Blind Panic by A.J Harlem

Blind Panic by A.J Harlem
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Suspense/Mystery, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (144 pages)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Fern

It’s time to settle scores.

DI Shona Williams is on the hunt. She’s focused, determined, and won’t be distracted. Three evil men must go down for the damage and pain their sick actions have caused.

But while she’s busy, so is one of the residents of Ironash. Bitter and twisted, blinded by not just rage, he’s hatched a kill plan that he won’t be swayed from.

With a string of deaths being reported, can Shona and Earle stay on track or do they need to detour to catch a madman before he strikes again?
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One thing is for certain, Shona will need all her skills, energy, and strength if she’s ever going to live a normal life again.

But what is normal?

The third story in the Ironash series finally has DI Shona Williams getting some desperately sought answers concerning her past.

I really enjoyed this strongly written police-style mystery story. With well-written, deeply complicated characters and a lovely small-town setting this British mystery is a vibrant and excellent read that I feel everyone will enjoy. The two main characters – DI Shona Williams and her work partner, DS Earle Montague are exceptionally written. I found them realistic, interesting and complicated as only real people can be – conflicted by aspects of their past and present and messy in a relatable and all-too-human kind of way. I feel there is plenty in this story to appeal to a wide range of readers.

While this is the third book of the series the author has written this story in such a manner I feel it can easily be picked up as a stand alone. I personally would strongly recommend readers pick up the previous two installments of the Ironash series to receive the full enjoyment of the complex and detailed weaving of the full plot surrounding Shona and her past. A large part of this story rounds out and closes off a number of aspects of Shona’s driving force and desperately needed answers and I feel that readers will derive more satisfaction and pleasure having started this journey from the beginning. That said I don’t feel it’s in any way necessary to read the two previous books to enjoy this story. A.J. Harlem’s superior story-telling gives the reader all the details and smoothly explains exactly where Shona, Earle and their investigation is at in a simple and brief manner and any reader starting with this story can derive the full enjoyment of the story. To me, personally, this level of writing is the mark of an exceptional author. I am strongly hopeful this will not be the end of the series – there is absolutely still the potential for more to come, I hope. Life will continue for Shona, Earle and Ironash and I’d love to see how the revelations of this story add to the dynamic of their lives.

Another very strong point I adored was the characters and working relationship between Shona and Earle in particular. While there is no sexual chemistry between them, they have such a strong bond, not just of co-workers who must have each other’s backs and trust each other deeply, but also of friends. This slow-moving growth to their relationship has been a delight to witness and particularly since this case hits so close to home seeing the growth in their relationship and working dynamic has been lovely.

As always, there is a police-based plot as well. In this story it takes a bit of a back seat to Shona’s main, and highly personal, case but I was pleased the author did not give short shrift to Manfred or his revenge plans either. As in the two previous stories I felt a level of empathy for the “villain” of the piece. One of the most refreshing aspects to these novels and A.J. Harlem’s writing as a whole is that the author makes me think about “regular” crime in a very different manner. Where we as people – and society as a whole – draws the line between acceptable and not acceptable behavior is always a point of contention and interest and I’ve found that these novels have the knack of making me really sit back and think about when something is understandable and when it’s pushing too far. And any book that can really make me sit back, think and study my own beliefs and experiences and talk about it with friends and family is an exceptional book. These three novels by A.J. Harlem fall within that category and I can’t recommend them highly enough.

Deeply thoughtful with complex and interesting characters this is a magnificent book and one I will eagerly re-read many times again. The author walks a fine line between making the “villain” completely relatable and sympathetic while still delivering an exceptional mystery in a British small-town setting. I can’t wait to get my hands on the next book and see what happens next.

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