THE COPPER ROAD: Beyond the Promise by Richard Buxton

February 12, 2021

Shire’s Union, Book 2

From the publisher:

Shire is far, far from home, his old life in Victorian England a fading memory. To keep a promise to his childhood love, he’s sailed an ocean and battled through war-torn America.

He’s kept his promise, but now Clara’s pushing him away.
The war won’t let him go.

Fighting for the Union and his friends, Shire must survive the brutal campaign for Atlanta and imagine a future without her.

After a violent end to a cruel marriage, Clara is free from her husband but not from his ghost. All that is left to her is Comrie, her home in the Tennessee hills. But the war relentlessly steals away its treasures and its people.

Tod, a captured Rebel, escapes in Pennsylvania. His adventures on the roads and rivers back to his regiment cast the Civil War in a new light. Does he still have the will to fight?

Three young lives become wrapped in the Rebels’ desperate need for copper. Friendships, loyalty and love will be tested beyond breaking point. Shire has new promises to keep.

The Copper Road is the second novel from award winning writer Richard Buxton. Book one of Shire’s Union, Whirligig, was shortlisted for the Rubery International Book Award.


Richard Buxton who is not a citizen of the United States nor resides there gives us an extremely well-researched novel set in the final months of the Civil war that engulfed the U.S. in the 1860s. A slight kinship is to the Stephen Crane The Red Badge of Courage which dealt with a young soldier finding the courage to go into combat. The difference in the books is that Buxton presents combat as a horror involving killing in large quantities with dead and maimed men spread out over what are just killing fields. There is nothing noble about the death depicted in his novel.   

Shire is a young man that has followed Clara, a childhood friend of his, from England to the United States in order to care for her.  Clara has married and left for America to be with her new husband, a man not exactly enamored by his prospective father-in-law and also Shire. Due to circumstances Shire finds himself a soldier fighting for the north in the Civil war raging when he arrives.  At the same time, Clara’s new husband has been killed in the war placing his widow as head of property he owns in the state of Tennessee.      

A third character, Tod, enters the picture as he is escaping from a Yankee prison of war train taking Confederate prisoners to incarceration. The novel tells the stories of the three principal characters as their lives interwind in the midst of the war.  Tod and Shire somehow meet in the midst of combat, each fighting for a different army and immediately form a liking for each other which brings them together over the near future. Clara and Tod also meet when both are passengers on a steamboat and are drawn into a sexual encounter which has bearing later on.     

Allowing for the literary license which depends on farfetched coincidences to occur at the proper times Buxton’s book is an interesting read. It is not an all-night draw due to several over-long descriptions of different situations but is a novel that is sufficiently interesting for the well-done descriptions of actual military events of the war.

2/2021 Paul Lane

THE COPPER ROAD: Beyond the Promise by Richard Buxton. Ocoee Publishing (July 23, 2020). ISBN: 978-0995769335. 442 pages.

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TWENTY by James Grippando

February 10, 2021

Jack Swyteck Novel, Book 17

From the publisher:

Jack Swyteck and his family are caught in the crossfire after a deadly school shooting claims twenty casualties—Florida’s fifth mass shooting in as many years—in this provocative and timely thriller from Harper Lee Prize–winner James Grippando that touches on some of the most contentious issues roiling America today.

It is the message every parent of a school-age child fears: “Active Shooter on Campus.” 

Jack Swyteck is at his office when he receives the emergency text from Riverside Day School. Both his daughter, Righley, and his wife, FBI agent Andie Henning, are in danger. Andie is in the school’s rec center when she hears the fire alarms, then loud popping noises and screams coming from the hallway. A trained law-enforcement officer, Andie knows she’s supposed to stay locked down inside the room. But Righley is in her kindergarten classroom and Andie must get her to safety.

The tragedy prompts mass hysteria—and dangerous speculation. The police haven’t identified the shooter, but they find a handgun on the school grounds registered to a parent, a Muslim man named Amir Khoury. News of the gun and its owner leaks and quickly goes viral. Within minutes Al Qaeda claims responsibility. Andie is shocked—Amir is married to her friend, Lilly, a WASP whose bloodline goes back to the American Revolution. 

When Xavier, Amir and Lilly’s oldest child and an eighteen-year-old senior at Riverside confesses to the crime, the local community’s anti-Muslim fervor explodes to levels unseen since 9/11. Terrified for her son’s life, Lilly asks Jack to step in. A seasoned defense attorney with a passion to see justice done, he’s taken on plenty of complicated cases. Xavier’s, however, is not one he’s inclined to take—until an old friend who lost his daughter in the shooting tells him that he must.  

With the public calling for blood and prosecutors confident their case is air tight, Jack must unearth the Khourys’ family secrets in order to expose the shocking truth and save his client from certain death. But he may not be able to save everyone—including himself.


Twenty is the 17th novel James Grippando has published featuring Jack Swyteck and his family as the centers of the story. The title of the book is a reference to the twentieth anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, events that forced the U.S. and its allies to begin a war against radical terrorism. I came away from reading this novel with the impression that Grippando, definitely a top-tier author of books, has somehow surpassed himself coming out with the gripping read to top all gripping reads.

The story begins with a mass shooting at a private school in Miami, and one that is attended by Swyteck’s daughter Righley who is a kindergartener there. Both Jack and his wife Andie find out about the shooting and rush over to the school to ascertain that their daughter is not hurt. Andie is an agent for the FBI but is not permitted to carry her gun when entering school grounds. She reacts instinctively by just standing guard at the kindergarten area holding a fire extinguisher as the only weapon she can put her hands on.

When the crisis is calmed one of the high school boys stands up and admits he did the shooting. With the deaths and wounding are tallied up the parents scream for blood calling for an immediate death sentence for the boy that confessed. While Jack is totally against representing the confessed killer, he is talked into it by one of the parents of a girl wounded in the attack. The rationale for the request is that it will probably spare all concerned from having their children forced to testify over and over again about the attack if the death penalty is sought by the prosecution. If the defendant pleads guilty in exchange for multiple life sentences it will end quickly and allow those grieving to come to grips with their anguish.

Public opinion is slanted by the fact that the father of the boy confessing to the shootings is Muslim and first opinions postulate that he radicalized his son and masterminded the murders. With the twentieth anniversary of 9/11 coming up it is not difficult to read terrorist activity into an already flammable situation which is described very well by the author. The reader will not be able to absent himself or herself from getting on the emotional rollercoaster that is set up quite well by Grippando. An all nighter? How could it not be and then some.

2/2021 Paul Lane

TWENTY by James Grippando. Harper (January 5, 2021). ISBN: 978-0062915085. 384 pages.

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THE SCORPION’S TAIL by Lincoln Child & Douglas Preston

February 7, 2021

Nora Kelly, Book 2

From the publisher:

From #1 bestselling authors Preston & Child comes a thrilling novel following archaeologist Nora Kelly and FBI Agent Corrie Swanson as they work together to solve a twisted crime that reaches far beyond any of their worst fears.Following the acclaimed debut of Old Bones, this second “happily anticipated” new thriller in Preston & Child’s series features Nora Kelly, archaeologist at the Santa Fe Archeological Institute, and rookie FBI Agent Corrie Swanson, as they team up to solve a mystery that quickly escalates into nightmare (Booklist).

A mummified corpse, over half a century old, is found in the cellar of an abandoned building in a remote New Mexico ghost town. Corrie is assigned what seems to her a throwaway case: to ID the body and determine cause of death. She brings archaeologist Nora Kelly to excavate the body and lend her expertise to the investigation, and together they uncover something unexpected and shocking: the deceased apparently died in agony, in a fetal position, skin coming off in sheets, with a rictus of horror frozen on his face.

Hidden on the corpse lies a 16th century Spanish gold cross of immense value.

When they at last identify the body — and the bizarre cause of death — Corrie and Nora open a door into a terrifying, secret world of ancient treasure and modern obsession: a world centered on arguably the most defining, frightening, and transformative moment in American history.


The team of Child and Preston have been giving their readers well-done novels for many years. The duo has the knack of formulating an interesting plot coupled with crisp writing making for a flow that captures the imagination of their readers. 

The current novel utilizes Corrie Swanson a relatively new agent of the FBI and Nora Kelly an archaeologist to tell the story of a plot originating centuries ago. The action takes place in an area near to and on the White Sands New Mexico military base. A mummified corpse is discovered buried in the cellar of an abandoned building in a New Mexico ghost town. Probably thinking that checking the body after so many years would be a relatively simple thing to do Corrie’s supervisor assigns the investigation to her thinking that it would give her some more field experience with a relatively easy finish.     

In her initial investigation, Corrie finds evidence that would require the services of someone trained in archaeology and she contacts Nora who has worked with her on a previous case. Findings arise that indicate that the roots of what has been found date back about 400 years and initiating in the country of Mexico. A sheriff enters the investigation when findings indicate that the body may have been as a result of murder. He is a young man and a bit of mutual attraction begins between Corrie and him. Possibly something for the authors to continue in future books involving Corrie.     

The book is an interesting one and does incorporate research done by the authors which peak up the interest for the reader. No problem in continuing to look for and read novels by the team. They also have written books individually giving rise to the question: do they sleep?

2/2021 Paul Lane

THE SCORPION’S TAIL by Lincoln Child & Douglas Preston. Grand Central Publishing (January 12, 2021). ISBN: 978-1538747278. 416 pages.

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THE UNWILLING by John Hart

February 2, 2021

CLICK TO PURCHASE

From the publisher:

Set in the South at the height of the Vietnam War, The Unwilling combines crime, suspense and searing glimpses into the human mind and soul in New York Times bestselling author John Hart’s singular style.

Gibby’s older brothers have already been to war. One died there. The other came back misunderstood and hard, a decorated killer now freshly released from a three-year stint in prison.

Jason won’t speak of the war or of his time behind bars, but he wants a relationship with the younger brother he hasn’t known for years. Determined to make that connection, he coaxes Gibby into a day at the lake: long hours of sunshine and whisky and older women.

But the day turns ugly when the four encounter a prison transfer bus on a stretch of empty road. Beautiful but drunk, one of the women taunts the prisoners, leading to a riot on the bus. The woman finds it funny in the moment, but is savagely murdered soon after.

Given his violent history, suspicion turns first to Jason; but when the second woman is kidnapped, the police suspect Gibby, too. Determined to prove Jason innocent, Gibby must avoid the cops and dive deep into his brother’s hidden life, a dark world of heroin, guns and outlaw motorcycle gangs.

What he discovers there is a truth more disturbing than he could have imagined: not just the identity of the killer and the reasons for Tyra’s murder, but the forces that shaped his brother in Vietnam, the reason he was framed, and why the most dangerous man alive wants him back in prison.

This is crime fiction at its most raw, an exploration of family and the past, of prison and war and the indelible marks they leave.


John Hart presents his latest novel based in the south of the United States during the Vietnam war. The wide-ranging and compelling story involves the price soldiers pay for fighting in war, family ties, an organized world of master criminals, and the coming of age of a young man.

Gabriel (Gibby’s) two older brothers have already fought in the war – one was killed in action, the other received a dishonorable discharge, and came home only to be sent to prison where he served several years. Their father is a long time police detective married to the love of his life, a lady whose background includes being an heiress. Gibby’s mother blames Jason, the brother returning from war, for the death of his brother, and refuses to see him. She has also made it clear to her husband that he is not to allow Gibby to meet with Jason as that would expose him to a bad influence.

But blood ties will out and Gibby secretly meets Jason spending a day with him and the company of two women. During the day one of the women manages to taunt a busload of convicts being transported along a public highway. These prisoners are from the institution that Jason had served his time in, and a master criminal actually running the inside of the jail arranges for the murder of the woman that did the taunting.

Jason is blamed for the murder and re-sent to the jail he had served his sentence in for safekeeping while awaiting trial. The events see Gibby deciding to prove his brother innocent of the murder and with the help of his best friend and a young lady that is becoming his girlfriend, go after the facts proving that Jason is innocent.

Hart tells the story with attention to building the characters of the principal protagonists, including that of a psychopathic killer awaiting execution at the prison. His prose flows freely and easily brings his readers into a mesmerized state while enjoying the book. A definite all-night read with another fascinating book to John Hart’s credit.

2/2021 Paul Lane

THE UNWILLING by John Hart. St. Martin’s Press (February 2, 2021). ISBN: 978-1250167729. 384 p.

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FOOL ME TWICE by Jeff Lindsay

January 22, 2021

Riley Wolfe, Book 2

From the publisher:

Pulling off an impossible crime is the only way he can stay alive.

Stealing a Faberge egg. Surviving a double cross. And pulling off the most incredible robbery ever, for the world’s most demanding—and dangerous collector.

This will be the challenge of thief extraordinaire Riley Wolfe’s life.

Fool Me Twice opens in St. Petersburg, where Riley steals the egg—no easy task. Betrayed by the pilot he hired to help him get away, he wakes chained to a rock wall on one of the Kerguelen Islands—the most remote spot on earth—prisoner of a top-dog international arms dealer, and a top-notch art collector. He wants Riley to steal an artwork. Small problem–it’s a fresco, “The Liberation of St. Peter.” Slightly larger problem–it’s in the Vatican.

And, it’s a literal wall.

Riley has no choice: agree or die. But when his captor turns him loose, he’s grabbed by another arms dealer looking to do a double cross. Worse, he gives Riley a special incentive: a surveillance photograph of Monique, the love of his life, and more important, the art forger he can’t pull off any heist without. The threat is clear. Riley knows they both have only one way out. 

With wicked dialogue, tons of explosive twists, and cinema-worthy scenes, Jeff Lindsay’s Fool Me Twice is another wildly entertaining caper starring the anti-hero you’ll root for, Riley Wolfe.


Jeff Lindsay’s second novel featuring Riley Wolfe who as fans know is a thief – not an ordinary one robbing banks or holding up armored cars but one that has long since made himself very wealthy and just lives for the thrill of doing the impossible. He is a man that seeks the challenge of an impossible score and then sits back and enjoys the adulation due him. 

This book opens with Riley in St Petersburg, Russia where our hero pulls off the theft of a priceless Faberge egg under the noses of a group of guards and protective devices. When boarding the boat that he has hired to take him out of Russia he is betrayed by the pilot and delivered to the secret island hideaway of the world’s biggest arms dealer. Held captive for several days he then hears what his captor wants from him and it is about as impossible as it gets. The man wants him to steal a fresco which is art painted on a wall.  Not only is the problem of how to transport a wall if he gets it, but the location of the painting which is in the Vatican as the clincher. Riley is told in no uncertain terms that his life would be forfeit if he doesn’t deliver.     

Buying time Riley agrees to the job and is let go by Mr. Big.  Then to compound his problems he is next seized by another arm’s dealer who wants Riley to get the Fresco and while delivering it to the first individual arrange for entrance onto Mr Big’s island fortress where number two will become number one by process of elimination. Riley has a sort of love interest although Monique, the lady in question’s prime function for him is to forge art used in his work. He is shown a picture of her as number two dealer also includes her life in the deal. We have to understand that at some point in the future Jeff Lindsay will probably set up the pair as lovers at the same time that they are working on nefarious schemes together. He, therefore, is anxious to keep the criminals away from her as well as saving his own life.     

As in Lindsay’s previous novels including those featuring Dexter, the serial killer that only kills other serial killers the action is fast, the dialogue snappy and the reader will not be able to set the book down until finished.  If the author continues with the success enjoyed by featuring loveable rogues what type of character will he showcase for his next portrayal of a bent character?  It will make for a delightful mystery while we wait for anything written by him. 

1/2021 Paul Lane

FOOL ME TWICE by Jeff Lindsay. Dutton (December 1, 2020). ISBN: 978-1524743970. 368 pages.

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ASSASSIN’S STRIKE by Ward Larson

January 14, 2021

David Slaton, Book 6

From the publisher:

USA Today bestselling author Ward Larsen’s globe-trotting, hard-hitting assassin, David Slaton, returns for another breathless adventure in Assassin’s Strike!

In a Syrian palace, the presidents of Russia and Iran undertake a clandestine meeting. No staff or advisors are permitted in the room. No records are kept. By necessity, however, there are two witnesses: the interpreters. The Russian, Ludmilla Kravchuk, returns to her hotel room burdened by what she has heard. When her Iranian counterpart is murdered before her eyes, Kravchuk fears she is next and goes into hiding in Syria.

The CIA gets word of the defection. Desperate to uncover the purpose of the meeting, they task their newest off-the-books operator―legendary assassin David Slaton―to undertake a daring rescue. Deep inside Syria’s war-torn borders, what Slaton finds is a plot that will tear the Middle East apart. And one that only he can stop.


Ward Larson has created one of the more interesting protagonists in fiction in the person of David Slaton. Slaton is an assassin, a very proficient one doing the bidding of his employers who were at first the Mosad, Israeli secret service, and currently the CIA. He was granted political asylum in the U.S. with the help of one of the top managers of the Central Intelligence Agency who suggested when doing so that they might ask certain professional favors from Slaton which he would be free to either accept or reject.

During a secret meeting between the presidents of Russia and Iran held in Syria certain information is exchanged between these men which only they and the two translators working the meeting are aware of. Ludmilla Kravchuk, the translator for Russia witnesses her Iranian counterpart killed after the meeting between the two presidents finishes. She realizes that the two translators have heard an exchange that must remain secret and makes the obvious decision that she must flee and via local contacts she had when in Syria previously gets the United States interested in getting her into the U.S. and hearing her story. Slaton’s supervisor thinks of him as the ideal individual to send into Syria to bring Ludmilla out. No problem in his accepting the job as the action is what he craves and goes after.

The story of David Slaton’s work in trying to effect Ludmilla’s escape brings to bear Ward Larson’s talent in creating bated breath action and another book by him that keeps the reader glued to the pages. In addition to bringing Ludmilla out of Syria Slaton must become involved in the situation described in the talks between the two presidents and attempt to rectify the problem. Events in the book move rapidly between Syria, Iraq, Israel, and Saudi Arabia. We can certainly look forward to more action-packed novels featuring David Slaton and the probability of all night glued to the books when they are published.

1/14/2021 Paul Lane

ASSASSIN’S STRIKE by Ward Larson.  Forge Books (August 18, 2020). ISBN: 978-0765391568. 336 pages.

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GERMANIA by Harald Gilbers

January 12, 2021

A Novel of Nazi Berlin

From the publisher:

From international bestselling author Harald Gilbers comes the heart-pounding story of Jewish detective Richard Oppenheimer as he hunts for a serial killer through war-torn Nazi Berlin in Germania.

Berlin 1944: a serial killer stalks the bombed-out capital of the Reich, preying on women and laying their mutilated bodies in front of war memorials. All of the victims are linked to the Nazi party. But according to one eyewitness account, the perpetrator is not an opponent of Hitler’s regime, but rather a loyal Nazi.

Jewish detective Richard Oppenheimer, once a successful investigator for the Berlin police, is reactivated by the Gestapo and forced onto the case. Oppenheimer is not just concerned with catching the killer and helping others survive, but also his own survival. Worst of all, solving this case is what will certainly put him in the most jeopardy. With no choice but to further his investigation, he feverishly searches for answers, and a way out of this dangerous game.


As part of the Hitler-ordered official vendetta against Jews, Gypsies, and other selected groups as part of his campaign to create scapegoats to blame for Germany’s economic woes, a council working in the city of Neurenberg passed legislation taking away German citizenship from these peoples. The laws prohibited marriage between Germans and members of the selected groups.  They could not serve in the military and were forced to leave jobs and businesses. The code passed was termed the Neurenberg laws and was the law of the land between 1935 and 1945 with Nazi expansion by war taking place to rectify the damage theoretically done by these groups.     

Harald Gilbers adroitly takes us back into the height of the effects of these laws in a very compelling novel set in the period cited. The appearance of a serial killer in Berlin in 1944 brings up a conundrum for the police working in Berlin at this point. Certain factors point to the killer being a member of the Nazi party elite. Since no disparaging information could be issued about high level party members to avoid “misleading” the people the police were stymied in their pursuit of the killer.     

A unique solution was forced on the police. They had to reactivate Richard Oppenheimer who had been a member of the Berlin detective squad. He had been forced to resign his post with the police due to the fact that he was Jewish. He still lived-in Berlin due to his marriage to a woman who was ethically acceptable since she was a purebred German. It also developed that Richard had been one of the leading detectives while active and could look for and possibly even neutralize the serial killer without having to bring up the individual’s place in the Nazi party.   

Gilbers is very adept at breathing life into the characters involved in his book. He is also extremely adept with a description of the method used by the killer in disposing of the women (all victims were females.) It is not an easy task to read about the horrors visited upon the victims by the killer. I did understand the reason for this would probably be to allow the reader a better understanding of the degenerate behavior of an individual that is mentally not human.

Germania is a unique novel in using a policy of discrimination against several groups by a leader who was undoubtedly insane running the show. It is also well written with a good plot. The book is certainly a good reason to start looking for Gilbers next book.

1/2021 Paul Lane

GERMANIA by Harald Gilbers. Thomas Dunne Books (December 1, 2020). ISBN: 978-1250246936. 352 pages.

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THE LEONARDO GULAG by Kevin Doherty

January 10, 2021

From the publisher:

A journey into the sinister heart of Stalin’s regime of terror, where paranoia reigns and no one is safe

Stalin’s Russia, 1950. Brilliant young artist Pasha Kalmenov is arrested and sent without trial to a forced-labor camp in the Arctic gulag. This is a camp like no other. Although conditions are harsh and degrading, the prisoners are not to be worked to death in a coal mine or on a construction project. Their task is to forge the drawings of Leonardo da Vinci. There is a high price to be paid for failing to reach the required standard of perfection; particularly as the camp commandant has his own secret agenda. When the executions begin, Pasha realizes that only his artistic talent can protect him. But for how long? Worse horrors are to come—if he survives them, will life still be worth living?

The Leonardo Gulag journeys to the sinister heart of Stalin’s regime of terror, where paranoia reigns and no one is safe, and in which the whims of one man determine the fate of millions. Ultimately, the novel presents a moving portrait of the indomitability of the human spirit.

Perfect for fans who love the artistry of Daniel Silva and the passion of Greg Iles


The Russian revolution in 1917 rid the Soviet Union of an oppressive monarchy but plunged it into a succession of despots with no regard for human life or human dignity. Doherty’s novel is set during the later period of Josef Stalin’s life and into the reign of Nikita Khrushchev.   

Pasha Kalmenov is a young man coming of age during this period. Due to his extreme poverty, he lives with his mother in a small apartment and attempts to eke out a living as best as he can. He has one talent which sets him apart from others of his age. His artistic ability is above and beyond that of most of his generation. Apparently, Stalin knew of this talent and had Pasha arrested on no specific charges. With no charges read nor a trial in a court of law, he is sent to the frozen tundra of the Gulag. Expecting to be sentenced to the slave labor of working in a mine he instead becomes part of a group of talented artists that are assigned to copying the drawings of Leonardo DaVinci. While the life styles of the group engaged in this work are quite a bit above the normal existence of the main body of prisoners there are harsh penalties for not meeting the standards set by those supervising his group.     

Pasha meets and befriends several people working in his group comprising both men and women. They are close and in some cases develop romances amidst the horrors they undergo on a daily basis. The death of Stalin finally generates changes in the prisoners’ lives and it is the events stemming from the shift in the regime that leads to an ending that is very well plotted and written.       

Doherty employs a writing style that is a matter of fact and a bit blasé which makes the horrors described even more horrific. The reader’s reaction will be a wonderment as to how human beings can go through the events that they undoubtedly did and still carry on. A fascinating novel and one that will certainly cause the author’s next books to be eagerly expected and bought as soon as available.

1/2021 Paul Lane

The Leonardo Gulag by Kevin Doherty. Oceanview Publishing (March 3, 2020). ISBN: 978-1608093816. 320 pages.

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HIGH STAKES by John F. Dobbyn

January 6, 2021

Knight and Devlin Thriller, Book 6

From the publisher:

History, myth, music, and murder—and Michael Knight is in the middle

An authentic Stradivarius violin turns up in Romania. A Stradivarius is rare enough, but this one is even more special. It is thought to hold the code disclosing the location of a treasure hidden in the fifteenth century. The violin is steeped in haunting mystique: it is believed to have been hidden by Vlad Dracula, whose historic tyranny led to the fabrication of the myth of vampirism. Russian, Chinese, and Romanian gangs centered in Boston want the code and all of them are hot on the trail. Violence is their language—brutality, their technique.

And who is hired to see that the treasure lands in the rightful place? None other than Michael Knight with a little help from his senior law partner Lex Devlin and his crony, Billy Coyne, Boston’s deputy district attorney.

Michael uses the thin leverage of his knowledge about the violin to keep each of the three gang leaders at bay, while he follows the chain of historic clues from a violin shop in the Carpathian Mountains to a gangster-infested nightclub in Bucharest, to a university in Istanbul, and back to the gang headquarters of the three competing criminal organizations. Secrets from the past and present collide along the perilous shuttle between Boston and Romania. In the end, what is the righteous solution?

Perfect for fans of Daniel Silva and Steve Berry

While all of the novels in the Knight and Devlin Thriller Series stand on their own and can be read in any order, the publication sequence is:

Neon Dragon
Frame-Up
Black Diamond
Deadly Diamonds
Fatal Odds
High Stakes


This is the 6th book featuring Michael Knight and Lex Devlin partners in a law firm practicing in Boston, Massachusetts. I haven’t read the previous five and based on this book that is something I’ve missed. That is due to the well-done scenario, the originality of the plot, and the care taken in fleshing out the characters in this novel. It is due to my finding that the author is undoubtedly at the top of his career and I missed what I have no doubt are mesmerizing novels and similar to “High Stakes” in being all-nighters.     

Michael Knight is offered a free trip to Romania by some friends. He can also take his wife of just a few months and treat the trip as another honeymoon. Just one favor asked by one of those offering the trip would be to pick up a Stradivarius violin held by a dealer that had been given it to sell. The violin is one of just a few hundred made by the master craftsman and his family in the late 17th century. The sound of the instrument has no equal and current rates to buy one can run well into a million or more dollars. Michael accepts the picking up of the violin as a small price to pay for a trip to a country that neither he nor his wife has ever visited.     

This particular violin was owned by King Vlad of Romania during the 15th century. Vlad was a cruel despot and had the horrible custom of impaling people that displeased him and/or were his enemies. Vlad was immortalized by the 19th-century writer Bram Stoker who created him as an undead vampire awakening at night to drink the blood of those around him.  He could only be killed by driving a stake through his heart.     

The violin owned by Vlad was thought to have a map hidden in it to get to his buried treasure. Legend had it that the treasure was immense since he took freely from his subjects as well as receiving tribute from foreign rulers as bribes not to invade them. Due to the legend of the map both the Russian mafia and Chinese tongs are out to get the violin at all costs.     

Michael’s travels and experiences in getting the violin and attempting to keep it out of the hands of the criminals are very well done. Dobbyn takes him easily from a night club in Bucharest, a visit to a noted historian teaching in Istanbul, and of course all around Boston. He is well described as a man of integrity, gifted with intuition and intelligence, and by no means a superman. In other words, a character fitting right into a plot such as outlined and finding his way through it like normal people who are not supermen would do.

1/2021 Paul Lane

HIGH STAKES by John F. Dobbyn. Oceanview Publishing; None edition (October 1, 2019). ISBN: 978-1608093557. 320 pages.

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THE PUSH by Ashley Audrain

January 5, 2021

From the publisher:

A tense, page-turning psychological drama about the making and breaking of a family, told through the eyes of a woman whose experience of motherhood is nothing at all what she hoped for–and everything she feared.

Blythe Connor is determined that she will be the warm, supportive mother she never had to her new baby Violet.

But in the thick of motherhood’s exhausting early days, Blythe doesn’t find the connection with her daughter she expected. She’s convinced that something is wrong with Violet–the little girl is distant, rejects affection, and becomes increasingly disruptive at preschool.

Or is it all in Blythe’s head? Her husband, Fox, says she is imagining things. Fox doesn’t see what Blythe sees; he sees a wife who is struggling to cope with the day-to-day challenges of being a mother. And the more Fox dismisses her fears, the more Blythe begins to question her own sanity…

Then their son Sam is born–and with him, Blythe has the natural maternal connection she’d always dreamed of. Even Violet seems to love her little brother. But when life as they know it is changed in an instant, the devastating fall-out forces Blythe to face the truth about herself, her past, and her daughter.

The Push is a rare and extraordinary gift to readers: a novel about the expectations of motherhood we’re taught not to challenge and what really happens behind the closed doors of even the most perfect-looking families. It’s impossible to put down and impossible to forget.


Three generations of women have difficulties with motherhood and their stories intertwine in this very dark debut novel.

Blythe’s mother, Cecelia, left when she was eleven years old, and Blythe assumes she probably shouldn’t have children as her mother was not a very good role model. But their toxic relationship pales in comparison with Cecelia’s relationship with her mother, Etta.

There is an air of foreboding as Blythe’s story continues when Fox, Blythe’s gentle husband of three years, convinces her that it is time to have a baby. Blythe sees other mothers with their babies and hopes that she, too, will be like them. But Blythe never feels any kind of connection to her baby daughter, Violet, although Fox is immediately enamored.

As Blythe sinks into depression, Fox is convinced that she just doesn’t love the baby enough. There are some behavioral issues that Blythe sees in Violet that increase as she starts school, but Fox always turns a blind eye. Then Blythe has a son, Sam, and her maternal feelings for him are real and deep. Things still aren’t good with Violet, though, or with the marriage, and everything spirals out of control when tragedy strikes the family.

The marriage implodes and Blythe is having serious difficulties. This is not your typical tale of motherhood by any means, and the superlative writing makes this a gripping, unforgettable story indeed.

Verdict: For readers who enjoyed the darkness of My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite, Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh, or Jack of Spades by Joyce Carol Oates.

©Library Journal, 2021

1/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE PUSH by Ashley Audrain. Viking (January 5, 2021). ISBN 978-0735239890. 320p.

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