Saturday, November 30, 2013

Review: LADY, GO DIE by Mickey Spillane & Max Allan Collins

Mike Hammer - Lady, Go Die!The long lost follow-up to the iconic I, THE JURY – LADY, GO DIE sees Mike Hammer and assistant Velda (who also doubles as a PI) take a vacation for some much needed R&R. What they get, however, is a face full of police brutality, a missing and presumed dead woman about town, and an inept police force prone to corruption and murder.

Hammer, never one to shy away from a fair fight, takes it upon himself investigate the police angle behind an untoward beat-down which exposes a deeper plot involving town officials, illegal gambling and unnecessary strongarm tactics. In the pursuit of the true, Hammer will do whatever it takes to see justice and revenge is served cold.

It took me a little while to get into LADY, GO DIE – much like many Mike Hammer novels, the hard man PI stumbles upon a case and then proceeds to put himself in harm’s way to solve it with little or no motive - apart from his deep seeded desire to protect the innocent. In this, he’s more likened to a cop than rogue PI but somehow author Max Allan Collins pulls it off to make it feel natural and in-line with Spillane's version of the character.
The plot is murder mystery, however, there’s much more to this circa 1940’s crime tale, including a couple of nice twists and turns I didn’t see coming and some character building to add more menace to the Hammer persona.

LADY, GO DIE isn’t the greatest of the many Mike Hammer novels but it's well worth a look. A quick, fun read that transports the reader back to I, THE JURY territory.
My review of I, THE JURY can be read here [GR]: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/525521769

Team Robot Blogger Award

Recently, the good folk at Angry Robot listed a bunch of awesome book blogs for their Team Robot Blogger Awards and held a separate secret (to the general public) Authors' Choice Award - and yours truly was fortunate enough to take home the authors' choice! This was unexpected and a great accolade by virtue of being recognised by the authors themselves. So to everyone who participated in the voting at Angry Robot - THANK YOU!

To the left is the trophy from the Angry Robot Books website that I'm to receive - as if that wasn't cool enough, I was also able to select three books from across the Angry Robot, Exhibit A, and Strange Chemistry catalogue - wow, great prizes!

I'll write a follow-up post with picks of the trophy in my hot little hands and the books I selected (which was a hard choice given the quality of books these guys publish).

Below are the links to the official awards post at Angry Robot/Exhibit A/Strange Chemistry:

- Angry Robot Books
- Exhibit A
- Strange Chemistry

Also, be sure to check out the respective sites for news on upcoming releases, and a list of the blogs nominated for the Team Robot Blogger Award.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Interview: Josh Stallings (author of ONE MORE BODY)

Josh Stallings is author of the critically acclaimed Moses McGuire crime books. This latest book is All The Wild Children a noir memoir.

He has been in no particular order, a film editor, taxi driver, criminal, father, husband, club bouncer, a trailer editor, a screen writer, a bad actor and a good friend.

He lives in the city of his birth, Los Angeles with his wife Erika, two dogs and a cat.

Josh was kind enough to take time out from his writing to answer some questions I had bout his new book ONE MORE BODY and the Moses McGuire series in general. (author bio and pic from http://www.joshstallings.net/about-me.html)
 
 
(Josh) First of all, I’m a big fan ever since BEAUTIFUL NAKED AND DEAD knocked my literary socks off, thanks for taking the time to hang out on the blog.
(Josh Stallings) Thanks for asking me over. I’ll try not to track too much blood or mud into your clean blog.
ONE MORE BODY is the third Moses McGuire book, apart from ALL THE WILD CHILDREN, do you think you’ll write more outside of this character?
Yes, I’m ready to stretch a bit outside Mose’s world. I have written a few short stories, one called Blow Jobs appears in the new Beat To A Pulp: Hardboiled 3. I’m damn proud of it. I have had a few other short pieces make it in to anthologies this year. I am in the early stages of a new stand-alone crime novel. I think Moses has been beat hard enough, he deserves a rest.
One More BodyThe Moses McGuire books are loaded with iconic scenes and ONE MORE BODY is no different, where do you draw inspiration for these pivotal events in the books (in the case of ONE MORE BODY I’m referring to a blood drenched teen with sickly sweet watery red dripping from her pigtails)?
Everything I write comes from an organic character driven place. When I sat down to write ONE MORE BODY I did a lot of research on child prostitution and trafficking in the US. I knew I didn’t want Freedom to simply be a victim, so I looked into child soldiers, I wanted to see what it took to turn an ordinary kid into a killer. Above my desk I wrote “They should have killed the girl.” It was a working subtitle to keep me on track with her. So when we come to the image you mentioned, she isn’t blood soaked for shock value, it is the natural landing place of her trajectory.
Moses is a knight in rusty armour; he’s not a shiny squeaky clean protagonist with the world at his feet, more-so a deeply flawed yet endearing character with a heart of gold and fist full of steel. How important is it to write a character who can traverse the seedy underbelly of society whilst still providing a link to the law?
Moses’s link to the law is weak at best. They use him and he uses them, I think it helps keep him out of jail so I can have him in another book. One reoccurring story line is that Moses has had two strikes and lives in a three strike law state. Here in California if you are convicted of three felonies you get an automatic life sentence. The cops use this to manipulate Moses and he runs always under the fear that if he surfaces they can take him down. As for his knightly characteristics, Moses has a deeply seated moral code, but it is one neither he nor those around him can quite live up to. The concept is taken from Raymond Chandler and moved into a seedier modern setting. Marlowe was the first tarnished knight I read, and feels like a centre piece of the hard-boiled books I love.
The characters in each of the three Moses McGuire books are very well written and instantly believable, are these characters moulded on anyone in particular?

Yes. Ok, I should say more. Um, yes, they are. Here is the deal, many of the characters are based on people I met when I was younger, or those I meet doing research. But that is only a starting point. I meet someone, then later I wonder how would they react to having “x” happen to them, how would it change them? I studied theatre, and although I was a bad actor, I learned tons about how characters are built. Plays are a great learning ground for creating characters. You look at what Mamet does, or Shakespeare did with dialogue only, creating a richness of character and relationships, it’s rather stunning.

If you could describe ONE MORE BODY in one sentence what would it be?

Moses McGuire sets off to rescue a trafficked girl, and winds up saving himself.

What’s next for Josh Stallings?
Writing, writing and more writing. I want to continually raise my game as a writer and the only way I know to do that is to keep pounding out words. This next year I’m on track with the stand alone novel, and I hope to write some more short stories. Regardless of what I write, I will be pounding keys. Some days I write, other days I type - both seem important to my process. Sometimes I need to write a shit idea and toss it away to get to the good idea.
Links:

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Catching up on crime: LOSER'S TOWN by Daniel Depp (2009)

Loser's TownDaniel Depp, little brother of movie star Johnny, is a former screen writer and Hollywood insider, who draws upon his knowledge of tinsel town to depict an inner sanctum of stardom that grits the gloss, dramatises the drama and foils the facade.

LOSER’S TOWN is the first in what I hope is a long standing run of Hollywood PI novels featuring former stuntman and general all ‘round hard man David Spandau. Called in from vacation he’s tasked with investigating death threats made to up and coming actor and soon-to-be A-List celebrity Bobby Dye while onset of his latest (and breakout) film.

Spandau is sceptical from the outset, after all death threats are commonplace in the industry – however, when it’s made apparent the threats are delivered direct to Dye, bypassing the beefed up security, Spandau knows there more to this than Dye has him believe.

What follows is a highly addictive romp through the seedy underbelly of stardom, where mobsters, murders and blackmailers all vie for a piece of fame and a slice of that Hollywood dream.
Depp’s style took a little to warm to but once the plot found its rhythm, LOSER’S TOWN was hard to put down. Not only is the core investigation interesting but the ‘bad guys’ really take a life of their own – so much so that Depp could’ve easily made these main characters in their own right. Add to that Spandau and his cohorts and this is really a ‘must-read’ for fans of private eye books and those looking for the rusty and decayed side of all that glitters and is golden.

Review: LAST ORDERS by Tony Black

Last Orders (a Gus Dury crime thriller)Gus Dury is hired by a Minister to locate his missing and pregnant 16yr old daughter. Reluctantly, Gus takes the case only to find the missing person hasn’t been reporting missing and the reason surrounding her disappearance is not as clear as the Minister had him believe.

Despite being small in page count, this is a satisfying and well-conceived plot, executed in typical Tony Black fashion - equal measures of humour, alcohol, and the undesirables of crime fiction.
There’s a liberal dose of Gus’ trademark path to oblivion while his finer qualities and investigative ability are also on show to counteract his troubled personal life.
Readers of the previous Gus Dury novels will see the effects of those books in this setting while new readers will get a mere glimpse of the character and quality of Tony Black’s writing.
As usual – a highly recommended read that’s left me craving a full length follow-up to LONG TIME DEAD (Book #4).

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Review: THE CUCKOO'S CALLING by Robert Galbraith (J.K.Rowling)

The Cuckoo's Calling (Cormoran Strike, #1)A young, attractive, and wealthy model is the subject of an investigation where the official ruling of suicide is revisited by PI Cormoran Strike, following the deceased brother hiring his services. As Strike delves into the inner sanctum of the rich he uncovers secrets, jealously, and more deaths which cloud the police’s initial determination. The suicide looks to be murder and the victims close circle of friends/family are all under suspicion.
 
For me THE CUCKOO’S CALLING is an unofficial police procedural (basically Strike is a PI but apart from 1 or 2 scenes, he reads as a cop) with the core premise mirroring the classic whodunit formula. Strike is a war vet and the son of a famous musician who still carries memories of conflict by virtue of a prosthetic lower leg serving as a constant reminder of his former life. He’s disassociated from his wealthy father resulting in the typical lone wolf persona adopted by many Private Investigators in crime fiction, is severely short on funds, and hasn’t been able to bead down an office assistant, until Robin that is.
 
Robin, on temporary assignment while she waits for more permanent employment forms an organic bond with the downtrodden PI and quickly assumes a minder-like role, creating an interesting dynamic between the two. Any perceived sexual tension or relationship is quashed as Rowling develops the characters as two distinct personalities with their own reasoning and goals rather than establishing them as a detective duo – I liked this approach.
 
There are similarities with THE CASUAL VACANCY in terms of the way certain characters are portrayed and the manner by which they go about their business with/against one another but nothing that’s off putting or detracts from the murder mystery. Had I not known Rowling was the author I wouldn’t have consciously looked for similarities.
 
Overall this was an enjoyable slow-burning murder mystery centred around an interesting cast of characters that I’m sure we’ll see more of. I look forward to reading future Strike investigations.

Revisiting the scene of the crime: Harry Bosch #1

The Black Echo (Harry Bosch, #1)There are 18 books in the Harry Bosch series with the first THE BLACK ECHO (1992) introducting the world to Connolly as a serious crime writer. Recently I decided to go back and reread the first installment and plan on getting myself up to date all the way through to the most recent book.

Harry Bosch Background: Born in 1950 in Los Angeles to Marjorie Phillips Lowe. He was named Hieronymus Bosch after the 15th century Dutch artist and nicknamed “Harry.” He became an orphan at 11 when his mother, a prostitute, was murdered. He grew up living in a youth hall and foster homes. He joined the army and did two tours in Vietnam. Harry returned to Los Angeles and joined the LAPD in 1972. He became a detective after five years in patrol. - take from Michael Connolly's website http://www.michaelconnelly.com/extras/series/

My review:

THE BLACK ECHO is a police procedural that encompasses a bank robbery, police corruption, and a murder investigation which conjures violent imagery of the horrific tunnels of close quarter claustrophobic Vietnam combat, set amidst a seedy backdrop of the underbelly of Hollywood. It’s a great start to the Bosch series, introducing a deep and insightful character with flaws and a lone wolf persona who doesn’t care if the truth harms his fellow lawmen.

“There was no name for it, so we made up a name. It was the darkness, the damp emptiness you’d feel when you were down there alone in those tunnels. It was like you were in a place where you felt dead and buried in the dark. But you were alive. And you were scared. Your own breath kind of echoed in the darkness, loud enough to give you away. Or so you thought...It’s hard to explain. Just ... the black echo.”

Re-reading THE BLACK ECHO was just as enjoyable as the first time ‘round many years ago. Connolly adds depth the core plot by virtue of a deep backstory and a solid grounding to Bosch and his previous cases (of which I’m sure if further elaborated in subsequent instalments). The action isn’t over the top and the natural progression of the plot comes full circle as a greater mystery unravels.

Formulaic in a sense but interesting enough to entice more re-reads of Bosch and his exploits.


Sunday, November 17, 2013

Review: ONE MORE BODY by Josh Stallings

One More BodySitting on the beach with a dead woman might drive some men mad. I found it reassuring.

An underlying current of aggression balanced by an appreciation for beauty in the unconventional. Moses McGuire is the embodiment of unlawful justice; a vigilante of sorts driven by a deeply rooted urge to protect the innocent and vulnerable from the ever present snakes lying in wait with expectant fangs dripping with blood lust and an eager anticipation for pain-for-profit opportunities ready for their unassuming victim. For his part, Moses will cross any line if it means bringing home his quarry to safety, regardless of the ramifications.

A teenage girl, 13, is kidnapped and thrust unwillingly into the life of prostitution. With little hope, Freedom, slowly sees her bright future decay in front of her own eyes as horror upon horror is placed upon and in her. Persuaded by Rollens; a strong take-charge female character assuming the identity of an LAPD Detective, Moses accepts the task of locating this young girl and delivering her to safety. As with any plot featuring Moses McGuire, this isn’t a slow walk on the beach, peach and cream affair on a sunny day. Moses’ world is a dark and hurtful place where only the light of foot and steeled heart dare to tread.
Author Josh Stallings has once again encapsulated the full embodiment of noir. ONE MORE BODY’s eloquent brutality is choreographed for maximum impact. The body count is high, but then again so are the stakes. For Moses, Freedom represents more than a trapped and tortured soul, she’s a reason to keep his blood pumping another day with a glimmer of hope that she’ll place a broken piece of his own trapped and tortured soul back where it belongs.
ONE MORE BODY comprises well-articulated and full bodied characters that complement the raging bull of a man, Moses, whose self-medication and self-induced-warfare are a staple of his very being. Without spoiling too much, Gregor, makes a return as a trusted and deadly sick-kick to help Moses on his violent journey into the underbelly of the sex industry there’s also a band of vets and some mobsters who get in on the action – just to add further firepower to bloodied path Moses walks.
Like its predecessors, ONE MORE BODY demands attention and refuses to let up. The action is breakneck from the first to last word. ONE MORE BODY is one more reason why Josh Stallings is near the top of my ‘must read authors’.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Review: THE VIEW FROM THE TOWER by Charles Lambert

17884104A crippling tale of love, loss, redemption, violence, and political intrigue. THE VIEW FROM THE TOWER    is a slow burning crime novel that’s more about retrospective relationships post death than the mystery surrounding the identity and motives of a killer.
 
Federico is a powerful and influential public servant living in Rome and married to the attractive Helen when he is gunned down running an innocuous errand. At the time of the murder Helen is in bed with former lover and close friend of Federico’s, Giacomo, an ex-terrorist and reformed gentleman – also involved in a relationship.
The news spreads fast and aspersions are cast in every direction with Helen’s life placedunder close scrutiny; her movements under a microscope for eager public viewing. Paranoia and guilt wrack her conscious and subconscious thoughts, yet she continues to be entangled in the security and familiarity of her fellow adulterer Giacomo.  As the nature of the heinous crime is slowly unravelled, Helen’s world is turned upside down. Trust, a precious commodity, she learns, she can ill afford.
I wasn’t expecting such a deep seeded emotional journey into the inner sanctum of a long standing marriage and complicated character whose motivation and secrecy derailed the façade and questioned the perceived truth behind what seemed a perfectly normal and amicable relationship. Author Charles Lambert, does a masterful job of engrossing the reader into this cushioned and somewhat isolated world as Helen comes to terms with her predicament.
THE VIEW FROM THE TOWER is a literary yet psychologically charged murder mystery that slowly cuts deep to the bone.

Interview: Deborah Sheldon (author of RONNIE AND RITA)

Deborah SheldonDeborah Sheldon lives in Melbourne, Australia. Her short fiction has appeared in many literary journals such as Quadrant, Island, [untitled], and Page Seventeen. Her work also appears in anthologies such as The One That Got Away (Dark Prints Press), Hard Labour (Crime Factory), and the upcoming 100 Lightnings (Paroxysm Press). In 2013, Cohesion Press will publish her crime-noir novella, Ronnie and Rita. In 2014, Ginninderra Press will publish her literary collection, 300 Degree Days and other stories, while Satalyte Publishing will release her crime-themed collection, Mayhem: selected stories. Apart from fiction, Deb's writing credits include commercial television scripts such as Neighbours, Australia's Most Wanted, and State Coroner; stage and radio plays; magazine articles for national magazines; award-winning medical writing; and non-fiction books for Reed Books and Random House.

Deborah was kind enough to answer some questions about her new novella RONNIE AND RITA. Read my review HERE.

(Josh) What was the inspiration behind Ronnie and Rita?

(Deb) The inspiration came thirteen years ago. I had taken my newborn son to the doctor, and while in the waiting room, read a magazine article about the attempted kidnapping of a baby. I was horrified - especially so because I was a new mother - but the writer's side of my brain was struck by the potential for storylines. Years later, I wrote the first draft of 'Ronnie and Rita'. It stank. I shelved the manuscript but the characters kept nagging at me. Last year, I dusted off the manuscript, cut it down to the bone and rewrote extensively. The process took about three months.

Ronnie and Rita embodies the noir tradition; capturing that omnipresent feeling of hopelessness and ever-impending sense of bloodshed. Who are some of your favourite authors in the genre?

I don't have favourite authors in particular, but some of my favourite noir novels include Night of the Hunter by David Grubb, Cogan's Trade by George V. Higgins, Nightmare Alley by William Lindsay Gresham, and The Treasure of the Sierra Madre by B. Traven.

Rita is an interesting character with obvious flaws and a determined sense of self-preservation. What was it like creating someone who readers can both sympathise and loathe?

To me, noir fiction explores self-destruction; the idea that the seed to your doom is carried within you own psyche, dormant, waiting for the right catalyst. For Ronnie and Rita, the catalyst is each other. To this end, I had to make Rita McNaughton a complex person, capable of loving and being loved despite her mean streak. Rita was great fun to write. In fact, probably the most fun I've ever had writing a character.

I enjoyed the Rita/Ronnie dynamic and felt you crunched much more of their relationship into the novella than some novels I've read. How important was it to establish their connection so early in the piece?

Everything that transpires hinges on the fact that Ronnie loves Rita with every fibre of his being. Communicating Ronnie's love to the reader - in all its intensity, desperation and compulsion - is one of the reasons why I chose to write the novella as a first-person narrative from Ronnie's point of view.

Australia is just starting to become more noir-relevant to the broader fiction landscape (a genre typically dominated by UK and US authors). Do you read much Aussie crime/dark fiction?

Occasionally. I prefer to support the small Australian presses.

If you could describe Ronnie and Rita in one sentence, what would it be?

Be careful what you wish for.

Do you have plans to write more noir novellas?

I wrote one earlier this year and submitted it to a novella contest. It's the blackest noir story I've written so far and has more criminal elements than 'Ronnie and Rita', so it will be interesting to see how it fares in the competition. At the moment, I'm writing a crime novella with an upbeat ending. This is quite a challenge for me, considering my writing naturally leans towards the darker end of the spectrum. However, I like to write outside of my comfort zone. I try to do that with every project in some way.

Links:

- Deborah Sheldon website
Publisher website 

Friday, November 8, 2013

Review: ANIMAL KINGDOM by Stephen Sewell

Animal KingdomThe novelisation of the Australian crime film noir ANIMAL KINGDOM lacks depth and style, reading more like a screen-play than fully fleshed novel.

The concept far outweighed the execution. Sewell's adaptation could've resulted in a great and memorable piece of Australian crime fiction if only the author had neglected to adopt the James Patterson lack of explicit detail and two dimensional characterisation approach to writing this violent and bloody tale.

J, a 17yr old has led a rough life. With no father figure for guidance and a drug addict for a mother, his only form of solace lies with girlfriend Nicky. Needing a place to call home after his mothers death he finds a roof over his head and a mountain of bad baggage when he bunks with his extended and criminally renowned family.

Smurf, is a Ma Baker type who doesn't bat an eyelid at her sons criminal enterprises. Darren, Pope, Baz, and Craig are all young men with hardened careers on the wrong side of the thin blue line who at once welcome and segregate J to their way of life. Made to fell like an outcast, forced to don a foreign persona, threatened with loosing his girlfriend, and in fear of his life, J feels the full gambit of emotions as life as a Cody boy.

Somehow author Stephen Sewell manages to instill some redeeming qualities in the young Cody criminal-by-association teen taking the reader on a journey (all be it all too brief) to self realisation and growth as his comes to terms with his predicament.

I haven't watch the film this novel was adapted from but hope it comes across with more character detail and overall depth. Despite some fragmented sequences and the obvious shortcomings, I did enjoy the story of this Aussie crime family and the pure brutality certain characters endured - there were glimpses of good.

If you're looking for a family crime drama without a lot of substance that is quick and easy to read then check out ANIMAL KINGDOM. However, for more serious readers, I'd suggest Tom Piccirilli's THE LAST KIND WORDS and THE LAST WHISPER IN THE DARK - both books have the same feel, done right.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Review: RONNIE AND RITA by Deborah Sheldon

17847738Ronnie Spooner is middle-aged and single. He's no-one; a loner who has mowed lawns for a living ever since he was a boy. When he meets Rita, they fall in love, and want nothing more than a family of their own. Too bad it isn't possible. Or is it? What Rita asks him to do is wrong. Terribly wrong. But compared to the emptiness of Ronnie's life so far, even wrong seems better than nothing. Acclaimed author Deborah Sheldon takes you on a twisted love story that detours into even darker territory. The things we do for love…

Author Deborah Sheldon has crafted an Aussie noir mixed with the desperation and desire of a romantic recluse and a sinister schemer. Lingering lust and crippling longing propel both Ronnie and Rita into a deep dark place where the flash of a gun barrel is the only source of light at the end of this disturbing tunnel.
Ronnie mows lawns to pay the bills and lives a simple life. Middle-aged, he still sleeps in his boyhood bedroom and lives amongst his deceased parents belongings. Timid and without much of a personal life, Ronnie thinks he’s hit the jackpot when 30-something maid Rita takes a sudden interest. Sparks fly, love is in the air - the two form a relationship at breakneck pace with Ronnie not stopping to second guess this pleasant turn of events.
Rita seems too good to be true; an attractive and unattached young woman who has taken a strong interest in Ronnie – is it love or is Ronnie an easy target?
Thrust into a web of violence and mistrust for the purpose of devising a dysfunctional and inappropriate family dynamic, Ronnie finds himself led by the outlandish and brazen actions of Rita. As time goes by this femme fatale drops the façade to provide Ronnie a mere glimpse of his future – one not bound for the warm sunshine of Queensland, rather the firers of hell.
RONNIE AND RITA is a surprisingly deep novella that includes interesting characters with fractured pasts, heinous acts with disturbing underlying causes, and a linear plot that runs rampant as the pace quickens - all wrapped in a distinctly Australian narrative.
I highly recommend this book for fans of James M Cain, Jim Thompson, and David Goodis.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Review: THE BIG REAP (The Collector #3) by Chris F. Holm

16127272Sam Thornton has had many run-ins with his celestial masters, but he’s always been sure of his own actions. However, when he’s tasked with dispatching the mythical Brethren – a group of formerCollectors who have cast off their ties to Hell – is he still working on the side of right?

Sam Thornton’s latest assignment is to hunt and kill the nine members of the Brethren; immortals that resemble a beast/man/monster concoction with powers that far exceed many a supernatural being. His guardian angel (from hell) Lilith, the messenger delivering these ambitious orders, thrusts Sam around the globe from meat-suit to meat-suit in a whirlwind of violence and terror to encounter all manner of nightmarish beings in order to fulfil his mission.

Dry humour and wet sticky gore run rampant throughout the third novel in the Collector series. Much like its predecessors, author Chris F Holm maintains a delicate balance between the fantastical and believable. Those who take souls and transpose their conscious into other physical forms to the beastly creations that are the Brethren surprisingly have an air of realism if you suspend your belief enough – which in this series is a must.

As a pulp enthusiast with a penchant for the other worldly, THE BIG REAP ticks all the right boxes despite not having the same impact on me as the previous two novels. The linear nature of the plot (taking a hit-man approach to eradicating the Brethren) is offset by Sam’s first collection in Nazi Germany where he is also introduced to Lilith and the confines of being a collector for the first time. It was good to read of Sam’s early struggle to come to grips with his predicament and new found ability.

Characters from previous instalments also made an appearance which adds a nice sense of continuity to the series. Their appearance was organic and in line with the natural progression of the plot.

Overall I enjoyed THE BIG REAP (love the names of these books) and hope Holm revisits this interesting character and concept once again.