Bullseye by James Pattereson & Michael Ledwidge

Bullseye by James Pattereson & Michael Ledwidge

As the most powerful men on earth gather in New York for a meeting of the UN, Detective Michael Bennett receives intelligence warning that there will be an assassination attempt on the US president. Even more shocking, the intelligence suggests that the Russian government could be behind the plot.

Tensions between America and Russia are the highest they’ve been since the Cold War, but this would be an escalation no one could have expected.

The details are shadowy, and Bennett finds false leads and unreliable sources at every turn. But he can’t afford to get this wrong. If the plotters succeed, the shockwaves will be felt across the globe.

A joint collaboration between James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge, Bullseye is a quick and effortless read. With a heady pace and storyline that develops quicker than a speeding bullet I thoroughly enjoyed it, it was an entertaining read as I struggled through my long indoor bike rides at the gym. Although I’ve read a few James Patterson books in the past I’ve not read any of the Michael Bennett series so it will be interesting to take a look at the earlier novels and compare old and new.

More often than not, any storyline that involves the White House or a standing United States President always piques my interest and I simply can’t resist, Bullseye is no exception and I for one am glad I gave it a shot – excuse the pun!

Characterisation is interesting. I really enjoyed following Michael Bennett’s progress throughout the book, workload and his family troubles – caused mainly by children – I mean anyone with 10 children are going to have a trying day at the best of times! Mary Catherine’s character sounds too good to be true, a nanny turned partner who takes on so many children? Wonderful – I did want to learn more about her in the novel but unfortunately she isn’t in the storyline a huge amount but what there was of her I enjoyed. Similarly Father Seamus who although in a couple of scenes his humour and personality shone through, I’d definitely like to learn more about him and his relationship with the family as a whole!

The storyline itself was good and you never really knew who would end up paying the ultimate sacrifice at the end and who was involved in the plot to kill the US President but everything is tied up nicely in the end. It did get a little complicated in the beginning with a number of arcs running alongside the main storyline and protagonist, it took me a while to distinguish between the two assassins, but maybe that’s my simplified brain at fault!

Would I read another Michael Bennett book? You bet. Enjoyable, entertaining and a very quick read, you can’t ask for much more than that.

  • Hardcover:368 pages
  • Publisher:Century (28 July 2016)
  • Language:English
  • ISBN-10:1780892721
  • ISBN-13:978-1780892726
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NYPD Red 4

NYPD Red 4

In a city where crime never sleeps, NYPD Red is the elite task force called in when a case involves the rich, famous and connected. Detectives Zach Jordan and Kylie MacDonald are the best of the best – brilliant and tireless investigators who will stop at nothing to catch a criminal, even if it means antagonising the same powerful people they’re supposed to be helping.

When a glitzy movie premiere is the scene of a shocking murder and high-stakes robbery, NYPD Red gets the call. In a hunt that takes Zach and Kylie from celebrity penthouses to the depths of Manhattan’s criminal underworld, they have to find the cold-blooded killer – before he strikes again.

My first foray into the NYPD Red series, NYPD Red 4 is an incredibly fluid and entertaining read. From the very first page until the very last there’s no pause in the action. The pages flow effortlessly from one to another, the narrative easy on the eye and the various sub plots all adding to a terrific experience.

Of all the books I’ve read this year I’d have to say that this has been the easiest to read by far and one that was incredibly hard to put down. Even the lure of a warm bed late at night couldn’t tear me away from the book.

With rain lashing down outside, the book was the perfect companion. Characterisation was perfect and the main protagonists worked well together but it was the narrative that won the day for me. I can’t do it justice in these few paragraphs but when a book works it works. James Patterson and Marshall Karp have the makings of a wonderful partnership, they’ve combined for the entire series, a series I hope they continue. Although I haven’t had the chance to read the first three in the series I felt right at home with NYPD Red 4 but I’ll definitely seek out the other three if the standard is half as good as this book!

The main story – Elena Travers’s murder – is quickly usurped with multiple thefts of expensive hospital equipment from hospitals in the district and the Mayor has called in team Red to investigate. Detectives Zach and and Kylie have their work cut out for them but it’s not the only thing the pair have to deal with in this book. Both are enjoying trouble on the home front and it appears to be an almost impossible task of juggling the home life with an ever increasing work schedule, it all adds to the unique flavour of NYPD Red.

So there we have it, without going into too much detail NYPD Red 4 is a wonderful and effortless read. A great book for a summer vacation or one to wile away the hours if the weather just happens to be rather inclement outside, either way you can’t go wrong.

Paperback: 448 pages
Publisher: Arrow (19 May 2016)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0099594447
ISBN-13: 978-0099594444

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Dominique Ansel Secret Recipes from the World Famous New York Bakery

It doesn’t happen all that often but when it does, it takes your breath away!

The latest cook and bakery book to arrive is Dominique Ansel’s The Secret Recipes, creator of the world famous Cronut – published in the UK in March by Murdoch Books. For those who haven’t heard of this delightful delicacy it’s a rather ingenious cross between a croissant and a doughnut and although I’ve never had the chance to eat one, they do look incredibly tempting. An ideal combination meal of breakfast and brunch, lines form every morning at Dominique’s New York bakery to buy them.  Dominique includes a home version in his book in the advanced section, not the ones on offer in New York – I am yet to attempt it!

Let’s not mess about here; this is without doubt a beautiful book and one that will take pride of place on my bookshelf for years to come. The Secret Recipes is one of those books that oozes quality and I knew it was going to be a good book before I’d had the opportunity to open the cover and turn to the first page, it just feels right, it looks right! A go to book full of irresistible recipes and must bakes, the book takes into consideration three levels of home baker – beginner, intermediate and advanced so there’s something here for everyone and something for the beginner and intermediate to aspire to.

The one thing this book does – and I’ll certainly testify to this – is make you want to bake immediately. You’ll devour the recipes, make a few notes on a shopping pad and rush out to buy ingredients for your first attempt! That’s exactly what happened to me on Saturday! I am that man! Once I’d finished my gym session I headed to my local superstore and bought the ingredients required to make chocolate pecan cookies.

One of the interesting things about this book are the notes accompanying each recipe. Dominique encourages you to try new things and if something isn’t working with a recipe; don’t be afraid to try something different, the instructions guide you through each process from beginning to end in simple steps. The recipes are easy to follow and set out in such a way that as long as you read the recipe before you begin, gather everything you need then you won’t go far wrong!

This is what the chocolate pecan cookies turned out like, not too shabby!! …….

Chocolate Pecan Cookies from Dominique Ansel’s: The Secret Recipes

Chocolate Pecan Cookies from Dominique Ansel’s: The Secret Recipes

Cookies are fairly simple to bake but get it wrong and they are disastrous! Following the recipe for the chocolate pecan cookies I slightly adapted the recipe for the ingredients I had on hand. 60% or higher chocolate was substituted for 51% and chocolate drops substituted for pieces of chocolate (added towards the end of the mix). It didn’t matter and the overall flavour and result magnificent but I will be trying this again soon with a higher concentrate of cocoa. That said, I took them in to work this morning and the cookies were eaten within 10 minutes – not sure what that says about my colleagues but I haven’t killed anyone just yet!

One note about using chocolate pieces is that when you bite into the pecan cookie and hit a piece of chocolate, there’s no better sensation! Everyone who’s tried these cookies commented about the chocolate pieces so I think I’ll continue using misshapes! The book has definitely encouraged me to practice more and to try and improve, most of all it’s a good read and an enjoyable one.

CHOCOLATE PECAN COOKIES

I love making this recipe . . . because of its forgiving nature and utterly addictive results.

Skill Level Beginner

Time 15 minutes one day before; 20 minutes the day of

Yield 20 cookies (about 1¾ ounces/50 grams each)

Ingredients

Dark chocolate chips                             2 cups                                                              455 grams
(60% cocoa content or greater)

Unsalted butter (84% butterfat)       3 tablespoons + ½ teaspoon                   45 grams

Granulated sugar                                   1 cup + 2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons  250 grams

Cornflour (cornstarch)                         ¼ cup                                                              42 grams

Baking powder                                        ¾ teaspoon                                                   3.75 grams

Kosher salt                                                ½ teaspoon                                                   1 gram

Whole eggs (large), lightly beaten   3 each                                                              3 each (150 grams)

Pecans, coarsely chopped                    ¼ cup                                                              55 grams

One Day Before – Make Dough

Melt 1½ cups (340 grams) of the chocolate chips (set aside remaining chocolate) in a double boiler: Fill a medium saucepan with about 3 inches (7.5 cm) water and bring it to a simmer. Place the chips in a medium heatproof bowl and place the bowl snugly over the water. Stir slowly with a heatproof spatula to ensure that the chocolate chips are completely melted and smooth before turning off the heat.*

Melt the butter in the microwave (about 30 seconds on high). Mix into the melted chocolate with the spatula. Keep warm over the hot water.

Combine the sugar, cornflour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Add the eggs and whisk until fully blended and the mixture resembles pancake batter. Use the spatula to make sure you incorporate any dry ingredients that have settled on the bottom or sides of the bowl.

Slowly whisk in the melted chocolate–butter mixture. (If it has cooled and begun to solidify, gently reheat it before incorporating.)

Gently fold in the remaining ½ cup (115 grams) chocolate chips and the pecans with the spatula.±

Transfer the dough to a shallow baking dish. Cover with plastic wrap pressed directly onto the surface of the batter, to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate overnight to rest.

The Day Of Bake

Place a rack in the centre of the oven and preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C) for conventional or 350ºF (175ºC) for convection. Line a baking tray with baking paper.

Using your hands, break the dough into pieces the size of your palm (about 3½ tablespoons/50 grams). Roll the dough into balls and place them on the baking tray at least 2 inches (5 cm) apart from one another. Press gently on the top of each ball with the palm of your hand to make a thick disk. This dough doesn’t spread much, so the disks should be relatively close to the size of cookie you’d like.

Bake on the centre rack for 4 minutes. Rotate the tray 180 degrees and bake for about 4 minutes more. When the cookies are just beginning to crack on top but the dough is set on the edge and has a soft spot about the size of a 10-cent coin in the centre, remove from the oven.

Let the cookies cool on the tray for 5 to 7 minutes, to further set.

Remove the cookies from the tray and set aside. Reline the cooled tray with clean baking paper and continue with the remaining dough.

Serving Instructions All cookies are best eaten while warm. A glass of ice-cold milk helps.

Storage Instructions The dough can be wrapped in plastic wrap and kept in the refrigerator for 3 days
or frozen for up to 1 week. (Thaw in the refrigerator for a few hours before baking.) The baked cookies
can be kept in a closed airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days.

Dominique Ansel’s: The Secret Recipes is published by Murdoch Books

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Ever since The Burglar on the Prowl climbed the bestseller lists in 2004, fans have been clamouring for a new book featuring the lighthearted and light-fingered Bernie Rhodenbarr. Now everybody’s favourite burglar returns in an eleventh adventure that finds him and his lesbian sidekick Carolyn Kaiser breaking into houses, apartments, and even a museum, in a madcap adventure replete with American Colonial silver, an F. Scott Fitzgerald manuscript, a priceless portrait, and a remarkable array of buttons. And, wouldn’t you know it, there’s a dead body, all stretched out on a Trent Barling carpet

The Burglar Who Counted the Spoons

The Burglar Who Counted the Spoons

I have one admission before I begin this review, not only have I not read Bernie’s previous exploits as a burglar but I’ve not read any of Lawrence Block’s books and with this in mind, Bernie and Carolyn were a completely unexpected and dare I say colourful package. Given that this title represents Bernie’s eleventh adventure I have some serious catchup to do!

On more than one occasion during The Burglar Who Counted the Spoons I was reminded of LC Tyler’s Elsie and Ethelred partnership, a series I’ve taken so much enjoyment from in the past.

Although a crime book, for me, The Burglar Who Counted the Spoons is more of a humorous read, an adventure interspersed with criminal activity, a death and a climactic scene where we discover who the culprit – or culprits – are. I can’t tell you how often I laughed at the dialogue, this book is the epitome of a fun read where you leave all your troubles at the door and simply enjoy the ride.

Bernie is a terrific character and his relationship with Carolyn as solid as they come. Both enjoy each others company and the way Block has written their friendship, you never feel as a reader that you are eavesdropping on something you shouldn’t. You are always, or at least I did, made to feel part of the story and partnership.

As I have already mentioned, given that this is the eleventh time Bernie has funkily strutted his way to solving crimes and enjoyed numerous amorous dalliances, I never once felt as if I had been alienated from past novels. Sure, like all things, I would have gained a knowledge and understanding of what makes our intrepid burglar tick but such is the way the author has crafted this book I found it worked as a standalone rather well.

So there we have it, a crisp and assured read, sumptuously funny but the overriding feeling I’m left with after turning over the final page – gratification. It made me smile throughout and from a book, you can’t ask any more than that. A wonderful and warm read, a great introduction, albeit a late one, to a series that I now have no option other than to begin at the beginning!

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Orion (15 May 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 140915355X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1409153559
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 16 x 3.2 cm
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The Rembrandt Secret by Alex Connor

The Rembrandt Secret by Alex Connor

A centuries-old conspiracy is about to explode into the present with devastating consequences.

The first victim was forced to swallow stones. The second was whipped to death. The third was stabbed in the heart. A deadly serial killer is taking people down across London and New York. What did they all know? Why were they butchered? Who else is in the killer’s sights? And how can they be stopped? Inspired by real events in the artist’s life, The Rembrandt Secret is an incredible page-turner that combines deadly murder and the hidden truth behind one of the world’s most famous artists.

If, like me, you enjoy history told with a veritable spin, an immersive narrative and just a little hint of danger then you are definitely in for a treat with The Rembrandt Secret by Alex Connor. There’s something intriguing about the old masters and I for one can never get enough of thrillers set in this genre. I love a book that, although loosely based on fact, has a license to bend the truth and make you wonder if, what you are reading is indeed fact or fiction. I felt this way throughout the book and couldn’t wait to get to the final chapter and read what the author had to say about what really happened all those years ago.

On numerous occasions I found myself searching the web via google – other search engines are available of course – looking at the various paintings depicted in this story. It somehow added another depth to the book when you could see what the author was describing. I’ve never been one for Rembrandt’s art – I’m more of a Claude Monet fan myself – but the book certainly educates and gently forces you to learn more even though it’s a work of fiction. I love books that do that. It made me want to know more about Rembrandt and who and what he stood for.

At the heart of the story is Marshall Zeigler who is struggling to come to terms with the death of his father, and as the story progresses he realises he never really knew his father at all. Secrets are unravelled, stories told and whenever millions of pounds are at stake death is no strange bedfellow – no one is safe. The various murders in this book are pretty gruesome and before long Zeigler realises that an unknown serial killer is responsible and he is determined to find out who killed his father.

As an outsider to the Art world and with few contacts he soon realises that trust and honesty is at a premium. Who can he turn to for help? His life is at a crossroads and it takes numerous bold and risky decisions to move forward. One thing is certain, he can never go back to his old life.

The story is told at breakneck speeds and rarely lets up even when we delve into the 17th century and first hand accounts of Geertje Dircx Rembrandt’s mistress and spurned housekeeper. I really enjoyed this passage of writing and every time we visited Geertje I smiled.

Characterisation is good, apart from the aforementioned Zeigler there are no stand out personalities, the story revolves around Zeigler and his decisions to exact revenge on the person or persons who murdered his father. There are a number of surprises instore and I really enjoyed the reveal in the end.  Very enjoyable, well thought out and I will definitely read more from Alex Connor.

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Quercus (20 Jan 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1849163464
  • ISBN-13: 978-1849163460
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Dead Set by Will Carver

Dead Set by Will Carver

Detective Inspector January David doesn’t love me.

He loves his missing sister. He loves his job.

But he doesn’t love me. Not in the way he should.

I am his wife. I am still his wife.

And I will do anything for him.

No matter what I have to sacrifice.

A couple of years ago I had the privilege to read Will Carver’s debut novel Girl 4, a book I found  hard to forget, a book that was very well written and one which included an amazing plot along with a spattering of evil and ingenious murders. When I read the follow up last year – The Two – I have to admit I didn’t enjoy it as much and given the chance to read a new novel by the author, the third instalment in the Detective January David series, I jumped at the chance, a chance and opportunity to see how this reader felt about the latest offering from Will Carver.

I can categorically say, as far as this humble reader is concerned, Will Carver is back with a veritable bang, Dead Set has an incredible and everlasting punch. Simply put, this is as good if not better than Girl 4. The book will keep you guessing from the outset until the final revelatory and gripping chapter. The book, although complex, is skilfully woven together with numerous angles and sub plots to keep everyone happy. Working your way through the book it’s almost impossible to know what is going to happen, who’s responsible – for crimes past and present – and who will end up paying with their very life.

Getting the balance right between making the book overly complex and too simple is a delicate craft but I think the author has successfully managed to hit the nail on the head with this one. It made me think. I continued to question things throughout and I was never 100% certain I knew what was going on! That said, and this is where the balance comes in, I always felt as if I was a hair’s breadth away from cracking the case wide open.

The characters feed off one another, no more so than the three pivotal ones in the book – Eames, Detective January David and David’s missing wife. They all play a part to help the book flow and along with a gripping narrative and eclectic supporting cast, this book is over before you know it.

Predominately set in and around New York – which I absolutely loved – I felt like a tourist moving from one location to the other. I got a real sense of New York and one which makes me even keener to visit the Big Apple. New York comes alive for sure.

The ending is to die for! The way Carver closes the book is sensational. A little bit here, a little bit there, it all comes together yet at the same time leaves the door ajar and you wanting more. I want to know what happens next. One thing is certain; things will never be the same again.

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Arrow (21 Nov 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099551055
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099551058
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Michael Russell When I set out to write The City of Shadows, the first of a series of historical crime novels set in Ireland before and during the Second World War, the aim was first to tell a good tale, hopefully, but also to explore that time, to look at Ireland’s often compromised ‘neutrality’ and to ‘visit’ some other cities that played a role in the war. In The City of Shadows that city was German Danzig in 1935 (now Polish Gdańsk, a change that tells its own tale!) and now in the latest Stefan Gillespie story, The City of Strangers, it is New York, where Stefan finds the looming war in Europe already being fought in the streets.

Telling a good story and exploring ‘the times’ in ways that take you off the beaten track is what historical crime fiction is all about. And they were strange times, as British and German spies sat at adjacent table in Dublin bars, and Ireland’s odd neutrality was best summed up by the fact that German aircrew landing in Ireland were interned for the duration of the war, while Allied aircrew were given a pint and put on the train to Belfast! But creating the sense of those times is a bit like writing about a foreign country. It’s not big things that really tell you what it feels like to be there, it’s the small things. To find a sense of history, you need a real sense of place, whether that place is Dublin and the mountains of West Wicklow, the dark alleyways of Danzig, or the towers of New York.

Michael Russell 2And although Stefan Gillespie’s investigations take him far from home, it is always in the grey streets of Dublin and the green lanes of West Wicklow that the stories have their heart. A sense of place and a real sense of the past went hand in hand when I was writing, partly because the stories often involve, behind the bodies and the action that is the stuff of crime fiction, a search for memory and belonging, in an Ireland still struggling to find out, as a newly independent nation, exactly what kind of country it really wanted to be.

In both The City of Strangers and The City of Shadows, I wanted Dublin in the 1930s to be real, a place you could see and feel. A place you could even find your way around. The first book starts with a man walking along the Liffey at night. Close to the end, on another night, Stefan Gillespie walks down O’Connell Street and over the Liffey too. The city is everywhere in between. In The City of Strangers Stefan finds himself looking at the bloody evidence of a murder in Herbert Place. Later he walks through the city from Bewley’s in Grafton Street to the Four Courts Hotel that once stood by the river. Dublin and its surroundings play a major part in the books that is almost that of a character. Kingsbridge Station (now Heuston), Clanbrassil Street, Garda HQ in the Phoenix Park, the Shelbourne, Harold’s Cross, Corbawn Lane in suburban Shankill, the Gate Theatre, Neary’s in Chatham Street, Merrion Square, the CID offices at Dublin Castle, Dorset Street, the Four Courts, Henrietta Street. Already a long list, but it’s really much longer.

In the process of writing about these places I have taken pleasure in making sure that much of the time shops and pubs that are mentioned are the ones that were really there, using the extraordinary door-stop-size book that is Thom’s Directory of Ireland. It doesn’t matter to the story, but it matters to the spirit of the story. One of the things I quickly found about writing historical fiction is that you can’t play with the past the way you can with the present. Readers expect historical fiction to be, well, historical! If you’re going to ‘stretch’ that history you need to be sure the facts behind it all will stand up.

Michael Russell 3Part of what I have written about Dublin, as about West Wicklow and the hills above Baltinglass, is unashamedly a celebration of places that matter to me, places I love. But it was only really when I started writing my second book, The City of Strangers, that I realised that the strange familiarity I felt with the streets of Dublin in the first half of the twentieth century, went deeper than I had remembered. I realised that my own sense of ‘knowing’ those dark, often rainy, foggy streets, had been left in my head, generally forgotten for most of my life, by my grandmother. She was born in Moville at the very end of the nineteenth century and lived through both the War of Independence and the Civil War in Ireland, before emigrating to England in search of work in the late 1920s.

When I was very young she told me stories about Ireland, about Donegal and Armagh and about the years she worked in Dublin. They were stories that often involved ‘the echo of the Thompson gun’ and assassinations, Black and Tans and Volunteers, gruesome deaths and miraculous escapes, black streets it was dangerous to walk at night. There were few of my childhood friends in England whose grandparents’ stories could compete with the murder and mayhem of mine! But it was a long time ago, and they had slipped to the back of my mind, even when I found myself living in Ireland and raising my children there. But they hadn’t gone away. And when I walked the dark streets of old Dublin with Stefan Gillespie… well, I think my grandmother was probably there to show us the way.

I hope The City of Strangers is, above all, a tale to give readers who like ‘mystery’ and ‘history’ enjoyment. A body on an Irish beach; a brutal murder in middle-class Dublin; a man falling from thirty storeys from a Manhattan penthouse overlooking Central Park; a woman running for her life. But it is also a celebration of two great cities at a fascinating time in their history, Dublin and New York in 1939. New York was, of course, the third largest ‘Irish’ city in the world at that time, but then New York is another story…

Michael Russell

For More on Michael and his books please take the time to visit his website and follow him on twitter @forgottencities

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The Intercept - Dick Wolf

The Intercept – Dick Wolf

Four days before the dedication of the new Freedom Tower at ground zero in New York City, five passengers and a flight attendant bravely foil the hijacking of a commercial jet en route to the city. Thrust into the national spotlight, ‘The Six’ become instant celebrities, hailed for their bravery. But iconoclastic New York Police investigator Jeremy Fisk believes there’s more to this than a simple open-and-shut terrorism case. Fisk -from the department’s Intelligence Division – suspects that in reality this is an early warning signal that another potentially more devastating attack is imminent.

Fisk and his team spring into action, but as each promising new lead fizzles to nothing they realise that their opponents are smarter and more dangerous than anyone they’ve faced before. The seemingly invisible enemy is able to exploit every security weakness, anticipating Fisk’s every move. And time is running out until ground zero day…

Many of us have grown up with NBC’s Law & Order on the televisual box in one format or the other; after all it is the longest running drama in television history. We have Dick Wolf – creator – to thank for the long running series; we also have Dick Wolf to thank for his debut action thriller – The Intercept – but can he turn his hand to writing thrillers?

New York City, arguably the biggest and most valuable prize or scalp for terrorist groups around the world, is facing an unknown foe and it’s left to Jeremy Fisk to save the day. Introducing us to a new protagonist, Wolf has created an intellectual leading man in Frisk, a likeable character who isn’t without his problems. If Wolf is to develop this series – given that this is Jeremy Fisk #1 – then I’d like to see a deeper approach to the protagonist, I want him to carry baggage, to have demons, to have faults. I wanted a deeper leading man and although Wolf does a good job with him, in my personal opinion he could have gone deeper. Having said all that, I’d still want to work with him, Fisk that is!

I’ve noticed a number of books lately cashing in on the capture and death of Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan and The Intercept is another example. The one thing I did like about Wolf’s use of the former al-Qaeda leader’s hideout was not so much the capture element but the intelligence gathering in Germany following the raid. I liked how he brought the storyline in and then developed it as the book progressed.

“We have failed to innovate.” Bin Laden exclaims following recent failures, the leader determined to make the West pay for their crimes. Unbeknown to Fisk he has a devious plan in place and what ensues is a terrific race against time to foil the extremists. Although Bin Laden appears for a brief moment, an aperitif to the main show, his introduction is a bold move – but it works. Even though a work of fiction my imagination got the better of me and I began wondering just what it was like to live in the famous Abbottabad compound.

That said I do think he could have done so much more with Bin Laden given his immense power and hold he had on millions of people throughout the world following September 2001. There is something missing in the book and I can’t quite put my finger on it.

The book is a very fast read and I managed to read the thriller in two – entertaining – short sittings, the narrative has a certain screenwriter appeal to it; in fact I’ll go further and say it reads just like a television screenplay but then given Wolf’s background this certainly won’t come as a surprise to anyone. I for one enjoyed this approach.

We are given short, sharp chapters, plenty of action, a few red herrings and numerous and eclectic characters to satisfy most. I’m not going to go too deep into the plot, but suffice to say I wanted a different ending! I enjoyed how he teased his audience with a well thought out arc, introducing characters to the plot, their backstory and why they did what they did – or didn’t do!

The storyline and plot building is well done and the dialogue is crisp and on point, the book is heavily dependent on dialogue but fortunately this is where Wolf excels. A well-crafted and multi layered thriller, The Intercept shows a great deal of promise both in Wolf’s approach to thriller writing and Fisk as his leading man. More please.

Available to buy in Paperback and Kindle formats.

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Sphere (29 Aug 2013)
  • Language: Unknown
  • ISBN-10: 0751551139
  • ISBN-13: 978-0751551136
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Black Bear by Aly Monroe

Black Bear by Aly Monroe

Sent to Manhattan as part of the British effort to build intelligence into the new United Nations Organisation ‘from the foundations up’, Agent Peter Cotton wakes up in the Ogden Clinic on East 76th Street, a private facility reserved for very special patients and veterans.

He is told he was found badly bruised, slumped in a doorway, and that he had been injected with at least three ‘truth-drugs’. He is lucky to be alive.

Plagued by vertigo, colour blindness and tunnel vision, and unable to be certain what is real and what hallucinatory, Cotton must piece together what has happened to him, find out who is responsible and why. What he discovers is even more unsettling. His biggest uncertainty? Why he has been allowed to live.

I’ve been looking forward to the latest Peter Cotton thriller ever since I reviewed the award winning Icelight last year. Cotton is one of those characters you’ll either warm to or won’t, there’s no middle ground but fortunately for me I’m in the camp that likes him for his quirks and his dry personality. He knows what he wants and for the most part he gets it, albeit in a roundabout and intelligent way.

Black Bear starts off slowly; our protagonist is recovering from a cocktail of life threatening drugs in a New York clinic and we discover his recovery is slow and laboured. Aly Monroe – and Peter Cotton – spend a good deal of time fighting the after affects – 120 pages in total –  and I have to admit I did begin to wonder what direction the book was taking. Normally, as far as I’m concerned, reading about someone cooped up in a room hallucinating and trying to figure out why it happened and who was responsible would have been quite insular but this is where Aly Monroe excels. She kept me intrigued and held my interest throughout his stay at the Ogden Clinic thanks mainly to an engaging narrative and compelling dialogue.

Many of you, who have read any of the previous Peter Cotton books, will notice the difference in style within the first few chapters. Black Bear has a different feel to it, a slower pace to the others, more psychological and concentrating for the best part with recovery and the fascination of who attacked our intrepid spy. It’s this question that keeps Cotton focused throughout allowing Monroe to present an incredibly complex storyline, despite the fact that not much happens!

Cotton felt enormously tired, as if each word he had spoken had been bruising
his brain and he simply had no more space left for any more bruises. He could see a
kind of kaleidoscopic fracturing of colours under his eyelids. These broken bits began
to spin and melt into a single colour. It was a repulsive shade of urine and tangerine.

‘He’s screwed,’ said another American voice, one that Cotton had not heard.

‘He says he’s screwed.’

If he had been able to, Cotton would have nodded. The translation was just right enough. He passed out again on a feeling almost like relief.

Despite this sedentary start the book comes alive for me when Cotton leaves the clinic and moves to Narragansett Rhode Island and spends two months recuperating, much to the chagrin of his boss who doesn’t believe he needs this time off. I was immediately transported back in time to the late 1940’s, I absolutely adored the writing in this passage of the book and with every turn of the page I felt as if I was truly exploring every facet of life in small town America in the 1940’s. The Narragansett narrative is powerfully evocative with gossip, drama and dubious friendships and relationships – and a little spying – and Cotton soon finds out that his two months of recuperation isn’t going to go quite as planned.

There are a number of colourful characters in Narragansett each playing their part and allowing the story to evolve and move slowly forward. Cotton becomes involved with small town life in more ways than he cared to but this was one of the facets of the book that intrigued me.

Atmospheric, engrossing and intelligently written, Black Bear tantalises from the very first page until its conclusion.

Black Bear is available to buy in Hardback and Kindle formats.

 

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: John Murray (9 May 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1848544863
  • ISBN-13: 978-1848544864
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Marked by David Jackson

Marked by David Jackson

In New York’s East Village a young girl is brutally raped, tortured and murdered. Detective Callum Doyle has seen the victim’s remains. He has visited the distraught family. Now he wants justice. Doyle is convinced he knows who the killer is. The problem is he can’t prove it. And the more he pushes his prime suspect, the more he learns that the man is capable of pushing back in ways more devious and twisted than Doyle could ever have imagined. Add to that the appearance of an old adversary who has a mission for Doyle and won’t take no for an answer, and soon Doyle finds himself at risk of losing everything he holds dear. Including his life.

Marked represents David Jackson’s third title in the Callum Doyle – Detective Second Grade – series and without a shadow of a doubt this is another impressive read. The book moves on from Doyle’s earlier exploits in Pariah and The Helper and even though we have the odd murder here and there this book is a more powerful and sombre affair concentrating on Doyle’s character and the scrapes he finds himself in. This makes for uncomfortable reading at times and Doyle’s personality doesn’t exactly shine through, more a dark and depressing day to day romp through the streets of New York.

This new approach certainly gives Doyle a multi layered persona, more depth, an edge, and as a result allows Jackson to create a Cimmerian book with only the odd light and shade to add balance and relief. This isn’t all gloom and doom for there are a few tender moments, humour too, which all help lighten the darkness a touch. Perhaps not as much dry humour as I would have liked – and come to expect from Doyle’s character – to be honest but when we do get it it makes it that more special and it still managed to give me the odd chuckle along the way.

Characterisation is once again spot on with a number of cast members adding to the story, Doyle obviously taking centre stage but this time he’s joined with a new partner in LeBlanc. The youngster struggles to find his voice and feet in the beginning but as the two clash – along with other members of the Homicide squad – he grows a set and eventually finds a voice that causes Doyle to take stock and question his actions.

I was enamoured by Doyle’s daughter – Amy – in The Helper and would have loved a few more scenes with her this time around but with Doyle fighting his fair share of demons we only get the odd exchange between father and daughter but yet again Jackson has the vocabulary spot on. It certainly made me smile!

The tender moments come from a family grieving and give the book the depth I was talking about earlier. I really took to Nicole – the mother – and found I could relate to her on another level. Grieving for the loss of her daughter, Jackson captures a family dealing with the loss of a sixteen year old with compassion and intrigue allowing both parents to develop throughout the book.

Make no bones about it, this is a seriously dark book if you hadn’t guessed!, Doyle is in a dark place and it’ll take a miracle to get himself out of the mire he finds himself in. Yet again Jackson’s literary skills shine through with another fast and accomplished narrative together with an impressive dialogue – a real page turner. Marked can be easily taken as a standalone but to get the most out of Doyle and the development of his character you really should read the first two in the series.

Marked is available to order in paperback and kindle formats.

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Macmillan (3 Jan 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 023076049X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0230760493
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The 12th Victim by Katia Lief

The 12th Victim by Katia Lief

The police call him the working girl killer. But no woman is safe…

The 11th victim is found only a short distance from Karin Shaeffer’s house. At thecrime-scene she discovers a local prostitute stabbed to death, the knife left embedded in her body.

It is the signature of the ‘Working Girl Killer’ – a serial killer who has terrorised New York City for the last three years. The police are clueless but when Karin’s best-friend becomes the lead investigator, she finds herself drawn into the investigation as a consulting detective.

But next time the killer is going to strike all too close to home…

I have no idea where the time has gone lately and when I suddenly take a gander at the calendar I notice it’s been 16 months since I read my first Katia Lief book– You Are Next (Karin Schaeffer 1) – and with it my introduction to the mercurial Karin Schaeffer. In You Are Next Karin is in a dark place throughout following the loss of her daughter and husband and it’s all about rebuilding her life but in The 12th Victim, she appears to have turned a corner despite reeling from another loss in her life.

No stranger to dead bodies – friends, family or strangers – the former detective appears to be a magnet for corpses, serial killers and grisly murders, a note not lost on our heroine during this her third book in the mesmerising series. The funny thing is, with the body count increasing, I was thinking exactly that when two pages down the line Schaeffer questions how it is she is attracting the macabre. That in itself was slightly disconcerting and it was as if the author had read my mind and put it in the narrative to explain herself – either very clever and a new way of writing or just plain creepy – I’ll let you decide!

As with her first book The 12th Victim is another fluid and pacy read, read over two days the story flows unhindered with a heady mix of intelligently placed characters and a well-structured plot. There were a couple of things I questioned – more to do with relationships than anything else – and I couldn’t quite believe one thing would happen in real life but I’m seriously struggling to find something negative to say in what is an intelligent and gripping story.

The final 100 pages flew by, as did the rest of the book, but Katia Lief pulled me one way and then the other and I never quite knew where the author was taking me. One moment I thought a particular person was clearly guilty and then a few pages later I’d changed my mind only to see it changed again minutes later! A rollercoaster of a finish Lief ties the story incredibly well and does a magnificent job of good old fashioned storytelling and giving us a few well-placed red herrings along the way.

I have to confess I could happily read Katia Lief novels all day long, there’s something comforting and relaxing about them – despite the grim and deadly threads – but they are so easy to read it makes reading enjoyable, you just lose yourself. Add a good tale to the mix I guess you can’t ask for much more in a book.

Characterisation is once again top drawer and I simply loved the way Ben was written in this book. On the cusp of turning four, Schaeffer’s son is a force to be reckoned with, I just loved his interaction with his parents and in fact everyone he came into contact with. Ben was probably the highlight of the book for me and I for one can’t wait to see how he grows in the next book despite being only four years old at the end of the book!

The 12th Victim works well as a standalone but I would certainly recommend starting with the first book in the series to optimise character development.

The 12th Victim is available to buy in Paperback & Kindle formats.

·  Paperback: 368 pages

  • Publisher: Ebury Press (Fiction) (5 July 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0091944783
  • ISBN-13: 978-0091944780
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pa·ri·ah

1.an outcast.

2.any person or animal that is generally despised or avoided.

3.a member of a low caste in southern India and Burma.

Pariah by David Jackson

Pariah by David Jackson

The word “Pariah” originates from the early 17th century: from Tamil paṛaiyar, plural of paṛaiyan ‘(hereditary) drummer’, from paṛai ‘a drum’ – after completing David Jackson’s magnificent and taut crime thriller in just two sittings I can categorically state that this book firmly belongs ensconced in the 21st century.

It’s a bad enough day for NYPD detective Callum Doyle when his cop partner is murdered. It’s about to get a hell of a lot worse . . .

When the dead man’s replacement is also brutally killed, suspicion falls on Doyle himself. Then he receives an anonymous message. This is just the beginning, it says. Anyone he gets close to will die – and that includes Doyle’s own family. The only way to keep them alive is to stay away. For good.

Doyle is desperate to find out who is responsible, but when his every move puts others in danger he is forced to back off. With the investigation getting nowhere and his isolation deepening, Doyle has to ask himself an uncomfortable question: just how low is he prepared to sink in order to get his life back?”

To coin a well-known phrase “it came out of left field” aptly describes my feelings when I finished reading David Jackson’s Pariah earlier today. It really was an unexpected crime thriller – a debut title no less!

There’s so much to enjoy and take away from this title – a believable and exciting plot, detectives who appear to be fallible yet determined to catch those responsible for the murders and a fluid narrative that doesn’t falter from beginning to end. Jackson takes the book to the streets – he doesn’t overcomplicate matters, he uses his words sparingly and together with a sound plot and crisp dialogue delivers a spellbinding and intelligent crime thriller.

Available to buy in paperback , Kindle or E-book from Amazon

Pariah is largely dialogue driven and along with the fluid third person narrative it works extremely well. The aforementioned dialogue is crisp aided by a wonderful humour throughout. The one-liners are there in abundance – I never tired of Jackson’s humour and I felt the witty banter gave me a glimpse into the author’s personality.

“It’s my animal magnetism. All the chicks love it.

“I think you’re underestimating your power. What I’m talking about is a destructive force. Enough to start people dropping like flies all around you.”

“Ah, you’re referring to my deodorant.” Doyle raises his arm “You wanna take a sniff?”!

As a leading man Callum Doyle is a wonderfully believable character. Facing overwhelming odds to clear his name and protect his family, Jackson could have been forgiven for making him bulletproof – but he doesn’t. He makes him human – sure he has his faults but together with a great personality, determination and an infectious dry humour the detective puts in an assured performance. He’s a likeable guy and whether he’s eating donuts in a diner or following leads from confidential informants he remains true to his craft.

The Kills – numerous and well thought out, all delivered and executed (I make no apologies!) to an exceptionally high standard. You never really know what to expect and I must confess one death had me physically flinching and shaking at its brutality – without giving anything away I promise you won’t see butchers in the same light again!

An intelligent novel, Pariah is a remarkable debut from David Jackson. In Callum Doyle, Jackson certainly has a protagonist well worth protecting – I for one can’t wait to see what he comes up with next. New York’s finest battle it out in this pulsating crime thriller.

Published by Pan Macmillan Pariah is available in paperback , Kindle or E-book from Amazon

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Stefanie Pintoff’s “In The Shadow of Gotham”, a classy and taut historical crime novel, is set at the turn of the 20th century. Winner of The Edgar award for best first novels in America, “Gotham” is a wonderfully atmospheric tale of greed, betrayal and dogged detection.

In the Shadow of Gotham

In the Shadow of Gotham

The book spans seven days in November 1905 and is a two centre story; New York City and 17 miles north in the small town of Dobson, Westchester County where Detective Simon Ziele now plies his trade as a detective.

Simon Ziele lost his fiancée in one of the greatest disasters ever to hit New York when in excess of a thousand passengers lost their lives to a fire on board the General Slocum Steamboat. In a bid to recover from his loss and the ever increasing violence of New York City he escapes to Dobson to begin a new career, thanks in part to the monetary support from the local Mayor.

Available from Amazon & The Book Depository

Two months into his new job Sarah Wingate, an accomplished mathematician, is brutally murdered in her bedroom in the middle of a winter’s afternoon. The first murder to occur in Dobson for 12 years Ziele has his work cut out for him – a shortage of witnesses, lack of evidence and a partner who remains unconvinced – the cards are heavily stacked against him.

That is until he receives word that the eccentric and highly distinguished criminologist from Columbia University, Alistair Sinclair, knows who committed the murder. Michael Foley, a dangerous criminal with a violent past is the key suspect. Ziele, together with Sinclair and his daughter-in-law Isabella face a frenetic race across New York’s underworld in a bid to solve the murder before the murderer kills again.

As I’ve mentioned in previous reviews, certainly when dealing with historical fiction, I thoroughly enjoy novels that have an assemblance of truth and encourage the reader to delve deeper into the true events of the period. Although Pintoff utilises her authorial licence to stretch fiction, there is more than enough fact in “Gotham” to make you want to read more about the Slocum disaster of 1904, the Mayoral voting scandal and the election fraud in November1905.

The book has a wonderful natural and unforced pace and while the prose is heavily reliant on dialogue, I found it incredibly taut. Given that Gotham is narrated in its entirety by Simon Ziele, I found it was presented as more of a personal journey than an ordinary detective story.

Pintoff’s descriptive powers of New York City are brought to the fore and you really had a sense of walking through the seedier parts of the city, taking a tram or catching the metro downtown. It certainly wasn’t hard to travel back in time to a period when police forensics was in its relative infancy. The wearing of cotton gloves at crime scenes to avoid cross contamination and the fingerprint analysis we take for granted in the 21st century was still an untested procedure in those days.

At the heart of any good novel is the main character. In Simon Ziele, Stefanie Pintoff has created a highly competent and likeable detective who, despite a charming fallibility, has so much to offer this series. A character one can easily relate with, I enjoyed his powers of deduction and I found myself comparing him, in some ways, to Sherlock Holmes. The introduction of Sinclair’s character is an interesting one and I can certainly see the direction the author will take their relationship.

So there you have it, “In The Shadow of Gotham” is a CSI styled historical crime novel set in late 1905 where police procedurals come under the microscope. Full of twists and turns it had me guessing until the final pages. Wonderful debut performance – I expect great things from Pintoff and look forward to the next instalment of Ziele and Sinclair!

Published by Penguin “Gotham” is available to buy from Amazon & The Book Depository

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