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? 

Justice Redeemed, by Scott Pratt

Four stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Scott Pratt, and Thomas & Mercer for providing me with a copy of this book, which allows me to provide you with this review.

In this stand-alone legal thriller, Pratt brings as much gusto as can be found in his popular Joe Dillard series. Darren Street is a compassionate criminal defence attorney, as oxymoronic as that may sound. He fights for the little guy and will not permit injustice to permeate an already jaded society. As Pratt opens the novel, Street is in the midst of fighting for his uncle’s release after a lengthy time in prison for a crime he did not commit. In vacating the conviction, Street makes a major enemy with the D.A., who is hellbent on exacting some form of revenge. After Street meets with a potential client, he discovers a man who is flippant about his potential role in a double murder of two young boys and refuses to defend him. This refusal has consequences and Street is faced with threats against his son. Reacting in a paternal knee-jerk fashion, Street approaches one of his former clients to ‘handle the situation’, but rescinds the request after his conscience wins out. Unfortunately, the wheels have already started turning and the former D.A. is now working for the US Attorney’s office, ready to find a way to corner Street and put him away. When the potential child killer’s body is found and the evidence points to Street, there is no hope for justice, even as the determined lawyer works with a young but passionate attorney to clear his name. Street is sent away for a crime he did not commit, with little hope of ever getting out. In this stunning novel, Pratt pushes the legal system to its limits and leaves the reader wondering if Darren Street will be yet another number in the US Penal system sporting shades of orange for the rest of his existence. Not to be missed by Dillard fans and those who enjoy a legal thriller.

I have been a Pratt fan for a long time and always enjoyed his Joe Dillard novels. Even though this is a break from the well-tuned series, any reader familiar with Pratt’s style will find that the setting (Tennessee) and the genre (courtroom thriller) fit perfectly. In this novel, Pratt looks less at the courtroom as the final setting, with a crime and a trial planning build-up. Instead, the reader is treated to the injustice that some of those with the backing of the government have over the accused and how, with the right evidence and power of persuasion, they can bring about a jaded form of justice. Pratt takes the reader inside the penal system and gives his own view of incarceration, as well as the slow pace at which any legal matters of convicted felons can move, all while exemplifying the horrendous treatment that takes place. While it is not told in a soapbox fashion, Pratt does not hide the cynicism he has for the System and how it is easy to get lost when facing the Goliath known as the US Government. Peppered with humour, despair, and the smallest hint of romance, Pratt pulls his readers in and will not let them go as he seeks to find justice in a jaded system, whereby the little guy can get his proverbial day in court. Excellent character and dialogue usage to propel the story and keep things fresh throughout, Pratt shows that he can work outside the Joe Dillard parameters with which he is very comfortable.

Kudos, Mr. Pratt for this wonderfully crafted novel that does not wane and seeks to pile on more twists to keep the reader intrigued.

The Lost Tudor Princess: The Life of Lady Margaret Douglas, by Alison Weir

Four stars

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

In a style that she has made popular, Weir chooses a lesser known member of the the English monarchy (more times than not, a Tudor, as is the case again here) and gives a thorough account that leaves amateur enthusiasts astounded and begging for more. Answering that key question, ‘Who was Margaret Douglas?’, Weir offers the reader an explosive look into her life, filled with an assortment of dramatic and politically monumental events. Born to a Scottish earl and Margaret Tudor (sister to the famed Henry VIII) in England, Douglas spent much of her early years in Scotland, living under the reign of her half-brother, James V. Weir depicts a somewhat rebellious Douglas, who became a thorn in her father’s side as she sided with the English in the ongoing skirmishes with Scotland, which was further exacerbated when she entered into an unauthorised engagement to Thomas Howard which saw her uncle, Henry VIII, send her to the Tower of London. Douglas was able to return to her uncle’s favour in her young adult life and served within the court to some of her step-aunts, though left for Scotland later in her adult life to make roots of her own. Marrying the 4th Earl of Lennox, she secured a place in the Scottish aristocracy, while remaining on the cusp of being in line for the English throne. It was while Elizabeth I ruled England that Weir presents a new round of trouble for Lady Lennox, whose son was set to marry the famous Mary, Queen of Scots. With Elizabeth I ill-prepared to stomach deception, even by her cousin, Lady Lennox was forced before a tribunal to face charges related to this potential union. When Mary gives birth to a son, the future James VI of Scotland and James I of England, the key player in Weir’s story secures her place in English history, as both a mother and grandmother to an English monarch. As Weir paints an interesting portrait of Lady Lennox’s waning years, the reader can bask in the depths to which this lesser known Tudor truly reached in her life and the number of key players in history who owe some success to her influence. Weir’s recent effort is to be lauded by amateur historians and Tudor fanatics alike, as she brings to life a seemingly obscure character and solidifies the extreme importance of a previously unknown Margaret Douglas.

Weir’s ability to tell such an intricate story should be applauded on numerous levels. First and foremost, the intricate detail found within the pages of this biography comes from painstaking research and obscure document retrieval. As the scores of footnotes exemplify, Weir relies on first-hand accounts and not solely previous published works to give depth to her book. Secondly, that this is a biography can be lost on the reader at times, as the prose is less a dry presentation of facts, but a well-plotted story, whose narrative flows as seamlessly as a piece of fiction. This could be why Weir is so accomplished at turning some of her non-fiction pieces into works of fiction as well. Her voice flows through the text and the story comers to life, almost allowing the reader to illustrate the goings-on in their mind as they read. Finally, she not only highlights key events in English (and European) history, but places her seemingly lesser-known key figure into the mix and shows how they shaped history and proved to be highly important in the larger narrative. Events well known to the reader are fleshed out and the influences are better understood when told through this narrative.

Weir has been a formidable figure in English history, specifically during the reign of the Tudors. For many years I have found myself flocking back to her tomes to learn more about the family, the dynasty, and the legacy that this one family left the English people. That Weir is able to complete thorough and captivating biographical pieces of these figures never ceases to astound me. I will gladly recommend this and all her other pieces of fiction and non-fiction alike to any reader who seeks to better understand the Tudors and those within their tangled family tree who influenced change during their time on the English throne.

Kudos, Madam Weir for this fascinating biography. The forgotten and lost princess is surely a wonderful title, though Margaret Douglas is soon seen to be a powerful force in the Tudor court.

The Survivor (Mitch Rapp #14), by Kyle Mills

Four stars

In the long-awaited return of Mitch Rapp, Kyle Mills tries to fill the enormous shoes left with the passing of Vince Flynn. When former CIA ace Agent Rick Rickman stole a large collection of highly classified documents, panic ensued. The identities of a number of agents and missions spanning all four corners of the earth were now in the hands of a man who sacrificed himself to the Pakistanis. Director Irene Kennedy has little choice but to release her star field agent, Mitch Rapp, to intercept Rickman and get the files back. However, little does she know that even with Rickman’s death, the headaches are far from over. Somehow, documents are being released electronically, through some timed release format. While Rapp and his team have been highly reactive, trying to protect those in grave danger, they are unable to proactively ascertain the location of the files and how to stop this ever-growing headache. As Rapp searches the world for the documents, he must also deal with the Pakistanis, whose impetus for learning and obtaining this mountain of secrets could put them in a position to become the first Muslim superpower, with nuclear capabilities. As Rapp works diligently and Kennedy’s hold on the CIA lessens, the reader is left to wonder if Rapp has finally met his match and will go down with guns blazing. Mills does a wonderful job at the helm, injecting the same sass and gumption into the Rapp character as ever before.

In a recent review, I spoke about Kyle Mills and his ability to take on a series whose foundation was laid by a great author. Here, as Mills is handed the Mitch Rapp series, he must not only continue with the CIA-themed plot, but also fit himself behind the control panel that IS Mitch Rapp. With countless nuances within the Rapp character, Mills must deliver to a collection of fans who have been ravenous for a novel depicting their beloved Rapp. As the title suggests, Mills did complete his task with his head held high and is assured of being adopted into the larger Vince Flynn fan club.With fast-paced action and a great attention to detail, Mills write a seamless fourteenth novel in the series, whose authorship is unclear, the novel reads so well. A must-read for series fans, especially those concerned about the transition, for few will find fault in what they are presented.

Kudos, Mr. Mills for this novel with does immortalise Vince Flynn and the Mitch Rapp character so completely. Please do continue with the storytelling and, in true character development fashion, begin to morph things and shake things up where you can.

The Morgenstern Project (Consortium Thrillers #3), by David Khara

Three stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, David Khara, and Le French Book for providing me with a copy of this book, which allows me to provide you with this review.

Khara returns with the third instalment if the Consortium Thrillers series, turning things around and placing the focus on one of the main characters. As series readers will know well, Eytan Morgenstern has a complex backstory that has remained the central focus to date. Working alongside Jeremy and Jackie Corbin, remembered from the opening novel in the series, Morgenstern seeks to bring the Consortium down once and for all. After the US Government puts a bounty on their heads, Morgenstern and the Corbins must remain active, alongside two other associates who hold great importance to Morgenstern. The Consortium have begun working with the US army to create a new league of soldiers, based on the concept of transhumanism, the creation of a human whose prosthetic limbs hold super strength. Could the Consortium be helping create this ultimate army as a prototype before moving on to look at the larger population, pitting countries against one another? As Morgenstern realises that he is being hunted by the Consortium to resume medical testing, he vows to bring them down before any further damage can be done. With key flashbacks to the creation of Morgenstern as a killer, post-Nazi medical patient, Khara offers an enriching view of this most complex character within the entire series and turns the medical advancements to the present day, exemplifying the horrors that modern-technology could reap on an unsuspecting populace. A great addition to the Consortium Thriller series that may leave readers satisfied or screaming for more.

Having read all three Consortium Thrills consecutively, I have a better idea of what is going on and the flow Khara places within the series. While not his best work, Khara does instil the same horror in the reader as they see the development of what is to come in the world of biological warfare and nanotechnology. The characters are decently presented, though it is only Eytan Morgenstern who receives much backstory. I also felt the constant flitting from present to Morgenstern’s past somewhat distracting, though I can see why Khara presented things in this manner. The plot and premise of the novel are sound, but are not stelar by any stretch. I felt the dialogue and some of the narrative seems a little hokey, which has been an issue throughout the series. That could be from the translation or simply that the book has some inherent stretches to the imagination. Whether this was the last of the Consortium novels or not remains to be seen, though Khara does offer some degree of finality within the story, but as readers of thrillers know well, the Phoenix can always rise from the ashes. 

Kudos, M. Khara for this decent addition to the series. I am still using your opening novel as a yardstick, which was highly enticing and cannot help but measure the others against it.

Marine One, by James W. Huston

Five stars

Huston offers readers an explosive legal drama with strong political undertones that keeps its pace to the final sentence. When the President of the United States insists on heading to Camp David in the middle of a hail storm, his Secret Service detail have strong reservations. Once POTUS demands that it be done in Marine One, his private helicopter, levels of concern escalate. Who could be waiting at Camp David that is so important? While travelling to the Maryland countryside in the storm, Marine One falls from the sky in a fiery crash and kills everyone on board. With the leader of the Free World dead, all eyes (and fingers) turn on WorldCopter, the company responsible for building Marine One. The company is bombarded with bad press and numerous federal investigations, leaving them highly vulnerable. The company’s insurance company hires Michael Nolan, a civil lawyer with a past as a Marine chopper pilot. As Nolan tries to sift through the wreckage, both literal and legal, he works to determine what went wrong and whether it was a malfunction or an act of terrorism. Pitted against a highly successful class-action lawyer who represents the widows of the crash, including for former First Lady, Nolan and his team work tirelessly to learn all they can about WorldCopter’s product and the intricacies of its assembly. As Huston weaves this tale, he injects powerful courtroom scenes and legal negotiating that keeps the reader hooked until the bitter end. What happened during the storm and who was expecting the President so urgently? Huston is a master storyteller and keeps the reader guessing.

I have not read so powerful a legal piece that keeps the action flowing non-stop for a long time. The political undertones also propel the book to new heights while the intricate knowledge of helicopters and Marine One is without match. The reader can follow the plight of Mike Nolan as he fights insurmountable odds to defend his case and seeks a needle in a haystack to salvage what little reputation WorldCopter has left. Huston’s succinct dialogue keeps the story moving effectively and courtroom scenes keeps the reader feeling as though they are in the middle of the action. With twists and turns at every juncture, Huston offers up a dazzling piece of fiction that remains so plausible that it could happen at any time.

Kudos, Mr. Huston for this wonderful piece. I was with you the entire journey and barely took time to breathe along the way.

The Shiro Project (Consortium Thriller #2), by David Khara

Three stars

In Khara’s second Consortium Thriller novel, the reader learns much more about Eytan Morg,after the stunning revelations revealed in the latter chapters of the opening book. With the facilities of the Bleiberg Project destroyed, those who run the Consortium are left scrambling to assert themselves on the world scene. Their target remains Eytan, whose super strength and inability to age could come in handy, should they be able to turn him, even temporarily.By kidnapping a man close to Eytan, the Ubermensch agrees to work with his nemesis and for the Consortium to complete a single mission. Eyton must explore the occurrences in a small Czech town where all its citizen are mysteriously killed and burned alive. Eyton discovers that it is some form of biological weapon with ties back to wartime-Japan, controlled by a group who make the Consortium seem tame. Eyton rushes from the Czech Republic to Japan to piece it all together, Khara takes the reader on another historical ride to see how scientific experimentation by the Axis powers could be more deplorable than first thought possible. An interesting second instalment in the series that may entertain the reader curious in passing a little free time.

While it might be the translation or simply the premise, the story is not as thrilling as the opening novel, though the potential remains. Khara does a decent job depicting Eytan in this struggle to find himself after being a Nazi experiment in his Warsaw ghetto. As Eyton plays a central role in the story and offers the reader more insight into his backstory, the pace of the novel was somewhat subdued and did not have the same propelled action as I would have hoped or expected. The reader is offered some horrific historical glimpses into the Japanese atrocities inflicted during the War and can only speculate as to the sadistic nature of the experiments undertaken in the name of science. Khara has surely done his research in that domain.
Kudos, M. Khara for another interesting instalment of the series. I hope the next novel has more action and stamina, to return the series to its thrilling status.

Charles de Gaulle: A Biography, by Don Cook

Four stars

In an attempt to look outside of North America, I sought to educate myself about a man who played a key role in the European Theatre during the Second World War and in the decades thereafter. Having already looked at Churchill and Hitler, it is time to wade into Don Cook’s world of General Charles de Gaulle. In this detailed biographical piece, Cook seeks not only to tell the story of de Gaulle’s life, but portray the man in three distinct fashions, which are elucidated throughout the numerous chapters on offer. Cook presents the General as a life-long militarist, a staunch nationalist, and an ardent leader. These three roles intersect on numerous occasions and in a variety of ways, as Cook explores some of the key events in de Gaulle’s life, as well as showing how Europe changed dramatically following the Second World War. Cook utilises a great deal of research as well as his vast experience to offer the reader a strong piece that presents the great role de Gaulle played in ensuring France was not forgotten after shedding its Vichy cloak, as well as pushing France to the forefront of the continent’s economic and trade policies well into the 1960s. Definitely a book for readers who seek a deeper understanding of a key European player in the political and military spheres.

To call de Gaulle a life-long militarist would not be an exaggeration on Cook’s part. From as early as he could be accepted, de Gaulle entered military training and scholastic endeavours, with the backing of his parents. Receiving much of his training on the cusp of the Great War, de Gaulle served France during some key battles, but was injured and away from fighting for much of the conflict. He was sent away to a prison camp by the Germans and left there to ponder his fate, which he did until his release. Thereafter, his life within the military was secured as he rose the ranks, crossing paths with the likes of Philippe Pétain, who would one day lead the Vichy Government under Nazi occupation. As de Gaulle rose within the military, his passion for his native country grew, as shall be documented below. Becoming a general, de Gaulle readied himself for the Second World War, though he was seemingly emasculated during France’s early capture. Working of his own volition, de Gaulle refused to cede to the Vichy Government and its puppet nature, choosing to strive for the Free France movement. That de Gaulle did not seek to plot military strategies is not lost on Cook, though there was a strong push to ensure a powerful military and political force waited to resume power in the vacuum that was post-Vichy France. Cook argues that de Gaulle played that role well and plotted his return more than a military effort to keep the country in order. Even after his triumphant return to France, and in the years of his leading the country as a political head of state, de Gaulle did not flex his muscle and create a military state. As Cook exemplifies, de Gaulle sought the peace and order any military man might expect in times of calm and the ability to strategise in times of crisis. These traits, though somewhat nuanced in the larger picture, show that de Gaulle remained a life-long militarist, whose fight for France did not end when the Nazis were repelled from his homeland. 

There is no doubt that de Gaulle loved France or sought to keep it from complete dissolution. Cook depicts the struggles de Gaulle had for years, living in exile in Algeria, while the British and (eventually) Americans fought to push the Nazis back and free France from Hitler’s clutches. General de Gaulle remained adamant that he play some role, more political than military, in the Free France movement and became the face of the French Resistance. Cook depicts, in detail, the strain Roosevelt and Churchill were under in dealing with de Gaulle, who was the only ‘government in exile’ that would not sit back and wait for the removal of the Nazis from their native soils. These struggles left de Gaulle bitter towards Roosevelt and at regular odds with Churchill, but, as we shall discuss momentarily, could have helped secure his place in the European political arena in a post-war world. General de Gaulle sought to ensure France got its piece of the pie and was not given an Allied puppet government to replace the Vichy organisation, though his pushing could at times fall on deaf ears. Even in the early days of France’s freedom, de Gaulle sought to rally his people and ensure that they knew he had been with them all along. Radio addresses kept him in contact with the French people and all the colonial inhabitants she possessed, with de Gaulle as its de facto leader. France always came before Europe or even the Allied cause for de Gaulle, as Cook exemplifies in the numerous clashes at the end of the War and into the Cold War period. That de Gaulle would not allow France to fall prey to its allies is also strongly laid out throughout the book. While the Soviet sphere of Europe fell behind the Iron Curtain, de Gaulle would not allow anyone to bully him into standing silently, especially when the integrity of France was at stake. As he pushed to reinstall France’s honour in Europe into the 1960s, de Gaulle would not cede anything to diminish France or its importance on the world scene, showing his nationalist colours at every turn.
The leadership qualities that de Gaulle held were honed over a long period, but remained deep rooted. The qualities Cook shows repeatedly include de Gaulle’s tenacity to keep France from falling into the hands of its enemies a second time, from being dissolved, and from political neutering at the hands of the Allies. As Cook shows, de Gaulle remained a thorn in the side of the Big Three (Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin) as he advocated for France, but also appeared to be a ‘kicked dog’, seen but often abused, by others. He sat patiently during the Free French movement, though would not sit idly by. His tours of French colonies and BBC broadcasts, as well as meetings with the Big Three went far to show his leadership abilities and ensconced a strong hold on the country into the 1950s, when he could lead France in a quasi-civilian manner. He never shed his military title, though France was not run by a military government at any point post-1945, which is a true curiosity to the reader. When de Gaulle made a triumphant return to the French presidency, he restructured the constitution into the Fifth Republic and ran as a president with string political powers, keeping the country on track to flex its muscle in the European arena. Blocking Britain’s entry into the European Common Market, developing a nuclear program, and insisting on standing toe to toe with some of the world’s most influential leaders did dampen de Gaulle’s ability to act as a fervent leader of his people. Even in his waning years in power, de Gaulle pushed the envelop and wreaked havoc with two major countries. As Cook depicts in one chapter, de Gaulle’s pro-Arab stance froze relations with Israel at one point, though de Gaulle did not stand down or change his views, looking to even the playing field. Additionally, while on a state visit to Canada during the country’s centennial, de Gaulle fanned the flames of the separatist movement and called from Montreal’s City Hall balcony “Vive le Quebec Libre!” an blatant step to exemplify Quebec’s occupied territory status within the larger Canada. And yet, as Cook explores for the rest of the book, he did not apologise, for that was not in the de Gaulle nature. He was a man without fear and one who spoke for his people, which Cook insinuates made him the wonderful leader he was until his retirement.

Would de Gaulle have become so prominent a man had the Nazis not invaded and taken over France? Had he waited for the Allies to liberate the country before pushing for a new and fresh start, could de Gaulle have become the powerful leader that changed the face of France? Cook does not speculate, though the narrative and the detailed analysis of historical documents, as presented in this book, leads me to think not. General Charles de Gaulle left his imprint on France and the world because of his adamant fight to free France from its shackles and used that rallying cry to shapes popularity. He forged a relationship with the Big Three and pushed his way to the table thereafter all because he was heading up a Government in exile, though he did little to wait for his rescuers. That de Gaulle was proactive and would not stand idly by helped shape the man who rose to power, for it was in his genes. A fighter to the end whose passion for France was second to none, de Gaulle would not allow anyone or anything stand in his way to return France to its greatness of centuries past. As Cook shows throughout, de Gaulle inherited a country rife with political insurrections and change, wrestling it from its past foibles to set it on track for future glory. Has the de Gaulle legacy withstood the test of time? It is hard to say just yet, though the country does remain a major player in Europe and on the world scene. 

As early as the introduction, Cook shows how de Gaulle adopted the phrase French monarchs used for centuries, “L’État c’est moi!”. However, de Gaulle did not seek to use it to show that he was the be all and end all of France, but more to show how interwoven he was with the country and its people. That is, perhaps, the true legacy that Cook leaves with the reader. Charles de Gaulle left his blood, sweat and tears in France, giving it his all, as a true military man would do, fighting to the end for the country he loved.

Kudos Mr. Cook for this fabulous biography of a true European powerhouse politician. I have a new respect for the man and hope to explore more of his influence in the years to come.

An Evil Mind (Robert Hunter # 6), by Chris Carter

Five stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Chris Carter, and Atria/Emily Bestler Books for providing me with a copy of this book, which allows me to provide you with this review.

Carter returns with his most thrilling novel yet, pitting LAPD Detective Robert Hunter against another devious serial killer. When two severed heads turn up at a small-town diner, the locals turn over the case to the FBI as fast as possible. With an unresponsive suspect, the Feds can do nothing to move the case forward. That is, until he gives them an out; send in Robert Hunter. Reluctantly, Hunter agrees to help when he realises that he has a personal connection to the suspect, his old college roommate, Lucien Folter. What begins as an attempt to rectify an apparent mistaken identity soon becomes the most horrific case that Hunter has ever come across. Spanning over 25 years, there are many bodies at countless murder sites, with proof at every turn that Folter is responsible. It is only when the possibility that a live victim remains that Hunter and his FBI counterpart, Agent Courtney Taylor, begin to race against the clock to crack the case wide open. If only they knew of this when the whole farce began. Carter ramps up his writing and morbid description in this story that will shake the reader to their core. As chilling as any Hannibal Lector novel, Carter delivers with a punch, right to the gut, in this fast-paced psychological thriller.

I stumbled upon Chris Carter, expecting an entertaining few novels that sought not only to intrigue, but also to pique my ever-growing interest into the macabre. With each successive novel, I was pulled deeper into the chasm of psychopathy and serial murder. Not only entertaining, but also highly disturbing, Carter leads the reader by the hand, then lets them drown in the detail, forcing all those who have taken the journey to rush to the end (part out of enjoyment, part to release themselves from its clutches). Just when I thought the books could get no better, Carter returns with something even more sadistic, hitting closer to home. An added bonus, as Hunter is closely tied to the killer, the reader gets more glimpses into this reclusive man’s past and what he was like prior to joining the LAPD. With short, teasing chapters, the book flows so well and left me to want “just one more chapter” before putting it down. Carter paints characters in such a way that the reader cannot help but want to learn more and delve deeper into the tale, all in the hopes of solving the crime and the mystery around it. Carter outdoes himself and will surely garner a number of new fans with this masterful piece of work. 

Kudos, Mr. Carter for such a thrilling novel and so detailed a writing style. I could not put it down, worried that Hunter would get lost and taken over if I stepped away.