Monthly Archives: June 2015

Black Rose


By Alex Lukeman



When samples of a bio-weapon are stolen, American Project members are on the case. Who’s taken the samples and why? The Russians? An old Project enemy named AEON? And how does a shadowy individual called Adam figure into the matter? It’s up to Nick Carter, fiancee Selena Connor, and the rest of Project to stop an organization bent on setting loose an unstoppable plague. Oh, and don’t forget those pesky Russians.

Good thriller material. Good guys versus baddies with some interpersonal relationships added into the mix.


Nick Carter: former Marine Recon, works for the Project, scar on left ear, smoky gray eyes, short black hair, 6′, just under 200 lbs, has problems with formerly broken fingers

Selena Connor: Nick’s fiancee, works for the Project, fluent in many languages, expertise for ancient languages, knows martial arts, violet eyes, reddish blonde hair

Lamont Cameron: works for the Project, black, blue eyes, facial scar, former SEAL,

Elizabeth Harker: Director of the Project, keeps a cat in her office

Stephanie Willits: Project computer techie, formerly with the NSA

Alexei Ivanovich Vysotsky: in the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service, black eyes, bushy eyebrows, 50s, silver streaked receding hair, stocky build

Johannes Gutenburg: chairman of AEON, married, bank owner, near 60, green eyes

Adam: head of the Guardians, drives a modified Cadillac

Rice: United States President, blue/green eyes,

Some of the attitudes of the Project people seem a little relaxed: “I could have been in that car when the bomb exploded.” “Neat gadget.” Okay, these are paraphrases of the actual dialogue but I didn’t feel the emotion of danger when danger was near. And these guys are supposed to be professionals. They’re not going to be ogling over their spy toys. Also, they shouldn’t be explaining to each other about the difference between weapons. Shouldn’t they already know the difference because of their training?

Don’t be a minor character. You don’t last too long.


No real distinguishable voices. Everybody spoke like Midwestern Americans.


One thing that was not believable is that the Koreans had multiple security measures in their lab before anybody was able to get within ten feet of the bio samples and yet Project members walked right into another lab in Switzerland and found the samples almost right away. No key card or coded lock doors? NO bio-hazard suits needed? I would have thought that the team would have done a bit more research into the building to figure out everything before infiltration. They did later when making a decision to breach a chateau.

Also not believable is the leader of the bad guy organization doesn’t use encrypted computers but a regular, easy-to-break password.

The tension is surface. Action almost too quick. A lot of telling and not showing the effects of bullets and bombs upon the main characters.

Only because it was a decent thriller otherwise, did it make not being any lower ranked.

My Rank:

Green Belt



Jack’s Wagers

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By Wirton Arvel

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A down and out man named Jack, for whom nothing goes right, is about to start an amazing adventure. First he meets and beats the Devil not once, but twice. Then he sets out on a journey to find himself and ends up creating a legend.

This is a version of Halloween or Samhain and of the origin of the Jack O’Lantern. Interesting take on an ancient theme.


Jack O’Lantern: blacksmith, gambler

The Devil

Other than some minor characters Jack and the Devil are the major two. There’s a fair amount of information on Jack. No physical details for him.


Some of the dialogue is with quotes and some delineated by dashes. I’m not sure why the author did this but in one case he mixed the two. Probably should have chosen one for all dialogue.


Titled chapters. Long and complex sentences. Relatively short story.

The writing is lofty and prosaic yet-and despite the complexity-simple. That’s not to say childishly simple, just plain, to the point. With the writing style and the ‘age’ of the story, I found the use of the word ‘pinball’ out of place.

This story is all the narrator telling the story. There are a few instances of Jack’s thoughts, but from the narrator’s POV. Because of this I didn’t really get into the character of Jack, to really feel him or for him. This is an overview of Jack’s life with little detail on his youth and scant details about his adult life. Maybe some more specific instances of adventures as we saw with his meetings with the Devil? More showing?

My Rank:

Green Belt


The Other Woman


by Hank Phillippi Ryan


Jane Ryland is a new reporter for the Boston Register, trying to distance herself from a controversial time as a television reporter. She’s assigned to interview Moira Lassiter, whose husband, Owen, is running for the Senate. She suspects an affair when Moira won’t agree to meet. She’s also seeking information about an enigmatic woman in a red coat who makes regular appearances on the campaign trail.

Jake Brogan, homicide investigator, is two bodies deep into a murder case the press is attributing to the ‘Bridge Killer’. When a third victim is discovered to be directly related to Ryland’s past, she and Brogan agree to-somewhat-work together to find the answers.

Other parties are interested in Owen Lassiter, ones with devastating connections to Owen…and to each other. Individuals who are so determined, they won’t let anything stand in their way…

An intriguing political thriller. Some are good, some not so. This is better than most. The connections between characters add to the overall plot very well.

Jane Ryland: 32, disgraced former television reporter she is a new reporter for the Boston Register, has a sister, father is a doctor, drives an Audi TT, mom dead, spiky short walnut brown hair

Jacob Dellacort Brogan: 35, homicide investigator in Boston, grandfather was a police golden retriever, takes notes on a Blackberry

Alex Wyatt: editor for the Boston Register, wears wire rim glasses, married, graduated from the Columbia School of Journalism, cobalt eyes

Owen Lassiter: Former Massachusetts governor, running for Senate, handsome, flinty eyes, silver hair, married, no children

Moira Kelly Lassiter: Owen’s wife, silver blonde, former ballerina

Eleanor Mead Gable: Lassiter’s opponent, ash blonde pageboy cut hair, comes from a wealthy family

A plethora of characters, but Ryan does a good job of distinguishing personalities. She added just enough mystery and hidden truths to some keep me guessing. There are other characters I didn’t add these because, first, I didn’t want to add an unintentional spoiler, and second, because I had to read a lot farther into the book before I discovered the truths. I enjoyed the play between Brogan and Ryland since they were close for a short time. Owen is a standard politician type character.

Good voices that come through well. Conversations stay on point.

Relatively short chapters. At the time of writing this review I had done a blog about irritating misuses of language so I’ve been watchful for those instances. Ryan avoided one of the common mistakes I see a lot. Solid writing. Since this contains bits of a police procedural, with a suspense seen where reporters are characters, the action isn’t until later. With each piece of the story moving inexorably toward a focal climactic point, I didn’t mind the snippets of three of four stories going on.

My Rank:

Brown Belt


The Heist: 50 Shades Of Green

Front Cover The Heist

By Bonnie Lee



Tax specialist Kim Stillwell is bored. That situation comes to an end when a client walks in and dumps a bunch of cash on her desk, then runs out, and promptly gets shot. What’s going on? It’s Kim’s job to find the answer…while trying to establish a relationship with a hunky beau…and avoiding telling the cops anything that could ruin her business.

Well, why not? You have cooking mysteries, knitting mysteries, a plethora of cat and dog mysteries, why not tax mysteries? It makes for a unique story and gives the author a good challenge which is how to work tax related information into a mystery.


Kim Stillwell: 33, 5’9”, tax specialist, drives a silver BMW

Susan: Kim’s sister, author, works at a dog care center, attended Stanford

Simon Dunfey: operates a cabinet making business, owns horses

Maggie Dunfrey: Simon’s wife, early 30s, beauty mark below her lower lip, raven hair, small frame

‘Mac’ McCarthy: police officer, early 50s, paunchy, 6’2”, brown eyes, thin grey hair

Luke Hunter: musician, 6’6”, owns a cat

All right, first off, I must give a big raspberry to the author because she included a character who scored big with a literary agent. Shame on her for rubbing it in for the rest us schlubs who’ve received rejection after rejection. Lol.

Otherwise, I like the characters although Luke comes on a bit obsessive. Yeah, I realize Kim was shot at and he cares for her, but it seemed that Luke wanted to know where was every minute of the day and became upset when she didn’t answer her phone. Sheesh, pal, the lady has a life and a job. I know, it’s inevitable she will be in danger, but just comes off a bit strong.


A capitalization error on a tag line. A bit of punctuation problem in a conversation. Kim’s voice comes through best. Luke’s does too, although as mentioned above, he goes a bit over the top in his “I’m so worried about you and care about you so much. Let’s talk marriage and children right away.” Really? Any woman I know would be saying, “Hey buddy, back off with the putting-a-ring-on-it business.”


Most chapters end with a tax tip that is related to something in the chapter. Chapters are titled. A couple instances of minor profanity.

Some of the book is third person past. Some is first person present from Kim’s POV. Some of the book is third person present. A bit of a mixing of tenses at times. A couple capitalization errors.

So, I’m reading along and it’s pretty standard fare with the usual cops not liking the protagonist, the romance angle, and the kidnapping. Except, that the last suddenly goes off into goofy land. Okay, so there’s no major problem with goofy, just that with a longer book this part would have been set up or foreshadowed or hinted at (a scene early on showing the baddie in the unique situation that is in this book). With a relatively short story here, you have to takes things in stride.

Still pretty good.

My Rank:

Green Belt


The Blue Journal


By L. T. Graham


When small town resident Elizabeth Knoebell is murder, former New York investigator Anthony Walker is on the case. He soon finds a series of stories and notes on Elizabeth’s computer that pertain to sexual encounters. But are the stories fictional? How is the fact that Elizabeth and her husband were both seeing Randi Conway, a psychologist, related? Are any of Conway’s other clients involved?

A steamy filled murder mystery. Sex, violence, and secrets waiting to be revealed. What other elements do you need?


Anthony Walker: 39, Lieutenant Detective, formerly with New York force, Irish/Italian descent, father was a police officer, attended John Jay College, divorced, has two daughters, drives a Ford Explorer, smokes

Randi Conway: psychologist, tall, blonde, attractive, middle 30s, brown eyes, sandy colored hair,

Stanley Knoebel: surgeon, wife is killed at the beginning, born in Romania, has a daughter, receding hairline, thin lips, pale blue eyes

Fran Colello: 45, married with children, dark eyes, brunette, housewife, smokes

Teddy Blasko: computer consultant to the police

Robert Stratford: Conway’s lawyer, Selectman, married, athletic physique, opaque brown eyes, straight brown hair

A varied cast that might need a playbill to remember who’s who. With the different personalities, it’s difficult sometimes to let everybody have time in the spotlight, if even for a short time. In this story he author gives a decent amount of snippet scenes to provide enough “Yeah, she/he could be the killer” thoughts. Good, basic descriptions but enough for me to have a decent mental image. Stanley is one of those characters you love to dislike because of his brusque personality.

I did think that the characters have enough background information so that I didn’t just easily dismiss them as throwaway. Strong personalities.

The more I moved through the story the more I came to not particularly enjoy Conway. I felt she wasn’t a very good psychologist. Her patients kept wanting to leave and during any sessions or talks, she didn’t seem to offer any substantive advice on solving the problems. She’d ask questions, but never got anywhere. She ran off to talk with a friend but the topics varied from her love life to the murder to her role as a psychologist…but again, nothing was solved. Her patients seemed to get worse as the days passed which doesn’t bode well for her reputation. However, as an aspect of ‘character development’ maybe that was the point.


Again, with so many characters, voices are tough to distinguish. I think the two main characters, Walker and Conway with the supporting roles of another officer and the Captain stand out. I think some conversations, while at first appearing to be unimportant, contain insights either to round out characters or point the finger-temporarily-at a particular person.


Profanity. Warning: Sex scenes included that read like letters to Penthouse.

This book is more of a soap opera with a mystery than a strict police procedural. Several subplots, some with more importance than others. There is a bit of suspense with the murderer lurking in the shadows every so often.

The graphic nature of, and the numerous passages of sex scenes was a bit of a turnoff for me.

Still a pretty good mystery.

My Rank:

Purple Belt