Overall Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
“He felt like a coward, but no longer. Now the murderers would pay with their lives.”
I’d been looking for something a bit more complex to get my teeth into lately, and this book came along at just the right time. An engaging mix of themes such as drug smuggling, human trafficking and a dangerous drug cartel make this book so exciting at every turn. Even though this is book five of a series, I had no problem with getting into the story and it’s a great standalone detective story too. So happy to share my review on the blog tour – make sure you check out all the reviews from these other brilliant book bloggers!
A wounded man, fiberglass wreckage, and mysterious blue barrels wash up on a secluded Malibu beach.
The Ojos Negros cartel is back and bolder than ever, forming an uneasy alliance with LA mob boss Frank DeVito. Using hidden sea caves as drop-off points, the new syndicate maneuvers to expand their brutal drug empire, and guns down anyone who stands in their way.
Stone and his team trail the lone survivor, Luis Delgado, who longs to return home to Mexico but is trapped in a deadly game of subterfuge. He vows revenge on the evil men who have destroyed his life and countless others with their greed.
The Detectives race to find Delgado and bring down the cartel, before another innocent victim is killed.
The first thing that instantly drew me into this book was the unexpected beauty of each paragraph. Scenes are described in a way that captures all your senses and the vocabulary just radiates talent and experience. Not only that, but we’re plunged straight into a scene that seemed to perk me up a little and made me ask questions about a group of men on a speedboat. This part of the book seemed mysterious and something that would be very significant later down the line, and danger quickly consumed everyone on board. I really love a start to a book that grabs you exactly like this one did with me – fast-paced, intriguing and forces you to continue, like there’s a big invisible hand encouraging you to turn page after page. A really brilliant start that gave me incredibly high hopes for what came next.
We’re introduced to a handful of characters, each brilliantly portrayed and instantly likable. Tom Stone and Jake Sharpe seem to be the perfect detective pair – you really can’t help but hang onto their every word and enjoy experiencing their great working relationship with one another. When a body is discovered linking back to the book’s fantastic opening, the detectives find out a whole lot more about what happened on that boat. A survivor of the wreckage amongst those mysterious blue barrels could hold the key to exactly what happened and why so many people were killed, and the interrogation of this character was so thrilling – the authors of the book have ensured each scene is captivating, leaving readers constantly wanting to find out what happens next. Stones and Sharpe’s detective work was top notch!
“The debris alone spoiled what would have been a view from paradise, but what completely ruined the atmosphere was a body face down in the water. Its hand was outstretched on a rock, like it failed in a last desperate attempt to reach shore and stay alive.”
I really liked Luis Delgado as a character. We can easily see how much he’s shaken up by recent events, especially as he finds out his son was a victim to the attack, and it’s clear that he’s still a little nervous. We can sense that this guy wants justice and part of me wondered whether he’d be brave enough to seek it. I enjoyed reading his thought processes and just how much he wanted to kill those responsible for murdering his beloved son. Characters have been developed incredibly well in this book, so well in fact that I already felt so attached to them and curious about their next steps. We get a few surprises the further we read and I quickly understood that Delgado was involved with a whole different group of people. I knew the story was about to get more dangerous and I was excited to follow a group of great characters on their journey forwards.
I couldn’t get enough of the dialogue between mob boss Frank DeVito and the Ojos Negros cartel – the threats and the terrifying way they seemed to be tracking his movements was worrying, but at the same time, it ramped up the excitement and made me pretty impressed with their power. Tom Stone and Jake Sharpe do some questioning of their own, but thankfully not as threatening – they’re trying to get some answers, unaware of the conversations going on between the other significant people linked to their investigation. There was already so much depth to the story, layers of mystery, uncertainty and surprises that combined to make things so compelling. The beginning of the story was great and really sets us up well for what’s to come, and I was particularly looking forward to hearing more about Delgado.
It soon becomes clear to the reader that Stones and Sharpe need to watch their step as there are eyes everywhere… and not the eyes you want on you on a case like this one! I liked how we know exactly what’s going on behind the scenes of a drug cartel, as well as with the good guys who are trying to get to the bottom of it all and bring the right people down. The balance was really well done and written in a brilliant way where I didn’t feel as though I’d lost track of things. With Delgado off the radar, the detectives must find him, as well as find out where the submarine and coke came from. It’s clear they still have a long way to go, but equally as clear that the journey ahead won’t be an easy ride for them. The book easily and consistently pulls a reader in and keeps them involved in every part of the story.
Each main character in the story seems to have a deep personal story of their own, and we’re let into all their secrets and learn interesting information about them significant to this case. Sharp and Stone also experience danger for the first time in their investigation; they find themselves face to face with a couple of the Ojos Negros crew, and these guys did not seem happy to be interrupted. The scenes here are so action packed and written in such a way that built up the suspense and made me read faster than I had yet! The detectives were slowly closing in on these dangerous people, which potentially made them even more dangerous. Narrowly escaping death this time round, it was time to knuckle down and work quickly. Now there’d been one near miss, there was certainly going to be a second time. I could feel it!
“Streaks of fire flew from the muzzle of one gun after another until the chaos was still. The tension of death hung heavy and the police crouched silent and waiting.”
The way we visit a range of characters in turn throughout the book worked well, and we get to see the detectives’ investigation and the cartel’s plans in real time. Delgado waits for the perfect moment to strike, keeping quiet and doing the the jobs he’s been given to spare himself death. This character continued to intrigue me and I appreciated just how clever he was underneath his fear – I just hoped his plan for justice worked. His conversations with the detectives seemed to give away a lot of his secret work for the cartel, and I was worried that his openness would cost him his life at some point. Would they ever find out what he’d told them? Would he ever return home to his wife and daughter? The fast pace of the chapters at this point worked in the book’s favour and it quickly turned into an addictive few moments!
Things start to heat up even more, and after a police incident at the salvage yard resulting in numerous deaths of Ojos Negros crew members, Delgado seemed to get a new sense of confidence about him. He still planned for justice and to put his own plan of attack in motion which was as nerve-racking as it was exciting! Meanwhile, Tom Stone continues his search for Delgado; he needed to find this man before there was another innocent person killed. Time seemed to be running out as another shipment of drugs began its journey, and I really enjoyed where the book was heading at this point. We can sense that there will be more blood shed coming soon and I found myself making my own predictions for what would happen next. I really hoped Delgado would manage to flee from the grasp of the drug lords and live a free life again. I couldn’t wait to see how the book ended!
It seemed as though the further we got to the end of the book, the more the authors’ words seemed to grab me, and the tension was built up very well here. We flit from one character to the next as each one gets closer and closer to their goal, each of these goals so much different to the others which I particularly enjoyed. There was one certain scene which seemed to really get things moving here, where a submarine is intercepted – we think another battle is upon us, but the sub is free from drugs, proving that these drug smugglers are much cleverer than we think. The action-packed scenes were definitely my favourite and are approached with such immense attention to detail that I just couldn’t fault them! Saying this, description has been impressive all the way through the book and is definitely enough to really hook readers.
After narrowly escaping death yet again, Delgado sneakily boards a plane with a cocaine shipment and flees – but I had the feeling he wasn’t out of the woods just yet. The book begins to take a very different turn to what we expect, and the people who are actually in danger were turning out to be the characters we didn’t expect at all! I felt like there’d soon be a huge twist of events that I never saw coming, and it’d be interesting to see if any of my predictions were correct here. The authors have clearly gone for the show-stopping ending approach and I couldn’t wait to experience it. What I loved even more was just how layered up the story became as we hear from the detectives once again. It seemed a whole host of characters would be travelling to the same spot – could we be in for a big showdown?! My excitement only got more profound here and I could tell this would make for some phenomenal reading.
“The pain of his misadventure would always remain. That was unavoidable.”
Tense conversations, the epic fighting scenes and the “will he, won’t he” feeling about Delgado’s plans for justice made the ending of this book one that will certainly stick with you. The authors managed to capture each character in their best (or worst) light and create a situation that fills us with dread and eagerness in equal measure, desperate to know the outcome for each of them. The detectives also deeply impressed me and I loved how they quickly acted to bring the right people down, which rounded off that huge final scene in the most perfect way. If you love an action-packed scene, this is one you just have to experience yourself. It’s everything I wanted and more after everything I’d read so far in the book, and it automatically made me want to read the other books in the series! The authors had certainly rounded everything up well here.
Despite all this, there was one character that the detectives still needed to trace – DeVito. When they do, he seems to comply with the detective’s orders and goes down without a fight. Had we heard the last from him? The authors round up the story well and even get our minds racing once again in the Epilogue. I wondered where the next book in the series would take us! The whole plot certainly keeps you guessing from beginning to end, the tone was consistent, even with two different authors, and this book is one I’d recommend for anyone looking for an exciting read filled with suspense and danger. I’m looking forward to checking out the rest of the Tom Stone Detective series to see these characters again!
This book pleasantly surprised me – I expected it to take me a while to really sink into the story, when in fact, it took me no time at all. The authors of this book quite clearly get one another, and have created a story so seamless, so involving, that it was quite hard to put down at times! A brilliant, suspenseful read with the right amount of danger and excitement to keep you reading late into the night. I can’t wait to read more from these authors!
A huge thank you to the authors, Don Simkovich and Lon Casler Bixby, and Emma at Damp Pebbles for my copy of the book and my place on the blog tour! You can purchase your own copy of Subterfuge on Amazon now, available on Kindle and in paperback. Make sure you’re following Don and Lon over on Twitter for more updates!