THRILLER ROUND-UP NOVEMBER 2020
With Christmas rapidly approaching the number of new releases is growing just as quickly. The big name releases come with lots of publicity, but others seem to quietly slip into town or remain in the e-book netherworld. Here are quick reviews of four books which have arrived with little fuss, but have kept me happily occupied over the past week or so.
Gareth Rubin’s The Winter Agent came out with little fanfare back in June in the middle of the COVID-19 lockdowns. I only just came across it and it is a shame that it was not promoted more heavily, because it is a damn good, exciting World War II thriller.
The story is basically a fresh twist on the old plot device of whether the Allies can stop the Germans from finding out about the location and timing of the D Day landings in 1944. The central focus of the story is British SOE agent Marc Reece who is leading a resistance ring in Paris. The primary aim of his team is to sabotage the German war effort, but Reece has also been given a second mission from high up in the British Government, to find out details about the German forces stationed at the proposed sites for the D-Day landings.
When his team is ambushed and a key member with vital information is captured Reece begins to suspect that there is a traitor in their midst. When his lover, Charlotte, also goes missing he faces an awful question – is she in peril, or has he been betrayed by the only woman he thought he could trust? As he desperately tries to find the answers he comes to suspect that there is a German spy high up in the Allied war effort who is in a position to sabotage the D-Day landings.
This is a fast paced and quite credible spy thriller that races through a series of good set-pieces to a clever ending. There are plenty of twists and turns and Rubin keeps you guessing as to the real alliances of the key players and the identity of the spy. The depiction of the SOE ring operating in Paris in 1944 is seemingly accurate and the descriptions of wartime France are atmospheric and interesting.
The mix of historic and fictional characters works well and Rubin does a nice job in evoking the stress and strain of working under cover. There are possibly too many lucky escapes for Reece, but this is easy to overlook as the book powers to a clever conclusion.
One of my favourite spy thrillers of the year. Four and a half stars out of five!
Also moving at a rapid pace is the latest Grey and Villere thriller by Matt Hilton, Collision Course.
This is the seventh book in his series about PI Tess Grey and her partner,
ex-convict Po Villere, and their friend, former gun-runner Jerome ‘Pinky’ Leclerc. This time around the trio find themselves in trouble when a simple missing teenager case leads them to an insurance scam and a group of connected crooks who are extorting the rather naïve scammers. Even though the trio solve their missing person case, they decide to hang around protect the father and daughter at the centre of the scam.
You always know what you are going to get with a Matt Hilton novel, high voltage action and lots of it and Collision Course does not disappoint on this score. From the opening pages the guns are loaded and the fists fly, as the book rapidly moves from one violent encounter to the next.
The characters verge on the stereotypical, but are neatly sketched and Hilton fleshes out some of the minor characters with nice touches of poignancy. An enjoyable, fun read that will appeal to fans of the Jack Reacher novels.
Three and a half out of five!
Collision Course was released in hardback and on Kindle on 1 November 2020 in Australia and the United Kingdom and will be released in the United States on 1 December. Thanks to Severn House and NetGalley for an advanced copy of the book.
Blind Vigil opens with San Diego private eye Rick Cahill recovering from the gunshot wound which almost took his life in the last book and left him blind. Cahill is learning to cope with being blind by focusing on the simple things; how many steps from the bedroom to the bathroom, how to dress himself and how to safely walk and feed his dog. His future as a private eye looks grim, but as a favour to a former colleague he agrees to help with a case. She wants him to listen to her newest client, an old friend of Rick’s, and figure out if he is telling the truth or not. It is a simple request, but it leads to murder and once more Cahill is put in considerable danger.
This is the seventh book in Matt Coyle’s award winning series about Cahill and is a very well plotted PI novel that rises above many of the genre’s clichés. The story proceeds along logical lines and delivers some good surprises and a lot of suspense. Cahill has always been a well developed and engaging character, but the burden of having to overcome the limitations imposed by his blindness has added another interesting dimension to him and the story.
Cahill’s visual limitations add a lot of tension and the manner in which he deals with the threats that he cannot see is credible and exciting. Cahill is not without his flaws, but he is a tough character who perseveres until the end. The final climax is well executed and as good as any I read in the PI field.
Four stars out of five!
Blind Vigil is released by Oceanview Publishing in the United States in hardback and on Kindle on 1 December 2020 and is available via Amazon in the United Kingdom and Australia. In Australia it is very generously priced at $2.99 for the Kindle edition.
Thanks to Oceanview Publishing and NetGalley for an advanced copy of the book.
The Rough Cut continues the current flood of crime novels, which build on the public fascination with podcasts and true crime documentaries. As with the recent books by Megan Goldin and Charlie Donlea, Corleone takes as his starting point the making of a TV documentary, and uses it as the device to investigate crimes in the present and the recent past.
In The Rough Cut, documentary filmmaker Riley Vasher has been living a low-key life on the Hawaiian island of Oahu with her long-time boyfriend Brody. This all changes when Brody overhears on his police scanner that popular TV weathergirl, and former friend of Riley’s, Piper Kingsley, has been murdered. The police quickly arrest Piper’s boyfriend, Ethan Jakes, for the murder. Riley is not convinced of Jakes’ guilt and sees the trial as the chance for her to make a popular true crime documentary. She manoeuvres her way onto Jakes’ legal defence team, but soon finds her professional objectiveness put to the test when the lines of truth begin to blur and she becomes part of the story.
The Rough Cut is a well structured novel that moves between Riley’s editing of the documentary in the present and the events leading up to and during Jakes’ trial in the recent past. It is a clever device that allows Corleone to shift the perspective, foreshadow surprises and occasionally trick the reader. Also occurring in the present are Riley’s sessions with her psychiatrist, which further illuminate her character and another perspective on what is happening.
The end result is an interesting crime novel with some quirky twists. It takes a little while to gather momentum and engage the reader, but the second half of the book, which mainly covers the trial, is very tense and Corleone delivers a stunning conclusion. The book is also enhanced by the evocative descriptions of Hawaii and the insights that Corleone provides into the local legal system and the mechanics of making a documentary.
The characters are an unusual collection of flawed individuals. They are relatively well crafted, but none are particularly engaging, including the unstable, drug taking Riley.
Overall, I rate it between three and a half and four stars out of five! The ending certainly makes up for the disjointed feel of the opening sections. Well worth a read!
The Rough Cut is due out in January 2021. Thanks to Severn House and NetGalley for an advanced copy of the book.