Deadly Class – Vol. 7: Love Like Blood by by Rick Remender · Wes Craig – Comic Book Review

Deadly Class – Vol. 7: Love Like Blood by by Rick Remender · Wes Craig - Comic Book Cover

If you were a school psychologist at the King’s Dominion Atelier of the Deadly Arts, you would definitely be stuffing benzodiazepines into your own mouth by the handful. Rick Remender and Wes Craig’s Deadly Class seems perfect for apprentice assassins at first glance, but in reality, it wouldn’t work.

A high school for the children of criminals? Where students trained for killing roam armed?! Come on!

You’ve probably heard of the dramaturgical principle that if a loaded gun appears on stage, sooner or later it will be fired. Well, for those attending the assassin class, firing the gun – with classmates in the crosshairs – is part of the prescribed curriculum.

The King’s Dominion Atelier of the Deadly Arts is essentially a psychopath training ground, which would only work until the first freshly graduated seniors returned home to mommy and daddy. However, instead of a resourceful karate champion, ninja, or commando, the parents could welcome home unpredictable wrecks devoid of any human emotions. Afterward, dissatisfied ancestors from all over the world would flock to San Francisco to demand a refund of tuition… and incidentally, to chop the entire teaching staff into tiny pieces.

Rick Remender, the master of the most unbelievable twists, organizes a class trip to Mexico in the seventh part of the Deadly Class. And you, the reader, are supposed to believe that Marcus, one of the most repulsive protagonists in comic literature, successfully takes on a group of Yakuza. Man, he got expelled! Not to mention that he only attended for a year, most of which he was totally high on drugs!

So, do you believe it? Okay then.

If it’s been a relatively long time since you read the previous part, you’re in luck because you might not remember exactly why you hate the characters in the book. (Just know that you hate them.) Perhaps this is one reason why you don’t find the seventh part of the Deadly Class as annoying as the previous ones. But it could also be because of the continuous action.

Fortunately, the blood-soaked, ninja-like action is precisely interrupted by the more lyrical parts. These, almost without exception, work now. There is death, a turning point, truly profound twists, but even in their extremeness, they stay grounded in reality.

If you were to start acquainting yourself with Rick Remender and Wes Craig’s series with this part, you actually wouldn’t find much to criticize.

And when Saya takes center stage, the character who hasn’t made a complete fool of herself in the series so far, you’ve reached the climax of “Love like blood,” but for real the whole series. The power combined with a sense of inferiority is capable of astonishing things – and, of course, paves the way for a very pleasant future revenge.

But the best is saved for last: Master Lin, who resembles a small, acholic*, sausage-shaped piece of poop, remarkably does not appear in the panels of this comic!

7.5/10 (75%)

Deadly Class – Vol. 7: Love Like Blood by Rick Remender (writer) · Wes Craig (illustrator)
120 pages, Paperback
Published in 2018 by Image Comics

acholic* referring to a pathological lack of bile, characterized by a white color

Every Last Fear by Alex Finlay – Book Review

Every Last Fear by Alex Finlay – Book cover

It can really mess up the American dream if you smash your girlfriend’s head with a big rock. Danny Pine is currently residing at the Fishkill Correctional Facility for precisely this reason. However, his family steadfastly believes in his innocence and has been fighting for his exoneration for years. Meanwhile, Danny’s estranged brother, Matt, receives terrible news: all their relatives on a Mexican vacation died in an accident. As time passes, the circumstances become increasingly suspicious. Matt decides to uncover the truth… Despite the dramatic setup in “Every Last Fear” Alex Finlay surprisingly crafts a family-friendly thriller.

The writing style of “All Your Fears” is quite unremarkable, lacking any distinctive features. Countless books with similarly subdued quality are published daily. However, Alex Finlay successfully overcomes this by structuring the novel effectively. Alongside Matt’s private investigation, you get the reminiscences of other Pine family members, leading up to the tragic conclusion.

FBI agent Sarah Keller, investigating the case, also gets dedicated chapters. So “All Your Fears” meanders through various paths, providing UNEXPECTED twists at each turn. Introducing new turns, possible suspects, and clever tricks, these sophisticated maneuvers significantly enhance the enjoyment of the thriller.

The unpredictability of Alex Finlay’s book manages to conceal the fact that the main characters of “Every Last Fear” the Pine family members, are not very well-developed. Matt, the most thoroughly introduced among them, is a true-blue average American citizen, and that’s about it.

However, it’s effortless to identify with all of them. The family-friendly label at the beginning of this review was not accidental. Finley’s thriller paints the picture of of an ordinary and supportive family, even in times of trouble – while flashing glimpses of sketchy portraits of everyday America along the way.

Family relationships receive significant emphasis – somewhat unnecessarily – in the case of Agent Keller too, who turns out to be the best-developed character in the book. (And by the end of “Every Last Fear”she slowly becomes an honorary family member.)

The impact of the book largely relies on knowing what will happen, creating a growing unease as you watch the pages of the book decrease. This oppressive feeling is particularly noticeable when reading Maggie’s chapters. Maggie, Matt Pine’s sister, is the perfect opposite of contemporary TikTok-expert teenagers: dedicated, smart, and kind, the ideal little sister in every respect.

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Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir – Book Review

Harrow the Ninth book cover

The prequel to Tamsyn Muir’s novel “Harrow The Ninth” was a hugely successful sci-fi novel of 2019. “Gideon the Ninth” won several awards, including the Locus Award, and left even the most esteemed sci-fi authors in awe. “Gideon the Ninth” burst onto the science fiction scene with pulsating energy, cheeky yet clever humor, and a unique vision (necromancers + romance = necromance). Only to then shift to a larger portion of the story resembling a subdued Agatha Christie mystery.

“Harrow the Ninth” lacks that dynamic start but fortunately, it also lacks the occasional anemia found in its predecessor. However, in return, it is at times completely incomprehensible.

Literally.

The first thought-provoking moment occurs when you realize there’s not a single mention of Gideon, the protagonist of the Locked Tomb series’ first installment. It’s as if her existence has been erased. Then, the alternating chapters of the book are written in different grammatical persons (second-person singular vs third-person singular) while each chapter has the same viewpoint character: Harrowhark Nonagesimus, the charming but troubled teenage necromancer.

To top it off, characters show up in the pink, who died in the first book.

Are you into solving puzzles? Do you have a university degree? If neither applies to you, there’s a chance that up to about 80% of this book, you’ll wish “Harrow the Ninth”, to hell. And it’s no wonder if, along the way, you come to the conclusion that either reading the book titled “Harrow the Ninth” is entirely unnecessary or its predecessor, filled with the trials of Gideon Nav.

Maybe you won’t give up on Muir’s book halfway for only two reasons. One, if you’ve already crafted a compelling closing sentence for your book review and don’t want it to go to waste. The other is the Australian author’s writing style.

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The Eighth Sister by Robert Dugoni – Book Review

The Eighth Sister book cover

Do they really have to reactivate a 64-year-old geezer for the CIA, just to send him to Moscow as a spy? Couldn’t they find someone older? Sure, we know that 60 is the new 40, but if the successor organization to the KGB, the FSB, were to chase this guy, wouldn’t it be better to go for a robust young sprinter instead?

And while we’re on appearances: wouldn’t a blonde, Slavic-looking person with a good-natured, foolish expression be more suitable for a Russian job than an African American? Just in case, let’s say, the FSB accidentally starts pursuing him and wants to chase him all over half of Russia. Just to blend in with the crowd more easily.

A faint chance does appear that the FSB will become suspicious of Charles Jenkins. Because he goes there to interfere with one of their operations. The Russians start eliminating the so-called seven sisters, CIA spies operating in deep cover in Russia for decades. Three sisters (Masha, Olga, and Irina – if I remember their names correctly) were already taken care of.

But not only are the sisters dwindling, Vladimir Vladimirovich, the Tsar of all Russians, activates the eighth sister! Damn! Her task is to find the other seven and kill them. Jenkins is stuck with the thankless task of messing around until the eighth sister notices him. If that happens, he must identify this evil she-devil and then get out immediately.

And now, let’s pause for a moment! Let’s use our brains!

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A Caller’s Game by J. D. Barker – Book Review

Caller’s Game book cover

Jordan Briggs, a radio host with a penchant for stirring controversy, receives a live call from Bernie, a caller armed with a significant amount of exploitable explosive material. However, Bernie doesn’t like to decide alone what things to blow up. Jordan’s show becomes an explosive success. Will J. D. Barker’s book, “A Caller’s Game” achieve the same success?

If you’ve read Barker’s “Four Monkey Killer” series, you’ll immediately notice that “A Caller’s Game” lacks the complexity and often overly convoluted plot structure. “A Caller’s Game” is on the opposite end, a straightforward thriller mostly set in a single location.

If you’ve seen the movie “Die Hard,” you can expect a similar experience: a skyscraper, terrorists, a bomb, and a cop perfectly positioned to take on the jerk Bernie. Plus, live broadcasting on the radio. Minus Christmas.

“A Caller’s Game” would work well as an action film, except everyone would compare it to “Die Hard,” and it would quickly fade away.

Barker’s book is perfectly bland. The male protagonist, Cole Hundley, is woodenly simple, a typical good guy. Jordan doesn’t get much more depth. Although Barker provides sharp insights at the beginning, portraying Jordan as a sharp-minded, confident media personality, nevertheless, the woman finds it very difficult to make herself likable.

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Faroe by Remigiusz Mróz – Book Review

Discalimer: This book has not yet been published in English - nor have ANY of the author's books. But reading this review, anyone can easily decide WHETHER it is worth publishing.
Faroe by Remigiusz Mróz - Book Cover

What could be more depressing in the case of notoriously gloomy Scandinavian crime novels than if the setting itself is oppressive? The Faroe Islands? The smell of fish, economic stagnation, and alcoholism. Remigiusz Mróz’s crime novel titled “Feröer” doesn’t exactly inspire a strong desire to travel there for vacation.

Of course, the Faroe Islands might not be such a miserable place, and Remigiusz Mróz might be saying this just to create the necessary mood for his book. (A Hungarian, for instance, would probably feel right at home. As for the fish smell, one would probably get used to it…) And what makes you doubt Mróz’s judgment entirely is that not only is the setting depressing, but the novel itself isn’t that great either…

Sixteen-year-old Poula Lokin, a popular player in the local handball team, goes missing. The island is in turmoil, locals organize search teams, and soon Danish police officer Katrin Ellegaard arrives at the scene. As time passes, it becomes increasingly doubtful that the girl will be found alive.

Hallbjorn Olsen, the father of Poula’s teammate, was the last one to see the girl alive. The situation is further complicated by the fact that Hallbjorn, who, adhering to the island’s traditions, bravely indulged in some alcohol that day, doesn’t remember a SINGLE SECOND of that evening. So, it’s not SURPRISING that he begins to doubt himself: is it possible that he killed Poula, and then, just to be safe, hid the body?

Ellegaard starts the investigation in a hostile environment, as the Faroese dislike the Danes more than the murderers, and among the Danes, they dislike the Danish cops EVEN MORE. She is forced into an alliance with Hallbjorn.

And then you start thinking that police officers from other countries would probably view the unorthodox methods of the Danish police with some suspicion. Not only do they involve complete strangers, even suspects, in the investigation, revealing everything to them, but they also take them along to interrogations. And those left out of the interrogations are the ones who should be questioned first. (The handball team members, darn it.)

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Die Trying by Lee Child – Book Review

Die Trying by Lee Child - Book cover

Since not too many people read this blog anyway, I think, without becoming a subject of widespread ridicule, I can admit that Major Jack Reacher is one of my greatest role models!

My role model, Major Jack Reacher, finds himself in the back of a van with an eye-catching FBI agent in the second installment of Lee Child’s fantastic series (which I happened to pick up again after about 20 years, so I accidentally read it once more). The agent has been kidnapped. My role model, Major Jack Reacher, just happens to end up in the van. Instead of throwing him out of the car, the incredibly stupid kidnappers decide to take him along. Little do these idiots know what kind of problems they are bringing upon themselves.

My role model, Major Jack Reacher, is strong, smart, skilled, cunning, and more Sherlock Holmes-like (see The Gods of War) than Sherlock Holmes himself. (Notice how he analyzes the girl right from the start.) His sense of justice is off the charts, and he is also the best sniper. (You can bet that some people will get a bullet in their heads.)

Did I mention he’s strong? (Bro, he’s super strong! Comes in handy when tearing chains out of the wall.)

He can pick any lock. (Okay, not every lock, because one catches him. A HUGE ONE. You think that’s why he can’t get in there too? Don’t worry, don’t worry!)

So, when it turns out that the kidnapping is the opening move of a sinister conspiracy, my role model, Major Jack Reacher, sets out to uncover EVERYTHING and take down this whole mess.

This is the second installment of the series, but my role model, Major Jack Reacher already appears in full armament before us. Well, almost, because at this early stage of the series, he still has some fears – although luckily they don’t hold him back for too long. Sometimes he hits the floor – but these occasions only fuel his desire for revenge even more. And here, generously, he allows himself (Chuck Norris style) to contemplate the possibility of a more ordinary life. Indeed, Holly, the FBI agent, is a woman for whom you’d also give up the wandering lifestyle…

Yeah, speaking of Chuck Norris, you think Reacher wouldn’t handle it with him? You’re wrong, darn it! If the old guy stirred up trouble, he’d get his share of it too!

8/10 (80%)

Yeah, yeah, you’re saying there’s this constant counting going on. Well, maybe there’s a bit too much of it, but who’s perfect? Is the end of the book a bit abrupt? Who cares?! It’s 400 pages, it ends when it ends! And that sometimes it’s overexplained? Okay, enough already!

Die Trying (Jack Reacher #2) by Lee Child
432 pages, Paperback
Published in 2012 by Berkley

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo – Book Review

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo - Book cover

Fantasy and heist novel combined? Yes. The roughest face of the harbor district is entrusted with an action spanning countries. The target is a scientist whose invention exponentially amplifies the power of magic users but quickly fries them in return. Well, that doesn’t sound too good.

The first part of Six of Crows is about assembling the team. It’s cool. The characters are unique and memorable, hello Kaz, Nina, and the Wraith! The setting, the slums of Ketterdam, bears an uncanny resemblance to a slightly twisted version of a possibly still-existing Dutch city from the past (maybe Limburg or Utrecht, right now, I can’t really tell all of a sudden). What’s a bit strange, though, is that all the main characters are teens. To cater to the similarly aged target audience? Probably. Or maybe I just hadn’t realized until now that I’m reading young adult fantasy. (Quite possible.) The plan doesn’t work, though, because the human mind, this wonderful contraption, constantly corrects itself, and the characters’ age is automatically adjusted to over 20 in thought. Because it’s unimaginable that 15-17-year-olds are so proficient in so many areas.

The second half is the action itself. Our small team, consisting of ten or twenty-year-olds, infiltrates the Ice Court, THE MOST HEAVILY GUARDED FACILITY IN THE WORLD, and starts wreaking havoc. They roam around based on a rough plan sketched out about a thousand kilometers away and, with the help of the TOOLS FOUND ON THE SPOT, the team’s MacGyvers get to work. Whoever comes their way, they take down. Luckily, there”s hardly any guard IN THE MOST HEAVILY GUARDED FACILITY IN THE WORLD. If a few do happen to stroll around that area, they’re all idiots. And here, the book truly descends into young adult fantasy. Unbelievable and stupid twists alternate, and you just look and think, what the heck is this. Based on the first two chapters of Six of Crows, this story should be at least a masterfully crafted, twist-filled heist with, for example, something like the Casa de Papel TV series.

What somewhat saves this part are the interjected flashbacks depicting the deep, tragic (and silly misunderstandings-filled) backstories of some characters. These create a noticeable contrast with the clumsy chasing in the Ice Court and the lousy closing chapters. It’s as if Leigh Bardugo dreamed up this epic story, then wrote and wrote enthusiastically, and then halfway through, oopsie, got tired of of all the fuss and said, ‘eh, I don’t give a frak,’ and from then on just tried to get through her own book as quickly as possible.

Despite its flaws, Six of Crows still outshines most of the young adult genre. The first half is genuinely high-quality writing, and it doesn’t feature the continuous stupid whining that usually inundates similar works. But still, it’s quite a shame.

Oh, and it has a DOUBLE romantic plot for romance enthusiasts. Mostly, in a young adult way, it consists of yearning.

6.5/10 (65%)

Six of Crows (Six of Crows #1) by Leigh Bardugo
465 pages, Hardcover
Published in 2015 by Henry Holt & Company

The King’s Gambit by John Maddox Roberts – Book Review

The King's Gambit by John Maddox Roberts – Book cover

In the introductory volume of John Maddox Roberts’ historical crime series, now consisting of more than 10 volumes, Decius, a low-ranking Roman official, begins an investigation into the murder of a freed slave. The setting is during the crisis of the Roman Republic in 70 B.C. And guess who Decius encounters right away in the first chapter? Bravo, you guessed it: none other than the up-and-coming Gaius Julius Caesar. Then, of course, other well-known figures of the era appear one after the other, from Pompey the Great to Cicero, and up to the scamp Publius Clodius Pulcher.

Although “The King’s Gambit” is theoretically a crime novel, as it possesses many of its characteristics (coroner, informant, tough sidekick), it feels more like you’re reading a historical novel. The thin thread of the investigation is not very exciting or original (it occasionally uses well-known historical facts clumsily to advance the plot, hello, pirates), and most of the time, it gets overshadowed by discussions of current political and historical conditions. This is partly because young Decius becomes OBSESSED with the idea that he has stumbled into a seditious conspiracy. And that everyone is against him. What?!

The conspiracy accusation later bursts and degrades into a simple political maneuver. There you go! However, Decius doesn’t give up; he continues to pursue the case. No one understands why he is so enthusiastically involved in a miserable slave’s affair. No one. Not even you.

The first installment of John Maddox Roberts’ SPQR series mostly resembles the pilot episode of a detective TV series that hasn’t found its own voice yet, but it’s not terribly bad, and you hope it will find its way eventually.

What, however, can unequivocally be credited to the “The King’s Gambit’s” merit is the seemingly entirely authentic portrayal of the historical period. I abandoned the Gordianus series in a similar genre precisely because it lacked this authenticity. Unfortunately for it, I had just finished reading Colleen McCullough’s monumental Masters of Rome series, and it quickly fell short in comparison.

That’s not the case with this book. On the contrary, seamlessly integrated into the text, almost every other paragraph provides information that helps you understand the political and social conditions of the era more clearly or makes you feel like you are strolling alongside the eager beaver Decius on the narrow, cobblestone streets of Rome.

6.9/10 (69%)

The King’s Gambit (SPQR #1) by John Maddox Roberts
274 pages, Paperback
Published in 1990 by Minotaur Books

Gods of War by James Lovegrove – Book Review

Gods of War by James Lovegrove - Book cover

In James Lovegrove’s crime novel “The Gods of War,” Sherlock Holmes has now reached his sixtieth year. It’s no wonder, then, that his joints creak and crack. Fat-ass Dr. Watson, truth be told, can’t keep up with the pace as he used to. Luckily for them, they don’t really need to in this novel. The excellent detective, for instance, doesn’t even bother to use his unique method to casually deduce how his long-lost colleague traveled on the train, the biggest cliché in every Holmes story, since he is, as he puts it, “too excited about his new case”… Which turns out to be a pitiful burglary.

It seems cheap, doesn’t it? Yet, how much would it have cost Lovegrove to figure out that the person sitting across from Watson was an aging, one-legged Devonshire horse trader, intending to buy feed for his prize-winning colt, Bucephalus… while on the right side of the doctor, an old lady wearing a pheasant-feathered hat was traveling to visit her sister, while she was reading the fourth edition of “The Secret of the Cloister.”

Nothing at all.

The situation improves a bit when they stumble upon a new case, but not by much. After numerous mishaps and awkward encounters, the two characters, resembling a parody of themselves, uncover a mystery that would feel embarrassing even in a young adult fantasy. Not to mention that the great revelation lacks any excitement or unexpected twist. The two old bones wander aimlessly through about two-thirds of the plot, then Holmes unexpectedly leaves, returns, and announces that he has solved everything. And you just stare, realizing he even found out a bunch of other unnecessary things.

James Lovegrove’s writing style in this book more or less resembles Conan Doyle’s not-so-fresh prose, excluding a few awkward, anachronistic expressions. However, some supporting characters simply don’t fit into the early 20th century., like the overly emancipated costume shop girl who invests all her savings in a small-town costume store. (Pre-market research rules!) Or the childishly malicious and scheming police officer.

But these mean nothing compared to an unparalleled feat of authorship that I have never encountered in my decades-long reading career! Ladies and gentlemen, behold the man, James Lovegrove, who writes in SLOW MOTION:

Listen up!: “Despite being ten years older, a love affair blossomed between us. But after a few months, his behavior changed, so I broke up with him.” This takes ten pages in the book.

What would be a sentence in a normal case takes at least half a page in this book. Everything is explained to the extreme. If the characters reach a house, you can be sure that a one-page description of the building’s history, plus the impressions of “The Gods of War” characters about it, is coming.

If Aleister Crowley, the eccentric magician, happens to be mentioned, you can read an additional two exhaustive pages about this peculiar figure’s work. If someone asks a character about the time, they will tell the time AND ALSO narrate who they inherited their watch from, where they got the leather strap, and that three weeks ago, they once forgot to wind it, making them late for Aunt Maggie’s tea party.

Sounds boring?

BECAUSE IT FRAKKIN’ WELL IS!

4.5/10

Gods of War (The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Titan Books #5) by James Lovegrove
296 pages, Paperback
Published in 2014 by Titan Books