Ain’t Nothin’ Personal by Chris Kelsey is the third book of a trilogy. It takes place in Oklahoma in the 1960’s with a, sometimes hard to love, police chief name Emmet Hardy. While Hardy was taking some mandatory time off of work when he was assigned to an inmate who wanted to provide the details of an unsolved murder from several decades earlier. Hardy struggles throughout the book, whether it is with the locals of the town or his own internal conflicts. Throughout this murky crime thriller author Chris Kelsey is able to make the character relatable and fun to follow.
Ain’t Nothin’ Personal is a riveting page turner that made it hard for me to find a good spot to put the book down. One thing I really enjoyed about this mystery novel is the quick but thorough character development. We are easily able to picture the characters with a quick setup before moving along into the heart of the story. This help keeps the story moving while ensuring the characters are intriguing nonetheless.
This is book three in the enthralling Emmett Hardy Mystery series and I would recommend reading the firs two books in the trilogy before reading this one. I enjoyed this immersive story, but I felt that the end of the book was slightly rushed, or maybe I was just left with an unquenchable thirst for the story to keep going. In either case I hope this story continues with more books.
Ain’t Nothin’ Personal has a persistent air of intrigue throughout the entire story, bordering on the noir genre I think, but never losing focus on the mystery driving this story. Hardy always has alternative agendas making it so a reader is not bored by just reading about one or two events that are happening. This is an engrossing whodunit novel that will certainly satisfy crime fiction fans looking for a well developed mystery.
Pages: 277 | ASIN: B08YLNJQM6
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Breaking Birds: A Psychological Thriller in Verse, by H.M. Roberts is a story of cruelty, obsession, captivity, and murder. I am finding this a unique book to summarize, as it is certainly unlike any thriller I have ever read before. It is not a whodunnit, so there are no clues to follow. There is no traditional setting. A funeral is mentioned, a park, and a house. There is no dialogue between characters. Each page is a poem, as if a chapter in a novel. Each poem belongs to one of four perspectives. This intriguing story brings readers directly into the mind of the killer. We watch the object of their obsession through the monster’s own eyes. The fascinating imagery will keep readers turning pages.
I was enthralled with the unique storytelling in this story. There are no character names. The only hints to different characters are the words “me,” “about her”,” the girl,” and “a child,” which are set on each page like watermarks. Author Roberts uses different fonts to help differentiate voices which I found to be helpful. I would not consider it is a spoiler to say that I think the voices behind “me” and “about her” are the same person. I could not find enough text evidence to determine if the character of “me” was male or female. I was convinced “me” was male and then the character of “a child” who seems female, also seemed to be a younger version of “me.” Although different fonts were used for “about her” and “the girl” they both seem to be referencing the same female. At the same time those passages marked “about her” and “the girl” seem to be the thoughts of the “me” character. All of this dragged me deep into the contemplative depths of this cerebral story.
Even though I was a little confused at times I liked this book and found the concept to be very interesting. Breaking Birds is a riveting psychological thriller that tells a gripping story in verse.
Pages: 173 | ASIN: B09C47RZPC
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Fatal Pose follows an ex-bodybuilder and current P.I. who’s investigation of a bodybuilders death stirs up dark secrets. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?
As a child of the 70s and 80s I grew up on a good, nutritious diet of Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Jean Claude Van Damme action films, that whole era of muscle and body-oriented action heroes. When I started working out and lifting weights very seriously in college to what would become a well-worn tape of the “Rocky IV” soundtrack and reading magazines like “Muscle and Fitness” and “Flex” I became more and more intrigued by the entire culture of the true hard-core, professional bodybuilders. Having read several memoirs by athletes in the sport, I also became fascinated by the darker and more dangerous underbelly of the sport, the glimpses into the sport not discussed by the glossy magazines. Then having read about the deaths of several bodybuilders as a result of very dangerous dieting and dehydration routines before contests, my writer’s imagination started going to work. Having been a big mystery fan for a long time, I began thinking of how someone could use the severely weakened and unhealthy condition of a pre-contest bodybuilder as a cover for murder. What if someone used a poison that mimicked a heart attack on an athlete who had strained and starved and dehydrated himself and was already teetering on the edge of a serious physical breakdown? It would be the perfect murder.
When I recently looked at the state of bodybuilding, I once again ran across a startling list of athletes who had just died over the last several years because of the extreme toll the sport had taken on their bodies. So, I thought it was time to revisit an idea about the use of a bodybuilding contest as a cover for a murder and “Fatal Pose” is the result. The high-risk lifestyle of an elite-level bodybuilder is still very much a reality.
Marino is an intriguing and well developed character. What were some driving ideals behind your character’s development?
I wanted to create a detective whose adversaries would underestimate him, but I wanted my main character underestimated for a reason we haven’t seen before. People would take a look Gunnar Marino’s exterior and immediately jump to conclusions. They take a look at the massive, ripped body, at the hypermasculine affectation, and they immediately think they are dealing with a mental lightweight. For a society that’s as disdainful of strong masculinity as we are right now, ever on the lookout for that “toxic masculinity,” the male bodybuilder must obviously be a big, dumb oaf. So, in the course of the story, when Laura Preston thinks she pulled off the perfect murder and is in the clear after the police write the incident off as a freakish accident, she certainly fears nothing from a musclebound ex-bodybuilder private-eye poking around the case. Even though Laura herself works within the fitness industry, it’s easy for her to assume that Marino must have the IQ of a ten-pound dumbbell just because of his appearance. She’s certain that she has nothing to worry about.
It was for this very reason that I wrote the story as an ‘inverted mystery.” It’s not a “whodunit” but a “how’s he gonna get her.” We read the story wondering how the detective will solve what appears to be a perfect crime with no apparent clues at all pointing to the killer. We know that Laura Preston is a murderer from the beginning of the story and the book becomes this dance between her and Marino, two adversaries circling each other, with Laura underestimating her opponent until it’s too late, until it becomes painfully clear that under the tough guy, over-pumped façade is a cunning, wily mind.
What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?
I wanted to examine the nature of bodybuilding as a sport that has self-creation, self-determination, re-invention at its core. I was also interested in theme of building a façade around ourselves, the surface images we create vs the reality that’s carefully buried underneath. Bodybuilding is a sport that is ultimately about display, and the display of a physique that is spectacularly beyond the norm. It’s a sport that tries to create flesh and blood renditions of physiques one can only see on otherworldly comic book superheroes. So, I definitely admire those athletes for their single-minded drive to reinvent themselves so totally as to look superhuman. I am a big fan of the sport.
It was also my interest in the concept of the radical reinvention that made me represent female bodybuilders thorough Erika Lindstad, the ex-girlfriend Marino rekindles a relationship with. The accomplishment for women in bodybuilding is even greater than for men because when they build massive muscles they need to find an even greater degree of inner strength since female standards of appearance are even narrower than those for men.
Yet as a storyteller I am also intrigued by what kinds of obsessions drive a person to such extremes. I wanted to examine if it was a trauma, a loss of some kind, inadequacy or a personal history of victimization that might drive athletes to become what they are in a sport like bodybuilding. So, in each of the major characters in the book, Marino, Laura, and Erika, we see this duality of the ideal-looking façade, the perfection attained through sheer willpower but driven from a darker place of loss and trauma.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
I am working on a sequel to “Fatal Pose” and hoping to bring back Marino and Erika in another mystery within the next year.
MUSCLES, MAYHEM, MURDER
Venice, California: Where you’ll find the hottest beaches, hottest gyms, and hottest bodies. This is where ex-bodybuilder turned private investigator, Gunnar Marino, runs his business.
The World BodyBuilding Federation: The most successful health and fitness empire in the world. But WBBF President of Operations, Laura Preston, suddenly finds herself in the middle of a blackmail scheme, with bodybuilder Brad Holt threatening to expose a shattering secret from her past.
Where two adversaries meet: After Holt dies at a contest from what appears to be a dangerously unhealthy dieting regime, Marino is hired to look into whether or not his demise might have been the perfect act of murder. But the deeper Marino digs into the case—pressed by a personal obligation to Holt’s sister—the more unsettled he is by Holt’s background, questioning the morality of seeking justice for a corrupt murder victim and pursuing a prime suspect who might have been a victim herself.
A showdown no one might walk away from: Finding himself in an escalating battle of wills and wits with Laura Preston, Marino is aided by a group of athletes he employs as an investigative staff, and Dr. Erika Lindstad, his former lover and ex-bodybuilder in her own right. But the more troubled Marino gets by the case, he realizes that he has no choice but to see the investigation to its conclusion…because suddenly he and everyone he cares for are targeted for death.
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Ninety-Five follows a college student who uncovers an on campus scam that’s connected to a larger criminal underworld on the dark web. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?
From an investigation perspective, most crimes are like icebergs. What you see sticking out of the water often has nothing to do with what’s really going on, with the deeper crime and the layers of secrets protecting it. Zak was a transfer student trying to reset his academic journey and an on-campus party led him down a rabbit hole and, ultimately, a one-way trip to hell.
Zak is an intriguing and well developed character. What were some driving ideals behind your character’s development?
Duality was one of the ideas I wanted to explore with Zack – bravado and vulnerability, he’s jaded yet innocent, and I was very curious how he would react to not only challenges in his immediate environment but to things that challenged his view of the world, of reality itself.
What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?
Ninety-Five is my seventh published book and I think I’m addressing the same themes as an underlying commonality – abuse of power, secrets, corruption, and family connections. But for this book specifically, I found the dark web, crypto, and Pharma elements pulling me deeper into the story.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
This year I finished writing my first series – a three-book private investigator series. I’m hoping the first book in that series will be published in 2022.
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Unseen, Evil Lurks Among Us, is a gripping thriller written by Jeffery James Higgins. The novel has a strong line up of characters, an interesting plot and enough action to keep the reader glued to the book.
There are two main characters in this story, Malachi and Austin; the traditional hero and villain. Rookie Homicide Detective Malachi is a former economics academic, turned detective after the death of his father in the Boston Marathon bombing. Austin is a man hell-bent on revenge after he lost his girlfriend at the hands of an Islamist infiltrator. An ex-solider, he plots his revenge whilst keeping up his appearance as an innocent bachelor who lives with his beloved dog Sophie. These are complex characters, as both show that they have both good characteristics and traits, as well as more disturbing aspects to their personalities. At times both fight their own inner demons. These two characters are well developed and are supported by a range of minor characters including a girlfriend, children, an ex-wife and friends and colleagues. Although they aren’t as well developed, all the minor characters are an integral part of the story.
Unseen, Evil Lurks Among Us is set in present day Washington. Higgins draws the readers into the story by describing the setting in detail. Opening the story with a scene in a bar, the action moves quickly to the outdoors, where even the oppressive humidity is described. Numerous sounds, sights and smells are described throughout the novel, as the story unfolds across various parts of Washington.
This is a fast-paced thriller that follows the typical structure, but the story is told from two points of view (Malachi and Austin’s). It starts with an action packed first chapter, with numerous clues and red herrings. Jam packed full of adventure; it keeps the readers guessing right until the end!
Unseen, Evil Lurks Among Us is a fast paced and enthralling novel. The characters are well developed and interesting, and the storyline, while complex, is still easy to follow. But most importantly for this genre, the plot just keeps you guessing with many twists and turns along the way.
Pages: 377 | ASIN: B09BLN26MG
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Twice dead…A living nightmare
The discovery of a blood-encrusted stiletto knife in journalist Emmeline Kirby’s bag at Heathrow Airport sets in motion a chain of events that ensnares everyone she holds dear. The body of Sebastian Jardine is soon found in the boot of Superintendent Oliver Burnell’s car, leading to accusations that he and Emmeline conspired to commit murder. Desperate to clear their names, she turns to Philip Acheson of the Foreign Office for help. But when two Special Branch officers arrive to arrest him, he is forced to go on the run.
Gregory Longdon, Emmeline’s husband and a jewel thief/insurance investigator with ties to the criminal classes and MI5, is the only man Philip can trust. Gregory is on his own quest to prove her innocence in a game that makes no sense. Jardine was no stranger. His old friend was a former Interpol agent, who soured on the law and succumbed to his baser instincts. The real problem is Jardine died five years earlier. A fancy pink diamond with a murky provenance that men are willing to kill to possess holds the key to the truth. From London to Malta, Emmeline and Gregory are drawn into a web of corruption and revenge. Will they forfeit their lives for justice?
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Ninety-Five follows an average college student who uncovers a malicious criminal network that is scamming students and luring them into more and more crimes. He soon learns that this is only the tip of a dark and nefarious criminal network at work on the dark web.
The story starts with a new college student, Zak Skinner, who is stressed out by the usual things a student faces in their life; failed subjects, struggles with studying, and a search for opportunities to blow off steam. In Zak’s case, he went for an innocent drug trip, taking ayahuasca and getting high. What he did not anticipate was that he would be trapped in not only one but two illegal crime rings, unique and devious in their own way.
Author Lisa Towles’s writing style is perfectly suited for this crime thriller, and very detailed as well as graphic. I loved how she builds Zak up in a way that he deduces things on his own, because he is very smart and perceptive, but he also knows his own limits. This unique balance sets Zak up as a character that is intriguing and fun to follow. This is an engrossing technothriller with some cryptography in the story which reminded me of Dan Brown’s Digital Fortress. I love the science fiction aspects of the plot. We get to explore the dark web in some refreshing ways and are dragged through this dark underworld that has a persistent air of intrigue. A special mention of all the Harry Potter references; I laughed at each moment.
Ninety-Five is a riveting crime thriller that has a unique enough setup to stand out in the college fantasy genre. When I started the book I got the sense that the narrative was leaning more fantasy, but by the end it was a captivating mix of crime fiction and technothriller.
Pages: 244 | ASIN: B099SYTJWQ
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The Glass House dives deeper into Billy’s psyche where vengeance now motivates his actions. What are some sources that informed this novels development?
With the basic layout of how I wanted this story to progress and layout, the sources were what I was hoping lay deep in the readers psyche also. We all usually want either the bad guy to redeem himself in some way that lets us know we weren’t fooled by him all along, we saw some qualities that may just turn him. I wanted the reader to keep diving back in and out of seeing him as a bobber floating at the waters surface, constantly pulled under against his will and then released for air and the possibility of losing the devil inside him. There comes a point though, when the line that is drawn in the sand becomes too muddled and stirred so much there is no way sort out what is good from what is mostly bad. Billy Jay’s façade had to break and break big. I think he even was coming to the point he hated himself and was realizing his judgment was really looking in the mirror at himself. He hated what he saw and lashed out.
What were some new aspects of Billy’s character that were important for you to explore in this book?
That there is a point of almost no return. When things begin collapsing around him, he starts to understand he has crossed lines he can never uncross. I wanted to show that yes, he is human, he had a horrible upbringing without love, but one cannot use even a background as such, to continue justifying manic and crazy fits of rage that lead to murder and torturous aspects. Ethan is showing signs of the same path but from opposites spectrums of social and economical backgrounds.
What scene in the book was the most fun to write?
Actually, there are a couple. I did really enjoy the scenes in lockup where Darrell and Jay were forced to share a close area. It was fun twisting the reader one more time into despising Jay for his taunting of Darrell. The other scene is Ethan in Springfield, MO. A man who has designed his path in life to enjoy his wants and desires to their fullest at even his best friend’s expense. He has everything now that he has craved and spent so much time building—and he is foolish enough to go for the easy thrill and lose everything. He thinks he is infallible.
This is book three in The Mason Jar Series. What can readers expect in book four?
Book four carries a different tone from the onset. There is a new character who will either be involved in this series through it’s continued run, or, possibly a series of their own that runs parallel to The Mason Jar. There is of course far more twists and turns as things become revealed more and more in the main characters and side character plots. I hate to give anything away, but I do hope some readers find enjoyment in some danglers for books I call, 4.5 (a novella) that is a surprise book that appears to be written and published by the new character. It’s from the outside looking in prospective of Billy Jay Cader, and book 5 which promises to bring things closer to a close. I can’t say I’m done with the series at that point, because my head is still spinning developments I think the reader will enjoy and be shocked. I however, do not want this series to fizzle away from repeat twists or things that leave a reader unprovoked. I want to end this with the reader feeling their time was well spent and maybe still hungry for more at some point later on. Please stay tuned for now, though. The ride isn’t over just yet!
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