Toni

The way I see it

"Fate", by Ian Hamilton

"Fate" - Ian  Hamilton

Uncle Chow Tung book #1

This new series takes us back in time when Chow Tung left China for Hong Kong as a nobody and became the Dragon Head of the Fanling Triad after the death of their master. 

If you haven’t read the Eva Lee series by this author you may wonder why is he giving us this story but if you are a fan you will appreciate knowing where Uncle had his roots and how he became such a revered leader who played an important role till his death in “The Eva Lee Mysteries” series. This new series is an excellent spin off.

Mr. Hamilton seems to know quite a lot about the Triad’s hierarchy and how its structure works. In a spin of his own the mystery brings to life the struggle to replace the Mountain Master after he was killed in a traffic accident. Normally the Deputy is the next in line but others have someone and other things in mind….

After a short introduction we are fast plunged into the action and it doesn’t take long before knowing that Chow known as Uncle is the lead that could fend off the threats and unite the membership…..By the end Uncle is elected Dragon Head…..The mystery is slow moving even with the threatening moves from the other gangs but Mr. Hamilton knows how to pull us in drop by drop into an exciting saga that will make you flip pages till the very end. 

As always, the story is well presented, the smooth narration is intercepted by strong dialogues. The characterization is excellent and I love how each one played their roles in such an entertaining manner. No doubts I am a huge fan of this author.

I received this ARC from the publisher House of Anansi via NetGalleys for my thoughts.

"The Homecoming", by Andrew Pyper

"The Homecoming" - Andrew Pyper

“The Homecoming”, is a gripping psychological mystery and quite an intriguing puzzle that unravels before our eyes. 

This is a weird story and a scary one indeed. It recounts how with their mother the Quinlans’ siblings are asked to travel to a vast remote property to hear the reading of their father’s will. There is one condition: to inherit the fortune they must stay at the estate for one month without contact with the outside world. They soon find out that the people they knew all your life have suddenly become strangers.

The 2/3 of the book reminded me of Agatha Christie’s story where she plunges people in the middle of nowhere and kills them one by one. But what differences Mr. Pype’s macabre story from those written by Ms. Christie: we do not have an equivalent of a Ms. Maple nor an Inspector Poirot to save the day. Instead we have sightings, strange happenings, lots of blood and very scary moments for the characters to endure. 

This is an original horror scenario with a straightforward prose with a focus on plot and dialogue. Gripping in most part especially when the family discovers that each member has more secrets that they ever imagined and fear settles in…. This family drama turns out to be a chilling dystopian nightmare. 

Mr. Pyper is a gifted storyteller with a penchant for the super creepy. He has once again concocted a darkly entrancing tale and has filled it with outstanding players. 

I received this ARC from Simon & Schuster Canada via Netgalleys for my thoughts

"Seven Days", by Patrick Senécal

Seven days - Patrick Senécal
Original title: “Sept Jours du Talion” 

This new acquisition by Simon & Schuster was recently translated into English the original French version came out in 2002 and in 2010 was adapted for cinema by Podz. Why I am mentioning this? Simple… I have a soft spot for Canadian authors and even more for those living in my Province (Québec) and near my city. I haven’t read any books from Mr. Senécal before and I am grateful for the publisher as well as Netgalleys for introducing me to a wonderful writer. Thank you for the ARC.

Stephen King may be the king of horror in the USA but in Québec Patrick Senécal is the local master of horror and has had the opportunity on many occasions to prove that he had earned his nobility. It is great time that the English audience have a chance to read his novels. Mr. Senécal has won my heart and is now on my watch list. 

A warning: this story is extremely graphic and not for the faint of heart.

In a few words:

“Seven Days" tells the story of the kidnapping and torture of a sexual predator by the father of one of his victims. It also follows the police investigation to bring the criminal to justice which also raises several ethical questions, especially since the father's gesture is applauded by the public. 

This story is about revenge, which takes place over ten days, including the seven days during which the main character, Bruno Hamel, a surgeon by profession, takes revenge without mercy on the one who annihilated the existence of his daughter and, by extension, his. It doesn’t take long before this story takes fantasies of a horror novel. The plot imagined by Mr. Senécal is of a rare intensity, and the detailed descriptions make some bloody scenes very difficult to read. It is impossible to accuse the author of displaying gratuitous violence, because each of the gestures of Bruno Hamel, we feel, is provoked by the intense madness that has seized him. Being in his shoes, I imagine we would wish having the guts to do the same.

Furthermore this novel touches two very sensitive issues: child safety and the right of victims to fight back. Regardless of our opinion on the subject, it is impossible to remain indifferent to the drama unfolding before our eyes. This story is still strong in my mind and will be there for some time…..

“Seven Days” is very well-written and is played by a cast of strong characters. Excellent read and an outstanding page-turner.
 
 

 

"Death in Shangri-La", by Yigal Zur

Death in Shangri La - Yigal Zur

Book #1, in Dotan Naor Thriller series 

This hard boiled story is set in one of the most dangerous place in Southeast Asia and in the region around Nepal. Mr. Zur brings us into the breathtaking landscape of Kashmir and the Himalayas with his protagonist Dotan Naor, a former Israeli security agent now private investigator. 

This is a fast-paced story that takes us on a journey to every Israeli’s worst nightmare: falling victim to terrorists. “Death in Shangri-La” brings Dotan in India to settle a bet and locate the missing son of Willy Mizrachi, an Israeli arms dealer, who was headed to an ashram in the Himalayas….But in the disputed region innocent Israelis kids are targeted by terrorists....nothing is what it seems….

In great parts this is a great story, the descriptions of the cities in India, their overcrowding, the poverty and corruption is very well done. The who-dunnit and the why-dunnit cover all the bases. Page after pages the drama evokes the smells and sights of a dangerous world. The plot is active, really never a dull moment, it is filled with twists and turns. Told from the point of view of an Israeli gives this recreation a refreshing change although quite macabre as it should be. The author seems to be well versed in the country and has provided us with an excellent travelogue…but a terrible image in vivid details of a beautiful place…

What was the main objective in this story?, I really couldn’t figure it out, the story touches a lot of subjects: India’s politic, terrorism, armament, illegal trades, prostitution, spirituality…etc… This smorgasbord of ideas was nevertheless captivating and well put together. The idea of a soldier turning private investigator is definitely not a new concept but “Death in Shangri-La” brings a refreshing spin by featuring Israeli characters and a plot based in India and its surroundings.

Not a bad addition to the thriller market. Well-done

"The King of Shanghai", by Ian Hamilton

The King of Shanghai - Ian  Hamilton

The Triad Years

Book # 7, in the Ava Lee series

This series is a huge entertainment hit for me and really love Ava Lee she is a brilliant, sexy and formidably martial arts-trained forensic accountant and she is always propelled into a fast-paced suspense, always far away in exotic locales and her adventures always includes a rich cast of characters both dangerous as well as lovable. I never get tired of her escapades. No worries if you did not read the previous books you will fit right in if you start here.

The seventh novel in the Ava Lee series finds Ava getting caught up in the election for the chairmanship of the Triad Societies. Xu, who was Uncle’s protégé wants to invest $150 million into her firm, and he assures her he didn’t gain the money from gang-related activity…..at the same time, Xu is trying to get voted in as the top dog of the Triad, and only has one serious competitor.

This story did not disappoint and if you are curious about the power of China, the unorthodox Ava Lee mystery is both enlightening and delightful to read. The prelude introduces us to the galloping Chinese fashion world of knock-offs and the insatiable appetite for affordable designer clothes. Then Mr. Hamilton soon put the fashion world to the backburner and refocuses the narrative on the relationship between Xu and Ava Lee. 

The plot is well structures and what moves the story along is how the characters are decked in a hybrid of exoticism and the modernity of China. Ava Lee sexual orientation does not come to play here as it did in other novels although there is a subtle sexual tension between Xu and Ava Lee throughout the novel. Of course this ambivalence reflects the skill of the author in keeping us hooked for more.

With “The King of Shanghai” Ian Hamilton has done it again. He has another great chapter in the series with a thriller aspect that has kept me turning the pages.

"The Leopard", by Jo Nesbo

The Leopard - Don Bartlett, Jo Nesbø, Jo Nesbø

Book # 8, in the Harry Hole Series 

Book # 6, in the Oslo Sequence Series

This novel is big and meaty, just over 600 pages, at first glance we may think it is a big long but in essence there is so much to it : a serial killer, a maverick cop, a plot with multiple threads and a large canvas to travel: from Hong Kong, Africa and Norway and of course several points in between. Mr. Nesbo did not forget Harry’s character requirements: melancholic, alcoholic, strong headed and anti- authority. This time Harry is teamed up with Kaja, an astonishingly beautiful woman colleague with problems of her own. As in all series we also find the requisite backstory.

“The Leopard” follows “The Snowman” where the horrific events at the end took an enormous toll on the Detective. It opens with Harry out in Hong Kong high on opium oblivious to everything and arm in arm with law-evaders. But his reputation as a tracker of serial killers is unsurpassable therefore he is asked to return Norway when the country is once again plagued by a multiple murderer. 

From its opening page, this case which brought Harry back to Oslo is frightening with details: a succession of women’s torture (and one young man), terror and death, in the heartland of the Norwegian mountains in the middle of winter. The deaths are notably gruesome. We cannot deny the author’s creativity when it comes to homicide. We have a few madmen in this story and it took time before Harry explains what is going on and finally the story advances from weird to weirder…another spooky gothic gloominess, good for nightmares. 

Mr. Nesbo is adept in planting seeds of the dénouement early in the narration and we do have plenty of fun twists, turns and red herrings to keep us glued to our seat although I admit to have found this to be wee bit longer than it should be.

"Flights and Falls", by R.M. Greenaway

Flights and Falls - R. M. Greenaway
Book #4, in the Blues Crime series

Once again I will say that this latest is one of those books you either love or hate and if you have lots of time on your hand tackle this convoluted mystery. 

As in her previous stories “Flights and Falls” is a characters driving mystery populated with many players and following them and keeping track of them can be a challenge, well it was for me. No doubts, this book is a progression of the overall story so to understand were things fall you really need to start with book #1( Cold Girl) and move from there. 

This latest starts when a red Chevette crashes in the woods along the treacherous Sea-to- Sky highway. The driver, a young woman is the only casualty and the people who had assisted her brutally attacked. An investigation is set in motion with endless hours of interviews and we find ourselves in an unspeakable cat and mouse game. Our usually main characters Cal Dion and his partner are on the backburner and the reins have been handed to Dave Leith and JD Temple in this open case. We go back and forth between the many threads and more characters come into play, more killings and more investigation….more mysterious witnesses, anonymous callers ….oh boy more people…Cal and Bosco are still engage in their little dance...will this ever come to a head and blow up….back and forth we go…. again….

Ms. Greenaway has penned once more a multilayered mystery that dilly-dallies too much for my taste but nevertheless offers a plot that is interesting and captivating. The style is original and is well said to push us forward in order for us to stay tuned till we reach the last chapter. The conclusion opens the door for a 5th book…I will be waiting for it…

Thank you Dundurn and NetGalleys for this ARC
 
 

 

"Valleys of Dry Bones", by J.F. Penn

Valley of Dry Bones - J.F. Penn
Book # 10, in the Arkane series 

Although this may be the 10th book in the series it can be read as a standalone. We are given enough background information to situate us without being overloaded with too much detail. Ms. Penn knows how to introduce her story with an expert penmanship and superb imagination.

This page-turning archaeological thriller explores at its fullest the two attributes the author is well-known to explore: the supernatural and occult. These two elements are blended into a religious mystery with an action adventure that is captivating from the start.

An ancient prophecy, an occult secret and the power to raise the dead is at the heart of this story. Voodoo symbols, secret society and a mystery that stretches to the Spanish Empire will have Jake Timber to New Orleans seeking for the Hand of Ezekiel but he will find out he is not the only one seeking the relics that can turn bones to living flesh. Morgan Sierra also plays a good role and with Jake they bring us on a fantastic journey that spans continents in their quest for the relics. Action driven, this story is very visual and also quite graphic not a dull moment throughout.

Ms. Penn does extensive research before she pens down a story and we see how her knowledge shines through her words once it comes to fruition. Once into her book you will be hooked. 

The plot is superb and well executed, the narrative is rich and flows smoothly and finally the characterization is well- drawn and appealing. 

This is another success, well-done Ms. Penn.

I received this ARC from the author for my honest and unbiased thoughts. 
 
 

 

"Valley of Dry Bones", by J.F. Penn

Valley of Dry Bones - J.F. Penn
Book # 10, in the Arkane series 

Although this may be the 10th book in the series it can be read as a standalone. We are given enough background information to situate us without being overloaded with too much detail. Ms. Penn knows how to introduce her story with an expert penmanship and superb imagination.

This page-turning archaeological thriller explores at its fullest the two attributes the author is well-known to explore: the supernatural and occult. These two elements are blended into a religious mystery with an action adventure that is captivating from the start.

An ancient prophecy, an occult secret and the power to raise the dead is at the heart of this story. Voodoo symbols, secret society and a mystery that stretches to the Spanish Empire will have Jake Timber to New Orleans seeking for the Hand of Ezekiel but he will find out he is not the only one seeking the relics that can turn bones to living flesh. Morgan Sierra also plays a good role and with Jake they bring us on a fantastic journey that spans continents in their quest for the relics. Action driven, this story is very visual and also quite graphic not a dull moment throughout.

Ms. Penn does extensive research before she pens down a story and we see how her knowledge shines through her words once it comes to fruition. Once into her book you will be hooked. 

The plot is superb and well executed, the narrative is rich and flows smoothly and finally the characterization is well- drawn and appealing. 

This is another success, well-done Ms. Penn.

I received this ARC from the author for my honest and unbiased thoughts. 
 
 

 

"In Too Deep", by Lynn H Blackburn

In Too Deep - Lynn Huggins Blackburn
Dive Team investigations book# 2

I received this book from the publisher Revell through the first reviewer program for my honest and unbiased thoughts. 

The blurb sounded good:

“When the dive team is called in to recover a body from a submerged car, they aren't prepared to find an encrypted laptop--or an unsettling connection between investigator Adam Campbell and the dead accountant. Adam's team calls in Dr. Sabrina Fleming, a cybersecurity and computer forensics expert.” 

This book has an interesting premise and it started just fine but things went south and fell apart not long into it. What I thought was a mystery surely wasn’t... where was the suspense? In my books, “In Too Deep” is more of a Christian romantic fiction than anything else and a soft one at that. 

This should have been an exciting read but it was far from it. First, the two protagonists Adam and Sabrina had a thing for each other but never let on and this feeling went on well over the 1/3 of the book. Yuk, I was starting to get impatient. After all, wasn’t this supposed to be a mystery with suspense and some action….no no no, not for over 100 pages. Then here came the “God-ism” and prayers, the religious connotations are quite superfluous and just plainly cut into the flow of what could have been a good story. Although Ms. Blackburn did not over do this it was still bothersome. The plot had many holes and simply did not come across as realistic. Sabrina came up with answers based on what; there were neither explanations nor real investigation. The main characters were not bad players they were just too bland for my taste….The last few chapters brought some suspense and were captivating although it ended in what I would call a romantic dream…..awe…..“In Too Deep” is not a bad book at all. The story simply was not my cup of tea but it may be yours…
 
 

 

'In Too Deep", by Lynn H. Blackburn

In Too Deep - Lynn Huggins Blackburn
Dive Team investigations book# 2

I received this book from the publisher Revell through the first reviewer program for my honest and unbiased thoughts. 

The blurb sounded good:

“When the dive team is called in to recover a body from a submerged car, they aren't prepared to find an encrypted laptop--or an unsettling connection between investigator Adam Campbell and the dead accountant. Adam's team calls in Dr. Sabrina Fleming, a cybersecurity and computer forensics expert.” 

This book has an interesting premise and it started just fine but things went south and fell apart not long into it. What I thought was a mystery surely wasn’t... where was the suspense? In my books, “In Too Deep” is more of a Christian romantic fiction than anything else and a soft one at that. 

This should have been an exciting read but it was far from it. First, the two protagonists Adam and Sabrina had a thing for each other but never let on and this feeling went on well over the 1/3 of the book. Yuk, I was starting to get impatient. After all, wasn’t this supposed to be a mystery with suspense and some action….no no no, not for over 100 pages. Then here came the “God-ism” and prayers, the religious connotations are quite superfluous and just plainly cut into the flow of what could have been a good story. Although Ms. Blackburn did not over do this it was still bothersome. The plot had many holes and simply did not come across as realistic. Sabrina came up with answers based on what; there were neither explanations nor real investigation. The main characters were not bad players they were just too bland for my taste….The last few chapters brought some suspense and were captivating although it ended in what I would call a romantic dream…..awe…..“In Too Deep” is not a bad book at all. The story simply was not my cup of tea but it may be yours…
 
 

 

"The Wrecking Team ", by Ty Patterson

Wrecking Team - Ty Patterson

Book#4, in the Gemini series

Beth and Meghan Peterson are at it again this time on their most baffling case, finding who is behind the attacks on a billionaire’s daughter.

Each book in this series is not very long around 200 pages thank goodness for that since there are endless action and more twists you can imagine thrown our way. Indeed the twins are good and are great side kick to Zeb Carter (the Warriors). These two have never lost a case they took on…no wonder they are superwomen. Angie the daughter is a hand full, a tantrum throwing heiress hard to control but Beth and Meghan can handle her and along the way find themselves in a gruesome game but they are not called the Wrecking Team for nothing and reading this story we find out why…

If you like unbelievable action, great characters, exciting and well-written plot doubled with never ending suspense, a developing cast of loveable characters including the amazing supporting staff, not forgetting the bad guys at their best, you will not be disappointed with the Gemini series. Each series written by Ty Patterson is interlaced so we have recurring characters helping each other in a game filled with snappy action with twists and sharp turns.

This fast paced action thriller is captivating to no end….loved it

"Last Call", by Warren Adler

Last Call - Warren Adler

“Last Call” is creative tale about two octogenarians who discover that even if there is snow on the roof there is still fire in the chimney…falling in love has no end date. Indeed love is love at any age.

The story features Harvey Franklin and Sarah Silverman two people with different background and views who met in a central Park dog park and immediately bonded over their love for poodles. But life became complicated as their meeting moved on. Harvey a long time widow had come to term with the loss of his wife but Sarah`s husband of 50 years has Alzheimer and she made him a promise to be at his side till his last breath and never place him in a long care institution. 

You can imagine how conflicted Sarah became about her relationship with Harvey and how Harvey reacted wanting to help her. This beautiful story of late love and passionate love affair of two polar opposites has triggered a multitude of emotions at time I smiled and other time tears ran down my cheeks and other I just shook my head. This is a well-written story with a clear message of acceptance very needed today. It is also uplifting to see at this stage of life love can be found even if there are no smooth roads to obtain it. Mr. Adler has as usual vividly painted every move, provides funny and terribly sad sequences and given us a very captivating story so realistic it hard to believe this is a simple story. 

Thank you Mr. Adler for the wonderful and smooth narrative that helped visualized and feel every move Sarah and Harvey experienced…With a last comment I would suggest getting a dog if you are lonely and want to meet someone……awe…:)

"The Shadow Killer", by Arnaldur Indridason

"The Shadow Killer" - -Arnaldur Indridason-

Book# 2, in Reykjavik Wartime Mystery

Against the backdrop of occupied Iceland with the American GI replacing the British Tommies “The Shadow Killer” will have Flovent, of the Icelandic CID paired with Thorson, an Icelandic-Canadian, investigating the murder of a travelling salesman killed in the head by a bullet from a Colt 45 and what remained of his forehead has a swastika dabbed in blood. But this case becomes more complicated when the dead man was misidentified and another travelling salesman may have been the suspected target.

The plot has two line of inquiry and we have a lot of interrogations going on with the detectives hectoring witnesses and suspects, maybe a little too much. The center theme is the “Situation” where young Icelandic women were forgetting their morals with young soldiers- here it is explored through Vera. The second theme explored is the interest of the Nazis as a super race a theory tested by Felix’s father on young Icelanders. These characters are important players in this mystery. As the story unfolds Flovent and Thorson are pulled further down the rabbit hole and the more their finding point to someone with military experience, the more turbulent their investigations become. This mystery veers one way then jolts in the opposite direction over and over again but the problem is that it takes for over to get going. To various strands are woven together and much territory covered before the case is solved. Interesting by the end if you have the patience to hang on……

"The Shadow Killer", by Arnaldur Indridason

"The Shadow Killer" - -Arnaldur Indridason-

Book# 2, in Reykjavik Wartime Mystery

Against the backdrop of occupied Iceland with the American GI replacing the British Tommies “The Shadow Killer” will have Flovent, of the Icelandic CID paired with Thorson, an Icelandic-Canadian, investigating the murder of a travelling salesman killed in the head by a bullet from a Colt 45 and what remained of his forehead has a swastika dabbed in blood. But this case becomes more complicated when the dead man was misidentified and another travelling salesman may have been the suspected target.

The plot has two line of inquiry and we have a lot of interrogations going on with the detectives hectoring witnesses and suspects, maybe a little too much. The center theme is the “Situation” where young Icelandic women were forgetting their morals with young soldiers- here it is explored through Vera. The second theme explored is the interest of the Nazis as a super race a theory tested by Felix’s father on young Icelanders. These characters are important players in this mystery. As the story unfolds Flovent and Thorson are pulled further down the rabbit hole and the more their finding point to someone with military experience, the more turbulent their investigations become. This mystery veers one way then jolts in the opposite direction over and over again but the problem is that it takes for over to get going. To various strands are woven together and much territory covered before the case is solved. Interesting by the end if you have the patience to hang on……

"Only Time Will Tell", by Jeffrey Archer

Only Time Will Tell - Jeffrey Archer

Book#1, The Clifton Chronicles 

If I would have listened to some reviewers I wouldn’t have touched this book but I did not and I am happy I have ignored all those so so reviews. In fact, I simply loved this story and found that Mr. Archer delivered a page-turning saga filled with twists and enough of a surprise at the end that I added book #2 to my library already. I am so curious to see what comes next.

The story revolves around the main character Harry Clifton, a boy growing up in the backdrop of docks in Bristol at the start of the 20th century. The story is broadly divided into parts, each dedicated to characters who take the story forward from their point of view: Harry, his mother Maisie, Emma Barrington, Hugo Barrington, Giles Barrington and Old Jack Tar. They all have their secrets, game and deceit. Young Harry has a beautiful singing voice and has the intelligence to further his education but without money he needed connections to gets through his schooling and to Oxford. He had all the help to do so…

The first part of the book is pretty much the every cliché you read about English boarding schools: sadistic prefects, social snobbery, cruel mockery etc. The prose is clear, smooth slipping along from page to page. The dialogue is your everyday lines. The driving force is the plot and the pace picks up fast when Harry gets out of school and so did my interest. The author excels in doling out tiny crumbs of suspense and keeps the tempo up to the last page where it ends with a really excellent cliff-hanger….I am not usually a fan of this kind of ending but here I make an exception….well-done. 

This story will appeal to those who love smooth suspense with moderate action.