Sanctuary of Lies by Chad Bishop

Sanctuary of Lies by Chad Bishop

There are 4.7 billion searchable sites make up 10% of the web, the other 90% is dedicated to the “Dark web”. Within that environment there is a thriving economy where everything is for sale: Sex, Armies and Code for hire. Well-known companies buy and sell for governments and NGO’s (non-governmental organizations). They appear as a benign legal boutique companies and consultants, but their true purpose is to be the middlemen/cyber lynchpin for these illicit goods and services.​

ISABELLA NUNEZ owns a computer firm in Brooklyn with her lover JACOB COSTA. Accepting her infertility they have a blue nose pit bull called Justice as their “child” and live simple lives as techy nerds. Isabella’s idyllic life is shattered when several days after her lover’s ex-wife, SIMONE JOHNS, reported death, Simone sends Jacob an email to come save their child, he didn’t know they had.

I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the author in exhange for an honest review.

The opening of Sanctuary of Lies had me hooked. An act of terrorism with the potential to shut down the skies of the world. I had high hopes for an action packed cyber thriller from that part onwards. Sadly that’s not what I got. I struggled to keep going as the story limped from one thing to the next. The moments of tension were all too predictable, not nearly as tense as they should have been.

From that explosive opening, we hear little more about that subject. It seems to have been all but forgotten, or at least mentioned in different contexts. I struggled to invest myself in the characters. There was little to like or loathe about any of them – the good guys or the bad. They felt somewhat flat and insipid.

I struggled to engage with the plot. For all the tension ramped up at the beginning of the book, the story didn’t deliver. It seemed to meander all over too much. The tense moments weren’t as tense as they should be. Nothing occurred with the sense of urgency the situations merited. The worst part for me came at the end. The only real reference back to the climactic opening was a castaway one liner. It felt a real shame given the potential the book had in the opening.

My rating:

To Kill a Shocking Bard by Paul Mathews

To Kill a Shocking Bard by Paul Mathews

When Upper Goosing’s premier poet, Percy Bishe, expires after scoffing a jumbo cream horn in the Tourist Trap café, foul puff-pastry play is immediately suspected. However, there’s a not-so-sweet surprise in store for Detective Inspector Clinton Trump, when his newly promoted deputy, Sergeant Dinkel, is handed the case and Clinton is left on the side-lines like a piece of stale shortbread. Will our detective genius manage to muscle his way into the investigation? Is Sergeant Dinkel up to the task of tracking down the bard’s killer? And will the murderer get his just deserts? Find out, in this final, lip-smacking Clinton Trump Detective Genius adventure!

I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the author.

To Kill a Shocking Bard brings the Clinton Trump detective trilogy to a close in spectacular style. Local poet Percy Bishe dies in mysterious circumstances, chowing down on his last ever jumbo cream horn during a poetry night in the Tourist Trap Cafe. Fingers are pointed in every direction. Is the baker guilty? The proprietress of the cafe losing customers whenever the poetry group meets? Was it rival poet Byron Lourdes? Or could the culprit be any one of a number of possible suspects with the slightest of reasons to kill him off?To Kill a Shocking Bard Paul MathewsSergeant Dinkel takes charge of the heinous murder much to the disgust of Detective Inspector Clinton Trump, Sout East England’s greatest investigator. While Dinkel heads out to investigate Upper Goosing’s latest murder, the bumbling detective stumbles his way through his own efforts to grab the glory all for himself. As the two cases converge through mishap and fluke another deadly situation befalls the investigative partners.

The third and final book in the trilogy rounds things off nicely. It’s full of comedic events and black humour as per the first two books in the series. The bumbling investigators and the outrages twists make this an entertaining read. There are plenty of little references to Paul Mathews’ We Have Lost series of books, and to himself, always in a humorous and self deprecating manner.

Though vastly different to the We Have Lost series, the Clinton Trump trilogy have been entertaining, silly, dark and enjoyable in equal measure. With Mathews moving on to a new series with new characters, I look forward to seeing what he produces next.

 

My rating:
goodread

The Last Straw by Ed Duncan

The Last Straw by Ed Duncan

When a teenage girl witnesses a carjacking gone bad, she is marked for death by a crime boss with no apparent motive. A black lawyer and a white enforcer with an unlikely history forge an uneasy alliance to protect the girl from a hit man with an agenda of his own.

After they find out that the crime boss is the father of the black teenage carjacker, Paul Elliott – lawyer and close friend of the witness’s family – begins counseling them.

As the long-simmering feud between Rico and John D’Angelo reaches boiling point, bodies start to pile up in rapid succession… and old scores will be settled.

I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the publisher.

The Last Straw sees the return of hitman-for-hire Rico. He finds himself caught up in a mess he hoped to avoid. When asked to carry out a hit, he refuses. Somewhere deep down he has a moral compass, that firmly stops him from taking up a hit on a child. Even less so an innocent child whose only wrongdoing was to have witnessed a carjacking that ended in murder. Events conspire to throw a figure from his past into the mix making for a perfect storm Rico would much prefer to have avoided.
The Last Straw Ed DuncanPicking up where Pigeon-Blood Red finished, Ed Duncan transports the reader back into the murky criminal underworld, this time in Chicago. Rico cannot help but wade into the fray and uncover the mysteries that link the seemingly unconnected threads together. 

Duncan manages to thread multiple story lines together masterfully. The energy and pace is present throughout. Rico gains layers of depth throughout the course of this second book, making him a more enjoyable and engaging character. Though bringing back additional characters from the first book, they did not feel to have been shoehorned in.

I found The Last Straw to be a fast paced novel with plenty to keep the reader engaged. Ed Duncan hides very little from the reader in terms of plotline, but the way the book is written grabbed me by the scruff of the neck and pulled me along for a ride filled with twists. With a third outing to come for Rico, I look forward to seeing what scrapes he finds himself in.

 

My rating:
goodread

The Hitman and the Thief by Richard Dee

The Hitman and the Thief by Richard Dee

Assassination can be a messy business, especially if you’re having a bad day.

Dan Jones is the ultimate problem solver, the hitman for crime boss Fliss Bauer.

Fliss has a rival, Dan is told to arrange her demise. It’s just another job; until a random event means that it all goes horribly wrong.

To save his skin, Dan is forced to try again, only this time he has to work with a partner. He doesn’t want to but it’s the only chance he’s going to get; if he wants to put things right.

Can the hitman and the thief get the job done this time, more importantly, can they keep each other alive?

I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the author.

I’ve known Richard Dee now for some time now having reviewed all of his current Andorra Pett cozy-crime sci-fi novels. I’ve yet to try his steampunk novels but they are firmly on my radar. We spoke recently about an upcoming space-based novel, something very different from the Andorra Pett series, and so I came to read an early draft of The Hitman and the Thief.
THM^0TTProfessional “problem solver” and hitman Dan Jones is tasked with the biggest job he could imagine – carrying out a hit for crime boss Fliss Bauer. A hit on one her biggest rivals. It also represented a chance to prove he still had what it took to occupy such a critical role in the Bauer industry. Dan planned the hit as meticulously as ever. He knew all his options – his entries and exits, where to stash a gun, how to get around the premises. But a chance encounter with a small time thief threw a spanner in the works, leading to the ultimate failure of the mission.

In a last ditch opportunity, Dan must now work with this thief, a person he has no desire to work with, in a bit to finally take down their mark. Can the two work together and make a success of the job? And more importantly is his new partner trustworthy? I found this to be a really great read. I found myself rooting for Dan all the way through. He seemed a genuine character, trying to do the best job he can. Dee has crafted a narrative littered with plot twists making for a page turning story with a dark mystery at its core.

While it had its light moments, this was a decidedly different direction when compared with his cozy space mystery series. The sci-fi elements were well done without overriding the narrative thread. The Hitman and the Thief made for a page turning read, that I couldn’t wait for the next opportunity to pick up where I left off. Not too often do I have the chance to read a book that I am actively looking for the next spare moment to dip back into. This is definitely a book to keep an eye out for, when it is due to release later this year.

My rating:
goodread

Paris Adrift by E.J. Swift

Paris Adrift by E.J. Swift

Determined to escape her old life, misfit and student geologist Hallie packs up her life in England and heads to Paris. She falls in with the eclectic expat community as a bartender at the notorious Millie’s, located next to the Moulin Rouge.

Here she meets Gabriela, a bartender who guides her through this strange nocturnal world, and begins to find a new family. But Millie’s is not all that it seems: a bird warns Hallie to get her feathers in order, a mysterious woman shows up claiming to be a chronometrist, and Gabriela is inexplicably unable to leave Paris.

Then Hallie discovers a time portal located in the keg room. Over the next nine months, irate customers will be the least of her concerns, as she navigates time-faring through the city’s turbulent past and future, falling in love, and coming to terms with her own precarious sense of self.

I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the publisher.

Paris Adrift is an interesting story following the excitement Hallie experiences in her break from university while she stays in Paris. She finds herself working at well-known bar, Millies, right next to the world-famous Moulin Rouge. Here she meets an interesting mix of bar staff from all over the world as she enjoys all Clichy, and Paris has to offer. A series of strange happenings pose the idea that there may be more to the bar and its staff than meets the eye.
Paris AdriftA meeting with a bizarre woman enlightens her to the prospect of time travel through something called an anomaly, something only Hallie will be able to travel through. Focussing on a given date or time will send her forward or back throughout the turbulent history of the French city. In her travels, she sees many things, meets a host of characters and alters the path of the city forever.

The time travel plays an integral role in the narrative, something clearly set out in the opening stages of the book. This all ties together the need for Hallie to find her anomaly and travel through it. Unfortunately I found this element of the narrative a bit disjointed. It seemed so important yet little to no reference to it is made as the book goes on. And worse still, at the conclusion there is no return to the original purpose to clarify fully whether things had been a success.

That said, the time travelling elements were really well written. The locales at different times in history felt really well written, filled with life and energy. The characters in these parts of the story are fantastic and vibrant. It’s these parts of the book that for me rescued it.

My rating:
okaybook

The Blame Game by Terri Reynolds

The Blame Game by Terri Reynolds

Best friends they may be, but Molly and Kate are very different individuals. Molly, a spoilt child and then an indulged wife, not only gets whatever she wants, she takes things that don’t belong to her, including other women’s husbands. Kate, fiercely loyal, has, until now, always defended and protected her friend, at the same time offering refuge to Molly’s traumatised son. Against her better judgement, Kate is forced to revisit the deaths of two men; men who had affairs with Molly. Considered tragic and accidental at the time, fresh scrutiny and new revelations trigger a disturbing chain of events that have sickening consequences.

Molly either can’t or won’t mend her ways, and Kate, caught up in her own personal tragedy, is forced to draw a line in the sand. Their friendship is at breaking point; Molly has gone too far this time. All is not as it seems.

I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the author.

The Blame Game is a rollercoaster of a read, and something I was really able to sink my teeth into. Filled with menace, treachery, lies, deceit and a heaped serving of threat. It was a pacy book with so many twists and turns it had me gripped from cover to cover. The story plays out against a backdrop of adultery, broken marriages, death, grief and obsession. Molly is vilified in the small town in which she lives, having had two affairs, one with a married man. The apparent suicide of the married father of one only compounds her problems. The other man died in a car accident.image1As her marriage broke down, things worsened with verbal and physical violence in front of their young son, Seth. As the years rolled by, Seth became a troubled individual suffering from the trauma of what he has seen and heard over the years. He becomes estranged from both of his parents. Molly, having filed for divorce from her husband James, suffers torment and game playing from him, making the process as painful as possible. The widow of the man she was seeing has turned large parts of the community against her.

Things spiralled as Molly suffers more and more at the hands of the scorned widow and her estranged husband. Though no matter what happens some habits are harder to kick. Her friends, few in number though they may be, seek answers to what is going on and reflecting on the seemingly tragic deaths of her two lovers. Can there be a killer involved? Is Molly responsible? Or the estranged husband? The scorned widow? The traumatised child? Or were these events really just a series of tragic events.

Terri Reynolds presents a cast of credible suspects throughout the book. Any one of them could be the culprit, and I found as the story progressed that I was continually see-sawing from one to the other, never totally sure as to who was the true culprit. Not until, quite literally, the last line of the book. The narrative was fast paced, moving from one element to the next keeping me guessing, and wanting to unravel the next part that might help me uncover the truth. The Blame Game is an impressive read from start to finish.

My rating:
goodread

Red Sun Over Panama by H. Paul Doucette

Red Sun Over Panama by H. Paul Doucette

Just prior to WWII, Japan has made its first move to cripple America’s ability to challenge them in the Pacific Ocean. The Panama Canal. Washington has grave concerns about the safety and security of the Canal and orders the Counterintelligence Police Corps to ensure the Canal remains open and free from sabotage. This has fallen to one agent: Paul Jarvis. He is dispatched to the Canal to work in cooperation with the FBI and the Office of Naval Intelligence. They soon uncover a plot to blow up the Pacific locks. The clock is ticking. In the distance the Red Sun rises above the horizon.

I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the author.

Red Sun Over Panama takes place ahead of the American intervention in World War Two. With tensions growing in the Pacific Ocean and Japan engaging in a policy of saber rattling, protecting the Panama Canal became of vital importance. Paul Jarvis of the CPC is tasked with solving a series of murders of military personnel and how the Japanese contingent in Panama City are connected.
22978375As his investigation unravels he must call upon colleagues in the ONI and FBI to unravel far more sinister plots with the fate of the US military at stake. What started out as a murder case develops into a race against time to uncover a Japanese plot to destroy the locks of the Canal and enact an even greater attack.

Once again, Doucette has put a lot of research in to create a story that feels historically accurate, and draws you in. It flows from beginning to end without ever feeling like it drags or is laboured. The characters feel real, relatable. The events in the book feel entirely believable, irrespective of whether they actually are. It at no point feels like it is another characteristic retelling of the history of the war designed to make it appear that the Americans won the war. If anything, it serves to show that they were far removed from events until Japan pushed into the Pacific region. Red Sun Over Panama gives a well written possible view of events preceding Pearl Harbor. A great read for fans of historic fiction.

 

My rating:
goodread

Lockheed Elite by Tyler Wandschneider

Lockheed Elite by Tyler Wandschneider

Working to pay off a blackmailer who has learned that a certain genius mechanic isn’t as dead as he was made out to be, Anders Lockheed takes his team on their biggest salvage op yet.

Unfortunately, Anders has hired an undercover military operative bent on using them as bait to draw out a mastermind who has been attacking the public with deadly mechs. 

While on the scav op, things go from bad to worse as the crew of Elite One recover an abandoned woman aboard the claim. Now Anders must decide quickly—stay and fight or cut cables and run.

Either way, it’s too late. Someone has other plans for them. The trap has been set, they’ve rescued the woman and taken the bait, and before long Anders and what’s left of his dwindling crew must navigate with caution through the grips of the military and an especially vile outlaw.

But Anders doesn’t captain just another team flying the black. With a genius mechanic who uses his ragtag high-tech machine shop to aid them in getting in and out of trouble, they’ve earned a reputation as the best of the best. With Anders’s careful planning, this motley crew must band together and flip the military to use them on a monster heist and dig themselves out from the heat pressing in from both sides of the law.

Fly with them. They are clever, they are fierce, they are Lockheed Elite.

I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the author.

Science Fiction is a genre I love, but don’t read often enough. Too often sci-fi is over the top, or filled with cliches. From the description of the book I thought it sounded like a good, fun read. It ticked all of the boxes in terms of what I look for in a sci-fi read. And from the very first page to the very last, Lockheed Elite delivered. 35561062._SY475_Anders Lockheed is the best scavenger crew captain around, and his crew is renowned for being the best. He seldom involved himself in anything illegal, and when he did it was never anything massively criminal, more of a grey area. He commands respect wherever he goes. He gives respect back wherever it is warranted. 

His latest job offers him and his crew an opportunity for an incredible score to make a huge cash windfall. The chance to scav a decommissioned Galactic Command vessel. There would be a whole swarm of other scav crews looking to snatch a piece of the pie, but for Anders Lockheed and the crew of the Elite One this was a simple enough job. But nothing goes right for the crew from that point onwards.

Lockheed Elite offers a well-constructed sci-fi adventure. It has comedic moments that lighten the story without detracting from it. The locations are brilliantly described. The characters are well put together, relatable. This was a great read that I couldn’t put down, so much so that I found myself wanting another book to carry on the stories of Anders and his crew. This has ended up being one of the best books I’ve had the chance to read in a long time.

My rating:
goodread

Face Your Demons (Tainted Blood #1) by Nina Hobson

Face Your Demons (Tainted Blood #1) by Nina Hobson

Jennifer’s young life has never been better. She has it all: family, friends and fun. That is until her terminally ill cousin comes to live with them setting in motion a horrific turn of events unlike anyone in the town of Cleveland has ever seen.

 


Oh yeah…and did she mention her best friend’s sister has a massive crush on her?

I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the author.

Face Your Demons offered up a short horror story that really piqued my interest. As an avid reader of Stephen King, my love of the horror genre is huge. Face Your Demons follows 12 year old Jennifer and her best friend Ron, his twin sister Angie and Jennifer’s younger brother Tom. Jennifer is sure something is off about the back room of her house where her cousin passed away. She had seen things in there through the window that couldn’t be explained.
NinaHobsonTaintedBloodFYDebookcoverA mysterious man comes into their lives, clearly otherworldly and demonic, tormenting and terrifying the children. A spate of grisly child murders in town add to the horrors experienced by such young protagonists.

Sadly the story did not take off for me. More than once, Angie’s crush on Jennifer is referenced but in no way serves the story. In one case it rears its head in the immediate aftermath of a life changing, grisly terror which felt off. It left me feeling that the emotions of the children were fleeting and inconsequential. The ending felt unresolved for me – nothing was answered by the end really, certainly not in a satisfying manner. And to cap it off for me, the use of a demonic language seemed unnecessary – each word or phrase having to be translated in brackets before being slipped in amongst English speech as if it were the most normal prose. 

Perhaps it is just my perception, tainted by expectations. I have grown accustomed to my horror novels being layered with descriptive narrative, atmosphere and imagery, that such a short novel felt almost rushed and distinctly lacking. It may well appeal to certain readers, but did little to sate my love of horror.

My rating:
notforme

All The Dead Stars by A.K. Alliss

All The Dead Stars by A.K. Alliss

In the occupied province of De’Zhun, Ae-Tor, once a member of the sorcerous Tapestry, has betrayed his brethren to save his own life. Seeking redemption, he sets forth on a dangerous mission to recover an alien weapon which could overthrow the invaders.

The thief, Mischa the Sullen, is in trouble. Having stolen a mysterious artifact, she finds herself trapped within a ruin of alien origin. Imprisoned by the forces within, she seeks escape and freedom.

Echo, a genetically engineered assassin, awakens from an 800 year long hibernation aboard the crashed starship, Mistress of Infinity. Stranded far from home, she must learn the rules that govern the strange land she has found herself in if she hopes to survive.

P’Sult is a Republic spy with a tragic past. Learning of a potential threat to his government, he begins an investigation which may lead to his demise.

All The Dead Stars is an epic Grimdark Fantasy /Sci-fi that combines conspiracy and gritty adventure.

I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the author.

It’s time for the first book review of 2020. All The Dead Stars is a fantasy with sci-fi elements. It comes from cyberpunk author A.K. Alliss, writer of the futuristic Ouroboros Cycle series of books. This marks his first forray into fantasy. We follow a cast of diverse characters including Ae-Tor and P’Sult, thief Mischa, the curious Echo and an equally intriguing supporting cast.
49413398._SY475_With the nefarious Perditionist Republic pushing to expand their borders across the land our four protagonists embark on their own journeys. Ae-Tor seeks to save his own skin after double crossing so many people for his own gain. Mischa seeks her freedom having stolen an artifact of unknown origins that binds itself to her. Echo, having spent 800 years dormant in a futuristic space craft, her only directive to be an assassin, struggles to come to terms with her knew life as she seeks to understand how this strange, dangerous new world works. P’Sult is fleeing his past tragedies, knowing the journey he takes could be his last.

The lead characters are well constructed, while the settings are vibrant. While all four are on very different journeys, I enjoyed the way they intersect, everyone heading to the same location each for very different reasons. While there’s definitely a sci-fi feel to things, All The Dead Stars makes for a great first dip into fantasy. This first book sets things up nicely for the series to come.

My rating:
goodread