Monthly Archives: May 2013

The Helios Conspiracy

The Helios Conspiracy

coverby Jim DeFelice



Just before Icarus Sun Works is to launch its new solar energy collecting satellite into space–the success of which will mean the world’s energy problems may be solved–it’s vice president is murdered in a New York hotel. She was the former girlfriend of FBI Special Agent Andy Fisher, a cynical, chain smoking, coffee addict who flouts authority and constantly flusters his supervisor. Investigating the case, he is on hand when the satellite launch turns disastrous and the rocket explodes. Sandy Chester, Fisher’s friend wants to discover why. Before long, however, Fisher is trying to connect the murder and the explosion to a series of sabotages to various energy related companies. But who is behind the conspiracy? The Russians? The Chinese? As the launch of the next rocket draws near, Fisher and Chester must avoid their own murder attempts and discover the answers before disaster strikes again.

It’s a very modern thriller with real life possibilities, at least in the science. I wondered for awhile about the way the plot kept diverting away from Helios into the other areas of sabotage. DeFelice does connect the dots, but it’s a wild picture when finished.


Andy Fisher: FBI special agent, has been in various FBI departments. No supervisor likes him but can’t deny his success rate. Chain smoker, cynical, wisecracker, athletic build, azure blue eyes, likes coffee

Jonathon Loup: Owns portions of various electric/energy companies, market speculator, in debt

Gavril Konovalav: Russian. Corporate spy. Usually awakens around noon.

T. Parker Terhoussen: Owner of Icarus Sun Works, tall, thin, past middle age but with youthful, glassy looking eyes. Egotistical. Genius. Attended MIT with a free ride.

Sandra Chester: rocket builder, father died when she was in high school, genius but not overt about it. Had laser eye surgery so doesn’t wear eyeglasses. Former smoker.

Em: professional assassin. Alcoholic. Former soldier in Afghanistan. Logical thinker. Got into trouble with an operation in Europe.

I really enjoyed Fisher’s boss, Festoon. His paranoia and wanting immediate answers plays the best straight man into Fisher’s unique personality. I also enjoyed some of the character names. The way they are thought by Fisher is so well done because of the humor involved. It keeps the book from going down the tubes into cold-hearted seriousness.


Lots of one liners from Fisher. I think his dialogue keeps you interested in the lecture type stuff from the supporting characters.


Scenes with characters other than Fisher have a glaze of cynicism layered over the narrative. With Fisher’s scenes it’s slathered on in a delightful manner. Chapters vary in length. Quick action scenes, no drawing out of tension, just bam, bam, you’re done. A few instances of profanity. The science is not difficult although I didn’t totally understand the rocketry intricacies. It’s no conspiracy why DeFelice is at the top of his craft.

My ranking:

Red Belt





By Stephen Leather



Jack Nightingale is a London police negotiator whose final case is filled with tragedy and oddity. He only wants to move on and two years later finds him as a private detective. However, when he receives a call from an attorney informing him of his father’s death, Jack’s life is forever changed. Discovering he was adopted Jack tries to piece together the clues about his birth parents. His father apparently sold Jack’s soul for wealth. Jack, about to turn 33, is nearing the time of retribution. Not believing anything other than his father was insane, begins to realize evil does exist, especially when people around him start dying. Jack is up against time, and unknown forces, to find a solution to save himself.

Clever. A different type of thriller/supernatural/mystery. This is one of those plots I thoroughly enjoy. A little bit of occult, a little bit of murder, a little bit of intrigue. Unlike some horror or supernatural books, the monster isn’t jumping out with each chapter. It’s subtle and draws you in.


Jack Nightingale: 32. At the beginning of book he is an inspector on London’s Metropolitan Armed Response Team. Trained to negotiate with hostage takers and potential suicides. Attended King’s College, Hendon Police College, and Bramshill Officer Training College. Drives an MGB. Becomes a private detective shortly after events in the first chapter. Smoker, hates elevators, single.

Jenny McLean: 25, Jack’s secretary. Midtwenties, short blonde hair, blue eyes. Attended Cheltenham Ladies College. Fluent in German, French, Japanese. Comes from a wealthy family but always wanted to work for a PI. Lived in Hong Kong for four years. Drives an Audi A4

In many books you will find one of the best characters is either dead or otherwise not involved directly with the story. This is one of those. Ainsley Gosling is a prominent character, but to avoid spoilers, I can’t describe too much about him. There are a few supporting characters, but they are only to be fodder for the events surrounding Nightingale.


Fairly distinctive voices. Conversations aren’t lengthy.


Lots of chapters, but various lengths. Only a few scenes do not include Nightingale. A few instances of profanity but nothing over the top. My ARC mentioned this book is the first in a trilogy and I would be interested in reading the second and third parts. This is one of those stories where the ‘scary’ bits are subtle. Yes, there is death and some of it is graphic but not revolting.

My Ranking:

Blue Belt


Alys, Always


By Harriet Lane



Frances Thorpe works as a literary editor for a struggling London, England newspaper. One winter night, she comes upon an automobile accident and comforts the victim in the last moments of life. The woman was Alys Kyte, wife of Laurence Kyte, a famous author. After meeting with the widower and his two children, Frances begins to see her life changing. She develops a relationship with the daughter and eventually Laurence. Her acquaintance with Laurence also helps her at work. As the months pass, she can never quite get away from the veil of influence Alys had on the family, all the while inexorably surpassing it.

This would be classified under ‘literary fiction.’ The plot is basically how a woman’s life changes after the death of someone she never knew and the family left behind.


Frances Thorpe: literary editor for a London newspaper, parents still alive. One sister and two nephews. Enjoyed stamps, C.S. Lewis and Wilder as a child. Plays chess

Polly Kytes: 19, enrolled in drama college, went to school until 16, taught in South Africa, recently ended a relationship with an acting trainee, smoker

Mary Pym: literary editor and Frances’ supervisor, self centered, butters up to successful clients, smoker, has children

Lane did a masterful job creating the characters. Very well defined and I was interested in all of them. Frances’ mother is quite a unique character.


Very well defined voices, especially Polly’s. Surprisingly, Frances doesn’t speak too often and when she does, it’s in reaction to others. Only near the end does she show some courage to speak up for what she wants.


First person from Frances’ POV. Present tense. No chapters, just scene changes. Very good use of words and language. Profanity from Polly, mostly. Not sure if it’s necessary and each time it’s used, it’s a little bit of a shock, but interesting use of it. Subtlety is the key. I felt reading this that everything was a bit surreal, not in a drug induced haze sort of way, just under a very thin veil. You’re expecting tragedy and you receive deep insight. I enjoyed Lane’s descriptive words and use of British terms. She uses words not often seen in novels. Yes, this book is for women but there is some excellent and deep insight. Because of the masterful language I’ve bumped up my ranking to:

Brown Belt


Dead By My Side


By Gloria Galloway



Sacramento homicide investigators Anthony Camarelli and his partner Julia Reynolds have worked well together. When after a boring stakeout Julia is shot and killed, Anthony thinks his world has come to an end. However, their ‘partnership’ hasn’t ended because she reappears as a ghost. Not knowing her purpose, she nonetheless helps Tony return to work. Just in time, too, because he and his new partner catch a domestic killing followed by what turns out the latest in a string of serial murders spanning back to Atlanta. Enter the FBI and an attractive agent named Romero. Romero, Camarelli, a task force, with as much assistance from Julia as she can provide in her spirit state, begin gathering what evidence is available. But the killer keeps taunting them with more bodies. How many more women will die before he is caught or moves on to another killing field?

The concept of a ghost partner is not new but isn’t done too often. I was hoping for more from Julia but she tends to play almost a supportive role rather than a main character. The ghost part is subdued. She uses her condition to aid Tony by trying to connect with the victims in order to provide clues, but I wanted more involvement from her, especially at the conclusion. Also, there is the underlying question of why she returned and stayed even through the case’s end. This question is never answered. Still, it’s a good murder mystery.


Anthony Camarelli: Sacramento Sheriff’s Department officer, Italian, marksman with numerous trophies, has a “Rosie” heart tattoo, lapsed Catholic, mother and sister both alive, born and raised in Sacramento. Dad owned a gas station. Charmer and attracts women.

Julia Reynolds: 35, Sacramento Sheriff’s Department, Anthony’s partner, tall , chestnut hair, has a Wonder Woman tattoo, likes scary movies, sleeps with a night light, parents dead, likes expensive fashion shoes

Rita Romero: FBI Special Agent in Charge. Very attractive with long, curly red hair. Came from Chicago. Graduated from Harvard Law. Father was with the Bureau. Married but separated.

Some standard characters here but a well rounded cast. Camarelli likes the ladies, but he also shows emotion. Julia has a bit of depth, especially in the church scene when she begging for answers. Relative to the problem below with time, Camarelli hooks up with a manicurist/pedicurist but after their one wild time together, you never see her again.


Pretty distinctive voices. Galloway does a good job of keeping in cop-speak. There are some lecture conversations, but nothing over the top and I like the fact that even though I’ve read hundreds of murder mysteries, some of the process is explained. For instance, Romero lets the reader know about organized and disorganized killers.


Some profanity, but the story deals with cops. A few misspellings. There’s also a time issue. A lot of time passes from the time of Julia’s death to the end of the story and it’s not very evident. The story moves along fairly well in regards to each murder but I didn’t see the weeks and months that pass with nothing going on. The story jumps from one incident to another. I only caught the passage of the time when it is mentioned almost a year has gone by since Julia’s death. There is some wry humor at times to keep it from dragging too deep into the grittiness of some serial killer novels. I wasn’t excited by how the case was solved, though. Too pat, too easy.

My ranking:

Purple Belt