Review: Impostor, by LJ Ross

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After an elite criminal profiling unit is shut down amid a storm of scandal and mismanagement, only one person emerges unscathed. Forensic psychiatrist Doctor Alexander Gregory has a reputation for being able to step inside the darkest minds to uncover whatever secrets lie hidden there, and soon enough he finds himself drawn into the murky world of murder investigation.

In the beautiful hills of County Mayo, Ireland, a killer is on the loose. Panic has a stranglehold on its rural community, and the Garda are running out of time. Gregory has sworn to follow a quiet life, but when the call comes, can he refuse to help their desperate search for justice? 

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L J Ross (Louise Ross) e-book literary bestseller pictured at her home in Bath, Wiltshire. Photo courtesy of Gareth Iwan Jones

LJ Ross might not be a name you recognise if all your books are bought from bookshops (although that is soon likely to change), but she has sold an astounding four million-plus copies in paperback, ebook and audio. I’ve previously reviewed one of her DCI Ryan Mysteries, Cragside, but this is the first in a new series, featuring forensic psychiatrist, Dr Alexander Gregory.

As with all of Louise’s books I’ve read, this is a real ‘page-turner’. The character of Alex Gregory is great; his calm and likeable manner helps him build trust and confidence, with the ultimate aim of understanding what makes people who do bad things tick, and I really enjoyed being taken on the journey with him.

But our protagonist is just one in a collection of characters, all of whom seem to have hidden depths and have been written to ensure they are all three-dimensional. And this one keeps you guessing – pretty much any one of them could be the killer. And the reveal at the end was brilliant.

As with many of the books I get through nowadays, I listened to the audio of this. If you weren’t aware, audio is, I believe, the fastest-growing novel medium, and with the driving I do, I’ve been a huge fan for a long time. In my experience, a poor narrator can bring down a good novel, and a good narrator can bring up a mediocre one. But when you get a combination of a great novel and a brilliant narrator, in this instance in the form of Hannibal actor, Hugh Dancy, you’re on to a real winner!

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Hugh Dancy – Photo courtesy of Stephanie Diani

Impostor was published on 31 October 2019, so you can go and buy it now. Or, if you’re up for a good listen, you can get it from Audible.

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Reviews: Blowout and Greenwash, by Colleen Cross

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Two book reviews in one!

Blowout is book 3 in the Katerina Carter fraud thriller series. Here’s the blurb:

On private investigator Katerina Carter’s trip to a remote island aboard a luxurious yacht, she suspects the boat’s slick and charming owner is hiding a dark secret. With her cunning instinct for sniffing out malevolent cons, Kat tries to warn her friends that something is very wrong with their host and that his moneymaking scheme smells fishy. And why is she only one who thinks he’s not being completely honest?

While exploring the island, Kat and her friends research the rumors of a sinister cult, the Aquarian Foundation, and search for buried treasure. The cult swindled people out of their money and now the same situation is starting to eerily echo their present circumstances. That is if Kat can prove to the others that if something sounds too good to be true, it usually is . . .

When Kat’s warnings fall on deaf ears, she uncovers a horrifying truth that will place those closest to her in mortal danger. Now it’s a race against the clock for Kat to expose a killer before he strikes again.

I really like Colleen Cross’s Katerina Carter series. Katerina’s forensic finance expertise gets her into all manner of trouble, and in this story, even when she’s not on a case. As the blurb says, in this story, she suspects her best friend’s fiance of hiding a dark secret, and to the reader, it’s pretty clear what that secret is.

That doesn’t spoil the fun as we follow Katerina’s adventures, which are made all the better because Uncle Harry is also along for the ride this time. And what’s accountancy without danger, and there is plenty of that for Katerina in this book, who once again manages to piece the clues together just in time.

I listened to this on audio, and whilst it’s book 3, it could easily be read or listened to as a standalone. Oh, and great narration from Petrea Burchard!

 

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And of course, Greenwash is Katerina Carter book 4!

Private investigator Katerina Carter and boyfriend Jace Burton embark on a cozy weekend getaway just before Christmas at a luxury mountaintop lodge. While he writes the biography of a billionaire environmentalist, she explores the snowy wilderness.
Then two local environmental protesters die under mysterious circumstances. Kat and Jace race to uncover the truth only to face even deadlier disaster. The mountains take no prisoners.

Neither does the killer.

In the remote mountaintops of the Rockies, everyone looks out for each other. Except for cold-blooded killers, that is. And the killer is creeping closer and closer. Someone doesn’t want this case solved. And they’ll do anything to stop Kat from finding the truth.

I listened to book 3 and book 4 back to back. Sometimes when I do that, I get bored with the characters, but not in this case.

Katerina is getting pretty unlucky now. This is her second trip for pleasure in this series, and sadly the first trip on the yacht last time out didn’t go too well. Well, it’ll come as no surprise that her trip accompanying Jace to a luxury mountain lodge doesn’t go quite as planned either!

No uncle Harry this time, and Jace is a bit of a pain – he always seems to be so enamoured with his hosts that he doesn’t pick up on the clues that they’re usually as dodgy as can be.  Kat doesn’t though, and despite Jace never really believing her suspicions, she’s not one to let a little mountainside avalanche danger get in the way of uncovering a good mystery, especially when environmental catastrophe threatens!

Another great read (or listen) from Colleen Cross!

 

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Review: Resthaven, by Erik Therme

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The last thing Kaylee wants to do is participate in a childish scavenger hunt – especially inside the abandoned retirement home on the edge of town. When she finds a bruised, deaf boy hiding inside one of the rooms, she vows to lead him to safety – only to discover the front doors are now padlocked, and her friends are nowhere to be found.

Kaylee is about to learn that not everything that goes “bump in the night” is imaginary, and sometimes there are worse things to fear than ghosts.

This is a  YA (Young Adult) novel, written by Erik Therme. Let’s start off by saying I’m a fan of the author, and all of his novels I’ve read (or listened to via Audible) always have great characterisation, and Resthaven is no different.

Set within the spooky backdrop of a derelict nursing home, the group of teenage girls find themselves in the middle of a scavenger hunt which goes badly wrong from the start. The characters in the story don’t much like each other, and when they find they can’t all get out of the nursing home, things start to ramp up.

This isn’t a horror, but it’s on the darker side of a YA thriller. It’s well-written, with the tension and the speed of the novel gathering pace as the story unfolds. Great narration by Randi Larson makes this an all round winner for me.

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Review: Closer Than You Think, by Darren O’Sullivan

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He’s watching. She’s waiting.

Having barely escaped the clutches of a serial killer, Claire Moore has struggled to rebuild her life. After her terrifying encounter with the man the media dubbed The Black-Out Killer, she became an overnight celebrity: a symbol of hope and survival in the face of pure evil. And then the killings stopped.

Now ten years have passed, and Claire remains traumatised by her brush with death. Though she has a loving and supportive family around her, what happened that night continues to haunt her still.

Just when things are starting to improve, there is a power cut; a house fire; another victim found killed in the same way as before.

The Black-Out Killer is back. And he’s coming for Claire…

I listened to this book via Audible, with Avena Wallace’s soft Irish lilt perfect for the part of Claire, and the author himself doing a great job of narrating the killer.

Claire’s life has been forever changed by the events of ten years earlier, which left her a  widow, and terribly injured, the extent of which is slowly revealed as the story unfolds. She is slowly starting to push the boundaries of her very restrictive comfort zone when things start to take a darker turn.

Claire’s existence is based around trying to manage her fear, fear that is rooted in her terrible past, but we get to see that past catching up with her. Her claustrophobic existence is made to feel very real, as she struggles to take a shower without her mother waiting outside the bathroom. And I think seeing into the mind of the serial killer, both through the dual narrative of his thoughts, but also the letters he is writing (but not sending to Claire), really notches up the tension as the story heads for its dramatic finale.

All-in-all, a great domestic noir thriller that kept me guessing.

 

 

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Review: Sniper, by Karla Forbes

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Flynn was one of the elite, a highly trained sniper in the British army who was proud of his skills and lived by a strict moral code. But even the best can crack when the stress becomes intolerable and now he’s on the rampage bearing a grudge and carrying an arsenal of stolen weapons. He believes that good soldiers are being killed because governments go to war over oil. In his twisted mind, anyone who drives a gas guzzling four by four is the enemy and deserves to die. As he carves a trail of terror and death across the country, the authorities are closing in.

But for one man, it’s become personal. Nick Sullivan is holding a grudge of his own and is hard on the heels of the sniper. But when he finally hunts down his quarry, will his thirst for revenge blind him to the fact that he’s no match for a professionally trained killer? For Flynn is the best there is. He’s a master of his craft.

This is the third in Karla Forbes Nick Sullivan thriller series. I love the concept (spoiler if you haven’t read the earlier books) of Nick falling into the profession after being an investment banker, so not being the most competent spy, but definitely the most enthusiastic (and hot-headed). And he continues to not follow orders in this very competent thriller.

This time, Nick’s pursuing a lead in his own time when an old Uni friend’s name is discovered on a list in a dead hitman’s pocket, so he’s taken Annalise on a holiday to Scotland. But that holiday becomes more dangerous and more personal than Nick could ever have bargained for.

Once again, a good story, which is very well narrated by Craig Bowles, as Nick tries to find out why his old friend, Andrew is a target, and what, if anything, links the dead hitman and the sniper who is slowly working his way north. With a hitman who decides almost on a whim who is guilty and deserving to be killed, and Nick and Annalise finding themselves in his cross-hairs, the author balances tension with humour to keep the reader interested throughout.

 

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Review: On My Life, by Angela Clarke

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Framed. Imprisoned. Pregnant.

Jenna thought she had the perfect life: a loving fiancé, a great job, a beautiful home. Then she finds her stepdaughter murdered; her partner missing.

And the police think she did it…

Locked up to await trial, surrounded by prisoners who’d hurt her if they knew what she’s accused of, certain someone close to her has framed her, Jenna knows what she needs to do:

Clear her name
Save her baby
Find the killer

I listened to the audio version of this via Audible and it’s another great novel by Angela Clarke, with excellent narration by Sarah Durham. Actually, now I’ve typed that, I think I’m going to say it’s her best. So far. Why? Because whilst Jenna finds herself in such an unimaginable situation, as a reader, I found myself so closely drawn in that I couldn’t help become emotionally entangled.

Not only has Jenna had that perfect life snatched away from her, but she also finds herself having to deal with multiple issues; from finding her missing fiancé to identifying Emily’s killer. From hiding her media-created identity (and her pregnancy) to dealing with being targeted by the most notorious inmate in the prison.

It is well-known that the author is involved in prison visits, and for me, that experience has added a layer of authenticity to a well-crafted story. The experiences faced by pregnant women in prison are unimaginable, and the author has highlighted these within a gripping story; one that will keep you guessing. And hardly daring to believe that it could have any kind of happy ending.

Highly recommended. The book that is. Not prison.

 

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Review: Game Theory, by Colleen Cross

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Someone is siphoning funds from billionaire Zachary Barron’s currency hedge fund. Intent on prosecuting the thief to the fullest extent of the law, he hires Katerina “Kat” Carter, the best forensic accountant in the business, to follow the money trail. Both are shocked when it leads to Zachary’s father, Nathan.

And he’s just the tip of the iceberg. Nathan belongs to a shadowy organization with global ties and unimaginable resources. They already control the banking industry and the media, but their ultimate goal – the collapse of the global currency market and a new world order – will soon be within reach.

Kat may be all that stands in their way. But for how long? The organization learns of her involvement and sends a warning. She knows it will be her last – others who have tried to foil their agenda have met with violent deaths.

If Kat walks away and keeps her mouth shut, she’ll look over her shoulder for the rest of her life in a world she’ll scarcely recognize. Ignoring the threat makes her and everyone she cares about a target… or a potential traitor.

Still, as Kat Carter knows all too well… the greater the risk, the greater the reward.

And there’s no hedging on this bet. It’s all or nothing. Who’s in?

This is the second in the Katerina Carter fraud thrillers; I’ll be reviewing numbers three and four in the not too distant future, and I reviewed Exit Strategy here.

I like the concept of a forensic accountant for a thriller – it stands a little bit apart from a legal thriller, and a forensic accountant’s life is all about following the money, to get to the bottom of fraud. This is where bean counting becomes more than just counting beans.

Game Theory is a competent thriller, and a great listen on Audible (it’s very well read by Petrea Burchard), and this story has an extra dimension of Kat trying to deal with her Uncle Harry’s deteriorating health, which adds a real personal layer to things.

It’s a great listen, but there were some niggles for me. A few aspects of the story didn’t sit right with me. I’m not convinced Zachary could be that blind to what had been going on, and there were a couple of times when Kat’s reaction, or thoughts, had me shaking my head. I mean, she’s a forensic accountant, a smart cookie by all accounts, but there is the odd time when she can’t quickly see the obvious. A bit irritating, but don’t let that put you off. It’s a good listen/read, and I am just being picky!

 

 

 

 

 

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