Play Dead

Author: Ted Dekker

Publisher: Scripturo Publishing

Release Date: April 23, 2021

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Play Dead is classic Ted Dekker! Fans of his work will love his newest thriller and get lost in the pages as so often happens with a Dekker novel.

Play Dead takes place in the near future where technology and virtual reality have taken over the world, making it difficult to tell what is real and what is virtual. Angie Channing is an author known for her work dealing with Virtual Reality programs and the dangers they can pose to everyone. What no one knows, is Angie is a closet “Dead Head,” and has been deep diving into the world of Virtual Reality for a very long time. After two Austin teens are brutally murdered, Angie gets a letter from one of them two days later saying they have information that is very sensitive and she knows she has to get involved in the case. Her husband is a lawyer and together they set out to prove the innocence of Jamie, the young man arrested for the murders. So much more is at stake than just the murders and Angie will have to dive deeper into the world of VR than ever before to get to the bottom of he real problem and help save them all.

When Ted Dekker is involved, you fall into one of two categories: you love his writing or you don’t. There really is no in between. I have been a Dekker fan for over a decade. His writing is really like no one else. There should be a genre just for him, it’s not suspense, it’s not romance or thriller, its Dekker! It has been a long time since we have had a true Dekker suspense novel and this one is classic Dekker. What that means is you are getting a top-notch thriller with a deep message about Virtual Reality, what awaits us in this life and the afterlife, and maybe even a little more. It is not a story you can skip through and casually read, this is a book that needs to be read slowly and absorbed deeply. A lot of what happens within Play Dead reminds me of the Circle series. To me, most of Ted Dekker books are the same in certain ways, which is a good thing and a bad thing. It makes some of the writing predictable, same story, different characters, but readers also get a new way of looking at things. I always love a new Dekker novel because it is a perfect escape from reality, just like what he is talking about in the pages of Play Dead with the virtual reality and how it affects people in so many ways. We use these escapes in books and VR to give us pleasure and satisfaction we otherwise are missing. So, if you are looking for a great story with a deep meaning you can ponder on long after the story is finished then Dive Deep with Play Dead and enjoy the thrill!

Her Last Holiday

Author: C. L. Taylor

Publisher: Avon Publishers

Release Date: April 27, 2021

Rating: 4 out of 5.

A complex thriller with a killer twist and characters that have all the right moves at all the right times!

It has been two years since Fran’s sister, Jenna, disappeared after attending a wellness retreat. The family hasn’t been close for a while, but they still want to know what happened to Jenna. Tom Wade, the founder of Soul Shrink Retreats, the same retreat Jenna disappeared on, has just been released from prison after serving a sentence for the deaths of two others that died on the same retreat as Jenna. Tom sets up another retreat and Fran decides the only way to get answers about what happened to her sister is to confront one of the last people to see her alive. The longer she is at the retreat the more questions Fran has and the more she fears she might end up just like Jenna.

This was my first C.L. Taylor book and I am torn as falls in the middle of the pack of what I’ve read this year. It is well written and has lots of great twists and turns. Readers will need to be aware that this is not set in America and some of the lingo and characters might be confusing at times. With that aside, I will say that the suspense and tension of the novel was spot on. So many times, I was really concerned for what might have happened to Jenna or was about to happen to one of the other characters that I couldn’t put the book down. Lots of language and mature themes throughout which was a turn off for me at points. I’m not saying I can’t handle a book with language and mature themes, but it must be done in such a way that helps the story and doesn’t take me out of it. Fran is a good bit older than Jenna and that makes their relationship tense at times but also gives her the big sister drive of wanting to know what happened to her sister and make sure it doesn’t happen to anyone else again. There is a lot of back and forth between timelines and different characters point of views. The different point of views helps give the story a wider range making it easier to follow. A few errors in the writing that wasn’t consistent throughout that bugged me but that was more towards the end of the novel. Readers that enjoy a good thriller and don’t mind a little language will enjoy this one.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

The Paris Betrayal

Author: James R. Hannibal

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: May 4, 2021

Rating: 5 out of 5.

A fast action, spy thriller that had me hooked and my heart racing until the final chapter!

Ben Calix has his world turned upside down after his latest mission with the Company goes wrong. For many years, Ben has been lived and breathed the world of being a spy, and now, everything he has ever known is falling apart around him and his life is in more danger than ever before. The French SWAT is coming for him and Ben is now branded a traitor by his Company and on the run with a woman he barely knows, help from a sniper who tried to kill him, a medic who has saved him over and over, and others he only hopes he can trust. His mission now is to stop a bioweapon from being unleashed and prove he is no traitor.

The first James Hannibal books I read were good but still left me scratching my head with questions about the story. The Paris Betrayal is fast paced action with a much more satisfying feeling. The first ten chapters or so left me a little confused and wondering what was happening, but after that, the story kept a nice pace and was easy to follow. By the final few chapters, I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough to find out what was going to happen.

Ben had complicated relationships and that only made him more relatable to me. I enjoyed watching his journey unfold and the way he went about solving each new problem set before him. His interactions with others, whether they were on his side or against him, played out nicely, especially when you thought he was at the end of his rope. The end of the story unfolded more is to come and I can’t wait to see what else is in store for us with The Company and Ben Calix. Hopefully, Clara, Tess and more will be back to help him with is next mission. I recommend this book to anyone that loves a good spy thriller that is clean with lots of action, a little bit of romance, and a whole lot more to enjoy.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

In Her Tracks

Author: Robert Dugoni

Series: Tracy Crosswhite #8

Publisher: Thomas & Mercer

Release Date: April 20, 2021

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Robert Dugoni is at his finest when writing a Tracy Crosswhite novel! The newest addition in this fantastic series comes close to the first installment in terms of being my favorite! Fans of the series, and thrillers in general, will not want to miss this one!

Tracy Crosswhite is returning to work after an extended leave in her hometown of Cedar Grove and now finds her spot with the A team gone as she is reassigned to the cold case unit. With her young daughter at home, Tracy considers the new assignment a good fit with less hectic hours and a chance to solve some of the cases others have forgotten about. Her first case is an abduction of a five-year-old girl whose parents, going through a bitter divorce, are the prime suspects. The case is five years old and Tracy is ready to give it fresh eyes and see if she can find the clues that have evaded everyone else. Along with her cold case, Tracy ends up helping her old partner, Kinsington Rowe, with the investigation into a missing young woman. The search leads them to others missing and Tracy has flashbacks to the case that made her chose the path she has been on for over twenty years: her sister’s disappearance and murder. Tracy must follow her instincts to try and solve the case and not lose herself in the process.

Tracy Crosswhite is one of my very favorite series and favorite characters. I absolutely love the way Dugoni has crafted the character of Tracy and every one of the supporting characters. In Her Tracks is a fantastic new addition to the series as I found myself drawn to the cases Tracy was investigating. With her now being a mother, she has a new and different connection to the cases she works.  Of course, there is still the wonderful dynamic between her and Kinsington and the tension between her and their boss, Johnny Nolasco, which drives the story even deeper into the readers hearts. Dugoni is one of the very best when it comes to writing suspense; he has found a way to craft a story that pulls readers in and makes it hard to do anything but finish the story. That’s what always happens with a Robert Dugoni book, you pick it up and you are transported to the world of his imagination and it is a fabulous get away of fictional delight.

I recommend this book to anyone that loves suspense, action, drama, and so much more. If you haven’t read any of the previous Crosswhite books, you can still enjoy this one but not as much as if you start with the beginning of the series and see it all the way through.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Black Coral

Author: Andrew Mayne

Series: Underwater Investigation Unit #2

Publisher: Thomas & Mercer

Release Date: February 16, 2021

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The second book in the Underwater Investigative Unit series heats up with a fantastic opening, simmers a little in the middle to allow readers to catch their breath, and then concludes with a satisfying boil to make a tasty and delicious read.

Sloan McPherson has once again used her diving skills to help in an investigation and found more than she bargained for. At the bottom of a Florida pond, Sloan finds a van with four bodies inside that disappeared almost thirty years ago. Everyone involved in the investigation believe it was just a tragic accident, but Sloan sees something more and is convinced it was murder. More and more evidence surfaces linking more and more cold cases to the van. Sloan and her unit work to find the predator that has been on the lose for years and their investigation might have just reawakened the dormant monster more dangerous than any they have faced yet.

Black Coral had one of the best opening chapters I have read in a good long while. The suspense and tension were so thick I caught myself holding my breath at several moments. The middle fizzled a little bit with a slower pace, but the end was a satisfying conclusion that left me ready for more from the UIU. Sloan is a great and intense female protagonist and it was nice to see her tackle the hard jobs and moments and not let the men tell her she couldn’t handle it. Her relationship with her daughter brings a relatable element to her as a character and makes her not so stiff as when she is on the case. Most of the characters from the first book are back, and a few new ones to spice things up, make for a fun and mostly enjoyable read. There is a fair amount of language so it is not recommended for younger readers, but I do recommend for fans of suspense thrillers. 

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Network of Deceit

Author: Tom Threadgill

Series: Amara Alvarez #2

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: February 2, 2021

Rating: 5 out of 5.

A top-notch thriller with fantastic characters that pull at the heartstrings and keep you cheering them on until the very last page.

Amara Alvarez made headlines after rescuing nearly fifty kidnapped children and is finally getting what she wants, a chance to work in San Antonio’s Homicide Division. With her first case, she is almost in over her head when a teenager dies suspiciously at a local water park. As the investigation picks up speed, Amara finds herself in the middle of the danger by cybercriminals who know her every move. Her leads are few and far between and those above her are threatening to move her investigation to cold case files. Amara resorts to unconventional methods to solve the case and prove herself to those who say she doesn’t belong in Homicide wrong.

The second installment in the Amara Alvarez series starts with a bang and doesn’t let up. This is my kind of suspense novel, a top-notch strong female protagonist that will stop at nothing to do her job and prove others wrong. Amara is a wonderful female protagonist that I love to follow and cheer her on during her journey. Each new chapter led to a new adventure and tension that kept me glued to the page. The family dynamic really helps the story tremendously by making her and so many of the characters more relatable. The story flowed well, and each new twist worked great (especially the one at the very end, made the story ten times better, and it was believable!!) When an author can put an amazing believable twist like this at the end of a book it is something to be celebrated, not a lot of authors are able to write like this.

Amara has a tough time with those she works with but doesn’t let it deter her from accomplishing her goals and helping others and solving crimes. Tom Threadgill is quickly becoming one of my new favorite authors, not much about his writing that I don’t enjoy. Even though this is the second in the series, readers won’t have to read the first to enjoy this one. I recommend this to readers that enjoy a fantastic suspense novel that will leave them smiling after turning the last page.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

A Stranger at the Door

Author: Jason Pinter

Series: Rachel Marin Thriller #2

Publisher: Thomas and Mercer

Release Date: January 12, 2021

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Far better than the first in the series! Readers will not want to miss this spectacular thriller!

It has taken a long time for Rachel Marin to get to a good place. After years of hardships and very difficult situations, she is finally happy adapting to life as a single mom and working alongside the local police department. When one of her son’s teachers is murdered and she is called into help on the case, her perfect little world starts to crumble. After the investigation begins, she discovers an email the teacher sent to her shortly before he was killed. As she is working with the department to find those responsible, an old friend she never expected to see again shows up in her life and threatens to reveal all she knows of Rachel’s past. While she is trying to help determine who murdered her son’s teacher, he is being recruited by someone looking to use her son to keep her in line if she gets too close to discover the truth.

As I picked up this book to start reading it, I thought about the first in the series, Hide Away. It was good, but not that memorable and nothing I planned to really read again. So with that in mind, I decided to give the author another shot and I am sure glad I did. I flew through the pages of this story and loved every minute of it. I had such a connection to the characters and was pulled in quickly. The way Pinter used Rachel being a mother and willing to do whatever it took to protect her family coupled with the antagonists using her son against her was so beautifully written. As a mom, I was drawn into the story by this and couldn’t put it down. The plot was great, characters were engaging, and it is an overall great thriller.

For me, one of the best aspects was the last fifty or so pages, the way the story wrapped up played out exactly as it should, nothing felt forced or unbelievable. The characters had a very natural way of talking and reacting to whatever situation they encountered. Really, there isn’t much negative I can say about this other than I’m sad it’s over, I could have been happy reading more and more. Hopefully there will be another in the series coming out and another after that. There is some harsh language, violence, and sexual content that makes it for mature audiences only. With that being said I would recommend to those that enjoy a fast-paced thriller and a long weekend with nothing to do but sit and read. I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Bone Canyon

Author: Lee Goldberg

Series: Eve Ronin #2

Publisher: Thomas and Mercer

Release Date: January 5, 2020

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Smart and cunning homicide detective Eve Ronin is back to solve another case and this one puts her up against the most dangerous odds she has faced!

Dealing with the aftermath of wildfires in the Santa Monica Mountains, homicide detective Eve Ronin and her partner are called when the remains of a woman are found. Eve is the youngest homicide detective in the Los Angeles county Sheriff’s Department and not many are happy with the way she got her position. Eve doesn’t let anyone’s opinion deter her from doing her job and solving the crimes in front of her. The remains turn out to be from a missing person case from over six years ago and each turn in the new case exposes more horrors and more bodies. Eve is now up against the most dangerous odds she has faced and isn’t sure who she can trust.

This is the second installment in the Eve Ronin series and am finding myself more and more in love with this character. She reminds me of Tracy Crosswhite by Robert Dugoni, and that’s a big comparison since that is my favorite series by one of my very favorite authors. More and more male authors are writing lead female detectives and doing a bang-up job of it. Eve is a tough, gritty and determined detective that isn’t afraid to do the hard things to solve a case. Even though she is up against a department that isn’t for her, she knows she is where she belongs and is willing to do what it takes to prove herself. I loved the way she took whatever is thrown at her and get right back up, but also doesn’t pretend to be superhuman and show no pain. The times when she is with her partner and they banter back and forth were perfect, along with the investigation moments with the anthropologist, Daniel. Something about the way those two relationships were written really made the story flow well. I am still not a fan of Eve’s mom, she just annoys me, which I think that is the way she is supposed to be written so in that sense it is a job well done. There is a fair amount of language and sex throughout, none of it graphic, but enough to make me say it is for a mature audience only. I would recommend this to readers that enjoy a fun suspense thriller that will take no time to breeze through.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

2020 Top Suspense/Thriller

Another favorite genre of ours is suspense/thriller. Nothing like books that keep you up late at night trying to find out what is going to happen! There were several more fantastic authors this year that narrowing it down was almost impossible. Here are our top recommendations for the year!

Collision of Lies by TomThreadgill

Tom Threadgill is a fresh new voice in suspense writing. Collision of Lies started with a bang only to pick up speed and not stop until the final pages. Readers that love to see a book play out in their minds will find this a welcome addition to their shelf.

Read the full review.

A Cold Trail by Robert Dugoni

The top suspense/thriller list wouldn’t be complete with a new Tracy Crosswhite novel. As one of the best crime novelists in the market, Dugoni has crafted an awesome protagonist that readers can’t help but fall in love with as she moves across books. All seven books in this series are phenomenal and this is an excellent addition!

Read the full review.

Nine by Rachelle Dekker

This is the book we have been waiting for Rachelle Dekker to write: her own voice and her own story! We loved the story, the style and everything about it. The one thing we didn’t love was not having enough time to sit and read it all at once.

Read the full review.

The Jerusalem Assassin by Joel C. Rosenberg

This has become one of our favorite series by Rosenberg.  Each series has a unique set of characters with a very flawed protagonist who takes on multiple antagonists across several books.  This particular book focused on development of the main character, Marcus Ryker, and strengthening his faith. We can’t wait for the next book!

Read the full review.

Hide Away by Jason Pinter

The action, drama and suspense were all top notch and exactly what a great suspense thriller is all about. It takes a very talented writer to be able to craft out a story that ties everything together so well and is also entertaining.

Read the full review.

Fractured Tide

Author: Leslie Lutz

Publisher: Blink YA Fiction

Release Date: May 5, 2020

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Not at all what I expected, but in the best of ways! Leslie Lutz has crafted a fun, chilling and engaging tale that will leave readers glued to the edge of their seats.

After her father is sent to prison, Sia ends up helping her mother run their scuba diving tours business. Still a teenager, she has taken on more responsibility than most her age. Together they go out and explore the reef and find secrets in sunken crafts. On their latest dive things don’t go as planned, a mysterious creature emerges from the deep, their boat sinks and Sia washes up on the shore of a deserted island with even more mystery. When she finds the other survivors from the boat, it is the first good sign since they started out that morning. The island isn’t what it seems and Sia’s best hope for finding answers are at the center of the island where the most danger is also. With their last hope fading and Sia looking to save herself and the others, they make their way through the jungle to hopefully find a way off the island and back to their families.

This was unlike any book I have read in a long time. The science fiction element to it was interesting and kept the story flowing quickly and fluidly. Writing this from Sia’s diary was interesting and unique. For a little while I wasn’t sure what to think of all that Sia was being put through. Even at the end, I had to scratch my head at the way it all played out. Without giving anything away, I will say I am still satisfied with the ending even with the questions I have. That’s a rare combination, to be satisfied and still have questions, not something that happens often and only a very talented author can do that with their writing and please the reader. Sia’s relationship with each of the other characters is what made the story work. She is a great protagonist and the story wouldn’t be the same with anyone else in that role, but I really liked the interactions with Sia and Sarah, their relationship was real and genuine. There weren’t any fake niceties between the two of them and every aspect of why they acted the way they did towards each other made perfect sense with the story. I love when a story unfolds as it should and nothing feels forced.  I would recommend this book to readers that enjoy a well-crafted science fiction thriller that will give you goose bumps and knowing the next book you pick up won’t be near as good.