COLD PRESS (Anna Burgin #1) – David Bradwell

Talk about twists!

Cold PressThis was a great read involving a fashion photographer, Anna Burgin, whose flat-mate and friend, Danny, an investigative journalist’s researcher is searching for his boss. He had an appointment to meet up with her, leading British tabloid’s Clare Woodbrook, but she is a no-show and her car is found abandoned. The police investigation into her disappearance is headed by DCI Graham March, the very person whose corrupt doings were being investigated by Claire.

Assisted by Anna, Danny tries to find Claire and avoid the ever bullying March at the same time. Danny seems totally unaware that Anna is in love with him, which, told from Anna’s POV, makes for a very funny situation, especially when they are forced to share the same bed, several times.

David Bradwell

David Bradwell – author

The characters are lively and convincing. The plot is a squash ball of surprises; you don’t know which wall it will next hit. I’m looking forward to the next in the series.

I chose this free tale from BOOKFUNNEL with no regrets. Thank you, David Bradwell. Keep going.

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SHADOW TYRANTS – Clive Cussler & Boyd Morrison.

(The Oregon Files #13)

Shadow Tyrants.jpgThe Boyd Morrison/Clive Cussler combo had me worried when I reviewed TYPHOON FURY, #12 in the Oregon Files Series, a while ago when I found it to be just too much to swallow, exciting as it was. Shadow Tyrants is, for me, a much more believable plot. It, of course, also involves the past butting brutally into the present; in this case when an Eastern Emperor avoids an assignation attempt and entrusts the nine scrolls of wisdom to nine trusted families, known as The Nine Unknown Men, who carry the knowledge faithfully for hundreds of years to the present day where the wheels fall off. Some of the Nine want the ultimate power that will be unleashed by combining the scrolls once again and eliminating the opposition.

Boyd Morrison

Boyd Morrison


Clive Cussler

Knife edge stuff, of course, and it’s up to Juan Cabrillo and the crew of the Oregon to thwart the threat to the world. The characters we know and love, as well as the baddies, are well sketched, the action is so tight, it’s almost a relief to know that Juan and his crew will make it through with just a few bumps and scrapes to fight again – and entertain us! – another day. Er, volume.

Thank you to Penguin Random House, South Africa for this ARC. ISBN: 978-0-241-34953-3.

A Penguin/Michael Joseph Imprint.

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Tom Clancy’s LINE OF SIGHT – Mike Maden

A one-night stand between a historic tour of the Balkans and a Jack Ryan Jr thriller. Roughly shared half and half, the 460-page tome could have made a good 300 page Tom Clancy gripper. Mike Maden is one of three authors in the Tom Clancy fine fiction factory.

Line of Sight.jpgHowever, as interesting and involved as the Serb-Croat-Bosnian entanglement is, the tourist trip of wonderful scene and cuisine would also certainly have encouraged a lot of potential new visitors.

On a personal mission for his mother who met, as her eye-surgery patient, a captivating child in Sarajevo years before, Jack meets Aida and falls under her spell. By luck and agent trade-craft awareness, Jack escapes attempts on his life, but does not connect them to his mother’s request. His own team of fellow agents try to track him but always seem to remain a step behind. He is strangely naive, convinced that Aida is surrounded by ill-intentioned men hell-bent on kidnapping her. Of course the truth comes at a cost.


Mike Maden – author

Mike Maden writes well; the flow is good and if you can live with the travelogue, it is an enjoyable read. If it’s a tightly-knit breath-robbing thriller you’re after, this is not it. Slightly disappointing, after I read Grant Blackwood’s Duty and Honour, which I enjoyed more.

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

A Penguin/Michael Joseph imprint from Penguin Random House, UK. ISBN: 978-0-718-18930-3.

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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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