A story based on the Hebrew legend of 36 Righteous men, whose hidden presence in the world keeps it from destruction. No one knows who these men are, but according to the legend, if they are ever all killed the world will be destroyed.
James Manning and Covina (Dewey) Duwai are detectives working for the New York City police department involved with a special unit handling special crimes. They are called to investigate a case of two men being murdered via the same method, and then it is discovered that two others were killed in Russia in a similar fashion. Investigating the cases, Manning and Dewey enter the Jewish community in New York in which the concept of 36 Righteous Men appears. If all of them, wherever they are, are killed then so the legend states the world comes to an end.
The novel is narrated by Dewey who becomes Manning’s helper and chronicles the events as investigations into these murders goes from New York to Israel and moves into an excavation site in the desert.
The book is a quick read, interesting enough to finish, but unfortunately, the premise behind it and what happens is more than a little far fetched. I’ve read other Steven Pressfield books and will pick up what he writes, but this one is far from his best.
11/19 Paul Lane
36 RIGHTEOUS MEN by Steven Pressfield. W. W. Norton & Company (November 5, 2019). ISBN 978-1324002895. 360p.
The present novel is indicated as Avanti Centrae’s first book in the series about a super-secret division of the CIA. This group is dedicated to investigating possible harmful activities of people or groups with an initiation into the past. Centrae begins the novel in Spain with the description of a battle fought in the year 1057 led by the King of Aragon and against an invading army of Moors. He captures a secret weapon first wrested by the conqueror Alexander the Great.
The scene then shifts into the present time when Maddy Marshall and her twin brother Will Argones attempt to visit their estranged father who has summoned them. They hear shots when approaching his house and in an ensuing attack both their father and Will’s wife who was with them are killed. Immediately after the battle is over Maddy, Will and a friend that appears on the scene are sent by their father via his will on a mission to find the lost secret weapons of Alexander. In the course of the action, they travel to Spain, then to Israel and then rapidly elsewhere. In Israel, they are forced to undergo testing which involves a contest of kill or be killed in order to continue. Why they submit to this trial and other dangerous tests is beyond me but does form part of the novel’s plot.
We learn that the hiding of the secret weapon the Spanish royal family of Ferdinand and Isabel were involved and many of their descendants were killed in the search for the secret weapon. Employing a good deal of literary license that certainly stretches the imagination Maddy, Will and their friend move forward in the search. The novel is a fast read though not by any means an all-nighter. It is something to pick up for the idea postulated and enjoyed on that basis.
11/19 Paul Lane
VAN OPS: THE LOST POWER by Avanti Centrae. Black Opal Books (November 9, 2019). ISBN 978-1644371596. 376p.
This is the third book featuring private detective Kate Weller and appears in its ending as if the author will turn to other material for her next novel.
Kate is working for the Nate Price Investigations team but has found the man she wants to marry, and the book opens as she travels to his home to meet his family. At the same time, the Investigators have been invited to spend a restful week on a private island owned by Julian Frazier, a friend of one of the agency’s wealthy clients. They can bring their significant others with them, and of course, Kate has already done so. Unfortunately, a restaurant owned by Eric’s family (her boyfriend) has a key employee who becomes injured, and Eric, with the help of Kate, has decided to wait the few days until the employee returns and then joins Nate Price’s team on the private island.
The Price group has arrived on the island and after a welcome, has been told by Julian that he would like them to play a game of solving a mystery. When they agree, they are advised that Julian’s wife was murdered several years earlier, with the murderer known but not convicted due to key evidence being disallowed by the court. Julian would like the group to find out who it was that paid for his wife’s murder and also the cover-up later. To help out he has paid very well for the individuals that were involved in the original investigation to come to the island and allow themselves to be interviewed by the Price group.
This very well done novel follows the game and investigations that Price’s group is involved with. In spicing up the book, the writing includes the reactions of everyone to the presence of a psychopath who intends to really involve all in the murders of four of those present. Kate and Eric do arrive several days after the others have gone to the island and are involved in a very satisfying ending. Questions are who are the psychopaths and what really happened to Julian’s wife causing her death.
11/19 Paul Lane
ISLAND OF LAST RESORTS by Mary Ellis. Severn House Publishers; First World Publication edition (November 5, 2019). ISBN 978-0727889348. 224p.
Kate Henderson is a senior MI6 officer who heads up the Russian desk for the British organization. We meet her at a point where she is acting on a tip that the Russians have a high-level spy working at a level guaranteed that he or she will be privy to important information that could do enormous harm to Great Britain. Acting on the tip received, she is trying to get a young girl to take a job on the yacht that is indicated to be sailing with an important Russian official. If his talks are recorded, it would be possible to ascertain who the spy is in the British government. She uses the ploy with the girl she wants to go onboard the yacht that she and her sister, who are attempting to enter England as immigrants, would be guaranteed their residency.
Unfortunately, the girl’s identity is discovered, and she is murdered. Kate is galvanized into raising the level of the search for the mole in the government. At one point Kate herself is thought of as possibly being the mole along with several other people also suspected of being the spy.
The novel moves to cover her search and reactions of both herself and her assistants. Very well done and very engrossing. One of the features used by Bradby in bringing his characters to life is the descriptions of both Kate and her assistant’s private life. These become real people experiencing strains in their personal lives as well as the pressure of doing their jobs. Kate is married, has two children, a girl who is the complicated age of 15 going on 25 and who has encountered her first boyfriend. The boy’s demeanor is not to Kate nor her husband’s liking. There is also a son looking to find his direction in the world. Kate has the misfortune of having an overbearing mother that never misses the opportunity to downgrade her daughter. Her family is very important to her but so is her job, and the conflicts involved are well handled by the author.
The search for the mole is the crux of the matter, and the reader is kept appraised of the investigation into capturing him along with both the family and her job’s pressures. The ending is well done but would seem to rule out any further novels featuring Kate Henderson and her assistants on the MI6 Russian desk. On the other hand, the treatment by the author of this book would certainly indicate future books done as well as this one.
11/19 Paul Lane
SECRET SERVICE by Tom Bradby. Bantam Press; First Edition, First Printing edition (2019). ISBN 978-1787632035. 368p.
During the Second World War, Adolf Hitler found that he could rally the German army as well as the people by selecting scapegoats to blame for the poor economic conditions the country found itself in. He was able to sell the country on the need to go to war and at the same time began the persecution of the groups that were selected as scapegoats. Among these were Jews and Gypsies. Hitler began the mass extermination of his scapegoats by sending them to concentration camps where many were killed in gas ovens as one means of destroying those groups. Both guards and supervisory personnel easily fell into the positions of both condoning the killing as well as rationalizing their own part in the murders by stating that they acted under orders from above.
The Accomplice is a hard-hitting novel telling the story of the finding of one of the medical doctors that had tortured men, women, and children to death in the name of approved experiments. Dr Otto Schramm was head of “experiments” at the Auschwitz camp in Poland and managed to elude capture when the war ended. Seventeen years after the war ended it was thought that Schramm had been killed in an auto accident and searches for him ended. But one of the foremost Nazi hunters, Max Weill, sees him walking on the streets of Hamburg and wants to go after him. Unfortunately Max is a sick man and possibly due to the excitement of the sighting suffers a heart attack and passes away. But not before he charges Aaron Wiley his nephew that is visiting from the US to continue the search. Aaron is an employee of the CIA but basically one working strictly at a desk. Knowing that Max’s wife, Aaron’s aunt was killed by Schramm he takes some vacation from the CIA and begins to chase him.
The main section of the novel is taken up with the chase. Schramm had fled to Argentina and Aaron goes to Buenos Aires to look for him. A most interesting situation develops when Schramm’s daughter is found, and Aaron meets her to obtain information about her father.
The two meet, and a love affair develops with the obvious question can Aaron take her father prisoner and bring him to justice to stand trial for his wartime crimes in the face of his feelings for his daughter?
The chase after Schramm and the very conflicting emotions of the people involved provide an excellent read pulling the readers into the plot with the changing feelings of the period shortly after WWII. This is not a story that can easily be forgotten with the emotions generated by the novel staying fresh for quite a while.
11/19 Paul Lane
THE ACCOMPLICE by Joseph Kanon. Atria Books (November 5, 2019). ISBN 978-1501121425. 336p.
Yigal Zur is not a first-time author and has published several successful novels in the past. I truly wonder what happened to this book. It reads like someone was in a great hurry to finish something before a deadline or the person translating from Hebrew into English was the one in a hurry.
The plot of the novel finds Dotan Naor, an Israeli private detective, in Tel Aviv, when he is called by his partner to fly to Bangkok and find a missing girl. Dotan jumps on a plane with no information about who he is looking for but is handed two passports by the taxi driver that picks him up at the Bangkok airport, one of which is for Sigal Bardon, the girl he is looking for.
Dotan runs helter-skelter all around Bankok, gets beat up, visits a prison to interview someone that may know where Sigal is, and runs into an old friend (now enemy) of his. Reuven was with him in Shin Bet. Due to something that happened back then, and each blaming the other, they were both dismissed from the organization. Looks like Reuven engineered the entire trip and the hunt for Sigal as a means of bringing Dotan to meet with him in Bangkok.
No surprise ending and far from an all-nighter, the novel has the saving grace of supplying a portrait of Bangkok based upon the author’s visits there.
11/19 Paul Lane
PASSPORT TO DEATH by Yigal Zur. Oceanview Publishing; None edition (November 5, 2019). ISBN 978-1608093649.
Pike Logan and Jennifer Cahill are a couple whose usual occupations are participating in U.S. Government ordered military expeditions against terrorists residing overseas and planning threats against America. They work with a group of ex-military personnel that are highly qualified warriors whose origins are among the elite forces of the country. “Exit Fee” is a novella taking place in the United States and involving only Pike and Jennifer.
The couple are at home in Charleston S.C. with Amena, a young Syrian refugee that they have taken into their care. Amena is an orphan whose family was killed in Syria. She is having difficulty adjusting to life in the U.S. and is more than a little rebellious. After an argument with Pike, Amena uses a short walk away from him to attempt to assert her independence. She befriends a teen named Beth on her little trip. Beth is with her Serbian guardian who is, in reality, her captor and has forced her into a life of sexual slavery.
Beth’s minder likes Amena’s looks and decides to take her and force her into the horror of being a sex slave. In typical Pike Logan fashion, Amena, Beth, and other girls are rescued and justice is done. The short book is a feel good exercise with everything turning out well. No problem in reading a book and finishing it with the knowledge that good has triumphed over evil and all’s well that ends well.
10/19 Paul Lane
EXIT FEE by Brad Taylor. William Morrow Impulse (November 12, 2019). ISBN 978-0062984890. 160p.
In the next highly anticipated installment of Lee Child’s acclaimed suspense series, Jack Reacher comes to the aid of an elderly couple . . . and confronts his most dangerous opponents yet. “Jack Reacher is today’s James Bond, a thriller hero we can’t get enough of.”—Ken Follett
“This is a random universe,” Reacher says. “Once in a blue moon things turn out just right.”
This isn’t one of those times.
Reacher is on a Greyhound bus, minding his own business, with no particular place to go, and all the time in the world to get there. Then he steps off the bus to help an old man who is obviously just a victim waiting to happen. But you know what they say about good deeds. Now Reacher wants to make it right.
An elderly couple have made a few well-meaning mistakes, and now they owe big money to some very bad people. One brazen move leads to another, and suddenly Reacher finds himself a wanted man in the middle of a brutal turf war between rival Ukrainian and Albanian gangs.
Reacher has to stay one step ahead of the loan sharks, the thugs, and the assassins. He teams up with a fed-up waitress who knows a little more than she’s letting on, and sets out to take down the powerful and make the greedy pay. It’s a long shot. The odds are against him. But Reacher believes in a certain kind of justice . . . the kind that comes along once in a blue moon.
It is hard to fathom reading twenty-four books featuring the same character, and loving all of them. Yet that is the case here; maybe some are better than others, but all are really good and that says a lot. Jack Reacher has become an iconic character (despite the diminutive Tom Cruise portrayal in the films.) I can’t wait for the Amazon Prime series, but not sure when it will air. It was announced this summer and is being produced by the same companies that are behind Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan series, which is excellent, so I’m hopeful.
One of the best things about this series is that each book can stand alone, so if you have resisted reading one, you can easily start now. You can always go back and read the rest, and I’m fairly confident you will want to. Reacher is a character that is larger than life. His logic is infallible. His morals and values are unshakeable. He is a modern-day hero, and we sure could use one, now more than ever.
This latest story revolves around an elderly couple with a very sick daughter. They are willing to do anything to help her, and that includes borrowing money from loan sharks. This small town where they live is divided into territories, one run by the Ukrainians, the other by the Albanians. Both are terrible, and that’s all Reacher needs to know before deciding to help them out. Of course, he meets an attractive woman and some others who can help. But it is Reacher who cleans up this town, killing so many bad guys that it doesn’t seem possible, yet somehow it is probable. Somehow we buy it.
Kudos to Lee Child for making me believe every page, and read every page, before putting this book down. Not a word is wasted. Another excellent addition to a truly remarkable series.
10/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch
BLUE MOON by Lee Child. Delacorte Press (October 29, 2019). ISBN 978-0399593543. 368p.
In a departure from his regular series, Peter May gives his readers a monumental stand-alone novel dealing with events in Cambodia and Thailand during the period of the Khmer Rouge in the late 1970s. It was a time of massive murder of the people of these countries by a group of homicidal maniacs that had taken power with unlimited self-awarded powers.
Two people are featured as central characters in order to tell two separate stories of those affected by the horrors of events in Cambodia and Thailand. First is Jack Elliot, a soldier of fortune who has been tasked with bringing out a wife and two children from the domain of the Khmer Rouge by their father who had deserted the family as they were taken away. He now expresses regrets and is willing to pay Jack to mastermind their freedom and bring them to him.
The second is 18-year-old Lisa Robinson,vwho is actually Jack’s daughter and is looking for her father. Jack does not know he has a daughter. On the other hand, Lisa has caught a glimpse of her father at her mother’s funeral.
Lisa decides to look for her father, and learning from a friend of his that he has gone to Cambodia, decides to travel there to search for him. May is able to draw in the reader with his description of Lisa’s travels, and her loss of any innocence she may have come with when faced with the reality of what she encounters.
May paints pictures of both individuals to tell the story. First Jack, assembling a small crew of himself and two others, and their trip into the interior of the area ruled by the Khmer Rouge. The author’s graphic description of the horrors inflicted on the people is probably the best I’ve read delineating the monumental excesses of a group that was admittedly more maniacal than any other such savages down through history. The reader is there looking on and in all probability, will not be able to stop following the descriptions. The period was followed by reporters of all media, but nothing they ever wrote can bring out what Peter May does.
The novel is an excellent one and even if alone as the author’s product does inscribe him into a select group of writers.
10/19 Paul Lane
THE NOBLE PATH by Peter May. Quercus; Reprint edition (October 29, 2019). ISBN 978-1787477957. 544p.
When the Addamsville high school janitor is killed in a suspicious house fire, Zora Novak is the prime suspect in the arson. After all, she has a history of being in the wrong place at the wrong time when it comes to fire, and the Novak family is not exactly beloved by the rest of the citizens of Addamsville. What no one else knows is that Zora can see ghosts and hunts demons called firestarters. With the whole town turning against her, Zora begins looking for the real killer, who is likely connected to a string of deadly fires that struck Addamsville thirty years earlier. Zora’s investigation, with help from her cousin Artemis, is complicated when the crew of a ghost-hunting television show arrives in town.
If you are like me and prefer your ghost stories to fall more into the category of creepy and atmospheric than outright horror, then you will likely enjoy Zappia’s latest novel. Zappia does an excellent job of establishing the world and lore of Addmasville. From the descriptions of the small midwestern town and its history of the paranormal, to Zora’s own family history of a missing mother and an ability to see ghosts. Zora’s propensity to get in trouble while trying to secretly fight monsters will likely remind many readers of a certain Vampire Slayer. Zora is a compelling main character who is resourceful, snarky and surrounded by an interesting cast of secondary characters, including her cousin and older sister, who are also willing to jump in a fight Addamsville’s ghosts and demons. The plot moves quickly, and with plenty of descriptions of abandoned mines, cemetery’s and old houses, Now Entering Addamsville is the perfect read for the Halloween season. Now Entering Addamsville has a satisfying conclusion, but Zappia leaves enough of loose ends that there is plenty of material for a sequel, and I am eager for the chance to return to Addamsville.
A creepy Halloween read perfect for fans of Stranger Things, Supernatural, or Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
10/19 Caitlin Brisson
NOW ENTERING ADDAMSVILLE by Francesca Zappia. Greenwillow Books (October 1, 2019). ISBN 9780062935274. 368 p.