Tag Archives: covert operations

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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Two murder cases vie for attention in new “Matt Royal” mystery

Chasing Justice, by H. Terrell Griffin. Oceanview Publishing. 400 pages. Hardcover $27.95.

Call it Phil’s law. Whenever you have a mystery novel with two separate murder cases, the chances are that they will become linked in some way. Such is the situation in Mr. Griffin’s latest. A couple of murders are occupying their time and energy, though Longboat Key Police Detective J. D. (Jennifer Diane) Duncan and usually retired lawyer Matt Royal find plenty of energy for each other. ChasingJusticehigh-res

In J. D.’s professional lap is the question of why a nude, beautiful, surgically-enhanced blond named Linda Favereaux had been found with her skull crushed in her enormous, luxurious beach home. Her husband, two plus decades her senior, is nowhere to be found.

Matt has agreed to come out of retirement to defend his good friend Abby Lester, wife of the J. D’s police chief boss. She’s been accused of murdering a shady local businessman named Nate Bannister. Worse yet (though what’s worse than murder), she’s been accused of having had an affair with the man. A piece of physical evidence puts her at the scene of the crime. Abby says she had never even met Bannister.

If Abby is telling the truth, how did that evidence get there?  What’s going on?

Why is the case moving so quickly? What does it mean that the prosecuting attorney is borrowed from another jurisdiction within the state? Why has the investigation been given over to a state law enforcement agency? Why does the agent in charge seem to be so eager for this assignment?

Back to J. D.’s case: while the Favereaux couple has been living on Longboat Key for a couple of years, hardly anyone knows them. They keep to themselves. It’s obvious that they are enormously wealthy, but what is the source of that wealth?



These mysteries are like two giant piñatas with many smaller mysteries inside. J. D. has a case that leads to upper echelons of clandestine government operations. Yet it remains pretty much a straight, detective-focused murder mystery.

Matt’s story turns into a legal procedural and ultimately into a finely crafted courtroom drama. His case, too, becomes tangled up with people in high places – power players who have a lot to hide, including who really killed Nate Bannister. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the August 26, 2015 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the August 27 Naples, Bonita Springs, and Punta Gorda / Port Charlotte editions, click here: Florida Weekly – Chasing Justice




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Cold War backstory energizes debut of relentless sleuth

The Second Letter, by Robert Lane. Mason Alley Publishing. 330 pages. Trade paperback $14.95.

This is hefty, solid, tough guy mystery writing. A character named Jake Travis is screaming for comparison with Hemingway’s world-weary Jake Barnes, Paul Levine’s Jake Lassiter, and of course, John D. McDonald’s iconoclastic protagonist Travis McGee. Mr. Lane’s invention holds up well while carrying its own distinctiveness. Too smart and too mouthy for his own good, Jake Travis lives in a moral twilight that threatens to plunge him into total darkness.  Second_Letter_Cover

Mr. Lane blends a noir outlook with posh settings.

Jake, a retired Special Forces operative, performs contract work for his former boss. His partner on such missions is a man named Garrett. They are tasked with working out the terms of a possibly compromising letter being turned over to the U. S. Government. The man who has the letter, Raydel Escobar, would like to exchange it for his IRS debt of seven million dollars.

Escobar lives an elegant life from the proceeds of his (largely stolen) carpet and rug business and the three gentleman’s clubs (better known as “skin clubs”) he runs in Tampa. He has a gorgeous wife, a gorgeous home, and a position in the food chain of illegal enterprises that puts him under associates far more powerful and ruthlessly lethal than he is.

Mr. Lane has structured the novel to rock back and forth between Jake’s perspective and Escobar’s, a device that is highly serviceable in raising suspense and deepening reader interest.



The letter goes back to 1961 and is thought to be connected to the Bay of Pigs fiasco. It had been in the possession of Dorothy Harrison, who lived on Long Key off St. Petersburg, Florida. Her late husband’s friend and colleague, Ted Sullivan, delivered it to her several months after Jim Harrison’s death in a CIA plane crash. Dorothy chose not to read it and asked her Cuban gardener, Angelo, to hide it. After her own death decades later, her home became a museum. Now Escobar has somehow come across the letter and the government wants it. Why is it so valuable?

Well, let’s just say it’s from Allen Dulles (CIA director) to Secretary of State Dean Rusk and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara. And it’s not the only letter in the envelope.

As Jake, Garrett, and Jake’s neighbor Morgan scout out Escobar’s estate and plan to make their move, readers get to enjoy Mr. Lane’s masterful handling of the Southwest Florida setting. They also get to feed their gluttony for descriptions of weaponry, elite boats, and special covert operations. Well, covert up to a point. In these various areas of thriller interest, Randy Wayne White now has a rival. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the April 9, 2014 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the April 10 Bonita Springs, Charlotte County, Naples, and Palm Beach Gardens / Jupiter editions, click here: Florida Weekly – Lane.

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A semi-private war against terrorism continues in a fast-paced thriller

Unit 400: The Assassins, by T. L. Williams. First Coast Publishers. 298 pages. Trade paper $14.50.

Former Navy SEAL Logan Alexander’s semi-private war against Islamic terrorism continues in this high energy novel that grows smoothly out of its predecessor, “Cooper’s Revenge” (2012). Now running a maritime consulting business in Boston, Logan is soon involved in payback for payback. A year earlier, he had put together a special forces’ team, funded by a wealthy Kuwaiti businessman, that had destroyed an Iranian IED facility. The businessman’s son, Hamid, who had saved Logan’s life during the raid, has come to Boston to pursue a graduate degree. As he and Logan are about to meet for lunch, Logan is witness to Hamid’s murder in front of the restaurant. Unit400Cover

This killing is not a spontaneous event, but a carefully planned execution that is payback for the episode back in Iran. Iran’s Qods Force had compromised Kuwaiti intelligence and gained detailed information about the IED raid. This means that the participants, including Logan, are known and in danger. Iranian leadership wants to make it clear that it will brook no interference with its jihadist intentions. In fact, it has created a special cadre known as Unit 400 to carry out actions such as assassinating Hamid.

Logan had a glimpse of the assassin, a Middle Eastern man whom he described to the police. The killer’s weapon? It’s Logan’s own knife that he had plunged into an enemy leader during the raid.

While meeting with the Boston police detective assigned to the case in the police station, Logan sees a picture of the very man who killed Hamid. He is part of the police academy’s recent graduating class! Armeen Khorasani is quickly identified, but he has an ironclad alibi. He also has a twin brother, Nouri, who had left the family home in Massachusetts five years ago and was last reported to be living in Tehran.

Soon, Mr. Williams widens the lens of his novel by introducing the assassin and writing chapters and subsections from Nouri’s perspective. We learn about his motives, his training, his strengths, and his weaknesses. Through Nouri, readers come to know more about the mission and strategy of Unit 400. He is a credible, dedicated, cold-blooded monster.

T. L. Williams

T. L. Williams

Unit 400 plans take Nouri from Spain to Venezuela, then to Mexico and back to Boston. T. L. Williams does a spectacular job of describing Nouri’s precautions, in particular how he manages to avoid being followed and finds ways of moving from place to place so that he can confidently determined that he is not being followed. Readers learn, as well, about his ability – through specialists who assist his Unit 400 mission – to shift identities and deflect suspicion.

Nouri’s travels posit an Iran-Venezuela axis of rogue nations. Soon, his handlers get him back onto the completion of his mission to revenge the IED raid, which means having him return to Boston. What transpires there and what lies ahead for Logan Alexander must await your own reading of this most exciting story. . . .

To read this review in its entirety, as it appears in the March 19, 2014 For Myers Florida Weekly and the March 20 Bonita Springs, Charlotte County, and Naples editions, click here Florida Weekly – Unit 400 1 and here Florida Weekly – Unit 400 2.

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Unofficial “Special Forces” operation threatens Iranian weapons program

“Cooper’s Revenge,” by T. L. Williams. First Coast Publishers. 260 pages. $12.75.

It’s not enough that die-hard Navy Seal Logan Alexander loses his career to a severe leg injury while serving in Afghanistan. His psychological rehab is set back by news that his kid brother, Cooper, an Army Ranger in Iraq, is killed by an Improvised Explosive Device (IED). When the close-knit, overachieving Alexander family receives this news, they are at first devastated.  coopers-revenge-cover

Aside from the official military consolations, the Alexanders hear from John Gomez, a combat medic in Cooper’s platoon whose letter tells them about Cooper’s girlfriend, Zahir Parandeh, an Army contract linguist who worked with the American forces in Iraq. Cut off from her conservative Iranian family by her intention to marry Cooper, American-raised Zahir makes her way back to the U.S. Upon her arrival, the Alexanders take her in as one of their own, though Logan is a bit standoffish.

He has, however, found himself a mission.

Below the radar of American government scrutiny, he puts together a team of former Seals and other Special Forces experts, including John Gomez, whose goal is to demolish the Iranian IED development program. This program, implemented by a special arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard know as the Qods Force, has been exporting terror throughout the region and, in fact, far beyond it. Logan somewhat reluctantly adds Zahir to his team.

T. L. Williams

T. L. Williams

With Kuwaiti assistance, both private and governmental, a complex plan is developed to destroy the IED facility.

T. L. Williams shows himself a master at detailing Special Forces stealth operations. His description of the plan’s formation is magnificently clear. His representation of how the participants train to sharpen their skills and master the plan’s stages by simulating it at carefully selected and provisioned sites in the U. S. is superb and totally engrossing.

During the training period, Logan begins to gain respect for Zahir, and perhaps a bit of attraction, too.

Perhaps Mr. Williams’ greatest challenge was imagining the enemy. He handles the challenge by focusing alternating chapters on the world of the Qods forces. The central character here is Barzin Ghabel, a fast-track colonel who commands the IED Reseach and Training facility. Proud of the successes against Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan, this Qods Force team is developing advanced technologies to make its IED arsenal and other weapons even more devastating. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the Fort Myers Florida Weekly for April 3, 2013, the April 4 Bonita Springs edition, and the April 11 Naples edition, click here:  Florida Weekly – T. L. Williams.

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