Book Review: The Freedom Broker

The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar.

The Freedom Broker, K. J. Howe’s debut novel is an intriguing story. Readers get the feeling from page one that they are on this roller coaster ride with the characters as they attempt to rescue kidnapped victims. Thea Paris is a woman with a mission, using her personal experiences to be the best world-class freedom broker, an elite kidnap and ransom specialist.

The author uses some of her personal experiences to write this story. “I grew up in various countries and knew I wanted to write a book with an international setting. After reading about kidnapping, I realized a novel or series of novels about that subject would allow me to do this. When I was a child, my father worked in telecommunications. When we were in Saudi Arabia one of my father’s colleagues was arrested and nobody knew where he was because they moved him from place to place. What I find fascinating from a psychological point of view is that someone kidnapped and held hostage, lives in a kind of purgatory. What I mean is you’re still alive, but have no quality of life. You’re in a cage, or a cabin, or in a jungle, being held against your will. You must ask the kidnappers for everything you need. The rest of the world goes on, but as a hostage, you’re stuck where you are.”

Shortly after returning from saving a hostage Thea must face her most challenging rescue when her oil-magnate father, Carlos, is kidnapped on a yacht where very few clues are evident. To make matters worse the kidnappers won’t negotiate and only leave cryptic messages in Latin. In search of her father she travels to Africa, Greece, and Turkey and comes into contact with dubious players such as warlords and the Chinese. As the body count rises, the clock for rescuing is ticking down for Thea and company.

Thea is confident, strong, and independent, but has a vulnerability both emotionally and physically. She is able to hold her own in a male-dominated world; yet, gets along well with others although she remains at arms length. Driven to make sure the tragedies that shattered her family never touch anyone else, she risks her life with a fierce determination to bring everyone home alive. Having Type 1 Diabetes might limit some people, but Thea makes sure that this illness will not define her.

Family plays a huge role in this story. Thea is still haunted by her brother’s kidnapping.  As a twelve-year old he was taken as she looked on and remained silent, letting her fear get the best of her. For nine months he was brutalized and turned into a child soldier, made to do unthinkable acts of violence. The dynamics in this rich and powerful family adds to the fascinating storyline to see how revenge, guilt, and regret play out. But, Thea has an extended family with those at Quantum International Security including the former Special Forces guys, especially her childhood friend Rif Hakan. Her attitude is that family is what you create, not necessarily what you are given.

Howe 517S+pom94L._SX330_BO1 204 203 200_ believes a strong theme throughout is “family. They are the ones we love the most, but also those who can hurt us the most. Sadly children may judge their parents or vice-versa. Sometimes love is not unconditional. There are parents who see children as extensions of themselves in a narcissist way. I wanted to explore how children feel that they must live up to their parents expectations and demands. Is family only blood or broader? How will a family handle a kidnapping? I think the entire family would be held captive, and they have to make very complicated decisions. For example, should they get law enforcement or the media involved?”

Different scenes in the book allow readers to absorb details about hostages and their rescuers. Throughout the novel the author sprinkles strategies about surviving. Because her father was an alpha personality she worried that he would have a hard time as a hostage since he needs to control his emotions, by being patient, disciplined, and yielding to the captor’s authority. There are many more fascinating facts about what to do when traveling to be safe.

The Freedom Broker has nonstop action and suspense. Using exotic locales, the rich and powerful, manipulation, betrayal, family relationships, and the geo-political world this storyline becomes a page-turner.

Book Review: Before The Dawn

The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar.

Cynthia Eden is a unique suspense romance writer. All the books in the Killer Instinct trilogy, including the second installment, Before The Dawn have very creative titles that alert to the heroine; After the Dark is named after Samantha Dark and Before The Dawn is named after Dawn Alexander. There is also the premise that explores how someone in law enforcement through their special relationship, are able to see the killer in a way others cannot, allowing readers to be drawn into the dark minds of the psychopathic characters.

Her next book, the conclusion to the Killer Instinct series, “will feature Macey Night and Bowen Murphy, the last book of the “Killer Instinct” series. As FBI Agents they will be working on a case together and then form a relationship. All of the characters will be back because this is the tie up book for the trilogy. In the future I would like to do a series that focuses on one character, the lead in every book of the series, where we can see how they would handle different cases presented and grow.”

Eden does a great job of getting someone up to speed that has not read the first in the series. Early on Samantha Dark, the main character of After The Dark, returns, explaining her job is now the supervisor of an experimental unit of FBI Agents that have a personal connection to the serial killer through family, friendship, lovers, as well as their tormentors. This team moves throughout the US when murders start piling up with the suspect attributed to a serial killer.

The author noted, “Samantha is smart; yet, has trust issues and because of that keeps secrets. She is a conflicted heroine because justice matters most to her and she does not always see the world as black and white. I explored with her how it is truly hard to know someone, especially those who do not fully open up. We only know what people show us, basically what is on the surface.”

Unfortunately the Iceman with his diabolical ways possibly slipped under the radar, having committed his crimes before the unit was established. Seven years ago, Jason Frost, the Iceman, sliced Dawn Alexander up with a knife, and calmly explained how he planned to freeze her to death. This was personal to the killer, because he used his father’s meme, “blood always comes first and binds.” hoping his brother Tucker would join in the “fun,” since Dawn was his lover. At that moment his brother Tucker, also Dawn’s lover, recognized he had missed all the signs that Jason was a monster, and knew that in order to save Dawn he must shoot him.

In the present day, a serial killer with Jason’s hallmarks, starts operating in New Orleans, also the place where Dawn currently resides and is now being terrorized. Although the sole survivor to the Iceman’s attacks, she still has scars, both emotional and physical where he maimed her. Samantha’s team, including Tucker Frost, hunts the predator, unsure if they have a copycat or Jason has returned.

Although Dawn starts out as the victim she had developed an inner strength, making sure her life got back on track. Part of the reason she became a PI is to be seen as the protector, not a weak and scared person, but someone who uncovers secrets and lies to find the truth about people. Now having a sense of normalcy she is determined not to let this antagonist take it away from her. A quote from the book hammers the point when she told Tucker, “He didn’t break me... I am stronger than he was. I’m stronger than you give me credit for being… I’ve changed and could let the fear go. That the past wasn’t going to control my life.”

  Bc42f4efdf370a7f02355c.L._CB192814253_SL90_RO5 1 174 177 178 255 255 255 15_AA115_Tucker must also realize that if he is to have the relationship re-emerge with Dawn he must also let the past go. He needs to compartmentalize between Jason the brother and Jason the serial killer. His brother was his support system, teaching him to ride a bike, holding his hand as they buried their mother, and his best friend, while the killer was evil, sadistic, and depraved.

A warning: keep a light on while reading this Dark” series. Before The Dawn gets readers hooked from page one. Eden does a wonderful job with the character development as she allows readers to get into the minds of the antagonists and protagonists. The tense atmosphere created with the brutality of the murders makes the plot very suspenseful.


Book Review: The Smear

The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar.

Journalists today are elitists with their own agenda, never actually practicing journalism.  Only a handful can be respected, trusted, and believed: Sharyl Attkisson falls into this category. She is an author and investigative reporter who hosts the syndicated TV news series Full Measure. (  Attkisson is a whistle blower of sorts in educating the public about the biased media.  Her latest book The Smear reveals the tactics used to influence opinions in order to obscure the truth.

In the beginning of this book she discusses the propaganda campaign used by the OSS, the predecessor to the CIA. They had asked the legendary Marlene Dietrich to sing “Lili Marlene” in German and English in order to make the Axis forces feel homesick and realize they were fighting for the wrong side. She contrasts this with Hitler’s chief propagandist Joseph Goebbels’ playbook, which calls for creating a big lie, the bigger the better to get more people to believe it; repeat it often enough so it becomes the truth; and persistence is the most important requirement for success.

Today’s media and Leftists seem to take a page, not out of the OSS, but out of Goebbels strategy. Attkisson wants to inform Americans on the tactics used by political operatives on both sides as well as corporate operatives. These tactics fall into categories of “Astroturf, and Transactional Journalism,” all tools of the smear campaign. Her definition of a smear, “Taking a sprinkle of truth and perverting it into a weapon of mass destruction to advance an undisclosed larger goal, often political or financial. Smear campaigns take something that many times has a grain of truth and amplifies it to accomplish the annihilation of their target.”

One of the worst smears of all is the comparison of Donald Trump and those in his administration to the Nazi regime.  Take for example Ashley Judd who said at the Women’s March, “I feel Hitler in these streets. A mustache traded for a toupee. Nazis renamed the cabinet electric conversion therapy the new gas chamber shaming the gay out of America turning rainbows into suicide notes.” The press is no different. The Washington Post editorial board, during the heat of the Republican primary, wrote, "You don't have to go back to history's most famous example, Adolf Hitler to understand that authoritarian rulers can achieve power through the ballot box."

It would be almost laughable if it were not so sad that these denouncers of Trump are themselves hypocrites.  Even liberal commentator Piers Morgan has had enough.  He sarcastically said in a FOX interview, "I find this Hitler stuff with Donald Trump unbelievably offensive... Donald Trump to my knowledge has not murdered anybody.  If you are not prepared in the liberal world to now say he is the new Hitler, you yourself then become the Devil, and that is what happened to me."

These smear artists need to understand they have crossed a line as they suspend their normal standards and practices, and should take a history lesson to learn about the Nazis’ crimes: political opponents being thrown into prisons, with many executed; the mass slaughter of Jews and gays along with other ethnicities; Russian prisoners of war killed; forced labor camps; the Nuremberg laws of 1935; children experimented on; and the Final Solution of the Jews.

51-mTmKboUL._SX328_BO1 204 203 200_In reading this book people will become more aware about the world of opposition research and the dirty tricks those in power use to influence opinions. They have an agenda to prop up or destroy any narrative that goes against their beliefs by using the smear tactic to create an impression of widespread support or falsehoods when the opposite is true. Even movies are not out of the realm of these smear artists.

One way the operatives do this is by Astroturf, an “idea to keep the public from ever knowing exactly who is behind a particular effort to sway opinion. I describe it in my book as a way to saturate our consciousness, where we are made to think everyone believes something. It’s similar to the bandwagon approach. If you do not agree with a narrative, you are made to believe you’re an outlier, afraid to say what you think because ‘no one’ agrees with you. The idea is to give the impression there’s widespread support for or against an issue when there may not be.”

Attkisson noted, 13 Hours, the movie, about the attack in Benghazi, was not very flattering to the Obama Administration and Hillary Clinton. “They could not directly impeach those heroes that put their life on the line; instead, they sought to ‘controversialize the movie itself,’ in an attempt to keep people from seeing it. For example, Vox put up a review that pans the movie even though the writer only saw the trailer. Many others falsely pointed out that the movie was a box office flop; yet, the true narrative is that it was the number two-grossing new movie release in the US during its opening week.”

If her book had come out earlier people might have recognized the tactics used against the movie about Chris Kyle, American Sniper. This Washington Post comment is a good example, “the movie also reveals a man remarkably unburdened by conscience.” Actually, this reviewer got it wrong because in the book, the movie, and in the interview Chris always pointed out how he was haunted by his sniping duties, "I definitely have my nightmares, but not for the people I killed, but for the people I could not save: my brothers who died next to me, on top of me, or in my arms.  I don't worry about what other people think of me. My only regret is not being able to save more American lives. When I try to take someone out, it's because they are attempting to take the life of one of our soldiers.” 

She explains why she considers these astroturf smear campaigns, “Whether intentional or not, the players include a familiar group of media outlets known for advancing liberal narratives and to be on the Media Matters agenda. The information put forward is misleading, and in some cases, inaccurate to further a narrative instead of the truth. Finally, some of the efforts seem disingenuous and use recognized astroturf language.”

Another tactic, Transactional journalism refers to the “friendly, mutually beneficial relationships that have developed between reporters and those on whom they report. It’s when the relationships cross a line.” Falling into that category are some political pundits. Take for example CNN’s Donna Brazile, a Democratic party operative, who secretly slipped Hillary Clinton an advance question for a CNN town hall with Bernie Sanders. Attkisson noted, “We are not keeping an adequate firewall, giving the very people access to the newsroom who are trying to sway our opinion and shape news coverage. I am often not sure what these pundits on both sides add, besides propaganda talking points. This is part of what I call the soft ‘infiltration’ of the news media. We haven’t done a good job at staying at arms length from the interests who seek to use us as tools.”

As an investigative reporter she is an expert at detecting smear campaigns and warns, “One smear artist I interviewed said nearly every image you run across in daily life, whether it’s on the news, a comedian’s joke, a meme on social media or a comment on the Internet, was put there for a reason. It’s like scenes in a movie, he said. Nothing happens by accident. Sometimes people have paid a great deal of money to put those images before you. What you need to ask yourself isn’t so much ‘is it true,’ but ‘who wants me to believe it and why?’” This is why everyone should be reading The Smear, to find out how they do it, who is doing it, and what to look for regarding these dirty tactics.  

Book Review: Blame

The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar.

Blame by Jeff Abbott is a psychological thriller. The good news for fans is that he writes the plot with the same intensity as the Sam Capra novels. This stand-alone explores in a gripping fashion the “what if mystery” that happens after a car crash.

Abbott noted Sam Capra is on a sabbatical and “is taking a well deserved time off. Before writing the Sam series I wrote stand-alones. In Blame I rewrote scenes because the body count was rising like in a Sam novel. I decided to make this story’s suspense driven by emotion rather than solely action. Wanting to write a book set in a similar place to where I live, I spoke with a personal injury lawyer I know. I then got the idea to write about someone that crashes, but never knew what happened. I wanted to explore the emotional and physical side of memory loss. What happens when someone has to rely on getting the facts about their life from others who could also edit what was told? In this story the unreliable narrators were all the people around the amnesia victim.”

Two years ago Jane Norton and her lifelong friend and next-door neighbor David Hall were in a car crash. Plunging off a cliff Jane was blamed by those in the Austin, Texas suburb of Lakehaven for his death. Due to the crash, she cannot remember anything since her father’s death three years ago, having been in a coma and now with complete amnesia. Besides having to cope with David’s grief-stricken mother, Perri, Jane must now find out who is Liv Danger and why are they threatening her on the Internet. She does not know whom to trust since everyone seems to have their own motivations including her therapist, friends, even her mother. With her memory coming back in bits and pieces she becomes convinced the car crash was not an accident, that she didn’t intend to kill David, and that everyone around her has been keeping something from her.

Abbott related to the characters Jane and Perri, considering them “one of my favorites. Jane starts off beaten down but makes a decision to find out the truth. Perri begins with anger, resentment, and feels powerless. There is nothing more awful than losing a child. Jane and Perri deal with a lot of adversity, but end up finding a way to move forward. I think throughout the book both had a personality reconstruction where they had to make new choices as they sought closure and some state of happiness.”

The story is filled with action and surprises that people will not see coming. Readers will not want to put this novel down, until they have the answers to the mystery of what happened that night. 51QbbGyE55L._SX329_BO1 204 203 200_

Book Review: Down A Dark Road

The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar.

Down A Dark Road by Linda Castillo is an electrifying thriller. It seems with each book, this being the ninth, she gets better and better. Within a riveting mystery she is able to seamlessly blend the Amish culture, giving glimpses and insights to their way of life.

The tidbits about the Amish help make the plot realistic. Family trumps all considering they are a strong and tightknit community. When something bad happens they circle the wagons and step in to help. Although Kate left the Amish she still misses this. They try to maintain their culture by keeping their children under their thumbs, which is something Kate did not conform with. A scene in this book shows Kate’s independent side as she played ice hockey after being encouraged by Joseph; yet, her parents tried to steer her away. Probably because they are a male dominated patriarchal society where the husband has the final say. The scenes show this when Amish women interviewed by Kate are told by their husbands to get inside the house. Also, the phrases from their language, Pennsylvania Dutch add to the authenticity.

Once again small town Painters Mill police chief Kate Burkholder is forced to re-visit her childhood past. She is notified about the escape of Joseph King, convicted of killing his wife while his children slept in the same house. This is personal for her since he was her childhood friend and hero who she looked up to. Knowing that Joseph had always denied killing his wife Naomi, Kate begins to wonder if he is guilty or was he railroaded. Although never leaving the Amish community he has become a dark figure after losing his father in an accident.

Castillo comments about Kate, “She can be stubborn at times and never gives up. I also think she can be imperfect and impulsive. People should be aware that in the first book, Sworn To Silence, her backstory was introduced. At that time she was a little rough around the edges and a damaged soul that drank way too much. In later books I speak about her relationship with her siblings who have remained Amish. I hope to present in future books more of her imperfect childhood. Although she had a big heart Kate did lash out. At some point I will examine her relationship with her mother and father who knew she was a rebel of sorts.”

Regarding Joseph the author notes, “An imperfect and flawed man who went down a dark road. He lost control of his life. He was not a black and white person, but had a lot of gray. I am hoping that over the course of the book readers begin to care for and sympathize with him. I put in the scene where he defends his horse after someone threw an egg at the animal when he was only thirteen, and another time he comes to Kate and her sister’s defense. These scenes show how the English have participated in crimes against the Amish that also include throwing live firecrackers, bottles, and rocks into their buggies.”

In this book characters that come to life have readers caring what happens to them. As the mystery unfolds it becomes obvious this is not a cut and dry story that weaves suspense, humor, and a gripping tension. 51BhDivYTQL._SX328_BO1 204 203 200_

Book Review: Two Nights

The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar.

Two Nights has writer Kathy Reichs venturing into new territory. This novel’s  51sRfHuCGcL._SX326_BO1 204 203 200_plot line and characters do not delve into forensic anthropology as with the Temperance Brennan series, the basis for the hit TV show Bones. What both have in common are main characters that bring justice to the families and the victims, whether dead or alive.

Reichs noted the main character Sunnie Night “grew out of a story from an earlier book, Death du Jour. It is based on a true cult where seventy-five people were killed. Three of the victims were in Quebec, parents and a baby, who were assassinated. This actually happened and I was present when they came to our lab for autopsy. After thinking about the mentality of cults and why they kill themselves and others I did a lot of research on the psychology. This gave me rise to think, ‘what if someone grew up in the context of a cult where everyone they knew was either killed or killed themselves?’”

She decided to write a non-Temperance book after “my publisher suggested it. At first I was not overly enthusiastic, but the more I thought about it the more I realized it could be quite fun. After nineteen Temperance Brennan books I am locked in with the facts, and I have to remember to keep everything straight. With a new character like Sunday I was able to once again make things up, starting from nothing. I found the process stimulating and fascinating. BTW: I like Tempe and am not done with her yet, but I was energized in writing this new character.”

The featured character, Sunday Night, is the direct opposite of Temperance Brennan in many ways. She is not a scientist, but ex-military and an ex-cop who never wants to follow the rules. Physically and emotionally scarred from her troubled childhood she has developed a toughness and stubbornness, while withdrawing from the world, now living on Goat Island, off the South Carolina coast. What she has in common with Temperance is a dry sarcastic wit, resourcefulness, diligence, a never-ending persistence, and intelligence, although hers is more a street smarts.

The book begins with Sunday (Sunnie) as a reclusive hermit being asked to investigate a missing girls’ case by her foster father, retired detective Beau Beaumonde. He feels that if she handles the investigation of a teenage girl possibly kidnapped by a cult he can draw her out of seclusion and have her face her own demons.

Stella Bright vanished a year after a bombing at a Jewish day school where her mother and brother were killed. Her grandmother hires Sunnie to find out if Stella is alive or dead. Needing assistance she enlists the help of her twin brother August (Gus) Night. The backstory of these twins influences the plot in a riveting way. Both are impulsive, have a temper, with an attitude to shoot first and ask questions later in their attempts to find out the truth behind Stella’s disappearance.

Although billed as a stand-alone it has all the features to be a series with intriguing characters and an action filled plot. The twists and turns keep the readers guessing as to what will happen next.

Book Review: Unsub

The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar.

Unsub by Meg Gardiner is the first in a series, introducing San Francisco detective Caitlin Hendrix. This clever plot will remind reminders of the 1990s serial executioner the Zodiac Killer. As with the real killer the murderer in this series, the Prophet, has readers looking over their shoulder, becoming more aware of their surroundings.

As a young child the author remembers, “hearing about the Zodiac Killer who wreaked terror on the Bay area. The Zodiac sent dozens of messages to the police and media, including cryptograms that have never been broken. The terror wrought by the killings still lingers today. I grew up in California, spooked by the knowledge that the Zodiac could strike at any time. Today, I’m spooked by the thought that the killer hasn’t been caught. The Zodiac could still be out there. And, being a thriller writer, spooky thoughts lead me to spooky ideas. What if a terrifying cold case turned hot again? What if a killer who’d disappeared resumed killing decades later? And what was his motivation: killing for thrills, lusting for the publicity, and/or trying to gain power over people by fear.”

It begins with narcotics detective Caitlin Hendrix asked to join the homicide unit because of who she knows. Twenty years ago the Prophet terrorized the city and haunted the detective trying to capture him who also happens to be Caitlin’s father. Wanting to pick Mack Hendrix’s brain those working the case feel his daughter would be the best person for the job. Unfortunately, this “unsub” has returned with a vengeance. As with her father, he is playing with Caitlin’s mind, teasing and taunting her. Mack still has regrets about the one who got away and she is motivated to find the Prophet and bring him to justice, righting a wrong done to her dad.

Gardiner does a wonderful job exploring the father/daughter relationship. Although strained it is obvious that they love and respect one another. He was her role model and inspiration for becoming a detective. The book quote speaks to the Prophet’s effect on her family’s life, “The poison that had cored a hole in her life, marked her as an outsider as a kid, and driven her to become a police officer.” Emphasizing that she was not going to destroy her life as it had her dad’s.

Describing the father/daughter relationship as strained, Gardiner wants to convey that Mack “was her hero growing up yet she found it very painful to watch him unable to come to grips with not solving this crime. Because she loved him she wants to right the things he could not. The Prophet forces them to reconnect and face their own demons. I put in the book this quote, ‘Job stays at the station,’ because she saw how this case broke her dad emotionally, consuming his life.”

Bringing in astronomy, religion, and book literature made the story even more potent. It was very interesting how the author showed Mercury as an element, astrological sign, and a planet. Caitlin explains, “It depends on what mercury means to him. Mercury the planet closest to the sun? Or Mercury the winged messenger-Roman god, guide of souls to the underworld. Or maybe mercury the chemical element...The only metal that’s liquid at room temperature.”

Readers will feel their heart beating as they follow the Prophet’s sadistic nature. Just when they think they have everything figured out Gardiner will throw in some twists that turn everything upside down. This plot will get into people’s head and under their skin so beware to read it during the daytime. 51iVGDxOxML._SX329_BO1 204 203 200_

Book Review: Wired

The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar.

Wired by Julie Garwood has the relationship dominant to the story. This novel has much more romance than suspense along with humorous scenes, a welcome relief from the tension of thrillers.

The book features a computer nerd, Allison Trent who gives geeks a good name. She is beautiful, painfully shy, models on the side, and is not a phony; yet, relaxes by writing computer codes and working out puzzles. Determined to make a name for herself in a male dominated field she uses her intellectual ability to see patterns that no one else can decipher. Her dream is to create a program that could revolutionize the tech industry.

Garwood’s writing process begins with “the visualization of a scene and then I am able to write the rest of the story. In Wired I had a vision of this young girl watching TV and saw that hackers had stolen the money of nursing home patients. Allison can relate because she grew up totally powerless and now wants to become their champion. I want her to be in more books since I like how her mind works. What I enjoy doing is bringing back my characters in future books in a reunion of sort.”

While contemplating her options after she graduates college Allison is offered a position in the FBI to track down a leaker, a traitor. Able to focus and believing in her own capability she accepts the job on one condition, receiving immunity. Never keeping a penny for herself Allison has hacked into accounts of bad guys who steal money and she returns it to the victims anonymously. In a sense she has become a modern day Robin Hood.

Having been a history major the author sees similarities between that and computer coding. “I loved the medieval period because it was so disciplined just like computers where progression is important. I came to this technology late because I was not computer savvy. In fact, I still use a typewriter for my books, but now use a computer for everything else. I think all young girls should be exposed to computer codes and I find it fascinating myself.”

A sub-plot will remind readers of the Cinderella story. Allison seems unable to stand up to her Aunt Jane and Uncle Russell. If she did not follow their demands they would go into an angry rage. To avoid confrontation she would agree to do what was asked of her. A quote from the book hammers this point home, “It was so much easier to get along and do what was demanded than to argue.”

The male lead is FBI Agent Liam Scott, first introduced in Fast Track. Working closely with Allison he becomes attracted to her, but understands he has the power to crush her. Liam is sophisticated and worldly, the ultimate alpha-male, while she is inexperienced and naive.

Wired is an excellent escape novel. This story blends humor, romance, and likeable characters that are wired in their passions, interests, and fondness for each other. 51BwoeiKtvL._SX329_BO1 204 203 200_


June 23 in U.S. military history

[Originally published at]

1812: Immediately after war is declared, a squadron of American ships led by Commodore John Rodgers sails to intercept a British convoy sailing from Jamaica. When the frigate HMS Belvidera is spotted, Rodgers personally aims and fires the first shot of the War of 1812 - the cannonball striking the British ship's rudder and penetrating the gun room.

1865: Confederate Brig. Gen. - and Cherokee chief - Stand Watie surrenders his First Indian Brigade of the Army of the Trans-Mississippi to Union forces in Oklahoma Territory, becoming the last general to surrender in the Civil War.

1923: Over the skies of San Diego, an Army Air Service DH-4 biplane flown by Capt. Lowell Smith tops off its fuel tanks from a hose attached to another DH-4, marking the world's first mid-air refueling operation.

1944: During one of the largest bombing missions of the war, 761 bombers of the 15th Air Force attack the oil fields at Ploesti, Romania.

When one of the B-17s on the raid is damaged by flak and has to drop out of formation, bombardier 2nd Lt. David R. Kingsley drops his bombs and goes to the back of the aircraft to administer first aid to the wounded tail gunner. When another gunner is wounded by enemy aircraft, Kingsley attends to him as well. When the pilot orders the crew to abandon the plane before it explodes, Kingsley gives one of the wounded gunners his own parachute, sacrificing his life. His body is later discovered in the burned wreckage of the plane, and Kingsley is posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

1945: As the Sixth Army drives north to encircle the remaining Japanese forces on northern Luzon Island in the Philippines, paratroopers from the 11th Airborne Division perform their last combat jump of the war and cut off Gen. Tomoyuki Yamashita's Shobu Group's retreat.

1969: The Special Forces Camp at Ben Het in Vietnam's Central Highlands, eight miles east of the border with Laos and Cambodia, is cut off and besieged by North Vietnamese Army. Over the next several days B-52s fly 100 strikes while fighter-bombers, artillery, and helicopter gunships hammer the NVA until the Americans are relieved on July 2nd.

Book Review: MatchUP

The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar.

MatchUp edited by Lee Child is the sequel to the first anthology, FaceOff, published three years ago. In both cases twenty-two bestselling authors collaborated to write eleven riveting tales. All are members of the International Thriller Writers who donated their stories and time with all the proceeds from the books going to support the dues of the ITW membership.

In this latest edition, the stories flowed and the characters worked seamlessly together to solve the case, in part because each author read at least one of the other’s novels. Below is an interview with the authors, and the order is the same as presented in MatchUp. For fans and new readers alike there is also a shout out about the authors’ most recent books.

Steve Berry is the managing editor, but he also worked with Diana Gabladon to write the short story chapter, Past Prologue. He explained, “Lee Child, the editor, and myself looked for unique pairs, either people who would not naturally write together, or characters that would not naturally be in the same setting. Basically characters that live in different worlds but come together for the short story. Because FaceOff was so successful, a bestseller, Lee and I wanted to stay with the same formula. We took that idea and adjusted it to have a male/female team. Each writer picked the character they wanted to include, an iconic one, not a supporting one. The setting could range from a neutral place to a world of one of the characters.”

Sandra Brown and C. J. Box are two top western writers paired together. In Honor & … Lee Coburn and Joe Pickett joined forces to defeat a white supremacist group.   What worked best for these authors was to have C. J. write the first draft because Sandra had not previously written a short story. Since Brown’s book Lethal ends with Coburn touching down in Jackson Hole, Wyoming the setting was a no-brainer.

Kathy Reichs and Lee Child wrote Faking a Murder, bringing together the famous characters Jack Reacher and Temperance Brennan. She was a consultant on the cause of death of an Air Force colonel; did he commit suicide or was murdered. Fast forward to today where a journalist supposedly uncovered evidence that questions her findings. After he is found dead she is a person of interest in his murder, accused of planning it to save her reputation. In enters Reacher who knows the facts and uses his street smart to help clear her name.

Gayle Lynds and David Morrell write stand-alones whose realistic characters make readers yearn for more, but alas these featured characters very rarely reappear. Rambo On Their Minds brings back Liz Sansborough, Simon Childs, and the spirit of Rambo. These original co-founders of the International Thriller Writers put their minds together to come up with a story mixing in Lynds espionage and Morrell’s action when Liz, a former CIA operative is captured by the Russian Mafia and Simon, an MI6 agent, temporarily assigned to the FBI, must rescue her. Because Rambo was killed in the novel First Blood, Rambo’s essence had to be used without having him physically appear.

Karin Slaughter and Michael Koryta paired together to write Short Story. It takes place in the 1990s since Karin’s character Jeffrey Tolliver was killed in a one of her previous novels. Someone steals a 1968 Mustang and ends up getting murdered, with Tolliver a person of interest. Eventually he teams up with DEA agents Joe Pritchard and Lincoln Perry to find the real killer.

Charlaine Harris and Andrew Gross both told of how hard it was to find a story that could involve their main characters Harper Connelly and Ty Hauck. Being different as day and night, Harper locates dead bodies, while Ty is a gritty detective. Together they have to find Stephanie Winters who disappeared.

Lisa Scottoline and Nelson DeMille, two legendary thriller authors, combined action, mystery, and humor in the Getaway. Spearheaded by the loss of a dog, Max, John Corey and Bennie Rosato end up meeting in the wilderness where they find a possible terrorist cell operation.

J. A. Jance and Eric Van Lustbader combined in Taking The Veil. This was a true collaboration since the characters, Ali Reynolds and Bravo Shaw, were placed in Jance’s setting in Arizona, and the plotline was his, a medieval type of story with religious connotations.

MatchUp is the perfect anthology for thriller fans allowing them to match wits with the bestselling authors as they try to solve the cases. The stories were entertaining and brilliantly written. Anyone enjoying thrillers will relish these stories. 510f0zRFMvL._SX329_BO1 204 203 200_


Over at Laughing Wolf, I remember my Dad.  I also share my thoughts on the political violence in the USA and make a plea.  

I also remember and share the latest on the murder of Libby and Abby.  Someone, somewhere, knows who this sack of something is, and needs to turn him in.  Take a moment, look at the photo, and listen to the voice.  If you recoginze either, turn it in.  


For the latest in the investigation, go here.  

Arthur J. Jackson - someone you should know

Today we honor the memory of recently departed Medal of Honor recipient Arthur J. Jackson. On Sept. 18, 1944 on Pelelieu, Private First Class Jackson charged towards a large enemy pillbox containing 35 Japanese soldiers. Facing an intensive barrage, he suppressed the enemy with automatic weapons fire and then destroyed the fortification with grenades and explosives, killing all of the occupants. Despite incoming fire from all sides, Jackson single-handedly moved on another 11 positions, killing 15 more of the enemy.

For his incredible one-man assault, Jackson is awarded the Medal of Honor. His citation can be viewed here.

Jackson was wounded on Pelelieu and again at Okinawa, where he served as a platoon sergeant. He received a commission from the Marine Corps in August, 1945 and would serve in the Army during the Korean War. He returned to the Marines in 1952 and while serving at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Jackson killed an alleged Cuban spy that attacked him. Fearing an international incident, the military silently discharged Jackson after the event. He entered the Army Reserves and ultimately reached the rank of Captain in 1954.

Jackson, one of the few surviving recipients of the Medal of Honor from World War II, passed away on June 14, 2017.

Book Review: The Switch

The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar.

Joseph Finder is the king of the conspirator authors. In The Switch he explores the issues of national security and privacy, where they overlap, and how they affect each other. This plot comes straight out of the headlines, but unlike real life it comes to conclusions and solutions. One bad decision has a consequence on future events, as in a domino effect.

Finder noted, “While I was writing this book, all this information was being discussed about Hillary Clinton. I made my senator reminiscent of her, and decided to have a stash of top-secret documents downloaded on the computer, a mishandling of classified information. It always seems that the cover-up is worse than the crime. But beyond that I wanted the story to be about a regular businessman. I am fascinated by entrepreneurship because as a writer I consider myself one. Authors’ income is generated exclusively from their writing. In a sense every writer is running a small business.”

The story begins with Michael Tanner picking up a wrong laptop at the airport. Unfortunately for both parties involved neither notices it till they get home. Having curiosity get the better of him Tanner opens the computer and finagles with the password until he finds the correct one. It is then that he realizes the computer belongs to Senator Susan Robbins, which has classified information on it. If this sounds familiar it should, reminding readers of what Hillary Clinton did while Secretary of State.

Knowing she broke the law and not wanting it to ruin her future political career she enlists her Chief of Staff, Will Abbott, to recover the computer. But unfortunately, Tanner decides he will not give it up and believes the American public has a right to know what is in the classified files. This is when the action ratchets up with the NSA, the unscrupulous thugs hired by Will, and the FBI all going after Tanner. The only ones he is able to solicit help from are a few friends and his wife who has separated from him.

Readers will waffle in their feelings for Will and Michael, sometimes feeling sorry, while other times feeling they are not someone to befriend. Both have only themselves to blame, because of their own actions. How many people would search through someone else’s computer as Michael had done? Yet, when he becomes the object of an intensive manhunt he becomes a sympathetic character. He is viewed as an ordinary person who became involved in extraordinary events, all because he made an unknowing mistake of picking up the wrong laptop. He starts out as a mild-mannered businessman, but as the story progresses becomes more aggressive in his actions both in business and with those chasing after him. Will also begins the book as a likeable character with his backstory as a devoted father and husband. But he too becomes more aggressive as his loyalty to his boss turns him ruthless.

A quote in the book hammers the point home about privacy, “No such thing anymore. Fitbit knows how much you exercise and how long you sleep, and Netflix knows when you stopped watching.” Finder commented, “There are so many examples I could have drawn from. How many times have you bought something on Amazon and then you see ads for that item? I wanted to show how there is very little privacy today. If only government officials would be honest, Americans might accept policy more. They should just come clean then we might understand their motivations. As a reader I just don’t want cotton candy and fluff. I want to be entertained, but also be made to think along the way, which is what I hope my books are about.”

This plot is extremely suspenseful with many twists and turns. Finder engages readers with issues that are relevant today. This book feeds right into people’s views of government where it appears public servants are more concerned about themselves than the country. 51k8OYQ3gUL._SX329_BO1 204 203 200_

Book Review: Point Of Contact

The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar.

Tom Clancy’s Point of Contact by Mike Maden brings back the return of Jack Ryan Jr. He has taken over the writings for the Clancy estate, replacing Grant Blackwood. Maden has put his own imprint on Jack Ryan Jr. by making him a solo main character instead of one of many secondary characters.

Maden noted, “I received a call from my editor, Tom Colgan, of my paperback Drone series who is also the Tom Clancy editor. Although it was a thrilling day it was also the most terrifying day. I was asked to write the summer book and Marc Cameron will write the fall series. Tom is the one conducting the symphony story making sure there are no conflicts between the plots and that the whole series is on a certain guide path.”

He also wants Tom Clancy fans to understand, “I would never think of imitating Clancy who I consider a complete original. I consider him the one who practically invented the genre. I hope to honor his spirit, memory, and imagination by keeping alive the characters and universe. I feel it is a great responsibility to be a part of the tradition in which Clancy emphasizes America is good and the people who serve this country deserve both honor and respect.”

This plot has US Senator Weston Rhodes hiring Hendley Associates to view the books of Dalfan Technologies. It is a Singapore company that will be taken over by a large conglomerate. Hendley Associates is one of the best financial analysis firms in the country and the cover for The Campus, a top-secret American intelligence agency.  Rhodes asks for two specific analysts, Jack Ryan Jr., and Paul Brown, a mild-mannered forensic accountant. The Senator wants someone to crunch the numbers to make sure there are no surprises that will turn up down the road. What starts out as a routine audit soon turns into something far more dangerous when Ryan uncovers a potential sinister motive behind the merger, with the help of Brown. Ryan and Brown race to escape a team of trained assassins to prevent a global catastrophe, even at the cost of their own lives.

Because the rest of the Campus team was basically missing in action, Jack Jr. was completely on his own, needing to use resources and grit. He needs to prove that although there is admiration for his dad, President Jack Ryan Sr., he is his own man. This story shows how Junior goes on a journey, a test to prove he can be self-reliant.

Those who have read Maden in the past know he is immune to political correctness. In this book it is no different. He has a few scenes that involve knife fighting, describing how it “will slice through skin, muscle, tendons, cartilage, and even bone…. Second, the knife extends your reach.”   When asked, Maden noted, “I wanted the knife to be the weapon of choice in this book. I put in the quote how it is not the knife or gun that kills, but the person having the weapon. If someone does not have access to a gun they find a knife. If they don’t have access to those they get a van to kill people. So are we going to ban vans next?”

Throughout the book readers realize the clear distinction between the good guys and bad guys. The antagonists are described as “cold-blooded fanatics who butchered innocent civilians. They lost the right to be treated with respect, either in life or in death.” Maden hoped to show “you cannot negotiate with evil. We are in an era where we are waking up to the fact it must be destroyed.”

No stranger to thrillers Maden has previous experience as the writer of the Drone series featuring Troy Pearce. He uses new technology, incorporated it into a plot, which emphasizes how the global economic situation could threaten world peace 51LBcWSFDLL._SX329_BO1 204 203 200_

Book Review: Defectors

The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar.

One of the greatest crimes against a country is treason, spying for the enemy. A recent brilliantly written espionage book, Defectors, by Joseph Kanon, is both fast paced and realistic. This Cold War thriller shows the moves and plays as if the characters are in a chess game. Beyond that it emphasizes the human side, what it is like for family members of a traitor, as well as the motivations of someone who is willing to betray and lie to everyone.

He noted, “I read about Kim Philby, a high-ranking member of British intelligence who was a Soviet agent. He defected in 1963 after working for the KGB. I had the book take place before his defection because later he became disillusioned and I did not want him to be a factor. Although I made the main character Frank’s apartment right around the corner from where Philby lived. I wanted the defectors I wrote to be ideological, those that converted to Communism in the 1930s as an act of faith. They thought they were changing the world for the better, now in the frontal lobe, Moscow. This was the high summer for the Soviet experiment, before the admittance that it was a big mistake. Soviet prestige was at an all time high with Sputnik and the consumer level improving along with the US embarrassments of Gary Powers, the U-2 pilot captured, and the Bay of Pigs fiasco.”

Taking place in 1961 Moscow, during the height of the Cold War, readers learn about the history within a fascinating plot. It becomes obvious very early on that within Russian society is a community of western defectors. While having privileges they are never trusted, living a life sentence in protective custody. Scenes are very authentic, giving a glimpse of Russian society, showing how the KGB has a city within a city including its own apartment complex and hospital.

It is also the story of two brothers, Frank and Simon Weeks. In the late 1940s Frank was exposed as a Soviet Union spy while working for the OSS, the predecessor to the CIA. This notorious high-profile American defector escaped to Russia, now working for the KGB. Fast-forward twelve years where he has decided to write a memoir approved by the Soviet Spy agency. He has sold the rights to M. Keating & Sons, a prominent publishing company currently run by his brother Simon. In order to edit the manuscript he decides to visit Frank and his sister-in-law, Joanna, a former flame. After an awkward reunion the three settle into reliving old times until Frank delivers a bombshell, he wants to defect back to the US, using his wife as bait. The suspense ratchets up and never stops as both brothers play a cat and mouse game. Nothing is, as it appears to be on the surface. Kanon does a great job of having the tension come through in the thoughts, motives, and minds of Frank and Simon, leaving the reader to wonder who can and cannot be trusted.

Frank is still the charmer who makes those around him relaxed and comfortable. He appears to be the protective older brother Simon had lost twelve years earlier after the defection. But he is also seen as the leopard who has not changed his spots and still capable of treachery. Simon begins to wonder if Frank is betraying him again, only this time the stakes could be higher.

Kanon did not “want to make Frank a sympathetic character. He was someone perfectly willing to betray his country and family. He is a narcissist. I wrote him as someone having a loyalty to Communism and the KGB. He totally has bought into the myth that they are efficient, knowledgeable, successful, and a superior elite group. Yet, he loves his brother Simon and vice versa. Simon adored his older brother Frank even though he always seemed to involve him in schemes and persuaded him to do things against Simon’s better interest. This is why their parents sent Simon to a different school, to get away from Frank’s influence. It appears to be about the good brother versus the bad brother. Simon had a conscience, while Frank appears to be amoral.”

This gripping story tells of a family divided over Cold War loyalties. Kanon weaves a masterful theme of betrayal, treachery, and lies. With Russia once again in the headlines it is the perfect book to understand the motivations of the different players, including a KGB that nurtured Putin. 51D-AMnJZGL._SX329_BO1 204 203 200_