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.

Review of ‘Infinity Born’

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When a top-secret DARPA project on AGI is sabotaged, Navy Lieutenant Cameron Carr is assigned a one-man mission to find whoever was responsible. It’s not just American security at stake, hostile forces are also seeking control over Artificial General Intelligence, a self-aware computer that can control the world, and which poses a threat to all of humanity.
Infinity Born by Douglas E. Richards is a thriller without parallel. Chocked full of nonstop action and intrigue, with a backdrop of high-technology; some real, so imagined, but with enough authenticity to make it hard to tell which is which, this story will capture your imagination like few of the genre have ever done.
A must-read for hard-core sci-fi thriller fans. I give this one five stars. A compelling read.

Review of ‘The Burgas Affair’

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On July 12, 2012, a bomb set off in a bus at Burgas Airport in Bulgaria killed five Israelis and their Bulgarian bus driver, setting in motion a joint Israeli-Bulgarian investigation to find those responsible.

The Burgas Affair by Ellis Shuman is a fictionalized account of this horrific, real-life event. Boyko Stanchev, an investigator with Bulgarian state security, is paired with Ayala Navon, an Israeli intelligence analyst on her first field assignment. As they follow lead after lead, trying to determine if those responsible for the bombing had local support, they are haunted by ghosts from Boyko’s past, a master criminal Boyko helped put in prison seeks revenge, and Ayala has to deal with memories of her own family’s tragedy.

A masterfully written fictional account that weaves personal tragedy into the intricacies of international police cooperation in a way that will grab and hold the reader’s attention throughout. I received a free copy of this book.

I give this one five stars.

Review of ‘The Fireproof Girl’

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Sophie Shields and Cole Hunter were damaged children. Abandoned as a child, Sophie grew up in the foster system, sexually abused as a child, she had never had anyone she could trust until she and Cole are thrown together in yet another foster home. Cole, who had watched his family destroyed in a fire when he was only nine, is determined to rebuild his life, and vows to protect Sophie forever—even from herself.

Sophie goes her own way, ending up working for the CIA because of her skill as a hacker, and in touch with Cole only through the letters he sends her frequently, until the letters stop. Then, she is informed that he has been gunned down in the hospital he designed, while working on an architectural project with one of the men who abused her most as a child, a man who has been seeking her ever since she faked her death and ran away.
Now, with the uncertain help of her wounded soldier on-again, off-again, boyfriend, Sophie is determined to find out what really happened to Cole—for, she’s sure that he’s not really dead.

The Fireproof Girl by Loretta Lost is a chilling tale of love, loss, betrayal, and redemption that will suck you into Sophie and Cole’s world like a high-powered vacuum cleaner. Using flashbacks from both characters’ lives, the author paints a mind-bending picture of lives that are warped and torn asunder by a soulless bureaucratic system that values wealth and position above humanity.

Once you start reading this book, I dare you to put it down.

I give it four stars.


Review of ‘Bad Karma’

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Trey Campbell, a psych-tech supervisor at Darden State Hospital for the Criminally Insane, is on vacation with his family, when one of his patients, a dangerous psychopath, Agnes Hatcher, escapes, leaving a trail of mutilated bodies in her wake. Her goal—to find him, or rather, to find her true love, a figure from a past life. For Trey, the choices are clear; he must end her if he and his family are to survive.

Bad Karma by Douglas Clegg is a blood-curdling thriller that will keep you awake long after you’ve finished reading it. Incisive prose, and measured tension mark this chilling thriller from start to finish. The author takes you uncomfortably deep inside the mind of tormented characters, grabs you by the throat, and never lets up.

I give it five stars.

Review of ‘Death Unholy’

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There was little left of the body other than two legs still in shoes, and greasy ash on the chair. The coroner’s conclusion was that death was the result of spontaneous combustion, cause unknown. But, DI Keith Tremayne and his partner, Sgt. Clare Yarwood, suspected foul play. As they begin their investigation, other deaths occur, one definitely a murder, another an unexplained suicide, and a missing man, presumed dead. Somehow, they know, all are connected to a strange, isolated village, cut off from the rest of the region and occupied by unfriendly people who apparently believe in pagan myths and sacrifice. Under the iron control of a mad man, the villagers are willing to kill without guilt, and act out of both belief and fear. Tremayne and Yarwood find themselves facing death at the hands of a mob, with no apparent help in sight.
Death Unholy by Phillip Strang is the first book in the DC Tremayne series, and it introduces an aging police officer in rural England who refuses to allow himself to be distracted by esoteric beliefs and superstition in the pursuit of justice. Riveting action and tense drama, and a cast of unusual characters, typical of Strang’s books, will chill and entertain you from start to finish.
I received a free copy of this book. An intriguing start to what promises to be a fascinating series. I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Hunting Nora Stone’

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Eddie Conrad is an ex-Navy SEAL, still recuperating after a year’s captivity in Syria as the only survivor of an operation gone horribly wrong. On desk duty, he is just marking time until he can retire and put the death and destruction behind him.

Nora Stone, a street urchin, nearly killed in an accident, was given a new lease on life. With many of her damaged limbs replace with enhanced cyber implants, she has been trained as a skilled assassin. But, Nora has gone off the grid, and a tactical team sent to retrieve her is mutilated in a most gruesome way. But, Nora, though she is eluding capture, is not really hiding. She seems to be sending her former masters a message – come and get me!

Eddie is strong-armed into taking the mission to find and neutralize Nora, but when he finally encounters her, rather than killing him as she did the previous teams sent to capture her, she lets him live, and gives him a message, ‘I’m coming for her.’ Eddie is puzzled. Who is Nora after, and why. His life is complicated when he learns of a plot by an unknown, shadowy group of powerful men to assassinate the president of the U.S., and plunge the world into chaos, and of the existence of a powerful cyborg, Tarsis, who has been sent, not to capture Nora, but to kill her.

Now, with Nora as an unlikely ally, Eddie must avert an international disaster.

Hunting Nora Stone by Colin Weldon is a riveting tale of international intrigue with overtones of high-tech science fiction that, despite a number of typographical and grammatical gaffes, will thoroughly entertain action junkies.

I received a free copy of the book. The typos notwithstanding, I was impressed with the pacing and plot, and give it four stars (with a slight minus grade because of the proofreading problems).

Review of ‘The Last Deception’

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Former assassin Leine Basso left the world of lies and deception and went to work for the organization, Stop Human Enslavement Now (SHEN). But, when she gets a call from a friend working in a refugee camp in a war zone, she’s plunged into a world that’s even more deadly and devious—she uncovers a plan that could plunge the world into war. When her friend is killed, the mission becomes personal, and she will spare nothing to avenge her, and stop a dastardly plot.

The Last Deception by D V Berkom is a different Leine Basso thriller. Leine is not called upon to find and eliminate individual enemies, but is up against a cabal of powerful people for whom no act is too low, and who will do anything to advance their plans. If you’ve ever read Berkom’s Leine Basso books, this one will come as a surprise, but a pleasant one, as it shows our heroine in a decidedly more humane light as she goes to war to protect the innocent. If this is your first one, you’ll be hooked for life on the toughest main character in thriller fiction today. Everything from dialogue to descriptions works to move a compelling story at a breakneck pace that will leave you breathless.

I received an advance reader copy of this book. I give the author five stars for this one – no surprise there, because it’s all good.

Review of ‘Third Breath’

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FBI Special Agent Shawn Cleary is trying to convince her superiors that a series of assumed suicides are actually acts of murder by some vast conspiracy. In the meantime, a deadly and often fatal disease breaks out in widely separated locations around the country. The FBI taps Shawn’s best friend, medical researcher Jaimie Carpenter to identify the super bug behind the outbreak.

Working together, the two women become involved in a conspiracy beyond anything they’d imagined. A drug company CEO who puts profit and position above anything, a serial killer with an ambitious agenda, and a shadowy organization, ‘The Protectors,’ that is taking the law into its own hands and eliminating terrorist and criminal threats extrajudicially. To further complicate matters, Jaimie is paired with a handsome FBI agent in an undercover operation, and the sparks that fly between them threaten not only to derail the mission, but puts them in jeopardy.

Third Breath by Patricia Clark is an exquisitely-written medical thriller, and the author uses her medical knowledge to add to the suspense—but, it’s not the technical aspects of this story that truly entertain. Ms. Clark uses the interpersonal dynamics, whether it’s sexual tension between Jaimie and her partner, or a wife’s reaction to being beaten by her abusive husband, to advance the story, and explain character motivation and action, and it’s these moments of conflict between characters that is the strong point of the book. In fact, about midway through, the search for an antidote to the superbug becomes secondary to catching the bad guys and eluding the deadly tentacles of The Protectors.

This is a book that, once you start reading, you won’t be able to put down. I give it five stars.

Review of ‘The Savannah Project’

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When NTSB investigator Jake Pendleton is sent from Atlanta to investigate an air crash, what looked at first like a run-of-the-mill mishap turns out to be anything but. When more people start turning up dead, Jake realizes that there is a vicious killer on the loose, and Jake just might be his next target. When he suggests boss that the crash might not have been an accident after all, he’s rebuffed. With the help of an unconventional air traffic controller, Jake undertakes his own investigation, uncovering deception and intrigue on an international level, and putting himself and those around him in mortal danger.

The Savannah Project by Chuck Barrett is a thriller that will keep you intrigued from start to finish. Light, thankfully, on the technical aspects, it focuses on the personal motivations of the characters, and the action when opposing forces meet. The ending will take your breath away.

This is the first book in a planned series, and I’ll be watching for sequels.

I give it five stars.

Review of ‘Tabloid’

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Belinda Masters was at the top of her game, editor-in-chief of a prestigious London paper, when she was toppled by a scandal, and forced to return home to New York in disgrace. Now, working for a tabloid, she spends her time writing puff pieces, and looking for that one story that will resuscitate her reputation.

When the body of a young girl is found floating in the river, Belinda sees her chance. But, as she investigates the story, she finds herself in the crosshairs of a vicious serial killer who kidnaps her. After she’s rescued, though, her troubles are only beginning. Now, she’s targeted by corrupt politicians and businessmen who will do anything to keep the tap of federal money flowing into their pockets. Even with a friend on the NYPD, she is overwhelmed, and has to get to the bottom of the story, or die trying.

Tabloid by Robin Masters is an engrossing thriller from start to finish. The author paints a grim picture of the dark underbelly of a city when politics and money cross paths. An engaging cast of characters, and a story that will keep you turning the pages.

This one’s a five-star read.

Review of ‘Shocking True Story’

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True crime writer Kevin Ryan is in need of something ‘over the top’ for his next book in order to boost his sales. When Jett Carter shows up at his door with a heart-wrenching tale of her mother and sister, in prison for a crime, she says, they didn’t commit, he sees his chance.

Things begin to go off the rails, though, when his number-one fan ends up dead, and as he begins to write the story of clumsily executed attempted murders, real bodies start piling up. When he’s implicated in one, things really start to go south, forcing him to reevaluate his priorities.

Shocking True Story by Gregg Olsen reads like a true crime story, with completely believable characters doing unbelievable things, in a well-described setting. The author keeps you the reader in suspense until the shocking, and totally unexpected conclusion.

Snippets of humor, some, tongue in cheek, some a bit over the top, merge seamlessly with shocking revelations at Kevin inches his way closer and closer to a truth he’s unprepared for.

This one kept my attention from page one. I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Gifted’

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Jake Bronson has a special gift; he’s able to link into the thoughts and emotions of others, and it was this gift that enabled him to defeat the alien pyramids that were designed to rid the earth of humanity. In an effort to avoid public knowledge of his ability, and the role he played in saving the earth, and to protect his family, he works unheralded in a VA research facility in California. Each member of his family has vestiges of the ‘gift,’ but his younger son, Alex, has abilities that outstrip them all.

When an old friend warns him that someone is after him, at the same time that Alex’s ability is exposed at the VA hospital, the family declares an emergency, and makes plans to flee. They are separated, though, and Alex and his two siblings, are kidnapped. They find themselves in a plane, flying toward China, along with one of their father’s friends, and learn that their mother—and maybe their father as well—have also been taken. Using their powers, and a lot of grit and luck, they escape their kidnappers, only to find themselves stranded in the wilds of China’s deep forests, in in the middle of a drug lord’s territory. There, they find strange allies to aid them in their quest to find and rescue their parents.

Gifted by Richard Bard is a short prequel to his ‘Brainrush’ series, that sets up a chilling story of their efforts to retrieve their parents, with the help of a defrocked Chinese monk, once a member of an ancient warrior monk culture.

While I think it could’ve used a bit more detail in places, it’s nonetheless a well-crafted story, filled with action and intrigue, and sets the reader up for the series relatively well.

I give this one four stars.

Review of ‘Not So Dead’

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Sam Sunborn, a technology entrepreneur, teams up with a descendant of Albert Einstein to create a program that allows them to digitize memories and personalities and store them on the Internet. When a determined terrorist, The Leopard, learns of their invention, he’s determined to get his hands on it in his quest to destroy the United States. With a team of nonconformists, a digitized ‘Einstein’, and a federal agent willing to bend the rules, Sam races against time to thwart the Leopard’s deadly plans.

Not So Dead by Charles Levin is a quirky novel, combining technology (real and imagined), politics, and terror in a literary thrill ride that’s every bit as exciting as a roller coaster with multiple hairpin turns and loops. The author weaves a fantastic tale that has enough real technology to be credible, and enough excitement for even the hardest action junkie.

The ending is not quite a cliff hanger, but sets the reader up for sequels nicely.

I give it five stars.

Review of ‘Murder is only a Number’

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DCI Isaac Cook and his team are after a woman who is stalking London, killing men, and carving a number in each victim’s chest. They know the identity of the killer, but are unable to ascertain her motive, or find her. Cook is on the hot seat, at odds with a new commissioner at the Met, who is after him as much as the killer.

Murder is only a Number by Phillip Strang is the third book in the DCI Cook thriller series. The author takes the reader step-by-bloody-step through a chilling tale of murder and revenge, with a background of bureaucratic intrigue, that will keep you flipping pages until the end.

This is a bit more disturbing than the first two books in the series, but it provides more background on the main protagonist, as it explores his struggles with balancing his professional and personal lives. The antagonist is chillingly portrayed, but with a measure of empathy that makes her supremely real—and, all the more frightening.

I give this one four stars.

Review of ‘Blank’

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Lincoln Delabar was born without a face; quite literally, a smooth expanse on the front of his head, with only two holes where his nostrils would be, through which he breathes and takes sustenance, liquids which he cannot taste. But, as with all things, when a door closes, a window opens. Lincoln, or Blank, as his father dubbed him, has other abilities. He can sense electrical energy, enabling him to ‘see’ things around him, and he can ‘connect’ with people who touch his face, an action which enables a two-way sharing of memories.

As Linc, his favored name, reaches puberty, he develops friends and contacts beyond his mother and sister—his father having deserted the family because of his inability to cope with both Linc’s deformity and his power—including his uncle, Joey, who is hiding some dark secret, Tuck, a neighborhood boy with whom he develops a close and enduring friendship, and a girl who is able to look past his lack of a face and see the real him.

But, he has enemies, too. People who hate him for what he is, and those who fear him for his ability to ‘see’ them.

Blank by Richard C. Hale is not your usual novel. While all its main characters are teens, the theme is decidedly adult, as they struggle with a serial rapist/killer, drug dealers, and high school bullies who sometimes go way too far. It’s tempting to call it a coming-of-age novel, but it’s not that either. What it is; a darn interesting and intriguing read, handled in such a way that you find yourself believing that such a creature could actually exist.

A five-star premiere to what I predict will be a series that will acquire a cult following.