thriller


The first book in the Fatal duology. Part of the action/adventure bundle I bought from Storybundle in 2015.
It’s a modern-day thriller/mystery.

Publication year: 2011
Format: ebook
Publisher: Reprobatio ltd.
Page count: 345 at Adobe Digital Editions

Another country, Myanmar in this case, is counterfeiting American hundred dollar bills. Unfortunately for them, someone on the inside decides to take their own cut and takes a million of the counterfeit dollars to US and buys some valuable antiques with them. The fakes are so good that they get through an airport currency exchange office. When the Myanmar finance minister realizes what has happened, he sends a pair of very efficient killers on the trail of the money to get it back.

Tess is a former computer programmer who didn’t like working with tight deadlines in a cubicle at all. So, now she’s a bike messenger for Red Caps, in New York. She loves the freedom at her work, has casual sex with musician Nick, and doesn’t worry about tomorrow. However, someone starts to murder female bike messengers in a very gruesome way and she becomes unwittingly embroiled in the counterfeiting scheme and becomes a target twice over.

Ron Stanford is a detective in the NYPD, specializing in serial killers. He starts to investigate the gruesome murders of the bike messengers and is immediately attracted to Tess. But he puts his feelings aside and concentrated on the murderer who kills more and more quickly. He also consults on other strange murders which seem to be the work of a professional or a pair of professionals.

Despite how different these two storylines are, they work together surprisingly well. However, since the plots are joined only but a couple of characters, that means that the cast of characters is quite large. There are many, many viewpoint characters, including the serial killer and the two Asian killers. However, I had no trouble following the stories or the characters. Only one other POV character besides Tess is a woman and she’s seen very briefly.

Tess is an interesting character for the most part, despite being drop-dead gorgeous, like very many female characters tend to be. She’s living day-to-day, enjoying her life and not worrying much about anything else. In contrast, Ron has been through a recent divorce and is a career cop. Their courtship was thankfully very understated.

The book has quite graphic torture scenes, enough so that I skipped over most of them. The thoughts of the killer are also quite disturbing, which they should be. Then ending was perhaps a bit too easy and while the romance was understated it still managed to get some jealousy scenes. Also, the reason why the serial killer killed is left quite vague.

The scenes are short and change quickly from character to character which keeps the pace quick.

Overall, this was a good read, delivering excitement, mystery, and some interesting characters.

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The second book in the alternate world thriller Roma Nova series. I strongly recommend reading the first book, Inceptio, first because the characters and their relationships are introduced there.

Publication year: 2013
Format: Audio
Running time: 11 and 54 minutes
Narrator: Caitlin Thorburn

Perfiditas starts seven years after the end of Inceptio. Karen Brown is now a Roma Nova citizen and has fully embraced her life as a member of the highly politically powerful Mitela family, as Carina Mitela. She’s also a captain in Roma Nova’s elite military force, the Praetorian Guard Special Forces (PGSF). She’s also married to Conrad(us) and they have three kids. Their life is complicated by the fact that Conrad is Carina’s boss in work but otherwise as a member of the Mitela family, Carina is Conrad’s social superior. Conrad has also other children from his previous union with none other than the Imperatrix herself.

Someone shows Carina’s emergency token to the Guard and when Carina hurries to meet her, for her surprise she finds out Mossia who is extremely worried about an employee, Aidan, whom she’s also been sleeping with. Aidan has apparently left her leaving behind a strange note. Both Mossia and Aidan are behaving very strangely, and Carina starts to investigate Aidan. The clue leads her on the trail of a plot to overthrow the Nova Roman way of life. Meanwhile, Conrad has just been promoted to legate and the boss of the whole PGSF. This makes him a target for the conspirators, too.

Most of the book centers on a plot to overthrow the matriarchal leaders of the Roma Nova. They also threaten the Imperatrix’s and Conrad’s children. A couple of PGSF members are apparently part of the plot: one tries to stab Carina and another frames her. Carina realizes that she has far better chance of catching the plotters when she returns to her previous role as an underworld figure Pulcheria. Unfortunately, she doesn’t know whom she can trust so she doesn’t tell anyone at the PGSF. From the guards’ point-of-view, she has really turned traitor and while some of the criminal contacts still trust her, some are very suspicious.

The end of the book deals with the aftermath of Carina’s decisions. They threaten not only her career and professional relationships but her marriage and her family, as well.

The bad guys are frustrated because they’re denied political influence because of the gender and have decided to take over. However, the majority of the male characters in the book don’t feel that way, thankfully. This was a nice reversal of the trope of an entire gender rising up against the other. The plot is mostly fast paced with schemes and counterschemes following each other very quickly. In fact, I found them a bit confusing although that could be because I listened an audio book and didn’t concentrate on it fully. Politics also play a big part.

I was disappointed with Conrad. I expected him to trust Carina and support her fully. Instead, he’s suspicious of her motives and character. Indeed, it felt to me that he doesn’t really know her even after seven years together. At times, it felt to me that he (and some other officers) were more concerned with following regulations than getting the bad guys. In fact, Carina’s long-time friend Flavius (who was part of the same criminal organization as Pulcheria and now is also a PGSF officer) was the one who supported and helped Carina fully. He accompanied her back to the criminal world and faces the same charges as her. This actually perfectly fits their characters in the first book and creates more tension to Carina’s life, so I understand why Morton chose to write that.

Carina herself is an excellent character and action heroine. She’s smart and flexible in her thinking and isn’t afraid to bend the rules and take chances when needed. This is something that Conrad doesn’t do well and can sour their relationship.

Still, this was a very good continuation to the series and I’m definitely reading the next book, Successio.

A military thriller set in the near future.

Publication year: 2017
Format: ebook
Publisher: Lulu Publishing Services
Page count: 442 in GoodReads

Sarah Dharmawan is a highly competent police officer in the Indonesia police and also a member of Densus-88, Indonesia’s special forces counter-terrorism squad. She comes from a family of military officers.

At the start of the story Sarah is assigned to Britain to help bring down one of the largest drug Cartels in the world. There’s evidence that the Cartel has a drug lab in Indonesia even though it’s headed by Irish and British people. Sarah joins a group of people who come from all sorts of British and Irish police and military branches. They’re all used to working in secret and are highly competent and skilled. But their enemies are equally formidable.

The Cartel is made up of former soldiers, some of them even special forces soldiers. They also have one member who loves torturing men and women. A short time ago, they kidnapped one of the anti-terrorist group members and tortured her to death. They’re also not against killing or maiming innocent people to get what they want. Their favorite tactic is to snatch someone and torture them for information (or for fun…). That means that Sarah and her colleagues must be always vigilant and ready to defend themselves at all times.

But life isn’t just work for Sarah. Among her new colleagues is a man who both irritates and intrigues her.

The story is set in 2026 but I don’t think it has any actual science fiction elements. In 2020, Britain reduced the size of their armed forces a lot and that’s why many of the former soldiers have had to look employment elsewhere, including criminal circles.

Sarah is a highly competent action heroine. She’s proficient in firearms and unarmed combat and is in extremely good shape. She’s also a quick learner and a good leader. She speaks six languages and is extremely beautiful. She’s also a fitness model and men almost swoon when they see her. She’s always eager to learn new things and when she realizes that she’s made a mistake, she willingly admits it and learns better. As a policewoman she hates criminals and when she has to, she kills to defend herself and the people close to her. She’s ambitious and passionate at her work and is always working to excel at it. She’s also a mix-race character: her father is Indonesian and mother Spanish/English.

The book is written in present tense which heightens the tension, especially in combat scenes. It’s also written in third person omniscient point of view which felt a little strange at first to me. In this POV, the narrator can access any character’s thoughts and even give hints about what’s going to happen in the future. It’s not very common these days, so it was good to read something a bit different for a change. The vocabulary has a lot of military acronyms and British slang. Fortunately, there’s a glossary at the end.

The books stars with the bad guys torturing a woman to death. One of the bad guys really likes torture so there a couple of more torture scenes. The fights scenes are furious, and a lot of people get killed in this book. I was a bit surprised at first that Sarah’s colleagues execute their enemies after a fight, instead of getting them alive for questioning. But this book is really about war against drug dealers.

I really liked Sarah. She has a younger sister and older brother. I loved her relationship with them because very often action heroines are only children and even orphans. The other team members also grew on me quickly, as I love competent characters.

Some readers have said that the beginning is slow. It’s true that the first five chapters concentrate on setting the characters, the conflict, and the setting. However, this also means that when the fight scenes arrive, they’re furious and the stakes are high. I much more prefer that than reading a book where a fight scene (or any scene) is there just because a formula demanded it. When the fighting does start, the tension level doesn’t really ease off until the end. The book has also a very strong romantic element.

While the focus on tactics and guns certainly gave the book realism, I was sometimes a bit frustrated with them because I’m not a military person at all and it felt a bit too much. I also thought that the author, and the characters, focused a bit too much on Sarah’s looks. Otherwise, this was quite an enjoyable read with highly competent characters.

The first book in a modern thriller series about assassin Will Robie.

Publication year: 2012
Format: print
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Page count: 423

Will Robie is an assassin working for the US government. And not just any assassin, but the best they have. We see two of his jobs right at the start of the story. Both targets are vile men, one a drug lord in Mexico and another rich and powerful Saudi-Arabian prince who wants to return the whole world to Middle Ages, especially for women. In work, Robie is ruthless, meticulous, and utterly focused. In his civilian life, he’s alone and prefers that way because his job would make it extremely hard to maintain any relationships and they could be used against him. But an attractive young woman has moved next door and Robie is attracted to her. He’s also just turned 40 and is wondering how he can continue to do his physically very demanding job and what could he possibly do instead.

However, during the next jo, everything goes wrong. Robie is assigned to kill someone he thinks is a terrorist cell member right in D.C. But when he goes to her home he finds out that she’s a government employee and a single mother to two young children. In the end, he can’t kill her, but a back-up sniper does the job for him. Robie didn’t know about the back-up. He leaves the surviving baby with a neighbor and under alias boards a bus to New York. He knows that his former employers are now after him.

Meanwhile, Julie Getty is a 14-year old who is in and out of foster care because of her parents’ drug abuse habits. But now her mother has sent her a note that they’ll all go to New York and start a life together. Julie escapes from her foster parents, who also drug users and take kids in just for the money, and sneaks to home. But she returns only to see her parents killed by a strange man. Julie runs and boards the bus going to New York. The same bus where Robie is.

Robie notices that a man tries to kill the girl and he stops it. They get off the bus and moments later it explodes. What is going on and whom can they trust?

This was a quick, fast-paced read. The twists come quickly and make it impossible to know whom to trust. The bad guys seem to have infinite pockets and the ability to turn even trusted government agents into enemies. The writing style is terse with little descriptions. The dialog, too, is quite trimmed down. This fits the story and make the mood tenser and keeps the reader turning pages.

Robie works with FBI agent Nicole Vance but has to constantly watch what he tells her. Vance is a great character: dedicated to her job and competent. Julie is quite mature for a teenager because she knows that her parents are struggling with drug-use, and she’s seen quite a lot of nasty things in the foster care system. She acts tough. She’s very focused on finding her parents’ killer, even going into danger to get them.

Baldacci touches on some serious real-life issues, such as US Army veteran treatments and homeless people.

This was pretty entertaining read and a nice change of pace.

The fourth Modesty Blaise adventure.

Publication year: 1969
Format: print
Page count: 288
Publisher: Souvenir Press

This time we start with Willie Garvin. He’s on a holiday at a remote island on Panama when he accidentally witnesses two men murdering one girl and kidnapping another. He’s too far away to stop the murder but he manages to rescue the other girl. He kills the two men and hides the girl. She turns out to be blind and she doesn’t know why they wanted to kidnap her. She’s Dinah Pilgrim and she’s smart, brave, and resourceful in her own way.

It turns out that the man behind the murder-kidnap is Gabriel who was the main villain in the very first Modesty Blaise book. And Gabriel knows our heroes and really wants them dead. However, Gabriel himself is working for someone even worse.

Meanwhile, Modesty is back in England, entertaining Stephen Collier. Sir Gerard Tarrant asks them to see an old friend of his who is worried that something strange in happening at an archeological dig at Alger. But that old friend turns out to be dead, supposedly broken neck from falling down stairs and when Willie calls for help, Modesty leaves to Panama. Of course, things escalate.

This is one of the best books in the series, full of action, humor, and the best secondary characters. Steve’s wry, self-deprecating humor is used to relieve tension and he’s a good POV character. Modesty and Willie are at the top of their game, having to rescue others and keep them alive.

There’s no character development for Modesty and Willie, but there isn’t any in the whole series.

A Modesty Blaise adventure.
Publication year: 1973
Publication year of the Finnish translation: 1997
Translator: Jussi Nousiainen
Format: print
Page count: 251
Publisher of the Finnish translation: Otava

Sir Gerald Tarrant is in France for a conference and is looking forward to spending a couple of days with Modesty afterwards. But on his way to Modesty, his car is stopped and his driver forces him out. A strange blond man, Mr. Sexton, and a couple of fake nuns kidnap him. They also fake Tarrant’s death. They could have gotten away with it, too, except that a former pilot, Henry Quinn, has been nearby hiking and fell the previous day. He hurt himself and couldn’t leave, so he witnesses most of it. But he has a concussion and passes out.

When Modesty is later searching the area, she finds Quinn and gets him to safety. This includes overcoming three thugs who had been sent to silence Quinn. Unfortunately, she doesn’t know what he knows and just leaves him to a hospital. Meanwhile, Willie’s girlfriend Lady Janet Gilliam has a problem: someone is blackmailing her sister. Willie and Modesty agree to look into her problem.

This is mostly a highly entertaining thriller. However, the main plot doesn’t kick in until around half-way when Modesty finds out that Sir Gerald is still alive. Personally, I liked the events leading up to it. But I didn’t like Quinn. Quite frankly, he was an asshole. When Modesty saves him (several times) that’s apparently too much for his male ego and he gets mad at her. This is apparently excused by some traumatic events he’s lived through before. Still, Modesty remains patient with him, almost saintly. Otherwise, I enjoyed the book a lot. I even enjoyed the plot twist which saddled Modesty and Willie with several people to protect. One of the best in the series so far. I’ve also read the story as a comic.

A Modesty Blaise adventure.

Publication year: 1971
Publication year of the Finnish translation: 1997
Format: print
Page count: 319
Translator: Jukka Kemppinen
Publisher of the Finnish translation: Otava

Modesty Blaise is flying on a rented airplane over Kalimba, in Central Africa, and crash lands. She gets help from a nearby village where a missionary couple and a doctor are staying. Doctor Giles Pennyfeather has a lot of patients because of a bus accident nearby. He has medical training but very little in resources so Modesty ends up staying and helping him. Giles is a kind, honest, and decent man but also clumsy in both relationships and when moving around, and Modesty ends up liking him quite a lot. He also has an uncanny ability to heal his patients.

Then the local police orders all westerners to leave. But before Giles and Modesty can go (on Modesty’s plane), two thugs attack Giles. Modesty manages to fight them off. It turns out that a short while ago, the missionaries found a white man who had been terribly tortured. The thugs are convinced that the man told something to Giles but Giles insists that he didn’t.

The thugs work for a ruthless crime boss called Brunel. He’s a very short man but emotionless and specializes in brainwashing people to work to him. And now he wants Modesty to work for him and Willie dead.

The story almost has a two parts: the first part is set in London after Giles and Modesty return there. Brunel has documents which are dangerous to Sir Gerald Tarrant and Modesty wants to retrieve them. I really enjoyed the first part which has some hilarious moments but the rest is a very good Modesty Blaise -yarn, too. It has some quirky secondary characters, appalling villains, and lots of excitement. One of the best in the series so far.

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