THE DEVIL ASPECT by Craig Russell

March 7, 2019

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A novel that is guaranteed to grab hold of the reader immediately and not let go until the finale. It should be termed dark, but not gothic, although the concept of malevolent spirits permeates its pages. Viktor Kosarek is a young recently graduated psychiatrist who had studied under Carl Jung, one of the fathers of modern psychiatry. It is 1935 and set in a Czechoslovakia with the advent of Nazism on the horizon as Viktor seeks his first job. He holds the theory that evil in a person is due mainly to an evil spirit existing within the makeup of people. That the reason for murder taking place is the pressure brought by this force beyond the ability of the person to control.

Viktor’s theories catch the attention of the manager of a famous insane asylum known as the Hrad Orlu asylum for the criminally insane. At the time the asylum houses only six patients who are among the most horrific killers in Europe . He is invited to work at the asylum attempting to treat the six and prove his theory. Upon arrival Viktor begins sessions with the six; One woman and five men. He is aided with a young lady, Judita, handling the written transcription for the interviews with the patients. She is Jewish and is attempting to flee Europe ahead of the Nazi terror she realizes is coming. A love affair does develop between her and Viktor which plays out in the background.

A second scenario is developed dealing with a serial killer known only as Leather Apron who is terrorizing Prague. His methods of slaughter are reminiscent of England’s Jack the Ripper murderer. Russell follows the chase led by a policeman and also ties in ancient legends about evil entities that have permeated Czechoslovakia’s past.

The reader will be led into reading about murder at its most horrible with descriptions of mutilated bodies that can definitely be very difficult to bear. These are tied into Viktor’s findings in a logical way that helps lead to a finale that is logical and ends the novel in a manner very suited to the story being told. An excellent piece of dark literature that will keep readers glued to the pages attempting to discern an ending that is certainly not telegraphed but is quite satisfying.

3/19 Paul Lane

THE DEVIL ASPECT by Craig Russell. Doubleday (March 5, 2019). ISBN 978-0385544368. 432p.

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CEMETERY ROAD by Greg Iles

March 5, 2019

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There is one absolute truism in any of Iles’ books written about the American south and set in the twentieth century: There will be a man or woman that is inherently good and facing a group that is evil personified. Just prior to the present novel he was involved in writing several books centered in the city of Natchez. His principal character became involved with fighting a group calling itself the “Double Eagles”. The story actually painted the villains as being involved with both the assassination of John F. Kennedy as well as running Natchez.

Cemetery Road introduces Marshall McEwan in the role of principal protagonist and a shadow group known as the “Poker Club.” Marshall grew up in the small town of Bienville, Mississippi. He was an athlete, a good student and in love with a girl nicknamed Jet. Jet seemed to reciprocate this love until circumstances drove them apart. Marshall left his birthplace, went to Washington, D.C. and over eighteen years gained a well earned reputation as a great reporter. He found himself in many dangerous areas and it appeared that he would continue. His work won him a Pulitzer prize capping his already great reputation.

His progress was interrupted by his mother calling him to return to Bienville to run the family newspaper. His father who was the editor in chief had suffered a major coronary and Marshall was asked to keep things moving until his father recuperated. The biggest problem for Marshall was that he ran into his old girl friend Jet. She was married to Paul, a boyhood friend of his, but it looked like she and Marshall were still in love with each other. While they planned to leave together when Marshall was free to return to his Journalistic career Jet was hampered by Kevin, her son, and the obvious fact that her husband would never let him leave with his mother.

The circumstances of the novel include the winning of the construction of a big Paper mill by the Chinese government In Bienville and the prospect of more jobs, higher wages and added fortunes for members of the Poker Club. A murder of a man that found ancient bones and works at the proposed site of the paper mill with the prospect of the town losing the site and the Mill galvanizes the actions of both Marshall and the Poker Club in different points of view. Marshall to expose the murder and the club to protect their turf.

Iles is a superb builder of characters for his novels and Cemetery Road is no exception. How will the affair between Marshall and Jet turn out? And, of course will the Poker club succeed in keeping the knowledge of a probable historic site from the U.S. government and the turning of it into a protected national park. Like his previous novels centered on Natchez, this one is possibly the first of more. But it stands alone as a completely mesmerizing read with the questions raised by the ending not spoiling the enjoyment of a great author at his best.

3/19 Paul Lane

CEMETERY ROAD by Greg Iles. William Morrow (March 5, 2019). ISBN 978-0062824615. 608p.

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ONE FATAL MISTAKE by Tom Hunt

February 13, 2019

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Karen Mayo, estranged from her husband has taken her life into her own hand, studied and became a nurse. She has also watched her beloved son Joshua moving away from the divorce between his parents, now ready to graduate from high school and  accepted to Clemson University. He is also a member of his school golf team and plays frequently with his father.

Suddenly fate takes a hand in the Mayo family’s affairs.  Joshua and his father decide to drive golf balls off a cliff facing a river and located in a large wooded area north of their home.

They finish the driving a little after dark and are on their way back to Joshua’s home when they accidentally hit a man walking alone in the woods. They quickly go over to see how the person is when the man jumps up and attacks Andrew, Joshua’s father. Appearing possible that Andrew could be killed, Joshua picks up a rock and strikes the man on his head. Checking him it is found that he has died from the blow.

There is another half of the events in this well done novel. Three individuals, two men and the wife of one of them have planned and executed a robbery of a bank.  One of the men is purposely left at the scene of the robbery and the other two flee the area with a bag of money stolen from the bank.

The two halves are expertly tied into a very ingenious whole by the author. What happens when the two groups meet and how the events reach a conclusion for all of them is the theme of a very engrossing novel by an author that is a master of developing characters in his books.

The accidental murder in the woods and its consequences is tied very neatly into the actions and fate of the bank robbers, including the one that was stranded at the scene of the crime by the other two. A compelling all-nighter by an author completing only his second book. Certainly one to continue looking for in the  future.

1/19 Paul Lane

ONE FATAL MISTAKE by Tom Hunt. Berkley (February 5, 2019). ISBN 978-0399586439. 320p.

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THE GIRL IN THE GLASS BOX by James Grippando

February 9, 2019

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A Jack Swyteck Novel, Book 15

This, the latest novel featuring Jack Swyteck, Grippando’s practicing attorney, was written during a period that saw a law enforcement agency of the United States, U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement (better known as ICE) being subjected to a huge amount of criticism by a portion of the American population. The agency was demonized by its critics as riding roughshod over the immigrants that it had to apprehend, detain, jail and/or deport from the country. The leading critique was that it separated children traveling with their parents as they attempted to enter the United States illegally. In my opinion, adherents of the agency were quick to point out that ICE was simply carrying out their assigned function in attempting to keep out people that did break the law by not complying with the legalities of legal entrance.

Grippando, through Jack Swyteck, makes his opinion very clear in setting up ICE as being over zealous in their administration of their duties. His beloved abuela (grandmother) pushes him into the defense of an illegal alien woman and her daughter. Julia Rodriguez and her daughter Beatriz are illegals that have found a small place in society and are trying to make a life for themselves when Julia is sexually attacked by her boss at the coffee shop where she works. She defends herself but then finds herself detained by ICE after an anonymous tip, locked in prison and set up for deportation. Beatriz stays with an aunt that has completed immigration requirements earlier and is a U.S. citizen.

The novel is replete with the sordid conditions experienced by Julia, the pressure by ICE on the judge supervising the trial that Swyteck requests to present her case for political asylum, and the changes in her daughter when her seemingly happy life is broken up by her mother’s problems. Grippando’s opinions are open and clear. This does not change the fact that the book is the author’s usual well done and engrossing story which can be read as another fine reading experience. The novel reaches an ending which seems to clearly be the beginnings of another book continuing the story. Again, despite this reader’s opinion about ICE and its described methods, this read is a pleasure of an all nighter by an author that is at the height of his literary skill.

2/19 Paul Lane

THE GIRL IN THE GLASS BOX by James Grippando. Harper (February 5, 2019). ISBN 978-0062657831. 368p.


A SPY IN EXILE by Jonathan de Shalit

February 8, 2019

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De Shalit, who was at one time in his life and under another name a high ranking member of the Israeli Intelligence community, presents his readers with a monumental portrait of an extremely complex woman. Ya’ara Stein was forced out of her job with the Mossad, the Israeli Intelligence agency. Not knowing what to do next she is quietly approached by the Prime Minister of Israel and asked if she will undertake the founding, training and leadership of a secret organization dedicated to finding and killing of the country’s enemies. She and her group will find and eliminate enemies under the supervision of the Prime Minister only.

Ya’ara jumps at the chance feeling that it is right up her alley. A large sequence is devoted to the job of finding candidates whose personalities and temperament suit them for the work of being away from home for long periods, the detective work in finding those individuals that must be eliminated, and above all, coming to grips with their deeds. The people chosen are depicted as being found psychologically fit for the work and also able to take on a life that leaves little time for a personal life. They are real persons, trained by Ya’ara and her second in command.

Their first assignment involving the killing of two enemies of Israel touches all in different ways. Their reactions are not cold-hearted when a young innocent girl is accidentally killed during one of the assassinations. The group agonizes at the lose of the innocent life, but must find the wherewithal to continue.

De Shalit touches on the group’s private lives with the knowledge of how that suffers during their long absences. The ending suits the tone of the novel and indicates a continuation of the group in their tasks without setting any particular prelude to a next book in this series. A definite all nighter, but more so in the questions raised about people involved in the activities that all nations require in order to coexist in our competitive world. These activities always secret and hidden from the majority of the populations of the countries involved.

2/19 Paul Lane

A SPY IN EXILE by Jonathan de Shalit. Atria/Emily Bestler Books (February 5, 2019).  ISBN 978-1501170560. 384p.

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THE LINE BETWEEN by Tosca Lee

February 7, 2019

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The very versatile Tosca Lee presents her latest novel which continues to delight her many readers and adds a bit more luster to an already brilliant career. She ties together two themes and blends them together quite well.

Wynter Roth is a young very bright woman that has been an inhabitant of what is clearly a cult termed New Earth for most of her life. She has been indoctrinated with the gospel according to Magnus Theisen, the founder and leader of New Earth. Believing in the facts as outlined by the cult she is thrust out of her sinecure by a decision made by Magnus to take her as his second wife. She suddenly awakens and realizes that all is not as it should be in her protected world. Basically she gets the wake up call due to the fact that her sister is Magnus’ wife already and the very concept of being a second wife is alien to her. In making her views vehemently known and refusing to comply with the marriage, she gets herself thrown out of New Earth and goes to live with relatives.

At the time Wynter leaves the cult a virulent disease begins to attack people all over the United States. The symptoms are early onset dementia with death following in short order. There is no cure available and the nation and it’s economy starts to shut down in the face of the widespread sickness.

Tying in Wynter’s leaving the cult is the fact that her sister comes to her with medical grade samples which were taken from Magnus. He is obviously attempting to have these samples, which have been exposed to the disease, tested, a vaccine developed, and then sold to rich buyers making himself rich and powerful. Where this takes the novel is a very well researched description of Wynter’s attempts to bring the samples to people that can best work towards developing a vaccine and disseminating it to the entire population.

A very well done story with Lee’s carefully investigated details adding even more towards the reader’s enjoyment.

2/19 Paul Lane

THE LINE BETWEEN by Tosca Lee. Howard Books (January 29, 2019).  ISBN 978-1476798622. 384p.

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THE SILENT PATIENT by Alex Michaelides

February 5, 2019

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The front piece of this novel indicates that it is the author’s first book. It certainly indicates a promising future for Michaelides as the theme chosen is quite an interesting one.

Alicia Berenson is a famous painter married and quite well to Gabriel, who has made a name for himself as a world class fashion photographer. The couple live in a fancy house, have plenty of money and seem to be quite happy.

Suddenly, and seemingly out of the blue, Gabriel returns home from a fashion shoot and is shot in the face five times by Alicia. When questioned by the police she does not say a word. And silent she remains even when she is shut away in “The Grove,” a secure forensic unit in the northern part of London. There she stays, completely silent, until Theo Faber, a criminal psychotherapist, obtains a position at The Grove with the avowed purpose of treating Alicia.

The idea of the book is a good one and should be a terrific read except for Michaelides’ propensity to drag things out. His idea for an ending is not telegraphed but also seemingly one out of the blue that makes the end a complete surprise for the reader. It also does not make good sense for the reader looking for the one and one make two type of ending. Based on the idea upon which the novel is based and the author’s ability to frame situations quite well, it occurs to me that his books should be looked for. The fumble that I see in this book is, of course, my own opinion, but does not detract from the promise Michaelides shows with his cogent approach and should be evidenced in future novels.

2/19 Paul Lane

THE SILENT PATIENT by Alex Michaelides. Celadon Books (February 5, 2019).  ISBN 978-1250301697. 336p.

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THE BREAK LINE by James Brabazon

January 30, 2019

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Max McLean, Book 1

James Brabazon introduces Max McLean in this action packed novel. Max is a trained assassin working for British Intelligence. His job is to go anywhere he is sent by his employers, find the person or persons he is told to and end their lives as quickly as possible. No second thoughts about the murders, nor even first thoughts. The killing is part of his being, and he is very good at it.

This book has Max assigned to go to Sierra Leone in Africa, quickly find his target, take said individual out and get himself out ASAP. Max goes there and with the help of someone hired by his employers and begins the search for the target. He quickly finds out that he has become the target himself for his own group, and the circumstances are very far from his normal assignments.

Rebel forces are all around him and would definitely kill him and his guide if they catch them. Many villagers living in the area his target is to be found have been killed with no apparent reason for doing so and are a secondary puzzle for Max.

Max finds something very far from what he expected and must contend with those circumstances while seeking his target. The discovery is something beyond the ordinary and when presented makes an interesting novel, more engrossing than first blush might entail. The depiction of Max certainly provides the reader with the interest to see more books about him and that is, of course, the author’s intention.

A side light is the description of the Sierra Leone countryside and the jungle that comprises it. This surely means that Brabazon intends to fully research the areas that Max is sent into on his future assignments, making the novels revolve around the actual locales they are set in.

The series starts out with a fascinating background and well described protagonists which makes future Max McLean novels very appealing to those readers that will follow him.

1/19 Paul Lane

THE BREAK LINE by James Brabazon. Berkley (January 29, 2019). ISBN 978-0440001478. 368p.

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MALA VIDA by Marc Fernandez

January 28, 2019

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Molly Grogan, Translator

Fernandez has written one of the most damning exposes of a horror possibly perpetrated by the regime of Francisco Franco during his rule of Spain. Franco became the dictator of the Spanish Republic due to the victory of his side in the Spanish Civil war and ruled until his death in 1975. The novel is a fictionalized account of the murder of five individuals by one person and tied together as punishment for their role in the stealing infants from their mothers at birth.

The novel opens in present day Spain during a time of economic downturn. It centers on Diego Martin, a radio commentator, who is trying to build up interest in his radio show in order to keep his spot on the air. He decides to investigate the first murder and continues to look at the next four. The results of his investigations tie in these murders with the stealing of infants and selling them to highest bidders, a plot begun during the Franco years and continuing beyond.

A group of protesters has grown into a national organization attempting to push the Spanish government into a complete investigation of the infant stealing. Diego finds his murder investigation is related to the work of the protesters and uses his radio show to give them much needed publicity.

Fernandez spares no punches in describing the devastation brought to families upon realizing that their baby has been stolen from them at birth. These women and their families live a lifetime knowing what happened and not having the means to try and find their children. It is a novel that should resound throughout the world and cause outcries far beyond Spanish boundaries. A short portion included in the book indicates that the very same horror has also taken place in Argentina during the Peron era.

The novel is a short one, finished in one sitting, but undoubtedly leading to a feeling of outrage on the part of the reader that activities such as described are taking place in today’s world. The author has no plan to offer, but easily accomplishes the task of bringing to light a horror that should shock the civilized world.

1/19 Paul Lane

MALA VIDA by Marc Fernandez. Arcade (January 15, 2019). ISBN 978-1628727432. 240p.

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THE COMING STORM by Mark Alpert

January 26, 2019

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Alpert’s latest novel is in the general vein of 1984 in that it is a warning and a projection of what might happen to any country whose people don’t closely watch their governments. The premise is the Machiavellian mantra of Power tends to corrupt but absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely . With these factors in mind the book opens a few years into the future at a time when the United States is suffering from major storms, incredible flooding and other tragedies stemming from the world not paying attention to Global Warming and it’s consequences.

Violence and protests have developed as the people suffer from a lack of food, water, electricity and other basic necessities. In order to control these outbreaks the United States government has organized a genetically enhanced police force and forced citizens that are considered less desirable into controlled enclaves. Dr. Jenna Kahn, her father and her handicapped brother live in one of these enclaves. The story begins with a raid by the government police looking to arrest Kahn and showing no mercy to other inhabitants in the area. Jenna escapes from the soldiers but loses contact with her father and brother.

Alpert expertly describes this new era and makes his personal views quite well known. It is no problem to determine those present day individuals that characters in the book represent. A plan by the government to test the DNA of all citizens and the possibility of using airborne brain altering aerosols is discussed with plans to spread it are described. The novel utilizes sufficient action to keep the reader interested and sympathizing with people caught up in this brave new world.

The Coming Storm is not the first novel of it’s kind and will certainly not be the last. Will it stir people up to examine what is going on with their governments? Interesting question, no?

1/19 Paul Lane

THE COMING STORM by Mark Alpert. St. Martin’s Press (January 8, 2019). ISBN 978-1250065421. 336p.

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