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Thursday, January 19, 2017



Cataclysm by Tim Washburn (Pinnacle Books, November 2016) is the real deal. You know all hell is about to break loose in Yellowstone National Park when underground magma begins to shift in the caldera, causing earthquakes. Yellowstone is home to one of the world’s largest underground volcanoes. As the caldera rises, hydrothermal vents erupt as a precursor to a cataclysmic volcanic eruption that could threaten all life on earth.
What would you do if your own family were staying at the Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone? Is there any way you can get them, and the tens of thousands of others in or near the park, out of harm’s way before the volcano erupts? Doctor Tucker Mayfield is the staff geologist monitoring on-site activity at Yellowstone. His entire family — brother Matt, sister-in-law Jessica, and a young niece and nephew — are vacationing in Yellowstone when the caldera threatens to erupt. The park is filled with families, and Tucker realizes evacuating them all before the volcano blows will be impossible.

First come the earthquakes, minor tremors that escalate into full-scale quakes. Then the geysers erratically spew boiling water high into the air, scalding hundreds of people and inundating acres of land. Volcanic ash from newly-opened fissures clogs automobile engines and brings down aircraft. If the volcano blows its lid, the entire Midwest and west coast of America could be buried beneath billions of tons of hot ash that will make the soil sterile for generations to come.

Without food, water, electricity, or transportation, how will the country survive?

President Drummond, the first female POTUS, declares a national emergency too late to save millions of lives. None of her learned advisers knew when or even if the volcano would erupt after being dormant for 640,000 years.

Author Washburn adds sexual tension to the mix as Rachel and April vie for Tucker’s attention. I wanted to shake or strangle several of the characters for being so selfish or dense that they put loved ones at risk. When pyroclastic flows containing boiling lava and hot acidic ash incinerate thousands of people, I wanted to shout “I told you so” to those who got their comeuppance.

But most of the dead are ordinary people who simply happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. The true horror is that this could actually happen to you or me tomorrow, and there’s nothing we can do to prevent it. The only thing we can do is be aware it could possibly happen and be prepared to run for our lives if it does.

Great story, competently told, with believable characters. Highly recommended.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Gunmetal Gray by Mark Greaney is Lots of Fun





Gunmetal Gray (a Gray Man Mystery-Thriller by Mark Greaney, Berkley, February 2017) returns Courtland Gentry to the side of the CIA instead of battling the agency to survive. But nothing is ever as it seems in a Gray Man novel, and Court is once again being played even as he plays others. At stake is the Chinese military’s cyberwarfare expert Fan Jiang, whose hacking knowledge the US wants. Unfortunately, so does the People’s Liberation Army, the Russian SVR, and members of the Chinese, Vietnamese, and Thai crime syndicates.


Court arrives in Hong Kong, ostensibly to find his old friend Sir Donald Fitzroy. That’s his cover. Fitzroy — held prisoner by Colonel Dai, the PRC officer tracking Fan Jiang — convinces Dai that Court will help Dai find Jiang if Dai will promise to free Fitzroy. Zoya “Koshka” Zakharova — a Russian Zaslon spy and trained assassin, code named “Sirena”, who is a language expert and good at disguises — may prove herself Court’s equal. Zoya is one step ahead of Court most of the way. She very early identifies Court as a CIA operative by the questions he asks, but she is unable to remember what his face looks like. She wonders, “Is he that good?”





Yes, he is. Court is called “The Gray Man” because he’s trained to blend into his surroundings so well that no one notices him unless he wants them to notice him.



Besides the Gray Man series, Mark Greaney writes the latest Tom Clancy novels. Rumor has it that Greaney once worked for clandestine US intelligence agencies, and the author’s knowledge of tradecraft is evident in all his novels.



This is an action thriller from the word “go.” The fast-paced action is unrelenting as Court takes on fifty triad strongmen, races through Saigon on a motor bike, slogs through rice paddies and jungles, and escapes from blood-thirsty river pirates. Court is always outnumbered, outgunned, and hip-deep in alligators, but he escapes every in extremis situation by the skin of his teeth. He may be battered and bruised, but he’s never down and out. He leaves behind more dead bodies than an atomic bomb blast.



A Gray Man novel is always lots of fun.


Saturday, December 31, 2016

I love the Details in Lisa Black's Unpunished




https://www.amazon.com/Unpunished-Gardiner-Renner-Novel-Black-ebook/dp/B01FBZXPEG/


Unpunished by Lisa Black (Kensington, January 31, 2017) is a Maggie Gardiner and Jack Renner mystery. Maggie is a police forensics tech, and Jack is a homicide detective. When key staff at the last remaining Cleveland daily newspaper are brutally murdered in the busy and noisy press room, Maggie and Jack are forced to work together to find the killer. Lisa Black provides enough back story so readers needn’t have read That Darkness, her previous novel in the Gardiner and Renner series, to feel the palpable tension between her two protagonists. The secret they share is enough to send both of them to prison for life if either of them talks: Jack is the hunted “Vigilante Killer” and Maggie, not Jack, actually pulled the trigger on the Vigilante’s last victim.


One major complication: Maggie’s ex-husband is also a homicide cop and he’s been assigned to track down the “Vigilante Killer” and bring him to justice.



Besides lots of forensic details designed to please mystery lovers and readers of police procedurals, this novel is chock-full of fascinating and accurate newspaper lure. In fact, the press-room murders are themselves symbolic of the death of print journalism in America in the digital age. Will the Cleveland Herald survive the deaths of its senior copy editor, the circulation manager, and others who daily expose and inform the public of the greed and corruption in our midst? Will Maggie and Jack survive to expose the killer? Will Maggie and Jack be exposed themselves?



I, of course, loved this novel. As a crime novelist and ex-newspaperman, I appreciated the details Black wove into the storyline as much as I appreciated the dialog and characterizations. I bought That Darkness after reading Unpunished, and I look forward to reading it and all future Gardiner and Renner novels.


Sunday, December 25, 2016

The Birth of a Book



After weeks of final revisions and consideration of comments and suggestions from beta readers and editors, I receive the page proofs of the typeset novel for one final review. I’m promised  ARCs shortly after the beginning of the new year, and then I can—at last–hold a printed copy of the book in my hands and feel, as well as see, the child of my imagination made flesh. I will sniff the paper and the ink, run my fingertips lovingly over the cover and interior pages, and cry real tears.

Birthing a book is a joyous occasion. The conception, as always, may be a labor of love; but the delivery is nothing but pure time-consuming painful labor. Next comes the really hard part: introducing the child to the world and analyzing each ohh and ahhh or worrying when others don’t see the same beauty and potential in my offspring that I see each time I look.

Here are the vitals:

6″ x 9″ (15.24 x 22.86 cm)
Black & White on White paper
340 pages

$14.95 for Trade Paperback; $3.95 for Kindle version
2AM PublicationsISBN-13: 978-0937491195ISBN-10: 0937491195BISAC: Fiction / Psychological
Megan Williams returns to Twin Rivers after five years in a mental hospital to take final revenge on the men who raped and mutilated her. But the tiny Illinois town has grown into a bustling Chicago suburb near the end of the Metra line, and Megan isn’t the only serial killer now leaving dead bodies littering the streets. Can Megan keep her sister safe and still exact her revenge? Or will Megan’s actions make Susan, Tim, and Elsie targets? The Girl Who Lived, the sequel to Spilled Milk, is a fast-paced psychological thriller unlike anything you’ve read before. Not for the faint-hearted or squeamish, this is the story of what happens when a girl who was brutalized and left for dead gets a second chance at life.

Her picture is at the top of this page. Isn’t she lovely?

I’ve named her “Megan’s Story.” Megan is The Girl Who Lived.

You’ll get a chance to meet her on March 2, 2017.

If I sound like a proud parent, it’s because I am. Although two major NY publishers asked to adopt her, I wouldn’t let them. I chose 2AM Publications to be Megan’s god-parent. Until Megan is old enough and strong enough to survive in the world by herself, I prefer to keep her close to home. I know how cold and cruel the world can be.

If you read Megan’s story, you’ll meet unscrupulous people who’ll do anything for a thrill or to make a quick buck. You’ll see people cut into pieces and discarded like trash. You’ll witness seductions and murders and know what it’s like to be incarcerated in jail cells or mental institutions. You’ll feel a silenced automatic pressed against the back of your head and realize how horrible it is to feel hopeless and helpless.

But you’ll also discover love and, perhaps, even find redemption.

I know I shed a tear or two while reading Megan’s Story.  All of my beta readers claim they did, too.
When I wrote Spilled Milk, the prequel to The Girl Who Lived: Megan’s Story, I wrote it as an obituary. I wrote The Girl who Lived as a birth announcement.

Please welcome Megan to the world of the living.

And join me for her Christening on March 2, 2017.



Friday, November 25, 2016

An Intriguing Behind the Scenes Look at Television News




Television news is a cut-throat business. Author Christina Kovac has been a TV reporter and producer in real life, and her first novel (The Cutaway, Atria Books, March 2017) is about the TV news business in the nation’s capital. DC is different than the rest of the world. It’s a world unto itself.
Although Virginia Knightly’s work world is complicated enough, her personal life is about to become complicated, too. It begins with a missing persons news release. Her former boyfriend, head of Metro PD’s Criminal Investigation Division, is the man in charge of the investigation. Virginia needs to cultivate Michael as a source, but she has good reason not to trust him. Before the novel ends, Virginia learns she can’t trust anyone, not even her long-time co-workers. Also complicating Virginia’s personal life is the pending death of her estranged father who walked out of her life and left Virginia with an ailing mother who died and foster parents who cared little for her. Virginia learned the hard way to do everything herself, becoming the producer of the nightly news for Washington’s leading independent television station.

Pending personnel changes at the station complicate matters as Virginia doggedly pursues the story of a woman not unlike herself who was brutally murdered and dumped into the Potomac.

This is a great story that has romance, intrigue, and great dialog. It is also a walking tour of the nation’s capital and a peek behind the scenes of politics, justice, and the news business.



Highly recommended.


Monday, November 21, 2016

A Perfect Model for Crime Writers





Everything You Want Me to Be by Mindy Mejia (Emily Bestler Books/Atria Books, January 2017) should be subtitled “The Curse of MacBeth.”
Wabash County Sheriff Del Goodman investigates the tragic murder of Hattie Hoffman in rural southern Minnesota. Hattie, the daughter of Del’s closest friend, wanted to be an actress and had starred in a high school production of MacBeth the night she was murdered. When Hattie’s mutilated body is discovered the day after the play opens at the high school, the town of Pine Valley—a small farming community where everyone knows everyone else—is mortified. Everyone is suspect and anyone could be the murderer. Who killed Hattie Hoffman and why? The whole town wants to know and so does the reader.
Told in flashbacks from multiple points of view, the answer unfolds over the course of Hattie’s senior year at Pine Valley High. Literature geeks will love the literary references to Jane Austen novels and Thomas Pynchon and Tim O’Brien from Hattie’s Advanced AP Senior English class, taught by Peter Lund. As we watch the forbidden relationship between Lund and Hattie develop, we begin to piece together possible scenarios for murder.
Mejia fleshes out her characters well, making each come alive. We become silent voyeurs peeking into the windows of tortured souls not so different from our own. Hattie and Del and Peter become us, and we become them.
This story is a cautionary tale of what might happen when, after acting parts to please others for most of one’s life, one decides to be true to one’s own self. Telling the truth can be liberating, yes; but it can also prove deadly. The truth isn’t always the best policy, nor does it always set you free.
This story is also an expertly-crafted whodunit, a mystery that grips the reader and won’t let go. Every crime writer should study this novel to see how a whodunit should be done.
Brilliantly plotted, perfectly executed, this novel rates 5 1/2 stars.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

The Dragon Devours




In Barry Eisler’s eye-opening novel Livia Lone (Thomas & Mercer, October 26, 2016), there are 3 kinds of people in the world: sheep, wolves, and sheepdogs. Livia Lone is a sheepdog. She protects the sheep from being devoured by hungry wolves.
But this sheepdog has a dragon hidden inside of her. When the sleeping dragon wakes, the dog displays its fangs.
Livia has been a victim, and now she has become a predator herself, preying on those who prey on helpless women and children. Labee, Livia’s real name, was sold into sexual slavery by her parents in Thailand, and then Labee and her sister Nason were shipped to the US by unscrupulous human traffickers. Labee and Nason are separated aboard ship, and Labee (Livia) swears to someday find Nason and rescue her.
Livia studies hard and grows up to be a black-belt martial artist and a Seattle police officer investigating sexual crimes. Most of the time, she helps people. But, sometimes, she helps victims, and herself, by killing men who take advantage of the weaker sex.
All the while, Livia Lone continues to search for her abducted sister.
This is a well-crafted psychological thriller filled with violence, sexual content, and lots of really bad people with only a few good ones to make a difference. Ripped from the reality of today’s headlines, Livia Lone is a masterful expose of the underground world decent people deny exists.
Eisler alternates chapters between then and now, relating Livia’s backstory while holding the reader in suspense over what will happen next. Set in the hill country of Thailand, Bangkok, Seattle, and Llewellyn, Idaho, this gritty tale is an emotional roller coaster as well as an exciting thrill ride.
Highly recommended for adults who can handle terror, betrayal, and exploitation of children graphically portrayed.