Mastermind (Theo Cray and Jessica Blackwood #1) by Andrew Mayne

My Five Word TL:DR Review: Ridiculously over the top fun


This isn’t my first Andrew Mayne book and certainly won’t be my last.  I loved his Naturalist series and Professor Theo Cray has to be one of my favourite fictional characters.  With this new start the author brings together two of his favourite characters with the crazy professor teaming up with Jessica Blackwood (Angel Killer being the first book in which she makes an appearance.  A book I definitely want to read).  On top of this crazy combo he also brings into the story an evil mastermind that he has previously written about known as the Warlock.  Let the shenanigans begin.

To be honest I hardly know where to begin with this one.  It is a fun ride for sure and is completely over the top madness.  As the story sets out, well, how can I put this, New York City seems to disappear!  Surprise!!  Yes, I was surprised, fear not, it hasn’t literally disappeared, even though it seems to be little more than a dark hole,  NY has been plunged into darkness with no electricity, no services, no nothing.  FBI Special Agent Blackwood is called to the scene and immediately has her own thoughts on whats taking place here – although she seems to be at odds with those in charge.  Queue a risky rescue and getaway and Professor Cray is brought into the fray and not a moment too soon as the nightmarish attacks seem to be spreading to other cities.

These two are a force to be reckoned with for sure.  With Theo’s remarkable thought processes and Jessica’s street smarts the two make a scarily unpredictable yet effective team and this is just as well as they certainly get into a lot of trouble.

I don’t really want to give the plot away so won’t elaborate.  What I can say is this feels like the start of a very entertaining partnership.  I think there’s an element of trust here, both on the part of Jessica, who has to go with Theo’s outlandish lateral thinking, and on the part of the reader, who may be used to one or other of these characters but not used to the two together.  However, as ever with one of Mayne’s books I practically inhaled this story.  The pacing is just off the scale, there is a constant barrage of fascinating places and scenarios and I literally couldn’t put the book down.

Criticisms.  Well, one of the feelings I had relates not so much to this book as the slightly lacking feeling of completion with the Naturalist series.  Admittedly the author does a great job of rounding up where the professor went next and what he got up to but I still have a slightly bewildering feeling of incompleteness somehow.  The other slight issue is a feeling of rushing to bring both these characters into a relationship together.  I actually didn’t feel it at all.  Maybe it was too quick.  And I can completely understand the desire of the author to go down that route, in fact I think it’s a good plan, it just felt rushed.  The chemistry wasn’t strong enough and it feels like it should have been teased out a little more.

That being said I can’t deny that I am strangely addicted to Mayne’s body of work.  With his imagination I wouldn’t want to get on his wrong side.  This author seems to make everything possible and the way he explores the impossible is just a little jaw dropping.  

I would say for new readers, you don’t have to have read the previous books to enjoy this one. Personally, however, I think it might help to have a feel for both characters before delving into this one – just to gradually get a feel for things.  But, that’s a personal choice as I intend to go back and read the Blackwood series. 

As it is, if you want an over the top, slightly crazy, intelligent, madcap adventure involving two characters that make a rather formidable team as they tackle the slightly OTT Bond style villain and his plans to take over the world – then here you go.

Slight reservations aside I can’t wait for the next book.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the author, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

Rating 4*


Wondrous Words and Can’t Wait Wednesday : Mastermind: A Theo Cray and Jessica Blackwood Thriller

Every Wednesday I take part in Can’t Wait Wednesday, I’m also hoping to take part in a new meme being hosted by Elza Reads called Wondrous Words Wednesday.  I’ll be combining these into the same posts as they’re both short and sweet.

Can't Wait Wednesday

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme that was originally created by Breaking the Spine.  Unfortunately Breaking the Spine are no longer hosting so I’m now linking my posts up to Wishful Endings Can’t Wait Wednesday. Don’t forget to stop over, link up and check out what books everyone else is waiting for.  If you want to take part, basically, every Wednesday, we highlight a book that we’re really looking forward to.  This week my book is : A Theo Cray and Jessica Blackwood Thriller

MastermindA mysterious electrical storm plunges Manhattan into darkness. As a strange, smothering fog rolls in, all communication crashes. In the blink of an eye, the island seems to vanish into a void.

FBI special agent Jessica Blackwood and brilliant scientist Dr. Theo Cray know this isn’t a freak accident. It’s a sinister sleight of hand. Their greatest adversary, a serial killer and cultist known as the Warlock, has escaped during a prison transfer in New York. A depraved master of manipulation, he promised the end of days. He’s making good on it.

One by one, cities across the globe are erupting in chaos as they disappear into the same black holes. Even for two ingenious trackers like Jessica and Theo, there’s still so much to learn about the pattern to the Warlock’s madness. The voids are just a warm-up for something bigger. To discover it—to stop it—Jessica and Theo must descend into the darkest of shadows—and minds.

Expected Publication September 2021


This meme was first created by Kathy over at Bermuda Onion Blog and has now been adopted by Elza Reads.

Wondrous Words Wednesday is a weekly meme where you can share new words that you’ve encountered, or spotlight words you love.

No rules just enjoy and for further info check out Elza Reads.

My word this week is :


My word this week is literally the title of my most recent read which is a thriller with a horror vibe that takes place during a terrible storm high on the mountains in a luxury hotel, that used to be a sanatorium.

A sanatorium (also spelled sanitarium or sanitorium) is a medical facility for long-term illness, most typically associated with the treatment of tuberculosis (TB) in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century before the discovery of antibiotics.

To be honest, the word ‘sanatorium’ has always given me an ominous vibe and in my brain I always connected the word with early asylums (which were very unpleasant places by all accounts).  I did a little reading about this and it does appear that some sanitorium were converted to asylums following the introduction of antibiotics for TB – prior to that, it was believed that clean air and a good diet were the best treatment – hence sanatoriums were usually set in remote places where the air was less likely to be polluted.

This got me to thinking about another word:


Now, to me- bedlam is a word that means absolute chaos but in fact it is actually a word that comes from the name of a notorious asylum in London. Definition:

an asylum for the mentally ill
1 : a place, scene, or state of uproar and confusion There was bedlam in the streets after the verdict was announced. 2 or Bedlam : an asylum for the mentally ill. 3 obsolete : madman, lunatic.

If you want to know more check out this history site :

Anyway, this is the book that inspired the thought process:


December Countdown, Day 26 : Boxing Day

December book meme (details here).  Boxing Day – feeling bloated, a palate cleanser :

The Girl Beneath

The Girl Beneath the Sea by Andrew Mayne (Underwater Investigation Unit #1)

The Girl BeneathMy Five Word TL:DR Review : Gripping, tense, unique, thrilling ride

Okay, I already know that I like this author.  I mean I’m loving the Naturalist series, it’s literally like a blast of fresh air, and so to be honest wanting to read The Girl Beneath the Sea was something of a no-brainer for me and one that worked out really well because, again, Mayne seems to have pulled another rabbit out of the hat (or fish out of the water) with this unique murder mystery.

The Girl Beneath the Sea really hits the ground running.  We immediately meet Sloan McPherson who is on a dive, this isn’t exactly business, nor is it pleasure.  For her day job Sloan is a diver for Lauderdale Shores PD, Florida, however, she’s also a student and is out trying to uncover something interesting for one of her tutors.  Of course, this is an off schedule dive and so when she recovers a dead body things become a little tricky. The thing is, Sloan’s family have something of a history. Her uncle is serving time and her father is something of a pirate (or a treasure hunter as he prefers) so, of course Sloan’s reputation is sometimes called into repute and this murder victim, who it turns out she knows, doesn’t make her tarnished rep look any better.

In some respects this holds traits of The Naturalist.  Sloan is something of a wild card, she doesn’t exactly play by the rules and once she has a notion she pretty much acts on it which leads to some crazy, and scary, situations.  However, it differs in that Sloan is not as much of a loner, she has an ex partner and a daughter and is in regular contact with her father.  It also has a lot of tension, the story line ratchets the tension up at an impressive rate, there’s never a dull moment and this is further heightened by the short snappy chapters and gripping plotting.

The difference with The Girl Beneath the Sea is the style.  Sloan feels like she has a team or support network and although she can be a bit reckless she loves her job and doesn’t antagonise people in quite the way that Theo from the Naturalist does.  This also has more of a police procedural style story although, this is with Mayne’s own very special kind of twist that does involve a little natural suspension of disbelief.

The setting is great. Based out of Florida there are natural dangers to diving – alligators and snakes to name but a few.  Not to mention other divers who work for the drug cartels!  There are canals and underwater tunnels, scenes out at sea where deep sea diving brings it’s very own set of problems and plenty of time spent aboard boats of one description or another.

The other characters.  Well, there are others on the periphery, such as Sloan’s ex and her daughter but the other main character is a guy called Solar.  He’s not popular with Sloan’s family, as you may imagine after you discover his evidence put Sloan’s uncle away for years for drug smuggling, but there’s more to him than initially meets the eye, and I liked him and thought the two worked well together.  There’s certainly plenty of potential for further instalments with their newly established UIU – that’s right, a new agency to add to the list of secret units (the Underwater Investigation Unit).

In terms of criticisms.  I can’t really think of anything to be honest,  Like I said above, Mayne has a very over the top style of writing that skirts on the edges of disbelief so if that doesn’t appeal to you be aware.

One thing that I’m beginning to think when picking up anything that Andrew Mayne writes is to expect the unexpected and I hope for more from Sloan in the not so distant future.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above opinion is my own.

Mr rating 4 out of 5 stars

Dark Pattern (The Naturalist #4) by Andrew Mayne

DarkPatternI am loving the Naturalist series by Andrew Mayne, this is a series that has hooked me from the get go and every subsequent book has simply left me in awe of the things this author will come up with.  I adore these books – that much is fact – and Dark Pattern, well, as the name partly suggests is the darkest of the instalments yet.

All of these books are about serial killers and the material is, to put it bluntly, creepy, scary, and sometimes almost too lifelike – that’s not to say, for clarity, that any of the books are particularly gory or uncomfortable reads – more that they feel like events that could happen and this book has that reality factor in spades. The story once again sees Theo trying to hunt down a serial killer,  a killer nurse in fact.  I have to say that this storyline gave me the real chills.  The idea of a murderer, killing victims as they lie in need of care, is scary in the extreme.  It’s the combination of vulnerability and the stark reality that this isn’t unheard of in real life.

Now, to be absolutely clear, this is a series that you should start from book 1.  Theo is a complicated character and I think if you try to jump into this series without the benefit of reading from the beginning you will probably not understand him, at best, and quite likely dislike him, at worst.  Context is key in my opinion.  On top of this – this series is positively addictive and all the books, well, I’m convinced they read themselves they’re so fast paced and difficult to put down.  Don’t deny yourself the earlier books, trust me on this, they’re not only downright gripping but they’re necessary if you want to understand Theo and his character arc.

Also, if you haven’t started the series but are thinking of doing so then it’s possible that this review will contain spoilers although hopefully not.

I’m not going to over elaborate on the plot as I don’t want to give anything away.  As the story starts Theo is at an all time low.  Events from the last book are preying on his mind and he’s desperately worried that he’s exposed himself to a dangerous pathogen that could literally change his brain and possibly turn him into a killer.  It’s not a happy situation and Theo is having very disturbing thoughts about his options.  Reluctantly he agrees to follow up a lead about a suspicious death in a hospital and early enquiries start to point him in the direction of a particular nurse that people seem to suspect of wrongdoing.  all I will say is that things escalate and a huge cat and mouse style chase ensues with Theo becoming more desperate to catch the killer whilst many of the people in authority, particularly at the hospitals, are reluctant to even consider that a killer is on the loose.

So, if you’ve read the other books then you’ll be able to see a certain pattern with this one.  Theo doesn’t easily make friends or influence people.  He quite frequently comes across as arrogant and his people skills are lacking in the extreme.  I don’t think he means to be rude, he’s incredibly intelligent, able to make huge leaps and bounds with his theories and is usually so intent on his search that he leaves others in his wake.  He comes across as a little maniacal at times and is so focused on his end goal that he doesn’t have the time or patience to keep people on board or on side and to be honest this doesn’t usually endear people to him.  Like I said above, you really do need to read from the start.  Personally, I think Theo is a fascinating character to read about.

The story here is again compulsive reading.  I really didn’t see the direction we were going to go in and I loved that Theo almost seems to step back to his earlier methods in this story, using his computer models to predict behaviour patterns and come up with leads.  It really is a fast paced and gripping read and I couldn’t put it down.

However, I did have a couple of criticisms that didn’t spoil the read for me at all but did leave me with slightly mixed feelings.  The first thing is fairly minor but this story seemed to me to lack a little bit of Theo’s brilliance, or at least his powers of deduction.  Of looking at a scene from A to B and jumping forward to Z and skipping all the letters in between.  I just felt I was missing those special insights a little.  The ending however was the real issue I had here and I can’t quite make my mind up what’s going on.  On the one hand, the ending felt incredibly rushed.  Theo seemed to be spiralling and things got pretty bad pretty quick – there’s also a twist.  The thing is, these things were so abrupt that they took me at first in one direction, then stopped me in my tracks and kind of proved me wrong but then the final chapters were so quick that not only did they make my head spin but I felt like I had to go back and read them again.  Seriously, if I hadn’t known better I could have almost thought I’d unwittingly skimmed those last pages and missed something as a result!  Okay, having thought about it over the past few days I’m hoping this is some sort of tactic on the part of the author, although at the same time I have this awful niggling doubt that maybe Theo is going to go one step too far (well, okay, he probably already went one step too far but maybe next time he’ll go so far beyond the line that the line will be a dim and distant memory).

Enough speculation.

Overall, this is a gripping and powerful read and a great instalment.  This series is my catnip, I can’t get enough of it and I eagerly await the next instalment.  I have my fingers crossed for Theo and for everyone else because with his brain I dread to think what would happen if he turned to the dark side.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publishers, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

My rating 4 out of 5 stars

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