FIREFLY by Henry Porter

October 10, 2018

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One the most horrific problems affecting the world today is the migration of literally millions of people which provides the backdrop for this novel. This is the attempt by large segments of populations in the middle east and Africa to flee repressive regimes, starvation and mass murder in order to begin new lives in countries that are considered safe. Porter presents a no holds barred portrait of peoples caught up in the need to escape from the lands of their birth due to changing conditions that do not allow them to live there.

Naji is a thirteen year old boy born in Syria who is thrust into manhood when his father dies. It becomes necessary for his family to flee their home as situations arise that cause their lives to become untenable. It becomes Naji’s job to travel through the middle east, into Europe and eventually into Germany to arrange for his family to be accepted there by relatives. This is a journey that must be done by foot as Naji’s family does not have the funds to send him by plane or even train.

Naji has obtained pictorial evidence held on his cellphone of plans by a vicious ISIS cell who discover what he has and mount an organized attempt to catch and kill him and retrieve the evidence. When Britain’s MI6 gets wind of what Naji has they mount a search for him by contracting Luc Samson currently a private detective but previously an agent for MI6 to spearhead the operation.

Porter employs a back and forth system between Maji and Luc to tell the story. We see a young boy that is forced to grow up very fast while attempting to comply with his family’s needs and a professional that develops an attachment for this brave young man while chasing him. Luc finds a possible romance and Naji lifetime friends in the course of the action. The novel is, of course, a definite all nighter and keeps the reader glued to the book and aghast at the realities of what is happening in our time and affecting decisions made by all governments. There are no solutions offered by the author for the simple reason that none are probably possible in the face of the titanic stage the action is played out on. But, the book does provide some insight into what is happening to real people through no fault of their own and affecting so much of the world.

10/18 Paul Lane

FIREFLY by Henry Porter. Mysterious Press (October 2, 2018).  ISBN 978-0802128959. 480p.

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THE ANCIENT NINE by Ian Smith, M.D.

September 24, 2018

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A well done novel about a secret society within a secret society set in the bounds of Harvard University.

Spencer Collins, a young man from the inner city of Chicago, has been accepted into prestigious Harvard University. He expects to live the full life of a student attending university where he will endure grinding class work and study while playing basketball for the school. Much to his surprise and pleasure, he is tendered an invitation to join the very cream of the “final” clubs existing at Harvard. These clubs provide room and board to their members and the benefits of a fraternal type of organization. It is the “Delphic” that invites him to meet with their members as a prelude to gaining membership.

While working at his studies and becoming involved with the “gas” club as the Delphic is popularly known, Spencer also becomes aware of the “Ancient Nine.” This is a secret organization within the secret Delphic club and comprised of unknown members of that group.

Spencer and his friend Dalton Winthrop become entranced in attempting to learn the secrets behind the Ancient Nine and what they stand for and Smith brings us a logical progression towards this end. He also brings the reader a very realistic picture of men and women involved in academic life and learning with parties, drinking, sports and rooting for the college team. He also shows the entrance of love into Spencer’s life and his meeting with the girl that is to become his wife.

The novel tells the story set in the academic world that Harvard is. The University is one of the first colleges established in the United States and the alma mater of generations of successful graduates who not only have the education received, but the help of a powerful alumni group built up over centuries. The purpose of the Nine as presented by the author is a very original idea utilizing Harvard’s lengthy existence as a prop in the story. While Smith has written several other books involving technical topics, this is only his second novel and certainly should press him to do more with fiction.

9/18 Paul Lane

THE ANCIENT NINE by Ian Smith, M.D. St. Martin’s Press (September 18, 2018).  ISBN 978-1250182395. 432p.

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THE WINTER SOLDIER by Daniel Mason

September 13, 2018

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Daniel Mason presents a truly monumental book about a great love affair amidst the horrors of war. It is set during the period of World War I and along the eastern front in which Austria was fighting Russia.

There are two main protagonists involved in the story. The first is a young man named Lucius who was a medical student in Vienna when war broke out. His father had been an Austrian officer in previous conflicts and glorified the tradition of war urging Lucius to enter the military.

Lucius, on the other hand, offered his credentials as a medical student in order to work at a field hospital attending to war wounded. He is accepted, but much to his chagrin ends up at a commandeered church situated in a remote valley in the Carpathian mountains. It is there that he meets sister Margarete who is the only other qualified medical person since the other doctors stationed there have deserted. Lucius has never operated on anyone but finds that he can allow himself to be guided by Margarete who has assisted in almost all situations. She helps him in many ways allowing him to function as he should without either an actual medical degree nor real experience. It is no surprise that the two develop feelings for each other.. The romance is slowed by the fact that Margarete has taken vows. While slowed at first their love grows and soon becomes all consuming.

Mason is a medical doctor and explains quite clearly the state of medicine existing at military hospitals near the front lines during that period He also very aptly describes Lucius’ growth into his work. Lucius logically finds ways to treat grievous wounds normally not seen outside of battle casualties. He is introduced to the little known problem of what is called combat fatigue and how it can destroy men without the appearance of any physical wound. Lucius tries many medicines and treatments in working with these mentally wounded individuals and this alone is quite an experience for any reader.

As the love grows between our two central characters they get into the habit of leaving the hospital for short periods in order to be together. During one long walk they split up and Lucius arrives back at the hospital first. When Margarete does not return in a normal period Lucius sets out again in order to find her. Walking for quite a while he suddenly finds himself in the midst of a battle and has to run and hide in order not to be killed. The turning tide of war develops into other assignments with no return to his hospital and Margarete.

The absolute strength of this novel is the powerful depiction of Lucius and Margarete. They live and breathe, face real conflicts and are beset with the doubts that must be present in periods of constant stress. The resolution of their story is one that would be a reality in view of their experiences during a war and the battles fought in that war. The novel will stay with readers for a long time after finishing it. The only way to describe it is to indicate that I was very moved and finished with the feeling that I had taken part in a great work through reading Mason’s book.

9/18 Paul Lane

THE WINTER SOLDIER by Daniel Mason. Little, Brown and Company (September 11, 2018).  ISBN 978-0316477604. 336p.

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THE EXES’ REVENGE by Jo Jakeman

September 11, 2018

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Philip Rochester is a bully, a despot and the epitome of a man that terrorizes a woman once she makes the mistake of marrying him. Not a very savory character and a lot different from the norm of leading characters in a novel. But Jakeman has succeeded in bringing him to life in a book featuring him vis-à-vis three women that have formed important parts of his life; his ex wife, his present wife currently being divorced by Philip and his girlfriend whom he is working towards making his third wife.

We are exposed to the feelings of his current wife who has endured being ridiculed, made to feel inadequate and wondering what she has done wrong as Philip has increased his overbearing treatment of her.

The story begins at Philip’s funeral with succeeding chapters listed as so many days or years prior to the funeral. Imogene, the current wife has had a child, a boy with Philip, and is desperate once she finds out what he is to keep her son away from him. His work as a policeman allows him contacts that Imogene fears will help him gain custody of Alistair, their son, with official lies backed up by the power of the police.

The ex-wife and his girl friend come into play in the story as it develops. Each has become enamored of Philip and only begins seeing what he is as the three women face his conniving to gain control of his son as well as the house that he and Imogene live in.

The book is Jakeman’s first and certainly allow an emerging literary talent to create a following that will enjoy this one and look forward to future novels from this author.

9/18 Paul Lane

THE EXES’ REVENGE by Jo Jakeman. Berkley (September 11, 2018).  ISBN 978-0440000341. 352p.

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LIES by T.M. Logan

September 10, 2018

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A novel that tells the story of marriage infidelity from the husband’s side. It begins rapidly with Joe Lynch, the husband of his beloved Melissa (Mel) driving home from work via a route he has taken countless times after picking up his son. By chance he spots Mel meeting another man and entering a hotel with him.

Melissa has been his love interest starting when they were in their mid teens in high school. He eventually married her and considers himself the luckiest of men. And after eleven happy years and the arrival of a beautiful child he still looks upon himself as very fortunate. Joe makes the decision to confront the man Melissa met and does so. They quickly disintegrate into a physical match with Joe knocking the other man down. The man is actually an acquaintance of theirs with his own wife friendly with Mel.

Worried that he has hurt Ben, the other man, Joe turns back and decides to help him when his son experiences an asthma attack and must be attended to quickly. When he later returns to the hotel Ben is gone. In confronting Melissa about the meeting she finally admits that she has been having an affair for the past few months with Ben but swears up and down that it is now over and never to be repeated.

The problem is that Ben makes no appearance and the police enter the scene to make sure that Ben has not suffered foul play. A very well handled plot ensues with Joe trying to determine if he can bring himself to again be with Mel at the same time that the police appear to be more and more centered on Ben being killed. The fact that Joe caught him with Melissa is credible evidence that he did something to Ben.

The unfolding story is told in a very sure manner and the reader is caught up with what is seeming to transpire with Joe. Is he going to somehow come out of the predicament together with his beloved wife, or is he going to finally be arrested for murder? The mitigating factor in preventing an early arrest is that there is no body to be found. An all night read – certainly and also one that is guaranteed to assure that the next novel by this author will find it’s way into the reader’s hands as soon as published.

9/18 Paul Lane

LIES by T.M. Logan. St. Martin’s Press (September 11, 2018).  ISBN 978-1250182265. 432p.

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RED WHITE BLUE by Lea Carpenter

September 9, 2018

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The author brings us a carefully contrived story about the CIA. It is not a normal novel utilizing distinctively good and bad characters but framed in a context that shows real life shades of gray.

Anna is the only child of the marriage of Lulu and Noel and early on was subjected to the disappearance of her mother who deserted her husband as well as Anna. Noel was a dynamic individual working as a banker who mysteriously dies in a skiing accident in Switzerland on the day before Anna was to be married. Later, on her honeymoon she meets, apparently by chance, a stranger who had somehow worked with Noel in the past and had information about him. Later Anna receives a mysterious package that contains recordings and videos that show Noel in the midst of a brutal interrogation. Everything that Anna thought she knew about her father’s life and death is now called into question.

Carpenter’s style of moving back and forth between people in her narrative lend an almost stream of consciousness aspect to the novel which draws the reader into the apparent inner workings of the CIA, its good and bad, and the fact that there are different motivations involved. A China operation goes wrong and blame for it winds through the layers of management and personnel.

The book draws in the reader who easily follows the shifts in events and people. While Carpenter, in an afterward, tells us that she received no information from the CIA, the style of the book and the way it unfolds would seem to belie this. Basically it is because the novel tells the story as it would possibly occur in real life where not everything is black and white. A very fascinating read done in a style that is unique creating a novel that is a draw to most of its readers.

9/18 Paul Lane

RED WHITE BLUE by Lea Carpenter. Knopf; First Edition edition (August 21, 2018).  ISBN 978-1524732141. 320p.

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THE ICEMAN by P. T. Deutermann

August 24, 2018

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Peter Deutermann had one brilliant career which essentially prepared him for his second successful career. He entered the United States Navy, receiving his commission upon graduating from Annapolis, and rose to the rank of Captain before retiring. He then embarked on his second career which is as a well received author with a great array of fiction dealing with police procedural as well as military novels to his credit. The Iceman is a rousing novel about submarine action in both the Atlantic and Pacific theaters set during the early days of World War II.

Malachi Stormes takes a submarine through minefields right up to a base where Nazi submarines are moored and manages to sink three of them in a brilliant maneuver. Britain, under whose auspices he is sailing, decorates him, and the U.S. promotes him and assigns him as captain of a new class of submarine fighting Japan in the Pacific. Malachi finds that he has several problems that must be solved if he is to be successful with his new command. First and foremost the Admiral commanding the submarine fleet in the Pacific insists on use of a newly designed torpedo utilizing a magnetic action which has a very high failure rate. Malachi must actually circumvent official policy if he is to be successful in sinking Japanese ships. He also has to shape his crew up, especially so as they had a skipper who took no chances and consequently sank no ships. He also bucks the command chain alienating the admiral in charge.

The theme of the book is that success is only granted to men that do creative thinking and do not succumb to the rules of the game becoming hidebound by military regulation that prevents initiative. It does seem more than a little strange that a retired career military officer would take a bit of a jab against the institution that he spent 26 years of his life working with. But, this is not the first instance that Deutermann takes the tack that what the military needs for success is promoting some independent thought among it’s members. A difficult thing to accomplish due to the organization necessary to achieve goals in the chaos of battle.

Like his previous books, the writing is crisp and the technique and format guarantee sleepless nights to readers. The discussions of combat and use of the ordinance taking part in the battles is, of course, described by an expert. These are presented in terms that allow the reader to understand what the equipment is doing and what it takes to guide it in battle. A fascinating picture of naval warfare that took place 70 years ago and also of the men and women that fought it.

8/18 Paul Lane

THE ICEMAN by P. T. Deutermann. St. Martin’s Press (August 21, 2018).  ISBN 978-1250181374. 320p.

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THE WASHINGTON DECREE by Jussi Adler-Olsen

August 22, 2018

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The author is Danish, writes in Danish, but has evolved a wide audience in the rest of the world via translations and the well written novels he turns out. His knowledge of the political system in the United States and its constitutional checks and balances is certainly evident in the background and presentation of the “Washington Decree”. Although he is mainly known internationally for his books featuring “Department Q” this novel is a well done stand alone and includes one of the most mesmerizing conspiracy plots I have seen in a long time.

The leading characters met 16 years prior to the opening of The Washington Decree, during a trip to China, and the five individuals have maintained contact since then. Dorothy (Doggie) Rodgers and Wesley Barefoot are both working at the White house for Bruce Jansen, just elected President with both Doggie and Wesley active in the election campaign. Both people are romantically interested in the other but work and events have so far prevented a more heated exchange.

Doggie’s father is the wealthy owner of a chain of hotels and is a staunch Republican. While Jansen is a Democrat, Doggie’s father feels incumbent upon himself to offer one of his hotels as a place to hold the inaugural ball and ceremonies. While celebrating victory, tragedy strikes when the President’s wife is gunned down by one the workers at the hotel.

Jansen immediately decides to take the position of getting rid of the violence, unilaterally he comes up with new rules that cause chaos in the U.S. making international travel almost impossible. Constant roadblocks and stops by police and soldiers cause the same stalemate as in travel abroad. And for Doggie, the ultimate horror occurs when her father is accused of masterminding the murder of the President’s wife. To make matters worse President Jansen decides that the normal lapses between sentencing and carrying out of the death penalty will no longer include the normal appeals that can last as long as ten years. Therefore it looks like her father will be executed in a matter of a few weeks.

Beside Doggie’s natural urge to exonerate her father and get him out of prison, there is an evolving censorship of all media, the probable insurrection by militia against Jansen’s dictatorial decrees and the complete insecurity of the citizenry unable to count on previously guaranteed rights and liberties. Adler-Olsen’s description of the chaos running rampant in the United states is quite vivid and possibly even understated if such conditions were to actually occur. What is done to alleviate the problem will certainly provide the reader with some sleepless time and a keen interest in getting more novels from the author.

An A+ novel at the very least.

8/18 Paul Lane

THE WASHINGTON DECREE by Jussi Adler-Olsen. Dutton (August 7, 2018).  ISBN 978-1524742522. 592p.

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A LONG TIME COMING by Aaron Elkins

August 17, 2018

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Elkins delivers us a two for one delightful trip into the complex world of fine art buying, selling and exhibiting. The first part of the trip is a well done “who done it” concerning the theft of two priceless paintings. The second part is a primer on the intricacies of dealing with art; its valuations, its insiders that make livings off it and why some paintings are worth fortunes and others almost nothing.

Art curator Val Caruso is an assistant to the head curator at the prestigious Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. He has reached a triple whammy in his life. He has been passed over for promotion, his divorce from his wife has just been finalized, and he feels in a rut in general. A group of paintings in Italy have been offered for exhibit at museums around the United States and Val is chosen to travel to Milan on behalf of all the prospective exhibitors to coordinate necessary details and requirements to bring the works to the America. The trip might be made to order for him to temporarily get out of Dodge.

Before leaving on the trip he is asked while in Italy if he would attempt to obtain a pair of Renoir paintings from their owner in Milan and restore them to a man whose family had them stolen by Italian Fascists at the end of World War II. The art work is early Renoir and not listed in catalogs delineating the artist’s later paintings. This fact alone makes them extremely valuable. Val understands that the legalities surrounding art stolen and than resold to legitimate buyers is fuzzy in the extreme, but does promise to see if the present owner will consent to lend the two paintings to Sol Bezzecca the last living descendant of the family that originally owned them. Apparently this is an action that might satisfy all concerned with the paintings restored upon the death of Bezzecca to the owner.

Arriving in Milan Val finds himself involved with the present day remnants of a plot beginning decades ago involving forgers, thieves and an unknown someone that wants him out of the way due to his art expertise. Val had lived in Milan years ago to work with and learn the trade of art dealing and still has friends there that he can call upon for help.

The novel is a well done story set within the technical confines of the movement of fine art from sellers to buyers. Elkins gives the reader all the information necessary to understand the intricacies of fine art buying and selling without too much redundancy to spoil the read. I found myself in a welcome learning experience while enjoying a very good novel.

8/18 Paul Lane

A LONG TIME COMING by Aaron Elkins. Thomas & Mercer (August 7, 2018).  ISBN 978-1503902381. 268p.


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.