Book Review: Complicit by Amy Rivers

Complicit
A Legacy of Silence Novel #1
Amy Rivers
Compathy Press, April 2021
ISBN 978-1-7345160-4-3
Trade Paperback

I had heard about this book and I was looking forward to reading it and expected to like it.  In Complicit we meet Kate Medina, a former prison forensic psychologist, who was doing work she loved until she was brutally attacked by a prisoner.  Battered and bruised she returned to her hometown of Alamogordo, NM and has been there for the past five years.  Those five years have been difficult – her mother died, her father is gravely ill, and she is estranged from her only sibling, a sister who moved to another state, does not stay in touch, and refuses to return to Alamogordo.  Kate is now a school psychologist – an ok job but not what she trained for and loved doing.  Add to that she has had to face Roman, her best friend when they were both teenagers.  The last time they saw each other before Kate left, they found a burned car on the beach with a body in it.  Unfortunately, Roman has never gotten over the fact that Kate went away to college without even a goodbye and never returned until five years ago and they have barely seen each other since her return.

Fast forward to present day and Kate is trying to work with a high school student who is hesitant to talk with her but who is clearly very troubled.  Shortly after trying to talk with that student, another student disappears and Roman who is now a detective with the town’s police force, visits Kate’s office to talk with her about the missing student.  Needless to say, it’s an awkward conversation both due to their history and Kate’s concern about her students’ confidentiality.

From there we begin to learn that something very frightening is happening to women and girls in this relatively small town and that a lot of people seem to know about it including, Kate eventually finds out, someone very close to her and it soon becomes clear to her that she is not safe in this town when she receives anonymous notes demanding she leave.

As I said, I was prepared to like this novel based on others’ opinions.  I wish I could say I liked it, but I didn’t.  I found it very uneven.  On the one hand, parts of it are interesting and move very quickly but other parts are drearily plodding.  The main characters are not fully realized and are two dimensional; the demeanor of each is generally angry and rigid with occasional glimpses of less hostile behavior.  I should also warn you that the story includes dialogue about brutal sexual assaults and abuse of girls and women.

Reviewed by Melinda Drew, March 2021.

Book Review: Viebury Grove by Shannon Kirk @ShannonCKirk @suspensepub

Viebury Grove
Method 15/33, Book II
Shannon Kirk
Suspense Publishing, May 2020
ISBN 978-0-578-63307-7
Trade Paperback

A taut, high-energy, brutal novel focusing on some of the worst and darkest interests of the human animal. Readers discover early on there is a small but close-knit group of wealthy men (of course) who have developed a small expensive underground sex service. They abduct, abuse and murder young women for the “pleasure” of their clientele. The novel is the story on one young woman who escapes the service and plots and plans her revenge for many years.

There are a number of fascinating characters in the story which begins startlingly with murder and then runs for several months as the well-found protagonist moves forward her long-planned case of revenge. She has targeted the people from whom she escaped as a teen girl, a dark, vicious gang of wealthy and even eminent men who kidnap, rape and torture girls and young women as a service for those who can pay.

The novel moves at a high rate of speed and energy as the well-conceived protagonist enlists an odd and fascinating group of experts to help her wreak her revenge. Tagged as a thriller, the novel is unquestionably dark and not for everyone. The writing is excellent, the plot very well executed, and the continuing success of the writer is apparent from the very first to last page.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, January 2021.
http://www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com
Traces, Grand Lac, Reunion, Red Sky.

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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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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Book Review: A Wolf in the Woods by Nancy Allen

A Wolf in the Woods
An Ozarks Mystery #4
Nancy Allen
Witness Impulse, February 2018
ISBN 978-0-06-243878-2
Ebook

From the publisher—

McCown County assistant prosecutor Elsie Arnold is prepping an assault case when a girl is found beaten and bloodied at a roadside no-tell motel. Elsie tries to convince the teen to reveal who attacked her, but Mandy is too scared—and stubborn—to cooperate… and then she disappears. Elsie’s positive a predator is targeting the Ozark hills, yet the authorities refuse to believe their small town could be plagued by sex trafficking.

Then middle school student Desiree Wickham goes missing, but only Elsie suspects it could be connected to Mandy’s assault. As she digs deeper into the events leading up to Desiree’s disappearance, she stumbles upon an alarming discovery: local girls are falling prey to a dubious online modeling agency, and never seen again. Elsie shares her concerns with Detective Ashlock and the FBI, but they shut her out.

She takes matters into her own hands and lands an interview with the head of the modeling agency. But when she meets him face-to-face, she discovers the fate of Desiree and Mandy… and becomes his newest captive. Elsie’s desperate to free the girls—and save herself—before the unspeakable happens. And she’s in for the fight of her life.

Sex trafficking is becoming a fairly common theme in crime fiction and I, for one, am glad to see authors shedding light on this hidden world that brings such devastation to girls and young women as well as their families. In this particular story, Elsie Arnold is a worthy warrior in the fight to obtain justice.

When first one girl and then another go missing and the local cops and FBI seem to be dismissive of Elsie’s concerns, she decides to follow her hunches on her own. It will come as no surprise to the seasoned crime fiction reader that her impulsive actions get her in trouble but Elsie is no dimwit. This woman is intelligent and driven by a need to set things right but she’s not a professional investigator so, of course, she makes mistakes, some of them real doozies.

Speaking of mistakes, is Elsie’s boyfriend, Detective Bob Ashlock, one of them? Some readers, including myself, might think so but Elsie hasn’t reached her point of no return yet and, to be honest, her attention right now has to be on this case, especially once she becomes a target herself.

I was first introduced to Elsie and this series two years ago with the third book, The Wages of Sin, and I thought then that author Nancy Allen was somebody I was very glad to have “discovered”. My opinion has not changed; if anything, Ms. Allen is even better with this entry and I really am anticipating the next book.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, March 2018.

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Purchase Links:

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Kobo
// Amazon

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An Excerpt from A Wolf in the Woods

Prologue

A dark haired man lounged behind a battered desk in a second floor room at an EconoMo motel that sat on the highway in flyover country, Missouri. He pulled up Skype on his laptop and studied his own image on the computer screen, rubbing the tattoo that covered his neck. Behind him, the unmade bed was visible on the screen. A thin cotton sheet covered the form of a young girl.

He adjusted the angle to cut her from the shot. The bed disappeared, replaced by beige curtains at the window, hanging askew on the rod.

The place was a dump. He could afford better accommodations, without a doubt. It was business, and business was booming. His greatest challenge was procuring sufficient supply to meet the constant demand.

On the desktop, bottles were scattered near the computer. Alprazolam. Oxycodone. Rohypnol. Diazepam. Three value packs of Benadryl: cherry flavored. A plastic bottle of Aristocrat vodka sat beside a jumbo container of Hawaiian Punch.

As he pushed them aside, the bottle of roofies rolled off the desktop and onto the dirty carpet. He caught it just before it rolled under the dresser.

A ding notified him: his Skype appointment was ready. Right on time. He liked the girls to be punctual.

He hit the button on the mouse and fixed a smile on his face. “Lola! How you doing, baby!”

A giggling girl with a mane of curly blonde hair greeted him onscreen. “Tony, you’re so funny. I’m not Lola, I’ve told you a zillion times.”

“But you look like a Lola. If you want to make it in the modeling trade, you’ll have to project glamour. Drama.” He stretched his arms over his head, displaying muscled biceps covered in ink, and locked his hands behind his neck.

“Cool.” Her eyes shone.

“Leave that country girl persona behind in Podunk. Where are you from again?”

“Barton. Barton, Missouri. Where’s Podunk?”

He laughed, running his hand over his thick hair. “Podunk is where you’re sitting right now. What you’re itching to ditch. How’s life?”

Desiree shrugged, pulling a face.

“They still giving you shit at school, baby?”

She rolled her head back onto her neck. “All. The. Time.”

“And how’s living at home?”

“Lame.”

“Wish you could leave it all behind?”

“Totally.”

The girl turned her head; he heard a whisper from someone off-screen. Sharply, he asked: “Are you alone?”

A second head appeared over Lola’s shoulder. He saw a mixed race girl. She was taller than Lola, but he pegged her at the same age: an adolescent, around fourteen.

And she was a diamond in the rough—a black diamond. Unblemished skin, full lips, high cheekbones. Lola said, “You asked if I had any friends who wanted to meet you.”

He smiled, tapping his hand on the counter. “Who’s this?”

The tall girl looked at her friend, then into the computer. “I’m Taylor Johnson.”

“And you’re interested in modeling?”

She blinked. A nervous twitch. He shot a grin, to reassure her. “You’ve got the bone structure for it.”

The tall girl pinched her lips together. “Maybe. I think so.”

“We’ll need to conduct some auditions by video, maybe an interview, before you can qualify for a live shoot at the agency.”

She looked skittish. He wouldn’t get anything from her today.

“Let’s just get acquainted, okay?” He was about to launch into his patter: find out her story, gain her trust.

But a moan sounded from the bed behind him. The girl was coming around. He glanced over, fearful that she might raise a ruckus that could scare off his new prospects.

Tony picked up his phone. “Aw shit. Call’s coming in from one of our clients. I gotta take it.” He winked and shut off Skype just in time.

In a weak voice, she said, “Tony. Help me. Please, take off the cuffs.”

He sighed. Picking up a dirty plastic cup, he poured a measure of vodka and Benadryl, and topped it off with the red punch.

The girl spoke again, in a pleading tone. “Don’t make me do it, Tony. It hurts.”

He stirred the drink with his finger and walked toward the bed. “Mandy, Mandy. You look like you could use a magic drink, baby. This will fix you right up.”

The girl tried to sit up as he extended the red plastic cup. Tony stared down at her, shaking his head. “What’s that saying? ‘The customer is always right.’ You know what you got to do.”

The girl began to thrash against the mattress. But she was handcuffed to the metal bed frame.

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Excerpt from A Wolf in the Woods by Nancy Allen. Copyright © 2018 by Nancy Allen. Reproduced with permission from Witness Impulse. All rights reserved.

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About the Author

Nancy Allen practiced law for 15 years as Assistant Missouri Attorney General and Assistant Prosecutor in her native Ozarks.

She tried over 30 jury trials, including murder and sexual offenses, and is now a law instructor at Missouri State University.

Catch Up With Ms. Allen On:
Website –
nancyallenbooks.com
Goodreads – Nancy Allen
Twitter – @TheNancyAllen
& Facebook – NancyAllenAuthor

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Book Reviews: Under Your Skin by Sabine Durrant and Windigo Island by William Kent Krueger

Under Your SkinUnder Your Skin
Sabine Durrant
Emily Bestler Books/Atria Books, April 2015
ISBN 978-1-4767-1628-2
Trade Paperback

In the pre-dawn hours, Gaby Mortimer, a successful 42-year-old “presenter” on a popular mid-morning current affairs tv show, is taking her usual run through the woods near her home near London when she comes upon the dead body of a young woman.  And her life will never be the same.  (I should add here that the author had my rapt attention within those first few pages.)

Gaby immediately calls the police, and they soon arrive at the scene:  PC Morrow, a woman who “looks about twelve . . . small and freckly,” and DI Perivale, of the CID.  Till now, Gaby has led what many would call a charmed life: a successful career, married to a man she loves (although the marriage has fallen into a somewhat imperfect state of late) and an eight-year-old daughter she adores.  But all of that is threatened as Perivale seems to focus on Gaby when some evidence seems to point to her not as the horrified witness to a gruesome murder, but as a suspect, and her nightmare begins.

The book is wonderful well-written and –plotted, and I can say no more for fear of giving anything away.  Suffice it to say that the conclusion is totally unexpected, and the twists and turns of plot are nothing less than stunning.  I must admit that I had to put the book down briefly when I came within about 20 pages of the ending:  An instance of delayed gratification, as I couldn’t imagine what was coming next, and didn’t want the book to end.

Highly recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, April 2015.

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Windigo IslandWindigo Island
William Kent Krueger
Atria Books, May 2015
ISBN: 978-1-476-74924-2
Trade Paperback

When the body of a 14-year-old Ojibwe girl washes up on Windigo Island, a rocky outcrop on Lake Superior, Cork O’Connor and his daughter, Jenny, embark on a crusade to rescue another teenager, Mariah, who had run away from home with her, ending up as prostitutes in Duluth, pimped by a man known, strangely enough, as Windigo.  The windigo is a mythical beast thought to rip hearts out of bodies and eat them, or a vengeful spirit called Michi Peshu, according to Ojibwe lore.

With the help of Mariah’s cousin, a game warden, her mother, and Henry Meloux, Cork and Jenny follow a thin trail to find the girl with little help from other victims of the pimps who are virtually brainwashed and refuse to talk, or a very few others.  What follows is an exciting investigation that leads to the uncovering of an extensive sex trafficking ring, many of whose victims are Native Americans steeped in poverty and abuse, especially in the Duluth and Twin Cities areas.

The novel graphically portrays the squalid cycle of poverty, abuse, alcoholism and runaway children on the reservations and the men who prey on them.    Once again, the author has the opportunity to demonstrate a deep empathy for the Ojibwe, their values and traditions, as well as describing his love of the North Woods.  All this and one of the most exciting finishes recently read by this reviewer.

Highly recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, May 2015.

Book Review: Carrier by Anne Tibbets

CarrierTour Banner

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Title: Carrier
Series: The Line #1
Author: Anne Tibbets
Published by: Carina Press
Publication date: June 16th 2014
Genres: Dystopia, New Adult

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CarrierCarrier
The Line #1
Anne Tibbets
Carina Press, June 2014
ISBN 9781426898495
Ebook

From the publisher—

Twenty-two -year-old Naya has spent nearly half her life as a sex slave in a government institution called The Line. When she’s kicked out after getting pregnant with twins, she’s got no way to earn a living and a horrifying choice to make: find someone to replace her, or have her babies taken in her stead.

A doctor with a history of aiding ex-Line girls, Ric Bennett, wants to help. He runs a team of rebels that can delete Naya’s records and free her forever. But when The Line sniffs out his plan, things get bloody, fast. Naya means more to them than just a chance at fresh faces—her twins are part of the government’s larger plan.

As they hide from government search parties, Ric comes to admire Naya’s quiet strength. And Naya realizes Ric might be a man she can trust. If they make it off the grid, they could build a new life. But first they’ll have to survive the long, vicious reach of The Line.

If I leave a potential reader with only one impression, it must be this: don’t let the synopsis of this book deter you from reading this book because you don’t care for sexual themes. Carrier is so much more than that and, in fact, the author takes the admonition to “show, not tell” to heart but stops short of making this important theme too graphic, in my opinion. Yes, Naya has been a sex slave for years but we first meet her at the end of her captivity. There are other uncomfortable elements, such as a tyrannical and evil government and an economy brought to its knees, but these are themes that we should not ignore in today’s uncertain times.

In this future society, Naya has had a life that would be considered horrendous in any day and age and is now faced with an impossible choice. Can she really betray another young girl by convincing her a life of constant prostitution is favorable to the abject poverty and oppression she now lives? Would it be possible for Naya to hand her babies over to  the government or is she destined to return to The Line?

My only real quibble with Ms. Tibbets’ story is that coincidence seems to come into play a little too often, putting Naya and other characters in the right place at the right time, so to speak. Beyond that, the premise is a good one on several levels, not least of which is the strong reminder that many, many women and girls around the world today are in dire situations much like Naya’s and it’s far too easy for us to look the other way or just to forget.

Naya is, of course, the central character of Carrier and is remarkably resilient considering her past and her present but there are others who also stand out. Ric, the young doctor who wants to help, has his own past but has found a way to make a difference and to fight back against the government which is, in reality, a huge corporation run amok. Evie is a young girl who could be Naya at a much younger age and she grips our hearts with fear for what her future might become while Shirel is a stark reminder of what economic ruin can mean to people with no way out.

One dream sequence is bound to make any reader uneasy at best but I believe it’s important and is at the heart of the story. Skip it if you must but don’t skip the entire book. Fiction makes harsh themes a little more palatable but, when all is said and done, it does no good to intellectually object to certain human behaviors unless we have emotional knowledge of what they really mean. Still, it’s the little touches that elevate Carrier above the usual dystopian pack, things like Naya’s fear of being touched and, yet, her strength and her hope in the face of nearly impossible odds.

Book Two is Walled, in progress now, and I will be be impatiently waiting for it so I can spend more time with characters I’ve come to know and admire.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, July 2014.

About the Author

 

Anne TibbetsAnne Tibbets is an SCBWI award-winning and Smashwords.com Best Selling author. After writing for Children’s television, Anne found her way to young/new adult fiction by following what she loves: books, strong female characters, twisted family dynamics, magic, sword fights, quick moving plots, and ferocious and cuddly animals.

Along with CARRIER, Anne is also the author of the young adult fantasy novella, THE BEAST CALL and the young adult contemporary, SHUT UP.

Anne divides her time between writing, her family, and three furry creatures that she secretly believes are plotting her assassination.

Find her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/AnneTibbetsAuthor or on Twitter @WriteforCoffee. To contact Anne, visit www.annetibbets.com and click the ‘CONTACT’ tab.

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Book Review: White Ginger by Thatcher Robinson

White GingerWhite Ginger
Thatcher Robinson
Seventh Street Books, October 2013
ISBN 978-1-61614-817-1
Trade Paperback

When you’re looking for a missing person, there only one person you should call. Bai Jiang. The People Finder. And in San Francisco’s Chinatown she’s the one you don’t want to make mad. Because has a tendency to strike back. Sometimes with a knife. This is White Ginger and this book will take you from the triad run streets of Chinatown to a hotel in Vancouver, to a barren piece of land outside of Sacramento. Jiang visits them all…with death on her tail.

Bai Jiang is a people finder. Her current case has her looking for a teenager who was sold by her brother to a gang who would use her as a sex slave. However, Jiang has more problems on her plate than a missing girl. These include: troubles with a powerful lawyer over an incident at her daughter’s school; battling her emotions regarding her ex husband who is a triad enforcement officer; and tracking down the person or persons involved with taking out a contract on her life.

The fun gimmick Robinson uses is Chinese proverbs that he works into each chapter. Jiang is a tough, sometimes cynical woman with heart and emotions that aren’t far below the surface. The action is quick and decisive, the characters are serious and motivated, the story doesn’t keep you waiting for something to happen. Welcome to Chinatown for an adventure likely to leave you wanting more.

Reviewed by Stephen L. Brayton, August 2013.
Author of Night Shadows, Beta and Alpha.