The Murder of Willie Lincoln: A Novel
What if the son of the sitting president died in the White House? What if his death wasn’t an accident? What if the boy was murdered? What if…
In Burt Solomon’s The Murder of Willie Lincoln, he explores the death of William “Willie” Lincoln, middle son of Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln. In his novel, Willie dies from what is believed to be typhoid fever. However, a mysterious note left for John Hay, assistant to the President, leads him to believe that Willie was murdered. When he takes his suspicions to the President, Hay is tasked with discovering the truth, discreetly.
The concept of the book is interesting, and Solomon’s research is excellent. Almost every character was a real person, and most of the events he describes actually happened. However, Solomon’s portrayals of the Lincoln family are brutal at best. Most of characters seem flat, with no real personality or depth. Unimportant details bog down the story, and the conclusion feels rushed. I wanted to like this book. Unfortunately, the book fell far short of my expectations.
Two stars (mostly for the time and effort put into the research).
The Wallenstein Testament
Edmund Amesbury, the main character of The Wallenstein Testament, is quirky. It is difficult to determine if this is entirely due to memory loss he suffered as a result of a traumatic event when he was sixteen. Perhaps he always spoke in a vernacular more suited to a previous century, using Latin quotes that no one understands. He is interesting, to say the least.
Readers are taken on a journey with many twists and surprises as Edmund and a small group of accomplices set out to prove that he is the last descendant to Frances royal family. His primary source of help is Christy Shannon, an up-and-coming journalist who is writing an article about Edmunds cousin, Lester, who disappeared in San Francisco following some questionable business deals. Christy is spunky and energetic. She and Edmund could not be more different, yet each of them contributes vitally in the pursuit of Lester and the search for the Wallenstein Testament. Christy is able to ferret out information from sources unavailable to Edmund. On the other hand, Edmund has a few tricks up his sleeve that use the information to its greatest advantage.
Vibrant descriptions of characters and settings make it easier to overlook some less plausible scenarios, like a physician who gladly gives up HIPAA-protected information. The story moves forward at a fast pace, so much so that readers may not recognize some valuable clues that are peppered throughout. These details cleverly raise questions about the Wallenstein Testament and Lesters role in having Edmund confined to a mental institution for many years.
The Wallenstein Testament would make for great vacation or travel reading. It is entertaining, without requiring a large investment of time or energy by readers. Will there be a third installment to the Amesbury story that will advance Edmunds rightful place and explain how he arrives there? There are still some loose ends that could be tied up with a third installment and I think readers would be pleased to follow Edmund into the next stage of his life.
The Nash Criterion
Obama’s term has come to an end, and Elaine York has stepped up to the plate as the newly inaugurated 45th President of the United States. She soon finds herself compromised, however, as a coup, seemingly initiated by a faction of the military, divides the nation, and America descends into civil war.
Events set in motion by a genius hacker named Fawkes, after he has unleashed a super-virus, have triggered the chaos. Once again, a team of FBI and CIA agents find themselves pitted against the forces of evil, including many within their own government. This story, book four of the Intel 1 series, follows on from The Anonymous Signal, in which an FBI cyber crimes unit went off-reservation with their crime-fighting methodology, and the chief and members of his team were forced to defend themselves and their actions in a military-style trial. However, this novel does function as a standalone, and can be successfully read as such.
Feds John Savas and Rebecca Cohen have to prove themselves worthy of their earlier exoneration, as they attempt to aid the ailing president. Meanwhile, a crack team, including super cybersecurity girl Angel Lightfoote, work on deciphering a secret code which obscures the unpublished work of brilliant mathematician John Nash. Once cracked, it promises to defeat a hidden enemy and restore peace and harmony to the nation. As if this weren’t enough, both groups must battle a divisive contingent of the military, pledging allegiance to this opposing set of puppet-masters, with sophisticated modern weaponry and advanced computational power at their disposal.
The author continues to develop his original creations, an interesting and quirky cast of non-stereotypical misfits, but, in places, paints quite a broad sweep when it comes to character perspective. Though successful in initial chapters when were inside Sava’s and York’s heads, the storytelling becomes less focalized as we switch between the two interwoven plotlines to spend time with the secondary group. It feels like if the reader were to be privy to the interior monologues of all of the characters and their motivations, a much stronger connection could be made, along with a sense of the cast having been more fully-developed. In this instance, I believe this series could be propelled into a league alongside tech thrillers written by masters such as Barry Eisler.
The author’s jargon and technical know-how is believable, as is the convincing fight choreography. All of this, along with the complex and intelligent plotting, makes for an extremely satisfying and page-turning read, and the incorporation of several hot politic topics and fascinating conspiracy theories about elite shadowy governments make it all the more compelling. Erec Stebbins is definitely one to watch, a good writer who just gets better and better.
A family is murdered in a dilapidated Minneapolis housing area, and Milo Krantzthe unpopular rental agent of the unitis pegged as the culprit. Fifty-two-year-old Detective Gunther Mulvaney senses that Milo is telling the truth when he initially pleads not guilty. Yet overnight, Milo’s court proceedings become a main public attraction, and it’s only at the sentencing stage! In addition, Milo not only suddenly changes his plea, but also refuses to say anything in his own defense. Gunther, wondering if Milo’s drastic indifference has something to do with the judge handling his trial, does his own sleuthing. It is a matter of time whether or not Gunther can collect enough evidence to prove Milo’s innocence before he is sent to prison.
Award-winning author, Patrick Garry, spins a mystery within a mystery in his recent novel. Key to Garry’s third person narrative is a complex cast. Garry features a handful of tainted charactersnamely Gunther Mulvaney, Milo Krantz, Judge Donna Davis, and her husband, Steven Davishiding behind facades . Surrounded by a supplemental yet foiled cast, each principal character (whether a professional or supposed lowlife like Milo) is a mixed bag of personalities laced with problems and/or deception. That said, Garry keeps readers scratching their heads and wishing that the real culprit would rise to the surface. Adding to the confusion, Garry’s characters also have their own set of convoluted circumstances that slowly intertwine in the body of plot.
Garry keeps his story moving by incorporating the aforementioned literary tools within chapters that alternate between character scenes as well as backstories. Amid a flurry of activity and red herrings, Garry also includes cliffhanging chapter endings that eventually (for the most part) get resolved in subsequent chapters. Replete with plenty of twists and turns and closing on an eerily open-ended note, Blind Spots is not only a top-of-the-line read for mystery aficionados and beyond, but also earmarked to be another award-winning book.
The Vermeer Conspiracy
Sabrina is a young Latina from Chicago who has beaten the odds at every turn to make a success of herself. Now shes at Yale on a scholarship and nearing graduation. Yale hasnt been a cakewalk either. Her freshman year she was raped by a professor, which she has kept secret from everyone, even her roommate, Danielle. The two couldnt have been more differentSabrina, dark, a little heavy, and an astronomy major who loves math, and Danielle, a willowy blonde majoring in art history with a special interest in Johannes Vermeer. Still, they become fast friends. But Danielles mentor, Prof. Verhaast, the foremost expert on Vermeer, was the very man who had raped Sabrina. When Danielle suddenly disappears, Sabrina keeps a few things of Danielles from police so she can solve the mystery herself. What she discovers is that Danielle has been trying to prove Vermeer was not the actual artist of his famous pieces. Its dangerous information. There have been other mysterious disappearances, all seemingly connected to Danielles Vermeer theory which, if proven, would be ruinous to Verhaast. But there is morea strange group that seems to have a hold over Verhaast and a convent with strange secrets. Can Sabrina really figure all of this out and perhaps even save Danielle?
Author Eytan Halaban has written a real thriller of a mystery with some wonderful art history thrown in to make a most interesting read. The writing is crisp and the pacing fast, characters are well-rounded and credible, the premise fascinating and completely believable, especially in the deft hands of Halaban. Its clear hes done good research, and yet he shows great imagination as well. The ending, however, is a bit weak and doesnt quite match the level of writing the rest of the book exhibits.
Finding Claire Fletcher
On the day that Detective Connor Parks has jeopardized his career for killing a man, he meets Claire Fletcher in a bar and spends one night with her, catching a glimpse of the girl she once was. Trouble is Claire Fletcher is no longer that girl. When she vanishes from his bed leaving an address, he tries to follow up for a chance to re-encounter this intriguing woman only to discover shocking news. The enigmatic Claire has been missing for years. As his work life disintegrates he sets out to solve the mystery of her disappearance. Claire becomes as ethereal to Parks as the ghost of whom she used to be is to Claire herself due to the man who has unmade her.
Returning to the living hell that is her new life, Claire is overcome with guilt for endangering the man who has woken a part of herself she had thought was long since dead. The question is how will she find the resolve to ensure no one else loses their life in her name?
From the opening first person narration of the mystery woman herself, or a version of her, the question hooks are planted that lead us into the story which is really four separate story lines cleverly shuffled. As each one ends on a crisis point or question we alternate to the next which deftly pulls us along as we search for the next big reveal. Major questions demand answers. Why isnt the most obvious and simple solution to Claires dilemma possible?
We follow Parks quest to find Claire from his third person narration as he weathers the situation with his career. Intermingled with all this we become a party to Claires current life as well as the history of her past which has led to now, when she still was wholly Claire Fletcher.
This gripping tale of psychological abuse is realistic and well-written. At times, I felt my breath become tight as I empathized with Claires ordeal, which is a testament to the books inherent craft. Clearly much research on trauma had been undertaken to underpin the heroines motivations. Dark it may be, but not gratuitous. Part way through however I became disappointed when Id thought Id figured out who Claires abuser was, but I had just been led into a skillful trap by this talented author who had sent me off down a blind alley, laying a trail of pseudo clues that had me fixing on how smart I was.
I finished the book and remained in the world Lisa Regan had created for a while. Its always a good sign when a story lingers. Its even better when you discover an author you enjoy and want to hear more from then find out there are several other works to encounter.