MIRAFLORES by Keith Yokum

January 16, 2021

Memoir of a Young Spy

From the publisher:

Saving the Panama Canal, one body at a time.

At the height of the Cold War, young Nick Halliday joins the CIA to distance himself from a family tragedy and to do his part in the patriotic fight against the communist menace. Rushed into his first undercover assignment in Panama in 1958, Nick finds himself mired in the humid, dripping world of deceit and lies.

Pretending to be a leftist-leaning visiting professor at the University of Panama, Nick infiltrates an earnest, naïve group of leftist students bent on Panama regaining ownership of the canal. But Nick’s budding romance with Maria, a beautiful student activist, throws his mission sideways.

The international clash of ideologies harshly intrudes on a young man’s love for a woman. Both are expendable pawns in a vast worldwide death match. Can they survive in a game that only values winning, whatever the cost? And what does winning mean, anyway?

Miraflores is a novel with many parts. It is a love story, it is a complex conspiracy story, it is an adventure in an exotic setting that is not too far from our own present-day world. But most important it is a well-done story with some very well-delineated characters caught in a period of great stress.     

Nick Haliday is a young man looking to start his career with the problem of a father holding a high-level position in the U.S. State Department and looking for Nick to join him there. Nick is reluctant to do so due to his suspicion that his father was somehow complicit in the suicide death of his mother. He somehow literally blunders into getting a job with the then-fledgling CIA and stumbles into a position that sends him to Panama. 

The time of the novel is the period prior to the United States ceding the Panama Canal back to the people of Panama. The Canal Zone was an enclave existing side by side with Panama city.  It was literally a slice of the American midwest built to house the staff and their families of the workers running the Canal. It was the target of a great deal of resentment by the Panamanians working at the Canal for one-third of the salaries that Americans earned for the same job.     

Nick is picked for a post in Panama just as he is finishing his training. He is to assume the position of a professor of English at the University of Panama. His mandate is to search out dissidents among his students who are Panamanians that might be involved in plots against the U.S. and report them to his superiors at the agency. He assumes his position and two things happen; first, he meets a young lady that he falls in love with, and second, he arrives at the realization that the people of Panama do have a legitimate gripe against the attitude of the U.S.   

Yokum tells his story in a concise manner painting a perfect picture of the mixture of various complex ideas during a tumultuous period in U.S. Latin American relations.  An all-night draw and a description of what is a relatively near term, but alien world.

1/2021 Paul Lane

MIRAFLORES by Keith Yokum. Self published. (November 11, 2020). ISBN: 978-0997870879. 282 pages.





TURBO TWENTY-THREE by Janet Evanovich

December 10, 2016

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Stephanie Plum Series, Book 23


I still enjoy this series, but I was a bit disappointed in this latest entry. I thought last year’s Tricky Twenty-Two was the best book in years, so I was hopeful for this one. While Evanovich kept the shorter length which worked well in 22, this one felt longer. Really long.

It starts off silly, which we have come to expect and enjoy. Stephanie is out to pick up her latest bounty runner but he takes off in an ice cream truck. She causes it to stop, the subject takes off and a dead guy falls out of the back of the truck. Not just dead – frozen, dipped in chocolate and covered in nuts. A dead Bogart Bar, as it were.

Lula is back of course, and she’s hatched a plot with Randy Briggs. The two of them are creating demo tapes to submit to Naked & Afraid, the Trenton edition, with varying results. Meanwhile Ranger offers Stephanie a chance to earn extra money. She goes undercover at the ice cream factory to try and figure out what’s going on. But all she finds is another frozen body and she’s not happy about it.

Stephanie and Joe are still together, and she’s constantly tempted by Ranger as well. Her mother is ironing like mad, Grandma Mazur has a boyfriend, and all sorts of hijinx ensue.

I found the first half really slow moving but it picked up after that. The usual jokes, exploding cars and so forth abound and fans will enjoy.

12/16 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

TURBO TWENTY-THREE by Janet Evanovich. Bantam; First Edition edition (November 15, 2016).  ISBN 978-0345543004. 304p.



November 11, 2016

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Avraham Avraham Series, Book 3

In this third entry in the Avraham series set in Tel Aviv, the detective investigates his first murder case. The victim is a 60-year-old widow, and Avraham is surprised to see that he knows her.

A neighbor reported seeing a policeman in the building around the same time as the murder, but the higher ups don’t want to hear about that or publicize it in any way. Avraham is also dealing with his girlfriend, who recently moved in with him after moving from Brussels. Avraham struggles with his personal problems and his murder case, especially when his bosses zero in on a suspect he is not convinced did it.

Mazal Bengtson realizes her marriage is in serious trouble, and when her husband tells her he may have hurt someone in a hit and run accident, she realizes there may be more to his story than he’s telling.

The case slowly unfolds and the translation by Todd Hasak-Lowy is occasionally awkward or politically incorrect (“yesterday night”; “Do I look retarded to you?”) and that awkwardness tended to pull me out of the story. Nonetheless, this should appeal to readers who enjoy international police procedurals, books set in Israel, or Liam Shoham novels.

Copyright ©2016 Booklist, a division of the American Library Association.

11/16 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE MAN WHO WANTED TO KNOW EVERYTHING by D.A. Mishani. Harper Paperbacks (November 8, 2016).  ISBN 978-0062447906. 304p.



September 14, 2016

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The Triad Years

The book is a continuation of a series of novels by Hamilton featuring Ava Lee, a young Chinese-Canadian forensic accountant residing in Toronto. She had been working with her mentor and business partner Chow Tung who was affectionately been called “Uncle”.

Chow Tung passed away (as recounted in a previous book) and Ava subsequently entered into partnership with a friend and her sister-in-law Amanda, looking for business opportunities. The present novel finds her in China where she encounters a young man that coincidentally Uncle had also been mentoring.

Xu presents Ava and her partners with an exciting business proposition that they are bound to consider. Xu is the head of the Shanghai Triad, and coincidentally is running to become head of all the Triad societies. He indicates that if successful he intends to ask Ava to become his adviser and confidant.

Hamilton’s descriptions of places involved in Ava’s adventures are based on his visits to many of the Far Eastern locales described. The book, which does allude to happenings in prior novels featuring Ava, can be read on its own with no problem. Ava is completely fleshed out and is a very interesting person well equipped to handle the problems she faces. The novel is far from an all nighter but well worth the read for it’s placement in exotic locations that most of the readers might never visit. The treatment of Triads and their life styles is very reminiscent of novels about the personal lives of the Mafia, but blase rather than exciting in description.

9/16 Paul Lane

THE KING OF SHANGHAI by Ian Hamilton. Spiderline (September 13, 2016).  ISBN 978-1487001599. 336p.


THE TRAVELERS by Chris Pavone

March 8, 2016

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Chris Pavone’s first novel, The Expats, set the stage for his second and now his third book. The stories involve Americans whose working lives in some way involve residing or traveling overseas.

Will Rhodes is recently married and somewhat insolvent, gets a job as a travel writer for the prestigious magazine, “The Traveler.” His work is to travel all over the world and write attractive articles about the food in different areas he visits in order to attract a well to do clientele that subscribe to the magazine –  and are also probable clients for a series of travel agencies that have been set up by the publication.

One night he meets a very attractive woman in Argentina wine country and in spite of his being married, starts an affair.  It seems that she wants to entrap him via a blackmail scheme into accepting an offer he can’t refuse.

At her orders, he travels all over Europe from France to Ireland onto a mega yacht and to an isolated cabin on the rugged cliffs of Iceland. Will is drawn further and further into a web of intrigue with connections to a gigantic global conspiracy.

The people closest to him, including his new wife, all seem to be involved in the conspiracy and may prove to be the greatest threats to him. The ending is not telegraphed but becomes the only weak area in a novel that is compelling. It would almost appear as if Pavone just came to a point that he thought would be a logical ending and he proceeded to do just that  – end it.

3/16 Paul Lane

THE TRAVELERS by Chris Pavone. Crown (March 8, 2016).  ISBN 978-0385348485.  448p.


February 9, 2016

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Myles Munro Action Thriller Series # 1

This is the second novel featuring Myles Munro, a history professor, first introduced in the book, Secrets of the Last Nazi.

In the opening section, Myles is on vacation in New York with his American journalist girl friend, Helen Bridle, when a delivery  truck moving through the financial district of New York blows up. Myles finds a reference sent via the truck’s burning frame that the U.S embassy in Rome will shortly be destroyed – and the person who will make this happen is an African warlord named “Juma.”

Next in the series of events is the capturing of a US senator. Myles is forced to race through Iraq, Turkey and finally to Rome to rescue the senator and save the US from Juma’s plot to destroy it.

The 18th century “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire” is researched by Myles and Helen as describing the method of destruction. The thesis of that tome was that Rome was never conquered, but fell due to the corruption within. Analogies are brought comparing Rome’s fall with events in today’s America. Not naming names, King’s descriptions bring to mind today’s US government, the lack of real patriotism on the part of many officials, plus a reference to a bad president.

The fault I find with King’s writing is the haste he uses in going from one crisis to the next and solutions drawn without leading up them logically. The book takes its place with other espionage novels but does not do very much to distinguish itself to them. A fast read but one that does not leave the reader with real interest in getting King’s next book.

2/16 Paul Lane

THE LAST PROPHECY OF ROME by Iain King. Bookouture (January 27, 2016).  ISBN 978-1910751756. 438p.



I AM YOUR JUDGE by Nele Neuhaus

January 16, 2016

I AM YOUR JUDGEA Pia Kirchhoff and Oliver von Bodenstein Novel

Translated by Steven T. Murray

This fourth entry in the German police procedurals featuring Detective Pia Kirchhoff and her partner, Oliver von Bodenstein, is a tightly written novel of suspense.

Kirchhoff is recently married and packing for her honeymoon when she gets a call about a murder. Bodenstein can’t get there right away so Kirchhoff fills in. An elderly woman out walking her dog was gunned down in cold blood.

Kirchhoff can’t help but become intrigued when she cannot find any reason for this woman to be killed. The victim is well liked in the community, as is the next victim, another elderly woman who is shot through her kitchen window while cooking with her granddaughter.

The police force is severely shorthanded and it’s easy to see that Kirschhoff married the right man; he completely understands when she cancels their honeymoon to stay and work on the case. A high level profiler is brought in but he rubs everyone the wrong way, offering an occasional break in the tension.

All the characters are well developed and refreshingly imperfect, adding real depth to what could have been just another serial killer story in a lesser writer’s hands. Scandinavian thrillers may be all the rage, but Newhaus is putting Germany on the radar as well.

Copyright ©2016 Booklist, a division of the American Library Association.

01/16 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

I AM YOUR JUDGE by Nele Neuhaus. Minotaur Books (January 12, 2016).  ISBN 978-1250071682. 416p.



LACY EYE by Jessica Treadway

March 14, 2015

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Three years after the attack that left her widowed and permanently disfigured, Hanna still has no memory of the actual event. Then the man she’s sure is responsible is granted a retrial and without her testimony there is a chance that he could walk free.

Rud Petty, their daughter Dawn’s boyfriend, had come to visit for the Thanksgiving holiday but while everyone else was out, the house was apparently broken into. Rud claimed innocence saying he must have slept through the whole thing, but it was clear the police believed he was responsible. And so Rud and Dawn left.

Hours later someone entered the home, disarmed the alarm system, and beat Hanna and her husband with a croquet mallet. Initially Dawn was considered a suspect along with Rud, but Hanna has always been certain that Rud acted alone. A mother knows this kind of thing. And yet, in spite of that, there are many who still believe Dawn played a part in the crime. Now Dawn is back and everyone but Hanna wonders what her real motivation in returning might be.

Lacy Eye is a scary premise – not only the fact that a potential murderer could walk free, but that he could walk free because his only surviving victim is mentally incapable of remembering the actual crime. And then there’s the prospect that someone near and dear could have some role in such a horrendous attack. The reader isn’t sure because Hanna isn’t sure. And Hanna is pretty unwavering in her conviction that Dawn didn’t do anything wrong. But Treadway does a fabulous job playing on that niggling bit of doubt in both Hanna’s mind as well as the reader’s.

3/15 Becky LeJeune

LACY EYE by Jessica Treadway. Grand Central Publishing; First Edition edition (March 10, 2015). ISBN: 978-1455554072. 352p.


March 13, 2015

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After a meeting of the Jewish Defense League in New York, one of their members is murdered by two Islamic terrorists. NYPD Lt. Barry Wintraub is called upon to investigate the crime.

While investigating the murder, Lt. Wintraub comes up with evidence  that the group the two terrorists belong to is planning to blow up the dining room of a huge hotel in the Catskill mountains. Their reasons for doing so are the speech planned there by an Israeli military hero and a huge gathering and dinner honoring Chaim Eban, the Israeli general.

The speech and the dinner will take place during the Passover celebration with a large amount of wealthy Jews who are expecting to make donations for Israel during General Eban’s visit.

Mr Neiderman’s novel is a very interesting deviation from most books about terrorist’s plots. Both sides are well fleshed out. The Islamic group is portrayed as doing their best to aid their country and advance the cause they are fighting for. The Americans include a member of the Israeli Mossad and Wintraub’s wife and daughter.

Wintraub’s supervisor does not believe that there is enough evidence to substantiate the planned attack on the hotel. Barry is convinced enough to take a vacation and go with his family to stay there.

Neiderman brings in a large group of characters and does an excellent job of fleshing them out. Beside Wintraub’s family, a member of the Israeli Mossad,the owner of the hotel and his son and others working on the case the Islamic terrorists are also made into thinking beings. Neiderman goes into the terrorist’s minds and develops them into people who feel that for many reasons they are fighting for their country. There is a love between one of the terrorists and his girl friend. The girl is not aware of the totality of the plot and would be appalled if made aware of the devastation planned.

The plot is not complicated, but the reader is treated to a well written book and an insight into people that are caught up in it on both sides. Very well done.

3/15 Paul Lane

THE TERRORIST’S HOLIDAY by Andrew Neiderman. Open Road Media Mystery & Thriller (March 10, 2015).  ISBN: 978-1497693951.

ASHES TO DUST by Yrsa Sigurdardóttir

March 12, 2015

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A Thora Gudmundsdottir Thriller

Thora is used to odd cases but her latest seems innocent enough at the start. Markús and his family were residents on Heimaey Island when the volcano erupted in 1973. Their house, along with many others, was buried under layers of ash and abandoned in the aftermath. Now, a group has begun excavating those houses and Markús has tried everything to stop his from being dug up.

Thora is unable to halt the excavation, but she is able to get Markús permission to be the first to enter the house’s basement. He swears, though, that he knew absolutely nothing about the three murdered men and the disembodied head that he found when he entered under Thora’s watchful eye. Now Thora’s job has gone from a simple intervention to a full-blown murder investigation. If she can’t prove that Markús not only had no part in what was hidden in his family’s basement but that he also had no previous knowledge of the apparent crime, he’ll go away for murder. And when the only witness who could prove Markús’s innocence is also found dead, Thora begins to worry that her task could be an impossible one.

This third in the Thora Gudmundsdóttir series begins with one of the most bizarre murders I’ve ever read. And it does set the tone for the rest of the book. Once again Sigurdardóttir weaves fascinating Icelandic history into the story – the eruption on Heimaey Island and the Cod War (yes, Cod War).

I do love the setting and Thora, but there are some little inconsistencies throughout the story that I generally have to err on the side of being possibly lost in translation. It was pretty maddening, though, when the characters kept returning to what seemed like very apparent clues without ever unraveling them. Regardless, I have to say I’m a solid fan of Sigurdardóttir and her work. Each book proves to be more weird and twisted than the one before.

3/15 Becky LeJeune

ASHES TO DUST by Yrsa Sigurdardóttir. Minotaur Books; Reprint edition (March 27, 2012). ISBN: 978-0312641740. 368p.