Monday, November 30, 2015

The Ruby of Helios / Scott L. Collins


Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Genre: Middle Grade/Adventure/Epic Fantasy

Approximate word count: 70-75,000 words

Availability
Kindle US: YES UK: YES Nook: YES Smashwords: NO  Paper: NO
Click on a YES above to go to appropriate page in Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords store

Author:

Scott Collins was born and raised in Southern California but relocated to the Denver area following the birth of the first of his two sons. Days' End was his debut novel and now Scepter is the first in a middle grade fantasy series. In addition to writing, he enjoys spending his free time (with two kids that's not much time) running and cycling.”

Please feel free to visit his website and Facebook page.

Description:

In their quest to overthrow the reign of the evil King Argyle so they can free their parents and the rest of his slaves, a small clan of youngsters has banded together to reunite the jewels of the Scepter of Harmony.

Having stolen the Emerald of Phaunos and reuniting it with the scepter, they must once again test their skills and resolve as they face the challenge of grabbing the Ruby of Helios from a ruthless band of raiders.

With the diegylis still hot on their heels, the band of rebels navigate the waters of the Great Lake, as well as the scorching desert of the Land of Sands, before facing a tribe of reptilian beasts who would rather die than relinquish the power of the ruby.

Though unexpected help comes from two powerful sources, will it be enough to save one of them from certain death, and the others from overwhelming odds? Failure is not an option, for if they don't succeed, Argyle will destroy the scepter, and the kingdom will collapse into ruin.”

Appraisal:

During their stay with the Centaurs in Alustria, Halem and Atreyu have a change of heart and decide to join Daniel and Aidan’s small group to defeat Argyle. They start training with the younger Centaurs in strengthening exercises and weapons use under Liam. At the end of each day they get lessons in Alustrias' history and character building advice from Shon. The trials and tribulations between the human children and the young Centaurs are age appropriate, common problems dealing with peers.

With the group down to five children at this point, Daniel, Aidan, Zack, Olivia, and Lilly are in a small boat heading down river to the Great Lake. Feeling safe they discuss the next leg of their quest in a relaxed atmosphere. Until they notice storm clouds moving their way. The children are faced with pirates, merpeople, and the threat of Argyle getting closer to capturing them. There are new threats that our questers must face while crossing the scorching desert in search for the Ruby of Helios. They are tested to their limits of endurance. Things only get worse when Argyle’s diegylis (The half man, half wolf warrior creatures.) catch up with them.

Mr. Collins has written a unique, epic adventure, including battle scenes, which are sure to thrill boys and girls alike. Olivia and Lilly contribute their fair share to overcoming each obstacle that challenges their group. I really appreciate the fact that even though there are disagreements within the group they manage to cooperate and work together in the end.

FYI:

The Ruby of Helios is book 3 of the Scepter series. It is important to read the series in order.

Format/Typo Issues:

I found nothing of note with the editing or proofing.

Rating: **** Four Stars

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Duty with Honor / Susan Stuckey


Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Genre: Epic Fantasy/Adventure/Suspense/Young Adult

Approximate word count: 80-85,000 words

Availability
Kindle US: YES UK: YES Nook: NO Smashwords: NO Paper: NO
Click on a YES above to go to appropriate page in Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords store

Author:

Susan Stuckey is “Currently (mostly) retired, but 'back in the day' Susan was a meek, mild-mannered, self-effacing accountant/auditor by day but after 5:00 her imagination broke free. She either played with historical stories, or in the magical World of Aldura she created.

Besides playing in fantasy worlds and/or historical times, Susan dabbles in various hobbies, loves to try new recipes, and is the servant of multiple fur-children (both feline and canine).”


Description:

Operating under cover while searching for the Chorkan Red, Jatham Draben is embroiled in fighting two wars and forced to dodge multiple assassination attempts. Can Jatham accomplish his mission and end the Chorkan Red’s efforts to subvert one royal family and topple another before an assassin gets him?”

Appraisal:

Amazon lists Ms. Stuckey’s works under Sword and Sorcery, as well as Fantasy, and Historical. The genre is spot on for this story with Jatham involved in brutal area wars for the first 20% or so of the book. Jatham is miserable with everyone thinking he has been kicked out of the Stormhawks while he hunts down Chorkan Red. It becomes clear that he is a target for assassination on and off the battlefield. Luckily for him he seems to have been adopted by General Mulman’s war dog, who is full grown but still a pup, named Monster. Monster becomes Jatham’s constant companion, always aware of danger when it is near.

After an attempt on Jatham’s life, where he lost a dear friend, Commander Kendrick released Jatham from his vow to not use his magic. Having been claimed a war hero by General Mulmam, Jatham is elevated in status to the rank of Count of Hawks by King Myldon. He also bestowed the estate of Hawks Nest bordering Derind Mountains that controls the eastern pass into Ryland. This happens to be one of the passes that the Chorkan want to control. This also increases the size of the target on Jatham’s head.

This is where the story really took off for me. After getting settled in his estate, assigning jobs, and meeting the townspeople he is to govern and protect, things start happening. There are traitors in his midst and assassins in the mountains. There are secrets being kept, subterfuge is in play, and magic engaged from several directions. The story is packed with action, heartache, and intrigue as the plot twists and new characters are introduced. Readers are going to love Tim, the clever little street rat. I was surprised when Jatham turned cunning when it comes to justice being served. He’s been pushed to his limits and it’s no holds barred from now on. Ms. Stuckey did an excellent job weaving all the story arcs together and bringing the story to a satisfying end. I do hope to see more of Jatham and Hawks Nest in future books.

FYI:

Duty with Honor is the 4th book in The Duty Series. This series builds and is best read in order starting with Duty’s Call first, Duty and Justice next, and Duty’s Price third.

Format/Typo Issues:

I did come across a small number of editing issues, such as missing or extra words.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Unspotted / Justin Fox


Reviewed by: BigAl

Genre: Memoir

Approximate word count: 9-10,000 words

Availability
Kindle US: YES UK: YES Nook: YES Smashwords: YES Paper: NO
Click on a YES above to go to appropriate page in Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords store

Author:

A former Rhodes Scholar who received his doctorate in English from Oxford University, Justin Fox is a Cape Town based travel writer and novelist.


Description:

People have driven Cape Leopards to the brink of extinction. Can we bring them back?

The majestic Cederberg mountains in the Western Cape region of South Africa are home to the elusive Cape Mountain Leopard. But for how long? The population has been decimated over centuries by human enemies and the survival of these glorious and mysterious cats is in jeopardy. Thanks to zoologist Quinton Martins and his Cape Leopard Trust, there may just be hope that the species will survive and continue to reign over its rocky habitat.”

Appraisal:

I can't claim an affinity for the Cape Mountain Leopard, a breed native to South Africa that is close to extinction. In fact, I don't think I'd heard of it before reading this short work of non-fiction. However, I can relate to a good story, in this instance the author's attempt to actually see one of the elusive leopards with the help of Quinton Martins, a zoologist whose life and organization is dedicated to helping the breed survive. (I can also easily understand Fox and Martins' concerns by relating it to to disappearing breeds closer to home.) Although a quick read, Fox manages to pack tastes of adventure along with enough background to understand the leopard's plight while inspiring this reader to consider man's relationship with the natural world.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.

Rating: **** Four Stars

Friday, November 27, 2015

Reprise Review: The Genuine, Imitation, Plastic Kidnapping / Les Edgerton


Reviewed by: Keith Nixon

Genre: Crime / Humour

Approximate word count: 65-70,000 words

Availability    
Kindle  US: YES  UK: YES  Nook: NO  Smashwords: NO  Paper: YES
Click on a YES above to go to appropriate page in Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords store

Author:

Les Edgerton is the author of sixteen books. He is an ex-con and served two years for a single charge of burglary, reduced from 182, two strong-arm robberies, an armed robbery, and a count of possession with intent to deal. Today, he's completely reformed. Prior to this Les served in the U.S. Navy as a cryptographer during the Cuban Crisis and the beginning of the Vietnam War.

After making parole, Les obtained a B.A. from Indiana University and then received his MFA in Writing (Fiction) from Vermont College. He teaches workshops nationwide on writing. Born in Texas, Les now lives in Indiana with his family.

You can learn more about the author at his blog.

Description:

Pete Halliday’s gambling addiction costs him dear – his baseball career is over. So Halliday heads to New Orleans to find his fortune, hustling. But five years later he’s failed again and is in debt to a bookie and in deep with Tommy LeClerc, a man with a pool of luck as shallow as Halliday’s.

LeClerc comes up with another can’t lose scam, to kidnap the Cajun Mafia King and hold him for ransom. To demonstrate they’re serious LeClerc says the King’s amputated hand will be the proof they need to get a sack of cash. Halliday wants out of the seamier side of life so he can open a restaurant.

But as the payoff comes in Halliday is double crossed by LeClerc. Halliday has to run for his life as the mob chases him and his girlfriend, hooker and waitress Cat Duplaisir, wanting their money returned and to deliver a whole heap of revenge.

Appraisal:

There’s a large degree of ying and yang in Les Edgerton’s stories – the known mixed in with the unexpected and Plastic… is no exception to the rule.

I’ve previously reviewed a number of Edgerton’s novels including Just Like That, The Rapist and The Bitch. As you may guess from the titles alone the author isn’t afraid to make a point. They are typically noir in nature and heavy on crime (big, smiley face from this reviewer). They’re blunt, yet subtle. And there’s no glamourizing the crime either, in fact quite the opposite. But with each work the author throws a curve ball at the reader – these are by no means your usual crime fare.

Plastic… fits into this mould, but Edgerton has produced a rip-roaring story of back stabbing and screw ups laced with plenty of black humour - Halliday couldn’t make more mistakes if he tried his damndest. And because the novel is written in the first person with Halliday in the driving seat we really see what the narrator has thrown away and continues to do so. The guy just can’t help himself. With the kidnap of The King and LeClerc’s subsequent betrayal it seems like Halliday has reached the end of the road.

The characterization in Edgerton’s novels are always strong. Halliday, and in particular Cat, are excellent. But the supporting cast are in there too, holding up their end. The author, an ex-con, often draws on personal experience (read Just Like That if you don’t believe me) which gives an extra level of reality to events. As Halliday blunders through the novel by turns I winced and laughed out loud. As usual the author has produced some writing that’s a little bit different to the rest of us.

FYI:

Some swearing.

Format/Typo Issues:

None.

Rating:  ***** Five Stars

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thanks


As many of you know, today is a holiday in the US called Thankgiving. There are a lot of myths around the origin. The picture above illustrates one most of us here were taught while young. It's a holiday celebrated in a few other countries at different times. Canada (which I claim has their celebration in October because it is hard to be thankful when trapped by ice and snow) is the one I usually think about, but Wikipedia lists others. While the traditional focus has been as a celebration in thanks for a (hopefully) successful harvest, it has grown into a day to consider everything we're thankful for.


So, before I eat more turkey and fall asleep on the couch during a football game, I and the Pals want to express our thanks for you, our readers.


Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Pale Highway / Nicholas Conley


Reviewed by: BigAl

Genre: Science Fiction

Approximate word count: 95-100,000 words

Availability
Kindle US: YES UK: YES Nook: YES Smashwords: NO Paper: NO
Click on a YES above to go to appropriate page in Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords store

Author:

Nicholas Conley's passion for storytelling began at an early age, prompted by a love of science fiction novels, comic books and horror movies. When not busy writing, Nicholas spends his time reading, traveling to new places, and indulging in a lifelong coffee habit. In order to better establish himself on the planet Earth, Nicholas has currently made his home in New Hampshire.”


Description:

Gabriel Schist is spending his remaining years at Bright New Day, a nursing home. He once won the Nobel Prize for inventing a vaccine for AIDS. But now, he has Alzheimer’s, and his mind is slowly slipping away.

When one of the residents comes down with a horrific virus, Gabriel realizes that he is the only one who can find a cure. Encouraged by Victor, an odd stranger, he convinces the administrator to allow him to study the virus. Soon, reality begins to shift, and Gabriel’s hallucinations interfere with his work.

As the death count mounts, Gabriel is in a race against the clock and his own mind. Can he find a cure before his brain deteriorates past the point of no return?”

Appraisal:

Well, this was sure different.

The main story thread, the search for the vaccine, is a solid science fiction story. What raises it beyond just another story is the character of Gabriel. He's an easy character to like. Extremely accomplished, yet far from perfect, he knows he's coming to the end of his days, and is coming to terms with decisions he's made in life that might have been mistakes. He has a lot of backstory which is introduced smoothly. Rather than feeling like it's being dumped on the reader all at once, it’s doled out at appropriate points.

I also found experiencing Gabriel's struggles with the deterioration in his mental processes due to his disease interesting, at least to a point. Anyone who has aged enough to realize their brain isn't as sharp as it once was may find pondering how they would handle Altzheimer's something to contemplate. (Then again, some may not.) As Gabriel's condition worsened, I often found myself uncertain what was hallucination and what was science fiction. If you're a sci-fi reader who appreciates character development, Pale Highway would be a good choice.

FYI:

A small amount of adult language.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.

Rating: ***** Five Stars


Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Travel like a foodie / Alex Sumray


Reviewed by: BigAl

Genre: Humor/Travel

Approximate word count: 15-20,000 words

Availability
Kindle US: YES UK: YES Nook: NO Smashwords: NO Paper: NO
Click on a YES above to go to appropriate page in Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords store

Author:

There is nothing on the author's Amazon Central page, nor an about author section of the book. However, I can tell you he is young-ish and lives in the UK.

Description:

In the summer of 2014, I embarked on a foodie adventure, with only myself for company, (I'm a great laugh, so that was fine), the map reading skills of a fly trying to escape through an open window and a quite insatiable appetite, especially for that true wonder of the world, the tiramisu.

Within, expect to find restaurant suggestions covering fourteen cities of Europe; from Paris to Prague and other cities beyond (some of which start with letters other than P). I will be revealing my top tips for avoiding touristy restaurants and will lay out my perfect week of European eating.

Part restaurant guide, part diary, expect everything to be served with a healthy dose of self-deprecation, social awkwardness and if all else fails there will be plenty of photos of food to whet your appetite!”

Appraisal:

This book is classified on Amazon in the humor category and some food categories. The title and description imply travel fits in there as well.

The first part of the story, introducing us to the author, his history, and his reasons for taking this trip were interesting,a decent appetizer. However, the other courses seemed kind of bland. If your favorite reading material is the restaurant reviews in newspapers and magazines, this book will tantalize your taste buds. I was left wondering what the point was. The book could also use another pass by a proofreader and/or line editor. Way too many typos and other issues that should have been caught before publication snuck through.

FYI:

Uses UK spelling.

Format/Typo Issues:

Too many typos and copyediting issues for a book of this size. Way too many.

Rating: *** Three Stars

Monday, November 23, 2015

Tommy Black and the Staff of Light / Jack Kerr


Reviewed by: Michael Thal

Genre: Coming of Age/Fantasy/Magic

Approximate word count: 75-80,000 words
Kindle US: YES UK: YES Nook: YES Smashwords: NO Paper: Yes
Click on a YES above to go to appropriate page in Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords store

Author:

Jake Kerr was a music industry journalist before becoming a science fiction/fantasy author. His first published story, The Old Equations, was nominated for a Nebula Award from the Science Fiction Writers of America. Currently, Kerr lives in Dallas, Texas with his wife and three daughters.

Description:

Tommy Black lost his parents in a car accident when he was a toddler. Now fourteen year old, Tommy lives with his doting grandfather who keeps a constant eye on his grandson.

Life isn’t very exciting for Tommy until that fateful evening walk from New York City’s Ziegfeld Theater to the Persian Garden Restaurant when suddenly Tommy’s life changes forever. After watching Errol Flynn in The Adventures of Robin Hood, Tommy and Grandfather are attacked by dark magical creatures known appropriately as Shadows.

Once safe inside the Persian Garden, the battle between Grandfather and the Shadows and other magical monsters, Marids, begin in earnest. Tommy soon learns from his granddad’s friend, Mister Ali, that Grandfather was really the Archmage and his cane that he always carries with him is really a powerful magical artifact. When the Marids fly in with their huge talons and threatening teeth, all seems lost. Grandfather is willing to accept his fate and passes the cane to Tommy, effectively making the teen the next Archmage.

Appraisal:

Tommy Black and the Staff of Light is a coming of age story that relates Tommy’s adventures, his relationship with the magical staff, and his efforts to save his grandfather in the first person narrative.

Jack Kerr tells Tommy’s tale through an imaginative magical world with exciting characters, interesting settings, and a fascinating plot that will keep young readers turning pages to the dramatic conclusion.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Sunday, November 22, 2015

The author of each of these books has indicated their intent to schedule these books for a free day for the Kindle versions today on Amazon. Sometimes plans change or mistakes happen, so be sure to verify the price before hitting that "buy me" button.




All My Friends are In My Pocket by KC Leigh




Dead(ish) by Naomi Kramer



Author's interested in having their free book featured either here on a Thursday or a sister site on a Monday, visit this page for details.



Reprise Review: It Isn't Cheating if He's Dead / Julie Frayn


Reviewed by: BigAl

Genre: Women’s Fiction

Approximate word count: 60-65,000 words

Availability    
Kindle  US: YES  UK: YES  Nook: NO  Smashwords: NO  Paper: YES
Click on a YES above to go to appropriate page in Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords store

Author:

“From nine to five, Julie Frayn is a mild mannered accountant. But the rest of the time, her writer alter-ego comes to life. When she isn’t counting beans or making things up in her head, she is mother to the two most perfect adults on the planet. She isn’t biased, just observant. When they were younger, they were perfect muses for silly poetry about smashed peas and birds with gastroenteritis.”

Description:

“Jemima Stone is tortured by the disappearance of her schizophrenic fiance, Gerald. She seeks refuge from her pain by feeding the homeless.
When he is found murdered in a city three thousand miles from home, Jemima finds salvation in the arms of the detective who has obsessed over her case for four years, and redemption by reuniting one of her homeless friends with the family he thought he'd lost.”

Appraisal:

Jemima Stone, Jem for short, is one those characters I found myself caring about almost immediately. She isn’t without faults (who among us is?), but she also has a way of taking a negative and turning it positive, which is a quality we could all emulate. An example of this is her obsession with finding her fiancĂ©, Gerald, who disappeared. When she spotted a man that looked like him apparently living among the homeless in a park, she took to preparing and delivering food to the homeless in this park each morning. While initially this was with the hope of finding Gerald, it quickly became more about helping those in need and continued after he was found murdered in another city.

In addition to the main storyline, finding out and coming to terms with what happened to Gerald and why he left like he did, there are secondary story threads which are no less compelling. The changing relationship with the police detective who was investigating Gerald’s disappearance is one. Another is Jem’s work with the homeless, especially one man who she goes above and beyond in finding out his story and trying to help.

FYI:

Some adult language.

The author is Canadian and uses her native spelling conventions which are a mix of US and UK spellings. There is at least one, possibly more uses of Canadian slang. The one I noticed, twonie (although the spelling I've seen is toonie), is the slang for the Canadian two dollar coin and understandable in context for those not familiar with the term.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant proofing or copy editing issues. There are a handful of occurrences of an invalid character that I suspect happened as part of the formatting or a file conversion process, but not enough to be a concern.

Rating: ***** Five stars

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Reprise Review: The Road to Nowhere / Shana Hammaker


Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Genre: Urban Fantasy / Young Adult

Approximate word count: 70-75,000 words

Availability    
Kindle  US: YES  UK: YES  Nook: NO  Smashwords: NO  Paper: NO
Click on a YES above to go to appropriate page in Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords store

Author:

“Shana Hammaker grew up in sunny California, but dreamed of escaping to cooler climes. She considered Bangor, Maine, possibly because her favorite author, Stephen King, lives nearby, but instead, ended up in Tennessee where it is warmer and more humid.”

“… it was in this sultry Southern climate that Shana realized her destiny: to read and write stories in which weird and frequently horrible things occur. (Twelve Terrifying Tales for 2011) And also, on occasion, to write quirky little memoirs.”

Ms. Hammaker is the author of The Cookie Dumpster and Hieroglyphs along with her set of thriller short stories from Twelve Terrifying Tales for 2011. Feel free to check out Ms. Hammaker’s other books on her Amazon author page or Goodreads.

Description:

Nowhere is hidden not too far east of Somewhere, just past No Man’s Land. It is a desolate place with secrets of a hidden past.

Someone is sabotaging the construction of a highway from the happy hamlet of Somewhere that leads straight to Nowhere. Amarillo Saffron, Mayor Orange’s secretary for the town of Somewhere, seeks to uncover corporate corruption and biotech espionage as well as expose the secrets Nowhere is hiding.

Appraisal:

This is a unique story in that the urban fantasy world sits smack dab in the middle of our own world. Somewhere’s biotech firm Ardor Labs claims to have perfected a system to help people live happy stress-free lives. With their emotion actuator inhaler one can breathe their stress into it at night for a restful emotionless sleep or inhale hope out of it during the day if you start feeling down or stressed and a vitamin called Actify! to start each day anew. Inhaling hope out of the actuators has a drug like quality to it, so when it becomes evident that someone is stealing hope, officials get concerned.

Meanwhile in Nowhere there is very little hope, it’s a dead little town with no color that is surrounded by a force field, and No Man’s Land is downright toxic situated between Nowhere and Somewhere. One of Nowhere’s biggest secrets are the lost children living hidden from the world inside its secured border. I felt like I had stepped into one of Tim Burton’s domains here, I love his style and perspective.

Cerulean, age eighteen, has been living in Nowhere for nine years and is one of the oldest inhabitants besides Mayor Blue. She does her best to take care of and protect the young children when they mysteriously appear at Gruesome Point on the southern edge of Nowhere. Mayor Blue sustains his life-force with children’s tears and has evil designs for Nowhere.

The characters are colorful and well developed. When a small gang in Nowhere, who call themselves Outlawz, are given a taste of the stolen hope from Somewhere, they go to desperate measures to insure they get more, and things go from bad to worse. When Amarillo Saffron, with the help of investigative reporter Fern Viridian, looks into Deputy Mayor Scarlet and Ardor Labs, wondering about their connection to Nowhere, the plot takes clever and devastating turns. This story has a dystopian feel to it at times as the plot moves forward and truths are revealed as their society starts to unravel.

Ms. Hammaker does an excellent job painting a picture of the desolate Nowhere and No Man’s Land world with her prose and uses colorful character names for the inhabitants of Somewhere, which is a much more hopeful place until the storm hits…  The dialogue is realistic and convincing even between the children of Nowhere when they decide to take a stand against Mayor Blue. There are lessons to be learned here in this clever skillfully told and at times frightening story.

Format/Typo Issues:

Review is based on an advance reader copy. I am unable to judge the final book in this area.

Rating: ***** Five stars

Friday, November 20, 2015

Reprise Review: Kiss Her Goodbye / Allan Guthrie


Reviewed by: Keith Nixon

Genre: Crime

Approximate word count:  65-70,000 words

Availability    
Kindle  US: YES  UK: YES  Nook: NO  Smashwords: NO  Paper: YES
Click on a YES above to go to appropriate page in Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords store

Author:

Allan Guthrie developed a taste for writing at school. He is now the author of five award-winning novels. When not writing Allan is a literary agent and co-founded the e-publisher, Blasted Heath. Born on the Orkney Islands, Allan now lives in Edinburgh with his wife.

Description:

Joe Hope sorts problems out, usually by the application of violence with a baseball bat, on behalf of his loan shark boss, Cooper. But for once it’s Joe that has the problem, first his daughter, Gemma, commits suicide. Joe immediately flies to the Orkneys where she’s been living at a writer’s retreat with a relative, Adam. But as soon as he arrives Joe is arrested. The accusation? The murder of his wife, battered to death with Joe’s work tool.

But, there are further complications, Gemma kept a diary in which she’d revealed the reason behind her death – she’d been raped by someone she called ‘Daddy’. But for once Joe is innocent and he sets out to track down the killer.

Appraisal:

This is a straightforward, no-nonsense, high quality crime novel which focuses on anti-hero Joe Hope. It’s a well plotted, well written and a very satisfying read. One of the strongest aspects of this novel are the characters. All are well drawn, believable and have a part to play.

First is Joe himself. He’s not the most pleasant of people, sorting out non-payers on behalf of Cooper, often beating them senseless. Joe even keeps a baseball bat in his car. He has a terrible relationship with his wife and instead spends time with a prostitute, Tina (Joe pays her, but interestingly it’s for no more than company) or in the dubious company of Cooper, seemingly his only friend. But despite everything he does have a degree of morality – Joe won’t kill people – interesting, considering murder is the crime he’s accused of. Also of note is that Joe is clearly intelligent, he had been taking a degree before dropping out to work for Cooper, who himself was training to be a lawyer.

Which leads us to Cooper. He’s thoroughly unpleasant and loyal only to himself, and maybe his young son. No one else matters. Tina the prostitute is an interesting character, literally hard-nosed and lived a tough life. They’re ably backed up by Adam (who’s initially wet and useless, but finds some backbone) and Joe’s youthful lawyer, Ronald Brewer.

The plot is also very strong, several story arcs brought together for a satisfying conclusion where everyone gets what they deserved. Joe receives several shocks (on top of the suicide and murder) and perpetually seems to be in an almost constant state of turmoil and flux.

The story is mainly set in Edinburgh. It’s seedy and grim, but then again the characters themselves live this kind of existence – loan shark, thug and prostitute. The scenes suit the narrative. The pace is high and maintained throughout, it’s a real page turner and enjoyable to boot (or should I say bat).

FYI:

Swearing and violence.

Format/Typo Issues:

None.

Rating: ***** 5 Stars