Book Review: Hell to Pay by Rachel Amphlett

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Title: Hell to Pay
Series: A Detective Kay Hunter Novel #4
Author: Rachel Amphlett
Narrator: Alison Campbell
Publisher: Saxon Publishing
Publication Date: January 2018

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Purchase Links:
The Author // Audible // iTunes // Amazon

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Hell to Pay
A Detective Kay Hunter Novel #4
Rachel Amphlett
Narrated by Alison Campbell
Saxon Publishing, January 2018
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

From the publisher—

When a road traffic accident on a dark autumn night uncovers a disturbing conspiracy, Detective Sergeant Kay Hunter’s investigation exposes a ruthless serial killer exploiting vulnerable young women.

With her enemies unmasked and her career spiraling out of control, Kay’s determination to seek vengeance for the victims brings her dangerously close to those who want to silence her.

Undeterred, she uncovers the real reason behind a plot to destroy her career and sets in motion a terrifying chain of events.

When Detective Sergeant Kay Hunter is called out late at night by DI Devon Sharp, she wonders why a car accident requires their presence but then Sharp shows her the arm dangling out of the boot. Clearly, the owner of the arm didn’t belong there and the detectives soon learn that the young woman may have been dead when she was put in the boot or may have died in the accident. Whichever it is, something is definitely offkilter but they have no idea where their investigation will take them.

Two years earlier, Kay had been accused of causing the police to have to release a dangerous criminal and, ever since, she has been trying to find out who set her up and has been determined to bring Jozef Demiri to justice. As the current case heats up, she and her colleagues discover some very ugly activities including sex trafficking and murder but also what appears to be corruption within the police, all somehow connected to Demiri. At the same time, Kay becomes painfully aware that she herself is being spied upon but she has no idea who could be doing that and the answers may not come before it’s too late.

In the three previous Kay Hunter books, there is a level of intensity that keeps those stories moving at a rapid pace. That same intensity is here in Hell to Pay but it’s heightened by a deep emotional current running throughout, affecting more than just Kay. Still, Kay is the one who made me sniffle a time or two and I really sympathized with her roiling feelings, especially regarding her lost baby.

Narrator Alison Campbell gets better and better with each book and her easy tone and near-perfect voices make these terrific stories a pleasure to listen to.

I’m sorry this four book tour is coming to an end now; I’ve come to think of these characters as old friends, friends I would like to know in reality. Kay is a warmhearted and trusting person who has had that trust damaged but she never loses sight of her responsibilities and her desire to make things right in the world. I’ll miss her and her husband, Adam, as well as her colleagues—Sharp, Barnes, Carys, Gavin—but wait! I don’t have to say goodbye just yet as the fifth book, Call to Arms, came out last month and I can hardly wait to start.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, April 2018.

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About the Author

Before turning to writing, Rachel Amphlett played guitar in bands, worked as a TV and film extra, dabbled in radio as a presenter and freelance producer for the BBC, and worked in publishing as a sub-editor and editorial assistant.

She now wields a pen instead of a plectrum and writes crime fiction and spy novels, including the Dan Taylor espionage novels and the Detective Kay Hunter series.

Originally from the UK and currently based in Brisbane, Australia, Rachel cites her writing influences as Michael Connelly, Lee Child, and Robert Ludlum. She’s also a huge fan of Peter James, Val McDermid, Robert Crais, Stuart MacBride, and many more.

She’s a member of International Thriller Writers and the Crime Writers Association, with the Italian foreign rights for her debut novel, White Gold sold to Fanucci Editore’s TIMECrime imprint, and the first four books in the Dan Taylor espionage series contracted to Germany’s Luzifer Verlag.

Website // Twitter // Facebook // Goodreads // Instagram

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About the Narrator

I’m a Bristol-based actress who trained at Bretton Hall and the University of Leeds. I’ve been involved with a huge range of projects and love a bit of variety of life!

I’m lucky to be a verstile performer – think everything  from Shakespeare, to  interactive theatre, comedy, solo shows and a whole host of different voice work.

I’m experienced in devising, improvisation, multi-roleing, immersive theatre and voice acting,

​I have a lot of fun performing across the UK and round the world with the award-winning Natural Theatre, specialising in immersive, interactive theatre in surprising places.

​I also teach youth theatre, facilitate theatre workshops and am experienced in corporate roleplay and presenting.

​I’m represented by Louise Alexander at BAM Associates.

Website

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Play an excerpt here.

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Follow the tour here.

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Book Reviews: Infamy by Robert K. Tanenbaum and Robert B. Parker’s The Hangman’s Sonnet by Reed Farrel Coleman

Infamy
A Butch Karp-Marlene Ciampi Thriller #28
Robert K. Tanenbaum
Pocket Books, March 2017
ISBN 978-1-4767-9321-4
Mass Market Paperback

This novel is not up to the usual standards of the author.  Usually, the first half of the book recounts a situation which sets the stage for the other half, which, ordinarily, few do better than Mr. Tanenbaum: a dramatic courtroom scene.  So it is with Infamy.  Unfortunately, however otherwise well-written the novel is, the courtroom scene is flat and perfunctory.

The novel opens with an intelligence raid by a secret U.S. Army unit in Syria which was supposed to capture at least one suspect.  Instead, they find the suspect had shot and murdered other important enemy subjects and obtained important documents which point to a conspiracy to evade sanctions on ISIS and Iraqi oil.  Butch Karp, the New York DA and protagonist of the series, enters the plot when a U.S. Army Colonel is shot and killed in Central Park, and slowly a conspiracy begins to unfold.

There are all sorts of subplots and side issues which add little to the tale, except to make it more complicated than it really is.  This reader was clearly disappointed, especially when the author decided to vent his own political views, sometimes crudely or bluntly chastising those holding conservative views.  It’s too bad, because basically Infamy began with a solid idea, but lost its way along the way from front cover to back cover.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, December 2017.

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Robert B. Parker’s The Hangman’s Sonnet
A Jesse Stone Novel #16
Reed Farrel Coleman
G. P. Putnam’s Sons, September 2017
ISBN 978-0-3991-7144-4
Hardcover

This is the fourth Jesse Stone novel Reed Farrel Coleman has written in the series begun by the late Robert B. Parker.  And he has kept the faith.  Moreover, he has done something the master never did.  He brings in Spenser to play a minor role in solving the mystery which begins with the death of an old woman, a member of the founding family of Paradise, and the ransacking of her home.

Jesse, still reeling from the death of his beloved Diana in his presence, is slowly drinking himself into oblivion.  But that doesn’t stop him from performing his duty as Police Chief, despite the hindrance of the Mayor and her hatchet woman.  The plot basically revolves around the recovery of a supposedly long lost tape made by a now has-been rock star in time for his 70th birthday party.

Coleman performs up to the standards of the late master, while offering a clever plot of his own, written in a slightly different style (few can duplicate the pithy sentences of a Parker novel).  He gives us a deeper insight into Jesse’s personality and presumably shows the force of his iron will.  Well at least let’s hope so.  Presumably we’ll find out in the next volume in the series.

Recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, December 2017.

Book Review: One to Watch by Rachel Amphlett

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Title: One to Watch
Series: A Detective Kay Hunter Novel #3
Author: Rachel Amphlett
Narrator: Alison Campbell
Publisher: Saxon Publishing
Publication Date: October 3, 2017

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Purchase Links:
The Author // Audible // iTunes // Amazon

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One to Watch
A Detective Kay Hunter Novel #3
Rachel Amphlett
Narrated by Alison Campbell
Saxon Publishing, October 2017
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

From the publisher—

Sophie Whittaker shared a terrifying secret. Hours later, she was dead.

Detective Kay Hunter and her colleagues are shocked by the vicious murder of a teenage girl at a private party in the Kentish countryside.

A tangled web of dark secrets is exposed as twisted motives point to a history of greed and corruption within the tight-knit community.

Confronted by a growing number of suspects and her own enemies who are waging a vendetta against her, Kay makes a shocking discovery that will make her question her trust in everyone she knows.

At a large country estate in Kent, a teenaged girl is murdered at a private party and Detective Kay Hunter and her colleagues are shocked at the brutality of the crime and at the reactions of the people involved. Sophie was the daughter of a snooty British aristocrat and her more mild-mannered husband and the party was intended to celebrate a rather odd ceremony for Sophie, one of purity. Some of the tenets of this purity pledge carried their own very creepy tones, not least of which is the idea that the teen girl must be chaste until marriage but the teen boy is forgiven all his behavior once they marry.

This particular crime is a lot more difficult to investigate than some because of the roadblocks put in the team’s way due to the wealth and position of the various parties. DI Sharp assigns Kay and Barnes to follow certain leads while other detectives look into different aspects of the murder but each path brings them to confusing tangents that introduce ever more urgent questions. All the while, DCI Larch seems to be bent on protecting the sensibilities of Sophie’s family as well as another family whose American money apparently make them off limits.

It soon becomes obvious that this is no “routine” killing and an ultra-conservative religious program is in the mix along with greed on all sides while two very different young men are devastated by Sophie’s death…or are they? Could a major secret have been the impetus for the crime and just who was Sophie, anyway? Meanwhile, Kay is still trying to conduct her own investigation into why someone wants to destroy her career and she and her husband, Adam, begin to see that this could ultimately be much more dangerous than they initially thought.

All the characters I’ve come to like so much, and even one or two I don’t like so much, are back in this series entry and I really enjoyed the time I spent with them and the investigative efforts needed to solve this awful murder, sunk in a bog of corruption that is as unpleasant and distasteful as can be.

Once again, narrator Alison Campbell pulled me in with her outstanding work and she is fast becoming one of my favorite audiobook readers. It doesn’t hurt that she had such a good story to work with and the entire series so far has kept me riveted. For anyone looking for a British police procedural series on audio, you cannot do better than this one 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, April 2018.

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About the Author

Before turning to writing, Rachel Amphlett played guitar in bands, worked as a TV and film extra, dabbled in radio as a presenter and freelance producer for the BBC, and worked in publishing as a sub-editor and editorial assistant.

She now wields a pen instead of a plectrum and writes crime fiction and spy novels, including the Dan Taylor espionage novels and the Detective Kay Hunter series.

Originally from the UK and currently based in Brisbane, Australia, Rachel cites her writing influences as Michael Connelly, Lee Child, and Robert Ludlum. She’s also a huge fan of Peter James, Val McDermid, Robert Crais, Stuart MacBride, and many more.

She’s a member of International Thriller Writers and the Crime Writers Association, with the Italian foreign rights for her debut novel, White Gold sold to Fanucci Editore’s TIMECrime imprint, and the first four books in the Dan Taylor espionage series contracted to Germany’s Luzifer Verlag.

Website // Twitter // Facebook // Goodreads // Instagram

************

About the Narrator

I’m a Bristol-based actress who trained at Bretton Hall and the University of Leeds. I’ve been involved with a huge range of projects and love a bit of variety of life!

I’m lucky to be a verstile performer – think everything  from Shakespeare, to  interactive theatre, comedy, solo shows and a whole host of different voice work.

I’m experienced in devising, improvisation, multi-roleing, immersive theatre and voice acting,

I have a lot of fun performing across the UK and round the world with the award-winning Natural Theatre, specialising in immersive, interactive theatre in surprising places.

I also teach youth theatre, facilitate theatre workshops and am experienced in corporate roleplay and presenting.

I’m represented by Louise Alexander at BAM Associates

Website

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Play an excerpt here.

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Follow the tour here.

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Book Review: Beach, Breeze, Bloodshed by John Keyse-Walker

Beach, Breeze, Bloodshed
Teddy Creque Mysteries #2
John Keyse-Walker
Minotaur Books, September 2017
ISBN 978-1-250-14847-6
Hardcover

Constable Teddy Creque returns in Beach, Breeze, Bloodshed, the second book in a series set in the British Virgin Islands. The setting of these books alone makes them worth reading in the Winter. This time, readers get to go with Teddy to Virgin Gorda.

With a beach covered with fine white sand and clear aqua blue water, the section of the island known as The Baths is beautiful. Tourists with cash in hand flock to Virgin Gorda because of the beautiful beaches, so the last thing the island needs is a shark attack. But Constable Creque has been assigned to deal with just that thing. The trunk of a woman’s body has washed up onto the beach. Teddy’s assignment is to find the shark responsible and kill it.  With a multitude of people watching, Teddy goes out to track sharks and find the one responsible. A shark is caught and killed and when cut open, a human hand rolls out of its belly. But soon Teddy begins to suspect that it was not the shark that caused the woman’s death.  As one would expect, not everyone is happy to see Teddy nosing around.

Constable Creque has grown into his role since the first book in the series, Sand, Sun, Murder.  While he seems to have an innate ability for solving crimes, his methods are a bit unorthodox at times. Since his first case when he was nearly killed, Teddy has learned a bit more of what is expected of a good officer including how to get along with his bosses. Still, situations come up that are not in any manual and can’t fit into standard policing. Such is the case with this murder when Teddy’s only apparent witness is a young child who is mute. Again, Teddy figures out a way to work through the problem.

This book is, in my opinion, a much better book than the first book in the series.  The protagonist has grown into his job a bit more. The plot is well done leaving a trail of clues without giving too much away for readers to puzzle over. The entire book just seems to fit together better.

One of the best things in the first book that continues in this book is the excellent descriptions of the various places. Reading this during a bleak week of raw weather, it was a bit like taking a breezy warm vacation to the islands. If you are feeling a bit beaten down by the winter that won’t give up, let me suggest a quick trip to the British Virgin Islands.

Reviewed by guest reviewer Caryn St. Clair, March 2018.

Book Review: Will to Live by Rachel Amphlett

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Title: Will to Live
Series: A Detective Kay Hunter Novel #2
Author: Rachel Amphlett
Narrator: Alison Campbell
Publisher: Saxon Publishing
Publication Date: October 3, 2017

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Purchase Links:
The Author // Audible // iTunes // Amazon

************

Will to Live
A Detective Kay Hunter Novel #2
Rachel Amphlett
Narrated by Alison Campbell
Saxon Publishing, October 2017
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

From the publisher—

Reputation is everything.

When a packed commuter train runs over a body on a stretch of track known to locals as “Suicide Mile”, it soon transpires that the man was a victim of a calculated murder.

As the investigation evolves and a pattern of murders is uncovered, Detective Sergeant Kay Hunter realizes the railway’s recent reputation may be the work of a brutal serial killer.

With a backlog of cold cases to investigate and attempting to uncover who is behind a professional vendetta against her, Kay must keep one step ahead of both the killer and her own adversaries.

When a second murder takes place within a week of the first, she realizes the killer’s timetable has changed, and she’s running out of time to stop him….

Will to Live is the second book in a new crime thriller series featuring Kay Hunter – a detective with a hidden past and an uncertain future….

When a man is found murdered in one of the most frightening ways possible, Kay Hunter and her colleagues have a very difficult task to stop the killer before he…or she…strikes again but this person seems to always be several steps ahead. It doesn’t make things easier that a superior is less than helpful when he doesn’t believe Kay has sufficient reason for her requests but finding that nebulous connection between victims seems to be just out of reach. The deeper the team gets into the case, the more they begin to recognize that there is a very emotional element to the killer’s behavior as one murder after another piles up. The reader gets occasional glimpses into the murderer’s point of view, adding to the tension.

At the same time, Kay is well into an investigation of her own, trying to find out who is sabotaging her career, and the things she’s learning are alarming. When a colleague, Gavin, is attacked, Kay is sure the assault is linked to her activities and she and Adam, her very supportive husband, have to acknowledge that the stakes are higher than she thought. Should she let it rest or does she become even more determined to find out the truth?

Once again, Alison Campbell does a fine job with her narration and she certainly added to my enjoyment of the story and its various characters. I especially like that each voice is distinctive and clearly enunciated, even when deep emotions are at play.

Next up, Book #2, One to Watch, and I’m more than ready to jump in.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, April 2018.

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About the Author

Before turning to writing, Rachel Amphlett played guitar in bands, worked as a TV and film extra, dabbled in radio as a presenter and freelance producer for the BBC, and worked in publishing as a sub-editor and editorial assistant.

She now wields a pen instead of a plectrum and writes crime fiction and spy novels, including the Dan Taylor espionage novels and the Detective Kay Hunter series.

Originally from the UK and currently based in Brisbane, Australia, Rachel cites her writing influences as Michael Connelly, Lee Child, and Robert Ludlum. She’s also a huge fan of Peter James, Val McDermid, Robert Crais, Stuart MacBride, and many more.

She’s a member of International Thriller Writers and the Crime Writers Association, with the Italian foreign rights for her debut novel, White Gold sold to Fanucci Editore’s TIMECrime imprint, and the first four books in the Dan Taylor espionage series contracted to Germany’s Luzifer Verlag.

Website // Twitter // Facebook // Goodreads // Instagram

************

About the Narrator

I’m a Bristol-based actress who trained at Bretton Hall and the University of Leeds. I’ve been involved with a huge range of projects and love a bit of variety of life!

I’m lucky to be a verstile performer – think everything  from Shakespeare, to  interactive theatre, comedy, solo shows and a whole host of different voice work.

I’m experienced in devising, improvisation, multi-roleing, immersive theatre and voice acting,

I have a lot of fun performing across the UK and round the world with the award-winning Natural Theatre, specialising in immersive, interactive theatre in surprising places.

I also teach youth theatre, facilitate theatre workshops and am experienced in corporate roleplay and presenting.

I’m represented by Louise Alexander at BAM Associates

Website

************

Play an excerpt here.

************

Follow the tour here.

***********

Book Review: Pen 33 by Anders Roslund and Borge Hellstrom

Pen 33
An Ewart Grens Thriller #1
Anders Roslund & Borge Hellstrom
Translated from the Swedish by Elizabeth Clark Wessel
Quercus, December 2017
ISBN: 978-1-6814-4013-2
Hardcover

The authors, a crime reporter and an ex-convict, concentrate their efforts on grim, noir fiction.  And Pen 33 does not stray from the mold.  Part of the Detective Superintendent Ewert Grens series, the theme of the novel is pedophilia.  It centers on Bernt Lund, who escapes from prison while serving time for the brutal rape and murder of two very young girls, and repeats the crime on the six-year-old daughter of Fredrik Steffansson while free.

What results from this act is questioned by the authors.  To begin with, the victim’s father shoots Lund. The prosecutor pleads for a life sentence for murder; the defense attorney pleads self-defense on the theory that it was not an act of revenge but prevented Lund from committing similar acts on other children (he was already staking out other girls at day care centers).  Hero or murderer?  That is a basic question asked by the authors, who go on to demonstrate other consequences when Steffansson is initially acquitted.

Unlike the United States, where double jeopardy would apply (this anomaly goes unexplained), the prosecution appeals the verdict and Steffansson is sentenced to ten years and is incarcerated in the very prison from which Lund escaped.  The events and consequences resulting from Steffansson’s shooting affect the entire country, resulting in riots, and raises basic questions regarding duty, the law, and what people are capable of. What is questionable is how the authors choose to end the book. While certainly dramatic, one could envision other solutions. Nonetheless, the novel is recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, December 2017.

Book Review: Written in Blood by Layton Green—and a Giveaway!

Written in Blood
Layton Green
Seventh Street Books, November 2017
ISBN:978-1-63388-361-1
Trade Paperback

In Written in Blood, author Green introduces readers to Detective Joe “Preach” Everson. Following a common path, Green has given readers a flawed protagonist, though Preach’s baggage goes well beyond the ordinary. After suffering a tragedy as a young man, he had a sort of breakdown and fled his hometown of Creeksville, North Carolina. His life path from then until the book opens took him to Bible college, time as a church preacher, a prison chaplain and then as a police officer in Atlanta, where another incident led to another breakdown.

Here we reach the first thing about the novel that just doesn’t quite work. Preach has returned to his hometown and has been hired as a police detective even though he has not been cleared to work from his breakdown. He promises to see a therapist who happens to be a relative. One has to question what police force would hire an emotionally unstable person as a detective and what therapist would risk his or her reputation and licensing to sign off on a deeply troubled soul who has suffered at least two emotional breakdowns to serve as a detective. But let’s accept this as written for the sake of the story.

Preach is barely on the job when he and his partner Kirby are called out to a murder scene in a bookstore. Kirby notices some odd marks on the body which he correctly surmises may be a clue. With the help of Ari, a law student who works part time in the bookstore and is an avid reader, they determine that the crime has been staged to resemble the murder of the pawnbroker  in Crime and Punishment. As I’m sure you can guess, this is the first in a series of murders that happen around town, each with a literary connection. This theme is not new by any means to crime fiction, but for the most part Green does a good job of putting his own twist on the theme.

The two things I liked most about Written in Blood are the character development and the  literary tie-ins to the crimes.  I understand that some avid crime fiction fans do not care for wordy descriptions, but I found the detailed descriptions of the various people very helpful in visualizing them. The murders being staged like murders in well known works of literature was done well.  While I was familiar with all of the works used, I found that I had forgotten some of the details of the various crimes. I loved this part in a geeky sort of way, though I’m not sure a reader unfamiliar with the books would be quite so on board.

Besides the improbability of Preach actually being hired as mentioned before, the only thing that left me a bit cold is that while the focus never exactly was off the murders, the plot took some odd and meandering detours along the way through just about every depravity known to man. I think the book might have been a bit better had those parts been shorter.

Overall, Written in Blood is a good start in what could be an interesting series.

Reviewed by guest reviewer Caryn St. Clair, February 2018.

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To enter the drawing for a print copy
of Written in Blood by Layton Green,
just leave a comment below. The winning
names will be drawn on Friday night,
  April 6th, for one Advance Reading Copy
and one finished trade paperback copy. This
drawing is open to the US and Canada.