Book Review - "The Darkest Hour", An Alternate History of the Occupation of Great Britain

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 right side bar.

9780062339379_p0_v4_s260x420The Darkest Hour, Tony Schumacher’s debut novel, has a very intriguing storyline.  It can be considered an alternate history of sorts that questions morality.  Through the character’s eyes readers examine if it is even possible to redeem oneself after committing terrible acts. ? What makes this novel very interesting is how the author creates an action-packed plot while still exploring the questions, such as: Could the British people become like the Nazis, and what doors would someone open to survive?

The author told he drew the idea “from a documentary on television. It showed a photograph from the Second World War of an English policeman in the Channel Islands, just off the coast of France, occupied by the Germans. This policeman was holding a car door open for a German officer, where both he and the German officer were smiling. It was a propaganda picture taken by the Germans to show they weren't such bad guys. When I saw the photo, I was momentarily angry with the policeman. I'd been a policeman for ten years, and to me, this officer had disgraced the uniform. But almost immediately, I realized I couldn't think like that. This guy was probably told 'Open that door and smile. If you don't, you'll get shot. So, open the door.' And to stay alive, he'd done what he was told to do. After all, he might have a family at home and wanted to live. So I began wondering what I would have done in that circumstance. Once you cross that line, it begins to recede. Each time you're told to do something abhorrent, that line moves back a bit more. You compromise your values, your integrity. And you have to weigh how much you want to stay alive against doing something you find despicable.”

The plot begins with Germany controlling Western Europe after a pact is signed in 1946.  The Germans are occupying Great Britain using brutality, fear, and consensus to control the English. The main character is John Rossett, who won the Victoria Cross for rescuing his fellow soldiers from Dunkirk. After the war he returns home to find his wife and son killed by a bomb that was meant for the German authorities.  He is chosen to work in the Office of Jewish Affairs, whose duty is to hunt down and round up the Jews for deportation.  He attempts to fool himself into believing that they are sent to France as laborers, never questioning, and willingly believing the propaganda.  He goes along to get along until he finds Jacob, the grandson of someone he knew.  Determined to find redemption and to find a purpose to his life he decides to save this one boy who “deserved the chance of life and love.” Trying to help Jacob escape to America Rossett must battle the resistance and the Nazis who have their own agenda for wanting Jacob dead. During this portion of the story the novel becomes a thriller with non-stop action as well as many twists and turns.

At times emotions vary from liking and rooting for certain characters to utter distaste of them.  The author skillfully never allows the reader to forget that, although Rossett, is a redeemable hero, he has a sullied past. Does one good action nullify the previous bad ones? This hero is a complex character who is emotionally damaged and attempts to save his soul by offering Jacob a future, turning from an evil person who assisted in the dirty work, to becoming a caring rescuer. Rossett is contrasted with SS Officer Ernst Koehler who on the surface is very likeable, but in reality is a devil in disguise that inwardly cares little about human life.

Tony noted, “A number of scenes had Jacob taking John Henry Rossett’s hand.  The readers know it is “dirty,” but Jacob believes John will do the right thing by him.  I get the sense readers wanted to hate John, but didn’t because of Jacob’s view of him.  Jacob becomes Rossett’s guardian angel giving him some of his soul back, forcing him to explore within himself. Although Jacob is a character who does not speak a lot in the book, he is a thread through the whole story.  Jacob made John recognize and confront that monster inside of himself.  John carried a lot of guilt and was tortured by his own actions of doing nothing. On the other hand the German SS Officer, Koehler, had people like him on the surface.  They thought of him as charming, but in reality he is a killer, a nightmare.”

The Darkest Hour is the first in a series of books about the “German occupation of England.”  Throughout the thrilling storyline is a moralistic thread.  Readers should not question, “what if this did happen,’ but ‘could it happen today,’ considering the rising anti-Semitism.  This book is a page-turner with engaging characters, plot twists, and a very intelligent storyline that is thought provoking.

Book Review - Military Thriller "Empire Rising" by Rick Campbell

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 in the right sidebar.

9781250040466_p0_v1_s260x420Empire Rising by Rick Campbell is a riveting military thriller.  He uses his personal experience as a retired Navy Commander to write an authentic story regarding submarine warfare. This novel is written in such a way that those who want a gripping story will enjoy it as well as those who want to know about the latest weapon systems.  There is a great balance between a good plot, well-developed characters, and a discussion of different weapons.

Campbell explained to, “I made a conscious decision to balance the level of detail with the most crucial aspect of a thriller, the pace.  Many times having to stop and explain a weapons system comes at the expense of the pacing.  All the weapons are realistic, but I did give China some long-range missile capabilities.  Because some of the material is classified some of the scenes in the book are tweaked regarding the weapon capabilities.  However, I did try to keep everything in the realm of possibility.”

This second book in the series brings back the main character of national security advisor Christine O’Connor.  She advises the US President not to sign the Mutual Access to Environmental Resources accord.  Realizing that the US and the Pacific Rim nations will have the availability to dwindling oil reserves, she fears China will be cut off from present and future production, derailing its economic growth and prosperity.  Christine’s fears become a reality when an all-out naval war with China begins after they invade both Taiwan and Japan. 

There are many comparisons to World War II when Japan also went to war over natural resources and had the upper hand in the initial battles.  Campbell takes the reader on a roller coaster ride as China attempts to neutralize America’s Pacific Fleet through cyber warfare, jamming satellites, and infecting weapon systems with malware.  With intense submarine battles it feels as if you are there, playing the cat and mouse games as submarines engage with surface ships. 

The author hopes to show in his books how the leaders of nation states are put in positions where they must either accept the consequences or take action.  In the beginning of Empire Rising he does not make China pure evil, although, the same cannot be said by the end of the book. 

As with the first book, Christine O’ Connor ends up in the wrong place at the wrong time.  This recurring theme has her playing a leading role as the storyline progresses.  What makes this interesting is that the author through Christine’s eyes, a civilian, can explain different military aspects from her perspective. She is seen as someone who is strong-willed, determined, tenacious, committed to the task, and at times vindictive. 

Empire Rising is a warning of sorts, a ‘what could happen’ if China does gain the upper hand in cyber warfare.  In the spirit of Dale Brown and Tom Clancy this novel is a spellbinding story that never runs out of action scenes.  It also has characters that are intriguing and captivating.

Campbell gave a heads up about his next book, whose working title is Cold Betrayal.  It involves a collision between the newest American fast attack submarine and one of Russia’s new ballistic missile submarines. As life support systems begin to fail, the United States and Russia rush to the aid of their crews. Both sides realize that whoever reaches the sunken ships first will be able to board the other country’s submarine, harvesting the latest weapon and tactical systems technology.

Book Review - "The Stolen Ones" by Owen Laukkanen

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 right side bar.

9780399165535_p0_v1_s260x420The Stolen Ones by Owen Laukkanen is an insightful look at morality and greed.  As a police procedural it combines an action packed plot with societal issues that do not get a lot of attention. Human trafficking is explored as the joint Minnesota BCA-FBI task force attempts to track down the girls and uncover those behind the operation.

The main characters, BCA agent Kirk Stevens, and FBI agent Carla Windermore return in this thrilling plot.  After a sheriff’s deputy is shot dead, local authorities take into custody a person of interest, a hysterical young woman who has no ID and speaks very little English.  The task force finds out that this mystery woman, Irina, is from Romania where she was seduced to come to America with promises of a glamorous career.  Instead, she and her sister become part of a sex trafficking ring and are forced to travel across the ocean in a cargo container.  Stevens and Windermore team up once again in a nationwide chase to save the girls and capture the culprits, uncovering multiple layers of horror.   

Besides the riveting plot Laukkanen delves into the inter-personal relationships of the main characters.  He has Windermore hooking up with a subordinate agent Derek Mathers.  Unfortunately, Mathers appears to be submissive not only professionally but also personally.  While Windermore is ambitious and strong-willed, Mathers appears to be weak and obedient.  This might work in their professional relationship but after hours he still seems to be “mothered” by Windermore.  Stevens on the other hand is a family man who dearly loves his lawyer wife who at times helps him with the case.  With this family relationship there is a level of realism. 

Laukkanen told, “I brought Derek into the picture to head off the ‘will they, won’t they’ with Stevens and Windermore. Yet, I wanted to keep them together as partners so I created the task force.  I did not want to strain credibility that these two always happen to be falling into cases together.  I like how these two characters interact, but because Stevens is married I did not want to allow them to have a personal relationship.  As partners they are humorous and complement each other.  Sevens is dull who does things by the book while Windermore is hotheaded and rash.  Although she has a partner professionally I am finding it hard to give her a decent partner personally, someone who is her equal and extraordinary.  Maybe Derek will evolve and mature while I am hoping to show that Windermore is more vulnerable.”

The Stolen Ones is intense and faced-paced with an intriguing storyline.  It is thought provoking and raises the question of how anyone can treat another human being so horribly, and their willingness to sell their soul to make money by any means possible. 

The author also gave a heads up about his next book, which has a very dark plot.   It is based on a true story where an online predator preys on depressed teenagers.  He goes to websites where people discuss their suicidal thoughts and encourages them to do it while he watches.  

Book Review - "Endangered" by CJ Box

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 right side bar.

9780698184435_p0_v1_s260x420Endangered, the latest Joe Pickett novel by C. J. Box is the best yet of the series.  There are all the right ingredients: a realistic plot, well developed characters, a vivid setting, clear prose and ratcheting tension. Box merges detailed descriptions of Wyoming’s landscape, western culture, and the personal drama regarding Pickett’s family into a thrilling action packed novel.

There are three storylines that appear autonomous, but at the end are weaved together brilliantly. The first is related to environmental issues and government overreach.  Box made it very clear what could happen to a state’s economy when the Federal Government decides to put a bird, in this case the sage grouse, on the endangered species list.  Besides having to deal with a personal tragedy Joe must outwit the Federal Bureau of Land Management, officials of the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

The tragedy is the second storyline involving Pickett’s adopted daughter April.  After running away with the local bad boy/rodeo cowboy Dallas Cates several months ago, she is found beaten horrifically in a ditch along the Wyoming highway.  Joe suspects Dallas Cates but he and law enforcement are thrown roadblocks by the Cates family, including the mother who is manipulative and cunning.  Box superbly writes how Joe must tread the fine line between being a father and a law enforcement officer. This storyline is relatable to any parent, especially with the quote, “a parent’s worst nightmare.”

Box explained to, “This is the first time in the series where one of Joe’s daughters is severely injured in a very violent way.  I wanted parents to understand the tension Joe must go through when receiving the phone call. I know what my reaction would be. Like Gabby Giffords April had a medically induced coma.  I had a doctor give me their opinion on how to write these scenes.  People are put in a coma until the brain swelling goes down. Sometimes they fully recover and other times they could have brain damage.  Readers will find out what happens by the end of the book.”

The last sub-plot has a cameo appearance by Falconer, Nate Romanowski.  He is forced to cooperate with the FBI, being used as bait to catch the billionaire gun for hire Wolfgang Templeton.  But this storyline involves more of Nate’s girlfriend Liv Brannan who is being held captive by the Cates family after Nate is critically shot. As these sub-plots intertwine it becomes obvious Joe is intent on finding the truth behind the killings of the birds, the attempted murder of Nate, the beating of April, and the disappearance of Liv. 

The general theme of the book is a Libertarian’s dream, the overreach of the Federal Government.  These few quotes from the book hammer the point home: “We can do whatever we want, we’re Government,” “That’s why I hate explaining a business plan to a bureaucrat who’s never worked in the private sector in his life,” and “Nobody in a federal agency ever gets fired.” Of course what comes to mind are the numerous scandals of the Obama Administration. 

Box noted, “The state’s rights versus the federal government fuels many of my Pickett novels. Think about how much of the western states lands are controlled by the federal government.  For example, 50% of Wyoming is federal land so this state really does not have autonomy.  There is a movement going on that has started in Utah where the state legislatures are demanding the Federal government sell their land back. The quotes came out of my personal experiences with some government employees who have the attitude that they can do anything and never have to worry about losing their job.  They start to think of themselves as officials instead of what they truly are, servants of the people.  This attitude runs amuck now.  I wanted to show how a bad egg, maybe someone with a chip on their shoulder, who works for the Federal Government can make life hell for someone else.” 

Endangered is a great read that is fast-paced, suspenseful, and action-packed.  Within the storyline readers can get a glimpse of important issues that relate to the current day as they take a journey along with the characters.  A word of warning, make some time to read this novel in one setting because no one will want to put it down.

C. J. Box also gave a shout out about his up and coming books. The next Joe Pickett novel will be centered on Nate Romanowski and his attempt to free himself from the FBI’s control while reuniting with Joe.  Another book, out this summer, Badlands, features a character, Cassie, from the last stand-alone novel, The Highway.  It takes place in North Dakota’s oil fields and is described as a “modern Wild West,” that includes the drug trade

Book Review - "Past Crimes"

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 right sidebar.

9780062344557_p0_v1_s260x420Past Crimes by Glen Erik Hamilton is his debut novel starring Army Ranger Van Shaw.  It is a book about family and forgiveness, and how circumstances can affect the interaction between people as they embrace and reject their past.  Within that story is an action-packed plot that looks at the different aspects of crime.

Donovan, “Dono,” Shaw, Van’s estranged grandfather, raised him to become a thief, following in his footsteps.  Having had enough of the criminal world, Van exiled himself, abandoning his illicit past, by joining the army.  Van, an Army Ranger returns home to Seattle after ten years in response to a terse message from his grandfather.  After arriving home he discovers Dono was shot and left for dead.  Van becomes the prime suspect and is drawn back into the criminal underworld of his youth as he hunts for the shooter with the help of his grandfather’s peers. 

The author gives a shout out to those in the military.  Van enjoys being a Ranger because it has given him a sense of duty.  He was injured in Iraq when his unit was ambushed.  He received his facial “tribal marks” from pieces of shrapnel that took off part of his cheekbone.  After recovering he knew he had to “get back on the horse” and was deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.  Being a warrior has given Van a different perspective on life.

Hamilton commented to, “A good friend of mine was in the Special Forces.  To fast check information in the book, I spoke to Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.  I wanted to make sure that Van’s formidable years were spent as a warrior since he entered the army at age eighteen.  The reason I made Van a Ranger is that they are all about knocking down doors and direct action.” 

Readers instantly like Van for being loyal, tough-minded, and independent, traits inherited from his grandfather.  Actually all the protagonists in this story have very similar traits.  The main female character, Luce, also has these qualities.  Hamilton explores how each of the three main characters deals with the issue of crime.  Dono has a contentious relationship with Van because of Van’s desire to escape his criminal youth, removing himself from the temptation.  While Luce, whose grandfather was Dono’s partner, responded to her criminal surroundings by staying in Seattle to confront it head on through embracing the straight and narrow.

The author noted, “Van has matured during the years he’s been in the Army.  He may not completely forgive or even understand his grandfather, but he also knows that he’s not blameless himself.  The two men are much more alike than either of them realize, in their faults and their loyalties. .  Van had completely bought in to the criminal life as a teenager.  When he left it, he left everything from his youth along with it.  Yet, Van knows family is important to Dono as he raised him from the age of six.  Van and his grandfather have a complicated relationship where they love each other but it was hardly ever expressed in words.” 

Past Crimes is edgy and suspenseful. It will be interesting to see what Hamilton has in store for the main characters as the series moves along.  If this first novel is any indication Van and company will be pitted into action-packed emotional story-lines with many twists and turns.

In the next book Hamilton hopes to explore how Van will establish himself in the civilian world, using the skills learned from being a Ranger.  He will also continue the relationship with Luce as he struggles to bring justice to those he knew from his past.

Book Review - "The Nazis Next Door: How America Became a Safe Haven for Hitler's Men"

The following book 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 on the right sidebar.

9780547669199_p0_v1_s260x420The Nazis Next Door by Eric Lichtblau is a compelling reminder of how quickly man’s inhumanity to man has been forgotten.  Many in the FBI, CIA, the space program, and other agencies of the US government teamed up with war-criminal Nazis to combat the Soviets.  As WWII came to an end there were those in the government that were more concerned about the next great conflict, the threat of Communism. The book delves into two issues.  The first chapter in the book examines an important topic, the myth of the concentration camp liberation. The second narrative is the story of the people who worked so hard for decades to find war criminals given safe haven by the FBI, CIA, and military. 

Lichtblau points out how many Jewish survivors had to be bunked side by side with the Nazi POWs, while in certain cases, the Nazi tormentors were given the duties of overseers of the camps including medical care.  These terrible conditions in the Displaced Person’s Camp were highlighted, showing how the detainees were kept there because of illness, lack of resources, or because visas were limited.  The author compares this to the thousands of Nazis able to gain entry as self-proclaimed refugees, or with the help and protection of US government agencies.

The author commented to, “History has forgotten what happened to the survivors.  There is an image that they were embraced by the allied forces as they flooded out from the camps, given warm showers, beds, and plentiful food.  It was really not like that at all. The blame has to go to U.S. Army General George Patton who was in charge of the displaced persons camps. He had sort of an odd fondness almost for the Nazi prisoners, believe it or not. He believed that they were the ones in the best position to efficiently run the camps, and he gave them supervisory approval to basically lord over the Jews and the other survivors. I hope the book makes people aware of the horrific conditions of the camps and Patton’s overt Anti-Semitism.  Jewish groups complained to President Truman who did not ignore it.  After an investigation there was a blistering and condemning report, lost to history, by Penn Law School Dean, Earl Harrison.  This report to Truman stated, ‘As matters now stand, we appear to be treating the Jews as the Nazis treated them except that we do not exterminate them.’ Even though conditions did improve some survivors were kept in the camps for as long as five years. They were still confined behind barbed wire, under armed guard in camps.”

Nazis who were able to flourish in the US included Dr. Hubertus Strughold, Arthur Rudolph, Otto von Bolschwing, and Rocket Scientist Werher von Braun. American civilian and military leaders chose to look the other way because of the information and knowledge in science, medicine, military, and engineering the Nazis provided during the Cold War fight. For example, Dr. Hubertus Strughold, M.D., once director of the Aviation Medical Research Institute in the Third Reich, was recruited by the U.S. Air Force and rose to head its School of Aviation Medicine in San Antonio. He became celebrated as "the father of space medicine,” even though he performed medical experiments at Dachau involving subjecting victims to high altitude and freezing torture.  There is also the case of Otto von Bolschwing, an asset for the CIA, even though he was a onetime colleague of Adolf Eichmann's who had laid out a plan for persecuting Germany's Jews.

Lichtblau noted, “There was this blind spot of the benefit of having them help in the Cold War effort.  Remember the Dulles quote, paraphrasing, ‘I would deal with the devil himself if it would help national security.’ In the early months, and the first few years after the war, beginning in mid-1945, there were only a very limited number of immigration visas to get into the United States. There were many, many thousands of Nazi collaborators who got visas to the United States while the survivors did not.”

The Nazis Next Door powerfully examines if the cost of harboring Nazis within US society outweighed the gains for national security.  There was the new mindset that the Nazis were yesterday’s enemies, with the newfound enemy the Soviet Union. Readers are asked to consider if the allies betrayed those who suffered atrocities. The book is very interesting and an eye-opener.

Book Review - "Blood Infernal" by James Rollins and Rebecca Cantrell

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 in the right side bar.

9780062343260_p0_v2_s260x420Blood Infernal, the third installment, by James Rollins and Rebecca Cantrell is an amazing finale to the Sanguines series.  It combines what Rollins is known for and does so well, his ability to intermix an adventure story with religion and history, with a dose of a love story and a supernatural mystery. 

Rollins noted to, “I write three different series, but they all have the flavor of the same storyline where I use fiction intertwined with taking science and history two steps to the right, left, or forward.  This is my passion. For example, the Bible scriptures were used in this book to connect biblical history to the present day, an introduction of sort to each chapter, an echo of the context of that chapter. This is a way of showing how the storyline is based on real Christian thought. Unlike the other series I write I did not put in at the end a ‘what’s true and what’s not.’ A lot of the details with regard to references of the Bible and policy procedures of the Vatican are pretty accurate.  My cousin is a Priest who helped me with the information.  I guess it can best be described as an alternate history with regard to the Church.”

The story takes off from the very first page. The series heroes return: The Knight of Christ, Rhun Korza; The Warrior of Man, Jordan Stone; and the Woman of Learning, Erin Granger, along with the person able to connect key information, Countess Elizabeth.  They travel throughout Europe on a quest to save mankind, while keeping the “Gates of Hell” locked.  With the Apocalypse looming the protagonists must battle a demon named Legion, and face the devil himself, Lucifer.   This fight of good versus evil includes philosophical questions about salvation, lost innocence, and damnation.  All the pieces come together in this riveting thriller where the heroes must survive horrific battles, betrayals, and grueling tests of perseverance.

Because he is so supportive of the armed forces all his books have a military main character.  The Sanguines series features the Warrior Jordan Stone, the dog series highlights Tucker Wayne, a former military dog handler, and the Sigma series has Gary Pierce. As with many of those serving, Jordan is someone dependable, intuitive, and willing to sacrifice all to keep those he cares about safe.

The other characters are exciting and captivating.  They are well developed, dynamic, and realistic in that readers forget they are vampires.  Countess Elizabeth has a fantastic and intriguing personality that has grown throughout the three books.  At times she is described as bad but a more accurate description would be she is a bad a_ _.  She is one of those who will tell it like it is and is not afraid to hold back.  Her actions always seem to have some reason behind it such has her desire to protect those she loves.  She is very confident in her own resolve, her personal right and wrong.

Rollins believes Elizabeth “has a self-defining morality that steers her.  She turned her interest in medicine, science, and healing into using experiments in an attempt to understand her vampire nature.  Her morals are based on saving the ones she loves.  She was not evil for evil sake but has her own moralistic needle.” 

Elizabeth is contrasted well with the head of the Sanguines, Cardinal Bernard.  While she appears to have no faith, not believing in G-d, he justifies what he does in the name of religion and is shown to be a huge hypocrite.  He is good at identifying and condemning others while ignoring his own sins.  Another excellent contrast is science versus religion, which is seen through the eyes of archeologist Dr. Erin Granger.  Being a scientist she must try to balance that with faith and morality, weighing the tangible evidence and facts of science with the miracles of religion. The storyline wonderfully shows how there is this mixture of gray area where no belief is concrete.

Blood Infernal has a wonderful and thrilling plot.  The sad part is that this is the last book in the series for now.  The authors skillfully combine historical elements of Christianity, science, and love into a wonderful story that is action packed and will tug at the reader’s emotions.  It is a must read for anyone who wants to be glued to a book.

Book Review - "The Carrier" by Sophie Hannah

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 right side bar.

9780670785865_p0_v2_s260x420The Carrier by Sophie Hannah is an intense psychological thriller.  It can be considered a love story and a gripping mystery, a “who done it” of sorts.  Released earlier this month in the US, it has already won the 2013 Crime Thriller of the Year at the UK National Book Awards.

This story offers deep insights into interpersonal relationships through the different character’s personalities.  The plot begins when Gaby Struthers, a scientist who has an innovative technology company must room with Lauren Cookson, a caregiver prone to hysteria.  They are stuck in Germany overnight when their plane is delayed.  Lauren lets slip that she knows someone who has been arrested for murdering his wife, Francine, and that he, Tim, is innocent. Panicky, she refuses to discuss the matter further, but a quick Google search tells Gaby that the man now in jail is the only man she has ever loved. The storyline plays off the book, Murder On the Orient Express by Agatha Christie, where a certain number of people are “persons of interest” in the house where the murder occurred. Recurring characters, Detectives Simon Waterhouse and Charlie Zailer try to sort out the different stories of those involved, attempting to find the true murderer. The sub-plot shows through poetry the love Gaby and Tim have for each other, and how Gaby will stop at nothing to prove Tim’s innocence.

The characters are a dichotomy of each other, with the heroine, Gaby, the only one that is truly likeable, although, Lauren is someone that grows on the reader.  Gaby is strong, smart, independent, and sharp-tongued.  It is a wonder why she would fall so hard for Tim who appears boring, self-centered manipulative, wimpy, and spineless. Lauren is frighteningly prone to hysteria, a complainer, whiny, yet very vulnerable, insecure, and has a moral compass.

Hannah noted to, “I wanted Gaby’s character to stand out.  My intention was for Gaby to be the heroine and the one who the readers will identify with.  She finds herself in a situation where almost everybody she comes into contact with is abusive, unsatisfactory, or not very supportive.  While Gaby is tough and must look after herself, all the others let her down. I will have a future cameo role for her in another book. To Gaby, Tim is like a performance that seems to impress her.  What makes her attracted to him is his attitude.  Opposites attract.  She is intelligent, a high achiever who has her act together in every way but her romantic feelings.  Gaby is a sucker for Tim’s awful, manipulative, and useless ways. She should have walked away from him since he caused her a load of misery.  Regarding the other characters, I did not intentionally write them as despicable.  They were pushed around with forces beyond their control. Although Lauren can be infuriating she does have redeeming features.”

Adding to the intrigue of the novel are the many themes of the book.  The examination of people’s dysfunctional relationships, how their emotions make them behave as they do and what lengths ordinary people will go to in response to extraordinary events. There is also the potent subject of mercy killing vs. assisted suicide vs. murder. Finally, the author explores what happens when a good person takes upon evil traits.

The Carrier is a riveting tale of emotionally scarred and psychologically paralyzed characters.  What makes the story even more interesting is the alternating perspectives between the heroine Gaby and the police investigation concerning the mystery.

Hannah also gave a heads up about her next book due out this summer, Woman With A Secret, a Zailer and Waterhouse mystery.  It is about a respectable housewife and mother, Nicki, who is leading a dangerous secret double life. Because of her suspicious behavior, and her inability to explain to the police her whereabouts, Nicki becomes the person of interest in a murder investigation. The victim is a controversial newspaper journalist, a shock jock columnist who seems to offend every element of a population. 


Exclusive Interview with Author Jack Higgins

The following interview with Jack Higgins 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 on the right side bar.

Jack Higgins, the author of the famous book, The Eagle Has Landed, has a new book out, Rain On The Dead. There are similarities between both books, including IRA characters, the main character as someone flawed, as well as a plot line that includes assassinations and kidnappings. 

Rain On The Dead begins when two Chechen Muslims attempt to assassinate the US President, Jack Cazalet.  Unfortunately for them, Cazalet has guests with him, including black ops specialist Sean Dillon, and ex-IRA gunman, and his colleague, Afghan war hero Captain Sara Gideon. With the help of the English authorities Dillon, Gideon, and company search for those responsible, IRA sympathizers and Al Qaeda terrorists.

Yet, readers cannot think of Higgins without bringing to mind his classic thriller, The Eagle Has Landed, especially since this year is the fortieth anniversary. The plot has Colonel Kurt Steiner forced to take a crack team of commandos to England.  Their mission is to kidnap or assassinate Winston Churchill.  The Germans enlist the help of an IRA assassin and a South African woman who hates everything the English stand for.  This book is a riveting account of whether the Germans will succeed.

Below is the Q/A with the author about these two books for

Elise Cooper:  Both books deal with the IRA.  What point were you trying to make?

Jack Higgins:  They were fighting for the position of Ireland in the British Empire.  They wanted independence as a country.  In the end they achieved something of the kind.   

EC:  In Rain On The Dead you imply that the IRA fights for independence while the Muslim terrorists fight to impose their will.  Do you agree? 

JH:  Yes.  I see what you mean.  Both groups are fighting a new type of war and do not wear a uniform.  It becomes very difficult for the authorities to recognize the enemy.  It could be anyone in the street.  At least with the Irish, they had a genuine desire for independence, which many saw as reasonable.  I would not compare this with they type of terrorism the American President and the British Prime Minister were recently discussing. 

EC:  Let’s talk about Rain On The Dead.  In it you have the likeable character Sara Gideon who is Jewish.  Why?

JH:  I made her Jewish because my foster parents were Jewish and were very good to me.  I got to know Jewish traditions and the faith very well.  I wanted to show that there are plenty of Jewish people who are serving in the British and US military.  That is why she is a retired war hero.  She is a good character and her Jewishness is a part of who she is. 

EC:  Why did you bring back the former US President, Jack Cazalet?

JH:  I found it interesting to use him in this story.  He is quite a popular character and I enjoy writing about him so I felt we were at a stage to bring him back.  There are a huge number of fans that look forward to reading about this character and seeing what will happen to him. 

EC:  What US President did you most admire?

JH:  I suppose it would have to be Jack Kennedy.  Many years ago I wrote a book, Day of Judgment, which was primarily set in Germany.  It had in it a very famous visit by a US President to Berlin where he made a very famous speech to the German people.  Historically, it affected world politics at the time.  I used it as background for this book.  The novel is about the underground that tried to help people escape from the East German Communist regime.  Obviously, I used President Kennedy in certain scenes of the book. 

EC:  Your style is to write characters that are not all good and are not all bad, such as Sean Dillon and Colonel Kurt Steiner.  Please explain.

JH:  Human beings are not like they are portrayed in Hollywood.  They are individuals who are a mixture of good and bad.  Many of my fans like these type of characters.  I like when people question if the characters are really villains or protagonists. These types are very interesting to write about.

EC:  What about Steiner?

JH:  I tried to make the point that he and his men were not Nazis but just soldiers.  Steiner is a reasonable person who was forced by circumstances to do a certain job.  There is not much he could do about it.  If he did not join he and his family would all be punished. 

EC: In The Eagle Has Landed you contrast the soldiers with the Nazi atrocities of the Warsaw Ghetto and what was done to Steiner’s father.  Why?

JH:  I wanted to show these atrocities through the eyes of the German soldiers.  They were disgusted by what was happening; yet, were unable to do much to stop it.  I also had some personal experiences.  I served in Germany just after the Second World War and my uncle was a regular soldier in the British army.  He was wounded and captured early in the war.  Although he was not Jewish he was sent to Auschwitz Concentration Camp to work in the factory there, which was against international law.  This gave me an interest in the Nazi situation and World War II.

EC:  Colonel Steiner saved a Jewish girl but was not executed.  Is that realistic?

JH:  Yes.  What the Germans did to soldiers like Steiner is require them to do very dangerous jobs within the military.  For example, they worked to dispose bombs and clear mine fields.  With these jobs there was a good chance of blowing themselves up.  In the novel, Steiner and his men were made to do the dangerous work of sitting on top of torpedoes to disarm them.  This was a suicide job since most did not survive for very long. 

EC:  In the book you have Steiner commenting on the rules of engagement. This is the direct opposite of what the Islamists terrorists did in your latest book. Please explain this quote from The Eagle Has Landed, “Why, did you think we’d hold the entire village hostage or come out fighting, driving the women in front of us?  The brutal Hun? Sorry I can’t oblige.”

JH:  Steiner was an honorable man and soldier.  He had a moral code.  I really don’t know why the Muslims do what they are doing.  Those terrorists don’t seem to have a moral code. 


EC:  Since this is the fortieth anniversary of The Eagle Has Landed any plans?


JH:  I believe there is talk of remaking the story on television.  There was the movie starring Michael Caine as Steiner.  I think a TV show would be very helpful to get more of the book story told than in the two hour and ten minute film.