August 2007

Scott Frost - Run The Risk

"This story builds and builds with one excitement following another. "

Lieutenant Alex Delillo is devoted to her job in Los Angeles' Police Department. She is also devoted to her daughter, Lacy, who is very involved in fighting for green issues.

First, Lacy surprises her mother whilst taking part in the final of the Rose Parade Queen. Then Alex's partner is shot and badly injured by a bomb whilst investigating the murder of a florist. These events, surprisingly, turn out to be related and Alex becomes embroiled both in finding the attacker of her partner and in protecting her daughter from a disturbed and clever killer.

The strain on her emotions escalates and it all ends with a tension-packed finale.

This story builds and builds with one excitement following another.

There is a complex and psychologically damaged villain who only emerges, with a chilling power, at the very end.

Frost describes the turmoil in Delillo's mind with great deftness. It is very easy to see this as a film, as the visual images portrayed are clear and the development of the plot is exciting and full of action. There are also several sympathetic and distinct characters who add interest to the story. I particularly liked the character of Harrison who is “volunteered” into being Delillo's partner after the injury to her usual partner. He also has to struggle with his own personal demons to emerge as a stronger character at the end. The psychological insights definitely add to the enjoyment of the book.

Reviewed by: S.D.

CrimeSquad Rating:

David Baldacci - Simple Genius

"…a must-read for serious thriller readers…"

A three-hour drive from Washington, D.C. - two clandestine institutions face each other across a heavily guarded river. One is the world's most unusual laboratory; whose goals and funding are a mystery. The other is an elite CIA training camp, shrouded in secrecy. Now a man and a woman are about to run the gauntlet between these two puzzle factories, straight into a furious struggle to exploit a potentially world-shattering discovery -- and keep some other secrets under wraps forever...

Former Secret Service agents turned private investigators Sean King and Michelle Maxwell have seen their lives splinter around them. Michelle lies unconscious in a hospital bed after a night of suicidal violence. Sean is forced to take on a thankless investigation into the murder of a scientist just inside the CIA's razor-wire fence near Williamsburg, Virginia.

Soon he is uncovering layer upon layer of disinformation designed to shield a stunning world filled with elite mathematicians, physicists, war heroes, spies, and deadly field agents. Amid yet more murder, a seemingly autistic girl's extraordinary genius, and a powerful breakthrough in the realm of classified codes, Sean soon learns enough to put his life at risk. Now, more than ever, he needs Michelle to help him catch a killer, save an innocent life and solve a stunning mystery that threatens the very soul of the nation.

From Michelle's courageous struggle to defeat her long-buried personal demons to a centuries-old secret that surfaces in the heat of the action, Simple Genius pulses with stunning, high-intensity suspense.

Here's one I was unable to put down. It was quite slow to start, and with nearly 500 pages I wasn't sure I would actually persevere… I'm so glad I did!

Just as you thought the 'crime had been solved' another twist was thrown at you and I never knew who was working with who, or against whom.

This was a true thriller, with plenty of action. The book contains a good deal of information about codes and finding hidden treasure, and - if you are into breaking codes - at the back of this book is an unbroken code purportedly giving the location of $20m worth of hidden treasure!

The main story contains a couple of sub-plots with questions that were all answered by the end of the book.

Simple Genius is a must-read for serious thriller readers – and anyone who enjoys a good spy/espionage tale.

Reviewed by: H.A.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Karin Fossum - Black Seconds

"… sensitively written."

Ida Jones, looking forward to her tenth birthday, goes out to buy sweets but doesn't return home Her frantic relatives search for her with other neighbourhood volunteers while her mother, Helga, sits at home desperate to know whether or not she is alive.

Inspector Sejer of the Norwegian Police knows that most missing children turn up alive within 48 hours. When Ida fails to materialise after this time, he is forced to look for a killer, who, statistics tell him, is probably based in the local area, and, most likely, is known to the family.

This is a short, very moving novel about the hunt for a missing girl. The action is kept close to the environment in which the girl lives, adding an intimacy to the story.

Essenatially this is a local tragedy, with local people trying to help one another, with growing suspicion of each other being very well portrayed. Many of the characters in the book are ambivalent, being neither very good nor very bad, which allows the reader to appreciate the complexities of the situation. Although the book will not suit all readers, it is very sensitively written.

Reviewed by: S. W.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Pip Vaughan-Hughes - The Vault of Bones

"… a complex and geographically wide ranging novel that sweeps through early mediaeval Europe…"

In Mediaeval London, recently arrived Petroc of Auneford suffers tragedy when his beloved Anna is mown-down by a horse in the street. In despair, he sails from London with the enigmatic relic broker Captain de Montalhac and his crew, unaware that Anna's death is more than a tragic accident.

When they reach Rome they encounter first the impoverished Emperor of Constantinople, Baldwin de Courtenay and then, more worryingly, Pope Gregory the Ninth. De Courtenay wants to barter the contents of his famed Chapel of Pharos that, allegedly, includes the crown of the thorns worn by Christ. However, the Pope - for political reasons - wants to make sure that it is sold to the King of France. What begins as a simple trade transaction soon descends into intrigue, kidnap and murder.

This a complex and geographically wide ranging novel that sweeps through early mediaeval Europe, taking in Constantinople, Rome, Venice and London along the way. The finely woven plot, although complex, never confuses the reader who is drawn into the depiction of the many highly colourful facets of mediaeval life. Vaughan-Hughes seems to particularly enjoy describing the various costumes of Petroc and his fellow shipmates.

The plot is also carefully reigned in so that the excellent characterisation is not overshadowed. Both Petroc and the Captain are independently minded creatures, but each is appreciative of the talents of the other. The reader wills them to make it through their adventure. My only criticism is that there are a few references to his previous book Relics which I, personally, haven't read, but this is a minor issue – common to series - and the references in no way detracted from the story.

Reviewed by: S.W.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Pauline Rowson - In For The Kill

"For those who have an interest in boats and the sea…"

Alex Albury has just spent three and a half years locked up in Camp Hill Prison on the Isle of White for fraud and embezzlement. As a result he has encountered several unpleasant and violent characters. He has lost his wife - who has remarried - and, more importantly, his two sons. When he comes out of prison he meets resentment and anger from those who believe he has defrauded them. He relies on his solicitor to help him find the real embezzler, one James Andover, but the trail keeps going cold.

Soon he finds that some of the answers lie in his own past. Worried by the interest the police continue to have in him - it is only at the very end that the truth becomes apparent.

For those who have an interest in boats and the sea, this has a background of sailing that is ever present but not overpowering.

As well as being a crime story this is also an action tale as Alex Albury has to stand up for himself against some truly violent opponents. The reader's sympathy is with the hero as he is constantly frustrated in his task of finding his persecutor but it does seem evident from the beginning that at least part of the solution must lie in his past.

The final solution is a surprise but there are elements that seem to me to be rather predictable. However, if you want a good read to absorb you – perhaps whilst lounging on deck - this will fill the bill.

Reviewed by: S.D.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Simon Kernick - Severed

"Severed has the momentum and impact of a runaway train. "

As a former soldier, Dan Tyler has been in many tricky situations. However, the situation he wakes up to this morning was certainly not covered in any manual or training exercise he ever went through during his time with the Army. Today, Tyler has woken up in bed with a woman. Thankfully, he knows the woman he has woken up with. Unfortunately, he is also covered in her blood - and his new love is missing her head.

To make matters worse, there is a DVD showing Tyler killing his new girlfriend. This just can't be happening to him – but it is. Soon Tyler is in his car with a case and a mobile phone on the passenger seat. He is given an address to drive to - and that is when the party really starts thumping…

Simon Kernick is a relatively new writer with this, his sixth novel, now under his belt. He cleverly manages to write the sort of novel that scriptwriters would love to be able to write for producers of huge movies in Los Angeles. From the first page, Kernick makes sure he grabs you by the scruff of your neck and draws you into a story that isn't going to let you go until the very end, and only when Kernick decides that he is going to show you where he is taking you.

The writing is fast-paced and the action tumbles from one chapter straight on to the next. This is not a story you will be able to put down and pick up a few days later. You will doubtless be gripping this book as if the covers have been glued to your hands! I read all 317 pages in one day, and it's very likely you'll want to do the same.

Severed has the momentum and impact of a runaway train. Fast, furious, out of control and the only way it can be stopped is by being derailed! Hold on to your seat. You are about to embark on an exhilarating and very bumpy ride!

Reviewed by: C.S.

CrimeSquad Rating: