#BookRecommendation The Encyclopaedia of Forensic Science by Brian Lane

Any crime writer should know that understanding the basics of breaking down a crime scene, and subsequent investigations sets up a more realistic story-line for the reader to follow along, and become immersed in the complex trail of solving a murder or other crime.

The Encyclopaedia of Forensic Science by Brian Lane provides a comprehensive guide to the science behind crime investigation.

Brian Lane knows his stuff. From writing books like the Encyclopaedia of Women Killers, Serial killers and Mass Murder, and the Murder Yearbook and The Butchers.

How DNA profiling is revolutionizing crime detection, personality profiling, genetic fingerprinting, forensic ballistics and how evidence is taken from crime scenes.

Forensic Science perhaps became more popular due to shows like CSI, yet these shows tend to glamourize the in-depth process of what it really takes to unearth clues by breaking down the evidence one piece at a time (and not in heels with long hair contaminating the crime scene).

Let’s explore how this book can provide a useful guide for your next mystery, thriller or crime novel.

The A-Z of forensic science covers Anthropology, Ballistics, Cause of death, Chromosome abnormality, Dental identification, DNA profiling, Exhumation, Facial reconstruction, Firearms, Gunshot wounds, Hair, Insect infestation of corpses, Knife wounds, Microscopy, Pathologists, Psychological profiling, Radiocarbon dating, Semen, Time of death, and Voice analysers.

This book covers means of death and the ways killers were caught. A range of case studies provides in-depth analysis on how forensic science was used, even as far back as the 1800s to catch killers.

Dr Henry George Lamson studied medicine in Paris in the 1800s. Earning distinction in the Franco-Prussian War, he eventually developed an addiction to morphine, leading him to take more risks and becoming more reckless when his medical practices failed. Desperate to inherit his wife’s mother’s estate, he resorted to the oldest trick in the book – murder anyone that could inherit. Resulting in Lamson to poison his wife’s family with aconitine and quinine sulphate powder.

Aconite – a common garden plant known as ‘wolfsbane’, ‘leopard’s bane’, ‘devil’s helmet’, ‘blue rocket’, or ‘women’s bane’.

The Encyclopaedia of Forensic Science.

This resulted in the death of his wife’s brother. Fortunately, a toxicologist was brought in and discovered grey patches on the stomach that would suggest the presence of this vegetable alkaloid poison. Eventually this led the police to Lamson who was found guilty and hang.

A range of case studies throughout this guide demonstrates how poisons and other means of murder were used, and how pathologists and police used forensic procedures to catch the people responsible.

Perhaps one of the most fascinating aspects of forensic science (although this took a long time to be taken seriously) was the use of psychological profiling. Even to this day, some law enforcement agencies still do not take this seriously; however, the FBI certainly relies on this method to build a profile of the potential suspect, and in many cases this profile whittled down the suspect list to eventually find the killer.

We see in movies like ‘Silence of the Lamb’ and TV shows like ‘Criminal Minds’ how vital understanding the psyche of the criminal mind is. And for any psychological thriller, being able to delve inside the mind of a killer is imperative.


An American psychiatrist James Brussel pioneered this advanced method, and now the FBI has their own specialized Behavioural Science Unit. Specializing in particular on cases of serial murder, they delve into the motive, and picking up small observations of the crime scene to paint a picture of the kind of person that would commit this crime.

Although this practice is not new, Dr Brussel certainly revolutionized the practice, accurately describing who the ‘Boston Strangler’ would be, leading to the arrest of Albert de Salvo.

Whether you are a crime buff that just loves learning about true crime, or whether you are an author looking for helpful reference books to aid in your writing, the encyclopaedia of forensic science will enlighten you just how much work goes into investigating a crime, and the subsequent ways of proving they have the right suspect.

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#BookRecommendation The Encyclopaedia of Forensic Science by Brian Lane

Any crime writer should know that understanding the basics of breaking down a crime scene, and subsequent investigations sets up a more realistic story-line for the reader to follow along, and become immersed in the complex trail of solving a murder or other crime.

The Encyclopaedia of Forensic Science by Brian Lane provides a comprehensive guide to the science behind crime investigation.

Brian Lane knows his stuff. From writing books like the Encyclopaedia of Women Killers, Serial killers and Mass Murder, and the Murder Yearbook and The Butchers.

How DNA profiling is revolutionizing crime detection, personality profiling, genetic fingerprinting, forensic ballistics and how evidence is taken from crime scenes.

Forensic Science perhaps became more popular due to shows like CSI, yet these shows tend to glamourize the in-depth process of what it really takes to unearth clues by breaking down the evidence one piece at a time (and not in heels with long hair contaminating the crime scene).

Let’s explore how this book can provide a useful guide for your next mystery, thriller or crime novel.

The A-Z of forensic science covers Anthropology, Ballistics, Cause of death, Chromosome abnormality, Dental identification, DNA profiling, Exhumation, Facial reconstruction, Firearms, Gunshot wounds, Hair, Insect infestation of corpses, Knife wounds, Microscopy, Pathologists, Psychological profiling, Radiocarbon dating, Semen, Time of death, and Voice analysers.

This book covers means of death and the ways killers were caught. A range of case studies provides in-depth analysis on how forensic science was used, even as far back as the 1800s to catch killers.

Dr Henry George Lamson studied medicine in Paris in the 1800s. Earning distinction in the Franco-Prussian War, he eventually developed an addiction to morphine, leading him to take more risks and becoming more reckless when his medical practices failed. Desperate to inherit his wife’s mother’s estate, he resorted to the oldest trick in the book – murder anyone that could inherit. Resulting in Lamson to poison his wife’s family with aconitine and quinine sulphate powder.

Aconite – a common garden plant known as ‘wolfsbane’, ‘leopard’s bane’, ‘devil’s helmet’, ‘blue rocket’, or ‘women’s bane’.

The Encyclopaedia of Forensic Science.

This resulted in the death of his wife’s brother. Fortunately, a toxicologist was brought in and discovered grey patches on the stomach that would suggest the presence of this vegetable alkaloid poison. Eventually this led the police to Lamson who was found guilty and hang.

A range of case studies throughout this guide demonstrates how poisons and other means of murder were used, and how pathologists and police used forensic procedures to catch the people responsible.

Perhaps one of the most fascinating aspects of forensic science (although this took a long time to be taken seriously) was the use of psychological profiling. Even to this day, some law enforcement agencies still do not take this seriously; however, the FBI certainly relies on this method to build a profile of the potential suspect, and in many cases this profile whittled down the suspect list to eventually find the killer.

We see in movies like ‘Silence of the Lamb’ and TV shows like ‘Criminal Minds’ how vital understanding the psyche of the criminal mind is. And for any psychological thriller, being able to delve inside the mind of a killer is imperative.


An American psychiatrist James Brussel pioneered this advanced method, and now the FBI has their own specialized Behavioural Science Unit. Specializing in particular on cases of serial murder, they delve into the motive, and picking up small observations of the crime scene to paint a picture of the kind of person that would commit this crime.

Although this practice is not new, Dr Brussel certainly revolutionized the practice, accurately describing who the ‘Boston Strangler’ would be, leading to the arrest of Albert de Salvo.

Whether you are a crime buff that just loves learning about true crime, or whether you are an author looking for helpful reference books to aid in your writing, the encyclopaedia of forensic science will enlighten you just how much work goes into investigating a crime, and the subsequent ways of proving they have the right suspect.

Sharlene Almond (sharlenealmond) - Profile | Pinterest

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#BookRecommendation – Criminal Masterminds by Charlotte Greig

Pablo Escobar, Joseph ‘Whitey’ Riordan, Charles Manson, Al Capone, Ned Kelly and Osama Bin Laden.

Names that live throughout history for their infamous brutality. These men, along with many others committed vicious acts that fascinate and appall us.

Somehow, these people got away with audacious crimes even though some acts were committed right out in the open. Men like Lucky Luciano built a criminal empire, yet at the same time helped his business partner and friend Meyer Lansky catch Nazi sympathizers for the government.

Whether you admire their tenacity, disgusted at their brutality, or enthralled by their history, one cannot deny that they were indeed Criminal Masterminds of their time.

Criminal Masterminds – Evil Geniuses of the Underworld by Charlotte Greig delves into the lives of infamous criminals that span the globe.

She covers Ruthless Robbers like Willie ‘The Actor’ Sutton, Devious Drug Barons The Arellano-Felix Brothers, Ingenious Escape Artists Papillon, Unflappable Fraudsters Count Victor Lustig, Cold-blooded Killers The Menendez Brothers, Maverick Mobsters John Gotti, Audacious Outlaws Bonnie and Clyde, Covert Spies and Terrorist Masterminds.

These people made their way in life by outsmarting authorities at every turn, and when that didn’t work, simple – pay them off.

Beginning in the late 18th century, Jonathan Wild ran a complex gang of robbers and thieves, ironically returning the goods to the owners for a reward.

Then there are the men that tv shows and movies have been made about them, and one in particular – Pablo Escobar. The Capo of the Medellin Cartel, his enterprise of cocaine and cannabis netted him to become the first of the billionaire drug dealers, when even now treasure hunters are looking for his buried millions… Brutally credited with inventing the Columbian necktie, he would carry out murders by hand.

Jacques Mesrine delighted in coming up with a range of different disguises to thwart police attempts to catch him. An infamous French bank robber and kidnapper, he became even more well-known due to his daring prison escapes.

Then there is Frank Abagnale Jr. His name might sound familiar. An outrageous conman that went so far as to impersonate himself as a Pan Am Pilot, flying all over the world living the high life. Yes, Frank’s life was based on the movie with Leonardo DiCaprio ‘Catch Men if You Can’.

Mark Hofman an intelligent and murderous fraudster that would supposedly hypnotize himself to get into character of the person he was forging.

One of course cannot go past criminal masterminds and not include the Italian mafia and Irish mob gangsters.

From Al Capone ‘Scarface’, John Gotti, Lucky Luciano, the Kray Brothers, Meyer Lansky, Dutch Schultz, Arnold Rothstein and others who transformed gangsters into celebrities, welcomed into the Hollywood world and beyond.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance kid were considered a dying breed of outlaws and migrant cowboys disenfranchised by the world they lived in. Robbing banks, stealing horses and just generally living outside the law. Outlaws in the Wild West, their infamy will live on to inspire a range of spaghetti western movies.

From mastermind spies using their position to gain power, influence and money, to the shocking acts of 9/11 and the sadistic Osama Bin Laden.

History tells us that by using violence, money and intelligence; one could accomplish much. Yet, for most of these people, the law eventually caught up with them. And we now can delve into their audacious tales, and marvel just how they got away with so much, for so long…

As an author these stories can inspire some rather exciting tales. Whether you write fiction or non-fiction, life can be stranger than fiction, and can be a great muse for your next thriller, mystery or true story.

Have many of these criminal masterminds have you heard or written about?

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#BookReview Beginner’s Luck by M.J. Furtek

Hildur is on the run from her elite organization determined to kill any that get in their way.

The Watcher. Ready. Waiting for the target. Hildur is tracking her current target in the picturesque Iceland. Hired to kill. She is on the lookout for anyone that might increase the body count. Trained in body and mind, she is after a hacker part of a larger network. Unassuming and attuned to blending in, most do not suspect who she is until it is too late.

An operative part of a clandestine organization called TESS, Hildur’s loyalty is tested when she decides to lie to protect someone.

“Needle up high, ready, waiting….but…Hildur wasn’t sure how long she had been staring at the woman; however long it had been, it was too long.”

Beginner’s Luck

A mission goes wrong putting Hildur and another operative Hans in a dangerous situation. Fighting for survival and not able to trust their own organization to get them out. Hildur is on the run, with no one to protect her, she is alone, having to use her skills to battle against those out to destroy her.

My Review.

Hildur. A fascinating and complex character that blurs the lines between good and bad. Although she may seem slightly psychotic at times, there is an enticing aspect to her. For some reason, you are rooting for her, and you don’t know why… Throughout the story there are flashbacks to her training that provides insight to what Hildur is about to do, which is something I quite liked.

Hildur is built up to be a strong and capable operative that pushes herself, and proves to the audience she is just as capable as her male counterparts despite her size. She uses her knowledge of how to use her opponent’s weaknesses against them in order to overpower them.

“Halfway through the turn, she struck him with an open-palm chop to the Vagus nerve on the side of the neck, tricking the brain momentarily into thinking the blood pressure was too high, and the brain then trying to balance it out – by shutting it down. He flopped to the ground in an instant, and remained motionless.”

Beginner’s Luck.

Hildur is part of an organisation that partakes in manipulating situations and catching their target through a range of tactics. There is a little backstory to her capabilities, throughout the narrative there are flashbacks to her earlier training, her progression as a fighter, and her accomplishments on missions.

Early on I got a good sense of Hildur and why she is the way she is, and who she is. The supporting cast provides a colourful plot, highlighting Hildur’s abilities.

Then there’s Hans. Another operative part of Hildur’s organisation. Handsome, confident and cocky – her rival and sometimes partnered with on missions. Maren is a no-nonsense handler suspicious of Hildur, and a force to be reckoned with.

Short chapters help to build up the pace, driving the plot forward quicker than it probably is going, as it is a bit slow to start building up character background. The titled chapters hint at what the chapters are going to be about. I’ve come across a few of these books lately, and I’m quite liking the titled chapters.

There’s not a clear objective to the plot to start off with. There are just missions that Hildur goes on that puts her life at risk, and when a mission is compromised, that’s when the suspense starts to pick up as Hildur has to determine how and who compromised them.

Hildur’s motivation is now to battle the people she works for.  The plot progresses at a fast pace as Hildur has to take out her attackers one by one.

Hans and Hildur would be considered the protagonists with a dark side to them. They are not what you would traditionally consider the ‘good guy’. Instead, they are trained killers that have empathy, fighting an organisation that will take out anyone that threatens to get in their way, directly or indirectly. Their targets are not necessarily criminals. TESS borders the grey, the person in charge crosses the lines, and does not care who the collateral damage is going to be.

It is not a complicated plot line, not a mystery to be solved, or a psychological profile dug into. Instead, it is a cut and dry action thriller with Hildur and Hans taking out those that are coming after them.

It is not the who, it is about the why. What triggered her organization to suddenly come after her?

Those looking for a solid action adventure with realistic fight scenes and a strong female character, give this one a try. I have a feeling, there may be more coming…

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Thank you to Reedsy and M.J. Furtek for providing me a copy for this review.

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#BookReview The Deadlier Sin by Phillip Urmson

A gripping tale of a missing girl that leads hard-nosed PI Walter to unearth a conspiracy.

Walter Blunt, an ex-cop and high-priced private detective in Adelaide finishes off on a case of a husband’s infidelity. His next clients are not what he is used to. The Burrowes are desperate to find their missing daughter Lucy, whose three-month disappearance has baffled police.

“It was a case of a missing girl, and all the intrigue that goes along with such a thing; a salacious novelty that always occupies the tabloids, especially in a city as small as Adelaide where the talk is cheap and the news media cheaper.”

The deadlier sin

Walter is reluctant to take on the case; however, against his better judgment, he begins to investigate what at first seems to be a missing girl that is likeable, smart and conservative. Interviewing the best friend only causes more questions to creep up. Using his contacts with the police and his friend and detective on the case Henry, he begins to form a bigger picture.

Then things start to get seedy as Walter stumbles on a person connected to his past case, and that of the missing girl. A witness comes forward claiming that he saw Lucy with a busted lip, believing she might be in a relationship with a man that might have hurt her, Walter is hot on the trail of this mystery man.

The more Walter digs, the dirtier and twisted the trail gets. From drug dealers, to drugged encounters and beatings. To uncover what happened to Lucy he has to practice what he does best, leading him to discover some disturbing evidence that points to the psychopathy of the potential killer.

He may have found his guy, but now he needs to prove it. The odds are stacked against him, and he has only a short time to uncover the truth before a killer might be sent free.

My Review.

The cover art and the way the pages are set up are usually not something that grabs me; however, in this case it shows the creativity of how each page is set up like a case file. With the chapters containing relevant titles giving you clues what to expect.

It is a solid mystery where Walter goes from person to person gathering information about the missing girl, and building a bigger picture of why she might have disappeared. Conflicting accounts from the parents, best friend and police make it difficult for Walter to pinpoint motive.

Walter’s character is a mix of ‘typical brash Aussie’ to a man that tries to pretend he doesn’t care, yet still has a bit of a heart. A hard-nosed ex-cop that has little time for fluffing about, his attitude at times puts people’s nose out of joint. It’s difficult to actually say his character is likeable, yet I was rooting for him anyway. These types of characters are interesting, their personality skirts the lines, filled with many shades of grey. It was difficult to connect with him at times; however, it didn’t feel like it mattered, or took anything away from the story.

It was easy to picture this hard-nosed PI cracking the whip and just getting the job done without caring about whose toes he stepped on.

The plot takes you on a ride of diverse and sinister characters, the menacing world of drugs and drug dealers, and what happens when someone gets in their way. The characters are enriched with unique personalities, created with varied dialogue and mannerisms.

Throughout the story I got to know more about Walter, why he left the police, and perhaps why he ended up as such a pessimistic person. Then there is his faithful secretary Gina, whom stands by him regardless of his rather obnoxious behaviour at times. Even with that, there’s a surprising endearing quality about this gruff man.

This story isn’t just about finding who did it, it is about finding the evidence to prove who did. It’s reality. Not as simple as forcing a confession, or tripping them up. It involves hard police work.

Part of the suspense is definitely after they caught someone, and having to dwell into this person’s psyche, then another twist in the plot drives it in another direction. The first part of the story was a bit slow with a lot of questioning and character development; however, it found its footing and turned out to be a really good suspenseful mystery.  

And then… the story jumps to surprising narratives that left me thinking, damn that was a good twist. Taking the story from one direction to another.  

Oh yes. The ending was fantastic. Surprising. Suspenseful. Satisfying. Exactly what I enjoy reading in a thriller/mystery.  You think you have all the pieces, you think you’ve been told it all, then bang, you get hit with a bunch of twists and turns.

Anyone that enjoys a suspense mystery with a hard-nosed PI, will love this read. If you like Sherlock Holmes, well, get ready for Walter.

Thank you to Reedsy and Philip Urmson for gifting me a copy of this book for review.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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#BookReview Dangerous Memory by Cynthia Rogan

A woman finds herself in a precarious situation when she discovers something her bosses don’t want her to know. Afraid and alone, a drunken encounter at a bar completely changes everything she can remember…

Minnie Chance is brought onto a peculiar case by Martin, a US Marshal who found a woman on the beach. Battling with her own demons, and worry for her brother who is being hunted by criminals, Minnie arrives on the crime scene, greeted by a beaten woman with amnesia.

“On the back of her right hand was an ink stamp. It was faded on one side, but there was enough of it left to tell that it was a hummingbird.”

Dangerous Memory

Beaten and potentially drugged, this woman bares a connection to Minnie’s brother, perplexed at how, Minnie feels she has to investigate to see where this will lead. An independent contractor, Minnie has to decide if she is ready and capable to take on a case that will bring her closer to her own turmoil.

Minnie and Martin work together to uncover the clues, and help ‘Jane Doe’ discover her actual identity and why she ended up where she was. As her memory gradually returns, she may once again be in the sights of the person that targeted her in the first place. Minnie has to race against the clock to quickly uncover who was behind Jane Doe’s beating.

At the same time Minnie is on the hunt for Jane Doe’s attacker, a close friend is also facing a violent situation that Minnie cannot ignore. Torn between obligations at home, and a driving need to help others, Minnie encounters a tough situation difficult to get out of.

Memories flicker in and out of focus, snippets of past memories and experiences lead Minnie and Martin to a university campus and a company where Jane Doe interns at. Memories continue to resurface, yet how reliable are they? Memories incriminating people that might not be involved cause Minnie to question her own intuition, guilt, and innocence. Throughout, she has to go against her own moral compass, and do something that goes against what she believes.

A lie for a life.”

Dangerous Memory

The end goal of the antagonist is surprising, and at the same time one can’t help but wonder, what if this was possible..?

My Review.

The Road to Hell is paved with good intentions.

One could surmise this is the premise of the book.

Some people start off with good intentions, leading to fanatical behaviour that will cause them to do anything to achieve their goal.

Minnie has an interesting backstory of being a member of a convent, her entire life turned upside down when she was attacked, her father killed, and a long-lost brother entered her life only to be snatched away again due to his knowledge of criminal dealings. The author does well with filling in the details without bogging down the current story. Enabling me to get a real sense of the type of person Minnie is, and what she has already undergone. Quickly setting up a strong character through the trials she has been through.

The chapters are cleverly outlined with the days, adding to the urgency of the timeline Minnie may have to find Jane Doe’s attacker. As the time creeps closer to day 10, the stakes rise as human lives may be in peril. The author achieves a suspenseful read with the layers of the case slowly being revealed.

It does drag a little closer to the end. Other than that, the story reads really well, and I like when authors don’t tie up everything. She has left it open to the next Minnie episode. Resembling real life in many ways; a little messy, tense, anxious, drags at times, and just does not conclude in the way you would expect.

Those that enjoy a cozy mystery and books like the Women’s Murder Club by James Patterson might enjoy this take on a conspiratorial mystery.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Thank you to Reedsy and Cynthia Rogan for providing me a copy of this book.

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#BookReview Sherlock Holmes and The Adventure of the Coal-Tar Derivative by Steven Philip Jones.

A series of cases brings Watson closer to the infamous Moriarty gang, each case unveiling the intent behind their criminal activities, designed to seek out a weapon that could bring about war.

The story begins on a stormy ocean, all seems lost, waves crashing against the boat, a stranger appears on the helm; wealthy, secretive and veiled with a mask over his face, he washes ashore holding a box with three keyholes.

Elementary, my dear Watson.”

Sherlock Holmes

Now, it is Dr Watson’s turn to play private detective while he struggles on without Holmes, and gets called in on a case by Lestrade to help them investigate why a man was killed. The dead man is suspected of being a Moriarty assassin, discovered in a Special Branch agent’s house whom was undercover to incriminate Moriarty’s gang. A close friend of Watson resurfaces, shaking Watson’s confidence.

As events unfold an old ally shows his hand. Revealing the key players that could help bring Moriarty’s gang to justice.

Jumping to Watson’s next adventure in June of 1893, two years after Sherlock’s death, once again Watson and Lestrade race against time to find the clues to lead them to their quarry.

Throughout the adventures, narrative travels to Sherlock frustrated with his situation and wanting to be truthful to a dear friend, while Watson goes through periods of grief, stumbling once again to Baker Street reminiscing about a past case that changed all their lives.

The story then turns full circle back to where it all started.  A three-key box that might hold a great treasure, and a terrible weapon.

Almost anything meant for good can be used for evil… Conjecturing on the song the Sirens sang to Odysseus is a chronos pastime, but it feels like everything we have accomplished is leading to a fast approaching kairos moment.

The Exploits of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson

Double dealings, conspiracy, betrayals and subterfuge unveil more enemies waiting to pounce. Walter Simonson, an agent with Special Branch, and Holmes must practice their wiles against foes intent to keeping the Moriarty gang alive.

Throughout the adventures, Watson and Holmes eventually unite. Dealing with new cases, and bringing them to a rather sinister and malevolent case that will test their belief on what is possible.

My Review.

Before I even began, the author had drawn me in with the particulars to details on the background of Sherlock Holmes and the Victorian era. I already felt I would be enthralled with this fictional world created through the eyes of history.

Dr Watson’s narrative occurs after Holmes’ supposed death when capturing Moriarty. Spoken from the first-person point of view, it reads like Watson is talking directly to you.

At the bottom of each page contains further information on points covered so the reader can better understand the era, and what is being discussed.

The world of Sherlock Holmes and his nemesis Moriarty still outshines many plots today. There is just something so menacing about the way Moriarty and his gang works. And of course, one cannot read a Sherlock Holmes book and not get caught up in the little details that start to reveal themselves. Small clues that gradually unravel to reveal the bigger picture.

The story jumps forward to 1920 where a major plot aspect is revealed. Although, if you are a Sherlock Holmes fan, it isn’t all that surprising.

The story is a slightly convoluted mix of accounts of the key players in Sherlock Holmes and the significance of their adventures. Even Sherlock Holmes’ brother Mycroft plays a vital role throughout.

The story jumps from the 1890s to 1920s, flashing to and fro these timelines, gradually filling in more details on the early adventures and the significance of solving these cases.

The story allows the reader to get to know Watson a little better without being in the shadow of Sherlock, picking up the clues along with Watson, while at the sometime Sherlock mannerisms are present throughout. We even get a brief glimpse into the Jack the Ripper murders, and some of the other key events that happened around the late 1880s and 1890s.

These Watson and Sherlock Holmes stories do not have the same panache like the originals; however, they are a fun mystery read that leads you to suspect certain things, yet you don’t know for certain until the grand reveal.

I’m loving the history that is brought into each adventure; history of a place, history of a person, or the history of the case that they are investigating. The history is seamlessly interwoven throughout the plot without it feeling like a lecture.

The viewpoint of Simonson and Watson take place at the same time, dealing with the same case, yet Simonson’s directions take him to uncover the clues with Holmes.

The story doesn’t tell us when or how Holmes comes back into Watson’s life. All we know that at some point he does, as the story jumps several times to the 1920s where they are partially retired, but still take on some cases.

A strong plot and characters, a logical progression of events, a clear summation of motives and the events and causes that led up to the crime, and historical events and people makes this a satisfying and informative read.

Those that are fans of Sherlock Holmes would enjoy this series I believe, as it offers a different side to the Holmes series. And those that enjoy a good ole fashioned mystery with some classic sleuthing and deduction…

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Thank you to Reedsy Discovery and Steven Philip Jones for providing me with a copy for this book.

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#BookReview The Milan Contract by Stephen Franks

International espionage, the criminal underworld, and political corruption send Lieutenant Raphael Conza on a complex trail that leads to 1980s, Germany.

A few seconds later, it was all over.

Milan Contract

In the brief instant it took the .22 bullet to effortlessly drill a neat hole in Lukas Stolz’s forehead, he relived the summer storms of his childhood. He was standing on a bridge with his parents, balls of lightning bouncing off the river and rolling towards him. His mother’s lips were moving but her words were drowned out by thunderous drums so deep he could feel the wooden boards shift beneath his feet. The bridge collapsed and he was falling. His father turned away as Lukas Stolz felt himself slipping below the cold, dark water.

The second and third bullets were not necessary.” (Milan Contract)

Lukas Stolz is murdered in broad daylight, the assumption that it was a mugging gone wrong. Lieutenant Raphael Conza investigates the killing leading him to suspect it might be mob related; and a potential wrong identity, right place, wrong time kind of situation. As he continues to investigate, thugs roam the streets looking for those involved, terrorizing witnesses, and using the police to stay one step ahead of Conza.

Pete ‘Salt’ Salterton overlooks the crime scene. He assumes he was the intended target, and knows just the right men for the job to exact revenge.

Amadi Abebe and Nyala, the father and daughter working in a bakery find themselves front and center of a murder recklessly carried out the on the streets of Milan. Unwittingly closely connected to those involved, Nyala’s eye witness account puts her in the line of sight of killers.

Jamilla, an Ethiopian immigrant finds herself in a dangerous situation when her disabled husband becomes involved in nefarious dealings. Her eldest son Kadin struggles to protect his family from his abusive father, and has to sacrifice his own morals to protect his family.

Kadin is forced to face the stark and brutal reality that his life has changed forever, his only salvation is to trust an unlikely ally.

The elusive Salterton and his ‘employees’ are one step ahead of Conza to also discover who the killer is, and who he was actually after. 

Throughout the story, it flashes back to the 1980s where Lukas Stolz is in the midst of a revolution in Germany.

More bodies pile up to try to ascertain who was behind the initial death and why. Cover ups and legal wrangling expose the most vulnerable, and those involved seem untouchable.

Conza, along with some fellow police and an English barrister slowly unravel the terrible truth, and Conza must put himself in danger to bring the guilty to justice.

My Review.

I immediately got thrown into the violent world of international espionage. The author straight away creates a secretive world where anyone and anywhere can be targeted and killed.

The character’s POV seamlessly interweave throughout the story. Each character builds onto the next.

The main focus seems to be on Kadin and Conza. With the other characters leading an interesting supporting cast.  The author provides an array of diverse characters to add to the plot, building and progressing to draw you into the story of murder and the elusive ‘why’. 

The character’s backstories provide a mix of a psychological drama. Lukas’ story utilises the brutal history of Germany to paint a picture of a complex character that triggered off all the events of the story.

Conza is taken from character to character to unravel why a man was killed. It is easy to get drawn into this story that is not as clear cut as it might first appear. Conza’s character is likeable with a comedic flair. His character starts off as a tired detective just wanting to solve a case,  to a detective witnesses can trust, travelling to Germany that connects to his case, and finally to him deciding he cannot stand by and let murderers go.

Although there are a lot of characters, I do not feel that they bog down the story, instead they are used effectively to enhance the events, lending to the suspense. No character feels superfluous. Each has their place even if they only appear in a short capacity.

Half way through and you still feel there is just that missing piece. The author has written a good plot with suspense built up through all the unknowns and multiple players. Data encryption, weapons technology, and unintended targets all add to the next layer of this convoluted tale of spying, the criminal underworld, and revenge spanning across several continents.

It is refreshing to come across an author that knows how to balance suspense, progression of characters and plot, realism without bogging down the story, and great character redemption arcs that display the diverse nature of a person. 

The short chapters increase the pace, clearly defining the different POVs, days, events and locations.

I was impressed how well he established all these characters. The plot starts with a murder, evolving into story of corruption, the criminal underworld, and the impact of a Stasi informer.

Although there is not a lot of action or violence, the way the plot is built does not need it. I was drawn in more by the research, or perhaps even personal knowledge of the underlying themes, and the red herrings that kept taking me from one direction to another. It is not just about the ‘who’, the main focus and climax is the ‘why’.  Even closer to the end, Conza knows, but doesn’t let you in on it until the final moment.

Refreshingly, this book fits perfectly into the genre of mystery/ crime. Simply written, not an overly complicated plot, clearly outlined and solved. I liked how he wrote the epilogue. A great way to sum up all the characters.

I would recommend this book to lovers of international mystery. Those that enjoy a character-driven story, flashbacks that provide more detail, and a bit of history on the revolution in Germany in the 1980s.

4/5 stars

Thank you to the author, Stephen Franks for gifting me a copy.

Five Minds by Guy Morpuss — Jen Med’s Book Reviews

Today i’m delighted to join the blog tour for Five Minds, the debut thriller from Guy Morpuss and Viper Books. this is a book which certainly piqued my curiosity when I was sent the ARC a couple of months ago by the publisher and I thank them for the advance copy and Anne Cater of […]

Five Minds by Guy Morpuss — Jen Med’s Book Reviews