Tag Archives: Washington

A spy thriller that rings with important issues for young adults

Two Lies and a Spy, by Kat Carlton. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. 256 pages. Hardcover $16.99.

Karina (“Kari”) Andrews is not your ordinary teenager, though she has the normal teenage angst about boys, her appearance, and high school. What makes her unusual and interesting is that Kari is the sixteen year old daughter of parents who work undercover operations for the CIA. Coincidentally, she goes to a fancy prep school in Washington D. C. where she has a crush on Luke Carson, whose father just happens to head the agency!

Kari has advanced martial arts skills, knows how to hastily improvise a disguise, and is a shrewd problem-solver. She has confidence, energy, and a strong sense of loyalty.  TwoLiesandaSpy

All of her skills and traits are tested when she receives a code text-message from her father that sends her into action. The message suggests a threat to the family. Kari has previously received instructions on what to do, where to go, and what to bring if she ever receives this message.

Taking charge of her younger brother Charlie – a computer geek who reads encyclopedia articles for entertainment – Kari begins to take action when she is befriended by two men who at first seem to be colleagues of her parents, but turn out to be would-be abductors. She discovers that these men are trying to capture Kari and Charlie as a way of gaining leverage against their parents, now perceived as Russian double-agents working against U. S. interests. Irene Andrews has been locked up in a CIA secret prison, and her husband Cal is missing.

Kari soon rallies her forces in an attempt to prove her parents’ innocence and rescue her mother.

The interaction of the teenagers is as powerful an ingredient as the thriller premise. One of Kari’s gang, Rita, is an expert hacker. Kale, who goes to a public school and is from a working class background, is Kari’s friend from martial arts classes.  He plays a major role in the rescue effort and also in the adolescent class warfare when he runs into conflict with Luke’s snooty sister, Lacey. Lacey is a slutty femme fatale addicted to her own appearance and bewildered by Kari’s inability to take fashion or makeup seriously. She’s not much help in the group’s quest.

Evan, a misplaced Brit, is an outsider who has somehow attached himself to this group. He seems a bit older and a bit wiser, but his way of playing the battle of insults with the others, especially Kari, seems immature enough even while witty. However, there’s more to Evan that I can’t reveal. I can tell you that he is quite attracted to Kari, but she keeps fawning over gentlemanly Luke. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the September 19, 2013 Naples Florida Weekly, the September 25 Fort Myers edition, and the September 26 Bonita Springs edition, click here: Florida Weekly – Kat Carlton

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David Baldacci and Dorothea Benton Frank reviews at Citybookreview.com

My latest reviews for citybookreview.com include a totally satisfying mainstream contemporary by bestselling belle of Southern writers Dorothea Benton Frank: 

“By alternating narrators in a rich mother/daughter counterpoint of attitude and need, Ms. Frank provides a novel of pride, passion, and purpose. Annie Britt’s husband, Buster, had walked out on her eleven years ago, crushed by her overbearing domestic management. Their home was her castle, but not his. Never divorced, they have had little communication over the years. Approaching sixty, Annie is lonely. Her stubborn need to be needed is raging. 

Her daughter, Jackie McMullen, has just tragically lost her firefighter husband. She and her ten year old son, Charlie, are struggling through a very rocky period of mourning. Mid-thirtyish Jackie, who has had three tours of duty in Afghanistan as an Army nurse, cannot begin to imagine her future. . . . ”

To see the full review, click here: Porch Lights | City Book Review

. . . and a gripping thriller my master suspense-builder David Baldacci:

“This latest thriller by a king of the genre is as gripping and fast-paced as they come. The action, including several abrupt changes of direction, is furiously fast. The characterizations are vivid and intriguing. In Will Robie, a stone-cold government assassin, David Baldacci fashions a protagonist who leaves readers hungry for more.

When Robie , a master of his trade, is unwilling to fulfill a suspicious assignment, he realizes that he is being targeted and manipulated by people who should be on his side. . . .”

For the rest of this review, click here: The Innocent | City Book Review

For links to all of my reviews at City Book Review, click here: Phil Jason | City Book Review

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Karna Small Bodman’s “Final Finesse”

Since the review presented below was posted, a different version has appeared in the January-February 2010 number of the Fort Myers Magazine. See Ft.Myers magazine – Karna Small Bodman

 In her latest literary outing, Karna Small Bodman has taken a detour around the central characters of her first two political thrillers (Checkmate and Gambit) and given us compelling new personalities to follow in this captivating portrayal of all-too-plausible threats to our national security. When gas pipelines start exploding, Samantha Reid swings into action. As White House Deputy Director for Homeland Security, she senses the magnitude of the danger, but her opaque and self-absorbed superior is not ready to act. Indeed, no one seems ready to act. In Final Finesse, getting the bureaucracy to recognize and respond to a crisis is like wading in molasses.


Samantha finds an ally in Tripp Adams, vice president of GeoGlobal Oil & Gas, the company that owns the pipelines. She quickly figures out the technical side of what the saboteurs are up to and enlists Tripp in her investigation. Clearly enough, the explosions – as they mount – promote chaos in the fuel markets, sending prices out of sight. Communities and even large regions of the country are threatened by a severe, ongoing energy crisis that cripples all aspects of economic life.  Hospitals can’t function, heat is unavailable, people are suffering, and the country is ripe for panic. Among the possible beneficiaries are enemies of the United States, especially those with a significant stake in the world energy market. We are led to suspect the leader of a certain South American country who makes a policy of nationalizing enterprises that foreign investors like GeoGlobal spend fortunes to establish.

Tripp is assigned to go to Caracas and negotiate with “El Presidente” and his government. As he prepares for his trip, and as his professional dealings with Samantha turn personal, a white-hot romance develops. 

In Final Finesse, Bodman employs the sure-fire narrative technique of alternating perspectives. While Samantha is the controlling intelligence in one group of chapters, another group of chapters is focused on the gas field workers who have been hired and trained to sabotage the pipelines. Yet another group reveals the deliberations of El Presidente and his clever but conceited aide known “The Fixer.” The author brings one part of her story line to a suspenseful moment and then postpones pushing it forward by switching over to another part of her story line for a while, once again planting new and suspenseful questions. By orchestrating her narrative in this way, Bodman tightens her hold on her readers’ attention, revealing and withholding information with great dexterity.

The stakes are raised when Tripp is kidnapped and held for ransom in Venezuela. A frustrated and worried Samantha throws caution and government regulations to the wind, organizing her own rescue effort by getting GeoGlobal to hire a paramilitary crew from a company for which Tripp once worked.  From this point on, the plot line alternates primarily between Tripp and his kidnappers and the operatives whom Samantha has engaged – and whom she insists on accompanying into the danger zone. The team leader, Joe Campiello, is an attractive, well-drawn minor character.

Indeed, there is a fairly large cast of supporting players that give dimension and credibility to the world that Bodman constructs. These include Samantha’s boss, who tries to take credit for her work and can’t wait for his next appearance on cable news shows; a gang leader named Eyeshade; a friend of Samantha’s named Angela Marconi who also holds an important White House position; and Evan Ovich, another White House staffer whom I take as an irresistible, playful reference to a Bodman friend – a well-know novelist named Janet.

Final Finesse is a worthy addition to Karna Small Bodman’s growing collection of political thrillers. Authoritative, well-paced, and just plain fun to read, it also is a novel offering food for thought about the dangers that our country faces and intriguing insights into how well our government is prepared to deal with them.

credit Didi Cutler

credit Didi Cutler

While Bodman takes her readers to Oklahoma and other places where gas lines are threatened, to the White House and several other D. C. locations, and even to Venezuela – the brief reference to our dear Naples (Tripp’s parents have a winter place in Port Royal) is a bit of icing on the cake. Karna Small Bodman spends a good part of each year at home in Naples, where she is a great asset to the literary and cultural community. For biographical information on Bodman’s careers as a media professional and as a high-ranking government official, see her website www.karnabodman.com.

See also: Karna Bodman and Karna Bodman (2).

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BOOK BEAT 63 – Karna Bodman (2)

BOOK BEAT   Naples Sun Times   February 6, 2008

by Philip K. Jason

With her second novel, “Gambit,” Karna Small Bodman has established herself as one of the premier crafters of political thrillers. Drawing upon her own experience as a high-ranking media and security official in the Reagan White House, Bodman can make her handling of government decision-making, the Capitol Beltway environment, and international politics ring true. Her attractive heroine, a scientist who is both personally and professionally dedicated to national defense, wrestles once again with technological solutions to major threats to world peace. And, as in her first appearance in “Checkmate,” Cammy Talbot’s heart is tested on more than one level.

Why are jetliners falling out of the sky? An unknown enemy has found a way to bring down commercial aircraft while leaving hardly a trace of how it was done and how the destructive weaponry remained undetected. With the U. S. government seemingly incapable of dealing with this threat, the transportation industry is grinding to a standstill and the stock market is plummeting. Chaos is on the horizon. Who is behind these atrocities, and with what motive? These are the questions that need to be unraveled as quickly as possible. 

Talbot, whose inventive genius on missile defense systems had saved the world from possible catastrophe several months earlier, is once again placed on center stage in this new dilemma. While working with a Boston-based Chinese colleague on a new missile defense concept, Cammie Talbot learns of activities on mainland China that suggest the development of stealth missile systems with new guidance technologies. When Talbot leaves her friend’s university lab to grab a cup of coffee at a nearby Starbucks, the Chinese scientist and his lab are destroyed by an explosion. 

As the plot unfolds, we meet high-ranking government officials in furious panic, leaders of rival R & D firms vying for government contracts, and, though kept in the shadows, the perpetrators themselves. Panic accelerates when a plane taking off from Dulles Airport explodes, ending the life of Austin Gage, the National Security Advisor to the President. These doomed planes can no longer be considered random targets.

When Vice President Jayson Keller takes over Gage’s duties, new complications arise. Keller and Talbot are now working together on the accelerating security nightmare, and it is clear that he is interested in her. Talbot is hesitant, still nursing a sense of abandonment and betrayal in the wake of her aborted romance with Colonel Hunt Daniels, the White House Arms Control and Strategic Defense aide. When Daniels, who has been on secret assignments, comes back into the picture, Talbot is torn between her passion for him, the genuine appeal of Jayson Keller, and her unwillingness to get hurt once again. These workplace romances are hell, especially in the corridors of power.

As Talbot moves towards testing her new missile detection and defense concepts, it becomes quite clear that her centrality to thwarting the attacks on U. S. aircraft is known to the enemy. She becomes a target. Now it is her heart’s courage that is tested.

Cammy Talbot’s romantic and research concerns are neatly counterpointed through her friendship with Melanie Duvall, who heads corporate communications at Bandaq Technologies where Talbot works. Duvall, herself entangled with a dashing, spotlight-stealing senator, serves as a kind of confidante, yet she is an attractive character in her own right – a breezier and less guarded counterpart to Talbot.

The author moves us sure-handedly through a range of locals – not only the D. C. area, but San Francisco, Travis Air Force Base, remote sections of China, Brasilia, and Taipei. We hear of Chinese military exercises in the Taiwan Strait. We hear of alliances with Japan and assistance from India in the face of the looming threat. The pace quickens, and the pulse of expectation thunders louder and louder.

Karna Small Bodman has another winner in “Gambit,” just released by Forge Books. She will be signing her new title on April 5 and 6 at the Naples Press Club’s Authors and Books Festival, which is being held at the von Liebig Art Center.  

Philip K. Jason, Ph.D., is Professor Emeritus of English from the United States Naval Academy.  A poet, critic, and free-lance writer with twenty books to his credit, this “Dr. Phil” chairs the annual Naples Writers’ Conference presented by the Naples Press Club. Send him your book news at pjason@aol.com.

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