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Strong from the Heart: A Caitlin Strong Novel (Caitlin Strong Novels Book 11) by Jon Land

Reviewed by Russell Ilg

“Central, we’ve got a potential level one event.”

Good thing such things are nothing new for Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong. And with that line from the prologue, her latest adventure Strong from the Heart is off and running at a breakneck clip that doesn’t let up until the final page is turned. This is the best thriller of the year, in large part for how it confronts Caitlin and company with challenges that are exceedingly rare for a genre novel.

I say that because not only does Strong from the Heart place the opioid crisis front and center, but the book does so with the series’ tried and true regulars front and center. Start with Caitlin’s surrogate son, now high school senior Luke Torres, being rushed to the hospital after snorting Oxycontin. Add to that Caitlin’s own dependence on Vicodin to get her through the pain from recent gunfight-related trauma and you’ve got the recipe for a thriller rife with characters at war with themselves as much as the bad guys who’ve hatched a typically nightmarish plot, typical for Caitlin Strong anyway.

These particular Washington-based villains have formed a drug cartel of mammoth proportions under the auspices of the government itself. Their dirty dealings are brought to light when an entire town on the Texas-Mexico border is wiped out in minutes. But a Caitlin Strong thriller is far more comfortable in the darkness and Strong from the Heart is no exception there, as we’re treated to a seemingly endless succession of morally challenged types, most notably a monstrous Native American named Yarek Bone who sports a condition that keeps him from feeling any pain. Read the rest of this entry »

Bird in a Snare (The Lord Hani Mysteries Book 1) by N.L. Holmes

Reviewed by Timea Barabas

Bird in a Snare is the foundation stone of The Lord Hani Mysteries, a historical series that plays out in Ancient Egypt. N. L. Holmes masterfully resurrects from the sands of time a tale of a humble diplomat and a proud family man, who finds himself adrift in the whirlwind of changing times.

This is a story about the life and adventures of Hani, a diplomat serving under the rule of Akhenaten. As a new horizon slowly creeps upon the land, Hani is sent to the distant realm of Syria to uncover a murder with grave political repercussions. During his mission to solve one murder, he encounters only more death, political corruption, and a fragile net of relationships between leaders. But before coming to any conclusions, he must return to his home, mid-investigation. The sun has set. And soon a new sun will shine over the kingdom. The successor who rose to the throne seems to depart from the comfort of the old ways, into a new territory; a new direction that does not seem to meet with Hani’s set life course. But, nevertheless one must adapt and above all, survive.

Bird in a Snare is well documented and offers a historically convincing depiction of what once was. N. L. Holmes world building skills melt together fiction and historical facts, in her reimagined set of events. She addresses Ancient Egypt from a macro level – mainly through state and religion – and the micro level of everyday life. But what is more, she unites these two spheres through the main character, Hani. Although the story revolves around a central figure, he is constantly surrounded by a colorful bouquet of characters, be that pharaohs, his scribe Maya, or members of his family. This psychological attention to character development is what truly animates the pages of the book.

Under the penname of N.L. Holmes, an archeologist and university professor by trade, brings her in-depth knowledge to the realm of historical fiction. The abundant knowledge of the author seeps into the text in a natural way and brings color to historical details. For all those who love to dive into historical fiction, keep an eye on Bird in a Snare and other writings by N.L. Holmes.

The Offspring by Bill Pinnell

Reviewed by Lisa Brown-Gilbert

Offering a read that simultaneously compels, repels, and excites, author Bill Pinnell’s The Offspring, peers into the dark side of human nature via family relationships, secrets, and racism, shown through a multi-layered, multigenerational, multi-perspective lens bringing together a set of characters whose lives intersect in interesting and at times intense ways.

First, the curiosity is piqued by an intriguing prologue which fundamentally sets the tone of this complex character-driven story, as a vivid memory quickly turns from pleasure to horror, within the mind of a character seemingly beguiled by scenes from the past. Next focus moves to the backstory of the romance between Lemuel Decker and Irene Baxter. Both are students at Logan High School during the 1940s in rural Nebraska. Set apart by an age gap and personality the two almost seem to be polar opposites while Lemuel is a shy athletic farm boy, Irene is pretty, popular, and outgoing. Because of the difference in age in school their paths rarely directly cross. However, once they do each makes an impression on the other not soon to be forgotten. Shy farm boy Lemuel holds a soft spot for the pretty and friendly Irene, but his timid demeanor continues to keep him seemingly hopelessly infatuated and at a distance. Read the rest of this entry »

Hush, Hush: A Ronnie Lake Mystery by Niki Danforth

Reviewed by Dianne Woodman

Hush, Hush is an exciting and fast-paced cozy mystery with an intriguing opening, mushrooming tension, imaginative red herrings, scintillating dialogue, brilliant character arcs, a jaw-dropping climax, and an amazing and satisfying twist ending. With a hint of political subterfuge, power struggles among law enforcement agencies, and a tenacious private investigator with martial arts skills, Hush, Hush is a teeth-chattering mystery that keeps readers’ eyes glued to every single word with anticipation.

Hush, Hush is told from the perspective of the main character, Ronnie Lake, a newly licensed private investigator. Ronnie takes on the case of a missing female college student, and her strong and brave German Shepherd, Warrior, participates in the investigation. Even though Ronnie has past experience using her private investigator skills, this case is proving challenging. Ronnie runs into roadblocks, both external and internal, in her search for the missing student. Is the young woman a runaway or a kidnap victim? Is she dead or alive? As the days go by, the investigation into the unexplained disappearance of a seemly happy individual leads to far more sinister ramifications. Will Ronnie solve the case before life-threatening dangers escalate out of control? Read the rest of this entry »

The Nosferatu Conspiracy: The Sleepwalker by Brian James Gage

Reviewed by Dianne Woodman

The Nosferatu Conspiracy: The Sleepwalker is the first book in a new series that takes place in both Romania and Saint Petersburg, Russia. Brian James Gage has written a gripping, edge-of-your-seat supernatural thriller with his own interpretation of Russian history involving Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin and the Russian Imperial Romanov family during the reign of Tsar Nicholas Aleksandrovich Romanov II. Rasputin, a powerful and deceptive vampire with extraordinary, otherworldly abilities, has orchestrated an elaborate scheme that will enable vampires to rule the world and use the human population as a food source. Members of the Romanov family are crucial to the success of Rasputin’s game plan. Vampire hunters with special weapons are trying to thwart Rasputin’s efforts in his promise of victory for bloodsucking evil beings to triumph over humankind. The hunters face a time-constraint for trying to put a stop to this calamitous undertaking. Who will be the victor? Will humans serve as vampires’ food supply or will humans destroy any chance of vampires running rampant? Read the rest of this entry »

Big Numbers (Austin Carr Mystery Book 1) by Jack Getze

Reviewed by Allen Hott

Austin Carr is having some problems with his life. Because of monetary problems and a split with his wife, he is living in an old truck-mounted camper. The camper is parked in the lot of a bar where he spends a lot of time and the owner of the bar wants him out of the lot but seems to always succumb to Carr’s charm. Carr has also given him a few stock tips that paid off and he is hoping for more help in exchange along the way to pay for the parking.

Mostly Carr gets along well with Luis who is the bartender at Cruz’s bar and grill so that keeps him pretty well fixed for food and beverages. However Cruz still is very watchful because he isn’t happy with the camper truck in the lot.

It seems as a stockbroker he isn’t doing overly well although he has one client, Gerry Burns, who has been putting quite a bit of work Carr’s way. One day Gerry comes in to see Carr and first complains a bit about the market, like everyone else is doing in this particular slowdown. But then he drops a bigger bomb when he tells Carr that has pancreatic cancer and supposedly is dying. Read the rest of this entry »

Smoke Screen: A Novel by Sandra Brown

Reviewed by Allen Hott

Somewhat interesting story about a fire at police headquarters in Charleston. Actually four of the city’s top officials have been described as heroes for their part in getting people out of the building. However there were several deaths and one was a man who was being held on charges. Later it is learned that he had some information on someone in the governing hierarchy. And perhaps the fire was set intentionally to create a cover up for his death.

Britt Shelley, a very well-known television reporter who does many on the spot interviews, gets involved early on but in a strange way. It seems that she wakes one morning and the man next to her is not only one of the men who is looked on as a hero from the deadly fire but he is also dead! Britt claims she was given some sort of date rape drug in her drink and has very little memory of the entire night. She had met him for an interview about the fire. Read the rest of this entry »

Caged to Kill: A Different Gripping Stand-Alone Thriller Novel (Lawyer David Thompson Legal Thrillers Series Book 2) by Tom Swyers

Reviewed by Allen Hott

In answering a tapping knock on his door one evening, David Thompson discovers Phillip Dawkins. He recognizes Dawkins because Thompson, as an attorney, had had some dealings with Dawkins while Dawkins was in prison. Thompson is quickly afraid and threatens to call the police. Dawkins asks him to check the latest news to see that he (Dawkins) had been freed from prison under something called the Innocence Project.

Although he had not only been in prison but actually he had been in solitary confinement for killing a police officer. However how after thirty some years the state was releasing some prisoners as a gesture toward “bettering the entire process”. That gesture appears later to be false!

Phillip had been corresponding with David at one time but after too many lengthy letters David stopped writing. Phillip said however he understood but he knew no one else in this general area and hoped that David could give him a hand or a restart in life outside of prison. Read the rest of this entry »

Keep Your Eyes on the Flag by Lucille F. Burgio

Reviewed by Allen Hott

It appears that there is something desperately wrong about a particular candidate who is running for President of the United States. Not only are there several folks who have come out claiming he is a fraud and a fake. But now there have been several instances of snipers shooting at spectators shortly after he has presented one of his campaign speeches to a large mass. Keep Your Eyes on the Flag seems to be Upton’s way of diminishing his own efforts or self.

The current president, who does dislike this candidate, believes that he has to use his staff to find out more about the individual and also about the shootings. He appoints two of his top staff members to dig into not only the shootings but definitely into the presidential candidate-hopeful.

As they dig deeply into the past they find several former POWs and other soldiers who served with Ashe Lipton Upton, that candidate. Strangely enough all of these veterans also believe that something is going on. Upton (the name he goes by) was definitely a POW in Germany and suffered all types of wounds and disfigurements. However there were others who did also. Several of them believe that somehow this man calling himself Upton actually took the place of the real wounded POW named Upton. How he did it and what happened to the original Upton is the question. Read the rest of this entry »

The Mother-In-Law by Kiersten Modglin

Reviewed by Allen Hott

The very short book starts with a Prologue which gives the reader a bit of an idea of what is going to happen. But! Why, when, how, and “oh my gosh’ is all wrapped up in the book’s telling. And it is a good telling.

Loren is out walking with her four year old daughter when Rynlee, the daughter, pulls away from Loren’s hand. Rynlee is off chasing a dog and as she catches up to him she drops her ice cream cone which the dog quickly gobbles up. Then the dog’s owner, a man about Loren’s age, comes up and begins to apologize. Loren stops him and says it was Rynlee’s problem and not to worry.

The man, Jack, quickly introduces himself and takes them across the street to his bar or shop, as he calls it. And with that Jack and Loren seem destined to become a perfect pair. Actually they do and meet up with just a few unfortunate incidents that always seem to be triggered by Jack’s mother,

Before we meet Jack’s mother though, another character, Meredith, is brought into the picture. It turns out that she is Loren’s slightly older cousin and she is very close to Loren. Readers need to remember her name because she also plays an important part in the book! Read the rest of this entry »

An Equal Justice (David Adams Book 1) by Chad Zunker

Reviewed by Jud Hanson

David Adams is the quintessential rags to riches story. He grew up in a poor family and thru hard work managed to not only go to college but obtain a law degree from Stanford. He is looking forward to his new job at a prestigious Austin law firm. He is shocked to learn that a fellow associate he drove home after a company dinner has been found dead in his home. The associate’s last words to David were a warning to get out while he could. David soon realizes that all is not as it seems at his company. David is determined to find the truth but soon realizes that in doing so he may pay the ultimate price. Read the rest of this entry »

Fire and Vengeance (Koa Kane Hawaiian Mystery) by Robert McCaw

Reviewed by Teri Davis

Disaster tends to bring out the best and worst in people. For Chief Detective Koa Kane of Hilo, Hawaii, it also happens at the most inconvenient time. His Police Chief is away in California, preparing for gall bladder surgery. Being the senior-most member of the local force means he is now in charge and has to deal with whatever issue falls upon his community and the media. As far as Koa is concerned, all that is above his pay grade.

Weather frequently causes chains of problems from a hurricane with winds, thunder with lightning, and torrential downpours causing flash flooding.

The fissures on volcanoes open due to the cold and immense amount of water mixing with the magma reservoir creating steam under pressure.

At KonaWili School on Hualalai Mountain, Koa, along with his colleagues and firefighters, discover the dead and injured children and teachers. What could cause this disaster? Was it a bomb, a terrorist, or what?

The school site resembles a war zone. Students and teachers are in front of the building, drenched and injured. Helicopters from above are not safe flying in this weather. What is causing the problem? What is happening? Read the rest of this entry »

Almost Midnight: A Novel (Mike Bowditch Mysteries Book 10) by Paul Doiron

Reviewed by Allen Hott

Mike Bowditch, the Maine Game Warden Investigator, is on his way to the prison to see Billy Cronk, his longtime friend. Mike still feels he owes Billy because when two guys tried to kill both Mike and Billy. Billy was so enraged he beat the one guy to death so even though it was self-defense he did get sentenced to five years.

When Mike visits Billy he is asked by Billy to investigate a new prison guard who was transferred in by the governor. It seems that Billy now feels there is something going on among some of the guards and a few prisoners. He thinks maybe she is possibly there to sniff it out but then again she may be part of it. He wants to know so as to protect her if she is one of the good guys. Mike agrees and says he will look into it if he can.

Shortly after Mike leaves a major battle takes place in the prison and several people (including a guard) are killed. Billy is beaten up pretty bad but still alive. This adds to his theory and inspires Mike to begin looking into the problem. Because not only Billy but the new female guard are in the hospital due to the battle that went on. Read the rest of this entry »