Friday, August 25, 2017

“Times of Victory” by Pedro Luis Adames Valdez – A Place Under God's Wing

Times of Victory by Pedro Luis Adames Valdez (Book cover)

The Meditations of Pedro Luis Adames Valdez

The topic of religion is one that's becoming increasingly contested with the advent of globalization as it became apparent that there are many more faiths out there than meet the eye. Each and every one has its own belief system and designations, with a few being much more heavily-proliferated and discussed than others, namely Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Simultaneously, the sceptics are more numerous than ever before, with atheism and agnosticism gaining popularity, especially amongst the intelligent elite. Whether or not you're a religious person though, I believe that there is much for us to learn from the teachings passed down through holy scriptures for they often connect with our lives in surprisingly non-religious ways. I myself am not a religious person, and thus it is precisely the approach I took to Times of Victory by Pedro Luis Adames Valdez.

Saturday, August 05, 2017

“The Boy Who Saw” by Simon Toyne – Putting the Ghosts of War to Rest

The Boy Who Saw by Simon Toyne (Book cover)

Simon Toyne and the Lost Identity

Compelling characters that consistently stimulate our desire to discover them across multiple books are few and drastically far in-between, with virtually ninety-nine percent of protagonists being throwaway vehicles used to conduct a single story. Even when it comes to book series it is rare for an author to truly capture our interest with the same person one novel after the next... and I would argue that Solomon Creed, created by Simon Toyne, accomplishes that to perfection. Here is a character with no memory or knowledge of himself, besides the words stitched into his perfectly tailored jacket: “This suit was made to treasure for Mr. Solomon Creed”. While his mystery is certainly the centre of his world, it does take a back seat to more pressing cases, as we see in The Boy Who Saw, the latest book in the series.

The events begin unfolding as Solomon follows up on some crucial clues in regards to his identity: the name of the tailor who made the suit, and an address in the South of France. Unfortunately for him, the tailor ran afoul of a vicious murderer who carved the Star of David into his bloodied chest, along with the words “Finishing what was begun” smeared on the wall. As Solomon's tremendous luck would have it, the police believe him responsible for the crime and rip his freedom away. Alone as he ever was, Solomon must find a way to escape his situation and find out who out there is hunting down survivors of the Holocaust, in particular those who escaped a tragic fate in one specific concentration camp. While he digs dip to the roots of a conspiracy and attempts to put the old ghosts of war to rest, he may also find out a thing or two about his own identity.

Power in Spades and Bursts

Those of you who are already familiar with the Solomon Creed character and have read the previous book should know, more or less, what to expect from this second book in the series in terms of technique. The story is divided into 112 rather short chapters, pretty much all of them focusing on action rather than philosophical developments or descriptions. Toyne is quite brilliant when it comes to hooking the reader in, with virtually every chapter having some strong and impactful moments that will make you desperate to read on and find out where it all leads to. Compared to the first book I would venture to say that this one is more focused on the plot and tends to wander around much less, which frankly is to be expected considering there is far less of a need for world-building and character introductions.

As far as the thriller genre goes, I think other authors should take notes from how Toyne goes about it in this book. The pace never lets up and the thrills never stop, always keeping alive a strong sense of danger and mystery; you never feel safe or as if you have a moment's worth of rest. While things do move along quickly, each chapter flows well with the next one and it all ends up feeling like one continuous string of text rather than 112 different parts, and that's despite the complexity of this globe-trotting plot.

The Mystery Remains

As you might have guessed, this time around things take place in France rather than the United States and the plot we are being presented with has very little, if anything at all to do with what we learned in the first book. The mystery surrounding Solomon's identity is the constant hook that maintains your interest in the character, and I have to say to Toyne is sure taking pleasure in teasing us with scraps of information. We do find out a little bit more about him, but in reality the answers we get only raise additional questions that will surely lead to more discoveries in future novels.

I should warn you the author doesn't shy away from graphic naturalism and that there are some pretty gut-wrenching scenes that won't exactly be suitable for the faint of heart... especially ones relating to the Holocaust. At the same time though, he doesn't go overboard with exaggerated gore and violence or anything of the like; he presents a harsh reality and doesn't take pleasure in spilling blood without reason. While most of the difficult passages are ultimately fantasy, it is difficult to become dissociated from them to the point of being unaffected.

The Final Verdict

With everything being said and done, The Boy Who Saw is without question a worthy continuation to the Solomon Creed series, with Simon Toyne masterfully unravelling two mysteries without ever giving the reader a chance to get the hooks out. It's a solid and tightly-woven thriller that delivers in every way you would expect a book in this genre to. If you are curious about the captivating Solomon Creed character, want to see the author at his best, or simply enjoy riveting murder mysteries, then I guarantee you will find enjoyment from this novel.

Simon Toyne

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Simon Toyne is a British former TV executive-turned writer who specializes in thriller fiction and is best-known for his Solomon Creed series as well as the Sanctus Trilogy.

More of the Simon Toynes's book reviews:
The Searcher