Review of ‘The List’

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Chicago homicide detective, Tom Mankowski, has had a strange tattoo on the bottom of his foot since birth. He has thought little of it until he investigates a violent murder and finds that the victim also has a number tattoo on his feet. Now, he wants to know why.

The List by J. A. Konrath is a techno-thriller that will keep you amazed and awake as you flip the pages following Mankowski from Chicago to the West Coast, where he finds others like him, people who’ve have tattoos on their feet, and who, like him, were adopted. An eclectic cast of characters totally unlike those in other Konrath mysteries, this story has tension, danger, and a big dose of humor.
You won’t be able to put it down.

This was an easy five-star read!

Review of ‘White Jade’

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When Nick Carter, a former Marine Recon expert now working for the PROJECT, a special agency that reports directly to the President, is assigned to provide security to Selena Connor, niece of a wealthy man who was slain for his money and an unsuccessful attempt to acquire an ancient text supposedly containing the secret to immortality, he didn’t know what he was getting into.
When attempts are made by armed Chinese to abduct Selena, the stakes suddenly get higher, and Nick finds himself at the epicenter of a plot that could lead to war with China.

White Jade by Alex Lukeman is a riveting thriller of international intrigue and violence that will keep you turning pages until the chilling climax. This story of unbridled lust for power will also keep you awake long after you’ve finished reading it.

I give Lukeman four stars for this one.

Review of ‘Under a Black Sky’

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When Asger Vad, his wife, and son are found shot execution style and posed around a table looking at a doll house, and their 11-year-old daughter is missing, Danish police inspector, Daniel Trokic is sent to Alaska to participate in the investigation. He teams up with Angie Johnson, a half-Native American, half-white homicide detective in the Anchorage police department. Together, the two race against time to find the girl, while bodies start piling up, and a nearby volcano decides to get a bad case of indigestion.

Under a Black Sky by Inger Wolf is a finely-tuned murder mystery, featuring a conflicted, flawed character, and an almost science-fiction locale. Rich descriptions and evocative dialogue are the hallmarks of one of the better mystery writers I’ve encountered in a number of years.
Like the frozen landscape of Alaska, this novel has no ornamentation, just bare bones good reading.

I give Wolf five stars for this book.

Review of ‘A Harmless Little Game’

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When Lindsay Bosworth was 19, she was still a virgin. Then, three frat brothers of her fiancé, Drew, gang-raped her, videotaped it, and posted it to the Internet where it went viral. Three of her so-called best friends came forward and said that she’d been drunk and invited it, and to minimize the scandal, her US Senator father had her packed off to a mental institution for four years, where she was to be kept in isolation. She did, however, manage to see a copy of the tape, and to her shock, saw Drew sitting watching, and doing nothing. Even worse, she learns that her rapists were never prosecuted.

Lindsay, though, is no longer just a victim. Once she’s released from the institution and back home, she’s determined to see that her assailants will face the consequences of their actions. The problem, or problems, though, are many. Drew is now her father’s chief of security, with the mission of providing her personal protection, and her father has decided to run for president. Lindsay is not a ‘problem’ that must be managed for the sake of his campaign. To add to her angst, someone is taunting her, and even trying to kill her. Who can she trust?

A Harmless Little Game by Meli Raine is an interesting thriller on many levels. On the one hand, it exposes the lengths people will go to in their quest for political power, even at the expense of those closest to them, while on the other, it shows the power of the Internet to be used for evil purposes. The story proceeds with grim determination as Lindsay slowly comes to grips with her situation, and learns who her true enemies are—but, more importantly, who her friends are. Riveting dialogue and blood-chilling narrative keep the reader flipping pages. My only complaint is the cliff-hanger ending, that leaves the reader wondering, what next?

I give this one four stars.

Review of ‘Betrayal’

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FBI Special Agent Odysseus ‘Odi’ Carr, in addition to being a counter-terrorism, is an explosives specialist. His sister, Cassie, a behavioral psychiatrist, is in love with Odi’s boss, the director of the FBI. This relationship leads to complications when Odi and his team are sent to attack what is supposed to be a terrorist training camp, and turns out to be a hospital. Odi’s team is assassinated, and he barely escapes death himself. Meanwhile, back in the US, corporate fat cats, in an effort to protect their obscene profits, are behind acts of terror to keep the fear level high. Their plans are working until they start dying, and realize that Odi didn’t die, and he’s now hunting them. The FBI director, part of the evil plot, sets Cassie against her own brother, and the race is on.
Betrayal by Tim Tigner is a well-crafted thriller, and, while the Odi character is a bit larger than life, he’s made manageable by having his twin sister, Cassie, as a counterpoint.
Great escapist reading. I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Someone Else’s Daughter’

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When Miranda Steele’s abusive husband stole her infant daughter, and put her up for adoption, the bottom dropped out of her life for a while. Then, she came back determined to never again be a victim, and to never need a man. She took odd jobs, learned self-defense, and developed physically, moving around the country in search of her missing child for thirteen years, until she came across a letter from a 13-year-old girl in a suburb of Atlanta who claimed to be adopted and ignored by her adoptive parents. Thinking this was the best lead she’d ever had in finding her Amy, Miranda heads for Buckhead, Georgia.

There, she meets Wade Parker, wealthy son of a real estate mogul, who broke family tradition by becoming a private investigator. When a 13-year-old girl is murdered, and Amanda is found near the body, she’s arrested under suspicion of committing the crime. Then Wade comes to her rescue, is impressed by her, and hires her as a trainee in his PI firm.

Sparks of all kinds fly between these two as they struggle to find out who is murdering 13-year-old girls in one of Atlanta’s richest suburbs, and Amanda feels that she’s close to finding her long-lost daughter.

Someone Else’s Daughter by Linsey Lanier is a spell-binding thriller with two loveable characters and a richly limned environment. The plotting is first-rate, keeping the reader on tenterhooks until the explosive climax.

You really need to read this one. I give it four stars.

Review of ‘The Hunted’

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LeeAnn is a CPA. Her life revolves around the certainty and reliability of numbers. Her business partner, on the other hand, is more flexible when it comes to numbers, and the law. She’s on her way to Miami to meet him. She likes the heat of the city, but it is soon to become even hotter.

Kane is a Hunter. But, his mission this time is to protect LeeAnn who is on someone’s hit list. What he hadn’t planned on was falling in love with her.

The Hunter by Jackie Ivie is part action, part humor (which I think is partly unintended, but nonetheless funny). It follows Kane and LeeAnn as they flee a hitman who has an abundance of resources at his command. Their escape, however, is greatly complicated by the growing physical and emotional attachment that is growing between them.

The story, in my humble opinion, ends a little abruptly, but I enjoyed reading it.

I give the author four stars for this one.

Review of ‘The First Shot’

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As a homicide detective, Tampa Detective Carl Kane is accustomed to death. But his latest case, three dead drug dealers and two middle-aged women killed execution style at the same scene, has him stumped. When he gets another multiple homicide with the same M.O., he knows he has a problem on his hands, but even he’s unprepared for the madman he’s now chasing.

The First Shot by E. H. Reinhard is pretty tense noir mystery, with vivid descriptions of some pretty gruesome action (a warning for the benefit of the squeamish), and brief glimpses into the minds of the characters.

I give this one four stars.

Review of ‘Gretel: Book One’

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If you’ve read the story of ‘Hansel and Gretel,’ and you think you know all there is to know about a girl and her brother abandoned in the forest by their father at the behest of an evil stepmother, think again. You simply have to read Gretel: Book One by Christopher Coleman.

An ancient evil lurks in the back country. For a long time, it was sleeping, but it’s now awake, and is hungry. It sets its sights on a mother, alone in the forest and seeking help. Gretel, in charge of taking care of her ailing father and brother while her mother, Anika, is away, she longs for change. That change comes when they determine that Anika is missing, but it’s not the change she sought.  Evil, she learns, is everywhere—including right in her own home. Gretel has to grow up fast if she’s to deal with corrupt police officials, a father and grandfather who are not what they seem, and an evil as old as mankind.

Your pulse will race from the first page, and the tension doesn’t let up, even at the end. This is not your usual fairy tale.

I give this one five stars.

Review of ‘Dark Heart’

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Detective Sergeant Charlie Cooper is ready to get out of homicide so he can spend more time with his family. But, when the serial killer he’s been pursuing for a decade is murdered, with one of his victims still missing and unaccounted for, he decides to stay on in the hopes he can rescue her and bring some closure to the families of the other victims.

Eva Matthews has a bad ticker, but is saved at the last minute when she receives a heart transplant. Immediately after a successful operation, she begins having strange dreams. When she learns that her heart came from the murdered serial killer, and a reporter starts hounding her for help finding his missing wife, she and Cooper’s paths cross.

Dark Heart by Catherine Lee is a jolting read that explores not just the details of police efforts to close the books on a sadistic killer, but a psychological thriller that delves into the mysteries of the human mind. The ending, which ties up every loose end and clue the author so skillfully planted throughout, will both surprise and satisfy.

I give Lee five stars for a well-crafted story.

Review of ‘Nothing New Under the Sun’

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Carter Devereux is an archeologist, and the more he studies the history of humanity, the more he’s convinced that ancient, more advanced civilizations once lived on the earth. Worse, he’s convinced that these people had knowledge of, and used, nuclear weapons. As evidence mounts that his suspicions are correct, the government calls upon him to find these ancient weapons of mass destruction before they fall into the wrong hands. Unknown to him, just such a pair of wrong hands is following his every move and trying to get one step ahead. The question is; can he succeed before those who would use these weapons to destroy civilization as we know it?

There is Nothing New Under the Sun by J.C. Ryan is a relatively well-written, tense thriller that, but for the fact that it ends with too many issues unresolved, would be a great read. The author has a masterful way with words, despite a tendency to stop the narrative flow to dump tons of historical and archeological information on the reader. To the author’s credit, this information is informative and interestingly written.

I am, unfortunately only able to give this book three and a half stars, though, because of the aforementioned (to me, at least) weaknesses.

Review of ‘If The Devil Had a Dog’

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Fleeing her estranged husband, a powerful lawyer with connections to a Mexican drug cartel, Sidney McQueen ends up in the small West Texas town of Alpine. She has been directed there to find Markus Yeager, a former Marine and CIA special operator, who operates a hunting camp and stables. When he first meets her, Markus’s suspicions are aroused, so he taps into his CIA connections to check up on her. What he learns sends chills through his body; what she’s fleeing is not just an abusive marriage, but a deadly danger that will pit the both of them against the deadly intentions of a band of criminals who do not hesitate to leave bodies in their wake.

If the Devil Had a Dog by T. K. Lukas is a chilling, spellbinding thriller with a romantic underpinning that will keep you up at night—and, probably awake after you finish reading it. The action is well-crafted and nonstop, and the human dynamics are . . . well, just let me say, you’ll identify with all the characters in this book. Some you’ll root for, and others you’ll cheer when they get what’s coming to them.

One of the best books I’ve read so far this year.

A solid five-star book!

Review of ‘Don’t Tell Meg’

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On his fortieth birthday, radio journalist Peter Bailey did a stupid thing. Despite, or perhaps because or, his troubled marriage, while away for a working weekend, he slept with a fellow journalist. Unaware of what was going on the room adjacent to his in the motel, he soon finds himself embroiled in a race against time. Did his wife, Meg, witness his infidelity? Who else was in the room with her at the time, and who killed the young hotel clerk?

As you read Don’t Tell Meg by Paul J. Teague, you’ll go along with Peter as he thinks about his past, and all the things he’s done that led up to his current predicament, while at the same time desperately trying to find his wife. While some of the flashbacks can be a bit tedious, in the end, it all adds up to a detailed portrait of a man who has made many wrong decisions in his life, but realized it too late.

The author saved a few surprises for the final pages that will stun you—or again, maybe not. An engrossing read.

I give this first book of a planned trilogy four stars.

Review of ‘Codename Moneyman’

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The British SIS hires a recently discharged elite soldier for an elimination mission. He’s to go to Tenerife and kill a British citizen who is deemed a ‘threat to national security.’ Upon arrival, however, his contact in London informs that his true mission is to protect the man. He learns that Russian, Chinese, and British assassins, however, are determined to kill the man, and if necessary, him as well. It will take all the skills he has to survive, let alone accomplish his mission.

Codename: Moneyman by Mark Arundel is the first book in the Codename File Books series. It is a well-plotted story, with lots of action and intrigue, marred by the fact that the main character is never names—just referred to as an elite soldier. Given the number of times he has to show ID or interact with people who would want to know his name, not to mention his conversations with Charlotte Miller, his SIS contact in London, it’s incredible that his name is never used—not even once.

But for that one glitch (personal opinion) and a few too many typos this would be an easy five-star rating. Unfortunately, I can only give it three and a half stars, with the caveat that the author shows lots of promise, and I predict that the subsequent books will be better.

Review of ‘Condemned’

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When Julian Mercer’s wife was brutally murdered, he became emotionally unbalanced and was forced to retire from the SAS. Now, working with his old SAS team, he’s a recovery specialist, tasked with retrieving kidnap victims safely.

In Chicago for a job that fell through, Mercer hears a woman’s scream. In an alley, he finds a young woman holding the body of a man who has been shot. Before he can explain his presence, the police arrive and arrest him because he’s armed. It gets sorted out, and later, a media magnate contacts him for a job—he’s the father of the young woman, and he wants to hire Mercer and his team to protect her. Mercer has concerns about the job, but takes it anyway.

The more he’s associated with the case, the more he knows that his client, the daughter, and just about everyone connected with the case, are withholding important information.

Plots, counterplots, and intrigue inhabit every page of Condemned by G.K. Parks. Well-plotted and full of action, this is a good read for a slow weekend.

I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Snapped’

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After completing FBI training, former sheriff’s deputy, Jade Monroe, is assigned to a Midwestern office of the bureau. When a series of murders in Houston, TX cause local authorities to think they have a serial killer stalking their streets, Jade and her partner, J.T. Harper are dispatched to assist them in apprehending the person responsible for some really gruesome crimes.

The list of victims continues to grow as Jade and J.T. work tirelessly to identify the perpetrator. Jade goes against the common wisdom—that the killer is male—and insists that they are looking for a woman. When she identifies a potential suspect, she makes herself a target, and is taken hostage. The clock, at that point, really starts ticking as J.T. and the bureau pull out all the stops to recover her. But, Jade has her own cards to play.

Snapped by C.M. Sutter is book one in the Agent Jade Monroe FBI thriller series. It is fast-paced, with all the hallmarks of good mystery writing. The reader is given all the information up front, the mystery being, can Jade stop the killer before she herself becomes a victim. The action in this story takes place against the backdrop of Jade’s search for the man who killed her father, a highly respected policeman himself.

This a series to keep an eye on. I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Not What She Seems’

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Steven Ashton is a billionaire from New York, looking for a place to get away from it all. Emily Grant is a single mother on the run from the law. A chance meeting in Nevada, and again in a small midwestern town is fateful for both. Steven finds himself falling for her, unaware that her traveling companion, Richard, is controlling her and planning to set him up for a scam.

At their paths continue to cross, Steven finally learns that Emily thinks she killed her abusive husband, and is, with Richard’s help, trying to elude the law. The more he learns, though, the more he’s convinced that she’s a victim, not a killer, and that Richard is a dangerous man.

Not What She Seems by Victorine E. Lieske is a chilling thriller about victimhood, and the danger of falling for first impressions. As Steven wrestles with his feelings for Emily and her son, Conner, and Richard falls ever deeper into the dark recesses of his tortured mind. A final, fateful encounter is being set up, that will shake their beliefs to the very core of their being.

Lieske plots a tricky story that will hit you between the eyes with its surprise ending like a cinder block. She lives up to her bestseller billing.

I give this book five stars.

Review of ‘The Hyperion Web’

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A shadowy organization, The Hyperion, launches a deadly attack on the United States. Unlike previous terrorist attacks, though, no one claims responsibility, or issues a public statement. The president is worried, because the effect of the attack is putting him in a position where he might have to resign and turn the Oval Office over to his vice president, a man whose politics is markedly different from his own.

He turns to ex-NFL player, ex-Special Forces soldier, Jack Crockett, now a one-eyed mercenary for hire, to find and punish the perpetrators. With the help of an intelligence agent he rescued from a group of thugs, and a behemoth of a former Marine, Jack dives into the murky waters of international terrorism, where he becomes the shark looking for prey.

The Hyperion Web by D.P. Mitchell is a tense, high-stakes drama set against the backdrop of international and domestic intrigue, high-tech warfare, and double dealing aplenty. This story has elements of The Manchurian Candidate and Rambo and is only marred, in my humble opinion, by the frequency of head hopping among the vast cast of characters. That won’t, however, keep you from enjoying it.

I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Surrogate’

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Paul Medved, a former MACV-SOG soldier, works as an undercover narc in Pittsburgh. He’s been undercover so long, he’s one of the force’s most effective operators, but he’s no longer able to go back to being a regular cop. The drug war in south Florida and the Caribbean is heating up, and DEA is hot to get one of the main players behind it, Haiti-based drug kingpin, Herve Villafranca. They request operational assistance from Paul. At the same time, another government agency learns that the drug cartels are involved in international terrorism, and they want Paul as an asset to track down those behind it all. Paul takes on this job as well, but soon finds that it’s a challenge playing the triple game.

Surrogate by Regis P. Sheehan is a chillingly real story of the nexus between illegal drugs and terrorism. It reads as if it was ripped from the daily news. Although, there are a large number of digressions as the local history of places or organizations is given, this only slows the flow of reading a tad. The story would still be entertaining without them, but they weren’t unappreciated.

All in all, an entertaining read. I give it four stars.

Review of ‘No Man’s Land’

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John and Robert Puller were just kids when their mother, Jackie, disappeared.  Thirty years later, their father, legendary three-star general John Puller, now suffering from dementia, is accused of killing her. John, a chief warrant officer with army CID, with the help of his brother and an enigmatic secret agent, Veronica Knox, determines to solve his mother’s case–even if it means implicating his father.

At the same time Paul Rogers, in prison for 17 years for manslaughter, is paroled. Rogers had been in the same place as Jackie Puller at the time of her disappearance.

The paths of these two men cross with a bang in David Baldacci’s No Man’s Land. Classic Baldacci, it keeps you guessing until the end, and doesn’t fail to entertain the whole way.

I received this book as a gift.  I give it five stars.