Quick Review: SMOKE by Joe Ide (Mulholland/W&N)

IdeJ-IQ5-SmokeUSIsaiah Quintabe & Co. return, with more personal challenges and some sinister characters circling their lives…

Both Isaiah Quintabe – an unlicensed detective for all seasons – and his best friend and masterful sidekick, Juanell Dodson, are at a crossroads. This time, their lives may never be the same.

Isaiah is no longer IQ, the genius of East Long Beach; instead he’s a man on the road and on the run, hiding in a small Northern California town when his room is broken into by a desperate young man on the trail of the state’s most prolific serial killer.

Dodson must go straight or lose his wife and child. His devil’s bargain is an internship at an LA advertising agency, where it turns out the rules of the street have simply been dressed in business casual, but where the aging company’s fortunes may well rest on their ability to attract a younger demographic. Dodson – “the hustler’s hustler” – just may be the right man for the job.

Isaiah Quintabe returns! Smoke is the fifth novel in the series, and sees our protagonist and his growing supporting cast going through a number of changes and overcoming a series of challenges. A slightly different novel to the previous books in the series, I enjoyed it. Continue reading

Quick Review: HI FIVE by Joe Ide (Mulholland/W&N)

IdeJ-IQ4-HiFiveUSIsaiah Quintabe’s latest case is a matter of perspectives…

One woman. Five personalities. Private investigator IQ is back to piece together a Newport Beach murder with an eyewitness who gives “people person” a whole new meaning.

Christiana is the daughter of the biggest arms dealer on the West Coast, Angus Byrne. She’s also the sole witness and number one suspect in the murder of her boyfriend, found dead in her Newport Beach boutique. Isaiah Quintabe is coerced into taking the case to prove her innocence. If he can’t, Angus will harm the brilliant PI’s new girlfriend, ending her career.

The catch: Christiana has multiple personalities. Among them, a naïve, beautiful shopkeeper, an obnoxious drummer in a rock band, and a wanton seductress.

Isaiah’s dilemma: no one personality saw the entire incident. To find out what really happened the night of the murder, Isaiah must piece together clues from each of the personalities… before the cops close in on him.

In IQ’s latest outing, Long Beach’s favourite private detective finds himself wandering into the world of gun running, murder, and a rather unique suspect. Another good book in the series. Continue reading

Quick Review: WRECKED by Joe Ide (Mulholland/W&N)

IdeJ-IQ3-WreckedUSThe case of a young artist’s missing mother sets IQ on a collision course with his own Moriarty.

Isaiah Quintabe — IQ for short — has never been more successful, or felt more alone. A series of high-profile wins in his hometown of East Long Beach have made him so notorious that he can hardly go to the corner store without being recognized. Dodson, once his sidekick, is now his full-fledged partner, hell-bent on giving IQ’s PI business some real legitimacy: a Facebook page, and IQ’s promise to stop accepting Christmas sweaters and carpet cleanings in exchange for PI services.

So when a young painter approaches IQ for help tracking down her missing mother, it’s not just the case Isaiah’s looking for, but the human connection. And when his new confidant turns out to be connected to a dangerous paramilitary operation, IQ falls victim to a threat even a genius can’t see coming.

Waiting for Isaiah around every corner is Seb, the Oxford-educated African gangster who was responsible for the death of his brother, Marcus. Only, this time, Isaiah’s not alone. Joined by a new love interest and his familiar band of accomplices, IQ is back — and the adventures are better than ever.

The third novel in Joe Ide’s acclaimed Isaiah Quintabe series. Another well-paced and engaging mystery, as IQ is hired to find an artist’s mother. Unbeknownst to him, however, some very shady, well-funded mercs are also after the mother. IQ is in for a very tough investigation… Continue reading

Guest Post: “What I Ripped Off From My Life And Used In My Book” by Sharon Doering

DoeringS-SheLiesCloseWhen I was writing She Lies Close, my debut psychological thriller, I was feeling desperate for the first time as a writer. I hadn’t felt it before in my twenty years of writing (countless short stories, a horror novel, a romance, a PI novel, and three tech thrillers). Out of nowhere, a terrifying thought hit me. Wait. Wait. What if I never get published?

That desperation I was experiencing in my writing career? I gave that to my main character, Grace Wright. Grace wasn’t worried about her writing career, but she was worried about, well, pretty much everything.

My desperation didn’t just work its way into Grace’s psyche, it weaved into the novel’s plot. I threw the kitchen sink into this novel. I wanted She Lies Close to be a car crash where you (and first, an editor) couldn’t look away. Grace is running; she’s crying; there’s an attack. Put her on stimulants. She can’t sleep. Her neighbor might be violent. She’s sleepwalking. What about the missing girl? Oh my god, who just ran across the lawn? Did her menacing neighbor give her three-year-old candy? Continue reading

Quick Review: RIGHTEOUS by Joe Ide (Mulholland)

IdeJ-IQ2-RighteousUSIsaiah Quintabe returns, investigating the death of his brother and getting mixed up in Las Vegas organized crime

For ten years, something has gnawed at Isaiah Quintabe’s gut and kept him up nights, boiling with anger and thoughts of revenge. Ten years ago, when Isaiah was just a boy, his brother was killed by an unknown assailant. The search for the killer sent Isaiah plunging into despair and nearly destroyed his life. Even with a flourishing career, a new dog, and near-iconic status as a PI in his hometown, East Long Beach, he has to begin the hunt again-or lose his mind.

A case takes him and his volatile, dubious sidekick, Dodson, to Vegas, where Chinese gangsters and a terrifying seven-foot loan shark are stalking a DJ and her screwball boyfriend. If Isaiah doesn’t find the two first, they’ll be murdered. Awaiting the outcome is the love of IQ’s life: fail, and he’ll lose her. Isaiah’s quest is fraught with treachery, menace, and startling twists, and it will lead him to the mastermind behind his brother’s death, Isaiah’s own sinister Moriarty.

I very much enjoyed Joe Ide’s debut, IQ, and decided that it was high time that I got caught up on the series. So, in a moment of choice paralysis, I just picked up Righteous and dove right in. I’m glad I did — as with the first novel, this is a fast-paced, entertaining mystery/crime novel. I enjoyed this. Continue reading

Quick Review: BOX 88 by Charles Cumming (Harper)

196232-1_BOX 88_HB_REV_ii.inddAn excellent espionage thriller

An organisation that doesn’t exist.

A spy that can’t be caught.

Years ago, a spy was born…

1989: The Cold War will soon be over, but for BOX 88, a top secret spying agency, the espionage game is heating up. Lachlan Kite, recruited from an elite boarding school, is sent to France, tasked with gathering intelligence on an enigmatic Iranian businessman implicated in the Lockerbie bombing. But what Kite uncovers is more terrifying than anyone expected…

Now he faces the deadliest decision of his life…

2020: MI5 hear rumours of BOX 88’s existence and go after Kite – but Iranian intelligence have got to him first. Taken captive and brutally tortured, Kite has a choice: reveal the truth about what happened in France thirty years earlier – or watch his family die.

In a battle unlike anything he has faced before, Kite must use all his skills to stay alive.

Long time readers of CR will know that I am a big fan of Charles Cumming’s spy thrillers. Ever since Typhoon, I’ve eagerly anticipated each new novel from the author. Box 88 was no different, and I’m very happy to report that it lived up to my high expectations. Really enjoyed this. Continue reading

Interview with ALICE JAMES

JamesA-AuthorPicLet’s start with an introduction: Who is Alice James?

Well, it’s not a pseudonym, though I was meant to be called Ruth. Apparently after 52 hours of labour, when I finally deigned to pop out, my mother decided I looked like an Alice. Very kind of her because at that point I would have come up with something less flattering.

But I’m digressing, my all-time favourite hobby after touching my face. I’m a maths graduate who trained as a COBOL programmer who threw it all away to become a writer and editor. I somehow got stuck in finance and worked for Bloomberg, The Sunday Times, the FT, investment magazines, banks, fund managers… you name it. I don’t know quite how that happened, but I met some interesting people on the way. I began writing novels just recently and can’t see me stopping. Continue reading

Quick Review: TRUE STORY by Kate Reed Petty (riverrun/Viking)

PettyKR-TrueStoryUKAn interesting, timely debut novel

After a college party, two boys drive a girl home: drunk and passed out in the back seat. Rumours spread about what they did to her, but later they’ll tell the police a different version of events. Alice will never remember what truly happened. Her fracture runs deep, hidden beneath cleverness and wry humour. Nick — a sensitive, misguided boy who stood by — will never forget.

That’s just the beginning of this extraordinary journey into memory, fear and self-portrayal. Through university applications, a terrifying abusive relationship, a fateful reckoning with addiction and a final mind-bending twist, Alice and Nick will take on different roles to each other — some real, some invented — until finally, brought face to face once again, the secret of that night is revealed.

Startlingly relevant and enthralling in its brilliance, True Story is by turns a campus novel, psychological thriller, horror story and crime noir, each narrative frame stripping away the fictions we tell about women, men and the very nature of truth.

Kate Reed Petty’s debut had quite the buzz when review copies first started circulating. It’s timely mystery about the events of a fateful night during high school, and how it has changed the lives of those involved and caught on the edge. Told through a variety of styles, it’s an interesting examination of how we frame our own stories, who has the right to tell certain stories, and how they shape our lives. Continue reading

Annotated Excerpt: THREADING THE LABYRINTH by Tiffani Angus

AngusT-AuthorPicThreading the Labyrinth, at its most basic, is about 400 years in a haunted English Garden—a sort of Tom’s Midnight Garden or The Children of Green Knowe but for adults. The novel has a frame set in 2010 in which Toni, our protagonist, has inherited a house and the remains of a once great estate; she dubs it The Remains because it’s just that: what’s left after time and economic hardship have taken their toll. As Toni uncovers the mysteries of the place, the narrative jumps back to stories about earlier garden workers, mostly women, who lived there in the 1620s, 1770s, 1860s and 1940s, but not necessarily in chronological order. I wrote the novel as part of a dissertation for a PhD in Creative Writing, which required research into several centuries of English gardening history and how gardens function in fantasy fiction. The final PhD version of the novel was different from the published version of the novel: it underwent a structure shift, lost a POV character, had another POV change, and survived other changes. But what I annotate here is mostly original to the “viva” version of the book. Continue reading

Upcoming: RED WIDOW by Alma Katsu (G.P. Putnam’s Sons)

KatsuA-RedWidowUSSpotted this on Edelweiss. After making quite a splash with The Deep, a supernatural suspense novel about the Titanic, Alma Katsu‘s next novel takes on the espionage genre. In addition to the eye-catching cover, Katsu’s latest novel has an intriguing premise — the mole in the spy agency sub-genre has always been interesting to me, so this is high on my must-read list. It looks like it could appeal to readers of Karen Cleveland (Need to Know and Keep You Close), John le Carré, Jason Matthews (the Red Sparrow trilogy), and thriller/mystery readers in general. Here’s the synopsis for Red Widow:

An exhilarating spy thriller about two women CIA agents who become intertwined around a threat to the Russia Division — one that’s coming from inside the agency.

Lyndsey Duncan worries her career with the CIA might be over. After lines are crossed with another intelligence agent during her most recent assignment, she is sent home to Washington on administrative leave. So when a former colleague, now Chief of the Russia Division, recruits her for an internal investigation, she jumps at the chance to prove herself once more. Lyndsey was once a top handler in the Moscow Field Station, known as the “human lie detector” and praised for recruiting some of the most senior Russian officials. But now, three Russian assets have been discovered — including one of her own — and the CIA is convinced there’s a mole in the department. With years of work in question, and lives on the line, Lyndsey is thrown back into life at the agency, only this time tracing the steps of those closest to her.

Meanwhile, fellow agent Theresa Warner can’t avoid the spotlight. She is the infamous “Red Widow,” the wife of a former director killed in the field under mysterious circumstances. With her husband’s legacy shadowing her every move, Theresa is a fixture of the Russia Division, and as she and Lyndsey strike up an unusual friendship, her knowledge proves invaluable. But as Lyndsey uncovers a surprising connection to Theresa that could answer all of her questions, she exposes a terrifying web of secrets within the department, if only she is willing to unravel it…

Alma Katsu’s Red Widow is due to be published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons in North America and in the UK, on March 23rd, 2021. Looking forward to reading it!

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