THE DYING GAME – Asa Avdic

The locked-room component of the blurb was a well-wormed hook, so I was looking forward to this, hopefully, intriguing and promising thriller mystery.

The Dying GameAnna Francis is assigned by the Chairman the job of acting as a murdered body. She is among seven supposed candidates for a top security position for the State, but she herself is not a candidate. She is to secretly observe from hidden chambers within the walls of an inaccessible island house the actions and reactions of the other six when they realise that there is a murderer among their number, and reporting back to the Chairman.

If that was the plot, then well and good, but we are prematurely told that it goes awry before we start, so the twists, such as they are, are guessable. Anna’s backstory, of her mother with whom she has some friction but has to leave her daughter, due to far-flung postings in dangerous places, is not all that convincing as being essential, nor is her PTSD and drug abuse.

The point-of-view flips back and forth between Anna and Henry, one of their number, an ex-coworker, a man for whom she once felt some attraction and again feels when they meet again.

The voice of the tale has unfortunately got the ’flu’ and doesn’t flow very smoothly. There is little shock, little grip and no humour. And very little warmth to at least engender some sympathy.

 

åsa avdic

Asa Avdic

Unfortunately none of the characters, from Anna herself, Henry, her almost one-time boyfriend to the cold fish Chairman, endeared themselves to me.

 

This is an up-front review to an ARC sent by Penguin Random House South Africa. A Windmill Books imprint from www.penguin.co.uk ISBN 978-1-786-09021-8.

 

 

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The SNAKEWATER AFFAIR – Liz Adair.

The Snakewater AffairI could not resist my second visit with Spider Latham in this third adventure sent by adept author, Liz Adair, and was once again warmed by her lovely tough but moral protagonists.

When father Spider kneels beside his reluctant and troubled son Bobby to pray, you know that this is a caring dad of the old fashioned kind. When the same man hurtles over a cliff on a mountain-bike in his second attempt to ride this new-fangled machine, or takes a punch in the face in a case of mistaken identity, you also know that this is one tough son-of-a-gun. He is also a husband who feels guilty in leaving his wife Laurie to the imprisonment of looking after his dementure-ridden mother.

Liz Adair

Liz Adair

Deputy Sheriff Spider takes a week or two off without pay to accept a job offered by a mining magnate and businessman, Brick Tremain to find out why his son-in-law has disappeared after a visit to the Snakewater Mine. The miners are suspicious of Spider and at first uncooperative, but as a trained mine fitter, he solves a problem for them and wins their trust. The plot is suitably puzzling and twisted and the skeins are unravelled with tantalizing tension.

The characters are flesh and blood and the back stories intriguingly real. The motives are valid and reactions perfectly acceptable. Bravo, Liz Adair. Five stars.

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THE ENIGMA STRAIN – Nick Thacker

The Enigma StrainThere is no doubt that NICK THACKER is going from strength to strength, both as a writer and as a story teller. This story involves an attempt to nudge the Yellowstone Caldera towards erupting, at the same time ensuring that the nearby supply of nasty synthetic virus gets well distributed around the world along with the sun-blocking dust cloud.

It is not that overkill that bothered me as much as the motives of the perpetrators and the motives of the manipulators pulling their strings.

The trouble with giving away a free copy of the first in the series when you are on #3 or #4 is that readers are faced with all the errors the author has by now grown out of or improved on, so #1 is not always the best introduction.

Still, it is an entertaining read and there was never any desire to put it down. There are two main characters. Yellowstone Park Ranger Harvey “Ben” Bennett, a prickly solitary man who gets drawn out of his shell by the effervescent scientist Julie Richardson from the Centre for Disease Control. Their interaction as polar opposites is a big part of the human-interest story, but sometimes a bit unnecessarily frustrating.

Nick Thacker

Nick Thacker

The POV flip-flops sometimes, even in the same paragraph; a big writer’s no-no, and with some other glaring errors, it detracts from the essential readability. A good editor would smooth out the bumps.

This eBook was a freebie promo copy and this honest review is given in thanks for that, and in encouragement to NICK THACKER. May his reader list grow; he deserves it.

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The WORD is MURDER – Anthony Horowitz

The WORD is MURDERKeeping in mind that the author is the hugely talented author of a James Bond novel as well as being a Sherlock Holmes expert and screen-writer of some fame, with FOYLE’S WAR, one of my all-time favourites, to his credit, this offering does live up to demanding expectations.

The Word is Murder was more than an unputdownable whodunnit; it was a reading experience so on the edge of reality, linked to so many real people, with the author playing the part of himself, that the line between reality and fiction got so faint as to almost disappear.

Anthony Horowitz

Anthony Horowitz

As the blurb puts it, to the unpleasant detective, Daniel Hawthorne, fired from Scotland Yard, Horowitz reluctantly becomes the Watson to his Holmes. The Hastings to his Poirot. Hawthorne wants him to write a book about Hawthorne solving the mystery of a woman who arranges her own funeral and then is murdered a few hours later. There is one slight drawback – the mystery hasn’t yet been solved…

The plot is well twisted, the characters sharply sketched and the writing almost Conan-Doyleish. A seriously entertaining read.

My reviews are strictly honest. Thanks to Penguin Random House South Africa for this ARC.

 

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TROUBLE AT RED PUEBLO – Liz Adair

Five Stars! I loved this whodunnit.

Trouble at Red PuebloDeputy Sheriff, Spider Latham takes time off to go the Red Pueblo Museum for a friend to find out who is behind the efforts to wreck the museum financially. His wife Laurie goes along for the trip and, unsuspectingly they find themselves, and the community, up against a murderer.

It is quite awhile since I have come across such a huge group of valid suspects! There are a dozen possible perps and as many motives. Love, rejection, greed, ambition, desperation, hate, jealousy. The depths are well plumbed and the characters are real and recognisable. There is as least one character there just for the humour and warm eccentricity. So many of them are just plain real.

The raw Western US setting is described by an author with a great love of the country and a marvellous sense of place and history. The blood and the sex is subtly understated, which is a trait that suits me well. She has an equally fine ability to tune a mystery to the last surprising twist, but what I found overwhelming was the warm humanity of her principal protagonist, and his vulnerability to self doubt.

Liz Adair

Liz Adair

After never having heard of LIZ ADAIR, I now cannot wait to get my hands on more of her whodunnit stories.

My review is a Thank You to her free promo for the eBook copy.

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HERE and GONE – Haylen Beck

Here and Gone - BeckYou are on the run from a manipulative and heartless husband, just looking for a place for the night for yourself and your two kids. You have been pulled over on a lonely road by the sheriff who finds a baggie of ganja in your luggage. His deputy arrives to take the children to a place of safety while you are booked into the cells. Terrified, you demand to know where your children are going.

“What children?” queries the sheriff.

That’s when I started hyperventilating…

Brilliant stuff!

Haylen Beck

Haylen Beck, alias Stuart Neville

Haylen Beck is a pseudonym of the best-selling Irish author, Stewart Neville whose thriller, RAT LINES was reviewed with great enthusiasm back in April 2013 on MEAN STREETS book reviews.

 “What have you done with your children?” The sheriff, the FBI, child services, the reporters and the public demand to know. It hits the news country-wide. Across the country, a man who lost his daughter in strangely similar circumstance and whose wife committed suicide under the pressure of the accusations, decides to come and take a look. In no time he is drawn into the search for what he becomes convinced are abductees.

Despite knowing who the baddies are right from the get-go, the tension is screwed up tight simply by everyone’s disbelief in her tale. She has a reputation for being a drunk and a druggy, while the sheriff and the deputy seem spotless.

Five star thriller entertainment, this one! Well written, solid character sketches and a believable plot.

Thank you to PENGUIN RANDOM HOUSE, SOUTH AFRICA for this ARC for an honest review.

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MOVING TARGET – Lynette Eason

Elite Guardians #3.

Moving Target - Eason

There is nothing that helps the making of successful video games better than filming the hunting of real fleeing prey with cross-bow bolts and digitalising the action. Recipe: Drug Maddy McKay and Detective Quinn Holcombe, and take them to an isolated private island when you can hunt them down as they flee, a hundred cameras catching the action and mics to hear them scream…

Detective Quinn and his team are sniffing out clues to the whereabouts of a killer. But there is a list of who has to die and in what order.

Being the third in a series in which these two main characters feature is not a setback to starting here, as I did. What was unusual, and a little odd for a crime-fiction addict was the solid romantic thread, as well as the spiritual thread. It felt out of place in that Maddy seemed to almost be making it a condition of their relationship that Holcombe admit to needing some prayer and faith in his life.

Lynette Eason

Lynette Eason

Still, I enjoyed it and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this tale to thriller addicts, regardless.

ARC from Revell Publishing of the Baker Publishing Group, via Michele Misiak through NetGalley. Thank you, and also to Karen Steele, US Publicist.

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PURGATORY ROAD – Samuel Parker

Purgatory Road - ParkerThe portrait of the city slicker’s arrogance and inferiority complex is scarily realistic causing one to want to smack him at the same time as sympathizing. The cruel and accurate reading of his vulnerability by the unsavoury pump attendant as the last person to see the couple before they take a drive into the unremitting Mojave Desert is very well portrayed, as is his wife’s loyalty and support until she finally needs to act.

The couple’s rental car stops, cuts out in the middle of nowhere in the sizzling heat and the wait for someone – just anyone – to rescue them is moisture-sappingly brilliant. It seems to be more of a road to Hell, but at least Purgatory holds out some hope of redemption. They are finally rescued by a wizened desert hermit who takes them to his isolated caravan and promises to take them out of there when he – and they – are ready. When he decides…

Samuel Parker

Samuel Parker

That the pump attendant is a psycho serial killer comes as no surprise. He has a cave way out in the desert with chains plugged into the floor where he entertains his blood lust, and the Devil at his elbow to spur him on.

The two tales take awhile to collide, and when they do, all hell breaks loose.

It took me some time to come to terms with the supernatural aspects of the story, but looking back, I would have it no other way. The title is more than apt; and redemption has its price.

ISBN 978-0-8007-2733-8. www.revellbooks.com

ARC from Revell Publishing of the Baker Publishing Group, via Michele Misiak through NetGalley.

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TWO NIGHTS – Kathy Reichs

I am a Tempe Brennan fan, but not to rake up old bones, this is a stand-alone diversion. A fast moving exciting tale for whom, if it was for a debut novelist, I’d be encouragingly optimistic.

Two Nights

But Kathy Reichs is a furnace-cured seasoned author of some stature and, unfortunately, this tale is not up to her usual standard.

The plot is satisfactory. Tough ex-Afghanistan Vet, ex-cop, a feisty woman by the name of Sunday Night with psychological issues and physical scars living as recluse, is called on to investigate the missing, maybe dead, teenaged grandchild of a wealthy Chicago woman. After much soul searching she sets out to so. No spoilers.

kathy-reichs

Kathy Reichs

The flow is interrupted, rather than punctuated, by the scenes of a young girl in the captivity of what appears to be a religious cult. It is gripping, though, and there is plenty of biting humour. The subsidiary characters, however, are not as well portrayed and I found the appearance of her twin brother, seemingly out of nowhere, puzzling, although they made a great team.

There are twists but not devastatingly so.

ISBN 978-0-434-02112-3.

A William Heinemann imprint from Penguin Random House UK. Thank you to Penguin Random House SA for the ARC.

www.kathyreichs.com

www.penguin.co.uk

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LEDSTON LUCK – Andrew Barrett

EDDIE COLLINS series # 4.

Andrew Barrett is now on the top shelf and compares well with any of the best in the crime thriller genre. I am a fan.

Ledston Luck - E C #4

He is striking a nice balance with enough necessary expert detail which is so easy to over-do when the writer really knows his subject.

His protagonist, Eddie Collins, is a singularly stubborn character who sticks his nose, and often to its detriment, his whole face and even his life, where it doesn’t belong. He doesn’t have a life, except his job; a CSI or Socco, rooting out the tiniest of indicative details from a crime scene and hounding them to death. He skates on the edge – nay, beyond the edge – of his superiors tolerance for insubordination.

Andrew Barrett

Andrew Barrett

The tension is drum-skin tight, the characters, good and evil, are well drawn and credible, the finale is explosive. The couldn’t-put-it-down cliché is spot on. This is highly recommended crime fiction. More please, Mr. Barrett!

Thank you for this Kindle Edition from the author.

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