Category Archives: Fiction

Blue Moon: A Jack Reacher Novel by Lee Child

Reviewed by Allen Hott

By now if you have read Jack Reacher stories by Lee Child you are aware of how they start out. Reacher is traveling (always) and going nowhere in particular but he doesn’t want to stay in any one place very long. As a retired military police officer he feels he has seen the world in that capacity and so now
he wants to see it as an individual. Never travels with someone, always alone, and never really trying to get somewhere in particular. He just likes to move around, meet people and see different locations.

It turns out that the area where Reacher ended up on this bus ride was a municipality that basically was split in two halves. One half was run by the Ukrainians and the other by Albanians. Each leader kept control over his area and didn’t mess at all in the opposite area. About the time Reacher got there it appears that there is about to be a blow-up of some type between the two groups but no one knows exactly why. And Reacher is completely unaware of the situation for the time being.

Saw the Forest: A Novel by Patrick L. McConnell

Reviewed by Lisa Brown-Gilbert

A read which keeps your heart as invested as your mind, Patrick L. McConnell’s Saw the Forest explores life through a multi-faceted lens, bringing attention to aspects of the human condition, wrapped in layers of emotion and motive through the experiences of life. Presented with a grove of eclectic characters, each on their own life’s journey but whose paths cross in dynamic and life-altering ways.

A deft storyteller, author Patrick L. McConnell, captures the attention quickly with his literate narrative, which features a well-drawn cast of characters, each as interesting as the next to meet, as well as somehow entangled within the same web of a diverse community collective. Moreover, the story divulges uniquely posed aspects of human nature, exemplified through the characters, inclusive of traits like love, bravado, religion, violence, as well as politics. Moreover, skillfully presented amidst relatable interactions which create an interwoven mosaic of human frailty and strengths, making exciting fuel for this evocative, character driven read.

Immediately, this literate, detail focused narrative brings into view the Right family; father, Artemus a doctor, Mother Taniaz, and their sons, Philip and Adam. The brothers are a unique pair, in that, younger brother Adam takes care of his elder brother Philip, who is considerably larger and stronger than him, but his mind is that of a child. As the family dynamic changes over time, after having lost both parents, the pair of brothers live humble lives as adults, still sharing a close bond. Adam, quietly stalwart, socially awkward, even reticent but well-meaning remains his brother’s faithful keeper who at times can become an unintentionally aggressive and intimidating handful.

The Last Agent (Charles Jenkins Book 2) by Robert Dugoni

Reviewed by Allen Hott

Robert Dugoni is a good author and in The Last Agent he has continued (I would not say completed) the ongoing story of Charles Jenkins, former CIA agent. Jenkins is the type of person who accomplishes much but he does always seem to rely on others to give him lots of help. This story pretty much shows how Jenkins though retired and now living at home with his family, cannot stop returning those previous favors. A current CIA supervisor shows up at Jenkins’ door and after several conversations about the CIA and Russia the agent drops a bomb! Literally not figuratively. He explains that a Russian woman who worked with seven other women for the United States as spies in Russia is still alive and imprisoned by the Russians.The name of the woman. Paulina Ponomayova immediately gets Jenkins’ attention. Paulina is the person who helped Jenkins escape from Russia years ago.

Jenkins thought so much of Paulina and her assistance that he named his daughter after her. The thought of her now being held in isolation in Russia very much disturbs him. With the consent of his wife and her prayers Jenkins with help from the CI A heads back into Russia to see how he can somehow get Paulina out of isolation and to the United States or the free world. To make this work Jenkins begins not only working with the CIA but also certain Russians that he had known and worked with while over there. One of them is Viktor Federov who at one time was Jenkins’ arch enemy.

Widowmaker: A Novel (Mike Bowditch Mysteries Book 7) by Paul Dorion

Reviewed by Allen Hott

Mike Bowditch, a Maine game warden, notices an automobile pull up and park opposite his house which is pretty well tucked away in the deep outskirts of an off the road town named Sebago. Even though at first he is somewhat confused by why the driver parked there he becomes much more confused after her goes out to the car. At first the woman driving kind of puts off telling him why she is there by saying she needs to use a restroom.

But when she does actually begin talking sense to Mike she explains that she, Amber Langstrom, had some years ago had an affair with Mike’s father. Mike could believe this because he and his father never got along due to his father’s style of living. Now however she is looking for Adam Langstrom the son that came from that affair.

It seems that Adam is missing and his mother is hopeful that Mike will be willing to help find the person who appears to be his half-brother. As she explains more of the story it turns out that Adam had been sent to a minimum security prison for having sex with a fifteen year old girl when he was 18. He has since been released but she cannot find him as he has basically not only hidden from her but is probably living with the girl in some unknown hideaway.

She pleads with Mike to hunt for him and help her straighten Adam out since they are related (according to her). Mike explains that he cannot do anything full time since his work as a game warden more than keeps him busy especially in the severe winter that Maine is suffering. He does say that he will ask around and keep his eyes/ears open for possible information.

After Mike gets back to work and talks with his girlfriend, Stacey, it seems that Stacey thinks he should do more to help find his half-brother. However at about the same time Mike gets very involved not only with helping folks out with problems due to the terrific winter but he also gets word that a wolf has been spotted. Supposedly there are no wolves in Maine as they have been pretty well eliminated and are outlawed due to their demeanor and effect on other wild life. Turns out that Mike pretty well adopts the wolf that he went to check on since Shadow, the wolf, became very friendly with Mike.

That part of the story goes on while Mike now gets involved with other problems. These problems occur in the extremely mountainous wilderness of Maine. And they involve sexual predators who are actually living in a colony that is tucked away in the woods. However there are also vigilante-type folks

who want no part of the predators and work to not only keep them contained but also hopefully eradicated.

While Mike is doing all of his work around Widowmaker (the name of not only a monstrous mountain that is always covered in deep snow drifts but also a small town in the area), things get very involved with the predator squabble. And all of this goes on while Stacey has gotten herself quite mixed up in her daily life while working at her government job.

Overall a great read with lots of various plots, various characters, and some really great descriptions of what winter/snow is like in Maine. Doiron continues to write well with Bowditch as his main character who is always involved in various happenings!

The Assassin’s Trail by J.C. Fields

Reviewed by Allen Hott

Although this one is pretty long and has an abundance of characters The Assassin’s Trail is a very good read. It moves along pretty well and tells a story that, sad to say, could turn into a true happening in our world today.

As the title states there are assassinations and attempted assassinations throughout the story. However they basically are all somewhat a camouflage procedure to hide the real catastrophic event that is the end plan of those who are making the efforts.

Sean Kruger, a FBI special profiler, is called in by the time the second assassination occurs. He has a long excellent record with the FBI and those in charge feel it is necessary to get him involved to sort through all the events.

Strangely enough even though he is probably the top profiler at the FBI he is very dissatisfied with his job and his life. He has been doing it for over twenty five years and feels that there definitely is too much bureaucracy and politics going on over his head. Although not quite that old he has pretty much decided that he will be retiring soon and moving on to a marriage with a lady that he has been with for a number of years.

Kruger has a friend, JR Diminski, a computer genius, and the two of them work very well together. As the two of them begin doing their jobs to collect needed information, the assassin strikes again and this time in Kansas City. Kruger with the help of JR believe they have the culprit identified and Kruger goes to Alabama to arrest him.

And here is where the story gets involved. Everything goes wrong due to politics and mismanaging. Kruger however, even though he was told to wait, goes ahead with the arrest. When the whole situation explodes Kruger gets suspended by the FBI Director.

Working with JR and no help from the FBI Kruger continues to move ahead with his theory and plan. He is still after this assassin who it seems turns out to have much more than just assassination of several individuals but a major plot to do tremendous damage to the United States.

Kruger and JR manage to slow down the plot and actually disrupt it but there are still some horrendous happenings that occur. How all of this turns out and exactly what happens to the country, the FBI, and especially to Kruger and his future is what finalizes this story. Rather than give you all the final details I strongly suggest you obtain and read The Assassin’s Trail. You will not be sorry!

In Her Tracks (Tracy Crosswhite Book 8) by Robert Dugoni

Reviewed by Allen Hott

Following in his own foot tracks, Robert Dugoni has written a very interesting book about missing women. He has chosen Tracy Crosswhite to be the “good guy” and track down not only the women but also who caused them to be missing. It isn’t the type of case Tracy wants but since she just returned from maternity leave her boss ended up putting her on Cold Cases since her old spot had been filled.

Missing persons is not really Tracy’s cup of tea since she had just been involved in that several years ago when her own sister had turned up missing and was never found alive. But Tracy accepts her job in her new position and gets involved in her first cold one now.

Seems as though several women in her area are missing and it also seems as though they were in the same section of town. Tracy quickly finds a path that runs through the area but then it seems to just stop dead. Although she does not find any women on the path it does seem to have some evidence that becomes quite useful as the case develops.

Also in the area is a somewhat worn looking house that turns up being occupied by three young men (or older boys) whose parents have passed away recently. The boys wander around the area but also work at various jobs in the neighborhood. The oldest one named Franklin appears to be the head of the family and “rules” the two younger ones. The youngest (though an elder teenager is somewhat of a slow thinker and spends most of his time playing with various games like Monopoly). Though they are very close to that same path it doesn’t immediately provide any evidence of wrong-doing.

Two of the main users of the path seemed to have been a pair of neighbors who lived close by and close to each other. One is the father of the three boys but he had passed away recently. The one still living there is an older gentleman named Bibby who walks his dog quite often on the trail and there is even of a dog walking on the deserted path recently.

Tracy believes she knows now what is going on and she takes another of the police officers with her and heads to the neighborhood where all the action has been taking place. There is no question that
Tracy has it figured out because as she gets close to where she expected an occurrence, another one did happen. Lucky for her and an intended victim that her hunch worked out correctly.

The ending was not as she had planned but it was still a good finish. There is no doubt that Dugoni has written another good story for his readers to follow all the way to the end.

The Hot Rock: A Dortmunder Novel (Book One) by Donald E. Westlake

Reviewed by Allen Hott

A story that moves, moves, and moves. Basically The Hot Rock is about a very expensive Balabama emerald that belonged to one country in Africa but since the country divided into two halves both sides want possession of this jewel. As the story begins one side (Talabwo) with their ambassador, Major Iko, is trying to get the emerald out of its display position which is in New York City.

Dortmunder is led into working to get the emerald by Kelp, his normal right hand man. Kelp and Dortmunder meet with Iko and arrive at a financial agreement for the event to happen. It will take five men at thirty thousand dollars per man for Dortmunder’s crew to pull off the job. But that is only part of it though as Iko and Dortmunder then battle over expense money per man per week. All of these happenings go along to make this story not only funny but definitely readable to the end.

After Dortmunder and Kelp leave they begin rounding up the balance of the crew and beginning to make some plans for when, where, and how not only will they live but also how they will pull off the money making deal.

Little do they realize however that at the same time another group of thieves have also looked into the value of the stone and already made the necessary arrangements and stolen it from the display? However the guy who actually stole the gem was later caught and put in jail and he supposedly has the gem with him (likely swallowed it prior to capture).

So that means Dortmunder and his gang will have to break Greenwood (the one with the stone) out of jail. In true Westlake fashion Dortmunder and his gang do in fact break Greenwood out of prison.

But then when they get to talk to him they find that he doesn’t have the gem now. Because when he was arrested he decided to hide the gem at the police station.

This is how this book moves from one place to another as the gem is constantly on the move and the Dortmunder crew never stops hunting it but always it appears to be a step ahead of them. They are earning money from Major Iko but they can’t get him what he wants so they don’t earn the big bucks that they want.

What they do get from the Major always seems to be another major tool of some type (a truck, a helicopter, and other tools) to help the gang break into and then out of the newest location of the stone.

Overall the book is a very funny read as Westlake writes well and the conversations that go back and forth between the characters are more than enough to keep the reader’s attention. There have been several Dortmunder books over the years and they all created quite a variety of stories that were well received. The Hot Rock is one of those!

Anchored (The Anchored Series /Book 1) by Bridget E. Baker

Reviewed by Carol Smith

Summary:

Earth and Terra are a parallel of two worlds colliding in certain areas as experienced by 17-year-old Alora and her brother Jesse. Mystery, adventure, and the love of a brother and sister hiding under false pretenses are waiting for all lovers of fiction.

On earth, Alora’s parents died in car wreck. Suspicion surrounding the death of their adoptive parents on earth arises and is eventually resolved.

Both children, under the age of 18 at the time, fled from Social Services and are currently in hiding. The villain is a social worker named Devlan Rosenbaum who is intent on finding the two.

The imaginary world of Terra is an “attention getter” alive only in Alora’s dreams; described somewhat as “a tiny planet that consists of two warring factions, with no guns or major technology.

The life of Alice (her earthly name) takes place in these two separate worlds weaving them together thus creating a plot that is somewhat complex in nature. Her life on earth is shared with her brother Jesse and the other world of Terra, a place visited in her nightly dreams she shares only with her Jesse.

Terra is occupied by a certain group of people called “Healers” and “Citizens”. Alora is a Lifter and a Binder who travels with a group of people called a troupe.

Drama unfolds and causes Alora to use her powers as a Lifter. Her secret gift as a Lifter is revealed and she is now in great danger according to her adoptive father Martin.

She learns of a Prophecy about a woman who will one day be born as a “Lifter”. Women are not allowed to be lifters. The followers of Amun call her the Warden and they believe she will destroy Terra. Alora’s life has changed, she is now forever in grave danger.

The Prophecy launches Terra into a violent war between the factions of Amun and Isis. On earth, more Terran characters come into play casting violent interactions among Alora and her brother; it seems earth and Terra are becoming one. The reader is pitted between wondering what is real and what fantasy is at this point. The interchange between Terra and earth in some places can get a bit confusing.

Jesse convinces Alora her dreams are possibly hallucinations caused from trauma and arranges for professional medical care.

The finality is a herculean, emotionally-driven ending; a raging storm of inner most feelings of hatred, revenge, vengeance and discernment between good and evil ensues. This powerful inner battle driven by Alora’s emotions destroy Terra forever.

Conclusion:

The “power of the pen” in the hand of Bridget Baker is driven with excellence. She is a natural when it comes to writing unique, emotionally-driven, power pact stories.

In “Anchored” she builds strong characters that depict vivid personalities. The reader is clearly able to recognize Alora as a compassionate and empathetic young lady although she possesses incredible powers as a Lifter in a foreign world.

Her narrative literary style is loaded with dialogue and amazing description coupled with great intensity. The dialogue between Alice (Alora) and her brother Jesse is fun to read; they often joke with each other allowing the reader to recognize their special bond. Her brother is her “anchor”.

Baker cleverly inserts picturesque, graphic words that magnify each scene.

The sentences are neatly structured in such a way that the reader is eased into the setting of the unusual world of Terra creating a feeling of belonging in-spite of its foreign nature.
She is able to build enough suspense in both worlds to keep her readers “on edge” anxiously awaiting the outcome. I can keep on reading, not ready to stop.

Baker executed an intense description of the Exordium that I consider a literary masterpiece. Her colorful vocabulary excites strong human emotions.

Some of the episodes on Terra can be interpreted according to the reader’s preferential taste. The battles called the “Ascension” are numerous, brutal and long lasting.

Halfway through the book, I am monstrously curious and eagerly awaiting the ending. With Terra destroyed, Alora is, at last, able to live in peace and harmony with herself.

Stargazer: A Leaphorn, Chee & Manuelito Novel (A Leaphorn, Chee & Manuelito Novel, 6) by Anne Hillerman

Reviewed by Carol Smith

    Summary

The setting is the Navajo Nation in New Mexico; the month is October.

The story begins when Officer Tara Williams at Socorro County Sheriff’s Department receives the call about a young boy finding a dead man inside a car near highway MN 169. She embarks on the assignment and begins her work creating a crime scene.

Stargazer is the story of Officer Bernadette Manuelito working with her police colleagues in the Navajo Nation of New Mexico. It is more than a murder mystery or investigations of crime. It is about the people who work inside law enforcement in the Navajo Nation coping with the pitfalls of budget shortage, staff shortage and other obstacles. Some episodes include mention of missing and exploited indigenous women and children as a prime problem although not the focus of the story.

Tara Williams is contacted by Officer Bernadette Manuelito regarding a missing woman in Socorro. Her name is Maya Kelsey. Tara immediately makes the connection, the woman named Maya Kelsey is married to the man found dead in his car. Maya Kelsey, reported missing, shows up at the police department confessing to the murder of her husband, Steve Jones.

Together, the two police women begin a long journey of investigating the murder of the dead man, Steve Jones, Ph.D., a scientist who works at the VLA. The VLA is an actual real-life astronomy observatory located in central New Mexico. The author makes an interesting note of this observatory at the end of her book.

Throughout the book the haunting experiences of death and suicide experienced by folks in police work surface in various characters. They carry on in-spite of it. It makes the story authentic.
The author includes colorful descriptions in her scenes that create picturesque moments for the reader. They will feel present.

Officer Bernie’s dedicated, hard work causes her to solve the mystery and find the “real killer” of Steve Jones and also solves the mystery of why his wife, Maya Kelsey, confessed to a crime she did not commit.

This story is action-packed with a lot of movement and interaction between characters. It is a very multi-faceted, enjoyable read.

Editorial Review

Hillerman’s gift of creating alliteration in various sentences adds strength and enhances reader impact. In one scene taking place in the wilderness, the alliteration in “coyote chorus” causes the reader to relax in the midst of a violent episode.

The phrase “Tsunami of sadness” cleverly inserted in a very emotive scene is an alliteration used to soften the powerful word “Tsunami” placed before the emotional word “sadness”. It is intended to galvanize the reader.

Descriptions of police characters definitively depict that of tough, dedicated folks who are on task.

Anne Hillerman performed an outstanding job creating the character of Bernadette (Bernie) Manuelito. Throughout the book she remains focused on her police work and connects with husband Sergeant Jim Chee. She has a natural inclination that causes her to see patterns, missing pieces, and the ability to notice what does “not add up”. Bernie’s actions show respect for her superiors. Her chary attitude saves her in a violent scene.

“No stone is left unturned” under her watch. The character of Officer Bernadette is believable because of Hillerman’s ability to build her personality into that of a bona fide police woman.

The author’s prose often includes words that describe the usual sights and sounds of the natural world we live in. E.g., “The morning light gave the grass a golden glow as it shimmered in the autumn breeze”. The euphony invites the reader to be present in scene.

The sound of Navajo words such Ghaaji” for October and other Navajo words are often used throughout the book. It marks the importance of American Indians clinging to their native language and customs while living in a modern-day society. There is mention of some primitive conditions such as many homes on the Navajo Nation still lacking electricity.

Hillerman is very adept at connecting all the dots in a mystery. She is an excellent mystery writer.

Quite a bit of Navajo history and present-day problems are mixed into the plots. Because of this, the story would appeal to Native American Indians and other races who are genuinely interested in the history and present day life of the American Indians.

The Fiancèe by Kate White

Reviewed by Lily Andrews

The Fiancèe is a mystery thriller novel by one of the best-selling authors, Kate White. The plot revolves around the Keaton family of Ash Keaton, Claire Keaton, and their four sons: Gabriel, Blake, and fraternal twins, Marcus and Nick.

The author uses the first-person narrative through one of the characters, Summer, who is Gabriel’s wife. The Keatons hold extravagant and lovely vacations in their family home but on this particular vacation, Summer feels uneasy and anxious as she, Gabriel, and her step-son, Henry make their way to the Keatons. As the get-together begins, Nick introduces his fiancee, Hannah, to the family during one of their dinners in the evening. Everyone is utterly surprised that Nick, known for his usual casual flings, wants to settle down with a woman he has hardly known for two weeks. The matriarch of the family, Claire, whom all her stepdaughters find controlling and judgemental except for Summer, is particularly not pleased with the announcement.