Book Review: The Cuban Affair

It has been over two years between Nelson DeMille books, which is way too long. His latest, The Cuban Affair, is classic DeMille with its action packed story, fact based plot, witty characters, and humorous dialogue.

In this, DeMille’s twentieth novel, he has Daniel (Mac) MacCormick adjusting to civilian life. After serving two tours in Afghanistan he has sought out a more peaceful lifestyle in Key West Florida. He is now a charter boat captain of a 42 feet deep-sea fishing vessel, The Maine, which takes tourists and fisherman on excursions. Having made a name for himself and needing his military skills, three Cuban-Americans make him an offer to have the Maine participate in a ten-day fishing tournament to Cuba. But the real reason they need him is to help find and return sixty million dollars left behind by the refugees. The covert plan is to embed Mac and one of the Cuban-Americans, Sara Ortega, into Cuba as part of an educational tour under the auspices of Yale University. The action ratchets up as Mac and Sara are on the run from the Cuban authorities and need his first mate, gruff seventy-year-old Vietnam veteran, Jack Colby, to help in the rescue.

Although not a John Corey novel fans will enjoy the new set of characters created by DeMille. Throughout the years, the male and female leads are smart, brave, self-confident, loyal, smart alecky, and the sarcastic banter between them is classic. His one-liners are the perfect zingers to a conversation that will make readers chuckle. For example, “you are an officer and a gentleman by an act of Congress, but an a—hole by choice,” or “why do you want to go to Cuba. North Korea was sold out.”

The author commented, “Corey is not a kid anymore. Mac is much younger. He is also an Afghanistan veteran while many of the main characters in earlier books were Vietnam vets. Mac is more educated and from a different class than Corey. I did not want to create the same character; although in some ways they have the same personality and dry wit. Another difference is that John Corey lives in law enforcement while Mac lives in the civilian world. John fought terrorists while Mac is apolitical and more cautious.”

Readers of DeMille expect historical facts and details intertwined within the story. In this book it is no different. Having gone to Cuba himself as part of the Yale University-affiliated educational tour he was able to get a personal eye view of what Cuba is really like. He wants readers to be entertained, but also to learn something, especially since many have forgotten about the Castro Brothers’ actions.

He noted, “The system they created does not guarantee property rights. The Cuban regime seized private property and is saying they have no intention of returning Cuban citizens’ property, and we are not pushing them. Most of the people who came to Miami when the Communists seized power left houses, factories, and huge businesses. They want their property back, and that’s going to be a big issue as normalization moves forward. It is a repressive regime with a subjugated population that isolates the people.”

The Cuban Affair is a gripping novel that has relatable and likeable characters. As with all his novels, people will be immersed in the setting, culture, and history. Hopefully this will be the first in a series of books involving these characters that will include plenty of action, political intrigue, romance and dry wit. 81gFWg3HZXL._AC_UL115_


Book Review: Robert B. Parker’s The Hangman's Sonnet

Robert B. Parker’s The Hangman's Sonnet by Reed Coleman brilliantly intertwines the personal and professional life of Paradise police chief Jesse Stone. Having put Jesse through the ringer in the previous book, Debt To Pay, Coleman explores the emotions of guilt and grief in this novel.

Jesse is still trying to come to grips after seeing his fiancée, Diana, murdered by the crazed assassin Mr. Peepers. Unfortunately, he turns to the only friend that can drown out his sorrows, drinking. An interesting question put forth to the readers, “Did Jesse use alcohol to help control who he really was, or to free himself from who he wasn’t?”

Reed noted, “Jesse does not know the answer. This is one of the great mysteries of alcoholism, what role does the alcohol actually play? He would probably say it frees him as well as constrains him. After Diana was killed he takes a stark look at his life and takes a journey. He will need to decide if he will go down the abyss or change his life.”

To complicate matters Jesse has lost much of his support. Healy, the former head of the state homicide bureau has retired so his role has diminished in helping Jesse solve crimes. Dr. Tamara Elkin, the medical examiner, is determining if she should take a position offered to her in Texas. Jesse has also decided to sell the house overlooking the bay and move into the town of Paradise, instead of living on the outskirts of town. Not to mention the death of Diana and the organized crime boss, Gino Fish, who offered Jesse support and information.

The reason Coleman is turning the series upside down regarding the supporting cast, “I think to keep a series alive and interesting you have to kill off or get rid of characters. This was one of the things people liked about the Game Of Thrones. It keeps the story dynamic and stimulating. Because the deck of characters has grown to have them in the story clutters it, especially since I always have to write in everybody’s backstory.”

Regarding Jesse’s professional side, he is investigating the murder of an elderly woman. As Jesse is trying to find the culprits he also must deal with the mega-star-studded 75th birthday party for folk singer Terry Jester, who tore up the charts when Bob Dylan was popular. Jester has spent the last forty years in seclusion after the mysterious disappearance of the master recording tape of his magnum opus, The Hangman's Sonnet. But now he is coming out of hiding for his birthday bash in Paradise. Both sub-plots come together when Jesse suspects that the old woman's murder may be connected to the missing tape. Jesse follows clues all the way to Boston, where he gets a little help from a private eye named Spenser, who also tried to find the missing tape many years ago.

Reed said, “I actually wrote those scenes with Spenser, but had Ace Atkins and my editor look it over. I love the overlap. Ace and I have always talked about writing a book together where Spenser and Jesse work on the same case. We would seriously love to do it.”

Music plays a great part of the stories’ mystery. Reed is a music lover and wanted to explore “the surrounding myths. A lot of my life was in the sixties where people were much less cynical and more believable. For example, people really believed Paul McCartney died. The cover of a Beatle album, Abbey Road, has Paul walking across the street barefoot, John looking like a priest, and George looks like a gravedigger. The end of the song ‘Strawberry Fields’ has Ringo shouting out ‘I buried Paul.’ I liked the notion of creating my own myth. I even wrote the poem in the book. Because I started my career as a poet I decided to flex my muscles and write a Sonnet specifically for the book.”

When asked where he will go with Jesse, Reed responded that readers will find out in the next book. Jesse’s life will change, but for the good or the bad? The plot of Robert B. Parker’s Colorblind addresses a situation just like the one that happened in Charlottesville.

This book perfectly balances a riveting plot and an exploration of the characters. Although readers will have to stay tuned to find out what happens to Jesse, they did get a captivating story surrounding a musical myth. 51cok83-cCL._SX329_BO1 204 203 200_


Book Review: Missing Persons

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.

Michael Brandman has returned to writing with his book Missing Persons. His resume is extensive having co-written nine Jesse Stone movies and three westerns with the legendary actor Tom Selleck, and producing over forty films with screenwriters such as Arthur Miller and Neil Simon. But he is also known for being the original writer of the Robert B. Parker novels after Parker’s death.

Besides working on this book Brandman is also in the early stage of a tenth Jesse Stone movie with Tom Selleck. “It is more of a murder mystery than the psychologically brooding Jesse, more in the line of Stone Cold. This Jesse is based upon the original one written by Parker. Even though Reed Coleman, the current writer of the Jesse Stone series, killed off the crime boss Gino Fish, Tom and I consider him an amazing and essential character. We worked closely with Bob on the first few movies and that is going to be the guideline we follow.”

Readers of Missing Persons will make the inevitable comparisons to the Jesse Stone series. The setting is a small town with the lead character, Buddy Steel, a chief deputy sheriff. The town, Freedom in California, is by a seaside just like Paradise. Buddy is similar in personality to Jesse in that he is tall, good looking, does not like dealing with the politics, will not play the political game, will not hesitate to ruffle feathers, and is not a fan of authority. The difference is Jesse played baseball, while Buddy plays basketball.  

The other stark difference is that Buddy does not drink as much as Jesse and he returned to the town where he grew up because of his father’s illness. Having grown up in the shadow of his autocratic father he was hesitant to come back, but did so out of a sense of duty. His father, the current sheriff, has Lou Gehrig’s disease, and has pressured his son to come home and pull the plug when necessary in an assisted suicide.

The rest of the plot involves the disappearance of an evangelistic preacher’s wife. As the quote in the book reflects, “Cameras don’t lie. There was something disingenuous about him.” People have to think no farther than what Joel Osteen said and did during the floods in Texas. The book plot tried to show how many of these preachers are con men that emerged as self-righteous.

This is the first in a possible series. Although he is somewhat cynical Buddy Steel is a likeable character. Readers are rooting for him to succeed and grow out of his father’s shadow. 51fZiIBVXnL._SX322_BO1 204 203 200_


Book Review: Snap Judgment

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.

Snap Judgment by Marcia Clark is another winner. With each installment her books get better and better as she blends a riveting story with legal nuances. In this book she manages to cover a multitude of subjects from revenge porn to child sexual abuse to human trafficking.

Clark spoke about the increase in revenge porn and how it “is becoming a common way for “exes” to smack the people who reject them. When I was working I dealt with people like that. The boyfriend is seen as the knight in shining armor who gives complete devotion. It is an ego and security boost, but then turns sour. Because they are naïve and are now sucked in the victim does not know how to get out of it. In this case Alicia had no street experience and falls down the rabbit hole when that devotion turns to obsession. People are getting abused and violated on a daily basis because technology permits it. It should be for that person’s eyes only. This is just another way where someone can have enormous power over someone else. People are not wrong to expect it limited to the one person it was sent to.”

Although billed as a legal thriller the concentration is on the prep work done by a defense attorney and not on the courtroom battles. Through the main character Samantha (Sam) Brinkman’s eyes readers see that the focus of a defense attorney is on the investigation, what needs to be done to get her client off: should she poke holes in the prosecutor’s case, look for inconsistent statements by witnesses, find another suspect, or do all of the above? Of course, to make the story interesting Sam goes a little farther than most defense attorneys.

Clark wrote the character Samantha as being “complicated, twisted, less bound by ethics/rules, and someone I could push the boundaries with. Sam does have a dark side with emotional scars from her childhood. She is impulsive, reckless, has trust issues, and loves to push the envelope. At the end of the day Sam is achieving justice in her own way and many times it is not legal.”

The plot begins with a letter written to herself by USC freshman Alicia Hutchins. She is proud of herself for getting out of an abusive relationship. Her boyfriend, Roan Sutton, used to boost her ego by being completely devoted to her until he started to get more and more possessive to a point where it became creepy. Unfortunately, soon after she broke it up it appears that he humiliated her through revenge porn, posting nude selfies she sent to him on-line along with her address and an invitation for site visitors to help Alicia realize her rape fantasies.

Clark explores how someone’s privacy is affected by the posting of these personal photos taken for his eyes only. Nothing screams payback more than this until Alicia is found with her throat slashed. But, after Roan, the prime suspect, is found dead Alisha’s father becomes a person of interest, accused of avenging his daughter’s death. He hires Sam to prove his innocence. The deeper she digs on his behalf, the more entangled she becomes in a thicket of family secrets, past betrayals, and multiple motives for murder.

The sub-plot is a continuation of a storyline from the previous two novels in the series. She is in debt to a crime boss, Cabazon, who wants Sam, with help from her police officer father Dale, to locate the only witness to a murder committed by his nephew, It becomes clear he wants to make sure the witness, Tracy Gopeck will never testify. Sam is forced to cooperate to ensure that her life, her dad’s life, and her office staff lives are not endangered. In the course of the investigation she finds out that Tracy was actually rescued by the murder suspect from a human trafficking ring. Although this plotline has nothing to do with the main one, Clark is able to weave it into the story in a very natural way that is not distracting.  

As with all her novels, Clark is able to combine an intense plot with facts about the justice system while sprinkling some very funny and witty dialogue. Readers will enjoy going along for the ride with Sam and Company. 61thyLVqNBL._SX331_BO1 204 203 200_


Book Review: An Army Of One

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.

An Army Of One by Tony Schumacher is a lot more mystery than thriller. It brings back the character John Rossett, but this time around instead of rescuing someone from the Nazi’s grip he is investigating a murder.

It is interesting in this third installment John is still seen as a sympathetic character that fluctuates from collaborating with the Nazis to undermining them. The series began with Germany controlling Western Europe after a pact is signed in 1946. The Germans are occupying Great Britain using brutality, fear, and consensus to control the English. The main character John Rossett, won the Victoria Cross for rescuing his fellow soldiers from Dunkirk. After the war he returns home to find his wife and son killed by a bomb that was meant for the German authorities. It can be considered an alternate history of sorts that questions morality. Through the character’s eyes readers examine if it is even possible to redeem oneself after committing terrible acts. What makes this novel very interesting is how the author creates an action-packed plot while still exploring the questions: Could the British people become like the Nazis, and what doors should someone open to survive?

Schumacher sees this series as a warning where “some people might think of these Nazi monsters as average people. If they saw them in a pub and did not know what they believed, they might view them as an average person, much like the serial killer who is considered by his neighbors to be a nice person. I hope this book entertains the reader, but also is an exchange of information that makes people think. I want the story to get into their heads after they are done with the book and have put it on the shelf.”

The German atrocities are still discussed, although not as much as in the previous books. In one scene Rossett is witnessing the execution of innocent civilians including a child, and unable to stop it, feels a range of emotions including guilt, anger, and shame. However, this scene transitions once again into to the cat and mouse game of Rossett trying to entrap the German sniper killer, known as The Bear to prevent more deaths. But in the course of the police investigation he uncovers that The Bear hid a huge amount of gold. Now Rossett must capture the killer and solve the diabolical conspiracy that has Nazi officers and the British resistance competing to find the gold and use it for their own purposes.

An Army Of One has a captivating plot with engaging characters. This alternate history will have readers trembling at the thought of what could have been had the Nazis won World War II. 51Ocf0sJaVL._SX331_BO1 204 203 200_


Book Review: Vince Flynn's Enemy Of The State by Kyle Mills

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.

With Enemy Of The State Kyle Mills has found his groove as he nailed down the characters created by Vince Flynn. As other thriller authors pivoted away from terrorism, Mitch Rapp, Dr. Irene Kennedy, and company continue to keep America safe by thwarting Islamic jihadists.

As in The Third Option, this plot has Mitch Rapp going somewhat rogue after being asked by the President to perform a mission that is completely off the books. He must track down, interrogate, and kill members of the Saudi royal family who appear to be working with ISIS. Although Irene knows about it she and Mitch realize this must be a completely black ops mission; thus, his resignation from the CIA. The investigation discovered Aali Nassar, Irene’s Saudi counterpart, promising to support America, while secretly in charge of the ISIS financing and eyeing the chance to overtake the country’s government once King Faisal dies. Nassar frames Mitch giving him an excuse to hunt down the one man who might foil his plan to fund ISIS and bring about a Middle East superpower to threaten the US. He gets the US President to agree to have FBI Agent Joel Wilson work with him to find Mitch.

The action never stops as Mitch tries to keep one step ahead of his pursuers and to expose Nassar for what he truly is, a covert terrorist. To help Mitch, Mills has brought back some old familiar faces, while giving others a backseat. The character Dr. Irene Kennedy is central to any book. Mills realizes no Mitch Rapp book can succeed without her dominant presence. The scenes with her are a pivotal piece of the plot. Even a few pages speak of Irene’s son Tommy.

Mills describes her as “a realist, a philosopher of sorts, someone clear eyed and a student of human nature. She is always in the book, just off the pages. I always think of her as the puppet master. By her own admission she is not involved but watches and waits until it becomes necessary for her to be involved. She is seen as an intellectual who makes decisions based not on her gut, but her head.”

Readers might remember Joel Wilson from The Last Man where he became Mitch’s nemesis. As the deputy director of counterintelligence he accused Mitch of stealing. After being proved wrong Wilson lost that position, and he is now all too happy to work with Nassar while seeking revenge. Because Mitch needs a team to work with and help him confront the bad guys, he enlists the help of Donatella Rahn, his onetime lover, Grisha Azarov, his adversary now a peer, and Kent Black, a former Ranger sniper.

The logistics leader of the team is Claudia Gould who has both a professional and intimate relationship with Mitch. Because she has a six-year-old child, Anna, when at home Mitch gets to play dad. These scenes are a welcome relief and venture back to the first books when Vince Flynn would include some of the character’s personal life. What Mills has brilliantly accomplished is the humanizing of Mitch. It is interesting to see the two sides of Rapp, a take charge, non-nonsense patriot, a take no prisoners guy, while acquiescing to Claudia at home.

Mills hopes to continue to have Claudia as a major character. “She is not the goody character like Anna. Plus she could be a part of some operations because of her experience. Mitch needs a companion. She can be involved in both his professional and personal life. Since Mitch is consumed with his work life anybody he becomes involved with must be a part of it. She is brilliant, beautiful, mysterious, pragmatic, adaptable, and not naïve. I want to humanize Mitch. I think he is fighting for normalcy, peace, and security so while at home he does not want to argue or fight. I do think she takes the initiative at home. When they work together he is in charge, but at home she is in charge.”

This novel perfectly combines geo-politics, covert operations, and the backstory of the characters. Readers can close their eyes and remember past books written by Vince Flynn and will not skip a beat with Kyle Mills at the helm. 61xuhaN5-2L._SX323_BO1 204 203 200_


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_