Over 550 book reviews with full author links

30 September 2013

Peter James: Dead Man's Time

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Vengeance can be a long term thing
Detective Superintendent Roy Grace is experiencing the joys of the first weeks of fatherhood; intense love for his first child Noah from his second marriage to Cleo and intense tiredness from sleep-disturbed nights. He is also aware that the long hours needed in his job which were the reason for the breakdown of his first marriage could have an impact on his current happiness. He is not aware that a recently paroled long-term prisoner is planning vengeance against Grace via his family for his long incarceration.

In 1922 five year old Gavin Daly is living in New York. One evening four men break into his house, murder his mother and take his Irish mobster father away, never to be seen again. When his aunt takes his elder sister Aileen and Gavin onto the Mauretania to go to England someone gives him a parcel containing his father's watch and a cryptic message. The watch becomes his most treasured possession and Gavin vows to return to avenge his father - a vengeance he has never forgotten.

In 2012 Aileen Daly is 98 years old and living alone in a huge mansion in Brighton containing valuable antiques. After a home invasion she is tortured and left dying. The valuable antiques are stolen and her safe and secret container left open and empty. Her brother, Gavin, now 95, knows that the safe contained his father's watch.

When Detective Superintendent Grace investigates this brutal burglary he discovers a diverse bunch of villains behind the attack and robbery. The investigation is well written UK police fiction with several connecting plots and clever police work following a murderous trail through the antiques world of Brighton, to the expat criminal fraternity of Spain’s "Costa del Crime", and eventually to New York.

My main critique is the inclusion apparently irrelevant interludes about Grace's first wife, which I presume will make sense in later books. Also as James is targeting a US audience some criticisms of the initial help given by the NYPD were unnecessary to the plot.

All in all a good read, especially the couple of surprise endings.

28 September 2013

Peter Watt: War Clouds Gather

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Peter Watt - master storyteller
This is another great episode in Peter Watt's epic Frontier series saga about the Macintosh and Duffy families and confirms his place as one of Australia's best storytellers. Once I had started this book it was hard to put it down and would have liked it to be longer.

This time the saga covers the era just prior to WWII, from the Berlin Olympics to the start of the war (almost akin to the period covered by the classic Herman Wouk novel "The Winds of War"). Although this is a story of two Australian families, most of the action this time is overseas, from Hitler dominated Berlin, to Dachau and the Spanish Civil War; and from Iraq, to Israel and the US. The focus turns back to Australia at the declaration of the war.

My main critique is that, despite having read all books in the series I still needed to refresh my memory about the background to the complex history of the characters. It would have been very useful to have a "Who's Who" introduction to each major character. So here is something about the background to the next generation of Macintoshes and Duffys that Watt introduces in this book who will undoubtedly be the focus of the next book about WWII.

On the Duffy side twins James and Olivia have been raised in the US by their mega-rich maternal grandfather, with no contact with their father Matthew Duffy. James is keen to meet his father who runs an air freight business in the Middle East but Olivia is still hurt by her father's apparent abandonment.

Donald and Sarah Macintosh have been raised by their unscrupulous father, Sir George Macintosh, after he forced their mother to leave them in his care. Donald is a disappointment to his father as  he becomes a playboy and gambler. He will inherit a third of the Macintosh business when he turns 21, as will David Macintosh, who paradoxically has been raised by Sean Duffy.

George is prepared to take extreme measures through his German contacts to prevent his nephew David from taking a seat on the Board. Meanwhile, he sends Donald to the family station Glen View in Northern Queensland in an effort to change his ways. In North Queensland George meets part-aboriginal cattle station owner Tom Duffy and his daughter Rebecca. Close by Glen View the spirit of the mythical elderly Aboriginal warrior Wallarie still communicates with the grief of his ancestors at their massacre by the Macintoshes fifty years before.

This is very much a transitional novel bringing in the new generation of Duffy's and Macintoshes and along the way they experience pain, tragedy, excitement, love and loss bringing some closer together and others further apart. There are some interesting changes ahead in the Macintosh boardroom as well as unexpected changes in allegiances. As an addict of the Frontier Series I look forward to what happens next.

25 September 2013

Nicholas Sparks: The Longest Ride

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A long ride for two different couples
In "The Longest Ride" Nicholas Sparks weaves intermingled stories of two completely different couples which you know from the start must intersect at the end.

Ira Levinson is over 90 but still driving when he crashes off the road in snow and ice. Badly injured and waiting for rescue he reflects on his life with his beloved wife Ruth who died a few years earlier. In delirium Ruth returns to encourage him and talks about their life together. Every year on a particular anniversary Ira writes a letter to Ruth about their life and love together. Even after her death he keeps writing the letters, the latest one being in the car with him. The story of Ira and Ruth parallels in some ways the story of Noah and Allie in "The Notebook".

Sophia Danko is a college student specialising in art history who is recovering from the breakdown of a relationship with Brian who has cheated her twice but still wants her back. She goes to a Cowboy style dance in a barn only to find Brian is still stalking her. She is rescued by Luke Collins, a competition bull rider who works on his mother's small ranch. On the face of it Luke and Sophia have little in common but slowly but surely a very special romance develops. The chances of their romance surviving after Sophia graduates look slim.

Nicholas Sparks is a consummate author of intelligent stories of personal relationships and romance. While I enjoyed this book at times the rides got a little too long. Warning: Sparks books are usually tearjerkers and this one is no exception.

23 September 2013

Elaine and Joe Foster: In Movement there is Peace

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A tough way to face your fears
I get lots of requests for book reviews and only accept a few that pique my interest.  I am pleased that I agreed to read this book which is not my normal genre of escapist mystery/thrillers. My reactions may differ from others because I have looked at it from a slightly different perspective.

The book is a personal account by Elaine and Joe, an experienced ex-military psychologist and an engineer from the US, about of their experiences when they walk the Camino de Santiago, an 800 kilometer pilgrimage across Spain. The going is tough and way outside their comfort zone. Their reactions to meeting people they would never normally encounter, frequently in stressful but supportive circumstances, were fascinating and enlightening.

I saw this pilgrimage basically as Elaine's reaction to a mid-life crisis, and resulting anxiety. After many years as a psychologist in the US military, Elaine resigned when she succumbed to the stress of counselling soldiers with PTSD. She had to face her anxieties as she looked at a new life after so many years with the military. Her solution was to do something radical that she would have never normally contemplated doing to overcome her fears. I can personally identify with the pain, and uncertainty of  a mid-life crisis, and the need for spiritual comfort to find a way forward.

As an agnostic with a Protestant background I can't comment on the religious background and their spiritual reactions to the pilgrimage. I know that many people who have made the pilgrimage over the years have suffered problems in their lives and taken comfort from the emotional and religious connections they have made during this pilgrimage.

Elaine and Joe were surprised how easily they related to other English speaking pilgrims especially to Aussies (my fellow countrymen). They were also surprised how they found out about the personal problems faced by their companions and were able to help them along. This was not a one-way thing.

Although the physical pain along the way was palpable, this is not a true hardship tale. Spain is not a third world country and the local population provided mostly comfortable accommodations (no squatty toilets but some bed bugs) and they were rarely out of contact with family and friends. A cell phone and iPad (with Skype) and  ATM cards were part of their basic backpacks. At any time Elaine and Joe could have taken a taxi to the next stop or holed up in a modern hotel until their physical pains had healed - but they didn't, they kept on to the end. Well done.

To me the unsung hero of the trip was Joe who supported and cared for Elaine during many testing times along the way. He may not have had the same commitment at the start but he seems to have gained a lot from the experience. Elaine is now moving onto another stage in her career (I did the same with some help from her profession) and I am sure that her experiences will make her a better therapist. I wish her and Joe well for the future.

Would I do the same thing in Elaine's situation? I think not, but during my mid-life crisis I did move from dead-end career to spend 2 years in Tokyo lecturing students from throughout Asia and the Pacific as a transition to better things. This was an experience we remember vividly which I am sure has helped to keep our family closer over the years.

22 September 2013

Melissa F Miller: Improper Influence

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Another easy-reading Sasha McCandless legal thriller
Sasha McCandless and Leo Connelly are facing their hardest challenge at the weekend - planning their wedding to satisfy Sasha's demanding mother. Their plans are thwarted on Friday afternoon when a huge amount of discovery paper for contract case due to be heard on Monday about the supply of herbal ingredients for a popular health kick drink is delivered by her old employer who represents the other party. The weekend becomes a paper trail not a wedding trail.

On the same day Bodhi King, the forensic pathologist who carried out the autopsies three young women who died recently in Pittsburgh from Myocarditis, a rare inflammation of the heart muscle, finds that the computer files of the autopsies have been deleted from both his office network and from his laptop and his notebook containing jottings on these cases has disappeared. He is told by his boss not to worry and not to investigate if there is a connection between these deaths. He goes to Leo for advice because he is the only person he knows with the kind of background that might help him. The next day Leo finds that Bodhi is to be dismissed for improper conduct.

Leo calls Sasha "A trouble magnet". Bodhi's troubles becomes Sasha's troubles as the two issues converge when it becomes clear the ingredients of the health drink may have caused the deaths. Along the way Sasha and Leo uncover a lot of  dirty business and political deals, even involving murder.

Melissa Miller has crafted another complex and at times pretty unbelievable plot with her favourite characters mixing law with trouble. I have read all of Melissa Miller's legal thrillers featuring Sasha McCandless and have enjoyed them despite some unbelievable plots.

Read the book to find out more about the fate of the wedding plans.

20 September 2013

Kerry Greenwood: Murder and Mendelssohn

Confession of a Phryne Fisher addict
Confession: I am addicted to Kerry Greenwood's Phryne Fisher series and got really excited that #20 in the series is published. My excitement was not in vain as Kerry Greenwood (and Phryne) are still at the top of their form.

For those who don't know about Phryne (pronounced fry-knee) Fisher here is a quick resume. She was born in in Melbourne, the daughter of an impoverished younger son of an English peer. Her father inherited the title and wealth when his elder brothers died before him. She was sent to an exclusive girl's school in England which produced an independent approach to life. She drove an ambulance to rescue wounded at the front line in the Somme, spent some time in military intelligence, became an impoverished artist's model in Paris of the early 1920's and returned to Melbourne in 1928, a rich independent young woman looking for adventure - which she found as a female sleuth.

Phryne soon found an impressive home on the beachside at St Kilda and collected an eclectic and addictive mix of family, friends, and  followers/helpers to share her life (and her sleuthing). First and foremost, there is Dot, her very ordinary but very capable personal assistant and Mr and Mrs Butler, housekeepers and chauffeur extraordinaire. Her adopted teenage daughters Jane (a budding Doctor) and Ruth (a superb chef) were plucked by Phryne from poverty and slavery and her adopted son, Tinker, was a former street waif. Her first followers were Bert and Cec, snipers at Gallipoli, now dock workers, taxi drivers and communist sympathisers. During her first case Phryne met hard working, long suffering and ordinary Detective Inspector Jack Robinson who has to cope with the fallout from Phryne's investigations.

Phryne is stylish, beautiful, intelligent and selectively promiscuous (with Lin Chung, a leader of the local Chinese community being her long term lover). Her household never questions the stream of handsome young men Phryne brings home to her luxurious boudoir apartment in her house.

This mystery features all of these regulars, except Lin Chung who is away in Hong Kong on business. Phryne meets an old friend and lover, Dr John Wilson, who she knew from the days on the Somme when they comforted one another physically in the back of her ambulance with shells bursting overhead. While John is more attracted to his own sex he still cannot resist Phryne's charms. He confides that he is besotted by his companion, the handsome, rude and enigmatic code-breaker Rupert Sheffield but his feelings are not returned. Warning: some readers may not be comfortable with issues of love between men which are discussed extensively but not explicitly.

The main mystery this time is the murder of successive conductors who are rehearsing a local choir for a performance of Mendelssohn's Elijah - all of them pretty obnoxious people. Kerry Greenwood shows her extensive knowledge of choral music and conjures up a diverse group of amateur choristers, most with an immense thirst for alcohol, any of whom could be the murderer. The main problem for Phryne is that she wants to entertain the most handsome chorister but can't do so until the murderer is found. When the murderer was found Phryne got her wishes - and she always likes happy endings!

While this book can be read as a stand-alone, I would recommend starting reading #1 and #3 to get a good background to Phryne's early days in Melbourne as she gathers together her family, friends and followers.

Catherine Coulter and J.T.Ellison: The Final Cut

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Entertaining new page-turning thriller series
This is a good start to an entertaining easy-reading new series jointly written by successful authors Catherine Coulter and J.T.Ellison. The combination has worked seamlessly to produce an interesting mixture of FBI and Scotland Yard.

The series introduces Detective Chief Inspector (Sir?) Nicholas Drummond of New Scotland Yard. Nicholas is not your run of the mill British DCI. He was born in the US but brought up in England by his father, a hereditary Baron. He is very close to his American Uncle, a very respected former senior FBI officer. Nicholas is a cosmopolitan character with a varied career, including a testing time in the intelligence service before joining Scotland Yard. He is a world away from the regionally orientated fictional Inspectors Grace and James who would have some difficulty working with the FBI.

Nicholas' police and personal partner, Detective Inspector Elaine York, is in New York to oversee security for the  Queen Mother's Crown (which features the famous Koh-I-Noor diamond) while it is on exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum. On hearing that she has been found dead under suspicious circumstances Nicholas immediately flies to New York.

Because of his Uncle's contacts he is able to work with the FBI on the case. While Nicholas partners with FBI Agent Michaela (Mike) Caine to work on the case they are given assistance by Coulter's FBI characters Savich and Sherlock. Mike is an attractive, efficient, motivated and respective FBI agent and they join forces pretty easily. (Why are so many fictional female FBI agents so attractive - I'm sure this isn't so in real life).

The authors' can't resist giving the enigmatic Nicholas a bit of a James Bond image - handsome, rich and well connected. He drops by his house on the way to the airport to pick up his "go bag" from his butler. Later on in New York when he has to attend a classy reception for the exhibition at the Met is asked by Mike if he has a tux - "my tux is in my bag, I never leave home without it."

The case is really about the career of the Fox who has been commissioned to steal the diamond. While the Fox is well known as one of the world's most successful art and jewel thieves few people know that the Fox is a young woman. She is a woman of patience and has spent two years planning to steal the Koh-I-Noor diamond by inserting herself into the security for the exhibition. The case is also about the reason why someone commissioned her to steal the diamond. Nicholas and Mike end up chasing the Fox all the way around Europe to get the answers and face a wide range of dangers during the chase.

This is a good start to a new escapist series which I expect to become very popular. If you like easy reading, page-turning escapist thrillers without the really dark side of extreme violence then this is the book for you.

13 September 2013

Mark Gimenez: Color of Law

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Top class emotional and ethical legal thriller
This is the best legal thriller I have read this year. It is an emotional story of legal, ethical and personal dilemmas faced by a young and successful lawyer, written by someone who has been a partner in a major law firm and has run his own small business who gives an edge of real authenticity to the story.

A. Scott Fenney's Mother always said that he had a gift but he didn't really understand what it was. Before bed  she would read a chapter of To Kill a Mocking Bird  and say `Scotty, be like Atticus. Be a lawyer. Do good.'. Scott  was always a great achiever, topping class at law school with an fantastic record of success on the football field. He was recruited by a top legal firm in Dallas and soon became their youngest and most successful performer. He believed that his gift had made him rich, and had given him a beautiful wife and daughter, a million dollar house, a Ferrari and designer clothes.

When he joined the the firm his boss told him "Scotty, the color of law isn't black-and-white, it's green! The rule of law is money - money rules! Money makes the law and the law protects the money! And lawyers protect the people with money!" In following this creed Scott no longer recognized the difference between making a deal and compromising his integrity. It was also very clear that the color of his law practice was also white, not black or latino.

One day this was tested when a Federal Judge appointed him to defend a black hooker, Shawanda Jones, a heroin addict accused of killing the wayward son of a Federal Senator. As this was pro-bono work Scott's first reaction is to hire a cheaper defense lawyer so that he could keep up the billable hours but Shawanda was adamant during pre-trial that he should be her lawyer.  She also asked him to make sure that her 9 year old daughter Pajamae living alone in a dangerous part of Dallas was kept safe during the trial. By taking the case and looking after Pajamae the color of Scott's law had changed from green to black.

From then on Scott is faced with a dilemma when pressure is placed on him by powerful people to drop the case, pressure that could kill his successful career. Scott soon finds out that the the pressure isn't a game and he is forced to understand that life should really be about truth and justice, not money or power or color, and that only his real gift can save his defendant's life.

Gimenez is a skilful author who gears up the tension, not only with the pressures on Scott's professional and personal life but also in how he can defend someone who looks guilty but continues to plead her innocence. It was a skilfully crafted emotional roller coaster which continued to the last page.

By chance I read the sequel "The Accused" first (also a great legal thriller) and I took a long time to get around to reading this book because the sequel told me a lot about what happened earlier. If you have not read any books by Mark Gimenez (now one of my favourite authors) I strongly recommend that you read this book first - you will not be disappointed.

12 September 2013

J A Jance: Second Watch

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A fascinating 'prequel' to a long running series
Authors find it difficult to keep up the momentum with a long running popular series. Over nearly 30 years J A Jance has written 21 books in the J P Beaumont series and in this book she has found a way to keep her series young by writing a fascinating prequel where "Beau" looks back at his early life, especially his early days as a detective in the Seattle PD and his time in Vietnam.

Beau is getting old and has opted for knee replacement surgery after years of discomfort. To get it all over at once his doctor agrees to do both knees at the same time. When waking up from surgery under very strong pain killing medication he is visited by people from his past who look real and speak to him about things that happened a long time ago. Are they drug induced hallucinations? No one else sees them but they are so real to Beau and bring back some things from his early life that continue to haunt him.

The first visitor is a lovely girl, Monica, who was the victim in his first homicide investigation. During a routine Sunday afternoon "Second Watch" Beau was first on the scene when her naked body was found in a barrel of waste cooking oil. Beau had promised her parents that he would find the killer but despite intensive investigations the case is still unsolved. He knows that he must reopen the case and hope that new forensic technology may provide some answers.

Beau is also visited by his commander in Vietnam, charismatic and natural leader Lieutenant Lennie Davis who saved Beau's life but lost his life in the process. This reopens the unhealed wounds of a Vietnam veteran and Beau vows to track down the fiancé that Davis was never able to marry. In doing so Jance explores explores the loss, heartbreak and personal cost of the Vietnam War. It is even more telling because the story is based on the the real Lennie Davis, who Jance knew at high school.

Jance has made Beau young again with this clever prequel which connects the past to the present. Other authors have written prequels (Lee Child/Jack Reacher, Daniel Silva/Gabriel Allon, and Vince Flynn/Mitch Rapp) but this is the most unusual, clever, and moving of these kind of prequels that I have read.

09 September 2013

Lee Goldberg: The Walk

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A Nightmare Walk Home
What would you do if you had survived the most cataclysmic earthquake in LA history and you are 30 miles from home? Most roads and freeways are impassable and buckled, overpasses collapsed, skyscrapers are toppled or fatally damaged, LAX is on fire and the runways unusable and hundreds of thousands of the population are killed, seriously injured or trapped under rubble. And the aftershocks keep coming, bigger than any in living memory.

Martin Slack, a successful network executive, has been visiting a TV series set in an old warehouse when the earthquake struck and is lucky to take cover under his Mercedes when the warehouse collapses, crushes his car but leaves him unscathed. With devastation all around him Martin decides to walk home through the rubble to his home and his wife, not knowing if his house and wife have survived. Martin is not normally an adventurous type but within hours he rescues a boy from a car on a damaged flyover, and fails to rescue a woman trapped in her car. He is helped along by Buck, a mysterious hunk of a man with a flair for violence, who follows him through thick and thin.

This is a catastrophic tale of the aftermath of a major disaster and how people react, including inadvertent bravery. To lighten things a bit, Lee Goldberg mixes in a few touches of humour, especially focusing on the unreal world of TV series and movies. Along the way Marty discovers a lot about himself and his feelings for his wife, and his life.

This is a page-turning unusual adventure that I recommend to anyone looking for an enjoyable short read.

07 September 2013

Lynda La Plante: Backlash

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Enjoyable UK Police Procedural
This is the first book I have read by Lynda La Plante in the DCI Anna Curtis series. It starts pretty slowly and gets bogged down in police procedures and infighting among the senior police. But if you can hang on past halfway the book takes on a pace of its own and is pretty enjoyable.

The case starts of almost accidentally when a van is stopped because it is being driven erratically and when searching the van the police find a body of a young girl in a black plastic bag. At his first interview the driver, Henry Oates, admits to the killing but also brags and names others that he has killed. One of those named is teenager Rebekka Jordan, whose disappearance Detective Chief Superintendent James Langton has been investigating for over 5 years. Langton is recovering from painful knee surgery and asks Detective Chief Inspector Anna Travis to work that part of the case for him.

The next day Oates retracts his admissions and it is up to the murder squad to build up a case against him and find out more about the other missing females. What follows is a tale of very detailed professional detective work as the police team, especially DCI Travers, follow the clues which lead them to an even more evil scenario. The tensions within the team, especially with the ever present Langford following and dominating their actions from his sickbed, provide the flesh on the bones of the story.

All in all I enjoyed the book but felt that it was overly detailed in police procedures. I liked the book (that's what 4 stars means) but didn't love it. It didn't have the style, vigour and the environmental and cultural background of other top UK police series such as Inspector Grace (Peter James), Inspector Banks (Peter Robinson) and the very funny Macrae and Steele (Stuart Macbride).

05 September 2013

Scott Turow: Identical (first 4 chapters preview)

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Presumed Innocence Again?
This is a brief review of the 4 chapter preview of "Identical". I am not really sure if such previews help that much because the reader is only allowed to see the foundations of the story.

Cass and Paul Giannis are identical twins, and in 1982 one is a police cadet and the other a budding lawyer. They attend a party at the house of their father's greatest rival, Zeus Kronon, who is the father of Dita, Cass's girlfriend. That night Dita is murdered and the crime scene is compromised by the Kronons' actions and poor police procedures. Blood of a different type to Dita's is at the scene because someone broke a window but in 1982 there is only blood typing, no DNA matching. After a poor police and FBI investigation, Cass comes forward and confesses and hopes to get a plea bargain for 10 years in a low security prison. Zeus agrees to the latter but argues for and gets a 20 year sentence.

Roll on 20 years and Cass is coming up for parole after being an almost perfect prisoner. Paul's career has blossomed into the State Senate and he is in the middle of a campaign for Mayor. By that time Hal Kronon, Dita's brother has become mega-rich and has never forgiven the twins for what he believes is their perceived complicity in the crime. Hal unsuccessfully appeals against parole and publicly accuses Paul of aiding in the murder which tarnishes Paul's election hopes. Hal also hires an ex FBI agent and a PI to reopen the murder case on their own.

The first 4 chapters set the scene for a family feud, a political bun-fight and a re-examination of the crime using modern technology to see if the correct person was convicted of the murder. Once again this seems to follow the theme used so successfully in Turow's previous books - can we always believe in presumed innocence and has the wrong person been convicted.

As a teaser this was an interesting introduction but was not enough to really judge the merits of the full book. I have read and enjoyed most of Turow's works and look forward to see if the book stands up to the promise of the first few chapters. 3.5 stars rounded to 4 stars in anticipation of a better rating for the full book.


04 September 2013

Sandra Brown: Standoff

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Short but not very satisfying sorbet
This is one of several early Sandra Brown book being re-released on Kindle at promotional prices. From time to time I read them as a sorbet between heavier doses of thrillers. This is a very short book, really no more than a long novella and is clearly showing its age.

Tiel McCoy, an ambitious TV reporter is driving to New Mexico for a long delayed vacation when she hears the news on the radio that Sabra, the teenage daughter of Fort Worth tycoon Russell Dendy, has been kidnapped. She immediately changes course towards Dendy's home hoping to get the drop on other networks on the kidnapping. She stops at a service station shop for a payphone to talk to her producer (no self respecting TV reporter would be without a cell phone now) and finds the kidnapping is a myth and Sabra (8 months pregnant) has run off with her boyfriend Ronnie.

As a total coincidence while Tiel is in the shop with a few other customers Ronnie enters the shop, pulls out a gun, empties the till and holds the customers hostage. This is a once in a lifetime scoop for Tiel but she gets involved in more that she anticipates, including of course an unexpected romantic connection with one of the hostages.

The best part of this pretty trite tale for me was when Tiel clouted an objectionable FBI agent (who had been sent in posing as a Doctor) with a can of Wolf brand chili. Oh dear, Sandra Brown I know that your later books are a lot better than this one.

02 September 2013

Jason Matthews: Red Sparrow

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Outstanding, exciting, chilling espionage thriller
This is undoubtedly the best espionage thriller I have read this year, and probably for several years. The Cold War is over but espionage between the US and Russia (under Putin) continues. While the KGB morphed into the SVR in 1991 many of the old operators moved on to the SVR, notably the ambitious and unscrupulous Deputy Director, Vanya Egoravov. On the surface things may seem to have changed but with the elevation of Putin a lot of things stay the same.

Nathaniel (Nate) Nash is a junior at the CIA Moscow Station but with natural streetcraft skills to be able to meet and collect information on the streets of Moscow from MARBLE, the most important mole in the Russian government. After an accidental contact with Russian operators Nate gets moved to Helsinki Station.

Dominika Egoragov is a beautiful ballerina student, who has a unique personal skill as a synesthete where she sees the emotions and intentions of others as colours. After an accident stops her dancing career, she  is recruited into the SVR under pressure by her Uncle Vanya. She undergoes intense training as an SVR agent, including at "Sparrow School" which specialises in the art of espionage seduction. Vanya then sends her to Helsinki to try and recruit Nate and find the identity of MARBLE. As she becomes closer to Nate she is humiliated by her controllers and turns more and more to him for support.

Jason Matthews is a masterful storyteller who takes us inside the treacherous world of espionage on a switchback trail of lies, disinformation, deceit, treachery, violence and torture. The story has real authenticity as during Matthews' 33 year career with the CIA he was involved in many of the spycraft and recruitment activities that are a key element of this amazing tale.

This is a great espionage thriller which will keep you absorbed throughout as the plot twists and turns in unexpected ways.  It is highly recommended for anyone looking for a really intelligent, realistic, exciting and sometimes chilling thriller.