Quick Review: THE LAST by Hanna Jameson (Penguin/Atria)

JamesonH-TheLastUK2An excellent post-apocalyptic mystery novel

BREAKING: Nuclear weapon detonates over Washington

Historian Jon Keller is on a trip to Switzerland when the world ends. As the lights go out on civilisation, he wishes he had a way of knowing whether his wife, Nadia, and their two daughters are still alive. More than anything, Jon wishes he hadn’t ignored Nadia’s last message.

Twenty people remain in Jon’s hotel. Far from the nearest city and walled in by towering trees, they wait, they survive.

Then one day, the body of a young girl is found. It’s clear she has been murdered. Which means that someone in the hotel is a killer.

As paranoia descends, Jon decides to investigate. But how far is he willing to go in pursuit of justice? And what kind of justice can he hope for, when society as he knows it no longer exists?

It’s been some time since I last read a post-apocalyptic novel, after what felt like a glut in the early 2010s (some of them excellent, but ultimately I think I read too many). Hanna Jameson’s The Last received a fair bit of pre-publication buzz, and I was happy to interview the author. I wasn’t sure what to expect going into The Last, but what I found was an excellent, thought-provoking and quite gripping mystery. I very much enjoyed this. Continue reading

Quick Review: THE TEST by Sylvain Neuvel (Tor.com)

NeuvelS-TestA superb immigration dystopia

Britain, the not-too-distant future.

Idir is sitting the British Citizenship Test.

He wants his family to belong.

Twenty-five questions to determine their fate. Twenty-five chances to impress.

When the test takes an unexpected and tragic turn, Idir is handed the power of life and death.

How do you value a life when all you have is multiple choice?

As someone who has lived in multiple countries, I’ve always been interested in immigration and the policies and rhetoric that surrounds it. While immigrants frequently feature in fiction, rarely (to my knowledge) is the process itself the central focus of the story. Set against a subtly dystopian backdrop, this is an interesting, well-written and sometimes thought-provoking story. I enjoyed this. Continue reading

Quick Review: HOUSE ARREST by Mike Lawson (Atlantic Monthly Press)

LawsonM-JD13-HouseArrestUSIn the wake of a political assassination, Joe DeMarco is framed as the killer…

As the fixer for Congressman John Mahoney in Washington, D.C., Joe DeMarco has had to bend and break the law more than a few times. But when Representative Lyle Canton, House Majority Whip, is found shot dead in his office in the U.S. Capitol and DeMarco is arrested for the murder, DeMarco knows he’s been framed. Locked up in the Alexandria Jail awaiting trial, he calls on his enigmatic friend Emma, an ex-DIA agent, to search for the true killer.

Emma’s investigation leads her to Sebastian Spear, the ruthless and competitive CEO of the multi-billion-dollar Spear Industries. Spear had a motive for killing Lyle Canton: Canton’s wife, Jean, had once been Spear’s high school sweetheart and the one true love of his life — until Canton won her over. Now Jean was dead, killed in a car crash while driving drunk, and Spear blamed Canton for the accident. But the case the F.B.I. has built against DeMarco is airtight, and not a single piece of evidence points to the grieving CEO. Using her cunning and her D.C. connections, Emma sets out to prove that Spear has been using some fixers of his own.

I’ve been reading Mike Lawson’s Joe DeMarco series since the first novel, The Inside Ring, was published in the UK. Each new book in the series has been a highlight of Spring ever since. In House Arrest, the thirteenth instalment, the series comes to a bit of a head: DeMarco’s life and career are thrown into the spotlight when he is framed for an attention-grabbing, audacious political murder. I enjoyed reading this novel a great deal. Continue reading

Quick Review: ATTACK OF THE NECRON by Cavan Scott (Black Library)

ScottC-WA1-AttackOfTheNecronThe first WH40k adventure for young readers

On the hive world of Targian, Zelia Lor helps her mother search for ancient tech, digging up treasures of the past on the wind-blown plains. They are happy. They are safe.

All that changes when the Necrons attack. Without warning, a host of robotic ships appear in the skies above Targian and rip the planet apart. Separated from her mother, Zelia must escape the doomed world, her only hope a scrambled transmission promising safety at a mysterious place known only as the Emperor’s Seat. Launched in an escape pod, she crashes on an icy wasteland far, far from home. But Zelia is not alone. She is joined by a rag-tag group of survivors – the street-tough juve Talen, gadget-obsessed Martian boy Mekki and super-intelligent alien-ape, Fleapit.

When Black Library first announced that they were going to release a range of novels for young readers, set in their WH40k and Age of Sigmar universes, I was intrigued. After all, how do you address the grimdarkiest of settings for young readers? With Attack of the Necron, Cavan Scott has absolutely knocked it out of the park. This is an excellent, entertaining primer on the WH40k universe. Continue reading

Review: THE BURIED DAGGER by James Swallow (Black Library)

SwallowJ-HH54-TheBuriedDaggerIn the last novel in the Horus Heresy series, Mortarion finally falls to Chaos…

The skies darken over Terra as the final battle for the Throne looms ever closer… As the Traitor primarchs muster to the Warmaster’s banner, it is Mortarion who is sent ahead as the vanguard of the Traitor forces. But as he and his warriors make way, they become lost in the warp and stricken by a terrible plague. Once thought of as the unbreakable, the legendary Death Guard are brought to their knees. To save his Legion, Mortarion must strike a most terrible bargain that will damn his sons for eternity. Meanwhile, in the cloisters of Holy Terra, a plot is afoot to create sedition and carnage in advance of the Horus’s armies. Taking matters into his own hands, Malcador the Sigillite seeks to put a stop to any insurrection but discovers a plot that he will need all of his cunning and battle-craft to overcome.

It feels like I have been waiting for this novel for a very long time. I first came across the story of Mortarion’s fall to Chaos in Codex: Chaos, way back in 1996 (a book I read many, many times in my early teenage years). Then, in 2007, Swallow’s The Flight of the Eisenstein told the beginning of the Death Guard’s story in the Horus Heresy. Needless to say, my expectations were very high for this novel. I’m very happy to report, then, that The Buried Dagger is a great addition to the series, and exceeded my expectations. Continue reading

Quick Review: THE NIGHT AGENT by Matthew Quirk (William Morrow)

QuirkM-NightAgentUSA fast-paced, gripping political conspiracy thriller

To find a Russian mole in the White House, an FBI agent must question everything… and trust no one

No one was more surprised than FBI Agent Peter Sutherland when he’s tapped to work in the White House Situation Room. From his earliest days as a surveillance specialist, Peter has scrupulously done everything by the book, hoping his record will help him escape the taint of his past. When Peter was a boy, his father, a section chief in FBI counterintelligence, was suspected of selling secrets to the Russians — a catastrophic breach that had cost him his career, his reputation, and eventually his life.

Peter knows intimately how one broken rule can cost lives. Nowhere is he more vigilant than in this room, the sanctum of America’s secrets. Staffing the night action desk, his job is monitoring an emergency line for a call that has not — and might never — come.

Until tonight.

At 1:05 a.m. the phone rings. A terrified young woman named Rose tells Peter that her aunt and uncle have just been murdered and that the killer is still in the house with her. Before their deaths, they gave her this phone number with urgent instructions: “Tell them OSPREY was right. It’s happening…”

The call thrusts Peter into the heart of a conspiracy years in the making, involving a Russian mole at the highest levels of the government. Anyone in the White House could be the traitor. Anyone could be corrupted. To save the nation, Peter must take the rules into his own hands and do the right thing, no matter the cost. He plunges into a desperate hunt for the traitor — a treacherous odyssey that pits him and Rose against some of Russia’s most skilled and ruthless operatives and the full force of the FBI itself.

Peter knows that the wider a secret is broadcast, the more dangerous it gets for the people at the center. With the fate of the country on the line, he and Rose must evade seasoned assassins and maneuver past jolting betrayals to find the shocking truth — and stop the threat from inside before it’s too late.

That surprisingly long synopsis does set up the plot for Matthew Quirk’s latest fast-paced thriller rather well. Peter Sutherland is languishing in the basement of the White House, working for two prominent administration staffers, in a strange, important-yet-unexciting job. Then, with a single phone call, his job and life is thrown completely out of whack. What follows is 400~ pages of breakneck paced thriller action and conspiracy. This is an entertaining, well-written thriller. Continue reading

Quick Review: LOLA by Melissa Scrivner Love (Broadway Books)

LoveMS-LV1-LolaUSPBAn interesting twist on LA crime fiction

The Crenshaw Six are a small but up-and-coming gang in South Central LA who have recently been drawn into an escalating war between rival drug cartels. To outsiders, the Crenshaw Six appear to be led by a man named Garcia… but what no one has figured out is that the gang’s real leader (and secret weapon) is Garcia’s girlfriend, a brilliant young woman named Lola. Lola has mastered playing the role of submissive girlfriend, and in the man’s world she inhabits she is consistently underestimated. But in truth she is much, much smarter — and in many ways tougher and more ruthless — than any of the men around her, and as the gang is increasingly sucked into a world of high-stakes betrayal and brutal violence, her skills and leadership become their only hope of survival.

It took me a while to get around to reading this novel — another case of on Kindle, can’t see it on a shelf, so out of mind… I’m very glad that I finally got to it, though: this is a very good, interesting and well-written crime novel. Continue reading