The Secret Sign of the Lizard People by Kevin E. Buckley

The Secret Sign of the Lizard People by Kevin E. Buckley

THEY ARE RIGHT HERE AMONG US…HIDING IN PLAIN SIGHT

When partners in crime-reduction Jerry “Leafy” Green and Bill “Beefy” Goodness — two of the LAPD’s most skilled homicide detectives — investigate the bizarre killing of a fashion model at the Hollywood Sign it soon becomes clear that this murder is part of a much larger conspiracy that threatens not only the people of America, but the entire population of the planet. As the case progresses, they recruit the help of a Jesus-lookalike ufologist, a streetwise Goth graffiti artist, a world-renowned geneticist, a super-nerd cyber investigator, and a fire-and-brimstone inner city reverend. The detectives and their motley crew of improvised freedom fighters must work quickly to take down the tainted global elite and avert the merciless enslavement of humanity that looms large on the horizon.

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

This book is an incredible romp of Hollywood proportions. It’s ludicrous and laugh out loud funny. At its core The Secret Sign of the Lizard People is a buddy cop style story with plenty of to and fro between the two leading men – Jerry “Leafy” Green and Bill “Beafy” Goodness. They make a formidable team that work well and complement each other. They know how to get a job done, but they equally know how to press one anothers’ buttons.

When a glamour shoot goes wrong atop the Hollywood sign, Leafy and Beefy find themselves wrapped up in a riddle. Model N. Emma Johnson seemingly has no enemies, so who would wan’t to kill her? The investigation points to a case of wrong place wrong time when footage shows a seemingly homeless man on the run.

The buddy cop vibe made this into a fun, easy read with the casual relationship between the pair. They dive into the investigation, working to unravel each thread of the mystery. From a random attempt on the life of a homeless man, the attack becomes an effort to silence an eminant expert in his chosen scientific field. A wild conspiracy theory becomes a reality nobody could ever imagine as the case becomes ever stranger with every turn.

The Secret Sign of the Lizard People has been one of my favourite reads this year to date, if not my absolute favourite. It’s mysterious, it’s well written without the endgame being obvious before Buckley reveals the true plot and it is genuinely funny at times. A well written crime novel littered with puns and groan aloud humour, I’d love to see more of Leafy and Beefy in the future.

My rating:

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:

An Interview with Paul Mathews

An Interview with Paul Mathews

Today’s guest author is a “Quite Funny Guy” and has written not one but two comedy thriller / mystery series. The first, the We Have Lost series takes place in a near future United Kingdom and follows the trials and tribulations of government employee and wannabe secret agent Howie Pond. The second series takes place in the fictional British countryside town of Upper Goosing – European Murder Destination of 2015 – a town with an unsettlingly high murder rate that trades on its gory past. This series follows Detective Clinton Trump, an investigator with delusions of grandeur with ego of unimaginable proportions. You’ll find reviews for all of these books here on Books and Beyond Reviews. Today, please join me in welcoming Paul Mathews to the blog!

Books and Beyond Reviews: Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions, Paul. I’ll start with some ice breaker questions to help us get to know the man behind the comedy. First up, if you could choose any two famous people to have dinner with who would they be?

Paul Mathews: As I write murder mysteries, I’ll choose one living and one dead person, if I may. In terms of the deceased, it would have to be my favourite author, Douglas Adams, because he was a unique talent with such a surreal sense of humour. Douglas also loved food which would mean that if he was throwing the dinner party, I’d be guaranteed an excellent meal, as well as a steady stream of after-dinner anecdotes. Someone who’s still able to eat dinner? Maybe Greta Thunberg, because nobody like her has come along before and made such an impact at a young age. She’s also very tiny, so if I was paying, the bill would be manageable!

BaBR: If you could hang out with any cartoon character, who would you choose and why?

PM: Dangermouse was one of my favourites when I was a kid. Along with his trusty sidekick, Penfold, there were a formidable crime-fighting team. And they were funny, but not always in a predictable ‘Tom and Jerry’ slapstick way. They could probably solve some of my murder-mysteries a lot quicker than Detective Clinton Trump!

BaBR: I was always fond of a bit of Dangermouse. Classic, comedic crime-fighting capers! If you could see one movie again for the first time, what would it be and why?

PM: I saw the original Terminator movie on a VHS recorder when my brother’s friend brought it round during some exam revision (I think that’s what happened – we’re talking more than 30 years ago). Initially, I was only half-watching it – it was during the day and my parents were at work, so it was on in the background. But I started to become fascinated by the Terminator character. There was just so much tension, it was amazing. And it has that whole ‘Can mankind make it?’ thing going on. Very appropriate, given the world’s current predicaments.

BaBR: Would you rather travel back in time to meet your ancestors or to the future to meet your descendants?

PM: As I don’t have any direct descendants (I only have a cat and dog and they’ve both been neutered!), I guess it will have to be time travel to the past. I’d be interested in visiting a brewery that my father’s grandfather and great-grandfather ran in Surrey in the mid-19th-century – purely because I’d get free beer!

BaBR: And now, the final question before I move on to talk about your books. Who is your favourite author?

PM: I’ve already mentioned Douglas Adams so I suppose my next favourite author is me..! As I never tire of saying, I’ve read all my novels at least ten times and thoroughly enjoyed them all. It may sound odd but I still laugh at all my jokes. I do forget some of what I’ve written and they are the best laughs. It’s a bit like going back in time to when you wrote them. Your past self can really surprise your future self

BaBR: When you set out to start writing, did you always know that it would be comedy thriller / mystery novels, or did you eventually arrive at the genre?

PM: I wrote some short murder-mystery plays for amateur groups before I started on novels, as well as two full-length comedy plays, so comedy mystery / thrillers seemed the most natural genre for my books. I’ve always been interested in comedy writing since I was at school. Sadly, back then, there were zero opportunities for people like me. But self-publishing via Amazon opened up the world of novel-writing to me. It was a natural progression from playwriting and that previous experience means snappy dialogue is one of my strong points.

BaBR: Of Clinton Trump and Howie Pond, which do you identify with the most?

PM: The character of Howie Pond is definitely who I identify with the most. He has elements of my personality (I was always fond of popping to the pub at lunchtime for a Guinness!) and I worked as a UK Government press officer for 16 years, so a lot of what Howie Pond has to suffer in the ‘We Have Lost’ series as a presidential spokesman is loosely based on those experiences. I probably share Clinton’s general lack of patience with the world. I think we all think of ourselves as undiscovered geniuses, so maybe that as well!

BaBR: With two series under your belt, will your next book be something different, or do you have plans to carry on the tales of Clinton or Howie?

PM: I’ve decided to write a completely different comedy novel for my next effort. Entitled ‘An Accidental Royal Kidnap’, it will be a mystery of sorts but it’s more of a modern comedy adventure. It will follow a week in the life of recently-dumped London schoolteacher George Nearly after he finds a real-life princess face down on his living-room rug the morning after his 39th birthday party. You will see everything from George’s point of view and won’t know what anyone else is thinking or feeling – other than what George perceives that to be – which adds to the general sense of confusion about what is going on. It will include all the usual pondering on life, the universe and everything that my other novels include but this time it will be firmly based in modern-day reality. Well, not completely – there won’t be a global pandemic for George to contend with but apart from that, it will be the real world.

BaBR: Do you envisage any future books breaking away from the comedy thriller / mystery genre, and if so, what other genre would you be keen to try your hand at?

PM: As a Douglas Adams fan, comedy science-fiction would be the natural choice. I did a lot of planning for one, a couple of years ago, but dropped it eventually because I just couldn’t generate enough enthusiasm to write it. I think, once you’re established as a writer in a particular genre, it’s best not to travel too far from your literary home. And outer space is probably a little too far for me.

BaBR: Have you drawn events in either book series from anything in particular from your life or things you have heard, or have they all been entirely thought up?

 PM: I drew on my experiences of working in government, where there are lots of self-important people who often border on incompetence, while the smarter people tend to pick up the pieces. A small number of characters are also based on people I worked with in that environment. But the storylines are all completely original. ‘We Have Lost The President’ was a good choice of title for a first novel and after the election of Donald Trump as US president I think it’s the kind of scenario – a president going missing – many people would like to see happen in the real world!

BaBR: Thank you for taking the time to answer my weird and wonderful questions and I look forward to whatever your next book may be!

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

An Interview with Tyler Wandschneider

An Interview with Tyler Wandschneider

Welcome to the next instalment of my An Interview With… series here on Books and Beyond Reviews. Today I am speaking with the sci-fi author of Lockheed Elite. I reviewed this fantastic space adventure recently here on the blog. Please join me in extending a warm welcome to Tyler Wandschneider!

64528841_Tyler Wandschneider _ Author Picture

Books and Beyond Reviews: Welcome to the blog Tyler. Thanks for taking the time to talk with me and answer a few questions. To start, I’m going to throw some left of field ice breaker questions your way so the readers can get an insight into the mind of the author. First up, If you could have an unlimited supply of just one thing for life, what would that be and why?

Tyler Wandschneider: A good one right off the get-go! My mind immediately started picturing things like pizza and cash but then smarts took over and I landed on “time”. I would definitely choose an unlimited supply of time. I’m the kind of person that likes to learn all kinds of things. For example, there was a time where I studied tournament poker for a while. When I started winning a lot, I got bored and picked up something else. This type of need means I must give up time on one thing to pursue another. Now with two young daughters that I absolutely love spending time with along with my wife, I find I need much more time not only to write but to just plain keep myself sane while learning other things. We just bought a house that needs a ton of work so the next couple of years will be home projects I’ve never tried before. I guess instead of an endless supply of time, I could do without the need to sleep. That’s an extra 6 hours a day I could use!

BaBR: Fantastic answer. And really refreshing for it not to be the usual answer of money! Next question. Would you rather be chased by a thousand duck-sized horses or one horse-sized duck?

TW: Haha. Definitely a thousand duck-sized horses. Those are cute. The big-ass duck sounds scary!

BaBR: I love to ask this next one of authors to really get a feel for their influences. Who is your favourite author?

TW: I love all of the words from Patrick Rothfuss. I love the stories and creativity from Brandon Sanderson. I love the flow from Mark Twain. And I love the adventure and tears I get every time I read Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls. I also give a good read to Ender’s Game every couple of years but that’s about it from OSC.

BaBR: If you could go for a drink with any person – alive or dead – who would that be and why?

TW: Any person who perished by freezing while floating in the water after the Titanic sunk. That person must be willing to have several whiskey’s with me and tell me all – leaving out no emotion felt or thought had!

BaBR: Wow, I don’t think I’ve had that answer before. The final ice breaker before we move on to your book. If you could see one movie again for the first time, what would it be and why?

TW: Interesting. This is definitely an age dependent question. I suspect I’d answer differently in each decade. Right now, I guess I’d go with Joker. Joaquin Phoenix did something special with that role that I’ve never seen before. Superhero (or villain) characters these days have a sort of arrogance, subtle or not, in each of the main characters. Phoenix’s portrayal of Joker here had a fierce kind of vulnerability in it that I’d never seen before. I loved it. I’m afraid to watch it a second time for fear of ruining the experience. I still bought the thing though. Definitely a trophy in my case for sure. If I ever met Joaquin I think I’d shake his hand and just tell him all this and thank him for it. I love movies and it’s rare you’re hit with a performance like that.

BaBR: Great shout – I absolutely loved Joker, and the performance was absolutely incredible. Now, let’s discuss Lockheed Elite. What led you to writing a sci-fi novel? Is this a genre you have always wanted to write in?

TW: Yeah it’s interesting. I read sci-fi less than fantasy and general fiction. I get stories in my head and sometimes it sticks like an itch and the only way to resolve it is to get it out. The characters in Lockheed Elite just worked in my head really well and I couldn’t stop thinking about it until I started writing it down.

BaBR: Where did the idea for Lockheed Elite come from?

TW: I’m sure it has inspiration from a multitude of media I’ve consumed. I mean anyone who’s seen Firefly can see that. But ultimately my gut had a desire for a good sci-fi read that was far more character driven than shoot’em up military meathead knocking skulls around. I just simply asked myself if life in space were a reality, what would it look like. Lockheed Elite was that for me. Most work around might just be doing any work available for anyone who can pay. Unless, of course, you wanna be tied to some entity that has strict policy. I saw a crew bent on living free and clear of oppressing rule. Scraping or salvaging seemed ideal for these guys and it gave me a nice avenue for the need for speculative inventions to get the job done.

BaBR: The character of Anders Lockheed feels well thought out and believable. Is he, or anyone else in the book based on anyone you know?

TW: Nope. I needed a captain that everyone respected. Anders fit that bill and felt right. With a large cast of characters, I needed him to be a smart kind of average guy so as to not steal the show from everyone else. They all played a big role and I think that helped make him believable. Most people aren’t extraordinary so making them all ordinary in their own ways, I think, is what made them work.

BaBR: Did you have a complete plan for Lockheed Elite, or was it a fly by the seat of your pants creation?

TW: I discovery wrote this book! I really enjoyed doing it that way. I just wrote until the end. Read it. Asked myself, what’s missing? What does this story need? Are twists working? Then I added Severn and Marko on the second pass. And then I read and edited over and over. I rewrote the beginning several times. I have to admit though that I wish I had rewrote the ending several times. It would go generally the same way, but I think I could have executed it much better.

BaBR: The crew in Lockheed Elite feel well bonded, and as if they have plenty more missions and mishaps in their future – are there plans for further books to continue the story of Anders Lockheed and his crew?

TW: Oh yes!! The second one is well planned out and mostly first drafted. I’m having trouble finding the time to write with work and two kids now. I wrote Lockheed when it was just Maryna and I and the more kids we have the harder it is to find the time. I suspect that I’ll have more time coming up here in the near future, what with working from home now!

BaBR: Once again, thanks for taking the time to put so much thought into your answers and chatting with me!

 

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