Book Review - "Under a Silent Moon" by Elizabeth Haynes

Posted By Blackfive

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

9780062276056_p0_v4_s260x420Under A Silent Moon, Elizabeth Haynes’ latest book, differs from her previous novels.  Her other books were more stand alone psychological thrillers than this one which can be classified as a series police procedural.  What makes this novel intriguing is the way she presents the crime investigation, through the source documents.

Readers should connect one of the team’s investigating detectives, Sam Hollands, from the Haynes’ first book, Into The Darkest Corner. Louisa Smith is introduced as the formidable DCI, heading the investigation of two victims. The first is a beautiful young woman brutally killed in her cottage, while the second is a suspected suicide at a nearby quarry, when her car plunged to the bottom of a pit. The investigation takes place over the course of six days where it becomes apparent that these two deaths are related. 

Intertwined throughout the novel is fictional source material, including police reports, phone messages, interviews, witness statements, emails, forensic reports analysis documents, and charts.  This enables the reader to feel they are part of Smith’s investigation team, collecting the clues as they attempt to solve the crime.  Even the chapter titles allows for the reader to stay in the setting since they are named with the day, date, and time. However, if these document sources become a bit detailed, and they are skipped, nothing is lost in understanding the storyline.

The author commented to, “This is the book I always wanted to write.  As a police analyst I would get the real sense of the story, the real crime, from these documents.  Investigators effectively piece together the puzzle as the investigation unfolds.  I thought I can write a novel just from these documents with the reader being able to fill in the gaps and can see how the story unfolds.  The reader could act like an investigator if they so chose.”

As in all her books, Haynes has a dark side to the story with graphic sex and violence.  Yet, these add to the plot as she tries to show the dark side of humanity through affairs, sexual encounters, jealousy, desire, and greed.  The relationships begin to overlap and a strong theme throughout is the father/daughter relationship.

Interestingly enough is that in this book the main characters are the police not the victims or suspects.

She noted to, “In a crime novel there is a lot of graphic sex out there that is part of the crime.  With Into The Darkest Corner the sex scenes were very real for me and not gratuitous.  As times I wanted to stop writing that because I wasn’t comfortable with it.  It was stomach churning for me, and gave the readers a feeling that this is just not right. With these current scenes I wanted to show that it was not put in for pleasure but to show how someone could use it to manipulate and control, as part of a power play.  This is a thread running through all my books.”

Haynes also feels as a working mother she needs to balance motherhood and professional life.  For example she asked that the interview be postponed for an hour so she could have dinner with her ten-year-old son.  She also told of another example, being invited to speak at a crime festival on a Friday.  “I said I would do it but only on a Saturday or Sunday because that particular Friday was my son’s class celebration for finishing primary school.  Amazingly they allowed me to speak on the weekend so I was able to balance my career and my family.”

Under A Silent Moon is much more of a plot-based book than a character based one as Haynes has written in the past.  However this novel allows the reader to analyze much more as they are riveted to this gripping page-turner.

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Book Review - "Warriors" by Ted Bell

Posted By Blackfive

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

9780062279385_p0_v4_s260x420Best-selling author Ted Bell’s latest book Warriors delves into the dangers of an emerging China.  This spy thriller brings back his main character Alex Hawke who is not the ordinary super spy.  In this novel Hawke plays a supporting role to the gripping plot, which the author uses as a sounding board to wake-up Americans.

Bell commented to, “The whole China angle came about while at Cambridge.  From 2011 to 2012 I was elected to be a visiting scholar and a visiting writer in resident by Sir Richard Biling Dearlove, the retired head of MI6, now a professor there.  We focused on the issue of China with a subset of North Korea.  It was fascinating for me because anyone who wants a future in the intelligence community, the highest level of military, espionage, and intelligence, were there.  It was like Spy vs. Spy meets Harry Potter.”

The plot begins when a rogue Chinese military general kidnaps American scientist William Lincoln Chase and his family.  Chase is known for his research on creating weapons that will alter the global balance of power.  Intertwined with this are the sub-plots that have Scotland Yard Chief Inspector Congreve Ambrose investigating the murder of a Cambridge professor and coming to the rescue of Hawke’s son with the culprits being beastly black birds.

Although Bell told that most of the technology in the book was fictional, there is a believability and realism to it.  Readers will be engrossed with the highly advanced fighter jet designed to deliver Alex to his Chinese contact, a pair of equally advanced missiles designed to prevent him from making that meet, sophisticated drone planes, and a new class of submarine that is able to stay submerged in the water without a crew.

The torture scenes, although old school, are never the less very graphic and sophisticated, displaying the cruelness of the Chinese and North Koreans.  Bell wonders where the outcry is considering “waterboarding to them would be like me shooting you with a squirt gun.  These places are horrific and no one does anything about it.  There are four of these prisons with thousands of people who are sent there if they make the government angry.  Yet, China continues to fund the North Koreans, probably because, excuse my language, North Korea is China’s bitch, happy when they give the US a hard time.”

Many of Bell’s fans have likened Alex Hawke to James Bond, a comparison he disagrees with. The author describes his main character as dashing, sophisticated, emotional, witty, passionate, and a very eligible bachelor.  He noted, “Bond was a creature of the 20th century where as Hawke is from the 21st century.  He is thirty-three years old and the sixth richest person in England.  Unlike Bond Alex is a living breathing man who falls in love, misses his child, gets hurt, sees the world as good vs. evil, and can be very emotional. He represents a way of life that is rapidly receding in America.  Alex is a man of character with the bulldog tenacity of Winston Churchill and Ronald Reagan.  All these men would never give in.  We have gone from fighting on the beaches to sun tanning on the beaches.”

There are two powerful themes from the book. The mindset in Washington: We will not have to worry about the Chinese military capability until well into the next decade, and Washington behaves like a crippled giant.  Bell commented, “Looking at every possible recent scenario we are on the losing side, whether in Crimea, Syria, or Iran, our government makes a big show but there is never a price to pay.  Our navy is the smallest it’s been since WWII.  It is like we are dismantling this country with a lot of damage being done.  We are on the defensive, which is depressing.  China is becoming much more powerful.”

Ted Bell hopes his readers will find Warriors, a “tongue in cheek book, that is fun to read while learning a little something.”  This book accomplished this and a lot more with a gripping and realistic plot with likeable main characters.

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Exclusive Interview with Nelson DeMille - "Plum Island" to be brought to television!

Posted By Blackfive

The following is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper.  You can read all of our book reviews by clicking on the Books category link in the far right sidebar.

9780446515061_p0_v2_s260x420Plum Island, the New York Times best-selling book by Nelson DeMille, will likely be made into a television series. Produced by Sony and Lionsgate for a cable TV station, each of the ten episodes will be one hour long. This novel introduced the wisecracking, confident, not politically correct, street-smart character, NYPD John Corey. Although Plum Island was supposed to be a stand-alone book the popularity of Corey convinced DeMille to make him the lead in a series of novels. The dean of political thrillers was kind of enough to take time away from writing his next John Corey book to speak with about this project as well as future projects.

Plum Island’s plot begins with Corey on medical leave, recovering from bullet wounds, when his friend, chief of the Southold Police Department, enlists his aid while looking into the double homicide of Tom and Judy Gordon, also friends of Corey.  They happen to be employees of Plum Island, the nearby high-level bio-containment facility located in Long Island, studying deadly diseases such as anthrax and simian Ebola. The investigation originally leads the detectives to suspect the Gordons’ of stealing a vaccine with the motive of peddling it to the pharmaceutical world for billions of dollars. But Corey contemplates a competing theory that the couple might have been involved in selling drugs, or looking for buried treasure. The local murder investigation soon crosses jurisdictional boundaries and draws county, state, and federal investigators with Corey’s nemesis Ted Nash also introduced in this novel.

Although written in 1997 it is still relevant today with the many different issues explored: genetically engineered viruses, bio-terrorism, government cover-ups, and government surveillance.  DeMille commented to, “It will be interesting to see how the screenwriters make it into a contemporary piece.  Originally, pre-9/11 it was not well guarded and was under the jurisdiction of the Department of Agriculture.  However, today it is under the control of Homeland Security.”

Hopefully the screenwriter, Ron Bass, will be able to capture not only John Corey’s personality but also his partner’s, Beth Penrose.  In all of the Corey books the characters dialogue helps to create a plot that has tension, suspense, and humor, including the silly type jokes DeMille is known for as a writer. The female lead plays the perfect “straight man” to Corey matching his wit, wisdom, and sarcasm. As DeMille describes it, “Usually the women in Corey’s life are the voice of reason.  In the books he brings in his street smarts and the women bring in the logic. The one thing that was told to me is what they might do with Corey’s romantic interests.  They are hinting that possibly he would not ever be married.  What they might do is have the male/female lead romantically involved with some sexual tension.”

How much control will DeMille have over the project? DeMille’s short answer was not much.  However, he has offered his advice and is hoping that Bass will take him up on it.  “I think having the author involved is a good thing because it makes the project more successful.  On the other hand I don’t want to meddle since writing for a TV show is such a different format than what I am used to.  I sometimes wonder why a book property is bought for the screen considering all the changes made.  You wonder if they are buying the story or buying it for the built-in audience of the author. A good TV series allows the viewers to really understand the characters that the novelist has written.  One of my other books was made into a screenplay where they missed everything and the screenwriter did not understand that people want to read and watch other people. Without the jokes and sarcasm the characters do not sound like real people.  My son interviewed to be a screenwriter for this project since in TV land there is a team of writers.  Maybe if he is chosen he will consult with his father.”

If the pilot is successful a TV series will be made with the possibility of a feature film being produced. There is talk that each season will be based on the next Corey book.  His favorite book, The Lion’s Game is considered for the second season.  “Although I resisted a TV series for a number of years I decided to go with it because of the very good cable shows currently on TV.  Also, TV is willing to deal with Islamic terrorism while feature films will not.  The reason for this is the need for movies to be distributed overseas.  They would have to worry about the movie theatre being blown up, threats, and any backlash, while TV shows are just watched in people’s homes. That is why there is great interest in making my latest book, The Quest, into a feature film.  It does not deal with terrorists and is marketed as Indiana Jones meets The Da Vinci Code.”

DeMille also noted the book he is currently working on will be another John Corey novel, A Quiet End.  Corey is no longer with the Anti-terrorism Task Force and now works for the Diplomatic Surveillance Group, essentially being demoted.  His new duties include following people from the foreign embassies.  Assigned to watch the Russian UN mission Corey finds out that one diplomat is a bad guy associated with the KGB.  DeMille noted, “This book is about a resurgent Russia which as you know I thought about long before the Ukraine crisis.  The theme of this book is that the Cold War has come back with Corey understanding the Russian threat as existential and long range. This book is almost like a stand-alone in the same way as Plum Island.”

He also told, the female lead will not be Corey’s wife, FBI agent Kate Mayfield who is off to Washington DC after a promotion. “There will be sexual tension with his new partner. He is having problems with his wife since her promotion.  They seem to be drifting apart.  Something has to happen with Kate because the backstory has become cumbersome.”

Fans of the John Corey series are looking forward to two new projects, a new book due out sometime later this year, and a TV series probably entitled Corey.  With any luck, next fall fans will be able to get their fix of John Corey.  Hopefully, the TV series will maintain DeMille’s fingerprint over this great character.

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Book Review - Conversations with Coach Wooden

Posted By Blackfive

The following book review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper.  You can read all of our book reviews by clicking on the Books category link on the far right sidebar.

9781595800763_p0_v3_s260x420This time of year has sports fans euphoric since it is the beginning of the baseball season and March Madness is heating up.  A new book, Conversations with Coach Wooden by Gary Adams is very relevant since it combines both these sports.  Gary Adams was the long time coach of UCLA baseball who shared an office with the legendary Coach Wooden for almost a decade after the legendary basketball coach’s retirement.

The book reflects on Wooden’s core philosophies and principles behind his numerous basketball successes.  It also shows how Wooden influenced Adam’s career and coaching style as they became very close friends.  Adams told, that his first year of coaching was Wooden’s last.  After retiring UCLA’s Athletic Director asked Adams if he wanted a high profile officemate.  “The book describes how we met and told me ‘Gary, you know you are coaching my favorite sport, baseball.’”

Adams went on to say that during an interview Wooden commented that he was never asked to be an assistant baseball coach.  Adams chuckled as he noted, “I would have been proud and honored for him to be my bench coach.  Can you imagine having Coach Wooden as my right hand man to help me think about what I should do?  Unfortunately, during those times there was never such a thing as a bench coach.”

There are many stories about former players, as well as how both coaches viewed the changes to the games.  Both coaches, as with today, believed change is not necessarily for the better.  Regarding basketball Wooden was disheartened with the one and done, the slam-dunk, and the “show-off” players.  He felt basketball was no longer a sport but pure entertainment.  For him, the beauty of basketball was in the fundamentals of it being a team sport.  In the book Adams quotes Wooden, “Those fancy behind-the-back passes and showmanship slam dunks do not make the execution of the game any better.  They are only done to entertain the fans.  Well it does not entertain me.” He went on to say that the best basketball is having sound fundamentals that emphasize “good old-fashioned teamwork.”

Wooden thought, “the slam dunk may be good for entertainment, but it’s not good for the game.”  He once told Adams that at a UCLA basketball game a Bruin went high in the air and did a slam-dunk.  His response was, “that player would have been sitting on the bench before his feet landed on the ground.”

Baseball according to both coaches has not changed for the better with the American League rule of having a designated hitter. Adams said he and Coach Wooden did not like the designated hitter rule because it took the strategy away from the game.  Would a pitcher who is doing well be pulled for a pinch-hitter?

Conversations with Coach Wooden is an engrossing book for both a sports fan and a non-sports fan.  If you like basketball or baseball, the reader will love the personal stories of the coaches and players in this book.  But beyond that is the life lessons these two coaches taught through the sports of baseball and basketball.  These lessons seem to have been forgotten by some Americans today.

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Book Review - Children of the Revolution

Posted By Blackfive

The following book review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper.  You can read all of our book reviews by clicking on the books category link on the far right sidebar.

9780062240507_p0_v3_s260x420Peter Robinson’s latest book, Children Of The Revolution, intertwines a murder mystery while bringing back the seventies era.  As with all of his books Robinson explores a few social issues within a strong character based story.  For this novel, he discussed the issues of date rape, sexual abuse, abuse of power, betrayal, Marxism, and the comparison of students in the seventies with today. What makes the plot intriguing is the use of folk music lyrics to enhance it. 

Being a Grateful Dead fan he used their songs to enrich the plot.  He noted, “ Folk songs talk about love and murder.  I thought of the idea from the time I did performances in England with Martin Carthy.  I wrote a story specifically around the songs he wanted to sing.  He would open with a song and then I would start reading the story, pause, and have him sing another song.  Five songs were chosen throughout and the short stories, Deadly Pleasures, was specifically written for this performance.  By the way, Carthy was one of the people who introduced Bob Dylan to England in the sixties.”

Children of the Revolution begins with Inspector Banks investigating the death of a recluse college professor who was dismissed for alleged sexual misconduct four years ago. Along with 5,000 pounds found in his pockets, Professor Gavin Miller’s body position indicated that the cause of death was not natural. Banks struggles to find answers as to why Miller would have committed suicide and begins to wonder if he was pushed off the nearby bridge. Robbery, blackmail, or revenge is the possible motive for the untimely death. Banks suspects Lady Veronica Chalmers because of her apparent link with the victim going back to the early seventies at the University of Essex, then a hotbed of political activism. After the inquiries, he is brought on the carpet by his supervisors and warned to stop. Banks continues to conduct his investigation under the radar, with the help of new DC Geraldine Masterson, DI Annie Cabbot and DS Winsome Jackman.

Robinson commented to, “My stories start with the setting, in this case the old abandoned railway line that had a bridge overhead.  I thought this would be an interesting place to find a body.  Then I began to look at British contemporary history and thought it would be interesting to see what happened to those people from the seventies era.  I came up with a plot that allowed me to do this. I enjoy writing about the characters.  In fact, I never know who did it until I am part way through the plot and a character seems to present itself.”

Readers can see the evolution of Detective Alan Banks from his initial appearance in 1987 to now where he is a lot more cynical and melancholy.  He is an old fashioned detective that would rather use his thought process, assessment of characters and his own decision-making than the modern technology of today.  This can be exemplified with the quote by Banks, “I’ve often thought that solving a crime has far more to do with understanding people and their motives than it does with spectrographic analysis and DNA.” Robinson does not see his main character as a hero figure or a brilliant sleuth like Sherlock Holmes but does think “he is from the age group that finds political correctness rather tedious.” was given a heads up about his next book, whose title for the British audience will be Abattoir Blues, but could change for the American reader.  The theme deals with some rural crimes in Northern England, that Robinson considers “a nice backdrop for a murder mystery.”

Children of the Revolution has Banks pondering aging and his mortality as well as his career.  Through his contrast of the different periods including student life the readers will learn about those eras.  This book is complex and thought provoking between a riveting mystery and an exploration of the social issues.

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Big Boys Don't Cry

Posted By Laughing_Wolf

Confession time:  I've always enjoyed Keith Laumer's Retief/BOLO universe.  My thoughts on Jame Retief versus the (stereo)typical member of the lace panty brigade should come as no surprise.  Bolos struck a chord with me early on (Honor of the Regiment) and the idea of someone (something) striving to do the job no matter what (and the incompetents) with honor and integrity was comforting (particularly in the Carter era). 

For all that, there were some things about that universe that bugged me.  Nevermind that it would take thousands of Retiefs to keep things above water and moving along.  Never mind that the incompetents won way too often and no one ever, EVER, followed up on the example of the heroic BOLO.  There was something more to it that bugged the bleep out of me deep down. 

Thanks to Tom Kratman, I now have a better idea of why that is and you have a great story to go read.  Big Boys Don't Cry is a novella, and for me a quick read -- but keep in mind that I can even polish off something of Weberian size rather quickly. For all that it is a novella, and a good read, it is not necessarily an easy read and Tom gleefully uses a flamethrower (and I imagine was laughing maniacly as he did so) to remove the curtains and expose what has been bugging me about the Bolo universe. 


who reminds you that you still have time to go order the Freehold Signed Limited Edition by Michael Z. Williamson.  Trust me, you want to and you need to. 

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Book Review - "Kill Fee" by Owen Laukkanen

Posted By Blackfive

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

9781101624777_p0_v1_s260x420Owen Laukkanen is a relative newcomer to the thriller genre.  Kill Fee, the third book of the series, once again reunites FBI special agent Carla Windermere with Minnesota State police investigator Kirk Stevens. Fans of crime thrillers will be reminded of best-selling author John Sandford because the setting and the main character’s career path are the same. However, it becomes abundantly obvious that Laukkanen is able to put his own distinctive imprint on his books. 

The plot begins when Windermere and Stevens witness an assassination, and are unable to apprehend the fleeing murderer. As other targeted killings occur these two law enforcement officers travel throughout the US to find answers and to catch those responsible.  What becomes obvious is that they are always one step behind as they try to put the pieces together including a murder for hire Internet site. They seek to find the person behind turning young war veterans into unemotional killers. Using complete control their handler transforms them into broken human beings who are obedient and lethal. 

Laukkanen told, “I had been reading about how the Internet can be used to help build crime empires.  I expanded that to having a murder site since it is so easy to hide your identity online.  This is one of the issues I dealt with in the book, how these criminals can hide out and avoid detection.  I made sure that the bad guy knew how to steal other people’s IP addresses and then bounce them around to make it difficult to detect.”

The readers can readily identify with very realistic characters. The protagonists share varying degrees of dissatisfaction with their personal lives as they struggle to balance that with their job responsibilities.  The author weaves the various characters actions together in an intense plot.  Even many of the antagonists become sympathetic figures as they struggle with PTSD and to free themselves from the control of this one person who is their lifeline to the world.

In all of his books Laukkanen makes sure to write about societal issues.  After researching the emotional state of many returning combat soldiers he decided to include it as a powerful theme in the book.  He explained, “I used a DOD clearance to keep the antagonist’s identity secret.  I compared this guy who spent his life building bombs to now running a murder for hire.  I had him kidnap and take control of the veterans’ lives where there is this bond between the tortured and the torturer.  After reading about the vulnerabilities of the veterans as they return home from Iraq and Afghanistan I became struck by how let down they are by the government and society.  They are left to deal with their traumas in silence and by themselves since many are uncomfortable to talk about their mental health.”

He also gave a heads up about his next book, which will be about sex trafficking.  Two Romanian sisters are brought to the US in containers, but one escapes.  Windermere and Stevens attempt to find out the people behind this ring.  This plot will also have a struggle between their private and job responsibilities.  Laukkanen has Stevens trying to handle how women are treated as commodities and the evilness of men as his daughter begins the dating scene.

Kill Fee has a very riveting plot that includes mayhem and misdirection.  It has characters that are very well developed and intriguing.  This intense novel is a must read for anyone who enjoys suspenseful thrillers.

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Book Review - "An Officer and a Spy" by Robert Harris

Posted By Blackfive

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

9780385349598_p0_v1_s260x420Robert Harris’ latest book, An Officer And A Spy, is a fictional account of the Dreyfus Affair.  This is a thrilling historical novel that delves into the world of espionage, conspiracy, and corruption surrounding the persecution of an army officer for the sole reason he was Jewish. Although most people know of this historical tragic event, readers will be interested to find out how Harris has the story unfold. The focus is not so much on Dreyfus as it is on Colonel Georges Picquart. 

The plot begins as Alfred Dreyfus, a Captain in the French Army, is paraded throughout the streets of Paris after being convicted of treason, and is imprisoned at the hellhole of Devil’s Island.  Among the witnesses to Dreyfus’ humiliation is Picquart who had a hand in his conviction by carrying a secret document that supposedly proved Dreyfus’ guilt.  Because of his loyalty to his superiors during the trial Picquart is promoted to Colonel as he heads the counterespionage agency. While performing his duties Picquart stumbles upon information that leads him to change his mind from considering Dreyfus guilty to now believing in his innocence.  He is compelled to question not only the case against Dreyfus but also his most deeply held beliefs about his country, and about himself, especially since Dreyfus was convicted on the basis of secret evidence, in a closed court, in which neither Dreyfus nor his lawyer was able to view the evidence.

Harris told, “I wrote the book from Picquart’s point of view.  That is why in the book; Dreyfus had a ghostly, haunting presence.  Because he was seized, locked up, and shipped off to Devil’s Island, he was unable to find out anything for himself.  I truly believe there would not have been a Dreyfus Affair without Picquart.  He was the one who did the detective work and faced the moral dilemma: should he go along with his comrades for the sake of an institution he so loved, the army, or did he say to hell with that and tell the truth.”

Realizing that the wrong man was convicted of espionage the Colonel goes on a quest to find justice.  Unfortunately, the conspirators included a high level of senior officers such as the Minister of War, the Chief of the General Staff, the former head of Military Intelligence, and the Commander of the Fourth Army. A powerful quote in the book explains Picquart’s dilemma, “So this is what the Army of France has sunk to.  Either they are the greatest fools in Europe or the greatest villains:  for the sake of my country I am not sure which is worse.  But some instinct for self-preservation warns me not to fight them now.”  The author is able to show the suspense and mystery involved as Picquart is accused of being a co-conspirator, is tried for treason, and also is imprisoned.  The cover-up became deeper, stranger, and more criminally psychotic.

Harris directly explained, “I put the quote in the book, ‘Really, it is beyond hypocrisy; it is beyond even lying; it has become a psychosis.’  What is interesting to me is how people closed ranks and justified to themselves lying is ok for the supposed greater good.  I think this is the biggest conspiracy cover-up there ever was, even bigger than Watergate. Picquart finally realized while he was banished to Africa that he was never going to be allowed back into France and that nothing was going to happen unless he spoke up.  Only then did he decide to act.  When he realized that the Dreyfus family would not find a breakthrough or that he would never be able to convince his superiors to right a wrong he decided to act. It was hard for him because he did not want to bring down the institution he worked for and loved, the army.”

An Officer And A Spy is a riveting account of the Dreyfus Affair from the perspective of the person who broke the case wide open.  It is a legal thriller, an espionage story, and a crime novel all rolled into one.  The plot contrasts the different human characteristics of deceit, intimidation, ruthlessness, and anti-Semitism.  Anyone who wants to read a captivating book that involves blackmail, espionage, corruption, murder, and injustice should read this novel.

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Want A Special Book?

Posted By Laughing_Wolf

Many of you here know Mad Mike.  Well, his first novel, "Freehold," is being re-released in a signed, hardcover edition.  First released in 2004, this is a one-time run and only about 1,000 will be printed.  If interested in this very special edition, order today to ensure you get a copy. 


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Book Review - "Stone Cold" by C.J. Box

Posted By Blackfive

The following book review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper.  You can read all of our book reviews by clicking on the Books category on the far right sidebar.

9780399160769_p0_v2_s260x420C.J. Box’s latest, Stone Cold, a Joe Pickett novel, will definitely become a “mega country hit.” His books based in Wyoming have the flavor of a modern day Western, where the setting becomes almost a character in itself. Box’s novels always include two plots: one involving Pickett’s family and the other, a story of adventure, with some political intrigue and culture from that part of the US.

Although the Joe Pickett novels are a series, each individual book is a stand alone, due in large part to Box’s writing style.  Stone Cold has two intertwining plots, one involving Pickett’s college age daughter and the other a murder for hire company, based in Wyoming’s Black Hills.  Each piece of the story goes beyond the “who done it,” allowing the reader to question modern day issues.

The family story has Pickett’s older daughter, Sheridan, worried about a fellow dorm student at the University of Wyoming who appears to have a mass shooter type personality. Box explores the issue of the 2nd Amendment on college campuses, such as, whether colleges should be gun free zones, or should college students shave the freedom to carry a weapon.  He told, “What I put in the book is really happening in Wyoming where students can have up to three guns, but not in their dorm room.  They need to store it with the UW Police Department.  Times have obviously changed since when I was younger I had a rifle in my high school locker for finding prairie dogs.  In my college days we would have our guns to go hunting.  I am a big 2nd Amendment supporter but I wanted my readers to question the issue of allowing guns in dorm rooms.  I remember my college days where we twenty-one year old boys would get all liquored up.  I am not so sure it is a good idea to have a gun then.  I go back and forth, but I do think what is being done today is a fair compromise.”

The other plot has Joe traveling to Wyoming’s Medicine Wheel County to investigate the shady dealing of a wealthy landowner, Wolfgang Templeton who owns the county, land, people, and law.  The issue focuses on being above the law for righteous reasons.  Box gets the point across through his characters:  Joe tends to bend the rules while Nate Romanowski goes against the rules.  For those who have not read any past books, Nate is the antithesis of Joe, a loner who lives in the woods with his falcons. This plot brings back “Frontier Justice,” since Nate rights a wrong against those morally degenerate elitists who are untouchable in society. The other issue examined is the idea of handouts and the dependency it can cause among the people. 

Box commented, “There is the perception in this country that some bad people are untouchable because they are part of the elite and part of the system.  This is something Templeton and Nate address since they go after people that cannot be touched in any way due to their connections.  Regarding the other issue, Templeton, to gain control, established in this county handouts to take care of everybody and bring the people on his side.  Yet, they want more and more from him.  This shows how the county people became dependent, unhappy, and is always asking for more and more.  Both Templeton and the county people become hostages to each other.”

The reader should be aware that although the main plot comes to an ending the side plots are left up in the air, which is Box’s style.  He always leaves certain threads that run through the series that don’t have a definitive conclusion, and resume in future books. 

He also gave a heads up about his next book, which will also include Nate.  The plots will include Joe’s daughter April’s disappearance that will be intertwined with a plot surrounding endangered species and the effect it has on energy development. 

Wyoming citizen, the former Second Lady of the US, Lynne Cheney told, “I love Box's novels.  His realistic plots yield plenty of surprises, and his characters are fabulous, especially Joe Pickett.  And all of this is set against an evocative Wyoming background that he draws perfectly. There is never a false note to break the spell.  I hope Box keeps writing for many years to come.”

Stone Cold has non-stop action with captivating characters.  The plots are thought provoking, suspenseful, and compelling.  These western tale books are a welcome difference from other crime novels and should be on any readers’ list that wants a thrilling mystery. 

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