Toni

The way I see it

"The Birds That Stay", by Ann Lambert

"The Birds That Stay" - Ann Lambert

This complex novel spins a beautifully laid out mystery set in the heart of the Laurentian Mountains where its inhabitants will play out a collection of events that shaped their lives. Each player reveals memories recalling how life was growing up. While the enigmatic Chief Inspector Romeo Leduc reluctantly answers the call when a reclusive older woman is found strangled in her home….seems the investigation will weave the sins of the past with today’s devastating consequences.

Ms. Lambert’s words clearly resonated not only did I picture vividly the scenery I also reminisced with her characters. Being a Montrealer I enjoy Canadian authors who set their stories near or in my home town and uses the patois and expressions of most of us French Quebecer do. The author does a magnificent job in doing so. It actually made me smile….yes, we really do speak this way….The mystery in itself is very slow in development a bit too slow for my taste but the complexity and the array of fascinating characters made up for it. Yes, it may be slow but no less has gripping tension to keep us glued to every word till the very end. Do not look for great police procedural this story dives more into the background and motivations of its players than anything else. The streets of Montreal 1970, the beautiful Laurentians (not so much today it is-30C) and Hungary 1944 revisited…..and lots more ……well-done.

I received this Arc from the publisher Second Story Press via Netgalleys

"The Peace Killers", by Ty Patterson

"The Peace Killers" - Ty Patterson

Zeb Carter # 2

This is another riveting story hard to put down. Mr. Patterson is at the top of his game and has provided once more a fast paced, exciting adventure played out by his most loveable although deadly characters: Zeb and the twin sisters Beth and Meghan. No worries, this second book can be read on its own merits. 

The plot is as current as today’s news: a plan for peace between Israel and Palestine. In this exciting suspense, Israel is on the brink of war when Mossad is accused of murdering Palestinian peace negotiators. Zeb Carter will go to any means to find out who was behind the attack even if all hell breaks loose in doing so…of course it will…and following Zeb is a roller coaster ride from start to finish. I am a huge fan of this author and love how graphic his stories are, I could visualize each scene as clearly as if I was seeing it on the big screen. The action is very suspenseful and I was kept on the edge of my seat following everything and hoping Zeb and the twins will do their magic. In “The Peace Killers”, not only we have terrific protagonists but we also have a huge cast of equally intelligent and capable good and bad characters. Stay alert, concentration is needed to keep track of the comings and goings but it is well worth it.

I join those who say that Mr. Patterson’s books are always relevant and address today’s issues….well-done as always.

This series is a spin off to the Warriors thrillers series 

"The Things We Cannot Say", Kelly Rimmer

"The Things We Cannot say" - Kelly Rimmer

This is an historical romance at its finest. The story centers on Alina Dziak, a young Polish girl, who had to navigate through life during the occupation of her country during WW11. “The Things We Cannot Say” is a heart wrenching, terrifying and enlightening.

The storyline although romantic seemed closed to historical accuracy. It is told in two movements with two narratives in alternating chapters: Alina’s recounts her life and events she lived through during the war and Alice’s, Alina’s grand-daughter, present day voice recounts her day to day life and her trip to Poland to see what became of those cherished by Alina.

Much of this book is based on the romance between Alina and her boyfriend Tomasz. It is a bit mushy but I was in the right mind set for this kind of story so I really loved it. For those who read a lot the war time period will see the events developed long before it was written but Ms. Rimmer gave it her own spin and has provided powerful timelines that smoothly came together to conclude this sad but lovely story. By the end of the book I had my box of tissues near me….

It is a wonderful read, with its awesome twists that came from time to time to keep the tension on, making this book hard to put down. I couldn’t swap the pages fast enough to see where the drama would lead. Indeed I wasn’t disappointed in roller coaster story, so captivated by the level of turmoil in both stories and how that impacted the families that I stayed glues to every word…”The Things We cannot Say” also showcases the lengths one will go for those we love. Ms. Rimmer’s has an undeniable talent to draw believable and captivating players and to place them in roles true to character. Well-done.

My thanks to the Publisher Graydon House and Netgalleys for the ARC

"We All Fall Down", by Daniel Kalla

We All Fall Down - Daniel Kalla

“We All Fall Down” is a thought-provoking book which looks squarely at a cataclysm of unimaginable proportions. The Black Death has arrived in Italy and the story will tell us how people will react to the catastrophe. Will Dr. Alana Vaugh, an infectious diseases expert with NATO find the source in time to save the world?

Daniel Kalla who practices emergency medicine in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada has once again written an absolutely riveting drama hard to put down. Very knowledgeable in the subject, his words plunges his readers’ right in the middle of the crises where experts are on the hunt to track down Patient Zero. Their search brings them across an 800 year monastery and a medieval journal that may be key to understanding and solving the outbreak.

This 10th novel that combines suspense with a historical mystery is told in alternating chapters drawing us back to the Middle Ages where the initial outbreak took place then we are smoothly taken forward to today’s crises where NATO, WHO and local representatives need to find a solution. Mr. Kalla demonstrates a masterful skill needed for genuine suspense by capitalizing and building on the danger of exposure and the panic ensuing. The writing shines with medical and scientific expertise. 

No person is left unscathed, no family untouched. Death grows insatiable……this is scary to think, could biological terrorism really happen, how fast can viruses spread and how safe are we?
Mr. Kalla is one of my favourite authors and I wouldn’t miss any of his books. I read them all….This latest is a well-done nail biting thriller…. 

I received this ARC from the publisher Simon Schuster via NetGalleys for me thoughts.

"No Time for Goodbye", by Lindwood Barclay

No Time for Goodbye - Linwood Barclay

No Time for Goodbye, Book #1

This very suspenseful story revolves around the unexplained overnight disappearance of a teenage girl’s family. It open 25 years later with Cynthia Biggs, the long abandoned daughter still looking to solve the mystery in her life.

The book’s raison d’être is to disclose the mystery behind the disappearance and eventually solving the case. Mr. Barclay makes time for meticulous plotting, chapters are overflowing with details and no clue is left behind explanations. The narrator is Cynthia’s husband, Terry, who tries his best to cope with Cynthia’s tension went she is pushed over the edge after appearing on a TV show. She keeps on seeing things such as a recurring automobile, a stranger that looks like her brother, her father’s hat suddenly placed on the kitchen table. 

It may be a cliché to say that this novel is hard to put down, so true for me. This story has a great premise and a cast of people trapped in a terrifying situation. “No Time for Goodbye” has a large cast of characters, both past and present who plays parts in Cynthia’s life. I will spare you the details. Revealing too much will spoil both the journey of Terry has endured as well as the story’s conclusion.

This is one of those stories that kept me hooked from the beginning till the end. The development of the characters is so well-done I really felt for them. I love the way the plot sawed back and forth: Terry wracked with doubt questioning his wife sanity then rallying to her side. The language is relevant and reflects what the characters are not afraid to say. Some would say this novel has an adult theme for that reason.

This contemporary novel is fast paced and has the right amount of tension to deliver a neat and unexpected twist that makes this novel all worthwhile.

"At Dusk", by John W. Mefford

AT Dusk (An Alex Troutt Thriller, Book 5) - John W. Mefford
Book #5, in the Redemption Thriller series

Book #5, in the Alex Troutt series

This is another great addition to the series and a must read book if you are into a thriller that features a kick ass female FBI agent. Alex is a very tenacious individual at work and in her private life, a loving and caring single mother with friends she deeply loves, not putting aside that she also has a one of those dry sense of humour. Yes, you can start at this point but I would recommend reading this series in sequence. 

This is not a chick-lit with mushy romance but rather a dark story filled with action with many twists to keep us on our toes. In “At Dusk”, we have a sociopath on the loose terrorizing many in the Boston area. The action starts with Alex on the job investigating the murder of a woman who suffered the similar injuries to a 10 year old case the FBI has in file. Before things get out of hands and there are more victims…Alex needs to get to the bottom fast and get her man (woman). The story takes us in the mind of a serial killer while he hunts for his next catch….and in the head of Alex wanting to catch a predator at any cost. This scenario is played out by a strong cast of good and evil characters and is told from alternating perspectives including flashbacks. Mr. Mefford introduces these chapters smoothly and at the right time. We have a suspenseful and well-written storyline hard to put down. Meanwhile the saga continues on Alex’s home front….What a way to keep the series fresh and exciting…..the sequel “At Last” will bring a new chapter…..

The story is not taxing and is enjoyable to read, the language is clean and we are into a smooth sailing plot till the very last page… 
 
 

 

"Washington Black", by Esi Edugyan

Washington Black - Esi Edugyan

This is both a gripping and ingenious tale that has all the elements of a 19th century adventure.” Washington Black” depicts slavery — unsparingly — but it’s about freedom. The narrative focuses on its main character, Washington Black, who tells his own story.

In 1830, 11 year old Washington Black is a slave on a Barbados sugar plantation and is watched over by an older woman named Big Kit. His master is shockingly cruel till one day the master’s brother comes for a visit. Wash’s life is changed for ever when eccentric Titch who is devoting himself to science takes Wash under his wings….a partnership, of sorts, is born.

As in her previous novels, the themes of genius and betrayal are revisited but in “Washington Black” this is far more complicated. The relationship between Wash and this white scientist and abolition advocate is complex. When Titch sends Wash across the globe on a journey mythic in scope….Ms. Edugyan transforms her story from horrors into a lush and exhilarating travelogue full of improbable events. 

This plot is aptly written within the constraint of the time period. The narrator is articulate, precise to the point of fussiness. The tone is melancholic and emotional. This is one adventure powered by the helium of fantasy…..quite unconventional. 

No doubts that Esi Edudyan being the Winner of the 2018 Scotiabank Giller Prize has penned a polished story filled with imagery but I was quite disappointed by its conclusion….

"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.