DOUBLE ECHO – Francois Bloemhof

An Afrikaans writer of huge output, with 24 novels for adults under his belt, Francois Bloemhof’s writing shines even in translation. Or maybe Maya Fowler’s contribution is an enhancement? This is an intriguing play/novel with only half a dozen characters, a come-into-my-parlour-said-the-spider plot and some fatal attractions that could only lead to disaster. Ah, but who, exactly is the spider? And, how many flies?


Ex-cop Paul Mullan helps millionaire businessman Bernard Russell to change his car’s burst tyre in the pouring rain, and is invited to stay the night in his opulent mansion, Journey’s End.

Which is what it seems as if it is going to be, for a man who thinks he has nothing to lose, what with the disaster behind him that ripped his life apart.

Then there is a glimmer of light embedded in an apple of temptation, and he can’t help himself from reaching out for a bite…



Francois Bloemhof

The characters, being so few of them, have every chance of being moulded in convincing detail, which is a daunting task if you are going to keep the twists coming right up to the end. Nothing turns out as it seems. Which, for me, made it slightly hollow, not being even allowed a hint of those other character traits that would explain those total surprises.


Thank you to Dominique Le Grange [] for this review copy.



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In the SHADOW of the MOUNTAIN – Fergus Smith

More than a thriller, more than a crime story of manipulation and murder, this is a story of men learning how to lead and protect their comrades, while learning to kill other men. And more than that:

in-shadow-of-mount“The true scale of the impact politics has on modern military operations, from an individual mission to the grand strategy, is one the taboos of recent history. This book breaks that taboo with brutal clarity and should be as thought-provoking as it is enthralling. In many ways, this is a story which has needed telling since Kosovo.” James Clark, former Defence Editor, The Sunday Times

 A gritty tale of a young British officer learning his trade; receiving a troop of men already hardened by the Falklands War, or bruised by the dark occupation of a treacherous Northern Ireland. Or both. The Mountain is the weight of regimental tradition, of pride and expectation that looms over him. Match up or ship out.

Paul Illingworth’s job is all; it slowly squeezes his personal life into a disposable package as he struggles to fit in, to be accepted without condescension. To be respected without familiarity.

A wanted IRA killer flees across the Irish Sea to hide among the Irish community of England, still on a guidewire, still with a job to do. The shadow of killing a joy-rider by mistake while trying to trap the killer is a shadow that lies heavy on the regiment, but fate has plans to bring them back together…


Fergus Smith

Undoubtedly Fergus Smith has the tee-shirt, but more than that; he has the gift of conveying the fear of failure, the pride of achievement and the remorse of mistakes with a gut-twisting reality that makes the reader hold his breath, smile, or slam down the book for fear of a heart-attack.


As Shackleton’s Antarctic epic journey across the ice and his return to collect his team without a single loss of life is a monumental textbook on the subtleties of successful leadership, Fergus Smith’s first novel would not be out of place on the same shelf.

Thank you to the author for this, my personal, signed copy.


And there is more to come. His second, Sunrise in the Valley, has just been released.


Published by Headsail Books.


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NEVER GO ALONE – Denison Hatch

Denison Hatch has done it again. The second in the Jake Rivett Series is as riveting as the first.

never-go-aloneAs breathtaking, as heart-hammering and as page-turning, but there is also the skein of a love story threaded into the fabric as well. I’m sure this is not the last of jake Rivett, so it’ll be interesting to see how that develops.

As an undercover cop, Jake lives in the Underbelly of New York, and as an adrenalin junkie, that suits him, but his readers have to somewhat be that way inclined as well, just to follow him without getting serious cardiac probs! For me, nothing is as suspenseful as Undercover crime fiction, if the protagonist is a friend of mine. As any writer worth their salt should make him or her.

Denison Hatch

Denison Hatch

The plot – a handful of Xtreme Xplorers, from right down in the noxious sewers of the city to up on its towering skyline, involved in targeting the mega-rich properties of a ruthless land baron – is credible and gripping.  The characters live and breathe, the flow is continuous, but the suspense modulates like waterboarding with rests…

This frank review is thanks to the eEdition sent me by the author.

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HOME – Harlan Coben

Harlen Coben has a grip like a vice and more twists than barbed wire. HOME is a Myron Bolitar story, his no.11 in the series, but no exception to his high quality. Myron’s nephew, Micky Bolitar also plays a role, for those fans of the Young Adult series.

home-coverWhen kidnappers grab two six-year-old boys from wealthy families, the ransom is demanded and everyone holds their breath. What now?

But nothing. Silence.

Ten years later, Win, whose cousin Rhys is one of the lads, receives word that the other, Patrick, has been seen in London. Win, a man of violent talents and many secrets, follows up the tip and spots Patrick himself in a seedy part of London’s underbelly. Some unknown men close in on Patrick. Win steps in, violently; but Patrick disappears. Win calls on his lifelong friend Myron for help.


The tale centres on their attempts to find Patrick, and follows the shattered lives of the parents and siblings of the missing boys. Tense and action packed, the tale whisks the reader along like a white-water raft down the rapids.


Harlan Coben

Win and Myron’s unbreakable friendship and mutual trust make for unforgettable characters, even if this is a late introduction to the pair. Even minor characters feel real and the hints of not-what-it-seems are there if you look for them without giving anything away to spoil the final twist, which, as usual, is a humdinger.

Searching for flaws, foreign readers might get a trifle miffed at the obsession with basketball, but there is no gainsaying Coben’s descriptive prowess – you can all but smell the testosterone of the locker room.

Thank you to the Penguin Random House SA promo team for this review copy.

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PIRATE – Clive Cussler & Robin Burcell

This is a treasure-hunting man and wife adventure; a Sam and Remi Fargo story, No. 8. I doubt that there is a Cussler book that one can easily put down. This is the first in the Series co-authored by Robin Burcell.

pirate-coverThis is another exciting, fast-paced thrill-ride and I have yet to read one that was not enjoyable, but I have got wary of the factory production-line thrillers produced by the authors that have made it. They tend to lose the shine polished up by the authors’ sole earlier works.

Besides the fact that this is more about non-pirates, the setting descriptions were not always convincing, e.g. travelling by car from London to Bristol: left the city behind, sped through green fields… I get the feeling that whoever wrote this, and other descriptions of the UK, either has never been there or has not got a good feel of locale. And I can’t believe that, in this instance, it is Clive Cussler.

 Back in 1216 England, we have King John and his entourage, plus treasure, fleeing for their lives. Poisoned and dying, and concerned for the life of his son, John is advised to ditch the treasure to take the heat off; to make his son less likely to be a target. A riddle is passed on through the generations as to where the treasure was actually secreted… The key to the riddle appears to be a cipher wheel.

Present day, a ruthless distant relative of the traitor in the king’s group is after the treasure, convinced that he is the rightful owner. He is a rich man with vast resources and a team of equally nasty murderous henchmen pursuing the riddle which is hidden in a rare book, the cipher wheel and, of course, the goodies…

The Fargo team, fortunately equally well heeled with a jet at their disposal, are one step ahead, or sometimes one behind, in the race to secure the loot for their charity and for the relatives of the good guys.

So, from an antique book dealer in San Francisco, to Arizona, to Jamaica, Brazil and various cities on the British Isles, we follow the frantic chase, from one scrape to another. All good readable fun, if you can keep your tongue firmly in your cheek.


Clive Cussler


Robin Burcell

There are about fifty characters to get a handle on, though, which can be a tad confusing, but our clever, tough beautiful pair make it through alright, of course, and I expect we’ll meet them again in The Fargo Series no. 9…


Thank you to the Penguin Random House SA promo team for this review copy.


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TEN DAYS – Gillian Slovo

A novel of monumental quality; exploring the depths of human political greed and ambition, and the results of small misjudgements which lead to life-changing disasters. The ripple effects go far beyond the thrones of power to lap on the shores of the tenements of London.


The time-lapse progression of the ten days, moving across the characters of the ambitious politician, the new police commissioner, and dwellers of the decrepit Lovelace Estate, hold the reader’s attention like a vice. So much so, that you might want to reach through the pages and give this one a punch, and that one a hug.

A mentally challenged man, seemingly causing a disturbance, is unintentionally killed in the Estate by police over-reaction. A heatwave does not help the rising tide of anger at the ham-handed reaction by the police. Before too long the new Commissioner has to try and deal with a riot, flooding the Estate with personnel he can’t spare.


Using the situation to his advantage, an ambitious contender for the Prime Minister’s spot makes his move, regardless of the effects on the lives of those he uses to pull it off.

Cathy Mason is a woman in the Estate with a fourteen year old daughter. Their classic relationship is beautifully described: the love, sulks, trust, mistrust between a teenager and the only parent she knows rings a lot of bells with our experience.

Her lover, Banji, leaves her bed, and her life. Cathy catches a last glimpse of Banji as he  tries to protect the fellow that died under a crush of police bodies. She used to know him, years back, also intimately. He left, then, too. Dark Benji, who came back into her life and then disappeared. A man she still thinks that she loves.

Now firmly on their radar, the police search for Banji ramps up, as the riots get out of hand and the Molotov cocktails fly. The Politicians make their nefarious moves and the Commissioner negotiates thin ice…


Gillian Slovo

Neither the title, TEN DAYS, nor the muted cover design are attention grabbers; they are too gentle for the power of this tale.

Thanks to Penguin Random House South Africa for this review copy.

Published by Canongate, Edinburgh/London.


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Let it be said that this is a tale that kept me glued. The two main characters lead their own lives but as their contacts increased, the respect that developed between them almost made one think they were destined to become more than acquaintances. But I was glad that they did not as it seemed to allow for a future continuance in the story by way of a series…

flowers-1st-case-coverJulia Flowers is a fifty year old antiques specialist working for Hillman Roberts Auctioneers. For insurance purposes, she had evaluated two rare, extremely valuable bowls belonging to a former diplomat stationed in China, Dr Anthony Gordon, who had come to a gruesome end. Now the Scotland Police in the shape of Inspector Bland have arranged to meet with her at the same Edinburgh residence in the hope of finding some clues that might relate to this now cold case.


Intriguing indeed, and so this gripping tale continues; a seriously worthwhile read.

The characters are real, the protagonists are warmblooded and intelligent and a reader gets more and more fond of them, which is always a strong popularity plus.

flowers-2ndcasecoverFor me, a curiously odd feeling of driving with one wheel on the road and one on the gravel was a noticeable switch in the writing of the two-writers team that is Alan Friedmann. One was much more tightly academic, one more colloquially smooth. Not a big deal, though. I enjoyed it and look forward to their next offering, coming soon.

Thanks to the writers for this e-copy!

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THE KILL FEE – Fiona Veitch Smith

The second in the series featuring an independent and strong charactered girl of the 1920’s, Poppy Denby is the Art and Entertainment Editor of the The Daily Globe. As the Russian Civil War edges into supremacy for the Bolsheviks, London is the main refuge for fleeing Romanov family members. Those that have not already been executed.


With a cast of characters that reads like a play, we have a lengthy list of suspects when murder is perpetrated at the opening of a Russian Art exhibition at the Crystal Palace, at the same time as a large hugely valuable Fabergé Egg is stolen.

There is not a dull moment and the readability never flags. The action is mostly in London as Poppy investigates, but from time to time we flip back to Russia, and the flight of a child in the care of an English governess. We get a glimpse of the times: the plays the dress, the music, the motor cars of the period. (Certain makes of the latter were checked up on to make sure that they existed then! They did.) Nitpickers might find slight discrepancies in timeline and location, but the author rightly claims artistic licence to make adjustments that fit the story line.


Fiona Veitch Smith

It is a fun whodunit of the old school with the requisite twists and red herrings, and a satisfactory denouement to confirm – or dash – the reader’s guesses as to who is/are the perpetrator/s of dastardly deeds.

My thanks to Remy Njambi Kinyanjui of LION HUDSON PLC for this copy for review.



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LOCAL POET – Paul Trembling

A big yes to this unusual tale of accidental homicide, and an awakening awareness of poetry, wrapped up in a gripping mystery thriller.


Rob Seaton is a very ordinary young man, working as a delivery driver, rocketed into remorse when a young woman steps into the road in front of his van. Absolved of legal blame, he is still compelled to get to know the woman whose life he has taken – Laney Grey, a local poet.

At the library he finds an ally who introduces him to Laney’s work, and to poetry for the first time in his life. The author paints a flowering of Rob’s simple engaging character into somebody much more sensitive and somewhat deeper. As he feels compelled to scratch away at the mystery that is Laney Grey, he begins to find that there is something sinister lurking there. In turn, his discoveries solidify him into a determined investigator. Which of course might be a short-lived occupation if he isn’t very careful.


Paul Trembling

A very enjoyable British crime thriller; tense and conceivable.


Thanks to Remy Njambi Kinyanjui of LION HUDSON PLC for this review copy.


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The JACK CALLUM Detective Trilogy – Maynard Sims

The wonderful thing about trilogies, when you have thoroughly loved the first one, there are more to come. And with this one, two more could never be enough! I felt rather lost when, in quick succession, I finished the third. What! No more?

I loved them.


DI Jack Callum is everything I’d look for in a real life hero; a man we’d be proud to know and call friend – canny and tough, loyal but firm. He is very human and decent in the oldfashioned sense of the word. A family man; we get warmly fond of his wife Annie, his two daughters and his fifteen year old son.

All his characters are such real people, and we know folk like them – the good, the bad and the brutal. The ambitious, the beaten, the sly.

There is smooth readability: the voice is warm, the flow is never logjammed. The three stories are gripping, but threaded with humour, and lots of common sense.



The plots, set in England in the late 1950s, are involved without being too convoluted. Feasibility, possibility and accuracy prevail.

no-evilIn the first tale a body is found with mouth and eyes sewn shut and wax sealing the ears. It is not the last, either. No evil…

prime-evilIn the second the body of an actor is found nailed to a tree, the start of an ingenious story of turf war…

For Her sins.jpg

Then, in the third, the body of a young nun is discovered prostrate on an orphanage chapel floor, severely stabbed. Under his tenacious guidance, DI Callum’s team pursue the clues to the surprising conclusion.

Maynard Sims.gif

Len Maynard & Mick Sims



Thank you, Mick Sims, for sending this delightful package to my Kindle! Herewith my absolutely honest review. 


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