July 14, 2021

From the publisher:

In New York Times bestselling author Jeff Abbott’s latest novel of riveting psychological suspense, an uneasy alliance forms as two widows delve into their husbands’ deadly and dangerous secrets—as they try to protect their own.

Henry North is a down-on-his-luck cybersecurity expert from New Orleans. Adam Zhang is the cofounder of one of Austin’s most successful venture capitalist firms. These two men didn’t know each other. They had never met. Yet they died together, violently, in a place neither had any business being.

When Henry doesn’t return from a business trip, his wife, Kirsten, panics—and then gets an anonymous phone call: “Your husband is dead in Austin.”

Flora Zhang knew her husband was keeping secrets. She suspected an affair, but she had decided she could forgive him for his weakness—until her husband ended up dead. And with no explanation for her husband’s murder, the police begin to suspect her.

Together, these two widows will face a powerful foe determined to write a false narrative about the murders. In doing so, neither Flora nor Kirsten will remain the women the world thought they were.

It’s a Jeff Abbott novel. It’s good, it’s engrossing it’s definitely an all-nighter. How to review it becomes the problem. The plot involves two women; the first is Kirsten North. She is happily married to Henry North who is a cyber security expert currently down on his luck. They live in New Orleans. Kirrsten in her own right is a consultant to the Tech Sector with a good reputation for digging out hard to obtain facts about companies her clients need information on for things like possible purchase or doing business with.

The other woman is Flora Zang married to Adam Zang who has an impeccable record of launching start up Tech companies. They live in Austin, Texas a city currently enjoying a major expansion with the arrival of many successful Tech companies. Flora’s problem is that Adam is married to the business and she seems to be number two wife in the relationship. Her current major interest lies in living a life dedicated to spending her husband’s fortune doing good deeds which would prove important in enhancing the business’s reputation.  She does love her husband and married him before he made his fortune.     

Action begins at a moment that Kirsten is readying herself to begin her day’s work. Henry is on a business trip and has indicated that he is going to New York. Her personal phone rings and since very few have the number she picks it up thinking that It is Henry forgetting something.    A strange voice, using a disguising app, tells her that her husband has been shot to death in Austin. After going through the thinking that the call is a bad joke, she decides to go to Austin and upon arrival finds that it is true. Henry is dead and has been killed along with Adam Zang in a warehouse owned by Zang Industries. In attempting to find out what happened to her husband she meets with Flora Zang and the two women find common cause in attempting to find out who killed their husbands and why.     

In typical Jeff Abbott fashion, the reader will head straight forward into the book and face a fascinating and changing set of facts before the ending is reached. A very bright note is that the author sets up future books featuring the two women and all that remains is to keep one’s eyes open for when they come out.  Five star – of course.     

7/2021 Paul Lane

AN AMBUSH OF WIDOWS by Jeff Abbott. Grand Central Publishing (July 6, 2021). ISBN: 978-1538719145. 352 pages.







CHINA by Edward Rutherfurd

May 31, 2021

From the publisher:

The internationally bestselling author of Paris and New York takes on an exhilarating new world with his trademark epic style in China: The Novel

Edward Rutherfurd has enthralled millions of readers with his grand, sweeping historical sagas that tell the history of a famous place over multiple generations. Now, in China: The Novel, Rutherfurd takes readers into the rich and fascinating milieu of the Middle Kingdom.

The story begins in 1839, at the dawn of the First Opium War, and follows Chinese history through Mao’s Cultural Revolution and up to the present day. Rutherfurd chronicles the rising and falling fortunes of members of Chinese, British, and American families, as they negotiate the tides of history. Along the way, in his signature style, Rutherfurd provides a deeply researched portrait of Chinese history and society, its ancient traditions and great upheavals, and China’s emergence as a rising global power. As always, we are treated to romance and adventure, heroines and scoundrels, grinding struggle and incredible fortunes.    

China: The Novel brings to life the rich terrain of this vast and constantly evolving country. From Shanghai to Nanking to the Great Wall, Rutherfurd chronicles the turbulent rise and fall of empires as the colonial West meets the opulent and complex East in a dramatic struggle between cultures and people.

Extraordinarily researched and majestically told, Edward Rutherfurd paints a thrilling portrait of one of the most singular and remarkable countries in the world.

This novel is a well researched venture into the period of about 1830 until the Boxer Revolution of 1900 in China. The author chooses several different families and individuals to frame his story on. These are characters that experience what was the Chinese culture during the time of their lives. Overall Rutherfurd utilizes the character of Cixi, the dowager empress, as the individual influencing events in the country both during her own lifetime and attempting to continue to do so after her death.       

The story opens with what were the Opium wars of the early 1800s in which England carried on a lucrative trade of selling opium to China and buying tea from them. The Chinese realizing that they were getting generations of dope addicts as the price being paid to allow England to actually pay for tea attempted to keep the British from bringing the narcotic into their home ports. With fortunes riding on continuing the opium sales battles were fought between the modern weapons of the English and easily defeated Chinese troops.   

Rutherfurd aptly shows a country with a rich history going back almost 5000 years with a population of a rich and also a destitute poor class. The path to wealth is mainly through entrance into some level of the ruling class and only minor possibilities through opening a successful business. One of the leading individuals is a man that faced with feeding his family decides to embark upon a path that would be impossible to conceive of by most men. He elects to become a eunuch in order to obtain work at the emperor’s palace where that condition is mandatory to hold a position. He consults his wife and his father getting their approval and goes ahead with the change. By a lucky occurrence he obtains the job of doing the nails of Cixi than the emperor’s concubine pleases her and continues on. He is dubbed “Lacquer Nail” the name that sticks with him permanently and is in a position to follow Cixi as she marries the emperor and in time assumes the role of dowager empress.   

In 1900 a rebellion breaks out looking to stop the many groups of foreigners from continuing to bleed the country. The initiators of the insurrection are known as Boxers due to their interest in the martial arts. The foreigners centered in the city of Peking group together for mutual defense in the British legation using small groups of soldiers from the countries residing in China to defend them. Word is sent to a combined army of troops sent to restore the safety of the people working in China as part of their legations to come to their rescue. The section of the novel dealing with the rebellion and the subsequent arrival of the rescue force is a very well done portrait of people facing a situation that they are not attuned to contending with.       

The book is a long one, but Rutherfurd’s ability to create a story and the people involved in it makes for one excellent read and a commanding portrait of a civilization not like that of most of the western world.

5/2021 Paul Lane

CHINA by Edward Rutherfurd. Doubleday (May 11, 2021). ISBN: 978-0385538930. 784 pages.







BASIL’S WAR by Stephen Hunter

May 22, 2021

A WWII Spy Thriller

From the publisher:

A British spy goes behind enemy lines to crack a secret code in this “highly entertaining World War II espionage thriller” (Seattle Times).

Basil St. Florian is an accomplished agent in the British Army, tasked with dozens of dangerous missions for crown and country across the globe. But his current mission, going undercover in Nazi-occupied France during World War II, might be his toughest assignment yet. He will be searching for an ecclesiastic manuscript that doesn’t officially exist, one that genius professor Alan Turing believes may hold the key to a code that could prevent the death of millions and possibly even end the war.

St. Florian isn’t the classic British special agent with a stiff upper lip―he is a swashbuckling, whisky-drinking cynic and thrill-seeker who resents having to leave Vivien Leigh’s bed to set out on his crucial mission. Despite these proclivities, though, Basil’s Army superiors know he’s the best man for the job, carrying out his espionage with enough charm and quick wit to make any of his subjects lower their guards.

Action-packed and bursting with WWII-era intrigue (much of which has basis in fact), Basil’s War is a classic espionage thriller from Pulitzer Prize-winning critic, essayist, and bestselling novelist Stephen Hunter.

Stephen Hunter is a successful author with a longtime background in the literary world. His main thrust are books involving the military art of sniping. He is gifted with an almost encyclopedic knowledge of weaponry which he has used to bring his novels several steps above other books about sniping and snipers. 

This current book is a change in focus and involves the exploits of Basil St Florian in action as a spy during World War II. Basil is in the language of another day a “rake” for his many encounters with women. He is bold, daring and has a great sense of humor. He has traveled several times from his home in England into France, a country conquered by the Nazi war machine and an area that might be used as a springboard for action against Britian. He has successfully completed several missions and we meet him as he begins another.     

In certain situations books are used as keys for secret codes. That is the message to be sent is tied to a mutually known book and the words are represented by location designations used by both parties. The difficulty level is very high since the same book must be used by both senders and receivers in order to decode the message. In his latest mission Basil must travel into enemy territory find a scroll written several hundred years ago, photograph certain portions and bring these photos back in order to be used to convince Russian dictator Joseph Stalin to shift a military position in order to avoid a massacre of his soldiers.     

In the course of the mission Basil meets Alan Turing, a man that led a group of mathematicians in discovering the key to the Nazi codes used in their transmission of orders. Turing and his group actually lived and worked on breaking codes during WWII. While the codes sought by Basil are not fact, the touch of adding Turing to the plot is a good one and helps validate the action.     

The almost blasé approach Hunter takes brings down the quality of the action described and I felt leaves the reader with a “hey what happened” feeling. If it is a book by Stephen Hunter I would pick up his next novel, but possibly return to awaiting others featuring the sniping format if Basil does not pick up the pace.

5/2021 Paul Lane

BASIL’S WAR by Stephen Hunter. Mysterious Press (May 4, 2021). ISBN: 978-1613162248. 288 pages.







THE GIRL WHO DIED by Ragnar Jonasson

May 20, 2021

From the publisher:

From Ragnar Jónasson, the award-winning author of the international bestselling Ari Thór series, The Girl Who Died is a standalone thriller about a young woman seeking a new start in a secluded village where a small community is desperate to protect its secrets.

Teacher Wanted At the Edge of the World

Una wants nothing more than to teach, but she has been unable to secure steady employment in Reykjavík. Her savings are depleted, her love life is nonexistent, and she cannot face another winter staring at the four walls of her shabby apartment. Celebrating Christmas and ringing in 1986 in the remote fishing hamlet of Skálar seems like a small price to pay for a chance to earn some teaching credentials and get her life back on track.

But Skálar isn’t just one of Iceland’s most isolated villages, it is home to just ten people. Una’s only students are two girls aged seven and nine. Teaching them only occupies so many hours in a day and the few adults she interacts with are civil but distant. She only seems to connect with Thór, a man she shares an attraction with but who is determined to keep her at arm’s length.

As darkness descends throughout the bleak winter, Una finds herself more often than not in her rented attic space―the site of a local legendary haunting―drinking her loneliness away. She is plagued by nightmares of a little girl in a white dress singing a lullaby. And when a sudden tragedy echoes an event long buried in Skálar’s past, the villagers become even more guarded, leaving a suspicious Una seeking to uncover a shocking truth that’s been kept secret for generations.

The author is an Icelandic citizen residing in Iceland with an excellent world-wide reputation.  The current novel is set in Iceland involving people that live there but showing that human emotions are similar all over the world. I can only describe it as a tight book starting slowly and building to a climax that is exactly right for the action found. Without dragging a verdict out this is a definite five star book and my recommendation to readers is just get ready to buy all forthcoming novels by the author.      

Una is a young woman living in the Icelandic capital city of Reykjavík. She barely makes a living there, has few friends and not many interests for her spare time. An ad appears in the newspaper asking for a teacher for a position teaching a small class in the remote village of Skalar located on the seacoast. The isolated village has only 10 people living in it.  Uma comes to the conclusion that she has nothing to lose, has a chance to make a guaranteed salary for easy work and accepts the job.     

The village is as thought; remote, isolated and the very essence of the phrase provincial. Her class consists of only two girls of different ages and she gets what amounts to free room. Looks good but she meets a lot of resistance from the people in town and is terrifyingly confronted by a ghost in the house she gets the room in. 

Jonasson continues to pull the reader into the action and finishes his novel with one of the most perfect endings I’ve read. An excellent read and for me an introduction to a talented author that I am pleased to have learned about.

5/2021 Paul Lane

THE GIRL WHO DIED by Ragnar Jonasson. Minotaur Books (May 4, 2021). ISBN: 978-1250793737. 320 pages.







LEGACY OF WAR by Wilbur Smith

May 18, 2021

Courtney Family Novels, Book 16

From the publisher:

A brand-new Courtney Series adventure.

The action-packed new book in the Courtney Series and the sequel to Courtney’s War.

The war is over, Hitler is dead – and yet his evil legacy lives on. Saffron Courtney and her beloved husband Gerhard only just survived the brutal conflict, but Gerhard’s Nazi-supporting brother, Konrad, is still free and determined to regain power. As a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse develops, a plot against the couple begins to stir. One that will have ramifications throughout Europe. . .

Further afield in Kenya, the last outcrop of the colonial empire is feeling the stirrings of rebellion. As the situation becomes violent, and the Courtney family home is under threat, Leon Courtney finds himself caught between two powerful sides – and a battle for the freedom of a country.

Legacy of War is a nail-biting story of courage, bravery, rebellion and war from the master of adventure fiction.

Wilbur Smith has long since established himself as one the foremost authors of our time. His huge legacy of novels has been built around excellent research as well as the gift of being a true wordsmith. Reading his books is always a fascinating adventure with journeys into history of his beloved Africa where he was born. He has used the device of featuring several families to populate his novels which move from ancient Egypt to modern times. His technique is to make all of his heroes and also his bad guys larger than life. The good guys usually experience all that befalls them with an attitude that prohibits doing the “wrong” thing regardless of what is done to do them harm. The bad guys are what you would expect – no principled scoundrels hell bent on doing evil to gain their own nefarious ends.      

Legacy of War utilizes Saffron Courtney and her husband Gerhard.  The two were featured in Courtney’s War, the book prior to this one set during the second World War. Saffron bravely traveled behind enemy lines for England to get information about enemy activity while Gerhard was a pilot in the German air force fighting in the invasion of Russia and the bloodbath that took place at Stalingrad. They are now married with two children and living in what is now Kenya working a huge farm area that is part of the Courtney holdings.     

Gerhard’s brother also lives in south Africa but has a background during the war which makes him a criminal and sought after by the Israeli Mossad to stand trial for his crimes. The first portion of the novel describes Gerhard participating in the chase after his brother with the need for justice outweighing family ties. There is another section devoted to descriptions of the Mau Mau, a native group that is looking, through violent rebellion, to correct their perceived inequities that allow whites to own land while native groups cannot. The violence of this group does take a strong stomach but the descriptions are taken from real life during the time they were active.     

Smith moves into a meeting by Saffron with Jomo Kenyatta a native who became the first black president of Kenya showcasing the entrance of equality between the two races living in the country with the Courtney’s accepting the situation as both a desired and natural occurrence in African history.

5/2021 Paul Lane

LEGACY OF WAR by Wilbur Smith. Zaffre (April 20, 2021). ISBN: 978-1499862355. 480 pages.







HER THREE LIVES by Cate Holahan

May 15, 2021

From the publisher:

Gaslight goes high-tech in USA Today bestselling author Cate Holahan’s new standalone thriller in which a family must determine who the real enemy is after a brutal home invasion breaks their trust in each other.

Her public life

Jade Thompson has it all. She’s an up-and-coming social media influencer, and she has a beautiful new home and a successful architect for a fiancé. But there’s trouble behind the scenes. To Greg’s children, his divorce from their mother and his new life can only mean a big mid-life crisis. To Jade, his suburban Connecticut upbringing isn’t an easy match with her Caribbean roots.

Her private life

A savage home invasion leaves Greg house-bound with a traumatic brain injury and glued to the live feeds from his ubiquitous security cameras. As the police investigate the crime and Greg’s frustration and rage grows, Jade begins to wonder what he may know about their attackers. And whether they are coming back.

Her secret life

As Greg watches Jade’s comings and goings, he becomes convinced that her behavior is suspicious and that she’s hiding a big secret.  The more he sees, the more he wonders whether the break-in was really a random burglary. And whether he’s worth more to Jade if he were dead than alive.

PopSugar’s Best Mysteries and Thrillers Books of April 2021

Cate Holahan has a tremendous gift for bringing characters she utilizes in her novels to vivid life for her readers. In her current novel, she places her characters into a plot that is as twisty and turny as any I’ve ever had the pleasure to read, making this book into a grab hold adventure into sleepless nights. 

Jade Thompson is a woman that has made a success of herself via the creation and building up an interesting blog involved in design details and sales of products in that area to an increasing number of interested readers. She has also just become engaged to Greg who is an extremely successful architect who has made himself wealthy via becoming involved with the design of big buildings. Greg is in the process of divorcing this wife of many years and has met and fallen in love with Jade. He has asked Jade to marry him with her accepting.     

Greg has two adult children who are not too thrilled with their father becoming engaged to a woman that is very close in age to his daughter and seemingly leaving their mother. The plot thickens when one night Jade and Greg are subjected to a home invasion. Greg suffers a hit to his head by one of the two robbers using a blunt instrument while Jade is hit in the stomach.  She has become pregnant and loses the baby as a result of the blow. She also is robbed of a very valuable ring she received as an engagement present.    

Holahan takes her readers on a rollercoaster ride as besides Jade and Greg, Jade’s mother and Greg’s adult children get involved in throwing around the whys and wherefores of what was the cause of the home invasion if it had anything to do with an engagement that apparently all felt was too soon and ill advised. Believe me when I state that readers will become dizzy from the myriad of  permutations and combinations involved. It will be an experience that will add to the enjoyment of the book and the expectation of reading future books by the author.

5/2021 Paul Lane

HER THREE LIVES by Cate Holahan. Grand Central Publishing (April 20, 2021). ISBN: 978-1538736340. 352 pages.








May 13, 2021

From the publisher:

A thriller that explores the truth or lies behind a teenage girl’s multiple personality disorder, from D.J. Palmer, the author of The New Husband.

Meet Ruby, who speaks with a British accent.

Then there’s Chloe, a perfectionist who strives for straight A’s in school.
And along comes Eve, who is spiteful and vicious.
All of them live inside Penny…
Or do they?

Penny Francone, age sixteen, is a murderer. Her guilt is beyond doubt: she was found alone in the victim’s apartment, covered in blood, holding the murder weapon. The victim’s identity and her secret relationship to Penny give Penny the perfect motive, sealing the deal. All the jury needs to decide now is where Penny will serve out her sentence. Will she be found not guilty by reason of insanity, as her lawyer intends to argue? Or will she get a life sentence in a maximum-security prison?
Already reeling from tragedy after the sudden passing of her beloved husband a few years before, now Grace is on her knees, grateful that Massachusetts doesn’t allow the death penalty.

As Penny awaits trial in a state mental hospital, she is treated by Dr. Mitchell McHugh, a psychiatrist battling demons of his own. Grace’s determination to understand the why behind her daughter’s terrible crime fuels Mitch’s resolve to help the Francone family. Together, they set out in search of the truth about Penny, but discover instead a shocking hidden history of secrets, lies, and betrayals that threatens to consume them all.

The perfect daughter. Is she fooling them all?

D.J. Palmer brings an extremely well researched novel on a theme rarely touched upon to his readers. The story concerns a young girl with multiple personalities that take turns dominating their host. 

Grace and her husband Arthur have two sons who have melded with their parents into a good family. As fate would have it, Grace, while walking in the park, comes upon a young girl that turns out to have been abandoned. The girl, Penny, has little memory of her past but seems to Grace to be a miracle and when the opportunity arises, she and her husband decide to adopt her. To help her regain her memory Penny is sent to various psychiatrists all of whom fail to recognize her symptoms.      

One day Penny learns that her birth mother has moved back near her and decides to visit her.  While there tragedy strikes and the police come finding Penny covered in blood, her birth mother dead as a result of multiple stab wounds and her fingerprints all over the knife found at the scene of the crime. The authorities decide to send Penny to a psychiatric state hospital rather than to prison for evaluation and there await trial for murder.   

Palmer describes conditions prevalent in the hospital where everyone is overworked and it is difficult to provide adequate help for the sick. Based on his research, Penny’s shifts into her other personalities and how they emerge with their own characteristics taking control. It is a fascinating study of conditions that have rarely been described, and when done so are not well illustrated. This is not the author’s first published book and it’s theme and depth certainly add to his reputation as a top tier writer.

NOTE: D.J. Palmer also writes as Daniel Palmer.

5/2021 Paul Lane

THE PERFECT DAUGHTER by D.J. Palmer. St. Martin’s Press (April 20, 2021). ISBN: 978-1250267924. 384 pages.







FIND YOU FIRST by Linwood Barclay

May 6, 2021

From the publisher:

The New York Times bestselling author of Elevator Pitch and master of psychological suspense returns with a riveting thriller in which the possible heirs of a dying tech millionaire are mysteriously being eliminated, one by one.

Find You First starts with a bang and ends with an even bigger one. . . . It’s the best book of his career.”  — Stephen King

Tech millionaire Miles Cookson has more money than he can ever spend, and everything he could dream of—except time. He has recently been diagnosed with a terminal illness, and there is a fifty percent chance that it can be passed on to the next generation. For Miles, this means taking a long hard look at his past . . .

Two decades ago, a young, struggling Miles was a sperm donor. Somewhere out there, he has kids—nine of them. And they might be about to inherit both the good and the bad from him—maybe his fortune, or maybe something much worse.

As Miles begins to search for the children he’s never known, aspiring film documentarian Chloe Swanson embarks on a quest to find her biological father, armed with the knowledge that twenty-two years ago, her mother used a New York sperm bank to become pregnant.

When Miles and Chloe eventually connect, their excitement at finding each other is overshadowed by a series of mysterious and terrifying events. One by one, Miles’s other potential heirs are vanishing—every trace of them wiped, like they never existed at all.

Who is the vicious killer—another heir methodically erasing rivals? Or is something even more sinister going on?

It’s a deadly race against time . . .

Miles Cookson has made himself a fortune via founding a highly successful tech company. He can afford anything and everything that he might want. Unfortunately, an exception has made its way into his life. He has been advised that he has a terminal illness that will take his life in a relatively short period of time. 

Faced with this devastating news Miles brings to mind that two decades ago and before the burgeoning of his successful career he went to a sperm bank and was paid to make a donation in order to help his financial status. Now with death facing him Miles realizes that he may have children fathered by his sperm. The horror of this is that there is a good chance that his DNA passed down to those offspring fathered by him, will cause his offspring to have a good chance of developing the disease that is going to kill him.     

Linwood Barclay develops a mesmerizing plot and a good book to dive into based on Miles finding out who the children born with him as the father and where they currently are residing. His searches for them are not as straight forward as they should be when it develops that someone is trying to kill off his children. The why behind the murders involves a carefully constructed plot and the warm emotions stemming from a recognition that the members of the group he fathered are actually his children.

Chloe Swanson, a member of those purported to be Miles’ children, is at first interested in how much she might collect from the very wealthy Miles. Her opinion changes as she gets to know him and she begins helping him with his search while developing a strong feeling towards him as a father figure that she did not have growing up.     

The novel is one that keeps the reader glued to the pages as most of Barclay’s books are. A good addition to the author’s well received works and one that will cause the reader to keep on the lookout for his next novel.

5/2021 Paul Lane

FIND YOU FIRST by Linwood Barclay. William Morrow (May 4, 2021). ISBN: 978-0062678317. 448 pages.







NORTHERN SPY by Flynn Berry

May 3, 2021

From the publisher:

“If you love a mystery, then you’ll devour [Northern Spy] . . . I loved this thrill ride of a book.”—Reese Witherspoon

“A chilling, gorgeously written tale…Berry keeps the tension almost unbearably high.” –The New York Times Book Review

The acclaimed author of Under the Harrow and A Double Life returns with her most riveting novel to date: the story of two sisters who become entangled with the IRA

A producer at the BBC and mother to a new baby, Tessa is at work in Belfast one day when the news of another raid comes on the air. The IRA may have gone underground in the two decades since the Good Friday Agreement, but they never really went away, and lately bomb threats, security checkpoints, and helicopters floating ominously over the city have become features of everyday life. As the news reporter requests the public’s help in locating those responsible for the robbery, security footage reveals Tessa’s sister, Marian, pulling a black ski mask over her face.

The police believe Marian has joined the IRA, but Tessa is convinced she must have been abducted or coerced; the sisters have always opposed the violence enacted in the name of uniting Ireland. And besides, Marian is vacationing on the north coast. Tessa just spoke to her yesterday.

When the truth about Marian comes to light, Tessa is faced with impossible choices that will test the limits of her ideals, the bonds of her family, her notions of right and wrong, and her identity as a sister and a mother. Walking an increasingly perilous road, she wants nothing more than to protect the one person she loves more fiercely than her sister: her infant son, Finn.

Riveting, atmospheric, and exquisitely written, Northern Spy is at once a heart-pounding story of the contemporary IRA and a moving portrait of sister- and motherhood, and of life in a deeply divided society.

A novel set in Northern Ireland during a period of violent action by the IRA in their attempts to force England out of their country and allow for home rule. Tessa and her sister Marian are women experiencing the constant danger of literally living in a war zone. Tessa is a producer for the BBC: Belfast branch, a single mother while her sister works as a paramedic.   

Action begins when Tessa sees a picture of her sister apparently taking part in a robbery of a gas station. Her first reaction is that it is not real – Marian was away on a diving holiday not mixed up in a crime. But sadly it is the truth when her sister contacts her and confesses that she has joined the IRA and has been active in it for several years.     

In a very well set up plot, Berry brings to life the lives of two independent women living in an area subject to the constant threat of war. Tessa is raising a son on the heels of a breakup from the boy’s father. She also holds a responsible job that must be worked at while her sister’s job forces her to attend horrific situations caring for grievously wounded people. The author’s handling of the events of the novel builds up in a crescendo taking the reader along on an ever accelerating pace towards the end of the book. 

I found myself wondering how can a normal life be possible for people involved in the background of an active revolution. The real answer is it can’t, but circumstances, as outlined in Berry’s novel can and certainly do force the two sisters to adapt to what they are caught up in. Their mother also lives in the area and while independent is a source of worry for Tessa and Marian.       

Flynn Berry’s first novel won the Edgar award for best first novel propelling her into the top tier of her profession.  “Northern Spy” does continue evidencing her keen sense of how to set up a mesmerizing plot using a gift for language that is the hallmark of good writers. Join me in awaiting her forthcoming books and spending some very pleasant sleepless nights wrapped up in her novels.

5/2021 Paul Lane

NORTHERN SPY by Flynn Berry. Viking (April 6, 2021). ISBN: 978-0735224995. 288 pages.







THE EAGLE AND THE VIPER by Loren D. Estleman

April 26, 2021

From the publisher:

Part high-octane suspense, part dire warning, The Eagle and the Viper frommultiple-winning novelist Loren D. Estleman reveals how close our world came―at the dawn of a promising new century―to total war.

It’s a time of improvised explosive devices, terrorist training camps, international assassins, and war on civilians. It’s Christmas Eve, 1800.

This much is history: On Christmas Eve, 1800, an “infernal machine” exploded in one of the busiest streets in Paris, France, destroying buildings and killing innocent civilians. It wasn’t the first attempt on the life of Napoleon Bonaparte, First Consul of the newly minted Republic of France.

This much is exclusive to our story: Upon the failure of the Christmas Eve plot, the conspiracy takes a new and more diabolical turn.

Posterity knows what became of Napoleon: He led France into a series of military adventures that ended in his defeat, followed by decades of peace. But this future hung on a precarious thread. One man can make history; another can change it.

An extremely well researched book based on a little-known event in the life of Napoleon Bonaparte. The man had recently been elected as First Consul of France during the latter period of the revolution. The threat of the guillotine was still prevalent in a country that was engrossed in attempting to wipe out all traces of royalty without any clear idea of what form of government should eventually prevail. What was termed an “infernal machine,” a huge explosion, was set off on one of the busiest streets in Paris. It was exploded on Christmas Eve 1800 and construed to be an attempt to assassinate Napoleon.     

Estleman describes the France of the moment, a virtual police state with the head Policeman able to assume complete power over the nation indicating that he does so in his role dictated by The First Consul for the good of the country.  The author also postulates a professional assassin termed “The Viper” and hired by members of the government to kill Napoleon.  The Viper’s movements to infiltrate the country and complete his mission to kill The First Consul are outlined in the novel.  There was no indication of such an individual actually existing at that time, but the author presents a very readable novel detailing seizure of power and blame accruing to many places with blame on the assassination attempt.  A forward does indicate that Estleman might be using his book as a vehicle to alert people to the damage that could be done if the truth is hidden and falsehoods take its place.  The act is character assassination and certainly might be a weapon used in changing the image of person or persons that are deemed to be hindering the paths of others from their goals.

4/2021 Paul Lane

THE EAGLE AND THE VIPER by Loren D. Estleman. Thomas & Mercer (March 1, 2021). ISBN: 978-1542023863. 336 pages.