The Bleiberg Project (Consortium #1), by David Khara

Three Stars

In the first of Khara’s Consortium Thrillers, his focus is on the Nazis and their secret program to create the ultimate citizen. Jeremy Novacek had all he could want: money, success, and women. When two members of the Air Force arrive at his door to offer condolences for the loss of his father, Novacek thinks could not get any better. Estranged from his father, Novacek is delighted with the news and travels to pass it along to his mother, who is institutionalised. It is only then that things spiral out of control, as she hands him a key emblazoned with a swastika. Jeremy learns that his father’s departure in his youth was for safety reasons, as he was seconded by the CIA to engage in a covert mission, one of which his mother was fully aware. Jeremy, who returns to using his father’s ‘Corbin’ surname, heads to Zurich with a CIA agent to discover what lies within the safe deposit box to which the aforementioned key belongs. He is being trailed along the way by a Mossad agent who is also curious, but must offer an additional line of protection for those seeking to eliminate him and stop the discovery of any secrets. As Corbin uncovers the secrets in the Zurich bank, a coded document, he realises that his life is in danger. His mother is murdered, he is being targeted, and there is a broader mystery taking place that could have monumental importance. Layered with flashback chapters about the most secretive and important medical and genetic experiments the Nazis undertook during the War, Khara adds to the thrills throughout this novel, culminating in the ultimate surprise. An interesting beginning to the series, hopefully with more of this calibre to come to keep all readers interested.

With the third in the series on my NetGalley list to read, I felt it important to get a context before diving in with a review for the publisher. Khara offers an interesting introductory novel to the series, postulating the creation and development of the Übermensch, the super-man, perfectly Aryan in every way. As the story progresses, Jeremy Corbin realises that his father is embroiled in uncovering this mystery while the narrative leads the reader through numerous angles in the Nazi development. Nothing earth-shattering or fabulous, the novel plods along and seeks to offer some insight for the reader to ponder, with action and thrills to offset the historical recounting of this scientific tale. Khara does a decent job (as does the translator) in building up a few characters and developing them in a superficial manner. Well-crafted to allow the plot to flow smoothly and keep the reader entertained throughout. 

Kudos, M. Khara for your work on the first Consortium Thriller. I hope the others are as exciting and historically enticing.

Alert (Michael Bennett #8), by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge

Four stars

Patterson and Ledwidge ramp up the action in the latest Michael Bennett thriller! With Mary Catherine stuck in Ireland handling a real estate matter, Michael Bennett is trying to cope with the strain on his heart. This emotional meandering has little time to set in, as a main line of the New York Subway system is hampered by two massive explosions. Bennett is assigned to investigate, which propels him into a fast-paced search for those involved. When future explosions occur, including an explosion at the Federal Building, Bennett and his colleague, Emily Parker, begin to wonder if this is a new massive act of terror, akin to September 11th. The mayor is murdered and a communiqué explains that there is more to come brings panic in the city, so much so that Bennett must look to outside sources for assistance. As he races across the country and to the far side of the world, a small cell of individuals seeks to bring the city to its knees, for reasons known only to them. With the use of nano- and robotic technologies, New York could be the first of many cities left in rubble, unless demands are met. Meanwhile, the Bennett crew are tasked with falling into line for a new and temporary nanny that leaves them pining for Mary Catherine’s return. Patterson and Ledwidge succeed in keeping the reader curious and on the edge of their seat for the duration of this thriller, wondering if Bennett has finally met his match.

While James Patterson is normally hit and miss with his novels, he remains astute when it comes to this series. With the help of Michael Ledwidge, the Bennett series continues to flow effectively. While centred in New York, the series continues to flow effectively, perhaps because of the constantly evolving Bennett storylines and never-ending issues that can befall the city. While there is little background growth of the main characters, the plot keeps the novel flowing, with fast-paced action and non-stop twists. I have said it before and will do so again: could the three Patterson major series (Cross, Boxer, and Bennett) use a shot in the arm with crossover novels, forcing Patterson to sing for his proverbial supper and not simply reap the rewards of his co-author’s hard work? I continue to wait for this possibility, as each are reaching the climax of their respective individual successes. Still, Michael Bennett has a pulse and readers should enjoy this well-crafted story.

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson and Ledwidge for this interesting tale. Michael Bennett always seems to escape just in time, though something must surely give before too long. 

Method 15/33, by Shannon Kirk

Four stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Shannon Kirk, and Oceanview Publishing for providing me with a copy of this book, which allows me to provide you with this review.

Kirk weaves an interesting story with strong psychological undertones, worthy of the praise and awards she has received to date. While walking to school one day, Lisa Yyland is grabbed and tossed into a van, kidnapped for no apparent reason. As she struggles in captivity, things become all the more apparent that it is the baby within her that is the greatest commodity to her captors. Struggling through a lengthy detention, Yyland creates a routine to keep herself from losing her mind, classifying items and exploring the uniformity of each day. Meanwhile, FBI Agent Roger Liu and his partner work through a collection of clues to determine the whereabouts of a kidnapped pregnant teen, exploring clues wherever it takes them across the American Midwest. With alternating chapters showing Yyland’s struggles and Liu’s progress, the reader gets much insight into both their mindsets and the gifts that time brings. Kirk offers a wonderful psychological thrill to this story, showing the depths of despair that Yyland enters as she presents her entire life as it flashes before her. This will surely help the reader better understand the captive’s mindset, while also seeing how the search to locate her progresses at various speeds. Kirk does a wonderful job pulling the reader into the centre of this story, through to its resolution.

When I began the novel, I was not sure where things might go or how Kirk would guide the reader through this ordeal. At times highly reflective and chock-full of the struggles in young Lisa Yyland’s life, the reader learns a great deal about the mental state of the prisoner and her captors, whose interest seems solely focussed on the baby within. Juxtaposed with this, the authorities and their struggle to make progress on the case, to the point that the reader has no context to use as a comparison, unsure of how and why Yyland was chosen, save for her being with child. Of interest, as Kirk develops her characters and their backstories, the attentive reader will notice that Yyland’s narrative will at times project to the present day, aside from the 1993 kidnapping which fills the majority of the novel’s time. This foreshadowing proved highly interesting, as though she is telling the reader ‘I do survive’ but offering few breadcrumbs to understanding the ‘overall outcome’ and thereby forcing the reader to continue reading in order to understand the end result. Wonderfully played and written, even as things do get dense and a little heavy at times.

Kudos, Madam Kirk for this well-crafted piece of writing. I am eager to see what else you have in store for readers over the next little while.

Private Sydney (Private #10), by James Patterson and Kathryn Fox

Four stars

The latest Private novel brings well-established author Kathryn Fox into the fold to offer her Australian expertise. As Craig Gisto has come to learn, heading up Private Sydney has its difficulties. While dealing with some personal issues, Gisto receives a call from the head of Private, Jack Morgan himself. Morgan explains that Eric Moss, CEO of a high-profile Australian research firm, has resigned his position without warning and fallen off the grid without rhyme or reason. The distraught daughter, Eliza Moss, is frantic and cannot reconcile her father’s behaviour. After opening up the investigation, Gisto realises that Moss seemingly has no identification footprint, as though he’s never existed, though many can attest to knowing him well. Gisto is left to wonder if there is more to Moss than meets the eye. As Eliza pushes harder to find her father, she is attacked in her home, leaving Gisto to wonder who is out there trying to silence the investigation into Moss’ disappearance. If that were not enough to keep Private Sydney occupied, Gisto is approached by a wealthy couple to complete a private background check on a potential surrogate, their last chance to have a child. Gisto hesitantly agrees to help, but the woman turns up dead.Could Private Sydney have paved the way for the killer to reach her,having been duped by a complex ruse? Fox and Patterson weave an interesting tale with multiple plots to keep the reader on their toes and fans of the series praising a successful addition, after a number of sub-par publications.
It is no surprise that Kathryn Fox’s work on this novel helped solidify its success. Fox remains an outstanding author in her own right and has the ability to craft wonderful stories that rise to greatness. Following the ‘Private formula’ the novel highlights a private detective firm whose work alongside the authorities earns them much credence, but who are also capable of working independently for their clients to bring about results. Fox and Patterson use a handful of key characters and plausible scenarios to pull this novel together without weighing the story down too much. Readers will be happy to see that Fox’s direction is one of succinct writing, with just enough thrill to keep the story from being predictable and should praise her for all she does to resurrect the series.Finally a Private novel worthy of praise and recommendation!
Kudos, Mr.Patterson and Madam Fox for this interesting addition to the Private collection. May you join forces again to ensure a higher quality novel falls into the hands of your fans.

The Patriot Attack (Covert-One #12), by Kyle Mills

Four stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Kyle Mills, and Grand Central Publishing for providing me with a copy of this book, which allows me to provide you with this review.

In March 2011, everything ran effectively at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant until an earthquake and subsequent tsunami severely damaged the facility. Years later, Dr. Jon Smith is in the region to meet with a former plant employee who possesses a sample he wishes to share from one of the Fukushima reactors. During the meeting, both are attacked and Smith is left severely injured and coalescing in a covert facility within Japan. Hearing of Smith’s plan and noting that he has not returned on time, CIA Agent Randi Russell takes it upon herself to rescue the head of the ultra-secret Covert-One team. While she is able to extricate Smith from his captors, she also learns that the sample may be the key in Japan’s new nuclear arsenal, with China as the country’s first target. Back in the United States, President Sam Adams Castilla cannot help but notice that military aggression between China and Japan seems to be heating up and quickly calls a summit that he will mediate. He brings the leaders together in hopes of quelling tensions that have been strong since well before WWII, when the latest set of atrocities are mentioned in history texts. As Smith and Russell are able to acquire some of the aforementioned sample, they present it to an engineer who is baffled to learn of its content. With Masao Takahashi as the military Chief of Staff, Japan is creating the next-generation of weapons, seemingly harmless but whose use could cripple any opponent. This form of nanotechnology could wipe out anything military in a short span of time, no matter its size. Will Smith and his team be able to stop Japan’s burgeoning nanotechnology warfare while Castilla attempts to keep the Asian powder-keg from exploding? Mills effectively continues the legacy that Ludlum started in this high-impact series as he seeks to answer these questions for the enthralled reader.

It is highly impressive to see how Mills has successfully picked up the torch on Ludlum’s Covert-One series. I have witnessed other authors ruin a series’ momentum or character development when taking over for an author who has passed away, taking control as though they now own the collection. Mills has tapped into the Dr. Jon Smith character and the nuances of the Covert-One team, as well as the intricacies of biological and nanotechnologies found within the entire series. Additionally, Mills is able to present strong political and social themes throughout to further explore the importance of the novel’s plot, allowing the reader to see things on a macro scale. While some readers might be interested only in the thrills and action within the pages of this novel, extrapolating to both the series level and current political situations, it is highly interesting to realise how plausible these things might be, given the geopolitical situations at hand. While he alternates writing Covert-One novels, Mills does not miss a beat and is able to build on previous Ludlum novels, as well as those of his colleague, which allows those fans of the series not to feel jilted or left to skip books to gain the proper momentum. Mills is a wonderful storyteller and has the essence of the Covert-One theme embedded in his writing style, which proves refreshing and is highly refreshing for Ludlum fans who have suffered through the destruction of another series Ludlum left incomplete.

Kudos, Mr. Mills for this wonderful addition to the series. I hope you are kept on as one of the key writers to keep making Robert Ludlum proud for years to come.

The Girl in the Spider’s Web, by David Lagercrantz

Three stars

In this long-anticipated release, Lagercrantz adds his own flavour to Lisbeth Salander and Mikhael Blomkvist. After leaving a prestigious job at a computer firm in California, Frans Balder is back in Sweden and looking to regain custody of his son. A messy divorce left him with little choice but to flee, but Balder wants to care for August and leave his California dreams in the rearview mirror. As the reader soon learns, August is an autistic savant, proficient in both drawing and the calculation of complex numbers, two traits rarely seen in combination amongst savants. While alerted to numerous security issues surrounding his past work, Balder ignores them, choosing instead to focus on his time with August. Meanwhile, Mikael Blomkvist has come to realise that his prized magazine, Millennium, is on the verge of collapse and is looking for the next big story. When approached by Balder to discuss some of the issues he’s faced and his work on Artificial Intelligence, Blomkvist takes some interest and agrees to meet. However, before Blomkvist can meet with Balder, a hitman kills Balder, but left August as a mute witness. August is sent back to his mother, who can no longer handle her son and ships him off to an institution. As Blomkvist digs a little deeper, he realises that August may be the key to solving the mystery and calls on his past acquaintance, Lisbeth Salander, to help. Salander agrees to take August to a safe house in the hopes of discovering the secret behind the murder. She is able to discern that August’s abilities go far beyond his drawings, which offer clues to the murder, but he can help her as she cracks into the NSA’s secure servers for her own interests. Salander discovers that Balder may have been targeted by a Russian gang, calling themselves the Spider Society, whose membership includes a key figure from her past. Hindered by his inability to speak, can August help reveal the person who killed his father and can Salander utilise August’s abilities to crack a highly-encripted code the NSA has on its most top secret documents? Layered with multiple other storylines, some of whom mesh with the aforementioned summary, Lagercrantz does his best to continue the narrative where Stieg Larsson left it at his untimely death.

I have read a number of series continuations after the death of a celebrated author (Robert Ludlum, Margaret Truman, and Vince Flynn, to name a few) and it is always the attentive reader who seeks to place this ‘new’ author under the microscope to determine their mettle. In Lagercrantz’s case, the shoes to fill are enormous and the expectations are likely insurmountable. While it has been a while since I read the previous three novels, I did sense a disconnect in this book, especially as it relates to Lisbeth Salander. While Lagercrantz attempts to weave another layer of horrific backstory into the young woman’s life, depicting her witnessing the repeated rapes her mother faced at the hands of a drunken father and her twin sister’s sadistic desire to side with their father, the impact is not the same. Salander is a complex character and one who is well-known and respected both in the Scandinavian crime writing community and around the world. While the story flowed well and Lagercrantz injected a few well-researched storylines, the flow of the series is lost on the numerous plots the reader must follow. For this reason, I found it harder to tackle this book and end on a high note. With at least two other Lagercrantz novels in the works, I am uncertain if the series will find its strength again, or if, like the doomed Jason Bourne series, it will die at the hands of an author who has bitten off more than he can chew. Stay tuned for the verdict.

Kudos, Herr Lagercrantz for your attempt. I will give you the benefit of the doubt on this occasion, though I remain leery of your taking on this project, especially when unpublished manuscripts remain in existence.

Edie Kiglatuk’s Christmas (Edie Kiglatuk Mystery #1.5), by M.J. McGrath

Four stars

In this wonderful short story, McGrath includes perennial favourite Edie Kiglatuk in an Arctic mystery to entertain readers. On the winter solstice, there is little to celebrate in Canada’s Arctic. Frigid temperatures, no sunlight, and on this occasion, the body of Tommy Qataq, a gash on the back of his head as he clings to life. When approached by the authorities to assist with the mystery, Edie has ideas of her own and goes in search of Willie Killik. Both Willie and Tommy are former pupils of Edie’s, and she uses her knowledge of their rocky friendship to determine what might have happened. As Edie searches for Willie, she discovers that he has little going for him, in a community so isolated as to offer few effective ‘outs’. When Tommy’s daughter is snatched from her crib, the hunt intensifies and Edie must now find Willie to ensure that nothing happens to the child. Her hunt leads her to a clearing and a magical Christmas discovery that turns the entire sombre event into something magical. A great (quick) read for those who love the Edie Kiglatuk series, or new followers of McGrath alike.

I am thoroughly impressed with McGrath’s series, depicting life in Canada’s High Arctic. Not only does the country get some interesting coverage, but the Inuit angle is unique and plays out well in the novels. McGrath uses her experience in the region to paint wonderfully accurate characters who also shine light on life away from the big-city lights, where locals must subsist off the land. Presenting a culture shock to many readers, McGrath does a masterful job and should be applauded for the hard work and determination her novels bring in highlighting the plight and lifestyle of Canada’s Inuit population.

Kudos, Madam McGrath for this touching addition to the series, which has so much to offer readers.

Third Watch: A Tracy Crosswhite Short Story (Tracy Crosswhite #0.5), by Robert Dugoni

Four stars

Dugoni presents another well-crafted preface to his new Tracy Crosswhite series. After suffering through the guilt of her sister’s murder, Tracy Crosswhite used her thirst for justice to apply to the police academy. Passing with flying colours, she is sent to Seattle and works as a beat cop, now six years on the job. After the SPD is roasted for its treatment of female officers, a follow-up piece is slated and Crosswhite is given a journalist for a ride-along. Crosswhite prefers the Third Watch, colloquially-known as the night shift, where they’re action and she can hone her skills. Refusing to discuss the gender discrepancies, she answers a call of a domestic disturbance. Crosswhite seeks to diffuse the situation but calls for back-up, which does not arrive. Now Crosswhite must make the ultimate decision as the domestic is turning into a hostage situation and she has a reporter eyeing her every move. Acting as she feels any officer would, Crosswhite seeks to make personal parallels with a man who has his wife and daughter on the other end of a shotgun, though she is unprepared for what happens next and must think on her feet. Trying to take the ‘do your best’ approach, Crosswhite will not get sullied with the department’s politics, even if it can secure her a fast promotion to detective. Dugoni fleshes out more about his new heroine, whose approach is success through hard work, rather than pity.

Robert Dugoni continues to impress with this new character. Tracy Crosswhite is driven by desire and passion, hoping to make a difference every day on the job. in his second brief introductory piece on Crosswhite, Dugoni continues to lay the groundwork for a complex, yet approachable, character and one who uses her skills rather than her gender to climb the ladder, pushing those who seek to hamper her abilities well out of her way. With a chance to make a difference and push past the glass ceilings apparently in place, Crosswhite will surely be a force with whom many will come into contact over the coming years.

Kudos, Mr. Dugoni for another wonderful short story. I am eager to see what readers can expect from Crosswhite in the years to come.

The Academy (Tracy Crosswhite #0.1), by Robert Dugoni

Four stars

Dugoni offers a wonderful precursor to his new Tracy Crosswhite series. After suffering the worst experience of her life when her sister was murdered, Tracy Crosswhite sought solace in the classroom, teaching chemistry to high schoolers, where she had control of it all. Choosing to step out of her comfort zone, Crosswhite applies for the police academy, seeking to find justice for Sarah’s murder. While the road is long and winding, Crosswhite is determined to make it through the nineteen-week course before being rewarded with a position on the force, allowing ascension to become a homicide detective. However, Tracy meets those along the way who will stop at nothing to ensure her academy time is fraught with obstacles and misdirection. Whether she can withstand the pressure is all on her. Dugoni’s new series begins with a bang, as the reader is introduced to young Tracy Crosswhite, a powerhouse with which to be reckoned.

I have come to appreciate Robert Dugoni and his writing style for a long time. When I heard of his new series, I was eager to see if it held up to his past successes. Tackling the first novel in the series, I came to realise that Tracy Crosswhite would be a force of nature driven by desire and passion to crack open the most important case of her life. With this brief introduction, Dugoni offers a teaser into what will surely be a complex character and one who uses her skills rather than her gender to climb the ladder, pushing those who seek to hamper her abilities well out of her way.

Kudos, Mr. Dugoni for this wonderful short story. I know this series will go places and I intend on seeing the route you have in store for your readers.

The Lost Concerto, by Helaine Mario

Four stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Helaine Mario, and Oceanview Publishing for providing me with a copy of this book, which allows me to provide you with this review.

Mario takes the reader into the world of classical music, adding layers of mystery and intrigue to offer a well-rounded piece. Magdalena ‘Maggie’ O’Shea has suffered much in the past year: her best friend was murdered, her godson kidnapped during the same event, and her husband died in a freak boating accident. A classically trained pianist, O’Shea chose to leave that world behind and focus solely on running her small music shop in the heart of Boston after this trifecta of horrible occurrences. When approached by the US Justice Department, O’Shea is given a photograph that spins her life into added disarray, purporting to depict a long-dead love interest. O’Shea agrees to head to France to lure a wanted felon out of hiding and undertake her own investigation into her godson’s disappearance. O’Shea’s escort, a former military man, proves to be more than she bargained for, at times hampering her ability to effectively complete the mission at hand. While in France, truths are revealed that turn up additional mysteries, involving an ever-expanding collection of characters. At issue is not only the honour of O’Shea’s best friend and husband, but the chance to bring down a terror ring before more havoc can be enacted on US soil. Mario constructs this story as precisely as a classical composition, leaving the reader to marvel in its intricacies and powerful nuances.

This being my first experience with a Mario novel, I remained somewhat guarded as to what I might expect. Throughout the story, Mario returns to the classical music theme, weaving it not only into the plot, but adding wonderful decorative language to substantiate the Maggie O’Shea backstory. The characters prove believable and the plot crescendoes at a considerable pace, leaving the reader to pace themselves for the full effect. Set in multiple locations, Mario uses the various settings to her advantage and yet keeps the story from getting too lethargic, which is helpful as some of the content can become a little heavy. Mixing drama, thrills, and a little romance into the story, the reader is treated to a variety of character and plot developments, sure to impress as well as entertain. With only a few minor factual errors, Mario offers up a well-crafted story whose movements leave the reader guessing as to its final resolution.

Kudos, Madam Mario for such a wonderful novel. I hope to see more from you in the future.