REVIEW: Noise by Brett Garcia Rose

Noise Book Cover Noise
Brett Garcia Rose
Crime/Thriller
236

The world is an ugly place, and I can tell you now, I fit in just fine.

Lily is the only person Leon ever loved. When she left a suicide note and disappeared into a murky lake ten years ago, she left him alone, drifting through a silent landscape. 

Or did she?

A postcard in her handwriting pulls Leon to the winter-cold concrete heart of New York City.

What he discovers unleashes a deadly rage that has no sound.

A grisly trail of clues leads to The Bear, the sadistic Russian crime lord who traffics in human flesh. The police — some corrupt, some merely compromised — are of little help. They don’t like Leon’s methods, or the mess he leaves in his wake.

Leon is deaf, but no sane person would ever call him disabled. He survived as a child on the merciless streets of Nigeria. He misses nothing. He feels no remorse. The only direction he’s ever known is forward.

He will not stop until he knows.

Where is Lily?

As the cover suggests, Noise is a novel full of darkness and anguish. The true sadness of the story was contrasted with the beautiful writing, with Garcia Rose using words to create images and emotions in this fast-paced thriller.

Leon is a fearsome character. Born and raised in Nigeria, deaf and gun in hand, he was saved by an American family. It was then that he met Lily, his new sister, and instant champion. While Garcia Rose goes into frustratingly few details about his adoption, life in America, and how he forms such a strong bond with Lily, it’s clear that Leon would do anything for her.

However, Lily disappeared ten years ago and Leon hasn’t heard from her since he read her farewell letter and learned that she had run away to make a life for herself in New York. One day, he receives a postcard from her and knows she’s in trouble.

When we meet Leon, he’s turning New York City upside down in his search for his sister. His ‘disability’ does not disable him at all – in fact, the fact that Leon is deaf does not really change the way the story unfolds at all, except to add to his mysterious, fearsome demeanour. Not afraid to shed blood in his quest to find his sister, Leon breaks all of the rules.

The novel is quite short – somewhere between short story and novel. So, the action happens rapidly. One lead turns into another, and then suddenly the story is at it’s end, and everything comes to a head.

Never really about a happy ending, or coming out unscathed himself, Noise reads somewhat like a mission of self-destructive, and is definitely not a light read. Emotionally, it is intense. I’d have loved a little more background, and a bit more character development, but overall the story was very unique and riveting. I was also particularly interested by Leon’s childhood in Nigeria, as I work closely with South Sudanese refugees who faced a similarly troubled upbringing. For a darker read, Noise is definitely worth a look.

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I received a copy of Noise from Kelsey at Book Publicity Services, in exchange for a review and my honest opinion.

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REVIEW: Cost of Life by Joshua Corin

Cost of Life Book Cover Cost of Life
Joshua Corin
Thriller
294

Happy Independence Day. You’re all going to die.
 
Life can’t be better for veteran pilot Larry Walder. He has a great job, a terrific kid, a gorgeous wife—and no inkling that tonight will be the end of the world as he knows it. In the early hours before the Fourth of July, three men break into Larry’s home. And as the day lurches on to its terrifying course, a life is taken, and Flight 816 from Atlanta to Cozumel, Mexico, vanishes off the radar.
 
In the air, Larry must find a way to save his family, his crew, and his passengers. On the ground, disgraced FBI agent Xanadu Marx goes rogue, making it her mission to track down the missing flight before the hijackers reach their diabolical endgame. With the casualties racking up and the world’s busiest airport under lockdown, a message arrives: This is no ordinary hijacking, no typical hostage crisis. This ransom is a totally different beast—the first hint of a conspiracy that might bring America to its knees.

Cost of Life started with a ‘regular’ plane hijacking. You know, man flies plane off course to save his kidnapped wife and child. Coupled with some pretty flowery descriptions, I wasn’t 100% hooked. However, then things took a very interesting turn.

Picking up the pace, we learn why the Pilot, Larry, was blackmailed into taking the plane off course. In a Hunger Games twist for the modern age, the hijackers pit humanity against itself, in an aim to demonstrate America’s philosophy that money can buy anything – and everything.

As the plot unravelled, the events on the plane were by far more coherent and interesting than the action taking place outside of it; rescue attempts, and bureaucracy. There were some interesting characters, some of whom I can see being in future books and developed further. However, there were a few plot holes, and a slightly strange ending – in that is was very perhaps too neat and tidy, too happy, given the threatened carnage.

Overall, the unique reason for the hijacking was the best part of the book, and I was invested in finding out how it turned out. That said, some of the other story details were a little weak. I’d read more of Corin’s books, but I wouldn’t say that this was a smash-hit. Still, worth reading for the interesting notion raised in the hijacking!

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I received a copy of Cost of Life by Joshua Corin from Lisa at TLC Tours, in exchange for a review and my honest opinion. 

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REVEIW: The Kill Shot by Nichole Christoff

The Kill Shot Book Cover The Kill Shot
A Jamie Sinclair Novel
Nichole Christoff
Thriller
282

Jamie Sinclair’s father has never asked her for a favour in her life. The former two-star general turned senator is more in the habit of giving his only child orders. So when he requests Jamie’s expertise as a security specialist, she can’t refuse—even though it means slamming the brakes on her burgeoning relationship with military police officer Adam Barrett. Just like that, Jamie hops aboard a flight to London with a U.S. State Department courier carrying a diplomatic pouch in an iron grip.
 
Jamie doesn’t have to wait long to put her unique skills to good use. When she and the courier are jumped by goons outside the Heathrow terminal, Jamie fights them off—but the incident puts her on high alert. Someone’s willing to kill for the contents of the bag. Then a would-be assassin opens fire in crowded Covent Garden, and Jamie is stunned to spot a familiar face: Adam Barrett, who saves her life with a single shot and calmly slips away. Jamie’s head—and her heart—tell her that something is very wrong. But she’s come way too far to turn back now.

A few months ago, I reviewed The Kill List, the first novel in the Jamie Sinclair series. I liked the feisty female security specialist with a take-no-prisoners attitude. The Kill Shot is the second book in the series, and Jamie returned in full force.

The Kill Shot saw Jamie off-balance from the beginning. When her father, a hard-ass senator whose approval Jamie desperately desires, asks her to do a ‘favour’, she finds herself in London. What was supposed to be a basic security detail job turns into a race against time to keep a Middle Eastern defector safe from the political forces who want to see her dead – or kept alive to be used as a bargaining tool.

I like political thrillers, so was familiar with the shady way that the players were conducting their business throughout this novel. However, there were times when Jamie, a professional, seemed a little behind the eight ball. Perhaps it was all the romance throwing her off balance…

While there were romantic undertones to the first book (the lovely Barrett was quite the charmer), in this book Barrett faced competition in the form of posh, gorgeous, cheeky Philip (who also was quite the charmer). With the two men vying for her attention, Jamie was at best a little distracted during her time in London. Understandable, I would have had trouble choosing between these two guys!! That said, there was a fair bit of focus on the romance in this book, perhaps at the detriment of the thriller aspect. However, it was well written, and kept me hooked… though perhaps a little more invested in the Barrett/Philip storyline than the political aspect!

While I enjoyed this book, I must admit that I preferred the first book in the series. It seemed a little more focused, and the mystery was more developed. That said, I’m partial to a little chick lit, and don’t mind when romance pops up amid gunfire! This book is definitely still worth a read. I’m looking forward to seeing where Christoff takes the character next!

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I received a copy of The Kill Shot by Nichole Christoff from the lovely Lisa at TLC Tours, in exchange for a review and my honest opinion. 

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REVIEW: The Swimmer by Joakim Zander

The Swimmer Book Cover The Swimmer
Joakim Zander
Thriller
432

Klara Walldeen, orphaned as a child and brought up by her grandparents on a remote Swedish archipelago, is now a political aide in Brussels. And she has just seen something she shouldn’t: something people will kill to keep hidden.

On the other side of the world, an old spy hides from his past. Once, he was a man of action: so dedicated to the cause that he abandoned his baby daughter to keep his cover. Now the only thing he lives for is swimming in the local pool.

Then, on Christmas eve, Klara is thrown into a terrifying chase through Europe. Only the Swimmer can save her. But time is running out...

If I could sum up The Swimmer by Joakim Zander in a single word, it would be ‘intriguing’. For starters, the book was fast paced and dramatic, with mysterious phone calls and bodies piling up, but it wasn’t until three quarters of the way through the book that the reader really knows what the bad guys so desperately want. Then, there was a protagonist who’s name is never revealed, who is nothing if not mysterious. Plus, with several main characters, the book is written as though one is going to be the central character, only for there to be a sudden about-face midway through the novel.

While such a slow reveal of crucial details can be incredibly frustrating in a book, in this instance it worked. Zander’s narrative was so well written that it didn’t matter. In fact, it added to the story. The characters themselves had no idea what they had stumbled into, and rather than the reader having all of the facts while the characters struggled to catch up, I felt like I was uncovering the information with them, and was very invested in the journey.

I also appreciated the ‘real-life’ aspects of the story, that tied into the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the role of government organisations like the CIA. With a portion of the book written from the perspective of a disillusioned career spy, the insights offered into the ‘grey areas’ of espionage were rather fascinating. The unusual setting, in Sweden and Brussels, was an additional bonus – the Swedish archipelagos were a unique and fascinating backdrop.

This book was an interesting look at how the actions of one person can create ripples that span not only distance, but time. One split second can change everything. Zander did a great job of describing the effects of those ripples and tying together the strands of the characters’ lives. I’d definitely recommend this book to lovers of political thrillers.

I received a copy of The Swimmer by Joakim Zander from the lovely Trish at TLC Tours, in exchange for a review and my honest opinion. 

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Review: The Kill List by Nichole Christoff

The Kill List Book Cover The Kill List
A Jamie Sinclair Novel
Nichole Christoff
Mystery/Thriller
247

As a top private eye turned security specialist, Jamie Sinclair has worked hard to put her broken marriage behind her. But when her lying, cheating ex-husband, army colonel Tim Thorp, calls with the news that his three-year-old daughter has been kidnapped, he begs Jamie to come find her. For the sake of the child, Jamie knows she can’t refuse. Now, despite the past, she’ll do everything in her power to bring little Brooke Thorp home alive.

Soon Jamie is back at Fort Leeds—the army base in New Jersey’s Pine Barrens where she grew up, the only child of a two-star general—chasing down leads and forging an uneasy alliance with the stern military police commander and the exacting FBI agent working Brooke’s case. But because Jamie’s father is now a U.S. senator, her recent run-in with a disturbed stalker is all over the news, and when she starts receiving gruesome threats echoing the stalker’s last words, she can’t shake the feeling that her investigation may be about more than a missing girl—and that someone very powerful is hiding something very significant . . . and very sinister.

I received a copy of The Kill List by Nichole Christoff from the lovely Lisa at TLC Tours, in exchange for a review and my honest opinion. 

This book wasted no time cutting to the chase. With a crazed stalker setting his sights on security specialist Jamie Sinclair in the first few pages, Christoff quickly added an ex-husband with a missing child, and threw in another few mysteries for good measure. At breakneck speed, the clues unravel and the mysteries cross paths as they slowly unravel themselves.

This was the kind of mystery that was detailed but not dry, leaving me reading until 2am to find out what happened. I found the dynamic between Jamie and her ex-husband an interesting dynamic, which really impacted how the case unravelled. I also liked the military aspect of the story; Jamie had a military background that strongly influenced her character development, and I enjoyed her perspective on how the army base and it’s own investigations proceeded.

I thought Christoff wrote Jamie’s character to be a good balance of tough-woman-in-a-man’s-game, and vulnerable. It can be easy to skew too far in either direction, but I thought Christoff achieved a happy medium. Jamie’s character development also lent itself well to the romantic plot line in the book – instead of being included for the sake of it, the character of Adam Barrett helped develop the plot and the main character herself. I also appreciated the fact that, even though Jamie travelled between the army base, Washington, New Jersey and Philadelphia, the book didn’t make the reader waste time in transit. Nor did it detract from the story at all. Sometimes extensive travel in a book is frustrating, because the characters are stuck in a car or a plane instead of being on the ground furthering the story, but this was definitely not the case here.

With the second book in the series due out in March (The Kill Shot), I don’t have long to wait before I can get my hands on the next instalment in the series. I’m looking forward seeing how the characters introduced in the first book are incorporated into the second! This is definitely a great mystery/thriller for someone looking for something that isn’t too heavy, but is definitely riveting!

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REVIEW: Dangerous Denial by Amy Ray

Dangerous Denial Book Cover Dangerous Denial
Amy Ray
Thriller
212

Denying the past proves deadly for BK Hartshaw and Trevor Mayhew in this gripping noir novel where nothing is as it seems.

BK is a rising star at a public relations firm, and tonight's charity ball should be a high point in her career. But a closely guarded secret threatens to destroy her chance for happiness with the only man she's ever loved... a man who is also hiding a deadly secret.

Trevor has tried to put the past behind him, pretending it never happened. But the conniving father he's been running from for years has finally found him--and is determined to settle the score once and for all.

BK and Trevor's deeply buried secrets are about to catch up with them--and everyone they know and love. Who will pay the ultimate price for their dangerous denials?

I received a copy of Dangerous Denial by Amy Ray, from TLC Book Tours, in exchange for a review and my honest opinion. 

Dangerous Denial dealt with some fairly serious issues that, unfortunately, affect far too many young people growing up. Domestic abuse, neglect, body shaming, teen pregnancy, abandonment… Trevor and BK share no connection throughout their childhood, other than their both having to deal with things that no child should have to. My heart ached, particularly for Trevor, as their parents slowly destroyed their innocence.

As the story progressed, Trevor and BK were freed from the clutches of their parents – but the damage had already been done. The teens struggled to trust others, and strove to control all that they could. Although they were far happier than they had been in their childhood homes, they were never free of their pasts.

The story picks up the pace midway through; where the first half of the book focused more on things from Trevor’s perspective, the latter half is mainly written from BK’s point of view. Lives are in danger, and it’s unclear exactly how their childhoods have really affected the characters. Has the damage been too great to overcome, and can a person who has suffered at the hands of someone so evil ever grow up to be anything other than evil themselves?

I found it interesting that Ray included the story of Trevor’s parents, and how they became who they were, but nothing was said to explain why BK’s mother acted the way that she did. That said, knowing how Trevor’s father had manipulated his mother even before he was born just contributed to my hatred of the man – he really was despicable.

The book escalated slowly, and the lives that the characters are trying so hard to build are threatened by the darkness they’ve tried to escape. Everything comes to a head with a sudden twist, which of course I won’t give away! That said, I did guess the twist ahead of time… to be honest, it frustrated me a little, and the ‘red herring’ of the book could have been incorporated  little differently.

I found this book very intriguing. It was a thriller based on a foundation of very serious issues, which created a background that thrillers often don’t give their readers. I’m excited to see what Ray comes out with next!

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REVIEW: The Blood of the Rose by Kevin Murray

The Blood of the Rose Book Cover The Blood of the Rose
Kevin Murray
Mystery/Thriller
320

"It started low and soft, but grew slowly, increasing in pitch and volume into an unceasing scream so loud and so desperate it pierced his primeval soul. The detective was stunned, his mind blank. On the ragged edges of his consciousness a prophecy took hold. He could see, with shattering clarity, that there would never again be a time in his life when that scream did not exist" London, 1986.

A newspaper editor is horrifically murdered, his death quickly followed by a series of more brutal, and often bizarre, slayings. The police are baffled, the only clear link between the murders being a single blood red rose left at the scene of every killing. Why? What does the rose mean? What connects the killer to each bloody corpse? Scotland Yard detective Alan Winters leads a hunt for the elusive prey. As the body count rises, Jennifer Chapman, renowned investigative journalist and daughter of the murdered newspaper editor, sets out on a personal quest for revenge. Drawn together in their pursuit of a deadly quarry, Winters and Jennifer unwittingly face a fatal surprise, for the killer is closer than they think. As they close in on the truth of the blood red rose, their unseen foe plots a shattering end to his reign of terror, and death awaits them all.

I received a copy of The Blood of the Rose by Kevin Murray from AuthorAmp, in exchange for a review and my honest opinion.

No two people ever read the same book; a persons experience informs their interpretation of whatever they are reading. That was definitely the case with The Blood of the Rose; aside from the shadowy assassin, Hugh Chapman is the first character we are introduced to, and I immediately connected with him. An old fashioned, business-minded, powerful man, Chapman loves his family but doesn’t always know how to show it. His strong willed daughter, Jennifer, struggles to connect with him. Their relationship triggered thoughts of my relationship with my own father; like Chapman in many ways, my strong-willed attitude often is at loggerheads with his old-fashioned ways. I understood Jennifer’s desire to be closer to her father. So, when Chapman was brutally slain, I felt her pain in never having that opportunity, and connected with her need to help find his killer.

As the book progressed, I was surprised by the way Murray unravelled the mystery. Unlike many other thrillers, there was no abundance of cleverly hidden clues that the detectives stumbled upon one after another until they discovered the killer. Instead, much of the first half of the story centered around the distinct lack of clues. To me, that made the story feel more realistic; I’m sure that in real life, the clues don’t just fall in the paths of the investigators.

At times, the italicised insights into the killers thoughts and background were a little incongruously inserted. However, the information that they contained was crucial to understanding his motives and his background, so I can understand their purpose.

It was quite a long read, but just as the lack of progress in the investigation starts to get frustrating, it is revealed to the reader that the emotionless killer is indeed much closer than anybody suspects. Suddenly, with half a book to go, I was suddenly revitalised, wondering what twists and turns awaited in the upcoming pages and the inevitable race to catch the killer. I wasn’t disappointed!

Overall, I really enjoyed this read and would definitely pick up another Kevin Murray thriller in future.

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REVIEW: ‘Life is Swede’ by Claire Duffy

Life is Swede Book Cover Life is Swede
Claire Duffy
Travel Fiction / Thriller
234

Regan moves halfway across the world to start a new life with holiday fling Anders, and blogs daily about her ups and downs settling into Stockholm and struggles to connect with Anders' tight knit group of friends. 

When one of them is found dead during a weekend away in a remote cabin, the police quickly zero in on Anders as the killer. Regan sets out to clear his name, and details her investigation for her fascinated readers - unaware that the killer is reading her blog, and watching her every move. 

I received a copy of Life is Swede by Claire Duffy in exchange for a review, and my honest opinion.

If readers picked this book up without reading the blurb, they could be forgiven for thinking that Life is Swede was expat-fiction. In fact, it isn’t until halfway through the novel that the psychological thriller aspect came into play. However, weirdly, it worked!

Written in blog post form, and in part (the non-murder part!) derived from Duffy’s own experiences as an American expat living in Sweden, the reader gets an immediate insight into Regan’s thoughts. Her blog also evolves with her as the story progresses; gradually the anonymity she initially tried for falls away and nicknames give way to real ones. I found Regan’s introspection very interesting; she often looks back over what she has blogged, and considers how her view of a situation at the time influenced her perceptions of people she met.

Having experienced Sweden myself, I found myself smiling as I recognised the thought that the Swedish people are insanely beautiful – there really are a huge number of tall, blue-eyed, blonde people.

Just as Regan begins to settle into Swedish life, people start dying, and her boyfriend is arrested. Suddenly everyone is under suspicion.

Duffy kept me guessing until the very end; I wasn’t sure who the bad guy was (although I had my suspicions), and I definitely didn’t expect the twist that she threw in at the very end – Duffy kept it fresh!

This was a great first novel. I’m excited to see what Duffy comes up with next (she’s currently releasing another psychological thriller in parts, called Identity). In the meantime, she can be found blogging over at The Grass is Dancing!

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