THE DROWNING KIND by Jennifer McMahon

April 25, 2021

From the publisher:

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Invited and The Winter People comes a chilling new novel about a woman who returns to the old family home after her sister mysteriously drowns in its swimming pool…but she’s not the pool’s only victim.

Be careful what you wish for.

When social worker Jax receives nine missed calls from her older sister, Lexie, she assumes that it’s just another one of her sister’s episodes. Manic and increasingly out of touch with reality, Lexie has pushed Jax away for over a year. But the next day, Lexie is dead: drowned in the pool at their grandmother’s estate. When Jax arrives at the house to go through her sister’s things, she learns that Lexie was researching the history of their family and the property. And as she dives deeper into the research herself, she discovers that the land holds a far darker past than she could have ever imagined.

In 1929, thirty-seven-year-old newlywed Ethel Monroe hopes desperately for a baby. In an effort to distract her, her husband whisks her away on a trip to Vermont, where a natural spring is showcased by the newest and most modern hotel in the Northeast. Once there, Ethel learns that the water is rumored to grant wishes, never suspecting that the spring takes in equal measure to what it gives.

A haunting, twisty, and compulsively readable thrill ride from the author who Chris Bohjalian has dubbed the “literary descendant of Shirley Jackson,” The Drowning Kind is a modern-day ghost story that illuminates how the past, though sometimes forgotten, is never really far behind us.


Jennifer McMahon’s latest book is not at all surprising – a horror story. She has written in this genre for many years, and been quite successful in scaring the heck out of her readers. Pleased to inform the prospective readers that her writing continues with the same scary format so be warned. Don’t sit down at night with no one else home.     

The story flips back and forth between two generations about fifty years apart. It tells about two women subjected to the same horror and how they deal with it. The connection between them becomes apparent during a well contrived ending.   

Jax is the women living in the present with the occupation of social worker. We meet her at the point of having to rush back to her girlhood home when she is told that her sister Alexis (Lexie) has died. The two have been estranged for quite a while due to Lexie’s pushing her away and her death due to drowning is sudden and unexpected.       

Ethel Monroe is a 37-year-old newlywed in 1929 and desperately wanting to have a baby. Her husband takes her on a trip to Vermont where a natural spring is showcased by a new, very modern hotel. Her husband is a doctor who can practice medicine where he likes, and to please his new wife they move up to the area where the hotel and the spring are close.     

The two women are both affected by the spring, a lake and events surrounding it.  McMahon has the knack of building her stories up slowly but surely and reaching a crescendo for her readers. Where the horror comes in to the story is the plot of the book and a logical and frightening circumstance that makes “The Drowning Kind” another Jennifer McMahon excellent read.

4/2021 Paul Lane

THE DROWNING KIND by Jennifer McMahon. Gallery/Scout Press (April 6, 2021). ISBN: 978-1982153922. 336 pages.

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A GAMBLING MAN by David Baldacci

April 21, 2021

An Archer Novel, Book 2

From the publisher:

Aloysius Archer, the straight-talking World War II veteran fresh out of prison, returns in this riveting new thriller from #1 New York Times bestselling author David Baldacci.

The 1950s are on the horizon, and Archer is in dire need of a fresh start after a nearly fatal detour in Poca City. So Archer hops on a bus and begins the long journey out west to California, where rumor has it there is money to be made if you’re hard-working, lucky, criminal—or all three.

Along the way, Archer stops in Reno, where a stroke of fortune delivers him a wad of cash and an eye-popping blood-red 1939 Delahaye convertible—plus a companion for the final leg of the journey, an aspiring actress named Liberty Callahan who is planning to try her luck in Hollywood. But when the two arrive in Bay Town, California, Archer quickly discovers that the hordes of people who flocked there seeking fame and fortune landed in a false paradise that instead caters to their worst addictions and fears.

Archer’s first stop is a P.I. office where he is hoping to apprentice with a legendary private eye and former FBI agent named Willie Dash. He lands the job, and immediately finds himself in the thick of a potential scandal: a blackmail case involving a wealthy well-connected politician running for mayor that soon spins into something even more sinister. As bodies begin falling, Archer and Dash must infiltrate the world of brothels, gambling dens, drug operations, and long-hidden secrets, descending into the rotten bones of a corrupt town that is selling itself as the promised land—but might actually be the road to perdition, and Archer’s final resting place.


David Baldacci is one of the top authors in today’s literary world. His writings encompass a myriad of plots and protagonists. The current novel has all the earmarks of the Dashiell Hammett days when his character Sam Spade born in the classic, “The Maltese Falcon,” became the model for the tough as nails private detective which became a norm for the genre. Looks like Baldacci is entering into this field with the second book featuring Aloysius Archer. 

This novel is apparently a means of setting Archer up a position as a private detective in a firm doing business in Bay Town California. Archer is a veteran of World War II, just four years in the past of the time of this book and having spent some time in prison along the way.     

Archer has corresponded with a private detective working in Bay Town who has indicated he would be willing to talk to him and see if something can be worked out in terms of a job.  Traveling west Archer makes a stop in Reno where he picks up some cash, an exclusive auto and a beautiful young lady who hitches a ride with him in order to try her luck in finding a job as an actress in Hollywood. Arriving in Bay Town, Archer meets the private eye he has set out to talk to: an ex FBI agent: Willie Dash. No surprise that Archer is started working a case as a trial and Liberty Callahan, the girl that hitched a ride with him, is found to be a very talented performer quickly getting a job in Bay Town as well.      

The case Archer is brought into proves to be one affecting the entire area with all sorts of chicanery going on. The ending is no surprise nor is the fact that future Archer novels are in the works. I freely admit that I look forward to anything that David Baldacci writes and will pick them up and devour them. If it is the next Archer book, I won’t quibble if another emanating from his mind comes in before Archer’s reappearance. I’ll read that first and recommend it to the large group that I know is with me in seeking out Baldacci’s works.

4/2021 Paul Lane

A GAMBLING MAN by David Baldacci. Grand Central Publishing (April 20, 2021). ISBN: 978-1538719671. 448 pages.

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RED WIDOW by Alma Katsu

April 19, 2021

From the publisher:

An exhilarating spy thriller written by an intelligence veteran about two women CIA agents whose paths become intertwined around a threat to the Russia Division–one that’s coming from inside the agency.

Lyndsey Duncan worries her career with the CIA might be over. After lines are crossed with another intelligence agent during an assignment, she is sent home to Washington on administrative leave. So when a former colleague–now Chief of the Russia Division–recruits her for an internal investigation, she jumps at the chance to prove herself. Lyndsey was once a top handler in the Moscow Field Station, where she was known as the “human lie detector” and praised for recruiting some of the most senior Russian officials. But now, three Russian assets have been exposed–including one of her own–and the CIA is convinced there’s a mole in the department. With years of work in question and lives on the line, Lyndsey is thrown back into life at the agency, this time tracing the steps of those closest to her.

Meanwhile, fellow agent Theresa Warner can’t avoid the spotlight. She is the infamous “Red Widow,” the wife of a former director killed in the field under mysterious circumstances. With her husband’s legacy shadowing her every move, Theresa is a fixture of the Russia Division, and as she and Lyndsey strike up an unusual friendship, her knowledge proves invaluable. But as Lyndsey uncovers a surprising connection to Theresa that could answer all of her questions, she unearths a terrifying web of secrets within the department, if only she is willing to unravel it….


The very versatile Alma Katsu publishes another novel different than her previous works. This book deals with the American spy agency the CIA and like her other books, shows a good deal of research to go behind the scenes and realistically tell the story. Lyndsey Duncan, a longtime employee of the agency is returning to CIA headquarters in Washington from a field assignment with a cloud hanging over her head. Her sin was having an affair with a member of another intelligence agency: a man that worked for England’s MI5. She does expect to either be fired or find that her career is over with the CIA and being pigeonholed for her remaining years with the agency.     

Much to Lyndsey’s pleasant surprise she is asked by a former colleague, now the head of the Russian division, to handle an internal investigation. She was once stationed in Moscow and successfully “ran” a senior Russian official and her expertise is seen to be of use in the search. The investigation she is tasked with has to do with the unmasking of several assets in Russia giving rise to the logical supposition that there is a mole in the department.     

Lyndsey meets Theresa Warner whom she remembers from years ago and is currently working on situations for the Moscow division. Theresa’s husband, also a CIA employee was killed in the field several years ago under mysterious circumstances. The two form a friendship with Lyndsey finding that Theresa is somehow mixed up in the “mole” situation. The ingredients of the situation involving both women make for an interesting story and a satisfying read. 

4/2021 Paul Lane

RED WIDOW by Alma Katsu. G.P. Putnam’s Sons (March 23, 2021). ISBN: 978-05255394140. 352 pages.

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THE BEIRUT PROTOCOL by Joel C. Rosenberg

April 13, 2021

A Marcus Ryker Series Political and Military Action Thriller, Book 4

From the publisher:

From the New York TimesUSA Today, and Publishers Weekly bestselling author!

A game-changing peace treaty between Israel and the Saudis is nearly done.

The secretary of state is headed to the region to seal the deal.

And Special Agent Marcus Ryker is leading an advance trip along the Israeli-Lebanon border, ahead of the secretary’s arrival.

But when Ryker and his team are ambushed by Hezbollah forces, a nightmare scenario begins to unfold. The last thing the White House can afford is a new war in the Mideast that could derail the treaty and set the region ablaze. U.S. and Israeli forces are mobilizing to find the hostages and get them home, but Ryker knows the clock is ticking.

When Hezbollah realizes who they’ve captured, no amount of ransom will save them―they’ll be transferred to Beirut and then to Tehran to be executed on live television.

In the fourth installment of Rosenberg’s gripping new series, Marcus Ryker finds himself in the most dangerous situation he has ever faced―captured, brutalized, and dragged deep behind enemy lines.

Should he wait to be rescued? Or try to escape? How? And what if his colleagues are too wounded to run?

This is the CIA’s most valuable operative as you have never seen him before.


Joel C. Rosenberg is the author of 16 novels, the majority set in a Middle East background.  He has an uncanny knack of hitting upon situations in that region that that are in the process of occurring or shortly do take place. His current novel, although published with the situation in place was undoubtedly written prior to the epic signing of peace agreements between Israel and previous enemies of theirs. These accords are, therefore, prophetic in nature although certainly based on the author’s close knowledge of regional shifts.     

Marcus Ryker is the main protagonist in the novel, and an individual that has appeared previously in four of Rosenberg’s books. The story opens with Ryker leading a small force out of Israel reconnoitering the border with Lebanon in preparation for the forthcoming visit of the U.S. president’s envoy in order to take part in the signing of the negotiated peace accords.  They have not crossed the border out of Israel but are attacked by a contingent of Hezbollah soldiers coming from Lebanon. Most of the accompanying Israeli troops are killed in the attack and Marcus, his assistant, and an Israeli minor officer are taken prisoner. The attack and the abductions are seemingly without reason with both the Israelis and Lebanese authorities blindsided by the attack and the kidnappings.     

By coincidence at the same time as the attack the supreme leader of Iran passes away from the cancer he has been fighting with infighting among the ruling committee beginning to shape up to name the successor. What does Iran and it’s changing of rulers have to do with the kidnapping is a basic part of the reasons for that happening. Other factors involved in the unfolding events are first that Marcus’ assistant is a female and certainly in danger of being raped and the Israeli minor official is the nephew of the Prime Minister. And there is another coincidence involved when one of the Hezbollah soldiers taking part in the raid turns out to be the younger brother of one of the main officers of that group.     

Marcus and his two companions are subjected to beatings and torture to obtain any information they may have. Certainly, if Hezbollah knew of Marcus’ true identify they would publicly execute him or even sell him to Iran for their public trial and subsequent execution.  And bringing the Israeli Prime Minister to a trial would be devastating for that country. The group was prepared for these eventualities and had false IDs ready. The Hezbollah are led to believe that they have three Americans in their hands all employees of the State Department.  Thinking possibly to have sold their captives as Israelis the price goes up when it is thought that they now have three Americans to barter.     

Rosenberg has given his readers one continuous adrenaline rush from the start with the capture by terrorists to an ending which clearly sets up the next book by the author. An all-night read – of course how could it be anything but.

4/2021 Paul Lane

THE BEIRUT PROTOCOL by Joel C. Rosenberg. Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (March 9, 2021). ISBN: 978-1496437891. 364 pages.

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WIN by Harlan Coben

March 31, 2021

In this #1 New York Times bestselling thriller from Harlan Coben, a dead man’s secrets fall into the hands of a vigilante antihero—drawing him down a dangerous road.

Over twenty years ago, the heiress Patricia Lockwood was abducted during a robbery of her family’s estate, then locked inside an isolated cabin for months. Patricia escaped, but so did her captors — and the items stolen from her family were never recovered. 

Until now. On the Upper West Side, a recluse is found murdered in his penthouse apartment, alongside two objects of note: a stolen Vermeer painting and a leather suitcase bearing the initials WHL3. For the first time in years, the authorities have a lead — not only on Patricia’s kidnapping, but also on another FBI cold case — with the suitcase and painting both pointing them toward one man.

Windsor Horne Lockwood III — or Win, as his few friends call him — doesn’t know how his suitcase and his family’s stolen painting ended up with a dead man. But his interest is piqued, especially when the FBI tells him that the man who kidnapped his cousin was also behind an act of domestic terrorism — and that the conspirators may still be at large. The two cases have baffled the FBI for decades, but Win has three things the FBI doesn’t: a personal connection to the case; an ungodly fortune; and his own unique brand of justice. 


The very versatile Harlan Coben presents a new character in his latest book. He uses his Myron Bolitar series of novels as a point of departure to give life to Windsor Home Lockwood III. or Win as he is called. Win had the good fortune to be born a member of the old money super rich crowd. He has no need to work but has kept himself busy and one of his skills is knowledge of most of the unarmed offensive techniques that exist including karate, Jiu Jitsu and others. A veritable walking weapon but not a bully. He counts Myron as one of his good friends and there are enough references to  Bolitar and his sayings and opinions to solidify the relationship. Myron is an ex-basketball player who has become a sports agent and continually finds himself involved in solving murders for his clients. The initial novel with Win puts him into a similar position having to investigate not only murder but decades old disappearances of people.     

Twenty years ago Win’s cousin Patricia Lockwood was abducted during a home robbery of her house and kept in a remote cabin for several months subject to constant rape. She managed to escape but neither the attackers nor the items they stole during the robbery were ever found. Fast forward to the present when a rich recluse was found murdered in his upscale westside Manhattan apartment. When the police arrive, they find a painting by Vermeer and a leather suitcase both traced to Win Lockwood. He decides to look into the situation and finds himself involved with the disappearance of six people and his cousin’s kidnapping all occurring at the same time about twenty years ago.     

The novel utilizes Win as the sole narrator and he is given a wisecracking personality as well as a showcase for the wisdom of Myron Bolitar, who does not appear but is referenced several times. I’m in the position of being a fan of the author reading everything he writes. I therefore look forward to Win joining Harlan Coben’s list of go to characters and getting his share of adventure either with or without Myron.

3/2021 Paul Lane

WIN by Harlan Coben. Grand Central Publishing (March 16, 2021). ISBN: 978-1538748213. 384 pages.

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INFINITE by Brian Freeman

March 12, 2021

From the publisher:

From bestselling author Brian Freeman comes an explosive new psychological thriller that pushes the limits of reality as we know it.

One rainy night, the unthinkable happens: Dylan Moran’s car plunges off the road into a raging river, his beautiful wife drowning as he struggles to shore.

In the aftermath, through his grief, Dylan experiences sudden, strange visions: wherever he goes, he’s haunted by glimpses of himself. Dylan initially chalks it up to trauma, but that changes when he runs into a psychiatrist who claims he’s her patient. She says he has been undergoing a unique hypnotherapy treatment built on the idea that with every choice, he creates an infinite number of parallel universes.

Now those parallel universes are unlocked―and Dylan’s doppelgänger has staked a claim to his world. Can Dylan use these alternate realities to get a second chance at the life that was stolen from him? Or will he lose himself…to himself?


Brian Freeman has proven himself a very versatile author with novels to his credit covering a wide variety of themes. He is a writer who is at the very top of his game and with Infinite continues to retain his place with his many readers. 

The book moves into two distinct areas. One is that of a fascinating psychological story and the other into a theme that is science fiction at its best. The science fiction part is that of the existence of parallel worlds running concurrently with all others. That is the lives of the inhabitants constantly touch on all possibilities that may present themselves. If a person is struck by a car in one existence in another the accident does not occur and events proceed in both worlds dependent upon what has happened. The number of parallel worlds that exist are infinite and always expanding to cover event changes.     

Dylan Moran experiences the horrible situation of his wife dying in an auto accident occurring in a major storm. Very much in love with her Dylan allows himself to be drawn into the theory of alternate worlds when he meets a woman on the street who claims that she is his psychiatrist and has introduced him to her work on the existence of multi universes. He does not know the woman and has no recollection of ever meeting her but latches onto the prospect of finding a world where his wife has survived the accident.     

The reader is quickly drawn into Dylan’s transfer into different worlds searching for his wife. The wide-ranging action is handled very well by the author with his readers glued to a novel that is the very essence of an all-nighter that keeps them reading until a very logical ending is reached. Five stars of course and leaving his readers ready and willing to get his next book as soon as published.

3/2021 Paul Lane

INFINITE by Brian Freeman. Thomas & Mercer (March 1, 2021). ISBN: 978-1542023863. 336 pages.

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THE COPPER ROAD: Beyond the Promise by Richard Buxton

February 12, 2021

Shire’s Union, Book 2

From the publisher:

Shire is far, far from home, his old life in Victorian England a fading memory. To keep a promise to his childhood love, he’s sailed an ocean and battled through war-torn America.

He’s kept his promise, but now Clara’s pushing him away.
The war won’t let him go.

Fighting for the Union and his friends, Shire must survive the brutal campaign for Atlanta and imagine a future without her.

After a violent end to a cruel marriage, Clara is free from her husband but not from his ghost. All that is left to her is Comrie, her home in the Tennessee hills. But the war relentlessly steals away its treasures and its people.

Tod, a captured Rebel, escapes in Pennsylvania. His adventures on the roads and rivers back to his regiment cast the Civil War in a new light. Does he still have the will to fight?

Three young lives become wrapped in the Rebels’ desperate need for copper. Friendships, loyalty and love will be tested beyond breaking point. Shire has new promises to keep.

The Copper Road is the second novel from award winning writer Richard Buxton. Book one of Shire’s Union, Whirligig, was shortlisted for the Rubery International Book Award.


Richard Buxton who is not a citizen of the United States nor resides there gives us an extremely well-researched novel set in the final months of the Civil war that engulfed the U.S. in the 1860s. A slight kinship is to the Stephen Crane The Red Badge of Courage which dealt with a young soldier finding the courage to go into combat. The difference in the books is that Buxton presents combat as a horror involving killing in large quantities with dead and maimed men spread out over what are just killing fields. There is nothing noble about the death depicted in his novel.   

Shire is a young man that has followed Clara, a childhood friend of his, from England to the United States in order to care for her.  Clara has married and left for America to be with her new husband, a man not exactly enamored by his prospective father-in-law and also Shire. Due to circumstances Shire finds himself a soldier fighting for the north in the Civil war raging when he arrives.  At the same time, Clara’s new husband has been killed in the war placing his widow as head of property he owns in the state of Tennessee.      

A third character, Tod, enters the picture as he is escaping from a Yankee prison of war train taking Confederate prisoners to incarceration. The novel tells the stories of the three principal characters as their lives interwind in the midst of the war.  Tod and Shire somehow meet in the midst of combat, each fighting for a different army and immediately form a liking for each other which brings them together over the near future. Clara and Tod also meet when both are passengers on a steamboat and are drawn into a sexual encounter which has bearing later on.     

Allowing for the literary license which depends on farfetched coincidences to occur at the proper times Buxton’s book is an interesting read. It is not an all-night draw due to several over-long descriptions of different situations but is a novel that is sufficiently interesting for the well-done descriptions of actual military events of the war.

2/2021 Paul Lane

THE COPPER ROAD: Beyond the Promise by Richard Buxton. Ocoee Publishing (July 23, 2020). ISBN: 978-0995769335. 442 pages.

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TWENTY by James Grippando

February 10, 2021

Jack Swyteck Novel, Book 17

From the publisher:

Jack Swyteck and his family are caught in the crossfire after a deadly school shooting claims twenty casualties—Florida’s fifth mass shooting in as many years—in this provocative and timely thriller from Harper Lee Prize–winner James Grippando that touches on some of the most contentious issues roiling America today.

It is the message every parent of a school-age child fears: “Active Shooter on Campus.” 

Jack Swyteck is at his office when he receives the emergency text from Riverside Day School. Both his daughter, Righley, and his wife, FBI agent Andie Henning, are in danger. Andie is in the school’s rec center when she hears the fire alarms, then loud popping noises and screams coming from the hallway. A trained law-enforcement officer, Andie knows she’s supposed to stay locked down inside the room. But Righley is in her kindergarten classroom and Andie must get her to safety.

The tragedy prompts mass hysteria—and dangerous speculation. The police haven’t identified the shooter, but they find a handgun on the school grounds registered to a parent, a Muslim man named Amir Khoury. News of the gun and its owner leaks and quickly goes viral. Within minutes Al Qaeda claims responsibility. Andie is shocked—Amir is married to her friend, Lilly, a WASP whose bloodline goes back to the American Revolution. 

When Xavier, Amir and Lilly’s oldest child and an eighteen-year-old senior at Riverside confesses to the crime, the local community’s anti-Muslim fervor explodes to levels unseen since 9/11. Terrified for her son’s life, Lilly asks Jack to step in. A seasoned defense attorney with a passion to see justice done, he’s taken on plenty of complicated cases. Xavier’s, however, is not one he’s inclined to take—until an old friend who lost his daughter in the shooting tells him that he must.  

With the public calling for blood and prosecutors confident their case is air tight, Jack must unearth the Khourys’ family secrets in order to expose the shocking truth and save his client from certain death. But he may not be able to save everyone—including himself.


Twenty is the 17th novel James Grippando has published featuring Jack Swyteck and his family as the centers of the story. The title of the book is a reference to the twentieth anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, events that forced the U.S. and its allies to begin a war against radical terrorism. I came away from reading this novel with the impression that Grippando, definitely a top-tier author of books, has somehow surpassed himself coming out with the gripping read to top all gripping reads.

The story begins with a mass shooting at a private school in Miami, and one that is attended by Swyteck’s daughter Righley who is a kindergartener there. Both Jack and his wife Andie find out about the shooting and rush over to the school to ascertain that their daughter is not hurt. Andie is an agent for the FBI but is not permitted to carry her gun when entering school grounds. She reacts instinctively by just standing guard at the kindergarten area holding a fire extinguisher as the only weapon she can put her hands on.

When the crisis is calmed one of the high school boys stands up and admits he did the shooting. With the deaths and wounding are tallied up the parents scream for blood calling for an immediate death sentence for the boy that confessed. While Jack is totally against representing the confessed killer, he is talked into it by one of the parents of a girl wounded in the attack. The rationale for the request is that it will probably spare all concerned from having their children forced to testify over and over again about the attack if the death penalty is sought by the prosecution. If the defendant pleads guilty in exchange for multiple life sentences it will end quickly and allow those grieving to come to grips with their anguish.

Public opinion is slanted by the fact that the father of the boy confessing to the shootings is Muslim and first opinions postulate that he radicalized his son and masterminded the murders. With the twentieth anniversary of 9/11 coming up it is not difficult to read terrorist activity into an already flammable situation which is described very well by the author. The reader will not be able to absent himself or herself from getting on the emotional rollercoaster that is set up quite well by Grippando. An all nighter? How could it not be and then some.

2/2021 Paul Lane

TWENTY by James Grippando. Harper (January 5, 2021). ISBN: 978-0062915085. 384 pages.

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ASSASSIN’S STRIKE by Ward Larson

January 14, 2021

David Slaton, Book 6

From the publisher:

USA Today bestselling author Ward Larsen’s globe-trotting, hard-hitting assassin, David Slaton, returns for another breathless adventure in Assassin’s Strike!

In a Syrian palace, the presidents of Russia and Iran undertake a clandestine meeting. No staff or advisors are permitted in the room. No records are kept. By necessity, however, there are two witnesses: the interpreters. The Russian, Ludmilla Kravchuk, returns to her hotel room burdened by what she has heard. When her Iranian counterpart is murdered before her eyes, Kravchuk fears she is next and goes into hiding in Syria.

The CIA gets word of the defection. Desperate to uncover the purpose of the meeting, they task their newest off-the-books operator―legendary assassin David Slaton―to undertake a daring rescue. Deep inside Syria’s war-torn borders, what Slaton finds is a plot that will tear the Middle East apart. And one that only he can stop.


Ward Larson has created one of the more interesting protagonists in fiction in the person of David Slaton. Slaton is an assassin, a very proficient one doing the bidding of his employers who were at first the Mosad, Israeli secret service, and currently the CIA. He was granted political asylum in the U.S. with the help of one of the top managers of the Central Intelligence Agency who suggested when doing so that they might ask certain professional favors from Slaton which he would be free to either accept or reject.

During a secret meeting between the presidents of Russia and Iran held in Syria certain information is exchanged between these men which only they and the two translators working the meeting are aware of. Ludmilla Kravchuk, the translator for Russia witnesses her Iranian counterpart killed after the meeting between the two presidents finishes. She realizes that the two translators have heard an exchange that must remain secret and makes the obvious decision that she must flee and via local contacts she had when in Syria previously gets the United States interested in getting her into the U.S. and hearing her story. Slaton’s supervisor thinks of him as the ideal individual to send into Syria to bring Ludmilla out. No problem in his accepting the job as the action is what he craves and goes after.

The story of David Slaton’s work in trying to effect Ludmilla’s escape brings to bear Ward Larson’s talent in creating bated breath action and another book by him that keeps the reader glued to the pages. In addition to bringing Ludmilla out of Syria Slaton must become involved in the situation described in the talks between the two presidents and attempt to rectify the problem. Events in the book move rapidly between Syria, Iraq, Israel, and Saudi Arabia. We can certainly look forward to more action-packed novels featuring David Slaton and the probability of all night glued to the books when they are published.

1/14/2021 Paul Lane

ASSASSIN’S STRIKE by Ward Larson.  Forge Books (August 18, 2020). ISBN: 978-0765391568. 336 pages.

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THE PUSH by Ashley Audrain

January 5, 2021

From the publisher:

A tense, page-turning psychological drama about the making and breaking of a family, told through the eyes of a woman whose experience of motherhood is nothing at all what she hoped for–and everything she feared.

Blythe Connor is determined that she will be the warm, supportive mother she never had to her new baby Violet.

But in the thick of motherhood’s exhausting early days, Blythe doesn’t find the connection with her daughter she expected. She’s convinced that something is wrong with Violet–the little girl is distant, rejects affection, and becomes increasingly disruptive at preschool.

Or is it all in Blythe’s head? Her husband, Fox, says she is imagining things. Fox doesn’t see what Blythe sees; he sees a wife who is struggling to cope with the day-to-day challenges of being a mother. And the more Fox dismisses her fears, the more Blythe begins to question her own sanity…

Then their son Sam is born–and with him, Blythe has the natural maternal connection she’d always dreamed of. Even Violet seems to love her little brother. But when life as they know it is changed in an instant, the devastating fall-out forces Blythe to face the truth about herself, her past, and her daughter.

The Push is a rare and extraordinary gift to readers: a novel about the expectations of motherhood we’re taught not to challenge and what really happens behind the closed doors of even the most perfect-looking families. It’s impossible to put down and impossible to forget.


Three generations of women have difficulties with motherhood and their stories intertwine in this very dark debut novel.

Blythe’s mother, Cecelia, left when she was eleven years old, and Blythe assumes she probably shouldn’t have children as her mother was not a very good role model. But their toxic relationship pales in comparison with Cecelia’s relationship with her mother, Etta.

There is an air of foreboding as Blythe’s story continues when Fox, Blythe’s gentle husband of three years, convinces her that it is time to have a baby. Blythe sees other mothers with their babies and hopes that she, too, will be like them. But Blythe never feels any kind of connection to her baby daughter, Violet, although Fox is immediately enamored.

As Blythe sinks into depression, Fox is convinced that she just doesn’t love the baby enough. There are some behavioral issues that Blythe sees in Violet that increase as she starts school, but Fox always turns a blind eye. Then Blythe has a son, Sam, and her maternal feelings for him are real and deep. Things still aren’t good with Violet, though, or with the marriage, and everything spirals out of control when tragedy strikes the family.

The marriage implodes and Blythe is having serious difficulties. This is not your typical tale of motherhood by any means, and the superlative writing makes this a gripping, unforgettable story indeed.

Verdict: For readers who enjoyed the darkness of My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite, Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh, or Jack of Spades by Joyce Carol Oates.

©Library Journal, 2021

1/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE PUSH by Ashley Audrain. Viking (January 5, 2021). ISBN 978-0735239890. 320p.

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