Book Review: Blame

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.

Blame by Jeff Abbott is a psychological thriller. The good news for fans is that he writes the plot with the same intensity as the Sam Capra novels. This stand-alone explores in a gripping fashion the “what if mystery” that happens after a car crash.

Abbott noted Sam Capra is on a sabbatical and “is taking a well deserved time off. Before writing the Sam series I wrote stand-alones. In Blame I rewrote scenes because the body count was rising like in a Sam novel. I decided to make this story’s suspense driven by emotion rather than solely action. Wanting to write a book set in a similar place to where I live, I spoke with a personal injury lawyer I know. I then got the idea to write about someone that crashes, but never knew what happened. I wanted to explore the emotional and physical side of memory loss. What happens when someone has to rely on getting the facts about their life from others who could also edit what was told? In this story the unreliable narrators were all the people around the amnesia victim.”

Two years ago Jane Norton and her lifelong friend and next-door neighbor David Hall were in a car crash. Plunging off a cliff Jane was blamed by those in the Austin, Texas suburb of Lakehaven for his death. Due to the crash, she cannot remember anything since her father’s death three years ago, having been in a coma and now with complete amnesia. Besides having to cope with David’s grief-stricken mother, Perri, Jane must now find out who is Liv Danger and why are they threatening her on the Internet. She does not know whom to trust since everyone seems to have their own motivations including her therapist, friends, even her mother. With her memory coming back in bits and pieces she becomes convinced the car crash was not an accident, that she didn’t intend to kill David, and that everyone around her has been keeping something from her.

Abbott related to the characters Jane and Perri, considering them “one of my favorites. Jane starts off beaten down but makes a decision to find out the truth. Perri begins with anger, resentment, and feels powerless. There is nothing more awful than losing a child. Jane and Perri deal with a lot of adversity, but end up finding a way to move forward. I think throughout the book both had a personality reconstruction where they had to make new choices as they sought closure and some state of happiness.”

The story is filled with action and surprises that people will not see coming. Readers will not want to put this novel down, until they have the answers to the mystery of what happened that night. 51QbbGyE55L._SX329_BO1 204 203 200_


Book Review: Down A Dark Road

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.

Down A Dark Road by Linda Castillo is an electrifying thriller. It seems with each book, this being the ninth, she gets better and better. Within a riveting mystery she is able to seamlessly blend the Amish culture, giving glimpses and insights to their way of life.

The tidbits about the Amish help make the plot realistic. Family trumps all considering they are a strong and tightknit community. When something bad happens they circle the wagons and step in to help. Although Kate left the Amish she still misses this. They try to maintain their culture by keeping their children under their thumbs, which is something Kate did not conform with. A scene in this book shows Kate’s independent side as she played ice hockey after being encouraged by Joseph; yet, her parents tried to steer her away. Probably because they are a male dominated patriarchal society where the husband has the final say. The scenes show this when Amish women interviewed by Kate are told by their husbands to get inside the house. Also, the phrases from their language, Pennsylvania Dutch add to the authenticity.

Once again small town Painters Mill police chief Kate Burkholder is forced to re-visit her childhood past. She is notified about the escape of Joseph King, convicted of killing his wife while his children slept in the same house. This is personal for her since he was her childhood friend and hero who she looked up to. Knowing that Joseph had always denied killing his wife Naomi, Kate begins to wonder if he is guilty or was he railroaded. Although never leaving the Amish community he has become a dark figure after losing his father in an accident.

Castillo comments about Kate, “She can be stubborn at times and never gives up. I also think she can be imperfect and impulsive. People should be aware that in the first book, Sworn To Silence, her backstory was introduced. At that time she was a little rough around the edges and a damaged soul that drank way too much. In later books I speak about her relationship with her siblings who have remained Amish. I hope to present in future books more of her imperfect childhood. Although she had a big heart Kate did lash out. At some point I will examine her relationship with her mother and father who knew she was a rebel of sorts.”

Regarding Joseph the author notes, “An imperfect and flawed man who went down a dark road. He lost control of his life. He was not a black and white person, but had a lot of gray. I am hoping that over the course of the book readers begin to care for and sympathize with him. I put in the scene where he defends his horse after someone threw an egg at the animal when he was only thirteen, and another time he comes to Kate and her sister’s defense. These scenes show how the English have participated in crimes against the Amish that also include throwing live firecrackers, bottles, and rocks into their buggies.”

In this book characters that come to life have readers caring what happens to them. As the mystery unfolds it becomes obvious this is not a cut and dry story that weaves suspense, humor, and a gripping tension. 51BhDivYTQL._SX328_BO1 204 203 200_


Book Review: Two Nights

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.

Two Nights has writer Kathy Reichs venturing into new territory. This novel’s  51sRfHuCGcL._SX326_BO1 204 203 200_plot line and characters do not delve into forensic anthropology as with the Temperance Brennan series, the basis for the hit TV show Bones. What both have in common are main characters that bring justice to the families and the victims, whether dead or alive.

Reichs noted the main character Sunnie Night “grew out of a story from an earlier book, Death du Jour. It is based on a true cult where seventy-five people were killed. Three of the victims were in Quebec, parents and a baby, who were assassinated. This actually happened and I was present when they came to our lab for autopsy. After thinking about the mentality of cults and why they kill themselves and others I did a lot of research on the psychology. This gave me rise to think, ‘what if someone grew up in the context of a cult where everyone they knew was either killed or killed themselves?’”

She decided to write a non-Temperance book after “my publisher suggested it. At first I was not overly enthusiastic, but the more I thought about it the more I realized it could be quite fun. After nineteen Temperance Brennan books I am locked in with the facts, and I have to remember to keep everything straight. With a new character like Sunday I was able to once again make things up, starting from nothing. I found the process stimulating and fascinating. BTW: I like Tempe and am not done with her yet, but I was energized in writing this new character.”

The featured character, Sunday Night, is the direct opposite of Temperance Brennan in many ways. She is not a scientist, but ex-military and an ex-cop who never wants to follow the rules. Physically and emotionally scarred from her troubled childhood she has developed a toughness and stubbornness, while withdrawing from the world, now living on Goat Island, off the South Carolina coast. What she has in common with Temperance is a dry sarcastic wit, resourcefulness, diligence, a never-ending persistence, and intelligence, although hers is more a street smarts.

The book begins with Sunday (Sunnie) as a reclusive hermit being asked to investigate a missing girls’ case by her foster father, retired detective Beau Beaumonde. He feels that if she handles the investigation of a teenage girl possibly kidnapped by a cult he can draw her out of seclusion and have her face her own demons.

Stella Bright vanished a year after a bombing at a Jewish day school where her mother and brother were killed. Her grandmother hires Sunnie to find out if Stella is alive or dead. Needing assistance she enlists the help of her twin brother August (Gus) Night. The backstory of these twins influences the plot in a riveting way. Both are impulsive, have a temper, with an attitude to shoot first and ask questions later in their attempts to find out the truth behind Stella’s disappearance.

Although billed as a stand-alone it has all the features to be a series with intriguing characters and an action filled plot. The twists and turns keep the readers guessing as to what will happen next.


Book Review: Unsub

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.

Unsub by Meg Gardiner is the first in a series, introducing San Francisco detective Caitlin Hendrix. This clever plot will remind reminders of the 1990s serial executioner the Zodiac Killer. As with the real killer the murderer in this series, the Prophet, has readers looking over their shoulder, becoming more aware of their surroundings.

As a young child the author remembers, “hearing about the Zodiac Killer who wreaked terror on the Bay area. The Zodiac sent dozens of messages to the police and media, including cryptograms that have never been broken. The terror wrought by the killings still lingers today. I grew up in California, spooked by the knowledge that the Zodiac could strike at any time. Today, I’m spooked by the thought that the killer hasn’t been caught. The Zodiac could still be out there. And, being a thriller writer, spooky thoughts lead me to spooky ideas. What if a terrifying cold case turned hot again? What if a killer who’d disappeared resumed killing decades later? And what was his motivation: killing for thrills, lusting for the publicity, and/or trying to gain power over people by fear.”

It begins with narcotics detective Caitlin Hendrix asked to join the homicide unit because of who she knows. Twenty years ago the Prophet terrorized the city and haunted the detective trying to capture him who also happens to be Caitlin’s father. Wanting to pick Mack Hendrix’s brain those working the case feel his daughter would be the best person for the job. Unfortunately, this “unsub” has returned with a vengeance. As with her father, he is playing with Caitlin’s mind, teasing and taunting her. Mack still has regrets about the one who got away and she is motivated to find the Prophet and bring him to justice, righting a wrong done to her dad.

Gardiner does a wonderful job exploring the father/daughter relationship. Although strained it is obvious that they love and respect one another. He was her role model and inspiration for becoming a detective. The book quote speaks to the Prophet’s effect on her family’s life, “The poison that had cored a hole in her life, marked her as an outsider as a kid, and driven her to become a police officer.” Emphasizing that she was not going to destroy her life as it had her dad’s.

Describing the father/daughter relationship as strained, Gardiner wants to convey that Mack “was her hero growing up yet she found it very painful to watch him unable to come to grips with not solving this crime. Because she loved him she wants to right the things he could not. The Prophet forces them to reconnect and face their own demons. I put in the book this quote, ‘Job stays at the station,’ because she saw how this case broke her dad emotionally, consuming his life.”

Bringing in astronomy, religion, and book literature made the story even more potent. It was very interesting how the author showed Mercury as an element, astrological sign, and a planet. Caitlin explains, “It depends on what mercury means to him. Mercury the planet closest to the sun? Or Mercury the winged messenger-Roman god, guide of souls to the underworld. Or maybe mercury the chemical element...The only metal that’s liquid at room temperature.”

Readers will feel their heart beating as they follow the Prophet’s sadistic nature. Just when they think they have everything figured out Gardiner will throw in some twists that turn everything upside down. This plot will get into people’s head and under their skin so beware to read it during the daytime. 51iVGDxOxML._SX329_BO1 204 203 200_


Book Review: Wired

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.

Wired by Julie Garwood has the relationship dominant to the story. This novel has much more romance than suspense along with humorous scenes, a welcome relief from the tension of thrillers.

The book features a computer nerd, Allison Trent who gives geeks a good name. She is beautiful, painfully shy, models on the side, and is not a phony; yet, relaxes by writing computer codes and working out puzzles. Determined to make a name for herself in a male dominated field she uses her intellectual ability to see patterns that no one else can decipher. Her dream is to create a program that could revolutionize the tech industry.

Garwood’s writing process begins with “the visualization of a scene and then I am able to write the rest of the story. In Wired I had a vision of this young girl watching TV and saw that hackers had stolen the money of nursing home patients. Allison can relate because she grew up totally powerless and now wants to become their champion. I want her to be in more books since I like how her mind works. What I enjoy doing is bringing back my characters in future books in a reunion of sort.”

While contemplating her options after she graduates college Allison is offered a position in the FBI to track down a leaker, a traitor. Able to focus and believing in her own capability she accepts the job on one condition, receiving immunity. Never keeping a penny for herself Allison has hacked into accounts of bad guys who steal money and she returns it to the victims anonymously. In a sense she has become a modern day Robin Hood.

Having been a history major the author sees similarities between that and computer coding. “I loved the medieval period because it was so disciplined just like computers where progression is important. I came to this technology late because I was not computer savvy. In fact, I still use a typewriter for my books, but now use a computer for everything else. I think all young girls should be exposed to computer codes and I find it fascinating myself.”

A sub-plot will remind readers of the Cinderella story. Allison seems unable to stand up to her Aunt Jane and Uncle Russell. If she did not follow their demands they would go into an angry rage. To avoid confrontation she would agree to do what was asked of her. A quote from the book hammers this point home, “It was so much easier to get along and do what was demanded than to argue.”

The male lead is FBI Agent Liam Scott, first introduced in Fast Track. Working closely with Allison he becomes attracted to her, but understands he has the power to crush her. Liam is sophisticated and worldly, the ultimate alpha-male, while she is inexperienced and naive.

Wired is an excellent escape novel. This story blends humor, romance, and likeable characters that are wired in their passions, interests, and fondness for each other. 51BwoeiKtvL._SX329_BO1 204 203 200_

 


June 23 in U.S. military history

[Originally published at OpsLens.com]

1812: Immediately after war is declared, a squadron of American ships led by Commodore John Rodgers sails to intercept a British convoy sailing from Jamaica. When the frigate HMS Belvidera is spotted, Rodgers personally aims and fires the first shot of the War of 1812 - the cannonball striking the British ship's rudder and penetrating the gun room.

1865: Confederate Brig. Gen. - and Cherokee chief - Stand Watie surrenders his First Indian Brigade of the Army of the Trans-Mississippi to Union forces in Oklahoma Territory, becoming the last general to surrender in the Civil War.

1923: Over the skies of San Diego, an Army Air Service DH-4 biplane flown by Capt. Lowell Smith tops off its fuel tanks from a hose attached to another DH-4, marking the world's first mid-air refueling operation.

1944: During one of the largest bombing missions of the war, 761 bombers of the 15th Air Force attack the oil fields at Ploesti, Romania.

When one of the B-17s on the raid is damaged by flak and has to drop out of formation, bombardier 2nd Lt. David R. Kingsley drops his bombs and goes to the back of the aircraft to administer first aid to the wounded tail gunner. When another gunner is wounded by enemy aircraft, Kingsley attends to him as well. When the pilot orders the crew to abandon the plane before it explodes, Kingsley gives one of the wounded gunners his own parachute, sacrificing his life. His body is later discovered in the burned wreckage of the plane, and Kingsley is posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

1945: As the Sixth Army drives north to encircle the remaining Japanese forces on northern Luzon Island in the Philippines, paratroopers from the 11th Airborne Division perform their last combat jump of the war and cut off Gen. Tomoyuki Yamashita's Shobu Group's retreat.

1969: The Special Forces Camp at Ben Het in Vietnam's Central Highlands, eight miles east of the border with Laos and Cambodia, is cut off and besieged by North Vietnamese Army. Over the next several days B-52s fly 100 strikes while fighter-bombers, artillery, and helicopter gunships hammer the NVA until the Americans are relieved on July 2nd.


Book Review: MatchUP

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.

MatchUp edited by Lee Child is the sequel to the first anthology, FaceOff, published three years ago. In both cases twenty-two bestselling authors collaborated to write eleven riveting tales. All are members of the International Thriller Writers who donated their stories and time with all the proceeds from the books going to support the dues of the ITW membership.

In this latest edition, the stories flowed and the characters worked seamlessly together to solve the case, in part because each author read at least one of the other’s novels. Below is an interview with the authors, and the order is the same as presented in MatchUp. For fans and new readers alike there is also a shout out about the authors’ most recent books.

Steve Berry is the managing editor, but he also worked with Diana Gabladon to write the short story chapter, Past Prologue. He explained, “Lee Child, the editor, and myself looked for unique pairs, either people who would not naturally write together, or characters that would not naturally be in the same setting. Basically characters that live in different worlds but come together for the short story. Because FaceOff was so successful, a bestseller, Lee and I wanted to stay with the same formula. We took that idea and adjusted it to have a male/female team. Each writer picked the character they wanted to include, an iconic one, not a supporting one. The setting could range from a neutral place to a world of one of the characters.”

Sandra Brown and C. J. Box are two top western writers paired together. In Honor & … Lee Coburn and Joe Pickett joined forces to defeat a white supremacist group.   What worked best for these authors was to have C. J. write the first draft because Sandra had not previously written a short story. Since Brown’s book Lethal ends with Coburn touching down in Jackson Hole, Wyoming the setting was a no-brainer.

Kathy Reichs and Lee Child wrote Faking a Murder, bringing together the famous characters Jack Reacher and Temperance Brennan. She was a consultant on the cause of death of an Air Force colonel; did he commit suicide or was murdered. Fast forward to today where a journalist supposedly uncovered evidence that questions her findings. After he is found dead she is a person of interest in his murder, accused of planning it to save her reputation. In enters Reacher who knows the facts and uses his street smart to help clear her name.

Gayle Lynds and David Morrell write stand-alones whose realistic characters make readers yearn for more, but alas these featured characters very rarely reappear. Rambo On Their Minds brings back Liz Sansborough, Simon Childs, and the spirit of Rambo. These original co-founders of the International Thriller Writers put their minds together to come up with a story mixing in Lynds espionage and Morrell’s action when Liz, a former CIA operative is captured by the Russian Mafia and Simon, an MI6 agent, temporarily assigned to the FBI, must rescue her. Because Rambo was killed in the novel First Blood, Rambo’s essence had to be used without having him physically appear.

Karin Slaughter and Michael Koryta paired together to write Short Story. It takes place in the 1990s since Karin’s character Jeffrey Tolliver was killed in a one of her previous novels. Someone steals a 1968 Mustang and ends up getting murdered, with Tolliver a person of interest. Eventually he teams up with DEA agents Joe Pritchard and Lincoln Perry to find the real killer.

Charlaine Harris and Andrew Gross both told of how hard it was to find a story that could involve their main characters Harper Connelly and Ty Hauck. Being different as day and night, Harper locates dead bodies, while Ty is a gritty detective. Together they have to find Stephanie Winters who disappeared.

Lisa Scottoline and Nelson DeMille, two legendary thriller authors, combined action, mystery, and humor in the Getaway. Spearheaded by the loss of a dog, Max, John Corey and Bennie Rosato end up meeting in the wilderness where they find a possible terrorist cell operation.

J. A. Jance and Eric Van Lustbader combined in Taking The Veil. This was a true collaboration since the characters, Ali Reynolds and Bravo Shaw, were placed in Jance’s setting in Arizona, and the plotline was his, a medieval type of story with religious connotations.

MatchUp is the perfect anthology for thriller fans allowing them to match wits with the bestselling authors as they try to solve the cases. The stories were entertaining and brilliantly written. Anyone enjoying thrillers will relish these stories. 510f0zRFMvL._SX329_BO1 204 203 200_


Remembering

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Over at Laughing Wolf, I remember my Dad.  I also share my thoughts on the political violence in the USA and make a plea.  

I also remember and share the latest on the murder of Libby and Abby.  Someone, somewhere, knows who this sack of something is, and needs to turn him in.  Take a moment, look at the photo, and listen to the voice.  If you recoginze either, turn it in.  

 

For the latest in the investigation, go here.  


Arthur J. Jackson - someone you should know

Today we honor the memory of recently departed Medal of Honor recipient Arthur J. Jackson. On Sept. 18, 1944 on Pelelieu, Private First Class Jackson charged towards a large enemy pillbox containing 35 Japanese soldiers. Facing an intensive barrage, he suppressed the enemy with automatic weapons fire and then destroyed the fortification with grenades and explosives, killing all of the occupants. Despite incoming fire from all sides, Jackson single-handedly moved on another 11 positions, killing 15 more of the enemy.

For his incredible one-man assault, Jackson is awarded the Medal of Honor. His citation can be viewed here.

Jackson was wounded on Pelelieu and again at Okinawa, where he served as a platoon sergeant. He received a commission from the Marine Corps in August, 1945 and would serve in the Army during the Korean War. He returned to the Marines in 1952 and while serving at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Jackson killed an alleged Cuban spy that attacked him. Fearing an international incident, the military silently discharged Jackson after the event. He entered the Army Reserves and ultimately reached the rank of Captain in 1954.

Jackson, one of the few surviving recipients of the Medal of Honor from World War II, passed away on June 14, 2017.


Book Review: The Switch

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.

Joseph Finder is the king of the conspirator authors. In The Switch he explores the issues of national security and privacy, where they overlap, and how they affect each other. This plot comes straight out of the headlines, but unlike real life it comes to conclusions and solutions. One bad decision has a consequence on future events, as in a domino effect.

Finder noted, “While I was writing this book, all this information was being discussed about Hillary Clinton. I made my senator reminiscent of her, and decided to have a stash of top-secret documents downloaded on the computer, a mishandling of classified information. It always seems that the cover-up is worse than the crime. But beyond that I wanted the story to be about a regular businessman. I am fascinated by entrepreneurship because as a writer I consider myself one. Authors’ income is generated exclusively from their writing. In a sense every writer is running a small business.”

The story begins with Michael Tanner picking up a wrong laptop at the airport. Unfortunately for both parties involved neither notices it till they get home. Having curiosity get the better of him Tanner opens the computer and finagles with the password until he finds the correct one. It is then that he realizes the computer belongs to Senator Susan Robbins, which has classified information on it. If this sounds familiar it should, reminding readers of what Hillary Clinton did while Secretary of State.

Knowing she broke the law and not wanting it to ruin her future political career she enlists her Chief of Staff, Will Abbott, to recover the computer. But unfortunately, Tanner decides he will not give it up and believes the American public has a right to know what is in the classified files. This is when the action ratchets up with the NSA, the unscrupulous thugs hired by Will, and the FBI all going after Tanner. The only ones he is able to solicit help from are a few friends and his wife who has separated from him.

Readers will waffle in their feelings for Will and Michael, sometimes feeling sorry, while other times feeling they are not someone to befriend. Both have only themselves to blame, because of their own actions. How many people would search through someone else’s computer as Michael had done? Yet, when he becomes the object of an intensive manhunt he becomes a sympathetic character. He is viewed as an ordinary person who became involved in extraordinary events, all because he made an unknowing mistake of picking up the wrong laptop. He starts out as a mild-mannered businessman, but as the story progresses becomes more aggressive in his actions both in business and with those chasing after him. Will also begins the book as a likeable character with his backstory as a devoted father and husband. But he too becomes more aggressive as his loyalty to his boss turns him ruthless.

A quote in the book hammers the point home about privacy, “No such thing anymore. Fitbit knows how much you exercise and how long you sleep, and Netflix knows when you stopped watching.” Finder commented, “There are so many examples I could have drawn from. How many times have you bought something on Amazon and then you see ads for that item? I wanted to show how there is very little privacy today. If only government officials would be honest, Americans might accept policy more. They should just come clean then we might understand their motivations. As a reader I just don’t want cotton candy and fluff. I want to be entertained, but also be made to think along the way, which is what I hope my books are about.”

This plot is extremely suspenseful with many twists and turns. Finder engages readers with issues that are relevant today. This book feeds right into people’s views of government where it appears public servants are more concerned about themselves than the country. 51k8OYQ3gUL._SX329_BO1 204 203 200_