Tyson Adams

Putting the 'ill' back in thriller

Archive for the tag “Thriller”

Book review: Killfile by Christopher Farnsworth

KillfileKillfile by Christopher Farnsworth
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There are times that I’m glad people can’t read my mind: I’d hate to have someone else humming The Proclaimers.

John Smith is a specialist who helps wealthy clients with tricky problems. He has a talent for hostage negotiations, corporate espionage, and gleaning people’s deepest secrets thanks to his ability to read minds. Who’d have thought that reading people’s minds would turn his latest job into a death sentence.

Killfile is the first novel I’ve read from Christopher Farnsworth since his excellent Nathaniel Cade series went on hiatus four years ago. I read the Nathaniel Cade series back to back and loved every second of those supernatural thrillers. Killfile was similarly enjoyable with the paranormal thriller element pitched nicely into the realms of corporate espionage and CIA interrogation programs.

Also, as a scientific skeptic (i.e. scientist who hears all the kooky claims and demands evidence) it is always fun to read the conspiracy claims in a more rational format. Dusting off MKUltra and utilising it as a plot point in fiction rather than an outlandish conspiracy tickles me in all the right ways.

Chris’ novels continue to be highly enjoyable reads.

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Book Review: Summer Knight by Jim Butcher

Summer Knight (The Dresden Files, #4)Summer Knight by Jim Butcher
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If blasting rods and staffs are standard wizard fare, what do they use for euphemisms?

Harry Dresden is having a bad day, or is that week, month, and year? His girlfriend has been semi-turned into a vampire, it’s raining frogs in the park, a ghoul is trying to assassinate him, the vampire Red Court want to torture him to death, the Wizarding White Council are tempted to let the vampires have Harry, the Winter Court of faeries want him to investigate a murder, he has no money, and his house is a mess. Oh, and a war is about to start if Harry can’t find the killer; so there’s that as well.

This is my first foray into Jim Butcher’s much vaunted Dresden Files series. Summer Knight indicates that there is a lot to like about this Harry’s world. The story could be described as an urban fantasy thriller: with thriller being a selling point for me. Butcher doesn’t shy away from piling on the hardships for Harry to overcome, and keeps the action coming thick and fast. I’m honestly wondering why I took so long to dive into this series that has been repeatedly recommended to me.

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Book review: Tier One by Brian Andrews and Jeffrey Wilson

Tier One (Tier One #1)Tier One by Brian Andrews
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

If an operator isn’t wearing 5.11 Tactical clothing are they really an operator?

Tier One are the elite SEAL Team on the black side of ops. They are too good for their own good, as they manage to piss off the wrong terrorists: the kind that hold an explosive grudge. Now former Tier One SEAL, Jack Kemper, must become intelligence operative John Dempsey and take out the terrorists before they strike again.

Brian Andrews and Jeffrey Wilson have created a taught and realistic military thriller in Tier One. Much like other ex-military authors (Chris Ryan and Andy McNab being two of my favourites) they pepper the novel with details and perspectives you just don’t get from other authors. This is both the strength and weakness of the novel.

As much as I found this novel to be an enjoyable and fast paced read, it also overused expository military details, and presented clichéd terrorist characters. For me this held the novel back from being a great novel to merely good. Other readers may find the details interesting, or think that terrorists really can be simply defined as “shitheads” à la Fox News, and enjoy this novel more, but it is still an entertaining read.

NB: Thomas and Mercer provided a review copy for my reading pleasure.

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Book reviews: No Safe Place by Matt Hilton

No Safe Place (Joe Hunter, #11)No Safe Place by Matt Hilton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This review wasn’t able to be submitted as it was stolen by a guard dog. I swear, it really happened.

Joe Hunter is back in the game and ready to be bashed and shot, and possibly paid. This time Joe is hired to protect a young boy whose mother has just been killed during a home invasion. But the boy’s father knows there is more to the death than that – hint: revenge, it’s always revenge – and Joe suspects so as well. Of course, Joe decides to dig into what is really going on, even if his police friend Bryony would prefer he wouldn’t.

In the interests of full disclosure, I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. You know it will be an honest review because it was only a book and not accompanied with whiskey.

No Safe Place is Matt Hilton’s eleventh Joe Hunter novel and it did not disappoint. I’ve been a long time fan of the Joe Hunter series, and of Matt’s other works. His writing is well paced, packed with vivid fight scenes, and has compelling plots. This instalment particularly interested me because I noted that there was more of the Northern England language flavourings to the writing than I’d previously noticed. This could be because after ten novels in a series editors concede you are allowed to write whatever the hell you want. They can’t make all of their writers sound like they come from the same place forever.

Looking back through my reviews for the rest of the series I note that I frequently used the term “gritty thriller” and rated them 4 stars. Not much has changed. This is another very reliable, entertaining, crime thriller; add it to your To Be Read pile.

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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: The Forgotten Room by Lincoln Child

The Forgotten Room (Jeremy Logan #4)The Forgotten Room by Lincoln Child
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

One day I’m going to start a think tank and name it after a bodywash – possibly a shampoo – just like Lincoln Child did with his fictional institution, Lux.

There’s a problem in the west wing of the think tank Lux. No, it isn’t that their research is funded by special interest groups. No, it isn’t that they are neo-cons intent on bending governments to their policy wills. Lux has a slight problem with residents going crazy. So they contact Dr Jeremy Logan, a former resident and investigator who specialises in the extraordinary, to figure out what is causing the problems. That’s when they find The Forgotten Room and its contents.

Without realising it, I’ve actually read one of the other Jeremy Logan mysteries. The reason I didn’t realise I had read the first in the series (this being #4) was that Jeremy wasn’t the main character in Deep Storm. But much like Deep Storm, The Forgotten Room is a compelling mystery that hits all the right beats. Where Deep Storm was more techno/sci-fi based, The Forgotten Room has allusions to the supernatural whilst being more conventional. Where Deep Storm had a mysterious illness, The Forgotten Room has a mysterious illness. Where Deep Storm tried to kill off as many characters as possible, The Forgotten Room keeps the fatalities to a minimum. I don’t know why I’m comparing the two books in the series this much, probably because they seem to have the same general plot and feel to them. Although I do prefer the character of Logan to Crane.

As with all Lincoln Child and Douglas Preston books, you can be assured of an entertaining read. Whilst Logan is no Pendergast, he does make for an interesting character to follow as he unravels the mystery. But as with my review of Deep Storm, I did feel this book to be a little too “by the numbers”.

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Book reviews: The King’s Deception by Steve Berry

The King's Deception (Cotton Malone, #8)The King’s Deception by Steve Berry
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Have you ever wanted a thriller to star not one, but two book store owners? Well, this is the novel for you!

That’s right, our favourite book seller is back in action. This time Cotton Malone is caught up in a CIA operation called King’s Deception. See what Steve Berry did there? Cotton and his son Gary get caught up with the CIA, SIS – better known as MI6 – and The Dedalus Society’s deadly spy games. King’s Deception is their game and Cotton has to blah blah the McGuffin surrounding Elizabeth the First before the blah blah.

I’m a big fan of Steve Berry’s novels. They are always entertaining and well thought out thrillers. Berry is the writer Dan Brown wishes he was, but then takes a swim in his pool of money to console himself. As is typical with this genre, Berry seamlessly mixes the modern day with the historical McGuffin in a plausible and interesting manner. But for me, I found this to be one of Berry’s weaker novels.

My main fault with the book was that it was a story being recounted between the narrator and reader analogues, with the first and last chapters book ending the actual story. I hate this sort of story telling. It always feels hackneyed, even in films. At least flashbacks only last a short time, this is like having 95% of the story be a flashback. In this case you could cut the first and last chapters out and it would be a perfectly reasonable novel, so the additions of these parts feels superfluous.

Despite that criticism, the book was entertaining and would rank 4 stars, but I’m giving it 3.5 stars. I’m taking half a star off for the book-ends on the actual story.

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Book vs Movie: Psycho – What’s the difference

Another great instalment of CineFix’s What’s the Difference? series. This time it is the famous Hitchcock film Psycho and the novel it was based upon.

Some interesting differences in the storytelling, aren’t there! The most interesting was the way Hitchcock sets up his viewers to empathise with the victim, Mary/Marion, as much as possible, whilst also moving away from the cliché of Norman being a chubby-loser. My highlight from the video is the revelation that the book, and obviously the subsequent movie, were based upon a real murderer. I suppose skin is pretty durable stuff, it would be a shame to just throw it away.

Book Review: The Valhalla Prophecy by Andy McDermott

The Valhalla Prophecy
The Valhalla Prophecy by Andy McDermott
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

At the rate Andy McDermott is going there aren’t going to be any ancient historical mysteries left to blow up. In this one, Nina and Eddie destroy Valhalla.

This is the ninth Nina and Eddie adventure, so at this stage there isn’t much need to describe the plot…. Oh okay. Ancient myth turns out to be real, there is a race to get to the archeological site first, things get blown up, people get shot at, world crisis averted. Or as my friend Iain summed it up: “Stupid, overblown, ridiculous, unbelievable, and utterly fucking brilliant.”

I always enjoy Andy’s adventure series, and his Persona Protocol was also good fun. You can’t help but enjoy his stories.

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Book Review: The Great Zoo of China by Matthew Reilly

The Great Zoo of China
The Great Zoo of China by Matthew Reilly
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

My mother bought me The Great Zoo of China for Christmas, which makes her the best mother in the world. Well, unless your mother bought you a copy as well, in which case the title of best mother in the world would have to be shared.

CJ is a herpetologist specialising in large animals like crocodiles, and being a Matthew Reilly novel, she also specialises in avoiding dying every page or two. She is recruited by National Geographic to take a press junket trip to a new zoo in China. The Chinese government have developed an amazing new zoo that is set to wow the world, assuming their main attractions don’t try to escape and eat everyone. What could go wrong during the promotion junket for a zoo filled with dragons?

Yep. Dinosaurs, sorry, Dragons.

I’ve seen some reviews that suggest Matt’s novel is just a rip off of Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park. I agree completely. I also like to ignore that Jurassic Park is a rip off of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World, which is in turn a rip off of Jules Verne’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth, or possibly Off On A Comet – if you want to count dragons as dinosaurs. Because every idea is 100% original and comments complaining about rip-offs don’t primarily show the complainer’s ignorance.

Ignoring that point – because who cares? – Matt’s latest novel is all of the elements we’ve come to love from him. The story is fast paced, life and death, adventurous fun. I really enjoyed The Great Zoo of China: enough said.

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Book Review: Deep Storm by Lincoln Child

Deep StormDeep Storm by Lincoln Child
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

It isn’t often that scientists are the good guys. Usually they are the bad guys, or at least facilitate things going horribly wrong, or they are socially inept losers. This time it is the military trying to ruin the planet…. I suppose you can’t do away with every cliché.

Lincoln Child of the widely successful Preston and Child writing duo, wrote this stand-alone novel, Deep Storm. Dr Peter Crane is a medical scientist recruited to help discover what is ailing a military and scientific team operating in a top secret deep water facility. The team have discovered something deep in the North Atlantic and are trying to uncover what it is, where it came from, and what scientific marvels it will unveil. If only people would stop going crazy and if they had left the saboteur behind.

I’m a huge fan of Lincoln Child and Douglas Preston’s work. I’ve previously read Preston’s stand-alone novels Impact and Blasphemy, the latter being one of my 5 star reviews, but until now I hadn’t read a stand-alone from Child. Deep Storm is definitely not as strong as either of Preston’s stand-alones, nor as good as most of their joint novels I’ve read. This novel had a lot of elements I liked about it, including the fairly well thought out plot. Normally techno-thrillers get bogged down in details (e.g. Crichton’s Timeline) or get the science wrong (e.g. Crichton’s State of Fear), but Child managed to balance accuracy with pacing.

The main reason I think this isn’t as strong a novel as the others in the Preston and Child oeuvre is that Deep Storm feels like a “by the numbers” thriller. Blasphemy had some interesting things to say about humans and beliefs. The Pendergast novels are underpinned by one of the more interesting central characters in the thriller genre. Which is why this book, whilst entertaining, felt lacking in comparison. This was still a tense, fast paced, engaging read and definitely one for Preston and Child or techno-thriller fans.

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Book Review: Sign of the Cross by Chris Kuzneski

Sign Of The Cross (Jonathon Payne & David Jones, #2)Sign Of The Cross by Chris Kuzneski

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Sometimes when I’m reading a book I’m not sure if I’m meant to be excited, enrapt, or cringing. It’s taken me a few days to arrive at a decision and I’ve decided to cringe.

Sign of the Cross is a fast paced action adventure novel in the vein of Steve Berry, James Rollins, or that guy who wrote the book that annoyed the Pope; what was his name? In the second instalment of Payne and Jones’ adventures, the mercenaries are hired to hunt down two archaeologists who have uncovered a secret that could bring down the Catholic Church. Meanwhile a team of killers are reenacting the crucifixion, because, you know, that’s what Jesus would have wanted. With everyone hunting for Payne, Jones and their pet archaeologists, and a few murderers running around, who at the Vatican knows and who wants the secret, and do they want it for power or payback?

This is the first Chris Kuzneski book I’ve read, and it will be my last. Now that I’ve had time to reflect upon the story and writing, I’m actually surprised I finished the novel. Kuzneski came up in my recommendations because he writes fast paced adventure novels like two of my favourite authors, the previously mentioned Berry and Rollins. Unlike those two, however, Kuzneski takes all of the same ingredients for a novel, mixes them in an overly large bowl (the book is over 400 pages), and manages to make gruel.

The novel started well, but I noticed myself cringing at the end of the chapters with the ham-fisted foreshadowing. This continued until I would start preemptively cringing as I reached the end of each chapter. Seriously, it felt like the end of every scene or chapter Kuzneski would have a line like “Little did they know that only two of them would return.” But wait, there is more. There is an underlying casual sexism and racism to the novel that is unintentional, but jarring. An early scene has one of the characters, Nick Dial, surprised to see a woman Interpol agent. Not that Nick was sexist, women could be just as good as men……. No, Nick explained that he wasn’t sexist, but some of his bosses weren’t as open minded. Yeah. I’m not sexist, but….

These two points are just the major problems I had with the writing of this novel. And it is mainly the writing that lets this book down. In the example I just mentioned, there are many ways authors could discuss Nick’s surprise at seeing a woman on the job. But the way the scene was written it sounded like the author was desperately trying to sound progressive and PC. This poor writing happened throughout the book, which actually has a reasonable plot, a bit of humour, and great pacing. Some readers may not notice these issues, although I note many reviews complain about the foreshadowing, and it was entertaining enough for me to finish reading, so others may find this enjoyable. But I would recommend reading anything by Steve Berry or James Rollins instead.

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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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Book Review: The Fifth Profession by David Morrell

The Fifth ProfessionThe Fifth Profession by David Morrell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

How do you tell if a book has samurai in it? Don’t worry, they’ll put a katana on the cover. A book about ninjas is a little harder, since they are invisible to anyone that hasn’t just been killed by a ninja. How do you tell if a book is a thriller? Don’t worry, they’ll put a gun on the cover.

Professional protectors – the fifth profession…. get it! – Savage and Akira are teamed up to protect a travelling businessman. Things go horribly wrong and Savage is beaten to a pulp after seeing the businessman and Akira killed. Akira is also beaten to a pulp and sees the businessman and Savage killed. And so begins the twist in this David Morrell thriller.

A lot of thrillers take you from point A to point B very efficiently to the point of cliche. Some authors even churn out the same book dozens of times in this manner. The thing that keeps you coming back is the the taut writing, thrills and cool escapism. The strength of The Fifth Profession is that it starts with the standard thriller plot setup and then eschews that for a different plot entirely. It makes the entire story novel. See what I did there?

There are some annoying aspects to Morrell’s novel. David has a habit of hammering certain points and descriptions at the reader, to the point I started assuming everyone had “karate” calloused hands. To some people this could be annoying and enough to throw the book against a wall – which I wouldn’t be doing this since I read this on my iPad. To others the plotting and pacing will keep you entertained, as it did with me.

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Book Review: The Protector by David Morrell

The ProtectorThe Protector by David Morrell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It surprises me just a little that I only just discovered David Morrell’s books. He writes thrillers, he’s been doing so since before I was born, yet I’d never heard of him, let alone realised he was the brains behind the Rambo franchise…. Okay, that latter point is not a huge selling point, unless you like seeing people sawn in half with a machine gun for the final act of a movie (Hint: my answer is yes).

In The Protector we have a protective services operator, Cavanaugh, protecting a client, Prescott, from two groups who want Prescott dead… Guess where the idea for the novel’s title came from. Of course there is more to Prescott than it first appears, the groups after him are highly resourced, and the straight forward protection assignment goes sideways. Car chases, gun fights, black helicopters, several fires and a knife fight for good measure: you know, thriller.

This book moves at a cracking pace and was very entertaining. I’m definitely checking out more of David’s novels.

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Book Review: All You Need Is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka

All You Need Is KillAll You Need Is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

I’m not sure that there are enough sci-fi thrillers out there. Maybe we should get James Patterson to churn out a few dozen this year, or maybe someone can point me in the direction of a few dozen authors like Hiroshi Sakurazaka.

People may be aware of All You Need Is Kill because of the film adaptation starring Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt, retitled Edge of Tomorrow because ‘kill’ had such negative connotations. I haven’t watched the film yet, but have heard very good things, which makes sense, since this is a very good book. The premise for the book (and film) is that Earth has been invaded by terraforming robots – Mimics – who are preparing the planet for an alien race to come live here. These robots have a special trick they use to help them win battles: they can send a signal back in time to allow time loops to play out until they win. Keiji Kiriya is a new recruit, but in his first battle he gets caught in the loop, and he is able to alter the future by learning from his mistakes.

Obviously this sounds a lot like the Bill Murray film Groundhog Day, just with less Bill Murray and more giant robots trying to destroy the planet. The story never lets up, despite the fact that the two days (the day before and day of the battle) are on an endless loop until either Keiji or the Mimics succeed. And the twist ending caught me somewhat by surprise. I recommend this book to any fans of thrillers, unless you can’t stand the idea of people in robotic suits fighting alien robots for the future of the planet – which is, of course, impossible not to love.

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Book Review: Secondworld by Jeremy Robinson

SecondWorldSecondWorld by Jeremy Robinson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

There’s nothing quite like a fast paced thriller to keep the blood pumping. Well, except perhaps a double shot of espresso washing down a hit of speed after an eightball. I think reading might be easier on the heart, though.

Jeremy Robinson’s SecondWorld has probably one of the more suspenseful openings I’ve read in a while. His hero, Lincoln Miller, is stuck underwater with no air left, only to surface and find no air to breath thanks to some mysterious red flakes soaking up the oxygen. If the lack of air wasn’t bad enough, he’s being hunted by a shark. Like I said, suspenseful.

Of course, no air, poisonous red flakes falling from the sky, sharks, that’s just the beginning of a thriller that sees skin-heads and a Nazi plot started back at the end of the Second World War, trying to purify the world. Welcome to SecondWorld.

Jeremy handles the plotting and pacing well, reminding me a lot of James Rollins. This book is a lot of fun and is very entertaining. My problem with the novel comes from some of the details that jarred me straight out of the story. To most readers this wouldn’t be a problem, but for me it was. An example was a .38 Super revolver being referred to as a hand-cannon, something that is a stretch for a yoga master. These errors and the inclusion of an overly obvious ending – not to spoil it, but add cryogenics and Nazis together and what cliche do you get? – and I had to downgrade my score on what was an otherwise entertaining read.

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Book review: Freezing Point by Karen Dionne

Freezing PointFreezing Point by Karen Dionne
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

For anyone not familiar with the Killer Thrillers group, Karen is one of many great authors who are on the list with Zoe Sharp, Sean Black and Boyd Morrison (to name just 3 off of the top of my head). They have a tag-line: Great reads – guaranteed. I think it holds true.

Anyway, Freezing Point is an eco-thriller that moves along at a cracking pace. Plenty of conspiracies, corporate greed, wacky environmentalists, scientists in the frozen wilds, idealists caught in a mess, and rats that have developed a taste for humans, all competing for the most precious resource: water.

I enjoyed this novel, which I believe is the first in a series of related eco-thrillers by Karen. The only thing I disliked was the abrupt ending. I felt there was more to come, several chapters worth, but it was wrapped up with a few lines in what was essentially an epilogue. Regardless the “great reads” tag-line holds true.

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Book review: The Persona Protocol by Andy McDermott

The Persona ProtocolThe Persona Protocol by Andy McDermott
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Something a little bit different from Andy McDermott with Persona Protocol; different in that Nina and Eddie aren’t being shot at in this one. But there is still plenty to enjoy about this techno-spy-thriller, not starring Nina and Eddie, but instead Adam and Bianca take over the being shot at duties.

Andy again delivers his mix of breakneck pacing and humour that are the reason I enjoy his books so much. I think this departure from the Nina and Eddie series of archaeological adventures (is it still archaeology if they destroy most of the stuff they find?) is every bit as good, and I hope to see more of these departures from Andy.

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Book review: The Tournament by Matthew Reilly

The TournamentThe Tournament by Matthew Reilly
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Just about everyone has already commented how this novel is a departure for Matthew Reilly. It’s still unmistakably a Matthew Reilly novel, but instead of a thriller, this is a mystery novel.

Whilst this was an enjoyable novel, I can’t rate it as highly as his others. The key to enjoying the change in Reilly’s murder mystery cum chess tournament is to remember this is a mystery and not a thriller. Seriously, some of the reviews I’ve seen sound like they were expecting Scarecrow to time travel back at any moment and start shooting mutant monkeys, and were annoyed when that didn’t happen.

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