ONCE UPON A RIVER by Diane Setterfield

December 9, 2018

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A beautifully written book set in a small town in England sometime during the reign of Queen Victoria. The town is located along the banks of the Thames river (maybe, as Setterfield herself indicates). It is the same river passing through London,meandering by Oxford and other towns along the bank and it provides the center point for a novel describing events in and around Radcot, one of these towns during another time and place. The “Swan” is the locale near Radcot where the local folk go to enjoy drink and companionship after the day’s work is done.

One day, a man, obviously hurt, staggers into the “Swan” carrying what appears to be a dead little girl. After putting her down he collapses but later disappears. In the meanwhile the little girl proves that she is alive by waking up and astounding the patrons of the tavern by doing so. In the course of time three families claim that the now living, but unfortunately mute girl is, theirs, resulting in many differences of opinion among the residents of the area. The gist of the novel revolves about the thoughts and actions of the various factions setting up a novel written in a style reminiscent of books penned in the period described.

While other readers claim that the novel is a sort of fairy tale there is enough low key descriptions of sex, murder, and evil to dispel this idea. What the book is is a well written story which will keep the reader glued to the pages. There was a long period between this novel and Setterfield’s previous book and reading this one gives rise to the hope that it won’t be that long until her next one appears.

12/18 Paul Lane

ONCE UPON A RIVER by Diane Setterfield. Atria/Emily Bestler Books (December 4, 2018).  ISBN 978-0743298070. 480p.

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NINE PERFECT STRANGERS by Liane Moriarty

December 6, 2018

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From the publisher:

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Big Little Lies

Could ten days at a health resort really change you forever? In Liane Moriarty’s latest page-turner, nine perfect strangers are about to find out…

Nine people gather at a remote health resort. Some are here to lose weight, some are here to get a reboot on life, some are here for reasons they can’t even admit to themselves. Amidst all of the luxury and pampering, the mindfulness and meditation, they know these ten days might involve some real work. But none of them could imagine just how challenging the next ten days are going to be.

Frances Welty, the formerly best-selling romantic novelist, arrives at Tranquillum House nursing a bad back, a broken heart, and an exquisitely painful paper cut. She’s immediately intrigued by her fellow guests. Most of them don’t look to be in need of a health resort at all. But the person that intrigues her most is the strange and charismatic owner/director of Tranquillum House. Could this person really have the answers Frances didn’t even know she was seeking? Should Frances put aside her doubts and immerse herself in everything Tranquillum House has to offer – or should she run while she still can?

It’s not long before every guest at Tranquillum House is asking exactly the same question.

Combining all of the hallmarks that have made her writing a go-to for anyone looking for wickedly smart, page-turning fiction that will make you laugh and gasp, Liane Moriarty’s Nine Perfect Strangers once again shows why she is a master of her craft.


I loved most of Moriarty’s books, some more than others. The reviews on this one were mixed, but I really enjoyed it. The characters were brought to life and the setting was interesting. The book does go a bit off the rails towards the end, but Moriarty is a skillful story teller and she manages to get it back on track again. The book was almost five hundred pages yet it read faster than that, I was surprised to see how long it was.

It was an entertaining read and I enjoyed it.

12/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

NINE PERFECT STRANGERS by Liane Moriarty. Flatiron Books (November 6, 2018). ISBN 978-1250069825. 464p.

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WRONG LIGHT by Matt Coyle

December 5, 2018

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The next entry in the popular Rick Cahill series. Rick was a member of the police force when tragedy struck about 10 years ago when his wife was murdered. At first Rick became the prime subject until the investigation against him was suddenly dropped.

Unfortunately, widespread suspicion against him still remained and his life as a member of the police force was over. He was forced to make a living as a private detective with the memory of his wife’s murder always hovering over his head.

His current case was to be hired to protect the life of a popular radio show hostess – Naomi Hendrix’s voice fills the southern California night bringing a wide audience to her station employers.

But one demented individual has begun calling her with threats on her life.and awaiting the best moment to capture her and fulfill his own twisted fantasy.
In taking the job Rick finds himself becoming very attracted to Naomi even when finding out that she has her own secrets to hide. And at the same time he looks for a missing girl whose abduction he may have inadvertently caused.

Matt Coyle has done an excellent job in creating a protagonist with his own major issues continually haunting him; while working towards their solutions

12/18 Paul Lane

WRONG LIGHT by Matt Coyle. Oceanview Publishing (December 4, 2018).  ISBN 978-1608093168. 352p.

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CYBER ATTACK by Tim Washburn

November 27, 2018

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“Cyber Attack” is not the first novel to be written revolving around a cyber attack on the United States. It is, though, one of the most realistic and hard hitting that I’ve read so far. It also delineates the fact that it can be mounted by a relatively small group of computer experts and be very effective.

Such is the situation in Washburn’s story when five men, financed and trained by one individual, successfully initiate action against vulnerable areas in the U.S. doing immense damage to both people and infrastructure.

Utilizing individual reactions to the various sectors attacked allows the full horror to unfold. There is an attack on Chicago stopping all computer related equipment bringing the city to a complete halt, another on a maximum security prison causing a pitched battle between prisoners and the national guard. A third targeting a battleship at sea for testing of their weapon systems and misdirecting the firing to other targets. Planes fall from the sky as their computerized flight systems are stopped.

The horror of what is happening unfolds and aptly brings the situation forcefully to the reader. Washburn takes the opportunity to bring out his personal opinion that due to rivalries among groups in both the military and government the United States is woefully not ready to fully combat the type of attack described.

Two FBI agents, Hank Goodnight and computer programmer Paige Randall, are assigned to attempt to stop the hackers. They are specifically trained to combat fire with fire in order to find and destroy those individuals attacking the nation. Their progress coupled with the work of many government agencies provides the defense mounted. At the same time the reasons for the attack are described and indicate the motivations of the attackers.

A frightening story and one that the author surely means as a wake up call. Excellent and mesmerizing read.

11/18 Paul Lane

CYBER ATTACK by Tim Washburn. Pinnacle (November 27, 2018).  ISBN 978-0786042524. 464p.

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HER LAST MOVE by John Marrs

November 10, 2018

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A fascinating study of a psychotic serial killer, one that is quite different from other novels dealing with similar themes in the sense that the actual killings by the murderer are described down to the last detail. These are very gory and might cause readers to wonder why such descriptions are utilized when more cursory ones could be used. The fact is that these are necessary for the full understanding of the mind set of the killer, and that is probably the aim of the author. At the same time Marrs does a great job of bringing into focus the thoughts and feelings of the police working the case as well as other individuals directly affected by the action.

Becca Vincent is an officer with the London Metropolitan police. She has faced the problem of being a woman in a world still dominated by men. She is longing to be assigned to an important case and prove her ability to her supervisor as well as her peers. She manages to get herself assigned to working with the group looking for the the killer. At the same time Joe Russell, a facial recognition expert, is seconded to Becca’s group in order to provide any help his particular talent can provide. In an afterward to the novel Marrs indicates that a group of these gifted individuals are actually a part of the London police and have been instrumental in bringing many law breakers to justice via picking them out from crowds.

The procedures and actions of a modern police department are well delineated by the author and make for a most interesting read. Becca is a single mother with a daughter with Downs syndrome and Joe is having problems with his marriage and making it work. Descriptions of both private lives coupled with the case they are working on together make this book a fascinating study into human feelings and emotions. Very well done and certainly a novel that will provide much interest in reading future books by John Marrs.

11/18 Paul Lane

HER LAST MOVE by John Marrs. Thomas & Mercer (November 8, 2018).  ISBN 978-1503948020. 352p.

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HEADS YOU WIN by Jeffrey Archer

November 8, 2018

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I must confess that I have been a fan of Archer’s books for quite a while and enjoyed being pulled into them, unable to put them down. “Heads You Win” frankly left me wondering why he would try the experiment that he did in this book. The details of the story are, as usual well researched and carefully constructed, but the method was not really to my taste.

Alexander Karpenko was born in Leningrad and grew up there residing in a small apartment with his mother and father. His thoughts were of going to work as a laborer and perhaps becoming a foreman someday. Fate intervenes when his father is assassinated by the Russian KGB after beginning to form a union to aid the workers he supervises. Elena, Alexander’s mother had worked as a chef in the kitchen preparing the meals for the workers in his father’s crew. She now has to work more hours and catches the eye of a supervisor who has lusted after her and now feels free to begin forcing her to do his will since her husband is dead. Alexander sees him backing his mother into a corner and smashes him with a board to save her.

This is the prelude to the story and the experiment tried by Mr Archer. Alexander’s uncle steps in and helps him and Elena flee Russia. Getting them to the docks where two ships are preparing to sail and Alexander has to choose which one to go on. One is bound for Southampton and the other to New York. Two concurrent stories are told throughout the remainder of the book. One in which the pair board the ship bound for England and the other for the United States. In one story Alexander enters politics and in the other becomes a businessman. He is successful at both endeavors and we follow him and Elena as they progress in their new lives.

It appeared to me that Archer had the makings of two separate books just by changing the names of the characters involved in one. Following along is not the problem it would seem to warrant and that is the best reason to finish the book. I’m sure that the author meant this as an experiment knowing that his reputation would support sufficient interest. I admire the attempt, but trust that Jeffrey Archer will keep to his normal format and his usual method of keeping his readers mesmerized.

There must be a logical ending to this novel and that it is, but flat and my reaction was ????

11/18 Paul Lane

HEADS YOU WIN by Jeffrey Archer. St. Martin’s Press (November 6, 2018).  ISBN 978-1250172501. 448p.

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PAST TENSE by Lee Child

November 5, 2018

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A Jack Reacher Novel, Book 23

I can start every review Lee Child review like this: Jack is back and all is right in my world. I just feel safe knowing he’s out there, fictional though he may be. I do find it necessary to block out the image of Tom Cruise as Reacher, it really doesn’t work in the books, not with descriptors like Bigfoot and the Incredible Hulk, with “fists like Thanksgiving turkeys.”

And then we move on to this latest adventure.

Reacher is in Maine and planning on hitchhiking across America to San Diego. But his first ride takes him to New Hampshire, where he sees a sign for the tiny town where his father was born. He doesn’t know much about his father, so he decides to check it out.

There is a rather deserted motel on the outskirts of the town where a young couple’s car has broken down. They reluctantly check into the motel but things are creepy here.

You know that these two plot lines are going to intersect at some point, but it takes a really long time for that to happen. Meanwhile, Reacher is learning things about his family that he never knew. And of course, he also gets into some trouble.

First he saves a woman from a drunken encounter with a menacing man by beating him senseless. It turns out he is connected to the local mob. He gets in some more fights, making the police unhappy with him as well. But being Reacher, he sticks around until he can figure out his family situation. And of course, the motel.

I loved learning more about Reacher’s family, but I didn’t enjoy the motel plot line as much. It just seemed like a retread for some reason. Twenty-three books into this series, not every one is going to be perfection. I understand that, and while I didn’t love this one, I liked it a lot and read it in one night. So no real complaints here other than having to wait another year for Reacher’s next adventure. Hopefully, it will be better.

11/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

PAST TENSE by Lee Child. Delacorte Press (November 5, 2018).  ISBN 978-0399593512. 400p.

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THE RECKONING by John Grisham

October 25, 2018

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The novel opens with Pete Banning going over to the Methodist Church he and his family attended and shooting and killing his friend the Reverend Dexter Bell. We immediately know what happened and basically what Grisham’s novel revolves around;  it says so on the book’s flap as well as on any description written about it. 

The why becomes a fascinating study in human relations and what factors can cause one man to kill another. The book is centered in a small town in the state of Mississippi just shortly after the end of World War II. Pete Banning has returned home a decorated hero, wanting only to resume his life with his beautiful wife and two children.  His is important enough to the story for Grisham to detail the facts behind his bravery. 

This is a well researched look at the events unfolding in the Philippinesat the time of the Bataan death march. A portrait of the horrid conditions in the internment camp in which Pete is held coupled with his heroic actions later in fighting the Japanese upon his escape is extremely well done. His character is molded by this phase of his life and may supply clues to his motivation in committing murder.

Pete’s children, his wife and his sister are effected by his actions. They are completely surprised at his lack of interest in defending himself at the trial convened to try him for murder. 

The novel is John Grisham at his peak exercising a literary talent second to none.  When is the next book coming out is the only question remaining for the reader and I second that opinion. 

10/18 Paul Lane

THE RECKONING by John Grisham. Doubleday (October 23, 2018).  ISBN 978-0385544153. 432p.

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THE FOX by Frederick Forsyth

October 22, 2018

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This twisting and turning look into international espionage is Forsyth’s latest well researched and engrossing novel.  Following the trend begun in his “The Day of the Jackal,” it is a story of the clashing of several resolute wills and delineating  the thinking of all sides opposed to each other. 
The principal characters involved are basically well fleshed out and their actions based on what such individuals would probably do in real life. The style utilized in “The Fox” is one of description of events rather than the movement back and forth between individuals. Their motivations are described in this style which in the author’s hands does lend itself quite well to understanding them.
     
Luke Jennings is a teen-aged British young man that has called attention to himself through hacking into the seemingly impenetrable computer firewalls of the U.S. agencies of the NSA, the CIA and the Pentagon. The United States demands to have Luke extradited from England to face trial in the USA. 
The British Prime Minister calls on Adrian Weston, former chief of British secret intelligence service, to attempt to intervene and prevent the extradition. Upon meeting Luke, Adrian finds that the boy is what is normally termed an “idiot savant,” a person very versed in one area but silent on everything else.  His area of expertise is mastering computer skills which allowed him to hack into the several U.S. agencies’ computers. 
The story turns on the manner Adrian manages to prevent Luke’s arrest and than using him to turn the tables on attempts by China,  North Korea, Russia and Iran to attack the west and their allies. Certain events that actually occurred are described as being prevented by Luke’s seemingly magical hacking of impenetrable computers giving rise to counter measures by the west. 
An excellent read written by one of the literary world’s master craftsmen, and again causing everyone reading his books to eagerly await Forsyth’s next novel.

10/18 Paul Lane

THE FOX by Frederick Forsyth. G.P. Putnam’s Sons (October 23, 2018).  ISBN 978-0525538424. 304p.

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DECK THE HOUNDS by David Rosenfelt

October 15, 2018

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An Andy Carpenter Novel, Book 18

Just in time for Christmas is another charming Andy Carpenter adventure . As his fans are acutely aware, Andy is a lawyer. He is a good one as all the novels written about him will attest. Minor problem is that he inherited a lot of money and has elected to live the good life as a gentleman scholar. That is to maintain a law office and never be in it, instead spending his time with his family; his gorgeous wife, one child and two dogs.

At the risk of being redundant, he has a staff of very unique people to help him when he is forced by circumstances beyond his control to defend someone in court. His wife, Laurie, was at one point a police chief and acts as his detective as needed. He has another lawyer to help him and Marcus, the silent type – and very strong to handle the rough stuff. He also has access to the second in command of an FBI field office. She is always in the office and will do anything to help Laurie including supplying information needed by Andy (disguised as Laurie) to move forward with a case.

There is also Edna, Andy’s secretary and office manager who has developed an allergy towards working. She is sent checks for her salary, and cashing these seems to be her sole function at work. She also likes surveying the beach as much as possible and living and working in New Jersey this is always a possibility. His best friend Willy and his wife manage the dog rescue service that he and Andy founded after a case of capital murder with a death sentence was successfully turned over by Andy freeing Willy from death row.

So the field is set, the team in place and all we need is someone to defend in court. And this is done neatly when Andy gives a handout to a street person and then later sees that man fend off an attacker, with a dog seemingly belonging to him helping out. Laurie and Andy decide to take the man home and allow him to stay in rooms in their attic while letting him attempt to reenter the active world. Lo and behold it seems the man used to be a member of military special forces and has become skilled in killing his country’s enemies.

The newspapers sense a story in the Carpenters doing such a good deed and print the story with photos of the homeless man. And wouldn’t you know it there is a charge of murder against him which is now served. Okay, we have the background and the basis for another excellent read starring Andy and his crew. Don’t worry there are many things to discover, places to go and a trial to go through. Don’t even doubt that the book will be interesting, humorous, and another incentive to keep eyes peeled for the next Andy Carpenter novel.

10/18 Paul Lane

DECK THE HOUNDS by David Rosenfelt. Minotaur Books (October 16, 2018).  ISBN 978-1250198488. 368p.

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