THE MOROCCAN GIRL by Charles Cumming

February 18, 2019

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Cumming’s novel is a throwback (and a welcome one) to the spy and espionage stories of the near term past. Kit Carradine is an author who’s forte is writing well received spy novels. He is known for researching locales for the books he writes. He is also known for being bored with his sedentary life and envies the spies he creates for their extremely active existences Instead of writing about them he would really enjoy being one of them. And that is where he is taken.

Kit is approached by an officer in MI6 who he has never met before with a proposition. He is asked to travel to Morocco and find a woman MI6 wants and just point her out to that officer. She has last been seen in the city of Marrakesh. ​Kit is offered a large sum of money for the job which is indicated as being one with no real danger involved. He jumps to take it and journeys to Morocco. Upon arrival he quickly is made aware that the woman,Lara Bartok, is actually a fugitive with ties to international terrorism. She is apparently a member of the “Resurrection” terror group that has attacked persons and places all over the world with murder as part of the scenario.

The author depicts Kit traveling all over Morocco after arriving in Casablanca as well as other cities in that country in order to locate Lara. The action is typical of the stories and happenings in many of the best spy novels of the past. Danger, a lot of it, with other spy agencies as well as “Resurrection” relentlessly after Lara.
There is a vast difference between Kit and other principals involved in spy and espionage tales. He is not infallible, he can be hurt, is bewildered by the actions of the different groups after Lara. He does have moments when he responds to a situation as many people would do if confronted with it showing strength and bravery. All and all Cumming gives us a good picture of a real hero in others. He has created a real person moving into the world of spies and agents and coming to grips with it as realistically as most of us might do in a like situation.

I am like most people in expecting leading characters in spy novels to behave like supermen. But certainly the change in pace depicted in “The Moroccan Girl” is a welcome one. The reader is of course faced with the question of what would they expect in a future novel about Kit Caradine in a situation again involved with spying and espionage. The ability of the author to create a book that is concerned with a situation involving spy-craft leads me to think that he would have Kit adapt to situations as they arrive; again as a normal individual, but with more real experience under his belt.

2/19 Paul Lane

THE MOROCCAN GIRL by Charles Cumming. St. Martin’s Press (February 12, 2019). ISBN 978-1250129956. 368p.

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ONE FATAL MISTAKE by Tom Hunt

February 13, 2019

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Karen Mayo, estranged from her husband has taken her life into her own hand, studied and became a nurse. She has also watched her beloved son Joshua moving away from the divorce between his parents, now ready to graduate from high school and  accepted to Clemson University. He is also a member of his school golf team and plays frequently with his father.

Suddenly fate takes a hand in the Mayo family’s affairs.  Joshua and his father decide to drive golf balls off a cliff facing a river and located in a large wooded area north of their home.

They finish the driving a little after dark and are on their way back to Joshua’s home when they accidentally hit a man walking alone in the woods. They quickly go over to see how the person is when the man jumps up and attacks Andrew, Joshua’s father. Appearing possible that Andrew could be killed, Joshua picks up a rock and strikes the man on his head. Checking him it is found that he has died from the blow.

There is another half of the events in this well done novel. Three individuals, two men and the wife of one of them have planned and executed a robbery of a bank.  One of the men is purposely left at the scene of the robbery and the other two flee the area with a bag of money stolen from the bank.

The two halves are expertly tied into a very ingenious whole by the author. What happens when the two groups meet and how the events reach a conclusion for all of them is the theme of a very engrossing novel by an author that is a master of developing characters in his books.

The accidental murder in the woods and its consequences is tied very neatly into the actions and fate of the bank robbers, including the one that was stranded at the scene of the crime by the other two. A compelling all-nighter by an author completing only his second book. Certainly one to continue looking for in the  future.

1/19 Paul Lane

ONE FATAL MISTAKE by Tom Hunt. Berkley (February 5, 2019). ISBN 978-0399586439. 320p.

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THE STRANGER INSIDE by Laura Benedict

February 12, 2019

Kimber Hanon, a successful sales executive with a leading magazine, is met leaving work and arriving at her home. She is tired and looks forward to dinner and relaxing. Problem arises when she finds that her key does not fit the lock like it normally should.

Quickly finding that the locks have been changed, she rings the bell in order to find out what’s going on. A man answers the door and says that he has an agreement from her allowing him to live in the house for six months. Kimber made no such agreement and calls the police to intercede.

Problem arises when the stranger produces a document attesting to his right to live in the house and duly signed by her.

Benedict weaves a very tight tale about what is going on. Her describing of the characters used in telling the story is masterful and the reader quickly grasps what the events are that encompass the novel’s plot. Kimber is a flawed lady and in the first person narrative admits to the killing of her sister years ago, not being suspected for it, but living with the crime during the years after.

Many novels utilize a surprise ending normally enticing the reader. Benedict skillfully leads the reader event by event into what is a totally logical finale. It becomes more and more logical as the plot unfolds. The book us certainly one that cannot be put down until finished and provides a definite reason to be on the lookout for more Laura Benedict novels. Very well done.

2/19 Paul Lane

THE STRANGER INSIDE by Laura Benedict.  Mulholland Books (February 5, 2019). ISBN-13: 978-0316444927. 352p.

 


THE FALCON OF SPARTA by Conn Iggulden

February 11, 2019

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Iggulden has developed a unique place in writing novels set in various periods in history. He does an incredible amount of research in the era he is discussing and than uses literary license to flesh out characters involved. He postulates their words, reactions, feelings and drives based upon knowledge of the world they inhabited.

This book is set in a period occurring at the approximate ending of the Peloponnesian wars, which took place in ancient Greece between Athens and Sparta with most of the remainder of the country coming out on one side or another. It involves Cyrus the Younger, who lived in a period approximately between the stand of the 300 Spartans at Thermopylae taking on the combined army of Persia and the later rise of Alexander the Great.

Cyrus was one of the sons of Darius and vied with his brother Artaxerxes to take the throne of Persia upon their father’s death. Iggulden paints him as the more suited to handle the army but his brother orders him killed in order to assure himself of the throne. The world of the period comes to life in telling the story of Cyrus and his quest to become ruler of Persia. An actual Athenian member of Cyrus’s army was a student of the philosopher Socrates and did write about him bringing the man to life for the reader. The conflict between the two brothers results in a civil war of monumental proportions at an area known as Cunaxa. The battle almost unknown today was an extremely bloody affair between armies of thousands of men. It is described based on the author’s visiting the site and his reading of the events involved.

The presence of Spartans fighting on the side of Cyrus is well documented. These were men whose entire existence and life is dedicated to fighting and war. They were almost superhuman in conditioning and ability to fight battles against any odds; as witness the 300 men taking on thousands of Persians at Thermopylae and holding their ground for three days. Iggulden provides a full description and praise of the Spartan soldiers and credits them with helping to hold out against the vast army that Cyrus’ brother fields.

Make no mistake, the book is not a dry tome of events in another day, but a very well worked historical novel that Iggulden creates based on a good deal of source material that has come down through the ages and can still be read by anyone. Words and feelings are put in the mouths of the people taking part in the story. The ones named were real and occupied the positions ascribed to them by the author. That they speak and act is a real result and study of what they might have said and felt during the period and events described.

A very well done and carefully constructed novel that takes place in a period of history that is 2000 years away from us but brought to life by a gifted author.

2/19 Paul Lane

THE FALCON OF SPARTA by Conn Iggulden. Pegasus Books (February 5, 2019). ISBN 978-1643130569. 448p.

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THE GIRL IN THE GLASS BOX by James Grippando

February 9, 2019

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A Jack Swyteck Novel, Book 15

This, the latest novel featuring Jack Swyteck, Grippando’s practicing attorney, was written during a period that saw a law enforcement agency of the United States, U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement (better known as ICE) being subjected to a huge amount of criticism by a portion of the American population. The agency was demonized by its critics as riding roughshod over the immigrants that it had to apprehend, detain, jail and/or deport from the country. The leading critique was that it separated children traveling with their parents as they attempted to enter the United States illegally. In my opinion, adherents of the agency were quick to point out that ICE was simply carrying out their assigned function in attempting to keep out people that did break the law by not complying with the legalities of legal entrance.

Grippando, through Jack Swyteck, makes his opinion very clear in setting up ICE as being over zealous in their administration of their duties. His beloved abuela (grandmother) pushes him into the defense of an illegal alien woman and her daughter. Julia Rodriguez and her daughter Beatriz are illegals that have found a small place in society and are trying to make a life for themselves when Julia is sexually attacked by her boss at the coffee shop where she works. She defends herself but then finds herself detained by ICE after an anonymous tip, locked in prison and set up for deportation. Beatriz stays with an aunt that has completed immigration requirements earlier and is a U.S. citizen.

The novel is replete with the sordid conditions experienced by Julia, the pressure by ICE on the judge supervising the trial that Swyteck requests to present her case for political asylum, and the changes in her daughter when her seemingly happy life is broken up by her mother’s problems. Grippando’s opinions are open and clear. This does not change the fact that the book is the author’s usual well done and engrossing story which can be read as another fine reading experience. The novel reaches an ending which seems to clearly be the beginnings of another book continuing the story. Again, despite this reader’s opinion about ICE and its described methods, this read is a pleasure of an all nighter by an author that is at the height of his literary skill.

2/19 Paul Lane

THE GIRL IN THE GLASS BOX by James Grippando. Harper (February 5, 2019). ISBN 978-0062657831. 368p.


A SPY IN EXILE by Jonathan de Shalit

February 8, 2019

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De Shalit, who was at one time in his life and under another name a high ranking member of the Israeli Intelligence community, presents his readers with a monumental portrait of an extremely complex woman. Ya’ara Stein was forced out of her job with the Mossad, the Israeli Intelligence agency. Not knowing what to do next she is quietly approached by the Prime Minister of Israel and asked if she will undertake the founding, training and leadership of a secret organization dedicated to finding and killing of the country’s enemies. She and her group will find and eliminate enemies under the supervision of the Prime Minister only.

Ya’ara jumps at the chance feeling that it is right up her alley. A large sequence is devoted to the job of finding candidates whose personalities and temperament suit them for the work of being away from home for long periods, the detective work in finding those individuals that must be eliminated, and above all, coming to grips with their deeds. The people chosen are depicted as being found psychologically fit for the work and also able to take on a life that leaves little time for a personal life. They are real persons, trained by Ya’ara and her second in command.

Their first assignment involving the killing of two enemies of Israel touches all in different ways. Their reactions are not cold-hearted when a young innocent girl is accidentally killed during one of the assassinations. The group agonizes at the lose of the innocent life, but must find the wherewithal to continue.

De Shalit touches on the group’s private lives with the knowledge of how that suffers during their long absences. The ending suits the tone of the novel and indicates a continuation of the group in their tasks without setting any particular prelude to a next book in this series. A definite all nighter, but more so in the questions raised about people involved in the activities that all nations require in order to coexist in our competitive world. These activities always secret and hidden from the majority of the populations of the countries involved.

2/19 Paul Lane

A SPY IN EXILE by Jonathan de Shalit. Atria/Emily Bestler Books (February 5, 2019).  ISBN 978-1501170560. 384p.

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THE LINE BETWEEN by Tosca Lee

February 7, 2019

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The very versatile Tosca Lee presents her latest novel which continues to delight her many readers and adds a bit more luster to an already brilliant career. She ties together two themes and blends them together quite well.

Wynter Roth is a young very bright woman that has been an inhabitant of what is clearly a cult termed New Earth for most of her life. She has been indoctrinated with the gospel according to Magnus Theisen, the founder and leader of New Earth. Believing in the facts as outlined by the cult she is thrust out of her sinecure by a decision made by Magnus to take her as his second wife. She suddenly awakens and realizes that all is not as it should be in her protected world. Basically she gets the wake up call due to the fact that her sister is Magnus’ wife already and the very concept of being a second wife is alien to her. In making her views vehemently known and refusing to comply with the marriage, she gets herself thrown out of New Earth and goes to live with relatives.

At the time Wynter leaves the cult a virulent disease begins to attack people all over the United States. The symptoms are early onset dementia with death following in short order. There is no cure available and the nation and it’s economy starts to shut down in the face of the widespread sickness.

Tying in Wynter’s leaving the cult is the fact that her sister comes to her with medical grade samples which were taken from Magnus. He is obviously attempting to have these samples, which have been exposed to the disease, tested, a vaccine developed, and then sold to rich buyers making himself rich and powerful. Where this takes the novel is a very well researched description of Wynter’s attempts to bring the samples to people that can best work towards developing a vaccine and disseminating it to the entire population.

A very well done story with Lee’s carefully investigated details adding even more towards the reader’s enjoyment.

2/19 Paul Lane

THE LINE BETWEEN by Tosca Lee. Howard Books (January 29, 2019).  ISBN 978-1476798622. 384p.

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THE SILENT PATIENT by Alex Michaelides

February 5, 2019

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The front piece of this novel indicates that it is the author’s first book. It certainly indicates a promising future for Michaelides as the theme chosen is quite an interesting one.

Alicia Berenson is a famous painter married and quite well to Gabriel, who has made a name for himself as a world class fashion photographer. The couple live in a fancy house, have plenty of money and seem to be quite happy.

Suddenly, and seemingly out of the blue, Gabriel returns home from a fashion shoot and is shot in the face five times by Alicia. When questioned by the police she does not say a word. And silent she remains even when she is shut away in “The Grove,” a secure forensic unit in the northern part of London. There she stays, completely silent, until Theo Faber, a criminal psychotherapist, obtains a position at The Grove with the avowed purpose of treating Alicia.

The idea of the book is a good one and should be a terrific read except for Michaelides’ propensity to drag things out. His idea for an ending is not telegraphed but also seemingly one out of the blue that makes the end a complete surprise for the reader. It also does not make good sense for the reader looking for the one and one make two type of ending. Based on the idea upon which the novel is based and the author’s ability to frame situations quite well, it occurs to me that his books should be looked for. The fumble that I see in this book is, of course, my own opinion, but does not detract from the promise Michaelides shows with his cogent approach and should be evidenced in future novels.

2/19 Paul Lane

THE SILENT PATIENT by Alex Michaelides. Celadon Books (February 5, 2019).  ISBN 978-1250301697. 336p.

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THE BREAK LINE by James Brabazon

January 30, 2019

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Max McLean, Book 1

James Brabazon introduces Max McLean in this action packed novel. Max is a trained assassin working for British Intelligence. His job is to go anywhere he is sent by his employers, find the person or persons he is told to and end their lives as quickly as possible. No second thoughts about the murders, nor even first thoughts. The killing is part of his being, and he is very good at it.

This book has Max assigned to go to Sierra Leone in Africa, quickly find his target, take said individual out and get himself out ASAP. Max goes there and with the help of someone hired by his employers and begins the search for the target. He quickly finds out that he has become the target himself for his own group, and the circumstances are very far from his normal assignments.

Rebel forces are all around him and would definitely kill him and his guide if they catch them. Many villagers living in the area his target is to be found have been killed with no apparent reason for doing so and are a secondary puzzle for Max.

Max finds something very far from what he expected and must contend with those circumstances while seeking his target. The discovery is something beyond the ordinary and when presented makes an interesting novel, more engrossing than first blush might entail. The depiction of Max certainly provides the reader with the interest to see more books about him and that is, of course, the author’s intention.

A side light is the description of the Sierra Leone countryside and the jungle that comprises it. This surely means that Brabazon intends to fully research the areas that Max is sent into on his future assignments, making the novels revolve around the actual locales they are set in.

The series starts out with a fascinating background and well described protagonists which makes future Max McLean novels very appealing to those readers that will follow him.

1/19 Paul Lane

THE BREAK LINE by James Brabazon. Berkley (January 29, 2019). ISBN 978-0440001478. 368p.

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JUDGMENT by Joseph Finder

January 29, 2019

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From the publisher:

New York Times bestselling author Joseph Finder returns with an explosive new thriller about a female judge and the one personal misstep that could lead to her–and her family’s–downfall.

It was nothing more than a one-night stand. Juliana Brody, a judge in the Superior Court of Massachusetts, is rumored to be in consideration for the federal circuit, maybe someday the highest court in the land. At a conference in a Chicago hotel, she meets a gentle, vulnerable man and has an unforgettable night with him—something she’d never done before. They part with an explicit understanding that this must never happen again.

But back home in Boston, Juliana realizes that this was no random encounter. The man from Chicago proves to have an integral role in a case she’s presiding over–a sex-discrimination case that’s received national attention. Juliana discovers that she’s been entrapped, her night of infidelity captured on video. Strings are being pulled in high places, a terrifying unfolding conspiracy that will turn her life upside down.  But soon it becomes clear that personal humiliation, even the possible destruction of her career, are the least of her concerns, as her own life and the lives of her family are put in mortal jeopardy.

In the end, turning the tables on her adversaries will require her to be as ruthless as they are.


Wow! This is Finder’s best book so far, and that is saying a lot. I loved this character, Juliana is a working mom with all that goes along with that, has what seems like a pretty good marriage, at least from the outside, and a job that she loves. But there are definitely cracks in the marriage and her little infidelity brings such enormous consequences that the marriage is the least of it. Being a judge has its perks for sure, but the downside is explored here, leaving her ripe for blackmail is an awfully big downside. Juliana is a very strong woman but when her family is threatened, all bets are off.

I read this a few months ago, and it is as fresh in my memory as if I had read it last week. The story is compelling, the characters seem like people I could know. This was a nonstop read for me, I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough. If you’re a fan of Harlan Coben, Linwood Barclay, suburban and/or legal thrillers in general, you will love this book. Don’t miss it!

1/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

Don’t believe me? Here’s another voice:

Juliana Brody, a judge with the Superior court of Massachusetts, is at a convention in Chicago. She is rumored to be in contention for the Federal court and perhaps in the future the Supreme court. She is a woman that is good at her job and very serious about her reputation, taking great care with decisions rendered and treatment of both defense and prosecution in each case. While at the bar in the hotel she is staying at, she meets a man that attracts her. He is sincere, seemingly honest and in a moment of temporary weakness Juliana enters into a night of pleasure. After the fact both she and the man agree that this can never happen again.

Back home in Boston Juliana is presiding over a case involving a lawsuit by a woman against the company she was working for and one that is receiving national attention. Shortly after the trial begins and like a bolt out of the blue, the man she was with in Chicago appears and seats himself with the defense for the company involved with the litigation. At a later meeting with the man she is shown a video exposing her Chicago indiscretion and is told that it will be made public unless she finds for the company against the woman suing them for wrongful sexual behavior.

Events swiftly become enlarged and Juliana feels trapped by the circumstances not knowing what to do. She is threatened with much more than the damning film and finds that her family is also in the bulls-eye of those that are attempting to influence the verdict. Her desperation brings in possible help from influential friends, a private detective and a blow out fight with her husband. Finally Juliana comes to the realization that in order to fight fire one must use fire. This realization sets up a perfect ending for the book.

Finder is a master craftsman within the literary world and “Judgement” is certainly a prime example of his talent. No, you can’t put the book down before the ending and the only problem with reading Joseph Finder’s books is that after they are read one has to wait for the next one.

JUDGMENT by Joseph Finder. Dutton (January 29, 2019). ISBN: 978-1101985816. 400p.

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