Scorched Earth by Kathleen McFall & Clark Hays REVIEW + GIVEAWAY

Scorched Earth by Kathleen McFall & Clark Hays

Publisher: Pumpjack Press

Series: The Halo Trilogy, Book 2

Pages: 318

Date of Publication: February 14th, 2021

Categories: Science Fiction/ Hard Boiled Detective

The year is 2188 and the Earth—long-ago abandoned for Mars by the plutocrats—is scorched by poverty, disease, and environmental collapse. What these wealthy elite don't know is that on his last trip upuniverse, Detective Crucial Larsen stumbled onto a secret that could destroy them. But he doesn’t intend to use it.

Fighting back against the ruling Five Families of Mars is a fool’s game destined for failure—or worse, he thinks. Plus, he never wants to set foot on that damn planet again. Then Melinda, his long-lost love and a staff scientist on Mars, begs for his help clearing her fiancée of a murder charge. Crucial jumps on the next q-rocket, hoping maybe this time he can patch things up with Mel. His investigation ultimately leads back to the radiation-blasted sunbelt, where cannibal lizard-people—a climate change mitigation genetic experiment gone terribly wrong—hold the key to a different future, if only Crucial can stay alive long enough to unlock it.

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To start things off I have a special guest review done by my husband. Out of his five books he reads per year he noticed the Scorched Earth on my nightstand and grabbed it to add to his own. This is the quickest I've ever seen him read a book so without further ado, enjoy my husband's review:

Scorched Earth was a fantastic read that takes us into a dystopian future where humankind is ruled by the Five Families thanks to Halo (an advanced AI) that is capable of watching everyone and everything. The story follows Crucial, a seasoned labor cop living on Earth whose last run in with the Five Families wasn’t the most pleasant of experiences. Now, he is once again forced to interact with them when his long-lost love, Melinda, begs him to return to Mars to help clear her fiancée from the most serious of murder charges, the murder of a member of the Five Families. But as he gets deeper into his investigations, Crucial begins to remember that nothing is quite as it seems when dealing with the rulers of Earth & Mars.

Kathleen McFall & Clark Hays do a wonderful job weaving a story that spans from the desolate remains of Earth, long abandoned by the wealthy, to the utopia of Mars, the playground for the Five Families. The plot has you on the edge of your seat from start to finish, giving you just enough to know what’s going on, while leaving you desperate to find out what’s going to happen next. The length of the chapters was also a pleasant find as it helped set the pace of the book. The explanation of how Halo worked had me reminiscing of one of my favorites, George Orwell’s 1984 and how "Big Brother", or in this case the Five Families, were always watching. All in all, a great read that someone new to the series like myself, since I have yet to read Gates of Mars (though I intend to do so very soon), can jump into without feeling completely lost. I got a good sense of who the main players were with enough snippets from their past scattered in the story to get me up to speed. I would recommend Scorched Earth to anyone who is a fan of detective novels with a science-fiction vibe and after finishing, I am eagerly anticipating the completion and release of the third novel.


Scorched Earth indeed was a quick read. Short chapters are my preference and this book delivered. Longer books have me setting aside time to maybe read a chapter a night, but with a book like this, having each chapter be only a couple pages long, I can get lost in how many I've read each night. I finished half this book in one evening because that quick rush of accomplishment upon finishing a chapter built a momentum that constantly keep me thinking "just one more chapter".

Not only the character development, but the whole world development in Scorched Earth was thrilling. I was impressed with the creativity it must have taken to create an entire world, civilization, and way of life and for it to somehow feel natural and known. I was pulled into this world and fell in love with it's detail and visual elements. I love when books are able to almost create a character with how much the setting was well thought out.

I'm not usually a science-fiction reader, but I picked up this book with its' description of murder and lies. It was such a fun, fast-paced plot that I would read more sci-fi if I knew they were anything like this. This is a great introduction to sci-fi for those like myself because I didn't get confused it a multitude of languages, species, and civilizations trying to remember who is at war with who. Scorched Earth was very easy for a noob sci-fi reader, like myself, to enjoy.

The witty dialogue and sarcasm-blind character made my day. Characters like Spock (Star Trek) and Drax the Destroyer (Guardians of the Galaxy) always end up my favorite characters, providing a plethora of excellent banter and fun, awkward moments. Scorched Earth had its' own character who quickly became my favorite and I don't think I'll be forgetting Sanders anytime soon. I found myself smiling several times and the fact that my husband and I both read this, it was fun to joke with him about some of the phrases and characters that we adored.

Thank you Lonestar Literary Life for sending me a free, review copy of this book to review and now have a shared set of inside jokes with my hubs.


Clark and Kathleen wrote their first book together in 1999 as a test for marriage. They passed. Scorched Earth is their ninth co-authored book.

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ONE WINNER gets autographed copies of all three books

in the Halo Trilogy. (Book 3, forthcoming).

(US only, ends midnight, CDT, 3/22/2021)

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