Monthly Archives: December 2016

Enemies within attempt to provoke U. S. war abroad

Nowhere on Earth, by Vincent J. Sachar. Divont Pubishers. 334 pages. Trade paperback $12.25.

What if high-ranking elected government officials as well as major security agency personnel were engaged in a plot to undermine official U. S. policy? What if they had a plan to force the U. S. into a war in the Middle East? What would be the chances of such a plot being successful? What would it take to detect and thwart it? Who would it take to lead the charge? noecoverjavier

The answer to the last question is that it would take a man with many names, one of which is Kent Taylor. Taylor, a former Navy SEAL LCDR, is a man with unusual skills and a dark background. The damage he has seen and done has made him a lot of enemies. His simple cover story is that he died many years before this threat was set in motion. He is leading a secluded life with his wife on the island of St. John, one of the U. S. Virgin Islands. For his own survival and that of other family members, he has become imprisoned in paradise.

Now that all comes to an end. He finds himself teaming up with three FBI retirees to fight the rogue group that sees its interests requiring that the U. S. be manipulated into a foreign war. The skills of Taylor, former FBI Special Agent Bill Gladding, and former agents Jonas and Sally Blair combine to lead the battle. Others play roles in assisting them, just as many other characters play rolls as part of the rogue effort. Some readers may find just too many characters to sort out.

Mr. Sachar builds his plot out of seemingly disconnected pieces, jumping from location to location, crisis to crisis, character to character, outlining the major plot by defining the dots that have to be followed and linked. You know, follow the dots.

A major dot is a large upstate New York company named Bergam Industries. Its legitimate businesses have cloaked illegal doings like money laundering, and something is going on that involves the secret presence of African visitors. Smuggling perhaps?



One employee suffers a mysterious accidental death. Another, suspicious and fearful, brings computer jump drive to his lawyer’s office. This lawyer just happens to be the aforementioned Jonas Blair. The man mysteriously disappears. After Blair is threatened by thugs who arrive to retrieve the stolen property, he brings Taylor and the others into the effort to stop the network of rogue officials and operatives.

A scene in the Congo, yet another dot on the plot map, reveals an African man in hiding, He is in the service of U. S. interests. But which ones? The legitimate ones or the pretenders?

To read the entire review, as it appears in the December 28, 2016 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the December 29 Naples, Bonita Springs, and Punta Gorda / Port Charlotte editions, click here: Florida Weekly – Nowhere on Earth

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Yuletide fable brings stormy weather and murder to an uplifting finale

On a Midnight Clear,by Henry Hoffman. Melange Books. 164 pages. Trade paperback $10.95.

This third title in Mr. Hoffman’s Adam Fraley Mystery series takes the private eye away from his home base in the Tampa area on a vacation trip to a small town in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. The heavy Colorado snowstorm on Christmas Eve disorients Adam as he searches for Reggie, the friend he has set out to visit – an army buddy with whom he has kept in touch over the years. midnightclear

Lost and getting desperate, he pulls up to a remote cabin and finds a tentative welcome from charming seven-year-old Noelle, who is patiently waiting the return of her mother, Rita Feldman, who had just gone off for a walk. Rita’s absence sparks the first question of many: Where is she? Why would she have left her daughter alone in this threatening weather on Christmas?

Once the local authorities are summoned and begin looking into the case, Adam – a stranger who shouldn’t be in this situation – becomes a possible suspect. Rita is found, hanging by her neck in the woodshed, with the next question being whether she was murdered or committed suicide. A background check on Adam pretty much wipes away the suspicions, especially as he joins forces with the local investigators, Vernon Jolly and Carlita Perez.



His own curiosity aroused, Adam gets his host Reggie to do some computer searches in order to find out about the Feldman family. Of particular interest is Arlen Feldman’s muddied reputation as a financial advisor. Seems he had swindled investors out of a million dollars, and yet no one can find the assets that could be assigned to settling the civil suit against him. His divorce from Rita followed, and soon after that his marriage to his present wife, Daniela.

Did the first Mrs. Feldman know something that led Arlen to murder her? He’s a much more plausible suspect than Adam – but where is he?

What did he do with the money he swindled?

A great strength of the book is the brainstorming done by the principal investigators as they pursue the answers. Readers overhear compelling, authoritative conversations about how to advance the case. They exchange ideas readily, in a forthright manner, and with persuasive shows of intelligence and experience. . . .

To read the full review, as it appears in the December 21, 2016 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the December 22 Naples and Punta Gorda/Port Charlotte editions, click here: Florida Weekly – On a Midnight Clear

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Connelly spins two tales that don’t touch but nevertheless grab

The Wrong Side of Goodbye by Michael Connelly. Little, Brown. 400 pages. Hardcover $29.00.

Harry Bosch, now an independent private investigator, also has a gig as a reserve officer in the San Fernando Police Department, a tiny outfit compared to the huge LAPD where Harry had worked for thirty years. It’s a part-time, volunteer job with little status, but the badge is real as is access to police databases. Though Harry knows that he shouldn’t use that access – or other government equipment – to further his private eye work, he’s having trouble drawing the line.  connelly_thewrongsideofgoodbyefinal

Especially since his two cases – one a local serial rapist case, the other a search for a billionaire’s heir – are pulling him in two directions in terms of his time, energy, and sense of responsibility.

Whitney Vance, the mogul, is a very withdrawn fellow. He is concerned about replacing his will just in case there is someone out there whom he fathered. He pays Harry a goodly sum to meet and discuss the assignment, which must be kept secret. Harry’s research uncovers a son, a young man who died during a tour of duty in Vietnam. But is he the lone heir? And how can evidence, DNA and otherwise, be secured that will hold up in court?

When Mr. Vance is found dead, the plot indeed thickens. There seems to be plenty of competition for influencing the dispensation of Vance’s wealth. There are threats. The vultures had been lining up as the tycoon’s age advanced and his health declined.

Harry connects with his half-brother, lawyer Mickey Haller, in a cooperative effort to cover the legal bases of a claim on behalf of an heir. Harry takes great pains to safeguard original documents prepared for the case, and he hides copies in various secure locations.

The Wrong Side of Goodbye

Michael Connelly

Just after Vance is found dead, Harry receives a “last will and testament” and other instructions in Vance’s shaky handwriting, along with a special pen that Harry had seen during his meeting with Vance. It seems Vance’s secretary had been charged with mailing this material in case of her boss’s death.

A death that is soon ruled a murder. Now what?

The other case, the Screen Cutter rapes, partners Harry with a lesbian officer, Bella Lourdes, at the San Fernando PD. Here, Harry painstakingly puts together the connecting links joining crimes first thought as isolated. He has been working cold case files, and his scrutiny has led to the discovery of important common denominators such as location and method of entrance.

The case becomes even more complicated with Detective Lourdes is sent to the Public Works Department to enlist the help of a former San Fernando officer named Dockweiler. When Lourdes disappears, others point out that she and Dockweiler have been on bad terms. One more mystery to solve – what happened to Lourdes . . . ?

To read the full review, as it appears in the December 14, 2016 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the December 15 Naples and Punta Gorda/Port Charlotte editions, click here: Florida Weekly – The Wrong Side of Goodbye

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Threat of bird flu epidemic sets canine-aided security force into action

Reckless Creed, by Alex Kava. G. P. Putnam’s Sons. 336 pages. Hardcover $27.00.

Alex Kava’s highly original Ryder Creed series gets better and better as the title character gains in complexity. His interaction with FBI agent Maggie O’Dell allows fresh challenges for this fine title character of her earlier series. The originality of the Creed series lies in the occupation of its protagonist; the former marine is now an established, sought-after trainer of search-and-rescue dogs. He has a thriving facility on the Florida panhandle. recklesscreed

The plot concerns a bird flu contagion that might have been manipulated, if not an unintended consequence of radical experimentation under the wraps of government agencies.  How do you test an antidote without developing victims to catch and carry the disease? Among the alphabet soup of government medical research operations, something sinister is going on. Is there a chance that some rogue group is working to weaponized bird flu?

Birds are falling out of the sky. Are infected birds, living or dead, a threat to humans? Can the disease evolve or be engineered to that end? Is the virus air-borne, conveyed by touch, by exposure to infected bodily fluids?

Such questions energize this red-hot thriller, and – as we might expect – canine abilities come into play.

As usual, Ms. Kava masterfully employs the alternation of terse, vivid scenes to build a plot as much spatial as it is temporal. In Chicago, Tony, a long-time friend of Creed’s assistant Jason, is extremely sick. He’s being paid to touch as many surfaces as possible. Followers report his progress. He is coughing up blood, feverish, and nauseated. Tony steps out onto the 19th floor balcony of his hotel room for some fresh air, then is suddenly pushed over the railing, plunging to his death.

Alex Kava

Alex Kava

In New York, ailing yet determined Christina Lomax leads a marginal life in a similar employ. She plays the role of a tourist, disguising her actions as a player in an experiment. She too has handlers and followers.

In southern Alabama, Ryder Creed’s favorite search dog, Grace, discovers a young woman drowned in a river with rocks in her pockets. In Nebraska, Maggie O’Dell sees redwing blackbirds falling from the sky.

Bird flu is the link, and Creed’s dogs are the hoped for solution. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the December 8, 2016 Naples Florida Weekly and also the, Bonita Springs, Punta Gorda / Port Charlotte, and Palm Beach Gardens / Jupiter editions, click here: Florida Weekly – Reckless Creed

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Murder mystery in an old mansion plumbed by a new brand of sleuth

Chasing Shadows, by Karen Harper. Mira. 384 pages. Paperback $7.99.

The portions of thirty years that Karen Harper has spent in Naples allows her to provide a taste of this desirable Florida town, though the plot is developed primarily in and near St. Augustine. The first novel in Ms. Harper’s Southern Shores series, “Chasing Shadows” introduces a powerfully engaging protagonist, Claire Britten, the recently divorced mother of a young daughter. chasingshadowsfrontcover

Claire is trying to establish her Clear Path business as a forensic psychologist. Offering her services in a case tried in the Collier County Courthouse, she impresses the opposing lawyer so fully that he asks her to work for him on a case in St. Augustine. After struggling with this decision, Claire decides to leave young Lexi with Aunt Darcy, Claire’s sister, and assist the persistent and extremely handsome lawyer, Nick Markwood, with his case. Her interviews are designed to draw out information useful at trial, where she can be called upon to give expert testimony.

Claire has an intuitive knack, as well as the training, to understand people’s behavior and its foundations. She can draw people out and “read” them.

She is also a woman with health problems. She suffers from narcolepsy complicated by cataplexy. Her life can run smoothly if she remains disciplined, getting sufficient rest and following a regimen of carefully balanced and timed medications. Going off-routine is seriously disabling.

Once the groundwork of the novel is established in Naples, Nick’s murder case in St. Augustine takes over. The deceased, Francine Montgomery, was the owner of the gorgeous old mansion called Shadowlawn. Her mysterious death – was it an accidental overdose, murder, or suicide – leaves the future of Shadowlawn in doubt. Various people have a stake in the outcome, include Francine’s daughter Jasmine – a suspect who is Mark’s client.



Shadowlawn had fallen on hard times and was likely to be sold or perhaps given to the public in some manner. There was also some hope that private fundraising efforts could save it. What will happen to those whose livelihood and identity has been connected to the seemingly haunted place if it comes under new ownership or becomes a public entity?

Those potentially vulnerable people include Neil, the “inside man” and overall estate manager; Bronco, the “outside man” concerned with the grounds; and Dr. Win Jackson, who has plans to expand his museum and produce a film about Shadowlawn; and, of course Jasmine – the heiress. . . .

To read the full review, as it appears in the November 30, 2016 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the December 1 Naples, Bonita Springs, Punta Gorda / Port Charlotte, and Palm Beach / West Palm Beach editions, click here: Florida Weekly – Chasing Shadows

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