MUNICH – Robert Harris

A tense historical thriller set in 1938 Europe as the storm clouds gather with Hitler already flexing his territorial muscles, and Chamberlain diplomatically fighting to avert war.

MunichTwo Oxford student friends have not laid eyes on each other since their visit to Munich six years before. Both have moved on to their respective careers.

Hugh Legat, a fluent German speaker, is now 3rd Secretary to Prime Minister Chamberlain, and once again heading to Munich, but this time with the British delegation in a last ditch attempt to ward off impending war as Hitler demands the Sudeten territory from Czechoslovakia, which Chamberlain knows is only the start of Hitler’s ambitions.

Hitler’s train, linking up with another containing his ally, Mussolini, is heading in the same direction, with Legat’s old friend, German diplomat Paul von Hartmann in the entourage. Hartmann is a member of a group who are determined to rid Germany of Hitler before he can carry out his German space expansion plans and carries proof to hand over to Legat, if he can arrange the meeting without jeopardising his group or himself.

When Legat is not allowed to go near the meeting, but ordered to stay in his hotel and organise the domestic requirements of his delegation, the tension ratchets up to breaking point and risks must be taken to overcome the obstacles and the old friends can meet.

With a spiteful fellow-, and senior-, Secretary, determined to make things as difficult for Legat as he can, and a SS-Sturmbannfűhrer sniffing suspiciously at Hartmann’s heels, the dangerous mission to hand Legat the proof to give to his PM before talks conclude and agreements are signed, and war averted, the story is as gripping as a python.

Robert Harris 1

Robert Harris

Robert Harris, writes beautifully, and his prose must be the envy of many an author and wannabe writer. Top that with a well-researched backdrop and a thrilling plot with plausible characters, Munich must be a winner.

Thanks to PENGUIN RANDOM HOUSE, South Africa for this ARC for whom I have given this honest review.

ISBN 9780091959203, Hutchinson Imprint.

My apologies for the previous erroneous connection of Robert Harris to Stuart Neville, also a fine writer. 

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Andy McNab goes from strength to strength with thrillers that both have depth and sound tech-knowledge.

Line of FireThis, another episode in the nail-biting life of ex-deniable operator, Nick Stone, involves the tough operative trying to get used to working with a team again after a long series of operations where he relies only on his own training and smarts. But this isn’t any old highly trained well-oiled team. It is three ex-soldiers with four legs and five arms between them, but what they lack in limbs they make up for in guts and determination. Initially dubious of their having any possibility of survival, Nick come to realise that his leadership is not the only asset they can rely on.

What binds the four men is the knowledge they each have in their heads, and, more reliably, on memory sticks each has hidden away, about a clandestine mission that they survived in polar regions. The exposure of that would embarrass the organisation that authorised the mission, run by the man they know as the Owl, who would dearly like to obliterate both the men and their sticks.

With mutual distrust, the Owl gives them another mission, and a promise of a good payout: Find, and lift, a young Russian computer hacker in Cornwall.

Andy McNab 1

Andy McNab, perhaps…

We are led through the preliminary phase of the persuasion that their best bet to survive is to keep together and beat the Owl at his own game, then on to the ever-tightening mission. Finding out what the hacker and her minders are up to is one phase, but the disasters and dangers and suspicion of a mole in their midst follow in unputdownable succession.

Another five star winner from the soldier who has the tee-shirt.

Thanks to PENGUIN RANDOM HOUSE, South Africa for this ARC for whom I have given this honest review.

ISBN 9780953078952, Bantam Press Imprint.



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Top notch five star pure Reacher.

The Midnight Line

Out to stretch his legs on a bus-ride to Anywhere, ex-Army MP drifter, Jack Reacher, notices a Westpoint class ring in a pawnshop window. The implications that such a hard earned symbol of blood sweat and tears could have been stolen or pawned has Reacher setting off to track down the obviously female owner. He abandons the bus ride in favour of trouble, something that he finds like a diviner.

The journey from pawnshop to middlemen to seller is intriguing, logical, hard-hitting and philosophical in the best Lee Child tradition.

The POV slips from his search progress in the company of an ex-FBI Private Investigator who specialises in missing persons, to a female cop with her eye on a slithering drug dealer that nobody can pin down. There is a middle period of the story without much frenetic action which doesn’t detract from the tension but rather draws it out beyond what seems like breaking point.

Lee Child 1

Lee Child, author

Reacher is definitely back after a short break of mediocrity.

For a man who is usually yawning at nine, I was glued ‘til after midnight, which might just make that title very meaningful.


Thanks to PENGUIN RANDOM HOUSE, South Africa for this ARC for whom I have given this honest review.


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Midnight at the BRIGHTAn original tale of a mysterious suicide in a bookseller’s shop, involving intense bibliophiles; both those that man the shop and those that inhabit the shelves to feed their habit but seldom can afford to buy.

Lydia, who has returned to the town that once was the scene of her nightmare childhood, had formed a bond with a Bookfrog – one of those almost-homeless that consistently find solace and succour between the book covers – Joseph Molino. When he hangs himself between the bookshelves on the 3rd floor, and Lydia finds his body within minutes of him taking his life, she is devastated. Very slowly, she is presented with clues that lead her to messages from Joseph himself, and to find out why he took his own life, she must follow them.

Her father, who had fled the town after the bloody murder of a family by the Hammerman, where Lydia herself was present but spared, joined the prison service. As he withdraws into himself, he no longer supplies the comfort she needs and craves. They become estranged. She knows that the investigator, who never found the identity of the killer but always believed that it was her father, hasn’t given up when he contacts her again to find out if she has remembered anything more from that ghastly night.

Her childhood friend, Raj, comes back into her life, both complicating it as well as being a comforting support, but the shocking truth begins to emerge even as Lydia starts to solve Joseph’s messages. These are intricately clever, but I found them a slightly unnecessary embellishment.

Matthew Sullivan.jpg

Matthew Sullivan, author

Be that as it may, this was a good read; tense and well-twisted, as the past and the present begin to intertwine.

Thank you to  for the ARC to which this review is a frank and honest appraisal.

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TATE DRAWDY – Michael Ludden




Like a tasty meat-and-three plate at a Southern diner, there’s something simple and satisfying that sticks to the reader’s ribs in the straight-up way author Michael Ludden serves up his latest hard-boiled crime thriller, TATE DRAWDY.

This is a prequel to Ludden’s first crime novel, ALFREDO’S LUCK, the book that introduced readers to Drawdy as a loose-cannon, take-no-prisoners Miami-Dade County detective. That book was a sweeping and violent tale with a host of characters and a complex plot that portrayed the nasty politics of Miami’s Cuban exiles and captured the high and sleazy weirdness of Florida without diving into caricature.

In this book, Ludden writes a leaner more linear story about Drawdy’s earlier years as a young detective in Savannah, a rich boy from Atlanta who decided to become a cop instead of following the easier and more comfortable course his parents had in mind for him. Drawdy is still learning his trade from an older mentor, Jimmy Patterson, but shows flashes of the smarts, the penchant for violence and the instinctive full-bore pursuit of his quarry seen in the author’s first book.

He’s also a wiseass, the kind of guy who pisses people off just by walking into a room, then doubles down by being blunt and refusing to back down or compromise. There’s no go-along-to-get-along in Tate Drawdy and it gets him in early trouble with some corrupt cops on the force, providing one of the main threads to this violent tale. It also gets him shot at and beat up — a lot.

The other thread runs through the murder of Precious Gardner, a young black woman, picked up while walking home from the Piggly Wiggly by four drifters who toy and torture her before stabbing her to death. The drifters are led by a megalomaniacal psychopath named John Robert Griffin, who quickly singles out Drawdy for adversarial attention of the personal kind.

Michael Ludden, author

Michael Ludden, author

Throw in the double murder of a priest and his teenaged girl lover, Griffin’s escape from a doctor’s office and Drawdy’s pursuit of the killer to his hometown near Pittsburgh, where the young cop meets a crew of retired detectives who like to keep a hand in the law enforcement game, and you’ve got a rollicking tale with plenty of gunplay, suspense, ribald banter and plot twists that brings you to the final chapter way too soon.

Ludden has created a winning character in Drawdy. Pick up both of his books and hope he writes another one real soon.


JIM NESBITT – reviewer and author of hard-boiled crime fiction.

Alfredo's luck

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A sharp, to-the-point review by BARB ETTRIDGE.

Nothing Save the Bones Inside HerClayton Lindemuth brings post-war Pennsylvania into stark focus with the voice of each character who brings brutal honesty to what is a dark tale of how fate, greed and anger can destroy your life and those who cross your path.The storyline twists like a furious serpent as each shocking event unfolds – shocking, but all so plausible, as each has been set up beautifully.

Re-reading what you can’t believe just happened simply confirms the masterful seeding of small details that fester and then erupt.

Clayton Lindemuth

Clayton Lindemuth

This is a book written in a deceptively spare style where everything matters and just when you think the rabbit hole can’t get any deeper, it does.





Barb Ettridge 2



Barb Ettridge, author and reviewer.

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A REVIEW by JIM NESBITT, author of the gritty Ed Earl Burch thriller Series.


PR 2016 eBook cover


The hallmark of a Peter J. Earle novel is the vivid and evocative sense of place he effortlessly weaves into the fabric of his story. For Earle, the place is southern Africa and one of his earlier novels, PURGATORY ROAD, is a shining example of a singular skill other authors would be wise to develop.

The story is a classic noir fugitive tale of John Stafford, a South African farm supply salesman who, in a raging impulse, murders two crooked traffic cops who catch him in a late-night speed trap and strong-arm him for a bribe. Nerves rubbed raw by the pain of a wayward wife and fear of a sudden end to his career, he shoots both rogue cops dead with a Smith and Wesson .38 revolver.bullet2


Peter J. Earle

Horrified by what he’s done and knowing it will only be a matter of time before police track him down, Stafford, a veteran of the South African army who saw combat in Angola, makes plans to stage his own death and assume the identity of a distant cousin to flee to Rhodesia and join the fight against black nationalists.

Stafford is a product of his times — born in South Africa well before the end of apartheid and white-minority rule in that country, drawn to again take up arms to defend white-minority rule in Rhodesia as a death-wish penance for his horrible crime. Earle makes no apologies for Stafford being on the wrong side of history and portrays the time and place of his novel with unblinking frankness and the same absence of apologia.

Earle keeps the story focused on Stafford’s flight from the law — in this instance, a friend who has been assigned to solve what rapidly becomes a cold case as his final duty before leaving the force to spend more time with his dying father. Stafford’s scheme to stage his own death is complicated by an unexpected affair with an Australian scuba diver and the return of the wayward wife.

His expectation of joining the Rhodesian army is detoured when he is befriended by Colonel Barnes, the head of a cattle ranching family with extensive holdings and saves them during a guerilla ambush, getting wounded in the process. Barnes takes him on to run one of the fortified section compounds on his ranch, a job that melds the post of ranch foreman and security force leader into one, neatly tapping Stafford’s military and civilian experience.

However, the colonel and his sons don’t buy Stafford’s cover story or his assumed identity. They’re torn between valuing his loyalty and bravery and suspicions that he is a fugitive who has committed a serious crime. Back home, the old friend doggedly pursues the cold case, slowly closing in on a man he thinks is dead.

Stafford knows he is caught in a vice and that’s what makes this such a classic noir tale. Earle deftly ratchets up the fear and pressure while masterfully bringing to life one country well before its dramatic change and another that no longer exists. That’s what makes PURGATORY ROAD such a crackling read. 


Jim Nesbitt, author

Jim Nesbitt

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An entertaining well-plotted police procedural which grabbed me from page one and didn’t let go.

 Life interupted by Death

This introduces Superintendent Veronica Reason, a tough clever determined investigator dealing with the intricate weave of two criminal threads. One concerns corruption in the British Police hierarchy and the other the murder of a beautiful young woman, strangled but smiling. The victim’s phone leads the investigating team to a dozen select sexual customers who need to be eliminated one by one until they are left with a randy priest who has been found guilty of embezzlement by the Bishop, defrocked and expelled, forced to survive on the streets of a northern city.

When his DNA does not match that left at the crime scene, the team must look elsewhere and find themselves on the trail of an unbelievable suspect. On the brink of an arrest, the trail twists yet again.

The detecting detail is competently effective as well as intriguing. However, that the same attention, when it is paid to the gastronomic intake of Subway offerings and coffee amongst other stuff, it becomes a tad tedious, which is my only criticism. The detail of living homeless on city back-streets is interesting but too much detail was given to that particular red herring. That the flow is so smooth and readable, however, made this less of an irritation that it might have been.

 The leading characters are very likeable and as a series I would decidedly enjoy meeting up with them again. The attached taster of the first chapter of the second in the series was a good move, and if I didn’t get my ARC’s free, I would definitely snap up this dish and look for the next course!

Jefferson Merrick

Robin Peacock, alias Jefferson Merrick, author


I selected this Free ebook from a bunch of possibles and was delighted that this one was worth a review here. This author merits a lot more reviews, the staff of life for writers.


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South California PurplesAt their best, the Western and the hard-boiled crime novel are distinctly American art forms that rise above the conventions of genre, the clash of good guys and bad guys and the word maze of the whodunit.

They hit this literary high ground when their authors tell a tale that not only entertains the reader, but provides trenchant and penetrating commentary and observations on everything from politics and the foibles of social expectations to music, the culture of a time and place, the frequently dicey interplay between men and women and the impact of the land on the people trying to wrest a living from it.

Chalk up Baron R. Birtcher’s South California Purples as a book that punches well above the weight of a crime thriller or modern-day Western. And let’s settle something right here — this book is more of the latter than it is the former, although enough bad deeds, violence and mayhem take place to give it a hard-boiled edge.

At the heart of Birtcher’s grim tale is rancher Ty Dawson, a Korean War veteran with a dark and troubled history that is obliquely hinted at. He wants to be left alone to punch cattle on his family ranch, the Double Diamond, tucked in the river valleys and mountains of southern Oregon and fictional Meriwether County. And those cattle are what give the novel its title — a breed so deeply black they have a purplish tint when the sun hits them just right.

Dawson is old school in his ranching — wouldn’t be caught dead rounding up cattle with a chopper. A third-generation rancher, he’s also old school in his sense of duty to his family, the land and the way of life he and his neighbors have carved from this special place.

Those values set him up to be badgered by a smarmy sheriff into taking on a job he doesn’t want — the deputized lawman charged with keeping the peace in the southern end of the county. The sheriff is cagey and plays up the threat of bikers, dope dealers and violent agitators drawn to a grassroots protest over a Bureau of Land Management roundup of wild mustangs for sale and almost certain slaughter.

The story is set in 1973, the year Saigon fell and the American economy was poleaxed by the Arab oil embargo. President Richard Nixon was caught in the glare of the Watergate scandal and federal agents and Native Americans clashed during the bloody occupation of the Wounded Knee, South Dakota reservation by the American Indian Movement.

The Kennedys and Martin Luther King are dead and America is torn ragged by a decade of often-violent turmoil over the Vietnam war and civil rights. It was a time when Americans were sharply divided and learned to distrust their leaders, turning deeply cynical about the country’s future.

This is where Birtcher hits the high ground, in the telling of these events through Dawson’s eyes and the rancher’s desire to protect his family, his ranch and his rural community from the turmoil he sees tearing up the country he loves. At the same time, Dawson is no law-and-order reactionary. He values the rights of the protesters to speak their mind and demonstrate their opposition to the mustang roundup, no matter how much he thinks they and the local political activist who organized the protest are wrong-headed and naïve.


Baron R. Birtcher, author

Birtcher’s prose is lean and semi-terse, but lyrical in his descriptions of the land and the tumult of the times. His style also serves him well in describing Dawson reluctantly stepping into his tin star role and the rapid escalation of violence that unfolds, from the murder of one of his ranch hands on the far reaches of his ranch to the grisly murder of two young men filming a documentary about the protest and Dawson’s confrontations with a biker gang that include a barroom shootout.

He serves up some rough, Old West justice that stops just short of hot lead when he and two of his deputized ranch hands take down the bikers at a local motel where the lawmen find a local girl getting gang raped. That arrest will have violent consequences aimed at Dawson, his wife and his college-age daughter.

Throughout the story, Dawson is very much an Old West lawman sticking to his code and his sense of right, wrong and duty as he wades through the corruption, incompetence and bankrupt morals of modern times. He has a strong sense that he is being set up as a patsy by unseen hands that are part of a larger conspiracy that involves state and federal officials. It is a hunch underscored by the appearance of a chopper-riding ex-Navy SEAL who backs his play during the barroom shootout and makes cryptic references to forces larger than Dawson.

Unlike far too many authors these days, Birtcher keeps a tight rein on the conspiracy angle and the actions of unseen and shadowy government players, keeping both the narrative and the action firmly centered on Dawson, his family and his ranch hand stalwarts. That reinforces the Old West feel of a novel set at the dawn of New West times, with a character in Ty Dawson who echoes a Gary Cooper striding down a dusty street alone at high noon.

The author provided Jim Nesbitt a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

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A true Whodunnit with more twists than hawser. Pack a picnic life support and get stuck in. Catheter optional.

If I die tonight - Gaylin_0001.jpg

The treasured car of an aging pop star runs down and kills a teenage boy one wet early morning. His phone cam shows his last moments and the singer declares that the lad was a hero, trying to help her when her car had been hijacked by another teenager in a dark hoodie. The boy/man had been trying to sell her drugs after she left a gig where she had been performing. Investigating cops, Pearl and Bobby don’t believe her.

Jacqueline is a divorced mother of two teenagers. Wade is the elder, a loner, a talented artist. Conner, 13, is woken by Wade in the early morning of the incident, dressed in wet dark clothes and instructed to get rid of a bag in a remote dumpster and not breathe a word to anyone. Wade is becoming increasingly unpopular with his school fellows and the social media turns increasingly nasty and suppositions become facts until Wade becomes a suspect in the homicide.

Conner is also subjected to increasing pressure by association; pressure he is afraid will overcome the trust and loyalty he has for his brother.


Alison Gaylin, author.

Helen is Jacqueline’s fellow worker and best friend. Her daughter, once Wade’s girlfriend, has dumped him. As Jackie battles with Wade’s increasingly weird behaviour, and his refusal to defend himself, she must battle with her belief in her son and while she relies heavily on Helen’s serene support as the community’s suspicion of Wade mounts.

New clues surface to cast doubt on the innocence of not only the old singer, but other players as well until Gaylin slaps us with the shocking final twist. Her characters are warmblooded with natural foibles, weaknesses, strengths and addictions. With some, integrity wins the day while others slide into ruthless self preservation.

Five-star recommendation for this one. The pace is whip crack, the clues keep coming and the agony of a loyal mother’s doubts is so real. Keep ‘em coming, Alison Gaylin.

Thanks to Penguin Random House, South Africa for the ARC. Herewith this honest review.

ISBN 978-1-78-089637-3.



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