February 2, 2021


From the publisher:

Set in the South at the height of the Vietnam War, The Unwilling combines crime, suspense and searing glimpses into the human mind and soul in New York Times bestselling author John Hart’s singular style.

Gibby’s older brothers have already been to war. One died there. The other came back misunderstood and hard, a decorated killer now freshly released from a three-year stint in prison.

Jason won’t speak of the war or of his time behind bars, but he wants a relationship with the younger brother he hasn’t known for years. Determined to make that connection, he coaxes Gibby into a day at the lake: long hours of sunshine and whisky and older women.

But the day turns ugly when the four encounter a prison transfer bus on a stretch of empty road. Beautiful but drunk, one of the women taunts the prisoners, leading to a riot on the bus. The woman finds it funny in the moment, but is savagely murdered soon after.

Given his violent history, suspicion turns first to Jason; but when the second woman is kidnapped, the police suspect Gibby, too. Determined to prove Jason innocent, Gibby must avoid the cops and dive deep into his brother’s hidden life, a dark world of heroin, guns and outlaw motorcycle gangs.

What he discovers there is a truth more disturbing than he could have imagined: not just the identity of the killer and the reasons for Tyra’s murder, but the forces that shaped his brother in Vietnam, the reason he was framed, and why the most dangerous man alive wants him back in prison.

This is crime fiction at its most raw, an exploration of family and the past, of prison and war and the indelible marks they leave.

John Hart presents his latest novel based in the south of the United States during the Vietnam war. The wide-ranging and compelling story involves the price soldiers pay for fighting in war, family ties, an organized world of master criminals, and the coming of age of a young man.

Gabriel (Gibby’s) two older brothers have already fought in the war – one was killed in action, the other received a dishonorable discharge, and came home only to be sent to prison where he served several years. Their father is a long time police detective married to the love of his life, a lady whose background includes being an heiress. Gibby’s mother blames Jason, the brother returning from war, for the death of his brother, and refuses to see him. She has also made it clear to her husband that he is not to allow Gibby to meet with Jason as that would expose him to a bad influence.

But blood ties will out and Gibby secretly meets Jason spending a day with him and the company of two women. During the day one of the women manages to taunt a busload of convicts being transported along a public highway. These prisoners are from the institution that Jason had served his time in, and a master criminal actually running the inside of the jail arranges for the murder of the woman that did the taunting.

Jason is blamed for the murder and re-sent to the jail he had served his sentence in for safekeeping while awaiting trial. The events see Gibby deciding to prove his brother innocent of the murder and with the help of his best friend and a young lady that is becoming his girlfriend, go after the facts proving that Jason is innocent.

Hart tells the story with attention to building the characters of the principal protagonists, including that of a psychopathic killer awaiting execution at the prison. His prose flows freely and easily brings his readers into a mesmerized state while enjoying the book. A definite all-night read with another fascinating book to John Hart’s credit.

2/2021 Paul Lane

THE UNWILLING by John Hart. St. Martin’s Press (February 2, 2021). ISBN: 978-1250167729. 384 p.



SPECIAL MEANS by Andrew Ceroni

June 14, 2020


From the publisher:

CIA agents must play catch-up in time to stop powerful men in Homeland Security and the Defense Department from staging the overthrow of the President and his administration!

Riveting! Escalating gang violence in Denver, Colorado, and in other large cities in the nation captures the attention of the first term President. He wants a solution, and he wants it NOW. Legislation would take years. The Director of Homeland Security suggests that the remedy to the deteriorating situation may be a highly classified program deep within the charter of the Federal Emergency Management Agency-FEMA, known as Annex K. This deep-black program, nicknamed STARDUST, would be executed beneath the heaviest cloak of utmost secrecy and without the knowledge or informed consent of Congress.

When the CIA sends Agent Dave McClure to Denver to investigate inexplicable lethal violence being waged with advanced military weaponry against organized street gangs, McClure discovers that what has been unleashed is a sinister solution far worse than the problem. He unearths a nightmarish plot to do much more than eliminate gangs in America – rather, an attempt to seize the military district of Washington and overthrow the federal government. McClure’s own life is now at especially high risk. The CIA must act quickly and with overwhelming force. The clock is ticking!

Remembering the series of motion pictures starring Charles Bronson about a self-appointed vigilante hunting criminals and executing them will provide a bit of background about Andrew Ceroni’s latest novel. The United States has reached a point at which criminal gangsters and gangs are running wild with no apparent means of controlling them.

A newly elected president calls a meeting of carefully selected advisors and has a group formed composed of highly skilled military. Their mission would be to hunt down and summarily execute gangs. No arrest, no trial, no hearings. When the group is activated, functioning crime does go down in certain areas of the country. The population is ecstatic about what is going on as it is apparent that this vigilante group is doing what the police cannot come to grips with due to the many regulations hindering their work.

Dave McClure, an agent with the CIA who has appeared in prior novels by Ceroni, is sent to investigate. He finds clues to a group of skilled warriors that are plotting to stage a coup and take over the U.S. government. He alerts his supervisors who begin to mobilize forces to go after them. McClure and his fellow agents begin work to find out where the group is hiding and what their plans include. The leadership of the rogue warriors includes a four-star U.S. Army general and does involve highly trained people. Yes, you guessed it, the group formed by the seemingly benevolent actions of the president has changed their course of action to now want to take over the country with them as the leadership.

McClure finds out where the rogue group is, and what they are planning and the CIA sets up a task force to thwart their plans. Along the way, McClure’s wife is threatened with kidnapping and being held to keep her husband from continuing with his plans.

The novel is easy to read, nothing strenuous to grasp, and a feel-good work for the readers. It’s an all-nighter due to the continuous action outlined and the interest of the reader to keep abreast of things. It would be easy to continue to look for and read future books by Ceroni and that is my recommendation after finishing this one.

NOTE: The main character in Special Means works for the CIA. He does domestic assignments. The CIA only handles overseas stuff. I know – but that’s where the author put him. Thanks for reading, Paul.

6/2020 Paul Lane

SPECIAL MEANS by Andrew Ceroni. Outskirts Press (April 18, 2020). ISBN: 978-1977225764. 342 pages.


SEA OF SPIES by Alex Gerlis

June 12, 2020


The Richard Prince Thrillers, Book 2

From the publisher:

A nest of espionage. A break for the border. A race to survive.

The Allies are desperate to stop neutral Turkey supplying vital materials to the Nazis – materials which could help them win the war. But then a British agent makes a fatal mistake, and disappears in Istanbul.

In England, detective turned spy Richard Prince – back from a clandestine mission in Nazi-occupied Europe – is hunting for his lost son. Before long he is drawn into a dangerous follow-up operation, posing as a journalist in Turkey.

The mission soon goes wrong. Out of touch with London and stranded hundreds of miles behind enemy lines, Prince will have to find evidence of the Turks secret trade with the Nazis, as well as a way out.

Chances of survival? Low. Chance of completing his mission? Prince will do whatever it takes.

An astounding WWII espionage thriller from a modern master of the genre, Sea of Spies is a triumph, perfect for fans of Alan Furst, John le Carré and Robert Harris.

The second book about the WWII adventures of Richard Prince, a successful police detective in England transformed into a spy by MI6. In book one, he was dropped behind the lines in Europe and completes a dangerous mission awaiting the next assignment.

Gerlis’s second book simply increases the level of excitement to a pitch that forces the reader to read as quickly as possible and gasping, finally lay the novel down knowing that it will be difficult to patiently await book three.

The story involves Richard being sent to Istanbul charged with finding the source of shipping the metal chromium to Nazi Germany. This material is used in the manufacture of stainless steel and important in the production of tanks and many other military weapons. Turkey remains neutral during the early period of the war but does ship chromium to Germany and hides the fact from England in order to disguise their lack of neutrality. Prince is charged with finding the source of these shipments and obtaining evidence of them which when presented to the Turkish foreign minister should cause a halt to the export.

The novel brings Richard into Turkey and from there into Greece and Munich in Germany, as well as neutral Switzerland as he develops proof of the exports and fights to bring the information back to his handlers in London. There it will be used as a tool to coerce Turkey into stopping their shipments to Germany.

The adventures are depicted with a great deal of insight into the manner that could very well have been an actuality of such a trip during wartime conditions. Richard, if caught by the Nazis, will be executed and knowingly faces this every step of the way. Gerlis does not bring in any superhuman ability of his protagonist, but has him painstakingly and cautiously planning and executing every move in his assignment and his trips through a world in the midst of war.

6/2020 Paul Lane

SEA OF SPIES by Alex Gerlis. Canelo Action (June 11, 2020). ISBN: 978-1542094030. 301 p.

THE HOUSE GUEST by Mark Edwards

June 7, 2020


From the publisher:

A perfect summer. A perfect stranger. A perfect nightmare.

When British twenty-somethings Ruth and Adam are offered the chance to spend the summer housesitting in New York, they can’t say no. Young, in love and on the cusp of professional success, they feel as if luck is finally on their side.

So the moment that Eden turns up on the doorstep, drenched from a summer storm, it seems only right to share a bit of that good fortune. Beautiful and charismatic, Eden claims to be a friend of the homeowners, who told her she could stay whenever she was in New York.

They know you’re not supposed to talk to strangers—let alone invite them into your home—but after all, Eden’s only a stranger until they get to know her.

As suspicions creep in that Eden may not be who she claims to be, they begin to wonder if they’ve made a terrible mistake…

The House Guest is the chilling new psychological thriller from the three million copy bestselling author of Here to Stay and Follow You Home.

Ruth and Adam are a young British couple living in New York on a temporary basis. Ruth is an actress and has had the luck to find a role in a play being done in New York. She also has starred in a short film which got her rave reviews and a good reputation as an up and coming actress.

Adam is a playwright but he hasn’t had any luck in selling a play so far. He is going to try his luck in New York writing during the time that Ruth is busy with her show and making contacts while doing so.

The couple took advantage of coming over to New York from London on a transatlantic cruise. On board, they had a tremendous piece of good luck when they met Jack and Mona, a couple about a generation older than they are and quite financially successful. Jack and Mona are not staying in New York but are immediately leaving for a retreat in New Mexico. The couple own a house in New York City and after striking up a rapport with Ruth and Adam, ask them to house sit while they are away. A fabulous deal for the British couple and they jump to it with gratitude.

On the first Monday that they are in the house, and in the midst of a very rainy day, a young lady knocks at the door indicating that she is very friendly with Jack and Mona and that she has come to stay at their house. She says that they have offered to allow her to stay at their home whenever she is in New York. When Eden, the arrival, seems to know everything about Jack and Mona and appearing that she is what she says she is, Ruth and Adam decide that they have to let her stay. The worst part is that since Jack and Mona are at a retreat, they cannot be contacted to get their okay with Eden staying at the house. The situation seems like Eden has told the truth and she would readily have been accepted by Jack and Mona.

The situation crashes when Ruth disappears one morning along with Eden and there is no word from her for three days. Adam calls the police but is advised that they will do nothing since many people do walk away from bad relationships with no notice.

Edwards takes us through the search for Ruth and while doing so, Adam meets a man who wants to help him. That individual claims that Eden is also involved with the disappearance of his daughter and if Adam joins him in the search for both Ruth and his child, it may be easier and allow two to work on any clues that the duo comes up with.

The presentation of the characters is well done and as events unfold the reader will definitely stay glued to the book and make a note to get future novels by Mark Edwards. Certainly, a five-star story with a well thought out plot.

6/2020 Paul Lane

THE HOUSE GUEST by Mark Edwards. Thomas & Mercer (June 3, 2020). ISBN: 978-1542094030. 301 p.

NOTE: This book is published by an Amazon imprint. They refuse to sell ebooks to libraries.


THE VOTER FILE by David Pepper

June 5, 2020


Jack Sharpe Series, Book 3

From the publisher:

“Pepper comes through again with this clever tale of how cyber sabotage of elections, coupled with highly concentrated ownership of traditional media operations, can undermine American democracy.”–President Bill Clinton

A twisty, one-step-ahead-of-the-headlines political thriller featuring a rogue reporter who investigates election meddling of epic proportions written by the ultimate insider.

Investigative reporter Jack Sharpe is down to his last chance. Fired from his high-profile gig with a national news channel, his only lead is a phone full of messages from a grad student named Tori Justice, who swears she’s observed an impossible result in a local election. Sharpe is sure she’s mistaken…but what if she isn’t?

Sharpe learns that the most important tool in any election is the voter file: the database that keeps track of all voters in a district, and shapes a campaign’s game plan for victory. If one person were to gain control of an entire party’s voter file, they could manipulate the outcome of virtually every election in America. Sharpe discovers this has happened–and that the person behind the hack is determined to turn American politics upside down.

The more he digs, the more Sharpe is forced to question the values–and viability–of the country he loves and a president he admired. And soon it becomes clear that not just his career is in jeopardy…so is his life.

The concept of fixing elections is probably as old as the election process itself where a majority of votes for a candidate or a solution will cause that person or solution to become the winning result. David Pepper has come up with a method that he ties in with scientific study of each and every person voting in a district, working to bring in voters probably voting as the study demands and allowing those opposed to fade away. Pepper’s explanation of the method he describes does apparently have the possibility to turn an election by working to make sure that voters in favor of their desires do come into the casting of votes.

Jack Sharpe was an ace reporter who has lost his job when he apparently violated his newspaper’s policies of political correctness. He has been blackballed by his former employers and cannot find another job due to the stigma he is under. Out of the blue, he is contacted by Tori Justice, a graduate student who swears she has evidence of an election being fixed. Jack agrees to meet her, studies the data that Tori has gathered, and finds that the impossible has happened when a man elected was not even expected to come close.

Tori explains that the most important tool in any election is the “Voter File.” Via computer analysis, habits of every person eligible to vote are cataloged and able to be analyzed for probable voting habits. While involved in getting more information, a long term plot is described which involves massive interference by foreign interests in order to set lucrative deals for themselves by bringing in their own selected candidates. These candidates are obviously bought and paid for and stand to gain much more money when they take office.

A very mesmerizing novel that could be a real wake up call if the methods described by Pepper prove feasible. The book ends at a point that illustrates the probability of further novels involving Jack and Tori. In the meanwhile “The Voter File” is a mark of literary excellence.

6/2020 Paul Lane

THE VOTER FILE by David Pepper. G.P. Putnam’s Sons (June 2, 2020). ISBN: 978-0593083932. 432 pages.