Crossing the Whitewash: The Rugby World Cup thriller, by Nick Rippington

Three stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Nick Rippington, and Cabrilon Books for providing me with a copy of this book, which allows me to provide you with this review.

In my first experience with a Rippington piece, and from what I can decipher, the author’s first foray into the realm of fiction. With a vast amount of experience on the topic, I hoped for something not only filled with accurate details, but that could flow smoothly from the author’s mind to the printed page. Gary Marshall had dreams as a child, including playing for his favourite football club. After a skirmish on his way home from school, he encounters Arnold Dolan, who becomes his best mate and protector. Little does Marshall know that Dolan has a crew of less than stellar misfits, who, after taking him under their wing, begin a life of teenage bedlam. One night, Marshall meets a fate worse than death for him, a crippling injury that leaves him unable to play football ever again. It is only now that things take a turn for the worse, as Dolan and Marshall encounter a young man and get into a skirmish that leaves one dead, one incarcerated, and a third on the lam. Meet Gareth Prince, journalist extraordinaire, and new identity of Gary Marshall. Prince is hiding from his past and those who could track him down and sully his reputation. He’s moved to Cardiff and is taken on as a rugby reporter, though knows nothing of the sport. With the help of a young intern and Welsh rugby legend, Prince begins spinning tales ahead of the Rugby World Cup. However, unable to sever all ties with home, Prince reaches out as Dolan is released from prison, with a score to settle and a secret to reveal. The rest is a jam-packed story set against a huge sporting event and peppered with significant drama. Rippington tells an interesting story, which curious readers might want to investigate.
With no knowledge of Rippington or his abilities, I entered this novel blind. I remained that way, grasping for the storyline throughout the early stages of the book, trying to get my feet under me. However, the momentum picked up as Marshall became Prince and the story’s characters became more relatable soon thereafter. With a few storylines running in parallel, Rippington tells the story of a has-been sports star and his handling of a collection of shattered dreams, as well as a man who knows nothing of the land in which he lives or the metaphoric language everyone speaks. Rippington’s journalistic capabilities shine through here and he is able to develop characters who shine in headline and fleshed-out ways. A great first effort and, looking back, even that opening section has merit and fits nicely with the overall storyline.

Kudos, Mr. Rippington for this intriguing look into Wales, its passion for rugby, and the mysteries of a hidden past.  

The Fixer, by Joseph Finder

Four stars

In another thrilling one-off novel, Finder pulls the reader into a story of a man who comes to realise that he knows little about the man he’s called ‘dad’ his entire life. Rick Hoffman suffers numerous set-backs, which forces him to return to his childhood home. With a father in a nursing home after a horrific stroke, Hoffman chooses to renovate the house, with the help of a neighbour. What they find in the walls, besides rot and despair, ends up being a sizeable amount of money. Hoffman hides this from everyone and begins using his investigative journalist skills to track down the source of the funds. With a father who cannot speak, Hoffman must look at the business dealings that took place in and around the time of the stroke, slowly getting a better image of the man who put on the front of being a reputable lawyer, but who chose to be a bagman for seedy businessmen, paying bribes where needed. The further Hoffman digs, the more the mystery unravels, moving things from the past into the present. A key piece of information piques Hoffman’s interest, though its discovery has a number of highly resourceful men on edge, who will stop at nothing to keep it hidden. As Hoffman stays one step ahead of danger, he finds himself turning down many pathways covered it pitfalls. It could take a single mistake to end his life and maintain the silence forever. Finder tantalises the reader with this stellar piece of fiction surrounding Boston in the early 90s, packed with a punch that will resonate the further the reader delves. A must-read for any and all who love a good thrill.

Finder uses his capable writing style to bring the reader into the middle of the story from the outset, pinning plausible characters against a plot that develops seamlessly. The reader sees strong shifts in the novel throughout, but the narrative is such that the flow is uninterrupted and the action intensifies. While not based on a series, Finder is able to bring the reader to better understand the likes of Rick Hoffman without needing extensive backstory, but does offer crumbs throughout, keeping the reader curious, yet informed of the character’s development. With Boston as a wonderful backdrop, Finder speculates on The Big Dig and how its creation was surely filled with bribes, lies, and backroom deals. A wonderful piece sure to lure in the new fan and leave them begging for more.

Kudos, Mr. Finder for this great piece. I cannot wait to see what you have in store for your fans in the years to come.

Internship in Murder (Capital Crimes #28), by Donald Bain

Four stars

In the twenty-eighth instalment of the Capital Crimes series Bain weaves a tale of distrust and murder, which pulls a number of people into the crosshairs and shows the true colours of a US Representative. After scoring a coveted congressional internship with family friend Congressman Hal Gannon, Laura Bennett is living her dream. Away from her family back in Tampa, Laura is soaking up the DC life, including an active nightlife. When Laura enters into an illicit affair with Gannnon, she seems convinced that it is headed for marriage and she will one day become the First Lady. After discovering Gannon’s duplicitous ways, Laura vows to bring him down, along with all his hopes and dreams for political ascension. When Laura goes missing, her family hires Private Investigator Robert Brixton to look into the matter, trying to offset the investigative work of the Washington MPD. Brixton looks deeper into Gannon’s background and finds a significant contrast between his family values stances and skirt-chasing ways. After Laura’s body turns up, all eyes shift to Gannon and his motive for getting rid of the young intern. As more bodies turn up, Gannon’s motive to silence his detractors seems even stronger, but could there be more behind the story, a piece even media outlets have not yet found? A wonderful addition to Margaret Truman’s long-running series, which continues to keep Mackensie and Annabel Smith in the forefront of the storyline.

I am a long-time fan of Truman’s series and have even come to enjoy the writing Bain has done to keep the series alive. While the premise of the novel, young woman falls for powerful man and is scorned, proves to be far from unique, Bain utilises some stellar characters and a wonderful plot progression to keep the reader interested until the very end. The illustration of power and politics has been a theme in the series from the get-go, on which Bain build since he took over the books. While no one can match Truman’s style, Bain does a decent job and keeps the Smiths involved in the story, who have always brought a new and exciting dimensions to the series.

Kudos, Mr. Bain for keeping the stories alive and the Truman memory from fading.

The Wright Brothers, by David McCullough

Four stars

McCullough offers up and wonderful, though brief, biographical piece on the Wright Brothers, whose ideas and curiosities exemplify how boundless determination can literally turn the world on its head. While McCullough has stretched the traditional definition of biography with some of his past work, another unique approach is used in creating a single narrative for both brothers. As the reader will see, McCullough is not off base in doing things from this perspective, as Wilbur and Orville Wright were alike in many ways. These similarities extend to the three themes the author presents throughout the book, depicting the brothers as Dayton inventors, Ohio innovators, and American dreamers. These distinctions, while interconnected, arise independently throughout the narrative and offers the reader a better roadmap (or should I say flight plan?) when absorbing McCullough’s work. A great piece to interest any reader curious about the dawn of flight.

Wilbur and Orville Wright could easily be called the great Dayton inventors. They came from modest means and had a mid-sized family in Dayton, Ohio. Their sister, Katharine, was always close at hand and supported them through their exploratory phase, where the Wrights sought to better understand the world around them. Wilbur and Orville both had a penchant for inventing things, having left small projects scattered around the house from a young age. Although four years separated them, the brothers were inseparable and soon became partners in their printing business and opened and bicycle shop together, when that mode of transportation was all the rage. While raised in a religious household, Wilbur and Orville saw something else when they turned to the skies, the possibility of flight. They constructed numerous contraptions, formulating wings akin to those of birds and not flat bands of cloth over wood or metal skeletons. As McCullough argues, while European gliders were already taking to the skies, the Wrights wanted sustained flight, not entirely tied to wind velocity and clement weather. With no formal engineering education (nothing post-secondary at all), they worked on ideas to invent something that would allow them to soar in the air, at least for a time. The issue of flight did not originate with them, for as far back as da Vinci, scientists speculated about flight in a concrete manner. McCullough shows throughout the text that neither brother would accept the common argument that man was not meant to conquer the air, choosing instead to find a way, through their inventive minds, to bridge the gap.

Once they’d developed a prototype idea, the Wrights set their sights to become Ohio innovators, honing their craft outside Dayton. With the supplies needed and the intuition on how to turn an idea into reality, Orville and Wilbur devised a flying machine. After an exhaustive search they spent a few summers in the hamlet of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina fine tuning the machine and its core components. McCullough discusses how early prototypes sought to secure the wings in one spot, but the brothers soon learned that movement of the wings, outside of a sedentary position, was key to aeronautical success. By December 17, 1903, they took to the air and opened a new and exciting chapter in their lives. These innovations were not without stumbling blocks. Not only were the Wrights forced to wage war against the weather and physics, but a severe outbreak of mosquitos. Acting as their own personal Waterloo, these winged fiends drove Wilbur and Orville to shorten their experimental periods during at least one summer and proved an essential hurdle in the larger battle to see the inventive spirit blossom into innovative output that would change the world forever.  

The Wright Brothers took their invention and chose to become American dreamers, as they marketed the ideas for the world to see. While Wilbur headed over to France to firm up financial backing for the machines, Orville remained in America to show off the new machine. Both used this time to demonstrate the lengths to which their machines could function, performing death-defying feats of bravery, figure-8 loops, and sustained aeronautical abilities. Both caught the attention of the general public and royalty alike, offering primitive air shows and answers questions to the best of their abilities. McCullough posits that this was how Wilbur and Orville lived the American Dream on opposite sides of the ocean, both seeking a life of adventure while demonstration the lengths to which the machines could travel. They continued working on their flying machines, but had passed on the knowledge and tutored various military officers from a handful of countries about the art of flying. Making an indelible mark on history, Wilbur and Orville will forever be remembered for taking flight from a scientific question to a concrete reality, and all by chasing a dream.

McCullough uses the brief space he has to tell a wonderful story and keep the reader highly interested. As I have read a number of his past pieces, I was certain this tome would prove just as intriguing. Flight in general is too large a topic to handle in a biography, though the Wright Brothers as individuals is also too difficult, mainly because they were so interconnected. As McCullough discusses in the early chapters, they sounded alike, wrote alike, and even thought alike on occasion. Differentiating these men proves highly daunting, though their accomplishments can be equally attributed and therefore fits nicely in this joint piece. McCullough opens the door for the reader to learn more, should that be their desire. As with all McCullough pieces, the reader can pick or choose how much they want to take away, with so much from which to choose. 

Kudos, Mr. McCullough for your wonderful insight into early 20th century innovation. You have touched the historical and biographical world with so much of interest and yet you never cease to amaze me.

Finders Keepers (Bill Hodges #2), by Stephen King

Four stars

King returns with the second in the Bill Hodges series to tell a tale sure to impress fans and newcomers alike. John Rothstein, a sensational author in his time, chose to hang up his pen after writing a successful Jimmy Gold adventure series. Morris Bellamy, an avid reader of the series developed great angst at the sellout that Rothstein became, leaving the famed character to wither in a life behind a desk. In an altercation, Rothstein is killed and Bellamy works with two other henchmen to steal money from his safe and a collection of notebooks, filled with never published story ideas and further novels in the Gold series. Bellamy hides these treasures before he’s arrested for another crime and sent away. During his thirty-five year incarceration, much changes on the outside, including the emergence of high-schooler Pete Saubers, who discovers Bellamy’s cache. Saubers makes his way through the money and considers what to do with the notebooks, realising there may be others who want these books for their own collection. Bill Hodges is eventually brought into the mix, asked to poke around to determine how Pete may have come into such a large amount of money and the significance of the notebooks. As Hodges begins poking around, Bellamy is released from prison and goes in search of his cache, only to discover it has gone missing. Working with one of his former cohorts, Bellamy targets Saubers and seeks to collect the notebooks at any cost. The more Hodges learns, the more he discovers that Saubers may be in the crosshairs of a man who will stop at nothing to get what he wants. With an ending right out of King’s other classics, the reader sits on the edge, wondering what Hodges can be to avoid an inevitable bloodbath. With a wonderful dangling thread from the opening novel, King sets up a powerful showdown for the final instalment, sure to bring Hodges to the precipice yet again. A good effort at a second in the series, though not as powerful as the first, King fans are in for a literary treat.

King is known for his tangential writing, forcing readers to read (or listen) carefully to pull out the relevant information in order to move forward in these sorts of novels. King’s style is such that there is a strong story, with numerous characters adding small bits of flavour to the larger narrative. At times silly, especially with the addition of the Holly Gibney character, King leaves it all out there for the reader to either love or hate what is on offer. The story did lag, for me, and was not as mystery-centred as I would have liked, spending much more time on the Bellamy post-incarceration and Saubers discovery of the notebooks than I might have liked. In a move away from King’s horror or paranormal thriller genres, the Hodges novels have a strong mystery aspect to them, while still keeping a gore factor sure to impress traditional fans.

Kudos, Mr. King for this addition to your collection. 

Killing Maine (Pono Hawkins #2), by Mike Bond

Three stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Mike Bond, and Mandevilla Press for providing me with a copy of this book, which allows me to provide you with this review.

In my first experience with a Bond novel, the premise seemed highly entertaining and I hoped the politics would juxtapose themselves nicely with a fast-paced story. Pono Hawkins is called away from his idyllic life in Hawaii to help a Special Forces comrade whose found himself in a load of trouble in the frigid backcountry of Maine. Bucky Franklin is accused of the murdering local politician Ronnie Dalt as Hawkins finds himself fighting two major battles for which he is ill-equipped: helping the man who sent him to a military prison and tackling the high-impact world of wind power politics. Pono reconnects with Bucky‚Äôs wife, Lexie, whom Hawkins stole during the aforementioned incarceration period, as they attempt to find Bucky an alibi. Pono crosses paths with an old flame who is now a fierce attorney and Dalt’s widow, Abigail, both of whom help the cause in their own way while sharing his bed and body. Pono becomes the new target of a set of mysterious killers who are dead-set against poking around into the Dalt murder. With his sordid past, Pono becomes the local authority’s new target for acts of vandalism and kidnapping, leaving yet another battle in his path as time is running out. With corruption rife and the authorities turning a deaf ear, Pono must use his love quadrangle to his advantage, as the truth comes to light. An interesting read, pitting politics and honesty against one another in a way the reader may not have seen before. Bond uses his soapbox throughout, which may help give the reader a better idea of corporate America’s domestic warring, with politicians as their soldiers.

The political aspects of the novel lured me in, at least when I read the summary. However, once I delved deeper and tried to match it up with the story, things fell flat. I cannot put my finger on it, but Bond did not utilise Pono in a way to pull me in and his flitting characteristics seemed more off-putting than alluring to me. Wind Power and its corrupt nature did little to keep me sated, as Pono pieced together the mystery behind a local murder and uncovered a deeper tale of corrupt politicians and greased palms. The premise could have made for an explosive novel, forcing page-turning well into the night. Instead, I am left thankful that I can close this book and hope to get the literary wind back in my sails, pun intended.

Interesting idea, Mr. Bond, though far from stellar in its presentation.

Kissinger, by Walter Isaacson

Five stars

Returning to the wonderful world of political biographies, I chose to tackle another of Walter Isaacson’s collection, looking at Henry Kissinger. Isaacson traces Kissinger’s humble beginnings in Germany through to his meteoric rise through the American political stratosphere, concentrated in the Nixon and Ford White Houses. Throughout the book, numerous storylines present three distinct themes in Kissinger’s life: the stellar academic, the megalomaniacal fiend, and the astute statesman. Isaacson offers a plethora of information and detailed accounts of Kissinger’s life to date, which allows the reader a sensational look into some of America’s formative years in the mid- to late-20th century. While his prominence has waned of late, Kissinger’s impact on foreign policy and the historical footprint he’s left will forever be seen in historical tomes. One of the most detailed biographies I have ever read, Isaacson goes above and beyond to bring Kissinger to life.

One key aspect to Kissinger’s success in life traces back to his academic prowess. From an early age, Kissinger’s aptitude for his studies were second to none. After fleeing Germany and the Nazi regime in 1938, a fifteen year old Kissinger and his family settled in New York with many of the others of Jewish descent. He scored the highest grades in his classes, even with the language barrier, and never sought to use these hurdles as a means of pity. While he had an early penchant for mathematics, an eventual passion for history turned Kissinger’s academic focus to the liberal arts. Kissinger elevated his studies and headed to Harvard on scholarship, with a strong focus on international history. He could impress his professors with a passion for better understanding the nuances of the world through past historical events. He leapfrogged into graduate studies and eventually earned a doctoral degree with a dissertation examining the post-Napoleonic organisation of Europe through the role that Klemens von Metternich (the Austrian Empire’s foreign minister) played in sewing up diplomatic relations, which would prove highly useful in understanding the world’s development during the Cold War years. Turning to teaching at Harvard, Kissinger could formulate strong opinions that caught the eye of many in the upper echelons of government, especially his views on nuclear weapons armament, which ruffled the feathers of many liberals within the Harvard family. These sorts of studies not only earned him recognition in Washington, but exemplified his academic foundation, which would prove essential when he worked with Nixon and Ford in the White House, formulating foreign policy and negotiating with Cold War enemies.Isaacson shows Kissinger’s passion for research and delving to the depths of the issue in order to extract core elements essential for a better understanding of the process, pulling in Metternichian ideas during numerous occasions.

Kissinger’s brilliant academic foundation led to megalomaniacal tendencies, fostered by his superiority sentiment. As an academic, Kissinger utilised his position of authority to direct research of his graduate and doctoral students, going so far as to steamroll over their proposals, only to take the ideas for himself. In one instance, Isaacson illustrates how Kissinger quashed a publication option by one of his students, citing an earlier inclination to publish on the topic. Forcing the student to alter their research, Kissinger never got around to writing or publishing the contentious piece, though he never thought to apologise for the oversight. This only laid the groundwork for many other instances of power-hungry Kissinger pushing for control and domination over all around him. Isaacson portrays Kissinger as one who must always be within the inner circle of power, or at least around the discussion table. He would drone on to the likes of Kennedy, circumnavigating protocol and those within the inner sanctum, only to be rebuffed behind his back. Once Nixon brought him into the White House inner sanctum, Kissinger’s megalomaniacal nature only flared, leaving him to step on the toes of his subordinates, equals, and superiors alike. In a highly-detailed narrative of Nixon’s first term in office, Isaacson shows how Kissinger overstepped his position as the National Security Advisor to run large portion of the State portfolio while keeping the Secretary, Will Rogers, completely in the dark. One concrete example of this come in the secret mission to open up ties with China in 1971. Kissinger went to China to pave the way, after convincing Nixon that he was the obvious and only choice for the job. He dodged the bureaucrats and organised the mission without State’s input, releasing the details only afterwords in a tightly-spun lie. These clashes only heightened the more time Kissinger remained in his position, fuelled by a somewhat passive (or enabling) Richard Nixon. Kissinger could not have climbed the ladder of control without the permission or support of Nixon, which Isaacson shows throughout the text. These two men, destined for complete power, rarely butted heads, but used one another to climb over all opponents in their way, as though they were a pair of hedonistic political juggernauts, happy only when the world turned to them in awe.

 With strong beliefs and an indestructible sense, Kissinger’s role as statesman was second to none. As mentioned above, he took the reins of lead statesman in Nixon’s government long before the role was given to him. Nixon turned to Kissinger to diffuse many of the world events in which America had a vested interest. The China mission and secret talks with the Viet Cong remain two of the great events in which Kissinger was involved, though both commenced when he was not yet in the role of Secretary of State. Kissinger was seen to be long-winded and somewhat of a diplomatic bouncer for world leaders who hoped to bend Nixon’s ear on issue. Indira Ghandi mentioned during her State Visit in 1971 that Nixon would demur to Kissinger’s opinions and allowed him to lead the discussions surrounding the India-Pakistan War, which troubled her, but led to a quick end to the conflict. Kissinger was more than an academic, spouting the textbook approach to resolution in his realist perspective, which Isaacson cites throughout. Kissinger got results and helped move diplomacy in areas of the world stuck in stalemates for long periods of time, through duplicitous means, in Isaacson’s view. The statesman would play both sides against one another by appearing to side with them in individual discussions and promising not stop at nothing to advocate for fairness. While handling statesman roles during Nixon’s first administration, Kissinger could work in any sphere, save for those of a Middle East capacity (at least until crowned as Secretary of State in 1973). Isaacson indicates throughout the tome that Nixon felt Kissinger’s Jewish background might prove to be too much of an impediment to successful negotiating. However, once Kissinger became Secretary of State, he utilised the Yom Kippur War to open a dialogue between Israel and Egypt, paving the way to successful advancements in the Middle East. For this, Kissinger must be lauded as he opened up key discussions that led to the famous Camp David Accords, under Carter’s Administration. To call Kissinger a powerful statesman would undercut his abilities. The latter chapters, including those in the Ford Administration, show Kissinger forging new and never-ending attempts to settle the Cold War geo-political divisions within and between states, though his relationship with the Soveits would taint his ability to work with subsequent Republican administrations, including Reagan and both Bushes. Kissinger’s statesman abilities surpass many of those who served as Secretary in America’s history.

After taking a thorough examination of the book, including Isaacson’s sentiments in the forewards offered, it is hard to determine Isaacson’s tilt on the man. Much of the biography is supportive of his ability to change the world and America’s place therein with a strong reliance on a political butterfly effect (an issue in one part of the world could have strong implications on those in another sphere).There are also segments that paint a highly negative or confrontational light of Kissinger, peppered throughout Isaacson’s narrative. I did not leave this biography hating Kissinger, nor did I leave feeling that he was pure as the driven snow. Perhaps that is the hard part for Isaacson; finding that happy medium in a political period mired in conflicts around the world with Cabinet members and White House staffers so energised to make a difference. I did, however, take away a great deal of knowledge and insight from the book, which does not shirk on its details. Isaacson paints vivid pictures of the battles that developed and ensued, portraying Nixon (and Ford) as lapdogs to Kissinger’s wiles, some of which were blatant violations of his role in the Cabinet. Any reader looking for a powerful insight into the shaping of politics in the 1960s and 70s need look no further than this biography to extract scores of concrete examples about America’s role in shaping the Cold War world and steering it away from the communistic clutches of the Soviets.

Kudos, Mr. Isaacson for this wonderful piece of work. I was drawn in to this sensational biography and will recommend it to anyone with a political curiosity.

Before It’s Too Late, by Jane Isaac

Four stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Jane Isaac, and Legend Press for providing me with a copy of this book, which allows me to provide you with this review.

In my first experience with an Isaac novel, I found myself captivated from the outset of this stellar psychological thriller. After Chinese student Min Li goes missing in Stratford-upon-Avon while walking alone, DI Will Jackman is asked to open a missing person’s investigation. Jackman is recently back on the job after a horrible accident left his wife in a coma, with little hope of waking, which weighs heavily on his mind, though he is determined to return to the workforce. While Jackman and his team begin piecing together leads, a ransom demand arrives, is paid, but Min is still nowhere to be found. As Jackman finds parallels between a number of other missing women in the region, all matching Min’s generic description, he turns to CCTV footage, which proves useless. When a second college student goes missing, with a similar ransom message, Jackman heads into the Chinese Quarter to investigate another angle, which opens up new possibilities, but also additional quagmires to befuddle the authorities. With alternating chapters from Min Li’s perspective, Isaac tells a wonderful story that has layers of suspense and mystery and keeps the reader trying to piece the mystery together before the final pages, in hopes that no one else falls prey to this kidnapper. An exciting new author for my collection and one readers should not pass up.

While not her first novel, its presentation offers both a fresh and well-founded addition to the genre. Isaac grips the reader with the premise and does not let go. The fast-paced action is augmented with short chapters that keep the pace flowing. Jackman is a wonderful character, who bring much baggage to his job, but uses his personal issues to fuel a passion to forge onwards. Isaac uses wonderful characters and powerful narration to keep the story flowing effectively and captures the reader’s attention throughout. If I could offer but one query, the linguistic capabilities of young Min Li, especially in her centric chapters seems more advanced than I would have expected. However, this is menial in the overall novel.

Kudos, Madam Isaac for such a powerful piece that kept me enthralled. I hope to find more of your work and devour it in the coming months.

Independence Day (Dewey Andreas #5), by Ben Coes

Four stars

Coes returns with another high-impact thriller sure to grab the reader by the collar. When a Soviet-era nuclear weapon is moved out of Ukraine, American Intelligence agencies are on high alert, as this is one of the ‘blackmarket’ weapons never officially accounted for after the Cold War. Intercepted chatter leads some of believe that an attack within America is set for July 4th, dubbed “9-12”, but few other details can be ascertained. As the CIA looks to intercept the bomb before it reaches US soil, Dewey Andreas is the choice to fulfil the mission. However, Andreas continues to struggle with the murder of his girlfriend and is sent to an Agency facility to handle his PTSD. While he has demons to wrestle, Andreas chooses to remain busy and heads to Russia to track down the suspected terrorist behind the weapon attack. As a Russian computer hacker, codenamed Cloud, continues to put his attack plan in motion, Andreas must determine how the weapon will make its way into the country and ensure it is disabled before the Fourth of July goes down in infamy around the United States. Pulling on heart strings, Andreas does all he can, while a ship steams towards the Coast. With action on multiple continents, Coes successfully weaves a wonderful thriller, complete with political drama and action to entice the reader to forge ahead.

Coes has carved a wonderful niche for himself in a busy genre, separating himself from the rest with his suspense-filled stories and chapters jammed with action. Not only can Coes tell a story with his wonderful writing style, he uses great characters to move the story along and plot-lines pulled from the headlines. Readers new to the series will be able to use this novel to pull them into wanting to devour the entire series and wait (im)patiently for the next book’s release. Coes is a master at his craft and brings Dewey Andreas to life, while putting him in countless harrowing situations. 

Kudos, Mr. Coes for another wonderful novel. I cannot wait for your next instalment in the Andreas saga, sure to impress readers yet again.

Pokergeist, by Michael Phillip Cash

Four stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Michael Phillip Cash, Chelshire Inc., and AuthorBuzz for providing me with a copy of this book, which allows me to provide you with this review.

Cash provides readers with another entertaining novella, full of humour and paranormal activity at the same time. Clutch Henderson is a great poker player, so great that he’s made it to the final table at the International Series of Poker. After falling just short, his heart literally cannot take the pressure, leading to his death. A year later and Las Vegas is gearing up for another tournament, with young Telly Martin itching to get in on the action. Telly, a decent poker player amongst his friends, simply cannot make ends meet at the Vegas tables and has all but given up his dream. Walking down The Strip one night, he makes a wish, one that Clutch Henderson, now in spirit form, wishes to help him meet; winning the International Series. Skeptical at first, Telly tries to dodge Clutch’s grasp, but after a series of events, it’s all in for the young player. Clutch and Telly work together, weaving their way through the twelve-thousand entrants in hopes of making it to the final table, where one man stands in their way. Cash puts all his chips down in this wonderfully crafted story, mixing he nuances of competitive poker with the banter between the living and the dead. A must-read for those eager to be swept up in the river of high-stakes cards.

Cash shows that he can return to his paranormal theme, yet make the premise new and exciting. While Telly Martin is not haunted by the likes of Clutch, their banter is one that tickles the funny bone of the reader. At times I thought how interesting a screenplay this might make as well, with the give-and-take between the two characters. Cash does, however, flesh out the story with a number of other characters and storylines, all of which add to the excitement of the larger plot. With quick narrative and intuitive dialogue, peppered with poker lingo, the reader can feel in the middle of the tournament and the world of high-stakes cards without leaving their couch. Easily read in an afternoon, Cash pulls the reader in and will not let go until the story’s been told; the test of a real author’s abilities.

Kudos, Mr. Cash for another great book. I have added you to my radar to check out in the future.