Toni

The way I see it

"The Mandela Plot", by Kenneth Bonert

The Mandela Plot - Kenneth Bonert

This political thriller and fiction tale take place in and around Johannesburg, South Africa during apartheid and focuses on the supporters of the cause. The story spans from the uprising up to the release of Nelson Mandela and sometime after. The main players are the Helgers, a second generation Jewish family, young Martin is the key player in this heartbreaking and tragic account.

In the 1980’s, the regime is on the verge of collapse and the population suffers a maelstrom of violence during that horrifying time. Although fictional the author’s words have made this story sound so real with his incredible passages. When Martin is thrust in the heart of the struggle by a manipulative American and comes out of his bubble to help the cause we see a tad of what may have occurred during that time. Mercy is in short supply and no one is safe…..black, white, Afrikaans, Europeans, foreign nationals, immigrants ….. This novel, a moving coming-of- age tale honestly explored the bold themes of identity as well as terrorism and revolution and is said through an unforgettable journey.

The characters are well developed and believable some are even quite sympathetic and others so evil it is hard to believe their actions. This is a very hard book to get into. The narration and dialogue are peppered with some South African dialects, some slang, some Yiddish a challenging mix if not familiar with the languages. Although the author has given us a glossary at the end of the books I found it was very distracting and I needed to pause too often and reread the sentences in order to understand the meaning. The long paragraph sometime over a page long and its stretched narrative also made reading a daunting task at times. ….Of course what I think doesn’t remove the feeling of authenticity this story projects. 

I may not have enjoyed this novel at its fullest nevertheless I must say “The Mandela Plot” is a good read to be enjoyed by historical buff…. 

I received this ARC from Penguin Random House Canada via NetGalleys for my thoughts

'A Murder Among the Pines", by John Lawrence Reynolds

Murder Among the Pines - John Lawrence Reynolds

Book #3, in the Maxine Benson Mystery

This suspenseful crime fiction is a “Rapid Reads” easy on the eyes. Its 150 pages (paper version) can be read in one setting: small pages and good size font and a style meant for young adults. This story is not taxing.

Maxine Benson, police chief in a small town, sets out to solve the murder of her ex-husband’s new girlfriend.

This is an entertaining and well-written drama that unfolds nicely. Not being my first “Rapid Reads” I knew that the plot would be too short and would come to a quick resolve and that the characterization would also lack development (not enough time) to do so.

Having said this “Murder Among the Pines” has nevertheless a captivating plot within the limited pages, a simple story yet not boring and one that stayed true to the characters.

I received this ARC from Orca Book Publishers via the Early Reviewers Program.

"A Dubious Plan", by Gerald J. Kubicki

A Dubious Plan - Gerald J. Kubicki

Book #5, in the Colton Banyon Mysteries

If you want an amusing and a fun read you will be well served with this series. No problem to start at any point, each book has a unique drama and just enough background on the characters to situate us so that we can enjoy the moment without being overloaded with pass information.

In, ”A Dubious Plan”, Colton and his sidekick Loni are called to Death Valley to attend a wedding. But when a WW11 German plane is found in the sand dunes things changes….fast.

Don’t take this story seriously it is pure escapism from reality and very entertaining. The tempo is steady and holds its own all through, actually it never let go. The characters are a bit shallow, especially the female roles. I been stating this for a good part of the series, sexuality and the women insecurities and appearances are too often repeated…Naked brainless women catering to sex starved men is rather annoying (no explicit sexual scenes )…... Passing beyond the sexual innuendos and the frivolities the plot is an intriguing adventure. Most of Mr. Kubicki’s stories have a bit of mysticism and cynical humour mixed with a little bit of history…The author’s notes at the end of the book tells us what triggered his inspiration to write this story.

This book may be the latest I have read but actually I have read all of the books written to date by the Kubickis.

"Cosega Search", by Brandt Legg

Cosega Search - Brandt Legg

Book # 1, in the Cosega Sequence

This techno-thriller is a bouillabaisse of Indiana Jones, Cotton Malone and Colton Banyon all in one. This captivating mix of intrigues inevitably makes an exciting drama to enjoy.

Ripley Gaines, is a brilliant archeologist who spends is life searching for an elusive artifact to prove his controversial theory. His latest discovery will change the future of the planet……

Creatively written to engage us, this fast paced saga is quite a page turner from its opening pages, one that holds attention till you reach the last page. After all, add a bit of religious and scientific tone, some bad guys and good guys, lots of chases and bing- bang you can only be in one of those exciting read. If you do not takes this story too seriously and let yourself go with the long chase sequence you will be flipping pages at a rapid pace to catch up…The characters are likeable, the political tits-bits interesting, and the expedition is filled with brilliant imagination making an enjoyable read.

I would have given “Cosega Search” flying colours if it were not for the ending…..there isn’t any….you need to get the sequel…hate that…

"The Good Liar", by Catherine McKenzie

The Good Liar - Catherine McKenzie

This is a thought-provoking psychological thriller that will stay with you long after it is finished. Told in a mix of first person, third person and interview transcripts this is one engaging novel filled with complexity and depth. Unpredictability is one of this book’s qualities, hard to see some of the twists and turns coming. 

The story alternates between the perspectives of three women: Cecily, Kate and Franny whose lives were impacted by tragedy. In downtown Chicago a building exploded killing 513 people and injuring many more. In the aftermath, Cecily became an iconic symbol when someone took a picture of her on the scene. Fast forward a year, Cecily’s story intertwines with those of Kate and Franny and they find themselves confronting their sins of the past as the memorial approaches. The fast moving plot reveals more dramatic secrets and more lies you can imagine. With a handful of well-crafted secondary characters, these three women, who could not be more different, are the driving force that propels the story forward. 

This engaging story is definitely an amalgamation of lies, deceit and regret. Once into its gripping pages it is one book hard to put aside. Ms. McKenzie can always be counted on to spin a good tale, this latest is no exception. 

I received this ARC for review from the Simon & Schuster Canada via NetGalleys

"A Tiding of Magpies", by Steve Burrows

A Tiding of Magpies - Steve Burrows
Book #5, in the Birder Murder Mystery

No doubts, reading this book you will soon see how the author’s passion for birds is the driving force throughout the mystery. Mr. Burrows knows how to spin a very intricate web of intrigue and weave the threads in a very particular way. It may take some time to get familiar with his style. I admit to have had a bit of trouble staying focused with “A Tiding of Magpies” and by the end this story never truly gelled. 

To enjoy this book (and series) at its maximum I highly suggest reading the previous installments in order first. I have yet to read book 2 and 3 and I must say I missed out and was a bit lost at time not to have done so. This is the main reason I did not enjoy the story to the max. The author barely goes back in time so you are left out.

This latest continues the saga in Detective Chief Inspector Jejeune when his most celebrated case is suddenly reopened and his long-buried secrets threaten to come to light. Skillfully written, neatly constructed police procedural and a mystery centered on an inexplicably confounding murder of a young man. At the same time, his girlfriend, Lindy faces threat of her own and Jejeune needs to go all out to protect her.

This is one convoluted mystery that unfolds through the eyes of a bird loving Canadian detective extraordinaire. He is still unenthusiastic about his work but solving puzzles is his forte and Jejeune this smart detective will get his man at any cost…..or will he.

I have mixed feelings about this book, my fault I should have read the installments I missed, no excuses I have them in hands and I should definitely have read them sooner. I felt lost at times and often questioned where things came from, although I finally understood where all of this was going. Slow in pacing, this story trots along like a tired but stubborn old mule and like the mule needs a good push and less fuss. The characterization is good but trying to remember where they fit in is a challenge, some are recurring players. The plot is interesting, suspenseful in its own way and has some surprises to twist things around. Creating a captivating story around birds is an enterprise not all can master and weaving it into an entertaining mystery is a feat in itself, Mr. Burrows does hold up as an expert in both. This book may not have been my preferred by this author but I am not giving up on him…oh yes I will catch up before the next installment comes out.

I received this ARC for review by the publisher Dundurn.com via NetGalleys
 
 

 

"Jackson Hole: Uneasy Eden", by Warren Adler

Jackson Hole, Uneasy Eden - Warren Adler

This is a collection of fictional short stories based on Mr. Adler’s experience as a long-time resident of little town nestled in the heart of the most beautiful mountain in Northwest Wyoming, the Grand Tetons. 

In each of the stories we find insights in what has happened by the modern invasion of folks to the area. Resorts have sprung rapidly and a new way of life came with it. Their presence brought clashed with the long cherished western customs. We can feel through the stories how the modern life has disrupted and turned their quiet world upside down. Wealth and the modern life changed things for ever.

You can find many editions of this book published over years, the first in 1997. I can only presume the stories are all the same. I am reviewing the version that has been sent to me by the author this past month. 

Each chapter is about a family that was born or moved to Jackson. Their stories are well-crafted and interesting albeit maybe a bit disturbing. A full range of emotions is brought to life to showcase how the valley’s culture was transformed by the constant pressure imposed by the new arrivals. Each of Mr. Adler’s fiction dissects Jackson Hole spectacular patina, its people and its tradition. Although considered short stories, everyone is long enough to have moved me to the core. I do feel sorry for the loss of life style but things changes. For the better or worst depends where you stand.

"Dark Waters", by J.B. Turner

Dark Waters (A Deborah Jones Crime Thriller) - J.B. Turner

Book #2, in the Deborah Jones Crime Thriller

Loved this one, “Dark Water” is a gripping read that has kept me on the edge of my seat from page one. The plot is captivating and is weaved with dynamic characters.

This fast paced story covers many aspects at times somewhat predictable but is so entertaining that I had a hard time putting it aside in fact it took me only two settings to finish it. Deborah, the main character is an investigative reporter for the Miami Herald and is in a relationship with her managing editor. They get involved in the apparent suicide of a young man, who obtained top secrets government documents by hacking into a cell phone of a high ranking employee. The victim contacted the reporter for a meeting…..Deborah had agreed to meet and soon finds herself caught in a drama she never could have imagined…..and reading the ramifications is a hell of a story.

The story is filled with geeky stuff and high tech gadgetry and is fun to read. The narration is smooth and plenty of good dialogue to move things along. We find a lot of intrigue to go with the suspense and a trail of murders and damage left behind as this hard headed journalist gets closer to the truth.

Did I say I loved this one……

"The Chessmen", by Peter May

The Chessmen - Peter  May
Book # 3, in the Lewis trilogy

This final plot in the trilogy set on the island of Lewis featuring former policeman Fin MacLeod works perfectly well as a standalone novel. Although, newcomers will have plenty of backstory to assimilate but be assured it is neatly woven in the narrative that you will not feel lost at all. This is a story of love, friendship, loyalty and betrayal.

In a nut shell, Fin’s new job is head of security and is handed the job to putting a stop to poachers on a private estate. The main suspect is Whistler, his oldest friend. Their friendship is tested when the pair stumbles onto a light aircraft at the bottom of a dry drain with its pilot dead at the helm. The police is called to investigate the crash, Fin’s finds himself at the centre of it all. Rivalries, secrets and wrong-doing begin to surface…..and makes for quite an interesting read.

Mr. May shifts action back and forth and uses flashbacks as the story unfolds in both past and present. The story is good but what set it aside from others is how talented the author is in creating the sense of place for his readers in order to be absorbed into the life of his characters and into the landscape of the Hebrides. “The Chessmen” is good mystery novel with several obvious holes in the plot. Although Fin does find some resolution for the past tragedy, enough is left unsaid letting you wonder if really this is the end. This contrived ending has left me somewhat unsatisfied.
 
 
 

 

"High Noon in Hollywood", by Warren Adler

High Noon in Hollywood - Warren Adler

When Mr. Adler asks book reviewers to read and post their thoughts on his latest book he surely could count on me to volunteer. I cannot pass over any of his books: they are unpredictable, so diverse in topics and style. I simply love how generous this prolific author is: a book in exchange for a post.

“High Noon in Hollywood” is the story of Zane Galvin, a failed producer that is so deep in debt he would go to extreme to raise the money. At the heart of the plot is his scheme to get out of trouble and the wicked game that came out of it. This story is all about blackmail, betrayal, greed and the machinations of Hollywood.

I have mixed feelings about this story, way too predictable and rather slow moving for my tastes. I could visualize miles ahead what would happen next. I guess the idea of becoming a sewer rat, making tunnels to reach the vault of a bank is not a new idea at least in my book. We saw this numerous times always with a similar outcome, nothing original here. The players are the run of the mill, none really stood out. 

Having said this, the story is well-done in imagery and effect. This is a fun read but no more. Unfortunately this latest is not my preferred book in Mr. Adler’s huge library but I still enjoyed passing time reading it. Some books you like and other a little less…..

"The Dark Queen", by J.F. Penn

The Dark Queen - J.F. Penn

A Supernatural thriller short story

Although, this story may be short in words it nevertheless packs quite a bit in its 16 pages. “The Dark Queen” is the story of a sunken city, of lost goddess and of Lara who is determined to find her.

I am not a fan of short stories but honestly with Ms. Penn’s I make exception. In a few words she richly composes her fantasy, gives us decidedly a spooky and entertaining drama and propels her main character into a saga not many would want to live through…..Ms. Penn’s words captures your imagination and I was hooked from the start and wanting more by the end…..

I received a copy from Ms. Penn for my thoughts

"The Terrorist Next Door", by Sheldon Siegel

The Terrorist Next Door (A David Gold / A.C. Battle Mystery Book 1) - Sheldon Siegel

This is an action packed thriller from beginning to end. Someone is placing bombs in cars and then detonating them with untraceable cellphones striking fear in the heart of Chicago. Wrigley Field station, Millennium Park, the Museum of Science and Industry, O’Hare Airport, Hyde Park train station have been targeted. The bomber has shut down a major US city.

Comes detectives Gold and Battle on the hunt across Chicago’s colorful neighbourhood for what they believe is a “long wolf” but this “terrorist” has an agenda up his sleeves and plays a taunting cat and mouse game with Chicago’s finest.

Enjoy this book for what it is: a captivating suspense of improbable moves: a wicked plot that unwraps at a rapid speed and two Detectives always one step behind the killer. Bombs are bursting everywhere, this is so well described you can see and feel this happening and you almost smell the aftermath, tremendously well written action scenes. The author definitely spins a good yarn that held me spellbound and interested from the first page. The suspense is undeniable. Keep guessing, the usual suspects are there but the ending may surprise you……The characterisation is great: well-defined and portrayed cast of players. Gold and Battles are likeable detectives and I hope they return soon to entertain us.

This story is in many ways scary, could this really happen? Could one person cause all this mayhem and shut down a city? 

“The Terrorist Next Door” is a great read.

"Firing Line", by Mike Hollow

Firing Line - Mike Hollow

Book#4, in The Blitz Detective series

The London Blitz may be the background for this story but the murder mystery could have been staged anywhere and could have taken place in recent years. In this 4th installment Detective Inspector John Jago and Detective Constable Peter Cradock are called to the scene where a young woman was murdered, strangled with a nylon stocking and near her they found a sailor’s cap. 

I love how the author drips slowly clues to Jago in his investigation to keep the tension going and our interest at its peak. The plot is very well written to takes us through the investigation without any fluffs, it is simple and to the point. Questioning witnesses is the key to a thorough investigation and the story does not shy away from doing a lot of it. A good murder case has its moment of emotional strain evidently we see how Jago and Cradock face those moments while searching for answers. Why stay with only one case, on a second front and during the painstaking search the inspectors stumble into a robbery at the theater that need also their full attention. What excels in this mystery is the interrelation between the two protagonists, how they communicate and complete each other. Mr. Hollow knows how important good dialogue is. We are well served with a good dose of excellent exchanges. 

To sum up:

“Firing Line” is a well-plotted storyline with excellent narration and dialogue played out by two wonderful protagonists and great secondary characters….what’s not to love. I am looking forward to book #5. 

I received this ARC from Lion Hudson LTD via NetGalleys 

"Dangerous Perceptions", by Stuart Murray

Dangerous Perceptions: The Road To Nowhere - Stuart Murray
The Road to Nowhere 

I had “The Road to Nowhere” on my TBR list for a very long time, a book I had downloaded a few years back from Amazon. After I had read more than half the book my friend asked if I was reading the latest edition…the book had been completely revised. I usually do update when I noticed them although here I cannot be certain I did…. So with this in mind my review reflects the edition I had in hand….

The story in a few words:

Former Marines Steve Tait and Jeff McCrae decide to rekindle the romance they’d once had with their wives, Karen and Shauna. A peaceful drive from Omaha to the quiet town of Whitefish turns into a battle of life and death when they become victims of road rage from Wayne Jackson.

My thoughts:

What I liked:

“The Road to Nowhere” is mostly a gripping and adrenaline-pumping thriller. Mr. Murray’s imagination depicts brilliantly his diverse characters. Each are well thought out and through their eyes we are able to experience the confrontational and disturbing scenes they encountered. Whitefish is a town full of maniacal bullies and this thriller shows what happens when they come up against well trained former marine with PTSD. The story doesn’t stay there we go deep into Steve’s past and other problems that haunts his minds…back to the firing zones of Iraq and Afghanistan and the troubles his memories brought into his marriage. 

This is chilling tale of suspense, an action packed drama that explores the darkest desires and highest of hopes. To describe this story in a few words: a wild ride where people are swept up in one clash after the other…… “Dangerous Perceptions”, could have been a very captivating read if it was not for……

What I didn’t like:

What spoiled the experience is how terribly the chapters meshed together. It was as if a flash of darkness happened and in the next chapter you are reading a totally different topic. I wondered too often if my mind had been someplace else and if I had missed something. Too many chapters have no resolution again leaving you wondering what happened to the players and how they managed to pull through. Although the story is good for most parts, I think it touches too many subjects. It may have been better to stay more focussed on one or two at the most…..
 
 

 

"In Pursuit of Platinum", by Vic Robbie

In Pursuit of Platinum: The Shocking Secret of World War II - Vic Robbie

The Shocking Secret of World War 11

Said in the third person narrative, “In a Pursuit of Platinum” revolves around three characters: Ben Peters, Alena and Ludwig Weber. Whether this adventure is true or not, the quest to extricate from the grips of the German Alena and her son and drive them in a Bentley loaded with the most precious of metal Platinum from occupied Paris through the Pyrenees, Spain and Portugal to hopefully reach the shore of England is at the most shocking, if not a nail-biting political saga that for most part kept me on the edge of my seat. 

Alena and her son were more important than the platinum both for the Nazis and for England but what made her such a valuable target: thus the title of this book “shocking secret”. All through the story I was confuse enough to wonder if I was reading a non-fiction or a fiction and if that secret was real or not. Many parts of their journey didn’t seem realistic: how could a Bentley loaded down could cover the rough terrain through the mountains without losing some of the platinum or falling in hidden crevices. How did the group managed to escape the hands a War Lord, crossing police blockades and a multitude of traps to only come out with some dents on the Bentley and some scratches on their bodies. Parts were so unrealistic that I questioned if this really could have happened. I deducted parts could have been product of the author imagination in order to enhance his narrative and make his book entertaining and others could have been the real facts….which is which I could not detect, the author never mentioned a word. A fact: “The Freedom Trail (Chemin de la Liberté) did exist and was a WW11 escape route to Spain. 

Having said this, the story is nevertheless quite a page-turner I enjoyed reading from start to finish. The style is colourful and it moves at a fast-paced. The writing and evocation of the time in Paris is quite convincing. The characterization is good and is expertly played out, first class act by all of them. Good overall even with its abrupt and disappointing ending. 

"Casino Qaddafi", by Graham Tempest

Casino Qaddafi (Oliver Steele) - Graham Tempest

Book #3, an Oliver Steele Casino series

Set largely in Libya weeks after the assassination of Muammar Gadhafi, this mystery focuses mainly on Oliver Steele mission to locate Hassan, an illegitimate son of the slain dictator. 

Hassan is financing construction of a massive casino in Macau but amid the turmoil of the Arab Spring, he inexplicably disappeared, without his backing the development is doomed.... Comes Oliver to the rescue…..but he is not alone.

Mr. Tempest is relentless on pacing, vivid description of exotic locales, action and adventure and does not shy from interweaving storylines peppered with ruthless characters such as unethical bankers, financiers, revolutionaries and murderers. Oliver’s investigation into layers of secrecy surrounding Hassan’s fortune is interesting but the accounting gibberish is however so over powering and distracting that I let my mind meander during the long narrative. Nevertheless the adrenaline fueled saga is quite suspenseful with characters involved in one conflict after the other. Every time Oliver gets close to a solution, this financial sleuth is derailed instantly. Definitely this story keeps you guessing from page one. Set aside the distraction this book is a good straightforward and easy read played out by an interesting cast of diverse characters.

Even if “Casino Qaddafi” may not have been my preferred story in this series I nevertheless enjoyed passing time reading this mystery.