A MAN AT ARMS by Steven Pressfield

April 2, 2021

From the publisher:

From the acclaimed master of historical fiction comes an epic saga about a reluctant hero, the Roman Empire, and the rise of a new faith.

Jerusalem and the Sinai desert, first century AD. In the turbulent aftermath of the crucifixion of Jesus, officers of the Roman Empire acquire intelligence of a pilgrim bearing an incendiary letter from a religious fanatic to insurrectionists in Corinth. The content of this letter could bring down the empire.

The Romans hire a former legionary, the solitary man-at-arms, Telamon of Arcadia, to intercept the letter and capture its courier. Telamon operates by a dark code all his own, with no room for noble causes or lofty beliefs. But once he overtakes the courier, something happens that neither he nor the empire could have predicted.

In his first novel of the ancient world in thirteen years, the best-selling author of Gates of Fire and Tides of War returns with a gripping saga of conquest and rebellion, bloodshed and faith.


Steven Pressfield very aptly brings us back into the tumultuous world of the Roman Empire at a time when Christianity was spreading throughout the known world. The period was the second century A.D. with Rome actively attempting to crush the spread of the religion due to the feeling that belief would negate loyalty to the empire. The protagonist used by Pressfield as the principal character is Telamon of Arcadia. Telamon is a veteran of army service with one of the Roman legions in which he spent almost 20 years as a mercenary. He fought wherever he was sent and against anyone selected as an enemy of the Roman empire. It is important to note that the Roman legionnaire undoubtedly was the best trained in the world at that time. Telamon is currently in Judea which was conquered by Rome and found almost impossible to administer.     

The story begins with a young boy named David spots Telamon being arrested. The warrior drops his kit while being taken away and David picks it up following him. During his arrest Telamon is approached by the commander of the legion he served in and offered money to do a certain job for Rome. A man and his young daughter who was deaf and dumb had been arrested at the same time as Telamon but had seized a horse and escaped. The commander of the Roman troop broached that Telamon would be well paid if he went after the escapees and brought back a letter held by the father and which had a great value due it’s attachment to the new religion.     

David took the opportunity to bring Telamon’s kit to him and succeeded in attaching himself to the man. Later, when the warrior came upon the girl and her father, the girl also became part of the small group when it was learned that it was her not the father who had the valuable letter. Along with a lady named as “witch” and not totally in sync with the others the four travel throughout the world around Judea. Their adventures and findings are certainly within the range of very probable based on the research evidenced on the part of the author for this book. He has written other well received books in the past and is famous for the quality of the research going into his novels. It has been too long a period since his last book and I would hope that we will see his next work in due course.

4/2021 Paul Lane

A MAN AT ARMS by Steven Pressfield. W. W. Norton & Company (March 2, 2021). ISBN: 978-0393540970. 336 pages.

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Eternal by Lisa Scottoline

March 30, 2021

ETERNAL by Lisa Scottoline. G.P. Putnam’s Sons; 1st edition (March 23, 2021). ISBN: 978-0525539766 . 480 pages.

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From Paul Lane

This novel is a five star book of course, but I found it so much more. It is also an emotional adventure that cannot be left in mid read. Must be finished in one captivating gulp. The theme is the coming of age of three people in a period of turmoil in Italy. The country had been taken over by Benito Mussolini in 1922 when as head of the newly formed fascist party set up a coup d’état becoming dictator of the country. Italians knew that any form of dissent would be met with repression, up to and including death.

Elisabetta, Marco and Sandro are the three principal characters utilized to tell the story. They were friends from childhood loving each other at first platonically, then later moving into romantic love. Elisabetta wondered which of the others she would eventually marry and both Marco and Sandro grew into dreams of being with her. Sandro was Jewish and faced his parent’s desire for him to marry within the religion. Growing up and looking for their future is interrupted by World War II and Mussolini bringing Italy into the war on Germany’s side. In order to please Hitler Mussolini promulgated a set of laws and rules modeled after the infamous Nurenberg laws that in effect removed Jews and certain other minorities from Italian citizenship. Also taking away their ability to work, own businesses and practice their religion. Eventually the Nazis took over Italy to prevent the country from moving towards alliances with the allies who were at war with Germany.

Elisabetta, Marco and Sandro come of age in this strained climate existing in Italy. The situation goes from bad to worse as Nazi troops stationed in Rome where the three live become a law unto themselves demanding and getting without possibility of review anything they desire. The author tells of a situation in which the Nazis demand a huge amount of gold from the Jewish community to benefit the German army. If they don’t come up with the gold the threat is that 200 Jews will be transferred out of the area. The community with help from others, including the Vatican manage to raise the gold. Not a surprise when the Nazis do send 200 Jews out ending up in the death camp at Auschwitz.

My recommendation for any reader is to read this novel and possibly make the same determination as I did which is that it is a classic. I am not in a position to indicate if it is Scottoline’s best book. She does have many excellent works to her credit and there is no problem in reading others and enjoying them.


WEDDING STATION by David Downing

March 14, 2021

A John Russell WWII Spy Thriller, Book 7

From the publisher:

The prequel to David Downing’s bestselling Station series introduces John Russell, an Englishman with a political past who must keep his head down as the Nazis solidify their power.

February 27, 1933. In this stunning prequel to the John Russell espionage novels, the Reichstag parliament building in Berlin is set ablaze. It’s just a month after Hitler’s inauguration as Chancellor of Germany, and the Nazis use the torching to justify a campaign of terror against their political opponents. John Russell’s recent separation from his wife threatens his right to reside in Germany and any meaningful relationship with his six-year-old son, Paul. He has just secured work as a crime reporter for a Berlin newspaper, and the crimes which he has to report—the gruesome murder of a rent boy, the hit-and-run death of a professional genealogist, the suspicious disappearance of a Nazi-supporting celebrity fortune-teller—are increasingly entangled in the wider nightmare engulfing Germany.

Each new investigation carries the risk of Russell’s falling foul of the authorities, at a time when the rule of law has completely vanished, and the Nazis are running scores of pop-up detention centers, complete with torture chambers, in every corner of Berlin.


The current novel is the 7th featuring John Russell, an Englishman by birth, but living and working in Berlin in the years prior to World War II. The book is indicated as a prequel to the other novels and I must say at the onset that it is, in my opinion, the most mesmerizing. I also rank it as one of the best books I yet have read by David Downing and he has certainly more than made his mark as a top author in his many areas.     

The period covered by the novel includes the years during the late 1930s and describes a period when a lunatic fringe took power and turned Germany into a madman’s domain with the very worse becoming the leaders of the country. Downing has done, as normal for him, a great deal of research into the period and can describe the emerging of the new Germany in great detail. Hitler has grabbed power taking over as Chancellor of the country and early on staged a fire in the Reichstag Parliament building. Using the fire as an excuse to crack down on groups such as the Communist party, gays, Jews, and any other sectors where the torment on these people can be utilized to coalesce changing the truth for Nazi fiction. Loudspeakers are set up all over the cities so that Hitler’s speeches can reach everyone.  It becomes a suspicious act if people are not listening and praising. It also becomes a necessary part of life for all to read Mein Kampf, Hitler’s manifest and plan for the future of Germany.   

John Russell is picked up when he is working as a crime reporter for a major Berlin newspaper. He is divorced from his wife but has no problem visiting and having a relationship with his five-year-old son the couple had when married. In the events described in this book, he becomes involved in three occurrences and is attempting to cover them for his paper. The first is the murder of a young male prostitute, another the running over of a professional genealogist, and the third the disappearance of a Nazi supporting fortune teller. The three events become somewhat related with the actual facts of the cases becoming skewed by different factions of the Nazi party. Care must be taken to not rub the Nazi party the wrong way. Punishment can be firing from a job, taking over a business, and even death. 

The steady increase in Nazi oversight with brutality and forced obedience to an ever-changing set of rules is brought out by the author. It is the loss of personal freedom engendered by a population that will not or cannot oppose their oppressors.       

The novel ends with John meeting the girl that becomes his new love interest in the books already written. It also indicates that he will stay in Berlin and become more and more involved with the different directions of Germany and its moving into war. Finishing the book will also leave the reader drained and, if not read yet, anxious to get into the next book in the series.

3/2021 Paul Lane

WEDDING STATION by David Downing. Soho Crime (March 2, 2021). ISBN: 978-1641291071. 336 pages.

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WHERE MADNESS LIES by Sylvia True

March 3, 2021

From the publisher:

Germany, 1934. Rigmor, a young Jewish woman is a patient at Sonnenstein, a premier psychiatric institution known for their curative treatments. But with the tide of eugenics and the Nazis’ rise to power, Rigmor is swept up in a campaign to rid Germany of the mentally ill.

USA, 1984. Sabine, battling crippling panic and depression commits herself to McLean Hospital, but in doing so she has unwittingly agreed to give up her baby. Linking these two generations of women is Inga, who did everything in her power to help her sister, Rigmor. Now with her granddaughter, Sabine, Inga is given a second chance to free someone she loves from oppressive forces, both within and without.

This is a story about hope and redemption, about what we pass on, both genetically and culturally. It is about the high price of repression, and how one woman, who lost nearly everything, must be willing to reveal the failures of the past in order to save future generations. With chilling echoes of our time, Where Madness Lies is based on a true story of the author’s own family.


The author couples a story about generational mental Illness and the focused evil perpetrated by Hitler and the Nazi party during the years prior to WWII and afterward. It begins in 1934 with Rigmor a young Jewish girl being cared for at a leading German psychiatric institution.  The Nazi party just taking power has introduced the concept of eugenics as a means of cleansing the population of persons deemed tainted by mental illness and other features indicated as not being pure enough to exist in Germany. Inga, Rigmor’s sister takes a hand in helping her avoid being exterminated.     

In 1984 Massachusetts in the U.S. Inga again rises to help another member of her family; her granddaughter Sabine.  Sabine has committed herself to a mental institution suffering through crippling panic attacks and horrific states of depression.  She is pregnant and the law indicates that in order to leave the hospital she must give up her baby. She finds that medicines developed are allowing her to cope with her maladies and is ready to leave the hospital when stopped by the probability of giving up her baby.     Sylvia True pulls no punches in her writings.

The Nazis executing people they deem unfit to live in Germany and an unreasoning law in Massachusetts allowing a doctor to take away a woman’s baby without further recourse are linked together in terms of harm done by the authority to those that are suffering from mental illness.  Descriptions of the politics prevalent in 1934 Germany and in 1984 Massachusetts are discussed as causes of what is described, but the novel is first and foremost about the devastation of mental illness in a family and the possibility that it will not stop at affecting only one generation. True does indicate that the story has a basis in the history of her own family which may have allowed her to present the cases so eloquently.  A novel very different from most that I have read due to showcasing scenarios that are not that commonly written about in novels.  One that does indicate an author that is well worthwhile looking for in the near future.

3/2021 Paul Lane

WHERE MADNESS LIES by Sylvia True. Top Hat Books (February 1, 2021). ISBN: 978-1789044607. 344 pages.

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THE FOUR WINDS by Kristin Hannah

February 5, 2021

THE FOUR WINDS by Kristin Hannah. St. Martin’s Press (February 2, 2021). ISBN: 978-1250178602 . 464 pages.

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GERMANIA by Harald Gilbers

January 12, 2021

A Novel of Nazi Berlin

From the publisher:

From international bestselling author Harald Gilbers comes the heart-pounding story of Jewish detective Richard Oppenheimer as he hunts for a serial killer through war-torn Nazi Berlin in Germania.

Berlin 1944: a serial killer stalks the bombed-out capital of the Reich, preying on women and laying their mutilated bodies in front of war memorials. All of the victims are linked to the Nazi party. But according to one eyewitness account, the perpetrator is not an opponent of Hitler’s regime, but rather a loyal Nazi.

Jewish detective Richard Oppenheimer, once a successful investigator for the Berlin police, is reactivated by the Gestapo and forced onto the case. Oppenheimer is not just concerned with catching the killer and helping others survive, but also his own survival. Worst of all, solving this case is what will certainly put him in the most jeopardy. With no choice but to further his investigation, he feverishly searches for answers, and a way out of this dangerous game.


As part of the Hitler-ordered official vendetta against Jews, Gypsies, and other selected groups as part of his campaign to create scapegoats to blame for Germany’s economic woes, a council working in the city of Neurenberg passed legislation taking away German citizenship from these peoples. The laws prohibited marriage between Germans and members of the selected groups.  They could not serve in the military and were forced to leave jobs and businesses. The code passed was termed the Neurenberg laws and was the law of the land between 1935 and 1945 with Nazi expansion by war taking place to rectify the damage theoretically done by these groups.     

Harald Gilbers adroitly takes us back into the height of the effects of these laws in a very compelling novel set in the period cited. The appearance of a serial killer in Berlin in 1944 brings up a conundrum for the police working in Berlin at this point. Certain factors point to the killer being a member of the Nazi party elite. Since no disparaging information could be issued about high level party members to avoid “misleading” the people the police were stymied in their pursuit of the killer.     

A unique solution was forced on the police. They had to reactivate Richard Oppenheimer who had been a member of the Berlin detective squad. He had been forced to resign his post with the police due to the fact that he was Jewish. He still lived-in Berlin due to his marriage to a woman who was ethically acceptable since she was a purebred German. It also developed that Richard had been one of the leading detectives while active and could look for and possibly even neutralize the serial killer without having to bring up the individual’s place in the Nazi party.   

Gilbers is very adept at breathing life into the characters involved in his book. He is also extremely adept with a description of the method used by the killer in disposing of the women (all victims were females.) It is not an easy task to read about the horrors visited upon the victims by the killer. I did understand the reason for this would probably be to allow the reader a better understanding of the degenerate behavior of an individual that is mentally not human.

Germania is a unique novel in using a policy of discrimination against several groups by a leader who was undoubtedly insane running the show. It is also well written with a good plot. The book is certainly a good reason to start looking for Gilbers next book.

1/2021 Paul Lane

GERMANIA by Harald Gilbers. Thomas Dunne Books (December 1, 2020). ISBN: 978-1250246936. 352 pages.

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WAR LORD by Bernard Cornwell

January 8, 2021

The Last Kingdom Series, Book 13

From the publisher:

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

“I gulped it right down. Excellent, as always. . . . Cornwell brings battles to life like no one else.” –George R.R. Martin, Author of Game of Thrones

The final installment in Bernard Cornwell’s bestselling Saxon Tales series, chronicling the epic story of the making of England—the basis for The Last Kingdom, the hit Netflix series.

THE FINAL BATTLE AWAITS…

The epic conclusion to the globally bestselling historical series.

England is under attack. Chaos reigns. Northumbria, the last kingdom, is threatened by armies from all sides, by land and sea – and only one man stands in their way. Torn between loyalty and sworn oaths, the warrior king Lord Uhtred of Bebbanburg faces his greatest ever battle – and prepares for his ultimate fate…

“Perhaps the greatest writer of historical adventure novels today” (Washington Post), Bernard Cornwell has dazzled and entertained readers and critics with his prolific string of page-turning bestsellers. Of all his protagonists, however, none is as beloved as Uhtred of Bebbanburg, and this thrilling historical novel continues the saga of his adventures and the turbulent early years of England.


Bernard Cornwell’s 13th book in his Saxon Tales series and the finale of the group which is a detailing of the making of England. Cornwell is a prodigious chronicler of historical detail with hallmarks of deep research and painstaking plotting. As in any great writer’s interpretation of history written in the form of a novel his books impart a picture of the period being discussed with literary license to interject supposed conversations between the characters as well as descriptions of major events taking place at the time. 

This novel can be read as a stand-alone although preceding events may not be alluded to. The lack of preexisting data does not detract from the enjoyment of a well-written book. Also, if critical a bit of research should turn up the missing facts.     

Lord Uhtred, King of Bebbanburg, a city in the province of Northumbria is caught between the quarrels of two men looking to annex the province and seeking him as an ally. Uhtred is getting on in years after a lifetime of war and would like nothing less than to spend his remaining life in the company of his lady and let his son take on the ruling of Bebbanburg as well as its wars. 

Unfortunately, he realizes that if he does not pick the correct side in the intercene battles between the two prospective rulers he could very well lose everything including his life.     

The reader is taken through the machinations of the opposing sides, including the reactions and plans of Uhtred. The era under review is rife with the growth of the Christian religion and taking the place of the Pagan beliefs of the peoples living then. Uhtred was a pagan but his lady, a former slave was a Christian. The book culminates in the battle of Brunanburh in 973 A.D. a little-known fight but claimed by Cornwell as the key event in the creation of England.  It took place almost a century before the battle of Hastings in 1066 A.D. which allowed the Norman French to conquer and become a part of Anglo Saxon England.     

Based on the long list of historical novels Bernard Cornwell has to his credit, it is certain that he will shortly present his next project and allow his readers to continue to enjoy his books.

1/2021 Paul Lane

WAR LORD by Bernard Cornwell. Harper (November 24, 2020). ISBN: 978-0062563293. 352 pages.

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HIGH STAKES by John F. Dobbyn

January 6, 2021

Knight and Devlin Thriller, Book 6

From the publisher:

History, myth, music, and murder—and Michael Knight is in the middle

An authentic Stradivarius violin turns up in Romania. A Stradivarius is rare enough, but this one is even more special. It is thought to hold the code disclosing the location of a treasure hidden in the fifteenth century. The violin is steeped in haunting mystique: it is believed to have been hidden by Vlad Dracula, whose historic tyranny led to the fabrication of the myth of vampirism. Russian, Chinese, and Romanian gangs centered in Boston want the code and all of them are hot on the trail. Violence is their language—brutality, their technique.

And who is hired to see that the treasure lands in the rightful place? None other than Michael Knight with a little help from his senior law partner Lex Devlin and his crony, Billy Coyne, Boston’s deputy district attorney.

Michael uses the thin leverage of his knowledge about the violin to keep each of the three gang leaders at bay, while he follows the chain of historic clues from a violin shop in the Carpathian Mountains to a gangster-infested nightclub in Bucharest, to a university in Istanbul, and back to the gang headquarters of the three competing criminal organizations. Secrets from the past and present collide along the perilous shuttle between Boston and Romania. In the end, what is the righteous solution?

Perfect for fans of Daniel Silva and Steve Berry

While all of the novels in the Knight and Devlin Thriller Series stand on their own and can be read in any order, the publication sequence is:

Neon Dragon
Frame-Up
Black Diamond
Deadly Diamonds
Fatal Odds
High Stakes


This is the 6th book featuring Michael Knight and Lex Devlin partners in a law firm practicing in Boston, Massachusetts. I haven’t read the previous five and based on this book that is something I’ve missed. That is due to the well-done scenario, the originality of the plot, and the care taken in fleshing out the characters in this novel. It is due to my finding that the author is undoubtedly at the top of his career and I missed what I have no doubt are mesmerizing novels and similar to “High Stakes” in being all-nighters.     

Michael Knight is offered a free trip to Romania by some friends. He can also take his wife of just a few months and treat the trip as another honeymoon. Just one favor asked by one of those offering the trip would be to pick up a Stradivarius violin held by a dealer that had been given it to sell. The violin is one of just a few hundred made by the master craftsman and his family in the late 17th century. The sound of the instrument has no equal and current rates to buy one can run well into a million or more dollars. Michael accepts the picking up of the violin as a small price to pay for a trip to a country that neither he nor his wife has ever visited.     

This particular violin was owned by King Vlad of Romania during the 15th century. Vlad was a cruel despot and had the horrible custom of impaling people that displeased him and/or were his enemies. Vlad was immortalized by the 19th-century writer Bram Stoker who created him as an undead vampire awakening at night to drink the blood of those around him.  He could only be killed by driving a stake through his heart.     

The violin owned by Vlad was thought to have a map hidden in it to get to his buried treasure. Legend had it that the treasure was immense since he took freely from his subjects as well as receiving tribute from foreign rulers as bribes not to invade them. Due to the legend of the map both the Russian mafia and Chinese tongs are out to get the violin at all costs.     

Michael’s travels and experiences in getting the violin and attempting to keep it out of the hands of the criminals are very well done. Dobbyn takes him easily from a night club in Bucharest, a visit to a noted historian teaching in Istanbul, and of course all around Boston. He is well described as a man of integrity, gifted with intuition and intelligence, and by no means a superman. In other words, a character fitting right into a plot such as outlined and finding his way through it like normal people who are not supermen would do.

1/2021 Paul Lane

HIGH STAKES by John F. Dobbyn. Oceanview Publishing; None edition (October 1, 2019). ISBN: 978-1608093557. 320 pages.

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HER WICKED MARQUESS by Stacy Reid

December 29, 2020

HER WICKED MARQUESS by Stacy Reid. Entangled: Amara (December 29, 2020). ISBN 978-1682815199. 400 pages.

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ROCK OF FREEDOM by Noel Gerson

December 10, 2020

From the publisher:

An enthralling tale of the men and women who left Europe four hundred years ago to found the Plymouth Colony. Perfect for readers of Allan W. Eckert, Paul C.R. Monk and fans of the television series Jamestown.

They have escaped persecution, now they must survive in the New World…

9th November, 1620, aboard the Mayflower.

William Bradford and over one hundred other men and women stand on the deck of the ship that for the last ten weeks has sailed across the breadth of the Atlantic.

On the horizon they can see land … it is America.

They have come to this untamed place with few supplies, inadequate tools, and little experience in wilderness living, but what they do have is an unbreakable desire to build a new life for themselves and their families and faith that whatever may happen is part of God’s divine plan.

But how will they survive their first few months in this strange world as a brutal winter begins to envelop them?

And will the harmony of the Pilgrims, embodied by their newly signed Mayflower Compact, survive as relationships fracture and the stresses and strains of hunger, disease and death begin to take their toll?

Rock of Freedom: The Story of the Plymouth Colony is a thoroughly-researched fictionalized account of the Mayflower voyage and the settling of the Pilgrims in New England. It is a dramatic work of historical fiction that brings the lives of the men and women who made this journey to life.


Noel Gerson was a very prolific author of 325 books, mainly stand-alone novels of history.  He also utilized several pen names to write under and has to his credit best sellers as well as two screenplays.  Most readers will have seen “55 Days at Peking’ either in the theater or on one of its myriad presentations on T.V.

Gerson passed away in 1988 leaving a legacy that will certainly stand for many years.  “Rock of Freedom” is a reprint and is an excellent example of the literature that he presented. It is a fact-based story of the Pilgrims that left Europe in the sixteen hundreds seeking religious freedom in the New World. His bibliography cites various source publications that provide facts about events in the founding of the colony of Plymouth in what was New England. As in most other well-done novels including literary license interpreting a historical situation the interpretation makes it more readable and not at all dry while offering facts about the period and events.     

The author tells the story of the reasoning behind the group known as the Pilgrims leaving their homes which were located in both England and with another group living in Holland and travel 3000 miles to settle in a raw new land. They spent two months at sea in the Mayflower cramped and seasick and sailing through several hurricanes before coming to what was Cape Cod. The group learned to survive in primitive conditions with the possibility of attacks by tribes of native Americans always hanging over their heads.       

The writing and style are well done as I remember them being when I first came across Gerson thanks to a recommendation by one of my teachers who devoured his books. I certainly recommend that the reader try this novel and then seek out more when they are reprinted as I trust they will be.

12/2020 Paul Lane

ROCK OF FREEDOM by Noel Gerson. Sapere Books (October 5, 2020). ISBN: 978-1800550933. 184 pages.

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