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Archive for the ‘suspense’ Category


Once in a while, my inner conspiracist gets the best of me and I feel the need to read about shadowy folks and such. So when I came across The Network and its synopsis (on the cover) I could not help myself. So enough with the blah-blah-blah and other such pleasantries and let’s get on with the bloody review.
Jack Logan is an investigative reporter living in New York. One late night, his life is interrupted by a US Senator named Malcolm Phillips. Phillips is a wee bit bat-shit crazy and panicky as he swears that his life is in danger and makes Jack promise to protect his wife Taylor and to find someone named Jeremy. Ah yes, Jack and Taylor was an item in the past. At first, Jack did not know what to grasp from that strange late night visit until Phillips is found dead in a Micronesian hotel room; an apparent victim of an allergy attack. Right. And everything goes full throttle from this point. As Taylor and Jack work together to find Jeremy, they find themselves being pursued by some very formidable and efficient assailants that are not exactly in the mood for tea and scones. Leading the pursuit is the enigmatic Damon Crosse, the head of shadowy firm known as the Institute, that has indoctrinated a generation of countless political and media power players that has basically turned the world upside down with shitty offerings such as reality TV. I’ve always suspected as much. Unknown to Taylor and Jack, Damon’s pursuit is aimed at capturing Taylor, for she is the key to finding some Biblical treasure that is capable of wielding untold power to the one that knows its true value.
About 400 pages long, Network is a thrilling ride to be sucked into (especially when you’re stuck at home during a bleedy pandemic) where Jack and Taylor is in a literal fight of good versus evil. Think Jason Bourne meets Davinci Code meets Tomb Raider (sort of) meets Constantine (yes, the Keanu Reeves movie). If you are a slow reader, you’ll find your pace slightly quickened as you race towards the end of each page to see what awaits you on the next page. There are some Judeo-Christian themes appears throughout the story that adds greatly to moments of redemption and mercy. Yes, sometimes no matter how far you’ve traveled down those dark paths in life, you can still make u-turns. Damon Crosse is a terrifying villain to the point that I’ll have to admit that the ending is going to be quite a doozy that’ll send some folks reeling. And yes, it might give you some sleepless nights as you try to figure out who’s really pulling the strings in this world. But until then, enjoy the read and sleep tight.

P.S. Hope to read MORE (wink, wink), Miss Shaw.

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What can I say? Looking back at the list of books I’ve read during 2019, it is disturbing to note that I’ve been reading … nay… consuming a lot of horror novels. Dark, disturbing and sometimes, stomach churning horror novels. I don’t know what that says about me, though it might explain my (perpetual) single status. Whatever. Their loss. Ever since NOS4A2, I’ve been fascinated with Joe Hill’s writing, and though I’m not a big fan of anthologies (don’t get me wrong, I’ve read a good few) I like reading Mr. Hill’s offerings (remember Strange Weather, folks?). So when I saw Full Throttle staring at me from the “New Arrivals” shelf, I figured why not … it’s not like I’ve got a string of dates lined up and seemingly sane folks can’t live on binge-watching the telly (I think I’m sane). But enough with the bollocks and let’s get on with the blooming review (so you folks can get back to your holiday festivities such as sipping eggnog and cuddling up to a Love Actually on Blu –ray … what, only me on that one, I’ve detoured … and revealed much).

Now in the last few months, I’ve serenaded you with the dark and disturbing, lotion-in-the-basket, sort of horror. Full Throttle is a nice “break” away from such. And yes, I am being extremely generous in the use if the word “break”. Full Throttle is a delightful collection stories that are frightening but not always (except for a few) in the preternatural sense, ranging from cautionary to vengeful to hear-touchingly creepy to (yes) macabre.

    To avoid spoiling the stories for my fellow readers and coming off like a complete tosser, I’ll offer up a taste of what is in Throttle:

  • A bunch of bikers carrying a dark secret finds themselves unwitting victims of a mysterious truck driver.
  • Teens visit a seaside carnival and youthful bravado leads to an assault on an innocent carousel worker … and unleashing a terrifying and frightening secret that would change their lives.
  • A bookmobile driver finds that his mobile library serves an interesting set of patrons: the dearly departed (though I must say as a librarian, my work with the public has it limits).
  • A girl and her AI companion, in a futuristic world, puts human morality under a magnifying glass and a sad commentary is revealed.
  • A Twitter user visits a horror-themed circus and finds themselves in a terrifying world. Or is it just a publicity stunt?
  • A call for help in a tall, grassy area at the side of the road, in the middle of nowhere, lures unsuspecting Samaritans to a sinister setting. They’ve made the movie adaptation (In The Tall Grass) on Netflix. The book and the movie versions differ slightly and that’s all this bloke’s saying.
  • A patriot separatist plans an act of domestic terrorism (shocker), but his past misdeeds have plans for him and his associates.

Bloody hell, I said I’d give you sampling and just may have screened the entire blooming book for you. To quote the immortal Marlene Dietrich: “Can’t help it”. And yes, I just quoted Fraulein Dietrich.

Though Full Throttle won’t have you cowering under the sheets in bowel-pinching fear, the stories are riveting and delightful chiller-suspense, mixed bag. Especially on a cold Christmas night for those that don’t fancy watching the telly with any Christmas themed movies (particularly ones featuring Liam Neeson, Hugh Grant and Emma Thompson). And most of all, it’ll make you appreciate some of the good anthologies that are out there. And I am looking forward to the second season of NOS4A2. Good show, Mr. Hill. No really, it is a jolly good show.

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Stephen King is having a really cool year. The second part of IT was in the theatres (it was bloody awesome … no pun intended … ok, maybe just a little). And the sequel to The Shining, Doctor Sleep (which I reviewed several years ago … feel free to look it up), made it to the movies this month (about bloody time). Needless to say, I saw it and Rebecca Ferguson played a delightful Rose the Hat (gave me the hibby-jibbies). So when I heard that this book was on the horizon, I just couldn’t wait and it was spared very little resting time in the stacks at my branch. But enough with the blah-blah-blah, pleasantries and other such bollocks and let’s get on with the blasted review. Yeah?

Tim Jamieson has come to a sudden dead-end in his career, as cop in a Florida town, and has decided to settle for the “greener pastures” of (get this) New York City. An overbooked flight changes his mind and he ends up hitchhiking (with over two thousand dollars for giving up his seat on the plane) towards the North. He soon finds himself in a small, unknown town in the South Carolina. He settles and finds a job as a night knocker: basically a cop that patrols the town and knocks on the doors of businesses and certain individuals in order to make sure all is well. The pay sucks, it is simple and he is unarmed, but life in this town is just as simple and nice. Or so it seems … for the time being.

Luke Ellis is twelve-year old kid. He is your typical twelve year old with a few minor exceptions: he is quite the child prodigy and when he is in a certain mood eating utensils and other things tend to move around on their own. Yes, Luke is telekinetic. And then one night, Luke’s parents are murdered and Luke is kidnapped and brought to a strange place in Maine known as …. (wait for it) … The Institute. The institute is run by a psychotic, Nurse Ratched type named Mrs. Sigsby and is staffed by a bunch of motherless, ex-military types of varying specialties. On entrance to the Institute many of the kids are told a yarn about them serving their country and saving the world …. and then the brutality …er, testing begins. Despite these are pre-pubescent teens, failure to confirm is met with physical abuse and even a form of water torture that makes waterboarding feel like a quaint baptism. Wait, a minute … children being separated from families and treated badly? Sounds familiar. Maybe not, only from the strange and twisted mind of King. Aye, that’s it. Along the way Luke befriends Kalisha Benson (who sounds like the Afro-American girl in last season’s Stranger Things), Nick Wilholm (the rebel), Avery and George Iles. Sort of like a twisted verstion of the Breakfast Club, except that these kids never go home, detention seems permanent and Mr. Vernon does not give out 500 word essays to write when they act up … they either get pummeled or tortured. But all is not lost, since the kids have found a friend in the form of Maureen Alvorson (a woman that re-stocks the vending machine that offers cigarette-type looking candies and alcohol … yes, you read right, among other things). The bad news, in all this, is that the kids don’t know that mom and dad are dead. The really bad news is that Maureen has a sinister ulterior motive that is unknown to these desperately, trusting teens. The kids find out that the Institute is divided into two parts: The Front Half where the new “recruits” are initially deployed for the Guantanamo Experience and then … there is the Back Half where kids simply disappear and are never heard from … ever … and it also features are weird humming sound. When that weird humming sounds changes to a pitch somebody in the world dies … puppies (thankfully) are spared. Somewhere along the line, Luke finds out the fate of his parents despite the Institute’s attempt to isolate him from that information and decides to go Freddy Mercury … and break free. It is during his strange odyssey (which would explain the cover) from the Institute that he crosses paths with Tim Jamieson … and needless to say … the shit hits the fan. And this where I stop for I fear that I will be spilling some unnecessary beans. To say more would be a complete and utter tosser to spoil for everyone … so there.

It. Is. Premium. King. Grabbed from various goings-on in this messed up world King stitches together a frightening quilt of a tale (or is it?) that is bloody disturbing yet intensively-mesmerizing that’ll leave you clinging on to the edge of the covers, as you battle insignificant things like eating, sleeping and bodily functions … all the way the breathtaking conclusion. Though there aren’t any preternatural creatures lurking around, this just might be his most disturbing and frightening yet. Why? Just look around us. Need I say more. And some of us just might utter a silent prayer and hope that this stuff remains bound and condemned to the pages of fiction. Mr. King, you remain America’s scary yet delightful uncle. Jolly good show, my good man.

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It’s been almost a year since I reviewed Christopher Rice’s Bone Music and I thought it was a delightful pilot for his Burning Girl thriller. So after having read this book I became like Kirsten Dunst (in Interview of the Vampire) and I wanted more. Apparently, my book lust didn’t go unnoticed and when Echo showed up in my library’s book list for purchase, it was met with wide open arms (and maybe some drooling and incoherent babbling). When it finally made it to the stacks, certain books were sacrificed (sorry Ben MacIntyre) and like a starving lycanthrope … pretty much pounced on it. But enough about my melodrama concerning anticipated books and other such bollocks (possible signs that I need to go out more), and let’s get on with the blooming review. Yeah?
Blood Echo returns with Charlotte Rowe (nee Trinia Pierce) who now works for Graydon Pharmaceuticals and its enigmatic CEO Cole in a very covert, black-ops capacity: she uses her ability to track down predator scum, and rips them a new one (in some cases, literally). In the beginning of Echo Charlotte is tracking a new tosser named Davies that has a penchant for abducting certain types of women, killing them, and using their skin to make things like belts and wallets. Yes, I can see images of Silence of the Lamb’s Buffalo Bill emerging in your minds but unlike Bill, Davies is not your Bed-Bath-And-Beyond type of serial killer (no lotion in baskets and such). Sorry, I couldn’t help that. Somewhere, along the line, the hunt closed in on Davies and what could have been simple walk-in-the-park operation almost turned into a disaster (almost) with some surprising results. After recovering Charlotte returns to the quiet town of Altamira for some rest and some loving from her (former bully turned …) boyfriend Luke Prescott. Just as Charlotte is being content to spend most of her days smelling roses and having a dizzying amount of sex with Luke, a battered woman, Lacey Shannon, shows up in Luke Prescott’s office. She blames a certain Jordy Clements for her predicament and wants him arrested. Jordy Clement is a young twit whose daddy was awarded a lucrative construction project in Altamira, hence Jordy thinks he’s the dog’s bollocks and has become a class-A wanker all over town. Luke decides to investigate this and after a bit of Teatro De Machismo, Jordy finds himself in a nice comfortable cell. And then it gets strange, as Luke receives a call from Cole Graydon to set Jordy free. To add to the strangeness, Lacey Shannon, has disappeared. As Luke investigates, he and Charlotte are unwittingly sucked into a conspiracy of which Jordy is central figure and involving some Proud Boy types. But is it a coincidence or was this meant for Charlotte to do her She-Hulk impression and take care of some more tossers? I’m afraid you’ve been misguided if you think I’m going to tell you this. Yes, I’m aware of my strange ability to spoil movies and books for people (sorry to a certain group of folks back in the 90s the never got to appreciate the Sixth Sense ending … yeah, in my 20s and no filter, impulse control) … so I’m trying to keep this “ability” under control. And … I have detoured. Also there is a touching return of hacker extraordinaire, Bailey, and Dylan, (psychopathic) former SEAL and scientist. Now most folks would (logically) assume this is where the book ends. Wrong. Rice , with just a thin sliver pages, packs in some delightful, jaw dropping revelations and mind-blowing twists that will leave some folks agape, staring into space and …even as the last word fades from their mind … in anticipation of the next Burning Girl book. Sorry Chris, old chap.

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One of the things I get to do on a monthly basis is to sit down with a big list of upcoming books both fiction and nonfiction and decide which ones will make it into my library branch. It is a tedious, but it lets me know what’s out there and though not everything I desire do make it, at least I know that other branches have it and I can stalk their stacks. A few months ago, I came across Vigilance in one of those lists and as I read the synopsis, at first gave me a chuckle and I knew it was only a matter of time before someone wrote about this. And then I decided … why not. But enough with the bollocks of librarian life and let’s get on with the blooming review. Yeah?

John McDean is on top of his game (literally) and the name of the game is Vigilance. Apparently, mass shootings have become as common as having cereal for breakfast in the morning, which someone decided to not only monetize this “phenomenon” but turn it into a game show. This John McDean’s Noble Prize moment. And yes, welcome to 2030 America, where your murder will be televised on ONT (Our Nation’s Truth) tv network. Yes, I kid you not, that’s name of the network … sound’s almost like OAN (but we’re not going to touch that mess … for now). To get on the show, anyone can register online and then they have to go through a “screening” process. Apparently, not just any backwater psychopath can muster the cut (to paraphrase Debra Foreman from Real Genius): folks have to have standards. Bloody hell, an actual Debra Foreman reference (Google her, folks). For those that make the cut, the rules are “simple”: if the active shooter dies, all of his contacts get one million dollars; the surviving shooter (yes, there are more than one) providing there are no civilians, other shooters or law enforcement official left alive in the “arena”, gets 20 million dollars; if a civilian or law enforcement official kills the shooter they get 5 million dollars. Now here’s the kicker, the “arena” could be anywhere at anytime on a given day. In other words people know the day, they just don’t know the when or where. Who knows, it could be the very bar that you are sitting in watching the next Vigilance broadcast (order something more than the hot wings for it might be your last meal). Or the mall. Or a metro station. Hence, this is why people are encouraged to be armed where ever they go, just in case. Hence, the name Vigilance.

Believe it or not, Vigilance is a bit of sci-fi dystopia as we deal with exquisitely vicious uses of big data, AI that produce computer-generated, ex-military, tactical commentators (yes, there are commentators during the bloody show) or can real-time CGI an armed Vietnamese girl into an apple pie Nordic American female spouting all kind of propaganda bollocks as she squeezes off rounds. Then there is virtual and holographic sex involved. Just going to leave it at that. The book is mostly centered around to perspectives: John McDean and Delyna, a waitress at the South Tavern Bar. A new game of Vigilance is about to begin and McDean is about to cream his pants as he and his staff analyzes possible game arena prospects. On the other side of town, Delyna is serving up hot wings and drinks to bunch of mostly armed patrons all gathered there to watch the next exciting game of Vigilance. Yes, hot wings, alcohol … and armed patrons … what can possibly go wrong? I’m afraid that you’ll have to read that for yourself. Trust me, it’s good.
Slightly under 200 pages, Bennett packs a ton of suspense, gore, dark humour and surprising twists (with a smattering of racism and misogyny) … all done at a decent pace. Vigilance doesn’t come across as preachy (as some might logically assume) but it entertains while subtly screaming a wake up call of sorts. It is simply a story projected into a stark future using a social plague as an exaggerated background. It is the Purge meets the Running Man meets Battle Royale. And whether you are pro-gun, no-gun or in-between you’ll start reading Vigilance with one reaction and end with another. And for the most … one can only hope that Vigilance remains condemned to the white pages of fiction (in light of all the bollocks we are enduring) and is not a harbinger of things to come. And for some, might actually give us something to think about. Bloody hell.

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It is a new year. 2019. Bloody hell, and it has already started off with some fireworks , aside from what we may have experienced on New Year’s Eve depending where you were on this planet (for me it was a rainy New Year’s eve in NYC … joy). So to all my mates that drop and read this humble blog (in the tradition of “better late than never” and it is almost a month late) let me say: Happy New Year. Hope everyone had a great start to the new year.

And now a confession: I’ve been bad … nay, I’ve been naughty. I mean, spanking-without-access-to-a-safe-word naughty. Too much information? Dreadfully sorry. But here goes. Yes, I’ve been reading a great series that I’ve NEGLECTED to tell you mates about. Well for one I thought it was a trilogy and I was hoping that it would have ended sooner to present it in all its glory to you so you can indulge in a bit of binge reading. Alas, it turned into what “seemed” like a quadrology, but is really a pentalogy (well, according to the synopsis they mention words like “climactic conclusion”, so yes, it is safe to assume the series is coming to an end this summer. The first four (in sequence) are as follows: The Silent Corner, The Whispering Room, The Crooked Staircase, and The Forbidden Door. Coming in May (the climactic conclusion): The Open Window.

So what’s this all about? Ah, in other words , enough with the bollocks and let’s get this review going. Well, I don’t see why not. Yeah?

Jane Hawk could easily be a Victoria Secret model, but she is actually a tough-as-nails FBI agent that knows and does her job well. When a bunch of exemplary individuals across the country, inexplicably, start staging mass murder suicide or just plain suicide, Ms. Hawk is intrigued and wants to investigate. Things get dicey when her own husband, a war veteran, inexplicably commits suicide in the most goriest fashion which not only leaves Jane stunned, but now very suspicious and even more intrigued … and thirsting for some revenge. Then there is pressure from the top to cease her investigations into the suicides. And to make things better, someone threatens her about kidnapping her son, Travis, and selling him into an overseas sex trafficking auction. Yes, that would make most people back down. But this is Jane Hawk (think Agent Scully meets Sarah Connor with a hint Benecio Del Toro’s Sicario character) who simply replies by going off grid, hiding her son, and start hunting down leads. What she finds is a conspiracy led by tech wizards and members of national security that is bent on literally turning people into everyday Manchurian candidates … on global level. Hint: let’s just say if you’re paranoid about vaccines now, these books aren’t going to help ease that inner conspiracy theorist in you any better. And yes, the science is very possible. The Jane Hawk series (thus far) is suspense on steroids and never a dull page. Every page turn feels like you’re navigating in a large, dark mansion as you’re being stalked by killer with ninja skills … wielding machetes … and wearing night vision goggles. You’ll root for Jane as she dismantles the conspiracy, one cell at time along with the help of ragtag “resistance” : an Eastern European chain-smoking, female document forger, two wounded military veterans (that are Travis’s guardians), a no-nonsense sheriff from Minnesota that has personal stake in this, an amorous (and equally vicious) cartel bigwig that specializes in untraceable cars/weapons , and an autistic software designer and his two Dobermans. The bad guys are vile and so strategic that you’ll admire their brilliance and hate them with equal passion because some of the things that these wankers do are so dark and disturbing … that it might give some folks a ton of sleepless nights. But then again, our reality is not exactly giving us any sleep as of lately (yes, I’ll spare you the political blah blah blah and other such bollocks). A bit of a warning: don’t get too attached to characters BOTH good AND bad. Yes, the good guys get their share, but when the bad guys get theirs it such a delight, and in some case down right hilarious.

The Jane Hawk series feels like Stephen King, Robert Ludlum and Robin Cook had a strange ménage-a-trois and this was the love child (please try not to imagine that …PLEASE). Koontz spares little and most readers will find themselves basically inhaling the entire series only to find themselves “jonesing” for that quick fix that is going to come … in MAY (dear sweet heaven, why, WHY !!!). There is mention on the net that there is talks about a TV adaptation of this series. I’m guessing a toss-up between Hulu, Amazon, or Netflix (please let it be Netflix). Or heaven forbid, HBO or Showtime (in which case I’ll wait till it trickles down to DVD or Netflix … I’m patient). But in the meanwhile, you can beat the networks and simply binge read the books. Happy New Year, mates.

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Bone Music is centered around Charlotte Rowe. What can we say about Ms. Rowe? She’s had a strange life and it only gets stranger as the book goes on (p.s. the “stranger” thing might be the biggest understatement … ever). Born Trinia Pierce, stuck on the road during a rainy night, her mother had the misfortune of crossing paths with a husband and wife serial killing team (Abigail and Daniel Bannings). No surprise, the mother was murdered … but Trinia was spared. Now before you start getting all weepy and calling the Bannings “serial killers with a heart of gold” … let’s not. Turns out that they were at odds with killing an infant, though they had no problem with raping and killing women. So in some sick way they had adopted her and decided to raise her in their “ways”. Daniel raped the victims, Abigail cut their throats, and an unwitting Trinia operated a home-built incinerator that burned away their existence. Fate intervened eventually and Trinia was freed from their clutches as the FBI had closed in on them. With the Bannings in prison and Trinia back with her father (her surviving parent), one would think that all’s well. Not quite. Trinia’s dad decides to make some money off of his daughter’s trauma by selling her story to movie studios which in turn makes some slasher sequels. Along with that, they travel around the country on speaking engagements and … encountering a stalker fan named Jason Briffel. On top of it all, she’s being bullied at school by a tosser named Luke Prescott who gives her the nickname “the burning girl”. Rosy adolescence it is not. She eventually moves on, after school, separated from her father, and changes her name to Charlotte Rowe. Eventually she finds a therapist named Dylan … and the healing begins. Um … not quite. Somewhere along the way, Dylan “prescribes” some pills to Charlotte to help her “stabilize”. On the very day she starts taking the pills she returns home only to find Jason (stalker) waiting for her, with some possible dark deeds in mind (let’s just say he’s not planning on having tea and crumpets as they discuss current events). Unfortunately for him, the strange pill that was prescribed by her therapist (Dylan) did more than stabilize her … it bloody unearthed her inner She-Hulk. Needless to say, it did not go well for Mr. Briffel. On her way out of town, she’s run off the road by a local (the fictional town of Altamira, California) meth dealing outlaw biker crew, who, marinating in alpha-male bollocks, decides to exert themselves on this “lonely” girl. Alas, they learn the hard way, and in the most vicious fashion. Confused by the turn of events Charlotte turns to the only person she can trust … Dylan … only to find that Dylan may be more than he appears to be. Apparently a former Navy SEAL with degrees in biochemistry and neuroscience … that worked for a giant pharmaceutical and tech company (Graydon Pharmaceuticals)… that may have engaged in some dodgy research. And just when Charlotte’s feeling betrayed and torn … a new sheriff comes to town. Luke Prescott … the wanker that bullied her in high school. To make things worse, Graydon found out about Charlotte’ s abilities … and they have a very, vested interest in her. Oh yes, there is a new serial killer in town known as the Mask Maker and he’s gotten Charlotte’s interest. Along with a motley crew consisting of a wise-cracking but tactically sharp uncle Marty, Luke Prescott and his brother Bailey (hacker extraordinaire), Charlotte finds her life hurtling down a turbulent, vicious wormhole as she navigates the shenanigans of Dylan and Graydon, zeroing in on the Mask Maker like the avenging angel she’s become.
Mr. Rice has written many books, but this the first one I’ve ever read (aside from his collaboration with his mum on Ramses). For some reason this book resurrects Stephen King’s Firestarter in my mind. Company experiments, female girl endowed with abilities, shadowy folks, and even more interesting … they are both referred to as Charley. Yes, I know King’s version involves Drew Barrymore burning stuff with her mind along with a great Tangerine Dream soundtrack (yes, nerd cred and … possible loss of marriage prospects … what’s new). Grips you from the beginning and keeps you riveted in what seems to be literary version of Fast and Furious chase scene … throughout the bloody book. And you never want it to end … which, unfortunately, it does. Though I must note the book is noted as “A Burning Girl Thriller” … which could possibly signify that Mr. Rice is not completely (and thankfully) done with Charlotte Rowe. To quote Martha Stewart: this is a good thing. Good show, Mr. Rice. Good show. Just don’t keep us waiting (like a certain author of certain popular show on HBO … yeah, I’m calling you out, Mr. Martin).

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Ever since seeing the movie Coma back in the 80s, and learning about Cook’s writing, I’ve become sort of a closet fan of his medical thrillers. Of course, the other reason for me watching Coma was that I had a major crush on Geneviève Bujold (feel free to Google/IMDB her). Yes, I know some may say “but Evil Parrot she was an older woman”. To which I would reply “And ….?”. But enough about my … um, fascinations and curiosities, and let’s get on with the blooming book review … yeah?

It has been awhile since I’ve had my Robin Cook fix … yes, man cannot live by horror, espionage and crime alone. Sometimes I need a reason to be potentially scared shitless about hospitals and doctors and Charlatans did not disappoint (in a good way … that is).

The book opens with Bruce Vincent, a security administrator, at Boston Memorial Hospital (BMH) preparing for what should be a walk-in-the-park hernia surgery. Even better was that the star surgeon, a Dr. William Mason, had agreed to do it … so, yes, what could possibly go wrong. A word about Dr. Mason: older chap, narcissistic, loves to flirt (and make inappropriate advances to the younger female staff), never owns up to his mess ups, a wee bit chubby, and yes … drives a red Ferrari. Did I mention that he is the star surgeon of BMH? Somewhere along the line, something goes wrong in the surgery of Bruce Vincent and then we meet Dr. Noah Rothauser and Dr. Ava London (anesthesiologist). Needless to say that despite all efforts, Bruce Vincent’s surgery is ill-fated (keep in mind that this is not much of a spoiler since it all happens in the first chapter). And of course, the blame throwing begin. Dr. Mason blames Dr. London for messing up the anesthesia and even questions Rothauser’s intervention techniques during this crisis. On top of that, Dr. Rothauser, who is the chief resident, has to navigate this situation and the investigation into it. It then gets worse when more patients start dying and the anesthesiologist involved just happens to be the enigmatic Dr. London. With Dr, Mason breathing down their backs with especially a fiery red target on Ava’s, Noah and Ava decides to come together to investigate what’s really behind these sudden yet coincidental deaths. Did I mention that Ava had rebuffed many of Dr. Mason’s inappropriate advances in the past? Yes, Dr. Mason possibly has political career in sight (I guess I did go there … too real for comfort …oh well). Working together brings Noah and Ava really, really close as they find themselves indulging in a bit of the old in-out-in-out (yes, even Stevie Wonder on a dark moonless night could have seen that). Needless to say, word gets around and Dr. Mason, being scorned and jealous, turns the heat up on the duo. Meanwhile, there are two ex-military mercenaries driving around the country killing Internet trolls (though that doesn’t sound so bad considering the acidic atmosphere of social media these days). What have they to do with the story? I’m afraid you’ll have to read the book. To complicate things even further, the more time Noah spends with Ava, the more puzzled he becomes: a gorgeous, athletic-toned woman that spends most of her free time on social media with multiple avatars than she would with actual people. And then there are those times when Ava would simply just take off on a “consulting” trip to some state. Aye, red flags abound.
Online avatars, social media, murderous mercenaries, megalomaniacal doctors and a rising body count both inside and outside BMH makes Charlatans a riveting read as we travel down a vicious rabbit hole. In strange way Cook seems to educate while entertain readers about the medical world and its possibilities and its dark sides … as does most of his books. This spine-tingling medical thriller will force you skim the pages towards the twisted end. And most of all, it’ll probably make you look closely at what’s framed on your doctor’s wall.

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The sequel to The Bone Tree, I could not simply avoid this book even if you paid me handsomely to do so. Though I have yet to read the first of the trilogy, Natchez Burning, I can’t help but still forging ahead to read Blood. Yes, I know I am violating some weird reader code of sorts but that’s how the Evil Parrot rolls. And to Mr. Iles credit, he wrote Bone Tree so well that it could have easily been a standalone. But, I will still be heading back to read Natchez Burning after all is said and done. And yes, even when I know the “spoilers”. But enough of the bollocks and on to the bleedy review.

The Bone Tree left us with a Penn Cage trying to pick the pieces of his life after killing Frank Knox (the head of a notorious Ku Klux Klan fringe group known as the Double Eagles) and the death of his fiancée that was killed in her quest to find the Bone Tree. And then along comes Lincoln Turner, Penn’s half-brother and product of an affair between Tom Cage(Penn’s father) and Violet Turner (an Afro-American nurse) and the shit hits the fan. Tom Cage is accused, by Lincoln, of causing the death of Violet Turner (Lincoln’s mother) and is arrested. Meanwhile, Snake Knox is still running around free and is back in the United States and he’s got revenge on his mind. To be precise: he has a bloodbath in mind for Penn Cage and his family. Teaming up with a white supremacist biker gang, along with his firearms-proficient, psychopath of a son (Alois Engels), Snake is determined to bathe the shores of Mississippi in a nice shade of red. And this they do with the grace and mercy of a pit filled with agitated water moccasins. Though Penn is not exactly a sitting duck, surrounded by private contractor bodyguards who are mostly former SEALs and Special Forces, he finds himself under the charms of a Serenity Butler, a journalist and former military officer that is quite the firecracker. And yes a lot of steamy stuff happen between Serenity and Penn … and they even sleep together too. Interestingly enough, as much the book could have been about the Snake and his ilk committing all sorts of vileness in the land, the real star of this book is the trial of Tom Cage. Now some you will read this and go, bloody hell I’m not going to read about some bloody courtroom drama … and you’ll be terribly wrong about this. This is a trial like you’ve never read one before. The showdown between Quentin Avery, the wheelchair bound defender of Tom Cage, and Shadrach “Shad” Johnson the prosecutor is the equivalent of watching a July the 4th celebration … using nuclear missiles that explode in midair. The trial if it were an action movie would be likened to a Jason Bourne movie filled with twists, turns and intrigue around every nook and cranny that you soon begin to dread things like sleep, bodily functions, and going to work. The trial (in my humble opinion) is Iles’ masterpiece, and there is a good chance that many of you will not guess the outcome of the trial. Of course, some of you would be cheeky bastards and skip ahead and read the bleedy outcome. Tsk, tsk … not very sporting mates, though I will admit that I was tempted to do the same, but you know what they say about patience being a good virtue and all that other bollocks.
After having read The Bone Tree, I must have been panting like a Pavlovian dog in anticipation of this sequel, and I when I finally got it, it was worth the wait. Blood is the South like you’ve never read it and sad reflection of the way race relations are today in America. Fiction hits home. The action inside and outside the courtroom is thick and stifling as monsoon humidity in a Louisiana bayou and strikes as viciously and relentlessly as a trod-upon copperhead. Forget grabbing you by the throat, Blood grabs you by the minerals and it is that good kind of pain (hope I don’t sound too fifty shady here … but there I said it) that you endure … willingly … all the way to the last page. Jolly good show, Mr. Iles.

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As promised I’ve decided to put out a second review for October featuring my good man Stephen King, since after all this IS October. You know horror marathons on the telly, horror movies in the theatres, Halloween and (for this year) the inevitable ending of the 18-month circus known as the Election 2016. Aye, that last one has its own horrors of horrors. But enough with the bollocks and on to the review. Shall we?
In Mr. Mercedes, retired Detective Hodges had managed to put Brady Hartsfield into a mental instition on the account that he was somewhat brain-damaged. When we last encountered Brady, it was in the Finders Keepers which was mostly about some murderous tosser wanting to retrieve some old manuscripts. Here in Finders we were beginning to see that even though Mr. Hartsfield was seemingly brain-damaged, there was strange things happening in his room such as pipes turning on and photo frames falling over. Did I mention he was pretty much stuck in a wheelchair? And some point after having read Finders Keepers, many of us must probably suffered from a case of the “goosebumps”. Needless to say, it was foretelling what was to come in King’s next installation.End of Watch, the last in the Mr. Mercedes trilogy, opens with a retelling of the Mercedes Massacre from the perspectives of two EMT workers and evolves (for a moment) around the life of one of the survivors: Martine Stover. Then somewhere early in the book Ms. Stover dies. But then so has some of the staff that worked at the hospital that housed Brady Harsfield who noticed strange occurances like photo frames being moved or pipes turning on and off with no one around except a crippled Brady. Yes, it seems that our bay may have developed some preternatural abilities. So how pray tell, did this happen? Enter Dr. Felix Babineau, douchebag and tosser supreme, who took it on himself to test out unapproved and experimental drugs on the supposed sad case of that is Brady. Of course, there was some side effects. Yes, we all seen this movie before. Ambitious doctor decides to test crap out on disabled psychopath … um … yes, it is not going to end great, especially for the doctor. Using some old Gameboy type game consoles called Zappits that features some game involving fish (aye, seriously), Brady extends himself beyond the confines of the hospital in the most spinetingling manner that could evolve from the mind of King. Could’ve been worse it could have been a modified version of the Pokemon Go app. As the bodies begin to pile up, Bill Hodges along with the brilliant, wisecracking, Afro-American sidekick Jerome Robinson race to stop Brady and his dark plans of vengeance. The suspense grips you by the throat at each turn of the page, and hurtles you at a blinding, fiery speed towards the end. And yes, there will be blood.
A delightful end to the Mr. Mercedes trilogy, it is , as usual, premium King. As usual. And to expect less … um … seriously, mate?

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