The House of Killers. Samantha Lee Howe

Every now and then a book comes along and ticks all my boxes. This is one of those books.

Espionage and Crime Thrillers are my favourite genres of books, tick, tick

Robert Ludlum’s Bourne trilogy and Stig Larsons Millennium trilogy, are two of my favourite series with two of my favourite characters. Neva in The House Of Killers is an amalgamation of Bourne and Salander, Tick, tick

A cracking, believable story that keeps me hooked from start to finish. Tick, tick, tick.

Neva is a Bourne in reverse. She’s an accomplished assassin who feels no empathy for her victims, in fact she is void of any emotions, just like Larson’s Salander. But, something is happening to her, flashback memories to when she was a child. Flashbacks to being abused and trained in a merciless brutal way start to enter her mind, along with the occasional memory of innocent times before she was taken to “The House” to be trained by The Network

Meanwhile Michael Kensington is an MI5 agent who works for a shadowy department that is officially called the Archive Taskforce. A team that on the surface looks at cold cases, but whose main duty is to investigate murders that could be politically motivated assassinations.

Michael has been building a case against one assassin that he is convinced is responsible for a lot of the murders that he has in his system. A clinical killer that specialises in using a very sharp blade. But in recent kills the killer has uncharacteristically got a bit careless, has he found a chink, can he identify the killer.

When Neva kills, “retires” another assassin who works for the “Network” it triggers something inside her, when will it be her turn?

When she cracks and kills another member of The Network, of her own volition, she has to disappear, and she knows she needs help.

A chance meeting between Neva and Michael puts him on her track, but why doesn’t he tell the Archieve team everything, and why does he let her under his skin.

What follows is a very unlikely, but thoroughly believable hook up of the two main characters, but what a dance. Neither fully trusts the other, contact is lost and established at Neva’s behest, but still he trusts her, and in doing so puts his career on the line

This book is stunning. It’s that nugget of gold you spend hour panning a river for, the one that comes along every now and then. The last time I was this excited about finding a new author it was Tom Clancy.

The book had me hooked from the start. The characters are great, Neva is believable, but even in her coldest murderous moments there is something that attracts me to her as a character.

Michael is a typical security service Investigator, more Morse than Bond, reserved, lives alone, does his job, goes home. Just your everyday person doing a police job for a government agency. The perfect foil for Neva’s vicious uncaring character.

This story flew by. The plot runs at a prolific speed and the ending is one I just did not see coming. Usually this would mean the author had thrown in something that would be unrealistic in the plot, but not in this case. There’s a slow build up to it that is cleverly hidden in the plot, and when it manifested itself in the last couple of chapters I could see where it had come from, and I loved the fact that I had been caught by surprise by a brilliant twist.

2021 has given me some of the best books I’ve read for years, and this one is right at the top of the list.

Pages: 432. Publisher: One More Chapter Publishing Date 24th June 2021

Containment. Nick Thacker

A British family on holiday in Canada accidentally cross the boarder into the US. Picked up by a local cop for illegal entry they end up in a small town police station. Days later the adults are dead.

At first it seems they have picked up a deadly virus. But soon it becomes apparent that there’s more to it than that.

Internal politics in the US Immigration and Customs sees Director Derek Biggs need to find an outside source to help him get to the source of the contamination

Enter ex US Army, and ex Boston Police Officer, Jacob Parker, a loner living a life of solitude in rural Massachusetts.

Parker puts together a small team, Beau Shaw a serving Boston Detective, and a virus expert Eliza Mendoza.

As more people become affected by the virus the team become more suspicious as the breakouts are connected to remote immigration centres across America

Is this a naturally occurring disease, or is it some kind of terrorist attack.

The race is on, not everybody is in this to help, not everybody is playing the team game, but who is the odd one out.

A great modern day story that really does not need any big leaps of faith from the reader.

The relationship between the team and the government, the internal relationships in the team, are all part of the suspense.

Will the team find the source of the infections, and is there somebody who is trying to bring chaos to America, or is it a more personal target.

Or, is it just another virulent disease that could bring the country to its knees. Sound Familiar?

A good suspenseful read that had me enthralled for a whole weekend, and then had my mind racing for weeks.

Pages: 315. Publisher: Bookouture, Available now.

The President’s Dossier. James A. Scott

The President’s Dossier.  James A. Scott

Fans of Ludlum, Demille, and David Baldacci, stop looking for the next to spy author, he’s here. If you love those authors for their full on international espionage thrillers this book is going to be right up your street.

Max Geller is a former CIA agent that left the Company when emails, disparaging to the US President, were found on his works account. If that sounds strangely familiar then the rest of the intrigue around President Walldrum is going to sound really familiar.

Gellar is sought out by a Lawyer representing a group that wants to discredit the President. There are rumours that a dossier has been put together which carries information on how Walldum is in President Putins pocket, and that he had help getting into office.

The Dossier allegedly contains information on how Wulldrum laundered money, took illegal payments, used hookers for rough and humiliating sex, and shows his connections to Putin through the Oligarch network.

So it’s not surprising the Lawyer is offering big money and a no limits expense account.

Gellar puts together a small but efficient team and the hunt for confirmation of the information contained in the  Dossiers starts.

Following the trail from America to the U.K, on to Europe and Russia, and back across the Atlantic, Geller goes full Jason Bourne. The story plot thickens as the body count mounts.

Everybody appears to want the information the team are uncovering, MI6, The CIA and the FBI, Oligarchs, and The Russian Security Services are all after Max and his team, and none of them are friendly.

Nobody can be trusted. Even Max’s closest allies in his team come under suspicion as the various agencies get way too close to Max

This book races around the world at a frantic rate, and had me turning the pages at the same speed.

It’s a real throwback to the spy stories that were popular in the 70’s and 80’, and I loved those books.

I mentioned a few authors at the start of this review and James A. Scott will sit comfortably amongst that group with this book.

If, like me, you’ve been waiting for a book like this, don’t plan on doing anything once you’ve started it, because you won’t put it down till you’ve finished it.

It’s an absolute stunner of a read and hopefully the first of many

Pages: 320

Publishers: Oceanview Publishing

Publication date U.K: 15 September 2020

Double Agent. Tom Bradby

A follow up book to Secret Agent, released this time last year, this book picks up the story of senior MI6 Officer Kate Henderson.

Her husband, who has been identified as a Russian Agent is now living in Moscow, but Kate has managed to take their children to meet him on a trip to Venice. During the trip Kate is kidnapped by a Russian agent who offers her unassailable proof that the U.K. Prime Minister is working for the Russians and that a change of power in the Kremlin is taking place.

To give credence to this he also tells her about a ending revolution in Estonia, which is attempted the next day.

Back in the U.K. Kate takes the information to her boss. He’s keen to exploit the information and give in to the demands of the Russian agent who, in turn wants to defect with his family to England.but others in MI6 aren’t so sure, and neither are the politicians.

The story continues with Kate trying to authenticate the truth about the Kremlin and the evidence on the PM.

At one point in the book Kate’s son jokingly asks her if she’s a female James Bond. She is but the story is so much more than the usual all action espionage thriller. It looks at the effect the job has on Kate, her physical and mental health, and her family. The tension, the lack of sleep, the constant second guessing, not just her own decisions but those of the people around her, takes it out of her.

The story also looks at the complex political and personal relationships formed, and in places abused, in the hallow halls of parliament, and the insular offices of the “MI…” departments of the security services.

I enjoyed nearly all of this book but, and it’s a big but, with only a few pages left I was thinking how is this going to finish. I was reading on a kindle and even checked if I had fully downloaded the book.

The answer was it didn’t.

It did, the story finishes, as in there is an end to the book, but there’s no conclusion. It just feels like the end of another chapter. If it was meant to be a cliffhanger it didn’t work. Even if there is another book in the series I would have liked a less ambiguous ending to this one.

Pages: 368
Publisher: Bantam Press
Publishing date: 28th May 2020

A Treachery of Spies. Manda Scott

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Two great stories rolled into one. A second world war espionage story that Len Deighton would have been proud of, and a modern crime story worthy of any of the present day authors writing excellent crime fiction.

The murder of an elderly lady in Orleans, France, is a horrible crime at the best of times. The fact that she has been executed and then mutilated, in a very specific manner, makes the crime even more hideous.

Enter Captain Ines Picaut of the French Police, and her small team. Picaut is recently returned to work having been badly burnt in a house fire but us soon into her stride.

The team tentatively identify the woman and link her to a production company making a TV series about a band of French Resistance Fighters during the Second World War.

The investigation will lead them to start to uncovering facts about the dead woman, and the part she played in the Resistance.

Here starts the second story. That of spies, double agents and treachery. The story of a young woman that escapes from occupied Europe and is trained as an agent that can work with the Resistance. She will work behind enemy lines with agents from across Europe and with French citizens trying to free their own country.

Whilst in France she will encounter; French people who sympathise with the Germans and see the retribution that is brought on them by their own Countrymen; she will have to work with people she despises and decide on which of the people she likes will die.

The small band that makes up her group all seem to have the same allegiances, but have they??

Who is on her side, and who feeding the enemy information.

As the two stories unfold, the modern day investigation, and the second world war drama, identities are uncovered. Nobody is who they seem, and somebody is acting as puppet master, pulling all the strings, but to what end.

I have used no names, except for the present day Police Captain’s, in this review. There is a good reason for that. Some of the characters in this book have multiple identities, because they have worked for different countries and different agencies. To use any of the names might be a bit of a spoiler to the story.

And this is an excellent story that I would hate to spoil for anybody.

Amongst most new fiction this is a tomb of a book at nearly 500 pages. Every page is a pleasure to read. The pace of the book is frantic but very enjoyable.

I have loved WW II stories since I was a young teenager, and I may be being nostalgic, but reading this book has made me wish there were more being written today.

Pages: 480

Publisher: Bantam Press, Random House

Publishing Date: 9th August 2018