MURDER RUN by John Hunt

November 22, 2020

From the publisher:

Kyle didn’t like being told what to do. When his brother demanded that he get himself home right now, no stopping, no passing GO and no collecting two-hundred dollars, the order didn’t sit well with him. So, he stopped at a bar in an unknown town. He met a girl. They drank, left, did drugs together, and when he awoke in the morning, her decapitated head lay in his lap. As he pieces together what happened the night before, a police cruiser rolls in behind him. From that moment, the chase is on. What Kyle doesn’t know is that he isn’t the only killer in town.


John Hunt’s forte is telling horror stories. The current one is certainly right smack dab in the genre. The book opens as Kyle is driving home after serving a sentence in prison for second-degree murder. He is an individual whose background is dark and a personality that is unable to control impulses to lash out violently when angered.

He lives with his brother who takes care of him since their parents are both deceased. His brother had told him in no uncertain terms to drive straight home without stopping for anything. Kyle, though decides that it has been a long time since he has had a beer and stops at a bar. While drinking he picks up a woman and they go out to his car for a bit of sexual activity. In the activity Kyle passes out and when he awakens he sees the woman next to him but with her head away from the rest of the body.

The only thing Kyle can think of is to flee the scene and try to make it back to his brother. And therein begins a story which incorporates a lot of killing including a female police officer and friends of the woman whose head he chopped off. It also utilizes the services of a genuine monster who contributes to the number of bodies stacking up. Many of the murders are described in a lurid highly descriptive manner which might bring on a feeling of repulsiveness on the part of the reader. These killings and the manner some are handled are certainly a part of the miasma hanging over the story.

Horror stories are certainly a part of the literary experience and have been so for many years. For example, the books by Edgar Allan Poe are enjoyed today with some of these incorporating horror. Hunt does them well and I can’t see not reading them along with books with other themes to make for a more complete reading experience.

11/2020 Paul Lane

MURDER RUN by John Hunt. Independently published (September 7, 2020). ISBN: 979-8666485477. 299 pages.

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NO OFFENSE by Meg Cabot

November 21, 2020

NO OFFENSE by Meg Cabot. William Morrow Paperbacks (August 11, 2020). ISBN 978-0062890078. 352 pages.

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PAYBACK by Lorenzo Carcaterra

November 20, 2020

Tank Rizzo, Book 2

From the publisher:

Payback is personal for a former NYPD detective taking on a corrupt cop and a dirty accounting firm in this adrenaline-laced thriller from the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Sleepers and Tin Badges.

If there’s one kind of person Tank Rizzo hates most in this world, it’s a dirty cop. Criminals are at least honest about being dishonest; dirty cops are a disgrace to the badge they carry. Detective Eddie Kenwood is one such disgrace. He’s got the highest signed-confession rate in the NYPD and a distinguished career built on putting men behind bars—whether they’re guilty or not doesn’t matter much to him. When Tank’s partner, Pearl, tells him about an old family friend Kenwood put in jail for a murder he didn’t commit, Tank and Pearl vow to take Kenwood down.

Also in need of a takedown: the money-laundering accounting firm where Tank’s brother used to work—before he mysteriously died, leaving Tank the sole guardian of his nephew, Chris. Chris smells a rat, and enlists Tank’s help to bring the men who had his father killed to justice.

Working two big cases means getting out the big guns, and Tank assembles his A-team. With help from a retired mobster, a professional boxer, a Chelsea psychic, a dog named Gus, and the U.S. Attorney—not to mention his and Pearl’s own quick wits and Chris’s burgeoning skills as a computer whiz—Tank gears up to take on his most dangerous and personal cases to date.


Payback is the second novel featuring Tank Rizzo and his friends taking down evildoers in their own inimitable style; not always the absolutely correct way but seeing justice done. Tank was a detective with the New York city police department but was injured in his last take down. His partner at the time, Pearl lost the use of his legs in the same shootout. The two remain good friends and are sometimes involved with a case given to them by their ex chief at the police department. These are situations in which the use of regular department personnel  may not be feasible for one reason or another.     

Tank’s brother and his sister-in-law were killed in an automobile accident.  Their son Chris was taken in by Tank and they are learning to live with each other in spite of his parents and uncle being on the outs for years. The opening of the novel finds that Chris has developed into a very talented computer guru. He has investigated the accounting firm that his father was working for when he died in the accident and found that there were several irregularities that were never thoroughly investigated. He brings his concerns to Tank who decides to investigate the circumstances surrounding his brother’s death. This is a situation that was made more difficult due to the two men not speaking for many years based on an incident in their past.     

Pearl, in the meanwhile, has been approached on behalf of an old family friend jailed unfairly by a crooked New York City detective. The man has spent years imprisoned due to a confession he was forced to make by Eddie Kenwood, the detective in question. Pearl and Tank decide to look into that case as well as going after the accounting firm that Tank’s brother worked for.     

The investigations are aided by various groups not necessarily on the side of the law.  For example, the father of Tank’s girlfriend who just happens to be a mob boss, a crew of knife-wielding thieves, the attorney general (how did they get into that group), a retired boxer, and a cute little dog that Chris has been gifted with.  It has been some time that a hard-boiled detective has appeared in fiction but Tank and his allies make for excellent subjects and create an engrossing novel.  There is no doubt that Lorenzo Carcaterra has started a series that will be continued in the future and enjoyed by his readers.

11/2020 Paul Lane

PAYBACK by Lorenzo Carcaterra. Ballantine Books (August 25, 2020). ISBN: 978-0399177590. 304 pages.

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WHO WANTS TO MARRY A DUKE by Sabrina Jeffries

November 19, 2020

WHO WANTS TO MARRY A DUKE by Sabrina Jeffries. Zebra (August 25, 2020). ISBN 978-1420148572. 352 pages.

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THE MOTHER CODE by Carole Stivers

November 18, 2020

From the publisher:

What it means to be human—and a mother—is put to the test in Carole Stivers’s debut novel set in a world that is more chilling and precarious than ever.

The year is 2049. When a deadly non-viral agent intended for biowarfare spreads out of control, scientists must scramble to ensure the survival of the human race. They turn to their last resort, a plan to place genetically engineered children inside the cocoons of large-scale robots—to be incubated, birthed, and raised by machines. But there is yet one hope of preserving the human order: an intelligence programmed into these machines that renders each unique in its own right—the Mother Code.

Kai is born in America’s desert Southwest, his only companion his robotic Mother, Rho-Z. Equipped with the knowledge and motivations of a human mother, Rho-Z raises Kai and teaches him how to survive. But as children like Kai come of age, their Mothers transform too—in ways that were never predicted. And when government survivors decide that the Mothers must be destroyed, Kai is faced with a choice. Will he break the bond he shares with Rho-Z? Or will he fight to save the only parent he has ever known?

Set in a future that could be our own, The Mother Code explores what truly makes us human—and the tenuous nature of the boundaries between us and the machines we create.


Carole Stivers takes on a topic which almost by definition is beyond any attempts to diagnosis it. It is what is motherhood? What does it signify to those becoming mothers and how they perceive their offspring? How do the children look upon the figure of their mother aside from the normal views of the protector, guide, and the epitome of love?     

The story takes place in the near future as a conflict between nations decimates the populations of the countries. The United States tries an experiment by building a group of robots meant for the care and raising of human children. It is hoped that this will allow replenishment of the species. Using advanced techniques the robots are inculcated with an instinct and desire to care for and nurture embryos of human children entrusted to their care. Each robot has a space within them where the child can be protected and guided and used as a living quarters.     

The robots are followed secretly and watched as their charges grow and develop. They are guided into taking the children into a situation where they can pick up food and water deposited for them and at the age of 6 years brought together as a means of socializing them. Several of the children are followed as are some of the adults that were involved in setting up the experiment.     

It is obviously the author’s opinions that guide the direction of the novel, but she does develop a scenario that makes for a fascinating read, and the question of whether or not an artificial replacement for the human trait of motherhood could ever replace the real thing. A different type of story from any others, and one that is a definite five-star all-nighter and one that poses questions beyond any others I have come across.

11/2020 Paul Lane

THE MOTHER CODE by Carole Stivers. Berkley (August 25, 2020). ISBN: 978-1984806925. 352 pages.

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IF THE BOOT FITS by Rebekah Weatherspoon

November 17, 2020

IF THE BOOT FITS by Rebekah Weatherspoon. Dafina (October 27, 2020). ISBN 978-1496725417. 288 pages.

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BEAUTY TEMPTS THE BEAST by Lorraine Heath

November 16, 2020

BEAUTY TEMPTS THE BEAST by Lorraine Heath. Avon (September 29, 2020). ISBN 978-0062951922. 384 pages.

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MIDNIGHT TRAIN TO PRAGUE by Carol Windley

November 15, 2020

From the publisher:

The acclaimed author of Home Schooling returns with Midnight Train to Prague, a timeless tale of friendship, romance, betrayal, and survival that spans the turbulent decades of the twentieth century, through two world wars and between countries and continents.

In 1927, as Natalia Faber travels from Berlin to Prague with her mother, their train is delayed in Saxon Switzerland. In the brief time the train is idle, Natalia learns the truth about her father―who she believed died during her infancy―and meets a remarkable woman named Dr. Magdalena Schaeffer, whose family will become a significant part of her future. Shaken by these events, Natalia arrives at a spa on the shore of Lake Hevíz in Hungary. Here, she meets Count Miklós Andorján, a journalist and adventurer. The following year, they will marry.

Years later, Germany has invaded Russia. When Miklós fails to return from the eastern front, Natalia goes to Prague to wait for him. With a pack of tarot cards, she sets up shop as a fortune teller, and she meets Anna Schaeffer, the daughter of the woman she met decades earlier on that stalled train. The Nazis accuse Natalia of spying, and she is sent to a concentration camp. Though they are separated, her friendship with Anna grows as they fight to survive and to be reunited with their families.


Carol Windley’s novel is a book about feelings and emotions and reactions to the greatest horror that has touched our planet during its long history.

The opening has two of the principal characters meeting by chance on a train going from Berlin to Prague in 1927.  Natalia Faber is traveling with her mother and while the train is stopped in Switzerland meets Dr. Magdalena Schaeffer, a woman whose family will play an important part in Natalia’s life. Later, in Hungary, she meets Count Miklos Andorjan who is a journalist who is not averse to high adventure in going after a story. During the next year Natalia and Miklos marry.     

Years later with the Second World War underway, Miklos travels to Russia to report on the German invasion. When he fails to return Natalia travels to Prague where the couple has decided to meet in the event of Miklos’ apparent disappearance. There, she encounters the depravity of the Nazi occupation and loses her innocence in experiencing the killings, the arrests, the persecution of Jews. Natalia is arrested in the last months of the war accused of spying and sent to a concentration camp. 

The descriptions of the inmates and what happens to them in the camp is handled in an emotion-charged sequence. The camp is liberated by the British and the captives brought to centers for both medical treatments and attempts to reunite them with family.  Natalia, hoping to reunite with her husband, takes a job working for Americans staffing one of the placement centers.     

Displaced persons are sent out to receptive people in many countries and descriptions of these are also handled well by the author who does make it a point to indicate that the U.S., England, and other countries turn away the refugees in spite of having adequate room to accept them. It is impossible to read the book without experiencing an emotional attachment with the people described. Needless to say, the novel is an all-night read with a sigh of relief at the ending. Kudos to the author for her work in bringing us this story.

11/2020 Paul Lane

MIDNIGHT TRAIN TO PRAGUE by Carol Windley. Atlantic Monthly Press (November 3, 2020). ISBN: 978-0802119735. 352 pages.

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THE ROOMMATE by Rosie Danan

November 14, 2020

THE ROOMMATE by Rosie Danan. Berkley (September 15, 2020). ISBN 978-0593101605. 336 pages.

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GOOD & EVIL by Giacometti & Ravenne

November 13, 2020

The war is far from over

From the publisher:

OUT NOW: the second volume in the bestselling, exhilarating WWII treasure-hunt thriller series for fans of Dan Brown

November 1941. Germany is about to win the war. Only one thing still separates the Nazis from a certain victory: they must find the three remaining all-powerful swastikas and reunite them with a fourth that is safely hidden away in Himmler’s mountain stronghold.

Churchill has no choice but to mobilize his best man, double agent Tristan Marcas, and employ the most risky techniques to beat them to it. It all comes to a showdown at a ball in Venice


This is volume 2 of a planned 3 book series dealing with the possibility that Adolf Hitler, along with some of his high echelon officers, were firm believers in certain symbols that had the power to influence major events. They were purported to plan both military and political actions based on what they perceived were the influences of symbols. The novels concern four Swastikas that are sought by both the Nazis and the British with the belief that the balance of the war being fought by them would be affected by the possession of these symbols. The first book ends with each side having one of the Swastikas and both after the other two.

The authors are writing the novels so that they all have to be read in order and it is certainly the case that a fair amount of what is occurring in book two has a grounding in the first book. If the reader has read the first book the events and sequencing will be logical. If not, the story and its treatment by the authors make it very worthwhile to try and do so.

The novel opens in late 1941 with the probability that Germany will win the war. Hitler feels he must find the remaining Swastikas and unite them with the one currently being held in a vault in Himmler’s mountain stronghold. Winston Churchill knows that he must prevent this and mobilizes his best man: Tristan Marcas to organize a counter search keeping the remaining Swastikas out of the hands of the Nazis. The point-counterpoint of both sides is a completely mesmerizing study of constant action with Tristan’s group in constant danger of being caught and executed.

Ian Fleming, later author of the James Bond series of novels, is depicted as taking part in the story as head of the British group seeking contact with and aiding Marcas’ search. A neat touch by the authors is to suggest that Fleming was influenced by this action to create his character as well as coming up with the designation 007 for Bond.

The authors set up a background scenario revolving around Hitler, his boyhood, his service in the trenches of World War One, and methods of seeking and obtaining power over a Germany fed up with being blamed for starting WWI, and in the midst of a crippling depression. Undoubtedly based on solid research, it is an interesting sideline to the book and perhaps to arrive at an understanding of why a minority of Germany’s population were able to take over the country and allow itself to be steered into a world war.

11/2020 Paul Lane

GOOD & EVIL by Giacometti & Ravenne. Hodder (February 23, 2021). ISBN: 978-1529359428. 384 pages.

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