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Ash Island (Belltree) by Barry Maitland
Cover Artist: Nicram Sabod / Shutterstock
Review by Joseph B. Hoyos
Minotaur Books Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9781250113207
Date: 01 November 2016 List Price $25.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /

Harry Belltree, an Australian Detective, has been exiled to Newcastle after the harrowing events at Crucifixion Creek. Living in Newcastle takes him closer to the mountainous road, Thunderbolt's Way, and the car crash in which his parents were killed and his wife, Jenny, blinded. Harry investigates the discovery of several mutilated corpses buried at nearby Ash Island. Soon he is delving deeper into a conspiracy involving drug shipments. He also uncovers more information about his parents' murder. Eventually, he is framed for killing a suspect and must go on the lam, fighting to prove his innocence while trying to save the lives of his pregnant wife and his friend Kelly Pool--a persistent crime reporter from Sydney.

Barry Maitland is still taking a much deserved break from writing his excellent Brock and Kolla series. Ash Island is his second entry in the breathtaking Belltree Trilogy. It is as equally tense, violent and gory as the debut, Crucifixion Creek. It is an action thriller loaded with police and medical procedures and human drama.

Also by Barry Maitland
Harry Belltree Novels:
* Crucifixion Creek
* Ash Island
Brock and Kolla Mysteries:
* Spider Trap
* All My Enemies
* Dark Mirror
* Chelsea Mansions
* The Raven's Eye

The characterization is excellent. Kudos to Jenny Belltree for not allowing her blindness to overcome and bind her in a state of utter helplessness. (Jenny has recently acquired a lovable guide dog, Felicia.) Using special equipment, she can perform a great deal of computer research for law offices and for her husband. She becomes an invaluable tool in his quest for justice. Jenny also endeavors to cook complicated meals that even I wouldn't attempt. I had to laugh, however, when she mistakenly used a patty of dog food for ground beef.

Another one of my favorite characters is the mentally damaged crime reporter, Kelly Pool, who was tormented and abused at Crucifixion Creek. At the novel's beginning, she is suicidal. She travels to Ash Island to investigate the corpses and to find peace and closure to the horrible experiences she endured. While in Newcastle, she discovers Donna Fenning, the woman who betrayed her at Crucifixion Creek. Her real name is Karen Schaeffer and Kelly begins to trail her, which proves to be a dangerous mistake.

On the flip side of the coin, my most hated character is the depraved beast known as Logan McGilvray. Covered with tattoos from head to foot, he loves to beat his wife and dress as his alter ego, Loretta Smith. What I find most detestable is him forcing his wife to have her eyeballs tattooed green, giving her a creepy appearance.

The terrain around Newcastle is as complicated as the novel's plot. It ranges from marshes to oceans and from flatlands to vast mountain ranges. Troops of kangaroos roam the grasslands and alpacas are being raised on farms. Harry learns that his father, Judge Danny Belltree, died because of land he was trying to protect. Harry becomes entangled with environmentalists, land developers, and drug smugglers that are all part of a very complex conspiracy stretching from Australia to the vacation island of Vanuatu. Harry has risked everything (his career, his wife, and his life) to bring those responsible for his parents' murder to justice. I was barely breathing while reading the last fifty pages of Ash Island. It ends with a killing spree and lots of bloodshed. Harry's heart is once again torn apart.

I must inform readers that Ash Island is definitely not a standalone novel. It builds upon the first novel. The novels in the Belltree Trilogy should be read in sequence. Too many characters and events from Crucifixion Creek are mentioned in Ash Island. Ash Island contains a lot of plot spoilers if one hasn't read the series' debut. With that said, I strongly recommend Ash Island for all fans of crime drama, especially those with exotic locales and bizarre characters. Harry Belltree, his wife, Jenny, and Kelly Pool are all characters that I've grown to truly admire. I felt extremely tense and stressed whenever one of them was in danger.

Barry Maitland has a writing style that is sharp, focused, and lean. He doesn't bog down the reader with excessive details. I read Ash Island in only a few days; it was difficult to put down. I am anxiously looking forward to the publication of Slaughter Park--the next installment in the Belltree Trilogy.

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