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.







WAR LORD by Bernard Cornwell

January 8, 2021

The Last Kingdom Series, Book 13

From the publisher:


“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 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.







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
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.








December 29, 2020

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






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.







December 9, 2020

HER NIGHT WITH THE DUKE by Diana Quincy. Avon (September 29, 2020). ISBN 978-0062986795. 384 pages.






WHO WANTS TO MARRY A DUKE by Sabrina Jeffries

November 19, 2020

WHO WANTS TO MARRY A DUKE by Sabrina Jeffries. Zebra (August 25, 2020). ISBN 978-1420148572. 352 pages.






THE MOTHER CODE by Carole Stivers

November 18, 2020

From the publisher:

What it means to be human—and a mother—is put to the test in Carole Stivers’s debut novel set in a world that is more chilling and precarious than ever.

The year is 2049. When a deadly non-viral agent intended for biowarfare spreads out of control, scientists must scramble to ensure the survival of the human race. They turn to their last resort, a plan to place genetically engineered children inside the cocoons of large-scale robots—to be incubated, birthed, and raised by machines. But there is yet one hope of preserving the human order: an intelligence programmed into these machines that renders each unique in its own right—the Mother Code.

Kai is born in America’s desert Southwest, his only companion his robotic Mother, Rho-Z. Equipped with the knowledge and motivations of a human mother, Rho-Z raises Kai and teaches him how to survive. But as children like Kai come of age, their Mothers transform too—in ways that were never predicted. And when government survivors decide that the Mothers must be destroyed, Kai is faced with a choice. Will he break the bond he shares with Rho-Z? Or will he fight to save the only parent he has ever known?

Set in a future that could be our own, The Mother Code explores what truly makes us human—and the tenuous nature of the boundaries between us and the machines we create.

Carole Stivers takes on a topic which almost by definition is beyond any attempts to diagnosis it. It is what is motherhood? What does it signify to those becoming mothers and how they perceive their offspring? How do the children look upon the figure of their mother aside from the normal views of the protector, guide, and the epitome of love?     

The story takes place in the near future as a conflict between nations decimates the populations of the countries. The United States tries an experiment by building a group of robots meant for the care and raising of human children. It is hoped that this will allow replenishment of the species. Using advanced techniques the robots are inculcated with an instinct and desire to care for and nurture embryos of human children entrusted to their care. Each robot has a space within them where the child can be protected and guided and used as a living quarters.     

The robots are followed secretly and watched as their charges grow and develop. They are guided into taking the children into a situation where they can pick up food and water deposited for them and at the age of 6 years brought together as a means of socializing them. Several of the children are followed as are some of the adults that were involved in setting up the experiment.     

It is obviously the author’s opinions that guide the direction of the novel, but she does develop a scenario that makes for a fascinating read, and the question of whether or not an artificial replacement for the human trait of motherhood could ever replace the real thing. A different type of story from any others, and one that is a definite five-star all-nighter and one that poses questions beyond any others I have come across.

11/2020 Paul Lane

THE MOTHER CODE by Carole Stivers. Berkley (August 25, 2020). ISBN: 978-1984806925. 352 pages.








November 16, 2020

BEAUTY TEMPTS THE BEAST by Lorraine Heath. Avon (September 29, 2020). ISBN 978-0062951922. 384 pages.








November 15, 2020

From the publisher:

The acclaimed author of Home Schooling returns with Midnight Train to Prague, a timeless tale of friendship, romance, betrayal, and survival that spans the turbulent decades of the twentieth century, through two world wars and between countries and continents.

In 1927, as Natalia Faber travels from Berlin to Prague with her mother, their train is delayed in Saxon Switzerland. In the brief time the train is idle, Natalia learns the truth about her father―who she believed died during her infancy―and meets a remarkable woman named Dr. Magdalena Schaeffer, whose family will become a significant part of her future. Shaken by these events, Natalia arrives at a spa on the shore of Lake Hevíz in Hungary. Here, she meets Count Miklós Andorján, a journalist and adventurer. The following year, they will marry.

Years later, Germany has invaded Russia. When Miklós fails to return from the eastern front, Natalia goes to Prague to wait for him. With a pack of tarot cards, she sets up shop as a fortune teller, and she meets Anna Schaeffer, the daughter of the woman she met decades earlier on that stalled train. The Nazis accuse Natalia of spying, and she is sent to a concentration camp. Though they are separated, her friendship with Anna grows as they fight to survive and to be reunited with their families.

Carol Windley’s novel is a book about feelings and emotions and reactions to the greatest horror that has touched our planet during its long history.

The opening has two of the principal characters meeting by chance on a train going from Berlin to Prague in 1927.  Natalia Faber is traveling with her mother and while the train is stopped in Switzerland meets Dr. Magdalena Schaeffer, a woman whose family will play an important part in Natalia’s life. Later, in Hungary, she meets Count Miklos Andorjan who is a journalist who is not averse to high adventure in going after a story. During the next year Natalia and Miklos marry.     

Years later with the Second World War underway, Miklos travels to Russia to report on the German invasion. When he fails to return Natalia travels to Prague where the couple has decided to meet in the event of Miklos’ apparent disappearance. There, she encounters the depravity of the Nazi occupation and loses her innocence in experiencing the killings, the arrests, the persecution of Jews. Natalia is arrested in the last months of the war accused of spying and sent to a concentration camp. 

The descriptions of the inmates and what happens to them in the camp is handled in an emotion-charged sequence. The camp is liberated by the British and the captives brought to centers for both medical treatments and attempts to reunite them with family.  Natalia, hoping to reunite with her husband, takes a job working for Americans staffing one of the placement centers.     

Displaced persons are sent out to receptive people in many countries and descriptions of these are also handled well by the author who does make it a point to indicate that the U.S., England, and other countries turn away the refugees in spite of having adequate room to accept them. It is impossible to read the book without experiencing an emotional attachment with the people described. Needless to say, the novel is an all-night read with a sigh of relief at the ending. Kudos to the author for her work in bringing us this story.

11/2020 Paul Lane

MIDNIGHT TRAIN TO PRAGUE by Carol Windley. Atlantic Monthly Press (November 3, 2020). ISBN: 978-0802119735. 352 pages.