2020 by Kenneth Steven

August 13, 2018

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A very profound novel that paints a picture of the damage that can be done by the advent of the “True Believer” i.e., the individual following the herd rather than thinking on his or her own. While the book is set in the United Kingdom it can be true of problems found in any country today. Shown in the novel are the many factions vying for the attention of the masses and demanding that they be granted rights beyond what is just and correct. People are forced to bend over backwards to be seen as politically correct in order not to offend the many interest groups.

Consequently, the result is a nation that has become mired in political correctness at the expense of common sense. It is felt that the politicians in office are only serving themselves. Immigration policies have gotten out of hand and it is feared by many that the country is disunited with the distinct possibility of terrorism rife just waiting to explode in violence.

And than it does. A train going from Edinburgh to London is attacked by terrorists with hundreds killed by the bombers. The reaction by the public with many differing opinions about what should be done to forestall future terrorism allows a far right wing group called White Rose to form. An untried leader coming from White Rose indicates that he will be able to fix the problems of the nation. The population splinters even more than before with no firm direction being taken to attack the internal mess that characterizes the country. Opinions and demands for action rush out of the many groups that have formed making up a population that is frozen and unable to act.

It might be that 2020 could lead to a 1984 scenario with an embedded dictatorship but most probably it would lead to the exact opposite; a nation completely splintered with no real direction and unable to solve the real problems facing it. A very provocative opinion piece with a large amount of what is forecasted being the norm today.

8/18 Paul Lane

2020 by Kenneth Steven. Thomas & Mercer (June 14, 2018).  ISBN 978-1477805169. 270p.


THE MIDDLEMAN by Olen Steinhauer

August 11, 2018

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Steinhauer postulates a United States on the brink  of revolution due to the uncaring and selfish policies of our elected leaders. Consequently, in the early summer of 2017, four hundred people just disappear, leaving their worldly possessions behind them.  Where have they gone to and what is the reason for the disappearance? When heard from the group styles itself the Massive Brigade and they believe that necessary change is not coming fast enough to really bring the country to again be prepared to take care of the cultural needs as well as those necessities vital for life such as food and shelter for the population.

FBI Special Agent Rachel Proulx has been following the sprouting of left wing political groups for several years and is very familiar with Martin Bishop who is the charismatic leader of the Massive Brigade. But Rachel has her work cut out for her in getting her peers and supervisors at the FBI to take thedissidents seriously. She digs into the workings and leadership of the Massive Brigade and what she discovers, including murder shocks the country and sends a wake up call to the Administration as well as the leadership of the FBI.

Character development leaves something to be desired and I felt that the emphasis on a lot of conversation does detract somewhat from what is a great idea and worthy of an Olen Steinhauer novel.

8/18 Paul Lane

THE MIDDLEMAN by Olen Steinhauer. Minotaur Books (August 7, 2018).  ISBN 978-1250036179. 368p.


DEATH IN SHANGRI-LA by Yigal Zur

August 9, 2018

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A novel originally written in Hebrew and than becoming the first of Zur’s books to be translated into English. The background for the story is one of the most exotic settings possible. The action takes place in India, several cities and a wild frontier near Pakistan. Descriptions are tendered by an author that through his own travels and adventures has seen these areas and witnessed the events described that play out as background.

Dotan Naor, an ex-Israeli Operator turned private investigator, takes up a bet he has made with an acquaintance of his who is privately a ruthless individual selling Israeli made weaponry to any buyer that can pay for them. Willy Mizrachi bets that in one year from the date he meets with Dotan he will have his son returning to work for him with a wife and child in tow. Like many ex-Israeli soldiers, his son decides to travel to the Himalayas in India in order to “find himself”. Dotan takes the bet but than finds himself forced to go after Willy who has taken the initiative to go after his son himself.

The makings of a great story and the descriptions of cities in India, their overcrowding, poverty, filth and total corruption coupled with the fascinating views of a part of the Indian subcontinent that includes Tibet and borders with Pakistan and China are unfortunately not enough to make up for a rambling style of writing. The characters not at all fleshed out move from scene to scene listlessly making for a novel that leaves the reader trying to keep up with what’s going on and who is where. The fact that Zur has published other books featuring Dotan Naor might mean that it is the fault of the translation of this novel that causes the problem, but with that “Death in Shangri-La” does not live up to the promise of the exotic setting and events that are not touched upon outside of Israel and India.

8/18 Paul Lane

DEATH IN SHANGRI-LA by Yigal Zur. Oceanview Publishing; Sew edition (August 7, 2018).  ISBN 978-1608092994. 272p.


BLOODY SUNDAY by Ben Coes

August 5, 2018

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A Dewey Andreas Novel, Book 8

There is one thing absolutely sure about any book featuring Dewey Andreas – there will be action galore! Since Ben Coes first introduced Dewey as an employee of an ocean-going drill rig, his character has grown in stature and the violence that he interacts with along with his increasing importance to the U.S. government. Bloody Sunday finds Dewey reeling from previous adventures narrated in prior books. He is getting ready to retire from the CIA and just relax. Obviously this is not a possibility for Dewey – his country needs him and fast.

North Korea has successfully developed nuclear bombs but not the long range missiles necessary to deliver them to their arch enemy – the United States. But of course where there is a will there is always a way and so it is that a trade has been planned between the North Koreans and another mad regime in Iran.

The Iranians will exchange two missiles for nuclear triggers and fissionable material to help them develop their own anti west weaponry. But both of these evil doers have not reckoned on Dewey Andreas being called up by the president of the United States to break up the scheme.

Present with the CIA is a brilliant British agent on loan to aid in inter-agency relations. It is a young lady who is quite pretty and trying to get over the murder of her husband. It is thought that her husband was killed in error in place of her. Jenna Hartford, the exchange agent has come up with a scheme to inject a poison into the person of the high level North Korean officer that will be handling the trade between Iran and his country. An antidote would be hidden somewhere in the city of Pyongyang the capital of North Korea to deliver to the officer injected once he delivers the secret plans for the firing of the missiles to the U.S. Obviously Dewey is the ideal man to handle the tasks of both breaking up the trade,and injecting the poison.

Action involves the first set of problems complicated by Dewey injecting himself with a tiny quantity of the poison and than having only 24 hours to go after the antidote. The events are machine gun fast and calculated to keep the reader drawn to the book with no inclination to put it down. Of course the novel leaves us with the ingredients for the next book featuring Dewey Andreas and the possibility of a romance while involved with the events he faces.

6/18 Paul Lane

BLOODY SUNDAY by Ben Coes. St. Martin’s Press (July 31, 2018).  ISBN 978-1250140760. 400p.


TO DIE IN VIENNA by Kevin Wignall

June 16, 2018

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A very neatly done novel about conflict between different spy agencies. Freddie Makin had once been an agent for a super secret group known as S8. He was a survivor of an ambush in Yemen five years ago when three of his fellow agents had been killed when driving towards a rendezvous with suspects wanted by their group. Freddie had been so traumatized by the killing, blaming himself for poor planning that he resigned his position. He than became a spy for hire and the story finds him doing surveillance on Jiang Cheng an academic. After many months of observing Cheng Freddie finds that there really isn’t anything in Cheng’s behavior to warrant the attention given.

Suddenly the situation changes radically. Someone is sent to kill Freddie who fortunately turns the tables on his would be killer. He quickly realizes that it is probably something that he saw in relation to his watching Cheng that has prompted the attempt on his life. The novel than becomes a masterful study of Freddie’s old trade craft returning as he begins unraveling the reason for the attack on himself and on people including Cheng and others. And is it the CIA that is doing the attacking? Freddie is well portrayed as a normal human being prone to being hurt and possibly killed while looking into what is happening to him. Clues are available to the reader and the reason for the attacks is a logical one resulting in a logical finale to the book.

NOTE: Soon to be a major motion picture starring Jake Gyllenhaal. The book certainly has the ingredients to be a good one.

6/18 Paul Lane

TO DIE IN VIENNA by Kevin Wignall. Thomas & Mercer (June 14, 2018).  ISBN 978-1477805169. 270p.


ON THE JAVA RIDGE by Jock Serong

June 14, 2018

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Serong has written two novels in one. First it is a story involving men against the sea. Than it is a strong political message about the harm being done by the Australian policy regarding refugees from their neighbor, Indonesia. The “Java Ridge” is a boat sailing out of Indonesia providing tourism to groups of well heeled individuals. Sailing at the same time is the “Takalar” a boat similar to the “Java Ridge” but bearing people looking to escape the horrors of life in Indonesia.

The Java Ridge puts in to a sheltered reef on the Indonesian island of Dana with a storm approaching. The Takalar is caught by the same storm and driven into the shelter, but not before it has been destroyed by the power of the gale. In the meanwhile a new maritime policy regarding aid to asylum seeking vessels in distress has been put into place by the Australian government. Cassius Calvert who is the minister for border integrity is being browbeaten by the Prime Minister as a new election takes place. The PM wants him to enforce the policy without thought about any people effected by it.

With the circumstances enveloping both boats brought together by fate on the island of Dana, Serong presents the individuals comprising those sailing on the boats. Isi Natoli is the skipper of the Java Ridge. She is part owner of the boat with her boyfriend who was not able to make this trip. Roya and her pregnant mother are on the Takalar looking forward to freedom away from a repressive government. All are brought together by the circumstances presented to them by fate.

Serong has written a totally engrossing novel about people caught up in a set of uncaring government regulations and paying a great price through no fault of their own. The book moves inexorably towards an ending that is both frightening as well as indicative of the uncaring nature of government regulation. Certainly a mesmerizing description of government out of control.

5/18 Paul Lane

ON THE JAVA RIDGE by Jock Serong. Text Publishing Company (June 12, 2018).  ISBN 978-1925498394. 320p.


COLD AS THUNDER by Jerry Apps

May 28, 2018

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Cold As Thunder is a more sedate version of George Orwell’s classic novel “1984” but carries the same message. If the people don’t look after their own welfare it will fall on a less than benevolent government to administer the nation as they see fit rather than a system that protects the rights of all. In the case of this novel, power has been consolidated with the “Eagle” party, a political party that has eliminated all other parties and established a docile populace.

The Eagle party has established a system of laws that basically squash any and all thought in opposition to it’s own ideology. Thinking independently has been driven out of the normality of most of the people and non conformity is a non starter Apps has placed a level of importance on certain factors present and made worse by the Eagle Party’s attitude. The most important is the issue of climate change that is not being addressed. Consequently areas of Florida and the Northeast are covered by flood waters and not inhabitable. Weather forecasting has been sold to private companies who don’t have the means to actually do any forecasts. This makes storms of any sort a menace for all, but especially for farmers subject to all weather conditions.

An opposition group has evolved in attempting to set up learning systems for the people now accustomed to being led by their noses. These are groups of “oldsters” that are disguised as volunteer groups supporting the Eagle mantra. The novel follows the growth and development of one such group located in Wisconsin and how it manages to influence events in the rest of the country.

The novel makes for an entertaining read with the only drawback an insistence on good always triumphing over opposition with little variance which would appear in any human endeavor having varying opinions present. Character development and any attempt at looking at individual motivations goes by the wayside. The concepts, however are interesting and make reading the book a worthwhile experience.

5/18 Paul Lane

COLD AS THUNDER by Jerry Apps. University of Wisconsin Press (May 29, 2018).  ISBN 978-0299315900. 232p.


THE PERFECT MOTHER by Aimee Molloy

May 23, 2018

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From the publisher:

THE MOST ANTICIPATED BOOK OF THE SUMMER—SOON TO BE A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE STARRING SCANDAL’S KERRY WASHINGTON

An addictive psychological thriller about a group of women whose lives become unexpectedly connected when one of their newborns goes missing.

A night out. A few hours of fun. That’s all it was meant to be.

They call themselves the May Mothers—a group of new moms whose babies were born in the same month. Twice a week, they get together in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park for some much-needed adult time.

When the women go out for drinks at the hip neighborhood bar, they want a fun break from their daily routine. But on this hot Fourth of July night, something goes terrifyingly wrong: one of the babies is taken from his crib. Winnie, a single mom, was reluctant to leave six-week-old Midas with a babysitter, but her fellow May Mothers insisted everything would be fine. Now he is missing. What follows is a heart-pounding race to find Midas, during which secrets are exposed, marriages are tested, and friendships are destroyed.


This is one of the latest psychological thrillers with an unreliable narrator; in this case, there are several. Plus there’s a missing baby and the setting is Prospect Park in Brooklyn, and my son lives right near there and spends many weekends in that park. So I was hooked.

But….I had a hard time following all the characters and I found it very slow. I know I’m in trouble with a book when I keep putting it down and looking for something else to read. It took me a week to read this, and I read 5 or 6 other books during that time. I was determined to finish it – Kerry Washington, after all, and Brooklyn, and a missing baby for heaven’s sake. But no, this was just not my favorite.

Any time there is a baby missing, that automatically ups the suspense, at least for me. But here it didn’t work, it just got lost (no pun intended!) as the story wanders off too many times. I much prefer a tighter book. There is a trope with these kinds of thrillers where the main incident is brought back time after time with a bit more information given after each revisit, and I have seen that done to great effect many times. Here, it just felt slow and repetitive.  I also didn’t understand why each chapter started with an email of parenting tips; I found it distracting (was that why?) and ultimately pointless.

All in all, not a great read for me. But if you like mommy books like those from Liane Moriarty (which I loved), or unreliable narrators, The Perfect Mother may be the perfect book for you.

5/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE PERFECT MOTHER by Aimee Molloy. William Morrow; 1st Edition edition (January 2, 2018). ISBN 978-0062678416. 448p.

Kindle


FIELD OF VALOR by Matthew Betley

May 22, 2018

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Logan West Thrillers Series, Book 3

This is an exciting, action packed novel featuring Logan West and his deadly task force. While it is based on some facts from a previously written book about a world wide plot to take down the U.S. government and pit America against China, it can be read in one gulp. The plot is the same as other Matthew Betley books with West and his task force. A huge amount of military style action and danger filled sequences set on a stage in the U.S. itself. The area is near Washington D.C., i.e., Virginia, Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. The enemy is a gigantic, extremely well funded international organization with the means to rival many first world countries.

Leadership of this titanic organization runs to the very top of the U.S. government with the means to learn secrets only held by a few.

Betley does include some humanizing facts about the warriors comprising West’s task force. Two of the members are in the starting stages of a romance with the girl as much of a fighter as her boy friend. Logan himself is married with his wife aware of the dangers he faces and worried about him for that. The book is a fast read, as indicated as much action as can possibly be crammed into it’s pages, and certainly a draw for those books featuring Logan and his task force coming out in the future.

5/18 Paul Lane

FIELD OF VALOR by Matthew Betley. Atria/Emily Bestler Books (May 22, 2018).  ISBN 978-1501161988. 400p.


THE CONSULTANT by Tj O’Connor

May 15, 2018

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Jonathan Hunter is an employee of the CIA who has not seen his family for years due to assignments in places like Afghanistan, Iraq and other mid-eastern hot spots. Out of the blue he gets a call from his brother Kevin to rush home to help him. In spite of being estranged for 15 years Jonathan goes AWOL from his duty station and rushes home.

Unfortunately it is just in time to meet Kevin dying by a lake that both brothers are familiar with and hear his last words, “Khalifah not them, Maya.”

Kevin has obviously been murdered and Jonathan, in spite of not seeing him for so long, vows to find and execute his killer.

With the violence of the killing beginning the novel it is a safe bet that the remainder of the book will feature more of the same. And that is certainly what happens. While going after the killer or killers Jonathan meets his brother’s widow, his adopted son and has his CIA supervisor find him up and okay the search. Oh yes, seems like Kevin’s death is tied into a plot by extremists to cause a mass killing of Americans in several areas and the forcing of action against the perpetrators by the U.S. government. Also Kevin’s widow develops an attraction for Jonathan, and she also has an adopted son that is somehow tied into Islamic terrorists.

O’Connor vividly portrays the hierarchy of the CIA to which Jonathan is attached. His direct supervisor, Oscar LaRue, shows up in time to tie many other side factors to the murder and orders Jonathan to investigate these while he is working on his brother’s case. Tall order, but our hero is certainly able to do so in spite of all the factors working against him. He gets involved with a female FBI agent who starts out very antagonistic but does develop a liking for him, and a local police officer that is so certain that Jonathan is guilty of something that he becomes a tormentor to him.

The ending leaves enough clues to make it almost a certainty that there will be future books featuring Jonathan Hunter, his supervisor and others who are front and center in “The Consultant”. I look forward to these for the promise of steady action in those novels.

5/18 Paul Lane

THE CONSULTANT by Tj O’Connor. Oceanview Publishing (May 15, 2018).  ISBN 978-1608092833. 432p.