MALA VIDA by Marc Fernandez

January 28, 2019

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Molly Grogan, Translator

Fernandez has written one of the most damning exposes of a horror possibly perpetrated by the regime of Francisco Franco during his rule of Spain. Franco became the dictator of the Spanish Republic due to the victory of his side in the Spanish Civil war and ruled until his death in 1975. The novel is a fictionalized account of the murder of five individuals by one person and tied together as punishment for their role in the stealing infants from their mothers at birth.

The novel opens in present day Spain during a time of economic downturn. It centers on Diego Martin, a radio commentator, who is trying to build up interest in his radio show in order to keep his spot on the air. He decides to investigate the first murder and continues to look at the next four. The results of his investigations tie in these murders with the stealing of infants and selling them to highest bidders, a plot begun during the Franco years and continuing beyond.

A group of protesters has grown into a national organization attempting to push the Spanish government into a complete investigation of the infant stealing. Diego finds his murder investigation is related to the work of the protesters and uses his radio show to give them much needed publicity.

Fernandez spares no punches in describing the devastation brought to families upon realizing that their baby has been stolen from them at birth. These women and their families live a lifetime knowing what happened and not having the means to try and find their children. It is a novel that should resound throughout the world and cause outcries far beyond Spanish boundaries. A short portion included in the book indicates that the very same horror has also taken place in Argentina during the Peron era.

The novel is a short one, finished in one sitting, but undoubtedly leading to a feeling of outrage on the part of the reader that activities such as described are taking place in today’s world. The author has no plan to offer, but easily accomplishes the task of bringing to light a horror that should shock the civilized world.

1/19 Paul Lane

MALA VIDA by Marc Fernandez. Arcade (January 15, 2019). ISBN 978-1628727432. 240p.

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THE COMING STORM by Mark Alpert

January 26, 2019

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Alpert’s latest novel is in the general vein of 1984 in that it is a warning and a projection of what might happen to any country whose people don’t closely watch their governments. The premise is the Machiavellian mantra of Power tends to corrupt but absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely . With these factors in mind the book opens a few years into the future at a time when the United States is suffering from major storms, incredible flooding and other tragedies stemming from the world not paying attention to Global Warming and it’s consequences.

Violence and protests have developed as the people suffer from a lack of food, water, electricity and other basic necessities. In order to control these outbreaks the United States government has organized a genetically enhanced police force and forced citizens that are considered less desirable into controlled enclaves. Dr. Jenna Kahn, her father and her handicapped brother live in one of these enclaves. The story begins with a raid by the government police looking to arrest Kahn and showing no mercy to other inhabitants in the area. Jenna escapes from the soldiers but loses contact with her father and brother.

Alpert expertly describes this new era and makes his personal views quite well known. It is no problem to determine those present day individuals that characters in the book represent. A plan by the government to test the DNA of all citizens and the possibility of using airborne brain altering aerosols is discussed with plans to spread it are described. The novel utilizes sufficient action to keep the reader interested and sympathizing with people caught up in this brave new world.

The Coming Storm is not the first novel of it’s kind and will certainly not be the last. Will it stir people up to examine what is going on with their governments? Interesting question, no?

1/19 Paul Lane

THE COMING STORM by Mark Alpert. St. Martin’s Press (January 8, 2019). ISBN 978-1250065421. 336p.

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HER ONE MISTAKE by Heidi Perks

January 25, 2019

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Heidi Perks brings us an intricate psychological thriller that will keep the reader both riveted to the book and constantly guessing about what is really going on. The opening segment is perfectly formatted to grab the reader and cause him or her to become fully engrossed and following events described with bated breath. Charlotte is planning to take her three children to the fair for a full day’s outing when her friend Harriet asks her to take her daughter Alice with her. Thinking that one more child within the confines of a supervised fair will be little problem Charlotte agrees.

The children are enjoying themselves, running from one ride to the next so that when they come to the Ferris wheel Charlotte has no qualms about asking her 10 year old son Jack to keep an eye on everyone. She takes a break to glance at the e-mails on her phone. When the children come running out of the ride Alice is not with them. A frantic search ensues helped by many other people and eventually the police. No Alice; she has disappeared and possibly kidnapped by person or persons unknown.

As the days unfold with no trace of Alice it is Charlotte that bears the brunt of the criticism for losing the little girl. Her friends don’t contact her anymore and one newspaper reporter insinuates that she was lost in Facebook while Alice was carried off. The time goes on with a horror entering into the picture. The dead body of a young boy kidnapped about a year prior to these events is found and Harriet and her husband fear the worst with possibly the same kidnapper involved.
Ms. Perks builds the characters of Charlotte, Harriet and Harriet’s husband in a way that the reader can sympathize with these people subjected to a kidnapping of a child and the distinct possibility that a death has occurred.

Needless to say, the novel is a mesmerizing visit to a situation that is impossible to visualize if occurring close by. Very well done.

1/19 Paul Lane

HER ONE MISTAKE by Heidi Perks. Gallery Books (January 8, 2019). ISBN  978-1501194221. 320p.

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THE CURRENT by Tim Johnston

January 22, 2019

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A captivating novel about two murders 10 years apart and how they are intertwined, tearing up the people living in a small Minnesota town.

Caroline Price and Audrey Sutter are two young women going to the same University. They have become good friends and take to sharing their experiences and confiding confidential matters to each other. When Christmas and New Year’s break comes up, circumstances place them together in Caroline’s car driving to their respective homes which are fairly close together.

Caught up in a huge snow blizzard the two stop at a roadside fast food store in Iowa to get some coffee and donuts. Audrey, going into the store, is attacked by two men in a rape attempt. She is saved by Caroline who runs inside and uses mace to stave off the attackers. Dashing out and meaning to run away from the attackers they drive in a completely unsafe manner for the conditions caused by the snow.

When stopping to get their bearings their car is pushed by another car coming up behind them into an iced over river, breaking through the ice and sinking into the fast flowing water that is underneath. Caroline is killed while Audrey miraculously survives and returns home to the Minnesota town she lives in with her father. The driver of the other car is sought for the crime which brings back memories of a similar murder that happened ten years earlier. That murder was never solved although suspicion forced a young man to flee the area.

Johnston utilizes a writing style that fully describes the actions in the book in a manner that keeps the novel moving rapidly, portrays the characters both via describing their actions and having them also speak at the same time. It is a style that causes a good novel to become mesmerizing and the reader totally captivated.

The ending is a perfect capstone for the book, but is by no means a fairy tale one and does not set the groundwork for a sequel. An excellent narrative which will cause readers to eagerly await the next book by Johnston.

1/19 Paul Lane

THE CURRENT by Tim Johnston. Algonquin Books (January 22, 2019). ISBN 978-1616206772. 416p.

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NO EXIT by Taylor Adams

January 19, 2019

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Darby Thorne, a young college student, has been called by her sister to rush home in order to see her mother before the lady passes away.  We meet up with Darby as she is caught in an immense snow blizzard while driving into the Colorado mountains to get to her mother in time to say goodbye. She happens upon a rest area and is forced by the weather to drive into it and take shelter with four other people in the area’s building.

Anxious to tell her sister that she was stopped by the storm, she leaves the building in an attempt to find a source of a possible signal on her cell phone.

Unable to get a signal to use her phone and while walking back to the shelter, she happens upon the vehicle of one of the other people caught by the storm.  Looking through the window by chance she sees a young girl held in a cage on the inside. The realization that she has stumbled on a kidnapping galvanizes her thoughts and succeeding actions in attempting to free the captive and gives us one of the most exciting novels I’ve read in a long time.

Which of the four people currently in the rest area is the kidnapper and how Darby can get help from the others in effecting the girl’s release is the crux of the matter. Adams moves from one set of circumstances to another in developing the situation for the reader and arriving at the conclusion.

We are drawn into the story and along with Darby change our minds about what is happening and where it will go several times in enjoying a well done novel. A definite incentive for any reader to be looking for other books by the author.

1/19 Paul Lane

NO EXIT by Taylor Adams. William Morrow (January 15, 2019). ISBN 978-0062875655. 352p.

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THE PERFECT LIAR by Thomas Christopher Greene

January 18, 2019

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The novel is a perfect portrait of two people married to each other and facing a major crisis in their lives. First there is Susannah, a young and still very beautiful woman. She had been married, quite happily to a man that was older than her. He became the father of a boy with her but unfortunately passed away shortly after the child’s birth.

Susannah has the luck to attract an interesting and intelligent young man at a party that her boss throws for members of the New York art community. Max heard about the affair and decides to try and crash it in order to get contacts to further a career he is working on in the art world.

Susannah is helping her boss handle the details of the party, sees Max and makes a play for him. which turns out to be successful. Than with the help from her boss Max advances his career and manages to get a good teaching position with a Vermont based university. The couple and the boy are happy to leave New York and move to the area with the added luck of finding a beautiful home near the school.

A perfect life becomes opened to them when it is suddenly spoiled by the appearance of a strange note pinned to the front door. The note is not addressed nor signed but says,”I KNOW WHO YOU ARE.” Both Max and Susannah are devastated by the note since each has secrets that they want to keep to themselves and not share with anyone else. The novel brings the reader into the minds of both and develops a scenario that keeps the reader glued to the book awaiting the answers. These are not evident, although logical based upon the clues developed during the read.

1/19 Paul Lane

THE PERFECT LIAR by Thomas Christopher Greene. St. Martin’s Press (January 15, 2019). ISBN 978-1250128218. 288p.

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THE NIGHT AGENT by Matthew Quirk

January 17, 2019

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Peter Sutherland’s father was an agent with the FBI and Peter always looked up to him, wanting nothing less than to join that elite group when he was old enough. Unfortunately, his father’s reputation was destroyed when he was suspected of selling secrets to the Russians. The man’s place within the FBI was destroyed, his reputation tarnished and he eventually died with the shame of the disgrace hanging over him.

Peter still manages to enter the bureau but finds that the taint of his father’s alleged crime hangs heavily on him. It appears that he does not have a chance for any sort of a meaningful promotional opportunity when he is tapped to work in the White House situation room, manning a phone during the evening. His job consists of answering the phone if it ever rings, listening for a special code phrase and passing the call onto one of his two supervisors.

Bored to tears with the complete inactivity Peter still comes to work every night he is assigned to until one night at l:05 a.m the phone rings. A woman identifying herself as Rose, and completely rattled, indicates that her Aunt and Uncle have been killed and the murderer is still in the house. Peter reacts quickly, giving Rose instructions on getting away from the house, meanwhile setting up her rescue via the Secret Service and the D.C. police.

By involving himself with Rose’s predicament, Peter is thrown into a conspiracy that is years old and reaches to the very top of the U.S. government. To save his country Peter must begin by bending all rules and coming to the realization that anyone; even the U.S. president, could be a mole involved in destroying the government. Quirk shifts gears frequently and the reader will change opinions often. Even Rose, with whom Peter manages to begin a romance, is suspect due to her overly calm attitude and apparently more than professional reactions to events.

Character portrayal is well developed by the author, and the reader will get to know all the personnel, their thoughts, reactions and emotions to events being described. Peter is not superman; he can be hurt, could even be killed and wonders if his straying from policy will do more harm than good for him. I have had the good fortune to have read other Matthew Quirk novels in the past; all are engrossing, well done with plots and events built in that stand out and make sure that his books are sought after. I am certainly on line for his next outing and have no qualms about recommending the same to any reader looking for a great read.

1/19 Paul Lane

THE NIGHT AGENT by Matthew Quirk. William Morrow (January 15, 2019). ISBN 978-0062875464. 432p.

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THE BURGLAR by Thomas Perry

January 9, 2019

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Ellie Stowell, the main character in Perry’s novel, is a young, very bright, pretty girl who has a way of making her living in a most unorthodox manner. She breaks into the homes of the rich and helps herself to money or salable items. She is really a very considerate woman. If someone leaves the water on she will turn it off, or if something else needs an adjustment to prevent damage to the house she will do something to rectify the situation. She has evolved a collection of the proper equipment to do her job, has a usable knowledge of art and other possibly salable items and has made her work into a profession.

The story begins with Ellie breaking into a house and coming across three dead bodies, killed by single shots to the head and laid out on a bed. She discovers a motion picture camera still running which the assassin did not discover. Ellie takes the camera with her and finds that she can alter the film to not show her entering the room. Her problems begin at this point when she finds out that the killer or killers have somehow discovered her presence and begin hunting her in order to eliminate the one witness that can probably point them out to the police.

It is obvious that Perry has done quite a bit of research on methods used by professional thieves and incorporates these into the novel. “The Burglar” is a fun read and Ellie comes across as a cute young lady that enjoys herself, making a living out of the activities described. Looking at the action and the logical ending it did occur to me that sequels to the book incorporating Ellie Stowell would be an easy thing to envision. I would certainly recommend looking for them in addition to reading the present book.

1/19 Paul Lane

THE BURGLAR by Thomas Perry. Mysterious Press (January 8, 2019)).  ISBN 978-0802129000. 304p.

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AN ANONYMOUS GIRL by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen

January 8, 2019

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The authors’ first book together, “The Wife Between Us,” was a psychological thriller detailing one man married to a woman with the man having an affair with another girl. The book was an engrossing story with turns and twists that kept the reader changing opinions about results and at the same time simply glued to the novel.

The current book definitely follows suit with a plot that keeps the reader guessing and glued. The interactions are between a psychiatrist and a young woman.

Jessica Farris is recently arrived in New York City and like many is having trouble making a living. We meet her as she goes from customer to customer applying makeup to prepare that woman for an evening out; a show, a wedding or other event. During a visit to a customer she learns that a psychiatrist has invited the woman to take part in a study on ethics and morality with generous compensation offered. When Jessica hears her customer declining to take part in the study she decides that she will take her place in order to earn the money.

The psychiatrist , Dr. Shields, sets up a sequence and Jessica finds the questions posed are very personal. She decides to answer them truthfully since the tester has promised answers to be completely confidential. She is invited back for followups with the result that Dr. Shields, who is a very sophisticated and highly educated woman, invites Jessica to continue the testing via personal visits as directed. We follow Jessica’s thoughts as she enters into the requirements posed by the doctor and begins earning more money for this work.
Where is all this going, especially when one of the other participants in the study was found murdered. What is the upshot of the story and where does Jessica as well as Dr. Shields fit into it.

Another winner for the authors and another reason to continue seeking their books as they come out.

1/19 Paul Lane

AN ANONYMOUS GIRL by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen. St. Martin’s Press (January 8, 2019).  ISBN 978-1250133731. 384p.

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INVISIBLE by Andrew Grant

January 7, 2019

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Paul McGrath came from a well to do family with his father wanting him to enter the family business. Paul rebelled against the idea desiring to make things happen on his own. He consequently joined the army where he made it to the top of his military intelligence team.

After many years he felt that he had to return home to make things right with his father with whom he had become estranged. He returned and found that his father had passed away, but not until there was a fight with the partner his father had taken into his business since Paul did not want in. The fight had resulted in a court battle in which Paul’s father had seemingly come out ahead until a critical piece of evidence went missing.

The case was postponed indefinitely pending finding the missing evidence and that is the prelude to our interesting story. The police suggest to Paul that he take a job in the courthouse and look for the evidence. They insist that it could not have been stolen due to the very tight procedures in place protecting property used in litigation and must be someplace in the court facilities.

Paul does get a job at the court house and immediately gets pulled into becoming Robin Hood through helping other people with their own problems with court findings. In all probability Mr Grant has created an individual that can be used in other novels and has requisite skills to take on a myriad of work.

The novel is well done, describing Paul and the other people that take part in the story allowing the reader to get to know them and their place in the tale. If Grant is setting up Paul McGrath as a future principal character, the novels featuring him will be welcome and awaited.

1/19 Paul Lane

INVISIBLE by Andrew Grant. Ballantine Books (January 8, 2019). ISBN 978-0525619598. 320p.