FIREFLY by Henry Porter

October 10, 2018

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One the most horrific problems affecting the world today is the migration of literally millions of people which provides the backdrop for this novel. This is the attempt by large segments of populations in the middle east and Africa to flee repressive regimes, starvation and mass murder in order to begin new lives in countries that are considered safe. Porter presents a no holds barred portrait of peoples caught up in the need to escape from the lands of their birth due to changing conditions that do not allow them to live there.

Naji is a thirteen year old boy born in Syria who is thrust into manhood when his father dies. It becomes necessary for his family to flee their home as situations arise that cause their lives to become untenable. It becomes Naji’s job to travel through the middle east, into Europe and eventually into Germany to arrange for his family to be accepted there by relatives. This is a journey that must be done by foot as Naji’s family does not have the funds to send him by plane or even train.

Naji has obtained pictorial evidence held on his cellphone of plans by a vicious ISIS cell who discover what he has and mount an organized attempt to catch and kill him and retrieve the evidence. When Britain’s MI6 gets wind of what Naji has they mount a search for him by contracting Luc Samson currently a private detective but previously an agent for MI6 to spearhead the operation.

Porter employs a back and forth system between Maji and Luc to tell the story. We see a young boy that is forced to grow up very fast while attempting to comply with his family’s needs and a professional that develops an attachment for this brave young man while chasing him. Luc finds a possible romance and Naji lifetime friends in the course of the action. The novel is, of course, a definite all nighter and keeps the reader glued to the book and aghast at the realities of what is happening in our time and affecting decisions made by all governments. There are no solutions offered by the author for the simple reason that none are probably possible in the face of the titanic stage the action is played out on. But, the book does provide some insight into what is happening to real people through no fault of their own and affecting so much of the world.

10/18 Paul Lane

FIREFLY by Henry Porter. Mysterious Press (October 2, 2018).  ISBN 978-0802128959. 480p.



RED WAR by Vince Flynn & Kyle Mills

September 25, 2018

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A Mitch Rapp Novel, Book 15

Vince Flynn created the persona of Mitch Rapp, writing 13 novels featuring this hero. Unfortunately, the literary world lost Flynn due to his untimely passing in 2013, but did not lose Mitch Rapp. Kyle Mills, a noted author in his own right, picked up the gauntlet and began writing novels utilizing Mitch, his brilliant supervisor Irene Kennedy, and the backup of a secret group reporting directly to the president of the United States.

“Red War” is such a book. Kyle Mills successfully utilizes the formula Flynn began with Mitch Rapp novels. There is action aplenty, playing out on a world wide stage and a style that captures the reader, causing a lack of sleep until the novel is finished. The difference with this book is that Russia rather than radical Islamic terrorism takes the stage as the villain. This seems to reflect the renewed emphasis on the evil empire as radical Islamic terrorism seems to be a bit less dangerous to the western world at the present time.

Maxim Krupin is the president of Russia and a complete dictator. He learns that he has inoperable brain cancer and is determined to hold power over his country as long as possible. In order to do so, as well as preventing people from noticing that he has become physically weakened Krupin decides to initiate a war with the west. The action requires that he invade and take over several countries previously allied with Russia during the cold war period. Irene Kennedy gets wind of what Krupin plans and assigns Mitch Rapp to thwart those ideas.

Mitch’s actions and the results obtained are, shall we say, somewhat exaggerated but consistent with the literary license both Vince Flynn and Kyle Mills utilize to develop the story. The usage of this style has made the Mitch Rapp novels the success that they are and readers will continue to enjoy the books as they appear. Often times it isn’t at all bad to stay with a hero that is a bit invincible and is acting on a world stage.

9/18 Paul Lane

RED WAR by Vince Flynn & Kyle Mills. Atria/Emily Bestler Books (September 25, 2018).  ISBN 978-1501190599. 384p.




September 24, 2018

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A well done novel about a secret society within a secret society set in the bounds of Harvard University.

Spencer Collins, a young man from the inner city of Chicago, has been accepted into prestigious Harvard University. He expects to live the full life of a student attending university where he will endure grinding class work and study while playing basketball for the school. Much to his surprise and pleasure, he is tendered an invitation to join the very cream of the “final” clubs existing at Harvard. These clubs provide room and board to their members and the benefits of a fraternal type of organization. It is the “Delphic” that invites him to meet with their members as a prelude to gaining membership.

While working at his studies and becoming involved with the “gas” club as the Delphic is popularly known, Spencer also becomes aware of the “Ancient Nine.” This is a secret organization within the secret Delphic club and comprised of unknown members of that group.

Spencer and his friend Dalton Winthrop become entranced in attempting to learn the secrets behind the Ancient Nine and what they stand for and Smith brings us a logical progression towards this end. He also brings the reader a very realistic picture of men and women involved in academic life and learning with parties, drinking, sports and rooting for the college team. He also shows the entrance of love into Spencer’s life and his meeting with the girl that is to become his wife.

The novel tells the story set in the academic world that Harvard is. The University is one of the first colleges established in the United States and the alma mater of generations of successful graduates who not only have the education received, but the help of a powerful alumni group built up over centuries. The purpose of the Nine as presented by the author is a very original idea utilizing Harvard’s lengthy existence as a prop in the story. While Smith has written several other books involving technical topics, this is only his second novel and certainly should press him to do more with fiction.

9/18 Paul Lane

THE ANCIENT NINE by Ian Smith, M.D. St. Martin’s Press (September 18, 2018).  ISBN 978-1250182395. 432p.



THE NIGHT CROSSING by Robert Masello

September 23, 2018

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Masello’s forte is the writing of historical novels with a touch of the supernatural included; “The Night Crossing” is no exception. It is set in England during the late 1800s and early 1900s and features the author Bram (Abraham) Stoker.

Stoker contributed more than a few books to the world of literature but is most remembered for “Dracula,” a novel about an undead Vampire living in Transylvania but than migrating to London spreading his horrors there.

This story opens when Mina, an intrepid explorer who is seeking out old ruins working in the Carpathian mountains, discovers a beautiful golden box and brings it back with her to England completely unaware of it’s evil power. She meets Stoker who is working as the manager of a successful theater and attempting part time to establish himself as a major author. Mina and Bram meet while becoming involved in a deadly plot that the wealthy owners of a safe haven for the poor have going for them. It is discovered that what these people who are brother and sister are engaged in is using ancient Egyptian methods in forestalling the aging process while using people staying at their safe haven as objects to utilize in their methods.

The couple own a factory making matches, using the poor as low or no paid workers to do so. The methods involve taking their souls and incorporating them into their own while killing the donor. Stoker and Mina are approached by Lucinda, who is an employee of the factory and mother to one of the children used to harvest the soul. They begin their investigation and in determining what is going on Masello makes the insinuation that in thinking about the possible eternal life gained by the couple and the source of Mina’s find of the golden box Stoker conceives the basic idea of the “Dracula” novel.

One of the coincidences of the period the novel is set in in real life is that Bram Stoker died five days after the headlines of the sinking of the Titanic appeared. Masello takes advantage of this and places Stoker and Mina aboard the doomed Titanic in their pursuit of the non aging couple they have chased for many years. The ship’s fate is chronicled faithfully indicating a good deal of research and an interest in it’s fate by the author. The description and the inclusion of people that actually were present makes for a very well done final setting to an excellent novel and adds to the story rather than steering it in another direction.

The presence of Bram Stoker on the Titanic is literary license- he never set foot upon her.

9/18 Paul Lane

THE NIGHT CROSSING by Robert Masello. 47North (September 18, 2018).  ISBN 978-1503904118. 448p.



BUTTON MAN by Andrew Gross

September 19, 2018

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Gross has changed his emphasis slightly for his last 3 books including this one, “Button Man.” The settings have been set in the past to make the novels more historical than present day. His ability as an author has not been changed in any way. He is a wordsmith and has a style and phraseology that make reading his books engrossing and his readers always searching for his latest novels.

I had recently read “One Man”, a masterful treatment of individuals incarcerated in concentration camps during World War II. I stated that this was Gross’s best novel. I have to revise my opinion to that “Button Man” now holds that place. But knowing his skills let’s see what the next book he authors holds for his readers.

In an afterward to the present book, the author indicates that the leading character is somewhat modeled after his grandfather. If so, he obviously has the advantage of remembering talks with the man as well as listening to a recording made describing his grandfather’s days as a manufacturer of women’s apparel. It brings the book’s setting into the period after World War I and the rise of businesses dedicated to these product lines.

Morris Rabishevsky and his siblings grew up in the lower east side of New York City. They were thrust on their own when their father passed away leaving them to start earning money to help support the family. Morris was 12 years old and began a career by managing to convince a garment cutter to take him on as an apprentice ahead of older, more experienced men. He quickly proves himself adept in learning the business and at 21 years of age opens up a his own operation along with his brother Sol, who had meanwhile been studying accounting.

The business became successful, Morris and Sol changed their last name to Raab,and grew during the early 1920s and 1930s. This was a period during which organized crime also grew in order to prey on those successful. Names like Lepke and Dutch Schultz arose to look for the means to bring the gains made by successful businesses into their own pockets. Unions were formed by gangsters for sole purposes of extortion of both the firm and the worker and certainly not to help employees with work problems.

While Morris and his family had to exist with the threats of the phony unions coupled with politicians and police officers on the take, Gross paints a picture of Thomas E. Dewey. Dewey in his career became a special prosecutor, becoming the Elliot Ness of New York in order to take down the criminals he went after. Not getting any witnesses to testify against the criminals due to fear of gang retribution, Dewey filed charges of monopoly in restraint of trade and other crimes not requiring witnesses to bring to court. In his lifetime he became governor of New York State and also ran for president unsuccessfully against Franklin Roosevelt and than Harry Truman.

Andrew Gross paints Dewey in a very favorable light giving him and his assistants credit for helping rid New York of much of it’s criminal element including an organized gang venture into murder for pay termed “Murder, Inc”. The businesses described in the book and the drive of their founders certainly can be equated with other organizations growing in a country that fostered the drive to make money. It is a favorable depiction of the capitalist system which makes pursuit of profit something desirable rather than a tawdry custom that detracts from the fairness that should exist between businessmen.

“Button Man” is not a book that is looking to expose what is undesirable but a picture of men and women building an industry through doing the best they can for themselves. Competition is desirable and helps to insure progress in areas that can use it to expand.

9/18 Paul Lane

BUTTON MAN by Andrew Gross. Minotaur Books (September 18, 2018).  ISBN 978-1250179982. 384p.




September 13, 2018

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Daniel Mason presents a truly monumental book about a great love affair amidst the horrors of war. It is set during the period of World War I and along the eastern front in which Austria was fighting Russia.

There are two main protagonists involved in the story. The first is a young man named Lucius who was a medical student in Vienna when war broke out. His father had been an Austrian officer in previous conflicts and glorified the tradition of war urging Lucius to enter the military.

Lucius, on the other hand, offered his credentials as a medical student in order to work at a field hospital attending to war wounded. He is accepted, but much to his chagrin ends up at a commandeered church situated in a remote valley in the Carpathian mountains. It is there that he meets sister Margarete who is the only other qualified medical person since the other doctors stationed there have deserted. Lucius has never operated on anyone but finds that he can allow himself to be guided by Margarete who has assisted in almost all situations. She helps him in many ways allowing him to function as he should without either an actual medical degree nor real experience. It is no surprise that the two develop feelings for each other.. The romance is slowed by the fact that Margarete has taken vows. While slowed at first their love grows and soon becomes all consuming.

Mason is a medical doctor and explains quite clearly the state of medicine existing at military hospitals near the front lines during that period He also very aptly describes Lucius’ growth into his work. Lucius logically finds ways to treat grievous wounds normally not seen outside of battle casualties. He is introduced to the little known problem of what is called combat fatigue and how it can destroy men without the appearance of any physical wound. Lucius tries many medicines and treatments in working with these mentally wounded individuals and this alone is quite an experience for any reader.

As the love grows between our two central characters they get into the habit of leaving the hospital for short periods in order to be together. During one long walk they split up and Lucius arrives back at the hospital first. When Margarete does not return in a normal period Lucius sets out again in order to find her. Walking for quite a while he suddenly finds himself in the midst of a battle and has to run and hide in order not to be killed. The turning tide of war develops into other assignments with no return to his hospital and Margarete.

The absolute strength of this novel is the powerful depiction of Lucius and Margarete. They live and breathe, face real conflicts and are beset with the doubts that must be present in periods of constant stress. The resolution of their story is one that would be a reality in view of their experiences during a war and the battles fought in that war. The novel will stay with readers for a long time after finishing it. The only way to describe it is to indicate that I was very moved and finished with the feeling that I had taken part in a great work through reading Mason’s book.

9/18 Paul Lane

THE WINTER SOLDIER by Daniel Mason. Little, Brown and Company (September 11, 2018).  ISBN 978-0316477604. 336p.



September 11, 2018

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Philip Rochester is a bully, a despot and the epitome of a man that terrorizes a woman once she makes the mistake of marrying him. Not a very savory character and a lot different from the norm of leading characters in a novel. But Jakeman has succeeded in bringing him to life in a book featuring him vis-à-vis three women that have formed important parts of his life; his ex wife, his present wife currently being divorced by Philip and his girlfriend whom he is working towards making his third wife.

We are exposed to the feelings of his current wife who has endured being ridiculed, made to feel inadequate and wondering what she has done wrong as Philip has increased his overbearing treatment of her.

The story begins at Philip’s funeral with succeeding chapters listed as so many days or years prior to the funeral. Imogene, the current wife has had a child, a boy with Philip, and is desperate once she finds out what he is to keep her son away from him. His work as a policeman allows him contacts that Imogene fears will help him gain custody of Alistair, their son, with official lies backed up by the power of the police.

The ex-wife and his girl friend come into play in the story as it develops. Each has become enamored of Philip and only begins seeing what he is as the three women face his conniving to gain control of his son as well as the house that he and Imogene live in.

The book is Jakeman’s first and certainly allow an emerging literary talent to create a following that will enjoy this one and look forward to future novels from this author.

9/18 Paul Lane

THE EXES’ REVENGE by Jo Jakeman. Berkley (September 11, 2018).  ISBN 978-0440000341. 352p.


LIES by T.M. Logan

September 10, 2018

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A novel that tells the story of marriage infidelity from the husband’s side. It begins rapidly with Joe Lynch, the husband of his beloved Melissa (Mel) driving home from work via a route he has taken countless times after picking up his son. By chance he spots Mel meeting another man and entering a hotel with him.

Melissa has been his love interest starting when they were in their mid teens in high school. He eventually married her and considers himself the luckiest of men. And after eleven happy years and the arrival of a beautiful child he still looks upon himself as very fortunate. Joe makes the decision to confront the man Melissa met and does so. They quickly disintegrate into a physical match with Joe knocking the other man down. The man is actually an acquaintance of theirs with his own wife friendly with Mel.

Worried that he has hurt Ben, the other man, Joe turns back and decides to help him when his son experiences an asthma attack and must be attended to quickly. When he later returns to the hotel Ben is gone. In confronting Melissa about the meeting she finally admits that she has been having an affair for the past few months with Ben but swears up and down that it is now over and never to be repeated.

The problem is that Ben makes no appearance and the police enter the scene to make sure that Ben has not suffered foul play. A very well handled plot ensues with Joe trying to determine if he can bring himself to again be with Mel at the same time that the police appear to be more and more centered on Ben being killed. The fact that Joe caught him with Melissa is credible evidence that he did something to Ben.

The unfolding story is told in a very sure manner and the reader is caught up with what is seeming to transpire with Joe. Is he going to somehow come out of the predicament together with his beloved wife, or is he going to finally be arrested for murder? The mitigating factor in preventing an early arrest is that there is no body to be found. An all night read – certainly and also one that is guaranteed to assure that the next novel by this author will find it’s way into the reader’s hands as soon as published.

9/18 Paul Lane

LIES by T.M. Logan. St. Martin’s Press (September 11, 2018).  ISBN 978-1250182265. 432p.


RED WHITE BLUE by Lea Carpenter

September 9, 2018

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The author brings us a carefully contrived story about the CIA. It is not a normal novel utilizing distinctively good and bad characters but framed in a context that shows real life shades of gray.

Anna is the only child of the marriage of Lulu and Noel and early on was subjected to the disappearance of her mother who deserted her husband as well as Anna. Noel was a dynamic individual working as a banker who mysteriously dies in a skiing accident in Switzerland on the day before Anna was to be married. Later, on her honeymoon she meets, apparently by chance, a stranger who had somehow worked with Noel in the past and had information about him. Later Anna receives a mysterious package that contains recordings and videos that show Noel in the midst of a brutal interrogation. Everything that Anna thought she knew about her father’s life and death is now called into question.

Carpenter’s style of moving back and forth between people in her narrative lend an almost stream of consciousness aspect to the novel which draws the reader into the apparent inner workings of the CIA, its good and bad, and the fact that there are different motivations involved. A China operation goes wrong and blame for it winds through the layers of management and personnel.

The book draws in the reader who easily follows the shifts in events and people. While Carpenter, in an afterward, tells us that she received no information from the CIA, the style of the book and the way it unfolds would seem to belie this. Basically it is because the novel tells the story as it would possibly occur in real life where not everything is black and white. A very fascinating read done in a style that is unique creating a novel that is a draw to most of its readers.

9/18 Paul Lane

RED WHITE BLUE by Lea Carpenter. Knopf; First Edition edition (August 21, 2018).  ISBN 978-1524732141. 320p.



OSLO SPIES by S J Slagle

September 2, 2018

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Phyllis Bowden Series, Book 2

The second book featuring  Phyllis Bowden, a young woman working for military intelligence during the final days of World War II.  She had been assigned to the office in London but the opening of this book finds her transferred to Oslo, Norway as aide to the Military Attache in the American Embassy.  She is tasked with finding families of Norwegians killed by the Nazis and notifying these relatives in order to help them find closure with the knowledge. She also handles work as assigned by the Attache.

The love of her life, Joe Schneider, briefly visits her in Oslo before leaving on an assignment to Romania. He works as an agent for England’s MI5 and is searching for an object that his office deems necessary to close several problem areas. But while in Oslo Joe and Peggy become engaged to be married as soon as possible.

While Joe is away in Romania, Peggy literally finds a little girl of about five adrift on the streets and takes her in as a means of providing care. Even at the child’s young age she is technically branded a traitor due to her father being a Nazi officer living with a Norwegian woman. It also develops that her German father gave the girl a doll before he left Norway containing secret information that both England and Russia are anxious to obtain.

Slagle manages to set up the chaotic situation existing in Norway after being held by Germany for five years. Goods and services are scarce and only available through donations by friendly countries or sold in near by Sweden neutral during the period described. The little girl becomes the key to resolution of finding the information secreted in her doll which she lost as she fled with her mother. And the next book in the series is neatly set up by the ending of this one so that Oslo Spies becomes a well done stand alone novel.

8/18 Paul Lane

OSLO SPIES by S J Slagle. Independently Published.  ISBN 978-1370291908. 350p.