Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT Exciting Crime #Thriller EVO by @DianeMayWriter

Today’s team review is from E.L. Lindley, she blogs here https://lindleyreviews.blogspot.co.uk/

#RBRT Review Team

E.L. Lindley has been reading Evo by Diane May

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Evo by Diane May is an exciting crime thriller that kept my interest from beginning to end. With an international setting and hints of sci-fi it has the potential to appeal to a very wide audience.

The novel centres around a covert CIA operation that involves genetic engineering. The unchecked sense of power this elicits sees one of the doctors become a potential biological terrorist and raises the question of whether anyone should be allowed to play God. May cleverly leaves the reader with lots to think about as even when used for good genetic interventions can lead to unthinkable outcomes.

As the story begins with the CIA, it opens in the USA but the bulk of the novel is set in Verona where all of the plot threads come together. One of the main characters is a product of the CIA program, Maya Blake. She has a form of telepathy and can immediately tell when someone is lying. However, her ‘gift’ has put her and her family in danger which is why she finds herself teaching languages in Verona.

Maya’s path crosses with police detective, Livio Marchiori, when she becomes involved in two unrelated murders. At the same time, Marchiori is hunting a serial killer nicknamed ‘The Hypnotist’, who also turns out to be linked to the original CIA project. The novel is full of inexplicable coincidences but it is a credit to May’s writing that within the context of the novel it doesn’t seem odd.

The ‘Hypnotist’ murders are quite chilling and May builds the tension very effectively as he taunts the police with videos of his crimes. The team hunting him also includes Marchiori’s inexperienced partner, Giusto and the Chief Medical Examiner, Abigail Jones. They make for a very likeable bunch who would lend themselves well to a crime series. I particularly like the hint of romance between gruff, no-nonsense Marchiori and Abigail.

The investigation team are joined by American secret agent, Alex O’Neal who also happens to be Maya’s ex-fiancé. He brings a new level of excitement to the novel as he races against time to stop the biological terrorist attack planned by ‘doc’ who moved from the CIA to work for a group of multi-national, corrupt businessmen who have continued to fund his experiments.

I really enjoyed the novel but if I had one criticism it would be Maya who I found really difficult to like. She is so beautiful and perfect that other women seem to feel threatened by her which leads to her isolation. There is a bizarre scene where her best friend turns on her in a vitriolic fashion after yet another of her boyfriends has his head turned by Maya’s beauty. She also behaves in the way that women predictably behave in cheesy horror films – ignoring all common sense and placing themselves in the thick of danger. Having said all of that, the irritation that Maya brought out in me did not detract from the novel at all.

The novel ends in an explosion of violence which will delight fans of action thrillers before finally there is a spectacular twist. May cleverly wraps up all of her storylines in a satisfying ending but still leaves the reader with unanswered questions about the ethical implications of trying to engineer nature.

All in all, I really enjoyed Evo and if you’re looking for a gripping story to lose yourself in for a few hours then I thoroughly recommend this one.

Book description

Livio Marchiori, a legendary homicide detective with the highest rate of solved cases in Verona, is faced with The Hypnotist, a serial killer whose modus operandi borders the supernatural and who is as elusive as a ghost. He never touches his victims and he leaves no evidence behind, except for the pen drive showing a dark figure who has the ability to hypnotize people to death…their own.

The more Marchiori digs, the less he finds while the city is on edge with the mayor and the press putting pressure on the police. And when The Hypnotist threatens to kill the love of his life, the chief medical examiner, Marchiori knows that he is quickly running out of time.

So when Captain Victor Miller from Interpol walks into town, Marchiori is more than happy to partner again with the man who two years ago helped him put an entire mafia clan behind bars. But Miller has his own agenda and Marchiori soon discovers that there is more to this than meets the eye, an entire thread of things way beyond his pay grade – secret experiments, dastardly research, and the most terrifying threat humanity has to face.

And just when Marchiori thinks the situation can’t get any worse than this, he finds out that Miller isn’t what he claims to be.

Feeling at the end of his tether and not knowing who to trust anymore, Marchiori begins a race against time to save both the woman he loves and millions of people from dying.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

 

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #Histfic #thriller Initiated To Kill by Sharlene Almond

Today’s team review is from E.L. Lindley, she blogs here https://lindleyreviews.blogspot.co.uk/

#RBRT Review Team

E.L. has been reading Initiated To Kill by Sharlene Almond

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Initiated to Kill by Sharlene Almond is a thriller steeped in layer upon layer of conspiracies. It deals with the sinister power of the Freemasons and takes the reader on a journey through the ages.

The premise of the novel is that the Freemasons have cast a long shadow over history and still have a great deal of influence over current events. The tentacles of this sinister organisation reach into all major institutions making their position untouchable. Almond cleverly links the story of Jack the Ripper with present day crimes as they all fall under the activities of the Freemasons, whose prime goal is to cause as much chaos as possible in order to assert control in the ensuing vacuum.

Almond’s novel takes the reader to a range of settings from London, Russia and Seville. The contemporary sections of the novel are based in Seville and this is where Almond demonstrates her skill as she vividly depicts the Spanish city in all its glory. The description is very visual and it’s no coincidence that art is a thread running through the novel as the leading character is an art historian and Jack the Ripper is presented as a painter.

There are lots of characters in the story as Jack the Ripper’s story and the contemporary one run side by side. In the contemporary strand the protagonist is Annabella Cordova, a young Art History student at the Seville University. She has endured a difficult past, which is revealed to us in flashback, and her current life is thrown into turmoil when her friend disappears. As more and more girls begin to disappear Annabella’s path crosses with Detectives Valero and Rivero.

Essentially, the modern hunt for the missing girls mirrors the Victorian hunt for Jack the Ripper. The Ripper taunted the police with letters and the modern murderer does the same by sending human hearts to the investigators. Almond creates much tension in her novel and the reader is kept guessing right until the very end as the influence of the Freemasons means it’s never certain who is actually involved in the crimes.

Initiated to Kill is a novel with a lot to offer but the exciting plot is undermined by the constant switching of timelines and viewpoints. The main time frames for the story are London 1888 and 1996 and Seville 2010 but it also switches briefly to other times in order to contextualise some of the back stories. In the end there is simply too much going back and forth and it has a detrimental effect on the flow. The switching from 3rd person to 1st person also doesn’t help as it’s not always clear whose story we are following. In my opinion this is a novel that might have been better as two distinct novels; Jack the Ripper’s story and Annabella’s story.

I really liked the way Almond tried to depict Jack the Ripper as a rounded character. The flashbacks to his childhood and his early psychopathic behaviour made him interesting. However, any real characterisation is lost in the density of the novel and the sheer number of characters in it. I found myself having to jot down names just to keep up with them and the body count is so high it’s hard to feel invested in anybody.

I love a conspiracy theory and I think Almond has a great idea in fictionalising the Freemason’s history and potential legacy. I found myself completely believing the story that Almond creates. However, there are times when she writes at such length about the historical origins and background of the brotherhood that it pulls the reader out of the story and starts to feel like an essay. There is no doubt that Almond has done a lot of research for her book but in places a lighter touch would have been beneficial.

All in all, Initiated to Kill kept me intrigued and guessing until the end. If you enjoy a thriller with a conspiracy twist then give this one a try.

Book description

Two men, two different generations, both initiated into a powerful organisation that throughout history has sought control and use their power for destruction.
Two men leaving behind a wake of murder, revenge and vengeance. Two men that will stop at nothing, playing a game that only they know the rules.

One man roams the dark London streets for his victims, preying on women of the night. While the other stalks his victims in Seville, Spain; knowing that only he could uncover the true motives of one of the world’s most infamous serial killers – Jack the Ripper.

AmazonUk | AmazonUS

Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #Steampunk The Procurement Of Souls by Benjamin Hope

Today’s team review is from E.L. Lindley, she blogs here https://lindleyreviews.blogspot.co.uk/

#RBRT Review Team

E.L. has been reading The Procurement Of Souls by Benjamin Hope

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The Procurement of Souls by Benjamin Hope is a steampunk novel set in Victorian England. It is essentially a battle between the positive and negative forces of science.

I have to confess this is a genre that I haven’t read before and consequently it took me a while to get into the rhythm of the story. Basically it suspends any notion of reality as an evil scientist is able to remove the souls of humans and then control them like puppets. There is no grey area in this story and the villains really are villains.

The said mad scientist is a bitter and twisted individual named Thomas Weimer. Perhaps of more interest to me is his assistant, Marina, a tough, powerful, cigarillo smoking woman, who can physically get the better of most men. The dynamic between her and Weimer has the potential to create lots of tension as she is treated like a lackey by him and clearly resents his power. However, I felt that Hope missed an opportunity to create a really interesting character in Marina and in the end she remains a mystery with no real insight into who she is.

Weimer and Marina are offset by the renowned scientist, Magnus Drinkwater and his seventeen year old daughter, Clementine. It is Clementine who first involves herself in the disappearance of vulnerable young women, eventually forcing her reluctant father to help investigate the situation. Magnus has invented a machine called the viroscope that can potentially stop time but he is reluctant to use it due to the mysterious death of his wife whilst experimenting with the machine. The death of his wife in fact casts a shadow over the whole novel and plays a role in bringing the plot together.

The plot is very busy and there are lots of characters as Weimer takes up residence in a monastery and the army is called upon to try and thwart him. I love character driven novels and so personally felt a little bit cheated that we never really have time to get to know the characters. Perhaps the most rounded one is Novice Goode, a member of the monastery who is struggling with his calling but again because the novel is so plot driven and didn’t feel that I fully knew him.

I really liked how Hope uses his novel to pit science against religion. Weimer is clearly playing God by removing people’s souls and using them for his own ends and this is referred to several times. By setting the bulk of the novel in a monastery, Hope highlights the dichotomy between blind faith and reason. Novice Goode and Clementine plainly represent the heart of the novel and both of them are young and idealistic with compassion for others. The fact that the two of them survive maybe suggests that Hope wants to show the triumph of humanity.

Hope is a good writer and despite the fanciful nature of the story, it makes complete sense within the realms of the plot. The description of Victorian London and the crime-ridden docks is very effective and creates a good backdrop to the story. My own personal disappointment is that characterisation is lost in favour of the plot but maybe this is the nature of steampunk fiction.

If you are a fan of steampunk then I have no doubt that this will be one for you to enjoy. It’s exciting and well written and keeps you guessing until the very end.

Book description

Magnus Drinkwater is close. Close to harnessing enough power to fuel his modified pocket-watch and stop time. But the answer continues to lie out of reach and when his daughter discovers a young woman no longer in possession of her soul, it quickly becomes clear that his own frustrations are the least of his worries. Someone with altogether darker machinations is busy working to their own design.
Dr Weimer is manoeuvring in the shadows, harvesting the souls from small-time criminals and turning their empty bodies into his mind-dead minions. But he too needs more power. Greater soul potency to reach his vision. And he’ll do whatever it takes. No matter the cost.
As the body count rises and Magnus follows a bloody and violent path through decaying city slums and dockyards; city ministerial buildings; and St Villicus’ monastery with its subterranean catacombs, he unearths more questions than answers. What is the link to the violent death of his wife two years before? What secrets are his colleagues hiding? Is there anyone he can truly trust? He must forge alliances he never thought possible and ultimately decide: just how far is he willing to push his own principles of science to power his device and keep the city safe?
Two scientists. Two ambitions. One bloody adventure…

AmazonUk | AmazonUS

Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #Thriller Quick Fix by @JGregorySmith3

Today’s team review is from E.L. Lindley, she blogs here https://lindleyreviews.blogspot.co.uk/

#RBRT Review Team

E.L. has been reading Quick Fix by J Gregory Smith

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Quick Fix by J.Gregory Smith is a fast paced adventure set in Fishtown, a small town in Philadelphia. It’s an exciting yarn with an effective combination of humour, action and tension.

The story is told in 1st person narrative from the perspective of military contractor, Kyle Logan. Kyle has lived his whole life in Fishtown and most of the characters are known to him and played a part in his past which helps to make the plot and its denouement believable. The novel begins as Kyle is recovering from injuries he sustained whilst in Iraq, which have left him struggling both physically and mentally. On top of this he is trying to come to terms with his estranged wife’s new relationship with an antagonistic lawyer.

However, it is Kyle’s relationship with his childhood friend, Ryan ‘Anything for a Buck’ Buckley that leads to him becoming embroiled in a criminal endeavour that threatens to destroy not only him but everyone he cares about. Gregory Smith goes to great pains to show Ryan’s good qualities in that he helped Kyle’s mother when she was terminally ill and his own parents died in tragic circumstances but I found it difficult to warm to him. He is morally corrupt and untrustworthy but Kyle is easily led and seems incapable of seeing his friend as he really is.

The plot centres on the theft of some priceless Aztec statues which Ryan plans to sell to the local bad boy, Danny ‘Iceballs’ Sheehan who is a part of the Irish mob. Typically Ryan tries to double cross Sheehan and he and Kyle end up fighting for their lives as they in turn are double crossed and then robbed. It’s a complicated plot but to Gregory Smith’s credit he asserts full control over the narrative and engaged my interest throughout.

My favourite character is Kyle’s landlord, Rollie, a former marine and lonely widower, advancing in years but keen to get involved in the melee that develops when Sheehan kidnaps Kyle’s estranged wife, Beth. It is through Rollie’s memories of Sheehan’s father that we are shown how dangerous these men are and the violence and cruelty runs parallel to the warm camaraderie that Kyle and Rollie enjoy. There is no attempt to dress up the fact that these gangsters are vicious thugs with no redeeming qualities whatsoever.

The tone of the novel, however, is not overly dark due to the conversational style of narrative and the fact that Kyle is not particularly tough or adept at fighting and is basically just trying to keep his head above water. There is something of the everyman in Kyle as his life implodes and he finds himself with little control over the proceedings. Despite this is he loyal to both Ryan and Beth and comes across as a decent person.

The setting of the novel creates a claustrophobic feel which racks up the tension. The area seems familiar to the author as he describes the landscape and small town affiliations with a convincing ease. From the onset where Kyle has an altercation in a local bar, the novel has a filmic, visual quality which I found enjoyable.

I really like the way Gregory Smith chooses to end his novel in a realistic ambiguous way. It is not all tied up in a happy ending but rather people just accepting each other’s flaws and doing the best they can.

Quick Fix is an engaging, exciting novel. The characters are all believable and on the whole likeable and I felt very much invested in them. If you are looking for a bit of escapism and you like action and adventure then I think you would enjoy this one very much.

Book description

Military contractor Kyle Logan’s luck has gone from bad to worse ever since he returned home to Philadelphia following an injury by an IED in Iraq. First, his marriage crumbles, then his career after he’s pushed to the brink and assaults his wife’s lover, who is also her divorce attorney.

When Kyle’s shady best friend turns up and offers him a “once in a lifetime” chance to regain his job and his life, all for just a couple night’s work, Kyle figures he’s got nothing to lose. The police, Philly Irish Mob and a couple of drug cartels all think otherwise.

Now forced to fight for his life, and those around him, Kyle must turn to allies from his old neighborhood in a desperate effort to stay alive and out of prison.

Quick Fix is one man’s fall into a world of unintended consequences that seeks to tread the razor-thin lines between right and wrong, loyalty and treachery.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

 

 

Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #crimefiction Dead On Leave by @ChrisNickson2 #TuesdayBookBlog

Today’s team review is from E.L. Lindley, she blogs here https://lindleyreviews.blogspot.co.uk/

#RBRT Review Team

E.L. has been reading Dead On Leave by Chris Nickson

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The Dead on Leave by Chris Nickson is a gripping crime novel set in 1930s Leeds. From the opening page I was engrossed in both the story and its historical backdrop.

The novel’s protagonist is the likeable Detective Sergeant Urban Raven who is tough and cynical but has an underlying insecurity that becomes most apparent in his relationship with his wife. Urban has facial scars from injuries sustained in WW1 and this defines how he sees himself and how others see him and treat him. He refers to his marriage as “beauty and the beast” and there is the sense that he feels he doesn’t deserve to be happy.

The story begins as supporters of Oswald Mosley prepare to stage a rally in Leeds which provokes a violent clash with Communist protesters. This proves to be a challenge for the police and is made worse when someone is murdered during the melee. Urban and his colleagues, unused to such serious crimes, struggle to solve the case which becomes even more problematic when there are two more murders which are somehow linked to the British Union of Fascists.

The crime element is engaging, especially as Urban proves to be a good, methodical investigator willing to do whatever it takes to solve the case. However, the novel has so much more than this to offer. Nickson’s knowledge of Leeds is evident in the way he expertly describes the drab landscape of a city still reeling from the Depression. Nickson uses the motif of vividly coloured advertisements posted around the city to highlight the bleak reality of a community where the majority of people are unemployed.

Nickson’s historical knowledge also brings something to the novel as men such as Urban are shaped by their wartime experiences. Almost every encounter he has with men of a similar age involve references to the war. At the same time the spectre of WW2 is looming in the background as Hitler is consolidating his power and his influence is spreading as a result of the widespread poverty and desperation. The media meanwhile are focusing their attention on the possible abdication of King Edward Vlll and his affair with Wallis Simpson.

Despite the fact that the novel is set in the 1930s it feels very relevant to modern Britain and I could relate to many of the issues it raises. The popularity of the British Union of Fascists as they play on the fears of people who are suffering the effects of austerity can clearly be likened to the emergence of groups like Britain First. The idea of ‘fake news’ is also not new as Nickson refers to it as “Bread and Circuses” where the media try and set the political agenda by focusing on stories designed to distract people from what’s really going on.

I really enjoyed Nickson’s exploration of Urban’s marriage to Marjorie who was his nurse when he returned from the war. Even though they have done better than most financially, escaping from the slums to new housing, their marriage is not plain sailing. Marjorie has suffered numerous miscarriages and the lack of children has created a void between them. Marjorie feels like she is disappearing and Urban avoids communication by focusing on work. The difficulties they face are believable and I’m sure lots of readers will relate to them.

All in all I enjoyed The Dead on Leave very much. It is well written with a lively plot that kept my interest throughout. If you enjoy a crime which is steeped in history then I suggest you give this one a try.

Book description

During a British Union of Fascists rally, a body is found.
War veteran Detective Sergeant Urban Raven is tasked with finding the killer.
But with virtually no clues, no witnesses and no obvious motive, he has few leads to start the investigation.
Leeds has become a shadow of its former self. Once a bright, vibrant and progressive metropolis, it has all but ground to a halt since the Crash of ’29, the Depression and the ensuing descent into unemployment and poverty.
And there are political stirrings as the BUF vie with the Communist Party for public support.
Was the murder an act of vengeance?
Was the victim killed for his political beliefs?
Or was the killing part of a more sinister plan, a grisly smear campaign? And if so, which side, if either, is responsible?
Raven and his colleagues find themselves constantly hindered by red tape, politics and the press. But sometimes, if you want a result, you just have to do it your way…
This puzzler of a crime story comprises convincing characters, a clever plot and a window into the dark days of 1930s northern England, where so many had lost hope…
…the dead. On leave.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

 

 

Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #WW2 #thriller The Black Orchestra by JJ Toner

Today’s team review is from E.L. Lindley, she blogs here http://lindleyreviews.blogspot.co.uk/

#RBRT Review Team

E.L. has been reading The Black Orchestra by JJ Toner

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The Black Orchestra by JJ Toner is a historical thriller set during the period of the Third Reich. It is a thorough depiction of the terror and danger of that time.

The story is told in first person narrative  from the point of view of Kurt Muller, a twenty-something man living in Berlin and working for the Intelligence Service. His suspicions that a colleague has been murdered lead to him unearthing information that proves to be potentially deadly both for himself and the dead man’s family.

At the centre of the mystery is Kurt’s uncle, a leading figure in the SS. Kurt’s relationship with his uncle is a double edged sword as it provides him with some protection and is the reason for his meteoric rise through the ranks of the Intelligence Service. However, his uncle’s shadowy presence also has ramifications for Kurt’s past and future as he begins asking questions about his father’s death and embarks upon a relationship with the mysterious Gudrun.

This novel is a must read for history buffs and there is no doubt that Toner has an incredible knowledge of this period. One of the book’s strengths is the way it contextualises events that we have all heard of such as the Night of the Long Knives and Turing’s work at Bletchley deciphering Enigma. At times though it feels as if Toner is listing all of the historical events at the expense of the pace of the novel. I suspect when you have such an impressive bank of research it’s tempting to want to include everything but I think in this case the factual information gets in the way of the tension.

My favourite parts of the novel are the ones when we are shown the human cost of the Nazi regime. The Jewish shops that Kurt had frequented before Hitler’s rise to power were now burned out with the words “Achtung Juden” painted on them. Vigilantism is encouraged by the state and there is a scene where a man is singled out and grabbed by a mob that proceeds to hang him which is especially haunting. The terror of constantly looking over your shoulder and being afraid of not being seen as a “good German” permeates the novel very effectively.

Some of the characters are used very skilfully by Toner to show the horrors of the Nazi ideology, for example Kurt’s friend, Alex, has a brother with learning difficulties who falls foul of the Eugenics Court. Friends turn on each other as the slightest rumour can lead to the Gestapo torturing you and ultimately sending you to a labour camp. Kurt himself becomes the subject of Gestapo interrogations on a couple of occasions. The impact this had on people’s mental health is conveyed successfully via both Kurt and Alex. Toner introducers so many characters into his story however that it is really difficult to keep track of who is who without constantly going back to check which gets in the way of the flow of the story.

Most of the novel is set in Germany but half way through the action switches to Ireland where Kurt’s mother lives and spies have been despatched in order to encourage the IRA to help the Nazis. There are plans for an IRA bombing campaign which would distract England from the war effort. This was an interesting diversion as I had no idea that the IRA and the Nazis worked together. It is through a visit to Ireland that Kurt learns the truth about his father and becomes involved in an anti-Nazi group called The Black Orchestra.

For me one of the weaknesses of the novel is the character of Kurt as I found it hard to relate to him. Given that his mother lives in Ireland and he had studied at university there I couldn’t understand why he had returned to Germany at a time when, for people not sympathetic to the Nazi cause, it must have been horrendous. By 1940 Kurt had already rejected Nazism and there was no evidence that he had been a supporter even before that. There are other characters such as Johann, who embraces Nazism out of self-preservation or Blesset whose father was a brown shirt and was indoctrinated in the Hitler Youth but Kurt has no allegiance to Nazism and seemingly few links to Germany.

There is much to recommend this novel; it is a wealth of information about an important period of history which lends itself perfectly to fiction. When it works, Toner conveys the human price that was paid in such a way that it is both moving and unbearably tense. For me, however I would have preferred less of the factual information and more detailed characterisation as this would have allowed me to fully immerse myself into the story. Having said that, The Black Orchestra is a well written thriller and I think readers who enjoy history will get a lot out of it.

Book description

WW2 Germany. The German war machine has invaded Poland and is advancing west toward France. In Berlin Kurt Muller, an Abwehr signalman, discovers a colleague lying dead at his radio receiver. The criminal police dismiss the death as suicide, but Kurt is not convinced. Kurt follows a trail of mysteries, witnessing several atrocities that expose the Nazi regime for what it truly is. When the trail leads him to the German resistance, he faces the most difficult choices of his life. He must choose between his duty and his conscience, between his country and his family, between love and death.

About the author

After 30 years working with computers in a variety of industries: Oil exploration, pharma, hospitals, manufacturing, shipping etc., I retired early and began to write. I’ve been writing full time since 2007, and have completed hundreds of short stories and self-published 6 novels.

J.J. Toner

Goodreads | AmazonUK | AmazonUS |

Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT @LindleyE reviews #Thriller The Burgas Affair by @ellisshuman

Today’s team review is from E.L. Lindley, she blogs here http://lindleyreviews.blogspot.co.uk/

#RBRT Review Team

E.L. has been reading The Burgas Affair by Ellis Shuman

The Burgas Affair by [Shuman, Ellis]

The Burgas Affair by Ellis Shuman is a novel based on the 2012 bombing of a bus at Burgas airport which resulted in the deaths of 5 Israelis and 1 Bulgarian. The case was never categorically solved and Shuman uses this lack of certainty to create his own version of the event and the ensuing investigation.

The novel is set in both Bulgaria and Israel and, for me, one of the great strengths of the story is the way Shuman brings these places alive for the reader. In particular, Bulgaria is presented as a richly vibrant country with a varied landscape that includes The Black Sea, city life, rural villages and almost primal forest areas. Shuman uses a long train journey to great effect in order to showcase the diversity of people, ranging from urbanites to peasants and Gypsies. There are also constant reminders of Bulgaria’s Communist past.

Shuman uses 3rd person narrative to tell his story and one of his main characters is Detective Boyko Stanchev, a complicated individual who finds himself partnered with Ayala Navon, an analyst with the Israeli intelligence team who have been sent to seek justice for their dead countrymen. Immediately the reader is introduced to a clash of cultures as the Bulgarian team adopt an old-fashioned style of policing with little sense of urgency while the Israelis are a high-tech force used to dealing with bombs and terrorism.

The idea of how the past impinges on the present is a major theme in Shuman’s novel as there are constant reminders both in the physical landscape and the plot. The narrative shifts from 2012 to 2001 when Boyko’s past begins to catch up with him. We see him as an ambitious young policeman with a determination to get on at any cost. His ambition drives him to commit an immoral and illegal act and this eventually returns to haunt him. Thus his past collides with the bombing investigation causing lots of dramatic diversions within the storyline and putting not only his own life but also Ayala’s in jeopardy.

Likewise with Ayala, her arrival in Bulgaria is personally significant because her father was born there and she feels it is part of her heritage. Initially, Ayala seems quite cold and distant but using flashbacks Shuman shows us how she has been shaped by her past. The novel conveys the horror of what it must be like to live in a war zone where bombs are the norm, especially for a child. Ayala is anxious and as a teenager developed an obsession with suicide bombers, a subject that ironically will impact on her family greatly. Ayala is driven by her past to find those guilty for the bombing and her intensity is the perfect foil for the more unprofessional Boyko.

Shuman does a great job of creating a very unsympathetic character in Boyko. He lives an empty life in a one roomed apartment, drinking and sleeping with prostitutes. He describes himself as a “virile Bulgarian man,” but seemed to me more of a misogynist. He describes his ex-wife in the most negative of terms – “the dowdy wife” – and seems to have no self-awareness at all. He’s surprised to find himself attracted to Ayala, “the female interloper,” and her coolness towards him seems to intensify his feelings. I found myself willing Ayala not to succumb to his less than appealing charms.

The Burgas Affair is a very readable novel; Shuman is clearly a talented writer and engages the reader early on, conveying the horror and mystery surrounding the bombing. He weaves a complex story all the while exerting complete control over it. Boyko’s past and the investigation dance around each other until they collide in an explosive finale. There is crime, thrills, a hint of romance and corruption to keep the reader enthralled.

If you enjoy a story with lots going on then you’ll like this one. The action is relentless, spilling across Bulgaria and Israel to great effect.

Book description

She’s an Israeli data analyst. He’s a headstrong Bulgarian detective. Together they must track down those responsible for a horrific bombing.

In the wake of a deadly terrorist attack at Burgas Airport in Bulgaria, Israeli and Bulgarian intelligence agencies launch a joint investigation. Detective Boyko Stanchev on the police task force teams up with Ayala Navon, a young Israeli intelligence analyst on her first overseas assignment.

The two must establish whether the terrorists were assisted by a Bulgarian crime organization in laying the groundwork for the attack.

It should be a routine investigation, but shadows of the past keep interfering.

Boyko’s interactions with a crime boss pursuing a vendetta against him threaten to throw him off track. Ayala’s pursuit of the terrorists and their accomplices brings up painful memories of a family tragedy.

Boyko and Ayala form a shaky alliance, one that evolves into growing cooperation and affection as they desperately race against time to uncover who was behind the Burgas bombing.

The Burgas Affair is a fictional account of the aftermath of a very real terrorist attack. On July 18, 2012, a deadly explosive rocked a tourist bus at Burgas Airport, killing five Israelis and their Bulgarian bus driver. The terrorists responsible for this murderous attack have never been brought to justice.

About the author

Ellis Shuman was born in Sioux City, Iowa, and immigrated to Israel as a teenager. He completed high school in Jerusalem and served for three years in the Israeli army’s Nahal branch. Along with his wife, Jodie, he was a founding member of Kibbutz Yahel in the Arava Valley in Israel’s south. On the kibbutz he worked in agriculture, industry, tourism, the dairy barn, and served as the kibbutz’s general secretary. After moving with his wife and three young children to Moshav Neve Ilan in the Judean Hills, Ellis received formal training in the hotel industry. He worked in a variety of positions at the Neve Ilan Hotel and later was Food and Beverage Controller at the Jerusalem Hilton. He served as the moshav’s general secretary during a period in which the community underwent major social changes. As a hobby, Ellis began writing on the Internet. He wrote extensively about life in Israel in his position as the Israeli Culture Guide at About.com. He designed and maintained websites for the Neve Ilan Hotel and for Indic–Independent Israeli Cinema. For two years he was webmaster for Yazam, an international financial firm that provided support for technological start-ups. Ellis served for three years as Editor in Chief of Israel Insider, an online daily newsmagazine that developed new technologies as it posted the latest news and views, from and about Israel. Starting in 2004, Ellis began working in a marketing company servicing the online gaming industry. In the years 2009 – 2010, his job was relocated to Sofia, Bulgaria. During those years, Ellis and Jodie traveled extensively in Bulgaria as well as in the countries of the region. Today Ellis continues working at this job, based in Ramat Gan.

Ellis Shuman

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Rosie’s Review Team #RBRT Ryan Kaine: On The Rocks by @KerryJDonovan #TuesdayBookBlog

Today’s team review is from E.L. Lindley, she blogs here http://lindleyreviews.blogspot.co.uk/

#RBRT Review Team

E.L. has been reading Ryan Kaine: On The Rocks by Kerry J Donovan

Ryan Kaine: On the Rocks: Book Two in the Ryan Kaine action thriller series by [Donovan, Kerry J]

Ryan Kaine: On the Rocks by Kerry J Donovan is the second book in the Ryan Kaine series and picks up where On the Run finished. Ideally it’s probably best to read the series in order but there are enough hints at the back story to make this novel work as a standalone. This is also helped by the fact that Kaine is on new territory with a new cast of characters.

Donovan builds the tension from the onset with the use of times and dates as chapter headings which emphasises the fast pace of the novel as the action takes place over a 48 hour period. What’s more the clock is ticking because a teenage boy is in peril and needs to be rescued before the elements take their toll on him.

The injured boy, Martin Princeton, provides the link to On the Run as the end of that novel saw Ryan Kaine pledging to redeem himself for the part he played in the shooting down of a plane which cost 83 lives. Martin’s brother was one of the victims and so Kaine feels duty bound to help him and consequently save his family from yet more heartache. The rescue mission takes him to the Scottish highlands where Martin has seemingly wandered off and become lost or worse.

The change of location injects the story with a renewed energy and the clash of cultures between the English interlopers and the local people provides lots of humour. The English characters, with the exception of Kaine, tend to be authority figures who have little respect for the locals or the difficult conditions that they will have to navigate. One such character is William (Buffalo Bill) Cody, head of an armed response unit who has been relocated from London due to his trigger happy approach.

There are references to characters from the previous novel but they play little part. Kaine is still hoping for a relationship with Lara Orchard who helped him in On the Run. She is being looked after by his friend, William “Rollo” Rollason while DCI Jones is working to clear his name. This novel belongs to the new characters, however, most of whom make up the mountain rescue team.

Iona McTay is a great female character, a tough no-nonsense doctor who goes out of her way to help Kaine. Her brother, Drew McTay, is a red-headed giant of a man with a good heart and strong moral code. Along with Gregor Abercrombie, the team leader, they form the heart of the rescue team and bring humour and warmth to what could otherwise be a harsh, violent, action story. The villains as I said are mostly the authority figures and Donovan offers a stark contrast between effective policing as represented by the officers on the ground simply doing their jobs and the careerists who don’t really care about anything other than how they look in the media and the impact this will have on their careers.

The main character is the eponymous Ryan Kaine, a 43 year old ex military officer. Despite the fact that he is tough and capable – if they were to make a film I envision Jason Statham – Donovan reveals him to be a kind, caring man who tries to do the right thing. He hates hurting people and mourns the loss of life, even if the individual may not deserve it. As he points out, “That’s someone’s son.” Early on in the novel Kaine defends a Sikh couple against a couple of racist thugs which puts him firmly on the right side of morality. Donovan maybe offers a wry political comment as the victim reflects how racism has intensified post Brexit.

Donovan chooses to write his novel in 3rd person which works extremely well as it allows for multiple viewpoints. Although the story is mostly from Kaine’s perspective we also get chapters from the members of the rescue team, Cody and Martin Princeton. This allows the tension to build as Donovan takes advantage of the fact that only Kaine and the reader are aware of his true role in the plane explosion.

I really enjoyed On the Run but I think On the Rocks is even better. Donovan is obviously a talented writer who takes his reader on an intense journey of both action and emotion. He seems to have settled into Ryan Kaine’s story so that the novel flows easily and engages the reader throughout. I can’t recommend this series enough if you enjoy action, adventure with a character who is not perfect but is willing to lay his life on the line for his beliefs.

Book description

Ryan Kaine is back in the action-packed sequel to the hit adventure thriller, Ryan Kaine: On the Run. 

Fresh from finding evidence that might clear him of terrorism charges and still carrying the scars of battle, Ryan Kaine heads to Scotland to help find missing schoolboy, Martin Princeton.

Facing arrest for shooting down civilian aircraft, Flight BE1555, and killing the 83 people aboard, Kaine is desperate to help find the boy. Why? Martin’s brother was on that plane and Kaine has vowed to protect the families of the victims–The 83.

Hunted by the authorities, can Kaine escape capture long enough to find the boy, or will the police and his more dangerous enemies find him first?

About the author

Internationally bestselling fiction author, Kerry was born in Dublin. He spent most of his life in the UK, and now lives in the heart of rural Brittany with his wonderful and patient wife, Jan. They have three children and four grandchildren (so far), all of whom live in England. An absentee granddad, Kerry is hugely thankful for the advent of video calling.

The cottage is a pet free zone (apart from the field mice, moles, and red squirrels).

Kerry earned a first class honours degree in Human Biology, and has a PhD in Sport and Exercise Sciences. A former scientific advisor to The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, he helped UK emergency first-responders prepare for chemical attacks in the wake of 9/11. This background adds a scientific edge to his writing. He is also a former furniture designer/maker.

Kerry J Donovan

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT @LindleyE reviews #Thriller A Kiss Before Killing by @keithpmccarthy

Today’s team review is from E.L. Lindley, she blogs at http://lindleyreviews.blogspot.co.uk/

#RBRT Review Team

E.L has been reading A Kiss Before Killing by Keith McCarthy

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A Kiss Before Killing by Keith McCarthy is an addictive thriller that I found hard to put down. The novel is one of many featuring pathologist John Eisnenmenger although this is the first one that I’ve read.

The novel opens with the seeming suicide of a prisoner whilst in custody. The man’s death brings Dr Claire Woodforde to the attention of Eisenmenger and his former lover DCI Beverley Wharton due to her claims that his death was suspicious and linked to other unexplained deaths in the hospital where she works. McCarthy then introduces a serial killer who is leaving tortured, dismembered bodies around the city as a seemingly unconnected storyline.

McCarthy uses third person narrative to tell his story and this works particularly well as we are given an insight into all of the major characters. McCarthy’s skill as a writer is evident in the control he exerts over the complex threads that make up the plot. He creates layer upon layer of mystery and tension which evolve into an almost fever-pitch denouement. I found myself reading until much later than was sensible as I was desperate to find out how the story was going to end.

This is definitely a plot driven novel but it is supported by a strong cast of characters. I particularly liked Beverley Wharton, the tough, no-nonsense DCI who lives her life almost like a man. She’s confrontational, unconcerned about other people’s opinions of her and takes lovers as and when she pleases. She is partnered with rookie detective, Tom Bayes and their relationship is very enjoyable as they move from distrust and dislike to a positive working relationship and potential friendship.

It is through Bayes that McCarthy shows the toll that working on the front line and dealing with murder cases has on investigators. Wharton has become hardened and cynical in order to deal with the horrors she sees. Eisenmenger is obsessive in his work and self aware enough to recognise that he is probably suffering from PTSD. Bayes on the other hand takes his work home with him and finds himself questioning his future with the police force. His partner finds it hard to support him as the stresses are so unique to his job. It raises the question of how isolating and damaging it must be to see the worst of human behaviour day in and day out.

The novel also raises lots of disquieting questions about the way hospital trusts work. Under immense pressure to perform successfully, the CEO and Chief Operating Officer of the trust collude to cover up potentially damaging information about the hospital even if this means allowing murders to go unsolved. Claire Woodforde is a whistle blower but is discredited by the hospital so that she appears mentally unstable. McCarthy cleverly remains ambiguous in his portrayal of Woodforde, presenting her as an unreliable, erratic source to heighten the tension and leave the wider political questions regarding the hospital unanswered.

I found the credibility of McCarthy’s plot very unsettling which is probably why it works so well. It’s entirely plausible that murders could take place in an environment where lethal drugs are readily available and who would be more able to kill without a trace of evidence than someone with medical training? All I can say is I’m glad I don’t have any hospital visits pending.

I really enjoyed this book and if you like thrillers with lots of twists and turns that take you to unexpected places then this is one for you.

Book description

Each man kills the thing he loves…

Edward Marsham is admitted to the Royal Infirmary having hung himself in his prison cell.

As predicted, he dies.

In the wake of several unexpected deaths at the hospital, however, Dr. Claire Woodforde suspects there is a killer amongst the staff. As Detective Chief Inspector Beverley Wharton and her new sergeant Tom Bayes begin to investigate Marsham’s death, they too start to wonder if it was natural or whether someone…

helped him along.

But as they start to make headway on the case, something much more sinister comes to light.

A body is found in an empty house.

A body without its limbs. And head.

Dr. John Eisenmenger is tasked with examining the torso to uncover clues which will lead to its identity and cause of death; a grisly job even for the most hardened of pathologists.

But as the investigation unfolds, the team discovers that there is much, much worse to come, and in addition, there is growing suspicion that there is a link between the two cases.

This not-for-the-faint-hearted crime thriller shines a light into the darkest recesses of the human soul.

Keith McCarthy is a pathologist and writer of crime fiction, known for his Eisenmenger-Flemming Forensic Mysteries. He also writes under the name Lance Elliot.

Keith McCarthy

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Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT Whispers In The Alders by @HA_Callum Coming of Age tale

Today’s team review is from E.L, she blogs here http://lindleyreviews.blogspot.co.uk/

#RBRT Review Team

E.L has been reading Whispers In the Alders by HA Callum

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Whispers in the Alders by H. A. Callum is an American based coming of age story. It is a thought provoking, lyrical novel that is permeated with an air of tragedy.

The novel is written in first person narrative from the point of view of Aubrey Worthington, the only child of an affluent couple. Due to the peripatetic nature of her father’s job, Aubrey has spent her life moving around the country which has made it hard for her to fit in. She’s a lonely, introspective girl until her arrival at Alder Ferry when she is thirteen. It is here that she forms a deep friendship with local boy, Tommy.

Callum uses his novel to raise lots of interesting ideas. Aubrey’s father is the Vice President of a conglomerate that takes over companies, assimilating their contracts and ultimately making the workers redundant. Aubrey refers to her father as the “grim reaper”. What’s unusual is the way that we see how Stuart Worthington’s job impacts upon his daughter who, along with her father, becomes hated by the communities in which they live. The Worthingtons buy their first home in Alder Ferry, a grand colonial house which is ironic given the nature of Stuart’s job. Although we sympathise with the concept of the workers losing their jobs Callum does not humanise them enough to allow us any perspective other than that of Aubrey.

Callum is obviously a skilled writer and his use of language is complex and dense. This is particularly the case when he describes the woods that are overlooked by Aubrey’s house. The house is personified as “The Grand Old Lady” and her surroundings are presented as somewhat mystical. The trees that form the Alders are given a life of their own, evoking both energy and a sense of peace that Aubrey has not known before.

The small town of Alder Ferry is also brought to life through Callum’s language. The desolation of the town and lack of opportunity cements the Catholic Church as the centre of the community. The novel questions the way this power allows abuse within the church to be overlooked as people are afraid to challenge the Priest’s authority and potentially lose the only sense of certainty that they have.

Alton “Tommy” Mackey is the heart of the novel. He is the grandson of Stuart Worthington’s nemesis, Mike Genardo and Aubrey’s only friend. Mike Genardo is the head of the union and a brutal drunk who subjects Tommy to a childhood defined by fear and loneliness. Tommy’s only refuge is reading and writing poetry and despite little encouragement or education, he is a talented, intelligent boy who inspires Aubrey to embrace her own learning. Tommy struggles with his sexuality and it is only in adulthood that he is able to accept who he is and find some semblance of happiness.

The comparison between Tommy and Aubrey is stark and really brings home the inequality of an education system dependent on wealth. Aubrey’s affluent background ensures that she goes to a good university despite the fact that it is Tommy who edits her work. Meanwhile Tommy is unable to fulfill his potential and has to join the Coast Guards in order to raise the money to pay for some classes at the community college.

If Tommy is the heart of the story then, for me, Aubrey is its Achilles heel. I really didn’t like her and didn’t fully understand whether I was supposed to. Initially I assumed that she was a purposefully unreliable witness to the events she was describing. Her childhood wasn’t ideal with a driven, morally bankrupt father and functioning alcoholic mother but she’s presented as a whiny, self-obsessed voice. I felt that Callum had maybe chosen not to humanise the parents in order to depict the simplistic, self-involved way that children see life. However about two thirds of the way in, it became clear that there was no ambiguity and they were in fact the monsters that Aubrey described, as were most of the residents of Alder Ferry. I wonder if the story might have benefited from a lighter touch and less of a sense that everything is in black and white.

As I have said Callum’s skill as writer is never in any doubt, his use of language is extremely impressive. However, strangely I found that the complexity of the language sometimes got in the way of the narrative as it slowed everything down. None the less, this is a novel that is well worth reading as it raises so many relevant questions.

If you’re looking for something that may not be an easy read but will certainly get you thinking then I recommend that you give this one a try.

Book Description

Alder Ferry would have been just another nondescript suburb living in the shadow of its urban parent if not for one detail: the mysterious stand of alder trees anchoring the town to its past and standing as a reminder to the wilderness that once stood in its place.

In the shadows of the alders a boy named Tommy found refuge. There, an eclectic book collection was his only companion through a tumultuous childhood, serving as his escape from the brutal realities of his life. That was, until Aubrey appeared.

Born of different worlds, the alders become their escape while their unlikely friendship blossoms into a love that few people ever come to understand or enjoy—proving that true friendship is a romantic pursuit in its purest form.

Together they come of age in a town hostile to their friendship—a friendship that challenges the intersecting boundaries of class, gender and sexuality. Prejudice and privilege masquerade to destroy their dreams while class, gender and faith collide. All are tested as Tommy and Aubrey carry each other through their teen years and into adulthood.

Whispers in the Alders is an impassioned experience that will test the emotions and is a story that will linger with the reader long after the last page is turned.

About the author

H.A. Callum

Of all the hats I have worn, the only one that has truly defined me is that of the writer. Whatever has happened, and wherever I have been, writing has always been my guidepost.

Writing has been the best way to examine life while contrasting it to the “what ifs” and “why nots” that surround the marquis events of our existence. This is also why we read: to give us a greater understanding of our own lives through the lens of characters that face similar challenges as we do.

I’m glad you stopped in to visit. I hope you enjoy what you read here and take some of it along with you to share. As always, I am most interested in what you – my readers – have to say.

The light is always on and the keyboard endlessly humming along, through late nights and endless cups of coffee. It’s a writer’s life!

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