Cover Image: Playing With Death

Playing With Death

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Member Reviews

Okay, I will admit. Have never read anything by Simon Scarrow before. So I did not know what to expect.  Bloody hell, what a dark serial killer thrilling read.  It was really a very very good read, had me gripped from the beginning to the end.  The technical part of the book was interesting and really, this was a great read.  It will not be the last book by Simon I will read!
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Playing With Death starts out as a time-honoured, cat and mouse style thriller, featuring a police special agent and the prolific serial killer who escaped her trap and now feels it’s personal.
On the whole, I found the book adequately written, but never particularly inspiring or inventive. All descriptions seemed quite pedestrian and would have benefited from the occasional imaginative simile. 
Towards the latter stages of the book, the technology-run-wild sub-plot comes very much to 
 Playing With Death was certainly readable, but I never found it that exciting or inspiring and honestly cannot award anything better than three stars.
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Playing with death, by Simon Scarrow, Lee Francis. 

This is a crime thriller based upon a quite interesting premise around computer games, the dark web and the potential for AI to overtake human beings. However, although parts of it were really well written,  overall I found it lacklustre and flimsy. Not a good read.
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I approach every Scarrow book with caution, Not because of the quality but because I’ve been fortunate enough to know both brothers for quite a few years and have really enjoyed their books. Simon’s books were among my introductory books into Historical Fiction and as such they have to have a special place in my reading and has helped define the reader i am now. So every new book has the potential as a voracious reader of the genre to find a fault, to pick holes and its never something i feel totally comfortable with. Fortunately Simon rarely offers me the opportunity.

So when something new comes along, Simon Scarrow doing Crime Fiction, i have to think, Hmmmm? ok! lets give it a go. Also a collaboration, and something adapted from a TV series idea…. this could have car crash all over it, and how do i review that?

Starting the book i have to say i was concerned, the writing didn’t have the feel of Simon’s usual work, the writing felt a little clunky and simplistic. But i think as much as anything that was the building of the concept, how to explain it to the reader, and so it came over as talking to the reader, and me projecting my concern onto the concept a little, also reading in bite sized morsels where this book needs to be read in large chunks to really absorb the concept.

In Playing with Death,  Simon and Lee tackle some really interesting concepts around modern society, social media and gaming.  Simon surprises and uses a female as his central figure (not something you would expect from the writer of Macro and Cato, but integral to this plot) and it works very well, if a little male in thinking occasionally, which can fit with the male orientated profession. But the concept of the books criminal and the “Skin” soon takes flight in the book, mixed with the backdrop of the chase for a deadly serial killer with a personal dislike for the lead FBI agent Rose Blake and the misdirection for the crimes happening. The chase gets more and more twisted, the concept of the tech and mix of social media more and more real and uncomfortable building to a thrilling conclusion. Wrapped around this is the family life of Agent Rose Blake, a family that gets drawn into the mix as inextricably as we all do to the world of the internet, caught up in the social media world and all its pit falls.

Simon and Lee shine an uncomfortable family light on our personal dependence on Social media and gadgets, that urge, desire to pull out your smart phone to check facebook, to check your email. The drug that is the internet has changed the world and we need to remember to turn it off, to disconnect and be part of a more realistic world, because the fake news, fake world and impossible world of photo shopped celebs and everything of its ilk on the internet all impact and shape our children and ourselves. Its that message that makes this book stand out, makes it a book that i really recommend and helps make this a very good crime thriller.


Other work from Simon Scarrow

Eagles of the Empire
1. Under the Eagle (2000)
2. The Eagle’s Conquest (2001)
3. When the Eagle Hunts (2002)
4. The Eagle and the Wolves (2003)
5. The Eagle’s Prey (2004)
6. The Eagle’s Prophecy (2005)
7. The Eagle in the Sand (2006)
aka The Zealot
8. Centurion (2007)
9. The Gladiator (2009)
10. The Legion (2010)
11. Praetorian (2011)
12. The Blood Crows (2013)
13. Brothers in Blood (2014)
14. Britannia (2015)
15. Invictus (2016)
16. Day of the Caesars (2017)
Eagles of the Empire Series Book 1-5 (omnibus) (2017)

Wellington and Napoleon
1. Young Bloods (2006)
2. The Generals (2007)
3. Fire and Sword (2007)
4. The Fields of Death (2010)
The Wellington and Napoleon Quartet (omnibus) (2015)

1. Fight for Freedom (2011)
2. Street Fighter (2012)
3. Son of Spartacus (2013)
4. Vengeance (2014)

Roman Arena (with T J Andrews)
1. Barbarian (2012)
2. Challenger (2012)
3. First Sword (2013)
4. Revenge (2013)
5. Champion (2013)
Arena (omnibus) (2013)

Invader (with T J Andrews)
1. Death Beach (2014)
2. Blood Enemy (2014)
3. Dark Blade (2014)
4. Imperial Agent (2015)
5. Sacrifice (2015)

The Sword and the Scimitar (2012)
Hearts of Stone (2015)
Invader (2016) (with T J Andrews)
Playing With Death (2017) (with Lee Francis)

Red Christmas (2014)
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Sorry but I just couldn't get into this book at all, and I'm a serial killer thriller fan! The writing felt disjointed and the characters wooden. I felt very little connection whasoever with Rose.

Much prefer his historical fiction.
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Thank you Netgalley and the Publisher.  this was a fast paced thriller of the highest quality, centering round Rose an FBI agent and the hunt for a serial killer.
The pace of the story is relentless, its one of those you don't want to put down once started, a thriller for the modern technological age.
Would highly recommend
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A new direction for Simon Scarrow with a dark tale of serial killing laced with an intriguing vision of AI.  Based around the hunt for a serial killer the tale involves an F.B.I agent,her family and sundry colleagues who all mesh in an entertaining yarn with a dark frightening vision of the future (?). Cleverly paced as one would expect from this author and co-writer this is well recommended!
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Ill split this review into 2 parts; the good and the bad. Starting with the good.

Its a very quick read. Hard to put down and gripping enough that you keep ploughing on. The chapters are nice and short which propel the story on at a pace, and there's a decent cast of characters, both good and evil that add to the book, and leaves me looking forward to their development in further books. 

The story itself is interest, focusing on cyber crime and the impact of developing AI in human society. We also have killings and murders that help set a dark tone. All in all a good story, and if written by a debut author, i would be full of more praise.

HOWEVER, this isn't written by a debut author, and if the front cover had not told me, I would never have believed this was written by Simon Scarrow. He's one of my favourite authors, and his Roman novels rank among the very best. His prose normally flows so flawlessly, and his novels always hit home on more than one level. This book was written completely differently. I don't know if its the hindrance of having a co-author, but I really hope the next book in the series sees more of Simon's natural writing style show through.
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This is an edgy, pacy, futuristic and oh so very polished cyber thriller. At its centre is the author's idea of what life could be like beyond "Second Life" (virtual world for the sad and lonely geeks!) The skin suit:  a totally immersive online experience from software giants Wadesoft....."where the person wearing the suit can be made to feel the physical sensations of whatever software simulation the program is running...." Once the user enhances his body by wearing the skin he can enter the Streamplex where all his needs and wants can be realized in a virtual environment.
FBI agent Rose Blake has failed in her mission to capture and incarcerate  Shane Koenig, a killer who performs the most heinous deaths on this victims before uploading the video to his KKillKam site which is viewed by those who troll the shadowy side of the internet...the darknet. She has no time to dwell on past mistakes and must now use all her energy to investigate a suspected arson. However when a body is discovered Rose will commence a journey that will see her become engrossed in a world of online fantasy and video games, a world without rules or regulation and a world where she will encounter unexpected help in the form of project DIVA (an intelligence that can think for itself and make decisions) amidst "an orgy of virtual massacre and destruction."
Having not read Simon Scarrow's historical novels ( a mistake I plan to rectify) I was intrigued by his latest offering an almost futuristic crime thriller which goes beyond the virtual world giving a glimpse of what might be possible and how those possibilities create a frightening but not unreasonable scenario. I felt a  certain warmth towards agent Blake her love for her son Robbie and her worry about husband Jeff who held lustful thoughts for the lovely Pandora and when not reciprocated purchases his own skin suit, enters Streamplex there hoping to realize his dark inner self. This novel is filled with intelligent, perceptive thought and analysis, a compassionate hero and a deadly foe who will stop at nothing to damage and destroy. Will Shane Koenig by finally stopped? Will Rose successfully navigate the virtual world of Streamplex? Will Jeff be saved from his overworked labido? All will become clear in an exciting and very fulfilling conclusion that leaves open the possibility of further novels in the series. Thanks to netgalley for this gratis copy in exchange for an honest review and that is what I have written.
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