Criminally Good.

Reads: 26  | Likes: 0  | Shelves: 0  | Comments: 0

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Reddit
  • Pinterest
  • Invite

Status: Finished  |  Genre: Mystery and Crime  |  House: Booksie Classic

A review of four recently released crime novels.

There is a neat divide between the four books under review here, although each makes use of a recognized trope found in the crime genre they do so in different ways. The result in each case is something to be enjoyed.

The Treadstone Exile by Joshua Hood (Head of Zeus) is the first outing for Adam Hayes, an ex-operative with the titular black-ops outfit. Rusticated to Africa due to a little local difficulty with his former employers he finds himself a whole lot of new trouble when he gets mixed up in the kidnapping of the daughter of an arms dealer.

In Serpentine (Century) Jonathan Kellerman brings back his enduring detective duo of LAPD cop Milo Sturgis and psychologist Alex Delaware. This time they are hired by a wealthy young woman to uncover the events surrounding the unsolved murder of her mother forty years earlier.

Break Out (Headline), the crime debut of TV script writer Paul Herron sees Jack Constantine, an ex-cop jailed for taking violent revenge on the men who killed his wife. An already tough situation is made worse when a once in a century storm sees the guards at the high security prison where he is incarcerated abandon their posts, leaving Constantine and rookie guard Kiera Sawyer battling rising waters and homicidal inmates to escape.

Hotel Cartagena (Orenda), a first publication in English for well respected German writer Simone Buchholz, sees Hamburg prosecutor Chastity Riley and her colleagues taken hostage as they celebrate a birthday party in a luxury hotel. That is only the start of her troubles, a sepsis infection means Chastity finds herself drifting in and out of a reality that is becoming stranger by the minute.

A kidnapping, an old crime that casts shadows over the present, a prison break and a hostage situation. Each plot could have been drawn from some vast card index of genre clichés, if mishandled by their respective authors. Here though, thankfully, they are treated with appropriate respect and in one example no small amount of originality.

The Treadstone Exile and Serpentine stick closest to the genre template, not surprising since Kellerman has an established readership to entertain and Joshua Hood has his book billed as Robert Ludlum’s…. the strapline hammers the message home further by telling readers this is a series played out in the Jason Bourne universe. Leave aside the fact that so far as you, me and Brian Cox know Mr. Bourne, were he real, would occupy the same universe as everyone else, this is a disservice to Joshua Hood. He handles the choreography of bone crunching fight sequences and skin of the teeth escapes with enough skill for readers to turn up on the strength of his name alone. If Jonathan Kellerman does nothing different in Serpentine than in any of his other Delaware novels, he does what you expect with consummate skill. That is more than enough in a genre where the message about less being more sometimes gets lost in translation.

Break Out and Hotel Cartagena have perhaps more complex things going on behind the covers. Although the former is, on the surface, firmly in the thriller camp and if it hasn’t been optioned by Bruce Willis yet, it should be, although he may be a bit long in the tooth for some of the action sequences to be convincing. Look again and you might find Paul Herron to be doing something more interesting. You could read Ravenhill prison as a metaphor for modern day America, a crumbling institution threatened by environmental disaster where authority has abdicated; either that as an Inferno for the twenty first century with Constantine as a two-fisted Dante. Then again you could just read it as a first-class thriller and have as much fun.

Bruce Willis came to mind when I read Hotel Cartagena, in which Simone Buchholz has created what feels like might happen were film noir and European art cinema to get together to re-imagine Die Hard. The whole set-up with hostage takers in masks and a disparate group of hostages sitting around sweating over who is going to be shot first is there. Buchholz though uses them for different purposes, Riley’s hallucinations turn the cliched into the surreal in a most enjoyable way, flashbacks explain how things got to the point where one of Germany’s richest men is being made to force feed himself with sausages live on social media. The latter save things from being either silly or pretentious by rooting events and the motives behind them in crimes and betrayals that are all too realistic.

An Easter get-away might (for readers in the UK anyway) might be off the cards this year. Even if you get no further than a lounger in the back garden any one of these books would provide an enjoyable few hour’s distraction.


Submitted: March 08, 2021

© Copyright 2021 A W Colclough. All rights reserved.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Reddit
  • Pinterest
  • Invite

Add Your Comments:


Facebook Comments

More Mystery and Crime Book Reviews

Other Content by A W Colclough

Short Story / Horror

Poem / Non-Fiction