thriller

The Car Bomb

The Car Bomb
Detroit’s top TV anchor Frank DeFauw hunts down the story of a judge who may be corrupt—and is one of his best friends. Booze, drugs, womanizing and a passion for the news are all part of what makes this brilliant, erratic newsman a major player in this deeply troubled city. Finally, Frank is forced to decide if digging out the truth about his pal the judge is worth risking his own career, family and skin. With supple prose, brilliant dialogue, sharply-drawn characters and a surprising plot, this is a gripping tale of betrayal, murder and redemption.

Reviewed 

A Noir Mystery With A Slight Twist

3 Stars

The Car Bomb by T.V. LoCicero opens on the streets of a dying Detroit that’s trying desperately to survive. A young mother and her two children are incinerated in a fiery explosion as witnesses watch in horror. It’s up to an aging, hard-drinking, womanizing news anchor to come to grips with his life and solve the crime which may involve his best friend. The tale builds to an edgy crescendo of action that you won’t want to miss.

Although the story is well-told, there are still some aspects that could have used work, and became impossible to ignore. The first half of the book is slow, concentrating on the character of a conceited, adulterous newscaster, Frank DeFauw. However, I missed the motivation that drives him to rise above his depravity in order to righteously go after his best friend who was only vaguely suspected of illegal activities.

The story is told to the reader which doesn’t give us much opportunity to get involved inside the plot or imagine ourselves as part of the drama. I wanted to feel what it was like to be in Detroit’s ghetto, hear the cries of those society has cast aside, smell the gas fumes rising above the sidewalks, see a poet’s graffiti scribbled across a rundown cityscape, and taste the merchandise dealers were pushing on the street corner.

In spite of its faults, it’s worth a read. The Car Bomb is a noir mystery with a slight twist. The lascivious characters are found in the lap of suburbia while the moral prize-winners emerge from the bleak, sleazy side of town. This book should appeal to fans of old-fashioned crime fiction.

3 Stars.

Worlds Within Worlds

Worlds Within Worlds
Imagine living in a multi-layered reality of separate but complimentary worlds—physical, mental, spiritual and technological—when a bully you thought safely tucked away in the cyberworld suddenly appears in your physical world looking suspiciously like your worst nightmare. Can you stuff him back into your computer? And if not, can the Magan Lord’s daughter from the fantasy book you’re editing, your dreams of a rabid beast, your visions of a Tibetan Yogi and your reawakened memories help you maintain your sanity and survive the darkest night of your life? Find out in the double award-winning metaphysical thriller Worlds Within Worlds when all this happens to author, editor and reviewer Prunella Smith. This inspirational, transrealist work—a mix of psychological thriller, fantasy and romance—has been awarded the Awesome Indies Seal of Excellence and a BRAG Medallion of Excellence in Independent Fiction. Worlds Within Worlds has a unique perspective on the nature of creativity. Its touch is light, its humour distinctive but it reaches deep into the nature of human experience.

Reviewed by Awesome Indies Assessor

December 12, 2014

I received a free copy of Tahlia Newland’s Prunella Smith: Worlds within Worlds for review, and I have to say up front – this is a book that is long overdue. It addresses cyber bullying, especially as it pertains to writers and reviewers, but does so in a chilling way that will live you looking over your shoulder with every word you write.

Prunella Smith is a freelance editor and author who is up against a deadline on an editing job – a fantasy story about an adventurous woman, Kelee, who is having an affair with a young groomsman on her estate. Ella, as she is known, is also a book reviewer, and a recent review of a not-so-good novel has provoked the author, Dita, to begin a campaign of on-line stalking and bullying. Dita’s cyber bullying begins to take its toll, interfering with Ella’s ability to objectively edit Kelee’s story, and things only get worse when she discovers that she has a physical stalker as well.

Newland’s tale kept me interested from page one – and the little surprise she threw in near the end, well -2 I didn’t see that one coming. A thoroughly entertaining story. An easy five stars here.

Reviewed by Frank Kusy (aka Wussyboy)

This is a very topical book, a very well written one too. Thirty something Ella Smith lives in a remote log cabin in the Australian bush, cut off from most of humanity but connected through her mind and imagination (and her internet) to a multitude of worlds: at times she is a writer/editor in the real world, at others she is a wise old Yogi in the prelude to the 1959 Chinese invasion of Tibet, or Kelee, the fictional warrior princess with whom she comes to identify strongly through the book she is editing. Not to mention her alter ego as Electra, an ‘after dark’ dancer in a local strip joint. The topicality of the book comes when Ella responds to a request of an ‘honest’ review from an arrogant (and unbalanced) author on his new novel and gives him just that… a two-star review on a social media website (Amazon) which he deeply resents. At this point, we enter Stephen King territory – the demented author Dita shouting “Take it down!” much as the main protagonist of King’s ‘Thinner’ shouts ‘Take it off!’ to the gypsy who has laid a curse him. When she doesn’t, the author turns cyber troll and begins invading her virtual world with increasingly nasty abuse and threats, along with one-star reviewing her own recently published book. As the bullying author penetrates even her dream world (he’s a dark, human shaped blob in a hoodie!) her other identities as Kelee, Electra and the Yogi also run into crisis, and she struggles, through her Buddhist practice, to elevate her mind above the worldly concern of being unliked by 20 Facebook friends overnight. ‘Sometimes it’s hard being a Buddhist,’ she observes when not just one but two stalkers get on her case – the fight is on, in her own mind, to see all obstacles as opportunities, to see Dita, The Creep and even the evil Beak as fuel to fire her own journey to enlightenment. This is riveting stuff, part magical realism dreamscape, part taut psychological thriller, and I was literally on the edge of my seat when the final twist – and what a twist it is – came around. Phew, what a ride!
I received a copy of this book in exchange for an ‘honest’ review of my own. Well done, Ms Newland, I can honestly say this is the best book have read this year.

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Reviewed by Amy Spahn

Worlds Within Worlds tackles the problem of identity in the age of technological anonymity. Ella Smith is an independent author and editor whose online life crashes into reality with disturbing implications. The book questions how much of one’s true self can – and should – be broadcast to the world.

The story also delves into the nature of authorship when anyone with a computer can publish themselves instantly. What determines the value of a writer? Their career success? Their contributions to other authors, appreciated or not? What about when their readers disagree with their interpretations of their work? Who is the final authority when everyone has an opinion?

This book will make you think. Considering the deluge of new works streaming from authors these days, that may be the highest praise a novel can receive.

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Reviewed by Robyn Gregory

World Within Worlds was an interesting read. There was a mixture of Buddhism, magical realism and present-day problems of a 30-something writer/editor. She has chosen career over a family and children. She seems fairly content with the decision. During the time she is editing another author’s book she is bullied online by an author who she gave a bad review to. My only issue with it was that there were too many storylines running at the same time and I was having a little bit of trouble following along with them. I think it would have been better if they had her story alongside Kelee’s story (the one she was editing). But, otherwise, it was able to keep my interest. I received this book free from Awesome Indies Books in return for an honest review.

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Reviewed by Justin Spahn

My wife recommended this book to me, and I absolutely loved it. I do not normally review, well, anything on Amazon, but I decided it was time to start, having read something which inspired me to respond. Its multiple layers were very compelling, and the author struck just the right balance of keeping the various strands and plot threads and titular worlds separated as well as intertwined.

I love how thoughtful this book was. It asked many questions about reality, imagination, and how perception and intent shape the world and vice versa. It gripped my attention and fascinated me, and I found that I couldn’t put it down. The main character is in her own world, experiencing the worlds of others through meditation, social media, dreams, and real-life clashes. In addition, the entire book is a world of its own within the author’s mind, and I myself, as the reader, am yet another world into which her worlds are introduced and experienced. Is the book I finished reading the same book that the author wrote? Did I perceive and experience it the way it was intended, or did I myself change the book simply by observing it, like a quantum physics experiment? Not since “If On A Winter’s Night a Traveler” by Italo Calvino have I felt so intellectually stimulated by a novel!

Finally, I find that I’ve bonded with the main character, which is quite a feat as I personally share virtually nothing in common with her, and yet I miss her terribly. I eagerly look forward to the release of the sequel!

One Last Lie

One Last Lie
Author:
Published: December 30, 2014
Angela is beautiful and charismatic on the outside. But on the inside, a demon rages, determined to get anyone and anything she wants. And now with her biological clock ticking, she seduces her old friend Philip, and his partner Jonathan, into having a child with her through artificial insemination. From the moment the parenting agreement is signed, Angela’s mask of deceit slips away and she leads the fathers-to-be on a relentless, agonizing journey filled with lies, anguish and finally tragedy that forever changes the lives of everyone involved.

Shattered Blue

Shattered Blue
Shane MacKinnon thought she could escape her dark past by running away, changing her name. She thought the monster of her childhood was dead. She was wrong… Hounded by scandal and haunted by a shameful secret, Shannon Malone fled Manhattan for the mountains of New Mexico, a new name and a new life. Five years later, her new neighbor, wealthy architect Matthew Brennan, is teaching her the meaning of sexual healing. But when her dark past rises from the shadows and threatens to shatter her new life, Shane must find the courage to face her worst fear, or face death.

Reviewed 

Shattered Blue is a classic romantic suspense story, and if you like that combination of genres, then you’ll probably like this because it has all the necessary elements – an attractive woman, a hot guy and a psychopathic would-be rapist killer. Just when said hot guy and attractive woman get together, the psychopath enters and threatens to rip their happiness from beneath them.

The tension builds through memories, dreams, clever foreshadowing and a series of suspicious events that culminate in a life threatening situation for both lovers. The pacing is good, it keeps you reading but still allows time for character development, and the plot, though nothing new, is solid.

The characters are well-drawn and complex. Shane is an artist with a history she is hiding from, and Matt is an architect in the process of selling his business to his hard nosed ex-wife. Despite many reasons not to, they fall in love pretty much instantaneously. It surprises them both, but they’re old enough to know not to fight it. Cynical reviewers may find this a little twee, but it’s perfect for the genre. I got to know Shane very quickly, fell in love with Matt before she did and cared about them both enough to really not want the bad guy to screw it all up, but fiction requires drama and that’s what we got. I won’t tell you what happened in the end, except to say that I thought it well done. Aspects of it were somewhat predictable, but that’s a hallmark of the romance genre, so it’s not a problem as far as I’m concerned.

The book has a couple of underlying themes worth noting: the affect of childhood abuse on adults and the healing power of love. Love as healing is a theme that always leaves you warm and fuzzy, even without the steamy sex, and in this case it balances the evil very nicely.

4 stars.

Generation

Generation
A grotesque figure emerges from the sodden undergrowth; lost, lonely and starving it is mown down by a speeding car on the edge of a remote forest. Ghostly apparitions haunt a rural Northumberland community. A renowned forensic scientist is troubled by impossible results and unprecedented interference from an influential drug company. Hendrix ‘Aitch’ Harrison is a tech-phobic journalist who must link these events together. Normally side-lined to investigate UFOs and big-beast myths, but thrust into world of cynical corporate motivations, Hendrix is aided by a determined and ambitious entomologist. Together they delve into a grisly world of clinical trials and a viral treatment beyond imagining. In a game of escalating dangers, Aitch must battle more than his fear of technology to expose the macabre fate of the drugged victims donated to scientific research.

Reviewed by Alexes Razevich

AIA Reviewer

A Fast-Paced Story That Will Stretch Your Imagination

Four Stars.

What do you get when you combine a medical/crime thriller with science fiction/horror? A creepy yet compelling page-turner of a book. Told from multiple points of view, including several characters who are undead but not your stereotypical zombies, Generation takes us into a world of corporate greed, gene manipulation, and people desperate either to live or to die. I can’t attest to the accuracy of the science in Generation, but Knight makes it sound entirely plausible. Anyone who has ever worked in an office will recognize the truth of the politics, even if a character or two carry it to the extreme.

In fact, the villains are one of the few disappointments of the novel. The journalist who discovers a story much bigger than the one he set out to cover, the forensic scientist/teacher focused on her work, the National Enquirer-type journal editor, and other characters are nuanced and ring true. The chief villain, sadly, is the stop-at-nothing type we’ve seen too often. The best, most poignant characters are the undead, each of whom deals with his or her fate the best they can.

The other disappointment is a gratuitous sex scene that leaves the two main characters naked during the climactic (not that kind of climax) scene. The romance between them seems more grafted on than natural, and their sudden falling into bed together unlikely. The author could have sent them to have coffee at her flat and the plot wouldn’t have changed.

Still, the novel worked for me, and I would have given it five stars were it not for the clichéd villain, the unnecessary sex scene, a few info dumps, a couple of typos, and some weird hyphenation. I give it a solid four stars and recommend the book to readers who want a fast-paced story that will stretch their imaginations.

Corridor of Darkness – A Novel of Nazi Germany

Corridor of Darkness – A Novel of Nazi Germany
Two desperate fugitives face a nightmarish pursuit across the Third Reich, where violence and deception are tools of the trade, and torture and death wait at every turn… 1930’s Berlin – unrestrained, decadent, torn by political and social strife – and dashing Ryan Lemmon intends to make the most of every moment. The young American reporter loses himself in the dark underbelly of the capital, only to have a violent death bring him face-to-face with the growing menace. As Hitler’s stranglehold grips the nation, Ryan becomes involved with a spirited German blonde, but her relationship with a sadistic Nazi powerhouse puts them both at risk of an agonizing end. Having already lost one friend to Nazi brutality, Ryan and his former flame must now escape the all-powerful Gestapo. And she agrees to steal intelligence which can save the lives of millions, but only if it reaches the right hands in Washington. Inspired by the contemporary journals of the author’s late father, Corridor of Darkness evokes the cruel heart of pre-World War II Germany, where any missed beat could be the protagonists’ last. Corridor of Darkness features an excerpt from the second novel in the Ryan Lemmon series, Beacon of Vengeance.        

5 Stars.

1930’s Berlin–unrestrained, decadent, and torn by political and social strife–and dashing Ryan Lemmon intends to make the most of every moment. The young American reporter loses himself in the dark underbelly of the capital, only to have a violent death bring him face-to-face with the growing menace.

Inspired by firsthand accounts, Corridors of Darkness by Patrick O’Bryon tells the gritty tale of Lemmon’s experiences during the reign of terror enabling Hitler’s rise to power. Germany was a country consuming itself with its own decadence, anger, greed, and the ultimate hatred that would drive a stake in the heart of world history for decades to come.

Well written in the very effective old style prose of noir thrillers, I was in a 1930’s black and white film alongside Lemmon. O’Bryon’s detailed descriptions allowed me to see the streets of old Berlin, taste decadence everywhere, feel imminent dangers around every corner, hear the march of the storm troopers, and literally smell fear on the citizens as they ran.

A well-constructed plot intertwines tense words and wild actions as the Nazi regime relentlessly pursues Lemmon and his girlfriend. The characters are real and believable, with a clear delineation between good and evil. Corridors of Darkness is a fast paced, suspenseful tale with plenty of twists and turns to keep the reader on edge. The writing is immediate and engaging as the pages fly by.

I recommend this book to both thriller fans and history buffs. You will have fun with it and O’Bryon will leave you wanting more.

I received a free copy of Corridors of Darkness in exchange for a fair and honest review.

 

 

Life First

Life First
When the government wants to steal her kidney, Kelsey Reed makes the only choice she can: run.   In a world run by survivors of a deadly virus that wiped out 80 percent of the population, life is valued above all else. The government of “Life First” requires the mentally ill to be sterilized, outlaws abortions and sentences to death those who refuse to donate an organ when told. Strong-willed Kelsey Reed does the only thing she can do when she’s told to give up her kidney: run. Kelsey enlists the help of her boyfriend Luke and a dodgy doctor to escape. The trio must disable the tracking chip in her arm for her to flee undetected. If they fail, Kelsey will be stripped of everything.

Reviewed by Richard Bunning

5 stars

This is a very well written fiction story that adds interesting fuel to the debate between those that support the `rights’ of the individual and those that put the rights of community ahead of those of the individuals. Should the individual be expected to suffer, even to risk life, for a common good? Should we all, ultimately, be conscript soldiers of society?

The principle character is fascinating, complex, and totally credible. Whether she is actually a hero, a coward, or a genuine conscientious objector, each of us has to decide for ourselves. For me Kelsey was a mix of all three, just as most of us would probably be, depending on the degree and type of cultural indoctrination we had experienced.

The only flaw of the plot was for me the over close relationships of all the principle characters in Kelsey vs The State. This tightness helped drive the intensity of the drama, but it all proved to strain my buy in to its plausibility. Wouldn’t the prosecution have ripped the defence case apart even more effectively than it did as a consequence of the degree of nepotism? I think so.

This is a really good read and an excellent affirmation of competence amongst independent writers. We should all be grateful that the fall of old-publishing through the rise of the net has allowed writers like Crayton to be heard.

 

 

Lies of the Dead

Lies of the Dead
Published: June 26, 2013
What would you risk to find the truth? When Liam disappears in a suspected suicide, his brother Tom is propelled into a world of lies and crime. Liam’s legacy of deceit is dangerous, and when Tom and his sister Andi find themselves in a dangerous showdown, Tom realises the truth may have too high a price. How well do we know those closest to us? When the police accept Liam’s disappearance as suicide, his older brother Tom needs to know more. Tom and his sister Andi search for answers, but don’t know who they can believe as they discover Liam’s friends and associates aren’t the people they claim to be. They are propelled into a world where their ideas of right and wrong don’t exist, and where people demand what neither of them possesses. Liam’s legacy of deceit is dangerous, and when Andi and her twin daughters find themselves in a dangerous showdown, Tom realises the truth may have too high a price. What would you risk to find the truth?

Reviewed 

 

Great Scenes & Well-Written Passages

Lies of the dead is an enjoyable mystery that becomes a thriller at the end. The book held me as I read to find out what Tom and Andi’s brother had been doing to warrant them being hounded after his death by a crime boss and his thugs. I soon found myself caring about the characters, who were ordinary people and easy to relate to. Would they get out of this difficult situation, and if so, how?

Tom thought he knew his brother Liam, but after his apparent suicide, he discovers that much of what he knew of Liam was a lie. I can’t say what Liam had been up to to get a huge debt to a crime boss without giving the mystery away, but I can say that the boss transfers the debt to the dead man’s family (Tom and Andi) and that the race to find the money and escape the thugs throws Tom and Andi’s life into turmoil. They find themselves faced with decisions that no one should be forced to make and doing things way outside their comfort zone.

Tom is a simple fellow who lives in a small sea-side village and earns his money renting out his boat. His sister, mother of teenage twin girls, lives elsewhere and is estranged from her husband. Her relationship, or lack of it, adds another thread to the story.

There is a lot to recommend this story. The plot is well constructed; the characters are well drawn; their dialogue and interactions are realistic, and the action scenes are engaging. The author builds the tension well throughout and culminates in a situation worthy of a novel. It’s an easy, undemanding read, simply entertaining with no pretensions, and as that, it works well, but if you’re looking for anything with deep themes, bold statements, or a creative vision, this isn’t it.

The characters develop well as the story progresses, reacting to events as you imagine that they would, and the spark between Janine and Tom is a nice touch in amongst the difficulties. The romantic aspects, though fairly minimal, allow for a satisfying ending.

The book has some great scenes and well-written passages. When I first read this, the prose suffered from bouts of passive writing, but the author attended to these issues after I mentioned them to her. The copy-editing is clean.

All up, this is a very enjoyable read.

Reviewed by Amy Spahn

This is a fabulous story. Bickley paints beautiful backdrops in which to set her books, and this is no exception. When the characters are on the shore, you can smell the salt water.

The characters are realistic and well-drawn, and you quickly come to care about their family struggles as you would for the worries of a close friend. Bickley seems to specialize in taking ordinary individuals with ordinary problems, and putting them in extraordinary circumstances that challenge them without minimizing the importance of their everyday struggles. This book is a mystery, but it is also an exploration of relationships and parenting, and it interweaves both themes flawlessly.

The plot moves quickly and keeps the pages turning right from the beginning. The subplots integrate smoothly and seamlessly, leading to a believable, if not completely comfortable conclusion.

All in all, a great read for fans of mysteries and/or family dramas.

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review.

 

The Death Game

The Death Game
A world of mystery and intrigue in Dundee during the year 1919. And a new sleuth unlike any other currently in print. Kirsty Campbell, former suffragette and a policewoman in Britain’s newly formed women’s police service, returns to her home town of Dundee to become the city’s first policewoman. Her struggle for acceptance in the all male police force is not easy, and she fights for recognition. But Kirsty is not easily intimidated and, despite police attempts to curtail her activities, she defies her superior officer to pursue an investigation into a murder which is linked to missing orphan girls. Kirsty is an unusual character with a fascinating history and background. She has demons of her own to fight, as well as becoming involved in a deadly game of sacrifice and death? But how will she cope when the sins of the past come back to haunt her?

Reviewed 

I particularly enjoyed reading about one of Scotland’s pioneer policewomen in this first of a new series by Chris Longmuir. Towards the end of 1919, Kirsty Campbell moves from London to Dundee at the request of the Chief Constable, literally into uncharted territory as far as female police officers were concerned. Kirsty leaves behind a group of supportive friends in London, and a situation in which, if policewomen weren’t actually accepted, there were enough of them to band together and give each other strength. The fact that her family, from whom she has been estranged for a decade, lives in Dundee, is both a pull towards the city, and an additional source of anxiety for Kirsty.

A historical note at the end of the novel is useful in outlining the relationships between the suffrage movement and women entering the police force in the British Isles, and it’s no accident that Kirsty has been a suffragette. I found the historical details fascinating, from the uniform, which included knee-length army boots, to the duties women were considered capable of carrying out. They were often referred to as ‘statement takers’ though they were trained in jujitsu as a form of self-defense.

Kirsty’s relationship with her superior officer, Inspector Brewster, is well developed as the story unfolds, with Brewster ambivalent towards her, not knowing what to do with her, yet grudgingly admiring as well. The constables Kirsty has to work with are more inclined to mock than to give her a chance, and her father, when she plucks up the courage to visit him, is adamant that she should give up her foolish notions of independence. Her relationship with her parents is complicated by her relationship with her ‘sister’, Ailsa, who becomes a central figure in a plot involving missing girls.

I found the working out of this mystery less satisfying than other aspects of the novel, a mystery containing sexual predation, abuse and murder, spiraling around an orphanage and its staff, and the family of a man whom Kirsty knows from her former life in Dundee. Both the mystery and its resolution lacked depth, in my opinion. There was too much action and not enough reflection – the teasing out of possibilities and the weighing up of alternatives which can make a crime novel so enjoyable to read. It seemed inconceivable that Kirsty, given her intelligence, was gullible and blind where the main perpetrator was concerned.

That reservation aside, I enjoyed the historical setting and the characters and I would certainly be interested in reading the next book in the series.

I have given the book 4 stars.