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Strong Rain Falling by Jon Land

Strong Rain Falling Reviewed by Russell Ilg

Strong Rain Falling is the new novel by Jon Land in the mega-series featuring Caitlin Strong, a 5th generation Texas Ranger, and her former outlaw boyfriend Cort Wesley Masters. It’s the fifth book in this series, continuing the painstaking, and at times painful, evolution of the characters. As an avid reader who reads close to 4-5 books a week, it’s the one series that I wait for every year because the story has so roped me in thanks to the complex relationships and writing unmatched with any out there today.

Before cracking the book open, I recommend that you strap yourself to a chair because it’s going to turn your world upside down and, otherwise, you may hit the floor between pages. Strong Rain Falling starts out with what has to be the greatest opening of any book I’ve read to the point that I kept saying, no, this cannot be happening; but it was in heart-stopping fashion that sets the stage for a story that hits you from every angle and doesn’t let up for a single second or page. Simply stated, Jon Land has taken an outstanding series to a whole new level and heights I didn’t think possible for a thriller. Read the rest of this entry »

Pandora’s Temple (A Blaine McCracken Novel) by Jon Land

Pandora's Temple Reviewed by Russell Ilg

Jon Land keeps the heat up with the best thriller writing you can find today. He has taken a break from the best series out there, featuring female Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong, to go all the way back to his roots by bringing back the legendary Blaine McCracken and Johnny Wareagle who’d appeared in nine previous tales that ended with 1998’s Dead Simple. The McCracken series was the first Jon wrote, featuring the rogue agent the government goes to with impossible missions no one else would even think about taking on. Just another day at the office for McCracken who makes great use of the skills that made him an icon in his return to the page in Pandora’s Temple.

I’m not sure if I’ve ever read a book with so many twists and turns and classic action sequences. Make no mistake about it, this is a huge-scale thriller with nothing less than the fate of the world at stake and nothing less than the most powerful force in the universe posing the threat. This as the ever-vigilant McCracken faces turning sixty and beginning to question his skills, not so much because they’ve eroded as the phone has stopped ringing. It’s been two years since the government came calling, when all of a sudden Homeland Security approaches him with a mission to rescue four Brown University fraternity brothers from the clutches of a drug lord with hundreds of well-armed man guarding his compound in Mexico. The impossible rescue Blaine and Johnny undertake opens the book and sets the stage for all the equally redoubtable action to come. But all is not well, because one of the hostages dies in the process leading McCracken to further wonder if he’s lost his edge.

That question is swiftly answered when McCraken, and Wareagle, learn that the lone other surviving member of their Special Forces Vietnam A-Team is missing from an offshore oilrig; the whole crew is missing thanks to some inexplicable phenomenon the same Homeland Security that sent Blaine to Mexico dispatches him to investigate. What he and Johnny find on the remnants of that rig lead to a global chase for the most powerful force in the universe somehow connected to the mythical Pandora’s box (a jar actually, we learn). It lies in the equally mythic Pandora’s Temple, the search for which McCracken and his team undertake in order to save the world while battling two groups of adversaries with limitless resources hell bent on getting their hands on the “dark matter” first. One is led by a billionaire energy magnate and the other the leader of a Japanese doomsday cult. Both are hiding terrible secrets that have long scarred them. Both will stop at nothing to gain the ultimate prize. But neither will McCracken who sees in a young female eco-terrorist an oddly kindred spirit. She too harbors scars and secrets, clearly a dominant theme here in a tale that’s as much about healing as anything else. Read the rest of this entry »

Strong Vengeance:
A Caitlin Strong Novel by Jon Land

Strong Vengeance Reviewed by Russell Ilg

Strong Vengeance is the latest and greatest of the Caitlin Strong series by Jon Land. When Jon Land shifted his writing style with the first book in the Caitlin Strong series, I really did not know what to expect. But because of his other great novels I jumped right in and found that Jon had transcended from an author of thriller novels to one of the greatest and most innovate authors in the thriller industry.

Jon Land’s writing style changed as well into something I have coined as “fact fiction,” a growing trend today that many other authors have shifted to as well. It pertains to the ability to mix true facts into a fictional story that helps bring the novel to a whole new level. As you read Strong Vengeance, there are so many things that that are real and true, that you end up learning about and understanding things you may not have known before and wouldn’t have if you hadn’t jumped into the book. You almost have to read the book twice to capture all the material, along with twists and turns that are both hair-raising and shocking as our favorite Texas Ranger finds herself battling homegrown Islamic terrorists with nothing less than the future of the country at stake. You’re pulled so deep into the story that life outside its pages freezes along with time itself, and you’re finished before you even have a chance to check your watch or iPhone.

In large part that’s because Jon has put together the greatest cast of characters of any author. They are so richly drawn and warm, while at the same time capable of doing anything it takes to stop the terrorists, the leader of whom is the real-life mastermind of any number of attacks already launched against the U.S.—fact-fiction, like I said before. Caitlin Strong is a fifth generation Texas Ranger which is incredible to begin with, but Jon additionally uses her family history to go back and forth in time to prove a real feel for how the Rangers started and how they have evolved, or not, over the years. In Strong Vengeance, that history involves the only case both Caitlin’s legendary grandfather and father worked on together involving a mass murder and Jean Lafitte’s legendary lost treasure. Caitlin picks up the 30-year-old investigation where they left off, adding yet another layer to the tale. Read the rest of this entry »

Betrayal by Robert Fitzpatrick with Jon Land

BetrayalReviewed by Russell Ilg

Jon Land and Robert Fitzpatrick have combined to bring to paper the greatest “nonfiction novel” I have had the honor to read. The story of how the FBI protected and sheltered one of the most vicious and deranged killers in history is beyond what any fiction writer could scarcely imagine as a storyline and what Truman Capote had in mind when he coined the phrase in the wake of In Cold Blood. The story begins when Robert Fitzpatrick was transferred to the Boston Office of the FBI to do what he had done his whole career: close. And he was transferred to Boston to fix a broken office and reign in the problems there, just as he had done in Miami office with the ABSCAM investigation on top of his roles in the Martin Luther King Jr. assassination and civil rights murders and bombings in the 60s in Mississippi.

This book is such a page burner that I had to stop and see if the sun was still up. I simply could not put it down. It grabs you from page one and leads you on the ride of your life, and on that ride you will be brought to your knees in fear as to how corrupt the Justice Department and FBI were in this case. Officials in both simply sat back and allowed an Irish Boston gangster named Whitey Bulger to do whatever he wanted as long as they thought he was giving them info on New England’s Italian mob. And Bulger played them to the very end.

This will go down as one of the blackest eyes the FBI has ever received, Through his tireless work, Robert Fitzpatrick tried to make everyone up to the assistant director and head of the Organized Crime unit in Washington understand that they were being conned by one of the greatest con men in history. †The FBI was so sure that Whitey Bulger was giving them what they needed they did everything they could to stop Agent Fitzpatrick from doing his job to the point that he finally had to leave the only life he had known and loved and respected and honored his whole career. Read the rest of this entry »

Betrayal by Robert Fitzpatrick with Jon Land

BetrayalReviewed by Sam Millar

“You want a bullet in the head?”

Writers of fiction are always advised to make sure that the first line of their book hooks the reader into the story and hopefully keeps them there until the very end. The above first line in Jon Land’s mesmerizing new book, Betrayal, is as sharp a hook as one is likely to find in today’s modern crime stories. However, what makes the quote all the more salient is that Betrayal isn’t fiction, but the true tale of two men, Robert Fitzpatrick, one of the most celebrated FBI agents of his time, and James Joseph ‘Whitey’ Bulger, the feared head of South Boston’s Irish Winter Hill gang, of whom Martin Scorsese’s Oscar-winning The Departed was loosely based on.

In 1980, Fitzpatrick was assigned to Boston when his boss Roy McKinnon needed an Irishman to ‘kick ass and take names.’ The reason being that no one in the Boston Bureau seemed to be in control or have a clue when it came to taking down Bulger’s empire of criminality. At least that was Fitzpatrick’s initial belief. However, it wasn’t too long before he discovered something more sinister in the cupboards of officialdom other than writing pads and pens: skeletons, and plenty of them.

Most of the skeletons belonged to Bulger, in one way or another. So why the hell wasn’t the king of crime languishing in the local lock-up, awaiting trial, instead of sitting on his throne of ill-gotten gains? The more rocks Fitzpatrick looked under, the more startling the findings he made. Almost everyone, it seemed, was in the pockets of Bulger. Worse, they appeared to be turning blind eyes to all the alleged murders ordered or carried out by Bulger. Something would have to be done to stop him. Now, not tomorrow. But as Fitzpatrick was soon to discover, that was easier said than done… Read the rest of this entry »

Strong at the Break by Jon Land

Strong at the BreakReviewed by Russell Ilg

Gunfighters may be a thing of the past, but Jon Land seems hell bent on resurrecting the mythos in his Caitlin Strong/Texas Ranger books. He hit the bulls-eye dead center in her first two adventures (Strong Enough to Die and Strong Justice) while outdoing even himself in the latest of what is unquestionably the greatest thriller series being written today.

In Strong at the Break Caitlin has to deal with Hells Angels, Indian drug dealers, white slavers, sinister government types and, for good measure, a radical right-wing militia plotting nothing less than a second Civil War. Once again, Land has penned an intense, thrilling, action-packed tale featuring the greatest gunfights I’ve ever read. Many novels are aptly called page-turners. But Strong at the Break gives so much more than any of its more recent competition, I’d call it a page-burner. That’s because you find yourself turning the pages so fast they nearly burn up from the speed. With so many twists and turns, coupled with a frantic nonstop pace, there’s just no time to come up for air. Strong at the Break’s short, snappy chapters flow smoothly from one to the next, each with an opening hook and closing cliffhanger. When you buy the book plan on a day or two of the greatest reading you will enjoy this summer, and you will not rest until the final smoking page is turned.
The breakneck plot aside, Land has set about creating compelling characters you feel you know and would love to meet. Starting with fifth-generation Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong herself, they stand against injustice which seems especially plentiful in Strong at the Break. Good thing that standing by her side once more is the former most wanted man in Texas, Cort Wesley Masters, father to two sons Caitlin treats as if they were own. Read the rest of this entry »

Strong Justice by Jon Land (Review #2)

Reviewed by Douglas R. Cobb

Strong Justice by Jon LandFifth-generation Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong is back on a mission to see justice done for Las Mujeres de Juarez, over four hundred dismembered and mutilated women found murdered along the border between Texas and Mexico, in Jon Land’s suspenseful thought-provoking mystery thriller, Strong Justice. In the first book featuring Ranger Caitlin Strong, Strong Enough to Die,Jon Land took a close look at government-sanctioned torture and the degradation of civil rights. Besides the action-filled, tense, page-turning plot of Strong Justice, in which Caitlin also has to go head-to-head with Colonel Montoya, a terrorist determined to bring America to her knees, I like that Jon Land incorporates the news headlines into his novels, like the often ugly and brutal reality of the cruel fates that Mexican women forced into prostitution sometimes face, of young lives cut short way too early and nastily. Strong Justice is that rare type of book that will live with you long after you have finished reading it, and it’s one that both those who love the Western and Mystery genres should heartily embrace.

She teams up in San Antonio with Cort Wesley Masters again, whose wife was murdered in Strong Enough to Die. Caitlin has had a romantic relationship with Cort, despite his criminal past, because he wants to become a better father for his two boys. There’s a tension created by this complication, also, both wondering if they can reignite their relationship, or if violence and guns are the only things that they had in common and that brought them together. They head to the town of Nuevo Laredo to try to find the evil, bald-headed steroid freak Marcerio, whom some call El Demono, a man it’s rumored cannot be killed. Besides being involved with a sex slavery ring, he also might be “the worst serial killer in history,” the person who murdered the Women of Juarez. Maria Lopez, a young woman who’d been forced into prostitution by Marcerio and his men – and whom he will do anything to get back – draws Caitlin Strong a crude map in black marker to Nuevo Laredo and the house she and other women were held at, one with “birds on it big enough to house a lot of people.” Read the rest of this entry »