FINAL STOP, ALGIERS by Mishka Ben David

September 20, 2017

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Any course or instruction on how to write successfully will indicate that the author should write about what he knows and/or has experienced. Mishka Ben David certainly does just that. His background includes 12 years in the Mossad (the Israeli Secret Service organization.) Ben David rose to the level of a high ranking officer during his time with the group.

Mickey Simhoni, an Israeli citizen, had served in the army and after discharge took a vacation which included a stop in Japan. He met Niki, a beautiful Japanese Canadian girl then working in Tokyo and had a short but torrid romance with her. Before anything could happen Mickey leaves for Tel Aviv to take up his normal life. There he falls in love with a girl only to see her killed in a suicide bombing. Faced with this horrific loss he becomes very open to an invitation to join the Mossad.

The training and guiding of an agent described in the novel is obviously the way it is due to Mishka Ben David’s experience with the group. Mickey is also sent on increasingly complex missions until the point where quite by accident he meets up with Niki for the second time. The romance is rekindled with Niki becoming a part of Mickey’s Mossad team in order to be with him again. Mickey faces the challenges of his job with the problem of what is more important to him; his love or succeeding as a Mossad agent with the necessity of possibly taking lives to complete an assignment.

The dark world of international espionage becomes alive for the reader with the horrible necessities of Mickey’s job becoming reality for him and for those reading the book. It is very well done and concentrating on the action described does take the reader into a world very far from the one most of us live in. Certainly, other similar novels will appeal to the reader that enjoyed this book.

9/17 Paul Lane

FINAL STOP, ALGIERS by Mishka Ben David. Peter Halban Publishers (January 26, 2017).  ISBN 978-1905559848. 429p.

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THE DRIVER by Hart Hanson

September 17, 2017

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I haven’t found a thriller this dark and funny in a long time. Hanson is a TV writer who has developed many books into TV series, most notably “Bones,” based on the Kathy Reichs books. His skills with pacing are evident here as this is a real page turner.

Michael Skellig owns Oasis Limo, and he is the driver. A decorated veteran, he has hired extremely damaged vets and an illegal alien, an Afghani translator, to work for him. I haven’t seen characters this damaged in a very long time, but this is no pity party. Instead, it is a lightning fast, clever thriller interspersed with black humor that helps lighten the darkness.

Skellig is hired to drive Bismark Avilla, a skateboarding, rapping God in L.A. Skellig happens to hear voices, ghosts of the people he has killed and while waiting outside a club for Avilla, he hears a voice warning him of impending danger. He races through the club and foils a murder attempt on Avilla’s life that gets one of his bodyguards killed, and Skellig is injured.

That is just the beginning of a roller coaster ride of good cops, bad cops, gangs, torture, parrots, skateboarders and more. I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough and the laughter outweighed the violence more often than not. If you love the Dexter books by Jeff Lindsay, or are a fan of Carl Hiaasen and Tim Dorsey, take a trip out to California with Hanson. I hope this is the first book of a series but haven’t heard anything further, yet…

9/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE DRIVER by Hart Hanson. Dutton (August 8, 2017).  ISBN 978-1101986363. 336p.

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WHEN YOU DISAPPEARED by John Marrs

September 15, 2017

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An explosive narrative about a long time married couple that experiences a rupture in their marriage lasting 25 years, then the agonizing starts when they finally get together again.

Catherine and Simon have been married for enough time to have three children and one more that didn’t make it past his first few months. They have the appearance of a very happily married couple looking forward to the rest of their lives sharing both good and bad times. Suddenly, out of the blue, Simon disappears with no trace. Searches are launched for him, police bulletins are posted and Catherine is positive that something bad has happened.

Time passes,twenty five years go by, and suddenly out of the blue Simon appears at the door of the house that they had shared and where Catherine still lives. The story of where he has been and why he left is presented in the most brilliant fashion that I have had the pleasure of reading in a long time.

The narrative of the 25 years apart is told in turn by each of them and in a manner that grabs the reader’s interest and keeps it. The manner that each has grown apart from the other is well delineated and assures that the actions and thoughts of the two become clear to the reader. An understanding of how each has acted and what has taken place in their lives is very clear in Marrs’s hands. To complete our understanding of what has motivated the two, the action swings effortlessly back and forth in time at the beginning and then at the twenty five year point.

An extremely well done novel; definitely an all-nighter in every sense of the word.

9/17 Paul Lane

WHEN YOU DISAPPEARED by John Marrs. Thomas & Mercer; Reprint edition (September 7, 2017).  ISBN 978-1611097511. 348p.

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INTO A DARK FRONTIER by John Mangan

September 13, 2017

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Like your action fast and furious? Like it even more when it is authored by a veteran of action packed combat in real conflict zones. The setting of this novel is in the near future when the African continent has collapsed collectively into a near failed state loosely supervised by the U. N. We meet Slade Crawford, a veteran of nearly 20 years of front line combat, who has been falsely accused of terrorism and is fleeing to Africa to escape his captors. Slade has contracted to lead a group of settlers from the United States looking to make a new life in Africa.

The group lands in Cape Town and begins a journey to the site they intend to settle on which is to the north of South Africa with Slade in military command. The trip is filled with danger and the attacks of a group looking to prevent colonization that has already massacred other colonists looking to settle in Africa. Crawford finds a liking for the goals of the group and also attracts a pretty teenager; a girl half his age that appears to flirt with him. Slade was divorced by his wife and also lost a son just prior to being arrested for terrorism. The double whammy puts him on a path of not caring about anything but the goal of getting his settlers to their destination.

The final section of the novel puts Slade under the orders of the mysterious American Colonel Gary Kraven. The colonel feels free to issue orders to Crawford without telling him what the real situation is that Kraven is following militarily.  Slade ends up going to Nairobi in Kenya under orders from the colonel but also to rescue the pretty teenager that has been following him and was captured by the group involved in preventing African colonization. Slade is now placed in a situation of asking Col. Kraven to help him with the rescue at the price of agreeing to work for him on a full-time basis.

After spending several nights up reading Lt Col(his actual rank) Mangan’s book the reader can take a break and catch their breath while impatiently awaiting the next adventure of Slade Crawford.  A definite keeper and one to follow.

9/17 Paul Lane

INTO A DARK FRONTIER by John Mangan. Oceanview Publishing; Sew edition (September 5, 2017).  ISBN 978-1608092611. 323p.

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EXECUTE AUTHORITY by Dalton Fury

September 10, 2017

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A Delta Force Novel, Book 5

This is the latest novel featuring Kolt Rayner and his Delta Force squadron. It features the constant action typical of the series. Kolt is in Greece to aid in defending the American president when the unthinkable happens.  A sniper’s bullet through his left eye kills the Greek Prime Minister. The shot itself serves to identify a foe that Raynor has faced previously. Rasim Miric is the deadly sniper whose trademark is the shot through the eyes of his victim. Miric has a personal grudge against Kolt due to the loss of one of Miric’s eyes in action against him during a previous engagement in Europe.

Raynor is up against the mystery of why Miric did not shoot the American president instead of the Greek Prime Minister. What are Miric’s aims in later traveling to the United States? Why has he singled out Kolt’s squadron for attack when it appears that he is hunting the president? Answers are sought through well-described action by Dalton Fury who served as Delta Force commander at Tora Bora and during the search for Osama Bin Laden.

The information contained in a forward to the book gives us the sad news that Dalton Fury passed away from pancreatic cancer and did not live to see this book published.  Certainly, the literary world has lost a great talent, but Fury’s legacy lives on in his novels as well as his real life deeds.

9/17 Paul Lane

EXECUTE AUTHORITY by Dalton Fury. St. Martin’s Press (September 5, 2017).  ISBN 978-1250120489. 304p.

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FEVER by Deon Meyer

September 8, 2017

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A monumental work written by Deon Meyer unlike anything that he has done previously. Meyer is a South African and writes in Afrikaans, and then translated into other languages. I don’t know Afrikaans but the English version is hard hitting, fascinating and surely delivering the meat and bones of the author’s intent. It is a novel telling the story of a world decimated by a deadly virus that only reaches a stopping point when most of the entire world’s population has died.

The survivors of this 21st century Black Death are faced with the almost impossible task of adjusting to a life that was never in their plans. Not at all a surprise, the locale of the events is in South Africa, Meyer’ s home. Nico and Willem Storm, son and father, are driving a truck laden with supplies through a land devastated by the plague and find a secure spot to set up a living area. But Willem is a wise and compassionate man and envisions a place for him and his son that will allow them, with other survivors, to build a community that allows civilization to flourish again.

The place is found and in growing attracts people interested in the same thing. Meyer utilizes a literary style that has principal characters individually describing events occurring during the growth of the community called Amanzi. They deliver a perspective that helps make “Fever” the great work that it is. Among the people entering the area is a young girl named Sofia Bergman who immediately attracts Nico and causes him to make the decision that when the two are old enough he will marry her.

Meyer uses the vehicle of the book to deliver his opinion about our world; that it is spoiled, selfish, and is not paying the proper attention to things of importance like climate change. Due to the author’s opinions, we have a surprise ending which I found more than a little unsettling and does end the book on a note that may allow another to be written. Certainly, it will be a major draw for readers of Fever as well as the many fans Meyer has garnered over the years writing about his beloved South Africa.

9/17 Paul Lane

FEVER by Deon Meyer. Atlantic Monthly Press (September 5, 2017).  ISBN 978-0802126627. 544p.

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DINNER AT THE CENTER OF THE EARTH by Nathan Englander

September 6, 2017

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Englander gives us a novel that describes the ambiguity of the Arab-Israeli conflict via a series of contacts between members representing the two sides.  First, there is the General who has led attacks and wars against Arabs living in territory next to Israel. He is merciless, brilliant and has little guilt about the effects his actions protecting his country cause. He is a beloved figure and we meet him as he lays dying in an Israeli hospital.

Next is the man that the General imprisoned years ago in a secret cell.  No one except the General and the man guarding the prisoner knows where he is kept and why he is there.

There is a meeting and a short love affair between a character known as Z and a waitress. The waitress is actually a rich woman who says she does service work to retain her identity. She takes Z to meet her father in Italy but it is in reality to take him

A love affair develops between an Israeli woman who is a resident of a kibbutz and a Palestinian constantly mapping out Israeli territory in order to present his maps to his Hamas colleagues for use in an attack against the Jewish state. The two decide that they want to experience a dinner date but find that the only place they can have it would be in one of the tunnels dug by Hamas. These, of course, are to be used to invade Israeli at the proper time.

Each of the short vignettes used by Englander in the book illustrates the conflict between Israel and its neighbors. Both sides have a point; fight for their point, and refuse to recognize that the other side also has a point which could lead to settlement if everybody would give in a little.

The author is not presenting any other argument other than that the conflict that has gone on for years could be settled if both sides listened to the other and tried to get a solution based on discussion and coming onto common ground.   Very well done and certainly an argument for reason instead of conflict as the only answer to this grave conflict.

9/17 Paul Lane

DINNER AT THE CENTER OF THE EARTH by Nathan Englander.  Knopf; First Edition edition (September 5, 2017).  ISBN 978-1524732738.  272p.

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MONTANA HEAT: ESCAPE TO YOU by Jennifer Ryan

August 29, 2017

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Montana Heat, Book 2

Ashley Swan is an Oscar winning actress who goes missing, except the police refuse to get involved. They think she’s just hiding out between movies. But a year is a long time to hide, and it turns out she’s actually been kidnapped, by another celebrity, a retired and much beloved talk show host.

Ashley’s been beaten and starved for close to a year, and kept locked up in a windowless vault. Until the night the door doesn’t latch and she escapes, grabbing Adam, the little boy who is kept in a room down the hall. His mother used to work there, but has disappeared, and Adam has also been abused and Ashley won’t leave without him.

Unfortunately, she escapes in a heavy gown she was forced wear that is way too small on her, and high heels, into a Montana blizzard. She ends up having to carry Adam and really freaks out when she realizes she is being chased. But she sees a light in the distance and aims for that until she trips and falls, knocking herself out.

Trigger lives on a nearby ranch, and finds Ashley in the snow, not sure if she’s even alive. But he takes her and Adam home with him and takes care of them both through the storm. Ashley survives but he is horrified at what’s been done to the movie star and the child. Trigger is a DEA agent, recuperating from wounds earned in a bad drug bust. He is in a bad way, but helping Ashley helps him as well.

The madman is still after her but Trigger is determined to bring him to justice. This is an exciting thriller that ultimately turns into a hot romance, and an excellent read.

8/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

MONTANA HEAT: ESCAPE TO YOU by Jennifer Ryan. Avon (August 29, 2017).  ISBN 978-0062645258. 384p.

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SEEING RED by Sandra Brown

August 24, 2017

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I haven’t read a lot of Sandra Brown but I totally understand why she has such a wide audience. Seeing Red is a real page turner, with action on almost every page. Brown’s skill is evident, she keeps the pace going until it is almost but not quite exhausting – the touch of romance is an occasional break from all the goings on. I met Sandra several years ago at Thrillerfest

I met Sandra several years ago at Thrillerfest, the annual  International Thriller Writers conference. She is a charming, beautiful woman, and this is not at all the sort of book you’d think she writes if you’d met her! I must say, I really love that dichotomy. You may be able to judge a book by its cover, at times, but you can hardly ever judge an author by their appearance.

So, Kerra Bailey is a television reporter in Dallas who is gunning for the biggest story of her career. She wants an interview with the Major, a hero who saved a handful of people from a Dallas hotel that was bombed many years earlier. The Major has been in seclusion for years, but Kerra tracks down his son, Trapper, and convinces him to take her to meet his father.

Trapper is immediately drawn to the beautiful Kerra, but he knows his father isn’t going to talk to her, he barely talks to him. But to his surprise, the Major is a Kerra fan and once Kerra explains who she is, she gets her interview.

Unfortunately, the men who blew up the hotel are immediately alarmed at that the two of them are talking. An unsuccessful murder attempt on both Kerra and the Major leads to nonstop action and lots of twists, leading to the shocking ending.

This was a really fast, really fun read and a terrific thriller. Don’t miss it.

8/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

SEEING RED by Sandra Brown. Grand Central Publishing (August 15, 2017).  ISBN 978-1455572106. 432p.

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THE GOOD DAUGHTER by Karin Slaughter

August 16, 2017

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Most review copies I receive these days are digital, and I never thought I’d say this but I actually prefer it. Particularly because I don’t need to wear my glasses, but also because I don’t need a light on, and if I don’t care for something or I’m not in the mood for what I am reading I can easily switch to another book. It was not that long ago when a receptionist at a doctor’s office inquired why I was carrying two books and I had to explain that I only had a chapter left in one and would probably need the other before I saw the doctor. I know she thought I was crazy, and I didn’t really care, but two hardcovers are especially annoying to carry around. I usually have several books going at once, and to be able to carry them all around with me so easily (thank you, Kindle Paperwhite!) is truly a joy.

I tell you all this because I made the mistake of putting aside a pretty good book (that was women’s fiction) because I was in the mood for something grittier. The problem was that it was 9:00 at night, and this – The Good Daughter – was the book I picked up. Almost immediately I realized the error of my ways, this book was too good to put down and it was going to be a very late night, with an early morning at work to follow. Eventually, I had to go to sleep but I finished it the next day, spending every break and my lunch hour to do so. This is a standalone but also set in Georgia like Slaughter’s terrific Grant County/Will Trent series.

Charlotte and Samantha Quinn are sisters living out in the country in rural Georgia. Their father is a lawyer, a defense lawyer to be more precise, who repeatedly vexes the townsfolk by defending, well, criminals. And usually getting them off. To the point where two armed men come to their home one day to kill him – but he’s not there. Instead, they kill his wife and take the girls out into the woods. One is shot and buried, the other takes off running but is attacked by one of the men. That is all the story we get as the book opens, and then it is 28 years later.

The girls are both alive, both lawyers, but estranged. Charlie is working in her father’s practice, Sam is a patent lawyer in New York City. Then tragedy once again rears its ugly head in this small town, this time a school shooting. And Charlie is there.

As that story unfurls, so does the girls past and we get more details, a bit at a time. The stories are intertwined, but we don’t learn how for quite a while and the tension keeps growing. This is suspense at its best, with characters we care about and a complex storyline that is truly gripping. The violence is brutal; as Slaughter fans know, she holds nothing back. But never is it gratuitous, either.

This is an excellent read and one of my favorite thrillers this year for sure. Don’t miss it!

8/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE GOOD DAUGHTER by Karin Slaughter. William Morrow (August 8, 2017).  ISBN 978-0062430243. 528p.

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