CLUB MEDicine by Jack Kinsley

Published: 13th February 2015Goodreads badge
RANE Books
Pages: 309
Format: Ebook
Genre: Thriller
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

What drives a reasonable man to commit murder?

Travis Martin was the great American success story. A former addict who started the premiere private rehab in the hills of Malibu, California, he had it all: a thriving business, a beautiful wife, and a daughter who was the center of his universe. Unfortunately, when his recovery took a nosedive, everything he built went right along with it. Now, he has a rehab filled with eccentric clients he’s expected to keep sane, a dark secret he’s desperate to keep hidden, and forces from his past that are determined to strip him of anything that remains.
What’s a self-made man to do? Backed into a corner, Travis finds himself stuck on one moral question: Can he commit murder in order to keep it all from slipping away? How far down the rabbit hole will he go? And, perhaps more importantly, how does he come back from it after that life is gone?

Part thriller and part redemption tale, CLUB MEDicine explores the heart of darkness within us all as one man balances on the razor’s edge between self-actualization and self-destruction. 

Note: I was provided with a copy of this book from the author for review.

This was a hard story to pin down, even rate. It has good moments that piqued my interest, but there were also mundane moments that I didn’t see a need for. But Kinsley connects it together well and depending how you look at it, everything plays a part in telling Travis’ story.

The characters are eccentric and have a range of problems, and some characters grow on you much more than others, but Kinsley keeps it interesting with various aspects and dramas of rehab life. The centre is the focus and connects characters, secrets, and plot development, and contains most of the drama that unfolds. Travis is also a closet drug addict himself which brings in a nice sense of the blind leading the blind and a nice case of irony, and it is a key part of the unfolding events, consequence, cause, or otherwise.

For a thriller I felt there wasn’t as much of a focus on that element. It came and went, but there was a lot more time given on the events, ordinary and otherwise, in the rehab. Granted it is connected, and seeing Travis operate in the centre and his drug addiction on top of that was a key part, but I felt the thriller aspect didn’t shine through until the very end.

There is a steady pace to the story that has rises of suspense throughout but instead of a solid thriller with a sense of gaining momentum to something bigger, Kinsley has focused on the psychological unravelling and desperations of a man trying to hold onto his reality, but in a self-focused and inner dilemma rather than have it constantly play out on the page.

It was more watching a man’s life be on the brink of crumbling and seeing him fall further into despair before finally reaching desperation. Having said that though, I didn’t feel the intense desperation I think Kinsley was aiming for. It read as a huge leap to planning murder but at the same time I understood it, which was weird. Even though Travis runs through his options and realising he is being backed into a corner, I didn’t catch a sense of urgency in the tone of the narrative despite the words telling me there was.

There are some great and surprising moments though. The story is actually unexpected and Kinsley keeps it going with a few surprises and hints at secrets and dark pasts that are withheld until the right moments. This unexpected nature makes the intermittent moments of suspense work because it does just suddenly happen, but it’s the rapid resettling into routine that is unsatisfying.

It is hard to judge a novel before finishing it which is where most of my notes came from, and I think the end is where the story finds its footing, everything falls into place and the story unites into an unexpected, thrilling conclusion. The final moments allow you to see the clues placed throughout that had gone unnoticed, and with everything linking up it shifts your perspective and opinion on how you saw the story, but while it solves some mysteries and shows off creative writing, other issues remain.

I liked the ending in as much I think Travis got what he deserved. There are consequences and lessons, and having not had much sympathy or real care for him through most of the novel I liked that he didn’t get off scot-free but got a chance at redemption, and being on shaky ground with those around him is a good solution. Condemning him entirely would not have felt satisfactory and Kinsley balances adequate punishment, the right thing, and hope nicely.

You can purchase CLUB MEDicine via the following


Amazon Aust

Flank Street by A. J. Sendall

Published: 15th May 2015Goodreads badge
 Ascend Digital Publications
Pages: 310
Format: Ebook
Genre: Crime Thriller
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

Flank Street is set in Australia, mainly in Sydney’s Kings Cross. It’s written in first person from the distorted reality of Micky DeWitt, a shiftless career criminal and world sailor.

Micky arrives in Sydney by boat, broke and on the lookout for opportunity. After taking a job as barman in a Kings Cross pub, he’s eventually approached by a high-end escort who needs something stolen.

Nothing is what it seems, as Micky falls into a honey trap that spins his life out of control.
Some characters from Heather make an appearance, including Mitchell, and the enigmatic Ray Peterson.

Note: I was provided with a copy of this book from the author for review.

This is the second book in the Sydney Underworld series and takes place before the events set in Heather but remains connected to the life at Kings Cross and includes many familiar faces. It was interesting to read about what the Cross was like before Loretto Reed took over and where certain characters started out, and knowing how the story pans out it was great to see little clues and references scattered throughout. Reading this also made me realise I had made assumptions in Heather which I hadn’t noticed, and having read Heather it made this a better read as well because there was a deeper understanding of even minor characters.

Told from a first-person perspective Flank Street focuses on Micky, a guy with a mysterious past who turns up to Sydney on his boat with the intention of getting involved with the underbelly of Sydney life. I liked Micky’s no-nonsense approach, he knew what he wanted and he went out and got it. His history is not really known and while he makes passing references to where he has been, there is still not a lot known about him. While I would love to know more about Micky’s history it isn’t important to the story and it also made him fit in well with his new life, someone with secrets, a vague past, with a certain set of skills.

It’s hard not to see similarities between Heather and Sam from the first book and Micky and Carol in this one, but at the same time they are also totally separate as well. While Sam enters the Kings Cross life after being convinced by another and with a mission to achieve, Micky chooses it because it is a world where he is comfortable and a place where he is looking to get in with a particular type of people and seeing where that road leads him.

Having only heard about Carol in snippets previously it was easy to see her as a victim, but getting to know her makes you realise she isn’t the nicest person, nor is she that innocent. From early on Carol got little sympathy for me, she was manipulative and selfish and it appears she has secrets of her own. Her association with Micky was curious, never quite trusting one another and both trying to get something from the other. Micky isn’t a fool, he is smart and he is wary but he does get talked into things. Even after telling himself she is not to be trusted that she is playing him, he still goes along with her ideas, against his gut instinct.

I loved getting back into the gritty Underworld of Sydney, albeit from a different angle. Sendall captures the atmosphere of that life and the control one person can have over a place but doesn’t make it too over the top, unrealistic, or even overly dramatic. The hidden threat and the secret agenda of nearly everyone involved means that everyone can be hiding something and not really knowing what people are thinking or are capable of makes for an enthralling read.

Much like Heather this story is one of boats, the underworld, and an outsider looking for a way in, but Sendall makes it much more than that. He has managed to create an elaborate story with intricate connections and complex and mysterious characters that all come together in an engaging and clever read. Flank Street is a wonderful continuation of the series and with a conclusion that boggles your mind and makes you rethink everything you have read Sendall makes sure to uphold your interest and eagerness for the next book in the series.

You can purchase Flank Street via the following | |

Barnes & Noble | Createspace

The Conviction: Enacting Vigilante Justice by John Mathews

Published: 25th January 2015Goodreads badge
 Self Published
Pages: 72
Format: Ebook
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

Two criminals are responsible for an innocent man getting sentenced to life for murder. An inept defense attorney and a crooked prosecutor are the other players in this case of egregious American corruption.

The four of them have been lured into a trap in an abandoned warehouse. Someone wants vengeance. This is a story of vigilante justice for the wrongfully convicted. Marked doors lead to four locked rooms, one where each of them will have to pay a price for what they have done. What will they be required to do in order to survive?

This riveting crime thriller puts the American justice system in public view and will keep you guessing until the very last scene. A dark masked figure watches…waits…and wants revenge.

Note: I was provided with a copy of this book from the author for review.

This short story is an interesting take on the idea of vigilante justice with entrapment, mind games, and threats all playing a part. There is drama and suspense and a multitude of questions about who is behind the elaborate set up. There is mystery and unanswered questions that are hidden from the reader as well as the characters, but small clues and snippets of information make an already mysterious situation complex and even more curious.

Narrative wise the story flowed quite well and Matthews tells the story with care, keeping it interesting and engaging, while also holding back when needed. The dialogue didn’t have much life, and the conversation between character seemed stiff, not really connecting with one another, and yet at times Matthews captures the panic and desperation they feel quite well as their situation looks dire and the begin to turn on one another.

The characters themselves are terrible people in all honesty, but that is why they have found themselves in their current predicament. I didn’t really engage with who they were aside from casting casual judgements on them based on what they did, but not caring about them didn’t really bother me as I was more focused on the developing mystery and game play element than realising how one dimensional they were.

Away from the characters, and to Matthews’ credit, the story itself was clever and it never goes where you expect. From early on it intrigued me and this was maintained as the story progressed with a lot packed into such a short story. There are surprises and revelations that change what you though would happen and what you thought had happened.

I liked the idea of the vigilante justice and the mystery figure orchestrating the entire thing was great and led to all manner of creative theories on who he possibly was. When the man behind the curtain is finally revealed it was certainly unexpected and I can imagine it would split readers to either liking it or disliking it. Personally I wasn’t a fan of how Matthews chose to end it, one because I thought it was going in a totally different direction, and two it immediately seemed unbelievable which flattened the anticipation that had been building from the start. Having said that it was different, and creative in its own way, and it was completely unexpected.

You can purchase The Conviction via the following

Amazon | Amazon Aust

Heather: A Story of Sydney’s Underworld by A. J. Sendall

Published: 21st August 2014Goodreads badge
 Ascend Digital Publications
Pages: 449
Format: Ebook
Genre: Crime Thriller
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

When ageing escort Heather Todd rescues a stranger riding a wild self-destructive spiral, she discovers she has a chance to avenge the death of her sister, and many others. She taunts and cajoles the reluctant Sam into helping her gather evidence against the notorious Reed brothers.
When Sam agrees to join her, they embark on a daring, high-risk venture that takes them deep into the underworld, and then half-way around the world and almost home again …

Heather is a story about how people are changed by circumstance and pressure; both external and internal. And how when released from that pressure, some are able to become their true selves.

Note: I was provided with a copy of this book from the author for review.

Sendall has developed and executed this story brilliantly, with style and surprise. From the intriguing prologue to the gripping final pages it’s a story that’s clever, captivating and at times heartbreaking. The narrative is exciting and suspenseful, even when nothing much is happening plot wise, meaning you are never sure what is going to happen, and while you often cannot condone what these characters do, they draw you in and intrigue you all the same.

The characters are certainly interesting, and they’re presented in a way that shows just how complex they are which makes them real, meaning even the bad guys got a lot of compassion and sympathy from me as I read. With characters so complicated makes for a great mixture of people working and clashing with one another and adds another level to the story.

Sam and Heather are from completely different worlds and seeing them get to know one another is interesting in itself. Despite their past lives they come together for a single goal and as their relationship develops they end up working quite well together. This goal seems quite unexpected but it isn’t too fanciful either, especially coming from Heather, if it has been Sam then I think it would not have been as understandable.

Sam is a straightforward character; he goes into undercover stealth mode quite quickly, his past career training kicking in most likely. He knows what needs to be done and he is methodical and callous from the start, planning it all out and eager to help make Heather’s idea a reality. He does show some uncertainty and moral debate, but he is also violent at times which was a curious contrast.

Heather is curious because while she seems timid and unsure of herself, infiltrating the underworld was her idea and she plays key roles in their plan just as much as Sam does. In a way you want her to make it more than Sam, hers is a more tragic story than his and you want her to succeed in getting herself a better life. She fights her fears more often than not and seeing her grow is really wonderful.

The story is told via multiple points of view, from both sides, which provides depth and meaning to the story. With Heather and Sam it allows a chance to sense their apprehension and thoughts about their plans, but with the added points of view of Reed and his men it adds extra intrigue to the story, certainly more insight, and a feeling of completeness to the entire story.

The time frame is realistic, taking place across multiple months, though it doesn’t read as slow nor does it drag out and it demonstrates the gradual build up and infiltration Heather and Sam are trying to achieve. While it is possible to see Sam and Heather’s plan as unbelievable and unachievable since they are seemingly just regular people, it still works. Heather was already connected to the Reeds in a small but real way and Sam has the skill set to get himself inside convincingly and realistically.

The simmering suspense and anticipation makes it a great read and one where anything is possible. You want Sam and Heather’s to achieve their goals but at the same time you are fully aware that anything could go wrong and ruin everything. Even up until the final pages when everything comes to a head Sendall makes sure you have no idea exactly what will happen and brings your anticipation to the max.

 This is a five star book not because it is mind blowing amazing and filled with action all the time, but rather because it is clever, and Sendall has built up this story remarkably well and concludes it perfectly in a way that is suitable and agreeable, but also a little bit heartbreaking.

You can purchase Heather via the following | |

Barnes & Noble | Createspace | Flipkart


Unsavory Delicacies by Russell Brooks

Published: 11th November 2013Goodreads badge
 Self Published
Pages: 28
Format: ebook
Genre: Short story/Thriller
★   ★   ★   ★   ★ – 5 Stars


For fans of Barry Eisler and Robert Ludlum. A three-course story collection with a side-order of revenge. 

Crème Brûlée
Rogue operative, Monique Beauvais, cons a software genius into selling her a coveted technology that would allow its user to control CIA drones while they’re in flight. And she will go as far as killing him in public in order to have it.

To the Last Bite
A renowned food critic–whose scathing reviews have closed down restaurants–gets a savoury surprise.

Shashlyk and Morezhenoe
CIA operative, Ridley Fox, leads a team against one of Russia’s most powerful crime families. He discovers secrets, but not one that he was expecting to find.

Three stories with three consequences. All containing three Unsavory Delicacies.

***Caution*** Readers are strongly advised NOT to eat while reading To The Last Bite.

Note: I was provided a copy of this book for review

Brooks’ short stories, much like his novels, manage to encapsulate the thriller genre incredibly well, even with vastly fewer pages. Just like his novels Brooks upholds the tension and the gripping feeling but this time with less action and more cunning.

The theme of the collection is food, though Brooks takes very different approaches for each and as the title suggest they are quite on the unsavoury side. This does not mean though they are necessarily grotesque in description or in content. And yet while there is a warning for one of the stories, there is no denying Brooks is masterful when it comes to grabbing the reader’s attention from early on and holding on till the last page, dragging it around whereever it needed to be in the process.

Once again Brooks demonstrates creative and clever writing and he uses the short story design and the element of the unexpected to his advantage. The building anticipation in the stories is evident and not knowing where it could end up adds to the enjoyment because anything is possible. As a result, each story is brought to life with uniqueness and the perfect amount of pacing, revelation, and intrigue that a short story and a thriller needs.

With only three short stories, Unsavoury Delicacies is a quick read but it is one that once started you will not want to stop. Brooks’ cleverness is clear and his stories are filled with characters and conclusions that leave you wide eyed and mouth agape. This three course collection of stories are somewhat shocking yet fascinating, and with revelations that fit ideally into the thriller genre. I think it is safe to say that they are enough to suitably satisfy your appetite for the suspense but they also leave you wanting more.

You can purchase Unsavoury Delicacies via the following

Amazon Aus
Amazon UK

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