Monthly Archives: March 2017

Don’t think it can’t happen

Zero Day: China’s Cyber Wars, by T. L. Williams. First Coast Publishers. 350 pages. Trade paperback $15.95.

This fascinating techno-thriller grows out of the reality of nonstop cyberwar that, while largely invisible, is constantly going on all around us. Not only do nations spy on one another by hacking computers, in both the public and private sectors of enemies and friends, bandit freelancers are also at work. National infrastructures are vulnerable. What’s to keep major electronic grids safe from cyber attack? 

T. L. Williams imagines a situation in which China devotes its computer resources to bringing down the U. S financial system and thereby collapsing confidence in the dollar as the world’s reserve currency. This outcome would be a giant step toward China surpassing the U. S. as the world’s sole or dominant superpower.

Cyberwars have complex offensive and defensive elements, and Mr. Williams portrays the technological strategies and tactics in fascinating detail. He brings us to the highest level of the U. S. security establishment and shows the bureaucratic workings, allowing readers to eavesdrop on the decision-making conversations of the key players. He also takes us into their private thoughts.

The catalytic moment is the discovery of a communication from a middle-rank Chinese technocrat who is at once in charge of a Chinese offensive and is motivated to “come over” to the American side. Someone needs to be selected who has the experience and skills to be Li’s American handler. Astonishingly, this person is Logan Alexander, the central character in this author’s earlier novels: “Unit 400: The Assassins” and “Cooper’s Revenge.”

The plot progresses through a Tom Clancy-like bombardment of technological detail, a soup bowl full of acronyms for government agencies (both American and Chinese), the shared expertise of U. S. cyberwar specialists, and the physical movements of the key players.


More than most novels with China settings, this one takes us not only to familiar places like Hong Kong, but also to far less known areas of that fascinating country. Readers also spend time in Washington DC and environs, Thailand, New England, and elsewhere. In each of these settings, Mr. Williams portrayss terrain, neighborhoods, individual buildings, offices, residences, and laboratories with vivid authority. He also details transportation systems and communications systems with great skill. . . .




To read the entire review, as it appears in the March 29, 2017 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the March 30 Naples, Bonita Springs, Punta Gorda / Port Charlotte and Palm Beach editions, click here: Florida Weekly – Zero Day


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A cruel past threatens to wreak havoc on an uncertain present

Mangrove Lightning, by Randy Wayne White. Putnam. 352 pages. Hardcover $27.00.

Though many of Mr. White’s earlier entries in his Doc Ford mystery series have generated fear, not one has been as persistently scary as “Mangrove Lightning.” It’s an odd brew of local history, unnatural quirks in the natural world, grotesque legends, and even more grotesque characters. It is fed by events on different timelines that come into focus and then dissolve.  

Much of the plot revolves around the past and present doings of two families: the Barlows and the Lambeths. The Lambeths are a mysterious and evil-tainted tribe given to all kinds of perversions and crimes. Members of this weird family are huge physical specimens. The enjoy cruel satisfactions and a wide range of narcotics. Their human prey often disappears, perhaps boiled down to bones and chemicals. They have some connection to Chinese slaves. The Lambeths are not to be crossed. The influence of Walter Lambeth permeates his descendants, who seem to live under a spell.

Those who stumble into Lambeth country in the backwaters of SW Florida may not get out. They will be haunted by strange voices that repeat bloodcurdling threats. Doc Ford and his buddy Tomlinson find themselves among those who have to deal with the present generation of Lambeths, in whom cunning and madness coexist.

White – photo by Wendy Webb

The Barlows are represented by a premier and legendary fishing captain nicknamed Tootsie. Plenty of bad news in that family, but Tootsie is revered. His rebellious teenage niece Gracie is missing, and both Tomlinson and Doc are involved in trying to find and, if necessary, rescue her. Indeed, Gracie is only the latest member of Tootsie’s family to have been sought out to pay the price for some terrible doings that occurred in the mid-1920s. It seems as if a dark family feud is being played out. . . .

To read the full review, as it appears in the March 22, 2017 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the March 23 Naples, Bonita Springs, Punta Gorda / Port Charlotte, and Palm Beach editions, click here: Florida Weekly – Mangrove Lightning




MARCO ISLAND, FL / Saturday, March 25 at 2:00 PM

Sunshine Booksellers, 677 S. Collier Blvd

FORT MYERS, FL / Saturday, March 25 at 7:00 PM

Barnes & Noble #2711, 13751 Tamiami Trail

SARASOTA, FL / Sunday, March 26 at 12:00 PM

Bookstore1, 12 S. Palm Ave., Sarasota, FL 34236

DELRAY BEACH, FL / Wednesday, March 29 at 7:00 PM

Murder on the Beach, 273 NE 2nd Ave.

CAPTIVA, FL / Friday, March 31 from 12:00 PM – 3:00 PM

Doc Ford’s Rum Bar & Grille, 5400 S Seas Plantation Rd

FORT MYERS BEACH, FL / Monday, April 3 from 11:30 AM – 3:00 PM

Doc Ford’s Rum Bar & Grille, 708 Fishermans Wharf

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Stolen Legacy: Nazi Theft and the Quest for Justice at Krausenstrasse 17/18 Berlin

Revised and updated edition. By Dina Gold. Ankerwycke. 328 pages. Trade paperback $17.95.


This meticulously researched and powerfully presented story examines how a prominent Berlin commercial building was taken from its Jewish owners, the Wolff family. The building, which housed the family’s highly successful fur business, was a notable structure from 1910 onward. In 1937, Nazi efforts led to a forced sale of the building, after which it became headquarters for the German railway system. The Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany in 1945 complicated legal matters regarding ownership status, and even after Germany’s reunification the status of such properties was mired in red tape.

Dina Gold

Gold’s original text puts most of the pieces together. It also tells several stories at once. One is the background history of Jewish life in Nazi Germany; another is the engaging yet chilling family history; and yet another is the story of the author’s valiant investigative enterprise that had the ultimate goal of unearthing the truth and pushing for a just resolution of this particular and yet powerfully symbolic Nazi crime. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears on the Jewish Book Council web site, click here: Stolen Legacy – Jewish Book Council . You will also find a list of discussion questions.

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Classic Naples-based series says adieu with class

Death in the Dark, by Kinley Roby. Privately published. 277 pages. Kindle e-book $2.99.

This is Mr. Roby’s 11th and final Harry Brock Mystery. Though he had planned for it to be the last, an unexpected dilemma must have sullied the closure experience a bit. Accidentally deleting the almost completed text file and its backup from his computer (a cautionary tale, writer friends), he had to laboriously reconstruct his narrative. In the interim, the publisher of the first ten series titles decided to abandon the detective fiction genre, leaving the author with little choice but to self-publish it via Amazon’s Digital Services division.  

The good news is that it is here, but so far only as an e-book. A confessed fan of the series, I found it once again meeting the high bar of the others in most ways. Readers may trip over the typos of one kind or another that haven’t yet been corrected, but there are still so many things to enjoy.

Roby sets the series in a disguised version of Naples and environs. Those familiar with the area will have fun penetrating the place names (such as “Vienna Village”) the author invents for familiar locations, as well his presentation of the cultural environment.


Harry is still running his PI business, patrolling the patch of government land called Bartram’s Hammock on the edge of the Everglades. He inhabits a small house in exchange for warden duties, and he gets mixed up in cases that also involve local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies. And, as in past adventures, beautiful women are omnipresent.

He is still spending time with his older friend and neighbor Tucker. These aging outdoorsmen are still doing a bit of farming. It’s a delight that Kinley Roby allows us to see them tending to pets with whom they carry on conversations. Harry and Tucker are an intelligent, humorous odd couple. Tucker’s niece Delia, temporarily living with her uncle, is one of several attractive women whom Harry admires and with whom a relationship almost blooms.

Plot? An enormous international trade in stolen art run by cutthroat thieves is leaving a trail of bodies and threatens to leave more if Harry and the law enforcement officials can’t put a stop to the menace. Some of those involved in this illicit industry are on the edge of cooperating with the authorities to save their own lives and perhaps some of their filthy lucre. The ins and outs of the complex schemes that all sides are hatching create the intellectual stimulation that Kinley Roby’s novels always deliver.

The dialogue between Harry and his friends in uniform captures the nature of their relationships as well as the ways professionals develop and refine plans designed to take down the criminals. Mr. Roby’s characters are well-delineated by their patterns of speech and other tools of this writer’s trade. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the March 15, 2017 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the March 16 Naples, Bonita Springs, Punta Gorda / Port Charlotte, and Palm Beach editions, click here: Florida Weekly – Death in the Dark

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A rooming house and an inn: two visions of fifties Boston

Kenmore Square: A Novel by Carol June Stover. Champlain Avenue Books. 264 pages. Trade paperback, $13.99.

Set in Boston during the 1950s and early 1960s, this curious coming-of-age tale involves unusual characters and several life-altering secrets. 

Iris Apple’s world is rocked at the age of 10, when her mother is murdered. Iris suspects her crude and cruel father might very well be the murderer, but she has no way of acting on her suspicions.

Nick Apple, son of a well-known Boston bookie, runs the Kenmore Square rooming house where the family lives among the down and out boarders. One boarder is very special: Madame Charlemagne, a once-popular performer who has become a recluse. The aging cabaret singer and young Iris assist and console one another in various ways.

As the years go by, Iris more and more feels an obligation to herself. At 18, soon after graduation from high school, this lovely but lonely girl with no suitors determines to find out what or who caused her mother’s death. The search requires that she first find out more about her mother’s life.

To accomplish her ends, Iris needs to make several trips from the bare bones rooming house to the elegant Wellesley Inn where her mother had worked before marrying Nick. The owner-operator is Buffy, who had been her mother’s best friend.

Carol Stover

Iris learns a lot from Buffy and in this way comes closer to understanding her mother — who, as it turns out, was not murdered by Nick. Iris also learns that the Wellesley Inn has fallen on hard times, though it is still well maintained. Buffy’s health begins to fail, and while there is a chance for Iris to follow the dream of working there, she feels she owes Nick something to atone for her suspicions. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the March 8, 2017 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the March 9 Naples, Bonita Springs, Punta Gorda / port Charlotte, and Palm Beach editions, click here: Florida Weekly – Kenmore Square

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The beekeeper’s daughter is part honey, part sting

The Beekeeper’s Daughter, by Jane Jordan. Black Opal Books. 388 pages. Trade paperback $16.99.

Born in England, this Sarasota author returns imaginatively to the Exmoor area she knows very well. Set in the late 1860s, his is a novel of grand passions that lead to ruthless actions and of hidden secrets slowly revealed. As she learns the truth about herself, Annabel Taylor – the title character – hopes that she can find the strength to use her untested, mysterious talent for to save herself and those she loves from disaster. frontcoverofthebeekeepersdaughter

This includes the further development of her ability to influence the behavior of bees, for better and for worse.

Annabel, who lost her mother at a young age, grew up as best friends with the son of the local blacksmith, her father’s good friend. As they grew older, their feelings blossomed into a strong, often overwhelming, passion. Jevan Wenham often could not keep his feelings in check; they would burst into violence.

Though meant for each other, these two could lose control in unfortunate ways. When Jevan reluctantly decides to spend time with his mother in London in order to get an education and improve his chances for a prosperous future, Annabel is outraged. Her feelings of betrayal overwhelm her common sense. Her waves of attraction and repulsion are ferocious.

Vulnerable, Annabel is manipulated by a wealthy young suitor, Alex Saltonstall, who pursues her and eventually traps her into accepting his marriage proposal. Now Jevan, who has been imprisoned by the Saltonstalls as part of that trap, feels betrayed. It doesn’t matter to him that Annabel’s consent to marry Alex saves his life.

Jane Jordan

Jane Jordan

Gothelstone Manor, the Saltonstall estate, becomes Annabel’s prison. It is also the place in which the paranormal or supernatural dimensions of the novel exhibit themselves. Haunting voices and images suggest a relationship between the restless, agonized spirits of the dead and the destinies of the living. The history of women married into the Saltonstall family reveals a pattern of early deaths and bouts of madness. It is a pattern encroaching on the present – and perhaps the future.

Witchcraft is part of the lineage and legacy of the key families, sometimes exercising beneficial power, sometimes bringing only evil. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appear in the  March 1, 2017 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the March 2 Naples, Bonita Springs, Punta Gorda / Port Charlotte, and Palm Beach editions, click here: Florida Weekly – The Beekeeper’s Daughter

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