Book Review Drone Threat by Mike Maden

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.

Drone Threat by Mike Maden is not just a thriller, but a thought provoking book. The theme is so realistic it is ripped from the headlines, questioning the use and danger of drones. Within an action packed plot readers will be confronted with the use of drones in war and civilian life.

Former CIA Special Forces operative Troy Pearce returns. Now the CEO for Pearce Systems, a leader in Drone technology, he is asked by the President to head Drone Command, a new covert department that runs on black ops funding with little oversight. Almost simultaneously with Pearce taking command, a series of drone attacks are carried out on American soil: a subway train in Washington DC, an airport in Texas, and water contamination in California. The most serious attack was a drone landing on the White House lawn demanding President Lane hang the ISIS black flag over the White House or suffer the coming consequences. With American lives at stake and an economy in a downward spiral, Pearce and his team must find a way to expose the terrorists and take them out before it’s too late. 

Maden told he wanted this theme to be a warning, “Technology is getting better and better, cheaper and cheaper. They are amazing devices, but are only as good or evil as the people that have them. One of the reasons why I wrote Drone Threat was to highlight the fact that commercial off the shelf hobby store drones can also be deadly. The primary advantages of the lower tech, smaller payload civilian systems is that they are easy to acquire, operate, and difficult to locate because of their size. These highly capable and yet inexpensive systems are begging to be weaponized. About two weeks ago this happened when ISIS converted a small cheap commercial model by fitting an improvised explosive device that injured two French paratroopers and killed two Kurdish soldiers. We should expect more of these kinds of attacks including here in America.”

Beyond the theme of drones Maden also explores the psyche of Pearce, a heroic American warrior, and the horrific mistreatment of women by ISIS. Through these issues the former President Margaret Myers is interjected into the plot. She does not have much of an active role in this book except to be the supportive mate of Pearce, since they are now in the early stages of a relationship.

Pearce is suffering from traumatic brain injury from his days in combat. He has anger issues, nightmares, and at times wants to withdraw from the world. Maden wanted to acknowledge those US warriors “who serve in combat and pay a big price for that. I reflected their wounds in Troy. The human body does not take numerous blows to the skull without taking a toll. Although Troy is a fictional character he represents on some level the brave men and women on the front lines fighting the war on terror.”

Something that gets very little play in the mainstream press is the treatment of women and how ISIS captures girls that they force to become sex slaves, selling them to the Saudis. There are some scenes, which are very descriptive and saddening regarding the abuse and how no one seems willing to help. A book quote, “A dozen women sat cowering on the floor, their faces covered by hijabs. But their downcast eyes told all, dazed and red with tears. Some were even blackened.”

In all of his books Maden always shows the political maneuvering and through Pearce’s eyes readers see why many politicians should be distrusted. In this book he confronts the issue of lobbyists and the power they can yield. Pearce’s disgust comes through in his thoughts, “Washington’s famous revolving door between government service and the lobbying agencies made him sick to his stomach. More than a hundred formerly registered lobbyists now served on congressional staffs...Worse, more than four hundred former Congressmen and Senators were now highly paid lobbyists.” What Maden hopes to show is that these lobbyists are more concerned with their own pockets than American Security. “There is no accountability or penalty. How can we regulate out of corruption? Politicians who leave office can leverage their Congressional relationships and influence into multimillion-dollar second careers.”

  61r-YDuGqOL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_Drone Threat exposes the dangers of drone technology as well as politicians. With a plot filled with action, intrigue, and political maneuvering, it is a very powerful read.

Book Review Crime Plus Music

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.

Crime Plus Music edited by Jim Fusilli is a collection of twenty darkly intense music related noir stories. Best-selling authors such as Peter Robinson, Craig Johnson, Alison Gaylin, and Reed Coleman along with many others combine their mystery skills with their music interests. interviewed some of these authors.

Jim Fusilli, a crime author and the Wall St. Journal’s rock/pop critic, thought an anthology involving the themes that link his professions would be interesting. The chronology of the authors’ chapters showed a sweep of emotions and avoided putting similar stories together. He hoped readers would be exposed to new authors and would get twenty different perspectives involving the world of music; although his role was to provide consistency among the stories.

It is not uncommon for crime fiction writers to weave music into their stories with Peter Robinson coming to mind. Although his novels have the main character, Detective Alan Banks listening to some type of music, this short story, The Blackbird, does not include him. In the short story, the main character Tony Foster, a musician, is a loner until he met Connie, but unfortunately drugs destroyed their relationship, a subject that comes up a lot when speaking of rock music.

Robinson commented he did not have a Banks story in mind and wanted a modern version of the Greek Music G-d. Because the Blackbird had a gimpy wing “I had the main character imitating this bird. Connie led a Bohemian life and I had the crime involving a drug overdose. What I realized part way through the story was how my thoughts went to the Paul McCartney song ‘Blackbird,’ with the lyrics ‘Blackbird singing in the dead of night.’ Using that and combining crime with horror I created this story.”

Regarding his own short story, Boy Wonder, Fusilli wanted to explore the contemporary electronic dance music world. His character’s Hollywood-type mother wanted her son to become a famous music star, something she always dreamed of. What would win, his soul or the executive scumbags?

The plot has a boy, Bowie Thomas, from a small town in Michigan coming to Los Angeles. His choice: to pursue art versus commerce. Fusilli had “The mother name her child after the rock star David Bowie. At the time of writing I did not know David Bowie was going to die. I was quite fond of him so if it is in some way a tribute to him that is kind of wonderful. I wanted to write about the conflict between art and commerce. I find the commercialism of popular music very disturbing.”

Another story by Reed Coleman is about a one-hit wonder and explores how organized crime is big part of the music industry. Look At Me/Don’t Look At Me has Terry James Lake as a folk/R & B singer. His manager, Carla Saroyan, sold his rights to some disdainful people and they required him to go on this disco dance show, lip singing his hit or there would be dire circumstances.

Based on an incident Reed remembers from his childhood, this story was something he had on the back burner for quite awhile. He spoke of an incident “in the 1970s on the show Dance Fever, a disco dancing show. One Saturday night I was watching an appearance by Johnny Rivers, a 60s recording song. I thought it odd he would appear on this type of show. He looked so uncomfortable and out of place lip singing his famous song, Secret Agent Man. I included the real fact that music in the 60s and 70s were controlled by the mob, bringing into the story gangsters.”

The story by Alison Gaylin is centered on the punk scene. Using the band X’s lead singer, Exene Cervenka as a model, she wrote about a strong-willed singer. The song mentioned in the short story, Johnny Hit and Run Paulene, is about a man who begins attacking women after taking a drug that makes him need to have sex every hour on the hour.

Gaylin thought about this song she heard, while in high school. “It is such a bizarre song with a creepy meaning. It is about a fictional drug that makes a man want to have sex every hour. The story, All Ages, has Lara Ramsey, wanting closure as she gets her revenge. It's a great basis for a female revenge story.”

Craig Johnson is one of the few writers who actually used his main character Walt Longmire in this story, Unbalanced. The Sherriff gives a young woman a ride as he heads to the airport to pick up his daughter. This troubled young woman tells him her story with the CD of Merle Haggard playing in the background.

He noted, “Since Merle had just died I wanted this story to be a shout out to him. I really felt the song was the connection between the story and the characters. This was a story I really wanted to write.”

Crime Plus Music has most of the stories with unhappy endings. Anyone who likes to read short stories will enjoy reading how the music is blended into a mysterious plot. 51vGm4nYTjL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_

Book Review The Will To Lead by Anders Fogh Rasmussen

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.

51E-tdk5VCL._SX345_BO1,204,203,200_The Will To Lead by Anders Fogh Rasmussen details why America has an indispensable role in the global fight for freedom. Having served as Denmark’s Prime Minister and Secretary-General of NATO he knows the importance of having a US President that leads from the front and not from behind.

The book starts off with an impassioned plea to Americans that someone needs to be elected in the spirit of Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy, and Ronald Reagan. He speaks of how “President Truman showed strong leadership and effective conduct by establishing the world order that for nearly seven decades secured an unprecedented peace, development, and wealth. President Kennedy came to stand as a beacon for the free world with his energetic and eloquent communication. And President Reagan led the United States and the world to victory and freedom over Communism and oppression by his firm conviction of American exceptionalism.”

Critical of President Obama, he sees the need for a strong President who is not afraid to restore order. The downsizing in Europe, the Iraq withdrawal, and the hesitation in Syria are just a few examples cited to show President Obama’s inability to stand up to his adversaries. He concludes, “the US must be everywhere to make sure they can uphold the world created after the Second World War.”

This includes President Obama’s decision to pull the troops out of Iraq in 2011. Rasmussen emphatically believes before the US troop pullout “it was relatively quiet and stable. Then the US left Iraq and its Prime Minister, Maliki, marginalized the Sunni community, which allowed for ISIS infiltration. As I said in the book, ‘Communication should not just be words, but should be backed up with decisive actions and visible leadership.’ We need to understand democracies must be defined as not just organizing elections and having majority votes, otherwise we end up with another dictator under the guise of a democracy. There must be protection of minorities, the rule of law, and human rights.”

Rasmussen told that President Obama’s strategy has emboldened Russia, making the world more dangerous and unstable. “Russia is now threatening her neighbors in Europe, primarily the Ukraine and Georgia. The political and strategic goal of Russia, part of President Putin’s ambition, is to restore Russian greatness. He feels he could get away with these attacks because American has reduced its presence and interests in Europe. President Obama has sent a very dangerous signal to the autocrats and terrorists in the world. Basically Putin exploited how people can get away with terrible acts without any consequences.”

The book has a poll that states the majority of Europeans are against the use of military force to defend an ally, a direct contradiction to the very foundation of NATO. When asked about it, he commented, “I disagree that NATO is obsolete as Mr. Trump has said. On the contrary, NATO is just as important as it was during the Cold War. It is more important than ever thanks to President Putin’s aggression. People must realize the security environment and Europe has drastically changed. We must adapt to this threat. I do agree that the Europeans should invest more in defense and our common security. All twenty-eight NATO allies pledged to invest at least 2% in defense. Today only five live up to that, but this year Europeans will invest much more than last year, and hopefully within a decade they will reach this benchmark.”

The theme of the book, The Will To Lead, has America once again becoming the world’s policeman. He concludes that starting from WWII up until President Obama, US presidents were committed to internationalism. He hopes that whoever becomes America’s next president, “they will have a bi-partisan approach to foreign policy, and serve America’s self interest by leading and not retreating from world affairs.”

Book Review Vince Flynn's Order To Kill by Kyle Mills

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

Order To Kill by Kyle Mills is a vintage Vince Flynn book. It is a reminder of the early Rapp novels with Mitch going full circle between his personal and professional life. Readers who enjoyed the character and plot lines will think of Transfer Of Power and Consent To Kill. Kyle has done a top-notch job of blending the beloved characters of Irene Kennedy and Mitch Rapp with a high adventure, action packed plot.

This book brings back former Navy SEAL Scott Coleman who is working with Mitch trying to find Pakistani nukes so they do not fall into terrorist’s hands. As the story progresses it becomes abundantly clear that Russia’s President, Maxim Vladimirovich Krupin, is working with ISIS terrorists to destabilize the oil resources in the Middle East. The only way to find the culprits and stop these catastrophic consequences is for Mitch to pose as an American ISIS recruit in Iraq, while trying to find and eliminate his nemesis, Grisha Azarov.

Kyle Mills has come into his own. He expands the setting, introduces new characters, and yet is able to stay true to the characters and details created by Vince Flynn. Unlike last year where Mills was tasked with finishing a plot partially written by Vince, with this story he had full creative range and the final outcome is excellent. It is almost that he is one with the characters.

In this book Mitch harkens back to the person he was in the early Rapp books, no longer full or rage and living in a darkened world. Readers will now see Rapp as someone who realizes he is comfortable with his professional life and can possibly have a personal life as well. Kyle brings back Claudia, the woman who was married to Gould, the psychopath whose ambition was to kill the great Mitch Rapp. It is open ended if Claudia and Mitch will have some kind of relationship, but she is much more compatible than Anna, Mitch’s late wife. Having been in the business herself she can participate in the activities and understands what Mitch’s responsibilities must encompass.

Irene Kennedy continues to be an imperative player in the story in the role of the CIA Director, Mitch’s confidante, and the person who is able to connect the dots. She is important in being the focal point for understanding the issues presented in the book. Mitch depends on her to make the hard decisions.

Kyle commented to, “I see Irene as a pivotal piece in everything that happens in the books, even if sometimes she does not get as much ink as Mitch. I always think of her as the puppet master. By her own admission she is not involved but watches and waits until it becomes necessary for her to be involved.”

Although Vince concentrated on one area of the world, the Middle East, Mills skillfully has expanded the geo-political domain. Still incorporating terrorism within the plots he also shows how the US cannot be one dimensional in confronting its enemies that include Jihadists, Russia, North Korea, and China. Russia is seen as a one-man show, where Krupin (Putin) is more concerned about his own power and influence, using the Oligarchs as a crime syndicate organization. Kyle shows the desperation of Krupin, how Russia is the poster child for income inequality, and is ridden with drugs.

Finding Russia as an interesting adversary, Kyle wanted to “draw upon the complexities of Cold War thriller books, having been a fan of Tom Clancy and Robert Ludlum. The description in the book of how Krupin came to power comes straight out of how Putin came to power. In many ways Russia is a collapsing country with an economy smaller than Italys’. The minute he does not help the Oligarchs he is in trouble and can find a bullet in his head. There is a lot to draw upon for US thriller writers. The chessboard is getting very complicated. In this book I had Russia using ISIS as well as the dangers of the countries with nuclear arsenals. Putin uses them for his own purposes, and Pakistan is an unstable country, a failed state.”

Fans of the legendary Vince Flynn were unsure if Kyle Mills could fill his shoes with the well-developed characters and plots. They loved and hated the month of October. Loved it because a new Mitch Rapp novel came out and hated it because they would have to wait another year for the next one. With Order To Kill, readers will get those same feelings. It appears the torch has been passed to Kyle Mills. 51LKeoo9pwL._SX328_BO1,204,203,200_


BOOK REVIEW: Reckless Creed by Alex Kava

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.

Reckless Creed by Alex Kava combines an intense mystery with characters that are relatable and likeable. The added bonus of these stories is that readers get a glimpse into the responsibilities and duties of search dogs and their handlers.

Kava got the idea for the series from speaking with the head of the forensic science department. “We were talking about cadaver dogs. I always wanted to write a story featuring dogs, because I have loved them my entire life. In my other series that features FBI Agent Maggie O’Dell I introduced Ryder Creed and his search dog Grace. After writing them I fell in love with the characters and wanted to have them in a series of their own. I feel like I am a kindred spirit with Ryder since we both would be so content to just live in the company of dogs.”

The book begins in Chicago when a former military man supposedly jumps to his death. Because he had a brain injury most people suspect it was a suicide. Meanwhile in New York a sickly woman is given instructions to come into contact with as many people as possible. Throughout the states, other people are disappearing and getting killed. Called into investigate these suspicious circumstances, FBI Agent Maggie O’ Dell must decide if its suicide or some contagious illness, while Ryder Creed and his dogs are searching for a lost girl. As the novel progresses, it becomes evident that these supposedly unrelated incidents are connected. They race to find the source of the killer before many more become infected.

The main character, Ryder Creed, has made the transition from working with K-9s in Afghanistan to find IEDs, to his civilian life business. Currently, he has a business that uses search dogs for rescue and detection. Because he suffers from PTSD and understands the need to help his fellow soldiers he pays special attention to issues that affect himself and his peers.

Since Kava has given many of these dog handlers a military background she always gives a shout out to an issue facing those who have served. She noted to, “In this novel I wanted to highlight the issue of suicide among those who have and are serving. I write about military issues because I feel strongly about them, and it is not something we often hear about. I hope I do not sound like I am getting on a soap box so I try it incorporate it into the plot through the character’s personality traits. I have made sure most of the characters have some military connection.”

What makes this book stand out is how Kava utilizes realistic scenarios to make the plot very believable. The main theme involves the threat of biological terrorism and the dangers to the population. It brought home how a terrorist could be a suicide bomber using a virus instead of a vest. They infect innocent civilians by coughing or sneezing on others. Unaware they have become carriers people spread the disease.

What really frightens Kava is that besides the terrorist threat, “there is also the threat from accidents. Research labs with these deadly viruses are sloppy with few regulations and standards. One example had lab mice infected with something and they escaped. Another example, is that cattle given a vaccine were sent to slaughter for human consumption. I am afraid it might take an outbreak for people to learn how to deal with these dangers. How much collateral damage will there be? What surprises me is how unprepared we are for such a crisis.”

Readers also will discover how dogs are used to identify diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and C-diff through the changes made to a body’s organic compounds, gases, and scents. Kava noted, “Having read an article about dogs detecting diseases, I made the leap that they could detect viruses. They can detect lung, prostate, and ovarian cancers with accuracy. Their brain is dedicated to analyzing odors and it can separate scents. I learned about a boy who has diabetes. His trained dog can detect and alert his family when he needs insulin. I think this is remarkable. But one-third of the way through the book I started thinking if dogs were used to detect deadly viruses could they be exposed? We do know that in 2015 in the Midwest there was an outbreak of a dog flu that was believed to originate from the deadly bird flu. The good news is that a vaccine was developed.”

Reckless Creed is a riveting story of what can happen in a biological terrorist attack. Anyone who loves dogs will enjoy these characters, but beyond that everyone can see the importance of dogs in people’s lives. Kava does a great job in setting a tone of immediacy with the plot and characters. 51Yk3gHQg1L._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_

Book Review: Ring Of Lies by Roni Dunevich

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. 51amoKWTjVL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_

Ring Of Lies by Roni Dunevich is a thriller whose main character is Mossad agent Alex Bartal. This is actually the third book in the series although here in the US it is the debut novel.

The plot has Bartal investigating the killings of Israeli assets, each with a name of a European city. He finds that a sleeper cell, known as the Nibelungs, has been compromised. Convinced that there is a traitor within the Mossad, Bartal must race to identify and eliminate the double agent. Having to travel to Berlin Germany he finds he is possibly chasing ghosts, including those of his past. These scenes of Bartal’s past as a second generation Holocaust survivor are very powerful.

Dunevich noted to, “Some of it was personal. Bartal’s story is my story. We are both the children of Holocaust survivors. My mother has fears, PTSD, and memories that haunt her. The book was a release for both my mother and myself. I wanted to do extensive research so I stayed in Berlin for two months. I experienced some who were Anti-Semitic while others were very caring. I could connect the two stories because the Israeli Mossad was established to prevent a second Holocaust. It is part of the organizations’ DNA. I put in this quote to express Alex and my feelings, “He had no intention of foregoing or forgetting. As far as he was concerned they would wear their ancestors’ shame on their foreheads for the rest of their life.”

Ring Of Lies is a thriller that will keep readers on the edge of their seats. Beyond the riveting plot is the backstory of Alex and how his parents’ Holocaust experiences have affected his life.

Ring Of Lies is a thriller that will keep readers on the edge of their seats. Beyond the riveting plot is the backstory of Alex and how his parents’ Holocaust experiences have affected his life.

BOOK REVIEW: Downfall by J. A. Jance

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.

Downfall by J.A. Jance is a riveting mystery that also tackles moral issues. She is one of those special authors who never disappoints. While bringing to the forefront some controversial and disturbing issues Jance also has the reader trying to solve the crime of how two women fell to their death.

The plot begins with a puzzling case for Sherriff Joanna Brady when two women have fallen or were pushed to their deaths at a mountaintop called Geronimo. She must figure out if it is a double suicide, a murder/suicide, or a double homicide. During the investigation Brady and her department find clues of sordid secrets and evil lies. One of the victims is a high school teacher that had affairs with her students, basically committing statutory rape. Sent to help with the investigation is FBI Agent Robin Watkins. This new character is refreshing and will hopefully be recurring. She and Joanna have a similar personality and common ground with their personal problems. Beyond that they make a great team as they pursue all the clues to what really happened to those women who fell.

In this book the setting plays such an important role that it is almost like a secondary character. Jance remembers when “I climbed Geronimo I was eleven. This was my only time. I did it on my hands and knees going up and coming down on my butt. I put in the story how every child felt, including myself, who climbed it. It is a right of passage between childhood and adolescence. Of course no one tells their parents their intentions until they are safely back down. When I climbed it I remember seeing these ‘cactuses.’ I incorporated them into the story as well. With the help of people from the University of Arizona I established what they were, which is why I dedicated this book to those experts. If it is one of my books you can count on the fact that I have been there and done that.”

Beyond the mystery is the exploration of the personal life of the main character, Joanna Brady. She faces many obstacles in this book including running for re-election, having to deal with the recent killing of her mother and stepdad, her daughter going off to college, and being five months pregnant. Sometimes when an author puts in many insights into the character’s personal life, it takes away from the plot. This is definitely not the case. By highlighting Joanna’s personal life as a mother, wife, and grieving daughter the story is enhanced. Beyond that she must also deal with the intense sibling rivalry she feels about her stepbrother who came into her life as an adult. These events present challenges that almost anyone can relate to. A quote from the book highlights how women feel about balancing their professional and personal lives, “The disappointment registered on Denny’s (Joanna’s young son) face represented every working mother’s all too familiar tug of war.”

An interesting side issue was how Jance had the female characters reacting to their mother-daughter relationship. Jance noted to, “A lot of us have issues with our mothers; I know I did. I remember after getting my college degree looking down on my mother with her sixth grade education and just being a housewife. This was terribly arrogant of me. Once I had children my mother began getting smarter. What I have written is not exactly my mothers and my relationship, but it is certainly related.”

She is hoping that readers of the series will see Chief Deputy Tom Hadlock coming into his own. “Since he was appointed to the position some books ago, he has been struggling in handling certain aspects of the job. But in this book it was really terrific to see how he handled this crisis and to be at some point solely in charge of the Sheriff’s department. He validated Joanna’s faith in him.”

Downfall takes readers on a journey that uncovers a possible kidnapping, hypocrisies, a pedophile, and abuse. The crime story is explosive and riveting. Readers will be shocked with the many twists and turns as they quickly flip the pages. As Jance ends the book, giving a shout out to Dale Evans, Roy Rogers, and their trusty animals, readers should also feel a sense of Happy Trails with this story. 51qrlbd3KfL._SX319_BO1,204,203,200_



The Velvet Hours by Alyson Richman uses a real-life story of an abandoned apartment as her inspiration. Within a historical fiction story readers will learn about the Paris setting as well as the time frame from the 1880s through the period just before World War II.

A few years ago an apartment was discovered to have been abandoned for nearly seventy years. Among the treasures inside was a portrait of Marthe by Giovanni Boldini, a famous painter of the 19th century. Because the facts about these two women are sparse, Richman wrote an imagined tale of Marthe de Florian, a courtesan during the Belle Epoque era, and her granddaughter, Solange. As with her previous novels she develops a story, able to apply a mystery to the character’s lives.

Because Marthe is obsessed with beauty, Richman used velvet, “It is one of the materials that has shadow and light, going from smooth to rough. The metaphor is her illuminating her life as she tells her story to her granddaughter. This is why I put in the quote by Solange about her time spent with her grandmother, “Those hours were like velvet to me. Stories spun of silken thread, her own light and darkness, unabashedly drawn.”

Richman also answered the question of why the Germans never appropriated the apartment and why they did not steal the valuable objects? “I talked to a Jewish expert who believes the concierge must have had a hand in hiding the unoccupied apartment. This is why I gave them a role in the story. I wanted to include how the characters reacted to the events just before World War II.”

With alternating time periods the story tells of two bold and somewhat independent women facing their pasts in the midst of an uncertain future. Marthe de Florian began her life in poverty, watching her mother scrub other people’s laundry, while loosing her youth and beauty. Determined to be surrounded by beauty Marthe uses her aesthetic looks to capture the attention of a wealthy patron, Charles. He sets her up as his mistress, a kept woman, in an apartment where she developed her natural taste and love for splendor. Charles not only encouraged her, but also provided her with the means to survive and sustain herself. There were men after Charles, but none who truly captured her heart as he had. Now, in the 1930s, with Europe on the brink of war and the Holocaust looming in the background, she shares her story with her granddaughter Solange Beaugiron, using her prized possessions to reveal her innermost secrets.

Marthe is based on Richman’s grandmother, whom she dedicated this book to. “When my mother saw the dedication she commented, ‘This way she lives on forever.’ My grandmother was one of the most elegant people I knew. She was a feminine person who took pleasure in surrounding herself with beauty. I realized there are pockets of people’s lives we have no idea about. I started thinking how 99% of the people vanish upon death. Our memories are kept alive through the possessions and the stories told from generation to generation.”

The author’s focus on detail with her descriptive words makes the scenes stand out. The setting, the artifacts, and the characters are vividly depicted throughout the story. Moreover, her ability to use symbolism throughout makes the plot even more interesting and is an intricate part of the theme.

One object that has symbolic significance is the ancient Haggadah passed down from her grandfather. Richman noted to, ““I included an Haggadah, which represents the story of Passover, and the Jews exodus out of Egypt. I compare that to the threat for Solange and her future Fiancé. They used it to help them escape the looming Nazi occupation as they traveled to America.”

The Velvet Hours places the characters and objects into a fact filled story. Richman has created a rich Paris setting with memorable characters within a time period beginning in 1888 and ending in 1938. 51nW7ZMVMzL._SX330_BO1,204,203,200_

BOLO & Be Careful Out There!

UPDATE:  Arrested after shootout.  That said, be careful! 



Updated with additional photos.  

Not going to get into the idiocy of DeMoroniso and others, just be aware.  While he may still be in the NY/NJ area, there's no real guarantee of that.  Meantime, be alert.  If you see something that is off, even if you aren't quite sure what, get out and report.  That applies everywhere -- and keep in mind that the knife jihadi was in a security guard uniform -- and you really don't want to know how many police and other uniforms are missing across the country.  Even if this guy is caught, this is far from over.  Be careful out there.  


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

An Obvious Fact by Craig Johnson combines a mystery within a western setting. Readers get an understanding of the Cheyenne nation, the Wyoming setting, and how a small town Sheriff keeps his town safe. Sheriff Walt Longmire will remind readers of Matt Dillon with his quiet demeanor, Jesse Stone, with his determination to seek justice, and Harry Bosch with his need to be a detective for the disenfranchised.

He considers himself a “Cowboy Author who writes mysterious westerns. I live westerns. I built my ranch completely on my own in Northern Wyoming. After I was done I sat down and started to write. The western environment has a tremendous affect on my life, which is evident in the books. In my family I had a grandfather who was a blacksmith so I have been around horses all my life.”

This novel allows readers to jump on the motorcycle with the characters as they go on a wild ride in Hulett County Wyoming having to face biker gangs, neo-Nazis, gunrunners, a mega millionaire, and undercover ATF agents. Henry Standing Bear, nicknamed The Cheyenne Nation, returns to the Sturgis Rally in an attempt to win a motorcycle race. He, Sheriff Longmire, and Dog, drive a ’59 Thunderbird, Lola, towing the motorcycle. The actual namesake of Henry’s car, Lola Wojciechowski, wants them to find out what happened to her son whose motorcycle was driven off the road and now lies unconscious in a hospital. Through the investigation that includes Longmire’s deputy Victoria (Vic) Moretti they find that the crash was no accident. ATF is looking at the victim as a drug or gunrunner. It becomes obvious that Walt and Company are needed to sort out all the facts and find the perpetrators.

Johnson commented to, “In the contemporary American West the new horse is the motorcycle. We have the largest motorcycle rally in the world in the little town of Sturgis. When I was a child I started racing motorcycles and have had motorcycles my whole life. I had all these small, independent book stores that wanted me to come and do events at their stores so I began doing the Great Northwest Outlaw Motorcycle Tour on my own that takes in Wyoming, Montana, Washington, Oregon, and Utah.”

Readers will not only enjoy the Western flavor of this novel, but Johnson’s way of adding one-liners. This humorous and sarcastic dialogue will allow for some chuckles. The banter between the characters, as they rib one another, plays off well and adds to the storyline. Not to mention the way the author sets up Vic with her ability to drive and skeet shoot with the best of the male folk.

Anyone who enjoys these novels should tune in to Netflix to watch the series. The fifth season will start September 23rd. The characters are portrayed brilliantly by the cast, from Robert Taylor as Walt to Katee Sackhoff as Vic. But the person who steals the show is Lou Diamond Phillips who has 100% nailed down the essence of Henry Standing Bear, including his speech patterns.

Having Phillips portray Henry has added to the flavor of the show. Johnson believes he has done “a fantastic interpretation. Before he auditioned he actually read three of the books. He does a great job of that B movie speech where he never uses contractions. He speaks that way because Henry is very precise in what he does so his speech patterns are accordingly. Sometimes he uses that type of language to piss off white people who are arrogant.”

Whether reading the books or watching the TV series readers/viewers will have plenty of action, humor, and twists. The character Henry, who at the end of the book, uttered a Sherlock Holmes line, can summarize this novel best, “There is nothing more deceptive than An Obvious Fact.” 51-OKyhxupL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_