Criminal Intentions S1E3 – The Man With the Glass Eye by Cole McCade (audiobook) – Narrated by Curt Bonnem

the man with the glass eye

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Multiple execution-style murders hint at a mob hit, but when Malcolm and Seong-Jae follow the clues, the last thing they expect is a host of very familiar—and very dead—faces. They say dead men tell no tales, but if Malcolm and Seong-Jae can’t even trust the words of the living, they’ll never catch a hit man dead set on burying every trace of an underworld secret . . . along with a few more bodies.

But it’s not just the cold bodies on their minds when a little undercover work sends them to a nightclub once owned by none other than Marion Garvey. Forced to play at being lovers, neither man can ignore the distraction of the very warm body in his arms. To Malcolm, Seong-Jae remains as aloof as ever . . . but what’s really smoldering under that icy mask?

Rating:  Narration – A-; Content – B+

I listened to and reviewed the first two audiobooks in Cole McCade’s addictive Criminal Intentions series when they came out in 2022, but didn’t get around to reviewing the third for some reason – so I thought that with the rest of the series due to release in audio over the next few months, I’d rectify that! A quick recap; Criminal Intentions is a long running series featuring the same central couple (there are twenty-nine books so far with more to come), and is divided up into three ‘seasons’ of thirteen books each. In this first season, each book comprises one case for homicide detectives Malcolm Khalaji and Seong-Jae Yoon, but there’s also an overarching plot across the series, so I really would suggest starting with book one – The Cardigans – if you’re intrigued by this premise. The central romance, the characterisation and character exploration develop throughout, and the scope of the series as a whole means that the author has time to really delve deeply into what makes Malcolm and Seong-Jae tick, to explore how their backgrounds have made them into the people they are today, and also to develop the important recurring characters so that they, too, become people we care about and want to keep tabs on.

As the two leads are homicide detectives, it’s not surprising that there are some disturbing scenes to be found here, and these stories can go to some dark places when considering the motivations of the killers. The first chapter in each book usually depicts the murder to be solved from the PoV of the victim or killer; the author includes a list of warnings at the beginning of each book which can be read using the “Look Inside” feature at Amazon if you want to check anything out.

Okay, so on to the actual book.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Inevitable Disclosure (Valor and Doyle #4) by Nicky James (audiobook) – Narrated by Nick J. Russo

inevitable disclosure

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Quaid is adrift in MPU. With his partner on extended leave, he’s alone and unsure if he wants to continue working on missing persons cases now that his sister’s case is closed. When the missing teen he’s been seeking for a week turns up dead, it’s the icing on the cake.

Maybe it’s time to explore a different career path.

Aslan and his partner, Torin, take over Quaid’s case, but Quaid can’t help but get involved. He wants justice for the girl. Justice for her grieving family.

Is homicide the career change he’s been looking for?

The trio makes a solid team, and their banter takes the edge off a serious case. Working alongside Aslan again is fantastic. They have found a balance that works, but for as comfortable as they have become as a couple, for as inevitable as their future together seems, something’s missing.

Aslan is ready to take the next step in their relationship, but Quaid needs certain feelings to be disclosed first.

Do actions speak louder than words? Or is there magic in saying I love you?

Rating: Narration – A; Content – A

Note: This is a same-couple series in which the relationship development is ongoing, and there are references to events in earlier books in this review.

Nicky James hits it out of the park again with Inevitable Disclosure, book four in her superb series of romantic mysteries featuring detectives Aslan Doyle and Quaid Valor, who, in this story, end up working together to investigate the murder of a teenaged girl.

With his partner, Eden, on extended leave while she cares for her sick daughter, Quaid has been working solo on the case of seventeen-year-old Saphira Nottingham, who went missing from the parental home after a row with her boyfriend. Saphira has a history of storming off whenever she doesn’t get her own way and has always turned up within the next twenty-four hours or so, but she’s been missing for six days now, and Quaid is starting to think the worst. His suspicions are confirmed when he receives a call telling him that the body of a young woman has been found floating in the creek south of Centennial Park, and he suggests to Aslan that they should both take a ride out there. If the body is Saphira’s and her death wasn’t accidental, then chances are Aslan and his partner Torin Fox will begin a homicide investigation.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

The Jackal’s House (Lancaster’s Luck #2) by Anna Butler (audiobook) – Narrated by Gary Furlong

the jackal's house

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Something is stalking the Aegyptian night and endangering the archaeologists excavating the mysterious temple ruins in Abydos. But is it a vengeful ancient spirit or a very modern conspiracy? Rafe Lancaster’s relationship with Gallowglass First Heir, Ned Winter, flourishes over the summer of 1900, and when Rafe’s House encourages him to join Ned’s next archaeological expedition, he sees a chance for it to deepen further. Since all the Houses of the Britannic Imperium, Rafe’s included, view assassination as a convenient solution to most problems, he packs his aether pistol—just in case. Trouble finds them in Abydos. Rafe and Ned begin to wonder if they’re facing opposition to the Temple of Seti being disturbed.

What begins as tricks and pranks escalate to attacks and death, while the figure of the Dog—the jackal-headed god Anubis, ruler of death—casts a long shadow over the desert sands. Destruction follows in his wake as he returns to reclaim his place in Abydos. Can Rafe and Ned stand against both the god and House plots when the life of Ned’s son is on the line?

Rating: Narration – A; Content – B+

The Jackal’s House is book two in Anna Butler’s Lancaster’s Luck steampunk trilogy featuring aeronaut-turned-coffee-house-owner Rafe Lancaster and his lover, Ned Winter, renowned Aegyptologist and heir to the head of Britain’s most powerful political House. All the things I enjoyed about book one (The Gilded Scarab) – the fabulous worldbuilding and Rafe’s distinctive voice and wonderful sense of irony among them – are all very much in evidence, together with a compelling mystery, well-realised setting and some likeable (and not-so-likeable) well drawn secondary characters.

It’s the summer of 1900 and all Rafe wants to do is make the best coffee in Londinium, spend as much time as he can with the man he loves and keep as far away from house politics as is humanly possible. As a younger son of one of the minor Houses (in this universe, Britain is ruled, under the monarch, by the eight Convocation Houses) Rafe doesn’t have too much trouble doing that; he’s always been something of the black sheep of House Stravaigor, and is happy to keep it that way.

But when he receives an unexpected visit from the Stravaigor himself, it becomes clear that however much Rafe wants to escape the tangled webs of intrigue woven by the Houses, he’s not going to be able to. The Stravaigor is pleasant and surprisingly good-humoured, which only makes Rafe more suspicious as to his motives; and he’s surprised when in the end, all the Stravaigor asks is for him to maintain his friendship with Ned which, given Ned’s status as heir to House Gallowglass, could prove valuable to House Stravaigor. Rafe isn’t pleased that his relationship with Ned is seen as something to be exploited, and his relief at being asked for so little is tempered by the knowledge that that is unlikely to be the end of the matter.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Lord of Leaves (Wild Hearts #2) by Nazri Noor (audiobook) – Narrated by Greg Boudreaux

lord of leaves

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

The Blood of the Earth. The Breath of the Wind.

Lochlann Wilde is a true summoner at last, earning his Crest, the admiration of his peers, and a hunky fae prince in one fell swoop. With the headstrong Prince Sylvain at his side, Locke is finally ready to walk in his father’s legendary footsteps.

And to collect his inheritance, too, except for what he finds in the family vault. No one said anything about a fast-talking familiar. They certainly never mentioned a dragon.

But deeper danger awaits. Sylvain and Locke must untangle the twisted curse threatening to strangle all life, first in the Oriel of Earth, and now in the Oriel of Air.

They must face the Withering.

Rating: Narration – A; Content – B

Lord of Leaves, book two in Nazri Noor’s Wild Hearts series of fantasy romances, picks up about a week after the end of Prince of Flowers, and, like its predecessor, is a fun, inventive and light-hearted adventure romp through the magical worlds of the Black Market, the Wispwood and the Verdance in the company of our hero, newly-minted summoner Lochlann Wilde, and Sylvain, the gorgeous fae prince he summoned by accident and then fell for.

When the book begins, Locke and Sylvain are making their way through the Black Market to the Convent of Infinite Sorrow, where Locke is at last going to claim the inheritance left him by his father, Grand Summoner Baylor Wilde. With any luck, said inheritance will be a pile of fabulous riches, and he’s optimistic as he arrives at the convent – which has to be one of the strangest banks in existence and is run by a most unusual order of nuns.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Radio Static by Nicky James (audiobook) – Narrated by Nick J. Russo

radio static

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Two single dads. Two headstrong teenagers. One dead body.

A cabin in the middle of nowhere, nature all around, peace and serenity. It was supposed to be a vacation to help Nova reconnect with his son.

But he didn’t expect to fall for his neighbor in the cabin across the lake.

He didn’t expect an erratic and unusual broadcast on a radio station no longer in existence.

And he definitely didn’t expect a dead body in the water.

Mercy likes his mysteries to stay within the pages of his novels. When strange things start to happen at his summer cabin, he and his daughter team up with the man and his son on the other side of the lake to get to the bottom of it. A little amateur sleuthing won’t hurt anyone, right?

Someone out there knows the truth.
Who is the man on the radio?
What does he know?
Mercy and Nova are determined to solve the mystery, but are they willing to risk life and limb for answers? Because someone doesn’t want their secrets revealed.

Rating: Narration – A; Content – B

Nicky James has become one of my favourite authors over the past couple of years, her well-structured stories featuring complex, well-drawn characters and – usually – mid-to-high levels of angst – have made her a must read. Radio Static is a standalone romantic mystery (originally published in 2021) in which two single dads in their forties (together with their teenaged son and daughter) become embroiled in the mystery surrounding a decades-old disappearance. This is very much an amateur sleuth story in which the characters sometimes do things that made me facepalm, but which Jessica Fletcher and her ilk of cosy TV detectives would probably do without batting an eyelid! So it’s worth bearing that that in mind before jumping in – these guys aren’t Valor and Doyle with guns, badges and all their experience of detective work to call on.

Nova Charrette and his sixteen-year-old son, Cooper, are on their way to the remote cabin his family has owned for years by the lake near the small town of Drysdale. Nova hasn’t been there for around twenty-five years, since he was eighteen, but has decided that its remote location with its range of activities (swimming, fishing, hiking etc.) and lack of wifi and mobile connectivity is just the place for him to spend a bit of time reconnecting with Cooper – who lives with his mother – before it’s too late and Cooper heads off to college. Cooper isn’t impressed when Nova tells him there’s no wifi or 4g, and scoffs at the idea that a month without Spotify and Netflix is going to be “fun”. Trying to rally him, Nova suggests he try to find the local music station on the jeep’s radio, but all he can find is a bunch of static – until suddenly, the radio crackles to life and they hear a rough, gravelly voice rambling about the murder, thirty years before, of a young woman named Vivian Malone, and how it’s been covered up. Nova vaguely remembers hearing about Vivian’s disappearance when he was a teen, but nothing more – and wonders if what they’d heard was a talk show or a true crime podcast.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Subway Slayings (Memento Mori #2) by C.S. Poe (audiobook) – Narrated by Kale Williams

subway slayings

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Detective Everett Larkin of New York City’s Cold Case Squad has been on medical leave since catching the serial killer responsible for what the media has dubbed the “Death Mask Murders.” But Larkin hasn’t forgotten that another memento—another death—is waiting to be found.

Summer brings the grisly discovery of human remains in the subway system, but the clues point to one of Larkin’s already-open cases, so he resumes active duty. And when a postmortem photograph, akin to those taken during the Victorian Era, is located at the scene, Larkin requests aid from the most qualified man he knows: Detective Ira Doyle of the Forensic Artists Unit.

An unsolved case that suffered from tunnel vision, as well as the deconstruction of death portraits, leads Larkin and Doyle down a rabbit hole more complex than the tunnels beneath Manhattan. And if this investigation isn’t enough, both are struggling with how to address the growing intimacy between them. Because sometimes, love is more grave than murder.

Rating: Narration – A; Content – A

C.S. Poe’s Subway Slayings was one of my favourite books of last year, a wonderful combination of clever, tightly-plotted mystery and gorgeous slow-burn romance that gave me a book hangover of the very best kind – and now I get to experience the story all over again with the added benefit of a superlative performance from Kale Williams.

Detective Everett Larkin of the Cold Case Squad has been on medical leave to recover from the broken arm he sustained while apprehending the ‘Death Mask Killer’ at the end of Madison Square Murders. It’s the nineteenth of May and exactly fifty-nine days later (Larkin is nothing if not precise!) and one day before he is due to return to work, he’s called to the Fifty-Seventh Street subway station where a dead body has been found, stuffed in a blue IKEA tote bag, inside a utility closet on the platform. He’s a little confused though, as this is clearly a recent death and is surely a case for Homicide rather than Cold Cases – but the reason becomes clear when the CSU hands him an evidence bag containing a photograph of a teenaged girl slumped on one of the platform benches. The girl is wearing clothes that appear to date from the eighties or nineties and she looks to be asleep – or drunk or stoned – and there’s a message scrawled across the back: “Deliver me to Detective Larkin.”

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Dealing in Death (Death and the Devil #2.5) by L.J. Hayward (audiobook) – Narrated by Rowan Scott


This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

This audiobook is narrated from the point of view of Ethan Blade—assassin extraordinaire, cold-blooded killer, heartless monster, and . . . retiree?

I’ve spent my whole life dealing in death, efficiently eliminating targets while fighting to preserve a sense of self and morality, to avoid becoming as detached and ruthless as my siblings. I thought I had succeeded. Then I met Jack Reardon—contrary, handsome, forgiving, and far too good for the likes of me—and my life was tipped upside down. When he asked me to move in with him, he didn’t specify that I had to quit my job, but I wanted to—for myself, not for him. I should have known it wouldn’t be that easy.

My old instincts—“Ethan Blade”—are soon tempted out of retirement by a job offer I can’t afford to refuse and by an old hook-up of Jack’s he’d be a fool to refuse. While falling prey to my own temptation, Jack struggles with his. Which is precisely when the true danger exposes itself—one of my siblings with no such sense of self or morality. Only pain. And he is prepared to rain it down on me and Jack, unless I can square the Ethan Blade I want to be with the one I need to be, in time to save us both.

Rating: Narration – A; Content – B+

The “extended novella” Dealing in Death revisits the events of Why the Devil Stalks Death from Ethan’s PoV, which means we get to see what he was doing while he was away from Jack, learn more about him as an individual and get his perspective on his feelings for Jack and their relationship. It’s impossible to say much about this book without reference to earlier books in the series, so please be aware there are spoilers in this review.

We learned a lot about Ethan’s past in the previous book – the existence of the Cabal, his relationships with his remaining ‘siblings’, how he was brutalised by Two (who is obsessed with him) and that he made his first kill when he was just fourteen – but there’s a lot more to the story than what we saw in WtDSD, and even though I already knew how things turned out, I still enjoyed the hell out of this ‘extra’. And of course, in audio format, there’s the extra bonus of getting to listen to a whole six-hours of Rowan Scott’s sexy AF Ethan voice 😉

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Bad Deal (A-List Security #3) by Annabeth Albert (audiobook) – Narrated by Kirt Graves

This title may be purchased from Amazon

I’m a bodyguard and far from ideal boyfriend material, but agreeing to this fake dating scheme might be the best bad deal I’ve ever made….

I’m a fixer. As a SEAL chief, I succeeded in impossible no-win situations. Now I’m retired and determined to improve the lives of my former military teammates through our Hollywood security firm. Plus, I get to guard intriguing people like Ambrose Sterling, creator of one of my favorite TV shows.

Of course, I want to keep Ambrose safe. When he’s attacked, I leap into action to save him and his scrappy little therapy dog.

But my good deed results in a coastal road trip with me pretending to be Ambrose’s boyfriend to keep him out of more danger.

I don’t do relationships, and I’ve never thought about dating a man before, but here I am, sizzling with every touch and dreaming about more stolen kisses.

Each night of white-hot passion brings us closer to an unbreakable bond. But I’m blue-collar, and Ambrose is Hollywood elite. I want a happy ending more than anything. Can I turn this fake boyfriend gig into the real thing, or am I just a guest star?

Rating: Narration – A-; Content – B-

Bad Deal is the third book in Annabeth Albert’s series of bodyguard romances featuring the guys of A-List Security, the elite private security firm run by long-time friends and former SEALs Duncan Lubov and Harley Burton. Like the other books in the series, it’s fairly low-angst and is entirely character-driven, which is this author’s real strength. There are quite a few tropes thrown in here – only one bed, adorable dog, fake-boyfriend, sexual-awakening – but she makes them work; Ms. Albert knows how to create engaging, relatable characters for readers and listeners to care about and root for.

Harley’s current gig is co-ordinating the security on the set of a popular TV show called Traveling (which sounds a bit like a cross between Quantum Leap and Timeless). Showrunner Ambrose Stirling describes himself as “a neurotic TV show creator prone to overusing big words” – which is probably true, although that’s not all he is. He does suffer from anxiety disorder (the ’adorable dog’ I mentioned is Hercules, his therapy dog) but for all that he’s a big deal in the world of television, he’s a very down to earth, gentle man who takes care to treat his staff well and who cares passionately about what he does. His sister Cressida is his business partner, and although they obviously adore each other and get along really well, he does have a tendency to defer to her perhaps more than he should. However, he’s not too pleased with her for teasing him about his crush on their hot, ripped and undoubtedly straight head of security within the man’s hearing.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals

My 2022 in Books and Audio

What was I listening to and reading in 2022?  My Goodreads stats show I managed 238 books overall (just over my Reading Challenge target of 225) which was split almost equally between print and audio – 52.2% ebook, 47.8% audio – and around two-thirds of my reading/listening last year was ARCs/ALCs.  (Returning to work as a teacher and continuing my freelance work as an audio proofer had a slight impact on my overall total, which is a little bit less than last year.)

Of that total there are 77 5 star books, 123 4 star books – by far the biggest category – 30 3 star books, 2 2 star books and 1 DNF.

The 5 star bracket includes those titles I rate at 4.5 but round-up (which I equate to A-); the 4 star bracket (B) includes the 4.5 star grades I don’t round up (B+) and the 3.5 star ones I do round up (B-), the 3 stars are C+/C/C- and so on.  Of the 77 5 star ratings, around 34-35 are straight A grades in terms of the story (in the case of audiobooks, sometimes a 4 star review will get bumped up because the narration is so fabulous), so the rest are A minuses or audiobooks where A and B grades combined to rate a higher overall total.

The books that made my Best of 2022 list at All About Romance:

Nicky James and C.S. Poe are at the top of their game right now; Rachel Reid gave Shane and Ilya the perfect send-off and I was really pleased to be able to include a début author (Jess Everlee) on the list, with her late-Victorian era queer romance. Jay Hogan has long been a must-read author, Charlie Adhara got her new Monster Hunt series off to a great start and of course no Best of the Year list of mine would be complete without at least one book by Gregory Ashe! (Although I really don’t like that cover…)

Some of favourite audiobooks of the year at AudioGals are the audio versions of some of the above titles:

The other titles I rated most highly are complete (or ongoing) series:

Another series I binged in 2022 was Cole McCade’s Criminal Intentions. Books 1-3 came out in audio (superbly narrated by Curt Bonnem- reviews of books 1& 2 HERE), and I was very quickly hooked to the fabulous combinations of dark, twisty mystery/procedurals and the super slow burn romance between the two leads. But with no sign of any more books being released in audio, I switched to print and steadily worked my way through the rest of Season One and am almost finished Season Two. I gather that the author decided to put the series on hiatus last year after some very ugly online bullying (honestly – have these people nothing better to do than to badger and berate an author because he’s not writing his books the way they want them written??) – but that he was planning to put out the remaining ten books this year. I don’t know for sure if that’s happening, but I really hope so; I love Mal and Seong-Jae and want to know how it all pans out for them.

From my didn’t-quite-make-it (the “also rans”) list:

In audio, these were the titles where I gave an A grade for narration and a B+ for the story:

I also had a lot of fun listening to Meghan Maslow’s Starfig Investigations series (narrated by the wonderful Greg Boudreaux) – a light-hearted adventure romp with a romance between a wizard and a dragon shifter, finishing up with Eden Winter’s excellent Diversion series and with the latest PsyCop story, Subtle Bodies in which Gomez Pugh continues to completely embody the character of Victor Bayne. Nazri Noor’s Fantasy/Urban Fantasy is a recent discovery – he has excellent narrators (I’ve listened to Greg Boudreaux and Zachary Johnson so far) and is very prolific, so I’ve got some catching up to do in 2023!

Other books I’m looking forward to – I’ve already read (and loved) KJ Charles’ The Secret Lives of Country Gentlemen (out in March) so I’m eager to read the second book in her Doomsday duology, which is out this autumn. With any luck, she’ll get stuck on whatever she’s writing next and will just write a different book while she gets unstuck! (Sorry, KJ – not that I’m wishing writer’s block on you!) There’s one more book (that I know of, maybe more) to come in Nicky James’ Valor and Doyle series plus C.S. Poe’s Broadway Butchery (May), which is absolutely one of my most anticipated books of the year. I’d love to get book four in the Magic & Steam series, too, but maybe I’m just being greedy…

Thanks for your company – here and at Goodreads (and AAR and AG) – over the past year, and for chatting about books and audiobooks with me! I’ll be back in this spot next year to see how 2023 went!

Why the Devil Stalks Death (Death and the Devil #2) by L.J. Hayward (audiobook) – Narrated by Rowan Scott

Why the Devil Stalks Death CORRECTED300

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Jack Reardon uncovers secrets for a living, and the Meta-State spy is pretty good at it. Or rather he thought so until he met Ethan Blade—assassin, warrior, enigma. The unlikely pair have decided to give living together a shot, but Jack’s not entirely certain what he’s gotten himself into—or exactly who he’s in it with. Jack’s worries are compounded when he’s assigned to a police strike force hunting a serial killer. With each new puzzle piece, Jack considers the true nature of a serial killer—and how similar it is to an assassin…one particular assassin who’s having trouble adjusting to retirement. Jack’s unsure how to help Ethan; or if he even can.

When the killer strikes close to home, Jack must race against the clock to stop another murder, despite the price someone has put on his head. Could the matters be connected? Is a certain assassin at the center of both? Surrounded by killers, the only one Jack wants near disappears, leaving Jack drowning in secrets. He’ll have to do what he does best—unravel the secrets, including Ethan’s—to stop the killer and save the life he and Ethan have only just begun to build.

Rating: Narration – A;  Content – A

Note: The books in this series need to be listened to in order; there are spoilers for the previous books in this review.

Why the Devil Stalks Death, the second full-length book in L.J. Hayward’s Death and the Devil series picks up the story of Metastate “asset” (spy) Jack Reardon and assassin Ethan Blade some months since the events of Death Takes a Holiday (found in the novella Devil in the Details). Before they were attacked by a group of mercenaries and all hell broke loose, Jack and Ethan finally managed to have “the talk” and agreed that what they’ve been doing for the past few months – hooking up whenever they’re both in the same vicinity – was no longer enough for either of them. Before they parted, Jack asked Ethan to move in with him; Ethan agreed, telling Jack he’d see him soon, after sorting out the clean-up.

But clearly, Ethan’s definition of “soon” is different to Jack’s. Four months go by with no contact from him, and Jack is beginning to think that maybe Ethan has changed his mind. The strain of keeping their relationship under wraps and of all the doubts creeping in the longer Ethan’s silence goes on isn’t going unnoticed by his friends and colleagues; Jack is on a short fuse and will be more than pleased to get back to Sydney when his current undercover operation – to deliver a terrorist known as The Messiah into government custody – is over.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.