FOUR KINDS of RAIN – Robert Ward


In Four Kinds of Rain, Robert Ward spins a classic noir tale that is both riveting and relentless in its portrayal of a desperate middle-aged loser who has stubbornly kept the faith of his idealistic 60s youth while the world passed him by and turns to crime to bankroll one last shot at love with a much younger woman.


Ward’s main character, Baltimore psychologist Bobby Wells, is known as ‘the people’s shrink,” a threadbare title that feeds his self-loathing as his tie-dyed faith sours and curdles. He’s lost his wife to a glib Dr. Phil-like character and his savings to an unseemly gambling addiction. He’s struggling to make ends meet and barely has enough patients to keep his practice afloat.

Even his best friend, a journalist and fellow traveler of 60s idealism who reveres Dr. Bobby as a tattered saint of the down and out, feeds Wells’ deepening depression about his wasted life and his stubborn pursuit of ideals his contemporaries abandoned decades ago.

Although Ward’s book is full of shocking twists and turns, with action that keeps the narrative fast and taut, he is at his best describing Wells’ harrowing descent into increasingly manic and psychopathic behavior that he fails to recognize in himself and the thrill and delusional sense of entitlement he feels as his criminal acts escalate from ripping off a patient to murder.

Not even the love of a younger woman can turn him from his chosen path — instead, it seems to heighten his desperation, mania and money lust.


Robert Ward – author

This is Jim Thompson territory and Ward walks it like he owns it, delivering a stark reminder that we all have a killer inside us.

Ward, born and raised in Baltimore, also shines when effortlessly capturing the unique and particular grittiness of Charm City. There’s a keen sense of place in this book that too many writers fail to create. Ward does so with a deft touch that avoids both caricature and the trappings of a local color piece.

The book’s title is a sly and bloody-minded play off the four meteorological categories of rainfall, ending with the monsoon. In the case of Dr. Bobby, the torrent is betrayal, blood and a bad end of the kind that happens to the protagonist in a classic noir tale.

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LIAR LIAR – James Patterson & Candice Fox

Feisty NSW police detective, Harriet Blue is off the grid, pursued by not only a fixated serial killer who was an intimate associate of her own brother, but also her own colleagues. Her only allies are a friend who should be in drug rehab, a fellow detective who is in hospital and her superior who has been sidelined.

Liar LiarAs she tries to anticipate the killer’s next victims, selected by their connection to Harriet’s past successes, he is steadily luring her into a showdown of his own choosing.

What should be a great chase and evade story is less so. This is sadly another example, few as they are, of the Patterson story factory firing, although not a total blank, a rather damp squib. Psychopathic killers are fairly flexible thriller baddies and thus useful for reasonably free licence, but Harriet, herself, I found to be less convincing.

Candice Fox

Candice Fox – author

Thanks to Penguin Random House, SA for this ARC, for which, as always, an honest review.

A Century imprint from Penguin Random House, UK. ISBN: 978-1-78-089877-3

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The BREAK LINE – James Brabazon

MAX McLEAN #1. – A possible contender for thriller of the year, if you are hooked on an absolutely brutal tale.

The Break LineIt grips like a vice and doesn’t let go, but this thriller is not for the faint-hearted and also not for those of moral rectitude. The protagonist is a killer for Queen and Country, although the Queen would never condone him, and very few in the Country would have heard of Max McLean except those covert few who choose whom he kills.

When he is sent to a military research centre to visit the bravest man he ever knew, he finds a mad wreck who has seen something so horrific that it has sent him over the edge. Now it is Max’ turn to go to Africa to have a look.

He has to kill a white man photographed between two huts in a wild part of Sierra Leone. The violent twists of both the plot and his personal life do not deter him, but the cold methodical killer begins to see cracks in his own armour that just might jeopardise the mission. And, what he finds fully justifies any man’s mind to fry. If he lives.

James Brabazon

James Brabazon – author

Book a hospital bed with life support before you start reading; this is not only a heart-stopping cracker, it is infinitely readable and sleep is not an option. Just now and then the credibility slips a little to suit the new direction, and maybe the gore would be over the top for some. Otherwise, for me, this is a solid four star.

Thanks to Penguin Random House, SA for this ARC. Herewith an honest review, as usual.

Penguin/Michael Joseph ISBN – 978-1-405-92943-1

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GHOST (Marc Dane #3) – James Swallow.

A five-star ripper.

Ghost - SwallowEasily swallowed techno language for any age of thriller palate, this is the third in the series, although the first I have tasted. Picture the sort of hackers that are able to turn off any major city’s electrical grid, raid banks through their computers, manipulate transport or start wars, and the chaos that follows. Consider the power that would generate in the hands of the unscrupulous, and you have some idea of the value to any buyer from Madrigal’s team of hackers, surfing the Dark Net. Besides being the ruthless leader, with a team of assassins at her bidding, Madrigal’s hacking talents are almost unparalleled.

And the disasters begin.

Is her lust for revenge unstoppable?

The only possible hope of thwarting Madrigal’s plans is the members of the Rubicon Group’s covert Special Conditions Division, including Marc Dane, ex-MI6 field technician. Among them is Kara, trusted friend, a Madrigal ex-protégé, a hacker of huge prowess.

Then to add to Marc and Rubicon’s woes, Kara goes rogue.

James Swallow.jpg

James Swallow – author

The plot is not overly complicated, but the surprises are continuous and the suspense is monumental. The action, both physical and cyber, is continuous and convincing. The protagonists battle from one disaster to the next, barely escaping calamitous attacks from their opponents. This is quite possibly the thriller of the year; a smorgasbord of entertainment.

Thank you to Jonathan Ball Publishers, South Africa, for this ARC. Published by  – ISBN: 978-1-78576-375-5.

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Anatomy of a scandal.jpgA court drama with twists. A politician, a close friend of the British Prime Minister, is standing trial for the rape of his mistress. We see the chief characters mainly through the eyes of the female judge whose detachment grows thinner as the case unfolds, and the wife of the accused whose turmoil is intense. The characters, their flaws and strengths, their fears and motives, are all beautifully drawn. Sarah Vaughan’s writing is impeccable.

The plot is plausible and the secrets finally revealed are convincing, but sadly, the pace, for me, dragged. I have to admit to skimming from time to time, although this did not rob me of much in the way of important detail.  If we are talking stars, here, this would be a three. The mechanics of the court, while emotionally brilliant, seemed to be flawed in the logic of the arguments and witnesses called as well as the evidence presented.

Sarah Vaughan

Sarah Vaughan – author

For more patient, forgiving readers, this will be a good quiet read to savour the word skills of a master writer, while perhaps not that of a brilliant story teller.

Thanks to Jonathan Ball Publishers for this Simon & Schuster imprint. ISBN9781471165009.

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TURN A BLIND EYE – Vicky Newham (DI Maya Rahman #1)

This is the promising first in a series featuring DI Maya Rahman.

Turn a blind eyeBeing Bangladesi born, she is ideally suited to deal with the multi-ethnic Tower Hamlet district of London in which she works. Hardly has she returned from the funeral of her brother who has committed suicide in Bangladesh, when she has to meet a new partner – a Scots Australian married to an Aborigine – and investigate the murder of a local school headmistress. With the corpse is a card with the second of five Buddhist precepts. Unfortunately, the clues are no use except in hind sight until more school personnel are dispatched and the third and fourth precepts are found with the bodies.

Hounding her for results, Maya’s superior officer is more of a hindrance than a help.

The writing is flavoursome; a delight to savour, but the pace is somewhat slow and the multiracial detail is a bit distracting from the who-dunnit aspect. The characters are well painted and develop into believable people, especially considering their multi-ethnicity. Although the different faiths and rituals are convincing, the motives behind the elaborate fixations of the killer are less so.

Vicky NewhamThank you, Jonathan Ball Publishers, for this ARC.

Published by HQ, an imprint of Harper Collins. ISBN: 9780008240790

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FOREVER and a DAY – Anthony Horovitz

The birth of a legend; James Bond, shaken but not stirred.

Forever and a day.jpgCommissioned by Ian Fleming Publications, this is a James Bond prequel. There have been many contributions, by at least ten writers, to the 007 extended thriller list. Author John Gardner was the most prolific, as by 1996 he had fourteen novels as well as two novelizations from the films to his credit. American author Raymond Benson took up the mantle with six Bond novels, three novelizations and three short stories between 1996 and 2002.

For my money, Horovitz is surely the most authentic in the Fleming mould. His grip on the Bond reality as per Fleming is less flippant than some representations; especially as portrayed by most of the film productions which tend to colour the subsequent written character.

Anthony Horowitz

Anthony Horowitz – author

As befits a prequel, Bond is not the hardened operator in this rendition as he is later, and his receiving of the 007 license to kill qualification comes with at least some small anxiety. I really liked his sense of mortality as he accepts the horror of the possible consequences of the acid treatment the baddy hopes to administer when he gets Bond where he wants him.

The exotic, stunningly beautiful, and devious women, the powerful, hideously cruel adversaries and world-threatening situations are here all true to the Bond tradition.

My thanks to Penguin Random House, South Africa, for this review copy.

ISBN 978-1-911-21478-8. Jonathan Cape.

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GOLDEN PREY – John Sandford (Davenport #27)

I was stunned to see that the Lucas Davenport series still ploughs on steadily with this, the 27th offering, and, no, it shows no signs of being dead in the water.

Golden PreyThere is a change of flag in that Lucas is now a deputy US Marshal, due to his friends in high places. So much so that he can select his cases; but that is no excuse for lowering his sights when it comes to hunting the most evil of prey.

Garvin Poole is one such. He’s a bank robber of the worst kind; the leave-no-witnesses kind, and although he had been out of sight for a long time, he recently executed a huge pay-off caper, along with a six-year-old witness. The drug gang whose cash he stole is not about to forgive and forget, either. They send a pair of vicious contractors who don’t mind torturing anyone who might know Poole to find him.

John Sandford

John Sandford

Davenport is one shrewd tracker, but soon finds himself in a race with the gang’s killers who might just find it easier to follow him while they are at it to achieve the same ends. The danger is constant, the flip from pursuers to pursued is cliff-hanging and Sandford is a master at that.

If you are a first-time Sandford reader, what joy to discover he is not only terrific but prolific?

My thanks to Jonathan Ball Publishers for this review copy. ISBN 978-1-4711-7203-8.


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CASHED OUT – By Michael H. Rubin

cashedoutcover1A JIM NESBITT REVIEW:



The main difference between Mike Rubin and all the other lawyers-turned-authors out there writing legal thrillers is that this guy writes like a homesick angel and never lets the law get in the way of a terrific and well-told story.

In Cashed Out, Rubin is note perfect in serving up a down-and-out lawyer with a name you could only find in America’s Banana Republic state, Louisiana. With vivid prose and an effortless familiarity, Rubin also captures the baroque and grotesque essence of the state, from the stench of petro-chemical plants along the Cancer Corridor to the patois of murderous New Orleans greaseballs, the silent ka-ching of politicians on the take and the cultural and political corruption that seems as natural as swamp gas.

The book’s main character, Hypolite “Schex” Schexnaydre, is a fourth-generation Bayou State native living in a rundown house on the ragged side of Baton Rouge, a failed barrister with no clients and an empty bank account until fast-talking, porcine G.G. Guidry shows up at his door to put him on retainer to draw up a quintet of shell corporations that name his mistress as president.

Money is Guidry’s game and he’s made his as a toxic waste disposal hustler. He’s playing a hazardous game of three card monte with state regulators who are about to shut down his infamous plant, community activists tired of getting poisoned and his partners, who include the aforementioned mobsters and Schex’s ex-wife, a hard-driving blonde with the focus of a heat-seeking missile on the money she thinks Guidry owes her.

It’s enough to get a man killed and Guidry gets murdered just a day or so after he puts Schex on retainer. But not before he pays a midnight visit and leaves Schex holding a suitcase bulging with more than $4 million in cash.

Michael H. Rubin

Michael H. Rubin – author

That makes Schex an instant target of cops who think he had a hand in Guidry’s murder, a philosophical mob boss and his rebellious button men and the mistress and that conniving ex-wife who both think they have a rightful claim to the dead man’s dirty money. Above them all, pulling the strings, is a crooked patrician pol with his eyes on the loot and the seat of power where Huey Long once ruled.

Schex, the perfect patsy, is on the run, dodging the cops and the button men, relying on his wits to clear his name, keep from getting killed and somehow get his hands on that money to beat them all at their own game. Off-shore oil rigs, Garden District mansions and a gruesome discovery at a processing plant for alligator skin and meat are all whistle stops on this rollicking ride.

Schex is nobody’s angel. But you can’t help but root for this native son of Louisiana, playing the state’s favorite corrupt blood sport. You want him to win it all.


Jim Nesbitt – author.

Jim Nesbitt is the author of two hard-boiled crime thrillers set in Texas and northern Mexico that feature battered but dogged Dallas PI Ed Earl Burch — The Last Second Chance and The Right Wrong Number. Both are available on Amazon, and a third is on its way.


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DAY of the DEAD – Frieda Klein #8 – Nicci French

Day of the Dead JpegAs the last leaf of autumn falls, so comes the final reckoning in Frieda Klein, psychologist’s pursuit of serial killer, Dean Reeve. Of course, just who is pursuing whom? If you like final conclusions, this is a deadly one indeed. It has taken seven nail-biting novels to get here.

Readers of the previous seven will know Frieda, her friends and family well, and will miss them after this final farewell, but even if you start right here, it’s obvious that they are all your old friends, as well. Loyal to a man, or a woman, she misses them as much as they do her, but with Reeve’s intent to destroy those near and dear to her just stepping-stones on the path to cutting her throat, she must avoid them.

Nicci French

Sean French & Nicci Gerrard – authors

A student, intent on writing a dissertation on the enigmatic Klein, steps into the path of the killer. As intent as Klein is on keeping away from her nearest and dearest to keep them from harm, she in turn must keep the student close to protect her. She must simultaneously follow the thread of a trail which the placing of bodies strategically around London indicates,until she can get ahead to lay an ambush of her own. Each new victim is a message. If she can’t interpret it, more may die.

An excellent finale to a great series. Thanks, Penguin Random House, South Africa for this ARC.


Note: Nicci Gerrard and Sean French also write separately.

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