For ten months out of the year I complain about plot overload in my reviews, but when it comes to thrillers I’m a lot more forgiving. Especially when the times warrant over-the-top drama to drag my mind off reality, as was the case at the beginning of January. And if you’re tired of hearing me say that, I am damn well tired of having to say it. Hopefully, we’re on a better path now. I know I’m feeling a surreal sense of relief. Even more thrilling than these two mysteries.
Last month I read Thirteen which is the 4th book in a series about a con man turned lawyer named Eddie Flynn. I liked it so much I’ve gone back to start reading the rest of the books in the series. Book one is The Defense and it did not disappoint. In it, Flynn’s conscience has kicked in and he only wants to represent clients he knows to be innocent so he’s stopped practicing. Until he’s forced to defend Oleg Volchek, the head of the Russian mob in a murder trial. Forced? Yes, in that a bomb has been planted in his suit jacket and his 10-year-old daughter has been kidnapped.
The initial twist in The Defense is that the bomb is not to get Flynn to defend Volchek it’s to plant in the courtroom to kill the prosecution’s key (and only) witness. Flynn’s been chosen not for his skills as a lawyer, but for the fact that he knows and is liked by all the little people in the criminal justice system—making the enormous task of getting an explosive device into a courthouse feasible. Now, he has to make all the pieces fall into place within 48 hours or his daughter will be killed.
For a first novel, Cavanagh hits all the marks in The Defense. The plot is tightly condensed into two days, the tension escalates and is unrelenting, and there are lots of behind-the-scenes details about the criminal justice system. I enjoyed it so much I read book two The Plea and it’s just as thrilling.
It’s the middle of festival week in Edinburgh, Scotland when one driver slams on their brakes to avoid hitting a pedestrian and the driver behind them hits their car. That’s the last average thing that happens in One Good Turn. The driver who struck the car gets out of his, wielding a baseball bat and proceeds to beat the first driver almost unconscious in front of a crowd of onlookers. A crowd that includes Archie and Hamish, teenage boys working a shoplifting scam; Martin Canning, an author of YA mystery novels; Gloria Hatter, the wife of a real estate developer who is about to be investigated for numerous fraudlent activities; and Jackson Brodie, a retired private investigator, there with his actress girlfriend. This crowd, as well as the two drivers become the key players in a novel whose plot expands like a dry sponge soaking up water.
Brodie is the lead character in this Kate Atkinson series and the type I always seem to fall for—too smart for his own good, rebellious, and snarky. He inherited a nice sum of money and is enjoying the good life, right up until he discovers a dead woman on the beach. Somehow, everyone we’ve just met is implicated in this roller-coaster of a thriller. It might have become a hot mess except for Atkinson’s keen mind and ability to wrestle even the most slippery plot point into submission. Hang on and enjoy the ride.