IN PRIOR’S WOOD by G. M. Malliet

April 21, 2018

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A Max Tudor Mystery, Book 7 

Malliet presents the 7th book written featuring Max Tudor, the Vicar of his church in the village of Nether Monkslip, situated in a charming rural section of England. Max is quite happy in his chosen role after a career with British Intelligence as an agent for MI5. He is married to a lovely lady, has a young son and is very content with his role in life.

Unfortunately, Max seems to attract murder like a fly to honey and has proven quite a help to DCI Cotton of the local police in solving these cases.

Just returning from a trip with Cotton to help with a case in another town, Max wants nothing more than to relax and concentrate on a sermon he plans to give about the ancient Israeli King David and his lust for Bathsheba. David had committed the sin of sending Bathsheba’s husband to die during a war so that she could be his wife.

Just getting involved in the sermon, the town is confronted with the apparent murder and attempted suicide pact of the wife of the local manor lord. Max is plunged into helping to solve the crime and away we go. It is probably not appropriate to use the term “charming” about a case of murder, but Malliet’s prose brings this adjective to mind. There are no grisly murder scenes depicted, merely statements that these occurred. Life in Nether Monkslip is modern; computers are used, e-books are read and the people are affected when bad things happen.

The novel is a fun read, certainly not deep nor devious, quite satisfying and certainly sure to whet the reader’s appetite for more of these books.

4/18 Paul Lane

IN PRIOR’S WOOD by G. M. Malliet. Minotaur Books (April 17, 2018).  ISBN 978-1250092809. 304p.


WARNING LIGHT by David Ricciardi

April 19, 2018

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Zac Miller is a long term employee of the CIA who is currently based in London. He is not a field operative, has never “run” someone that is bringing in important intelligence work for the US. His work is devoted to the necessary administrative tasks that are indispensable for the agency to function but never bring in the glory attached to spy work.

The novel opens with Zac on a trip to Paris to meet with a young lady that he already has met and would like to get to know better. Nothing is further from his thoughts than possibly taking on a secret mission and acting as a spy. Suddenly his world changes; a phone call from his boss advises that a man destined for a mission to Iran has taken ill and cannot go. Reluctantly Zac is assigned to go in the other agent’s place, in spite of the trepidation felt by his supervisor.

The plane he boards, destined for the far east, experiences engine trouble, cannot continue on its planned flight, and is forced to land at an airport in Iran. That is where Zac’s troubles start. He takes pictures of the area on his phone’s camera acting as a normal tourist would and is arrested and detained by the Iranian secret police. The why of this is part of the tale spun here.

Where Zac goes, how he does it, are fascinating views of a world in conflict in the Middle East. The research done in describing the action Zac becomes involved in is painstaking and succeeds in delivering a view of a zone that has been in conflict for many years. The statement “an all nighter” is apt but really doesn’t describe what a reader will find happening to him or her once the book is opened. I felt quite satisfied in arriving at an ending logical for this novel, but allowing enough questions to remain to logically expect another novel to follow this one shortly – can’t wait!

4/18 Paul Lane

WARNING LIGHT by David Ricciardi. Berkley (April 17, 2018).  ISBN 978-0399585739. 336p.


THE FIRST FAMILY by Michael Palmer & Daniel Palmer

April 15, 2018

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Daniel Palmer credits his late father Michael Palmer as co-author of this riveting medical thriller. Michael was actually an MD and did write a good many excellent novels based on medically related ideas.

In “The First Family” a strange malady strikes the President of the United States’ son. He suddenly develops episodes of extreme fatigue, unexplained moodiness and sudden violent outbreaks of temper. At the same time a young gifted violinist named Susie Banks experiences a violent uncontrollable outbreak that catches her when she is in the middle of her first public concert. Is there a connection between the episodes experienced by these two unrelated people?

Karen Ray, a member of the Secret Service group charged with guarding the President and his family, does not agree with the diagnosis presented by the President’s physician for Cam who is the President’s son. She calls her ex-husband Lee, a family doctor, to look into Cam’s symptoms. Coincidentally Lee gets to examine Susie who is a patient at a hospital he is working at.

The reader is drawn expertly into a medical problem that has an importance to someone causing murders to be committed in order to keep the victims from being fully examined. Daniel Palmer successfully creates a scenario that keeps the reader riveted to the pages while moving from one suspicious event to another. The ending is one that upon reflexion is the correct one for the characters involved and while is not a fairy tale finale does leave the reader with the impression that this is the way real life would have evolved the events. Daniel Palmer does very well continuing his father’s custom of giving a great read to his readers. Very well done.

4/18 Paul Lane

THE FIRST FAMILY by Michael Palmer & Daniel Palmer. Atria/Emily Bestler Books (March 6, 2018).  ISBN 978-1501180811. 416p.


THE NEW NEIGHBORS by Simon Lelic

April 14, 2018

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Lelic presents us with a novel that looks at the question of how our childhood and family background affect our adult life.

Jack and Syd, boyfriend and girlfriend, find a house they like in London. It is large enough to satisfy their needs, although cluttered with the items belonging to the previous owner. The former owner had suddenly decided to move to Australia in order to be with a woman he met on line. His house then enters the market in a London suffering from a shortage of homes for sale. Jack and Syd submit an application, which much to their surprise, is accepted by the owner in spite of the couple bidding below the asking price.

The format used in telling the story is alternating sections narrated by one of the two. It is in this way that we find out that Jack is a product of a well-to-do family that is not accepting Syd.  On the other hand, Syd grew up in a home in which her father was a pathological bully, browbeating and stifling her until she moved away. Syd’s younger sister dies of a disease after Syd leaves home.

The initial set of incidents presented in the novel include mysterious footsteps and noises throughout the house leading to the possible existence of ghosts. In addition, Syd meets a young girl from the area who is suffering from an abusive father in a manner that reminds her of her own horrible childhood. Both circumstances contribute to the effectiveness of the book’s plot.

During their individual narratives, Lelic shows how both Syd and Jack react to events occurring when in the house. The move forward for both of them is very well handled and the changes in attitude of both of them are tied to their past. The novel is a fascinating study of past being prologue and character shaped during a period of great stress. The book is very well done and invites a good deal of thought about the meaning of the narrative. An engrossing novel not easily forgotten by the reader.

4/18 Paul Lane

THE NEW NEIGHBORS by Simon Lelic. Berkley (April 10, 2018).  ISBN 978-0451490452. 352p.


THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW by A. J. Flynn

April 12, 2018

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From the publisher:

Instant #1 New York Times Bestseller!

“Astounding. Thrilling. Amazing.” —Gillian Flynn

“Unputdownable.” —Stephen King

“A dark, twisty confection.” —Ruth Ware

“Absolutely gripping.” —Louise Penny

For readers of Gillian Flynn and Tana French comes one of the decade’s most anticipated debuts, to be published in thirty-six languages around the world and already in development as a major film from Fox: a twisty, powerful Hitchcockian thriller about an agoraphobic woman who believes she witnessed a crime in a neighboring house.

It isn’t paranoia if it’s really happening . . .

Anna Fox lives alone—a recluse in her New York City home, unable to venture outside. She spends her day drinking wine (maybe too much), watching old movies, recalling happier times . . . and spying on her neighbors.

Then the Russells move into the house across the way: a father, a mother, their teenage son. The perfect family. But when Anna, gazing out her window one night, sees something she shouldn’t, her world begins to crumble—and its shocking secrets are laid bare.

What is real? What is imagined? Who is in danger? Who is in control? In this diabolically gripping thriller, no one—and nothing—is what it seems.

Twisty and powerful, ingenious and moving, The Woman in the Window is a smart, sophisticated novel of psychological suspense that recalls the best of Hitchcock.

An Amazon Best Book of January 2018

“The rocket fuel propelling The Woman in the Window, the first stratosphere-ready mystery of 2018, is expertise. . . . Dear other books with unreliable narrators: This one will see you and raise you.” (New York Times Book Review)

“Finn’s debut lives up to the hype. . . . A riveting and mature first novel that stands out in a crowded genre.” (Library Journal [starred review])

“Next year’s ‘Gone Girl’? Perhaps. ‘The Woman in the Window’ lives up to the hype” (Washington Post)

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I’m posting the publisher’s information, including the blurbs, because they are diametrically opposed to my impressions of the book and I want to be fair. This is another of the “girl books”, a subgenre of thriller that includes a woman of dubious character, an unreliable narrator, as protagonist. This is my least favorite type of thriller. I have really enjoyed a few of them, The Wife by Alafair Burke and The Girl Before by J.P. Delaney spring immediately to mind. But I mostly hate them –  Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, the book that really started this whole craze and I couldn’t even get past the first fifty pages and I tried and tried and tried. I did manage to read The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins but I hated it, rather like The Woman in the Window.

This is an unlikely (it’s a debut novel) huge bestseller. My best friend loved it, and she generally has impeccable taste (but not this time.) My library patrons keep raving, even after I tell them I read the first 50 pages, then went back and read some more, the first 100 pages, and I didn’t like it. I caved to peer pressure and read the whole damn book, a couple of hours I’ll never get back. I figured out a couple of the main plot twists, which is really odd because I wasn’t even trying and I almost never figure out this stuff, but it was so obvious to me. And I hate when that happens.

So if you are a fan of the girl books, or want to read the book before the movie comes out, this is the book for you. Sadly, it was not the book for me.

4/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW by A. J. Flynn. William Morrow; 1st Edition edition (January 2, 2018). ISBN 978-0062678416. 448p.


AFTER ANNA by Lisa Scottoline

April 10, 2018

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In this new standalone thriller, there are two sides of a heartwrenching story alternating chapter by chapter, and in a truly unique way, one is moving forward and the other is moving backward. Scottoline has the mad writing skills to pull it off and do it really well.

Dr. Noah Alderman is on trial for murdering Anna, and his story starts as he is in court, awaiting the verdict. Then his chapters move backwards in time, the closing argument, the last witness, etc.

Maggie Ippolitti is Noah’s second wife, stepmother to Caleb, Noah’s ten year old boy with a speech disorder. They are a very happy family. But Maggie has a past – she also was married before and had a daughter, Anna. She suffered from postpartum psychosis, and basically turned herself in to get help before she harmed her daughter. While she was hospitalized, her husband divorced her, had her declared unfit, and got custody, after which he took Anna to France, where his family lived. Shortly after that, he sold his startup company for many millions of dollars and dumped his daughter in one boarding school after another and Maggie hasn’t seen Anna since she was 6 months old.

By now, Anna is a senior in high school and when her father is killed in a plane crash, she contacts her mother. Maggie is beyond thrilled, and when Anna says she is unhappy in school, Maggie immediately invites her to live at home with her. Very quickly things start going badly. Anna seems uncomfortable with Noah, and accuses him of trying to molest her. She takes him to court, and Maggie gets her to settle by forcing Noah to move out. And then Anna turns up dead on Noah’s front porch.

I was reading away, completely engrossed with this family and their saga when suddenly the story took a hard turn and starting moving at breakneck speed to a really shocking ending. I stayed up late to finish it, then stayed up even later thinking about it. I love when that happens – don’t miss it!

4/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

AFTER ANNA by Lisa Scottoline. St. Martin’s Press (April 10, 2018). ISBN: 978-1250099655. 400p.

Kindle


FLASH POINTS by David Hagberg

March 28, 2018

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A Kirk McGarvey Novel, Book 22

The principal character in this novel is Kirk McGarvey, a man who was previously an assassin for the CIA. In addition, he was the head of the CIA for a short time. The story opens as Kirk is getting ready to enjoy a vacation with his girl friend but walks out to his car and suffers a grave accident. One of McGarvey’s enemies has had a bomb placed in the vehicle in order to do away with him.

McGarvey’s sixth sense jumps into play and he exits the car moving off to the rear. This action saves his life but causes a whole host of internal and external injuries including the loss of his leg just below the knee. None of this stops Kirk from puzzling out why he was singled out for assassination and leads to the inescapable conclusion that he knows something and must be silenced because of that.

A new president has just been elected and members of his military senior staff deem him a danger to the country because of his policies. They set up a series of attacks at several points in the country with the object of embarrassing the new president. It is assumed that the president will not be able to handle the three emergencies at once causing the American public to demand his impeachment. But before this action occurs it is necessary to eliminate McGarvey who is the one person to be able to figure out what is happening and intercede with the plot against the president.

In spite of his many wounds and the loss of most of one leg, Kirk soldiers on to foil the plotters and save the day. He is admirably helped by his girlfriend, who incidentally is a member of the CIA and does want the vacation promised.

The story is the pure adventure that David Hagberg always delivers in his novels. It is a fast read, keeps the reader glued to the book and following the continually developing plot. Future novels featuring McGarvey are a given and surely to be looked for.

3/18 Paul Lane

FLASH POINTS by David Hagberg. Forge Books (March 27, 2018).  ISBN 978-0765384881. 320p.


THE OCTOBER MEN by David Impey

March 25, 2018

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Hindsight Can Be Deadly

Impey begins an intricate and mesmerizing story during the early days of WWI with a company of soldiers moving up to the front lines. He than goes forward describing other seemingly non-related events, including the later attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. A series of color photos which appear to be beyond the range of photography during the periods covered by these photos calls attention to what is going on.

The novel goes on describing other events and bringing into the picture a young Oxford physicist, Otto Parsons, who has been conducting experiments in quantum physics, attempting to create zero gravity without going into outer space. His work yields totally unexpected results which serve to tie together the various events described in the story.

A group of scientists attempt to tie Parson’s experiment together by producing a historical TV series that attempts to uncover the truth behind such isolated instances as the Roswell incident and the assassination of president John F. Kennedy. The show unfortunately attracts the attention of a group of international criminals who use the equipment developed by Parsons to take advantage of both the financial and art markets.

A very interesting plot and a narrative that will definitely capture and keep the reader’s attention.

3/18 Paul Lane

THE OCTOBER MEN by David Impey.  BigBear Communications Ltd (March 20, 2018).  ISBN 978-1912145799. 340p.


THE TERMINAL LIST by Jack Carr

March 24, 2018

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The phrase,”revenge is a dish best served cold,” is a piece of advice with roots in literature possibly stemming from the time of William Shakespeare. Carr’s powerful novel resoundingly takes a different track.

Lt. Commander James Reece is in charge of a group of Navy Seals and certainly a warrior’s warrior. He is sent on a mission to Afghanistan and his entire team is killed and then the group of rangers sent to extract his squad also lose their lives in the attempt.

Sent back to the states, Reece is astonished to learn that another member of the team has committed suicide. With these deaths weighing heavily, a medical exam ordered for him due to unexplained headaches finds that there is a tumor on his brain. The only thing now buoying him up is the expectation that he is going home to his wife and daughter. The final horror hitting him is the discovery that both his wife and daughter were killed in an attack on his house.

Reece must hold himself together in order to avenge the deaths of his men and wife and daughter which he soon finds are related. The action to find and kill those that were responsible comprises most of the novel. He is livid and not knowing if the brain tumor that he has will kill him shortly, moves as quickly as possible with the help of a few friends. One is a young reporter who is aware that there is definitely malfeasance involved in the actions of the upper level military command, a pilot whose life he once saved, and the boss of a Mexican Mafia group.

There is nothing cold involved in Commander Reece’s actions. He is livid, he just wants revenge and expects to die when it is exacted in order to join his wife and family. The descriptions of the manner Reece handles the actions against those on his list of persons to be punished is, to say the least, gruesome and certainly done in hot blood.

One of the obvious opinions Carr brought out in the book is the low opinion he has of the juggernaut of our Federal government. He obviously feels that it has grown too large and become too cumbersome to properly provide good government, and the system of rules and regulations obstruct rather than help the growth of the economy. People are hindered by regulations which serve to basically interfere with their every day lives. Whether or not the novel was written to postulate Carr’s opinions or not it still is an extremely well written and captivating book about the professional military. It is one that the reader will not be able to easily put down until finished.

3/18 Paul Lane

THE TERMINAL LIST by Jack Carr. Atria/Emily Bestler Books (March 6, 2018).  ISBN 978-1501180811. 416p.


THE BISHOP’S PAWN by Steve Berry

March 21, 2018

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Cotton Malone Novel, Book 13

Steve Berry and his wife Elizabeth are both ardent advocates of historical preservation. Their passion has taken them to a multitude of places and sites as well as the founding of a charitable foundation, “History Matters,” to raise both awareness as well as money to preserve historical places. Many of Berry’s novels have had a little known historical event become the basis for the story told in the book.

Bishop’s Pawn is the latest adventure of Berry’s main protagonist Cotton Malone, but includes several changes in the format of the story. It is written in first person with Malone being the one telling the story. It is also out of the continuing time sequence of Malone’s career with the Magellan Billet, a secret group attached to the Justice Department. Insteaed, we are taken to the beginning of Cotton’s work for Stephanie Nelle, who founded the Magellan Billet and is the supervisor.

Eighteen years ago Malone was working as a lawyer in the Navy and trying to outgrow his reputation as a maverick. He is approached by Stephanie and asked to help with an investigation currently underway by the Justice Department. Cotton takes the assignment with the hope of getting into a situation other than his present tedious job with the JAG.

Cotton then finds himself involved with an extremely rare coin and a set of documents that provide explosive data on the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Malone becomes embroiled in a war between the Justice Department and the F.B.I. for possession of both objects.

Dr. King is pictured here as the giant that he was in the early days of the Civil Rights movement, but also shown as a man with faults and hesitations. The real life war between the F.B.I. and Dr. King is brought vividly into the scenario.

J. Edgar Hoover, the head of the F.B.I. at the beginning of Dr. King’s work, had an obvious hatred for the man. Hoover ordered wire taps, surveillance, and branded Dr. King as a trouble maker all against orders from Congress. Berry brings out the distinct possibility that Hoover ordered the assassination of Dr. King and was instrumental in bringing James Earl Ray, Dr King’s killer, conveniently into the picture in order to do the actual shooting.

The book is a fascinating study of both the events surrounding Dr. King’s assassination and portraits of some of the individuals that both worked for and against him. Berry eloquently pictures the F.B.I. as Hoover’s fiefdom, and due to the secret files held on many people by him, was able to establish total control over the organization as well as becoming a law unto himself.

The ending consists of the airing of Berry’s thoughts about the assasssination with actual facts presented to back up his theory. I feel that while Steve Berry may have written better books, Bishop’s Pawn is beyond any doubt the most thought provoking of them. Totally mesmerizing and the “king” of all nighters.

3/18 Paul Lane

THE BISHOP’S PAWN by Steve Berry. Minotaur Books (March 20, 2018).  ISBN 978-1250140227. 352p.