You Beneath Your Skin – Book Review

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DB5Though this is Damyanti Biswas’s debut novel, it would be a mistake to give the impression of her being a new or ‘debut’ writer. In addition to this first book, Damyanti Biswas is a highly successful and respected blogger, and having read many of her posts and short/flash fiction pieces, one I have followed for many years and patiently waited in the hope she would someday write a full-length novel. Further information about the author and social media/contact links follow my review.

I can finally confirm my patience has been well-rewarded: My review of …

(click on Review heading for Goodreads link to review)

You Beneath Your Skin

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As rich in characterisation and atmosphere as any book I’ve EVER read …                    Simply Superb!

DB3The story centres around Anjali, an Indian woman with an American born mother and an autistic son, Nikhil, and Jatin, her married Delhi policeman and on/off lover. Nikhil and their personal lives aside, Anjali and Jatin are involved in the investigation of a new spate of serial murders, rapes, and vicious attacks on poor young women in Deli. Parallel to this, Anjali also volunteers in various other roles to help the poor and underprivileged of Delhi, especially the children. Set against the backdrop of their friends, colleagues, and relations, and all the social and cultural problems that beset Delhi, there are innumerable minor storylines, from tentative romance, drug dealing,  to family secrets and eventual revelations as brutal, horrific, and surprising as is possible to imagine

If one were to rely solely on the Amazon book description, a reader might be drawn into thinking the central premise of the book is a series of brutal attacks and murders of vulnerable women, and the subsequent efforts to bring those responsible to justice. Really though, ‘You Beneath Your Skin’ is so much more than a simple detective or police investigation; yes, the brutal attacks/murders, i.e. drugging women before raping/murdering them, and/or throwing acid in their faces form an integral part of the story, but it’s far from being what the book is really about. Whereas in a more, say, ‘traditional’ crime and murder story, such violence would be at its heart, perhaps for its shock value or to emphasise the need for a resolution to the crimes. In truth, the actual violence here is little more than a backdrop to the rich characterisation of everyone involved, and of the lives and society in which the multiple storylines take place; if anything, the real violence here, and indeed tragedy, is the fact that the murders and attacks are downplayed to some extent, a reflection of the equal or even greater horror that such acid attacks and the like are so commonplace they’ve become an accepted part of Indian culture/society in much the same way mass shootings in America or European terrorist attacks no longer shock or surprise us they way they once did. 

The writing is executed to perfection, with every character vividly brought to life through their likes and prejudices, their interactions with each other, their place in Indian society, and in way too many other subtle ways to mention in a single review. I was pleased to see the author in no way tried to pander or adapt her writing to accommodate the expectations of a western or European audience, which in my opinion makes for a better reading experience for anyone who reads this book. Having said that, some of the dialogue does, albeit only occasionally, switch to Hindi, which as a European reader, I obviously skimmed past. Also, it will take some readers a little while to get used to some of the Indian conventions of speech and dialogue, i.e. of people being addressed in different ways, and by different names/titles depending on the relationship between whose speaking (some parallels can be found in German, in the way you might address a child or someone you know personally or only a little).

It’s still difficult for me to appreciate this a debut novel rather than maybe the umpteenth from a well-established and best-selling author. As well as being a well-crafted tale of the most horrific crimes, their investigation, and a somewhat cynical conclusion, it’s also a brutally honest and illuminating look at and commentary on Indian society, both good and bad. Captivating, enthralling, and a real page-turner – a superb work of crime and social literature!

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Editorial & peer reviews:

DB4‘Biswas’s masterful You Beneath Your Skin is an intelligent page-turner that mixes a thrilling murder case with a profound psychological and sociological study of contemporary India.’ – David Corbett, award-winning author of The Art of Character

 ‘You Beneath Your Skin is a gripping tale of murder, corruption and power and their terrifying effects in New Delhi. Highly recommended.’ – Alice Clark-Platts, bestselling author of The Flower Girls

‘Suspenseful and sensitive, with characters negotiating serious issues of society, this crime novel will keep you awake at night!’ – Jo Furniss, bestselling author of All the Little Children and The Trailing Spouse

‘Gripping…crime fiction with a difference. This is a novel full of layers and depth, focusing on class and corruption in India with compassion and complexity.’ – Sanjida Kay, Author of psychological thrillers, Bone by Bone, The Stolen Child, My Mother’s Secret and One Year Later

‘You Beneath Your Skin – beautiful writing, strong characters and a story that will stay with me for a long time. Set in New Delhi, this novel tackles important issues as well as providing a tension-filled read.’- Jacqueline Ward, Bestselling author of Perfect Ten

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More about the author:

DB6Damyanti Biswas lives in Singapore and works with Delhi’s underprivileged children as part of Project Why, a charity that promotes education and social enhancement in underprivileged communities. Her short stories have been published in magazines in the US, UK, and Asia, and she helps edit the Forge Literary Magazine. You can find her on her blog and twitter.

See also: Facebook – Damyanti at Daily Write

All the author proceeds will go to Project WHY and Stop Acid Attacks.

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           Other social media and site links:

  1. Link to Project WHY: https://projectwhy.org/
  2. Link to Chhanv Foundation: https://www.chhanv.org/  (Their social media name is StopAcidAttacks)
  3. Author website: https://www.damyantiwrites.com/
  4. Pls use the hashtag: #YouBeneathYourSkin for all social media shares

Check out #YouBeneathYourSkin by @damyantig @SimonSchusterIN, a #crime novel that raises many social issues.

All author proceeds go to: @stopacidattacks @projectwhydelhi

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Amazon purchase links:

US:  Click HERE

UK: Click HERE

India: HERE

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To get RTs and shares, pls tag:

 @SimonandSchusterIN @projectwhydelhi @stopacidattacks @damyantig on Instagram

  @SimonSchusterIN @projectwhydelhi @stopacidattacks @damyantig on Twitter

 

The Man who hated Cats – Flash Fiction short story

The Man who hated Cats

 

Cat Lady with CatsMalcolm’s rich old Aunt Matilda had finally died. Being her last surviving relative, Malcolm had high hopes of inheriting everything. The first thing he intended to do when he moved into her old manor house was get rid of all those bloody cats that still had the run of the place. Jeez, how he hated cats.

Malcolm’s hopes were further fuelled when he entered the solicitor’s office. Only he and the old woman’s aging housekeeper, Mrs Grimes, were there for the reading of the Will. He had expected she’d leave something to the woman who had been his aunt’s companion most of her life, but apart from that, there was no one else to claim a share of his inheritance, he thought.

After some brief formalities, the solicitor addressed Malcolm and Mrs Grimes. The latter was delighted to learn she was to be Aunt Matilda’s sole beneficiary. Legally, Aunt Matilda had left everything to the many cats she had always shared her massive house and estate with. Mrs Grimes though had been appointed their carer, and so, really, the house, land, and a high six-figure sum of money too were all hers. The only condition was that Mrs Grimes had to live in the house and continue caring for the deceased’s ever-growing family of cats.

Malcolm’s delight was somewhat less enthusiastic, the hundred pounds bequest his aunt had left him lacking as it did the three or four extra noughts he had been expecting, not to mention not getting the manor house.

When he thought about it, Malcolm should hardly have been surprised by the measly amount. He’d made no effort to ever visit her since he was a boy. In fact, she had always given him the shivers, what with her crazy beliefs in reincarnation, Buddhist mysticism and a whole lot of other mumbo jumbo bollocks. He thought when he was young, she might actually be a witch. But still, leaving the bloody lot to a manky pack of fucking cats was the last straw.

Something in Malcolm snapped. If he wasn’t to live the pampered existence he’d hoped for then neither would a lot of flea-ridden moggies … it even occurred to him with the cats out of the way, he might also have grounds to challenge the Will.

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Cat2Rumours were rife that some cat-killing maniac was on the loose. Nine feline bodies had been found so far in various states of decomposition in and around the rural village. The first couple were assumed to have died from natural causes, despite there being no obvious sign of injury or disease. It wasn’t until a third, and then a fourth was also found, prime specimens of feline awesomeness, it became clear something wasn’t right. Mrs Grimes too was beside herself that several of the deceased Matilda’s own feline family had disappeared. Aunt Matilda and Mrs Grimes had never refused to take in an abandoned litter when asked, and all the local strays knew a tasty meal and saucer of milk would be waiting whenever they visited. But less and less were visiting now …

It had occurred to Malcolm it might arouse suspicion if it was only all his former aunt’s cats that had died when he eventually challenged her Will. With that in mind, he had set about poisoning many others too. Countless dead felines later, Malcolm was ready to start on the ones standing between him and his inheritance.

*

Malcolm awoke to the strangest sensation of not feeling himself. He’d had the most surreal dream, one involving hordes of cats eating his dead body. Most odd though had been seeing his aunt shoo them away and then hovering over him, muttering, and wittering away in some strange language – and that was the last he remembered.

His first sight as he slowly opened his eyes was the skirting board of the nearside wall to his bed. His mind was still in a bit of a daze, though with just enough grasp of consciousness to realise he’d probably tumbled out of bed during the night. For some reason, his nose and face were itchy. Instinctively, Malcolm reached to scratch at his nostrils. Even before his hand, or whatever it was reached his face, he could only imagine he must have knocked himself out for god knows how long judging from the amount of facial hair that had grown in the interim.

It wasn’t just the unexpected appearance of hair about his normally clean-shaven face that was confusing Malcolm. Everything looked so much bigger … including the cat looking down at him. Malcolm went to get up, intending to kick the cat away. Oddly, he hardly rose at all, barely four inches in fact, even on his hind-legs … his hind-legs?

The realisation hit him like a bolt of lightning to his tiny, fur-covered body – his dream had been real, he had died, and worse – had been reincarnated as … A Mouse!

That wasn’t the worst of it … there were now three cats circling him like the hunters they were. Any regular mouse with all the normal evolved rodent survival instincts would have scampered away, but Malcolm was anything but.

Close up of a black cat with his prey, a dead mouseThe cats would usually have rent him limb from limb before making a tasty meal of the tiny mouse after a painful but mercifully quick death. But the cats had no interest in eating the little mouse, at least not yet, not after having fed so well on the creature’s once human body … that part of his dream had been true as well.

Instead, they purred and toyed with him. For three days they teased and tormented him before the end. Malcolm’s death was a painful one, though neither quick nor merciful.

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Epilogue

The local cat population soon returned to normal as many new litters were born in Aunt Matilda’s manor house. It was eerie how many of them had the same colouring and temperaments of the ones who had died … more reincarnations?

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Enjoyed this story? Then for many more, much like this one, keep a lookout for my up-coming collection later this year …

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Guest short story reblog … A Killer in the Mist by Tom Benson …

As regular readers of my blog will know, many of my flash fiction and regular short stories have karma and retribution themes to them. Another author who also writes some of the best revenge/retribution you could ever hope to read is multi-genre writer/author, Tom Benson.

Tom’s first book of such short stories, Smoke & Mirrors, is a real classic of the retribution genre … At around the 750-word mark, Killer in the Mist falls into the longer end of the Flash Fiction category, but like all good flash fiction, it packs in way more entertainment and content than it’s relatively short length would suggest.

Am delighted to say, Killer in the Mist will be appearing as a ‘guest’ story in my Flashbulb Moments F/fiction collection later in the year

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A Killer in the Mist

 

picAThe evening fog was getting heavier, so Philip flicked his headlights down to dipped beam. Unknown, unlit countryside and the earlier incident had been bad enough.

“You agree, don’t you?” Philip glanced at his passenger. “We couldn’t have done anything else.”

“Whatever ….” Lauren said, not looking at her married lover.

“What do you mean, whatever? If I’d stopped, there would have been questions, and names would be required.”

“I’ve got nothing to hide.” The teenager peered into the illuminated grey mass ahead.

Click HERE for Tom Benson’s original post and full story …

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THEM – Horror book review

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THEM6James Watts is a US/Alabama based horror writer and author.THEM7 In addition to his debut novel, THEM, he has had short stories appear in several horror anthologies while writing for the horror publisher, HellBound Books.

When not writing himself, he is also an Administrator for the highly active and successful horror promotion and discussion group, Realms of The Damned Horror Society, helping to discover and promote new writers, news, and events in the genre. 

Following the success of THEM, James Watts is busy working on his next book, Beast of Sorrows … 

To keep up with and follow the author, see below for his social media:

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Twitter: @James2go34

Author website: www.james2go33.wixsite.com

Facebook page: @Southernhorrorwriter

Goodreads: James Watts

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THEM

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A great debut horror novel that would sit comfortably among the works of Stephen King & James Herbert …

THEM2With ancient malevolent forces occupying human bodies, innocent looking creatures morphing into hungry life-draining parasites, and a history of evil dating back millennia, these ingredients alone are a recipe for an intriguing horror tale. Added to the mix though are family secrets and rivalries, murder, and an emerging horror triggered by the main character’s return to his childhood home and town to attend his mother’s funeral.

I liked the dramatic start to this book i.e. the events and horror that prelude the opening scenes of Ray Sanders’ return and his mother’s funeral as already mentioned. Having said that, once past the dramatic opening, the book adopts a slower pace while it lays the groundwork for the wider story that follows; James Watts does an excellent job of setting the scene, creating the characters and relationships of a small town, and of relating old rivalries, friendships, and family secrets. Even before events start to take a more sinister turn, the author’s impressive descriptive skills have already conjured up the perfect setting and surroundings in which they unfold … one can almost hear the sound of banjos playing on a southern porch while picturing the image of cabins in the woods, and a character out of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre lurking behind every corner, though there are horrors here far worse than any human monster

Apart from a well-constructed story and a rich array of characters, the nitty gritty of the writing was also first class, not shying away from explicit and graphic language at times, but not over-doing it either. Although set in the present, in some ways, ‘THEM’ reads much like old-style horror – not in a dated or old-fashioned way, but in the tradition of, say, Dennis Wheatley or H.P. Lovecraft, though with a healthy resemblance to the blood and gore of some classic 70s/80s’ horror too – in terms of more modern writers, ‘THEM’ would sit quite comfortably nestled among the works of Stephen King and James Herbert … a great debut novel and addition to the horror genre, and hints too of more to come …

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Video trailer for THEM

 

Click HERE for James M. Watts’ Amazon author page:

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A double-bill book Review – The Spider’s Web & Carnival of Death, by Tom Johnson

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Tom Johnson spent twenty years in the military, and after retirement, he and his wife, Ginger, went into small press publishing for the next 22 years. Tom continues to write and Ginger edits and proofs his work. They also review books from numerous publishers.

Following the author’s social media links immediately below, it is my great pleasure to provide my reviews of just two of Tom Johnson’s extensive library of books … 

Click on links below for Tom Johnson’s social media:

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Author website:  Tom Johnson: author

Blog:  The Pulp Hermit

Blog/Books:  Fading Shadows Books

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The Spider’s Web

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 A fun-filled, action-packed, masked-avenger tale

– A must-read for pulp-fiction fans!!!

TJ1zThis is a super novella-length story from the pulp-fiction author, Tom Johnson. A straightforward ‘good vs bad, hero vs villain,’ type story, one where the reader just sits back, suspends disbelief and enjoys the fun.

For first-time readers of Tom Johnson, this a fine introduction to his stories and style of writing, and indeed to the genre as a whole. What we have in The Spider’s Web is a tale of masked avengers and vigilante-style crime-fighting heroes and villains; yes there’s lots violence, killings etc, but the author doesn’t dwell on explicit descriptive detail in that respect, preferring instead to concentrate on writing more of a gasp out loud roller-coaster of entertainment.

Although of novella length, content-wise there’s as much going on here as in many a longer book; Tom Johnson constructs the background of the ninja-like ‘Spider’ character extremely well and succinctly, wasting no time in incorporating it into the wider story. The other main character here, the mysterious crime-fighting ‘Black Ghost,’ is one that features elsewhere in many of the author’s earlier books so there is less explanation of his origins and character, at least not initially though still enough detail to make for  a satisfying stand-alone story; having said that, if you already enjoy this style of writing/genre it might be worth scrolling back through the author’s previous books for a more chronology-based decision as to which one to read first. Related to what I’ve just said, there is a bonus story/material, The Black Widows, at the end that expands on the Black Ghost’s character and youthful origins and background. I must say too say, the bonus story has a somewhat darker feel and tone to it, but every bit as enjoyable and complementary to the first story.

I’ve not read much in this genre and style of writing before, or rather not since I was a boy, so it’s hard to make comparisons with current authors. If I were to make a film or tv analogy, think along the lines of a modern-day Fu-Manchu or Bruse Lee’s Kato character in the Green Hornet for atmosphere and overall feel, though there are several others I could quote too … older readers will know exactly what I mean.

For anyone looking for gritty realism, lashings of sex and/or gratuitous violence, or the sort of plot complexity to rival the De Vinci Code, this certainly won’t fit the bill. For those readers though looking for a romping good read, good fun-filled and escapist storytelling, and where you don’t have to scratch your head every five minutes wondering what’s going on, The Spider’s Web provides exactly that.

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Carnival of Death

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A worthy tribute to the pulp-fiction and comic book style genre – absolutley loved it!

TJ2zWhat a cracker of a wee tale this is – a body count not seen the time of the Black Death, masked crime fighters, ninja assassins, British secret agents, rogue ex-military, and an equally dynamic supporting cast to complete the package. It’s a novella length story, but one that packs in way more content than its 82 pages would suggest. This could easily have filled the pages of a full novel, but Tom Johnson has stripped away every superfluous word or bit of character background building. There is a prequel to Carnival of Death, The Spider’s Web, featuring the same characters and set-up, which is probably why the author allows the story to hit the ground running so to speak; having said that, although this is a sequel to a previous story, it reads surprisingly well as a stand-alone story too, though it will inevitably leave the reader curious to know more about the characters. The ending does leave open the likelihood of further stories in the series I’m pleased to say.

Without spoiling or giving too much away, it’s basically a story of vigilante crime-fighting justice, but more in the style of The Shadow, Doc Savage, and Zorro rather than Michael Winner’s ‘Deathwish’ character. As the author himself says, the main character here, The Black Ghost, is his homage to such characters and the pulp fiction magazines of the 30s and 40s. Another comparison I would add to the author’s own references is to Warren Murphy’s Remo series in which the main crime-fighting character, though not super-human, seemingly borders on it. Unlike those of his literary heroes though, Tom Johnson has set his story in a modern-day setting, combining that pulp-fiction feel with just the right blend of high-tech and reference to the present.

Whilst I would say one has to suspend disbelief to some degree, it’s a fast-paced and action-packed story, one that takes me back to the sort of comic book style stories I enjoyed reading as a boy, but which I once again find myself enjoying as an adult. Overall, a fun, entertaining, and escapist tale of good guys versus bad. Will I be reading more from this author? Absolutely yes!

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See HERE for Tom Johnson’s Amazon author page and his fascinating and extensive back-catalogue of books.

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More about the author …

TJ5Born July 26, 1940, in Seymour, Texas, located in West Texas, US veteran Tom Johnson has been a voracious reader since childhood, beginning with the Golden Age comic books to classic literature. Exciting adventure stories entertained him until he discovered science fiction and hardboiled detective mysteries. By his early twenties, he discovered The Shadow and Doc Savage pulp reprints in paperbacks and was hooked on the fast-paced action novel. This led to collecting and research, which eventually interested him in writing. Today, he still loves an exciting action novel over movies and television. Tom and his wife, Ginger, have received numerous awards in the field for their work in keeping the old stories in the spotlight for new readers seeking escape in a thrilling adventure novel.

Please click HERE for the author’s full biography and writing history/links …

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Look out too for Tom’s latest workNEW PULP HEROES 

Click  HERE  for Amazon US purchase link 

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Double Book Review – The Nick Borman thrillers …

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Prior to writing, Robert Lalonde studied Real Estate Appraisal and Real Property Assessment through UBC. Following this, he worked as a Commercial Property Tax Consultant in Toronto, Canada, representing owners of hotels, office buildings, and shopping malls before various tax appeal tribunals. 

Robert Lalonde began his writing career with two non-fiction books based about health and well-being based on research he carried out to lose weight and regain his health after a battle with cancer.  Since then he has moved onto writing hard-hitting thrillers, having written the first two books of the Nick Borman thriller series.

See below for the author’s website and social media links …

Author Website: www.robertlalonde.com

Twitter: @RobertLalonde

Facebook author page: @Robert Lalonde

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The Borman Factor:

A Nick Borman Thriller

5starssgs (1) A well-crafted thriller that hits the ground running!

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A cracking debut thriller. I particularly liked the way the author preceded the main story with a dramatic event. The main protagonist, Nick Borman, is a private investigator in the murky world of high-tech big business and industrial espionage. Highly skilled at what he does, and able to handle himself too, Nick makes for a formidable character. 

Nick Borman is asked to investigate the death of an investigative reporter, Terry Reyolds.  It’s a little out of his usual line of work and comfort zone, but out of family and professional loyalty, he reluctantly agrees. He soon discovers there’s a lot more to Terry’s death than the official police report would suggest. 

This is quite a complex story involving political and police corruption aligned with shady property deals which put Nick up against some serious and nasty characters, including a particularly ruthless professional killer. Despite its complexity though, the author makes the unfolding story surprisingly easy to follow and keep up with.

Overall, a good solid page-turning thriller. The action is fast-paced with excellent use of realistic dialogue, has just the right level of violence without over-doing it, and the author keeps things relatively simple without trying to impress or step into the realms of high-brow literature. It’s not an easy trick to pull off and not always a popular one,  but I liked too the way the author switched the points of view between the main character and the overall one. I’ll definitely be reading Book Two in this Nick Borman series.

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Jinxed: A Nick Borman Novel

5starssgs (1)A suspense-filled blend of politics, high-tech, and murder!

Nick8Robert Lalonde effortless blends political intrigue, high-tech industrial espionage, and an ever-lengthening line of victims along the way. Nick Borman, the main protagonist, once again excels as a private investigator in the shady worlds of high-tech industrial espionage and big business. Called in by Sheldon Montgomery to investigate the unexplained deaths of several of his employees, Nick Borman has to call on all his experience and resources to get to the truth. This time though his investigations take him into the even darker realms of ‘Black ops’ and the highest echelons of political office and ambition. 

The dialogue and narrative are skillfully handled with no pretence of trying to be anything more than a fast-paced and action-packed thriller, both of which Jinxed succeeds at. There are a variety of bad guys and other characters – some clever and manipulative, others plain and violently ruthless, and a few that are simply out of their depth in the bigger picture. 

There are several red herrings that initially hamper Nick’s investigations: is there a personal motive such as revenge or jealousy behind the killings, maybe an attempt to stall Sheldon’s political ambitions, or something to do with the revolutionary new products his tech company is developing, or lastly, another level of intrigue that Nick’s missing altogether? 

Although book two in the Nick Borman thriller series, Jinxed reads perfectly well as a stand-alone story. The ending is unexpected and abrupt, revealing that if necessary, Nick Borman can be every bit as ruthless as any of his adversaries.  Having said that, it does leave a few loose ends and the reader pondering if they’re going to be explored in further sequels? For entertainment and quality of writing, this is an easy five stars for me, but for the reasons just mentioned, in a more precise rating method I would rate this around a 4.8. Will I be reading book three? Hell yes!

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Click HERE for Robert Lalonde’s Amazon author page …

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Book Review – Hell’s Beginning

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John T.M. Herres is a fiction writer and in his own words … 

JohnTM4‘ … A creator of larger-than-life heroes of ages gone by;
Great wizards tainted, and those who resist them;

War between interstellar travellers, both on this planet and far away;
Alien races intent on the annihilation of any being not their own,
and weaker ones in need of a saviour- as well as the One who becomes their saviour.

Clashes with bad people and dangerous places, where only one can survive …’

When you get to my writing, sit back, hold on, and enjoy the ride!

In addition to this, his first full-length thriller, John T.M. Herres has had many of his short stories featured in numerous multi-author anthologies, details of which can be found via his Amazon author page featured at the end of this blog post.

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Hell’s Beginning

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Brutal & sadistic – A great story but definitely not for the squeamish!!!

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Hard and extreme don’t even begin to describe this novel. Let me say from the start, this isn’t a book for the squeamish; the violence is brutal, explicit, and sadistic. For those that prefer their blood and gore left to the imagination, this probably isn’t the book for them, but otherwise, it’s as blood and gore filled as any horror fan could ever want or hope for.

 

A chance encounter and unthinking comment in a bar lead to a woman’s death, followed by several others, innocent people who just happen to get caught up in the madman’s psychopathic killing spree. As a big and powerful man, the killer’s victims rarely give him any trouble, though obviously, some do try to fight back. It’s this ‘fighting back’ that initially suggests someone might indeed have succeeded in putting an end to the killer, only for the author to spring an unexpected and diabolical twist into the story that ensures the slaughter continues. 

The main protagonist is as thoroughly vile and nasty as you could ever want or expect in a serial killer, sadistic to the extreme, and his contempt for women equally so. As a character, he’s absolutely loathsome, and yet, perfectly suited to the story.  

Although horribly graphic at times, the writing and dialogue are convincing, and the story moves forward at breakneck speed. I liked too the author’s clever use of perspective, alternating between a third person view of the unfolding story, and then retelling it from the killer’s perspective.

The degree of torture and mutilation here isn’t the level I would normally seek out in a book, but I found it to be in context and appropriate to the killer’s character rather than merely gratuitous. Nonetheless, this is a graphically violent story that won’t appeal to everyone, but those who enjoy some graphic torture and mutilation in their reading will find it in abundance here, and more importantly, aligned to a well-crafted story. Well worth a look for fans of the more extreme end of the horror spectrum.

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For John T. M. Herres’s social media links, click below …

Twitter: @iamyeehaw

Facebook: @AuthorJohnTMHerres

Goodreads: @JohnT.M.Herres

Bookbub: @JohnTMHerres

Blog: www.johntmherres.com

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Click HERE for the author’s Amazon author page …

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Book Review – Embrace The Darkness

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pj3Peter lives with his wife and four children in a small town in Sussex, England. As well as being a keen cook and wine enthusiast, Peter has been writing poetry and short stories for almost twenty years. It had always been an ambition to complete a novel and, after the success of his debut, The Broken Doll, it has been fantastic to have the opportunity to turn a hobby into a new career. Since the release of The Broken Doll in February 2017, Peter has released the follow-up novel, Shattered Pieces, as well as three collections of short horror stories, and a children’s book. Peter has had work published in a number of anthologies, is the Editor-in-Chief of Indie Writers Review, and is the co-founder of Red Cape Publishing.

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Embrace The Darkness

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Dark, full of suspense, and highly original … a great collection of little horrors!

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I’d seen a few reviews of this author’s work, and a couple of mentions on the social media horror circuit so thought I’d give him a try. From the very first story, I knew I was in for a dark treat with the other five stories. Most follow the traditional ‘twist in the tale’ format, but really, they’re more like deadly stings from a scorpion tail … don’t be expecting any nice ‘happy ever after’ endings here!

I loved the dark originality and diversity of all these stories; they do draw on some traditional horror themes such as witchcraft, medical horror, and dreamlike states for their subject matter but were nonetheless, unlike most others I’ve ever read. Although quite brutal and horrific at times, the author manages to create such horror without the need to resort to excessive blood and gore, relying more on suspense and atmosphere. Will definitely be reading/reviewing more of this author’s work in the future … a well-deserved 5-stars!

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P.J. Blakey-Novis’s social media … 

Website: www.redcapepublishing.com

Twitter:  @pjbn_author

Facebook: @pjbnauthor

Email:   –   pjblakey-novis@outlook.com

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Click HERE for the author’s full catalogue of work & Amazon author page …

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Book Review – The Lafayette Campaign

This is an author I first came across by way of reading his own excellent review of a book I had previously reviewed, ‘Johnny Nothing’ by Ian Probert.

Andy2Andrew Updegrove is a prolific blogger, primarily writing about the self-publishing industry, marketing, and related topics, providing an excellent resource for any aspiring writer. As well as being a prolific blogger and writer, Andrew Updegrove has a successful background in law, business, and cybersecurity, making him eminently qualified to write this excellent book.’

Further links and contact details for Andrew Updegrove are:

Blog: http://updegrove.wordpress.com/

email: andrew.updegrove@gesmer.com

Twitter: @Adversego

Author site: www.andrew-updegrove.com

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Andy4

 

The Lafayette Campaign

A TALE OF DECEPTION AND ELECTIONS
5starssgs (1)

A brilliant and cleverly funny political satire, a sort ‘House of Cards,’ but better.

Having already read an enjoyed the first in Andrew Updegrove’s cybersecurity/thriller series, I thought I’d give this one a try. This time the story revolves around an upcoming US Presidential election, but one where all the poll predictions are completely at odds with what everyone expects, raising questions about who may be trying to manipulate and influence the outcome? Once again, the US authorities call on the geeky middle-aged, I.T. cybersecurity expert, Frank Adversego, to look into things. Amid his investigations, Frank is also working on the book he’s been contracted to write warning of the dangers around hacking, cybersecurity, and so. 

As in Book One, this is a superbly written cybersecurity themed thriller, but again, riddled with lots of clever and subtle humour, like where the author refers to a security thug as being ‘evolutionally challenged,’ and when he laments about being glad he’s not writing a  political satire instead of a serious non-fiction book, the humour of which becomes even more apparent later on. In many ways, readers from any country will be able to identify with the part money and big business plays in politics all around the world, and not just the US. 

Although this reads perfectly well as a stand-alone book, I was pleased to see some indirect references to Book One, The Alexandria Project, ironically the basis of the book the main character, Frank, is working on during the unfolding story here, and the inclusion of some of the characters from the first book, ie, his daughter, Marla, and boss, George Marchand. Again though, there are plenty of new characters to further engage the reader’s interest. 

Not only is this well-written book, but also a well-researched one too. It does, however, convey a lot of US political workings and cyber-tech explanation though that some readers might get a tad lost in if they don’t already have some interest in them. As a UK reader, I must admit had I read this book when it first came out back in 2015, I might well have got a bit lost in some of the American election procedures and terminology, and quite frankly, found it a little too fantastical and far-fetched. Since then of course, there’s been the improbable election of Donald Trump and all that’s followed to take care of the ‘far-fetched,’ aspect. Also, with all the media coverage that event attracted worldwide combined with innumerable hours of Youtube American news footage of the 2016 US Presidential election, most people now have a better understanding of US electoral workings, so again, this really has become a book that is not only more ‘understandable’ to non-US readers, but a highly topical one too. 

Another super cybersecurity offering; a satire for sure, but given what’s happened in US politics since its publication, really not so far off the mark … loved it!

***

Click HERE to read my review of Book One in the series, The Alexandria Project

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iasdpic1Available from Amazon in eBook format, and from several other outlets in both eBook and print formats … See the author’s blog for details.

For links to all five books to date in the author’s cybersecurity/thriller series, please see HERE for Andrew Updegrove’s US Amazon author page

Andy

What are the odds on that? – Flash Fiction short story

highway1

What are the odds on that?

highway2 Howard Jackson was a careful man. He had to be to have gotten away with his twenty-seven murders to date. Today he was hoping to add number twenty-eight to the tally. The young man sitting alone at the table in the service station diner looked a promising candidate. Howard estimated him to be in his late teens, or at most, his early twenties. He doubted if the young man had enough money for another coffee, having watched him nurse the one he had for over an hour. It wouldn’t be long before one of the staff insisted he buys another or be on his way. With the rain now pelting down outside, Howard was optimistic, knowing the weary hitch-hiker wouldn’t relish the prospect of walking however far to the next rest-stop. He had a knack for spotting the most vulnerable and trusting ones.

 

“Another coffee or something? Howard asked, having strolled over to the young man.

“They’ll be asking you to leave otherwise,” he added by way of reassurance.

“Uh? Oh right. Yeah, thanks, mister.” This was going to be so easy, Howard thought to himself.

“So, how far you going? I’m driving south if that’s any help?”

“Yeah, sure would be … and thanks for the coffee too. I was dreading having to start walking in this weather to wherever the next truck-stop is.”

Howard and the young man drank up and made their way to Howard’s car in the customer parking lot.

“Grab yourself a candy bar or a soda from the glove compartment if you want?”

“A soda would be good. And you? You having one too?”

“Nah, I’m good thanks, I had enough in the diner.”

highway3With the rain at full pelt, Howard was driving slower than he usually would. The young man continued to sip at his soda. An hour into the journey, the young man looked like he was nodding off. Howard pulled into a layby, confident the sedative had done its job.

Howard had long since discovered strangers were more ready to accept food and drink from a stranger in their car if it was in a sealed container or wrapper like a soda can or candy bar. The screw cap soda cans were of his own design, practically indistinguishable from the real thing, and the candy bars had each been injected with a liberal dose of etorphine, a powerful animal tranquiliser. Administering it via a soda or candy bar reduced the speed with which it took effect, but it was a safer alternative to risking the recipient putting up a fight if Howard failed to inject the drug at the first attempt. Howard hadn’t forgotten the one that got away, his only failure some six years previous when the sixteen-year-old intended victim hadn’t accepted either the soda or a candy bar and escaped after managing to block the etorphine-filled syringe with his rucksack. From that day on, Howard made it a rule not to proceed if the victim didn’t accept one of the drug-filled sodas or candy bars.

With his intended victim seemingly fast asleep, Howard got out of his car to retrieve certain items from the trunk: a length of rope chord, some industrial strength duct-tape, and a surgical scalpel. As expected, the young man still appeared completely out of it – Etorphine was a thousand times more potent than even morphine. With that in mind, Howard felt quite confident it was safe to proceed. He intended to strip his victim naked, and then use the rope and duct-tape to fully restrain and gag him. And then there would be Howard’s favourite part, a brutal assault and mutilation of the vilest kind of the victim’s lifeless body. First though, he reached down to begin unbuckling the young man’s jeans. What followed was most definitely not part of the plan that had succeeded on 27 previous occasions …

 

highway4“Not this time, mother fucker!” the young man said, ramming a solid uppercut under Howard’s chin before dragging him out through the adjacent car door. Though not as effective as Howard’s etorphine-filled soda can, not that the young man had actually drunk any of it, the upper-cut had highway5stunned his would-be killer sufficiently for the young man to quickly bind and gag the weaker and older Howard with the minimum of fuss or resistance. Oddly, the tone of his voice wasn’t loud, angry, or the outraged sort you might expect from someone unexpectedly finding themselves in that situation. If anything, it was eerily calm and controlled, much like the way he went about slitting Howard’s throat before dumping his body in the trunk of the would-be killer’s own car, sending both to a watery grave several hours’ drive later.

*

Oh, he’d been careful alright, but just a little too careful this time … it never occurred to Howard that someone else might have similar thoughts on their mind, and the same obsession with not getting caught. After all, what were the odds of a highway-driving serial killer picking up his opposite number among the waifs and strays of the hitch-hikers?

highway6The twenty-two-year-old young man had been killing the likes of Howard along the highway from the age of seventeen, barely a year after hitching his first ride at the tender age of sixteen. It was Howard’s attempt at adding the young man to his tally of victims six years before that had set the young hitch-hiker on his path of seeking out and slaughtering men like Howard … Howard’s fate had been sealed the moment he’d been recognised in the diner … by the one that got away.

***

For more stories like this and a whole host of other genres besides, stay tuned for … Flashbulb Moments, scheduled for late 2019 …

BookAdd9g

 

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