EJ Knight’s Monthly Crime Reviews: October 2015

This month, EJ Knight kicks off a series of crime novel reviews with a diverse selection of serial characters.

When do you finish writing a popular series? Sue Grafton appears to have made her decision from the first novel as she gently winds our way with Kinsey Millhone and the alphabet series to ‘Z’; Janet Evanovich seems destined to go on forever and may be, even now, pondering what adjective or adverb to go with infinity; while Lindsey Davies took the clever step of a spin-off from the Falco novels. I found myself pondering ‘the end’ while I was reading The Survivor by Kyle Mills. Mills has been brought in to continue the Mitch Rapp series after Vince Flynn’s death. And, he almost pulls it off. The Survivor picks up immediately from where The Last Man finished and the race to find top secret material before it is posted on the internet. The action, as one would expect from the series, is unrelenting and the story, although predictable, is exactly what one reads this type of book for. But, for me, the characters were just not quite right – too introspective whilst, at the same time, being too flat. I’d completed the book before realising that Flynn had died and Mills was taking on the series and, as I read the last page, I wondered if it had been a book too far in the series. There is only one Mitch Rapp; and there was only one Vince Flynn to give him the right voice.

So as one series hits the ‘do not buy again’ list, I’ve discovered two new series this month which I would definitely read again, one which I’ll consider, and one which I may have caught as it finishes. Cover Shot by LynDee Walker is the fifth in the series featuring Nichelle Clarke, a journalist in a local newspaper who, in the pursuit of the full story, finds herself investigating murder, hostage-taking, and fighting for her own life. It’s the usual plot of an amateur detective but that would be to undersell what is a really well-written, well-paced and compelling story. I liked Nichelle and I wanted her to find out who had killed the doctor and why. I really did. And so what if I thought it was a little derivative of Evanovich? It was still a great read and I’ll read the earlier ones in the series now. The same is true for Rose Strickland in Diner Knock Out by Terri L. Austin. This time the main character is learning how to be a private investigator and, out of pique with her employer, takes on a case without telling him. Surprise, surprise – it turns out to be more complicated than she realised and she needs his help to solve the murder(s). As in Cover Shot, there is a criminal boyfriend whose heart is in the right place and there are side-kicks who are also colourful friends. But, again, it really works and I found myself rooting for Rose, wanting her to sort out her love life and solve the murder. And survive the threats to her life so that there would be more books in the series.

By coincidence, the fourth book in this review is also set in the US. Brother can you spare a dime by Jack Martin is set in the Depression. The main character, Henry Bierce, is an enigmatic member of the FBI, with a twist which is strongly alluded to but never quite stated clearly. I’m not going to say more because Martin introduces the hints with great subtlety and a very deliberate pace and, it would give away much of the suspense to know the twist before reading the book. In trying to identify the conspirators behind an attempt on FDR’s life, Bierce has run-ins with Bonnie and Clyde and other gangsters of the period – all of which give an interesting twist to the known stories of the time. This is the first in the series and it doesn’t quite work in places – I found some of the pacing uneven and there was sometimes too much setting up of series story-lines at the expense of successful novel resolution – but I am certainly looking forward to the next in the series and getting to know more about Henry.

And will I ever get the chance to know more about Christopher Fowler’s Bryant and May without going back to the previous 11 in the series? The Burning Man is number 12 and, given the way it ends, it has a sense of finality to suggest that Fowler has decided to call it quits. Or has he? Because the Kindle edition suggested that there may be more to come. If there are, I shall be reading them. Bryant and May may not need much introduction since they were introduced in 2003 in Full Dark House. The two members of the Peculiar Crimes Unit live and work in London and, in this novel, rush to find an arsonist and murderer before anarchy spills over from the City to the rest of London. I read this with that feeling of being the newbie to the meeting – the person who has to learn who is who and ‘why things are done this way’ but it didn’t detract too much from the clever and contemporary plot.

*****

All the books reviewed here were free from NetGalley in exchange for impartial reviews.

EJ Knight will be publishing a monthly review of crime fiction. If you would like your book to be considered, please email at allonymbooks@gmail.com. EJ Knight’s novel Broadway Murder of 1928 is available from all Amazon websites.

Indie Book Reviews (7)

The books reviewed by allonymbooks author Evie Woolmore this week share strongly imagined worlds.

Demon’s Grip by Tahlia Newland (Amazon UK and Amazon US)

DPeakDG2.2The third novel in the Diamond Peak series by Tahlia Newland is a somewhat different book to its two predecessors. Perhaps that is not surprising, for over the course of a series of books, the pacing will vary, and the narrative will bend and flex as it moves towards its concluding volumes. Unlike other serial novels, like the Harry Potter books, Ariel is on a long linear journey, and so the books will vary on that journey. Continue reading

Indie Book Reviews (5)

We mark the reopening of the book review list with a review of Leigh Podgorski’s novel, Desert Chimera.

Desert Chimera by Leigh Podgorski (Amazon UK and Amazon US)

Leigh Podgorski’s biography notes “her scholarship and fascination with the diverse cultures of the Earth” and her novel Desert Chimera is a testament to both that attention to detail and her desire to do justice to the beauty and complexity of those cultures. Set over a period of less than twenty four hours in the evocatively named Desert Wolf Café located “on a lonesome slice of highway” in Death Valley, four characters are brought together to witness another two fight for control of their entwined destinies. These six very diverse individuals with lovely names – café owner Eppie Falco, handyman Leo Monroe, travellers Mack Starr and Consuelo Vasquez, and the two central characters Luke Stone and Armand Jacobi – are well painted by the author and their natural, well-rounded dialogue plays a significant part in drawing the reader in. Continue reading

Reviewing Indie Books: The stories so far…

As we re-open the review list for indie authored books this week, allonymbooks author Evie Woolmore reflects on what she has learned so far about indie publishing from reviewing.

As a rule, I enjoy reading book reviews. I scan the pages of the main British newspapers two or three times a week, looking not only for the formal recommendations but also the reader-recommended novels. I read those little cards on the shelves in Waterstones written by their staff, and I read other book reviewers’ blogs. I even read The Economist‘s arts section to see which book they have allowed to rise to the top of the pile. If they are reviewing a fiction book, it’s usually interesting (if not good).

But do I ever read the books that are recommended by others?

That’s an obvious reason for reading a review, to get a recommendation. But let me give you the other reason I read reviews. Because they tell you so much about the reviewer too. Continue reading

Evie Woolmore’s interview with Lector’s Books

Lector’s Books tells a wonderful tale of how a book can enchant you so much that you put your life on hold to read it straight through from start to finish. Fortunately for me, the book in question was my novel, Equilibrium (information about the story, an audiobook extract, and links to Amazon from the Equilibrium webpage).

So I was delighted when Lector’s Books invited me to give an interview about writing, about Equilibrium and about my new novel The Salt Factory, to be published later this month.  Read my interview, find out more about the excellent Lector’s Books website, and check out some of their recommendations for great indie published novels. Lector’s Books have also published a review of the novel on Amazon.

Indie Book Reviews (4)

This week Evie Woolmore reviews the second in Tahlia Newland’s Diamond Peak series, and a cold war thriller by Helena Halme.

Stalking Shadows by Tahlia Newland (Amazon UK and Amazon US)

This second volume in Tahlia Newland’s YA series picks up just where the first volume, A Lethal Inheritance, finishes. Ariel has barely begun her journey to rescue her mother and she has already faced both the darkest of foes and her own internal doubts and fears. Following a fierce battle, she has barely time to regroup before she and Nick, her companion and would-be boyfriend must set off again on this, the next stage of their journey. Continue reading

Indie Book Reviews (3): British Indie Authors (1)

This week Evie Woolmore flies the flag by reviewing books by three British (or British-born) indie authors.

Dogtooth Chronicals by Kirsty Fox

Despite its stark quasi-apocalyptic backdrop, Dogtooth Chronicals is in many ways a love letter. It is a saga, a fantasy/nightmare, an epic multi-dimensional, multi-narrative prophecy, and it is long. But – and perhaps this is where being a British reader reviewing a British novel really shows – it is truly a love letter to the cities, landscape and weather of Britain.

The novel is woven together from the first person narratives of a diverse and distinctive cast of characters whose lives individually and together are chronicled before, during and after a dramatic and world-changing weather event. That is to over-simplify the plot, for if it is a dramatically compelling portrait of how people survive in the most desperate circumstances, it is also an analysis of what parts of themselves are preserved and what parts are given up when people’s lives change beyond anticipation. Each of the characters is bearing the complexities of their past in some way, which will propel some forward and which others will finally be able to surrender.
It is far too complex a novel to discuss in a short review, and certainly some readers may be put off by the novel’s sheer length. For this reviewer, the opening section before The Weathers was Continue reading