#bookreview

Book Review ~ A Secondhand Life by Pamela Crane

Hi guys,

I’ve just finished reading, A Secondhand Life (The Killer Thriller Series Book 2), by Pamela Crane. The blurb and buy links appear at the foot of this post.

Here’s my review:

A Secondhand Life

by Pamela Crane

This novel asks some intriguing questions. Who has been killing teenage girls for nigh on twenty years? What links the killings? Why haven’t the cops identified the killer, and can the first victim help solve the crime?

We find the answer to all these questions within the pages of this well-written novel.

When she was twelve years old, Mia Germaine was involved in an accident that caused the death of her father. In the accident, Mia’s heart was damaged and she receiving a transplant from the first victim of the above-mentioned serial killer, the twelve-year-old Alexis.

Scroll forward twenty years and Mia starts having dreams, apparently from Alexis, in a vivid and terrifying case of the phenomenon known as, ‘organ memory’. The theory posits that the transplanted heart is telling Mia who killed Alexis.

Spooky, right?

In this taut murder mystery, we have an evil swine who’s been killing young girls with impunity for years and the local police don’t have a clue who he is or how to catch him. We also have a plucky female hero who’s determined to catch said serial killer despite the risk to her relationships and her life. On top of that, we have the occasional glimpse from inside the head of the killer and from this we learn his sick motivation. Add to that a growing list of suspects, each as plausible than the last, and Ms Crane gives the reader a great serial killer whodunit with a twist—organ memory.

Do we also have a satisfying ending where everyone lives happily ever after? Heck now, that would be telling and as you know, I don’t do spoilers.

Add in a few stellar and shocking scenes that had my pulse racing and others that had me pulling for Mia, and you have a book to recommend. I thoroughly enjoyed this story and cheered Mia along the whole way through the book. And given that I’m a cynical old soul, that’s a neat trick for Ms Crane to have managed.

I can recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good crime thriller.

Thoughts on the cover art: Great, top notch.

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So, why did I knock off the half star? A number of reasons. First, I’m a mean SOB and very hard to please. Second, I worked out (some might say, guessed) the killer’s identity quite a while before the ultimate revelation. Third, and finally, I have a problem with the ‘organ memory’ theory—I’m a scientist, remember, and had to suspend my disbelief at that part. On the other hand, suspension of disbelief isn’t a bad thing for a reader and Ms Crane handled that part of the story in a subtle, understated manner. Bravo.

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A Secondhand Life: a good crime thriller by Pamela Crane

Series: The Killer Thriller Series Book 2

A heart never forgets its last beat…

In a freak collision when she was twelve, Mia Germaine faced death and the loss of her father. A heart transplant from a young murder victim saved her life, but not without a price. Twenty years later, chilling nightmares about an unresolved homicide begin to plague Mia. Compelled by these lost memories, she forms a complicated connection to the victim—the girl killed the night of Mia’s accident—due to a scientific phenomenon called “organ memory.”

Now suffocating beneath the weight of avenging a dead girl and catching a serial killer on the loose dubbed the “Triangle Terror,” Mia must dodge her own demons while unimaginable truths torment her—along with a killer set on making her his next victim.

As Mia tries to determine if her dreams are clues or disturbing phantasms, uninvited specters lead her further into danger’s path, costing her the one person who can save her from herself. More than a page-turning thriller, “A Secondhand Life” weaves a tale of second chances and reclaimed dreams as this taut, refreshing story ensnares and penetrates you.

Amazon links:
US: http://www.amazon.com/Secondhand-Life-Killer-Thriller-Book-ebook/dp/B00SU9NO9M/
UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Secondhand-Life-Killer-Thriller-Book-ebook/dp/B00SU9NO9M/

 

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Book review ~ Dark Space by Jasper T Scott

Hi guys,

I’ve just finished reading my first sci-fi for ages. Here’s my considered review:

Dark Space

by Jasper T Scott

 

Dark space is a fair-to-middling space opera with a tried and tested plot that hardly breaks any new ground. The human race is defeated by alien invaders. A small band of survivors hide in an uncharted part of the galaxy (Dark Space) and try to rebuild their civilisation. Mr Scott ups the ante by introducing a plucky independent pilot, Ethan Ortane, who is forced by an unscrupulous villain to infiltrate the defence forces and destroy the only battle cruiser capable of defending Dark Space from the evil aliens.

Ethan wears an ingenious ‘holo-skin’ to enable him to board the battle cruiser and commit sabotage. But, in a hideous double-cross …

And that’s as far as I go. You know me, no spoilers in my reviews.

Overall, the writing is acceptable, but the author’s use of ‘filtering’ is unnecessary and annoying. Filtering is where the narrator tells us when a character hears a sound, or sees a sight. Here’s an example to illuminate my point:

Filtering:

“Ethan saw the spaceship bank to port.”

Here’s the same thing without the filtering:

“The spaceship banked to port.”

You’ll notice both sentences say the same thing, but without the filtering, the second one is more efficient and effective at keeping the reader ‘in the moment’. We ‘see’ the spaceship bank to port without having the character, Ethan, get between us and the action. Make sense?

Apart from that, Mr Scott handles the story well and the battle scenes are frenetic and exceptionally well realised.

Without dishing up any spoilers, there are a few pieces of unbelievable science (e.g. the holo-suits and the space gates) and some unacceptable coincidences (the family reunion), but as I said, overall, it’s a pretty good effort.

Dark Space is Book 1 in a six-book series. Will I read more from Mr Scott? Possibly.

Thoughts on the cover art: Excellent (if a little busy), but typical for this genre.

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Dark Space by Jasper T Scott

Series: Dark Space Book 1

HUMANITY IS DEFEATED

Ten years ago the Sythians invaded the galaxy with one goal: to wipe out the human race.

THEY ARE HIDING

Now the survivors are hiding in the last human sector of the galaxy: Dark Space–once a place of exile for criminals, now the last refuge of mankind.

THEY ARE ISOLATED

The once galaxy-spanning Imperium of Star Systems is left guarding the gate which is the only way in or out of Dark Space–but not everyone is satisfied with their governance.

AND THEY ARE KILLING EACH OTHER

Freelancer and ex-convict Ethan Ortane is on the run. He owes crime lord Alec Brondi 10,000 sols, and his ship is badly damaged. When Brondi catches up with him, he makes an offer Ethan can’t refuse. Ethan must infiltrate and sabotage the Valiant, the Imperial Star Systems Fleet carrier which stands guarding the entrance of Dark Space, and then his debt will be cleared. While Ethan is still undecided about what he will do, he realizes that the Imperium has been lying and putting all of Dark Space at risk. Now Brondi’s plan is starting to look like a necessary evil, but before Ethan can act on it, he discovers that the real plan was much more sinister than what he was told, and he will be lucky to escape the Valiant alive. . .

Amazon links:
US: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00CGOSBTU
UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00CGOSBTU

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Book Review ~ An Englishman’s Guide to Infidelity by Stuart Campbell

Hi guys,

This is an interesting novel. Here’s my review:

An Englishman’s Guide to Infidelity

by Stuart Campbell

I won’t repeat the blurb (see below), nor will I give away any spoilers (as usual), but this is a beautifully crafted, off-key story of murder, mystery, misunderstanding, and misdirection. How’s that for alliteration? I’d have added ‘confusion’ here too, but would have been unable to gloat over my clever use of M. By the end though, Mr Campbell sorts out the confusion and completes the story in a highly satisfactory way.

Told in first person by the three leading characters—Jack, the husband, Thea, the wife, and Fiona, the possibly deranged cop—this is a tour de force by Mr Campbell.

The married couple is well realised, believable, and described with all their faults and insecurities, but neither is completely likeable. Jack is weak and Thea is cold, and both have guilty secrets to hide from the authorities and from each other. I had a slight problem with the motivation of the detective, Fiona, which seems extremely suspect at first. By the end of the story, though, Mr Campbell explained her rather strange behaviour to my satisfaction. In fact, the whole story arc is extremely well handled, and, I can see this working well as a three-handed play.

By necessity, the minor characters are less well defined, but that didn’t detract from my enjoyment. They did what they needed to do by acting as antagonists and moving the story along rather well.

I have only one extremely minor gripe. One scene—the one with the golf clubs (no spoilers)—came as a complete surprise and should have left me shocked, shattered, and angry. Unfortunately, it didn’t, which probably had something to do with matter-of-fact way the victim reacted to it left me somewhat underwhelmed and a little disappointed. More should have been made of the outcome and the payback. In fact, I wanted more of this part of the story, but Mr Campbell preferred to leave us hanging. As I said, it is a minor gripe, but enough to cost the novel half a star on my arbitrary and rather harsh rating scale.

All that being said, I have no hesitation to recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys well-written, well-constructed, off-key, and darkly humorous stories. Nice work, Mr Campbell. Nice work indeed.

Thoughts on the cover art: Undistinguished. The font makes the text difficult to read when you view the cover as a thumbnail.

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An Englishman’s Guide to Infidelity: a story of murder, mystery, misunderstanding, and misdirection by Dave Stanton

Jack Walsingham’s comfortable life is under pressure. With his bookshop going broke and past indiscretions catching up, Jack begins to dabble in embezzlement. Meanwhile his wife Thea, frustrated by a dead end in her career, is experimenting with some genteel theft of her own. But soon the couple are out of their depth, blackmailed by a figure from the past and implicated in two grisly killings. Their salvation comes in the form of Detective Sergeant Fiona Salmon, a recently widowed book-loving gym addict on the edge of an emotional melt down. A bizarre triangle develops, in which Thea, Jack and Fiona each find their own version of redemption in the face of betrayal and infidelity.

An Englishman’s Guide to Infidelity is at once a psychological thriller, a crime mystery, a dark comedy, and a love story.

Amazon links:

US: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00R63GXW8
UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00R63GXW8

 

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Book Review ~ Dark Ice by Dave Stanton

Hi guys,
I’ve been doing a load of reading lately and thought it might be nice to share my reviews on the writing competition, as it were. There’s the first one:

Dark Ice

by David Stanton

If you enjoy gritty, fast-paced crime, you can’t go far wrong with Dan Reno (pronounced Renault). He’s tough, he’s clever, he’s witty, and he always gets his man. No, he’s not a Mountie, he’s a private detective working out of Lake Tahoe, on the border of Nevada and California. It’s a stunning backdrop to the tale, but more of that later.

In this episode, which takes place in the depths of a snowy midwinter, Dan Reno is hunting the killer of two beautiful blonde women. He has a personal interest in the case as he finds one of the bodies naked and abandoned in a snowdrift while he’s out skiing.

During the investigation, Dan also runs foul of two rival motorcycle gangs. What he doesn’t know is whether the cases are linked. As well as the murders and the biker gangs, there is a drugs connection, seedy nightclubs, and an allegedly dirty cop who might be at the centre of it all.

Stanton’s writing is crisp, clean, and first rate. The cases are interesting and tough to crack, there’s a real police procedural, sifting through the clues, feel to Dan’s investigations. But above everything is the landscape. Superbly realised by a writer of great skill, it forms a wonderful backdrop to the action, and becomes a major character in the novel.

The human characters are well drawn, especially Dan and his best mate, Cody, and there’s a love interest, too. And to prove he’s note a complete Neanderthal, Dan has a new addition to his household in the shape of a fluffy kitten—although he still calls his significant other, ‘Doll’ in a throwback to the noir 1950s gumshoes, Sam Spade and Philip Marlow.

If you like action, criminal investigation, and a noir style, you’ll love this novel as much as I did. In fact, what’s not to like? I whistled through this book in a couple of days.

Thoughts on the cover art: A bit misleading—there’s no rope climbing scene in the book—could use a rethink.

If you are an author and would like me to consider reviewing your work, visit the Contact Page and drop me a line. But remember, I can be very choosy. 🙂

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Dark Ice: a Hard-Boiled Crime Novel by Dave Stanton

Series: Dan Reno Private Detective Noir Mystery Series—Book 4

Two murdered girls, and no motive…

While skiing deep in Lake Tahoe’s backcountry, private detective Dan Reno finds the first naked body, buried under fresh snow. Reno’s contacted by the grieving father, who wants to know who murdered his daughter, and why? And how could the body end up in such a remote, mountainous location? The questions become murkier when a second body is found. Is there a serial killer stalking promiscuous young women in South Lake Tahoe? Or are the murders linked to a different criminal agenda?

Searching for answers, Reno is accosted by a gang of racist bikers with a score to settle. He also must deal with his pal, Cody Gibbons, who the police consider a suspect. The clues lead to the owner of a strip club and a womanizing police captain, but is either the killer?

The bikers up the ante, but are unaware that Cody Gibbons has Reno’s back at any cost. Meanwhile, the police won’t tolerate Reno’s continued involvement in the case. But Reno knows he’s getting close. And the most critical clue comes from the last person he’d suspect…

Amazon links:
US: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00VZ46C7U
UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00VZ46C7U

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