Book review: The Hunted by Elmore Leonard

The HuntedThe Hunted by Elmore Leonard

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When hiding, try not to get your photo in the newspaper.

Al Rosen is living the dream. He has retired early, he has money, he’s charming and ladies love him, and he’s hiding in Israel from the Detroit mob. An evening with a woman he has just met ends in a hotel fire and his picture in the paper. By the end of the week, a hit team are in the country. But he can’t leave yet, not without his lawyer handing over his money, and his lady friend returning his passport. To survive he’ll need all the help he can get, like the marine Davis.

I don’t think there is any argument that Elmore Leonard was an amazing writer. Pick up anything he wrote and you’ll see it. The writing just flows. The dialogue, to quote one of those stupid pull quotes they stick on the covers of books, just snaps. The Hunted is no exception. I breezed through the book… when I was reading it.

And this is what has left me confused. I’m not exactly sure why I could read this story so easily and yet not find myself compelled to pick it back up. I’ve held off on writing this review because I’ve been expecting an opinion to form at some point.

That leaves me with speculation. I suspect that Leonard’s writing in The Hunted hid a largely uninteresting story. Kinda like a master artist giving your walls a coat of paint. Or maybe my interrupted reading time has pulled me out of the book too often and I’m just not appreciating the story.

To be clear, I’m not saying this is bad or unenjoyable, far from it. I was just expecting more from Leonard, especially considering his skills were on display here.

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Book Review: Edenverse by Matt Hawkins

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Edenverse: Think Tank, Postal, The Tithe, Eden’s Fall, Samaritan by Matt Hawkins

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Smart people take on the government. Because they should.

Back in 2012, I stumbled upon the first instalment of Think Tank from indie comic publisher Top Cow. This was back when online stores selling e-comics were still not completely up with technology. I bought Issue #1 and then tried to read it. It wouldn’t download to my comic reading app. I tried to send it to my iPad. It didn’t like the strange format. I tried reading it in the store’s very own comic app. It suggested my iPad and computer were too new.

I won’t go into the details of exactly how I read that first issue (hint: comic files are just a bunch of pictures if you can slice them open), but even with all of the frustration of this first purchase I still enjoyed the story.

Dr. David Loren is many things: child prodigy, inventor, genius, slacker… mass murderer. When a military think tank’s smartest scientist decides he can no longer stomach creating weapons of destruction, will he be able to think his way out of his dilemma or find himself subject to the machinations of smaller men?

So started a five-year avid following of one of the more interesting techno-thriller series I’ve come across. Unfortunately, I switched from buying individual issues to the collected volumes, which were entirely more reliable in those early years of e-comics. I say unfortunately because as a result, I didn’t realise that Think Tank was part of an expanded universe – something the last few pages of regular issues highlights with previews.

Now I’m caught up. In particular, The Tithe and Samaritan are excellent additions to the Think Tank universe (Edenverse, named after the town in the Postal series). Matt Hawkins and illustrator Rahsan Ekedal have pulled together a collection of political machinations, high-tech possibilities, real-world issues, and social commentary for a brilliant collection of comics. Seriously, they have references for the topics, tech, and background at the end of each book, something that tickles my inner scientist with delight.

I highly recommend these series to comic fans, especially those who like techno-thrillers or crime-thrillers.

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Book review: The Wanted by Robert Crais

The Wanted (Elvis Cole, #17; Joe Pike, #6)The Wanted by Robert Crais

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There’s a question at the end of this book: “Is your name really Elvis?” The response should have been, “♪ Uh-hu-hu-huh. ♪”

Elvis Cole is called in to figure out how a worried mother’s son came by a luxury watch. Elvis and Joe Pike proceed to investigate a series of high-end burglaries, a spate of murders, and why two professional cleaners are looking for the teen boy. They even get to shoot people for a change.

I do enjoy picking up the occasional Robert Crais novel. They are entertaining and well paced, and offer up a slightly different take on the crime-thriller novel. Admittedly, I actually prefer Crais’ earlier books in the series as they had more humour, but his later novels are worth a read too.

What stops me recommending this novel more than the 4 stars I’ve given it is that, like any long-running series, there is a paint-by-numbers feel to the story. It is actually impressive that Crais hasn’t resorted to a more obvious formula yet, but that could be a reflection of my not reading every Cole and Pike novel.

The Wanted is another solid Cole and Pike novel, and highly enjoyable.

I received an Advanced Review Copy in exchange for an honest review.

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Book Review: Raw Wounds by Matt Hilton

Raw Wounds (Tess Grey & Po Villere, #3)Raw Wounds by Matt Hilton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Blood is thicker than water, unless you stab a relative, then it needs to be washed off with water.

Tess and Po have stumbled upon a potential murder victim and are all set to investigate this puzzling crime when Po receives a call. His dying mother wants to see him. His mother’s husband swore an oath to kill him. The rest of the family is ready to help. Except his sister, who has just gone missing near a new oil pipeline development, who Po has just been tasked to find.

Having been a long time fan of the Joe Hunter series by Matt Hilton, I was keen to read this new series from Matt. Much like the Hunter series, Matt has given us a solid crime thriller with plenty of action. The hard moulded Po is a lived in character, and Tess feeling like someone who is still trying to adjust to her new life as an ex-cop. They feel like good characters to follow for more adventures.

I received a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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Book review: Gridlock by Sean Black

Gridlock (Ryan Lock, #3)Gridlock by Sean Black

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

That moment when you recognise an actor/actress but can’t admit it.

Adult film star Raven Lane has a stalker. Not the leave flowers kind of stalker, the kind that leaves bodies in the back of your car. The police are only mildly interested in catching someone killing people in the adult industry, so Raven hires Lock and Ty. Ryan Lock reluctantly takes the job, sensing that something is off about it all. There is. In the worst way possible.

It has been a while since I’ve read anything from Sean Black. His first Lock thriller novel was recommended to me by thriller author Matt Hilton, and I loved it. Sean has since branched out into writing a mystery-comedy series – Malibu Mystery – that I’ve got on my TBR (at some point I’m going to have to admit I have a book buying problem). Reading another Ryan Lock novel was like putting on a comfy pair of shoes. Sean keeps the narrative interesting, keeps the pacing fast, and isn’t afraid to land plot punches most authors would avoid.

Although, when Sean says he loves to do hands on research, I kinda wonder what he did for Gridlock.

Highly recommend this novel for thriller and crime-thriller fans.

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Book review: The Devil’s Country by Harry Hunsicker

The Devil's CountryThe Devil’s Country by Harry Hunsicker

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Has there ever been a religious cult started for something other than allowing the leaders to have sex with the congregation?

Arlo Baines is wandering the state of Texas in an effort to forget the murder of his family. The former Texas Ranger sees a couple of guys up to no good, and starts making trouble in the neighbourhood. He gets in one little fight and has the local sheriff and a religious cult wanting to see him leave (for Bel Air).

It was refreshing to dive into a different take on the itinerant vigilante genre. Obviously there are similarities between any of the novels in this genre, the most prominent being Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series (of which I’m a fan). But Harry Hunsicker has brought a more haunted and reluctant hero to the page, one who feels a little more vulnerable, but no less unstoppable.

This is a fast-moving novel which hits all the right beats. While it doesn’t stray from the itinerant vigilante genre path, nor offer up any surprising twists, The Devil’s Country was an enjoyable read. Recommended for any fans of Lee Child, Matt Hilton, Zoe Sharp, et al.

NB: I received an advance review copy of this book in exchange for a fair review.

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Book review: The Scam by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg

The Scam (Fox and O'Hare, #4)The Scam by Janet Evanovich

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When someone launders your money do they also iron and starch it? Why yes, I am a dad, why do you ask?

Nick Fox and Kate O’Hare are once again using Nick’s talents as a conman to take down criminals on the FBI’s list of bad guys. This time they are after a casino owner who is helping launder money for anyone from mobsters to terrorists. Given the company he keeps, is it any surprise he has a tank of piranha in his office for ‘negotiations’.

After being disappointed in the second instalment in this series, The Chase, I was unsure if I would read any more of the Evanovich and Goldberg series. I already had The Scam on loan from the library, so I decided to chance it. This was a rewarding decision as The Scam delivers an entertaining read.

I was disappointed with The Chase because it felt like an episode from one of those will-they-won’t-they crime shows – such as Castle or Bones – during their declining years. You know, just as they are lining up the ramp over the shark cage. But The Scam felt like an early episode at the beginning of the series when Castle or Bones are still awesome, even though there are plot elements here that set this firmly later in the series (can’t say more without major spoilers).

So skip The Chase and read The Scam.

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Book review: Make Me by Lee Child

Make Me (Jack Reacher, #20)Make Me by Lee Child
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Does Reacher leave enough people alive to have criminals warning one another on the Deep Web about not messing with him?

Jack Reacher decided to catch a train to a small town for a change and by walking around as per usual he managed to piss off the local criminals. This will end well for the criminals.

Lee Child is a master of not wasting words. If there is exposition then it is important to the plot. Make Me is no exception. The twist for this thriller is revealed in little details throughout the story. It comes through as no less shocking.

While I have grown a little tired of the formula for the Reacher novels, they still remain entertaining reads.

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Book Review: The Promise by Robert Crais

The Promise (Elvis Cole, #16; Joe Pike, #5; Scott James & Maggie #2)The Promise by Robert Crais
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If a professional thief pretends to be a terrorist does that mean they blow all of their money in a public place?

Well, Elvis Cole would have found that funny. Bite me.

Elvis Cole and Joe Pike are back and this time they have been hired to investigate a missing person. Somehow that missing person leads to black market arms deals, murder investigations, Homeland Security mole hunts, thieves and terrorists. We also get to see some more of Scott James and his dog Maggie. Narration from the POV of the dog: go on, buy the book right now.

It has been a while since I’ve picked up a Robert Crais novel. I loved his early Elvis Cole novels but when he moved away from the humorous tone later in the series I lost interest. Fortunately I decided to check back in to see what was happening with Cole and Pike. This was a terrific read, with plenty of twists and turns, and is crammed full of interesting characters. The only negative I have is that the humour of the early novels is still taking a back seat. There are some Cole moments, but that aspect has been dialled right back, something I continue to miss with Crais’ writing.

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Book Review: Fat, Fifty & F***ed by Geoffrey McGeachin

Fat, Fifty & F***ed!: A Fast & Furious NovelFat, Fifty & F***ed!: A Fast & Furious Novel by Geoffrey McGeachin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Expletives in the title? Yeah, let’s dash a few letters out, wouldn’t want anyone to realise someone wrote a “naughty” word.

The story follows the adventure of Martin Carter, a bank manager in a small dying town. Martin’s life is a huge disappointment, so instead of buying a sports car he robs his bank and goes on the run. Pursued by a security agency, meeting all sorts of interesting Aussie characters, and trying to find the elusive perfect breakfast, Martin does the midlife crisis in style.

As a long time fan of Geoff McGeachin’s writing, it was a pleasure to pick up one of his humorous novels again, after reading his award winning Black Wattle Creek. Can’t have humour in a book and have it win awards. There are rules. Fat, Fifty and Fucked is Geoff’s first novel and sets the template for his irreverent, humorous, fun, and foodie writing style that his Alby Murdoch novels utilised. I also think Geoff captures the stereotypical Aussie characters and humour in a way that few other authors manage, even if some would find this off-putting, despite how he doesn’t go the full Alf Stewart.

Great yarn: well worth a read.

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Book Review: Personal by Lee Child

Personal (Jack Reacher, #19)Personal by Lee Child
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Jack Reacher fought a little person in 61 Hours, so definitely time he fought a giant in Personal. Oh, and some other stuff happens… like beating up a giant!

Lee Child’s continued adventures of Sherlock Homeless – Jack Reacher – have reached (boom tish) their nineteenth installment. Reacher is manipulated into searching for a former army sniper he had put away 16 years ago, a sniper who has taken a shot at the French President and is threatening to shoot some other world leaders at the G8 summit. This is the first Reacher novel that isn’t set in the US, seeing him travel to Paris and London, for his manhunt. Of course, it is never as simple as a manhunt, especially when the sniper bears a 16 year old grudge.

What I love about picking up a Lee Child novel is starting the novel and finding I’m already 50 pages into the action before I realise it. Lee effortlessly steers you through the story and keeps you entertained. He makes you appreciate just how good an author he is compared to his contemporaries. It was also refreshing to have Reacher leave behind his small town problem solving in favour of an international, high stakes, manhunt. Not that this stops Reacher beating up people and solving problems: wouldn’t be a Reacher novel without that.

Hard to find fault with the latest Reacher adventure. The only criticism would be that it feels like a “standard” Reacher adventure, despite the break in location tradition. My own observation is that since 61 Hours Lee’s writing has become taut and that he skilfully plays with the reader, making him my favourite author.

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Choosing a location for your story

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As much as I love America, does every crime and thriller novel written have to be set there? Wouldn’t it be great if more stories chose some other locations?

Before anyone jumps on me, yes, I know, there are plenty of stories set in diverse locations. My comment is more about the way writers are so often told that people only want to read stories set in the US, that it has to appeal to the US market. I think we all know that this is a presumption on behalf of the industry for us readers. Let’s try and push for the more challenging locations in the stories we read.

Book Review: First Drop by Zoe Sharp

First Drop (Charlie Fox Thriller, #4)First Drop by Zoë Sharp
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As a new dad, there are a few sentiments expressed by Charlie Fox – the hero – about kids that feel spot on. There is nothing more annoying than a baby interrupting you reading a good book, especially during the final 50 pages! The annoying kid Charlie was protecting rang a little too true for me.

Zoe has certainly got all the right thriller ingredients. But she has also managed to mix them together into a great blend that is interesting and exciting. From go to arrhythmia, there is no let up, with Charlie trying to stay alive and figure out who isn’t trying to kill her. If I had one quibble, it was with a chance encounter that was rather important to the plot, I would have preferred it to be done a little different. But then again, I forgive this in Lee Child, Zoe is no less a writer, so it is an easily overlooked point.

If you haven’t read any of the Charlie Fox thrillers, do so soon.

NB: This review was written whilst trying to calm a baby who hadn’t slept all day and was having the grumps.

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Book Review: Fallen by Karin Slaughter

Fallen (Will Trent, #5)Fallen by Karin Slaughter
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Unbelievably this is the first Karin Slaughter novel I have read. I have read one of her short stories before, which made me pick up this novel, so it wasn’t like I didn’t know that Slaughter had the goods in crime thrillers.

I quite enjoyed the slightly different take that Karin has on the crime thriller. Front and centre are a mix of slightly dysfunctional characters that somehow manage to not only work with one another, but are actually interesting to read about. You know how crime novels often have that self-loathing, alcoholic, dark and depressing lead character? Well this novel doesn’t have that – thank his noodliness.

You can see why Karin is a bestselling author, so the only question is which of her novels I’ll read next.

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Book Review: A Wanted Man by Lee Child

A Wanted Man (Jack Reacher, #17)A Wanted Man by Lee Child
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book arrived on my doorstep from the lovely people at Booktopia, just in time for me to read over the weekend. Unfortunately last weekend also coincided with the arrival of my son, damn stork was early, so my reading was interrupted. Normally a Reacher adventure can’t be put down, but my new bub showed that sometimes you have to.

Reviewing Lee’s new novel is hard, my interrupted reading, sleep deprivation and cuddle time has clouded my impression of the book. Reacher still kicked arse, the story was decent and Lee’s characteristic tight plotting was on display.

I’m only giving this 4 stars for now, with the intention of re-reading it sometime after I’ve had a decent nights sleep.

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Book Review: Lullaby Town by Robert Crais

Lullaby Town (Elvis Cole, #3)Lullaby Town by Robert Crais
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

People who read my reviews will know that I’m not a fan of literary fiction. Elmore Leonard has a list of rules on writing, one of those rules is to leave out the parts that people skip. Literary fiction is loaded with those parts you want to skip. Robert Crais must be a fan of Leonard as well.

The last book I started to read was a literary fiction author trying to write a crime thriller. Lullaby Town is Robert’s example of why literary fiction authors can’t make the switch to genre fiction.

Elvis and Pike are back, this time sorting out what should have been a simple family reunion, but ends up with the New York mafia wanting them dead. My only regret with finishing this novel is that my pile of Crais books have now been read and I have to buy the rest before reading more.

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Book review: Monkey’s Raincoat by Robert Crais

The Monkey's Raincoat (Elvis Cole, #1)The Monkey’s Raincoat by Robert Crais
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I am the reason that author’s of series have to write novels so that they can stand alone. That’s right, I don’t read series in order all that often. I started with Lee Child’s 61 Hours, Michael Connelly’s City of Bones, JK Rowling’s’ Goblet of Fire, Jo Nesbo’s Nemesis and Matthew Reilly’s Scarecrow. Long time fans don’t appreciate readers like me.

The first Elvis Cole novel I read was Sunset Express, which I enjoyed immensely. I decided to read the series the right way, so I went out and bought the first three Elvis Cole novels. Robert Crais kicked off this series with Monkey’s Raincoat, which was a shorter crime thriller.

Wit, humour, action, a weeping widow and drug dealers: mix and stir. Crais is definitely an author I’m trying to emulate and enjoy his writing and characters. I’m looking forward to the next two instalments.

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Genre vs Literature


During a discussion the other day my favourite authors and books came up as a topic of conversation. Needless to say I listed off writers like Lee Child, Matthew Reilly, Robert Crais, Matt Hilton, etc. Now these people weren’t exactly literary snobs, but they did respond as if I was supposed to list the authors of classic literature and contemporary literature.

Seriously?

Can we all stop pretending that there is something superior about literary fiction. I’ve seen discussions of social problems in crime fiction, fantastic use of literary techniques in horror, exploration of character and humanity in science fiction; all performed with more skill and insight than I have seen in the literary genre.

How about we go back to judging a book by its cover.

Book Review: One Shot by Lee Child

One Shot (Jack Reacher, #9)One Shot by Lee Child
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There is something really great about Lee Child’s novels. There is also something about Jack Reacher that we all just know Tom Cruise is not going to be able to deliver on screen.

The last book I read took me 10 days to read. That is a long time for a thriller. This one took me 2 days to read. Clearly Lee serves up a more engaging and involving story, a novel that I will actually make excuses to stay up and read, rather than check my email and go to bed.

It will be interesting to see how Tom Cruise and Hollywood adapt this story for the big screen. This isn’t the sort of plot that would be easy to adapt unless you left half of it out. Not that I would accuse Hollywood of butchering just about every book to movie project they have every done. Never.

Read this one before Cruise brings his step-ladder and this novel to the big screen in December.

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