Review: Bite Harder by Anonymous-9

 

Title: Bite Harder

Author: Anonymous-9

Published: Blasted Heath September 2014

Status: Read from September 27 to 28, 2014 — I own a copy

My Thoughts:

Bite Harder caught my attention on Just A Guy Who Likes To Read, I left a comment and a few days later the author contacted me requesting a review and I decided to give it a shot based on the premise, and Josh’s praise.

Dean Drayhart is a paraplegic amputee, having been severely injured when a hit and run driver ploughed into he and his family on a crosswalk. Drayhart’s young daughter didn’t survive, nor did his marriage, and with little left to lose, Drayhart, along with Sid, his helper monkey/assassin, and Cinda, a prostitute with a heart of gold, embarked on a vigilante spree across L.A., in Hard Bite executing hit and run drivers who thought they had gotten away with their crimes. Bite Harder is the sequel, though it works well enough as a stand alone.

It opens with Dean arrested for the murder of his last target, Ambrose Malalinda, the youngest son of a local drug-dealing crime family who mowed down a father of four. The Malalinda family have already twice attempted to exact their own revenge on Dean by first attacking the police transport during his transfer, which resulted in the death of Ambrose’s older brother Mateo, and then arranging Dean be stabbed to death in his cell. With both attempts thwarted the apoplectic Malalinda matriarch, Orella, takes matters into her own hands and arranges to hijack Dean during a manufactured medical emergency but things quickly go wrong and Dean, reunited with Cinda and looking for Sid, is on the run.

Fast paced and action packed with plenty of humour, bordering on the slapstick at times, Bite Harder is an entertaining read. The characterisation is good, Dean is a well developed protagonist, though the author is fairly reliant on stereotypes for most of the supporting cast. The writing is solid, using both a first and third point of view, but personally I would prefer character’s don’t address the reader directly, as Dean does on occasion.

A quick, aggressive and darkly funny read, I enjoyed Bite Harder, and I’m glad I gave it a shot.

Bite Harder is available to purchase from

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Review: One Kick by Chelsea Cain

 

Title: One Kick {Kick Lannigan #1}

Author: Chelsea Cain

Published: Simon and Schuster UK/AU September 2014

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Status: Read from September 17 to 18, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

One Kick is the start of a new action packed series for suspense/thriller writer Chelsea Cain who is best known for her popular Archie Sheridan and Gretchen Lowell series.

When the FBI raided an isolated farmhouse they were shocked to discover twelve year old Kathleen Lannigan, abducted six years earlier from outside her home, who destroyed their case against her abusers with a push of a button. Ten years later, ‘Kick’ as she insists she be called, is still struggling with the legacy of fear, shame and emotional trauma inflicted by her captors, and is desperate to find a way to redeem herself. Despite mastering skills in martial arts and marksmanship, amongst other things, to ensure she will never again be a victim, Kick feels useless, until a stranger breaks into her apartment and asks for her help. Bishop is hunting the pedophiles behind the recent abduction of two children and believes she is his best chance at finding them. Kick can’t refuse, but saving them may cost her everything.

With plenty of tension, convincing emotion and harrowing scenes, One Kick is a page turning thriller from the first page. The plot is fairly simple, but holds together well, anchored by Cain’s strong protagonist, Kick.

Kick is a survivor, and to be admired for all she has endured and battled to overcome, but she is damaged. She is all but estranged from her family, resists authority and is obsessed with abduction cases, though at a loss as to how to make a difference. She has never fully resolved her relationship with her abductor, Mel, and is overly attached to her aging dog, Monster. The story places Kick in circumstances that challenge her psychologically, forcing her to confront her dark past and it is impossible not to feel for her and hope that she will triumph. My only niggle with her character is that much emphasis is placed on her finely honed physical skills but when she needs to use them, they all but fail her.

Bishop is a fairly stereotypical character for the thriller genre – tough, enigmatic and ruggedly handsome, though not entirely infallible. His motivations for the hunt are revealed gradually, though his benefactor, who provides the money and resources needed to follow the clues from Seattle to San Diego, remains a shadowy figure.

Kick’s experiences as ‘Beth’ are never really articulated but what is implied is horribly confronting, and may be a trigger for some readers. Cain also exposes some of the sickening details of pedophile rings who rely on a network of safe houses, false identification and anonymous computer networks to procure and trade children while protecting their dirty secret. It makes for disturbing reading.

One Kick is a solid thriller with a strong protagonist and a storyline that is both confronting and exciting. I’m eager to see how the series and its characters will develop.

 

One Kick is available to purchase from

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Review: Can You Keep a Secret? by Caroline Overington

 

Title: Can You Keep a Secret?

Author: Caroline Overington

Published: Random House AU September 2014

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Status: Read from September 09 to 11, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

It happens on very rare occasions that I can’t quite figure out how to articulate my thoughts about a book. I have written and rewritten my thoughts about Can You Keep A Secret? a half a dozen times and still can’t pull together anything cohesive.

I think it is because I didn’t like it for reasons that are purely emotive. I know that when I finished the last page I dropped my Kindle in a mixture of frustration and incredulity. Some sort of trust had been broken between the author and myself that I can only partially attribute to the protagonist’s ‘secret’, and feels too complicated to explain.

Can You Keep a Secret? is available to purchase from

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Also by Caroline Overington reviewed at Book’d Out


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Review: Already Dead by Jaye Ford

 

Title: Already Dead

Author: Jaye Ford

Published: Random House AU September 2014

Status: Read on September 08, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

“She was waiting for traffic lights at the start of rush hour on a Monday afternoon when a man opened her front passenger door, got in and pointed a gun at her chest…
‘Drive’.”

Miranda Jack (Jax) is stunned when a strange man climbs into her car and forces her to drive north on the highway at gunpoint. He is highly agitated, pressing the gun barrel into her ribs while looking frantically over his shoulder, and when Jax asks what he wants, who he is, he roars at her; I’m already dead. That’s my name now. That’s what they called me. That’s me. Nice to meet you. I’m Already Dead.”
Two hours later, Jax stands trembling on the roads edge, the man’s gun in her hand, surrounded by police, and trying to understand what just happened. Brendan Walsh, her abductor, is dead, and Jax is wondering how much of what he told her during their crazed journey is true. The investigating detective seems certain that Brendan’s ravings can be dismissed as the paranoid delusions of a soldier suffering PTSD but Jax, a journalist, isn’t so sure. She needs answers… but the questions she is asking may prove deadly.

Thrilling from the very first page, Already Dead, is an exciting tale of suspense. I read it in a single sitting, absorbed by the intensity of emotion, the fast paced action and the complex characterisation.

Jax is an interesting protagonist. Still struggling with her husband’s unsolved murder barely 12 months earlier, it is because she has no answers about his death that she becomes obsessed with investigating Brendan’s. Ford brilliantly captures Jax’s vacillating emotions through out the story creating a believable and appealing character who draws on her instincts and inner strength to expose the truth.

Ford’s exploration of the issues associated with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in Already Dead gives added depth to this work of crime fiction. Walsh has struggled to readjust to civilian life after two tours in Afghanistan and people are quick blame PTSD for his accusations. Jax, in the wake of the abduction, is also suffering from the disorder’s symptoms – nightmares and anxiety, exacerbated by her still fresh grief and a history of tragedy. After her ordeal Jax, and Detective Aiden Hawke, are quick to dismiss her continuing sense of unease as a reaction to the stress, allowing events to quickly spiral out of control.

Well crafted with page turning appeal, Jaye Ford’s fourth novel, Already Dead, is a gripping psychological thriller. You will never feel safe idling at traffic lights again.

 

Already Dead is available to purchase from

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Also by Jaye Ford reviewed at Book’d Out


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Review: Craven by Melanie Casey

 

Title: Craven {Cass Lehman and Detective Ed Dyson #2}

Author: Melanie Casey

Published: Pantera Press May 2014

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Status: Read from August 29 to 31, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

Craven, by Melanie Casey, is the sequel to Hindsight, featuring Cass Lehman, a woman with the psychic gift of retrocognition, and South Australian police detective, Ed Dyson.

As the book opens we learn that Cass has taken the leap and left home, securing a teacher’s position at a college in Adelaide. Cass is hoping for a fresh start but during her very first lesson she is recognised by her students and almost immediately becomes a target of gossip and derision.
Ed is conspicuously absent, it seems their romance stalled in the intervening months, though we soon learn that Ed is also in Adelaide, working with a local command on a year long secondment, and when Cass’s car is painted in blood with ‘Freak’ scrawled across the windshield he is the first person she calls. Thrown together as Cass’s stalker grows more violent, Cass is inevitably drawn into Ed’s latest case – a search for a serial killer.

Though I still really like concept of this series I was disappointed by the execution of this novel. I had issues with the uneven pacing and with what I felt were several underdeveloped elements in the plot. There was too much focus on the mundane details of Ed’s often circular investigation, and the obnoxiousness of his new partner. The identification of the stalker taunting Cass seemed come from nowhere since he barely rated a mention in the story.

The killer did have an interesting story and his motivations were suitably dark and twisted. There were moments of high tension, though much of the real action is crammed into the last few chapters when Cass is once again at the mercy of an insane murderer.

Despite the flaws in Craven I am still intrigued by the potential of this series and I hope Casey regains her footing in the third installment.

 

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Review: Murder 101 by Faye Kellerman

 

Title: Murder 101 {Peter Decker and Rina Lazarus #22}

Author: Faye Kellerman

Published: William Morrow: HarperCollins September 2014

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Status: Read from August 28 to 29, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/Edelweiss}

My Thoughts:

I have missed the last two books in the Peter Decker and Rina Lazarus series, largely because they have been released since I started blogging and my reading time has rarely since been my own, so I jumped at the chance to rejoin the series with Murder 101.

It’s been six months since Peter retired from the LAPD and he and Rina are now living in upstate New York, closer to their adult children. Peter is working for the local police force which is rarely troubled by anything more than drunken college students, while Rina has made herself at home within the community. When the body of a young coed is discovered brutally stabbed to death, Decker is the only member of the Greenbury Police with the experience to investigate. He quickly connects the dead woman to a recent theft from a crypt and, teamed with an obnoxious rookie, Tyler McAdams, Decker suddenly finds himself in the midst of a case involving stolen art, Russian assassins and international politics.

I so enjoyed reconnecting with the characters of this series, I love that Kellerman has aged them in ‘real time’…it has been 27 years since The Ritual Bath was first published. The children Decker and Rina share, including foster son Gabe, are now grown up and on their own, Decker’s old partner Marg has left the LAPD for quieter pastures and Decker and Rina are adjusting to the changes their move has wrought.

In this book Decker is partnered with Tyler McAdams, a Harvard graduate with a silver spoon in his mouth and a chip on his shoulder, who initially drives Peter crazy but eventually, with Decker’s gruff guidance, proves useful.

I wouldn’t expect anything less from Kellerman than a well crafted mystery which requires shoe leather, rather than luck, to solve. Decker’s investigation is all about following leads, face to face interviews and a bit of hard earned cop instinct. The murdered girl is the first homicide to occur in Greenbury in twenty years so it makes sense that Decker is placed in charge, and in his usual bulldog manner, Decker is determined to solve the case even when his life, and Rina’s and Tyler’s, are threatened.

Murder 101 is another well paced, solid installment in the Peter Decker and Rina Lazarus series, which is likely nearing its conclusion, but proves that Decker isn’t quite ready to give up his badge just yet.

Murder 101 is available to purchase from

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Review: Hindsight by Melanie Casey

 

Title: Hindsight {Cass Lehman and Detective Ed Dyson #1}

Author: Melanie Casey

Published: Pantera Press May 2014

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read from August 17 to 18, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

Melanie Casey’s debut novel, Hindsight, has been on my wishlist since its release. It is the first book in a series to feature Cass Lehman, a woman with the psychic gift of retrocognition, and South Australian police detective, Ed Dyson.

For almost a decade, Cass Lehman has lived more or less like a recluse in the home she shares with her mother and grandmother. Travel is difficult when her gift of retrocognition means that when she passes over a place where someone has died in a violent or traumatic manner, Cass experiences their final horrifying moments. Now twenty eight and tired of her self imposed exile, Cass decides it is time to confront her demons and takes a huge risk by offering her services to the local police department after a woman is found murdered in an alleyway. The lead detective on the case, Ed Dyson, is scornful until Cass makes the connection between a handful of missing person cases and murders that has eluded Dyson for years, and the pair find themselves on the trail of a serial killer.

Cass’s ability is intriguing, and can be viewed as both a gift and a curse. She pays a high price for her ‘gift’, since she not only sees and hears what the victims experienced but also feels the physical pain and emotional trauma they suffered. I really like that Cass’s talent isn’t always useful, since Cass can only see what the victim saw in their last moments when the killer strikes from behind, for example, she isn’t able to offer much to a investigation.

The initial partnership between Cass and Ed is not an easy one. Ed is still struggling with the unsolved disappearance of his pregnant wife two years previously and doesn’t have the patience to humour Cass given his skepticism. Cass resents Ed’s easy dismissal of her, both because she believes she can help and because she is attracted to the detective.

Casey alternates between the first person perspective of Cass and third person perspectives from Ed, and the killer the pair are hunting. It’s an unusual narrative split but works well and I barely noticed the transitions. The plot is well crafted, and crucially Casey doesn’t allow the paranormal element to overwhelm the structure of a good crime novel. The pacing of the story is good with a tense, and somewhat gruesome, climatic ending that threatens the lives of both the protagonists.

Combining crime fiction with an interesting paranormal element and a touch of romance, I really enjoyed reading Hindsight. I’d particularly recommend it those who find the genre mix appealing and who might have liked Charlaine Harris’s Harper Connelly series. I’m looking forward to following Hindsight up with Casey’s second book, Craven.

 

Hindsight is available to purchase from

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Review: New Orleans Requiem by Don J. Donaldson

 

Title: New Orleans Requiem {Andy Broussard/Kit Franklyn #4}

Author: Don J. Donaldson

Published: Astor+Blue February 2013

Status: Read from August 15 to 16, 2014 — I own a copy

My Thoughts:

New Orleans Requiem is the fourth book in Don J. Donaldon’s mystery series featuring chief medical examiner Andy Broussard and Kit Franklyn, a consultant psychologist for both the ME’s office and the NOPD.

The story opens with Andy and Kit being called to a crime scene in the New Orleans French Quarter. The body of a man has been discovered in a locker in Jackson Square, stabbed through the heart, with an eyelid removed and a newspaper propped on his chest with four scrabble letters taped to it. When a second body is found two days later with identical wounds, a newspaper and three scrabble letters, Andy and Kit fear a serial killer is stalking the town. Broussard and Kit are taken aback when what little evidence they have points to the killer being a colleague with a grudge, but with hundreds of forensic specialists in town attending the Annual American Academy of Forensic Science conference, narrowing the field of suspects isn’t going to be easy.

An interesting blend of police procedural and medical thriller, New Orleans Requiem is an enjoyable novel. The case at the heart of this mystery is well plotted and believable and the identity of the murderer came as a surprise. The pacing is good, with the duration of the conference providing a natural time frame in which to solve the mystery.

Broussard and Franklyn are well developed characters. An affable man with a large appetite, Broussard is an experienced and well regarded ME. Kit considers Andy both a colleague and a mentor. She has good instincts and is both resourceful and intelligent. Their professional skills complement each other and they make a good team.

First published in the early 1990’s the absence of ‘Google’ and cell phones are evident in some aspects of the novel but the story doesn’t feel dated. I’d recommend New Orleans Requiem to readers who enjoy procedural mysteries, especially those with a forensic focus (think Quincy, ME or CSI).

New Orleans Requiem  is available to purchase from

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Learn more about Don J. Donaldson and the Andy Broussard/Kit Franklyn series in a  Q&A with the author posted on Book’d Out earlier today

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Feature: Q&A with Don J. Donaldson, author of the Andy Broussard/Kit Franklyn series

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Q & A With Don J. Donaldson

Don J Donaldson is a retired professor of Anatomy and Neurobiology. His entire academic career was spent at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, where he published dozens of papers on wound healing and taught microscopic anatomy to over 5,000 medical and dental students. He is also the author of seven published forensic mysteries and five medical thrillers. He lives in Memphis, Tennessee with his wife and two West Highland Terriers. In the spring of most years he simply cannot stop buying new flowers and other plants for the couple’s backyard garden.

Where are you from? Tell us a little about yourself!

I was born and raised in Sylvania, Ohio, a little suburb of Toledo. It was a nice little town, where as a kid, I spent untold hours fishing in a nearby creek. My favorite spot was under a big poplar tree, whose roots formed a large tangle over the water. Through those roots, I caught many pumpkinseeds, a kind of bluegill with turquoise markings on the side and a bright orange belly. It was probably those beautiful fish as much as anything, that made me want to become a biology teacher.
But after college I discovered there weren’t many high school biology jobs to be had. I’d have to work my way up to that exalted position by first teaching ninth grade general science. I remember being surprised by that and being told by my university job placement officer, “Beggars can’t be choosers.” WHAT? I’m a college graduate and I’m now a beggar?
Okay, I’ll do it. General Science could be fun. And eventually, I’ll move up. Except I soon found that ninth graders aren’t interested in Science. Nor was that what they really needed. They needed someone to teach them how to be civilized human beings. Though I loved the kids, this wasn’t what I signed up for. That and the fact my wife and I couldn’t afford to pay our December utility bill, even though she too, was working, made me rethink things.
While taking a post-graduate course for science teachers, I ran into someone who pointed me in a new direction. Dr. Art Kato taught embryology like a detective story. He didn’t just tell us what was known about development, he talked about the experiments that revealed how a fertilized egg becomes a child and he spoke with passion about the men who did those experiments. I wanted to be like those men.
So, with Dr. Katoh’s help I got a graduate student fellowship in the Tulane Medical school department of Anatomy in New Orleans. Before leaving to start my new life, another member of the faculty at the public school where I taught came up to me and marveled about how brave I was to be “leaving all this” to become a student again. I guess he didn’t have any trouble paying his utility bills.
During my five years at Tulane I had no thoughts of writing novels. Memorizing thousands of anatomical facts and trying to carry out a research project worthy of a Ph.D. degree were all I could handle.
Then came two decades of teaching and research at the University of Tennessee Medical School. In all those years, I never thought about writing anything but research papers, grants, lectures, and test questions. Then one day, I woke up and thought… I want to write a novel. I have no idea where this insane idea came from. I call it insane because I had no training in writing fiction. They say there are more unfinished novels in this country than unmade beds. So chances were good that I’d never even complete one novel let alone get it published. I’m not going to tell you how long it took me to write that first novel because it’s embarrassing. But of course, I had a lot to learn. That book became, CAJUN NIGHTS the first of my seven Andy Broussard/Kit Franklyn forensic mysteries.

How did you create your characters?

Long before I started that first novel, I attended a talk given by Dr. Bill Bass, the forensic anthropologist who created the real Body Farm, made so famous by Patricia Cornwell. In that talk Dr. Bass described some of the fascinating forensic cases he’d worked on over the years. This was well before forensics became such a prevalent part of popular culture, so I had never heard about such things. Later, when I got the urge to write a novel, there was no question that the main character just had to be someone in the field of anatomical forensics… like a medical examiner.
But I’m not a pathologist. So how could I write like one? Fortunately, one of my colleagues at the University was Dr. Jim Bell, the county ME. Jim generously agreed to let me hang out for a couple of weeks at the forensic center and follow him around, which I did. Sadly, Jim died unexpectedly a few months before that first book was published. Though he was an avid reader, Jim never got to see a word of the book he helped me with. In many ways, Jim lives on as Broussard. Broussard’s brilliant mind, his weight problem, his appreciation for fine food and antiques, his love for Louis L’Amour western novels and his good soul… that was Jim Bell.
Kit Franklyn was created as a naïve counterpoint to Broussard. I thought it would be interesting to see how a beautiful young woman working for a medical examiner as a suicide investigator would react to the horrors the office has to deal with. I also anticipated that through her relationship with Broussard I could show that mutual non-romantic love was possible between an unrelated man and woman of greatly differing ages. Though he’d never admit it, Broussard loves Kit like the daughter he never had. More open about her feelings, Kit loves Broussard like a father. Of course, being set in New Awlins, I also had to add a couple of eccentric Cajuns to the mix.

Tell us about your newest book? How did it get started?

After writing six books about Andy and Kit, I took some time off to try my hand at medical thrillers in which each book would have an entirely new set of characters. That turned into a four novel hiatus during which I thought I would probably never write about Andy and Kit again.
And for a long time, I didn’t. In fact, worn out from the rigors of creating so many characters and stories, I stopped writing for a while. But Andy and Kit remained a part of me, so much so that a few years after Hurricane Katrina, I began to wonder if it would be possible for Broussard to solve a crime in the aftermath of that storm. With the city in a shambles and no one where they would normally be, could it be done… could it be written? BAD KARMA IN THE BIG EASY is the result.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

My first piece of advice is to get copies of 10 best-selling books in the genre you like, and study them. Read carefully and try to figure out why they’re so compelling. That isn’t an easy thing to do, because in good books, you’ll get carried along in a scene and forget to analyze. That’s the time to stop and ask yourself how did the author draw me in like that? In time, you’ll begin to see techniques you can copy in your work. And this is one test where copying is perfectly okay.

What I said above applies to anyone who wants to write a novel. But here’s some advice for the younger aspirant:

I once heard a tattoo artist say that tattooing was all he wanted to do in life. So to make sure he’d be a success at it, he had his face tattooed, the idea being that looking as he does, he’d never be able to get any other kind of job. It would force him to be a successful artist. That’s certainly an admirable level of commitment, but what would he do if his eyesight failed, or getting body ink suddenly became unfashionable?
Writing is a brutally difficult profession. For decades it’s been nearly impossible to get an agent, let alone a book deal. Sure, with the new digital age and the advent of e-books and the many small publishers springing up, that’s changing to some extent. And now, Amazon even has a self-publishing program. But ultimately, you still have to generate a product that will sell books. To do that, a writer must be able to draw on first-hand experiences to create a compelling world that others want to share. My anatomy and research background enabled me to understand the science of forensics, and the technology behind the things I’ve written about in my medical thrillers. It also provided a decent income while I figured out how to write fiction. And if I had never been able to find a publisher for my work, or sold a single book, I could still have a rewarding life. So, yes… dream about writing that novel, and hone the necessary skills. But also become a policeman, or a carpenter, or a sewer inspector (yes, there is a mystery series with a sewer inspector as the main character). Figure out how to make a living that doesn’t require you to produce a best-selling novel. Then you’ll not only have a Plan B, but might even be able to work your “real life” world into your writing.

*******

Astor + Blue Editions is proud to present a heart-pounding new thriller by D.J. Donaldson, Bad Karma in The Big Easy!

Best-selling mystery author D.J. Donaldson (New Orleans Requiem, Louisiana Fever) invites readers back to the Bayou with his latest New Orleans adventure Bad Karma in the Big Easy. Plump and proud medical examiner Andy Broussard reunites with gorgeous psychologist Kit Franklyn as they face off with their most gruesome foe yet.

A killer lurks in The Big Easy, his victims found among the many bodies left in the wake of the devastating Hurricane Katrina. But with the city’s records destroyed, and the police force in complete disarray, Broussard must take matters into his own hands. Soon, he and his courageous sidekick, Kit, find themselves on a dangerous and labyrinthine journey through the storm-ravaged underbelly of the ever-mysterious and intensely seductive city of New Orleans; leading them to a predatory evil the likes of which they’ve never encountered.

Written in his uniquely brusque style, Donaldson’s Bad Karma combines hard-hitting, action-packed prose with a folksy, sweetly Southern charm. Add Donaldson’s brilliant first-hand knowledge of forensics and the sultry flavor of New Orleans, and the result is a first class forensic procedural within an irresistibly delectable mystery that will leave fans hungry for more.

*******

Bad Karma in the Big Easy is available to purchase from

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Review: The Broken Places by Ace Atkins

 

Title: The Broken Places { Quinn Colson #3}

Author: Ace Atkins

Published: C&R: Allen & Unwin August 2014

Status: Read from August 11 to 14, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

The Broken Places is the third gripping book by Ace Atkins to feature former Army Ranger Quinn Colson, now Sheriff of Tebbehah County in rural northeast Mississippi.

“I say it’s hell being Sheriff in the same town as your family”

Colson has to admit his younger sister, Caddy, is looking healthier and happier than she has in years, but he can’t bring himself to trust it will last, especially since she has hooked up with pardoned ex-con turned preacher, Jamey Dixon. Convicted of murdering his girlfriend in a drug fueled rage, Dixon seems determined to prove he is a changed man, preaching forgiveness and redemption, but a trio of dangerous escaped criminals are headed Dixon’s way, and they intend to retrieve what they believe to be theirs, come hell or high water.

In a small town like Jericho, Colson’s personal and professional lives inevitably tangle and in The Broken Places this conflict is at the heart of the story. Caddy, having recently turned her own life around, is convinced Dixon deserves a second chance. Quinn doesn’t believe Dixon is a reformed man but is at a loss as to how to convince his sister she is making a mistake. As Colson stews about his sister’s love life, the town gossips about his regular meetings with county undertaker/coroner, Ophelia, unaware Anna-Lee, Quinn’s childhood sweetheart now married to someone else, makes regular visits to his bed.

Few of the characters in The Broken Places are either entirely good or bad, Colson included, and it is this ambiguity that makes them so interesting. The veracity of Dixon’s reform shifts as the story unfolds, and with the line between the truth and deception, lawfulness and justice often blurred, the reader is asked to make their own judgement about his, and others, behaviour.

Click for my review

There is plenty of fast paced action in this installment with the murderous escapees making their way to Jericho. The violence in the story is amplified by the storm bearing down on the town. When a violent tornado touches down, ripping through the county, the aftermath leaves some broken, and others free to start again.

Though Broken Places could conceivably be read as a stand alone, I wouldn’t recommend it as familiarity with the primary characters adds depth to the story. I have grown quite fond of the series and am looking forward to the next installment. There is a frustrating years delay between each installments publication in the US and the Commonwealth, so while the fourth book, The Forsaken, is already available in some markets, it will be May 2015 until I will be able to get my hands on it.

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