Tag Archives: very-highly-recommended

Lady in the Lazaretto and that tagline

Life has been so hectic lately that I have a to-do-list stretching for miles. Unfortunately, that to-do-list is only in my head, which means I forget things, a lot of things. As a result, my posts have been rather erratic, and based on whatever catches my attention at that moment. ūüė¶

Yesterday, I began making amends. Today I want to talk about something close to my heart – a great science fiction novel. ¬†Before I begin, however, I have to disclose that Jason Phillip Reeser, the author of ‘Lady in the Lazaretto’, is a friend of mine. I first met Jason on Goodreads, via an R4R [Read 4 Review]. The book in question was The Lazaretto, and you can read my original review here. In my not so humble opinion, Jason is one of the best science fiction writers around.

lady of lazaretto coverRight, so when Jason asked me to read the second book in the series I jumped at the chance.

Lady in the Lazaretto is set in the same, grim quarantine world as The Lazaretto, and includes some of the original characters, but the story is completely different, and can be read as a stand-alone novel. ¬†That said, I’d strongly recommend reading the Lazaretto first because a) it’s a great story in its own right, and b) it will make reading the Lady a richer experience.

Like book 1, the plot of the Lady is a murder mystery, but the¬†core question you will ask yourself is – ‘who is the Lady?’

Is it Della, the nurse whose memories begin the story?

Or is it the daughter of Kjarsta Zoltis?

Or is it perhaps Lilly, the woman Gregor Lepov loves but cannot commit to?

Or is it the woman referred to only as The Liar?

Or could it be Major Sun Uijong, the woman sent to make reparations to the survivors of the Lost Platoon who were marooned on the Lazaretto, and all but forgotten by their not so grateful government?

In unravelling the identity of the Lady, the author takes us on a thrilling but complex journey that weaves the past into the present.

In some ways, I enjoyed the Lady even more than the first book in the series because it delves deeper into the character of Gregor Lepov, and I love knowing what makes interesting characters ‘tick’. But, of course, Lepov is only one of the characters you will get to know and love. Lieutenant Ed MacNally is another, as is Della, a childless woman who grows to love her young charge with as much fierce protectiveness as any biological mother.

The Lady ticked all the right boxes for me, and I really do recommend it very highly. ¬†This is science fiction at its best, and I was honoured to write the tagline for it. Of course I had no idea I was writing a ‘tagline’ until I came across this post on Yvonne Hertzberger’s blog this morning:


The post explains the difference between loglines [book blurbs to us plebs], and taglines. If you look at the cover of the Lady below, you will what I mean.


lazaretto 2 tagline

I can’t tell you how proud I am to be associated with the Lady.



Hope Road – a review

hope road smallI read somewhere recently that it takes about six or seven exposures to an author’s name for that name to register with readers. Well, I’m living proof that theory is correct!

John Barlow, the author of Hope Road, writes the odd post for Indies Unlimited, and I must have enjoyed those posts, because when I stumbled across his name in the Amazon ‘readers who bought X also bought Y‘ list, a little light bulb went off in my head.

Needless to say I bought Hope Road, and read it. What the theory did not predict, however, was that I would fall head over heels in love with the main character, John Ray!

Hope Road is a quasi police procedural, but told through the eyes of John Ray, a character who is definitely not a policeman. Hope Road is also a bit of a thriller, ¬†a bit of a mystery, and a lovely character study of John Ray. In short, it is exactly the kind of book I love. And I did love it. ūüėÄ

The story is set in a seedy part of Leeds, [England] where John Ray, the prodigal son, has returned to take over the second-hand car business belonging to his family. But selling second-hand cars was only ever a front for the real family business, which was crime.

John’s father was a local crime-lord until his retirement due to ill-health, and John’s brother was murdered in an apparent gangland ‘hit’. But John has always been clean. He is the one who left, the one who went to university and became a solid citizen. So why has he returned? And why is he now selling used cars from the old showroom that used to be headquarters for his father’s criminal operations?

The natural suspicion surrounding John’s return is only exacerbated by the discovery of a dead girl in one of his cars, along with 50,000 pounds in counterfeit bills.

The police know the murderer could not have been John because he has a water-tight alibi – he was in bed with Detective Constable [DC] Denise Danson at the time. However the car was being driven by John’s prot√©g√©, and employee, Freddy, and the family business used to be in counterfeiting, so John is definitely a person-of-interest. But is he actually guilty of anything?

I was intrigued, to say the least, because right from the beginning, John Ray exudes the kind of charisma that is usually reserved for sexy villains, yet he also seems to be a genuinely caring person who puts himself at risk trying to prove that Freddy was not the murderer.

So how did Barlow create this charismatic character?

John Ray is not stereotypically handsome. He is described as a big man in his forties with a shock of black hair, and a physical ‘presence’, but he is not a James Bond, although it seems he is¬†good in bed. Nor is he one of those angst-ridden types who introspects ad nauseum.

So what is it about John Ray that makes him so appealing?

I suspect the answer to that question lies in the character’s potential to be bad. In a sense, this potential is the mirror image of what makes a villain sexy – the potential to be good. A villain who is all bad generally comes across as boring. Most heroes suffer from the same 2D malaise. Sexy villains and heroes, however, have the potential to be both good and bad, or at least to swing between the two, so we are left wondering how they will end up. ¬†That is my theory at any rate.

All theorizing aside, however, the one thing I am quite certain about is that I will be reading more about John Ray, and I hope you do too. Very highly recommended.



Ian’s Story – a review

I finished reading Ian’s Story almost two weeks ago now and resisted the urge to review it straight away – not because I did not enjoy it but because I wanted to do it justice.

Quite frankly, my initial reaction to Ian’s Story was a sort of stunned ‘oh my god’. It really is that good. Not until later did my brain kick in to tell me why¬†it was so good. Not since reading Crime and Punishment have I read a psychological novel that delved so deeply into the psyche of a flawed man or made me feel so much compassion for a fictional character.

Ian is flawed and he does end up making an awful mistake, one that teeters on the edge of legal paedophilia, yet in exploring  how and why he got to that point, Stephen Faulds makes it possible for us to forgive Ian even though he cannot seem to forgive himself.

Do no make the mistake of thinking that this novel is a justification or apology for paedophilia – it’s not. Just as Crime and Punishment is not a justification for murder, Ian’s Story is not a justification – its a journey, a journey that explores the crime, the punishment and the salvation that can result from such a descent into hell.

Following Ian on this journey is not a casual read. You will not dip into this book on a rainy weekend when you have nothing better to do. ¬†It will grab you and it will not let you go until the very last page because, for all his flaws, Ian’s life will resonate with anyone who has ever searched for meaning in life, anyone who has ever been trapped by duty and the desire to ‘do the right thing’, anyone who has ever been lonely or fallen in love with an unattainable mirage. In short, anyone with a heartbeat and human DNA.

On the technical side I might argue with Stephen Faulds about how he structured the story yet when I sat down and thought about how I would have restructured it [were I an editor] I found that I could not really think of a ‘better’ way of doing it. So I have to say that the structure is a little quirky but will make sense at the end. I should add that this quirkiness does not detract from the story or my enjoyment of it.

I cannot fault Stephen Faulds in the area of prose either. His words flowed effortlessly from start to finish with no jarring ‘what the…?’ moments. To be honest I stopped being aware of the ‘prose’ after the first few paragraphs because it did what all good prose should do – it drew me in and carried me along without drawing attention to itself. I did not read about Ian, I¬†saw¬†him, I saw his poor troubled wife, I saw the emotionally impoverished life they lead. Only when I put the book down for the last time did I become aware of how beautiful the words had been.

There is nothing indie about Ian’s Story. It is the work of a mature writer who knows what he’s doing and does it extraordinarily well. More importantly, Ian’s Story has a depth that will appeal to anyone interested in what makes us all human.

Very highly recommended.

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