crime

Review: First Response by Stephen Leather

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First Response by Stephen Leather, Hardcover, Hodder & Stoughton, Feb 2016, 377p.

4 out of 5 stars.

Another cracking thriller from Stephen Leather. If you have ever spoken to me about books, or read any of my previous reviews of Leather’s work, you will know that I am a pretty major fan of the Spider Shepherd series. I loan out copies of the books often because I want to convert others to the series – and most often I’m successful. Before the Spider Shepherd series began, Leather wrote a string of standalones, most of them excellent. On my bookshelves, the oldest saddest looking books are these standalone novels. Whenever I’m a little stuck for inspiration I pick up one of those older books and read. First Response is the first standalone that Leather has had traditionally published in a long time and it certainly deserves all the accolades and gushing that is now to follow in this review.

Let me start by discussing the protagonist of this wonderful story, Superintendent Mo Kamran. I loved reading about a Muslim in a position of authority in the police force. So many thrillers that the bigger authors write have a white hero defeating the great unwashed, brown enemy. Although Kamran is a Muslim, he is much more than that – he’s not perfect (which is sometimes the temptation when writing a subversive character, I’ve noticed) nor is his religion actually that important when he is doing his job. To me, this feels closer to real life.

I’d be remiss to leave out that he is dealing with a Islamic terrorist attack, but the way that is handled is amazing. The twist at the end – I didn’t see it coming. I knew something was going on, but I didn’t actually guess the whole story. It had the feeling of a murder mystery but it is firmly a thriller book, with a tense race towards a deadline. Leather has a knack in writing books that seem to straddle the action, mystery and thriller genres, and in First Response, he’s kicked that into high gear.

Due to the type of incident that Kamran is dealing with, there were lots of moving parts – and instead of having a hero cop or SAS trooper or something of the type, Kamran has an overarching view of events in the book, and interacts with politicians, police, intelligence agencies and the SAS. It felt more believable because Kamran was juggling all these different pressures and priorities and there was no single ‘hero’ who went in, all guns blazing, to save the day.

I’d love to see more of Mo Kamran, but I have this feeling that this book was a standalone and the universe won’t be expanding. First Response would make an excellent movie, with so many different incident points and a grand scale, it would certainly be something I’d go to a cinema to see on the big screen.

Review: No Safe Place by Matt Hilton

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No Safe Place by Matt Hilton (Joe Hunter, #11), Kindle edition, Sempre Vigile, May 2016. 270p.

4 out of 5 stars.

I reviewed previously:

The Devil’s Anvil (Joe Hunter, #10). 4.5 stars.

Old Fighters often seek that one final battle, where they can prove they aren’t over the hill, that they’re still a contender for the crown.  – No Safe Place by Matt Hilton

The Joe Hunter series is a contender for the title of most thrilling series. Each book consistently delivers more excitement, better plot and sympathetic characters. There is no doubt that Hunter would be the person I’d call if shit was hitting the fan. After so many books in the series, however, sometimes protagonists forget they should grow up. Matt Hilton has handled that brilliantly in No Safe Place – Hunter is starting to feel his age. He’s packing his backpack full of bricks to prove to himself he’s still hard.

The plot of No Safe Place is suitably twisted, with one red herring after another making it hard to decide if I knew what was coming next or not. A woman is killed in a home invasion/robbery, and Joe Hunter is hired to protect her son from further attacks. What follows is a race to find her killer, but not all is as it seems.

Hilton’s antagonists are becoming more complex with each book, and the big bad in this book certainly paid off in being understandable but terrifying. I loved the inclusion of a shaggy dog story from Hilton’s own policing career. It’s these little touches of humour and warmth that raises Hilton’s writing above many other thriller series.

Joe and Rink feel like family to me now, after reading of their adventures in the last 10 books. No Safe Place allows them the usual back and forth – the playful banter that I always mention when reviewing Joe Hunter novels is alive and well in this story. I loved that Bryony is back and making Hunter’s life more complicated in the best ways. The subtle romance that is woven through the story is slight, but doesn’t detract from the main story. Which is just how I like my romance in thriller novels.

The reason this doesn’t rate 5 stars is that it felt a little more sparse than usual. The plot wasn’t as fleshed out as usual in a Matt Hilton thriller, and it was too short. There was no subplot, and I am attached to having a subplot in these style novels.

If you are a fan of the Joe Hunter series, definitely check out this book. If you like Reacher style novels, try out a Joe Hunter thriller – they’re better.

Review: Promise by Tony Cavanaugh

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Promise by Tony Cavanaugh (Darian Richards, #1), Trade paperback from library, March 2012, 327p.

4 out of 5 stars.

I reviewed previously:
Kingdom of the Strong (Darian Richards, #4)

I’ve been in a bit of a reading slump recently, and even the latest book from a favourite author couldn’t drag me from my hole. The slump wasn’t all bad, as I wrote lots (just for a friend, nothing serious), caught up on some TV shows and helped a family member through a small crisis. Eventually I decided it was time to pick up a book again, and I decided to read Promise by Tony Cavanaugh. I’m glad I did – it dragged me from my slump kicking and screaming.

The fifth book in this series, Kingdom of the Strong, was published last year and made it into my Top 15 of 2015. I decided to go back and start this series from the start, in the hopes of a new release this year. One of the things that sets the Darian Richards series apart is the setting – the Sunshine Coast in Australia. As an Australian, my family holidayed in Queensland, and often on the Sunshine Coast so the descriptions of the setting are particularly vibrant to me.

Promise is a tightly written, plot driven serial killer thriller with one of the creepiest killers creating chilling havoc on every page. The baddie is hilarious and strange (letting me know he got his duct tape on special at Bunnings for 3.99) with a ritual and system to killing that made me feel quite ill. The killer reminded me of the serial killers that used to feature in Matt Hilton’s Joe Hunter novels, and there are some other similarities between these two authors. However, Cavanaugh goes more the police investigation route as opposed to the vigilante.

It would be remiss of me to review this book, or any book in this series without talking about Darian Richards – Promise sets him up as such an interesting and complex character. He’s a hard-bitten ex-cop who just wants to be left alone, but can’t really leave the cop’s investigation alone either. He’s conflicted, and has a strange relationship with 92 Berettas and the women in his life. Cavanaugh has done a wonderful job building a fabulous lead character, that I want to follow over multiple books.

This leads me to one of my few complaints about this book – the background characters are weak. Casey, Maria, the police officers and Detectives all seem like caricatures of actual people. I wanted to scream at how many times Darian thought something along the lines of ‘female cops are smarter than male ones,’ I get it, you want me to think of Maria as being intelligent – and I can’t because what you make her do is stupid half the time. It’s this kind of ‘telling’ and not ‘showing’, especially when they are at odds with one another that pains me. I don’t even have an opinion on Casey yet, because he just seems wishy-washy. I know that Casey and Maria especially become strong, fleshed out characters by the fourth book, so I’m happy to run with it.

The ending was good, if a little dissatisfying, and certainly left me hankering for the next book in the series. I have book three (The Train Rider) already waiting for me, but need to get my hands on #2 first!

Bout of Books #16 Sign up & TBR

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Hey guys! I’m emerging out of blogging and reading obscurity to take part in one of my favourite bloggy/reading events – Bout of Books! I’m looking forward to dedicating a whole week to catching up with some of my favourite authors and shunning the outside world.

I am going to challenge myself this time to read over 2,000p over the week, so I won’t be committing too much else. There will be no blog updates on here, and I might complete a challenge or two, but they won’t be my priority. Also, I’ve decided not to host a challenge this BOB, so that’s a little pressure off my shoulders. Interesting to see that all the challenges will be hosted on the Bout of Books blog this year. If you haven’t before, and are interested in this wonderful event, check them out here.

Most of my Bout of Books’ing will happen on twitter, where I am @bookybecksa and am much more active than here! I’m trying twitter as my primary platform because I find blogging to be time intensive during a readathon, and I always end up having to compose and combine multiple day’s updates in one post. If I remember, I will post a summary/wrap up at the end of the week, linking that to the Bout of Books blog too.

I’ve got a cautionary TBR prepared, but will allow myself room to mood read if need be. I’ve tried to include long but easy reading books and new books by favourite authors so that I can hopefully hit my word count!

TBR

Novels

Deathlist – Chris Ryan
Fire Point – Sean Black
State of Emergency – Andy McNab
The Black Echo – Michael Connelly
First Response – Stephen Leather
Dead Girl Sing – Tony Cavanaugh

Short stories/Novellas

Budapest/48 – Sean Black
The Soft Touch – Tony Cavanaugh
The Sandpit – Stephen Leather

Review: The Redeemers by Ace Atkins

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The Redeemers by Ace Atkins (Quinn Colson, #5), Hardback from Library, July 2015, 373p.

I live tweeted this book: #visitingjericho

I have reviewed previous titles in this series:
The Ranger, The Lost Ones and The Broken Places (books 1-3)
The Forsaken (book 4)

3 stars.

I’ve been waiting on The Redeemers since reading the last book in the Quinn Colson series: The Forsaken, which had such a great cliffhanger I have been thinking about it for around a year. The Redeemers did a great job in resolving that cliffhanger – leaving Jericho shaken up and the reader feeling very satisfied.

Atkins’ talent lies in creating strong, believable characters that you can’t help but root for. Lillie Virgil is one of these, and in The Redeemers she really gets to shine. I enjoy how she had a starring role in this book, she is tough as nails and mentally strong that she often comes across as cold, but in the past book or two of this series she has been revealed as one of the most generous and awesome of people. I’d happily hand over my hard-earned for a series of books in which Virgil is the main character.

I want to also quickly talk about Johnny Stagg. He’s a baddie who walks that line between despicable business man and despicable human being, and every scene that he is in I end up laughing uncontrollably. The Redeemers is strange in that Colson and Stagg don’t actually have to do with one another, but as always they are still connected and constantly thinking of their nemesis.

The thing that always drags me back to this series is the setting. I like the characters, but I LOVE the setting. Tibbehah County and Jericho feel so real, I actually googled them to see if they are real places (they’re not). It feels like Atkins is writing about real – fleshed out – places. I get (and appreciate) the small town vibe, I grew up in a small town but Tibbehah is still so foreign to me, the American South is a million miles distant from the Australian South. There are some similarities between the places, and there are familiar character tropes, the ‘redneck’ is essentially our ‘bogan’. I feel connected but distant from the people in the Colson series.

To conclude, I enjoyed The Redeemers by Ace Atkins – it is a good addition to the series. It’s a solid three star read for me.

Review: The Devil’s Anvil by Matt Hilton

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The Devil’s Anvil by Matt Hilton, Hardback, June 2015, 317p.

4.5 stars.

The Joe Hunter series keeps getting better and better! The Devil’s Anvil is my favourite book featuring Mr. Hunter, I love the direction that this series has taken. To begin with, the books were fairly black and white, with Joe taking down a supreme evil (usually a really messed up serial killer), but the books have become more grey, with the baddies not quite so cut and dry, and packed with more suspense and action.

That’s not to say that the bad guy in this book didn’t chill my blood, because they certainly did. I’ll try not to give anything away, but my favourite killer of any Joe Hunter book so far features in this book. Also, the involvement of the ATF was a bit different and I liked the way that Hilton handled that influence.

Books like The Devil’s Anvil are exactly what I need when I’m tackling heavy textbooks for school – I usually read them in a day or two, they are full of excitement, they immerse me fully in another world, and aren’t tough going (just full of tough guys). I reserve the Tolstoy’s and Dickens to my uni holidays, and indulge in good thrillers during semester.

Rink is exceptional in the sidekick stakes, I just love the guy- frankly I would read a book that consisted of only Rink and Joe’s banter, it doesn’t seem contrived and reminds me of conversations I have with my friends – insulting on the surface, but underneath there is a sense of loyalty. I would have liked more Rink time in The Devil’s Anvil, but I’m sure I say that after each Joe Hunter book.

I’ve now got the long wait for next year’s installment, which certainly won’t come soon enough! (I’ll secretly be wishing that it’s set in England, Rink in England… be still my racing heart!)

Review: Split Second by Alex Kava

19250151Split Second by Alex Kava, paperback from library, 2001, 408p.

Alex Kava’s Split Second is the second book in Kava’s Maggie O’Dell series, and was an enjoyable read. I did prefer the first book in the series, and felt like Split Second was weaker, like so many second books are. It took me awhile to read it, even though it wasn’t a hard or long read, because I kept getting distracted by other books.

Maggie is a good character, and I do like her, although sometimes I want to smack her over the head for stupid decisions that she made. I find this with most crime series, that the main characters usually make reckless decisions because it is fun to read about the aftermath of these actions.

The plot in this story wasn’t my favourite. The serial killer seemed to be a caricature of the worst serial killer you could imagine, and the police’s inability to stop him when he was being reckless annoyed me. I love Kava’s writing style and her characters, but this plot just didn’t capture me.

I have the next book in this series on my bookcase to read, and I will be giving O’Dell another bash, but I just hope that the plot of the third book is stronger than that of Split Second.