Kill Zone: Ten Deadly Thrillers, by Rick Acker, Christy Barritt, Patricia Bradley, Braxton DeGarmo, Luana Ehrlich, Heather Day Gilbert, Heather I. James, Robert Liparulo, Jordyn Redwood, and Jan Thompson (Georgia Press, 2017)
This is a powerhouse anthology with some seriously-acclaimed contributors, both traditionally- and indie-published. Of the 10 authors, I had previously read novels by Christy Barritt, Braxton DeGarmo, Patricia Bradley, and Heather Day Gilbert. And most of the rest were on my “to read” list. So I knew the collection was a safe bet.
Story by story, my thoughts:
Secrets, by Rick Acker: This a new-to-me author, and I’m glad to see he has a number of other books out. Very much a positive find, for me. Secrets is a high-stakes, high-tech international thriller that raises some disturbing possibilities. I enjoyed the voice, pacing, details… and the fact that it could be tense without scaring me. Special mention goes to Kevin, the autistic computer whiz. I love seeing characters who aren’t “ordinary” portrayed strongly in fiction. First on my Rick Acker to-read list will be another Kevin story.
The Wrecking, by Christy Barritt: When a serial killer returns to terrorize a small town, he pleads for help from the one woman he released. Personal and fast-paced romantic suspense, and what I liked best was the heroine’s determination not to let her past destroy her, and the story’s focus on sensory details.
Revenge, by Patricia Bradley: Romantic suspense that’s a sequel to Justice Delayed. It doesn’t give away the suspense plot for the novel, but you’ll know how the romance worked out. The heroine has a prescription drug addiction, and I don’t often see that kind of struggle in a protagonist. It was interesting to see how that played out in this story.
Ten Seconds Til… by Braxton DeGarmo: A vigilante serial killer with a talent for using explosives… it might be tempting for the police to let this one keep going, but they can’t. And investigating makes them targets as well. I enjoyed the tone of this one, as well as trying to figure out the puzzle.
One Step Back, by Luana Ehrlich: Titus Ray is a US agent under cover in Iran, recruiting sources of information. Most thrillers like this are too intense for me, and I enjoyed being able to read this one. Titus is an interesting character, and I enjoyed watching him carry out his covert operation in such a different setting.
Undercut, by Heather Day Gilbert: Romantic suspense, where the heroine, Molly, reconnects with former crush Zane Boone, a PTSD-scarred ex-military sniper turned lumberjack. Zane is convinced someone’s stalking him. He’s very much in alert mode, and it shows in his reactions. It didn’t take long for Molly to impress me, and she certainly carries the heroine role with courage.
Burn Time, by Heather I. James: After serving time for an act of revenge she insists her former boss deserved, Charlie discovers she’s a target: the man thinks she stole something she doesn’t have. Strong narrative voice for the heroine, although this one was a bit too dark for me. I also found the FBI agent kind of goofy, and was surprised to find some minor bad language. Still, a good read.
Full Draw, by Robert Liparulo: Fantastic descriptions, sometimes with a nice dash of humour. Fast-paced, high action, international contemporary thriller blending human and immortal characters. This story lets the characters Hutch and Jagger, from two different Robert Liparulo series, meet, which I found fun.
Malicious Intent, by Jordyn Redwood: When people around mystery author Lexie Sloan start dying in methods straight out of her novels, she becomes the prime suspect. This story lets us meet detectives Brett Sawyer and Nathan Long in their first case together, before the start of Jordyn Redwood’s Bloodline Trilogy. They look like they could be an interesting team.
Zero Sum, by Jan Thompson: A high-tech cyber thriller, where a team of hackers have been involuntarily implanted with devices that can kill them – can Cayson Yang stay alive long enough to find someone to get the technology out of his head? I had trouble figuring out what was going on in this story, in part because I haven’t read the author’s other books to know who the people and organizations were. At the end I’m still not sure who did this to Cayson and his team, or how. Or who some of the players were.
This collection was definitely worth buying. I did find some stories had typos, but most didn’t. I’ve found some new-to-me authors to follow, and read new stories from authors I already enjoy. It’s a mix of straight-up thrillers and romantic suspense, and the variety is a good thing in a collection this long.
[Review copy from my personal library.]
If you haven’t read my romantic suspense novel, Secrets and Lies, now’s the time. You can grab a copy for Kobo at 40% off from October 26-30, 2017.
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Undercut, by Heather Day Gilbert (WoodHaven Press, 2017)
Her sister and brother used to follow their FBI father to the shooting range, but Molly McClure has always been different. She’d rather dress in pretty clothes and arrange her hair.
Truth told, she didn’t sound like my kind of character. But it didn’t take long for Molly to impress me, and she certainly carries the heroine role with courage. What I admire about Molly is that she knows what she wants, and instead of going to the extreme of either passive hinting or aggressive pressure, she takes an honest, direct approach.
This is a romantic suspense story, where Molly and PTSD-scarred ex-military sniper Zane Boone, now turned lumberjack, each carry a previous attraction to the other. When they meet again, she’s not pushy, but she’s sure not sitting back pining. She meets him as a confident equal, and while there are doubts, there’s not the angst we too often see.
The suspense comes because Zane is convinced someone’s stalking him. He’s very much in alert mode, and it shows in his reactions.
For a novella-length story (132 pages), Undercut packs a lot of action and emotional content. It’s book 2 in the Hemlock Creek Suspense series. Book 1 was Molly’s sister Katie’s story, so I assume book 3 will feature their brother, Brandon.
Undercut first released in the ebook box set, Kill Zone, and is now available on its own in print and digital formats.
Heather Day Gilbert always delivers a good read with strong characters, whether she’s writing about Vikings (God’s Daughter and Forest Child) or contemporary suspense (the Murder in the Mountains series and the Hemlock Creek Suspense series). For more about the author and her books, visit heatherdaygilbert.com.
[Review copy provided by the author.]
Another Stab at Life, by Anita Higman (Forget Me Not Romances, 2011)
Bailey Walker is in desperate need of a fresh start, but the decaying old mansion left to her by her beloved grandmother is not what she had in mind. Still, she’s plucky and determined, with a sense of humour and nowhere else to go.
Along with the house, she’s challenged by neighbours who want to be her friends. Bailey’s rules for life tell her to be independent and not rely on anyone, but when it seems like someone’s trying to scare her out of her inheritance, she starts rethinking the value of isolation.
I liked the humour in the book, and the way it didn’t take itself too seriously. There are questions about the house that aren’t answered, but peeking at the summaries of the next two books suggests that everything will be wrapped up by the end.
Writing-wise, there is an issue with past/present tense. The story’s told in the past tense, but every so often there’s a slip.
Favourite lines (the first one shows the tone, but also the past/present issue, and the second made me chortle out loud):
This is a really old building but I can make it a home. Somehow. Eventually. But why was there always a prologue to every story in my life? [Kindle location 61]
The tellers at the bank had to call the head honchos down from upstairs so they could burble and stare like marmosets. [Kindle location 606]
Another Stab at Life is book 1 in the Volstead Manor series of cozy mysteries. It’s a light read (with a few tense moments). This isn’t the strongest book I’ve read this year, but it’s good fun and I look forward to finishing the rest of the series. I like Bailey and her mysterious house.
Anita Higman is the author or co-author of over 40 novels, present and historical, romantic and mystery, and even some young adult fiction. Another Stab at Life also comes in the ebook bundle, The Volstead Manor Series. For more about the author and her work, visit anitahigman.com.
[Review copy from my personal library.]
Over Maya Dead Body, by Sandra Orchard (Revell, 2017)
FBI agent Serena Jones is trained to spot illegal activity – even when she’s on vacation. A stranger’s suspicious behaviour makes her think he’s smuggling art antiquities, and the unexpected death of the man she and her family had travelled to visit has her looking for a murderer.
The evidence suggests that Jack fell, but what happens next convinces Serena otherwise. Unless she’s too obsessed by her job and these incidents are truly accidents like the local police say.
Serena, her parents, and her incorrigible Aunt Martha are joined by Nate (Serena’s apartment superintendent, who’s more than he seems) and Tanner (her FBI boss) to help untangle the clues. Aunt Martha brings a few of her contacts into play, as well.
It looks like Jack was killed to keep him from talking about an antiquities smuggling ring. Then, there’s his missing nephew. And rumours of drugs. In the middle of trying to solve the mystery, Serena can’t stop comparing her feelings for Nate and Tanner and wondering how she can be attracted to them both.
Many fans of the series have already voted on which guy Serena will choose, and it’s been a source of some contention. They’re both fine men, and my one hesitation about reading this book was I didn’t want to see either of them sad at the end. Author Sandra Orchard has that covered, though, with an epilogue that forecasts happiness in the future for the man who lost out.
This is a fast-paced mystery filled with banter, twists and turns, and pages that practically turn themselves. Aunt Martha is a hoot as she tries to help with the investigation. As Serena says,
As sidekicks went, she was the best. If I ever decided to quit my day job and become a PI, I’d hire her in a flash. Well, except for the fact that Mom would kill me. [page 121]
Over Maya Dead Body is book 3 in the Serena Jones Mystery series. I heartily recommend starting with book 1, A Fool and His Monet, and reading all three books.
Sandra Orchard is an award-winning, Canadian author. She has also written the Port Aster Secrets series, and a number of other romantic suspense novels. For more about the author, and to see the bonus features she provides for each book, visit sandraorchard.com.
[Review copy provided by the publisher.]
Justice Delayed, by Patricia Bradley (Revell, 2017)
Andi Hollister’s sister, Stephanie, was murdered 18 years ago. Finally, the man convicted of the crime will be executed, and Andi’s glad justice will be done.
Except another crime, and sudden fragments of new information, suggest the man on death row may not be the killer.
As an investigative reporter, Andi has a working relationship with the local police, as well as a personal connection: her brother is a detective, as is their long-time friend, Will. She’s determined to be part of finding the truth… and the real killer is determined to stop her.
Andi is a push-forward, impulsive woman who’ll do whatever it takes to get the story, always championing the cause of the underdog. Her nature, and the tragic loss of her sister, make it hard for her to trust God, especially when trust involves waiting.
She thinks her brother is over-protective when he tries to keep her safe, and these days she’s not sure what to think about Will. She’s developing feelings for him, but she knows his reputation for broken relationships… and it’s his cousin who’s to be executed for Stephanie’s murder.
Well-crafted and with satisfyingly-complex characters, Justice Delayed is a great start to Patricia Bradley’s new Memphis Cold Case series. As well as the main plot, there are layers of relational and spiritual subplots that all weave together to make a full-flavoured novel. Definitely a worthwhile read.
Patricia Bradley is also the author of the Logan Point romantic suspense series. For more about the author and her books, visit ptbradley.com.
Reign of Error, by Christy Barritt (River Heights, 2017)
Reign of Error is book 2 in the Worst Detective Ever series, and while readers would have a better overall grasp of the series by starting with book 1, Ready to Fumble, they could begin here without feeling lost.
Joey Darling’s acting career is on hiatus while she looks for her missing father and tries to recover from some personal disasters. The problem is, she has one or more over-the-top fans who want her to play detective in real life, the way she did on TV.
The death of a stranger shortly after she’d spoken with him is all it takes for her invisible “fans” to start pushing her to solve the mystery. Unfortunately, the killer wants her to stop.
This is a light-hearted mystery series, complete with two appealing guys competing for Joey’s attention. Each novel is a complete story, with the over-arcing mystery of Joey’s missing father.
Joey is a bit of a drama queen, as one might expect of an actress, so she can be a bit tiring at times, but she’s a likeable character. The obstacles she faces make it easy to root for her to succeed.
Christy Barritt is a prolific author whose Christian fiction includes mysteries and suspense for adults and tweens. For more about the author, visit christybarritt.com.
[Review copy from my personal library.]
Pursued, by Lisa Harris (Revell, 2017)
Special Agent Nikki Boyd is a missing persons investigator in Nashville. Usually she hunts for strangers, but this time it’s more personal: she met Erika, the missing woman, on a plane, just before it crashed. Erika disappeared from the crash site, and Nikki must help the FBI find her before she’s found by the man who wants her dead.
I’ve enjoyed this series, and each book is better than the last. The pacing in this one is relentless, with the entire story packed into 48 hours. As the case becomes even more personal, Nikki can’t back away, despite being pushed beyond her physical and emotional limits.
At the same time, she’s trying to discover the next step in her relationship with Tyler, the friend she’s fallen in love with, and to process some devastating news from her doctor.
One of the things I most appreciate in this series is how Nikki faces the darkness of her cases with faith that God will help her do her job, and that He can take even the broken pieces and make something beautiful. This is never superficial, but grows out of deep struggle.
Pursued is book 3 in the Nikki Boyd Files series, and book 4, Vanishing Point, releases in the fall of 2017.
Author Lisa Harris writes romantic suspense and romance. For more about the author, visit lisaharriswrites.com. To follow the conversation about this series on Twitter, look for the hashtag #nikkiboydfiles.
[Review copy provided by the publisher.]