thriller

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.

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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.

Review of ‘The Snow Globe’

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When Maggie Kincaid started having strange dreams, she broke her engagement with Michael, a man she thought she loved, but discovered that she didn’t really know. Obsessed with her, he begins a relentless pursuit that causes her to flee from city to city in a vain effort to escape him. When Michael turns his attention to her sister, Julie, Maggie decides that it’s time to stop running. Law enforcement, despite a number of restraining orders, has not been able to help her, and the dreams featuring her deceased grandmother, and her effort to get a message to Maggie, get worse. After Michael kidnaps Julie and tells Maggie that if she doesn’t return to him Julie will die, she takes matters into her own hands, becoming the pursuer instead of the victim, following him from New York City to Washington, DC, in the hopes that she can finally bring her nightmare to an end.

The Snow Globe by Tony Faggioli is a riveting thriller that deals with the issue of stalking, the limitations of the legal system to curb this life-shattering crime, and how one person, with determination and persistence, can take control of her own life.

Overlaying the human aspects of the story is a bit of paranormal activity that is only partially explained—but, this is not a deal killer. Characters bring to mind real-life people, despite the paranormal aspect, and are easy, if a bit uncomfortable, to relate to.

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

Review of ‘I Know Your Every Move’

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Trying to put her dark past behind her, Sophie is working for a women’s crisis center in Manchester. But, one day, the sinister text messages start. Has someone from her past finally found her? The messages are strange, and troubling, but Sophie is determined to no longer be a victim.
I Know Your Every Move by Diane Ezzard is a troubling story of predatory stalking, and how it can up end a person’s life.
An interesting story, that’s unfortunately far too cluttered with the mundane details of Sophie’s day – from what she eats to what she wears. I was also unable to completely sympathize with the main character, who has a history of making bad decisions about the men in her life, and a seeming inability to learn from her mistakes. In the end, it was a bit disappointing.
I received a free copy of this book, and even though I read it to the end, I was left feeling that even with all the details that had been provided, some important points were left out. I give it three and a half stars, because the author shows promise, and with more experience will write a story that will capture not only my imagination, but my interest.

Review of ‘Offenbunker’

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The time is the 1960s, and America is still recovering from WWII, the Korean War, and waking up in 1946 to discover that its WWII ally, the Soviet Union, is actually its enemy. The CIA, formed partly out of the wartime OSS, is locked in a deadly struggle with the KGB in now-divided Berlin, and is losing the battle as its agents keep getting burned. A group of intrepid spies, some of them veterans of recent wars, are brought together to find out why the CIA is always on the losing side, and learn that there is a high-level mole within the CIA itself.

Against this backdrop of cold war intelligence skullduggery, a military hero is asked to oversee security of a super-secret facility designed to ensure government continuity in the event of nuclear war, a facility nicknamed Offenbunker. The Soviets, of course, want all the details of this facility, and they order their CIA mole, not just to get the details, but to sabotage it.

Offenbunker by A. G. Russo is a novel of Cold War intrigue and betrayal, as agents of both sides lock horns in battles, personal and professional. The narrative is a bit choppy in places, almost like stage directions, and some of the characters are a bit cliché, a lot like the depictions in movies filmed during the 1960s, given to a bit of hyperbole when they speak. Historical information is also dumped in large quantities, often at the beginning of a chapter, and I found this disrupted the flow of reading. It would’ve been preferable to have this data given out more naturally as the chapter progressed.

While this is not a bad book; it’s certainly an interesting subject; it’s not the author’s best work.

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

Review of ‘The 13th Codex’

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Nicolai Keeper works for a shadowy government agency as an assassin for hire. His only contact is ‘Mother,’ a matronly voice who feeds him instructions and provides help when he’s in trouble. Sent to kill a German double agent, Nicolai runs into a mob of Russian agents who also want the German dead. As he’s making his escape, he grabs a US diplomatic bag that was in the German’s possession, and that simple act marks him as a dead man. Only, it’s Mother who wants him dead.

Nicolai realizes that the contents of the pouch he’s taken are important, but when he opens it and reads the documents within, they are Greek to him—actually, Greek—and are in some strange code that he cannot decipher. When he contacts mother, he learns that he possesses the 13th Codex, a mysterious document that’s apparently so important, anyone with knowledge of it must die.

The 13th Codex by Liam North follows Nicolai from German to an isolated Greek tourist town to the Yucatan Peninsula, and finally, to the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, where he somehow loses three years of his life, and his memory. A fast-paced thriller, this book will keep you on the edge of your chair as it whipsaws you from one exotic locale to another, with non-stop action, leavened slightly with the on-again, off-again romance Nicolai has with an aggressive Greek woman who has her own agenda.

The story ends on a speculative note, with many loose ends untied. Somewhat disappointing, given the expectations that the narrative has built up to that point. Despite this, I’m interested in what happens next, so I suppose the author knew what he was doing to end it this way.

The author gets high marks for his characterizations, larger-than-life people in unbelievable circumstances that still seem credible, and crisp, no-nonsense dialogue that pulls no punches. If the sequel to this story is as well done as this one, it’ll probably be worth the wait.

I received a free copy of this book.

I give this book four stars.

Review of ‘The Forgotten’

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A field operative for Athena Ops, a super-secret arm of the US Government, Ari Cohen is one of the best. When he receives information that seems to show reclusive millionaire Pieter Stangl involved in human trafficking, he’s suspicious. Known in criminal circles as The Raven, Stangl hardly seems the type to conduct such an operation in broad daylight where he knows satellites are likely to pick it up.

Cohen is assigned to track The Raven down and end his operation, but soon discovers that there is more to it than he first thought. The trafficking operations are much more widespread than anyone thought, and are being run by ruthless people for whom human life takes second place to profits. In order to put a stop to it, he has to do something he thought he’d never do; he has to ally himself with the man he’s hunting. But, it’s the only way to save the forgotten, which is what his team calls the children caught up in this vicious activity.

The Forgotten by Spencer Hawke is a good story. The action is well portrayed, and the characters come across as real—though flawed in many cases—people. The only fault I find with this story is the author’s tendency to interrupt the narrative flow to provide data on worldwide human trafficking. It would have been better if this information had been fed in smaller bites, and some of it could’ve been assumed by the actions taking place.

Despite this minor fault, which is just my personal reaction, it was still a very enjoyable read. I received a free copy of this book.

I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Death Toll Rising’

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Houston Police Detective David Porter, head of a special unit of officers, has long planned a vacation with his family. But, the excursion is cut short when one of the country leaders attending a conference in Houston mysteriously dies in a restaurant in Houston’s Chinatown, and a shadowy Middle Eastern group goes on the Internet with a video of the death, and accuses the Americans of being behind it.

Federal law enforcement agencies jump to alert as international tensions and ill feelings toward the US begin to rise, but, hitting nothing but dead ends, are forced to call on Porter and his team for assistance. When another leader has a sudden ‘heart attack,’ and the group, Allah’s Warriors, again lays the blame on the US, Porter finds himself in a life or death race against the clock—and, things only get worse when the group succeeds in assassinating the American president.

Death Toll Rising, by Terry Keys is a story of international intrigue that will get your pulse racing and keep you on the edge of your chair throughout. The author gets inside the minds of his characters in a way that makes you feel you know them, and his descriptions of action—whether terrorist or US military—are extremely credible without going into mind-numbing details.

In a world that is currently beset with almost unimaginable tensions, this story reads as if it was cribbed from highly-sensitive intelligence reports. A thriller that will, in a word, thrill you.

I give it five stars.

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.