The Last Monument by Michael C Grumley

Having read and thoroughly enjoyed his Breakthrough series, which is imaginative, bold and well-written, I was so excited to see another Grumley book published. I bought it straight away and read it swiftly. This time, Grumley steps away from his almost other-worldly action series and gives the readers what is an unashamedly Indiana Jones type mystery involving an air-traffic inspector, Joe Rickards, with a sad secret that he carries, and a young female academic, an anthropologist, who also bears a heavy burden.

These two are thrown together when the anthropologist’s elderly great-uncle dies in a plane crash. Terrified of flying and an octogenarian, he nonetheless boarded a small aircraft in terrible weather with an old pilot friend. Where was he going? And what drove him to take such a terrible risk? When it’s discovered the great-uncle is carrying a letter sent to him sixty years earlier but which has only just been delivered and that it was sent by his brother who was thought dead after the war (something great-uncle never believed), a train of events is set in motion. Joe is roped into helping the great-niece learn the truth of not just what the letter meant, but what mystery lies at its heart. It’s a journey that will take both of them not only into the depths of South America, but into the deadly sights of others who have been searching for the answer to the mystery contained in the letter ever since the end of the war and will do whatever it takes to ensure only they discover the truth.

Grumley knows how to write good, page-turning novels and grip the reader. This one is no different except, for some reason, the story didn’t quite grab me in the way the Breakthrough novels did. The lead characters aren’t as rounded as I’ve become accustomed to in his novels and, while their back stories, when revealed, were heart-breaking, there was a sense in which they felt a little too contrived. Maybe that’s a bit unfair and maybe it’s more to do with the climax of the novel (which relates to the back stories as well). After devoting all the book to this mystery at the heart of the letter, the brother’s disappearance after the war, the deaths that are occurring and the Nazis determination to uncover and keep the secret, when all is revealed, it’s a bit of an anti-climax. The finale was also very schmaltzy and while I love a bit of schmaltz, it was a little overplayed. It was also unclear exactly how and why what happened – when this mystery is uncovered – did (I’m trying not to do spoilers). Yes, we were given the explanation of matter and energy and all that, and it was fascinating and easy to follow… but…. Again, this is just my very humble opinion, but the ending happened so fast and it felt like there was a rush to resolve and end the tale, even though Grumley has left it open for another book.

Overall, I would give The Last Monument between 3-3.5 stars. Some great writing and an interesting plot that for me didn’t quite live up to its initial promise. 

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Ripple by Michael C. Grumley and a word on Editing and Self-Publishing

It’s hard to describe the Breakthrough series by Michael C Grumley without resorting to superlatives and a bit of hyperbole. It is original, well-written, with characters you care for, a cracker of a plot and, yes, while it does ask you to suspend your disbelief and maybe play with science, hell, it’s fiction – a terrific action-packed, techno-thriller series with an emotional environmental, animal and human heart.

Ripple, as the latest book in the series (thank goodness Grumley is working on a fifth), simply adds to this incredible tale of Alison Shaw, John Clay, Steve Cesare and the team (including the dolphins and primates) and their support network that seek to prevent sinister forces from discovering and using an alien creation to wield power and control over the earth.

From South America to Africa, the USA and further afield, this book starts where Catalyst left off and doesn’t stop until the last page. Even then, you’re left hanging.

On one level, I was so disappointed I finished as I wanted to continue to immerse myself in the life and death adventures of this intrepid group and the animals with whom they’ve learned to communicate and for whom you end up caring as deeply as they do. On the other, I was so excited to read Grumley is continuing with the series.

What surprises – no, shocks me – most of all about this series is that Grumley is self-published. The quality of his work, of the prose, the editing, is testimony to how seriously Grumley not only takes his craft but respects his readers….

Allow me to digress a moment. As a reviewer (and writer) of books, I get sent many self-published books and books from established publishers to read and consider. With the professionally contracted and published books from known publishers, you can usually rely on, if not always a story that grabs you, at least the excellence of the grammar and syntax. With self-published books, in my now long experience, not so much. There are times I cannot even read beyond a few pages of a self-published book – albeit by someone who has gone to the trouble of hiring a professional PR person to spruik it for them – because of spelling and other errors littering the book. I even had one that changed characters’ names halfway through and clearly forgot – truly. Needlesstosay, I do not review those books. I don’t think it’s fair on anyone to criticise something that someone has sunk not only their heart into, but also paid a number of people to print, package and distribute. I generally don’t negatively review books (I might, however, point out a weakness in an otherwise good book or critique an aspect) that have been professionally published either – ie. the author has been paid by a publishing house – for the same reason. Unless I have something mainly positive to say, I stand by my grandmother’s words – don’t say it. Sadly, there’s usually someone else out there that’s doing it anyhow… I just wish that self-published authors would pay a decent editor – someone with rungs on the ladder, references and proof of work and a grasp of the language as well. They do themselves and their stories (many of which would be very readable) a huge disservice by cutting that particular corner or relying on their own or a friend’s or family member’s abilities. Books need a few set of experienced, professional eyes on them to iron out the errors – and then some are missed – I speak from experience. Grumley and someone like Hugh Howey – who was originally self-published until he was picked up by a publishing house – are great examples of exactly what to do when putting your work out there under your own steam and money.

Anyhow, now that’s off my chest, back to Grumley and the Breakthrough series. The excitement his tales generate is of a calibre that’s beyond many a well-known authors’ works in similar genres. How a major publisher has not picked this guy up and offered him a contract is astounding. The uniqueness and beauty of his stories, as well as the excitement they generate, never mind the compassion at its core deserves that at least. Then there are the many readers who clearly agree with me.

Even if I am shouting into the wilderness here, I think these books are really terrific. If you’re looking for wonderful escapism, heart-racing excitement, an engaging plot and characters to invest in, and enjoy action-adventure with a bit of sci-fi thrown in, then I highly recommend this series. You won’t be disappointed

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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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