Saturday 28 June 2014

Book Review #17: Saint Monolith by Tom Reinhart


Hello friends and sorry I have been away for what seems like an age. I've been editing a book (so what's new) but nursing a bad eye infection. With an eye patch and a funny walk, I'm all ready to take over from Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow.

I hope you accept my apology in advance - this review is about Tom Reinhart's novel Saint Monolith but it will include things about my three books to date. You'll see the relevance when you read it, I hope.

I was very fortunate and utterly delighted to win a giveaway of this and another Tom Reinhart novel, Hegemonian,  which I reviewed here and I really like that Tom personally signed both copies. Cheers Tom!

To the story then.

Mason Stone is our hero - I think! He's a NYPD officer as part of the SWAT Team, and he takes down criminals with brutal efficiency. He has the usual 'man' thoughts.....always looking at bits of skirt, likes to pump iron at the gym (making him even more fearsome than he seems already) and seems to take an almost perverse pleasure in dealing out justice.

If you read it like that, you'd be forgiven for thinking Mason to be rather one-dimensional. Not a bit of it. He is a multi-layered character who you root for when he is dealing out his very personal killing statements, because those at the end of his gun generally are unpleasant characters. In another way, you think 'okay Mason, that's enough now pal!' 

Herein lies the very interesting angle for me. Mason generally feels no remorse for the men he deals with, and perhaps we'd be the same, as they are the very gutter of society. However, it seems that no matter how many get 'Mason'ed', he never feels at peace. He is fighting his own inner demons and it is this regard I felt I could relate to the character.

In his psychiatric sessions he reveals being bullied at school....something I wrestled with mentioning in my own non-fiction book 'The Essence of Martial Arts'...however some students said the personal stories
were some of the best sections of the book.

I was a quiet, gentle, reflective soul at school, and other kids picked up on this, and would attack me for it. Sure, I could take a hit, but couldn't bear to dish it out. I soon learned, however, that this was the only way to deal with it...return fire with fire.

Mason's issue, if it can be kept to just one, is that he lacks any control. In an enjoyable exchange between two cops, one where Mason is hoping the female will be the 'good' part of the good cop / bad cop routine, she ends up annoying him as much as the male cop, who clearly is not happy that Mason 'offed' a guy without giving him a chance to recover. As Mason retorts:-

'I couldn't really ask him if one shot was enough, Steve. It was him or me.'

Turns out that tough cop, body building Mason was a bit bullied at school too, and perhaps despatching these criminals is the way to his redemption. I think 'time' gave me mine, because as I grew as a martial artist, so did my rather brutal despatch of fellow competitors. They would turn up for a trophy. I would be there for  a fight. If I got a trophy at the end of it, so be it. 

That said, I can't see anyone taking Mason on. It would seem a fatal mistake. And anyone dealing personal demons on the level of Mr Stone would do well to not just cross the road when they see him, but make for the nearest state line.

I still can't make up my mind if I like Mason or not. But maybe that's okay - he certainly is an interesting character and that is something that hold the interest for the reader.

As for the other characters, whilst Jenna and Sue are cool, it's the cat - Tyson, who I wanted to be in the story more! I would have liked to have known how Mason would have acted around him. I mean, I'm a cat fan and have four of my own (hello Angel, Gui-Gui, Java and Kato) but then, how would it have advanced the story.

Shy of 300 pages, this is a tight read and an engaging script. It's the sort of two-part episode that Steve Bochco would have scripted when Hill Street Blues was at its imperious best. 

I believe Tom Reinhart released Saint Monolith after Hegemonian, and whilst that is a great story - this is better, and it shows in the maturity of the writer.

I lived in New York myself for the best part of a year back in the late 1990s, and I felt I was right back there - such was the great narrative and descriptions that Tom uses. It's got that clammy feeling that the opening credits of Taxi Driver show, along with Robert de Niro's captivating narrative.

It's the whole 'demon within' angle that I loved in this book, and I've explored it in my paranormal horror Dark Winter and this is expanded on in the follow up. 

There's a section about religion that some readers may view as being a bit preachy, but this is the author's book and he must write it the way that he does. I myself am not the most devout Catholic - I go to mass infrequently, but I feel it's not so much about a belief in God, but in something greater, and it's that I allude to in my fantasy book Stormling.

Simply put, as I mentioned on my review for Hegemonian, Tom Reinhart is an author to watch out for, and check out his YouTube channel - there's even a tv show host that talks about his books! Awesome!

Fave bits:

"Willie was about a hundred pounds less and made of heroin and soup kitchen handouts.'

"The only thing better would be if the next question was 'have you slaughtered anyone today?'.

The reference to Detroit. 

The last point is a personal one for me, I had a girlfriend one time in Santa Monica and later, I knew a girl in Dearborn Heights, MI. I loved how you couldn't go far in Michigan before seeing a sign pointing to Detroit. 

On GoodReads I rated this book five stars out of five. Well done Tom and thank you once again for sending me the autographed books! 

Saturday 14 June 2014

Book Review #16: TRUST Betrayed (Trust Trilogy, Book Two) by Cristiane Serruya


TRUST: A New Beginning was a revelation to me in the sense that I didn't usually read these kind of stories. However, Cristiane Serruya is an excellent author, and you could tell that A New Beginning was something special.It starts with quite a bang and amazingly, keeps it up through out. That's not easy for a long book like TRUST.

As with any 'middle story' the trick is, could it be better than the first and yet end in a way that would set things up for a tantalising finale (I have bought TRUST: Pandora's Box but am yet to review it) and I need to explain why I haven't gotten around to reading the final book yet.

TRUST Betrayed is a complex, luxuriously layered woven tale that is brilliantly written, but for me, I needed to re-read certain scenes just to make sure I had absorbed what had happened and take it all in. In that sense, it is the harder read than A New Beginning but is totally worth investing your time on this story.

It's a lovely way Cristiane has with words - the date and time stamps add increased authenticity to the tale and whilst the main characters Sophia and Alistair remain as compelling as ever, it's the truly 'unique' heather who stuck in my mind long after I had finished the story. I won't say whether Heather is good, bad or indifferent, but she adds her unique spin to the story.

The story probably works best with all three read together, and so I'm looking forward to Pandora's Box. To date, there's only one trilogy of books that received five stars from me - Lord of the Rings. Now I know that's not an official trilogy, but the idea of rating them is the same...I rated Lotr 5 stars as a whole. Let's just say that Cristiane Serruya is a modern, intelligent writer who deserves the plaudits for her stories. Both TRUST books are excellent and I can heartily recommend them.

In the sense of balance, is there any thing to fault? Perhaps yes, perhaps no, depending on your view. For me, Betrayed had so much going on, it deserved more than one read to really absorb it, but it is, as I say, worth your time. A light read this is not...prepare to give it the time and space it deserves, and I am sure that you too will enjoy this utterly thrilling story.

As for book three, Pandora's Box is an awesome, intriguing title. Some books are worth waiting for, an just like Doctor Sleep by Stephen King, I waited some months before finally reading it..even for the master of horror, following up The Shining would be impossible, surely?

Trust Betrayed is a lot like that....give some space between Book One and Book Three and I am sure you will love the ride!
                                        Buy on Amazon