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The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar. Never Let You Go by Chevy Stevens is a compelling read. It explores the brutality of domestic violence including obsession, entrapment, control, and manipulation. Readers will go through the same emotions with the characters of fear, love, and courage. Stevens noted, “I guess I was influenced subconsciously by what happened in my personal life. My father who was a violent alcoholic abused my mother. As I was writing I found I was thinking back on things. There was this double side where I respected my mom and recognized the domestic violence, but I really loved my dad. Even though he had these really bad issues there was a part of him that was really great. As Sophie was talking to her father I would have a tingling sensation at the base of my neck thinking, ‘wow. I never got to say this to my dad.’ I think I was able through Sophie to speak with my dad. But I want to make it clear this was not an agenda book. This book is not my family’s story.” More than anything this is a character driven novel. The strength of the story lies with the love story between a mother, Lindsey, and a child, Sophie. They were very likeable, believable, and realistic, with their relationship taking center stage as Lindsey tries to insulate her daughter. The alternating narratives between Lindsey and Sophie allow the reader to get to know them and understand the emotional tug of war they are going through. The author is hoping, “My biggest goal is to show that the cycle can be broken. I took young Sophie’s quirks from my daughter who is four. I hope I portrayed what my daughter and my relationship will grow into and maintain the closeness Lindsey had with Sophie as she turned eighteen.” The plot begins with Lindsey, Sophie, and Andrew in Mexico on a vacation. It showcases how abusive and controlling Andrew can be as he uses emotional mind games to keep her in line. He shows her that she is powerless and to leave him would mean she would lose her daughter. Knowing that she must escape this malicious and violent individual for her and Sophie’s well being she risks all that are meaningful to escape. This led to a spiral of events that included Andrew going to jail. Now eleven years later, Lindsey and Sophie have built a new life. Unfortunately, shortly after Andrew is released from prison someone starts stalking Lindsey. Sophie has mixed emotions, because she has a loyalty to her mother, knowing of her father’s abuse, but also wanting a relationship with her father. Since Stevens also had an abusive dad she has memories of feeling as if she were in a tug of war between parents. “I also went back to visit my dad. Remember Andrew was never abusive to Sophie. As with Sophie I also felt I had my own needs and I wanted to have a relationship with my dad. It was very painful and challenging to write. On a day-to-day basis both the fictional and real life fathers could be great to their daughters until they were stressed and started drinking. It seems I am protective of these memories. I channeled my longing for a father into Sophie’s feelings. The dads were clever and smart; yet, had massive anger issues that they could not control.” If this is the first book read by this author, it should not be the last. The author keeps the tension high and when the reader thinks they have figured out what is happening Stevens throws a curve ball with the many twists and turns. Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at BlackFive
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The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar. Vicious Circle by C. J. Box is not the usual mystery/thriller novel. It is reminiscent of the classic old-time western with “High Noon” coming to mind. Besides an intense plot, readers get a flavor for what it is like to live on the Western frontier of Wyoming. Box noted, “The way the previous book ended, I knew Dallas and Brenda Cates will be back, because I made sure to set up a dilemma. It has many of the elements of a classic Western. The bad guy gets out of jail and sets out for revenge, making sure it is personal. He attacks Joe’s family forcing him to protect them even if it means not always following the rule of law. He is basically on his own, a ‘he versus the bad guys.’ Most game wardens are like Joe, risking their life working in remote areas, and have little back up.” This is the sequel to Endangered where game warden Joe Pickett went toe-to-toe with the Cates family. Dallas Cates beat Joe’s middle daughter April to an inch of her life. The end result was his mother Brenda becoming a quadriplegic, some Cates family members dead, and Dallas doing more than a year behind bars, thanks in part to some trumped-up charges. After serving his time he is released from prison and wants to get revenge, waging a war against Joe and his family. What Box does very well is blend the modern day with the isolated West. The book opens with Pickett and two others in a small airplane searching for a missing hunter. They use high technology of an Ipad app, an infrared device to spot both animals and human beings. Right after the group thinks they have found the hunter below on the ground, they witness his shocking murder, all because he warned Joe. Another technology discussed was the wheelchair used by Brenda while in Prison. As with so many of his books, Box does the research personally. He told of how “I took a ride with the Wyoming Civil Air Patrol. It was pretty interesting how they used the technology and unlike Joe I did not even get airsick. Regarding the wheelchair, Georgia Tech came up with the idea of a tongue-controlled device. Depending on how the tongue moves that controls the direction and speed. The brain moves the tongue and the tongue moves the chair.” Readers of the series will enjoy the supporting characters as well. This includes the return of Pickett’s long-time friend Nate Romanowski, who joins Joe in the fight to save his family, and the newly elected populist Governor Colter Allen. People get a flavor of Wyoming’s politics and how justice is doled out, including a few courtroom scenes. In addition they learn more about Western culture. Box noted, “The scene about women rodeo riders is true. There is a college that does have events with women. Conceivably they can only participate in some contests because they can get really beat up. Women are able to participate in the ones involving finesse, such as barrel racing and roping a cow while riding at full blast.” This storyline is very suspenseful and the action never slows down. Besides the riveting plot readers will also feel as if they are in the wilderness with the very descriptive scenes. Continue reading
Posted 6 days ago at BlackFive
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The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar. Desert Vengeance by Betty Webb is a mystery/thriller series surrounding the main character detective Lena Jones. As with all Webb books she has a gripping plot while exploring the psyche of those she writes about, intertwining human rights issues. In this installment the subject matters of sexual abuse and foster parenting are explored. As a nine year old, Lena’s foster father, Brian Wycoff, repeatedly raped her every week. To make matters worse, his wife was an enabler, knowingly looking the other way. Lena is waiting to exact revenge for his crimes on the day he is released from prison. She has every intention of killing this man, but is thwarted when someone gets to him first. Now there are more murders to solve, because his wife was killed, shot in each eye. After being cleared as a suspect, Lena uses her profession of a private detective to investigate what really happened considering there are multiple suspects with motives. The author noted, “In doing my research I actually found a site on the Internet that is devoted to women married to child molesters. Reading this is one of the creepiest things I have ever done. They are full of self-pity. They never, at any time, discuss the pain a child went through at the hands of their spouse. They really do not care. The common thread is their worrying about finances since the spouse was the money support. They very rarely blow the whistle and seem to keep their mouths shut making sure the money flows in.” Even though she is seen as someone seeking vengeance, Lena is a very likeable, believable, and sympathetic character. The theme is about letting go, and Lena must do exactly that while trying to control her obsession of getting justice. In all her books, Webb uses her past experiences to write these riveting stories. Having been a journalist for over twenty years she was exposed to many different kinds of cases. She knows what it is like to write about controversial issues, and uses those skills to make the novels very realistic. In this case, readers are able to learn about child molestation without the many horrific details. With a powerful subject, enthralling characters, and a compelling plot readers will not want to put this book down. Webb offers a twist and turn mystery, that is not superficial because of the way she presents such gripping issues. Continue reading
Posted 6 days ago at BlackFive
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The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar. In Farleigh Field by Rhys Bowen is a fact filled historical mystery. The story takes place during 1941 in the English countryside. Inspired by the events of World War II this is a sweeping and riveting stand-alone novel involving class, family, love, and betrayal. She wanted to write about this era since, “I think it was the last time we had a feeling of good versus evil. Everybody felt if we do not stop the evil it would be the end of the world. Because of that they were willing to make sacrifices with a great sense of duty where everyone rooted for each other. I was born in the middle of World War II. Even after the war, in England, everything was rationed until 1953, and every time you went for a walk you passed a bombsite. It was a grim atmosphere.” The plot is built around three life long friends: Ben Cresswell, the Vicar’s son, who now serves as a homeland spy; Lady Pamela Sutton, the middle daughter of an aristocratic family who decodes German correspondence at Bletchley; and Jeremy Prescott, an injured RAF fighter pilot. Their carefree youth is contrasted with the dangers of the Nazis. They are trying to find out about a German that died parachuting into the countryside. Many believe his mission was to deliver a mysterious message to a German spy on how to assassinate either the Royal Family or Winston Churchill. The suspect pool grows as the people of interest include an English POW who escaped, those escaping the German atrocities, Canadians, a governess, and someone who could be a double spy. The main and supporting characters created are very intriguing and engaging. Readers will wish Bowen would continue to re-visit them by turning the stand-alone into a series. The two male characters are Ben who is smart and loyal, while Jeremy is the ultimate bad boy. Besides Pamela, her sister Margot allows people to get a view of the German brutalities. The youngest, Phoebe, of the five Sutton daughters, befriends Alfie, taken in by the groundskeeper for safety reasons. All desire to discover the identity of the German spy. Bowen also writes of Farleigh Field as if it is a character. In many ways it becomes the central element of the plot considering it serves as the headquarters of a British armed forces unit. Bowen contrasts the two male leads, “Jeremy was the ultimate bad boy. He was charismatic, dashing, and daring. If I was a young girl I would have been attracted to him. As Pamela says in the book, ‘you knew you would not be quite safe with Jeremy, but you knew you were alive.’ She took for granted he would marry her, but all he wanted was sex. Ben on the other hand was someone you would turn to if you were in trouble, like an older brother. He was kind, loyal, dependable, and considerate.” Because of its location, Farleigh Field is the setting where espionage and mysterious events occur, drawing in the countryside aristocracy. Many lost privilege, property, and power as their estates were taken over by the war effort. Bowen brilliantly and interestingly describes the culture of the time where the rich and powerful either made sacrifices with the rest of the English population, or were the ones who chose to join an organization that believed in making a peace with Hitler. This story of war, love, and mystery is extremely suspenseful. It is both realistic and believable. Through the character’s eyes readers will be drawn into the era and begin to understand the sacrifices and hardships placed on English society. Continue reading
Posted Mar 12, 2017 at BlackFive
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When Tides Turn by Sarah Sundin is one of those novels where readers have a gripping mystery and can learn something too. The third and final book of the series follows the Avery family. Based in Boston this plot includes the Battle of the Atlantic and US Navy WAVES, a unit of women volunteers. Although Sundin does not personally have experience in the armed forces, for her it is all in the family. “The year I started writing this book is the same year my son enlisted in the Navy. I was walking the path with him as we adjusted to the culture and the terms. I also had a military connection through my family. My grandfather was a medic in the Navy during World War II and my great uncle was a B-17 bomber pilot. My grandfather also trained US spies in the German language.” Through her engaging characters people realize the numerous contributions women made to the war effort. Although not eligible for combat duty, as more men went off to war, the WAVES performed jobs in the aviation community, medical professions, science, technology, and communication. Characters include: Nora an engineer, Lillian a pharmacist, and Tess, using her degree in business to supervise the clerical staff. Their unconventional ways had them band together in a man’s world, unlike most women who stayed at home, did not have a job, or never attended college. Sundin commented about the WAVES, “Remember, before the WAVES, the previous role of women was to be nurses. I wanted to show how the Navy did not want the WAVES at first, fearing women would get in the way and distract men. Eventually women like my characters were seen as professional, efficient, and competent. I know the picture of Rosie The Riveter is still popular today. I have had people today think it sexist that women were not allowed in combat during World War II. But we must remember the times. I think the WAVES were actually progressive. We have to be careful not to judge the past by the standards of today. The WAVES were brave and forward thinking women. I think they paved the way for women in the military today.” The plot has readers spell bound as they find out about the brutality of the Nazis, the threat of German spies and saboteurs, as well as the anti-submarine efforts including radar, weapons, and tactics. Lt. Dan Avery uses his skills to fight German U-boats, after being assigned to an escort carrier during the peak of the Battle of the Atlantic. To make the mystery applicable to Northeast America Sundin stated, “I did take some liberties. In Europe German spies did land by U-boats and there were home grown ones as well. They went after the Resistance to try to quell them. For example, they took over much of the Dutch resistance. I used creativity in taking what the Germans did in Europe to America.” The theme of the story is how the main characters, Tess and Dan, grow in their jobs, as individuals, and in their relationship. They are opposites in that Tess is playful, cheerful, and sociable while Dan is serious, an introvert, and someone who builds walls. With the backdrop of World War II Sundin weaves together a fascinating story with fascinating characters. Part historical, part mystery, with a tinge of romance the finale of this three book series is a home run. Continue reading
Posted Mar 7, 2017 at BlackFive
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The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar. A Bridge Across The Ocean by Susan Meissner spans the lives of three women, one in modern day and the other two during the 1940s. She intertwines their lives with the help of a ship, some ghosts, and historical facts surrounding the Nazi regime. The gripping story of a young German ballerina and the daughter of a French resistance fighter are heart wrenching. Meissner explained the symbolism of the title, “All of the characters are taking a journey. They are brave as they enter this unknown world, where they cannot see the other side. As I said in the book, ‘Life will send up across a bridge we did not want to cross, but when we finally open our eyes, on the other side, we see that there had been nothing to fear after all,’ and we must move forward. Both characters saw torture, misery, and felt helpless. They knew they needed to climb out of the abyss. They did so with courage and patience. I hope people see this as a story of goodness, justice, love, and loyalty.” Beyond the human characters is a ship, the Queen Mary, which takes on human qualities, seemingly with a life of its own. The mystery begins aboard the RMS Queen Mary as it transported at the end of the war thousands of World War II brides who married American servicemen. Aboard is a former ballerina who married a Nazi Gestapo Agent, Annaliese Lange, and Simone Deveraux, the daughter of a French Resistance spy. One is trying to escape her past, while the other is trying to start a new life in a new land. But, when the voyage ends in New York, only one of them disembarks. Readers will frantically want to find out what happened to Annaleise, did she jump or was she pushed? The other main character, Brette Caslake, is someone who senses and communicates with drifters, or as people commonly refer to them, ghosts. On a visit to the Queen Mary a spirit asks her to investigate Annaliese’s supposed suicide. Brette decides to solve this seventy-year-old mystery of the war bride. The author plays off the theories that this ship is haunted and a gathering place for those who have not “crossed over,” with the Queen Mary spirit watching over all of them. The ghostly part is not all encompassing to the plot. Anyone who enjoys the paranormal genre will like this book, but for those people who want to concentrate on the historical scenes, there is plenty to go around. In fact, the account of both women in the midst of World War II is the highlight of this novel. Annaliese's and Simone’s stories are engaging and heartbreaking. Meissner noted, “As I was taking a tour of the ship, I learned how she brought over all these war brides after the war in 1946. Then I found out about how she was haunted. I made the leap that there is the ability for the soul to hang around after death, so I treated it as a literary character. In the acknowledgements I wrote, ‘I am grateful to G-d, who has assured me beyond all doubt that this life on earth is not all there is.’ If you believe there is life after death than it can be possible there are ghosts. I pondered that belief. I thought if ghosts are real than there must be more to the physical world and in that world there is more than we can actually see.” This being a character driven story, readers learn how Simone watched her father and brother executed by the Nazis, had a Gestapo agent rape her, and hid from them with the help of the French resistance. While in hiding she met her future husband, an American pilot injured when his plane was shot down. As she helped him to recover, they taught each other English through the Bible, fell in love, and married at the end of the war. The other war bride, Annaliese, meets her future husband during her performance of “Swan Lake.” He is abusive, controlling, and threatening. A powerful quote hammers the point home, “It only mattered to him that she feared and respected him…” Knowing she must escape the relationship it became an obsession with her to find a way to freedom. Taking her dead friend’s identity she boards the ship as a war bride, hoping to become anonymous in America. All three women take a journey to discover whom they are and what they must do to survive. Through the mystery and the dangers encountered they realize that sometimes there is no control over events and circumstances. The famous saying “you can’t pick your family, only your friends” comes to mind. The book quote is a version of this, “That’s the beauty and burden of having a child. You don’t pick and choose the one you think you want, you are handed the one G-d gives you.” The plot and the characters are very intriguing. The spirit of the Queen Mary is intertwined within the historical lives of Simone, Annaliese, and Brette. Readers will not want to put this engaging book down. Continue reading
Posted Mar 7, 2017 at BlackFive
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The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar. I See You by Clare Mackintosh is a riveting psychological thriller. She is two for two in writing plot lines that will scare, worry and terrify readers. The novel is a police drama, a mystery, and a suspense story. The author seems to have found her niche, writing stories about ordinary women who are put in jeopardy. The plot is a warning of sorts from Mackintosh, a former police detective. She shows the dangers and benefits of the technology world. The plot begins with Zoe Walker, an average working mother, seeing an “advert” in the London Gazette. She becomes flustered and worried when it appears there is a picture of herself. Is it a mistake? A coincidence? Or is someone keeping track of her every move? When other women appear it becomes evident to Zoe that something is wrong, as she connects the dots to crimes involving these women. After calling the police and getting PC Kelly Swift involved the investigation finds women who were sexually abused, violently assaulted, and had material objects stolen. In an innovative scenario Mackintosh shows how technology has taken stalking to a whole new level, where a routine can work against someone. The author noted, “I started the book with this quote to set the tone, ‘You do the same thing every day. You know exactly where you’re going. You’re not alone.’ We stay in these routines and do not think about it because they are extraordinarily comforting and familiar. For example, when we leave for a job we take the same route and leave at the same time each day. Unfortunately, this means we are less aware of our surroundings. I realized in the cities many people know about others commutes, and how dangerous that could be.” The wide range of characters is very well developed and contributes to the storyline through different narratives. Detective Kelly Swift steals the show in this book, especially given the tidbits of her life and the detective work done to solve the crime. Having been disgraced for punching a prisoner she was demoted to the British Transport Unit. But after convincing her former superior to be given a second chance she joins the MIT unit. Although she breaks the rules it is obvious that her intentions are in the right place. A powerful quote hammers the point home, “you were doing what you thought was the right thing. It isn’t always the same.” Mackintosh had no intention of having Swift become the main character, “I certainly had no intention to make her it. But over the course of writing the story she became so vivid and such a strong character. I do think she threatened to overshadow the whole story. In the future I would dearly like to write more stories that put her front and center. There is still so much about her that I want to talk about. I am not done with her yet.” Using her vast experiences Mackintosh creates a very realistic and chilling story with a growing sense of danger. Readers feel they are part of the case as they work along with Kelly and her police team to find connections to the antagonist. Continue reading
Posted Feb 26, 2017 at BlackFive
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The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar. Ripper: The Secret Life Of Walter Sickert is a follow up book to the one written by Patricia Cornwell in 2002. Whether people agree with the premise or not it is an interesting read, as a non-fiction book or a crime novel, either way it makes for a good story. Cornwell attempts to make the case that the Victorian painter Walter Sickert was Jack The Ripper. With photos, personal correspondence, and even his paintings as evidence she plays the role as an investigator of these hideous murders and has Sickert as the person of interest. Below is a Q/A with the author: Elise Cooper: Even though this is a non-fiction book you wrote it as a novel? Patricia Cornwell: I try to be a storyteller in everything I write. Because I started out as a journalist I feel that a part of me is still a journalist. It never leaves you. Whether fiction or real-life cases I try to present the facts. EC: Your first book caused some controversy so why write a second book? PC: This is the book I should have written the first time. I looked at the case from the lenses of modern criminal investigations, using the science as best I could to give us a guide. I think there is some good empirical evidence and primary sources such as original letters, documents, and the original police reports. EC: How would you describe Sickert? PC: A sexual violent psychopath, and a narcissist. He never felt empathy or guilt. Mostly what he felt was rage and jealousy. There is no evidence he ever loved someone. He was very calculating and compulsive. EC: How did you become fascinated with this case? PC: I happened to be in London in the spring of 2001, and somebody said, ‘While you're here, would you like to take a tour of Scotland Yard?’ One of their senior investigators, who knew a lot about the Ripper crimes, started telling me about the case. I now think that this is the most compelling unsolved murder mystery. Because of its legend I do not think it can ever be solved. No one will ever be satisfied with any resolution. The mystery has become bigger than the crime. EC: What do you want to debunk about the Ripper theories? PC: I think those who believe it was part of a royal conspiracy came from a bunch of formulations spun by the killer himself, Sickert. I also think it is nonsense that the traditional Ripper theories had him only killing those five people. I believe he killed many more victims, and continued to kill after 1888. EC: What about those who say the Ripper had to be a doctor? PC: His killings were not professional. He mutilated his victims so there was no need for surgical skills. He did have some anatomy training in art school. He had a scientific mind and followed the latest technology advances. He was a very smart and cunning person. He was careful and did not leave behind biological evidence. Maybe it was not accidental that he had himself cremated. EC: On page three there is a photo where he looks like the gangster John Dillinger. Was that his fantasy? PC: He was a master of disguises. I wonder if that is how he did his dry runs and was able to stalk his victims. Remember he did not die until 1942 and Alfred Hitchcock made the first Ripper movie in 1927 called The Lodger. I think the photo was an example of him imitating what people thought of the Ripper. This was his form of mocking the public. EC: You point out Sickert was an enigma regarding the aristocracy. Please explain. PC: He wanted to thumb up his nose to them; yet, he wanted to hob knob also. He had disdain for upper class people, but appeared to collect celebrities. He wanted to be a part of them. There is this hypocrisy where he despised them, but could not get enough of them. He wanted the acclaim that the painter James McNeil Whistler had. Sickert was treated as nothing more than Whistler’s personal assistant. EC: How compelling were Sickert’s paintings as evidence? PC: I think they were teases in his paintings. He projected his violent fantasies into his artwork. This painter never painted anything he had not seen. This man was a very smart. One painting is very reminiscent of the Mary Kelly crime scene, the body on a bed with a figure bludgeoning her to death. In another drawing there were a tremendous amount of stab marks with a pencil on a woman’s chest. EC: What about his personal correspondence? PC: If you compare two Ripper letters with three Sickert letters there is a stunning comparison. They come from the same paper mark that consisted of only twenty-four sheets and had the same watermark and dimensions. EC: How certain are you that Sickert is Jack The Ripper? PC: I am 95% certain. I am 100% certain he was involved in the case. The 5% doubt is for other considerations. The big questions that remain: what did his wife Ellen know and what did Whistler know? I do think they both feared him. EC: What do you want readers to get out of the book? PC: My goal is to make it easy for readers to be entertained and to be able to follow the story as they learn something. I hope they have an open mind as they look at this case. THANK YOU! Continue reading
Posted Feb 26, 2017 at BlackFive
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The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar. Stolen by Carey Baldwin is a riveting thriller. It intertwines issues involving family and mental illness within relationships, a murder, and a kidnapping. What makes this psychological story even more compelling is the mind games the characters play with each other. Baldwin appears to be influenced by her fascination with the old time movie Gaslight starring Charles Boyer and Ingrid Bergman. “In this movie that I just love, Ingrid Bergman is a psychologically vulnerable women who’s been through a tremendous trauma, witnessing the murder of her aunt. Charles Boyer is her villainous husband who tries to make her question her own sanity. This is a classic and speaks of mind games where over time she grows to believe what is told to her even though it contradicts what she actually saw.” Right from the very first page readers will be swept up into the plot. Baldwin is one of those authors who has a knack for keeping people guessing as to where the plot is headed by building suspense and intrigue. Because an important Senator’s daughter, Laura Chaucer, has disappeared, Dr. Caitlin Cassidy and FBI profiler Atticus Spenser are called in to investigate. Through it they find that thirteen years ago Laura and her nanny had been kidnapped, with the end result of Laura being rescued and the nanny found dead. Her psychiatrist, Dr. Grady Webber, tries to lead the investigators to think she is unstable, a danger to herself, and capable of murder. What Cassidy and Spenser must sort out, is Laura a killer, or is there a monster lurking who is out to get her and others? Many of the supporting characters were very interesting and will draw strong emotions from readers. Dr. Webber gives psychiatrists a bad name. Not only did he have a short affair with his resident, Caitlin, but is also a manipulative jerk. Anyone that knows the story of Brian Wilson’s psychiatrist can believe how Webber tries to foster dependence as he plays mind games with his patient. A quote hammers the point home, “Laura Chaucer’s been walking around with a time bomb inside her. And Grady Webber has the nuclear codes.” Part of the reason the author made Webber so evil was to “throw my pet peeves into Grady’s behavior. I really hate Polypharmacy where drugs are given for all reasons. I put in the book how Laura was prescribed drugs for anxiety and as a sleep aid. With all of these it is a wonder Laura did not sleepwalk through life. Webber gave drugs in lieu of therapy.” As much as readers will hate Webber, they will gravitate towards Laura. The center point of current and past investigations, she felt people were constantly pointing fingers at her. Growing up under those circumstances of having a stigma hanging over her she became addicted to therapy and the drugs handed to her by Webber. Eventually, she begins to wonder if her manipulators world view is correct, or are there other answers, realizing just because people say things does not necessarily make it true. Baldwin noted, “I enjoyed writing Laura’s character. She is someone extremely damaged, but has survived. She has an inner strength. A lot of people would have crumpled with the pressure she was under, but she did not.” Fans of Caitlin and Spenser will enjoy their working and personal relationship as it develops in this book. They become a more formidable team, battling Caitlin’s past with Webber and the murderer. As the relationship becomes more serious, Baldwin believes “I can have the constant tease, the romantic tension that is so organic. But I do not like playing the game as we saw between the Friend’s characters Ross and Rachel, after awhile it becomes frustrating. In my next book they will have some rest and relaxation in Tahiti. Then all hell breaks loose as they are dragged in by the local authorities after witnessing something.” Also, sprinkled throughout the book are psychological theories. Baldwin uses her vast experience as a pediatrician and psychologist to inform readers. They learn about compartmentalization, which allows for people to leave deep dark holes in their memories. It is a defense mechanism that shuts out traumatic memories so the person can function in life. They will also learn about “magical thinking” and “survivor’s guilt.” Because she does not become overly technical these little tidbits add to the storyline. This is a fast moving mystery that is gripping. The subplots add to the momentum of the plot and enhance the many twists and turns. Readers will be on the edge of their seats as they are kept guessing as to what will happen next. Continue reading
Posted Feb 20, 2017 at BlackFive
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The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar. Gunmetal Gray by Mark Greaney is an engrossing thriller. After reading this series Greaney will definitely become a favorite where people can’t wait for the next installment. The main character, Courtland Gentry, known as the Gray Man, is a former CIA agent, an assassin turned contractor, who always takes readers on a great ride as he battles the bad guys. Greaney describes it as “a cat and mouse adventure story as people go after this particular guy. Everyone is after Fan, the Chinese government hacker, because if he defects he becomes like a virus to the Chinese. Because Gentry is a contractor the CIA can use him as a deniable asset, remaining on the periphery. He utilizes the CIA and vice versa for them.” The action begins on page one and never lets up. The CIA has hired Gentry to find Fan Jiang, a Chinese hacker and an information technology specialist, who is trying to defect to Taiwan after he escapes from the Chinese government. Geo-politics comes into play as both the Russians and Americans race to capture him for his knowledge of the Chinese systems. But also in the mix are Chinese agents who are attempting to assassinate Fan before he divulges any state secrets. He used the Asia setting to give a shout out to Vietnam veterans. “I wrote Gentry’s father as a Marine Scout sniper who fought combat missions around Da Nang. I wrote Gentry traveling to this area because it is a connection between him and his father. When someone mentions Vietnam you don’t think of a nation, but of a war. I also wanted to show that currently Vietnam is a place where many westerners travel. I wanted to travel to Vietnam, but needed ankle surgery so I could not go. While writing a Clancy novel I did a lot of research on Hong Kong and Beijing. These are all interesting places to me and I knew I wanted them all as a setting for a Gray Man book. The people, buildings, architecture, and crowds would be fun to place in an action-packed novel.” Against seemingly overwhelming odds Gentry must use his wits and moral code to complete the mission. The characters in this novel are very well developed. The Gray Man is a complex figure that allows readers to root for someone with integrity. He is a good person who must do some bad things to succeed. The female lead is Zoya Zakharova, the beautiful Russian foreign intelligence agent assigned to bring Fan Jiang to Russia. She’s Gentry’s one adversary who is his equal, a female “Gray Man,” a kindred spirit. Readers will hope that she and Gentry are put together in future books because the interaction between them is superb. The Gray Man is “based on individuals who never stand out. I found out about this term when I did my research. It is someone in the military or intelligence that moves around in a low profile. He physically moves around without drawing a lot of attention to himself. Regarding his personality, his moral compass does not always point North. Not a black hat versus a white hat; there is a lot of gray. Even though he sometimes does bad things he is still seen as a good guy.” As with all of Gray Man books, the excitement, tension, and action are never ending. There is never a dull moment. Continue reading
Posted Feb 18, 2017 at BlackFive
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The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar. Racing The Devil by Charles Todd is a vintage novel. This mother/son team returns to the scenario that made them so well read. They have an action packed plot with characters that are intensely well liked or disliked. As in all their books many of the characters bear the internal and external scars of the War. World War I becomes a reality with its impact on the English society at large. The setting places a prominent role in the book because it adds to the powerful plot. The Todds noted, “We wanted to write a story around this setting. As we came up with a plot it was like solving a puzzle, putting in what fits and taking out what doesn’t.” The book begins with a group of English officers promising to return after the war to meet in Paris to race their motorcars to Nice. In 1919 that promise becomes a reality until serious mishaps mar the reunion when two vehicles are nearly run off the road. Nothing comes of it until one year later when another mishap with a car kills the rector of a village of Burling Gap in the South Downs. After the local constable asks Scotland Yard for assistance, Inspector Ian Rutledge is sent in to investigate. He uncovers a possible connection between the deaths of the rector and those in the race. He has to put the pieces together to find out who was the intended target, was it mistaken identity or was the rector the intended victim? The theme explores why a perfectly normal human being will resort to murder. “As we wrote this novel we wondered what has changed them so drastically in their life that they see no other way out but to kill another human being. It goes back to one of the seven deadly sins. It was fun to write how the different interactions and relationships of the characters intertwined depending on their life experiences.” Each character in the book whether main or a supporting was extremely well developed and played an intricate role in the plot. The antagonist is very evil as he lurks in the shadows. This faceless killer is willing to strike again as he attacks Rutledge to stop him, and kidnaps a child. Rutledge realizes he will need all his skills to stop the murderer before other lives are sacrificed. The female characters show the reality of how the Great War affected society. Jen, a teenage girl, had to grow up way too fast after having her brothers killed in the war. She lost her childhood as she helped her mother tend to the land of a retired Captain, an aristocratic employer. He broke off his engagement because of war injuries and his former fiancé had no other suitors. Ginger the dog showed how animals can read people and their loyalty is a trait to be admired. A cameo appearance by Melinda Crawford fits perfectly into the plot. The Todds commented, “England lost an entire generation of men who either died or were severely wounded. Many women ended up as spinsters for the rest of their lives, while others never remarried. If you look at the registries there are entire lines of titles that ceased to exist because there was no one to pass it on to.” When asked the importance of dogs, the authors said that it was a way “for us to speak with a person in England. Since the culture will not allow you just to go up to someone, we were able to do it if they had a dog. We started a conversation by talking to the dog, telling it how cute it was. The next thing you know they are telling you about their great uncle and how they suffered in World War I.” Racing The Devil is a gripping novel that readers will not want to put down. The many twists and turns add to the gripping plot. Readers will see the many sides of Rutledge as he helps solve the mystery. This psychological thriller includes murder, fear, and suspicion, all set up by a chance meeting. Continue reading
Posted Feb 18, 2017 at BlackFive
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The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar. Readers had to wait two years for the latest Deborah Crombie book, Garden Of Lamentations, but it was well worth it. This plot follows the unanswered questions from Crombie’s last novel, Dwell In Darkness. People might remember how Detective Superintendent Duncan Kincaid had not solved the loose ends in the last novel. He is still troubled by a grenade attack, a devastating fire, and the odd behavior of his boss, Chief Superintendent Denis Childs. The author had the idea from “an article about the undercover British police officers for the special branch. It referred to the abuse of power by the police with no oversight. I thought it fascinating to explore those who thought it morally wrong to do what they were asked to do. They had undercover spies in campaign groups.” Crombie explained why the long delay, “This book just was really hard to write. I struggled in how I would wrap up the continuing story arc. It was hard to figure out how all the different parts of the story would fit together and how other parts would be resolved. I did not want to make it boring for those who read the previous books and to make sense for those who would read it as a stand-alone. It is really a delicate balance to provide the backstory without slowing the current plot down.” All the unanswered questions come to a resolution in this story including Kincaid’s investigation of police corruption. But there are also sub-plots that stand on their own. His wife, Detective Inspector Gemma James is investigating the death of a young nanny in the locked Cornwall Gardens, in Notting Hill. These two investigations create an intense mystery, especially since this lack of communication added to the tension in the novel. Commenting on the setting, “I made the Gardens fictional. The general place is now a housing complex at this stop. I used my writer’s power to make the place pretty. It serves as a character in the book. I chose to make the houses and gardens the way I wanted.” Duncan and James are no longer working together, which meant that they didn’t interact very much throughout the book. He is hiding his growing suspicions for fear of endangering his family, which creates an emotional divide between them. Gemma misreads her husband’s attempt to protect her, believing instead that they are drifting apart, originally caused when they started to each put their career and children before one other. The author said, “Relationships take a beating in this book: Duncan and Gemma, Duncan and Doug, Doug and Melody. I am thinking in the next book to send them off to the country house of Melody’s parents where they must all work together to solve a case.” This novel has plenty of twists and surprises involving the cautionary tale about the abuse of power. It is not only plot driven, but character driven as well where both the relationships and story make for an intense read. Continue reading
Posted Feb 11, 2017 at BlackFive
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The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar. Law And Disorder by Heather Graham is a mystery set in Florida. It blends suspense, romance, and action. What make this book standout are the clues spread throughout the story so that the reader can try to find the buried treasure along with the characters. For those fans of the actress who starred in Austin Powers this is not her. The story begins with the kidnapping by a group of thugs of a well-to-do Floridian, Kody Cameron. She is taken to a historical house and becomes a victim with the rest of the working staff. Each thug has decided to use the 1930s gangster names as their alias. Their goal is to have Kody translate a map and find where the stolen money has been placed. After some time her instincts lead her to believe it is buried in the Everglades. What makes matters more intense is that some of the kidnappers are ruthless, crazy, and unpredictable. Lucky for her, one of them is Nick Connolly, an FBI agent who has gone undercover. His decision to follow his own rules makes for many action scenes. Graham has included many historical details about Florida, which allowed the reader to feel as if they were there. “Florida is my home and I used very unique properties. The house in the beginning of the story is loosely based on an Italian mansion. I also used as inspiration the Biltmore Hotel since Al Capone stayed there. I drew upon local lore and legend. I hope the setting was as unique as the characters.” The actual crime in this novel is very intriguing. It is definitely plot based with the setting a major part of the story. Continue reading
Posted Feb 11, 2017 at BlackFive
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The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar. Three Days In January: Dwight Eisenhower’s Final Mission by Bret Baier is a very informative book. Readers learn about the time, not by being pounded over the head with facts and figures, but through the personalities themselves. The issues discussed in the book come right out of today’s headlines. Mr. Baier is the Chief Political Anchor for Fox News Channel and the Anchor and Executive Editor of Special Report with Bret Baier. What is fascinating is how he takes readers on a journey of the time period between Eisenhower’s last days in office and JFK’s inauguration. The book also reflects on the influences in his life from growing up in Kansas to the Supreme Commander during WWII to the election of 1952. The book opens with the meeting on December 6th, 1960 between the outgoing President Eisenhower and the incoming President-elect JFK. Thinking Kennedy too green he dismissed the younger Kennedy as ineffective. JFK with his charm, young family, and ready to implement the New Frontier was the direct opposite of the older and less flamboyant Dwight Eisenhower. Baier noted, “The media storm around Kennedy was so effective and biased it swept the general public up in its wave. People were persuaded that Eisenhower was nothing more than a historical artifact.” The book also compares Eisenhower to America’s first President, George Washington. They shared the same qualities of being good listeners, reflective, confident, persuasive, and understanding of the larger picture. Baier feels they “were kindred spirits. Both were generals who did not seek out the public limelight, but eventually chose to run for President. They wanted to empower people. What Washington expressed in his farewell address resonated with Eisenhower, the need to protect the freedoms of Americans.” Throughout the book there are similarities between the election of Dwight Eisenhower and Donald Trump. “I wrote how Ike was not a traditional politician, something that appealed to his supporters. He criticized on the campaign trail the bureaucracies. In fact he joked before a trip to Philadelphia about a thirty-five page set of logistics, ‘politics is a funny thing. Thirty-five pages to get me into Philadelphia. The invasion of Normandy was on five pages.’ Another comparison is that both elections were referendums on the Democratic Party that had been in power for a long time.” Eisenhower was told not to go into the Democratic stronghold of the South, while Trump was told the same about Michigan and Pennsylvania. Interesting how neither candidate took the advice and forced their opposition to devote more time and money in those areas. He describes the similarities between past and present candidates: “Both are outsiders, non-politicians. In fact, Eisenhower was the last one before Trump. They are unconventional Republicans, despise labels, despise political ideology, and operated out of patriotic feelings. The difference is in tone, tenor, and how they communicate.” There is also the comparison in that both attempted to drain the swamp. Eisenhower favored practical tacticians, a matter of getting people who could get things done. Sound familiar? “I describe in the book how Eisenhower had picked a cabinet of eight millionaires and a plumber, the Secretary of Labor Martin Durkin. He also chose as his Secretary of Defense, Charlie Wilson, the former CEO of General Motors, and businessman George Humphrey as Secretary of the Treasury. The one contrast was that he did not have any other military people in the cabinet, other than himself.” Baier furthermore explained to blackfive.net that the reason for not having any other military people was that “he did not want it to look like a take over of the military or a war cabinet. He was a man who craved peace.” It seems that the former President would agree that anyone who has been to war themselves knows what it is like. They are probably the most reluctant to send troops into a war. What Donald Trump should do is read this book, because it shows how Eisenhower in his Farewell Address wanted to provide a blueprint on where America should be headed and a warning to President-elect Kennedy. “I wrote the dedication of the book to my sons, hoping they and their generation would allow history to inform their decisions in the future. For example, the Cold War when he attempted to soften the hard line with Russia. He wanted to reduce the inflammatory rhetoric constantly tempering his words about common values built from within rather than based on abhorrence of the other. Yet, he was not naïve and felt we should have our eyes wide open. The advice he gave to Kennedy could apply to Donald Trump today. ‘Don’t go to any meeting with the Russians too early; get your sea legs first. Otherwise you will be eaten alive.’” Baier summarizes the speech by describing Eisenhower as “a whistle-blower. He strove a balance between military strength and domestic needs. If America should get involved in a crisis, we should use overwhelming force, but there is no need to get involved everywhere in the world. Future Presidents should have a balance, listening to dissenting views, and work in a bi-partisan way to get things done.” This is a masterful piece of history in the understanding of President Eisenhower. It is a gripping read with a lot of detailed facts that are both interesting and informative, but definitely not boring. Continue reading
Posted Jan 30, 2017 at BlackFive
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The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar. Silver City by Jeff Guinn is a fascinating historical western that blends action and adventure with factual information. He is not a stranger to westerns, having written two other novels in this series and a non-fiction book about the shootout at the O.K. Corral. In this story revenge and vengeance take center stage. Readers might remember that the male lead, Cash McLendon is on the run, as he tries to hide from a murderous thug, Killer Boots. His former employer, a powerful St. Louis businessman, wrongly blames him for the death of his drug-addicted daughter. In addition, Cash is attempting to win over Gabrielle Tirrito, the woman he initially wanted to wed but spurned when he was pressured to marry into wealth and prestige. After being seen as a reluctant hero of the epic Indian battle at Adobe Walls, he has journeyed to Mountain View in the Arizona Territory with one goal: to convince Gabrielle Tirrito that he is a changed man and win her back from schoolteacher Joe Saint. Killer Boots, aka Patrick Brautigan kidnaps Gabrielle to force Cash to trade himself for the love of his life. He, his good friend Major Mulkins, and his rival for Gabrielle Joe Saint hit the trail in pursuit of Killer Boots, hoping to make a trade before it’s too late. The book has very well developed characters. Gabrielle is seen as a tough, intelligent, and independent. Cash is an opportunist, caring, who grows in character with each book. Joe Saint is resentful, manipulative, who uses guilt to get his way, and spineless. The antagonist Killer Boots is fierce, frightening, without any moral code. He subdues his victims using overwhelming intimidation, both psychologically and physically. There is also the terrain, which in many ways is a character as well. It plays a role with the overwhelming dust, mountain range, and floods. Readers get a sense of the setting, feeling as if they were there, while getting a flavor of what the Arizona frontier was like. The provinces displayed are mining towns where prospectors were able to hike into the nearby mountains to find silver and gold. Guinn describes Silver City as “a seedy hell hole run by a corrupt sheriff. Towns that sprung up around mineral strikes either aspired to sophistication or descend into anarchy. I hoped I provided real historical context that contrasted Mountain View and Silver City. Mountain View was a sophisticated town that had bowling alleys, ice cream parlors, and eventually libraries. There was also Clantonville where Newman, Ike, and Finn tried to establish a town controlled by them. They are typical of a group of individuals who came into the frontier to make their own fortune.” Quinn furthermore pointed out to blackfive.net how “the women throughout the frontier are the ones who actually made the settlements something more than bare subsistence. The men brought in the economic system while the women brought in the culture and lifestyle. In this book Gabrielle is working at a hotel at the same time she is helping to organize a library system for the community. In the first book, Glorious, the character Sydney Chow provided laundry services, but also much needed medical care. By the way she is not gone and will be heard from again.” Readers will enjoy an action packed book, but also enjoy how the author intertwines into the plot the Western history, culture, and influences. These books of western fiction are based on real history that gives readers a feel for the frontier. Continue reading
Posted Jan 22, 2017 at BlackFive
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The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar. Small Admissions by Amy Poeppel is a study of the high-school admissions process with perspectives by four women who are connected by blood, friendship, and ex-boyfriends. The story is enduring for those who understand about entitlement, but beyond that there is the personal story of Kate, the main character. The author created the story about eight years ago, “After we moved to New York City we started the interview process to see which school was best for our children. Unfortunately, my husband and I were really bad at it. After thinking about it, I started writing comedic parent interviewing scenes. Using humor for dialogue I turned those into a play for the Actor’s Studio, and then into a novel. My experiences led me to take prospective parents on tours at the school we sent my son to. One thing led to another and I ended up applying for a job in the admission’s office. Then all of a sudden I was on the other side of the desk, as I was seeing it from the school’s perspective instead of the parents.” The plot begins with Kate being dumped by her fiancé. Her life is in disarray where she prefers to stay hidden in her apartment until her sister gets her a job interview. Although Kate gives completely inappropriate and not politically correct answers she somehow gets the job. This becomes a springboard for Kate getting back on her feet as she uses the position to regain her confidence. She takes the job as an assistant admissions officer at the prestigious private New York Hudson Day School. Readers are taken on a hilarious ride as they explore the absurd competitive world between the prospective students and parents. Kate begins to understand that she was wallowing in self-pity and decides to change her life around. She starts to piece her life back together and figure out exactly what she wants. Between Kate’s relationships and the different personalities of the children/parents, as well as the school, it becomes obvious this book is an examination of human nature. Poeppel hopes readers will get out of the book, “A fun peek at this crazy private school world. I tried to show humor in the situation where people get into such frenzy over it. Readers should question, what are the criteria in how we evaluate people financially, socially, and educationally? What are our priorities? Who do we want to impress and with what matrix?” The exploration of the different personalities of each character enhances the plot. Kate is intelligent, unorthodox, and caring. She is contrasted with her ex-fiancé who is narcissistic and does not care if he hurts those around him. Her sister Angela is like many older siblings who always has their younger ones best interests at heart; even though at times they can be seen as overbearing. The rest of the characters, college friends of Kate, have their own heartbreaks and hidden secrets. Poeppel told blackfive.net, “Kate is imperfect and makes mistakes, but overcomes adversity. She must handle acceptance and rejection in her professional and personal life. She took three steps forward and one step backward. Because of her job she gained confidence and accomplishment. The springboard of her job forced her to talk and listen to people.” Small Admissions is not just about the process of applying to a private school it is also about how each character looked within to find their faults and strengths. The core of the story is about friendship and family, disappointments and joy. Continue reading
Posted Jan 17, 2017 at BlackFive
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The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar. Duplicity by Ingrid Thoft is an informative and gripping novel about abuse. It brings back Fina Ludlow, an outcast in her own family, and a fighter for justice. It is very interesting how Thoft intertwines a murder mystery while having readers question organized religion and abuse. There are many similarities where people learn facts about a community or person; yet, choose to ignore it. These two seemingly unrelated plots come together as Fina must convince those who have this information and facts to act upon it. It is a wonderful story about what is right and wrong within the context of religion and life itself. Thoft got the idea for the story in reading about “a Seattle Church that imploded. Although the Covenant Rising Church was Evangelical what was put forth in the book could be applied to any religion. I wondered what happens to people when the cornerstone of their experience doesn’t turn out to be what they thought. I am fascinated with the idea of mega churches where it is about faith, but also is about money and power, especially those personalities that rise to the top who are very charismatic. I also thought of what happened in Penn State. So many people chose not to do anything because of money, position, and power. It blows my mind how people got this information and chose to ignore it. They did their minimal duty and had the attitude of washing their hands from it. It was as if they did not want to upset the apple cart.” The story begins as Fina and her dad, the head attorney in the high-powered personal injury law firm, meet with his old flame, Ceci, who asks that they investigate the Covenant Rising Church. Ceci’s daughter wants to bequeath a large amount of expensive property to them. Fina finds the Church has a slick chauvinistic pastor whose wife has her own infidelities. In addition, both have suspiciously used the donations for luxury cars, a vacation home, and a fancy house. After a prominent Church member dies unexpectedly, one Fina was to meet with; she becomes more suspicious of the Church’s undertakings. The investigation uncovers misguided loyalties and questionable motivations. This is rivaled only by Fina’s own family problems, her abusive brother Rand, who she is trying to build a case against. According to the author, “The common thread is where lots of people knew things, but did nothing about it. I questioned ‘at what moment do people speak up and say something is wrong?’ The dynamics of power, status, and social interaction influence how people make difficult decisions. You cannot always believe with blind faith and look the other way. We must keep our moral compass and allow dissent. Should you subvert your critical thinking to fit in or subvert your judgment?” Fina is someone that not only stands up for herself, but also for those who she feels cannot speak for themselves. She has a strong sense of justice that spurs her to, at times, act above the law. She is independent, headstrong, focused, and loyal. Being a non-conformist, even within her own family sometimes makes her feel lonely and unaccepted. In this book she is not left in a good place as she tries to deal with family issues and why she prefers not settling down to a typical domestic life. Duplicity delves with serious topics, but the banter between the characters and Fina’s sarcastic demeanor present a welcome release. Readers will question along with Fina the true meaning of faith and are given access to all the dynamics within her dysfunctional family. In addition the murder mystery is very riveting. Continue reading
Posted Jan 15, 2017 at BlackFive
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Enhanced Interrogation by James Mitchell with Bill Harlow discusses the EITs. Having spent years training US military personnel to resist questioning he explains the procedures, safeguards, and the results from the interrogation program. Being on the front lines Mitchell personally questioned thirteen of the most senior high-value detainees in U.S. custody, including Abu Zubaydah; Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, the amir or "commander" of the USS Cole bombing; and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind behind the September 11, 2001, terror attacks. Mitchell is a psychologist who served twenty-two years in the Air Force and who helped develop the CIA’s interrogation program. He only dealt with the top-tier terrorists and by his own admission has spent more time with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM) than other interrogators. He helped incorporate some of the harsh techniques employed by the US military SERE schools. He told blackfive.net, these survival, evasion, resistance, and escape techniques had been used for over five decades without significant injuries to “train warfighters to protect secrets. I had been subjected to them myself, had used them to train others, and helped the Air Force Survival School revise its approach to resistance training after the first Gulf War.” Readers will understand that EITs, when applied correctly, were useful in drawing detainees to cooperate, and, when applied incorrectly, they were counter-productive. He was particularly critical of Ali Soufan, a former FBI special agent who first interrogated Abu Zubaydah at a CIA black site in Thailand. Soufan, a darling of the Left, said the rapport-building techniques he used when he questioned Abu Zubaydah resulted in a huge intelligence score: the identity of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed versus what the CIA was doing in using “borderline torture techniques,” which made Zubaydah not cooperate. Not true, says Mitchell, and recounts in his book, “Zubaydah shut down after Soufan called him a son of a b---- and then tried to bribe him. He thinks he buddied up with him after offering him spiritual guidance. This is ridiculous. Zubaydah later told me he did it because if talking about religion then he was not speaking about operations.” Mitchell thinks “too much has been made of waterboarding. Of 1623 days in CIA custody only 14 days was he subjected to EITs. People are focusing on two weeks out of years. The CIA made sure to have doctors to evaluate the detainees before and after the interrogations to prevent long-term mental and physical problems. When you hear about Zubaydah’s mental problems, remember he wrote in his diaries about how he faked mental issues.” What did work, according to Mitchell, was President George W. Bush’s response. “The swiftness and veracity put the terrorists off balance. KSM told me, ‘How was I supposed to know that cowboy George Bush would announce he wanted us ‘dead or alive’ and then invade Afghanistan to hunt us down?’ He made it clear that had the US treated 9/11 like a law enforcement matter, he would have had time to launch a second wave of attacks.” KSM also predicted how those in the press and some in the political arena would turn on the interrogators who took aggressive action to prevent other attacks on Americans. Mitchell is especially critical of the Democrats, notably Senator Feinstein who “set us up as the fall guys. They were writing things in official reports that were inaccurate and misleading without giving us a chance to defend ourselves. Her report has stirred up the crazies and Jihadists, essentially issuing a Fatwa against everyone and me, past or present, working to protect Americans from Jihadist terrorist attacks. In fact, Feinstein staffers on ‘deep background’ outted me.” He wants Americans to understand that the media, the Obama Administration, and some Democrats “live in a bubble of protection provided by the men and women who are willing to sacrifice their lives. Yet, they will throw them under the bus afterwards so they can claim the moral high ground. In my mind, the temporary discomfort of a terrorist who has voluntarily taken up arms to destroy our way of life does not outweigh my moral obligation to do what I can to save hundreds, maybe thousands of people. Good luck finding anyone who will actually use EIH if asked to. As General Michael Hayden said, ‘you better bring your own bucket and rubber boots.’” In this gripping and illuminating book people will get a glimpse into the thoughts of high-ranking terrorists, an explanation of what was done to get them to talk, and a front seat view of how some on the Left would rather turn the Jihadists into victims rather than perpetrators. Enhanced Interrogation is an outstanding explanation and understanding of what is needed to keep America safe. Continue reading
Posted Jan 9, 2017 at BlackFive
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The Guests On South Battery by Karen White is part paranormal, mystery, historical, with a little romance. Readers will be kept enthralled with the scenes of historic Southern houses and spooky happenings. White has done a lot of research on the subject of ghosts. “I describe this series as ‘my Sixth Sense meets National Treasure meets Moonlighting series.’ There were certain parameters I wanted to include in this series: It had to be in the South with the city old, charming, and having a lot of historical significance. I wanted to set the plot around haunted houses. Every culture, every religion has them existing. I think there is a lot about the universe we do not understand. So yes, I do like the possibility. I do think people can communicate with the dead and I find it fascinating.” The mystery begins after a young woman, Jayne Smith, is bequeathed a home in Charleston by someone she does not know. Questions arise as to why she randomly inherited this house and what is her relationship with the spirits who do not want her to inhabit it? She seeks out Melanie Middleton, a Charleston realtor, who specializes in historic real estate. She also has a hatred for old houses because she sees dead people come alive. White’s details about the architecture, history, old historic houses including hidden passages and other fixtures, make the story even more riveting. Jayne and Melanie become kindred spirits after Melanie hires her as a nanny. Intertwined within this ghostly story is also the theme of family. The different relationship dynamics are fascinating. Both Melanie and Jayne have abandonment issues; Melanie is insecure about her husband Jack; and her mother is struggling to make up for lost time now that she is back in her daughter’s life. According to White, “Melanie, as a young child, was abandoned by her mother, but it was done to save her. Because Melanie’s alcoholic father raised her she had to be the adult in the relationship. Her sense of insecurity stems from this. She has two personalities, the public and private. Outwardly she appears strong and competent, but inside she is like a quivering bowl of Jello: neurotic, OCD, and a control freak.” This book is an excellent read. It seems any Karen White book never disappoints with her spellbinding plot and cast of characters. The charm of the series is the relationships the main character Melanie has with friends and family. Continue reading
Posted Jan 9, 2017 at BlackFive
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The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar. Her Every Fear by Peter Swanson delves into the human psyche and the mind of a serial killer. The story’s strength is with the character’s thoughts. By having four different narratives readers are able to understand the complete picture of the disturbing circumstances of the plot. Swanson noted, “The idea for this story has been rattling around in my head for awhile. Originally I was going to write it as a romance where two people swapped apartments, never met, but somehow fell in love. The more I thought about it the more I thought it should be a murder mystery. Then it all clicked, where a woman moves into her cousin’s apartment and the day she arrives a corpse is discovered next door.” There are just a few times in the story that people might need to suspend belief, as the main character, Kate Priddy, becomes a psychopath’s magnet. After being traumatized by an abusive boyfriend she escapes to Boston, MA to try to gain some perspective. Kate is able to leave her home in London when she and her cousin, Colin, decide to exchange apartments. Soon after her arrival she finds her neighbor, Audrey, has been murdered with the person of interest, her cousin Corbin. To make matters worse she meets Alan Cherney, a handsome, quiet tenant who lives across the courtyard, in the apartment facing Audrey’s. He confesses to Kate that he was drawn to Audrey and basically stalked her from afar. The suspense ratchets up when Kate’s fears, brought on from her intense panic attacks, become well founded as a serial killer, Henry, targets her for his next victim. This story is reminiscent of Alfred Hitchcock. Rear Window, Dial M For Murder and Wait Until Dark come to mind. Drawing inspiration from other movies and books Swanson commented, “When growing up I loved Roald Dahl, The Hardy Boys, and Nancy Drew. I also watched my first Hitchcock movie, Rope, around the age of ten. It had a scene in it where two college students strangle their victim. I wanted to play off this relationship in my story, having an alpha and beta psychopath with Corbin as the beta and Henry as the alpha. This is definitely a story about the damage men can inflict on women. Besides Rope the other Hitchcock movies that influenced the story are Rebecca, with the setting becoming an important element, and Dial M For Murder where the villain does not look like a villain. Since I have seen all 53 of his films I hope to put in my books his mode of suspense.” This book has readers invested in the characters. It is a psychological study of obsessive relationships that include Allen with Audrey, Corbin and Henry, and her ex-boyfriend George with Kate. It is a story of betrayal and revenge where monsters lurk under every bed. Continue reading
Posted Jan 9, 2017 at BlackFive
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The following is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar. Curtain Of Death by W.E.B. Griffin and William Butterworth IV present a fact filled novel about the early days of what will become the CIA. Even though the period between WWII and the Cold War is intense in itself these authors were able to make the plot even more riveting. The story reflects Griffin’s own experiences during the mid 1940s in war torn Germany. It becomes obvious that the clandestine agents must not only deal with the Nazis trying to escape to Latin America, but an entirely different kind of war. The enemy has changed, the rules have changed; and the stakes have never been higher. The time is January 1946, the setting Munich Germany, and the protagonists are the men and women fighting a covert war. The plot begins with two WACs and intelligence analysts kidnapped by four KGB agents. Unfortunately for them one of the women, Claudette Colbert, hid a pistol in her bra, and shoots three of her assailants, wounding a fourth. Readers take the journey with the DCI-Europe unit as they navigate through the conflicts within the different US agencies and with the two logistical enemies, Russia and the Nazis. Curtain of Death is a novel that mixes intrigue and diplomacy within a suspenseful and enthralling story. An added bonus is the sarcasm and humor sprinkled throughout the scenes. Q/A with the authors below: Elise Cooper: Can you tell us what is true in the book? W.E.B. Griffin: I was there when I was a kid. I knew and saw a lot. The Nazi General Reinhard Gehlen, who became the head of German intelligence in the, 1940s, did work for us to save his people from the Russians. Also true are the Operations OST, Paperclip, and Odessa. EC: What about the women characters? W.E.B: We also had many good women who played a prominent role in 1940s Germany as spies and intelligence analysts. Characters in the story like my fictional Claudette Colbert were real and did carry pistols, but the idea of her hiding it in her brassiere was mine. They did this because we could not afford to have them kidnapped. Seven-K was a character I created. She was based on some Mossad agents who did work with us in exchange for getting Zionists out of Russia. William Butterworth IV: There are fascinating stories of women spies in the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the predecessor to the CIA, and their missions are the stuff of legend. Yet the contributions made by the 4,000 women, including Julia Child and Marlene Dietrich are largely unheralded. Exceptions include Elizabeth McIntosh’s book Women of the OSS: Sisterhood Of Spies. EC: Can you explain this quote from the book, “The DCI itself-was that its formation was going to displease the Pentagon, the Navy, the State Department, and the FBI, all of whom had urged the President to disestablish the OSS and have its functions transferred to them.” W.E.B: President Truman realized putting the OSS out of business was a mistake. He created the DCI under his buddy Rear Admiral Sidney Souers, who formerly worked in insurance. He was in charge for about eighteen months, but then wanted to go back to his profession to make some money. Truman allowed them to do anything they wanted, but they were not allowed to tell anyone else what to do. Unfortunately, there was no cooperation among the units. Truman purposely kept Central Intelligence out of everyone’s hands but his. This caused bureaucratic infighting, because Truman made sure he kept the sole control. EC: You interject humor in the story? W.E.B: I love to write humor. If I could make a living doing it that is all I would write. The happiest period of my life is when I was writing the sequels to MASH. I was able to ridicule everyone. EC: What is the difference between the CIC and the DCI? IV: CIC is the Counterintelligence Corps and the DCI is the Directorate of Central Intelligence. The DCI is the fictional name in the series for what became the Central Intelligence Agency. EC: Is the story based on anyone? IV: Dad said he subconsciously wrote in part, about Rene J. Defourneaux, and called their relationship cousin-like. He was an Army OSS Second Lt. and later became a legendary US Army intelligence officer. Like a lot of highly intelligent spooks he also had a terrific sense of humor. I am intrigued by the history and stories of these men and women. EC: What is the process you both use to write the books together? W.E.B: We talk a lot. I send to him a chapter and he tells me what he thinks: ‘don’t do this’ or ‘do this’. One of us will write 90% of a book and the other 10%, and then it reverses with another book. Billy is a very good editor and had been one for sixteen years before we began working together on a daily basis. IV: Dad lived this period, knew the principles from having worked with General White and others, so he wrote most of this book. And I added what I could. A good editor has an invisible hand in the work, making suggestions and edits that help the story without changing the writer’s distinctive voice. EC: Speaking of edits, would you ever put in the front of the book a list of characters and their relevance? IV: I can see it as possibly a companion book, but do not like doing that because it bogs down the story. THANK YOU!! Continue reading
Posted Dec 30, 2016 at BlackFive
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The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar. How Will I know You by Jessica Treadway is not just a crime story, but is also has a psychological aspect. The storyline refers to a small town community where everyone knows everyone else’s business. This time around, Treadway decided to have multiple narrators telling the story ranging from a teenage girl, black graduate student, a middle-aged art teacher, to a policeman. The plot begins where a high school teenager, Joy Enright, in upstate New York is found in a pond strangled to death. Martin Willett, her mother’s teaching assistant and lover has been accused of the crime. The arresting officer, interim police chief Doug Armstrong, has his own agenda for solving the crime quickly. He is hopeful that the town board will appoint him the full-time police chief. Treadway noted, “ The premise for the book came from two places. Several years ago a family I knew went out ice-skating. They all fell under but one of the daughters slipped away and drowned in the pond. I was haunted for years by this family’s grief. Then there is a well-known murder case in Massachusetts where a mother dropped her teenage daughter off at her lifeguard job. She disappeared and was never found. I decided to make the pond the focus of the drama involving a girl who first disappears and then is found murdered. My previous novels are based on actual incidents, but this one was much more my imagination.” Most of the characters appear to have their own set of problems. Joy wants to be part of the in-crowd and has turned into someone mean and nasty, compromising her own values. Her mother, Suzanne, is an elitist who had an affair to reconnect with her artistic self. Allison, the daughter of Doug, is a daddy’s girl who makes her husband feel inferior to her father. Each is affected by their decisions that have huge consequences. This novel strings together small town secrets leading readers to the conclusion of the plot where the truth behind Joy’s killer is revealed. It is a study of how humans react under pressure. Continue reading
Posted Dec 27, 2016 at BlackFive
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The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar. The Soul Of A Seal by Anne Elizabeth has something for every type of reader. It is part adventure, part military thriller, part political, and has a steamy romance. If so inclined, people my want to skip some of the hot and heavy physical intimacy and concentrate on the extensive and detailed scenes of space, shuttle design, and the training involved. The book references different military settings, military issues, and historical events. Being married to a Vietnam veteran, a retired SEAL, she wants “to give insight into the SEAL community, respectful of our courageous souls, and to illustrate how hard and complicated dedication can be as well as how precious those peaceful moments are. There are basic facts that are true to all military life: struggles with marriage, family, relationships, money, health, and returning home. My husband told me that in my writing I should honor the community and country. I wanted to inform people about the challenges and to show their personal courage. The characters are based on real life former SEALs. I am very careful to craft a plot that does not hijack the veteran’s story so I only use elements of it.” The plot has a Navy SEAL, Captain Bennett Sheraton, sent to find out who is sabotaging a top-secret program that will allow him to captain a space shuttle. He becomes attracted to the lead scientist, Dr. Kimberly Warren. They must untangle if the culprit is a lone wolf or part of a major conspiracy involving different US agencies or foreign powers. The action and adventure comes from her personal experiences that include her flying an airplane, parachuting, and mountain biking. Anne is one of those authors who does not just do the talk, but have actually done the walk. She noted the fact versus fiction of the story. Fact: SEALs are on call 24/7 if they are in operational mode. Many SEALs desire to become astronauts after retiring and some have actually achieved that goal. At the end of the book Anne details the experiences of Chris Cassidy and William Shepherd. She also wants people to understand how “Underwater Demolition Team Frogmen, precursors to the Navy SEALs played a key role during the Gemini and Apollo programs by leaping in the water to recover the capsule and help the astronaut.” On the other hand pure creative thought was the Lester Facility, a covert place that will launch hardware into space via the Warren shuttle. A powerful quote describes these silent fighters, both in real life and fiction. “The public would be unaware of the men’s pain and sacrifices. The selfless warrior did not require an accolade; rather, survival and success were the greatest gifts of all.” The author explained, “I hope readers are encouraged to learn more about the real life personalities of these men who contributed to the betterment of all humanity. They are my words but it is based on the SEALs who I know. Part of their motto is ‘never quit.’ They are not limelight guys but rather are quiet, humble, bold, strong, and brave.” This novel has elements of a thriller, science fiction, mystery, and romance. It is a good read to understand a little of the SEAL personality and missions, as well as the effect it has on th Continue reading
Posted Dec 27, 2016 at BlackFive
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The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar. The Seventh Plague by James Rollins blends scientific intrigue with a small dose of historical mystery. Unlike his other books this one has more of an emphasis on the science, both physical and biological. However, readers of Rollins’ books always learn from interesting facts within a gripping story and this novel is no different. This as well as the other books always has scenes between Commander Grayson Pierce and his father who has Alzheimer’s’ disease. Rollins believes he was influenced “by my father’s death during the course of writing this book. No author writes within a vacuum. This is reflected in the storyline, which started with the first book and the subsequent decline of his father. My own dad was my biggest promoter, and my loudest cheerleader.” The novel begins with an archeological dig in Egypt going very awry. Archeologist Harold McCabe is found stumbling out of the sands, but dies before he can tell his story. The mystery deepens when his body appears to have been mummified before his death. During the autopsy it becomes apparent that within is a deadly pathogen that threatens to cause a pandemic, with the virus spreading throughout the globe. It is airborne and highly contagious with a mortality rate similar to Ebola and somehow connected to the plagues listed in the book of Exodus. Turning to McCabe’s daughter Jen a connection is further discovered tying the current threat to Mark Twain and Nikola Tesla. The theory proposed in the book attributes an environmental change that turned the Nile red. The book speaks of the “algae blooms, bacteria growth, even heavy contaminations.” Rollins noted to blackfive.net, “I wanted to write a story about the book of Exodus that will try to prove the events depicted about Moses were factual. The scientific explanation for the plagues was due to a major climatic period of change within Mother Nature. This is a modern version of the cascade of events where I made the connection that it mimicked the ancient plagues.” Furthermore, Rollins explained why he included two famous historical figures. “I am a big Mark Twain fan. I like the fact he and Nikola Tesla were friends. Twain hung around his lab and did experiments with him. At the end of his life Tesla claimed of having a shocking discovery, a new energy source. The possibility became the ‘germ’ for this book. He had research surrounding energy and new electrical sources. He actually invented an alternating current, which is what we pretty much use in every single US household, the electrical infrastructure.” Through Sigma Force’s investigation a mysterious group of assassins is found that attempts to erase all evidence through destruction and death. Seichan is pitted against the Russian assassin Valya Mikhailov who can match her skill for skill while Commander Grayson tries to keep the scientists safe. On the other side of the globe Director Painter Crowe struggles to stop a mad genius locked within a remote Arctic engineering complex. Rollins, “I put in the sub-plot of how someone with a massive geo-engineering program could have things go terribly wrong if he succeeded. Global warming is happening, but my goal for this book is to show how geo-engineering is ignoring the change to the carbon in the atmosphere. Instead, they are going for the Hail Mary pass that includes wrapping a big blanket around Greenland.” He told of his next book projects: “Seichen and Vayla butting heads where Seichen represents the non-dark side and Vayla stayed in the shadows. There will be a resolution to their battle. This next Sigma book will bring back as a major character, Maria, the human mother of the gorilla Baako. It will involve a mystery surrounding the end of World War II. This one will be more historical. I am also writing by myself a Tucker and Kane book where Kane will get a girlfriend, a search and rescue dog. There is also talk, coming out in the summer, of a compilation of short stories in an anthology with a new novella added.” The Seventh Plague blends action, adventure, with a lot of science. It has an interesting premise based upon the reality of the plagues imposed by Moses on the Egyptians as well as informing readers about the Twain/Tesla relationship. Continue reading
Posted Dec 11, 2016 at BlackFive
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The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar. When All The Girls Have Gone by Jayne Ann Krentz leaves readers spell bound. Although billed as a suspense romance novel it can easily fit into the thriller category. As with the Columbo TV series there is very little attempt to hide the identity of the antagonist, but the motive and possible conspiracies are masked throughout much of the novel. Just when the reader thinks they had found the answers, the carpet is pulled from under them with a new set of questions. This is the first in a trilogy. Krentz noted to blackfive.net, “I am writing the other brother’s story as we speak. The third novel will resolve the evil cult mystery left over from this book. Each is a stand-alone with a mystery on to itself. There will be cameos from the characters of this first book. I really love that set-up of a private investigator series. Any mystery with a PI can handle more personal stories involving confidentiality, keeping secrets, and probing the personal corners of other people’s lives. This series is now a trilogy, but if it works it can be the core for a PI series.” This story has two plotlines that come together at the end. The plot begins with the possible murder of a woman and the disappearance of another. It appears that the one with all the answers is Jocelyn Pruett, but she has disappeared. A private detective, Max Cutler, is hired to find out why one woman was murdered and in the course of his investigation meets up with Charlotte Sawyer, the stepsister to Jocelyn. Together they search for answers and link the death and disappearance to an on-line based investment club and Jocelyn’s past of being a rape victim. They find that power, privilege, an escalating serial rapist, and a friend-enemy are all fighting to silence Charlotte and Max. An over-riding arc that will continue in this trilogy has three stepbrothers obsessed in trying to find out the cult leader who imprisoned them, and set a fire that ultimately killed others. Because they had no relatives the police chief who rescued them adopted the three and raised them as his sons. The question of what became of this cult leader has haunted the brothers. Max was affected so deeply he had to leave his criminal profiler job, got divorced, and relocated to Seattle. The theme of the novel involves deceptions, unanswered questions, and finding out the truth. Revenge, vigilante justice, and becoming avengers are the central part of the story. Something most readers can relate to is how “life passes in the blink of an eye.” Krentz feels the “avengers crossed the line to find justice and then became vigilantes, which is not healthy. This is why I could not make the heroine one of them. Her own core values would not allow that kind of justice that involves less than legal means. I wanted to show women are perfectly capable of thinking about revenge and will have their own way of doing it. I always believe that whoever plans revenge has a dark side. Vengeance is a dangerous thing and usually comes back to haunt you. Vigilantism is like the western story of meeting a guy in front of the saloon and shooting it out.” The two sisters appear to be as different as night and day. Jocelyn is flashy, an “A-list girl”, bold, and self-confident. Charlotte is seen as risk-averse, cautious, vulnerable, level headed, honest, and not spontaneous. She is in-sync in personality with Max who is also vulnerable, doubtful, a plodder, and comfortable enough with each other to share their past. As with all her books the characters grow throughout the story. “I had Jocelyn learn something about herself, which is she does need Charlotte as a sister of the heart. On the other hand, Charlotte learned that her inner strength was greater than she gave herself credit for. Most of us do not understand our own strength until something stresses us and then we have to deal with it. Regarding Max and Charlotte, Something I have in my books is how the relationship develops when the hero sees the strengths and the heroic qualities in the heroine and she sees those same qualities in him. Their story compliments each other. They share the common core values: courage, honor, determination, and the healing power of love.” This novel is a great read for fans of mysteries who will not be able to put the book down. The many twists and turns create an exciting plot with action building throughout the story. Continue reading
Posted Dec 11, 2016 at BlackFive