Founding Rivals: Madison vs. Monroe, The Bill of Rights, and The Election that Saved a Nation, by Chris DeRose

Four stars

While by no means an expert on the Founding Fathers or the creation of the United States Constitution, I chose to tackle this book to further flesh out the story surrounding the founding of America and the entrenched rules by which it would run. DeRose examines the lives of the two Virginia Jameses, Madison and Monroe, as well as the influential roles they played in the early stages of American independence. This book examines their clashes, teamwork, and the efforts both put into creating what would be the US Constitution during the late 18th century. While they were able to work together to shape the latter years of colonial North America, where Monroe could play a key role in the Continental Congress, it was the formal election of 1789 that shaped America, with Monroe and Madison running against one another. Madison was the firm constitutionalist and was, like Alexander Hamilton, well-versed in the nuances of the legal language surrounding the rules of the state. DeRose argues that the aforementioned election was a major turning point in the state and American history, since Madison won and went on to Congress to present amendments to the constitutional document, eventually called the Bill of Rights. Without these changes, America would have easily been sunk into a quagmire and civil unrest would surely have led to a war within the states, with the ink still wet on the new U.S. Constitution. DeRose effectively shows how it was Madison’s openness to freedoms and the hands-off approach when it came to religion that kept the thirteen colonies sated and permitted the eventually expansion of the Union. Had Monroe claimed victory, none of that would have come to pass, leaving Washington that the likely sole president of the offshoot Union, which might have collapsed in on itself. A powerful set of arguments surrounding these key moments in early American history, the only time two men who would be future presidents squared off in a congressional election, leaves the reader to learn much from DeRose’s research.

Over the last number of months I have immersed myself in biographies and academic pieces on the founding of America and the constitutional infancy of the country. While it has been a pleasurable experience, I did learn a thing or two along the way, which DeRose presents well throughout; none of this was easy or quick to occur. The development of a new state, especially as it tosses off the shackles of its colonial oppressor, comes with great difficulty and requires the strength of men dedicated to forging fundamental paths to ensure a positive end-result. DeRose uses a wonderful cross-section of research and presents it in such a way that the layperson is not lost in the argument or the narrative. While there are sure to be sections of the larger story that can get dense, DeRose does his best to keep things move effectively. While a piece of non-fiction would rarely get comments on the characters involved, I would be remiss if I did not mention how lively Madison and Monroe appear throughout, which goes to the author’s ability to pull biographical pieces together that will both entertain and educate the curious reader. The narrative and chapter breaks allow the story to flow as seamlessly as possible, building things up at a decent pace while not over-indulging in minutiae. A wonderful effort to tell the most important of constitutional stories to Americans, in such a way that any reader could understand the significance of events and these two actors in the larger historical stage.
Kudos, Mr. DeRose for this great piece. You highlighted the best and worst parts of these two men, giving the reader just enough to form their own conclusions.

The Cana Mystery, by David Beckett

Three stars

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

During an archeological excavation in the Egyptian desert, Paul Grant discovers what could be a very important piece of biblical mythology. Covered in a script he cannot decipher, Grant summons Ava Fischer from MIT to assist in the translation. When Fischer arrives, she and Grant soon discover that they might be in possession of two of the jars used by Jesus to turn water into wine, from the Wedding at Cana. Worried that others will try to intercept this precious treasure, they go on the lam, hoping to decipher the jars’ text and learn more about its prophecy. With a collection of ruffians on their tail, Grant and Fischer try to deliver the items to the true guardians of Christ’s belongings, the Catholic Church. As they examine the jars a little closer, new mysteries emerge that could have a monumental impact on history and the present day. They must work fast and covertly, before the jars fall into the wrong hands and the prophecy is snuffed out forever. A curious read for those who enjoy a little thriller peppered with biblical and historical references.

Beckett posits some very interesting things within this novel, tapping into historical fact and some biblical supposition. The story is solid and the characters are mostly believable, which helps move the novel along in a somewhat effective manner. Beckett does run into some issues with the flow of the story by the way he divides his chapters. Within each is an advancement of the subplots as they progress, though the development is short and rotates repeatedly. The reader is left spinning as they try to piece together the story, with this choppy writing style, offset with short chapters and gargantuan ones. While this might be an editorial issue (perhaps Beckett was only paid per chapter, so best to keep it down to as few as possible), but it seems glaringly obvious where to break the text and insert a fresh chapter, or build on a single storyline continually rather than flipping back and forth. Even with this impediment, there is a strong message seeping into the text that leaves the writer feeling somewhat better, as Good faces off against Impending Doom. Who will succeed and who is left in literary purgatory? That’s for the reader to discover by the final pages.

Kudos, Mr. Beckett for this interesting tale. While not as stellar as it might have been, you did tackle an interesting perspective and did so in a highly entertaining manner.

Without a Doubt, by Marcia Clark and Teresa Carpenter

Five stars

After her (in)famous time in the headlines and being beamed across televisions the world over, Clark took the time to put together this short piece to give her side of the story, a refreshing look at things for the interested reader. While she pulled no punches and tossed many key players in the OJ Simpson murder trial under the proverbial bus, Clark supported her arguments with first-hand knowledge that might significantly shape the views of readers who may remember the circus that inundated the airwaves in 1994 and 1995. Taking the reader along the chronological happenings from the discovery of the bodies to her role in the trial, Clark offered up a succinct and heartfelt look into the case. When her opposition began waltzing into the courtroom, Clark editorialised on these bumbling fools more interested in the spotlight than arguing for justice. She also repeatedly showed how Lance Ito was one of the worst people ever to don a judge’s robe and how out of his league the Honourable gentleman might have been. Even the Fuhrman testimony blunders, which some say cost the prosecution the case, are dissected and their role placed in the larger context of the case. Clark effectively showed how she fought tooth and nail for justice, but got only a major shaft from Ito and the clowns opposite her, with rulings, motions, and objections that could not have been concocted for a Hollywood script. In the end, it was a miscarriage of justice, plain and simple, though I am sure no reader who picked up this book thought otherwise before sinking their teeth into the prose before them.

I have much admiration for Marcia Clark in her new-found career as a legal thriller writer. I find her work as blunt and succinct as this piece ended up being. While some may feel that it is a collection of soapbox comments marinaded in sour grapes, I could not disagree any stronger. I remember the trial, the circus, and the shock of the verdict. I was firmly convinced that Simpson was giving the world a gigantic ‘screw you’ through his Hollywood ‘Dream Team’ who were anything but effective legal scholars, trumped only in their ineptness by Ito, who was a dunderhead of the highest order. It is these, the true legal trials that saw money trump justice, that get to me; where the spotlight overtakes the law of the land. Clark showed all the major gaffes before she offers an explanation (if she can) and lets the reader determine if justice might have been set aside. It is a refreshing (albeit brief) look into the Trial of the ’90s and the soap opera of the century, which even a simultaneous return from the dead of both Victor Newman and Stefano DiMera could not have trumped. Written in such a way not to dwell on the numerous issues, Clark narrated effectively, giving highlights where needed and segueing from point to point with relative ease

Kudos, Madam Clark for this wonderful piece of insight. I do love your fictional work, which I hope you pepper with your real-life cases.

Murder House, by James Patterson and David Ellis

Four stars

James Patterson and David Ellis team up to bring readers another great thriller worthy of investment for all those curious enough to tackle this mystery. Jenna Murphy seeks the quiet life. Hampered with a grey cloud during her time with the NYPD, she flees to rural New York and joins the Southhampton Town Police Department, where her uncle, Langdon James, is Chief. When a couple is found slain inside a notorious house, all eyes turn to a potential jilted ex-boyfriend, Noah Walker. Choosing ease over proof, Chief James sullies the evidence to ensure Walker is taken into custody and Officer Murphy turns the other way. When the Chief is murdered, everything points to Walker being involved, but the evidence cannot substantiate it. After a quick trial places Noah Walker in jail, the town breathes a sigh of relief. It is only when Officer Murphy begins digging deeper into the lore surrounding the Murder House, at 7 Ocean Drive, that she discovers a haunting truth and one that sets Walker free. Working to unearth what has truly been going on after a string of murders in the area over the past few years, Murphy is placed on leave and eventually suspended by the new Chief of Police. That will not quell her curiosity, which pushes her to dig deeper and learn more about the family that inhabited the Murder House for centuries. Could there be a killer on the loose using local folklore to their advantage? Murphy’s on the trail, but as a private citizen, her resources might keep her from the truth. Another wonderful novel by this writing duo sure to keep the reader rushing to piece together each clue.

In this most recent collaborative effort, Ellis again adds lustre to one of Patterson’s novels. Attentive readers will see that while Patterson’s ability to write drivel does not hamper his appearance or climb on the New York Times bestseller list, it does punish those looking for decent reading material. Ellis makes the stories more captivating, the narrative crisper and the characters multi-dimensional. While moving away from the über-short chapters, slightly, the novel still flows nicely and uses a great means by which to captivate the reader. While some will critique the story for being too clichéd or boilerplate in its composition (police officer stumbles upon a cold case, is suspended, must fight for it on the outside), this tale does not get too muddied in those regularities and is worth its reading time. It is surely not a turning point for Patterson fans hoping for a new and improved writing style, but when Ellis has his name alongside Patterson’s, readers are thankfully in for a decent piece of writing.

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson and Ellis for this wonderful story. Your collaborations have always made for superior writing, though I know there is some contractual agreement there that limits your working together or actually helping Patterson to improve on a regular basis.

Rogue Lawyer, by John Grisham

Four stars

In another masterful legal novel, Grisham takes readers down yet another rabbit hole of the profession. Sebastian Rudd is a lawyer like few others who have graced the pages of a Grisham novel. Working solely by word of mouth, Rudd believes that everyone, no matter their history, personality, or mindset, deserves a lawyer and their day in court. Grisham chooses to take the reader along a few paths, depicting some of the clients Rudd has during a snapshot in his legal career, sometimes delving into trials, at other times legal conundrums. This is more a collection of six cases, in which Grisham has Rudd handling the defence side of apparent prosecutorial ‘slam dunk’ cases. While he battles an ex-wife with a vendetta who seeks to use their son as a pawn, Rudd is able to dazzle the reader and his client with his antics, but at what cost? The cases weave together and arc effectively into a larger plot that allows the reader to see Sebastian Rudd at his best, and worst, using justice as his nagging wife, which he so eloquently describes in the opening pages. Not to be missed by Grisham fans and newcomers alike.

I was once asked why Grisham is such a popular writer when he cannot string together a successful series for his adult readers (having penned a great young adult series in Theodore Boone). Taking up the gauntlet, I let this fellow reader know that Grisham’s greatness without a series can be summed up in two strong arguments: a) no single lawyer could handle the varied nature of Grisham’s legal thrillers all on his own, and b) the ability to create a fresh character in each novel, including surroundings and backstory, is more impressive than parachuting a character in the same surroundings time and time again. This argument is strengthened yet again in this novel. Grisham takes a new look at the law, pulling on some of his other novels for breadcrumbs, but substantiating the Rudd character on his own merit. The backstory provided, woven into the six separate case stories, is strong and highly effective, leaving the reader wanted more vignettes to illustrate this man’s narrative. Rudd has a flavour that individualises him from other Grisham characters, while still holding firm to the character formula that has worked so effectively for thirty years. With succinct narratives and a dry wit that keeps the reader hooked, Grisham is able to spin a tale that will entertain most legal thriller lovers. While not as legally entrenched as some of his other works, Grisham can be excused for a slightly diluted story, as he has tapped into so many angles in the past. However, he does not skim the waters and churn out fluff, keeping his mind sharp and his readers entertained until the closing lines of the last chapter.
Kudos, Mr. Grisham for another successful novel that piques the reader from the opening paragraph and does not let-up until the last period. What else have you in store for your fans? 

Splinter the Silence (Tony Hill and Carol Jordan #9), by Val McDermid

Five stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Val McDermid, and Grove Atlantic for providing me with a copy of this book, which allows me to provide you with this review.
In the ninth instalment of the Tony Hill series, McDermid returns with a fabulous story that keeps series regulars fully committed and entices new readers to pick up and join the adventure. After a handful of apparent suicides by women who have been harassed online, the authorities are left to wonder if cyber-bullying is on the rise; a truly faceless crime. The general population is prepared to accept this, but Dr. Tony Hill has other ideas, pondering a theory that these women may be driven to die at the hands of a specific individual who is pulling the strings. As he tries to formulate a case, he wrestles with helping his former colleague and sometimes friend, Carol Jordan. Their love/hate relationship sees the pendulum swing erratically as Jordan’s personal life and love of drink lands her in a sizeable amount of trouble. Little does she know, she’s being eyed for a key position in a new and highly mobile Major Incident Team (MIT). With Hill advocating for a closer look at the suicides and this MIT ready to deploy, will Jordan be able to lead this ragtag collection of police investigators to sift through the evidence and determine if this collection of cyberbullying antics is more than meets the eye? A fabulous addition to an already strong series that the reader will thorough enjoy.

Throughout the Tony Hill series, McDermid has flirted with a few ideas. First and foremost, the relationship that Hill and Jordan have with one another. Both strong willed, they portray two diverse yet highly similar characters, which propel the novels forward. This is seen throughout this book and the means by which McDermid tweaks their interactions, it offers new and strengthened aspects to the series relationship. Secondly, McDermid has used Carol Jordan as a pawn throughout, moving her around as she pursues work opportunities and personal struggles. The choice to remove her from the Bradfield Metropolitan Police had a straining effect on the series, as did her complete divorce from anything police-based. Now, McDermid paints herself into a corner and cannot leave Jordan on the outside without removing her importance a a character. While I applaud the means by which Carol Jordan returns, especially with this MIT possibility, it is as though McDermid did an about-face in order to rectify a decision she, and the fan base, both realised was a disaster in the making. In addition, the restructuring of the old MIT into this new ReMIT proves interesting and keeps the reader flashing back to some of the key elements of the series to date and the characters who had an impact. It flows wonderfully with a story that is both current and poignant, adding to the novel’s strength. As long as McDermid can keep the ideas coming and not play around too much with the character interactions, this series is strong and will continue for the foreseeable future.

Kudos, Madam McDermid for this wonderful addition to an already complex series. I cannot wait for what you have in store for fans next, though I hope the wait is not as long. 

Alexander Hamilton, by Ron Chernow

Five stars

In an ongoing project to better educate myself about important political figures in history, I sought to return to another member of the American Founding Fathers. However, to call Alexander Hamilton a ‘father’ when surrounded by Washington, Franklin, and Jefferson seems slightly odd, as he was much younger than the others around the table. While that may be true, Ron Chernow effectively argues that Hamilton was a substantial, even quintessential, player in the founding and early establishment of America. Depicting the man as one who was mature beyond his years, a brilliant constitutionalist, and a stalwart statesman, Chernow illustrates how Hamilton utilised his presence around these other political giants to lay the cornerstone for the American political and economic systems in place today. A masterful piece of work that any reader with a passion for political biography ought not to miss, Chernow educates and entertains in equal measure.

Hamilton’s maturity can be traced as far back as his formative years in the West Indies. Born illegitimately, Hamilton’s life was further shaped when his mother died at a young age and he was shuffled off to many relatives, all of whom met the same fate in a short span. Hamilton’s social and emotional maturity led his quest for knowledge and the ability to set himself apart from those around him. Chernow illustrates that Hamilton was given much responsibility while working as a young man, holding things together for his proprietor who was off in New York tending to business interests. The curiosity towards learning spurned Hamilton to arrive on the shores of the Empire State at a time when unrest was brewing, but before it reached its zenith in British-colonial clashes. While studying at what would soon be called Columbia College, Hamilton devoured all that was put before him and became a lawyer, before he found a spot within the continental army. Hamilton climbed the ranks, becoming a colonel and was handpicked by George Washington to serve as one of his aides de camp. That Hamilton was not on the front lines of the battles irked him, but this connection to Washington would curry favour between the two men and eventually lead to greater things. As shall be seen below, Hamilton’s maturity seeped into his work at the Continental Congress and during the drafting of the US Constitution, as well as work in the early years at Treasury. It is not lost on the reader that Hamilton was able to effectively serve alongside other political juggernauts, as Chernow weaves many intricate stories surrounding Hamilton’s abilities and effective progress in forming the America with which many are familiar today.

Hamilton was not only a key figure in the creation of the US Constitution, but a brilliant author whose absence would surely have made for a much weaker document. As Chernow argues, using historical documents and well-known publications to substantiate, Hamilton understood the nuances of constitutional creation, as well as the need to cherrypick from that which had worked before. Labelled at times as a monarchist, whose interest in keeping some aspects of Britain’s system in the American sphere, Hamilton did not deny that utilising that which works effectively is better than trying to reinvent the wheel. Not only did Hamilton help forge a document that would encompass key elements necessary for running the new republic, but he wrote a large collection of papers, alongside John Jay and James Madison, to sell the state delegates whose job it was to ratify the constitution within their respective legislatures. These writings became known as The Federalist Papers and are still quoted to best understand the core elements of the Founding Fathers’ mindset and general constitutional framework at the documents inception. Chernow refers to these essays throughout this section of the biography and highlights the ease with which Hamilton utilised his power of the written work to persuade and support the clauses enshrined in the constitutional document. The reader is left to wonder how a man so young could have such a strong worldly sense about him, especially since he did not travel to Europe or return to his birthplace. Chernow presents Hamilton as an effective and detailed scholar in these most important months of the new republic, crafting a document alongside Jefferson, Franklin and a handful of others, whose content has been amended 27 times as of the writing of this review. Hamilton’s constitutional capabilities cannot be lost on the reader, as Chernow details the battle to create an effective set of rules by which America would run. In the latter section of the biography, Chernow exemplifies Hamilton’s legal mind and constitutional prowess to argue cases before the courts, effectively presenting sound arguments to support or nullify state and federal laws on numerous occasions. A constitutional Goliath, a moniker Chernow resurrects from historical documents, properly depicts Hamilton and his vast knowledge of this key aspect of early America’s founding.

Hamilton moved from being a Founding Father to an effective statesman in the first Cabinet under Washington, formulating essential laws and laying the groundwork for many plans taken for granted in the 21st century. In choosing Hamilton to serve in his first Cabinet of three(!) members, Washington invested a great deal of pressure on, and power in, him. Hamilton coveted the chance to serve as Secretary to the Treasury and was given the chance to impress with his significant understanding of financial issues. The position allowed Hamilton to formulate some of the early financial, economic, and monetary policy for America, which could serve it well in its infancy. With a mind well-tuned to the nuances of financial matters (was there anything this man could not do?), Hamilton saw the importance not only of running an effective government that could be self-sufficient, but also the necessity to deal with its war debts and move forward. The greatest issue that Hamilton faced was creating policy and legislation for Congress that set in place certain taxes, levies, and money garnering endeavours that did not sour the populace. As Chernow reminds the reader, the Revolutionary War was fuelled by a push not to allow many of the same taxes that Hamilton now proposed. However, with the need to sustain the coffers of America, now that the British were gone, these plans had to return, alongside a means of communicating the essential nature of their presence to a populace still stinging. Hamilton also created what is now the Coast Guard to inspect ships looking to bring goods into America, as well as a Mint to strike coins and print paper money for use within the states, as well as unifying the monies used and permitting inter-state travel. These were major struggles, but Hamilton effectively navigated the waters and brought about key fiscal elements to unite rather than divide the country. Even after leaving Washington’s Cabinet, Hamilton used his statesman abilities and knowledge of the constitution to pen essays on various topics, swinging sentiment in one way or the other. Hamilton always sought to use well-grounded arguments to support his views, which would sway public and congressional opinions as major pieces of legislation came up for debate or vote. Chernow exemplifies this statesman persona quite seamlessly and does offer a thorough examination of the decisions Hamilton undertook while a member of America’s political elite.

Chernow’s book also examines some other highly interesting aspects in the American political development. Hamilton was at the heart of the first political schism that saw the creation of the Republican Party, as well as the Federalist and anti-Federalist labels affixed to certain segments of the political population. The birth of this non-constitutionally recognised political animal proves highly intriguing to the curious reader and Chernow does a wonderful job in narrating its methodical emergence. As well, no political biography is complete without a little scandal and Chernow attributes the first American political sex scandal to Hamilton, who was fond of women in all their glory. Again, Chernow delves into this story, but, as might be a sign of the times, things remain above board and the gaudy details remain hidden, which may depress any reader seeking salacious crumbs within these pages. Any attentive reader who reaches the point of the biography when Hamilton leaves Treasury is sure to ask, ‘why no presidential run in ’96?’, to which Chernow has numerous speculative responses, all grounded in fact and and personal comments shared by Hamilton. This book is full of many anecdotes and keeps history’s ever-changing narrative as a key driving force to propel the story forward.

Chernow does a wonderful job examining the life and times of Alexander Hamilton, from the mysteries of his birth in the West Indies through to his death at the hands of Aaron Burr in a duel, itself a dramatic and detailed story in the waning chapters of the biography. The narrative is full of wonderful tidbits of information and stories to better exemplify some of the larger events in early American political history, as well as some key sub-plots showing that Hamilton had his detractors, including: Thomas Jefferson, George Clinton, James Madison, and Aaron Burr. The book is very well laid out and its detail shows considerable effort on Chernow’s part to offer as full a picture as possible for the reader to better understand how Hamilton shaped the world around him and was influenced by its happenings.

Kudos Mr. Chernow for this wonderful political biography that touches on many aspects of Hamilton’s life and that of the early America. Full of poignant vignettes that include other political heavyweights, Chernow shows the breadth of Hamilton’s influence during his life, cut short by a draconian means of settling disputes.

The Rise of the Enemy (The Enemy #2), by Rob Sinclair

Four stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Rob Sinclair, and Clink Street Publishing for providing me with a copy of this book, which allows me to provide you with this review.

In his follow-up novel in the Enemy series, Sinclair pulls the reader deeper into the internal struggles of Carl Logan, as well as the lengths to which he will go to survive. Still smarting from his recent encounter with Youssef Selim, Logan is sent by the JIA, a joint US-UK super covert agency whose missions are completely off the books, to learn about Project Ruby and its progress in the Russian hinterland. As Logan tries to complete the task at hand, he is made and captured. Spending three months being tortured at the hands of the Russians, this is much worse than anything he’s ever faced, though his will is strong and he is eventually able to escape. However, his problems are only beginning, as he is in the middle of nowhere, unsure whom he can trust, but led to believe his own people, at all levels of the JIA, were prepared to sacrifice him for their own gains. As Logan negotiates through the possible scenarios, the JIA, Russians, and potentially the Americans themselves are all out to eliminate him. With no one he can trust, Logan must rely on himself and his finely-honed skills to make it to safety, if such a place exists. A wonderful second novel, building on some key elements from his previous book in the series, the reader will not be disappointed.

After reading his somewhat jilted opening novel, I was pleasantly surprised to see Sinclair shake off the rust and produce such a powerful second novel. The story is much crisper and allows the reader a better look at Carl Logan the character. Weaving important storylines from the opening novel, Sinclair shows how this novel could, seemingly, work as a stand-alone, but the breadcrumbs are a little too scarce to fill the reader in completely. With a stronger story taking place in a more centralised (albeit barren) location, Sinclair works on key elements in the plot’s development and the fleshing out of characters whose importance arc throughout the novel. With some interesting twists that the reader likely was not expecting, Sinclair captivates those who take the time to read it, while also showing how Logan remains a man on the verge of derailing at any minutes. Wonderful use of flashback sequences to show the ‘present’ and ‘time in captivity’, Sinclair can illustrate the depth of the struggles in which Logan finds himself. I did comment in the previous book’s review that a thoroughly detailed novel on Logan’s time with Selim might be necessarily to give the reader a better feeling for the plight at the hands of a sadistic killer. Sinclair seems to have answered this call by showing the reader how close Logan came to breaking and how far some people are prepared to go. A completely different novel from the first that will keep readers who were on the fence fully committed for Sinclair’s next publication. 

Kudos, Mr. Sinclair for this wonderful piece. I hope there is more to come at this calibre.

Dance with the Enemy (The Enemy #1), by Rob Sinclair

Three stars

In his first novel, Sinclair offers the reader an interesting spin on a long-used thriller approach. Carl Logan is a man whose come off the rails. A long-time member of the JIA, a covert joint US-UK agency whose agents act well below the radar. After Logan was captured and tortured by Youssef Selim, he is unable to function effectively and finds solace in the bottom of a highball glass. During a trip to Paris, the US Attorney General is kidnapped and his motorcade decimated. Logan is pulled back from the brink to help locate the AG, fuelled mainly by a chance to enact revenge on Selim, whose men are allegedly behind the event. While many at JIA are leery of Logan, he’s given a short leash and limited time to prove his worth. As the bodies begin to pile up, Logan’s head is in a noose and he must remain off any radar if he hopes to reach Selim and save the AG. When FBI Special Agent Angela Grainger locates him, she can Logan begin running the mission on their own and soon discover a larger plot, in which Selim is only a player. However, when Logan has the chance to come face to face with Selim, he cannot stand down. What is the reason for the AG’s kidnapping and how does Selim play into the larger plot? Sinclar keeps the reader wondering as the story progresses, with twists and turns perfect for the curious reader to enjoy.

Sinclair does a great job in fleshing out his Carl Logan character. While this is apparently the first in the series, there is enough backstory and reference to previous cases that the reader is left to wonder if Sinclair is paving the way for a prequel novel down the road. Even the Selim-Logan storyline would be a wonderful story, should it be fleshed out later on, as the hatred between the characters is wonderful. I stumbled upon Sinclair as I was asked to read and review the second novel in the series, but thought I ought to do my due diligence and delve into the Logan persona a little more before offering publishers a formal opinion of the man of mystery. The story moves well, though progress lags at times and there was little movement to offer for long periods of time. While Logan is no Bond, he does try to portray himself as one at times, as Sinclair peppers the narrative with a little romance to cut some of the killing tension. Overall, things moved nicely, though the use of a thriller novel rubric left some things highly predictable. An entertaining piece of work, which I hope is built upon in the second and subsequent novels.

Kudos, Mr. Sinclair for a good first effort. You can keep the reader’s interest and have a great character on your hands, should you wish to expand on his backstory.

Depraved Heart (Kay Scarpetta # 23), by Patricia Cornwell

Three and a half stars

As Cornwell builds on her highly successful Dr. Kay Scarpetta series, the reader is pulled deep into a psychological thriller that will not let go until the closing chapter. While investigating a mysterious death in Cambridge, Scarpetta is alerted to a message seemingly sent by her niece, Lucy. This message, a link to a surveillance video from almost two decades earlier, shows a vulnerable Lucy with secrets she’s told no one, all of which could implicate her in some highly illegal activities. Scarpetta is unsure what to do or whom to tell, and with no ability to pause or save the clips, she becomes engrossed with her phone and forgets the body before her. What begins as a simple curiosity soon becomes the next round of stalking by Scarpetta’s long-time nemesis, Carrie Grethen, whose past relationship with Lucy is only the tip of the iceberg. How does this video and the body laying before her tie into an attack Scarpetta faced months earlier while diving? And once the FBI raids Lucy’s property, there seems to be nothing that Scarpetta can do to protect her quasi-daughter from a lifetime behind bars. Has Grethen finally found a way to outmanoeuvre Scarpetta and have the last laugh? Will she rise yet again from the ashes and ruin the calm life that Scarpetta has tried to put in place? Cornwell weaves a wonderful story and utilises some of her key characters in this latest instalment, which keeps the reader begging for more.

As with any novel in the Scarpetta series, the reader is presented with wonderful nuances in the medical field, as well as highly detailed technological developments. However, this new approach, an apparent ‘call from the grave’ collection of videos adds a new and somewhat curious perk to an already jam-packed series. With interesting developments unfolding from their content and the surrounding scene during which they were taken, Cornwell takes the reader back in time to remember key scenes from early novels in the series. While touted as a highly psychological thriller and complete with crumbs of foreboding throughout, I felt the story lagged at times and focussed too much on a slow dénouement while most other novels, whose central focus is the body being examined, seem to zip from A to Z while gaining momentum. However, by the twenty-third instalment, one can expect the need to tackle similar situations with an entirely new approach, leaving Cornwell a little leeway to do so.

Kudos, Madam Cornwell for another great piece of writing. What will you bring us next and how do the crumbs left play into the next thriller?