Book Review Drone Threat by Mike Maden

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.

Drone Threat by Mike Maden is not just a thriller, but a thought provoking book. The theme is so realistic it is ripped from the headlines, questioning the use and danger of drones. Within an action packed plot readers will be confronted with the use of drones in war and civilian life.

Former CIA Special Forces operative Troy Pearce returns. Now the CEO for Pearce Systems, a leader in Drone technology, he is asked by the President to head Drone Command, a new covert department that runs on black ops funding with little oversight. Almost simultaneously with Pearce taking command, a series of drone attacks are carried out on American soil: a subway train in Washington DC, an airport in Texas, and water contamination in California. The most serious attack was a drone landing on the White House lawn demanding President Lane hang the ISIS black flag over the White House or suffer the coming consequences. With American lives at stake and an economy in a downward spiral, Pearce and his team must find a way to expose the terrorists and take them out before it’s too late. 

Maden told he wanted this theme to be a warning, “Technology is getting better and better, cheaper and cheaper. They are amazing devices, but are only as good or evil as the people that have them. One of the reasons why I wrote Drone Threat was to highlight the fact that commercial off the shelf hobby store drones can also be deadly. The primary advantages of the lower tech, smaller payload civilian systems is that they are easy to acquire, operate, and difficult to locate because of their size. These highly capable and yet inexpensive systems are begging to be weaponized. About two weeks ago this happened when ISIS converted a small cheap commercial model by fitting an improvised explosive device that injured two French paratroopers and killed two Kurdish soldiers. We should expect more of these kinds of attacks including here in America.”

Beyond the theme of drones Maden also explores the psyche of Pearce, a heroic American warrior, and the horrific mistreatment of women by ISIS. Through these issues the former President Margaret Myers is interjected into the plot. She does not have much of an active role in this book except to be the supportive mate of Pearce, since they are now in the early stages of a relationship.

Pearce is suffering from traumatic brain injury from his days in combat. He has anger issues, nightmares, and at times wants to withdraw from the world. Maden wanted to acknowledge those US warriors “who serve in combat and pay a big price for that. I reflected their wounds in Troy. The human body does not take numerous blows to the skull without taking a toll. Although Troy is a fictional character he represents on some level the brave men and women on the front lines fighting the war on terror.”

Something that gets very little play in the mainstream press is the treatment of women and how ISIS captures girls that they force to become sex slaves, selling them to the Saudis. There are some scenes, which are very descriptive and saddening regarding the abuse and how no one seems willing to help. A book quote, “A dozen women sat cowering on the floor, their faces covered by hijabs. But their downcast eyes told all, dazed and red with tears. Some were even blackened.”

In all of his books Maden always shows the political maneuvering and through Pearce’s eyes readers see why many politicians should be distrusted. In this book he confronts the issue of lobbyists and the power they can yield. Pearce’s disgust comes through in his thoughts, “Washington’s famous revolving door between government service and the lobbying agencies made him sick to his stomach. More than a hundred formerly registered lobbyists now served on congressional staffs...Worse, more than four hundred former Congressmen and Senators were now highly paid lobbyists.” What Maden hopes to show is that these lobbyists are more concerned with their own pockets than American Security. “There is no accountability or penalty. How can we regulate out of corruption? Politicians who leave office can leverage their Congressional relationships and influence into multimillion-dollar second careers.”

  61r-YDuGqOL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_Drone Threat exposes the dangers of drone technology as well as politicians. With a plot filled with action, intrigue, and political maneuvering, it is a very powerful read.

Book Review Crime Plus Music

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.

Crime Plus Music edited by Jim Fusilli is a collection of twenty darkly intense music related noir stories. Best-selling authors such as Peter Robinson, Craig Johnson, Alison Gaylin, and Reed Coleman along with many others combine their mystery skills with their music interests. interviewed some of these authors.

Jim Fusilli, a crime author and the Wall St. Journal’s rock/pop critic, thought an anthology involving the themes that link his professions would be interesting. The chronology of the authors’ chapters showed a sweep of emotions and avoided putting similar stories together. He hoped readers would be exposed to new authors and would get twenty different perspectives involving the world of music; although his role was to provide consistency among the stories.

It is not uncommon for crime fiction writers to weave music into their stories with Peter Robinson coming to mind. Although his novels have the main character, Detective Alan Banks listening to some type of music, this short story, The Blackbird, does not include him. In the short story, the main character Tony Foster, a musician, is a loner until he met Connie, but unfortunately drugs destroyed their relationship, a subject that comes up a lot when speaking of rock music.

Robinson commented he did not have a Banks story in mind and wanted a modern version of the Greek Music G-d. Because the Blackbird had a gimpy wing “I had the main character imitating this bird. Connie led a Bohemian life and I had the crime involving a drug overdose. What I realized part way through the story was how my thoughts went to the Paul McCartney song ‘Blackbird,’ with the lyrics ‘Blackbird singing in the dead of night.’ Using that and combining crime with horror I created this story.”

Regarding his own short story, Boy Wonder, Fusilli wanted to explore the contemporary electronic dance music world. His character’s Hollywood-type mother wanted her son to become a famous music star, something she always dreamed of. What would win, his soul or the executive scumbags?

The plot has a boy, Bowie Thomas, from a small town in Michigan coming to Los Angeles. His choice: to pursue art versus commerce. Fusilli had “The mother name her child after the rock star David Bowie. At the time of writing I did not know David Bowie was going to die. I was quite fond of him so if it is in some way a tribute to him that is kind of wonderful. I wanted to write about the conflict between art and commerce. I find the commercialism of popular music very disturbing.”

Another story by Reed Coleman is about a one-hit wonder and explores how organized crime is big part of the music industry. Look At Me/Don’t Look At Me has Terry James Lake as a folk/R & B singer. His manager, Carla Saroyan, sold his rights to some disdainful people and they required him to go on this disco dance show, lip singing his hit or there would be dire circumstances.

Based on an incident Reed remembers from his childhood, this story was something he had on the back burner for quite awhile. He spoke of an incident “in the 1970s on the show Dance Fever, a disco dancing show. One Saturday night I was watching an appearance by Johnny Rivers, a 60s recording song. I thought it odd he would appear on this type of show. He looked so uncomfortable and out of place lip singing his famous song, Secret Agent Man. I included the real fact that music in the 60s and 70s were controlled by the mob, bringing into the story gangsters.”

The story by Alison Gaylin is centered on the punk scene. Using the band X’s lead singer, Exene Cervenka as a model, she wrote about a strong-willed singer. The song mentioned in the short story, Johnny Hit and Run Paulene, is about a man who begins attacking women after taking a drug that makes him need to have sex every hour on the hour.

Gaylin thought about this song she heard, while in high school. “It is such a bizarre song with a creepy meaning. It is about a fictional drug that makes a man want to have sex every hour. The story, All Ages, has Lara Ramsey, wanting closure as she gets her revenge. It's a great basis for a female revenge story.”

Craig Johnson is one of the few writers who actually used his main character Walt Longmire in this story, Unbalanced. The Sherriff gives a young woman a ride as he heads to the airport to pick up his daughter. This troubled young woman tells him her story with the CD of Merle Haggard playing in the background.

He noted, “Since Merle had just died I wanted this story to be a shout out to him. I really felt the song was the connection between the story and the characters. This was a story I really wanted to write.”

Crime Plus Music has most of the stories with unhappy endings. Anyone who likes to read short stories will enjoy reading how the music is blended into a mysterious plot. 51vGm4nYTjL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_

Book Review The Will To Lead by Anders Fogh Rasmussen

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.

51E-tdk5VCL._SX345_BO1,204,203,200_The Will To Lead by Anders Fogh Rasmussen details why America has an indispensable role in the global fight for freedom. Having served as Denmark’s Prime Minister and Secretary-General of NATO he knows the importance of having a US President that leads from the front and not from behind.

The book starts off with an impassioned plea to Americans that someone needs to be elected in the spirit of Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy, and Ronald Reagan. He speaks of how “President Truman showed strong leadership and effective conduct by establishing the world order that for nearly seven decades secured an unprecedented peace, development, and wealth. President Kennedy came to stand as a beacon for the free world with his energetic and eloquent communication. And President Reagan led the United States and the world to victory and freedom over Communism and oppression by his firm conviction of American exceptionalism.”

Critical of President Obama, he sees the need for a strong President who is not afraid to restore order. The downsizing in Europe, the Iraq withdrawal, and the hesitation in Syria are just a few examples cited to show President Obama’s inability to stand up to his adversaries. He concludes, “the US must be everywhere to make sure they can uphold the world created after the Second World War.”

This includes President Obama’s decision to pull the troops out of Iraq in 2011. Rasmussen emphatically believes before the US troop pullout “it was relatively quiet and stable. Then the US left Iraq and its Prime Minister, Maliki, marginalized the Sunni community, which allowed for ISIS infiltration. As I said in the book, ‘Communication should not just be words, but should be backed up with decisive actions and visible leadership.’ We need to understand democracies must be defined as not just organizing elections and having majority votes, otherwise we end up with another dictator under the guise of a democracy. There must be protection of minorities, the rule of law, and human rights.”

Rasmussen told that President Obama’s strategy has emboldened Russia, making the world more dangerous and unstable. “Russia is now threatening her neighbors in Europe, primarily the Ukraine and Georgia. The political and strategic goal of Russia, part of President Putin’s ambition, is to restore Russian greatness. He feels he could get away with these attacks because American has reduced its presence and interests in Europe. President Obama has sent a very dangerous signal to the autocrats and terrorists in the world. Basically Putin exploited how people can get away with terrible acts without any consequences.”

The book has a poll that states the majority of Europeans are against the use of military force to defend an ally, a direct contradiction to the very foundation of NATO. When asked about it, he commented, “I disagree that NATO is obsolete as Mr. Trump has said. On the contrary, NATO is just as important as it was during the Cold War. It is more important than ever thanks to President Putin’s aggression. People must realize the security environment and Europe has drastically changed. We must adapt to this threat. I do agree that the Europeans should invest more in defense and our common security. All twenty-eight NATO allies pledged to invest at least 2% in defense. Today only five live up to that, but this year Europeans will invest much more than last year, and hopefully within a decade they will reach this benchmark.”

The theme of the book, The Will To Lead, has America once again becoming the world’s policeman. He concludes that starting from WWII up until President Obama, US presidents were committed to internationalism. He hopes that whoever becomes America’s next president, “they will have a bi-partisan approach to foreign policy, and serve America’s self interest by leading and not retreating from world affairs.”

Book Review Vince Flynn's Order To Kill by Kyle Mills

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.

Order To Kill by Kyle Mills is a vintage Vince Flynn book. It is a reminder of the early Rapp novels with Mitch going full circle between his personal and professional life. Readers who enjoyed the character and plot lines will think of Transfer Of Power and Consent To Kill. Kyle has done a top-notch job of blending the beloved characters of Irene Kennedy and Mitch Rapp with a high adventure, action packed plot.

This book brings back former Navy SEAL Scott Coleman who is working with Mitch trying to find Pakistani nukes so they do not fall into terrorist’s hands. As the story progresses it becomes abundantly clear that Russia’s President, Maxim Vladimirovich Krupin, is working with ISIS terrorists to destabilize the oil resources in the Middle East. The only way to find the culprits and stop these catastrophic consequences is for Mitch to pose as an American ISIS recruit in Iraq, while trying to find and eliminate his nemesis, Grisha Azarov.

Kyle Mills has come into his own. He expands the setting, introduces new characters, and yet is able to stay true to the characters and details created by Vince Flynn. Unlike last year where Mills was tasked with finishing a plot partially written by Vince, with this story he had full creative range and the final outcome is excellent. It is almost that he is one with the characters.

In this book Mitch harkens back to the person he was in the early Rapp books, no longer full or rage and living in a darkened world. Readers will now see Rapp as someone who realizes he is comfortable with his professional life and can possibly have a personal life as well. Kyle brings back Claudia, the woman who was married to Gould, the psychopath whose ambition was to kill the great Mitch Rapp. It is open ended if Claudia and Mitch will have some kind of relationship, but she is much more compatible than Anna, Mitch’s late wife. Having been in the business herself she can participate in the activities and understands what Mitch’s responsibilities must encompass.

Irene Kennedy continues to be an imperative player in the story in the role of the CIA Director, Mitch’s confidante, and the person who is able to connect the dots. She is important in being the focal point for understanding the issues presented in the book. Mitch depends on her to make the hard decisions.

Kyle commented to, “I see Irene as a pivotal piece in everything that happens in the books, even if sometimes she does not get as much ink as Mitch. I always think of her as the puppet master. By her own admission she is not involved but watches and waits until it becomes necessary for her to be involved.”

Although Vince concentrated on one area of the world, the Middle East, Mills skillfully has expanded the geo-political domain. Still incorporating terrorism within the plots he also shows how the US cannot be one dimensional in confronting its enemies that include Jihadists, Russia, North Korea, and China. Russia is seen as a one-man show, where Krupin (Putin) is more concerned about his own power and influence, using the Oligarchs as a crime syndicate organization. Kyle shows the desperation of Krupin, how Russia is the poster child for income inequality, and is ridden with drugs.

Finding Russia as an interesting adversary, Kyle wanted to “draw upon the complexities of Cold War thriller books, having been a fan of Tom Clancy and Robert Ludlum. The description in the book of how Krupin came to power comes straight out of how Putin came to power. In many ways Russia is a collapsing country with an economy smaller than Italys’. The minute he does not help the Oligarchs he is in trouble and can find a bullet in his head. There is a lot to draw upon for US thriller writers. The chessboard is getting very complicated. In this book I had Russia using ISIS as well as the dangers of the countries with nuclear arsenals. Putin uses them for his own purposes, and Pakistan is an unstable country, a failed state.”

Fans of the legendary Vince Flynn were unsure if Kyle Mills could fill his shoes with the well-developed characters and plots. They loved and hated the month of October. Loved it because a new Mitch Rapp novel came out and hated it because they would have to wait another year for the next one. With Order To Kill, readers will get those same feelings. It appears the torch has been passed to Kyle Mills. 51LKeoo9pwL._SX328_BO1,204,203,200_


BOOK REVIEW: Reckless Creed by Alex Kava

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.

Reckless Creed by Alex Kava combines an intense mystery with characters that are relatable and likeable. The added bonus of these stories is that readers get a glimpse into the responsibilities and duties of search dogs and their handlers.

Kava got the idea for the series from speaking with the head of the forensic science department. “We were talking about cadaver dogs. I always wanted to write a story featuring dogs, because I have loved them my entire life. In my other series that features FBI Agent Maggie O’Dell I introduced Ryder Creed and his search dog Grace. After writing them I fell in love with the characters and wanted to have them in a series of their own. I feel like I am a kindred spirit with Ryder since we both would be so content to just live in the company of dogs.”

The book begins in Chicago when a former military man supposedly jumps to his death. Because he had a brain injury most people suspect it was a suicide. Meanwhile in New York a sickly woman is given instructions to come into contact with as many people as possible. Throughout the states, other people are disappearing and getting killed. Called into investigate these suspicious circumstances, FBI Agent Maggie O’ Dell must decide if its suicide or some contagious illness, while Ryder Creed and his dogs are searching for a lost girl. As the novel progresses, it becomes evident that these supposedly unrelated incidents are connected. They race to find the source of the killer before many more become infected.

The main character, Ryder Creed, has made the transition from working with K-9s in Afghanistan to find IEDs, to his civilian life business. Currently, he has a business that uses search dogs for rescue and detection. Because he suffers from PTSD and understands the need to help his fellow soldiers he pays special attention to issues that affect himself and his peers.

Since Kava has given many of these dog handlers a military background she always gives a shout out to an issue facing those who have served. She noted to, “In this novel I wanted to highlight the issue of suicide among those who have and are serving. I write about military issues because I feel strongly about them, and it is not something we often hear about. I hope I do not sound like I am getting on a soap box so I try it incorporate it into the plot through the character’s personality traits. I have made sure most of the characters have some military connection.”

What makes this book stand out is how Kava utilizes realistic scenarios to make the plot very believable. The main theme involves the threat of biological terrorism and the dangers to the population. It brought home how a terrorist could be a suicide bomber using a virus instead of a vest. They infect innocent civilians by coughing or sneezing on others. Unaware they have become carriers people spread the disease.

What really frightens Kava is that besides the terrorist threat, “there is also the threat from accidents. Research labs with these deadly viruses are sloppy with few regulations and standards. One example had lab mice infected with something and they escaped. Another example, is that cattle given a vaccine were sent to slaughter for human consumption. I am afraid it might take an outbreak for people to learn how to deal with these dangers. How much collateral damage will there be? What surprises me is how unprepared we are for such a crisis.”

Readers also will discover how dogs are used to identify diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and C-diff through the changes made to a body’s organic compounds, gases, and scents. Kava noted, “Having read an article about dogs detecting diseases, I made the leap that they could detect viruses. They can detect lung, prostate, and ovarian cancers with accuracy. Their brain is dedicated to analyzing odors and it can separate scents. I learned about a boy who has diabetes. His trained dog can detect and alert his family when he needs insulin. I think this is remarkable. But one-third of the way through the book I started thinking if dogs were used to detect deadly viruses could they be exposed? We do know that in 2015 in the Midwest there was an outbreak of a dog flu that was believed to originate from the deadly bird flu. The good news is that a vaccine was developed.”

Reckless Creed is a riveting story of what can happen in a biological terrorist attack. Anyone who loves dogs will enjoy these characters, but beyond that everyone can see the importance of dogs in people’s lives. Kava does a great job in setting a tone of immediacy with the plot and characters. 51Yk3gHQg1L._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_

Book Review: Ring Of Lies by Roni Dunevich

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. 51amoKWTjVL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_

Ring Of Lies by Roni Dunevich is a thriller whose main character is Mossad agent Alex Bartal. This is actually the third book in the series although here in the US it is the debut novel.

The plot has Bartal investigating the killings of Israeli assets, each with a name of a European city. He finds that a sleeper cell, known as the Nibelungs, has been compromised. Convinced that there is a traitor within the Mossad, Bartal must race to identify and eliminate the double agent. Having to travel to Berlin Germany he finds he is possibly chasing ghosts, including those of his past. These scenes of Bartal’s past as a second generation Holocaust survivor are very powerful.

Dunevich noted to, “Some of it was personal. Bartal’s story is my story. We are both the children of Holocaust survivors. My mother has fears, PTSD, and memories that haunt her. The book was a release for both my mother and myself. I wanted to do extensive research so I stayed in Berlin for two months. I experienced some who were Anti-Semitic while others were very caring. I could connect the two stories because the Israeli Mossad was established to prevent a second Holocaust. It is part of the organizations’ DNA. I put in this quote to express Alex and my feelings, “He had no intention of foregoing or forgetting. As far as he was concerned they would wear their ancestors’ shame on their foreheads for the rest of their life.”

Ring Of Lies is a thriller that will keep readers on the edge of their seats. Beyond the riveting plot is the backstory of Alex and how his parents’ Holocaust experiences have affected his life.

Ring Of Lies is a thriller that will keep readers on the edge of their seats. Beyond the riveting plot is the backstory of Alex and how his parents’ Holocaust experiences have affected his life.

BOOK REVIEW: Downfall by J. A. Jance

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.

Downfall by J.A. Jance is a riveting mystery that also tackles moral issues. She is one of those special authors who never disappoints. While bringing to the forefront some controversial and disturbing issues Jance also has the reader trying to solve the crime of how two women fell to their death.

The plot begins with a puzzling case for Sherriff Joanna Brady when two women have fallen or were pushed to their deaths at a mountaintop called Geronimo. She must figure out if it is a double suicide, a murder/suicide, or a double homicide. During the investigation Brady and her department find clues of sordid secrets and evil lies. One of the victims is a high school teacher that had affairs with her students, basically committing statutory rape. Sent to help with the investigation is FBI Agent Robin Watkins. This new character is refreshing and will hopefully be recurring. She and Joanna have a similar personality and common ground with their personal problems. Beyond that they make a great team as they pursue all the clues to what really happened to those women who fell.

In this book the setting plays such an important role that it is almost like a secondary character. Jance remembers when “I climbed Geronimo I was eleven. This was my only time. I did it on my hands and knees going up and coming down on my butt. I put in the story how every child felt, including myself, who climbed it. It is a right of passage between childhood and adolescence. Of course no one tells their parents their intentions until they are safely back down. When I climbed it I remember seeing these ‘cactuses.’ I incorporated them into the story as well. With the help of people from the University of Arizona I established what they were, which is why I dedicated this book to those experts. If it is one of my books you can count on the fact that I have been there and done that.”

Beyond the mystery is the exploration of the personal life of the main character, Joanna Brady. She faces many obstacles in this book including running for re-election, having to deal with the recent killing of her mother and stepdad, her daughter going off to college, and being five months pregnant. Sometimes when an author puts in many insights into the character’s personal life, it takes away from the plot. This is definitely not the case. By highlighting Joanna’s personal life as a mother, wife, and grieving daughter the story is enhanced. Beyond that she must also deal with the intense sibling rivalry she feels about her stepbrother who came into her life as an adult. These events present challenges that almost anyone can relate to. A quote from the book highlights how women feel about balancing their professional and personal lives, “The disappointment registered on Denny’s (Joanna’s young son) face represented every working mother’s all too familiar tug of war.”

An interesting side issue was how Jance had the female characters reacting to their mother-daughter relationship. Jance noted to, “A lot of us have issues with our mothers; I know I did. I remember after getting my college degree looking down on my mother with her sixth grade education and just being a housewife. This was terribly arrogant of me. Once I had children my mother began getting smarter. What I have written is not exactly my mothers and my relationship, but it is certainly related.”

She is hoping that readers of the series will see Chief Deputy Tom Hadlock coming into his own. “Since he was appointed to the position some books ago, he has been struggling in handling certain aspects of the job. But in this book it was really terrific to see how he handled this crisis and to be at some point solely in charge of the Sheriff’s department. He validated Joanna’s faith in him.”

Downfall takes readers on a journey that uncovers a possible kidnapping, hypocrisies, a pedophile, and abuse. The crime story is explosive and riveting. Readers will be shocked with the many twists and turns as they quickly flip the pages. As Jance ends the book, giving a shout out to Dale Evans, Roy Rogers, and their trusty animals, readers should also feel a sense of Happy Trails with this story. 51qrlbd3KfL._SX319_BO1,204,203,200_



The Velvet Hours by Alyson Richman uses a real-life story of an abandoned apartment as her inspiration. Within a historical fiction story readers will learn about the Paris setting as well as the time frame from the 1880s through the period just before World War II.

A few years ago an apartment was discovered to have been abandoned for nearly seventy years. Among the treasures inside was a portrait of Marthe by Giovanni Boldini, a famous painter of the 19th century. Because the facts about these two women are sparse, Richman wrote an imagined tale of Marthe de Florian, a courtesan during the Belle Epoque era, and her granddaughter, Solange. As with her previous novels she develops a story, able to apply a mystery to the character’s lives.

Because Marthe is obsessed with beauty, Richman used velvet, “It is one of the materials that has shadow and light, going from smooth to rough. The metaphor is her illuminating her life as she tells her story to her granddaughter. This is why I put in the quote by Solange about her time spent with her grandmother, “Those hours were like velvet to me. Stories spun of silken thread, her own light and darkness, unabashedly drawn.”

Richman also answered the question of why the Germans never appropriated the apartment and why they did not steal the valuable objects? “I talked to a Jewish expert who believes the concierge must have had a hand in hiding the unoccupied apartment. This is why I gave them a role in the story. I wanted to include how the characters reacted to the events just before World War II.”

With alternating time periods the story tells of two bold and somewhat independent women facing their pasts in the midst of an uncertain future. Marthe de Florian began her life in poverty, watching her mother scrub other people’s laundry, while loosing her youth and beauty. Determined to be surrounded by beauty Marthe uses her aesthetic looks to capture the attention of a wealthy patron, Charles. He sets her up as his mistress, a kept woman, in an apartment where she developed her natural taste and love for splendor. Charles not only encouraged her, but also provided her with the means to survive and sustain herself. There were men after Charles, but none who truly captured her heart as he had. Now, in the 1930s, with Europe on the brink of war and the Holocaust looming in the background, she shares her story with her granddaughter Solange Beaugiron, using her prized possessions to reveal her innermost secrets.

Marthe is based on Richman’s grandmother, whom she dedicated this book to. “When my mother saw the dedication she commented, ‘This way she lives on forever.’ My grandmother was one of the most elegant people I knew. She was a feminine person who took pleasure in surrounding herself with beauty. I realized there are pockets of people’s lives we have no idea about. I started thinking how 99% of the people vanish upon death. Our memories are kept alive through the possessions and the stories told from generation to generation.”

The author’s focus on detail with her descriptive words makes the scenes stand out. The setting, the artifacts, and the characters are vividly depicted throughout the story. Moreover, her ability to use symbolism throughout makes the plot even more interesting and is an intricate part of the theme.

One object that has symbolic significance is the ancient Haggadah passed down from her grandfather. Richman noted to, ““I included an Haggadah, which represents the story of Passover, and the Jews exodus out of Egypt. I compare that to the threat for Solange and her future Fiancé. They used it to help them escape the looming Nazi occupation as they traveled to America.”

The Velvet Hours places the characters and objects into a fact filled story. Richman has created a rich Paris setting with memorable characters within a time period beginning in 1888 and ending in 1938. 51nW7ZMVMzL._SX330_BO1,204,203,200_

BOLO & Be Careful Out There!

UPDATE:  Arrested after shootout.  That said, be careful! 



Updated with additional photos.  

Not going to get into the idiocy of DeMoroniso and others, just be aware.  While he may still be in the NY/NJ area, there's no real guarantee of that.  Meantime, be alert.  If you see something that is off, even if you aren't quite sure what, get out and report.  That applies everywhere -- and keep in mind that the knife jihadi was in a security guard uniform -- and you really don't want to know how many police and other uniforms are missing across the country.  Even if this guy is caught, this is far from over.  Be careful out there.  


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.

An Obvious Fact by Craig Johnson combines a mystery within a western setting. Readers get an understanding of the Cheyenne nation, the Wyoming setting, and how a small town Sheriff keeps his town safe. Sheriff Walt Longmire will remind readers of Matt Dillon with his quiet demeanor, Jesse Stone, with his determination to seek justice, and Harry Bosch with his need to be a detective for the disenfranchised.

He considers himself a “Cowboy Author who writes mysterious westerns. I live westerns. I built my ranch completely on my own in Northern Wyoming. After I was done I sat down and started to write. The western environment has a tremendous affect on my life, which is evident in the books. In my family I had a grandfather who was a blacksmith so I have been around horses all my life.”

This novel allows readers to jump on the motorcycle with the characters as they go on a wild ride in Hulett County Wyoming having to face biker gangs, neo-Nazis, gunrunners, a mega millionaire, and undercover ATF agents. Henry Standing Bear, nicknamed The Cheyenne Nation, returns to the Sturgis Rally in an attempt to win a motorcycle race. He, Sheriff Longmire, and Dog, drive a ’59 Thunderbird, Lola, towing the motorcycle. The actual namesake of Henry’s car, Lola Wojciechowski, wants them to find out what happened to her son whose motorcycle was driven off the road and now lies unconscious in a hospital. Through the investigation that includes Longmire’s deputy Victoria (Vic) Moretti they find that the crash was no accident. ATF is looking at the victim as a drug or gunrunner. It becomes obvious that Walt and Company are needed to sort out all the facts and find the perpetrators.

Johnson commented to, “In the contemporary American West the new horse is the motorcycle. We have the largest motorcycle rally in the world in the little town of Sturgis. When I was a child I started racing motorcycles and have had motorcycles my whole life. I had all these small, independent book stores that wanted me to come and do events at their stores so I began doing the Great Northwest Outlaw Motorcycle Tour on my own that takes in Wyoming, Montana, Washington, Oregon, and Utah.”

Readers will not only enjoy the Western flavor of this novel, but Johnson’s way of adding one-liners. This humorous and sarcastic dialogue will allow for some chuckles. The banter between the characters, as they rib one another, plays off well and adds to the storyline. Not to mention the way the author sets up Vic with her ability to drive and skeet shoot with the best of the male folk.

Anyone who enjoys these novels should tune in to Netflix to watch the series. The fifth season will start September 23rd. The characters are portrayed brilliantly by the cast, from Robert Taylor as Walt to Katee Sackhoff as Vic. But the person who steals the show is Lou Diamond Phillips who has 100% nailed down the essence of Henry Standing Bear, including his speech patterns.

Having Phillips portray Henry has added to the flavor of the show. Johnson believes he has done “a fantastic interpretation. Before he auditioned he actually read three of the books. He does a great job of that B movie speech where he never uses contractions. He speaks that way because Henry is very precise in what he does so his speech patterns are accordingly. Sometimes he uses that type of language to piss off white people who are arrogant.”

Whether reading the books or watching the TV series readers/viewers will have plenty of action, humor, and twists. The character Henry, who at the end of the book, uttered a Sherlock Holmes line, can summarize this novel best, “There is nothing more deceptive than An Obvious Fact.” 51-OKyhxupL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_

Debt To Pay by Reed Colemen

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.

Robert. B. Parker’s Debt To Pay by Reed Farrel Coleman ingeniously creates a cat and mouse story. In bringing back the serial killer, assassin, and terrorist Mr. Peepers the plot reveals more of Police Chief Jesse Stone’s personality, as he must chase down his nemesis while saving those he loves.

Two books ago, The Devil Wins, Jesse struggled to capture Mr. Peepers who eventually escaped. Now, after a major crime boss is murdered, Jesse suspects it’s the work of Mr. Peepers, a psychotic assassin who has threatened to avenge Jesse’s broken promise by targeting those close to the Chief. Figuring that the allusive sadistic serial killer will strike at his ex-wife Jenn’s wedding Jesse and Diana agree to travel to Dallas to be a part of the wedding, and to hopefully stop Peepers. Jesse and Diana, the former FBI agent who has turned private security consultant, hope to put closure to his relationship with his ex-wife as they also covertly try to protect her from the psychological and physical torture of Peepers. As he tries to find Peepers Jesse wonders is the killer going after Jenn, Diana, deputy Molly, or deputy Suitcase Simpson?

Coleman described to, Mr. Peepers as “a sadist, control freak, part serial killer, and part hit man, but also a little human because he has great affection for Jenn. I think he is creepy like Hannibal Lechter. They are both bright, very controlling, one step ahead of most people, condescending, a feeling of superiority, and has affection for a particular person. I think anyone who writes a mystery with a serial killer has some influence of the Hannibal character. I think I was influenced unconsciously, but not consciously.”

What is intriguing is how Coleman shows the differences in personality between Diana and Jen. Diana seems to appear to be more of Jesse’s soul mate who is very independent, smart, good at her job, and comfortable in her own skin. Compared to Jenn who is manipulative, wussy, dependent, and clingy. Both women have Jesse’s devotion, but with Diana he feels he has found an equal.

The author hopes to show “Diana is more self fulfilled and does not need anyone to complete her. Could you imagine Jenn jumping out of a car and chasing a mugger as Diana did in this book? Jenn would have told Jesse to do it. One of the things fans of the series have asked me is to kill Jenn off. I found their relationship as annoying as the fans. I hope in this book I rehabilitated her. Jesse is a guy who needed to fix things and Jenn needed the help in getting things fixed. Jesse knew she was manipulative, but with Jenn’s new husband she does not seem so whiny or needy.”

The underlying theme has something readers can relate to: be careful how you react to people because that can have dire consequences. How many times has someone been offended by a person’s actions whether being cussed out, cut-off by a car, or someone just being downright uncaring.

Having people think before they react is important to Coleman. “We encounter that in our everyday life. Readers did not want the rude person in the story to be tortured. Yet, we have all thought someone rude and wish they would get their due. Someone who says, ‘F--- You’ even though they did the rude act. Its crazy. I want people to think that they should not be rude to someone else because you never know if that person will take out a gun and shoot you.”

Debt To Pay does not have a dull scene. It is action-packed, tension filled, and riveting. Because Coleman has such well-developed characters people will find Peepers creepy, Jesse as the knight in shining armor, Jenn as the damsel in distress, and Diana as the self assured partner to Jesse both personally and professionally. 518qCWpg4YL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_

Book Review Danger Close by Amber Smith

The following review/Q and A 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.

Danger Close by FOX News Consultant Amber Smith takes readers into battle worn Iraq and Afghanistan. People will learn about the world of an Army Kiowa Helicopter pilot who engaged in high intensity warfare. One of only a few women to fly this helicopter her missions were armed reconnaissance, and support for those fighting on the ground.

People might question why she appeared to sidestep addressing military gender politics. But in actuality, through some of her examples, she did bring up the gender issue. What she did not do is hit readers over the head, instead allowing them to form their own opinions and impressions. Her view, there needs to be a mission standard and not a gender standard, comes through loud and clear. Through her own exemplary actions she showed that it should not matter if someone is male or female, showing that her sex did not matter in her performance of the job and contribution to the mission. She noted to, “I chose to never make being a woman as an excuse. I felt I was a good pilot who had the attitude to my male peers, ‘get over yourselves. I am here whether you like it or not.’ I consider being a Kiowa pilot an amazing part of my life including having the brotherhood and sisterhood.”

Interestingly there were three examples that readers can interpret about the possibility of some form of sexism involved. The first was with a peer who actually threatened to hit her. She took it in stride and never backed down. But can this be interpreted that she was actually accepted as an equal since he was not afraid to “hit a woman.”

The other two incidents probably do have sexism play a role. She was grounded and not put on a flight schedule because her superiors did not think she “could handle it,” even though other newbies were flying. She eventually received orders to fly after the Iraqis voted on the referendum, the day Iraqis voted on their Constitution. The other incident involved an accident where her helicopter was hit while on the ground, after landing. Again she was grounded while the male pilot who had committed the accident was already back up and flying. Eventually, she was cleared to go after some senior warrants in her unit had defended her.

She commented, “I should have never been put through it. I did not put this in the book, but one of those who ruled on the accident was the person who later did a check flight with me. He felt guilty and maybe he realized he was wrong about putting me through the mud, something that should never have been done. As I say in the book, ‘The false accusation and witch hunt had changed me. I no longer trusted that my unit leadership would have my back if something bad happened that was out of my control…whether they will become an internal target for doing their job.’”

But more than anything readers will understand the untold story of the Kiowa warrior and the importance to those fighting on the battlefield in Iraq and Afghanistan. This job can be compared to a western. The pilots called themselves the “air cavalry,” where they scouted the enemy, the horses were the helicopters, and the Stetson cowboy hats were their helmets.

Two incidents potently drove the point home of their duties of reconnaissance and protection. Her co-pilot, on a mission, had him questioning whether to take off and fly in support of a ground unit. She considered it “lazy and extremely selfish. It is just not what you do to say ‘someone else should pick it up.’ It is so far out of the norm for the rest of the Kiowa pilots and how we operated.”

The other mission had the command refusing to give clearance even though no friendlies were present. Although low on fuel she and her co-pilot wanted to engage the enemy who was burying a mortar shell for an IED. Because of the command’s indecisiveness they almost crashed with a low fuel count, and the enemy escaped with a weapon that could have cost lives as they were allowed to fight another day. She noted, “The route was IED alley. Bad guys should have been taken out. It was a bad decision, the inaction. Afterward everyone received a re-education.”

Danger Close is a war story that is about a brave pilot who happened to be female. The reader is taken into the cockpit as she explores the vivid and harrowing world of a combat helicopter pilot. 51nXRIa622L._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_


The following review/Q and A 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.

Way Of The Reaper by Nicholas Irving is presented in a similar fashion to the old TV Combat series. Readers can experience the dangers of the mission that snipers must face, seeing the war through a sniper’s scope. They are also being placed in the heart of the battle. The book confirms the US military values of honor, courage, loyalty, and commitment.

Nicholas Irving spent six years in the Army's Special Operations 3rd Ranger Battalion 75th Ranger Regiment, serving from demolitions assaulter to Master Sniper. He was the first African American to serve as a sniper in his battalion. He set a record for enemy kills on a single mission, killing 33 over a four-month period. This book is the sequel to the New York Times bestseller, The Reaper, where he recounts his ten greatest sniper kill missions. Readers will get an insight into the art of being a sniper: the necessity of support from the intelligence reports to his own reconnaissance, and the skills needed of determining trajectory, wind, and distance.

He noted to, “We use the same skills as an athlete, observing closely and making educated guesses. A baseball hitter must guess the pitch location and type. A chess player must be three moves ahead to anticipate their opponent’s moves. We block out the senses and focus like athletes block out the crowd.”

As with American Sniper’s Chris Kyle, Irving makes no apologies for taking the life of someone who is threatening his fellow soldiers, and agrees with Kyle that he sees himself as a guardian angel sent to protect his teammates. He told, “I actually refer to myself as ‘the mother hen.’ I was given the nickname of the Reaper because I batted 1000 in hitting my targets. My peers saw me as ‘the Angel of Death.’ The motto that snipers live by is ‘without warning; without remorse.’ We are hidden and there is no warning when we will fire and I do not feel bad about it. For me, I never worried if the bad guys are wearing a protective vest because of the high caliber rounds. If they have a vest my attitude was, ‘there is no such thing as a bulletproof facemask.’”

He also explains in the book how those fighting are disgusted with political correctness. Speaking about someone in his unit who was wounded, Irving observed “how we treated their wounded (The Taliban) and how they would most likely let us suffer and then die a horribly painful death.” It should make Americans wonder if the rules of engagement are one-sided, putting the enemy ahead of our own military personnel.

This book has interesting and gritty stories about his time as a direct action sniper. Readers get to feel they are part of the battles as if they were Irving’s spotter. 51oxJPFLnQL._SX328_BO1,204,203,200_


The following review/Q and A 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.

Sorrow Road by Julia Keller is an excellent title for this story. Most of the characters have some dysfunctional issue going on in their lives, whether overcoming PTSD, having to handle a parent with Alzheimer’s, or abuse within a family. Keller brilliantly explores these issues within a riveting mystery, tying up loose ends as the story concludes.

This series started when Bell Elkins abandoned her husband and high stress job in Washington DC to become the prosecutor of a made up town in Ackers Gap, Raythune County, West Virginia. In this installment, one of her high school classmates, Darlene, returns to her home town, to ask Bell to look into her father’s suspicious death at an old age home. After a worker at Thornapple Terrace Senior Citizen Home is murdered along with her best friend, Bell suspects another connection. Her investigation unravels a relationship and secrets kept between Darlene’s father and his two childhood friends. Readers will enjoy this story about ‘three boys’ who fought in World War II to the present day where their children are facing parents with Alzheimer’s.

Keller believes “the three boys” are a reflection “of the boys and girls from small towns in our heartland that fought and won America’s wars. They sacrificed the rich part of their lives for our country. The photo I used in the book was from my mother’s husband who fought in World War II. He told the story of how he and his friends were on a battleship in Normandy, but the day after the battle. I found it fascinating they were there, but the day following the big event.”

Having been born and bred in West Virginia, Keller is able to write potent scenes about this state that are intertwined within the plot. West Virginia looms larger than life as the author describes the economic hardships of the residents, the roads, weather, and history, balancing the physical beauty with the many problems.

As with everyday life the characters in this story have their past affecting how they deal with the present. Bell, abused as a child, has these past memories haunting her, sometimes putting her relationship with a younger man into disarray. Carla realizes she can no longer suppress the hideous memories of her good friend being killed as well as her being kidnapped. The retired Sherriff, Nick Fogelsony, is attempting to recover from a gunshot wound and his wife’s emotional handicap. Darlene has become an alcoholic to withdraw from who she has become. Finally, a daughter is trying to come to grips with the ravages of Alzheimer’s that have left her father’s memory clear of the abuses he inflicted on his children.

The Alzheimer’s theme is important to her because “I have been obsessed with memory. Someone once told me this quote, ‘Memories are the bones of thought.’ There are just so many variables about it we do not understand. I am one of those people who believe the past lives within us and we never leave it behind. I wanted to explore what happens when a person has lost their memory; can they be blamed for whatever grievance was inflicted by them? We have older people in the world to teach us patience. Making sure they are cared for takes the spotlight away from us. Anyone with an older parent understands how it is a whole different way of looking at the world. Alzheimer’s is such a national part of our landscape and is a national issue on how we will take care of people inflicted with it.”

There are two powerful quotes that reflect on the parent-child relationship. “Just as she had done when Carla was an infant…She was able to keep her daughter safe, even for just a few hushed hours, deep in a winter’s night.” AND “The guilt that burned and surged and twisted inside you because you so futilely wished you’d done more for your loved one…wished you stopped in more often and paid better attention when you did, wished you hugged him just once more during that last visit, and told him just one more time that you loved him.”

The first quote was based on how “my sister and her daughter react toward one another. The mother never goes out of you. They never lose that feeling of keeping a child safe even when they are grown and out of your control. This is one of my favorite scenes. Beth was holding her daughter Carla and at that moment she is safe in her mom’s arms.” While the second quote came from “my anticipatory guilt of my mom dying. I can’t leave my mom’s visits early because I don’t want to look back and regret something. Although, I do think most people will look back with some kind of regret or guilt.”

Sorrow Road has the themes of good versus evil, revenge verses forgiveness, and love versus murder. In this tale of memory and family the story is relatable and believable, and the West Virginia setting fits perfectly into this mystery. 51FRluuA+HL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_