EMPIRE CITY by Matt Gallagher

May 4, 2020


From the publisher:

The author of the “urgent and deeply moving” (The New York TimesYoungblood returns with this bold and provocative novel following a group of super-powered soldiers and civilians as they navigate an imperial America on the precipice of a major upheaval—for fans of The Fortress of Solitude and The Plot Against America.

Thirty years after its great triumph in Vietnam, the United States has again become mired in an endless foreign war overseas. Stories of super soldiers known as the Volunteers tuck in little American boys and girls every night. Yet domestic politics are aflame. Violent protests erupt throughout the nation; an ex-military watchdog group clashes with police while radical terrorists threaten to expose government experiments within the veteran rehabilitation colonies.

Halfway between war and peace, the Volunteers find themselves waiting for orders in the vast American city-state, Empire City. There they encounter a small group of civilians who know the truth about their powers, including Sebastian Rios, a young bureaucrat wrestling with survivor guilt, and Mia Tucker, a wounded army pilot-turned-Wall Street banker. Meanwhile, Jean-Jacques Saint-Preux, a Haitian-American Volunteer from the International Legion, decides he’ll do whatever it takes to return to the front lines.

Through it all, a controversial retired general emerges as a frontrunner in the presidential campaign, promising to save the country from itself. Her election would mean unprecedented military control over the country, with promises of security and stability—but at what cost?

Featuring Gallagher’s “vital” (The Washington Post), “evocative” (The Wall Street Journal) prose, Empire City is a rousing vision of an alternate—yet all too familiar—America on the brink.

Matt Gallagher takes up the task of writing about the aftermath of war – the feelings and actions of those veterans that have fought in the war and returned home. There are those that have war-related wounds, both physical and mental, and how they deal with these in a world that is no longer involved with combat.

Thirty years after a victory in Vietnam, the United States has become mired in the morass of another conflict overseas and one that looks to be without an end in sight. Moral imperatives designed to attract people into the military appear everywhere with stories of the heroics of the military spread all over the country. These also include the appearance of a group of “super soldiers” that have been modified to be able to do things such as become invisible, fly, run, at very rapid speeds traits that would make the U.S. military almost invincible.

Gallagher has taken an excellent idea to a stage that turns the novel into a chore to read. There are descriptions of feelings, actions, events that simply run one into the other. I found myself taxed to get into the gist of the book and ended up finishing it wondering what was going on. The actions and feelings of the principal characters became muddled and mixed with others in the story.

5/2020 Paul Lane

EMPIRE CITY by Matt Gallagher. Atria Books (April 28, 2020). ISBN: 978-1501177798. 368p.



THE WEDDING DRESS by Danielle Steel

May 3, 2020

THE WEDDING DRESS by Danielle Steel. Delacorte Press (April 28, 2020). ISBN 978-0399179594. 304p.




May 2, 2020


A Detective Varg Novel, Book 2

From the publisher:

Perfect for fans of Brad Taylor, Lee Child, and Brad Thor who are looking for their next adventure—UNGENTLEMANLY WARFARE has all their exhilarating action but with a twist—Linskey is taking readers back to history’s darkest hours….

A secret assassin. An impossible mission. Failure is not an option. 

1943. With Nazi Germany facing defeat, Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring has authorized mass production of the Messerschmitt Me 163 Komet, a jet-propulsion engine aircraft faster than any plane in the Allies’ arsenal. But British Intelligence has discovered that the Komet is unstable and German scientist Professor Gaerte has been tasked to fix the plane’s flaw. To prevent the Komets from getting airborne, an undercover task force must infiltrate Nazi-occupied France and assassinate Gaerte.

Captain Harry Walsh is one of Britain’s most effective, ruthless, and unorthodox Special Operations Executive agents. Allied with an American OSS and Free French operatives, Harry leads his squad behind enemy lines where he’s reunited with fellow SOE operative—and former lover—Emma Stirling. But as the team proceeds with their mission, an SS officer from Harry’s past pursues the Englishman on a very personal mission of revenge . . .

Well done story of all-out war and how it really affects the people involved in it. Captain Harry Walsh is a member of the British SOE (Special Operations Executive.) His experiences include several cover-up visits to Vichy, France during the Nazi occupation of that country during World War II. He takes the waging of war as something very serious with no quarter asked nor given. In his mind, there can be no gallantry nor any rules other than to win.

He is married to a beautiful woman who stays at home in England during Harry’s visits overseas and is only concerned with acting as she thinks a woman should act. Harry realized shortly after the wedding that it was a mistake but stays on because that is just the thing to do. He is comforted by an affair with Emma Stirling who is also an SOE operator and has clandestine visits to occupied France under her belt.

The story takes place in 1943 during a period when it appears that Germany was beginning to lose the war and Hitler was searching for a way to forestall that taking place. One of the most promising ideas is the development of a jet-propelled plane, which if placed into mass production, would make the German air force almost invincible. Its use against aircraft capable of speeds only half of what the Jet can do would negate all enemy planes making them useless as weapons. Fortunately for the allies, the German jet has design problems which must be corrected before any mass production can take place. But Germany has an engineer who would probably be able to find the problems, fix them and get the new airplane ready for mass production and use against allied aircraft.

The SOE believes that the only solution in this instance is to kill the engineer with that action pushing mass production back several months or longer. Harry Walsh is assigned to go into France where the German engineer will be working and kill him. He will be aided by an American who is a member of the OSS (the precursor of the CIA) and a Frenchman who had worked with the French underground and knows their systems and placements. In addition, Emma Stirling insinuates herself into the group and is included in the event that a woman could be useful in arranging the murder planned.

Linskey has done his research and the conditions described are certainly those that prevailed during the period covered. The Nazis are depicted as cruel conquerors freely executing people in order to prove their points and maintaining complete fear-based control over the conquered population. In addition, he brings up two individuals that were active during the war. The first is Ian Fleming the later author of the James Bond novels whom Linskey indicates probably got his inspiration for the weapons used by Bond from an actual department that served agents of the SOE. The other is Kim Philby, who later in his life is an infamous undercover agent for the Soviet

The members of the French underground are drawn realistically. They are fearful for both themselves and their families all subject to execution if caught in activities against the conquerors There is no trace of false bravado only the fear that must be conquered if they are to win their country back. The novel ends with the war still on and the invasion of Europe on the horizon. It is also a certainty that further novels are planned around the participation of Harry Walsh and his fellow members of the SOE doing their part in the winning of the war in Europe. And that is definitely not a bad thing.

5/2020 Paul Lane

UNGENTLEMANLY WARFARE by Howard Linskey. Pinnacle (April 28, 2020). ISBN: 978-0786046881. 368p.



Win the May 2020 bookshelf of signed thrillers!

May 1, 2020

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Hello, my lovely readers! 

I am so happy to be able to offer you a new contest for May with some terrific thrillers, sure to help you escape the nightmare we are living in. Spend some time in someone else’s nightmare, it will make your life seem positively idyllic!

FAIR WARNING by Michael Connelly: The hero of The Poet and The Scarecrow is back in the new thriller from #1 New York Times bestselling author (and my favorite!) Michael Connelly. Jack McEvoy, the journalist who never backs down, tracks a serial killer who has been operating completely under the radar–until now.

DEAD LAND by Sara Paretsky: V.I. Warshawski Novels, Book 20. Chicago’s legendary detective, V.I. Warshawski, knows her city’s rotten underbelly better than most, but she’s unable to avoid it when her goddaughter drags her into a fight over lakefront land use in this propulsive novel.

SEEING DARKNESS by Heather Graham: Krewe of Hunters, Book 30. When a terrifying past-life regression during a girls’ weekend in Salem reveals a local politician’s sinister nature, FBI Krewe of Hunters special agent Jon Dickson teams up with an apprehensive witness to stop a twisted serial killer.

THESE WOMEN by Ivy Pochoda: From the award-winning author of Wonder Valley and  Visitation Street comes a serial killer story like you’ve never seen before—a literary thriller of female empowerment and social change.

THREE HOURS IN PARIS by Cara Black: In June of 1940, when Paris fell to the Nazis, Hitler spent a total of three hours in the City of Light—abruptly leaving, never to return. To this day, no one knows why. The New York Times bestselling author of the Aimée Leduc investigations reimagines history in her masterful, pulse-pounding spy thriller.

A BAD DAY FOR SUNSHINE by Darynda Jones: Sunshine Vicram Series, Book 1. New York Times bestselling author Darynda Jones is back with the first novel in the brand-new snarky, sassy, wickedly fun thriller, and the forecast looks anything but sunny.

THIS IS HOW I LIED by Heather Gudenkauf: A pregnant detective, still haunted by the cold case murder of her best friend decades earlier is forced to relive the past and finally understand what happened when new evidence comes to light and the case is reopened.

BLACK FLAG by David Ricciardi: Jake Keller Series, Book 3. CIA officer Jake Keller faces stakes that are very high and very personal in the latest electrifying thriller from the author of Rogue Strike. After years of relative calm, piracy has returned to the high sea. As the threats close in from all sides, Jake finds himself faced with a familiar choice: back off, or go on the offensive.

TAKE ME APART by Sara Sligar: A seductive, twisting tale of psychological suspense, Take Me Apart draws readers into the lives of two darkly magnetic young women pinned down by secrets and lies. Sara Sligar’s electrifying debut is a chilling, thought-provoking take on art, illness, and power, from a spellbinding new voice in literary suspense.

CROSS OF FIRE by David Gilman: Master of War, Book 6. Winter, 1362. After years of successful campaigning in France, Thomas Blackstone, a common archer knighted at Crécy, has rised to become Edward III’s Master of War. But the title is as much a curse as a blessing; a group of trained killers, burning with vengeance, draw ever-closer.

You can win autographed copies of these books! If you are new to the site, each month I run a contest in conjunction with the International Thriller Writers organization. We put together a list of books from debut authors to bestsellers, so you can win some of your favorites and find some new favorites.

What makes this contest really special is that all of the books (except eBooks) are signed by the author! Books with multiple authors will be signed by at least one of the authors.

Penguin Random House books for giveaway were provided by the publisher. #PRHpartner

Don’t forget, if you subscribe to the newsletter or follow this blog, you get an extra entry into every contest you enter. Check out the Win Books page for more information on all these books and authors, and how you can enter this month’s contest.

Thanks for reading, and good luck!


April 30, 2020

THE TALENTED MR. VARG by Alexander McCall Smith

April 29, 2020


A Detective Varg Novel, Book 2

From the publisher:

In the second installment in the best-selling Detective Varg series, Ulf and his team investigate a notorious philanderer—a wolf of a man whose bad reputation may be all bark and no bite.
The Department of Sensitive Crimes, renowned for taking on the most obscure and irrelevant cases is always prepared to dive into an investigation, no matter how complex. So when the girlfriend of an infamous author who insists her bad-boy beau is being blackmailed approaches Ulf Varg, the department’s lead detective, Ulf is determined to help. It’s rather difficult to determine what skeletons hide in the hard-living lothario’s closet, though. And while Swedes are notoriously tolerant . . . well, there are limits. Even for the Swedish.

The case requires Ulf’s total concentration, but he finds himself distracted by his ongoing attraction to his co-worker, Anna, whose own fears about her husband’s fidelity are causing a strain on her marriage. When Ulf is also tasked with looking into a group of dealers exporting wolves that seem more canis familiaris than canis lupus, it will require all of his team’s investigative instincts and dogged persistence to put these matters to bed.

This is the second book in a series revolving around a Swedish police squad termed the Department of Sensitive Crimes; an agency that takes on cases that are irrelevant and nonsensible. They then work on them, running them into the ground and arriving at conclusions that fit the crime and provide a good amount of humor for the reader.

In this book, Ulf Varg (the name consists of two words both meaning wolf in Swedish) works on situations that involve the illegal sale of dogs as wolves to zoos and other buyers. He handles a case in which a lady indicates that her boyfriend (a noted second rate author) is being blackmailed, and provides information to a fellow police officer, a lady that he has a crush on about her suspicions that her husband is having an affair.

The cases are worked on by Varg and other members of his department, all of whom are misfits and obviously not indicative of real-life police officers. Conclusions are arrived at after a good deal of tongue in cheek banter by all concerned and a good time by the reader. McCall Smith’s book is not meant to be a deeply engrossing work but a well-done parody and a good time for all. There should be a separate category for this type of book other than a star rating since it is not meant as anything but a good comedy. Still, it is a novel that can be quite enjoyed by those readers interested in a departure and a captivating read.

4/2020 Paul Lane

THE TALENTED MR. VARG by Alexander McCall Smith. Pantheon (April 28, 2020). ISBN: 978-1524748968. 240p.




April 28, 2020


Sons of Sinclair, Book 1

From the publisher:

Cain Sinclair has a plan. In order to finally bring peace to his clan, he will wed the young female chief of their greatest enemy. Only problem: capturing her and forcing her back to Sinclair castle doesn’t exactly make her want to say yes. Ella Sutherland may be clever, passionate, and shockingly beautiful, but what she isn’t is willing.

Every attempt Cain makes to woo her seems to backfire on him. A gift? The kitten practically claws his eyes out. A competitive game of chess? Even when he wins, he loses. It seems the only time the two ever see eye to eye is when they’re heating up Cain’s bed. Still, the only thing Ella truly wants is the one thing he cannot offer her: freedom.

But when Cain discovers she’s been harboring a secret―one that could threaten both clans’ very existence―he’ll have to decide between peace for the Sinclairs or the woman who’s captured his heart.

I was first introduced to Scottish historical romance from the incredible Diana Gabaldon, and she sort of spoiled me for any other writers. But it takes her years to write a book, so I’ve read a bunch of other authors. This was my first read from this author, and this book is set way earlier than anything else I’ve read. It opens in 1589! It was a more brutal time period for sure, and though there are some battles depicted and discussed, they are much more in the background. Other than when our hero and heroine meet.

The Sinclair clan killed the Sutherland chief, leaving his only child, his daughter Ella, as chief. So it is not really a surprise that she leads the charge to kill the Sinclair chief, making his eldest son Cain the new chief of the clan. Ella is captured, and Cain, who is smarter and more strategic than his war-loving father, decides that by marrying Ella, he will be able to take over the Sutherland clan without any bloodshed. Except she doesn’t want to marry him; in fact, she asks him to kill her.

Cain’s mind is made up but he realizes he will need to convince Ella so he sets about trying to do that. He has some success, but like any good romance, for every step forward, there is a half step backward. But as they spend more time together, Cain learns to appreciate Ella’s sharp mind, and Ella learns to appreciate Cain’s even temperament and willingness to listen.

There is a lot of action in this story, and it was a real page-turner for me. I enjoyed learning about how people lived in that time period, and I really appreciated the author’s notes at the end, giving it even more context. I am looking forward to the next book in the series!

4/2020 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

HIGHLAND CONQUEST by Heather McCollum. Entangled: Amara (April 28, 2020).  ISBN 978-1640637474. 384p.



April 28, 2020

4/2020 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE SWEENEY SISTERS by Lian Dolan. William Morrow (April 28, 2020). ISBN 978-0062909046. 304p.



THE SPLIT by Sharon Bolton

April 27, 2020

From the publisher:

Tense, gripping and with a twist you won’t see coming, The Split is an explosive new stand-alone thriller from Sharon Bolton about a woman on the run.

No matter how far you run, some secrets will always catch up with you…

The remote Antarctic island of South Georgia is about to send off its last boat of the summer – which signifies safety to resident glaciologist Felicity Lloyd.

Felicity lives in fear – fear that her ex-husband Freddie will find her, even out here. She took a job on this isolated island to hide from him, but now that he’s out of prison, having served a term for murder, she knows he won’t give up until he finds her.

But a doctor delving into the background of Felicity and Freddie’s relationship, back in Cambridge, learns that Felicity has been on the edge for a long time. Heading to South Georgia himself to try and get to her first is the only way he can think of to help her.

The author presents a very well done story of the results of a split personality. That is the inhabiting of one body by two or more separate identities that may not be aware of the existence of the others. The setting for the novel includes the Antarctic island of South Georgia, among the most remote and lonely places on the earth.

Felicity is a young woman living a complicated life which has just become more complex when she learns that her ex-husband has just been released from prison where he was incarcerated for murder. She is under the belief that he is coming to kill her and lives in terror that he will find her and do just that.

Felicity works for an agency that administers details involved in working for an island located in Antarctica and has been consulting with a psychiatrist due to the many fears that she confronts. Among these is the possibility that she has killed two people that were inhabitants of a homeless group living on the streets. By coincidence Joe, her psychiatrist, does pro bono work with homeless people trying to get them back into a normal routine.

In spite of the many constraints involved in the doctor-patient relationship between Felicity and Joe, each is beginning to develop feelings for the other. But a separation between the two comes up when Felicity, in order to escape her ex-husband lands a position working on South Georgia for two years.

The second half of the novel involves her ex-husband taking a cruise to Antarctica in order to find her. Felicity, now working on South Georgia, keeps her eyes on cruise ship passenger manifests and when she spots her ex-husband’s name on one docking shortly runs away from her South Georgia base towards an outlying camp about 60 miles out from it.

Bolton has obviously done a great deal of research on glaciers and glacial movements in setting up one of the most exciting final sequences for this book that one will find. The ending is a surprise as indicated in the publisher’s description of the novel’s events, but it is logical coupled with the remainder of the book. And yes, it is certainly an exciting all-nighter and another reason to continue to search for Sharon Bolton’s books.

4/2020 Paul Lane

THE SPLIT by Sharon Bolton. Minotaur Books (April 28, 2020). ISBN: 978-1250300058. 400p.



NOT THAT KIND OF GUY by Andie J. Christopher

April 25, 2020

NOT THAT KIND OF GUY by Andie J. Christopher. Berkley (April 14, 2020). ISBN 978-1984802705. 336p.