THE PERFECT SON by Lauren North

August 18, 2019

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This novel is North’s first book and it definitely heralds the appearance of a very talented author on the literary scene. It is an emotional roller coaster taking hold of the reader and holding him or her until the quite satisfying ending.

Tess Clarke is a happily married young woman with a young son the cement further bonding the couple. They have also purchased a new home away from the hustle and bustle of London assuring a better lifestyle for all three. Her husband, Mark, has just been promoted to the sales department with the firm he works for when suddenly tragedy strikes. On a sales trip to Germany, Mark, leaving ahead of other staff members coming there, is killed when the plane he is on crashes, killing all aboard.

Tess is devastated but somehow manages to put her son, Jamie’s well being ahead of her own. Not knowing how to act she imagines conversations with Mark and his probable replies in examining the world she now lives in. Mark’s brother Ian visits her and instead of being a comfort tells Tess that her husband borrowed 100,000 pounds from him and he needs the money returned immediately. Ian tells her that she should immediately check out her husband’s will, his insurance policies and benefits that could have accrued to the estate.

Not exactly a comforting presence is he? At the same time a grief counselor visits her in order to help Tessa come to grips with her loss. Trouble is that the counselor had lost a young son to leukemia shortly before these events and Tessa gets to feeling that the woman is interested in taking Jamie from her and not in helping her.

The story is told via the descriptions of the days before Jamie’s birthday and what happens during this period. Ms North handles the slow but sure decay of Tessa quite well, keeping the reader glued to the pages and also changing his or her mind about the ending several times. Very well done and an excellent start for this new author.

8/19 Paul Lane

THE PERFECT SON by Lauren North. Berkley (August 13, 2019). ISBN 978-1984803849. 368p.

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THE DOLL FACTORY by Elizabeth Macneal

August 16, 2019

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The author sets her story in the London of the 1850’s and sets it very well, describing the city at that time with both its problems and also its attractions. She does an excellent job of presenting the persona involved with their distinct personalities and their reactions to their own time.

The Great Exhibition, a huge hall, is being erected in 1850 in London to showcase as many of the symbols of life at the time, as well as objects that might illustrate the future. Among the exhibitions are portraits done by the artists of the day. The building has an important part to play in the events depicted in the novel.

Iris is a young lady that, due to her background and lack of money, works in a shop making items for the woman in charge. Her sister Rose works with her. As the novel begins, Iris goes to the grounds of the Great Exhibition to have a look at this marvel. In passing she bumps into Silas, whose forte is obtaining either by purchase or killing birds and other animals, mounting them and selling them to artists to use as models in their paintings. Iris forgets the encounter, but Silas imagines that she fell in love with him at that moment. Silas is a psychopath with these tendencies beginning during his early life when he fantasized that a girl he knew was secretly in love with him. When she didn’t respond to him he lured her away from their area and in a secluded woods killed her.

Iris delivers an order from her shop to an artist named Louis Frost. He is struck by her beauty and asks her to model for him. Iris consents but indicates as part of her terms that Louis teach her to paint as well as paying her for the time. The artist later notes that Iris has the talent to become a first class artist, and also falls in love with her, and she with him.

The novel is dedicated to describing the interactions between the three people. It is extremely well done and while the ending is a direct output of the actions of the characters and not a surprise, it provides a good read with the desire instilled to buy more books by Elizabeth Macneal.

8/19 Paul Lane

THE DOLL FACTORY by Elizabeth Macneal.  Atria/Emily Bestler Books (August 13, 2019). ISBN 978-1982106768. 368p.

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THIRTEEN by Steve Cavanagh

August 13, 2019

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Eddie Flynn, Book 3

Wow – that’s the one word I must use in describing Cavanaugh’s novel featuring former con man and huckster turned defense attorney Eddy Flynn. The novel is a wonderful romp through a murder trial and of course it had to be finished in one sitting (only one cup of coffee though – have to watch the caffeine so I can sleep until Cavanaugh’s next book is published.

Bobby Solomon, a first tier screen actor is accused of killing both his wife, who is his normal co=star, and his agent who were supposedly caught by him in bed together. The star is indicted and is put on trial for murder. Eddy is called upon by the firm handling Bobby’s defense to help them as needed via discrediting testimony by the police officers involved in the arrest. Needing a job Eddy signs on, but due to a change in circumstances finds himself handing the total defense. He hires a former FBI agent to help him with investigations necessary to work the case properly. The lady proves quite capable in working all angles necessary to aid in the defense. She is also introduced as a possible romantic interest in the future since Eddy’s current wife is in the process of divorcing him.

Cavanagh skillfully takes us through the events involved in the trial, starting with picking a jury and moving forward from there. Eddy is shown as human – he does not come up with brilliant one time off the cuff ideas. He has his doubts but continues to work the case as well as he is able. His logical approach turns up one startling factor that becomes the most important aspect of the case. The real killer is not only in court to watch the proceedings; he is actually one of the twelve jurors and in the most advantageous position to influence the verdict.

The rating system we are accustomed to in reviewing a book involves stars – five for best. I really think that that total is not enough. The reader will judge the book, undoubtedly have one or two cups of coffee and relish a superb reading experience and like myself will eagerly await Steve Cavanagh’s future novels.

8/19 Paul Lane

THIRTEEN by Steve Cavanagh. Flatiron Books (August 13, 2019). ISBN 978-1250297600. 336p.

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NONDISCLOSURE by Geoffrey M Cooper

July 28, 2019

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This is Dr. Cooper’s second published novel. In it, he takes a look at a problem that is appearing with more frequency in our society. This is the sexual attacks against women who have given the attacker no cause to presume that they would welcome a sexual advance. The attacker than goes ahead with the possible self delusion that the lady really would welcome his attentions.

Dr. Brad Parker is head of a department at a leading Boston area university. He is preparing to go into a meeting with his supervisor when he is called aside and advised that a member of the faculty in his department has drugged and raped a student. Parker immediately tells his supervisor what he learned and indicates that the victim identified her attacker.

Karen Richmond, a university employed detective, is called in and she begins working with Parker. As the two commence bringing out details of the rape the young lady is brutally attacked and murdered: obviously the work of her original attacker looking to cover up the crime.

Dr. Cooper brings in many factors that for different reasons often prevent the truth from coming out in the cases of unwanted sexual attack. It is a problem and has been for some time and in many cases difficult to prosecute due to factors keeping the victim afraid to testify. At the same time that publicity is centered on predator sexual attacks the author brings out a current very interesting new direction of medical research that has the possibility of becoming a definite life saver. These are gene based drugs and immunotherapy currently directions taken by state of the art research centers with promise of great advancement in attacking such diseases as cancer in many of it’s forms.

Writing is crisp and certainly succeeds in making this novel one that the reader will not be able to put down until the end. Very well done and certainly indicative of the entrance of a gifted author with the personal knowledge to contribute much to the area of medical thrillers.

7/19 Paul Lane

NONDISCLOSURE by Geoffrey M Cooper. Captain Thomas Publishing (July 15, 2019). ISBN 978-1733771405. 236p.

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LAYOVER by David Bell

July 10, 2019

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Joshua Fields is a workaholic. The good part of that is he works for his father who has every intention of turning their thriving business over to his son as soon as Joshua is ready. The bad part of that is that he is always traveling; in and out of airports all around the country and living out of suitcases in one hotel after another. He has a girlfriend that he thinks he will marry but is not that excited about the prospect. He also does not like flying, and lives on Xanax in order to be able to board a flight.

The story begins with Joshua meeting a beautiful girl at an airport, sharing a drink, and a kiss and realizing that he wants to have more with Morgan; the lady in question. He than begins a round of chasing after her from one city after another until they meet again. This time the two share a beautiful interlude of sex until Morgan just disappears again. Joshua chases after her; does not meet his father at a very important meeting with prospective customers in Florida, and becomes involved with Morgan’s problems which may include being involved with murder.

The events of the novel are laid out in a very enticing way, and they lend themselves into having to finish the book in one delightful read. It has been several years since Mr Bell’s last book was published and that for me was a spoiler via hoping that his next book will be available shortly. But than again one cannot ask a gifted writer to hurry the next finished project and risking the possibility that it will not match his previous books. A five star novel and one that does continue the author’s literary reputation and the hope that more of his works will be available shortly.

7/19 Paul Lane

LAYOVER by David Bell. Berkley; 1st PB edition (July 2, 2019). ISBN 978-0440000877. 416p.

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IF SHE WAKES by Michael Koryta

July 6, 2019

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The book opens as Tara Beckley, a senior at Hammel college, a small university level school situated in Maine, is driving a visiting dignitary to a conference being sponsored by her college. Suddenly, there is a horrendous accident, killing the professor and leaving Tara in a vegetative state. She is aware of her surroundings and what is going on, but in what is termed “locked-in syndrome,” unable to move or communicate with the outside world.

Abby Kaplan, a former stunt driver involved in an accident resulting in one fatality, is now an insurance investigator is assigned by the college to look into the accident and make a determination of who is at fault. The events occurring in the novel revolve around both Abby and Tara and what happens to them. Tara, of course, is completely paralyzed but soon realizes that someone wants her dead in order to cover their tracks regarding the accident. Abby has her own demons beginning with her early career as a very talented stunt driver, but than stopped when she is involved in the accident resulting in a fatality.

Koryta’s reputation as an author that easily grabs his readers and creates situations that keep them glued to the book does it again. With the introduction of a professional killer named Dax, the son and also the nephew of two brothers that were famed for their murders, the reader cannot put the book down until finished. The description of Tara caught in her state, yet aware of the outside world, gives the reader an introduction to a human situation that, fortunately, is not a common one. Abby, normally a brave young lady must conquer her fears of driving while working on the case and does find that those circumstances hinder her in a situation that demands she override them. Even Dax is capable of attracting the reader in his own cold blooded way.

The novel moves with the ease Koryta has always demonstrated. The ending flawlessly flows from the events described in the book, and my recommendation to all is read this one and than just sit tight until Koryta’s next book comes out.

7/19 Paul Lane

IF SHE WAKES by Michael Koryta. Little, Brown and Company (May 14, 2019). ISBN 978-0316294003. 400p.

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KING OF KINGS by Wilbur Smith

July 5, 2019
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The author is the successful writer of more than 50 books in his career. All of them are well written, equally well researched and generally set in a tumultuous period of history. One of his characteristics is the creation of characters that are larger than life be they hero or villain. In many cases he has utilized families in his novels as the centerpieces to the story. King of Kings utilizes two of the families created in other books and is the continuation of a novel bringing them together. These are Penrod Ballantyne who is a professional soldier; a major in the British army during the late 1800s and Ryder Courtney an adventurer and met looking to set up a silver mine. The period is during the time when England’s general Gordon was regent in Khartoum and was assassinated by a native army led by the Mahdi and his army of dervishes. It reaches climax when the British sent General Herbert Kitchener to retake the city via a battle at Omdurman and therefore conquers the Sudan for his country.
We meet Ballantyne at the moment that he has a fight with his fiancee and she sends him away. At the same time Courtney is married to the sister of the fiancee and she goes with him in search for the silver mine. The novel is pure Wilbur Smith high adventure played out in Ethiopia during a period when it’s rulers fluctuated between natives and invading armies of both Italy and than England. The question of whether Penrod will win his fiancee back is tied in neatly to the events depicted in the novel. In addition what problems does Ryder face if he finds a producing silver mine in the middle of a country facing war from every side. Can it successfully be developed in a land where the rule of law changes continuously?
Readers of Smith’s books will also expect problems to arise that are above those posed and these must be faced and fixed along with all the other troubles faced by the protagonists. As indicated there several evil individuals present who are really really evil and contribute to a well done novel presented by a gifted author.

7/19 Paul Lane

KING OF KINGS by Wilbur Smith.  Zaffre (April 2, 2019). ISBN 978-1499862010. 464p.

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BEFORE I WAKE by David Morrell

June 30, 2019

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It is to be expected that an accomplished author such as Morrell would handle any form of literary endeavor with the same masterful touch as any other. In this, Morrell’s third selection of short stories, the truth of the matter is that he does.

This current volume contains fourteen stories ranging in themes from science fiction to horror, all presented with a forward by Morrell indicating a short background of what he did with the stories. A few have characters from his novels as well as independent situations involving those individuals introduced elsewhere.

A review of a volume such as “Before I Wake” presents the difficulty of trying to capture all of a book filled with different situations. That part normally captured in a full length novel must merely include the comment that the author is the tried and true master of all his creations. I read all of the book in one sitting, liked most of the stories, some not so much, and did find that the experience is only different from the author’s novels in that the situation presented must be done in a shorter time.

In the accepted rating system of stars – one or more up to five -I can’t do anything else but give five stars because of the way the author has easily grabbed my attention and allowed me the pleasure of a wonderful reading experience. Read the book, at the very least you will find one or probably many stories to become fascinated with.

6/19 Paul Lane

BEFORE I WAKE by David Morrell. Subterranean; Deluxe Hardcover edition (June 30, 2019). ISBN 978-1596069121. 376p.

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A MATTER OF WILL by Adam Mitzner

June 28, 2019

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Will Matthews is a young man newly come to New York from a rural area with the intention of rising up in the corporate world, making both money and a name for himself. He landed a job with a huge brokerage house, but after two years of beating the bushes, cold calling for prospects, he finds himself on the verge of being fired for lack of productivity.

But Will’s luck turns when he gets a ticket to see a hockey game at Madison Square Garden in Manhattan. He finds himself sitting next to Sam Abaddon and his girlfriend. Sam, who is an extrovert, strikes up a conversation with Will, which results in a friendship and a golden find for him. Sam turns out to be very wealthy, and decides to invest a great deal of money with Will. He does, and Will’s fortunes do a one eighty. Not only with Sam, but with a group of Sam’s wealthy friends. At the same time, Will meets the girl of his dreams, Gwen Lipton, and it looks like his life has turned out for the much, much better.

But things change completely when Will witnesses an act of extreme violence and becomes caught up in criminal activity when finding out where Sam actually gets his money from. Gwen, who is a rising attorney in a large law firm, decides that she cannot have her own career jeopardized by Will’s problems dumps him, completing the misery now permeating his life.

Mitzner proves himself a master at fleshing out the characters in his novels and this book is no exception to the rule. The ending is a good one and provides the means for Will and Gwen getting back together. Based on the characters described by the author the finale is one that would be appropriate for them and the novel.

6/19 Paul Lane

A MATTER OF WILL by Adam Mitzner. Thomas & Mercer (June 25, 2019). ISBN 978-1503905139. 316p.

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RULES OF ENGAGEMENT by David Bruns and J.R. Olson

June 27, 2019

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The authors have presented a modern story of war. This is opposed to descriptions of battle in past centuries such as “War and Peace,” “All Quiet On the Western Front,” and “Battle Cry”. Those presented descriptions of men and women fighting other humans face to face. ” Rules of Engagement” deals with computers against computers guided by men and women working behind the lines.

Rafid Roshed is one of the most wanted men in the world with years of violent crimes against the west. He has developed an arrangement with North Korea and helps them launch cyber attacks against their enemies, which are the U.S., China and Japan. His latest development is a computer virus that once inserted into a country’s command system can gain control and begin to learn how to carry on on it’s own.

As the story opens, Roshed’s virus has already gained control of China’s system and has guided the Chinese Air force and navy into attacking both the United States and Japan. This occurs without the permission and against the will of the Chinese government.

Don Riley, the head of U.S. Cyber command, with the help of three brilliant midshipmen loaned by the naval academy at Annapolis, take on the task of finding and destroying the deadly virus. At the same time their mission would be to kill or capture Roshed. As in any good war story the action is swift and constant. The book describes the systems utilized in the war and does not utilize an idiom outside of the normal reader’s complete understanding in doing so. Very engrossing and very well done, and an excellent reason to keep an eye out for more from the authors.

6/19 Paul Lane

RULES OF ENGAGEMENT by David Bruns and J.R. Olson.  St. Martin’s Press (June 25, 2019). ISBN 978-1250200310. 336p.

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