Fallout: A V.I. Warshawski Novel
In Fallout, V.I. Warshawski sets out to do a favor for the godchild of her cousin and ends up in Lawrence, Kansas uncovering covert operations from earlier decades. The story is fictional, but its author, Sara Paretsky, discloses that it is loosely based on a factual event. She hastens to admit that she made changes to the geography of Lawrence to better suit the story.
Warshawski is tasked with locating a Chicago videographer who disappeared with his client, retired actress Emerald Ferring. Ferring has hired him to create a documentary film of her life. The two have left Chicago, headed for Ferring’s birthplace in Kansas, unaware that the videographer is being sought by law enforcement for a crime committed at his place of employment in Chicago.
Paretsky has presented a richly detailed story in which fiction and history intersect. Among the factual issues (though not specific to the town of Lawrence) are family dysfunction, bigotry, and suspicion of outsiders in a small town. These elements are masterfully blended into a riveting story that moves quickly and demands the reader’s attention.
A mysterious man on a motorcycle weaves his way through the northernmost parts of Alaska, dropping packages along a determined route. A young boy finds one of the packages and claims it as his own as it looks similar to a toy. A coordinated set of explosions rips apart the Trans Alaska pipeline, shocking the foundation of Washington to its core, and setting off financial shock waves as well. Washington looks at a terrorist act while spinning an accident to calm fears in a pending election year. General Billy Williams is on an elevated career track, and is assigned to investigate, while his intuitive girlfriend, Corporal (and Sharpshooter) Claire Ferreti hitches a ride on the trail of a villain known as “Daemon.” Williams sees a connection between previous acts of terror. With the use of a canny informant, he believes he has led Daemon into an ambush, with Claire as lead executioner in a team of shooters. The execution of the plan goes flawlessly, until another explosion changes everything. That’s when this roller coaster ride of a narrative speeds up through the hallways of Washington, where the evolution of warfare is changing, and power plays are being made to China, where a game of survival involves ever changing rules. The story itself becomes a puzzle as everyone looks to find the hidden pieces that might uncover the truth.
Joe Klingler’s novel is an intelligent, non-stop page turner. The characters are well written and believable, the technology detailed always engrossing, the story moves along almost effortlessly. The ramifications of the evolving technology is explored, whether through drone use or Artificial Intelligence. Klingler knows his technology, but also knows how to bring out depth in characters, major or not. This author has a vast potential future that is waiting to be unleashed.
Wake Me Up
Four students from Chris Bullet’s Middleton, Montana, high school viciously beat him up because they earmark Chris to be gay. It is 2004, an election year. As “the Presidential cycle warps into full-blooded hatred of anyone gay, anyone different, and fills political campaign war chests,” Chris lies comatose at a children’s hospital. In an out-of-body experience, Chris views various people and their situations, such as the goings on in his school and also the fictional story loosely based on Chris’ demise written by Deepika, his father’s lover. While the affair is disconcerting to Chris, this is only the beginning of the drama that unfolds within his dysfunctional family, especially when his dad attempts suicide.
Justin Bog punctuates the sexual stigmatization that results from a bigoted societal mindset in Wake Me Up. Divided into four sections, Bog uses the Greek Chorus in parts one and four to present the collective voice of the many characters of whom Chris observes during his astral travel. Narrated by Chris, Bog’s first-person plot constantly alternates between Chris’ observances, character scenes, Chris’ childhood and school recollections, and the moments leading up to Chris’ attack. Key to many of Bog’s character scenes, which function like substories, is how he highlights sexual bondage. Good examples include the student who runs out of Chris’ mom’s English Literature class with no explanation after being harassed by other students, Deepika’s personal and familial lives, specific characters in her story based on Chris, and Chris’ dad’s past.
Bog’s attractive writing style, set to present tense, combines storytelling via the narrator and engaging dialogue. Although homosexuality is a top theme, Bog focuses much of his attention on relationship building: Chris’ dad’s issues with depression and suicide, his mom’s MS diagnosis, and Deepika’s decisions to move on with her life. As the story builds, so does Chris’ case, because all four boys are identified as his attackers. Wake Me Up is well written, thought-provoking, and a definite must-read by all!
The Schwarzschild Radius
After four months of dead-end searches, eighteen-year-old Rachel Wallen decides to take matters in her own hands to find her adopted sister, Olivia, who suddenly vanished out of thin air. Rachel heads to the homeless shelter, where Olivia used to be a volunteer counselor, and is admitted under a pseudonym in the hope that she can gain leads. A staff member shares disturbing news that Olivia had been making porn flicks just before she vanished. Even more disturbing, Rachel learns that Olivia has a twin, Achara, who is living in Thailand and trapped in the sex trade. Discovering the instant messages between the twins on Olivia’s PC, Rachel assumes Olivia’s identity to continue the conversation since she realizes that Olivia is Achara’s only means of escape. While Olivia apparently took care of Achara’s passport prior to her disappearance, Achara needs more than $2000 to get Achara to New York. Rachel’s decision to take a job at a local adult emporium to obtain fast cash leads her not only closer to solving Olivia’s whereabouts, but also into a deadly snare.
Rising and award winning author Gustavo Florentin has pulled out all the literary stops to create his second novel. Florentin’s third person narrative is a combination of well-developed characters, nonstop conflicts, and rich contrast. Florentin’s use of irony, undoubtedly, is a key literary tool that is prevalent throughout his plot. Good examples are found in his characters, such as Rachel and Father Massey. Rachel, who is a highly intelligent Ivy League student, acts like she left her brains behind when she decides to work in the sex industry. And then there is Father Massey whose life is not as holy as one expects. Florentin has a whole slew of characters, many who take on supporting roles and are deftly interwoven in scenes that alternate from chapter to chapter. Scenes shift between Rachel’s sleuthing, her communication with Achara via the internet, Fr. Massey and his dastardly deeds, Detective McKenna’s investigation, the enslaved Olivia, and the infamous Webmaster, just to name a few.
Amid the alternating character scenes that are filled with constant un-clichéd twists, Florentin incorporates a plethora of red herrings a lineup of sleazy characters to throw readers off from zeroing in on the story’s main antagonist. While readers are madly trying to figure out who the real culprit is, Florentin makes sure to keep his themes alive. Certainly the heaviest theme not only centers on the sex trade, but on the pervasive sadomasochistic culture that accompanies this industry. A second theme focuses on family dynamics, such as Rachel’s opinion of her parents and how she thinks they shower more love and attention to Olivia than Rachel. Another example is Detective McKenna whose ardent search to find and return Olivia to her heart sickened parents is a constant reminder of his strained relationship with his estranged daughter.
A great read, which is guaranteed to win an award, The Schwarzschild Radius is a top-rate thriller that is not only gripping and fast paced, but also a superb blend of crime with a touch of sci-fi.
Strong Light of Day (Caitlin Strong Novels)
Fifth-generation Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong is back in her seventh novel to face a Cold War era problem first faced by her father while he served as a Ranger himself. One of the few female leads in the thriller category, Caitlin has boots that few others can fill.
In Strong Light of Day, Caitlin finds herself investigating thirty missing high-school kids on a field trip, including the son of her romantic partner. Caitlin and Cort Masters have developed a good relationship, even though their fathers were on opposite sides of the law, and she sees herself as a mother to his two boys. Additionally, she’s managing a case of dead cattle that were cleaned to the bone by whatever killed them. As the story progresses both Caitlin and reader learn more about her father, and a previous case involving Russians during the Cold War that’s coming back as a renewed attempt by particular segments of the current Russian government to devastate the US in a terrorist attack.
Caitlin’s personal connection to her current cases add to the pressure she faces in trying to juggle apparently competing issues, and today’s current issues with Russia make this a timely story. As the ongoing back story of her father, Jim Strong, and Boone Masters, Cort’s father, is teased out, the reader gets a deeper appreciation for just what made Caitlin the Ranger she is today.
Land is an experienced and skilled author who keeps finding new highs to reach, and Caitlin Strong is at her best in Strong Light of Day. The previous books are not required to enjoy Strong Light of Day, but any new reader does themselves a disservice if they don’t add them to their to-be-read pile.
The Paris Protection
The Secret Service is in some ways like the NSA, CIA or some other government lesser known acronym group: just about everyone knows who they are, but they dont really know exactly how they operate or what they do. The Secret Services job is to protect the President of the United States 24/7, no matter what it takes. Their lives are always on the line for this one person. But what does this truly unique job entail?
The premise for The Paris Protection seems somewhat mundane and ordinary: a terrorist group has infiltrated the hotel where the United States President is staying and plans to assassinate her. They are fully confident in their success, while the Secret Service knows the job they have to do.
Abigail Clarke has done a lot of work – as a state prosecutor, US Senator, and governor of Virginia – and sacrificed much to become one of the most powerful and important people on the planet; many say THE most important. President Clarke does not take her job lightly and has very little free time. She is now in Paris for a summit meeting as she hopes to bring the prickly subject of organized crime to the international stage and address it as a terrorist attack. For now, the days work is done and she is at her hotel carrying out various conference calls with important people back on US soil and around the world.
Maximillian Wolff, who once served on the Israeli Security Protection team when Yitzak Rabin was assassinated, has suffered much during his life and holds the United States accountable for its world domination, and with a huge and highly trained team of mercenaries, his plan is to remove the head of power and bring the US to its knees. His right hand man, Kazim Aslan, has spent his time as an insurgent soldier in Iraq who has lost loved ones because of the United States policies and wants their assassination plan to be just as successful. Maximillian also has a hero: Hannibal Barca who once brought Rome to its knees.
The Paris Protection is three-hundred-and-fifty-odd pages that is anything but ordinary and mundane. Devore skillfully takes the reader step by step through the attack, giving POVs from both sides and plenty of detail of tactics, weaponry, and skill. It is a gripping thriller at its best. Here and there, he provides some back story to his characters–again on both sides–that help the reader understand what is fueling their desire and drive. Maximillian goes into numerous contemplations of how Hannibal handled certain situations to help them in their current one, which is juxtaposed with Secret Service Agents contemplating their skill and training and what past agents have done in similar situations.
It is the ideal blend of action and story with plenty of well-researched details that keep the reader glued to the page. The story passes throughout the hotel with some impressive battles, eventually leading down deep into the haunting Paris catacombs that serves as a terrifying arena for a chase scene. The Paris Protection is one of those books where you dont know who will make it out alive and how its really going to end; a perfect example of the thriller genre.