Book Review: The Gate Keeper

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.

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The Gate Keeper, by the mother/son team known as Charles Todd, is a mystery with a huge ending twist.  Fans of this series will see Scotland Yard Detective Ian Rutledge having to solve a case from a different point of view. He is not only the investigator, but is the first person on the scene so he has become a witness as well.

Because this is a different type of mystery, The Todds wanted to make sure readers understand that it is not a puzzle where “there is a race between the writer and the reader as to who figures it out first. This novel has Rutledge pursuing the truth and finding a solution.  He has a dogged determination to keep tracking the killer.”

Having left his sister’s wedding in a distraught mood Rutledge decides to take a car trip. He encounters on a deserted road a woman standing next to a murder victim.  She reports how a stranger stepped in front of the car and without warning fired a shot killing Stephen Wentworth immediately.  With a list of persons of interest piling up Rutledge must sort through the many different aspects of the case.  He is helped along by a voice in his head, Corporal Hamish MacLeod, the ghost of the Scottish officer he had executed for cowardice, who comments persistently inside this detective's weary ear. Rutledge always listens, and appears to have given Hamish a life that was taken away. Hamish is real to Rutledge, sometimes antagonistic, sometimes supportive, sometimes part of his unconscious perception, an inner-self.

An interesting piece to the storyline is the similarities between the victim, Stephen, and the detective, Rutledge.  They both had someone close to them killed in the war, although Rutledge played more of a role.  They were also both jilted by the woman they loved.”  The Todds noted, “Stephen is the ultra ego of Rutledge in some ways, and that is probably one of the reasons why he wanted to follow through and find the killer. They both developed levels of coping skills and were solitary people.  Neither became involved in a relationship after their engagement was broken.  Yet, Ian came from a loving family, and Stephen from a dysfunctional one.” 

One of the secondary characters can best be described as an early 20th Century “Mommy Dearest.”  The mother of Stephen is vicious, spoiled, and uncaring who tried to thwart any happiness her son might achieve.  “We wanted to write a character where the mother hated her son all his life. She sees him as a monster, an ugly duckling.  She has no redeeming qualities. She enjoys painting him in a dim light.  Basically, just a terrible person who is bitter and self-centered.”

Because World War I play such an important role in the storyline, readers get a glimpse into the emotional wounds of many of the men, including Rutledge. “We wanted to humanize those who have served.  Our goal as writers is to show how they were ordinary people and then were trained to be warriors.  When they come back they must learn to trust again and to relate to those outside of their unit, the band of brothers. They can talk amongst their peers because they know there is a sense of understanding. Having experienced horrors first hand they cannot just shut out what they saw on the battlefield.”

The Gate Keeper by Charles Todd is a ‘who done it’ type of mystery.  Readers will enjoy the investigative process Ian Rutledge must go through to find the culprit.


Book Review: Still Water

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.

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Still Water by Amy Stuart has a plot as riveting as the rushing river water. This psychological thriller has amateur private investigator, Clare, hunting for a missing mother and son.  But the town is putting up roadblocks with their deceptions.

Stuart noted, “I wanted High River based on how the encroachment of a city expands outward.  I can remember places as a child as we drove out to the country that are now sub-divisions of the urban areas.  I wanted to explore what happens when there is a rural property and the city expands, swallowing up all the rural land around it.  Much of this beautiful property is taken over by developers.  As in my book, each member of the community has different end goals regarding the land.” 

Because this is Clare’s second case she is still learning on the job. Sally and her young son, Matthew have vanished and Clare’s handler, Malcolm, assigned her the task to find out what happened. Luckily for her and the readers, she is a quick learner, able to keep the police and townsfolk at bay with her undercover story.  Pretending to be a friend of the missing woman, Clare ventures to a safe house for the abused. Women in distress and danger go there to hide in safety, and then hopefully move on with new identities.

Truth versus lies are explored. “This is the fundamental question I write about, over the course of the series.  I intentionally have readers wonder if what Clare has said about herself is true.  Truth can be so subjective.  Two people can experience the same thing and come out of it with completely different versions.  Does the absolute truth even exist or is it based on pre-conceptions?  I try to explore what is the truth through Clare’s eyes as she comes to terms with her own experiences.” 

Clare struggles with her own demons.  She has been running from an abusive husband, Jason, when Malcolm finds her. Instead of turning her in, he hires Clare to work with him to find other missing persons. Although Malcolm assures her that Jason is out of the picture, Clare knows that is not the case. Starting to question Malcolm’s credibility, because he is hiding something in his past, she fears there is something serious that he is not telling her. 

This story has many layers and the ending has a major twist.


Book Review: Sweet After Death

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.

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Sweet After Death by Valentina Giambanco is a riveting police procedural with a fascinating look at small town life. The opening bone-chilling scene has a brutal murder that sets the stage for the rest of the novel. 

Seattle detectives Alice Madison and Kevin Brown along with crime scene investigator Amy Sorensen are sent to the town of Ludlow to help the very small police force investigate the killing of a well-respected doctor. The brutality of the cold winter weather matches the horrific way the doctor was killed. Ludlow is located a few hours from Seattle within the mountainous backdrop. But as the inquiry takes hold events seem to spiral out of the Seattle investigator’s control.  During the Memorial Service, the killer strikes again, murdering another town’s member and having the three Seattle police officers under siege. As they become targets, Madison and her team realize they must find the murderer before he or she strikes again.

The trick for the author was having the Seattle detectives travel to this small town and assist in the investigation. “I had them called in by the Police Chief for support. It was the county’s first murder and they needed their expertise. I made sure the conflict between the city and town law enforcement was superficial.  I wanted them to get along and help each other. Seattle and the surrounding areas have a perfect landscape for crime writing.  Washington State has cities, a wilderness, that are close by.  I had a huge range of options for what my characters can do.  I always think of the environment when writing a story.  For this book, I knew I wanted to have a remote isolated small town surrounded by the mountains. The actual town is a combination of Friday Harbor in Washington State and Banff, a Canadian national park town.”

The investigation leads to a survivalist, Jeb Tanner, living in the woods with his twelve children.  He has his children taking turns between the hunter and the prey with the loser locked in a hut. They are terrified of him, fearful of his wrath.  One of the youngsters, Samuel, has a compelling story that seems very similar to what Madison went through as a child. He wonders what happened to his mother and older brother and puts his faith in Madison, hoping she will help out.  The comparisons and insights with her past are some of the most interesting aspects of the plot.

The author noted, “I am fascinated by people who lead this kind of life.  They barricade themselves on their land and bring up their children in an isolated environment.  They are inaccessible to others of their own age, the Internet, and television.  I always wondered what are their hopes, dreams, and fears. I think the child Sam and Madison are related because of her own experiences. Living in the wilderness makes it very important.  Alice as a girl was kidnapped by a hunter.  He blurred hunting for animals and people, something Sam’s father does as well.  The hunter Alice had to deal with roamed the mountains and national parks to find groups of people to pursue.” 

This story involving lies and deceptions fosters an intriguing mystery.  The author uses the environment to create a creepy atmosphere that includes the mountains and forests surrounding the town.


Book Review and Interview: Mike4

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.

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Mike4  by J. R. Seeger brings to life the work of a CIA operative. Using his own experiences, he is able to tell a realistic story.  His accomplishments include, having served as platoon leader, company commander, and multiple staff assignments in the Airborne Infantry from 1981 to 1985, as well as Chief of Station, Chief of Base, and Unit Chief for the CIA from 1987 to 2004.

The fictional plot finds Sue O’ Connell deciding to follow in her parents’ footsteps and become an operative for the CIA. Her assignment is to find terrorists so that SOF assault teams can “finish” the target. Just as the author came from a military background, before joining the CIA, so has Sue. An injury forces O’Connell to leave the military and join other SOF operators training to become counterterrorism intelligence collectors. But as she continues her training, given the code name Mike4, and after joining the surveillance world, she finds her family held secrets. Beyond just the covert world of their profession, they have a history that includes both counterintelligence secrets and a 60-year old Russian vendetta. 

This riveting tale allows someone to take the journey with Sue as she goes from the CIA training at the Farm to a field operator.  Anyone wanting to understand the shadowy often hard-edged world of counter-terrorism within a mysterious plot should read this novel

EC: Russia is the adversary in your story?

JR Seeger:  The Russians’ purpose is to create sufficient chaos in the West, doing whatever they please in what they would call “the near abroad.” The Russians are taking active measures all across Europe, the UK, and the US.  The objective to have the Western world totally focused on the political chaos within their systems instead of Russian expansionism.  This geo-political perspective is very much consistent with what was going on during the Cold War in the 1950s, 1960s.The difference is they are using inexpensive yet sophisticated methods, doing it with the Internet instead of tanks.

EC:  Can you explain the quote about Russia, which is very timely today?

JRS:  You are referring to the book quote, ‘Americans believes in open-source intelligence and think tanks.  Russians understand the outside world is a created reality… and understand that the real world is a world of secrets, backroom deals, deceit, and theft.’ I wanted to explain that every Russian I ever met lived in a world where nothing could be trusted, and everything was manipulated at the Kremlin level.  Their two newspapers are described, one is supposed truth and the other is supposed news.  Yet, people would say there is no truth and no news. The complete and utter control is with the power.

EC:  When did you write the book?

JRS:  The story was written in 2013 and it takes about two years for the PRB to clear the book. The O’Connell family is a metaphor for the rest of the world. Sue thinks she knows everything that goes on within her family, but finds out all kinds of things she never knew. 

EC:  You give a shout out to amputees?

JRS:  When I did special ops training I met people who had amputations below the knee (BTK). They were previous special operators who were injured in Iraq and Afghanistan. Refusing to be victims, and wanting to stay in the game, they became human intelligence collectors.  The guys and gals I worked with did not reveal until after the fact that they were BTKs.  Just as with my character Sue, they did not want anyone to know and pity them.  They were as hard as a woodpeckers’ lips.

EC:  What is based on your experiences?

JRS:  The way the characters talked and thought is based entirely on my experiences.  The feedback of those in the game said this is how they talked and thought. I wanted to make sure this book is as realistic about this community as I know.  The people in the story are based on a compilation.

EC:  Can you explain the book quote, “Ginger Rogers had to do everything Fred Astaire did, but backwards and in high heels”?

JRS:I wanted to write something that captured women in the Special Operations Forces and intelligence communities.  I know the current CIA Director, Gina Haspel, who is a good friend of mine.  I have known her since 1991. She is a fascinating person.  All the women from Gina’s era through the present-day focus on just doing the job.  Barbara O’ Connell, the mom, showed how spectacular women did the job.  The current generation are succeeding because the previous one had courageous women who paved the way. As Sue says, once you get through selection that is it.  It does not matter your sex, sexuality, race, color, or religion, because it becomes all about performance.  If the operator holds up their part of the bargain, they are a part of the team, and if someone does not, then it is RTU, return to unit.

EC:  Can you describe Sue?

JRS:  Aggressive, independent, and sometimes a rule breaker.  She is learning how to apply her skills.  BTW: I did not physically describe any of the characters on purpose, although I put in this book quote to show her feelings, ‘To survive life in an SOF unit she always had to be tougher, faster, and smarter than the guys if she was going to get any respect.’

EC:  So did she earn her team’s respect?

JRS:  Yes. As I said earlier, she finally realized she has nothing to prove, that she earned her place.  Anyone who tried to cause trouble for her because she is a woman would be gone. I describe it as all the different parts of the military: Army red, Airforce sky blue, Navy navy blue, and Marine green become purple when blended together.  Once someone proves themselves they are just one of the purple people.

EC:  You describe case officers in the novel?

JRS:  They are good at manipulation, understanding the different cultures, and recruiting assets. 

EC:  Readers learn of an agency rule: “Everything we say is true, just not truly complete?”

JRS:  In my first tour I heard it and have expressed it ever since.  I wanted to show how Intelligence collection is an art, not a science, because human beings are involved.  Operators had to find out what is in the assets head and if they will obey instructions.  Not everything we knew is told to headquarters because it is impossible to express everything known on paper.  But the direct boss is told everything. 

EC:  What do you want readers to get out of the story?

JRS:  First and foremost, wounded warriors should not be framed as victims.  There are a lot of people still in the fight that have catastrophic injuries and chose not to be pitied.  They just get fixed and go back into the fight.  The second point, special operators are right now in at least fifty countries.  Americans need to understand the personal cost of a very small group of men and women. They are in combat 120 to 180 days, home for 30, back in training for 30, and then returned to combat.  The vast majority of Americans today do not even realize we are still fighting Al Qaeda because less than 1% know someone in the fight. 

EC:  Can you give a heads up about your next books?

JRS:This book,MIKE4, begins a tale of the O’Connell family that will continue this fall with Friend or Foeand once cleared by the PRB will continue with The Executioner’s Blade.  The prequel for the story will be O’Connell’s Treasurewhich will remain inside the boundaries of 1943-1946 so that the PRB review is not required. I would very much like to continue the story of Peter O’Connell the elder with Rough Diamondsand even write about Sue O’Connell’s parents’ operation.

THANK YOU!!


Book Review: One on One

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.

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One on One by Michael Brandman is the second installment in the new series.  The former original writer of the Jesse Stone series after Robert Parker’s death, decided last year to write a series about a small-town police deputy. Besides a good mystery the author intertwines some social issues as well as an ongoing discussion about assisted suicide.

Legendary Sheriff Burton Steel requested his son Buddy leave his job with LAPD Homicide and come home to become the deputy of Freedom, California, a privileged coastal community a hundred miles north of Los Angeles. Reluctantly, he honored the summons because of a sense of duty, and a willingness to make amends with his dying father. Burton Steel has Lou Gehrig’s disease, and has pressured his son to pull the plug when necessary in an assisted suicide.

Brandman noted, “I knew someone who pulled the plug on himself.  The guy was a physician and worked out a morphine overdose.  His future was so dim he did not want to experience the pain.  I wanted to explore in this series the issues of the father/son dynamic as well as what happens when someone faces mortality.  Burton is not afraid to tell Buddy he will one day ask him to pull the plug. Although Buddy is horrified it is a topic I wanted to delve into, the taking of a life versus ending a loved one’s suffering.”

Thankfully, for Buddy he becomes distracted while investigating a fatality.  A popular assistant principal, Hank Carson, who is also the assistant swimming coach, is brutally murdered with a steak knife. Further scrutiny reveals that there was another side to Carson. There are people who resent him and are suspicious that he and some football players could be involved in abuse of those on the swim team.

Readers will obviously be reminded of the Penn State football scandal along with Michigan State’s gymnastic scandal, both involving sexual abuse. “I wanted to write how a murder could have happened out of these stories of abuse. This violation of a sacred trust had people looking the other way. I like to explore some societal issues.  In my first book, Missing Persons, I explored how some preachers are con men that emerged as self-righteous. In this novel, I wanted to show how abuse can impact a victim and what is their recourse. In my next book, Buddy takes on the developers and Coastal Commission after a murder takes place.”

The sub-plot of the book has Buddy angry over a sudden outbreak of graffiti. He is forced to find new and challenging ways to thwart those responsible for defacing buildings with their so called “street art.” The author wants “to call attention to this blight and have Buddy find a way to end it.  I am tired of driving around Los Angeles seeing this horrifying graffiti. I put in a quote in the book to show these ‘artists’ will do it anywhere and do not care if it is public or private property.”

Buddy is a likeable character who uses self-deprecating humor, sometimes acting like an overgrown schoolboy. He is easygoing and can handle people poking fun at him. Being smart, caring, and understanding of people’s emotional pain, Buddy has a moral sense of right versus wrong.

Readers will enjoy this fast-paced mystery.  With well-developed characters and a plot that takes issues straight from the headlines, this is a good read.


Book Review: Black Chamber

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.

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Black Chamberby S. M. Stirling is part alternate history and part thriller involving spies, secret identities, and daring acts. The historical timeline deviates after Taft dies, allowing Theodore Roosevelt to win the presidency instead of Woodrow Wilson. The difference of having Roosevelt at the helm can be felt throughout the book as America considers entering World War I in 1916.

It is obvious the author admires Theodore Roosevelt.  “I wrote much of who Roosevelt was through the main character’s eyes. Teddy was the first President to drive an automobile, fly in an aircraft, and to go down in a submarine. Teddy was very different than Taft, who he described as a ‘walrus on legs,’ and Wilson as a ‘prissy, sissy Princeton professor,’ a dry stick who is a man dominated by theories.  If the facts do not agree with the theories so much for the facts. He was really a ‘wus,’ and quite a contrast from Teddy who really knocked out a gunman with his fists, shot Grizzly Bears, and arrested bandits. His adversary, Kaiser Wilhelm, had Teddy envy.  He wanted to be everything Teddy was: a real soldier, reformer, and a great popular leader. The Kaiser imitates Teddy a lot. In my “BC” universe he believed in government scientific research and the development of a spy organization.”  

Black Chamber is a CIA-type organization, a secret spy agency to protect America.  Luz O'Malley Aróstegui, the cunning spy, is assigned to find how the Germans plan on preventing America from coming to the rescue of Allied nations.  She boards a flying vessel, a zeppelin airship, destined for Amsterdam. Her mission is to go deep undercover, portraying a Mexican revolutionary. She meets with the German contact,Imperial Sword, who turns out to be a, good-looking German by the name of Baron Horst von Dückler.Finding out that the Germans are planning something nasty, Luz uses all her skills to get the information and thwart the horrific danger to America.

It appears to be in the German DNA to gas people.  “During my research, I found out Germany invented chemistry and poison gas, and being better than Hitler’s Nazis is a pretty low bar.  The Germans started WWI and drove the brutalization and radicalization during the War.  They had no conception of how to deal with a beaten opponent except grab them by the throat and squeeze until their eyes popped out.  They shot hostages and deported people for slave labor. In this book, Germany developed nerve gas.  A pint of it could kill hundreds of thousands of people.  It is the DDT for people.” 

Luz is a great character that uses Sherlock Holmes traits of deduction and action type talents of James Bond.  Coming from an Irish-Cuban American heritage she speaks numerous languages that allow her to infiltrate the enemy’s circle.  She is tough, clever, charming, and has a thoroughly modern outlook.

Stirling noted, “She is an exceptional person who did extraordinary things.  Luz is an only child whose father was an Irish American engineer and her mother Cuban.Luzgoes deep undercover, portraying a Mexican revolutionary after her parents were brutally killed by radical Mexicans.  She wants revenge and decides to join the Black Chamber. She enjoys riding, shooting, and climbing, skills she uses as a spy.  Luz is an American nationalist, highly intelligent, adventurous, and frivolous. She is almost invincible as a spy because she is a woman, thus is underestimate.”

Readers learn about the culture, setting, and values of America during that time period.  For example, a scene on how Luz dresses, “There were situations where a woman could wear trousers without attracting too much attention.” Acceptability comes from Roosevelt, a Bull Moose Progressive Republican, having Congress pass the Equal Rights Amendment instead of "just" women's suffrage. Although Stirling takes author license with dates and issues of the day the way he infuses these historical events allows for a more interesting story.

The secondary characters are very well-developed. Ciara is a woman that understands mechanics and technology who becomes an ally of Luz. The German Horst is a very powerful man, strong, smart, and charming. Theodore Roosevelt is more of a background character and his views and insights are understood through Luz’s thoughts.

Stirling offers readers a carrot, the fabulous engaging protagonists, and a stick, the power of the plot.  He employs Theodore Roosevelt’s “Big stick diplomacy,” through the many intense action-filled scenes.After reading this first in a series of “Black Chamber” novels, people will look forward to reading the next novel involving these believable and gripping characters.


Book Review: 9 Rules Of Engagement

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.

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9 Rules of Engagementby Harris Faulkner brings to the forefront the lessons she learned growing up in a military family, which can be applied today. She pays homage to the military ideals that shaped her, showing how everyone can benefit from their wisdom. Her father, a decorated career officer, a lieutenant colonel, served three tours of duty in Vietnam and raised his children with the values and ideals of the US military. The 9 rules include “Trusting your own potential, Overcoming the odds, Recruiting our own Special Forces, Dealing with your demons, Staying ready, Wearing camouflage, and Unleashing the power of integrity.”

The Emmy award-winning news anchor of Outnumbered Overtimewith Harris Faulknerand co-host of the talk show Outnumbered uses the skills she emphasizes in the chapter, “Staying Ready.” Anyone who has ever watched these shows quickly realizes that she asks the formative questions, never allowing a guest to spin false narratives.  “I try not to have people talk past each other and to do the one thing we all need to do, listen.  As a host, I try to give people an opportunity to speak. Yet, I watch to see if they try to filibuster, a sign to me that they are losing the argument.  I enjoy hearing all sides of a conversation and think that viewers can also learn from it.  I want to do the work of the viewer so that they don’t have to figure out what the truth actually is.  I ask questions to illuminate where people are coming from and to get to the truth. It is less about who is right and more of what is right.”

The chapter, “Recruiting Your Special Forces,” shows the importance of being surrounded by supporters.  “I married my best friend.  Today, people are dividing, firing, separating based on politics.  Instead, we should ‘fire’ someone if they do not show support for your dreams and victories.  In your personal life as you strive for your goals the inner circle must be tight and we should never tolerate someone who does not have our back.”

In speaking with Faulkner, it became obvious that she values integrity in a person. “The military integrity and credo gives us that clutch.  I understand how difficult some things can be. But those serving know when things fall apart military brats show their resilience. For a little background, in the book I refer to it as an enduring term standing for Born Raised And Transferred. I think it is the military saying thank you to us kids for having grit too.  When one member of a family joins the military, the whole family bears the weight of the service.  We sacrifice time with that parent while they are deployed; we move wherever our loved one is needed; we uproot our lives; we leave our friends behind; and we start all over again with a supportive and positive attitude because it helps our loved one do his or her job effectively and return home to us safely. I want families to get more credit for helping America as much as the person serving. It is total family service. I always tease people, if you come up against a military offspring, you better come forward with a lot of integrity and intuitiveness, because we do not give up easily.”

This is a bi-partisan book that has a great quote about another form of integrity, showing an understanding for those who do not agree with you. General Jack Keane’s book quote on how Americans can use the military perspective is very powerful, especially in today’s culture.  “We are racially, religiously, culturally, economically, and geographically diverse, but for us to be effective, we have to build strong unit cohesion…Every single member of the team has to submit to something larger than self.  That’s the military’s key to success. Despite all the differences that we may have, the only way we can succeed as a military organization is to be bound to each other. Our concern for each other has to trump our concern for ourselves.” 

It would be nice if politicians put this quote up in their office where they must stare at it each and every day.  Faulkner noted, “One chamber can pass three hundred bills and the other chamber is so politically constipated they can’t work through them. In our lives, we can win by working together. A person’s integrity is measured by how you treat others. Besides the military, I would also put First Responders, and those defending us on the North and South Border, in this category of those with integrity.”

The “Camouflage” chapter has a personal anecdote.  She speaks of how she watched her dad polish his black boots. “It is more than just a fashion statement.  If you are in the Navy you need a blue set of clothes.  You are not going to fight in the desert with anything but a sandy uniform. I do the color wheel for the women on “Outnumbered,” because I want people to look at the screen and see each of those women as dynamic, strong, smart, quick, and an individual.”

She is very grateful to her dad for allowing her life to be molded by those in the military, “people who served this nation for the greater cause. My dad is loving, has a sense of humor, and is a fabulous storyteller.  My dad would sit someone down and no matter what the circumstance he would start with a story.  He would bring me to the Pentagon where I met fabulous leaders.  My mom used to tell me because of my dad the bar is high.  As a child of an officer we are expected to be positive components of our community and to give our lives meaning and purpose. I am very grateful for having grown up in a military family.”

Anyone who reads this book will understand how Faulkner has respect, gratitude, and pride in the military.  It is a story of courage, love, and duty. 

 


Book Review: Double Blind

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.

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Double Blind by Iris and Roy Johansen is a heart stopping story.  This series has a very original premise and this novel, in particular, has a killer that is unique.  Blind from birth, the main character, Kendra Michaels, regained her sight at the age of twenty. Now she is able to use her extensively distinct senses and acute analytical skills to help the FBI thwart bad guys.

The Johansens created a classic detective “with powers of observation and deduction, seeing some things no one else could see. But we want to make sure Kendra does not have super powers.  She can see, hear, and smell things, which anyone else can if they were paying attention.  What makes her special is how she trained herself to pay attention.  There was a lot of time spent on making sure she was different; yet, maintains the classic detective traits. Like most blind people she grew up fine tuning her other senses to compensate. Now that she has her sight, thanks to a rare, successful stem cell surgery, she is able to pick up sounds and smells that most others do not even pay attention to.  She soaks up the world around her, including her sight.” 

As with many of those who cannot see, Kendra enhanced her other senses to compensate.  Although no longer blind, she still has a great power of deduction and incredible critical thinking abilities. The FBI has requested her on this case because of her capacity to quickly notice the smallest of details. Shrugging it off, she has been known to say that her powers were nothing any other person could deduce if they concentrated on listening, observing, and watching. 

This case literally came to her after a woman is found dead with an envelope having Kendra’s name on it.  It contains a memory stick of a wedding video.  What soon becomes apparent is that the wedding party has been targeted by a serial killer who strives to get the maximum number of victims by inflicting emotional and physical pain.  Through the investigative process Kendra and company realize that the killer is connected to a mercenary organization.

The supporting cast includes former FBI agent Adam Lynch, now a contractor who works by himself; Olivia, a friend of Kendra’s from childhood who became blind in an accident; Jessie, a private investigator after retiring from the army, and a group of FBI agents.  Lynch is almost always at Kendra’s side and has her back. This new case brings Lynch and Kendra closer, but there is still the tug of war between them.   Each are strong, smart, brave, and honest; although in their private lives Kendra and her peers have many secrets.

The authors wrote Kendra “as complicated, brisk, cautious, loyal, and impatient.  She has difficulty with those who she considers lazy in doing their job. She has a colorful history from those wild days after she was given her sight.  Kendra always speaks her mind, especially with her FBI counterparts. Her counterpart, Lynch,is learning to work and play well with others through Kendra.  He is very much his own man with a steely confidence.  His hated nickname is ‘Puppetmaster,’ because one of his talents is having people bend to his will.  He can be very persuasive, a master of manipulation.”

This mother/son collaboration make a great team, able to write edge-of-your seat suspenseful stories with compelling characters. The twists in Double Blind can lead readers to be blind-sided so be forewarned.


Book Review: A Gathering Of Secrets

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.

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A Gathering of Secrets by Linda Castillo is a powerful story. From the very first page, when a young Amish woman commits suicide, the plot takes on a dark and gripping tone, a very thought-provoking novel.  Bur readers should not be surprised considering Castillo books are always insightful and riveting.

The author explained, “The book opens with a young Amish woman committing suicide.  Readers do not know why, but as they turn the pages they begin to understand what happened to her.  There is also this young man who was burned to death, a very sad situation.  As the investigation takes on an ominous tone, I chose to explore the question, is murder justified?” 

The story begins with Amish teenager Emma Miller hanging herself and then fast forwards six months where Painter Mills police chief Kate Buckholder is called to investigate a body found in a burned barn.  The initial reaction is that it was a freak accident, but as the evidence builds up Kate suspects murder.  This eighteen-year-old Amish boy, Daniel Gingerich, is found inside, burned alive,and barricaded in the tack room with no way to escape.  She is baffled since it appears Daniel has no enemies in the world, yet, he dies a harsh and cruel death.  The investigation takes on twists and turns since Daniel has a secret life.  Secrets are the heart of the story as the Amish community stays silent, basically attempting to stonewall the case. Kate begins to wonder if this peaceful and deeply religious community is conspiring to hide a truth no one wants to talk about.

As she wades through a sea of suspects, she’s confronted by her own violent past, which made her leave the Amish community. She finds that there are many parallels to her past as the rape of Amish girls are hidden, and not talked about or reported. This part of the story is very relevant to issues of today.  It is an Amish MeToo Moment.  What also makes the plot authentic is Kate’s reflection on the Amish sects, their principles, rules, and her ability to speak the Dutch language.

I never want to generalize, and remember this is a fictional story. I think that we should never generalize the entire community.  But in this story, the community did try to sweep things under the rug.  The mother of the girl who committed suicide was first seen as uncaring and not supportive of her daughter.  The parent reactions depend on how they were raised and which sect they were from. Another girl, Ruth, who became pregnant from a rape, had her mother decide to find her a husband to pass the baby off as her husbands.  Each mother tried to sweep the secret under the rug.  In my research, I read that an Amish boy who does something terribly wrong, even raping someone, can get off.  If he confesses before the Church congregation, he is forgiven.  This is why I wrote the girls not speaking up, some committing suicide, because they knew the boy would have been forgiven and they would be caught up in the stigma.” 

Castillo is a master at building suspense with intense and dark secret undertones. This harrowing thriller, with so many interesting characters, emphasizes how religious beliefs influence the communities’ morality and the desire to obtain justice.


Book Review: THE BOOKSHOP OF YESTERDAYS

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.

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The Bookshop of Yesterdaysby Amy Meyerson is part mystery and part drama involving family dynamics.  It is a shout out to those who love books and bookstores since the main mystery is centered around both, and comes about with riddles from book quotes. Clues to the scavengers’ hunt are found in the classics of the past, The Tempest, Jane Eyre, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Frankenstein, Fear of Flying, Persuasion, The Grapes of Wrath, andBridge to Terabithia.

The story begins with Miranda Brooks’ twelfth birthday party.  Her beloved Uncle Billy is a no-show and to make matters worse that night she overhears a fight between him and her mother.  She sees Billy only once more and then he cuts himself off from her life. Similar to someone who has lost a loved one she experiences grief, loss. and anger. He left her with no explanation.Fast-forward sixteen years later where Miranda attempts to make a life for herself in Philadelphia teaching history in a middle school. 

She finds out Billy has died and the fond memories of their times together sweeps over her. He took her to his Los Angeles bookstore Prospero Books, where they would read, solve riddles, and have elaborate scavenger hunts full of surprises. After the funeral Miranda learns she inherited the financially challenged bookstore and Billy has left her one more scavenger hunt: a quest to provide answers about the mysterious family’s rift that no one wants to speak about.

Myerson explains, “My bookstore visually looks a lot like one in Echo Park.  I borrowed a lot physically from it, but not any of the actual character struggles. I also spoke with some managers of bookstores that helped me to understand how they work. Silverlake, the community in Echo Park, has changed a lot. I wanted to make Prospero Books an earlier relic of the neighborhood that is disappearing.”

Furthermore, “I love books about books.  I wanted to set a story in a bookstore.  The reason for the bookstores’ name, “Prospero Books,” is because “The Tempest” has a scene where he gains magical powers through books.  Also, Billy would take Miranda there as a way to connect with her.  Since it was originally his late wife’s he thought Miranda might also connect to her.  I think it was a way for Billy to share his late wife, Evelyn, with Miranda and keep the memory of her alive. I think he tried to explain his life to Miranda through the books in his bookstore and not directly as in a letter.  Scavenger hunts were a way Billy communicated.  It enabled him to explain his emotions and through the riddles he was able to talk to Miranda.”

Early on many readers will realize the big family secret.  Yet, they will turn the pages to take the journey of the scavenger hunt with Miranda to find out find out how the past family secrets would be revealed. A scene from the book would forewarn readers that the quest is more important than the mystery: “he left her clues meant to impart wisdom and knowledge as well as lead to the reward: Even though I always figured out where the quest was going before we got there, he refused to let me rush through the lesson.”

The author explained, “I wrote how Suze, Miranda’s mother, realized holding back secrets makes it progressively more difficult to tell the truth.  I wrote in this book quote, ‘It’s difficult seeing parents for who they are, rather than who we want them to be.’ I wanted to explore the way we can and cannot know our parents.  I know I feel this way and I think others do as well. It is hard to fully understand who they were before they became parents.  We only know what they chose to tell us and how they chose to tell us.”

This heartfelt debut novel explores loss, healing, and family with all the tensions, misunderstandings, and estrangements that are sometimes part of it. Books and the bookstore are an added bonus allowing readers to understand the importance of forgiveness.


Book Review: The Summer Wives

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.

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The Summer Wivesby Beatriz Williams combines romance, secrecy, and suspense.  As with all her books she concentrates on a mystery, the murder of a rich playboy, and social issues, class conflicts. Intertwined within the plot are complex relationships that connect all the characters. 

The setting plays an important role in this novel, just as it had in William’s blockbuster novel, A Hundred Summers. Both take place on an island with an obvious clash between the haves and have nots, where all are determined to keep the outside world from its shores. In this book, Winthrop Island, off the New England coast, is the summer retreat for the old wealth and elite and the yearly home of the working class of Portuguese fishermen and domestic workers as well as their families.

Williams noted, “Winthrop Island is inspired by Fisher’s Island, which is off the coast of Connecticut. Until the early 1920s it was purely farm land.  It was then developed where half of the island has beautiful homes and a golf course. It was very difficult to research because people don’t like to talk about Fisher’s Island.  Most of the Island is behind a guard’s booth and it is isolated since the only way to get there is by ferry.   Older money came there to escape and use it as a retreat. Families came there year after year during the summer, mingling only with themselves.  They went to the Island to build silos around themselves.”

The story is centered around Miranda Schulyer, told in different time frames. In 1951, she was an eighteen-year-old just graduating high school, and then it fast forwards to 1969 where she is a thirty-six-year-old actress.  All the incidents in the book go back to how Miranda was affected by them, whether the death of her father, the murder of her step-father, the relationships between Joseph and Isobel, also Miranda’s sister by marriage, and her true love, Joseph.

Coming from a modest family Miranda is thrown into a world of wealth and elitism, after her mother marries Hugh Fisher.  His great-grandfather made the family rich by taking advantage of the Victorian hygiene craze.  She is drawn to Joseph, the son of the lighthouse keeper and a lobster fisherman, who is on summer break from Brown University. Realizing she is falling in love with Joseph her dreams are shattered after he is accused of murdering her step-father and she is banished from the island for defending him.

“I wanted to explore the relationship between the summer residents and the year-round residents, made up of the working class.  The differences included religion: Catholicism of the ordinary folks, and the Episcopal Church of the WASP culture that was only opened during the summer.  In addition, there was a class and wealth difference.  I wanted to explore all these disparities.”

Fast-forward to 1969 after Miranda returns, now a famous actress. Both Joseph and Miranda are escaping. She tries to renew her relationship with her step-sister, Isobel, and her mother, while Joseph is trying to survive as a fugitive. She wants to reignite the love she had for Joseph and prove his innocence. But in doing so, the Island's secrets begin to unravel.

“I wanted to show how those who fought in World War II were from the elite class of leaders in the military, political, and industrial world.  But during the years the story takes place in they chose to exist on the money their grandparents made.  They essentially became spectators instead of participants.  This generation prized itself on preservation rather than innovation, so they became static.  The future does not belong to people who don’t want to change.  They never questioned the values of society.  I chose 1969 because of the moon landing. It has the symbolism of showing that this generation were just deep spectators.  Once they went into preservation mode they wrote off their own relevance.”

The book delves into the themes of heroism, sacrifice, and redemption within the self-contained society. In some ways, it will remind people of those 1930 movies where love conflicts with power.


Book Review: The Trial and Execution of the Traitor George Washington

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.

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The Trial and Execution of the Traitor George Washingtonby Charles Rosenberg is a great Fourth of July novel.  Anyone who feels a sense of patriotism will want to read this gripping story about America’s General George Washington. The suspense ratchets up as readers wonder what will happen to one of America’s greatest heroes. 

This thought-provoking alternative history book takes place in the midst of the American Revolution. An English plot to kidnap General George Washington, brings him overseas to England, and puts him on trial as a traitor. But some like British Prime Minister Frederick North want to use him as a bargaining chip to put an end to a very costly war. British special agent Colonel Jeremiah Black, an officer of the King’s Guard, is assigned the task of landing on a deserted beach in late November 1780. Aided by “Loyalist” Americans he is able to sprint Washington aboard the HMS Peregrine.  Upon their arrival, Washington is imprisoned in the Tower of London to await trial on charges of high treason.

An interesting controversy explored, are the US colonies in rebellion and therefore subject to charges of treason, or are they a separate country; thus, Washington should be treated as a prisoner of war? “I found out these were actual arguments at the time. Washington would argue he was a prisoner of war, and that under the laws of war, he must be released at the end of hostilities or exchanged for another prisoner.  The debate: were the colonists a legitimate authority or rebels, as the King proclaimed in 1775, in a state of rebellion? Although, there were actually exchanges of prisoners.  In 1781 Henry Laurens was swapped for the British General Lord Cornwallis who was famous for losing the Battle of Yorktown. I think given the chance George III would have wanted Washington executed.” 

Although Washington is more of a secondary character, throughout the novel his presence looms significantly.  Key characters include the American ambassador, Ethan Abbott, sent to negotiate Washington’s release, the British Prime Minister Lord North, and the defense attorney chosen to defend Washington, Abraham Hobhouse, an American-born barrister with an English wife. An added highlight has all the characters’ debating key issues of the time.  Rosenberg does this with a great writing style where readers do not feel as if they are being hit over the head with a history lesson.

Rosenberg noted, “He is definitely not the protagonist of the novel, but is more of a topic in it.  I realized that the first third of the book, where the planning and capture of the General happens, would have him not commenting at all.  For the second part, where he is on the ship, he is a prisoner, who is basically helpless.  This means that he would not have a lot to say. Because various people would have objected and commented that Washington would not have thought that or done this.  I tried to present him as his contemporaries described him. There were not a lot of personal writings since Martha Washington burned his letters after he died. This made it hard to get a lot of material.  However, I did read his speeches and hope that I came close to the way he would have said things when I did quote him.”

This alternative history is informative and interesting, within a gripping novel.  Part adventure story, part spy novel, and part courtroom drama it has many twists. This what-if plot has an intriguing storyline.


Book Review: Dark Side of the Moon

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.

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Dark Side of the Moonby Alan Jacobson is another “OPSIG Team Black” adventure.  This story will literally take people to a new dimension. Readers will feel they are on a journey on F-18 fighter planes and a trip to the moon while combating espionage, the dark secrets of the moon, and kidnapping.

Jacobson commented, “After reading this article about Apollo 17 bringing back moon rocks I had an idea that maybe they could be used for military purposes. Since I do not write science fiction I needed to do a lot of research and worked with some awesome people. I talked with an engineer who worked on the Space Shuttle and is currently working on a NASA project.  The different organizations that cooperated were NASA, JPL, Lockheed, and SPACEX.  People helped me work out the logistics of how the mission should be carried out.  Even though it was quite an endeavor, given the opportunity I would do it again. Mainly, because I have been fascinated with space, growing up with Star Trek and the Apollo missions.” 

Readers find out that after returning to the earth in 1972 Apollo 17 brought back some classified items. Discovering its importance, a NASA engineer leaks the information to foreign governments.  Now there is a race to the moon to find an element called Caesarium.  If found it can be used to produce a weapon with an ultimate magnitude of destruction, that has important military applications.  In order to stop China and Russia Hector DeSantos and Aaron Uziel (Uzi) join with two astronauts on a mission called Operation Containment.   They must prevent Caesarium from being brought back. 

Meanwhile back on earth, Karen Vail and company have determined that the mission has been sabotaged and they must find out the mole who did it. Karen Vail and her colleague Alexandra Rusakov will have to find the mole and destroy the spy ring that planted malware on the ships that are now headed for the Moon. To complicate matters Hector’s father is kidnapped and will be used as leverage.

The author likes to venture out and write new stories.  His last book, Darkness of Evil, and his next book will delve into serial killers.  “As a writer, I want to keep fresh and different. I want to challenge my characters and myself to acclimate to new environments.  Karen Vail has been to Paris, England, and Spain maneuvering through the different cultures, places, laws, and law enforcement.  I think this current book about moon elements is extremely relevant.  Space can help with our military readiness that includes determining logistics.  We need to maintain our superiority in space and should applaud our President’s efforts to reinvigorate our space program. We need a moon base to collect natural resources and use it as a spring board to get to another planet.”

Space is coming to the forefront once again.  This believable story shows the importance of America keeping its space superiority. It also highlights how Karen Vail must maneuver through lies, betrayals, and disloyalties to find the culprits.


Book Review: Freefall

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.

Freefallby Adam Hamdy is the second book of a three-book series.  The Pendulumhas swung to this novel where all the main characters are trying to survive. FBI Agent Christine Ash is still trying to prove her conspiracy theory, English DI Patrick Bailey is trying to recover, and war photographer John Wallace is attempting to escape his past. Although readers can probably figure out what is happening it is better to read book one, Pendulum.

Hamdy commented, “The first book, Pendulum, looks at the consequences of how one person can do someone else wrong.  It deals with anger and fear.  This book, Freefall, expands upon Pendulumand explores how technology can subvert government and financial institutions.  It looks on how each character can trust each other and the government.  The third book, Aftershock, looks at our belief system and how technology has changed the way others can manipulate our beliefs, creating an illusion of facts.  I call it Fake News on steroids.”

The novel starts out with the horrific scene of a London journalist, a mother having hung herself.  The death triggers an investigation that brings back together Ash, Wallace, and Bailey, hurling them into the path of an unknown enemy. They have one rule, “Trust no one.” Each have encountered these masked men that target them for the kill. The investigation leads them to discover that the Pendulum killer was not working alone. As with the first book, the theme has Hamdy examining the internet and its excesses.

Should there be some sort of regulation and control? Hamdy “thinks technology is only in its infinite stage, and will end up rivaling the Industrial Revolution. No one asks questions about what we want out of it. There are a number of parents who are upset that their children are addicted to social media. There is this perception that we are not living our lives for ourselves, but for an audience.  Those on social media who are anonymous are far more rude and aggressive.  I am pretty sure if they are in front of the person they are goading they would not behave in that way.  It gives people license to go further than they normally would.” 

It becomes obvious that all three characters are still being put through the ringer, suffering physical and emotional pain as they find themselves in mortal danger. Suicide, attempted beheadings and IED explosions, are all described in graphic detail. After being captured Ash is tortured where the antagonist breaks her, forcing her into a state of pain, fear, fatigue, disorientation and detachment. A book quote, “But that machine had broken her, and trapped in the darkness, she wept at her failure, knowing that she would do or say anything to prevent them using it on her again.”

The protagonists have been left with physical and mental scars from their previous encounter.Wallace is punishing himself with guilt over his girlfriend’s death, Bailey has PTSD from his previous experiences with the criminal, and Christine Ash is trying to overcome her childhood demons that have caused her to have trust issues.

“I wrote those scenes having more emotional torture than physical torture. I am a great believer that once you read the shock the fear is caused by the reader’s imagination.  I think I only suggested the pain, but the reader takes it from there with their mind filling in the gaps.  What makes it terrifying are the psychological aspects, the loss of control and how it takes someone to their darkest places.” 

Tragedy, conspiracies, and deadly encounters powers this adventure and action story.  It is a pulse-racing read that is relentless and is not for the squeamish.  Readers will empathize with the three heroes, hoping beyond hope that they come out of the danger with an emotional and physical strength.

 


Book Review: The Prince

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 Prince by Katharine Ashe is the last book in the “Devil Duke series.” With each new book, she outdoes herself. The latest is always better than the last. As with most of her books, she writes how nothing is what it seems to be on the surface.  Both the hero and heroine hide their identity, she her gender, and he his background. He becomes a portrait painter so no one will know he is a prince, and she dresses up as a man, hiding the fact she is a woman. A subplot involving murdered women and grave-robbing adds to the mystery of whether the hero and heroine’s secrets will be found out.

At the heart of the novel is how Libby Shaw and Ziyaeddin Mizra, aka as Ibrahim Kent strive to save lives. He does it metaphorically, painting the real person, healing someone emotionally, while she does it literally, attempting to heal the body surgically.

She is ahead of her time, not willing to give into the social norms that forbid women from becoming doctors.  To achieve her life-long dream, to become a member of Edinburgh’s all-male Royal College of Surgeons, she disguises herself as a man. To make this a reality she enlists the help of Ziyaeddin who agrees to allow her to live with him, on one condition,she must sit once a week for him to paint, but as a woman.Eventually they come to realize that they are the only people each feels completely comfortable with, desire, and can depend upon.

For anyone who thinks this story cannot be realistic, Ashe refers them to “the biography of James Barry, which inspired Libby’s disguise.  He was formerlyMargaret Buckley,a woman who at nineteen changed her name and appearance to enter medical school in Edinburgh in 1809.This was necessary because most men in nineteenth century Britain believed that women lacked the physical and moral nature to be physicians or surgeons.It was not until Barry was on his deathbed that it was discovered he had a female body. I thought that if James Barry could do it for a lifetime, then my character could do it for a year.  And I wondered: how many women who sought a different life than they were allowed did this?”

Ziyaeddin also hides his identity, frustrated by his seventeen-year exile in Scotland. He is the deposed Prince of Tabir, a small Middle Eastern country. Forced to flee with his mother as a child after his father was killed in a coup he waits for the moment when he can return, take his rightful place on the throne, and rescue his sister. For now, he bides his time, wondering what will become of his and Libby’s relationship.  Although Tabir is a fictional country, Ashe sees it as “an invention based on the realm of history.  It is a small kingdom between the empires of Russia, the Ottoman Empire, and Iran. He ended up in Edinburgh because it had a port where people came together, similar to those places where he grew up.” 

The story explores Obsession-Compulsive Disorder. It is written in such a way that readers feel Libby’s pain. There is an understanding of the actual effects that it has on her as a person. It comes to the forefront after Ziyaeddin leaves for London, and Libby is left alone in the house. Anytime there are sudden changes Libby has episodes of irrational behavior where she feels compelled to have everything in order, and will keep doing it again and again until she gets it right. If she can't, she shuts down until she can cope again. After she confides in Ziyaeddin, and he agrees to help her, she realizes he is a special person.

Libby is very smart, single-minded in her goal, compassionate,caring, thoughtful, and very determined. Ziyaeddin compliments her with his kindness, gentleness, firmness, strength, as well as his protective, nurturing,and caring ways.

Infused in the story are fascinating pieces of nineteenth-century history.  This is by no means an information dump, but facts that allow the story to come alive. Ashe has the ability to make sure it does not overwhelm the plot, yet readers learn about the culture, politics, and social norms of the era.

This is a refreshing adventure story with a theme of friendship and respect.  Ashe weaves in important topics of prejudice, racism, mental health, disability, and equality that make the plot and characters relatable.


Book Review: Second Strike

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.

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Second Strike by Peter Kirsanow has Special Operator Michael Garin returning to save the day again. This Superman quote applies, Garin “fights the unending battle for truth, justice, and the American way.” He will once again face off against his nemesis, Russian Special Operator Taras Bor in this action-packed thriller.

Mike Garin was not written as an anti-hero.  “I wrote him as someone who is sure about the righteousness of his cause. He sleeps very well at night.  Never apologetic for defending America.  I wanted him to be a Gary Cooper type, the old-fashioned gun slinger who is on the side of right.  I met many operators and my brother-in-law used to be one.  They believe in America and understand what must be done to keep it as the greatest country in the world. Garin was inspired in part by a couple of operators I’ve known, but he’s chiefly a combination of the attributes of my brother-in-law and my late father, one of the world’s great badasses. In fact, Nikolai “Pop” Garin is my father. The existential struggle between Garin and his nemesis Taras Bor is a metaphor between the existential struggle of America and its chief enemies. In future books readers will find out something about Bor that will surprise them and put some things in perspective.” 

At the center of the plot is the ongoing geopolitical tension between Russia and America.  Just weeks after thwarting an EMP (electromagnetic pulse) attack by the Russians and Iranians, Garin and company realize that Russia is planning something else, a massive cyber-attack using ISIS wannabes. It is a warning of sorts that hammers the point home, America does not have a response doctrine to a massive attack of either magnitude.  Without government support, Garin turns to three people for help: Congo Knox, a former Delta Force sniper; Dan Dwyer, the head of a sprawling military contracting firm; and Olivia Perry, an aide to the national security advisor. As the tension mounts up Garin must stop the attack or millions will die.

Kirsanow commented, “Because of my job I am at a lot of committee hearings. The first book, Target Omega, was inspired by a 2010 hearing on EMP.  For this book, I happened on a committee meeting regarding cyber-attacks.  It was shortly after that where China hacked the Office of Personal Management.  My assistant on the Committee of Civil Rights had her file hacked.  It affected so many people I know.  The administration at the time did nothing to protect those individuals.  The opening scene in this book refers to how previous administrations let problems fester. If we do not have plans to deal with these dangers it amounts to ‘defense malpractice.’”

This story has never ending action.  Readers will be on the edge of their chairs as they quickly turn the pages to see how Garin thwarts Bor and the Russians.