Over 550 book reviews with full author links

29 June 2012

Jack Higgins: The Eagle has Landed

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Golden Oldie - Top WWII thriller
I have recently read a few top ranked novels written in the 1970's and 1980's and enjoyed them all - this is one of the best. It was first published in 1975 and sold 50 million copies across the world. It was also a successful movie, starring Michael Caine, Donald Sutherland, and Robert Duval and achieved a bit of a cult following.

Normally WWII stories are mostly about the Allies - but this one centres on the Germans at a time when it is clear to most that they are losing the war. It also focusses on how a small quiet remote English community reacts when the war is unexpectedly brought to their doorstep.

During one of his temper tantrum brainstorms, Hitler challenges Admiral Canaris (his espionage chief) to capture Winston Churchill. While Canaris tries to forget the challenge, he asks one of his staff to plan a commando raid when he finds that Churchill will be spending a weekend in remote part of Norfolk, very near the coast. Heirich Himmler never forgets and takes over the planning in his normal ruthless and chilling way.

The raiding group is led by a charismatic Lt. Col. Kurt Steiner, the son of a German general and his American wife, and a small group of war hardened but disgraced paratroopers. They are helped by a key IRA operative Liam Devlin and long term local resident but undercover Abwehr agent Joanna Grey.

While the raid starts according to plan it rapidly goes downhill - surprisingly partly because of the humanity of a German soldier who saves a local child from drowning. The normally heartless Devlin is vulnerable when he loses his heart to a local teenager.

Some say that this is Jack Higgins' best book and is in the same league as the classic Frederick Forsyth thriller "The Day of the Jackal". I agree with them.

25 June 2012

Steve Gannon: Kane (A Kane Novel)

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Kane's stand together again, no matter what
Once again Steve Gannon has written a very powerful, exciting and challenging page-turning novel, which is both spine chilling and personally emotional. Gannon has written a book which mixes intense family issues successfully with a well crafted police procedural/serial killer plot. Be warned - it is very much an adult novel with vivid scenes of sadistic serial murders but they are needed because they are central to the story.

In his first book "A Song for the Asking" (which I am glad that I read first) Steve Gannon introduced us to Dan Kane, who is a top Homicide Detective at LAPD who dominates his family like a marines training Sergeant.  Despite this his sons and daughter live in a family environment full of love and respect. They follow their father's strong beliefs that "Kane's stand together, no matter what"

When tragedy happens and his eldest son is killed in a climbing accident, Kane is the one who cracked and cannot stand together with his family.  At the start of this book, Kane's inability to cope with and share his grief impact seriously on his marriage and he is unable to help others in the family who also have to cope with the loss and have deep secrets that they are unable to share.

As an escape, Kane buries himself in his work - tracking down a clever and sadistic serial killer.  Kane is a rough and tough experienced detective who likes to do things in his own way and has little respect for bureaucracy.  While this helps him to progress the case it also eventually endangers himself, and also his family. In "Song for the Asking" Kane's police work was peripheral to his relationships with his family.  While family relationships are still important, this time Kane's police work takes precedence and threatens to impact on the family.

In the middle of all of this Gannon gives us a magical musical interlude when Kane's wife, a cellist with a symphony orchestra, has to take over a solo performance of Dvorak's Cello Concerto.  Gannon describes this with feeling and emotion - reflecting a saying from the earlier book -  "Although music can be many things ... music is the power to command emotion."

Kane is a non-stop action thriller, with surprising twists, and unforgettable conflicting scenes of horror and family love. It is a great read which I recommend strongly to anyone who likes a challenging story.  As I said after reading "Song for the Asking" - after a powerful book I need to read something lighter next, like a sorbet to cleanse the palate between courses.

Gannon's next book in the Kane series - "Allison" - also highly recommended.

22 June 2012

Ward Larsen: Fly By Wire: A Jammer Davis Thriller

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Another winner by Ward
This was an easy reading and fast moving terrorist/air crash thriller that kept me absorbed to the end. Once again Ward Larsen has written a thriller with a completely different plot from his previous books - "The Perfect Assassin" and "Stealing Trinity" - which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Larsen introduces us to Jammer Davis, an ex military pilot now working with the National Transportation Safety Board, who joins a multinational investigation team into the unexplained crash of an innovative cargo plane. Jammer is not a good team player and doesn't tolerate bureaucracy so he barges ahead on his own and quickly uncovers more about the crash than his team members.

While Jammer is larger than life he is not the super hero of many thrillers of this genre.  His wife died in a recent accident and he suffers the stress of being a single father of a teenage girl. He is not totally alone in the investigation when an undercover CIA operative on the investigative team (of course an attractive female) seeks to recruit his assistance.

While the crash investigation proceeds, simultaneous terrorist suicide attacks destroy medium sized petroleum refineries throughout the world. How could this be linked to the crash of a cargo plane?

I find it difficult to give a book 5 stars and had got to 4.5 stars when Jammer said something  unforgettable that pushed it up to 5 stars. In a crucial phone call after Jammer finds the reason for the crash he says, "I am talking to a goddam paper pusher who needs to go piss up a rope! Now go and do something about it and call me back in 10 minutes." You will need to read the book to find out who he was talking to and what he needs him to do.

Larsen's experience as a fighter pilot in Desert Storm  and a trained aircraft accident investigator comes through strongly in the flying and technical content of this book. He is one of my favourite thriller writers to watch and I look forward to reading the next Jammer Davis book, Fly by Night.

20 June 2012

Connie Brockway: The Other Guy's Bride

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One star for an imaginative plot
A romantic adventure must have a good plot - but this one was so far out of this world I had to give it one star for imagination.

Mildred Whimpelhall (what a name), a very ordinary aristocratic spinster is travelling to Egypt to get married to much older Colonel Lord Pomfrey. Unfortunately Pomfrey is holed up in an outpost the Egyptian desert.  So he asks American soldier of fortune and family outcast Jim Owens (who Pomfrey thinks is a scoundrel and really doesn't trust) to escort his "bride" to the fort through hostile territory.

Ginesse Braxton, banished by her Egyptologist parents to boarding school in England for being too free spirited, is returning home to Egypt by ship when she befriends poor seasick Mildred. When Mildred leaves the ship in Rome to journey on by land, Ginesse takes over Mildred's identity so that she can go to an ancient Egyptian site near to the Colonel's outpost without her parents' knowledge.

Just think of what can happen if Jim and Ginesse lose their escort in the desert and have to ride on a camel together or, even more romantically, share a tender moment while sheltering in a cave during a sandstorm. You just have to read the book to see what happens - the mind boggles in anticipation.

16 June 2012

Melissa F Miller: Inadvertent Disclosure (Sasha McCandless #2)

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Great legal thriller - read this before Grisham
I really enjoyed the first Sasha McCandless story, but this one was an even better. If you like legal thrillers, forget higher-priced Grisham and read Melissa F Miller - you won't be disappointed.

Sasha is a diminutive lawyer who gets inadvertently gets involved in adventures associated with her legal work. This time Sasha has left the large legal firm where she served her apprenticeship and has set up on her own. During the course of a minor court appearance in a rural community outside of her home base of Pittsburgh she is cornered by the local Judge to represent an old man to prevent  State guardianship for senility. This brings her into the middle of a previously peaceful rural community which has been invaded by shale oil gas developers, with associated environmantal activists and corrupt locals putting pressure on senior citizens to share in the financial bonanza.

This time Sasha's skills as an attorney take precedence over here powerful self-defence skills.  She is involved in a developing relationship with Leo Connelly, who  she met in "Irreparable Harm", who continues to provide counsel and assistance from his sources as a Federal Agent.

The plot is action-filled, page-turning and mostly believable. While there were a couple of  lost threads in the plot and the finale was a bit quick and confused, I thoroughly enjoyed and recommend the book.

I am looking forward to the next Sasha McCandless book and have registered with Melissa F Miller's website to be told when it is released.

13 June 2012

Murray McDonald: Critical Error

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Surprisingly good page-turning thriller
I really enjoyed this fast paced, page turning thriller by Murray McDonald. The action, sometimes very violent, is non-stop, the plot is most devious, and the ending is unexpected, almost unbelievable but extremely satisfying.

The story involves a retired CIA assassin whose his own family is slaughtered in a bungled attempt on his life. His brother, a leading candidate in an upcoming US presidential election, is also a target of a group of rich and powerful businessmen with major influence over the President and Vice President. Mix this with a beautiful and dangerous female Mossad agent, Palestinian terrorists, stolen nuclear bombs, and an Israeli government trying to stop the bombs being set off in their homeland and in the US and you have a very explosive mixture.

I loved the book and give it 5 stars because it was so audacious and well written. My only bad mark is for editing - how could the editor miss 15 occurrences of "Whitehouse" in a book which features a US President?

10 June 2012

Jack Silkstone: PRIMAL Vengeance

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PRIMAL Unleashed with a Vengeance!
This is a no holds barred action thriller that pulls no punches. It is full of plot-related violence and is not for the faint hearted. Sit back and enjoy a fast paced action-filled fantasy ride about the adventures of a "Robin Hood" group that steps in to solve major problems when there is no help around from other sources.

PRIMAL Unleashed started the series about the PRIMAL group of privately funded military, logistics, and communications specialists from many countries  and backgrounds who come together to solve otherwise insoluble problems throughout the world. It was always going to be hard for Jack Silkstone to write a sequel to match the original, but to a considerable extent I think that he has succeeded.

This time Silkstone chooses an area of recent conflict, Sudan and the recently independent South Sudan, where a bloody tribal war has been sponsored by the Chinese interests to help them gain control of vast oil reserves in South Sudan. All of the major characters are larger than life but mostly believable. Your old favourites from Unleashed are there - Aden (with his casual Australian approach), Mirza the skilled former Indian Special Services operative, and the beautiful but dangerous Saneh, a former Iranian Intelligence officer.

PRIMAL sets out to help the local tribal militia of a South Sudanese area close to the border to fight back against the fearsome Chinese suported Janjaweed militia from the north. In a small village in South Sudan we meet Tess, an American Doctor at a primitive local health facility, Garang, a former American soldier born in Sudan and Jonjo, a local teenager who has known local violence all of his life.

I enjoyed the first book so one clicked immediately I knew that the sequel had been released.

09 June 2012

Diana Hockley: The Naked Room

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Fast paced, page-turning well written thriller
The Naked Room was one of my best surprise reads this year. Diana Hockley has created a fast paced page-turning thriller with as many twists and turns and ups and downs as playing snakes and ladders on a roller coaster.

Who would imagine that a plot based around the players in a Symphony Orchestra would make for a great thriller. This tight knit group of people quickly get ensnared when the orchestra's talented young solo pianist, Ally Carpenter, disappears.

We are introduced to Detective Sergeant Susan Prescott who realises that it is a race against time to find the young musician, who may have been kidnapped and be in mortal danger. The story swirls around the love affairs and both the good and strained friendships within Ally's family, close friends and musical collegues. The Carpenter family's long kept secrets are central to the plot and slowly get exposed and tested.

I thoroughly recommend this book as an easy but challenging story to keep your interest through to the end. It is extremely well written as Diana unfolds the story like peeling an orange to find a new unexpected slice under the skin. I really liked her use of mostly first person chapters which leave you in suspense at the end of each chapter as the plot moves to another person or time.

I am looking forward to reading Diana's next book, The Celibate Mouse, which also features Detective Sergeant Susan Prescott. I am on tenterhooks to find out the story behind the title - especially as Diana tells us in her author blurb that she used to run a Mouse Circus. The mind boggles! A search of You Tube for "mouse circus australia" will give you an insight into this amazing carnival type act.

08 June 2012

Diana Hockley: The Celibate Mouse

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Another well written Australian thriller
This thriller is based in a small Australian country town which has been dominated  for many years by a large dysfunctional but close-knit family. The mystery starts when someone starts to kill off some family members and attack some outsiders. Is it a family member and why does that person turn to murder?

Detective Sergeant Susan Prescott (who played an important but secondary role in Diana Hockley's first excellent book, The Naked Room), has just arrived in town to recover from a broken second marriage and the death on duty of a close colleague.  While Susan tries to keep out of the case she is dragged into it when she is attacked. The arrival of her first husband Detective Inspector David Maguire (who she has not seen for many years) who is assigned to the case inexorably drags her further into the chase to find and stop the murderer before he kills again.

The description of the town's dynamics was memorable, as was the skilfully crafted range of characters both from the strange dysfunctional family and Susan's own family, especially her identical but very different teenage twin girls.  The plot was well crafted but sometimes a bit complex to follow.

Diana Hockley has shown us again that she can write an absorbing and entertaining Australian thriller.  I am still not sure that I really understand the title - maybe it is a bit too clever for my ageing brain to comprehend.

05 June 2012

Brett Battles: Every Precious Thing

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A bit like the Camel Club - amateurs to the rescue
This was an innocuous mystery that reminded me of David Baldacci's Camel Club - a group of amateurs led by an experienced operator who is no longer in the security business trying to solve a mystery on their own.

Logan Harper is  a retired security specialist who now operates a car repair business. He is asked to find Sara who has mysteriously disappeared without reason, leaving her husband with her daughter. When Logan tries to track her down he finds that the more he learns the less he knows or understands. Almost by accident he gathers a group of old fogies to help him with the search.

While the plot is clever it is not that challenging, with only a moderate amount of action. It was an OK read but not a memorable one.

02 June 2012

Charlotte & Aaron Elkins: A Dangerous Talent (An Alix London Mystery)

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Entertaining but not challenging mystery
The art world is a mystery to me so this mystery about the art world was a good but not a challenging read for me. It features Alix London, an up and coming art consultant, whose a father who served time for art forgery and fraud.

While Alix is still hurting from what happened to her father, she is still working in the field he helped her to know and love - art appreciation and restoration. Out of the blue she is asked by Chris, a dotcom millionaire, to assess the authenticity of a a very expensive painting she is planning to buy. They travel to Santa Fe to check out the painting at a gallery owned by a long-time friend of Chris. Within a few hours of their arrival an attempt is made on Alix's life and Chris's gallery-owning friend is murdered.

They are immediately suspicious of an apparently wealthy art investor who had been seen with the gallery owner that afternoon. They do not know that he is an undercover agent from the FBI Art Fraud Squad following up several sales of forged paintings from that gallery.

Alix is convinced that the painting is forged but cannot substantiate her feelings. I trying to find out more, Alix and Chris they are nearly killed in a major auto accident.

I found the book to generally be an easy reading mystery but was not as challenging or tightly written as the mysteries I normally read. From the ending it is clear that we will see more adventures of Alix London as an art consultant.