BLOOD KIN by Matt Hilton

July 24, 2021

A Grey and Villere Thriller, Book 8

From the publisher:

A fast-paced and action-packed ride through upstate New York for fans of CHRIS RYAN and STEPHEN LEATHER.

When Nicolas ‘Po’ Villere runs into Elspeth Fuchs, an old flame, he’s surprised to find who’s by her side. It’s her son, Jacob, and he’s a dead ringer for when Po was a child. His age lines up with when Po last saw Elspeth, before she left him for Caleb Moorcock and a life in a secluded community.

Elspeth and Jacob are now running for their lives from the abusive Caleb. Po and his partner, Private Investigator Tess Grey, offer shelter. But before Po can dive into the boy’s parentage, Caleb snatches the absconded pair and drags them back to their fortified commune.

Has Po dodged a bullet? Maybe it’s best for them all if he never learns whether he’s Jacob’s father. Who’s he kidding? Po resolves to rescue Elspeth and discover the truth about Jacob no matter what . . .


Matt Hilton is a top tier author of exciting crime novels and “Blood Kin” certainly ranks with the best of them. It features Tess Grey a private detective and Nicolas “Po” Villere an ex-con who had been imprisoned for murdering his father. Po’s contention was that there were extenuating circumstances but he did serve his sentence picking up a wide variety of “skills” while incarcerated, some of these quite lethal.

The story begins while Po is waiting for Tess to finish up a day in court and he runs into Elspeth Fuchs whom he hasn’t seen in years and once was almost married to. She is traveling with her 10-year-old son Jacob. Po is fascinated by Jacob who looks very much like him and based on the number of years since they were together could actually be his child conceived while being with Elspeth. He invites them to his home to meet Tess, but Elspeth doesn’t trust their motives and disappears with her son.

A sixth sense pushes Po and Tess to follow them and they do so accompanied by Pinky a friend of theirs who has the build of a strong men, is definitely one and believes it is his function to help his friends. Their chase gets them to an enclave run by Caleb Moorcock who is Elspeth’s husband and is a tyrant and a bully with the added problem of being a murderer and dealing in drugs.

The plot certainly includes necessary conflict and the attempt to rescue Elspeth and her son from the tyranny of Elspeth’s psychotic husband. The book is easily finished in one fell swoop and the reader kept involved by the constant action and shifting in the presentation of characters. I’ve had the pleasure of reading other novels by Matt Hilton and do feel comfortable in recommending this book and all future novels by him to readers that go for police and crime books.

7/2021 Paul Lane

BLOOD KIN by Matt Hilton. Severn House Publishers; Main edition (August 3, 2021). ISBN: 978-0727890962. 240 pages.

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AN AMBUSH OF WIDOWS by Jeff Abbott

July 14, 2021

From the publisher:

In New York Times bestselling author Jeff Abbott’s latest novel of riveting psychological suspense, an uneasy alliance forms as two widows delve into their husbands’ deadly and dangerous secrets—as they try to protect their own.

Henry North is a down-on-his-luck cybersecurity expert from New Orleans. Adam Zhang is the cofounder of one of Austin’s most successful venture capitalist firms. These two men didn’t know each other. They had never met. Yet they died together, violently, in a place neither had any business being.

When Henry doesn’t return from a business trip, his wife, Kirsten, panics—and then gets an anonymous phone call: “Your husband is dead in Austin.”

Flora Zhang knew her husband was keeping secrets. She suspected an affair, but she had decided she could forgive him for his weakness—until her husband ended up dead. And with no explanation for her husband’s murder, the police begin to suspect her.

Together, these two widows will face a powerful foe determined to write a false narrative about the murders. In doing so, neither Flora nor Kirsten will remain the women the world thought they were.


It’s a Jeff Abbott novel. It’s good, it’s engrossing it’s definitely an all-nighter. How to review it becomes the problem. The plot involves two women; the first is Kirsten North. She is happily married to Henry North who is a cyber security expert currently down on his luck. They live in New Orleans. Kirrsten in her own right is a consultant to the Tech Sector with a good reputation for digging out hard to obtain facts about companies her clients need information on for things like possible purchase or doing business with.

The other woman is Flora Zang married to Adam Zang who has an impeccable record of launching start up Tech companies. They live in Austin, Texas a city currently enjoying a major expansion with the arrival of many successful Tech companies. Flora’s problem is that Adam is married to the business and she seems to be number two wife in the relationship. Her current major interest lies in living a life dedicated to spending her husband’s fortune doing good deeds which would prove important in enhancing the business’s reputation.  She does love her husband and married him before he made his fortune.     

Action begins at a moment that Kirsten is readying herself to begin her day’s work. Henry is on a business trip and has indicated that he is going to New York. Her personal phone rings and since very few have the number she picks it up thinking that It is Henry forgetting something.    A strange voice, using a disguising app, tells her that her husband has been shot to death in Austin. After going through the thinking that the call is a bad joke, she decides to go to Austin and upon arrival finds that it is true. Henry is dead and has been killed along with Adam Zang in a warehouse owned by Zang Industries. In attempting to find out what happened to her husband she meets with Flora Zang and the two women find common cause in attempting to find out who killed their husbands and why.     

In typical Jeff Abbott fashion, the reader will head straight forward into the book and face a fascinating and changing set of facts before the ending is reached. A very bright note is that the author sets up future books featuring the two women and all that remains is to keep one’s eyes open for when they come out.  Five star – of course.     

7/2021 Paul Lane

AN AMBUSH OF WIDOWS by Jeff Abbott. Grand Central Publishing (July 6, 2021). ISBN: 978-1538719145. 352 pages.

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CHINA by Edward Rutherfurd

May 31, 2021

From the publisher:

The internationally bestselling author of Paris and New York takes on an exhilarating new world with his trademark epic style in China: The Novel

Edward Rutherfurd has enthralled millions of readers with his grand, sweeping historical sagas that tell the history of a famous place over multiple generations. Now, in China: The Novel, Rutherfurd takes readers into the rich and fascinating milieu of the Middle Kingdom.

The story begins in 1839, at the dawn of the First Opium War, and follows Chinese history through Mao’s Cultural Revolution and up to the present day. Rutherfurd chronicles the rising and falling fortunes of members of Chinese, British, and American families, as they negotiate the tides of history. Along the way, in his signature style, Rutherfurd provides a deeply researched portrait of Chinese history and society, its ancient traditions and great upheavals, and China’s emergence as a rising global power. As always, we are treated to romance and adventure, heroines and scoundrels, grinding struggle and incredible fortunes.    

China: The Novel brings to life the rich terrain of this vast and constantly evolving country. From Shanghai to Nanking to the Great Wall, Rutherfurd chronicles the turbulent rise and fall of empires as the colonial West meets the opulent and complex East in a dramatic struggle between cultures and people.

Extraordinarily researched and majestically told, Edward Rutherfurd paints a thrilling portrait of one of the most singular and remarkable countries in the world.


This novel is a well researched venture into the period of about 1830 until the Boxer Revolution of 1900 in China. The author chooses several different families and individuals to frame his story on. These are characters that experience what was the Chinese culture during the time of their lives. Overall Rutherfurd utilizes the character of Cixi, the dowager empress, as the individual influencing events in the country both during her own lifetime and attempting to continue to do so after her death.       

The story opens with what were the Opium wars of the early 1800s in which England carried on a lucrative trade of selling opium to China and buying tea from them. The Chinese realizing that they were getting generations of dope addicts as the price being paid to allow England to actually pay for tea attempted to keep the British from bringing the narcotic into their home ports. With fortunes riding on continuing the opium sales battles were fought between the modern weapons of the English and easily defeated Chinese troops.   

Rutherfurd aptly shows a country with a rich history going back almost 5000 years with a population of a rich and also a destitute poor class. The path to wealth is mainly through entrance into some level of the ruling class and only minor possibilities through opening a successful business. One of the leading individuals is a man that faced with feeding his family decides to embark upon a path that would be impossible to conceive of by most men. He elects to become a eunuch in order to obtain work at the emperor’s palace where that condition is mandatory to hold a position. He consults his wife and his father getting their approval and goes ahead with the change. By a lucky occurrence he obtains the job of doing the nails of Cixi than the emperor’s concubine pleases her and continues on. He is dubbed “Lacquer Nail” the name that sticks with him permanently and is in a position to follow Cixi as she marries the emperor and in time assumes the role of dowager empress.   

In 1900 a rebellion breaks out looking to stop the many groups of foreigners from continuing to bleed the country. The initiators of the insurrection are known as Boxers due to their interest in the martial arts. The foreigners centered in the city of Peking group together for mutual defense in the British legation using small groups of soldiers from the countries residing in China to defend them. Word is sent to a combined army of troops sent to restore the safety of the people working in China as part of their legations to come to their rescue. The section of the novel dealing with the rebellion and the subsequent arrival of the rescue force is a very well done portrait of people facing a situation that they are not attuned to contending with.       

The book is a long one, but Rutherfurd’s ability to create a story and the people involved in it makes for one excellent read and a commanding portrait of a civilization not like that of most of the western world.

5/2021 Paul Lane

CHINA by Edward Rutherfurd. Doubleday (May 11, 2021). ISBN: 978-0385538930. 784 pages.

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BASIL’S WAR by Stephen Hunter

May 22, 2021

A WWII Spy Thriller

From the publisher:

A British spy goes behind enemy lines to crack a secret code in this “highly entertaining World War II espionage thriller” (Seattle Times).

Basil St. Florian is an accomplished agent in the British Army, tasked with dozens of dangerous missions for crown and country across the globe. But his current mission, going undercover in Nazi-occupied France during World War II, might be his toughest assignment yet. He will be searching for an ecclesiastic manuscript that doesn’t officially exist, one that genius professor Alan Turing believes may hold the key to a code that could prevent the death of millions and possibly even end the war.

St. Florian isn’t the classic British special agent with a stiff upper lip―he is a swashbuckling, whisky-drinking cynic and thrill-seeker who resents having to leave Vivien Leigh’s bed to set out on his crucial mission. Despite these proclivities, though, Basil’s Army superiors know he’s the best man for the job, carrying out his espionage with enough charm and quick wit to make any of his subjects lower their guards.

Action-packed and bursting with WWII-era intrigue (much of which has basis in fact), Basil’s War is a classic espionage thriller from Pulitzer Prize-winning critic, essayist, and bestselling novelist Stephen Hunter.


Stephen Hunter is a successful author with a longtime background in the literary world. His main thrust are books involving the military art of sniping. He is gifted with an almost encyclopedic knowledge of weaponry which he has used to bring his novels several steps above other books about sniping and snipers. 

This current book is a change in focus and involves the exploits of Basil St Florian in action as a spy during World War II. Basil is in the language of another day a “rake” for his many encounters with women. He is bold, daring and has a great sense of humor. He has traveled several times from his home in England into France, a country conquered by the Nazi war machine and an area that might be used as a springboard for action against Britian. He has successfully completed several missions and we meet him as he begins another.     

In certain situations books are used as keys for secret codes. That is the message to be sent is tied to a mutually known book and the words are represented by location designations used by both parties. The difficulty level is very high since the same book must be used by both senders and receivers in order to decode the message. In his latest mission Basil must travel into enemy territory find a scroll written several hundred years ago, photograph certain portions and bring these photos back in order to be used to convince Russian dictator Joseph Stalin to shift a military position in order to avoid a massacre of his soldiers.     

In the course of the mission Basil meets Alan Turing, a man that led a group of mathematicians in discovering the key to the Nazi codes used in their transmission of orders. Turing and his group actually lived and worked on breaking codes during WWII. While the codes sought by Basil are not fact, the touch of adding Turing to the plot is a good one and helps validate the action.     

The almost blasé approach Hunter takes brings down the quality of the action described and I felt leaves the reader with a “hey what happened” feeling. If it is a book by Stephen Hunter I would pick up his next novel, but possibly return to awaiting others featuring the sniping format if Basil does not pick up the pace.

5/2021 Paul Lane

BASIL’S WAR by Stephen Hunter. Mysterious Press (May 4, 2021). ISBN: 978-1613162248. 288 pages.

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THE GIRL WHO DIED by Ragnar Jonasson

May 20, 2021

From the publisher:

From Ragnar Jónasson, the award-winning author of the international bestselling Ari Thór series, The Girl Who Died is a standalone thriller about a young woman seeking a new start in a secluded village where a small community is desperate to protect its secrets.

Teacher Wanted At the Edge of the World

Una wants nothing more than to teach, but she has been unable to secure steady employment in Reykjavík. Her savings are depleted, her love life is nonexistent, and she cannot face another winter staring at the four walls of her shabby apartment. Celebrating Christmas and ringing in 1986 in the remote fishing hamlet of Skálar seems like a small price to pay for a chance to earn some teaching credentials and get her life back on track.

But Skálar isn’t just one of Iceland’s most isolated villages, it is home to just ten people. Una’s only students are two girls aged seven and nine. Teaching them only occupies so many hours in a day and the few adults she interacts with are civil but distant. She only seems to connect with Thór, a man she shares an attraction with but who is determined to keep her at arm’s length.

As darkness descends throughout the bleak winter, Una finds herself more often than not in her rented attic space―the site of a local legendary haunting―drinking her loneliness away. She is plagued by nightmares of a little girl in a white dress singing a lullaby. And when a sudden tragedy echoes an event long buried in Skálar’s past, the villagers become even more guarded, leaving a suspicious Una seeking to uncover a shocking truth that’s been kept secret for generations.


The author is an Icelandic citizen residing in Iceland with an excellent world-wide reputation.  The current novel is set in Iceland involving people that live there but showing that human emotions are similar all over the world. I can only describe it as a tight book starting slowly and building to a climax that is exactly right for the action found. Without dragging a verdict out this is a definite five star book and my recommendation to readers is just get ready to buy all forthcoming novels by the author.      

Una is a young woman living in the Icelandic capital city of Reykjavík. She barely makes a living there, has few friends and not many interests for her spare time. An ad appears in the newspaper asking for a teacher for a position teaching a small class in the remote village of Skalar located on the seacoast. The isolated village has only 10 people living in it.  Uma comes to the conclusion that she has nothing to lose, has a chance to make a guaranteed salary for easy work and accepts the job.     

The village is as thought; remote, isolated and the very essence of the phrase provincial. Her class consists of only two girls of different ages and she gets what amounts to free room. Looks good but she meets a lot of resistance from the people in town and is terrifyingly confronted by a ghost in the house she gets the room in. 

Jonasson continues to pull the reader into the action and finishes his novel with one of the most perfect endings I’ve read. An excellent read and for me an introduction to a talented author that I am pleased to have learned about.

5/2021 Paul Lane

THE GIRL WHO DIED by Ragnar Jonasson. Minotaur Books (May 4, 2021). ISBN: 978-1250793737. 320 pages.

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LEGACY OF WAR by Wilbur Smith

May 18, 2021

Courtney Family Novels, Book 16

From the publisher:

A brand-new Courtney Series adventure.

The action-packed new book in the Courtney Series and the sequel to Courtney’s War.

The war is over, Hitler is dead – and yet his evil legacy lives on. Saffron Courtney and her beloved husband Gerhard only just survived the brutal conflict, but Gerhard’s Nazi-supporting brother, Konrad, is still free and determined to regain power. As a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse develops, a plot against the couple begins to stir. One that will have ramifications throughout Europe. . .

Further afield in Kenya, the last outcrop of the colonial empire is feeling the stirrings of rebellion. As the situation becomes violent, and the Courtney family home is under threat, Leon Courtney finds himself caught between two powerful sides – and a battle for the freedom of a country.

Legacy of War is a nail-biting story of courage, bravery, rebellion and war from the master of adventure fiction.


Wilbur Smith has long since established himself as one the foremost authors of our time. His huge legacy of novels has been built around excellent research as well as the gift of being a true wordsmith. Reading his books is always a fascinating adventure with journeys into history of his beloved Africa where he was born. He has used the device of featuring several families to populate his novels which move from ancient Egypt to modern times. His technique is to make all of his heroes and also his bad guys larger than life. The good guys usually experience all that befalls them with an attitude that prohibits doing the “wrong” thing regardless of what is done to do them harm. The bad guys are what you would expect – no principled scoundrels hell bent on doing evil to gain their own nefarious ends.      

Legacy of War utilizes Saffron Courtney and her husband Gerhard.  The two were featured in Courtney’s War, the book prior to this one set during the second World War. Saffron bravely traveled behind enemy lines for England to get information about enemy activity while Gerhard was a pilot in the German air force fighting in the invasion of Russia and the bloodbath that took place at Stalingrad. They are now married with two children and living in what is now Kenya working a huge farm area that is part of the Courtney holdings.     

Gerhard’s brother also lives in south Africa but has a background during the war which makes him a criminal and sought after by the Israeli Mossad to stand trial for his crimes. The first portion of the novel describes Gerhard participating in the chase after his brother with the need for justice outweighing family ties. There is another section devoted to descriptions of the Mau Mau, a native group that is looking, through violent rebellion, to correct their perceived inequities that allow whites to own land while native groups cannot. The violence of this group does take a strong stomach but the descriptions are taken from real life during the time they were active.     

Smith moves into a meeting by Saffron with Jomo Kenyatta a native who became the first black president of Kenya showcasing the entrance of equality between the two races living in the country with the Courtney’s accepting the situation as both a desired and natural occurrence in African history.

5/2021 Paul Lane

LEGACY OF WAR by Wilbur Smith. Zaffre (April 20, 2021). ISBN: 978-1499862355. 480 pages.

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HER THREE LIVES by Cate Holahan

May 15, 2021

From the publisher:

Gaslight goes high-tech in USA Today bestselling author Cate Holahan’s new standalone thriller in which a family must determine who the real enemy is after a brutal home invasion breaks their trust in each other.

Her public life

Jade Thompson has it all. She’s an up-and-coming social media influencer, and she has a beautiful new home and a successful architect for a fiancé. But there’s trouble behind the scenes. To Greg’s children, his divorce from their mother and his new life can only mean a big mid-life crisis. To Jade, his suburban Connecticut upbringing isn’t an easy match with her Caribbean roots.

Her private life

A savage home invasion leaves Greg house-bound with a traumatic brain injury and glued to the live feeds from his ubiquitous security cameras. As the police investigate the crime and Greg’s frustration and rage grows, Jade begins to wonder what he may know about their attackers. And whether they are coming back.

Her secret life

As Greg watches Jade’s comings and goings, he becomes convinced that her behavior is suspicious and that she’s hiding a big secret.  The more he sees, the more he wonders whether the break-in was really a random burglary. And whether he’s worth more to Jade if he were dead than alive.

PopSugar’s Best Mysteries and Thrillers Books of April 2021


Cate Holahan has a tremendous gift for bringing characters she utilizes in her novels to vivid life for her readers. In her current novel, she places her characters into a plot that is as twisty and turny as any I’ve ever had the pleasure to read, making this book into a grab hold adventure into sleepless nights. 

Jade Thompson is a woman that has made a success of herself via the creation and building up an interesting blog involved in design details and sales of products in that area to an increasing number of interested readers. She has also just become engaged to Greg who is an extremely successful architect who has made himself wealthy via becoming involved with the design of big buildings. Greg is in the process of divorcing this wife of many years and has met and fallen in love with Jade. He has asked Jade to marry him with her accepting.     

Greg has two adult children who are not too thrilled with their father becoming engaged to a woman that is very close in age to his daughter and seemingly leaving their mother. The plot thickens when one night Jade and Greg are subjected to a home invasion. Greg suffers a hit to his head by one of the two robbers using a blunt instrument while Jade is hit in the stomach.  She has become pregnant and loses the baby as a result of the blow. She also is robbed of a very valuable ring she received as an engagement present.    

Holahan takes her readers on a rollercoaster ride as besides Jade and Greg, Jade’s mother and Greg’s adult children get involved in throwing around the whys and wherefores of what was the cause of the home invasion if it had anything to do with an engagement that apparently all felt was too soon and ill advised. Believe me when I state that readers will become dizzy from the myriad of  permutations and combinations involved. It will be an experience that will add to the enjoyment of the book and the expectation of reading future books by the author.

5/2021 Paul Lane

HER THREE LIVES by Cate Holahan. Grand Central Publishing (April 20, 2021). ISBN: 978-1538736340. 352 pages.

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THE PERFECT DAUGHTER by D.J. Palmer

May 13, 2021

From the publisher:

A thriller that explores the truth or lies behind a teenage girl’s multiple personality disorder, from D.J. Palmer, the author of The New Husband.

Meet Ruby, who speaks with a British accent.

Then there’s Chloe, a perfectionist who strives for straight A’s in school.
And along comes Eve, who is spiteful and vicious.
All of them live inside Penny…
Or do they?

Penny Francone, age sixteen, is a murderer. Her guilt is beyond doubt: she was found alone in the victim’s apartment, covered in blood, holding the murder weapon. The victim’s identity and her secret relationship to Penny give Penny the perfect motive, sealing the deal. All the jury needs to decide now is where Penny will serve out her sentence. Will she be found not guilty by reason of insanity, as her lawyer intends to argue? Or will she get a life sentence in a maximum-security prison?
Already reeling from tragedy after the sudden passing of her beloved husband a few years before, now Grace is on her knees, grateful that Massachusetts doesn’t allow the death penalty.

As Penny awaits trial in a state mental hospital, she is treated by Dr. Mitchell McHugh, a psychiatrist battling demons of his own. Grace’s determination to understand the why behind her daughter’s terrible crime fuels Mitch’s resolve to help the Francone family. Together, they set out in search of the truth about Penny, but discover instead a shocking hidden history of secrets, lies, and betrayals that threatens to consume them all.

The perfect daughter. Is she fooling them all?


D.J. Palmer brings an extremely well researched novel on a theme rarely touched upon to his readers. The story concerns a young girl with multiple personalities that take turns dominating their host. 

Grace and her husband Arthur have two sons who have melded with their parents into a good family. As fate would have it, Grace, while walking in the park, comes upon a young girl that turns out to have been abandoned. The girl, Penny, has little memory of her past but seems to Grace to be a miracle and when the opportunity arises, she and her husband decide to adopt her. To help her regain her memory Penny is sent to various psychiatrists all of whom fail to recognize her symptoms.      

One day Penny learns that her birth mother has moved back near her and decides to visit her.  While there tragedy strikes and the police come finding Penny covered in blood, her birth mother dead as a result of multiple stab wounds and her fingerprints all over the knife found at the scene of the crime. The authorities decide to send Penny to a psychiatric state hospital rather than to prison for evaluation and there await trial for murder.   

Palmer describes conditions prevalent in the hospital where everyone is overworked and it is difficult to provide adequate help for the sick. Based on his research, Penny’s shifts into her other personalities and how they emerge with their own characteristics taking control. It is a fascinating study of conditions that have rarely been described, and when done so are not well illustrated. This is not the author’s first published book and it’s theme and depth certainly add to his reputation as a top tier writer.

NOTE: D.J. Palmer also writes as Daniel Palmer.

5/2021 Paul Lane

THE PERFECT DAUGHTER by D.J. Palmer. St. Martin’s Press (April 20, 2021). ISBN: 978-1250267924. 384 pages.

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LEVI’S WAR by Julie Thomas

May 11, 2021

From the publisher:

A story of courage and bravery from a Jew behind enemy lines during the Second World War.

How many secrets can one family hold?

Levi Horowitz isn’t a natural-born soldier. But in November 1938, Berlin is a volatile place for a Jew, and the talented young musician secures passage to Switzerland. Instead, Levi is taken to a Danish border checkpoint and from then on his war becomes secret, even from those he loves best.

In 2017, a recording emerges, showing Levi in 1945 and revealing a story in equal parts shocking and heroic. It is a journey that leads him face-to-face with Hitler, and into a position to change the final outcome of the war.

Levi’s War follows on from the enthralling historical novels The Keeper of Secrets and Rachel’s Legacy, this time tracing the story of the eldest Horowitz son. Whether you’re discovering Julie Thomas’s books for the first time, or making a return visit to the saga of the Horowitz family, Levi’s War will leave you utterly breathless.


This is the third and final novel in the author’s planned trilogy about the Horowitz family and events they took part in during World War II.  I have not read the first two books so that certain described situations mentioned in this book are not familiar to me. While it would have helped overall understanding I did not lose complete track of events and could keep up with the flow of this book. 

Levi is a Jewish boy born into a well to do banking family living in Berlin, Germany enjoying life until the horror of Adolf Hitler and his cronies seized power and turned the country into a police state looking to conquer the world. Levi’s father saw what was probably going to happen and sent Levi to live and work in England. He was supposed to establish a base in order to bring over all his family but fate threw him a curve and he began life as a spy thanks to the British government interceding with him, training him as a soldier, and sending him back into Germany to spy on Nazi activities for the allies. 

Levi returns and gets a position with a Nazi unit to both support himself and have access to information needed by his sponsors.  As a young man Levi had developed a love for and a talent for music playing at a concert hall level. This skill helps him in working at his spy craft gaining entrance to homes of the very well connected including the very top: – Hitler himself. Themes running through the novel are Levi’s having to apologize for his Jewishness and also to have to hide the fact that he is gay in a country which makes homosexuality a crime even to killing the person for showing a same sex love for another human being.     

While Thomas shows the amount of research she undertook to tell this story I fault her on jumping helter-skelter from topic and circumstance to something else. There were a few situations where the reader could very easily have lost continuity and interest making it very far from an all nighter. Levi’s constant fixing on his homosexuality is overdone and doesn’t at all help maintain the reader’s interest.

5/2021 Paul Lane

LEVI’S WAR by Julie Thomas. HarperCollins (April 20, 2021). ISBN: 978-1460759622. 320 pages.

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THE GARDEN OF ANGELS by David Hewson

May 8, 2021

From the publisher:

At his beloved Nonno Paolo’s deathbed, fifteen-year-old Nico receives a gift that will change his life forever: a yellowing manuscript which tells the haunting, twisty tale of what really happened to his grandfather in Nazi-occupied Venice in 1943.

The Palazzo Colombina is home to the Uccello family: three generations of men, trapped together in the dusty palace on Venice’s Grand Canal. Awkward fifteen-year-old Nico. His distant, business-focused father. And his beloved grandfather, Paolo. Paolo is dying. But before he passes, he has secrets he’s waited his whole life to share.

When a Jewish classmate is attacked by bullies, Nico just watches – earning him a week’s suspension and a typed, yellowing manuscript from his frail Nonno Paolo. A history lesson, his grandfather says. A secret he must keep from his father. A tale of blood and madness . . .

Nico is transported back to the Venice of 1943, an occupied city seething under its Nazi overlords, and to the defining moment of his grandfather’s life: when Paolo’s support for a murdered Jewish woman brings him into the sights of the city’s underground resistance. Hooked and unsettled, Nico can’t stop reading – but he soon wonders if he ever knew his beloved grandfather at all.


Italy entered World War II on the side of Germany, no doubt convinced by Mussolini, the Italian dictator that it would be best to ally themselves with Hitler. The love affair between the two did not last through the entire war and while remnants of the Italian army still served with German troops, Hitler sent an army of occupation to Italy to ensure that the country stayed loyal. 

Hewson’s book is set in the city of Venice during the Nazi occupation and does an exemplary job of depicting the horrors inflicted by the Germans on the civilian population. 

Nonno Paolo is a man that lived through the occupation and has kept his ordeals to himself for many years. The novel opens when Nonno is on his deathbed some fifty plus years after the end of the occupation. He calls his grandson to his side and indicates that he wants to communicate something that must remain between the two and not told to the boy’s father.   

Nicco, the grandson, is asked to read a series of manuscripts prepared by his grandfather. What is contained in these writings will be left to Nicco to interpret for himself although his grandfather would like to discuss them with him and get his ideas.     

The family was engaged in building a business involving the highly skilled weaving of fabrics centered in Venice when the Nazis began their occupation. Hitler’s policies of anti Jewish, Gypsy and Homo sexual groups is adopted by Mussolini and incorporated into a code similar to the Nurenberg laws existing in Germany. A conundrum is placed upon the family when they are asked to shelter a Jewish brother and sister that had been in the Italian resistance and ambushed a group of Germany troops. Sheltering such fugitives could mean death to the family caught sheltering them. When it was explained that the sheltering would be only a little while it was decided to go ahead and offer a short term haven for the two.     

In order to help out while there the brother decides to learn how to weave and aid on a project that would bring in some much needed revenue. Nonno and the brother become friends and close during the activity while the sister thinks only of action against the Nazis. Events taking place and the frights endured by all involved are carefully delineated and make for a uniquely rewarding story of another time and the circumstances peculiar to the period. The reader will find him or herself unable to put the book down and commiserating with the participants in the novel.  A very rewarding read culminating in an unexpected but logical ending.

5/2021 Paul Lane

THE GARDEN OF ANGELS by David Hewson. Severn House Publishers (April 6, 2021). ISBN: 978-1250257208. 304 pages.

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