Thank you for the ARC, for this Penguin/Michael Joseph imprint; PENGUIN RANDOM HOUSE, South Africa.

ISBN 9780241349588.

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DARKEST TRUTH – Catherine Kirwan

Darkest Truth.jpgAfter awhile, it doesn’t matter that this is no longer a whodunnit; that it issues its own spoiler, but the doubts come and go. Which adds to the tension, of course.

Lawyer, Finn Fitzpatrick, is accosted in the street by a man who claims that his adopted daughter, who committed suicide, is Finn’s younger sister. It takes some convincing, but eventually, it seems to be true. The man was convinced that the sister had changed drastically after meeting Ireland’s famous film director, Jeremy Gill, at the premiere of his first movie shown in Cork six years previously. He was sure that encounter was the cause of changing her from a vibrant, happy student into a withdrawn wretch who eventually took her own life…

Six years until she takes her own life by drowning? Finn can’t buy that, but neither can she abandon an ever-increasing curiosity to know the truth and get some idea about the sister she never knew she had. But her investigations and her confrontation with Gill come at a price. She trends on Twitter as a vindictive bitch as nobody believes her accusations as her threads seem to begin to come together.


Catherine Kirwan – author

Not bloody, not gruesome, but a gripper, all the same. Possibly Kirwin’s greatest strength is her convincing characterisation, as well as her sense of place as the action moves from the little city of Cork to Dublin and back. It also shines another light on male chauvinism which can’t be overemphasized in this day and age.

I enjoyed this; at least a four-star. Especially as a debut; we can look forward to more by this author.

My thanks to PENGUIN RANDOM HOUSE, South Africa for this Century imprint ARC.

ISBN 9781529123814.

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