Book Review Desert Vengeance

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.

Desert Vengeance by Betty Webb is a mystery/thriller series surrounding the main character detective Lena Jones. As with all Webb books she has a gripping plot while exploring the psyche of those she writes about, intertwining human rights issues. In this installment the subject matters of sexual abuse and foster parenting are explored.

As a nine year old, Lena’s foster father, Brian Wycoff, repeatedly raped her every week. To make matters worse, his wife was an enabler, knowingly looking the other way. Lena is waiting to exact revenge for his crimes on the day he is released from prison. She has every intention of killing this man, but is thwarted when someone gets to him first. Now there are more murders to solve, because his wife was killed, shot in each eye. After being cleared as a suspect, Lena uses her profession of a private detective to investigate what really happened considering there are multiple suspects with motives.

The author noted, “In doing my research I actually found a site on the Internet that is devoted to women married to child molesters. Reading this is one of the creepiest things I have ever done. They are full of self-pity. They never, at any time, discuss the pain a child went through at the hands of their spouse. They really do not care. The common thread is their worrying about finances since the spouse was the money support. They very rarely blow the whistle and seem to keep their mouths shut making sure the money flows in.”

Even though she is seen as someone seeking vengeance, Lena is a very likeable, believable, and sympathetic character. The theme is about letting go, and Lena must do exactly that while trying to control her obsession of getting justice.

In all her books, Webb uses her past experiences to write these riveting stories. Having been a journalist for over twenty years she was exposed to many different kinds of cases. She knows what it is like to write about controversial issues, and uses those skills to make the novels very realistic. In this case, readers are able to learn about child molestation without the many horrific details.

With a powerful subject, enthralling characters, and a compelling plot readers will not want to put this book down. Webb offers a twist and turn mystery, that is not superficial because of the way she presents such gripping issues. 51MIr88aYaL._SX329_BO1 204 203 200_

Book Review In Farleigh Field

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.

In Farleigh Field by Rhys Bowen is a fact filled historical mystery. The story takes place during 1941 in the English countryside. Inspired by the events of World War II this is a sweeping and riveting stand-alone novel involving class, family, love, and betrayal.

She wanted to write about this era since, “I think it was the last time we had a feeling of good versus evil. Everybody felt if we do not stop the evil it would be the end of the world. Because of that they were willing to make sacrifices with a great sense of duty where everyone rooted for each other. I was born in the middle of World War II. Even after the war, in England, everything was rationed until 1953, and every time you went for a walk you passed a bombsite. It was a grim atmosphere.”

The plot is built around three life long friends: Ben Cresswell, the Vicar’s son, who now serves as a homeland spy; Lady Pamela Sutton, the middle daughter of an aristocratic family who decodes German correspondence at Bletchley; and Jeremy Prescott, an injured RAF fighter pilot. Their carefree youth is contrasted with the dangers of the Nazis. They are trying to find out about a German that died parachuting into the countryside. Many believe his mission was to deliver a mysterious message to a German spy on how to assassinate either the Royal Family or Winston Churchill. The suspect pool grows as the people of interest include an English POW who escaped, those escaping the German atrocities, Canadians, a governess, and someone who could be a double spy.

The main and supporting characters created are very intriguing and engaging. Readers will wish Bowen would continue to re-visit them by turning the stand-alone into a series. The two male characters are Ben who is smart and loyal, while Jeremy is the ultimate bad boy. Besides Pamela, her sister Margot allows people to get a view of the German brutalities. The youngest, Phoebe, of the five Sutton daughters, befriends Alfie, taken in by the groundskeeper for safety reasons. All desire to discover the identity of the German spy. Bowen also writes of Farleigh Field as if it is a character. In many ways it becomes the central element of the plot considering it serves as the headquarters of a British armed forces unit.

Bowen 51gYjsFWN7L._SX331_BO1 204 203 200_ contrasts the two male leads, “Jeremy was the ultimate bad boy. He was charismatic, dashing, and daring. If I was a young girl I would have been attracted to him. As Pamela says in the book, ‘you knew you would not be quite safe with Jeremy, but you knew you were alive.’ She took for granted he would marry her, but all he wanted was sex. Ben on the other hand was someone you would turn to if you were in trouble, like an older brother. He was kind, loyal, dependable, and considerate.”

Because of its location, Farleigh Field is the setting where espionage and mysterious events occur, drawing in the countryside aristocracy. Many lost privilege, property, and power as their estates were taken over by the war effort. Bowen brilliantly and interestingly describes the culture of the time where the rich and powerful either made sacrifices with the rest of the English population, or were the ones who chose to join an organization that believed in making a peace with Hitler.

This story of war, love, and mystery is extremely suspenseful. It is both realistic and believable. Through the character’s eyes readers will be drawn into the era and begin to understand the sacrifices and hardships placed on English society.

Book Review When Tides Turn

When Tides Turn by Sarah Sundin is one of those novels where readers have a gripping mystery and can learn something too. The third and final book of the series follows the Avery family. Based in Boston this plot includes the Battle of the Atlantic and US Navy WAVES, a unit of women volunteers.

Although Sundin does not personally have experience in the armed forces, for her it is all in the family. “The year I started writing this book is the same year my son enlisted in the Navy. I was walking the path with him as we adjusted to the culture and the terms. I also had a military connection through my family. My grandfather was a medic in the Navy during World War II and my great uncle was a B-17 bomber pilot. My grandfather also trained US spies in the German language.”

Through her engaging characters people realize the numerous contributions women made to the war effort. Although not eligible for combat duty, as more men went off to war, the WAVES performed jobs in the aviation community, medical professions, science, technology, and communication. Characters include: Nora an engineer, Lillian a pharmacist, and Tess, using her degree in business to supervise the clerical staff. Their unconventional ways had them band together in a man’s world, unlike most women who stayed at home, did not have a job, or never attended college.

Sundin commented about the WAVES, “Remember, before the WAVES, the previous role of women was to be nurses. I wanted to show how the Navy did not want the WAVES at first, fearing women would get in the way and distract men. Eventually women like my characters were seen as professional, efficient, and competent. I know the picture of Rosie The Riveter is still popular today. I have had people today think it sexist that women were not allowed in combat during World War II. But we must remember the times. I think the WAVES were actually progressive. We have to be careful not to judge the past by the standards of today. The WAVES were brave and forward thinking women. I think they paved the way for women in the military today.”

The plot has readers spell bound as they find out about the brutality of the Nazis, the threat of German spies and saboteurs, as well as the anti-submarine efforts including radar, weapons, and tactics. Lt. Dan Avery uses his skills to fight German U-boats, after being assigned to an escort carrier during the peak of the Battle of the Atlantic.

To make the mystery applicable to Northeast America Sundin stated, “I did take some liberties. In Europe German spies did land by U-boats and there were home grown ones as well. They went after the Resistance to try to quell them. For example, they took over much of the Dutch resistance. I used creativity in taking what the Germans did in Europe to America.”

The theme of the story is how the main characters, Tess and Dan, grow in their jobs, as individuals, and in their relationship. They are opposites in that Tess is playful, cheerful, and sociable while Dan is serious, an introvert, and someone who builds walls.

With the backdrop of World War II Sundin weaves together a fascinating story with fascinating characters. Part historical, part mystery, with a tinge of romance the finale of this three book series is a home run. 51eIVS9TYwL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_

Book Review A Bridge Across The Ocean

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.

A Bridge Across The Ocean by Susan Meissner spans the lives of three women, one in modern day and the other two during the 1940s. She intertwines their lives with the help of a ship, some ghosts, and historical facts surrounding the Nazi regime. The gripping story of a young German ballerina and the daughter of a French resistance fighter are heart wrenching.

Meissner explained the symbolism of the title, “All of the characters are taking a journey. They are brave as they enter this unknown world, where they cannot see the other side. As I said in the book, ‘Life will send up across a bridge we did not want to cross, but when we finally open our eyes, on the other side, we see that there had been nothing to fear after all,’ and we must move forward. Both characters saw torture, misery, and felt helpless. They knew they needed to climb out of the abyss. They did so with courage and patience. I hope people see this as a story of goodness, justice, love, and loyalty.”

Beyond the human characters is a ship, the Queen Mary, which takes on human qualities, seemingly with a life of its own. The mystery begins aboard the RMS Queen Mary as it transported at the end of the war thousands of World War II brides who married American servicemen. Aboard is a former ballerina who married a Nazi Gestapo Agent, Annaliese Lange, and Simone Deveraux, the daughter of a French Resistance spy. One is trying to escape her past, while the other is trying to start a new life in a new land. But, when the voyage ends in New York, only one of them disembarks. Readers will frantically want to find out what happened to Annaleise, did she jump or was she pushed?

The other main character, Brette Caslake, is someone who senses and communicates with drifters, or as people commonly refer to them, ghosts. On a visit to the Queen Mary a spirit asks her to investigate Annaliese’s supposed suicide. Brette decides to solve this seventy-year-old mystery of the war bride.

The author plays off the theories that this ship is haunted and a gathering place for those who have not “crossed over,” with the Queen Mary spirit watching over all of them. The ghostly part is not all encompassing to the plot. Anyone who enjoys the paranormal genre will like this book, but for those people who want to concentrate on the historical scenes, there is plenty to go around. In fact, the account of both women in the midst of World War II is the highlight of this novel. Annaliese's and Simone’s stories are engaging and heartbreaking.

Meissner noted, “As I was taking a tour of the ship, I learned how she brought over all these war brides after the war in 1946. Then I found out about how she was haunted. I made the leap that there is the ability for the soul to hang around after death, so I treated it as a literary character. In the acknowledgements I wrote, ‘I am grateful to G-d, who has assured me beyond all doubt that this life on earth is not all there is.’ If you believe there is life after death than it can be possible there are ghosts. I pondered that belief. I thought if ghosts are real than there must be more to the physical world and in that world there is more than we can actually see.”

This being a character driven story, readers learn how Simone watched her father and brother executed by the Nazis, had a Gestapo agent rape her, and hid from them with the help of the French resistance. While in hiding she met her future husband, an American pilot injured when his plane was shot down. As she helped him to recover, they taught each other English through the Bible, fell in love, and married at the end of the war.

The other war bride, Annaliese, meets her future husband during her performance of “Swan Lake.” He is abusive, controlling, and threatening. A powerful quote hammers the point home, “It only mattered to him that she feared and respected him…” Knowing she must escape the relationship it became an obsession with her to find a way to freedom. Taking her dead friend’s identity she boards the ship as a war bride, hoping to become anonymous in America.

All three women take a journey to discover whom they are and what they must do to survive. Through the mystery and the dangers encountered they realize that sometimes there is no control over events and circumstances. The famous saying “you can’t pick your family, only your friends” comes to mind. The book quote is a version of this, “That’s the beauty and burden of having a child. You don’t pick and choose the one you think you want, you are handed the one G-d gives you.”

The plot and the characters are very intriguing. The spirit of the Queen Mary is intertwined within the historical lives of Simone, Annaliese, and Brette. Readers will not want to put this engaging book down. 51h4EL5z8dL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_

Book Review I See You

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.

I See You by Clare Mackintosh is a riveting psychological thriller. She is two for two in writing plot lines that will scare, worry and terrify readers. The novel is a police drama, a mystery, and a suspense story. The author seems to have found her niche, writing stories about ordinary women who are put in jeopardy.

The plot is a warning of sorts from Mackintosh, a former police detective. She shows the dangers and benefits of the technology world. The plot begins with Zoe Walker, an average working mother, seeing an “advert” in the London Gazette. She becomes flustered and worried when it appears there is a picture of herself. Is it a mistake? A coincidence? Or is someone keeping track of her every move? When other women appear it becomes evident to Zoe that something is wrong, as she connects the dots to crimes involving these women.   After calling the police and getting PC Kelly Swift involved the investigation finds women who were sexually abused, violently assaulted, and had material objects stolen. In an innovative scenario Mackintosh shows how technology has taken stalking to a whole new level, where a routine can work against someone.

The author noted, “I started the book with this quote to set the tone, ‘You do the same thing every day. You know exactly where you’re going. You’re not alone.’ We stay in these routines and do not think about it because they are extraordinarily comforting and familiar. For example, when we leave for a job we take the same route and leave at the same time each day. Unfortunately, this means we are less aware of our surroundings. I realized in the cities many people know about others commutes, and how dangerous that could be.”

The wide range of characters is very well developed and contributes to the storyline through different narratives. Detective Kelly Swift steals the show in this book, especially given the tidbits of her life and the detective work done to solve the crime. Having been disgraced for punching a prisoner she was demoted to the British Transport Unit. But after convincing her former superior to be given a second chance she joins the MIT unit. Although she breaks the rules it is obvious that her intentions are in the right place. A powerful quote hammers the point home, “you were doing what you thought was the right thing. It isn’t always the same.”

Mackintosh had no intention of having Swift become the main character, “I certainly had no intention to make her it. But over the course of writing the story she became so vivid and such a strong character. I do think she threatened to overshadow the whole story. In the future I would dearly like to write more stories that put her front and center. There is still so much about her that I want to talk about. I am not done with her yet.”

Using her vast experiences Mackintosh creates a very realistic and chilling story with a growing sense of danger. Readers feel they are part of the case as they work along with Kelly and her police team to find connections to the antagonist. 61CIWaw7SXL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_

Book Q/A Ripper: The Secret Life Of Walter Sickert

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.

Ripper: The Secret Life Of Walter Sickert is a follow up book to the one written by Patricia Cornwell in 2002. Whether people agree with the premise or not it is an interesting read, as a non-fiction book or a crime novel, either way it makes for a good story.

Cornwell attempts to make the case that the Victorian painter Walter Sickert was Jack The Ripper. With photos, personal correspondence, and even his paintings as evidence she plays the role as an investigator of these hideous murders and has Sickert as the person of interest.

Below is a Q/A with the author:

Elise Cooper: Even though this is a non-fiction book you wrote it as a novel?


Patricia Cornwell: I try to be a storyteller in everything I write. Because I started out as a journalist I feel that a part of me is still a journalist. It never leaves you. Whether fiction or real-life cases I try to present the facts.

EC: Your first book caused some controversy so why write a second book?


PC: This is the book I should have written the first time. I looked at the case from the lenses of modern criminal investigations, using the science as best I could to give us a guide. I think there is some good empirical evidence and primary sources such as original letters, documents, and the original police reports.

EC: How would you describe Sickert?


PC: A sexual violent psychopath, and a narcissist. He never felt empathy or guilt. Mostly what he felt was rage and jealousy. There is no evidence he ever loved someone. He was very calculating and compulsive.

EC: How did you become fascinated with this case?


PC:   I happened to be in London in the spring of 2001, and somebody said, ‘While you're here, would you like to take a tour of Scotland Yard?’ One of their senior investigators, who knew a lot about the Ripper crimes, started telling me about the case. I now think that this is the most compelling unsolved murder mystery. Because of its legend I do not think it can ever be solved. No one will ever be satisfied with any resolution. The mystery has become bigger than the crime.

EC: What do you want to debunk about the Ripper theories?


PC: I think those who believe it was part of a royal conspiracy came from a bunch of formulations spun by the killer himself, Sickert. I also think it is nonsense that the traditional Ripper theories had him only killing those five people. I believe he killed many more victims, and continued to kill after 1888.

EC: What about those who say the Ripper had to be a doctor?


PC: His killings were not professional. He mutilated his victims so there was no need for surgical skills. He did have some anatomy training in art school. He had a scientific mind and followed the latest technology advances. He was a very smart and cunning person. He was careful and did not leave behind biological evidence. Maybe it was not accidental that he had himself cremated.

EC: On page three there is a photo where he looks like the gangster John Dillinger. Was that his fantasy?


PC: He was a master of disguises. I wonder if that is how he did his dry runs and was able to stalk his victims. Remember he did not die until 1942 and Alfred Hitchcock made the first Ripper movie in 1927 called The Lodger. I think the photo was an example of him imitating what people thought of the Ripper. This was his form of mocking the public.

EC: You point out Sickert was an enigma regarding the aristocracy. Please explain.


PC: He wanted to thumb up his nose to them; yet, he wanted to hob knob also. He had disdain for upper class people, but appeared to collect celebrities. He wanted to be a part of them. There is this hypocrisy where he despised them, but could not get enough of them. He wanted the acclaim that the painter James McNeil Whistler had. Sickert was treated as nothing more than Whistler’s personal assistant.

EC: How compelling were Sickert’s paintings as evidence?


PC: I think they were teases in his paintings. He projected his violent fantasies into his artwork. This painter never painted anything he had not seen. This man was a very smart. One painting is very reminiscent of the Mary Kelly crime scene, the body on a bed with a figure bludgeoning her to death. In another drawing there were a tremendous amount of stab marks with a pencil on a woman’s chest.

EC: What about his personal correspondence?


PC: If you compare two Ripper letters with three Sickert letters there is a stunning comparison. They come from the same paper mark that consisted of only twenty-four sheets and had the same watermark and dimensions.

EC: How certain are you that Sickert is Jack The Ripper?


PC: I am 95% certain. I am 100% certain he was involved in the case. The 5% doubt is for other considerations. The big questions that remain: what did his wife Ellen know and what did Whistler know? I do think they both feared him.

EC: What do you want readers to get out of the book?


PC: My goal is to make it easy for readers to be entertained and to be able to follow the story as they learn something. I hope they have an open mind as they look at this case.

THANK YOU! 51uZXX+EeJL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_

Book Review Stolen

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.

51D072hu4zL._SX330_BO1,204,203,200_Stolen by Carey Baldwin is a riveting thriller. It intertwines issues involving family and mental illness within relationships, a murder, and a kidnapping. What makes this psychological story even more compelling is the mind games the characters play with each other.

Baldwin appears to be influenced by her fascination with the old time movie Gaslight starring Charles Boyer and Ingrid Bergman. “In this movie that I just love, Ingrid Bergman is a psychologically vulnerable women who’s been through a tremendous trauma, witnessing the murder of her aunt. Charles Boyer is her villainous husband who tries to make her question her own sanity. This is a classic and speaks of mind games where over time she grows to believe what is told to her even though it contradicts what she actually saw.”

Right from the very first page readers will be swept up into the plot. Baldwin is one of those authors who has a knack for keeping people guessing as to where the plot is headed by building suspense and intrigue. Because an important Senator’s daughter, Laura Chaucer, has disappeared, Dr. Caitlin Cassidy and FBI profiler Atticus Spenser are called in to investigate. Through it they find that thirteen years ago Laura and her nanny had been kidnapped, with the end result of Laura being rescued and the nanny found dead. Her psychiatrist, Dr. Grady Webber, tries to lead the investigators to think she is unstable, a danger to herself, and capable of murder. What Cassidy and Spenser must sort out, is Laura a killer, or is there a monster lurking who is out to get her and others?

Many of the supporting characters were very interesting and will draw strong emotions from readers. Dr. Webber gives psychiatrists a bad name. Not only did he have a short affair with his resident, Caitlin, but is also a manipulative jerk. Anyone that knows the story of Brian Wilson’s psychiatrist can believe how Webber tries to foster dependence as he plays mind games with his patient. A quote hammers the point home, “Laura Chaucer’s been walking around with a time bomb inside her. And Grady Webber has the nuclear codes.”

Part of the reason the author made Webber so evil was to “throw my pet peeves into Grady’s behavior. I really hate Polypharmacy where drugs are given for all reasons. I put in the book how Laura was prescribed drugs for anxiety and as a sleep aid. With all of these it is a wonder Laura did not sleepwalk through life. Webber gave drugs in lieu of therapy.”

As much as readers will hate Webber, they will gravitate towards Laura. The center point of current and past investigations, she felt people were constantly pointing fingers at her. Growing up under those circumstances of having a stigma hanging over her she became addicted to therapy and the drugs handed to her by Webber. Eventually, she begins to wonder if her manipulators world view is correct, or are there other answers, realizing just because people say things does not necessarily make it true.

Baldwin noted, “I enjoyed writing Laura’s character. She is someone extremely damaged, but has survived. She has an inner strength. A lot of people would have crumpled with the pressure she was under, but she did not.”

Fans of Caitlin and Spenser will enjoy their working and personal relationship as it develops in this book. They become a more formidable team, battling Caitlin’s past with Webber and the murderer. As the relationship becomes more serious, Baldwin believes “I can have the constant tease, the romantic tension that is so organic. But I do not like playing the game as we saw between the Friend’s characters Ross and Rachel, after awhile it becomes frustrating. In my next book they will have some rest and relaxation in Tahiti. Then all hell breaks loose as they are dragged in by the local authorities after witnessing something.”

Also, sprinkled throughout the book are psychological theories. Baldwin uses her vast experience as a pediatrician and psychologist to inform readers. They learn about compartmentalization, which allows for people to leave deep dark holes in their memories. It is a defense mechanism that shuts out traumatic memories so the person can function in life. They will also learn about “magical thinking” and “survivor’s guilt.” Because she does not become overly technical these little tidbits add to the storyline.

This is a fast moving mystery that is gripping. The subplots add to the momentum of the plot and enhance the many twists and turns. Readers will be on the edge of their seats as they are kept guessing as to what will happen next.


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.

Gunmetal Gray by Mark Greaney is an engrossing thriller. After reading this series Greaney will definitely become a favorite where people can’t wait for the next installment. The main character, Courtland Gentry, known as the Gray Man, is a former CIA agent, an assassin turned contractor, who always takes readers on a great ride as he battles the bad guys.

Greaney describes it as “a cat and mouse adventure story as people go after this particular guy. Everyone is after Fan, the Chinese government hacker, because if he defects he becomes like a virus to the Chinese. Because Gentry is a contractor the CIA can use him as a deniable asset, remaining on the periphery. He utilizes the CIA and vice versa for them.”

The action begins on page one and never lets up. The CIA has hired Gentry to find Fan Jiang, a Chinese hacker and an information technology specialist, who is trying to defect to Taiwan after he escapes from the Chinese government. Geo-politics comes into play as both the Russians and Americans race to capture him for his knowledge of the Chinese systems. But also in the mix are Chinese agents who are attempting to assassinate Fan before he divulges any state secrets.

He used the Asia setting to give a shout out to Vietnam veterans. “I wrote Gentry’s father as a Marine Scout sniper who fought combat missions around Da Nang. I wrote Gentry traveling to this area because it is a connection between him and his father. When someone mentions Vietnam you don’t think of a nation, but of a war. I also wanted to show that currently Vietnam is a place where many westerners travel. I wanted to travel to Vietnam, but needed ankle surgery so I could not go. While writing a Clancy novel I did a lot of research on Hong Kong and Beijing. These are all interesting places to me and I knew I wanted them all as a setting for a Gray Man book. The people, buildings, architecture, and crowds would be fun to place in an action-packed novel.”

Against seemingly overwhelming odds Gentry must use his wits and moral code to complete the mission. The characters in this novel are very well developed. The Gray Man is a complex figure that allows readers to root for someone with integrity. He is a good person who must do some bad things to succeed. The female lead is Zoya Zakharova, the beautiful Russian foreign intelligence agent assigned to bring Fan Jiang to Russia. She’s Gentry’s one adversary who is his equal, a female “Gray Man,” a kindred spirit. Readers will hope that she and Gentry are put together in future books because the interaction between them is superb.

The Gray Man is “based on individuals who never stand out. I found out about this term when I did my research. It is someone in the military or intelligence that moves around in a low profile. He physically moves around without drawing a lot of attention to himself. Regarding his personality, his moral compass does not always point North. Not a black hat versus a white hat; there is a lot of gray. Even though he sometimes does bad things he is still seen as a good guy.”

As with all of Gray Man books, the excitement, tension, and action are never ending. There is never a dull moment. 51zqC8IybdL._SX328_BO1,204,203,200_

Book Review Racing The Devil

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.

Racing The Devil by Charles Todd is a vintage novel. This mother/son team returns to the scenario that made them so well read. They have an action packed plot with characters that are intensely well liked or disliked. As in all their books many of the characters bear the internal and external scars of the War. World War I becomes a reality with its impact on the English society at large.

The setting places a prominent role in the book because it adds to the powerful plot. The Todds noted, “We wanted to write a story around this setting. As we came up with a plot it was like solving a puzzle, putting in what fits and taking out what doesn’t.”

The book begins with a group of English officers promising to return after the war to meet in Paris to race their motorcars to Nice. In 1919 that promise becomes a reality until serious mishaps mar the reunion when two vehicles are nearly run off the road. Nothing comes of it until one year later when another mishap with a car kills the rector of a village of Burling Gap in the South Downs. After the local constable asks Scotland Yard for assistance, Inspector Ian Rutledge is sent in to investigate. He uncovers a possible connection between the deaths of the rector and those in the race. He has to put the pieces together to find out who was the intended target, was it mistaken identity or was the rector the intended victim?

The theme explores why a perfectly normal human being will resort to murder. “As we wrote this novel we wondered what has changed them so drastically in their life that they see no other way out but to kill another human being. It goes back to one of the seven deadly sins. It was fun to write how the different interactions and relationships of the characters intertwined depending on their life experiences.”

Each character in the book whether main or a supporting was extremely well developed and played an intricate role in the plot. The antagonist is very evil as he lurks in the shadows. This faceless killer is willing to strike again as he attacks Rutledge to stop him, and kidnaps a child. Rutledge realizes he will need all his skills to stop the murderer before other lives are sacrificed.

The female characters show the reality of how the Great War affected society. Jen, a teenage girl, had to grow up way too fast after having her brothers killed in the war. She lost her childhood as she helped her mother tend to the land of a retired Captain, an aristocratic employer. He broke off his engagement because of war injuries and his former fiancé had no other suitors. Ginger the dog showed how animals can read people and their loyalty is a trait to be admired. A cameo appearance by Melinda Crawford fits perfectly into the plot.

The Todds commented, “England lost an entire generation of men who either died or were severely wounded. Many women ended up as spinsters for the rest of their lives, while others never remarried. If you look at the registries there are entire lines of titles that ceased to exist because there was no one to pass it on to.”

When asked the importance of dogs, the authors said that it was a way “for us to speak with a person in England. Since the culture will not allow you just to go up to someone, we were able to do it if they had a dog. We started a conversation by talking to the dog, telling it how cute it was. The next thing you know they are telling you about their great uncle and how they suffered in World War I.”

Racing The Devil is a gripping novel that readers will not want to put down. The many twists and turns add to the gripping plot. Readers will see the many sides of Rutledge as he helps solve the mystery. This psychological thriller includes murder, fear, and suspicion, all set up by a chance meeting. 51Xy1KxzLaL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_

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

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

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

Within this chaos, life for Ki-Hwa and hundreds of others in the comfort stations is survival of the fittest. Once a farm girl afraid of her own shadow, Ki-Hwa discovers people are callous, sadistic, and deceitful and must find the strength to resist the mighty and unforgiving Empire along with her one true friend. But when an imposter threatens to unravel the group's carefully laid plans she is forced to make an impossible choice between guaranteed security and a shaky promise of freedom. 

32928423Told from various perspectives – Japanese pilots and soldiers, Americans, prisoners of war, sex slaves and others – The Comfort Station, by New York Times best-selling author, Kelly Crigger, is a historical fiction novel written that draws you into a world that few of us even were aware about.

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

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

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

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

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