thriller

Review of ‘The Watcher Within’

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Frank Silver is apartment-bound and suffering from severe agoraphobia. He spends much of his time observing the world outside his apartment, in particular, the Kabbalah Institute across the street. One Friday night he observes an attractive woman entering the institute, a place that is supposed to be closed at that time, and denied to women at all times. When he sees a second women enter the place a week later, and then learns that a prostitute’s body has been found in the sewer drain nearby, his suspicions are aroused—he knows that something evil is taking place, but he finds it difficult to convince an overworked homicide detective of that.

His persistence, and some amateur sleuthing on the part of his housekeeper, finally gets the detective to visit the institute, an action that will soon have dire consequences for Silver. Joseph Goodman, an eccentric Talmudic scholar with macabre leanings, had been evicted from the institute, but had secreted himself in one of its unused spaces, from which he pursued his deadly quest. When he inadvertently learns that Silver’s watching has threatened his haven, he vows revenge, and takes it by kidnapping Silver’s recently acquired girlfriend.

The Watcher Within by William Appel is noir fiction at its finest. Tension and suspense begins on the first page, and builds increasingly to an explosive climax as Silver must overcome his phobia in order to save his girlfriend’s life.

This one’s a typical Appel page-turner that, even though you know the killer’s identity from the start, has you wondering how it will turn out. The obstacles faced by the hero seem insurmountable, and on several occasions, you’re sure he’s hit a brick wall—then, he hits back. This is a book that takes the reader deep into the darkest depths of human depravity, a journey that will leave you breathless.

I give it five stars.

Review of ‘Hidden Agenda’

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When special operations soldier, Dan Roy, seconded to a super-secret black ops agency, stumbles across a secret cache of American weapons in Afghanistan while hunting a high-value target, he’s accused of working with the enemy. When people around him start to die, he discovers a plot to attack America where it hurts. Then, his best friend and mentor is killed, and, working with the dead man’s daughter, Dan sets out to thwart a plot that, if successful, could start World War III.

Hidden Agenda by Mick Bose is a fast-paced action thriller that pits one determined man against sinister forces with a deadly hidden agenda. The action starts white-hot from the beginning, and never lets up until the final pages. This could be a superior action novel, but for the many grammatical and typographical problems throughout. Even with the problems, it’s a fun story for action junkies.

I received a free copy of this book.

I give it three stars.

Review of ‘Burke’s Revenge’

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College professor Henry Shaw, seething over being relegated to a small, backwater college in Fayetteville, NC, has decided to betray his country and join IS. His IS masters have accepted him, and ordered him to return home to foment terror, and to organize an IS terror cell in the very heart of the home to some of America’s most elite anti-terror forces. When he begins his campaign of terror, he runs afoul of ex-Delta Force commander, Bob Burke, retired from the army and now CEO of a small telecoms company.

As bombs began to go off and people die, Burke and his elite band of brothers find themselves up against a man who loves killing, but even more troubling, someone is using him as a distraction from an even more horrendous act. Duty gets Burke involved, but when Shaw kidnaps his wife and daughter, it becomes personal.

Burke’s Revenge by William F. Brown is book three in the Bob Burke thriller series, and it continues in the same vein; non-stop action, believable characters and scenarios, and high stakes. The author knows his military weapons and tactics, but even more important, knows how to tell a good story that keeps you on the edge of your chair.

I received a free copy of this book.

I give Brown five stars for this one.

Review of ‘White Out’

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Ex-military special operations soldier, Cole Samson, is a marine salvage operator. He and his team have been hired to explore a lake bed near the Arctic Circle for possible oil deposits. What they find instead is an old Soviet plane crash site, and an artifact that has frightening powers, powers that many in places, high and low, are willing to commit the most heinous crimes to take possession of.

Samson is arrayed against a geologist, who does consulting work for a big oil company, but who has higher aspirations, and a former Soviet army thug, now wildcatter, who is in thrall to a mysterious organization whose payment for failure is death.

White Out by T.N.M. Mykytiuk is a thriller set against the historical backdrop of the post-Cold War period, with futuristic technology too powerful for the barbaric men who seek to control it. The future of the world is in Samson’s hands, as, with the aid of a Russian intelligence operative, he faces almost impossible obstacles. The characters in this book are so real, one wonders if the author had intelligence dossiers at hand as he created them; the harsh and unforgiving environment of the Arctic will chill you, and the action is non-stop.

I received a free copy of this book.

I give this one four stars.

Review of ‘Whisper He Might Hear You’

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Manhattan’s finest are puzzled by eight killings. Though the victims are seemingly unrelated victims, chief of detectives, Bill Dacey, is convinced they are the work of a single killer. He seeks the assistance of noted criminologist Kate Berman and her ME husband, Josh, to track down the killer, a wealthy, smart, but vicious killer.

Whisper He Might Hear You by William Appel is a chilling thriller that follows this indomitable trio as they race against time to stop a demented serial killer before the list of victims grows any longer.

Even though the killer’s identity is known from the early chapters, the author still manages to keep the reader guessing until the very end.

I give it five stars.

Review of ‘Ash’

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Asher Benson, a veteran of the war in Iraq, after being injured by an IED developed the ability to ‘read’ minds. Far from being a gift, his ability is a curse, and forces him to withdraw from human contact and need to deaden his senses with alcohol to make it through the day.

When a high-level politician kills himself on national TV, and a group of government employees all commit suicide, Asher finds himself hunted by a host of government agencies. With the aid of his ex-army buddy turned police detective, Asher goes on the run. While the government chases him, he is chasing a demented proxy killer who invades others’ minds.

Ash by Jason Brant is a really fast-paced thriller that, along with providing lots of bloody action, explores the impact of extended combat tours, PTSD, and traumatic brain injury in our veterans. All in all, not a bad read if a bit predictable.

I received this book as a gift.

I give it three stars.

Review of ‘Aim True, My Brothers’

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When a rogue Hamas terrorist sets out to assassinate the U.S. President, no one believes it possible. Unconventional FBI counterterrorism agent, Eddie Barnett, acting on information from his friend, Moustapha Khalid, chief of security at the Egyptian Embassy in Washington, must race against time to stop this deadly plot. As unlikely as these two are as allies, when a Mossad agent shows up to join them, Barnett must fight as hard to keep his team together as to find and stop the terrorist.

Aim True, My Brothers by William F. Brown is a no-holds-barred action thriller that could very well have been ripped from the headlines as it follows the action from the Mideast to Virginia’s Tidewater region. Brown builds the action like a master architect or choreographer and sends his characters on stage for a danse macabre that will set your heart pounding and keep your interest from the first page.

I only have one criticism of the book—well, actually, not the book itself, but the book description. It’s billed as an ‘Eddie Rankin’ FBI counter terror thriller, and the description mentions Eddie Rankin as the main character, but we’re introduced to Eddie ‘Barnett’ in the first chapter. A minor flaw, but it did have me flummoxed for several pages.

I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Thy Killer’s Keeper’

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When a brutal and senseless murder takes place in a small California coastal town, the FBI sends two of its agents to help local authorities investigate what they think is a serial killer. FBI Agent John Salton, though, is wrestling demons that threaten to derail the investigation. He’s convinced that his wife’s death wasn’t a freak accident, but a proxy killing, using his autistic son as the murder weapon. When his son is transferred to a treatment facility not far from the scene of the current crime, things begin to heat up.

Thy Killer’s Keeper by Edita Petrick is a blood-curdling thriller that explores a world of mind-control with a freakish twist not often found in this genre. As Salton and his partner close in on the killer, the reader is taken on a roller coaster ride of emotion, and is treated to a surprise ending that makes this a nice read for people who like their stories to really scare.

I received a free copy of this book.

I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Bombay Blood’

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When the selling of human organs became legal, one company, Zarus, came to dominate the world market for body parts. Most prized for the donation of organs are those with the rare blood type known as Bombay Blood. Secret Service Agent Lynn Clarke, charged with protecting the President, happens to be one of those people, and this puts her on the most-wanted list of Zarus’s CEO, bloodthirsty in a literal sense, and his mission to serve his privileged and wealthy clients at all costs.

 

Charged with treason and stripped of her badge and gun, Clarke is pursued by government agencies and organ harvesters, all determined to take her, piece by piece if necessary. But, they failed to take into account her strength of will.

 

Bombay Blood by Ray Ronan is a riveting look at what the world could look like if profit-driven CEOs were allowed to dictate the law. It also shows the power of the individual who decides to take a stand against a government dominated by the 1%. In today’s American political climate, this is must reading—almost reads like nonfiction.

I give it four stars.

 

Review of ‘A Necessary Kill’

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I want to paint a picture for you. Imagine ‘The Over the Hill Gang,’ The Gang that Couldn’t Shoot Straight,’ ‘Rambo’, and ‘Mission: Impossible;’ not in sequence, but all smashed together. Sound like a crazy picture? Believe me, it is, and it’s just what you get when you read A Necessary Kill by James P. Sumner.

The world has been devastated by nuclear attacks, and everyone has been led to believe that they were the work of terrorists. But, legendary hitman, Adrian Hell, knows the truth. The American president was the mastermind behind this dastardly operation, and Adrian has information that points an accusing finger. Because of this, he’s being hunted by the CIA and FBI, with orders not to apprehend, but to kill.

Adrian, though, is not an easy target, and he’s determined to see the truth come out. His mission is to kill the man responsible for the largest mass murder in human history, even if it means sacrificing himself to achieve it. Adrian organizes the oddest team imaginable to accomplish this impossible mission: an over-the-hill smalltime mob hitman, a female assassin so crazy she’s been confined to a mental institution from which he must spring her, and an illegal arms dealer who doesn’t like field operations. With this ragtag crew and with the combined might of the security forces of the world’s most powerful country out to stop him, the odds are definitely not in his favor.

As they get closer to their target, though, he learns that the nuclear attack was just the prelude to an even more macabre and Machiavellian plan, one that affects not just his life, but the lives of every being on the planet. Any sane man would quit, but Adrian and his band are no longer in it just for the money—they’re out to save the world.

Death isn’t exactly funny, but you won’t be able to help laughing occasionally as this unlikely crew goes up against power in encounter after deadly encounter. As you make your way through this story, you’ll alternate between laughter and chills, because, as improbable as it sounds, there’s an eerie ring of credibility to it.

I give this book four stars.

Review of ‘A Million to One’

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In One in a Million by Tony Faggioli, Kyle Fasano is given a chance at redemption. He is the millionth, which means that by sacrificing himself, he creates the opportunity for a million souls to be called to repent. Some will answer the call, but some will not.

In A Million to One, the journey continues. In hell, Kyle struggles to learn what his true mission is, while Detective Napoleon Villa, a man who believes in heaven and hell, has volunteered to accompany the Gray Man to hell to find him. In the meantime, back on earth, Villa’s partner finds a case that is somehow tied to Fasano; a serial killer who heeds the voice of the Other, and Fasano’s wife is fighting off demons who seem determined to destroy what’s left of her family.

The reader is taken on a whipsaw journey between hell and hell on earth as the forces of Good and Evil battle for dominance, a journey that will leave your blood chilled and have you shrinking from every shadow.

I received a free copy of this book.

I give this one four stars.

Review of ‘Dead Lemons’

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After losing the use of his legs in an auto accident, Finn moves to the far south of New Zealand, as far south as you can go without ending up in Antarctica. In the smuggler’s cottage, he meets his strange neighbors, the Zoyl brothers, and learns of a young girl and her father, missing and presumed dead for decades—and, it’s all somehow connected to the Zoyls. In therapy to come to grips with his disability, Finn becomes obsessed with unearthing the mysteries of the past, a search that puts his life in danger.

Dead Lemons by Finn Bell is an intricate mystery that opens with Finn fighting for his life as the Zoyls endeavor to kill him, and then switches back and forth as it details how he unfolds the intricate puzzle of the former whaling town’s deadly past. The tension is palpable, and the details of history and culture the author skillfully weaves into the plot put you in the middle of the action from start to finish.

The denouement caught even this avid mystery reader completely by surprise. This one will give you chills.

I give this book four stars.

Review of ‘Pursuit’

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Doc is a professional hit man for the Organization. He has a contract to find and kill renegade politician Paul Bradley, but he has a problem; half the Organization wants Bradley dead, but half, led by his brother Jimmy want him interrogated. As Doc struggles with his confusing mission, the bodies start piling up. As if he doesn’t have enough problems, Doc has to deal with the women in his life. One is his ex-wife, and the other is Connie, a tough gal who is withholding information about Bradley from him. His solution would be to kill them, but Doc has never even hit a woman, much less killed one. In the meantime, Bradley has taken up dog racing and he leads everyone on a merry chase until the big race of the season when everyone comes together in an explosive and bloody encounter.

Pursuit by John McAllister is a complex novel. It gives us a look at events as they unfold through the eyes of a number of characters. The main two characters, though, are Doc and Jimmy who struggle with their positions within the Organization and issues of mutual trust. Seldom have I liked a story where the principal characters are bad guys, but these two are a notable exception. They demonstrate that even the bad guys can sometimes have redeeming character traits.

If you like British mystery, even though this story is set in Ireland, you’ll like Pursuit.

I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Burke’s War’

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On his way back home to Chicago from Washington, DC, as his plane is landing, telecom CEO Bob Burke sees a man strangle a woman on a rooftop near O’Hare Airport. The problem is, no one believes him. Burke, already in a struggle with his soon-to-be ex-wife for control of his company, finds himself having to fight the Chicago mob, crooked local cops, an over-zealous U.S. attorney, and a psychopathic doctor to put things right. The average guy would give up in the face of such odds, but the former Ranger and Delta Force commander is not the average guy, and he never gives up. When people he cares about are threatened, it becomes personal, and the bad guys find out just how stupid it is to mess with Bob Burke, especially when he calls on his old special ops buddies for help.

Some people might find it hard to believe that a passenger on an airplane could see someone on the ground clearly enough to identify them. Having made many landings at the old Hong Kong airport, where planes wove between high-rise buildings on the final approach, I can assure you it is possible, and for someone trained as a special operations observer, credible. I can recall landings in Hong Kong where I was able to see the buttons on laundry hanging on balconies, or what people were eating for supper. You don’t see it for long, but if you’re trained, you can see long enough.

Burke’s War by William F. Brown is a knuckle duster of the first order, with bad guys falling like ten pens at a championship, and enough knock-down action to satisfy the most hardcore action addict. If you like thrillers where the good guy goes up against impossible odds, you’ll love this book.

I give Williams four stars for this first book in the series.

Review of ‘An Empty Tree’

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Life is like people tossing pebbles into streams; the pebbles cause ripples that spread, and as they intersect with other ripples each life is changed. The ripples are neither good nor bad, the people might be good or bad, and how each life is changed depends upon the person.

An Empty Tree by Glenn Trust, book one in the Blue Eyes series, is a thriller that follows the lives of several people as their ripples intersect. A strange blue-eyed girl who meets a killer on the run, a divorced man from Georgia leaving his broken life behind to start anew in the west, and an Iowa highway patrolman who takes his job seriously; along with a diverse cast of supporting characters, their lives intersect in fateful ways that will leave the reader wondering about the nature of good and bad, and with the realization that nothing is ever what it seems at first glance.

The author has provided two endings to this chilling story; one as dark as a moonless night, and one that, while less dark, still leaves unanswered the question of the meaning of good or bad.

Each ending is satisfying in its own way, and which you prefer depends upon your unique view of life. Whether you stop reading after the first ending, or, if curiosity impels you to read the alternate ending, I can guarantee that you will enjoy this story.

Five stars!

Review of ‘Russian Hill’

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FBI Agent Abby Kane works civil cases in the San Francisco field office, and is happy to no longer have to track down serial killers, her specialty when she worked in Hong Kong. But, when a fellow agent stumbles across the body of a young woman in Muir Woods with an axe in her chest, her boss assigns her to look into it. Then, SFPD gets a case that also looks like it could be the work of a serial killer, and she’s asked to consult with them and lend them the benefit of her expertise. Working with SFPD Detective Kyle Kang, Abby begins to realize that the cases might be connected.

She and Kyle find themselves on the trail of a duo of killers who not only kill for the thrill of it, but also seem to be playing some kind of macabre game. Their probing leads them to a network that appears to be orchestrating killings on a global scale.

Russian Hill by Ty Hutchinson is a thriller and police procedural combined in chilling action that pits the two against a cunning and deadly situation that could cost them their lives. The action is nonstop and will keep you on the edge of your chair from the beginning to the startling and bloody conclusion.

I received a free copy of this book.

This one is five stars!

Review of ‘Loss of Reason’

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When a nuclear explosion destroys most of Manhattan, trapping their step-sister, Cynthia, and her family in the city, two step-brothers, Everon Student and Franklin Reveal set out on the impossible mission of getting into the city to rescue her.

Loss of Reason by Miles A. Maxwell chronicles their desperate efforts to overcome fear and the obstructionism of a frustrated and frustrating bureaucracy as they take unbelievable risks to get to Cynthia before it’s too late. The point of view changes often, as the author shows how people react to the destruction and terror, and struggle to survive against insurmountable odds.

The action is non-stop, and the tension (and terror) begins on a high-note, and continues to rise throughout this story of ‘what could happen.’ This is book one in a series, and it ends on, for me, a disappointing cliff hanger, which is about the only serious criticism I have about it. At the end, the author notes that the opening scenes in book two were originally the ending of Loss of Reason. I honestly think it would have been better to leave those last two chapters in, and then open the second book at the end of chapter two, but that’s just a personal view.

This is a non-stop read. Don’t even start it if you’re not prepared to hang in till the end, even with the cliff hanger.

I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Sandman’

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Homicide detective J. J. Thomas is called to the scene of a homicide; a mutilated body is found buried in the sand on a beach. Just another routine killing is the way his bosses look at it, but Thomas suspects that this case is related to another similar killing, and is sure that there’s a serial killer on the loose.

Meagan McInnis is a hairdresser who lives alone with her dog. She has a bad track record with men, seeming to attract nothing but louses. Then, she begins to get strange phone calls. When she answers, she’s met with silence until a bloody present is left in her backyard, and the caller is no longer silent. Her best friend’s severed head is left for her, and she gets a strange call asking if she likes her ‘present.’

Thomas knows that somehow Meagan is the key to catching the killer, but how is he to do it before she becomes the next victim?

Sandman by Morgan Hannah MacDonald is a chilling thriller that follows Thomas in his desperate mission to nab The Sandman before he leaves even more bodies buried in shallow sandy graves. The tension begins with the first page of this well-crafted story, and doesn’t let up until the explosive ending. This author puts you, the reader, in the middle of the action and takes you on one hell of a scary ride. Don’t even think about reading this book if you don’t have time to finish it in one sitting. Oh, and you might want to make sure that if you’re home alone when you read it, all your doors and windows are locked.

This is a five-star idea, but because of a few weak passages here and there, I’ll be harsh and give it only four stars.

Review of ‘The Sleeping Spy’

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Eddie Mancuso formerly worked for the CIA and Vasily Borgneff for the KGB. The two were specialists in creating unusual killing devices (UKDs), which were used by their agencies for ‘special’ missions. Tired of their talents being used for murder, they decided to retire, but their agencies refused, so they decided to kill their way out. In the process, they had a falling out and Eddie left Vasily for dead—he thought.

Now, Eddie lives in his native New York under an assumed name and has fund a woman he can love, but his past catches up with him when the CIA gets word that there is a KGB sleeper agent in the U.S., and he’s part of a major planned Soviet propaganda operation. Eddie’s problem; the agent is his girlfriend’s father, and the man, after 35 years living as an American, he loves his adopted country and wants no part of the operation. That, of course, makes him a target of both country’s spy agencies, and only Eddie can save him and his family. Then, Eddie learns that Vasily survived and is after him for revenge.

The Sleeping Spy by Clifford Irving and Herbert Burkholz is a fascinating international thriller written in the 1960s style, before the breakup of the USSR, when the KGB was America’s number one enemy. Chocked full of double dealing and death dealing, this book will thrill fans of espionage novels a la Le Carre. The ending will hit you like a blow to the solar plexus and leave you breathless.

I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Run Girl’

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The U.S. Secretary of State is in Europe on a delicate peace mission. Her precocious granddaughter, who was with her, runs away and ends up in London. FBI Special Agent Ingrid Skyberg, in London for a training course, is pulled out of training and tasked with finding the girl before her grandmother finds out she’s missing.

Run Girl by Eva Hudson is a novella introducing the main character, Ingrid Skyberg, a legal attaché (the title for FBI agents assigned to embassies) in London. It’s fast-paced, as one would expect of a mystery novella, as it follows Ingrid’s efforts to corral the unruly teenager and get her back safe and sound to her grandmother. Getting all the action conveyed in such a short format, though, has its drawbacks. It makes the story a bit choppy. In addition, some of the action, such as embassy entry procedures, is incorrect. For example, cell phones would not be collected from visitors after they enter a meeting room, but before. Also, the first point of contact for Americans in trouble overseas is a State Department consular officer, not the legal attaché.

Despite these drawbacks in the book, apparent only to people who’ve traveled abroad a lot probably, the concept is sound, and with time I think this could develop into an interesting series.

I give this initial offering three stars. I received a free copy of this book.