Category Archives: Book Reviews
Sharon Brownlie was born in Malta in 1962. Her parents were in the Armed Forces and she spent her childhood travelling all around the world. As a mature student, she graduated from the University of Edinburgh with a Master of Arts Hons degree in History and a PGCE. Sharon spent some years working in Adult Education. Sharon Brownlie is also another valued member and prolific contributor to the wider Indie Author community, and I’m proud to say, an equally valued member of my own IASD writing group.
In addition to her writing, Sharon Brownlie is a talented and successful print and eBook cover designer, as well as offering a number of other related highly competitive author services, including formatting, proof-reading, and copy editing.
Amazon description – Betrayal (Book1)
What makes a woman kill? An upbringing marred by rejection and hurt when you are let down by the ones you love and a society that is supposed to protect you? As a teenager, that rejection lures Helen King into the world of drugs and prostitution.
Now, as an adult, Helen is spiralling out of control. Old wounds are surfacing; can she face her demons without the drugs? Will revenge help release her from her past? Beating her addiction is her only chance at a new life. But, an encounter with a former school teacher opens up old wounds that had been festering deep within her. While quitting drugs, another craving takes its place. A desire for revenge: payback for those who’d betrayed her.
Plagued with bitterness, Helen heads to Edinburgh to begin her killing spree.
Police are mystified when her first victim is found. A second death convinces them it’s the same killer. Can they connect Helen to the crimes? How many more will die before she is stopped?
What an awesome book! As a fan of police procedural and murder stories, I can honestly say this is one of the best I’ve read in the genre in a very long time. While some books try to intrigue and tease the reader into reading beyond that all-important first chapter, Sharon Brownlie grabs you by the throat from the very first line, commanding your attention to the last.
The writing was crisp and sharp, always propelling the story forward or helping set the scene in the reader’s mind. I liked too that there were strong female characters on both sides of the law, which gave the story an additionally interesting slant. The portrayal of the seedy underbelly of Edinburgh, namely the drugs and prostitution, and the equally seedy characters that inhabit such a world was utterly convincing.
This is a story of bloody revenge taken to the nth degree. The main character, Helen King, is as loathsome, ruthless, and manipulative an individual as you would never want to meet outside the pages of a book, and yet her background and motivation allow the reader to, if not condone, at least understand and sympathise with her, even more so when she finally shows a few glimmers of humanity. Likewise, with the other characters – the author doesn’t strive to make the reader actually like or empathise with them, concentrating instead on portraying them as realistically as possible within a totally engaging story. A couple of traumatic incidents and a chance meeting of sorts are the catalyst for Helen’s transformation from an abused and cruelly exploited young girl and woman into a ruthless killer. Driven by her vivid dreams of revenge on those people she perceives as having let her down when she was a child, she’s consumed by a need to make them pay for their ‘betrayal’ of her. The author doesn’t exaggerate the violence in the book i.e. it’s not as graphic or detailed as you might expect given the theme of the book, but yet the author still manages to conjure a clear image of it in the reader’s imagination. The investigations into her activities are authentic and well constructed but without bogging the reader down with every precise detail or overuse of police terminology. As you would expect, there are several police officers involved in the investigation, though of course, the story focuses on those leading it, and the author brings them to life with little snippets of background information and all the varied character traits you would encounter in the real world. In addition to the story being told, these characters could easily warrant further crime thrillers in their own right.
It’s impossible for me to overpraise this book; anyone who’s ever read and enjoyed Lynda La Plante’s ‘Prime Suspect’ series (or seen the tv adaptation) will be in for a real treat with this one. My favourite crime book this year.
Amazon description – The Consequences (Book2)
A year has passed since the arrest of serial killer, Helen King. She has languished in jail awaiting her fate. Her wait is over and her day of reckoning has arrived. It is time for her to face the consequences of her crimes.
Will Helen go quietly? Has she laid her ghosts to rest?
The Consequences (Book2)
The second of this two-part series is really more a short novella than a full-length novel, but every word of it helps bring closure to the first part. In this second part, The Consequences, we learn more of the detail of Helen’s tragic young life in her own heartfelt words, and through that, the reader is finally able to empathise more with Helen, and this time truly understand her compulsion to exact revenge on all those who had failed in their duty of care towards her at an age when she needed it most. We also see a softer, more human side emerging in DS Brennan and DI Ellington, two of the female detectives responsible for bringing her to justice. Although a relatively short read, it was for me, the perfect length epilogue – any longer and it would have come across as needless ‘padding.’ I sincerely hope for more of the same from this splendidly talented author.
Click Here for Sharon Brownlie’s Amazon author page:
Damascus Redemption is Welsh author Richard Pendry’s debut novel, though he has previously written and published an excellent short story, The Last Patrol, in aid of the Semper Fi Fund U.S. military charity. I discovered this author quite by chance via Twitter.
Richard is an ex-member of the Parachute Regiment who became involved in the secretive world of the private security industry in post-Gulf War II, Iraq. Since then, he has worked in Afghanistan, Syria, Somalia, South Sudan, Nigeria and many other hostile environments, continually at the tip of the spear as the intelligence services fight the Global War on Terror. In addition to his past and post-military careers, Richard C. Pendry is forging a new additional career in writing.
(462 print pages) – Mason has lost his family, his friends and his reputation, but can he find his redemption? Unable to cope with the loss of his family, Mason turns his back on his life in the SAS. Years later, he is enticed into the cut-throat security industry in Iraq by an old comrade. He soon finds himself under fire. His team is attacked – most are killed and two are taken hostage. Mason takes the fall.
In this Middle East based military action thriller, Richard Pendry has created an array of characters that really does include the good, the bad, and the ugly, along with a rich and colourful mix in between. Behind the macho image of ex SAS and another assorted military, the author portrays each with all the faults and traits of people who have lived real lives, haunted by their various pasts.
Likewise with the non-military characters, each tells his own tale, contributing to the overall story rather than simply filling a role essential to some plot. Central to them all though is Mason, an ex SAS man who resigned from the job and life he loved following the tragic death of his wife and daughter. But life goes on, bills need to be paid, and so he’s eventually tempted by a lucrative security training job in the Middle East. Needless to say, events don’t follow the neat path they’re meant to, and in an effort to prevent the deaths of the men he was meant to train, instead, he leads them in what is practically a hastily and an ill-conceived suicide mission.
Amid the drama and military and political tensions following the Gulf Wars and the efforts of the oil companies and the security companies they employ to restore Iraqi oil production, intertwined is a completely different story being told; an eminent historian’s quest to solve a centuries-old historical and religious secret reaching back to the time of the Crusades and even far beyond helps bring to life the ancient and bloody history of the cradle of civilisation and Christianity, along with treating the reader to a tale worthy and reminiscent of a Dan Brown novel.
Just as it did in his previous story, Richard Pendry’s own military background and first-hand experience of the Middle East shines through in his writing; experiences aside though, once again the author also demonstrates a real talent for crafting an imaginative and well-told multi-stranded story, along with meticulous research and attention to detail.
For those who are already fans of the military genre or may have served in the armed forces, this is a highly enjoyable and captivating read, and I would say an intelligently written one too. For others who may be reading a military adventure thriller for the first time, I would be hard-pressed to think of a better introduction to the genre.
Not only is the military action authentic and exciting, the author creates a genuine sense of place and atmosphere from beginning to end. Unlike many other writers in this genre, the author here writes equally well and authentically when portraying Arabic and non-military characters, real people the reader can easily identify with. In any such book as this, there will always be some degree of military terminology, but the author skillfully allows the context and wider story to make their meanings obvious. There are a few occasions when some of the ‘army speak’ isn’t immediately apparent to the non-military reader, but this in no way detracts from the overall enjoyment of the story any more than perhaps any of us might not recall the exact meaning of a particular word when reading – a more than acceptable trade-off against lots of contrived and unnatural explanatory prose in my opinion.
If you’ve ever read and enjoyed, say, a Chris Ryan, Andy McNab novel, or even the likes of Dan Brown, I can highly recommend Richard Pendry as a welcome addition to those lofty ranks. Overall, a fantastic story from beginning to end, with an absolute cracker of a conclusion. An easy and well-deserved five stars!
Click Here for Amazon Link to Damascus Redemption
See Here for Richard C. Pendry’s Amazon Author page:
A little longer this time but at under 850 words, still well within the accepted limits of flash fiction …
Not a day went by when Richard Dewsbury didn’t regret what had happened. He hadn’t meant to hurt anyone, but when you’ve just robbed a bank, you’re not too fussed about speed limits or safer driving. He never saw the little girl midway across the road when he took that last corner trying to shake the cops off his tail. She never had a chance when the car he was driving catapulted 9-year-old little Suzie over the bonnet. She died instantly. The ten-year prison sentence Richard received was nothing compared to the guilt and torment he’d had to live with ever since. He would have given his life to turn the clock back, but there was nothing he could do to bring the little girl back. He swore though he’d do whatever it took to make amends
At exactly 11:00 just one week after his release, Richard Dewsbury walked into the transplant and dialysis department of the nearest hospital. At 11:15 he set about making good on the promise he had made to himself all those years ago …
“Hello, nurse?” Richard Dewsbury said, trying to catch her attention.
“Yes. Can I help you?”
“Probably not, but …” Richard replied, extending his hands to display his now bleeding wrists.
“Ahh, Wh …What the … Stay right there; I’ll get help,” she replied, clearly shaken by the unexpectedness of the sight.
There was nothing they could do of course. Richard had cut too deep and waited just a little too long. Normally a simple blood test and the appropriate blood-type transfusion might have saved his life. But Richard was far from being normal. In fact, he was practically unique, and being so had almost certainly signed his death warrant. He remained calm though. It was the death sentence he should have got when he knocked down that little girl, he thought. He was doing the right thing, he told himself.
“I can tell you now, it’s no use, you won’t have my blood group in your blood banks,” Richard began telling the doctor who had just arrived. The doctor was busy trying to stem the blood flow from Richard’s wrists as he and a hospital porter wheeled him towards the elevator to take him up to surgery.
“Let us worry about that; you’re in good hands,” the doctor replied.
“My inside left-hand side pocket, there a letter and a card, “Richard struggled to tell the doctor, the loss of blood and oxygen to his brain and other vital organs quickly taking their toll now.
“Yes, all in good time. Now, try not to talk.”
The doctor wanted Richard to conserve his strength, but he knew it was a losing battle, he was dying. Richard never made it as far as the elevator. The blood loss had been too fast, accelerated by the several aspirins he’d taken an hour beforehand to thin his blood.
“Time of death, eleven thirty-one,” the doctor stated. The nurse accompanying them nodded her agreement.
“Let’s take a look at that card and letter he was referring to,” the doctor said, remembering Richard’s words from a few minutes earlier.
Just like Richard said, there was a card and a letter. The card he immediately recognised as being a medical one, stating the holder’s blood group and other health details. His jaw dropped when he saw that Richard Dewsbury was listed as Rh-null, the rarest blood group on the planet, the so-called Golden Blood of which there were less than a dozen donors worldwide, blood that could be given to any recipient in the world no matter what their blood group or however rare. Unfortunately, Richard Dewsbury was dead. Such a waste, the doctor thought. He opened the letter. It looked like a legal document at first glance. Then it struck him. It was a letter of authorisation signed by Richard, his solicitor, and two witnesses. It was a cast-iron statement of authorisation for Richard’s organs and any other part of his body to be used for organ transplantation and research after his death.
Within the hour, Richard’s organs and just about every part of his body were being harvested for those recipients with the rarest and hardest to match blood and tissue types.
One of those recipients was a Jessica Cambell, a girl estimated to have less than a few weeks to live without a suitable donor transplant heart. Had it been a kidney she needed, her twin sister might have been able to be a living donor. But her twin sister, Suzie, had been killed in a tragic automobile accident years before so that wouldn’t have been an option either.
Suzie and Jessica’s parents stood in attendance at Richard Dewsbury’s funeral, the man they had hated since the death of their young daughter. He had taken one daughter away from them but given them back the life of the other.
They each dropped a flower onto his coffin as it was lowered into the ground, wishing him eternal peace.
Another of my Welsh Wednesday Writing reviews of Welsh authors, this time a collection of short stories by Welsh author, Stuart Kear, a life-long resident of the Rhondda Valley. I first discovered Stuart’s stories via the Tonypandy Writer’s Group’s multi-author collection of short stories and poetry, which featured two of Stuart’s stories. Having been impressed with both contributions I checked to see if the author had anything published elsewhere, and so discovered this awesome collection of short stories here …
Click on book cover thumbnail below for Amazon purchase link …
Short, Long And Tall Stories
All the stories here have a Welsh theme, and in most cases specific to the Welsh valleys; now when I say a ‘Welsh theme,’ I don’t just mean that the author simply mentions Wales in passing or has perhaps given each story a Welsh character – in most cases, the Welsh setting, being Welsh, or having grown up in the valleys is an integral part of the meaning of each story.
This is quite a substantial body of varied stories, thirteen in total. Among the stories, the author tackles a variety of topics including bereavement and how close relatives deal with loss in their own very different ways, tragedy in the coal mining pits, plots of murder mixed up with irony and poetic justice, and even an incredulously funny flash fiction piece in ‘The Letter,’ – as simple a premise as you could imagine but a guaranteed ear to ear smile for the reader.
Some of the stories are more a reflection of the human condition and are simply satisfying to read for their own sake without the need for any clever or surprise conclusions. Others though are quite definitely of the ‘twist in the tale’ type, often blended with a deliciously wicked element of humour, and I have to say, Stuart Kear has demonstrated a real talent for that type of story.
My favourite story? – I’m torn between ‘The Look, ‘ a brutal tale of murder and poetic justice with a little touch of black humour, and ‘The Departure,’ another relatively simple story but having the impact of being hit right between the eyes with a claw hammer! Others that also caught my particular attention – ‘The Accident’ and the ‘The dig at the Station Hotel.’
If I had but two tiny criticisms it would be that I would have preferred a more ‘Wales’ orientated cover as the one here puts me more in mind of a major city than the Welsh Valleys. Secondly, given how many people like to read on their Kindles, tablets, and phones etc it would be nice if this collection were more widely available as an eBook too as these stories really do merit the widest possible readership! Apart from that, an absolutely superb clever and entertaining collection of stories. No hesitation in rating it a thoroughly well-deserved 5 stars!
About the author …
Born in 1945, Stuart Kear, was born and raised in the Welsh Valleys, having also lived and worked there all his life. With three children and two grandchildren, Stuart Kear was recently widowed and it is to the memory of his late wife of 47 years he dedicated the above short story collection.
In addition to his love of books and language, Stuart Kear’s other interests are photography, walking, quizzes, snooker, and of course, writing.
Another quite newly arrived author to the IASD family, this time Theresa Jacobs.
Theresa Jacobs believes in Magic, Fairies, Dragons, and Ghosts. Yet she trusts Science and thinks that Aliens know way too much.
Through hard work, she has published a horror novel, and a Sci-Fi novel, a horror Novella, horror anthologies, children’s books, and poetry. She is a contributor to 1428elm.com an online horror magazine. While working full-time, is also currently writing a sports figures biography…so stay tuned.
When she is not at work she spends her time, reading, writing, exercising her dog, and binge-watching TV shows, with her longtime partner and fiancé.
She is also a big Movie buff and a SciFi Nerd at heart.
By Theresa Jacobs
Definitely not the usual run of the mill ‘Mankind Leaving a Dying Earth’ type story but quite an interesting concept for a Sci-Fi mystery thriller.
A substantial group of refugees from a dying earth find themselves mysteriously transported from aboard their crashed spaceship to huge caverns deep underground on an alien planet where they are seemingly held in captivity by alien slug-like aliens, the sight of which they only ever see through the transparent ceilings of the caverns they’re imprisoned in.
A very strange sort of society had evolved under the control and direction of their slug-like alien masters, changing the humans both physically and psychologically. Needless to say, they don’t like their new way of life, but no one’s really sure if their slug-like controllers actually mean them harm.
They have lots of questions about their strange way of life, where they are, and about the slug-like creatures that control their lives, but very few answers, just wild speculation.
The story was clear and easy to follow with a few strong well-developed central characters. The author doesn’t burden the reader with too much information about events before being stranded on a strange planet, but instead concentrates on the immediate story of the here and now of the captive humans’ situation, with just enough background to give the main story its context.
I can’t honestly think of a comparable story to this one, so full marks for originality. I also liked that the author didn’t conclude the story with lots of neat answers and explanations, but still left some mystery and room for speculation. A clever, original, and above all, an enjoyable sci-fi novel.
Click pic below for Theresa Jacobs’ IASD profile:
Facebook – @writerTheresaJ
Twitter – @writerTheresaJ
See Here for Theresa Jacobs’ Amazon Author page:
Another Welsh author (and short story) I discovered quite by chance via Twitter. The story I’ve reviewed here was written in aid of the Semper Fi Fund, a U.S. military charity …|
Richard is an ex-member of the Parachute Regiment who became involved in the secretive world of the private security industry in post-Gulf War II, Iraq. Since then, he has worked in Afghanistan, Syria, Somalia, South Sudan, Nigeria and many other hostile environments, continually at the tip of the spear as the intelligence services fight the Global War on Terror. In addition to his past and post-military careers, Richard C. Pendry is forging a new additional career in writing.
A first class story. Poignant, hard-hitting, and well-written. Loved it!
What can I say about this short story? It’s little more than a ten-minute read but the story it packs into its short length is absolutely superb.
The author’s portrayal of a serving soldier in Afghanistan is frighteningly authentic just as you would expect given the author’s own military experience. Despite being such a short read, the story unfolds via two polar opposites character wise – different sides of the same coin as it were – before the reality of the story hits home. Through excellent attention to detail and imaginative imagery, the author recreates a vivid snapshot of a moment and incident during the Afghan conflict. This is a hard-hitting though moving story that reminds us of the brutal reality of war along with a frightening and poignant nod to the future.
Given the author’s background I was impressed with the impartiality he was able to portray all the characters in the story, and not just the ones he can most obviously identify with. In addition to being a great premise for a story, the writing of it too was equally well executed. A first class story, and definitely enough to intrigue me into reading more from this author.
This short story is available as a free download via signing up at the author’s website, but if however, you would like to make a donation to the Semper Fi Fund please purchase the short story through Amazon as all proceeds from the sale of this story are donated to the said charity.
See Here for Richard C. Pendry’s Amazon Author page:
A truly lovely short story collection from the pen of C.L. Lopez, with three guest stories from Tom Benson, both authors from our very own IASD stable of indie authors, writers, and bloggers. I only discovered this writer by way of reading one of her short stories in Tom Benson’s own short story collections and was sufficiently impressed to seek out others by her. The moral of the story – get your writing featured in as many places as possible!
Amazon blurb: A collection of short stories of various genre, including suspense, thriller, sci-fi, mysteries, and paranormal. These are stories about the resilience of humanity. They are stories of people and their strengths and weaknesses. Stories of life.
I first came across this author when I read one of her short stories as a ‘guest’ story/author in another short story collection, and was impressed enough to see if she had any collections of her own published, hence my finding this one.
Having already read one of C.l. Lopez’s stories in Tom Benson’s anthology of science fiction short stories, even though the description mentions different genres I had slightly been expecting more of these stories to lean towards the sci-fi genre, but no, the stories are spread across a multitude of genres. Despite the variety of genres, the stories here actually have a lot more in common than their differences, more so than many a single-themed collection, each story providing real impact in its telling, using some dramatic scenario to both entertain and portray some aspect of human determination and resilience, what I would call real ‘people’ stories. Some are quite dark but still hinting at hope for the future such as in ‘Alone’ and ‘Cold Case,’ the latter being a story reminiscent of several what I would call typical True Crime stories. Others have a certain ‘feel good factor’ to them i.e. ‘Sulley’ and ‘Moving On.’
This super collection of seven short stories, along with three bonus ones from guest author, Tom Benson, were a truly unexpected delight to read, exceeding all expectations.
If I had to pick out one single story as my favourite it would have to be ‘Moving On’ for its combination of not only its feel-good factor but also a clever and ‘poetic justice’ type ending, and even though the general direction of the story was clear early on, it was still a refreshing twist.
And of Tom Benson’s guest stories here, I particularly liked ‘Bewitched,’ a love story but again with a bit of twist and moral dilemma about it, and the one of the three here that best complemented the other stories in this collection.
Both C.L. Lopez and Tom Benson write across several different genres but in this particular collection they have stuck to writing stories with poignancy and dramatic impact rather than relying on clever endings and/or ‘twist in the tail’ type formats in most cases (though not all).
Any complaints about this book? Only that I was disappointed when I ran out of further stories to read at the end of it so hopefully C.L. Lopez is working on further stories for the future! A very easy and hugely deserved five stars for this one, not a rating I usually find easy for short stories given that it’s rare to read a short story collection where not a single one even slightly disappoints!
It is with great pleasure I present my review of Salby Evolution, the second book in the Salby Eco/Zombie thriller series/trilogy. In addition to this latest review, I’ve also included my review of the first book in the series towards the end of this post for those readers intrigued enough to want to read book 1 first (highly recommended, you won’t be disappointed!). First though, a little about the author himself …
Ian D Moore, as well as being a fellow author, blogger, and book reviewer is also an Admin and one of the founding members of the IASD Indie Author Support and Discussion group and website:
As well as this, his second novel in the Salby Eco/Zombie thriller series, Ian D. Moore was also the instrumental force in bringing together a multitude of Indie Authors from around the world when back in 2015 he put the call out for submissions for his highly acclaimed anthology ‘You’re Not Alone’ in aid of the Macmillan cancer charity, in which I feel honoured to have had one of my own short stories included, and to again be contributing a story for the 2018 edition in aid of Macmillan.
Click Here for Amazon link to You’re Not Alone
Prior to embarking on his writing career, Ian D Moore previously served as a soldier and engineer in the British army, worked as a self-employed truck driver, and still works in commercial and domestic transport in addition to running a small online writing services business.
Ian D Moore is a UK based author and family man, and someone I greatly admire and respect both as a writer and as a person.
Salby Evolution (Salby Trilogy – Book2)
Although intertwined with the first book of this ongoing series, Salby Evolution reads extremely well as a stand-alone instalment, though in all honesty, personally, I would still highly recommend reading Salby Damned first to enjoy this one to the full.
In book one the story was very much a localised one, concentrating on how the authorities would deal with a combined ecological stroke biological ‘accident.’ In this second instalment, the story naturally expands to the international repercussions of what could easily have escalated into the sort of zombie apocalypse only previously imagined in wild speculation.
The action switches from the UK to Russia, where characters who were central to dealing with the first Salby virus outbreak have been drafted in to help deal with a possible new outbreak.
This new chapter starts with two main storylines, one which quite seamlessly follows on from just a few months after the first book finishes, but with sufficient references to the past to bring new readers up to speed while providing a subtle recap for those who read book 1 first. As the story progresses, the original characters diverge to cover different aspects of the story i.e. determining if the virus has spread, has it changed, tracking down possible new carriers of it, as well as dealing with other parties equally interested in the Salby virus. Secondly, we have what I would regard as the main thrust of the story, an offshoot from the original outbreak but threatening a future one, initially running parallel to the original Salby virus outbreak of the first book but gradually catching up and converging with other threads of the ongoing story here.
I did think a little way into the book that perhaps the author had been slightly over-ambitious in the scope of the sequel with everything that was going on, the switching of perspectives and slightly different timelines but he skillfully drew all the different elements into a complex but extremely well-constructed story.
I was impressed by the way the author handled the varying stories and sub-plots, some featuring several characters from the first book and written from a third person point of view, consistent with the writing style of that book. In another, the reader is introduced to a couple of new characters but from the first-person perspective of leading man Simon, a stark contrast to Nathan, the leading man, and hero of the first book; Simon in comparison is a bit of an anti-hero, older, not the same sort of macho character and having many more flaws and personal demons of his own to contend with but still proving his worth nonetheless.
The switching back and forth between these different threads worked surprisingly well, especially the way in which the different timelines and stories converged in their relevance to the overall picture.
I was pleased that this sequel also paid homage to book 1 in that we were treated to a few more encounters with victims of the virus i.e. the ‘Deadheads’ – they served as a timely reminder of the surreal and terrifying consequences of the Salby outbreak – but the author didn’t try to rehash them for any sort of dramatic effect but instead took the story forward, and in new directions; what started as a surprisingly intelligent and believable zombie outbreak in book 1 (but with a small ‘z’ I’d say), has moved slightly away from that concept and evolved instead into an equally intelligent but more complex thriller, again throwing together some of the same elements – cutting-edge bio-engineering, viral infection, and a military interest in the virus, but this time adding manevolent scientists, political ambition, and the threat of world threatening consequences – and like any good thriller, some nice twists along the way (particularly relating to Simon but some other good ones too).
Not only does this sequel expand upon the first instalment, the quality of writing itself has evolved and improved too – I gave the first book in this series a five-star rating but with the proviso that I thought it fell just short of that at maybe a 4.7 to 4.8 on account of a slight over-emphasis on military terminology that might slightly confuse a non-military reader. In this book though I think the author has got the balance exactly right.
A first-rate book both in its own right and as a sequel, and indeed as a prequel to some as yet unknown conclusion, a very easy and solid five stars for me!
For those of you sufficiently intrigued, my review of Book 1 in this superb series …
Salby Damned (Salby Trilogy – Book1)
Although a fan of the film and televised Zombie efforts this is the first time I’ve actually read anything in the genre, having previously been skeptical as to whether it would transfer well to the written word.
Whilst I’ve always had to totally suspend disbelief in order to enjoy the Zombie genre in the past, with Salby Damned I was presented with a chillingly realistic and believable scenario that had me hooked right from the start. This isn’t the story of a world-wide fantastical epidemic but a more likely and localised disaster borne out of the merging of two highly topical issues, namely biological warfare and the more recent and controversial gas shale fracking.
The book cover put me in mind of the TV series The Walking Dead, but whereas that concentrated on the individual survival of a specific and isolated group of people, Salby Damned, although it largely concentrates on a few individuals, it also deals with how the authorities tackle the problem of a zombie-like plague, and how inevitably the military would play a large part in that. The author pays great attention to military detail, creating a very real and authentic feel to how a military base would house and protect survivors; I don’t just mean in terms of military accuracy, I would expect that from the author given his background, but by the way in which he conveys his expertise to the written word. As anyone who has even a rudimentary knowledge of the British military will know, it is filled with innumerable acronyms that can be very confusing to civilians, but the author explains and accounts for them very simply in the narrative without resorting to all sorts of contrived dialogue. My only concern here is that there might have been a tad too much emphasis on the military detail for those with no knowledge or real interest in that side of things, but for me personally, it worked very well. Speaking of the military, it was refreshing that the central hero as it were was a just a regular ex-soldier rather than ex-special forces as it made him more believable as a character – far too often, unless being ex-special forces is central to the story, such characters are made to appear almost super-human in their abilities, whereas here, Nathan’s vulnerability and frailties are just as evident as his strengths.
If I had to categorise this book, I’d say it was more a thriller than Science fiction or horror, though there are indeed elements of the latter. The story itself unsurprisingly concerns an apparent accident that results in a zombie-like plague, and then, Nathan an ex-soldier and a beautiful doctor, and the part they play in the search for a cure. Amid the subplots, we have courage and heroism, political and industrial intrigue, a touch of romance, and action wise, plenty of deadly encounters with the undead victims of the plague. In fact, some of the subplots were a real bonus to this story and definitely added to the overall enjoyment rather than simply being there to flesh out the page numbers. What was also refreshing about this book though is that unlike the film and TV ventures, it didn’t rely at all on sensational blood and gore for its impact.
If I had but one small criticism to make, apart from the ‘possible’ over-emphasis of the military and weaponry detail, it would be the lack of any anger and resentment towards those responsible for creating the circumstances in which the plague occurred, but apart from that the story was clever and well written, with a good balance of superficial though very credible science to add authenticity to the wider story. I was also extremely impressed with the way the author concluded the story, i.e. in not leaving lots of annoying loose ends that demand a sequel just for its own sake, but nonetheless surprising the reader with a few unexpected twists that leave the door open to one. If I had to give an exact rating for this debut novel I would say 4.7 to 4.8, but since I don’t I can quite happily give it a five. Would I read a sequel? Absolutely yes!
On Fb – OneStopAuthorServices
See Ian D. Moore’s Amazon Author page for his full catalog of work:
In 1969 at the age of 17, Tom left his native Glasgow to join the British Army. Tom’s military career spanned from 1969 to 1992. He followed this with a career in Retail Management, in which he was employed from 1992 to 2012.
Tom has been writing since 2007.
He has published seven novels, five anthologies of short stories, a five-part novel, a five-part series of erotica novellas, and a series of five anthologies of genre-based poetry, and has several other projects in the pipeline …
Tom’s websites & social media:
Beyond The Law: Consequences (Book 3) –
(Currently only available on Amazon Kindle) –
Amazon blurb … In August 2004, close relatives of three recently deceased Glasgow gangsters are looking for answers and revenge. Those intent on causing more bloodshed have yet to meet each other.
Will they form an alliance, or handle their issues as individuals?
Phil and Annabel have handed over the running of BTL Enterprises, but will they be called out of early retirement?
Why would a flag be flying from a castle ruin on a Scottish island?
The third and final part of Tom Benson’s BLT (Beyond The Law) trilogy, a series of books charting the formation and successes of a Glasgow based vigilante group BLT Enterprises, initially headed by ex SAS operative Phil McKenzie aka the Hawk, and then by his promising protege Jake, also after leaving the SAS. Unlike the traditional lone vigilante, the BLT group operate with the ‘unofficial’ support and backing of the UK authorities, even if at a discreet and very deniable arm’s length.i.e. if you get caught or anything goes wrong that might embarrass the government you’re on your own!
Following previous BLT successes in ridding Glasgow of much of the worst of its criminal element, things have moved on and once again new players have stepped up to the fill the criminal void left by the BLT group’s activities; those left behind want answers and revenge, and of course to be rid of the Hawk and his cohort’s interference in Glasgow’s criminal underworld. And likewise with the BLT, eight years on from its initial formation new characters are proving their worth, and with the continuing help and alliance of the Mental Riders’ biker gang, they continue to be a formidable force in combatting violent and organised crime – but now they face a new and better-organized enemy, an alliance of criminal psychopaths with comparable skills and a ruthlessness beyond anything they’ve had to face before, and with one aim in mind, the deaths of every member of BLT enterprises.
Once again Tom Benson has introduced several new characters, keeping the series fresh and exciting while still retaining most of the original line-up for continuity; despite the genre and macho world in which the story takes place, and indeed the author’s own very male-dominated previous military career, Tom Benson doesn’t shy away from creating strong and believable leading female characters, on both sides of the moral compass I add, putting one in mind of some of Lynda La Plante’s writing (think gangster’s wife Dolly Rawlings in Widows). The author also loosely connects this book with the wider world in which both the BLT series and his other thrillers take place thus ensuring that while this individual series might be coming to an end, at least some of the characters themselves have the opportunity to live on.
In the case of the first two instalments, each reads just as well as a stand-alone book as they do as part of a series; in book one there was more than enough scope for readers to hope for a sequel but without feeling cheated by lots of unanswered questions and loose ends, and in book two readers were introduced to several new characters taking the helm as it were, but with enough interwoven references to the past so as not to confuse new readers. In book three though I would say that it has moved on to the point where it really does read much better if you’ve already read the first two books so no, I wouldn’t say this works as well if read in isolation but given this was to be the final instalment of the BLT series I was quite pleased the author didn’t put unnecessary effort into making this another stand-alone book comparable to the first two but instead concentrated on writing a story that complimented and concludes the BLT saga, so crafting the perfect final chapter to this superb crime vigilante series – take my advice and read books one and two first and then treat yourself to this final concluding part.
For those readers sufficiently intrigued by this review please take a look at my reviews for the two previous books in this superb trilogy:
Beyond The Law: Formation: (Book One)
A ‘can’t put down’ book that definitely hits the ground running. In an explosive opening chapter reminiscent of Andy McNab, we’re introduced to the central character, Phil McKenzie, and some of the background to his special skills and training. What follows is an equally explosive story of unofficial state-sanctioned vigilantism as he and his cohorts set about tackling the tough and violent criminal under-belly of a crime-ridden Glasgow. But this is no simple story of good guys hunting down the bad; set against the murky backdrop of the military and British intelligence, Phil McKenzie and a select team of operatives are up against a criminal alliance that spans not only that of organised crime but also high ranking politicians and police officers. The book takes a number of different and dangerous turns, culminating in one hell of a conclusion.
Some of the characters have definite echoes of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher. The dialogue throughout is both fluid and natural, as is the writing and realistic portrayal of a world and characters that thankfully, most never get to see outside the pages of a book. The author’s attention to detail and plot-line are approached with the same deadly precision as that of a covert military operation.
This is a book that effortlessly combines the genres of military adventure with that of crime and justice, and one that would sit well in the company of Lee Child, Andy McNab, and Tom Clancy. Should Tom Benson ever decide to write a sequel, it will certainly leapfrog to the front of my ‘to read’ list. Highly recommended …
Beyond The Law: Retribution: (Book Two)
This is a retribution themed novel once again dealing with those criminals whose cunning and resources enable them to operate beyond the constraints of the judiciary and elude the regular forces of law and order. Such is the violence and ruthlessness of such men it takes an equally resourceful and ruthless approach in dealing with such criminals, cue the reappearance of ex SAS operative Phil McKenzie aka the Hawk, and his unique band of cohorts collectively now known as BTL (Beyond the Law) enterprises. Hawk and his associates are every bit as ruthless as the criminals they face, with the added advantages of the very best military training in weapons, field-craft, and covert operations. Operating as they do outside normal police investigation and procedure they can’t be openly supported by the regular police, but they can still draw on the covert support of the British intelligence services and their unofficial police contacts, as well as here, some more ‘unconventional’ allies.
Our introduction to Phil McKenzie and the formation of BTL enterprises was dealt with in the prequel to this book. Although there is sufficient explanation and references to the past to allow it to read perfectly well as a stand-alone book I would still recommend reading the prequel first to enjoy it to its full; as well as being re-acquainted with ex SAS operative Hawk, the attractive ex intelligence operative Annabel, the equally stunning motor bike riding Rachael, former pick-pocket Jake, and one or two others, several new colourful characters are added to the mix: Max, the leader of biker gang the Mental Riders, and Intelligence operative and linguistics expert, Ian, to name but two. There are also some pretty brutal and sadistic new villains as well in the shape psychopathic twin brothers.
The story kicks off with the audacious escape from prison custody of Martin Cameron, who within minutes of his escape embarks on his vicious return to crime and violence; determined to re-establish and expand his control of all of Scotland’s major criminal activities, there follows a bloody trail of violence and dead bodies along the way; he also plans his painful and sadistic revenge on the man responsible for his imprisonment, Phil McKenzie. What he isn’t aware of though is just how eager someone else is for equally sadistic vengeance against him or indeed just how better organised and equipped Phil McKenzie and his organisation are now. In the interim, Martin Cameron’s plans to organise a massive drug shipment into Scotland once again bring him to the attention of one of the Hawk’s former cohorts despite being on the other side of the world at the time.
This is what Tom Benson does best, drawing on his own military experience and memories of growing up on the hard streets of Glasgow, coupled with a true story teller’s imagination. Once again, the author’s attention to plot detail and consistency rivals that of say a Frederick Forsythe novel, and is handled with the same careful planning as the covert operations of the story. The precise levels of detail related to weaponry, covert surveillance, and urban and rural field-craft are excellent, enough to place the reader right there with the characters but not so much to distract from the main story or bog the reader down. The characters are well-developed by way of the gritty and realistic dialogue and the things they do. I also enjoyed seeing how some of the characters had evolved since first encountering them in the prequel, and I must say, the writing here is even sharper and more streamlined than before. I was also impressed at how Phil McKenzie took more of a ‘behind the scenes’ role here, allowing some of the other characters to really come into their own rather than relying just on him to carry the story. As always, Tom Benson rounds up the conclusion and loose ends most effectively and leaves the reader with a tantalising hint of another sequel. The way the story is structured and has evolved from the prequel could lend this two book series (so far) to a whole series of books along the lines of Lee Child’s ‘Jack Reacher’ series …
… Tom Benson on the IASD website – click on pic for link …
Welcome to this, the first review/writing post of my new Welsh Wednesday writing series where each Wednesday I hope to be posting book/poetry reviews of Welsh authors, those authors living in or with a strong connection to Wales, or books that simply have an equally strong Welsh theme to them. In addition, I’ll also be posting information about Welsh writing groups, bookshops, and anything to do with Welsh literature whatever the genre be it fiction, history, travel, culture etc.
I’m proud to present here my review of a collection of writing from the Tonypandy Writer’s Group, June In The Valley, a little gem of a book I discovered while searching for Welsh creative writing groups. It’s only available in print format but at only £3.00 it’s an absolute literary bargain … click title for Amazon link.
The Tonypandy Writer’s Group
I discovered this little gem of a book whilst researching Welsh writing groups. Within its seventy pages, there are thirteen contributions of short stories and poetry.from various members of the Tonypandy writing group. Written to commemorate the group’s founder June Bacon, the book opens and touchingly closes with one of her stories, concluding a surprisingly fine collection of writing …
‘Plain Jane’ – a heartwarming ‘twist in the tale’ type story that puts you in mind of the ugly duckling discovering it’s a really a beautiful swan, and with a nice revelation at the end.
‘Where The Heart Is’ – a sort of mid-life crisis that turns into a heart-rending journey of self-discovery, a very powerful piece of writing.
‘A Story For June’ – A clever comic piece of people watching, a smartly dressed gorgeous woman being met at Cardiff station by … well, you’ll have to read it to find out …
‘The Bedroom’ – A short but moving tale of dying contentedly and how a brother and sister look back on and examine their own lives while dealing with their mother’s death, each in their own but very different ways.
‘My Hero – The Lamplighter’ – a short gentle poem quite literally almost ‘illuminating’ a bygone era, when a new invention was to change people’s lives. A youngster remembers such a time and how they watched in wonderment and a man making the streets safe for people, conjuring up images of dark Victorian nights.
‘The Sacrifice’ – Another ‘twist in the tale type story, this time with a bittersweet ending; a brutal snapshot of life in New York City, an incident that any of us could be witness to, compelling the reader to consider what they might do themselves in similar circumstances. Intertwined with the main story, we learn of a child’s confusion about the Sunday school version of god and the bible the literal reality of the Old Testament stories along with other memories that an unfolding drama conjures up in the child’s now adult’s mind.
‘The Curtains Are Closed’ – A prose style poem, simple and elegant, about a close-knit community showing their concern and respect when learning of the loss of one of their own.
‘Rhondda Past’ – a wistful trip down memory lane as an elderly resident of the Rhondda valley looks back to a time when it was a traditional mining community, and how things have changed since then, and not always for the better. Amid those changes are plans to close some of the writer’s beloved local libraries and it’s the proposed closures that bring back so many childhood memories.
‘Kindly’ – one of those stories that defy description, that you have to read for yourself to understand …
‘The Vicar’s Wife’ – A truly bittersweet story of a wife jolted into doing something about her life and appearance, of wanting something from a life and marriage that has lost its magic.
‘The Mirror’ – Another trip down memory lane, this time a wistful poetic one as a middle-aged woman reflects on what the passing years have done to her once youthful body and looks, though ever mindful that like so many of us, inside she’s still the youth she once was …
‘Song Of My People’ – A poignant poem that takes the reader through the generations from great-grandfather down to father, and ultimately the son telling the tale of those gone before, determined to remember; the eager anticipation of a youngsters life ahead through to the realities of a miner’s life that bears much in common with the slaves of ancient Egypt, the realisation that men’s lives mean less than the profit that can be obtained from their labour and the further cold political reality that the way of life of entire communities can be discarded to make way for easier profit elsewhere.
‘Everything’s Coming Up Roses’ – A spooky little story, shorter than most yet beautifully simple yet and everything a story of this type should be. I won’t say more as to do so would almost certainly give too much away. A super must-read for fans of the paranormal …
‘Till Death’ – A touch of comic gallows humour in this short but sweet prose style poem, again too short to say too much without spoiling it but suffice to say, absolutely loved it!
‘The Box’ – As sentimental and beautiful a story you could hope read of a man’s remembrance of past happiness, again a short one but equally, just the perfect length it needs to be for the desired effect.
‘Breathtaking’ – The perfect ‘twist in the tale’ short story, ‘ though given its short length it’s really more a flash fiction story, leading the reader in one direction only to throw them off course with all the force of a suddenly discovering you’ve had the map upside down the whole time and you’re in totally the wrong valley, another little gem and the perfect way to round off this excellent collection.
As well as appealing to residents of South Wales, I think anyone who lives in or appreciates growing up in a village or the countryside will find much to enjoy and identify with this in this lovely collection of short stories and poetry, or indeed just about anyone who simply enjoys thoroughly well crafted and entertaining creative writing.
The Tonypandy Writer’s Group meets every other Wednesday at:
Tonypandy Library, 21 De Winton St, Tonypandy CF40 2RA
* And in the words of the group itself, if you would like to join just call in and inquire at the desk. In the spirit of June (the late founder of the group) you will be guaranteed a warm welcome and a cup of coffee courtesy of Debie and the staff …