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Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Killing Hour by Paul Cleave - a review

It just wasn’t Charlie Felman’s day. Waking from a dream, in cold sweats surrounded by ghosts, he is relieved to know the worst is over until he discovers a large bump on his forehead and blood all over his clothes; blood that does not belong to him.

Seemingly on the run from Cyrus, a man who authorities are unable to locate any record of, Charlie has a dickens of a job convincing the police, and his ex-wife Jo, that he is not losing his marbles and that the bodies that keep showing up in his wake are Cyrus’ victims not his.

Forcibly kidnapping Jo, and stuffing her in the trunk of the car probably is not the easiest way to show his innocence however it is the only way he knows to keep her safe.

Inspector Landry has nothing to lose. His body racked with cancer, he only has a short time left on this earth. He doesn’t believe Charlie’s innocence and drags him into the woods meaning to take care of him vigilante-style. Not until Cyrus shows up, also trying to dispatch Charlie, does Landry realize the error he made and the focus switches to helping each other escape from the claws of the madmen in order that Christchurch’s latest serial killer can be bought to justice.

This is a recent US release of Cleave’s first novel and although it does not involve his trusty and true detective Theo Tate it does involve the Christchurch police force and so again Cleave has managed to link together his collection of works into a malleable group of thrill-a-minute novels that are not to be missed.

The Assassins Club by Dixon Rice - a review

Tyler Goode was just bartending, minding his own business in the flatlands of Montana. He served beer, broke up the occasional brawl, and attended classes at the local community college. He was ruggedly handsome and popular with the local ladies, so when he was attacked after hours by a brute of a man who Tyler had thrown out of the bar the night before, Tyler was ill-prepared for what came next.

Acting in self-defense and in a fight for his life, Tyler got in a lucky blow. With the man lying dead at his feet, Tyler realized that it actually felt great to have ridden the earth of this scourge of wickedness and was surprised at the good feelings this adrenaline rush provided.

Reading in the news about several criminal types who for one reason or another have gotten away with their crimes, Tyler decides to help them see the light and regenerate the rush he gets from killing. The police become aware of these vigilante-style killings and Tyler is always one step ahead of them until one fateful night when they come knocking at his door; however, when they tell him they know he’s doing it, but have no proof and want in on the action, the assassins club is born.

Rice, simultaneously, has a secondary story woven into the plot and it becomes apparent that eventually the two will become at cross purposes with each other. A ‘Jesus–pretender’ has gathered a crowd of followers and is literally dragging a cross across country, leaving a trail of death and destruction behind him, Manson-style. Just what his link is to his final destination, and to Tyler, is the mystery to be solved.

Rice has a written a cleverly compelling story that pulls the reader in knowing that final encounter will lead to the ultimate clash of good v. evil.


The Never List by Koethi Zan - a review

As young girls, from middle school to the preliminary years in college, Sarah and Jennifer were inseparable. Afraid of everything from earthquakes to rapists, they made up a series of rules. They called it the Never List. Until they unfortunately violated a basic rule, “never get in a car with strangers,” their lives were pretty straightforward.

When they realized that something about the cab ride was out of the ordinary, it was too late. For the next three years they, and two other girls, where imprisoned in the basement of a house, brutally tortured, raped, beaten, and starved. The opening lines of this novel sound chillingly real: “There were four of us down there… and then, very suddenly and without warning, there were three.”

With the three girls released and their captor, a former college professor, sitting in a jail cell, their lives could go on, but for Sarah it could never end there. Jennifer’s body was never found and she can’t move on until she brings closure to her situation. With the reluctant help from the other two girls that survived with her, they build a trail, going back into the past to move into the future. Their journey becomes a cross-country chase involving religious cults and BDSM dungeons, all leading back provokingly to her past jailer, a man who is about to be set free on probation unless the secret location of the missing body can be unraveled.

As witnesses step forward, you wonder how the police could have missed these clues in their original investigation. The three girls once again find themselves trapped in their original torture chamber and all the pieces fall into place, leaving the reader twisting in the wind as the startling ending jumps out from the darkest place with a loud BOO!

A fast-paced, don’t-dare-put-the-book-down read that will leave you cringing as your darkest fears emerge from the shadows as Zhan takes you to the places you never wanted to go.

The Dark Before Dawn by Laurie Stevens - a review

“The Dark Before Dawn” by Laurie Stevens

Gabriel McRay is a good cop, but when you have anger issues sometimes that is not enough to keep you on the job. After several incidents had been made public in the local newspaper, McRay had to seek the assistance of a psychologist and even then his superiors where ready to suspend him, until the serial killer they were tracking suddenly linked the reasons for the murders to an alleged past history between McRay and himself.

Like it or not, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department is suddenly dependent upon McRay looking into his past to figure out who is the killer. Unfortunately, the past is the last place McRay wants to go and it is only with the help of Dr. Berkowitz that he is able to dredge up recollections and visit the dark places he has blocked since his less than stellar childhood.

The killer is striking fast and furiously using the seven chakras, a bodies energy centers, as the clue to his mindless bloody disfigurements and the disposal of the bodies. Not for the faint of heart, this blood-curdling thriller kept me up at night. With so many potential suspects, including the protagonist himself, we are left grasping at straws to the final pages to discover the final clue that brings it all home for McRay as he is forced to confront the evil done to him as a child in order to discover the true murderer.

Stevens nicely weaves together a troubled mind of the protagonist, the tentative beginnings of a relationship between him and the medical examiner Dr. Ming Li, and the start to a new police procedural series.

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