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Archive for the ‘thriller’ Category

deadsouls_cvr
Once in awhile, though seemingly quite often for me, a book cover or synopsis catches your eye and that’s all it takes to send you hurtling down that literary rabbit hole. December is a month of wishes. Wishes for things under your Christmas tree/mistletoe like Gillian Anderson, and before the day is done there will be wishes for the New Year. And we could really, really use some good stuff for the new year, since 2016 has been a wee bit surreal (and that’s just saying it nicely). So when I came across Dead Souls on the “New Arrivals” rack I was intrigued and like a heroin addict that’s been working overtime at a heroin factory… I had to get my fix. What was all that bollocks about “wishes” about, you might ask? Stick around, mate.

Fiona Dunn is having a tough time in her relationship with some bloke named Justin and on one rainy night in Oakland (California) she sees him getting in a car with a strange blonde woman on his way to a “business trip” to Seattle. It is also important to mention that lady was standing in the rain, bare feet, in pajamas, and locked out of her own apartment. So what’s a bare-footed, rain-soaked, woman to do when she’s locked herself outside of her apartment? Seek solace in the nearest drinking hole. There she meets a strange, enigmatic fellow named Scratch who chats her up, buys her drinks and makes an offer for her soul with the obligation of special favour that will be demanded of her at anytime. Yes, you didn’t read the last part incorrectly. Being the avowed atheist, she is, she thinks it nothing more than small talk and goes along with it. And then the shit gets real … and strange. First, Fiona discovers that she sort of project herself, invisibly, into places and spy on people. Apparently, she’s always wished that she was invisible. And if that didn’t make her stop and pass rabbits, then there is Scratch’s strange ability to be able to contact her at any place at any time. And then … when things couldn’t get any more weird, Justin shows up … with that strange blonde who is actually his (yes) sister and it turns out that Justin is down with something terminal. As Fiona drives around California trying to assess the how much crazy pills she’s been taking, she comes across another strange fellow, taking photos in a cemetary, named Alejandro and he seems to fancy her. Turns out that Fiona and Alejandro has a lot in common: Scratch. He introduces her to a sort of support group called the Dead Souls (hence the name of the book), sort of a support group for folks that may have unwittingly sold their souls to the Devil. And quite the motley crew they are: Renata (a professor of queer studies that wished to be straight and pretty crapped on her career and former gay relationship), Gary (a tech startup founder who wished that his company traded well), Jasmine (a woman that wished for the gift of clairvoyance), and of course, Alejandro (who wished that his photos will make successful). Sounds like a cute version of Daniel Webster meets an intervention. Not quite. The book gets really dark faster than the Northeast in early fall and people and things aren’t all that they seem. And as people wait for that dreaded favour to come in, many try to solve their way out of their contract with Scratch only to find that they are all part of some sick Macheveillian game.

To call Fenn’s tale creepy would be like calling the Mona Lisa a drawing. It’s dark like night in the swamps and as vicious as the serpents that slither through it as every page turn keeps you biting your nails as you brace for revelations within revelations. Don’t expect any happy endings in this one … just maybe a few silver linings and that’s it. In some strange way it might explain some of the unspeakable things that happen in this world: active shootings, terrorism, strange politics, Kanye West, the Kardashians. But what do you expect … when you make a deal with the Devil. Sure he delivers … but when it’s time to pay those dues… that’s the killer. So just be careful when you’re at the pub and some hip bloke “playfully” offers to buy your soul, you might want to walk away from that one … regardless what you believe. Just saying, mates.

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watch_cvr
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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robin_cook_host_cvr

I can’t help it, but I love having my wits scared out of me … one way or another. Whether it’s things that go bump in the night (excluding my neighbors extra-curricular activities at 1AM in the bloody morning), or being around medical institutions and deserted buildings (don’t ask). Ever since seeing Coma in the 80s with Michael Douglas and Genevieve Bujold (I had a serious crush on Bujold), I was pretty much drawn into the world of Robin Cook. So when this strange, ominous cover showed up in my stacks (feel free to look at it … pretty creepy isn’t it), needless to say, I lost all will power and gave into my urges. So here we are. Enough with the niceties and other such bollocks … and let’s get on with the bleedy review … shall we?

Lynn Pierce is an up and rising medical student completing her residency at the South Carolina’s Mason-Dixon University. She lives with a cat and an adoring boyfriend, Carl Vandermeer (a lawyer). Life seems perfect and all’s sunny in her life … until a knee injury puts Carl under the knife. Sounds simple, routine. Bloody hell, you might say, it is knee surgery for crying out loud. So it seems, but this is a Robin Cook novel where the most simple thing can take a turn for the worst faster than Kanye West’s mood changes. So yes, needless to say, everything goes horribly wrong and Carl is placed into a medical-induced coma. To make things worse, Lynn discovers the truth to a special “trip”, that she and Carl were to take in the near future, in his desk drawer at home: an engagement ring (possibly from Jared’s …hence this was really serious). Considering that her future fiancée was in great health and the fact that a simple knee surgery should not have bollocksed up to such epic proportions, Lynn decides to really investigate further. Joining her in her quest is Michael Pender, her academic, Afro-American “twin”, that is very resourceful and intelligent as he is an occasional wiseass. And yes, the “twin” thing is an inside joke by their peers, since they’ve been exclusive study partners since the beginning of their schooling at Mason-Dixon University. The intrigue is ratcheted up when the doctors decide to move Carl into a building called the Shapiro Institute: a windowless building, shrouded in secrecy and with more security that would make most national security agencies green with envy. As the duo digs further, they encounter an Scandinavian ice queen doctor, a Russian pharmaceutical billionaire, ex-Spetsnaz-turned-mafioso assassins, and a very dark, twisted side to the world of medical science (I truly hope doesn’t exist in this country). Oh bloody hell, you might say at just the mere mention of those little ditties. Yeah. Now you’re probably wondering what could be so dark and twisted? Sorry mates, but I’m not going to a do tosser move and vomit out that bit of detail. But it is enough to give you a couple sleepless nights.
Yes, Cook occasionally spits out a bit of medical jargon that would make most folks eyes glaze over or cause intra-cranial bleeding, but it is dished out in tolerable doses and spread out to accommodate most of us non-medicals out there. Lynn will, sometimes, get on your nerve as she constantly and impulsively dash off into situations where most angels fear to tread, as she drags poor Michael (who seemingly is the one with a level head amongst the two) along with her into her nerve-wracking escapades. Think of the one person, in horror movies, that always feel the need to run into every dark basement or attic … just because. There is no lack of intrigue or suspense in Host which is very reminiscent of Coma … which drives you to that OMG moment as you tumble into that dark and twisted conclusion that, for some, just might result in some sleepless nights. And if per chance you are about to have knee surgery, then be a good luv and … yeah … pass this one by.

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crow_clash_cvr

It is October, the month of Halloween and horror movie marathons doting most channels on cable that can. So I have to break out an oldie but goodie. It was 1994, and (an ill-fated) Brandon Lee was starring in movie called The Crow (also part of my Valentines Day movie ritual), an adaptation from the series created by James O’Barr. Yes, many of remember those times, especially those of us that were going through a semi-goth phase. The dark clothing, dark Chuck Taylor Converse sneakers, dark boots, and dark Max Factor lipstick (or so I’ve heard … um, not a bloody word).So for many of us back then, we couldn’t get enough of all things Crow. So whilst going through my private library (yes, I actually buy and own books that I’ve read more than once), I came across Clash By Night. It was great to re-read it for the umpteenth time, and I’ve just had to mention it.
Meet Amy Carlisle. She’s got the perfect marriage to a wonderful chap named Rick Carlisle and she runs, with three other women, a successful daycare center. As perfect as Amy’s life may seem, there is but one thorn that has stuck itself in Amy’s side: Amy is unable to have children. She is content to live in a childless marriage yet extending that maternal love to all the kids she watches over that she encounters in her daycare. Life despite its lemons, seems to be producing some real great peach-flavoured lemonade when a visiting Senator chooses her daycare to have press conference. Amy and her co-founders, see it as a great opportunity for some great PR for their daycare. Please keep in mind this book was written in time when there was no such that as (thank goodness) social media and the World Wide Web was just a whisper in the wind … so yes, people relied on being on the telly as PR tool. I’ve detoured … oh so slightly. What is seen as great opportunity for Amy is also, unfortunately, seen as great opportunity by Rip Withers, the leader of a local, crazed, white-supremacist militia. When an assassination attempt on the Senator’s life fails (due to the Senator cancelling the visit) and instead claims the life of Amy, her co-workers and the children, it is where Amy and Rip unwittingly cross paths. Amy is drawn into the world of the Dark-Winged One: the Crow. And unfortunately, Rip Withers and his militia is drawn into the world of hurt that they can’t quite comprehend. And deservedly so. The action and suspense is viscereal, as Amy, the first female Crow, doles out vigilante justice that would make even then Punisher stew in envy. And language can be literally disemboweling at times (political correctness be damned … seriously … not for PC sensitive). After all, we are dealing with a bunch of racist, misogynist psychopaths. Aye, that pretty sums it up. Be warned.
Reading Clash by Night is sort of like a literary time trip back into the nineties. There is talk about the Clintons, Waco and Janet Reno. Techies would enjoy the mention of AUTOEXEC.BAT and CONFIG.SYS files, also known as the files that we had to constantly tamper with in order to play Doom really well without our computers crashing. We’ve really come a long way.
Clash By Night, is an oldie but goodie. A nice addition the Crow series, and yes, there are several others out there I have still yet to read (sadly). Vicious, suspenseful and a delightful guilty pleasure it is quite a tour-de-force.

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findrs_kprs_cvr

It has been a very interesting summer, in terms of reading… that is, and I couldn’t help but notice the new Stephen King book sitting in the stacks, beckoning to me like a curvaceous Siren to a marrooned, randy sailor (wow, I seriously need to go out more). What can I say, perfect timing, yeah?
The new King book practically begins with a bang. A reclusive, iconic writer, John Rothstein, is the victim of a home invasion. But this is no ordinary home invasion. Led by Morris Bellamy, an obsessive fan, the object is, seemingly, the large amounts of money kept in the writer’s home safe, though to the Morris the real treasure is the pile of Moleskin notebooks filled with drafts of unpublished Jimmy Gold novels. After cold-bloodedly murdering Rothstein … and his accomplices, Morris hides his literary “booty” along with some piles of cash, only to be sent to jail (for life) on a totally unrelated crime. Something about a rape that he was to drunk to even remember. What a way for life to suck.
Several decades later, this “well-hidden” bounty is discovered by a young Pete Sanders who was simply wandering off the beaten path (literally) and his curiousity got the best of him. Pete Sanders family is enduring some tough times, since Pete’s father (apparently the bread winner) was injured in the Mr. Mercedes rampage (bloody hell, you say, a tie back to another King novel). Yes. And it gets better. So what does a young man do when he finds a significant amount of money? Instead of spending it on bling and other such bollocks, Pete does the “unthinkable” he anonymously mails portions of it on monthly (or was it weekly?) basis to (gasp!!!) his family in order to help them out of their financial crisis. Blimey, you say, a teenager that chooses to the most selfless thing with a large pile of money … King has sunk to a new terrifying low. Of course, good intentions aside, pillaged treasures soon finish and … some prisoners, despite the odds, get released back into society. And a certain convict is going to need his “hidden treasure” to fall back on. As the body count begins, a troubled Pete Sanders find himself embroiled with shady rare book dealers and eventually crosses path with Bill Hodges (yes, the retired detective from Mr. Mercedes). Also joining Hodges, is the boy wonder Jerome Robinson, an intelligent (now in college) black teenager who is a wisecracking, techie genius (also from Mr. Mercedes). Needless to say, it doesn’t take long for the suspense to rachet up at speeds that would redline your adrenaline guage, as the book races with break-neck speed towards a heart-pounding conclusion. Notable mention: Brady Hartsfield (aka Mr. Mercedes) also makes an appearance and even though he is physically incapacitated, there is something supernaturally brewing up in the mix. Alas, the saga of Mr. Mercedes is not quite over. And it is pure, premium King. Bloody fantastic.

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shotgunarcana_cvr

R.S. Belcher returns us to the fantasy-filled, steampunk wild West world of Golgatha. Golgatha is a strange little town where all is not quite as it seems and it is populated with strange, enigmatic, and in some cases, terrifying characters. In Shotgun Arcana, Belcher returns with some the old crew: Maude Stapleton (the female assassin/pirate), Jon Highfather (the sheriff that is seemingly unkillable), Mutt (the half-Indian/ half coyote … still trying to figure out that arrangement), Jim Negrey (the deputy with the strange jade eye) and Malachi Bich (the mysterious, charismatic fallen angel). Believe me, there is quite an intriguing roster of delightful characters I’d love to mention but that would make me a complete and proper tosser and it would deprive your curiosity. Translation: you’ve got to read this book … but don’t take my word for it. Oh alright then … please do be a good sport and take my word … just a wee bit.
It is the year 1870, and Golgatha had just endured a wee little Wurm problem a year ago (something about plunging the universe in darkness and chaos … yeah, small stuff … please see the first book). As the residents of Golgatha begin to pick up the pieces and life seems to return to normal (if there is ever such a thing as normal in the town of Golgatha), a new evil rears it head in the horizon. No, it is not a Bruce Jenner reality show chronicling his “changes”. The horror, the bloody horror. A mythical skull said to contain a vile force, that once released would turn the world into a murderous fury, is sought by a mysterious Ray Zeal (who apparently had a past with Malachi Bich). Even worse, a collection of some of the vilest beings, ever imagined, are all being summoned by a strange sinister force. How file are these wankers you say, let’s just say that they make those ISIS assholes look like a bunch of daisy-picking, little girls … dressed in pink tutus. Come to think of it ISIS backwards is SISI. I’ve detoured slightly. And guess where all these fine specimens of gene pool maladies converge on? Ah yes, the unwitting town of Golgatha. No rest for the wicked, yeah?
So as Golgatha gears up fo another cataclysmic showdown of apocalyptic proportions, some interesting are added to the Golgathan roster: a female Pinkerton agent, a Madame that could probably take down Rhonda Rousey very easily (Rhonda can, however, take me down ANYTIME), and a bouncer that is a well-read, teddy bear with the personality of glacier (wtf … you say … trust me). And that’s just the folks on the good side.
Shotgun Arcana is like a runway train, hopped up on meth, careening into blinding lightspeed as the suspense and action takes readers into an explosive conclusion that could only be measured in kilotons. And it will have most readers jonesing for the sequel. This IS, after all, trilogy, right Mr. Belcher?

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drone_cvr

The story opens with some Somali military tosser walking around thinking he’s the dog’s bollocks as he debates releasing aid (donated food), that has been held ransom, to his FELLOW countrymen. Aye, not like this kind of bollocks EVER happen in the real world. Until he’s contacted by some ominous presence via his large screen HD telly that he has to comply with his deal to release the aid in consideration of the large sums that has been paid into his Cayman accounts. But since this bloke is tosser, like most Third World tosser, he decides to toy with the patience and decency of the West … and then he and his entire military compound, filled with armed bullies, are surgically dispatched by a drone. Hence the title.
And of course, the action at this point kicks into full gear.

Tony Pearce is former special operations agent that once worked for the CIA and now runs Pearce Research Systems that specializes in designing everything from next-generation prosthetics to …well… next generation combat machinery (i.e. drones). On some weekends, when Pearce is not designing the latest precursor to Skynet, he is sometimes running black ops on behalf of President Margaret Myers (yes, we’ve got female president … finally … too bad it’s in fiction … never fear … not too far off … I hope … and yes, I’ve detoured) testing out his drones on bad guys. When a bunch of teenagers, at a house party in El Paso, is surgically massacred by a Mexican drug cartel, the crap hits the fan in Capitol Hill. However, when one of the victims of the massacre turns out to be the President’s son (a teacher that was hanging out at the party with … apparently … his students) that’s when the shit gets real … and personal. Soon Tony Pearce is asked a favour by President Myers, and no … it doesn’t involve bringing home a gallon of 2% lowfat milk. And as the cartels find themselves in the crosshairs of Myers, unknown to them, they’ve unwittingly allied themselves with an Iranian double agent that uses them for his own ulterior motives. Motives that involve using Pearce as an unwitting pawn into something even more frightening and threatens to push America over a dangerous precipice.
Machiavellian schemes (from Mexico to Capitol Hill) coupled with adrenaline-drenched action … all marinated in gut-wrenching suspense makes Drone a very hard book to put down. Bodily functions and sleep be damned. It is Mr. Maden’s debut novel and what a bloody debut it is. A delightful yet terrifying bit of fiction on the fascinating world unmanned combat. On the cover of Drone there are the words “Introducing Tony Pearce”. I’d like to say “nice to meet you … and I’m looking forward to more of your work”.

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