Reviews Published

Sunday, November 19, 2023

Starter Villain by John Scalzi

I love John Scalzi's sci fi books, and "Starter Villain" is no exception. Expect Scalzi's on-brand humour, adventure, fast-moving twisty action, and characters you can't help but root for. In addition, you will find cats, dolphins, trillions of dollars, and an island of secrets. This book ticks all the boxes.


Inheriting your uncle's supervillain business is more complicated than you might think. Particularly when you discover who's running the place.

Charlie's life is going nowhere fast. A divorced substitute teacher living with his cat in a house his siblings want to sell, all he wants is to open a pub downtown, if only the bank will approve his loan.

Then his long-lost uncle Jake dies and leaves his supervillain business (complete with island volcano lair) to Charlie.

But becoming a supervillain isn't all giant laser death rays and lava pits. Jake had enemies, and now they're coming after Charlie. His uncle might have been a stand-up, old-fashioned kind of villain, but these are the real thing: rich, soulless predators backed by multinational corporations and venture capital.

It's up to Charlie to win the war his uncle started against a league of supervillains. But with unionized dolphins, hyperintelligent talking spy cats, and a terrifying henchperson at his side, going bad is starting to look pretty good.

In a dog-eat-dog a cat.

The Spy Coast by Tess Gerritsen

I love the premise of retired CIA operatives getting involved in solving crimes again. A bit like the movie RED, The Spy Coast by Tess Gerritsen is a rollercoaster - both fun and thrilling. There are two timelines (with the events in the past shedding light on what's happening in the present).

Immensely readable, with quirky lovable characters. This is the first book in the Martini Club series, and I hope there will be many more.


Former spy Maggie Bird came to the seaside village of Purity, Maine, eager to put the past behind her after a mission went tragically wrong. These days, she’s living quietly on her chicken farm, still wary of blowback from the events that forced her early retirement.

But when a body turns up in Maggie’s driveway, she knows it’s a message from former foes who haven’t forgotten her. Maggie turns to her local circle of old friends―all retirees from the CIA―to help uncover the truth about who is trying to kill her, and why. This “Martini Club” of former spies may be retired, but they still have a few useful skills that they’re eager to use again, if only to spice up their rather sedate new lives.

Monday, November 13, 2023

"The Secret" by Lee Child (kind of)

"The Secret" is the latest Jack Reacher instalment by the brotherly Child duo. I must say, I'm really grateful to Andrew (real surname Grant) for continuing the series. I'm a true Reacher fan, and I love spending time in his company. The books are extremely well written and well plotted, and I can't help thinking that hey, I'm sure there are other brothers in that brood, maybe each and every one of them should write a Reacher book a year? Just an idea - feel free to steal it, @Lee.

"The Secret" is fantastic. It goes back in time to when Jack Reacher was still in Uncle Sam's service. This is the official blurb:

1992. All across the United States respectable, upstanding citizens are showing up dead. These deaths could be accidents, and they don’t appear to be connected—until a fatal fall from a high-floor window attracts some unexpected attention.

That attention comes from the secretary of defense. All of a sudden he wants an interagency task force to investigate. And he wants Jack Reacher as the army’s representative. If Reacher gets a result, great. If not, he’s a convenient fall guy.

But office politics isn’t Reacher’s thing. Three questions quickly emerge: Who’s with him, who’s against him, and will the justice he dispenses be the official kind . . . or his own kind?

Small Great Things

Okay, this post is about Jodi Picoult's books. It's also about "Small Great Things" in particular - which is fantastic, so please read it - but in context of all her books.

Jodi Picoult's books are all topical and thought-provoking... and before you yawn and browse on, they are also immensely readable. You get invested in the characters, you get curious about the story, and when you turn the last page, you sigh with satisfaction at the resolution. 

Reading Jodi's books is time well spent, whether you want to open your mind or just have an enjoyable afternoon.

Blurb for "Small Great Things":

Ruth Jefferson is a labor and delivery nurse at a Connecticut hospital with more than 20 years’ experience. During her shift, Ruth begins a routine checkup on a newborn, only to be told a few minutes later that she’s been reassigned to another patient. The parents are white supremacists and don’t want Ruth, who is African American, to touch their child. The hospital complies with their request, but the next day, the baby goes into cardiac distress while Ruth is alone in the nursery. Does she obey orders or does she intervene? 

Ruth hesitates before performing CPR and, as a result, is charged with a serious crime. Kennedy McQuarrie, a white public defender, takes her case but gives unexpected advice: Kennedy insists that mentioning race in the courtroom is not a winning strategy. Conflicted by Kennedy’s counsel, Ruth tries to keep life as normal as possible for her family - especially her teenage son - as the case becomes a media sensation. As the trial moves forward, Ruth and Kennedy must gain each other’s trust, and come to see that what they’ve been taught their whole lives about others - and themselves - might be wrong. 

What Remains by Wendy Walker

I truly enjoy this author's books. "What Remains" is no exception - you get a solid twisty plot, relatable characters, and prose that keeps you seamlessly engaged. This is my second Wendy Walker, and I'm diving deeper into the backlist.


Detective Elise Sutton is drawn to cold cases. Each crime is a puzzle to solve, pulled from the past. Elise looks for cracks in the surface and has become an expert on how murderers slip up and give themselves away. She has dedicated her life to creating a sense of order, at work with her ex-marine partner; at home with her husband and two young daughters; and within, battling her own demons. Elise has everything under control, until one afternoon, when she walks into a department store and is forced to make a terrible choice: to save one life, she will have to take another.

Elise is hailed as a hero, but she doesn’t feel like one. Steeped in guilt, and on a leave of absence from work, she’s numb, even to her husband and daughters, until she connects with Wade Austin, the tall man whose life she saved. But Elise soon realizes that he isn’t who he says he is. In fact, Wade Austin isn’t even his real name. The tall man is a ghost, one who will set off a terrifying game of cat and mouse, threatening Elise and the people she loves most.

Sunday, September 17, 2023

A Game of Lies

"A Game of Lies" by Clare Mackintosh is the second in her Walsh Detective Ffion Morgan series. I love Clare's writing style, I love the setting, I love her characters, and - most of all - I love this twisty plot.

Stranded in the Welsh mountains, seven reality show contestants have no idea what they've signed up for.

Each of these strangers has a secret. If another player can guess the truth, they won't just be eliminated - they'll be exposed live on air. The stakes are higher than they'd ever imagined, and they're trapped.

The disappearance of a contestant wasn't supposed to be part of the drama. Detective Ffion Morgan has to put aside what she's watched on screen, and find out who these people really are - knowing she can't trust any of them.

And when a murderer strikes, Ffion knows every one of her suspects has an alibi . . . and a secret worth killing for.

Titanium Noir

So, "Titanium Noir". Reading it I kept forgetting it's by Nick Harkaway, because the SF whodunnit flavour made me think of John Scalzi's "Locked In" series. This is what you need to know:

  • It's really good.
  • It's smaller than the author's "Gone away world" - also easier to figure out what's going on.
  • It's a fun book.
  • It'll make you think.

Cal Sounder is a detective working for the police on certain very sensitive cases. So when he’s called in to investigate a homicide at a local apartment, he’s surprised by the routineness of it all. But when he arrives on scene, Cal soon learns that the victim—Roddy Tebbit, an otherwise milquetoast techie—is well over seven feet tall. And although he doesn’t look a day over thirty, he is ninety-one years old. Tebbit is a Titan—one of this dystopian, near-future society’s genetically altered elites. And this case is definitely Cal’s thing.

There are only a few thousand Titans worldwide, thanks to Stefan Tonfamecasca’s discovery of the controversial T7 genetic therapy, which elevated his family to godlike status. T7 turns average humans into near-immortal distortions of themselves—with immense physical proportions to match their ostentatious, unreachable lifestyles. A dead Titan is big news . . . a murdered Titan is unimaginable. But these modified magnates are Cal’s specialty. In fact, his own ex-girlfriend, Athena, is a Titan. And not just any—she is Stefan’s daughter, heir to the massive Tonfamecasca empire.  

As the murder investigation intensifies, Cal begins to unravel the complicated threads of what should have been a straightforward case, and it becomes clear he’s on the trail of a crime whose roots run deep into the dark heart of the world.