The Lords’ Day (Harry Jones #1), by Michael Dobbs

Five stars (of five)

Dobbs entertains the reader as a new-age Jeffrey Archer, penning novels that encapsulate the intricacies of the British parliamentary system. The novel opens on Lords’ Day, the official opening of the British parliamentary session. Amid all the pomp and circumstance, former Cabinet member and military hero Harry Jones is handling some less than wonderful news in his personal life. At the height of the day’s importance, Queen Elizabeth II enters the House of Peers to deliver her speech, as part of the day’s events. Chaos ensues as a group of foreign nationals hold all those in the room at gunpoint. Among the hostages are the British Prime Minister, his son, members of the British Cabinet, international dignitaries and the son of the US President, not to mention Her Majesty and the Prince of Wales. The story proceeds in two sphere, inside and outside the room. While the hostages settle in, the reader can witness some of the more philosophical narratives amongst those held captive, including worry and a better understanding of the event’s rationale. Outside the room, tension ramp up as British officials ponder security options to free those inside. The Home Secretary is the most senior member of the government not being held, and she assumes control of the British government. Her hard-line approach ruffles the feathers of her make-shift cabinet as well as the POTUS, seeking to ensure her son’s freedom. As Harry Jones uses his military background to assist the British response, he stumbles upon some information that might explain who’s behind the hostage-taking and a motive for the disaster. How it all turns out depends on many actors, all of whom want to play the starring role. Dobbs exemplifies his abilities and captures the reader’s attention until the closing sentence.

Dobbs takes a brilliant idea and builds a powerful political tale around it. Dobbs addresses some key themes, throughout the novel, including: British sentiment towards the monarchy, the monarch’s view of their role, reaction to the Afghan and Iraqi Wars, American hegemonic intoxication, the role of state sovereignty amongst allies, and British parliamentary succession. Tapping into the nuances of the British system, Dobbs introduces readers to Harry Jones and his abilities, which will likely become relevant in the future novels of the series. Spanning just over 24 hours, the plot’s stakes are high and the tension even higher, leaving Dobbs to fill pages with great narrative and political intrigue. An idea I’ve wanted to read about for a while finally comes to life in epic proportions. A must-read for political and thriller junkies.

Kudos, Baron Dobbs for your wonderful work. House of Cards was sensational and this goes to show you have paved the way for more great literary ideas.

Memory Man (Amos Decker #1), by David Baldacci

Four stars (of five)

Another new Baldacci series, as fresh as many of his past collections. Amos Decker has suffered much in his four decades but steered himself away from disaster. A football accident left him with a number of neurological conditions:  razor-sharp mental acuity, photographic memory recall, and grapheme synesthesia (less glamorous than the run-of-the-mill superhero). While conditions proved somewhat helpful during his time as a police officer, it also hindered him socially, akin to those with Asperger’s. Arriving home one night to find his family slaughtered, Decker detached from all he knew and blended into the world of the homeless. A man’s confession to the murders gives Decker some hope of closure, however faint, while the rest of the force handles a school shooting. Issues with the confession leave Decker wondering if there are others behind the murders, using this man as a pawn. His time on the force remembered, Decker helps piece together some key aspects of the shooting, whose randomness disintegrates the more Decker explores. Leading the team across the country, Decker soon learns that both sets of murders may be interconnected and that he may know the killer, without knowing how. A powerful new thriller series that tackles neurological issues and medical anomalies, Baldacci finds new ways to refresh his writing and keep readers wanting more.

Baldacci has had a productive career, penning numerous thrillers which have climbed the bestseller lists around the world. He is a fan of series writing and seems to know just when to choose the road not taken, before his characters get stale and the readers turn away. With the introduction of another series, readers can look forward to some fresh ideas and angles of approaching similar cases. Amos Decker brings a flavour I’d most likely find in one (or two) of the Camel Club members, rejuvenating one of Baldacci’s earlier and highly successful series. The writing style is fresh and the humour as dry as ever, with a few teachable moments to leave the reader a little smarter when all is said and done.

Kudos, Mr. Baldacci for your wonderful addition to the mystery and thriller genre. I look forward to seeing what Amos Decker has in store in the years to come.

The Venus Trap, by Louise Voss

Four stars (of five)

Voss returns with another psychological thriller, tackling another angle of the horrors of love. When Jo Atkins wakes up in her own bed, everything seems fine, at least until she moves. She is shackled to her bed and her head swims in a lake of confusion. It is only then that she is able to begin the slow process of realisation; she’s being held captive by her date, Claudio. Jo is given an ultimatum, ‘fall in love with me in seven days, or I will kill you’, which does not seem like an exaggeration when Claudio says it. Voss leads the reader through the following days, as Jo recounts her past: from her first interactions with Claudio, her marriage to Richard and their daughter, the flirtation and relationship that promulgated her divorce, and a horrific memory Jo’s documented in her diary in 1986. As Jo’s resolve appears to diminish in the hopes of being freed, Claudio ramps up his antics to win the heart of the woman he’s loved for upwards of twenty-five years. Voss continues to make a name for herself and her ever-evolving thrillers. A must-read for fans and a great launching point to win over new readers alike.

Voss has mastered the art of the psychological thriller, and this novel is no exception. It illustrates just how sadistic some people tend to be when it comes to infatuation. Voss examines love and personal growth through the eyes of a woman who was scarred as a teenager, but who saw fit to work through that and forge a life for herself. Crossing paths with Claudio was more a happenstance occurrence, though the reader discovers the root of this romantic curiosity. Voss also returns to a previous theme from Forward Slash, in which she discusses the pros and cons of internet dating, while also addressing the post-divorce return to the dating world. Well written and spiced with just enough humour to take the raw edge off, Voss masterfully captures her audience and will not let them leave until all is resolved… or ends horrifically.

Kudos, Madam Voss for another stellar piece of work. I am a fan of the highest order, hands down.

Sons of Anarchy: BRATVA, by Christopher Golden

Two and a half stars (of five)

Christopher Golden revs up with his own concocted story about the Sons of Anarchy, a great television program whose recent end left fans yearning for more. After a large contingent of the SAMCRO (Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club Redwood Original) were recently released from prison, there is a power vacuum in and around Charming. Jax Teller, the Club’s V.P., is trying to keep a low profile, while also taking time to ensure the lucrative gun- and drug-running business does not pass them by. When a call from Belfast reaches him, Jax learns that his half-sister, Trinity, is entangled with Russian BRATVA gangsters and she’s now living in Nevada. Trinity’s gone missing and her mother is out of her mind, worried that no good can come of her recent associations. With the Russian Mafia likely behind the kidnapping, Jax and a small crew head to Nevada to search for her and seek revenge for an earlier SAMCRO issue. Working with the Nevada Chapter of the Sons, Jaxs discovers that this is a Russian turf war and the BRATVA will do all they can to win the battle, even if it costs Trinity her life. As with the show, the Sons go blazing in to save one of their own, regardless of the body count. A decent depiction of the show, though nowhere near as spellbinding as tuning in on a weekly basis.

Golden’s past published work is vast and his accolades lean towards the sci fi genre. Why he would choose to pen a book about SAMCRO would surely baffle fans of the show and the dedicated reader. Golden does a decent job illustrating some of the key players in the story and even ties storylines in effectively to the show, but there is something missing. Some… je ne sais quoi that keeps this from being an explosive book and one I’d recommend to series fans. I suppose it putters along and makes the point that the Sons have always been violent and surely will not change. However, the gusto is gone and the intricate drama, even in the plots is sorely missing. Perhaps Golden should return to what he knows best.

Tepid work, Mr. Golden, even if it is only my opinion. You cannot win them all, and for me, I am pleased to have at least tested your wares before buying the farm.

Forward Slash, by Louise Voss and Mark Edwards

Five stars (of five)

Another stunning thriller sure to force people to think twice about internet dating. Amy is confused and concerned when her sister, Becky, emails her to announce plans for a trip, on a whim. Even more troubling is the message that follows, “don’t try to get in touch with me.” Amy worries that something has happened to Becky and begins talking to those closest to her. When Amy finds a fellow sleuth in Becky’s neighbour, Gary, she begins exploring the darker and more secretive side of Becky’s life, online dating. Spurned by an abusive boyfriend in the past, Amy is leery of dating at all, but sees that Becky has tossed herself into the middle of the dating world and pushed its limits to the more strings-free sites that offer easy hook-ups. Could Becky have fallen in with the wrong man, who’s killed her? When Amy begins getting messages from Becky, asking that she stop looking, the search kicks up another notch. Amy will stop at nothing to find her sister, even if it’s only to put her mind to rest. Once the police locate a body on a deserted piece of land, the case becomes more official, but that’s only the beginning of the sadistic crumbs on offer to the reader. Powerfully written and told from four narrative perspectives, the reader will be pulled deep into the world of the internet and social media, questioning just how safe the faceless dating world can be.

Voss and Edwards have some of their best work in this novel. The thrills never end and the psychological aspect ramps up with each passing chapter. While not using the novel to make a whole-hearted soapbox speech on internet dating, they do sell their point effectively, which is a throwback to parents’ warnings geared at their children; you never know who’s out there and if people are who they claim to be. The race to find the missing Becky does not let up, nor do the twists throughout. While I was perceptive enough to see some of the pitfalls, others left my jaw dangling as I tried to read ‘just a little more’. Anyone who begins this Voss/Edwards journey here will want more and is surely in for a treat. Settle in and prepare to be chilled…

Kudos, Madam Voss and Mr. Edwards for your recent addition to a powerful set of novels.

Miracle at Augusta, by James Patterson and Peter de Jonge

Three and a half stars (of five)

Patterson and de Jonge return with the sequel to their golf-themed inspirational novella. After a surprising win at the PGA Senior Open the year before, Travis McKinley   basks in the fame. McKinley may be living the good life, but cannot shake that he does not belong among the greats, which is supported by a lacklustre second season on the Tour. After getting into a skirmish after one event, McKinley finds himself suspended and heads back home to spend time with his family. Pining for a return to the Tour and dreaming of playing a round at Augusta National, McKinley soon discovers that his talents need not go to waste. When a neighbourhood boy, Jerzy, finds himself on the wrong end of bullies’ wrath, McKinley takes him under his wing and introduces the game of golf, where the fiercest competitor and enemy tends to be one’s self. McKinley painstakingly works on perfecting Jerzy’s stance and honing in on an already impressive swing. Inflating Jerzy’s confidence through hard work and determination, McKinley promises him a gift of a lifetime if he’ll face those bullies; the chance to play a round at Augusta National. True to his word, McKinley plans for a trip down to Georgia, where all the miracles begin. Patterson and de Jonge inject more humour and less hokeyness into this sequel, peppered with golf references and just the right amount of inspiration.

In comparison to the first book, this instalment is the proverbial hole-in-one. It builds on the golf-centric nature of the story and keeps the heartstring plucking to a minimum. McKinley is no longer out to shed a tear or rekindle his love for family, but instead looking to show a young man that there is much to be gained from the game of golf. Add to that, de Jonge is yet another author helping Patterson to resurrect his fledging writing (which, as the attentive reader will know has suffered a quintuple-bogey with a series of subpar novels [ok, enough puns!]) and finally impress readers with something decent to say. The narrative is clean, the story clear, and the delivery quick paced. Just want the reader needs for a shorter Patterson novel.

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson and de Jonge for this sequel that surpasses the original story. Anything else in that bag of tricks for longtime fans? Preferably not nineteen years from now! 

Miracle on the 17th Green, by James Patterson and Peter de Jonge

Three stars (of five)

Patterson and de Jonge offer up a heartfelt story about a man looking to pursue his passion. Travis McKinley finds himself in a rut, at a job he hates, in a marriage gone stale, and with children whose connection to him appears to be fading. His one solace is on the golf course, where McKinley plays the round of his life one Christmas Day. When he loses his job, McKiney decides to chase his dream, playing on the PGA Senior Tour. After attending qualifying school, McKinley earns one year on the Tour where he finds himself rubbing elbows with the greats of the game, all while his family takes a backseat to his dream. McKinley earns the right to play in the PGA Senior Open at Pebble Beach, the most prestigious of events. McKinley’s threesome on the final day includes his heroes, Jack Nicklaus and Raymond Floyd, after three days of gruelling play. It is here, on the 17th Green, that McKinley sees the world from a new perspective, which changes things forever and helps him put it all into perspective. A quick read well-adapted for fans of the sappy side to Patterson’s writing.

The novella is Patterson at his sappiest, not something I tend to enjoy. That said, as I was in need of a quick read to fill a little time. The story has degrees of hokeyness that can be seen a mile away, but its central tenet is strong enough to propel the reader to forge on, knowing it will be a short journey. Catchy and at times mildly humerous, Patterson and de Jonge keep the reader at least somewhat curious, especially as they’ve recently penned a sequel. This golf-flavoured story seeks to motivate and keep a tear firmly housed at the edge of the reader’s eye.

Decent work Messrs. Patterson and de Jonge, though not likely to receive rave reviews for its content.

The Whites, by Harry Brandt

Three stars (of five)

Brandt lures readers with his raw style and no-holds barred approach to life as a member of the NYPD. Billy Graves has been on he job for a number of years, following in his father’s footsteps. Early in his career, the younger Graves befriends  number of young cops looking to make a difference and seeking justice on the rough and tumble streets. They refer to themselves as the Wild Geese and become as close to Graves as his actual family. Over the years, the Wild Geese spoke of the ‘Whites’, those criminals who were surely guilty but were able to dodge the evidence to keep them on the outside. These are the criminals who haunt the dreams of every cop, with little chance for legal retribution. After a few unsavoury choices, Graves ends up as the sergeant of the Night Watch, a collection of cops who work overnights, sweeping up the criminal detritus and connecting with inner-city neighbourhoods. When the Night Watch is called to a stabbing at Penn Station, the victim ends up being the ‘White’ of his closest friend and fellow Wild Geese member, who traded in the shield long ago. As Graves investigates, he discovers that more ‘Whites’ may have met similar ends, with no answers to point him in the right direction. On the home front, someone is lurking the shadows, causing Graves’ family much grief but leaving little in the form of concrete evidence. Once his children are approached and his father briefly abducted, Graves has no choice but to investigate, poking around on his off-hours. Brandt creates a curious sub-plot with Milton Ramos, who receives inter-chapter vignettes throughout the story. As Graves progresses throughout the novel, it is only a matter of time before Ramos must cross his path, decades in the planning. Brandt offers up a highly intriguing, if not overly confusing snapshot of life in the crime-heavy Big Apple.

Having a hard time digesting the review up to this point? Trying reading (or listening) to the novel firsthand. When first I attempted to tackle the book, I found it scattered and without a clear thread. It was only when I gave it a second attempt, pressing myself to be highly attentive, that I found my niche and was able to digest all that was on offer. The backstories mesh so fluidly with current events, leaving the reader to categorise what has happened, will happen, and is happening, all in an attempt to enjoy a crime novel. However, with patience comes the gift that Brandt has quite the story to tell and that, given the chance, Billy Graves may even grow on you. Fighting crime by night and the saintly life of raising a family by day, Graves and his wife offer the reader a wonderful insight into New York and all it has to offer. Interesting sub-plots, but definitely too ‘busy’ with cases and calls, Brandt illustrates the down and dirty like no one I have seen since Will Beall presented L.A. Rex. 

Kudos, Mr. Brandt for all your hard work and captivating plot lines. A far cry better than any James Patterson attempt at NYPD work, but still a little too confusing for my liking.

The Patriot Threat (Cotton Malone #10), by Steve Berry

Five stars (of five)

Berry returns with another explosive novel in the Cotton Malone series. Full of interest and intrigue, it will keep the reader pondering key questions well after closing the book’s cover. During their only face-to-face meeting on December 31, 1936, Andrew Mellon and FDR discussed their growing animosity towards one another. As the conversation disintegrated, Mellon shared that he possessed a few shocking secrets that might stun Roosevelt and cause havoc to the Republic. Mellon left the President with these secrets and a piece of paper covered in numbers. Moving into the present day, Cotton Malone is back, temporarily with the Magellan Billet, tasked with following a US Treasury official on a cruise through Europe. The official is apparently in possession with illegal copies of memoranda that relate to the 16th Amendment to the US Constitution, documents that are of great interest to Treasury and could pose many concerns if they fell into the wrong hands. Also aboard the cruise is a member of North Korea’s ruling Kim family, who have held an iron fist over all inhabitants since the country’s creation. Kim Yong Jin has been disinherited from the line of succession, but wishes to embarrass his family and destroy America all at once, which can easily be done if he comes into possession of these secret documents. While Malone tries to save the documents from falling into the hands of the North Koreans, members of the Magellan Billet investigate allegations related to the 16th Amendment stateside, uncovering some less than kosher facts about Philander Knox, Secretary of State in 1913 and the man who formally declared the 16th Amendment ratified. And what of the Mellon secrets? It all ties together in the larger picture, as Berry opens many lines of inquiry. The book is so detailed and the storylines so intricate that it is best left to reading or listening to garner the full effect.

The central tenet of the book is quite captivating on its own: did Philander Knox falsely report that the ratification threshold for the 16th Amendment was met? If so, how did he do this and what is the fallout to this act? Berry builds on this, exemplifying the many ways in which the 16th Amendment is key to the United States’ stability, perhaps more so than the First, Second, or even Fifth. Berry takes this premise and creates a powerful web of plot lines that branch out and build independently, but who tie in nicely together at the end. The research in the book is extensive and the means by which it is presented forces the reader to open up to the possibility of a great conspiracy. With numerous characters from history making appearances, the story holds interest for historical fiction buffs and Malone thrill seekers alike. It also allows Berry to focus on some of the less glamorous aspects of the world, specifically North Korean prison camps and the treatment by the leadership of the citizenry. This is not the first author who has used North Korea as an important sub-plot in a novel recently, nor will it be the last. However, it does make some of the hoopla found within the Berry novel pale in comparison to the plight being suffered with no end in sight. 

I wanted to take a brief moment to add a tidbit to the review. I took a gamble and listened to the “writer’s cut’ version of the audiobook, which was an added treat for an audio addict like myself. Where fans of Berry’s books are used to his closing chapter, when truth and fiction are revealed, in the writer’s cut Berry narrated some facts and tidbits at the end of a number of the chapter; little crumbs that the reader may not otherwise know, which brings the story to life on yet another level. Berry’s narrative, offset by Scott Brick’s wonderful reading, made this book even more of a treat.

Kudos, Mr Berry for this wonderful novel, which made me think even more, as I have recently been reading William Martin’s Peter Fallon novels.

Killing Cupid by Louise Voss and Mark Edwards

Four stars (of five)

Voss and Edwards tap into both the light and dark sides of love in his joint venture. Alex Parkinson finds himself fancying his creative writing teacher, Siobhan McGowan. Author of a single bestseller, Siobhan is trying to pass along her gift to a collection of curious adults, budding in the profession. Alex uses some of his abilities to commence a stalking campaign, leaving graphic messages on her doorstep and wilted flowers,but soon turning to a hardcore obsession, making purchases with Siobhan’s own credit card. A rival love interest crosses Siobhan’s path, leaving Alex to take drastic actions to ensure his love is the only option Siobhan considers. In a moment of instability, Alex professes his obsession to Siobhan, who rebuffs him and takes the defensive approach. Alex concentrates his interests elsewhere after realising that his obsession in one-sided. However, that is where the story takes a curious turn and the reader muct brace themselves for what lies ahead. With Alex no longer stalking Siobhan, she begins to resent his lack of interest in her and does all she can to cause him grief. Filled with wonderful prose, told in a unique double journal narrative, readers will surely see that the Voss-Edwards connection is bound for success.

As Voss and Edwards clearly illustrate, love can be as horrible as it can be lovely. This novel depicts the growth and withering of two characters, as their lives intertwine through an obsession. Using journal entries to tell the story, Alex and Siobhan offer their personal insights into events that overlap but also diverge a great deal. Voss and Edwards offer less the spine-chilling side of obsession, but do not shy away from the horrors of jealousy and infatuation. Should this be the reader’s first foray into the joint writing of Voss and Edwards, it will likely not be their last. Both authors bring much ability into this project and keep their readers hooked until the final page. And, as usually, the story ends with an open cliffhanger, as though the reader were handed the pen to complete the story.

Kudos, Madam Voss and Mr. Edwards for this masterful piece. I can only hope you have more of these types of stories up your sleeves. Love can make for the ultimate tales of thrills and spills, with the proper spin.

All Fall Down (Kate Maddox #2), by Louise Voss and Mark Edwards

Four and-a-half stars (of five)

Voss and Edwards return to provide another Kate Maddox medical thriller.  Two years after crossing paths with a crazed collection of virus-toting scientists, Maddox is back with her now-boyfriend Paul and son Jack. In this novel, a variation of the virus that killed Maddox’s parents is back, flaring up on the outskirts of Los Angeles. A bomb is also detonated at a conference of some of the world’s top virologists, leaving many to believe that someone wants this virus to spread without a cure. Maddox and Paul agree to head out to California to help, as long as Jack is able to stay in Texas with his father. They head out and begin looking into what has caused the rebirth of Watoto and who might be behind it. Maddox is sequestered at a secret lab, working with a small team to find a cure before it’s too late. Paul, finding himself with a great deal of free time and in the vicinity of the man who cause his twin brother’s death, begins an adventure of his own, equally as dangerous. Meanwhile, Jack embarks on an adventure of his own with a neighbour, bound to reunite with his mother and help out any way he can. At the heart of the virus’ spreading is a collection of young women, The Sisters, whose central beliefs are based on religious conviction. Can Maddox crack the code of this new strain of Watoto in time and will Paul get the answers he seeks before he is another virus casualty? And how will the trek from Dallas to Los Angeles bring Jack into the larger story? All this and more await the reader as Edwards and Voss present a page-turner if ever there were one.

I was highly impressed with this, the second in the Kate Maddox series. With more action, thrills, and even science than the first, this novel pulls the reader in and keeps them on the edge of their seat until the final page turn. Edwards and Voss utilise a plot line that failed miserably for Edwards alone, a cult experience, but do so in such a way that the reader cannot help but want to know more. Personalising the virus for Maddox also helps pull the reader into the mix, as it is a battle to save the infected as well as a second chance for Maddox to address the virus that killed her family. The action never stops and while the language is a lot more salty than in past novels, it sells the product: the American culture and linguistic free spiritedness, very effectively.

Kudos, Mr. Edwards and Madam Voss for this wonderful sequel. I have been hooked on your writing for a while and cannot get enough of it. Keep writing and causing these spine-tingling moments.

NYPD Red 3, by James Patterson and Marshall Karp

Three stars (of five)

Patterson and Karp return with the third instalment in the NYPD Red series, a highly trained task force assigned to protect the rich, the famous, and the connected. Detectives Zach Jordan and Kylie MacDonald head up one of the investigative teams, with their own sordid past that only serves to spice things up a little more. Not long after the ball drops in Times Square on New Year’s Eve, Jordan and MacDonald are called to the home of billionaire businessman Hunter Alden, Jr. His chauffeur’s decapitated body is found in the garage and his son goes missing soon afterwards. Alden appears reluctant to try to find his son, leaving the detectives to wonder if there is a larger story with which they are not aware. As they try to piece together the last known whereabouts of their kidnap victim, a suspect floats into their line of sight, and a deeper mystery, called the Gutenberg Project, adds a new and sinister dimension to the investigation. Patterson and Karp keep the reader curious throughout in this latest Big Apple-based cop mystery, sure to interest fans.

The Patterson Syndrome has been something about which I have vented over the past while. His story lines are getting less exciting and his readers are forced to sit through drivel while he makes the mega-bucks. This novel sits on the fence for me, as it was not as thrilling as some of his former work, but also not completely useless. I was not pulled into the centre of the story and kept captivated, but also not left looking at my  clock and wondering when the pain would end. It’s a lukewarm collection of mystery, police procedural, and a little romance. Worth a look, but do not expect a stellar novel.

Decent work, Messrs. Patterson and Karp, and I might go so far as offering a loose kudos. I am eager to see what comes of this series and your co-authoring together.

Like/hate the review? An ever-growing collection of others appears at:

The Lincoln Letter (Fallon #5), by William Martin

Four stars (of five)

The Fallon series continues with another Martin classic, focussed on the US Civil War and its central character, Abraham Lincoln. When a letter surfaces, potentially the last he ever penned, in which Lincoln asks that a bureaucrat in the War Department return his personal date book, Fallon is pulled into the middle of the mystery and asked to locate the whereabouts of the original letter and the aforementioned piece of history to which it eludes. Alongside his girlfriend (yes, the wedding never took place), Evangeline Carrington, Fallon searches through numerous historical documents to give a more complete picture of the time and offer insight as to where this date book might have gone. The story alternates (in true Martin fashion) from the present to events during the War, in which the story of said date book and its robbery becomes central. However, Martin also offers numerous angles surrounding Lincoln’s thinking throughout the War and the sentiment by African Americans during the event, in hopes of shining a light on where they saw themselves in the larger picture. Fallon must not only find the date book, but fend off politicians who hope to use Lincoln’s decisions surrounding the War to fuel their own interests, all while pushing new and controversial ideas on the American people. What could Lincoln have included in that book and could it change the way modern America sees itself, both internally and on the world stage? A wonderful addition to Martin’s work and hopefully not the final chapter in the Fallon series.

Martin touches on yet another collection of historically significant events to present a novel that piques the reader’s interest from the outset. While all other novels in the series have used vast swaths of time to illustrate changes in mentality and how the specific historical item changed hands repeatedly, in this novel, the story focusses on wartime, and the nuanced shifts within that time period. Martin touches on the change in mentality surrounding the War’s justification and how constitutional loopholes left secession open for any state that desired its option. However, Lincoln would not stop until the issue of slavery had been decided, even if he offered a murky and somewhat contradictory stance on the larger issue. History has always come to shape this debate and even a century later, politicians were still trying to sort things out, based on Lincoln’s desires and Grant’s victory.

I would like to take a moment to touch on the Peter Fallon series as a whole, if I might. I am not sure if there are more books to come from William Martin, so it seems useful to offer some general comments at this point. Martin has used the series not only to touch on various aspects of New England history, but also to discuss how that history is woven together over numerous generations. Some call him a modern Mitchener or a fellow Edward Rutherfurd in his multi-generational storytelling. I agree on both counts, as Martin grabs onto history and presents it to the reader in an interesting manner. Each of the five novels is steeped in history and should not be scoffed at, though attention to detail is a must. While each novel can and does stand on its own, reading the series in chronological order offers a more sensical way of digesting the overarching themes the characters present and makes things more enjoyable all about. I would highly recommend the series to anyone with patience and a hunger for New England history. You’ll likely come away much better informed than when you arrived!

Kudos, Mr. Martin for such a wonderful book and series. I applaud you for all you’ve done to make history entertaining and educational at the same time.

City of Dreams (Fallon #4), by William Martin

Four stars (of five)

Martin returns with another stellar novel in the Fallon-Carrington series. America is weighed down by the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, with China finally refusing to bail them out. At the heart of America’s financial heart, New York City, a box of 1780 Continental bonds is hidden, with a face value of $20 000. Calculating the compound interest and the promise by Alexander Hamilton that the US Government will honour them for perpetuity, a vast sum of money could await the holder. That is, if the Supreme Court rules in favour of their still holding any value. With the bonds scattered around the city, Peter Fallon and his fiancĂ©e, Evangeline Carrington must locate them and await the Court’s decision. As they search, Fallon and Carrington discover the historical significance of these bonds as they pass through the hands of numerous New Yorkers, important in many ways. With a killer on their trail as well, Fallon and Carrington must fight for their lives on their most dangerous adventure to date. Martin ramps up the ante with this novel, using finance, history, and drama to weave a story about the epicentre of American commerce and the potential realities of frivolous spending.  

Martin depicts New York as a City of Dreams, where ideas can come to fruition and lives changed in a generation, while also exemplifying the horrors of monetary dependancy. As always, themes emerge in the story and the historical branches chosen to illustrate the narrative to offer insight into Martin’s areas of greatest interest. While not an economist or financial analyst, I found this novel quite insightful and the continued dependence, both by the government and Americans in general, to use the ‘buy now, pay later’ mantra quite intriguing. The attentive reader may see this nuanced soapbox approach very apropos of modern times, something sure not to change without a colossal mindset shift. 

Kudos, Mr. Martin on entertaining and educating with this novel. I cannot wait to see what you have in store with the most recent Fallon instalment and how it will use history as a platform.

Catch Your Death (Dr. Kate Maddox #1), by Louise Voss and Mark Edwards

Three stars (of five)

Louise Voss and Mark Edwards team up to create this scientific quasi-thriller, where the story remains fast-paced to the closing pages. As a college graduate, Kate Maddox volunteered at a research centre set to cure the common cold virus. She fell in love with one of the doctors, but a tragic set of events left him dead and Kate on her way to Harvard, with no recollections, save a disastrous fire. Back now, two decades later, Kate and her young son stumble upon a connection to that past, someone who has as many questions surrounding the death at the facility and the truth kept hidden. With a disgrunted ex-husband on her tail and a contracted killer trying to silence Kate before she discovers the truth, the story takes a significant shift through rural England. Once the truth is revealed, Kate learns the truth behind the facility and what happened the night of the fire, but also discovers a new and horrifying truth. A decent novel with short chapters and a race to the finish, Voss and Edwards have a sound future together, even if thrills are not central to their work product.

Having devoured Edwards’ work, I had hoped this first joint effort might prove to be as thrilling. I was sorely mistaken, at least in this novel. The story does have a decent pace and is peppered with Edwards’ apparent enjoyment of physical intimacy, but plays out more as a ‘race to tell the truth’ than the thrills and spills that Edwards has concocted on his own. I look forward to reading some more of their joint work, in which psychosis replaces a Chrichton-esque medical thriller.

Kudos, Madam Voss and Mr. Edwards for this entertaining novel. Not spine-tingling, but still a decent effort.

Catch Your Death (Dr. Kate Maddox #1), by Louise Voss and Mark Edwards

Three stars (of five)

Louise Voss and Mark Edwards team up to create this scientific quasi-thriller, where the story remains fast-paced to the closing pages. As a college graduate, Kate Maddox volunteered at a research centre set to cure the common cold virus. She fell in love with one of the doctors, but a tragic set of events left him dead and Kate on her way to Harvard, with no recollections, save a disastrous fire. Back now, two decades later, Kate and her young son stumble upon a connection to that past, someone who has as many questions surrounding the death at the facility and the truth kept hidden. With a disgrunted ex-husband on her tail and a contracted killer trying to silence Kate before she discovers the truth, the story takes a significant shift through rural England. Once the truth is revealed, Kate learns the truth behind the facility and what happened the night of the fire, but also discovers a new and horrifying truth. A decent novel with short chapters and a race to the finish, Voss and Edwards have a sound future together, even if thrills are not central to their work product.

Having devoured Edwards’ work, I had hoped this first joint effort might prove to be as thrilling. I was sorely mistaken, at least in this novel. The story does have a decent pace and is peppered with Edwards’ apparent enjoyment of physical intimacy, but plays out more as a ‘race to tell the truth’ than the thrills and spills that Edwards has concocted on his own. I look forward to reading some more of their joint work, in which psychosis replaces a Chrichton-esque medical thriller.

Kudos, Madam Voss and Mr. Edwards for this entertaining novel. Not spine-tingling, but still a decent effort.

Guardian Angel, a short story by Mark Edwards

Five stars (of five)

After tripping onto Mark Edwards just over a week ago, I am utterly addicted. When I received a free short story from him for signing up for his updates, I was immediately prepared to dive in. Laura has been in a long relationship which soured and left her to wonder if she’d ever find happiness again. On her morning commute, she reads the classifieds and ‘reach out’ ads, finding that she seems to have an admirer who’s showing up wherever she might be and seeking a formal sit down. When Laura confides in her best friend, they try to concoct a plan to discover who it might be, to no avail. Laura becomes suspicious and, after posting a message of her own and engaging the police, seeks to shield herself from this man. All she wants is for someone to love and protect her, not stalk her and leave her to feel ill at ease. As with any Edwards novel, tragedy spawns a complete change in the story and the reader must collect their jaw from the floor. Edwards knows what he’s doing and has his fans eating out of his hands.

Although it’s only a short story, Edwards is able to lure the reader in and keep them on the edge of their chairs. His premise is always stellar and he is usually able to capture the most devious sides of humankind, in a few short pages. Fans will likely rush to devour this short story as they wait for the next full instalment later this spring. I will soon have to check out his co-writing with Louise Voss to see how powerful their thrillers can be.

Kudos, Mr. Edwards for this wonderful short story. Keep them coming!

Salina, a short story by Ben Coes

Three and a half stars (of five)

Coes offered this short story up to readers who pre-ordered his latest novel, Independence Day, due out in May. It is set as a preface to the entire Dewey Andreas series and gives the reader a glimpse into how Andreas got the impetus to begin fighting terrorists, as he emerges on the scene in Power Down.

Andreas is in Columbia, on the run from the world and in need of a way to leave the country in a hurry. He scores a ride aboard the Salina, a ship headed for Miami, and begins revealing some of his past. The reader sees the rough exterior of Andreas, as he uses his fists to get what he wants, as well as the heartache he’s endured in the loss of his wife and son. Coes also creates the backstory for why Andreas left America and is so reluctant to return. Towards the end of this short story, the reader receives the bridge that connects this short story to the beginning of the Dewey Andreas series, the explosions off the coast of Canada and down in Columbia, energy conglomerates brought to their knees. It is only then that Andreas decides to return to his native land to fight a st of terrorists and make the most of his independent nature, 

Coes wrote that this backstory fell onto the cutting floor in an early draft of Power Down. It is well-written and seems to offer that view of the character that places all actions in order. Coes has a wonderful writing style that flows so effortlessly and keeps the reader wanting more, as I did thoughout. While nothing stellar, it was an entertaining read over a cup of coffee and I look forward to Coes’ net major work.

Kudos, Mr. Coes for this teaser into the life of Dewey Andreas. I hope Independence Day is as captivating.

Because She Loves You, by Mark Edwards 

Five Stars (of five)

Returning with another stellar thriller, akin to THE MAGPIES, Edwards helps readers forget his blip that had fans staring at the skies and asking that the former author be returned to earth. Andrew Sumner has been through a great deal at a young age: some significant relationships turning sour and a major eye operation that almost left him blind. When Charlotte (Charlie) appears at a vending machine, Andrew is left to wonder from where this ginger-haired goddess came and how he might see her again (pardon the pun). Through a series of lucky events, Charlie and Andrew cross paths again and soon become inseparable lovers, their lives intertwined from the beginning. The attentive reader will read between the narrative lines and feel the frissons along their spines as Andrew continues his infatuation. Charlie spends much time with Andrew and gives off an air of jealousy and mystery when his past surfaces, revealing none of her own. This leaves Andrew unclear about the woman he’s come to love with all his heart and body. Numerous events, which seem innocuous on their own, can be woven together to give the reader that omnipresent view that red flags appear at every turn, with a likely suspect. What began as a lustful connection soon spills into a horrific bout of jealousy, all in an attempt to keep Charlie from sharing Andrew with anyone. Edwards adds his own twists and storylines to capture the reader as never before.

While this is a stand-alone novel, after reading THE MAGPIES, I was pleased to see at least a little follow-up in this novel. The theme is similar, showing how a thriller can evoke the reader’s emotions and keep them up late into the night to finish “just a little more”. While some may say that the plot is cookie-cutter and the physical connection over the top, those readers miss the bigger picture of Edwards’ work. He posits that humans tend to be jealous beings, prone to acts that defy their character. Also, there are some out there who are completely detached from reality, a la Lucy Newton (see THE MAGPIES).  Edwards knows just how to pull the strings to bring the story a chilling reality, to which many readers can relate. Leaving the door open for more Lucy Newton was an added bonus that has me, and likely many others, begging for more publications in the coming years.

Kudos, Mr. Edwards for returning to what you do best. You keep it real and ask the reader to pull on personal experiences, rather than the inane idea of visitors and cult lifestyles. 

The Lost Constitution (Fallon #3), by William Martin

Four stars (of five)

Martin has his wonderful duo, Peter Fallon and Evangeline Carrington, back for another treasure hunt through time. As the US Congress begins debate on repealing the Second Amendment of the Bill of Rights (that infamous right to bear arms), Fallon is made aware of an early draft of the US Constitution, annotated with the intentions of the New England delegation of Founding Fathers as it relates to a Bill of Rights. This draft was stolen and smuggled out of Philadelphia, making its way through various hands all over New England. As Fallon and Carrington seek to track the document down, scholars and prominent members of the rare document community begin turning up dead. Carrington soon falls into the hands of one invested party, keen on ensuing that Fallon finds the document before it’s too late. As Fallon searches, Martin illustrates the historical movement of this draft and how its content could have altered some key constitutional events through to the present day. From the early days of the American political experience, through to the Civil War, the Prohibition Era, and even Clinton’s impeachment allegations, Martin takes the reader through a multi-generational story, offering insights at every turn. Explosive to the final pages, Martin flexes his literary muscles to draw fans in for his most electrifying series novel to date.

A keen reader of constitutional books, fictional and factual alike, I was drawn to this book years ago. I tried reading it at that time, but struggled. Having made the effort to read the Fallon series from the beginning, I was better prepared for this book and the format it takes. Martin has made a name for himself as both a historical writer, but also choosing to take a much deeper approach, writing a modern-day story that juxtaposes its historically evolving sub-plot that mirrors Fallon’s plot. The plot is highly political in its nature, but the novel deals more with the passing of the document from generation to generation with a historical backdrop than the political content of the annotated document.  Fans of the series will catch some of the crumbs Martin offers from past novels and the nuances in the character development, which is always a lovely addition to the reading experience.

Kudos, Mr. Martin on another exciting addition to the Fallon series. I find myself more addicted with each passing novel.

What You Wish For, by Mark Edwards

Three stars (of five)

After completing a stellar thriller in THE MAGPIES, Edwards is back with another mind-twisting story. Marie Walker has vanished! Not just from her place of employment or her flat, but from everywhere. Her new boyfriend, newspaper photographer Richard Thompson, is convinced he can find her, even if it means going to the ends of the earth to piece things together. Marie has long been an advocate of a celestial world beyond mainstream acceptance, with UFOs and interactions with visitors. Richard, who does not share these beliefs, must wrestle with them on a daily basis while he continues to fall in love with Marie. When Richard learns of some extremely underground goings-on related to visitors and The Chorus, he does a little investigating of his own, in search of the love of his life. What Richard discovers blows his mind and will surely leave the reader wondering what twists and turns brought them to this part of the story. Fans of The Magpies will not likely rush out to praise this book, though it surely takes all kinds to create a solid fan base for an author.

Had this been the first Edwards book I read, I would likely have passed and moved on to another fiction writer. However, having seen the potential, I am able to see what Edwards CAN and surely WILL do with his other work and excuse this bump in the road. While Edwards defends that Marie could have been in any sort of cult, the presentation of alien cult experiences and the filthy underbelly of one of the oddest branches of pornography to my knowledge, my original thought “Well then!” stands firm.

Ok Mr. Edwards, everyone’s due at least one odd book. I’ll let this slide and get back to  sinister thrillers. I hope we have a winner waiting for us.

The Magpies, by Mark Edwards

Four stars (of five)

In my first exposure to Edwards and his work, I was quite impressed with both the storytelling and the thrill factor. After moving into their first flat together, Jamie and Kirsty find themselves ready to embark on an adventure; new life, new experiences, new neighbours. Everyone seems so welcoming, especially their downstairs neighbours, the Newtons. However, things soon take an eerie turn, with prank calls, unwelcome gifts left on their stoop and in their letterbox, and eventually malicious letters and recordings. Jamie and Kirsty begin to wonder what might have caused so many issues with Chris and Lucy Newton. A freak accident to one of Jamie’s close friends begins a new wave of horror, in which both Jamie and Kirsty are the prime targets. They utopian view on life in the flat has become a horror story even Stephen King could not pen. Facing all odds, Jamie vows to get to the bottom of things, even if it costs him everything. However, with the sly and cunning ways in which the Newtons act, it’s his word against theirs. A book sure to leave the reader wondering about their neighbours for months, Edwards paints a wonderfully disturbing picture within these pages.

Edwards aptly titles the novel, whose meaning is finally properly revealed in the epilogue. The story spins on many an axis and keeps propelling forward effectively from start to finish. Just when you think things can get no more awkward, Edwards adds a layer and keeps the Newtons as the most hated characters in the story. Edwards is able to flesh out the story to show how all the characters play a role in this larger narrative and keeps multiple storylines developing. While there is no doubt that the novel has to be a one-off, the reader is bound to want more. That is the sign of a good author; keeping the reader begging for another glimpse. Edwards’ style reminds me a lot of Canadian Linwood Barclay, though they certainly are not carbon copies of one another. Very well done and surely bound to gather more fans and additional narrative momentum the more he writes, Edwards has made a mark on the scene.

Kudos, Mr. Edwards for such a great first solo novel. Keep them coming and you’ll have no issue gathering a following of your own.

The Fifth Gospel, by Ian Caldwell

Five stars (of five)Caldwell returns after a decade with a highly controversial and yet equally powerful novel that stirs up the Catholic Church to its core. With a controversial exhibit set to open within the Vatican, the curator of the Vatican Museums is found dead and an attack on the home of his research partner, Father Alex Andreou, only adds to the mystery.  Andreou, a Greek Eastern Catholic priest living inside the Vatican acts as the novel’s central character and as a slew of inner battles to keep the reader curious. Andreou takes it upon himself to piece together not only what might have happened to the curator, once the police give up their investigation, but also any motives that outsiders could have for killing such a holy man. At the heart of the personal investigation lies the dead curator’s secret: what the four Christian gospels – and a little-known, true-to-life fifth gospel known as the Diatessaron – reveal about the Church’s most controversial holy relic, the Shroud of Turin. The reader is taken on numerous journeys as Andreou peels back the mysteries of the gospels, divisions between the two Catholic Churches, his own family, and the history of the Shroud, all in an attempt to come to the ultimate truth. However, this truth might not set anyone free, but simply imprison them all the more. In a thoroughly thought provoking novel, perfect for the time of year I read it (the week leading up to Easter), Caldwell pulls the open-minded reader into the midst of an extremely powerful battle within the Vatican walls.

After reading The Rule of Four, I was not too sure what Caldwell would do with this novel, nor why it took so long to create it. After completing this piece, I can now better understand what the delay might have been, as well as the eagerness to carefully present each and every sentence. This is not a swashbuckling Dan Brown-esque critique of Catholicism, but more of an overall analysis of Church doctrine, as well as the central stories on which Christians found their faith; the Holy Gospels. This novel is not for any reader seeking a light and fluffy navigation through a storyline, with some controversies peppered throughout, but a very cerebral analysis of events and issues that have confounded the Church for centuries. Is much of what Caldwell presents blasphemy or sacrilege? Perhaps to those who wish to bury their heads in the sand and accept the word from the pulpit without question. However, the open-minded reader will pick out some of the wonderfully ripe pieces of information, layered pristinely inside a plot and story, and expound on them at their own pace. Caldwell almost goads the reader to look into some of these issues further, as Brown has done in his books, and leave the reader to question rather than regurgitate. Brilliantly done, in my opinion, with more questions left dangling than when I started to read.

Kudos, Mr. Caldwell for such a great piece of work. It leaves much of the superficial Catholic-controvery fiction I have read in the dust and really has left me questioning what else the Vatican may be trying to whitewash or leave hidden.