Book Review Danger Close by Amber Smith

The following review/Q and A 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.

Danger Close by FOX News Consultant Amber Smith takes readers into battle worn Iraq and Afghanistan. People will learn about the world of an Army Kiowa Helicopter pilot who engaged in high intensity warfare. One of only a few women to fly this helicopter her missions were armed reconnaissance, and support for those fighting on the ground.

People might question why she appeared to sidestep addressing military gender politics. But in actuality, through some of her examples, she did bring up the gender issue. What she did not do is hit readers over the head, instead allowing them to form their own opinions and impressions. Her view, there needs to be a mission standard and not a gender standard, comes through loud and clear. Through her own exemplary actions she showed that it should not matter if someone is male or female, showing that her sex did not matter in her performance of the job and contribution to the mission. She noted to blackfive.net, “I chose to never make being a woman as an excuse. I felt I was a good pilot who had the attitude to my male peers, ‘get over yourselves. I am here whether you like it or not.’ I consider being a Kiowa pilot an amazing part of my life including having the brotherhood and sisterhood.”

Interestingly there were three examples that readers can interpret about the possibility of some form of sexism involved. The first was with a peer who actually threatened to hit her. She took it in stride and never backed down. But can this be interpreted that she was actually accepted as an equal since he was not afraid to “hit a woman.”

The other two incidents probably do have sexism play a role. She was grounded and not put on a flight schedule because her superiors did not think she “could handle it,” even though other newbies were flying. She eventually received orders to fly after the Iraqis voted on the referendum, the day Iraqis voted on their Constitution. The other incident involved an accident where her helicopter was hit while on the ground, after landing. Again she was grounded while the male pilot who had committed the accident was already back up and flying. Eventually, she was cleared to go after some senior warrants in her unit had defended her.

She commented, “I should have never been put through it. I did not put this in the book, but one of those who ruled on the accident was the person who later did a check flight with me. He felt guilty and maybe he realized he was wrong about putting me through the mud, something that should never have been done. As I say in the book, ‘The false accusation and witch hunt had changed me. I no longer trusted that my unit leadership would have my back if something bad happened that was out of my control…whether they will become an internal target for doing their job.’”

But more than anything readers will understand the untold story of the Kiowa warrior and the importance to those fighting on the battlefield in Iraq and Afghanistan. This job can be compared to a western. The pilots called themselves the “air cavalry,” where they scouted the enemy, the horses were the helicopters, and the Stetson cowboy hats were their helmets.

Two incidents potently drove the point home of their duties of reconnaissance and protection. Her co-pilot, on a mission, had him questioning whether to take off and fly in support of a ground unit. She considered it “lazy and extremely selfish. It is just not what you do to say ‘someone else should pick it up.’ It is so far out of the norm for the rest of the Kiowa pilots and how we operated.”

The other mission had the command refusing to give clearance even though no friendlies were present. Although low on fuel she and her co-pilot wanted to engage the enemy who was burying a mortar shell for an IED. Because of the command’s indecisiveness they almost crashed with a low fuel count, and the enemy escaped with a weapon that could have cost lives as they were allowed to fight another day. She noted, “The route was IED alley. Bad guys should have been taken out. It was a bad decision, the inaction. Afterward everyone received a re-education.”

Danger Close is a war story that is about a brave pilot who happened to be female. The reader is taken into the cockpit as she explores the vivid and harrowing world of a combat helicopter pilot. 51nXRIa622L._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_


BOOK REVIEW WAY OF THE REAPER

The following review/Q and A 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.

Way Of The Reaper by Nicholas Irving is presented in a similar fashion to the old TV Combat series. Readers can experience the dangers of the mission that snipers must face, seeing the war through a sniper’s scope. They are also being placed in the heart of the battle. The book confirms the US military values of honor, courage, loyalty, and commitment.

Nicholas Irving spent six years in the Army's Special Operations 3rd Ranger Battalion 75th Ranger Regiment, serving from demolitions assaulter to Master Sniper. He was the first African American to serve as a sniper in his battalion. He set a record for enemy kills on a single mission, killing 33 over a four-month period. This book is the sequel to the New York Times bestseller, The Reaper, where he recounts his ten greatest sniper kill missions. Readers will get an insight into the art of being a sniper: the necessity of support from the intelligence reports to his own reconnaissance, and the skills needed of determining trajectory, wind, and distance.

He noted to blackfive.net, “We use the same skills as an athlete, observing closely and making educated guesses. A baseball hitter must guess the pitch location and type. A chess player must be three moves ahead to anticipate their opponent’s moves. We block out the senses and focus like athletes block out the crowd.”

As with American Sniper’s Chris Kyle, Irving makes no apologies for taking the life of someone who is threatening his fellow soldiers, and agrees with Kyle that he sees himself as a guardian angel sent to protect his teammates. He told blackfive.net, “I actually refer to myself as ‘the mother hen.’ I was given the nickname of the Reaper because I batted 1000 in hitting my targets. My peers saw me as ‘the Angel of Death.’ The motto that snipers live by is ‘without warning; without remorse.’ We are hidden and there is no warning when we will fire and I do not feel bad about it. For me, I never worried if the bad guys are wearing a protective vest because of the high caliber rounds. If they have a vest my attitude was, ‘there is no such thing as a bulletproof facemask.’”

He also explains in the book how those fighting are disgusted with political correctness. Speaking about someone in his unit who was wounded, Irving observed “how we treated their wounded (The Taliban) and how they would most likely let us suffer and then die a horribly painful death.” It should make Americans wonder if the rules of engagement are one-sided, putting the enemy ahead of our own military personnel.

This book has interesting and gritty stories about his time as a direct action sniper. Readers get to feel they are part of the battles as if they were Irving’s spotter. 51oxJPFLnQL._SX328_BO1,204,203,200_


BOOK REVIEW SORROW ROAD

The following review/Q and A 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.

Sorrow Road by Julia Keller is an excellent title for this story. Most of the characters have some dysfunctional issue going on in their lives, whether overcoming PTSD, having to handle a parent with Alzheimer’s, or abuse within a family. Keller brilliantly explores these issues within a riveting mystery, tying up loose ends as the story concludes.

This series started when Bell Elkins abandoned her husband and high stress job in Washington DC to become the prosecutor of a made up town in Ackers Gap, Raythune County, West Virginia. In this installment, one of her high school classmates, Darlene, returns to her home town, to ask Bell to look into her father’s suspicious death at an old age home. After a worker at Thornapple Terrace Senior Citizen Home is murdered along with her best friend, Bell suspects another connection. Her investigation unravels a relationship and secrets kept between Darlene’s father and his two childhood friends. Readers will enjoy this story about ‘three boys’ who fought in World War II to the present day where their children are facing parents with Alzheimer’s.

Keller believes “the three boys” are a reflection “of the boys and girls from small towns in our heartland that fought and won America’s wars. They sacrificed the rich part of their lives for our country. The photo I used in the book was from my mother’s husband who fought in World War II. He told the story of how he and his friends were on a battleship in Normandy, but the day after the battle. I found it fascinating they were there, but the day following the big event.”

Having been born and bred in West Virginia, Keller is able to write potent scenes about this state that are intertwined within the plot. West Virginia looms larger than life as the author describes the economic hardships of the residents, the roads, weather, and history, balancing the physical beauty with the many problems.

As with everyday life the characters in this story have their past affecting how they deal with the present. Bell, abused as a child, has these past memories haunting her, sometimes putting her relationship with a younger man into disarray. Carla realizes she can no longer suppress the hideous memories of her good friend being killed as well as her being kidnapped. The retired Sherriff, Nick Fogelsony, is attempting to recover from a gunshot wound and his wife’s emotional handicap. Darlene has become an alcoholic to withdraw from who she has become. Finally, a daughter is trying to come to grips with the ravages of Alzheimer’s that have left her father’s memory clear of the abuses he inflicted on his children.

The Alzheimer’s theme is important to her because “I have been obsessed with memory. Someone once told me this quote, ‘Memories are the bones of thought.’ There are just so many variables about it we do not understand. I am one of those people who believe the past lives within us and we never leave it behind. I wanted to explore what happens when a person has lost their memory; can they be blamed for whatever grievance was inflicted by them? We have older people in the world to teach us patience. Making sure they are cared for takes the spotlight away from us. Anyone with an older parent understands how it is a whole different way of looking at the world. Alzheimer’s is such a national part of our landscape and is a national issue on how we will take care of people inflicted with it.”

There are two powerful quotes that reflect on the parent-child relationship. “Just as she had done when Carla was an infant…She was able to keep her daughter safe, even for just a few hushed hours, deep in a winter’s night.” AND “The guilt that burned and surged and twisted inside you because you so futilely wished you’d done more for your loved one…wished you stopped in more often and paid better attention when you did, wished you hugged him just once more during that last visit, and told him just one more time that you loved him.”

The first quote was based on how “my sister and her daughter react toward one another. The mother never goes out of you. They never lose that feeling of keeping a child safe even when they are grown and out of your control. This is one of my favorite scenes. Beth was holding her daughter Carla and at that moment she is safe in her mom’s arms.” While the second quote came from “my anticipatory guilt of my mom dying. I can’t leave my mom’s visits early because I don’t want to look back and regret something. Although, I do think most people will look back with some kind of regret or guilt.”

Sorrow Road has the themes of good versus evil, revenge verses forgiveness, and love versus murder. In this tale of memory and family the story is relatable and believable, and the West Virginia setting fits perfectly into this mystery. 51FRluuA+HL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_


Book Review When The Musics Over

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

  51jRJoyyUpL._SX334_BO1,204,203,200_When The Music’s Over by Peter Robinson is an intense mystery. It does not sugar coat and will not be construed as politically correct. The story is inspired by newspaper accounts of true-life incidents concerning abuse of women. It resonates today especially for people who can remember Germany when so many women were sexually harassed during the 2016 New Year’s Eve celebration by men of Arab or North African heritage, as well as the abuse of women by celebrity men. Tackling this problem within a gripping plot, Robinson will enlighten readers.  

In the beginning of the novel fans will learn that Banks is now a Detective Superintendent. The reason Banks received a promotion by Robinson, “I did some research and found out if I did not promote him to Superintendent he would have to retire soon. But with the promotion he can work until he is 65. This way I could lengthen his career. I know that the pecking order of police titles can get a bit complicated whether Constable, Sergeant, Inspector, Chief Inspector, Superintendent, and so on.”

Now, a high ranking official, newly promoted Detective Superintendent Alan Banks and his unit are assigned to investigate crimes of older males who target minor females. The perpetrators “groom” these girls by first providing attention and gifts, getting victims emotionally and psychologically under their spell, followed by the violence. Banks and company become a stalwart for justice as they attempt to find those guilty of such vicious acts.

The first crime has respected poet, Linda Palmer, coming forward with an allegation of sexual abuse against a former matinee idol celebrity. This cold case took place fifty years ago when Linda was a starry-eyed teenager, on a vacation with family and friends. The storyline deals with issues of sexual assault, the devastating effects on the victim, the willful ignorance of the high officials, and the difficulties of prosecuting, since such a long period of time has elapsed.

Linda Palmer has similar characteristics to Emily Winslow, who wrote the personal memoir, Jane Doe January, about her being raped. Both did not conform to the stereotypic view of a victim. Banks thinks how Linda is “no damaged witness…Might that make her story seem less credible to a judge or jury. Would people demand more wailing and gnashing of teeth?” But anyone who thinks this attitude can only exist in a novel should compare it to what Winslow noted, “I tried to understand and accept that the jury could only like me if I conformed to some very narrow range of emotion. I could not be angry. When on the stand I would have to show emotions of vulnerability and hurt; yet, hold back on other emotions. I wondered how do you let sadness show but keep anger in, and be vulnerable but keep my dignity.”

Robinson commented to blackfive.net, “I did not want Linda to be a typical victim whose life was ruined. She is not just a survivor, but also someone who achieved something despite what she went through. Although a fighter she is hermit-like, living alone in an isolated area.”

The second plot has Detective Inspector Annie Banks and Detective Constable Geraldine Masterson investigating the murder of a teenage girl found naked on a roadside. She was drugged, appeared thrown out of a van, and beaten to death. Robinson artfully writes about the attitude by some sections of society who believe that women are available to be used and abused, debased, traded and treated like commodities, many from the Pakistani culture.

He doesn’t shy away from provocative statements, showing how some are accused of racism if they point out that some Muslims do not have an “enlightened attitude towards women…they weren’t caught before because everyone - including us (the police) – turned a blind eye because we were scared of upsetting the Muslim community.”

These gripping stories show how young girls are neglected by society. Both crimes reflect current issues showing how some feel they can do anything and get away with it because of they see themselves in a position of power.

Robinson said, “I put these two stories together because they have the same theme. It is abuse of young women by men who are aided in different ways by other men. Officials do nothing because they are either in power and choose to look the other way or are afraid of being called a racist. It seems the immigration community is never investigated, nor are celebrities who get away with it if they have friends in high places. I hope readers are put in a quandary and think a bit: if someone commits a crime it should not matter their origin, power, or status. But unfortunately it does.”

As with all his books he has some scenes with music. Robinson wants people to understand, “I enjoy writing them into the plot, and I will not stop putting in the music scenes. Banks has been a music fan from the start. I will mix up the genres and have given him a broad taste. Basically what he listens to is music I am enjoying at the time I am writing a particular book, a bit of rock and roll, jazz, and classical.”

Readers will be wrapped up in this novel. Besides being a riveting mystery it deals with explosive issues. It is a well-written police procedural that will engage the reader.


Book Review The Shattered Tree

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

The Shattered Tree by Charles Todd reunites nurse Bess Crawford with Captain Barkley, an old acquaintance from a previous book. As with all their books the riveting mystery is combined with facts surrounding World War I. It is almost as if the Great War has become a secondary character within the plots. Readers will enjoy learning and comparing what happened during the World War to the modern warfare of today.

In this story Bess does not have the support groups of the past: Her parents, her landlady, and for the most part Simon only make a cameo appearance. Not only must she work with different characters but she is also placed in a different environment, Paris France. Having to find a new support group she befriends a Nun, a fellow nurse in Rouen France, a Major recuperating in the same hospital, and the Captain, an American fighting with the Canadians who is in France searching for deserters. What makes their interaction enjoyable is that she uses these people for support while questioning their trustworthiness and motives.

The plot begins with Bess treating a wounded officer. He is not British, but is considered French until in a moment of anger shouts at her in German. Her superior, Matron, suggests that the soldier must be from Alsace-Lorraine, a province in the west where the tenuous border between France and Germany has continually shifted through history, and now is in German hands. Bess is unsure of his loyalties and wonders if he could be a spy. Unable to do anything because he has been sent back to Paris she leaves her suspicions simmer. That is until she is wounded by a sniper and finds herself recuperating in Paris. It is here she decides to investigate and uncover the truth about his loyalties.

The Todds commented to blackfive.net, “Nurses at the front were in danger because snipers see a target and just shoot. For years after World War I it was bad luck to light three cigarettes off the same match. If someone was in the trenches, the Germans would watch the first one flare, the second one flare, and then would be ready to shoot when the third one flared.”

Always interesting is how the authors incorporate the time period into their story. People today forget how the civilian populations during World War I became a part of the war effort including having to make sacrifices. They had to deal with shortages of eggs, flour, butter, and gas. These rations also affected the way coffee was made, so many chose wine instead. A quote from the book hammers the point home, “Instead of a clear-cut victory, I thought we were all going to be starved into submission.”

What is always captivating is for readers to compare and contrast the war attitudes then and today. Although it’s the 100th anniversary of World War I the outlook of those fighting have not changed, finding camaraderie with their fellow soldiers. A powerful quote, “They had struggled to rescue the wounded who had fallen out of reach in No Man’s Land…And still they wanted to go back. They could not betray the men who were still out there, dying in their place. It wasn’t courage or heroism, it was a strong sense of duty to men they were closer to than brothers or parents or wives. A comradeship of shared fear and blood and determination.” The Todds wrote this quote to explain, “We wanted to point out what they were going through. They could understand each other because of the common ground.”

511eFvXfDZL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_The Shattered Tree is a very plot driven story. The characters enhanced the story but were more like tools for getting across the horrific nature of war. Through the gripping mystery readers will understand how loyalties were questioned, and the hardships faced by those having to endure World War I.


Review Crowned and Dangerous

The following review/Q and A 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.

Crowned and Dangerous by Rhys Bowen opens with Lady Georgiana Rannoch and the Honorable Darcy O’ Mara trying to elope in Scotland even though she is thirty-fifth in line for the British crown and he is Catholic. En route he learns that his father is accused of killing a wealthy American who bought the O’Mara estate. To save Georgie from scandal, Darcy ends his engagement to her and returns home to County Kildare, Ireland. Because Georgie and Darcy do have access to the crime scene readers are able to take a believable journey with them as they try to figure out “who done it.”

Bowen noted to blackfive.net, “I thought of writing a series with the most unlikely heroine, a royal who was penniless. I wanted the recurring theme to be how would she support herself and survive? Remember, servants had done everything for them. Since only the sons, mostly the first-born, received the inheritance what happened to girls like my main character Georgie. She was expected to marry someone of the same class so marriage became a business transaction. They all are trying to live the life they knew, but it is getting more difficult. Everything fell apart after World War II because no one could afford the up keep and the taxes.”

Intertwined within the mystery are fascinating historical facts about the era. Bowen wanted to show readers how, “In England if you want to marry you have to wait three weeks and must announce it in the Church. Since Greta Green in Scotland is on the border many couples went there to marry. There was also the problem of Georgie being in line for the British Crown and Darcy is Catholic. Since the 1700s if someone was in the line of succession they cannot marry a Catholic. This law existed until it was repealed last year.”

She also tried to show how, “People were more proper back then and did not cuss like today. Using the word ‘Golly’ was a very normal girlish way of expression, much like the ‘valley girl’ vocabulary of today. Back then women could not swear. ‘Golly’ was a way to get around saying the word G-d. It was an expression used instead of ‘Oh My G-d.’”

Anyone wanting a fun story with well-developed characters should read this novel. Geogrie is a delightful character who is intelligent, determined, and admirable although a bit clumsy. With this series no one has to read the previous books to understand what went on within the story. 51BaG1poJLL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_


Clinton Cash Now in A Graphic Novel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Book Review-INSIDIOUS BY Catherine Coulter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Book Review-Midnight In Berlin by James MacManus

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

Midnight In Berlin by James MacManus is a fictional story that takes readers through the harrowing months that ultimately led up to WWII. It is a historical novel with emphasis on the history. With a degree in American history it is evident that the author used his knowledge and research to make a captivating plot.

MacManus noted to blackfive.net, “I did not set out to write a book that would educate or teach moral lessons. Yet, there are lessons to be drawn from what happened in the 1930s, with this period of appeasement fascinating. It is relevant today because it shows how the establishment wanted to remain in power by pushing their misguided agenda while attempting to silence those who disagreed. There was also the West turning a blind eye to the Germans brutalizing the Jews. I hope I got this point across with a quote from the book, ‘For a Jew in Germany there was no future worth waiting for. The future has been cancelled.’ And today in Europe there is renewed Anti-Semitism.”

While the plot does have elements of romance it concentrates on 1939 Berlin and what was going on behind the scenes with regard to diplomacy. This book shows within an intense story how the appeasers caved in to the Nazis. They were weak and naive, choosing to put their blinders on and to get in bed with Hitler and his goons. Real life characters, notably British Prime Minister Sir Neville Chamberlain and the British ambassador to Berlin, Sir Nevile Henderson, never had the courage and boldness later exhibited by Chamberlain’s successor Winston Churchill to stop Hitler’s war machine. The one who recognized the realistic situation was the novel’s main character, Colonel Noel Macrae, based on real life Colonel Mason-Macfarlane who was the British military attaché in Berlin during the critical years 1938 and 1939. Several other historical figures from this period in time are in the novel: Kitty Schmidt owner of the Nazi bordello Kitty, Gestapo Reinhard Heydrich, and journalist William Shirer.

The story appears to be built around the ultimate decision of Macrae, to assassinate Hitler. MacManus commented, “As with the real-life Colonel, Macrae saw what was happening, that appeasement was not working which would make war inevitable. I hope I portrayed him as a tortured man. He tried to convince his own government that Hitler wanted to expand throughout Europe. He chose to stand up and do something to save humanity.”

These figures blend well with the fictional characters. The story showed the sacrifices of those who hoped to stop the war, by sounding the alarm of an approaching conflict. Macrae finds himself trapped between the blind policies of his government and the dark world of betrayal and deception in Berlin both professionally and personally. With his own marriage to Primrose imploding, it becomes apparent their relationship has chilled to the point both look for love elsewhere. The Gestapo, aware of Macrae’s hostility, seeks to compromise him in their infamous brothel. There, Macrae meets and falls in love with Sara, a Jewish woman blackmailed into becoming a Nazi courtesan. She has prostituted herself to keep her jailed twin brother from execution. Through the storyline of Macrae trying to rescue Sara readers will understand the plight of German Jews and the different ways they tried to escape before Hitler closed the border.

Sara was based on a friend of MacManus. “I gave Sara the same last name of my friend. She had told me of her family’s experience in Nazi Germany and how they escaped. The Nazis had the common practice of taking a family member, putting them in a camp, and then using that as blackmail to make the other family members behave. I hope readers realize the moral dilemma: do they save themselves at the expense of their family or sacrifice themselves for their family. Sara was trapped, caged, and desperate.”

MacManus blends politics, murder, corruption, courage, and sacrifice into this storyline. Readers become flies on the wall, spectators to the events leading the world to the brink of war. 513+luxLTjL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_


Book Review-Secrets Of Nanreath Hall

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

Secrets Of Nanreath is the debut historical novel by Alix Rickloff. This intriguing mystery involves family secrets revolving around the triumphant and tragic lives of a mother and daughter as they search for their identities. Within the backdrop of both World Wars readers will understand the time period and how the wars affected the British population and the class system.

This mother/daughter story is told in alternating chapters. Rickloff shows how one generation’s actions and decisions will affect the other. The mother Katherine, who lives during World War I, leaves her family behind while her daughter Anna, during the Second World War, attempts to return to the family. Lady Katherine Trenowyth grows up with all of the privileges of being the daughter of an Earl. She meets an artist’s assistant, Simon Halliday, who encourages her to follow her dreams of becoming an artist and living with him, the man she loves. With his support she runs away from all she knows. But everything begins to fall apart, and Katherine finds herself destitute and alone. Her daughter Anna, only six, when Katherine dies, is assigned to the military hospital that has set up camp inside her biological mother’s childhood home, Nanreath Hall. As Anna is drawn into her newfound family’s lives and their tangled loyalties, she must decide if the secrets of the past are too dangerous to unearth, and if the family she’s discovered is one she can be a part of.

Rickloff was inspired to write this story by watching the Downtown Abby TV series. “I was looking at the three children that included the fatherless heir who had an over protective mother and the daughter of a scandalous elopement. They intrigued me, especially since they would come of age during the World War. As I started to do the research it became apparent those in Britain would do whatever they could to help the war effort. There was no disconnect between the military and the civilian population.”

Readers will be reminded of the horrors of each World War. Two quotes hammer the point home. Simon on leave from fighting in WWI was described, “I felt his tremors quick and sharp, his breathing labored and rasping hot against my shoulder. Panicked like a wild thing caught and frozen by the hunter’s lamp.” Or Anna’s description of those who fought in WWII, “The men come in caked head to foot in filth. Some are terrified or weeping for their mothers. Others are deathly quiet.” The author reflects not only about the battle worn soldier, but the English civilian population who had to endure as part of their daily routine the German blitz of bombs.

Rickloff noted to blackfive.net, “The everyday German bombings became a normal fragment of life. The population just adjusted. In my research I saw pictures of stores half blown up and said ‘still open.’ I find this fascinating.”

Through Katherine’s bucking of societal norms readers get a glimpse of the difference between the classes. This pampered Earl’s daughter wants to follow her own choices, choosing a daring and uncertain future of becoming an artist, and to marry someone of her choice.

The symbolism of the dual portraits of her shows both of her sides. In the one commissioned by her family she is Lady Katherine, appearing to have turned away from the confining expectations, while the one painted by her lover Simon, shows her wild and independent side.

Katherine’s feelings are expressed in this quote, “I didn’t want to be Lady Katherine, whose fear held her captive. I wanted to be plain Kitty Trenowyth with the courage to fly.” When asked, Rickloff commented, “I do not think of her as rebellious. She did not start out thinking, ‘I am going to turn my life inside out.’ Yet, she wanted to be her own person, not stuffed into a box by circumstance or birth. She wanted to find her own path and did not want to be confined to what everyone expected of her.”

Rickloff gave readers a heads up about her next book, “In essence, it’s sort of a buddy road-trip book set against the backdrop of the WWII British home front. I had a blast writing both Lucy, a socialite, and her twelve year old delinquent sidekick in crime, Bill.”

Turning to writing historical novels, Rickloff allows her characters to face events in the shadow of the World Wars. Secrets Of Nanreath is an enthralling mystery involving family, lies, forgiveness, and loyalty. There is also the added bonus of learning a little about the time periods where readers are able to compare and contrast the events surrounding each World War.