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The Dragon and the Lumberjack by S W Ellenwood: punchy, fast-paced thriller

Synopsis

The sequel to S. W. Ellenwood’s debut novel, The Janitor and the Spy, picks up six months after Thomas Thornhill’s nightmare mission in Amsterdam. On his own, he now goes under the alias of Jack Montferrand and seeks to gain entry into the oldest and most dangerous triad in Asia to find Them.

On the inside, he finds the triad not as stable as he thought, forcing him to win their trust and prove his worth to them at every turn as new rivals sprout up. He plunges his hands deeper into the filth, and himself deeper into the alias of Jack, so much so that he starts to wonder where Thomas ends and Jack begins.

 

My reviews

This is another fast-paced, snappy thriller that carries on from where The Janitor and The Spy left off. It’s largely set in Hong Kong where our hero Thomas, going by the name of Jack Montferrand, needs to infiltrate one of the triads in order to continue to track down ‘The Twelve’ whom he learned about in the first novel. His ex-boss, who died at their hands as did Thomas’s fiancé, gave him a name as a lead to find them, and this is what Thomas is working on. It’s not going to be straightforward and it’s bound to be painful, if not deadly.

The author has a light, easy style, with touches of humour, but he can create horror and tension just as well. He’s obviously done a lot of research and creates a very convincing setting for the action, down to details of ethnic food the characters eat. The characters in question are interesting and rounded, and we get a good idea of what makes them tick, particularly Thomas.

Punchy and enjoyable, definitely one to read if you enjoy contemporary thrillers. There’s doubtless a lot more to come from this talented author.

 

Purchase Links

UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Dragon-Lumberjack-Thornhill-Book-ebook/dp/B07JFCHTD4

US – https://www.amazon.com/Dragon-Lumberjack-Thornhill-Book-ebook/dp/B07JFCHTD4

Author Bio

S. W. Ellenwood is thankful to have a close-knit family of two parents, a brother, and two sisters. A homeschooler who graduated college from the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith, Ellenwood loves all forms and genres of stories and was inspired by The Lord of the Rings films and his parents to write. You can find Ellenwood writing his next novel at the local coffee shops or playing table top games with his best friends.

Social Media Links –

Twitter: https://twitter.com/swellenwood

Website: http://www.swellenwood.com/

 

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Good Samaritans by Will Carver: darkly ingenious

Synopsis

One crossed wire, three dead bodies and six bottles of bleach…

Seth Beauman can’t sleep. He stays up late, calling strangers from his phonebook, hoping to make a connection, while his wife, Maeve, sleeps upstairs. A crossed wire finds a suicidal Hadley Serf on the phone to Seth, thinking she is talking to The Samaritans. But a seemingly harmless, late-night hobby turns into something more for Seth and for Hadley, and soon their late-night talks are turning into day-time meet-ups. And then this dysfunctional love story turns into something altogether darker, when Seth brings Hadley home… And someone is watching… Dark, sexy, dangerous and wildly readable, Good Samaritans marks the scorching return of one of crime fiction’s most exceptional voices.

 

My review

This is a book that will probably push you out of your comfort zone. It certainly did with me. Too many books like this and I’d be losing my faith in human nature! The book is very darkly ingenious and intensive, and makes for a very original if challenging read. It’s worth the effort, though, as it’s very entertaining and will totally grip you.

We have a cast of damaged characters. The punchy storyline varies between these different people, which adds yet another layer of wariness and menace to the novel that’s already full of it. They all have secrets, that range from shady to downright murky, and are the sort of people you’d be well advised to run away from should you encounter them in a dark alley!

The book is full of energy, and also surprises. Even in an unpredictable book, we like to think we have an idea what might happen next. You don’t have a hope in this one. The author’s creativity knows no bounds and he leads us a macabre, merry dance.

If you fancy a book that’s definitely unique, blackly quirky and which will leave you plenty to think about, then this is one for you.

 

About the author

Will Carver is the international bestselling author of the January David series (Arrow). He spent his early years in Germany, but returned to the UK at age 11, when his sporting career took off. He turned down a professional rugby contract to study theatre and television at King Alfred’s, Winchester, where he set up a successful theatre company. He currently runs his own fitness and nutrition company, while working on his next thriller. He lives in Reading with his two children.

 

The book is published by Orenda Books and is available in all Amazon stores as an ebook and paperback, and also as an audiobook.

 

 

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The Fourth Victim by John Mead: police procedural with a strong sense of place

The Fourth Victim

Whitechapel is being gentrified. The many green spaces of the area, which typify London as a capital city, give the illusion of peace, tranquillity and clean air but are also places to find drug dealers, sexual encounters and murder.

Detective Sergeant Julie Lukula doesn’t dislike Inspector Matthew Merry, but he has hardly set the world of the Murder Investigation Team East alight. And, it looks as if the inspector is already putting the death of the young female jogger, found in the park with head injuries, down to a mugging gone wrong. The victim deserves more. However, the inspector isn’t ruling anything out – the evidence will, eventually, lead him to an answer.

 

My review

This is a carefully written police procedural with a strong sense of place. London oozes out of every sentence and is created in detailed imagery. It’s not always pleasant but cities have their blemishes. There’s also the added dimension of mental health issues in the form of Dissociative Identity Disorder, which is dealt with sensitively although we see the devastating consequences it can have in this novel.

The author gets inside his characters’ skins. We see how and why they annoy each other, why they’re attracted to people they know they shouldn’t be, how they’re crippled by grief, driven by the desire for justice, as the case may be. The human interest level is always there, which sometimes isn’t the case in procedurals where it’s all about unmasking the villain. The author admits to being a ‘people watcher’ and that comes through very clearly. He creates real people, warts and all.

The plot’s an interesting one, particularly with the element of DID as part of its complexity, and it’s particularly clever how we have three dead bodies, yet indisputably four victims. A nice touch.

The Fourth Victim is an absorbing novel that will appeal to readers who enjoy solving crimes alongside fascinating protagonists.

Purchase Links

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Fourth-Victim-John-Mead/dp/1912575361/

https://www.waterstones.com/book/the-fourth-victim/john-mead/9781912575367

Author bio

Born in the mid-fifties in East London, on part of the largest council estates ever built, I was the first pupil from my local secondary modern school to attend university.

I have travelled extensively during my life from America to Tibet. I enjoy going to the theatre, reading and going to the pub. It is, perhaps, no surprise that I am an avid ‘people watcher’ and love to find out about people, their lives, culture and history.

Many of the occurrences recounted and the characters found in my novels are based on real incidents and people I have come across. However, I have allowed myself a wide degree of poetic licence in writing about the main characters, their motivations and the killings that are depicted.

 

Social Media Links 

Amazon author profile: https://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B07B8SQ2ZH

Twitter: https://twitter.com/JohnMeadAuthor

Goodreads profile: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17891273.John_Mead

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Steel and Shadows by Stuart Field: gritty, clever and exciting

I’m delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for ‘Steel and Shadows’ by Stuart Field, published by Crime Scene books. If you enjoy breathless, gritty thrillers that are well thought out, then this is most definitely the book for you.

Synopsis

No-nonsense NYPD detective Sam McCall is investigating one of the deadliest and most complex cases of her career when the mysterious, yet infuriatingly intriguing, John Steel insinuates himself into the department. What appears at ?rst to be the work of a serial killer soon encompasses a cast including violent Russian gangsters, creepy psychiatric doctors, the homeless community and ghosts from the past for both McCall and Steel. This fast-paced thriller combines grit and glamour, the well-drawn characters engage the reader from the outset and the Big Apple is beautifully captured in all its majestic, romantic, seedy, grimy colour. This debut novel keeps the reader gripped from start to ?nish with a breathtaking joyride through a wild series of unexpected twists and turns, inevitably falling into the pitfalls of thinking you’ve solved the mystery, only to ?nd yourself wrong-footed on the next page.

 

My review

This is a high-octane, fast-paced thriller, with a complex plot that’s both clever and cleverly delivered. This author is very good at not giving too much away. He enjoys keeping us on tenterhooks all the way through the book. You can’t help trying to guess what’s going to happen next, or attempting to piece the clues together, but the author’s always one step ahead, laying a misleading trail of breadcrumbs! This makes the book all the more exciting: all you know for sure is that you don’t know what’s going to happen next       

It’s very much action driven although there are slower moments where we see characters and relationships develop. There is a lot of violence, but it’s not glorified and yet neither is it diminished.  It’s shown to be cruel and largely fruitless, although revenge can validate it to an extent. The book is merely brining an element of life we prefer to ignore to the forefront: there are evil bastards are out there doing despicable things. But it’s not intended to be depressing. Fighting in the good corner are the likes of the mysterious, elusive John Steel and the in-your-face Sam McCall.

These are both excellent characters. There’s a hint of 007 about Steel, given his well-to-do background, his calmness, his desire to get a job done efficiently, but he’s facing rather more down-to-earth adversaries. They don’t want to take over the world, merely make more money. McCall is altogether more instinctive and impetuous than Steel, but that only makes her an even better cop although a more vulnerable human being.

The book gains in pace and excitement as it proceeds, and I sensed the author grew in confidence too. He really gets into his stride in this first novel of a series, and I’m  looking forward to seeing how both he and his characters will blossom in future ones. More books in the series are due out in 2019, which is really good news!

I must comment on the excellent cover too – it’s really eyecatching and classy, hints at the story and I think reflects how committed Stuart Field is to delivering top quality work to his audience.  

About the author

Stuart Field was born in the UK, in the West Midlands. He spent his early years in the army, seeing service in all the known (and some unknown) hotspots around the world. He now lives in Germany with his wife Ani. When not engaged in highly con?dential security work, he writes thrillers which perhaps mimic his life-experience more than the reader would like to believe.

 

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Trap by Lilja Sigurdardóttir: an enthralling thriller

I’m thrilled, in every sense, to be taking part in the blog tour for ‘Trap’ by Icelandic author Lilja Sigurdardóttir (translated by Quentin Bates).

Synopsis

 

Happily settled in Florida, Sonja believes she’s finally escaped the trap set by unscrupulous drug lords. But when her son Tomas is taken, she’s back to square one … and Iceland. Her lover, Agla, is awaiting sentencing for financial misconduct after the banking crash, and Sonja refuses to see her. And that’s not all … Agla owes money to some extremely powerful men, and they’ll stop at nothing to get it back. With her former nemesis, customs officer Bragi on her side, Sonja puts her own plan into motion, to bring down the drug barons and her scheming ex-husband, and get Tomas back safely. But things aren’t as straightforward as they seem, and Sonja finds herself caught in the centre of a trap that will put all of their lives at risk… Set in a Reykjavík still covered in the dust of the Eyjafjallajökull volcanic eruption, and with a dark, fast-paced and chilling plot and intriguing characters, Trap is an outstandingly original and sexy Nordic crime thriller, from one of the most exciting new names in crime fiction. 

The book is published by Orenda Books.

 

My review

I’d heard of Nordic Noir, of course, and watched several such series on TV, but this is the first time I’ve read such a book in this genre. And what a fabulous introduction it’s been!

I was enthralled from the first page – by the characters, the clever plot and the sheer readability. The book is the second in a series, but I hadn’t realised that when I began reading and I don’t feel I missed anything. However, I shall definitely be reading ‘Snare’ to find out how the characters get into their present predicaments.

All the characters – the good, the bad and the in-between – rise off the page. They’re rounded and convincing, and we get to see what makes each of them tick. Young Tomas is particularly well portrayed I think: we really see things from his perspective whenever he’s involved. That gives a fresh insight into our other characters when we share Tomas’s view of them. Thanks to his childish innocence we get to see these people, his parents chief amongst them, as they might have been had life’s complications not got in the way.

The book’s title couldn’t be more apt. Many of the characters are in traps, some of their own making. Sonja is trying to trap her ex-husband Adam, but he has her trapped into doing what he wants because of her love for her son and the fact she can’t be without her little boy. Agla’s love for Sonja has her trapped too, as does her financial greed. The wife of Bragi, the customs officer, is trapped in her own confusing world of Alzheimer’s. And others are trapped by their indulgent lifestyles and addictions. There are representations of traps of all kinds in this book.

A lot of the characters are flawed. I’ve already mentioned there are some ‘in-between’ ones. They’re essentially good people but are trapped – that word again! – into doing bad things for various reasons, ones which see right to them. The whole issue of right and wrong comes under scrutiny in the novel. We know they should be diametrically opposed but in life, and literature, things are never quite so clear-cut. One merges into the other.

The action is constant, and tension builds as it progresses. Florida, Iceland and Amsterdam are amongst the settings that this story of drug trafficking and corporate and personal greed. It’s a riveting read, it really is. I particularly enjoyed discovering a little about Iceland, somewhere I’ve always wanted to visit, and its culture through the names and places and incidental facts.

Absolutely a book to go on your TBR list.

 

About the author

Icelandic crime-writer Lilja Sigurdardóttir was born in the town of Akranes in 1972 and raised in Mexico, Sweden, Spain and Iceland. An award-winning playwright, Lilja has written four crime novels, with Snare, the first in a new series, hitting bestseller lists worldwide. The film rights have been bought by Palomar Pictures in California. She lives in Reykjavík with her partner. 

 

 

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Deadly Secrets by Robert Bryndza: another top-class novel from this outstanding author

Tenacious, conscientious DI Erika Foster is back in this sixth book in a series that started off brilliantly and just keeps getting better.

The action starts on Christmas Eve when a burlesque dance, Marissa Lewis, is viciously attacked and murdered on her doorstep. This keeps Erika preoccupied on Christmas Day when she’d otherwise be going for lunch with her superior officer. Her victim turns out to be a complicated young lady, with as many enemies as admirers. As with many of DI Foster’s cases, the implications spread out further and further and bring many people under suspicion. A further attack and suicide attempts, successful and otherwise, just keep the surprises and ingenious twists and turns coming in this very cleverly constructed police procedural mystery. Once you start reading, you can’t stop. You simply have to know what’s going to happen next.

The past never lets go of Erika and in this story her relationship with her father-in-law is brought to the forefront. Also, colleague James Peterson, with whom Erika was previously in a relationship, returns to add some complications.

As ever, we’re presented with a gripping, exciting story and some totally fascinating characters. Those we already know, such as Erika and her team, continue to develop subtly which makes them ever more interesting. The new people we meet in the story are all strong and diverse. Robert Bryndza excels in portraying totally convincing characters from all walks of life.

This is another top-class novel from Robert Bryndza, but then we’d expect no less from this consistently outstanding author.