Monday, 12 August 2019

Justice Gone by N Lombardi

This is a sophisticated legal thriller which tantalises you to the end. My first encounter with this author and his style and craft have ensured he is on my 'read more of' list!

Justice Gone is about a homeless war veteran, Jay, who is beaten to death by police for committing no crime at all. When three policemen are shot dead, outraging the community, the police are convinced another war veteran is their man: Donald, a close friend of Jay, so obviously, someone seeking revenge. His counsellor, Dr Tessa Thorpe, knows he's innocent, so she has to place her trust and confidence in lawyer, Nathanial Bodine to prove it: a lawyer who is minutes away from retirement and...blind. 

It's a well-structured look into the prejudices against and tolerance of both veterans and police. Lombardi tackles it with skill and the result is a compelling thriller. 

This is the first in the Dr Tessa Thorpe thrillers. I'm not actually quite sure why it was a Tessa Thorpe thriller as such. She didn't actually feature that prominently. There were a number of unanswered questions about her past. For instance, why she found herself on the wrong side of the law some years earlier. The lawyer, however, was much, much more interesting as was her co-worker, Casey, in whom I was way, way more interested: a dark and enigmatic character there, without doubt. Though again, where was his background? 

I shall look forward to another 'Tessa Thorpe' mystery, but I'd really rather like the blind lawyer and Casey to be in the cast.

Thursday, 11 July 2019

The Winner's Circle by P J Colando

A huge lotto win isn't an original storyline, but a half-billion lotto win is a shedload of money. A little obscene, some would say. So, I was intrigued by how this would pan out. 

Regrettably, I was never going to like Bonnie, one of the main characters: "Bonnie regarded a fur as entry level for a millionaire."..."Who needed lipstick and fresh makeup when a mink coat caressed?" It's true, you know: it takes fifty dumb animals to make a coat and only one to wear it. In this case, the dumb, brainless air head is middle-aged Bonnie, who co-wins the Boffo Lotto, news she shares instantly with her two best friends (Fran and Jackie), who consider they're entitled to decide how the money should be spent, inflation to the church funds and overseas travel high on the list. 

I was promised hilarity, but the sides of my mouth didn't twitch once. Sadly, I found it all boring and slightly irritating. Too much repetition caused me to sigh rather a lot. After nearly twenty occurrences, I won't be sorry if I never hear the word 'copacetic' again. (No, I didn't know what it meant, either). 'Crapola', 'hell's bells', and 'holy crap', were also over-used by the same amount. There is a plethora of very expressive swear words to use (I can suggest many), there really isn't a need to exhaust a small selection. 

It was hard to engage with any of the characters…at the end of the day I discovered nothing about them. How come Fran was newly married late in life? How did dim Bonnie find once-married Carl? Why was Jackie's son such a wimp? There are back stories here that needed to be told. 

The author is without doubt very articulate, but the style is a bit 'dense', which meant some unnatural, heavy dialogue. Sometimes less is more and simpler language makes for more relaxed reading. 

With sincerest apologies to P Colando, this isn't my book of the year.


Sunday, 9 June 2019

Chasing Love by Meredith McNeil

I could never ever write a book, so I have a boatload of admiration and respect for anyone who sits and spills out thousands of words. It must be a lonely, lengthy, tedious task. And some authors do it again and again and again…all for the enjoyment of people like me. It is, therefore, always with a heavy heart when I read the fruits of so much labour…and they just don't make the grade. Sadly, this book falls in to the 'fail' category. 

A thin plot didn't help. In a nutshell, Megan meets Jay in the army when she's stationed in Korea. He's engaged to be married. They have an affair. He does get married, they continue the affair. She gets pregnant. All very ordinary, very mundane and done a million times. So you've got make something very ordinary into something special to make it stand out. But the characters are bland, unlikeable…let's face it, Jay was a complete toad. There was no character development, the dialogue was monotonous, forced, wooden. And worse, there was no evidence of any editing: dreadful grammar, spelling, punctuation; poor, immature and repetitive vocabulary (I started screaming at the twenty-fifth use of 'he said laughing'.)  There was no comprehension at all of show and tell or head-hopping. It was like reading a twelve-year-old's first attempt at writing.

I struggled with this book after the first 10%. I never give up on a book and laboured right to the end…I thought I owed the author that much…but it didn't improve. The few reviews on Amazon are four or five star: without doubt by friends and family.

My five stars are for the commitment and enthusiasm this author must have had to churn out approximately seventy thousand words. No mean feat and certainly praiseworthy. But no stars for this particular output, I'm afraid.

(Please note that this book on Amazon is under a different title:  My Heart's Journey)

Sunday, 2 June 2019

Lie With Me by Andy Lanyon

This was quite a page turner…it had me guessing, unguessing, then guessing again...more than once!

It's a thriller about a married psychiatrist, Alex, who has an affair with a patient. Which, of course, is wrong. Cue: a blackmailer, who, with evidence, can wreck Alex's career. For the reader, there are a number of candidates who qualify as the culprit, but Lanyon manages to divert your thinking more than a few times.

The problem for me was that the 53,000 word count wasn't quite adequate for the plot and number of prominent characters. The book needed more showing, rather than telling, in order to be able to get your teeth into any of those characters. They were a little one-dimensional. Whilst the ending was nice and tidy…it's always satisfying to have all threads tidied up…it was a little crammed. There was plenty to be learnt about the history of some of the characters and their depths just weren't explored. Another 10-15,000 words to cover that and give those characters some substance would have made this novel complete.

This author can tell a story, there's no doubt, and certainly has a way of grabbing your attention. A wobbly start, but there's great potential there.

Friday, 24 May 2019

Something in the Water by Catherine Steadman

Would someone please capture the present-tense narrative, strangle it, pack the remains in a box, seal it, then fire it into space, where, hopefully, it'll get lost in the black hole, whence it can never ever return.

I. hate. it. It's flat, limiting and sucks the heart, the soul, the life, the body, emotion from every story. And in this book, it was a bit of a mess. The story starts in the 'now'. And then flashes back to the events leading up to the 'now'. So, by definition, the past should be just that. In the past.

My heart sinks every time I start a book and discover the wretched PTN. But, in most cases, thankfully, the quality of writing and a good plot manage to subdue my annoyance a bit.

Unfortunately, it wasn't the case here. The start was slow, and though it did pick up eventually, the plot was rather farfetched: a young couple, madly in love, have a dream honeymoon in Bora Bora. On a diving trip, they find something life changing in the water. Something that tests their relationship, their principles, their morals, their sense of justice.

And if Steadman is British, why she annoyingly chose Americanisms like 'bangs' and 'math' is beyond me.

Neither one of the couple, Erin and Mark, are likeable. It's difficult to empathise with either of them. There's also some unfinished business at the end. If it's meant to augur a sequel, I'll probably give that a miss.

Thursday, 9 May 2019

Tubing by KA McKeagney

My oh my, this is a thriller and a half. I wasn't sure at first: I wasn't expecting the erotic element...erotica isn't one of my top genres. (Should have read the blurb properly!) But it was secondary to the dark, twisted, psychological thriller this turned out to be: gripping to the very last word, with some surprises I never expected.

Sex on a crowded tube train with a stranger. Tubing. No names exchanged, travellers too engrossed with their newspapers/books/phones to notice what the couple in the corner is up to. Seems like adrenalin-fuelled, slightly dangerous fun to Polly: she's in a dead-end job, in a staid relationship with very, very, very nice Oliver, a successful surgeon. If she's enjoying it, if she's not getting found out, then it's okay, isn't it? 

But then it all goes horribly, horribly wrong. What on earth has she got herself into and why, why has she risked losing everything that was good, settled, secure?

Brilliantly executed, brilliantly written, I can't wait to see what McKeagney comes up with next.

Wednesday, 8 May 2019

Absolution by DV Berkom

Wow, just wow.  That's it, done: review over. Nothing more to say...just wow!

Speechlessness aside, Berkom has pulled it out of the bag again with her female Bond: spunky heroine, Leine Basso. A white-knuckle ride from start to finish in her quest to find and end one heinous life-devastating terrorist. Enough is enough: Salome has to be terminated. But this is a cat-and-mouse game. Salome has her own plans for the Leopard, Ms Basso. Everyone Leine has ever loved is in danger.

There's no time to breathe in this gripping thriller. What I love about Berkom's writing is that you never feel you're in a book. It's so descriptive, so fast-paced you feel you're watching, if not in, a movie. Now, there's an interesting question: why on earth has no one snatched up the Basso series and film-scripted them? They'd give the Bond movies a run for their money, without a doubt.

My only complaint about this book is that it's so engrossing, I finished it too darned quickly. There's always a gaping hole waiting to be filled by the next Basso adventure.

Hurry up, Ms Berkom!

Fire Walk by Melissa Bowersock

This is the twelfth in the Sam and Lacey series. I seem to have peppered my reading list with their spirit/ghost mysteries for a while, to the point where I am beginning to wonder what will I do when they're no longer around every third book or so! Comfortingly, I think I have a few more to go before that stage is reached. 

The couple is required to get to the bottom of a fire which seems to plague a certain property in a small town in Massachusetts. No sooner is something built on the site…a former site for a church…than it gets razed to the ground. They uncover lies, secrets and a fair old bit of resistance by small-town mentality. 

Pocket-sized though these books are, you never feel short-changed: just pleasantly satisfied and eagerly awaiting the pair's next case.

Right!  Watch this space...I'll be back with Sam and Lacey in two or three books' time!