Books

Book Review - "Breaking Creed" by Alex Kava

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.

9780399170768_p0_v2_s260x420Breaking Creed by Alex Kava is a fascinating mystery based around a serial killer who is being chased by an FBI agent and a retired Marine.  In this new series Ryder Creed uses the dog handler skills he learned as a Marine in his current civilian job. Her other series has FBI behaviorist Maggie O’ Dell investigating horrid crimes.

Creed was introduced in Stranded, a book from Kava’s other series whose main character is FBI behaviorist Maggie O’ Dell. Although the Creed series is being billed as new, it is actually a spin off of the O’ Dell books.  Kava noted to blackfive.net that her two series, the O’ Dell and the Creed books, will overlap.  “Each series will alternate between the main character and the supporting one, but both will have a strong role in the plots.  They will not just make cameo appearances. Yet, respectively they will have their own secondary characters.  The many different scenarios that I can get into is very exciting for me. Ryder is a different kind of investigative character.  He does not carry a gun and is not an intricate part of the crimes scene investigation. I am able to add a new dimension to the plot.”

Readers will find Creed a very likeable but damaged character, who is trying to overcome PTSD.  He does this with the support of his good friend, Hannah. He gains solace by taking in and training abandoned dogs to assist law enforcement.  Hannah also helps the discarded, individuals who are runaways, abused women, and veterans that must try to overcome tragic circumstances, among them a former Marine, Jason.  What makes these stories very interesting are the likeable characters, the chemistry between Ryder and Maggie, and the banter among Hannah and Creed. But the character that stole the show is Grace, a Jack Russell Terrier.  She is feisty, scrappy, driven, and eager to learn. 

In this story Creed and his dogs comb for drugs, become a search and rescue team for trafficked children, and help O’Dell find the dead victims of a serial killer.  The story becomes very suspenseful, as Creed, O’Dell, and company must find the killer before he finds them.  To add to the intensity Kava brings in creepy, crawling things, such as fire ants, scorpions, and snakes.

Kava gives a shout out to those in the military through many of her characters.  Hannah’s husband, Creed, and Jason all served, although her husband was killed while deployed.  The author always touches on an issue related to military personnel.  In Breaking Creed she discusses PTSD while in her next book Kava will explore the suicide rate among veterans.

Breaking Creed has a very fast-paced and thrilling plot with many twists and turns.  For any dog lover this is a must read. If not an animal lover, readers can also just enjoy the tough, smart, and dynamic characters of this series.

The author also gave a heads up about her next book, Silent Creed.  It will continue the sexual tension between Maggie and Ryder as they work on a new case together.  Kava is known for including among her antagonists non-human elements. With Silent Creed the threat comes from, not creepy things, but the environment. 

The plot begins with a massive landslide in North Carolina.  Creed and his canine partners are called in to help with the search and rescue of a facility that was destroyed by the landslide.  Maggie is also brought in to investigate the facilities secret experiments involving viruses. 


Book Review - "Spectrum" by Alan Jacobson

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.

9781497641938_p0_v1_s260x420Spectrum by Alan Jacobson is a very interesting thriller as it explores the main characters’, Karen Vail’s, backstory.  Through a serial killer case that has haunted Vail for twenty years the author gives insight into her professional development:  who were the people that influenced her, and her tenacious desire to pursue the criminal.  The chapters in the book alternate from present day back to her first days on the job.

Jacobson commented to blackfive.net, “While writing her as a rookie cop in her early twenties I was nervous at first.  But after the first paragraph I saw how I could explore her attributes and her life.  In the 7th Victim I alluded to why she decided to become a profiler but now I specifically explain what happened.  I was also able to describe how she allowed herself to marry a loser husband who was abusive.  This sub-plot showed what could happen to someone who has a psychiatric condition that goes untreated.”

The story reflects themes of friendship, trust, hardship, and perseverance.  Vail’s law enforcement career begins in the 1990s as a NYPD rookie cop mentored by a veteran, Carmine Russo, who takes her under his wing.  She displays the qualities of courage, confidence, and intelligence while attempting to examine the workings of the murderer’s mind.  Unfortunately her supervisors do not always agree with her assessments, resulting in her career stalling. After meeting and being influenced by FBI Special Agent Mark Safarik she decides to join the FBI, eventually getting assigned to the esteemed Behavioral Analysis Unit.  Now twenty years later, Vail revisits her first case, the one that tortured her because of the number of New York women brutally murdered.

Since so many of Jacobson’s characters are from law enforcement he speculated on what they would say in regard to the attitude toward the police today.  “Through my research I interacted with NYPD old timers.  I think my characters would agree with those who have retired.  They are not happy with the Mayor, who does not seem to have their backs, and the way they are being depicted.  The feelings include frustration and anger because there is a lack of understanding for the day-to-day duties.  The police are individuals trying to do a job the best way they can.”

Jacobson also wants readers to understand, playing off the Billy Joel song, that while writing this book, “I was in a ‘New York state of mind.’ It started from a trip in 1995 when I made a visit to New York City, where I grew up.  You can take the man out of New York, but you can’t take New York out of the man.  This is absolutely true with me. My heart and soul is as a New Yorker even though I have lived in California ten years longer.”

Spectrum has a plot that combines a mystery with an understanding of how the mind of a serial killer works.  It explores how these individuals can commit such violence on other human beings.  Fans of Karen Vail also get a bonus because the storyline explains her backstory.


Book Review - "Dark Spies" by Matthew Dunn

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.

9780062309464_p0_v2_s260x420Fans of thrillers have lost major author icons Vince Flynn and Tom Clancy.  If they are looking for someone who might live up to these legends, try Matthew Dunn. He writes about espionage and takes the reader on an intense journey with every storyline. His latest, Dark Spies, is a riveting and gripping novel whose main character, Will Cochrane, is a lot like Flynn’s Mitch Rapp, each willing to throw personal safety aside to protect their country.

Of this strong Spymaster series, Dark Spies is probably Dunn’s best. The storyline and characters are so very well developed. The plot begins with Will acting as a bodyguard for a deep cover CIA agent, Ellie Hallowes, as she attempts to extract information from a Russian asset.  Unfortunately, this mission goes south when assassins led by Russian spymaster, Antaeus, attempt to execute the US operative.  Will does not understand why Langley orders him to stand down, and instead takes matters into his own hands to save Ellie. Attempting to find the truth about the inexplicable orders, Hallowes returns to the US to seek out who is behind this scheme while Will, now a marked man and on the run, must outmaneuver deadly Russian assassins, an elite FBI team, and powerful self serving intelligence officials, one who outted him. 

The Ellie Hallowes character is someone readers root for.  She is the female equivalent of Will Cochrane.  Both are heroic, personable, tough, compassionate, kind, thoughtful, and lonely.  She is best described as Will’s kindred spirit for her similar experiences, background, and mindset.  The mission is everything to them and if they no longer were able to be spies they would drift endlessly emotionally and physically.  The other character introduced in this book is FBI Special Agent Marsha Gage.  She is intelligent, sharp, and is no nonsense while managing the many egos of the task force.  Dunn noted, “Ellie and Marsha are so very different.  Ellie is drawn into herself. If I stuck both in a room of a hundred people, Ellie would want to get out as quickly as possible because she lives in the shadows. On the other hand, Marsha would be very comfortable in that setting.”

The author has spent five years as a deep undercover agent for MI6 so he is able to use his experiences to write realistic stories.  As he explains in the book, he quickly understood that the major attributes of an operative are instinct and imagination. Dunn commented directly to blackfive.net, “This is something that cannot really be trained, the ability to use your ‘antenna eyes.’  Deep cover agents rely on finding out people’s characteristics.  I want to show in this book how operatives are addicted to finding the truth, stealing secrets is in their blood. They find it difficult to break this habit. People also need to understand that deep cover officers put themselves in severe danger, operating on a limb.  There is no diplomatic cover and immunity.  Spies typically operate in extremely hostile locations.  If caught, at best they’ll get jail time and at worst they will be executed. It is one of the most dangerous jobs in the world.”

The plot hammers the point home that the intelligence community needs to consider multiple fronts.  The book’s plot exemplifies how countries such as Russia could manipulate circumstances to their advantage. It also shows the need for HUMINT, to gain information through interpersonal contact.  In this case Russia tried to manipulate Great Britain and the US to react to a perceived situation of a terrorist meeting that would have had a catastrophic result, had it not been for Ellie’s due diligence. It became evident that the dangers lie with major rogue states that can destabilize the world order.

Dark Spies conjures up memories of Frederick Forsyth’s The Day of the Jackal, including the collaboration of agencies and the movement through multiple countries and continents. The characters search for the truth provides an exciting read that is solidly grounded in the real world.


Book Review - "A Fine Summer Day" by Charles Todd

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.

9780062237125_p0_v2_s260x420A Fine Summer’s Day by Charles Todd is being billed as a prequel to the Ian Rutledge series.  But it is much more that that, as the authors put the readers right in the middle of the hysteria about going to war at the beginning of the 20th Century.  Intermingled with World War I facts is the backstory of Ian Rutledge, examining who he was before the war. 

The story’s timing occurs just before World War I begins, in June 1914.  While most are focused on the assassination of the Archduke in Sarajevo, Rutledge is concentrating on a case involving a series of murders across England, which are seemingly unconnected. He is also pre-occupied with his engagement to Jean Gordon, someone whom he dearly loves despite the reservations of his friends and family.

Readers get a clearer picture of Jean’s personality before the war began. She is seen as superficial, which creates an understanding of why she slighted him after he came back from the war with shell shock.  The authors show her as having a personality without a lot of depth and spoiled by her parents.  She measured herself with regard to her friends, always wanting to keep up appearances.  Jean is almost the direct opposite of her friend Kate who is also beautiful and charming, but who is someone readers can like. 

Through the character’s eyes the authors show how people at that time were swept up in the glory of war.  The Todds noted to blackfive.net, “We put this quote in the book by Ian who is the voice of reality, ‘And now everyone was mad for war.  As if the excitement was all they saw… It’s not all parades and bands and uniforms, it’s cruelty and misery and destruction.’ He was not swept up in that mad rush.  He had no illusions since as a policeman he had seen dead bodies.  At first he saw himself not as a soldier but as a policeman who had a duty to solve this case.  While working on the case he placed his obligation as a policeman before his duty of King and Country. After solving the case he enlisted because he felt he was needed. Britain was pressed for men considering the massive German army, and needed good officers who could command men.”

A Fine Summer’s Day is a gripping novel that captures people’s thoughts and experiences regarding the pre-World War I years.  The authors are able to skillfully intermingle this within a very riveting murder mystery.  This book is a page-turner that readers will not want to put down.


Book Review - Tom Clancy's "Full Force and Effect" by Mark Greaney

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.

9780399173356_p0_v2_s260x420Tom Clancy’s Full Force And Effect by Mark Greaney keeps the Jack Ryan legacy alive.  The characters of the Campus organization are still fighting evil, evoking the Clancy style.  The classic trademarks and cast include, Jack Ryan Jr., his cousin Dom, John Clark, and Adam Yao, who are alive and well within the plot twists, a great espionage story, and well-written action scenes.  There are some technical details but not quite so many as to overburden the plot. 

The author noted to blackfive.net about continuing the series, “Clancy died in October 2013.  Within a couple of weeks I was told by Putnam they wanted to contract with me to continue his books.  I am blown away and happy that the book is being so well received by fans. His writing influenced me since I was such a fan.  Being a reader I knew what fans want from these books.  I tried to stay true to the characters, such as continuing to write Jack Ryan as a normal American. From having written with Tom, I certainly know the voices of the different characters. Once I began this novel, I told myself not to do anything differently from when we collaborated, except this time, I would be solely taking the entire project all the way through. Working with him gave me the confidence to take this project on, and write an aggressive story. I did create some characters.  For example, the logistics coordinator Adara Sherman was someone who I came up with and expanded her role.”

The storyline includes an attempted assassination of US President Jack Ryan, North Korea attempting to buy ICBM missiles to enhance their nuclear capabilities, rogue FBI agents working with the Koreans, and the murder of a CIA officer in Vietnam. Greaney intertwines these brilliantly and is able to mimic many of the real life situations of this region.  Especially when President Ryan challenges North Korea’s effort to extract trillions of dollars worth of rare minerals that would allow them to buy nuclear weapons and influence.  Readers can connect the fictional Choi Ji-Hoon with the real-life ruler, Kim Jong-Un, including the actions taken against his uncle. The storyline is insightful and relevant considering North Korea was in the headlines with the hacking of the Sony Corporation.  Putnam and Greaney might be wary or they too might end up in the crosshairs.

Greaney commented, “When I was up in New York this summer people said they would not be surprised if North Korea came back into the headlines.  I do not think anyone could imagine the magnitude of what they did.  There is a small coincidence.  Columbia Pictures, a part of Sony, is developing a film based on my own first book, The Gray Man. Some of the hacked emails were from the directors assigned to my film.  The comic world websites recognized that my directors are also the directors of “Captain America” and “The Avengers” movies.  They briefly spoke about The Gray Man in their hacked emails.”

Full Force And Effect shows that Greaney can carry the torch of Clancy’s books.  Readers should be happy that he was contracted to continue writing this marvelous series, especially since Jack Ryan Sr. and his supporting cast are allowed to continue to battle the evil powers that exist around the world.

He also gave a heads up about his next books.  The Clancy book will be out next Christmas and might continue the plot of Command Authority, where Russia and Putin will be highlighted as a major threat.  He is also writing the fifth book of his own The Gray Man series, about an operative burned by the CIA. 


Book Review - Mike Madden's "Blue Warrior"

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.

9780399167393_p0_v1_s260x420Blue Warrior by Mike Maden is another novel involving drone technology.  Besides being a techno-thriller his book includes politics, power corruption, and a backstory about his former romantic interest.  He is able to weave into the storyline the legal/political implications of drone warfare, privacy issues related to surveillance technologies, and China’s desire to monopolize Africa’s rare earth element deposits. 

The bookis set in the remote Sahara Desert, where a recently discovered deposit of strategically indispensable “Rare Earth Elements” (REEs) ignites an international rush to secure them. Standing in the way are the Tuaregs, the fierce tribe of warrior nomads of the desert wasteland, who are fighting for their independence. They not only are fighting their own government but the Chinese who are working behind the scenes. Maden remarked about this region of the world, “I am fascinated with the amazing ancient African warrior.  The men wear the veils, not the women, to hide their identity.  When they sweat the blue dye washes up on their faces, thus the name. The theme of this book includes what it means to be a warrior.  Mossa, the leader of the Tuaregs, reminds Troy Pearce that he has a responsibility to serve his people.”

Troy Pearce is a Wyoming mountain boy that used to work for a CIA Special Operations Group in Iraq and Afghanistan. He now runs a private contracting company that specializes in the deployment of “remotely piloted vehicles,” which allows him the discretion to choose jobs that are consistent with his moral compass. Pearce still loves his country but hates politics. As a consequence, his loyalty to former U.S. President Margaret Meyers, along with a desire to help friends in need, draws him into a complicated web of international business, political intrigue and nontraditional conflict.

With the second book in the series it becomes evident that Maden distrusts large government. His characters, former President Margaret Myers and Troy Pearce, battle the moral hypocrisy in government and partisan politics. Myers is a popular character for her toughness, fairness, and her desire to put her country ahead of any political interests.  To counter Myers point of view is the character Cella who does what is in her own best interest, thinks borders are silly, and that everyone should go along to get along.

Maden commented to blackfive.net, “I see fiction as a way to tell the truth, Americans are crying out for the anti-Hillary Clinton and the anti-politician.  In this book I introduced a character, David Lane, who will be front and center in my next book, Drone Command.  He is a Kennedy type politician who quotes and believes in the phrase ‘Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.’ I specifically link Lane to Kennedy to bring back these ideas.  Myers, Lane, and Pearce all believe in more personal responsibility and less government except for national security.  They believe in securing our borders, balancing the budget, standing up to countries like China, and having fair trade.”

Blue Warrior has characters whose views would impress the Libertarians of the world.  Through the plot, in very subtle ways, Maden shows how power corrupts.  There are many action intense scenes which keeps the plot moving at an accelerated pace.


Book Review - Brad Taylor's "No Fortunate Son"

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.

9780525953999_p0_v2_s260x420No Fortunate Son by Brad Taylor is a riveting thriller that explores several moral issues.  Using the specific song by Creedence Clearwater Revival concentrating on the line “I ain’t no Senator’s son,” the author puts a twist to the song.  The theme centers around how much manpower should be used to rescue a VIP or a VIP’s child when kidnapped.  In this case, key members of the US government have a child serving in the military who has been captured by terrorists.

Taylor noted to blackfive.net, “I know the military put enormous effort in attempting to free Bergdahl before he was released.  Regardless if he was a traitor or not he was relatively a nobody.  That got me thinking, how far would an administration go if someone like John McCain or Joe Biden’s son, who are also serving in the military, were captured. Are they considered more important than any one soldier?”

A developing situation has the Task Force, a unit created to contain terrorist plots and global threats, now attempting a hostage rescue. A terrorist organization has targeted five military relatives of key members of the US government, including the vice president’s son, the Texas Governor’s husband, the son of the Secretary of Defense, and the children of the chairman of the Senate Intelligence committee. The seizure of hostages was far-reaching and meticulously coordinated, and the full extent of the threat, and potential demands, has thrown the government into turmoil. They face a terrible choice: Cease counter-terrorist operations, or watch hostages die one by one. Besides exploring how much is a single life worth, the book has non-stop action as Pike Logan and Jennifer Cahill try to rescue the Task Force’s leaders niece, Kylie Hale, who Pike regards as a daughter figure.

The author commented, “I have seen a lot of people who are willing to deflate everything the Defense Department does into one big bubble.  They just do not understand the enormous complexity and that there is no monolific ‘they.’  I used the example of the commander, Colonel Kurt Hale’s sister, Kathy, who can best be described as a ‘peace-nik’ having her head in the sand. Once her daughter went missing she had no moral problem doing whatever is necessary to rescue Kylie. She basically turned a blind eye.”

Since Taylor retired as a Special Forces Lieutenant Colonel after more than 20 years of experience in the U.S. Army Infantry and Special Forces, he is able to use his experiences to write realistic thrillers.  Other issues he explores in this book are the rules of engagement, what are the moralistic implications, and how much technology should be used.  It also appears that Jennifer is being heavily influenced by Pike’s way of thinking, do whatever is necessary to ensure a mission’s success.

He is hoping that readers understand the two point of views presented through Jennifer and Pike’s eyes.  “Jennifer bases her decisions on the theories of Immanuel Kant, deontological ethical theory.  It basically states that people actions are bound by the moral will.  For example, you will never kill a civilian; you will never steal, even if it means stealing a loaf of bread would feed a starving family.  Pike on the other hand believes in John Stuart Mill’s theory of Utilitarianism.  Actions should be done for the greater good.  It is acceptable to torture if there is a ticking time bomb.”

No Fortunate Son is a gripping and insightful novel.  He skillfully switches between third-person narration and Pike’s first-person point of view. The plot and characters are so very well developed readers will not want to put the book down.

He also gave a heads up about his next book, Insider Threat, which deals with the Islamic State.  The Israeli Mossad agent, Shoshana will return as well as her moral compass, Aaron.  However they will be working with the Task Force off the books so no fingerprint can be traced back to Mossad.


Book Review and Exclusive Interview - W.E.B. Griffin's "The Assassination Option"

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.

W.E.B. Griffin’s latest book, The Assassination Option, has a riveting plot.  Being a Veteran himself, having served in Germany right after World War II and during the Korean War, he is very supportive of all veterans.  He writes a number of series of books with his son, William Butterworth IV. Although the authors consider themselves storytellers their books are much more as they weave historical information throughout their stories, involving both the military and clandestine services.

9780399171246_p0_v2_s260x420Being a part of “the greatest generation” Griffin, whose given name is William Edward Butterworth III, is able to incorporate his own experiences into his thrilling plots.  This latest novel is the second adventure in the new “Clandestine Operations series” about the origins of the CIA and the Cold War. Griffin’s admiration for those in the armed services and intelligence community can be summed up within the dedication of The Assassination Option: besides listing those who served, it ends with “Our nation owes these patriots a debt beyond repayment.”

Enlisting in the army in October 1946 Griffin became what he refers to as “General Bill White Jr.’s errand boy.” The books reflect his experience of serving with men, such as General Patton, General White, William E. Colby, and Max Taylor. Considering himself privileged to be around all those interesting and brilliant people he was able to be “a fly on the wall for the commanding general of allied land forces in Europe. I heard a lot.  I was just lucky to be around the command center as it was getting off the ground. I knew a lot of people involved in the military and clandestine service and admired them all.  As an Army Sergeant I was given top secret clearance since part of my duties was to read all memos before General White, and to determine what was important, what was not, as well as to decide what he should see first and last.”

Griffin emphasizes the point by describing how he was present when Bobby Williams, General White’s aviation officer, drew up a plan for the army to get its own air force.  Explaining that he had typed the communications, Griffin saw “that part of the army take off. Like most kids I was curious as hell and fascinated with what I was hearing.  It was an exciting and fun time that I try to convey within the plots in my books.”

The plot of his current book, The Assassination Option, includes some of Griffin’s learned lessons.  His son noted to blackfive.net, “The book characters are based on compilations of actual people my dad knew.  This series shadows history and shows how it repeats itself. Look how the Russians are once again on the march and Putin is attempting to re-create the Russian empire.  He is smart, dangerous, and has the mentality of the old KGB.”

Some of the most interesting parts of the book are the scenes that show how America’s allies are not really allies, and its enemies have become friends of sorts. During the early years of the CIA many of those officials were former Nazis who were considered useful because of the information they provided against the newfound enemy, Russia.  Griffin told blackfive.net he hopes readers will understand how “the Nazis were nasty people and after they lost the war no one ever admitted to being one.  They were all guilty; yet, denied it.  However, we needed these guys who had information and ways of getting it that we did not have.  For example, they knew who the Russians spies were in the atomic program before we did. The point of the book is to show how we needed to watch out for both the Germans and the Russians.  Both were as dangerous as hell.  It became clear that the day WWII ended the Cold War began and that we had to be wary of the Russians. The prologue goes into the back history because it is my belief that to better understand the story and the characters there is a need to understand the political situation.”

The most fascinating characters of the book are James Cronley, Friedrich Hessinger, and Claudette Colbert.  Because Cronley’s first mission for the new Central Intelligence Directorate was so successful he is promoted to captain and given more responsibility, the Chief, DCI, Europe; and in charge of a top-secret spy operation.

Readers will probably be able to connect the dots between the character Freddy Hessinger and Henry Kissinger; although, Griffin refuses to comment. The similarities: their names, both were in Munich after the War, both Jewish, both worked for the counter-intelligence corps, and both wore the officers’ pink and green uniform with the officer’s triangle emblem.  

The character Claudette Colbert was not based on the actress, but, according to Griffin, “on the women I knew who worked in the intelligence organization.  I knew a Betty Grable, not the actress.  She was a master sergeant. I gave my character the same duties as the military Grable, just changed her name to Colbert.  She was more than a secretary, but a spook working for the intelligence agency.”

The authors also gave a heads up about the next book in the series, The Curtain of Death, the title playing off the “Iron Curtain” speech by Churchill.  It is based on the dangers of Russia but also on the desire to shut down Operation Odessa, which moved Nazis to safety in South America. 

The Assassination Option is a classic Griffin book that combines history with fiction, creating a superb, suspenseful, gripping, and informative novel.  Griffin chose to start this series because of his respect for the OSS/CIA between 1946 and 1950, when the intelligence agency in Europe was very successful even though they had little to work with.  The cast of characters are remarkable, a new breed of warrior that found themselves on the front lines of a covert war.  Anyone who enjoys historical fiction and a military thriller will not want to pass this book up.


Book Review - "Asylum City"

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.

9780062237538_p0_v1_s260x420Liad Shoham’s latest book, Asylum City, has a riveting plot that involves a mystery based around social issues.  This is not a typical thriller since the reader is engrossed not only in the crime plot but also the current issue facing Israelis, seeing the predicament through the eyes of the characters.

The story begins with the murder of activist Michal Poleg in her Tel Aviv apartment.  The policewoman assigned to the case, Anat Nachmias, wonders which of the possible suspects could be the perpetrator.  Was her killer a disgruntled African immigrant? Or the lawyer she filed a complaint against for causing so many migrants to be deported, or "The Banker" extorting the migrants, as he lends money to them illegally at exorbitant interest rates? The book allows the reader to be a part of the investigation, as Anat must decide if an “asylum seeker” actually committed the crime after his confession. 

Anat Nachmias is smart, motivated, more of a listener, and armed with a law school degree. An attractive woman who relies on her intelligence and training to succeed, and knows it is not easy being a woman in the men's club. She is a strong female character who handles herself well in a male dominated profession on a crime that her supervisors would like resolved regardless of the evidence. Besides Anat there are other well-developed characters although the overabundance of characters and the similarity of names are at times a bit confusing.

Since the author is a practicing attorney, the descriptions are realistic and accurate. He uses his job experiences to write a gripping novel that is in many ways similar to the US immigration problem: should border security be implanted before solving the immigration problem, what to do with those illegally in the country, and is there a humanity issue. The problem in Israel has arisen from the Eritrea Africans who are trying to escape persecution by migrating to Israel through the Sinai Peninsula. 

He told blackfive.net, “It does not matter the color of their skin, which is irrelevant.  Israel has accepted Jews from all over the world:  Ethiopian, Chinese, Hispanic, Eastern European, and Western European, but the underlying thread is they are all Jews. The government does not exploit them, but also do not grant them any opportunities.   The problem is those who try to exploit them, that is exemplified by the quote in my book, ‘I’ll never get how people who grew up in this country can exploit other refugees. The Bedouins that are hired to move them across the desert have kidnapped them for sex trafficking, held them hostage for ransoms, tortured the men, and raped 90% of the women. Israel is unable to control the crimes, because they take place outside our border.  Within Israel there are those who have set up businesses surrounding the asylum seekers needs.  For example, just as in the book, since they are not allowed to open bank accounts, Mafia bosses have become their bankers that transfer money to the asylum seeker’s family.”

Asylum City is a fast-paced and riveting novel that is more than just a crime story. It is a gripping thriller with engaging characters and an informative storyline.