Screams in the Woods by Michael R. Martin

Screams in the Woods by Michael R. Martin

One rainy Monday morning, private detective Christine Lynch is presented with an untitled lever arch file to review. It contains the detailed research of a 19th century local mining accident. The authors have been missing for over a year. Two unrelated facts, surely? Then she reads the file…

 

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

Screams in the Woods on the face of things seems to be a good old fashioned mystery novel. A 19th century mining accident that appears to have more to it than a simple mineshaft collapse. The sudden and mysterious disappearance of two men researching the incident. Two relatively average incidents, albeit linked through somewhat mysterious secrets. Michael R. Martin has crafted a nice mystery here, uncovering pieces of evidence that help guide the reader down the path to the final answer.
Screams_KDP_Front_CoverAs the story unfolds, it becomes clear the two mysteries are intertwined at their core. As detective Christine Lynch delves deeper into the disappearance of the two amateur investigators, she cannot help but find more and more inconsistencies in the mining accident answer as to the deaths of so many miners.

Towards the latter half or so of the book, as Christine’s investigation deepens, and her belief that both mysteries solidifies itself, she finds herself drawn into events first hand. Torn between two warring sides trying to gain the answers to the mystery that stretches back centuries leads to a dangerous, bloody race for life, knowledge and answers.

By the time the conclusion of this mysterious tale rolls around, nothing is obvious or clear cut about the two core cases. While they are intertwined there is something dark and macabre underlying both, and tying them together. A sci-fi meets paranormal ending ties up the story nicely, making for a mystery that isn’t cast in the same mould that most tend to follow.

My rating:
goodread

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Future’s Orphans by A.K. Alliss

Future’s Orphans by A.K. Alliss

Cassidy Nolan is a drug addicted journalist responsible for one of the most iconic photographs of the new millennium. Fourteen years on from capturing the image, it has become a significant part of the documented experiences of an event that has tipped the world towards the precipice of an uncertain future.

A chance encounter with Paco, a street kid who deals only in absolutes, will see both of their paths converge on the discovery of a sinister truth about the world in which they inhabit. Even if they survive long enough to reveal what they have uncovered,there are no certainties that it will change anything in an uncaring world that is long past its expiry date.

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

Following on from Alliss’ high octane and action-packed sci-fi thriller Frame, he told me about book two in this series, Future’s Orphans. He also told me that Future’s Orphans was written before Frame even though the story follows on from it. Colour me intrigued, I was looking forward to finding out if this second book in the series still worked well with Frame knowing it was written first. I won’t deny I was also interested to see if there was any significant disconnect as a result.
Future's Orphans - Kindle Cover (1)
I will save you the waiting; I was immensely and happily surprised. The story feels like it flows nicely, following some 14 years after the events of Frame. I found the 14-year gap was well thought out, rather than a device to make the writing of Frame easier. Given the catastrophic climax to Frame the decade and a half that pass between that and Future’s Orphans allow the reader to imagine the steady decline of society and humanity as order begins to fail.

The story picks up with a journalist, Cass Nolan, who captured an image of the events seen 14 years prior – probably the most iconic photograph of the new millennium. The was just the beginning of humanity moving towards a precipice, where everything would be changed. Two less-than-clean organisations, the ONI and Ouroboros have control as the ruling power, bringing a vague semblance of order and law to the a world staring at disaster.

They rule by fear and intimidation within their small “city” where a threat of being cast out into the wastelands beyond the city walls is thought to be enough to keep the dwindling masses in check. Alliss has crafted a dark, sorry world for his characters to make sense of and find their place in. He doesn’t try to soften the blow with a sense of hope like a light at the end of the tunnel, but rather maintains a sense of hopelessness.

People survive, modulating their emotions with chemical-infused patches, and the ONI stamp out any sniff of rebellion, casting out anyone who dares to go against their carefully-crafted societal order. Cass and a young street urchin named Paco among those cast out. The world beyond is an unforgiving place, and Alliss has painted a stark, bleak image of a cruel world so well, and only enhances this with his characters. There are a number of twists in the story, and brilliant character development lead the reader to constantly change their opinion of the leading players in this story.

So well written is Future’s Orphans, that if I wasn’t already told that it was created before Frame, I think I would struggle to tell. The only give away perhaps, aided by my prior knowledge, is that you can see Alliss’ writing style and storytelling improving, something I can only imagine will continue when he releases the third book in this series, Gravity’s Truth, in 2018.

My rating:
goodread

Red Sun Over Mexico by H. Paul Doucette

Red Sun Over Mexico by H. Paul Doucette

Spring 1942 Washington, DC. The country is recovering from the shock of Pearl Harbour. Everywhere, everyone is ramping up for the coming conflict. Sergeant Paul Jarvis, newly married and returned from his last assignment in Panama, has been informed that he and the rest of CIC has been assigned to California where they will be working with the Office of Naval Intelligence. Intelligence has reported that the Japanese are settings up radio posts and possibly submarine bases in the Gulf of California. They have also indicated that they are doing this with support from a splinter faction opposed to the government and with strong anti-American leanings. It is rumoured that these operations are being run by a Tokeitei agent. Jarvis believes this might be Haito Toshi who led the attacks in Panama. Jarvis and a young ONI agent are ordered to Mexico with orders to capture Toshi…if possible. Problem is, Jarvis still remembers the dead naked body of a young American woman on a bed.

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

As a fan of history, both ancient and modern, H. Paul Doucette’s Red Sun Over Mexico spoke to me. I have ready plenty of fiction based in and around the Second World War. Most of this has been centred around Europe and the UK, and on occasion the United States. I was interested to read something from the American side of the war, more so with it being set in Central America, rather than the Pacific theatre or Europe.
redsunI will confess to entering into this book with slight trepidation. Too often fiction lives up to a bit of a stereotype when written from the perspective – the idea that the war only began with Pearl Harbour and was almost singlehandedly won by American support and intervention. Would this follow that trope? In a word, no. This story begins in the time following Pearl Harbour about the race for dominance between the American and Japanese in Mexico.

With crucial supply lines, shipping routes and Pacific footholds to be gained in Mexico, the Japanese are seeking to set up shop on the Pacific Coast where they can monitor and attack American shipping and disrupt their operations. Meanwhile, an American intelligence agent is dispatched to help units on the ground to disrupt their plans. Agent Paul Jarvis is also out to catch to catch Japanese agent Haito Toshi, a dangerous man that he has tangled with in a previous encounter out in Panama.

Red Sun Over Mexico offers an enjoyable mix of historic events, action, and investigative frustration. The story moves at a good enough pace to keep the book going, without feeling overburdened with unnecessary action or violence. Overall, this was a fun, wartime tale showing a different side of the action.

My rating:
goodread

Dying to Live by Michael Stanley

Dying to Live by Michael Stanley

A Bushman is discovered dead near the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. Although the man looks old enough to have died of natural causes, the police suspect foul play, and the body is sent to Gaborone for an autopsy. Pathologist Ian MacGregor confirms the cause of death as a broken neck, but is greatly puzzled by the man’s physiology. Although he’s obviously very old, his internal organs look remarkably young. He calls in Assistant Superintendent David “Kubu” Bengu. When the Bushman’s corpse is stolen from the morgue, suddenly the case takes on a new dimension.

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

Today I have the pleasure of hosting a stop on the blog tour for Dying to Live. This is the sixth book in a series featuring leading man Assistant Superintendent David Bengu in the Botswana police force. I’ll confess I was a little mixed going into this book for a couple of reasons: first, with the entire book being set in such a different country, I was worried it may be heavy on references that might be missed or difficult to follow if you aren’t aware of the cultures. Secondly, the book is part of a series, and I was worried I would miss things with this being the first book in the series that I have read.
35098371I needn’t have worried thought. The cultural references were used sparingly, and to good effect, but not so much so that the book was difficult to follow. And equally, it didn’t matter that it is part of a series – Dying to Live worked perfectly well as a stand alone read. I felt the lead characters were introduced in such a way that the reader gets to know them even though the series is established by this point.

This is a well-crafted mystery novel, with a number of threads to the the story. This sometimes can be a negative, when a book has too many mysteries to be unravelled – that can lead to a contrived story. Dying to Live, however, ties all the threads together as the book develops leading to the finale, which is not obvious.
A number of possible protagonists are put forward for a range of crimes – the murder of a famous witch doctor, the murder of a bushman and subsequent theft of his corpse and the mystery of the Chinese girl whose body was transported from Botswana, who didn’t exist. But any and all could very easily be the guilty party. This is something I love in a mystery book – the ability to read the book without entirely being certain as to “whodunit” until towards the end.

Dying to Live is a brilliantly written mystery, with an exotic location that I felt I got to know things to the descriptive writing. The characters are colourful and described well enough that the book works as a stand alone even though it is part way into the series. The mystery is well-assembled with just enough twists and turns to keep the story entertaining, all adding together to make an enjoyable read.

My rating:
goodread

We Have Lost The Coffee by Paul Mathews

We Have Lost The Coffee by Paul Mathews

London, 2045. Three months into the Coffee Wars and Britain’s caffeine supplies are at critical levels. Brits are drinking even more tea than usual, keeping a stiff upper lip and praying for an end to it all. A secret Government coffee stockpile could save the day…but then mysteriously disappears overnight.

One man is asked to unravel the missing-coffee mystery. His name is Pond. Howie Pond. And he’s in desperate need of a triple espresso. Meanwhile, his journalist wife, Britt, is hunting royal fugitive Emma Windsor on the streets of the capital.

Can Howie save the British Republic from caffeine-starved chaos? Will the runaway royal be found? And just what will desperate coffee drinkers do for their next caffeine fix? Find out, in Paul Mathews’ latest comedy-thriller set in the Britain of the future…

‘We Have Lost The Coffee’ is packed with dry British humour, political satire, dozens of comedy characters and enough coffee jokes to keep you awake all night. It’s full of crazy action and adventure in London, and beyond, and is guaranteed to set your pulse racing faster than a quadruple espresso.

So, join Howie, Britt and friends – as well as some enemies – as you travel forward in time to 2040s London.

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

Today is my stop on the blog tour for We Have Lost The Coffee. And better still, today is also release day! We Have Lost The Coffee is the third outing in the series for Paul Mathews’ hapless hero Howie Pond. Once again our 007-dreaming secret agent finds himself stuck in the middle of a new Code Red Crisis.We Have Lost the Coffee CoverBut worse than missing Presidents, lost pelicans and royals attempting a coup – the coffee is running out. To pay for his ridiculous campaign promises, President Zayn Winner needed a way to raise some quick cash. In all of his infinite wisdom, he decide to levy a tax on all countries exporting coffee to the British Republic.

This in turn led to a crisis. Brazil and the other coffee-growing nations placed embargoes on Britain, leading to caffeine shortages. A personal nightmare for me. A secret government stockpile of coffee from around the world in Romford has disappeared. Howie and Martha need to track them down urgently while the president is away in Las Vegas at a presidential summit.

Meanwhile, newly-married Britt finds herself disillusioned with constant reporting on the so called Coffee Wars and looking for the next big scoop to really catapult her career. With two out of three of the royal triplets who attempted to overthrow the government behind bars, Britt set out to catch the third running royal.

With a lack of caffeine the general state of society descends into deception and treachery to get their hands on some coffee anyway they can. And with just two days left on his 12 month contract as a secret agent, Howie needs this one solved sooner than soon.

The investigation uncovers political corruption, greed and stupidity all the way through. Blackmail and bribery become the order of the day in a desperate attempt to locate the coffee before the world gets wind of the situation. Britt meanwhile finds herself once again in a dangerous situation as she travels around the London area desperate to find the runaway royal.

As the coffee tax negotiations intensified, Howie comes up with a solution to the Code Red Crisis, and the entire Coffee Wars. And Britt has some tough career choices to make as she once again dodges the bullet at the hands of a deranged royal triplet.

Once again Paul Mathews has put together a fantastically entertaining book, and a wonderful return of Howie, Britt and Martha. As we speak he has started work on book four of the series, We Have Lost The Chihuahuas, which I for one cannot wait to read!

My rating:
goodread

We Have Lost The Pelicans by Paul Mathews

We Have Lost The Pelicans by Paul Mathews

London, 2044. The St James’ Park pelicans have gone missing – the day before the British President unveils the country’s new pelican flag. At the same time, British intelligence uncovers coded messages about possible anti-Government activity. Who are the bird-nappers? What do they want with London’s prized pelicans? And who is behind those secret messages? Britain’s hungriest secret agent, Howie Pond – licence to lunch – reluctantly agrees to try and find out.

Howie’s newshound fiancée, Britt, has a secret mission of her own – to identify the mysterious owner of Windsor Castle. That means calling on the help of her alter ego, Miss Pellie Cann, and her American charms. And to add to the chaos, Howie and Britt are supposed to be getting married tomorrow…

‘We Have Lost The Pelicans’ is the second comedy-thriller novel in the We Have Lost series and carries on from where ‘We Have Lost The President’ left off. It’s packed with the same great humour and exciting action, and a double mystery that will keep you guessing. Meet some old friends and a host of new characters when you take another trip to London, 2044.

We Have Lost The Pelicans is the second outing for Paul Mathews’ hapless secret agent wannabe Howard “Howie” Pond. Some months after the brief disappearance of President Jan Polak and the election of Vice President Zayn Winner, Howie looks forward to carrying on a sedentary life as Presidential spokesman.
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Just when life seems to be calming down for him, head of National Security and Intelligence Service Martha Blake sweeps back into his world with another Code Red situation. Some encrypted e-comms have been intercepted, and seem to imply some suspect activity. Not great news on the eve of the President unveiling his new flag for the Republic.

To make matters worse, the pelicans of St James Park – the symbol of the Republic – have gone missing. Given his contract to work for Martha was a 12 month contract, Howie sees he has no choice but to investigate what is going on. The evidence points to the disgruntled and failed opponent to President Winner being involved in the disappearance of the pelicans. Is she attempting to bring down the President to put herself in the big job?

Meanwhile, Britt is offered an opportunity to move out of the small pod she shares with Howie, and earn herself an incredible pre-wedding gift from the owner of the newspaper she works for, a luxury apartment. At what price? All she needs to do is track down the name of the owner of Windsor Castle, so he can make an offer to buy it.

Doning her persona of American journalist Pellie Cann, Britt sets out to uncover the true identity of Windsor Castle’s mysterious owner, even if that means breaking in. Her investigation ends up with her and a former Presidential staff member in a dangerous situation. Howie’s investigation crosses paths with that of his wife-to-be with the same dangers along the way.

We Have Lost The Pelicans is a brilliant follow-up to We Have Lost The President. It brings the laughs like it’s predecessor, but with a hint more menace. It’s well paced, entertaining and brings mystery, deception and Royal uprising along for the ride, setting things up very nicely for the third book. Something the author does very well is covering the trials Howie goes through in both his private life and in the course of his work, without either one tripping the other up.

My rating:
goodread

We Have Lost The President by Paul Mathews

We Have Lost The President by Paul Mathews

London, 2044. Britain is a Republic. President Jan Polak has vanished overnight from Buckingham Palace, just weeks before an election. Has he been kidnapped? Or even killed? One man is determined to find out – as soon as he’s had his breakfast. His name is Pond. Howie Pond – the President’s official spokesperson and wannabe secret agent. With just a love of James Bond films to guide him, Howie sets out on a mission to solve the missing-President mystery. But with Howie’s journalist girlfriend, Britt, soon onto the story, the race is on to see who gets to the truth first…

This debut comedy-thriller novel from British writer Paul Mathews is packed with sharp humour, great characters, dynamic dialogue and a mystery that will keep you guessing from beginning to end. It will transport you to a low-tech, high-drama, post-revolution Britain of the future. A world where some things, like the complete lack of internet and mobile phone access, are quite different. But other aspects, such as politics and big business, are very much the same.


On the 28th June I will be reviewing Paul Mathews’ third book in his series, entitled We Have Lost the Coffee as part of a blog tour. Before then, I am aiming to read the first and second books in the series. Today I bring you my thoughts on book 1, We Have Lost The President. Having read a fair number of thrillers recently, it was a nice change of pace to try a comedy-thriller. Having read It’s Killing Jerry not too long ago, I was eager to try this debut book from Paul Mathews.
31290976We Have Lost The President takes place in a near-future version of London where the monarchy have taken flight to live out their days in Florida, and the Republic of Britain now operates a presidency. Revolution took place to dethrone the royal family, leading to the change in ruling power. And since then, all has gone well, or at least, it had been until just a short time before a major presidential election, the President goes missing.

The task of finding him falls on the shoulders of Howard “Howie” Pond – 007 fantasist and presidential spokesman. Howie finds himself appointed into a security role to allow him to investigate the disappearance before the press get a sniff of a headline that might have catastrophic effects. Unfortunately for Howie, thinking is journalist girlfriend is asleep, mentions enough to his cat that she realises something is amiss.

While Howie faces a race against time to uncover the mystery surrounding the disappearance of the widely popular President Jan Polak, his girlfriend Britt Pointer faces the same race to uncover the details in time for her groundbreaking news story. The two investigations take very different, though at times equally ludicrous turns as both stop at nothing to uncover the answer. The book culminates with the mystery revealing itself to all involved, and bringing a headline of sorts for the intrepid journalist too, while setting things up nicely ahead of book two.

We Have Lost The President is a wonderfully fun mystery, with plenty of comedic elements to lift the story into something different. The story is well crafted, leading the reader on an enjoyable journey that sets the benchmark for the rest of the series.

My rating:
goodread