Book Review: Lie To Me

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.

Lie To Me by J. T. Ellison is her second standalone and domestic noir in a row. For now she has moved away from her Lt. Taylor Jackson and Dr. Samantha Owens series and is instead writing relationship stories.

“I am not sure when the next book in the Taylor series will be published. I have already started writing it. My next novel will also be a standalone about a young girl who gets cancer and sees her life unravel. Sometimes it is easier to write standalones since I am able to make up the entire universe as I write and I do not have the limitations with the characters. In my non-series books the crisis affects the lay person, while the series has an unfolding investigation. I do like to switch back and forth.”

The first half of this book can definitely be compared to Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. It has all the ingredients including an unreliable narrator, a husband who appears to have a hand in his wife’s disappearance; possible foul play; and a marriage gone wrong. But then in the second half it takes a dramatic turn away from the Gone Girl similarities and becomes a who done it murder mystery as the body counts start mounting up.

Ellison feels, “The story, situation, and characters are nothing like Gone Girl. It is not Gone Girl in any way, shape, or form. I actually got the idea for the story when I was in Paris. I saw this person sitting across from me and thought about having as my character an author placed in Paris who decides to write about a murder. This was probably the most challenging book for me to write.”

The husband, Ethan, and the wife, Sutton, are both writers. They appeared to be blissfully married until their newborn dies of SIDS. They spiral down with Ethan having an affair and Sutton becoming increasingly unhinged, especially when she is stalked by a blogger. Both are carrying secrets that are sordid and harrowing.

There are truly unlikeable characters in this story. Both Ethan and Sutton are self-centered, uncaring, and superficial. They are so into their own problems that they look inward instead of outward. The only character that readers will enjoy is Holly Graham, the police detective assigned to connect the dots. She is tenacious, determined, idealistic, and has a fair sense of justice.

This story weaves a web of lies, betrayals, and murder. Even though the characters are not ones readers will root for the suspense will keep them turning the pages. 51cK5RGAu0L._SX330_BO1 204 203 200_


Book Review: Monster In The Closet


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.

Monster In The Closet by Karen Rose intertwines murder, relationships, secrets, family, and lies. Using her potpourri of characters she writes how close knit family and friends come together while fighting the dark and scary monsters.

The cast of characters might have been a bit too much but it is the relationship aspect that spurred the story on. Rose delves into the darkest corners of humanity, while showing that there are people who will step up to make their world safe. Many of the characters in this novel went through some horrifying experience and had to face some kind of trauma. It is this common thread that binds the characters.

Rose commented, “It was a different book for me. I wrote it in the beginning of 2016 when we lost three people in our family, within a three-week period. I was grieving and needed to write something with a REAL happy ending. Although I was contracted to write another book, the one that will come out in February, I needed to go back and visit with my characters, my old friends. The first parts written were the touchy, feely scenes and then I later added in the mystery/suspense.”

The plot begins with eleven-year-old Jazzie Jarvis witnessing her mother’s horrific murder at the hands of her father, Gage. Unfortunately, her five-year-old sister, Janie, is also traumatized when she sees her mother lying in her own blood. Jazzie has not spoken since the incident and Janie has nightmares. Trying to help the girls cope and heal emotionally they are taken to Healing Hearts with Horses that provide therapy to traumatized children. Their counselor, Taylor Dawson, also faces her own set of demons.   Lied to all her life about her real father, Clay Maynard, she's constantly looked over her shoulder in fear. Now she's ready to face her past and find out if the man she's feared all her life is truly the face of evil her mother painted him to be.

This story is tension filled. Rose delves into the backstory of many of her characters, each with their own horrific situation, whether having been kidnapped, abused, or shot. Readers will go through a gambit of emotions with these family and friends. 51wrCRYAGhL._SX308_BO1 204 203 200_

 


Book Review: Proof Of Life

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.

Proof Of Life by J. A. Jance brings back retired detective J. P. Beaumont. The difference between these novels and the other series Jance writes is that these blend sarcastic humor within the mystery.

Now retired Beaumont (Beau) searches for something to keep him busy. But thanks to his longtime nemesis Seattle crime reporter Maxwell Cole, Beau becomes entangled in an investigation. It seems Cole put in his will that Beau should scrutinize his death. Although ruled an accident, it appears that there are clues that lead to the death possibly being ruled a homicide. It is up to Beau and his police chief wife Mel Soames to sort everything out and connect the dots.

Intertwined within the mystery is a shout out to man’s best friend, dogs. Beau and Mel adopt an Irish Wolfhound named Rambo aka known as Lucy. It seems he is a she and is very determined to make sure the police couple know they have an addition to their family. Readers will enjoy the descriptions of raising a dog and the relationship between the furry friend and her owners.

Jance noted, “The character Rambo is based on the Irish Wolfhound we adopted years ago named Boney. Also, our daughter has a big black mutt called Storm. In personality Rambo resembles Boney, while in looks she resembles Storm. Even though he is a she I named the dog out of perversity since Rambo is really tough.”

The other tip of the cap goes to those in law enforcement. A powerful quote reflects how they are second guessed for their actions as well as how the news media selectively informs people about events, many times leaving out important details. The quote by Beau sympathizing with his former colleagues, “The second-guessers of the world-the Monday morning quarterbacks who have never once put their own lives on the line-who wants to turn every police shooting into a media crap storm.”

Jance thinks the police have a terribly difficult job. “I am with them. Until anyone is faced with that shoot/don’t shoot decision no one knows what it is like. A number of years ago I did a Citizen’s Academy course. The first night I thought I could sit in the back and be unobtrusive. But it turned out the guy teaching was a fan of my books. He dragged me up to the front, gave me a weapon, and did a virtual reality demonstration. As I entered the backroom this guy came at me with a pipe, so I plugged him. This was a powerful lesson for me on how these things happen in real life.”

Proof Of Life has a story that will make readers cry, laugh, and look over their shoulder. It is a page-turner not only for the riveting plot, but also to find out what will happen to Rambo and Beau’s relationship. 51AV9UILO6L._SX328_BO1 204 203 200_


Book Review: The One Man and The Saboteur

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.

The One Man and The Saboteur, the latest books of Andrew Gross, are a departure from his usual writing genre. Instead of writing thrillers with storylines of criminal activity he has ventured into the historical novel field. Yet, his writing style has not completely changed with these two plots in that they both are thrilling and gripping. The characters must find solutions to their dilemma, and the stories affect the readers’ heart.

The One Man, released last year with the paperback version coming out soon,

is a story about guilt, survival, and heroism. Yet, having the main setting in the Auschwitz Concentration Camp it is unavoidable to touch on the atrocities, the fatalistic feeling, and the helplessness of those interned. The title is taken right out of Jewish law, a passage from the Mishnah Sanhedrin, “It was for this reason that man was first created as one person, to teach you that anyone who destroys a life is considered by Scripture to have destroyed an entire world, and any who saves a life is as if he saved an entire world.” Gross explores how one man is worthy of being saved over others. But as the plot progresses readers will question who shall be saved and who shall die?

Gross had the idea, from his father-in-law’s life. “He came here from Poland in April 1939. As it turned out, he was the only member of his family to survive the war. In fact, he never learned the fate of any of the family that was left behind. Like a lot of survivors, he never talked at all about his family or even about his life back in Poland before he left. It was just too painful. In 1941, after America entered the war, my father-in-law signed up to serve his new country, and because of his facility with languages, was placed in the Intelligence corps, never divulging a word of what his role was there. During his whole life he seemed to carry around a weight of guilt and regret, despite his successes here. Everyone pressed him to find out just what was behind it. In some ways, I set out to write the story I thought my father-in-law might tell.”

The three main characters are extraordinarily written. Readers will feel the same emotions of fear, hatred, and a desire to be courageous. Dr. Alfred Mendl is the renowned electromagnetic physicist whose research and knowledge is the key to America’s secret efforts to build an atomic bomb. The problem is that he and his family are now trapped in Auschwitz. The OSS, the predecessor to the CIA, had devised a plan to get him out. A desk-bound Jewish intelligence officer, Nathan Blum, who escaped from Nazi-overrun Poland, is recruited for a near suicidal mission, to sneak into Auschwitz to rescue Mendl in 72 hours. Mendl is smart enough to realize his days are numbered and he wants to up the ante so that the allies will get this vital information. Possessing an astonishing memory, Leo, a sixteen-year-old boy, is recruited by Mendl, who hopes to preserve his work, by having Leo memorize the vast amount of scientific knowledge.

The scenes with Greta Ackermann, the wife of the Assistant Gestapo are extremely powerful. She represents the conscience of the readers. She is isolated and imprisoned, unable to do anything or stop the brutality around her. A thought provoking quote by her shows how those suffering under the Nazis were not numbers, but individual human beings. “They were people. Your precious numbers… Not digits. They were mothers. Husbands. Little children. They had lives. Hopes. Just like we did once. People.”

Not only readers, but the author also felt he was traveling back in time to the Holocaust. “As a writer we have life and death power over our characters’ survival. I am the one to choose the settings, the time and the place, what language they speak, the different variables. But when you write a book of this kind, it’s not like reading one. You’re not an observer. So to me it was like having to go through something I’d only read about, both a life affirming and an invigorating process.”

 

The One Man was heartbreaking, inspiring, and realistic. But this was not the only first rate historical thriller novel Gross has written. The second of the World War II books, released this August, The Saboteur also has these qualities. Each story has daring missions, characters who were brave, and plots that showed how the Nazis must be stopped at any cost in obtaining a nuclear bomb.

The Saboteur is more historical than fiction, based strongly on actual raids during World War II in Vemork, Norway. A secret committee called the SOE (Special Operations Executive) was formed, in England, to deal with the threat at the Norsk plant, where the Nazis are producing “heavy water,” critical to making an atomic bomb. An earlier attempt resulted in the loss of forty elite men, but the allies knew this danger had to be eliminated. The critical mission depended on six resistance fighters parachuting into Norway, penetrating the plant, demolishing the heavy water supply, and destroying the means of its production. The plot is tension filled, as readers understand that the allies will stop at nothing to make sure the Germans do not have the means to make the bomb, even if it means a secondary raid is necessary.

Gross knew of the story from “doing the research for The One Man. I came across information on this actual daring raid during WWII. I knew I had to write about it. The actual raids themselves were very realistic; the fiction came in when I wrote the time periods between them, inventing a background history for the characters.”

The setting acts as a major supporting character, both antagonist and protagonist. The plant is set atop unscalable cliffs with an impenetrable gorge, connected by a single suspension bridge, and is under constant heavy guard. Both the surrounding terrain and the weather were unforgiving. Wind gusts could drag a man off his feet, cold and freezing snow with zero visibility, and a ridge drop of fifty feet covered by rocks and boulders. Yet, this terrain and weather would end up eliminating the saboteur’s tracks and provided cover from Nazi patrols.

With these books it is apparent that Gross has a knack for writing captivating quotes. In his latest there are two that stand out and show the courage of the allies and the depravity of the Nazis. The Saboteur has a quote that could apply to both books’ heroes, “A true man is a man who goes on till he can go no farther, and then goes twice as far.” The other quote from this latest shows how the Germans “just took things. Ground them up in its indifferent jaw, like a tank running over friend and foe alike, spitting them back out as memories.”

Each book is tension filled with unexpected endings. The plots are awe-inspiring, action-packed, and gripping. A must read for anyone who wants to be captivated by these World War II stories. 51uQE4z6wvL._SX328_BO1 204 203 200_


Book Review: Blackmail

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.

Blackmail by Rick Campbell is an entertaining military thriller. The action is fast paced and the issues are relevant to today. But, don’t expect this to be typical of the genre where small Special Forces teams handle the issue at hand. This book as well as the previous one has America fighting a limited war with its adversaries, which makes the story even more interesting.

On the heels of defeating the Chinese, America is struggling to get its armed forces up to speed. Attempting to take advantage of this situation, Russia decides to invade Lithuania and the Eastern Ukraine. To test the waters, Russia attacked the U.S. aircraft carrier patrolling the Western Pacific Ocean, damaging it with a surprise salvo of cruise missiles. The Russian government officially apologizes, claiming it was the result of a fire control accident during a training exercise, although in actuality it is a calculated provocation. Because the US has not responded they become emboldened to take further action by moving their fleet into the Mediterranean Sea, mobilizing its Baltic and Black Sea fleets, making a pact with Iran, trying to influence China and India to become allies, and wiring every major oil and natural gas pipeline with explosives. But as so many adversaries have done in the past, they underestimate awakening America, the sleeping giant. In response to this blackmail, the U.S. attacks Russian naval forces. With the limited war waging readers feel they are fighting alongside the characters in the midst of the battle.

The best books are the ones where readers can learn something without being hit over the head. Campbell does this expertly. The questions explored include why is Russia so paranoid about the west; is NATO obsolete since it is fearful to make any commitments; and what will push the US to go it alone?

The characters are extremely well developed. Christine O’Connor, the National Security Adviser, is impulsive, beautiful, intelligent, and can stand her own against very powerful men. Not afraid to defend herself she has been known to kill a few enemies in the name of revenge. What gnaws at her is that she had to sacrifice a friend’s life to save her own and the mission. In this book she is coming to grips with her survivor’s guilt and her motivations.

Campbell is hoping that Christine can become involved in a relationship with her lover from afar, Jake Harrison. “The ultimate plan is to get her and Harrison together, but I have the problem that he is still married. I need to solve that problem and I will tell the readers it will not be a simple divorce.”

Interestingly females also run some of the other national security agencies. The Secretary of State is Dawn Cabral and the CIA Director is Jessica Cherry. What Campbell tries to do is “balance fairly the male and female advisors. Today, we do have strong women in leadership positions. Let’s not forget there were three female Secretary of States, and two female National Security Advisors. I was not the first to have a female CIA Director. I believe Vince Flynn did it with his iconic character Dr. Irene Kennedy. I don’t think I am ground breaking with my characters.”

Readers will have a hard time putting Blackmail down. By the end of the book they will be convinced on how America and Russia could actually fight a limited war. The plot is a realistic representation of how events can unfold with believable strategies and tactics. 518ILv5fUfL._SX328_BO1 204 203 200_


Book Review: The Room Of White Fire

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.

The Room of White Fire by T. Jefferson Parker introduces a new protagonist, private investigator Roland Ford. In some ways it is a departure from his usual writings in that this is more a conspiracy story than a crime mystery. At the heart of the plot are the secrets and lies.

Roland is a former Marine, who fought in Fallujah, and a former Sherriff Deputy. He is tall, strong, and a Patriot. Having made a reputation on being able to find people, he is hired to locate Air Force veteran Clay Hickman. The mental hospital where Hickman was staying wants Roland to find him and bring him back, because he is diagnosed with PTSD and schizophrenia. In the course of trying to track Hickman down Roland finds that he was being treated with electroshock and LSD therapy. He wonders why the patient’s physician, the institution’s Director, and the very wealthy psychologist who founded and still owns the institution insist that Hickman be returned to their care and not to the custody of his parents. To make matters worse, Roland also discovers that he is being drawn into something the government does not want to be made public; something called “White Fire.” Roland now sees it as his job to find out what is “White Fire” and what are the connections to those in the highest levels of government.

Parker has his hero a retired military figure “I feel we owe all those who served a lot. America can be a better place for our fighting men and women. The characters in the book are a nod of respect for anyone who had a military background. I hope readers like Roland and the story. He is very capable, principled, and clever.”

Although this story was conspiratorial in nature, the next novel is more of a traditional mystery where Roland must protect an old friend from a death threat made against her. In the course of the investigation he uncovers a terrorist plot against the city of San Diego.

Since the Charlie Hood novels has ended, readers might want to get to know this new character Roland Ford who will be featured in a new series. This first book has cover-ups and greed at its core. 51VfrQOKzJL._SX329_BO1 204 203 200_


Book Review: Deep Black

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.

Deep Black by Sean McFate is the follow up to the first novel of the series, Shadow War. It brings back the protagonist Tom Locke, a missionary with a conscience. Shadow War was an intense action-packed story, while this one concentrates more on the global politics.

The different style between books is explained by McFate, “I hoped to write the series as a memoir when I was a mercenary in Africa. My agent told me that I could be sued so I should fictionalize it. Because I never wrote fiction, Bret Witter, who wrote The Monuments Men, was brought on board to teach me the craft. In Shadow War we shared the pen, while with Deep Black I did the majority of writing. Most of the book was me except the first chapters that he edited. The third book will be solo, just me.”

Locke is hired to find a missing Saudi prince who has ties to ISIS. The mission becomes increasingly delicate when it appears that the missing prince is part of a larger plot revolving around a faction of the Saudi royal family that's attempting to buy a nuclear weapon from Pakistan. The author takes readers inside the Saudi Royal Family showing how in the Middle East the Shite and Sunni factions are not loyal to the government, but have their own allegiance to their tribe.

The secondary plot continues where the first book left off, with Locke’s former boss Brad Winters searching for him as well as competing to find the Prince. McFate noted, “The confrontation with Brad gets resolved in the next book. Locke will return home to America and must track down those who plot to assassinate a high level political person.”

Terrorists, mercenaries, Special Forces, and an ancient war between the Shia and Sunni regimes are explored in this novel. Anyone wanting to understand the fight for the Saudi Royal throne along with the mind of a mercenary should read this story. 51tngb8XBoL._SX329_BO1 204 203 200_


Book Reviews: The One Man and The Saboteur

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.

 

The One Man and The Saboteur, the latest books of Andrew Gross, are a departure from his usual writing genre. Instead of writing thrillers with storylines of criminal activity he has ventured into the historical novel field. Yet, his writing style has not completely changed with these two plots in that they both are thrilling and gripping. The characters must find solutions to their dilemma, and the stories affect the readers’ heart.

The One Man, released last year with the paperback version coming out soon,is a story about guilt, survival, and heroism. Yet, having the main setting in the Auschwitz Concentration Camp it is unavoidable to touch on the atrocities, the fatalistic feeling, and the helplessness of those interned. The title is taken right out of Jewish law, a passage from the Mishnah Sanhedrin, “It was for this reason that man was first created as one person, to teach you that anyone who destroys a life is considered by Scripture to have destroyed an entire world, and any who saves a life is as if he saved an entire world.” Gross explores how one man is worthy of being saved over others. But as the plot progresses readers will question who shall be saved and who shall die?

Gross had the idea, from his father-in-law’s life. “He came here from Poland in April 1939. As it turned out, he was the only member of his family to survive the war. In fact, he never learned the fate of any of the family that was left behind. Like a lot of survivors, he never talked at all about his family or even about his life back in Poland before he left. It was just too painful. In 1941, after America entered the war, my father-in-law signed up to serve his new country, and because of his facility with languages, was placed in the Intelligence corps, never divulging a word of what his role was there. During his whole life he seemed to carry around a weight of guilt and regret, despite his successes here, and everyone pressed him to find out just what was behind it. In some ways, I set out to write the story I thought my father-in-law might tell.”

The three main characters are extraordinarily written. Readers will feel the same emotions of fear, hatred, and a desire to be courageous. Dr. Alfred Mendl is the renowned electromagnetic physicist whose research and knowledge is the key to America’s secret efforts to build an atomic bomb. The problem is that he and his family are now trapped in Auschwitz. The OSS, the predecessor to the CIA, had devised a plan to get him out. A desk-bound Jewish intelligence officer, Nathan Blum, who escaped from Nazi-overrun Poland, is recruited for a near suicidal mission, to sneak into Auschwitz to rescue Mendl in 72 hours. Mendl is smart enough to realize his days are numbered and he wants to up the ante so that the allies will get this vital information. Possessing an astonishing memory, Leo, a sixteen-year-old boy, is recruited by Mendl, who hopes to preserve his work, by having him memorize the vast amount of scientific knowledge.

The scenes with Greta Ackermann, the wife of the Assistant Gestapo are extremely powerful. She represents the conscience of the readers. She is isolated and imprisoned, unable to do anything or stop the brutality around her. A thought provoking quote by her shows how those suffering under the Nazis were not numbers, but individual human beings. “They were people. Your precious numbers… Not digits. They were mothers. Husbands. Little children. They had lives. Hopes. Just like we did once. People.”

Not only readers, but the author also felt he was traveling back in time to the Holocaust. “As a writer we have life and death power over our characters’ survival. I am the one to choose the settings, the time and the place, what language they speak, the different variables. But when you write a book of this kind, it’s not like reading one. You’re not an observer. So to me it was like having to go through something I’d only read about, both a life affirming and an invigorating process.”

The One Man was heartbreaking, inspiring, and realistic. But this was not the only first rate historical thriller novel Gross has written. The second of the World War II books, released this August, The Saboteur also has these qualities. Each story has daring missions, characters who were brave, and plots that showed how the Nazis must be stopped at any cost in obtaining a nuclear bomb first.

The Saboteur is more historical than fiction, based strongly on actual raids during World War II in Vemork, Norway. A secret committee called the SOE (Special Operations Executive) was formed, in England, to deal with the threat at the Norsk plant, the Nazis production of “heavy water,” critical to making an atomic bomb. An earlier attempt resulted in the loss of forty elite men, but the allies knew this danger had to be eliminated. The critical mission depended on six resistance fighters parachuting into Norway, penetrating the plant, demolishing the heavy water supply, and destroying the means of its production. The plot is tension filled, as readers understand that the allies will stop at nothing to make sure the Germans do not have the means to make the bomb, even if it means a secondary raid is necessary.

Gross knew of the story from “doing the research for The One Man. I came across information on this actual daring raid during WWII. I knew I had to write about it. The actual raids themselves were very realistic; the fiction came in when I wrote the time periods between them, inventing a background history for the characters.”

The setting acts as a major supporting character, both antagonist and protagonist. The plant is set atop unscalable cliffs with an impenetrable gorge, connected by a single suspension bridge, and is under constant heavy guard. Both the surrounding terrain and the weather were unforgiving. Wind gusts could drag a man off his feet, cold and freezing snow with zero visibility, and a ridge drop of fifty feet covered by rocks and boulders. Yet, this terrain and weather would end up eliminating their tracks and provided cover from Nazi patrols.

With these books it is apparent that Gross has a knack for writing captivating quotes. In his latest there are two that stand out and show the courage of the allies and the depravity of the Nazis. The Saboteur has a quote that could apply to the books heroes, “A true man is a man who goes on till he can go no farther, and then goes twice as far.” The other quote from this latest shows how the Germans “just took things. Ground them up in its indifferent jaw, like a tank running over friend and foe alike, spitting them back out as memories.” The one aspect they could not take was someone’s memories of a life before the atrocities.

What link both books, according to Gross are “The humanity of man and the inhumanity of the Nazis. I wanted to maintain that balance, between brutality and death, as well as heroism. The stories tap into some universal quality of the human spirit. Both heroes were willing to put their life on the line for a nearly impossible mission with a ticking clock that is winding down, and wanted to measure up to their fathers expectations.”

Each book is tension filled with unexpected endings. The plots are awe-inspiring, action-packed, and gripping. A must read for anyone who wants to be captivated by these World War II stories. 51lBHw8-sKL._SX327_BO1 204 203 200_ 51uQE4z6wvL._SX328_BO1 204 203 200_


Book Reviews: Damaged and Exposed

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.

Lisa Scottoline deserves a high five for her latest novels Damaged and Exposed. These back-to-back homeruns hit at reader’s heartstrings with her gripping and riveting storylines and characters. These stories will not disappoint fans having the traditional trademarks of fast-paced action combined with an emotional gravity.

Within both books is an intense fight for justice where Scottoline clearly explains the legal and ethical issues, intertwining it throughout the story. The details are presented in a way that is clear to any non-lawyer, without making it seem like an info-dump. But the strength of the novels is the characters that the readers get engaged with early on in the story. Not only the main ones, law partners Mary DiNunzio and Bennie Rosato, but the supporting cast as well. Who would not want to be a part of Mary’s world, her loving and caring parents as well as the extended family, the Italian community? The antagonists in each story give lawyers a bad name. They are controlling, hollow, and want to win at all costs, not to mention their attempts to hit on their former classmates.

Both plots are so gripping readers will not want to put the books down. In Damaged, released last year with the paperback version out August 1st,a ten-year-old child, Patrick, has fallen under the radar of the government agencies. His needs are not being met regarding dyslexia, abuse in a public school by a teacher’s aide, and having to endure classmates’ bullying. Making matters worse the teacher’s aide filed a lawsuit that alleges Patrick attacked him with a pair of scissors. Willing to defend him, Mary counter sues and through her investigative process finds that the public school district offers no support to him. Mary becomes his champion, willing to take on all, lobbying to get Patrick transferred to a more appropriate private special educational school. In her struggle to save Patrick, Mary finds herself fighting her associates, her fiancé, and social services, as well as the opposing counsel Nick Machiavelli (aka the Dark Prince), who is determined to win a settlement, despite the emotional cost to the 10-year-old boy.

Scottoline enjoys writing about children. “I think sometimes in fiction children are not really differentiated; although, today we are more aware of children’s disabilities and illnesses. These children need to be given the spotlight with my job making sure that the issue is as real as possible. In essence blurring the line between fiction and non-fiction. Patrick became an introverted and inward little boy because the dyslexia became an important aspect to his development. I want readers to imagine what it is like for a child when he does not get the programming that he needs or is entitled to within a public school.”  

Exposed, the latest just released book, also has an engrossing storyline. Childhood friend, Simon Pensiera, who is more like family, requests Mary’s help. He wants to file a wrongful-termination case against his employer, OpenSpace, because his boss, Todd Eddington, fired him when his daughter Rachel’s medical expenses rose into the stratosphere. The problem, her partner, Bennie, represents Dumbarton Industries, OpenSpace’s parent company, so there’s an obvious conflict of interest. To make matters worse, Dumbarton’s CEO Nate Lence files a retaliatory defamation suit seeking $2 million from the newly unemployed Simon and a misconduct complaint against Mary. The suspense increases after a major plot twist that has both partners reevaluating their respective stances as the case heads off into an unexpected direction that includes a dangerous cover-up.

Having been a lawyer herself Scottoline allows readers to get the nuances of the justice system. “I always ask the question, does law lead to justice? With both books I wanted to show if you really follow the law it might not lead to the result you want. In Exposed the two law partners, Mary DiNunzio and Bennie Rosato, had what appeared to be a conflict of interest. Bennie represented the parent company and Mary was suing the subsidiary. I thought there must be an easy straight ethical answer until I started doing the research. I called a lawyer friend of mine, Larry Fox, who teaches ethics at Yale. He allowed me to talk to the class and even made it their semester project to find out if a lawyer like Mary could actually defend someone if the client of the firm was the parent company. All of the nuances I learned were put in the book.”

This series only gets better with each book. The characters and their relationships grow over time with Mary becoming stronger and more assertive and Bennie showing her soft spots. The plots are captivating and the twists and turns only add to the intensity. 51zPksEXQEL._SX328_BO1 204 203 200_ 51+IWszJZdL._SX326_BO1 204 203 200_


Book Review: The Good Daughter

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.

The Good Daughter by Karin Slaughter bares no bones. This emotional crime mystery delves into family, grief, regret, and guilt. Known for not sugar coating the violence the story is dark and graphic, but this only adds to its intensity.

A line from the book, “a never-ending sphere,” best describes the plot. The events of past and present are circular in motion, occurring twenty-eight years apart. During the course of the novel the horrific attack on the Quinn family is re-visited a number of times, with the two sisters, Charlie and Sam, alternating their views of the incident.

The reason for the repetition, according to Slaughter, “That line from the book, “a never-ending sphere,” shows how circular life is. Charlie stops her story, because she is avoiding what happened to her. If you notice the first time she tells it the emphasis is on how others were impacted, not herself. I wanted to echo back with the point; you really cannot escape your past. You can learn to deal with it, but should not let it hold you hostage.”

On that horrible day the sisters’ life changed forever. Charlie and Sam were at home with their mother, Gamma, when two masked men entered the house. They shot Gamma dead, pushed out Sam’s eyelids, shot her in the head, and buried her alive. As Charlie tried to escape she had to endure a horrific attack as well. These assaults occurred because their dad, Rusty, defended the most evil of characters.

Slaughter used her own personal experiences to write the scenes about head injuries. “I toured military bases with the author Lisa Gardner and saw those kinds of injuries. Also, the husband of a friend of mine flipped head first over the bike handlebars. He became brain damaged. When I spoke with my friend, his wife, she talked about their struggles. This is why I put in the quote, ‘Sam often compared her first year of recovery to a record on an old turntable. She awoke at the hospital with everything playing at the wrong speed.’ Sam knew what she was and knew what her life would be like from that point onward. It can be even more psychologically scarring for people who are cognizant of what they’ve lost.”

Fast-forward twenty-eight years later with the family torn apart. Sam has moved away to NYC, becoming a successful patent lawyer. Charlie has followed in her father’s footsteps, becoming a defense attorney; although she only takes clients she believes are innocent or being over-charged for a minor crime. Having stayed in the town where she grew up she is still struggling with her demons, which is the reason behind why her husband is now estranged.

Trying to escape she decides to have a one-night-stand with Huck, a stranger, and while leaving mistakenly took his phone. During the process of exchanging phones at her old school, where Huck works, all hell lets loose. Charlie finds herself in a nightmarish situation. She is the first witness on the scene in the midst of a distressing double school shooting that includes a young child. She later discovers the shooter, Kelly, has learning issues. The incident also unleashes the terrible memories she's spent so long trying to suppress. The only one able to get her out of her fog is Sam, who returns to face her own anxieties. The sisters must work together to find the answers to the past and present events as they attempt to heal their relationship.

Grieving can be very personal and Slaughter shows the many facets of it. “I do not think all people grieve in the same way. Charlie was in denial, while Sam deals with it head on. Every morning Sam wakes up and is faced with what happened, but has learned how to deal with it. Yet, Charlie looks back on her life and realizes she is not the person she hoped to be. This makes her miserable. She keeps doing the same thing and it is not working, but never self-reflects. Rusty on the other hand damages himself by taking on more dangerous cases, drinks too much, and smokes too much, despite having a major heart attack.”

Readers will need to have their wits about them when reading this suspenseful mystery. It is a very much character driven plot where everyone will go through the heartache with the sisters. Beyond the violent crime, the story is about loss, love, survival, and forgiveness. 41FfY6Q+8sL._SX329_BO1 204 203 200_