#BookReview: Village in the Dark by Iris Yamashita

#BookReview: Village in the Dark by Iris YamashitaVillage in the Dark (Cara Kennedy, #2) by Iris Yamashita
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, ebook, audiobook
Genres: mystery, suspense, thriller
Series: Cara Kennedy #2
Pages: 288
Published by Berkley on February 13, 2024
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Detective Cara Kennedy thought she’d lost her husband and son in an accident, but harrowing evidence has emerged that points to murder--and she will stop at nothing to find the truth in this riveting mystery from the author of City Under One Roof.
On a frigid February day, Anchorage Detective Cara Kennedy stands by the graves of her husband and son, watching as their caskets are raised from the earth. It feels sacrilegious, but she has no choice. Aaron and Dylan disappeared on a hike a year ago, their bones eventually found and buried. But shocking clues have emerged that foul play was involved, potentially connecting them to a string of other deaths and disappearances.  Somehow tied to the mystery is Mia Upash, who grew up in an isolated village called Unity, a community of women and children in hiding from abusive men. Mia never imagined the trouble she would find herself in when she left home to live in Man’s World. Although she remains haunted by the tragedy of what happened to the man and the boy in the woods, she has her own reasons for keeping quiet. Aided by police officer Joe Barkowski and other residents of Point Mettier, Cara’s investigation will lead them on a dangerous path that puts their lives and the lives of everyone around them in mortal jeopardy.

My Review:

Just as once-and-future Anchorage PD Detective Cara Kennedy wrapped up the murder cases at Point Mettier in City Under One Roof, a monkey wrench was thrown into the case nearest and dearest to her heart. Cara has been, honestly not surprisingly, unwilling to let the case of her husband’s and her son’s deaths go, to the point where the Anchorage PD’s psych evaluation put her out on disability.

Not a good place for a detective with nothing to do but dwell on the ‘might have beens’ to be. Particularly not when a picture of her late husband, her dead son, and herself, taken just before the ill-fated trip that left her a widow, was found on the cell phone of one of the gang members responsible for the deaths in Point Mettier in that first adventure.

Making Cara in this second mystery the equivalent of a dog with a very large bone to chew on. A bone that is made just that much bigger when she has her family’s bodies exhumed and discovers that, whoever they are, and whatever the Anchorage PD told her, the bodies she buried under her husband’s and son’s names were not, in fact, the bodies of her husband and son.

Although it certainly looks like one of those bodies was the victim of murder. Adding yet more questions to the pile of unanswered ones that she already has. And not just questions about who the now unidentified bodies were, and who are the other missing, presumed dead people in that gang member’s cell phone photo roll.

Because if the two bodies she buried weren’t her own loved ones, then where the hell are her husband and her son? Are they dead by some other misadventure lost in some other remote part of the Alaskan Bush? Or are they alive and in hiding?

Or worse, does her husband have something to do with the long list of missing and presumed dead faces in that photo roll? Cara can’t rest until she finds out the truth – whether it sets her free or gets her killed. Or both, not necessarily in that order.

Escape Rating B: Part of what made City Under One Roof work so well was the claustrophobic nature of its setting. Whittier, like the city modeled after it in the story, really is a city under one roof. That a significant chunk of that first story takes place while Point Mettier is literally cut off from the rest of the world – as really does happen in Whittier – gives the story a kind of ‘locked room’ vibe, complete with time running out as the tunnel will eventually open and the bottled up suspects will have the opportunity to escape.

The story in Village in the Dark spreads itself out in both time and space, as the action shifts from Point Mettier to Mia’s temporary refuge outside Willow to Anchorage and back again. It’s also a bigger story, in that it begins with Cara’s seemingly never-ending quest to find out what really happened – or who really happened – to her husband and son but loops in one of Point Mettier’s more colorful residents, that woman’s search for the events that led to her own son’s death, and then seemingly tacks on one mysterious young woman attempting to hide in plain sight.

It’s a bigger story but it’s a whole lot less tight and taut in the way that City Under One Roof was, and that mysteries are at their best. In other words, I got lost a bit whenever we switched to young Mia’s point of view because she started out WAY out there compared to the central axis of the story. Not that she didn’t finally move to the center of things, but it certainly took a while.

In the end, it’s a story about drugs and money. About corruption and temptation and dirty deeds done dirt cheap in the service of people who will never pay the price for the deeds done in their name – even if that name is a false one hidden behind multiple go-betweens.

But the further the story spread out, the less it hung together until the rapid-fire denouement. And then it was, quite literally, gangbusters.

At the end, the story that brought Cara into this series has been resolved. Whether it will be the jumping off point for more, and less personal and more procedural investigations, is a mystery yet to be solved.

One final note, the subtext in this entry in the series is the ease with which the police dismiss missing persons cases and crimes against women, particularly, in the Alaskan setting, indigenous women. The same horrifying subtext also underlaid the suspense in last year’s The Way of the Bear by Anne Hillerman. Coincidentally, or perhaps a commentary on the pervasiveness of the issue, the book I am currently listening to, Glory Be by Danielle Arceneaux, has an entirely too similar tragedy at its heart, yet again exploring and decrying the ease with which police discount and dismiss crimes against black women in that book’s Louisiana setting.

The pervasiveness of this all too real problem is considerably more chilling than the suspense in ANY mystery.

Grade A #BookReview: The Bezzle by Cory Doctorow

Grade A #BookReview: The Bezzle by Cory DoctorowThe Bezzle (Martin Hench #2) by Cory Doctorow
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: financial thriller, mystery, thriller
Series: Martin Hench #2
Pages: 240
Published by Tor Books on February 20, 2024
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New York Times bestseller Cory Doctorow's The Bezzle is a high stakes thriller where the lives of the hundreds of thousands of inmates in California’s prisons are traded like stock shares.
The year is 2006. Martin Hench is at the top of his game as a self-employed forensic accountant, a veteran of the long guerrilla war between people who want to hide money, and people who want to find it. He spends his downtime on Catalina Island, where scenic, imported bison wander the bluffs and frozen, reheated fast food burgers cost 25$. Wait, what? When Marty disrupts a seemingly innocuous scheme during a vacation on Catalina Island, he has no idea he’s kicked off a chain of events that will overtake the next decade of his life.
Martin has made his most dangerous mistake trespassed into the playgrounds of the ultra-wealthy and spoiled their fun. To them, money is a tool, a game, and a way to keep score, and they’ve found their newest mark―California’s Department of Corrections. Secure in the knowledge that they’re living behind far too many firewalls of shell companies and investors ever to be identified, they are interested not in the lives they ruin, but only in how much money they can extract from the government and the hundreds of thousands of prisoners they have at their mercy.
A seething rebuke of the privatized prison system that delves deeply into the arcane and baroque financial chicanery involved in the 2008 financial crash, The Bezzle is a sizzling follow-up to Red Team Blues .

My Review:

When we met Martin Hench in the first book in his series, Red Team Blues, the ‘scam’ of the day that Marty needed to unravel – before it unraveled him – was all wrapped in the cryptocurrency shenanigans of its – and our – present day.

I say our present-day because Sam Bankman-Fried’s trial for his cryptocurrency-based fraudulent shenanigans had not yet come to pass when The Bezzle was written, but has between the point when The Bezzle was written and when it is being published next week.

So Red Team Blues was a story about now – or at least now-ish. The Bezzle is a story about then. Particularly the early 2000s, when the scam of the day was yet to be uncovered in the dot com boom that has not yet busted when we go back in time with Marty and whoever he is telling this story to. Which we never do find out and I surely wish we did.

Bezzle is a real term in economics that has never gotten the study it deserves. It’s related to the crime of embezzlement, but isn’t the embezzlement itself. Instead, it’s the time between two events; the commission of the crime and its discovery. It’s a weird sort of net-positive financial limbo, or an even stranger Schrödinger’s cat situation, where both the embezzler and their victim believe they have the money and act accordingly, only for one or the other or both to suffer a rude awakening when the crime is discovered.

Now that I’ve thought about it a bit, the story in The Bezzle is a bezzle within a bezzle in a kind of möbius strip of bezzling that doesn’t so much end as shift into a state of mutually assured destruction. A state that Marty, fortunately for him, is finally able to observe from the outside looking in, instead of either from the inside of a jail cell looking out the way that his friend Scott ends up, or up from six feet under, as the villain of this story certainly intended.

Very much like Red Team Blues, The Bezzle is a story about leverage. Not just in the financial sense, but mostly in the sense of who has power over whom, and how much they are willing to pay to exercise it.

Escape Rating A: The Bezzle is a LOT of things, all of which are fascinating and make for a compelling read, but absolutely none of which are remotely science fiction, whether it is marketed as such or not. And not that SF readers won’t enjoy The Bezzle, because they certainly will and I absolutely did.

On the surface, The Bezzle is a combination of 2000 aughts’ nostalgia, a metric buttload of social commentary about the state of the State of California and its seemingly deliberately FUBAR’d penal system, some surprisingly deep analysis of the socio-economic conditions in Steven Brust’s Vlad Taltos series, all wrapped inside a crunchy thriller coating, making it a tasty read from beginning to end.

It starts out deceptively simple, in what looks like a small time con on an equally small island. It’s even a bit silly, as no one in their right mind would think that trading in hamburgers could bring down an entire island’s economy. At least not until Marty Hench figures out that cornering the underground fast-food market on Santa Catalina Island – where fast food franchises were illegal – is more than just a small scale attempt to make a few bucks off the local craving for forbidden fruit. It’s the public front for a Ponzi scheme that is going to bankrupt the local economy. At least until Marty gives the intended suckers some hints about leverage.

And puts a price on the heads of both Marty and the friend who brought him to Catalina in the first place.

From there, the story is off to the races. And it continues racing at a breakneck pace, even through places that might bring other stories and other writers to a screeching halt – but instead detail the long and painful process of bringing a villain to his knees while still exposing and eviscerating the system that made his villainy possible.

What makes the whole thing fly – and it absolutely does fly by – is the charm of its storyteller, Martin Hench himself. Because Marty is really, really good at three things; figuring out which way the books have been cooked, making friends, and storytelling. If you are drawn in by Marty’s world-weary, wry, sarcastic but ultimately caring voice, he’ll carry you through this trip down his memory lane. And if you enjoy caper stories, Marty is a terrific companion for this madcap thrill-ride of a tale.

If Marty manages to dig another story of good friends, filthy lucre, and tech wizards behaving badly out of his capacious memory, this reader will definitely be there for it!

Grade A #BookReview: Gryphon by M.L. Buchman

Grade A #BookReview: Gryphon by M.L. BuchmanGryphon (Miranda Chase NTSB #14) by M L Buchman
Format: ebook
Source: author
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genres: action adventure, political thriller, technothriller, thriller
Series: Miranda Chase NTSB #14
Pages: 370
Published by Buchman Bookworks on January 23, 2024
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBookshop.orgBetter World Books
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With the rising threat of Russia, Sweden joins NATO for its own protection. But someone wants to make them pay—in blood. Sweden’s home-built, world-class jet fighters, the Saab JAS 39E Gripen—named for the mythological Gryphon—are falling out of the skies. The stability, the very existence of NATO could be torn apart, as if trapped in the Gryphon’s mighty eagle claws. Can Miranda’s team of air-crash investigators solve the crisis before the powerful lion-half shreds them asunder?

My Review:

Like all of the previous entries in the Miranda Chase series from the very first page in Drone, Gryphon is an edge-of-the-seat political technothriller with World War III looming over every action on every page.

What makes this OMG FOURTEENTH book in the series stand out is that this is the one where all of the hyper-competent people that we have come to know and love over the course of the series so far are anything but.

Not that they don’t still manage to get the job done – because of course they do! – but rather because it’s clear from the opening page that all of the members of Miranda’s team are broken after the events of Osprey – and Miranda herself is the most broken one of them all.

It’s hard to lead anyone anywhere when your heart, your soul and your entire psyche are lying in pieces on the ground at your feet.

But time, tide, plane crashes and international catastrophes wait for no one. Even if not a single one of Miranda’s team remotely has their shit together, between them they still have enough to figure out exactly which enemy is responsible for the recent series of disasters plaguing Sweden’s civilian and military aviation.

Although Sweden doesn’t have a whole lot of enemies. Which doesn’t make Ian Fleming’s old truism any less true, that “Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times is enemy action.” It’s just that this time around they’ll have to start by identifying just who they have to stop.

Escape Rating A: Gryphon is a hard read for fans of Miranda Chase and her team. Which isn’t to say that it’s not a good read, because it oh-so-definitely is. But rather, it’s hard to see people that we’ve come to like and respect and care about act this observably broken.

It’s a heartbreaking response to the events of the previous book, but damn it hurts to watch.

But it does make it easy for someone, actually a few someones, to slip a whole lot of things past them all – because they are all very much NOT at the top of their respective games. More like at the bottom.

The crisis is a conundrum, because it only makes sense in bad ways. Either the Swedish aviation industry is having the worst luck in the universe, over and over, or someone is out to get them. And yet, the usual suspects are all quiet.

And on the third hand being held behind someone’s back, considering the current crisis in the Ukraine, blaming Russia for everyone’s troubles is a damnably easy conclusion to jump to. So it becomes a question of whether Russia has faked out literally everyone – or whether someone else is trying to make it look that way in the hopes of, what? Causing World War III? Who is crazy enough to want to ring that bell?

A question which, in its own way, is at the center of what makes this series so damn good. Because both the question and the solution in each entry in the series isn’t about the techno part of the thriller. It’s always about the human factors. Technology may make the events and crises and calamities and near-catastrophes possible, but it’s always human beings who set them into motion for all too human reasons.

And it’s the humans of Miranda’s team – pulling together and putting it all together – that have to stop the worst from happening.

Not that the tech isn’t fascinating and not that we don’t get a lot of it while following Miranda and her team – but it’s the humans we feel for and with and it’s the human cost of the disaster they’re trying to prevent that make us keep turning pages until they pull literally everyone’s fat out of whatever particular fire they’re facing this time around.

And all of that is just, well, harder in Gryphon because the humans on all sides of this particular equation are all broken, The villains are broken because the game they are playing is not worth the cost, and the ‘good guys’ are broken because they’ve been pulling separately instead of pulling together, so they’re a mess and getting messier by the day.

Whether the radical solution they come up with to begin to start fixing their broken places is something that we’ll all get to find out in the next book in this awesome series, Wedgetail. Until that comes out this summer, we’ll all just have to hope right along with the rest of the team.

Grade A #BookReview: The Missing Witness by Allison Brennan

Grade A #BookReview: The Missing Witness by Allison BrennanThe Missing Witness (Quinn & Costa, #5) by Allison Brennan
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via Edelweiss, supplied by publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: mystery, suspense, thriller
Series: Quinn & Costa #5
Pages: 416
Published by Mira on January 23, 2024
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBookshop.orgBetter World Books
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When a key witness goes missing, Quinn and Costa must find her before a killer silences her for good…
Detective Kara Quinn is back in Los Angeles to testify against a notorious human trafficker, finally moving past the case that upended her life. But when the accused is shot by a masked man in broad daylight, the chaotic scene of the crime turns up few reliable bystanders. And one witness—a whistleblower who might be the key to everything—has disappeared.
After the prosecuting DDA is stabbed to death, it’s clear that anyone who knows too much about the investigation is in danger, and tracking down the witness becomes a matter of life or death. With government corruption running rampant and someone on the inside trying to pin anything they can on Kara, she trusts nobody except FBI special agent Matt Costa and a handful of allies.
But when explosive secrets begin to surface within the LAPD and FBI, Kara questions everything she thought she knew about the case, her colleagues and the life she left behind months ago.
Now Quinn and Costa must race to find the missing witness and get to the bottom of the avalanche of conspiracies that has rocked LA to its core…before it's too late.

My Review:

“Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive” or so Sir Walter Scott claimed – even if the quote is generally and erroneously attributed to Shakespeare. It does rather sound like one of his, after all.

The Missing Witness, both the person and the case she’s caught in the middle of, is all about those practices of deception, and the need for the FBI’s Mobile Response Team to get to the heart of those deceptions. Bloodily if necessary.

Because the case in this fifth book in the series, after The Third to Die, Tell No Lies, The Wrong Victim and last year’s Seven Girls Gone, takes LAPD Detective Kara Quinn’s temporary membership in the MRT all the way back to where it began, to the case that made LA much too hot a place for her to remain, putting her on an unwelcome vacation and pushing her straight into the path of the FBI – and into the arms of the MRT’s Special Agent in Charge, Matt Costa.

Kara has been dragged back to LA, possibly because the human trafficking case that sent her out of town is finally being brought to trial. Or, more likely because the villain of the piece wants her back in town so he can send his goons out to eliminate her – just as he’s done with all the other witnesses to his many, many crimes.

Not that both of those things aren’t true – they’re just not anything remotely like the whole entire story or any of its moduses and/or operandis.

This is a case that has always been about deception. Including covering up the fact that the case is much bigger on the inside than appears on the outside. But also because Kara’s participation at the beginning, misplaced guilt in the middle and exile at the end are all about, not the deceptions that all the perpetrators have perpetrated in order to keep the dirty deeds on the down-low. The biggest deceptions in this case are the lies that the cops who were supposed to be on Kara’s side, on her team, the people that she trusted to bring her back home to her city and her job, have been lying to her all along.

And that’s one betrayal that she has utterly no capacity to forgive.

Escape Rating A: The case in The Missing Witness was solid and compelling and confounding, all at the same time. Because it’s wrapped around something so huge, so monstrous, and so easy to hide and obfuscate, that it’s nearly impossible to see the whole of it at once.

When Kara Quinn opened this case and this can of worms not quite a year ago, it was about sweatshops and human trafficking and scum who are so rich and so well connected it seems like they can even buy forgiveness from the FBI

But Kara tipped over a huge, gigantic rock, and the things that crawled out from underneath it have tentacles reaching from the Mayor’s Office to the County Board of Supervisors to the LAPD and the LA Office of the FBI – and that’s just for starters.

So Kara left town so that the case against one human trafficker could get pulled together without her body ending up in the middle of it. But that’s not the case her friends and mentors at the LAPD are investigating. They’re investigating the much bigger monsters that crawled out from under that rock – and they’re keeping Kara out of town for her own good – or so they believe.

Their cause is righteous, but their methods are not. To the point where the left hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing – or who the left hand is killing along the way.

At its heart, this is a case about political corruption, greed and graft, and the way all those things have intersected within the morass that has been called the Homeless Industrial Complex.

But white collar corruption and fraud cases are huge and complicated. There are so many moving parts that it’s difficult to get people to understand what’s at stake and who has been staked. So an awful lot of bad has happened but it’s been hard to even get the public’s attention OR to get a District Attorney to prosecute.

Murder cases, on the other hand, are easy to reduce to the soundbite of a gunshot.

What makes this story so compelling, is the way that Kara’s pursuit of the original murder and trafficker is used as a vehicle to get us inside, to get us to care about the larger but much more amorphous corruption case that has been hiding in plain sight all along.

And the way that even though a measure of justice gets served, we still feel the depths of the betrayals Kara suffers, that the people she once believed had her back have been lying to her all along in their belief that she wouldn’t have been willing to serve the same justice they were.

Which leads to the epic conclusion of The Missing Witness, a conclusion that is certainly the ending of the story arc of the first five books in this thrilling, suspenseful series, but hopefully will lead to much more to come. Because I’ve loved this whole series and I absolutely do not want it to end!

#BookReview: Random in Death by J.D. Robb

#BookReview: Random in Death by J.D. RobbRandom in Death (In Death, #58) by J.D. Robb
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, large print, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: futuristic, mystery, romantic suspense, suspense, thriller
Series: In Death #58
Pages: 368
Published by St. Martin's Press on January 23, 2024
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBookshop.orgBetter World Books
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In the new crime thriller from #1 New York Times-bestselling J.D. Robb, a small and easily concealed weapon wreaks havoc, and the killer is just a face in the crowd.
Jenna’s parents had finally given in, and there she was, at a New York club with her best friends, watching the legendary band Avenue A, carrying her demo in hopes of slipping it to the guitarist, Jake Kincade. Then, from the stage, Jake catches her eye, and smiles. It’s the best night of her life.It’s the last night of her life.
Minutes later, Jake’s in the alley getting some fresh air, and the girl from the dance floor comes stumbling out, sick and confused and deathly pale. He tries to help, but it’s no use. He doesn’t know that someone in the crowd has jabbed her with a needle—and when his girlfriend Nadine arrives, she knows the only thing left to do for the girl is call her friend, Lieutenant Eve Dallas.
After everyone on the scene is interviewed, lab results show a toxic mix of substances in the victim’s body—and for an extra touch of viciousness, the needle was teeming with infectious agents. Dallas searches for a pattern: Had any boys been harassing Jenna? Was she engaging in risky behavior or caught up in something shady? But there are no obvious clues why this levelheaded sixteen-year-old, passionate about her music, would be targeted.
And that worries Dallas. Because if Jenna wasn’t targeted, if she was just the random, unlucky victim of a madman consumed by hatred, there are likely more deaths to come.

My Review:

The case in Random in Death turns out to be, well, just a bit random. Even more random than I thought it would turn out to be. Which I’ll get back in a bit.

A young woman is having the night of her life. Her favorite band is onstage, performing a free concert just for the under-21 non-drinking crowd at the place where the band got their start. Jenna Harbrough a musician herself, and a dedicated one, and she’s hoping for the opportunity to give her demo disk to the band’s lead singer.

Because if he hears it, she knows she’ll get her shot at the bright lights, just like the members of Avenue A did twenty years ago.

It’s not hyperbole, or youthful wishing thinking. She’s got everything it takes to make it to the top. Except time.

Jenna is killed that night by someone who cares nothing for her, her dreams, her life – or honestly even her death. All that matters to him is that she is just the kind of girl who would never give him the time of day – just like everyone else in his life.

So he cuts her down and plans to do it again and again until someone finally sees him for who and what he really is. For ALL the possible meanings of that. He believes that when he’s finished he’ll get what he deserves.

And he will. Eve Dallas, the entire Homicide Unit of the NYPSD, and all of the people she has gathered around herself, are going to make damn sure of it.

Escape Rating B: Learning how all my ‘book friends’ were doing in this latest entry in the In Death series (after last fall’s Payback in Death) was the perfect read for me at the end of this week. This series is a comfort read for me, and my brain was pretty much TOAST. Burnt toast, at that.

But this is a rare case where the timing was perfect for falling into the familiarity of it all, but the book I fell into wasn’t. Perfect, that is.

The books in this series usually contain two elements, one being the case that Dallas and Company have to solve, and the other being what’s going on with everyone in their constantly expanding found fam.

This particular entry in the series was great – as always – on the found fam side of the equation, but the case, not so much.

Because the villain really was exactly what the kids who knew him claimed he was. He was a dooser. What’s a dooser, you’re asking? As did Dallas, Roarke and every other adult who became part of finding this dooser.

Dooser is one of those on the nose portmanteau words, in this case a combination of ‘dick’ and ‘loser’. Because he so very much embodies that combination. Which is what ultimately catches him up and brings him down.

And it kind of blunts the impact of his crime spree, because he’s just so very ‘lame’, to use vernacular that is closer to our time than theirs.

Because his victims were not exactly as random as we’d like them to be, at least not to anyone other than him. The case would have been more riveting if he’d been a bit more competent at it. Not that I actually want serial killers to be more competent, but once Dallas had one thread to pull his whole house of cards came down very, very fast.

The leading cause of death among women is men – and this is such a prime, chilling example of that. Particularly at the beginning, when it seemed like he was deliberately cutting down young women who are focused on their future careers and NOT looking for so-called traditional roles..

He wasn’t just killing them – he was killing their promise and their future and their possibilities and it seemed deliberate. Except that’s not what this villain cared about at all. Because he’s just a dooser incel who’s gone apeshit because he’s certain that he is absolutely entitled to the sex they’re not putting out for him – but are for everyone else. Hell, just for the fact that they’re not even noticing he exists.

So for all of his meticulous planning and serious science smarts, he was, in the end, just a loser. So it’s no surprise at all that Dallas put him in a cage. It didn’t even seem like it was all that hard to catch him, because he made so many mistakes from his very first murder. His crime spree was terrible, and the clock ticking was very loud, but he was such a loser that the mystery of the thing faded relatively quickly.

But it was still a whole lot of fun to see the progress being made on the house that Mavis and Leonardo are building to share with Peabody and McNab, that Jenkinson is rapidly filling the shoes that his promotion to Detective Sergeant entitles him to, and that there’s every bit as much romance – if not a little bit more – in Dallas’ and Roarke’s marriage.

And especially that Galahad is still very much, large, in charge, and all CAT. Just the way he should be.

The next book in the In Death series is Passions in Death, coming in September. I can’t wait to see what case and/or crisis Dallas and Company have to face next!

Grade A #BookReview: Holmes, Marple & Poe by James Patterson and Brian Sitts

Grade A #BookReview: Holmes, Marple & Poe by James Patterson and Brian SittsHolmes, Marple & Poe: The Greatest Crime-Solving Team of the Twenty-First Century by James Patterson, Brian Sitts
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, large print, ebook, audiobook
Genres: mystery, suspense, thriller
Pages: 352
on January 8, 2024
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBookshop.orgBetter World Books
Goodreads

Crime! Murder! Who are you going to call?
In New York City, three intriguing, smart, and stylish private investigators open Holmes, Marple & Poe Investigations. Who are these detectives with famous names and mysterious, untraceable pasts?
Brendan Holmes—The Brain: Identifies suspects via deduction and logic.
Margaret Marple—The Eyes: Possesses powers of observation too often underestimated.
Auguste Poe—The Muscle: Chases down every lead no matter how dangerous or dark.
The agency’s daring methodology and headline-making solves attract the attention of NYPD Detective Helene Grey. Her solo investigation into her three unknowable competitors rivals the best mysteries of Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle, Agatha Christie, and Edgar Allan Poe.

My Review:

Names to conjure with, aren’t they? Which is very much the point, when Brendan Holmes, Margaret Marple and Auguste Poe open their private investigation business in a formerly rundown bakery that no one else was willing to buy.

The bakery was, once upon a time in 1954, the scene of a grisly murder. A cold case that is right up Margaret Marple’s alley – whoever she might REALLY be.

It’s also the first link in a nearly endless chain of cases that doesn’t look like it’s even started yet – and doesn’t seem to have any end in sight.

As much as THIS Holmes, Marple and Poe resemble their originators – in both Holmes’ and Poe’s cases to their detriment – we know it’s mostly an act. Or a reconstruction. Or possibly three experienced operators taking on identities so blatantly false but so meticulously created that no one can find the seams where they were stitched together.

The NYPD certainly tries, and they seem to be far from alone in their attempts.

But whoever, and whatever, these fascinating detectives were once upon a time, in the here and now they’re the best chance that the city has of closing the toughest of cases, from a fake kidnapping to an impossible art theft to a real – and really old – body dump site under the subway. And everything in between and all the way up to the mayor’s office.

Along with the murder of a young, forgotten girl on the floor of a bakery.

Escape Rating A: To say I had misgivings going into this one would be an understatement. James Patterson is a publishing juggernaut, so at one point I felt sort of obligated to try one of his books just to see what all the fuss was about – because there certainly is lots of fuss. The book was 1st to Die, the first book in his Women’s Murder Club series, and I could not get into it and had not been tempted back.

Until now. Because I can’t resist a Sherlock Holmes pastiche, no matter how tangential, and got grabbed by the title of this book and couldn’t talk myself out of it.

I’m very glad that I didn’t, because Holmes, Marple & Poe is a terrifically fun read, whether you are there for the hints of the mystery giants they named themselves for, or are just there to help figure out whodunnit.

What made this so much fun was that it exists on two tracks. On the one hand, there’s the mystery wrapped around the identities of the people hiding behind those famous names. We don’t even get hints, merely a few unsubstantiated rumors, but we do get the fun of watching several investigations chase their own tails trying to figure it out.

(Also the fun of figuring out how those names are meant to reinforce the resemblance. C. Auguste Dupin was the detective in what is arguably the first detective story, “The Murders in the Rue Morgue”, written by Edgar Allan Poe. Margaret Rutherford was one of the earliest and most famous actresses to play the oft-portrayed Miss Jane Marple on the silver screen. I’m still puzzling about who Brendan was in relation to either Sherlock Holmes or Sir Arthur Conan Doyle but I just know I’m going to facepalm when I figure it out.)

On the other, and much more prominent hand in this story, we get to watch three investigators who are all mostly and more or less at the top of their respective games follow the trails of several bizarre crimes to a grand conclusion that ties all the cases up, not each in their own neat bow, but in one gigantic neat bow – with a couple of smaller bows hanging off the side.

The way that one clue led to another – even in cases that did not seem like they had anything to contribute to the whole of the thing – gave me vibes of one of my favorite mystery series, J.D. Robb’s In Death series. I even see the nucleus of the ‘Scooby Gang’ forming, including a demon cat and a gigantic hound named (of course) Baskerville.

In other words, the particular string of cases they follow is riveting, and I enjoyed the vibe of the ‘gang’ coming together so much that I would love to see more of it all. If Holmes, Marple & Poe turned out to be the first book in a series I’d be utterly thrilled and absolutely there for it.

Review: Fall by Tracy Clark

Review: Fall by Tracy ClarkFall (Detective Harriet Foster #2) by Tracy Clark
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: mystery, suspense, thriller
Series: Detective Harriet Foster #2
Pages: 347
Published by Thomas & Mercer on December 5, 2023
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleBookshop.orgBetter World Books
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In the second book in the Detective Harriet Foster thriller series, author Tracy Clark weaves a twisted journey into the underbelly of Chicago as Harriet and her team work to unmask a serial killer stalking the city’s aldermen.
The Chicago PD is on high alert when two city aldermen are found dead: one by apparent suicide, one brutally stabbed in his office, and both with thirty dimes left on their bodies—a betrayer’s payment. With no other clues, the question is, Who else has a debt to pay?
Detective Harriet Foster is on the case before the killer can strike again. But even with the help of her partner, Detective Vera Li, and the rest of their team, Harriet has little to go on and a lot at risk. There’s no telling who the killer’s next target is or how many will come next.
To stop another murder, Harriet and her officers will have to examine what the victims had going on behind the scenes to determine who could be tangled up in this web of betrayal…and who could be out for revenge

My Review:

When we first catch back up with Detective Harriet Foster, she’s in the midst of a doomed attempt to get closure for the unclosable. She’s attending the sentencing hearing of the young man who murdered her son. As much as everyone in her family wants her to – not so much put it behind her because that’s impossible – start living in the present and the future she has rather than the past she can’t change and can’t return to.

But when we first met Harri back in Hide, she was also still grieving the suicide of her police partner Glynnis Thompson. While closure for that loss may still be elusive, Harri does get at least a reason for that seemingly unreasonable act. A reason that is clearly going to dog her footsteps for months if not years to come.

What makes this second entry in the series so compelling is its deep dive into the seemingly baked in ways and means that the sausage of Chicago city government gets made. And seemingly always has been.

That a former alderman, convicted of corruption, gets out of prison after serving her time may be newsworthy as it happens – just as her trial and conviction three years before was – but it isn’t at all unusual. It’s just part of the way that ‘business’ in the City of Chicago has always been done.

Howsomever, that the aldermen who should have gone to prison with her – but whose names seem to have been barely whispered during the course of the investigation – start dropping like flies the minute she gets out is not only newsworthy, it’s juicy news at that. The kind of news that he newsies are all over like a bad rash.

Because that former alderman, Marin Shaw, should be the prime suspect for the killings. And in some people’s minds, she is. But not to Detective Foster and her current partner Vera Li. Because down in the dirt of Chicago politics and power, there are simply too many motives for killing an alderman or two, or even three.

Especially when one of the victims is the kingpin of a whole network of dirty City dealing not done remotely dirt cheap.

To the two experienced cops, it looks like a frame that someone is trying to make former alderman Marin Shaw fit into. But it doesn’t, quite, because the motives are as elusive as the killer has been, and they’ve been looking in the wrong direction all along. As they were intended to.

Escape Rating A++: I finished this at 3 in the morning because I simply could not put it down. I mean, I tried, but I just couldn’t let this one go until the end. An ending like black coffee, tasty but bitter, with a solid kick at the finish.

In other words, there are plenty of reasons why this book has ended up on so many “Best of the Year” lists – and quite possibly will mine as well. It is even better than the first book in the series, Hide, and provides an even more in-depth look at a damaged person doing her best in a broken system to make each day count for others – even if she can’t make them count for herself.

Detective Harriet Foster is compelling in her brokenness. I want to say that she’s strong in the broken places, but she’s not there yet. She’s putting one foot forward, one day at a time, and giving what of herself she feels she has left to her job of saving somebody else’s son because she couldn’t save her own.

She isn’t ready to put her own life together, but she’s reaching for the point where she can at least put her work life back together, when someone tries to pull that rug out from under her. The questions that get raised about her partner’s death do not get resolved in this entry in the series, leading to a fascinating ending of a cliffhanger that isn’t a cliffhanger. This case is resolved, Harri’s problems are just beginning.

At the heart of this one, however, is the mystery. And not so much for the mystery itself, as much as I enjoyed getting caught up in the clues and in Harri and Li’s investigation. But it’s what she’s investigating that adds the compulsive factor. Because that investigation creates a portrait of Chicago politics that manages to read both as the corruption the way that popular imagination has painted it AND as the way that the city’s newspapers cover it, all at the same time. And that feels entirely too true to life.

What gave the case a very nice twist at the end was that, as much fun as the dive into the political muck was to read, the motive for the murders wasn’t part of that muck. Not that it wasn’t mucky and murky in its own right, but it wasn’t the usual muck when it comes to Chicago politics which made for a more satisfying resolution – at least for this reader.

Anytime that a story keeps me up until 3 in the morning, I want more than I have. Not more of this particular book, because it was the right story at the right length at the right time, but more like this or more of these characters or both. Definitely both.

If you have that same impulse after you finish Hide and Fall (and do read both because the series just keeps getting awesomer as it goes), if Detective Harriet Foster, with her damage and her dangerous investigations into the broken places and people of Chicago grab your attention, you might also want to check out Inspector Anjelica Henley and the dark and dirty parts of her London, because the two are very much sisters under the skin with their respective city’s grit under their nails. The first book in the Henley series by Nadine Matheson is The Jigsaw Man.

As I’ve already read the Henley series, I’ll have to look for something else to tide me over until the next book in one or the other appears. (That’s The Kill List for Anjelica Henley in September and Echo for Harriet Foster next December. Tracy Clark has another Chicago-set mystery series, the Cass Raines series, that begins with Broken Places. I always enjoy a trip to Chicago, so I’ll be giving that a look while I wait for Harriet Foster’s next investigation.

Review: Osprey by M.L. Buchman

Review: Osprey by M.L. BuchmanOsprey (Miranda Chase NTSB, #13) by M L Buchman
Format: eARC
Source: author
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genres: action adventure, political thriller, technothriller, thriller
Series: Miranda Chase NTSB #13
Pages: 392
Published by Buchman Bookworks on September 17, 2023
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBookshop.orgBetter World Books
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Russia teeters on the brink of collapse, spoiling for a battle to end all wars. All it needs? One thin excuse. World War I began with the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand. World War II launched with the invasion of Poland. As for Russia's invasion of Ukraine... A Russian flyby of an American CMV-22 Osprey tiltrotor goes desperately wrong over the North Sea. Will the tipping point for World War III break the moment a favored daughter of the Oligarchy goes down in flames? When the NSA's secret military base at Menwith Hill in the UK needs specialized expertise, they call in Miranda Chase. She and her elite team of air-crash investigators must avert a crisis like none before. A crisis that unravels her past, batters at her autism, and threatens to crush her team in the ultimate grinder of East vs. West. "Miranda is utterly compelling!" - Booklist, starred review "Escape A. Five Stars! OMG just start with Drone and be prepared for a fantastic binge-read!" -Reading Reality

My Review:

Osprey, in addition to being about the investigation of a series of airplane crashes, as the books in the Miranda Chase series always are, is fundamentally the story of a woman who has based her life on a series of truths that turn out to be lies.

Miranda Chase is not merely A lead investigator for the National Transportation and Safety Board, but at this point in the series, THE premiere investigator for the NTSB. Miranda, along with her team, are the people that not just the NTSB but federal government all the way up to the President call whenever the crash is either too thorny for a regular investigator OR, as is very much true in this particular case, has the potential to start World War III and/or bring about the end of the world.

Considering the nuclear arsenals of the U.S. and other countries, they are likely to be one and the same.

Which is what drags Miranda and her team out of their vacation in Yorkshire, hiking the Herriot Trail, all the way to the top secret US/UK communication and intelligence support station at RAF Menwith Hill, which is, according to Miranda’s teammate Holly Harper, the place where the world ends. Because, on Holly’s last mission for Australia’s SSAR, Menwith Hill’s sister station in Pine Gap ended Holly’s.

This time around, they’re about to end Miranda’s – even as she and her team prevent the end of pretty much everyone else’s in the whole damn world.

Escape Rating A+: This was one of those books that turned out to be a much harder read than I was expecting – even as it sucked me right in and wouldn’t let me go until the end. By saying Osprey is a ‘hard read’ I mean that in the sense that, 13 books into this series, I’ve become very fond of Miranda and her team and hate seeing any of them in serious distress. But it’s clear that this is the 13th book in the series for a reason in that it seems like all the bad luck and worse trouble in Miranda’s life comes home to roost in this one and probably won’t leave anytime soon.

Like all of the books in this series so far, starting with the marvelous Drone and continuing through ALL of the team’s compelling adventures along the way, each story pretty much has two plots. The first is the actual plot that results in the crash that Miranda and company are tasked with investigating. The second line is tied up in a particular team member’s personal circumstances, whether that’s how they become part of the team, falling in love with either a fellow team member, a friend or an enemy, or when those relationships crash and burn.

With the case in Osprey it’s a question of which will burn first, Miranda or the entire world, which makes the stakes the highest they can be on both sides of that equation.

The initial crash could have, and in other circumstances would have, been put down to pilot error combined with a bit of stupid people doing stupid things. In other words, humans just being human – unfortunately at tens of thousands of feet in the air while piloting state of the art aircraft.

The situation escalates, and fast, because the initial less-than-stellar piloting was on the part of a Russian military jet playing ‘chicken’ with a brand new U.S. craft that is capable of switching from taking off like a helicopter to flying like an airplane. Sounds cool, doesn’t it? But when the jet’s wings got tied up in the Osprey’s proprotor, everything went to hell in a handbasket and both countries, already über tense – as they are in real life – were on the brink of nuclear war.

Figuring out how that crash occurred, and the even stupider one that followed, is all in a day’s work for Miranda and her team. The President of the U.S. is thrilled to take her very expert word that the crash was merely the stuff of stupid and not a deliberate provocation to war.

But the Russian side of this equation is a whole lot messier. A mess which raises questions about just how Miranda’s parents REALLY died – because the newly discovered and always obscured – evidence makes it clear that it didn’t exactly happen the way that the world, even the CIA’s hidden world, believed it did. And that’s only the beginning of how Miranda’s world falls apart, even as the rest of the world gets put back together. At least for now.

The reader knows most of what’s coming – at least as far as Miranda’s parents’ deaths are concerned – from the very first scene, so that’s not exactly a spoiler. We know it’s going to be devastating, and we’re waiting for that shoe to drop through the entire book. It’s agonizing. It’s also not all she’ll have to contend with, but getting into that would be a spoiler.

Let’s just say that on Miranda’s personal front, this is a heartbreaking story and it’s hard to watch her even begin to go through the inevitable fallout. Howsomever, as one of the strengths of this series is the way that the characters and relationships change and grow over time, Miranda’s situation is one that I expect to see explore and change and resolve over the next several books in the series, starting with Gryphon, coming in late January of 2024.

One final note; there’s a surprising bit of a parallel to The Last Devil to Die, the most recent book in the Thursday Murder Club series. The leaders of each series, Miranda and Elizabeth, are brought low by heart-shattering personal catastrophes, and it’s up to the other members of their teams to keep the case on track even as their leader, rightfully and righteously, falls apart for an understandable bit. It’s terrible seeing those leaders stumble and fall, but lovely to watch the other members of their teams carry them and carry on.

 

Review: The Last Devil to Die by Richard Osman

Review: The Last Devil to Die by Richard OsmanThe Last Devil to Die (Thursday Murder Club, #4) by Richard Osman
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, large print, ebook, audiobook
Genres: mystery, thriller
Series: Thursday Murder Club #4
Pages: 432
Published by Pamela Dorman Books on September 19, 2023
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBookshop.orgBetter World Books
Goodreads

Shocking news reaches the Thursday Murder Club.
An old friend in the antiques business has been killed, and a dangerous package he was protecting has gone missing.
As the gang springs into action they encounter art forgers, online fraudsters and drug dealers, as well as heartache close to home.
With the body count rising, the package still missing and trouble firmly on their tail, has their luck finally run out? And who will be the last devil to die?

My Review:

The first ‘devil’ to die in this fourth entry in the Thursday Murder Club series is an old friend who helped them solve the case in the previous book in the series, The Bullet That Missed. Kuldesh Sharma was an antiques dealer who was lucky enough to be making a decent living in a business where too many people get caught up in buying things they love rather than trading in things they can sell at a profit.

But his luck ran out on a lonely country road with a bullet in his head that absolutely did not miss this time around.

Technically, his luck ran out earlier that Boxing Day, when he was one of the few antique shops open for business on a day when the local heroin importers needed someplace to hold onto a box for them. It was an offer he knew he couldn’t refuse, lest he end up exactly the way he did, dead with his store ransacked.

Those events aren’t linked the way that anyone expects them to be, and thereby hangs a tale. Specifically, this tale of bad luck and worse choices, an utter inability on the part of several unlucky individuals to distinguish friend from foe, a trail of bodies both guilty and innocent, and a small box that may not be bigger on the inside but is certainly a great deal larger in some dimensions than it appears.

Escape Rating A: The Last Devil to Die turned out to be the perfect capstone to this series so far, but I had more than a bit of an approach/avoidance problem to reading it all the way to the bitter end.

I also had the same hard time writing this up because there’s a point near that end that gave me the weepies. Seriously, I started crying. If you read the whole series so far, there’s a strong possibility that you will, too. It’s not exactly unexpected but it does invoke one hell of a lot of feels. Those tears rain over this entire review. Consider yourself warned.

What makes this case so convoluted is that, at least at the beginning, NO ONE really knows what it’s about – but everyone has made assumptions in that regard. Which makes the whole thing fall directly into that cliché about ‘assume’ and asses.

To the police, at least in the persons of the Thursday Murder Club’s police buddies Chris and Donna, it’s all about the heroin, or at least it’s about the local drug kingpins chasing the heroin. Because it would be a really serious feather in Chris and Donna’s caps if they could manage to nail those bastards to the wall.

But there’s a big deal officer from London who has come to take over the case and thrown our friends off the case – with rather extreme prejudice. Leading Chris and Donna to continue their investigation following rather more closely in the footsteps of the Thursday Murder Club – at least in regards to extra-legal methods – than either of them is strictly comfortable with.
Whatever the police think this case is about, the local drug gangs seem to be making a much bigger fuss over a mere 100,000 pounds worth of heroin. That not 100,000 pounds of heroin, which would be a pretty big deal, but rather a small amount of the stuff worth 100,000 pounds.

Big difference. Huge difference. Orders of magnitude difference. It’s only after the Thursday Murder Club follows that trail of bodies that Elizabeth Best puts together what it’s really all about, in a scene worthy of the best of the classic murder mysteries – even if the trail and the reasons for it are anything but old fashioned.

What makes this series work as a whole is that, in spite of how fanciful the idea of a bunch of septuagenarians solving murders might be and often is, and as quirky and eccentric as the members of the Club absolutely are, there’s nothing silly or twee about the way they go about their business.

And it’s not just that they are as deadly serious as the corpses they discover, but also that they are pragmatic and savvy about their place in the world, that they have many more days behind them then ahead of them, that they are often discounted because of that, and that the end is coming for all of them and it’s important how they occupy that time and take care of that end as it comes.

I appreciate their perspective and their approach to their lives at this stage of them even more than I might have otherwise, as I’m now in my mid-60s and honestly I’d like to be them when I grow up. Preferably without having to deal with a string of dead bodies every other month, but the way they all work together and make a difference in the world, as well as their beautiful and supportive friendship, is something to aspire to.

There’s a hint at the end that the Thursday Murder Club will be tying up the loose ends of a case tangential to the one they investigated in The Bullet that Missed when this series continues. Which, according to the author’s afterword, won’t come as immediately as fans would prefer, but will happen once the Club and their legion of fans recover from their grief over The Last Devil to Die.

Review: The Quiet Room by Terry Miles

Review: The Quiet Room by Terry MilesThe Quiet Room (Rabbits, #2) by Terry Miles
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, ebook, audiobook
Genres: science fiction, technothriller, thriller
Series: Rabbits #2
Pages: 432
Published by Del Rey on October 3, 2023
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBookshop.orgBetter World Books
Goodreads

The lore and legends around the underground game known as Rabbits gain new dimensions in this twisty tale set in the world of the hit Rabbits podcast.
After nearly winning the eleventh iteration of Rabbits, the mysterious alternate reality game so vast it uses the entire world as its canvas, Emily Connors suddenly finds herself trapped in a dimensional stream where the game does not exist. At all. Except . . . why do sinister figures show up to stop her every time she goes looking? Does Rabbits truly not exist, or is it being hidden? And if it’s being hidden, why—and by whom?
Meanwhile, architect and theme park designer Rowan Chess is having the weirdest month of his life, full of odd coincidences and people who appear one moment and vanish the next, with no trace they ever even existed. The game that is hiding from Emily seems to have found Rowan—with a vengeance.
But only when Rowan and Emily meet do things start to get dangerous, for together they uncover a conspiracy far deeper and deadlier than either of them expected—one that could forever change the nature not only of the game, but of reality itself.

My Review:

R U playing Rabbits? Or is Rabbits playing you – along with the rest of the multiverse? That’s the question at the heart of The Quiet Room, a wild ride that is anything but quiet. Or peaceful. And only sorta/kinda a room.

The story is, as one of the chapter headings put is, “a Bumpy Fucking Ride” every single step of its sometimes meandering but always terrifyingly dangerous way.

Fair warning, there be “wibbly wobbly timey-wimey stuff” here, with absolutely no Doctor in sight – even if this version of the multiverse could definitely use one.

Emily Cooper, one of the protagonists of Rabbits, seems to have dimensionally shifted into a corner of the multiverse where Rabbits is hiding – not in plain sight as it was in the first book – but so completely underground and under the radar that even Emily can’t find it.

There’s clearly something very, very wrong going on, and the ‘Rabbit Police’ all too frequently mess with any progress that she makes in figuring out what.

They’re not really called the ‘Rabbit Police’, in fact Emily doesn’t know what they ARE called. What she does know is that they operate a bit like a cross between the Men in Black, and SPECTRE or some secret super-spy organization. They show up in suits and masks, kidnap her or one of her friends, sedate her, imprison her and ask her questions about Rabbits. Over and over and over again.

While Emily is running from the ‘Rabbit Police’, Rowan Chess seems to be running straight towards them. The extreme coincidences that form the backdrop of Rabbits seem to be chasing him down in that same world where Rabbits is emphatically not being played. Except by him – even if he has no clue what it is.

As the Rabbits players scurry, and the Rabbit Police chase after them, Emily & Co., discover that the end of this world is coming – even as the ongoing playing of Rabbits in other dimensions is intended to save the rest of it.

They have to find their way to the Quiet Room, the one place where this dying stub of a world connects to the rest of the multiverse. But they have no clue where it is – or even when it is – and no idea who is with them or against them.

Or even if one of them is the entire reason that the AI that controls Rabbits has decided that the whole stub – and everyone in it – should be shut down for the greater good. Or even whether that greater good is greater or good or even halfway well defined at all.

Escape Rating B: I honestly did not expect to like The Quiet Room. The first book in the series, titled Rabbits after the game at the heart of the podcast series of the same title, was a bit of a confused mess that didn’t completely gel for me as a story. I wanted it to, but it just didn’t quite.

The Quiet Room is still a very wild and chaotic ride, but the action is, for the most part, confined to a single stub of the multiverse, and the problem that the characters have to solve is a bit more contained and refined as a result. Meaning that the story hangs together better and makes considerably more sense to a reader looking for a story with at least a somewhat defined beginning, middle and end.

The Quiet Room does a considerably better job at particularly the beginning and the middle, although the end it reaches isn’t so much an end as it is an opening for further adventures. Still, the cast of characters is a bit smaller and their motivations are a bit easier to suss out, so the story feels like it’s on a fast set of rails that keeps the reader on their toes, guessing what comes next, and hanging on for the next corkscrew without flying off into the walls and ceiling.

The ending is only the ending to this particular adventure, but the way it delivers its last twist means that there’s plenty of room for the series to continue. And I’m rather surprised to say that I’ll be more interested in reading that continuation than I ever imagined when I first poked my way into The Quiet Room.