Tag Archives: thrillers

Review: Kill Zone: 10 Deadly Thrillers

Kill Zone: 10 Deadly Thrillers | Christian fiction, thrillers, romantic suspense, novellas, box setKill 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.]

Review: Lion of Babylon, by Davis Bunn

Lion of Babylon, by Davis BunnLion of Babylon, by Davis Bunn (Bethany House Publishers, 2011)

Former special forces operative Marc Royce is drawn back into active duty to find a friend who’s gone missing in Iraq. The problem is, elements of his own government want him to fail.

Marc and a brave Iraqi lawyer named Sameh work with a few trusted contacts in a search for not only the missing US serviceman but four others as well: three Americans and an Iraqi.

I liked the characters, and I enjoyed the taut, fast pace and the details of life in Baghdad. In their quest, Marc and Sameh rescue a group of abducted children. Marc proves himself to the local people as well as to his own, and pulls off some important successes.

Marc and Sameh also find their way into a secret Baghdad church. Sameh faithfully attends a Christian church, despite the stigma this attaches to his family, and Marc is a Christian as well, but both men are amazed at this underground group of worshippers where believers from different ethnic backgrounds worship hand in hand where formerly they’d have been mortal enemies.

Favourite lines:

Ambassador Walton has another name for coincidences. He calls them fault lines. Points where the mystery may be resolved. [page 75]

He greeted Marc with a grin that divided his face in two, the lower half smiling a welcome, the upper half squinted in warning. [page 162]

I definitely want to read the rest of this series, for the characters, the action (some satisfying explosions!), and for the glimpses of how faith in Jesus is still a powerful force that only gets stronger when pushed underground.

Davis Bunn is a multi-published author in various genres of Christian fiction. Lion of Babylon is book 1 in his Marc Royce Thriller series. Library Journal called Lion of Babylon “One of the top six ‘Best Books of 2011’ in Christian Fiction.”

[Review copy from my personal library.]

Review: Black Sea Affair, by Don Brown

Black Sea Affair, by Don Brown (Zondervan, 2008)

Pete Miranda is one of the US Navy’s best submarine commanders. Along with a hand-picked crew of volunteers, his mission is to sneak a nuclear sub through the Bosporus Strait into the Black Sea.

Conventional wisdom says it can’t be done. If the navy’s radical plan succeeds, Pete’s crew must find and sink a terrorist freighter operating under a Russian flag—without creating an international incident.

The freighter is carrying enough stolen plutonium to make a powerful nuclear explosive. What the Americans don’t know is that it’s also carrying a group of orphan children.

Don Brown has plotted a complex thriller that escalates international tension to the brink of nuclear war. Fans of his Navy Justice series will be glad to see JAG Officer Zack Brewer join the story in the later stages. And the ending is definitely not one you can put down unfinished.

Geography is not my strong point, and I appreciated the little maps and diagrams that were included where necessary.

Oddly enough, I had no trouble believing the series of events in this high-stakes plot. It was the faith that made me hesitate. Pete is a Christian, and so is Masha Katovich, the children’s chaperone on the freighter. I related better to her experience of faith than to his, but maybe it’s because I’m female.

While it’s probably true that crisis gets most people praying, whether to God or to the universe at large, it seemed to me that most of the key players other than the Russians had a personal faith. Even in high political circles. Call me a cynic, but it felt weird.

Black Sea Affair is the best international thriller I’ve read in a long time. It contains a few spoilers for the author’s earlier Navy Justice novels (Treason, Hostage and Defiance), but leaves enough unsaid that I’m still interested in reading them. His newest novel, The Malacca Conspiracy, features Zack Brewer.

[Review copy from my personal library]

Review: Forget Me Not, by Vicki Hinze

Forget Me Not, by Vicki Hinze (WaterBrook-Multnomah, 2010)

She’s been running from her enemies for three years. As the story opens, readers don’t know her name, but we see her attacked by two separate groups in New Orleans.

When she wakes, bruised and abandoned, in Florida, she can’t remember her identity. Her only clue is a card in her pocket with Crossroads Crisis Center on one side and the name “Susan” written on the other.

She’s taken to Crossroads, and that’s when things get complicated.

The mystery woman looks like Crossroads’ director Ben Brandt’s murdered wife—whose name was Susan, and whose cross this woman found in her pocket and is now wearing.

As upset as Ben  is, he realizes that he and this stranger must work together for her safety as well as to find the answers he desperately needs.

With so many unknowns, and what looked like a complex cast of villains, I found it hard to get my head around the book at first. I kept reading out of concern for the heroine and because I trusted veteran author Vicki Hinze to deliver a suspenseful novel that would bring all the pieces together in the end.

The pieces do come together, and the network of villains is indeed complex. “Susan” and Ben are strong, complex characters. She doesn’t know who she is, but she’s sure Whose she is. He knows his identity but walked away from faith when his wife and son were killed. And in the midst of the danger and unknowns, they may be falling in love.

Vicki Hinze has written 23 novels and 3 non-fiction books in the general market. Forget Me Not is her first “faith-affirming romantic thriller, and she handily earns a spot at the top of my suspense list with Brandilyn Collins. Her next novel in the Crossroads Crisis Center series is Deadly Ties, coming February, 2011.

You can read the first chapter of Forget Me Not,  and learn more about award-winning author Vicki Hinze at her website. Check out an in-depth interview with Vicki Hinze at Nora St. Laurent’s Finding Hope Through Fiction blog.

Here’s the book trailer for Forget Me Not:

[review copy borrowed from the public library]

Review: The Pawn, by Steven James

The Pawn, by Steven James

The Pawn, by Steven James (Revell, 2007)

FBI Special Agent Patrick Bowers’ assignment is to find—and stop—a serial killer in North Carolina. Even though few law enforcement officers are familiar with his approach, his success using high-tech geographical profiling makes him highly respected.

Pat comes into this case with troubles of his own: his wife’s recent death and his step-daughter’s attitude. And while he’s glad to have an old friend on the investigative team, he’s less than thrilled to discover the agent in charge still bears a grudge from their last meeting.

Steven James does an excellent job of pulling readers into the characters’ heads. With Pat, this is great. He’s intelligent, interesting, and has a low-key sense of humour I like.

Scenes with Pat’s step-daughter Tessa or with other characters were fine too. Each time I hit a villain scene I read timidly, but I made it through.

The characters are rich and have depths we won’t fully explore without reading the whole series. Some of the relationships in this book, most notably the one between Pat and Tessa, reach a new level but definitely have room for further growth. Even the dark characters have depth, albeit disturbing.

As for the plot, “masterfully crafted” is perhaps over-used but here it fits. Looking back at how everything unfolded, all I can say is “Wow.” So many threads and details, all drawn together into a satisfying conclusion.

The novel’s intense delivery and the killer’s deep point of view reminded me of Dean Koontz’ The Good Guy. That was another can’t-put-down thriller that skirted the very edge of my comfort zone. The plots—and characters—aren’t similar, but both novels give the same feeling.

The Pawn’s pace is fast, yet Steven James slips in some interesting insights and thoughtful language. Remembering his wife’s death, Pat says, “Spring was trying to unfold; winter trying to die. She passed away in between the seasons, in the middle of the empty spaces of the year.” (p. 138)

One advantage of the villain scenes is that readers see more of the danger than Pat and his team do. The author makes us aware of the ticking clock on a few different occasions, and it effectively ups the tension. (For example, he introduces us to a woman who has no idea she’s the killer’s next target but we know, and she’s a nice lady.)

The Pawn is published by a Christian house, and I should point out that it’s a fine read for any thriller-lover, regardless of their faith stance. Pat has only a hazy belief in God, mostly anger-based after losing his wife. He remembers conversations—arguments, mainly—with a pastor he and I don’t think much of, and occasional wise faith words from a deacon. The author’s faith shows through, but it’s a subtle glow and not anything preachy or overt.

Why have I not heard of Steven James before now? Tender-hearted chicken that I am, I’ll need to recover a bit before taking on the rest of the series, but I look forward to spending more time with Pat and Tessa in The Rook and The Knight.

You can learn more about Steven James at his blog, Musings and Meanderings, and his website, and I’m delighted to see he has some highly-acclaimed Christian non-fiction. I want to check out Story and Sailing Between the Stars. Certain brief moments in The Pawn convinced me he can do justice to thoughtful non-fiction too.

The Pawn is available in bookstores and online at Chapters-Indigo, Amazon.ca, Amazon.com… and the best price I saw was at Christianbook.com. Also, if you’re looking for a copy of Sailing Between the Stars, check out Christianbook.com—when I looked, it was only $1.99 US. Plus shipping, of course.