Quick Review: THE TYRANNY OF FAITH by Richard Swan (Orbit)

SwanR-EotW2-TyrannyOfFaithIncreased stakes, increased danger, an Empire in peril… but a little less focus?

A Justice’s work is never done.

The Battle of Galen’s Vale is over, but the war for the Empire’s future has just begun. Concerned by rumors that the Magistratum’s authority is waning, Sir Konrad Vonvalt returns to Sova to find the capital city gripped by intrigue and whispers of rebellion. In the Senate, patricians speak openly against the Emperor, while fanatics preach holy vengeance on the streets.

Yet facing down these threats to the throne will have to wait, for the Emperor’s grandson has been kidnapped – and Vonvalt is charged with rescuing the missing prince. His quest will lead him – and his allies Helena, Bressinger and Sir Radomir – to the southern frontier, where they will once again face the puritanical fury of Bartholomew Claver and his templar knights – and a dark power far more terrifying than they could have imagined.

Richard Swan’s The Justice of Kings was one of my favourite reads last year, and certainly one of my favourite new fantasy books of a few yeast (joining Mike Shackle’s We Are the Dead as a best debut in a few years). The Justice of Kings was a great blend of mystery and fantasy, focusing on a conspiracy in a regional town, far from the politics and action of an imperial capital. Swan’s story was character-focused, interesting, and well-paced. The Tyranny of Kings was, therefore, one of my most-anticipated novels of 2023. I’m happy to report that I quite enjoyed it. Continue reading

Quick Review: PETE AND ALICE IN MAINE by Caitlin Shetterly (Harper)

ShetterlyC-PeteAndAliceInMaineUSHCA marriage under strain, during the pandemic…

Reeling from a painful betrayal in her marriage as the Covid pandemic takes hold in New York City, Alice packs up her family and flees to their vacation home in Maine. She hopes to find sanctuary—from the uncertainties of the exploding pandemic and her faltering marriage.

Putting distance between herself and the stresses and troubles of city life, Alice begins to feel safe and relieved. But the locals are far from friendly. Trapped and forced into quarantine by hostile neighbors, Alice sees the imprisoning structure of her life in this new predicament. Stripped down to the bare essentials of survival and tending to the needs of her two children, she can no longer ignore all the ways in which she feels limited and lost—lost in the big city, lost as a wife, lost as a mother, lost as a daughter and lost as a person.

As the world shifts around her and the balance in her marriage tilts, Alice and her husband, Pete, are left to consider if what keeps their family safe is the same thing as what keeps their family together.

An interesting and well-written novel about a marriage on the rocks, set against the backdrop of the chaotic spring of 2020. Shetterly does an excellent job of exploring the challenges of not only the pandemic, but also marriage and family when everything seems to be going wrong, and populating the novel with three-dimensional and realistic characters. I quite enjoyed this. Continue reading

Quick Review: EVERYBODY KNOWS by Jordan Harper (Mulholland)

HarperJ-EverybodyKnowsUSHCA fearless black-bag publicist exposes the belly of the L.A. beast…

Welcome to Mae Pruett’s Los Angeles, where “Nobody talks. But everybody whispers.” As a “black-bag” publicist tasked not with letting the good news out but keeping the bad news in, Mae works for one of LA’s most powerful and sought-after crisis PR firms, at the center of a sprawling web of lawyers, PR flaks, and private security firms she calls “The Beast.” They protect the rich and powerful and depraved by any means necessary.

After her boss is gunned down in front of the Beverly Hills Hotel in a random attack, Mae takes it upon herself to investigate and runs headfirst into The Beast’s lawless machinations and the twisted systems it exists to perpetuate. It takes her on a roving neon joyride through a Los Angeles full of influencers pumped full of pills and fillers; sprawling mansions footsteps away from sprawling homeless encampments; crooked cops and mysterious wrecking crews in the middle of the night.

Jordan Harper writes superb neo-noir novels, and Everybody Knows is a perfect example. It’s an incisive, gritty examination of how the Hollywood business can erode a person’s morals and standards, all in service to The Beast. Continue reading

Quick Review: THE INVESTIGATOR by John Sandford (G.P. Putnam’s Sons)

SandfordJ-LD1-InvestigatorUSHCLetty Davenport steps into the spotlight, and into danger, in this first novel in a great new spin-off series

By age twenty-four, Letty Davenport has seen more action and uncovered more secrets than many law enforcement professionals. Now a recent Stanford grad with a master’s in economics, she’s restless and bored in a desk job for U.S. Senator Colles. Letty’s ready to quit, but her skills have impressed Colles, and he offers her a carrot: feet-on-the-ground investigative work, in conjunction with the Department of Homeland Security.

Several oil companies in Texas have reported thefts of crude, Colles tells her.  He isn’t so much concerned with the oil as he is with the money: who is selling the oil, and what are they doing with the profits? Rumor has it that a fairly ugly militia group might be involved. Colles wants to know if the money is going to them, and if so, what they’re planning.

Letty is partnered with a DHS investigator, John Kaiser, and they head to Texas.  When the case quicky turns deadly, they know they’re on the track of something bigger.  The militia group has set in motion an explosive plan… and the clock is ticking down.

Letty is the adopted daughter of Lucas Davenport, the main character in Sandford’s bestselling Prey series. Letty first appeared in Naked Prey (2003), and had been slowly getting more page-time in the series as it progressed. Now, in The Investigator, she gets her first solo outing; and luckily, it’s a solid start to a new series, one that certainly justifies many more. I really enjoyed this. Continue reading

Upcoming/Quick Review: GOTHAM CENTRAL by Ed Brubaker & Greg Rucka (DC Comics)

GothamCentral-Omnibus2023Writers: Ed Brubaker & Greg Rucka | Art: Michael Lark, Stefano Gaudiano, & Michael Clark

This isn’t really a review. But, I’ve been reading the Gotham Central series over the last couple of weeks, and I wanted to just give it a quick mention on the website. I also noticed that DC Comics are publishing a new omnibus edition next year (something they’ve been doing for a number of their classic, best-selling, and completed series). First, here’s the synopsis:

Gotham City: a town teeming with corrupt cops, ruthless crime lords, petty thieves… and just a small handful that would oppose them. Grizzled veteran Harvey Bullock, Captain Maggie Sawyer, Detective Renee Montoya and the GCPD are the law force that stands between order and complete anarchy. 

Gotham’s Finest work around the clock to not only keep the world’s most psychotic criminals off the street… but also cleaning up the mess left behind by Batman’s one-man war on crime. 

This Eisner Award-winning series follows the detectives of Gotham City’s Special Crimes Unit as they navigate against the city’s greatest villains–in the shadow of Batman himself. Collects issues #1-40.

If you are a fan of crime fiction, and certainly if you’re a fan of Brubaker’s crime, thriller, and mystery comics, then I think you’ll find a lot to love in this series. It focuses on the lives and work of Gotham City’s M.C.U. (major crimes unit), and follows them as they navigate their jobs in a city that has become overrun by “freaks” (meta-humans and super-criminals). As with all of Brubaker’s and Rucka’s best work, it is also as much about the characters’ personal lives as it is about chasing the Joker, the Mad Hatter, or other villains. The series provides a fascinating and engaging glimpse into how law enforcement operates in the shadow of the Batman — both grateful that he is able to do things that they can’t, but also angry that he often gets in the way, or makes them look bad. Continue reading

Quick Review: PULLING THE WINGS OFF ANGELS by K. J. Parker (Tor.com)

ParkerKJ-PullingTheWingsOffAngelsAnother quirky, engaging, and twisty novella from Parker

Long ago, a wealthy man stole an angel and hid her in a chapel, where she remains imprisoned to this day.

That’s the legend, anyway.

A clerical student who’s racked up gambling debts to a local gangster is given an ultimatum — deliver the angel his grandfather kidnapped, or forfeit various body parts in payment.

And so begins a whirlwind theological paradox — with the student at its center — in which the stakes are the necessity of God, the existence of destiny — and the nature of angels.

It should come as no surprise to long-time readers of CR that I am a huge fan of K. J. Parker’s novellas and short fiction. As soon as I read the synopsis for Pulling the Wings Off Angels, I was eager to read it. I was lucky enough to get a DRC a while ago, and read it right away. I’m very happy to report that it is classic Parker; I really enjoyed this. Continue reading

Quick Review: RED LONDON by Alma Katsu (G. P. Putnam’s Sons)

KatsuA-RW2-RedLondonUSHCThe New Cold War continues, as CIA agent Lyndsey Duncan travels to London, and infiltrates the world of the Russian Oligarchs in Britain

CIA agent Lyndsey Duncan has a new asset to turn, in order to prevent the most calculated global invasion of our time. But will their blossoming friendship get in the way?

After an explosive takedown of a well-placed mole within the CIA, agent Lyndsey Duncan has been tasked with keeping tabs on her newest Russian asset, deadly war criminal Dmitri Tarasenko. She arrives in London fully focused on the assignment at hand, until her MI6 counterpart, Davis Ranford, the very person responsible for ending her last mission overseas after they were caught in a whirlwind affair, personally calls for her.

After a suspicious attack on a powerful Russian oligarch’s property on Billionaires’ Row in the toniest neighborhood in London, Davis needs Lyndsey to cozy up to the billionaire’s aristocratic British wife, Emily Rotenberg. Lyndsey’s job is to obtain any and all information related to Emily’s husband, Mikhail Rotenberg, and his relationship with the new Russian president, whom CIA and MI6 believe is responsible for the sudden mysterious disappearance of his predecessor, the Hard Man. Fortunately for Lyndsey, there’s little to dissuade Emily from taking in a much-needed confidante. After all, misery needs company.

But before Lyndsey can cover much ground with her newfound friend, the CIA unveils a perturbing connection between Mikhail and Russia’s geopolitical past, one that could dangerously upend the world order as we know it. As the pressure to turn Emily becomes higher than ever, Lyndsey must walk a fine and ever-changing line to keep the oligarch’s fortune from falling into Russian hands and plunging the world into a new, disastrous geopolitical reality.

In Red London, the highly-anticipated sequel to Red Widow, CIA agent Lyndsey Duncan has been stationed in London to help out with an evolving situation involving a Russian oligarch who may or may not be on the outs with the new president. One of my most-anticipated novels of the year, I’m happy to report that it lived up to my high expectations. Continue reading

Quick Review: UNTETHERED SKY by Fonda Lee (Tor.com)

LeeF-UntetheredSkyAn excellent stand-alone novella from the award-winning author of the Green Bone saga

Ester’s family was torn apart when a manticore killed her mother and baby brother, leaving her with nothing but her father’s painful silence and a single, overwhelming need to kill the monsters that took her family.

Ester’s path leads her to the King’s Royal Mews, where the giant rocs of legend are flown to hunt manticores by their brave and dedicated rukhers. Paired with a fledgling roc named Zahra, Ester finds purpose and acclaim by devoting herself to a calling that demands absolute sacrifice and a creature that will never return her love. The terrifying partnership between woman and roc leads Ester not only on the empire’s most dangerous manticore hunt, but on a journey of perseverance and acceptance.

Untethered Sky is a stand-alone fantasy novella about ambition and falconry. And massive eagles (rocs). While never losing sight of the human story to be told, this is nevertheless a novella that packs more of a punch than its slim length might suggest. I very much enjoyed this. Continue reading

Quick Review: THE BIG BANG THEORY by Jessica Radloff (Grand Central Station)

RadloffJ-BigBangTheoryUSHCThe definitive, behind-the-scenes look at the most popular sitcom of the last decade, The Big Bang Theory, packed with all-new, exclusive interviews with the producers and entire cast.

The Big Bang Theory is a television phenomenon. To the casual viewer, it’s a seemingly effortless comedy, with relatable characters tackling real-life issues, offering a kind of visual comfort food to its millions of dedicated fans. But the behind-the-scenes journey of the show from a failed pilot to a global sensation is a fascinating story that even the most die-hard fans don’t know in its entirety. 

THE BIG BANG THEORY: THE DEFINITIVE, INSIDE STORY OF THE EPIC HIT SERIES is a riveting, entertaining look at the sitcom sensation, with the blessing and participation of co-creators Chuck Lorre and Bill Prady, executive producers Steve Molaro and Steve Holland, as well as Johnny Galecki, Jim Parsons, Kaley Cuoco, Simon Helberg, Kunal Nayyar, Melissa Rauch, Mayim Bialik, and more. Glamour senior editor Jessica Radloff, who has written over 150 articles on the series (and even had a cameo in the finale!), gives readers an all-access pass to its intrepid producing and writing team and beloved cast. It’s a story of on-and-off screen romance told in hilarious and emotional detail, of casting choices that nearly changed everything (which even some of the actors didn’t know until now), of cast members bravely powering through personal tragedies, and when it came time to announce the 12th season would be its last, the complicated reasons why it was more difficult than anyone ever led on.

Through hundreds of hours of interviews with the sitcom’s major players, Radloff dives into all this and much more. The book is the ultimate celebration of this once-in-a-generation show and a must-have for all fans.

An extensive, wide-ranging oral history of The Big Bang Theory, written with the full participation of the cast and crew. Overall, an engaging, exhaustive, and enjoyable read. A must for super-fans of the show.
Continue reading

Quick Review: DOUBLE EXPOSURE by Ava Barry (Pegasus)

BarryA-DoubleExposureUSHCA young P.I. must unravel the secrets behind the murders of a Los Angeles heiress’s parents.

Four years ago, a beautiful young heiress survived an attack that claimed the lives of both of her parents. The crime made headlines all over Los Angeles, both for the vicious nature of the killings and the seemingly random nature of the attack: nothing was stolen, and the van Aust family had no obvious enemies. Melia van Aust fled the city soon after the murders – which were never solved – but her brother Jasper has not been seen since.

After a childhood spent in the shadow of her famous parents, Rainey Hall understands the dynamics of a dysfunctional family. She still hasn’t recovered from a tragedy that tore her own family apart six years before. It’s part of the reason why she started her own private investigation agency — to aid victims of crimes that might otherwise go unsolved.

When Melia returns to Los Angeles and moves back into her family home, someone begins sending her increasingly violent messages that allude to the killing of her parents. She hires Rainey to track down the culprit and find her missing brother. Touched by the similarities between their lives, Rainey feels compelled to protect Melia, even when it becomes clear that their relationship has become more than professional.

Soon, Rainey finds herself falling down the rabbit hole of Melia’s life. Her quest to find Melia’s stalker will bring her in contact with disgraced royals, seedy neighbors, violent ex-boyfriends and former staff, each one with their own set of secrets. As the threats against Melia escalate and the two women are drawn together, it’s only a matter of time before another victim turns up.

Windhall, Ava Barry’s 2021 debut novel, was one of my favourite reads of that year. Ever since Double Exposure was announced, I’ve been eagerly anticipating the chance to read it. I was lucky enough to receive a review copy, and I’m happy to report that it is another very good read. Continue reading