Kidnapped (Jon Roscoe #3): A BookShot, by James Patterson and Robert Gold

Seven stars

In the third of their Joe Roscoe BookShots, Patterson and Gold deliver another story that keeps the reader guessing and wondering until the final paragraph, showing that short stories do not always lack the essential attention to detail. After finishing up with a piece of business in Chicago, Jon Roscoe is headed back to London for the holidays. His wife and two daughters await him, hoping that he will be able to carve out some time with them as he continues to work for Tribeca Luxury Hotels. While waiting at the airport, Roscoe encounters two families and their various events, both of which cause him worry. He only later learns that both pairs will be on his flight over the Atlantic. Roscoe tries his best to intervene, but is rebuffed in both cases, sensing that there is something ominous about to take place. When back in London, Roscoe is given a stern warning about staying away from a certain celebrity hotel guest, but cannot shake that something is significantly wrong. Meanwhile, Roscoe learns that his wife and daughters may have stumbled onto something else of interest. As the story progresses, the reader is pulled into two significant storylines, both with particular importance and set against the backdrop of the Christmas season. Patterson and Gold devise a wonderful story that will keep the reader up a little later to find out how it resolves itself.

Patterson’s invention of the BookShot has not always been a gift for readers, as some stories offer little more than a lump of coal while others are true diamonds. However, that is the nature of the beast and this BookShot shows strong contention for being in the latter category. The third story in the series, readers have already learned much about Jon Roscoe, but the constant move to add new and interesting characters adds a new dimension to the tale. Also, that the hotel is not a primary setting for the story plays into its unique nature. The authors use Roscoe’s brain and intuition more than his brawn in this BookShot, adding a dimension to the man while keeping things somewhat realistic. The numerous storylines keep readers ready to forge onwards, offering some interesting views into family life, particularly around the holidays. Short and crisp chapters are offset with interesting plots without taking readers down too many rabbit holes and confusing them as they seek to finish in short order. A successful BookShot that tries taking up only enough time to fill the period between a significant meal and the rowdy round of game playing during the holiday season.

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson and Gold for another wonderful addition to this collection. I hope there are more Roscoe stories on their way soon, as you have done well with this series.

The Lynching: The Epic Courtroom Battle That Brought Down the Klan, by Laurence Leamer

Eight stars

America’s race wars seem to be on the rise again, as the general populace is asked to reaffirm that certain lives matter. While the imagery is horrible and the bloodshed excessive, it pales in comparison to some of the clashes that became weekly occurrences in the South for decades. The Civil War sought to rectify some of these issues, but only exacerbated them, allowing the rise of white supremacy in its many forms, the most prevalent and wide-spread being the Ku Klux Klan. Leamer seeks not only to explore Klan life in America, particularly throughout Alabama, but also a criminal case that might have snuffed out the power Klan politics had over the state and across America. In March 1981, members of Klavern 900 of the United Klans of America pondered how to lash out against a jury that refused to find a black bank robber guilty of shooting a white police officer. Hatred filled their speech and the only solution would be to commit an act so outrageous that everyone would take notice. Klansmen focussed on nineteen year-old Michael Donald, walking through Mobile late at night. What follows is an act so depraved and horrible that it does not bear detailing here. Needless to say, Donald was lynched and his dead body left dangling from a tree at the courthouse. After some investigating and witness statements, a member of the Klan was brought to justice and sentenced for the crime. Leamer then takes a significant amount of time in the middle of this book to explore the rise of racial hatred in Alabama, particularly under the watchful eye of George Wallace, its segregationist governor. In the 1960s. Wallace welcomed the help of the Klan in preserving order in the state and ensuring that he would not have to bend to the wave of integration, which he felt would sully his state. Civil rights leaders found much of their time spent in the state dedicated to marching and peacefully protesting, though they were met with clubs, bottles, and water cannons. Still, their resolve did not bend and Wallace’s invectives were soon diluted, at times with the help of the Oval Office. Out of the fray came one black lawyer, Morris Dees, who worked with the SPLC (Southern Poverty Law Center) and could not, in good conscience, let Alabama fall into such an abyss. His smooth writing style and ability to cut to the chase had him a sought after commodity by politicians throughout the South. However, Leamer depicts him as the man who would stop at nothing to bring down the Klan, after seeing all its actions throughout the 1960s and 70s. Returning th narrative to the mid-80s, Leamer discusses that Dees took the opportunity to approach Michael Donald’s mother and agreed to take her case to civil court for wrongful death. This was Dees’ opportunity to pull all the key figures in the Klan onto the carpet, in an Alabama courtroom, from the lowly men who committed the lynching to the Imperial Wizard of the Klan, Robert Shelton, and the entire United Klans of America. Fighting and taking no prisoners, Dees sought justice for a people as well as a nation, hoping to put the heinous past of segregation, black suppression, and white supremacist violence by the wayside. It was an epic fight, the true David versus Goliath, though its end result was anything but certain. Leamer does a fascinating job at pulling the heartstrings of the reader, even those who did not suffer through the era. His powerful story will resonate in the minds and hearts of anyone courageous enough to take the time and learn how Michael Donald became a lasting symbol of the fight for equality in Alabama.

Leamer does a masterful job of depicting the Klan, the state of racial unrest in Alabama, and the overall sentiment of the movement in a short time. While I have always been looking for an overarching book to explore the roots and depths of the Klan in America, Leamer has surely whet my appetite to learn a little more. I tend to turn towards things about which I know little, in hopes of learning more and being able to adequately represent myself in discussions. The two outer parts of the book flow so well that one might sometimes wonder if these are pieces of historical fiction. It is listed under non-fiction, which supports that the horrors and battles found therein are at least mostly true. The power of his writing and the depths of despair that the reader can find themselves, should they be open to learning, is amazing. The middle section, a true history of hate and the rise of George Wallace, proves even more telling, as Leamer sets the basis of Alabama as a cesspool of hatred, though surely the rhetoric of the times did not help. Does Leamer go too far? I would venture to say no, in that he is trying to illustrate just how poorly things got and how horrible the nightly walks could have been for blacks or those who sympathised with their cause. I was enthralled with the story, the narrative, and the overall rawness of what Leamer had to tell. One can only hope many others will take the time to learn about this before dismissing if any set of lives matter more than others.

Kudos, Mr. Leamer for pulling me in so effectively. I will be sure to find some more of your work in the near future.

Before the Storm (Hunters #0.5), by Chris Kuzneski

Seven stars

Choosing to finally reveal more about the Hunters before they became a team, Chris Kuzneski has decided to pen a number of novellas to offer their essential backstories. First on the list is the purported leader, Jack Cobb. As the story opens, Cobb is in Florida, fresh off a dishonourable discharge from the U.S. Army. Unsure what to do next, he receives a call from out of the blue by longtime friend and former MANIACs compatriot, Jonathon Payne. As they sit, shooting the breeze, Payne admits that he is not alone on this visit; David Jones is somewhere nearby, set to join them to talk about what happened and where Cobb sees himself next. Ever the Casanova, Jones finds himself otherwise engaged, trolling the beach in search of the finer sex. When Jones does find Payne and Cobb, they discuss a potential job lead for Cobb, though he’ll answer to a Frenchman, something that neither Payne nor Jones can stomach themselves. An interesting means of laying the groundwork for Cobb’s entrance into the Hunters realm, and surely of interest to fans of Kuzneski’s work.

I have enjoyed Kuzneski’s writing for a number of years now, both his highly entertaining banter between characters and the fast-paced adventures in which the reader has a front row seat. When his newer series began, things seemed a little like these folks were parachuted in from nowhere, though hints were left for the reader to piece together a loose backstory. With this new collection of novellas, the reader is able to pair what they know about the characters with something more in-depth, without being too long or drawn out. It’s a perfect read, quick and to the point, while still offering up the Kuzneski flavour that the reader will likely want. One can hope these novellas will be released in relatively short order, as a full-length novel is what I really seek in the coming year or so. That said, I can be sated, temporarily.

Kudos, Mr. Kuzneski for re-introducing us to some of your best characters in these shorter pieces. I cannot wait to see what other novellas you have waiting to release.

American Gospel: God, the Founding Fathers, and the Making of a Nation, by Jon Meacham

Eight stars

“In God We Trust”, the official motto of the United States of America, emblazoned on places as important as the Supreme Court and as basic as an off-colour Lincoln penny. That simple, but powerful, sentiment fuels Meacham’s exploration of the basis of religion in America, offset by the Founding Fathers’ constitutionally entrenched separation of Church and State. By no means was this division as longstanding as the presence of people in the original colonies, for the early residents had fled England because of religious persecution and organised their settlements with a strong set of Christian beliefs. Meacham tackles discussions by those who attended the Constitutional Conventions, where early ideas of religion and faith within the new America proved somewhat divisive. Some wanted to entrench Christianity in their new country, as it was imbued in all laws and proved to be largely practiced throughout the Thirteen Colonies. However, Thomas Jefferson argued strongly that the country should be a more inclusive and less entrenched nation, possibly tied to his less than stalwart views on a Higher Being. The Founding Fathers knew that the country they sought to create would be one built on tolerance and, while not ridding the state of Christianity, ensured religious openness with the Bill of Rights and the First Amendment. Meacham explores how Washington steered the state through its early years, balancing on this precarious thread, which proved successful. Other presidents handled the religious debate with less aplomb, outwardly espousing the Christian God to save them in their time of need. Of greatest interest is Meacham’s exploration of the three presidents who saw America through the tumultuous war years. Lincoln, whose various speeches sought to steer away from seeking God’s blessing and sought instead to place his trust that the ‘right’ answer would come to pass. Woodrow Wilson and FDR took a more preacher-cum-president approach, seeking Americans to pray for success over their foes and vilifying those who did not fall into line or spoke out against these pleas to the Christian God. One might extrapolate this and look to Bush 43, whose fabrication of facts and declaration of a War on Terror bred xenophobia and a degree of Islamaphobia that still simmers to this day. The American State also had periods where public sentiment clashed with the inherent beliefs of some religious groups, namely acceptance of abortion and the ongoing debate over capital punishment. Meacham effectively argues that America weathered this storm and its leaders, while sometimes left to grit their teeth, never lashed out against all that was going on. These personal beliefs did not bring the country to its knees, nor did it create chaos amongst the masses, some of whom would not have worshiped the same God as their leaders. Meacham looks to the latter part of his book to explore public religion, which differs greatly from the personal tenets that Americans held in their hearts. Acknowledgement of religious holidays (Christmas and Easter), as well as the Judeo-Christian set of legal beliefs are two strong examples of this. These public ideals remove the neutrality that would be required for a complete separation between Church and State, though it does not adversely affect the citizenry, at least to the point of any violation of certain beliefs. This might seem like a minor point, but Meacham makes it nonetheless, wishing to keep all discussions aboveboard. Worthy of a brief mention, Meacham does touch on the judicial branch, which acted as a shepherd in guiding the state through some of its more trying times, ensuing that the First Amendment’s freedoms were never curtailed, but that there was a balance to ensure the greatest cross-section of the population could live free from intrusion. While religion and the state remains a highly divisive issue and one that can spark many concerns, Meacham come to the conclusion that America’s personal gospel is one of acceptance and openness, even when its leaders may seek to push the envelop and subtly turn the country into an ‘us’ versus ‘them’ battle. This is by no means a simple topic to digest, though Meacham has done a brilliant job in educating the masses. 

Having recently completed a book that explored the depths of the First Amendment, I thought it a good idea to take some time to explore this topic. Meacham does a fabulous job in laying out his arguments clearly, with strong examples pulled from history, documents, and documented reports. He takes the entirety of the American political experience and focusses the Church versus State argument through the various political eras without weighing things down with too much information. Meacham’s primary argument or freedom and acceptance flows throughout, while offsetting this with an equally compelling belief that one would have to live under a rock not to see the long-standing Christian values that shine through all laws and speeches made by political leaders. With two hundred and forty years of experience, America’s views have held firm, though history has tossed enough tests into its path to force a few course corrections. But, as with any belief system, a reevaluation is always useful to match the flavour of the times.

Kudos, Mr. Meacham for another stellar political analysis. I wish I could do your work justice with my review. You take on so much and yet make it seem so effortless.

Come and Get Us: A BookShot, by James Patterson and Shan Serafin

Seven stars

In their second BookShot collaboration, Patterson and Serafin deliver another winner, as unique as it is adventurous. Travelling along the canyons between Arizona and Utah, Miranda Cooper has husband, Aaron, and four year-old, Sierra, along for the ride. After an impatient driver forces them off the road, their van careens into a ravine. Hurt, scared, and out of cell range, the family must regroup and Miranda takes charge. Miranda guides Aaron and Sierra away from the elements, but with a significant injury, hoping she can return with help before it’s too late. Miranda begins traversing rocky terrain in order to find any sign of life, coming across the group of men who pushed her off the road. With gunshots ringing throughout the ravine and working alone, Miranda must find safety and contact the authorities before she’s killed, thereby leaving Aaron and Sierra to perish, alone and forgotten. In a quick-paced story that has as much social justice as it does action, Patterson and Serafin present a polished product that is sure to lure in many BookShot fans, as well as those who need a short break from the everyday.

While there is never a guarantee when it comes to a BookShot, Serafin has brought two winners in his efforts to combine talents with James Patterson. The story is unique and offers readers something different, even amongst the BookShot collection. There are also some believable characters placed in somewhat realistic situations, which keeps readers visualising events as they transpire. As the story progresses, the reader finds themselves somewhat drawn to Miranda and her success at trying to find a solution for the family, even as she realises that nothing may be as it seems. Her gumption and the pace at which the authors push the story keep the reader hooked and seeking to learn a little more. With a little social commentary buried within the narrative, Patterson and Serafin open a dialogue that requires the reader to ponder a little, though nothing is as it appears on the surface. Crisp, concise, and truly imaginative. This is the sort of story perfect for the BookShots idea.

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson and Serafin for another successful collaboration. I am eager to see what else you two have planned for readers.

Freedom for the Thought that We Hate: A Biography of the First Amendment, by Anthony Lewis

Eight stars

Lewis offers a brief biography of the most oft-cited portion of the American Bill of Rights, the First Amendment. Exploring free speech and expression through the eyes of America’s political and social evolution, Lewis presents a well-grounded political and constitutional treatise on the subject. Looking first to the evolution of free speech in the United States, Lewis explores it as a reaction to the lack of such opportunity when the Thirteen Colonies were part of the British Empire. Sedition and libel became the most popularly adjudicated actions, especially between individuals and the burgeoning published press. Acceptance of freedom to express oneself in the spoken word and in print was by no means as far-reaching as it is today, even though it was ensconced in the constitutional documents of the country. It took time and an evolutionary process of the courts to accept new and deeply-rooted understandings of these freedoms. Lewis shows how the Supreme Court shaped free speech and expression in the 20th century, trumping some of the early interpretations of the Amendment, and tightening the reaction to laws that sought to impede these rights. Lewis also explores the press angle and freedom to shield sources as a mean of garnering free speech. By not having to openly reveal the names of those who offered information to flex the journalistic muscle of freedom of expression, the courts ruled that the First Amendment worked both to encourage expression and to protect it from government intrusion. While cases and precedent evolved through to the latter part of the 20th century, there was surely a great surge in open interpretation from the 19th century, which appears all but barren in its legal proceedings on speech. Adding personal expression through action into the mix of this biographical piece, Lewis shows how Americans and their varied personal beliefs found refuge in an open interpretation of the Amendment, though time and political fear shaped or suspended some fundamental rights for periods of time. Lewis mentioned the German Scare of the Great War, Japanese internment camps of the Second World War, and racial profiling during the early stages of the War on Terror, all of which were events wherein the Federal Government played on the emotions of the public (and the press) to push through laws or actions that blatantly violated personal rights. It was only the courts, who are reactionary and not proactive in their adjudication, who kept the leash of the US Constitution tightly in hand. Tackling such a political powder keg as the First Amendment, Lewis does present the reader with a well-developed exploration of the constitutional and political foundations behind a right that pushes the boundaries of tolerance and acceptance of all peoples. Succinct, yet detailed enough to make strong arguments, Lewis succeeds in what he sought to do with this tome, that will likely enlighten those who have the patience to wade into the discussion.

Lewis is able to offer his views in an effective manner without an awkward attempt to inculcate ideas. Using numerous legal sources, cases, and historical settings, Lewis is able to present a strong case for the effective use of the First Amendment, while also pointing out when the courts dropped the ball. As constitutional interpretation falls to the courts (though I could open a chasm by mentioning the role the courts have in this regard), Lewis shows how a decision made at one point was reversed or completely contradicted at another point in time. Evolution of opinions and judicial understanding came as America grew, though the political and emotional blinders were clearly evident, perhaps a throwback to support the general sentiments held by the populace. That said, Lewis also shows that the courts do not fall prey to letting public sentiment determine the direction in which the constitutional winds blow. I suspect this ability to effective present strong arguments and cases comes from a long history of exploring the judicial system. This benefits the reader who might not be as well-versed, even if they are eager to learn. Lewis is a decent teacher and makes his arguments transparent, leaving the reader to decide if they agree or have an opinion of their own; the crux of this book in action.

Kudos, Mr. Lewis for this wonderful exploration of political and constitutional arguments. You tell things in such a way that the information flows freely without boring the reader will too much minutiae.

Waiting for Santa: A Short Story, by David Baldacci

Eight stars

Tucked away in the back of Baldacci’s THE CHRISTMAS TRAIN, he offers up an extremely short and touching piece around the holidays. After losing his wife in childbirth and his day-old daughter, Sara, on Christmas Day, the narrator recounts how he would take the annual trek down to the mall to watch the children queue up with parents to whisper their desires into the ear of the ever-patient Santa. Eight years into this experience, he meets Sara, who has lost her parents in an accident. While they wait in line, Sara tells of how she misses her parents a great deal, basking in the love they had for her, even if she cannot remember them as people. Sara wants nothing more than to be adopted and have new parents, a wish she has been telling Santa for as long as she can remember. With an aging grandmother, Sara is not sure what her future brings, but hopes she can eventually feel the love of two families, the one she lost and the one out there for her. This touching experience leads our narrator to explain how he found love and had a son of his own. When he arrives at the mall to introduce young Timothy to Santa, he remembers his encounter with Sara and feels the connection his life has, as well as the love of two perfect families. A great story that I never noticed in all the years I read (and listened to) Baldacci’s holiday classic. A wonderful read for the reader who is looking for something as the coffee (or cocoa) cools slightly on December 25th.

Baldacci shows another side of himself in this Christmas story, seeking to pull on the heart strings of the reader who is used to fast-paced crime and thriller pieces. He is able to pull the reader in with so few words, exemplifying how wonderful a writer he has become. This piece was sandwiched between his entire writing career and, while penned over a decade ago, still evokes emotion and curiosity in the open-minded reader.

Kudos, Mr. Baldacci, for yet another piece I will add to my annual collection of Christmas stories to read. I am thankful for the family I have and this story helps solidify these sentiments. 

The Christmas Mystery (Detective Luc Moncrief #2): A BookShot, by James Patterson and Richard DiLallo

Seven stars

In this follow-up BookShot, Patterson and DiLallo bring Detective Luc Moncrief back to work alongside Katherine “K.” Burke on the streets of New York. While their assignments vary, from undercover shoppers in Bloomingdale’s to stakeouts waiting for the next “chalk drop” in the dingy streets of the city, Moncrief and Burke are always ready for a new adventure. News comes down the line that there is an art gallery that has been stiffing its patrons, selling them knock-offs at prices for which the original masterpieces might sell. Moncrief uses his connections in the art world to peer deeper into this, with Burke happy to play along, doing so more effectively than anyone might imagine. When one of New York’s finest, Ramona Driver Dunlop (Baby D to her fans), is murdered, Moncrief and Burke begin investigating, soon learning that she, too, has been a victim of forgers. While the case plays out, Moncrief receives a call from Paris with some sad news. In an attempt to support him, and on the insistence that they both take some time off after the murder investigation, Burke accompanies Moncrief to Paris. There, much is made of the news and Moncrief tries to unwrap the mystery of his feelings for K. Burke in the City of Love. Could Burke and Moncrief have Christmas chemistry? A BookShot that rebounds, at least partially, from the previous let-down in the series. This is a quick read and should keep any reader occupied long enough to digest such a large and festive meal before breaking out the sweets.

As with any BookShot, there is a gamble and a balance in trying to make it all work. Patterson and DiLallo offer up a decent story, though it is a little light on the mystery and drama, while plunging a little deeper into the personal sentiments of Detective Luc Moncrief. I found the crime-based portion of the story to be somewhat predictable and less than captivating, though perhaps this was a cover the authors had for eating up page counts before delving into the Paris angle and final BookShot in the series. I am curious to see how things will resolve themselves, on both sides of the Pond, and to see if this mini-series can end with a bang rather than a dreary collection of angst-filled sentiments by Moncrief towards Burke. Perhaps I am too used to the quick pace of a Patterson mystery, but this set of characters seems locked into something bridled, even in their banter with one another. There are moments of excitement, for sure, but it is as if Patterson and DiLallo are holding back, from what I have seen in each of them previously. One can hope that the pep is back, for this team has churned out some successful stories before.

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson and DiLallo for soldiering on, though I can only hope you have something riveting to complete the BookShot trilogy. Moncrief has potential and seems to have some NYPD tendencies. Show them off or ship him back!

The Devil’s Prayer, by Luke Gracias

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Luke Gracias and Australian eBook Publisher for providing me with a copy of this book, which allows me to provide you with this review.

Luke Gracias offers readers an interesting novel that seeks to mix the foundations of religious belief–both the goodness of a god and evil of its great nemesis–with the human understanding of bartering for a particular outcome. By placing these themes within a modern setting, the reader is better capable of understanding the story and relates with ease. After an eerie preface, the novel opens in a small Spanish town, with one Sister Benedictine trying to locate The Devil’s Bible, which contains a prayer that appears to hold much importance. After copying a few pages of the prayer, in complete secret, Sister Benedictine is able to hide it away with a journal of her own within her convent before being chased by a group of monks wielding swords. Trapped in a bell tower, Sister Benedictine takes the only path she has and ends up hanging from the bell’s rope, in an apparent suicidal act. On the other side of the world, Siobhan Russo learns that her mother has died in Spain, after abandoning the family for six years. While Siobhan is curious as to what happened to Denise Russo (the actual name of Sister Benedictine) all those years ago, she is unsure what to expect. Siobhan’s sister, Jess, wants nothing to do with her mother, though Siobhan feels she owes it to the entire family to explore what might have happened. Travelling to Spain, Siobhan is granted access to a vault where her mother held some key documents she willed to her eldest daughter. Siobhan receives the journal, which her mother called The Confession, and agrees to read it in order to learn more about what happened all those years ago. This confessional journal dates back to the early- to mid-1990s, when Siobhan was a young girl. Denise Russo was a single mother who tried her best to raise a daughter she loved more than life. After a traumatic event, Denise made a deal with a truly diabolical man, who forces her to trade Siobhan’s safety with a pledge to commit numerous crimes. Feeling that she had no choice, Denise is led down a path of truly alarming proportions, but never strays from the promise she made. As Siobhan reads of these events and the eventual birth of her sister, all becomes a little clearer while also extreme muddled. An ancient sect of red-clad monks remain on the lookout for Siobhan, forcing her to remain in hiding and return to Australia with a secret that could tear her family apart. Her arrival opens new and horrific possibilities, just as Gracias keeps the reader in suspense with a major cliffhanger. A wonderfully crafted novel for those who love an evolving and dramatic narrative that takes twists as it tries the reader’s personal faith.

This being the first piece of writing I have ever encountered by Luke Gracias, I was unsure what to make of it. While the opening few chapters took a little time to grasp me, by the time the story entered ‘The Confession’ section, I was completely hooked. Gracias pulls on many time periods and uses strong characters to tell his story, layering both the narrative and character development throughout. His use of strong religious history plays perfectly into the larger story and, should it hold some degree of truth, the reader must wonder about this darker side of religious acceptance. Whereas many will turn to the god of their choosing and make promises for specific results, could the same not be done in the face of a diabolical being, the antithetical deity? Exploring the role this character played in shaping history, Gracias forces the reader to shelve their preconceived notions and potentially accept that there is an evil pulse that is steering world events alongside the goodness of some Higher Being. The powerful and plausible story is accentuated with the lengths to which a parent will go to save their child and face the consequences of their actions. Told primary to convey the life and times of Denise Russo, the addition of Siobhan and, to a lesser extent, Jess, allows Gracias to paint an extremely disturbing picture while flirting with safety for those who are not entirely ready to let go of their belief in goodness.

Kudos, Mr. Gracias for this stellar piece of work. I cannot wait to see what other ideas you have percolating for your growing fan base.

The Christmas Train, by David Baldacci

Nine stars

I love this holiday classic, even if it is totally cheesy. I can see my writing style in its content and ideas, and will read it annually to savour the moments.

Please enjoy the review I have posted in past years:

Baldacci brings his readers a holiday classic sure to stoke the fires of the heart and keep the holiday season on track. Tom Langdon is on a mission, to get from New York to LA in time for Christmas. After a slightly intrusive and highly problematic search by airport security, Langdon finds himself on a red-flag list, still needing to get to the City of Angels. As a seasoned journalist, he tries to make the most of his issue and decides to take to the rails aboard Amtrak’s best and brightest, writing all about his adventures. His multi-day journey puts many interesting and unique characters in his path, as well as some highly humourous adventures and even a mystery or two. As the miles fly by behind him, Langdon discovers that there is more to the train than a slower means of getting from A to B. When someone from his past appears on the journey alongside him, Langdon discovers true meaning of the holidays and how the heart is the best guide on any of life’s trips. A nice break for Baldacci thriller readers, the book is a wonderful addition to the annual holiday traditions.

I would be remiss if I did not agree with many that this book is not cut from the usual cloth Baldacci presents. That said, its hokey nature is offset by the wonderful story Baldacci tells and the humour he is able to weave into the larger story. I have read this book many time before and love it each time I choose to sit down and enjoy its story. Baldacci is a master at storytelling and this book is proof positive that his flexible ideas can stand the test of time and genre diversification.

Kudos, Mr. Baldacci for this holiday treat that ranks right up there with shortbread and eggnog.