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July 2017

Book Review: Paradise Valley

Paradise Valley by C. J. Box is the finale in the Highway Quartet Series. Each book is interconnected starting with Back Of Beyond that introduces former sheriff Cody Hoyt. In the next book of the series, The Highway, he becomes the mentor of his rookie partner Cassie Dewell as they battle the serial killer the Lizard King. Box has come full circle ending in the same setting that it all began in, Paradise Valley with Cassie driven by events that happened in The Highway.

Box is “debating internally if I will bring Cassie and Company back. When I finished this book I thought how this series is over, but I am still deciding. I never intended to have two series running at the same time, and for this to be a long running series. In fact, my next book called The Disappeared, will be a Joe Pickett story. He is assigned by the Governor to find three English women who have vanished after leaving a dude ranch.”

In this installment, Cassie is out to capture the Lizard King as she seeks restitution for the victims and revenge for what he did to her friend, Cody. For three years, she has been hunting for this serial killer whose stalking grounds are the highways and truck stops, going after runaways and prostitutes. Having a plan to trap him, it goes incredibly wrong where she loses her job as an investigator for the Bakken County, North Dakota sheriff's department.

The decision to have truck stops as an important aspect to the plot came to Box, “after my youngest daughter was driving back and forth from college to home, and had to deal with all the trucks on the road. The nuts and bolts of the truck information are all realistic. I decided to go on a ride along with this married trucker couple. As we went across the US Northwest I saw what a fascinating, unique and individualistic lifestyle truckers have where the Interstate system is basically their home. This couple literally had two weeks a year, living in their actual ‘home.’”

The scene where the Lizard King decided to want an actual home comes from Box’s trucker experiences. Yet, the serial killer wanting a makeshift family kidnaps two women and two boys. The boys are Cassie’s son’s friend Kyle Westergaard and his buddy Raheem Johnson, who ran away from home, seeking to imitate the adventures of Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer. After capturing them, this psychopath achieves complete control over his captives through violence by having them wear an electric dog collar. Having nothing else to do Cassie agrees to search for Kyle, which overlaps with her pursuit of the Lizard King.

She is not the conventional heroine, being a bit overweight, a single mom devoted to her son Ben, who juggles motherhood and her career. Having Cassie’s husband, a soldier killed in Afghanistan, Box shows how complicated her life has become. Although this book answers the question about what happens to the Lizard King, her personal life is left open ended.

The supporting cast of characters is very well written. Kyle, first introduced in Badlands, returns. Although suffering from fetal alcohol syndrome causing him to have a hard time pronouncing his words, he is sharp and connects the dots. Those helping Cassie in her search are the rough and tough old outfitter Bull Mitchell, while hindering her is the evil Bakken County attorney Avery Tibbs.

Box wanted to write the County Attorney, “Tibbs as the typical political climber who will stop at nothing to get ahead. In my books those concerned more with their own self worth than the general good will get poetic justice. I countered him with Bull Mitchell who was based on a real person. He is a rugged frontier kind of guy who reads to his wife children books because she has Alzheimer’s. Yet, when he is asked to help out and is able to get back in the saddle he comes alive.”

Everyone must contend with the Lizard King, named for kidnapping, raping, torturing and killing truck stop prostitutes, aka “lot lizards.” His Modus Operandi is to lure his victims into his truck, inject them with a syringe filled with Rohypnol, and stash them in the kill-room built into his trailer. He videotapes his rituals and tortures his victims for as long as a month before murdering and disposing of them. Cassie knowing some of his tactics is determined to find justice for so many lives lost at the hands of this killer.

The previous books in this series were a bit over the top with the violence, but with this novel Box has found a balance in this gripping tale. Readers should find it mesmerizing. 51UYkQXV8KL._SX328_BO1 204 203 200_

Book Review: Hank Greenberg in 1938

Hank Greenberg in 1938, by Ron Kaplan, blends geo-politics and baseball. As Hitler was gaining power in Germany, Greenberg was a premiere power hitter for the Detroit Tigers. It shows how Hank Greenberg, represented by the Greatest Generation, made a decisive contribution to America’s society.  

The book explores two battles taking place simultaneously, Greenberg battling at the plate while his people, were battling to escape the atrocities of the Nazis. Readers learn how Greenberg, normally hesitant to speak about the anti-Semitism, said, “I came to feel that if I, as a Jew, hit a home run, I was hitting one against Hitler.” In a small sense Greenberg foiled Hitler’s attempt to portray the Jews as weak and was not the stereotypic Jew, considering “Hammerin Hank” was powerfully built, towering with a 6’4” frame and 200 pounds, a relative giant in those days.   A quote in the book hammers the point home, “He was a legendary ballplayer to many, especially in Jewish households…He was the first truly great Jewish ballplayer, and ironically a power hitter in the 1930s when the position of Jews in the world-especially, of course, in Hitler’s Germany-grew weaker.”

He was not someone who would sit on the sidelines and decided after America entered World War II he would enlist. Kaplan noted, “Not only was he one of the first Major Leaguers to enlist in the military, but he was discharged on December 5th, two days before the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. He was driving back to his home when he heard the news and immediately re-enlisted. All told, Greenberg spent three full seasons and a part of two others during his prime playing years and was fully prepared never to play baseball again. Not to mention that for most of his time in the service he was doing active duty. Many celebrities and athletes spent their time going on morale-boosting tours, which was also important, but much less dangerous.”

But it is also a baseball book, where Kaplan gives a play by play of Greenberg’s attempt to break the single season baseball home run record of Babe Ruth. Kaplan explained, “There was a lot of pressure on him and he just fell short. There's an appendix in the book that shows how the pitchers he faced over the last month or so pitched to him and the numbers are pretty close to what they did during the rest of the year. Unfortunately he fell three short of breaking the record of sixty home runs.”

What sets Kaplan’s book apart from other baseball books is his ability to recap a very exciting season, comparing what was happening on the baseball field to what was happening in the world arena. Anyone who has never heard of Hank Greenberg should read this book, because, as Kaplan describes him, “Not only was he a great baseball player but “he was a leader, a gentleman, a mentor, but quietly, not in a ‘look at me’ kind of way. In all my research, I didn't find one negative comment about him.” 51s+apBiQYL._SX333_BO1 204 203 200_

Book Review: The Freedom Broker

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

The Freedom Broker, K. J. Howe’s debut novel is an intriguing story. Readers get the feeling from page one that they are on this roller coaster ride with the characters as they attempt to rescue kidnapped victims. Thea Paris is a woman with a mission, using her personal experiences to be the best world-class freedom broker, an elite kidnap and ransom specialist.

The author uses some of her personal experiences to write this story. “I grew up in various countries and knew I wanted to write a book with an international setting. After reading about kidnapping, I realized a novel or series of novels about that subject would allow me to do this. When I was a child, my father worked in telecommunications. When we were in Saudi Arabia one of my father’s colleagues was arrested and nobody knew where he was because they moved him from place to place. What I find fascinating from a psychological point of view is that someone kidnapped and held hostage, lives in a kind of purgatory. What I mean is you’re still alive, but have no quality of life. You’re in a cage, or a cabin, or in a jungle, being held against your will. You must ask the kidnappers for everything you need. The rest of the world goes on, but as a hostage, you’re stuck where you are.”

Shortly after returning from saving a hostage Thea must face her most challenging rescue when her oil-magnate father, Carlos, is kidnapped on a yacht where very few clues are evident. To make matters worse the kidnappers won’t negotiate and only leave cryptic messages in Latin. In search of her father she travels to Africa, Greece, and Turkey and comes into contact with dubious players such as warlords and the Chinese. As the body count rises, the clock for rescuing is ticking down for Thea and company.

Thea is confident, strong, and independent, but has a vulnerability both emotionally and physically. She is able to hold her own in a male-dominated world; yet, gets along well with others although she remains at arms length. Driven to make sure the tragedies that shattered her family never touch anyone else, she risks her life with a fierce determination to bring everyone home alive. Having Type 1 Diabetes might limit some people, but Thea makes sure that this illness will not define her.

Family plays a huge role in this story. Thea is still haunted by her brother’s kidnapping.  As a twelve-year old he was taken as she looked on and remained silent, letting her fear get the best of her. For nine months he was brutalized and turned into a child soldier, made to do unthinkable acts of violence. The dynamics in this rich and powerful family adds to the fascinating storyline to see how revenge, guilt, and regret play out. But, Thea has an extended family with those at Quantum International Security including the former Special Forces guys, especially her childhood friend Rif Hakan. Her attitude is that family is what you create, not necessarily what you are given.

Howe 517S+pom94L._SX330_BO1 204 203 200_ believes a strong theme throughout is “family. They are the ones we love the most, but also those who can hurt us the most. Sadly children may judge their parents or vice-versa. Sometimes love is not unconditional. There are parents who see children as extensions of themselves in a narcissist way. I wanted to explore how children feel that they must live up to their parents expectations and demands. Is family only blood or broader? How will a family handle a kidnapping? I think the entire family would be held captive, and they have to make very complicated decisions. For example, should they get law enforcement or the media involved?”

Different scenes in the book allow readers to absorb details about hostages and their rescuers. Throughout the novel the author sprinkles strategies about surviving. Because her father was an alpha personality she worried that he would have a hard time as a hostage since he needs to control his emotions, by being patient, disciplined, and yielding to the captor’s authority. There are many more fascinating facts about what to do when traveling to be safe.

The Freedom Broker has nonstop action and suspense. Using exotic locales, the rich and powerful, manipulation, betrayal, family relationships, and the geo-political world this storyline becomes a page-turner.

Book Review: Before The Dawn

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.

Cynthia Eden is a unique suspense romance writer. All the books in the Killer Instinct trilogy, including the second installment, Before The Dawn have very creative titles that alert to the heroine; After the Dark is named after Samantha Dark and Before The Dawn is named after Dawn Alexander. There is also the premise that explores how someone in law enforcement through their special relationship, are able to see the killer in a way others cannot, allowing readers to be drawn into the dark minds of the psychopathic characters.

Her next book, the conclusion to the Killer Instinct series, “will feature Macey Night and Bowen Murphy, the last book of the “Killer Instinct” series. As FBI Agents they will be working on a case together and then form a relationship. All of the characters will be back because this is the tie up book for the trilogy. In the future I would like to do a series that focuses on one character, the lead in every book of the series, where we can see how they would handle different cases presented and grow.”

Eden does a great job of getting someone up to speed that has not read the first in the series. Early on Samantha Dark, the main character of After The Dark, returns, explaining her job is now the supervisor of an experimental unit of FBI Agents that have a personal connection to the serial killer through family, friendship, lovers, as well as their tormentors. This team moves throughout the US when murders start piling up with the suspect attributed to a serial killer.

The author noted, “Samantha is smart; yet, has trust issues and because of that keeps secrets. She is a conflicted heroine because justice matters most to her and she does not always see the world as black and white. I explored with her how it is truly hard to know someone, especially those who do not fully open up. We only know what people show us, basically what is on the surface.”

Unfortunately the Iceman with his diabolical ways possibly slipped under the radar, having committed his crimes before the unit was established. Seven years ago, Jason Frost, the Iceman, sliced Dawn Alexander up with a knife, and calmly explained how he planned to freeze her to death. This was personal to the killer, because he used his father’s meme, “blood always comes first and binds.” hoping his brother Tucker would join in the “fun,” since Dawn was his lover. At that moment his brother Tucker, also Dawn’s lover, recognized he had missed all the signs that Jason was a monster, and knew that in order to save Dawn he must shoot him.

In the present day, a serial killer with Jason’s hallmarks, starts operating in New Orleans, also the place where Dawn currently resides and is now being terrorized. Although the sole survivor to the Iceman’s attacks, she still has scars, both emotional and physical where he maimed her. Samantha’s team, including Tucker Frost, hunts the predator, unsure if they have a copycat or Jason has returned.

Although Dawn starts out as the victim she had developed an inner strength, making sure her life got back on track. Part of the reason she became a PI is to be seen as the protector, not a weak and scared person, but someone who uncovers secrets and lies to find the truth about people. Now having a sense of normalcy she is determined not to let this antagonist take it away from her. A quote from the book hammers the point when she told Tucker, “He didn’t break me... I am stronger than he was. I’m stronger than you give me credit for being… I’ve changed and could let the fear go. That the past wasn’t going to control my life.”

  Bc42f4efdf370a7f02355c.L._CB192814253_SL90_RO5 1 174 177 178 255 255 255 15_AA115_Tucker must also realize that if he is to have the relationship re-emerge with Dawn he must also let the past go. He needs to compartmentalize between Jason the brother and Jason the serial killer. His brother was his support system, teaching him to ride a bike, holding his hand as they buried their mother, and his best friend, while the killer was evil, sadistic, and depraved.

A warning: keep a light on while reading this Dark” series. Before The Dawn gets readers hooked from page one. Eden does a wonderful job with the character development as she allows readers to get into the minds of the antagonists and protagonists. The tense atmosphere created with the brutality of the murders makes the plot very suspenseful.


Book Review: The Smear

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.

Journalists today are elitists with their own agenda, never actually practicing journalism.  Only a handful can be respected, trusted, and believed: Sharyl Attkisson falls into this category. She is an author and investigative reporter who hosts the syndicated TV news series Full Measure. (http://fullmeasure.news)  Attkisson is a whistle blower of sorts in educating the public about the biased media.  Her latest book The Smear reveals the tactics used to influence opinions in order to obscure the truth.

In the beginning of this book she discusses the propaganda campaign used by the OSS, the predecessor to the CIA. They had asked the legendary Marlene Dietrich to sing “Lili Marlene” in German and English in order to make the Axis forces feel homesick and realize they were fighting for the wrong side. She contrasts this with Hitler’s chief propagandist Joseph Goebbels’ playbook, which calls for creating a big lie, the bigger the better to get more people to believe it; repeat it often enough so it becomes the truth; and persistence is the most important requirement for success.

Today’s media and Leftists seem to take a page, not out of the OSS, but out of Goebbels strategy. Attkisson wants to inform Americans on the tactics used by political operatives on both sides as well as corporate operatives. These tactics fall into categories of “Astroturf, and Transactional Journalism,” all tools of the smear campaign. Her definition of a smear, “Taking a sprinkle of truth and perverting it into a weapon of mass destruction to advance an undisclosed larger goal, often political or financial. Smear campaigns take something that many times has a grain of truth and amplifies it to accomplish the annihilation of their target.”

One of the worst smears of all is the comparison of Donald Trump and those in his administration to the Nazi regime.  Take for example Ashley Judd who said at the Women’s March, “I feel Hitler in these streets. A mustache traded for a toupee. Nazis renamed the cabinet electric conversion therapy the new gas chamber shaming the gay out of America turning rainbows into suicide notes.” The press is no different. The Washington Post editorial board, during the heat of the Republican primary, wrote, "You don't have to go back to history's most famous example, Adolf Hitler to understand that authoritarian rulers can achieve power through the ballot box."

It would be almost laughable if it were not so sad that these denouncers of Trump are themselves hypocrites.  Even liberal commentator Piers Morgan has had enough.  He sarcastically said in a FOX interview, "I find this Hitler stuff with Donald Trump unbelievably offensive... Donald Trump to my knowledge has not murdered anybody.  If you are not prepared in the liberal world to now say he is the new Hitler, you yourself then become the Devil, and that is what happened to me."

These smear artists need to understand they have crossed a line as they suspend their normal standards and practices, and should take a history lesson to learn about the Nazis’ crimes: political opponents being thrown into prisons, with many executed; the mass slaughter of Jews and gays along with other ethnicities; Russian prisoners of war killed; forced labor camps; the Nuremberg laws of 1935; children experimented on; and the Final Solution of the Jews.

51-mTmKboUL._SX328_BO1 204 203 200_In reading this book people will become more aware about the world of opposition research and the dirty tricks those in power use to influence opinions. They have an agenda to prop up or destroy any narrative that goes against their beliefs by using the smear tactic to create an impression of widespread support or falsehoods when the opposite is true. Even movies are not out of the realm of these smear artists.

One way the operatives do this is by Astroturf, an “idea to keep the public from ever knowing exactly who is behind a particular effort to sway opinion. I describe it in my book as a way to saturate our consciousness, where we are made to think everyone believes something. It’s similar to the bandwagon approach. If you do not agree with a narrative, you are made to believe you’re an outlier, afraid to say what you think because ‘no one’ agrees with you. The idea is to give the impression there’s widespread support for or against an issue when there may not be.”

Attkisson noted, 13 Hours, the movie, about the attack in Benghazi, was not very flattering to the Obama Administration and Hillary Clinton. “They could not directly impeach those heroes that put their life on the line; instead, they sought to ‘controversialize the movie itself,’ in an attempt to keep people from seeing it. For example, Vox put up a review that pans the movie even though the writer only saw the trailer. Many others falsely pointed out that the movie was a box office flop; yet, the true narrative is that it was the number two-grossing new movie release in the US during its opening week.”

If her book had come out earlier people might have recognized the tactics used against the movie about Chris Kyle, American Sniper. This Washington Post comment is a good example, “the movie also reveals a man remarkably unburdened by conscience.” Actually, this reviewer got it wrong because in the book, the movie, and in the interview Chris always pointed out how he was haunted by his sniping duties, "I definitely have my nightmares, but not for the people I killed, but for the people I could not save: my brothers who died next to me, on top of me, or in my arms.  I don't worry about what other people think of me. My only regret is not being able to save more American lives. When I try to take someone out, it's because they are attempting to take the life of one of our soldiers.” 

She explains why she considers these astroturf smear campaigns, “Whether intentional or not, the players include a familiar group of media outlets known for advancing liberal narratives and to be on the Media Matters agenda. The information put forward is misleading, and in some cases, inaccurate to further a narrative instead of the truth. Finally, some of the efforts seem disingenuous and use recognized astroturf language.”

Another tactic, Transactional journalism refers to the “friendly, mutually beneficial relationships that have developed between reporters and those on whom they report. It’s when the relationships cross a line.” Falling into that category are some political pundits. Take for example CNN’s Donna Brazile, a Democratic party operative, who secretly slipped Hillary Clinton an advance question for a CNN town hall with Bernie Sanders. Attkisson noted, “We are not keeping an adequate firewall, giving the very people access to the newsroom who are trying to sway our opinion and shape news coverage. I am often not sure what these pundits on both sides add, besides propaganda talking points. This is part of what I call the soft ‘infiltration’ of the news media. We haven’t done a good job at staying at arms length from the interests who seek to use us as tools.”

As an investigative reporter she is an expert at detecting smear campaigns and warns, “One smear artist I interviewed said nearly every image you run across in daily life, whether it’s on the news, a comedian’s joke, a meme on social media or a comment on the Internet, was put there for a reason. It’s like scenes in a movie, he said. Nothing happens by accident. Sometimes people have paid a great deal of money to put those images before you. What you need to ask yourself isn’t so much ‘is it true,’ but ‘who wants me to believe it and why?’” This is why everyone should be reading The Smear, to find out how they do it, who is doing it, and what to look for regarding these dirty tactics.  

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_