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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HER ONE MISTAKE by Heidi Perks

January 25, 2019

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Heidi Perks brings us an intricate psychological thriller that will keep the reader both riveted to the book and constantly guessing about what is really going on. The opening segment is perfectly formatted to grab the reader and cause him or her to become fully engrossed and following events described with bated breath. Charlotte is planning to take her three children to the fair for a full day’s outing when her friend Harriet asks her to take her daughter Alice with her. Thinking that one more child within the confines of a supervised fair will be little problem Charlotte agrees.

The children are enjoying themselves, running from one ride to the next so that when they come to the Ferris wheel Charlotte has no qualms about asking her 10 year old son Jack to keep an eye on everyone. She takes a break to glance at the e-mails on her phone. When the children come running out of the ride Alice is not with them. A frantic search ensues helped by many other people and eventually the police. No Alice; she has disappeared and possibly kidnapped by person or persons unknown.

As the days unfold with no trace of Alice it is Charlotte that bears the brunt of the criticism for losing the little girl. Her friends don’t contact her anymore and one newspaper reporter insinuates that she was lost in Facebook while Alice was carried off. The time goes on with a horror entering into the picture. The dead body of a young boy kidnapped about a year prior to these events is found and Harriet and her husband fear the worst with possibly the same kidnapper involved.
Ms. Perks builds the characters of Charlotte, Harriet and Harriet’s husband in a way that the reader can sympathize with these people subjected to a kidnapping of a child and the distinct possibility that a death has occurred.

Needless to say, the novel is a mesmerizing visit to a situation that is impossible to visualize if occurring close by. Very well done.

1/19 Paul Lane

HER ONE MISTAKE by Heidi Perks. Gallery Books (January 8, 2019). ISBN  978-1501194221. 320p.

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THE CURRENT by Tim Johnston

January 22, 2019

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A captivating novel about two murders 10 years apart and how they are intertwined, tearing up the people living in a small Minnesota town.

Caroline Price and Audrey Sutter are two young women going to the same University. They have become good friends and take to sharing their experiences and confiding confidential matters to each other. When Christmas and New Year’s break comes up, circumstances place them together in Caroline’s car driving to their respective homes which are fairly close together.

Caught up in a huge snow blizzard the two stop at a roadside fast food store in Iowa to get some coffee and donuts. Audrey, going into the store, is attacked by two men in a rape attempt. She is saved by Caroline who runs inside and uses mace to stave off the attackers. Dashing out and meaning to run away from the attackers they drive in a completely unsafe manner for the conditions caused by the snow.

When stopping to get their bearings their car is pushed by another car coming up behind them into an iced over river, breaking through the ice and sinking into the fast flowing water that is underneath. Caroline is killed while Audrey miraculously survives and returns home to the Minnesota town she lives in with her father. The driver of the other car is sought for the crime which brings back memories of a similar murder that happened ten years earlier. That murder was never solved although suspicion forced a young man to flee the area.

Johnston utilizes a writing style that fully describes the actions in the book in a manner that keeps the novel moving rapidly, portrays the characters both via describing their actions and having them also speak at the same time. It is a style that causes a good novel to become mesmerizing and the reader totally captivated.

The ending is a perfect capstone for the book, but is by no means a fairy tale one and does not set the groundwork for a sequel. An excellent narrative which will cause readers to eagerly await the next book by Johnston.

1/19 Paul Lane

THE CURRENT by Tim Johnston. Algonquin Books (January 22, 2019). ISBN 978-1616206772. 416p.

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NO EXIT by Taylor Adams

January 19, 2019

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Darby Thorne, a young college student, has been called by her sister to rush home in order to see her mother before the lady passes away.  We meet up with Darby as she is caught in an immense snow blizzard while driving into the Colorado mountains to get to her mother in time to say goodbye. She happens upon a rest area and is forced by the weather to drive into it and take shelter with four other people in the area’s building.

Anxious to tell her sister that she was stopped by the storm, she leaves the building in an attempt to find a source of a possible signal on her cell phone.

Unable to get a signal to use her phone and while walking back to the shelter, she happens upon the vehicle of one of the other people caught by the storm.  Looking through the window by chance she sees a young girl held in a cage on the inside. The realization that she has stumbled on a kidnapping galvanizes her thoughts and succeeding actions in attempting to free the captive and gives us one of the most exciting novels I’ve read in a long time.

Which of the four people currently in the rest area is the kidnapper and how Darby can get help from the others in effecting the girl’s release is the crux of the matter. Adams moves from one set of circumstances to another in developing the situation for the reader and arriving at the conclusion.

We are drawn into the story and along with Darby change our minds about what is happening and where it will go several times in enjoying a well done novel. A definite incentive for any reader to be looking for other books by the author.

1/19 Paul Lane

NO EXIT by Taylor Adams. William Morrow (January 15, 2019). ISBN 978-0062875655. 352p.

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THE PERFECT LIAR by Thomas Christopher Greene

January 18, 2019

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The novel is a perfect portrait of two people married to each other and facing a major crisis in their lives. First there is Susannah, a young and still very beautiful woman. She had been married, quite happily to a man that was older than her. He became the father of a boy with her but unfortunately passed away shortly after the child’s birth.

Susannah has the luck to attract an interesting and intelligent young man at a party that her boss throws for members of the New York art community. Max heard about the affair and decides to try and crash it in order to get contacts to further a career he is working on in the art world.

Susannah is helping her boss handle the details of the party, sees Max and makes a play for him. which turns out to be successful. Than with the help from her boss Max advances his career and manages to get a good teaching position with a Vermont based university. The couple and the boy are happy to leave New York and move to the area with the added luck of finding a beautiful home near the school.

A perfect life becomes opened to them when it is suddenly spoiled by the appearance of a strange note pinned to the front door. The note is not addressed nor signed but says,”I KNOW WHO YOU ARE.” Both Max and Susannah are devastated by the note since each has secrets that they want to keep to themselves and not share with anyone else. The novel brings the reader into the minds of both and develops a scenario that keeps the reader glued to the book awaiting the answers. These are not evident, although logical based upon the clues developed during the read.

1/19 Paul Lane

THE PERFECT LIAR by Thomas Christopher Greene. St. Martin’s Press (January 15, 2019). ISBN 978-1250128218. 288p.

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THE NIGHT AGENT by Matthew Quirk

January 17, 2019

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Peter Sutherland’s father was an agent with the FBI and Peter always looked up to him, wanting nothing less than to join that elite group when he was old enough. Unfortunately, his father’s reputation was destroyed when he was suspected of selling secrets to the Russians. The man’s place within the FBI was destroyed, his reputation tarnished and he eventually died with the shame of the disgrace hanging over him.

Peter still manages to enter the bureau but finds that the taint of his father’s alleged crime hangs heavily on him. It appears that he does not have a chance for any sort of a meaningful promotional opportunity when he is tapped to work in the White House situation room, manning a phone during the evening. His job consists of answering the phone if it ever rings, listening for a special code phrase and passing the call onto one of his two supervisors.

Bored to tears with the complete inactivity Peter still comes to work every night he is assigned to until one night at l:05 a.m the phone rings. A woman identifying herself as Rose, and completely rattled, indicates that her Aunt and Uncle have been killed and the murderer is still in the house. Peter reacts quickly, giving Rose instructions on getting away from the house, meanwhile setting up her rescue via the Secret Service and the D.C. police.

By involving himself with Rose’s predicament, Peter is thrown into a conspiracy that is years old and reaches to the very top of the U.S. government. To save his country Peter must begin by bending all rules and coming to the realization that anyone; even the U.S. president, could be a mole involved in destroying the government. Quirk shifts gears frequently and the reader will change opinions often. Even Rose, with whom Peter manages to begin a romance, is suspect due to her overly calm attitude and apparently more than professional reactions to events.

Character portrayal is well developed by the author, and the reader will get to know all the personnel, their thoughts, reactions and emotions to events being described. Peter is not superman; he can be hurt, could even be killed and wonders if his straying from policy will do more harm than good for him. I have had the good fortune to have read other Matthew Quirk novels in the past; all are engrossing, well done with plots and events built in that stand out and make sure that his books are sought after. I am certainly on line for his next outing and have no qualms about recommending the same to any reader looking for a great read.

1/19 Paul Lane

THE NIGHT AGENT by Matthew Quirk. William Morrow (January 15, 2019). ISBN 978-0062875464. 432p.

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