Book Review: Ashes to Ashes (Detective Mark Heckenburg, Book 6), by Paul Finch #AshestoAshes

Publisher:  Avon Books (Harper Collins UK)

Publication date:  6th April 2017

Ashes to Ashes is uncompromisingly grisly, releasing fearsome opponents from every conceivable angle. Its furious, intensely violent encounters creep a little close to home for our rebellious hero who relies on gut instinct, backed up by a wing and a prayer. Make no mistake there is colossal damage to the surrounding area, people, vehicles and Heck’s career. The only thing that remains unscathed is his reputation for ignoring authority.

This is the sixth outing featuring DS Mark (Heck) Heckenburg. After previously reading Dead Man Walking and Hunted, I’ve come to love our impulsive but highly effective copper for all his wilful and often brutal techniques, which may be frowned upon but they get the job done and ultimately save the day.

He has a shameless disregard for the official rules but he seems to scrape by without a reprimand while he successfully manages to wind up the top brass who may be used to supervising the loose cannon but regularly lecture him on his conduct and preference for solo policing. His responses to the dressing downs he receives only enforce his maverick streak.

There’s no doubting that it’s through Heck’s exploits the team he works with will reap results. Even if his methods are erratic and unorthodox, and his expertise of recognising opportunities then launching into an unrehearsed counter attack lands him in highly compromised positions.  

Yep. Our DS ‘Hecks up’ occasionally as he rendezvous with dangerous individuals, capable of much more than your average criminal in uncomfortable surroundings. Preoccupied with following a lead he casually forgets to check in with the station or mention a crucial meeting / conversation he might have orchestrated to gee the investigation up.

The criminal underworld is throwing itself into your path in this one: a torturous renegade with a mobile ‘office’, a merciless serial killer with a pyromaniac streak, and two extensive rival gangs engaged in a hostile turf war in Heck’s home town of Bradburn. The ever-increasing number of charred crime scenes left me wondering who would be last man standing as I revelled in the extreme thrills that unfolded.

There are some punishing situations with a direct connection to Heck and I have absolutely no idea how he retains the will to live, never mind walk! His resilience is just a fragment of his appeal and during this outing I learned how his family influenced his determination to succeed, but not in the way I was expecting. It made a nice change to be treated to a fleeting glimpse of something other than his tough, wise-guy exterior.

The author makes full use of urban landscapes creating a macabre playground for some ‘killer’ games, and Ashes to Ashes has all the intensity that unrestrained action and carnage could possibly deliver.

Rating:  4/5

(My thanks to both the author and the publisher for kindly sending a copy of this title. It was my pleasure to read this book and provide an unbiased review.)

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

The Sunday Times bestseller returns with his next unforgettable crime thriller. Fans of MJ Arlidge and Stuart MacBride won’t be able to put this down.

John Sagan is a forgettable man. You could pass him in the street and not realise he’s there. But then, that’s why he’s so dangerous.

A torturer for hire, Sagan has terrorised – and mutilated – countless victims. And now he’s on the move. DS Mark ‘Heck’ Heckenburg must chase the trail, even when it leads him to his hometown of Bradburn – a place he never thought he’d set foot in again.

But Sagan isn’t the only problem. Bradburn is being terrorised by a lone killer who burns his victims to death. And with the victims chosen at random, no-one knows who will be next. Least of all Heck…

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(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

Paul Finch studied History at Goldsmiths, London, before becoming a cop in the north west of England. He then let his passion for writing allow him to follow a career in journalism. Now a full time writer, he first cut his literary teeth penning episodes of the British TV crime drama, THE BILL, and has written extensively in the field of children’s animation. However, he is probably best known for his work in thrillers and horrors.

His crime debut novel, STALKERS, was a no 1 ebook best seller in 2013 and introduced DS Mark ‘Heck’ Heckenburg. This was followed in July 2013 by the sequel, SACRIFICE. He now has THE KILLING CLUB, DEAD MAN WALKING and HUNTED in the series which is also published in Germany, Poland, Turkey, Hungary, and Japan and Croatia.

In 2016 Heck took a break to be replaced by DC Lucy Clayburn. The opening novel, STRANGERS, became an immediate success reaching the top ten in the Sunday Times Bestseller list. His next Heck novel is due out in April 2017 with a further Lucy novel expected in September of the same year.

In addition to his Crime novels, Paul has had twelve books and nearly 300 stories and novellas published on both sides of the Atlantic. His first collection, AFTER SHOCKS (Ash-Tree Press), won the British Fantasy Award in 2002, while he won the award again in 2007 for his novella, KID. Later in 2007, he won the International Horror Guild Award for his mid-length story, THE OLD NORTH ROAD. His short novel, CAPE WRATH (Telos), was short-listed for the Bram Stoker Award in 2002, and several other collections of his stories and novellas have been published since, all of them well received by fans and readers. His horror novel, STRONGHOLD, was published by Abaddon Books in 2010, and the same year Pendragon Press published his highly rated festive terror tale, SPARROWHAWK. Paul has also written three DR WHO audio dramas for Big Finish – LEVIATHAN, SENTINELS OF THE NEW DAWN and HEXAGORA, and THRESHOLD, the pilot episode for the DR WHO spin-off series, COUNTER MEASURES. Paul’s DR WHO novel, HUNTER’S MOON was published by BBC Books in 2011.

Paul is no stranger to film either, having written scripts for several horror movies. Two of these, SPIRIT TRAP and THE DEVIL’S ROCK, were released in 2005 and 2011 respectively, while his short story THE BELFRIES, is currently being adapted in Hollywood, and his movie script WAR WOLF is under development by Amber Entertainment.

Wearing an editor’s hat, Paul is also responsible for the TERROR TALES series from Gray Friar Press, a collection of ghost and horror anthologies exploring the folklore, history and geography of the various regions of Britain.  

Paul Finch lives in Lancashire, UK, with his wife Cathy and his children, Eleanor and Harry.

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Book Review: The Nowhere Man (An Evan Smoak Thriller #2), by Gregg Hurwitz

Publisher:  Michael Joseph (Penguin)

Publication date:  26th January 2017 (UK)

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nowhere-manFull marks for pure inventiveness in the face of adversity – the intense action scenes that rage throughout are impressive as hell, as are the strikingly mercenary characters who are baying for his blood. It’s got the most terrifically persistent pace, one that our Nowhere Man endures with unshakable tenacity.

The Nowhere Man is an unstoppable force, reducing everyone in his path to quivering wrecks as they underestimate his potential. Techniques involving data encryption, a secret armoury, escapist tricks to rival Houdini, and hand-to-hand combat are pretty remarkable to say the least, which is more than can be said for this loner’s wardrobe with its surplus supply of identical t-shirts and jeans, never altering regardless of the occasion.

His illusive past is one I immediately found intriguing as it was chipped away piece by piece. Originally introduced as Orphan X (Book one), aka Evan Smoak, chosen from a select group of children to be trained as assassins of any target their handler presented them with. Each child was labelled with a letter after the only identity they are known as – orphan – serving as a constant reminder of the programme that ‘adopted’ them.

Smoak has escaped the clutches of the program to create a new persona and put his extensive training to good use by helping the most vulnerable. All they have to do is call a mobile number known only by word of mouth from his interventions with previous victims who ‘pay it forward’. “Do you need my help?” is this only greeting before he embarks on a plan to neutralise unique brands of menace before they can damage any more lives. But the caller cannot begin to comprehend the lengths The Nowhere Man goes to in order to dispatch their problem.

Ironically he also has a target on his own back as the ‘orphan program’ must reclaim the loose cannon of one of their own. In the meantime it’s a case of people traffickers, drug barons, and sociopaths of the world beware – riddled with terminal resourcefulness and a spirit that is hard to break it is difficult to not become immersed in the punishing, multi-threaded world of The Nowhere Man.

Undeniably extreme and colossally escapist this highly animated, full-on action thriller ticks all the boxes and is kick-ass all the way. The expressive tattoos featured on the hands of a non-verbal brute that he used to visually indicate his glee or irritation was particularly well done – such perfectly ominous timing as his tattooed hand covers his mouth to speak volumes, without uttering a single word.

Although some incredulous exploits may defy even the most vivid imagination it’s a damned fine read nonetheless. I can easily understand why Warner Bros bought the film rights to Orphan X, a book I really must catch up on soon!! 

Rating: 4/5

(I received an advanced readers’ copy of this title with my thanks to the publisher and Laura Nicol, and it is my absolute pleasure to provide this unbiased review.)

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(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

IF YOU’VE READ ORPHAN X YOU’LL BE DYING TO READ THIS…

He was once called Orphan X.

As a boy, Evan Smoak was taken from a children’s home, raised and trained as part of a secret government initiative buried so deep that virtually no one knows it exists. But he broke with the programme, choosing instead to vanish off grid and use his formidable skill set to help those unable to protect themselves.

One day, though, Evan’s luck ran out . . .

Ambushed, drugged, and spirited away, Evan wakes up in a locked room with no idea where he is or who has captured him. As he tries to piece together what’s happened, testing his gilded prison and its highly trained guards for weaknesses, he receives a desperate call for help.

With time running out, he will need to out-think, out-manoeuvre, and out-fight an opponent the likes of whom he’s never encountered to have any chance of escape. He’s got to save himself to protect those whose lives depend on him. Or die trying . . .

The Nowhere Man delivers another masterclass in hi-octane thriller writing.

It doesn’t get better than this.

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(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

Gregg Hurwitz is the internationally bestselling author of I See You, We Know, and Or She Dies. His most recent thriller, You’re Next, was a Richard and Judy selection. A graduate of Harvard and Oxford Universities, he lives with his family in California, where he writes screenplays and comics, and produces for the blockbuster television hit V.

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