The Budapest Escape
A Cold War Thriller #3
Coffeetown Press, November 2019
The novel is set in the 1950s in a time of great turbulence in the world. The Soviet Union is showing cracks in its leadership. Tensions between the world powers are still evident and relationships between Allied nations are still settling down. Life and routines in the relatively young Central Intelligence Agency are still often experimental and somewhat uncertain.
The novel’s protagonist is Karl Baier, a CIA agent attempting to maneuver himself into a higher-level position, possibly Chief of Station. Meanwhile, turmoil rises in the Eastern European nations; Baier worries about his assets in Hungary and determines to rescue one of them before the revolution occurs and destroys nearly all social routine.
The potential for this novel to be a truly action and intelligence-filled narrative are all there. Unfortunately, in spite of a high degree of authenticity, and historical accuracy, the novel reads like the kind of reports government bureaucrats too often file. It is mostly devoid of emotion and the tension-filled moments are too often seen as if being observed from behind a screen. The history and circumstances of life during this period are accurate and interesting, but I would have preferred more terror, emotion, and human mistakes.
West of Famous
Compass Crimes #3
Joni M. Fisher
Joni M. Fisher, February 2019
A handsome evocative cover introduces a riveting tale of kidnapping, identity mistakes, the internal power of a young woman and the kind of inevitable encompassing efforts of law enforcement when called on.
Martina Ramos, a bright college graduate student is immersed in the college grind of prepping for exams at Oxford. Her college friends believe her on break, her family thinks she’s studying, nose to grindstone. Certain other friends believe she’s taking a brief break from a chance encounter with a pop star. The pop star needed a favor, a stand-in to take her place for a few weeks on the party circuit in south Florida. Martina fits the role to a T.
When she awakens in the foul hold of a boat anchored somewhere off the Florida coast, the number of people who truly know where she is has been reduced to three or maybe four. And they are not Martina’s friends.
What follows is a carefully designed, increasingly tense and terror filled effort to find the kidnapped college student while keeping her true identity secret, because her family doesn’t have the kind of ransom money being demanded.
As Martina’s family, experienced law enforcement and military types, come together with a small cadre of FBI agents, plans are formed to rescue the girl before her true identity is discovered and before the looming deadline for delivery of the ransom money arrives. The plans and movements which form the bulk of this well-written novel are carefully and logically laid out. Meanwhile, readers are treated to the terror-filled existence of the young girl, contrasted with her tough-minded cautious efforts to extricate herself from the clutches of the kidnappers. The possibility of death for the unfortunate girl is well-explicated in both narratives, that of her searchers and her own interactions with her captors.
The novel is peopled with a range of interesting individuals and their interactions are both logical and well-reasoned so that readers will be eminently satisfied as the resolution looms ever closer. A thoroughly enjoyable crime novel.