Book Review: The Alexandria Link by Steve Berry @penguinrandom

The Alexandria Link
Cotton Malone #2
Steve Berry
Ballantine Books, January 2007
ISBN 978-0-345-48575-5
Hardcover

Steve Berry is a celebrated writer of international thrillers and a New York Times bestselling author. He writes long and complicated novels, often with enough characters to fill a small assembly hall. So readers have to pay attention. This is not a criticism, just a comment that you shouldn’t pick up this novel looking for a quick beach read.

This novel concerns good folks and a lot of very bad guys in several of the major combatants of the Twenty-first Century, namely, the U.S., Britain, Palestine, Israel, and Austria. Within each of these nations operate nefarious criminals, secretive organizations, and talented individuals.

Cotton Malone, a former agent for the U.S. has retired to Copenhagen, Denmark, and become a bookseller. Malone has a secret—he is the keeper of a vital link to the location of the greatest, most complete library known to ancient man—the Alexandria Library. That collection of books and scrolls was created nearly two thousand years BCE, making it over four thousand years old and the repository of a great deal of the histories of our major religions and our very civilization.

The Alexandria Library supposedly contains knowledge that would resolve all of the questions and controversy about the Old Testament. People will do almost anything to acquire such knowledge, believing it will give them unlimited power and wealth. Malone’s ex-wife appears in his shop to tell him his son has been kidnapped and will only be returned safely if the kidnapper receives the key to the location of the library.

Malone’s quest to rescue his son, trap the bad guys and solve numerous other fraught problems is thus the substance of this well-written, convoluted, and complicated novel. Malone and the other characters encounter an amazing host of well-thought-out and dangerous situations that will keep readers attention.

There is a good deal of political intrigue and intrigue which may raise some hackles but I found it even-handed and well sorted. Criticism of all the political entities seems to me even-handed and largely accurate. A well-done, thoughtful, and intriguing work.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, November 2020.
http://www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com
Traces, Grand Lac, Reunion, Red Sky.

Book Reviews: Agent X by Noah Boyd, Little Girl Lost by Brian McGilloway, The Devil’s Edge by Stephen Booth, Call Me Princess by Sara Blaedel, and Where All the Dead Lie by J.T. Ellison

Agent X
Noah Boyd
Harper, August 2011
ISBN: 978-0-06-182703-7
Mass Market Paperback

Kate Bannon, the Assistant Director of the FBI who readers, and ex-FBI Agent Steve Vail, first met in this author’s The Bricklayer, returns, in fact, in the first sentence on the first page of this, the second in the series.  And a most welcome return it is, of those protags and the series itself. I am delighted to report that all the taut writing, suspense and wonderful characters of the initial book in the series are abundantly present in Agent X as well.

Vail, a maverick who can’t/won’t confirm to rules, was fired by the FBI five years previously.  He has since then been working at least nominally as a bricklayer [thus the title of the first book] and had met Kate in LA when they worked together on a case which had a successful conclusion, mostly due to his efforts.  [He was an ‘independent contractor’ of sorts in that instance for the FBI.]  They had dated for a while, until Kate broke it off.  Beyond the delightful banter, the two make for a terrific team as the FBI persuades Vail to head up their investigation into finding a number of agents to whom vital US secrets are just a commodity to be bartered.  As if that weren’t enough, Steve is asked by an agent who had been Vail’s partner several years back to assist with a case involving the disappearance of a female intelligence analyst.  As the tale unfolds, one thing becomes clear:  Very little is as it seems.

The Vail/Bannon relationship is an ambivalent one.  As is the Vail/FBI deal.  Bannon tells Vail:  “You have advanced degrees.  The director has offered you complete autonomy if you’ll come back to the Bureau, but instead you choose physical labor just so you won’t have to take orders. . . Not everyone who takes orders for a living is a mortal enemy of Steven Vail.”  The cleverly constructed sleuthing [which was a challenge at times for this reader, I must admit], and the occasional philosophical ruminations, make for a fascinating read.

Recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, July 2011.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Little Girl Lost
Brian McGilloway
Macmillan, May 2011
ISBN: 978-0-230-75336-5
Trade Paperback

[This title is presently only available in/through the UK,  not yet available in the US or Canada]

D.S. Lucy Black, of the Police Service of Northern Ireland and the daughter of police officers, in the midst of a search for a young girl, Kate McLaughlin, whose father is a prominent businessman, stumbles [almost literally] upon another young girl, wandering in what is termed an ‘ancient woodland,’ suffering severe hypothermia among other things due to her prolonged exposure to the elements in the brutal winter cold and snow.   The latter child is unidentified, and remains so despite pleas to the public and circulation through print media and televised press conferences of her information and photograph.  The only one to achieve any response from the girl, and that very limited, is Lucy.

Chief Superintendent Travers, of the CID, transfers Lucy, despite her desire for a post in the CID, to the Public Protection Unit “for the foreseeable future,” and assigns her to the case of the unidentified child.  Her position is made more complex than it otherwise might be by virtue of the fact that her mother is the Assistant Chief Constable.  Only in the division a month, Lucy has taken pains to keep that information hidden, made easier by the fact that her mother reverted to her own name when her parents divorced 14 years earlier.  The two investigations proceed side by side, the lines at times crossing from one to the other.  As the tale goes one, the heart-tugging stories of more than one other Little Girls Lost arise.

Lucy’s personal life intrudes on her work:  She had requested her present assignment because her father, an ex-cop for over twenty years, is now increasingly suffering from dementia, if not actually Alzheimer’s, and she has moved back to Derry after many years away.  Her relationship with both her parents is strained, to say the least, and becomes more so as the novel proceeds.  Derry is cited as “the birthplace of The Troubles,” and however long ago that era was, perhaps inevitably its presence is still very much a force in the lives of those who lived through it.  A fascinating novel, and recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, July 2011.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Devil’s Edge
Stephen Booth
Sphere, April 2011
ISBN: 978-1-84744-479-0
Hardcover

[This book is presently available only in/through the UK/CA, not yet available in the US]

Devil’s Edge is a fairly insular world, defined, geographically at least, by the cliff edges which surround it.  This book is, in a similar way, equally circumscribed.  As the reader is told on the opening page, “It was one of the drawbacks of living in the countryside.  Too much of the outside world intruding.  Too many things it was impossible to keep out.”  In this novel, the outside world, and the aspects of it one would most like to keep out, intrudes in the worst way.  On the eastern fringe of the Peak District, in the village of Riddings, in rural Derbyshire, there has been a rash of break-ins.  The burglars have been dubbed The Savages by the press. The newest incidents escalate the anxiety when they suddenly turn deadly.  The author speaks of the residents having sought sanctuary in the rural haven, noting, however, that “everyone had monsters in their lives.”  Suspicion turns from looking for an outside group of burglars to someone from within the community, targeting the victims, for reasons far more personal. Recently promoted D.S. Ben Cooper is assigned the investigation.  He, particularly, believes it is not the work of The Savages, being much more meticulously planned and leaving no trace of the culprit[s].

D.S. Diane Fry, formerly with the West Midlands Police “in the days before she transferred to yokel land,” is brought back into the squad to take over the investigation after an almost unimaginable turn of events changes Ben Cooper’s life forever.  Despite the past ambivalence of their relationship, where they were both vying for the same promotion, their usually well-concealed respect for each other is here on display.

The author’s descriptions bring the land to palpable life, e.g., “the distant rocky outcrops seemed to change shape.  They slid slowly sideways, merged and divided, their outlines shifting from smooth to jagged to a distinctive silhouette.  It was all the effect of altering angle and perspective.  With each step, a transformation took place inthe landscape, a gradual reveal like the slow drawing aside of a curtain.  At a point halfway across the flats, a split rock he hadn’t noticed before came into view.  As it emerged from behind a larger boulder, its two halves slowly parted and turned, like the hands of a clock creeping past noon.”  Simply gorgeous.  [The landscape, and the writing, that is.]

Recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, October 2011.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Call Me Princess
Sara Blaedel
Pegasus Crime, August 2011
ISBN: 978-1-60598-251-9
Hardcover

Though Sara Blaedel is the author of several books, and her novels are apparently consistently on the bestseller lists in her native Denmark and elsewhere, this book represents her American debut.  And an auspicious one it is.

Assistant Detective Louise Rick, of the Copenhagen Police Department, is assigned the case of a 32-year-old woman who was raped and brutally attacked.  When the body of another young woman is found, having been similarly brutalized but hadn’t escaped with her life, the police believe they have a serial criminal on the loose.  Other women with similar stories of brutal rapes over the past couple of years are soon linked to the same man.  The only common thread is that the women all apparently met their attackers online.

Louise has been with the homicide division for the past four years. Her best friend, Camilla Lind, is a reporter who has the Copenhagen crime beat at a local newspaper, and that turns out to be both a blessing and a curse, because the help of the newspaper in getting the description of the man the police are hunting out to the public can be a good thing, but too close an involvement with the latest victim by a reporter not so much, and Louise finds it hard to keep a professional distance.

Louise ultimately needs to familiarize herself with the world of online dating.  Her six-year-long relationship with the man she’s been living with has become rocky, and she is ambivalent about the research she needs to do.  The suspense mounts as she tries to identify the rapist.  The author explores the devastating effects on his victims, and I found it hard to keep reading at times, but harder to put the book down.  The author’s next book, Only One Life, is due out in July of 2012 from Pegasus, and I for one can’t wait.

Recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, December 2011.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Where All the Dead Lie
J.T. Ellison
MIRA Books, October 2011
ISBN: 978-0-7783-1268-0
Trade Paperback

As this newest entry in the Taylor Jackson series opens, although the serial killer whose death ended the last book, So Close the Hand of Death, is no longer around to continue his terror campaign, his legacy is very much alive:  Both Nashville homicide lieutenant Taylor Jackson and her closest friend, medical examiner Dr. Samantha Owens Loughley [“Sam”] are still traumatized by the events which led to his death at Taylor’s hand, one month earlier.  [The two women’s jobs are described by the author thusly:  “Taylor protected the living inhabitants of Nashville; Sam uncovered the secrets of its dead.”] Taylor suffers from a combination of PTSD and guilt, in addition to the aftermath of the gunshot to the head which she sustained, following which she was put in a medically induced coma and then didn’t waken for another week; Sam had been horribly tormented and brutalized.

The series should probably be read in order, as there are a lot of backstory references and characters: The mysterious man known as Atlantic, the whole history of The Pretender [the aforementioned serial killer], etc.  This book has an unexpected change of venue, from Taylor’s native city to the UK, when her erstwhile suitor, James “Memphis” Highsmythe, the Viscount Dulsie, invites her to spend the holidays in his castle [yes, ‘castle!’], to help her recover from her emotional, physical and psychic wounds.  Since she is experiencing some unexpected ambivalence in her relationship with Dr. John Baldwin, to whom she is now engaged – –  some friction has developed over an issue having to do with his son, another part of that backstory – – she decides to accept his invitation.

Once Taylor arrives in Edinburgh, she finds that Memphis, a Detective Inspector with the Metropolitan Police, is in the midst of investigating a series of disappearances:  three teenage girls have gone missing in London, and he is in charge of the case.  Much of the rest of the tale deals with that investigation, as well as Taylor’s attempts at recovery and the complications caused by her relationship with Memphis, a recently widowed man equally mired in grief over his wife’s somewhat mysterious death as with his passion for Taylor.

Another well-written and engrossing entry in a terrific series, this one is also recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, February 2012.

Book Reviews: Agent X by Noah Boyd, Little Girl Lost by Brian McGilloway, The Devil's Edge by Stephen Booth, Call Me Princess by Sara Blaedel, and Where All the Dead Lie by J.T. Ellison

Agent X
Noah Boyd
Harper, August 2011
ISBN: 978-0-06-182703-7
Mass Market Paperback

Kate Bannon, the Assistant Director of the FBI who readers, and ex-FBI Agent Steve Vail, first met in this author’s The Bricklayer, returns, in fact, in the first sentence on the first page of this, the second in the series.  And a most welcome return it is, of those protags and the series itself. I am delighted to report that all the taut writing, suspense and wonderful characters of the initial book in the series are abundantly present in Agent X as well.

Vail, a maverick who can’t/won’t confirm to rules, was fired by the FBI five years previously.  He has since then been working at least nominally as a bricklayer [thus the title of the first book] and had met Kate in LA when they worked together on a case which had a successful conclusion, mostly due to his efforts.  [He was an ‘independent contractor’ of sorts in that instance for the FBI.]  They had dated for a while, until Kate broke it off.  Beyond the delightful banter, the two make for a terrific team as the FBI persuades Vail to head up their investigation into finding a number of agents to whom vital US secrets are just a commodity to be bartered.  As if that weren’t enough, Steve is asked by an agent who had been Vail’s partner several years back to assist with a case involving the disappearance of a female intelligence analyst.  As the tale unfolds, one thing becomes clear:  Very little is as it seems.

The Vail/Bannon relationship is an ambivalent one.  As is the Vail/FBI deal.  Bannon tells Vail:  “You have advanced degrees.  The director has offered you complete autonomy if you’ll come back to the Bureau, but instead you choose physical labor just so you won’t have to take orders. . . Not everyone who takes orders for a living is a mortal enemy of Steven Vail.”  The cleverly constructed sleuthing [which was a challenge at times for this reader, I must admit], and the occasional philosophical ruminations, make for a fascinating read.

Recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, July 2011.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Little Girl Lost
Brian McGilloway
Macmillan, May 2011
ISBN: 978-0-230-75336-5
Trade Paperback

[This title is presently only available in/through the UK,  not yet available in the US or Canada]

D.S. Lucy Black, of the Police Service of Northern Ireland and the daughter of police officers, in the midst of a search for a young girl, Kate McLaughlin, whose father is a prominent businessman, stumbles [almost literally] upon another young girl, wandering in what is termed an ‘ancient woodland,’ suffering severe hypothermia among other things due to her prolonged exposure to the elements in the brutal winter cold and snow.   The latter child is unidentified, and remains so despite pleas to the public and circulation through print media and televised press conferences of her information and photograph.  The only one to achieve any response from the girl, and that very limited, is Lucy.

Chief Superintendent Travers, of the CID, transfers Lucy, despite her desire for a post in the CID, to the Public Protection Unit “for the foreseeable future,” and assigns her to the case of the unidentified child.  Her position is made more complex than it otherwise might be by virtue of the fact that her mother is the Assistant Chief Constable.  Only in the division a month, Lucy has taken pains to keep that information hidden, made easier by the fact that her mother reverted to her own name when her parents divorced 14 years earlier.  The two investigations proceed side by side, the lines at times crossing from one to the other.  As the tale goes one, the heart-tugging stories of more than one other Little Girls Lost arise.

Lucy’s personal life intrudes on her work:  She had requested her present assignment because her father, an ex-cop for over twenty years, is now increasingly suffering from dementia, if not actually Alzheimer’s, and she has moved back to Derry after many years away.  Her relationship with both her parents is strained, to say the least, and becomes more so as the novel proceeds.  Derry is cited as “the birthplace of The Troubles,” and however long ago that era was, perhaps inevitably its presence is still very much a force in the lives of those who lived through it.  A fascinating novel, and recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, July 2011.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Devil’s Edge
Stephen Booth
Sphere, April 2011
ISBN: 978-1-84744-479-0
Hardcover

[This book is presently available only in/through the UK/CA, not yet available in the US]

Devil’s Edge is a fairly insular world, defined, geographically at least, by the cliff edges which surround it.  This book is, in a similar way, equally circumscribed.  As the reader is told on the opening page, “It was one of the drawbacks of living in the countryside.  Too much of the outside world intruding.  Too many things it was impossible to keep out.”  In this novel, the outside world, and the aspects of it one would most like to keep out, intrudes in the worst way.  On the eastern fringe of the Peak District, in the village of Riddings, in rural Derbyshire, there has been a rash of break-ins.  The burglars have been dubbed The Savages by the press. The newest incidents escalate the anxiety when they suddenly turn deadly.  The author speaks of the residents having sought sanctuary in the rural haven, noting, however, that “everyone had monsters in their lives.”  Suspicion turns from looking for an outside group of burglars to someone from within the community, targeting the victims, for reasons far more personal. Recently promoted D.S. Ben Cooper is assigned the investigation.  He, particularly, believes it is not the work of The Savages, being much more meticulously planned and leaving no trace of the culprit[s].

D.S. Diane Fry, formerly with the West Midlands Police “in the days before she transferred to yokel land,” is brought back into the squad to take over the investigation after an almost unimaginable turn of events changes Ben Cooper’s life forever.  Despite the past ambivalence of their relationship, where they were both vying for the same promotion, their usually well-concealed respect for each other is here on display.

The author’s descriptions bring the land to palpable life, e.g., “the distant rocky outcrops seemed to change shape.  They slid slowly sideways, merged and divided, their outlines shifting from smooth to jagged to a distinctive silhouette.  It was all the effect of altering angle and perspective.  With each step, a transformation took place inthe landscape, a gradual reveal like the slow drawing aside of a curtain.  At a point halfway across the flats, a split rock he hadn’t noticed before came into view.  As it emerged from behind a larger boulder, its two halves slowly parted and turned, like the hands of a clock creeping past noon.”  Simply gorgeous.  [The landscape, and the writing, that is.]

Recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, October 2011.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Call Me Princess
Sara Blaedel
Pegasus Crime, August 2011
ISBN: 978-1-60598-251-9
Hardcover

Though Sara Blaedel is the author of several books, and her novels are apparently consistently on the bestseller lists in her native Denmark and elsewhere, this book represents her American debut.  And an auspicious one it is.

Assistant Detective Louise Rick, of the Copenhagen Police Department, is assigned the case of a 32-year-old woman who was raped and brutally attacked.  When the body of another young woman is found, having been similarly brutalized but hadn’t escaped with her life, the police believe they have a serial criminal on the loose.  Other women with similar stories of brutal rapes over the past couple of years are soon linked to the same man.  The only common thread is that the women all apparently met their attackers online.

Louise has been with the homicide division for the past four years. Her best friend, Camilla Lind, is a reporter who has the Copenhagen crime beat at a local newspaper, and that turns out to be both a blessing and a curse, because the help of the newspaper in getting the description of the man the police are hunting out to the public can be a good thing, but too close an involvement with the latest victim by a reporter not so much, and Louise finds it hard to keep a professional distance.

Louise ultimately needs to familiarize herself with the world of online dating.  Her six-year-long relationship with the man she’s been living with has become rocky, and she is ambivalent about the research she needs to do.  The suspense mounts as she tries to identify the rapist.  The author explores the devastating effects on his victims, and I found it hard to keep reading at times, but harder to put the book down.  The author’s next book, Only One Life, is due out in July of 2012 from Pegasus, and I for one can’t wait.

Recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, December 2011.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Where All the Dead Lie
J.T. Ellison
MIRA Books, October 2011
ISBN: 978-0-7783-1268-0
Trade Paperback

As this newest entry in the Taylor Jackson series opens, although the serial killer whose death ended the last book, So Close the Hand of Death, is no longer around to continue his terror campaign, his legacy is very much alive:  Both Nashville homicide lieutenant Taylor Jackson and her closest friend, medical examiner Dr. Samantha Owens Loughley [“Sam”] are still traumatized by the events which led to his death at Taylor’s hand, one month earlier.  [The two women’s jobs are described by the author thusly:  “Taylor protected the living inhabitants of Nashville; Sam uncovered the secrets of its dead.”] Taylor suffers from a combination of PTSD and guilt, in addition to the aftermath of the gunshot to the head which she sustained, following which she was put in a medically induced coma and then didn’t waken for another week; Sam had been horribly tormented and brutalized.

The series should probably be read in order, as there are a lot of backstory references and characters: The mysterious man known as Atlantic, the whole history of The Pretender [the aforementioned serial killer], etc.  This book has an unexpected change of venue, from Taylor’s native city to the UK, when her erstwhile suitor, James “Memphis” Highsmythe, the Viscount Dulsie, invites her to spend the holidays in his castle [yes, ‘castle!’], to help her recover from her emotional, physical and psychic wounds.  Since she is experiencing some unexpected ambivalence in her relationship with Dr. John Baldwin, to whom she is now engaged – –  some friction has developed over an issue having to do with his son, another part of that backstory – – she decides to accept his invitation.

Once Taylor arrives in Edinburgh, she finds that Memphis, a Detective Inspector with the Metropolitan Police, is in the midst of investigating a series of disappearances:  three teenage girls have gone missing in London, and he is in charge of the case.  Much of the rest of the tale deals with that investigation, as well as Taylor’s attempts at recovery and the complications caused by her relationship with Memphis, a recently widowed man equally mired in grief over his wife’s somewhat mysterious death as with his passion for Taylor.

Another well-written and engrossing entry in a terrific series, this one is also recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, February 2012.

Book Reviews: The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen, Requiem for a Gypsy by Michael Genelin, The Big Goodbye by Michael Lister, and Midnight Alley by Miles Corwin

The Keeper of Lost Causes
Jussi Adler-Olsen
Dutton, August 2011
ISBN No. 978-0525952480
Hardcover

Carl Morck was an exceptional homicide detective in Copenhagen until a bullet struck him down.  He lived but two of his colleagues weren’t so lucky.  Carl suffers from guilt since he didn’t even get his gun drawn during the battle.  Fellow workers have begun to complain about Carl.  He arrives late to work, rides the staff, interferes with other cases and will not return phone calls.  Marcus Jacobsen, Chief of Homicide, decided that he could kill two birds with one stone.  The Denmark Party is making speeches and complaining about cases that have not been solved.  Marcus makes a decision to create a new department called Department Q.  With outside pressure to create such a department for unsolved cases and with adequate funds to fund the department Carl Morck is put in charge of Department Q.  What appears to be a promotion is actually a demotion.  Carl is given a small office in the basement of headquarters and a ton of unsolved cases.

Carl is not one to be outsmarted though.  Realizing that money is coming in to fund his department but that none is drifting his way he makes demands for equipment and an assistant.  His assistant is very unusual.  His name is Assad and he is from Syria.  Carl realized immediately that he had made a mistake in asking for an assistant.  With an assistant nearby he could no longer sleep in his chair or work Sudoku puzzles to pass away the time.  The more chores he found for Assad the faster Assad accomplished the tasks.  Soon they both begin to sift through some of the cold case files and the case of the disappearance of Merete Lynggaard caught their interest.

Merete Lynggaard is a very attractive woman who served as Vice-President of the Social Democrats.  Merete had a beautiful home but her private life she kept secret from the people she worked with.  At night, she hurries home to spend the evening with her special needs brother.

Carl and Assad are sure that Merete is dead but determine to find out exactly what happened to her.  Merete is not dead but has been held captive for years.  She has almost given up hope of anyone locating her and setting her free.

The book skips back and forth between Carl’s actions and Merete’s struggles as told by Merete. Although the search for Merete is very serious, there are many humorous incidents between Carl and his assistant.  Carl also has a way of getting what he wants from his superiors from the large budget allotted to Department Q.

The Keeper of Lost Causes is a long book but I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough and I didn’t want the book to end.  The cover of the book states that this is the first installment in the Department Q series and I cannot wait for the next installment.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, July 2011.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Requiem for a Gypsy
Michael Genelin
Soho Crime, July 2011
ISBN  No. 978-1569479575
Hardcover

When Commander Jana Matinova of the Slovakia Police witnesses the assassination of Klara Bogan at a party honoring Oto Bogan, Klara’s husband, Jana immediately begins to wonder if Klara’s death was the fault of a stray bullet or if she was actually the intended victim.  Jana’s Colonel gives her permission to proceed with the investigation even though as a witness to the shooting she is told that she cannot be actively involved.

The department in charge of the main investigation refuses to share all of their information with Jana.  It is not long before Jana is on the trail of the pieces of information that she has no doubt will eventually lead to the reason behind the death of Klara Brogan.  Jana has access to the Murder Book but knows that the contents are incomplete. Jana finds that Oto Bogan as well as his son has disappeared.

A girl whose name is Em Mrvova shows up at Jana’s door, cold and hungry.  Jana takes pity on the girl but soon finds out that there is more to Em than meets the eye.  Em seems to appear and disappear with frequency.  Much wiser than her years Em is able to give Jana a few tips that help in her investigation.

Klara Bogan’s is not the first death that happens in this novel and Jana’s trail eventually takes her to Paris where she learns the real identity of an anonymous man that is run down on the streets of the city.

Jana is a brilliant police officer with a talent for interrogation that eventually gets her the answers she needs to put the puzzle pieces together that eventually tell the story behind the death of Klara as well as a long kept secret that goes back to a dark time in Slovak history.

The author has worked as an international consultant in government reform.  I hope to see Jana Matinova in many future novels.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, July 2011.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Big Goodbye
Michael Lister
Pulpwood Press
Kindle Edition
ISBN No. 978-1-888146-80-6
Also available in hardcover and trade paperback from Pottersville Press

Jimmy “Soldier” Riley is a one-armed Private Investigator in Panama City, Florida and the time is 1943.  Jimmy is in a partnership with Ray Parker, a former Pinkerton detective.  July is a cute little gal that works for the agency.

Ray and Jimmy have a lot going on and things are jumping in Panama City.  When Lauren Lewis walks into the office Jimmy isn’t sure how to handle it.  July wanted to send her in to see Ray but Jimmy insisted he could handle it.  Lauren was married to Harry Lewis who was a leader in the city and getting ready to run for office.  Jimmy and Lauren had an affair that was over now but just seeing Lauren made Jimmy remember every moment of the affair.

Lauren thinks someone is following her and wants to know if it is Jimmy.  Jimmy denies that he is following her but senses that she is in danger.  Jimmy decides whether Lauren likes it or not he is determined to protect her.

Protecting Lauren is easier said than done.  Part of the time, he can’t even find her.  Soon bodies start turning up and Jimmy is facing danger every step of the way.  Jimmy has to call in help from his friends before he eventually is able to locate Lauren and attempt to get her to safety.

The story is puzzling as well as exciting.   I figured out exactly what was going on with Lauren about half a dozen times.  None of my ideas were correct.   The ending was a shocker and I went back and reread some of the book and even though I knew what was going to happen I still couldn’t see it coming.  A great book.

If you like exciting detective novels don’t miss this one.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, August 2011.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Midnight Alley
Miles Corwin
Oceanview Publishing, April 2012
ISBN No. 978-1-6080-038-9
Hardcover

When I reviewed Kind of Blue I commented that Miles Corwin had written a book full of danger, excitement and secrets and Midnight Alley is more of the same.  The reader learns more about Ash Levine, top detective in the LAPD’s Felony Special squad.  Ash is not an ordinary detective.  He served as a paratrooper in the Israel Defense Forces and this experience gives him a little different outlook.

This second in the Ash Levine series puts Ash in charge of solving the murder of two young black men found shot to death in a Venice alley. The timing could not be worse.  Ash has just left for a weekend with his ex-wife Robin.  When he received the call ordering him back to work, Robin understood, but Ash was very disappointed.

Raymond Pinkney, one of the victims, was the son of City Councilman Isaac Pinkney.  Isaac has been a frequent critic of the LAPD.  Ash is under heavy pressure to find the killer but the case is puzzling.  Teshay Winfield, the other victim, had just returned from serving in the armed forces.  The two victims had known each other when they were younger but had gone separate ways.  What brought them together to be found dead in an alley?  And what was the strange marking on Pinkney’s bicep?  And what does it mean?  These are just a few of the many questions that leave Ash searching for answers.

Ash discovers that Teshay had returned to the States with a mask he discovered while serving overseas.  Teshay had high hopes that the mask would bring him a lot of money.  The more answers that Ash finds the more danger he is placing himself in.

This is a complicated story that reveals itself little by little until the surprising conclusion.  It  leaves the reader waiting  for more about Ash Levine, his life, and the cases he investigates in a manner that is totally devoted to solving the puzzles presented to him.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, April 2012.