IN PRIOR’S WOOD by G. M. Malliet

April 21, 2018

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A Max Tudor Mystery, Book 7 

Malliet presents the 7th book written featuring Max Tudor, the Vicar of his church in the village of Nether Monkslip, situated in a charming rural section of England. Max is quite happy in his chosen role after a career with British Intelligence as an agent for MI5. He is married to a lovely lady, has a young son and is very content with his role in life.

Unfortunately, Max seems to attract murder like a fly to honey and has proven quite a help to DCI Cotton of the local police in solving these cases.

Just returning from a trip with Cotton to help with a case in another town, Max wants nothing more than to relax and concentrate on a sermon he plans to give about the ancient Israeli King David and his lust for Bathsheba. David had committed the sin of sending Bathsheba’s husband to die during a war so that she could be his wife.

Just getting involved in the sermon, the town is confronted with the apparent murder and attempted suicide pact of the wife of the local manor lord. Max is plunged into helping to solve the crime and away we go. It is probably not appropriate to use the term “charming” about a case of murder, but Malliet’s prose brings this adjective to mind. There are no grisly murder scenes depicted, merely statements that these occurred. Life in Nether Monkslip is modern; computers are used, e-books are read and the people are affected when bad things happen.

The novel is a fun read, certainly not deep nor devious, quite satisfying and certainly sure to whet the reader’s appetite for more of these books.

4/18 Paul Lane

IN PRIOR’S WOOD by G. M. Malliet. Minotaur Books (April 17, 2018).  ISBN 978-1250092809. 304p.


April 20, 2018

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The Jack McColl Series, Book 4

The fourth, and announced as the final book featuring Jack McColl and his love Caitlin Hanley during the period just before, during and after World War I. Book three left Jack in prison in England serving a trumped up sentence and Caitlin leaving Jack in order to stay in post revolutionary Russia to help work on details of the Communist Revolution.

The opening of this novel has Jack offered a pardon if he will go to Russia to spy on members of the newly formed MI5, apparently plotting high level assassination plans. Jack goes and Caitlin is, of course, in Russia. The strength of the book is in Downing’s thoroughly researched details of the world just after the war to end all wars ends. Russia is depicted in the turmoil of a myriad of battles during her revolution between the many factions emerging to try and take power. Lenin has become the head of state and the Russian government’s ability to help it’s people is virtually nil. Scenes of mass starvation, mass murder and a country devoid of any semblance of law and order are painted in plain prose.

Entering into the mix are the supposed planned assassinations of Gandhi and the British Prince of Wales in India by Russian groups. Also Caitlin has married in the period between the books and that is the proverbial sticky wicket between Jack and her getting together again.

Downing has Jack completely disappointed in England for sending so many young men to die needlessly in World War I and undoubtedly this reflects the author’s opinion. The first three books adequately described the carnage engendered by the battles of men using modern weapons against a foe entrenched just a few yards away. The book and the series ends with a climax that reflects Downing’s opinion and is the only possible logical ending. A complete series about a period now more than a century ago. It is certain that Downing will entertain his readers again, and I trust very shortly.

4/18 Paul Lane

THE DARK CLOUDS SHINING by David Downing. Soho Crime (April 10, 2018).  ISBN 978-1616956066. 384p.

WARNING LIGHT by David Ricciardi

April 19, 2018

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Zac Miller is a long term employee of the CIA who is currently based in London. He is not a field operative, has never “run” someone that is bringing in important intelligence work for the US. His work is devoted to the necessary administrative tasks that are indispensable for the agency to function but never bring in the glory attached to spy work.

The novel opens with Zac on a trip to Paris to meet with a young lady that he already has met and would like to get to know better. Nothing is further from his thoughts than possibly taking on a secret mission and acting as a spy. Suddenly his world changes; a phone call from his boss advises that a man destined for a mission to Iran has taken ill and cannot go. Reluctantly Zac is assigned to go in the other agent’s place, in spite of the trepidation felt by his supervisor.

The plane he boards, destined for the far east, experiences engine trouble, cannot continue on its planned flight, and is forced to land at an airport in Iran. That is where Zac’s troubles start. He takes pictures of the area on his phone’s camera acting as a normal tourist would and is arrested and detained by the Iranian secret police. The why of this is part of the tale spun here.

Where Zac goes, how he does it, are fascinating views of a world in conflict in the Middle East. The research done in describing the action Zac becomes involved in is painstaking and succeeds in delivering a view of a zone that has been in conflict for many years. The statement “an all nighter” is apt but really doesn’t describe what a reader will find happening to him or her once the book is opened. I felt quite satisfied in arriving at an ending logical for this novel, but allowing enough questions to remain to logically expect another novel to follow this one shortly – can’t wait!

4/18 Paul Lane

WARNING LIGHT by David Ricciardi. Berkley (April 17, 2018).  ISBN 978-0399585739. 336p.

BIG GUNS by Steve Israel

April 17, 2018

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A completely unabashed tongue-in-cheek look at American big business, big businessmen, Congress, the Senate and of course our president. I knew that this book was a comedy when I started it, but the remarks, the actions described and the characters are truly larger and a lot funnier than I expected.

The story opens with the mayor of Chicago desperate to somehow stop the myriad number of shootings and murders going on in his city. He therefore decides to push the Federal government into passing a law making firearms illegal. We know that this would infringe on our second amendment rights to carry and bare arms and commit mayhem to our hearts content so the blow back begins.

Otis Cogsworth, the wealthy owner and CEO of Cogsworth Arms company who we find enjoying a well deserved time out in the Long Island town of Asabogue, feels that such a law would interrupt his continued surge forward to becoming a multi-billionaire. He therefore directs his lobbyist Sunny McCarthy to get a Congressman to present a bill to force everyone to carry a gun. Complicating the matter, Lois Leibowitz, the mayor of Asabogue, and incidentally Sunny McCarthy’s mother, gets a law passed banning guns in her town. Cogsworth retaliates against Lois by financing an election between Jack Steele, a wealthy resident and former movie star, and her.

What happens and who does what to whom becomes the funniest set of circumstances possible. All I can say is that the reader’s stomach will be tender from laughing so much. In the midst of all the serious happenings in the world today, Big Guns should be made required reading as a necessary time out.

4/18 Paul Lane

BIG GUNS by Steve Israel. Simon & Schuster (April 17, 2018).  ISBN 978-1501118029. 320p.

TRUE FICTION by Lee Goldberg

April 16, 2018

 Ian Ludlow Thrillers, Book 1

Many years ago, a popular author I know told a story about how he was invited by Homeland Security to a retreat with other writers and creatives. Their goal was to dream up scenarios of terrorist attacks on the U.S. so that Homeland Security could be prepared. This was a true story, and I’m guessing Lee Goldberg was also at that meeting or at least heard the story, because that is the premise here, and it’s a really good one.

Ian Ludlow writes spy thrillers and when a man named “Bob” shows up in a limo at his door inviting him to a similar retreat with the CIA, off he goes. A few years later, reminiscent of 9/11 a plane crashes into a hotel in Hawaii, killing hundreds of people. Ian is the only one who knows exactly how it was done because he was the one who dreamed it up. He is on book tour, and realizes that the other authors that were at that meeting with him have recently died and those weird accidents he has just narrowly escaped would have left him dead as well.

Panicking, he gets his author escort, Margo, involved in helping him escape. He is convinced the CIA is after him, and when a driverless Mercedes Benz comes racing down the street right at him, Margo pushes him out of the way and realizes he is serious. Ian takes her to meet Ron Mancuso, former star of a TV series he wrote. Mancuso has gone a little off the deep end, paranoia is his best friend and he is living off the grid. He agrees to help and the race is on.

Meanwhile, the CIA is embarrassed by the attack in Hawaii when a former agent, now heading a Blackwater type private security firm called Blackthorn, shows up at CIA headquarters with a reasonable explanation of what happened and intel on where to find the perpetrators, and has the men in place to capture them – but it goes south and the men are killed. Blackthorn is just moments away from receiving a classified contract outsourcing many CIA operations except for one fly in the ointment – Ian Ludlow.

This is a fast paced story with lots of action, explosions and chase scenes as well as a lot of laughs, my favorite combination. I’m not sure if the all the technology mentioned is accurate and I really don’t want to know – if big brother is watching us all that closely, I’d be terrified.

It is a terrific introduction to a new series, and I can’t wait for the next book.

4/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

TRUE FICTION by Lee Goldberg. Thomas & Mercer (April 1, 2018). ISBN 978-1503949188. 237p.

THE FIRST FAMILY by Michael Palmer & Daniel Palmer

April 15, 2018

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Daniel Palmer credits his late father Michael Palmer as co-author of this riveting medical thriller. Michael was actually an MD and did write a good many excellent novels based on medically related ideas.

In “The First Family” a strange malady strikes the President of the United States’ son. He suddenly develops episodes of extreme fatigue, unexplained moodiness and sudden violent outbreaks of temper. At the same time a young gifted violinist named Susie Banks experiences a violent uncontrollable outbreak that catches her when she is in the middle of her first public concert. Is there a connection between the episodes experienced by these two unrelated people?

Karen Ray, a member of the Secret Service group charged with guarding the President and his family, does not agree with the diagnosis presented by the President’s physician for Cam who is the President’s son. She calls her ex-husband Lee, a family doctor, to look into Cam’s symptoms. Coincidentally Lee gets to examine Susie who is a patient at a hospital he is working at.

The reader is drawn expertly into a medical problem that has an importance to someone causing murders to be committed in order to keep the victims from being fully examined. Daniel Palmer successfully creates a scenario that keeps the reader riveted to the pages while moving from one suspicious event to another. The ending is one that upon reflexion is the correct one for the characters involved and while is not a fairy tale finale does leave the reader with the impression that this is the way real life would have evolved the events. Daniel Palmer does very well continuing his father’s custom of giving a great read to his readers. Very well done.

4/18 Paul Lane

THE FIRST FAMILY by Michael Palmer & Daniel Palmer. Atria/Emily Bestler Books (March 6, 2018).  ISBN 978-1501180811. 416p.


April 14, 2018

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Lelic presents us with a novel that looks at the question of how our childhood and family background affect our adult life.

Jack and Syd, boyfriend and girlfriend, find a house they like in London. It is large enough to satisfy their needs, although cluttered with the items belonging to the previous owner. The former owner had suddenly decided to move to Australia in order to be with a woman he met on line. His house then enters the market in a London suffering from a shortage of homes for sale. Jack and Syd submit an application, which much to their surprise, is accepted by the owner in spite of the couple bidding below the asking price.

The format used in telling the story is alternating sections narrated by one of the two. It is in this way that we find out that Jack is a product of a well-to-do family that is not accepting Syd.  On the other hand, Syd grew up in a home in which her father was a pathological bully, browbeating and stifling her until she moved away. Syd’s younger sister dies of a disease after Syd leaves home.

The initial set of incidents presented in the novel include mysterious footsteps and noises throughout the house leading to the possible existence of ghosts. In addition, Syd meets a young girl from the area who is suffering from an abusive father in a manner that reminds her of her own horrible childhood. Both circumstances contribute to the effectiveness of the book’s plot.

During their individual narratives, Lelic shows how both Syd and Jack react to events occurring when in the house. The move forward for both of them is very well handled and the changes in attitude of both of them are tied to their past. The novel is a fascinating study of past being prologue and character shaped during a period of great stress. The book is very well done and invites a good deal of thought about the meaning of the narrative. An engrossing novel not easily forgotten by the reader.

4/18 Paul Lane

THE NEW NEIGHBORS by Simon Lelic. Berkley (April 10, 2018).  ISBN 978-0451490452. 352p.


April 12, 2018

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From the publisher:

Instant #1 New York Times Bestseller!

“Astounding. Thrilling. Amazing.” —Gillian Flynn

“Unputdownable.” —Stephen King

“A dark, twisty confection.” —Ruth Ware

“Absolutely gripping.” —Louise Penny

For readers of Gillian Flynn and Tana French comes one of the decade’s most anticipated debuts, to be published in thirty-six languages around the world and already in development as a major film from Fox: a twisty, powerful Hitchcockian thriller about an agoraphobic woman who believes she witnessed a crime in a neighboring house.

It isn’t paranoia if it’s really happening . . .

Anna Fox lives alone—a recluse in her New York City home, unable to venture outside. She spends her day drinking wine (maybe too much), watching old movies, recalling happier times . . . and spying on her neighbors.

Then the Russells move into the house across the way: a father, a mother, their teenage son. The perfect family. But when Anna, gazing out her window one night, sees something she shouldn’t, her world begins to crumble—and its shocking secrets are laid bare.

What is real? What is imagined? Who is in danger? Who is in control? In this diabolically gripping thriller, no one—and nothing—is what it seems.

Twisty and powerful, ingenious and moving, The Woman in the Window is a smart, sophisticated novel of psychological suspense that recalls the best of Hitchcock.

An Amazon Best Book of January 2018

“The rocket fuel propelling The Woman in the Window, the first stratosphere-ready mystery of 2018, is expertise. . . . Dear other books with unreliable narrators: This one will see you and raise you.” (New York Times Book Review)

“Finn’s debut lives up to the hype. . . . A riveting and mature first novel that stands out in a crowded genre.” (Library Journal [starred review])

“Next year’s ‘Gone Girl’? Perhaps. ‘The Woman in the Window’ lives up to the hype” (Washington Post)


I’m posting the publisher’s information, including the blurbs, because they are diametrically opposed to my impressions of the book and I want to be fair. This is another of the “girl books”, a subgenre of thriller that includes a woman of dubious character, an unreliable narrator, as protagonist. This is my least favorite type of thriller. I have really enjoyed a few of them, The Wife by Alafair Burke and The Girl Before by J.P. Delaney spring immediately to mind. But I mostly hate them –  Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, the book that really started this whole craze and I couldn’t even get past the first fifty pages and I tried and tried and tried. I did manage to read The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins but I hated it, rather like The Woman in the Window.

This is an unlikely (it’s a debut novel) huge bestseller. My best friend loved it, and she generally has impeccable taste (but not this time.) My library patrons keep raving, even after I tell them I read the first 50 pages, then went back and read some more, the first 100 pages, and I didn’t like it. I caved to peer pressure and read the whole damn book, a couple of hours I’ll never get back. I figured out a couple of the main plot twists, which is really odd because I wasn’t even trying and I almost never figure out this stuff, but it was so obvious to me. And I hate when that happens.

So if you are a fan of the girl books, or want to read the book before the movie comes out, this is the book for you. Sadly, it was not the book for me.

4/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW by A. J. Flynn. William Morrow; 1st Edition edition (January 2, 2018). ISBN 978-0062678416. 448p.

AFTER ANNA by Lisa Scottoline

April 10, 2018

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In this new standalone thriller, there are two sides of a heartwrenching story alternating chapter by chapter, and in a truly unique way, one is moving forward and the other is moving backward. Scottoline has the mad writing skills to pull it off and do it really well.

Dr. Noah Alderman is on trial for murdering Anna, and his story starts as he is in court, awaiting the verdict. Then his chapters move backwards in time, the closing argument, the last witness, etc.

Maggie Ippolitti is Noah’s second wife, stepmother to Caleb, Noah’s ten year old boy with a speech disorder. They are a very happy family. But Maggie has a past – she also was married before and had a daughter, Anna. She suffered from postpartum psychosis, and basically turned herself in to get help before she harmed her daughter. While she was hospitalized, her husband divorced her, had her declared unfit, and got custody, after which he took Anna to France, where his family lived. Shortly after that, he sold his startup company for many millions of dollars and dumped his daughter in one boarding school after another and Maggie hasn’t seen Anna since she was 6 months old.

By now, Anna is a senior in high school and when her father is killed in a plane crash, she contacts her mother. Maggie is beyond thrilled, and when Anna says she is unhappy in school, Maggie immediately invites her to live at home with her. Very quickly things start going badly. Anna seems uncomfortable with Noah, and accuses him of trying to molest her. She takes him to court, and Maggie gets her to settle by forcing Noah to move out. And then Anna turns up dead on Noah’s front porch.

I was reading away, completely engrossed with this family and their saga when suddenly the story took a hard turn and starting moving at breakneck speed to a really shocking ending. I stayed up late to finish it, then stayed up even later thinking about it. I love when that happens – don’t miss it!

4/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

AFTER ANNA by Lisa Scottoline. St. Martin’s Press (April 10, 2018). ISBN: 978-1250099655. 400p.


THE ORACLE YEAR by Charles Soule

April 4, 2018

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Suppose you woke up one morning and find 108 predictions of future events had come to roost in your head. Than suppose you tested a few out and found that they come true. Now how can you capitalize on this once in a billion occurrence which apparently came only to you.

Soule’s novel is about this nice problem presenting itself to a bassist named Will Dando, who is a resident of Manhattan in New York City. Will quickly comes to the decision that he must protect his anonymity, calling himself the Oracle, and establishing a heavily guarded website with the help of a good friend who is conveniently computer literate.

Very quickly he establishes an enviable reputation with huge companies and wealthy persons who offer him tons of money to present them with predictions. He also gains a like number of enemies that want nothing better than to stop him. These include the President of the United States, a well known televangelist, a power hungry African warlord and the cutest little old grandma who turns out to be a paid killer. He also meets a very beautiful reporter scoring an interview with him and also becoming his love.

The scene of the action taking place is the entire world. There is enough clever tongue-in-cheek comments to allow the reader to completely enjoy a good book and also pick up on the criticisms leveled at customs and mores of modern society.

Soule is a well known comic book franchise writer and strangely enough has waited until now to come out with his first novel. There have just got to be more from an author with this wit and charm in his writing.

4/18 Paul Lane

THE ORACLE YEAR by Charles Soule. Harper Perennial (April 3, 2018).  ISBN 978-0062686633. 416p.