Children of the Corn, by Stephen King

Eight stars

I chose to end the month with a final Stephen King short story, picking one that mixes a bucolic setting with a spine-tingling plot. When Burt and Vicky run over a boy in rural Nebraska, they are panicked. However, once they examine the boy, they discover that the car accident was not the primary cause of the boy’s injuries and death, as his neck has been slit. Driving into Gatlin, they try to alert someone as to what has happened, only finding remnants of a corn-based religious group, strong on biblical retribution with a ‘husk’ spin. Burt and Vicky discover that they have drifted into a place that no tourist brochures were likely to document and for good reason. Fire and brimstone await them, but they will have to handle things on their own. Returning to the fields, they try to poke around, only to have handful of children emerge and pass judgment upon them. Vicky’s taken into their custody and Burt flees to save his life, but soon comes to his senses. When he pushes through the stalks and finds these children again, it is far worse than he imagined, as they take no prisoners in the name of God. Chilling in its depiction and yet short enough to be read in a single sitting, King shows that he is the master of the genre and full of ideas. Recommended to those who love Stephen King and all his varied ideas, as well as the reader who likes a little horror as they much on a snack, perhaps popcorn?

I love finding myself in the middle of a Stephen King piece, be it a short story, novella, or one of his major works. King is able to pull ideas from all over and works them out in one of a few ways. This piece pushes towards a horror genre (and yes, I have to see the movie soon) and kept me on the edge of my seat throughout, especially the unique corn-based religion approach that weaves its way into the narrative. King works through a number of issues, including social commentaries of the day, reaching out to the reader and forcing them to think as they flip pages. The attentive reader will find hints to other King works, even in passing, which adds a new level of entertainment. While this was only a short piece, I found myself able to connect with the characters and follow the narrative, which never let-up until the final sentence. Chilling to the core, I won’t be stopping among the stalks of corn anytime soon.

Kudos, Mr. King, for another winner. I do need to see the movie, as my imagination is going wild!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

A Bolshevik Christmas, by Yoel Bereket

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to Yoel Bereket for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

While the season may not be entirely in keeping with the book’s subject, I was happy to take on this challenge by Yoel Bereket. The reader is taken into the middle of the political insurrection as far north as one can go, with ideological sentiments strong on both sides. While Santa Claus has been working in the North Pole for some time, he is not entirely up on all the work his elves have been doing. Poor conditions and long hours seem to be draining these vertically challenged workers and breeding a degree of discontent. When a ‘foreigner’ appears amongst the elves, he riles them up to strike and demand new standards. Named Red Elf, he leads a group of the elves to see Santa Claus with a set off demands, though they are rebuffed as soon as the ideas are placed before him. Refusing to take no for an answer, Red Elf leads an insurrection and topples Santa, forcing him into exile and creating the People’s Republic of the North Pole, now led by the Soviet puppet Nikolas Sokolov. As news spreads, US President Kennedy is irate that the Soviets have made this incursion and taken over the seemingly neutral North Pole. It’s the height of the Cold War and America cannot be seen as lax. When a elf-based attack to take back the North Pole fails miserably, Kennedy wonders if he should be sending in troops, but remains leery of anything that might cause a nuclear confrontation with Moscow. Meanwhile, Sokolov pushes his elves to the brink, as December 25th is fast approaching and the new communist spin on the Christmas holiday must be shared with the world. When children wake, there are no dolls and toys, but rather live ammunition and guns to arm the citizens of the world in the fight for the communist collective. Media outlets scream and President Kennedy vows that this has gone on long enough. Working with some of his senior officials, a plan is put in place to strike hard and fast. Meanwhile, the lustre of the communist collective may be fading among the working elves, especially with a divine entity makes a surprise appearance and speaks of a new future. An interesting piece of humorous writing, Yoel Bereket will have readers smiling as they read this political piece. Recommended to those who love some lighter reads during the holidays, as well as the reader who enjoys some Cold War tongue-in-cheek political drama.

I tried to keep an open mind when Yoel Bereket approached me with this piece. A communist takeover of Christmas sounded a little far-fetched, but when I took it as a humorous political novel, I was fully committed. The story was quite cute in that gritty way that something poking fun at Christmas and the Cold War clashes had to be. Bereket works the political and humour angles well, keeping the reader involved in the struggles on both sides of the ideological aisle. Placing things at the height of superpower tensions in the early 1960s adds a faux drama that makes the clash a little more interesting. With a handful of key characters on both sides of the fight, Bereket leaves the reader to wonder how much of this is ‘what if’ and where possible truths might have stemmed, had this been sixty years ago. With short chapters that keep the story moving forward, Bereket never loses the reader, even when talk of ideology takes centre stage. Political drama meets humorous depiction keeps Bereket’s work entertaining and on point, making it an easy read for anyone who wants to take the plunge. I thoroughly enjoyed this one and will likely add it to my annual holiday reads, as that time of year needs a little humour amidst all the chaos of shopping an spiking the eggnog!

Kudos, Mr. Bereket, for this great piece of humorous holiday fiction. I’ll have to check to see what else you have written and try it out for size.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

Katheryn Howard: The Scandalous Queen (Six Tudor Queens #5), by Alison Weir

Nine stars

In what has become an annual adventure for me, I turned to the latest novel by Alison Weir depicting the six wives of Henry VIII. The fifth wife, Katheryn Howard, is the central focus of this piece, though Weir uses her extensive research and narrative abilities to paint a complete picture of the Tudor Court throughout the woman’s (albeit short) life. Katheryn Howard was a sweet child who lost her mother around six years of age. With a father unable to care care of her, Katheryn was shipped off to live with an aunt, who raised her as her own. Katheryn remained with this relative, even as her father married a few more times and presented new step-mothers. Into her teens, Katheryn was a curious but somewhat shy girl, who did not fall for all the wiles of those who would court her, though she seemed to fall under the spell of her music tutor, who did all he could to rid her of the virginity she held dear. Realising her status (as well as her connection to a former queen, Anne Boleyn, a first cousin), Katheryn was primed for a position at court with the soon to be fourth wife of Henry VIII, Anne of Cleves. Katheryn served the queen as well as she could, but also found herself falling for Francis Dereham, to whom she eventually gave her virginity. The secret relationship between Katheryn and Francis serves as an underlying foreboding that returns throughout the story. While Francis did play an important role in Katheryn’s life, it was Thomas Culpepper, a gentleman in Henry VIII’s court and a close friend to Richard Cromwell, who won her heart most. The connection between Katheryn and Culpepper grew as the king’s fancy turned to replacing his fourth wife with a new one. Katheryn seemed the obvious choice, as the king did extend much of his time with her and (as series fans and those with a penchant for Tudor history will know) once the monarchical radar locks in, there is no getting away. Katheryn did seek to rebuff him and remain true to Culpepper, but eventually acquiesced and agreed to become the fifth wife of Henry VIII, around the age of seventeen. Weir describes the time and court between the two, including Katheryn’s ‘faking’ her loss of virginity so as not to raise issue with Henry VIII. Though she tried, Katheryn was unable to bring forth a child for her husband, citing the advanced age and corpulence of the king. While advocating for some within her family, Katheryn reunited with Thomas Culpepper repeatedly in secret, eventually falling into a sexual relationship. When wind of the encounters emerged, Katheryn found herself in much trouble with her husband (much like Cousin Anne did), which was further exacerbated by the revelations of her sexual relationship with Francis Dereham. Thus began the quick downfall of Katheryn Howard and the end of the fifth queen in Henry VIII’s group of six. Weir depicts this quick fall and the eventual acceptance of errors by Katheryn, even though her final change of heart is in line with that of a young woman who realises how truth cannot always set her free. With a new moniker for Katheryn Howard written in blood, she truly became the scandalous queen. A brilliant piece by Alison Weir that will likely keep all her fans excited. Recommended to all those Tudor fans who enjoy a little fiction, as well as readers who love history coming to life on the page.

I never tire of learning about all things Tudor, especially when Alison Weir is guiding the experience. I have tried to read many of the books, both fiction and non-, and take something away from them all. Weir does a masterful job as usual, while injecting some degree of fiction to the life and times of Katheryn Howard. From her early life as a motherless girl, Katheryn rose through the ranks and offered a degree of modesty, while still likely being the typical teenage girl of the times, with curiosities and pressures from young men around her. Weir seemed to depict her as being less the flirty and sexually free-spirited young girl that I always thought her to be (thank you Tamzin Merchant for your depiction of her on Showtime’s The Tudors), but rather a young girl caught up in the pressures before being snagged by the King of England to be his latest conquest. The lies she told to protect her honour caught up with her and she was forced to face the consequences, though I am not here to dissect or pass judgment on whether it was right or wrong to see her imprisoned and executed. Weir offers a wonderful depiction of this rise and fall, as she has done many times before, while adding a great deal of insight through the various characters that she places throughout the narrative. Both those of historical significance and the characters who serve as vessels to move the story along help to enrich the reading experience for the interested reader. The story is one that Weir surely knows well, including how some of the events repeated themselves between Anne Boleyn and Katheryn Howard. Weir does a masterful job in her telling of it, with the imagined dialogues being one of the likely sole reasons this is a piece of fiction. Grabbing hold of the reader from the early pages, Weir paints a formidable picture throughout and keeps the reader focussed. With a mix of shorter and long chapters, Weir paces her story well, which is further helped by dividing the book into parts of Katheryn Howard’s life. As with the four previous books, there are some crossover moments and some early ‘cameos’ by those who appeared in the past or will again later, which links the series together nicely. I cannot wait to finish off the series with the final queen and see just how much drama came to pass, as well as how Weir will handle the eventual death of Henry VIII and all the shenanigans that came with it. Alas, I must wait a year, though Weir has more to keep me sated until then!

Kudos, Madam Weir, for a stunning depiction of the young 5th queen. My perspective has surely changed, though I can see see why ‘scandalous’ fits nicely in this novel’s sub-title

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

Degrees of Guilt, by H.S. Chandler

Eight stars

Seeking another thrilling read, I turned to this piece of courtroom drama, where the case may not be what it seems, though neither are those who are adjudicating it. Maria Bloxham stands over her husband, whose skull has just been bashed in. As blood and brain matter flow onto the floor, she casually calls the police to report the incident. When they arrive, she does not deny what’s happened and makes no attempt to conceal her actions. When she learns that her husband is clinging to life, she loses her calm demeanour and pleads not guilty to the crime of attempted murder. With a trial set to begin, twelve jurors must be chosen to decide her fate, including Lottie, who has been told by her husband to find a way out of serving. Lottie is unable to do so and finds herself impaneled on the jury, ready to hear that case of the Crown vs. Bloxham. While the case progresses and the court hears of the emotional and psychological abuse Maria suffered at the hands of her husband, Lottie finds herself getting closer to one of her fellow jurors, Cameron. What begins as a simple chinwag over coffee one morning soon moves into a full-on affair, as sexual tensions mount. Lottie knows that her husband is distant and she relishes the time away from her son, but has she completely lost her morals? With some on the jury already deciding how they will vote, the mood in the jury room mounts as Lottie and Cameron continue hearing the evidence and hide their indiscretions. When the case moves into jury deliberations, something changes and Cameron makes a demand of Lottie that even she could not have foreseen. The freedom of Maria Bloxham hangs in the balance, but Lottie must also think of her own family, as well as a man she thought she knew and might even love. Chandler tells a riveting tale where guilt is present throughout, though its justification will depend on how the beholder chooses to synthesise it. A legal thriller that will leave the reader in the judgment seat. Recommended to those who love a courtroom drama that extends outside of where testimony is heard, as well as those readers who enjoy being judge and jury (though not executioner) in a modern story.

I learned of this novel by reading some of the author’s other work. HS Chandler is a popular author whose police procedurals keep my mind racing on a regular basis. In this piece, Chandler tells two parallel stories of women who seem out of their element and whose lives are controlled by men. Maria Bloxham’s life has been controlled by a man who used psychological and emotional abuse without laying a hand on her. However, has it been enough to convince the jury that her actions were those of self-defence? Meanwhile, Lottie sits on the jury to decide the fate of this woman, while finding herself in a marriage she finds less than exciting and in an sordid affair with another man who seems to be stealing all her self-control slowly, but surely. As the reader learns about both women, they can judge how justified both Lottie and Maria were in their respective situations. Other characters serve to complement these two in a courtroom thriller that moves through the various settings needed to tell the entire tale. Chandler works the angles well and keeps the reader wanting to know a little more throughout the entire two weeks the case is active. The story is strong and pulls the reader in from the outset, forcing them to pay attention so as not to miss any of the evidence that is presented. Lottie and Maria may differ greatly, but their similarities will emerge as the twists mount in this must-read novel. Proof that HS Chandler, no matter what name under which she writes, is a force to be reckoned with in the genre.

Kudos, Madam Chandler, for another stunning piece. Keep them coming and you will have a fan in me!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

Riding the Bullet, by Stephen King

Eight stars

A short story by Stephen King is a treat like no other, particularly one that pulls the reader into the middle of an exciting tale. As I needed to fill some time before my next major reading adventure, I turned to one of these short pieces. Alan Parker is a student at the University of Maine. He receives a troubling call that his mother is in the hospital after having a stroke. Without a vehicle of his own and worried about his only living parent, Alan makes the decision to hitchhike down to see her. His first driver is an older man with some obvious health issues, so much so that Alan begs off early into their journey. As he awaits the next vehicle to pass by, Alan comes across a small graveyard with markers. When headlights illuminate the road, Alan gets in and strikes up a conversation with the young man behind the wheel, which veers towards a death-defying rollercoaster called The Bullet. Alan has eerie memories about it, but listens as his driver tells of riding it multiple times. What follows is a scary tale about riding the Bullet and a bargain made on the way to central Maine. Another interesting piece with twists that only King can create effectively. Perfect for a short trip or to pass the time.

I have long been a fan of Stephen King’s work, both the longer stories and shorter pieces like this. He has a wonderful ability to create characters and offer them much backstory in short order. His ideas seem plentiful and he uses the simplest event as a major plot twist. With themes woven into the fabric of his pieces, the reader learn a great deal about themselves as they read. The tangential nature of a well-crafted King piece is sometimes lost in the shorter works, but there is no lack of depth or intrigue. No matter what choice Alan Parker makes in this story, the possibilities are endless and King always lays them out for the reader to ponder, even late into the night.

Kudos, Mr. King, for another winner. I love how my mind races whenever you are writing and cannot wait to see what you have in store for your fans next!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

The Road Virus Heads North, by Stephen King

Eight stars

Always a fan of the odd short story, I have been filling some time with a few by Stephen King, who always seems to have something to say that holds my attention. In this short piece, an inanimate object seems to have a mind of its own, wreaking havoc in a small New England community. Richard Kinnell had a feeling he should not have stopped at the yard sale on his way back from a book forum, but he did. The regional author allowed a painting to catch his eye before he decided to buy it, thinking of the perfect spot it could hang. Not deterred when he learned that the artist committed suicide soon after painting it, Kinnell loads up his new artwork and heads home. However, he stops in to see his aunt on the trip back. When he pulls it out, the painting, titled ‘The Road Virus Heads North’, appears to have changed slightly, but Kinnell wonders if it might be that he is so tired. After his short visit, Kinnell finish’s the drive to Derry, where he plans to relax. However, the painting again seems to have shifted, leaving Kinnell with a very off-putting feeling. Soon, thoughts of the author’s suicide enter Kinnell’s mind, leaving him sure that the ‘road virus’ must surely be heading north and he wants nothing to do with it! An eerie story that only King could pull off, this short piece is a perfect filler for those who need to bridge between fun-length reading commitments.

I have long been a fan of Stephen King and his work, both the longer pieces and short ones like this. King is able to turn almost anything into something gripping, if not spine-tingling, using his vast array of ideas. The reader can never quite tell what awaits them as they read, but can be guaranteed that it will leave an impact, at least for a while. These short pieces are wonderful teasers for the reader who awaits a major novel by the author, though I miss the tangential writing that King has made his own over the years. Still, I won’t be buying any yard sale art anytime soon, that’s for sure!

Kudos, Mr. King, for a great piece to fill the time while I had a refreshment. Always keeping me on my toes as I wait for a book I want to arrive on my iPod.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

Apt Pupil, by Stephen King

Eight stars

Turning to another of my Stephen King novellas, I wanted to see about the hype this story has received over the years, as I fit it into my reading experience. Todd Bowden is a great student, who has mastered many of his classes at school. He is also quite intuitive, something he likes to show those who pay him some mind. While delivering a newspaper to one of his customers, Todd confronts the elderly Mr. Kurt Dussander. Todd explains that he knows Dussander is not who he purports to be, but rather a Nazi war criminal hiding in plain sight. After some deflection, Dussander admits to it, allowing himself to be extorted as Todd asks many questions about the time running one of the concentration camps. Dussander thinks that he might be beholden to the boy, until Todd begins having horrible nightmares about what he is being told and his grades take a nose dive. Todd and Dussander enter into an agreement with one another to keep both their secrets safe, growing closer as they do. From there, the story moves into a set of odd occurrences, whereby both Todd and Dussander target those who are less fortunate for their own sick joys, still extorting one another in a way. Dussander’s ultimate secret remains under wraps, though time might push the truth along faster than anyone could have expected it. A chilling tale that King tells so well. Recommended to those who love a good dose of Stephen King, as well as those who enjoy novellas filled with masterful narratives.

The versatility of Stephen King’s work is on display here with something that is less horrific in its true sense, yet still spine tingling. King portrays the interaction between two characters with little in common yet almost a match made in heaven, where they must rely on one another. Todd Bowden is a sharp student who has everything going for him. His curiosity gets the best of him and he soon finds himself caught up in a web of lies and horrible tales that he could not likely fathom on his own. This spiral out of control leads to many an issue and Todd is soon trapped inside a game of blackmail tug-of-war with an old war criminal. On the flip side, Kurt Dussander finds that the life he has tried to keep hidden from everyone is one telephone call from being revealed. Though elderly, Dussander knows that he would not be handled gently and wishes to take his horrible past to the grave. Both characters engage in some highly suspicious behaviour, as though feeding their secrets with the pain of others. The handful of secondary characters work well in this piece to serve as backdrops to keep the story moving, though none make too much of a lasting impact. The story works well and King is able to develop it in such a way that the reader cannot know what to expect, while knowing the end result at the same time. These secrets have a way of getting out, even if Dussander and Todd try to keep them hidden. Even an apt pupil will sometimes speak of the lessons his instructor inculcates through daily interactions!

Kudos, Mr. King, for another winning novella. I cannot get enough of your work and will keep devouring the stories whenever I can.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

These Lost & Broken Things, by Helen Fields

Eight stars

Stepping away from her highly popular police procedural series, Helen Fields offers readers a piece set over a century ago, with a woman who will do anything to keep her family together. Sofia grew up in a family of Romani, luring unsuspecting people and taking their money through various sleights of hand. Amongst them was Sofia’s keen abilities at poker, which has her winning large sums from the dark and dirty men who frequent the gaming houses in the late 19th century. Moving head to 1905, Sofia has married and has two children, a definitely improvement in her life. When her husband, Tom, dies before a doctor can be summoned, Sofia has no choice but to seek employment to ensure there is food on the table. While she finds it hard to do so, Sofia is approached by Tom’s employers, one Emmett Vinsant, who has many businesses he owns. While Sofia is leery, she agrees to work in a gaming house, watching other men lose their money with ease. She is unable to keep her poker addiction under wraps and ends up almost losing everything one night. She’s warned by Vinsant to be more careful and given a final chance, serving as an assassin of sorts. Given instructions by Vinsant or his underling, Sofia Logan is now a cold-blooded killer, but can finally ensure her family’s safety. Between assignments, she is forced to remember some of the horrors of her youth, when she first got a taste for murder to protect herself. As Sofia continues her work, she finds herself gravitating to a new man, one who could topple everything if he were to find out Sofia’s true work. An interesting change for Helen Fields, though the writing is still top notch. Those who enjoy historical fiction may want to get their hands on this piece, as well as long-time fans of the authors other work!

I admit that my fascination with Helen Fields’ novels had me wanting to try this piece, at least for something different. I sought to determine just how versatile Fields could be and this novel helped prove that she has what it takes to write outside of the crime thriller box. Sofia Logan proves to be a wonderful protagonist, though quite unassuming as she keeps her nose down in early 20th century England. Suffering alongside many others, Sofia has the love of her family first, though she cannot forget some of the skills she learned as a child to protect her from the wiles of evil men. As the story progresses, the reader can see some of the epiphanies that Sofia has, both about herself and the lifestyle she is living. Others within the piece complement her and keep the plot moving in a forward direction. The story is quite well-paced with a few plot lines to keep the reader intrigued. The intermixing of flashback chapters helps sketch a more complete story about Sofia Logan and lays the groundwork for the impetus of her need to survive. Those readers who enjoy some of the more modern work might like this extrapolation, if only to remind them why Helen Fields is such a great author. I cannot wait to see what’s to come!

Kudos, Madam Fields, for a great move away from your traditional fare. I think you have the knack for historical fiction and yet am also quite happy with your modern Scottish tales.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

Fair Warning (Jack McEvoy #3), by Michael Connelly

Eight stars

Dusting off one of his older protagonists, Michael Connelly presents a new piece about gritty journalist Jack McEvoy. Now working for a consumer protection news site, Fair Warning, McEvoy is visited by the LAPD about the recent murder of woman he knew in passing. The manner of death, an internal decapitation, piques McEvoy’s interest, but there is also a stalking angle that leads the reporter to think he can tie things to the site. While poking around, McEvoy learns that there have been other cases in which young women have died in a similar manner, leading him to wonder if there is a killer on the loose. Another commonality happens to be that all these women used an inexpensive DNA testing company, one with less than rigorous standards in the field of information sharing. Working alongside a former FBI agent and another investigative reporter, McEvoy begins to see a troubling pattern, as a killer deemed The Shrike is targeting these women for some supposed marker in their DNA. With no clear pattern, McEvoy must be careful, so as not to scare the killer off, but also work with the authorities to ensure his ultimate capture. Connelly develops the essence of a great thriller from the angle of an investigative reporter, a refreshing perspective indeed. Recommended to those who love thrillers in all forms, as well as the reader who is a fan of Michael Connelly’s work.

I recently read a piece of non-fiction penned by the author about his time as an investigative reporter, finding it quite imaginative and full of wonderful cases. I know Michael Connelly has used many of the stories he covered on the crime beat when writing his countless novels, but this is only the third piece in which his protagonist plays the role of journalist. Connelly brings Jack McEvoy back with much to prove, having risen to fame through his past two major cases that spawned blockbuster books. McEvoy has moved to the less exciting work of protecting consumers through his work on Fair Warning, but still takes it quite seriously. He has all the tools to be a stellar journalist and uses his sources effectively, though nothing can prepare him for some of the people that will emerge in this story. Other characters provide wonderful depth to the story, both in the world of investigations and that of DNA technology. Connelly uses them effectively to push the plot along and keep the narrative moving in various directions. The story worked well, honing in on McEvoy’s work as he tries to uncover something while staying in his lane, with some offshoot chapters that provide the reader with needed perspectives to offer a complete story. The plot builds throughout, coming to a head as this killer, The Shrike, is developed and the rationale becomes clear to all. While I do love some of the central Connelly series, this one still has life in it, something that I hope the author does not forget when writing projects cross his desk.

Kudos, Mr. Connelly, for another winner in your intertwined series. I cannot wait to see what else is coming, as I know some of your other long-forgotten characters are back in print soon!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

Hillary (Senator Bobby Hart #3), by D.W. Buffa

Eight stars

Always one for a great novel of political thrills and criminal intrigue, I turned again to the work of D.W. Buffa and his short Senator Bobby Hart series. While I loved the first book, I was not able to get hold of the second, forcing me to fill in some blanks as I pushed through into this, what appears to be the last for the time being. President of the United States (POTUS) Robert Constable has quite the way with women, so it is not entirely shocking that he would die of a heart attack when in bed with a prostitute. The Secret Service agent on the scene quickly whisked the hysterical woman out of the hotel room and secured the scene. The world mourns and an elaborate funeral takes place, though the First Lady, Hillary Constable, appears detached and dry-eyed. When Senator Booby Hart is summoned to speak with her at the reception, he is told that this was no heart attack and that Constable was murdered. The First Lady delivers the news stoically, but also wants to know who might have targeted her husband. While Hart begins to make some inquiries, he also learns that a New York Times reporter was set to meet POTUS the following day and had hoped to discuss The Four Sisters. As Hart soon learns, The Four Sisters is a highly complex financial company based out of France, with a reach far larger than it appears, through a series of shell companies. Hart and the reporter, working separately, learn just how high things go and that POTUS might be guilty of some foreign influence at the core of the Administration’s contract allocations. When numerous men with information on The Four Sisters turn up dead, Hart can only wonder what sort of cover-up is taking place. Travelling to the core of the matter might be his only hope, but he, too, could be a target to keep him quiet and smear his career, all while the country prepares to look towards the next election, with Hillary Constable poised to make her own run for the Oval Office. A sharp thriller that keeps the story moving swiftly throughout. Recommended to those who love a mix of politics with their crime thrillers, as well as the reader who has a passion for the work of D.W. Buffa.

I always find such pleasure when I am able to get my hands on another Buffa novel, though some around me cannot help but roll their eyes as I slide into my faux-Southern accent and express happiness. Senator Bobby Hart is back, ready to help where he can, even if it means putting himself into danger. Hart seems to be drawn into the major goings-on within the US political system that could get him killed, though his dedication to the country he loves rises above all else. While there are some far-fetched aspects to the character’s involvement in the plot, Buffa does keep the action high as he seeks to entertain his readers throughout. Other characters not only complement one another, but appear to push an interesting underlying narrative that might better explain the plot of the book and the larger political machinery at work. Buffa weaves these into a strong narrative and uses his characters to push the story along effectively from start to finish. In a book that does not stop with its twists, Buffa keeps the reader wondering as they see the layers of this strong plot reveal themselves the further along things get. Using a mix of short and longer chapters, Buffa hooks his reader and does not stop until the final reveal, even then offering some hanging threads to keep the story open for more down the road. A great piece that will have me coming back for more soon, as I see another Buffa (sadly, not from this series) set to be released in the coming weeks!

Kudos, Mr. Buffa, for another wonderful novel that mixes the zaniness of politics with the gritty side of crime. I hope others discover the wonders of your writing soon!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons