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Strong to the Bone (A Caitlin Strong Novel) by Jon Land

Reviewed by Russell Ilg

Strong to the Bone“You may be able to walk on water, Ranger, but quicksand’s a whole other thing,” a character advised Caitlin Strong early on in Strong to the Bone.

And quicksand is pretty much what Caitlin finds herself mired in here in the superb ninth book to feature the stalwart Texas Ranger who’s as close to a female Jack Reacher as it gets. No, she doesn’t use her fists with the aplomb of Lee Child’s seminal series hero, but she more than makes up for that with her prowess as a gunman (or, more accurately, gunwoman), a skill she gets to use with typical frequency in her latest adventure.

But Strong to the Bone serves up a new kind of target in the form of the man who sexually assaulted Caitlin eighteen years before while she was a collegiate undergraduate. We’ve barely started flipping the pages before she rescues a woman from a bar basement who’s been similarly assaulted and barely taken a breath before learning that it was the same man who raped Caitlin all those years ago. And I haven’t even mentioned the book’s primary villain in the form of a neo-Nazi gang that’s appropriated a Texas ghost town as headquarters for the massive drug dealing operation their leader, Armand Fisker, has taken international.

Fisker, a man so prone to violent impulses that one scene finds himself dousing his own son with gasoline and flicking on a lighter before the terrified boy’s eyes, is somehow connected to a killer Caitlin’s grandfather Earl Strong hunted in the waning days of World War II. Did you know that Texas was home to over 100,000 Nazi prisoners of war in camps scattered throughout the state? Neither did I. In the flashback thread that’s become a staple of this sterling series, though, Earl Strong finds himself on the trail of one of them who escaped his camp after killing his three bunkmates. Why? What did they know? And what’s none other than J. Edgar Hoover himself doing on the scene?

Strong to the Bone, in case you haven’t figured it out yet, unfolds frantically and frenetically, serving up a smorgasbord of emotionally wrought angst garnished with characters of both misplaced and misconstrued morality. Fisker, for example, isn’t planning to unleash a catastrophic weapon upon the world when the book opens; that intention unfolds organically, lending Strong to the Bone a stunning spontaneity featuring characters who are truly in charge of the action.

Heading up that roster as always is Caitlin herself, whose own personal quest to at long last find her dragon lends the book a visceral quality to go with the visuals Land has always excelled at framing. But what’s truly special is her doubts about whether she really wants to kill that dragon, lest she lose the edge that has long defined her, as Land deftly stirs a pot that features the perfect blend of emotion and action.

The Caitlin Strong series is much deserved of the praise it has attained and many awards it’s won. But Strong to the Bone takes what’s always worked to a whole new level. A terrific, tumultuous tale of rare depth and prowess certain to solidify Caitlin’s place as the most polished and proficient female hero in thriller fiction today. Maybe that’s why none of Jack Reacher’s travels have taken him to Texas. Even he doesn’t want to risk messing with Caitlin Strong.

Hidden Sea by Miles Arceneaux

Reviewed by Lisa Brown-Gilbert

Hidden SeaProffering a literate jolt to the senses, miles Arceneaux’s Hidden Sea gives readers food for thought with its rich and captivating narrative of human trafficking in the Gulf of Mexico. Albeit this is a work of fiction, the story is based on the reality of sea-faring enslavement, which occurs within the South Sea of China. Readers will find this entertaining story stocked with a bevy of colorful characters artfully immersed in a briny mix of adventure, humor, political corruption and pirates, set in the Gulf of Mexico. Written by a trio of well-honed authors, known as Miles Arceneaux, writing as one voice, this makes the fifth addition in their series of Gulf Coast thrillers. Read the rest of this entry »

The Missing Factor: A Jim Factor Novel by Daniel C. Lorti

Reviewed by Suzanne Odom

The Missing FactorArms dealer Jim Factor has a great life, a thriving business, a loving wife, and an affluent lifestyle. The one time engineer has always run a legitimate arms business, until he is approached at a convention in Europe with a steal of a deal. Carlos Sengretti would like him to act as a moderator in negotiations with a client and will make him a large sum of money. After some discussion, Jim agrees to assist Sengretti with his deal and they decide on a payment amount. Jim believes he will just be a consultant and once the deal is finished, his services will no longer be needed.

Unfortunately, he is mistaken. Soon after the business is completed, Jim receives a phone call warning him of potential danger. The illegal deal has gone sour, and now he is suspected of leaking the deal to the United States Customs Service. His life is at risk and Jim must immediately leave the country without a trace. He cannot even tell his wife anything about the deal gone wrong, nor can he tell her where he is going. He quickly gathers cash and some clothing and leaves his housen eventually ending up at the bus terminal where he makes his escape to another city. Read the rest of this entry »

The Last Mrs. Parrish by Liv Constantine

Reviewed by Teri Davis

The Last Mrs. ParrishWho doesn’t want to be richer, thinner, blonde with blue-eyes, tanned, better looking and more successful? This seems to be the American dream for many women. Most wealthy people appear to have it all. With money, they can recreate themselves into almost the perfect person. Think of the numerous women and even many men who spend enormous amounts of money to achieve their vision of perfection.

The problem is often what appears in public is quite different than reality or in the privacy of a home.

Amber Patterson is tired of being normal. She is thin, but plain. Mousy brownish hair, dowdy, ambitious but in a career with no future for making real money. She just makes enough to get by with her paycheck to paycheck existence.

How can she change her life?

Amber finds a new friend, Daphne Parrish, who seems to be everything she could want. Daphne is beautiful, rich, blond, blue-eyes, married to a gorgeous husband and two young daughters. Amber wants Daphne life, but slightly changed without the children. She doesn’t enjoy young ones at all.

Coincidentally, both Daphne and Amber had sisters who dies due to cystic fibrosis. This is the foundation of their friendship.

Will Amber ever have a life like Daphne’s? Read the rest of this entry »

The Cold Kiss by John Rector (Review #2)

Reviewed by Nancy Eaton

The Cold KissI must admit there aren’t too many books that really grab my attention and keep hold of it all the way to the end. The Cold Kiss is an exception.

Nate and his pregnant girlfriend Sara leave Minnesota and plan to drive to Reno to get married and start a new life. They are both trying to forget their past lives and begin new ones.

When Nate and Sara stop at a diner, they noticed a man who had a terrible cough. As they were leaving the diner, the man confronted them and offered to pay $500 for a ride. Nate did not want to take the man in the car but Sara’s eyes lit up when she started thinking about what she could do with $500. So, against Nate’s judgment, they agreed to take Syl in their car. It started snowing.

Along the way, Syl sounded deathly sick with his constant coughing and even at times spitting up blood. The snowstorm got worse and Nate pulled into a motel. At first it didn’t look like the motel was open. When Nate turned to look at Syl, he believed he was dead in the backseat. Read the rest of this entry »

End Game (Will Robie Series) by David Baldacci

Reviewed by Allen Hott

End GameWill Robie and Jessica Reel, two of the top secret agents working for the U.S. government, are in it again. And this time they have to stay in the states and find their immediate superior.

However the book starts out with Robie battling a group of bad guys in Europe and Jessica doing the same in Iraq. Neither one have a problem doing that as it is their training.

But shortly after getting back they are given the information that Roger Walton, known as the Blue Man, their immediate superior is missing. It seems that Walton had gone back to Colorado where he lived for years while he was growing up. This time on his trip back he suddenly disappeared.

The area in Colorado today is pretty much inhabited by ne’er -do- wells. There are neo-Nazis, skinheads, and other slightly different groups of people settled in here. These folks appear to be battling each other but also causing some problems in the area. It hasn’t been enough to put anyone in jail but recently it seems that some folks have come up missing. And among that group of missing persons is Roger Walton!

The local law enforcement consists of a sheriff and a deputy. They do not appear to be too anxious to do anything as long as the laws are not broken. But on hearing of the missing FBI agent they immediately join up with Will and Jessica to help in any way they can. Read the rest of this entry »

No Middle Name: The Complete Collected Jack Reacher Short Stories by Lee Child

Reviewed by Allen Hott

No Middle NameThis one is not a normal book but is a collection of several novellas and then even more short stories. All of the tales do feature Jack Reacher, who has been the main character in many of Child’s works. No doubt that the title No Middle Name pertains to Jack Reacher. That always comes up in all of the stories that Child writes. Someone invariably asks his name and they cannot get over the fact that he doesn’t have a middle name. Even without a middle name Jack Reacher is a very interesting character. These stories carry that character forward as he makes his trek not only across the United States but even on occasion into Europe.

Reacher is a retired Military Police officer who has a very astute mind when it comes to looking into situations that would probably stymie the minds of most people. Wherever he goes he seems to not only run into things that happen to be at least a bit illegal or scary but then he always seems to also solve the problems or assist in solving them. Read the rest of this entry »

Where It Hurts (A Gus Murphy Novel) by Reed Farrel Coleman

Reviewed by Allen Hott

Where It HurtsThis is the first book I have read by Mr. Coleman and I would have to say I was really into it. A great mystery involving a retired Suffolk County cop who is really battling his own demons due to the loss of his son. The young boy had been diagnosed with a heart problem but then too soon he passed away due to that problem. Gus Murphy, the retired cop, and his wife both were so depressed that they could do nothing but get on each other’s case until boom, they ended up divorced.

So now Murphy, retired and divorced, goes to live in a very run-down hotel and begins working as a driver for the hotel’s van and also as security for the hotel. He is not at all happy but realizes that it all has to do with his unyielding grief.

Out of the past comes a two-bit crook that Gus had had dealings with many times while working as a cop. This time however Tommy Delcamino has sought out Gus to help him find Delcamino’s son’s murderer. The boy appears to have been somewhat involved with drugs as both a user and pusher. His dad doesn’t feel that the police are really working the case because he believes that someone in the police department was also involved in the mess that got the boy killed. Gus abruptly runs Tommy D off and says he has no interest in the case especially because he believes Tommy D is trying to play on Gus’s feelings about his own son’s death. Read the rest of this entry »

Killing Season: A Thriller by Faye Kellerman

Reviewed by Mark Moderson

The Killing SeasonFaye Kellerman hits a home run with theKilling Season. After finishing the novel, I couldn’t believe that it was close to 700 pages as the pages flew by and I couldn’t wait to see if Vicks was able to solve his sister’s murder.

The novel takes place in small town New Mexico and centers around Ben Vicksburg or Vicks as he’s known throughout the story. Vicks is a high school senior and a math genius who is obsessed with finding his sister’s serial killer. The nerdy Vicks finds an unlikely sidekick in the new girl in town who happens to be way out of his league. While this may seem a bit cliché Vicks and Ro share a common link in that they have both loss a sister, as well as dealing with families that are trying to overcome a great loss. Vicks and Ro make a great team working together to try and locate the serial killer before he kills again. Read the rest of this entry »

The Extraditionalist (A Benn Bluestone Thriller) by Todd Merer

Reviewed by Jud Hanson

The ExtraditionalistMeet Benn Bluestone, lawyer to the criminal and infamous. His particular field of expertise is extradition, as in when the Government wants to extradite someone back to the U.S. Bluestone has become quite wealthy catering to wealthy criminals, most of whom come from south of the border. When he is approached by 3 potential clients simultaneously, all promising large fees, Bluestone believes that he may finally be able to retire. It is only when the cases began to intertwine that he realizes he may have gotten in over his head. He knows a lot of secrets, some of which his clients will do anything to protect. Read the rest of this entry »

Don’t Let Go by Harlan Coben

Reviewed by Allen Hott

Don't Let GoLots of suspense, and even more emotion, as Detective Napoleon (Nap) Dumas struggles with the strange and untimely death of his twin brother. The death occurred about 15 years ago but it not only was it very strange then but now there are even more happenings that do not really make sense.

Leo, Nap’s brother, and Leo’s girlfriend, Diana, were found dead on the railroad tracks outside of town and appeared to have been hit by a train. The bodies were so badly torn up that very little could be done in the way of an autopsy. The two of them, however, were members of a special club called The Conspiracy Gang which was composed of a group of high school students. These students had been somewhat taken aback when the area of the woods where they hung out to drink, smoke a little pot, and make out got somewhat disturbed by a government base that appeared to be deserted or little used.

Nap, now fifteen years later and a detective gets called in on a case where a cop was shot by a guy who had been picked up in a bar by a woman. It turns out the cop was a member of the Conspiracy Gang as was the woman who made the pickup. The woman, Maura, also happened to be Nap’s girlfriend fifteen years ago. Read the rest of this entry »

Dead Wrong (Jason Justice Mystery Book 2) by Ralph Zeta

Reviewed by Chris Phillips

Dead WrongJason Justice is a “simple” divorce attorney in West Palm Beach, Florida. He is content with his position and his status. However, he seems to have a predilection toward getting involved in some more mysterious intrigue than would be thought for a divorce lawyer.

He goes to meet a potential client who happens to be a celebrity of note in the area. He doesn’t know what it is about, but assumes Milton Lowry wanted to discuss a divorce as that was his specialty. When he arrives at the designated location, he finds a BMW in front of an old mansion in the middle of the Okeechobee Lake region. There is music playing but nothing else to indicate other people are present.

Naturally, Jason investigates. He comes upon the apparent murder of Mr. Lowry but is knocked unconscious before he can aid.

Thus, begins a great mystery. It is neither obvious nor easy to determine who did what to whom and for what reason.

Jason is an unlikely investigator, but with the help of his private investigator, Sammy Raj, and a few other unlikely participants he seeks justice for Mr. Lowry.

Mr. Lowry comes from money, lots of money, from land investments all over southern Florida. His father was “Bull” Lowry. Apparently, the nickname was more than just a convenient shortening of a name. “Bull” spent a lot of time spreading his genes among many women in the area. The speculation is that there are upwards of 20 offspring that do not fall under the legitimate inheritance laws. Then the story gets more convoluted with the illegitimate children and their mothers getting involved. Read the rest of this entry »