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Mark Chisnell
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Without Fail: (Jack Reacher 6)
Without Fail: (Jack Reacher 6)
Price: £3.32

4.0 out of 5 stars A little too cold-blooded..., 11 April 2013
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I'm a huge fan of Lee Child's Jack Reacher series, and they were the inspiration for some aspects of Powder Burn and my new `Burn' series. So I needed no encouragement to pick this one up when it was also chosen as a Goodreads group read. And as usual, I wasn't disappointed.

Jack Reacher appeals to the angry and vengeful core in all of us - there are no judges or juries in Reacher's world, just violent retribution dispatched swiftly, without compunction or mercy and, in this case, unusually cold-bloodedly.

The book was written right after the 9/11 tragedy and I think its influence can be seen in the way that in Without Fail it is acceptable for Reacher to assassinate the bad guys. In many of the other Jack Reacher books that I've read, Reacher's own life is at stake from quite early in the story, and so the ruthless killing of the bad guys is softened morally by his need to survive. This is not the case in Without Fail where he could and should have left them to the Secret Service or the FBI - both agencies are intrinsic to the story - but instead goes after them with intent to kill.

Child does a good job of making this aspect as believable as possible, and as the issue only comes up at the very end, it doesn't spoil what is otherwise a fine story. The rest of the book has the usual impeccable mix of tight plotting, tighter writing and great minor characters, and I had no problem awarding four stars.


The Black Echo (Harry Bosch Book 1)
The Black Echo (Harry Bosch Book 1)
Price: £3.95

4.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous opener, 11 April 2013
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I picked this one up because it was a group read on Goodreads, and I'm very glad I did. The Harry Bosch books have been a huge hit and it's easy to see why from this opening tale - Connelly nails his central character from the very beginning.

Harry Bosch is a Vietnam vet, a tunnel fighter, one of the handful of Americans that struggled to battle the North Vietnamese in the dimension that they totally dominated - underground. Harry's also a nascent media star for breaking a couple of big cases and, thanks to consultancy work on translating those case histories into movies, he's the owner of a (small) house overlooking the Hollywood studios. It's a great backstory and Harry never fails to engage and hold the reader's attention.

The terrific central characterisation of Harry is backed up by a fine portrayal of FBI Agent Wish as Harry's sidekick/lover/and sometime antagonist. This is combined with a really solid plot -- I didn't see the twist coming at all, although the hints were there - the central bank `caper' has just the right amount of twists and complexity for a highly entertaining read.

If I had a reservation about the book it would be some pretty clunky dialogue. It's a nit-picking point, but Connelly hasn't (rather than `has not') shortened any of the words in the speech. It makes lots of the characters sound pompous and formal. It might have been the way to do it in 1992 when the book was written, but it's a definite negative now. I also had trouble with some of the minor characterisations, the IAD chief, Irving was a bit of a cliché for instance.

Overall, these are minor quibbles, and I had no problem giving the book four stars.


Lethal People (Donovan Creed)
Lethal People (Donovan Creed)
Price: £0.89

3.0 out of 5 stars Got better once I got it..., 11 Mar 2013
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I didn't like this book to start with, not least because I'd just read The Detachment, a very authentic-feeling thriller by Barry Eisler about assasin John Rain. Locke's central character, Donnie Creed is also an assassin, but that's where the comparison ends. Creed has himself tortured to build up his resistance to pain, sleeps in other people's attics to build up his skills at undetected intrusion, and otherwise lives in a prison cell so he's used to it when he inevitably goes to jail. Right. Of course he does.

And then, with the help of a Goodreads friend, I got it. It's not meant to be real or anything like it - this is black comedy, satire. And as such, it's not bad at all - so long as you can get past the grim violence. The writing is uneven and could use a decent editor and personally, I didn't find it laugh out loud funny. Nevertheless, Locke has created a very engaging character in Donnie Creed, and his first person narrative voice does keep you turning the pages. I doubt I'll buy another one, as it's not really my cup of tea, but I can see why Locke has sold a lot of books.


The Detachment (John Rain)
The Detachment (John Rain)
Price: £1.00

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stylish thriller, 11 Mar 2013
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I first became aware of Barry Eisler after the controversy surrounding his decision to turn down a serious amount of money from a traditional publisher, in favour of bringing the books out himself. Subsequently, he accepted a deal with one of Amazon's publishing imprints, and hasn't looked back. Meanwhile, I became a fan of his blog; his writing on book marketing, the publishing industry and politics is always engaging, entertaining and usually right on the money.

I'm not sure why it has taken me this long to try one of his thrillers - I think it was the lack of availability as a reasonably priced e-book, something that Eisler is planning to fix. But having finally got to it, I'm happy to report that Eisler deserved every penny of whatever money Amazon threw at him - The Detachment is an excellent book by a man as fascinated with the shades of grey as I am.

Eisler has been writing about the assassin John Rain for a while, and this is the latest of those books. I guess it's not an ideal place to start as I came into it with none of Rain's backstory - but it didn't matter. The book works perfectly well as a stand-alone thriller, while the writer still encouraged me to go back and read the earlier ones by making some adroit references to Rain's previous adventures.

Barry Eisler's bio says he worked for the CIA in a covert position, and it shows. Or, at least it shows as far as I - a civilian - can tell. The book has an incredibly authentic feel, that's the first thing. The second is that it rips along at pace, with a rock solid and all-to believable underlying conspiracy at the centre of the plot. John Rain, the conflicted killer is a terrific central protagonist, and the other characters that make up The Detachment are all well drawn and keep you guessing. My pulse was racing in the final set-piece shoot up - only the denouement of Argo has matched that recently. I hope we see more of Rain, and the other characters in The Detachment, but I will most certainly be reading more Eisler either way - `nuff said about this one.


Island Explorer: Surfing, Sailing and Exploring beyond Sumatra and the Mentawai Islands
Island Explorer: Surfing, Sailing and Exploring beyond Sumatra and the Mentawai Islands
Price: £3.02

4.0 out of 5 stars A good start, 15 Feb 2013
I'm a big fan of Tom Anderson's surf-travel books - 'Riding the Magic Carpet' etc - so I thought I would give this one a go. It certainly got off to a good start, and although I've had to put it aside for a bit while work takes over (don't you hate it when that happens), it's definitely worth a look if this is your thing.


Dear Mom: A Sniper's Vietnam
Dear Mom: A Sniper's Vietnam
Price: £3.04

4.0 out of 5 stars Great account, 6 Feb 2013
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I picked this book up to research the war in Vietnam, as I have a story planned that features a US Marine Corps Sniper from that tragic conflict. I'm not going to pull any punches on the writing - this is not great literature, but that's not its purpose or point. I suspect that it does exactly what it set out to do, which is show the reader the mechanics of a very particular form of warfare - humans hunting humans with long-range weapons. If you want to know how the US Marines went about training and using snipers in Vietnam, then this is your book. If you want psychological insight into the cost of engaging in hunting and killing your fellow man - even while harbouring reservations about the politics of the war - then it's not your book, Ward doesn't really go there. But perhaps that's why he was so successful at this most rarefied of jobs.


KILLING PLATO (The Jack Shepherd International Crime Novels Book 2)
KILLING PLATO (The Jack Shepherd International Crime Novels Book 2)
Price: £3.17

4.0 out of 5 stars Another solid thriller from Jake Needham, 6 Feb 2013
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I was introduced to Jake Needham through the first of his Inspector Samuel Tay books, The Ambassador's Wife, which I really enjoyed. I thought I should give his Jack Shepherd series a try, and I wasn't disappointed. This is a character-focused rather than an action-packed thriller, and Jake Needham does grumpy, out-of-sorts-with-the-world characters really well, and comes up with some strong storylines to push them through.

Jack Shepherd is a former big-shot Washington lawyer, now living in Thailand and teaching at a University. Unfortunately, the strength of his US and White House connections see him targeted by the world's best-known and wealthiest fugitive, and the result sucks Shepherd into a grim and tragic plot that threatens to lose him everything. It's well-paced and well-written, and as I've set a couple of my books in that part of the world, I appreciated seeing someone else doing it. Recommended.


The Penal Colony
The Penal Colony
Price: £2.46

5.0 out of 5 stars Great read, 11 Jan 2013
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This review is from: The Penal Colony (Kindle Edition)
This is a book I noticed flying high in the Kindle store and with almost 400 reviews averaging close to 5 stars, I thought it was worth a closer look - I wasn't disappointed. It's a great read, the tale of an innocent man dispatched to a brutal jail for the rest of his life - Shawshank Redemption territory.

In my view, it's a match for that movie. It has all the action required of the genre, but pushes home a few hard points about leadership, the nature of punishment, violence and man's essential self. It's not necessary to agree with what Herley seems to have to say about these things - it's more than enough that he gets you thinking about it. This was my kind of book.

Richard Herley seems to be one of those writers that publishing forgot, and more power to the eBook revolution in bringing his work back to the surface and into the light it so richly deserves. I will be reading more.


JET
JET
Price: £2.34

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Easy, super-entertaining read, 11 Jan 2013
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This review is from: JET (Kindle Edition)
Russell Blake is a force-of-nature, I don't know where he's holed up, but wherever it is there can't be a lot of distractions. I think he's now published 18 books in as many months. The latest includes the Jet series, and he launched the first four of these in the back half of 2012. These are thrillers in the Lee Child / Jack Reacher mould, only more so. They're short, sharp and straight-forward - don't expect much sophistication in the plotting; there's lots of action, very little sitting around and pondering, and about as much navel-gazing as you'd get from Daniel Craig as 007, i.e. an occasional grim look in the mirror.

And while it's nuts and bolts stuff, Tab A always fits squarely and neatly into Hole A, and it all comes together like the solid piece of craftsmanship that it is, and the writing occasionally elevates to several notches higher. I wouldn't call it art, but there's some excellent descriptive stuff in here. I don't know that I'll be rushing back to Jet 2 in the short-term, but I'll get there next time I'm looking for an easy, super-entertaining read.


Only the Innocent
Only the Innocent
Price: £2.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Indy hit, 11 Jan 2013
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This review is from: Only the Innocent (Kindle Edition)
Rachel Abbott's Only the Innocent was one of the big independently-published hits of 2012, and I was intrigued to finally read it. The cover and blurb promise an edgy thriller, and there's no doubt that all those elements are there - sex, abuse, murder. Nevertheless, the book still has a lot in common with a `cozy' mystery, as the detective work revolves around the drawing room of an old manor house - but no, it wasn't Colonel Mustard with the knife in the kitchen, the end was much darker than that.

Only the Innocent leaves you with a central moral dilemma - something I'm fond of in my own writing - and this lifts it above the run-of-the mill mystery or thriller. Punish the guilty, or protect the innocent? I can't tell you which the book goes for without dropping some massive spoilers, so you'll have to read this one, and I can strongly recommend a four star ride.

I held back a star because the central protagonist's necessarily meek and frightened character became a little wearying. There's one fabulous moment where Abbott shows the reader what Laura was like before her marriage - unfortunately, it just made me want to read about that Laura, rather than the one we see in the book. But that aside, it's a well structured, well-written mystery and well worth your time and money.


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