Catalyst by Michael C. Grumley.

Another terrific instalment in what’s fast becoming one of my favourite action-adventure, techno-thriller series ever. Add to that a dose of science fiction and eminently readable prose, engaging characters and a terrific plot, and this is a recipe made in reader heaven.

 

Commencing about two weeks after the events in book #2, Leap, Catalyst has the intrepid group determined to protect an amazing discovery – at any cost. But when other parties not only become involved but demonstrate the lengths they will go to ensure the prize is theirs, the group comprising of John Clay, Steve Cesare, Alison Shaw and her colleagues as well as Deanne, Dulce, Dirk and Sally begin to wonder if the sacrifices required are worth it.

 

Nail-biting at times, with heart-warming (and breaking) moments, this is a wonderful read that has an OMG finish.

 

Can’t recommend highly enough. I have downloaded book 4, but am saving it as I don’t want to finish this series too quickly!

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Leap by Michael C. Grumley

The second book in the Breakthrough series, Leap, is a fabulous read. Fast-paced without sacrificing plot or character, it carries the reader back into the lives and amazing discoveries of the group assembled in the opening book, Breakthrough.

The story begins a year after the life-changing events in the first book. Still reeling from various encounters (including interspecies), findings unearthed and relationships formed, the core group consisting of Alison Shaw, John Clay, Steve Cesare, Lee, Chris and Will are once more brought together when a Russian sub is discovered lurking off the coast of South America. More suspicious, a Chinese ship is found in a minor port. Seemingly abandoned, it’s not until night falls that activity commences and a mysterious cargo, clearly taken from the local jungle, is stored aboard. What’s the cargo? Why all the cloak and dagger? What’s its purpose and, more importantly, what do the Chinese and Russians know that the rest of the world (aka the US) don’t?

Determined to discover what the Chinese are up to, no-one is prepared for what’s uncovered and what the cost of that is – a cost that only becomes clear once it’s understood the lengths the Chinese will go to ensure no-one else learns what they have.

It will take not only Alison, John and Steve and their friends – including Dirk and Sally – every ounce of talent and courage to uncover what’s going on, but also the skills of Deanne and her gorilla Dulce. But is the price of such knowledge worth it?

I found it hard to tear myself away from this book. Grumley’s writing, the way he creates such sympathetic and rounded characters, including the primates and dolphins is really remarkable. Finished this and immediately downloaded and started the next one. Amazing.

 

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Breakthrough by Michael C. Grumley.

This book, Breakthrough, by Michael C. Grunley, was such an unexpected and pleasant surprise. Yet again, I bought on the basis of a Kindle ad (they’re working for and on me!), taken by the premise of the book and the many, many good reviews – and I was not in any way disappointed.

A combination of action-adventure, sci-fi and techno-thriller, with a large cast, Breakthrough starts by seguing between different scenarios and different characters – from a nuclear submarine beneath the Caribbean, to Antarctica, the Pentagon and a research group studying dolphins and interspecies communication. Incredibly cinematic in style, the narrative holds your attention, gripping you by the throat at times, as the various locations and the people in them are slowly brought together, united by an amazing and potentially deadly revelation.

There are those closest to power who want to act rashly before all the intelligence required to understand what is happening to the world can be gathered. Instead of listening to experts and accepting that their solution presents an even greater and catastrophic problem, there are those who think they know better and refuse to heed any warnings, regardless of the consequences or who they might hurt in the process.

The race is then on to save the planet and the global population, not so much from an outside threat or the inevitable consequences of drastic climate change, but from their very own – people they trust to act in their best interests.

Fast-paced, engaging, with charismatic and relatable characters (including the dolphins!), this is a terrific book that was hard to put down. It was also difficult not to substitute certain characters for well-known figures in contemporary politics which served to add a particular frisson to the narrative.

Enjoyed this so much, I downloaded the sequel (yay! A sequel) and am enjoying it immensely too.

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I’ll Keep You Safe by Peter May

I have been a huge fan of Peter May’s Lewis books. Evocative, laden with a sense of place and time, they are simply wonderful reads. I was so excited to discover another of his set in the Outer Hebrides. I snapped up I’ll Keep You Safe as soon as I became aware it was available, finished the book I’d been reading and snuggled down to lose myself in the magnificent story May weaves.

Though a “Hebridean” book, this one commences in Paris with a harried married couple, Niamh and Ruairidh, owners of the successful Ranish Tweed Company, finishing a business trip in Paris. When tragedy strikes, and Nimah must return home alone, both a grieving widow and prime suspect in a brutal murder, little does she know she’s also a potential victim.

Reflecting on her life with Ruairidh, and her feelings for him and how they altered and grew over the years, the story of their courtship, their families, the troubles that both beset them and tore apart the communities in which they matured surface. Woven through the investigation and the reaction of the island community to the Paris tragedy, the past and present beautifully offset one another and set a sombre, mysterious and yet warm tone.

In the meantime, Lieutenant Sylvie Braque, a single mother, leaves Paris to pursue the investigation, carrying her own personal demons and reflections. Trying to rise above them, she begins to understand that though it’s evident Niamh loved her husband, there were those who didn’t – professionally and personally. And it seems their drive for revenge hasn’t yet been satisfied…

  1. Apart from one storyline to do with Sylvie, who is a professional woman, I really enjoyed the first seven-eighths of the book. What stuck in my craw was the notion that a woman, in this instance a divorcee, must be so torn about being a mother and working, she must consider choosing between them. It doesn’t help that Sylvie’s ex is a prick that stirs the embers of guilt every time he speaks to her… but really? Is that all? It is such a tired premise. There are so many compromises that can be made – personal and professional – to ensure a woman can contribute to society as a worker and mother and at the same time. Yes, she will always carry guilt, but this constant self-doubting of Sylvie was on the one hand likely real, but on the other, a bit over the top for such a strong and dedicated woman. It didn’t always ring true. Nevertheless, I liked her and her presence in the tale until she did a really stupid thing towards the end…

And it’s the end I have the most difficulty with, but not because of Sylvie. After being carried by the story, loving the setting, the remembering of Niamh and the way the narrative segued back and forth and using different PoVs, I am not sure what happened in the last few chapters. It’s as if May thought, gee, I had better wind this up now and, instead of resolving it in a way that was in keeping with the rest of the tale, rushed through to a WTF ending. For me, it was barely believable – ridiculous even. I rolled my eyes, stared at the pages, remained incredulous and cross after finishing and wondered how such a good, strong story could be ruined. I am all for suspending disbelief, but this was way more than that. I was forced to throw it out the window. The motivation of the perpetrator, the unlikely sequence of events and appearances, even the actions of a character earlier were all just crazy in terms of a solid, consistent story. The fact it was brought to a close in a few pages didn’t help either, particularly in light of one narrative strand which definitely needed more explication than, “I thought it better not to tell you” or thereabouts.

After thinking I would give this book another five stars, despite my feelings about Sylvie, the last eight of the book barely deserves a one.

I feel so disappointed that I can’t give this book more and I am curious how others felt about the ending too. May never usually lets his readers down but I feel after building this one up, he dropped me off a narrative cliff into a raging sea. I drowned.

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Enmity (DI Munro and DS West #3) by Pete Brassett

Another easy read featuring Scottish curmudgeon (with a heart and ethics) DI Munro and his forever hungry side-kick and pseudo-daughter (or that’s how it seems) DS West. Enmity, book number 3 in the series, sees DI Munro travelling with DS West to Ayr to solve the murder of a former colleague’s daughter. When more bodies turn up and it appears that someone innocent is being framed, all Munro and West’s skills and that of the team at their disposal are required. But when one of the team doesn’t want to co-operate and, worse, falls under suspicion, it seems the murderer is closer to home than anyone thought.

These books are great when you want to read a crime book that isn’t too complex, contains central characters who are likeable and clearly drawn (if somewhat stereotypical) and a setting you enjoy. Clichéd at times, with a tendency to include “Scottish” words randomly, much can be forgiven for the effortlessness of the read – even when you guess, “whodunit” part of the pleasure is discovering how the author concludes the case.

A good series.

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Avarice (DI Munro and DS West #2) by Pete Brassett

I admit that when I read the first book in this series, She, I had some reservations, and while they haven’t all gone away, the books and the characters are growing on me. In this second book, Avarice, DI Munro has retired back to his beloved Scotland only to be pulled in to help solve a nasty crime before the town of Inverkip is flooded with tourists for the annual regatta. It just so happens Munro knows DS West is also in the region and, when he makes her an offer she can’t refuse, they join forces to solve a crime that seems to have more suspects than clues and only a week to solve it.

Easy-reading with lovely banter between the characters, and interesting relationships between the suspects, this is a delightful escape without the blood and gore that seems to dominate too many crime books these days. It also has a great twist at the end. Devoured it quickly and purchased the next one which is already proving to be fascinating.

3.5 stars and getting better with every page.

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