One Last Heist has a host of new characters, and our main couple are already married, which made for a lovely change. They both have jobs by day, but are thieves by night. Mack has a list of rules that he works to, helping to ensure he only robs from those who deserve it. And yes, there are plenty of Robin Hood references guaranteed to make you smile. They get caught up in a situation that quickly takes them from their 'normal' into something far more dangerous that could change their lives forever.
I loved how this story played out. Mack and Toshi are brilliant both together and separately. Charlie, Tosh's sister, is autistic and her coping mechanisms are captured perfectly, along with an explanation of the why's and how's. In fact, I have to say that I thought all of the characters were more than capable of standing on their own two feet. They worked great as a team, with their own individual strengths helping each other, but none were so weak they could ONLY be part of the team.
With plenty of twists and turns, only some of which I saw coming, or partially at least, this story kept my interest from start to finish. Absolutely recommended by me.
* A copy of this book was provided to me with no requirements for a review. I voluntarily read this book, and my comments here are my honest opinion. *
Archaeolibrarian - I Dig Good Books!
[I received a copy of this book through Netgalley.]
What I liked:
- The beginning. Of course, you can tell immediately where this is going, and that there’s going to be another proposal to offset the bad news, and you can guess what that proposal will be, but it’s OK because it’s why you’re reading the book. Well, why I was reading it, at any rate.
- Some aspects of the world building, with the idea of trained people going back in time to record events, and having to follow specific rules to avoid creating paradoxes. It makes a lot of sense, since the ‘grandfather paradox’ is definitely not the only risk in such a setting: it’s obvious that you wouldn’t want to kill your own grandfather if you hope to be born someday… but it’s much less obvious that even ‘small’ actions like gambling in a casino can have consequences, for instance by preventing the ‘normal’ winner from winning, in turn preventing them from doing things that should normally have happened, and so on. The most noticeable actions aren’t the only ones that can change the world.
- The crew’s dynamics. I have a soft spot for heist stories carried by a crew (ship, spaceship, band of misfits, whatever), and when the latter works well together, it’s even better. In itself¸ this part wasn’t the most exceptional ever, but I could feel the ties uniting them, and that was good.
- Diversity. Priya is obviously of Indian origin, Gram is dark-skinned, and Far also has inherited a darker complexion from his father. It’s not mentioned more than once or twice, but it’s good to see.
- The book was entertaining, I wanted to know how the story would go (good thing I’ve been on sick leave and with time on my hands to rush through it, huh), and in general the action and tension scenes were gripping.
What I didn’t like so much:
- The romance. I’m not particularly keen on romance in general, for starters— in my experience 90% of such subplots, when they happen in stories whose main genre is not romance, are there because it’s what people (or the market, or publishing houses, I’m never really sure) expect. As a result, the romance feels forced, and that’s the feeling I got here. I didn’t particularly care about Imogen having a crush, all the more since it led to some screen time being used up for conversations about boys and should-I-oh-no-I-don’t-dare. As for the romance between Far and Priya, it was announced very suddenly, its beginnings happened off-scene, and I never felt any real chemistry between these two. In a story revolving around an all-for-one type of crew, friendship all the way would’ve worked better for me.
- The lull mid-book, the part where they go to Las Vegas. Partly because of the romance-related conversations, partly because I wanted to shout ‘Seriously, characters, is partying and getting drunk the best you can do right now?’
- Some other aspects of the world building. Yes, I know I partially liked it. However, some elements were there for… no reason? Example: How can Priya be 17-18 and already a full-fledged medic, with mechanic skills to boot? When did she got time to learn all that? Or why do they eat synthetic food, why is ice cream so expensive? I felt the latter points were here to give a ‘science-fictiony’ sheen, but without explanations about why the world came to be like that, I can never fully buy it. (I’m not asking for a treaty about 24th century economics, but at least a couple of lines about the whys would be nice.)
- Part of the plot when it comes to Eliot’s involvement. First, it’d have been good to see a couple of successful heists before she appeared, so that the disruption she created would be even stronger. Second, the true reason for her presence is somewhat complicated, and may have worked better with a little more development. An example of what I felt rushed with that is how easily an antagonist character convinces other antagonist characters to work with him, towards the end, in order to stop her; it happened very quickly, wasn’t very convincing, and anyway, why didn’t he enlist his own after that, to add a strike force he could fully control?
(Side note: I found the names they used very confusing. I could deal with the endings, like FLT6, but the whole strings of numbers in the middle… I kept trying to imagine the conversation with Eliot speaking these numbers, and I’m surprised she didn’t make a mistake every two sentences when using those.)
- The characters, outside of their role as a group. As a crew, I thought they functioned together well; but as individuals, they felt flatter. They have their quirks, sure (Imogen dying her hair, Gram and his games), but quirks don’t make a full-fledged character. I didn’t really like Far, he had too much of the ‘strong ego/insufferable’ vibe without enough of the ‘dashing captain/charisma’ vibe, so to speak. Also, I would’ve liked to see more of Gram, for some reason I liked him best.
Conclusion: Cool concepts, with good action scenes. The book was an entertaining read, although it failed in other parts.
I had read Gallacher’s Self-Publishing Steps to Successful Sales (you can check my review here) a while back and had several of his books waiting to be read but had not managed yet. But when his first novel, The Violin Man’s Legacy became available in audiobook format, I knew I had no excuse.
Although I tend to use the text-to-speech facility on my e-reader, I haven’t listened to many audiobooks (mostly my own) so I was intrigued by the experience. I found the narrator, C.C. Hogan, engaging, able to hold my attention, and very good at keeping the characters separate (and there are quite a few!) and individual. He is also very good at accents and managed the international locations and names without faltering. Unfortunately, my Kindle is quite old by now and could not accommodate the Whispersync option, that would have made it easier to check some things (like names and details), as I also had a copy of the Kindle version of the book.
I’m not a huge reader of spy novels, and although this book is classified within the crime and suspense thriller category, this international action-thriller reminded me in style of many spy/international conspiracy novel, although with a more European feel, and less frantic in pace than many American spy thrillers. There is plenty of action, and even some sex (and yes, the main character is incredibly skilled, can fight like the best of them, and outwit his opponents, although the brains behind the operation is his boss), but there are also slower moments when we learn the back story, not only of the main characters, like Jack and his teammates, but also of some of the people they collaborate with, and even some of their enemies. This allows us to get to know more about the players and to understand how they got to where they are. (The story behind the title and the way it relates to Jack’s past is particularly touching).
The book is narrated in the third person, from a variety of points of view. We mostly follow Jack Calder (as it should be, as this is his series), but we also are party to the thoughts of many other characters, although there is no confusing head-hopping, and even in the narrated version, it is clear which point of view we are being privy to at any given moment. This helps create a more complex story, with layers of information and to get a better grasp of what the different players have at stake. There are those who are only interested in money, others involved in power games and politics, and others for whom reputation and loyalty are the main objects.
The story takes us from London to Amsterdam, Hong-Kong, and South America, and the author is meticulous and well-informed, providing credible settings and a detailed exposition of the procedures and operations that brings to mind the best police procedural novels. But although we follow each detail of the investigations and the operations, there are always surprises to keep us on our toes.
Jack Calder, the central character, is a breath of fresh air in a genre where heroes are almost superhuman and can fight entire wars single-handedly. Although Jack, an ex-SAS captain, is indeed great at his job, he is traumatised by a family tragedy; he is self-deprecating and knows when to give credit where credit is due. He can follow orders and acknowledges his bosses’ superior planning skills. He is also a friend of his friends, and a loyal team-player and the novel highlights how important good relationships and contacts are in the world of international security firms and businesses.
I loved the fact that the characters talk like real people talk (yes, they use clichés sometimes, make bad jokes, and sometimes are lost for words), and, although there is violence and terrible things happen (justice and law are not always on the same side of the divide), there are also very funny moments.
The writing style is fluid and the pace ebbs and flows, with moments that are fast-paced and others that allow us to catch a breath and learn more about the ins and outs of the businesses and the characters involved. Readers need to remain alert, as there are many characters, locations, and plot threads, and, it is important to pay attention to the details.
I recommend this book to those who love spy and international intrigue thrillers, especially to readers who like complex situations and stories with plenty of twists and turns, but who don’t mind stopping to take a breath every so often. A great first book in the series and many great characters I hope to meet again.
[I received a copy of this book through NetGalley.]
I loved “The Martian”, so of course I was bound to request this one. To be fair, I didn’t enjoy it as much, but it was still a good, fun read in several ways.
I found the characters in general likeable enough, in definite ‘shades of grey. The ‘heroes’ of this story are seldom all white, and go about their business with good intentions and shady ways. The businessman who moved to the moon to help his ailing daughter, but is a crook on the side. The economist who almost single-handedly set a whole country as the only entry point to the Moon, and won’t shy away from closing eyes on criminal deals as long as they help keeping Artemis afloat. The city’s policeman (Artemis has something like 2,000 inhabitants, minus the tourists, so Rudy does the job) who’s keeping order by breaking a few arms at times if he deems it’ll be a better punishment than prison. And, of course, Jazz Bashara herself, porter by day, smuggler by night, of sorts, running her little operation with no one the wiser.
(Granted, not everyone is a complete a-hole here, Jazz’s father for instance is a law-abiding citizen who doesn’t want anything to do with his daughter’s shady side; on the other hand, Jazz clearly has him to thank for her own ethical side, the one that makes her never renege on a deal, and puts her in the (trustworthy criminal’ category, so to speak.)
The story itself starts in a fairly typical way for heist stories: Jazz needs money, her criminal activities aren’t bringing in as much as she needs, nor quickly enough, so when a dangerous but particularly juicy deal comes her way, she shoves her qualms in her pocket and accepts it. Only it turns out she’s bitten more than she could chew, and finds herself embroiled in an almost conspiracy, forcing her to gather all her wits, resources and allies in order to find a way out. All in all, the kind of story I like to read: maybe not the most original, but with high potential for action, fun, quirky characters, and, well, capers.
There isn’t as much technical detailing in this novel as there was in “The Martian”, so it’s definitely not hard to follow. The whole caper(s) resting on scientific knowledge and using the moon’s gravity and peculiar sides to work within the plan, that was really interesting for me. Maybe the welding-related descriptions were a little too long at times, though; at least, I didn’t care as much about those as I did about other scientific explanations.
I liked the overall diversity in Artemis. This small city has, from A to Z, a multicultural side that I think worked well, and didn’t rest on the usual ‘Western world colonises space’ (Kenya and its space company holds the entry door to the moon, Artemis’s administrator is a Kenyan woman, the policeman is Canadian, Jazz and her father are from Saudi Arabia, many of Jazz’s contacts are Vietnamese or Slavic, etc.).
I wasn’t totally on board with the way Jazz told the story, though. The wit didn’t work as well here as it did in “The Martian”, mostly, I’d say, because there’s too much of a dichotomy between Jazz’s ‘voice’ and her age: sometime in the middle of the story, we learn she’s 26, but from her tone, attitude, expressions and way of being, I would’ve thought her late teens/20, and not older. There -is- an immature side to her character, so in itself it’s not like her voice doesn’t fit at all, yet it didn’t feel ‘right’ either.
Conclusion: 3.5 stars. Disregard the author’s previous best-seller, take this story as it comes, and enjoy the heist parts, the assembling of Jazz’s motley crew, the description of Artemis, and the outings on the Moon in an EVA suit that can spring a leak just any time due to the characters attempting bold moves and daring rescues.