Steve's Reviews

I first met Nancy when she was the manager of the highest grossing (per square foot) B. Dalton store in the country and I was still in the midst of a 40+ year banking and investments career. She introduced me to many authors that rekindled my love of reading. Spending a lot of time on airplanes (or waiting for them) was made a lot easier with my new "friends." I am now retired and split time between Florida and Indiana with reading and golf competing for my time. I have nine grandchildren and most of them are readers as well - one of my favorite things to do is take them to our local bookstore and turn them loose!

Two Girls Down                                                

 Author:  Louisa Luna                     Fiction                     

Jamie Brandt is taking her daughters to a party when she stops at the Kmart in small-town Pennsylvania to pick up a gift. When she returns to her car, the girls, Kylie and Bailey, are gone. Alice Vega, a private investigator from California with success in finding kidnapped children, is called in by Jamie’s wealthy aunt to find the girls. Vega is no-nonsense, terse in both questions and answers and unwilling to listen to unnecessary conversation. When she goes to the police department, she gets a frosty welcome - although stretched thin from budget cuts and a heavy caseload, they want nothing of an outsider and let her know. So she turns to Max “Cap” Caplan, a private detective who resigned from the police department five years earlier under pressure after a suspect in custody dies. Vega and Cap’s relationship is a subplot, but one that is not distracting and helps define both characters. Using a hacker friend, Vega gets information that she and Cap can use in the rush to find the girls. Racing against time, they move across the Pennsylvania landscape chasing leads and overcoming frustration. Lots of suspects and an intriguing ending make this a good read. But there was one thing that really bugged me - what was with no capitalization in the first paragraph of each chapter? Thanks to Doubleday and NetGalley for an advance copy of this novel in exchange for my review.

Use of Force                                           

 Author:  Brad Thor                                   Fiction

This is the 17th book in Thor’s Scot Harvath series. Ex-Navy SEAL now covert counterterrorism operative Harvath is sent to the Burning Man Festival in the desert of Nevada to stop a major threat from ISIS. Although he stops part of the terrorists’ plot, the partial success is followed by massive attacks in Europe. At the same time, a boat carrying refugees to Italy sinks in a raging storm, and days later, the body of a man washes ashore. The body is eventually identified as a high-value terrorism suspect. What was he doing on a refugee ship? Harvath is called in and heads to Europe to find out why the terrorist was on the boat, and thus unfolds an even more sinister scheme to wreak havoc in several major European cities. Racing against time using a quickly assembled team of US special forces, Harvath must track down who is behind the attacks. As always, Thor has created a heart pounding tale. I am a huge fan and recommend this series if you like authors like Vince Flynn, Alex Berenson, and the like.

The Black Echo                                            

 Author:  Michael Connelly                     Fiction             

This is the first book in Connelley's Harry Bosch series, originally published in 1992 although I listened to the book on CD. LA Detective Bosch has been demoted to the Hollywood squad following a suspension after an internal affairs investigation. He is the detective on call when an anonymous 911 caller reports a dead body in a drainpipe at Mulholland Dam. The apparent drug overdose takes an interesting turn when Bosch recognizes the victim - a fellow Vietnam "tunnel rat," a unit that fought a brutal underground war. His investigation leads him to a pawn shop robbery that he eventually links to a much bigger plot that goes back to the waning days of the Vietnam conflict. As the casualties pile up, the plot makes plenty of turns until the final reveal of whodunit. This book also introduces characters that will bedevil Bosch in later books in the series. I enjoyed listening as we escaped cold and snowy Indiana, and think reading the book would have been even better.


The Black Ice                                           

 Author:  Michael Connelly                 Fiction                     

It is a long drive from Indiana to Southwest Florida - so I got to listen to a second (and the second) novel in the Harry Bosch series. As always, Harry Bosch is butting heads with his superiors. When narcotics officer Cal Moore is found in a run-down hotel room with an apparently self-inflicted bullet wound from a rifle that has erased his face. The powers that be want the case to go away as quickly as possible, but Bosch sees too many anomalies in the case. He defies leadership (as always) and finds himself in a case that is somehow related to the newest fashion drug, black ice (a combination of addictive drugs). When his boss asks him to solve one more murder before the end of the year, his review leads him to investigate an unknown victim, Juan Doe (Juan because the victim is clearly Hispanic - and probably not politically correct today!). The investigation leads him to Mexico and a fast paced, complex crime with an ending you won’t see coming. I have read several other Bosch novels (before going back to the beginning, as well as having watched the very successful TV series based on the novels, and as always, Connelly is very entertaining.


Need to Know                                           

 Author:  Karen Cleveland                  Fiction                     

This is the debut novel for Cleveland, a former CIA analyst. Vivian Miller is a CIA analyst working on the Russian counterintelligence desk. She has developed an algorithm to ferret out Russian sleeper agents. When she makes a breakthrough, she discovers that her husband, Matt, has been a Russian agent for some 22 years. What should she do - protect her family (her children) or expose her husband? And once the choice is made, what are the consequences? I really had a difficult time rating this book. While the premise was good, the amount of time spent on describing the children became tedious at time. The decisions Vivian makes are often almost childish. And I did not like the main characters. But I must confess the ending kept the rating up.


The Midnight Line                          

 Author:  Lee Child                    Fiction                     

This is the 22nd book in Child’s Jack Reacher series. The ever wandering Reacher has bought another bus ticket on the next bus out of the Milwaukee depot. He gets off the bus to stretch his legs in some small Wisconsin town where he happens to walk past a pawn shop. In the window is something he recognizes - a West Point class ring. Knowing how much it must mean to its owner, he buys the ring and sets off to find its owner. The pawn shop owner gives him his first clue, which leads him to travel west along I-90 searching the route the ring has travelled. Winding up in remote parts of Wyoming (I think most of Wyoming is remote), he searches for the ring’s owner, eventually teaming up a private detective looking for the same person. The further Reacher goes, the more complex the situation becomes as he must navigate a major criminal enterprise. This book is typical Lee Child/Jack Reacher - clipped sentences when speaking, not overly violent, and some unknown method of logic to his madness. You don’t have to start at the first book in the series (although I did) as there is not a lot of reference to prior books, but it helps to better understand the main character. This latest addition to the series was better than the last, but I am still thinking it may have run its course.

Strangers in Budapest                          

 Author:  Jessica Keener                    Fiction                     

I guess put Budapest in the title of a book these days and it piques my interest (having just visited the city last summer). When a fellow book reviewer raved about this book, I was hooked. The story is set in the period following the following the end of communist occupation in Hungary - a period of opportunity for entrepreneurs (or at least perceived opportunity). Annie and Will have pulled up stakes in Boston and, with their newly adopted son, moved into an apartment on the Buda side of the city - he to start a business and she to find escape from her past. Neither is going well when they are contacted by some friends back home to check in on an old man (Edward) who is staying in their apartment on the Pest side of the city. While Will wants to ignore this man, Annie finds herself drawn into his story. Edward believes his daughter was killed by her husband, and that he is now in Budapest. Annie keeps going back to Edward (I guess because of her work in a homeless shelter in Boston and her need to help people). To me, this was a slow developing story and I could never really connect with the main character. There are a few twists that kept my interest, I liked the description of the city as I recalled our visit, and thank goodness Budapest continues to develop from some of the problems that dominate this story.

The Bookworm                          

 Author:  Mitch Silver                    Fiction                     

And put the word “book” in a title and again my interest is aroused! A member of the British intelligence service sneaks into Belgium during the summer of 1940 and hides a book in the monastery at Villers-devant-Orval in anticipation of the Nazis sweeping in and taking anything of value back to Berlin. Fast forward to the current day when Larissa Mendalova Klimt, a Russian historian and researcher, is finishing her summer work of old researching Nazi records. When an arm bone with a rusty handcuff is discovered in London, it is Klimt, known as Lara the Bookworm, who connects that finding with the research. As have several others apparently. Lara is given six Dictaphone cylinders which are recordings by Noel Coward (yes, that Noel Coward who actually worked as a spy in WWII) which relate the story of the Bible that was planted at the monastery. Lara is approached by at least a couple of people who are interested in the recordings, albeit for different reasons. A second plot line involves Lara’s brother, Lev, who is working in Alaska in the oil fields. He sends information to Lara which portends a deal between the newly elected president of the US (clearly President Trump) and the Russian president, Putin. But the real story is the Bible and how it affected Hitler’s decisions early on in the war. A fast-paced interesting book with plenty of events to keep you guessing. Thanks to Pegasus Books and NetGalley for an advanced copy of the book in exchange for my review.

House Witness                                

 Author: Mike Lawson                   Fiction                     

This is the 12th book in Mike Lawson’s Joe DeMarco series. The son of a very wealthy attorney in New York City walks into a restaurant and shoots a man to death. The dead man, Dominic DiNunzio, was the son of Connie who has some sway over John Mahoney, member of the House of Representatives and Joe DeMarco’s boss. Mahoney dispatches Joe to New York to assist the DA in any way necessary to make sure that the shooter is convicted and sent to prison. When witnesses to the crime start to change their story, or even disappear, DeMarco smells something amiss. The attorney for the accused has reached out to someone who can help him acquit the shooter - Ella Fields, who has learned to help wealthy clients get off from her late husband. But she hasn’t had to deal with Joe DeMarco before. I really enjoyed this book finding it hard to put down as the story went back and forth between Ella and Joe. This is the third book in the series that I have read - obviously not in order. So far, it has not been necessary to read them in order (unlike my normal way of doing things!). Thanks to Grove Atlantic and both NetGalley and Edelweiss for providing an advance copy of the book for my review.