The Book Of Spies

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By Gayle Lynds

Lynds

http://www.gaylelinds.com

Plot

Eva Blake, who has a knack for rare books, has been in prison for killing her husband, Charles. Now, she’s been hired by the CIA to track down information on the famous Library of Gold, a collection of rare books supposedly lost throughout the centuries. Helping her out is Judd Ryder, former intelligence officer, who’s father was recently killed, just after providing information that connects to terrorism and the Library. Both are on the trail, but of course that means danger for both…including from a man who looks remarkably like Charles, and a group who will stop at nothing to protect their secret.

A quest and an adventure. Can’t beat that combination. Clues take the heroes from one spot to anther followed closely by the bad guys.

Characters

Eva Blake: 30, curator in rare books, soft features, full lips, cobalt blue eyes, red shoulder length hair, slender, widow, takes karate, attended UCLA

Judson ‘Judd’ Clayborn Ryder: former intelligence operative, 6”1′, wide shoulders, wavy brown hair, gray eyes, owns a motorcycle

Douglas Preston: 42, head of security for a library, tall, muscular, former CIA

Brian Collum: Blake’s attorney, medium height, late 40s, gray colored hair/eyebrows

Tucker Andersen: 53, works for the CIA, married, slender, 5’10”, runner, mustached/bearded, mostly bald, wears glasses, attended Yale, drives an Oldsmobile

Jonathan Ryder: Judd’s father, married, perfect white teeth, tall, lean, graying blond hair, attended Yale and Wharton, former CIA, has an MBA, worked for pharmaceutical companies, president of Bucknell Technologies

Catherine Doyle: Tucker’s boss, over fifty, 5’10”, short blonde streaked hair, attended New York University and Columbia

Martin Chapman: married, owns German Shepherds and horses, early 50s, attended UCLA, tall, thick white hair, blue eyes, owns a private equity firm

Yitzhak Law: professor, scholar of medieval Greek and Roman, author, small stature, round belly, bald, sixties, wears glasses

Lots of characters that pop up here and there. Connections are sometimes not made until later in the book. Judd and Eva are typical hero and heroine, though Eva’s development is a bit different at the end than expected.

Dialogue

Voices come through well. Conversations stay on point. Not too long on lectures, but just enough to interest the readers.

Writing

No profanity. Action is tense and quick.

I think the story moves well throughout the different scenes. The chapters aren’t too long.

I do think the writing could have been a bit tighter. There were a lot of sentences with ‘ing’ words and action seemingly going on at the same time which works sometimes.

Still, a good action book with a lot truth mixed in with fiction and speculation. Don’t forget to read the ‘facts’ at the end.

My Rank:

Purple Belt

Purple

Quick Kick – The Lost Relic

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By Scott Mariani

Scott Mariani 2[1]

https://www.amazon.com/Lost-Relic-Ben-Hope-Book-ebook/dp/B004JHYTIE/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1494043442&sr=8-1&keywords=The+Lost+Relic%2C+mariani

Plot

Whilst visiting a former SAS comrade in Italy, a distracted Ben nearly runs over a young boy – and unwittingly walks into his deadliest mission yet.

Ben’s involvement with the boy’s family runs deeper as he witnesses their brutal murder at a gallery robbery. A seemingly worthless Goya sketch was the principal target in the bloodbath heist. Now it’s up to Ben to find out the truth behind the elusive painting.

Wrongly accused of murder and forced to go on the run, he must get to the heart of the conspiracy while he still has the chance…

My Analysis

This is the 6th Ben Hope novel and I would like to read the first five and those that come after.

This is a quest story, but a bit different than the usual. Sure you have the bad guys and the cops and the hero trying to save the day. However, this is more action than solving the quest mystery.

Some amusing moments and good character development. I listened to the audio and the narrator did a fine job with voices.

Mariani has solid knowledge of his craft and imagination to keep me hooked and continuing. He sets up the story and presents it without seeming to force it.

The only thing that concerned me was that Ben had an issue with his girlfriend and that wasn’t resolved. Maybe it will be in the next one.

Otherwise, for action and adventure with a mystery from the past, this is a good one.

My rank:

Blue Belt

Blue

Soulless

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By Christopher Golden

http://www.amazon.com/Soulless-Christopher-Golden-ebook/dp/B00E80EAL8/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1432189023&sr=8-1&keywords=soulless%2C+golden

Golden

Plot

A paranormal experiment with a trio of mediums on a morning news show goes horribly wrong. Now, the dead have arisen the New York/New England region is in chaos. The story focuses on some college students, a gang leader, and a musician, all trying to survive. Meanwhile, the daughter of one of the mediums and a spiritualist website owner try to figure out how to solve the problem and to put down the dead before more people die.

Yeah, yeah, another zombie story and I usually don’t read zombie stories. I’m sorry, but anything after the original Night of the Living Dead in the 60s, nothing else compares. I’ve watched television shows and movies and have read a few stories. Please, please, do not get the idea I’m going to accept every zombie book that comes to me. Like sci-fi and other non-mystery/thriller books, I choose what looks interesting.

So, Golden writes a zombie story. I chose this one because it seemed a bit different from some others. This one starts not with a plague or virus or laboratory experiment gone awry. And it delves into some of the characters involved, which is always more interesting than just zombie-eats-human-for-the-whole-movie.

Characters

Phoenix Cormier: 18, brown hair, green eyes, round face

Joe Cormier: Phoenix’s dad, works at Georgetown University, medium, divorced, light complexion, gray beard, dark hair, dark eyes, wears glasses

Katie Phelan: morning news/talk show assistant, early 20s, short dark hair

Matt Gaines: has a goatee, very short hair, attending the University of Massachusetts, has a sister, drives a Prius

Noah Eisen: attends the U. of Mass, part of the young Republicans, in ROTC, short blond hair, drives a Jeep Cherokee

Big Boy: 18, part of a New York gang, owns a Suzuki GSX-R, 5’6”, 140 lbs, smokes

Ray Creedon: 20, brown hair, blue eyes, operates a spiritualist website

Tania: 17, homosexual, long curly blonde hair, musician, actress, physically fit

Derek: 32, black, large frame, Tania’s driver/bodyguard

Gaesomun ‘Jack’ Kim: part of a New York gang, Korean, tattooed

With a zombie book, the author has to stay with character. Everybody knows that the plot is simple – people who try to survive a zombie attack. Some chapters will show deaths of some of the these characters. But to keep the reader interested, character development and growth-or depth-must been seen. Golden does a good job with this cast. I felt a connection to whoever was featured.

Dialogue

I think for the amount of characters in this book, voices come through pretty well. The separation of the characters in various scenarios helps. Conversations don’t drag-there’s no time. Lol.

Writing

Some chapters are headed by location. Some profanity.

This is not just your dumb-zombie book. These creatures are intelligent. They lay traps. They can run. The story jumps from one character to another in each chapter, showing progress from where they left off from before. Some make it to the ‘next round’ and some don’t. The climax is well thought out with the plethora of characters.

Something a little different from the norm.

My Rank:

Purple Belt

Purple

Quick Kick – The Weed That Strings The Hangman’s Bag

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By Alan Bradley

bradley

https://www.amazon.com/Weed-That-Strings-Hangmans-Bag-ebook/dp/B0030DHPH0/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1497648739&sr=8-3&keywords=alan+bradley

Plot

Flavia de Luce, a dangerously smart eleven-year-old with a passion for chemistry and a genius for solving murders, thinks that her days of crime-solving in the bucolic English hamlet of Bishop’s Lacey are over—until beloved puppeteer Rupert Porson has his own strings sizzled in an unfortunate rendezvous with electricity. But who’d do such a thing, and why? Does the madwoman who lives in Gibbet Wood know more than she’s letting on? What about Porson’s charming but erratic assistant? All clues point toward a suspicious death years earlier and a case the local constables can’t solve—without Flavia’s help. But in getting so close to who’s secretly pulling the strings of this dance of death, has our precocious heroine finally gotten in way over her head?

My Analysis:

Well, what can I say about this book? I’ve listened to two Flavia books and the narrator does a wonderful job. Flavia is a complex character, able to be private investigator and use her charm when interrogating suspects; able to frustrate both her father and the police; able to be emotionally hurt by her nasty sisters; able to be the prodigal chemical expert. This is a charming character.

The mystery took awhile to develop. I think the dead body did show until Chapter 11, even though another corpse was mentioned. And of course the two connected. But, for the most part, the mystery, the whodunit aspect, takes a backseat to the plethora of characters and the development of a few subplots.

This is not to say that the book was boring. I did wish, at times, that the story could be shifted up a notch-the German’s tale was a bit lengthy-and I didn’t know the wind down and explanation at the end was going to take almost an hour. Still, I have plenty more Bradley stories to read or listen to and I await the next one.

My Rank:

Blue Belt

Blue

Jack Knife

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By Virginia Baker

http://www.amazon.com/Jack-Knife-by-Virginia-Baker/dp/0739480758/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1425522704&sr=8-2&keywords=jack+knife%2C+baker

Plot

There is a madman loose in the slums of 1888 London. One who kills prostitutes. However, it may not be who history has recorded. Traveling back in time from 2007, Sara Grant and David Elliot are out to put history right. But they don’t know how complicated things have become, how personal feelings enter the picture, and the ultimate goal of the one they are chasing.

Ooh, a delicious sci-fi/mystery. This gives a different take on the Ripper murders and is tense enough to keep you wondering.

Character

Jonas Robb: London police inspector, member of a men’s club, father an Earl, attended Eton and Oxford, former military, has a brother

David Elliot: has the rank of Captain

Sara Grant: attractive

Jonathan Avery/Jay Osbourne: 46, green eyes, dark hair, 6’2”, newspaper owner, knighted

I like the characters but not much physical description is given, especially on David and Sara. I couldn’t get a mental picture of them. Ditto with Jonas.

Dialogue

Good use of accents. Characters show intellect, even the slum people in their dialogue. They show the knowledge of their time. Conversations aren’t lengthy and even explanatory dialogue stays on point.

Writing

Mild profanity. Book is divided into ‘Books’. Chapters are headed by date. Several scene changes within each chapter and they are headed by time, location, and character POV.

Good use of words and phrasing throughout. Author showed excellent knowledge of time period.

One question I had: Without playing spoiler, it is shown that Avery first started changing history in 1884, but Sara and David were sent to 1888 to clean up the mistakes. Why not send them to 1884? I know the author wants to have it set in the time period as the infamous Ripper murders, but as is seen, four years can make a lot of difference in history. This part isn’t explained. Maybe something to do with a problem with the time portal.

The other thing that wasn’t explained is some detailed history of the time portal. When, who, how? A bit of explanation is seen on how it works, but I didn’t get a sense of detail about the building and room it was in.

I thought the author rushed Sara and David getting back in time. It’s as if it is assumed the reader understands about time travel and this particular method.

The book, however, is an excellent thriller, the writing is tight, the issues are handled well. It’s Baker debut so I’d to check out subsequent books.

My Rank:

Blue Belt

Blue

Quick Kick: The Beast

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By Faye Kellerman

Kellerman

https://www.amazon.com/Beast-Decker-Lazarus-Novel-Novels/dp/0062121766/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1493417999&sr=8-1&keywords=the+beast%2C+kellerman

Plot

Peter Decker’s latest case with the LAPD is the most bizarre of his storied career. When the elderly, eccentric billionaire Hobart Penny is found dead in his apartment, the cops think that his pet Bengal tiger must have turned against him. But as Decker and his colleagues, Detectives Marge Dunn and Scott Oliver, dig into the victim’s life, they discover that Penny had all kinds of exotic and kinky tastes. It soon becomes clear that the beast that killed the peculiar inventor is all too human.

Following a trail of clues that leads from a wildlife sanctuary in the San Bernardino Mountains to the wild nightlife of Las Vegas, the LAPD detectives are left juggling too many suspects and too few answers. To crack a case involving the two most primal instincts—sex and murder—Decker wrestles with a difficult choice. Should he turn to someone with expert knowledge of both, Chris Donatti, the dangerous man who also happens to be the father of Decker’s foster son? As his work and personal life collide, Decker finds himself facing tough questions and wondering if the conflict between family crises and professional duties will be the undoing of his career.

My Analysis

So, I’ve read or listened to several F. Kellerman’s books and it took me awhile to get into. I didn’t understand a lot about the relationship with Decker and his wife. The mystery part of he stories kept me going.

This one was different in a number of ways. First, it started with a trial and a 17 year old ward of Decker’s who was a witness. Maybe there is a book that introduced Gabe and more of his backstory but I felt as if I had to play catch-up in this one. Anyway, the trial part was hardly mentioned again and I wasn’t sure of that bit. Again, maybe there is another book that introduces the crime that begat the trial. The homicide was different and, like a lot of good mysteries didn’t stop with just the opening bits, but expanded to be more complex.

I thought the character and subplot developments were okay. Maybe the scenes with Gabe, his girlfriend, the girlfriend’s mother might have gone on a bit too long.

The blurb mentioned Gabe’s father but in the story, that part wasn’t as ‘dramatic’ as the blurb makes it seem. Ditto with the conflict undoing his career.

Decker didn’t play as big a role in this one because he had two other detectives handle a lot of the investigation.

Still a pretty good book.

My rank:

Purple Belt

Purple

Age Of Consent

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By Howard Mittelmark

Mittelmark

http://howardmittelmark.com/about-3/

Plot

Peter Coulter, his dad and his sister move from New York to upstate New York in the hope of finding new lives. Peter’s father works as a professor at the university and his sister is looking forward to making new friends.

However, they have moved into a house that back in 1971, was the gathering place for a group of revolutionary wannabe who were coerced into evil and self destructive practices by a mysterious figure.

Now that individual has returned to haunt the Coulter family and turn their normal lives into something surreal…and dangerous.

At first I enjoyed the plot, the potential for something pretty cool, However, as explained below in other sections, the plot became a bit convoluted and confusing the more I read.

Characters

Peter Coulter: 16, formerly overweight, likes sci-fi

Julia Coulter: Peter’s mom, architect

Virginia Coulter: Peter’s brother, 13, a bit overweight

Phil Coulter: Peter’s father, writer, works for the university

Patricia Willis: 16, curly brown hair, has sisters

There are other characters seen in both 1971 and present day.

The problem I had with the characters relates to what is mentioned below in the writing section is that everybody seemed to change personalities and be affected by the house’s and the mysterious individual (ghost?) almost immediately. There was no set up. Julia is a minor character, but she automatically suspects her husband of infidelity. Okay, but there was no preface explaining that he had cheated before. Virginia and Peter fall under the influence of evil almost overnight. Again, no set up, no introduction. Peter succumbs to peer pressure regarding drugs and alcohol. What is not seen is how their behavior affects school work. I didn’t understand Phil’s descent because there was no rationalization or internal thoughts about it. It was a gradual descent into madness, which was fine, but it evolved in a weird way. He wants to write a book to enlighten the world if he could only sacrifice his daughter…just confusing.

One character’s disappearance was never explained.

Dialogue

The voices of Peters and his friends come through. A lot of the time the conversation with these characters settled around who was paying for drugs and alcohol and how much.

Writing

A lot of sexual scenes. Not porn, but graphic and numerous. I don’t mind sex in books, but this was a bit much. Profanity.

The main problem I had with this book is that the ‘setup’ for the present day, was centered, partially, in 1971, but things started happening in the present almost immediately and there was no gradation into the evil. I just couldn’t believe the characters succumbed so quickly. Days pass and then the evil sinks them to a new level.

I understood a bit of what was happening, but I would have liked more history on the mysterious leader back in 1971, where he came from, more of his history, and how he’s still around in present day.

The climactic scene was a bit convoluted and wasn’t the powerful scene I expected. The ending was okay, but it left questions unanswered.

I just didn’t get it.

My Rank:

Green Belt

Green

Quick Kick – The Abominable

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By Dan Simmons

simmons

https://www.amazon.com/Abominable-Novel-Dan-Simmons-ebook/dp/B00AFGHJ1W/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1498958725&sr=8-1&keywords=abominable%2C+simmons

Plot

It’s 1924 and the race to summit the world’s highest mountain has been brought to a terrified pause by the shocking disappearance of George Mallory and Sandy Irvine high on the shoulder of Mt. Everest. By the following year, three climbers — a British poet and veteran of the Great War, a young French Chamonix guide, and an idealistic young American — find a way to take their shot at the top. They arrange funding from the grieving Lady Bromley, whose son also disappeared on Mt. Everest in 1924. Young Bromley must be dead, but his mother refuses to believe it and pays the trio to bring him home. 

Deep in Tibet and high on Everest, the three climbers — joined by the missing boy’s female cousin — find themselves being pursued through the night by someone . . . or something. This nightmare becomes a matter of life and death at 28,000 feet – but what is pursuing them? And what is the truth behind the 1924 disappearances on Everest? As they fight their way to the top of the world, the friends uncover a secret far more abominable than any mythical creature could ever be.

Reading some of the other ‘poor’ reviews I’m going to repeat what many have said – If you like The Terror and expected something similar in this book, you will be disappointed. I was. Sorry, but blurb deceives. The truth is not something supernatural. Dangerous, yes.

My Analysis

So, I will probably repeat a lot of what other reviewers have said. Fine. This is a long read. The introduction is about “Dan Simmons” doing research back around 2000. He’s thinking about doing a horror story about the Antarctic. Maybe with mutant penguins.

Oh, that he would have written THAT story. Anyway, years after talking with an aged mountain climber, he receives handwritten notes from the guy and proceeds to write this story about Mt. Everest. However, it take a long, long time for the characters to get to the mountain because of so much beforehand build up with gobs and gobs of detail that I tuned out. Then it takes even longer to get to the part about discovering something following them and that really isn’t the way the story unfolds. They discover massive slaughter of some of their sherpas and then the chase begins.

Unfortunately, the truth is not supernatural and I’m sorry to play spoiler in this respect.

I will give Simmons credit for detailing mountain climbing and the conditions and the hazards to life and health. I think he does a good job in that. Too much detail beforehand, though. Way too much. I enjoy Simmons’ writing style, for the most part, because he does bring the story to life, but – get on with it.

My rank:

Green Belt

Green

The Romanov Conspiracy

covedr

By Glen Meade

Meade

http://www.glennmeadeauthor.com

Plot

Archaeologist Laura Pavlov is part of a team that discovers some interesting remains in an old Russian mine, something that dates back to 1917, the Romanovs…and to Ireland. She rushes to a small village in Ireland only meet a man who tells her a fantastic story.

1917 – World War I and the Russian Revolution. Uri Andrev is a prisoner of the Reds but escapes to England. Soon he is teamed with an Irish gunrunner and sent back to Russia. The mission: rescue the Romanov family before they are executed. Meanwhile, forces in Russia led by Lenin and Trotsky, are rooting out spies intent on saving the former tsar and his family. One of those individuals is Leonid Yakov, friend and former comrade of Andrev.

This book uses real-life characters and actual events that are mixed in with the fiction. Historical conspiracies are always a delicious read. What-ifs, could be’s, might have been’s.

Characters

Laura Pavlov: forensic archaeologist, doctorate, ancestors escaped the Lenin takeover,

‘Memphis’ Roy Moran: Pavlov’s supervisor, big and bony frame

Michael Yakov: Russian, elderly, uses a walking stick, widow, wears reading glasses

Leonid Yakov: Michael’s father, 28 in 1918, pockmarked face, blond, has siblings but one died as a youth, is in the Cheka under Lenin, has a daughter, wife dead

Uri Andrev: Russian in 1918, married with a son

Lydia Ryan: 24, Long auburn hair, green eyes, pale skin, has siblings, smuggler, father is a horse breeder

Philip Sorg: 26, American spy, father was a Russian Jew, slim build, brown hair, bearded, one leg shorter than the other, smokes, plays piano

Anastasia Romanov: 16, dark auburn hair, blue eyes, plays piano, daughter of the Tsar or Russia, has siblings

Leon Trotsky: bearded, wavy hair, defense minister under Lenin, wears glasses, smokes, dark eyes

Vladimir Lenin: bald

Igor Sikorsky: Born in Kiev, aircraft designer, late twenties, wears glasses, has a mustache, father a psychology professor, mother a physician

A wonderful cast of characters. I felt a closeness to each of them, whether good or bad. Rich history and background information really round out the characters. And it’s always fun to see real people, like Sikorsky, show up.

Dialogue

Good voices but the characters themselves provide the poignant moments within the scenes. With as many characters as there are in this book, sometimes it’s difficult to identify certain voices, especially when most of them are Russian. It’s difficult to show accents but I think with personalities coming through so strongly the voices almost automatically stand out.

Writing

Book divided into Parts. First person from Pavolov’s POV in the present time. Third person from others’ POVs in other sections. First chapter lengthy, then relatively short chapters.

I noticed a pattern of writing style. There were many sentences in this manner: Sorg gritted his teeth, feeling the heat sting his wound.

This type of sentence, with a verb and an ‘ing’ word afterward his okay but I felt it was overused in this book.

This is not the book I expected to read. I thought it was going to be an adventure set in present day with good guys questing for the truth and bad guys always on their heels. Most of the book is set in 1917 with the intrigue of the Russian revolution and the scheme to rescue the Romanovs. It’s a lengthy book and takes awhile to start fitting together the various pieces. Still an enjoyable thriller set in early 20th Century.

My Rank:

Purple Belt

Purple

Quick Kick – The Khufra Run

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By Jack Higgins

higgins

https://www.amazon.com/Khufra-Run-Jack Higgins/dp/0425184250/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1493383758&sr=8-1&keywords=khufra+run%2C+higgins

Plot

Freelance flyer Jack Nelson makes a living peddling his talents to the highest bidder…and now he has a chance to pull off the heist of a lifetime. There are millions in sunken treasure for the taking in a go-for-broke caper tailor-made for Nelson—and all he has to do to collect the loot is live through it.

My Analysis

As mentioned before, I took the plot blurb from Amazon, and while this is okay, there is more going on here than just the ‘heist’ which really isn’t a heist. And the trip and the adventure really doesn’t start until past the halfway point in the book.

I enjoyed the characters. Turk is Nelson’s buddy and a character I wanted to root for even though I knew, almost from the beginning, his outcome. There is a Sister Claire and I was hoping for just a bit more from her.

Higgins does a good job, too, of describing the setting without getting overly detailed. He gives a flavor of the area, the people, the atmosphere. I might have enjoyed a bit more description when they reached Algeria, but my imagination filled in a lot of gaps.

This is not a long novel, a fairly quick read, but, for the most part, a complete, good story. There’s a bit of mystery, a bit of adventure, bad guys and good guys, and a typical Higgins’ style of writing which brings you in for a little escapism, then releases you without a lot of fuss.

My Rank:

Purple Belt

Purple