Category Archives: Thriller

Wolfe, Anna: Liar’s Game (The One Rises V) (2015)

Liar's Game; 2016
Illustration by Kip Ayers

After reviewing books for four years (April), I have come to realize that great stories (regardless of category) come about through bloody hard work and zing. Any one of us can get to a point of writing good books. Only some of us manage zing. Anna Wolfe is one of them. I have had the privilege following Wolfe’s journey through The One Rises and have watched her mastery and self-confidence grow. By now you must realize that I am going to say that Liar’s Game is the best of the lot.

In her preface Wolfe makes certain no technical difficulties will arise in reading her story. She then gives a brief intro of the previous books. It is, as she states, possible to read Liar’s Game without having read the earlier four stories, but your enjoyment will be much higher if you have gotten to know the main characters Carrie, Silas, Mark, Edie and the Hatter ahead of time. In Liar’s Game we get to know more about Jiye, Mimi, Hyacinth and the Seer.

Up til now, the Seer has been shown as hated and implacable. Liar’s Game demonstrates that life is too complicated for such simplistic interpretations of the Seer:

“We care only about guiding our little globe down the right path. We care about the many, more than the one. And the two of you are necessary to preserve the best futures. But you must find the truth for yourselves or important possibilities become nothing more than frozen darkness.” They do not understand. How can they? They are both so young.

Finally, Dokuz asked a question he should have asked a hundred years ago. “How far can you See?”

At last. “Millenia.” And we won’t be able to help you surf the challenges that are coming. Not if you won’t let us help you.

Imagine what it must be like to see into the future for millennia and to know that quite a few of those paths lead to the annihilation of your species, humans. I know I would go crazy, and my guess is that the Seer most likely was insane during her early incarnations. At least until she became we. Wolfe does not explain the Seer’s we, but she has let us see how Carrie communicates with her memory sets. Once again, I am guessing and believe that the Seer chose at some time in the past to magically retain the memories of every incarnation. That would take courage, resilience and a whole lot of stubborn. Mark, Callie and Silas learn this side of her, and that changes them. How could it not?

Mark is frustrated. His demon-infection demands anger to sate its hunger, and Mark is a master at making people angry. Somehow, his ability recognizes what will hurt the most and tries to force words to bring hurt and anger out in all he meets. Being able to sense lies also aids his ability a great deal. Liar’s Game shows us how painful controlling his ability is.

The sensation in his mouth morphed into a ball of needles that was trying to escape his skull in every direction.

For some reason Callie can feed him without anger, but Callie is an extremely dangerous person to feed from. She has almost killed him once, and neither of them wishes to repeat that experience. So Mark starves rather than inflect unnecessary anger on people.

Silas winced and then a sick ball of dread opened up in his stomach. And now she dies. I’ll have to pass it off as a suicide, but after the events in San Fran, Edie and Mark will be at risk. They will both have to leave. And soon. Only Callie didn’t die. One moment turned into ten and still Callie stood there glaring at him. Shock rippled through him, and for a moment, he couldn’t hear anything. The room wavered under his feet, and he stumbled forward until he could sit on the end of the bed.

Why does Callie not die? Wolfe has hinted at the truth in the previous books. This should knock the final nail into your chest of understanding. No worries, though. All is revealed in Liar’s Game. Fair is fair, so Callie finds out about Silas. Gaining knowledge about each other tears down preconceptions and barriers and matures Silas and Callie for the Seer.

Anna Wolfe states that The One Rises series is intended for adults. Most likely that is because of the sex. It is certainly explicit but no more than the violence in many Young Adult stories. There is plenty of ACTION and some violence.

Highly recommended.

Liar’s Game was given to me by the author.


Liar’s Game is available at Smashwords from Feb 1, 2016


My review of: 1) Bitten, 2) Addicted, 3) Ensnared by magic, 4) Poisoned by deceit

Barnett, David: Gideon Smith and the Mechanical Girl (2013)

“Darling Annie!” He took her in his arms and kissed her. Annie wanted to should it from the rooftops. She had a sweetheart, and he was a toff to boot.

Poor little Annie Crook became involved with the wrong man. In Victorian times, whether they be in alternate or our history, the rabble risked much if they caught the attention of the upper class. Yet, sometimes, the rabble manages to surprise. Young Annie is one of the voices David Barnett  introduces us to in Mechanical Girl.

At first, he thought the knocking was a gear slipping, or one of the spring wearing. He sat up in the chair, suddenly alert, and peered around. “Anybody else hear that?”

Arthur frowned. There it went again. He stood and walked to the port side. Probably a piece of driftwood or rubbish hauled over the side from one of the factory farms. He leaned over and looked at the black, oily water.

Lives of trawler-fishers are dangerous one. In the past, more so. Usually, lives are lost because of the ocean’s wiles, but for Arthur Smith the cause of death of was much more sinister. Left behind is 24-year-old Gideon Smith (our main protagonist). To him Sandsend seems like the end of the earth and he wants nothing more than to leave it behind and experience the adventures he reads about in World Marvels & Wonders.

To have his father’s death be the impetus for his investigation  was not how Gideon thought his adventure would begin. Investigate he must, for there is something distinctly off about the disappearance of the crew of the Cold Drake. Anger can be a marvelous tool when we suspect something needs fixing. Anger at our gods, the fickleness of nature, people dying and leaving us behind and even at our own fears are all angers that can prompt action and change. Gideon is an angry man, and rightly so. Life in Victorian times (both alternate world and our) was unfair. It still is. Being wealthy makes life easier to navigate while poverty keeps people in their place. Annie was certainly kept in her place. Now Gideon has to find a way to leave his and investigate and explore.

Which is why he goes seeking Captain Trigger, that wonderful hero of the penny dreadfuls. Such a hero must see that Gideon’s cause is worth pursuing (taking Gideon with him). Getting hold of Captain Trigger proves difficult and Gideon must seek help. Who should turn up but Bram Stoker. Yes, that one. David Barnett throws  conspiracies and magical names at us through the story. We just have to pay attention to where we are going.

Once Bram becomes involved, officials finally pay attention to Gideon’s worry about a smuggler’s cave. Stoker is just higher enough on the layers of society for him to be taken more seriously than Gideon. Let’s face it. That is the way the world works. I am taken more seriously than a homeless person. My husband is taken more seriously than I. Writing about inequality in a manner that is fun to read is something Barnett does well. Intended or unintended.

In the end, Gideon gets to meet Captain Trigger, a meeting that changes both men. Gideon also meets wonderful and strange Maria. As he and Maria get closer to an answer to both of their questions, stranger and stranger creatures turn up. Conspiracy indeed.

I had fun. Lots of fun reading Gideon Smith and the Mechanical Girl. Definitely recommended.


Reviews:


Gideon Smith and the Mechanical Girl available at Amazon.com

McCoskey, Scott: Bad Mojo Blues (2014)

Bad Mojo Blues by Scott McCoskeyMerriam-Webster defines mojo as: “a power that may seem magical and that allows someone to be very effective, successful, etc.” Bad Mojo is certainly something Marcus suffers from during the three days that we walk with him.

“The cards were screaming at him to hop a plane to anywhere else … Right now they told him to change his fucking direction and fast.”

But Marcus’ father is dying. If not for that, he would have stayed away from his dysfunctional family another ten years. His mom and dad are conservative Christians, his cousin is a blood-bag to a vampire and his sister (who begged him to come home) keeps away from Marcus. He is thought, by his family, to be dirty and evil  because he practices magic.

Marcus’ relatives aren’t the only dysfunctional people we meet. Old friends try to mess with him, and some of their requests are pretty unfriendly. All, in all, the tarot cards seem to have been correct, this time, in their predictions.

Scott McCoskey has written about a mess of a person and done it in a manner that I enjoyed. This is a self-published book and there were flaws, but McCoskey’s style makes up for that. Bad Mojo Blues is a fun crime-filled novella set in an unnamed small town in South-West New Mexico.

Recommended.


Bad Mojo Blues available at amazon.com

Priest, Cherie: Four and Twenty Blackbirds (Eden Moore 1) (2003)

Book design by Nicole de las Heras
Book design by Nicole de las Heras

“Hey,” I said, not to greet her but to get her attention. “Hey.”
Her eyes rolled to meet mine.
She opened her mouth but did not yet speak. Instead it seemed
every sound in the forest was pulled inside her gasping lungs and I was standing in the vacuum. I knew my friends were only yards away but I did not hear their small, fast feet shuffling through the undergrowth. No birds sang and no squirrels knocked winter nuts down into empty trees. Even the shadows stopped crawling across the rocks as the sky held the clouds above in place.
My breath snagged in my throat and refused to leave my chest.
Tears came to the woman’s eyes and dripped to the forest floor
unchecked. Her head swiveled slowly, looking past her left shoulder and then her right. Her choked, thin voice cried out to the others.
Willa, Luanna—she’s over here.
Two other women appeared, one on either side of her. They had
the same vaguely African features as the first, with hair bound into submission by scarves tied in loose knots. Their faces might have been round once, but their skin was drawn back and their wide cheekbones made shelves that shadowed their hollow jaws. Their teeth were exaggerated by fleshy lips robbed of their firmness, and when they spoke to one another it was a terrible sight.
There she is, his darling one.
His pretty one.
Oh, Mae, she’s returned to you. She’s returned to us.
Mae crouched low to examine me with her enormous, brimming
eyes. My baby, she said, reaching one scrawny arm to my face. Mybaby. Miabella.

Who wants to live forever? Not I. Some people do and this greed is explored in the story about Eden Moore, her convoluted family tree and ghostly followers.

In Four and Twenty Blackbirds the John Gray death-cult uses a dark combination of Songhaien Sorko lore and Seminole lore to bring their founder back to life. Somehow John Gray is tied to young Eden, who we meet for the first time when she is five.

Five years old, Eden hears her three ghostly followers speak for the first time with the words in the quote above. As a child, I had no concept of dead or alive, and I imagine my reaction would have been much as Eden’s was. She was used to these women. They were different to other women, but, you know, people! As she grew older, she realized that others considered Eden a bit of an oddity. Apparently, at least until her first time at camp, no other person she met saw what she now understood were ghosts.

Cherie Priest is not afraid to tackle serious issues. One of the most serious issues in Southern USA is racism. As a child, I was bullied a lot. So, to some extent, I can imagine what it must have been like for Eden to be bullied for something she had no control over. Some of her class-mates and her pale faced relatives were horrible and on one occasion a co-student made it really simple for Eden to break the rules.

“You guys who aren’t all white and aren’t all black. You’re not anything except the worst mix of a bad lot, and it don’t surprise my dad at all that a family like yours would have something crazy like this going on.”

Auntie Lulu, Eden’s adopted mother and aunt, keeps the truth of Eden’s ancestry from her in an attempt to shield her. Being the last to know does not make for a happy Eden.  But Eden must wait until she is old enough to search for the truth on her own.

Works well as a stand-alone, but is part of a series. Definitely recommended. I had trouble putting it down.


Reviews:


Four and Twenty Blackbirds may be found at McMillan

Meaney, John: Bone Song (2007)

My introduction to John Meaney came through the Nulapeiron series with the book Paradox. I was blown away by the quality of the writing. Then I placed the novel on my shelf and sort of forgot about it (I read a lot). Through my library Bone Song came to my attention. Talk about pleasant reunion with an author. This reminder led to the purchase of the remainder of the Nulapeiron Sequence and the later continuation of Tristopolis with Dark Blood.

John Meaney writes a mean book, a novel that draws me into its lair waiting to be consumed by it. And I was. Bone Song was incredibly difficult to put down. Meaney’s description of Tristopolis is beguiling and dark. Atmosphere and personalities light up like a beacon in my mind.

Considering the title of my blog Bone Song is the perfect first novel to review. In it we find the darker side of humanity described in a manner that shows us the lure of power – power-hunger – power-addiction and the concept that some people are more equal than others.

Bone Song is the first book in the Tristopolis series. Tristopolis is the city of Lieutenant Donal Riordan, the good guy in this plot. It is also a city where the dead are sent to give energy to the generators that keep the city running. Zombies, wraiths and gargoyles are only some the races inhabiting this world along with humans, and Donal manages to interact and make friends with them all.

Bone Song is supposedly a horror book but I’m not sure I agree with that assessment. It’s certainly a dark enough world, but it seems bleak rather than horrifying and creepy.

Donal has been assigned to protect an exceptional opera singer who the authorities suspect is on the hit-list of a mysterious serial killer. The job does not go well. Donal gets drawn into a world of deception and betrayal, a world where he has to find someone hidden by powerful connections.

There is murder and mayhem, but Donal shines like a beacon in this book. He’ll kill and maim if he has to, but he’d prefer it if he didn’t. His opponents (mysterious as they are) are quite different. “The end justifies the means” seems to be their motto. This does seem to be the motto of power-addicted people.


Reviews:


Bone Song available on Amazon US

Vincent, Steve P.: The Foundation (Jack Emery I) (2015)

The Foundation by Steve P Vincent

When he was finished, he ejected the USB and all signs of the message board vanished from the screen. Chen left the internet café as anonymously as he’d entered, satisfied that everything was in place for the attack. He had no expectation that he’d bring down the Chinese Government, though he did believe that a heavy enough blow could cause a fracture in the monolith. He felt a small degree of guilt for the innocents who’d die, but their lives were the price of vengeance.

One of Norway’s better known war journalists is Åsne Seierstad. Her work has taken her around the world to high-adrenaline and gruesome situations filled with death and dying (and probably long periods of boredom). Jack Emery is one of the huge clan of war journalists and has been to Afghanistan. Right now he has been back a while and wants a new assignment. His boss does not trust him with important work due to a drinking problem Jack developed upon his return. During the course of the story what seemed important enough to send him chasing bottles ends up filling him with regret and self-derision. Not derision for drinking himself to bits but derision for insisting on interpreting the world one way.

Death seems to focus our minds on what each of us considers vital to existence. In Jack’s case that turned him back to the hunt for truth. In a manner of speaking, Jack is our detective and the story is a large-scale whodunit. I suppose all thrillers are that at their base. Mr. Vincent has skillfully added corporations and governments to the whodunit stew and come up with an extremely entertaining story about the shenanigans of countries and corporations.

In my experience, all thrillers that make their characters believable also create a story that becomes probable. Chen provides us with the spark that sets off tension between the United States and China. He is by no means alone in setting the scene for what the countries call a terrorist act. What countries get away with doing (“aggressive military posturing”) independent people/corporations must be punished for. Politics seldom make sense. When it comes to large-scale murder they make even less sense.

As Jack and his fellow journalists poke their heads further and further into the wasp’s nest, their lives become less secure. We all know that is because the perpetrators fear discovery. In this case there are several instigators behind the scenes and none of them want to be found out.

There is plenty of violence (somewhat explicit), loads of action and some sex (not explicit).

Before reading The Foundation (TF), I read Fireplay (see quote). Fireplay is written after TF, but its plot happens before the plot of TF. TF is written in Australian English. Any language oddities you find therein will probably be due to that.

Definitely recommended.


The Foundation was recommended to me by Nathan Farrugia (The Fifth Column)


Reviews:


The Foundation may be found on Goodreads

Vincent, Steve P.: Fireplay (Jack Emery 0.5) (2015)

He looked out the front windshield and could see nothing but the desert and the dust kicked up from the Humvee at the head of the column. He shuffled back into the seat and struggled to get comfortable as the music switched to the next track. As a roaring drum solo kicked off the wailing electric guitars, there was a massive explosion and the lead Humvee burst into a fireball.

Steve P. Vincent

Robertson, Edward W.: Outcome (Breakers 0) (2013)

Outcome by Edward W Robertson

 

 

Across the table, Ellie Colson’s bosses laughed what might be the last big laugh of their lives. She forgave them. They didn’t know they were joking about the end of the world.

She smiled thinly. Rawlings, her direct superior, chuckled and swabbed his puffy hand across the table, as if he were working at an imaginary water spot. Dr. Armen laughed and clutched his gut, as if he were afraid it might bounce away. Jesper Mason just smiled. Like Ellie, he hadn’t been introduced by rank – Rawlings hadn’t even mentioned which org he belonged to, which meant he was a field hand, and a useful one. She recognized him vaguely. Might have seen him around the stacks once or twice. Mason had told the joke, something about Spanish flu. Ellie hadn’t been listening. She’d been thinking about the transmission rate in Rawlings’ printout.

The laughter stopped. Conversation resumed. The room was bare and windowless but their voices carried no echo, dying in the small space like lost moths. It wasn’t that these men weren’t smart; they had enough degrees between them to paper a den. It wasn’t that they lacked dedication; she would soon prove herself least dedicated of any of them.

It was that they lacked imagination. (page 1)

These are the words that hooked me. Something about Robertson’s writing drew me into his post-apocalyptic chaos until the end, an ending I appreciated.

Why did Ellie risk her life to try to save Chip Billips? Well, as she saw it, she was already dead. In fact, both of them were already dead. Their bodies just hadn’t finished the process yet. The likelihood of escaping this surprising and terrifying new plague seemed highly unlikely. But why Chip? It certainly wasn’t because Chip lived in a convenient place.

New York, a city with a population of about 8.49 million people packed into an area measuring 468.90 sq miles (1,214 km²). Needing to chase down a person in a tight place like that makes for perfect post-apocalysm. Robertson paints both the atmosphere between Ellie and Chip and the atmosphere in the city as bleak, confused and fearful. With his magic, Robertson helped me believe in the plague’s progression and people’s reaction to it.

When authors like Robertson come along, I find it does not matter to me if snags turn up. Yet none did. I loved it.

Definitely recommended.


Reviews:


Outcome available at

Also available on Kobo and Google Play.

Decruyenaere, Gilles: I Dreamt of Trees (2015)

I Dreamt of Trees is an amazing first novel. Mr. Decruyenaere has managed that difficult feat of listening to his editors and written tightness and tension into his story. Words flow from one to another drawing me into a dreary and terrible future inhabited by people who are all too believable.

The USS McAdam seems to have been built with every contingency in mind except the humans inhabiting it and the Squelchers. But for the most part it is the humans who are its main problem and also the main theme of the story. We enter the USS McAdam centuries after its launching from a place only guessed at by the general population.

“to think that anyone on the ship actually knew its true origins was just ridiculous; too many centuries had passed since the ship had launched; too many computer malfunctions, human errors, and political shenanigans had transpired for any real proof of Earth to remain.”

The society on the MSS McAdam seems to have been half-way decent during the Prologue. Thirty-five years after the appearance of the Squelchers, life has changed for the entire population of the vessel.

A crisis is a wonderful thing for power-hungry people. What was once unthinkable becomes doable by manipulating a fearful population into wanting to destroy the new “THEM” by any means possible. Even if that entails becoming a strictly stratified and segregated population (“one must make sacrifices”). The “have-nots” are stuck on the Rim-side of a ship-wide sewage moat while the “haves” get to live on the Core-side. Understandably, Core-dwellers will do what is required to remain on their side of the moat.

Core-dwellers are the people the High Command (and true rulers after the revolution) deemed desirable. The High Command tell their puppets, the Council, what attitudes need to be enforced through propaganda and terror. Like many of our own revolutions here on earth, life seldom becomes better for any but the very few. But while life may be terror-laden for Core-dwellers, it is infinitely better than what Rim-dweller endure.

What new regimes need are heroes and “Them”. In this case the major “Them” is obvious. Squelchers are bizarre aliens who zap people into their spaceships when their beams get through the shields of the MSS McAdam. Our new heroes are the Flashers and the Boosterettes.

Flasher Jason Crawford is our main character and seventeen years old. His level of aggression is at a height that is either drug-induced or bred into him. For some reason anger and aggression are seen as a positive qualities for the Flashers (along with youth and short and slender bodies). Everything about Jason screams aggression. His language reveals both his lack of ability to control his temper but also the extremely homophobic and misogynistic nature of his society.

A young girl’s greatest goal is to be able to work in privilege suites as a Boosterette. I strongly doubt dream and reality line up for these young girls. Medical staff are assigned to take care of what is left once the Flashers have “released the pressure”. Thankfully, Mr. Decruyenaere never shows us what goes on in the privilege suites.

Life is going to be full of surprises for young Jason and most of those surprises will shock him. I loved the ending. It was perfect.

Definitely recommended.


I Dreamt of Trees available at:


I was given a copy of this book by the author

 

Hurley, Kameron: Infidel (Bel Dame Apocrypha II) (2011)

Nyx is a hero I have fallen in love with. As mentioned in my review for God’s War, I am drawn by her passion and love for the people she considers hers. Given the wrong kind of circumstances, my aspergers might have formed me into such a predator. Her emotions are easy to access, and her reasons are simple to understand.

She does her best to protect what is hers. Her ownership of both her people and her country enables Nyx to do what she considers the right thing for her country and her people.

Hurley’s Tirhani is in some ways like my Norway. Norway is a small country known for its apparent peaceful approach to life enabled by the safety of wealth. However, as exporters of arms and ammunition over whose end-location we have no control, we are also guilty of bringing war to other countries. All we have to do is look at the result of the US destruction of both Afghanistan and Iraq. Considering the US is one of our largest customers, this really isn’t something to be proud about. Yet we go about our peaceful lives without giving women and children whose men have been torn out of their lives a single thought. All weapon producing countries whose citizens live fairly peaceful lives share in this destruction.

Rhys and Inaya have settled in peaceful Tirhani hoping that Nyx will never turn up again. Understandable, really, as Nyx represents an excruciating time of both of their lives. But the Beldame rebellion brings them all together effecting a new period of needing to kill or be killed. Who needs enemies when they have a friend like Nyx. Perhaps this is the greatest difference between the three. Rhys and Inaya (and Khos) cling to the idea of not needing to involve themselves in keeping their families safe by keeping the world safe. It is the simplest path to choose in life. I venture in and out of it. Nyx dives head-on into her attempt to keep Umayma as safe as possible.

Once Rhys and Inaya seem to no longer have a choice, they to do their very best to stay alive. Most people seem to wish to live and they will go to great lengths to stay alive. Umayma can be both heaven and hell for its inhabitants. For Nyxnissia, Nasheen and Chenja it seems to be a never-ending hell.


Reviews:

Kameron Hurley on Nyx as a hero


Infidel available at Amazon US


My review of God’s War


Norway Tirhan

Rust, Angelika: Once a Rat (Istonnia III) (2014)

once-a-rat - Angelika Rust

Angelika Rust displays one of my favorite traits in an author. She evolves and improves over time. Once a Rat shows just how far Rust has come in her writing. The only thing she continues to do that annoys me is to overuse the word “whom”.

“It’s worse than I thought,” she groaned, rolling onto her back. “It isn’t innocence, it’s honor. You’re the son of a rich bastard of a trader and a madwoman. Whom, for fire’s sake did you inherit your honor from?”

Honor is a strange concept. For one thing, honor varies from person to person. There does seem to be a common denominator across nations, namely that to be considered honorable, one must keep promises/oaths made. Nivvo seems to have honor as an in-born character trait. Such a trait makes Nivvo perfect for some roles but disqualifies him when breaking promises might be needed. There are several high-status professions, in real life and in Istonnia, involving deception and deceit, that Nivvo could not fill.

In Once a Rat Nivvo is sent on a joint mission for the Regent and Underlord of Istonnia in the hopes that Istonnia might be saved from more fighting. Being the kind of story that Once a Rat is, the likelihood of Nivvo surviving that mission is in doubt. But Nivvo accepts that as his duty. Part of that duty has to do with his promises to obey Vicco, but Nivvo also seems to feel that his relationship with the Regent obliges him to serve Istonnia as best he can.

Part of his mission terrifies him. Practical experience of slavery turns out to be completely different from the theoretical understanding of its nature.

“…, he knew they’d come back to haunt him for the rest of his life … a child, little more than a toddler, on his hands and knees, and a soldier stomping on the tiny fingers till they broke with a sickening crunch … a woman his own age, tears streaming from her closed eyes as a slave handler cut her clothes away to reveal her body to a customer … a man hugging the pole he was tied to, screaming relentlessly as a lash opened up gash after gash on his already scarred back …”

Slavery, the objectification of people taken to extremes. The real world still embraces slavery and most of us are quietly complicit in letting it carry on. Nivvo’s mission is to get to the person trying to work against slavery in Baredi and help that person succeed. But the odds are against the abolitionists.

There are some very angry people left in Istonnia. Choosing to smother his loved ones in protectiveness happens to be one of Nivvo’s greatest failings. Even Vilores is kept in the dark. Shame on Nivvo and his father for breaking that law once again.

While Nivvo is gone Cambrosi is having fun trying to stay alive. Fedoro is helping him. Someone in his organization is trying to overthrow the Underlord. If it works, then Istonnia seems doomed to enter what might become a civil war.

Plenty of action, some violence, some sex – neither very explicit.

Definitely recommended.


Once a Rat available at Amazon US

Nesbø, Jo: Police/Politi (Harry Hole X) (2013/2014)

I read Police/Politi in Norwegian.

Some reviewers felt Police was too violent for them. All of Jo Nesbø’s mysteries are dark literature. He delves into the murky and seedy side of people and society. Police deals with consequences and corruption. This time Nesbø looks at corruption within the Norwegian police force. Not only the leaders seem to have trouble staying within the framework of the law. Some of its officers define the law in a manner that allows it to make sense to them. Justice, is after all not the purpose of the law. The purpose of the law is the law and how to define it.

Police was in no way a philosophical work. Entertainment and commentary seems to have been Nesbø’s purpose in writing it. However, I do not have a clue as to what his purpose was because I have read none of his interviews only some of the reviews out there. But it does raise some questions. The nature of corruption being one of them.

What we are willing to sacrifice on the alter of power? If there is one subject that keeps on popping up in stories and research papers, power seems to be it. Sometimes in the form of helplessness – as that poor gay kid must have felt when he came out to Bellman and got beaten up for it. At other times it comes in the form of wanting more power over others. Having power over Berntsen was never enough for Bellman. And sometimes power is portrayed as something we hope to get through others, kind of like the hope Ulla was left with once she and Michael had met in the hotel.

Nesbø also takes a closer look at another reason people kill. Love can influence people’s choices. My definition of love might not fit your. When the love of one person was killed many years ago, that person felt a need for revenge. Revenge took a long time coming, but once it arrived it was certainly thorough. Harry Hole came back to policing due to the path revenge wandered on.

Jo Nesbø is sneaky. Not until seconds or minutes before the culprit was revealed did I figure out who the killer was. No wonder with all the shady characters in the land of Nesbø’s imagination. Just as when I watch magicians, I was fooled by Jo Nesbø’s misdirection. Every time an author manages to trick me I am both pleased and annoyed at the same time.

What I like with police procedurals like Police is that there are no magic solutions to finding a culprit. Harry Hole certainly has Poirot-like qualities in his intuitive ability to see what others cannot. However, Harry makes mistakes and depends on his crew to find the data needed to draw his conclusions. My enjoyment of a mystery/thriller increases with the type of craftsmanship that Nesbø shows.

Warning: Descriptive violence

I had fun. Definitely recommended.


Reviews:


Police is available at bokkilden.no / amazon (various countries) / others


Translations (Original language Norwegian – my edition) Politi:

Jeter, K.W.: Madlands (1991/2012)

Madlands is in many ways similar to the underbelly of Los Angeles (and any city with major power players) of today. Identrope is the creator and most powerful person of this dystopian version of Los Angeles. K.W.’s version is considered cyberpunk, and that may be true. At least it would seem that way as the net of the city is explained in greater detail in a section of the story.

This explanatory section is the only downside of Madlands. During it Mr. Jeter fell from dystopia into teacher’s voice. The setting itself was a dream about a teacher/student situation, and preaching might be considered relevant in such an environment. But it felt out of place to me.

Strangely enough, and wonderfully fitting to the story of Madlands, the most powerful person in Los Angeles (downtown) today is supposed to be Tim Leiweke of the Anschutz Entertainment Group.

Entertainment is what Identrope does to boost his opinion of himself and to gather worshipers in a city you may enter but can not leave. It’s not that anyone tries to hold you back from leaving. What high Identrope exudes keeps you staying until the side-effects of his miasma of madness kills you.

We hear a lot about Identrope, but he makes few appearances. I suppose that is as it should be when part of his power lies in what he has to offer in the way of highs and entertainment. Our main character is Identrope’s deputy, Trayne.

Part of Madland’s appeal has been brought about by Trayne. It seems the US is a little low on entertainment. Trayne started a dancing group and for some reason that group made people want to listen to whatever invitations Identrope made on television and follow through on them by donating money and traveling to LA to be near their god.

Surreal is one sensation I felt while reading the story. Madlands also came through as a great piece on power. Clearly, the people who had power wanted more (even Trayne) and those who were without were disposable tools on the way there. One of those power structures happened to be the KKK. I have to admit that I was not aware of the influence the KKK had (and possibly) have in Southern California. Power is such a lure and few use it appropriately (for the best of as many as possible). I have trouble understanding why people hunger for more and more power. Madlands shows us a place where there are people who apparently never get enough of it.

Definitely recommended.


Reviews:


Madlands available for free at Amazon Kindle (per 01 Feb 2014)


Translation:


San Diego’s Ku Klux Klan 1920-1980

Spartacus Educational

The 1922 Ku Klux Klan Inglewood raid

Jenkins, David Elias: The Feral (The Last Line I) (2014)

The Feral - David Elias Jenkins

The life of a soldier in action is a whole lot of wait for a few minutes of terror. This seems to hold true for all who lead adventurous lives. Some of those soldiers are so caught in the grip of adrenaline kicks that they would never ever be able to function in a regular 9-5 job again. The members of the STG (Special Threats Group) Empire one are such adrenaline junkies.

Usher and Isaac Marlowe are the members of that group who stand out the most as three-dimensional people. The rest of the group: Kruger, Charlie, Brock and Christie add flavour to the dynamics of the group and their work. All of them are from different backgrounds. The only thing they have in common is that at one point or another “The Veil” was lifted from their eyes and they had an undeniable encounter with the Unseelie Court (Faery). Since that time the various member have worked toward getting the Unseelie off the Earth and back to whatever parallel world they are from. But the Unseelie have the opposite aim. They wish to invade the Earth, eradicate humans and make the Earth their own home.

Mr. Jenkins introduces a variation on vampires that I loved. More different to the glitter and Oooh-Aaahing of people around the world cannot exist. If there is, please let me know. Amoral, hungry, arrogant and bizarre are only a few terms that describe the vampire we get to meet. Vampires and werewolves are part of the Faery world. That makes more sense than them being converted humans. We even meet a zombie-like creature in the form of the infiltrator Owen Sibelius. This is the kind of zombie I understand.

Soldiers around the world have a tough lot in life. For some reason the public seems to expect them to be invisible. If they see fighting, we do not wish to hear about what effect that action has on them. Killing other people as a job must necessarily affect the person doing the killing. But these people are ordered to accomplish whatever aims their idiotic leaders wish to pursue and are not in a position to constantly question orders they are given – even if those orders make no sense. A soldier who reaches Special Forces level must be aware of the questionable legality of some of their orders, yet they have the mental strength that allows them to follow through. For the Special Threats Group, this is seldom a problem. They know that the enemy is a real threat to them and the rest of humanity, and they want these Faery gone. Sadly, of late, recruitment to the fighting groups is slower than the demise of their members and that leaves these people overworked and in serious need of decompression.

I would make a stinky soldier. Part of that has to do with my autism. Sucky balance, don’t know right from left, problem with orders and will have melt-downs when my sensory system is overloaded. Not great soldier material. In fact, I would probably be one of the first people killed if my country was ever invaded again. But I have the ability to see the necessity of soldier-like people in a world where the definition of peace is something we would kill to be right about. While the Faery are a clearly defined group and more or less easy to spot, humans who believe that the Faery need to own the world are a bit more difficult to separate from regular humans. Empire One also fights to rid the world of humans who (once again) have pitted themselves against humanity by providing the Faery with technology and biology that makes taking over the world easier. Because that is how stupid humans are. We really are. We do it all the time. Just take a look around and you will see how incredibly self-destructive humans are.

Another stinky soldier is Ariel – tasked to infiltrate Isiah Argent’s organization. Poor geek. He does a marvelous and terrified job considering what he has to work with. This is another three-dimensional character that Mr. Jenkins portrays well.

There is one part of the story where I feel the need to comment on believability. In one of the scenes with Kruger something was supposed to take around 1-1.5 hours to finish. Once the two things had been taken, that would not be a likely scenario due to stuff leaving. (As clear as I can make it without spoiling the story.)

Warning on lots of violence and gore. Very dark story. Definitely recommended.

Mr. Jenkins provided me with a copy of The Feral to review or not.


Reviews:


The Feral available at Amazon UK


The Unseelie Court

Harrison, Kim: The Witch with No Name (Hollows XIII) (2014)

For the insider, The Witch With No Name brings Hollows to an end with loads of action, death, betrayal, idiocy and heroism.

Master vampires have no sense of other people’s boundaries. They take psychopathy to its extreme. Seriously scary people. Anyone in their right mind would be afraid of them. Perhaps even seasoned demons. Young ones, like Rachel (the only young demon around), need to keep master vampires away from themselves altogether. Often fictional lives do not work out that way.

When a master vampire, like Cormel, wants something, he does not care at all about anything but what he wants. He utilizes anything he thinks will work to get Rachel to do his bidding. Hell, he’ll even use the tools at his disposal even if he doesn’t think they will be effective.

By now Rachel has come to love such an amount of people that Cormel can pick and choose who he wishes to hurt Rachel with. He wants the souls of the undead re-united with their bodies. Whether that is a good thing or not for the vampires, himself even, he cares not. My will be done! So be it! Lord and emperor in one is how he sees himself.

Psychopaths are seriously frightening people and noone wants them in their lives. But at least they are consistent in not caring, in abusing and in being bad for you. The rest of us though. All of us who deal in shades of grey. Man, we are the ones to be worried about. Some of us try to be half-way decent, while others of us tend to lean more towards deviousness and anarchy, but we are all unpredictable. These are the people who will do the most harm to Rachel and her loved ones.

Perhaps people can help it, but I haven’t seen signs of it yet. We do what we think will benefit ourselves and those we care for. It may be detrimental to all the involved parties, but somehow we find ways to justify godawful choices. Some of Trent and Rachel’s enemies are like that. They want what they think is best for themselves and those they wish on their side, even if part of them has to know (it just has to) that they are doing something stupid. Boy is their choice dumb, idiotic, beyond comprehension, yet oh, such a normal thing.

How does a person fight such people? Sometimes you can’t and sometimes you just have to do your best. In Rachel’s case her best can be pretty impressive. While Kim Harrison manages to convince me that Rachel is afraid and all of that, Rachel is way beyond my abilities – not thinking about the magic stuff now. She is simply brave. Brave and loving and dangerous and stupid. But she tries her best to make life better for her loved ones. Since this story is about her and her coterie, she is the one that matters to me. Forget the rest. LET THEM BURN. Or not. Fortunately it just so happens that what is good for Rachel and her people is also good for the rest of the magical population.

And so it ends. Definitely recommended.


The Witch With No Name available at

                      


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