Required Reading

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Books I have authored.

Many times I receive books for FREE to give them an honest review. I do not get paid to give a good or bad review. Spotlights are promotional and should be regarded as advertising for the book spotlighted. Regardless of where or how I got a book, my review will be as honest as I can make it.

Monday, May 21, 2018

The Air Raid Killer (Max Heller, Dresden Detective, #1) by Frank Goldammer

This was an excellent crime novel set in Dresden immediately before and after the end of WWII.   Max Heller is a police detective who is not a Nazi and does not ascribe to the Nazi philosophy.   His only goal is to be true to himself and keep the peace.

A serial killer known as the Fright Man terrorizes Dresden at the close of the war.   Max is stymied in his hunt for the serial killer by the entrenched Nazi hierarchy.  The author does a great job showing the character of Max Heller.

The author also does a great job at showing the desperation of the populace after the war.  The horrific aspects of life at that point in time was clearly portrayed.  It was also interesting to note the way that the average person was so intimidated by the Nazi party that they were afraid of doing anything.

I recommend the book.

This book may have been received free of charge from a publisher or a publicist. That will NEVER have a bearing on my recommendations.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Smoking Kills by Antoine Laurain

Smoking KillsSmoking Kills by Antoine Laurain
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Smoking Kills by Antoine Laurain

Cigarettes are now associated with death but not normally with murder. An infatuation with both lends the macabe to the story.

This author dwells on character introspection.

Fabrice Valantine is a head hunter of the job opportunity persuasion rather than the jungle dwelling type. However they both have an affinity for poisons.

This book was a bit strange.

View all my reviews

This book may have been received free of charge from a publisher or a publicist. That will NEVER have a bearing on my recommendations.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Q&A with Jane Marlow, author of How Did I Get Here?

A Q&A with Jane Marlow, author of How Did I Get Here?
Book 2 in the Petrovo series

1.       What inspired you to write How Did I Get Here?

While I was conducting research for the first novel in the Petrovo series, Who Is to Blame, I kept bumping into this thing called the Crimean War. Eventually, I realized it simply had to be the backdrop of my next novel for two reasons. First, the Crimean War was the guinea pig for a myriad of innovations that forever changed the face of warfare. The second factor that grabbed my attention and wouldn’t let go was the War’s magnitude as a gruesomely ugly historical reality.  Not only was the carnage on the battlefield hideous, but an even greater number of fatalities were attributable to disease, malnutrition, winter exposure, and lack of competent leadership. Not until World War I would more people die as victims of war.  

2.       What led to your fascination with Russia in the 1800s?

I trace my interest back to 6th grade when mother dragged me kicking and screaming to a professional stage performance of Fiddler on the Roof. But as my feet began tapping with the music, I experienced the proverbial smack-to-the-forehead. I was just at the right age to gain an inkling of understanding about prejudice, suppression, rural culture, and the deep-seated role of religion.

3.       You researched the book thoroughly. Did you know when you started how extensive your research would become?

Research turned out to be a little more problematic than I expected. Although I located a modest number of books and articles, the Crimean War doesn’t play a prominent role in US history, and I was left with many uncertainties. I attempted to locate a graduate student in the US who would proofread my manuscript for historical accuracy but found no takers. I ended up consulting with the Crimean War Research Society in the U.K. I’m particularly grateful for their expertise for the chapter that took place at the Malakov bastion.

4.       What is one of your favorite stories or details about life in 19th century Russia?

While conducting research, I was taken aback by the fact that prostitution was a regulated business in Russia during the 1800s. For example, in order to control syphilis and other venereal diseases, prostitutes were required to be examined periodically. Their customers, however, had no such obligation. The policy seems akin to placing a dam half-way across the river, doesn’t it?  My third book in the Petrovo series offers readers an insider’s view of a Russian brothel.

5.       Where did you begin your research and where did it lead you? Any advice for other authors writing historical fiction?

My research began way back in the late 1980s. Because the Internet wasn’t an option in those days, I scoured the library for books and articles. Thank goodness for the Interlibrary Loan program! I also took a sightseeing trip to Russia which included spending time in the rural farmland that serves as the setting for my fictional village of Petrovo. Nowadays, I’d urge any historical fiction writer to befriend their local librarians. They know the ins and outs of the various online databases.

6.       What was it like writing from the perspective of a male character? Any challenges?
Such a daunting undertaking for a senior-citizen woman to plunge herself into the mindset of a young, virile male! One tool I used was to read and reread Jonathan Tropper’s novels. His flawed, lustful protagonists crack me up!

7.       What distinguishes How Did I Get Here? from other narratives about the Crimean War?

American authors have produced very little in the way of fiction set in the Crimean War; therefore, it’s a wide-open canvas. Second, my novel doesn’t end with the war. It shows a veteran’s struggle with the then unnamed consequence of war, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Third, as a veterinarian, I felt compelled to demonstrate the agony war inflicts on animals. My eyes tear up every time I read my own passage in which the protagonist has to kill a horse that was injured in battle.

8.       As a writer, how do you weave fact and fiction into a novel?

Conceptually, it’s easy if your mind is prone to flights of fancy. However, meticulous research and double-checking is required if the characters are well-known persons or if the setting is a well-documented event. 

This particular book presented an additional challenge. During the 1800s, Russia used what is known as the Old Style calendar (O.S.), which is 12 days behind the Western New Style (N.S.) calendar. Hence, historical Russian events are often dated along the lines of “Oct 24 O.S. (Nov 5 N.S.).”

Imagine being an author (i.e., me) doing research on a war in which one of the military forces used Old Style while the opponents used New Style. Additionally, some authors mark their books, articles, and online resources with either N.S. or O.S., but other authors don’t deem it necessary to specify which calendar style they use. Then try to coordinate actual events (some N.S., some O.S.) into a fictional narrative in which timing was crucial to the story. My sanity underwent a notable decline in during this period of writing.

9.       Were there any unexpected obstacles you encountered when you began writing How Did I Get Here?

The same aspect that I hope will attract readers—a story about a little known but ghastly war—was also a hurdle—finding detailed depictions from the Russians’ point of view.

10.   What do you hope your readers will get out of the novel?

My desire is that readers find several take-home messages:

First, the old adage, “Beauty is only skin deep.” 

Second, malevolence and injustice can mold a child, but fortitude plus a helping hand can remake the man. 

Third, every person is obligated to give back to society. And not just according to what he received from it, but at a higher level.

Fourth, a better understanding of the demons of war as manifested in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

11.   Who’s a character from the book you wish you could meet?

I relish 10-year-old Platon’s inquisitiveness, boundless energy, and joie de vivre. In fact, I’d adopt him if I could. But since I can’t, I’m entertaining the possibility of writing a book with him as the protagonist, so I can watch him mature into a man.

12.   What was your favorite novel growing up?

By the time I reached junior high, I was ready to put the Nancy Drew series behind me. Being a typical girlie-girl, I was forever enamored by the first adult, mainstream novel I read, Gone with the Wind.

13.   What authors/books do you draw inspiration from?

If only I could be as talented a writer as Pulitzer Prize-winner Richard Russo!. During a seminar on writing fiction, the instructor told us that taking pen in hand and writing and re-writing good passages from favorite books would promote brain neuron connections that would improve our own writing. I must have copied the same passage from Nobody’s Fool at least 200 times!

14.   Can we expect more books in the Petrovo series?

You bet! The third novel in the series will offer an insider’s view of the seamier side of 1870s Moscow.

15.   Where can readers find your books and learn more about you?

       Both novels are available in paper, Kindle, and Audible formats on Amazon. If your local bookstore doesn’t stock the book, request that it be ordered.

For more about me as an author, plus a few chuckles from Slavic Slapstick, as well as jaw-dropping tidbits about historic Russia, visit my blog at, and subscribe to my free, no sales gimmicks, no obligation e-newsletter with quarterly in-box delivery.

This book may have been received free of charge from a publisher or a publicist. That will NEVER have a bearing on my recommendations.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Spotlight on How Did I Get Here by Jane Marlow

How Did I Get Here? 

by Jane Marlow

In the 1800s, two events altered the course of Russia’s future—the emancipation of the serfs and the Crimean War. Author Jane Marlow takes readers back to this significant time in Russian history, journeying 800 miles south of Moscow to the frontlines of the Crimean War, in her second novel, How Did I Get Here?

Andrey Rozhdestvensky enters his final year of medical studies in 1854 with an empty belly, empty pockets, and secondhand clothes held together by wishful thinking. When Russia blunders into the misbegotten Crimean War, Tsar Nicholas recruits medical students to the front. Andrey grabs at what he believes to be free passage out of his vapid life—a portal to a new identity.

Volunteering as a surgeon for the Russian army, Andrey travels to the frontlines in Sevastopol and Simferopol on Russia’s Crimean Peninsula, where he discovers the atrocities of war, and fights to keep death and disease— scurvy, typhoid, typhus, cholera, gangrene and frostbite—from decimating the troops. As the war progresses, Andrey fears his mind is becoming unhinged as he witnesses the most senseless disregard for human life imaginable.

But even after the ink dries on the peace treaty, the madness of the war doesn’t end for Andrey. He scours city and countryside in search of a place where his soul can heal. Emotionally hamstrung, can he learn to trust the woman who longs to walk beside him on his journey?

A war story told in intimate human terms, How Did I Get Here? is the result of Jane Marlow’s lifelong interest in 1800s Russia and extensive research into the Crimean War. The second book in the Petrovo series, this novel follows Who Is To Blame? A Russian Riddle, reacquainting readers with several of their favorite characters.
In How Did I Get Here?, readers witness the war’s frontlines from a Russian surgeon’s perspective (as compared to the well-known accounts of British nurse Florence Nightingale of the enemy’s forces). The book also examines unrecognized and untreatable Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder a century before it was given a name, and explores the precariousness of war—why one man lives, the one beside him dies, and another is impaired for life.

A timeless story of human self-discovery and connection, How Did I Get Here? is hard-hitting historical fiction for serious readers.

About the Author

Jane Marlow ( was 11 years old when her mother hauled her to a stage performance of “Fiddler on the Roof”—a night that began her lifelong fascination with the grayness and grandeur of 19th century Russia. After a 30-year career as a veterinarian, Jane began writing full-time. She spent years researching 1800s Russia, the setting for her first two novels, Who Is to Blame? and How Did I Get Here?, the first and second books in the Petrovo series. Jane holds a Master’s Degree in Public Health from Texas A&M University, and her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from the University of Illinois. A longtime resident of the Austin, Texas area, she now lives in Bozeman, Montana.

Story Ideas / Key Messages

   How Did I Get Here?: An unexpected war narrative set in 19th century Russia

   Jane Marlow’s years of research on 1800s Russia: the Motherland’s tsars, reforms (including the emancipation of the serfs), nobility, peasants, war, culture

   The First of the Modern Wars: The impact of the Crimean War and its influence on both the US Civil War and WWI
   Exploring Russia before Putin, before Stalin, before the Revolution

   The Crimean War (1853-1856): The war that was a game changer in the balance of power in Europe. Never again would Tsardom be regarded as all-powerful.

   The two-and-a-half-year-long Crimean War claimed at least 750,000 lives, rivaling the U.S. Civil War in its death toll. The conflict also forever altered the nature of combat, marking the battlefield debut of railways, telegraphs, steamships, rifled muskets, and newspaper coverage.

   June 2018 is National PTSD Awareness Month, and June 27, 2018 is PTSD Awareness Day: The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) afflicts between 10% and 30% of the veterans of U.S. wars since Vietnam. In How Did I Get Here?, we see a character affected by Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder a full century before it was given a name.

Praise for Who Is To Blame? (Book 1 in the Petrovo series)

“Jane Marlow has done a marvelous job giving the reader a deep and beautiful insight into the day to day life of the Russian people from nobles to the peasants in the 19th century. As you immerse yourself in the book you can feel their struggles and experiences as though you were walking in their shoes. Brilliant!”

—Mark Schauss, host of the Russian Rulers History Podcast

Monday, April 23, 2018

Daddy’s Little Girl by Mary Higgins Clark

Ms. Clark did an excellent job in showing how readily love ones are to accept and project blame amidst a tragedy.   A young woman suffers an untimely demise.  Her demise not only ends her life but negatively impacts those around her.  Ellie, the sister, feels she should have done more.  Andrea’s parents both feel the same.  The loss of a child provides such trauma that all around it are impacted.

Frankly I thought the main protagonist, Ellie, was a flaming idiot on more than one occasion in the book.   However stirring emotion is something every author hopes to provoke so Clark did well.  

The human side of the story, not just the plot is a hallmark of Ms. Clark.   Her books never fail to delve into the motivations of her characters.

I recommend.


This book may have been received free of charge from a publisher or a publicist. That will NEVER 
have a bearing on my recommendations.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Eye for an Eye by Ben Coes

Power Down was the first book I read by this author.   The author writes with the pedal to the metal and doesn’t hesitate to gun down a character that you like.   This is not a series for the faint of heart.

The main character is  Dewey Andreas.  Dewey was Delta Force but was forced out by some questionable circumstances.  His background allowed him to become a major force in stopping the terrorists as shown in Power Down.   Apparently some time and books have passed as he is back working for the government.

The villain is China and their clandestine service but the economics of China’s investments in the United States also plays a role in the story.

Overall it is a story of vengeance as illustrated by the title.

If you have issues with high levels of graphic violence the book may not be for you but I found it shockingly realistic.

I recommend.


This book may have been received free of charge from a publisher or a publicist. That will NEVER have a bearing on my recommendations.

Friday, April 13, 2018

I, Sniper by Stephen Hunter

Bob Lee Swagger a Vietnam Vet, an alcoholic, a sniper and a hunter battling PTSD is back.   Bob is old now, and feels like he is out of the game.   He is not!   Being old myself,  I found reassurance that an old guy can still kick some butt.   Oddly enough, I am not nearly deluded enough to believe I could but Bob Lee Swagger certainly can.

This plot is centered around the defamation of a Marine Corp hero, a sniper.   Bob Lee doesn’t buy into all the hype.   Radicals from the 70s are being murdered by a sniper and the hero stand accused.  Nick Damascus, FBI agent, is back in this book.    He is still a stalwart friend of Swaggers.

The investigation includes very thinly disguised notables.   So thinly disguised as to be amusing.   The theme of Bob Lee Swagger opposing enormous and powerful adversaries with a small network of friends and otherworldly skills continues in this book. 

As I have noted with past Hunter books, don’t plan to get a lot done once you start the book as you will not, I repeat, YOU WILL NOT WANT to put it down.

I highly recommend.

This is not an official website.

This book may have been received free of charge from a publisher or a publicist. That will NEVER have a bearing on my recommendations.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Isosceles’ Day by Kevin J. Meehan

This was a hard review to write.  I think the author and his subject are both special.  Both of them due to the experience they had in their lives.  I love the illustrations.  The text left me a bit bemused.   The dancing eggs left me confused.   I really did not get the book at all until I read the notes at the end.  I read other reviews that stated there was a positive message on nutrition.  I just didn’t see that.  After reading the end notes, I realized that the different animals were illustrative of Isosceles’ friends.   I struggled to find continuity across the illustration.   I guess each page could be used as a discussion point.  Due to the warmth of the illustrations, the book deserves regard.

I really like the illustrations and the motivation behind the book.

I did receive the book at no charge in exchange for an honest review.   

This book may have been received free of charge from a publisher or a publicist. That will NEVER have a bearing on my recommendations.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Spotlight on Elena Hartwell's Three Strikes You're Dead


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:                                                                       Sara Wigal, Publicist
Sydney Mathieu, Publicist

Camel Press Announces the April Release of Three Strikes, You’re Dead by Elena Hartwell: Hot on the Trail of a Kidnapper

Seattle, WA—On April 1, 2018, Camel Press will release Three Strikes, You’re Dead ($15.95, 288 pages, ISBN: 978-1-60381-727-1) by Elena Hartwell, the third book in the Eddie Shoes Mystery series, set in Washington State. Private investigator Eddie Shoes heads to a resort outside Leavenworth, Washington, for a mother-daughter getaway weekend. Eddie’s mother, Chava, wants to celebrate her new job at a casino by footing the bill for the two of them, and who is Eddie to say no?

On the first morning, Eddie goes on an easy solo hike, and a few hours later, stumbles upon a makeshift campsite and a gravely injured man. A forest fire breaks out and she struggles to save him before the flames overcome them both. The man hands her a valuable rosary and tells her his daughter is missing and begs for her help. He dies before he can tell her more information. Is Eddie now working for a dead man?

Barely escaping the fire, Eddie wakes in the hospital to find both her parents have arrived on the scene. Will Eddie’s card-counting mother and mob-connected father help or hinder the investigation? The police search in vain for a body. How will Eddie find the missing girl with only Eddie’s memory of the man’s face and a photo of his daughter to go on?

Says Hartwell, “In book three, I wanted to explore the other side of Eddie’s family history. Readers often ask about her father, Eduardo, so I decided to give him a little more time in the spotlight. This story also expands on my interest in the experiences of people who come to this country to build new lives, both legally and illegally. Of course, I couldn’t leave Chava out, so she's in there too. A triangle is always more interesting than a duo. I hope readers enjoy the twists in the plot and seeing the relationships evolve as much as I did.”

Praise for the Eddie Shoes Mysteries:

Two Heads Are Deader Than One: 5 Stars: “A delightful heroine in a story that promises pleasant romance and a hint of danger with a twist of an ending. This will keep one from ever putting this book down!”  — InD’tale Magazine

Two Heads Are Deader Than One: “Elena Hartwell has conjured up a plausible protagonist and done a good job of plunking her into a setting and plot that nicely suit her.” —Reviewing the Evidence

One Dead, Two to Go: “Hartwell has created quite a winner in the unique and clever Eddie Shoes, and this first case features not only a twisting, turning, fast-paced plot, but also a number of nuanced, quirky relationships.” —RT Book Reviews

One Dead, Two to Go: “Avid Alphabet series connoisseurs should flock to this kick-off series.”
InD’tale Magazine

Elena Hartwell’s writing career began in the theater, where she also worked as a director, designer, producer, and educator. Productions of her scripts have been performed around the U.S. and abroad. She lives in North Bend, Washington, with her husband. For more information go to

Three Strikes, You’re Dead is currently available for presale in both eBook and 5x8 trade paperback on and After April 1st, it will also be for sale on the European Amazons, Amazon Japan, and at select independent bookstores. Wholesale customers should contact Epicenter Press/Aftershocks Media (, Ingram, or Baker & Taylor. Other electronic versions are available from Smashwords.

About Camel Press—Based in Kenmore, Washington, Camel Press is an imprint of Epicenter Press, Inc. We publish genre fiction: romance, mystery/suspense, science fiction, and fantasy—the books that grab you and hold you in their grip long into the night.

An Interview with
Elena Hartwell

1.     You started out your writing career as a playwright. How did you decide to start writing mysteries? I have been a lifelong reader. From the Narnia Series to science fiction, historical fiction, and non-fiction, I’ve loved reading a wide variety of genres and styles. Fairly early on, however, my granny introduced me to mysteries. She loved the classics, like Tony Hillerman and Agatha Christie. As I got older, I began to read more and more mysteries, so while I still branch out, they are my go-to reading. I began working in the theater during my undergraduate years. I have been a director, designer, educator, and technician. Marrying my writing with theater made sense, so I spent twenty years working as a playwright. But deep down, I always wanted to write a novel. Plays are ephemeral, they last for a very short period of time. Novels last as long as the binding holds. I wrote my first novel about ten years ago. It wasn’t very good, but I learned a lot. I wrote another and another, until my fourth book was published and the Eddie Shoes Mystery Series was born.
2.     How has your training in theater played into your fiction writing? I’ve come to understand story structure pretty well through all my years of both writing and directing--and occasionally acting--for the theater. Nothing teaches a writer more about how to write tight, dramatic scenes as trying to hold an audience’s attention. For the most part, you get two hours onstage to tell your story, so every word and every moment has to count. Theater taught me how to handle exposition (background information) and how to write dialogue. It also taught me a lot about how to create complex characters. What it didn’t teach me was how to write descriptions! I had to learn that the hard way. According to an editor I worked with on my first novel, that first book had “fantastic atmosphere, but no details.” She couldn’t tell what anything looked like, just the mood it created. I’ve gotten much better at including a few specifics.

3.     How has Eddie developed as a character since the first book, and how do you think she might continue to grow in the future? One of the things I love most about Eddie is her independence. But one of the things I’ve enjoyed most about her evolution, is her newfound connection with and reliance on other people. She was an only child, with a teenage, single mother, no other close family, and few close friends. She moved away from her hometown of Spokane, Washington, and became a private investigator. She was just starting to rely on her mentor when he committed suicide (before the first novel). She fled to Bellingham, Washington, and started back from square one. Over the course of the novels, however, she’s let a few people into her life, including her mother. And now she has a dog, so her life is almost complete. Keep an eye out for future Eddie Shoes’ books, however, her lovelife might be what she explores next.
4.     How does setting the story in Bellingham, WA, influence the plot and characters? Bellingham is a wonderful town just south of Vancouver, Canada. I like it as a location to set the series for a number of reasons. From Bellingham, a character can hop on a train, catch a bus, or a sneak on a ferry. They could run for the border or head to Idaho, Montana, or lots of other places to hide. Interstate 5 stretches from the Canadian border to Mexico, so it’s a straight shot out of the country. It’s a college town, so there’s a very active younger population, which is also somewhat transient. There are funky neighborhoods, and a beautiful historic section with brick buildings and cobbled streets. It’s less than 100,000 people, so it has a small-town vibe, without it being out of the realm of possibility that a murder could take place. Weather has a big impact. It rains a lot of the year, so that has to be taken into account for stakeouts and following suspects around. It’s a laid-back community, without gang violence or “bad” neighborhoods, but there are drug problems just like everywhere else. While crime isn’t rampant, there are domestic squabbles, robberies, and justification for criminal activity in my plots. I am aware of the Cabot Cove dilemma, so I move Eddie around sometimes and have the murders take place in other locations. I can’t quite justify killing more than one person a year.

5.     What authors have inspired your writing? Sue Grafton was probably the writer who inspired me the most in terms of writing mysteries. She was the first female author I found and followed on my own. I love Kinsey Millhone. She’s funny and capable and practical, and also feels real. While I love books like the Jack Reacher novels, I don’t think about meeting that character in real life, Kinsey always felt like someone I could sit down and have a drink with. That’s what I love about Eddie. She feels real to me. She makes mistakes, but her heart is always in the right place. In terms of career, I love Dennis Lehane. I think writing a contemporary series and a historical series and several standalones is ideal. Being able to write different protagonists and time periods appeals to me. Lastly, I think the Hobbit is the perfect book. J. R. R. Tolkien’s ability to create a mythological world that integrated battles from world war one has stayed with me since childhood. As I’ve gotten older and began to understand how he merged his real world experiences into his epic novel, showed me how much impact a fiction author can have on humanity understanding itself. It let me see that even when a novel is “light” or designed to “entertain,” it can still have an underlying ethical component. While Eddie is a fun read, I like to think there’s something to be gained by spending time with her. When I used to teach at the college level, I sometimes told my students, what I hope for, is that you leave my class as better people, if you learn something about theater along the way, that’s the icing. I hope when people read Eddie they enjoy the experience, but that’s the icing on the cake. If they think about themselves or other people in a slightly different way, that’s the cake.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Elton’s Case by Andy Siegel

This is a legal mystery.  That does not infer any others are illegal, just that this mystery is centered around a personal injury attorney.   Tug Wyler appears to be respected by everyone but his secretary.   He finds himself with a client that mystifies him.  

I found the book occasionally tedious with some things over explained and other that didn’t need explained.   Elton, the client, was mysterious.  His law suit against the city was the basis of the plot.   The author did an excellent job in presenting Tug’s torn sentiments regarding the client.  

The book is one of a series and all seem to be differing legal cases.

I have mixed feelings on the book.   It held my interest but did not captivate me.


This book may have been received free of charge from a publisher or a publicist. That will NEVER have a bearing on my recommendations.

Friday, March 23, 2018

All the Beautiful Lies by Peter Swanson

This is a soap opera-ish mystery.   A man is murdered and his son finds out that his father may not be exactly who he thought he was.  

Harry is a somewhat hapless, very recent college graduate who discovers unsettling things about his Dad and his stepmother.  

The book does an now and then type of flip flopping.  We get current behavior in the now and the back story in the then.   It sounds cumbersome but it works.

Several murders, a set of attractive twins, a hapless college grad, a sex offender, a model and a psychopath provide a wealth of characterizations that Swanson manages well.

I enjoyed the book and recommend it.


This book may have been received free of charge from a publisher or a publicist. That will NEVER have a bearing on my recommendations.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Overkill by Ted Bell

This is a very current book.   It has references right out of the headlines.  It is loaded with action and includes a smattering of sex.   Lots of high tech stuff, submarines, tanks, trains, fancy cars and weapons galore.  I really expected to like this book after having read previous Ted Bell books.  

Sadly I was very lukewarm about this book.  It was a lot of flash and glam but very little substance.   The characters were so bold as to be comic.   It came across as a tongue in cheek action book rather than an actual action book. 

Vladimir Putin finds himself on the outs with the oligarchs.  He needs large cash infusions to regain power.   Alex Hawke, the main protagonist, has thwarted Putin in the past so Putin puts a scheme into play to keep Hawke at bay.

There are a lot of colorful characters and predictable action.  The most interesting part of the book were the Swiss bunkers one of which was Putin’s hideout.   I was unaware of the warren of bunkers the Swiss have throughout their country.  I Googled it and found it very interesting, sadly more so than the book.

I hope the quality of this book is merely a hiccup in a string of Bell books I have enjoyed.  There were times it was repetitious and other times where it just wasn’t tight.  Overall the plot was acceptable but for me the book was just average when I have come to expect above average from Bell.  Keep in mind this was an uncorrected proof and that could have a bearing on the repetition and the tightness of the prose.   This may easily move up to four or five stars upon release.


This book may have been received free of charge from a publisher or a publicist. That will NEVER have a bearing on my recommendations.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Two Girls Down by Louisa Luna

This was a child abduction mystery which is hard for me to read.  There is a special place in hell for people who prey on children. 

The story is a good mystery.   The characterizations were well done.   The author clearly showed foibles and strengths and did a nice job showing emotions.   

The two main protagonists are flawed and believable. 

I enjoyed the book and recommend it.

This book may have been received free of charge from a publisher or a publicist. That will NEVER have a bearing on my recommendations.

Friday, March 9, 2018

All Around the Town by Mary Higgins Clark

It has been a long time since I read one of Ms. Clark’s books.   This one was every bit as good as I remember.  It is an intricate mystery with psychological overtones.

Laurie is a precocious toddler who finds herself in an untenable situations.   Years later her mental well being is challenged by her childhood.   She has a compassionate and close sister who helps her through her difficulties.

The trouble with a mystery is avoiding including spoilers.   This is a good mystery with well developed characters and sufficient tension to want to turn to the next page.

I recommend.


This book may have been received free of charge from a publisher or a publicist. That will NEVER have a bearing on my recommendations.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Power Down by Ben Coes

I am new to this author.  He does not shy away from violence or strong opinions.   This story is one of terrorists attacking our economic infrastructure.

The main characters in the book deal in financial atmospheres that are understated by rarified.  The main character ends up being Dewey Andreas.  Dewey was Delta Force but was forced out by some questionable circumstances.  His background allowed him to become a major force in stopping the terrorists.

I found the near closing scene with a major terrorist player a bit perplexing regarding an inkling of conscience after an entire book of merciless behavior.   Merciless is also an apt description for Dewey.

I had a touch of difficulty with the level of graphic violence however it did not deter from my enjoyment of the book.

I recommend.


This book may have been received free of charge from a publisher or a publicist. That will NEVER have a bearing on my recommendations.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Death at Nuremberg by W.E. B. Griffin and William E. Butterworth IV

This book takes place after the Allies won WWII.   The same characters as the last couple of books.   This one involves the Nazis trying to smuggle their cohorts out of Allied territory and the trials at Nuremberg.

The problem with Griffin books is if you have not read a good part of the series  you would not have a clue with what is going on.   I have read the series so I was fine.  I just finished the book within the last hour and frankly can’t even remember the main protagonist name.  Jim something or Super Spook as he was often referred to. 

The chaotic aspects of post WWII and the advent of Russian interference are clearly shown.  The ambivalence shown by former allies and adversaries proves enlightening.

I enjoyed the book but it was easy  to put down.  Lots of dialogue but minimal action.


This book may have been received free of charge from a publisher or a publicist. That will NEVER have a bearing on my recommendations.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Black Sugar by Miguel Bonnefoy

This is a strange generational tale of obsession with treasure.  It had a very intriguing start but swiftly went down hill until near the end when it regained some momentum.  The lost treasure of Captain Morgan which starts strangely and ends as strangely.   Captain Morgan was crazed with his treasure and the later hunters of his treasure shared in the craze.   A family tradition of looking for the treasure led to the founding of a dynastic farm focused on the production of rum.

The location of the country is as mysterious as the missing treasure, I'm pretty sure it is Venezuela.   It appears to be in the Caribbean but I was never sure if it was an island or the mainland.  The story is also of love, unrequited and sometimes unwanted.   The love was not just romantic but maternal and paternal as well and still often unrequited and unwanted.  

There were no characters in the book that were easy to relate to and the motivation of the characters was often confusing.

The book was mildly interesting.

This book may have been received free of charge from a publisher or a publicist. That will NEVER have a bearing on my recommendations.