Share This

Bookmark and Share

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Review - Games Traitors Play

The cover got my attention with "the perfect post-Bond spy...move over, Jason Bourne" along with some reviews comparing this to John le CarrĂ©'s style.  Find out if I felt this novel and its spy live up to the hype.

Author: Jon Stock

Copyright: March 2012 (Thomas Dunne Books) 384 pgs

Series: 2nd in Daniel Marchant Thriller

Sensuality: mild, some adult references and innuendo

Mystery Sub-genre: Thriller

Main Characters: Daniel Marchant, British MI6 Agent

Setting: Modern day, London and Marrakesh

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review

Daniel Marchant is undercover in Marrakesh to get a lead on Salim Dhar, who is the world's most wanted terrorist since he narrowly missed killing the U.S. president.   the CIA is under pressure to hunt Salim  down and they don't like Marchant on the case.  Daniel Marchant, is a half brother of Salim and has the best chance of connecting with him, and maybe recruiting him to work for British intelligence.

It seems that Salim has partnering with Soviet intelligence to strike a blow against the West.  In order to discover the truth, Marchant must allow himself to be recruited by Moscow with a promise of getting time with Salim. It's a role that will require him to play up his late father as traitor, an allegation that he fought long and hard to contradict. But now he must revive those old rumors and play a game of double or even triple crosses.

Daniel Marchant is an anti-hero who is conflicted with his family legacy.  Although his father was Chief of MI6, he was widely suspected of being a KGB spy, and Daniel's recently discovered muslim half-brother from his father's affair is a terrorist.  As a main character I had a hard time relating to him on even a basic level.  For a spy he seemed to be stumbling through the entire story and I just didn't like him much.  Daniel's boss is MI6 chief Marcus Fielding, a cold and calculating puppet-master trying to put Britain on top of the spy game at any cost.  James Spiro, CIA Head of Clandestine Operations in Europe is a grade "A" donkey's behind and at times the U.S. has a less than pristine reputation because of Spiro.  Apparently, Spiro was behind a kidnapping and water-boarding of Daniel in the previous book.  One of Spiro's agents, Lakshmi Meena, is sent to Marrakesh to follow Daniel.  Lakshmi could have been a great character but ended up just being a pawn of the men in charge.  Her sole existence in the story is to be said pawn and doesn't seem to really have any meaning of her own.

The best setting descriptions are in Marrakesh and the surrounding Atlas Mountains.  The low tech method of communication Salim Dhar uses is the Berber storytellers, and this really helped in also bringing the location to life.  Even the Atlas Mountains seemed rich, but the British locales seemed flat in comparison.

The plot is not too far of a reach, but I would not classify it as a thriller (intrigue and suspense maybe).  It relies heavily on the unknown.  Was Daniel's father really a KGB spy rather than a strategic conduit for low level intel in exchange for a fat-cat KGB spy feeding Britain intel?  Can Daniel turn Salim Dhar, or will Salim turn Daniel in the end?  It was slow in several spots and it wasn't until the last third of the book that things started to keep my attention.  

The climax had some tense moments making it suspenseful.  The wrap-up was a bit abrupt but paves the way for more spy games with Daniel and his half brother still in the game.  And as I have stated, Lakshmi is a convenient pawn, even in the wrap-up.

It is a good suspenseful espionage novel that utilizes the rivalry between British and American intelligence agencies well, but I don't agree with the comparisons to Jason Bourne or John le CarrĂ©'s style.  

Ratings:  Good - A fun read with some flaws. Maybe read an excerpt before buying.

Bookmark and Share

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Review - Deadly Politics

Maggie Sefton is the New York Times bestselling author of Knitting Mystery series (Berkeley Prime Crime). Her debut knitting mystery, Knit One, Kill Two, was named an Agatha Award finalist in 2005.  But Maggie has ventured into political suspense with a new series set in the treacherous waters of Washington D.C.  Let's take a look at the debut novel.

Author: Maggie Sefton

Copyright: August 2012 (Midnight Ink) 288 pgs

Series: 1st in Molly Mallone series

Sensuality: n/a

Mystery Sub-genre: Political Suspense

Main Characters: Molly Mallone, former Senator's daughter, and a late Senator's widow

Setting: Modern day, Washington DC

Obtained Through: Publisher for an honest review

Ever since her late husband went through the emotional turmoil of D.C. that may have caused his death, Molly Mallone is jaded when it comes to Washington politics.  Molly has moved back to D.C. out of necessity -- believing that she had a job in construction accounting.  The job falls through within minutes of her landing in town.  But her niece Karen Grayson works for Congressman Jackson and knows a Senator who needs an accountant.  Before Molly can catch her breath, John Russell -- the new Independent Senator from Colorado, and Peter Brewster is his chief of staff have hired Molly. 

Karen confides in Molly that she has had an affair with Congressman Jackson's chief of staff, Jed Molinoff.  Karen is killed within hours of having a fight with Jed over breaking off the affair.  Molly was to ride home with Karen and discovers her shot in her car.  A work associate from Jackson's office, Celeste Allard, contacts Molly with suspicions about Jed's searching Karen's desk and computer plus other actions.  Molly gathers clues with Karen's Day-timer, computer files, and emails with Celeste's aid.  Some entries point to a political think tank that influences policy making in finance arenas.  Molly is reunited with former friends and allies in the political scene that help her through her grieving, and give intel as she asks questions.  In the midst of all this, Molly also reconnects with an old high school boyfriend, Danny DiMateo, who is retired from the military now. 

There are sections told from a shadowy figure who  seems to be behind Karen's murder, who even keeps track of Celeste and what she knows.  There are no clues who this shadowy person manipulating events behind the scenes is throughout the story, even at the end. Clearly setting up this theme to continue into the next book.

The personality of Molly is a bit flat, although there is potential to give her more depth.  I liked her okay, but with just a little more from the character I think I could have loved her.  Danny DiMateo, dubbed DD for Damned Dangerous by his military cohorts, is the old high school friend who seems to pick up where he left off all those years ago with Molly.  Samantha Suffolk is another old friend of Molly's who had married an older Senator who passed away, now she leads a bit of a scandalous life.  I look forward to more of her in the next book as she could really be a key character adding lots of flavor.  Eleanor MacKenzie is a formidable woman in Washington social circles who considers Molly a protegee.  Eleanor is another I would like to see more of. Celeste Allard is a friend you want on your side.  I like her character's bravery.

The Washington locale is utilized, but without any real evocative touches.  The restaurants seem to be the most visceral of the setting.  The story moved a little slowly getting started. Plus, obvious keys to Karen's death are never seriously considered after being uncovered.  The author can't have just forgotten about them, so I am betting these will become more important in the next book.  This strategy has its drawbacks because it leaves the book feeling open ended and the reader frustrated without any sense of completion on any level.

I appreciate the premise of this new series taking advantage of the brutal high stakes of politics and the schmoozing while stabbing allies and enemies in the back atmosphere.  I also like the puppet-master behind legislation who is somehow involved in Karen's death.  But the ending could have been handled better and still setup the next book.  Give me some more depth to Molly and I could really be a fan of her.

Rating: Good - A fun read with minor flaws that has potential and room to improve.

Here is a short video of Maggie Sefton discussing her writing and this new series.

Bookmark and Share

Friday, July 5, 2013

Review - Woof at the Door

This is a debut novel...from a debut author as well.  She grew up on a Costa Rican coffee farm and at one point was a volunteer at a zoo, helping out with everything from “waste management” to teaching an elephant how to paint.  I am sure her animal experience helps in writing this exciting new series.  

Author: Laura Morrigan

Copyright: July 2013 (Berkley) 304 pgs

Series: 1st in A Call of the Wilde Mysteries

Sensuality: n/a

Mystery Sub-genre: Amateur Sleuth

Main Characters: Grace Wilde, Animal behaviorist who speaks with animals telepathically

Setting: Modern day, Jacksonville Florida

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review

When she’s not helping out at the zoo by comforting agitated lemurs, she’s listening to the woes of annoyed house pets. Grace Wilde's family all know about her ability to psychically communicate with animals, but otherwise she doesn't share how she does the amazing with wild and domestic animals. She is at the zoo getting a paniced lemur that escaped its enclosure off her head and back in its place, when she gets called by the police.  There is a murder of the a high profile football player for the Jacksonville Jaguars and son to the Governor and his Doberman Jax is the only witness to the murder.  Grace is called in because the Doberman is acting out and aggressive...until Grace gets there and he rolls over.  Grace takes him into her care to help him through his trauma.  But the real problem is how will Grace tell the cop that it’s Jax who shares what happened without sounding crazy? So Grace follows the Doberman's sketchy memories to track down the killer.  The main suspect is another football player, LaBryce Walker, that Grace knows because she has trained his real-live Jaguar named Charm.  Grace is positive that he did not kill his friend, no matter if they had an argument.

I really enjoyed the main character, Grace Wilde. She handles the animal communication much better than interactions with people.  She was burned before when attempting to tell a boyfriend about her skill so she is very reluctant to tell anybody outside her family and life-long close friend Wes.  This case has her rethinking that plan.  The romantic interest is... yep - a cop, Sergeant Kai Duncan.  He is supposed to be a crime scene unit member, but he seemed more like a regular cop in the course of the story.  This was perhaps the rough spot since every amateur sleuth seems to date a cop anymore.  Kai is at least an interesting cop, but is far too distracted by Grace.  Grace's sister Emma is a party planner handling high society of the area.  I think she is the surprise stand out character.  I enjoyed their close relationship and Emma's shrewd insights. I am looking forward to more of Emma in the following novels.  Grace's best friend, Wes only made a short appearance, but his character has lots of potential as well.  Last but not least is Grace's closest buddy, Moss, her half wolf companion.  I loved Moss who is a devoted wolf/dog pet.

The setting in Jacksonville was highlighted with nice beach scenes occasionally and some posh mansions.  But otherwise it is just backdrop.  The plotting had some good twists and kept me turning the pages.  I had my suspicions on who-donit, but I was surprised by a few of the turns the story took.  The climax got the blood pumping - my favorite. The wrap-up helped set up the next novel nicely.

This debut novel is actually one of the best involving communicating with animals I have read.  Not too cutesy, it is a smidgen more than a cozy with an interesting main character that has some brains.  This series is off to a good start.

Ratings:  Excellent - Loved it! Buy it now and put this author on your watch list

Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Mystery & Crime Fiction Blog Carnival - June 2013

It is the first Monday of the month - time for another highly anticipated Blog Carnival. 

Please help the newsletter for the blog carnival to get more subscribers.  If a blog reviews mystery/suspense/thrillers (even occasionally) then I would like to feature those reviews.  I send the newsletter out once a month announcing the deadline for submitting to this blog carnival.  Multiple entries from a blog are welcome.

Subscribe to our carnival reminder mailing list

Now on to this month's blog carnival.  Click on the title or author's name to go to that link.

Police Procedural / PI Book Review / Legal

Booking Mama reviewed Game by Barry Lyga

Booking Mama reviewed Loyalty Ingrid Thoft

Amateur Sleuth / Cozy book Review

Mysteries and My Musings reviewed The Christie Curse by Victoria Abbot

A Date with a Book reviewed Death in Daytime by Eileen Davidson

Mysteries and My Musings reviewed Peril in Paperback by Kate Carlisle

A Date with a Book reviewed Scent to Her Grave by India Ink

A Date with a Book reviewed Grace Under Pressure by Julie Hyzy

Carstairs Considers reviewed Mr. Monk Helps Himself by Hy Conrad (Monk Novels #16), saying, "Monk and Natalie's new partnership might be in trouble when they fixate on two different cases."

Amanda's Writing Cozy Mysteries reviewed Death of a Kitchen Diva by Lee Hollis

 Carstairs Considers reviewed The Wig in the Window by Kristen Kittscher saying, "This middle grade mystery is the start of a new series. I loved it and hope it takes off. Find out why."

Carstairs Considers reviewed Revenge on Route 66 by Kris Neri (Tracy Eaton #4) saying, "This funny road trip takes a detour when a family friend is murdered not long after Tracy pulls into a small New Mexico town."

Thriller/Suspense Fiction Book Review

Mysteries and My Musings reviewed The Hit by David Baldacci

Carstairs Considers reviewed The Texas Twist by John Vorhaus (Radar Hoverlander #3), saying, "Conman Radar Hoverlander tries to help a new neighbor, but he soon begins to suspect she is not the innocent victim she first appeared."

Mysteries and My Musings reviewed the historical suspense novel The Paris Affair by Teresa Grant

Booking Mama reviewed A Case of Redemption by Adam Mitzner

Mark Donovan presents Nano Surveillance Book Press Release posted at HomeAdditionPlus, saying, “Nano Surveillance” is a technical thriller that offers a frightening glimpse into the possible future of public surveillance using nanotechnology."

Booking Mama reviewed Until She Comes Home by Lori Roy

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

A huge "Thank You" to all the wonderful bloggers out there who contributed to the carnival.  Keep them coming.

 Let's make next month's Carnival even better. For more information on the specifics of the Carnival and how to submit your posts go here.

Submit your blog entry for next month's Carnival here: (

Spread the word far and wide!!!

Post a widget on your blog for this carnival here (

Bookmark and Share

Related Posts with Thumbnails