Review: The Lost – Mace Reid K-9 Mystery #3 (Jeffrey Burton)

The Lost is billed as a K-9 mystery, and this appealed to me. I’m a dog lover, and a mystery lover, so what could go wrong?

As it turns out, this particular book is heavier on the mystery than the dogs, which was a bit disappointing. The mystery itself is fine, although it seems unnecessarily complicated.

A billionaire is attacked in his home, and his former supermodel wife and young daughter abducted. Mace Reid is called out with his dogs, and the wife is found dead at the rear of the property. The daughter, however, is not found, and the hunt is on for the daughter.

The plot proceeds from there, with various agencies joining in. For Reid and his cadaver dog Vira, there isn’t much to do, and when he is involved, it feels forced, because he has no reason to be involved. He’s (sort of) in a relationship with Kippy, one of the members of the law enforcement team, so tangentially, we get Reid and Vira in those moments, when Kippy is telling him what’s happening, in order to keep the reader informed. Not my favorite way, and of course we all know “show, don’t tell”.

The narrative switches back and forth between the bad guys and the good guys, so there’s no mystery in the whodunnit other than if law enforcement can catch up to the bad guys and spoil their plans.

It’s not a bad book, but if you’re looking for a focus on dog sand their utilization in bringing the story to a conclusion, you might be, as I was, a bit disappointed.

Three out of five stars.

Thanks to St Martin’s Press and NetGalley for the reading copy.

Review: Sierra Six – Gray Man #11 (Mark Greaney)

I am, generally, a huge fan of origin stories – assuming they’re not of the generic, giant trope-y type. You know those. Those are the ones where the lead had a perfect life before violence came to visit. Let me assure you, writers and readers alike, that there is no perfect life, and the perfect lives upended by sudden violence, with a vow of revenge afterward are, in a word, boring. I want to see the lead struggle with something before struggling with another something.

Which brings us to Sierra Six. This is book eleven in the series, and by now, we’ve seen Court Gentry go from CIA hit dude to member of one of CIA’s back ops teams Sierra Golf (Court’s call sign: Sierra Six) to private hit dude with the CIA and Suzanne Brewster (his last boss before she punted him) on his trail, trying to take him out. What is Court doing these days? Taking private contracts, of course. It isn’t like the guy is going to retire to a beach and drink Mai Tais.

Before we go on: if you’re a reader jumping in at this point in the series, do yourself a favor and go to book one and begin there. About half of the things in this book will not make a lot of sense, or will appear to have no bearing at all on the other half of the book. Besides, it’s a great series and a lot of fun to read.

But we open, in Sierra Six, twelve years ago. Zack Hightower – a familiar enough name to readers of the series – leading Sierra Golf on an op to take out a terrorist and any other bad guys around him. It isn’t giving anything away to say that Sierra Six gets smoked after opening a hatch and finding a nest of bad guys, all with guns pointing up. This is not the first Sierra Six they’ve lost, either. They’ll need a new one. This mission, however, is over, and they get out, back to base.

They get Court, who is used to working alone and initially doesn’t fit well with the team in training. Eventually, he gets himself on track, and Sierra Golf is ready to go find the bad guy and try again. This is the mission in the past.

Back to the present (book time present). Court is on a contract, staking out a small villa, watching for the chance to get to that villa when the target has arrived. He does so, and is about to kill the man when h realizes this guy should be dead. But he isn’t, Court misses the chance, and has to escape.

He’s been helped by a young woman operating a drone. She’s captured by the bad guy’s minions, and now we have the mission in the present: rescue the young woman and kill the terrorist before he’s able to do any further evil deeds.

By now, most readers will have surmised that the mission in both time periods concerns the same bad guy, and it does. From here to the end, I won’t be giving away a ton of details of what happens in the book.

What I will say is this: I’ve tons of books. If you’re reading this on Goodreads, you can see the numbers, and these are only the things I have read since joining Goodreads plus the things i could remember reading prior to that time. The actual number is likely twice, perhaps twice and a half that. Why do I mention this?

It means I’ve read a number of books that are self-contained origin stories. Many series that have the same main characters will have them. Stephen Hunter took us to Vietnam for Bob Lee Swagger’s origin, for instance. The Hobbit is itself ab origin story for the Lord of the Rings. Comic books – well, they’re rife with origin stories, for both heroes and villains.

This is not to say that every character needs an origin story that encompasses everything in their life to point X or that begins at their birth (Superman), although sometimes some information about their childhood is helpful to know – Bruce Wayne sees his parents gunned down when he was a boy, for instance. What we, or at least I, want to know is what changed this character deep down within themselves. Mack Bolan’s family is killed by his own father over despair about debt owed to a Mafia loansharking operation, leading Bolan to begin a campaign against the loansharks and then against the larger Mob.

Most of the background we get on series characters comes in pieces via narrative of the events in the current book-time. In Gregg Hurwitz’s excellent Orphan X series, we get pieces of how Evan Smoak, literal orphan, and later Orphan X, came to be. Sometimes, it’s just a paragraph or two, sometimes, it’s longer, as when he’s thinking about Jack, who basically became Evan’s father.

What I don’t think I’ve ever read, though, is a book that so effortlessly and (more importantly) readably (is this a word?) combines both an origin story and a current story told in an alternating fashion, where both parts, the past and the present, have very real stakes and are both incredibly well done – to the point where either of them, on their own, would be an excellent book, but where together, they are even better than a single book on each would be.

There are no wasted characters. We don’t have Joe Smith show up in the story, only to have nothing to say or do that impacts anything. There are no wasted, throwaway scenes or dialogue. The twin stories are compelling, the action (as usual) fantastic, even if having someone jump from a construction crane, during a monsoon, onto a level of an uncompleted office building, or having them pole vault using bamboo taken from a scaffolding are perhaps stretching things a bit. There is an absolutely extraordinary helicopter chase through mountainous terrain that will leave you breathless, and not from the altitude.

There is, alas, also loss. That loss is often the most compelling – and indeed, most propelling – event for the character. While some may argue that Court’s loss in this book is unrealistic and too brief to be meaningful, I’ll say that it is sometimes the briefest of connections whose severance wounds us most deeply.

An absolute five star read. Highly recommended.

Thanks to Berkley Publishing and NetGalley for the reading copy.

Review: Like a House on Fire (Lauren McBrayer)

I am, much like Merit in Like a House on Fire, conflicted. On the one hand, there are things that irritated me about this book: the perfect/oblivious nature of the two people who are most important in Merit’s life, for one, and others that I’ll get into. On the other hand, it’s a bit of an outlier (in a good way) in the genre, with certainly a bit more gravitas about questions that are part of the genre, which I’ll also get into. I wound up giving it the higher rating based on the latter.

Spoilers ahead.

Merit is a married mom of two who has been out of the workforce for awhile. The goal of becoming a fulltime mom at home was to pursue her painting, hopefully to have gallery showing and then make art her career. That didn’t exactly pan out the way she wanted and hoped for, so it’s handy that she has an architecture degree and experience to fall back on. She lands a job at Jager+ Brandt, apparently right out of the gate (how handy!), were she meets Jane, her boss.

Jane is dazzling. Smart. Funny. Impeccably dressed. Quick-witted. All the superlatives. Perfect in every way. Jane hires Merit, and on her first day, takes Merit to a client meeting, where Jane is impressed with ideas Merit is adding to the mix.

They work long hours together, of course, and the women develop what is described as a deep friendship. This was the first stumbling block for me. It seems their friendship involves working long hours and copious amounts of alcohol after. In fact, I’m having a very difficult time recalling any time these two are together on the page outside of work or medical appointments where they are not drinking. I’m not a teetotaler, and I’m fine with some social drinking. But there are instances in this book where they just get completely shit-faced, and it seems as though Merit in particular wants to blot out the parts of her life that don’t involve Jane when she is with Jane somewhere.

Merit’s husband Cory, who seems like a nice enough, if a tad oblivious, guy, doesn’t get any marks of approval from Merit, who dings him – in her mind only – as forgetful, often lazy, and unwilling to share the burden of raising two very young children and helping take care of the household. One of the things that annoys me to no end in some fiction is a conflict that merely exists for a character to have a springboard to decisions they make when the conflict could have been solved or at least dampened a little if the characters just had a discussion about whatever it is. Maybe the outcome would be different, maybe not, but I’d think that Merit, married to Cory for 14 years, and who seemed to actually care about the guy, would have invested a tiny sliver of time in tamping down some of her resentment by just having a sit down with him.

It’s a slow, long burn of a book. If you come to this book looking for meet cute and sexytimes starting by the third chapter, you will be sorely disappointed. At least a year passes in book time (ding: the time passage is not altogether clear) before Merit hatches a plan to cheat on Cory with Jane. There’s no graphic sex in this book either, so if you were disappointed above, you’ll probably be disappointed by this as well. I’d say that Merit’s (infrequent) sex with Cory is more graphic, simply because there’s a handy appendage to mention (never fear, it’s only a mention).

Merit finds herself more and more attracted to Jane, and apparently Jane to Merit, although this is not well developed or clear. The two carry on an affair behind Cory’s back, through the turbulence of having two small children to raise – the duties for which seem to fall increasingly on Cory and a nanny while Merit figures out what she wants.

There’s a miscarriage, a fatal heart attack, and a ton of Jane and merit calling one another “bitch”, as if they are in a high school clique or have been watching far too much Real Housewives or Sex and the City than is healthy. A couple of times, sure, but thy do this far more often than you’d expect from a woman in her late 30s and another woman almost 60. Did I mention this is an age gap story as well? It is.

At the end, Merit decides to call it off with Jane, which I will say was written quite well, and is devastating. There is then an epilogue that is five years later, and while I was fine with the result, it annoyed me that we didn’t get any of the “how we got here” narrative after investing so heavily in everything that came before. It was almost as if the author ran out of gas or couldn’t figure out the “in between”, as I call it, to get the readers from point A to point B for the ending. It does work – of course it does, it’s a standard of the genre – but it felt rushed after everything before had been examined at length and in depth.

I wavered between three and four, but went with four stars out of five, as a nod to the genre and how this floats a little above most of the books of the same type.

Thanks to Penguin/Putnam and NetGalley for the reading copy.

 

Review: The Complication – Camille Delaney #1 (Amanda duBois)

I wavered between three stars and four on The Complication, ultimately settling on a three for reasons I’ll explain.

Camille Delany, former nurse, current lawyer, has a job with a high-price firm. When her friend Dallas dies after a routine procedure, his widow asks Camille for help. Problem: her firm doesn’t handle medical malpractice. Solution: quit your job, establish your own firm, and take on the case yourself. And that is what Camille does.

She has her PI pal Trish helping, along with a few other side characters. The investigation is where my issues with the story began.

I’ll say this first: I read Coma (Robin Cook) when I was younger. At the time, the mystery at the heart of that book really creeped me out, as it was supposed to do. I think that if I read that now – after years of getting familiar with medical procedures, doctors, nurses, hospitals, operations, and so on (thanks, cancers!) – I would have the same issue with it as I have with this book.

The investigation itself is fine. It proceeds, as these things do, with medical staff leery of and sometimes hostile to legal staffs, hospital personnel turning their backs while leaving records out, etc.. It gets bogged down from time to time, trying to convey information to the reader about procedures and processes that may be unfamiliar to them, and sometimes introducing characters that don’t really mean anything in the story. Every time someone entered an already-crowded stage, my brain said, “Too many notes.” If you’ve seen Amadeus, you will understand. If not, well, you should watch it. The solving of the mystery relied a bit too much on coincidence for my tastes.

Finally, my biggest issue with the story: I just didn’t believe the crime. I’ll rephrase. I believe that A crime like the one in the book could occur. What I don’t believe is that the crime could be committed on the scale it is in the book, nor as publicly as it is. There are far too many people involved in operations that the manner of the crime would be exposed long before it is in the book.

That said, if you are able to suspend your disbelief, it’s a perfectly fine beach or place book, a couple of hours of time in an almost-real world.

Three stars out of five.

Thanks to Girl Friday Books and NetGalley for the reading copy.

Review: Kagen the Damned #1 (Jonathan Maberry)

Kagen Vale, leaders of the guard and personally responsible for the security of the royal family and more specifically the royal children of Argentium, wakes up hungover and disoriented. Eventually, he pulls himself together enough to understand that there’s an active attack against his land by the Hakkians, who use magic that was banned in Argentium. When he arrives at the royal wing, he finds all of them, right down to the babies, killed in various gruesomely described ways. He decides at that moment that he is incompetent, terrible at his job, and damned.

I’m a firm believer that what matters when tragedy strikes, or when some life situation goes terribly wrong and bad, that what matters is owning your responsibility in it, if any, and that true character is shown by how one acts after such tragedies occur.

And his personal mindset of mind had a very large issue with Kagen and his nonstop whining, drinking, and lamenting about how he sucked at his job. I started calling him Kagen the Whiny, and promised myself at about the 35% mark that if he didn’t get his shit together, I was going to make this a DNF. The author pulled out of the nosedive shortly thereafter.

While Kagen was drinking and whining his way about this fictional world, other characters were also introduced – some appeared and hen vanished until almost the end of he book. I get that Kagen is the main character and so much of he book time is devote to him, but we got some pretty detailed narrative time with the other characters, including a young nun destined for a sacrifice, so I was expecting a bit more from her at some point before the end of her journey.

There are various side characters who show up, either for Kagen to fight against and kill, or just to give us some information about what’s happening in the rest of the world instead of the usual “As you know, Bob.” stuff where someone just talks at he main character. I hope some of them show up again later, because they were just as interesting (sometimes moreso) than Kagen.

But Kagen is back to himself by now, halting he drinking, and even invading a vampire witch’s tower, where he is “captured”, but not killed, as every other interloper has been. There’s a prophecy, of course, and she lets him go because of that prophecy.

And that brings me to another issue I have with this kind of book in general. Kagen was obviously taken out of action by a woman who drugged him. My question: why not just poison him and take him out of action entirely?I understand the value of humiliation some people require others to feel, to know that they have been bested, and with barely any effort, but in things like this, a better leader would have weighed the value of having Kagen gone versus his humiliation and gone with the former.

In any case, throughout the book we pop into the heads of other characters wandering around this world, so we get a good picture of what has happened and how the occupation of Argentium is ongoing. It presents a good reference point for the reader, and avoids head-hopping within any one individual scene.

There is a lot, and I mean a LOT of violence in this book: torture, rape, general war and individual fighters killing one another – all are here, and all described in very detailed ways. If you can’t handle fictional blood, or don’t like descriptions of rape and torture, stay far away.

It occurred to me after finishing that the whole magic question came across as the usual 2nd Amendment stuff here in the US. One side (Hakkian) had and used all the magic (guns) and one side (Argentium) had no magic (guns) because of very strict laws. Of course the Hakkians quickly overran Argentium. I’ll let the reader make the conclusion there.

Overall, not bad for an afternoon read if you can get past the main character whining his way through the first 30% so and don’t mind gore.

Three stars out of five.

Thanks to St. Martin’s Press ad NetGalley for the review copy.

Review: Can’t Look Away (Carola Lovering)

Do you want to read some high school-level drama, except populated with adults with lots of money and zero worries in the world?

You’re in luck.

Molly and Jake, a writer and musician respectively, lock eyes one night at one of Jake’s gigs, and the next thing you know, they’re a couple. Of course, it doesn’t last long, because this sort of love usually doesn’t. Molly, irritated that Jake wants to work more on his music than on their relationship – because it has to be one or the other, it certainly cannot be both in the world of Lifetime movies (which, fair warning, this is). What I find interesting is that anyone who has an artistic bent – like Molly, supposedly a writer – could not understand another person with an artistic bent not wanting to give up their art.

But that’s all academic, because they break up and go their separate ways.

Years later, Molly is now married to Hunter and has a five year old who loves Frozen. I totally get the latter; my nieces were obsessed with it. Much as I adore Idina Menzel, every time there was a reference to the movie, all I could hear was Idina singing Let It Go, and it was a bit of an overload.

Molly, Hunter, and their little girl live in a wealthy enclave amongst other similar families. Molly’s having trouble fitting in with the other wives in the neighborhood, until Sabrina shows up. She’s married, but her husband has not yet joined her. Molly hits it off with her immediately, and from there, the two are pals. We then get the usual Lifetime-esque interactions between the wives who have always had money, before they married their wealthy husbands, and the duo of Molly and Sabrina.

The narrative is told by rotating through Jake, Molly, and Sabrina, and it doesn’t take long (or a genius) to figure out one of them is a psycho stalker. There isn’t a lot of suspense to be had in the book, but there is loads of “woman perceives another woman has wronged her and seeks revenge” drama going on. I’m not generally a fan of those, but swank enclave drama does interest me somewhat, so I did finish this to its disappointing and ultimately unsatisfying ending.

Everything wraps up neatly, bow on top. If you like your thriller-wannabes or drama-filled tales ending very tidily, or if you’re a big fan of Lifetime movies, this is your book.

Warning: there is a lot of swearing in this book, with the f bomb going off every 20 seconds it seems. I read mysteries, hardcore thrillers, and things of that nature, so I wasn’t put off by it. If you’re sensitive to it, you might want to give it a pass.

Two stars out of five.

Thanks to St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley for the review copy.

Review: Our American Friend – Anna Pitoniak

Thinly – very thinly – veiled Melania Trump fanfiction, at its heart.

Sofie Morse, a journalist covering the White House, gets tired of i all and decides to retire. She’s invited, however, to write a biography. Of the First Lady, Lara Caine, by the First Lady, Lara Caine.

Lara Caine is simply Melania, with some details altered (Caine was born in Soviet Russia; Melania in Slovenia), some not (both are former models). Caine has a whole pack of baggage, including a former KGB dad (Putin) and the whole thing was unpalatable, really.

Morse, of course, as a reporter, gets wrapped up in the story, which runs from the 70s to current times, and stops being able to tell where the line should be.

I finished it, grudgingly, to see where the mystery slash thrillerish thing went. There aren’t a lot of twisty turns or things that make you go hmm. The whole thing left a bad taste in my mouth, as the ending wasn’t worth the buildup.

If you think you admire the former First Lady, it may be more your style. It certainly was not mine.

One star out of five.

Thanks to Simon & Schuster and NetGalley for the reading copy.

 

Review: Hideout – Alice Vega #3 (Louisa Luna)

Alice Vega is part Lisbeth Salander, part Jack Reacher in this, the third in the series that bears her name.

Thirty years ago, Zeb Williams is a football player, and during the infamous Cal-Stanford game, takes the balls, runs off the field, and vanishes. Over the years, his disappearance has become the stuff of legends, replete with Bigfoot-like sightings. in the present day, Alice is asked to find him. For what purpose, she does not know. After initially declining, she eventually agrees to take it on, and starts out to determine where he is and what happened to him.

I’m a fan of cold cases, and I appreciated the way Alice started very methodically working through and puzzling out the details – and occasional red herrings – of Zeb’s disappearance. She lands in the tiny southern Oregon town of Ilona, a place that has seemingly become awash in traitorous white supremacists called the Liberty Boys (a not terribly subtle reference to the Proud Boys, a very real group).

As she digs, the stakes grow ever higher, and her partner Max Caplan is not and cannot be a greater presence in the case, dealing as he is with his own issues. This doesn’t deter Alice, and even after getting beaten up and told to leave town, she doggedly continues her quest to find the missing Zeb.

This is the first book in the series that I’ve read, and I didn’t feel I was missing anything crucial by not having read the first two. There’s obviously some kind of (broken) relationship between Alice and Max, and I suppose if I had read those earlier books, or if Max was involved more in this story, I would have more than a vague idea about that; however, the lack off true backstory on that didn’t bother me in the least.

The story is told with a good balance of physicality and cerebral pursuits in tracking down the missing man. Alice is also not a character who gets beaten up and then is ready to go fight more after just shaking it off. There’s a reality of her being a mere mortal that I appreciate,

Four and a half stars, rounded to five. Recommended.

Thanks to NetGalley and Doubleday for the reading copy.

Review: Unbreakable (Cari Hunter)

If you’re going to start a book, you could do worse than to make it the kidnapping of a doctor at gunpoint in a garage by a woman with multiple injuries, including a gunshot wound.

That’s how Dr. Grace Kendal meets Elin Breckinridge at the opening of the book. As they make their way out of the garage and hit the road, Grace learns at least a little about Elin, and realizes she needs some immediate medical care. She urges Elin to go to the hospital, but that option is right out.

How did we get here? Elin runs a security-related company with a friend from the Army. In flashbacks, er learn that one evening, two men burst into her home, beating her up, and taking her young daughter Amelia, nicknamed Mouse. After Elin wakes up from her beating, she finds the kidnappers want a million pounds, and they want it quickly. She starts transferring money around, which catches the attention of her friend. After finding out what’s happening, he rushes over, but she insists she has to go alone. She’s given instructions on where to go, ending up on the heath, where one of the men is waiting. Unfortunately for him, he gets his head blown off by a third party, and Elin gets shot trying to get away. She manages to elude those chasing her, and then goes on, trying to figure out how to get medical care – she very nearly goes into the ER but then spots Grace, and we wind up at the beginning.

DS Safia Faris and her partner Suds catch the case of the dead guy on the Heath. They quickly realize the scene seems wrong. Eventually, they make their way to where Elin had parked, and through CCTV from one of the homes, realize she’s been injured. The race is on for them to determine who she is. As they work the case, they get the call about Grace not appearing for her next shift, and through cameras again, find the mystery woman has taken her.

Meanwhile, Grace has removed the bullet from Elin, but Elin is still in very poor shape. As Grace is doing something in the lobby, one of the concierge people tell her an older man was in, looking for Elin, but he didn’t give the guy any info. Elin tells Grace they must leave immediately,and they do. Elin, still holding the million pounds, gets a call on the burner phone she was given, giving them the next location to be. Safia and Suds are not far behind on things.

There is no sudden instalove between Grace and Elin, and I was thankful for that, even in a “fall in love with the caregiver” trope. There is a touching love between Safia and her wife Kami (also great sounding food, courtesy of Kami’s grandmother).

It becomes fairly clear who is behind the whole thing if one pays close attention. The action keeps the book moving along, and you may find, as I did, that you read the book in a single sitting. The police procedural portion is excellent, even with a point I’d say could have been picked up earlier, and the fugitive from justice (sort of) part is likewise very good. Characters don’t suddenly start saying or acting in ways inconsistent from how they were introduced, and all the adults are adults.

I’m going five stars on this one.

Thanks to Bold Strokes Books and NetGalley for the reading copy.

Review: Scarecrow Has a Gun (Michael Paul Kozlowsky)

If you have the sudden urge to spend a couple of days hashing out the philosophical questions surrounding your memory, how it’s perceived by you versus other people, and how a not quite accurate memory can affect you, you’re in luck: there’s tons of that in this book. If you prefer to have those questions asked, but not in a drill to the center of the earth way, and to read a science fiction novel (as this is also categorized) wrapped around this, you may be slightly disappointed. I was.

First, the length. This book would have worked much better as a novella, in my opinion. There are pages in the book that could have easily been jettisoned, as they were a bit echo-ey of things already discussed, and it caused a drag in multiple places.

Second, the premise: our protagonist Sean works as a drone in a large, nameless company doing some kind of video/graphic production. Is this important? It could have been, if there was some exploration of how Sean, with a graphic-centered life at work, may have been able to remember things more accurately than someone without that focus. This was not explore, however.

The precise: There is a group of employees of this company called The Widowers Club, summoned once a year to the boss’ office. All members of the group, as the name describes, are men. I’m not sure why Mr. Ulger, the boss, only selected men for his little games, where he would tell the group to perform some inane stunt – running through a glass window, for instance.

One year, Sean, who has been summoned for several years but who has never “won”, actually does win. His prize is a box contraption with two lines that attach to the temples. This box then shows the memories of the person hooked to it. Sean has been trying his hardest to remember an attack that leaves his wife dead and Sean unable to recall the exact events surrounding the attack. Now is his chance, but he finds what he remembers doesn’t jibe exactly with what the machine is telling him. My question: why does he simply assume that Ulger is telling him the truth and the machine is more accurate than what he himself remembers?

The rest of the book proceeds with Sean trying to get to the bottom of the attack, discovering along the way that nearly all his memories have that same unsettling wrongness about them. We also meet his fiancee Hayley is entirely unlikable, and his son not much better. There’s also a female crossing guard with some serious issues. I get that she’s meant as a sort of humor device, given the inappropriate things she says and the gossip she dishes, but she comes across as annoying and doesn’t serve as much of a break from the overall rather dense story.

Eventually Sean makes it to the truth of his wife’s death, and there’s an ending that seems rather far-fetched, given Ulger’s penchant for knowing absolutely everything Sean is doing.

There’s a real lack of the science fiction component, as it isn’t clear just how the box works, or really anything about it, other than it’s the type of science fiction that exists just because. That is, it’s like warp speed in virtually any science fiction: it is simply something that exists in this universe, and doesn’t require many pages of explanation. I would have liked something, though, even just a little. A good example of how something exists in a universe without going on for many chapters about it is the Epstein drive in The Expanse books.

The philosophical question is interesting, but in this particular book it really brought things to a halt when I hit some of the denser pages of that discussion. I’d have liked to have seen some discussion of how Ulger saw this as a way to make whoever used the machine wealthy beyond belief – this wasn’t really explained, since the machine only looks backwards, not forward (so one might invest in an invention or company one might remember reading news about, only to find with a forward-looking machine that said invention or company was a bonafide winner, and one might invest in the thing/company in their current moment in the timeline, for instance). It’s easier to believe Ulger when he talks about mind control, as the machine could be programmed to serve up the memories Ulger wanted someone to believe about their past memories.

Overall, I’m rather neutral about the book, so it’s three stars out of five from me.

Thanks to Imbifrex Books and NetGalley for the reading copy.

Expected publication date: August 2022.

Reflections on gardening, cooking, and life