Book Reviews: Britain’s Forgotten Serial Killer by John Lucas and Phoenix Burning by Isabella Moldonado @johnlucas_news @penswordbooks @authorbella1 @midnightinkbook

Britain’s Forgotten Serial Killer
The Terror of the Axeman
John Lucas
Pen & Sword Books, September 2019
ISBN 978-1-52674-884-3
Trade Paperback

In 1975 a young, deeply troubled alcoholic boy, came before the court in London, charged with three brutal murders. Two were elderly women, one a neighborhood priest. The youth charged with their murders, Patrick MacKay, was twenty-two at the time and had a criminal career stretching back eleven years.

Journalist John Lucas has written a sober, detailed biography of this Nazi-obsessed youth, speculating over eight other similar murders of which Mackay might reasonably be accused, making him one of the most prolific and dangerous serial killers ever experienced in England.

At the time of his trial, Mackay was dubbed The Axeman, The Monster of Belgravia and the Devil’s Disciple. He never held a regular job for more than a few days, he was committed numerous times to psychiatric and other mental institutions for evaluation and treatment, but he was always released after short treatment or simply left the institution. Early on, a number of omissions, errors and missteps by various law enforcement agencies allowed Mackay to escape arrest and thus eight brutal murders attributed to him remain unresolved.

The book is evenly written with comprehensive research clearly presented. One of the most interesting aspects of the case of Patrick David MacKay is the number of citizens with whom he interacted and even occasionally lived with who, despite his erratic behavior, never saw clues to his murderous behavior. The book contains an extensive index, bibliography and several photographs of some of the principal characters.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, May 2020.
http://www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com
Traces, Grand Lac, Reunion, Red Sky.

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Phoenix Burning      
A Veranda Cruz Mystery #2
Isabella Maldonado
Midnight Ink Books, March 2018
ISBN 978-0-7387-5102-3
Trade Paperbacks

This is a novel of crime, of brutality, of family secrets, of conflicts and of resolution. It is also a novel rich in a variety of good and evil characters, of violence expertly described and of characters conflicted, misunderstood and striving for their goals, personal and social.

In Phoenix, Homicide detective Veranda Cruz with her partner riding shotgun races to connect with an important drug dealer. As she dodges mid-day traffic on a busy street she worries about the unusual timing of the contact and immediately discovers her instincts are still working well when her vehicle is intercepted and the drug dealer is killed. She and partner Sam Stark pursue the killer into a crowded mall.

Thus begins a fast-paced, terror-filled novel that carries the talented Cruz through incident after incident, some fraught and dangerous, others poignant and emotional, all thoughtful and often original in design and result. Phoenix is the site of most of the action with a few side trips to somewhere in Mexico and the summer season is recognized if not belabored. The novel is a judicious blend of modern electronic uses and mis-uses, and good-old-fashioned policing, mostly the action is physical, dangerous and logical. The pace can be best described as fast and furious, interspersed with more normal family-based rhythms and interactions.

Cruz’s target is a powerful Mexican drug cartel of epic proportions and ruthless actions. Her partners in a monumental effort to take down the cartel represent every available local and federal law enforcement agency, requiring negotiation skills beyond belief, almost.

In sum, the novel careens to an unusual if satisfying ending leaving multiple traces of future possibilities. For fans of violent crime novels, this is a definite winner.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, March 2019.
http://www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com
Traces, Grand Lac, Reunion, Red Sky.

Waiting On Wednesday (137) @smariedowning @BerkleyPub

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly event that
spotlights upcoming releases that I’m really
looking forward to. Waiting On Wednesday
is the creation of Jill at Breaking the Spine.
This week’s “can’t-wait-to-read” selection is:

He Started It
Samantha Downing
Berkley, July 2020
Mystery, Thriller

From the publisher—

From the twisted mind behind mega hit My Lovely Wife comes the story of a family—not unlike your own—just with a few more violent tendencies thrown in….

Beth, Portia, and Eddie Morgan haven’t all been together in years. And for very good reasons—we’ll get to those later. But when their wealthy grandfather dies and leaves a cryptic final message in his wake, the siblings and their respective partners must come together for a cross-country road trip to fulfill his final wish and—more importantly—secure their inheritance.

But time with your family can be tough. It is for everyone.

It’s even harder when you’re all keeping secrets and trying to forget a memory, a missing person, an act of revenge, the man in the black truck who won’t stop following your car—and especially when at least one of you is a killer and there’s a body in the trunk. Just to name a few reasons.

But money is a powerful motivator. It is for everyone.

Why am I waiting so eagerly? This sounds like the road trip from hell but with a lot of laughing and cringing along the way. Besides, we all know that leaving a will that demands some sort of response from the potential beneficiaries is bound to end badly, right? I suspect I’m not going to like anybody in this book but that probably also means I’m going to take delicious, demented, creepy pleasure in it. And I don’t know about you but “he started it” looms large in my memories of family road trips with my brother. 😈🤣

Teeny Reviews: Endgame by Aisha Tritle and A Fatal Fiction by Kaitlyn Dunnett @AishaTritle @KyanitePub #KaitlynDunnett @KensingtonBooks

Endgame
Aisha Tritle
Kyanite Publishing, April 2020
ISBN 978-1-949645-99-6
Ebook

Reacting to being dumped by her boyfriend for a model, Leigh spirals down into too much drinking and starts to play a virtual dating app, definitely not a smart thing to do in her current frame of mind. Soon enough, she finds herself in a virtual world of trouble when she meets a guy named Alexei, a guy who might be way too good to be true.

Leigh, a woman with her nose bent out of shape who’s not above semi-stalking her ex on social media, is an attorney and should certainly know better but…. When things start to turn dark, Leigh will have to find her way out of this dangerous situation and figure out who Alexei really is. For a novelette, this is pretty well packed with tension, action and quite a few twists, making it very entertaining.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, July 2020.

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A Fatal Fiction
Deadly Edits #3
Kaitlyn Dunnett
Kensington Books, June 2020
ISBN 978-1-4967-2686-5
Hardcover

A derelict Catskills resort hotel is brought back to life, in a manner of speaking, when a body is found and freelance editor Mikki Lincoln is the logical suspect or, at least, the first one. Mikki had been seen arguing with Greg Onslow not long before and Onslow was not the nicest man around. Known as a shady developer, he had defrauded quite a few people and any one of them could have had enough of the guy so Mikki just has to figure out which one to keep herself out of the clutches of the law.

This was my introduction to Mikki and I reallyfeisty as they come like her. She’s 70 years old and as clever and active as anyone could hope to be at that age (certainly more active than me) and she has the personality to go along with having been a teacher—no putting up with nonsense, that’s for sure. She does seem to be a bit cantankerous but she’s earned the privilege if you ask me. As for the dead man, he was afraid a forthcoming memoir that Mikki is editing would damage his plans for the hotel, precipitating the argument, but Mikki will ferret out the killer. Maybe someday Mikki will find a way to get rid of her interfering nephew 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, July 2020.

Book Review: The Only Thing to Fear by Caroline Tung Richmond @ctrichmond @Scholastic

The Only Thing to Fear
Caroline Tung Richmond
Scholastic Press, September 2014
ISBN 978-0-545-62988-1
Hardcover

Zara’s plan to keep her head down and just plod through life is not working out. Partly due to the fact that she was not raised that way. Largely because of the perplexing, unwanted attention from Bastian. Not just any Nazi, the son of a colonel knows better than anyone that Aryans do not mingle with “sub-humans”. Although she’s not Jewish, to the Germans, as “half-breed stock”, she falls into the same category. Fit for only factory or farm work. Certainly not for fraternizing.

Zara’s earliest memories are of her mother and Uncle Red leading the local Alliance, all efforts into eradicating the Nazi-rule. She could not wait to be old enough to join them. Before she could reach the coveted age, though, a mission went terribly wrong and Uncle Red’s attitude was adversely affected. Compounding an already complex matter, in her grief and frustration, Zara’s power emerged. No one was more stunned than she was to discover that she was an Anomaly.

Select Germans had been gifted with powers enabling them to conquer the Allies so many years ago. The remaining Anomalies serve in an elite division of the Nazi military. When the rare non-Aryan Anomaly is discovered, things are a bit different. That poor soul will be taken to a laboratory to be studied, tested and ultimately dissected.

Zara has two huge secrets to keep if she hopes to stay under the radar of the suspicious Germans. Having Bastian hovering, bugging her, may just be the last straw. Aryans speak to her people for only a handful of reasons, none of them good. Most worrisome; they would never, ever feign interest in the Alliance—even as a sick joke.

She may not know what Bastian is truly up to, but Zara does know that she’s no time for the likes of him. There are brutal deaths to be avenged and one very last chance for her to convince Uncle Red that she belongs with the Alliance.

It’s no wonder I’ve seen The Only Thing to Fear by Caroline Tung Richmond on so many students’ To-Read lists. This fast-paced, action-packed, Sci-Fi story of ‘what if’ is simply stellar. And, I absolutely love the atypical ending, which was not gratuitous, but rather allowed the narrative to wrap up a bit more naturally, with an authentic feel.

Reviewed by jv poore, December 2019.

Book Review: The Wild One by Nick Petrie @_NickPetrie_ @PutnamBooks

The Wild One
A Peter Ash Novel #5
Nick Petrie
G.P. Putnam’s Sons, January 2020
ISBN 978-0-525-53544-7
Hardcover

This is Nick Petrie’s fifth novel in the Peter Ash series. Ash has been likened to Lee Child’s character Reacher and there are some similarities. Ash, like Reacher, has a Military background. He was a soldier in Iraq and Afghanistan but suffers from PTSD, which takes the form of what he describes as white static inside his head, along with a bad case of claustrophobia. But like Reacher, Ash’s efforts to help anyone in trouble often result in fistfights, and gunfights.

In this novel we find Ash on a plane bound for Reykjavik, Iceland. Planes are not his favourite form of transportation…and he grows agitated, feeling claustrophobic and panicky. He manages to fight through it, relieved when the plane finally lands. But his ordeal isn’t over, as he is taken to a small interrogation room, where a man from the American Embassy asks him why he has come to Iceland. After a brief exchange Ash is told he is not welcome in Iceland and must return to America on the next plane. The next flight to the USA, however, isn’t scheduled to leave for several days.

Ash leaves the airport wondering why so much attention is being paid to him. While he’d told them he was simply a tourist, in actual fact he’d been hired by Catherine Price in Washington, D.C. to find her son-in-law Erik Grimsson and her 7 year old grandson, Oskar. The police in America believe Erik murdered his wife Sarah a year ago and ran off with Oskar.

Unfazed by the fact that he has been ordered to return to the USA in a day or two, Ash is determined to find and talk to Erik’s cousin, Bjarni Bergsson. Ash visits the local Bar where Bjarni works and enjoys a drink while he waits. Bjarni doesn’t show and Ash, unaware his drink has been drugged, ends up being beaten and left in the snow.

Stubborn and annoyed at being duped, he continues his search and quickly comes to realize he’s not the only one looking for Erik and Oskar. But who is looking for them and why?

The winter weather in Iceland becomes a big part of the plot when a horrendous snow storm forecast for the area makes an appearance. Ash’s stamina and resourcefulness are put to the test in a plot that is both multi-layered and intriguing. You’ll be holding your breath as you turn the pages to its satisfying conclusion.

Respectfully submitted.

Reviewed by guest reviewer Moyra Tarling, May 2020.

Book Review: Closer Than She Knows by Kelly Irvin @Kelly_S_Irvin @ThomasNelson @partnersincr1me

Closer Than She Knows
Kelly Irvin
Thomas Nelson, June 2020
ISBN 978-0-7852-3186-8
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Teagan O’Rourke has always loved murder mysteries. In her job as a court reporter, she has written official records for dozens of real-life murders. She’s slapped evidence stickers on crime scene photos. She’s listened to hours of chilling testimony. But she’s never known the smell of death. And she never thought she might be a victim.

Until now.

A young police officer is murdered just inches away from her, and then a man calling himself a serial killer starts leaving Teagan notes, signing each with the name of a different murderer from her favorite mystery novels.

Panicked, Teagan turns to her friend Max Kennedy. Max longs for more than friendship with Teagan, but he fears she’ll never trust someone with a past like his. He wonders how much of God’s “tough love” he can take before he gives up on love completely. And he wonders if he’ll be able to keep Teagan alive long enough to find out.

As Teagan, Max, and Teagan’s police officer father race to track down the elusive killer, they each know they could be the next victim. Desperate to save those she loves, Teagan battles fears that once haunted her in childhood. Nothing seems to stop this obsessed murderer. No matter what she does, he seems to be getting closer . . .

Teagan O’Rourke’s calm, safe life is upended with a vengeance when a young police officer is murdered right next to her while the two are transporting evidence in a court case. Teagan’s job as a court reporter—and growing up in a family full of law enforcement—helped turn her into a fan of crime fiction and that and the court reporting have given her a bit of a leg up on solving fictional crimes but now she has to aim her talents at solving this very real one.

Panic sets in when someone starts sending her threatening messages, each one referring to a murderer in one of those novels and the implication is obvious, that this person knows her all too well. Now, this has all become very personal even while other people are being killed and she enlists the aid of her father, a retired police officer, and her friend, Max, who has a less than savory past of his own but is now a youth pastor and recovering alcoholic. Teagan and Max have been circling around each other romantically without really moving forward because of various issues but the three are determined to find this stalker.

I’m not a huge fan of romance or romantic suspense but, in this case, the romance is handled naturally and is not “in your face”. Much more attention is paid to the criminal elements and finding a vicious killer, as it should be, and there were quite a few likeable characters, family as well as friends. I found a lot to enjoy in Closer Than She Knows, my introduction to Kelly Irvin’s work.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, July 2020.

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Purchase Links:
Barnes & Noble // Kobo // Amazon // Indiebound

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An Excerpt from Closer Than She Knows

“We’re almost there, Ms. O’Rourke.” Officer Moreno came to a full stop at the corner of Park and Academic Court, where the glass-covered police department recruitment center and property room facilities glinted in the late-afternoon sun.

A smile brought out dimples on Moreno’s cherub-cheeked face. Her assignment to escort a court reporter and the evidence to the property room was almost to the halfway point. Teagan had told Moreno to call her by her first name, but the patrolwoman couldn’t seem to manage it. “I’ll get us through security, we’ll stow the evidence, and I’ll have you back to your car in a jiffy.”

Did people still say “in a jiffy”? Teagan’s grandma might, but this woman was no more than twenty-four. A couple of years younger than Teagan. She studied the officer’s face as she turned onto Academic Court and accelerated. The woman was for real. A straight shooter determined to be successful in a man’s world.

Teagan smiled, but Moreno had already returned her gaze to the road, hands at the proper ten and two positions on the wheel. “I know there’s plenty of other things you’d rather do than babysit evidence—”

The driver’s side window exploded.

The force knocked Teagan’s head against her window. Sudden pain pricked her face. Fragments of glass pierced her cheeks and forehead.

The car swerved, jumped the curb, and crashed into the wrought-iron fence that protected the academy.

Was this what Mom felt the day she died? The inevitability of it?

Air bags ballooned.

Teagan slammed back against her seat.

I’m sorry, Max.

I’m sorry I never said it.

A second later the bag deflated. The smell of nitrogen gases gagged her. Powder coated her face. The skin on the back of her hands burned.

Time sped up in an odd, off-kilter tick-tock.

Teagan struggled to open her eyes. Pain pulsed in her temple. Her stomach heaved. Waves of adrenaline shook her body as if she’d grasped a live electrical wire.

I’m alive. Today’s not my day to die.
The evidence. Protect the evidence.

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About the Author

Kelly Irvin is a bestselling author and two-time Carol Award finalist. She is a former newspaper reporter and retired public relations professional. Kelly lives in Texas with her husband, photographer Tim Irvin. They have two children, three grandchildren, and two cats.

Visit her Online:

KellyIrvin.com // Goodreads
BookBub // Instagram
Twitter // Facebook

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Follow the tour here.

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Giveaway

One print copy of
Closer Than She Knows
US only.

Enter here.

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Waiting On Wednesday (136) @GlenErikH @WmMorrowBooks

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly event that
spotlights upcoming releases that I’m really
looking forward to. Waiting On Wednesday
is the creation of Jill at Breaking the Spine.

This week’s “can’t-wait-to-read” selection is:

A Dangerous Breed
Van Shaw Novels #5
Glen Erik Hamilton
William Morrow, July 2020
Mystery, Thriller

From the publisher—

Van Shaw’s past and present collide when an ingenious blackmailer pushes him to the brink in this electrifying fifth novel in Glen Erik Hamilton’s gritty and emotionally powerful thriller series.

An invitation addressed to his long-dead mother sparks Van Shaw’s curiosity about the woman he barely knew. As he digs into young Moira Shaw’s past, he uncovers startling details about her life, including her relationship to a boy named Sean Burke—a boy Moira may have been seeing when she became pregnant. Could this Burke be the biological father who abandoned Van before he was born? Although Van knows all too well that some doors shouldn’t be opened, he decides to investigate the man—only to discover that Burke has an even darker family history than Van’s own.

But Van’s got more immediate problems. His friend Hollis is in a jam, and helping him out accidentally steers Van into the path of a master extortionist named Bilal Nath.  Nath demands that the talented thief mastermind a daring heist targeting a Seattle biotechnology firm, or the blackmailer will destroy the lives of people Van loves. Will Van be forced to steal a viral weapon with the potential to kill thousands?

With Bilal Nath coercing him into a possible act of domestic terrorism, Van turns to his formidable crew of lawbreaking friends—including Hollis, Big Will Willard, and Willard’s sly and seductive niece Elana—for help. Yet even this team may not be enough. To outwit a brilliant sociopath, Van might just need a cold-blooded killer . . . a criminal whose blood may run through his own veins.

Why am I waiting so eagerly? I haven’t run into this author before but, from the synopsis and a quick glance at the earlier books, I think this one is going to be right up my alley. Besides, you can’t go wrong with a book that’s so highly recommended by the likes of Allison Brennan and William Kent Krueger 😉