#BlogTour: The Girls On Chalk Hill by Alison Belsham

For this blog tour, we’re looking at a book that is a solid and compelling introduction to a new British police procedural series. For this blog tour, we’re looking at The Girls On Chalk Hill by Alison Belsham.

Here’s what I had to say on Goodreads:

Solid Introduction To New British Police Procedural Series. This book is exactly what I note in the title – a solid introduction to a new British police procedural series, one with a couple of interesting hooks that will be interesting to see exactly how they play out throughout the series. The first being that our lead Investigator is a triplet with a haunted past (which we learn about through this book), the other being that while she is a British national, she has spent several years prior to the events of this tale being trained by the United States’ Federal Bureau of Investigation and working with them. Neither are exactly typical elements of any of the fairly numerous series I’ve read within this exact space, and both contribute to helping this particular series stand out a bit from the pack.

The pacing is near frenetic, starting even with our opening chapter featuring a somewhat shocking and certainly atypical book opener within the police procedural space – much less the very first scene of a brand new series.

Overall, one of the better books within this genre I’ve encountered in quite some time, and I’m glad I already had book two on hand to also read as an Advance Reviewer Copy when I finished this one. Very much recommended.

After the jump, the “publisher details” including book description, author bio, and social media and buy links.
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#BookReview: The Moonshine Messiah by Russell W. Johnson

Complex Almost Anti-Hero Leads Layered World Into Promising New Series. This is one of those books that touches on a lot of things – the opioid epidemic, the crash of coal in the push for so-called “green” energy, land speculation, family, the complexities of being on the right side of the “law” when your family isn’t, high school romance and the fallout thereof, traditional Southern living vs the newer get-rich-quick ethos… and even a strong dash of the militia movement and the mistakes on both sides of Ruby Ridge and Waco and the long shadows both of those events cast in certain communities. In the process, it creates a truly layered and compelling world that while just as complex as our own, still allows for a high degree of escapism (for most). And yet, it is also a brutal tale of survival and betrayal, of losing yourself and finding yourself over and over and over again. Of trying to become something you want to be, even as your community and even family are doing their damndest to drag you in other directions. Overall truly a remarkable tale for what it is, and one I am very much looking forward to coming back into this world. Very much recommended.

This review of The Moonshine Messiah by Russell W. Johnson was originally written on May 9, 2023.

#BookReview: Seven Girls Gone by Allison Brennan

Small Town Southern Mystery Draws In Feds. While technically this is Book 4 of the Quinn and Costa series, they and their team don’t actually show up for a decent chunk of the beginning of the book – it seemingly took them longer to come into this narrative than Book 3, The Wrong Victim (which does get referenced here, for those that cannot stand any spoilers whatsoever). But once they do show up, things begin escalating quite quickly and as always we see the various team members doing what they each do best and what makes them such an effective team. As is the norm of “freak of the week” police procedurals, we also get a fair amount of team and personal development of much of the team as well, and in the end the reader is left ready for the next adventure. This is a well told and well paced tale that even at 400 pages, doesn’t quite feel it – it reads more like maybe a 320 pager or so. I’m very much looking forward to Book 5 in this series, and this entry is very much recommended.

This review of Seven Girls Gone by Allison Brennan was originally written on April 25, 2023.

#BookReview: Don’t Open The Door by Allison Brennan

Welcome To The Next Verse, Same As The First. Looking back over my review of The Sorority Murders, book 1 of this series, and having read literally 247 books in the 354 days since reading it… much of what I said about the first book could well be said here as well. Specifically, this is also a “solid mystery that could have used better pacing” and it is also “an interesting and compelling mystery that will keep you guessing until it wants to reveal it secrets โ€“ and then transitions into a bit more of an action/ suspense tale to finish up the case”. The body count is seemingly a touch lower here, and the innovative use of podcasting is gone, but the overall solid mystery and, yes, perhaps bloat as well, absolutely remain. For a more average reader who perhaps will read only a *few* books between entries in the series, it is likely going to be an overall better experience, but there is absolutely enough here that even if you don’t remember the details of the first book, you’re not going to be lost following the actions here. As it seems to conclude the threads left dangling in the first book and doesn’t really leave many, if any, of its own, this could well serve as either a series finale or as a mechanism to allow the series to proceed without too many entanglements to prior books – and thus it will be interesting to see if and/ or how Brennan chooses to move forward here. Very much recommended.

This review of Don’t Open The Door by Allison Brennan was originally written on December 18, 2022.

#BookReview: Never Back Down by Christopher Swann

Comic Book Justice. In this epic conclusion (?) to Suzie Falkner’s story, Swann manages to keep the tension tight even when filling in backstory – and showing that the characters have lived through the year ish since the publication of Never Go Home in near real-time with the rest of us. Except that for Suzie, that year has been spent being tormented by the fallout from Never Go Home. (In other words, read that book first in this particular case.) We spend most of the book with the Big Bad more a menacing presence in the shadows (ala the opening sequence) or the general background (most of the book) while showing off Suzie’s own skills ever more prominently, including several other tie-ins to Never Go Home. (Seriously, read that book first.) And then, in the last third of the book or so, Swann gets into Suzie’s toughest tests yet – and into some of the most creepy and traumatizing events of these books. Getting into the specifics would be spoilery, but one does need to be generally referenced in case the reader is particularly sensitive to this issue: there *is* a school shooting in this book, and yes, people die in it. Given the realities of the world today, that caution needed to be mentioned. Along those lines, Swann has a line or two where his personal politics tinge the page – but they tend to be throwaway lines that are not pervasive and are quickly moved past, and therefore don’t warrant a star deduction so much as a mention of their presence. Overall truly a breathtaking book that you won’t want to put down for even a second. Very much recommended.

This review of Never Back Down by Christopher Swann was originally written on December 2, 2022.

#BlogTour: The Wrong Victim by Allison Brennan

For this blog tour, we’re looking at a solid new entrant deep in a series and this new entrant happens to be set in the tranquil and beautiful San Juan Islands of Washington State. For this blog tour, we’re looking at The Wrong Victim by Allison Brennan.

Solid Mystery Deep In Series. While this is only book 3 in the series, as heavily as the first two are referenced it actually feels much deeper in. So up front, my recommendation is actually to go back to the beginning of this series and start there, if you haven’t already. But once you get here… this is a solid mystery with a lot going on both within the mystery and town it is placed in – this band of FBI cops travels the country, and this particular mystery is set in Washington’s San Juan Islands, familiar to many from Discovery Channel’s long running Island Life show (which I watched – for months, over meals – on Discovery+, for those that may have missed it and want to get a feel for the real islands here). Both the islanders and the FBI team prove interesting characters, but the series depth *really* shows through in the interactions between the FBI team. The choice to almost go Disaster Movie-esque and show the victims of the murder first was actually quite bold and refreshing, and overall this book simply worked so much better than Brennan’s previous effort I reviewed, The Sorority Murder – which worked well enough for what it was and had some unique things going for it, this was simply a better executed story here to my own mind. Overall a great story, and perfect for any fans of long running police procedurals. Very much recommended.

After the jump, an excerpt from the book followed by the “publisher details” – book description, author bio, and social media and buy links.
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#BookReview: Falling by TJ Newman

I Just Want To Watch The World Burn. I’m of two minds on this book, so I’ll write both reviews here. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Every Airplane Action Movie You’ve Ever Seen – And That Is Why It Works. Briefly looking through the other Goodreads reviews (as I do before writing my own reviews), I saw a few criticisms along the lines of “you can pretty well imagine any airplane action movie you’ve ever seen, and that is what you have here” – and, yes, that is actually valid. But need I remind readers of this review that many of those movies have made *millions* of dollars at the box office, and at least a few others have achieved a cult following over the years? There are *reasons* these movies work, and it is for these same reasons that this book works as well. Another, much more valid, reviewer noted that the opening scene – featuring a hole in the side of a falling aircraft – had absolutely nothing to do with the book, and in fact (my own point here) was immediately retconned at the beginning of Chapter 1. This, along with the visual of the cover that makes the reader think that this will be about a falling aircraft, *almost* smacks of deceptive advertising – which a careful examination of the cover shows is *barely* averted by the fact that if you remove the title and flip the image into a 3D (mathematical) plane such that one end of the cover is closer to you than the other, it is clear that the actual image is *not* of a plane *falling*, but *flying*. Which is actually the action tale we get – a man forced into a Job-esque (or perhaps Solomon-esque?) decision of watching his family be murdered… or he can murder 150 people while committing suicide. Along the way, the FBI gets involved and we get a compelling ground story, though the bit at *Yankee* Stadium (not Dodger Stadium as another reviewer noted) during the ninth inning of Game 7 of the World Series is in fact contrived yet cool. Ultimately even with these issues, this is still a 5* book – though yet again, I do not understand why *this* book gets all the hype and publicity while other books that are at least as good languish in obscurity.

And from the other side…

“That was then. Now I Just Want You To Burn.” Ok, so that title is a bit spoilery, as it is in fact a line that occurs late in the book. Though out of context, it is just cool. ๐Ÿ˜€ This is one action-packed book that has a few cliches – hello, ninth inning of Game 7 of the World Series- yet still manages to keep the reader glued to the page, desperate to see what happens next. Like some (yet far from most) other airplane action tales, this one has a strong ground game (even the dang World Series scene turns out cool, if contrived) mostly featuring an FBI agent regularly frustrated by FBI bureaucracy and seemingly as immune to damage as Halo’s Master Chief. (Seriously, I think this dude absorbs more critical wounds than I’ve ever seen in any other action movie.) If you’re looking for a straight up “don’t think too much and just enjoy the action” type of tale, this one really is pretty dang good, up there with most any Die Hard *movie* (the books the first two Die Hard movies were based on actually had a *bit* more thinking involved, and yes, I’ve read them both – about three years ago, IIRC). While I still don’t understand the *massive* hype and publicity of this book – I’ve seen as-good-or-better tales languish in obscurity *this year* simply because they don’t have the strength of a Mega publisher behind them – again, for what it is, this book is truly solid and a really fun time.

As you can see from both lines of thinking, this book is still, even with its issues and even with my questions re: strength of publisher, very much recommended.

This review of Falling by TJ Newman was originally written on October 6, 2021.

#BookReview: A Thin Disguise by Catherine Bybee

Solid, But With A Glaring Error Early. As a romance between an amnesiac assassin and an undercover FBI agent, this story works great. As a continuation of this new Richter series (which is apparently a spinoff from the First Wives series, though I did not know that until perusing the reviews on Goodreads for this book), this works quite well. As a forced-proximity romance, this is actually fairly inventive, as the leading couple is not alone in the house… *and* there are cameras and sensors (almost) everywhere to boot!

But there is one *blinding* in its glaringness issue that needs to be mentioned, even though it isn’t objectively strong enough to remove a star over (though I know some who would likely 1* the book on this issue alone). And that issue is the very moment the assassin becomes an amnesiac. When she is shot on a crowded Las Vegas street in a drive by shooting with a “silenced” weapon. That nobody hears.

Why is this so glaring?

Because I know from both handling firearms and speaking/ listening to others who do that suppressors – they aren’t actually called “silencers”, for one – don’t actually silence a weapon, unlike what happens so often in Hollywood. Depending on several factors such as barrel length of the gun (usually shorter, in drive by situations), temperature, humidity, etc – all of which would be known and factored by professional hitmen/ security / assassin types – a suppressor *at best* takes a gun shot from sounding like you’re standing beside the speakers at a rock concert to sounding like your is using a chainsaw to cut down a tree on the other side of the fence you are standing beside.

In other words, for the shot not to be heard by *everyone* nearby – inside or outside – is so implausible that it brings the reader out of the story if they know the realities of these devices *at all*.

And since Bybee herself noted during the discussion of her Canyon Creek series that she knows her way around a shotgun, it is implausible that the author is not aware of these issues directly. Which makes them being written this way even worse. Though again, because it was a singular point in the book and not a recurring problem, it isn’t a star-deduction level error.

Ultimately, this is a quite solid book for what it actually is, and I’m still very much looking forward to seeing where this series goes from here. (And I’ll need to go back and read the book this series spins off from, since I bought it years ago and have yet to read it. :D) Very much recommended.

This review of A Thin Disguise by Catherine Bybee was originally written on May 27, 2021.

#BlogTour: Third Kill by John Ryder

For this blog tour, we’re looking at a story of a war between assassins… playing out on the streets and in the casinos of Las Vegas. For this blog tour we’re looking at Third Kill by John Ryder.

Here’s what I had to say on Goodreads:

Assassin On Assassin Action. In Las Vegas. This is a semi-weird (in a good way) mashup of a police procedural and a straight up shoot-em-up action thriller. On the police procedural side, one half of the “problem solving” team is an FBI agent with the usual FBI agent problems, plus at least a hint of a personal life. On the shoot-em-up action thriller side, the other half of the “problem solving” team is a former Royal Marine turned mercenary turned private assassin. Now, this team is tasked with tracking down and assassinating an assassin who has been let loose on the Las Vegas strip – and whoever is paying them. It is an intriguing premise in that it hasn’t been covered a thousand times in a thousand variations of the exact same thing, and when this British author is focusing on things *other* than guns in his action, it is at minimum plausible and seemingly realistic. But his British blind spots shine through in his repeated – pretty much every time – use of “clip” when he should be using “magazine” to denote where in the gun the bullets are stored and what is replaced when you need more bullets. This is where having an American fan, particularly of the “uses guns semi-actively” sort, would come in handy in the proofreading process – a technique I’ve known even American authors who are still less familiar with guns to use to polish their texts before publication. And this *is* an ARC, so there is at least the possibility that this can be corrected in the month or so before publication – in the Kindle variant, at minimum. Still, a truly strong story such that other than this particular point, all other British to American linguistic differences are easily explained away as the one lead character being British himself. Very much recommended.

Update exclusive to BookAnon.com: I’m told that the “clip” v “magazine” issue did in fact get resolved pre-publication. ๐Ÿ™‚

Below the jump, the various publisher details including book description and author bio. ๐Ÿ™‚
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#BookReview: Sin by JM Leduc

Excellent Action Story. This is the re-published edition of a book that has been around for several years, but with most/ all proofreading mistakes caught and with a new cover. And I’ve had this book for most of the time it existed – and only chose to read it now, with the third book in this series releasing this week. Man, I should have read this book years ago. Truly an awesome action story with a richly developed world and a bad-ass, take-no-prisoners type heroine. The former cover of the book had me thinking it was *vastly* different in style than it turned out to be, and the new cover (with the orange background and standing female figure) is much more indicative of the near frenetic action you get with this tale. It cannot be said enough: If you like Jack Reacher type action tales but with a bit less brooding and a bit more knives in throats… you’re going to love this book. Very much recommended.

This review of Sin by JM Leduc was originally written on December 17, 2019.