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.

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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.

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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 fiancée, 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.