THE 45TH by D.W. Buffa

May 21, 2019

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The 45th in the title is the 45th president of the United States who in actuality is Donald J. Trump. The story begins at the Republican national convention which is meeting to select a candidate to run against Hillary Constable, the nominated selection of the Democratic party. Trump makes a short appearance when he talks with the man who is indicated as the kingmaker at the Republican convention. But, this is not to be.

The kingmaker, who is the majority whip of the party, turns to Julian Drake, a man that left politics 10 years prior to the story to raise his sister’s children.They had been made orphans due to the untimely deaths of their mother and father and it was felt that Drake on leaving politics missed a chance to possibly rise, even as far as the presidency. Drake is called upon to write the keynote speech for the whip and than is deviously forced into presenting it.

Drake does and moves the convention into the position of selecting him, an unknown, as it’s candidate. He wins the election and begins the process of changing the country over. The novel than becomes a recap of philosopher’s and politician’s thoughts from the past.

Buffa has turned his novel into a compendium of his own thoughts and feelings about what is best for the country. Without summarizing the ideas the reader, like it or not, is thrust into the past to learn about writings and thoughts of Aristotle, Plato and Socrates. In addition to the actions and ideas of John F Kennedy and Winston Churchill, we learn about the political manipulations of Disraeli, Thomas Jefferson and Franklin D. Roosevelt.

The scenario is that the world has completely moved away from the glorious past when great men were able to guide the populations into wholesome lives. The reader of this novel might like the idea of learning about Buffa’s political ideas, but if not it is going to be a tedious situation to plow through pages and pages of idealized philosophy. I finished the book because I felt an obligation to do so. But 1984 it is not.

5/19 Paul Lane

THE 45TH by D.W. Buffa. Polis Books (May 21, 2019). ISBN 978-1947993532. 308p.

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THE PARIS DIVERSION by Chris Pavone

May 12, 2019

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This is Pavone’s third published novel and the second with Kate Moore as the leading character. His theme, as were his previous two, is about citizens of one country living and working in another as overseas executives or agents or in some other representative capacity. These people make a life for themselves and family in a land foreign to them and do it consciously as a career choice.

As a definite plus to the novel, the author indicates that he set up a long term residence in Paris, explored the city, learned about the real life of the citizens and while there wrote a good part of the novel. His depiction of the city is better than any travel book might be.

Kate is actually the chief of station for a division of the CIA and runs a large group of operatives and agents while her husband Dexter makes investments. In what or how is left quite nebulous, but than again neither Kate nor Dexter really know what their partner is actually doing. A strange setup to believe is actually the case between a man and his wife.

A strange event galvanizes everyone. A man walks into a public square in Paris with a suitcase and reveals that he has a bomb attached to his vest which he can set off anytime he wants to. There are also threats of other bombers in action in other European cities. Kate must keep headquarters in the US advised of what is happening and at the same time muster the personnel she is in charge of to possibly help the French police deal with the threat.

In examining the situation, Kate comes to the realization that the bomb threats are really just scare tactics and are meant to cover up something else that is going on. If true, than what really going to happen and why? This is the real story being told and unfortunately leads the author into many over rapid descriptions of events and more than a little confusion on the part of the reader to follow the plot and events taking place. I felt that the overabundance of confusing parts detracted from what should have been a fascinating novel about a different world for most people. I would express the hope that Pavone would take this into account in his succeeding books.

5/19 Paul Lane

THE PARIS DIVERSION by Chris Pavone. Crown (May 7, 2019). ISBN 978-1524761509. 384p.

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SIDNEY SHELDON’S THE SILENT WIDOW by Tilly Bagshawe

May 10, 2019

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Sheldon was a prolific writer of novels, plays, TV shows and motion pictures. Unfortunately, he passed away in 2007, but his family made arrangements with Tilly Bagshawe, a British author and one with her own stellar reputation, to continue his legacy. She has already written several successful books under the joint name of both writers. The Silent Widow is her latest continuing the tradition of engrossing works in the style of Sidney Sheldon.

The beginning of the novel concerns a young woman that has traveled to Mexico to become the summer au pair of a wealthy family living in Mexico City. At a point ten years prior to the opening of the story, she disappears with no trace and cannot be found. In a decade from this event, a series of murders are committed in Los Angeles. Psychological examiner Nikki Roberts is seemingly involved with all of these since the deceased were her patients.

Nikki is going through her own set of trauma since her husband was killed in an auto accident and was at that point riding with a woman that fingers point to as her spouse’s lover. Nikki does a bit of background checking on the murders via hiring Private Detective Derek Williams, who coincidentally had worked on the missing girl’s case from ten years ago.

A good story is enhanced even further by bringing in ties to both the Mexican and Russian Mafias and their battle to take over the drug trade in Los Angeles. The permutations and complications of the factors involved keep the reader glued to the book trying to tie the loose ends together. Two policemen assigned to investigate the murders have ties to the events going on in addition to working to solve the crimes.

Action is the keynote from start to finish and the combination of Sheldon’s guidance and Bagshawe’s literary abilities make for a mesmerizing read guaranteed to make the reader returning for more. A well done book.

5/19 Paul Lane

SIDNEY SHELDON’S THE SILENT WIDOW by Tilly Bagshawe. Crooked Lane Books (May 7, 2019). ISBN 978-1643850931. 393p.

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THE BETTER SISTER by Alafaire Burke

May 5, 2019

Oh, Alafair! What a terrific book; this was an all nighter for me.

I am not a fan of the unreliable narrator for the most part, but certain authors – and Burke is one of them – do such a good job that I’m hooked. This is such a great story. Sisters who married the same guy? Estrangement seems like it would be the least of their problems. And that turns out to be true.

Adam gets sole custody of Ethan when he leaves Nicky and moves to New York. Ethan is just a toddler so when Chloe marries Adam, she becomes his stepmom, and she is a good stepmom for the most part. But every family has their secrets and Burke is masterful at unspooling them at a pace that just keeps you turning pages.

Adam is killed and Ethan is the prime suspect as the family spirals ever downward. This domestic thriller evolves into a legal nightmare with family boundaries constantly changing until the shocker of an ending. Don’t miss it!

5/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE BETTER SISTER by Alafaire Burke.  Harper (April 16, 2019). ISBN 978-0062853370. 336p.

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REPENTANCE by Andrew Lam

May 4, 2019

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Lam has written a novel taking place today, and also in the past when the United States committed a crime against its own citizens during World War II. He uses the characters of Daniel Tokunaga and his father Ray to bring the events to life.

Daniel is a world renowned heart surgeon who has been estranged from his father for many years. What the problem was that fomented the distance between them is really the crux of the matter.

Daniel and Ray are Japanese Americans and Ray and his family were among the thousands that were rounded up due to an edict from president Franklin Roosevelt and sent to internment camps for the duration of the war. Most of these people were completely Americanized and could not understand the harsh treatment at the hands of the government even with their former country – Japan – at war with the U.S. To prove to the U.S. government that they were not traitors, many of the young men enlisted in the army and eventually melded into the 442nd regimental combat team used only in Europe against the German army. As an aside, and an important one, Lam indicates that the 442nd became the most decorated unit in the history of U.S. warfare in history.

Ray enlisted and served at the front. Returning home he became withdrawn and almost a tyrant to his sons, Daniel and his brother.
The book tells the story of Ray passing away and Daniel unearthing the real story about his father and the facts of the incident that made the man a hero winning the second highest military honor that can be bestowed on anyone. It is a poignant story beautifully touching on real human emotions and the relationship between father and son. The ending is certainly real enough in scope to leave a lasting impression on the readers. It obviously brings to life the crime against Japanese Americans when both German and Italian Americans were not thought of as anything but citizens of their adopted country.

Note from the BookBitch: It is a little known fact that there were Italian-American internment camps and that many Italian-Americans were forced to register as “enemy aliens” with the government. Lisa Scottoline’s brilliant legal thriller, Killer Smile, was inspired by her grandparents’ registration cards and her subsequent research on the topic.

5/19 Paul Lane

REPENTANCE by Andrew Lam. Tiny Fox Press LLC (May 1, 2019). ISBN 978-1946501127. 308p.

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ALICE’S ISLAND by Daniel Sanchez Arelvalo

April 21, 2019

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A beautifully written story of great loss, the seeking of redemption and eventually finding of one’s self.

Alice Dupont is a happily married woman enjoying life with her adoring husband Chris. It is obvious that each has found the perfect mate in the other. They have one young daughter and Alice pregnant with another child. Chris had founded a small business building tennis courts which has become successful enough possibly due to his background of playing tennis on a semi professional basis. His work takes him to sites around his home area in getting business. He has always kept in close touch with Alice while traveling and made it obvious that it is her that he thinks about.

Suddenly Alice’s world comes crashing down on her head when she receives a dreaded call from the police that Chris has been severely injured in an auto crash. She rushes to the hospital that he is in but unfortunately only in time to learn that he has passed away from his injuries. After the funeral Alice decides that in order to find some sort of closure she has to learn about the project he has been working on when killed. When she finds that the accident occurred several hundred miles away from where he was scheduled to be Alice decides to discover where he actually was and what he was doing. Determination is made that Chris was on an island near Nantucket in Massachusetts. Made independent by a hefty insurance settlement Alice moves to that island and begins her search for Chris’ reason to be there and if he had been there more than once.

The story of her search and her experiences in befriending other residents of the island comprise the major part of the novel. There is no horror to the story and one that follows Alice’s closure as well as that of several of the island’s residents. Written originally in Spanish and later translated into English, Sanchez Arelvalo’s novel reaches a level of beauty that does captivate the reader. The ending is well done and an adventure into a level of prose that is a pleasure to find and certainly indicative of both a very skilled author and a translator that has complete understanding of the nuances of both English and Spanish. I trust that we will see additional works by the author translated into English for our great enjoyment.

4/19 Paul Lane

ALICE’S ISLAND by Daniel Sanchez Arelvalo. Atria Books (April 16, 2019). ISBN 978-1501171956. 400p.

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THE DEPARTMENT OF SENSITIVE CRIMES by Alexander McCall Smith

April 17, 2019

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A Detective Varg Novel, Book 1

The novel is set in Malmo, Sweden and describes the activities and antics of a small group of policemen that have been set up to handle sensitive crimes that are strange and different. It is wrapped around a series of vignettes that are handled by the group.

Smith brings to bear a droll sense of humor that takes situations and shapes their form via a definite tongue in cheek delivery. No murder, no bank holdups, no mob beatings but a series of “crimes” adroitly handled by the members of the squad.

There is a case of someone stabbing another person in the knee. Why? What caused this heinous crime? A lonely girl trying to impress other girls who have boyfriends makes up a boyfriend via taking a selfie with a young man she meets on the street. Then in order not to produce him, tells a tale of him moving to a facility at the north pole. Problem is the police work on the premise that he was murdered and the girl making him up is the murderer.

Finally, an investigation is requested by a police executive into the weird goings on at a hotel that his cousin owns. These happenings are causing the hotel to begin failing. This one leads via a circuitous route into investigations of a werewolf being the cause of what is going on at the hotel.

A free and easy read. The characters are likable with a dedicated man in charge. One woman working for the group who is more than a little in love with Ulf (the man in charge of the group). Carl who loves filling out paperwork and can sit and do that all day, and Erik whose main interest in life is fly fishing. While the setting is in Sweden the group can exist anywhere and do supply a great deal of fun in a nice departure from more serious police procedural novels. I certainly look forward to learning about future escapades of this pleasant group of policemen.

4/19 Paul Lane

THE DEPARTMENT OF SENSITIVE CRIMES by Alexander McCall Smith.  Pantheon (April 16, 2019). ISBN 978-1524748210. 240p.

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SECOND LIVES by P. D. Cacek

April 14, 2019

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Fiction Without Frontiers

A quick look at Cacek’s latest book could possibly deem it a horror story. [Especially if you like to judge a book by its cover. BookBitch.] It deals with possession by the essence of a person now dead of the body of another person in the process of passing away. Certainly one of the major themes of literature devoted to horror stories. This is very far from the reality of what is a fascinating book actually devoted to a brilliant treatment of human nature under great stress.

The beginning section covers the deaths of four people of different ages and in different years. There is a potential suffragette attending a meeting in the early part of the twentieth century and killed by a man completely opposed to the concept of women’s rights. Another is a little boy, with another a 16 year old girl. The final individual is a man dying from the effects of dementia.

The next phase of the novel involves those individuals in the process of dying that are possessed by the spirits of the first four. A doctor views the people being “resurrected” by the new life process coincidentally in the same hospital and about the same time. He indicates to the families of those expected to pass away that this situation has occurred before although not very a very common one. It is in this stage of the book that Cacek turns an interesting novel into one that becomes a fascinating study of human nature.

First, how do the previously dead persons react to finding themselves not only alive again, but in a different body than they had. Also, the reactions of the families of those expected to die when finding that their loved one is recovering, but is not the same person that had been brought to the hospital with the expectation of imminent death. And if their relationship is still the same or if previously families, if found have those rights.

The author has successfully written a powerful study of what could happen to all concerned if the postulated situation could ever happen. Human nature is of course, based on normal progression and ending of life at a certain point with no further contact with the decadent. There is no speculation of what happens normally after death as this is not germane to the described events. Very well done.

4/19 Paul Lane

SECOND LIVES by P. D. Cacek. FLAME TREE PRESS; New edition (April 11, 2019). ISBN 978-1787581593. 304p.

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THE KOREAN WOMAN by John Altman

April 11, 2019

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Altman presents an extremely well planned and written novel about a sleeper spy living in the United States on behalf of the regime of North Korea.

The stark difference in ideas and life between the two countries has never been better presented than in this book. Song Sun Young was born in North Korea. She grew up in an environment of repression, semi-starvation and with even the slightest deviation from proscribed activity, punishment by death. In spite of this, Song has tried several times to escape along with her brother to South Korea. The last attempt meets with capture, but instead of executing her the government recognizes her intelligence and initiates a program to prepare her to become a mole; i.e. a sleeper agent in the United States.

Fast forwarding from her insertion into the U.S., Song is married to an American whom she loves and two children with him that are her pride and joy. But after seven years of this happy life she is called by North Korea to start the work she was trained for. Song’s brother has been held over her head with the threat that if she does not do as required he will be killed and she has no choice but to follow orders.

Song is not aware that the CIA knows of her and follows her as she moves forward with her mission for North Korea. Working with the CIA is Dalia Artzi a retired Israeli operative that Altman has used in other novels. The reader follows the counter actions of the CIA through the thinking of Dalia while working with them.

The culmination of the novel is a crisis that may lead to very unforeseen consequences and if you haven’t slept while reading the first part, what is happening will keep your eyelids open even wider. A very well done and well plotted adventure into international politics and conflict between nations.

4/19 Paul Lane

THE KOREAN WOMAN by John Altman. Blackstone Publishing; Unabridged edition (April 9, 2019). ISBN 978-1470826970. 272p.

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THE EIGHTH SISTER by Robert Dugoni

April 9, 2019

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Dugoni is a well published author with a great many novels to his credit already. He normally writes utilizing one or several characters appearing in previous novels but has done just a few standalone books. “The Eighth Sister” is one of these although it does feature some characters from other novels.

Charles Jenkins is a retired CIA employee currently living on a farm he owns in Washington State. He’s happily married with one son and another child on the way. He is not a young man, he’s in his sixties but in good shape. He’s still at an age that most people will retire. He and his wife own a security consulting business with one very large customer that is expanding internationally and representing a good steady and growing income.

Suddenly the customer begins paying slowly, indicating cash flow problems due to its rapid expansion but forcing Charles to balk on settling his own businesses debts. This naturally impedes progress since his suppliers begin slowing down the credit extended to him.

Out of the blue, his ex-supervisor comes to visit him with a proposal. Charles has not seen him since they worked together in Mexico City in the 1960s. The CIA would like to utilize a person with Charles’ capabilities, which include speaking fluent Russian as well as experience operating for the organization. A fee is negotiated with the mission being to look into a situation in which a group called the “The Seven Sisters” currently operating in Russia as spies for the U.S. are being assassinated. Jenkins is told to contact an Eighth Sister in Moscow who remains unknown and is the only person that could be of help in locating the other seven women in order to get them out of Russia.

Charles’ adventures in Russia supply the bulk of the action of the novel. Dugoni is familiar with the territory he describes as the scene of Jenkins’ search both upon arrival and when he is discovered and chased by a brilliant Russian intelligence officer through the country as well as later in Turkey.

Robert Dugoni’s handling of Jenkins as the principal character is the highlight of this novel. Again, Charles is in good condition, but in his sixties and not in the shape he was in when he worked in Mexico for the CIA. He is also worried as any husband and father would be about this job causing problems for his pregnant wife and their son as well as the developing fetus soon to be born. His thoughts, feelings and his actions reflect those of a capable individual that is not in the prime condition necessary to do what he is called upon to do but forces himself to “soldier” on.

The book is a fascinating read with conditions and backgrounds brilliantly described with the reader immersed in the book and not able to put it down until completed. Very well done.

4/19 Paul Lanes

THE EIGHTH SISTER by Robert Dugoni. Thomas & Mercer (April 9, 2019). ISBN 978-1503903036. 465p.

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