Thursday, March 29, 2018

Book Review: The Cabal (Powell Book 6) by Bill Ward

A Direct Style that Delivers on Action and Characters?  This Book Does!

Do you like straight talk in your novels?  The Cabal has it.  People aren’t pierced by a projectile; they’re shot.  Their life force doesn’t ebb from their body; they bleed.  It’s a great style for action, and the Cabal has that too.  From the opening scene in which a businessman is assassinated in Singapore to the finale when Powell is trapped in his office by the same man, the action comes steadily, relentlessly.  Yes, there’s a bit of romance, some humor, and a few clever nods to politics in both the US and the UK that round out the story, but action is at the heart.

The ruthless Chairman gets top billing as the villain, but he is not the only obstacle Powell has to face.  The unwitting pawn of the Chairman, the husband of the woman Powell is protecting presents his own challenges.  And very soon, Ward paints him as a man easy to hate.  I did.  The abused woman, Rose, on the other hand lacks the self-esteem necessary to pull herself from this man, further complicating Powell’s mission and making me feel both pity for her and frustration – someone drag her out of there.  But the fact that these characters elicited so much emotion testifies to how skillfully Ward uses his writing style.  I didn’t necessarily expect that.

There were a few plot weaknesses in the book.  For example, the letter that implicated the husband’s involvement was in the un-emptied recycle bin on his computer.  Seems a bit amateurish for someone involved with terrorism.  As another example, Powell makes Rose dispose of her phone, but let’s her kids keep theirs.  And he keeps his.  Avoiding phones seems pretty basic, if you want to stay off the grid.  But such issues are minor in the context of the story.

Overall, The Cabal delivered action while giving me more fully developed characters than I expected.  It’s a fun, fast read well worth your time.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Book Review: The Take by Christopher Reich

My Take on The Take – Lots of Action, but Without the Adrenaline

A “freelance, industrial spy.”  That’s how Reich describes his protagonist, Simon Riske, in the synopsis.  I wondered because when Riske isn’t running his sports car restoration garage, he’s using skills he honed during his criminal youth to perform ‘odd jobs’ for banks, insurance companies, and even the British Secret Service.  It’s an interesting career path – one that places him in the quagmire of long-term vendettas, shifting alliances, and political secrets on an international scale that are the plot of The Take.

The book has all the action you could want.  Assassinations from afar and face-to-face, some with quick and painless deaths, others not.  There are knife fights and gun battles.  Even a high-speed game of chicken.  But as much as those events suggest gut-wrenching tension, they don’t necessarily produce it.  Some of the incidents are implied, occurring between chapters rather than in one.  Some are in prolonged flashbacks that add greatly to character development, but that can slow the pace.  Other events are handled clinically, with the victim dispatched almost before the scene begins.  Not that I’m seeking gory details, but a chance to see the characters sweat, hear their hearts pounding would have added to the story.  It’s also a book that when you finish, sit back, and ponder, it will feel a bit contrived.  When incredible skills are needed, Riske and his friends have them.  But in the next scene, they will do something inexplicably foolish.  Even the foundation of the story, why this all happens, feels a bit artificial in retrospect. 

But what’s not lacking is suspense produced by an intricately interwoven plot.  By the finale, there are five opposing forces, each with their own objectives and motivations.  And who will end up on top and how they will prevail kept me guessing to the very end…even into the Epilogue.

Overall, The Take is loaded with action, some of which feels too clinical or contrived to get your adrenaline flowing.  But for suspense born of a complex, evolving story with multiple competing factions, it’s loaded.  You’ll just need to stay on your mental toes to keep up.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Book Review: Point of Control by L.J. Sellers

Not Your Stereotypic Heroine…Or At Least, Not the Stereotype You’d Expect

It’s not a spoiler to say that Andra Bailey, FBI agent and protagonist of Point of Control is a sociopath.  It’s right there in the third sentence of the author’s synopsis.  And the reason I want to mention it is because it was a factor that made this book so enjoyable to me.

If you’re a mystery/thriller fan, you probably know a number of protagonists that fit the description of a sociopath – intelligent, risk-takers, charming but without really caring what others think.  But knowing at the outset that Bailey was one and seeing how Sellers worked that into the story was fascinating.  For example, like many thrillers, there’s a romantic element, and like many, the kiss seemed to come from nowhere.  Generally, I figured the author just glossed over the emotion to get back to the action, but with Bailey?  She was experimenting with an unexpected connection to another human.  Interesting.  There were places where I felt Sellers might have gone a bit too far, e.g., Bailey seemed to read other people’s emotional traits almost at a glance (“Bailey studied his face, looking for signs of deceptiveness, and found none. Weakness, yes. He was emotional and eager to please.”).  That ability seems well beyond charming and manipulative.  And why did she suffer from topographical disorientation (a tendency to become lost easily)?  So, she wouldn’t be a stereotypic sociopath?

But Bailey’s personality aside, the book is a solid crime thriller.  The pace is good, as our heroine jets across the country chasing her suspects and sustaining herself with coffee and naps on planes.  The story is propelled in places by discoveries that seem a bit too convenient.  Why, for example, did Bailey focus on cellphone CEOs when rare earth metals are used throughout the electronics industry?  The attempt on Bailey’s life early in the book, when she was pursuing a very speculative connection between missing scientists also gave me pause.  The bad guy’s attack proved her right and would have brought in even more agents had they succeeded.  What were they thinking?  But overall, the plot flowed well.  There is also an excellent twist at the end that clarifies a few discordant threads – it’s all tied up with a bow by the time Sellers finishes the book.

Overall, I found this a thoroughly enjoyable novel, in part for the way Bailey’s personality was woven into the story, but mainly because it was just plain good story-telling.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Early Acclaim for Of Half a Mind

An excerpt from A Wishing Shelf Book Review

“I was particularly impressed by the style of writing. Many authors tend to describe setting and characters in hefty lumps of text. Thankfully, this author is wise to this, cleverly mixing up speech, exciting deeds and the describing of character and setting. Subsequently, the writing felt light and not at all like wading through cauliflower-cheese. And, where there is description, it is imaginatively written.”

As the Wishing Shelf is located in the United Kingdom, I just hope this US-based author isn’t misinterpreting ‘cauliflower-cheese’ as a bad thing…

Order your copy today:

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Available for Preorder – Of Half a Mind

A dark technothriller that will terrify your whole mind.  99 cents now, $2.99 when released on March 24, 2018.

To preorder: