Book Review: Jaguar by C. A. Gray

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Author: C.A. Gray

Narrator: Melissa Williams

Series: Uncanny Valley Series, Book 3

Publisher: Wanderlust Publishing

Released: Sep. 14, 2018

Length: 9 hours 48 minutes

Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction

The Silver Six have blown the Renegades’ underground compound to bits, killing several of Rebecca’s best friends in the process – and to her horror, the boy Rebecca had convinced herself she loved for all these years was the one to betray them all. At the same time, General Specs, the company Liam was once slated to inherit, has developed a super intelligent robot called Jaguar which is quickly becoming godlike in her omniscience. As the remaining Renegades flee to their last bastion of safety in the Caribbean, Liam makes his way back to London, in a last ditch effort to convince his father to destroy Jaguar before it’s too late.

Rebecca, meanwhile, finally understands her own heart: she never loved Andy. He was merely a “safe” choice who would never require anything of her. Liam, on the other hand, exasperating as he was, had seen past her defenses. All of his teasing and provoking had been his attempt to get her to be real with him – but the more he made her feel, the further she had retreated. She had even substituted her companion bot Madeline for real, deep human friendships, and for the same reason: she’d been avoiding love to protect herself from another loss like the one she had experienced when her father was killed for the Renegades’ cause. Ironically, she only realizes this once Liam is on his way to a similar fate. But she’ll be damned if she lets him go without a fight.

This high stakes conclusion to the Uncanny Valley Trilogy envisions a world not too far off from our own, in which super intelligence is a reality, humanoid bots have supplanted human power and influence, and there are eyes watching and reporting our every move. If humanity is to survive, the Renegades will have to galvanize support across the globe, under the radar – and it will require every last bit of ingenuity they possess. But is attempting to outwit a super intelligent being really the answer? Or will it require something much more fundamentally human?

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By day, C.A. Gray is a Naturopathic Medical Doctor (NMD) with a primary care practice in Tucson, AZ, and she writes medical books under her real name (Dr. Lauren Deville). She lives with her husband, with whom she maintains a facetiously contentious movie review blog, and travels as often as they can get away. When not writing or seeing patients, she does yoga, drinks red wine while eating dark chocolate, and consumes audiobooks like there’s no tomorrow!

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Narrator Bio

Melissa lives with her family, including two dogs and a cat, in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains near Denver, Colorado.

After having a corporate job for most of her life, and as a self-proclaimed introvert, she decided to leave corporate America to work from home. Voice overs had always tugged at her heart as something she would like to explore, so she attended some classes and landed with a company that taught her how to break in to the industry.

Loving to read, she explored the fast growing world of audiobooks and fell in love with it. She has ten audiobooks under her belt and is currently working on the 11th. Understanding that she should always be learning how to improve her skills, she is currently working with Sean Pratt.

When not talking to herself in a padded room, she can be found walking her dog, singing or fishing the Arkansas River.

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Those of us who have been reading science fiction and watching the old classic movies for longer than we may care to admit have harbored a not-so-secret concern that someday we would be confronted with robots who are not only sentient but super-intelligent and in a position to take over the world. In the Uncanny Valley Trilogy and especially Jaguar, Ms. Gray has brought a fresh approach to this concept.

Rebecca and the rest of the Renegades are living on the edge of such a doomed future and are really the last bastion against the Silver Six and Jaguar but they now need to spread their fight to other parts of the world. The AIs have been very successful at convincing people that having them in charge is best for all but there’s another, perhaps more dangerous, threat in Jaguar, the most self-aware and powerful AI ever.

This conclusion to the trilogy is thought-provoking, especially regarding our very real proclivity for believing the lies of those in power when they speak to our desires and fears but this is not the entertaining part of the story. Rebecca and her colleagues have to face up to personal issues, betrayals and life-threatening danger and Ms. Gray never lets the tension ease.

Once again, Melissa Williams brings life to an already exciting tale and I have to say she’s been an important element in my enjoyment of the Uncanny Valley Trilogy. I hope to hear more from her in the future.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, May 2019.

I received this audiobook as part of my participation in a blog tour with Audiobookworm Promotions. The tour is being sponsored by C.A. Gray. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.

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Giveaway: $25 Amazon Gift Card

Uncanny Valley Series Giveaway: $25 Amazon Gift Card
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Lone Tree Reviews

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Jazzy Book Reviews

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Lynn’s Romance Enthusiasm

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The Book Addict’s Reviews

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Lone Tree Reviews

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May 10th:

The Book Junkie Reads . . .

Buried Under Books

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Book Addict

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Book Review: Savior by AJ Eversley

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Title: Savior
Series: The Watcher Series, Book 3
Author: AJ Eversley
Narrators: Chelsea Stephens and Steve Campbell
Publication Date: March 8, 2019

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Savior
The Watcher Series, Book 3
AJ Eversley
AJ Eversley, March 2019
Narrated by Chelsea Stephens and Steve Campbell
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobooks

The explosive conclusion to the Watcher Series will decide the fate of the entire human race.

Sawyer has been a Watcher. She’s been a Carbon. Now she must become their Savior.

With the inevitable return of Coleman looming, Sawyer knows their army is not enough. On a journey to convince an ally to join their war, Sawyer discovers why the stars have placed the fate of the human race in her hands. And she’s not alone.
Kenzie is her enemy. He is wrong and ruthless, and he’s tried to kill Sawyer more than once. Yet she still can’t stay away. Both drawn to each other in a way neither can explain, they must learn to trust one another as well as themselves if they want to survive. And soon, Sawyer will find she must trust in the stars to protect her and put her faith in others if she wants to live.

Find out who will survive, and if they can save humanity from a future painted black, in the epic conclusion of the Watcher Series.

To get the most enjoyment from this book, I highly recommend reading the trilogy in order as this is really not a standalone. I’m glad I listened to this one so soon after the second volume because the pace is very fast and the interaction among the primary characters is intense; it helped not having to try to remember details from the earlier parts of the story.

While Sawyer and Max are certainly important, it’s Kenzie who held my attention the most this time. He’s truly a tortured soul and wondering how things would turn out for him…and Sawyer and Max…was more than a bit agonizing but I have to say I wish there wasn’t so much of the now-commonplace love triangle. With so much going on in the fight to save the world, the romantic elements were just a distraction.

Being perceived as the “savior” is uncomfortable for Sawyer but at least she’s finally accepted that her life will never be what it was before she learned the truth about herself and her world. Almost despite herself, she really is the last hope, so to speak.

I appreciated the way Ms. Eversley brought things to a close and don’t feel any lack in the ending. Ms. Stephens and Mr. Campbell rounded out their narration of the trilogy quite nicely and, in my opinion, had much to do with my enjoyment of the tale. I won’t be unhappy if these three collaborate again on another story in the future.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, March 2019.

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Purchase Links:
Audible // iTunes

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About the Author

AJ Eversley is the author of the WATCHER series. A true north Canadian girl, AJ currently lives in Central Alberta with her husband and dog. When she’s not writing, she can be found binge watching Harry Potter, quoting various movies in every day conversation, and eating copious amounts of candy.

Website // Twitter // Facebook // Goodreads // Instagram

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About the Narrators

Chelsea Stephens has a long time love and appreciation for the performing arts, with experience in on-stage acting, singing and voice over. Her love for reading books and the pursuit of the story led her to narration. She enjoys unfolding characters and bringing listeners into new worlds. Chelsea is an experienced voice actor with a talent for mystery, fantasy and YA novels. She’s a mom to a gaggle of young ones living in the Midwest with her lumbersexual husband.

Website // Twitter

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Steve Campbell’s first priority as a voice-over artist is to convey your thoughts and ideas in an entertaining and insightful manner; not distracting from your message, but enhancing your words. It is his personal goal to help your audience engage with the text in an immersive and memorable way.

As a techie with a passion for performance and a love of the written word, the voice-over industry called to Steve. He is now fortunate enough to be living his dream of audiobook narration from his home studio, in Calgary, AB, Canada.

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Play an excerpt here.

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Follow the tour here.

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Spotlight on Savior by AJ Eversley

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Title: Savior
Series: The Watcher Series, Book 3
Author: AJ Eversley
Narrators: Chelsea Stephens and Steve Campbell
Publication Date: March 8, 2019

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Synopsis

The explosive conclusion to the Watcher Series will decide the fate of the entire human race.

Sawyer has been a Watcher. She’s been a Carbon. Now she must become their Savior.

With the inevitable return of Coleman looming, Sawyer knows their army is not enough. On a journey to convince an ally to join their war, Sawyer discovers why the stars have placed the fate of the human race in her hands. And she’s not alone.
Kenzie is her enemy. He is wrong and ruthless, and he’s tried to kill Sawyer more than once. Yet she still can’t stay away. Both drawn to each other in a way neither can explain, they must learn to trust one another as well as themselves if they want to survive. And soon, Sawyer will find she must trust in the stars to protect her and put her faith in others if she wants to live.

Find out who will survive, and if they can save humanity from a future painted black, in the epic conclusion of the Watcher Series.

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Purchase Links:
Audible // iTunes

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About the Author

AJ Eversley is the author of the WATCHER series. A true north Canadian girl, AJ currently lives in Central Alberta with her husband and dog. When she’s not writing, she can be found binge watching Harry Potter, quoting various movies in every day conversation, and eating copious amounts of candy.

Website // Twitter // Facebook // Goodreads // Instagram

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About the Narrators

Chelsea Stephens has a long time love and appreciation for the performing arts, with experience in on-stage acting, singing and voice over. Her love for reading books and the pursuit of the story led her to narration. She enjoys unfolding characters and bringing listeners into new worlds. Chelsea is an experienced voice actor with a talent for mystery, fantasy and YA novels. She’s a mom to a gaggle of young ones living in the Midwest with her lumbersexual husband.

Website // Twitter

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Steve Campbell’s first priority as a voice-over artist is to convey your thoughts and ideas in an entertaining and insightful manner; not distracting from your message, but enhancing your words. It is his personal goal to help your audience engage with the text in an immersive and memorable way.

As a techie with a passion for performance and a love of the written word, the voice-over industry called to Steve. He is now fortunate enough to be living his dream of audiobook narration from his home studio, in Calgary, AB, Canada.

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Play an excerpt here.

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Follow the tour here.

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Book Review: Carbon by AJ Eversley

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Author: AJ Eversley

Narrators: Chelsea Stephens, Steve Campbell

Length: 8 hours 55 minutes

Series: The Watcher Series, Book 2

Publisher: Author AJ Eversley

Released: Dec. 10, 2018

Genre: Science Fiction; Young Adult

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Strangers become allies. Lovers become enemies. And a destiny formed before birth unfolds.

Sawyer spent most of her life hunting the very thing she has now become. No longer the Watcher she once was, Sawyer struggles to make sense of her new identity. Though she now has the powers of a Carbon, she is also tied to the control Coleman has over all of his creations.

Desperate for help and answers, Sawyer travels to the United Isles with Max in search of an ally. Not only must she learn to harness her new abilities, she must find a way to mend a broken heart…if her past doesn’t kill her first.

The epic journey continues, and the war for the human race draws ever closer. Join the resistance in the next chapter of the Watcher Series.

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AJ Eversley is the author of the WATCHER series. A true north Canadian girl, AJ currently lives in Central Alberta with her husband and dog. When she’s not writing, she can be found binge watching Harry Potter, quoting various movies in every day conversation, and eating copious amounts of candy.

WebsiteTwitterFacebookGoodreadsInstagram

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Narrator Bio

Chelsea Stephens has a long time love and appreciation for the performing arts, with experience in on-stage acting, singing and voice over. Her love for reading books and the pursuit of the story led her to narration. She enjoys unfolding characters and bringing listeners into new worlds. Chelsea is an experienced voice actor with a talent for mystery, fantasy and YA novels. She’s a mom to a gaggle of young ones living in the Midwest with her lumbersexual husband.

WebsiteTwitter

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Narrator Bio

My first priority as a voice-over artist is to convey your thoughts and ideas in an entertaining and insightful manner; not distracting from your message, but enhancing your words. It is my personal goal to help your audience engage with the text in an immersive and memorable way.

As a techie with a passion for performance and a love of the written word, the voice-over industry called to me. I am now fortunate enough to be living my dream of audiobook narration from my home studio, in Calgary, AB, Canada.

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Review

In my review of the first book, Watcher, I mentioned that I thought the beginning was a bit slow-going and I also felt that way about this book. I do want to emphasize that the pacing didn’t affect my enjoyment of the story; it just caught my attention.

Much has happened in Sawyer’s world, both her own personal existence and the larger world in which she lives. Coming to terms with her life as one of the Carbons she used to hunt is difficult, to say the least, but she’s also learning—and testing—her new-found abilities as a Carbon. What is really intense is the change in her relationship to those who mean something to her and Kenzie’s painful response to her is certainly understandable. Interestingly, Sawyer has become more appealing, with a softer side, now that she has been torn away from everything she’s always known and that growth in her psyche is what I found to be most compelling about this episode. Now that she has a new raison d’etre, a new target if you will, the action is really picking up and I can’t wait to start the next book.

Narrators Chelsea Stephens and Steve Campbell continue to bring Sawyer and Kenzie, as well as other characters, to life and both have good tonations and pacing. They are a pleasure to listen to, so important in audiobook storytelling, and they are a large part of why I want to continue with the trilogy.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, March 6, 2019.

I received this audiobook as part of my participation in a blog tour with Audiobookworm Promotions. The tour is being sponsored by AJ Eversley. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.

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Giveaway

Giveaway: 3-month Audible Membership

Watcher Series Giveaway: 3-month Audible Membership

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Mar. 5th:

Lilly’s Book World

The Book Junkie Reads . . .

Mar. 6th:

Buried Under Books

Mar. 7th:

T’s Stuff

Dab of Darkness Audiobook Reviews

Mar. 8th:

Turning Another Page

Mar. 9th:

Jazzy Book Reviews

Mar. 10th:

The Book Addict’s Reviews

Mar. 11th:

Lomeraniel

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Book Review: Watcher by AJ Eversley

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Title: Watcher
Series: The Watcher Series, Book 1
Author: AJ Eversley
Narrators: Chelsea Stephens and Steve Campbell
Publication Date: October 6, 2018

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Purchase Links:
Audible // iTunes // Amazon

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Watcher
The Watcher Series, Book 1
AJ Eversley
Narrated by Chelsea Stephens and Steve Campbell
AJ Eversley, October 2018
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

From the author—

“First came the Bots. They were meant to serve us, but they turned and thousands died. Then the Carbons arrived and we were left with only a few hundred humans. After ten years of war, I’m one of the few survivors. I’m a Watcher, and I won’t give up the fight.”

As a Watcher, Sawyer Russo has sworn to protect her fellow humans. But the Bots and Carbons that overran her city are evolving, and are picking off her comrades one by one.

Embarking on a desperate mission to save humanity from extinction, Sawyer discovers that the line between friend and foe is no longer easily drawn when one of her own betrays them. Faced with a choice between fulfilling her vow and avenging those who have fallen, she must ultimately decide who can be saved…and who can’t.

There’s a kind of density to this story that makes it slow-going at first. Very little is given to the reader in terms of background early on so there’s much we don’t understand about Sawyer’s world and even less about Kenzie.  Sawyer herself stands out in a crowd but largely because she’s pretty much the only female and I found that to be at least somewhat unbelievable.

Sawyer lost her parents at the age of eight and managed to stay alive on her own for the next two years, finally joining up with this band of resisters. Perhaps it’s her early years that make her so reckless and defiant but that certainly makes her a more vibrant character, if not especially likeable. Following World War III, a nuclear holocaust, there are only pockets of humans left trying to survive against the Bots and Carbons, the latter sort of cloned copies of humans, and Sawyer is one of those survivors, along with her team. At heart, this is a story of trust and betrayal and the continuing fight against the machines that are evolving. The setting, on the other hand, is somewhat lacking in that we don’t really know where the two surviving cities are or how they came to be the only remaining cities.

Having two narrators, one for Sawyer and one for Kenzie, works well. Kenzie, in fact, is a bit of an unknown for quite a while and that certainly added to the sense of not fully understanding this world but it didn’t take me long to start liking him and I had a lot of sympathy for his own sense of isolation. Chelsea Stephens does a nice job of conveying Sawyer’s story as well as the other members of her team while Steve Campbell portrays Kenzie quite well. He’s not as vibrant as Ms. Stephens but that’s mostly because Sawyer’s part of the story is so much bigger.

All in all, this is a nicely crafted story of a dystopian world in our very near future and I’m eager to read more.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, November 2018.

About the Author

AJ Eversley is the author of the WATCHER series. A true north Canadian girl, AJ currently lives in Central Alberta with her husband and dog. When she’s not writing, she can be found binge watching Harry Potter, quoting various movies in every day conversation, and eating copious amounts of candy.

Website // Twitter // Facebook // Goodreads // Instagram

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About the Narrators

Chelsea Stephens has a long time love and appreciation for the performing arts, with experience in on-stage acting, singing and voice over. Her love for reading books and the pursuit of the story led her to narration. She enjoys unfolding characters and bringing listeners into new worlds. Chelsea is an experienced voice actor with a talent for mystery, fantasy and YA novels. She’s a mom to a gaggle of young ones living in the Midwest with her lumbersexual husband.

*One and the same as Avery Reid.

Website // Twitter

Steve Campbell’s first priority as a voice-over artist is to convey your thoughts and ideas in an entertaining and insightful manner; not distracting from your message, but enhancing your words. It is his personal goal to help your audience engage with the text in an immersive and memorable way.

As a techie with a passion for performance and a love of the written word, the voice-over industry called to Steve. He is now fortunate enough to be living his dream of audiobook narration from his home studio, in Calgary, AB, Canada.

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Play an excerpt here.

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Follow the tour here.

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Book Review: Almost Autumn by Marianne Kaurin

Almost Autumn
Marianne Kaurin
Arthur A. Levine Books, January 2017
ISBN 978-0-545-88965-0
Hardcover

The world we live in today is so ‘moment-to-moment’ in terms of information, we feel saturated and overwhelmed when evil things happen. It was markedly different for fifteen year old Ilse Stern, a Norwegian Jew. When the Nazis occupied her country in 1942, one of the first things they did was force everyone to turn in their wireless receivers (radios), effectively shutting off the most available information flow.

Ilse lives in a cramped fourth floor apartment with her parents and two sisters. Sonja is older and over-responsible, trying to keep the household running as well as do what she can to help her father keep his tailor shop afloat. Miriam, age five, is quiet and loves to draw pictures with her trademark sun featured in each. Mother is somewhat dour and constantly finds fault with Ilse, who’s a dreamer and avid reader with a big crush on teen neighbor Hermann Rod.

The Nazi occupiers’ squeeze on Jewish citizens begins gradually with a requirement that they have new registration papers stamped with a red J. Overly frequent requirements that Jewish men report to authorities coincides with a spike in verbal attacks and defacing of property. It becomes so bad, Mr. Stern leaves an hour early to remove the words written on his shop windows so Ilse and Sonja won’t see them when they arrive to help out.

Meanwhile, Hermann has gotten involved in the resistance, but must cover this activity by pretending he’s apprenticing to a painter across town. His involvement causes him to stand Ilse up for their first date, a night at the local cinema. For the next month, neither quite knows how to break the chill that follows this.

At the same time as the two teens are dancing around their feelings for each other, the campaign of terror has been ramped up by the occupation forces and in short order, the tailor shop is forced to close, all savings accounts and safe deposit boxes owned by Jewish citizens are ordered closed and all adult Jewish males are arrested and taken to a secret location.

Ilse and Hermann run off for a day of skiing and reconciliation. While gone, her family is taken into custody as are most other Jewish citizens. After a horrific sea voyage and a frigid train ride, with all packed tighter than cattle, they end up at Aushwitz. The description of what happened during these trips, as well as their reception at the prison camp, are low key, but still leave the reader feeling chilled.

If you want to learn what happened to Ilse, read the book. It’s an excellently understated story of how a large number of innocent human beings were terrified before being carted off to be executed simply because of their ethnicity. We need books like this to remind those who have forgotten and make aware those who never knew. Highly suggested for any school or public library collection.

Reviewed by John R. Clark, MLIS, November 2017.

Book Reviews: Blue Madonna by James R. Benn and The Fixer by Joseph Finder

blue-madonnaBlue Madonna
A Billy Boyle World War II Mystery #11
James R. Benn
Soho Crime, September 2016
ISBN: 978-1-61695-642-4
Hardcover

Billy Boyle has received all kinds of assignments in his capacity as a special investigator on Eisenhower’s staff. But few, if any, match the bizarre task before him in the Blue Madonna.  To begin with, he is arrested, tried on trumped up charges and stripped of his Captaincy and sentenced to time in the stockade for black market activities.  (This, of course, a subterfuge to provide a cover story as part of an investigation.)  Then he is sent behind enemy lines to rescue a downed airman who is needed to testify against a black market gang.

No sooner does Billy arrive in occupied France than he finds himself investigating two murders of airmen being hidden in a chateau.  And he even participates in partisan operations, blowing up railroad tracks and bridges.

The Billy Boyle series takes him through various phases of World War II.  This novel takes place as Allied troops sail for Normandy on D-Day, giving the author the opportunity to describe conditions in Occupied France, how the partisans operated, and what was done to return downed airmen through clandestine networks.  The Blue Madonna, a valuable piece of art, is an example of how many Jews and others attempted to prevent the Nazis from stealing their possessions by hiding them in such places as the chateau, which also secreted parachuted Allied fliers.

As were the first 10 books in the series, Blue Madonna is highly recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, October 2016.

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the-fixerThe Fixer
Joseph Finder
Putnam, May 2016
ISBN 978-0-4514-7257-3
Mass Market Paperback

What would you do if by some off-chance you broke into a wall in your home and discovered $3.7 million in cash?  That is the good luck that befalls Rick Hoffman, erstwhile unemployed journalist.  And then the bad luck follows.  Rick begins to wonder where the money came from.  He can’t ask his father, whose house it was, because the latter was left speechless and partially paralyzed by a stroke about two decades before.  Rick was once an investigative journalist, and uses these talents to find answers.

He soon discovers that his attorney father was a fixer, paying off various persons to ward off claims against powerful Boston figures.   And for his efforts he is beaten severely, almost killing him, as was his father before him, to stop Rick from pursuing his investigation.  But he perseveres.

The story moves ahead in a straightforward manner, with each step along the way uncovering additional information, until Rick can prove where the money came from and why.  But more importantly, as Rick explains, he continues because he wants to know how the story ends.  And so will you.

Recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, June 2016.