Book Review: The Pact by Sharon Bolton @AuthorSJBolton @TrapezeBooks

The Pact
Sharon Bolton
Trapeze/Orion Publishing, May 2021
ISBN 978-1-4091-9831-4
Trade Paperback

Sharon Bolton’s latest is a terrific read.

Six friends are celebrating the end of term exams;  exams, the results of which, will set them on their individual paths to careers and futures.  Bored and a little inebriated they attempt the daredevil pursuit they’ve managed to pull off successfully a number of times throughout the year – driving the wrong way down a busy Motorway. The dare this time ends in a horrific accident.

Not aware of the full extent of the accident, Megan offers to take the blame, accepting the fact that it might well result in jail time. The others are quick to accept her offer and when Megan suggests they all sign a Pact stating they will grant a favour once she is released from prison, they readily agree.  But none of them, least of all Megan, anticipates the length of the sentence brought down by the judge.

The lives of the five friends proceed in expected ways, although none of them have either the courage or the decency to call or visit Megan in prison. When the time comes for her release, each of them grows anxious fearful of the price they will be asked to pay.  They meet to discuss what they might expect,  wondering if they should have tried harder to find the Pact they signed with the object of destroying it.

When Megan makes contact with them one by one, wanting to renew the friendships, she is hurt and angry at the reception she receives. It’s payback time, she tells them, but senses that her old friends are unwilling to fulfill the Pact they all signed.

It is interesting to watch the reactions of the friends as Megan deftly invites herself into their lives.  None of them are willing to welcome her back into the fold. She is an ex-con now and definitely not the kind of friend they would normally cultivate.  Tension mounts as she pushes harder to get what she feels is owed to her.

When one of the five is murdered it appears obvious to the other four Megan has crossed the line and is out for revenge.

The author raises the stakes as the remaining four fear for their lives.  As a result I found it difficult to put the book down until I reached the unexpected but thrilling conclusion.

The Pact is a must read….

Check it out.  You won’t be disappointed.

Respectfully submitted.

Reviewed by guest reviewer Moyra Tarling, September 2021.

Book Review: All Fall Down by M.J. Arlidge @mjarlidge @orionbooks

All Fall Down
A Helen Grace Thriller #9
M.J. Arlidge
Orion Fiction, June 2021
ISBN 978-1-4091-8842-1 (CA)
Paperback
Orion, June 2020
ISBN 978-1409188407 (US)
Hardcover

I’ve been a fan of this author since 2014 when Eeny Meeny, the first in this bestselling British series featuring Detective Inspector Helen Grace, was published.

All Fall Down, the 9th entry in the series set in the coastal town of Southampton, has been described as Chilling, Mesmerizing and Gripping, descriptions I’m hard pressed to disagree with.

Eight years ago a group of five teenagers from a local high-school, taking part in a Duke of Edinburgh challenge, were tortured physically and mentally by Daniel King, a man who held them captive in an isolated house.  Four of them escaped but the fifth was murdered by King, who set fire to his house and fled.  He was never found or brought to justice.

Now, after receiving a frightening phone call telling him he has one hour left to live, Justin Lanning, one of the four survivors of that torturous ordeal, is found murdered. It isn’t long before D.I. Grace and her squad of detectives start to wonder if King is back and his plans are to kill the remaining survivors.

As the Police try to warn the other survivors, the perpetrator appears to be one step ahead.  D.I. Grace’s frustrations grow as her superiors, pushing for a quick result, question her decisions.  The killer continues to challenge the detectives, one of whom has become Helen’s lover.  He’s ambitious and reckless and Helen begins to wonder if she’s made an error in judgement. This baffling case however is her priority.  But will she figure out the truth before more lives are lost?

D.I. Grace is a strong woman you quickly come to admire.  She’s multi-faceted, something of a loner, who would like nothing better that to have a solid relationship, a man in her life.  Over the previous books she’s had her share of self-doubt, and recriminations, but she’s fought hard to be where she is and I look forward to spending time with D.I. Grace and her team with each new novel.

Next up for D.I. Grace is Truth or Dare.   I can’t wait!

Respectfully submitted,

Reviewed by guest reviewer Moyra Tarling, August 2021.

Book Review: Fallen by Linda Castillo @LindaCastillo11 @MinotaurBooks

Fallen
A Kate Burkholder Mystery #13
Linda Castillo
Minotaur Books, July 2021
ISBN 978-1-250-82803-3
International Edition
ISBN 978-1-250-14292-4
US Edition
Hardcover

I’m always eager and excited to receive a new Kate Burkholder novel by Linda Castillo. FALLEN is the title of the latest entry in this acclaimed series and most definitely another winner.

Kate Burkholder is the Chief of Police in Painters Mill, a town with an Amish community. Kate grew up here, the daughter of Amish parents, but left her family to pursue a career in law enforcement, returning to take on the job of Police Chief. She is well respected in town and feels her knowledge of, and connection to, the Amish gives her an added insight.

When the badly beaten body of a young woman is found in a local motel, Kate is called to the scene, shocked to learn that the victim is Rachael Schwartz, a rebellious Amish girl who grew up in Painters Mill, but left her friends and family over fifteen years ago.

Kate remembers Rachael as an out of control teen and from her own experiences can relate to Rachael breaking the bonds of family and leaving to make a life for herself. But why has she returned to Painters Mill? And who would have hated her so much to end her life so viciously?

Kate and her team are up to the challenge. She talks to Rachael’s parents and her best friend, Loretta, hoping to find some clue to explain Rachael’s return, but no-one seems to know she was coming to town. Looking into Rachael’s life since leaving Painters Mill, Kate uncovers a strong feisty character who made a name for herself backing down from nothing and no-one, even writing a tell-all book on her Amish life; a book that had incited anger within the community.

A lead is followed and the tension escalates when a second death shifts the focus. But Kate is more determined than ever to uncover the truth and find the killer.

Rachael was a woman who enjoyed raking up past secrets but only for her own advantage. And as Kate moves closer to the startling truth she finds herself in mortal danger. Will the killer succeed in keeping the secrets of the past under wraps?

Returning to Painters Mill and catching up with Kate, her work colleagues and the man in her life is an added bonus to this thrilling ride.

Linda Castillo doesn’t disappoint…. Pick up a copy of FALLEN. You’ll be glad you did.

Respectfully submitted.

Reviewed by guest reviewer Moyra Tarling, July 2021.

Book Review: Mother May I by Joshilyn Jackson @JoshilynJackson @WmMorrowBooks

Mother May I
Joshilyn Jackson
William Morrow, April 2021
ISBN 978-0-06-285534-3
Hardcover

Bree Cabbat is happily married with a handsome and loving husband, Trey, who is a lawyer.  She also has two teenage daughters, and a brand new baby boy, Robert.  While helping out at the Private School her daughters attend where her eldest Anna-Claire is rehearsing for the upcoming adapted school version of  the musical “Grease”,  Bree sets baby Robert, asleep in his car seat, on the floor, at the rear of the Balcony.

It seems like only minutes later Bree’s nightmare begins.  She glances behind her to check on her son, only to find the car seat empty. Robert has vanished. He’s been kidnapped. Left behind on the Balcony floor is a note telling Bree not to speak to anyone, but to go home immediately where she’ll be contacted.

At home she finds a small bag with a cell phone and a small package of pills, hanging on her front door.  The cell phone rings and Bree answers. The woman on the other end of the phone tells Bree if she follows her instructions to the letter, and completes the task she sets, her son will be returned to her.  The caller adds that someone will be watching her and reminds her that if she contacts the Police or her husband or anyone she’ll never see her baby again.

Bree has no option but to agree. The task, while a little unusual, seems harmless.  What choice does she have?  To her horror the result is heartbreaking and devastating, thrusting her into a minefield of guilt and pain.

It’s only been in the last year that I’ve been introduced to this author.  I’ve read two other titles,  Almost Sisters and Never Have I Ever.  In each of her novels the characters are well drawn, strong, emotional and likeable people.

The reader is quickly pulled into Bree’s story.  The welfare and safe return of her son is the driving force behind her actions, nothing else matters.   But as the chilling reason behind the kidnapping is revealed her world is turned upside down.

This will be on my Top Ten books of 2021.  Check it out… I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Respectfully submitted.

Reviewed by guest reviewer Moyra Tarling, May 2021.

Book Review: Death Grip by Elaine Viets @evmysterywriter @severnhouse

Death Grip
An Angela Richman, Death Investigator Mystery (Book 4)
Elaine Viets
Severn House Publishers, March 2021
ISBN 978-0-7278-9018-4
Hardcover

This is the 4th book in the Death Investigator Series.  It is set in Chouteau County, Missouri. The heroine, Angela Richman, is a Death Investigator who is called out to examine and gather evidence when a death has occurred.

At the outset of the story Angela is called to a densely wooded area of the County. There, Detective Jace Budewitz leads her to the body found by a hiker, and suggests that the isolated area might well be a  ‘body dump’.

Angela is joined by another colleague, a CSI tech, and together they begin to gather evidence. Angela photographs the victim and collects and identifies anything that might offer a clue to the identity of the deceased or the perpetrator.

Her colleague, after studying the body, believes it belongs to Terri Gibbons, a high school track and field athlete who went missing eight months ago.

Two more bodies are also found in the area and arrangements are made to transport the victims for examination by a forensic anthropologist.  It isn’t long before a rather damaging clue is discovered, a clue that points to a rich, powerful, well-known local bachelor who already has some questionable history with the police.

A search-warrant is issued which seemed somewhat premature, and when nothing incriminating is found, the investigation is temporarily derailed.

While I initially liked the set up and start of the book, it quickly veered off course and settled on Angela’s personal life;  her love for her dead husband, a possible new love interest, and her own lack of interest in moving on with her life.

Her struggle with not being ready for a new romance felt more like filler, passing the time until another line of inquiry brought the reader back to the mystery of the murders of the three women.

I was also surprised to learn that while Angela was a Death Investigator she was not a qualified Detective and was told not to interfere with the ongoing investigation.  She is, in fact, reprimanded for doing so and warned off.

This, however, doesn’t deter Angela from continuing to pursue the case, determined to uncover evidence against the wealthy bachelor. But once again the narrative moves between interviewing women who had previously worked for the suspect, and the budding romance with the newest member of the force.

The climax, although a touch contrived, is exciting, bringing the mystery to a satisfying conclusion.

While the book was a relatively fast read, my interest lagged at times. If you are a fan of this well known author you will no doubt enjoy Angela’s latest entry.

Respectfully submitted.

Reviewed by guest reviewer Moyra Tarling, July 2021.

Book Review: Dark Sky by C.J. Box @cjboxauthor @PutnamBooks

Dark Sky
A Joe Pickett Novel #21
C. J. Box
G.P. Putnam’s Sons, March 2021
ISBN 978-0-525-53827-1
Hardcover

It is mid-October, snow is on the ground, and game warden Joe Pickett has reluctantly agreed to do a favour for the Wyoming Governor. This favour entails accompanying a high-tech executive on an Elk Hunting trip. Joe and Brock Boedecker, who is supplying the pack horses for this trip, are waiting at the Saddlespring Municipal Airport for their guest to arrive. HIs name is Steven Price or Steve-2, a Silicon Valley billionaire and the brains and money behind ConFab a social media site.

Steve-2 has always wanted to explore nature and live off the land, but as Joe watches the millionaire’s plane being unloaded he begins to wish he’d never agreed to the trip. Steve-2 has brought way too much baggage, that includes camera’s, electronic equipment and some comforts of home that are, to Joe’s mind, totally unnecessary.

Anxious to get underway and set up camp before dark, Joe gets the hunting party moving. The five men, Brock, Joe, Steve-2, his personal assistant Tim and bodyguard, Zsolt Rumy, set off, unaware they are riding into a trap.

A trio of men are out for revenge. They blame Steve-2 for the death of a family member. The threesome have a plan of attack, uncaring for any collateral damage that might ensue.

Meanwhile Joe’s wife, Marybeth, hasn’t heard from her husband since he left on the trip. Worried, she contacts Joe’s best friend, Nate Romanowski who, along with Joe’s eldest daughter Sheridan, head out to locate the hunting party.

I’ve long been a fan of C. J. Box and the Joe Pickett series. The Pickett family have become like old friends. The detail and knowledge the author brings to each of his novels makes for a realistic and often heart stopping ride whenever he ventures into the back country. The descriptions of Joe’s Wyoming home along with the grandeur of the Bighorn Mountains are unforgettable.

In this his twenty-first Pickett novel, Joe has to call on all his skills in his attempts to keep his overbearing and unlikeable client alive. With the weather conditions deteriorating and with no means of summoning help, their future is bleak.

Grab this latest by C. J. Box, you’ll be hard pressed to put it down.

Respectfully submitted,

Reviewed by guest reviewer Moyra Tarling, April 2021.

Book Review: The Breaker by Nick Petrie @_NickPetrie_ @PutnamBooks

The Breaker
A Peter Ash Novel #6
Nick Petrie
G. P. Putman’s Sons, January 2021
ISBN 978-0-525-53547-8
Hard Cover

Peter Ash is back living with his girlfriend June in the Milwaukee area.  After his previous adventure in Iceland, (The Wild One)  he’s  considered a wanted man and he and June his girlfriend are trying to stay under the radar. Together with his best friend Lewis, they are heading to an outdoor market when Peter notices a suspicious man walking through the market.  When Peter glimpses a gun under the man’s jacket, he’s sure this guy is up to no good, a definite threat to the people in attendance but events don’t unfold as expected when the man corners and confronts one person.

Peter attempts to intervene, but after a brief altercation both the attacker and his potential victim escape; one on an electric bike the other on foot, leaving Peter and Lewis to wonder what really went down.  Lewis finds a pair of sunglasses and not wanting to be questioned by the Police, who were summoned to the market, they both slip away.

This is the beginning of what turns into a rather complex and bizarre plot, involving a tech thief, a paid assassin, an inventor out for revenge, and a paranoid man who is a danger not just to the local community but to the entire country.

The next day June, believing she knows the man the attacker confronted, decides to see if she can uncover his identity.  As a journalist meantime working on a book, she’s also snagged a desk at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and heads to the office on her bicycle.  When she is sideswiped by a pickup truck, and the driver seems intent on giving her a ride, she senses the encounter wasn’t accidental and deftly makes her escape.

Meanwhile as Peter and Lewis attempt to find the owner of the sunglasses they are met with polite but steady resistance at every turn, a sure sign that something is afoot.

They aren’t wrong….

Peter Ash is a character not unlike Lee Child’s Jack Reacher.  They were both in the Army, both strong silent types, both willing and more than able to jump in and help someone in trouble or in need.  And they seem to rise to the occasion whenever they meet a dangerous and deadly adversary.

Since the author’s first outing, The Drifter, I’ve been waiting and watching for each new novel.  While the plots and action are at times a little over the top, that is part and parcel of the fun and excitement each of his novels generate. Peter is always on the side of the underdog, the oppressed, and even with problems of his own, he relishes the challenges he faces along the way.

Check him out…. you won’t be disappointed.

Respectfully submitted.

Reviewed by guest reviewer Moyra Tarling, April 2021.