Terminal Memory by Brian Drake


Terminal Memory by Brian Drake
Publisher: Wolfpack Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller, Action/Adventure
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Fern

SAM RAVEN BATTLES THE ENEMIES JACK REACHER’S AFRAID OF. . .
Three years after a daring escape from a jihadists’ camp, ex-CIA officer Mara Cole is a target once more. She’s alone, on the run, and in need of a friend.

Sam Raven is tracking Mara’s hunters for a different reason – he’s on a mission of vengeance. A man with dark secrets, bound to Mara by shared history, they join forces to fight back. Together, they play a deadly game of chess through the back alleys of London, to the bright lights of Marseille, and the desert hell of Afghanistan opium fields, risking everything as they move closer to the truth.

With each feign and attack, they find the answers they seek lie deep in Mara’s memories of captivity, torture, and betrayal – secrets to a conspiracy at the heart of the US Intelligence community, and men who will do anything to protect their power.

It’s been more than three years since Sam Raven barely escaped from his final mission with the CIA. His team all went their own way, each of them doing their best to find some measure of peace away from the crazy world they’d known for so long. When Sam is contacted by one of his old teammates and informed that two of their number had died in recent weeks and an attempt had been made on another, Sam knows he needs to discover what is really going on before he’s blindsided.

I’m usually a sucker for spy thrillers, especially with this sort of beginning – an agent who had just barely managed to get out being sucked back into the dangerous life and world they’d escaped. I found this book to be a really good example of that sort of story. The pacing was really good to my mind, a fast and steady clip but not so crazy I couldn’t take in all the details. Sam was a hard but still interesting character, and I enjoyed his character’s voice and perspective. I felt there was a little too much (for my personal tastes) in describing the various guns and weapons that were used, but I totally understand many readers, especially those crossing over from military thrillers or more blokey action orientated genres would find this extra time and descriptions to be a really good thing.

I was pleased that while the level of action and slightly heavy focus on weapons catered to one side of the readership, there was clearly plenty of characterization and an attempt at making Sam’s character relatable and interesting in an emotional way. I found this really helped me connect and respond to him and this really added to my enjoyment of the story itself. The plot was also really well thought out and I felt a lot of more mystery/suspense based readers will find this is what grabs them and keeps them turning the pages.

I really enjoyed the complexity of the plot – while in many ways it seems a re-run of many other stories, I loved how the author managed to make it feel fresh and with the characters and setting it felt interesting and gripping to me, not just another book I’d read various different combinations of many times before.

With a small cast of very interesting and layered characters as well as a gripping and interesting plot this was a really good book, and I am definitely interested in picking up the second in this series.

Restless Dead by David J Gatward


Restless Dead by David J Gatward
Publisher: Vellum
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Fern

His latest case has him chasing ghosts. But the murderer is flesh-and-blood hiding in the ashes…

DCI Harry Grimm is on the cusp of a stunning decision. Considering making his move to the scenic Yorkshire Dales permanent, he ends up reviewing details of a terrible car accident that killed a retired colonel’s beloved wife. But when the panicked widower calls the police claiming the deceased woman’s spirit is haunting him, the dedicated detective wades in to piece together a less implausible explanation.

With suspicions running high after a cabin on the property burns down, Grimm and his team are shocked to identify the scorched human remains that leave behind a twice-grieving family. And when he uncovers evidence the fire wasn’t simple misfortune, the no-nonsense investigator is certain the culprit is more than a ghastly ghoul…

Can he nab the phantom killer before they vanish into thin air?

DCI Harry Grimm is settling in well to life in the Dales, both the small police force he’s working with and the friendly community. When a road accident tragically kills a woman Harry and his team are drawn into the strange goings on at Black Moss House – which the community whisper tales about, believing it was – and maybe still is – haunted. With the additional stress of a herd of valuable sheep being stolen by a seemingly well-established gang there is plenty going on for Harry and his team.

I really enjoyed this book, an excellent addition to the DCI Harry Grimm series. While the book can be read by itself, I feel readers will definitely get much more out of it having read the previous books in the series. The sheep/animal rustling plot in particular had been started in previous book and the lingering sub-plot of Harry, his brother and their father has been going on in the background for a few books now. The main plot – that of the car accident and death – along with how the family cope with their grief and the strange goings on at their home can certainly be read by itself and I feel the reader can easily enough follow along with the two plots intertwining in this story, so readers shouldn’t be too put off by it being the middle book in a series.

The slower pace and the freshness of the small-town feel and close community really was a pleasure to read, and I enjoyed how the small police force all had easily differentiated characters who were well drawn. I found them engaging and easily got sucked back into this authors world.

Readers who enjoy a solid mystery with interesting characters and a small-town feel should definitely enjoy this book, though I would recommend going back to the start of the series and enjoying each of these works. Recommended.

*Quarter to Midnight by Karen Rose


*Quarter to Midnight by Karen Rose
Publisher: Berkley Publishing Group
Genre: Mystery/Suspense/Thriller, Contemporary, Romance
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Larkspur

Good cops. Bad cops. Only one will win.

After completing her tours with the Marines in Iraq, Molly Sutton knew she could take down any bad guy she met. But when a family tragedy exposes the dark side of her local police, she joined up with her former CO Burke Broussard, who left New Orleans PD to set up a private investigative service for people who couldn’t find justice elsewhere.

Gabe Hebert saw the toll that working for the NOPD took on his dad and decided instead to make a name for himself as one of the best young chefs in the French Quarter. But when his father’s death is ruled a suicide after a deliberately botched investigation by his former captain, Gabe knows his dad stumbled onto a truth that someone wants silenced.

Gabe goes to his father’s best friend, Burke, for help. Burke assigns the toughest member of his team, Molly, to the case. Molly can’t believe she’s being asked to work with the smoking hot chef whose chocolate cake is not the only thing that makes her mouth water. Sparks fly as they follow the leads Gabe’s dad left them, unraveling a web of crimes, corruption, and murder that runs all the way to the top.

New Orleans is a hotbed of intrigue in this suspenseful and delightful story. There are dirty cops, many unanswered questions and so many people dying that it’s hard to know who to trust. The two main characters, Gabe and Molly, are realistic and literally jump off the page in this wonderfully written story.

Gabe finds it impossible to believe his father has committed suicide and Gabe and Molly are brought together when he hires Molly to investigate his father’s death. Sparks immediately fly between these two from the moment they meet. Neither Gabe nor Molly has been lucky in love, until they meet. Unfortunately, they are so busy trying to solve this case they have little time for romance or getting to know each other. Gabe and Molly are running for their lives while they try to solve a crime and find the mastermind behind all the killings happening every time they turn around.

I loved everything about this story. It has suspense and romance, which is my favorite trope and Karen Rose did a wonderful job of keeping me on the edge of my seat. This story was intriguing and had me quickly turning the pages to find out what would happen next.

Tonight You’re Dead by Viveca Sten


Tonight You’re Dead by Viveca Sten
Publisher: Amazon Crossing
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Fern

Soon to be divorced, attorney Nora Linde is finding her way as a single mother, and even falling in love again, when she’s asked by her childhood friend Detective Thomas Andreasson to help in a disturbing investigation. Marcus Nielsen, a university student, has apparently committed suicide, but it’s what he’s left behind that’s so suspicious and damning: his research into the Coastal Rangers, an elite military group where, in 1976, a young cadet died under questionable circumstances, a sadistic sergeant went free, and a case went cold.

When two of Nielsen’s contacts are also found dead—and diaries of their tortuous training turn up missing—Thomas and Nora are certain that whatever happened three decades ago is unforgivable. And for someone who wants to keep those secrets buried—unforgettable. Now they must fight against time to expose a cover-up that hasn’t yet claimed its last victim.

Detective Thomas Andreasson is still recovering physically and emotionally from injuries that nearly killed him in his previous case. As he eases himself back into his police work, he finds himself unusually drawn to what at first glance appears to be a clear case of suicide with a young university student. It’s only as Thomas traces the young man’s interviews for a school project that Thomas finds not only long-buried secrets, but also what appears to be a second murder. Thomas calls for some research assistance from his childhood friend, lawyer Nora and together they try to understand what’s happening before it’s too late.

I really enjoyed this full length novel. While the mystery is somewhat slower paced than many modern stories, I didn’t feel like this affected the pace too much as there was a lot happening in both Nora and Thomas’s private lives that helped keep this side to the story moving at a good rate. Readers who pick this book up expecting a fast or action-orientated mystery might find that aspect to the story lacking – especially in the first third or so. But since I’ve read the previous three books in this series I greatly enjoy both Thomas and Nora’s characters and was very happy to be updated on how Thomas is recovering from his injuries and reconnecting with his ex-wife. I also was very interested to see the fall-out to Nora and her separation from her almost ex-husband. In this sense I didn’t need a break-neck paced action mystery adventure story, I was quite happy to see more character and emotional growth with the two main characters. Other readers – especially if they pick this up as a standalone – might not find this as satisfying as I did.

That said, once the murder mystery really began to pick up speed this was an exceptional police procedural style of mystery novel. There had been snippets every few chapters showing scenes from the past which helped the reader understand some of the motivation behind the killings and helping to set the scene without being too spoilerish and giving the entirety of the plot (or the identity of the victim/murderer) away, so I really thought the author did an excellent job of balancing giving enough away without ruining the surprise.

Readers who enjoy previous books in this series should definitely give this one a try. I can also happily recommend this entire series so I can recommend readers going back to the start of this series. A good, solid book with lots of character growth and an interesting mystery plot.

High Force by LJ Ross


High Force by LJ Ross
Publisher: Dark Skies Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Hell has unleashed a demon – and he’s coming for you…

Detective Chief Inspector Ryan’s worst nightmare has just become a reality. Notorious serial killer The Hacker has escaped prison and kidnapped one of his best detectives from her own home. His brutality is the stuff of legend – Ryan lost his sister and nearly his own life bringing the man to justice first time around. Can Ryan do it again to save his friend?

There’s a nationwide manhunt underway but the trail has gone cold and fear spreads like a virus. Ryan and his team must find The Hacker before he takes another life – but are they too late?

The clock is ticking…

Murder and mystery are peppered with romance and humour in this fast-paced crime whodunit set amidst the spectacular Northumbrian landscape.

This book follows on almost immediately after the conclusion of the previous book (Angel). Angel ended on a high-stakes cliffhanger with DI Denise MacKenzie being kidnapped by DCI Ryan’s greatest foe. While this kidnapping and the immediate ramifications are detailed from the very first page of this story – so I feel reading Angel is not strictly necessary to understand what’s going on – I do feel much of the readers’ connection to the characters as well as much of the suspense/tension is better gained for readers having read at least some of the previous books, so they have an emotional investment in what’s going on, particularly for Denise. That said, readers shouldn’t feel like it’s critical to have read any of the previous books as the author does a very good job of explaining the plot, the real danger Denise is in and enjoy the thriller aspects as the team hunt for their colleague.

I was pleased that the author managed a good balance between keeping the conflict/suspense and tension very high but didn’t resort to too many gritty details nor dwell on the serial killer aspect merely for titillation purposes. I strongly feel that there was ample conflict as it was, so I really thought there was no need to go over the top with more delicate or grisly aspects to the story. Rather obviously, the entirety of the book focused on the team hunting Denise to rescue her and bring her safely home, but also return The Hacker to prison.

At times I wondered if there could have been a little more to the plot – because when you really boil it down the book is only about chasing the Hacker and rescuing DI MacKenzie. I feel maybe some readers could feel like the plot of this book is a little one-dimensional for a full-length novel – but there was enough adrenaline, action, suspense and tension I lean toward thinking the book didn’t need more plot to it, but I really did wonder a few times while reading this. I readily admit had there been another sub-plot that it could easily have detracted away from the importance of the team focusing on Denise and her rescue, or stolen pages away from Denise surviving her capture. This could very well have been a Catch-22 for the author with no “correct” answer.

With exceptional characters and a boatload of tension in this thriller/suspense novel this is a good read that might tempt you to finish it in one sitting. Not for the faint of heart (this is about a main female character surviving being kidnapped for a period of time by a serial killer and known enemy), this is a page-turning kind of story that I feel will suit a wide range of readers.

Hear No Evil by JM Dalgliesh


Hear No Evil by JM Dalgliesh
Publisher: Hamilton Press
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Fern

When the bonds of brotherhood are strained, who do you turn to?

The celebration of the Viking Festival of Scira ensures that thousands descend annually on the small coastal town of Sheringham, but when one man dies amidst the grand finale, it falls to DI Tom Janssen and his team to identify who the victim was and how he met such a grisly end.

The victim was a local man, successful, hard working and well respected. A motive proves to be elusive. As the case progresses it becomes evident that not all is at it seems. Those within the victim’s trusted circle appear unable, or unwilling, to aid the investigation. Someone has a grudge… one strong enough to willingly send a man to his death in the most brutal, and public, manner.

The answer must lie in the victim’s past; a past that sees highly decorated military service. The past shapes our future and the consequences of our actions catch up with us. Those with the darkest secrets… with the most to hide… will face their day of reckoning.

Witnesses, friends and enemies alike all appear to employ the same old adage; see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil, but a ruthless killer is on the loose and they want revenge… Janssen and his team must unmask a murderer before they strike again…

Set within the mysterious beauty of coastal Norfolk, this fast-paced British detective novel is a dark murder mystery with moments of humour, one that will keep you guessing until the very end when the final shocking twist is revealed.

When DI Tom Janssen along with many of the locals witnessed a person set alight then fall from a cliff during the Viking Festival everyone knew something dark was going on. When the body turns out to be of a returned solider, generally well liked everyone including the police are confused. But then another returned veteran is murdered – someone linked to the first victim’s military service and Tom along with his colleagues rush to try and figure out the truth behind the grisly murders.

I really feel like this series – the “Hidden Norfolk” series – is starting to hit its stride. The author has found a good balance between a layered and complex plot with interesting characters and enough of a small town feel to really lend atmosphere and a gripping murder mystery. While largely a police procedural style of mystery novel there is plenty of twists and turns in the plot, and I thoroughly enjoyed the way events unfolded to reveal layer upon layer.

While this is the fifth book, I definitely feel readers shouldn’t shy away from picking this up if it’s the first one they’ve tried. The plot itself is very well contained in the book and everything reaches a natural conclusion. While the members of Tom’s team are all well-established characters – as well as Tom’s private life with his girlfriend Alice and Alice’s young daughter Saffy – I didn’t get the feel of missing connections between the characters or like readers fresh to just this book would be left lost or unsure of what was going on. This would be an excellent summer read on the beach somewhere or a lovely way to spend a relaxed weekend.

With interesting characters and a deliciously layered plot with some interesting twists I thoroughly enjoyed this book and can strongly recommend both this book and the series it comes from.

The Love Token by Raven McAllan


The Love Token by Raven McAllan
Publisher: Totally Entwined
Genre: Historical, Erotic Romance, Action/Adventure, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Spies, smugglers, scandals. Stealth, seduction and sex. All they had to do was decide which was theirs to take and what had to be earned. And hope they reached their happily ever after.

Jonathon, Viscount Carville, soldier, spy and would-be lover of Miss Miranda Riston, has accepted a mission to discover who is smuggling contraband into East Yorkshire. Her papa, however, is convinced Jonathon is dead, and wishes her to marry elsewhere. Miranda refuses and is delighted to find Jonathon is very much alive but working undercover on behalf of the British Government.

More is at stake than just a few shillings of tax duty owed.

Among their close friends and acquaintances there is a traitor working against the crown on behalf of Emperor Napoleon. Danger threatens as they seek to discover the identity of their treacherous foe.

Who is an innocent pawn? And who is not all they seem?

What’s better than heat and high seas excitement? This book!

I’ve read other books by Raven McAllan and loved them. When I saw this one, I knew I had to read it. I’m glad I did. The story moved at a great clip, the writing kept me enthralled and I couldn’t put it down. I couldn’t stop thinking about the characters after the last page, too.

Miranda and Jonathan have great chemistry. I loved their take-charge attitudes and the way their romance leapt off the page when they got together. The heat certainly was there, and I couldn’t get enough. I loved the way they worked together, and the ending was fantastic.

The tag suggests spies, smugglers and stealth. It also suggests bedroom antics. It delivers. If you’re looking for something hot, historical and fun, while full of suspense, this might be the one for you.

Crisis by Frank Gardner


Crisis by Frank Gardner
Publisher: Bantam Books
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Introducing Luke Carlton – ex-Special Boat Service commando, and now under contract to MI6 for some of its most dangerous missions.

Sent into the steaming Colombian jungle to investigate the murder of a British intelligence officer, Luke finds himself caught up in the coils of a plot that has terrifying international dimensions. Hunted down, captured, tortured and on the run from one of South America’s most powerful and ruthless drugs cartels and its psychotic leader thirsting for revenge, Luke is in a life-or-death race against time to prevent a disaster on a truly terrifying scale: London is the target, the weapon is diabolical and the means of delivery is ingenious.

Drawing on his years of experience reporting on security matters, CRISIS is Frank Gardner’s debut novel. Combining insider knowledge, up-to-the-minute hardware, fly on the wall insights with heart-in-mouth excitement, CRISIS boasts an irresistible, visceral frisson of authenticity: smart, fast-paced and furiously entertaining, here is a thriller for the 21st century.

After many years as an SBS commando, Luke Carlton needed a change of pace and a short-term contract with SIS seemed like the perfect fit. With impeccable Spanish from a large part of his childhood spent in South America and a razor-sharp mind, Luke is happy to see where this leads him. Only his first big mission is to uncover why a station-leader in Columbia has been murdered. Luke figures with his personal knowledge, some good connections and his military training there shouldn’t be a problem, only Luke didn’t realize just how powerful and ruthless his enemies are – or how far they’re willing to go to achieve their objective.

This is the first of currently three books about Luke Carlton and I have to admit I really enjoyed it. The writing style has a very solid British spy/espionage feel to it and more than a few times throughout the full-length novel I was reminded of a Bond sort of storyline or feel to the atmosphere. At the same time, though, there was a strong touch of the current world circumstances and a very modern feel to it all. This is not a cheesy style of story, but just a very British type of espionage thriller. Readers who want a high level of realism and a modern story should find this really suits their tastes.

There was a lot of realism to the international aspect of the plot too. I didn’t find many of the characters to be overdrawn or caricature-like, which in itself was refreshing. I also enjoyed the fact that Luke’s personal history was where a lot of his talents lay – having spent much of his childhood in South America it made sense he knew the local scenes, customs and languages very well. With his extended stint in the military, it made sense he could handle himself in a rough situation and had plenty of organizational skills and a sharp mind. I really enjoyed the fact the author had covered a lot of these bases and didn’t just write a movie-like action thriller that had huge holes in it.

Readers looking for a tightly woven plot should also find this book very appealing. While there is plenty of action, much of the first section of the book is laying the groundwork – introducing Luke, showing his current situation as a newbie in the SIS office and showing how all the puzzle pieces are arranged. While I did not find this a slow start to the story, neither was it a ramped-up, heavily action orientated type of beginning that a lot of thrillers are expected to have nowadays. I would strongly suggest sticking with the book if you find the beginning a little slow – the action definitely intensifies as the story progresses and I found this a real page-turning thriller the further I went.

With excellent characters, a modern and realistic outlook to our current world and solid plotting and pacing, I thought this was an exceptional spy/thriller style of story and I am eager to read the author’s next offering.

Absolute Zero by Desiree Holt


Absolute Zero by Desiree Holt
Publisher: Totally Entwined
Genre: Contemporary, Erotic Romance, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Sex, murder, cover-up…a lethal combination.

Fourteen days until Sierra Hunt’s brother is sentenced to life in prison for a crime he didn’t commit and the cover-up is so outrageous it’s almost unbelievable. Sierra had no way of knowing that the man with whom she had an explosive one-night stand would hold the answer to her desperate need.

Vic ‘Eagle’ Bodine wanted more than the unexpected one night with the woman who rocked his world. He was shocked when she turned out to be Galaxy’s newest client, and that they’d be joined at the hip as they worked to save her brother from an unjust imprisonment.

Galaxy will need to live up to its motto of We are your last resort for this one, the mother of all cover-ups. But Eagle is going to make damned sure that he gets it done…and at the same time convince Sierra that they belong together.

Mystery, suspense and romance…because this is a Desiree Holt book and that’s what it should have.

I’ve read other books by Desiree Holt and loved them. This one was no different. It had passion, heat, heart and suspense. I couldn’t get through the book fast enough and loved every second. As with the author’s other books, I knew I’d get a happy ending and would walk away satisfied.

Sierra and Eagle are great together. I liked the way they got together. Some authors might have struggled with this timeworn way to get characters, but Desiree Holt made it feel fresh. They have a great chemistry and I rooted for them.

The heat was off the charts and the thriller aspect of the book delivered. If you’re looking for a story that’s got heart, heat and mystery, then this is the one for you. Recommended.

Forever Past by Marty Ambrose


Forever Past by Marty Ambrose
Publisher: Severn House
Genre: Historical, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Snowdrop

Claire Clairmont’s perilous quest to learn the fate of her daughter with Lord Byron enters its final stages in this last in a captivating historical trilogy based on the ‘summer of 1816’ Byron/Shelley group.

Italy, 1873. Claire Clairmont, one of the last surviving members of the Byron/Shelley circle, is determined to uncover the true fate of Allegra, her daughter conceived with Lord Byron. But her quest so far has been fraught with danger, and Claire knows she has enemies who will stop at nothing to keep past secrets hidden.

When she learns of a stunning revelation involving the abbess and Allegra, Claire returns to the convent of Bagnacavallo with her close companions to confront the abbess, and soon finds herself grappling with a series of chilling and threatening events.

As Claire finally closes in on the truth, could someone in her closest circle be plotting against her? And can she survive long enough to get the answers she craves for?

I have not found such an easy reading historical fiction book that is a mystery in quite some time. There is a little bit of everything here. This story contains mystery, danger, even a hint at romance. This is basically classified as historical fiction because Lord Byron, the poet, and Mary Shelley, from the Frankenstein novel, are a part of the story line.

Clair, a character in the story, has been present in the previous series. She is searching for her daughter with all hopes that she is still alive. Their journey, she and her companions, is fraught with danger. Claire begins to wonder just who she can trust.

As you can see, there is a lot more to this book than one might think of in an historical mystery. All of it is very readable and enjoyable. Forever Past is Book 3 in a series titled “A Lord Byron Mystery”. I enjoyed the book a lot, and I think it could be read as a stand-alone. It might have been nice to have known a little more about Claire and the previous threads of the story. However, I think the reason for this is because Marty Ambrose has made the story so interesting that you want more, not because you need more background to enjoy the story.