CONFESSIONS ON THE 7:45 by Lisa Unger

October 21, 2020

From the publisher:

From master of suspense Lisa Unger comes a riveting thriller about a chance encounter that unravels a stunning web of lies.

Selena Murphy is commuting home on the train when she strikes up a conversation with a beautiful stranger in the next seat. The woman introduces herself as Martha and soon confesses that she’s been stuck in an affair with her boss. Selena, in turn, confesses that she suspects her husband is sleeping with the nanny. When the train arrives at Selena’s station, the two women part ways, presumably never to meet again.

Then the nanny disappears.

As Selena is pulled into the mystery of what happened, and as the fractures in her marriage grow deeper, she begins to wonder, who was Martha really? But she is hardly prepared for what she’ll discover…

There is always a reward in picking up any book written by Lisa Unger. This continues in her latest book “Confessions on the 7:45.”

I started the read with some idea that it would be a take-off on Patricia Highsmith’s 1950 novel “Strangers on a Train” and the ensuing movie based upon the book. Unger does take as a point of departure two women meeting on a commuter train and talking but then goes way beyond that. Her novel touches on many separate points and keeps her readers simply glued to the pages providing an ending not readily foreseen but definitely logical.

Selena Murphy is commuting home by train from her job in the city and sits down next to a beautiful stranger. Somehow during the trip, the two women find a commonality. The other lady, Martha, confesses that she has been sleeping with her boss while Selena tells her she witnessed her husband having sex with the girl engaged as the couple’s nanny for their two children.

Neither of the two women has reached any conclusion about the next steps to take. When Selena gets home she regrets the confession made to Martha and determines that she will not see her again. Moreover, Martha was not given anything that could help her get into contact with Selena again.

A few days later Selena’s nanny disappears and can’t be found. The police are contacted and much to everyone’s dismay begins to treat the disappearance as a possible homicide. What, if anything, was done to the nanny and other related facts about the lives of the two women are brought to the surface during the remainder of the novel.

Stating anything further than that Unger’s book is beyond just an all-nighter might give away details that reading this very satisfying novel will bring out. My recommendation – read it, but have coffee standing by.

10/2020 Paul Lane

CONFESSIONS ONTHE 7:45 by Lisa Unger. Park Row; Original Edition (October 6, 2020). ISBN: 978-0778310150. 368 pages.







COBBLE HILL by Cecily von Ziegesar

October 20, 2020

10/2020 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

COBBLE HILL by Cecily von Ziegesar. Atria Books (October 20, 2020). ISBN 978-1982147037. 320p.




October 18, 2020

THE WHITE COAT DIARIES by Madi Sinha. Berkley (September 15, 2020). ISBN 978-0062854384. 336 pages.





THE FARM by Max Annas

October 17, 2020

From the publisher:

Eight Hours. Minute by Minute.

Somewhere in South Africa, a farm comes under heavy attack. No shooters in sight. Only one thing is certain: The attackers are savagely resolute. A diverse group of people barricade themselves inside the farmhouse: black and white; women, men, and children; bosses and workers; a police officer; random visitors. Who is the target of the attack? What has motivated it? Politics? Revenge? Greed? Drugs? Weapons? But do the people outside know more than those indoors? The snipers who are trying to operate in the dark of night? Who will die, who will survive? Who is pulling the strings? Who will be the winners, who will be the losers? And how long can eight hours actually be?

Eight hours, minute by minute. Constant changes in perspective, piercing precision. An explosive mixture of psychological thriller and Neo-western with a political subtext.

A story that is set in South Africa revolving around a situation that realistically could take place anywhere.  Max Annas has written a short novel dealing with a series of events that could very well be the depiction of a battle in a war.  The plot involves a raid on a farm in South Africa and without immediately indicating the reason for the attack goes over the characters involved.  These include the attackers and also the people at the farm that have to defend themselves from the onslaught.  As in any military engagement there is no collective thinking about reasons, or questioning of why it occurred at that location and at the time it did.
Action begins as the owner of the farm is talking to a salesman that has been calling on him for a long time. Suddenly there is a shot from outside the perimeter of the farm killing the salesman.  People living there and some visiting quickly gather together to adopt defensive positions and give out the guns that they have stored in case ever necessary.  Mr. Annas has done an excellent job in telling his story at the same time that he describes the confusion that runs rampant.  Those in the house which is where the defenders have gathered as well as the attackers outside wanting to break in.
The leader of the attackers knows why they are there and what they want, but none of his gang are privy to this and only are aware of the money they are promised at a successful conclusion for them.  The defenders, including his family question the farm’s owner and he professes that there is really no hidden reason.  There is an amount of cash, some jewelry and a few valuable items but nothing that could warrant an attack by the group that came against them.
Due to the area the farm is located in there is only sporadic cell phone service and main lines have been cut by the attackers. The police cannot be called and people living in the same area are too distant to hear the gunshots and become aware of the attack.  The people inside the house come up with plans to sneak outside and creeping up on the marauders shoot them.  The reactions of the raiders and those coming out after them are described and results and any knowledge of the results becomes problematic since the raid takes place in the dead of night with no lighting present.
The novel is a short one, and while in the definite category of an all nighter is finished in one very satisfying read.  The novel is currently in process of being developed for filming in South Africa and should quite a draw on that basis as well.

10/2020 Paul Lane

THE FARM by Max Annas. Catalyst Press (September 15, 2020). ISBN: 978-1946395221. 184 pages.





THE LEGAL AFFAIR by Nisha Sharma

October 16, 2020

THE LEGAL AFFAIR by Nisha Sharma. Avon Impulse (August 18, 2020). ISBN 978-0062854384. 336 pages.


ELI’S PROMISE by Ronald H. Balson

October 15, 2020

From the publisher:

A “fixer” in a Polish town during World War II, his betrayal of a Jewish family, and a search for justice 25 years later―by the winner of the National Jewish Book Award.

Eli’s Promise is a masterful work of historical fiction spanning three eras―Nazi-occupied Poland, the American Zone of post-war Germany, and Chicago at the height of the Vietnam War. Award-winning author Ronald H. Balson explores the human cost of war, the mixed blessings of survival, and the enduring strength of family bonds.

1939: Eli Rosen lives with his wife Esther and their young son in the Polish town of Lublin, where his family owns a construction company. As a consequence of the Nazi occupation, Eli’s company is Aryanized, appropriated and transferred to Maximilian Poleski―an unprincipled profiteer who peddles favors to Lublin’s subjugated residents. An uneasy alliance is formed; Poleski will keep the Rosen family safe if Eli will manage the business. Will Poleski honor his promise or will their relationship end in betrayal and tragedy?

1946: Eli resides with his son in a displaced persons camp in Allied-occupied Germany hoping for a visa to America. His wife has been missing since the war. One man is sneaking around the camps selling illegal visas; might he know what has happened to her?

1965: Eli rents a room in Albany Park, Chicago. He is on a mission. With patience, cunning, and relentless focus, he navigates unfamiliar streets and dangerous political backrooms, searching for the truth. Powerful and emotional, Ronald H. Balson’s Eli’s Promise is a rich, rewarding novel of World War II and a husband’s quest for justice.

A novel that may prove more than a little unnerving to many readers. It’s a well written account of a period in history in which the entire world was ushered into a second world war just 20 short years after the ending of the first round. Adolf Hitler devised the persecution of distinct groups of people as scapegoats for his nation to focus on in order to gear up to fighting a war. Hitler selected Jews, Gypsies and even Catholics to focus hatred on and made genocide a norm as a means of getting rid of his devised enemies.

The book focuses on three periods in the life of Eli Rosen in order to tell the story. The first segment is the time that war and occupation were initiated, the second in a period just after the war and a great many displaced persons were living in camps while awaiting possible reconciliation with relatives, and the third twenty years after the war’s end and occurring in Chicago, U.S.A.

Eli Rosen grew up and lives in the Polish town of Lublin. His family founded a successful brickyard which he manages up to the time that the Nazis conquered Poland and appropriated whatever they wanted in the country. He is thrown from a comfortable position as owner-manager of a good business to employee of a man that was his salesman until the Nazi governor of the area took over the ownership of the business. Eli tries to protect his family by any means from the excesses of the occupational government and is forced to enter into a relationship with Maximilian Polesk,i his ex salesman and now appointed as agent of the Nazis for the brick yard.

Eli’s wife Esther is conscripted to work in a sewing factory working on goods for the German army and forced to come in daily for nine or more hours each time. His young son continues in school but only because Eli has made that a condition for continuing to manage the yard giving Poleski the entire credit for doing that.

The second section of the novel describes the plight of the displaced persons after the war is over. They are thrown together in camps; all seeking visas for other countries in order to try and regain some semblance of normality for the rest of their lives. Mr Balson makes the point that many countries, including the United States set up low and arbitrary quotas for the refugees when they had the room and the need in the light of economies returning to normal as hostilities cease. Maximilian Poleski emerges as a fixer – a man with the contacts and influence to sell visas to people with the money to pay him and allow them to bypass the normal sequence of time needed to get a visa.

The climax of the story occurs in the United States in the city of Chicago. Eli Rosen comes to the area and obtains an apartment. His neighbors see him as a man with some means as all he seems to be doing is staying around the apartment. He becomes friendly with some people in the building he is living in. The reason he is in Chicago is explained and his actions become logical. The ending of the novel provides something unexpected for the reader. It is not just a change from the expected but a means of keeping the key persona in the book as logical as the author obviously intended to make them.

Ronald Balson pulls no punches with his descriptions of the horrors visited on ordinary people by an invading army, and than their being shunted off to a side by many countries that want the war to just disappear. His story is a five star version of a period of history that proved a horror for those living in it.

10/2020 Paul Lane

ELI’S PROMISE by Ronald H. Balson. St. Martin’s Press (September 22, 2020). ISBN: 978-1250271464. 352 pages.








October 14, 2020

THE TWELVE DATES OF CHRISTMAS by Jenny Bayliss. G.P. Putnam’s Sons (October 13, 2020). ISBN 978-0593085387. 368 pages.





SIMMER DOWN by Sarah Smith

October 13, 2020

SIMMER DOWN by Sarah Smith. Berkley (October 13, 2020). ISBN 978-1984805447. 336 pages.




BLOOD WORLD by Chris Mooney

October 6, 2020


From the publisher:

Everything changed when scientists discovered the drug. It looked like the cure for aging, but all progress comes with a price tag. Now, eternal youthfulness will be paid for by the blood of the innocent. 

The blood of “carriers” is the most valuable commodity on earth. When treated with a new wonder drug, it cures disease, increases power, and makes the recipient a virtual superman.

It also makes the carriers targets. Young people with the right genes are ripped from their families and stashed in “blood farms.”

Ellie Batista became an LAPD officer specifically to fight this evil as a member of the Blood Squad, but her ambitions are thwarted—until the day she and her partner are ambushed during a routine stop. The resulting events plunge her into an undercover world more dangerous than she could have ever imagined.

Because a madman has found a way to increase the potency of the blood to levels previously unimagined. As he cuts a bloody swath through the already deadly world of blood cartels, Ellie is the only hope to stop him before the body count explodes.

Throughout the history of the world, any commodity that becomes valuable beyond the range of it’s worth as a single item develops a black-market selling at a much higher price than on the regular market. This is done to hasten the delivery of the item for those that don’t want to wait and to bring the item to a group unable to get it on the regulated sales avenue. Chris Mooney sets such an item up as the most valuable commodity ever discovered.  It is blood from a select group of carriers that when treated can bring to recipients a longer and much healthier life than ever available. This makes the carriers a group to be preyed upon. When discovered they become subject to kidnapping and either death by draining or a life of captivity as a donor where their masters charge fortunes to customers looking for the treated blood. The carriers of the blood become targets for people taking them away from their lives keeping them on a “blood farm”
Ellie Batista has joined the Los Angeles Police Department specifically to become part of the Blood Squad and help fight the incidence of blood farms and exploitation of those captured by people to be placed on the farms.  It is a path that is not quickly open to a newcomer such as Ellie, but fate intervenes when the man she is first partnered with is killed in the line of duty. The circumstances allow her to convince her supervisors to permit her to enter the department as an undercover agent. Ellie has an excellent personal reason to want to work with the Blood Squad as we discover that her twin brother was kidnapped as a baby due to having the blood type making him a donor.  The rumors circulating about him are that he is still alive after many years and possibly being held on a blood farm.
Ellie’s work as an undercover agent is fraught with danger and the distinct possibility of her being killed.  To also add to the factors, she must weigh in her decision the meeting with another police officer with whom she falls in love.  It appears that he is going to ask her to marry him but her working undercover is a detriment to any attachment.  The author depicts Ellie with all the factors weighing upon her and her very normal approach to handling her ambivalent situation with all the doubts and second-guessing that any person would face.

10/2020 Paul Lane

BLOOD WORLD by Chris Mooney. Berkley (August 18, 2020). ISBN: 978-0593197639. 448 pages.




October 5, 2020

ALL SCOT AND BOTHERED by Kerrigan Byrne. St. Martin’s Paperbacks (September 29, 2020). ISBN 978-1250318862. 416 pages.