Quick Review: THE MURDER RULE by Dervla McTiernan (William Morrow)

McTiernanD-MurderRuleUSHCA young law student tries to derail a murder trial

First Rule: Make them like you.

Second Rule: Make them need you.

Third Rule: Make them pay.

They think I’m a young, idealistic law student, that I’m passionate about reforming a corrupt and brutal system.

They think I’m working hard to impress them.

They think I’m here to save an innocent man on death row.

 They’re wrong. I’m going to bury him.

Dervla McTiernan’s latest novel has been getting quite a bit of good buzz in the lead up to publication. The synopsis was intriguing, and I’m always on the look-out for new authors to follow. (Because, you know, I never have enough to read.) After receiving a review copy, I dove right in, and blitzed through it in just a few sittings. This is a well-paced, well-written, and gripping thriller. Continue reading

Upcoming: DO NO HARM by Robert Pobi (Minotaur)

PobiR-LP3-DoNoHarmUSHCBack in 2019, I was lucky to get a DRC of Robert Pobi‘s first Lucas Page novel, City of Windows. It offered everything a great mystery/crime/thriller novel should have — a gripping, fast-paced plot, an interesting and engaging protagonist, and some cool twists on genre conventions. The follow up, Under Pressure added to readers’ understanding of the main character as well as another clever and gripping mystery. In August, Minotaur Books is due to publish the third novel in the series, Do No Harm, and I am very much looking forward to reading it. Here’s the synopsis:

A series of suicides and accidental deaths in the medical community are actually well-disguised murders and only Lucas Page can see the pattern and discern the truth that no one else believes.

Lucas Page is a polymath, astrophysicist, professor, husband, father of five adopted children, bestselling author, and ex-FBI agent — emphasis on “ex.” Severely wounded after being caught in an explosion, Page left the FBI behind and put his focus on the rebuilding the rest of his life. But Page is uniquely gifted in being able to recognize patterns that elude others, a skill that brings the F.B.I. knocking at his door again and again.

Lucas Page’s wife Erin loses a friend, a gifted plastic surgeon, to suicide and Lucas begins to realize how many people Erin knew that have died in the past year, in freak accidents and now suicide. Intrigued despite himself, Page begins digging through obituaries and realizes that there’s a pattern — a bad one. These deaths don’t make sense unless the doctors are being murdered, the target of a particularly clever killer. This time, the FBI wants as little to do with Lucas as he does with them so he’s left with only one option — ignore it and go back to his normal life. But then, the pattern reveals that the next victim is likely to be… Erin herself.

Robert Pobi’s Do No Harm is due to be published by Minotaur Books in North America, on August 9th. The first two novels in the series are published in the UK by Hodder, so maybe the third one will be as well.

Also on CR: Reviews of City of Windows and Under Pressure

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads

Upcoming: A SECRET ABOUT A SECRET by Peter Spiegelman (Knopf)

SpiegelmanP-ASecretAboutASecretUSHCBack in 2016, I read an excellent crime/thriller novel: Dr. Knox by Peter Spiegelman. It was one of my favourite novels from that year, and it led me to hunt down his other novels, not all of which are readily available — I was able to find Thick As Thieves. Anyway, I’ve often found myself wondering what he’s been up to recently, and it turns out he’s been writing A Secret About A Secret (among other things, I’m sure).

A hypnotic mystery about a murder at a secluded research facility and the secrets that it exposes.

In a world not quite our own, a stranger arrives at a brooding manor on a remote coast.

Myles is an agent of Standard Division, the most feared element of a vast security apparatus, and he has come to Ondstrand House, the headquarters of biotech firm Ondstrand Biologic, to investigate a murder. Ondstrand Biologic is engaged in advanced genetic engineering, and Allegra Stans, one of the firm’s most gifted scientists, has been found dead on the premises — her neck broken.

As his investigation proceeds, Myles quickly discovers that gifted scientist is only one thread in the complicated fabric of Allegra’s life; there are darker strands as well — of ambition, manipulation, and bitter grievance — all woven in a web of secrets and motives for murder. And Allegra’s aren’t the only mysteries Myles finds himself unraveling. Her colleagues, lovers and former lovers — the very halls of Ondstrand House itself — have much to hide, and Myles eventually learns that even his own masters in Standard Division haven’t told him everything they know.

When another murder is discovered, Myles finds himself an increasingly unwelcome presence in an ever more hostile landscape.

Peter Spiegelman’s A Secret About A Secret is due to be published by Knopf in North America, on June 7th.

Also on CR: Review of Dr. Knox

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

Upcoming: THE LEGACY OF MOLLY SOUTHBOURNE by Tade Thompson (Tor.com)

ThompsonT-MS3-LegacyOfMollySouthbourneNext year, Molly Southbourne returns! In The Legacy of Molly Southbourne, Tade Thompson brings to a close his excellent series. I very much enjoyed the first two novellas in the series, and I can’t wait to read this finale. Here’s the synopsis:

Whenever Molly Southbourne bled, a murderer was born. Deadly copies, drawn to destroy their creator, bound by a legacy of death. With the original Molly Southbourne gone, her remnants drew together, seeking safety and a chance for peace. The last Molly and her sisters built a home together, and thought they could escape the murder that marked their past.

But secrets squirm in Molly Southbourne’s blood — secrets born in a Soviet lab and carried back across the Iron Curtain to infiltrate the West. What remains of the Cold War spy machine wants those secrets back, and to get them they’re willing to unearth the dead and destroy the fragile peace surrounding the last copies of Molly Southbourne.

The Legacy of Molly Southbourne is due to be published by Tor.com in North America and in the UK, on May 17th, 2022.

Also on CR: Reviews of The Murders of Molly Southbourne and The Survival of Molly Southbourne

Follow the Author: Goodreads

Quick Review: STATE OF TERROR by Hillary Clinton & Louise Penny (Simon & Schuster)

ClintonPenny-StateOfTerrorUSHCAn engaging, well-written globe-trotting political thriller

After a tumultuous period in American politics, a new administration has just been sworn in, and to everyone’s surprise the president chooses a political enemy for the vital position of secretary of state.

There is no love lost between the president of the United States and Ellen Adams, his new secretary of state. But it’s a canny move on the part of the president. With this appointment, he silences one of his harshest critics, since taking the job means Adams must step down as head of her multinational media conglomerate.

As the new president addresses Congress for the first time, with Secretary Adams in attendance, Anahita Dahir, a young foreign service officer (FSO) on the Pakistan desk at the State Department, receives a baffling text from an anonymous source.

Too late, she realizes the message was a hastily coded warning.

What begins as a series of apparent terrorist attacks is revealed to be the beginning of an international chess game involving the volatile and Byzantine politics of Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iran; the race to develop nuclear weapons in the region; the Russian mob; a burgeoning rogue terrorist organization; and an American government set back on its heels in the international arena.

As the horrifying scale of the threat becomes clear, Secretary Adams and her team realize it has been carefully planned to take advantage of four years of an American government out of touch with international affairs, out of practice with diplomacy, and out of power in the places where it counts the most.

To defeat such an intricate, carefully constructed conspiracy, it will take the skills of a unique team: a passionate young FSO; a dedicated journalist; and a smart, determined, but as yet untested new secretary of state.

It will probably come as no surprise that I was very eager to read this novel. I pre-ordered it as soon as I could, and read it right away. (For some reason, I’ve struggled to get into review-writing, hence the delay in publishing this one.) This is a well-paced, quite substantial, globe-trotting political thriller. I very much enjoyed it. Continue reading

Quick Review: THE DAYS TO COME by Tom Rosenstiel (Ecco)

RosenstielT-PR4-DaysToComeUSHCA new president upends Washington norms, and Rena & Brooks deal with cyberthreats, corporate espionage

Billionaire entrepreneur David Traynor has big dreams for fixing a broken government in his first term as president of the United States. In the months before his inauguration, he’s developed daring and, in some cases, secret strategies to solve the climate crisis, force Congress to work again, and rebuild America’s economy — and that’s just the beginning. Everyone in the capital is scrambling to adapt to the new disruptor in chief’s bold agenda, though many, both at home and abroad, also want to see Traynor and his steely vice president, Wendy Upton, fail. Unsure of whom he can trust, Traynor intends to turn to an unusual group of people to advise him, including the savvy and sometimes ruthless DC fixers Peter Rena and Randi Brooks.

Though he is at the height of his career, Rena finds his world in chaos. His personal life is a mess; he wonders if his work — saving powerful people from their mistakes — has become too cynical. When malicious, untraceable cyberattacks related to his past start seeping from the dark corners of the internet, Rena’s doubts overwhelm him. Then an unpredictable tragedy throws the country into crisis, and he must come out of his stupor.

If Rena wants to help the new president salvage American politics, he will first have to reckon with his own demons and come to grips with a world far different from the one he once believed in. With the government and the country polarized and on the cusp of enormous change, Tom Rosenstiel’s The Days to Come is a clever, gripping thriller and a cogent meditation on how to heal a divided country.

In this fourth instalment in Rosenstiel’s Rena & Brooks series, the political fixers and their team are tasked with investigating one of the secret plans the new president has launched. It’s a story of political maneuvering and gridlock, cyber-threats, and some of the most important issues that face us today. I very much enjoyed it. Continue reading

Quick Review: JUDAS 62 by Charles Cumming (Harper)

CummingC-2-Judas62UKHCThe (excellent) second Lachlan Kite novel

A spy in one of the most dangerous places on Earth…

1993: Student Lachlan Kite is sent to post-Soviet Russia in the guise of a language teacher. In reality, he is there as a spy. Top secret intelligence agency BOX 88 has ordered Kite to extract a chemical weapons scientist before his groundbreaking research falls into the wrong hands. But Kite’s mission soon goes wrong and he is left stranded in a hostile city with a former KGB officer on his trail.

An old enemy looking for revenge…

2020: Now the director of BOX 88 operations in the UK, Kite discovers he has been placed on the ‘JUDAS’ list – a record of enemies of Russia who have been targeted for assassination. Kite’s fight for survival takes him to Dubai, where he must confront the Russian secret state head on…

Who will come out on top in this deadly game of cat and mouse?

The announcement of this novel was a very nice surprise — it arrived much sooner than expected after the release of the first book, BOX 88. A long-time fan of Cumming’s novels, I eagerly sought out a review copy and was lucky enough to get my mitts on one. I’m happy to report that it lived up to my high expectations. Another excellent novel from a modern master of spy fiction. Continue reading

Quick Review: OUR AMERICAN FRIEND by Anna Pitoniak (Simon & Schuster)

PitoniakA-OurAmericanFriendUSHCAn engaging political mystery

A mysterious first lady.
The intrepid journalist writing her biography.
And the secret that could destroy them both.

Tired of covering the grating dysfunction of Washington and the increasingly outrageous antics of President Henry Caine, White House correspondent Sofie Morse quits her job and plans to leave politics behind. But when she gets a call from the office of First Lady Lara Caine, asking Sofie to come in for a private meeting with Lara, her curiosity is piqued. Sofie, like the rest of the world, knows little about Lara — only that Lara was born in Soviet Russia, raised in Paris, and worked as a model before moving to America and marrying the notoriously brash future president.

When Lara asks Sofie to write her official biography, and to finally fill in the gaps of her history, Sofie’s curiosity gets the better of her. She begins to spend more and more time in the White House, slowly developing a bond with Lara — and eventually a deep and surprising friendship with her.

Even more surprising to Sofie is the fact that Lara is entirely candid about her mysterious past. The First Lady doesn’t hesitate to speak about her beloved father’s work as an undercover KGB officer in Paris — and how he wasn’t the only person in her family working undercover during the Cold War.

As Lara’s story unfolds, Sofie can’t help but wonder why Lara is rehashing such sensitive information. Why to her? And why now? Suddenly Sofie is in the middle of a game of cat and mouse that could have explosive ramifications.

I’ve been a fan of Anna Pitoniak’s novels for quite a while (I read an ARC of her debut, The Futures, quite early), and so was very interested in reading this novel. The premise is undoubtedly going to grab attention, given recent political events in the US. Our American Friend is an engaging, well-written Cold War and political mystery. I enjoyed it. Continue reading

Very Quick Review: THE 6TH EXTINCTION by James Rollins (William Morrow)

RollinsJ-SF10-6thExtinctionUSPBThe tenth Sigma Force novel

A remote military research station broadcasts a frantic distress call that ends with a chilling message: Kill us all. When soldiers arrive to investigate, they discover everyone in the lab is dead — not just the scientists, but every living thing for fifty square miles is annihilated: every animal, plant, and insect, even bacteria. The land is completely sterile — and the blight is spreading.

To prevent the inevitable, Commander Gray Pierce and Sigma must decipher a threat that rises out of the distant past, a time when Antarctica was green and Earth’s life balanced on a knife edge. Following clues from an ancient map rescued from the lost Library of Alexandria, Sigma will make a shocking discovery involving a prehistoric continent, and a new form of death buried under miles of ice.

From millennia-old secrets out of the frozen past to mysteries buried deep in the darkest jungles of today, Sigma will face its greatest challenge yet: stopping the coming extinction of mankind.

But is it already too late?

I’ve been a long-time fan of James Rollins’s Sigma Force novels. I fell behind for a bit, though, and recently decided that it was time for me to get caught up. And so, I eagerly dove in to The 6th Extinction, hoping for some action-packed mystery and globe-trotting adventure. I was not at all disappointed. Continue reading

Excerpt: LAST FLIGHT TO STALINGRAD by Graham Hurley (Head of Zeus)

HurleyG-LastFlightOfStalingradWith Last Flight to Stalingrad, Graham Hurley continues his Spoils of War series of World War II related novels. Each of which seems to be a stand-alone, so I don’t think they need to be read in order. This one caught my attention, and I’m looking forward to reading it soon. Head of Zeus were kind enough to provide an excerpt to share with CR readers. Here’s the synopsis:

Berlin, 1942.

For four years, the men in field grey have helped themselves to country after country across Western Europe.

For Werner Nehmann, a journalist at the Promi – the Ministry of Propaganda – this dizzying series of victories has felt like a party without end. But now the Reich’s attention has turned towards the East, and as winter sets in, the mood is turning.

Werner’s boss, Joseph Goebbels, can sense it. A small man with a powerful voice and coal-black eyes, Goebbels has a deep understanding of the dark arts of manipulation. His words, his newsreels, have shaken Germany awake, propelling it towards its greater destiny and he won’t let – he can’t let – morale falter now. But the Minister of Propaganda is uneasy and in his discomfort has pulled Werner into his close confidence.

And here, amid the power struggle between the Nazi Chieftains, Werner will make his mistake and begin his descent into the hell of Stalingrad…

Now, on with the excerpt…

Continue reading