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*