Monthly Archives: August 2013

Black List

cover large

by Brad Thor



Scott Harvath is a counterterrorism agent. When he is attacked in Paris by

gunmen who kill his partner, he immediately goes on the run seeking answers.

Soon, Harvath discovers he’s been labeled a traitor. In America, an

information dealer named Nicholas, has stumbled onto a plot by a shadowy

organization in control of the government and much of America’s technology.

When the two finally meet, they start to pick apart the pieces of a plan to

monitor and control every human being in America, and maybe the world. Their

challenge: How to an entity who can tap into every piece of technology in


One of the best ‘big brother’ or ‘1984’ type novels I’ve read. Very realistic since Thor says at the very beginning that all of the technology in the book is either currently in use or in final developmental stages by the government and its partners.


Scott Harvath: counterterrorism operative for the Carlton Group, 5’10”, muscular build, brown hair, blue eyes, early 40’s, former SEAL, former employee of Secret Service, combat trained, weapons trained, knows several languages

Craig Middleton: CEO of Adaptive Technology Solutions, early 60’s thin, curly coarse gray hair, tanned, laser whitened teeth, deep set dark eyes, sadist, worked for IBM, genius

Nicholas: Nicknamed the Troll, owns a pair of Caucasian sheepdogs, dwarf, Soviet parent sold him to a brothel when he was a child, buys/sells information, hacker, recluse who trusts few people, likes to cook

Reed Carlton: Owns the Carlton Group, 65, spent 30 years as a spy for the CIA, nicknames are the Old Man and Peaches

Some very nice all around characters. Most of the characters are given extensive backgrounds, Thor goes deep enough that they’re not just surface action figures.


Pretty standard but I like the voices. Middleton is the evil genius. Even minor characters have distinctive voices.


A fair amount of profanity. When changing scenes, chapters are headed by location. There are a couple of torture scenes but nothing too graphically detailed. As mentioned above, whenever a new character is introduced, background information is detailed not too long after. Thor did his homework on the technological stuff and the terminology will not confuse the reader.

The book keeps you on edge without long lulls between action and not so tense you can’t take a break. Thor has another winner in this book. Scary in its realistic viewpoint of how the government watches everybody and what information can be garnered. Privacy is no more.

My ranking:

Brown BeltBrown


Safe Harbor


by Rosemary McCracken



Pat Tierney’s world is full of her two daughters, a new boyfriend, her dog Maxie, and her Toronto based financial investment career. Her world gets turned upside down when a strange woman leaves a five year old boy at her office claiming he is Pat’s late husband’s son. When the woman is murdered and the boy’s family is apathetic about the boy’s plight, Pat ends up caring for the child. The police suspect the killer is also out to get the boy and wouldn’t hesitate to remove any other obstacles. Digging into the case, Pat finds a connection with a refuge for immigrants seeking citizenship. Against the advice from her new boyfriend and the police to stay out of the case, she can’t help but be involved, especially when danger seeks her out.

This is an interesting plot with a few subplots dealing with family life and family issues. There is something different here with financial investments and illegal immigrants.


Pat Tierney: 47 lives in Toronto, works as a financial adviser, has two daughters and a dog, has been a widow for four years, green eyes, blonde, has had a miscarriage, tall, has an Iraqi housekeeper, attended Queen’s University as an English major, drives a Volvo, formerly a teacher

Yuri Vlasenko: Russian, smokes, broken and stained teeth, was in the Spetsnaz, former contract soldier, long hair

Devon Shaughnessy: owns a Connecticut software firm, has a son, silver hair, new boyfriend of Pat’s, owns a vacation home north of Toronto

While I found some of the characters okay, I didn’t really feel a connection to them. The little boy was bland and Pat didn’t come across with some of the reactions I thought a mother should regarding her daughters. I didn’t feel the threat to the family as I wanted. Yuri was a below average bad guy for having his own chapters. Oskar, the other bad guy received more play.


Standard, nothing too exciting. A character named Arlene had the most distinctive voice.


Various length of chapters. Chapters were headed by the character they featured, either Pat or Yuri. Pat’s chapters were first person POV and Yuri’s were third. Unnecessary profanity but not much. There were some punctuation errors, misspelled words and sentences with missing words. A little tension near the end but nothing throughout.

My ranking:

Green Belt


The Right Guard

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By Alexandra Harriet




In 1978, the military has discovered a rash of thefts from several bases around the country. The government has several suspects. CIA operative Eric Brent is assigned to infiltrate a secret group operating almost in plain sight. They are called The Right Guard and are tired of the government’s wasteful spending, increased tendency toward the nanny-state and disobedience to the Constitution. Their goal: take over the government and put things back on track. The deeper Brent goes, the more he uncovers, including a link to his family’s past in Nazi Germany near the end of World War II.

I like this plot in that even though the story is set in the late 70’s, the reasons for the Right Guard’s actions could be argued as happening today. It’s a timely story using historical facts. There actually was a rash of thefts of military armaments at the time.


Eric Brent: 38, CIA operative, father was a Count and a Field Marshall Adjutant in the German military. Has a mustache. Has an older brother and sister. Original surname was Von Erhenrich. Lived his early years in Germany after World War II. Has invented a new type of gun. Blonde hair, ruggedly handsome, ice blue eyes, Vietnam vet, suffering from gunshot wound from last case, marksman, close to leaving CIA employment, awarded Intelligence medal for Valor, attended University of Richmond, worked on campus newspaper

John Ross: CIA chief of Special Operations Group, mid 40s, short steel gray hair, muscular and lean, tan, gray/blue eyes, pipe smoker, divorced, thin face

Drake Cochran: attended university of Richmond and worked on campus newspaper with Brent. Full lips, Sagittarius, direct, former reporter, works as a press secretary to a Senator

Deacon Malway: 68, white hair, ruddy face, prominent veins in his hands, leader of the Right Guard, dark eyes, stocky frame, business savvy, hates lawyers, no respect for women, drives a Jeep, pipe smoker, in ill health, married with an estranged son, wife lives in a separate residence

There are some interesting characters including an ex lover of Brent’s with whom he’d like to rekindle a romance.


Conversations stay on target. A few lengthy reports during some of the meetings.


Many chapters are headed by excerpts of actual news articles relating thefts from military bases. Chapters are headed also by dates. Chapter lengths vary. There are some punctuation errors in misplacement of quote marks and incorrect tag lines. The main problem I had with this story is that most of the scenes are meetings. Meetings between Eric and his boss, with Eric and the government men, with Eric and the bad guys, with the government men reporting on progress, on the bad guys reporting on progress, etc. There isn’t too much action throughout. There is a slight rise in tension when Eric makes a surprise discovery about what the Right Guard has in its possession and a little bit at the end, but the scene where I expected major action fizzled and there was no real climactic ending. The premise is a good one, but the story is droll.

My ranking:

Camouflage Belt


Cry Vengeance


by Ron Handberg



Jessica Mitchell, a recently hired reporter Minnesota television station, is on scene when authorities remove the body of a dead man from the river.

Later, she discovers the man was a rapist who never served time for his crime. Investigating the case, Jessica runs across past murders, with all of the victims involved with sexual crimes. With the help of an aging cop struggling with alcoholism, Jessica pursues the killers while being hampered by a formidable police officer and a stalwart prosecuting attorney. And she has to deal with a pesky child molester and also her sister, who was recently raped.

This is another version of The Star Chamber with a group that determines the fate of criminals who didn’t receive punishment for committed crimes. No surprises who the ‘bad guys’ are. Still, a powerful story dealing with a heinous crime.


Jessica Mitchell: Rookie reporter for television station in Minneapolis, short brown hair, photographic memory, grew up in small town, worked at a Duluth TV station for two years, drives a beat up ’77 Impala, has a younger sister, has a half moon-shaped birthmark on neck

Freda Brinkman: Lieutenant in Homicide, tall, auburn hair, long and slender face, was abused both physically and sexually as a child, has an abhorrence for men, drives a Pontiac

Matt Meecham: 63, Homicide Captain, cigar smoker, alcoholic, big man, wife died in a car accident he caused while drunk, has a son who ran away after accident, plays cribbage, owns two Siamese cats

Sarah Andrews: County prosecutor, early 30’s, model beautiful, women’s movement activist, law degree from University of Minnesota, parents and younger brother live in Ohio, drives a Honda

Very good characters. Very strong. The secondary characters, such as Sarah’s roommate and Jessica’s sister, both rape victims, are well presented with believable personalities.


Everybody comes through with distinctive voices. Tight conversations. No lectures or long soliloquies.


A few instances of profanity. There is a mild description of a rape scene but nothing too graphic. Nothing to do with Handberg’s writing, but the copy of the book I have has small print and was a challenge to read. Otherwise, he does a good job of revealing a little bit more as the story progresses. As I mentioned, there are no surprises as to the cabal of criminals because they are revealed long before the halfway point. I did enjoy the progression and change each character experiences. This is what makes a good book, that the characters are not static but evolve throughout a story.

My ranking;

Brown Belt