Review of ‘Fireplay’

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On patrol with the US Marines, Aussie reporter, Jack Emery, encounters a lone jihadist who attacks their convoy. Before he’s taken out, he talks of issues at a prison camp run by a marine unit. When Jack and his buddies arrive at the base, he uncovers a secret that many dangerous people are willing to go to any lengths—including killing him—to keep hidden.

Fireplay is a novella in the Jack Emery thriller series by Steve P. Vincent that moves at light speed from an explosive opening to an equally explosive conclusion. It explores official corruption and double-dealing but doesn’t scrimp on the hot action. I received a free copy of this book. I give it four stars.

Review of ‘No Place to Hide’

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The president of the United States authorized a bio attack on Ft. Lauderdale, FL, and now, as he’s about to leave office he decides that he must eliminate everyone who has knowledge of his action. One of those people, ex-navy SEAL Trace Austin, accidentally stumbled across the plans for the attack while he was in Florida with his wife and son and has created a fail-safe plan; he will keep the president’s secret as long as he and his wife are left alone. But now, someone is threatening their lives, so all bets are off. Trace must act to forestall the actions against him or die trying.

No Place to Hide by Steven M. Roth is a story that moves at a machine-gun pace, as shadowy groups act against Trace legally and financially. Action is non-stop, and the author spares no details in this byzantine tale of high-level corruption and evil.

I received a complimentary copy of this book. A solid four-star thriller.

Review of ‘The Mashego File’

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When a charred and mutilated corpse is found in the remains of a smoldering fire in a small community in Kwazulu-Natal, Detective Captain Nights Mashego, assigned to Durban North Police Agency is put on the case. Soon, another burned corpse is found in the same community, similarly abused. Mashego begins to suspect that he is seeking the same perpetrators but is unsure of their motives until he discovers a link between the victims and the step-son of a high-placed police official.

Mashego is then faced with a dilemma. With evidence of high-placed police corruption, can he identify with the vigilante justice being meted out, especially considering his own actions after his daughter was raped and murdered just a few years earlier. Torn between keeping his oath to enforce the law and his understanding of the frustration of people who feel they have no other recourse, he plows ahead.

The Mashego File by Ian Patrick is a chilling narrative of crime, punishment, and corruption at the highest levels, and the responses of people who have decided to draw a fiery line in the sand. The author has created a compelling story with flawed heroes and irredeemable villains that will keep you reading and wondering until the somewhat anticlimactic ending. Most of all, you will wonder—what next for Mashego?

This is a not-to-be-missed story. I give this one five stars!

Review of ‘Meltdown’

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Trace Crane, one of four control-room supervisors at the Bear Mountain Nuclear Energy Center in Buchanan, NY, just miles from NYC, is an overweight office drone who is daydreaming about an upcoming vacation with his wife, Avi, and daughter, Brooklyn, when the proverbial ‘it’ hits the fan. A massive earthquake disrupts a nearby fault line, causing a potential meltdown at the center. Trace is then faced with a choice, do all that he can to save the reactor, or get out and find his family. In the meantime, Avi, caught shopping when the quake hits, begins a frantic search for her daughter.

Meltdown by GP James is a riveting story of what happens when things get out of control at a nuclear power plant, threatening the environment and lives for miles around. The author doesn’t walk the reader through events, but runs at a break-neck pace, switching back and forth between Trace and Avi as he explores human reactions to a cataclysmic event.

This is a book that you won’t be able to put down once you start reading, and at the end, you’ll sigh, not from relief, but exhaustion. It has the technical details expertly woven in with the human dimension and will leave you wondering just how close to disaster we really are.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review, and honestly, I give it five stars for the sheer chutzpah.

Review of ‘Succubus

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An international thriller works when real events are seamlessly woven into the fictional narrative. In Succubus, former diplomatic security service agent Regis P. Sheehan does that.

Michael Medved, code name ‘Bear’, is tasked by the Org to exfiltrate a nuclear scientist who wants to defect out of North Korea. He teams up with a mixed force of South Korean agents and other specialists from the Org for what is an almost impossible task. All of this takes place in the tense post-9/11 atmosphere and the invasion of Iraq which resulted in the toppling and subsequent execution of Saddam Hussein, the machinations of North Korean diplomats in the smuggling of ‘super notes,’ exquisitely crafted counterfeit US one-hundred-dollar notes, and the cumbersome Washington bureaucracy.

Swiftly moving back and forth in time, and crossing two oceans, the story follows the team and its supporters as the dangerous mission unfolds.

A chilling story that reads like it was ripped from the day’s headlines, it is, in short, the kind of page-turner that international thriller fans will love. I received a complimentary copy of this book, and I give it four stars for a darned good first novel.

Review of ‘Dark Return’

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Having just completed a rescue mission for Stop Human Enslavement Now (SHEN), former assassin, Leine Basso, is asked to check up on a case of children missing from a refugee camp. On what she thinks will be a routine mission, she meets a street waif who has witnessed a murder and is being pursued by the killers and decides to help the young girl get to safety. The routine check at the camp turns into anything but, and Leine and her new charge find themselves on the run from a shadowy figure running a human trafficking ring with a deadly mission. They make a big mistake when they make a try for Leine—now, it’s her or them, and she has every intention of surviving.

Dark Return by D V Berkom is without doubt, the best Leine Basso thriller to date. Like its predecessors, it’s chocked full of blood-chilling action, and it skillfully merges two of the world’s greatest evils, human trafficking and terrorism, in a tale that will grab you by the short hairs and not let go.

Basso at her baddest—don’t miss it. I received a complimentary copy of this book.

I give this one a solid, resounding five stars.

Review of ‘Seattle Reign’

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Retired police detective turned private eye, Pat Ruger, is at a crossroads. He’s still getting over the murder of his fiancée, adjusting to his new girlfriend, and wondering what he’ll do with the rest of his life. When a local poet, a friend of his new flame, is murdered, she asks him to look into it. Like a firehouse dog at the sound of the alarm, he jumps to it. From Denver to Seattle, he finds more than the change in weather to be a bother, though, when he stumbles upon a North Korean plot to steal American art, and his protégé, Jake, is kidnapped by the art thieves.

Seattle Reign by Jack Huber is book number five in the Pat Ruger series, and, unfortunately for those of us who have come to love the slightly over-the-hill detective, reads like it’ll be the last. Non-stop action as Pat goes from dodging murderous North Koreans to saving a group of young girls from being sex-trafficked to rescuing Jake. Shorter than the previous books, it is nonetheless a good read, that will leave you satisfied that all is right with the world—except for the fact that it seems that Pat is getting out of the PI business. Oh, what will Pat Ruger fans do?

I received a free copy of this book, and give it four stars—mainly because there doesn’t appear to be a sequel in the works.

Review of ‘Behold Darkness’

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Businessman Nathan Serebus and his friend and attorney, Albin Conrad, while on a business trip to San Francisco, find themselves in the middle of a terrorist attack. But, this is no ordinary, garden variety terrorist attack; in this attack a contagion has been released that turns people into cannibals. In order to survive, and help humanity survive, Nathan must surrender part of his own humanity.

Behold Darkness by L.C. Champlin is not just another zombie apocalypse story, it’s more like a zombie apocalypse story on steroids. Filled with danger, dirty language, and dire situations, it has no heroes, just people doing what they have to do to survive. If you’re offended by off-color language and uncensored violence, you might want to give this book a pass. It’s definitely not for anyone with a weak constitution.

The characters, as unlovable as they are, are interesting, and the situations are intense. A good book for action junkies.

I received a free copy of this book. I give it three and a half stars for concept.

Review of ‘The Deepest Grave’

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DS Fiona Griffiths hasn’t had a murder case in over a year. Then, a local archaeologist is killed, beheaded, and the head is staged so that it’s staring at a fragment of Latin text. Fiona finds herself involved in a case that, in order to solve, she has to delve in battles that are centuries old, and grapple with the legend of Arthur and Camelot.

The Deepest Grave by Harry Bingham is an entertaining British crime thriller with elements of the supernatural and ancient history entwined most effectively with a contemporary crime story. Bingham presents us with a strong, yet flawed, female character who will attract and hold your interest page after page.

I give Bingham five stars for this one.

Review of ‘Turn or Burn’

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Burned out and suffering from PTSD, former Green Beret and security contractor, Harper Knox has retired to his parents’ farm to grow grapes and get his life back together. His old comrade, Ted, lures him back into the fold with an offer of a security job, protecting a scientist involved in a controversial AI conference in Seattle. A routine protection job turns deadly when Ted’s killed, along with the two assailants, former prostitutes with a strange symbol burned into their bodies.

Harper and Ted’s cousin, Italian mercenary, Francesca Daly, seeking answers, stumble into a plot that threatens more loss of life, including their own, while dealing with the sparks that fly between them.

Turn or Burn by Boo Walker is a chilling thriller that looks at domestic terrorism and dangerous religious fundamentalism in our midst, a phenomenon that is every bit as deadly as international terrorism, but often not acknowledged. Compelling, and believable, characters and spine-tingling action on every page. You can’t put it down.

I give it five stars.

Review of ‘Murder is the Only Option’

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When the manager of a homeless shelter is murdered, DCI Isaac Cook and his team are in search of Big Greg, a mysterious homeless man who doesn’t fit the normal pattern of a street person. When more people die, they learn that Big Greg has a secret and a mission, and the intelligence to pull it off right under their noses. To add to Cook’s misery, when a Member of Parliament becomes one of the killer’s victims, the pressure from above threatens to derail his investigation.

Murder is the Only Option by Phillip Strang is another offering in the DCI Cook series. Fascinating characters and convoluted plots, against the backdrop of a modest sized English city, will grab and hold your interest on every page.

Dat Isaac, he one sharp copper, mon! I received a free copy of this book, and I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Inside Moves’

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Best-selling novelist Gareth Wainwright is injured in a terrible auto crash. He wakes up at UCLA Medical Center with no memory of what happened, or who he is. Released from the hospital after a month, he begins the painful process of recovering his memory and his life. He’s learned his name, and that he has a wife—who he cannot remember—who was with him at the time of the crash, but who has now disappeared. Lacey Kinkaid Wainwright, Gareth’s new bride, is an attorney, who, after the crash, finds herself a prisoner of someone from her past, a past that she has kept hidden from Gareth.

Inside Moves by Walter Danley is a complex thriller that moves back and forth in time, and from place to place and character to character, as Lacey tries to survive her captor’s deadly intentions, while Gareth, his memory coming back in fits and starts, takes incredibly chances in his effort to find and rescue her.

This book has more threads than a knitting factory, with byzantine relationships and a complex set of plots that the author skillfully weaves together in a conclusion that, while not completely satisfying to the characters involved, will leave you with the feeling that you’ve been treated to a great story.

I received a free copy of this book, and I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Not Without Risk’

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Martin Bennett works behind the scenes for a property development scheme in Liverpool. A former climber, he’s overweight and out of shape, and has had a stroke. After seeing a doctor, he runs into an old mate, John Hardin, at the hospital. When he sees Hardin murdered on an escalator, and when he later learns that Hardin was involved with a drug gang and that his body was hastily cremated, he feels compelled to investigate.

In the process of digging into his friend’s murder, Bennett becomes involved with corrupt politicians, crooked cops, and a list of possible suspects a mile long. He forms a partnership with an out-of-favor aide of the crooked mayor, and a roller coaster of intrigue and danger puts both their lives at risk. The clock is ticking as they dig deeper and deeper into the mire of corruption, leading to a stunning climax. Nothing they do is without risk, and he is faced constantly with the question; is it worth it?

Not Without Risk by Pete Trewin is a bumpy read—not, though, in a negative sense. Through actions, dialogue, and well-placed flashbacks, the reader is introduced to an eclectic cast of characters and an exquisitely crafted plot that pulls you ever deeper into Bennett’s oddball existence, piquing your curiosity with every sentence.

I received a free copy of this book; a definite five-star read.

Review of ‘Terminal Secret’

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A government attorney is murdered on her doorstep in a wealthy DC neighborhood. A senator’s wife approaches a private detective to find out who killed her ex-husband, a disabled army veteran. Two seemingly unrelated cases, the first assigned to DC detective Earl Wallace and his new partner, both by-the-books cops; and the second to lawyer/private eye Dan Lord, a man who makes his own rules in his pursuit of justice. They soon learn that their cases are related and portend even more dead bodies, perhaps their own, if they don’t find the mastermind behind a series of crimes being committed by people who are terminally ill with cancer. The key, Dan discovers, is an old case involving a now-dead drug dealer, but the time to solve it is quickly running out.

Terminal Secret by Mark Gilleo is a high-octane mystery-thriller that uncovers the raw underbelly of our nation’s capital in ways that other novels set in Washington, DC often fail to do. It swings effortlessly from wealthy Georgetown enclaves to the wasteland of Anacostia’s neighborhoods, introducing the reader to the variety of colorful, and sometimes dangerous, denizens of DC’s asphalt jungle.

I give Gilleo four and a half stars for this one.

Review of ‘Ghost Gathering’

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The MP-5 Team, a group of special operations specialists unconnected with any government bureaucracy, and working out of a corporate headquarters in Houston, Texas, get word of a ghost gathering, a group of unknown terrorists operating undetected on U.S. soil and planning an operation that will generate thousands of casualties, they pull out all the stops to find the terrorists and foil them. Their only lead is a Christian monastery in northern Iraq, but when they arrive, the abbot is killed, and their only chance to stop the deadly plot lies in the hands of a six-year-old orphan boy, who is also being sought by ISIS for its own nefarious purposes.

Ghost Gathering by M. H. Sargent is a spine tingling thriller that moves with lightning speed from event to event, as the team races the clock against a determined group of terrorists and an international assassin in a high-stakes game which they cannot afford to lose.

A stunning cast of characters, chilling scenarios, and high-tech plots will keep you flipping pages, pulse racing, until the end. While I’m not usually a fan of cliff hanger endings, I was struck at how the author managed to tie up loose ends, give a satisfying conclusion to the main plot, and still leave a question mark hanging over our heroes at the end, setting things up for an equally thrilling sequel.

I give this one four stars.

Review of ‘Extreme Heat Warning’

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FBI agents Roger Dance and Paul Casey must reopen what they thought was a closed case. Killers, James Devon and William Patterson, with high-level help, have escaped on the eve of their trials, and their trail leads to the teeming streets and steaming swamps in and around New Orleans. The two agents, with the help of a band of angels, must brave voodoo, corruption, and doubt as they pursue two of the deadliest perps they’ve ever encountered.

Extreme Heat Warning by Vicki Graybosch, et al follows them as they cope with things they were never taught at Quantico. This is book 2 of the Shallow End Gals series, and I have to admit the plot is fascinating. The prose, however, tends to choppiness, and the switches from third to first person are confusing at first. A bit too much telling, and not enough showing for a story that begs to be ‘shown,’ with the exotic locales and quirky characters—main and supporting.

I worked my way through it, and, unfortunately, found the ending a bit too murky for my taste. I give this one three stars, but must admit, it does show promise.

Review of ‘Frozen Past’

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Fairfax County homicide detective Jaxon Jennings is burned out, has been since the murder of his child and the breakup of his marriage. When the body of a young boy is found under the ice of a neighborhood pool, and he and his partner are called to investigate, his past comes back to haunt him. With the lives of a group of local teens on the line, Jaxon must get control of himself to save them—and himself.

Frozen Past by Richard C. Hale is a thriller with a flawed hero and a merciless killer, and action that moves at a frenetic pace from explosive start to even more explosive finish. Once you start reading this book, you won’t be able to put it down, and when you’re done, you’ll never look at your quiet suburban neighborhood in quite same the light again.

I give this one an easy five stars.

Review of ‘Roller Coaster in Tehran’

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Amalia Tavon is a wife and mother. She’s also an expert roller coaster engineer and an adventure junkie. When she’s forced to join Mossad in order to save her family from financial ruin after her husband loses out on a risky venture, she finds her roles in conflict. Sent under cover to Iran, ostensibly to help build a giant amusement park, she finds that the true targets of her mission are not the inhuman animals she’s been led to believe they are. When her eldest son is killed in Israel under suspicious circumstances, her sense of loyalty is put into question, and in order to survive, she finds that she must deceive not only her Iranian targets, but her Mossad bosses.

Roller Coaster in Tehran by Y. I. Latz is a suspenseful thriller, with all the requisite ‘James Bond’ moments, woven in with the profound human consequences of having to live a lie. A chilling book, with a surprise ending, that you won’t be able to put down.

I give this one five stars.

Review of ‘Inauguration Day’

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While I found the theme, and plotting of Inauguration Day by Peter G. Pollak somewhat interesting, the obtuse writing tended to make it hard to keep reading. To be fair to the author, the story of an about-to-retire secret service agent being tasked by the president to do just ‘one more job’ is interesting, and there are the requisite action scenes, but I got a sense that whoever edited it wasn’t paying enough attention. I’ll give Mr. Pollak credit for this, even though I found the writing not quite up to par, I soldiered on through the entire book, because I was curious to see what would happen.

I received a free copy of this book. The author has some good ideas, but they just weren’t expressed as well as I’m sure he’s capable in this particular book, so I can only give it three and a quarter stars.

Review of ‘Tyranny of Secrets’

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When talented computer scientist Mariana McAllister is recruited into the dark side of a small computer company, she’s assigned to manipulate an election in the UK. Later, along with her former lover, Sander Bonham, a privacy activist, she learns that her code is being used to steal the US presidential election, and Sander is in the crosshairs of a government assassin to keep him from exposing the dastardly plot. Mariana and Sander then go on the run, trying to stay one step ahead of squads of killers while they also try to shine light on the dark machinations of a shadowy group known as the Politburo.

Tyranny of Secrets by John Statton is fiction, but, given the events surrounding the 2016 US presidential election, could very well have been cribbed from daily headlines. Eerily suspenseful and packed with action from start to finish, this book will make you hesitate the next time you log onto the Internet or even use an ATM. A chilling indictment of government’s intrusion into our private lives and the control exerted by the powerful and wealthy over our daily lives.

This is one that, once you start reading, you will not be able to put it down until you finish, and after you stop reading, you won’t be able to stop thinking about.

I give this one five stars.