Book Review: Open Season by C.J.Box

The first week of the year’s over and now the second week’s nearly over too! These last two weeks have gone by quickly!
This book was part of my “you’ve had it forever, just read it already” list from my 2023 Bookish Resolutions & Goals post. I knew I had plans on reading it by the time this year ended, but I didn’t think it was going to be my first read of the year. I had needed to pick something for my first read and I had nothing. I wasn’t about to fail my other 2023 resolution of “read every day” on day 1, so I ran around my room and picked a book. I just grabbed whatever was out and Open Season was still on my bed from when I randomly picked the 3 (physical) ones to come up with that list for my New Year’s post.

In any case, I’m very glad to have picked this book up. I was able to get started on that 5 priority reads list of mine early!
So, for today’s post: My book review for Open Season by C.J.Box!

Book Title: Open Season
Author: C.J. Box
Length: 278 Pages
Edition: Physical > Paperback
Published: 31 May 2016 (first published/hardcover/ 9 July 2001)
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Genres: Fiction, Mystery, Thriller, Mystery Thriller, Crime, Western, Suspense, Action

Goodreads: >LINK<
Amazon: >LINK<

The first novel in the #1 New York Times bestselling series featuring Wyoming Game Warden Joe Pickett–the book that launched one of the biggest, most reliable, and fastest growing franchises in commercial fiction!

Joe Pickett is the new game warden in Twelve Sleep, Wyoming, a town where nearly everyone hunts and the game warden–especially one like Joe who won’t take bribes or look the other way–is far from popular. When he finds a local hunting outfitter dead, splayed out on the woodpile behind his state-owned home, he takes it personally. Even after the discovery of two more bodies, and the resolution of the case by local police, Joe continues to investigate.

As Joe digs deeper into the murders, he soon discovers that the outfitter brought more than death to his backdoor: he brought Joe an endangered species, thought to be extinct, which is now living in his woodpile. But if word of this rare species gets out, it will destroy any chance of InterWest, a multi-national natural gas company, building an oil pipeline through the mountains and forests of Twelve Sleep. The closer Joe comes to the truth behind the outfitter murders, the endangered species, and InterWest, the closer he comes to losing everything he holds dear.

This book has been sitting on my shelf since I purchased it from an on-sale box in Kmart before the store closed back in 2018. Meaning, this book has been sitting on my shelf, unread, for over 5 years now and while I did get around to it once before, I never made it past the prologue of the book (although, it might’ve been because I was moving at the time). I’ll be honest, I almost DNF’d it a few times, I was just not feeling the book for the first quarter of it, but by the time I finished, I was singing praises for it.

I thought that the book was fairly interesting, even in the beginning. With a starting paragraph revolving around the sound flesh makes when it’s been penetrated by a high-powered rifle bullet, it does have a pretty good hook to it. Something dies and needs immediate investigation seems to ensue. The mystery seems to start right away. 

Joe Pickett is a game warden and it’s his job to protect the animals, especially when it’s outside hunting season and poachers are trying sneak around with their work. He’s relatively new on the job, but is an honorable and straight man. Sure, others have successfully gotten away via bribery, but not with Joe Pickett. No sir, he’s not that kind of law enforcer. No bribe and no, he won’t look the other way. If you deserve a ticket, you’re going to get a ticket. He even arrested the governor of Wyoming for fishing without a license (something nobody will ever let him live down)!

The story begins with the death of an outfitter, shot, and who dies on Joe’s property. It’s usually the police’s job to deal with crimes like homicide, but not only does he know this man, but to have had the guy succumb to his wounds in Joe’s very own backyard, this is extra personal. When things get wrapped up too quickly and swept under a rug, Joe takes it upon himself to investigate deeper into the case, sniffing out things that the police had clearly missed previously. However, when he digs too deeply, suddenly his whole life is upturned and everyone he loves is faced with dangers and threats.

My favorite thing about this book are the characters. C.J. Box has an intro (in this edition, at least, ~2016) where he talks about how he picked out Joe’s name, why is the book is set in Wyoming, and about strong female characters and strong female characters we got. Joe’s a huge family man, unlike some of his close friends, who are happy to boast about cheating, such as when Joe walks in on his friend with another woman, despite being married. But Joe? Joe is a good guy and a very loyal husband and a great father. I enjoyed the fact that he isn’t perfect. I’ve seen some cocky cops as well as cops who seem to have stellar records. Well, he has a good handful of items against his reputation by the end (some having recovered though), not to mention how unliked he can be since he simply won’t look the other way. 

“In what Joe and Marybeth later called ‘one [sic] his larger bonehead moves,’ Joe had written the wrong date for the appointment with the director in his calendar and simply missed it. When Joe screwed up, he tended to do it massively and publicly.”

Joe’s bogged down by finances (he barely makes $26,000.00 a year) along with the guilt of letting his family down because of this low income, is later further bogged down by the guilt of his involvement in the case and bringing dangers to their front steps, is a bad pistol shot, and makes mistakes that the community quickly knows about. I love a good cop that can sniff out clues like a blood hound and always seems to know what they need to do next, but at the same time, seeing a guy like Joe, who isn’t perfect and constantly anxious about the events in his life, it’s kind of refreshing.

Then there’s his wife, Marybeth, and their two children, Sheridan and Lucy. Marybeth takes care of her family amazingly well. Pregnant, and caring for the two kids, she always sticks by with Joe, despite how rough their situation is. Sheridan, their older daughter, is one of the stars of the show here, having her own POV chapters and being very involved in the case due to what she witnesses and experiences. Multiple times, she’s in such danger that my heart’s at my throat. She’s so brave in this book and is quite smart as well. 

I also enjoyed the writing. It’s easy to read and where things are needing description, C.J. Box doesn’t overdo it and the writing flows smoothly. Where things shine the most, like I mentioned before, are the characters. I admire Sheridan and loved her chapters. I especially love how C.J. Box was able to easily switch the narrative tone from the point of view of an adult (Joe) to a child’s (Sheridan). This especially shows during moments when Sheridan’s in danger. I could feel her very real fear and it’s horrifying (it’s absolutely terrifying and I’d throw up if I were in her shoes). Villain wise, they’re written in a way where I almost anticipated who they are very early in the book. These characters just ooze a slimy feeling and you immediately distrust them (and what do you know, I was kind of right, even if I did guess wrong). 
Overall, this was a great book and a good start to a new series. When it comes to mystery thrillers, the protagonists, if they are part of the government/law enforcement, I’m generally used to seeing them as spies, FBI, PI, actual police/state agents, forensic scientists, and the such. Now, adding to this mix, we have a game warden, a position I (as someone who lives in the big cities) have never really considered to lead a story. It was a great read that invoked real and helpless fear inside me. I wasn’t so much as focused on the plot itself as I was with keeping track of Joe and Sheridan’s involvement to that plot as well as reading Joe’s despair that he’s let his family down, hard. I’m so used to seeing a seasoned cop, even by the very first installment, that it’s nice to see how green Joe is. I’ve recently reached the end of one of my favorite mystery thriller series, so I’m very interested in seeing where C.J. Box will take our game warden next. Seeing as the series is currently 23 books long, including the upcoming publication for Storm Watch coming out this year (2023), I’m sure this’ll be quite the journey.

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Book Review: Righteous Prey by John Sandford

Happy Thursday, my lovely peeps🐥!
This week’s book review: Righteous Prey by John Sandford!

This was my most anticipated read of the year and I kept pushing it off as if to make the read even more rewarding the longer I wait for it. I finally got around to it, and I absolutely loved it!

Book Title: Righteous Prey
Series: Prey Series / Virgil Flowers
Book # 32 (Prey) / 14 (Virgil Flowers)
Author: John Sandford
Length: ~412 Pages (Based on Kindle Pages)
Publication Date: 4 Oct 2022
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Edition: eARC (NetGalley)
Genres: Fiction, Mystery, Mystery > Crime, Thriller, Thriller > Mystery Thriller, Suspense, Police Procedural, Action

Goodreads: >LINK<
Amazon: >LINK<
Author Website: >LINK<

Disclaimer: A big thank you to the author, publisher, and NetGalley. An ebook copy was provided to me in exchange for a fair and honest review. This does not affect my review in any way, and all opinions are my own.

Beloved heroes Lucas Davenport and Virgil Flowers are up against a powerful vigilante group with an eye on vengeance in a stunning new novel from #1 New York Times-bestselling author John Sandford.

“We’re going to murder people who need to be murdered.” So begins a press release from a mysterious group known only as “The Five,” shortly after a vicious predator is murdered in San Francisco. The Five is believed to be made up of vigilante killers who are very bored…and very rich. They target the worst of society—rapists, murderers, and thieves—and then use their unlimited resources to offset the damage done by those who they’ve killed, donating untraceable bitcoin to charities and victims via the dark net. The Five soon become the most popular figures on social media, a modern-day Batman…though their motives may not be entirely pure.

After a woman is murdered in the Twin Cities, Virgil Flowers and Lucas Davenport are sent in to investigate. And they soon have their hands full–the killings are smart and carefully choreographed, and with no apparent direct connection to the victims, the Five are virtually untraceable. But if anyone can destroy this group, it will be the dynamic team of Davenport and Flowers.

5 bitcoin traders, immensely wealthy, and absolutely nuts in the head, conspire along with another individual to commit crimes “for the better of the world.” They kill those they deem worthy of death, post their crimes out as press releases along with the reasons that the individuals were killed, and a hefty amount in bitcoin is donated to a charity afterwards, a test to see if these non-profits would accept the money if they were to come out of these crimes; blood money. Lucas and Virgil aren’t called on, at least not until one of the killings happens on Minnesota soil and the BCA and US Marshal become involved.

Though I’ve seen books revolving around an individual or groups of people going after people who deserve justice, it was still a pretty good book and I enjoyed the plot. Beginning with weeks of staking out their victims, following their every move and tracking all of their personal securities, these five million/billionaire, along with their leader, come up with extremely detailed and well-thought-out plans that fully cover their tracks behind them. It’s nearly impossible to link the crime back to the perpetrator, at least, of course, until the killer in Minnesota slips up and it’s just enough of a clue for Lucas and Virgil to work off of. From there, the plot takes off and it doesn’t take long for the duo to identify some of the members of the Five and begin their pursuit. When The Five’s plans begins to crumble beneath them, people start to get really desperate. And desperate people are dangerous people.

In the first book where Lucas and Virgil worked together, Ocean Prey, Virgil actually worked mostly with Rae and Lucas with another team, covering background. Both having a criminal mind, nabbing clues in not so legal ways (like breaking into a house to investigate with a copy of a key made by pressing clay on it?), they have vastly different personalities when it comes to crime. Lucas sees things like a puzzle while Virgil’s more emotional (not that deaths don’t affect Lucas), but there’s an interesting dynamic between the two of them.

Lucas and Virgil were each other’s closest male friends, in the way men form friendships around shared traumatic stress and a predilection for jockstraps. Though they were friends, they were not alike.

Lucas could look at a body and become immediately absorbed in the technical details of the death: how the killing had been done, possible motives, who had the opportunity. He saw murder as a puzzle. The body was a detail, but not the only one. Murder signaled a competition that he was determined to win.

Virgil sought balance, rather than a victory. He wanted to wrench his world back into what it should be, a peaceful place where people cooperated to create a civilization. He disliked violence and rarely resorted to it. Murder was always a shock to his system.

In Righteous Prey, this time the duo really does work together, starting by visiting the scene of the Minnesota death, and “walking and knocking” on doors. Lucas being Virgil’s old boss, they’re best friends and their conversations can be pretty golden at times. There’s a hilarious supermarket scene with the most cliché undercover cop “quick pretend we’re a cute couple to avoid attention” trope that was the comedic highlight of my read. They’re funny and witty, and fantastic at bouncing ideas off each other. The bicker and banter between them reminds me of siblings and their interaction lightens the tenser parts of the book.

The woman called, “What’d you do? Did he see you?”

A male agent, also inside the store, who’d been looking at tomatoes, said, “They walked by him holding hands. [killer] wouldn’t look at them. He’s a homophobe and thought they were gay.”

Lucas, not transmitting, said to Virgil, “I won’t live this down. You will, of course, being an ambisexual hippie.”

The woman agent said, “That’s so cool. That’s really so cool.”

Lucas: “Ah, Jesus.”

There’s a lot of character development over the course of multiple books, for both Lucas and Virgil. Virgil has been writing as a side gig since the earliest books, more so as a magazine column writer, though. Soon, taking nature photographs and writing for magazines became writing fiction books for publishing deals and he’s in the middle of his third novel when Righteous Prey is taking place, with Lucas, a game maker himself, encouraging him. Because cops burn out hard and fast. Lucas, already rich off his games and only picking up the most interesting of cases can only hope that Virgil will follow because neither of them can see the latter continue to run around Minnesota for much longer. They’re getting older and their lives have been constantly at stake. They barely make it through this book (though I’ve definitely said this earlier in a few other books too, so…)

There were some places that were slow, you can’t have promising leads forever, and there are multiple times the duo run into walls. Still, the thrill is always present and there’s always some form of a chase, but the killers are just as slippery as they are elusive. Along with cash to back them up, clever alibis, and this case taking place across multiple stakes, Virgil and Lucas are just running all over the place. In fact, if The Five had kept all of this on the down low, and not going about publishing every hit to the public, they probably could’ve easily gotten away with these killings for a long time!

All in all, I had a wonderful time with it and I’m definitely going to get the physical copy when it comes out next month. My only worry is, with Lucas and Virgil growing older, having promising new careers on their horizon, family, and with Lucas’ adoptive daughter, Letty, having her own spin-off series now, we may very well be nearing the end of both Lucas and Virgil’s adventures. The book ends pretty well though, especially given the scary events that took place in the climax. It has a very open end feel to it, with plenty of possibilities to come. Another gripping and solid book from Sandford. I could not put this one down!

Book Review: The 6:20 Man by David Baldacci

Hello, my lovely peeps🐥! Allergies are getting the better of me this morning, but I’m hyped because there’s going to be a Nintendo Treehouse Live Presentation in a few hours! I’ve never played Splatoon, but I am very excited for Harvestella (though I’m a little surprised at this random appearance in the direct). Only 67 more days until November! My wallet is ready!!

(No, not really)💸

This week’s review is for The 6:20 Man by David Baldacci! Exciting, riveting and gripping. An unputdownable book!

Book Title: The 6:20 Man
Author: David Baldacci
Length: 417 Pages
Published: 12 July 2022
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Genres: Fiction, Mystery, Thriller > Mystery Thriller, Mystery > Crime, Contemporary, Action

Disclaimer: Thank you to Grand Central Publishing for this gifted copy! All opinions are of my own.

Goodreads: >LINK<
Grand Central Publishing: >LINK<
Amazon: >LINK<

Every day without fail, Travis Devine puts on a cheap suit, grabs his faux-leather briefcase, and boards the 6:20 commuter train to Manhattan, where he works as an entry-level analyst at the city’s most prestigious investment firm. In the mornings, he gazes out the train window at the lavish homes of the uberwealthy, dreaming about joining their ranks. In the evenings, he listens to the fiscal news on his phone, already preparing for the next grueling day in the cutthroat realm of finance.

Then one morning Devine’s tedious routine is shattered by an anonymous email: She is dead.

Sara Ewes, Devine’s coworker and former girlfriend, has been found hanging in a storage room of his office building—presumably a suicide, prompting the NYPD to come calling on him. If that wasn’t enough, Devine receives another ominous visit, a confrontation that threatens to dredge up grim secrets from his past in the Army unless he participates in a clandestine investigation into his firm.

This treacherous role will take Travis from the impossibly glittering lives he once saw only through a train window, to the darkest corners of the country’s economic halls of power…where something rotten lurks. And apart from this high-stakes conspiracy, there’s a killer out there with their own agenda, and Devine is the bullseye.

I’ve never read a David Baldacci book before, despite seeming them everywhere, and I can see why he’s so popular! Right off the bat, his writing has me amazed, the characters intriguing, and the first chapter had me already hooked! The mystery behind the guilt the fuels our protagonist’s every day struggle to work in a place that makes him loath his life had me fully invested in his life in just the first 5 pages.

The book is 84 chapters long, but at only 417 pages long, this means that each chapter is relatively short. Most are less than 10 pages, and some are less than 5. I love books that break things into tiny little chapters because I feel like I’m flying through the book, especially whenever chapters end on a cliffhanger. Besides the formatting, the pacing and the prose itself was wonderfully done. It’s fast and every time I open the book, I find myself lost in the story; there’s never a not exciting moment.

Our protagonist here is Travis Devine. From the very start of the book, we know that Devine had been a ranger before he randomly just left the services. But “leave and never look back” was not something he did. Devine left due to the guilt of having gotten away with a crime that he has not ever forgiven himself for and so, he punishes himself by getting up at 4 in the morning to work out before begrudgingly heading off on the 6:20 train to work in a place that he hates with a passion, grinding away with all of the other “burners” making money for people who don’t need more money. If he hates his life, good. It’s working.

The train started to fill, station after station, with the young gladiators in their suits and skirts, their laptops and clouds fired up and gestating future wealth for those with already too much of it. Later, the train climbed the little knoll, slowed, and then stopped, like a thirsty animal does at creekside for a drink.

I liked Devine. He’s smart, careful, stoic, analytical and observant. The first few chapters, I had thought he was going to be some one-worded or short sentenced, near silent protagonist, kind of character. He kind of does. He speaks in ways that feel like an interrogation and when he’s done with you, he leaves. There’s no need to rile people up more than needed and generally gives people more chances than they deserve (such as the time he beat up a few dudes, who followed him, after giving them MULTIPLE warnings, before asking a woman to call the ambulance rather than leave them in the alley). He’s intimidating and looking to punish himself for his past crimes, but, as another character points out, he’s kinder than he lets on and deeply cares about those close to him.

Devine thinks things through and often has some plan to get out of trouble, but if he didn’t have one, he’d be quick on his feet to think one up just as well. If that didn’t work, his ranger training never left him, and he’s able to get himself out of a tough situation, though he’s no invincible man and doesn’t always walk out without some injury.

When he does find himself cornered with no way out, he has people looking out for him, including some badass female characters. Devine lives with three other roommates, a woman who is studying to be a lawyer, Helen Speers, another the CEO of her own online dating company named Hummingbird, Jill Tapshaw, and then there’s Will Valentine, the hacker from Russia. All brilliant people with their own important roles in this book. They all assist him in some way, or another, as Devine investigates the murder of a woman he’s once dated, Sara Ewes. Then, there’s Montgomery, a very important character who sells herself short in being just a trophy girlfriend when she’s anything but; accompanying Devine even when she’s probably terrified for her life. She strikes me the most and is probably my favorite character, having helped Devine on so many levels.

The plot was fantastic; I could barely put the book down. When I was reading, I found myself flying through the book, and the short chapters aren’t the only reasons why, either. The plot and story, the interesting characters and dialogue, the mystery and suspense behind all of the crimes, the need to find out how things all tie up in the end, the adrenaline rushes, the plot twists, the writing in general, all of it made for a wonderful and explosive read.

Devine starts off trying to get to the bottom of a single “suicide” only for it to turn all the weird corners and suddenly, he finds himself in deep muck. A deal is proposed in which choice is just an illusion. Declining the deal means his past can get him in a great load of trouble so the only thing left is to agree, accept, and move forward. The more he uncovers things about Sara, the more things begin to surface, and they’re not good things either. Some things, even when discovered, are far too great for a single individual, or even a whole organization, to handle. Because money means power, and power can get you just about anywhere, so long as you don’t step in one of the dozens of minefields.

“But if you have enough money, the laws don’t apply to you.”

The ending was great as well, just short of mind-blowing. I was wrong in so many different ways, and Devine was actually not far off from me either. There’s a whole reveal chapter that ties all of the events together, from the first death to the last. That was the only slightly jarring chapter (I can’t say it was a bad chapter either, especially as my eyes widened, and my jaws dropped at every consecutive sentence that came out of the antagonist’s mouth) as it was essentially a whole confession chapter, on a nearly info dumping level and mostly dialogue. Devine was always so close to the truth, but was never able to finish the puzzle; having laid the connected clues in chunks to the side. The antagonist gave us (and Devine) that connection and closure that ended things neatly, with no pieces left over for us to question and guess on about. The last chapter was bittersweet, but I liked it. I think even Devine felt just a bit lighter as he, once more, rides the 6:20 train.

Book Review: Eyes of Prey by John Sandford

WOW! Pretty messed up book!
Hello, my lovely peeps🐥!
Today’s post is a review for the third book in the Prey series, Eyes of Prey by John Sandford! I actually started to read this as I was reading Ocean Prey and to see and compare the young[er] Davenport to the current and older one was pretty fascinating to say the least.

Still, I had a blast with this book and one of my best reads of 2022 so far!

Book Description

Title: Eyes of Prey
Series: Lucas Davenport / Prey Series Book: 3
Author: John Sandford
Edition: Ebook > Libby
Length: 357 Pages
Genre/s: Fiction, Mystery, Crime, Suspense
Rating: 5 Golden Eggs

Blurb (Goodreads)

Lieutenant Davenport’s sanity was nearly shattered by two murder investigations. Now he faces something worse…Two killers. One hideously scarred. The other strikingly handsome, a master manipulator fascinated with all aspects of death. The dark mirror of Davenport’s soul…This is the case that will bring Davenport back to life. Or push him over the edge.

Review

Eyes of Prey is the third installation of the, soon to be, 32 book long Prey series by John Sandford and it focuses on a younger Lucas Davenport from back when he worked in the police as Minneapolis’ detective lieutenant. Having barely scrapped by a serial killer followed by a group of killers resulting in his daughter’s injury and his partner, Jennifer, to take their kid and go off, it’s been a hard hard time for Davenport. He’s majorly depressed and starts his side of the story off by pummeling a teen, for injuring one of his best snitches, someone who was so close to Davenport, she was “almost a friend”.

The story starts off with Stephanie Bekker, the wife of Dr. Bekker, who is killed one night, her face destroyed in the act of violence, and her eyes mutilated. A narc, by the name of Del Capslock, was there with Davenport when he beats the living hell out of the teen, and just manages to drag Davenport away before things escalate even further. Unfortunately, it doesn’t help with the internal affairs claim that shortly follows, parents of the teen accusing Davenport of police brutality with no good proof…

Everyone’s worried about the poor guy and to help him back into the game, his boss, Daniel, suggests that Davenport take up the case of Stephanie Bekker, coupled with the fact that she was Del’s cousin and this would be helping him get to the bottom of things. It’s an intriguing case for sure, the eyes were of special interest. No lover’s quarrel would usually result in eye gouging or mutilations…

Davenport agrees to just take a look into the case, but eventually finds himself very very deep in the craziest of crazy cases as he finds himself with not just one, but perhaps two people working together and of the two, at least one of them was batshit crazy. More and more bodies begin to show up, seemingly connected to the Stephanie Bekker case; all victims with their eyes either destroyed or gouged out.

I couldn’t get into this book at first. It felt slow and I didn’t know where it was going to go. Here, we are slowly [re]introduced to more characters that eventually come back again and again in the series, people like Sloan and Del. But the main point is not Davenport, or any of the good guys. Sure, he makes for a pretty good, pushing the boundaries, kind of detective, and while I love the main characters in both the Prey and Virgil Flowers series, this time I was much more interested in the killers. As things picked up, I found myself unable to back out and found none of the earlier hesitation I had when I’d first started reading.

This time, the highlight is on two killers, both awful in their own ways, but one of them is nuts while the other is somewhat more pitiable. Their names are immediately given away in the first chapter, but occasionally, Sandford refers back to them simply as “Beauty” and the “Troll” and to avoid spoilers, I’ll call them as such here too. Complete opposites, night and day, one of the killer is beautiful, so beautiful that Sandford points out multiple times through the story just how beautiful he is, either via other characters or by “Beauty” checking himself out in the mirror. The other killer works with “Beauty” and is nicknamed “Troll” for his disfigured face from a childhood burn incident, the main muscle of the duo compared to “Beauty”‘s brain behind the plans. The “Troll” is more apathetic towards the killings while “Beauty” is elated, nearly ecstatic. His own colleagues at work secretly call him Dr. Death!

I thought that “Troll” was slightly less interesting, although I felt just an ounce bit of sympathy towards him since he’s pretty much never had a friend in his life and had simply gravitated towards “Beauty” and with every successful killing and with “Beauty”‘s praise, “Troll” seemed to smile with happiness and that made me feel a little sad (still awful people though).

Of the pair, the more interesting character is “Beauty.” A doctor who self-prescribes enough drugs to kill a field of elephants, this guy’s downing pill after pill and is simply insane. I joked halfway through the book that Eyes of Prey‘s “Beauty” was a walking “Don’t Do Drugs Kids” commercial. He goes after kids, the elderly, anyone. It doesn’t matter, so long as he can watch as they pass away, stare into their eyes as they experience their last minutes. There are some terrible terrible moments in this book. He does a little “jig” dance every time he experiences a high of some sorts; sometimes from a drug high and others from watching people die. Already unhinged from the start, his mental decline from the beginning to the end was terrifying to watch.

The book takes some massive turns and there are twists everywhere, right up to the very end with the book finishing off on a plot twisting last sentence. A fantastic book and of the handful of Davenport books I’ve read so far, this has probably been the best one yet. My emotions were all over the place, heart soaring and dropping with every few chapters, especially towards the end.

I already have a favorite Sandford book (Shock Wave), and in Ocean Prey‘s review, I remarked that that had been a close second, but now, I think Eyes of Prey beats even Ocean Prey, maybe even Shock Wave! Still, there are a little over 25 books I have yet to read in the Prey series and it’s still too early to pick favorites.

Midway through Eyes of Prey, I’d begun to schedule my March and April reads. I had picked up and read the blurb of book 4 so it kind of spoiled book 3 here, but nevertheless, I cannot wait to see how things will follow, especially with how Eyes of Prey ended.

5 Shiny Shiny Eggs

Book Review: Bloody Genius by John Sandford

Hello, my lovely peeps 🐥 !
It’s time for Thursday Reviews and this week, we have Bloody Genius by John Sandford, the [current] last Virgil Flowers book as from here on, at least for the next two books, it’ll be a duo between Sandford’s two main series, Virgil’s and Davenport’s!

Book Description

Title: Bloody Genius
Series: Virgil Flowers Book # 12
Author: John Sandford
Edition: Physical (Paperback Book)
Length: 406 Pages
Genre/s: Fiction, Mystery, Thriller, Mystery Thriller, Suspense, Crime, Police Procedural

Blurb (Goodreads)

Virgil Flowers will have to watch his back–and his mouth–as he investigates a college culture war turned deadly in this thriller from #1 “New York Times” bestseller John Sandford.

At the local state university, two feuding departments have faced off on the battleground of PC culture. Each carries their views to extremes that may seem absurd, but highly educated people of sound mind and good intentions can reasonably disagree, right?

Then one of the department stars winds up dead, and Virgil Flowers is brought in to investigate . . . and he soon comes to realize he’s dealing with people who, on this one particular issue, are functionally crazy. Among this group of wildly impassioned, diametrically opposed zealots lurks a killer, and it will be up to Virgil to sort the murderer from the mere maniacs.

Review

Virgil Flowers is back at it again but this time, instead of his usual small town case, he finds himself in the cities investigating a college professor’s death involving a laptop and possibly revolving around an academic war. Things get bloody and with the trail growing cold and leads ending nowhere, it’s time to call a fresh pair of eyes to take a look at the case.

The book starts off from the viewpoint of the professor and his unknown companion, both sneaking around the library for a midnight hookup, in the professor’s carrel, when the professor bumps into someone else who isn’t supposed to be there. Both surprised, the killer takes the moment’s opportunity, with the professor turning his back to call the police, and strikes him down with the professor’s own heavy (12 pounds!) laptop and before fleeing the scene. Of course, an investigation takes place, but eventually the Minneapolis police ends up stuck and Virgil comes in.

This was a pretty good book and had me guessing all the way to the end, though there was one character who kept telling Virgil hints and clues on who he thinks the killer is. Virgil thinks that guy’s profile of the killer is eye-roll worthy (but it does bug him a little) but the character is dead set on his guesses. Thanks to this random character, after 12 books, I have laid down my final answer and was right for once.

Unlike in book 10 where Virgil was running himself in circles with too many leads but not enough motive to drive on, Virgil isn’t as stuck here. The two major characters here are Virgil and the previous cop on the case, Margaret Trane, who is NOT happy to see Virgil. She knows that having been stuck for so long, if Virgil were to dig up any progressive clues, the media would blow right up in her and her department’s faces and deem the Minneapolis police to be incompetent. Virgil suggests that perhaps he could be Trane’s “assistant” and would introduce himself as such so that he could have an excuse to re-interview people Trane and her team had already gone through. Of course, wherever Virgil goes, strange things follows.

“Until you showed up, I was running a nice logical investigation. Somehow, Flowers, you got me up to my hips in weird shit. How’d you do that?”

Suddenly, the investigation takes all sorts of weird turns and new clues are popping up everywhere (though the end explains why new clues were showing up now rather than when Trane had investigated). Besides the academic feud, already known prior to Virgil’s arrival, now there are drugs, sex, blackmail, hackers, and even espionage happening. It reminds me of how Virgil had previously simply gone to investigate a bunch of random dogs and stepped into a meth mine and a crazy school board. I wouldn’t want to be his friend or neighbor, guy’s got weird luck.

As usual, the most adrenaline roaring moments were in the last couple of chapters. That last scene was a pit in the stomach kind of horror and I shiver at the thought of what would have happened if Virgil was just a second later at arriving.

What is unusual is that, compared to the previous books, there were far fewer POV chapters from the killer’s angle. Sure, in the previous books, sometimes the killers are hidden behind aliases, but here, there were only a few glimpses written from the killer’s POV and it left the readers guessing. While I greatly enjoyed reading the thoughts of the bad guy (like in Deep Freeze where the book starts with the killer’s name) I think I actually prefer this style. Instead of a hot and cold game, the readers are left to investigate with Virgil, guessing until the very end, and it’s a lot more fun that way.

There’s plenty of returning characters and with being in the cities, there’s even crossover characters like Del Capslock who I found to be quite the riot! I certainly need more of him! There’s also Jenkins and Shrake, the BCA’s usual go-to thugs who do the muscle work for Virgil (a cop who constantly “forgets” his gun). As always, I find the wit, dialogue, and character interactions to be the most interesting and strong points of the series.

The build up to the climax was great and the last few scenes benefitted from this build up. There were moments where you got a glimpse of the killer, from an outside perspective, and you know how dangerous of a guy he could be. It added to the stress that all of the characters were already feeling because we’re dealing with someone who has nothing left to lose. The most disappointing thing about the killer had been the motive. It’s facepalm worthy. It’s “Are you serious?? Was the prize worth the sentence??” bewildering.

Trane said, “Oh, no. Nope. Nope. Nope. Shut the drawer, I don’t want to see that.”
“Could be laundry detergent,” Virgil said. “You know, like Tide? I could snort a little to see if it is.”
“How much you think?”
“I never worked dope,” Virgil said. “But I’ve seen cocaine, and that’s cocaine. Not much, but we don’t know what he started with.”
“Our murdered boy’s got cocaine stashed in a secret cubbyhole? That’s the cherry on the cake, you know? That’s just fuckin’ perfect. I hope the television people find out about it so they can go berserk.”
“Could be Tide . .

“All right, then. We’ll leave the door open. You develop a problem, just yell.”
“He’s gagged, Del,” Virgil said. “He can’t yell.” Capslock turned back to the man. “If you get in trouble, make some of those strangle sounds. We’ll hear you.”

Time for some golden eggs! Bloody Genius by John Sandford gets…

4½ Shiny Shiny Eggs!

Renegade by Rob Sinclair [Book Review]

Title: Renegade
Series: A Ryker Returns Thriller [Book 1]
Author: Rob Sinclair 
Length: 9hrs 14 minutes
Book Type: Audiobook
Narrator: Marston York
Publisher: W.F. Howes Ltd

Obtained: NetGalley
Disclaimer: An audio-copy of this book was provided to me in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.
TW/CW: Violence, gore, murder, death, kidnapping, torture, using someone’s child as a bargaining tool/threat

Blurb

James Ryker, a veteran intelligence agent now freelancer, working for the secretive Joint Intelligence agency on an op-by op basis, finds himself embroiled in a complicated mission that will test him to his limit.
When a simple surveillance mission goes awry and the key target is kidnapped in broad daylight in a busy London square, Ryker knows he has his work cut out.
Ryker is tasked with figuring out what went wrong. But when his good friend Sam Moreno disappears without trace, the mission becomes more personal than he could have imagined.
Torn between toeing the government line, and finding the answers he needs, Ryker realises there’s only one way to find those responsible, and to punish them.
His way.

Review

This book had me holding my breath enough to put a YA book to shame!

That’s it. That’s my one whole mood through the entire book.

===== X =====

This was my first full audiobook story that I’ve completed. I have a half-read book (that I already finished the ebook version of) in my Kindle, a choose your own story, and an anthology, but Renegade would be my first full and actual story in terms of audiobooks.

And it’s been one massive adventure with a lot of action, espionage, torture, and holding your breath because you never know if someone else was going to get caught; be that character a minor, side, or even the main character himself. Here, the fear of a character getting caught is amplified with the knowledge that the prospect of falling into enemy hands would result in something far worse than death; neverending and brutal torture. 

Now, I’ve never read any books by Rob Sinclair, let alone any of his previous series (James Ryker series) which seems to link to this one (A “Ryker Returns” thriller series), but I was able to follow through well enough despite the occasional nod to past references; minor things I didn’t particularly connect with because I didn’t read the prior series. Still, I had no problem with this book and the book, by itself, was a spectacular read.

I don’t know what I was expecting when I was going in. I only picked this one up because I was fresh out of new audiobooks which I’ve started to play during my work hours as it helped me pace my work and made the time go by quicker (not that my busy day needs any more encouragement and nudging than it already does). I was prowling the audiobook sections of NetGalley, looking specifically for a mystery thriller and eventually landed myself on this one.

It didn’t let me down.

There was so much action to be found. The story already starts off with a “babysitting” job gone wrong when a surveillance mission goes badly and is botched when their target is whisked away and eventually discovered dead. The entire operation and story only goes downhill from there and not even stopping at the ground. Instead, the floor opens up with stairways down to hell as things seem to spiral out of control over and over (with bits of luck every now and then; luck and wits).

There’s two main storylines going on at once, eventually merging into one single event as things from both sides begin to intertwine or…rather…after the stories start to come together, everything else finally began to make sense and things fall into place. The first storyline and POV, of course, belongs to James Ryker, while the second comes from a very different angle. It follows the story from Daisy Haan’s perspective on a much different case. While I was initially mostly interested only by Ryker’s story, somewhere midpoint my attention shifted massively to Daisy’s story because at that point, shit hit the fan and the hopping between their POVs drove me nuts because I NEEDED TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENED NEXT!

Of course, halfway through Ryker’s own story, most of his personal missions were beginning to hit the fan as well and honestly, ending each chapter was painful because then it becomes a rollercoaster from one cliffhanger to another cliffhanger. Between the two POVs, there was no rest in emotions because things felt like it was spinning out of control on both ends. 

Lots of action. Lots and lots of very gorey, unsettling, and stomach turning torture. This isn’t just a plain thriller book. The amount of suspense in this book was insane. Sure, the beginning wasn’t as fast paced, even with all the action already taking place, but by the end, with each cliffhanger chapter, you were practically biting your nails waiting on this new chapter to end so that you could find out what happened to Ryker or Haan only for this chapter to also suspend you in an agonizing wait. 

My favorite thing about this book was the massive plot twist near the end of the book that left me gasping. I was not expecting it to turn up that way and it was wonderfully done because, boy was I surprised!

It was a great read that I wasn’t able to put down; easily throwing the entire book down my throat. I’ll have to eventually go back and read Rob Sinclair’s previous books to put the remaining little pieces to this puzzle together, but a fantastic and heart thumping and heart stopping first Sinclair read. 

5 Stars

The Lore of Prometheus [Blog Tour] [Review]

I received a copy of this book as part of a blog tour. A huge shout out and a major thank you to the BBNYA 2020 tours organized by the @The_WriteReads tours team as well as to the author for letting me participate in this tour. All opinions are my own. 

BBNYA is a yearly competition where book bloggers from all over the world read and score books written by indie authors. 
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Book Name: The Lore of Prometheus
Author: Graham Austin-King
Pages: 287
Book Type: Ebook > Kindle Genre: Fantasy > Urban Fantasy, Paranormal, Fiction > Military Fiction, Thriller
Rating: 4.5 (Goodreads: 5)

TW/CW: PTSD, Gore, Violence, Kidnapping, Torture, Drugging, Held Prisoner, Death, Burned Alive/To Death, Murder, Medical Experimentation, Gunshot wounds, War and War Scenes 

Blurb

John Carver has three rules: Don’t drink in the daytime, don’t gamble when the luck has gone, and don’t talk to the dead people who come to visit.

It has been almost five years since the incident in Kabul. Since the magic stirred within him and the stories began. Fleeing the army, running from the whispers, the guilt, and the fear he was losing his mind, Carver fell into addiction, dragging himself through life one day at a time.

Desperation has pulled him back to Afghanistan, back to the heat, the dust, and the truth he worked so hard to avoid. But there are others, obsessed with power and forbidden magics, who will stop at nothing to learn the truth of his gifts. Abducted and chained, Carver must break more than his own rules if he is to harness this power and survive.

Thoughts & Opinons

Straight into the book, I took noticed of the writing style and thought, “I’m going to like it here.” I wasn’t here to participate in judging last year’s competition, but if I had to choose any random piece, it didn’t matter where in the book I landed, I probably would’ve agreed that this book was very well written so I think it’s a well earned crown that sits atop this book and author.

A short read that’s just shy of 300 pages, I went into this book already late and still managed to finish right about on time. Saying I inhaled the book was probably an understatement.

A very dark book the starts with addiction, gambling, trauma and hallucinations and dives deep into kidnapping, experimentations and brutal psychological and physical torture. Trauma is a major theme of this book and is the root and source of many of the prisoners’ powers. Horrific trauma, watching your loved ones die, and knowing there’s no other possible way out for yourself is the fuel to the bonfire.

This is the second military fiction I’ve read, and to date, both books had protagonists that suffered from various degrees of survivors guilt. John Carver, is a broken man, even before the kidnappers got a hold of him. Suffering from deep trauma, severe PTSD and survivors guilt, he is down on his luck and very nearly down to his last pennies. With a loan shark breathing down his next promising his own next breathes to maybe be his last, unless he coughs up the dough, Carver is doomed and very very desperate. He’s got no more choices left and he needs to get a job and he’s desperate enough to go back to where it all started.

With most of his skills stemming from his military experience, his only chance is a glorified babysitting job back Kabul, back to where the dust and nightmares began.

Being the only one in his squad who had survived during his time in Kabul, he blames himself for the loss of his teammates, especially so as hallucinations. For the last five years, Pearson, Wilson, and Turner have plagued him and not just in his memories. Ghosts of his past follow him daily, so real they bleed on the floors in front of him, reminding him that he, Carver, could have and did not save them.

Mackenzie is the other main protagonist with her own traumas and just as Carver’s trauma woke his “miracle” so did hers. Both she and Carver were well written characters and you really got to know them. Mackenzie displayed absolute strength in the toughest of times and the two of them made for an amazing read and as much as I enjoyed how well done Carver’s character is, I think that Mackenzie is the character I loved the most. My heart broke for her, stopped for her, bled and cried for her trauma; both in the past and what she goes through in the book, especially the latter.

Action packed, this book was phenomenally put together and thought-out. There was plenty of research going into this and those, like me, with no background in the military won’t need to fear getting lost. Any jargon of any sorts is easily and simply explained; a quick breeze over without interrupting the story telling and flow.

The book switches between two characters POVs (Mackenzie and Carver) as well as two types of POVs, third and first respectively. I didn’t really mind the switch in POV types though it did take me perhaps 6 chapters to noticed that it was being switched around at all (I’m not the most attentive). I actually quite liked it because it helped separate the two situations and if there were any deeper analysis to this; I’d say the first person really helped me get into Carver’s head because only Carver could see what he sees and that’s people that are no longer amongst the living. I don’t think third person would have worked as well.

Fast paced and with great dialogues that helped break and ease the tension in this extremely dark, gorey and very unforgiving situation, this book was very well executed. It had me hooked from the start and flying through the book was no hard task. Paired with wonderfully written characters, real or not, I had a great time. I was a WEEE bit confused towards the end but that might just be me.

A little sad to see this book come to a close as it’s a standalone but it’s been the rainbow to my newly discovered pot of gold as I look forward to more from Graham Austin-King and I will definitely be following and checking out some of his other works.

I heavily recommend this book because it’s executed so well with the writing being one of my favorite aspects of this read. I’m one to love characters more than the writing and plot itself, but this time, despite how well the characters are already written, it was the writing style and writing that I truly fell in love it. However, please keep in mind that this is a pretty dark book with a lot of triggers. It gets very intense and heavy at times and even I needed a breather here and there.

4 ½ Cups 🥰

Author

Graham Austin-King was born in the south of England and weaned on broken swords and half-forgotten spells.

A shortage of these forced him to consume fantasy novels at an ever-increasing rate, turning to computers and tabletop gaming between meals.

He experimented with writing at the beginning of an education that meandered through journalism, international relations, and law. To this day he is committed to never allowing those first efforts to reach public eyes.

After spending a decade in Canada learning what ‘cold’ really means, and being horrified by poutine, he settled once again in the UK with a seemingly endless horde of children.

To date he is the author of five novels, drawing on a foundation of literary
influences ranging from David Eddings to Clive Barker.

Website: https://grahamaustin-king.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/GrayAustin

Book Review: Storm Front by John Sandford

Book Name: Storm Front
Series: Virgil Flowers Series Book: 7
Author: John Sandford
Book Type: Physical > Hardcover
Obtained: Library > Borrowed
Pages: 376
Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Thriller, Crime, Suspense
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️✨ (3.5)

Link to Goodreads >HERE<
Link to Amazon >HERE<

Goodreads Summary

In Israel, a man clutching a backpack searches desperately for a boat. In Minnesota, Virgil Flowers gets a message from Lucas Davenport: You’re about to get a visitor. It’s an Israeli cop, and she’s chasing a man who’s smuggled out an extraordinary relic — an ancient inscribed stone revealing startling details about the man known as King Solomon.

“Wait a minute,” laughs Virgil. “Is this one of those mystical movie-plot deals? The secret artifact, the blockbuster revelation, the teams of murderous bad guys? Should I be boning up on my Bible verses?” He looks at the investigator. She’s not laughing.

As it turns out, there are very bad men chasing the relic, and they don’t care who’s in the way or what they have to do to get it. “They’re crazies,” she says.

“What kind of crazies?”

“Palestinian crazies, Syrian crazies, Egyptian crazies, maybe a couple of Israeli crazies. Turks. Some Americans, too, I suppose. Maybe the Pope.”

Perhaps Virgil should start praying.

Review

Moving on to the next book in the Virgil Flowers series, I found myself reading Storm Front; book 7. Like with every book (and most products when I go shopping), I made sure to take a quick peek at the reviews, first, and wished I hadn’t.

Storm Front was written by John Sandford who had mentioned that this novel was written with the help of his partner, Michele Cook. That alone, I had absolutely no problems with until I came across a couple of reviews that wondered if the book was even written by Sandford. I ended up going into this book with a “different set of lens,” ones that had me constantly looking for moments of “Is this Sandford’s writing? Is this the Virgil I know and love?”

That said, I ended up enjoying it anyways. I didn’t even know what I was so worried and worked up over. By the end, I was even disappointed that I questioned anything. While I did get a sense of “Virgil seems more on edge this time around” compared to all the previous times he (and others) have been in serious danger, I chalked it up to him being very angry over Jone’s actions throughout the book, considering his role as a professor and a minister. Weren’t ministers supposed to be good and not cause harm…?

The BCA agent had been working on a fake antique lumber case when he was called in to investigate a dying runaway Lutheran minister and professor who had found and later stolen an ancient stone, a stele, from an archaeological dig in Israel. Jones had grabbed the stone [in the middle of the night] sped down an Israeli highway [in a stolen car], pretty much threatened his way into landing a boat ride and then managed to smuggle the stele into the US where he remained in hiding. All Virgil wanted to do was track the stone down, send it home to Israel, and continue with his lumber case. A simple thief and smuggling case, how hard would it be?

Except things are never that simple with Virgil Flowers; his luck simply would not have it. Dying from cancer and knowing he had a short time left in this world, Elijah Jones had stolen the stele with plans on auctioning it off to the highest bidder so that he could obtain enough funds to cover for his wife, who is residing in a care home with Alzheimer’s, after his death. Now, not only do the Israelis want the stone back, but with the discovery of the stele, it’s what’s written on the stone that’s important. If what’s inscribed on the stele is true, history could be upturned and would need to be rewritten and there are people who aren’t going to just sit there and let that happen.

When Davenport starts the call off with “Got an assignment for you…easy duty” you probably shouldn’t believe it. It was wild from the beginning to end; “Don’t things like this only happen in movies?” kind of wild. With plot twists sprinkled in, this book is fast paced and I found myself occasionally lost and having to flip back to understand what the hell was going on and what the hell just happened. There are multiple parties involved, most of them being the bidders: A Texan, some TV celebrity of sorts, a pair of scary(ish) Turks, Hezbollah, an Israelis antique dealer, and maybe even the Israeli intelligence agency.

The plot, boiled down, is really just chasing after Jones, and the stone, making sure nobody else gets their hands on the stele, and making sure nobody gets hurt. Get the stone, send it back, and get back to lumber business.

The book was pretty humorous at times (considering the stakes and people getting hurt). There were bits of comedic relief in between all of the craziness that I appreciated. It made the book fun to read and get through. The plot and storyline may not have been my favorite, but by the time I finished I was well surprised. I had gone in expecting it to be as bad as the reviews made it out to be but ended up being disappointed in myself for thinking so at all. Virgil, even if he’s a bit more tense, is still the same old Virgil that I love. There wasn’t much of his usual womanizing this time around, which I found as strangely relieving, but his humor and quick thinking remains the same. Virgil being Virgil? That’s all I care about. That’s all I NEED when reading a Virgil Flowers book.

Not my favorite book in the series, but still a highly enjoyable read. I can’t wait to get into book 8.

An Invisible Client: Review

When I first got Prime, I went on a little spree to look for whichever books were “Read Now for Free” and came out with two Kindle books, one of them being “An Invisible Client.” Like the other book, “The Family Journal,” I was in a bit of a rush (it was the morning before my shift began) as I had “run out” (the fancy way of saying I’m ‘not in the mood for my current TBR’) of Kindle books and needed something to keep me company during lunch break and the commute to and from work. I normally would have pulled out Goodreads or Amazon and read a few reviews to see if a book suited my tastes or was a good enough match for me so that I wouldn’t end up DNFing, but this time I had about 20 minutes before my alarm went off again and I went with whatever looked decent.

And so…

My very first legal thriller book 😎 (I’ve watched legal dramas before, namely Suits).

Sections

Book Details

Title: An Invisible Client
Series: [Standalone] Book # N/A
Author: Victor Methos
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Book Type: Ebook > Kindle (Comes with audio)
Obtained: Purchased
Pages: 240
Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Thriller, Legal Thriller
Start Date: 07.02.2020
End Date: 07.12.2020

Rating: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️


Trigger Warning: Death of a child, death, mentions of rape, childhood abuse (alcoholic parent).

Goodreads Summary

Link to Book’s Goodreads Page: >HERE<

For high-powered personal injury attorney Noah Byron, the good things in life come with a price tag—cars, houses, women. That’s why he represents only cases that come with the possibility of a nice cut of the action. But as a favor to his ex-wife, he meets with the mother of twelve-year-old Joel, a boy poisoned by tainted children’s medicine. While the official story is that a psycho tampered with bottles, the boy’s mother believes something much more sinister is at work…and the trail leads right back to the pharmaceutical company.

As Noah digs deeper into the case, he quickly finds himself up against a powerful corporation that will protect itself at any cost. He also befriends young Joel and breaks the number one rule of personal injury law: don’t make it personal. Faced with the most menacing of opponents and the most vulnerable of clients, Noah is determined to discover the truth and win justice for Joel—even if it means losing everything else.

Review Summary

When personal injury attorney, Noah Byron, gets a phone call from his ex-wife, he finds himself taking on a case that already looks like a lost cause. 12 year old Joel had taken a dose of children’s cough medicine that caused him to become horribly ill; his prognosis: poor at best. With two other children who previously came up with the same symptoms after taking the medicine, there’s no surprise a lawsuit comes up. However, Pharma-K is locked up behind doors of secrecy with the gates heavily guarded by their very own attorneys, powerful lawyers that even Noah finds hard to win against.

I loved this book and had a fantastic time with it. As my first legal thriller book, it’s worlds away from the other thrillers I have read where people are being gunned down or where the police are chasing a serial mad man. Here, the only bullets fired are the words out of attorney mouths and justice is never a guarantee. The side that wins is the side that makes the least mistakes and the side that wins the hearts of the jury. Anything can happen and solid evidence and witnesses can become trash in seconds as lawyers easily claw through people during cross-examination. This book talks a lot about how unfair the world is and just how powerful corporations can be. With the right amount of money, things can go hush hush really quickly! But as Noah slowly warms up and becomes dangerously attached to the case, things become personal and he’s not about to just let Pharma-K get away with this. Sure, there’s no solid evidence that Pharma-K has done any crimes, hiding behind the guise of “an external mad-man has tampered with our goods”, but something shady is going on behind those guarded closed doors, and Noah is going to get to the bottom of this. It’s a huge gamble with wildly unfavorable outcomes…but Noah is willing to take the case, willing to take the risk, and willing to bet his entire firm and everything else on winning.

Thoughts and Review

When 12 year old Joel takes an innocent looking enough cough medicine and ends up in the hospital, his mother, Rebecca, does everything in her power to get the corporation to answer her questions. Each time she tries to get ahold of someone from the company, there’s barely a response, but when Pharma-K finally shuts her out and begins to just direct her to their attorneys (who won’t say anything either), Rebecca has no choice and tries to get ahold of her cousin, Tia’s, ex-husband, a personal injury attorney, Noah Byron.

Initially turning down the case, after a quick calculation of just how much money this case would cost them considering how little evidence, information, and chance they have against Pharma-K, Noah slowly changes his mind after meeting Joel in his hospital room. While it’s mostly just to appease Rebecca at first, he does keep his promise and goes over to at least talk to Pharma-K. When an ambush awaits him at his meeting, Noah begins to see how sketchy and shady this company is acting. Pharma-K is scared, terrified even, and Noah knows this isn’t just a crazy man tampering with grocery store medications. It’s something internal, and it’s something bad.

“An Invisible Client” is my first audio book and first legal thriller book. I’ve passed by a good few legal fictions before, but they had mostly meh summaries and it was a genre that I didn’t particularly have a taste for. Legal dramas were okay enough, but courts were always pretty boring places (to me). So, when I was came up a little bored for the first half of the book, I wasn’t particularly surprised. I did raise a brow over how much the word “bullshit” is used in both Suits and this book and am starting to wonder if that’s just a legal drama thing…or if lawyers really throw that word out like Halloween candy.

The real heart pumping thrill comes during the final trial, as is expected. Most of the beginning of the book was just a lot of pushing between the plaintiff and the defendant. Plaintiff tries to bring the case to trial for the [internal] contamination of the drugs produced by Pharma-K and Pharma-K tries to make the case disappear from the media, and hopefully people’s memories, by trying to settle out of court. They try to push money onto the table along with a gag order, and pray that the plaintiff will take the money and go away.

For me, the first half of the book was a bit boring, seeing as the case just felt like it was going nowhere, with how strong the opposing lawyers were, but the story still kept me engaged. After the first visit, Noah begins to get attached to the case and its clients Rebecca and 12 year old Joel. Joel was already pretty bad off during Noah first visit, but as time goes on and his prognosis seeming to spell out a death sentence, the case becomes very personal to Noah and he officially takes the case on (previously mostly just investigating). Joel’s role in the book contributes as a huge factor to Noah’s growth.

Mini-Character Analysis

Noah Byron

Noah is an interesting character. In the beginning of the book, I had pegged the lawyer to be cold; in it for the money and without care or emotions. Of course, from a liability and risk standpoint, his logic on not taking a case is pretty sound; a losing case could be costly and becoming too attached to a case or client could bankrupt a company!

“I know, and I’m sorry, but the value of this case is just not very high. The loss of your income isn’t as high as I would need to take the case when liability isn’t clear. It’s true that pain and suffering and your medical bills are important, but those numbers don’t add up to much. I’m sorry—you just don’t earn enough.”

Methos, Victor. An Invisible Client (p. 18). Kindle Edition.

Noah is a man who puts a price tag on everything and understands that the world truly runs on that: money. The government, the White House and Congress, is a symbol of freedom and leadership, but the true rulers are the rich and mighty corporations, an oligarchy. When the world is a greed factory, it’s no wonder that Noah knows the limits of taking cases; he would only take a case that has a favorable outcome.

Under the law, a person was valued at exactly how much money that person could earn. Anyone who hadn’t gone to an Ivy League school, pulled in at least six figures, or had a family business waiting for them was what PI lawyers called “an invisible client”—one who lived and breathed but didn’t officially exist.

Methos, Victor. An Invisible Client (p. 17). Kindle Edition.

That’s why I felt like Noah was an interesting character; he was written in a way so that he had lots of room to grow; character development. And change he does! Noah begins to warm up and gets attached to this invisible client’s case and Joel grows on him. He see this very sick child and he sees a company doing everything in its power to hide something and he swears to get to the bottom of it.

As he begins to watch the case go downhill, almost in a losing position, Noah is risking a lot more than just a case gone wrong. Money ties to everything and so would a loss; his partners would lose everything, the firm could go bankrupt, and his employees would become displaced. So, seeing Noah pretty much gambling his all into an unfavorable case, end Noah is a quite a ways away from beginning of the book Noah.

Likes/Dislikes

Likes:

I think this book would be the third type of thriller I’ve come across. I’ve made a tiny comparison between military thrillers and mystery thrillers before, so I’m adding a new thriller to the list: legal thrillers. It’s different than the previous two in the fact that no blood is shed (sort of I guess…people are still hurt in personal injury cases afterall). The excitement of a legal thriller is in that last fight, the last trial, the “lose this and lose it all moment”. It’s watching the back and forth in that courtroom. Watching both sides go from being confident to desperate, you watch as every word is chosen slowly for fear of turning the jurynotn away from them, driving them to their opposing side and this applies to both sides.

The thrill is in watching one moment where everything seems to go your way until something is cross-examined or someone is thrown off and it’s a battle of words, no fists thrown, and the one who makes the least mistake wins. In the courtroom, nobody is spared; not the witnesses, not the lawyers, not their clients…

Olivia is brilliant and I’m pretty sure she has hyperthymesia to some extent. When questioning a witness who mentioned a date, she was able to come up with what day it was and what the weather was like that day. With an extraordinary memory and seemingly the ability to read through files in record speed, she’s whip smart and when others thought of law school as hellish, she aced through law school and treated it like it was finally time to relax and get to know her fellow students. If there’s anything I know about law school, it’s that everyone comes out looking like they are ready to drown themselves in a tub of Redbull.

While reading a book with a nearly superhuman genius is a bit cliche, I found myself kind of enjoying reading about Olivia as it’s with her crazy abilities that the case goes on well. Though a bit shy, she knows to challenge others on their views and beliefs and while she casts away her gaze at the beginning, she holds it firm as her confidence grows and it’s nice to read a little side character growth as well.

Dislikes (None really):

I didn’t have much of a dislike for this book as, for me, it’s a solid 5 star book. Relationships ran through too quickly for me, but what can I do? It’s a standalone and you don’t get to drag relationships across multiple books. I could complain that the beginning was slow, but it’s a lawsuit! Gathering evidence that’s being tightly sealed behind a sketchy company’s door is going to be painstakingly impossible to get ahold of and if I had a problem with that, well at that point I would just be nitpicking 😅 So for me, it’s a pretty solid and fantastic read that I throughly enjoyed.

5 ⭐️

Field of Prey: Book Review

Book Name: Field of Prey
Series: Prey Series/Lucas Davenport Book: # 24
Author: John Sandford
Book Type: Physical > Hardcover
Pages: 392
Genre: Fiction, Mystery > Crime, Thriller
Start Date: 04.23.2020
End Date: 05.03.2020
TW/CW: Rape and sexual assault, mentions of animal abuse, blood, violence.]

MY RATING

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

SUMMARY (Goodreads)

The night after the fourth of July, Layton Carlson Jr., of Red Wing, Minnesota, finally got lucky. And unlucky.
He’d picked the perfect spot to lose his virginity to his girlfriend, an abandoned farmyard in the middle of cornfields: nice, private, and quiet. The only problem was . . . something smelled bad—like, really bad. He mentioned it to a county deputy he knew, and when the cop took a look, he found a body stuffed down a cistern. And then another, and another.
By the time Lucas Davenport was called in, the police were up to fifteen bodies and counting. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, when Lucas began to investigate, he made some disturbing discoveries of his own. The victims had been killed over a great many years, one every summer, regular as clockwork. How could this have happened without anybody noticing?
Because one thing was for sure: the killer had to live close by. He was probably even someone they saw every day. . . . 

PLOT

[Spoiler…alert? Not really? I mention the killer by name, but his name is literally on page 1 so…]

The book starts out several years in the past with a waitress. She’s finishing her shift where she earns a bit extra when she helps the kitchen clean up towards the end of the night. Heather Jorgenson is nervous. She knows that, in the dead of night, the pitch darkness of the blacktop parking lot was the perfect place to get kidnapped and she was right.

She hurries with the bags, tipping them into the bin, and when her balance is off, attention diverted, R-A, having been watching her for a while, slips the sack over her head and ties it under her. He carries a screaming Heather to the car that his accomplice and friend, Horn, was waiting with. They drive, in separate cars with R-A following, where in the case a policeman may start to flag Horn down, R-A could start to driving erratically and be flagged in Horn’s stead. They think it’s a success. They would drive off with her to a shack, rape her, and kill her. It’s a system “that has worked before.” Only, Heather, knowing the dangers of the parking lot, was always careful and prepared. In the truck, she escapes the bag using a knife to cut through the sack and stab the driver, Horn, multiple deep wounds in his neck and spine, casting them into a ditch. The prologue ends with her escaping, running out for help, and Horn bleeding out in the ditch. The police never found Horn’s body.

It’s years later. Layton Burns Jr. is a recent graduate of Red Wing H.S and he’s about to get lucky. After the Fourth of July, he and his girlfriend Ginger were going to head off to an abandoned field and he was going to lose his virginity. The plan goes well and Layton went excited and extra prepared. In the dead of night, having been granted the permission to drive his mother’s Dodge Grand Caravan, he rushes out to pick up Ginger, along with his air mattress, beer, the condoms his father oh so conveniently left in an easy to find drawer, and a flashlight, just in case “he wanted to…you know…watch.” Soon he and Ginger were having the best time of their lives in his mother’s van in the dark and long abandoned fields. When Ginger steps out to relieve herself, she returns remarking that something really stinks outside. Layton takes his turn and returns agreeing.

As they pack up, Layton couldn’t dismiss the smell from his head and goes to investigate the smell (you know, because no horror movie would take place if a teenager doesn’t go investigate). It could be a deer and nothing else and in these country fields, it probably was just roadkill. Moments later, having failed their little hunt, Layton and Ginger speed away from the field, a little disturbed. The smell was too strong and too large to be any wild and decomposing animal.

Layton doesn’t feel right to just leave it and calls his older brother’s best friend, a Goodhue County Deputy, Randy Lipsky. During the day, they take a better look at the fields, tapping away at the overgrown grass, and eventually find a cistern. Old and new scratches were all around the over and when they finally pry open the Cistern, Lipsky immediately calls for backup. They’d found human remains.

By the time Lucas Davenport finally arrives, they’ve already found 17 human skulls amongst the “ten feet of cold bean soup” with at least four feet of bones at the bottom (pg. 22). There were human remains on top of remains, all dated to different years, all women, all strangled, and, as later identified, all young, pretty, and blonde. As soon as word gets out, the public go into a frenzy. The case, named the Black Hole case after the Black Hole of Calcutta, was going to be the biggest thing in the state and time was running low. The killer looked to have spaced out his killings, perhaps once a year, mostly in the summer, and the newest victim was a woman named Mary Lynn Carpenter who had recently disappeared two weeks prior. The killer was still out there.

REVIEW

This book has Lucas running around busy, trying to find the serial killer that is still out there. He’s probably a well known individual of the local communities and towns to able to travel around constantly without raising a brow. They were looking at a smart person, someone who was able to do this, clockwork, and manage to still get away with it; year after year, over several years, perhaps even for over two decades, and not get caught returning to the same cistern to dump the bodies. He’s a planner and he’s thorough. There are two types of serial killers (that I’ve mostly read of anyways): the ones that want the cops to catch them and the ones that want to get away and R-A here is doing everything in his power to get away, going as far as to target Lucas’ team if necessary.

The killer here, like in most of Sandford’s books, is introduced to the reader early (like prologue early, sometimes). You get the killer’s perspective of the chase, his frustration or relief at the cops heading in the wrong direction, and catch glimpses of his thoughts and plans for his next victim. In these books, there’s no need to guess who the bad man is. He’s right there in front of you, page 1.

This time, most of Lucas’s usual team are unavailable. Shrake and Jenkins are off to finish up a case that had previously been tying down Davenport, Flowers was on a three week vacation but even later was unavailable when he is working on an undisclosed murder of his own, and Del is off chasing old people who were smuggling and selling guns. Lucas has to tackle this case without them, but he’s not alone. With the help of his team leader, Shaffer, and a local deputy, Catrin Mattson (I thought she was kind of scary-mean at first and even Lucas said she was very snappish, tossing warnings out to multiple deputies and agents before they talk to her, but she grew on me), Lucas begins to tear down the case, but when his own team becomes the target of the serial killer, it becomes more personal.

Time is ticking and it’s not just for nabbing R-A. With the case going a good month in with hardly any progress, the media is in a frenzy looking for any news to put up. With the meat of the case gone, the piranhas attack elsewhere and the political pressure to find the killers now grows. The media and the public are all after the BCA, the police, and the Governor for the madman to be caught.

This book is fast paced, exciting, quite depressing, and even more crazy when the investigation team becomes the target of the killer. I have dropped the book screaming in anguish multiple times. R-A tries to draw them every which way to make sure he doesn’t get caught, though after all these years he knows that his curtains are due to close soon, but he swears he wants one last victim.

With the media and the public hounding them, nipping at their heels, the pressure is on to catch the killer and close the case. But with a good length of time having passed and hardly any progress besides what little surface evidence they can scavenge up, time is running out and not to mention Davenport already has his own little media problem from a past case.

This book was exciting and hard to put down, though some scenes had me taking a good breather. There were times that I screamed at the book going, “You forgot to interview that one last guy on your list! That one last guy is literally the killer but you never returned to him!” and “It’s that store! Where else do you get a set!”

There’s not much I hated about the book. I tend to dislike serial killer plots, but this one had big turns and big surprises. The man was smart and he just kept getting away. It was frustrating watching the team just chase the wrong man over and over. It was even more depressing to see the team worn down by the personal attacks and the media chewing them up and spitting them back out.

Still, I loved this book and I after my last push to “make it in time to finish the book over the weekend” I just stared at the wall afterwards. I can’t tell if I was just numb from all the reading or in shock at how it played out (though a small piece of me wasn’t surprised). I enjoyed this book and shed tears over it. Still, I wouldn’t recommend this to everyone. It’s quite graphic and there is tons of violence (please read content warning above).

A great read. Not at all cozy because I looked quite crazy distressed, pacing my living room muttering about every few chapters. I’d give it a 5/5! Another Davenport book down, plenty more for me to catch up on!