Category Archives: fiction

Book Review: The Silent Corner

The Silent Corner fits into that rarest category of books – the literary thriller – and introduces readers to Jane Hawk, a strong female protagonist thrust into a good vs. evil fight against overwhelming odds.

If the product description feels like a rehash of past Dean Koontz books – hero faces off against Big Brother, End of Times, and Shadow Government conspiracies – well, you’re not wrong. But while those familiar themes are present, they are not unoriginal.

In The Silent Corner, Hawk, who is on extended leave from the FBI after her husband commits suicide, discovers that nano-technology is being used to systematically eliminate a segment of the population that doesn’t share the world view of a few powerful people bent on shaping the future according to their ideals.

Koontz is, as usual, observant and insightful with regard to the current state of affairs in the world – and he creates a story with purpose and meaning that goes far deeper than entertainment.

In her journey to face-off with the man responsible for her husband’s death, Hawk encounters a series of like-minded individuals and behind the scene heroes who not only help her but also give her hope. It’s not just good storytelling. It’s also allegorical, and what I believe Koontz wishes for his readers.

This is an amazing book. It’s an edge-of-your-seat mile-a-minute thriller that’s written by a master storyteller at the top of his game.

I highly recommend it for fans of mystery, thriller and literary fiction.

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Book Review: The Aggrieved

A decade-plus and an additional ten books since the release of The Cleaner – the first title in the compelling Jonathan Quinn series – has seen a lot of changes for Brett Battles’ signature character and his eclectic group of specialists that live and work in the shadowy and often messy world of international intrigue.

Nate began as the clueless apprentice. He would later become an equal partner and a compelling character in his own right. Orlando was the estranged colleague and lost love. She would become Quinn’s wife, partner, and the mother of his child.

The Office and its enigmatic leader Peter have been dead and gone for a few books now. There is a scene in The Aggrieved, however, that gives readers hope that The Office might return in the near future. Perhaps Quinn will lead it, and Nate will be its go-to Cleaner?

One can always hope.

And for all these changes and character development that readers have witnessed in the past decade of reading about Jonathan Quinn – there’s one theme that has always been central, has never wavered, and that we clearly see front and center as events unfold in The Aggrieved: for all the evil he’s witnessed and the many terrible things he’s had to do, Quinn is the good guy.

That fact allows author Battles to play harshly with readers’ emotions in The Aggrieved.

Quinn has to deliver the worst possible news to his own mother – and endures words no son should ever have to live with.

Quinn has to go against Helen, who is more or less one of the good guys, when he attempts to track down Dima, a character central to the last book (which set in motion the events that unfold in The Aggrieved – first-time readers, however, no worries; the author brilliantly begins the story so that you’re pulled right in and up to speed even if you haven’t read the previous book).

After finding Dima, Quinn asks for her help – even though doing so will once again put Dima at risk.

And then the conflict between Quinn and Nate, who is suffering as bad as Quinn from the act of violence in Jakarta that set this story in motion …

Yet, despite all this, what I truly loved about this book is that Quinn, at the absolute lowest we’ve ever seen him in the past decade of reading about his exploits, is proven to have been right in maintaining his “good guy” integrity throughout all the books. Countless people that live in the same shadowy world aid his pursuit of a killer – but it is their respect for him, rather than money or favors or anything else, that brings them to his aid.

I think it’s a profound message for an author to be able to make in any book – but especially while writing a thriller that literally carries readers breathlessly on an edge-of-your-seat around the world journey.

In The Aggrieved, Orlando asks Quinn repeatedly, “What are you going to do?”

About his mom, Dima, Nate, and the killer they’re pursuing … and Quinn doesn’t have the answers. But in the end his true character compels him to act in a way that validates who he has been for the previous ten books, and I absolutely loved it. There were so many ways that Battles could have gone with this story – and while most of them would have been satisfying, I’m sure, he chose to push us right to the edge of Quinn’s breaking point … and then he brought us back.

The result?

This is the best Quinn book since the original title in the series.

It is fast-paced, unpredictable, filled with action, meticulously plotted, and boasts some of the most original characters in the thriller genre.

This is an emphatic 5 stars. I highly recommend it to thriller/espionage fans. If you’ve never read Brett Battles, well, it is ridiculous how many awards he has won and it all started with this series… so get busy reading the Jonathan Quinn series.

Use this affiliate link to purchase The Aggrieved on Amazon.

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I received a free digital edition of this book for review purposes. The review reflects my own unbiased opinion of the book’s content. I use affiliate links for Amazon.

Book Review: The Prisoner

“better safe than headless”

I’m on Alex Berenson’s email list, and when he sent a message to his readers that John Wells was “back undercover in the Muslim world” I immediately went to Amazon and pre-ordered.

I was excited, but also a little worried.

Wells is a great character. Berenson is an incredibly gifted writer. But of late, a number of usually reliable thriller authors have used the Jack Bauer “24” method of going undercover with disastrous consequences (e.g. I have serious reservations about buying any future Scot Harvath books). I felt Berenson was right on target with his idea – I can’t imagine any fan of John Wells not wanting to read about him going undercover in Afghanistan for a second time – but I feared the worst, that Wells would morph into a bad superhero caricature and Berenson would have ruined a great series.

Now that I’ve read the book, I apologize to Mr. Berenson – sorry I doubted you. This is the best post-9/11 thriller I’ve ever read. In fact, it might be the best thriller I’ve ever read, period.

It begins with a CIA mission in ISIS territory. Hence, this great line from one of the operators: “better safe than headless.” After the mission, it’s clear that someone is giving sensitive intelligence to ISIS. Shafer and Wells – with support from President Duto – launch a bold plan to uncover the mole, and what unfolds is nothing short of mesmerizing.

Berenson takes readers on a vivid, surreal journey with pacing and prose that are masterfully executed and a plot that is all too real and terrifying. Berenson has clearly been to Afghanistan and the other dangerous / exotic locales used in the book – for no one could carry a reader down this path so well unless he first traveled it himself.

The book builds to a frenetic pace, and then Berenson cranks it up even more as it turns into a race against the clock to stop ISIS from carrying out an attack that rivals 9/11.

If you enjoy thrillers, read this book. If you really enjoy thrillers that also fall into the “literary” category, then you absolutely need to be reading Alex Berenson. I used to say no one writes that category better than Daniel Silva, but I think Berenson is at the top now.

Read this book – I highly recommend it, 5/5 stars.

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Book Review: The Black Widow

If there was any doubt as to whether or not Daniel Silva is the best contemporary writer of literary thrillers, then The Black Widow should resolve the debate. The plot is intricate and multilayered, while the prose is as lyrical as a classic novel – add Silva’s grasp of the difficult terrorism related issues facing the world today and this book is a phenomenal achievement.

The story begins with a terrorist attack by ISIS on a Jewish center in Paris. It’s reminiscent of the recent terror attacks in France and Belgium. In response, Gabriel Allon and the Mossad work with the Jordanians and the French to infiltrate a network set up by the Islamic State.

The first two-thirds of the book is centered on the recruitment and training of the agent, and ultimately the operation itself. The final third of the book is non-stop, edge-of-your-seat thriller as Allon and his colleagues try to prevent an ISIS attack on American soil.

In the author’s note at the end of the book, Silva writes, “The Black Widow is a work of entertainment and should be read as nothing more.” However, he also adds that he “did my utmost to explain the roots and explosive growth of ISIS accurately and dispassionately.”

Silva is right on both accounts. You can simply read and enjoy this as a literary thriller, but you can also look to it as a primer on ISIS. It presents a clear and accurate picture of how ISIS evolved and why it is so dangerous. And finally, with his fiction, Silva offers a vivid, horrifying scenario for what could happen in the U.S. if our leaders are unwilling or unable to deal with this plague.

I highly recommend this book for thriller/literary fiction/political readers: 5/5 stars. Use this affiliate link to read more about The Black Widow on Amazon.

Book Review: Influence

I think pretty much everything written by Bart Hopkins Jr. is worth reading. His style feels old school, and I mean that as a compliment – he uses language very carefully, and smartly (unlike so many thriller authors I’ve read recently who make me feel like my IQ takes a hit every time I read a few chapters), and his stories are always multilayered and thought provoking.

Influence is primarily set in Galveston, an area the author knows very well. It’s the second novel by Hopkins with Cass Destry as the protagonist. Last time around the 20-something PI put a serial killer in the ground. This time the stakes are even higher.

The first half of the book finds Cass on a seemingly innocuous case – locate a young adult female who doesn’t want her mother to know where she is. But after locating the woman in Colorado, Cass is witness to a horrific event – and then the tension and stakes begin to mount quickly.

In the second half of the book a villain emerges, and as Cass travels to Washington, California, and ultimately to a confrontation in Colorado, she will need all of her wit, survival instincts, and a few bullets if she’s going to survive. This is an excellent PI/thriller novel and I highly recommend it to readers who enjoy this genre: 5/5 stars. Use this affiliate link to read more about Influence on Amazon – or visit: http://www.barthopkinsjr.com/

 

Book Review: Tom Clancy’s Duty and Honor

This is a much better book than the author’s previous contributions to the series (DEAD OR ALIVE, UNDER FIRE). One difference is Jack Jr. isn’t out to save the world — he’s just trying to avoid being killed, and to do that he hunts down the men that are trying to kill him and tries to find a logical explanation for why he’s been targeted.

This allows Jack’s character to be less of a superhero caricature (as he was in the previous books) and more of a flawed good guy who is introspective and trying to find and learn from his mistakes. It makes for less action/excitement in the book, but it actually improves the overall quality of the book.

Forced to work without The Campus and its resources, Jack pulls in some new allies along the way as he crosses America, Europe and ultimately Africa in pursuit of the answers he needs to stay alive.

Another thing I really liked: I expected when the reason he’d been targeted was finally revealed that we’d flip back to superhero caricature mode and Jack would suddenly save the world in the final pages of the book. Well, I was so wrong. The reason is logical and compelling, and Jack’s response to it was even more so.

It all leads to a satisfying conclusion.

Hope this book will get the whole Campus series back on track. I highly recommend it to military/spy/thriller fans: 5/5 stars. Use this affiliate link to read more about it on Amazon.

Book Review: World Wide Gone

This sci-fi short story is set in a future world where books and paper have been obsolete for decades, teachers have been replaced by IFs (instructional facilitators) that remotely monitor students, smartphones are also obsolete (replaced by APDs — All Purpose Devices), interplanetary travel is common, Mars is colonized, space vacations are commonplace, and a new form of energy fuels everything.

But it’s also a future where nothing works without the internet. Everyone and everything is plugged into and dependent upon the internet 24/7. Until suddenly they’re not.

Simeon wakes up to find a strange message and an entirely different world. There’s no internet, nothing works, and the message says wait for instructions. His girlfriend Karina and roommate Mess confirm this isn’t a nightmare — it’s real, and their carefully constructed lives begin to crumble.

What’s really interesting about this story is the author’s careful and smart observations about society and the potential pitfalls to being “plugged in” 24/7. He pits his young star-crossed lovers/protagonists against a seemingly impossible situation that is vividly imagined and all too plausible.

I highly recommend this short story for science fiction and short story readers: 5/5 stars. Use this affiliate link to read more about author Bart Hopkins and World Wide Gone on Amazon.