Review

Lust, Money and Murder: Book 1
By Mike Wells

Finished in one sitting!

Lust, Money, & Murder is a thriller series written by Mike Wells, an author and blogger. I was sent this through Twitter and immediately decided to review it. I was promised ‘unputdownable’, and I got through it in one sitting. Before I get to the review, you can find more information on Mike’s blog. 

Lust is the first book in this series, and it reads somewhat like an origin story for the protagonist, Elaine Brogan. She was struck by a tragedy when her father was arrested for counterfeiting and ultimately committed suicide. Elaine is heartbroken and determined to get justice. She embarks on a mission to work for the Secret Service Anti-Counterfeiting Division. Single-minded in her task, she soon finds herself in the thick of it. When stationed in Bulgaria, she grows close to her SAIC, Nick LaGrange, and develops a name for herself in her field. 

The main story is slow and only picks up when Elaine becomes a teenager and joins a modelling agency. Before this, we learn a great deal about Elaine’s upbringing, but it has little bearing on the plot. The inciting incident only occurs in later chapters, which left me feeling like the novel should have started there. 

During this part of the story, we gain insight into her motivation, but the justice Elaine seeks seems to be removed from the plot, and I felt the detail it received was unneeded. This makes the story feel bitty and slow at times. Each part of the story is interesting and gripping; the impact on the story’s pacing is noticeable. I noticed this when Elaine was stationed in Montana. This had little bearing on the main plot, other than to remove the main point of conflict we had up to this point, leaving me confused. 

Once Elaine was stationed in Bulgaria, many of the issues I had before disappeared. The plot is clear, gripping, and there is an increased amount of character interaction, particularly between Elaine and Nick. While I had issues with the start of the story, by this time, I felt like I knew Elaine through and through. We get to see her determination through her training, but how she holds on to her femininity, something that is highlighted by her instructor, Luna, as a weakness. I found that because of this, I was rooting for her success, be that with the boss she holds affection for, but also with the progression of a particular case. I inwardly cheered at her growing reputation within the division.    

I found the undercurrent of suspicion in Bulgaria intriguing. A good example of this was the near-perfect counterfeit notes and the idea that a group might have a KBA Giori printing press to create the perfect counterfeit. The ending brings the suspicions into full view, and I loved how this came out. It created a dynamic, dramatic ending to part one and left me eager to read book two. 

I recommend this book to anyone who likes a character-driven story. As it’s thrilling and cerebral, and I think anyone who enjoys thrillers or crime fiction would find this story very enjoyable. 

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