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The Freedom Broker by K. J. Howe

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The Freedom Broker by K. J. Howe The Freedom Broker by K.J. Howe
Series: Thea Paris #1
Published by Quercus on February 7, 2017
Source: NetGalley
Genres: Thriller
Pages: 400
Format: eBook
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Kidnap negotiator Thea Paris has spent her entire life with survivor's guilt, following an unspeakable childhood tragedy. At eight years old, she watched, frozen in fear, as her twelve-year-old brother, Nikos, was abducted from their home in Kanzi, Africa. Although he was recovered nine months later, he was never the same after that; worse, Thea discovers that she was supposed to have been the target.

This defining experience drives Thea to become one of the top operatives in the field of kidnap-and-ransom consultancy. Nicknamed "Liberata" because she once secured the release of a captive from the Sicilian mob without her client paying a cent, she travels the globe trying to bring hostages home--mostly through negotiation, but occasionally through more forceful means. She is very good at her job.

Twenty years after her brother's abduction, Thea's worst nightmare is revisited when her father, oil magnate Christos Paris, is taken on his sixtieth birthday. He disappears from his yacht while it is moored at Santorini, the ship's whole crew slaughtered mercilessly.


Thea immediately calls in her team at Quantum Security International, premier K&R specialists. Following protocol, they break down Christos' life, looking for leads, but the list of enemies and business competitors is endless. Not surprisingly, Christos Paris has imprinted his designer shoe on innumerable backs during his journey to the top of the oil business. And he was abducted only a few days before the biggest deal of his career.

From there, the case only gets stranger. Unlike most abductions, there are no ransom demands, no political appeals, no prisoner release requests. Instead, the kidnapper sends foreboding quotes in Latin by text from burner phones. What does the kidnapper want?

And most importantly for Thea, will she be able to prevent a second kidnapping from destroying her family for good?

I have to admit, I really enjoyed this action adventure/mystery novel. Thea’s job is get back people who have been kidnapped, whether through negotiation or rescue operations, and she’s good at it. So when her father is kidnapped she can’t trust anyone but her team to get him back. Of course, it’s not simple. We’ve got arms dealers and African politicians and oil magnates all vying for power, with her father smack dab in the middle of it. And we’ve got a love interest for Thea. It’s got a lot going on, but exciting and fast-paced.

Thea’s a great character, smart, tough, and skilled. She’s also a bit blinded by her feelings toward her family. This is one of those instances where the reader knows a lot more about what’s going on than the protagonist, but even at that there are a few surprising twists.

The author has clearly done her research into kidnappings and hostage situations. I also appreciated that Thea is a diabetic. It’s not often that we see women in fiction checking their blood sugar levels before jumping out of airplanes or worrying about whether her insulin will stay cool enough in the heat of the desert. Being diabetic doesn’t hamper Thea, it just means she has to be even more prepared.

Over all, a great start to a series. I’m looking forward to reading more, hopefully with a little less focus on crazy family drama.

About K.J. Howe

Kimberley Howe is the Executive Director of ThrillerFest. Thrillerfest is a conference of International Thriller Writers held every July in New York City. She is also a former medical, health, and fitness writer, as well as, a world traveler, cyclist, swimmer and tennis player.

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Penance by Kanae Minato

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Penance by Kanae Minato Penance by Kanae Minato
Published by Mulholland Books on April 11, 2017
Source: NetGalley
Genres: Crime Fiction
Pages: 240
Format: eARC
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When they were children, Sae, Maki, Akiko and Yuko were tricked into separating from their friend Emily by a mysterious stranger. Then the unthinkable occurs: Emily is found murdered hours later.

Sae, Maki, Akiko and Yuko weren't able to accurately describe the stranger's appearance to the police after the Emili's body was discovered. Asako, Emily's mother, curses the surviving girls, vowing that they will pay for her daughter's murder. PENANCE is a dark and voice-driven tale of revenge and psychological trauma that will leave readers breathless.

The novel revolves around a group of friends in a small, rural town. The town is known for its fresh and clean air, which results in a company which makes precision instruments moving there. The workforce is not thrilled with the move, most come from Tokyo and don’t fit in well with the locals. One of the newcomers’ children, Emily, makes friends with a group of local girls – Sae, Maki, Akiko and Yuko. As the blurb states, one holiday the five schoolgirls, who were 10 at the time, are playing when they are approached by a man who chooses Emily to help him with a task. An hour or more later, Emily is found violated and murdered.

At the time of this book, there was a statute of limitations during which criminals could be charged and so there is fifteen years to find the murderer. When the girls are thirteen, Emily’s mother invites them to her house and informs them that they have a choice – they must either discover who the murderer is or she will expect a penance from them, otherwise she would get revenge on them.

As the statute of limitations draws near, each of the four survivors tells us her story, both how she saw the event then and how her life has turned out. No one is unscathed, but the mother’s curse is as damaging to the girls as the actual murder was. It’s an absorbing story, both fascinating and disturbing. It’s not just about the crime, but about culture and identity, about family relationships, about rural life versus city life. It’s also about secrets and how they can haunt us.

About Kanae Minato

Kanae Minato (born 1973) is a Japanese writer of crime fiction and thriller.

She started writing in her thirties. Her first novel Confessions became a bestseller and won the Japanese Booksellers Award.

She has been described in Japan as “the queen of iyamisu”(eww mystery), a subgenre of mystery fiction which deals with grisly episodes and the dark side of human nature. Readers blurt out “eww” when they are reading iyamisu novels.

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Of Books and Bagpipes by Paige Shelton

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Of Books and Bagpipes by Paige Shelton Of Books and Bagpipes by Paige Shelton
Series: Scottish Bookshop Mystery #2
Published by Minotaur Books on April 4, 2017
Source: NetGalley
Genres: Cozy Mystery
Pages: 320
Format: eARC
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Delaney Nichols has settled so comfortably into her new life in Edinburgh that she truly feels it’s become more home than her once beloved Kansas. Her job at the Cracked Spine, a bookshop that specializes in rare manuscripts as well as other sundry valuable historical objects, is everything she had dreamed, with her new boss, Edwin MacAlister, entrusting her more and more with bigger jobs. Her latest task includes a trip to Castle Doune, a castle not far out of Edinburgh, to retrieve a hard-to-find edition of an old Scottish comic, an “Oor Wullie,” in a cloak and dagger transaction that Edwin has orchestrated.

While taking in the sights of the distant Highlands from the castle’s ramparts, Delaney is startled when she spots a sandal-clad foot at the other end of the roof. Unfortunately, the foot’s owner is very much dead and, based on the William Wallace costume he’s wearing, perfectly matches the description of the man who was supposed to bring the Oor Wullie. As Delaney rushes to call off some approaching tourists and find the police, she comes across the Oor Wullie, its pages torn and fluttering around a side wall of the castle. Instinct tells her to take the pages and hide them under her jacket. It’s not until she returns to the Cracked Spine that she realizes just how complicated this story is and endeavors to untangle the tricky plot of why someone wanted this man dead, all before getting herself booked for murder.

I liked Of Books and Bagpipes much more than the first in the series. Delaney has been in Scotland for a while now and has come to care about the people she works with and her friends. I felt like her reason for investigating felt more natural this time around, a combination of natural curiosity and wanting to help.

As a mystery, it worked well. There were plenty of clues and suspects and secrets that went back decades. It takes a lot of unraveling and I was surpised by the whodunnit, although I felt the motive was bit weak. And of course, Delaney gets herself trapped, but I didn’t feel like it was because of stupidity on her part, which was nice. Sometimes female amateur detectives annoy me by taking risks that no sane woman would. Delaney didn’t do that here. She has someone with her when there’s a potential for danger, and always lets someone know where she is going. I like a woman with some common sense.

The characters are an interesting mix. Each has his/her own quirks but they fit well together. Delaney’s bookish voices weren’t too obtrusive. They add an interesting touch to the story. She hears voices from books she’s read that are kind of like her subconscious guiding her. It’s a bit odd, but it works, at least for me. The dialogue is well done. A couple of folks speak in a Scottish dialect, but it was easy to follow and words that were unfamiliar were explained, since they are unfamiliar to Delaney too.

I do admit that a large part of the appeal of this series for me is the setting. What could be a more perfect setting for a cozy mystery than a bookstore in Scotland? It makes me want to visit the castles, and library, and pub. And of course, hang out at the bookstore.

About Paige Shelton

Paige studied journalism at Drake College in Iowa. She has only ever wanted to be a writer. She’s had good jobs, bad jobs, great bosses, and terrible bosses, but through it all she has only wanted to write. She’s grateful to have the opportunity now.
Paige and her husband currently live in Arizona and have a college-age son.

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