Monthly Archives: January 2021

Gavin G Smith: Spec Ops Z (Review)

book cover of Spec Ops Z

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When Vadim Scorlenski and his elite Spetznaz squad are sent to New York at the height of the Cold War, they’re told it’s a ‘training exercise.’ They discover, too late, that the ‘practice’ chemical weapon they’re carrying is all too real. They go to their deaths…

…and awaken to a city overwhelmed by the walking dead, even now spreading across the globe. Somehow holding onto their identities amid the mindless monsters, Scorlenski and his squad of zombie commandos set out to return to Russia.

Someone’s going to pay.

A handsome new re-issue of a high-octane military-SF, as Russian Spetsnaz commandos are turned into zombies in ’80s New York.

(Review)

Continuing my run of reading books i wouldn’t normally pick up….

I have to admit i love a good Zombie TV show, its post apocalyptic escapism at its best. So i thought i’d give a book a go. I have to admit i was really surprised at how much fun i had reading this book, and ripped through it in 2 days.

While the book contains the requisite amount of blood and violence that you must expect and need with a decent Zombie tale, this one also has more.

Its main characters, members of a Spetznaz Squad who are as tight knit as can be, having fought in some of the worst places on earth at the time… The author lays all the ground work for investing you in the characters who should be the bad guys in this tale, but who are really as used and betrayed as anyone in the book. Then not only do we have a squad of heavily armed soldiers surviving the Zombie apocalypse we have most of them trying to hold on to themselves after they have become Zombies, with no idea how or why they retain their minds, the team want revenge against their former masters, but along the way their retained humanity forces them to help the people they were sent to destroy.

Fast Paced, high octane, full of flat out action and surprising emotion.

I really enjoyed the book and really am looking forward to another book following Scorlenski and his squad.

(Parm)

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D L Marshall: Anthrax Island (Review)

A portrait of D. L. Marshall

D. L. Marshall was born and raised in Halifax, West Yorkshire. Influenced by the dark industrial architecture, steep wooded valleys, and bleak Pennine moors, he writes thrillers tinged with horror, exploring the impact of geography and isolation. In 2016 he pitched at Bloody Scotland. In 2018 he won a Northern Writers’ Award for his thriller novel Anthrax Island.

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FACT: In 1942, in growing desperation at the progress of the war and fearing invasion by the Nazis, the UK government approved biological weapons tests on British soil. Their aim: to perfect an anthrax weapon destined for Germany. They succeeded.

FACT: Though the attack was never launched, the testing ground, Gruinard Island, was left lethally contaminated. It became known as Anthrax Island.

Now government scientists have returned to the island. They become stranded by an equipment failure and so John Tyler is flown in to fix the problem. He quickly discovers there’s more than research going on. When one of the scientists is found impossibly murdered inside a sealed room, Tyler realises he’s trapped with a killer…

Review:

Anthrax Island is my first book of 2021 that departs from my normal reading pattern of Historical Fiction, Fantasy Fiction and a trashy action thriller to cleanse the reading palette. Chosen because i liked the cover… nothing more complicated than that.

The book follows John Tyler to a remote island riddled with deadly Anthrax, the reason on the surface is to fix some broken equipment, but this is a cover for his real role which is to find out who murdered the previous tech, and why?

I fully expected to struggle and slog my way through this book, remote crime with minimal action (or so i thought) add to that a dark wet days atmosphere and it can be a little too real and depressing for me, but Anthrax Island grabbed me right from the start, the opening of the book has you survive a Helicopter ride and stormy sea just to arrive, and once you arrive the characters immediately explode at you with their various idiosyncrasies and behavior.

As soon as you are introduced to them you start playing cluedo, it was X with the Y in the Z location, this keeps you guessing and flicking back and forth to check clues and detail. The author has a fantastic style of feeding you details and laying out all the facts for you, dragging you deeper and deeper into the plot, teasing more and more detail as its discovered and analyzed, if you can manage to put the clues and potential motives and opportunity together then you can discern who did it….. only you don’t, I was 30% right, the rest he kept me going right up to the action soaked reveal.

The writing is dark, engaging, utterly atmospheric and totally consuming. i cant wait to read the next book, John Tyler is a great character with so much back story and more to give.

(Parm)

 

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Simon Scarrow : Blackout (Review)

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Publication Date:18/03/2021

Berlin, December 1939

As Germany goes to war, the Nazis tighten their terrifying grip. Paranoia in the capital is intensified by a rigidly enforced blackout that plunges the city into oppressive darkness every night, as the bleak winter sun sets.

When a young woman is found brutally murdered, Criminal Inspector Horst Schenke is under immense pressure to solve the case, swiftly. Treated with suspicion by his superiors for his failure to join the Nazi Party, Schenke walks a perilous line – for disloyalty is a death sentence.

The discovery of a second victim confirms Schenke’s worst fears. He must uncover the truth before evil strikes again.

As the investigation takes him closer to the sinister heart of the regime, Schenke realises there is danger everywhere – and the warring factions of the Reich can be as deadly as a killer stalking the streets . . .

Review

I’m not usually a big fan of thrillers set in the pre or early war, they always seem to be a little depressing and dark and i read for escapism. But its a Simon Scarrow book so how could i not be intrigued! Even if its a massive departure from his trademark ancient Rome, Simon has such an engaging writing style i hoped that it would remove that dark depressing element for me.

As usual with Simon Scarrows work its very character driven, which is perfect for me, you engage with the characters as much as the story and you become invested in them, their safety and they choices.

Blackout is in essence a crime thriller, that happens to be set in the winter of 1939 Berlin, yes its is dark, depressing and cold. Yet at the same time Simon makes it atmospheric, ethereal so full of danger and forbidding. His Lead character reminded me a little of the older Cato to begin with and Hauser (his second in command) a little of Macro, the initial interplay between them very reminiscent of the way they bounced off each other. But soon the new characters and story took flight and you get drawn into the dark dangers of Berlin, the power shifts between the different parts of the growing, expanding Nazi war machine, the political maneuvering that is beginning to underpin and control everything , even the facts of a murder case.

Our main character Schenke is a detective, driven by the love of the law and finding the truth, his approach sits at odds with the climate of follow the party line, and so he tries to walk the middle ground, stick to the facts have no political opinion…. and almost impossible task in this new Berlin.

I did find at times that the book freaked me out, you’re sat there reading about the political situation in the months before WW2 had begun, the control of the media, the fear of the masses, the dissemination of  the “new” facts that the Nazis want you to believe, the twisted view and approach to life, and you cant help but think of Brexit, Covid and the current UK regime, it really sent chills down my spine how close we really are to repeating old mistakes.

The plot of the book brings in all of the investigation, the hunt for a psychotic rapist and killer, a man who could be mixed in with the highest powers of the Nazi party, the scary view that the message of who and how even when the case is solved, that what becomes the facts depends on Muller, the Gestapo and even higher to the very top of the Nazi regime. We experience the irrational view towards Jews, and at the same time we see that much of the German view is controlled by fear, that many like Schenke just want life to be fair, just and normal for all, to carry on with family at Christmas and to fall in love.

As my first read of 2021 it was really excellent, you feel the cold, the fear and the sudden violence, and you pull together the facts as they are presented, who the murderer is keeps you guessing right to the very end. I’m really looking forward to more of Schenke and Liebwitz (The Gestapo agent assigned to watch over him)

Highly reccomended

(Parm)

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Angus Donald: The Last Berserker (Review)

book cover of The Last Berserker

 

The Last Berserker

 (2021)
(The first book in the Fire Born series)

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The greatest warriors are forged in the flames

771AD, Northern Europe

Two pagan fighters

Bjarki Bloodhand and Tor Hildarsdottir are journeying south into Saxony. Their destination is the Irminsul, the One Tree that links the Nine Worlds of the Middle-Realm. In this most holy place, they hope to learn how to summon their animal spirits so they can enter the ranks of the legendary berserkir: the elite frenzied fighters of the North.

One Christian king

Karolus, newly crowned King of the Franks, has a thorn in his side: the warlike Saxon tribes on his northern borders who shun the teachings of Jesus Christ, blasphemously continuing to worship their pagan gods.

An epic battle for the soul of the North

The West’s greatest warlord vows to stamp out his neighbours’ superstitions and bring the light of the True Faith to the Northmen – at the point of a sword. It will fall to Bjarki, Tor and the men and women of Saxony to resist him in a struggle for the fate of all Europe.

 

Review:

Vikings… The north, the cold… and blood soaked battles… what more could you want? … Angus Donalds new series does contain all those elements, but its also a lot more. This is a story about the growth and youth of Bjarki and Tor, and their submersion into the mysteries of the north.

The Story begins with a bloodsoaked madman single handedly destroying a village, before dropping back in time to Bjarki’s neck in the hangmans noose, saved at the last by a wandering trader, and taken to the heart of the northern world to learn the ways of the warrior, His companions on this Journey Valtyr far Wanderer and Tor Hildarsdottir teaching him weapons, fighting, but more than that, they teach him about family something he knows little about having been a foundling, his parents dead, raised by the villager who lost the lottery, he has been seen as a nuisance all his life. Now someone can see something else in him, the potential, even if that potential is death and destruction.

Angus Donald is best known for his stunning Robin Hood Series, so this is a departure to something new but retaining his wonderful character driven plots, his unique style and humour comes across in the tale, and the adventure he imbues into all his tales shines through.

I personally love a book filled with blood soaked battles, and this book has that, but it has so much more, it explores the root of the Northman’s religion, the blossoming of the Christian faith through that Northman’s eye and we see the growth of friendship and family when experienced by someone who has never know it. From the simplistic rustic life in a poor Northman’s village to the dazzling wealth of the Royal Frankish court, this story is both broad in scope and intimate in emotion, I devoured the book, and have been left wanting more and more.

highly recommended

(Parm)

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