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Posted by on 8 Feb, 2023 in Crime, Domestic Suspense, Historical Thrillers, Thriller | 0 comments

HOUSE GUESTS, DEADLY WIDOWS AND OLD SKELETONS: New 2023 Crime Fiction by Hank Phillippi Ryan, Jeff Abbott and Michael Stanley

HOUSE GUESTS, DEADLY WIDOWS AND OLD SKELETONS: New 2023 Crime Fiction by Hank Phillippi Ryan, Jeff Abbott and Michael Stanley

My early February reading has been a mix of old books I have been meaning to catch up on, and three new novels by Hank Phillippi Ryan, Jeff Abbott and Michael Stanley that range across the spectrum of crime fiction.

An Ambush Of Widows by Jeff Abbott (Canelo, 2023)

For sheer, straight out enjoyment it is hard to beat Jeff Abbott’s An Ambush of Widows (Canelo, 2023). This fast paced, twisty thriller reminded me of those pre-Gone Girl, unpretentious, action thrillers about untrustworthy spouses by authors such as Campbell Armstrong and Christopher Reich, that grabbed you in the opening pages and kept you hooked till the end.

An Ambush Of Widows opens with Kirsten North getting an anonymous phone call: ‘Your husband is dead in Austin’. The only trouble is that Henry North, a down-on-his-luck cybersecurity expert from New Orleans, is supposed to be in New York. Rushing to Austin, Kirsten discovers that Henry and Adam Zhang, cofounder of one of Austin’s most successful venture capitalist firms, have been found murdered together in a warehouse. As far as Kirsten, and everyone else knows, the two men did not know each other and had never met, yet they are found shot together. As Kirsten investigates what happened to her husband, she joins reluctant forces with Zhang’s wife, Flora. Together they uncover a deadly plot and a determined killer.

An Ambush Of Widows is great fun. The book starts with a bang and Abbott keeps the twists, surprises and suspense coming at a rapid rate. There is an enjoyable cast of suspicious characters and plenty of old secrets that indicate that everyone, including Kirsten, are not who they seem. Some suspension of disbelief is required towards the end, but most readers will be too busy turning the pages to notice or care.

Overall, this is just a good fun read. I had a suspicion of where it was all going, but there were certainly lots of surprises I did not see coming. Highly recommended.

An Ambush Of Widows came out in the United States last year, but is being released in the United Kingdom and Australia (Kindle only) in February 2023. The British cover is below.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an advanced copy of the book for review.

The House Guest by Hank Phillippi Ryan (Forge, 7 February 2023)

There is also plenty of deceit and surprises in Hank Phillippi Ryan’s The House Guest (Forge, 7 February 2023).

American author Hank Phillippi Ryan is not widely known outside of United States, which is a shame as her books are quite enjoyable. After writing two popular series about investigative journalists, Hank is herself an award winning television reporter, she has more recently moved into the stand-alone suspense realm with books such as The First To Lie and Her Perfect Life.

The House Guest is also firmly in the psychological suspense arena and revolves around Alyssa Macallan, who has just been dumped by her wealthy and powerful husband, Bill. Friendless and with a devastating divorce looming, Alyssa begins to suspect that her toxic and manipulative soon-to-be-ex is scheming to ruin her and leave her penniless. When the FBI turns up at her door, Alyssa knows that she is in real trouble. A drunken and seemingly chance encounter with the engaging and enigmatic Bree Lorrance, who is running from her own dangerous relationship, seems to offer Alyssa a way out, but can she really trust her new house guest?

This an entertaining and easy flowing suspense novel that smoothly weaves its way through a labyrinthine plot of suspicions and surprises. Alyssa is easy to like, although she is not the smartest or the most decisive person you could find, and Hank is very good at building up the detail of her outwardly desirable life. She also nicely contrasts Alyssa with the less refined Bree. The other characters are also finely sketched, and Hank has good fun in skewering Alyssa’s society friends who promptly desert her when she loses the status of being Bill’s wife.

The book builds to a good climax and fans of domestic suspense thrillers will eagerly consume this one.

The House Guest seems to be mainly released in the United States, although it can be purchased outside of America through Amazon.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an advanced copy of the book for review.

A Deadly Covenant by Michael Stanley (Orenda Books)

The early novels by Michael Stanley, the writing name of African authors Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip, were readily available in Australia, but the more recent ones unfortunately have been harder to find.

A Deadly Covenant (Orenda Books) is a prequel to the authors’ popular series about Botswana police detective David ‘Kubu’ Bengu, and finds the young Kubu dispatched to a small village near the Okavango Delta when a local contractor working on a water pipeline unearths a skeleton. Accompanied by Scottish pathologist Ian MacGregor, Kubu soon finds other skeletons, and when an elder in the village is murdered the pressure on the young detective mounts.

This is an enjoyable read that really shines with its descriptions of the Botswanan countryside and life in its small rural communities. The depiction of the local Bushman and their poor treatment is also fascinating and quite moving. Underpinning the descriptions and the environmental concerns is a well plotted crime story and a solid mystery, which is steadily solved through good detective work and deductive reasoning. Fans of the series will also enjoy the insights into the younger Kubu’s personal life.

In all, an engaging and entertaining read that also serves as a good travel guide.

A Deadly Covenant is available on Kindle in Australia and a paperback release is scheduled for later this year.

Thanks to the authors for a copy of the book for review.

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