Monthly Archives: November 2013

Review: Purgatory by Ken Bruen


PurgatoryPurgatory by Ken Bruen (Mysterious Press, 2013), Jack Taylor series

Jack Taylor is back. A former cop living in Galway, he’s been through a lot lately and has somehow managed to come out of it clearheaded, off the booze, the drugs, and the cigarettes. But as always with Jack, the quiet times never last.

A vigilante killer is targeting criminals in Galway. When the courts let them go, C33 steps in, making sure to send a cryptic message to Jack to inform him of these plans—and almost certainly to invite him to join in. But Jack’s done with all that; he’s more focused on his private life. He’s got a high-paying assignment from the man who’s going to rescue Galway from the economic doldrums, he’s met an intriguing woman whose literary name-dropping is almost as effortless as his own, and Jack is content to let his friend Stewart—a one-time drug dealer who is now a Zen master—track down the elusive C33. But of course it’s never that easy for Jack, and just when he thinks things are going pretty well, everything falls apart—and when they do, Jack can always be relied on to make the most self-destructive choices possible.

As with previous books in the series, the central mystery isn’t really the heart of the story, and that’s fine. There’s so much else going on—witty interplay between characters, Taylor’s irreverent observations, the noir feeling that permeates the writing—that I was drawn in immediately and disappointed when the book ended. This might be my favorite book in the series thus far!

This book was provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

My rating: 4 stars

Review: Parasite by Mira Grant


ParasiteParasite by Mira Grant (Orbit, 2013), Parasitology series


Sally Mitchell is in a coma. The victim of a horrific car accident, Sally is considered by her doctors to be brain-dead, and literally moments before her family turns off the machines keeping her alive, she awakens. Only she isn’t Sally anymore, she’s Sal, and she remembers nothing of her life before the moment she awakened. She has to learn how to speak, how to walk; she has to establish new relationships with her family members, who struggle to accept her new personality, which is completely different from the Sally they all knew. What they don’t struggle to accept is her miraculous recovery—her genetically engineered symbiotic implant, developed by the SymboGen Corporation, has done its job: while she was unconscious, it repaired all of her injuries, leaving her almost completely healed.

In fact, these implants—which are bioengineered tapeworms—are so effective at healing disease and boosting the human immune system that almost everybody has one. No more tablets, no more injections: these implants are truly a modern miracle. But if that’s the case, what is the mysterious sleeping sickness that is starting to spread across the city? Seemingly healthy people are fine one minute, and the next they’re almost in a fugue state: they can’t speak, they can’t really communicate, they don’t seem to move with any purpose, they’re really kind of like zombies. And from what Sal sees during one of her regular visits to SymboGen (one of the hazards of awakening from a coma is you become medically fascinating and are routinely subjected to all kinds of medical and psychological tests), there seems to be some kind of tie to the implants.

And possibly even to Sal herself.

Parasite is compulsively readable. It’s engaging, it’s witty, it’s creepy (the children’s story that is featured throughout is fantastic and really helps to set the tone), but it also gives away too much too soon, so the plot “reveals” fell a little flat. Even so, Grant does such a good job of pacing that the suspense builds up to the very last page—which is a little frustrating because this is the first book in a planned trilogy, meaning I have to wait to find out what happens next.


This book was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

My rating: 4 stars

Review: Cross and Burn by Val McDermid


Cross and BurnCross and Burn by Val McDermid (Atlantic Monthly Press, 2013): Tony Hill & Carol Jordan series


Tony Hill and Carol Jordan finally defeated their nemesis, Jacko Vance, but not before they paid a staggering price: the murder of Carol’s brother and his partner. Cross and Burn begins with an ending: Carol’s elite MIT squad has been disbanded, its members reassigned. Carol herself has quit the force and has seemingly vanished. Tony is back to clinical practice. Paula McIntyre is now the second to DCI Alex Fielding (yes, from the TV incarnation of Wire in the Blood), and on her very first day she finds herself pulled in two directions: officially she’s investigating a series of murders, and unofficially she’s trying to locate her partner’s colleague, who has gone missing and whose teenage son insists she’s met with foul play.

This is a novel about relationships. Carol’s absence has left a gaping hole in Tony’s and Paula’s lives, both personally and professionally. Tony struggles to adjust to life without Carol and to his overwhelming guilt over her brother’s murder, while trying to maintain his friendship with her former colleagues. But it is Paula who forms the heart of this novel as she attempts to balance her new working relationships with her reliance on Tony Hill and Stacey Chen, as well as her relationships at home. Paula has always been a talented investigator, but as she investigates the murders of several women—who, disturbingly, resemble Carol Jordan—Paula realizes just how much of an influence Carol has been on her and just how big a loss Carol’s resignation really is.

As always, McDermid is able to create situations that are emotionally charged without begin melodramatic. Through skilled plotting and pacing, she keeps Tony and Carol apart for more than two-thirds of the book before they are both inexorably drawn into Paula’s investigation, and while solving the murders is important, it’s the impact it has on Tony and Carol that makes for a riveting story.


Cross and Burn is the eight novel to feature Tony Hill and Carol Jordan, and I can only hope there are many more to come.

This book was furnished by the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

My rating: 5 stars