Books

Book Review: The Gate Keeper

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Book Review: The Great Alone

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

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The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah is another winner from the author of the bestseller The Nightingale.  There are not enough adjectives in the English language to describe the greatness of this novel. It is an adventure story where readers feel they are put in the middle of the Alaskan frontier; it is a relationship story that also confronts abuse and obsession; and it is a love story between a mother/daughter, father/son, and two young adults as well as the land and those who lived on it.

Hannah titled this novel, The Great Alone, because “Alaska is such a wild landscape and the people who live there are rugged, fierce, and individualists. It is what the poet Robert Service called Alaska. The primal essence of the book is survival. The actual day-to-day survival in these incredibly harsh conditions depends on the individual who needs to be tough.  It is a remote geographical area from the Continental US.  80% of Alaska still has no roads at all.  In the winter rivers become the highways and in the summer, it is difficult to get around.”

The plot begins with the Allbright family moving to Alaska after a Vietnam buddy willed them a cabin by the Kenai River.  The daughter Leni hopes that this new start will lead to a better future for her family since her father can never keep a job.  At first, Alaska seems to be the answer to their prayers. In a wild, remote corner of the state, they find a fiercely independent community of strong men and even stronger women. The generosity of the locals makes up for the Allbrights’ lack of preparation and dwindling resources. Through the Allbright’s story readers will encounter the rugged Alaskan landscape and the different relationship dynamics that will form amongst the characters.

It is also the story of how seven characters must not only fight nature, but help those fight their own demons.  Ernt Allbright is a Vietnam POW who has returned home with PTSD, suffering sleepless nights, flashbacks, nightmares and a volatile behavior. His wife Cora is consumed by caring for their daughter.  Leni tries to understand her parents and is someone who must grow up way too fast, becoming her mother’s protector from her abusive father. She falls in love with Matthew Walker who wants to show her happiness, loyalty, and security.  His father Tom is someone who perceptively realizes that the Alaskan environment must be modernized, and his son should no longer be isolated and enclosed. He has a feud with Ernt and Mad Earl, who team up in their resentments of government, the military, and the Walker family.  Representing an Alaskan homesteader is Large Marge, a no-nonsense woman who tries to help the Allbright women see the light.

There are two compelling issues the author delves into, abuse and PTSD.  “I wrote Ernt as someone who suffers from PTSD and mental illness that went undiagnosed.  My personal take is that he was troubled before he went off to war and became trapped by his own demons.  He ultimately evolves into the villain.  In the remote isolated cabin, he becomes a threat to his daughter and wife.  At the end of the story when Leni finds his medals and the newspaper clip showing his ghostly features after returning home, I hope it is a reminder that there was a time he was not despised.”

Regarding the violence, Ernt has toward his wife, “I wanted to show readers they had a toxic relationship. Cora would do anything for her daughter except leave her husband. She describes the relationship as if he has cancer and is sick.  He describes it as similar to heroin.  Both are aware of the deep flaw in their love. They represent the dark side of love.  A love gone wrong that was probably more of an obsession.  On the other hand, Leni and Matthew’s relationship is a dream, romantic, love at first sight where they are meant to be together.  A love that overcomes everything and lasts.  They both sacrificed for each other.”

But the setting of Alaska is also a character, a place of beauty and danger. Readers discover the state with its summers of constant light, ferocious winters that blankets eighteen hours of night and enormous amounts of snow, as well as the need for each person to protect themselves as they learn to raise vegetables, overcome the isolation and remoteness, and hunt, making sure that nothing goes to waste.

An added bonus is how Hannah intertwines events of the 1970s into this novel. She puts in historical tidbits including Ted Bundy, Patty Hearst, the Munich Olympics, punk rock, and the latest novel of Stephen King. “I wrote in the character Mad Earl as a very bad influence on Ernt.   He has resentment against the government. But remember, almost everyone in his family did not go along with his attitude.  He was probably the worst person Ernt could have met. Just as throughout the US, in Alaska there are pockets of these ‘Survivalists.’ Through him I was able to show the 1970s was a time of political and social unrest including the Vietnam War that brought such division.”

The Great Alone is a tale of love, despair, and hope within the dangerous frontier. This story takes readers on a journey hunting with Leni, seeing the Alaska landscape, and trying to process how one individual who supposedly loves his family can be so cruel. But it is also an optimistic look at how Leni’s strength grows throughout the book as she turns from naïve adolescent to a grown woman. A word of warning, read it with a tissue box nearby because this story is an emotional roller coaster ride.


Book Review - "The Comfort Station" by New York Times Best-Selling Author Kelly Crigger

It is the thirty-second year of Japanese occupation in Korea and tens of thousands of young women have disappeared from the peninsula. Like so many others, Ki-Hwa Kim’s parents imposed a lifelong seclusion on their only daughter, but a tragic error in judgment ended their cautious life. 

Forced into sexual slavery as a ‘comfort woman’ for the Japanese Army, Ki-Hwa is shipped to the South Pacific island fortress of Rabaul to be the mistress of a legendary Cavalry Officer. Allied Forces pummel the island in preparation for an inevitable invasion. Paranoia grips the garrison when Admiral Yamamoto, the architect of Pearl Harbor, is killed in an Allied ambush shortly after leaving Rabaul and fingers are pointed in every direction. 

Within this chaos, life for Ki-Hwa and hundreds of others in the comfort stations is survival of the fittest. Once a farm girl afraid of her own shadow, Ki-Hwa discovers people are callous, sadistic, and deceitful and must find the strength to resist the mighty and unforgiving Empire along with her one true friend. But when an imposter threatens to unravel the group's carefully laid plans she is forced to make an impossible choice between guaranteed security and a shaky promise of freedom. 
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32928423Told from various perspectives – Japanese pilots and soldiers, Americans, prisoners of war, sex slaves and others – The Comfort Station, by New York Times best-selling author, Kelly Crigger, is a historical fiction novel written that draws you into a world that few of us even were aware about.

Fast paced, emotional, and suspenseful, the story is about the plight of Ki-Hwa Kim and those engulfed in the Pacific during World War 2.  Ki-Hwa grows through the experiences of being abandoned and taken prisoner by the Japanese Army, traveling across the sea and forced into slavery, and swept up into intrigue and war.

One amazing part of the book is when a malevolent Japanese sergeant attacks Ki-Hwa and the two of them fight in a bunker during an air raid…bombs exploding and shaking the bunker as the back drop to a fight to the death.

The other characters are exceptionally developed and fascinating, as well.  The Allied spies and coast watchers determined to rescue POWs held with Ki-Hwa work, suffer and fight.  The Japanese characters run the gamut of professional soldiers and pilots to horrific villains – all challenged by their military orders, Japanese heritage and sense of humanity.

The complex plot is paced like a spy thriller, with breathless action and suspenseful intrigue set amid enthralling historical locations. While the story is about war and revenge, it is more about hope and courage.

The Comfort Station is nothing less than a page-turning triumph.  The best indicator of its value that I can give you is that, when I finished the book, I realized that I wanted the author to keep going, and I wanted to learn more about the history of the comfort stations and the plight of those women forced into slavery...


Clinton Cash Now in A Graphic Novel

It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s Superwoman. Actually, it’s super corrupt Hillary Clinton and her responses are like the Joker. Taking an already powerful non-fiction book, this graphic novel, Clinton Cash, allows for the facts to be visually expressed. The authors understood that not everyone has the time to plow through a factually based book, so they put forth their evidence in a humorous short, snappy, and clear way to expose the vastness of the evil and corrupt global Clinton Machine.

Those that worked on this graphic novel have an impressive resume. Chuck Dixon is best known for working on the Batman comics in the 1990s as well as The Punisher and the Simpsons. Brett R. Smith is a storyboard and commercial artist. He has worked with Marvel and DC Entertainment, Hasbro, and the Cartoon Network to name a few that have included The Avengers, Superman, GI Joe, and Wolverine. It is obvious the writers, illustrators, and artists did a phenomenal job.

People should not forget how the Clintons amassed their vast financial empire. This graphic novel shows the connection between their personal fortune, friends, the Clinton Foundation, and foreign nations. Payments to the Clinton Foundation and to Bill Clinton through high speaking fees by foreign entities ultimately received favors from Hillary Clinton’s State Department in return.

Schweizer believes the Clintons have been brazenly dishonest with the American people, “They are so convinced of their own moral purity and superiority the money they make is wrapped in the cloak of philanthropy and camouflaged through charity. This is a constant pattern that is seen over and over again, the systemic approach, which should be damning. When they established the Clinton Foundation, the Clinton Global Initiative, when Bill Clinton hit the lecture circuit while his wife was Secretary of State, there was an avenue for oligarchs in Russia, Nigeria, and Latin America to have influence. I think the evidence is pretty clear they gave a lot of money, and that favorable actions were taken by Hillary Clinton for their benefit.”

Brett R. Smith stated to blackfive.net, “I am outraged because Hillary Clinton is no doubt the most corrupt political candidate of our lifetime. I believe satire is the most dangerous kind of humor that can be engaged in. We used the left’s game and turned it right back on them. The left should not own pop culture. I think we have connected with younger readers since we are in the top 100 with teens. Those of us who grew up reading comics as well as many in their twenties will be able to see the facts in this form. Our goal was to show the other side of Hillary Clinton that mainstream media never speaks of.”

To have a common thread, probably the only part that is fictional, the authors decided to use a Haitian family tell their story throughout, and how the Clinton Foundation affected them. The truth as portrayed by this family is that many were left out to dry by the graft and corruption of the Clintons and their friends..

One of Brett’s favorites is the politician standing in front of the podium wearing a Uranium 1 hat with the American flag in the background and the stars replaced by a hash tag. But other highlights include the Clintons playing golf with Khamenei and company, Hillary and Bill taking a camel ride, or in a Rainforest getting rich. But the page entitled “the Clinton Blur” is possibly one of the best, a parody that shows Bill Clinton as the “Flash,” reminiscent of the old time comic book. The panels are also informative. For example, the texts saying “Isn’t it troubling that Bill was being paid by a private corporation that was also benefitting from state department actions…Isn’t it troubling that this conflict of interest was not disclosed.”

Because Brett wanted to appeal to the curiosity seeker he noted there are hidden meanings in the background of the artwork. For example, in the Re-set chapter, Russian President Vladimir Putin is playing poker with Hillary Clinton. The gold bracelet he uses for a bet is seen again a few panels down now being worn by Hillary.

Schweizer wants to warn Americans that a precedent has been set, “A way for politicians to make a lot of money while in office. If you are heading an agency or in Congress and I give you $10,000 that would be considered a bribe, but if I hire your spouse to speak for $10,000 that is not a bribe? This is a ridiculous difference. Any Cabinet officer in the US government or someone serving in Congress should not be allowed to have a private foundation that takes foreign money, nor a family member who collects speaking fees.”

The graphic novel inspired by the New York Times bestseller of the same name is stunningly illustrated, hilarious, fresh, interesting, and authentic. It brings to life Bill and Hillary Clinton’s fleecing of the US and putting its national security at risk. CLINCASH_001_037 Flash



Book Review-INSIDIOUS BY Catherine Coulter

INSIDIOUS by Catherine Coulter brings back FBI agents Savich and Sherlock, as well as introducing Special Agent Cam Wittier and Detective Daniel Montoya. As with most of her books there are two plot lines that keep readers engaged. What makes the FBI series special is the blending of humor within the riveting storylines.

In INSIDIOUS, the humor starts even before page one. In the Acknowledgments section she thanks Ski Ludwikowski (a longtime reader) for “recommending Sherlock’s birthday present from Savich, a new ankle piece, the 9 mm Glock 43. Sherlock is really enjoying it, fast-drawing between floors on the elevator.”

Coulter said to blackfive.net, “Ski can always be counted on to tell me the pros and cons of using certain weapons in certain situations. Ski told me Sherlock’s ankle piece, a Lady Colt, wasn’t as light and small and accurate as the Glock. And, as you’ll see, she really likes it. And who would not like such a birthday present? Actually I got a Glock 17 for my birthday, but not from Ski, but from my other half.”

In INSIDIOUS, Savich and Sherlock must discover who is trying to murder Venus Rasmussen, a powerful, wealthy Washington icon who heads up an international conglomerate, Rasmussen Industries. Arsenic poisoning followed by a direct assassination attempt at her home. Is it one of her family? Perhaps her prodigal grandson, returned after ten years?

Readers will like the Venus character. She’s eighty-six and a role model, proving that age simply isn’t important. Coulter said, “In promotion, I didn’t let out her age, because there is indeed age discrimination, and a tendency to regard older people as irrelevant. I knew that once readers met her, age would become irrelevant.”

The other plot has Savich sending Special Agent Cam Wittier to Los Angeles to head the investigation for the serial killer known as the Starlet Slasher and work with a local detective, Daniel Montoya. They are trying to find who is responsible for the horrendous murders of actresses. As with most of Coulter’s “new” characters, readers will want Cam to return. Coulter said, “Fear not. In the next FBI thriller, Enigma, she will be front and center."

Both storylines are exciting and gripping, making it difficult to prefer one mystery over the other. This is another winner by the New York Times bestselling author. Readers should be prepared to laugh, to care about these characters, as they try to solve the two mysteries.

Coulter really enjoys hearing from her readers: Every morning, she checks in at her reader page at Facebook.com/catherinecoulterbooks or she can be emailed at ReadMoi@gmail.com 51zH7iCNaJL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_


Book Review - "Tag You're Dead" by J.C. Lane

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 in the right side bar.

9781464206313_p0_v2_s192x300Tag You’re Dead By J.C. Lane, a pen name for Judy Clemens, is a riveting thriller.  She takes the playground game and evolves it to fit into today’s technology-oriented society.  Readers might relate to this as a darker version of the very popular new game, Pokeman Go

This is a game where the stakes could not be any higher, considering the runners’ lives are at risk.  It will play into people’s worst fears since it seems very plausible how someone can be kidnapped and forced to run for their life by some mysterious person in the Internet age.  In this story there are three “runners” and three “its.”  Almost like a cat and mouse game where three are on the run as prey and three are the pursuers on the chase. 

When asked about the plot being open ended Lane commented to blackfive.net, “At this point it’s just a stand alone.  I wanted to write a book in the same mode as The Hunger Games with a life and death scenario.  My husband, a Physical Education teacher was telling me about the type of games his students play, including tag.  I thought how could that game happen in today’s technology world?”

The protagonists are likeable while the antagonists appear to be psychopaths of sort.  The “Its” are Brandy, obsessed with destroying a naturally beautiful girl; Robert, wanting to target his fellow teammate, a superstar of the high school basketball team; and Charles, a brainiac who wants a game with an intellectual equal.  They are vicious and rich people, unsatisfied with their own lives, who need something to feel better about themselves. 

On the other hand, the “runners” have a rich and satisfied life.  Laura, is a sweet, caring teenager who makes friends easily; Tyrese is an all star basketball player who has street smarts; Amanda is a geeky gamer extraordinaire.  With their lives on the line they use their skills to win the game, to reach home base first.  What makes the story interesting is how these three respond to the challenges placed upon them, each in their own way.

Chicago is the setting where the game takes place.  It becomes a secondary character of sorts.  Lane uses the cities landmarks to enhance the story.  The author noted, “I have always loved Chicago. I grew up in northern Indiana, so when our family went to “the city,” it was Chicago, where we visited. I also lived in Evanston for a year while my dad was getting his doctorate at Northwestern University, so I have good memories from that time. A few years ago my husband took me to Chicago to celebrate my birthday, and we stayed at The Palmer House, a National Historical Landmark hotel, went to a play, and attended a recording session of my favorite NPR show, ‘Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me.’ The trip was a reminder of how much I love the city, and when the idea for this story came to me, Chicago was automatically the place I wanted it to be set. The characters end up in so many of my favorite places, including the Adler Planetarium, Wrigley Field, and the Art Institute, just to name a few.”

As the story progresses the old cliché applies, money can’t buy you happiness.  This story definitely puts a new spin on the old playground game of tag.  It is the race against time, which will make the reader frantically turn the pages, wanting to find out what happens at the finish line.


Book Reivew - "The Field of Fight" by LTG (ret) Michael Flynn

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 on the right side bar.

9781250106223Two recent books have highlighted the global terrorist dangers. Daniel Silva in his novel The Black Widow underlines the threat of ISIS and how some have underestimated it. Although the book is fictional the story is all too real. Another book, The Field Of Fight, by Lt. General Michael Flynn delves into the world of ISIS.

The Black Widow, besides being an intoxicating thriller, is also a warning for Americans. While reading the book it appears that real life events mesh with fiction.  The undercurrent of reality is front and center as evidenced by the author himself who wrote in the forward, “I take no pride in my prescience.  I only wish that the murderous, millenarian terrorism of the Islamic State lived solely on the pages of this story.”

In his non-fiction book Flynn points out that President Obama will never utter the words Islamic Extremist or Radical Islam.  Flynn comments about the hypocrisy, “The President should clearly and unambiguously define the enemy that we face and the threat to our way if life.  It is radical Islam.  We did it while fighting the enemy of Communism and Nazism.  ISIS is a very determined enemy who wants to establish a global Caliphate.  This political correctness of not naming our enemy is dangerous for the country.  I am confident Americans can take the truth.”

Silva also shows the dangers of ISIS through a riveting plot. It begins with ISIS detonating a massive bomb in the Marais district of Paris. Gabriel Allon, the Israeli Mossad Agent poised to become the chief of Israel’s secret intelligence service, is asked by a desperate French government to eliminate the man responsible for the terrible attack. Gabriel and his team get to work and quickly learn that the man behind the attack is a terrorist mastermind who calls himself Saladin. With women all over the world, including the west, joining the ranks of ISIS, Gabriel exploits the terror group’s one weakness by inserting a recruit of his own to infiltrate Saladin’s operation.

Flynn also debunks Democrats and some Republican pundits who say ISIS is being defeated.  They point to the terrorist groups loss of land and that these recent attacks are acts of desperation.  He strongly disagrees with “those people because that is actually false.  We excised them from some village in Iraq like Fallujah, yet they are able to attack the international community in San Bernardino, Orlando, France, Germany, Bangladesh, and Turkey, all of these in recent months.  The reason for this is that the enemy has doubled in size and grown in a global geographic footprint in the last six or so years.”

The blame lies squarely in the hands of the Obama Administration, including Hillary Clinton.  In the book, Flynn gives high marks to President Bush while lambasting President Obama, “He (Bush) realized the war was going badly, that we were losing, and our entire strategy needed to change.  The mere fact that he recognized this and proceeded to make the difficult decisions he eventually made is a leadership characteristic our current president lacks.”

Directly commenting to blackfive.net, “There is no enemy that is unbeatable.  Even though President Bush was at the end of his administration he brought in the fresh leadership of General David Petraeus and Robert Gates.  We were able to reverse the strategy and come up with a new one to win.  Now we are at the end of President Obama’s term; yet, when 99% of President Obama’s advisors told him in to keep 10,000 troops in Iraq to stop the rise of radical terrorism he did not listen. He made a political decision rather than a decision for our national security.  This is a weakness in his leadership style.  His problem is that he refuses to recognize this strategy is not working and the enemy has grown in capacity.”

One of the problems is that the current President wants to be surrounded by yes men.  Flynn recounts in the book how he was fired in 2014 because he went before Congress and spoke of how to keep America safe.  When asked about this, he responded, “I was appointed by President Obama twice, as Assistant Director of National Intelligence and the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency.  I never met with the President once; imagine that.  Why not ask to speak with me about our differences of opinion and my suggestions?  To me, this is very disturbing.”

He suspects he was fired because “our agency was very brutally honest about our findings.  I am not, nor have I ever been the type of person that will state what the boss wants to hear.  I am always very blunt and say what I feel, including offering solutions.  I was fired partially due to my honesty about the enemy we are facing, radical Islam.  In complete contrast to the President who called ISIS the JV team, I told Congress they were dangerous and growing.  Intelligence is about truth to power.” 

Although he outlined in the book extensive solutions, he summarized it for blackfive.net, “In order to beat this enemy we need to discredit the ideology.  Muslims need to take a more public international stand.  To do it they will have to be helped, prompted, and pushed by the US, something we are not doing now.  We need to depend on Middle East allies like Israel, Jordan, and Egypt. Finally, something that I have been criticized for is to get Russia involved.  They should assume responsibility and pressure Iran to stop their proxy wars. As I show in the book the ties between the Iranian regime and al Qaeda have been a well-established fact.”

Americans should take solace in knowing that Lt. General Flynn is one of Donald Trump’s top foreign policy advisors.  Obviously, Mr. Trump is not surrounding himself with yes people, but those who would not sit quietly back if he believes a “President” Trump has the wrong strategy. The Flynn book is a warning of how the Obama Administration has not recognized this country is fighting a war, the field of flight. The same is true for the Silva novel, which is not just a fictional thriller, but a believable scenario of events happening today. Both books are incredible reads with brilliant themes.


Book Review - "Little Girl Gone" by Gerry Schmitt

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.

9780425281765_p0_v2_s192x300Little Girl Gone by Gerry Schmitt is the first book in her new Afton Tangler series.  This mystery about a baby kidnapping is not a who-done-it since early on readers know who is the perpetrator.  This author is also known as “cozy mystery writer,” Laura Childs, but a warning: there is nothing cozy about this plot.   The mystery comes in as people try to figure out along with the protagonists how they are going to solve the case, given the clues the author provides.

The reason for her pen name of Childs is that “I owned an advertising agency at the time I started writing.  I was fairly well known in the Twin Cities.  I decided not to co-mingle my two careers.  Of course I was found out.  Advertising did help me write because I had to have creativity on demand.  When I start to write I never have a tight outline.  I can see a stage play happening as things just come into my mind.”

From the beginning the story is very ominous.  In a mall a mother meets a woman, Marjorie, who sells re-born dolls, which is a true creepy profession.  This antagonist is spooky in herself with a very disturbing personality.  She has her son follow the mother home and that night in an affluent neighborhood of Minneapolis, the baby is abducted from her house after her teenage babysitter is violently assaulted. The parents are frantic, the police are baffled, and, with the perpetrator already in the wind, the trail is getting colder by the second.

Schmitt noted to blackfive.net, “I was researching something else and ran into this topic.  Women take a doll, strip out the hair and eyeballs, completely breaking them down, put in a motor to have a heart beat, paint them, and then put in human hair.  They are adopted for lots of money.  I actually went into a chat room where this woman was talking about not bonding with the one she had.  How weird is that?  I wanted to make sure the antagonist who made these dolls was terrifying, cunning, evil, and bizarre.”

The main character, Afton, is a family liaison officer with the Minneapolis P.D. It is her job to be the go-between for the police and the victims of terrible crimes. Afton struggles to prove herself to the police force, juggle work and family life, as well as maintain her physical and mental strength. Because she is intuitive, smart, and desires to become a detective she wiggles her way into the investigation, working closely with the FBI and Detective Max Montgomery.  Able to connect the dots and find clues she becomes a valuable asset and more like a partner to law enforcement as they try to stay ahead of the criminals and find them before they kidnap and murder again.

Will Afton ever realize her dream of becoming a detective? Schmitt gave a heads up, “In my next book, Shadow Girls, she is still a ‘wannabe’ cop.  She pushes her way into the investigation.  In real life, crime liaisons get very involved with both the victim and the police.  I really don’t know yet what her profession will be.  Maybe she will become a cop or maybe she and Max will spin off to a private detective agency.  I really don’t know yet.  What I do know is there will not be a romantic relationship between Afton and Max, just a working relationship.”

This novel is very plot driven.  Readers will be at the edge of their seats as the spooky criminals take center stage.  Anyone wanting a riveting story that has elements of realism should read this book.


Book Review - "Crisis of Character" by Gary J. Byrne

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.

9781455568871_p0_v2_s192x300Crisis Of Character is the perfect name for a book about Hillary Clinton.  Written by former Presidential Secret Service Officer Gary Byrne, he recounts how he was up close and personal with the then First Lady.  Anyone reading this book can relate his issues with the Clintons to show how she conducted herself while Secretary Of State. 

In the book Byrne describes her as “distant, cold, dishonest, and a habitual liar.” He commented, “Americans need to know that Mrs. Clinton is not a leader.  She displays a holier than thou attitude, ‘do as I say, not as I do.’  When I heard her say Bill Clinton would work with her on the economy my first thoughts, ‘what steps will she take to protect young women working at the White House from him?’  Her pattern is deflection, deception, and lies.”

A word Mr. Byrne forgot to mention regarding Hillary was incompetent.  Take for example the reset button given to Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2009.  Lavrov noted the translation said, “overcharge,” not reset. Also, the word was typed in Latin script, not in Cyrillic.  So wrong word.  Wrong alphabet.  It later came out that she and company had sidestepped traditional protocol by not asking State’s team of translators to help.

Interestingly everything he mentioned about her in the book can be applied to the email scandal.  He talked about the Clintons having the attitude they were above the law.  Just refer to the meeting between Bill Clinton and Attorney General Loretta Lynch on the runway in Arizona.  Then a few days later FBI Director James Comey said about the findings, “this is not to suggest that in similar circumstances, a person who engaged in this activity would face no consequences. To the contrary, those individuals are often subject to security or administrative sanctions. But that is not what we are deciding now.”

Byrne spoke of how Hillary liked to deflect blame, pleading not knowing.  Comey pointed out in his news conference how “None of these e-mails should have been on any kind of unclassified system, but their presence is especially concerning because all of these e-mails were housed on unclassified personal servers not even supported by full-time security staff, like those found at Departments and Agencies of the U.S. Government—or even with a commercial service like Gmail.”

Throughout the interview Byrne mentioned how Hillary lies and deceives.  Remember in her March 15th news conference she claimed, “I did not email any classified material to anyone on my email. There is no classified material." Yet, Comey reported that the FBI identified 113 emails that passed through her server, containing materials that were classified at the time sent, including some that were Top Secret.

Finally, Byrne noted to blackfive.net, “she is arrogant, has disdain, and a desire to push her agenda regardless of the damages.  She does not care about any criticism.”  This is obvious in Comey’s conclusion, “There is evidence that they were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information… There is evidence to support a conclusion that any reasonable person in Secretary Clinton’s position, or in the position of those government employees with whom she was corresponding about these matters, should have known that an unclassified system was no place for that conversation.”

As a side note, Byrne noted, “Her attitude was so bad it got to a point that Secret Service Agents assigned to her detail would think of it as a punishment.  Part of our job hazard was having to deal with her anger management issues.”

Crisis Of Character offers insight into the personality of Hillary Clinton.  It confirms what people have seen regarding how she has conducted her professional life.  It becomes obvious that her temperament of ignorance, hypocrisy, and the poor choices she has made are reasons why she should never be elected President.


Book Review - "Ice Station Nautilus" 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 on the right sidebar.

9781250072153_p0_v1_s192x300Ice Station Nautilus by Rick Campbell is a fast paced military thriller involving a cat and mouse game between Russian and American submarines.  Readers will likely make the inevitable comparison with Tom Clancy’s novel, The Hunt For Red October, but fear not, this story holds its own.

The plot revolves around a collision between the newest American and Russian submarines, the USS North Dakota and K-535 Yury Dolgoruky. The Russian sub is being deployed on its first patrol while America's newest fast attack submarine, North Dakota, is assigned to trail it and collect intelligence. Because of their close proximity the subs collide, stranding both underneath the polar ice cap. The Americans immediately set up a rescue mission, sending a new submarine and a SEAL team to establish an ice camp, Ice Station Nautilus. The Russians also send men and material, ostensibly to rescue their own men, but a rogue General orders a Russian Special Forces team to take over the American base camp and the American sub, leaving no survivors or traces of their actions.

Campbell balances well the military jargon and technology. Since the author is a retired Navy Commander, having served for twenty years on four nuclear powered submarines, the descriptions and technology are very believable without being overly detailed. Readers will get an up close and personal view of what it is like to be trapped on a submarine.

If readers were to do a fact check would they see the authenticity in the story? Campbell told blackfive.net, “Yes.  Submarines in this area cannot see each other.  They make educated guesses about range, course, and speed.  They will never get intentionally close on purpose.  I thought of the different parameters that can make something go wrong.  My editor once told me ‘true life does not have to make sense, but fiction does.’  I thought how could two subs collide?  Knowing it had to be accidental I put in the book that if one changes speed or direction a collision could occur. Additionally, I had to consider how the American sub would get trapped under the ice. Especially since submarines under the ice constantly track the depth of the ice they’re under, documenting the location of ice thin enough to break through, and also looking for leads and polynas, which are small open spaces between the ice floes.”

Furthermore, he stated, “I did my due diligence with the research.  In 2009 I had an opportunity to go to an ice camp so in writing the story I knew what it looked like and how it operated. I also flew out to San Diego to view all the rescue equipment and was able to speak with a rescue crew.” 

But even more interesting is how Campbell shows the political struggles between Russia and the US. Both sides realize that whoever reaches the sunken subs first will be able to board the other country’s submarine and get their latest weapon and tactical systems technology. The USS North Dakota is the first third flight Virginia class submarine, with lots of new technology, while the Russian sub, Yuriy Dolgorukiy, is their latest ballistic missile submarine.

Through his main character, National Security Advisor Christine O’Connor, the author is able to give readers a world’s eye view of the conflict.  She is a female version of the famous character Jack Ryan.  Although not a special forces operator nor “Superwoman,” she is intelligent, determined, gritty, not afraid to get her hands dirty, will engage in a battle, and has a get even type of mentality. 

This novel is a riveting read of how conflicts can arise.  It is fast-paced and suspenseful.  With four submarines, torpedo battles, undersea rescues, and SEAL shootouts with Spetznaz, readers will be on the edge of their seats.