Rembrandt Rides a Bike (Julia Fairchild #2), by PJ Peterson

Eight stars

When given an ARC for the latest PJ Peterson novel in the Julia Fairchild series, I was unsure what I ought to expect. Peterson writes ‘cozy mysteries’, which can be wonderfully exciting, but also pose of the problem of not being mentally stimulating enough for a reader such as myself. I chose to take the risk, but wanted to tackle the entire series to ensure context. Peterson won me over early with a young doctor whose sleuthing abilities are honed by her attention to detail. Having devoured the series debut, I forged onwards with this story, which takes the reader through much of Germany and into the Netherlands. Dr. Julia Fairchild is with an amateur dance troupe, but also seems to be surrounded by art thieves. Working with her younger sister, they try to piece it all together, while never missing a shuffle step or the chance to catch the sights! Another winner for PJ Peterson.

Dr. Julia Fairchild remains busy with her medical practice, but enjoys some of the more enjoyable things in life, such as tap dancing. Having taken it up in adulthood, Julia and a few of her friends signed up for a dance tour in Europe. Alongside her younger sister, Carly, Julia arrives in Frankfurt to join the rest of the tour group. They will be practicing routines most mornings and evenings, but have ample time to tour around the four cities, admiring the local art and history.

While out at a museum, Julia and Carly find themselves in the middle of a security breech, as someone has stolen an elusive piece of art. This is surely something a little more exciting that simply peering at paintings, though Julia and Carly cannot be sure what’s been going on. As they commence dance practices, some of the dancers meet one of their own, a Croat from New York City, who remains secretive and relatively shy.

It is only when the diminutive Irina does not show up for practice or one of their recitals that Julia worries. However, those organizing the tour are keen to point out that Irina mentioned having some issues and would catch up as soon as she could. While the tour moves along to another German city, so does the mystery, as another heist occurs. It is only when Julia meets a roaming American reporter that details of the robberies come to light, adding some intrigue to the holiday.

Never one to dismiss a mystery, Julia begins poking around as best she can, hoping to find answers alongside her sister. By the time the tour reaches Amsterdam, it’s intense and something is seriously wrong. Carly’s been kidnapped and held for ransom by a group determined not to let any amateur dancers stymie their plans. Julia will have to rely on those around her, while she tries to help the authorities crack the case wide open. Another Peterson winner that had me turning pages well into the night.

I was yet again captivated with the story PJ Peterson recounted without needing anything too complex and deep. The plot developed well, mixing humour with some nefarious activity and left the reader highly entertained throughout. There were moments of grit and hearty determination, offset by a lighter story about a dance troupe making their way across the European countryside. A cozy mystery right up my alley!

Dr. Julia Fairchild continues to work well as a protagonist in this series. A sleuth both at work and on holiday, Julia has a great intuitiveness, which emerges throughout the piece. Her backstory is minimal, but there are some moments of flashbacks, just enough to offer context at the right moment. Julia’s character develops well, again interacting with some heroic men, but also taking a leadership role when it comes to working the mystery before her. Truly a woman who enjoys her independence.

I have found a great book when able to devour it in a day or two. PJ Peterson offers up another wonderful cozy mystery, perfect for those who need something lighter to balance their hectic reading schedule. The narrative keeps its flow, offering the reader some momentum as they progress. The plot has a few twists to keep the reader on their toes and does not lag at any point. Strong characters and well-described settings help paint a delightful story. I cannot wait to get my hands on the next novel, sure it will pack the same punch.

Kudos, Madam Peterson, for another great novel. I’m glad to have stumbled on these books and hope others discover them as well.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

The Apollo Murders, by Chris Hadfield

Nine stars

Exploring the Cold War through a new and exhilarating lens, this novel by former Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield has all the ingredients of a superior thriller. Examining the tensions of two superpowers, the space race is a poignant backdrop during the tense 1970s. When the Americans learn of a Soviet space satellite, they are less than calm. It will have to be destroyed before too many secrets can be conveyed behind the Iron Curtain. Doing so will require not only stealth, but also precise planning. With the launch of Apollo 18, there could be a chance for success, but nothing is guaranteed, as NASA has come to realise. When something goes terribly wrong outside the Earth’s orbit, it will take some quick decision-making to remedy it. All the while, focus within the White House and Kremlin is up into the stars, as both impatiently await news to share. Hadfield does a masterful job with this piece, stirring up emotions with every plot twist!

With space exploration still in its infancy, two political superpowers seek to earn the title of ‘master of the outer realm’. The Americans and Soviets have been fighting a cold, but focussed, political war on land and sea for years, but the battle to explore space is a new frontier. This is the premise of the novel, which takes readers as deep as they could possibly go.

NASA flight controller Kazimieras “Kaz” Zemeckis knows that all too well, as he helps prepare for the launch of Apollo 18. The Americans have had some success getting astronauts into space and onto the moon, but there is more to that with this launch. US Intelligence has deduced that the Soviets have a spy satellite orbiting Earth and transmitting news back to the Kremlin, something that could have dire consequences. Apollo 18 may be the only hope of destroying the satellite without drawing too much attention, but Kaz is not sure it will work.

After Apollo 18 launches into orbit, three astronauts receive word of their extra mission and are tasked with trying to neutralise Soviet spy power. It will be a delicate mission and no one is entirely sure how easy it will be to get the needed answers. Still, it is a must to protect America and every astronaut knows the importance of their patriotic duty.

When things go horribly wrong out in space, thing turn from a covert mission into one focussed on rescue. New protocols will need to be created and a loose ‘friendly coolness’ develops between the Americans and Soviets. Working together will be the only way to ensure the body count is minimal, while keeping the general public out of the know of any major mishap. Kaz and many others will have to rely on transmissions and limited capabilities of the astronauts while heading for the Moon, the still somewhat under-explored part of near space.

All eyes and ears are on the transmissions of Apollo 18 and its crew, as they seek to find needed answers swiftly and concisely. Holding their collective breaths, Washington and Moscow await news, putting aside their differences for a moment, but refusing to melt the chill in the air! A stellar piece of writing that pushes the Cold War to new limits!

Chris Hadfield’s experience as an astronaut comes through in this piece, which is full of great information about the space program. From a detailed narrative about the preparations for time in space to the explanations of procedures needed to survive outside of the Earth’s orbit, Hadfield presents a piece that educates as much as it entertains. The story is stunning in its detail and delivery, leaving me eager to keep reading as I discover things I had no idea existed. I can only hope there are more books to come in this vein, as I could not get enough.

The cast of characters is broad and each has something for the reader to explore. Hadfield has an array of those who could be protagonists in their own right, but I choose not to choose a single individual for this piece. Backstories are plentiful, as are the moments of development, when pressure and politics enter the equation as well. The reader will likely find someone with whom they can relate, or at least connect throughout the turbulent nature of the piece, making it an even more captivating story.

The premise of the piece was not only brilliant, but its execution was stellar from the opening pages. Chris Hadfield develops his plot in the early stages of the narrative and pushes forward incrementally in an attempt to paint a picture for the reader. With a great deal of backstory to use as foundation, the story must begin slowly, but soon takes on a mind of its own and leaves the reader demanding more as things progress. A cast of unique characters, as well as some known in history, provides the reader with something exciting and useful when offering context. Knowledge of the space program and space itself can be found throughout the story, aiding in the education of the layperson and not keeping them from understanding what is taking place. I can only wonder what else Hadfield has for readers in the coming years, as this was, if you pardon the pun, out of this world!

Kudos, Mr. Hadfield, for a great fiction debut. Don’t stop here, as I know you will have many who demand more space thrillers!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

Blind Fish Don’t Talk (Julia Fairchild #1), by PJ Peterson

Eight stars

While I do enjoying thinking while I read, there are time when a cozy mystery works well to relax a busy brain. I was given an ARC for the latest PJ Peterson novel in the Julia Fairchild series, but thought it best to start at the beginning for some context. Peterson presents a great tale of a young doctor on vacation in the Caribbean who stumbles upon a dead scuba diver. While many are sure it was an accident, Dr. Julia Fairchild is not entirely convinced and works for most of her vacation investigating it, repeatedly putting herself in harm’s way. A quick read and highly entertaining, I will certainly be devouring the rest of the series in short order.

Dr. Julia Fairchild has her heart set on a romantic getaway with her new boyfriend, the elusive Tony. His delayed arrival leaves Julia to spend some time in the Caribbean alone. While she hopes to lap up the waves and work on her tan, things go awry from the start when the woman set to collect her at the airport does not show. Still, there’s nothing that will ruin this getaway and Julia hopes to get things going as soon as she settles in.

Tasked with meeting one of Tony’s friends to deliver a package, Julia tries to locate Linda Townsend. No one has seen her and she’s not answering her calls. Only slightly worried, as it was Linda who was to collect her at the airport, Julia continues looking. It’s only when she and a newfound friend go scuba diving that they locate Linda’s body. What looks to have been a faulty air tank does not sit right with the fair doctor and Julia continues her sleuthing. Nothing seems to make sense and yet no one else wants to really push for answers.

While she does balance her time investigating with some sun, Julia refuses to give up on the investigation. As Tony is repeatedly delayed, Julia finds herself seeking answers and receives unknown threats in the form of corny poems left on her rental car. Linda Townsend seems innocent on the surface, but Dr. Julia Fairchild is sure there is more to the story. While the threats increase, so does Julia’s determination to find answers, even if it costs her everything. A great debut to this series by PJ Peterson!

While some would say I have eclectic tastes when it comes to books, one things remains constant; the writing must pull me in. I found myself captivated with the story PJ Peterson told from the opening chapter, liking the lighter fare she had to offer. The details were constant and the plot development never lagged. I got just what I was expecting, as well as more when I could not stop turning pages well into the night. I am eager to see what the coming books will offer, with the author having sent me an ARC of her latest in the series.

Dr. Julia Fairchild works well as a protagonist. Her passion for answers parallels her medical career, though she is not one to forget having a little fun. While her backstory is minimal, save a little discussion about meeting Tony, I can hope that this will be addressed more in the coming novels. Julia’s character develops well throughout the piece, as she mingles with many of the men on the island, even allowing herself a little scandal here and there. I am eager to see how the character evolves throughout the series and will forge onwards.

It’s the sign of a great read when I can devour a book in just over a day (darn that my life and work get in the way!). PJ Peterson offers up just what she promises, a cozy mystery with all the intrigue of a great winter or beach read. The narrative flows well and gains speed when needed, offering the reader some momentum as they progress. The plot has a few twists and works well as it comes to a climax. Strong characters and well-described settings help make this a novel with just enough depth, while not trying to reach for heights it cannot promise. If I can make it through the rest of the series with the same ease, I will have the mental relief I seek from a busy week ahead.

Kudos, Madam Peterson, for a great series debut. I cannot wait to tackle more and see what Dr. Julia Fairchild finds as she continues her amateur sleuthing.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

Count to Three, by T.R. Ragan

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, T.R. Ragan, and Thomas & Mercer for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Seeking something with a little more chill to it, I turned to the latest publication by T.R. Ragan. In a story that tells of two kidnapped children over a span of time, the reader in thrust into the middle of the action, where the lead investigator has the memory of her own daughter’s disappearance to fuel her actions. With confusing leads that go nowhere and two storylines that leave the reader to wonder what’s really going on, Ragan spins a tale of deception and horror, while two girls remain missing, years apart. A gripping story that kept me turning pages and left me wanting more!

Dani Callahan had always wanted a child, but was faced with many roadblocks along the way. It was only through intense fertility treatment that she and her husband, Matthew, were blessed with little Tinsley. While Dani loved her daughter, she knew that there would come a time when she would have to let her earn some independence. On her first day of kindergarten, five-year-old Tinsley disappeared without a trace by the time Dani arrived to collect her. The teacher was sure Dani, or someone looking like her, had picked the little one up. Thus began the horror of Dani’s life.

Fast forward five years and Dani is now divorced and has earned her license as a private investigator. Tinsley is still nowhere to be found, but Dani will not give up hope. Working with a new assistant, Quinn, Dani takes on the case of a missing teenager who up and disappeared as well. While some are sure she ran away from home, Dani and Quinn have other ideas. A young boy says he saw Ali Cross being stuffed into the back of a van, though the details are somewhat vague.

While Dani and Quinn do all they can to find Ali, they are worried as the only evidence comes from this young boy, who is troubled in his own right. To offset the search, Dani thrusts herself back into the search for Tinsley, which reveals a few leads. Could this be the break in the case that Dani needs?

All the while, Ali Cross is being held in town by a man who has odd ideas of what will come of their cohabitation. He offers little things to Ali, but there is no doubt that she is his captive and, should he have his way, will be the love of his life. As Ali hopes to be found, Dani and Quinn take a dive deep into a sadistic man’s life, wondering what they will find. With Tinsley still missing, could the two cases intersect in some way? T.R. Ragan tells a wonderfully dark story that is sure to captivate many.

I believe I have read some of T.R. Ragan’s work in the past, though will have to look through my massive digital stack of reviews. The writing kept me wanting to learn more and plunge deeper into this mystery. The plot kept me wondering while also begging to be entertained, which occurred repeatedly throughout the process. I will have to find some time to read more of Ragan’s work, as it was just what I needed at this time of year.

Dani Callahan is a wonderfully complex protagonist. Her backstory is primarily fixated on the loss of her daughter, though there are moments when we see the struggles she had conceiving and the importance of this little one. In the present, Dani is forced to juggle her own feelings with those of trying to find a new missing girl and how that must weigh on the emotions of the family. There appear to be the seeds of a possible series here and I am happy to keep my eyes open to see what transpires.

There’s something about a thriller that pulls me in most of the time. I love the chills that run up my spine as I visualize what’s taking place before me. T.R. Ragan does that repeatedly and kept me eager to learn more. A strong narrative pushed the story forward and left me eager to follow along, particularly as the momentum increased. Strong characters and a complex plot kept me guessing throughout and I marvelled about how it all came together. While private investigator novels are quite common, Ragan adds her own flavouring and has me wanting to come back to see where Dani Callahan takes readers in the near future. The only downside was the end, which did not leave as many threads hanging as I might have liked to pave the way for another sure-fire novel.

Kudos, Madam Ragan, for a great piece of entertainment. I can see why you have achieved such popularity over the years!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

The Coldest Case (Black Book #0.5): An Audible Production, by James Patterson, Aaron Tracy, and Ryan Silbert

Eight stars

Having recently discovered James Patterson’s experimentation in ‘direct to audio’ work, I was pleased to get my hands on this piece. It brings to life a new series that has a great deal of potential, working with collaborators Aaron Tracy and Ryan Silbert. The story is layered with a great plot and some sensational character interactions, which is intensified by the audio. While the Chicago PD is not known for its simple cases, this one is particularly tough. Thank goodness Detectives Billy and Patti Harney are working it as best they can. When Billy’s partner gets too deep while undercover, she needs to be extracted, but that only leads to added issues. Billy soon realises that there is a powerful list of names in a secret book, ones that could lead to the death of countless others if it falls into the wrong hands. Patterson wins with this one, in a story that comes to life through audio.

A sinister drug ring has been working in Chicago for years, something that Chicago PD Detective Billy Harney has been investigating. Working alongside his sister, Patti, they are trying to eke out some information about something big. When Billy’s partner, Kate, embeds herself into the group, there is hope that something will come of it. After a gaffe sees many turn up dead, Kate is almost revealed as a cop and she must be taken into protective custody, but not before an essential informant goes missing. Amongst all the chaos, a special black book containing key information has gone missing and the drug ring is hell-bent on finding it, no matter the cost. Key clients could be outed otherwise!

As Billy and Patti investigate the contents of the black book, they realise that it is more than meets the eye, with crooked athletes and corrupt politicians front and centre on the list. On the side, Billy and Patti discover the intense world of on-line gaming and how ruthless it can be. This helps them crack open a little part of the case, but also pushes them deeper into confusion as well. When the black book reveals a chilling secret that could lead to many deaths, it’s a race to get to the scene on time to prevent disaster. The fate of many rests in the hands of the Harneys. Patterson excites with ease as he creates a story many can enjoy in only a few hours!

While James Patterson has moments of greatness and others of frigidity, this was surely one of the greater publication, released solely through audio. The story was crisp and the plot flowed well, keeping the reader engaged throughout and eager to see how things would progress. Said to be the prequel of the Black Book series, this story works really well and offers listeners something exciting in a short period of time. Patterson and his collaborators develop a wonderful script and use a star-studded cast to bring it all to life.

The characters were all cast well and the multitude of voices surely brought things to a new level. I was able to follow things with ease, even if I had to listen very carefully to ensure I did not miss anything. The plot was on point and left me begging for me, as I learned a little more about the Harneys and how well they function together. While I do love a good book, this was an excellent alternative and gave me something special to enjoy amidst all the craziness I find surrounds me these days. A step above a simple audiobook, Patterson and his collaborators have left me wanting more!

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson, Tracy, and Silbert, for a great story and wonderful experience. I look forward to future collaborations, as they become possible.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

The Guilty: An Audible Production, by James Patterson and Duane Swierczynski

Eight stars

James Patterson and Duane Swierczynski venture into a newer medium for this piece, the ‘direct to audio’ production, where a handful of talented actors portray the story for the listener to enjoy. A play that no one knows anything about, a genius actor/director with a plan, and an audience that is lapping it all up. Welcome to ‘The Guilty’ and all that it entails. A unique approach to a murder mystery, but one I quite enjoyed, if only because it was a quick experience and permitted something different.

Osmond Box is a living legend, the King of Broadway some may call him, even if he is reclusive and few have seen him. His productions are always over the top and audiences have no idea what they are going to receive. The house is full and people await the stage lights for everything to begin.

As the evening progresses, things become more and more mysterious. What begins as an apparent reality show on stage soon turns dark, as Box accuses his fellow actors of heinous crimes. Is it all part of the script or improvisational? And when a stage gun turns out to shoot someone, who is the murderer?

With cell phones confiscated and the doors locked, no one can leave as things progress. Audience members gawk in awe and await some sort of resolution. When all is said and done, the police arrive to question many of those who witnessed the event. Was it murder? Has Osmond Box done it again and pulled off the greatest theatrical production of all time? A great piece that Patterson and Swierczynski concocted as they leave the listener guessing.

This was definitely an interesting spin for the master of storytelling, using one of his best collaborators to develop the piece for listeners. Told solely through audio, the story develops and keeps the listener enthralled as they try to piece it all together. Some may balk at having to listen, rather than flip through the pages, but it was certainly the experience that will keep people talking for months.

Told through nine episodes, the story progressed well and held my attention throughout. What is going on with the actors and how will things progress with each passing moment? There was just enough character development throughout to keep me satisfied and the plot advanced in odd ways, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. While dramatic reproductions are not always my thing, I did enjoy the different perspectives and voices telling this story, as it breathed some life into the piece and left me wanting more.

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson and Swierczynski, for this interesting experiment. I felt it was a success and am eager to try some more of them soon.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

2 Sisters Detective Agency, by James Patterson and Candice Fox

Seven stars

Working together yet again, James Patterson and Candice Fox present a standalone thriller with all the ingredients for success. Two unsuspecting women are thrust together and find themselves in the middle of something truly terrifying, only to learn that there are even more layers yet to be seen. Rhonda Bird is not naive in the least, but is truly shocked to learn of the fallout of her father’s death. She travels to Los Angeles and learns that she has a sister, one who is not used to following rules. When they get tangled up in tracking down a crew of privileged teens, the end result is nothing less than horrific, particularly when one of the group’s victims seeks revenge for what’s happened. Patterson and Fox show that they have some magic within them, using this piece to prove it once again.

Rhonda Bird is a juvenile public defender, working the system as best she can with clients who feel they are untouchable. When she receives news that her estranged father has died, she agrees to go to Los Angeles to handle some of the paperwork. It is only then that she realises something truly baffling, she has a half-sister. Baby Bird is an entitled teenager who does not like to follow the rules, making it even more difficult for Rhonda to take control of the situation. If that were not enough, they girls’ father was no longer the boring accountant he presented himself to be, but a private detective with an active business.

While Rhonda tries to digest all that is put before her, Baby wants nothing more than to keep living the life she’s been streaming online. This includes interactions with other privileged teens. When one acquaintance comes for help, he soon discovers that he does not want to involve Rhonda in what’s going on, leaving Baby somewhat concerned.

As she’s used to prying information out of teenagers, Rhonda soon discovers that the boy is part of a gang of youths who target those in need of a message, roughing people up and causing havoc wherever possible,. Their leader, a psychopath if ever there was one, relishes the power they have been able to exert and cares little for the fallout. As Rhonda and Baby resurrect their father’s agency to work the case, they find themselves enmeshed in trying to bring this group of youths down, knowing little of those that have been victimized.

What begins as a hunt for a group of entitled brats soon takes a darker turn, as one of the victims, with a sordid past of his own, decides to take matters into his own hands. With a killer lurking in the shadows, Rhonda and Baby will have to watch their every move, sure that no one is safe or can be trusted. Rhonda may have wished she never answered the call that brought her to L.A., but now that she’s here, it’s all hands on deck to protect a sister she never knew she had. A decent crime thriller that had its moments of intrigue.

I have come to enjoy both the collaborative and individual work of James Patterson, as well as Candice Fox. They have been able to create some fascinating characters, plots, and novels that usually leave me flipping pages for hours at a time. While I applaud the ideas, this book did not grab me as much as their previous work, though there were moments of intrigue and captivating writing. The jury is still out on this one and I am left to wonder if this is a new collaborative series in the making.

Rhonda Bird proves to be a gritty protagonist in this piece, offering up her no-nonsense side with capable mind throughout. I was intrigued to see the balance of her professional and personal life, as it came to light throughout this story and could only wonder if Patterson and Fox had more in mind for her in upcoming novels. Strong-willed and ready to make a difference when it counts, Rhonda must also juggle being a quasi-parent to her new half-sister, more trouble than it is sometimes worth.

I spent a great deal of time thinking about this book, trying not to compare it to others I have read of late, or even the past collaborative submissions of the authors. I am almost certain that it is tough on writers who have had success to always achieve the same standards in their novels, as readers come to expect stellar work. Patterson and Fox are great writers on their own, and together, but this one did not resonate for me as much as I would have liked. I needed something grittier, darker, with more seriousness and complexity. Instead, I got some teenage vapidness mixed with amateur sleuthing on a case that did not fully captive me. This is nothing against the authors or their hard work, as the narrative flowed pretty well and the chapters moved things along. I simply felt that there was a disconnect with the plot and what I needed at the moment. Perhaps the next one will be a return to their old ways!

Kudos, Mr. Patterson and Madam Fox, on a valiant effort. I know what you can do, so there is no point bemoaning or panning this one blip.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

Head Shot (Marko Zorn #2), by Otho Eskin

Seven stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Otho Eskin, and Oceanview Publishing for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Otho Eskin returns with the second in his Marko Zorn crime thriller series. Taking a more international approach to this novel, Eskin provides moments of political intrigue and international coup plotting, while using a local murder to tie things to Washington, D.C.. Hoping for the same grittiness I found in the series debut, I was, at times, left feeling as though this was a ‘cozy murder mystery’, based on the narrative and ongoing dialogue. However, into the latter portion of the book, Eskin found his stride and turned on the proverbial engines to race towards the finish line, using a coup attempt to bring the story home. Entertaining and easy to read, Otho Eskin keeps readers turning pages.

Things do not begin well for Metro D.C. Homicide Detective Marko Zorn. A shot at him while outside his home leaves Zorn wondering who he’s upset now. Summoned to meet a man best left in the shadows, Zorn is tasked with protecting the new Montenegrin prime minister, while being reminded of some covert business he recently completed on a side trip to Chicago. Zorn is ready to help serve as part of the security detail, as long as it does not interfere with his day job.

Speaking of that, Detective Zorn is called to the scene of a possible suicide by gunshot, though many believe the dead actress may have been murdered moments after exiting the stage during a recent play. Zorn finds himself shocked to see that the actress is a woman with whom he has a past, though he seeks to shelve those feelings and get to the bottom what’s happened. This pulls him into the middle of a ‘dramatic’ world, where enemies are plentiful and the competition is ruthless.

While trying to focus on the murder investigation, the prime minister arrives in town and makes her way to the embassy. There, Zorn seeks to make introductions and lay the groundwork for how things will go during the state visit. He’s doubly tasked with protecting the international guest by a senior member of the US Administration, showing Zorn that people mean business.

When additional bodies close to the Montenegrin leader turn up strangled, Zorn realises that trouble is lurking. Things get much worse as attempts on his own life begin to occur in rapid succession. Zorn will have to use all his resources to locate the hired assassin, ensuring he neutralises them before more blood is spilled on US soil. All the while, the dead actress turns out to be part of a larger conspiracy, with Zorn in the crosshairs. A chilling story that, at times, proves to be as gritty as the series debut.

My recent discovery of Otho Eskin has proven fruitful as I found myself enthralled with this series. I devoured both books Eskin has published and am eager to see what is to come. Eskin builds on the Marko Zorn character, a gritty detective with a number of skeletons in his closet, adding more depth to the protagonist’s abilities and personality. Even with some shaky narrative moments, I am still eager to see what is to come for this rule-breaking cop!

Marko Zorn is still complex, working both sides of the law as he remains calm and collected throughout. There are some curious aspects to his backstory, revealed through some personal memories, as well as a strong focus on the law and how to protect those around him. Zorn is always ready to use his determination as a cop to get answers, even as it puts him in serious danger. While not a spy, he knows how to rub elbows with those lurking deep in the shadows and finds himself the target of the most ruthless international individuals. There’s a great deal more to discover about this man and how deep his connections go!

Otho Eskin proves himself a master storyteller, as I have come to see with these first two books. His debut was both gritty and full of mystery, with this one following suit, though it teetered on becoming a cozy mystery for a time. The narrative had moments of greatness, particularly when tackling the international angle, offset by some hokey moments at the theatre during the early stages of the plot’s development. The darker side of Marko Zorn is surely on display yet again, as some of his past handlings of events for nefarious people comes to light in passing. The reader remains invested in the process with some short chapters that tease major plot twists. International flavouring and layers of deception kept the story balanced and pushed me to keep reading well into the evening. I’m interested to see what’s next and how Otho Eskin will present it to readers.

Kudos, Mr. Eskin, for another strong piece of writing. Your experiences shine on every page.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

The Reflecting Pool (Marko Zorn #1), by Otho Eskin

Eight stars

Otho Eskin emerges as a new writer on my radar, with a captivating crime thriller that left me wanting more. Set in Washington, D.C., the story is a mix of crime and politics, as a DC Metro Homicide detective seeks to find answers when a body is found close to the White House. Marko Zorn does his own thing, but strives to get results and ensure the criminal element are put away. While he is stonewalled during an investigation, Zorn uses all the resources at his disposal to learn more about the victim, as well as her possible involvement with a supremacist group. All the while, Zorn is given a mission by a shady individual, which will force him to put some of his police ethics aside for results. Eskin delivers with his series debut and I have the second ready to begin soon!

When called to the scene of a body found in the Reflecting Pool, DC Metro Homicide Detective Marko Zorn begins asking questions. He receives significant pushback from the start, as other branches seek to claim responsibility. However, Zorn is not ready to hand everything over, citing jurisdiction. When the victim turns out to be a member of the Secret Service, things take a definite turn and Zorn feels the squeeze once more.

While trying to investigate, Zorn discovers that there is more to the victim than meets the eye. She has loose ties to a white supremacist group, whose membership includes those within the White House. As the investigation proceeds, many try to shut it down and ensure that Zorn does not have access to what he needs. This only lights a larger fire under Zorn, as he pushes for answers.

All the while, Zorn is pushed into the middle of another investigation, this one thoroughly off the books. Someone with pull on the streets of DC is trying to make a place for a shipment of illegal arms. Zorn is told to handle it and finds himself a target for the duelling factions. He has to keep this hidden, as its discovery could ruin his life with Metro. While both situations come to a head, Zorn ha no choice but to make a play, ensuring that he will be in the crosshairs of some powerful people. A chilling story that flows quickly and proves entertaining for all involved.

I only discovered the work of Otho Eskin because I was granted early access to an ARC of the second novel in the series. Happy to discover new authors I can potentially enjoy, I rushed to get this book and see what it would be like. Eskin develops a gritty detective with a number of skeletons in his closets and a personally to boot. I was thoroughly intrigued throughout the book and cannot wait to see where this series is headed soon.

Marko Zorn is quite the complex character, tapping into some interesting personal and professional aspects throughout the novel. While there are some curious aspects to his backstory, leaving him to make questionable choices, Zorn is always ready to fight for what he feels he must in order to allow justice to prevail. His determination as a cop proves to be one of the key aspects of the plot, pushing people round to get answers and also showing off some of his more ‘interesting’ qualities. I am eager to see how he develops throughout this series, as he is certainly still an enigma to me.

Otho Eskin can certainly spin a a tale, as I have come to see here. His debut was both gritty and full of mystery, while always remembering the message it sought to make. The narrative pushed forward with ease, allowing the reader to experience some of the darker sides to Marko Zorn. With mid-length chapters, the reader is invested in the process and cannot help but push onwards to discover what awaits them in short order. A curious plot and layers of deception kept the story on point throughout and left me wanting, no, demanding more. Thankfully, I have that ARC ready to go as I explore more of the curious works of Detective Marko Zorn.

Kudos, Mr. Eskin for a wonderful debut. I am eager to see where things are headed.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

State of Terror, by Hillary Rodham Clinton and Louise Penny

Eight stars

Louise Penny returns with high-profile story collaborator, Hillary Rodham Clinton, to create a strong international thriller that pushes the boundaries at every turn. In a story that has some subtle (and not so) references to the previous US Administration, as well as Clinton’s work as Secretary of State, the plot inches forward in a stunning manner. A few terrorist attacks in Europe turn the world’s eyes towards a group that seeks to topple all that is held dear. When the newly-minted Secretary of State is sent to handle the situation, truths emerge about future attacks on American soil, which could have drastic outcomes. Fighting against time and a blur of information, truths will have to emerge before America is again the victim of a horrible attack on its own soil. Penny and Clinton do well throughout this piece to offer up their own style, something I could not resist enjoying through to the final pages.

After a hard-fought primary and general election, Ellen Adams is rewarded for her service to the victor with the post of Secretary of State. As she assesses her position, she must come to terms with the fact that she’s accepted the role from her political rival, though someone she can at least stomach. The American political scene is somewhat dire, after four years of chaos under a seemingly incompetent president.

When a series of terrorist attacks in Europe begin to turn heads, Adams must assume the role of stateswoman and try to assuage the panic, while also taking a leadership role and get to the bottom of what’s going on. Tasked by the president to bring him news quickly, Adams assembles a team and they head to the region, only to discover that there is more to come. Someone (or a group) is preparing to attack America where it is the most vulnerable, as someone has taken the foot off the proverbial gas for the past four years.

Working behind the scenes and traveling covertly, Adams discovers that there is a plot in place to attack America at home. The details are sketchy and Adams will have to work alongside known enemies and some allies with questionable decision-making prowess to cobble together the truth. The world holds its collective breath, though many do not know what is coming. It’s a race to get answers, implement solutions, and bring stability once more. The key to is all may find itself in a small Canadian town, a place many know well. Penny and Clinton offer a great story that kept me guessing until the final pieces fell into place.

Political thrillers can be some of the most difficult books to write, particularly when the author takes an ideological side in their writing. They are sure to alienate some readers , simply by pushing their own fictitious agenda through plots, characters, and situations. This appears to be the case here, as Clinton and Penny have been panned by many, simply for the former’s political views or past work in a few US Administrations. While I am fine with free speech, it is the inane comments from those who refuse to read the books and simply offer vapid commentary that proves vindictiveness is an intoxication that does not require intelligence. That being said, there were many who could see some of the great storylines and writing, even if they did not agree wholeheartedly with the presentation in this novel.

The character development in this piece was quite complex and thoroughly enjoyable. Those familiar with Louise Penny’s writing will know that she creates strong characters in her novels that move from the page to the imaginations of the reader. Nuances and intricate details serve as part of the experience, which occurred throughout this piece. The imagery of the individuals playing various roles cannot be discounted, as they added depth to an already strong story and kept me wanting more.

While political thrillers and international terror plots appear to be plentiful in the genre today, there was something about this book that help elevate it for me. I am a fan of Louise Penny’s work and adore all things political, so this seemed to be the perfect mix for me. A strong narrative forged ahead throughout the piece and kept my attention until the final sentence. The plot evolved throughout, keeping it from being too predictable, with some wonderful twists that left me gasping at times. As mentioned before, it is the variety and complexity of the characters that made me take notice, as usual. The ending, and what a great one it was, left the door open for a sequel. I do hope this collaborative team can return for at least a little more, as the entertainment value was high and just what I needed this week!

Kudos, Madams Penny and Clinton, on a wonderful collaborative effort. You work well together, complementing each other’s strengths. I look forward to more in the coming years.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

They Only Wear Black Hats, by Edward Izzi

Nine stars

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

Edward Izzi returns with another of his stunning thrillers, sure to captivate the reader’s attention from the opening pages. Taking this crime story down a dark rabbit hole, Izzi mixes history, murder, and a secret society to formulate a novel that will leave readers talking well into the future. Detroit PD Detective Mike Palazzola has enjoyed his work within the Third Precinct, but knows that crime will always be a part of his day to day work. When a string of odd murders are accompanied by the placement of black bowler hats, he’s sure a serial killer is on the loose. Little does he know the complexities tied to these killings, as a friend and journalist tries to uncover a group whispered to be called the Archangels. Directives will be made, people will die, and Palazzola will have to decide how to act before it’s too late! Izzi impresses once again with this scintillating story of secrecy and retribution.

Detroit has long been a place where crime runs rampant, something that DPD Detective Mike Palazzola knows all too well. Working out of the Third Precinct, he has been in the middle of a number of high-profile and gruesome murder investigations, some with children as victims. While the cases seem strong, when those accused make their way to court, they are released on a technicality, proving major flaws with the system. All Palazzola can do is grit his teeth and keep protecting his city. Soon thereafter, all those who were released turn up strangled to death, slices on their body, and a black bowler hat next to them.

While out with Justine Cahill, a gritty journalist, one evening, Palazzola notices a group of men wearing the same bowler hats entering the private back room of an Italian restaurant. Their mysterious nature raises some concerns with both Palazzola and Cahill, but the restaurant staff remain tight-lipped about who these men could be.

Unbeknownst to anyone else in the restaurant, these men are part of the Malizia Society of Detroit, an organisation dating back to 1927. While they use the cover of anonymous Archangels, doing charitable work around Detroit, they are actually a secret group doling out their own form of justice for those who slips through the cracks. Their meetings discussions are highly secretive and the use of three assassins to offer needed punishments keeps them from being identified.

Palazzola and Cahill begin their own sleuthing into who these Archangels might be and their history, the FBI leans on them to steer clear, as they, too, have been looking into them. While Palazzola knows when to take his foot off the gas, Cahill sees a story that could catapult her into national stardom, as well as revealing a group of murderous thugs no better than the mafia. These men are everywhere in Detroit society and it is not entirely clear who can be trusted.

As more bodies emerge, the story takes a darker turn, alternating between modern Detroit and the history of the Malizia Society, which has ties to a group from Italy back in the time of the Borgias. While Palazzola knows something must be done, he worries that one wrong move could mean a heap of trouble. He will have to act swiftly, but with extreme caution, not wanting to be the next person with a black bowler hat next to his murdered corpse. Izzi has done it again! A brilliant thriller that kept me intrigued until the final page turn, with something for patient readers in the last chapters.

It was a fluke that I discovered Edward Izzi’s writing a few years ago. While each of his novels is a standalone of sorts, this was completely independent from his loosely connected Chicago Vatican books. The writing is strong, with great plots that pull not only on duplicity, but also history to bolster their foundation. Izzi keeps coming up with strong ideas and I cannot recommend him highly enough.

Mike Palazzola plays a significant role throughout the novel, though he shares the limelight with Justine Cahill and one prominent original member of the Malizia Society. These three forge ahead, with their own backstories and development, working their way through the struggles they encounter. Therefore some wonderful revelations throughout the piece, as well as dicey moments when confronted by the truth of what these Archangels have been doing.

Edward Izzi seems never to run out of great plot ideas for his novels, which develop in numerous ways. The stories are usually dark and intense, with a graphic nature to them, but are not gruesome to the point of being stomach churning. The narrative flows extremely well and keeps the reader engaged, as much is revealed in due time. Chapters that propel the plot along are the centrepiece of the novel, with strong doses of history and flashbacks. While this will likely remain a standalone thriller, there is a chance that Izzi will utilise a technique he has for creating cameos of certain characters in other books of his. I would encourage anyone with an interest in a more complex crime thriller to check into some of his books, as you won’t be disappointed.

Kudos, Mr. Izzi, for another stunning novel. I may not be your loudest fan, but I can assure you, I am in the top five!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

The Devil’s Advocate (Eddie Flynn #6), by Steve Cavanagh

Nine stars

Back for another adventure in the world of Eddie Flynn, I reached for the latest novel by Steve Cavanagh. There is a gritty nature to these tales, in which Cavanagh shows how his protagonist has left a life of crime to help those who are being railroaded by the state. When Flynn is approached by an acquaintance to help with a crooked D.A. in rural Alabama, he cannot help but take on the case. Known for sending people to the electric chair, even if the evidence is flimsy, Randal Korn has made a name for himself. When Flynn arrives to defend a young man who is accused of murder, there are clashes from the outset. It’s only later that the truth about Korn comes to light, though Flynn may be powerless to stop it. Cavanagh does it again with a fabulously entertaining legal thriller that kept me up late into the night!

Eddie Flynn may have been a thief in his past life, but he is more than making up for it now, serving as a gritty defence attorney. When Flynn is approached by someone with deep connections to the Federal Government, he is intrigued to hear about something happening in Alabama. A fixed-election hoisted Randal Korn into the role of District Attorney, but since taking over, Korn has abused his power and earned the moniker ‘King of Death Row’, as he has ensured numerous people find their way to the electric chair. These convictions are sometimes based on flimsy evidence and the governor seems happy to oblige.

A young man stands accused of killing a woman he knew, though the facts are not as cut and dry as they would seem. Flynn and his team agree to make their way down around Mobile to look into the case, but are greeted with a less than pleasant welcome. It would seem that many in town have already made up their minds, fuelled by the rhetoric that Randal Korn has been spouting. Flynn finds himself on the wrong end of the local law and order, ending up touring the jail cells for a time.

After securing himself as defence counsel, Flynn attempts to piece together a courtroom plan, but is stymied at every turn. Others turn up dead, their bodies strewn about and possibly murdered, though suicide cannot be discounted. Korn pushes to ensure Flynn cannot do his job, pulling strings in a way that his fingerprints will not be found.

As the trial opens, Korn and Flynn face-off, each counting on victory. However, neither man can fully comprehend how far the other will go to ensure a tick in the win column. All this, while Korn holds a deep secret that only a handful know, namely, the White Camellia. Not only is Korn prosecuting these cases, he is behind the crimes themselves. And, should he fail to watch himself, Eddie Flynn may be the next victim. A chilling story that kept me reading and wanting more!

I stumbled upon Steve Cavanagh’s work a few years ago and binge-read all I could at the time. Eddie Flynn proves to be such a great protagonist and the legal angles of each novel held my attention like few have in recent years. I could not get enough of the legal plots and how effectively they developed in short order. Cavanagh has proven to be one of the great writers in his genre and I am always happy to pick up one of his books when I can find them.

Eddie Flynn has a wonderful backstory, which is developed in the early novels of this series. While never forgetting where he came from, Flynn has turned his life around and tries to help those who truly need legal assistance. His grit is like no other, using brains but also allowing some brawn when the situation begs for it. He has a strong passion for his profession, but is not entirely devoid of emotion, though he prefers not to remember all he lost during those criminal years. There is much to this man, who risks it all for those he defends, and I can only hope there is more to come.

Steve Cavanagh may not be American, but his novels sure ring true to the US justice system. Powerful storylines emerge with strong characters, quick narratives, and plot twists that keep things interesting. While the US legal thriller is surely an oft-penned genre, Cavanagh finds a way to make the stories his own. I get lost in the narrative and find things as realistic as can be, without being overly predictable, layering ideas and offering strong social commentary. I have come to recommend him to many who love the genre and only hope others will see my reviews and squeeze onto the bandwagon that is his fan club.

Kudos, Mr. Cavanagh, for another great piece. A crowded genre, for sure, but your storytelling abilities help you stand out in the crowd!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

The Missing Piece (Dismas Hardy #19), by John Lescroart

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, John Lescroart, and Atria Books for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

There is something captivating about the writing of John Lescroart, perhaps because he tackles legal matters from all angles. His series intertwine so well, using a strong core of characters, but never seem to run out of ideas along the way. Now that Wes Farrell is no longer the District Attorney, he’s turned to working for the defence, something that has him less than happy. As he ponders his future, he’s contacted by the father of a victim whose killer he helped put away. It would seem there is some concern that a murder has been committed. As Farrell takes the case and uses all his resources, things take a definite turn, sending the lead investigator down a path with many dire warnings. Lescroart at his best, sure to impress those who have long followed this series.

After an illustrious career, Wes Farrell knew it was time to end his tenure as District Attorney and find something new to fill his time. While it was not the best offer, Farrell chose to work for the defence, alongside his longtime friend, Dismas Hardy. However, Farrell’s been having second thoughts about defending those he feels are guilty and thinks that it might be time to call it a career. Hardy, having taken the plunge many years before, seeks to counsel his friend, but does not appear to be making much headway.

When a call comes into the firm, asking for Farrell to attend the local jail, he’s intrigued. It’s a man he knows well, the father of a victim whose killer was just released from jail by an energetic Exoneration Initiative. It would seem that Doug Rush is now being accused of killing his daughter’s killer, with an eyewitness who saw the murder. While Rush asserts his innocence, even Farrell cannot be sure of it, feeling that there was more than enough anger to fuel some retribution.

As Farrell begins his defence, he realises that he will be up against a mountain of evidence. He acquires the services of Private Investigator Abe Glitsky, former homicide detective with the San Francisco PD and best friends with Dismas Hardy. While Glitsky is ready to take on the investigation, he’s not too sure what it will reveal, particularly with Farrell sure his client his guilty.

When Rush does not turn up after being granted bail, everyone’s sure he’s on the lam. Glitsky works to uncover what’s going on with Rush, as well as trying to nail down an alibi. Things take a definite turn for the worse and Glitsky becomes trapped in a web of deception, double speak, and lies. He discovers that the Exoneration Initiative has done work across the country with some interesting results, though the fallout has much to be desired. Could all this pose significant issues for Glitsky, Farrell, and others around San Francisco. A great piece by John Lescroart that keeps the reader in the middle of the action.

Lescroart’s writing is so entertaining that varied that it owes not matter whose perspective the novel takes, the story is sure to be worth reading. Lescroart has built-up various offshoot series, using his core characters, all of whom work well together and keep the overall story arc intact. There is something about these stories that keeps me coming back, from the legal maneuvers to the investigative measure, as well as the dry wit that matches my own. When Lescroart publishes, I take note, having done so for the last two decades, since I stumbled upon this series.

There are a few central characters in this piece, making it difficult to choose just one. Wes Farrell and Abe Glitsky are the apparent protagonists, offering up their own views and development throughout. Both have had great backstories woven into their respective series in the past, but do not hesitate to always leave their mark at present again. There is a richness to the characters and great interaction between them, leaving series fans to bask in the banter that is a special part of this large and complex set of series.

As with many of his novels, I was pulled into the middle of this book in the opening chapters. Tackling some retribution issues proved to be only the tip of the iceberg, as Wes Farrell and Abe Glitsky forged ahead to make their marks on the piece. Strong narrative flow helped create a needed momentum, as the reader seeks to understand the complexities of the plot as it is developed. Chapters vary in length and perspective, keeping the reader guessing about what awaits them as things progress. As mentioned before, the web of characters and series that connect here have always impressed me, allowing some who play a major role to be but cameos at times, while others step into the limelight. I cannot wait to see what comes of this series, which has remained strong, even with the ever-growing number of books!

Kudos, Mr. Lescroart, for another winner. I eagerly await publication when I see you have another book in the works!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

The Road Back (All Quiet on the Western Front #2), by Erich Maria Remarque

Seven stars

Erich Maria Remarque returns with a sequel to his epic Great War novel, exploring life after the armistice is signed and the German soldiers return home. While All Quiet on the Western Front depicted a strong war and ‘behind the trenches’ sentiment, this novel explores more the re-integration of soliders and how their time away served almost as a ‘time gap’ that left them wondering if they took a wrong turn on the journey. Remarque offers apt commentary through his prose to explore the struggles of returning home to settle, vilification by citizens, and trying to move forwards from what was seen on the battlegrounds. An eye-opening piece that complements the series debut well, even if I would not call it a classic.

It took four long and intense years, but the Great War has finally ended, with Germany on the losing side. Ernst and some of his fellow soldiers prepare to return home, hoping that things will go well, but worried about what awaits them. As they arrive, nothing is as it seems, from the tiny houses to the people who are less than eager to engage with them, while the rationale for war seems extinguished. This leaves Ernst wondering if it was a useless fight.

As they try to find their niche, Ernst and his fellow soldiers realise that peace may have been the worst thing for them., They are villains and mocked, Germany suffers dibilitating food shortages, and the political scene is anything but pleasant. Still, Ernst has to believe that the end to the fighting was propitious and strives to find himself in this new Germany. When something unexpected occurs, Ernst has an epiphany and discovers where he belongs in this world of unknowns.

It is always difficult to write a sequel to a highly popular and impactful novel, or so it would seem. Filling the boots of the highly-accliamed All Quiet on the Western Front is tough, to be sure, leaving Erich Maria Remarque in a difficult spot. While the book was surely not as strong or blatantly impactful as its predecessor, Remarque does well to leave the reader thinking and wondering throughout the story. Tales of war should leave the reader wondering things, particularly at this time of year. While the narrative was slow at times and I felt it did need a jolt, I was pleased with the message that resonated from its pages. It is too bad that some readers hold the books next to one another and pan this one for not being like its ‘cousin’. Alas, it is those who see past this superficiality that can truly learn what Remarque is trying to convey.

Ernst was a great protagonist to offer the reader a wonderful message of war and re-integration. I found myself eager to see what he found and his sentiments about returning all those years later. There is a great deal that is discovered by young Ernst, not the least of which being that life was sure never to be the same after the war. The people treated soldiers differently, the sentiment of the country changed a great deal, and the future looked bleak. Ernst does his best to push through this and make his own impact, only to learn that things on the battlefield might have been preferable, at least to a degree.

Remarque is surely a stunning writer in his own right. While I have only read these two books up to this point, the way he depicts the fighting and the societal re-integration left me wanting to know more. I have always enjoyed the politics surrounding the Great War, as well as the fallout for both governments and people from the four year skirmish. Remarque brings all that to light here and provides the reader with something intense and well worth the reader’s time. The narrative is surely not as impactful on a superficial level as the precediing book, but there are some stunning parts where the reader can see into the mind of the returning soldier or the citizen reacting to seeing them. Remarque does this so well and keeps the reader involved in the realisations that come of it. Broken into eight parts, the story shows the evolution of Germany in a post-war world and explores the changes that needed to be made, as well as the sentiments that would fuel the anger that led to the Second World War. I was quite taken by all of this and found myself wanting to learn more when I was able. I will also be checking out some of Erich Maria Remarque’s other books about wartime.

Kudos, Mr. Remarque, for another powerful narrative that left me thinking well past the time I closed the book.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

All Quiet on the Western Front, by Erich Maria Remarque

Eight stars

Please enjoy the review after my annual re-read of this classic for this time of year!


This enthralling novel by Erich Maria Remarque provides the reader with a stellar look at a soldier’s life during the Great War. Told through the eyes of a young German soldier, the story pulls the reader in and personalises events in such a way that it almost seems palatable, without justifying or downplaying the atrocities at any point. All Quiet on the Western Front is sure to stir up emotion in those readers who have an interest in military discussions, as well as those who love war-time history.

This is the story of Paul Bäumer, a nineteen year-old fighting for the German Fatherland in France during the middle of the Great War. Having signed up voluntarily alongside a number of his classmates, Bäumer hoped things would be as exciting as they sounded. All that was dashed after the weeks of basic training, in which the young men are broken down and put through their paces before being tossed on the front lines, where the beauty of nationalism is replaced by the horrors of death. Now, these young men live in constant physical terror as explosions rock their every night.

The story explores the trials and tribulations the war brings to those who witness it first-hand. Bäumerl finds himself fighting to justify his presence in France and tries to survive on poor rations, barely enough for survival. He also witnesses how decimating the war can be, when only a handful of his training class survive after a short stint on the front.

Bäumer is also forced to sober up to the realities of life, which turns sensitivity on its head and permits pragmatism to surface. After a soldier dies in front of them, the fight is on for his supplies, something the surviving soldiers need more than the corpse. This creates a refreshing look at life and the lessons that come with it, leaving manners back in Germany when every day could be your last.

There are moments of harrowing action, as Bäumer accompanies the others to lay barbed wire and finds himself trapped under artillery fire. Scared and pinned down, the men talk about their own thoughts about how the war could be more effectively fought, as well as what might have changed the minds of the politicians who are sitting in their ivory towers, far away from the bloodshed.

When a bloody battle with enemy leads to men being blown apart with severed limbs and torsos, Bäumer sees the most gruesome part of the war, something that he was not told about when first he agreed to serve. Rats feast on the dead and Bäumer expresses a sense of being animalistic, trusting his instincts alone to save him. The casualty list is high and Bäumer tries to erase what he’s seen when he is given leave and encounters a few French girls, eager to help him forget.

Bäumer takes some extended leave to return home for a family visit. He feels like an outsider, unable to discuss his trauma with anyone. His mother is dying of cancer and she hopes that he can be proud of what he is doing, but wants him to come home as soon as possible. This surely pulls on his heartstrings and Bäumer is left to wonder what the fighting will really do, as he cannot be with family when they need him most.

After witnessing the horrors of a prisoner-of-war camp, Bäumer is determined to help bring the war to an end, vowing never to be captured or enslaved by the enemy. The months push onwards and the German army begins to lose control of its fate. Bäumer watches his friends die in combat, eventually leaving him as the only one left from his original class. By the fall of 1918, Paul Bäumer can see the end is in sight and hears much talk about an armistice, which would bring the bloody war to an end, something he’s wanted ever since arriving at the Western Front.

Erich Maria Remarque does a masterful job painting the image of war and how it truly gets into the pores of those who are fighting on the front lines. It is less about strategy and troop advancement than the blood and gore faced by those young men who were pulled from their schools in order to fight for their country. While many in the West see the Germans as the evildoers (in both World Wars), Remarque offers this wonderful look at the war through the eyes of one man, to show that there was nothing but pure fear within him. No matter whose sides was right, young men perished without knowing what they were trying to do. Their task, kill or be killed. Their horror, to be maimed or brutally injured. All this comes to the surface throughout this piece, which will surely shock the attentive reader.

There are many characters whose lives progress throughout the book, though I will not list them. Remarque seeks more to tell a story of the war through their experiences than to inject a deeper plot with the Great War as a backdrop. The horrors of war spill out from every page, as well as the senselessness of men who could barely shave being the pawns of an international political disagreement. This theme is echoed throughout, in twelve strong chapters. While many will likely turn away from the book because they disagree with war or have ‘read too much about it’, I would encourage everyone to give it a try to see just how deeply it affects you. Especially with November 11th just around the corner!

Kudos, Mr. Remarque, for this sensational piece that had me enthralled throughout. It has stirred up some real emotions within me.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

  • Canadian Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

Darkness Falls (Kate Marshall #3), by Robert Bryndza

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Robert Bryndza, and Thomas & Mercer for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Robert Bryndza is back with another intense crime thriller with Kate Marshall at the helm. With a sordid past as a police detective, Kate has opened up her own investigative agency and is ready to take on the world. She’s given a cold case, where a journalist disappeared twelve years before. While there are some possible avenues to explore, the police have given up. All that being said, Kate and her partner begin finding a new and interesting connection with some other cold cases in the area, which could be the momentum they need to acquire answers.

Kate Marshall had high hopes when she worked for the Metropolitan Police, but addiction and other skeletons in her closet kept her from being able to stay on the right path. She’s taken her skills and turned it into something great, opening a private investigative agency, supplementing her time as a lecturer at the local university. Working with her partner, Tristan Harper, Kate is hoping to make a name for herself and earn a decent living.

When she’s given a cold case, Kate has high hopes that she and Tristan will be able to solve it. A journalist went missing twelve years before, one who was gritty and determined like few others. She’d brought down a sitting Member of Parliament for potential indiscretions, but he had a solid alibi for the time of the disappearance. Working through the police files given over by the family, Kate and Tristan come across some names that do not seem to fit.

Deeper digging reveals that these were young men who went missing in the years before the journalist’s disappearance. They frequented gay bars and some had a connection of a commune in the area. The more Kate and Tristan push, the stronger the potential connection of the disappearances. Could someone have been trying to write a story, connecting the missing men to someone around the bars?

All the while, a killer lurks just out of sight. Their target is one of the seedy bars on the outskirts of town. When a young man is found raped and murdered, Kate cannot help but wonder if there is a connection to the cold cases she has on her radar. Forensics makes some connections, but there is nothing to tie these disappearances to any particular killer. Still, things may be slowly coming together, but at what cost? Another great novel by Robert Bryndza that will keep readers flipping pages into the night.

I always enjoy a great thriller and Robert Bryndza has never failed to deliver. His attention to detail is like no other and he finds intriguing ways to keep the reader engaged throughout. The stories are not outlandish, but neither are they plain and easily deduced. This is the second of Bryndza’s series that I have tried, which is equally as intense and has me wanting more.

Kate Marshall has a major backstory that continues to reveal itself here. While series fans will know some of her past, Kate is still trying to come to terms with them, as things emerge to remind her of where she was all those years before. Bryndza allows for some wonderful character development here, both professional and personal, which offers Kate Marshall a new perspective as she is getting her life in order. I am eager to see where things will take her in the coming novels, as I am ready for more as soon as possible.

Robert Bryndza is an amazing writer with strong capabilities. He writes well and keeps the story moving along. The narrative builds from the opening chapter and there is no time at which I felt things dragged. The story evolved well, using short chapters to tease the reader into pushing forward just a little more. Tackling social and societal issues amongst the murder investigation, Bryndza does not shy away from topics and keeps the reader educated throughout the experience. I can only hope for more, as he has a knack when it comes to crimes thrillers!

Kudos, Mr. Bryndza, for another winner. Don’t keep us wondering for too long, as your fans surely love what you have to offer.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

Hello, Transcriber, by Hannah Morrissey

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Hannah Morrissey, St. Martin’s Press, and Minotaur Books for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Hannah Morrissey impresses in this powerful novel, where a woman in a new position within a small police force takes on a significant role in a baffling set of murders. Thrust into the middle of it all, Hazel Greenlee moves from simply documenting the reports the police detectives make to being a key part of solving the case, all while getting herself into a great deal of personal trouble. With well-crafted plot lines and impressive narrative momentum, Hannah Morrissey ensures that readers take note of her style.

It’s never easy being new in town, even less so when everyone seems to know one another. Such is the case for Hazel Greenlee, who has recently moved to Black Harbor, Wisconsin. When she takes a job as a police transcriber, she presumes it will be all work and that she will have to sit on the secrets that flow into her ears, but it ends up being much more than that.

The death of a young boy from an overdose is bad enough to hear through the transcription machine, but when Hazel connects with one of the detectives, it take on a new horror. How someone could have coaxed a young boy to take pills and then later tossed him into a Dumpster is unreal, though it is all too true.

As the days progress, Hazel finds herself drawn to one of the detectives on the case, with secrets of his own. Risking everything, Hazel puts herself in the middle of the case, seeking to know more than is revealed to her in investigative reports. Soon, she finds herself having crossed many lines, some of which she cannot erase, which is sure to cause issues both at work and home. As a killer remains on the lam, it will take Hazel’s intuition and perhaps a little luck to stay out of the crosshairs, though she is already in a great deal of trouble away from the precinct. A great story that kept me wondering until the final chapter, proving that Hannah Morrissey is another author to keep on my radar.

I love police procedurals, as many who have seen a number of my reviews will know. However, many of these novels seem to use the same format, so I look for unique takes in order to really make them worth my while. Hannah Morrissey delivers with an angle I would have not thought could work, that of a transcriptionist who is seeing and hearing of the crimes and fallout through recordings she must put into typed words. Morrissey does well to add depth and flavour to the story throughout, keeping the reader guessing as to how things will go and where the plot twist will take things. I am eager to see where things go from this debut.

Hazel Greenlee is a great character that connects easily with the reader. She’s got some issues through which she must work, but is also keen to make her mark. With some backstory tossed in amongst a great deal of character development, Hazel works her way into the middle of the Black Harbor community with ease. There is still much about Hazel that has not been revealed, so I can only hope Morrissey has more to come before too long.

Unique takes on crime thrillers is a sure way to distinguish one’s self in a genre that is supersaturated. Hannah Morrissey does well to show that she’s not only here to make her mark, but be memorable in doing so. There is much to praise within this novel, not the least of which is a strong narrative that keeps pushing ahead. Morrissey develops great characters, some likeable while others are truly sinister, without getting too wrapped up in them so as to hinder the story. The transcriptionist angle was genius and adds depth to the plot, as long as the reader can stomach reading some actual dialogue that includes dictated sentences (complete with verbalised punctuation). This was a great novel that kept me wondering and I can only hope that Hannah Morrissey has more to come before long.

Kudos, Madam Morrissey, for a fabulous debut. I am eager to see where you go with this premise in the coming years.

Be sure to check for my review, first posted on Mystery and Suspense, as well as a number of other insightful comments by other reviewers.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

Amok, by Sebastian Fitzek

Nine stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Sebastian Fitzek, and Head of Zeus for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Sebastian Fitzek is a master of the sharp psychological thriller, pulling the reader into the middle of something, only to provide a massive twist to discombobulate anyone trying to following along. In this piece, there are layers of intrigue set against a fast-paced plot and a time limited narrative, where a killer has a handful of hostages and is broadcasting live over Berlin’s radio waves. With a criminal psychologist tasked with diffusing things, she has her own issues and finds the added pressure all too much. Explosive and chilling at the same time. Perhaps Fitzek’s best novel to date!

During the morning show on one of Berlin’s most popular radio programmes, a tour for winning listeners goes sideways when one among them decides to take the group hostage. He wants his demands broadcast live, on-air and is willing to use the show’s popular games to get what he wants. Listeners must answer when called and recite a precise phrase or someone will die.

All the while, renowned criminal psychologist, Ira Samin, is preparing to die. She can no longer handle the pain that has befallen her, but wants things done a certain way. When she is called into work as a hostage negotiator, her suicide plan must be temporarily shelved. Ira works to get to know the hostage taker a little better and takes his one demand very seriously, ‘find my fiancée and bring her to me’.

While Ira works to unravel a tense situation, she must also wrestle with some troubling news. It would seem the aforementioned fiancée has died months ago in an automobile accident. However, the hostage-taker will hear none of it. He knows she is alive and demands that she be brought to him. Ira does all she can, only to realise that there is another reason that she must end the hostage taking right away. While Ira works through her own issues, all of Germany is on high alert, awaiting the next call and hoping someone will pick up and say the right thing. If not, things could get much worse, live for all to hear.

While I only recently discovered the magic of Sebastian Fitzek, I cannot get enough of his writing. Twisted and highly entertaining, one can never decipher what twists await the reader as the story progresses. He is surely a master at his craft and has pulled me in with each of the novels I’ve read. There are so many layers to the stories that the reader must pay close attention, or risk being left behind.

Ira Samin is a well-developed and troubled protagonist, perfectly cast for this story. Her personal issues almost drown out the need for professionalism throughout the piece, but this only adds depth to an already intense story. Ira has come to terms with the end of her life, but seems almost put out that she cannot do what she wants most, to die, until she stops a madman from killing others. There is much the reader discovers about Ira as the story progresses, all of which is essential to her own larger narrative.

Fitzek opens the novel with a seemingly odd tangent, only to force the reader to realise that this is the crux of the novel. The narrative pushes forward and offers deceptive twists almost from the outset, keeping the reader guessing what is to come and how it will all play out. Using short chapters, Fitzek teases the reader to ‘read just a little more’ and captures their attention with ease. Chilling and not quite what it all seems, Fitzek delivers yet again, with an English translation that is as smooth as ever, not distrusting the flow whatsoever. I can only hope there are more stories like this to come, as I am ready and eager to see what’s next.

Kudos, Mr. Fitzek, for another winner. Where you get all these ideas is beyond me, but I am not complaining in the least.

Be sure to check for my review, first posted on Mystery and Suspense, as well as a number of other insightful comments by other reviewers.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

Sooley, by John Grisham

Nine stars

John Grisham, master of the courtroom thriller, is back with another of his standalone novels that leaves the law on the sidelines. Tackling a stunning story of a young African boy’s dream to play basketball and fostering a well-paced tale to exemplify that dreams can come true, Grisham offers up a jaw-dropping piece that is full of action, as well as emotional ups and downs. Grisham shows his versatility with this piece and pulls on some wonderful research while entertaining the reader until the final chapter.

Sam­uel Sooleymon loves to play basketball, but has not been able to hone his skills, as he lives in war-town South Sudan. When he is given a chance to travel to the United States to play in a tournament, Samuel leaps at the opportunity, leaving his family behind. The Sooleymon family are proud of Samuel and he soon becomes the talk of the town.

While Samuel and his teammates do a decent job, their eyes are opened to the opportunities that America has to offer. Through some fast talking by his coach, using connections that he has, Samuel is offered the chance to stay in America on a basketball scholarship at a small college in North Carolina. All this, while new violence erupts in South Sudan, leaving the Sooleymon family in serious trouble.

While he is panicked, Samuel is counselled to stay in America and pursue his basketball dreams, in hopes that he will be able to rescue his family at a later time. Samuel, who is soon given the moniker ‘Sooley’ by those at the college, works hard to better his mediocre basketball skills in hopes of playing. Hours of practice and motivation to save his family allows Sooley to focus all his attention on the court.

While the Sooleymon family are displaced because of the ongoing violence, they soon learn of Samuel’s successes and he becomes a hero for everyone. Hype and media attention grow, so much that those in the African nation take notice and use his success as a rallying cry for their own obstacles.

While Sooley and his teammates make an improbable run through an important basketball tournament, all eyes are on the tall, South Sudanese player who has captured the hearts of everyone watching. Sooley cannot do it alone, but he is eager to make a difference, while never forgetting his motivation, to save the family he loves so much. However, the rise to glory comes with a cost, one that Sooley may not be able to handle.

John Grisham has long captured my attention for great legal novels that push the limits of the justice system. There are times when he can dazzle while leaving gavels and closing arguments out of the narrative. This is one such occasion, as Grisham tells a heart touching story about determination and how one young man can make all the difference in the world, simply by putting his heart into everything he does.

Sooley is a well-developed character who sees a great deal throughout the novel. From his early days in South Sudan, Sooley learns the importance of hard work, as well as maturing and trying to make a name for himself. Themes of growing up, prioritising, and the pull of fame enter the story at various points, forcing Sooley to find his own path and make mistakes along the way. Many readers will surely find themselves drawn to the story and its protagonist, who is sure to go through a number of emotions along the journey, with an emotional ending.

Grisham packs a punch in this novel with a number of key moments throughout the narrative. There is so much to synthesise that I cannot even begin to list everything that happens. The narrative builds well and gains momentum as the plot takes a few twists. While I am used to cut-throat action, Grisham offers up some wonderfully warm and emotional moments to help push the story along. Mixing in some action and a great deal of thrills, the story moves effectively to its climax, which will have many readers captivated. While I will always love a good Grisham legal thriller, this was a refreshing example that some authors can step outside of their genre and still perform magically!

Kudos, Mr. Grisham, for another winner. I cannot wait to see what else you have brewing, outside of your legal thrillers.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

A Deadly Game (Jack Calloway #2), by Carmen Cady

Eight stars

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

Always up for a crime thriller with a twist, I returned to the latest novel by Carmen Cady. This second book in the Jack Calloway series offers new and intriguing crimes as Jack juggles a few cases on the streets of Seattle. With his own private quirk, Jack works through some of his own demons as he tries to help reveal the darkest side of the criminal world while trying to track down a young woman. Cady offers up another winner with this novel, sure to captivate the attention of the curious reader.

Jack Calloway has a long history as a private investigator for whoever needs his services. He’s happy to travel and uses a penchant for criminal profiling to make him perfect for any crime scene. When he finds himself in Seattle, Jack’s working to help a woman who sent him a number of emails, fearing that she was in imminent danger. Working through this, Jack seeks to connect with a reporter who may know something important, but that man’s been murdered. All of this makes Jack feel as though there is more going on, leaving him eager to get started on the investigation.

While working, Jack is approached by a gruff Seattle PD detective to consult on another case; one in which a number of women are turning up dead, all with a unique tattoo on their shoulders. There seems to be a foreign flavour to this, as well as the removal of kidneys, as though this is a sign or part of a larger criminal conspiracy. As the victims mount, Jack realises that there’s someone out there who means serious trouble.

While Jack works both cases, he makes a troubling discovery that could tie the investigations together. This only adds to his worries, as time is ticking and those involved in the criminal acts are not known for their methodical antics. In a world where people are treated like commodities, Jack will have to watch his every move, if he wants to live to tell of the experience. A quick-paced story that kept me wanting to know more the further I got into the book. Carmen Cady has a knack and is sure to do well with those seeking a dark thriller.

While I have come across many types of thrillers in my reading career, those penned by Carmen Cady have got to be some of the most unique. While I am not a fan of the supernatural, the angle she takes in these novels offers just enough of it to keep me curious without feeling as though things are too far-fetched. Her writing is strong and the story moves effectively, while leaving the reader to feel the impact of the victim’s plight.

Jack Calloway is a strong protagonist with a complex backstory that is developed a little more here. As a vampire who has seen his family slain, Jack has many demons that he must confront, as well as trying to live in the modern world and keep his secret. Cady does well to keep this in control, but does toss some personal angst in front of her protagonist as he seeks to solve another sinister crime. Jack is a stellar investigator and does not shy away from getting to the heart of the matter, though works in a calculated manner. His determination fuels him to always find answers when the opportunity arises.

Cady caught my attention with the series debut a while back and I was eager to get my hands on this second novel. The narrative moves forward and pulled me in from the opening chapters, leaving me to wonder where things might go. Her use of mid-length chapters provides the reader with some momentum to push through, without getting too wrapped up in the small things that occur throughout. I was pleased to see how easily I could get into the book and the plot evolved throughout, while also shedding some light on the Jack Calloway backstory, which adds the supernatural angle to the overall reading experience. I do wonder what’s next and I am eager to see what Carmen Cady has in store for her growing fan base.

Kudos, Madam Cady, for another great book. You know how to balance crime and personal growth well, appealing to a larger reading audience.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

21 Things You May Not Know About the Indian Act: Helping Canadians Make Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples a Reality, by Bob Joseph

Nine stars

Having a great interest in Canadian politics and the state of my country, I was eager to read this book, in hopes of learning a thing or two (or even, 21). Bob Joseph not only explores the damning legislation known as the Indian Act, but also explains its importance to Canadians and how it must be dismantled and significantly changed in an era of reconciliation with First Nations people. While it is not a complicated read, it is surely a difficult one to swallow, as many of the atrocities committed by the Canadian Government, hidden in legislative outcomes, surface throughout.

While there are many issues that Joseph brings to light in his short book, perhaps the most troublesome is the use of residential schools to ‘assimilate’ the young to Canadian ways. While these schools have been closed for a number of years, the damage they have done to young people for generations cannot be overlooked. I won’t go into detail surrounding the abuses suffered or the psychological aftermath, but Joseph makes it quite clear that many of the stories that emerge in the news are not exaggerations, before pointing to parts of the Indian Act where they are sanctioned, or any least not discounted.

While there are many countries who likely have issues when it comes to their pre-settlement populations, Canada has a significant bruise that must be handled. Commissions and cross-country explorations have taken place, with many recommendations issued to correct the wrongs. It is time to look past simply applauding the list that was made and move into taking action. Bob Joseph offers no concrete solutions, but rather permits the lay reader to see what has been said and the recommendations determined by groups to rectify some of the issues. It is time for action and education, two things that cannot be dismissed for another time.

Kudos, Mr. Joseph, for a great read. I took so much away from this book. I hope to explore thee subject further with more of your writing before long.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

The Privilege (Joseph Antonelli #9), by D.W. Buffa

Seven stars

D.W. Buffa is back with another legal thriller, sure to pique the brain of those who have followed the Joseph Antonelli series with any regularity. While there is a great deal of courtroom drama, the bulk of the book also tackles legal and societal theory, both looking deep into the past and towards the future. Buffa take the reader on quite the journey, at times getting a little preachy and esoteric. Some who can see through this can enjoy another legal thriller, but I worry many will get lost in the minutiae of the discussions, which might sour them to the overall experience.

Joseph Antonelli has quite the reputation in the legal world, both within San Francisco and elsewhere. He’s never lost a case that was his to win and has few ticks in that unfortunate box at all. His latest client, Justin Friedrich, will soon be convicted for a crime he did not commit. All the evidence points to Friedrich shooting his wife aboard their yacht and it’s almost time to end proceedings. However, someone soon approaches Antonelli with an offer.

James Michael Redfield runs a tech company with experience in artificial intelligence. When Redfield speaks privately with Antonelli, they enter into a loose lawyer-client relationship, complete with retainer. The privilege from this transaction forbids Antonelli from speaking about what comes next, as Redfield hands over the gun and a receipt to prove Friedrich’s innocence. What could Redfield want and why did he wait so long to exonerate an innocent man? Antonelli is eager to discover this, though is sworn to secrecy, under the privilege requirement.

When another high-profile murder occurs on a university campus, Antonelli is pulled into the middle of it and is again defending an innocent person, with Redfield working in the background and promising that he can solve it all, in due time. Antonelli is unsure of the web in which he finds himself and can only imagine that he’s a pawn in a larger game. While the privilege will not protect any future crimes, Redfield has said nothing conclusive and is still using the privilege to keep Antonelli on a short leash.

As the legal manoeuvrings continue, Antonelli tries to see what Redfield is doing and the sort of game he finds necessary. It seems that the trial is the thing that Redfield wants most, the situation that helps prove his larger theory, which has ties to artificial intelligence. Antonelli wants no part of it, but is as much a victim of it all as those he represents to ensure justice. A complex story that shows Buffa has layers to his meanings. Perhaps a little too much for many, though.

While I have loved D.W. Buffa’s writing and all he stands for, his legal thrillers are surely the best of all his books. That being said, he usually uses the courtroom as a stage and shows the wonders of the law through the interaction of both sides and the jury as a central arbiter. This novel took things away from those actors and left the reader to ponder the Socratic methods of law, justice, and philosophy. While it was intriguing to get to the root of it all, things could likely have taken less of a dense road to success.

Joseph Antonelli is still a masterful character and shows his abilities throughout this piece with ease. However, there was something that seemed lost, as much of his magic was not convincing a jury of his client’s innocence, but rather swimming in the complexities of legal theory, philosophy, and being stuck in a madman’s web. Antonelli does well when he can see forward, but there’s something impeding him throughout this book, which lessens his impact overall.

While I like a book that makes me think, I believe Buffa went a little too far here, perhaps forcing series fans to dig through what they are using to finding in order to discover the legal gems they seek. Those who pick this book up out of the blue (I have never understood those who do not start a series at the beginning) will likely be lost and really lose interest before long. It’s too bad, as Buffa has much to offer, with longe and detailed chapters that accompany a strong narrative. However, I can see the density being a turn off for some. I persisted, mainly because I know the power of a Buffa novel. I am not sure many would have the same fortitude and this novel was not a true reflection of the rest of the series.

Kudos, Mr. Buffa, for one of your thinking novels. I appreciated many of the life lessons you offered, even if things were a little much at times.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: