Review: Dead Man Walking by Simon R. Green

Review: Dead Man Walking by Simon R. GreenDead Man Walking (Ishmael Jones, #2) by Simon R. Green
Format: ebook
Source: purchased from Amazon
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: mystery, science fiction, urban fantasy
Series: Ishmael Jones #2
Pages: 208
Published by Severn House Publishers on September 1, 2016
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

Call me Ishmael. Ishmael Jones. I am the man in the shadows, that even the shadows are afraid of. The secret agent whose life is the greatest secret of all. And some of the cases I work are trickier than others. " A rogue agent has come in from the cold and wants to spill his secrets. The Organisation wants Ishmael to find out if Frank Parker is who he says he is, what he really knows, and why he has emerged from the shadows after all this time. Ishmael heads to Ringstone Lodge in Yorkshire where Parker is being held to find that an atmosphere of fear and suspicion prevails. As he and his fellow residents are menaced by a series of alarming and inexplicable incidents, Ishmael sets out to prove that it s human trickery rather than any supernatural being behind the seemingly ghostly goings-on. But matters take an unexpected turn when one of their number is brutally murdered, and once again Ishmael must turn detective in order to entrap a twisted killer before they strike again.

My Review:

This was originally going to be my Halloween book for this year, because the Ishmael Jones series, while not horror, is certainly more horror- adjacent than Simon R. Green’s usual books – although the Nightside comes almost as close – with a higher quotient of weird.

Dead Man Walking definitely has elements that would have made it a great Halloween story, because for much of the book it has all the feels of a classic ghost story. An ill-assorted group of people is locked up in an old house where strange things keep happening – including all the hallmarks of a ghostly haunting.

There are plenty of creaking stairs – not to mention hallways. Doors get knocked on and there’s no one there – but footsteps were definitely heard before the knock. People keep ending up dead with no evidence of an attacker – and then their bodies get whisked away when no one is looking – not even the security cameras.

Not that there aren’t PLENTY of those.

Because this particular country house party takes place at one of those secret houses where shady organizations “debrief” people who don’t want to be debriefed and who can’t be admitted to having been there in the first place – but where their enemies probably want to get to them – or at them – no matter what it takes.

One of those legendary shady agents has decided to finally come in from the cold after years of working for the opposition. Not that THAT isn’t a loose term, considering that the Organization that Ishmael Jones works for – and that the shady agent used to work for before he went to the dark side (for very loose definitions of both dark and side).

Frank Parker claims to have all the dirt on traitors within the Organization. But he’s had his face changed so many times that no one can have any possible clue whether he is who he says he is. And while you’d think DNA might be an option – first there has to be a sample to match with. And there isn’t. Not that Ishmael Jones has let the Organization have any bits of him to play with either.

Ishmael Jones has been “invited” by the Organization to come to their little “safe” house in the remote English countryside to assist the official interrogators with determining whether Frank Parker really is who he says he is and whether he really might know something worth protecting him for.

It’s all fun and spy games until Frank’s corpse is discovered inside his locked and secured cell. And those ubiquitous security cameras have no record of the door even being opened – let alone of anyone going inside. Of course they were mysteriously “off” for the duration of whatever happened.

Then Frank’s body is whisked away – and there’s no record of that, either.

And that’s when the fun really begins…

Escape Rating B+: Just as when I read the first book in this series, The Dark Side of the Road, a few months ago, this turned out to be the right book at the right time. I was in the mood for some serious snark – and this author always delivers.

Now that I’ve read the second book in the series (and I’m planning on reading the third, Very Important Corpses, for Halloween) I see them as science fictional urban fantasy. Think of Men in Black. OK, laugh a bit, then think about the premise.

The Men in Black series was about a secret organization that managed the presence of aliens among us. Aliens who usually, but not always, were able to masquerade as human. Ishmael Jones, the protagonist of this series, is both one of those Men in Black and one of the aliens among us.

Sort of on the principle of setting a thief to catch a thief.

He’s good at his job because he knows just how to hide more-or-less in plain sight – and because he needs the Organization to cover for the oddities he can’t hide. After all, he’s looked exactly the same since he crash-landed on Earth in 1963. He also has a few useful and unusual skills, but it’s his unchanging appearance that is the most difficult to completely conceal. In our world of increasing connectivity and documentation, looking 25 forever is hard to hide.

His partner, Penny Belcourt, the last survivor of the mess he encountered in The Dark Side of the Road, is there both to provide him with a link to humanity and to provide us the readers with a point of view character. She asks all the questions that we want to ask.

She’s also plenty badass in her own right.

Like that first book, Dead Man Walking is also a twist-writ-large on the classic country house mystery. Particularly Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None – although Dead Man Walking ends up with a few more survivors. But it is every bit as twisty as possible.

Dead Man Walking is a mystery that turns into a ghost story that turns back into a mystery. And it’s loads of creepy fun every creaking step of the way.

Review: Leverage in Death by J D Robb

Review: Leverage in Death by J D RobbLeverage in Death (In Death, #47) by J.D. Robb
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, large print, ebook, audiobook
Genres: futuristic, mystery, romantic suspense
Series: In Death #47
Pages: 385
Published by St. Martin's Press on September 4, 2018
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

Lieutenant Eve Dallas puzzles over a bizarre suicide bombing in a Wall St. office building in the latest in the #1 New York Times bestselling series…

For the airline executives finalizing a merger that would make news in the business world, the nine a.m. meeting would be a major milestone. But after marketing VP Paul Rogan walked into the plush conference room, strapped with explosives, the headlines told of death and destruction instead. The NYPSD’s Eve Dallas confirms that Rogan was cruelly coerced by two masked men holding his family hostage. His motive was saving his wife and daughter―but what was the motive of the masked men?

Despite the chaos and bad publicity, blowing up one meeting isn’t going to put the brakes on the merger. All it’s accomplished is shattering a lot of innocent lives. Now, with the help of her billionaire husband Roarke, Eve must untangle the reason for an inexplicable act of terror, look at suspects inside and outside both corporations, and determine whether the root of this crime lies in simple sabotage, or something far more complex and twisted.

My Review:

At first, this one seemed like it was all about the money. A lot of crimes are all about the money, which is how the mystery solving cliches “follow the money” and the Latin “Cui bono?” (translated as “Who benefits”) came into being. But the way that money motivates in this story felt more like the version from the movie Jerry Maguire, “Show me the money”. Because while it is definitely about the money, it also ends up feeling like the money is as much about keeping score as it is about dollars and cents.

Not that there aren’t plenty of dollars and cents involved.

It all begins with a murder, as so many books in this series do. But not just a simple little murder. This is a big, well, more middle-sized kind of murder. It’s a bomb. It’s a crazy guy in a suicide vest blowing up a big meeting (literally) and taking out a bunch of corporate bigwigs.

Sounds like terrorism, doesn’t it? But if it were that simple, Lieutenant Eve Dallas wouldn’t need to spend an entire book solving it. Terrorism isn’t her beat – homicide is. Once her cops discover that the poor bomber was as much of a victim as all the others who were killed or injured in the explosion, the case becomes a whole lot more local, and a whole lot more complicated.

It’s all about the money. Specifically, as the title says, it’s about leverage. The bomb goes off in the middle of a big meeting to sign a merger between rival airlines. The bomb goes off, and both of their stock prices go way, way down. But both companies are solid, both have succession plans in place, and the merger is back on in less than a day. The stocks go back up, way, way up. Past the point they were before that bomb went off.

Anyone who knew in advance what was going to happen had the opportunity to buy very, very low and sell very, very high. And make a killing – pun very definitely intended. Which makes for a hell of a cold-blooded motive for murder.

But for the killers, the whole thing is so much of a rush that they do it again, this time manipulating the art market instead of the stock market.

It’s up to Dallas, with the help of her expert civilian consultant as well as the rest of her team, to discover whodunit and why, before they move on to play their games yet again – or before they disappear for good.

That it’s also a great excuse for Dallas to avoid the Oscar red carpet, where her friend Nadine Furst is up for multiple awards for her movie based on one of Eve’s more famous cases, is just icing on the Dallas and Roarke cake.

Escape Rating B: This series is comfort read for me. That may sound strange, as the books always begin with a murder. But good triumphs, evil always gets its just desserts,  and all the mysteries are wrapped up at the end in a neat bow. But this series is also a case (no pun intended this time) where it’s the cast and crew that I always love to see. The stories always make me laugh, not because the series is intentionally humorous, but because it’s just the kind of humor that I like, where it arises out of the situations and the characters and isn’t an attempt to BE funny, it just IS funny.

I’m particularly fond of Eve and Roarke’s cat Galahad, who is large and in charge and pretty much all cat, all the time. Galahad, bless his furry heart, does not solve crimes. He is, however, very good at the things that cats are very good at, particularly in knowing when his people need some purry affection, and knowing when the best time to interrupt in the hope of getting treats or attention will be. And the entire bed is his, which is completely normal. Possession is 9/10ths of the cat – even the fictional cat. Perhaps especially the fictional cat.

This is also not one of their regular trips to the angst factory – which is good because that wasn’t what I was in the mood for. Eve and Roarke both had hellacious childhoods, and they both have plenty of trauma that they are still dealing with well into adulthood. But there are occasions when someone either tied into one of their pasts or bearing too strong a resemblance to one of their bastard fathers shows up and drags in a whole baggage train of past crap. One of those every once in a while is more than enough. And that isn’t one of those – the occasional nightmare notwithstanding. Anyone who survived either of their childhoods would have the occasional, or more likely the regular, nightmare.

There are two threads to this particular story. One is the case itself, and the other is more personal for Dallas’ team, but also hearkens back to one of her earlier cases, which has proven to be a gift that keeps on giving – as the ending of this story proves.

The case is chilling enough – although it does seem to be operating at multiple removes. The killers aren’t doing their own dirty work. They create the setup, then send a pawn out to do the actual deed while making sure that they can get away scot free if it falls apart. The psychology of this one is all about fathers and children and sacrifice and turns out to have plenty of disgusting, oozing layers to work through.

The personal stuff works its way around and through this multiple murder case. I say personal, but it all goes back to the Icove case from Origin in Death , way back in the 22nd novel in this series. Eve’s friend, reporter Nadine Furst, wrote up the case in a best-selling true crime thriller, which was turned into a movie, which is now up for multiple Oscars – and which has left behind a trail of bodies at pretty much every step of the way. Eve would rather be dead than walk the red carpet, but it’s a dream come true for her partner Detective Delia Peabody. A dream that Eve and Roarke, in spite of the murders, manage to make happen.

It makes for a lovely ending for an enjoyable book in this long running series. Dallas and Roarke will be back in February in Connections in Death – and I’m looking forward to it. After all, I have to see just what Galadhad is up to next!

Review: The Mystery of Three Quarters by Sophie Hannah

Review: The Mystery of Three Quarters by Sophie HannahThe Mystery of Three Quarters (The New Hercule Poirot Mystery #3) by Sophie Hannah
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, large print, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: historical mystery, mystery
Series: New Hercule Poirot #3
Pages: 368
Published by William Morrow on August 28, 2018
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

The world's most beloved detective, Hercule Poirot--the legendary star of Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express and most recently The Monogram Murders and Closed Casket--returns in a stylish, diabolically clever mystery set in the London of 1930.

Returning home from a luncheon, Hercule Poirot is met at his door by an imperious woman who introduces herself as Sylvia Rule. "How dare you? How dare you send me such a letter?" Ignoring his denials, Mrs. Rule insists that she received a missive claiming he had proof she murdered a man named Barnabas Pandy and advising her to confess her crime to the police. Threatening the perplexed Poirot with a lawsuit, she leaves in a huff.

Minutes later, a rather disheveled man named John McCrodden appears. "I got your letter accusing me of the murder of Barnabas Pandy." Calmly, Poirot again rebuts the charge. Each insisting they are victims of a conspiracy, Mrs. Rule and Mr. McCrodden deny knowing who Pandy is.

The next day, two more strangers proclaim their innocence and provide illuminating details. Miss Annabel Treadway tells Poirot that Barnabas Pandy was her grandfather. But he was not murdered; his death was an accident. Hugo Dockerill also knows of Pandy, and he heard the old man fell asleep in his bath and drowned.

Why did someone send letters in Poirot's name accusing people of murder? If Pandy's death was an accident, why charge foul play? It is precisely because he is the great Hercule Poirot that he would never knowingly accuse an innocent person of a crime. Someone is trying to make mischief, and the instigator wants Poirot involved.

Engaging the help of Edward Catchpool, his Scotland Yard policeman friend, Poirot begins to dig into the investigation, exerting his little grey cells to solve an elaborate puzzle involving a tangled web of relationships, scandalous secrets, and past misdeeds.

My Review:

This is now the third of Sophie Hannah’s New Hercule Poirot mysteries (after The Monogram Murders and Closed Casket), and there is one thing they all have in common. Actually there are several things they have in common, but the one that strikes this reader first is the sheer, compulsive readability of this series. Whether one considers them continuations of the original, homages to it, or a combination of the two, they are all absolutely brimming with can’t-put-it-down-ness. Once I started, I couldn’t stop. All day.

Another factor that is common to all three books is the new author’s invented “Watson” for Poirot, Inspector Edward Catchpool. Unlike poor Japp in the original series, Catchpool is a young detective, early in his career. While he sometimes (often!) chafes at being caught between his Super’s orders and Poirot’s “requests”, he is aware that he needs Poirot.

One of the gratifying parts of their relationship is the way that Poirot also seems to be aware that he needs Catchpool, and not just to provide official sanction. Poirot is always the lead partner, but there is a partnership developing.

The case in The Mystery of Three Quarters feels very Poirot in that it is convoluted in the extreme. Someone has sent letters, signed by Poirot, accusing the recipients of murder. The four recipients of those letters are various shades of indignant and perplexed. Poirot is incensed, because he did not send the letters – and their grammar and writing style is absolutely appalling. Instead he discovers that the supposed murder victim surely died by accident, and that his purported murderers don’t seem to have much relationship to each other – or even to the late, more-or-less lamented Barnabas Pandy.

It’s up to Poirot, with the able assistance of Inspector Catchpool, to figure out, not so much whodunit, but whydunit, before somebody else gets done.

Escape Rating B: It’s the must-keep-reading-ness aspect of this book that sticks with me. The case, as bizarre as it is (and Poirot’s cases were often a bit “out there”) pulls the reader along from sentence to sentence and paragraph to paragraph and doesn’t let go until the end.

In other words, The Mystery of Three Quarters is a whole lot of fun to read.

Three books into this “new” series, I still feel as if it is more of a continuation of the TV portrayal of Poirot than the original books – or perhaps it’s just that Poirot’s extreme quirks feel even more quirky when one visualizes David Suchet’s performance than they must have when originally published. I always hear Suchet’s voice while reading this new series. Your mileage, of course, may vary.

One thing that stands out from The Mystery of Three Quarters is the utter wackiness of the entire case. As a device to get Poirot involved, the fraudulent letters are a stroke of both absurdity and genius. No one could resist getting to the bottom of the whole mess, and certainly Poirot is incapable of letting someone else take his name in vain. He can’t resist, which was the whole point.

Also the killer’s mistake, but of course that’s all part of the big reveal at the end.

One of the things that surprised me about the entire farrago was just how much of Poirot’s resolution turned out to be based on slightly far-fetched assumptions about motives and emotions. There’s not a whole lot of forensic evidence in this case until the very end. Instead it’s all about what people thought and how they felt and why they subsequently acted the way they did.

It all gallops along brilliantly as its going on, but looking back I’m not quite sure it all hangs together. But still, it was a terrific ride while it was happening, and I enjoyed every page of it.

I’m very happy that the author is continuing this “collaboration” with the late Dame Agatha Christie, and I look forward to more installments of Hercule Poirot’s “new” mysteries!

But I still like the UK covers better for this series. It’s Poirot. It’s the 1930s. Art deco is the right look and feel. Just run with it!

TLC
This post is part of a TLC book tour. Click on the logo for more reviews and features.

 

Review: Impostor’s Lure by Carla Neggers

Review: Impostor’s Lure by Carla NeggersImpostor's Lure (Sharpe & Donovan #8) by Carla Neggers
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, large print, ebook, audiobook
Genres: mystery, romantic suspense
Series: Sharpe & Donovan #8
Pages: 320
Published by Mira Books on August 21, 2018
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

Master of suspense and
New York Times
bestselling author Carla Neggers delivers an exhilarating page-turner where the disappearance of a federal prosecutor launches the latest high-stakes case for FBI agents Emma Sharpe and Colin Donovan.Newlyweds Emma and Colin are suspicious when prosecutor Tamara McDermott is a no-show at a Boston dinner party. Matt Yankowski, head of HIT, Emma and Colin's small, elite Boston-based team, is a friend of Tamara's, and he needs them to find her.In London, a woman who was supposed to meet Emma's art-detective grandfather to talk about forgeries is discovered near death. Her husband, who stayed behind in Boston, has vanished. The couple's connection to Tamara adds to the puzzle.As the search for Tamara intensifies, a seemingly unrelated murder leads Emma, Colin and HIT deep into a maze of misdirection created by a clever, lethal criminal who stays one step ahead of them.As Emma draws on her expertise in art crimes and Colin on his experience as a deep-cover agent, the investigation takes a devastating turn that tests the strengths of their families and friendships as well as their FBI colleagues as never before.
Impostor's Lure
is full of clever twists that will keep readers guessing right to the stunning conclusion!

My Review:

The Sharpe & Donovan series is somewhere in that borderland between romantic suspense and mystery. Sorta/kinda like a contemporary version of In Death, but in a different place on the romantic suspense/mystery divide than the futuristic series.

At the beginning, Sharpe & Donovan hewed a bit closer to romantic suspense side, as FBI Agents Emma Sharpe and Colin Donovan meet in the middle of an investigation near their hometowns on the coast of Maine. Colin is undercover, and Emma is in the middle of a case that is already much too personal.

Impostor’s Lure takes place a year (and 7 books) after that first meeting in Saint’s Gate. Emma and Colin are now married, and wondering just how long they will be able to continue working art crimes together before Colin gets tasked with yet another long-term undercover mission – his dangerous specialty. And now that their romance has reached its HEA, the story is more about the mystery and less about the romance. However, like many long-running mystery series, there is a “gang” of friends and family that surrounds Emma and Colin – and they have a big part to play in this particular story.

While they are worried about that medium-term problem, something happens much closer to home that puts them in the thick of a case that touches all of their friends and family both in Maine and Ireland.

On the other side of the pond, Emma’s grandfather Wendell, founder of the family art detective firm, discovers the comatose body of a woman who wanted to consult him about forgeries. The case looks like a drug overdose, but Wendell is shaken enough to worry both friends and family.

Over here, Emma and Colin as well as their boss Matt find themselves both shaken and alarmed when a friend who is also a federal prosecutor stands them up for dinner. While the woman could just have decided to start her long-overdue vacation a bit early, she’s also standing up her daughter on the young woman’s one-and-only 21st birthday.

This doesn’t seem right to anyone involved, especially once it turns out that Tamara might have been looking into some very alarming things that her daughter told her about her recent trip to Ireland – a trip that included both a murder and a developing friendship with the woman that Wendell found comatose.

Something is definitely not right. Actually lots of things aren’t right – on both sides of the Atlantic. As the bodies start piling up – and occasionally spilling over – it’s up to Emma and Colin to unravel the mystery and light the darkness at its center before it is too late.

Or at least before it’s more “too late” than it already is.

Escape Rating B: I finished this in one sitting. This is literally true as I was on a flight from California to Atlanta while I read it! This was a good, absorbing mystery to while away about half the flight.

This is definitely not the place to start this series. While, as with all the books in the series, the mystery is solved within this volume, an awful lot of the background revolves around the circle of friends and family that Emma and Colin are very much in the middle of. By the time this story ends, pretty much every one of their friends and most of their family have at least had a walk on part in the solution – and there’s a piece of that solution that only has resonance if you’ve at least read some of the previous books. I don’t think you need to have read them all to enjoy Impostor’s Lure, but at least the first one and one from the middle. Harbor Island and Liar’s Key are a couple of my favorites from the midpoint in the series.

The mystery in Impostor’s Lure is definitely a convoluted one. The perpetrator is certainly a sociopath, which makes that person both very organized and totally without scruples or conscience. They’ve been pulling off a lot of stuff for a very long time, and really only get caught because events have caught up with them and they are forced to act without their usual level of planning.

As a reader, I did not guess the perpetrator until very near the end – and then only because there were too many characters who simply could not be “it” because of their close relationship to Emma and/or Colin.

That being said, I really like the circle of friends and family that Emma and Colin have gathered around them/been gathered into. The group of is very interesting mix of family-of-birth and family-of-choice on both sides of the Atlantic and in both of their hearts. And just like any family, it has a few black sheep, and some members that one of them likes or tolerates more than the other. It’s also a hoot that one member of their family is a former art thief.

It’s always good to visit with this gang, even when some of the visit is bittersweet, as it is in Impostor’s Lure. I’ll be back.

 

Carla Neggers’ IMPOSTOR’S LURE – Review & Excerpt Tour Schedule:

August 20th

It’s All About the Romance – Excerpt

Nerdy Dirty and Flirty – Excerpt

Ripe For Reader – Excerpt

August 21st

Bobo’s Book Bank – Excerpt

Literary misfit – Excerpt

OMGReads – Excerpt

Sip Read Love – Excerpt

August 22nd

Bookstanista – Excerpt

Hearts & Scribbles – Excerpt

What Is That Book About – Excerpt

August 23rd

A Book Nerd, a Bookseller and a Bibliophile – Review & Excerpt

Reading Reality – Review

Words We Love By –Review & Excerpt

August 24th

Cinta Garcia de la Rosa – Excerpt

Wickedcoolflight – Review & Excerpt

August 25th

Bookishly Yours – Review & Excerpt

Catty Jane Book Lovers – Review & Excerpt

Reading Between the Wines Book Club – Excerpt

August 26th

Book Addict – Review & Excerpt

Novel Addiction – Excerpt

Tfaulcbookreviews – Review & Excerpt

August 27th

A Lovely Book Affair – Review

Cali Book Reviews – Review & Excerpt

TBR Book Blog – Excerpt

August 28th

Adventures in Writing – Excerpt

Lisa Book Blog – Excerpt

August 29th

BTH Reviews – Review & Excerpt

Evermore Books – Excerpt

Lynn’s Romance Enthusiasm – Excerpt

August 30th

All about reading – Review & Excerpt

Fire and Ice Book Reviews – Excerpt

GhostPepperBabes/ Pimpers’ Dungeon – Excerpt

August 31st

Becky on Books – Review & Excerpt

Cathy Reads Books – Review

Devilishly Delicious Book Reviews – Excerpt

September 1st

Books are love – Review & Excerpt

Brittany’s Book Blog – Excerpt

NightWolf Book Blog – Excerpt

September 2nd

Blushing babes are up all night – Review & Excerpt

Em Jay Reads – Review & Excerpt

Jax’s Book Magic – Excerpt

Review: Hard in Hightown by Varric Tethras with Mary Kirby

Review: Hard in Hightown by Varric Tethras with Mary KirbyHard in Hightown by Varric Tethras, Mary Kirby, Stefano Martino, Álvaro Sarraseca, Andrés Ponce, Ricardo German Ponce Torres, E.M. Gist
Format: hardcover
Source: purchased from Amazon
Formats available: hardcover, ebook
Genres: fantasy, graphic novel, mystery
Pages: 96
Published by Dark Horse Books on July 31, 2018
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

Prolific dwarven author and heroic companion of the Dragon Age games, Varric Tethras brings us the collected edition of his breakthrough crime-noir drama, Hard in Hightown (with help from his trusted human confidante, Mary Kirby)! This volume is beautifully illustrated by Stefano Martino, Alvaro Sarraseca, Andres Ponce, and Ricardo German Ponce Torres, with a painted cover by E.M. Gist!

Twenty years of patrols have chiseled each and every stone of the Kirkwall streets into city guardsmen Donnen Brennokovic. Weary and weathered, Donnen is paired with a recruit so green he might as well have leaves growing out of his armor. When the mismatched pair discover a dead magistrate bleeding out on the flagstones, they're caught up in a clash between a shadowy organization known only as the Executors and a secretive group of Chantry agents--all over some ancient artifact.

This is a prose novel featuring 24 black and white full page images.

My Review:

This book seems like it’s kind of a joke. Admittedly an in-joke for people who love the Dragon Age games, of which I am certainly one.

But it also sorta/kinda isn’t a joke. Like many stories that are part of long-running series, it’s also a visit with old friends. Both of the slightly disguised and not-so-slightly disguised variety. After having a book epically fail this week, I needed something that was sort of a joke and definitely a visit with some old and dear friends.

That this was the first thing I ordered sent to the new house that has arrived so far was kind of icing on the cake. It was meant to be.

On the one hand, this story is pretty much steeped in the Dragon Age universe. Varric Tethras, the “author” of the book, has quite the reputation as an author within the series. When asked about his writing, his response rings true for the real world as well as his fictional world, “There’s power in stories, though. That’s all history is: the best tales. The ones that last. Might as well be mine.”

Hard in Hightown is one of his most popular. It’s also a lot of fun, mixing fairly standard genre tropes into what feels like a fully realized fantasy setting. It’s the story of a guardsman nearing retirement who falls headfirst into one last big case. A man with a reputation for breaking the rules in order to get things done, Donnen doggedly follows the sparse clues from person to person, place to place and ambush to ambush.

The path takes him through punishment, betrayal and ultimately a reward that is better than money. Or at least he hopes it will be.

And it’s the kind of tale that would easily fit into one of the old shared world series like Thieves’ World or Liavek. It also sounds like the kind of case, and in the kind of place, that Sam Vimes used to tackle in Ankh-Morpork before he married into the nobility.

In other words, Hard in Hightown is a mystery set in a fantasy universe. Reading it brought back a lot of fond memories, both of the game and of the fantasy mysteries it strongly resembles.

And it was a load of fun from beginning to end, at least for this fan. I’m not sure it would work for anyone who did not have at least a passing familiarity with Dragon Age, particularly Dragon Age II. Admittedly, I’m not sure why anyone who wasn’t already a fan would pick this up in the first place, except as a joke.

But Varric was every bit as much fun a storyteller as he is as a character. Reading this made me nostalgic. I think another playthrough of the series is on my horizon – at least as soon as we dig out from the worst of the moving debris.

Escape Rating B: I was looking for a palate-cleanser of a book, something to wash the taste of a complete failure out of my mouth. So I switched from a book that managed to make what should have been an exciting story into a dull recitation, and turned to a writer I knew could make falling down the stairs into an epic tale. And I’m glad I did. If you’re a fan, you’ll love it.

Review: Day of the Dead by Nicci French

Review: Day of the Dead by Nicci FrenchDay of the Dead (Frieda Klein #8) by Nicci French
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: mystery, thriller
Series: Frieda Klein #8
Pages: 416
Published by William Morrow Paperbacks on July 24, 2018
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
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Now the final book in this extraordinary series is here. And it's an ending you'll never forget.

A decade ago, psychologist Frieda Klein was sucked into the orbit of Dean Reeve -- a killer able to impersonate almost anyone, a man who can disappear without a trace, a psychopath obsessed with Frieda herself.

In the years since, Frieda has worked with -- and sometimes against -- the London police in solving their most baffling cases. But now she's in hiding, driven to isolation by Reeve. When a series of murders announces his return, Frieda must emerge from the shadows to confront her nemesis. And it's a showdown she might not survive.

This gripping cat-and-mouse thriller pits one of the most fascinating characters in contemporary fiction against an enemy like none other. Smart, sophisticated, and spellbinding, it's a novel to leave you breathless.

My Review:

This is definitely going to be one of those mixed feelings kind of reviews, because I certainly have a whole river’s worth of mixed feelings about this book and the end of the Frieda Klein series.

When this series began back in Blue Monday, we met Frieda Klein as a psychotherapist who sometimes worked with the police, and seems to have sometimes worked against them over the course of her career. But in the background of all her cases has lurked Dean Reeve, a serial killer who has been fixated on Frieda for nearly a decade.

At times, Reeve has acted to smooth Frieda’s way, murdering people who were opposing her. At other times, he has killed people who he perceived as being too close to her, in the belief that those people were getting in the way of her focus on him, or his focus on her. Sometimes he has murdered people as surrogates for her, or simply to remind her that he is still around.

He also murdered his twin brother, to confuse the police and make them believe he was dead, and that Frieda’s seeming obsession with him with delusional.

But at the end of the previous book in the series, Sunday Silence, Frieda finally decides that she has had enough of Reeve’s obsession with her, and the constant danger he poses to any person even tangentially in her orbit.

She disappears, in the hope of taking Reeve’s focus away from her friends and colleagues. But when she is found by a young and extremely naive criminal psychology student, she discovers that Reeve has been trying to get her attention all along.

And that when he can’t find her, he’ll happily find other people to kill to keep himself amused – just so that he can get her attention.

Once he has it, their long history moves to the endgame. And just as in the chess games that Frieda loves to play, only one side can win.

Escape Rating B: While Frieda Klein has been a fascinating character throughout the entire series, she’s also kind of a Sherlock Holmes. Not in the sense that she’s an eccentric genius, although that may not be far off the mark, but in the sense that she seems to be operating on instinct and intuition. Left to her own devices, she doesn’t expose much of her inner thoughts or emotions.

As readers, we need to see what she’s thinking. In the previous books in the series, she has been surrounded by a circle of friends and colleagues, and it is in her discussions with them, or sometimes her probing by them, that we are able to peek inside her head.

In this book she has deliberately taken herself away from her circle, in the hopes of keeping all of them safe. But in order for us to understand and empathize with her, she still needs a ‘Watson’, someone to explain things to so that we can hear. And that’s where this story gave me all of those mixed feelings.

The character who becomes the audience surrogate is young Lola Hayes, that naive criminal psychology student. Lola is a pawn throughout the story. At first, she is a pawn of her thesis advisor and one of her other professors, who set her on a collision course with Frieda Klein in the hopes of scoring points against someone they see as a kind of academic rival.

Neither of them cares what happens to Lola, or seems to give a damn about the tragic body count that has always followed in Frieda’s wake – and whether they’ve just thrown Lola’s body onto that pile.

Lola herself frequently comes off as TSTL (too stupid to live). She’s lazy, she wants everyone else to do her work for her, she’s thoughtless and she’s clueless. She takes the easy way out every time, and as a consequence she gets used at every turn. But most of all she’s just plain annoying.

Lola is there to be used, and she is used by everyone in the story, including, by the end, Frieda. She’s a frustrating inclusion in a series that usually features smart, or at least interesting, characters.

A big part of this story is that of Frieda tying up all the loose ends. She circles back through everything that has happened in the series and every case that Dean Reeve has touched on. While I think there is enough explained that readers don’t need to have read the entire series to be invested in this volume, there’s certainly more resonance if you’ve read at least some of the previous entries, particularly the first, Blue Monday, and the most recent, Sunday Silence.

The cat and mouse game between Dean Reeve and Frieda Klein does come to a satisfying, albeit surprisingly low-key, conclusion. In all of their previous encounters, Reeve has always seen himself as the predatory cat, while he has cast Frieda as his mouse-prey.

Reeve forgets that just as every dog has his day, every once in a while, the mouse roars.

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Review: Lowcountry Bookshop by Susan M. Boyer

Review: Lowcountry Bookshop by Susan M. BoyerLowcountry Bookshop (Liz Talbot Mystery #7) by Susan M. Boyer
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: cozy mystery, mystery
Series: Liz Talbot #7
Pages: 270
Published by Henery Press on May 29, 2018
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

Lowcountry PI Liz Talbot returns to the streets of Charleston in the seventh installment of Susan M. Boyer’s USA TODAY bestselling mystery series.

Between an epic downpour and a King Tide, those historic streets are flooded—and dangerous. A late night tragic accident along the Lower Battery leads Liz Talbot straight to her next case.

Who’s the client? Well, now, therein lies the first puzzle. When the police arrive at the scene of the accident, Poppy Oliver claims she’s only trying to help.

But the dent on the front of her Subaru and the victim’s injuries provoke a certain Charleston police detective’s suspicious nature. A wealthy, anonymous benefactor hires Liz and her partner Nate Andrews to prove Poppy Oliver’s innocence.

What exactly was Poppy Oliver up to? Is she a random good Samaritan who happens upon the accident scene? Or perhaps this tragedy wasn’t an accident. She just might be his abused wife’s accomplice.

Why does everyone involved in this case have a sudden burning urge for reading material, leading them to the same charming bookshop along the waterfront?

From a risqué, exclusive club in an old plantation to an upscale resale shop in the historic King Street shopping district to a downtown graveyard crawling with ghosts, Liz tracks a group of women who band together to help victims of domestic violence.

In her most challenging case yet, Liz fears she may find a killer, but justice may prove elusive.

- - - - - - - - - - - - -

LOWCOUNTRY BOOKSHOP by Susan M. Boyer | A Henery Press Mystery. If you like one, you’ll probably like them all.

My Review:

This a story about the road to hell being paved with good intentions. A whole bunch of roads and a whole lot of hells. And plenty of good intentions that go into so many wrong directions.

Phillip Drayton is dead, to begin with. Someone ran him over during a pounding rainstorm just around a blind curve near his house.

It looks like a hit and run, at least at first. But a woman was found standing over the body, her car with a dented fender just in the right place to have been the cause of death. Poor Poppy Oliver says she was just being a good Samaritan, but Detective Sonny Ravenal is absolutely certain that she did it and just doesn’t want to admit it.

But there are at least two people on Poppy’s side. A mysterious benefactor who is paying for the best lawyer in town, who has in turn just hired Liz and Nate to investigate, and Liz Talbot’s guardian spirit Colleen. The lawyer is doing his job, as much as he enjoys riling up Liz in the process.

Colleen, on the other hand, can read Poppy’s mind – and Colleen knows she’s innocent. Which doesn’t tell her a damn thing about who might be guilty.

Then the evidence starts piling up, and the case goes from relatively straightforward to absolutely insane, right along with the shenanigans at Liz’ parents’ house – not that anything is all that far out of what passes for normal on that front.

It looks like Drayton’s wife was being abused, and that makes the victim seem a whole lot less sympathetic. On the other hand, not all of his injuries are consistent with a hit and run, or even a hit and not run. Cars don’t generally taser their victims before they run them over.

But the group of women who assist abused women in getting away from their abusers sometimes do. And seem to all be frequenting not just the same local bookstore but browsing the same display and actually buying multiple copies of the same book.

They might not be connected to the case. But they might.

The more Liz investigates, the weirder things get. Which isn’t actually atypical for any of her cases. The evidence is contradictory, and nothing quite seems to add up.

Until it suddenly does, and the real villain tries to subtract Liz, once and for all.

Escape Rating B: I picked this book for this week because I wanted some light, absorbing fiction to read during some recovery time, and I knew this series would take care of that admirably. And it certainly did.

There are lots of red herrings in this case, sending Liz on lots of wild goose chases. One of the terrific things about the way this particular case works is that pretty much everyone, with the exception of the villain and for once Liz’ cop friend Sonny, seem to be bent on doing the right thing. And while they all are to some extent, they also aren’t.

One of the things that was slightly off was Sonny’s attitude to Poppy. He was much too dogged in pursuing the expedient possibility instead of looking for the real one. He’s usually a better detective than that and it didn’t quite ring true.

A significant part of the story, both in the sense of a group obfuscating the issue to further their own agenda and in the sense that they were determinedly doing the right thing even if some of their methods were underhanded, was the group of women rescuing abused women. Not only did they mean well but they generally did well. And their inclusion in this story did a good job of shining a bit more light on a terrible problem that happens everywhere, even in tiny towns like Stella Maris.

The problem they introduce in the story is that their need for secrecy comes into direct conflict with Liz and Nate’s need to investigate the case. They are also part of what makes the resolution so convoluted. No one really wants to expose the details of their operation, but at the same time no one wants an innocent woman to be tried for a crime she did not commit.

As fascinating as the case itself turned out to be, the villain came a bit out of left field. I can’t say that at least some of the clues weren’t there, but either he did a really, really good job of misdirection or he didn’t appear enough until the very end.

And as much as I love this series, a very little of Liz’ family (other than her husband and partner Nate) goes a very, very long way. Your mileage may vary.

Review: Hope Never Dies by Andrew Shaffer

Review: Hope Never Dies by Andrew ShafferHope Never Dies by Andrew Shaffer
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: paperback, large print, ebook, audiobook
Genres: mystery, thriller
Pages: 304
Published by Quirk Books on July 10, 2018
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

This mystery thriller reunites Vice President Joe Biden and President Barack Obama for a political mashup full of suspense, intrigue, and laugh out loud bromance.

Vice President Joe Biden is fresh out of the Obama White House and feeling adrift when his favorite railroad conductor dies in a suspicious accident, leaving behind an ailing wife and a trail of clues. To unravel the mystery, “Amtrak Joe” re-teams with the only man he’s ever fully trusted—the 44th president of the United States. Together they’ll plumb the darkest corners of Delaware, traveling from cheap motels to biker bars and beyond, as they uncover the sinister forces advancing America’s opioid epidemic.

Part noir thriller and part bromance novel, Hope Never Dies is essentially the first published work of Obama/Biden fanfiction—and a cathartic read for anyone distressed by the current state of affairs.

My Review:

They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.

While I will not judge this book by its cover, I will say that I absolutely did pick this book up for its cover. Which I absolutely could not believe when I saw it, and couldn’t resist once I read the blurb.

Which is completely insane – but all too hilarious – both at the same time.

There is no doubt that this is a terrific piece of what is called “real person fanfic”, which is a thing in fanfiction circles. While fanfiction is usually written about fictional characters, no matter the source, just as there is fanfiction about movie and TV characters there is also fanfiction about the actors who play those characters. When it’s romance fanfic, that can seem a bit creepy and/or stalkerish and is frowned upon in some circles.

One thing that is common in fanfiction in general is the way that the stories often go places that the creator of the original work never intended, and generally the further afield those places are the more it adds to the fun.

This is the kind of story where you don’t so much willingly suspend your disbelief as throw it out the window of a speeding muscle car, like oh, say, the Trans Am that Joe and Barack end up powering through the streets of Wilmington Delaware in the course of this case.

Because this piece of real person fanfiction is a noir-ish murder mystery. And a fairly complicated one – with comic relief provided by this extremely amateur pair of occasionally bumbling wannabe detectives.

Admittedly “Amtrak Joe” Biden does most of the bumbling, while Barack Obama provides even more “cool” than he displays in real life.

The scene of Obama rescuing Biden from a motorcycle gang by casually firing a sawed-off shotgun while lying about Seal Team 6 waiting in the wings was absolutely priceless.

There is a mystery at the heart of this wild and crazy road novel, and it’s all about a good man gone wrong and a bad man hiding in plain sight finally brought low by a couple of past and possibly future politicians who are searching for a third act in their lives.

And who discover that their enduring friendship is the greatest gift of all.

Escape Rating B-: As mysteries go, this is no Murder on the Orient Express or even The Word is Murder. The red herrings are plenty tasty, but our amateur detectives do fumble and bumble a lot, even more than Inspector Clouseau.

And I can’t deny that the whole effort has a very strong whiff of the bear dancing, in that you are not surprised that it is done well, you are surprised that it is done AT ALL.

But it is done considerably better than the outrageous premise might lead one to believe.

What makes the mystery part of this work is that we see this fictional version of Joe Biden as an essentially honest man who wants to see justice done for a good friend – and who admittedly is uncertain where he goes next in his life.

His dilemma about what happens after you’ve been to the top, or at least to your own personal top, is pretty easy to identify with. We all get there sooner or later.

What makes the story work, and makes the reader willing to go along for the ride, is the combination of the sometimes over-the-top but occasionally spot on banter between Obama and Biden, and the first-person perspective of the story through fictional Joe Biden’s eyes.

If you are looking for an antidote to the political insanity in every newspaper and on every newscast, Hope Never Dies is a somewhat rueful, slightly nostalgic, always engaging treat.

Review: The Dark Side of the Road by Simon R. Green

Review: The Dark Side of the Road by Simon R. GreenThe Dark Side of the Road (Ishmael Jones, #1) by Simon R. Green
Format: ebook
Source: purchased from Amazon
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, large print, ebook
Genres: mystery, urban fantasy
Series: Ishmael Jones #1
Pages: 224
Published by Severn House Publishers on May 1, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

A Country House Murder Mystery with a Supernatural Twist

Ishmael Jones is someone who can't afford to be noticed, someone who lives under the radar, who drives on the dark side of the road. He's employed to search out secrets, investigate mysteries and shine a light in dark places. Sometimes he kills people. Invited by his employer, the enigmatic Colonel, to join him and his family for Christmas, Ishmael arrives at the grand but isolated Belcourt Manor in the midst of a blizzard to find that the Colonel has mysteriously disappeared. As he questions his fellow guests, Ishmael concludes that at least one of them not least Ishmael himself - is harbouring a dangerous secret, and that beneath the veneer of festive cheer lurk passion, jealousy, resentment and betrayal. As a storm sets in, sealing off the Manor from the rest of the world, Ishmael must unmask a ruthless murderer they strike again.

My Review:

Don’t worry, I’m not going to do this all week. But Night Fall left me with an epic book hangover and absolutely no taste for the romance I was planning to review today. And then I remembered that I had the first book in this series, that I’d never read it, and that there was a chance that it was not part of any of the author’s many series that were rather conclusively concluded in Night Fall.

I decided not to resist. Sometimes it really is futile.

Instead of anything that I was expecting, the Ishmael Jones series in general, and The Dark Side of the Road in particular, has the feel of a classic murder mystery, in this very particular case a classic, British country house murder mystery. What makes it different is that the series is set in a Men in Black kind of world, where there really are aliens among us – who sometimes behave just as badly as we do.

And the detective, Ishmael Jones, reminds me an awful, awful, wonderfully awful lot of Captain Jack Harkness from Doctor Who and Torchwood, in that he seems to be immortal, at least as far as he knows, and not exactly from around here. But where Captain Jack is a human from the future, Ishmael Jones is an alien turned into a human – or at least a reasonable facsimile thereof – most of the time.

To further the resemblance, both Captain Jack and Ishmael Jones have a few holes in their memories. But Jack only lost two years. Ishmael, at least so far, seems to have lost everything prior to his ship’s crash landing on Earth in 1963. He has hazy dream-fugue quasi-memories, and nothing else.

Oh, and his blood runs golden, not red. Pretty conclusive evidence that whatever he is, he isn’t garden variety human.

The Dark Side of the Road exists somewhere at the intersection of urban fantasy, science fiction and horror. Let’s say it’s horror-adjacent, which is about as close as I like to go.

Ishmael Jones works for a secret organization that’s just called “The Organization”. It’s the latest in a long line of secret quasi-governmental agencies that Ishmael has worked for since he crashed on Earth. The more interconnected the world gets, the harder it is to change identities and hide his lack of aging – among other things.

So the Organization protects him, and he does work for them. He’s a bit of a clean-up man. When aliens, or other weird people, or things, break the law, Ishmael is one of the people who cleans up after. In a way, Ishmael is one of the Men in Black.

When his boss invites him to a country house party for Christmas, way, way out in Cornwall during the snowstorm not merely of the century, but possibly of the millenium, Ishmael battles heaven, hell, an intermittent GPS and an overtaxed steering wheel to reach the place – only to discover that by the time he gets there, his boss has gone missing.

Ishmael finds a whole lot of weird family drama, an ex-lover, an ex-colleague, and finally his boss’s body, decapitated and hidden in a snowman. Or as a snowman. Blizzard of the millennium, after all.

The remaining inhabitants are all quick to point the finger, first at a random stranger, and then at each other. But once the bodies start piling up, it becomes obvious to everyone that the killer is in the house with them.

And that the killer is not entirely human. But then again, neither is Ishmael Jones.

Escape Rating B+: This did turn out to be exactly what I was looking for to get out of that book hangover. I needed a book where I would be compelled to keep turning pages – just to see what happened next. And The Dark Side of the Road certainly had that kind of compulsion.

Along with a high creep factor – but one that is totally appropriate to its horror-adjacency.

The setting does a great job of invoking those classic country house murder mysteries. If you’re not thinking of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None before the end of the book, you’re not creeped out nearly enough.

The story is science fiction, and it’s horror, and it’s urban fantasy. And it’s a mystery. That’s a lot of fictional plates to keep spinning. The only real SFnal element is Ishmael’s origin. He’s definitely an alien, but over the 50 plus years he’s been mostly human, this has become his planet and we have become his people. Wherever he came from, he can’t go back. And whatever made him human, it gave him human emotions and reactions, but a whole lot of better-than-human capabilities. He can’t actually do anything we can’t, but he does them all better and faster and more efficiently.

The mystery of who killed his boss, and continues killing his boss’ remaining family, moved from mystery to horror. At first it’s a question of whodunnit. But as the corpses and evidence mount, the question moves from whodunnit to what done it, and then to who is masquerading as the what.

The answer to that question tips the story from mystery into horror. Or at least adjacent enough to creep me out a bit – but not too much.

As things go from bad to worse to desperate, we follow along from Ishmael’s head. The story is told in the first-person singular, so we know what he knows, think what he thinks, and feel what he feels. Including the grief, the desperation, the fear, the confusion, and the hope that someone will get out of this alive. Somehow.

I liked being inside his head. Ishmael is an interesting and still somewhat enigmatic character. I’m looking forward to reading more of his adventures – the next time I need another compelling book and/or cure for a book hangover!

Review: The Word is Murder by Anthony Horowitz

Review: The Word is Murder by Anthony HorowitzThe Word Is Murder by Anthony Horowitz
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, large print, ebook, audiobook
Genres: mystery
Pages: 400
Published by Harper on June 5, 2018
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

She planned her own funeral--but did she arrange her murder?

A wealthy woman strangled six hours after she’s arranged her own funeral.A very private detective uncovering secrets but hiding his own.A reluctant author drawn into a story he can’t control.

What do they have in common?

Unexpected death, an unsolved mystery and a trail of bloody clues lie at the heart of Anthony Horowitz's page-turning new thriller.

My Review:

This is a weird book. That’s not to say that it wasn’t good and that I didn’t enjoy it – because it is and I did. But it was not what I expected.

Not exactly what I expected, anyway. I was, after all, expecting a murder mystery. What I was not expecting was for the book the break the fourth wall as much as it does, or for the author to be a fictional character in his own book.

I’ll confess that I began looking up some of the people in the story, to see if they really were real. The degree to which the author inserts himself and his own history makes everyone in the story seem like they must be equally real.

Or if not real, then at least recognizable stand-ins for some true-life counterpart. But they are not. At least I don’t think they are. Or if they were I couldn’t figure out who they were standing in for.

What adds to the verisimilitude is the way that author Anthony Horowitz seems to include so many easily verifiable details of his own work, if not his own life. He is the creator of two of my favorite TV series, Foyle’s War and Midsomer Murders. He is also the author of two excellent Sherlock Holmes pastiches, The House of Silk and Moriarty.

But in The Word is Murder he seems to find himself playing Watson, both as a sidekick and as a recorder of events, to an even more misanthropic Holmes than the original.

Daniel Hawthorne is not a likeable protagonist. As a detective he is every bit as brilliant as the ‘Great Detective’ he is so obviously modeled after, while at the same time so focused on whatever case he is following that he does not care who he pisses off or how much he ignores all of the social niceties that keep the wheels of society grinding.

He’s a man with zero friends, lots of enemies, and a nose for figuring out “whodunit”.

And even though Horowitz-the-author seems to draw the man in all of his misanthropic ‘glory’, we are drawn into the cases every bit as much as the author seems to be, and we understand why he follows along – because we are every bit as compelled as he is.

Escape Rating A-: I picked this up because I loved both The House of Silk and Magpie Murders, although I admit that I enjoyed the historical portions of Magpie Murders more than the contemporary framing story.

I didn’t know what to expect with The Word is Murder, just that I was interested enough to give it a try. I had not read any of the reviews beforehand, so I was at a bit of a loss when the author himself appeared as a character in the book.

I knew the book was supposed to be fiction, but so many well-known details of the author’s career were introduced into the narrative that I’ll admit I started to wonder.

While the way that this book is written is meta (actually very, very meta), the story itself is a classic. A woman goes to a funeral home to plan her entire funeral. When she is murdered a few short hours later, it seems obvious that the long arm of coincidence just doesn’t stretch that long.

The police want the murder to be a burglary gone wrong. That’s a simple crime with a simple solution. But ex-cop Daniel Hawthorne is certain that it’s not that easy. He knows that when the Met calls him in as a consultant, it’s because someone at the top is certain it isn’t that easy – even if they can’t articulate exactly why.

Figuring it out is Hawthorne’s job. Annoying all of the investigating officers involved in the case seems to be part of the fun of it – at least for him. Dragging his narrator out of an important meeting with OMG Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson shows just how little Hawthorne can be bothered with anything outside his laser focus on the case.

In the end, the case is both simple and complex. The reasons for the murder are classic. The misdirection is epic. And even though I figured out who didn’t do it before the narrator, the reveal of just who did was as much of a surprise to me as it was to him. Just like the narrator, I was too caught up in the story to follow the clues to their final destination.

There’s going to be a sequel. I’m more than curious enough to see what Daniel Hawthorne investigates next – as long as Anthony Horowitz is at his side.