Short Story Sunday returns with The Stoner Stories – a collection of five short stories and a quick standalone thriller. The book description will give a brief overview of the book and then under the synopsis of each short story, I’ll very briefly outline my thoughts, concluding this review with my overall thoughts on this book as a whole.
An action-packed anthology featuring covert operative JJ Stoner, who uses sharp blades, blunt instruments and his innate persuasiveness to discreetly resolve tricky situations for the British government This collection contains the first five Stoner short stories plus an all-new, previously unpublished stand-alone quick thriller and other bonus material.
Please note that the Stoner stories are intended for an adult audience and contain explicit scenes of a sexual and/or violent nature.
This anthology introduces characters from the JJ Stoner/Killing Sisters series in six stand-alone stories. You don’t need to have read the full length novels: you can start right here if you like.
FIRST CONTRACT: JJ Stoner was a soldier who killed people for a living and made no bones about it. On a scorching day in the Iraqi desert, when British blood stained the sand, he over-stepped the mark. Faced with a dishonourable discharge and accusations of murder, Stoner accepted an offer from a stranger who represented an intelligence agency. Stoner finds himself about to execute his first private contract…
My Thoughts: Beginning with Stoner’s dishonourable discharge, I thought this story started off a bit slow. As events moved to Stoner’s first private contract, my enjoyment level rose considerably – it was fun and action-packed! JJ is cool, calm and collected and I really enjoyed reading his interactions with people – cool and calm at all times, even though he appears emotionless, you can tell, under the surface, he’s a caring guy. This was evident in his interactions with Bernadette who assists him with the operation. I concluded, I am a fan of JJ and excited for the next story.
TWO WRONGS starts with great sex and ends in sudden death. US Navy SEAL Stretch McCann believes he’s met the girl of his dreams. Trouble is, she’s married to someone else; another military man not inclined to suffer rivals lightly. Enter JJ Stoner who offers Stretch an opportunity for action…
My Thoughts: After growing fond of JJ in book one, I was a bit disappointed to see he wasn’t the main protagonist in this one as the story centred more on McCann. I wasn’t a fan of the start of this book, while the sex wasn’t x-rated, I could have done without it, although it laid the foundation for the introduction of McCann, who it turned out I liked, although not as much as JJ, ergo I preferred First Contact to this one.
THIRD PERSON: A target is being stalked through rain-soaked city streets. Someone seeks JJ Stoner, covert investigator and occasional contract killer. Caution is advised: with Stoner you often get more than you bargain for and this is Ireland, not so very long after the Good Friday agreement. Someone plans to put a cat among the peace process pigeons…
My Thoughts: This one was a really short story but an enjoyable one. I liked that Bernadette returned and it featured my favourite line from the entire book:
“There are shadows in the shadows with my own shadow.”
FOUR CORNERED: Stoner needs to prove to his boss that he’s more than a one-trick pony whose only skill is delivering an abrupt ending. But when a static stake-out abruptly escalates into live fire, JJ is distracted by two killer women. A ‘routine conversation’ with a disenchanted weapons inspector veers into violence with fatal consequences…
My Thoughts: This was the most complex and emotional of the stories. Complex because JJ is effectively working two operations at once and emotional because Bernadette is featured – I’ll say no more than that….
FIFTH COLUMNIST: A bent copper is compromising national security and needs to be rapidly neutralised, but none of the evidence will stand up in court. That’s exactly why men like Stoner operate in the shadows, ready to terminate the target once an identity is confirmed…
My Thoughts: Okay, so I thought stories 1 and 4 were my favourite until I read this one! It was the only story that featured a real twist that I didn’t see coming!
SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP: When Stoner returns to the USA he’s treading on sensitive territory. No Englishman is exactly welcome in Louisiana so soon after the international oil rig disaster. Stoner claims he’s visiting New Orleans for the annual jazzfest, but the agents sent to intercept him have a hard time believing this…
My Thoughts: This tied with story 5 for my favourite as again it featured a twist I didn’t see coming!
I thoroughly enjoyed these stories and JJ is a great protagonist. I loved his stoic nature coupled with his humour. I also like that the majority of the characters in these stories have the same nature and humour as JJ – mainly because his associates are all [ex] army, navy, SEAL, or some way military inclined (JJ doesn’t have friends!) The Stoner Stories is the perfect read for fans of action adventure thrillers; they feature a lot of violence but it’s not that ‘hard-to-read’ kind of violence. Each story had a clear beginning, middle and end and over the course of the book, you really grow fond of JJ. I’m delighted to see Westworth has written full length novels featuring JJ and I look forward to reading them. This is one of the most fun and enjoyable collections of short stories I’ve read and I highly recommend them.