"This well-written thriller’s complex plotting and characterization make for a fine read."– Kirkus Reviews
A gangster seeks vengeance on Matthias Callaghan in the grand finale of Ekemar’s (The Callaghan Tetralogy, 2018, etc.) psychological-thriller series.
After wriggling out of a murder rap and exposing the Russian mob in the United Kingdom, Callaghan heads back to Australia, where he feels safe building a new home for his family. However, his vengeful machinations, which involved taking on multiple identities over the course of the series, have had consequences that won’t allow him to rest quite yet. Back in England, former mob boss Vasily Ivanovich is on the lam due to Callaghan’s revelations to the Metropolitan Police. He’s dead-set on revenge and in need of a new identity of his own, so he blackmails Callaghan’s plastic surgeon, Dr. Sternmacher, into giving him a new face. Sternmacher manages to complete the procedure while also creating a way for Callaghan to find Ivanovich. Then the Russian stages a kidnapping to force his quarry out into the open. Ekemar’s solid character construction renders even the wildest plot twists wholly plausible. In addition to the main narrative, there are various side plots and personalities that add spice or complications as well as a number of inept crooks that lend the narrative some comic relief. It all leads up to a final confrontation between Callaghan and Ivanovich that’s exciting, poignant, and up-close and personal. Ekemar explores themes of identity as skillfully as a maestro, sounding notes of existential angst and potboiler-y excitement throughout. This final episode also nicely ties up the series’ loose ends in a satisfying climax.
A thrilling ending to a multilayered seven-book saga that’s sure to be a hit with fans.
Ekemar (The Callaghan Tetralogy, 2018, etc.) revisits the adventurous exploits of Matthias Callaghan in this exhilarating opening to a new trilogy.
Callaghan’s odyssey began when he was mutilated by Russian mobsters, received a face transplant at a Swiss clinic, and then set out to wreak revenge. Along the way, he switched faces again to assume his father’s identity and continued to juggle the myriad aspects of his convoluted life. Now, his Jekyll-and-Hyde existence seemingly behind him, Callaghan has a new family, a new house, and a new life in Australia. Ekemar spends the lion’s share of this installment laying out the protagonist’s situation while establishing the various characters and what roles they’ll play in the cliffhanger ending. He effectively assembles a complex web of mobsters, reporters, cops (clean and dirty, local and international), smugglers, and people who’ve been wronged by one or more of Callaghan’s ever shifting personae. The action bounces around to encompass Russian gangster machinations in the United Kingdom, a smuggling operation by plane and camel caravan in Morocco and Mauritania, other members of the Russian mob tailing a dirty cop as he lives it up in France, a crucial arrest at an Italian airport, and a blissfully ignorant Callaghan awaiting his third child. In between, Ekemar skillfully and unobtrusively recaps pertinent details of Callaghan’s unique history via dialogue, introspection, speculation, and exposition. Readers will find it useful to read Ekemar’s last four Callaghan books before approaching this one. However, it will surely please established fans.
A fast-paced, page-turning continuation of a singular and thought-provoking series.
Left for dead in the Sahara Desert beside two corpses, Matthias Callaghan—with no money, ID, or meds—finagles his way to his doctor in Switzerland and then to London.
In this sixth installment of his series, Ekemar (The Callaghan Tetralogy, 2018, etc.) continues to breathe excitement into his face-changing, vengeance-filled, Jekyll and Hyde premise. As soon as the unflappable Callaghan reaches London, where he is wanted for jumping bail on a murder charge, he starts juggling the pieces of his fragmented life in his classic, inimitable style. His intricate personal history includes mutilation by Russian gangsters and two face transplants. Now the machinations of the FBI, the Russian mob, and a crooked cop add complications, which Callaghan is not yet aware of. He just happens to still have the keys to his old flat, which is currently owned by head Russian mobster Vasily Ivanovich. Callaghan breaks in, finds photographs of his own supposedly dead body in the desert, and snaps pictures of stolen artwork. By turning it all over to the police, he essentially cripples the mob and buys himself a measure of credibility with the authorities, not to mention incurring the psychopathic wrath of Ivanovich, who is now set on revenge at any cost. This is one of the few negatives of Ekemar’s series. Not only do some major plot twists (like the flat and the keys) turn on coincidences, but there are also less important but no less extreme flukes such as the oddly entwined histories of Callaghan’s wife and ex-wife. Such flaws, however, are easily overlooked amid all the solid prose, action, plot turns, and conniving among the fully developed protagonists and antagonists alike. Callaghan haggles for an early hearing in his murder case using a picture of the mysterious Ivanovich as a bargaining chip. As in previous installments, the author nicely sets up his readers for the next episode with a grand finale, leaving various threads hanging.
This tale’s well-drawn characters move like clockwork through a series of wild, suspenseful plot twists in a danse macabre of greed, murder, and revenge.
Ekemar (The Complete Callaghan Tetralogy, 2015, etc.) presents a murder mystery set in a vineyard in the French countryside.
Patrice LaFarge is the cantankerous owner of the Clos Saint-Jacques estate and vineyard, a property of considerable commercial value. After a bitter dispute with his brother over inheritance-related issues, Patrice resolves to keep his holdings fully intact and prevent future development by others. However, he worries that his wishes won’t be respected by three of his children, who are all emotionally estranged from him. Henri is the most irresolute of the bunch and in constant need of financial support. Constance, who lives in Paris and works as a music hall artist, also squanders her money and regularly looks to Patrice for assistance. Michel, the eldest child, is a financially savvy businessman, but Patrice frets that he’ll sell his share of the land as soon as a good deal presents itself. Patrice consults with his lawyer and creates a fidei-commissum, a kind of trust in which the bank supervises the property and prevents its sale or development; it also funnels the income to the three siblings as well as Gaspard, a child from one of Patrice’s affairs, who runs the property. Patrice presents this plan to his progeny as a work in progress, and he locks the not-yet-notarized version in his room, using a key that he asked Gaspard to make. When the whole family meets to discuss the plan, they’re predictably enraged, and shortly after Patrice dies in a fire while locked in his own room. Inspector Jean-Claude Rimbaud is called in to investigate what increasingly looks like a homicide. Veteran author Ekemar puts the plot at a slow simmer, trickling out pertinent information while also maintaining suspense. There’s no shortage of motives among the characters; the lives of the siblings are full of personal disarray of one kind or another, making them each prime candidates for committing the crime. That said, these same characters could be more fully developed; Ekemar has a tendency to overexplain their quirks, rather than letting them reveal themselves through action and dialogue. Still, this book remains an intelligently fashioned mystery, giving its readers just enough information to be enthralled, but not so much that they become bored by predictability.
An artfully rendered tale of homicide and family intrigue.
In the third book of Ekemar’s (Where the Bones of a Buried Rat Lie, 2014, etc.) planned tetralogy, Matthias Callaghan finds that loose threads in his web of lies threaten to unravel his subterfuge.
Unlike the previous book, which largely established the setting for future installments, this latest volume is jam-packed with action. In it, Callaghan’s intricate strategies begin to come apart. At the outset, he believes that the murder he orchestrated of former mob lawyer Charles Rathbone has brought an end to his troubles: “I was a man free of a past that had haunted me.” But discrepancies in death certificates, the past crimes of his father (whose identity he still sometimes assumes), and the doggedness of Detective Herbert Barker are slowly pointing authorities toward the real Callaghan. Meanwhile, the various criminals that he’s been conning are also getting close to cracking his schemes. The pressure forces him to pay off his father’s debts and flee London with his new girlfriend, Samantha. Ultimately, though, he starts making mistakes; he makes a big one after a hired assassin named Thumps tails him to Arizona, and soon, he must make a run for Mexico. As usual, Ekemar expertly balances his myriad schemes and characters. In the first two installments, as Callaghan took on new identities, the author expertly painted his subtle personality changes as he gained confidence and lost his humanity. Here, Ekemar is equally deft at tracing Callaghan’s shifting manner as his fortunes begin to turn. The author also demonstrates his prowess with timing, plot development, and creating tension. Overall, this penultimate volume is an electrifying thrill ride that sends its disparate characters rushing toward their various destinies. The author tops it all off by leaving readers teetering on a cliffhanger.
Once again, Ekemar’s well-drawn, realistic characters and wild, suspenseful plot render this an absolute must-read for series fans.
Death comes in many guises and registers—tragic, comic, ironic—in these mordantly entertaining stories.
Ekemar (At the Heart of the Ivory Maze, 2015) crafts vivid, matter-of-fact yarns about characters confronting, evading, risking, and sometimes welcoming death. A blithe rich man’s fatal attraction to bullfighting unravels his secret lives; a Tibetan monk attempts a do-or-die escape from a Chinese prison; a Swedish businessman told that he has a year to live embarks on a plot to ensure that if death is inevitable at least taxes won’t be; a German officer makes himself the very picture of a competent bureaucrat and loving family man while also running a death camp; a henpecked husband fakes his own death to escape the improvement regimen of his shrewish wife; a lucky lottery ticket brings joy and then grief to a Malaysian farmer; a shipwreck survivor sees his only chance for life in a boat full of corpses; an aging Russian duchess is courted by a mysterious, handsome figure in black; a condemned man waiting for his lethal injection to kick in looks back on his adventures with the vengeful femme fatale who caused his predicament; and in the collection’s most disturbing tale, a Guatemalan youth viciously abused by society vents his rage on an even more innocent victim. Ekemar’s tales are vigorously plotted genre pieces, full of engrossing procedurals on prison breaks, bank fraud, mass extermination, and improvised shark fishing, along with colorful characters caught in improbable circumstances and deadpan wit; the stories have the feel of Ambrose Bierce’s macabre fables capped by O. Henry–esque endings. But they also manage to invest sometimes-lurid scenarios with psychological depth and social nuance, whether set in a placid Swiss suburb or a fetid jungle narcotics depot. Despite their lugubrious theme, these are lively stories told with considerable style and verve.
A collection of engrossing dances with death that highlights the vanity and poignancy of life.
Ekemar (El Reino Del Terror, 2015, etc.) provides 13 riveting short stories of suspense and intrigue.
A commute to work in overcrowded Mexico City turns out to be a journey of many twists and turns. A Chinese and a Russian general decide who will win a battle by having a contest that includes Russian roulette and a chess game using prisoners of war as live pieces. A man who has the power to have anything he wants discovers the deeper meaning and implications of having wishes come true. A con artist who thinks he hit the jackpot winds up in prison, but that’s just the beginning of a tale of one-upmanship. These are just some of the plots, places, and characters in these stories, which can all be aptly be described as page-turners. Ekemar enhances his engrossing plots with a finely honed gift for description and metaphor, whether he’s presenting his characters or the vast array of worldwide locations and historical settings they inhabit. In “Mad Captain Boccaccio and the Ship in the Desert,” for instance, the desert fire and the man beside it are palpable: “The boulders cast long shadows across the space that separated them, thumb-nosed by the dancing flames that interrupted the serenity of the place. The man wore a cape….It covered him completely from head to feet, and barely allowed one to imagine the bearded features of a weathered face well past fifty.” Occasionally, some details or historical settings seem more like mere stylistic devices, rather than elements that smoothly advance the story. In “Gift of a Golden Wish,” for example, the narrator’s innumerable wishes go on for pages and distract from the storyline. Fair warning to readers who may be sensitive to eerie images: a few stories may not be best before bedtime.
A book of provocative, gripping tales, replete with elaborative imagery, despite occasional hiccups.
After Russian mobsters sever his fingers and slash his face, Matthias Callaghan is rushed to a clinic in Switzerland, where doctors equip him with prosthetic hands and a face transplant. He then uses the anonymity of his new face to exact revenge on all involved, losing his humanity in the process.
In this first volume of the Callaghan tetralogy, Ekemar (Destiny Comes With Strings Attached, 2008, etc.) presents a fresh, intriguing tale. Through an intricate weaving of character, circumstance, mistaken identity and coincidence, he constructs an engaging, original storyline. Rather than a potion, it is his new persona that changes Callaghan—a face transplanted from the corpse of a man out of his wife’s past. The author deftly uses Callaghan’s dry, emotionless voice to characterize the evolution of his personality: “The planning for revenge was strangely satisfying, as was the detachment from my friends and former life.” From the beginning, Callaghan is methodical; he even says so numerous times. Also, his participation in a credit card scam early in his career suggests an ember of criminality. Nevertheless, his disciplined, systematic approach allows him to track down all the players involved in his abduction and to construct elaborate cons in order to execute retribution. “My motivation was absolute,” he says. “I wanted to see those who had destroyed my life suffer like I had.” But payback doesn’t end there. He is compelled to bring down peripheral actors such as his former partner in crime Allan, and his ne’er-do-well father, also named Matthias. Even his wife, Julia—evidently a victim of circumstance—must pay. Ekemar plays the plot beautifully, contrasting past and present chapters in well-thought-out juxtaposition. A few symbolic ideas—such as a genetic mutation placing Callaghan’s heart on the right side—spice things up as well. Good thing the next installment is already out there.
A unique, multilayered tale with some fresh twists.
In Ekemar’s (The Lost Identity Causalities, 2014, etc.) second thriller in a planned four-book series, Matthias Callaghan returns to London, where he takes on the identity of his late father.
In this latest installment, the author regales readers with multiple plots, cons, identities, and possible outcomes. His protagonist, Callaghan, is back with yet another transplanted face—this time, his dead dad’s. Ostensibly, Callaghan is dead himself, as far as anyone else knows; however, since he and his father so closely resembled each other, he finds it convenient (and sometimes necessary) to switch personas, depending on whom he’s dealing with. He soon finds that he must deal with dogged policemen, gangsters, and even the re-emergence of his ex-wife. Ekemar uses much of this second book to further develop Callaghan as a character—a Jekyll-and-Hyde figure who’s sometimes charming and other times a complete sociopath. Readers will be jolted when the affable Callaghan’s evil persona periodically emerges: “How could I get Rathbone killed without getting myself involved?” This is multilayered writing at its best, as plot tendrils reach in all directions, and at its center is Callaghan himself—a victim of mistaken identity, named after the biblical disciple who replaced Judas, who morphs into a kind of avenging angel. What’s most intriguing about him is that however despicable he becomes, readers will still empathize with him. This is due partly to Ekemar’s skillful writing and partly because Callaghan’s fall began long ago, when he was the victim of a brutal attack. It also doesn’t hurt that the people he takes down are often, though not always, more despicable than he is. Unlike in the first book, which could stand alone, only one of Callaghan’s new plotlines here comes to fruition; most of what happens is used to set up events in future installments. This novel, however, depends heavily on what came before, which makes reading the first part of the Callaghan Tetralogy a prerequisite. That said, it’s a must for those who enjoyed the previous volume.
This well-written thriller’s complex plotting and characterization make for a fine read.
In the final installment of this tetralogy, Callaghan and girlfriend Samantha are pursued through Mexico and Australia by an assortment of criminals and lawmen. Though eluding capture, they long for a normal life, so they hatch one final scheme to set things right.
Ekemar (The Quarry at the Crossroads, 2014, etc.) packs the finale of this original, complex tale with action and intrigue from stem to stern. Callaghan, thrust into a life of revenge, murder, and false identity after being mutilated by mobsters, crosses into Mexico with the Arizona police hot on his tail. While plotting his evasive maneuvers from local police, drug cartels, British and American gangsters, the FBI, Interpol, and assorted other ill-wishers, the resourceful Brit also manages to convince Samantha they are on a fun-filled, romantic holiday. As in earlier installments, Callaghan’s schemes are intricate and brilliant, as is Ekemar’s successful juggling of the sheer volume of characters, deceits, motives, and themes. Eventually, Callaghan must confess an edited version of his history to Samantha—a long recap that smacks of padding—and together they concoct a plan to redeem his identity. The series reverberates with various themes: identity, retribution, redemption. Callaghan’s situation blurs the lines between good and evil, and Ekemar expands that idea in this volume. Not only does Samantha willingly use her accounting and people skills toward Callaghan’s ends, but Yuliana, his ex, seizes the opportunity to exact her own very nasty revenge on a man who repeatedly raped her as a young girl. Exactly what constitutes justice and what humans are capable of under certain circumstances are key questions that run through the four books—gray areas that will cause some readers to celebrate the ending and others to reject it. Whatever one thinks of how things turn out, however, there is no doubt that suspense and mystery will join them to the last word.
A fitting thrill ride of a conclusion to a four-book series packed with complex characters, motives, and themes that will delight and perhaps trouble, but not disappoint, fans of this series.