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"Teamwork is essential; it gives the enemy someone else to shoot at." - Anon

Last Build Date: Sat, 17 Mar 2018 10:04:31 PDT


Book Review: Bone Music

Sat, 17 Mar 2018 10:04:31 PDT

The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar. Bone Music’s story by Christopher Rice is not a classical melody, but more like hard rock. The scenes are riveting and realistic enough that there is an element of believability, alternating between a thriller and the fringes of science fiction. Rice considers it a “sci-fi cross over where it has a gratified fantasy dusted in the grit of existence. What was extraordinary: the drug that makes Charlotte able to do incredible things and the pharmaceutical company that is so wealthy they have infinite resources including their paramilitary units. The drug attacks the process in the brain to prevent fright so that Charlotte is not paralyzed by fear and can actually fight. Also, throughout the series an ongoing question will be why does the drug only work with Charlotte, allowing her a three-hour window where she is capable of absolutely Superhuman strength.” This consuming read has the heroine trying to overcome her tragic past by rebuilding her life and overcoming her trust issues. The intensity begins from page one when a husband and wife team of serial killers abducts a nine-month-old baby after brutally killing its mother. They raised Trina, hoping to include her in their viciousness, grooming her to follow in their footsteps. Yet, she could not even kill a bird and felt remorse. This shows that environment is not the sole basis for serial killers since Charlotte refuses to kill. Luckily for her, at the age of seven, the FBI raided their hideout. Throughout her life Trina had to be under the suspicion of some who felt that she was complicit in the murders, labeled as “The Burning Girl.” She attempts to bury her past by changing her name to Charlotte Rowe, and baring her soul to psychologist, Dylan “Cole,” who was pretending to help, but actually had his own agenda. He gives her a supposed calming pill, which is actually an experimental drug. It transforms her adrenaline when triggered by a sense of fear, allowing her to have super strength. Now able to gain back her confidence with a life ruled less by fear, she decides to use her extraordinary ability to fight evil, a serial killer known as the Mask Maker, with the help of the pharmaceutical company that makes the drug. As the story unfolds Charlotte transforms from a paranoid and insecure individual to someone who gains strength, confidence, and a small amount of trust. She returns to the town of her childhood, Altamira, California, where she enlists the help of those who she knew, including a high school peer, Luke, who would bully her, but now wants to make amends by helping. Wanting a superhero with some flaws, Rice notes, “She does everything one step at a time. She is strong, determined, resilient, smart, but has a dark side. When her grandmother died she became grief stricken. Since then she had built walls, but once she decides to make the most of a bad situation and gets a new purpose she is starting to bring the wall down and allow people into her life. After she changed her name from Trina Pierce to Charlotte Rowe she found her own voice. Changing her name was a way to say ‘I can set my own course,’ and make my own identity.” Just as those in the military, Charlotte feels that it is her duty to protect others. “I wrote that the people Charlotte goes up against are fundamentally evil, and she feels they must be stopped by her. I have to say, as I was writing this I did not feel much remorse for the people who died at Charlotte’s hands. Just as with the military, people should not be weighing in and creating a social media jury system on every combat situation. Especially, since they have no sense of what really went down, and we are not willing to make the sacrifices our men and women in the military must make. I think Charlotte realizes she will go after the worse of the worst and I compare her to the special forces of serial killer tr[...]

Book Review: The Escape Artist

Sat, 17 Mar 2018 10:01:19 PDT

The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar. The Escape Artist by Brad Meltzer once again proves he is the master of secrets. His books always delve into the hidden stories of the characters and governmental conspiracies. He has a knack for finding out and then writing about interesting topics that are not widely well-known, incorporating them into a thrilling story. The book starts off with a bang when one of the passengers jumps out of a plane without a parachute before it crashes to the ground. It might have received little notice except that one of the passengers was the Librarian of Congress and a good friend of President Orson Wallace. A little tidbit, this is the same President who appeared in Meltzer’s previous series. Following the crash Jim “Zig” Zigarowski, a very skilled mortician at Dover Air Force Base, is assigned to perform his magic on the bodies of those who crashed. He has unique reconstructive talents that has made it possible for families to view the peaceful remains of their lost loved ones, allowing them to make sure the fallen look the way people remember them so that their families can have the proper closure they need. Some bodies have missing limbs, so Zig must sculpt new ones out of clay. If their faces are ripped apart by shrapnel or burned beyond recognition, he does his magic with makeup. It’s a job he does with love, and something he takes very seriously. One of the bodies from the plane crash is Nola Brown, a name Zig recognizes immediately, since she saved his daughter, Maggie’s life and lost a portion of her ear in the process. A year after Nola saved Maggie she ended up dying in a tragic accident and Nola had a terrible childhood at the hands of sociopathic foster parents. Zig’s sadness turns to surprise after realizing the body in front of him had no ear damage making Zig positive that it was not Nola. This sparks a personal mission to find Nola. He is determined to discover who are the remains he was working on, and unravel the mystery of the mix up. Through the investigation Zig uncovers that Nola is the U.S. Army's artist-in-residence, a painter and trained soldier who rushes into battle, making art from war's aftermath and sharing observations about today's wars that would otherwise go overlooked. After finding her they work together uncovering a sinister scheme called Operation Bluebook, based on the magician’s Harry Houdini secret way of revealing fake fortune-tellers, separating truth from lies. Zig and Nola must find who is behind Bluebook before the conspirators can kill them. In the course of the investigation they realize that they have a lot in common. It seems as though Zig and Nola are able to restore everyone but themselves. This riveting story is about handling grief, the feeling of loss, and the ability to recover. But it also delves into how secrets can be costly to one’s health. [...]

Book Review: The Queen Of Hearts

Mon, 12 Mar 2018 09:11:18 PDT

The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar. The Queen Of Hearts by Kimmery Martin delves into relationships within the medical profession. This debut novel is set against a background of hospital rounds with life-or-death decisions. It is a story of betrayal and forgiveness as the two best friends, Emma Colley and Zadie Anson navigate their friendship through stormy waters. Martin describes Zadie as “Competent, caring, intelligent, warm, and trustworthy. She is also goofy, funny, and fun-loving. People are asking me if she is patterned after myself, but I have to say she is much more charismatic. I think she is not by nature a grudge holder.” For her Emma is the complete opposite, “In many ways, she is unapproachable. She stews over what has happened to her and fixates on things. Although physically beautiful she is socially awkward, cerebral. I like and empathize with her.” The plot alternates between 1999 and the present day where they now live in North Carolina, raising a family, and have a successful medical practice. Everything turns topsy-turvy when Nick Xenokostas decides to join Emma’s surgery group. The two friends must face the secrets of their past, including how Nick broke Zadie’s heart. Nick's unexpected reappearance during a time of new professional crisis shocks both women into a deeper look at the difficult choices they made at the beginning of their careers. A powerful book quote, “If a child dies it’s not because she’s needed in heaven, or because there was some cosmic plan for her to die so another child could be born”? Martin explains, “This was stated by Emma who wants everything to make sense. She wants the world to function according to the laws of logic, less likely to have her personality ruled by emotion. She never rationalizes that things happen for the greater good. As I started writing, I thought, ‘try it; what is the worst that could go wrong.’ But in medicine the worst that can go wrong is that you can kill someone. It is a cloud hanging over doctors’ heads.” The story has intrigue, drama, and turmoil that combine for a good story.

Book Review: The Third Victim

Mon, 12 Mar 2018 09:05:23 PDT

The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar. The Third Victim by Phillip Margolin is the first in a new series. Margolin is back with his expertise of legal suspense crime novels. What makes his books interesting is the ability to intertwine facts about the justice system within a riveting plot. The book begins with a horrific scene of a girl stumbling out of the woods and collapsing on the highway. She has been badly burned, beaten, and tortured. The investigation would later show that this woman was the ‘third victim’ of a sadistic killer. Luckily she was able to escape before he finished the job. Persons of interest pile up: Alex Mason, a prominent defense attorney who owns the cabin where the torture takes place; Arnold Prater, a rogue police officer, and a drug dealing pimp, Jackson Wright. Readers enter the courtroom with the defense attorneys, Regina Barrister and Robin Lockwood, as they try to figure out who is the real torturer. Margolin noted, “I pioneered the battered woman defense back in Oregon in 1979. No one understood the dynamics of wife beating and why they stayed with their abuser. That year I represented a woman who murdered her husband with a hammer after he passed out drunk. During the course of my investigation I found out she was beaten by him for fourteen years and he also pushed her down a flight of stairs. She got probation. After that I lectured and wrote articles on how to use it as a defense.” As with all of his novels, Margolin explores societal issues, with this book being no different. Alzheimer’s is dealt with in a very understanding manner. Regina, a high-powered defense attorney, in the midst of a very serious case of murder and torture is starting to forget important information and is not able to hide it from the rest of the team that includes her newly hired associate Robin Lockwood. Since Regina is known for her quick wit, sharp mind, and immaculate research, Robin thought this would be her dream job, having a great mentor. Yet, she now must decide what to do, weighing her desire to continue working with Regina against her moral compass. Does she approach her or some of the trusted friends, and if so how to avoid confrontation since Regina is obviously in denial? Using this disease as an inspiration for the story, “I read this article in the Oregon State Bar Journal that examines what should be done when a senior partner in a big law firm, a rainmaker, starts showing signs of dementia. This made me think about a young lawyer who starts working with her idol on a death penalty case and realizes something is wrong. It is also personal since my grandmother, mother-in-law, and my aunt had Alzheimer’s. I think it is worse for people who are around them. I remember when I went back to New York and called my aunt to get together for lunch. After lunch, we were sitting in the park and she did not know where was her apartment. Five minutes later she asked the question again. My father and brother flew out and we took her back to Oregon.” Margolin never disappoints readers with his legal thrillers. He chooses an issue relevant to today and encases it in a story involving some crime. This book is really two plots in one, a murder mystery and an examination of the impact of Alzheimer’s. [...]

Book Review: The Terminal List

Sun, 04 Mar 2018 06:47:02 PST

The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar. The Terminal List is a debut thriller by Jack Carr. What makes this book special is that Carr uses his experiences as a SEAL to write a realistic action-packed story. It takes readers to a time when rules of engagement had the Special Forces acting as cowboys where they took out the enemy up close and personal as well as from afar with sniper fire. Carr noted, “The book was essentially written for me. It was very therapeutic. I revisited what was important to me over the last twenty years including emotionally, strategically, and tactically. I combined them into a fictional thriller hoping to make the weapons and the people authentic. It was me pouring out my passions and emotions. I took my experiences of studying warfare and the real world and applied it to this story about revenge. I based it on the Samurai warrior mentality that understood they might die while going into warfare. All of the emotions, flashbacks, and remembrances I felt over the last twenty years were placed on the protagonist. It also helped that my friend partnered with me to write this story.” He served for over twenty years with an expertise in communications/intelligence, to leading assault/sniper teams, and to practicing counterinsurgency. He uses all this in the story when his hero, Lt. Commander James Reece, seeks revenge after losing almost all his men in an Afghanistan ambush killing 36 SEALs, 28 Rangers, and four aircrew members in his unit as well as his wife and child. After finding out that the murders were perpetrated by high-level rogue government and military officials he creates a list of twelve who must die. Reece has no regrets since he believes he is dying of a terminal brain tumor because the government decided to use his unit for experimentation of a drug that would be used for those with PTSD. Readers will be reminded of Vince Flynn’s books Term Limits and Consent to Kill. Carefully plotting these assassinations Reece is determined to see that justice is served. The author wanted to write a realistic story and reminds readers, “In the 1970s Senator Church had hearings on experiments done to people in the military. For example, they put Navy divers down at a certain depth for a certain amount of time. If they had issues they would reduce the time. These guys were used as guinea pigs. I molded much of this information into a fictional story. It is also based on Vince Flynn’s Term Limits in that in both stories by killing the bad guys justice was served so there were no regrets. This is why I put in the book quote, ‘Killing was not so much about taking a life, it was about sustaining life: the lives of your countrymen, your unit, your family, yourself.’ I personally sleep very well at night regarding my decisions.” There have been many inspiring books by SEALs about their life and career. With The Terminal List readers get the inspiring story within an action-packed plot. [...]

Book Review: If I Die Tonight

Sun, 04 Mar 2018 06:37:17 PST

The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar. If I Die Tonight by Alison Gaylin brings psychological suspense stories to a whole new level. The focus of the plot emphasizes the relationship between parents and children and how social media plays a role. The I-GEN generation characters that keep secrets and isolate themselves, allows readers to realize it is sometimes impossible for parents to really know their children. The plot begins with Wade, a teenager’s, suicide note, then flashes back five days and unfolds from the perspectives of Jackie, Connor, Pearl, and Amy Nathanson. Amy files a police report claiming that she was car jacked by a teenage boy. Another boy, Liam, rushes to help and is hit by the car. The case quickly consumes social media, transforming Liam, a local high school football star, into a folk hero, and the suspect, a high school outcast named Wade Reed, into a depraved would-be killer. His mother, Jackie, and brother Connor, are convinced Wade is innocent, but must face their own life changes as they too are seen as pariahs. Gaylin has the uncanny ability to develop likeable and dysfunctional characters. A shining character in the story is police officer Pearl Maze. She has problems that must be worked out with her father. But as a cop she is very astute at realizing there is more to the crime than meets the eye and she is a great judge of personality. Suspense ratchets up as Pearl tries to figure out if Wade is innocent or guilty. Readers might not see the last of Pearl since Gaylin is thinking of writing a Pearl novella. “I can definitely see a possibility of doing a series with her. I wrote her backstory because I’ve always been haunted by the stories I’ve read about toddlers picking up guns and accidentally killing a parent, wondering about what effect that would have on the child. In writing Pearl, I saw an opportunity to introduce that idea. She describes herself as, ‘a murderer before she could even read.’ I imagined what toll that could take on an otherwise level-headed person. Pearl is a complicated young woman who tends to isolate herself from others. Overall, she is a basically good and moral person and a keen judge of character.” Jackie Reed, a single mother of two teenage boys, loves and embraces them, always believing in them. Her sons Wade and Connor alternate between being the older wiser brother and the dependent one; even though Connor is the thirteen-year-old and Wade is seventeen. They rely on each other for stability and support, and want to protect one another. Gaylin noted, “Secrets. I write about secrets in most of my books. We really do not fully know someone. There are characters in this book who are willing to let others go down just to make sure their secret does not get out. What I like to do when I start writing is to find out everyone’s secrets. In this book, I felt for Jackie because I am also the parent of teenage children. I love writing a twisting plot, but this is probably my most character-driven novel. A lot of the twists come out of characters lying to each other and to themselves.” Also, a character in the story is social media. It creates fake news, victims, and heroes, and allows everyone to keep secrets and manipulate those around them. What should scare people the most is how it can destroy when instantaneous posts become permanent. This engaging tale stresses family relationships and the role of social media in society today. As with her other books Gaylin takes readers on an emotional roller coaster ride with her many twists. [...]

Book Review: Agent In Place

Sat, 24 Feb 2018 05:42:14 PST

The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar. Agent in Place by Mark Greaney has lots of action, some current events, and a great storyline. The main character, Court Gentry, known as “The Gray Man” ventures into places where not many would dare to go having to overcome some very bad people. The reader feels as if they are placed right into the center of the Syrian Civil War as they go along for the ride with Gentry as he faces all of the different factions and players including mercenaries, the Free Syrian Army, ISIS, the Russians, just to mention a few. Greaney wants “Court to operate with a mission he thought of as noble. Because I have been interested in this Civil War ever since it started I decided to create this idea for the story. Assad is currently using chlorine against his people and seems to get away with quite a bit. It seems over the years governments say, ‘we will never let this happen again.’ When it happens again they look the other way and appear to do nothing. It is pretty pathetic. Many of those who are anti-Assad or in my case anti- al-Azzam are radical Jihadists. There is the saying, ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend,’ but the reverse it also true. Then there is Russia that basically wants to use Syria as an aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean, where they have a military presence. All these groups including those against the Russians commit atrocities, but then there are the innocent children and those who just want to live their lives. It is not like World War II where there were distinct good guys versus bad guys.” The novel begins with ISIS about to execute Court. The story then backtracks a week ago to show readers how Gentry got in this mess to begin with. Because he was never an official employee of the CIA Court decides which missions he will choose, some for the Spy Agency and some from freelance work. In this case he is working on his own for the Halabys, leaders of the Free Syria Exile Union who hire him to kidnap the mistress of the Syrian President, the model Bianca Medina. The plan is to have her release information that will deal a serious blow to the Syrian regime and hasten the end of the cruel civil war. Complications arise when she refuses unless her son is rescued from the grips of his father, Ahmed al-Azzam, the Syrian President. After agreeing to this new job, Gentry realizes that there is a tangled web including Syria’s First Lady who wants Bianca and the heir to the throne dead. The tension ratchets up even higher from here. His nickname of “The Gray Man” suits Gentry since he always seems to keep a low profile and work in the shadows. He's a fiercely loyal and trustworthy individual and when he says he's got your back you can believe him. What makes him special is his desire to do what is necessary to make sure the bad guys never are a threat again. It is a welcome relief considering the real world has the bad guys winning way too much. Greaney uses current events to make the plot even more realistic. “It is very important to me not to make them so complex they are not understandable. Of course, I am obviously pushing the envelope, but I do want everything to be possible. I hope Court is not viewed as a Superhero like Captain America. Instead, he should be seen with vulnerabilities and can get hurt at any time. For example, there is a kernel of truth about my character, Shakira Azzam, and the real Syrian First Lady. In this book, she is a power broker because she is the villainous. She is beautiful, brilliant, and was once referred to as ‘the Rose of the Desert’, and ‘Lady Diana of the Middle East.’ But in actuality she is a master manipulator and wants to be in control. Now, after seven years of a Civil War, her public image[...]

Book Review: The Tuscan Child

Sat, 24 Feb 2018 05:39:24 PST

The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar. The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen is one of those rare books that will stick with people long after they finish it. The story is based in two time periods, 1944 and 1973, where the former is an historical account of World War II and the latter embodies a mystery. Wanting to challenge herself, Bowen wrote in two time periods with parallel stories coming together at the end. “I always wanted to write something set in Tuscany because I love it so much. I have been there quite a few times in my life, including two years ago when I was asked to teach an author’s workshop. The World War II aspect came from an account I read where an English airman bailed out of his plane before it crashed into Tuscany. All these bits and pieces come together in this story.” The novel begins at the end of 1944 when British airman Hugo Langley must parachute out of his crashing plane into German occupied Tuscany Italy. Badly wounded he finds refuge in a monastery and is discovered by one of the villagers, Sophia Bartoli. She aids him in his quest to become well enough to escape to the Allied lines. As time passes both realize that they have fallen in love and plot to escape together. During these scenes WWII is brought to life as readers jump out of the airplane with Hugo, fear the German atrocities with Sophia, and realize how severe are the conditions. Fast forward to 1973 where Hugo’s daughter Joanna goes through her just deceased father’s old trunk filled with his possessions. In it she finds an unopened letter addressed to Sofia. As Joanna had little knowledge of her father’s wartime life, the revelation it contains startles her. Joanna travels to the small Tuscan hill town of San Salvatore to learn about her father and the time he spent there. The mystery comes into play when everybody in this small town refuses to acknowledge that Hugo hid near the village. The most sobering parts of the book are the descriptions of the cruelties committed by the Nazis on the Italian population. “I wanted to show that after the Italians switched sides, the Germans were brutal and committed atrocities including machine gunning down whole villages. World War II is the last time we had a clear sense of good versus evil. I think it is important we remember it and understand what people went through. I wanted to show the major risk Sophia took by helping the British airman. She bought danger to herself, her child, and her village. Even though it was at the end of the war the Germans became like vicious dogs that are cornered and deliberately killed people.” Tuscany is a character onto itself. Having been there several times Bowen wanted readers to understand how the “town has a feeling to it with the high stonewalls and narrow streets. I walked through the market and did wine tastings. I also found out there is a central olive press in and area where bribery allowed for a better time slot. I will be going back this summer to teach the same course. The festival I described in the book happened the last time I was there. It was a procession with bands and banners combining religion and folk culture. Regarding the earthquakes I wrote about, they can be devastating. Remember in Italy all those stone houses will fall down.” Bowen brings to life the setting where the reader can smell the cooking scents, see the brilliant olive groves, and hear the Italian chatter. This is also an action packed story that is very intense and haunting. [...]

Book Review: The Sea Before Us

Sat, 17 Feb 2018 06:14:05 PST

The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar. The Sea Before Us by Sarah Sundin brings into focus British cultural and historical tidbits, a mystery involving an embezzler, a World War II setting, and a love triangle. It is a reminder of how America’s finest prepared for the D-Day invasion to defeat the Nazis. The year is 1944 and the Allied forces are preparing for the invasion of Normandy. Lieutenant Wyatt Paxton is a US Naval officer advising on how to use naval power during the assault. He works closely with Dorothy Fairfax, a "Wren" in the Women's Royal Naval Service. Her duties include piecing together reconnaissance photographs of France that include those of her own family's summer home. These accurate maps of Normandy, are used by Wyatt to create naval bombardment plans. As their friendship blossoms he uses his other skills as an accountant to help her figure out which employee has been embezzling in her father’s company. The tensions increase as they both must deal with enemies on the home front and abroad. Having visited Normandy, Sundin was struck with “the impressive sight than we learned in the history books. When I looked at Point du Hoc, where the US Rangers scaled the cliff, I thought that someday I wanted to write about it. I was blown away by what the men did there. After I started to do my research I found out that the US Navy was very involved. I was awed by the role the US destroyers had in Operation Neptune. These ships charged within eight hundred yards of the shore, heedless of mines and artillery, to protect those on the shore. They knocked out strongpoints and toppled gun batteries off cliffs that were pinning down the allied forces. I also wanted to inform readers about the ‘Little Blitz.’ It was overshadowed by the German Blitz during 1940-41. In 1944 the Luftwaffe retaliated for the heavy Allied bombing of German cities, killing 1,500 Londoners. But it actually backfired because they lost 300 bombers, crippling the German Air Force on the eve of the Normandy invasion.” The characters are very well-developed. They share the feeling of being all alone and having a fractioned family. She has lost her mother and brothers in the war and senses that her father resents her. In the meantime, Wyatt ran from his troubles, being blamed by his brother Adler for his fiancé’s death, even though it was an accident, then stealing two thousand dollars from his brother Clay. Having admitted his mistakes, he is repenting by saving his salary to pay his brother back. In the beginning of the story Dorothy comes across as insecure, trying to be someone she is not, even going to a point of hiding the freckles on her face. She is doing this for what she perceives is the love of her life, Lieutenant Commander Lawrence Eaton, a self-centered playboy. She looks on Wyatt as a brother and sees Eaton as a heart throb. This romance plays out within the background of WWII and emphasizes the different cultures between the Texan Wyatt and the English Dorothy and Eaton. Sundin explained, “In hiding her freckles with make-up she is hiding who she is. I put in the story how Wyatt thought they belonged with her red hair and Lawrence thought it dreadful. Wyatt accepted them, and Eaton wanted them covered up and hidden. It is typical of some guys who tell women ‘you would be cute, if...’ Dorothy also tried to be more sophisticated, molding herself into someone she is not to impress Eaton. She basically compromises herself to impress him.” This new series, ‘Sunrise at Normandy,’ is about three brothers: Wyatt in the Navy, Adler in the Air Force, and Clay a Delta Ranger. Readers will be looking forward to the follow-up books because this[...]

Book Review Edge Of Darknes

Sat, 17 Feb 2018 06:09:22 PST

The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar. Edge of Darkness by Karen Rose is the fourth book of the famous suspenseful Cincinnati series. As with most of her books she explores relevant issues centered around friends and colleagues. This one is no different since the current issues of abuse and addiction become the main theme of the novel. Meredith Fallon counsels sexually abused women like Mallory Martin to help them reintegrate into the world. But not everyone sees it as honorable and decides to eliminate her by hiring a killer. Detective Adam Kimble doesn’t even hesitate when his boss orders him to investigate. Old feelings come to the surface since the two had a brief relationship earlier. But Adam pulled away as he struggled with events that were truly harrowing. Knowing he is a recovering alcoholic he feels he doesn’t want to depend on the relationship with Meredith, essentially moving from one addiction to another. This becomes a tale of damaged people who re-connect during a violent and frightening time of their life. They must struggle with their demons, getting the relationship to work, and finding the killer. Readers will know a lot about Adam Kimble because Rose explores his backstory. “In the first book I wrote him as a belligerent jerk. As the series progresses we see him changing and having to deal with something terrible that happened to him, which throws him off the rails. Now he is a recovering alcoholic who is learning to face his demons. Even though he feels very connected to Meredith, Adam understands she cannot be his reason for sobriety. He knows he must get better on his own, and not be dependent on her. Readers see that Adam is capable of surviving without Meredith, but also knows he will be happy if they are together. As with most people, they do not have charmed lives and have some source of pain. During several points in this book I cried because it is what many of my friends experienced. They needed to understand you must live your life for yourself, not for others. My characters are banged up by life, but can still hold their own.” Because she has experienced first-hand harassment Rose wants to write in almost all of her stories this and abuse. “Abuse of women is a big theme in my books. I continued the story from the previous book, Every Dark Corner. It dealt with Mallory Martin who was abused and now in this book she is recovering. I think there is a fine line between actively showing abuse on the page and being too provocative. I don’t want to provide any material that will be too salacious. I had my own ‘#MeToo’ moment. At nineteen I had to quit a job that was good paying and one I liked because I did not see any way out of the situation. I did not think anyone would believe me. Almost every woman I talked to had a Me Too incident. It is a big part of my books because it is a big part of our lives.” Fans should be happy this will not be the last book in the series and will be treated to another suspenseful novel that delves into Dani and Diesel’s life. [...]

Book Review: The Gate Keeper

Sun, 11 Feb 2018 07:26:57 PST

The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar. The Gate Keeper, by the mother/son team known as Charles Todd, is a mystery with a huge ending twist. Fans of this series will see Scotland Yard Detective Ian Rutledge having to solve a case from a different point of view. He is not only the investigator, but is the first person on the scene so he has become a witness as well. Because this is a different type of mystery, The Todds wanted to make sure readers understand that it is not a puzzle where “there is a race between the writer and the reader as to who figures it out first. This novel has Rutledge pursuing the truth and finding a solution. He has a dogged determination to keep tracking the killer.” Having left his sister’s wedding in a distraught mood Rutledge decides to take a car trip. He encounters on a deserted road a woman standing next to a murder victim. She reports how a stranger stepped in front of the car and without warning fired a shot killing Stephen Wentworth immediately. With a list of persons of interest piling up Rutledge must sort through the many different aspects of the case. He is helped along by a voice in his head, Corporal Hamish MacLeod, the ghost of the Scottish officer he had executed for cowardice, who comments persistently inside this detective's weary ear. Rutledge always listens, and appears to have given Hamish a life that was taken away. Hamish is real to Rutledge, sometimes antagonistic, sometimes supportive, sometimes part of his unconscious perception, an inner-self. An interesting piece to the storyline is the similarities between the victim, Stephen, and the detective, Rutledge. They both had someone close to them killed in the war, although Rutledge played more of a role. They were also both jilted by the woman they loved.” The Todds noted, “Stephen is the ultra ego of Rutledge in some ways, and that is probably one of the reasons why he wanted to follow through and find the killer. They both developed levels of coping skills and were solitary people. Neither became involved in a relationship after their engagement was broken. Yet, Ian came from a loving family, and Stephen from a dysfunctional one.” One of the secondary characters can best be described as an early 20th Century “Mommy Dearest.” The mother of Stephen is vicious, spoiled, and uncaring who tried to thwart any happiness her son might achieve. “We wanted to write a character where the mother hated her son all his life. She sees him as a monster, an ugly duckling. She has no redeeming qualities. She enjoys painting him in a dim light. Basically, just a terrible person who is bitter and self-centered.” Because World War I play such an important role in the storyline, readers get a glimpse into the emotional wounds of many of the men, including Rutledge. “We wanted to humanize those who have served. Our goal as writers is to show how they were ordinary people and then were trained to be warriors. When they come back they must learn to trust again and to relate to those outside of their unit, the band of brothers. They can talk amongst their peers because they know there is a sense of understanding. Having experienced horrors first hand they cannot just shut out what they saw on the battlefield.” The Gate Keeper by Charles Todd is a ‘who done it’ type of mystery. Readers will enjoy the investigative process Ian Rutledge must go through to find the culprit. [...]

Book Review: The Great Alone

Sun, 11 Feb 2018 07:22:17 PST

The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar. The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah is another winner from the author of the bestseller The Nightingale. There are not enough adjectives in the English language to describe the greatness of this novel. It is an adventure story where readers feel they are put in the middle of the Alaskan frontier; it is a relationship story that also confronts abuse and obsession; and it is a love story between a mother/daughter, father/son, and two young adults as well as the land and those who lived on it. Hannah titled this novel, The Great Alone, because “Alaska is such a wild landscape and the people who live there are rugged, fierce, and individualists. It is what the poet Robert Service called Alaska. The primal essence of the book is survival. The actual day-to-day survival in these incredibly harsh conditions depends on the individual who needs to be tough. It is a remote geographical area from the Continental US. 80% of Alaska still has no roads at all. In the winter rivers become the highways and in the summer, it is difficult to get around.” The plot begins with the Allbright family moving to Alaska after a Vietnam buddy willed them a cabin by the Kenai River. The daughter Leni hopes that this new start will lead to a better future for her family since her father can never keep a job. At first, Alaska seems to be the answer to their prayers. In a wild, remote corner of the state, they find a fiercely independent community of strong men and even stronger women. The generosity of the locals makes up for the Allbrights’ lack of preparation and dwindling resources. Through the Allbright’s story readers will encounter the rugged Alaskan landscape and the different relationship dynamics that will form amongst the characters. It is also the story of how seven characters must not only fight nature, but help those fight their own demons. Ernt Allbright is a Vietnam POW who has returned home with PTSD, suffering sleepless nights, flashbacks, nightmares and a volatile behavior. His wife Cora is consumed by caring for their daughter. Leni tries to understand her parents and is someone who must grow up way too fast, becoming her mother’s protector from her abusive father. She falls in love with Matthew Walker who wants to show her happiness, loyalty, and security. His father Tom is someone who perceptively realizes that the Alaskan environment must be modernized, and his son should no longer be isolated and enclosed. He has a feud with Ernt and Mad Earl, who team up in their resentments of government, the military, and the Walker family. Representing an Alaskan homesteader is Large Marge, a no-nonsense woman who tries to help the Allbright women see the light. There are two compelling issues the author delves into, abuse and PTSD. “I wrote Ernt as someone who suffers from PTSD and mental illness that went undiagnosed. My personal take is that he was troubled before he went off to war and became trapped by his own demons. He ultimately evolves into the villain. In the remote isolated cabin, he becomes a threat to his daughter and wife. At the end of the story when Leni finds his medals and the newspaper clip showing his ghostly features after returning home, I hope it is a reminder that there was a time he was not despised.” Regarding the violence, Ernt has toward his wife, “I wanted to show readers they had a toxic relationship. Cora would do anything for her daughter except leave her husband. She describes the relationship as if he has cancer and is sick. He describes it as similar to heroin. Both are aware of the deep flaw in the[...]

Book Review: Into The Black Nowhere

Sat, 03 Feb 2018 09:47:12 PST

The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar. Into The Black Nowhere by Meg Gardiner is such an intense plot that the light should be on when reading this. It is a testament to her writing that she can have a dark action-packed plot without the gory details and still grab readers from page one. This novel delves into the minds of a serial killer and those in law enforcement who pursue them. In this second book of the series the psychopath mirrors the real-like killers Ted Bundy with a little of Dennis Rader. Her descriptive scenes allow for Gardiner to “have a touch of blood going a long way. Readers’ imaginations are much more powerful than what I could put on a page. All I do is suggest and then people’s fears take it from there. It is a creepy idea that people are just here and then are gone. There are still victims of Ted Bundy that have not been found. I read about recent cases around the country where people have just vanished. Imagine, even with forensics, surveillance, and drones it is still possible for people to disappear.” The premise of the story is that people can vanish without a trace. The book opens with a gripping scene in which the killer is holding an infant on his lap. He lures the new mother to him and is able to abduct her. She is not the first victim but actually the fifth. The local police enlist the help of Caitlin Hendrix, a former narcotics detective who had a knack for tracking killers, and is now a rookie FBI agent assigned to the elite Behavioral Analysis Unit. She and her colleagues, Brianne Rainey and C. J. Emmerich are called in to find this perpratrator. All the victims vanish on Saturday nights, one from a movie theatre, another from her car, and others from a salon, a college campus, and a café. What Caitlin must do is get inside the mind of this psychopath to figure out his selection process. The FBI is desperately searching for him before he can kill again. The reason for Ted Bundy, “I wanted to show how he was someone on the outside who every mother would want for their daughter. He was so good at camouflaging himself and was able to slip through the cracks. Kyle is hiding in plain sight similar to what Ted Bundy did. Both passed themselves off to the world at large as clean cut American guys who were bright, had a big future ahead, charming, who knows how to easily gain people’s trust. I wanted to show how these monsters wear the mask of sanity because they look normal. They take advantage of that to have people let down their guard.” This is a gripping novel that concentrates on the pathological ways of a serial killer. It is informative, action-packed, and has well-developed characters. [...]

Book Review: Cutting Edge

Sat, 03 Feb 2018 09:42:12 PST

The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar. Cutting Edge by Ward Larsen is a modern-day western, that also reminds readers of Superman and The Six Million Dollar Man. As the book describes it, the antagonist, Delta, and the protagonist, Trey have a “High Noon standoff 21st Century.” The Superman qualities is that each have x-ray vision of sorts where their brains become a computer monitor, and Delta has similar qualities of the Six Million Dollar Man with his speed and strength. The other character in the book is technology. Larsen connected his characters to the Web, which he does not see as far-fetched. “Trey has a screen in his right eye. Voice and facial recognition are at his fingertips where he can even record and send conversations. I made sure to allow him to have access to only people who are in databases, so he could not find recent refugees or children. He can find any information on a person because he is given top level security access. It is doable where implants are put in the brain and then a person can connect directly to the Internet. I would describe it as an implantable brain computer that interfaces. It is being designed to for those who have prosthetics.” The plot has Trey Debolt, a Coast Guard rescuer swimmer, fighting for his life after a helicopter crash. Officially he was declared dead, because no one knows that there is a rogue government experimental unit who chose to use him as a guinea pig. He becomes a man on the run after he witnesses his savior, nurse Joan Chandler, being gunned down. It becomes a game of cat and mouse as the hunted and the hunter try to outwit each other. Fortunately for Trey, Shannon Lund decides to investigate his death. Having access to records as a civilian working for the Coast Guard Investigative Service, she agrees to help him get to the bottom of what was done to him and to find the culprits chasing him including Delta. Besides the fast-paced plot Larsen explores how technology has both good and bad points. Readers will hope that he turns Trey and Shannon into a series and that there will be sequels written.

Book Review: The Wife

Sat, 03 Feb 2018 09:38:35 PST

The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar. The Wife by Alafair Burke starts out the New Year with a thrilling read. It is more plot driven since many of the characters are not very likable. The story is intense and dark being told by a possible unreliable narrator. The author does think “readers might disagree who is likeable and who is not. It is a myth that characters must fall into one category or the other. I want to write complicated characters. Just as in real life it is hard to be always likeable or not. At some point, everyone in the book is doing something that might be conceived as bad, with degrees of culpability. There are reasons why they are doing certain things and people can decide if those reasons are justified, excused, or understandable. The characters I like are Angela, her mother, her son, Colin, and Susanna.” The storyline concentrates on Angela, who suffered extreme trauma in her teen years and now learns that her husband, Jason, may be a sexual predator. This novel is timely and will force people to question how they think about the victims of sexual misconduct and those they accuse. Today more and more women accuse politicians, celebrities, and businessmen of harassment. Burke must have had a crystal ball since she wrote this novel a year ago. The author delves into both facets, the accuser and the accused, where readers wonder if Jason actually raped someone, harassed them, was it a misunderstanding, or was it mutual? Burke explores how “Angela sees her life going viral. She has no idea of the process because she has no background in law enforcement. People always think the wife had to know and is complicit. The idea for the book came from my responses as a prosecutor, which is ‘she would be the last person to know.’ Jason is not going to tell her he is sexually harassing women. Since she has no expertise or reliable information she must piece together the truth through her memories, news reports, and just having some skepticism of what he tells her. Think about it. Her husband was accused of sexual misconduct so his defense has to be there was mutual consent. For him, to be criminally innocent makes him culpable in the marriage. His legal exoneration means he has been having affairs.” The Wife expertly delves into the different dynamics of relationships and the needed compromises that must be made to resolve conflicting values. [...]