Nations Divided Steve P Vincent

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I came across this book by accident. So imagine my shock when I found out that this is the third in a series. A series I have been looking for, for years. Those of you that have read my reading history will know that I loved Robert Ludlum’s cold war books and Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan series.

I have been on the lookout for a new author to bring to life the same style of writing for the world as it is today.

That is exactly what I found in this book.

Jack Emery is a Special Advisor to the President of the United States and the main character of the book. The story starts with a massacre at a Hospital in Gaza and quickly moves into peace talks between Israel and Palestine.

With a peace agreement in place and a Palestinian State agreed all looks well in the world but a secretive group of Zionists plan to wreck the agreement.

The Zionists acquire weapons and plant them strategically around the world threatening to detonate them if the peace agreement is not overturned.

Emery is in a race against time to find the weapons and the people responsible for planting them.

At the same time a unique and disturbing back up plan is put into place by the terrorists in case the initial plan is disrupted.

The book flies along with plots and sub-plots. As in the real world different countries have different agenda’s. Whilst political moves are made at the highest of levels, Emery works with and against an increasingly complex group of advocates at street level.

It is difficult to say more about the storyline without spoiling the plot for the reader, so I won’t. What I will say is the finale is breathtaking.

This book is great. I feel like I have found what I’ve been looking for since the last Jack Ryan book, and who would have guessed it would be a book with another Jack as the protagonist.

Like Ludlum and Clancy at their best Steve P Vincent uses up to date world politics to paint a background of imminent danger. This book is a must read for fans of those writers.

My only regret is I am late to the party and will have to read the first two in the series out of order, but this book stood alone and it would read easily as a stand-alone novel.

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Too Soon A Death Janet O’Kane

Too Soon A Death

Janet O’Kane has written a second book with Dr Zoe Moreland as the main protagonist, and what a book it is.

Dr Zoe is not your usual main character, she is neither the Police Officer or Private Detective trying to solve a case; nor is she the perpetrator, she is just a woman who happens to be a Doctor in a rural GP surgery in a village where crime occurs. The crime is seen through Zoe’s eyes and via village gossip. In fact the story is told in a way that 99% of us would see it, if it happened close to us.

The story starts with Dr Zoe being called to a riverbank close to her home. The body of a young man has been found. He has suffered injuries to his hands that appear to have been treated and she is only there to see if she recognised him as a recent visitor to her practice.

At the scene she meets Detective Sergeant Trent, a local Police Officer Zoe has become used to seeing, and who she aims to assist identifying the body. As in real life they swap pleasantries but the Sergeant only gives her the basics of the investigation, and continues to during the investigation, but she is never an integral part of it.

When She returns home Zoe is met by her dog Mac and her best friend Kate Mackenzie. As in the first book the deaf Kate is Zoe’s best friend and confidant. As well as being a single mom she is a Genealogist and works from home trying to uncover family histories.

Zoe and Kate’s relationship is more like sisters and Kate’s family have become Zoe’s adopted family.

A series of events in the village start to make it look like Dr Zoe is being stalked. Then another incident affects Kate’s family. Are these events and the body in the river connected?

Janet O’Kane’s narrative, unravelling the story from Zoe’s perspective alone, shows how easy it is to become afraid. How conclusions can be made and how worrying it can be to be either at the centre of a crime, or on the peripheries and not have the full picture.

The suspense is built up naturally as more small incidents happen without any explanation.

Is Zoe being targeted, if so why?

Has Kate dug too deeply into somebody’s family history?

And then there are the dogs. Local farmers are reporting attacks on their livestock. Where have they come from and are they connected?

This book was just like the first, No Stranger To Death; it kept me turning the pages. Unlike a lot of modern fiction Too Soon A Death does not rely on blood, guts, and sex, to keep the story moving along. The suspense that kept me reading was generated by a really well written story. It will work your mind, you will try to make connections, and kick yourself when you don’t get them.

If you like TV programs like Midsummer Murders, and Lewis you will fall in love with Janet’s writing.

If you are more of a Luther fan don’t dismiss this book it will be your loss.

I could happily recommend this book to anybody who likes reading. How would I describe the experience of reading it? Have you ever had that feeling when it’s raining or snowing and you’re sat inside with your feet up, in front of the fire, with a warm drink? That’s how I felt reading this book.

Janet. Thank you for this story and I look forward to reading many more of your books in the future.

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Lost Girls Angela Marsons

Lost Girls   Angela Marsons

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This is the latest instalment in the excellent DCI Kim Stone series. All of the previous books have been 10/10 thrillers. This is no exception as Angela Marsons ramps up the tension in her best book yet.

The story starts with a kidnapping, but this is a kidnapping where the ransom will raise moral dilemmas.

Stone is given the task of conducting the investigation into the disappearance of the two young girls who have been taken. The mother of one of the girls is Karen. Karen spent her childhood in care, moved between council run homes and foster parents. As did Stone, and they have met but have very different recollections of their previous encounters. Will this hinder the investigation?

The missing girls are good friends and so are the families. The two families are brought together in one home to wait for news, but secrets in the families are bubbling just below the surface introducing an interesting dynamic that affects both the families and the investigating team.

As the hunt for the girls gets under way it becomes apparent that whoever has the girls has carried out at least one other kidnapping, and that they like to play games.

With the arrival of a text, sent to both families, the game begins.

It is a horrible game. I thought that been the parent of a kidnapped child would be a terrible experience. It is one of the things every parent dreads every time their child leaves the house. But this game will turn each family against the other and the police. It will also turn family members against family members. This is a parent’s worst nightmare.

Can Stone and her team bring the girls home? It doesn’t help that a reporter from a local newspaper is in the middle of a feud with Stone, and seems to be on to the fact that two girls are missing, despite a press blackout.

The race against time that is a kidnap becomes accelerated by the race to solve the crime before the journalist publishes the news of the missing girls.

Marson’s main character, Stone, is backed up by her small team, each of who is a character in their own right. Although this book can be read as a stand alone to get the best out of it, get to know these characters from the start by reading the previous books in the series.

As well as her usual team Stone is given two specialist officers to help, Alison the behaviour analyst and Matt Ward the negotiator. Hopefully we will get to see more of these two characters in future books.

Stone is a Detective Inspector based in Halesowen in the West Midlands. Marsons describes the places and the people of the area brilliantly.

I loved the part of the book where Stone politely explains why she is not a Brummie. This will not mean much to most but it will endear the readers from the Black Country.

Another brilliant book from what I am proud to say, to me, is a local Author.

A memory of one incident I attended on bonfire night. It didn’t end well

Lying in bed tonight, 7th November 2015 listening to the fireworks going off for the third night in a row I can’t help but remember responding to one of the usual injured by a firework incidents that I seemed to attend every bonfire night, weekend, week… It seems to last longer every year.

I was the Duty Fire Investigation Officer for the West Midlands and was called to an incident in a yard in the Black Country, close to Wolverhampton. I had been finishing off the investigation into a house fire about a mile away when I was informed of this latest job.

I arrived at the scene to find a Fire Engine and a Police car parked outside a scrapyard/vehicle recovery yard/recycle centre. There was the remains of a bonfire which had been well and truly put out by the fire crew, and about 10m away a pile of discarded blood soaked bandages.

A Police Officer informed me that a Firework had hit the man in the head causing a horrific injury. The man had died at hospital

Examination of the fireworks that had been set off seemed to indicate that, although people had bee stood well within the 25 m safety range everything else was in place to use them safely. All of the big box 100+ fountains were angled away from the area the small crowd of the family and friends of the workers had been standing. There was no evidence of any firework carcasses anywhere in the yard, except a few empty tubes of Roman candles nailed onto timber frames.

Mooching around the yard, just beyond where the man had fallen I found a small piece of copper pipe. The pipe had body tissue and blood on the outside but also inside the tube. Recovering, bagging-and-tagging the pipe so as to enter it into evidence I returned to the soggy remains of the bonfire and started to drag it out. Using a drag hook to pull the debris into a manageable area to examine it. When I earlier mentioned the fire was extinguished and a soggy mess what I didn’t mention was it was about nine metres square and about a metre high.

As I started to drag it out I found the remains of a fridge from a caravan. The back of the fridge had the usual sealed pressurised refrigeration system. The compressor and condenser were still in place however part of the exchanger coil had ripped apart. The missing pice was a “perfect physical fit” for the blood covered one I had found close to where the man fell.

The fridge had been thrown on the fire. The heat had expanded the gases in the refrigeration system. Eventually the weak point gave way violently and a piece of the exchanger coil, the piece of copper tubing was shot with some velocity out of the bonfire. It speared the unfortunate man in the eye, passed through his Brain, excited his head via the back of the skull and fell to the ground. In front of his friends and family

Everybody was convinced he had been hit by a fire work. Yet in there own way everybody had made the ad-hoc display as safe as possible

Somebody just made the mistake of throwing a fridge on the fire

The Post Mortem and scientific tests on the traces of soft tissue on the remains of the pipe confirmed it was that which caused the fatal injury.

Be careful on these nights. Booze, fireworks-which are mini explosive devices, and fire are not a good mix.

Respect the emergency service people that are out there looking after you. When you need them. You really need them!!!!!

Into the Darkest Corner Elizabeth Haynes

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Elizabeth Haynes is fast becoming one of my favourite writers. This morning I finished Into The Darkest Corner, which she published in 2011.

My wife is used to me reading books and writing my blogs but she said something this morning that made me realise just how much I enjoyed this book. “It must be good. I’ve never known you rave about one like this before”. I hadn’t stopped talking about it for 10 minutes after I put it down.

Into The Darkest Corner, is both the most compelling, and probably the most harrowing, book I have read.

The book is written in the first person narrative style that allows the reader to understand the fear the main character, Catherine, feels. Split over two time periods, alternating chapter by chapter between events that take place in 2003-4, and events that start in 2007.

In 2003 Catherine is an outgoing party girl with little in the way of morals, until she meets the man of her dreams, Lee. Unfortunately for her the mysterious Lee is not all he appears and Catherine is slowly manipulated into becoming a victim of domestic abuse of the worse kind.

In 2007 Catherine is a very damaged young woman, with severe OCD, who is desperately trying to get her life back on track.

Elizabeth Haynes manages to convey the emotions of the younger Catherine as she transitions from a party girl to one being in love. She builds up the tension in the relationship and it becomes almost understandable how women fall into the life of a victim of abuse whilst clinging onto the fact they have found Mr Right. As the abuse becomes more violent Catherine begins to realise that she is in a harmful relationship, but can she get out of it? How bad will it be before she can get out? And what will be the culmination of it all?

Elizabeth describes the suffering of OCD and the fright of everyday life for the older Catherine in a way makes the reader feel every emotion. It is obvious that she has been affected by something in the earlier period of her life but the way the book alternates between the two time periods the reader can never be sure of what until close to the end.

Catherine finds help in the form of a very patient neighbour, Stuart, but is he also too good to be true, can she trust him.

The end of the book is every bit as tense as the rest. No spoilers so no more about the plot.I have reread this blog and have rewritten it twice. Why? Two reasons.

Firstly I don’t think I’m doing the book justice. It really is brilliant.

Secondly, no matter how I try to describe it I make it sound like a book, or story, for women. It isn’t, it’s far from it. I would recommend this book to everybody.

It’s a hard hitting, fast paced, brutal, erotic, thriller that should be read by everybody.

Career of Evil Robert Galbraith

Career of Evil     Robert Galbraith

The third in the Cormoran Strike series is no let down. From the first page it’s a comfortable enjoyable read.

Following on from The Silkworm the book finds Strike and his assistant; don’t call her his secretary, Robin, busy on two low profile cases. That is until a package is sent to their office.

The grisly contents of the parcel send Strike and Robin on a path of not so much a who-done-it, but more of a which-one-done-it.

Strike quickly comes up with a list of suspects that would want to send him a message in such a way.

The possible suspects open up more of Cormoran Strike’s backstory. Is one of the criminals he prosecuted during his time in the Special Investigation Branch of the Army responsible, or is it somebody closer to home from within his extended and confused family, and who is the mystery victim.

As the investigation continues the Police start to look for a possible serial killer. Strike is convinced that the parcels sender is responsible for the killings, but who will be the next victim.

The investigation takes the duo across the country and into Strike’s past. Moving through the seedy world of drug dealers, child abusers, strip joints and domestic violence Robert Galbraith introduces some fantastically realistic characters. As with the previous books every one of them is so well written you have to think that at some time the author has met people of similar ilk.

Each scene, whether it is a London back street pub, or a Hospital ward, is written in a way that effortlessly transports the reader to the time and place the author is describing.

The main story of this book is the unravelling of the puzzle of who sent the parcel, and possibly identifying a the serial killer, but the thing that keeps the story ticking along is the revelations about Strikes past, and his relationship with Robin.

At the end of Silkworm Robin was due to marry her boyfriend but the reader was left in no doubt she had feelings for Strike, and him for her. Neither will openly acknowledge their feelings and this theme continues into this book. In many stories I would consider this an unnecessary diversion but in these books I find it fascinating.

Robin will take risks to prove her worth to Strike, and he will give her duties that will keep her out of danger, but in the end will it all end well. Her safety may well depend on Strike identifying the killer, if he doesn’t will he put her in danger in a place where he thinks she’s out of harms way.

Will there be a happy ever after ending.

There’s only one way to find out.

Read the book.

Playing With Fire Tess Gerritsen

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Playing With Fire   Tess Gerritsen

Julia is a musician; she has a successful Husband who loves her, and a beautiful three-year-old daughter who she dotes over. Life is pretty much perfect.

The book starts with Julia buying a book of Gypsy Music whilst on a trip to Rome. Within its pages she finds an original piece of music by an unknown composer. Reading the music and playing it in her head Julia finds it complicated but beautiful.

When Julia arrives home she plays the piece for the first time she waits till her three year old daughter Lily is playing quietly by herself, before taking out her violin and playing the piece. As she reaches the end of the piece her daughter comes running into the room covered in blood and holding a gardening fork. From that point on Julia’s life changes; the relationship with her family is affected by her thoughts and at the centre of it all that piece of music: Incendio.

In Julia’s attempts to discover the origins of the music another story unfolds and the reader is transported to 1930’s Italy where a young musician, Lorenzo, is given his grandfathers violin and asked to take part in a duet competition with a young lady he has never met before. They are from different backgrounds and would never have met if it wasn’t for the music, but there blooming relationship has one major problem. Lorenzo and his family are Jewish and the Italian Fascists are beginning to act like their German allies and alienate the Jews. The young lady and her family try to warn Lorenzo’s family of the change in attitudes towards the Jewish community and convince them to escape before they are interned and transported to Poland with the rest of the Jews caught up in the horrors of Hitler and Mussolini’s reign.

The 2 stories play out through the book. Lorenzo experiences in Europe during the 1930’s and 1940’s. Julia’s fight to prove her own sanity in America in the 21st Century.

Eventually the two stories inevitably come together in a spine tingling conclusion to a story that, at times, made the hair on my arms stand up.

It is very hard to do this book justice without giving away too much of the plot. As a rule I usually am happy to comment on anything that happens in the first half of a book but nothing in the second, to avoid the dreaded spoilers. I could happily write about this book all day but that would just ruin it for everybody else, and everybody should read this.

Whilst I was reading the book I had in my head the haunting violin piece from the film Shindler’s List. My daughter is a good violinist and I have seen her reduce people to tears playing that piece, and there is the obvious connection between the film and this story.

Then I discovered that Tess Gerritsen has composed a piece of music, Incendio, and had it recorded by one of the top violinists in the world. I had it playing whilst I wrote this blog. Just as it is described in the book it is a beautifully haunting waltz with a tumultuous finale.

So I guess this is not only a book review but in a way my first music review.

All I can say is both are 10/10. I loved the book, I loved the music. What a talented woman

Thank You Tess Gerritsen