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January 2018

Book Review and Author Q/A Light It Up

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.

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Light It Up by Nick Petrie is the third installment of the Peter Ash series. It is a fascinating story, but what makes this book special are the many layers.  It has an action-packed plot intertwining guns, drugs, and money. But it also probes the subject of returning soldiers.  People might think of Peter Ash as a clone of Lee Child’s character Jack Reacher, but in actuality the only similarity is that both are wandering characters. Ash’s military life and his current status as a veteran with PTSD are thoughtfully explored and unlike Reacher Petrie’s character has formed bonds with his girlfriend June and a good buddy Lewis.

Readers will not have a chance to get settled in because almost from the first page the action begins.  Peter decides to take a job riding shotgun to protect an enormous amount of cash being transferred.  His friend, Henry, whose daughter runs a Denver security company that protects cash-rich cannabis entrepreneurs from modern-day highwaymen, Peter, and two others are in an armed truck in the mountains of Colorado.  The $300,000 cargo comes under attack by Highway hijackers. Of the four, Ash is the lone survivor of the melee. He is determined to get to the bottom of what happened and will use all his skills learnt while in the military, including being a hunter, tracker, and if necessary a killer. He enlists the help of his girlfriend June Cassidy and his good friend Lewis to find the culprits.

Elise Cooper:  In many ways this is a story of a veteran?

Nick Petrie:  I am not a veteran so I am not writing from personal experience.  However, I did speak with many who have returned from active duty.  They told of the challenges they have faced and my hero, Peter Ash, is based on those conversations.  I enjoy talking with vets when they reach out to me. 

EC:  How would you describe Peter?

NP:  He is reserved, ambitious, loyal, tough, resourceful, and able to use the skills he learned in the military. I wanted to make sure he is morally driven, and is very capable of solving a mystery.  But as with many returning veterans he has PTSD, something he calls ‘white static,’ where he has extreme claustrophobia.

EC:  The June character compliments Peter?

NP:  I love writing her character. She is Ash minus the military. I would describe her as ingenious, intelligent, no-nonsense, and strong.  She and Peter relate well together.  I put in the scene of her locked in the trunk of a car to show how she did not think of herself, but how Peter feels being in enclosed places. I based her on the women in my life.

EC:  In what way?

NP:  Every woman in my life are pretty ferocious people.  My mom is someone who wakes up very day raring to go and has an office nickname of ‘the hammer.’  My sister is super smart and super strategic.  My wife Margaret doesn’t take anything from anybody and has no patience for people who are incompetent, lazy, and will not get the job done.  They all push me to be a better person.

EC:  How would you describe June’s and Peter’s relationship?

NP:  They have found something in each other.  I think they profoundly understand one another and are rescuing each other all the time.  They also help each other feel safe.  I put in the scenes with the letter writing to each other, the Pony Express mail, because each can put down in words their feelings.  Peter is a romantic and wanted to woo June.

EC:  How would you describe Lewis?

NP:  I think he is bright, curious, and self-taught. He is a career criminal who has decided to go straight.  Peter and Lewis have an unconditional friendship similar to the connection those in the military have who served in combat together.  A woman who was Lewis’ childhood sweetheart became reconnected to him through Peter since her late husband was his best friend while in the military.

EC:  Do you think Peter compares to Jack Reacher?

NP:  I am a great fan of Lee Child and think he is a superstar of crime fiction.  I think the world surrounding Peter is a bit different from Reacher’s world.  I am very frank that I stole from Lee this character who sticks his nose into another person’s business.  You know what they say, ‘bad artists borrow and great artists steal.’  I do see my character as more vulnerable both physically and emotionally. 

EC:  Do you think PTSD is a character in the book?

NP:  Yes.  ‘White Static’ is a voice in Peter’s head.  I wrote in the previous book that it is his ‘Spidey sense.’  It is not quite his conscience, but a voice of his warrior self.  Speaking with veterans who have this, they say it is a profound piece of their life.  At its worse it takes out their relationships and friendships. As in many true cases, I had June push Peter to get help. I put in the quote, ‘Even after months of therapy, part of him still felt like it was his fault, something personally wrong with him.  Not just his brain chemistry altered by eight years of war, locked into a fight-or-flight zone.’

EC:  Many veterans noted that they feel it is a silent wound and that reintegration is a major problem?

NP:  All the military characters in this book have some trouble.  Peter had PTSD and feels embarrassed and has panic attacks.  He does not want pity, but just for others to understand what he is going through. This is why I put in the quote, ‘A lot of guys had trouble figuring out how they fit back into their old life, or imagining the new one.’

EC:  It is interesting that you have bad guys and good guys that were former military?

NP:  Of course Peter is the good guy.  Marine Colonel Daniel Clay Dixon is somewhere in between in that he did some bad things, but when it counted did what was right.  Then there was Leonard Wallis, pure evil, a psychopath who basically enjoys doing bad things and killing people.  I wanted to humanize those in the military because sometimes we forget they are people.  A veteran told me he hates stories where everyone in the military are heroes because he served with some real jerks.  I wanted to show the full spectrum.

EC:  Can you explain this quote, “That restless urge toward the fight, like some clattering windup mechanism whose coiled spring never rewound”?

NP:  It is that adrenaline rush.  I heard this often from those who were in combat.  The intensity of the experience is hard to give up.  The deployment overseas in a combat zone has every moment with a heightened feeling.  I think that is why some have so many deployments.  I spoke with this guy who told me after waking up the first thing he did is reach for his gun.  It took him six months to lose that reflex.  I had this feeling stay with Peter, even now, that tension and alertness. The thread is that war never leaves those who were in combat.

EC:  Why the Robert Frost poem in the beginning of the book?

NP:  I am a big fan of his.  The theme of this book is obligation and what we owe to those we care about.  This book is about how they are rescuing each other all the time.  It feeds into the veterans I spoke with. They had the attitude of debt and obligation, and how they owed their country and their peers.  It is about empathy and connecting with the other person by putting themselves in their shoes. 

EC:  Do you think the weather plays a role in the plot?

NP:  It is a variable.  I found it to be very dramatic when I was there.  In Denver lighting is a big deal so much so that there are lighting shelters.  If you noticed I started and ended in the mountains to bring in the weather as a prop.  One of the most vivid scenes in when the gurney was rolling down the mountainside and Peter used it as an escape vehicle.  My goal was to put people in the middle of this action sequence as if they were actually there. 

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

NP:  Of course an entertaining story.  But I also wanted to explore some issues in a substantive way. I hope the novel resonates with people.  I wrote the Ash character because I think that we as Americans see the war as an abstract concept. Many have not discussed with those who have come back their emotional and physical scars.  I want to show people that there are actually human beings who went to protect us.  We should try to understand them as well as thanking them for their service.

EC:  Can you give a heads up about your next book?

NP:  June and Peter start their life together but since he is not an indoor domesticated creature he is having some problems.  It is metaphorical for his life and having to live within society’s norms.  She will be in the book, but less of a character.  June sends him to Memphis to help a good friend of hers who is a war photographer and is being harassed. 

THANK YOU!!


Book Review: Cutting Edge

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.

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Cutting Edge by Ward Larsen is a modern-day western, that also reminds readers of Superman and The Six Million Dollar Man.  As the book describes it, the antagonist, Delta, and the protagonist, Trey have a “High Noon standoff 21st Century.”  The Superman qualities is that each have x-ray vision of sorts where their brains become a computer monitor, and Delta has similar qualities of the Six Million Dollar Man with his speed and strength.

The other character in the book is technology.  Larsen connected his characters to the Web, which he does not see as far-fetched.  “Trey has a screen in his right eye.  Voice and facial recognition are at his fingertips where he can even record and send conversations.  I made sure to allow him to have access to only people who are in databases, so he could not find recent refugees or children.  He can find any information on a person because he is given top level security access.  It is doable where implants are put in the brain and then a person can connect directly to the Internet.  I would describe it as an implantable brain computer that interfaces.  It is being designed to for those who have prosthetics.”

The plot has Trey Debolt, a Coast Guard rescuer swimmer, fighting for his life after a helicopter crash.  Officially he was declared dead, because no one knows that there is a rogue government experimental unit who chose to use him as a guinea pig.  He becomes a man on the run after he witnesses his savior, nurse Joan Chandler, being gunned down. It becomes a game of cat and mouse as the hunted and the hunter try to outwit each other.  Fortunately for Trey, Shannon Lund decides to investigate his death.  Having access to records as a civilian working for the Coast Guard Investigative Service, she agrees to help him get to the bottom of what was done to him and to find the culprits chasing him including Delta.

Besides the fast-paced plot Larsen explores how technology has both good and bad points.  Readers will hope that he turns Trey and Shannon into a series and that there will be sequels written.


Book Review: Oath Of Honor

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.

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Oath Of Honor by Lynette Eason is the first in a new series. This thrilling story is a shout out to those in law enforcement who put their lives on the line each and every day to keep everyone safe.  The action never ceases as the plot combines a mystery, criminal investigation, politics, gang wars, shootings, and bad cops.  What makes this story stand out is that Eason also brings to life engaging and well-developed characters, including some who have a subtle romance.

The plot begins with childhood friends who are now police partners, Izzy St. John and Kevin Marshall, surveilling an abandoned warehouse after they receive a tip that a high-level arms deal will take place.  Kevin decides to go rogue, sprinting into the warehouse and dies in a spray of bullets.  Izzy is determined to discover what exactly happened and agrees to work with Kevin’s brother, detective Ryan Marshall, as they unofficially work the case.  

This family affair book might remind readers of the TV show Blue Bloods. “I really enjoy it.  One day I was sitting there watching it and thought it might be cool to create my own law enforcement family that will have their own adventures, dangers, and romantic situations.  The Reagan family loves each other unconditionally and shows how law enforcement is in their blood, passed down from generation to generation. Since I married into a big extended family I thought how nice it is to have a large family and used my imagination to create one.”

The hero and heroine are determined, hard-working, and have a sense of right versus wrong. Eason describes Izzy as someone who is “a go-getter.  She is smart, inquisitive, loyal, seeks justice, and will always have her friends and family’s back.  But she is also stubborn and has a pit bull type of mentality.  Izzy believes anyone who does wrong should face consequences. The hero, Ryan, is tough, a protector, who wants to make everything right.”

Izzy should be singing the song “Poor, Poor Pitiful Me” because in this story she is put through the ringer.  She was shot, beaten, had her house set on fire, and thrown from a building.  When writing Izzy’s hardships Eason thought of “the Charlie Brown character Pig Pen, having a dust cloud over their heads.  She also had a traumatic past which has shaped her current thought process.  She is determined to not let it define who she is and will not let it get the best of her. This is why I put in the book this quote, ‘I think sometimes we let our fears build to a point where they’re bigger in our minds than in reality.’  She will always face her fears.”

This first in the series is a mystery that will keep readers guessing with the many twists and turns. Her details, descriptions, and characters have people yearning for more. Beyond the mystery it is a great story of love, family, and as Eason writes in the dedication, this series is “to the men and women in blue…who risk everything to keep us safe.”


Book Review: The English Wife

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.

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The English Wife by Lauren Willig is full of intrigue and suspense.  It is a refreshing change from all the recent Gone Girl look alikes, and instead is part mystery, part love story, and part family drama. This historical crime fiction novel involves murder, scandals, and secrets.

The Gilded Age is highlighted between the years 1894 in England to 1899 in New York.  Bayard, the son of a Knickerbocker prominent family returns after a three-year absence with his English wife, Annabelle aka Georgie.  Their supposed whirlwind romance is shattered at the opening of their Twelfth Night Ball to highlight the new manor.  Bayard is discovered with a dagger in his chest, while Annabelle appears to have drowned in the Hudson.

The story should remind readers of the Clue Game with an abundance of suspects and motives.  There is Bay’s cousin Anne, who could be having an affair, his sister Janie who found the body, his mother who is omnipresent, and his wife Georgie who has disappeared.  As rumors swirl, Janie decides to work with a reporter, Burke, to save the reputation of her brother and sister-in-law to uncover the truth.

Readers are taken back to stories of the past with the characters.  Bayard reminds people of Noel Coward, enjoying music, the arts, and plays, while having another side to his life.  The cousin Anne and Bay’s sister Janie are close to the Cinderella characters with the mother, Mrs. Van Duyvil a reminder of the stepmother. 

Willig noted, “Mrs. Van Duyvil was cold, controlling, impersonal, and distant.  She was only concerned with the lineage, money, and power.  She represented the old New York attitude.  I put in the quote of her telling Annabelle that her heritage went back to Revolutionary times to prove how important her family was. Of course, Annabelle replies that her lineage goes back to the Magna Carta.  I guess that was her in your face moment to her mother-in-law. The comparison fits well with the Cinderella story because Anne is told she has no place in this world.  Like Cinderella Anne is beautiful and charming. Mrs. Van Duyvil treated Janie and Anne as her pawns.”

The ball called the Twelfth Night is based on the Shakespearean play of the same name.  Willig wanted to show that the play’s story “is all about misunderstanding.  It has everyone thinking someone is someone else.  This plays into the secrets the characters are keeping from each other.  There are a lot of people masquerading as someone else. This is similar to this novel’s story where it delves into what the world has done to them.  The real heart of my story is that all the characters are forced by the world they live in to try to be people they are not. This is especially true with Georgie and Bay who were full of secrets with each hiding something from the other.  There were these implied lies based on the omission of information.  Georgie first saw Bay as the Prince Charming and he thinks of her as the missing heiress.”

Readers will enjoy this novel because Willig brings to the forefront the attitudes and issues of the period within the context of a riveting mystery.  She shows through the characters how the Gilded Age was based on wealth and stature, and with it came scandal.  This is where the murder mystery comes into play allowing Willig to combine everything into a very compelling story.   


Book Review: Promise Not To Tell

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.

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Promise Not To Tell by Jayne Ann Krentz is a breath-taking story.  While the first in the series, When All the Girls Have Gone, was spell-binding, this book leaves the readers’ heart pounding as it is more of a thriller than a mystery.  Krentz delivers an impactful series by focusing each novel on one of three brothers.  Each book can be read as a stand-alone, but in not reading the first people will miss out on the engaging story of Max Sutter.

The premise for the series has police chief Anson Salinas rescuing eight children trapped in a blazing barn, but unfortunately, he was unable to save their mothers.  They were entrapped in a compound, part of a cult run by a manipulative, controlling psychopath Quinton Zane.  Now, over twenty years later, Salinas has a private investigative service with two of the three boys he rescued and then adopted. 

Krentz noted, “Even though I do not know anyone in a cult, I wanted to write about that whole notion of getting sucked in and used. This was not a religious cult, but one based on technology and the desire to change the future of the world. It was more of a pyramid scheme cult based on money and power. I was very careful to show that the children were not sucked in, just the parents.  The mothers were very smart and intelligent people who became entrapped as they feared for their lives as well as their child’s life.” 

One of the children, Virginia Troy, has tracked Anson down to uncover what happened to her good friend, Hannah Brewster, a reclusive artist, who died under suspicious circumstances. After agreeing to take the assignment he assigns his adoptive son, Cabot Cutler to the case. He and Virginia suspect that the death could be related to the cult since Hannah was one of a few adults who escaped. The intensity takes off from there and never lets up.

On the surface, it appears Cabot and Virginia only have in common their past. What does the owner of an art gallery have in common with a former law enforcement officer? The hero and heroine share the inability to sustain a relationship, putting a wall between themselves and others. This is due in part to their suffering from PTSD, reliving the fire in their nightmares, panic attacks, and strange sleeping behaviors. Throughout the story they overcome their emotional scars and begin to connect with each other intimately, sharing a mutual understanding of respect, empathy, and tolerance of their differences.

Comparing Cabot and Virginia, Krentz sees both similarities and differences. “Cabot appears aloof and unemotional.  Very literal, serious, and curious.  A complicated character. As with so many of my characters he is reinventing himself with a new job and a new life, starting over emotionally and professionally.  In order to navigate his world, he needs a mission, which is why he became a part of the private investigative business, to help people find answers.  All my characters are complicated and reserved emotionally because they have been burned in some way.  With Cabot, the burn is literal and goes back to his childhood drama while in the cult. Virginia is in the same boat as Cabot.  They both looked at the world in two ways, seeing the humor and the dark side.  She is outwardly reserved, sharp, polished, and sophisticated. She likes to size up people.”

This book is action-packed and fast-paced. It has everything a reader can desire: suspense, romance, and riveting characters. Readers will be left yearning for the concluding story of the series.