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A Killer Thriller Collection - Eight The Hard Way (Mystery Thriller Suspense) Kindle Edition
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As in any anthology, the theme and quality of the different works vary somewhat:
"Paydown" by Nick Stephenson (3 stars):The prequel novella to Stephenson's Leopold Blake series featuring Blake, the wealthy heir to a financial empire who is a brilliant detective in his own right, Mary Jordan, a New York City detective who works with Blake on various cases, and Jerome, Blake's bodyguard, who helps extricate him from tough jams. In this book (which Stephenson sells on Amazon on a standalone basis), Blake and Mary investigate the murder of a Wall Street banker that's tied into the 2007 financial crisis. Although the book is heavy on clichés and short on actual investigating, it has good action sequences, and Stephenson often displays a good sense of humor. For those new to Stephenson, the book should spark interest in reading about Blake and company's further adventures.
"Loose Ends" by David VanDyke (3.5 stars): A novelette featuring California ("Cal") Corwin, a female PI based in San Francisco. VanDyke usually writes science fiction, but he has a natural flair for the hardboiled detective genre. Although Corwin seems to be a series character, as far as I can tell, this story represents her only adventure available on Amazon. She's an interesting character, an ex-cop dealing with some heavy physical (and possible heavy) emotional trauma resulting from being caught in a bomb blast. In the story, she tries to help a pharmaceutical company executive recover her kidnapped daughter and thwart some kidnappers trying to get their hands on some prescription drugs with considerable street value. The story is entertaining but probably could have been a good 30-40 pages longer, as some of the plot developments are a bit hard to follow.
"Mr. Mockingbird Drive" by Robert Swartwood (4 stars): A short story about two muggers trying to rob a victim withdrawing money from an ATM machine. The robbers actually want to get inside the man's home and loot it, but find out they have let themselves in for more than they anticipated. The story is reminiscent of the types of tales Alfred Hitchcock used to feature on his TV anthology series: tightly written with a clever twist at the end.
"Ladies' Weekend" by Ryan King (4 stars): A novelette about the female members of a Southern family making their annual weekend trip to a Gulf Shores beach resort. As the story begins, readers are probably expecting a typical "Steel Magnolias"-type of bonding story, especially when the author reveals that one of the women is dying of cancer and likely on her last such weekend. However, there's far more sinister goings on here, as one of the women soon finds out. The story does a better job of plotting than character development, but it's a good contrast to typical weepy melodramas of this genre.
"Veritas: Concubine" by R.S. Guthrie (4 stars): A tale about a convicted mass murderer and the journalist who records his final hours. Veritas is a former Army ranger who made it his life's mission to go after sexual predators and other scummy characters who had evaded legal punishment for their crimes, including the man who had kidnapped the journalist's daughter and sold her into white slavery. It's heavy, fairly graphic reading but compelling for readers who aren't offended by the material. The ending is rather abrupt for a standalone story, but, in the Afterword, the editors explain that author Guthrie plans a series of books detailing Veritas' exploits. If so, this story establishes the series' main characters, and the premise, quite well.
"Divide and Conquer" by Kay Hadashi (5 stars): A cat-and-mouse suspense novelette about a clever woman baby sitting her two nieces who finds herself the victim of a home invasion by three hardened ex-cons. She faces seemingly insurmountable odds but proves extremely adept with both words and fists and gradually evens the odds she faces against the criminals. Hadashi frequently makes readers privy to the heroine's thought processes as she tries to figure out her next move, which actually makes a seemingly preposterous story quite credible. This fast paced, suspenseful novelette is easily the best story in the book and begs to be made into a movie.
"Recidivist" by Alan McDermott (4 stars): A short story about a wealthy man who offers juvenile offenders a second chance for those who want it and something rather different for those who don't. This story has science fiction elements but also a good old-fashioned twist at the end and makes for a good, quick read.
"Return of the Bride" by Michael Maxwell (3 stars): A short, short story about a man going to the Middle East to rescue his dead brother's wife, who has been kidnapped by extremists and held for ransom. It's a sad story, but one that could have been longer to have the optimum emotional impact.
Overall, the quality of these stories is very good. "Divide and Conquer" is an excellent short thriller, and four of the other stories are very good. Best of all, there are no clunkers in the lot. Based on the overall quality of the stories and the book's added value in assembling all these stories in one volume, I give "Killer Thriller" a rating of 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 on the basis of the value-for-money factor.
I prefer Castle to the story, but I still found this kept a nice pace without a large amount of tedium. The story has a satisfactory conclusion that does not leave us wondering.
LOOSE ENDS: Took too long to get started, but still worth reading.
When 10yo Talley is kidnapped, her mother, Mira, is told not to involve the police so she hires Cal (ex cop turned PI) to get her back safely. Cal gets the feeling that something isn't right, but she is determined to rescue Talley; and she had better hurry.
MR. MOCKINGBIRD DRIVE: When a couple of men approach their victim as he leaves the ATM, they think they have found the perfect mark. They've been watching him for two weeks now, and they know his routine well. However, sometimes what you know isn't nearly as important as what you DON'T know.
Very short but interesting story. Worth the few minutes it will take to read it.
LADIES WEEKEND: The three Biddle sisters (along with a daughter and two daughters-in-law) were off to the beach for a "ladies weekend". Cathy hated these women, but she had a plan: "The image of Ruby's face when she finally discovered what her daughter-in-law had done made Cathy smile despite her agony." Surely she could manage a couple of days with them. Yes indeed. This weekend was definitely going to be a surprise. The kind that changes lives forever.
Fine little story with a twist in the end. This takes only minutes to read. Even though I figured out what the twist was going to be it was still worth the time I spent with the Biddle ladies. Check it out.
VERITAS: CONCUBINE: Inside most (if not all) of us lives the belief that the hard core actions of evil (wo)men should be punished - and NOT just a slap on the wrist with some weak attempt to dole out justice. For instance: someone who kidnaps, rapes, tortures, and mutilates a child should be put to death - NOT given a (let's say) 15 year sentence which is even further diluted by being reduced to 6 years with the prisoner's parole. Weak justice is not justice. Criminals know that. Why don't the courts?
Well, this is the story (literally being told to a journalist) of Shale Veritas - a man who also believes in true justice. What has shaped him into the man he has become? What does the journalist think about him and his attempt to correct the "failure" of the courts? What ties these two people together?
Unlike the story Return of the Bride, I am very well pleased with this story. In real life I could not in good conscience support the actions of Shale Veritas. However, in fantasy (make believe) I can fully support him. That is why I watch TV or movies and especially why I read fiction: to escape the limitations of our civilization. I am not confined to ineffective sentences that let evil people more or less "get away with it". I can expect - nay, DEMAND - justice be accurately meted out to fit the crime. I find (and applaud) that in this story which is why I can most definitely recommend it to you.
DIVIDE AND CONQUER: What would you do if 3 masked gunmen were standing in your living room when your 4yo nieces were there so you could babysit them? Oh - did I mention the fact that your hands were zip-tied together as were your feet? Well if you were June Kato, you certainly wouldn't waste a lot of time crying. You would be thinking about how to outwit the leader of the pack. Read this great little story to find out whether or not she was successful.
If this is the only story you read in this collection, you will not be disappointed with the purchase. Nor will you have wasted your time. What a marvelous little story!
RECIDIVIST: This was a strange little story to say the least. In America there was a program called Scared Straight. The idea was to take young criminals and scare them into changing their behavior by giving them a taste of what they could expect if they continued on their current paths. While there is a similarity to that cause and effect relationship in this story, there are also significant differences. The question is whether or not these children can see any reason to change.
RETURN OF THE BRIDE: First of all, let me say that this is a terrible story! Sear's brother had been killed, and his sister-in-law, Mahvash , had been taken. Sear was on a mission to bring her home. The story ends with two words: "Promise kept."
I can tell you without reservation that I would never send Sear to get anyone I know! His idea of keeping a promise is certainly not what I would consider to be a promise kept.
This is only 8 pages long (as per the description given of the story at the beginning of the book), but even so it was not worth the time it took to read. My suggestion: skip this one!
Paydown - by Nick Stephenson -- A gripping story that I couldn't stop reading.
Off the Leash - by D. D. Vandyke -- a classic thriller where the clock is ticking and it's up to Cal to figure it out before she's next.
Mr. Mockingbird Drive - by Robert Swartwood -- a pair of thieves have the perfect mark or is it the other way round?
Ladies Weekend - by Ryan King -- A ladies weekend leads to much more. A story Hitchcock would love.
Veritas: Concubine - by R.S. Guthrie -- A scary, twisted tale that sticks with you.
Divide and Conquer - by Kay Hadashi -- A babysitting job turns to a home invasion... who wants a dirt nap?
Recidivist - by Alan McDermott -- The police have had enough and are in need of nabbing their target. What lengths will they go to?
Return of the Bride - by Micheal Maxwell -- They say it's the Garden of Eden but can this sinner get redemption or something else entirely.
My Rating: 5 stars
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