Review of ‘CXVI: The Beginning of the End’

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An assumed natural death, accidents, and an apparent suicide; the victims seemingly not related, and widely separated geographically, begin to take on ominous undertones when Detective Superintendent Greg Woods, aided by a newly assigned Detective Sergeant Maria Barnes team up and notice an odd similarity—in each case, Roman numerals are found on or near the victims. One of the accident victims is a police colleague, with no apparent connection at first to any of the other victims. Through exemplary detective work, though, Woods and Barnes discover that the victims are, in fact, related, and the mysterious killer has connections to Britain’s SIS.

CXVI: The Beginning of the End by Angie Smith is a chilling crime thriller that takes the reader deep into the labyrinth of spying and government corruption, threatening their lives in the process. At the same time, Woods has to deal with his own personality quirks, which make it difficult for him to work with people who don’t meet his exacting standards, and Barnes must overcome her own baggage, including a secret from her past that could threaten the growing rapport between her and her boss, Woods.

A fast-paced and gripping thriller in the quintessential British style, the author paints sometimes overly detailed—but, in the end, necessary, pictures of the characters as the reader is sucked into the murky world of politics, secret intelligence, and human perfidy. In a few places, more background detail than is absolutely necessary is provided, thereby slowing the pace of a story that is compelling in the view it gives of the lengths some people will go to in the name of national security.

You will, however, be drawn to the characters, in particular the two main protagonists, as they use skill, determination, and sometimes, sheer luck, to elude the powerful forces that are set out to block—or kill—them, while at the same time, relentlessly trying to fulfill their oath to uphold the law.

There are enough clues given that a sharp-eyed reader, if paying careful attention, will see where it’s going. Or, think they have. The ending, a perfect cliffhanger, will leave you gasping—I promise you, you won’t have seen it coming. It’ll leave you wanting to read the second book in this trilogy, and that’s an iron-clad guarantee.

I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for my review, and, even though it has a few issues of description and narrative not uncommon in first novels, I give it four stars without a heartbeat of hesitation.

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