Thrillers and Suspense

Not Without Risk

Not Without Risk
Author:
Publisher:
Published: November 10, 2017
Author's Twitter: @PeterTrewin
When Martin Bennett, the backroom brains in a regeneration company charged with bringing back Merseyside’s former prosperity, sees an ex-friend murdered on a hospital escalator and discovers that the body was too hastily cremated, he feels compelled to investigate.   In order to discover the truth about the murder, he must navigate the Merseyside underworld peopled by bent solicitors and coppers, corrupt politicians and violent thugs. He forms an alliance with the mayor’s right hand woman, who is out of favour with her corrupt boss, and uncovers not only the surprising story behind the murder but also a conspiracy to carve up Merseyside’s green belt.   The journey will not be without risk. For both of them.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Little Rabbit

Little Rabbit
Published: May 19, 2016
Absinthe and drugs at a vampire wake. Tensions are running high at the Winslow house party, and as the past is dragged out into the night, accusations begin to draw venom. The vampire marshals are already in town. Drawn by the scent of suspicious deaths and asking uncomfortable questions. Which means Eloise Winslow has to walk a dangerous line. One where she works to act like everything is normal while she covers up the brutal murder she has just committed.

4 Stars

This is an intriguing story, with a strong plot and compelling characters. It revolves around Eloise Winslow, a vampire who has lived in America since colonial times when she, her sisters and their friend Crow were ‘turned’ on Dark Day. Imprisoned in a silver mine for murdering her sister, Tabitha, Eloise is given a chance for early release if she will provide the details of the crime, and agree to work with the Vampire Marshals.

Little Rabbit by Barb Ettridge is a slightly different take on the vampire story. Part fantasy-thriller, part mystery, and part romance, it shows the ‘human’ side of vampires—human weaknesses in a near-immortal shell.

The way the story starts with Crow, a Vampire Marshal, offering Eloise release more than seventy years before completion of her sentence, if only she’ll provide details surrounding her murder of Tabitha, her older sister—also a vampire. In addition, she must agree to work with the marshals after her release. This forces Eloise to come to grips with things in her past she would rather forget—if only she could.

The first chapter shows Eloise’s reluctance to dig up the pain of the past, but she chafes about being held by the power of the silver in the mine to sap her strength. The narrative then transitions immediately to the events leading up to her sister’s demise, and this is where the real strength of the story lies. The author does a fantastic job of letting the speech and actions of characters show us their motivations. By the middle section of the book, the reader feels—at least this reader did—an intimate association with Eloise, and in-depth understanding of the characters who revolve around her.

Told entirely from Eloise’s point of view, the suspense is electric as Crow comes closer to solving Tabitha’s murder. Crow’s love for Eloise is also clear, as is her affection for him, leaving the reader to wonder until very near the end if Crow will be able to fulfil his duty. Even though the opening chapter makes it clear that Eloise was caught and punished, we do not know the agency of that punishment until near the end.

The setting was probably the weakest part of the story. We know where we are, a small town in New England, not far from Boston. But, other than knowing the approximate date when Eloise and the others were ‘turned’ to vampires, we can’t be sure when the events in the story take place. There are some popular culture references that hint at late twentieth century, but it’s never made clear. The geographical setting, descriptions of the town and its environs, is great, and adds to the dark tone of the story.

A great job of showing rather than telling. The British (or Australian) spellings and grammar stick out, especially as the story is set in America, which wouldn’t be an issue if it had been set in colonial times, when one can assume that colonial Americans still retained English forms, but it was a bit unsettling at the outset. The story is so compelling, though, that by the one-third mark, I no longer paid spelling or unique non-US constructions much mind.

I give this book a solid four stars.

 

Class Of ’59

Class Of ’59
Published: April 10, 2017
Author's Twitter: @johnheldt
When Mary Beth McIntire settles into a vacation house on June 2, 2017, she anticipates a quiet morning with coffee. Then she hears a noise, peers out a window, and spots a man in 1950s attire standing in the backyard. She panics when the trespasser sees her and enters the house though a door to the basement. She questions her sanity when she cannot find him. In the same house on March 21, 1959, Mark Ryan finds a letter. Written by the mansion’s original owner in 1900, the letter describes a basement chamber, mysterious crystals, and a formula for time travel. Driven by curiosity, Mark tests the formula twice. On his second trip to 2017, he encounters a beautiful stranger. He meets the woman in the window. Within hours, Mary Beth and Mark share their secret with her sister and his brother and begin a journey that takes them from the present day to the age of sock hops, drive-ins, and jukeboxes. In CLASS OF ’59, the fourth book in the American Journey series, four young adults find love, danger, and adventure as they navigate the corridors of time and experience Southern California in its storied prime.

Assessed 

5 Stars

Overall Assessment
The story begins with Mary Beth McIntire remembering a day in 2017 when her fiancé was killed by a robber in a convenience store hold-up. She is on vacation from her home in Alabama, staying in an ornate old mansion that belongs to friends of her family in Los Angeles. Her reverie is interrupted when she looks out a window and sees a young man in 1950s attire in the backyard. When she gets his attention, he dashes into the basement and disappears. The young man, Mark Ryan, owner of the house in 1959, had found a key, two strange stones, and a document written by Percival Bell, the original owner of the house, describing his theory of time travel to the past and future, and his intent to travel to 2017—a journey he died before taking. Nonplussed, and not a small bit curious, Mark takes the stones and goes to the basement where he finds the portal that takes him to 2017, and a meeting with Beth. From this point, the story switches among characters, and back and forth between 1959 and 2017, as Mark and Beth, along with their siblings, Ben and Piper, get to know each other and their respective times, while at the same time trying to dodge 50s era gangsters who are willing to kill to get a book that Mary Beth brought with her from 2017. This is more than a time-travel novel; it is a story of young love, and a thriller, with sic-fi elements serving as a vehicle for the adventures of four young people who find that love knows no time limits. History, culture, and human relationships are woven seamlessly into a thoroughly delightful story.
Character and Plot
The characters are well-developed and credible; especially as they come to terms with the different social mores of the eras they visit. Their reactions to things from the past (in Mary Beth and Piper’s case) and future (for Mark and Ben) ring true, as do the social dynamics of high school students, which probably haven’t really changed much in the intervening years.
The appearance of the gangster with the bad ear could perhaps been explained better. He just shows up during their visit to Las Vegas, and suddenly takes an unhealthy interest in them, without any further explanation. While it’s explained briefly near the end, it would have been better if some of the reason for his interest had been introduced earlier.
I liked the ending, and while I like to know why characters do what they do as early as possible, Professor Joshua Bell’s actions in saving them and sorting them out near the end was a nice touch.
Mechanics
The book was well edited, and the author’s use of alternating characters, giving each character his or her own chapter, helped to keep the suspense going, and was useful in providing information that was useful to the reader in understanding the story, especially when only one character knew it, and it would have been cumbersome to try and introduce it through any other character, or just through a data dump. I also like the way the author downplayed the science fiction elements, lifting this story above the usual time travel novel and into a category all its own. Elements of history were woven in, and in each case helped to illustrate the character’s motivation and development.
I like the simplicity of the cover, and the way the jukebox figured in the story of the growing romance between Mark and Mary Beth.
I give Heldt five stars for this enchanting novel.

 

 

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Poison Heartbeats

Poison Heartbeats
Published: October 20, 2016
Author's Twitter: @templewms
Poison Heartbeats by Temple Emmet Williams is a contemporary fiction novel about a terrorist plot that deals with real-world entities including the US Department of Homeland Security and ISIL. An introductory passage by the author lets us know that for the most part, his fictitious interpretations of these entities are accurate, although he has taken some liberties by extending the sphere of influence of the Department of Homeland Security. It becomes clear within the first few chapters that this is a book that is well-researched, and the author’s use of real-world facts compliments the ambitious adventure we are brought on. We are also told before the story begins that this book is the second in the Heartbeat series (Wrinkled Heartbeats being the first, which AI gave 4.5/5 Stars) but that they are standalone novels and can be read independently of one-another. A number of sharply-written characters cross paths throughout the narrative, and special mention needs to be made of the author’s use of space and setting. The author takes the reader on a globe-trotting tour that highlights both the differences and parallels of each environ. This is a book that paints a thrilling picture with its words, which is only slightly dampened by some odd structural choices. Each chapter is named and comes with an image and a short statement that sets the stage for what is about to happen. In some of the chapters, these pictorial clues and scene settings help the reader visualize what is happening, but on a whole seem unnecessary for such a well-written and descriptive novel. While reading, I couldn’t help but wonder if seeing the characters and environments of the story in a picture didn’t ruin my own imagining of them when they were described to me a few pages later. Some of the images and introductory clauses are also redundant. This is a minor negative in a magnificent story, and it’s hard for me to fault an author for giving the reader something extra, but this is a story that can easily rest on its own skillful story-telling, rather than on pictures. Aside from this unnecessary distraction, the book is well-structured, well-paced, and often hard to pull yourself away from. As mentioned earlier, this is a book that deals with a number of characters and presents the reader with many different viewpoints. The book is not guilty of head-hopping, though, and while you get a number of perspectives, the author weaves them into and out of the story easily, and when things culminate in an epic final act, each storyline is satisfied in one way or another. The ending of the book is fantastic and drums up the action leading to a thrilling climax. It’s a fun journey that is at times reflective and poignant and at others gritty and tense. There is humor and romance alongside the grim depiction of modern terrorism. While, at the end, the story lines are all satisfied, not all of them come to an ultimate coda, leaving the door open for some future adventures for some of our key players. The author’s follow-up, African Heartbeats has already been announced and the Heartbeats series itself will comprise of six novels total when finished. I recommend Poison Heartbeats to fans of contemporary fiction who enjoy action, suspense, and the kind of story that could easily take place in our current political climate. 4.5/5 Stars.

Assessed 

5 Stars

 

Poison Heartbeats by Temple Emmet Williams is a contemporary fiction novel about a terrorist plot that deals with real-world entities including the US Department of Homeland Security and ISIL. An introductory passage by the author lets us know that for the most part, his fictitious interpretations of these entities are accurate, although he has taken some liberties by extending the sphere of influence of the Department of Homeland Security. It becomes clear within the first few chapters that this is a book that is well-researched, and the author’s use of real-world facts compliments the ambitious adventure we are brought on. We are also told before the story begins that this book is the second in the Heartbeat series (Wrinkled Heartbeats being the first, which AI gave 4.5/5 Stars) but that they are standalone novels and can be read independently of one-another. A number of sharply-written characters cross paths throughout the narrative, and special mention needs to be made of the author’s use of space and setting. The author takes the reader on a globe-trotting tour that highlights both the differences and parallels of each environ. This is a book that paints a thrilling picture with its words, which is only slightly dampened by some odd structural choices.

Each chapter is named and comes with an image and a short statement that sets the stage for what is about to happen. In some of the chapters, these pictorial clues and scene settings help the reader visualize what is happening, but on a whole seem unnecessary for such a well-written and descriptive novel. While reading, I couldn’t help but wonder if seeing the characters and environments of the story in a picture didn’t ruin my own imagining of them when they were described to me a few pages later. Some of the images and introductory clauses are also redundant. This is a minor negative in a magnificent story, and it’s hard for me to fault an author for giving the reader something extra, but this is a story that can easily rest on its own skillful story-telling, rather than on pictures. Aside from this unnecessary distraction, the book is well-structured, well-paced, and often hard to pull yourself away from.

As mentioned earlier, this is a book that deals with a number of characters and presents the reader with many different viewpoints. The book is not guilty of head-hopping, though, and while you get a number of perspectives, the author weaves them into and out of the story easily, and when things culminate in an epic final act, each storyline is satisfied in one way or another. The ending of the book is fantastic and drums up the action leading to a thrilling climax. It’s a fun journey that is at times reflective and poignant and at others gritty and tense. There is humor and romance alongside the grim depiction of modern terrorism. While, at the end, the story lines are all satisfied, not all of them come to an ultimate coda, leaving the door open for some future adventures for some of our key players. The author’s follow-up, African Heartbeats has already been announced and the Heartbeats series itself will comprise of six novels total when finished. I recommend Poison Heartbeats to fans of contemporary fiction who enjoy action, suspense, and the kind of story that could easily take place in our current political climate. 4.5/5 Stars.

Blood Read: Publish And Be Dead

Blood Read: Publish And Be Dead
Publisher:
Published: November 18, 2016
Author's Twitter: @simonjtownley
When investigative journalist Tom Capgras finds his literary agent hanging from an oak beam in her West End office, an immaculately tied noose around her neck, his dreams of a non-fiction book deal appear dead in the water. Joanne Leatherby’s death looks like suicide but Capgras suspects murder. Nonsense, say police, who dismiss him as a conspiracy crackpot. Capgras uncovers links to a string of untimely deaths – editors, publishers, reviewers, even book bloggers, killed for an unkind word. All the evidence points to one man – a mid-list author of detective tales with a career on the skids. Cast adrift by agents and publishers alike, his dreams thwarted, Arthur Middleton has gone to the dark side and embraced self-publishing. He may be crazed with ambition, but how mad would a man have to be to kill for publicity, for book sales? Mad enough to admit everything on the pages of his latest blockbuster? As the body count mounts, and the police refuse to take him seriously, Capgras must act alone, defy his critics and get to the truth fast – before the killer gets to him.

Awesome Indies Assessment

November 18, 2016

5 Stars

Great book, beautifully written and a perfect read for anyone in the publishing industry. It’s written with a light touch while having a deadly serious plot. The story revolves around murders in the publishing industry and a reporter trying to catch the murderer without the kind of support a detective or PI would have. Highly recommended for authors, publishers and anyone who likes a good mystery. 5 stars!

 

 

Indiana Belle

Indiana Belle
Published: April 14, 2016
Author's Twitter: @johnheldt
Providence, Rhode Island, 2017. When doctoral student Cameron Coelho, 28, opens a package from Indiana, he finds more than private papers that will help him with his dissertation. He finds a photograph of a beautiful society editor murdered in 1925 and clues to a century-old mystery. Within days, he meets Geoffrey Bell, the "time-travel professor," and begins an unlikely journey through the Roaring Twenties. Filled with history, romance, and intrigue, INDIANA BELLE follows a lonely soul on the adventure of a lifetime as he searches for love and answers in the age of Prohibition, flappers, and jazz.

Approved 

Assessment:

The cover, with a simple sepia photograph of a woman from the era of the 1920s is effective and evocative. It sums up the story and the main character’s motivation without giving away the plot.

The story starts off a bit on the slow side, with a description of Cameron Coelho’s attraction to the woman in the photograph, and background information on his work on a PhD thesis about the social life in Middle America during the Roaring Twenties. The time travel aspect is introduced through his discovery in Candice Bell’s notes and diary (sold to him by her elderly niece) of references to a mysterious cave that holds the secret to time travel. It’s difficult to know which motivates him more, his attraction to Candice’s beauty or his fascination with the prospect of time travel being real. The author goes into more detail than absolutely necessary as Cameron takes action to find more information—details of him moving through a room, sitting, or taking a drink, don’t really add to the story.

This tendency to map out a character’s every move lessens significantly as Cameron meets the ‘time traveling’ expert, Geoffrey Bell, and travels from 2017 to 1925. A seemingly impossible task is set our hero; he knows that Candice will be murdered, and he is forbidden to try and prevent it because doing so might irreparably change the future, in particular the fact that Geoffrey Bell is the great-grandson of her cousin, who, distraught after her murder, wanders into a destitute part of town where he finds the woman he will marry, and who is Geoffrey’s great-grandmother.

From Cameron’s arrival in 1925, the story picks up the pace. The reader is introduced to all of the major supporting characters, including Tom, the black custodian at the newspaper where Candice worked as a social page reporter, who was wrongly accused of her murder and executed.

The story from the point that Cameron knows that he’s in love with Candice and that there are evil, corrupt men in the small Indiana town where she lives and works, is the strongest section of the book. The author skillfully plants clues and the tension mounts as he has to choose between fulfilling his commitment to Geoffrey Bell or saving innocents from death. While a few of the resolutions felt a bit contrived or were not explained to full satisfaction; such as how the town’s major drug dealer was finally caught and convicted, or what happened to the crooked lawyer who was Candice’s former fiancé, these are minor issues.

The author makes references to previous time travelers that Geoffrey Bell has sent into the past, including a father and son who traveled to Texas, which was the subject of an earlier novel. At one point, reference is made to ‘numerous’ travelers, but it’s never explained.

Finally, Cameron finds a way to avoid tempering with the timeline, things are set on the proper path, and the reader is treated to the news that Cameron is somehow related by blood to Geoffrey’s wife—but, this is also never explained in any detail.

The denouement is, except for the aforementioned unanswered questions, satisfactory. Justice prevails and true love overcomes insurmountable obstacles.

With the exception of the previously mentioned excessive detailed descriptions of character actions, and the few unanswered questions, this is a solidly plotted novel. Action (in a thematic sense) moves forward, characters encounter obstacles and overcome them, and this reader at least was left with the feeling that things worked out the way they should.

I give this book four stars.

The Five Lions of the Volta

The Five Lions of the Volta
Published: May 29, 2016
Allan Sinclair, 40-year-old owner of his biotech firm that desperately needs to develop new drugs, thinks he may have found a cure for Alzheimer’s using the chemical properties of the native West African Nutmeg. A fascinating story of what happens when Western business meets the reality of African society and politics—with a taste of Cold War machinations thrown in for good measure.

Reviewed by Awesome Indies

4 Stars

Lisa,employed by a venture capital firm, is romantically linked to Allan, owner of a biotech firm. When Allan tells her he is working on a way to augment the medicinal properties of nutmeg which could be a potential cure for Alzheimer's disease, she shares the information with her business partner, Scott, whose mother suffers from the disease.

This simple act of kindness on Lisa's part sets in motion a chain of events that will change all their lives forever. Once he learns of the potential of nutmeg,Scott goes to his old college friend, John, who has been working on a similar project, and makes him a business offer he can't refuse.This takes them to Ghana, where they encounter Richard Akroma, an anti-government rebel who is seeking an amnesty and a chance to return to the life of an ordinary Ghanaian citizen.

A fascinating story of what happens when Western business meets the reality of African society and politics--with a taste of Cold War machinations thrown in for good measure, as Akroma's Cold War association with the KGB come back to haunt him. While there is a bit more telling than absolutely necessary to move the plot along, much of it does at least help the reader understand the back ground and motivation of the characters. Some, however, is merely interesting historical or technical information that does not move the story forward. The author tells the story from several points of view,but thankfully, the transitions from one character to another are done smoothly, so it is not confusing.

The Five Lions of the Volta by Larry Shields is a story of a culture little understood by most Westerners, told in a way that does not transform the African characters into caricatures, and which portrays the landscape and society in a credible way. Like Blood Diamonds, this would make a good movie,and with a little more showing rather than telling would be a five-star book. I give it four-stars.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Darkroom

DarkroomMary Maddox
Author:
Publisher:
Published: May 3, 2016
Author's Twitter: @Dreambeast9
Art curator Kelly Durrell goes looking for her missing roommate, talented photographer Day Randall, and becomes entangled in a demimonde of powerful people who will go to any lengths to protect their secrets.   There’s plenty of room for another grave in the mountains… Talented but unstable photographer Day Randall has been living rent-free in Kelly Durrell’s Colorado condo for eight months. Day needs someone to keep an eye on her. Kelly needs someone to draw her out of her stable but not spectacular life. The arrangement works for both of them. Then Kelly comes home one day to find Day gone. There’s no note, no phone call. Day’s car is still parked out front, but her room is starkly, suspiciously spotless. No one seems to care. The police certainly aren’t interested in a missing bipolar artist, but Kelly knows something is wrong. Day wouldn’t just leave. Alone, Kelly traces Day’s last steps through shadowy back rooms of Boulder nightclubs and to a remote mountain estate, where the wealthy protect themselves behind electric fences and armed guards. Along the way, she uncovers a sinister underworld lying just below the mountain snow, and a group of powerful people who will do anything to protect the secrets hidden in Day’s enigmatic photographs. If she trusts the wrong person, Kelly herself will be the next to disappear.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Corruption of Power

Corruption of Power
Author:
Publisher:
Published: December 14, 2015
Author's Twitter: @GeorgeWEccles
Ukraine is only the opening gambit, so far as the Russian President is concerned. With his sights set on territorial expansion and undeterred by the prospect of a new Cold War, he intends first to shift Russia’s economic focus towards the East in order to shield the country from the reprisals that his next move is sure to provoke. The President delegates to his Prime Minister the redeployment of Russia’s vast energy resources, a vital component of his strategy. But when plans for a pipeline to run through Turkmenistan and Afghanistan tilt off-course, it threatens to spread the current conflagration in the Middle East right up to Russia’s own borders. Against a background of political corruption, state-sponsored terrorism and increased Taliban insurgency, the President turns to independent troubleshooter ALEX LEKSIN whose investigations take him from Moscow into one of the world’s most sinister countries, right at the heart of Central Asia.