2020 by Kenneth Steven

August 13, 2018

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A very profound novel that paints a picture of the damage that can be done by the advent of the “True Believer” i.e., the individual following the herd rather than thinking on his or her own. While the book is set in the United Kingdom it can be true of problems found in any country today. Shown in the novel are the many factions vying for the attention of the masses and demanding that they be granted rights beyond what is just and correct. People are forced to bend over backwards to be seen as politically correct in order not to offend the many interest groups.

Consequently, the result is a nation that has become mired in political correctness at the expense of common sense. It is felt that the politicians in office are only serving themselves. Immigration policies have gotten out of hand and it is feared by many that the country is disunited with the distinct possibility of terrorism rife just waiting to explode in violence.

And than it does. A train going from Edinburgh to London is attacked by terrorists with hundreds killed by the bombers. The reaction by the public with many differing opinions about what should be done to forestall future terrorism allows a far right wing group called White Rose to form. An untried leader coming from White Rose indicates that he will be able to fix the problems of the nation. The population splinters even more than before with no firm direction being taken to attack the internal mess that characterizes the country. Opinions and demands for action rush out of the many groups that have formed making up a population that is frozen and unable to act.

It might be that 2020 could lead to a 1984 scenario with an embedded dictatorship but most probably it would lead to the exact opposite; a nation completely splintered with no real direction and unable to solve the real problems facing it. A very provocative opinion piece with a large amount of what is forecasted being the norm today.

8/18 Paul Lane

2020 by Kenneth Steven. Thomas & Mercer (June 14, 2018).  ISBN 978-1477805169. 270p.


SEVEN STONES TO STAND OR TO FALL, now in paperback!

August 8, 2018

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A Collection of Outlander Fiction

As regular readers know, Diana Gabaldon is on the shortlist of my favorite writers. SEVEN STONES TO STAND OR TO FALL is a collection of the novellas that have previously been published as Kindle Singles and such, now collected in this anthology and now out in paperback. I have not read the Lord John Grey stories as I read the first of that mystery series and it wasn’t for me. But I have read the Outlander novellas and they are fabulous!

SEVEN STONES TO STAND OR FALL begins with “The Custom of the Army,” and Lord John Grey being shocked by an electric eel and ends at the Battle of Quebec. Then comes “The Space Between,” where it is revealed that the Comte St. Germain is not dead, Master Raymond appears, and a widowed young wine dealer escorts a would-be novice to a convent in Paris. In “A Plague of Zombies,” Lord John unexpectedly becomes military governor of Jamaica when the original governor is gnawed by what probably wasn’t a giant rat.

A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows” is the moving story of Roger MacKenzie’s parents during World War II. In “Virgins,” Jamie Fraser, aged nineteen, and Ian Murray, aged twenty, become mercenaries in France, no matter that neither has yet bedded a lass or killed a man. But they’re trying… “A Fugitive Green” is the story of Lord John’s elder brother, Hal, and a seventeen-year-old rare book dealer with a sideline in theft, forgery, and blackmail. And finally, in “Besieged,” Lord John learns that his mother is in Havana—and that the British Navy is on their way to lay siege to the city.

Filling in mesmerizing chapters in the lives of characters that readers have followed over the course of thousands of pages, Gabaldon’s genius is on full display throughout this must-have collection.

Diana Gabaldon is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the wildly popular Outlander novels—Outlander, Dragonfly in Amber, Voyager, Drums of Autumn, The Fiery Cross, A Breath of Snow and Ashes (for which she won a Quill Award and the Corine International Book Prize), An Echo in the Bone, and Written in My Own Heart’s Blood—as well as the related Lord John Grey books Lord John and the Private Matter, Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade, Lord John and the Hand of Devils, and The Scottish Prisoner; two works of nonfiction, The Outlandish Companion, Volumes 1 and 2; the Outlander graphic novel The Exile; and The Official Outlander Coloring Book. She lives in Scottsdale, Arizona, with her husband.


TO DIE IN VIENNA by Kevin Wignall

June 16, 2018

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A very neatly done novel about conflict between different spy agencies. Freddie Makin had once been an agent for a super secret group known as S8. He was a survivor of an ambush in Yemen five years ago when three of his fellow agents had been killed when driving towards a rendezvous with suspects wanted by their group. Freddie had been so traumatized by the killing, blaming himself for poor planning that he resigned his position. He than became a spy for hire and the story finds him doing surveillance on Jiang Cheng an academic. After many months of observing Cheng Freddie finds that there really isn’t anything in Cheng’s behavior to warrant the attention given.

Suddenly the situation changes radically. Someone is sent to kill Freddie who fortunately turns the tables on his would be killer. He quickly realizes that it is probably something that he saw in relation to his watching Cheng that has prompted the attempt on his life. The novel than becomes a masterful study of Freddie’s old trade craft returning as he begins unraveling the reason for the attack on himself and on people including Cheng and others. And is it the CIA that is doing the attacking? Freddie is well portrayed as a normal human being prone to being hurt and possibly killed while looking into what is happening to him. Clues are available to the reader and the reason for the attacks is a logical one resulting in a logical finale to the book.

NOTE: Soon to be a major motion picture starring Jake Gyllenhaal. The book certainly has the ingredients to be a good one.

6/18 Paul Lane

TO DIE IN VIENNA by Kevin Wignall. Thomas & Mercer (June 14, 2018).  ISBN 978-1477805169. 270p.


COLD AS THUNDER by Jerry Apps

May 28, 2018

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Cold As Thunder is a more sedate version of George Orwell’s classic novel “1984” but carries the same message. If the people don’t look after their own welfare it will fall on a less than benevolent government to administer the nation as they see fit rather than a system that protects the rights of all. In the case of this novel, power has been consolidated with the “Eagle” party, a political party that has eliminated all other parties and established a docile populace.

The Eagle party has established a system of laws that basically squash any and all thought in opposition to it’s own ideology. Thinking independently has been driven out of the normality of most of the people and non conformity is a non starter Apps has placed a level of importance on certain factors present and made worse by the Eagle Party’s attitude. The most important is the issue of climate change that is not being addressed. Consequently areas of Florida and the Northeast are covered by flood waters and not inhabitable. Weather forecasting has been sold to private companies who don’t have the means to actually do any forecasts. This makes storms of any sort a menace for all, but especially for farmers subject to all weather conditions.

An opposition group has evolved in attempting to set up learning systems for the people now accustomed to being led by their noses. These are groups of “oldsters” that are disguised as volunteer groups supporting the Eagle mantra. The novel follows the growth and development of one such group located in Wisconsin and how it manages to influence events in the rest of the country.

The novel makes for an entertaining read with the only drawback an insistence on good always triumphing over opposition with little variance which would appear in any human endeavor having varying opinions present. Character development and any attempt at looking at individual motivations goes by the wayside. The concepts, however are interesting and make reading the book a worthwhile experience.

5/18 Paul Lane

COLD AS THUNDER by Jerry Apps. University of Wisconsin Press (May 29, 2018).  ISBN 978-0299315900. 232p.


FIELD OF VALOR by Matthew Betley

May 22, 2018

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Logan West Thrillers Series, Book 3

This is an exciting, action packed novel featuring Logan West and his deadly task force. While it is based on some facts from a previously written book about a world wide plot to take down the U.S. government and pit America against China, it can be read in one gulp. The plot is the same as other Matthew Betley books with West and his task force. A huge amount of military style action and danger filled sequences set on a stage in the U.S. itself. The area is near Washington D.C., i.e., Virginia, Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. The enemy is a gigantic, extremely well funded international organization with the means to rival many first world countries.

Leadership of this titanic organization runs to the very top of the U.S. government with the means to learn secrets only held by a few.

Betley does include some humanizing facts about the warriors comprising West’s task force. Two of the members are in the starting stages of a romance with the girl as much of a fighter as her boy friend. Logan himself is married with his wife aware of the dangers he faces and worried about him for that. The book is a fast read, as indicated as much action as can possibly be crammed into it’s pages, and certainly a draw for those books featuring Logan and his task force coming out in the future.

5/18 Paul Lane

FIELD OF VALOR by Matthew Betley. Atria/Emily Bestler Books (May 22, 2018).  ISBN 978-1501161988. 400p.


THE CONSULTANT by Tj O’Connor

May 15, 2018

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Jonathan Hunter is an employee of the CIA who has not seen his family for years due to assignments in places like Afghanistan, Iraq and other mid-eastern hot spots. Out of the blue he gets a call from his brother Kevin to rush home to help him. In spite of being estranged for 15 years Jonathan goes AWOL from his duty station and rushes home.

Unfortunately it is just in time to meet Kevin dying by a lake that both brothers are familiar with and hear his last words, “Khalifah not them, Maya.”

Kevin has obviously been murdered and Jonathan, in spite of not seeing him for so long, vows to find and execute his killer.

With the violence of the killing beginning the novel it is a safe bet that the remainder of the book will feature more of the same. And that is certainly what happens. While going after the killer or killers Jonathan meets his brother’s widow, his adopted son and has his CIA supervisor find him up and okay the search. Oh yes, seems like Kevin’s death is tied into a plot by extremists to cause a mass killing of Americans in several areas and the forcing of action against the perpetrators by the U.S. government. Also Kevin’s widow develops an attraction for Jonathan, and she also has an adopted son that is somehow tied into Islamic terrorists.

O’Connor vividly portrays the hierarchy of the CIA to which Jonathan is attached. His direct supervisor, Oscar LaRue, shows up in time to tie many other side factors to the murder and orders Jonathan to investigate these while he is working on his brother’s case. Tall order, but our hero is certainly able to do so in spite of all the factors working against him. He gets involved with a female FBI agent who starts out very antagonistic but does develop a liking for him, and a local police officer that is so certain that Jonathan is guilty of something that he becomes a tormentor to him.

The ending leaves enough clues to make it almost a certainty that there will be future books featuring Jonathan Hunter, his supervisor and others who are front and center in “The Consultant”. I look forward to these for the promise of steady action in those novels.

5/18 Paul Lane

THE CONSULTANT by Tj O’Connor. Oceanview Publishing (May 15, 2018).  ISBN 978-1608092833. 432p.


NECESSITY by D.W. Buffa

May 13, 2018

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In the history of the United States, several presidents have been assassinated. In none of these murders has the killer ever been brought to justice and tried in a court of law for the crime. Buffa has set up a riveting novel describing how such an event might take place.

A newly elected president takes a trip to San Francisco and while still aboard Air Force One, accepts a visit from the junior senator from California. This man is seen as one that could run against the president and due to his popularity, win the next election and take the office.

While still on the plane, shouts are heard and people running into the area where Kevin Fitzgerald, the senator, had met the president  who is seen lying on the floor with wounds on his body. Senator Fitzgerald is holding a bloody knife and quickly confesses to the murder. He demands a trial indicating he wants to bring out the reason that he killed the president.

Joseph Antonelli, a character used by Buffa in previous novels and known as the defense attorney that has never lost a case, is asked to take the case on behalf of Kevin Fitzgerald.

The handling of the trial and the back and forth action is guaranteed to keep the reader glued to the book. There are enough events occurring to make a very rewarding read even better than normal, including a love affair that captures Antonelli’s interest. The ending is not telegraphed and is a surprise and one not expected by the reader but upon reflection, a very apt one.

5/18 Paul Lane

NECESSITY by D.W. Buffa. Polis Books (April 24, 2018).  ISBN 978-1947993082. 352p.


BEYOND THE PALE by Clare O’Donohue

May 11, 2018

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 A World of Spies Mystery, Book 1

O’Donohue gives us a thoroughly delightful tale featuring two charming main characters, a plot that features international criminal activity, murder, and mayham but presented in a slightly tongue in cheek manner, blunting any horror.

Hollis and Finn Larrson are two married professors with at least PhDs teaching at the same university in Michigan. They have arrived at the top of their professions, have academic tenure, great reputations in their subject field, but have reached a point in their married lives in which they may be taking the other partner slightly for granted. Our story begins when Finn proposes a vacation involving a trip to Chicago in which he will go to Wriggly Field to watch baseball with Hollis dutifully tagging along. Hollis is not too thrilled with such a vacation but their marriage is too solid to have a big fight over it.

Right out of the blue Hollis gets a visit from a friend of hers who was a companion during a short period that she actually worked for the CIA, taking the training in preparation for a career with the organization. There are some hints that the “friend” was involved with her until she left the CIA to return to graduate school where she met Finn; they married and several years later both are teachers at the college level. But her friend is there to make an offer to the two which would set a different tone for a getaway. He indicates that the CIA would pay for a trip to Dublin, Ireland if Finn, an expert in the field would pick up a manuscript, quickly authenticate it and, if real, deliver it as directed. A twenty minute task paying for a priceless trip to Ireland Hollis jumps at the chance, and although Finn is not that thrilled with the idea he goes along with the woman he loves.

The trip starts with a bang. Their contact is not there; they run into various individuals that would love to get their hands on the manuscript, they are forced to run all over the section of Ireland that they have gone to. Their lives are at risk and a twenty minute job turns into a life threatening situation . Needless to say the book is an all nighter with enough suspense to keep one wrapped tightly into it. I can’t help but hope that Hollis and Finn can find other non academic adventures to get involved in in the near future.

5/18 Paul Lane

BEYOND THE PALE by Clare O’Donohue. Midnight Ink (May 8, 2018).  ISBN 978-0738756509. 360p.


RESET by Brian Andrews

May 5, 2018
RESET by Brian Andrews

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Reset is a well done science fiction novel, but one with a message that the author wishes to convey to his readers. Based on scientifically based geological evidence unearthed by experts in the fields there have been five extinctions of life on earth down through the eons. They have been caused by natural events such as comets, fire etc. Is there a sixth extinction in the near future?

The novel begins with army sergeant Michael Pitcher discovering an object in Afghanistan while he is on patrol. After interacting with it he finds that it possesses unusual powers. He also suffers a traumatic seizure and is sent back to the states for evaluation and treatment. At the same time the object: a cube is packed and sent to authorities in the U.S. for determination of what it is and what are the powers it contains.

Sergeant Pitcher is released from the hospital and sent home to recuperate in company of his wife Josie. But Josie discovers that her beloved husband is a very changed man from the one that was deployed to Afghanistan. He is coldly withdrawn from her and soon empties out their bank accounts and disappears.

Enter CIA agent Dean Ninemeyer, who is investigating the disappearance of Pitcher and coincidentally a group of scientists that were involved with him. It falls on Josie Pitcher and Dean to begin searching out answers to what is going on. What they find, and how they go about it provides the meat and bones of Reset and guarantees an interesting story for it’s readers.

As an afterward, Andrews does freely bring out his opinion that mankind itself will bring about the sixth extinction talked about in the book. He cites the failure to pay attention to what he claims is the very real menace of global warming, the explosive growth of human population and the frequent disappearance of other than human species.

5/18 Paul Lane

RESET by Brian Andrews. Thomas & Mercer (April 24, 2018). ISBN 978-1503954267. 382p.


ACTS OF VANISHING by Fredrik T. Olsson

May 3, 2018
ACTS OF VANISHING by Fredrik T. Olsson

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Olsson presents a novel based upon the next stage of enemies of the human race. This is AI (Artificial Intelligence) the existence of foes that started out by being made by mankind, evolved their own persona and began attacking their creators believing that humans were their own worse enemies.

The events begin in Stockholm, Sweden just prior to Christmas with a sudden citywide blackout: television, radio, phones, internet and all electric lights wink out throwing the area into chaos. In the city room of a silenced major newspaper, Christina Sandberg tries to piece together the reason for the blackout and has the eerie feeling that her ex- husband William is somehow involved. On his part William who is a cyber security expert and professional code breaker had received an e-mail just prior to the blackout occurring with very specific instructions to be followed. The military police, aware of this correspondence take him into custody before he can act on the contents of the email.

We follow William, as he becomes free and begins tracking the blackout, and subsequent attacks on many nuclear plants around the world trying to find the cause of these disruptions and take action to thwart them.

Explanations of what is going on are well delineated by the author and while the novel could be categorized as science fiction, current events and discoveries do make it a near term possibility. Why is William thought of by authorities as the cause of the attacks and sought by police and military is a fair question to broach.? Will he be able to determine what is happening, why, and fix the problem? Olsson is very conversant about the area he postulates and immediately grabs the reader’s attention supplying clues and bringing his audience to accepting the events of a very engrossing novel with central characters acting as they certainly would under the circumstances. Be prepared for some missed sleep when reading the book.

5/18 Paul Lane

ACTS OF VANISHING by Fredrik T. Olsson. Little, Brown and Company (April 24, 2018). ISBN 978-0316335027. 464p.