October 10

Last Days of the Condor – James Grady

Last days of the condor


Set in the savage streets and Kafkaesque corridors of Washington, DC, shot through with sex and suspense, with secret agent tradecraft and full-speed action, with hunters and the hunted, Last Days of the Condor is the bullet-paced, ticking clock saga of America on the edge of the most startling spy world revolution since 9/11.

My thanks to the team at No Exit Press for my review copy.

The press release for Last Days of the Condor suggests that this is a story for fans of Harlan Coben, David Baldacci and Homeland. Of the three the Homeland comparison was the best fit for Last Days – this felt like a spy story or counter espionage drama with plenty of action and drama to keep me reading.

The story follows Vin (Condor) he is a former agent/operative who has been retired from action. He survives daily routine by ingesting a cocktail of drugs but his skills and training are hard wired into his very being and he is ever alert to the possibility of threat.  As we join Vin at the opening of Last Days of the Condor he is travelling home, we share his view of the street and understand how he assesses potential threats. He sees danger everywhere and is waiting to be killed – it is a very effective opening and sets the tone for the rest of the book.  Vin believes he is being followed. On returning home he is checking his house for intruders when there is a loud thumping at the door – the reader cannot help buy into Vin’s conviction that he is about to die.

James Grady has penned a thrilling adventure – action sequences come thick and fast and we find that Vin is a dangerous person to be seen with. Despite his paranoia and lack of resources Vin is a worthy opponent and when he finds himself cornered his old survival skills kick in.

Caught up in Vin’s bad day is Faye.  She is an active agent who had been sent to monitor Vin and ensure a once lethal force was adapting to civilian life. Faye can call upon her employers to assist when Vin comes under attack, however, can she be sure that she can trust those sent to help?

A slick thriller and a real page turner – after a run of more fantastical reads this was nicely grounded and all too realistic.


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October 6

Time To Die – Caroline Mitchell

Time To Die 2He will predict your life… and your death.

Don’t ever cross his palm with silver. He will reveal your most shameful secrets. He will predict your death. He is hiding a secret. He is hiding a monster. And all his predictions come true.

Investigating a series of chilling murders, Detective Jennifer Knight finds herself tracking a mysterious tarot card reader known only as The Raven.

As the death toll rises, Jennifer and her team build a picture of a serial killer on the edge of sanity, driven by dark forces. But these are not random killings. And the method behind the madness could be the most terrifying thing of all …

Especially when it seems the death of one of their own is on the cards.


My thanks to Bookouture for my review copy.


After enjoying the debut appearance of Jennifer Knight in Don’t Turn Around I was keen to find what lay in store for  Jennifer in Caroline Mitchell’s new thriller Time To Die. Fortunately for returning fans there is another cracking thriller to enjoy.

What I find particularly appealing about these books is the fact that Knight and her colleagues are police officers but are also tasked with investigating issues which have a supernatural element. This opens up so much more potential for Caroline Mitchell to take her stories to the darker side of human (and inhuman) nature and she uses this freedom to great effect.

In Time To Die we encounter Raven, he has the ability to read your life in his tarot cards. He can see your darkest secrets and can also see your death. But sometimes Raven may need to give these premonitions of death a little helping hand…just to make sure the cards are correct.

Tarot has always held a dark fascination and the startling accuracy of the readings that Raven offers to his victims causes them (and the reader) a deeply unsettling feeling. I find that a chiller which is closely grounded in a believable situation is more unsettling than a ‘zombie apocalypse’ horror tale. Caroline Mitchell has delivered the chill factor I love – Raven is a disturbing character, his motives are unsettling and his need to satisfy the tarot cards and ensure his predictions remain true made for compelling reading.

The investigation into Raven’s suspicious behaviour ensures there is a strong police procedural element to Time To Die which appealed to my love of crime fiction. There is a real feel of a criminal investigation being conducted into the violent deaths depicted in the book. We follow the investigation and (as we know the Raven is a murderer) we get to see the police closing in on their suspect. However, the Raven knows they are coming and is taking his own steps to avoid capture.

On a final thought, I also enjoyed the further development of Jennifer Knight’s character: her obsession with cleanliness, the fractious relationship she has with her family and we learn more about her colleagues. All these elements help build a more complete story and give the depth to the book that not all authors accomplish. I look forward to another return to Haven and to see more investigations for Knight and her colleagues. My kind of book – thoroughly recommended.



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October 3

Q&A Andrew Shantos – Dead Star Island

Dead Star Island CoverToday is the final leg of the Dead Star Island Blog Tour and I am delighted to welcome Andrew Shantos to Grab This Book. Andrew has kindly taken time to answer a few questions:

Which book has most influenced your writing and why?

If I had to pick just one it has to be the Cyberpunk classic, Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson. One reviewer on Goodreads calls it “War and Peace for nerds”. It made me realise what is possible in a book: it’s brimming with ideas, both playful and deep; its real life characters get treated with affectionate irreverence; it’s sad and funny and clever. I’ve tried to do the same in Dead Star Island, though the nerdy aspect is more of the musical variety.


How long did it take you to find a publisher? What advice have you got for other debut novelists looking to get published?

It took about a year to find a publisher, after much trying (which I describe on another leg of my blog tour). There is much in the world of publishing that is beyond an author’s influence (particularly a debut author). But you can control the most important things: writing the best novel you possibly can; and giving absolutely everything you have. If you achieve those things, you learn to enjoy above all the process of writing, which is a deeper, more abiding love, rather than the short term lust you get from any kind of public “success”.

That said, most writers do want other people to read their musings on life, and it is lovely when someone says something nice about your book. So you have to keep trying, believe in yourself, and seek to become better at what you do.


Your central character is an alcoholic and there is certainly a good deal of substance abuse by the islanders too. How difficult or easy was it to write about?

I adored it! I always got a little excited when I knew one of these scenes was coming up, and I found them the easiest to write. They do say write what you know… Finally I found a constructive use for those wasted college years. There were a few substances missing from my collection though, so I took various mates out for a drink and got them to tell me stories from their bad old days.

I felt it was important to include these kind of experiences in the novel, because many of the real life characters who appear (Jim, Jimi, Joni etc) are defined as much by their hedonistic lifestyles as by their extraordinary musical talent. So Gunzabo (my detective, who simply cannot say no) ends up joining in (quite a lot). He has fun at first, but gets pretty messed up, which for me sums up why many people get into drug abuse, and why they stay into drug abuse.


Andrew ShantosWhen you were writing, did you set yourself deadlines or goals or did you just let it flow? How long did the book take from start to completion?

Dead Star Island took three years, from writing the first word to clicking Send on the final draft. I kept trying to set goals, but this never seemed to work: I found myself failing to reach them and doing even less as a result. What worked really well was keeping a record every time I finished a writing session. I noted the number of hours I spent and what I’d been working on (resulting in some nice stats for the nerds out there). This allowed me to give myself a pat on the back when I looked back and saw I’d done forty hours the previous month. Also I found myself competing with the me from a month ago to try to beat it.


Are there other genres you’d now like to explore?

As a reader I’ve never been one to stick to a particular genre. I’ll read anything, from thrillers to sci-fi to romance, so long as it’s full of ideas and it makes me feel part of someone else’s world. So I don’t know. Maybe a romantic sci-fi thriller?

For now though, I’m focussing on shorter fiction. I’ve got plenty of ideas and I want to turn some of them into short stories before committing to a few more years at the next full length novel.


You are a musician yourself. How did this influence your choice of subject/writing?

Music was the biggest influence of all on Dead Star Island. It helped me choose my characters, write many of the scenes (for example, the talent show where Jimi forms a super-group with some of the other residents and performs a cover of The Final Countdown). Music gave me the idea for the novel in the first place: all my favourite musicians, living in secrecy on an island together. It’s my ultimate fantasy. Of those I’m willing to share with the world, anyhow.



Dead Star Island, published by APP, can be ordered through Amazon priced £4.99 for Kindle and £8.99 paperback: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Dead-Star-Island-Andrew-Shantos/dp/0992811627
To get in touch visit him here….
w: andrewshantos.com
t: @andrewshantos
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October 3

Dead Star Island – Andrew Shantos

Dead Star Island CoverSixteen superstars the world thinks are dead. One killer, determined to finish the job…Somewhere in the Indonesian archipelago is a tropical island paradise with some very unusual residents…Elvis, Marilyn, Jimi and others have been living for decades in peace and anonymity on Dead Star Island. But someone is murdering them, one by one, in bizarre reconstructions of their previous deaths.

Mario Gunzabo was once Greece’s top detective. Now a one-armed tennis coach living in southeast England, he receives an unexpected call from his old school friend, Christian Adhis, Director of Dead Star Island.Gunzabo is secretly transported to the island, with two simple instructions: First – catch the Deja Vu Killer before he strikes again. Second – don’t get too drunk in the process.


My thanks to Katy Weitz and APP for a review copy.

Sometimes to enjoy a story you have to suspend a degree of belief – Dead Star Island is one you enjoy if you just go with it. I have seen the word ‘trippy’ used when describing the book, certainly many of the characters are tripping in most of their scenes but this is crazy genius.

Imagine some very famous celebs who are all believed dead are actually alive and well and living in blissful seclusion on a remote tropical island. Now imagine a killer is picking them off one by one – their deaths mimicking their ‘original’ death. Now imagine a one armed Greek detective with his pet ferret being brought to the island to catch the killer. Still with me?  Good I give you Dead Star Island by Andrew Shantos – all of this and more.  One of the more memorable detective stories I have read for many a year.

There are 16 ‘dead’ celebs living on Dead Star Island and there is lots of fun to be had trying to work out exactly who they are. Andrew Shantos teases out details and facts about the island residents to let the reader discover the secrets of the island at the same time as his detective Gunzabo. Indeed most of the details about the island and its inhabitants are slowly revealed as Gunzabo attempts to investigate a murder where witnesses are stoned, drunk, senile or elusive. Much of the time Gunzabo himself is drunk or stoned too.

The island dynamics are a test for Gunzabo, the relationships of these stars and their desire for secrecy hinders any investigative attempts. He also meets resistance from the island Director (the very man who brought him in to solve the murders). Despite the lack of support Gunzabo manages to unravel some of the mysteries of the island and before long a quite sinister prospect seems to be coming to light.

At the heart of Dead Star Island, and once you are past its apparent light-hearted concept, is quite a dark murder tale and a nicely outlined detective story. This book possibly will be a bit too outlandish for everyone’s taste as the concept sounds unusual, however, this is a gem of a story which kept me entertained and slightly perturbed when the motivation of the killer was revealed.

Lots of fun for me while reading Dead Star Island, well worth hunting this one down.


Dead Star Island, published by APP, can be ordered through Amazon priced £4.99 for Kindle and £8.99 paperback: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Dead-Star-Island-Andrew-Shantos/dp/0992811627
To get in touch visit him here….
w: andrewshantos.com
t: @andrewshantos
Category: From The Bookshelf | Comments Off on Dead Star Island – Andrew Shantos