Quick Review: FAIR WARNING by Michael Connelly (Little, Brown/Orion)

ConnellyM-JM3-FairWarningUSThe hero of The Poet and The Scarecrow is back…

Jack McEvoy, the journalist who never backs down, tracks a serial killer who has been operating completely under the radar — until now.

Veteran reporter Jack McEvoy has taken down killers before, but when a woman he had a one-night stand with is murdered in a particularly brutal way, McEvoy realizes he might be facing a criminal mind unlike any he’s ever encountered.

Jack investigates — against the warnings of the police and his own editor — and makes a shocking discovery that connects the crime to other mysterious deaths across the country. Undetected by law enforcement, a vicious killer has been hunting women, using genetic data to select and stalk his targets.

Uncovering the murkiest corners of the dark web, Jack races to find and protect the last source who can lead him to his quarry. But the killer has already chosen his next target, and he’s ready to strike.

Jack McEvoy returns! He’s at a new online publication, with new colleagues, but has the same determined drive to uncover the truth. He also retains his slightly flexible approach to the rules and ethics of journalism. Fair Warning is another excellent novel from the master of the craft. I thoroughly enjoyed this. Continue reading

Quick Review: AND NOW SHE’S GONE by Rachel Howzell Hall (Forge)

HallRH-AndNowShesGoneUSA novice PI tries to unravel the mystery of a missing woman

Isabel Lincoln is gone.

But is she missing?

It’s up to Grayson Sykes to find her. Although she is reluctant to track down a woman who may not want to be found, Gray’s search for Isabel Lincoln becomes more complicated and dangerous with every new revelation about the woman’s secrets and the truth she’s hidden from her friends and family.

Featuring two complicated women in a dangerous cat and mouse game, Rachel Howzell Hall’s And Now She’s Gone explores the nature of secrets — and how violence and fear can lead you to abandon everything in order to survive.

This is the first novel by Hall that I’ve read (which is a little strange, seeing as I have all of her previous novels…). Set in Los Angeles and Las Vegas, this is an engaging mystery about a woman’s disappearance and the novice PI tasked with finding her. Stitching together two parallel-yet-unconnected storylines, I quite enjoyed this. Continue reading

Quick Review: UNDER PRESSURE by Robert Pobi (St. Martin’s Press / Mulholland UK)

PobiR-LP2-UnderPressureUSThe explosive second Lucas Page novel

A series of deadly explosions rock the city of New York and with too many victims and no known motive, the F.B.I. turns once again to Dr. Lucas Page…

On a beautiful October evening, New York City’s iconic Guggenheim Museum is closed for a tech company’s private gala. Until an explosion rocks the night, instantly killing 702 people, including every single attendee — yet the damage to the building itself was minimal.

An explosion of that precision was no accident and, in response, the FBI mobilizes its entire team — but the sheer number of victims strains their resources. Were all 702 victims in the wrong place at the wrong time, or was there only one target and 701 unlucky bystanders? That many victim files is a staggering amount of data to sort through and Brett Kehoe, Special Agent in Charge of Manhattan, decides that he can’t do this without more computational power.

Dr. Lucas Page, astrophysicist, university professor, and former FBI agent, is uniquely gifted for the task at hand — he can visualize a crime scene as if he was a bystander and can break down any set of data at a glance. Even though Page wants nothing to do with the FBI, with his city under attack and his family at risk, he steps in to find a killer in a haystack before they strike again.

I really enjoyed the first novel in Robert Pobi’s Lucas Page series, City of Windows. I was therefore very much looking forward to the character’s second outing, and I’m happy to report that I was not disappointed. I really enjoyed this, and zipped through it. Continue reading

Very Quick Review: IQ by Joe Ide (Mulholland)

IdeJ-IQUSIntroducing Isaiah Quintabe

A resident of one of LA’s toughest neighborhoods uses his blistering intellect to solve the crimes the LAPD ignores.

East Long Beach. The LAPD is barely keeping up with the neighborhood’s high crime rate. Murders go unsolved, lost children unrecovered. But someone from the neighborhood has taken it upon himself to help solve the cases the police can’t or won’t touch.

They call him IQ. He’s a loner and a high school dropout, his unassuming nature disguising a relentless determination and a fierce intelligence. He charges his clients whatever they can afford, which might be a set of tires or a homemade casserole. To get by, he’s forced to take on clients that can pay.

This time, it’s a rap mogul whose life is in danger. As Isaiah investigates, he encounters a vengeful ex-wife, a crew of notorious cutthroats, a monstrous attack dog, and a hit man who even other hit men say is a lunatic. The deeper Isaiah digs, the more far reaching and dangerous the case becomes.

I’m very late to this series, much to my shame. IQ introduces a fascinating and engaging new character into the LA crime genre, and offers something a little different to most other ongoing crime series. I really enjoyed this series debut, and it’s easy to see why it’s become so popular. Continue reading

Review: MASKED PREY by John Sandford (G.P. Putnam’s Sons / Simon Schuster UK)

SandfordJ-LD30-MaskedPreyUSRight wing extremists and social media collide in Lucas Davenport’s latest investigation

Lucas Davenport investigates a vitriolic blog that seems to be targeting the children of U.S. politicians…

The daughter of a U.S. Senator is monitoring her social media presence when she finds a picture of herself on a strange blog. And there are other pictures… of the children of other influential Washington politicians, walking or standing outside their schools, each identified by name. Surrounding the photos are texts of vicious political rants from a motley variety of radical groups. It’s obviously alarming — is there an unstable extremist tracking the loved ones of powerful politicians with deadly intent? But when the FBI is called in, there isn’t much the feds can do. The anonymous photographer can’t be pinned down to one location or IP address, and more importantly, at least to the paper-processing bureaucrats, no crime has actually been committed. With nowhere else to turn, influential Senators decide to call in someone who can operate outside the FBI’s constraints: Lucas Davenport.

This is the 29th novel in Sandford’s excellent Lucas Davenport series. I’ve been a fan of the series (as well as the author’s other novels) for decades, and so each new novel is a highlight of my year. In Masked Prey, Sandford takes on two American plagues: guns and internet radicalization. It’s another excellent addition to the series, and a must read for all fans of the series. Continue reading

Quick Review: BROKEN by Don Winslow (William Morrow)

WinslowD-BrokenUSA must-read collection of interlinked crime novellas

In six intense short novels connected by the themes of crime, corruption, vengeance, justice, loss, betrayal, guilt and redemption, Broken is #1 international bestseller Don Winslow at his nerve-shattering, heart-stopping, heartbreaking best. InBroken, he creates a world of high-level thieves and low-life crooks, obsessed cops struggling with life on and off the job, private detectives, dope dealers, bounty hunters and fugitives, the lost souls driving without headlights through the dark night on the American criminal highway.

With his trademark blend of insight, humanity, humor, action and the highest level of literary craftsmanship, Winslow delivers a collection of tales that will become classics of crime fiction

I’m a relative newcomer to Don Winslow’s novels. Since reading The Force, however, he has become a must-read author for me. Broken is his latest book: a superb, gripping collection of six novellas. Each takes a different look at the crime, mystery and/or thriller genres. One of my most-anticipated books of the year, I’m very happy to report that it absolutely met my very high expectations. I thoroughly enjoyed this. Continue reading

Quick Review: THE EIGHTH DETECTIVE by Alex Pavesi (Henry Holt / Michael Joseph)

PavesiA-EighthDetectiveUSAn intriguing mystery novel, quite well executed

A young editor travels to a remote village in the Mediterranean in the hopes of convincing a reclusive writer to republish his collection of detective stories, only to realize that there are greater mysteries beyond the pages of books.

There are rules for murder mysteries. There must be a victim. A suspect. A detective. The rest is just shuffling the sequence. Expanding the permutations. Grant McAllister, a professor of mathematics, once sat down and worked them all out – calculating the different orders and possibilities of a mystery into seven perfect detective stories he quietly published. But that was thirty years ago. Now Grant lives in seclusion on a remote Mediterranean island, counting the rest of his days.

Until Julia Hart, a sharp, ambitious editor knocks on his door. Julia wishes to republish his book, and together they must revisit those old stories: an author hiding from his past, and an editor, keen to understand it.

But there are things in the stories that don’t add up. Inconsistencies left by Grant that a sharp-eyed editor begins to suspect are more than mistakes. They may be clues, and Julia finds herself with a mystery of her own to solve.

The synopsis for Alex Pavesi’s debut novel caught my attention some time ago, so I jumped at the chance to review it. It’s quite unlike any mystery novel I’ve read before, and with an intriguing premise/structure, it was a pretty good read. Continue reading

Quick Review: EIGHT PERFECT MURDERS / RULES FOR PERFECT MURDERS by Peter Swanson (William Morrow / Faber)

SwansonP-EightPerfectMurdersUSAn intriguing new mystery about a bookseller who finds himself at the centre of an FBI investigation…

Years ago, bookseller and mystery aficionado Malcolm Kershaw compiled a list of the genre’s most unsolvable murders, those that are almost impossible to crack — which he titled “Eight Perfect Murders” — chosen from among the best of the best including Agatha Christie’s A. B. C. Murders, Patricia Highsmith’s Strangers on a Train, Ira Levin’s Death Trap, A. A. Milne’s Red House Mystery, Anthony Berkeley Cox’s Malice Aforethought, James M. Cain’s Double Indemnity, John D. Macdonald’s The Drowner, and Donna Tartt’s A Secret History.

But no one is more surprised than Mal, now the owner of the Old Devils Bookstore in Boston, when an FBI agent comes knocking on his door one snowy day in February. She’s looking for information about a series of unsolved murders that look eerily similar to the killings on Mal’s old list. And the FBI agent isn’t the only one interested in this bookseller who spends almost every night at home reading. The killer is out there, watching his every move — a diabolical threat who knows way too much about Mal’s personal history, especially the secrets he’s never told anyone, even his recently deceased wife.

To protect himself, Mal begins looking into possible suspects… and sees a killer in everyone around him. But Mal doesn’t count on the investigation leaving a trail of death in its wake. Suddenly, a series of shocking twists leaves more victims dead — and the noose around Mal’s neck grows so tight he might never escape.

The synopsis for this caught my attention, and the publishers were kind enough to approve my request to review it (both the North American and UK publisher gave me access to DRCs). Strangely, given how interesting Swanson’s novels sound, this is the first of his that I’ve read. An engaging and gripping read, I zipped through this in just a couple of very enjoyable sittings. Continue reading

Guest Post: “Where do I get my ideas from?” by S.E. Moorhead

MoorheadSE-WitnessXUK‘Where do you get your ideas from?’

It’s a question most writers will be asked at some point.

If you look around at the world, stories are everywhere — the latest news report, your grandfather’s adventures as a boy, a relationship between two famous people made public, a new type of scientific discovery that might change the lives of hundreds of people…

The very fabric of life is story — layers of events that have already happened, are presently unfurling or are yet to come, maybe. Our memories, hopes and fears are all stories.

Not only do stories form the basis of human experience, they are also currency which we use to negotiate in relationships; gossip, jokes, promises, and even commitment — when we merge our stories with others, and maybe a new story will be born. Continue reading

Upcoming: THE LADY UPSTAIRS by Halley Sutton (G.P. Putnam’s Sons)

SuttonH-LadyUpstairsUSHalley Sutton‘s debut novel, The Lady Upstairs has appeared on a number of most anticipated novels of 2020 lists. I spotted it a little while ago in a catalogue, and because I’m addicted to Los Angeles-based crime and mystery novels, and because it has an intriguing premise, it immediately went on my Most Anticipated list.

The novel is due to be published in mid-July 2020 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons in North America and in the UK. Check out the synopsis:

A modern-day noir featuring a twisty cat-and-mouse chase, this dark debut thriller tells the story of a woman who makes a living taking down terrible men… then finds herself in over her head and with blood on her hands. The only way out? Pull off one final con.

Jo’s job is blackmailing the most lecherous men in Los Angeles — handsy Hollywood producers, adulterous actors, corrupt cops. Sure, she likes the money she’s making, which comes in handy for the debt she is paying off, but it’s also a chance to take back power for the women of the city. Eager to prove herself to her coworker Lou and their enigmatic boss, known only as the Lady Upstairs, Jo takes on bigger and riskier jobs.

When one of her targets is murdered, both the Lady Upstairs and the LAPD have Jo in their sights. Desperate to escape the consequences of her failed job, she decides to take on just one more sting — bringing down a rising political star. It’s her biggest con yet — and she will do it behind the Lady’s back, freeing both herself and Lou. But Jo soon learns that Lou and the Lady have secrets of their own, and that no woman is safe when there is a life-changing payout on the line.

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