‘Operation: Palmetto’ by R.T. Breach – Review

The chase is on for one man on a mission to prove his worth and the stakes are high…

The chase is on after an Iranian scientist escapes to the USA and from the clutches of Israeli rivals in what is a lightly political, espionage-heavy tale about the Mossad agent dealt the mission to track this target down.

The story spends a lot of time in the head of main character Karl Gruben who has his own doubts and conflicts as he embarks on a journey and joins a group of other agents who are undercover; some are experienced where others like Karl aren’t. We see the trials and tribulations of this group as they track down their target using a wealth of tech which they test to sometimes not so great results. Some of the gadgetry used was interesting and original while others were little on the fun/humorous side; a robotic cat comes to mind here.

Every so often I did find the writing style to tell as opposed to show and after what was a fast paced introduction much of the action didn’t really unfold until much later – saying that the final quarter of the story definitely made up for that. Karl’s inner thoughts are expressed throughout and carries the story. He’s a man on a mission to prove his worth and fight for a cause. Will he succeed in his mission and will it be worthwhile in the end? These personal stakes did seem to outweigh much of the political themes putting you in the head and in the moments of this chase story. For those who enjoy an espionage tale with a few twists this is definitely the one for you.

3 Stars – this review first premiered via Reedsy Discovery

Guest post: Excerpt of ‘Mobbed Up in Suburbia’ by Charlie Crane.

Introducing author Charlie Crane who shares an exclusive excerpt of crime thriller book ‘Mobbed Up in Suburbia’.

Junior found Hot Nose standing out on the veranda, watching the late night closing in on another morning. Junior had stood just inside the house for a time, watching Bill sip his whiskey, looking out at yesterday and tomorrow. Melancholic was how it had struck Junior, which was out of character for Bill, so it could be a moment of opportunity. A rare time when Bill’s sentiment allowed him to drop his guard.
Bill pushed a clean glass Junior’s way. “Join me, kid. It’s good to have the company.”
Junior poured himself a whiskey and took a belt and Hot Nose said,
“It’s a beautiful night out, ain’t it, kid?”
“It is. I miss these autumn nights. LA’s got two seasons. Hot and not so hot.”
“Sounds miserable. I don’t know how you do it.”
It had taken Junior some time to adjust—he’d spent countless nights in his first few months searching for environs that would make him feel more at home. He’d finally given up and realized that LA had a charm of its own, and if he were going to stay, he’d have to learn to appreciate it for what it was. “It has its upside.”
“Yeah,” Bill said, watching the night, “I guess everywhere does. Good and bad.”
Junior faced Bill’s formidable profile. “You’re gonna have to talk to me, Bill. You know that, right? You’re gonna have to give me what I need. Bill?” Bill faced him. “Otherwise, tell me what the hell I’m doing here.”
Bill turned away. “You’re just here, that’s all. Your father wants you here. Tell ya the truth, I was against it. I didn’t see the need. We been doing battle with the Costellos for thirty fuckin’ years. Off and on, we have. This ain’t nothin’ new.”
“No? Well, something’s new, Bill, something’s changed. The Don’s not a guy who overreacts, is he? I know he trusts you. I know he talks to you. There’s a lot you’re not telling me. Tell you the truth, I’m beginning to feel a little offended. I heard about the girl, Bill. I heard somethin’ bad happened. And I heard it was The Don who was to blame.”
Bill whipped his head in Junior’s direction. “The Don! To blame! You don’t know what the fuck you’re talkin’ about. The Don never wanted that!”
“Then what did he want, Bill? You tell me. Set me straight, so I do know what the fuck I’m talking about. So we don’t have to keep playing this game with each other. You don’t want me here? I understand. And I don’t want to be here. So do us both a favor and tell me what the hell we’re working with so I can get out of your hair!”
Bill turned back to the night. “It got out of hand. The Don likes this girl. He knew her when she was a kid.” Bill glanced at Junior. “I did, too. A sweet kid. She grew up around here. An Italian girl, but nothin’ to us, nothin’ to any family. Not even her own. They’d been looking out for her none of this would have happened.”
“Who is she, Bill? What is she to The Don?”
“Who knows? Your father’s got a soft spot for these wayward girls. He always has. He sees them on the street, he sees un peccato, una parodia. He’s gotta save ‘em, you know.” Bill turned to Junior, and said, in a shrugging way, “It’s a weakness.”
Junior nodded and said, “So the girl? This girl The Don wanted to save? She got turned out?”
“Si, she got turned out. By one of Costello’s guys. The one who thinks he’s a lover. The one they call The Gent. But he’s got no respect for women. His mother was a whore.”
“So who’s the guy who blinks?”
Bill looked at Junior with surprise. His nod said he was impressed. “What’s it matter? He’s in the wind. We had to save him. Now they’re all over looking for him. But he’s a ghost. They’ll never find him. Only The Don knows. There are some things, you know, kid, that The Don keeps to himself.”
Junior topped off his whiskey and let it lay. It was about all he was gonna get out of Hot Nose Bill tonight. They sat back and stared at the moonless night together now. Nothin’ but empty blackness swallowing weakly flickering stars.

This is an excerpt of ‘Mobbed Up in Suburbia’ by Charlie Crane which is available now.

You can find the Charlie over on the Tweet machine here.

‘Don’t Lose Your Head’ by Dave Williams – Review

A twisted, haunting and enjoyable read that dives deep into the shadowy depths of one man’s mind…

‘Don’t Lose Your Head’ is a literal, metaphorical and symbolic title for a unique story that takes readers down the rabbit hole of conscience and repercussion. ‘Alan Burris’ sets his sights on what appears to be a rather easy robbery opportunity which doesn’t go to plan and becomes an encounter that ultimately takes him on a path of torment. On this path we learn of his dark past which he cannot escape while very recent events weigh upon everything he does in the few days after. It seems everywhere he turns this encounter follows and no matter how he tries to bury or hide it there it is beside him. The voice in his head cannot be silenced seemingly and it gets louder and louder.

What’s real and what isn’t blends into one throughout as author Dave Williams delivers these atmospheric visuals with a writing style that keeps you reading. Are we supposed to sympathise with ‘Alan’? Or are his actions condemnable? Questions and the conflict presented like this heightens the already heavily psychological element that’s at play here. With some cool references and even some inspiration from an art exhibition the author once visited this book makes for a twisted, haunting and enjoyable read that dives deep into the shadowy depths of one man’s mind. Will he come out unscathed? You’ll have to read it to find out.

5 Stars – A very enjoyable read that clings to the darker side of things. Reviews via Amazon and Goodreads.

‘Snag’ by Dylan Burroughs – Review

A well-paced horror that puts story first and the finer details perhaps second…

If you are looking for a slow building horror that keeps you engaged all the way through then this is the book for you. It’s ‘Predator’ meets ‘The Thing’ with a dusting of ‘Alien’ as newly released former prisoner ‘Jay’ finds himself taking a job as a logger to start again. After connecting with an old friend he heads out to the forest and mountainous surroundings where he encounters others on their own journey of working to start again. The trees and forest setting slowly closes in and then someone goes missing. That is while something stalks them, what exactly, you’ll have to read it to find out.

“It was quiet here. Not the pleasant kind of quiet in the forest where you can appreciate the the silence of the world. This was the oppressive, pressurised silence that bore down and made them yearn for any sound beyond their own breath and boots…”

Although the story is well paced there are just a few critiques I have that mainly relate to basic spelling errors and sometimes hard to understand abbreviated dialogue that I found myself having to read twice. Other than some over description in places Dylan Burroughs delivers a likeable creepy horror with a sense that something is watching in those trees. If that description was kept tighter this would have been perfect, perhaps something to aim for next time. The characters are three dimensional and react to the world they are in while the story progresses with a slow build that eventually culminates. These men will have to band together to fight the unknown. Our lead character Jay has a history which he looks to escape from and do good by with some old fashioned redemption. There are some good concepts here but some of the finer details just let it down a little.

3 Stars – A missed opportunity with a good concept let down by the editing…

‘Deadly Odds’ by Allen Wyler – Review

He’s in deep with the big fishes and the odds are hardly in his favour…

Artificial Intelligence genius Arnold Gold seems to get himself in an increasing amount of trouble as his journey unfolds in a thrilling story of dramatic deception. For someone who just wants to make it with the fairer sex he sure does pay the price long after resorting to pay for such an experience which in turn leads to the barrel of a loaded gun and the rabbit hole of threat that envelops his life.

It’s part ‘True Romance’ part ‘Loser’ as our young hero has this way of tripping into a situation after an encounter with Las Vegas escort ‘Breeze’ who becomes the gateway to Gold’s deep trouble. While their time together is intimately relayed there’s always this feeling of some level of threat bubbling just under the surface. We learn that his success in the betting world is aided by the fact he’s a computer prodigy who surfs the Darknet which then in turn attracts less desirable types who want to exploit it soon piling on the pressure – eventually it seems everyone is after him, including the law. Perhaps Gold’s one and only pinnacle flaw is his uncanny inability to help himself or even refuse help – frustrating and immersive at the same time for readers and his legal counsel.

“fate had trapped him in a vise of opposing forces, slowly squeezing him to death. His only hope – at least as far as he could see was to stay on point and play the game…”

Allen Wyler has put together a strong story that I found to be both addictive and easy to read. On the fringes of crime or revenge thriller with some espionage themes it makes for a gripping read. Just how will Arnold Gold play himself out of this trouble? That’s question which will eventually be answered, the odds, deadly at best.

4 Stars – this review first premiered via Reedsy Discovery

‘Husband for Rent’ by Kristina Gallo – Review

A tale full of twisting suspense about those on the fringes of society…

Kristina Gallo delivers a thriller full of page turning intrigue with shades of a sinister soap opera. It’s gritty and raw and we are introduced to civil servant ‘Viktorija’ who finds herself linked to some less than desirable characters while being on the receiving end of abusive threats. After all she is the deciding factor on whether or not migrants to her native Zagreb are given asylum, a status many would do anything for. ‘Jamal’ just happens to be one of those successful candidates and although he is a husband, father and provider, he is also unfaithful but of course like many of Gallo’s stories this is the just the tip of the iceberg. An affair between these two characters paves the way for murderous implications while we meet a host of characters all on the fringes of an underworld ruled by deception and crime. We meet the trodden down wife, the determined law woman and even a disgruntled ex lover all of which could be behind a pair of murders.

“The underground world was cruel. One day you could be an attractive woman with expensive clothes and powerful men were around you. The next day, the forensic team could be examining your corpse…”

Just who is carrying out these murders and who is behind the threats? The guessing game will keep your interest until the dramatic end by way of twists and turns that make for an immersive experience. I’ll admit it only took a few sessions to finish reading this book as it gripped me about halfway through.

4 Stars – another good addition to Kristina Gallo’s growing backlist of thrillers.

‘Civil Blood: The Vampire Rights Case That Changed a Nation’ by Chris Hepler – Review

An alternative but realistic take on vampires with sharp political and biological edges…

Those who know the vampire genre will also know the usual tropes that come with it. This book doesn’t have any of that. Chris Hepler has brought the concept of vampirism into a brand new light and territory that see’s it as a type of pathogen in a believable reactive world. This is of course something very relevant today and the depth of this story is found in it’s characters along with the exploration of biological and political impacts vampirism comes to have.

“…human beings are now at risk from a plague. It is crueler than cancer, crueler than AIDS, a disease that makes its victims into villains.”

There are very few books where every scene feels meticulously constructed like this one and while it is a longer read it’s clear the author has thought of everything in a story with a gritty spy thriller/espionage feel. We get to see a future that’s realistic and there are some cool gadgets that help a group of agent/spy types try to trace and put a stop to this spreading vampiric infection. All it’s going to take is for the right or wrong person with connections to ‘catch’ it and well there’s the story – but it’s way more than that.

Giving any more away would be pulling the rug under from readers who will find it original, gripping and overall engrossing, for anyone who’s interested in a political thriller with a vampire edge – something rarely seen before in literature I recommend this one highly.

4 Stars – Reviews left via Goodreads and Amazon

‘Awake’ by Andrew Palmer – Review

An original techno-psychological thriller that captures the essence and surrealism of dreams with a sinister edge…

In the not too far future ‘Edward Morrison’ is a computer programming prodigy with a million dollar corporation behind him. His main objective in life is to create and complete a ‘dream machine’ prototype that looks to replicate REM sleep conditions while also providing a virtual reality that cannot be distinguished from the real world. And what exactly is real and just a dream? Well that’s the partial genius readers face in this story as the lines become blurred capturing the surreal element of what our dreams can be.

While Edward is determined and engrossed in the work he also carries a complex childhood trauma that plagues his nightmares throughout the story, hence the connection between him and the dream concept. He’s a reclusive type and initially helped only by ‘Athena’ who eventually serves as something with too much control and power which becomes a threat – like the technology in this story, it’s created with the best intentions but humans have a tendency to foster the worst outcomes. Control seems to be the metaphor that holds everything together here.

In the latter stages there were a few moments that felt a little hard to follow as the concept of what was a dream and what wasn’t played out. While readers will need to pay close attention at this point it also heightened the psychological sense of what was going through the MC’s mind. The writing style is descriptive and easy to follow with chapters that are well paced.

The concept of connection through the unconscious as mentioned by Andrew Palmer in the acknowledgment brings a twist and satisfying resolve via the estranged ‘Cura’ who serves as an important character throughout. Dreams and the human mind make for a fascinating subject which is put beside the perhaps danger of technology making this story an interesting and imaginative read.

4 Stars – This review first premiered via Reedsy Discovery

Spooky Season Book Recommendations

It’s the season of spooky and what better way to celebrate the nights drawing in and those leaves falling than to read a Hallow-tastic book. Here at the Hall of Information we love a thrilling and chilling reading experience so here’s a run down of some recommendations perfect for the season…

‘In space, not all things were certain… not even death’

Space and horror, simultaneously they are right up my alley and back in 2018 Christina Engela made history by being the first ever author to approach the Hall of Information for a book review. Of course we obliged and the journey of discovery began.

Imagine ‘Alien’ and ‘Event Horizon’ combined with Engela’s immersive writing style and you have the tale of the I.S.S. Mordrake; a ship seemingly stranded and damaged beyond repair in the furthest reaches of space and then it begins… They run into another ship that appears abandoned and just floating there. What unfolds is a tale of mystery and suspense. Check out my full review here and this book is part of the wider ‘Galaxii’ series which I plan on reading more of soon!

‘While some monsters are born, others are created..’

Who doesn’t love a slasher story this time of year? And branding this book only that would most probably be an insult because ‘the Four Before Me’ is so much more. Author E.H. Night blends nostalgia of the 80’s with a twisting initially slow burning story that becomes unputdownable. I even said in my review that this one reads like an early Stephen King with all the sights, sounds and senses captured that make for a chilling read!

Chilling, immersive and full of tension. Everything you want from a crime thriller…

Clowns and horror go hand in hand and Mallory Kelly has put together a chilling tale of shorts that I spent the first half of this year slowly delving into. Each book follows a separate story while the wider plot follows a pair of investigators trying to chase down a murderous clown which is part of this network or shall we say conspiracy. It’s part X-Files meets the irrational fear of clowns and these stories make for perfect Halloween reading. You can read my review of book 1 ‘Dead End’ here.

An enjoyable yet sinister tale of the macabre that’ll keep you turning pages…

Bruce Knapp has managed to pack in the many pillars of horror into one book with Noxious which I found through my Reedsy Discovery endeavors. Having enjoyed his ‘Night Audit’ series of shorts I jumped at the opportunity to take on a book about one town with a dark cloud hanging over it. From gruesome murder, witchcraft, possessions to even something monstrous lurking in the local river this one has it all and will certainly itch that horrific Halloween scratch. Check out my review here

An entirely unique and original page-turning journey of variety on the open road…

It probably doesn’t get any more unique or out there than ‘How LJ and Rom Saved Heavy Metal’ which is a fun road trip story full of variety. Like many awesome authors I’ve become friends with S.D. McKinley reached out to the Hall of Information for a review and I was not disappointed. The supernatural element makes for some great spooky season reading and there’s even zombies! Here’s my review.

And so that wraps up my spooky season book recomendations but some of you probably know by now that I love a sequel so you can expect a part 2 quite soon.

Do you have any spooky season book rec’s? Send them my way via the comments!