The Liar by Steve Cavanagh: Another Fantastic Ride with the Wiliest Lawyer in Print!

The LiarThe Liar

by Steve Cavanagh
Series: Eddie Flynn, #3

Paperback, 327 pg.
Orion Books, 2017

Read: May 6 – 9, 2019
Eddie’s being sued in a way to attack the legacy — and the finances — of his friend/mentor Judge Harry Ford for a case he had back in his days as a defense attorney. Harry’s client was found guilty — and insane — and died about a decade later in a treatment facility she’d been sentenced to for murder. This is an important case for Eddie and Harry for multiple reasons, but as interesting as this case is, it takes a backseat to the main case in this novel.

Leonard Howell’s a former marine who runs a security company — who specializes in K&R (kidnap and return) — that Eddie knew back when they were both kids. His nineteen year-old daughter was recently kidnapped herself and Howell has a plan to retrieve her. He just needs to get around the FBI to pull it off. Enter his need for his old acquaintance Eddie Flynn — both to help him trick the FBI and to represent him because he’ll no doubt be arrested for carrying his plan out. But he doesn’t care too much about that, as long as his daughter is saved.

Eddie remembers what it feels like to have your daughter kidnapped and signs on — let’s be honest, he probably would have anyway. It’s a good thing he does, because Howell’s plan goes awry in fairly significant ways and he finds himself arrested for a lot more than anyone expected. Which is just the beginning of the book — it gets a lot more tangled, interesting, and exciting after that.

You know, for legal thrillers there’s a lot of action in the Eddie Flynn books. Sure, a good deal happens inside the courtroom — but Eddie’s not Perry Mason. What happens outside the courtroom is frequently more interesting than what happens inside. Which is saying something, because Cavanagh captures what’s most exciting about the cases and trials procedures as well as anyone does. As exciting — and important — as what happens outside the courtroom can be, for me, a legal thriller needs to land the courtroom stuff, or why bother? When Eddie is playing to a jury, interacting with a judge, messing with opposing counsel or questioning a witness? He’s fantastic (not infallible, as he proves here) — I’m not sure Mickey Haller could’ve handled this one any better (and likely not as well).

Just because the title uses a definite article, don’t make the mistake of thinking there’s only one in the book. You’d be better off not trusting anyone, including our beloved protagonist — well, almost anyone (I’ll have to leave that vague so as not to ruin anything).

One thing I want to note, and can’t think of a smooth way to work this in — what Eddie accomplishes in this book have more to do with his being a good lawyer and a smart guy than his past as a con man. He gets opportunities to flex those muscles, yes, but it’s not what defines him as a character here. Eddie the mostly-reformed con-man is a great character, don’t mistake me. But Eddie the scrappy lawyer, appeals to me more.

That said — early on, Eddie does something to help his client using the principles of Three Card Monte — and the wise reader would learn from this, because Cavanagh does the same thing. You will think that Cavanagh is doing one thing — and if you’re the type to try to figure out ahead of time where the mystery is going, whodunit, etc. (like I am), you will think you know where he’s going. And then when a Major Reveal happens which is pretty surprising, but really confirms all your theories — you start to feel smug and confident. Which is when Eddie and his creator probably start smiling — because within thirty pages of that, another Major Reveal comes along and totally blindsides you. I really never recovered from that for the rest of the book, honestly. Most of my theories remained largely intact, but they all had to be interpreted differently, and the motives behind them all changed.

I’ve never had a complaint about Cavanagh’s writing before now, but I didn’t realize he was nearly as clever as he is. I absolutely loved the way he fooled me — without cheating — and kept the tension mounting throughout this book in unexpected way after unexpected way. It’s just a great ride — right up to the point where Eddie demonstrates, again, just how stupid it is for people to make him angry. You’d think word would get around NYC courts about what happens when people challenge Eddie… A good series that gets better every time — do yourself a favor and pick this up. It’s a decent jumping on point to the series, too — you don’t have to know the first books, I shouldn’t forget to note).

—–

4 1/2 Stars

2019 Cloak & Dagger Challenge

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Saturday Miscellany — 5/11/19

It’s been one of those weeks where I can’t just seem to get to the keyboard when I have energy enough to write. Which is frustrating — I have 2 books I can’t wait to talk about (well, 3 after last night), if only I didn’t need to move ideas from my brain to my blog via some sort of mediator (in this case, fingers and keyboard, etc.) — if I could just think them and they’d post, this blog would be busier.

The lack of keyboard time also translates into a short list of odds ‘n ends over the week about books and reading that caught my eye. But I like these, so I’m okay with the length — you’ve probably seen some/most/all of them, but just in case:

    A Book-ish Related Podcast Episodes you might want to give a listen to:

  • O&F Podcast, Ep. 195: Delilah S. Dawson & Kevin Hearne Strout talks to Dawson & Hearne about the Pell books (not enough for me — but I’m not done with the episode yet), their individual works and more.

    This Week’s New Releases I’m Excited About and/or You’ll Probably See Here Soon:

  • Storm Cursed by Patricia Briggs — The latest Mercy Thompson book — I finished it yesterday and it’s great.
  • State of the Union: A Marriage in Ten Parts by Nick Hornby — The basis of/based on the new Sundance series (I’m not sure which came first, honestly). But the concept is great (10 conversations between a couple just before they go to their weekly marriage counseling sessions). And well, Hornby, so duh.
  • The Big Kahuna by Janet Evanovich and Peter Evanovich — Fox and O’Hare are back after a 3-hiatus (at least for readers, probably not for the characters). I’m not sure what this series will be like without Goldberg (don’t know if I’d have tried it without him), but I’m curious enough to grab this.

Lastly, I’d like to say hi and extend a warm welcome to Ailish Sinclair for following the blog this week.

That Ain’t Witchcraft by Seanan McGuire: Annie at the Crossroads (literally, mystically, metaphorically, and probably a couple of other adverbs, too)

That Ain't WitchcraftThat Ain’t Witchcraft

by Seanan McGuire
Series: InCryptid, #8

Paperback, 357 pg.
Daw Books, 2019
Read: April 24 – 29, 2019

           I didn’t know these woods. I’d never been to Maine before, and [didn’t have any of the family bestiaries to prepare me for what I might find. There are cryptids everywhere in the world, which only makes sense, when you consider “cryptid” means “science doesn‘t know about it yet.” New species are discovered every year, brought into the scientific fold and lifted out of cryptozoological obscurity. These days the word mostly gets used to mean the big stuff some people say is real and other people say is a big hoax, like Bigfeet, unicorns, and the occasional giant snake.

(Always assume the giant snakes are real. The alternative is finding yourself being slowly digested in the belly of something you didn’t want to admit existed, and while I’m as fond of healthy skepticism as the next girl, I’m a lot more fond of continuing to have my original skin. As in, the one I was born with, not the one the snake has left me with after a little recreational swallowing me whole.)

After Annie, Sam, Fern and Cylia leave Florida and the disaster that was left in their wake, they bounce around a little before settling on something that is about as non-Florida as you can get on that side of the country — central Maine. They find a house that needs a tenant for a few months while the owner is off to Europe and settle in to enjoy a time off the roads to regroup, rest and recuperate.

Ahh, such a good idea.

But first, they meet a neighbor, James Smith. It turns out that he’s a sorcerer, who’s itching for a fight with the Crossroads for the way they fulfilled (or didn’t) a deal with a friend of his from a few years’ back. Annie owes the Crossroads something, and it just might come time to pay up — which isn’t good news for James. If that wasn’t enough, Leonard Cunningham — Annie’s Covenant connection and the presumptive future leader of the group comes to town on her tail.

So much for the three R’s.

Annie’s solution to the problems she faces here is so… Annie. On the one hand, this is obvious, she’s a different character than Alex or Verity — and this series has never been the kind where the Price kids are interchangeable. But there is just no way that Verity or Alex would even consider doing what Annie tries. In many ways, she reminded me of Harry Dresden with the way that she dealt with the final problem. No, not by throwing a lot of fire, snark and energy around, but by coming at the problem in a way that you just don’t see coming (although, that’s not ruling out snark and fire) that seems more than a little reckless. Up to that point, Annie and crew had reminded me a lot of Sam and Dean Winchester and their crew.

This was really such a great way to wrap up this Annie arc — it’s going to be hard to put her aside for a book or three. Verity’s a lot of fun, Alex is a great reluctant hero who’d rather be researching things — but Annie? Annie’s really my kind of Urban Fantasy character — in the vein of Dresden, Atticus O’Sullivan, Ree Reyes, etc. And her friends are a lot of fun, too. The only thing this book is missing that’d really make it fantastic are the Aeslin mice — their absence is felt, particularly because Annie can’t stop thinking about them. Of all the things that McGuire has brought into my life, these mice are my favorite — and it’s been too long since I’ve had a decent dose of them.

I’m not sure how to talk about this without digging into details — and I’m this close to tossing out my spoiler policy and pulling an all-nighter to produce 20-30 pages about the InCryptid Dire Straits Trilogy. So much of what makes this book work is as its the culmination of this trilogy-within-the-greater-series. While I don’t think the book is perfect, I don’t remember a single problem I had with it — and felt the same way while reading it. Everything worked — the voice, the characters, the villains, the stakes, the challenges, the solution, the emotions, the quips, the action. I spent a good deal of time unsure how many of Annie’s little group were going to survive, and this isn’t normally that kind of series. I don’t think I actually shed a tear at the height of the novel — they weren’t far from the surface. This met and exceeded every expectation I had for this book and made me rethink my estimation of the series as a whole.

This is easily the best of this very good series — in fact, were this the final book in the series, I’d be satisfied. I’m very, very glad that it isn’t — please don’t misunderstand — but if it were… Heart, humor, thrills, and a very clever conclusion, pulled off in a way that the whole series has been leading to, but you don’t see coming. I don’t know how McGuire can equal it — much less top it. But since we’re talking Seanan McGuire, she will, probably not in book 9, but soon. Go get it — you’ll be better off if you start with #1 (Discount Armageddon), but you could get away with starting at #6 (Magic for Nothing), you can still appreciate a lot of the goodness if you jump on here, but you’ll miss so much you won’t enjoy it the way you could.

—–

5 Stars

Deadly Secrets by OMJ Ryan: A fast, taut thriller that’s sure to please.

Deadly SecretsDeadly Secrets

by OMJ Ryan



eARC, 331 pg.
Inkubator Books, 2019

Read: May 2, 2019

Marty had built his career on this kind of ill-informed information delivery derived from minimal facts. Until this moment, he had never appreciated the damage his ruthless ‘hunting’ had inflicted on so many innocent people caught in difficult situations. He had lived by the mantra, ‘throw enough mud and eventually some sticks.’It had never been truer than right now, ironically. The realisation of who and what he had become over the years left him feeling sick to his stomach.

Frequently, I have said that what you think of a particular book’s protagonist is going to determine what you think of the book — for example, if you don’t like Mark Whatney after a few pages, set The Martian aside — you’re not going to like the book. Or a certain protagonist’s charm or whatever is going to make up for some flaws in a book. That is not the case at all here — in fact, OMJ Ryan has pulled off the difficult feat of writing an entertaining and gripping novel featuring a character that I couldn’t stand. Honestly, at more than one point I thought I’d be okay with Marty Michaels spending the rest of his life in prison — if not for the miscarriage of justice and the fact that the real killer got away scot-free.

I’m getting a little ahead of myself — apparently, I needed to get that off my chest. So, Marty Michaels — a superstar of British radio (because, those things still exist?) — wakes up in a hotel room he doesn’t remember checking into after a night of drinking that he remembers almost none of. He stumbles around a bit and finds a dead woman — again, doesn’t remember this woman — in the room. So, naturally, he calls his agent. This is the caliber of person he is. Before his agent can show, the police — who seem to know what to look for — come pounding at the door and throw some cuffs on him and parade him out of the hotel, making sure many cameras get the chance to get photographs. Not that long ago, Marty had done some stories about the local police that had ruined a few careers, and these particular detectives take the opportunity for a little revenge.

In the early stages Marty thinks that his fame will get him out of the trouble he’s found himself in, or that it’ll all blow over quickly (probably aided by his celebrity). But it doesn’t, and he soon has to deal with the reality that he’s bound for prison unless something truly remarkable happens. His agent appears to be as loyal as you could want in a friend, his lawyer is about as smart as you could want (we’re told, I’d appreciate seeing more evidence), but they’re about all he’s got going for him. The evidence against him is overwhelming, the media smells blood in the water and they’re ready to tear him to shreds, and Marty is his own worst enemy doing stupid, reckless, ill-advised things (almost all of which are contra his lawyer’s advice) that keep getting him in more and more trouble.

After a week or so of this, Marty starts doing stupid, reckless and ill-advised things that are also actually constructive — he realizes that he can’t count on anyone else to help him prove his innocence and finds the best kind of ally for this kind of situation — a fellow journalist who believes him and is desperate to uncover what’s happening. Not for Marty’s benefit, but for the story. As far as the police are concerned they have their man — Marty’s two associates aren’t that much help — on his own (or with this ally) do enough to uncover the truth about what happened in that hotel room?

Ryan’s got a very complex novel here for us. Not the kind of complexity that will cost him readers because it’s too much to keep track of, but (thankfully) the kind of complexity that makes you more curious at every turn. The pacing is fantastic, the pages just melt away without you noticing because all you care about is finding out what happened. Everything else — including Marty’s well-being and lack of character — is tertiary at best.

It takes a long time (arguably too long) before Ryan tries to give us reasons for wanting to like Marty — and I don’t think they work (maybe if they’d been presented earlier), he’s a short-sighted, self-involved, self-important numbskull. Now, almost everything he does make sense given the context and are probably the same kind of stupid reactions 98% of people would naturally have in the face of the legal situation. But that didn’t once stop me from muttering (or jotting a note) about what a dunce Marty’s being at any given point.

This is very effective, entertaining and gripping. It’s not a perfect thriller, but it’s really good, and the flaws are minor and easily ignored. I would like to see what Ryan’s capable of with a protagonist I care about, but I’d be willing to try another adventure with a jackwagon like Marty Michaels if Ryan can make the circumstances as interesting. I recommend this one to the thriller readers out there, you’ll enjoy this ride.

—–

3.5 Stars


My thanks to damppebbles blog tours for the invitation to participate in this tour and the materials they provided (including a copy of the book).

BOOK SPOTLIGHT: Deadly Secrets by OMJ Ryan

Today I welcome the Book Tour for suspense-filled Deadly Secrets by OMJ Ryan. Along with this spotlight post, I’ll be giving my take on the novel here in a bit.

Book Details:

Book Title: Deadly Secrets by OMJ Ryan
Publisher: Inkubator Books
Release date: May 12, 2019
Format: Ebook/Paperback
Length: 331 pages

Book Blurb:

Millionaire Marty Michaels had the perfect life — until he found a dead girl in his bathroom.

For twenty years, superstar radio host Marty Michaels has used his vast fame and power to make or break the careers of celebrities and politicians.

But Marty discovers that power comes at a price when he wakes in a strange hotel room and finds a murdered girl in the bathroom. He’s been setup. Someone wants to destroy him.

Desperate to clear his name, Marty is propelled into a dark world of danger, corruption and depravity, and with the media world he once ruled now baying for his blood — the hunter has become the hunted.

Not knowing who to trust, or where to turn, Marty fights alone against a powerful criminal network as he tries to save his reputation, his job…and his life.

About OMJ Ryan:

OMJ RyanHailing from Yorkshire, OMJ Ryan worked in radio and entertainment for over twenty years, collaborating with household names and accumulating a host of international writing and radio awards. In 2018 he followed his passion to become a full-time novelist, writing stories for people who devour exciting, fast-paced thrillers by the pool, on their commute – or those rare moments of downtime before bed. Owen’s mission is to entertain from the first page to the last.

OMJ Ryan’s Social Media:

Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Website ~ Instagram

Purchase Links for Death at the Dakota:

Amazon UK ~ Amazon US


My thanks to damppebbles blog tours for the invitation to participate in this tour and the materials they provided (including a copy of the book).

Saturday Miscellany – 5/4/19

Happy Star Wars Day!

Here are the odds ‘n ends over the week about books and reading that caught my eye. You’ve probably seen some/most/all of them, but just in case:

    This Week’s New Releases I’m Excited About and/or You’ll Probably See Here Soon:

  • Venators: Promises Forged by Devri Walls — the second in the Venators series is finally out — and the first 100 pages are really good. I’ll probably talk about the next 250+ early next week.
  • Not Famous by Matthew Hanover — is now an audiobook!

Lastly, I’d like to say hi and extend a warm welcome to SED MADDY, The Happy Book Blog and Justine @ Bookish Wisps for following the blog this week.

Death at the Dakota by M.K. Graff: A pleasant little near-cozy mystery/romance that’s sure to earn some fans

 Death at the Dakota Death at the Dakota

by M.K. Graff
Series: Trudy Genova Manhattan Mysteries, #2

eARC, 336 pg.
Bridle Path Press, 2019

Read: April 29 – May 1, 2019


So Trudy Genova, a nurse turned TV medical advisor, is acting as the on-set medical staff for a made-for-TV movie. She’s primarily supposed to be keeping an eye on the star to help with her undisclosed pregnancy, but she’s available for everyone. Things are going swimmingly for her on set, everything seems fine with the pregnancy, etc. Until towards the end of shooting, the star doesn’t come back from lunch and isn’t seen for a couple of days. Not long afterward, another member of the cast ends up murdered. Trudy, a would-be mystery novelist, has a Nancy Drew streak compelling her to look into both the disappearance and murder on her own.

Meanwhile, the NYPD Detective she met in the first volume of the series and has been dating, Ned O’Malley and his partner have caught a pretty grizzly murder on top of the string of burglaries they’re investigating. The murder investigation soon turns to a wealthy family and their potential prodigal son. They’re also tasked with the missing person’s case (and then the murder) giving plenty of opportunity for Trudy’s antics to be discovered and disapproved of. Although the fruits of her time are used by the same detective that doesn’t want her getting them.

Either storyline would be enough for a novel, but combining the two of them is a pretty strong move that allows Graff to keep things moving and see these characters in very different worlds. Trudy’s chapters are told in 1st person and have a strong sense of immediacy. Ned’s chapters are in the third person. The change in voice is subtle, but it’s there, and adds to the effect of telling the two stories in the same book. It’s like getting two S. J. Rozan Lydia Chin/Bill Smith novels mixed together. For me, the Ned chapters are the most appealing part of the book — as are his cases. But this is the Trudy Genova series, and the weight of the book falls on her adventures (and I think most readers will find her chapters more appealing)

I had a few issues that I can’t not mention in the interests of full disclosure. I’m not opposed to the characters in mystery novels I enjoy having a love life, and even spending a lot of the book talking and thinking about their significant others (or potential significant others). Robert B. Parker was too formative for me to have a problem with that — and I’ve seen it done well too often since then to really have a problem with the idea (from noir to cozies and all stops in between). But here the romance story was a touch too much for my taste, I don’t need all the space devoted to Trudy’s angst over the right wardrobe for her romantic evening and so on. But that’s me, I can see a lot of readers loving it.

Dialogue isn’t Graff’s forte, too often it seems like she learned dialogue writing from Law & Order or Blue Bloods — particularly the more cop-talk passages. For example, lead detective to his partner: “Sometimes people don’t want to get involved, worried about testifying to what they saw.” Because his partner somehow made detective in one of the most competitive departments in the world without noticing that. The sports banter the two detectives reads like someone who knows nothing about baseball imagining what fans saying to each other. As long as you think of this as a TV procedural, you can get through this kind of thing without too much bother beyond a quick eye-roll. But novel dialogue should be better than that — if you feel you have to hold your audience’s hand that much, move those observations to interior monologue.

I think the writing could be a little tighter, another grammar pass would be a good idea, and there were a few too many awkwardly phrased sentences for me to not mention it. When I find myself quoting Inigo Montoya, “… that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” repeatedly, I’m taken out of the story — forced to analyze rather than just enjoy. Especially when I’m bothered enough that I have to stop and look something up just to see who’s right, the author or me. These technical matters didn’t ruin the novel for me, but it certainly detracted from my appreciation. I’ve had a run lately of novels ruined by style and technique, and that wasn’t the case here — I didn’t once regret reading this (what a nice change), I just wish Graff had done better by her own work.

Yes, this is a sequel, but it’s easy to read as a stand-alone — you’ll pick up everything you need to know. It’s completely accessible for anyone who hasn’t read the first — but people who dig this will undoubtedly enjoy Trudy’s previous adventure. This was a fine little mystery novel with some fun characters. Ultimately, it’s not really my thing — but I can think of a half-dozen people in my immediate circle who’ll really enjoy this and will want more (some of whom I buy books for occasionally, and think I will make gifts of this). Whatever problems I had with character or writing are forgivable and easily passed over — the characters and writing have a charm and it was a pleasant read. I’m not saying I wouldn’t read more Graff or Trudy, I’m sure I’d have a pretty good time. I’m just not going to rush out and look for them.

—–

3 Stars
My thanks to damppebbles blog tours for the invitation to participate in this tour and the materials they provided.