Harvard Yard (Fallon #2), by William Martin

Four stars (of five)

“A man will be known by his books.”

– John Harvard

Martin introduces the reader to the Wedges; a family steeped in history who hold a deep secret that traces back to the time of William Shakespeare. A play the Bard penned specifically for John Harvard makes its way across the Atlantic with a boatload of Puritans and is protected from their fiery rhetoric. Hidden within the college at Cambridge, soon to bear Harvard’s name, the play’s existence is kept secret by the Wedges for generations, leaving rare book fanatics to wonder if it was all a fallacy. Enter Peter Fallon and the modern-day treasure hunt. He’s discovered evidence that Shakespeare’s play may be hidden on campus and is determined to discover it before his rivals can get their hands on this priceless publication. Fallon’s research brings him back in touch with an old flame as well as generations of Wedges, some of whom were as brutish as they came and many witnessed Harvard’s evolution as a premiere educational facility. Slowly peeling back the mysteries, Fallon must not only discover the play’s location, but keep himself from dying at the hands of the seedy underbelly that New England has on offer. How can one play sit at the foundation of Harvard’s preeminence and what will Fallon discover as he sifts through over three and a half centuries of skeletons? Masterfully told with wonderful juxtaposition, it is only a pity that Martin waited so long to bring back this entertaining series.

As he continues to make a name for himself, Martin captivates the reader with his multi-generational stories that pull history from out of books and presents it as an ever-evolving beast. At the centre of the entire novel lies the development of Harvard and its history against the backdrop of America’s creation and evolution. The reader learns no only about the hallowed halls, but its politics, and the evolution of its philosophy. While Crimson has always seen itself as above the fray, Martin exemplifies that Harvard, too, fought the tides of change while remaining true to itself. Martin also interweaves storylines and characters from the debut Fallon novel, Back Bay, which will amuse attentive readers while also keeping the story propelling forward. A wonderfully educational piece of work, as well as highly entertaining and filled with enough mystery to keep the reader wondering.

I cannot neglect the quote I present to begin this review. Teased from the early chapters, it speaks volumes to my character and could be adapted to any curious reader. While book reviews serve as a window into the mind and soul of a reader, what one chooses to mentally digest surely exemplifies one’s character. Looking at my stacks and those books that I have read and/or reviewed over the years, I feel I am in good hands, even if I will be known for having a vast array of interests.

Kudos, Mr. Martin for such an interesting novel that brings Peter Fallon back. While the hiatus was a little troublesome, you have picked up and forged ahead, offering readers a fast-paced novel and a history lesson along the way.

The Rule of Four, ┬áby Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomason

Three stars (of five)

Caldwell and Thomason debut with a novel that spans the nuances of Renaissance code breaking as much as modern life at an Ivy League school. As Tom Sullivan prepares to complete an undergraduate degree at Princeton, he’s forced to remember a horrible accident that killed his father years earlier. The reason, a thesis his roommate is composing on a rare and complex book, one the elder Sullivan spent much of his academic life trying to decipher. The Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, published in 1499, has left scholars with headaches and curious mysteries in equal measure, its story and the clues embedded therein more challenging the deeper they are studied. An apparent love story, composed in several languages, the Hypnerotomachia actually presents mathematical challenges, artistic nuances, and linguistic labyrinths to the attentive code breaker. After learning of these codes, Sullivan realises that he cannot decode them alone, and turns to his roommate, Paul Harris, to succeed where Tom’s father failed. They work tirelessly to decode the story and discover its hidden meaning, while academics within Princeton’s elite try to sabotage the research, or take it as their own. Sullivan and Harris are soon pulled into the centre of the Hypnerotomachia and its explosive secrets. Whether they live long enough to reap the rewards is yet to be seen. A decent debut for both authors, who keep the pace high and the mysteries plentiful. 

In reading a review of the novel, someone called this novel’s premise akin to a Dan Brown plot. While there are some great storylines and equally mysterious deciphering aspects, I would defer to the master codebreaker, but still offer Caldwell and Thomason their due. The novel plods along and offers the reader some insight into the world of Princeton life, albeit from a narrator stuck in an existential tunnel, as well as a race to decode a wonderfully mysterious piece of Renaissance literature. The authors have done a great job in prefacing the times and putting the text in its best context, while wrapping the story in a mystery and encoding that in a cipher. Nuances throughout keep the reader wondering if all this could be real and if so, how could it have taken so long to unravel it. Caldwell and Thomason have kept their characters fresh, the story paced well, and the themes as realistic as possible. Great work for a first effort, though why it took so long for Caldwell to return to the scene remains a mystery best tacked by reading his next literary offering.

Kudos, Messrs. Caldwell and Thomason for this wonderfully entertaining and thought-provoking novel. While Renaissance was never my area of greatest interest, you have done well to pique my code-breaking interest.

No-Drama Discipline: The Whole-Brain Way to Calm the Chaos and Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind, by Dr. Daniel Siegel, MD and Dr. Tina Payne Bryson, Ph.D.

Five stars (of five)

(Yet again the title should be a review in and of itself!)

Before tackling this book, the reader must understand a secret that is essential to good parenting; there is no ‘perfect parent’ or ‘ideal’ approach to tackling the issues of disciplining a child. Drs. Daniel Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson dispel this myth from the beginning and offer an insightful and highly educational approach to discipline and parenting that is simple, yet effective. With strong parallels from their previous joint publication (The Whole Brain Child), which I have previously reviewed, the authors tackle discipline from a non-punitive perspective seeking the “teachable moment” approach for both parent and child. With a better understanding of the child’s brain, the parent can fine-tune their end results to best align with what the child has going on and how the message reception plays an integral role in the final product, hopefully a cessation of the issue at hand. Siegel and Bryson make reference to their previous work and the different parts of the brain, as well as how disciplining from the lower, more reptilian, brain can lead to gross exaggeration and emotional messes that could take years to rectify. By talking and redirecting over punishing and lecturing, the authors propose that a child and their brain will become no only more receptive to addressing issues, but also more capable of digesting behaviours in need of change. While some sections may leave even the more tapped-in parent wondering where the parental power may have gone in this approach, Siegel and Bryson assure the reader that all is not lost, even if the magic wand is no longer in play. Well-written with honest examples and keys to success, Siegel and Bryson offer up a wonderful guide to address discipline issues from an emotionally calm and drama-free approach, leaving time for the parent and child to tune into an episode or two of DAYS OF OUR LIVES and see how well adjusted they are, compared to some families.

This is the second ‘parental discipline’ book that I have read in the past few months. With a child in his Torrential Threes, I sought out some helpful advice to tackle issues of defiance, acting out, and even outright ignoring. While the book has some sound approaches to it, it contradicts some of the previous literature that I have read by another well-known and respected parenting expert. Such is the peril that any parent (or reader) will encounter when reaching out for assistance. I was pleased to see Siegel and Bryson speak of not “running one’s life based on the manual of one expert or another while ignoring parental instinct”, for that is what I feared I would do. Children are as unique as ice cream flavours, and the parent knows their child better than any academic or psychologist. At times, it takes a nudge in the right direction to tune into those frequencies the child emits, but we cannot discount our own intuition in finding an effective way to parent and discipline the child. I especially enjoyed the ‘discipline is not all about punishment’ approach, for I never saw the difference. Boiling discipline down to being a set of teachable moments, the parent can reins in behaviours and teach from a ‘how well is this working?’ angle, rather than a ‘punish the behaviour out of you’ approach. If I took one thing away from this book, it is that. Our children are the future and if we can get in better touch with their feelings and development (mentally, physically, and emotionally), we are well on the way to raising happier, healthier, and more well-adjusted children. Then we can see those life lessons flourish when grandchildren come along. That said, don’t spill your secrets too readily; you had to learn them the hard way too!    

Kudos, Drs. Siegel and Bryson for this wonderfully organised book. I enjoyed its content as well as the strong ties to your previous work, which serves me well on a daily basis.

The Marriage Game, by Alison Weir

Four stars (of five)

Queen Mary is dead! Long live Queen Elizabeth! So begins the latest Weir novel, in which the reader is carried through the life of the final Tudor monarch and her strong-willed beliefs. Labelled the “Virgin Queen”, Elizabeth held firm to her beliefs that she need not marry, which all but kept her from producing an heir. Weir examines Elizabeth’s sentiments on the matter, while juxtaposing the worst-kept secret in Elizabeth’s life; her longtime, scandalous royal love affair with Lord Robert Dudley. While Elizabeth happily runs the country as both queen and king, her closest advisors attempt to find a suitor to create needed political alliances and bring forth a child. Elizabeth continues a sordid affair with Dudley, crossing all thresholds save that of intercourse, with a devastating fear of pregnancy and its associated pains. While Dudley pledges his heart to her, even while still married, their relationship never takes the step that he wants and Elizabeth fears most, marriage. Weir parallels the marriage search with the Elizabeth-Dudley strain, spanning decades, which eventually sours their long friendship. Dudley’s patience wears thin and Elizabeth cannot stand criticism of her eventually consideration to wed in order to save England on the continent. What began as a game has turned into a war of emotions, where no one is safe from decimation.

Weir uses her fictional accounts of historical events to bring the reader deep into the goings-on of the Tudor family. While exploring the role Elizabeth feels she has in the larger Tudor/Henry VIII drama, vindication of Anne Boleyn is at the heart of her reign. Weir also addresses the struggles of the few short-lived monarchs after Henry VIII’s death and the vicious treatment Mary took on her half-sister while re-Catholicising England for a short period. With Mary Queen of Scots raising issues in the north, Elizabeth’s struggles were by no means solely her own, as she sought to cement her place in history, knowing she had no heir to take over once she left the throne. As the continent explodes and alliances may be the only way for England to save herself, Elizabeth must play the role of monarch and negotiate for the best of her people, putting her own preferences aside. Powerfully written and thoroughly researched, Weir amazes readers with such a smooth and easy to follow novel at the height of English monarchical rule.

Kudos, Madam Weir for another powerful novel. You have a great handle on the Tudors and the drama they created. I look forward to your future stories, as they always teach an entertain simultaneously.

Back Bay (Fallon #1), by William Martin

Three and a half stars (of five)

Martin introduces the reader to the Pratts; a family steeped in history who hold a deep secret that traces back to the time of George Washington. After being given aa Paul Revere silver tea set, Washington promises to keep it on display in the White House, much to the chagrin of one Horace Taylor Pratt, Massachusetts Founding Father. After the tea set is stolen from the Madison White House during the War of 1812, Pratt seeks to secure its ownership through a number of negotiations and keep the profits inside his family circle. However, an accident leaves the tea set hidden somewhere in the Back Bay part of Boston, and the mystery flows down for six Pratt generations. Modern historian Peter Fallon stumbles upon the Pratt secret when perusing some old family papers and begins to ask questions not only about the tea set, but the Pratts in general. Juxtaposing the historical development of the Pratts and their secret with Fallon’s modern search for answers blends the two stories into a single plot line that could mean the end of Fallon. The tea set appears to be the thread that keeps the story moving, though Martin recounts many sub-plots in the Pratt family history that create a rich and captivating tale for the reader. Less a mystery or historical document chase than a snapshot of a family riddled with secrets of their own, Martin captivates and educates the reader continually. Well worth the time invested and sure to whet the reader’s appetite for the rest of the Fallon series.

I was not sure what to expect when I started the book, as it appeared to play out like a modern historian uncovering a secret item, lost in history, whose reappearance could answer many questions. Layer that with a family trying to preserve their own secrets and a few sinister villains, creating an all-around decent novel. However, Martin takes the reader through history to build on the mystery while addressing issues of the day and weaving threads between six generations, all culminating in the modern discovery of the secret. Martin uses the alternating chapters to keep the reader shifting their mind in order to better understand al the characters who appear throughout. Threads woven throughout the story come together nicely in the end and the reader will surely have at least a few forehead-slapping moments. I am eager to see what else Martin has in store in the series, set in and around Boston, an area that has always intrigued me.

Kudos, Mr. Martin for such an interesting opening novel. I can see this is only the beginning of what could be a highly captivating set of novels.

LBJ: The Mastermind of the JFK Assassination, by Phillip F. Nelson

Five stars (of five)

Nelson taps into two areas of great curiosity to me that, combined, have piqued my interest with this book; JFK assassination conspiracies and biography of Lyndon Johnson. Nelson has taken on the monumental task of making the significant argument that Johnson was the puppet-master in the assassination of his predecessor, John F Kennedy. A theory usually reserved for Third World banana republics, the former Eastern Bloc, or Putin’s Russia, Nelson tries to pull the argument into the mainstream that a second-in-command would purposely set plans in motion to slay a nation’s leader, in this case that of the Free World. Nelson posits that Johnson’s hatred towards JFK, means of acting without direct implication, and obsession with power, all played central roles making him complicit in the assassination. Not only making these arguments, Nelson also creates a lengthy and detailed theory to show how all evidence points to Johnson. With a dedicated narrative and through the use of countless documents and interviews, Nelson presents the reader with a stunning biographical piece on Johnson and substantiated proof that the Crime of the Century could be solved, without a doubt.

Nelson weaves the theme of hatred towards JFK, and the Kennedys in general,throughout his tome. While no angel himself, Johnson always looked down on the cavorting and reckless affairs that JFK engaged in while in the White House, as well as his weak stances internationally and on the domestic agenda. Nelson outlines the ire between the two men on countless occasions, including friction over Kennedy sending Johnson to Vietnam while the dispute was still on a slow boil, to which the latter outrightly refused (even in his subservient role as vice-president). The hatred was also fuelled by Johnson’s relationship with a number of other Kennedy haters, mentioned below, which created an oft strained relationship between the two. Nelson explores Kennedy’s apparent decision to drop Johnson from the ticket in ’64, which would have dashed hopes of Johnson’s ascendancy to the White House. Nelson leaves little doubt that Johnson sought to remove the man who caused him so much disgust by any means necessary. Nelson leaves no doubt that Johnson had enough vile sentiment in his encounters with Kennedy to want him dead.

Johnson’s political and personal connections spanned not only across decades, but also political and cultural groups. As Nelson illustrates, Johnson worked closely and regularly with J. Edgar Hoover, another mortal enemy of the Kennedy clan. That connection fostered further ties to mafia men angered that Bobby Kennedy was trying to round them up, CIA officials livid that JFK hung them out to dry during the Bay of Pigs, and ultra-conservative individuals irate that Kennedy remained soft on Communism. Johnson was also not divorced from murder in his past either, having apparently ordered the death of a handful of men who may have been involved in sullying his family’s name. Nelson pulls no punches and offers countless examples of how dirty and duplicitous Johnson was throughout his political life, with the goal of taking his lame-duck role as vice-president and catapulting himself into the Oval Office, where he could live out his childhood dream, as president of the United States. With this broad and varied cross-section of associates, it is no stretch that Johnson had the means at hand to order or at least bring about the slaying of JFK and keep his hands clear of any direct blame.

While he grew up in the depths of despair and as poor as could be imagined, Johnson’s eye never strayed from his goal of being president of the United States, imbibing on the power he could generate as he travelled the long journey to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. He took no prisoners in his ascendency, eliminating all obstacles while fine-tuning is political prowess. Johnson would lie, cheat, steal, kill, and even double-cross people to attain his goals. As is mentioned in the tome, Johnson stood as the most powerful man in Congress –Majority Leader in the Senate– and exerted his power at every turn. Why, then, would he agree to such a subservient role as vice-president? Nelson argues that the only reason he’d agree is because he felt sure he could rise to the role of president early on, not having to wait the requisite eight years for JFK to complete his two terms. Nelson further illustrates that Johnson was always working to put his ultimate plan in action and tweaked it on a regular basis. When faced with lawlessness from the testimony of a former aide, Johnson did all he could to squash and erase evidence, or spin things to fit his master plan. Drunk on power and with an eye on the prize, Johnson crafted and enacted the Crime of the Century, all to obtain an otherwise insurmountable obstacle of becoming president of the United States. 

Nelson’s narrative is not only believable, but also lays out the story so succinctly that he reader cannot help but connect the dots and make the inevitable conclusions. This is not a book based on a crackpot theory of the phases of the moon or misinterpretation of a memorandum, but a set of key evidence that, in all but one or two instances, was previously presented by historians or researchers. The reader can gather all these breadcrumbs and create the master theory, which leaves little doubt that Johnson was implicit in the assassination and had his cronies cover it up on numerous levels, turning evidence presented to the public into a collection of deception to steer guilt away from the obvious culprits. Nelson convincing style gathers the reader around the cauldron of facts and suppositions, creating a thoroughly captivating final product whose fortitude makes its dismissal implausible.

Having been a fan of Robert A. Caro’s ongoing biography  of Johnson, I can attest to many of the stories Nelson raises, having heard them before by the prize-winning biographer. Nelson touches on so many angles with such clarity and supported by so much evidence that it is hard for the reader not to want to believe what’s presented. Nelson’s writing style is as captivating as Caro’s, with just as much attention to detail and yet filled with so much to depict Johnson as a negative character. The reader needs to take this into account, as the inherent bias is by no means sheltered in this tome, nor does Nelson hide his angle, as the title suggests.

Kudos, Mr. Nelson for such a powerful book that makes poignant and well-grounded arguments behind Johnson’s role in the assassination. While it has been over half a century, I will say you’ve opened up new angles to this mystery and might have stumbled upon a possible solution.

The Night Crew, by Brian Haig

Four stars (of five)

Haig returns to write another entertaining novel, starring Sean Drummond in his capacity as a military lawyer. While Drummond is living life under the radar, he’s approached to work on a highly-controversial military trial. A young personnel clerk has been brought up on charges for prisoner abuse. Photos leaked to the media show Lydia Eddelston putting Iraqi prisoners in highly compromising positions in order to prime them for interrogations. If this were not bad enough, a senior Iraqi official is dead after a severe beating, and the night crew is on the hook. Drummond must work with his co-counsel to get to the bottom of this highly sexualised case and find any possible loophole to free his client from the US military’s judicial system, while trying to determine who’s leading the prisoner abuse tactics. Drummond must also face past demons and try to make peace with the woman who’s caused him such grief since law school. Drummond plays hard and works even harder as he seeks justice for those who need it most, no matter the cost. While providing a serious argument for the use of interrogation by the US military, it is a refreshing return for those who are die-hard fans of Haig’s witty style.

After a long hiatus, Sean Drummond is back, complete with his acerbic wit and take no prisoners attitude. Fans of the John Corey character created by Nelson DeMille will adore Drummond and be attuned to his highly inappropriate style of breaking the ice. Haig is able to inject humour into a highly disturbing topic, with strong parallels to Abu Ghraib, and create not only a legal argument, but a social commentary on events of this nature within the military hierarchy. Told less from a soap box angle than much needed information, Haig is able to pull the reader in and keep them entertained throughout.

Kudos, Mr. Haig. A wonderful Drummond novel to tide us over as we wait to see if your Haig-Vince Flynn (RIP) project has been shelved or simply delayed.

Mightier Than the Sword (Clifton Chronicles #5), by Jeffrey Archer

Four stars (of five)

Archer builds on his heptalogy with a fifth volume that does not disappoint. When the story ended, the IRA had set a bomb to explode aboard the MV Buckingham, its explosion rocking the vessel. The reader soon learns that the explosion took place overboard and the damage only minimal. Emma Clifton and the rest of the board of Barrington Shipping must handle the situation and keep the public from learning of the terrorist plot. Emma struggles at the helm of Barrington, with some on the board calling for her immediate dismissal as chairman, especially as many passengers begin to question the story offered up. Even with her son, Sebastian, on the board, Emma’s day may be numbered, thanks to an old nemesis. Not to wither in the shadows, Harry Clifton has been elected president of English PEN, allowing him a strong voice to call for the release of fellow author, Anatoly Babakov, held in a Siberian gulag for writing a raw and uncensored novel about Joseph Stalin. Harry will risk it all, including his own life, to free this man and protect free speech at any cost. The ever-evolving Giles Barrington is firmly rooted in the House of Commons and has a  seat in the Cabinet. However, a moment of weakness while in East Germany costs him everything, and leaves the door wide open for his long-time nemesis, Major Alex Fisher, to challenge him for his seat during  General Election. Plotting to bring down the Cliftons and Barringtons, Fisher continues to work with Lady Virginia Fenwick and a new member of the trifecta to dismantle the family, one member at a time. Sebastian presents a strong second generation in the novel, wrestling to keep his personal relationship with his girlfriend, Sam, from deteriorating. Sebastian has climbed his way up in the banking industry, but shows a cut-throat side when doing business. Archer brings the novel to its climax with two legal battles that could have major implications for everyone involved in the series. Not to stray from his usual style, Archer presents  set of cliffhangers lure the writer in and sate them for the inevitable wait until the next instalment hits bookstands. 

Captivating seems like such an understatement for this series, in which Archer keeps finding new ways to pull the reader in and beg for more information on the Cliftons and Barringtons. Archer appears able to juggle the many storylines he’s create and gives them the much needed attention to allow each character to flourish. As characters cross paths and intertwine, the story branches off repeatedly and only gets better. This is classic Jeffrey Archer!

And now we wait! I chose to devour the first five novels consecutively, which entertained me thoroughly. However, once the rush began, I could not stop the momentum and now am dangling on the edge, waiting to see what Archer will do, along with millions of other fans. Alas, I will be as patient as I can, searching for nuggets of information about the penultimate novel.

Kudos, Lord Archer for another stellar piece of work. I am truly eager to see what next you have for readers and curse the time it takes to get a book through to publication.

The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind, Survive Everyday Parenting Struggles, and Help Your Family Strive, by Daniel Siegel (MD) and Tina Payne Bryson (Ph.D)

Four stars (of five)

[The title alone should make this review count as two entries!]

Siegel and Bryson introduce the reader not only to the wonders of the childhood brain, but also how to harness its developing stages to create a happier and healthier relationship with children. The authors also tackle approaches that parents/caregivers may not have taken the time to ponder when faced with discipline or emotional situations. Siegel and Bryson explore the various parts of the child brain (so similar, yet different from that of an adult) and explore the HOW and WHY children may not react as rationally or systematically as their adult counterparts. Through an exploration of the upper and lower brains, as well as the right and left hemispheres, the authors present the reader with a better understanding of what goes on in those areas and how children’s brains differ in their developmental stages. After exploring the ‘self’ perspectives of the brain, the authors branch out to examine how using the inner and reflective portions of the lessons outlined in the early chapters, a child can extrapolate towards others and expand their worldly understanding, creating a more peaceful and less emotionally-complex world. Siegel and Bryson’s easy to read style and lessons from both a chid and adult perspective offer great insight to understanding the child rather than simply trying to rewire them to be more cognizant and disciplined beings. Wonderful for the parent/caregiver of any child going through the developmental stages, it will shed much needed light on the elusive aspects of the brain.

Siegel and Bryson offer wonderfully informative chapters to show how working with the brain can be simply achieved, while having momentous outcomes. As explained in the introduction, the book is not overly scientific, but does delve into some of the needed basics to better comprehend what is going on inside the brain and its correlation with childhood (and sometimes adult) actions. By better understanding what is (or is not) going on, the responsible adult can use the techniques to create a more pleasant experience while following the path of childhood emotions and handling discipline or behaviour correction. Their twelve activities to hone in on numerous skills will prove helpful in their own right. This book is not a discipline guide, where the twelve pillars will create the perfect child. Instead, it allows a stronger adult-child relationship, where both parties understand what is going on and can work, as a team, to better the overall situation.

Kudos, Drs. Siegel and Bryson on this wonderful book that has opened my eyes as the parent to a three year-old. I shall stronger recommend this to all parents and caregivers and be sure to refer back to it repeatedly.

Be Careful What You Wish For (Clifton Chronicles #4), by Jeffrey Archer

Four Stars (of five)

Archer’s heptalogy continues with the fourth instalment of the Clifton Chronicles. The novel opens hoping to resolve the major cliffhanger after Sebastian is in a major car accident and someone has died. Harry and Emma rush to the hospital to get the news, which changes their lives forever. Emma cannot sit by idly as Barrington Shipping’s chairman resigns, leaving her the opportunity to fill the void. Don Pedro Martinez, a powerful new enemy of the Cliftons, uses his company shares in an attempt to place a hand-picked candidate in the chairmanship. While Barrington Shipping seeks to build its new luxury liner, the MV Buckingham, Martinez proves the masterful saboteur in hopes of bringing the company to its knees as a final act of vindication. All the while, Harry and Emma’s other child, Jessica, is making a name for herself in the art world and finding love in all the right places. That is, until another old rival, Lady Virginia  Fenwick opens old wounds in an attempt to derail any happy future for Jessica and her extended family. Archer pits Martinez and Fenick against the Clifton and Barrington families in a set of adventures that will keep the reader wondering how long the fast-paced action can continue. Complete with another stunning Archer cliffhanger, the novel ends just as the reader is hopeless hooked. When Archer’s in control, anything is possible.

Archer continues the story so effectively, adding characters and plot lines at every turn. The story never stops and even the minor branch-offs prove highly entertaining and develop the ever-growing list of individuals whose lives become intertwined with the Cliftons and Barringtons. Archer’s constant development of ideas set against historical events proves seamless, though he uses said events only in passing, unlike Follett or Rutherfurd in their respective multi-generational series. 

Kudos, Lord Archer for another stellar piece of work. Onwards to see what else you have in store.

Best Kept Secret (Clifton Chronicles #3), by Jeffrey Archer

Four stars (of five)

Jeffrey Archer forges ahead in the Clifton heptalogy, keeping volume three full of excitement and intrigue. After an eventful vote in the House of Lords on the Barrington family fortune, Harry and Emma are able to move forward with their lives, intertwined as one. They seek to expand their family in a not so traditional manner, perfectly suited for this Archer tale. Giles Barrington continues his life as a Member of Parliament and faces a tough Conservative candidate when the election is called. Alex Fisher has returned and seeks to dethrone the Labour MP, going so far as to attempt to rig the election results. Fisher has been working with Lady Virginia to bring down Giles and his family by whatever means possible. The next generation of Cliftons is ready to step out on their own, namely Sebastian Arthur Clifton son of Harry and Emma. Sebastian’s life is filled with ups and downs as he tries to finish school. With a scholarship to Cambridge awaiting him, Sebastian gets mixed up in some unsavoury business, unbeknownst to him. After the Clifton and Barrington families work together to spoil a laundering ring, they place themselves in the crosshairs of a powerful criminal, who is only too happy to wreak havoc at every turn. Ending with another great cliffhanger, Archer weaves an ever-evolving tale sure to keep the reader begging for the next novel to sate their curiosity.

Archer continues to create a wonderful story, filled with fabulous characters. The plot lines evolve throughout and the characters fit so nicely into Archer’s master plan. While some authors who pen multi-generational series lose the reader in a plethora of characters and too many plot lines, Archer reins both in while keeping the excitement level high. The fate of the Cliftons and Barringtons remains a mystery as Archer moves forward, which only adds to the series’ greatness.

Kudos, Lord Archer for another stellar piece of work.

Terminal (Virals #5), by Kathy Reichs and Brendan Reichs

Four stars (of five)

As the Virals series comes to an end, Reichs-squared pack all the power of the previous novels into this final instalment. At the end of the previous novel, the Virals learned that they were not the only infected pack in town. This new group, Trinity, has ties to a former classmate of Tory Brennan’s, Chance Claybourne, whose earlier goal was to discover the secret behind the Virals and out them. It’s Trinity versus Virals, with a single pack set to survive, at least until their super-virus cripples their everyday lives. Can Tory and the Virals bring a happy ending to this story, or will Trinity take over Morris Island, wiping the cast of protagonists off the map? Reichs-squared end things on a very interesting note, sure to entertain followers of the series.

Having navigated through the entire series, I have been trying not to compare it to James Patterson’s Maximum Ride collection. Both series are unique, though have strong leading females, who guide their respective collection through thick and thin. While the novels are nowhere nearly as exciting as the Temperance Brennan books, they prove entertaining and thought provoking, with just enough spice to keep the story from getting too lame. I am sad to see the series end, though it has served a decent purpose and kept things interesting for a number of years.

Kudos, Mr. and Dr. Reichs for this wonderful collection. Young and full-fledged adults alike should appreciate all the effort that’s been put in.

The Sins of the Father (Clifton Chronicles #2), by Jeffrey Archer

Four stars (of five)

Jeffrey Archer at his best in this, the second in the Clifton heptalogy, picking up where he left off. The reader learns a great deal more about some of the key characters that fill the plot lines leading into the Second World War. Harry, who took on another man’s identity after a military incident, soon learns that his gamble did not pay off and he finds himself incarcerated in New York. Harry spends that time honing his writing skills in jail and is eventually drafted into battle with US Forces. Meanwhile, Emma is a new mother and learns of Harry supposed ‘death at sea’ but refuses to believe it. She travels over the Atlantic to investigate for herself, discovering Harry’s writing and goes in search of the love of her life. While she is not able to locate him, she soon becomes is literary advocate and continues to track him down, only to discover that Harry’s been shipped off to Europe. Giles finds himself on the continent as well, fighting the Germans before he is captured and sent to a POW camp. Hugo, who’s been banished from his own family, is causing havoc and sowing his seed with another unwitting woman while still trying to plot the downfall of anyone Clifton. Maisie is his most recent target, as he tries to bully her into selling the land on which her teashop once stood. In the end, he meets his demise, but the question of Harry’s paternity takes centre-stage as the Barrington inheritance must be decided. Newly elected Labour Member of Parliament Giles Barrington watches on as the House of Lords debates the rightful heir, even though Harry wants nothing to do with it. Another stellar cliffhanger leaves Archer fans cursing, but applauding all at the same time. Wonderful continuation of the series sure to keep readers up late into the night.

Archer remains a powerful narrator and linguistic sculptor, presenting the reader with a wonderful story that expands with each passing chapter. Renewing the layered narrative approach, the reader is treated not only to numerous plot lines through the eyes of various characters, but also a powerful addition to the central story with each section. The reader may bask in the exciting set of plots on which the novel continues to build. While the story has yet to really focus on a second (or third) generation, Archer had laid the groundwork for this and has a number of storylines ready to blossom. Patience, eager reader, as I am sure it all comes to pass soon.

Kudos Lord Archer for this powerful piece of work. Keep building and you will surely capture the hearts and minds of many more readers before too long.

Only Time Will Tell (Clifton Chronicles #1), by Jeffrey Archer

Five stars (of five)

Jeffrey Archer at his finest, beginning a heptalogy sure to entertain throughout. Harry Clifton comes from a poor family, where every benefit is earned and each hardship a hurdle. When he meets Giles Barrington he soon forges a life-long friendship, even if they come from different social circles. Clifton forges ahead to make a name for himself, while living under the shadow of never having met his father. While Clifton presumes Arthur Clifton died on the battlefields, the truth is known to a select few that he was involved in a horrific workplace incident, at the hands of Hugo Barrington. The reader also learns of Clifton’s mother, Maisie, who seeks to put a troubled past out of her mind and make a name for herself, all while concerned that Harry might discover the truth about his father. As the story progresses, Harry continues to be scholastically sound, but his heart remains weak when it coms to young Emma Barrington, sister of Giles and eldest daughter of Hugo. Harry and Emma build a love deeply rooted in honesty, but may face insurmountable challenges because of one lie. As Harry deals with revelations on his wedding day, he flees and finds himself in a web of lies and legal troubles on the shores of New York, as the reader stares into the abyss at the wonderful cliffhanger left at the end of the tale. Archer begins the series with a splendid foundation, sure to offer many offshoots in the coming books. 

 The book has the flavour of Follett’s Century series and Rutherfurd’s multi-generational novels, where the reader must pay attention not only to the story, but also the collection of characters and their nuances. Archer singles himself out by using seven narrators to tell the same story from their own point of view. These narratives add more to the story in a powerful and progressive manner. This is sure to keep readers wondering what lies ahead, the test of a well-crafted novel. So far things flow nicely and the characters come to life in true Archer fashion. However, no one is safe and no storyline is sure to remain on the straight and narrow.

Kudos Mr. Archer for this wonderful introduction, with a number of great cliffhangers and dramatic twists. Bring on the next volume, posthaste.

Twelve Hours, by Leo J. Maloney

Three and a half stars (of five)

Maloney brings Dan Morgan out for a wonderful short story to keep fans on the edge of their seats. With the President of Iran in New York City to make peace, security is heightened, but no one expects an inside job when Islamic terrorists begin a destructive set of events that has Morgan and his daughter, Alex, in the eye of the storm. While acts take place at various sites, Morgan and the FBI must fight to quell the action and keep the hostages safe. Working to free the hostages is one thing, but with a head of state held captive, there are no second chances, which Morgan knows all too well. Maloney takes the readers through the story in a mere twelve hours to save the city and pave the way towards peace on numerous fronts. A great novella with just enough action and new character introduction.

Maloney teases his fans effectively with this submission, though it could easily have been drawn out into a longer story. While the snippet-length chapters allow readers to forge ahead in an effective manner, the jilted style can be somewhat hard for the reader to gather the needed momentum in one scene. Still, it is a bridge to the next full-length book and likely there have been some characters and scenarios peppered within the pages to make a decent transition.

Kudos, Mr. Maloney for his lovely place-setting novella. Hoping to see more Dan Morgan before the year is out.

The Caveman, by Jorn Lier Horst

Four stars (of five)

In his latest novel to cross the language barrier into English, Horst dazzles readers yet again. With the holiday season upon him, William Wisting is taking account of the passing year and what is to come. After man’s body is found in his own home four months after he’s expired, Line Wisting seeks to personalise the man and bring her father up to speed. Both Wistings recollect the man as a neighbour from years ago, saddened that his isolation may have played a role in the delayed discovery. Inspector Wisting is pulled into action when a man’s dissicated body is found under a Christmas tree lot in a wooded area. His identity is only made with fingerprint analysis on a document inside his pocket. The man turns out to be from the FBI’s Most Wanted List from decades ago, accused of multiple murders. Can Wisting and his team work with American authorities to close the case, and how does Line’s story tie into the larger picture? Unravelling the mysteries of both men in their respective spheres may prove essential. Yet another stellar piece of work, which paves the way for ongoing success at Horst’s hands.

Horst uses key ideas and pushes the story forward in an exciting and succinct fashion. That his novels are penned in a language other than English and yet prove to be so powerful baffles me. By saying that, I mean not that English is the only language in which the reader ought to read, but that they flow so well in English, even if they were not originally intended for such an audience. While the translator is due some praise, it is also on Horst that his stories run so smoothly that their translation does not dampen the level of thrill for readers. I can only wonder if Norwegians who read some English-penned thrillers wonder how we can consume such drivel. Horst’s novels keep getting better and this only feeds the fodder that the original five novels in the series really need English rights to show their wonderful foundation-creating depiction of Wisting and the rest of the gang.

Kudos, Mr. Horst for another wonderful addition to the William Wisting collection. I am eager to see how you will top this with another wonderful adventure!