Tuesday, December 27, 2016

By Gaslight by Steven Price

By Gaslight by Steven Price is an atmospheric victorian mystery with an intriguing premise and fascinating characters. William Pinkerton, son of the namesake agency’s founder and quite famous in his own right, pursues a criminal who eluded his father; the notorious Edward Shade, a man whom many think dead and some think doesn’t exist at all. The key to picking up Shade’s trail may be Charlotte Reckitt. Pinkerton and English gentleman Adam Foole are both pursuing her for their own reasons. Along with Foole’s giant accomplice, Flood, they search the gaslit corners of London from its highest echelons to the lowest imaginable locales for clues to Charlotte’s whereabouts and fate.

By Gaslight is heavy on the atmosphere. Price’s background as a poet is on ample display with lyrical and beautiful phrasing throughout. The story is filled with descriptive and memorable language both of place and of character. The narrative bounces from the search in 1880s London to the American Civil War 20 years earlier. The time spent in the civil war gradually shines more light on Pinkerton, as well as Shade, lending greater understanding of the events of 1880.

The plot moves doggedly forward as clues propel the characters together and apart and gradually shine light on the central mystery. The mystery is as much who is Edward Shade and what is he to the Pinkertons as it is where might he be. There is almost an excess of language with so much time spent on descriptions that the plot can at times suffer and makes the book feel overlong. One nagging thing for most of the book was that the obsession by both Pinkertons with finding Edward Shade seemed to lack sufficient motivation. This lack balances throughout on the knife’s edge between intriguing and annoying, with a little too much time spent on the latter side. In the end, Price manages to weave all the various threads together into a satisfying and thought-provoking conclusion.

Price has a knack for uniformly interesting characters both major and minor. Charlotte Reckitt may be the most interesting, and perhaps tragic, character of all.

The audio version of the book is narrated by John Lee who does an outstanding job with the material. He brings to life the lush descriptions and makes each character distinctive and easy to recognize. The voices for the Pinkertons didn’t sound very midwestern American, but I’m not sure what an 1860s or 1880s midwestern accent really sounded like. Lee added to the enjoyment of the material, which is an important factor given that the audio is nearly 24 hours long. His pacing and accents added to the mood and mystery of the material.

Fans of victorian mysteries and lush, descriptive language will enjoy this book.

I was fortunate to receive an advance copy of this book.

Description: William Pinkerton is already famous when he descends into the underworld of Victorian London in pursuit of the fabled con Edward Shade. His father, the most notorious detective of all time, died without ever finding Shade, but William is determined.

Adam Foole is a gentleman without a past, haunted by a love affair ten years gone. When he receives a letter from his lost beloved, he returns to London to find her. What he learns of her fate, and its connection to the man known as Shade, will force him to confront a grief he thought long-buried.

A fog-enshrouded hunt through sewers, opium dens, drawing rooms, and séance halls ensues, creating the most unlikely of bonds. Steven Price’s dazzling, riveting By Gaslight moves from the diamond mines of South Africa to the battlefields of the Civil War, on a journey into a cityscape of grief, trust, and its breaking, where what we share can bind us even against our darker selves.


Sunday, December 11, 2016

After the Crown (The Indranan War) by K. B. Wagers

Behind the Throne by K. B. Wagers was one of the best debut novels I’ve read and one of my favorite reads of 2016 period. It was with both excitement and trepidation that I started reading the sequel, After the Crown. I needn’t have worried. Now K. B. Wagers has written two of my favorite reads of 2016 and she’s only getting better. I get the same feeling as the first time I opened a book and met Miles Vorkosigan or Honor Harrington. Like Lois McMaster Bujold and David Weber, Wagers has created a character and a universe that I look forward to reading many, many more stories about.

After the Crown picks up events soon after we left them at the end of Behind the Throne. Hail is settling into being empress despite the threats that exist both from within and outside the empire. The court intrigue and disruptions from factions within the empire is intriguing and exciting in its own right, but the story really kicks into high gear when Hail leaves the planet to meet with the King of the Saxon empire and try to avert interplanetary war. Soon after, more bullets start flying and more things start blowing up. This leads to the gunrunner empress proving that her reputation is no joke and that killing her is harder than it looks. Now Hail is on the run and relying on some of her more disreputable connections from her past to win back her empire and get justice for all the friends and family she’s lost.

Wagers writes action scenes like nobody’s business and once things start rolling they keep on rolling until you are out of breath and there are no more pages left to turn. Even better than the action though is the characters. Hail Bristol is one of the best characters I’ve come across in a long time. She is larger than life. She is part Princess Leia and part Han Solo. The cast of characters around her is equally interesting. Emmory and Zin, the trackers turned bodyguards, are great characters, and there are many more among the court, the Indranan military and the government. After the Crown introduces us to more characters from Hail’s past, including her old boss Hao and the infamous Po-Sin.

The Indranan War is one of the best new series to come along in a long time and After the Crown is an outstanding followup to Behind the Throne. Get in on the ground floor of the next great science fiction series. You won’t regret it. Highly recommended.

I was fortunate to receive an advance copy of this book.

Description: Former gunrunner-turned-Empress Hail Bristol was dragged back to her home planet to fill her rightful position in the palace. With her sisters and parents murdered, the Indranan empire is on the brink of war. Hail must quickly make alliances with nearby worlds if she has any hope of surviving her rule.

When peace talks turn violent and Hail realizes she's been betrayed, she must rely on her old gunrunning ways to get out of trouble. With help from an old boss and some surprising new allies, she must risk everything to save her world.


Sunday, November 20, 2016

Darktown by Thomas Mullen

Darktown is an interesting look back on a troubling time in America. Set in post WWII Atlanta, it focuses on two of the eight rookie black cops who were hired. While on patrol, they stumble onto a drunk middle aged white man in a car with a young black woman. The man turns out to be former Atlanta PD and the woman turns up murdered a couple of days later. What follows is both a mystery and an historical commentary on a particularly difficult time.

The mystery holds few surprises. The police department is more interested in finding someone to accuse of the murder than solving it. The young black cops, Boggs and Smith, pursue it even though they lack the authority to conduct investigations. They are eventually assisted by a young white officer, Rakestraw, who is partnered with a racist cop, Dunlow. Rakestraw is interested in justice, but he is not exactly a crusader for racial equality.

While the mystery is fairly standard, the historical look at Atlanta is a little more interesting. The progress made in even hiring black officers is clouded by political motives and racism that is both deeply entrenched and institutionalized. The actions described in the book are horrific both to read, or in the case of the audiobook, listen to. The story may have been a little more successful with characters that were a little more sympathetic or less stereotypical. Nevertheless, the pressure that was in place both within and outside of the black community on the success of the experiment of hiring black officers kept the stakes high. Even the day to day obstacles both to doing their jobs and living their lives was illuminating.

The mystery is eventually solved, and justice of a sort is dispensed. What was lacking, was any sort of indication of what a path forward might be. A deeply racist south was portrayed, but there was no real sign that there was a way for anything to really change. The hiring of black officers in and of itself was portrayed more as a political expediency than as a step towards progress.

The audiobook was narrated by Andre Holland who did an outstanding job with the characters. Holland made you feel like you were in 1948 Atlanta and effectively conveyed the frustration, anger and weariness of the characters. The pace was steady and the mood tense.

I was fortunate to receive an advance copy of this audiobook.

Description:  In the tradition of our most acclaimed suspense writers, the author of The Last Town on Earth delivers a riveting and elegant police procedural set in Atlanta, a ripped-from-the-headlines depiction of a world on the cusp of great change involving race relations, city politics, and police corruption.

Responding to pressure from on high, the Atlanta police department is forced to hire its first black officers. It’s a victory of sorts, though the newly minted policemen are met with deep hostility by their white peers and their authority is limited: They can’t arrest a suspect unless a white officer is present; they can’t drive a squad car; they can’t even enter the station through the front door.

When a black woman who was last seen in a car driven by a white man with connections to the APD turns up fatally beaten, no one seems to care except for Lucius and Boggs, two black cops from vastly different backgrounds, who risk their jobs, the trust the community has put in them, and even their own safety to investigate her death. When their efforts stall they have to work alongside fellow officers who include the old-school cop, Dunlow, and his partner, Rakestraw, a young progressive who may or may not be willing to make allies across color lines.

Set in the post-war, pre-civil rights South, and evoking the socially resonant and morally complex crime novels of Dennis Lehane, George Pelecanos, and Walter Mosley, Darktown is a vivid, smart, intricately plotted crime saga that explores the issues of race, law enforcement, and the uneven scales of justice.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

The Dry by Jane Harper

I take author blurbs on book covers with a grain of salt but after reading The Dry by Jane Harper, I have to say that quotes like “every word is near perfect” (David Baldacci) and “If this book doesn’t garner an Edgar (Best First Novel) or two (Best Novel), there is no justice.” (John Lescroart) are both absolutely on point. This book is one of the best books I’ve read all year and maybe the best first novel I’ve ever read.

Set deep in rural Australia in the middle of a killing drought, Harper sets the mood and the tone from the opening sentence. Driven out of town after being accused of murder 20 years earlier, federal agent Aaron Falk is summoned to rural Kiewarra after a fresh tragedy claims the life of his childhood friend Luke Hadler, his wife and their small boy. Harper underscores the horror of the crime not by lingering over the details, but by presenting them in their stark and tragic simplicity. You feel the weight of the tragedy hang over a town already teetering on the brink due to prolonged drought and harsh conditions.

Harper’s characters are a match for her pitch-perfect setting. People burdened by their own pasts where grudges are nursed for decades and secrets are more plentiful than water. The wide open vistas and isolation inhabit you as you are reading as much as they inhabit the characters who live there.

Hadler’s father insures that Falk comes back by letting him know that he knows Falk and his son both lied about events surrounding the death of a classmate 20 years earlier. Falk agrees to help look into the murder of the Hadlers even in the face of antagonism and suspicion that still clings to him.

Falk finds that old grudges die hard. He and the local police office, Sergeant Raco, discover that not everything about the murder/suicide adds up. Digging deeper results in tearing the band aid off of old wounds as well as creating new ones.

The story moves forward at a steady clip as the investigation doggedly continues. Whether there is a connection between the tragedies set 20 years apart is an open question that flashbacks to the past continue to illuminate. It all builds to an ending that is as crushing as it is exhilarating. Much like Falk and Raco, you are never sure of your conclusions until the very end. Even when you see the ending unfolding, the tragedy comes crashing down over your head again like a tidal wave.

Simply put, everything about this novel works. Unique setting, ingenious plot device and rock-solid characters. I’m going to be shoving this book into the hands of all my friends as well as most strangers that don’t already have a book in their hands. This is one of the best books I’ve read this year and it’s going to be one of the best books of 2017 period. It’s hard not to gush about this book, and after you read it, you’ll know why. I can’t recommend this book highly enough. Pre-order it now, read it when it comes out, and then read it again the minute you finish. You won’t regret it.

Description:  After getting a note demanding his presence, Federal Agent Aaron Falk arrives in his hometown for the first time in decades to attend the funeral of his best friend, Luke. Twenty years ago when Falk was accused of murder, Luke was his alibi. Falk and his father fled under a cloud of suspicion, saved from prosecution only because of Luke’s steadfast claim that the boys had been together at the time of the crime. But now more than one person knows they didn’t tell the truth back then, and Luke is dead.

Amid the worst drought in a century, Falk and the local detective question what really happened to Luke. As Falk reluctantly investigates to see if there’s more to Luke’s death than there seems to be, long-buried mysteries resurface, as do the lies that have haunted them. And Falk will find that small towns have always hidden big secrets.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer

Ada Palmer throws readers right into the deep end with Too Like the Lightning, the first book in the Terra Ignota series. This is a complex, immersive, fleshed-out and idea-filled work of science fiction. Set in the 25th century, it is a world unrecognizable in its political, economic and social makeup.

Travel anywhere in the world is measured in minutes. This has led to a breakdown in traditional governments and let people all across the world associate based on common interests rather than geography. Religion is outlawed but may be discussed privately with sensayers, who tend to a person’s spiritual well-being. Gender distinctions are mostly taboo. A handful of corporation-like clans mixed with philosophers and remnants of nation states guide world affairs.

Mycroft Canner is a convict. His sentence is to be useful. To other people and to all of society. That he is a criminal is never hidden, but the nature of his crimes are not revealed to the reader until deep into the novel. Committing crimes is infinitely more difficult, but not impossible. Carlyle Foster is a sensayer who lands in the middle of Mycroft’s life and a secret he is concealing: Bridger. Bridger is a boy who can make wishes reality. That ability could threaten the entire interconnected world.

Too Like the Lightning  is an ambitious and challenging book. There are almost too many ideas expressed to discuss or even fully absorb. It is a mystery as well as a political treatise. It is a distant future with a reverence for the 18th century, particularly Voltaire. The narrator breaks the fourth wall and at times speaks directly to the reader. Palmer does a magnificent job of placing you in this fully realized world and letting you pick up the rules as you go. The pace at which significant pieces of information are revealed are timed for maximum effect. She keeps you unsure of who to trust and how far to trust them. You are likewise puzzled about the many plots and subplots at work, but always given enough information to keep frustration from setting in.

I suspect this book reveals more every time you read it. The characters are people you would want to spend time with and be alternately charmed by and terrified of.

If anyone was still afraid that science fiction was out of ideas after Ann Leckie’s wonderful Ancillary series, Ada Palmer will put any remaining fears to rest. This is an exciting and important work.

One word of caution. The book ends abruptly as it is the first of two parts. The second part is slated to come out before the end of the year so it is not a long wait. Not only should you read this book, you should make all your friends read it because you are going to want to talk about it. A lot.  Highly recommended!

I listened to the audio version of this book narrated by Jefferson Mays who did an outstanding job with it. The narration places you directly in the world and the melodic voices of the characters keeps you glued to the story. This is a story, particularly in audio form, that both demands and rewards close attention.
I was fortunate to receive an advance copy of this book.

Description:  Mycroft Canner is a convict. For his crimes he is required, as is the custom of the 25th century, to wander the world being as useful as he can to all he meets. Carlyle Foster is a sensayer--a spiritual counselor in a world that has outlawed the public practice of religion, but which also knows that the inner lives of humans cannot be wished away.

The world into which Mycroft and Carlyle have been born is as strange to our 21st-century eyes as ours would be to a native of the 1500s. It is a hard-won utopia built on technologically-generated abundance, and also on complex and mandatory systems of labelling all public writing and speech. What seem to us normal gender distinctions are now distinctly taboo in most social situations. And most of the world's population is affiliated with globe-girdling clans of the like-minded, whose endless economic and cultural competition is carefully managed by central planners of inestimable subtlety. To us it seems like a mad combination of heaven and hell. To them, it seems like normal life.

And in this world, Mycroft and Carlyle have stumbled on the wild card that may destabilize the system: the boy Bridger, who can effortlessly make his wishes come true. Who can, it would seem, bring inanimate objects to life...


Murder in the Generative Kitchen by Meg Pontecorvo

Murder in the Generative Kitchen by Meg Pontecorvo is an interesting story that works on multiple levels.

The Vacation Jury Duty system sends jurors to an exotic location with the catch that they have to daily watch court proceedings through a virtual reality device in preparation for rendering a verdict. Failure to do so, or to break any of the rules, could leave you on the hook for paying for the vacation yourself.

The trial involves a death, ostensibly by an automated kitchen that shouldn’t be able to harm a person without outside interference. This has led to a wife being charged for the murder of her husband. The case seems like a slam dunk, but doubt begins to creep in.

By having a murder trial as the central mystery in the story, Pontecorvo is able to layer in the science fiction elements crucial to the setting of the novel. Initially the trial seems to be an excuse to explore this future society but gradual the trial itself develops a sense of intrigue.

The story is told through the eyes of one of the jurors, Julio, who like the reader, is at first less interested in the trial, but gradually becomes drawn in. He is simultaneously trying to maximize his vacation and catch the eye of an attractive woman he suspects of being a fellow juror. The trial becomes very interesting, if not conclusive. Combined with the structure of the jury system itself and the dynamic nature of the jury deliberations (also conducted through virtual reality) there is a lot of intrigue in the story.

Pontecorvo manages to pack a lot into this short quick read. Interesting plotlines as well as an interesting central character. I didn’t mind that not everything was wrapped up neatly. Nevertheless, the very end seemed a little abrupt and had characters behaving in a way I found a little jarring.

This is a quick entertaining read packed with a lot of ideas, solid writing and interesting characters. I’ll be certain to keep an eye out for future stories by Meg Pontecorvo. Highly recommended.

I was fortunate to receive an advance copy of this book.

Description: With the Vacation Jury Duty system, jurors can lounge on a comfortable beach while watching the trial via virtual reality. Julio is loving the beach, as well as the views of a curvy fellow juror with a rainbow-lacquered skin modification who seems to be the exact opposite of his recent ex-girlfriend back in Chicago. Because of jury sequestration rules, they can’t talk to each other at all, or else they’ll have to pay full price for this Acapulco vacation. Still, Julio is desperate to catch her attention. But while he struts and tries to catch her eye, he also becomes fascinated by the trial at hand.

At first it seemed a foregone conclusion that the woman on trial used a high-tech generative kitchen to feed her husband a poisonous meal, but the more evidence mounts, the more Julio starts to suspect the kitchen may have made the decision on its own.


Nothing Short of Dying by Erik Storey

Clyde Barr is the latest action hero to arrive in Erik Storey’s debut novel, Nothing Short of Dying. Cut out of the same cloth as characters like Jack Reacher, Dewey Andreas and Pike Logan, the character Barr most reminds me of is The Executioner: Mack Bolan. Bolan was a one-man wrecking crew. A decorated Vietnam war vet who returns home to bury most of his family. When he discovers the mob is to blame, he becomes vengeance personified as he goes about dismantling them.

Clyde Barr shares a lot of those traits. Ex-military, soldier of fortune and recent graduate of a Mexican prison. All he wants is to disappear into the mountains and live off the land. A desperate phone call from his youngest sister, whom he shared a childhood that was beyond brutal, pulls him back towards civilization and “nothing short of dying” will prevent him from keeping his promise to come for her.

Storey does a good job of developing a character with a lot of rough edges and a believable amount of competency paired with a slightly excessive ability to absorb punishment. The action scenes are crisp, exciting and fast-paced. Barr is willing, if sometimes reluctant, to use people around him to assist in rescuing his sister. Most notable among these are Allie, the bartender he tries to help and ends up putting in harm’s way and Zeke, his former cellmate who is as amoral and ruthless as they come.

Storey doesn’t sugarcoat the consequences and none of Barr’s plans comes off without a hitch. The book lacks some of the polish of stories from other thriller writers, particularly when it comes to dialogue, but it is a very strong debut. Storey convincingly paints the rugged Colorado landscape along with plenty of action and a strong, flawed protagonist who looks like he has more adventures in front of him. I suspect subsequent entries in this series will get even better and I’m looking forward to them. Recommended read.

I listened to the audio version of this book narrated by Jeremy Bobb. Bobb does a good job with the narration capturing the excitement of the action along with the rough edges of the characters, particularly Barr and Zeke. The narration nicely complements the story.

I was fortunate to receive an advance copy of this book for review.

Description: Sixteen years. That’s how long Clyde Barr has been away from Colorado’s thick forests, alpine deserts, and craggy peaks, running from a past filled with haunting memories. But now he’s back, having roamed across three continents as a hunter, adventurer, soldier of fortune, and most recently, unjustly imprisoned convict. And once again, his past is reaching out to claim him.

By the light of a flickering campfire, Clyde receives a frantic phone call from his sister Jen. No sooner has she pleaded with him to come rescue her than the line goes dead. Clyde doesn’t know how much time he has, or where Jen is located, or even who has her. All he knows is that nothing short of dying will stop him from saving her.

Joining Clyde in his against-all-odds quest is a young woman named Allie whose motivations for running this gauntlet are fascinatingly complex. As the duo races against the clock, it is Allie who gets Clyde to see what he has become and what he can still be.

Vivid with the hues and scents of Colorado’s backcountry, and thought-provoking in its exploration of how past, present, and future collide to test resolve, Nothing Short of Dying is, above all, a propulsive, action-driven race against the clock.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Age of Myth by Michael Sullivan

Age of Myth is the first book in a new fantasy series by Michael Sullivan. Set in the same world as his Riyria Chronicles, the events here take place much earlier.

Events start with a human father and son (Raithe) crossing a river into territory forbidden them by a treaty with the elves. The elves (called Fhrey) are considered gods and given their extraordinarily long life-spans, think of the humans (whom they call Rhunes) as little more than animals. When one of the elves dies, Raithe earns the unwanted nickname “God-Killer”. The nickname comes with a target on his back. Meanwhile, Persephone, wife of the chieftain of a dahl, or settlement, finds herself childless and widowed in the span of a few days. This leads to a power change in the dahl and Persephone at a loss to find her role in the new reality. The Fhrey have their own complicated politics going on, as they are separated into tribes who are united even though differences simmer not very far below the surface.

The book starts a little slowly as readers are introduced to the characters as well as both human and elven society. Once the introductions are accomplished, the action starts to move forward. Raithe’s killing of a god comes as a shock to both societies. Both human and elf discover that many of their core beliefs may no longer hold true.  Michael Sullivan writes very good characters. They are easy to relate to and identify with. He does an exceptional job of world building. This world is richly detailed and vividly described. It hints at much more to be revealed. When the action comes, it is intense and thrilling. Conspiracies slowly simmer here, among both the Fhrey and the Rhunes. Some of the secrets unveil themselves while others remain to be discovered.

This is a world that is comfortable to return to for readers of Sullivan’s previous work. It is also a perfect jumping off point for new readers, as no prior knowledge of the world is necessary to enjoy this book. This book serves more as prelude to the war that is coming. Age of Myth is the first volume in a six volume series, so be aware what you are signing up for. Also know that all six books are already written, so there is no need to worry about when the next volume will be ready.

The audio version of this book is narrated by the wonderful Tim Gerard Reynolds. His narration completely immerses you in the world, breathing life into the characters and the setting. He is also signed up to narrate the entire series. He complements the story without overpowering it and is an ideal choice to narrate these books. Highly recommended.

I was fortunate to receive an advance copy of this book.

Description: Since time immemorial, humans have worshipped the gods they call Fhrey, truly a race apart: invincible in battle, masters of magic, and seemingly immortal. But when a god falls to a human blade, the balance of power between men and those they thought were gods changes forever. Now, only a few stand between humankind and annihilation: Raithe, reluctant to embrace his destiny as the God Killer. Suri, a young seer burdened by signs of impending doom. And Persephone, who must overcome personal tragedy to lead her people.

The Age of Myth is over; the time of rebellion has begun.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Far From True by Linwood Barclay

Linwood Barclay has been on the list of authors I’ve wanted to read for a long time. Far From True was my first book by him and I was blown away. Barclay is an outstanding writer and this is a great book.

Far From True is the second book in the Promise Falls Trilogy. The first book is Broken Promise and the trilogy concludes with the forthcoming The Twenty-Three. The series is probably best read in order, although I started by listening to the second volume and didn’t feel like I was lost. Events from the first book are related in enough detail to fill you in on the characters background. There are some spoilers though if that bothers you.

The events of Far From True begin with the collapse of a drive-in movie theater screen that kills four people. The screen turns out to be a giant domino whose falling kicks over a bunch of secrets that some people are desperate to make sure don’t become public. Cal Weaver is hired by the daughter of one of the victims to investigate a break-in at her father’s house where a secret room and some missing DVDs are found.

Detective Barry Duckworth is investigating the drive-in accident while at the same time trying to solve two murders that may be connected. The investigation becomes more complicated and dangerous as people go to greater lengths to maintain their secrets.

Barclay does an amazing job of laying down several different, seemingly unrelated, plot threads and slowly weaving them together in an amazing tapestry. He works with a sizable cast of characters without giving any of them short shrift. Relationships, both personal and professional are portrayed in all their complicated aspects. Along with Cal Weaver and Barry Duckworth, we get to know a former mayor who wants his old job back along with the beleaguered ex-reporter running his campaign, the daughter of one of the drive-in victims and her gifted daughter who is on the spectrum, a struggling single mother trying to protect her child from the child’s conniving grandparents, and several other characters.

Barclay manages to invent these great characters, including some that you hate. And I mean really, really hate. Even if you are not sure they actually have anything to do with the crimes being investigated. That ability to instill passion about the characters in the reader is true artistry. Barclay keeps weaving together plot threads, some of which are tied off in this book, some of which are left to be wrapped up in the concluding volume.

I listened to the audio version of this book which was excellently narrated by Mark Zeisler and Brian O’Neil. Mark narrated Cal Weaver’s chapters and Brian narrated the rest. I thought it was a little bit of an odd choice to divide the narration in that way, but each narrator did an outstanding job. They managed to breath life into the characters and the story, making each character easy to distinguish and adding drama and tension to the story where required without overpowering the narrative. Both enhanced and enriched the listening experience.

Far From True is great literary fiction. I enjoy a good mystery/thriller on its own, but Linwood Barclay’s writing adds another dimension. I highly recommend both this book and this series, starting with Broken Promise.

I was fortunate to receive an advance copy of this book.

Description: After the screen of a run-down drive-in movie theater collapses and kills four people, the daughter of one of the victims asks private investigator Cal Weaver to look into a recent break-in at her father’s house. Cal discovers a hidden basement room where it’s clear that salacious activities have taken place—as well as evidence of missing DVDs. But his investigation soon becomes more complicated when he realizes it may not be discs the thief was actually interested in....
Meanwhile, Detective Barry Duckworth is still trying to solve two murders—one of which is three years old—he believes are connected, since each featured a similar distinctive wound.
As the lies begin to unravel, Cal is headed straight into the heart of a dark secret as his search uncovers more startling truths about Promise Falls. And when yet another murder happens, Cal and Barry are both driven to pursue their investigations, no matter where they lead. Evil deeds long thought buried are about to haunt the residents of this town—as the sins of the past and present collide with terrifying results.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

Dark Matter is the thriller you are not going to want to put down, and in fact, may not be able to. Blake Crouch has written good books before, but Dark Matter is his best, most complete, and most satisfying novel to date.

Dark Matter is the story of Jason Dessen, a university professor with a beautiful wife and son who goes out one night for a drink and wakes up in a different life. Not just a different life, but his own life, minus the wife and kid and instead of a teaching job, the greatest professional success in his field he’d ever imagined. Jason is desperate to return to the life he knew and be reunited with his family.

This book is a scientifically plausible and fascinating thriller with amazing concepts and page-turning action. What really grounds this book, though, are the strong characters and relationships. Jason tries to reconstruct what has happened to him and find a way back to the woman and son he loves. This takes him down a path that is both mind-blowing and thrilling. There are a number of twists and turns in this book, a few of which you might see but most of which will just blow your mind.

Dark Matter explores the choices we make and how these choices are both influenced by who we are and influence who we become. It does this in the context of a story filled with characters you care about and does it at a thriller’s pace. I enjoy a fast paced thriller, which this is, but the character depth is what takes this book to the next level.

Blake Crouch has written his best book to date and one of the best thrillers of the year. He’s displaying all his skills and joins some of the best writers in the field today. Fans of Harlan Coben, Michael Crichton, Joseph Finder and thriller lovers in general will find a lot to like in this book. If you’ve ever wondered about the road not taken, you’re going to want to read this book. Highly recommended!

I was fortunate to receive an advance copy of this book.

Description: “Are you happy with your life?”
Those are the last words Jason Dessen hears before the masked abductor knocks him unconscious.
Before he awakens to find himself strapped to a gurney, surrounded by strangers in hazmat suits.
Before a man Jason’s never met smiles down at him and says, “Welcome back, my friend.”  
In this world he’s woken up to, Jason’s life is not the one he knows. Hiswife is not his wife. His son was never born. And Jason is not an ordinary college physics professor, but a celebrated genius who has achieved something remarkable. Something impossible.
Is it this world or the other that’s the dream? And even if the home he remembers is real, how can Jason possibly make it back to the family he loves? The answers lie in a journey more wondrous and horrifying than anything he could’ve imagined—one that will force him to confront the darkest parts of himself even as he battles a terrifying, seemingly unbeatable foe.

Dark Matter is a brilliantly plotted tale that is at once sweeping and intimate, mind-bendingly strange and profoundly human—a relentlessly surprising science-fiction thriller about choices, paths not taken, and how far we’ll go to claim the lives we dream of.