Saturday, February 18, 2017

Stolen by Carey Baldwin GIVEAWAY

Stolen

by Carey Baldwin

on Tour February 14 - March 3, 2017

Publisher Synopsis:

Is she missing…or a murderer?
When Laura Chaucer, daughter of a U.S. senator, vanishes from her college campus, celebrated FBI profilers Special Agent Atticus Spenser and forensic psychiatrist Dr. Caitlin Cassidy are called in. Thirteen years ago, Laura and her nanny disappeared from her family’s Denver home. Laura was found alive, but her nanny wasn’t so lucky… and the killer was never caught. Laura could identify him—if only she didn’t have a deep, dark hole in her memory.
Now she’s missing again. Did the troubled young woman run away or has the kidnapper returned? As women who look eerily similar to Laura’s nanny begin turning up dead, the Chaucer family psychiatrist renders a disturbing opinion: Laura is unstable, a danger to herself and others. Who knows what terrible secrets lurk in the shadowy recesses of her mind? Cassidy and Spenser must solve one of the most infamous cold cases ever to uncover the answer: Is Laura a killer, or is a monster still out there, waiting to claim another victim?

My Review:


While this is the fourth book in the Cassidy and Spenser series, it reads very well on its own. Plenty of back story is included in this book as the plot develops so readers new to the series won't have a problem enjoying this book.

This novel is a great psychological thriller. We experience the terror right along with Laura as she struggles with her memories. She is unsure if she has killed someone or not. Even her psychiatrist thinks she might be capable of causing danger to others. When she manages to escape from her kidnapper, she does not know who she can trust nor how she will find out the truth.

Cassidy and Spenser are flawed characters. Spenser has an explosive anger he has difficulty keeping under control, getting him in trouble with a potential suspect. Cassidy, to my surprise, made some very unwise decisions that brought her into potentially suspenseful situations. As a psychiatrist, she seemed particularly naive when it came to a potentially harmful suspect.

Other than the minor character defects in Cassidy and Spenser, this is a great novel of intense suspense. There are several red herrings and a great twist that kept me guessing who the villain was. I recommend this novel to readers who enjoy an intense psychological thriller.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

Book Details:

Genre: Suspense, Thriller
Published by: Witness Impulse
Publication Date: February 14th 2017
Number of Pages: 352
ISBN: 0062495542 (ISBN13: 9780062495549)
Series: Cassidy & Spenser #4
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

Chapter One

Twilight
Somewhere in the Rocky Mountains
Consciousness was the enemy and Laura Chaucer its captive. No matter how badly she wanted to flee into a dark, unseeing void, the menacing chill of the knife pressed against her neck forced her to keep her chin high and her eyes open. As her pulse raged, pounding against the deadly blade, she wondered, horrified, if it was possible for her throat to slit itself.
If only her mind would drop into an abyss. If only she could crawl into a black hole and escape awareness, at least then she wouldn’t suffer. Cowardice dragged her eyelids shut.
Stop running away.
From deep within, a voice demanded she bear witness to her own death. Like broken wings beating against a gale, her eyelids fluttered up. Evil had been swirling around her for as long as she could remember, but she’d never had the courage to face it. Now, in her last moments, she must find the will. Before she left this twisted world, she needed to know the truth.
Who are you?
The answer she’d been running from her entire life loomed right behind her.
But the knife prevented her from swiveling her head to confront the bastard. A defiant move like that would surely cost her whatever precious seconds she had left. His breath, warm on her cheek reeked of booze, its stench curdling in her already woozy stomach.
Careful not to move her head, she braved a glance down and noted a wood floor.
Where am I?
A candle nub flickered in the dark; its yellow light illuminating patches of dust caked on an uneven plank tabletop. Bare log walls surrounded her. Eager for more clues, she sniffed. The scent of rain and earth hung heavily in the air. He must’ve stolen her from her room and brought her to a cabin—a primitive one.
Who was he?
You know, the voice within insisted. Stop pretending you don’t.
“I-I don’t know anything,” she answered, as if he and her thoughts were one and the same. “P-please, just let me go.”
The knife slipped across her throat, leaving fire trailing in its wake. Blood, warm and sticky, dribbled down her chest. Her head became heavy. The room spun. It would be so easy to let her chin fall, to drift into blessed unconsciousness, to leave it all behind.
But that would mean dying the same way she’d lived: running from the truth.
It’s not too late. As long as you have one breath left, there’s still time to change your craven ways.
Watching the blood, already darkening from contact with the air, snake between her breasts, she took it all in, and a gasp agonized its way up her throat.
She was naked.
Bound around the waist, chest and ankles to a chair.
It all seemed so…unreal. But the scrape of splintered wood beneath her bottom, the shivers that wracked her body from the frigid air, told her this was no dream. This wasn’t another one of her ubiquitous nightmares.
If she closed her eyes now, she’d never wake up.
Her throat burned with the urge to scream. But sensing that might give him pleasure, she clamped her teeth together, stuffing her fear down deep. She inhaled a fortifying breath through her nose. Wiggled her freezing fingers. But when she tried to shift her arms into a more comfortable position, she found that they, too, were tied to the chair, just up to the elbows. He’d left her hands and lower arms free, giving her enough slack to cross her palms in her lap and cover herself. Tears of gratitude for this small kindness welled in her eyes.
Maybe he of the knife had a tiny, shriveled semblance of a heart.
He proved he did not by dragging the jagged blade across her neck again—a shallow retracing of its former path that produced exquisite pain and more hot red blood. The need to cry out shook her body so hard the legs of the chair rattled against the floor. Then he pressed the knife’s point into the hollow of her neck—that spot that ought to be reserved for a lover’s kiss. It was as if this monster could not decide whether he wanted to kill her with a long, decimating swipe or by a swift, stabbing impalement. She didn’t know whether he was deliberately prolonging her agony or working up his nerve.
A spasm of fear knotted her toes. Her vocal chords trembled from the impossible effort of restraint. Finally, she opened her mouth, releasing a hysterical noise.
He wanted to hear her scream? Let him hear her laugh instead. Her pulse bounded harder against the blade, but she no longer feared the consequence.
Whether he revealed himself to her or not, she suddenly didn’t care. It didn’t matter who he was. It only mattered who she was. Relief flooded her entire being, drenching her in joy. Her death would be a victory.
Because it answered, once and for all, the question that had haunted her since the age of eight.
She was not a murderer.
Excerpt from Stolen by Carey Baldwin. Copyright © 2017 by Carey Baldwin & WitnessImpulse. Reproduced with permission from WitnessImpulse. All rights reserved.

Kudos for Carey Baldwin:

JUDGMENT, the first book in my Cassidy & Spenser Thriller series, has been named one of the "BEST BOOKS of 2014" by SUSPENSE MAGAZINE. Both JUDGMENT & CONFESSION are BOOKSELLERS BEST AWARD Finalists JUDGMENT is a DAPHNE DU MAURIER AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE IN MYSTERY/SUSPENSE Finalist and a SILVER FALCHION finalist.

Author Bio:

Carey Baldwin is a mild-mannered doctor by day and an award-winning author of edgy suspense by night. She holds two doctoral degrees, one in medicine and one in psychology. She loves reading and writing stories that keep you off balance and on the edge of your seat. Carey lives in the southwestern United States with her amazing family. In her spare time she enjoys hiking and chasing wildflowers.

Catch Up With Ms. Baldwin On: Website, Goodreads, Twitter, & Facebook!

 

Tour Participants:

Click here to view the 'Stolen by Carey Baldwin' Tour Participants
 

Giveaway:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours for Carey Baldwin and William Morrow | WitnessImpulse. There will be 5 US winners of one (1) eBook copy of Stolen by Carey Baldwin. The giveaway begins on February 12th and runs through March 5th, 2017.
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Get More Great Reads at Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours

 I received a complimentary egalley of this book through Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours. My comments are an independent and honest review.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Moving Target by Lynette Eason

This is the third in a series but reads well on its own. The plot centers on Maddy, another of the Elite Guardians, and Quinn, a police detective. The two are kidnapped by a serial killer. Maddy and Quinn are transported to a remote island and must elude the hunter to stay alive.

We learn a great deal about Maddy and Quinn and the past mistakes and hurts they must overcome. Eason does a good job of interspersing personal revelation with suspense so the plot does not slow down. The plot has some twists to it. There are some characters who had changed their names from a previous investigation involving Quinn and I found that a bit confusing.

One of my requirements for an excellent suspense novel is that the main characters do nothing dumb to get themselves into a suspenseful situation. Unfortunately, Maddy does do something dumb that puts her in harms way, more than once.

Other than that defect, this is a very good suspense novel. There is a relatively strong Christian message, a good bit of suspense, some character transformation, and a bit of romance.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Lynette Eason is a bestselling and award winning author of several novels of suspense. She has a degree in business and a masters in education. She is married to a ministry leader and they have two teenage children. You can find out more at http://www.lynetteeason.com/.

Revell, 336 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

War Hawk by James Rollins and Grant Blackwood GIVEAWAY

War Hawk

by James Rollins & Grant Blackwood

on Tour February 13 - 28, 2017

Synopsis:

Former Army Ranger Tucker Wayne and his war dog Kane are thrust into a global conspiracy in this second Sigma Force spinoff adventure from #1 New York Times bestselling author James Rollins and Grant Blackwood.
Tucker Wayne's past and present collide when a former army colleague comes to him for help. She's on the run from brutal assassins hunting her and her son. To keep them safe, Tucker must discover who killed a brilliant young idealist-a crime that leads back to the most powerful figures in the U.S. government.
From the haunted swamplands of the deep South to the beachheads of a savage civil war in Trinidad, Tucker and his beloved war dog, Kane, must work together to discover the truth behind a mystery that dates back to World War II, involving the genius of a young code-breaker, Alan Turing...
They will be forced to break the law, expose national secrets, and risk everything to stop a madman determined to control the future of modern warfare for his own diabolical ends. But can Tucker and Kane withstand a force so indomitable that it threatens our future?

My review:

This is the second novel I have read by Rollins and realized all over again how much I enjoy his work. He takes some cutting edge scientific research and weaves a compelling plot around it. In this novel it is computing technology. A way has been found to capture and analyze huge amounts of data. And there is a nefarious character ready to use that capability for power and control. Some of the tools he uses are sophisticated drones, capable of learning, performing tasks with increased efficiency.

Rollins and Blackwood have crafted this novel with chilling reality. I could see how a block ops group could be operating under an association with the U.S. government yet with their own agenda. The novel begins with people from this secret group going missing. I can see how a power hungry man would get rid of people who knew too much.

I like the characters. Tucker and his war dog sidekick, Kane, are true heroes. They are willing to put their lives in danger to save the world. I like the plot. The task of saving the world takes Tucker and his crew to exotic places and through heart stopping suspense.

I recommend this novel to those who enjoy the adventure and suspense of preventing a power hungry man from furthering his reach. You'll learn about computing technology, the fragile nature of many foreign governments, military war dogs, and have an exciting story to read as well.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

Book Details:

Genre: Thriller
Published by: William Morrow
Publication Date:December 27th 2016 (first published April 19th 2016)
Number of Pages: 544
ISBN: 0062135295 (ISBN13: 9780062135292)
Series: Tucker Wayne #2
Purchase Links: Amazon  | Barnes & Noble  | Goodreads 

Read an excerpt:

Prologue

Spring 1940 Buckinghamshire, England
Few in the Abwehr’s military intelligence knew his true name or even his intent here on British soil. The spy went by the code name Geist, the German word for ghost, and for him failure was not an option.
He lay on his stomach in a muddy ditch, with ice-encrusted cattails stabbing at his face. He ignored the midnight cold, the frigid gusts of breezes, the ache of his frozen joints. Instead, he concentrated on the view through the binoculars fixed to his face.
He and his assigned team lay alongside the banks of a small lake. A hundred yards off, on the opposite shore, a row of stately rural mansions sat dark, brightened here and there by the rare sliver of yellow light peeking through blackout curtains. Still, he spotted rolls of barbed wire mounted atop the garden walls of one particular estate.
Bletchley Park.
The place also went by a code name: Station X.
The seemingly nondescript country house masked an operation run by British intelligence, a joint effort by MI6 and the Government Code and Cypher School. In a series of wooden huts set up on those idyllic acres, the Allied forces had gathered the greatest mathematicians and cryptographers from around the globe, including one man, Alan Turing, who was decades ahead of his peers. Station X’s goal was to break the German military’s Enigma code, using tools built by the geniuses here. The group had already succeeded in building an electromechanical decrypting device called The Bombe, and rumors abounded about a new project already under way, to build Colossus, the world’s first programmable electric computer.
But destroying such devices was not his goal this night.
Hidden upon those grounds was a prize beyond anything his superiors could imagine: a breakthrough that held the potential to change the very fate of the world.
And I will possess it—or die trying.
Geist felt his heart quicken.
To his left, his second in command, Lieutenant Hoffman, pulled the collar of his jacket tighter around his neck as an icy rain began to fall. He shifted, cursing his complaint. “Gott verlassenen Land.
Geist kept his binoculars in place as he scolded the head of the commandos. “Silence. If anyone hears you speaking German, we’ll be stuck here for the rest of the war.”
Geist knew a firm hand was needed with the eight-man team under his charge. The members had been handpicked by the Abwehr not only for their superb martial skills but for their grasp of English. Whatever the British might lack in military presence out here in the rural regions, they made up for by a vigilant citizenry.
“Truck!” Hoffman rasped.
Geist glanced over his shoulder to the road passing through the woods behind him. A lorry trundled along, its headlights muted by blackout slits.
“Hold your breath,” Geist hissed.
He wasn’t about to let their presence catch the attention of the passing driver. He and the others kept their faces pressed low until the sound of the truck’s puttering engine faded away.
“Clear,” Hoffman said.
Geist checked his watch and searched again with his binoculars.
What is taking them so long?
Everything depended on clockwork timing. He and his team had offloaded from a U-boat five days ago onto a lonely beach. Afterward, the group had split into teams of two or three and worked their way across the countryside, ready with papers identifying them as day laborers and farmhands. Once they reached the target area, they had regrouped at a nearby hunting shack, where a cache of weapons awaited them, left by sleeper agents who had prepped the way in advance for Geist’s team.
Only one last detail remained.
A wink of light caught his attention from the grounds neighboring the Bletchley Park estate. It shuttered off once, then back on again—then finally darkness returned.
It was the signal he had been waiting for.
Geist rolled up to an elbow. “Time to move out.”
Hoffman’s team gathered their weapons: assault rifles and noise-suppressed pistols. The largest commando—a true bull of a man named Kraus—hauled up an MG42 heavy machine gun, capable of firing twelve hundred rounds per minute.
Geist studied the black-streaked faces around him. They had trained for three months within a life-sized mock-up of Bletchley Park. By now, they could all walk those grounds blindfolded. The only unknown variable was the level of on-site defense. The research campus was secured by both soldiers and guards in civilian clothes.
Geist went over the plan one last time. “Once inside the estate, torch your assigned buildings. Cause as much panic and confusion as possible. In that chaos, Hoffman and I will attempt to secure the package. If shooting starts, take down anything that moves. Is that understood?”
Each man nodded his head.
With everyone prepared—ready to die if need be—the group set off and followed the contour of the lake, sticking to the mist-shrouded forest. Geist led them past the neighboring estates. Most of these old homes were shuttered, awaiting the summer months. Soon servants and staff would be arriving to prepare the country homes for the leisure season, but that was still a couple of weeks away.
It was one of the many reasons this narrow window of opportunity had been chosen by Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, head of German military intelligence. And there was one other time-critical element.
“Access to the bunker should be just up ahead,” Geist whispered back to Hoffman. “Ready the men.”
The British government—aware that Adolf Hitler would soon launch an air war against this island nation—had begun constructing underground bunkers for its critical installations, including Bletchley Park. The bunker at Station X was only half completed, offering a brief break in the secure perimeter around the estate.
Geist intended to take advantage of that weakness this night.
He led his team toward a country house that neighbored Bletchley Park. It was a red-brick Tudor with yellow shutters. He approached the stacked-stone fence that surrounded the grounds and waved his team to flatten against it.
“Where are we going?” Hoffman whispered. “I thought we were going through some bunker.”
“We are.” Only Geist had been given this last piece of intelligence.
He crouched low and hurried toward the gate, which he found unlocked. The winking signal earlier had confirmed that all was in readiness here.
Geist pushed open the gate, slipped through, and led his team across the lawn to the home’s glass-enclosed conservatory. He found another unlocked door there, hurried inside with his men, and crossed to the kitchen. The all-white cabinetry glowed in the moonlight streaming through the windows.
Wasting no time, he stepped to a door beside the pantry. He opened it and turned on his flashlight, revealing a set of stairs. At the bottom, he found a stone-floored cellar; the walls were white-painted brick, the exposed ceiling a maze of water pipes running through the floor joists. The cellar spanned the width of the house.
He led his team past stacks of boxes and furniture draped in dusty sheets to the cellar’s eastern wall. As directed, he pulled away a rug to reveal a hole that had been recently dug through the floor. Another bit of handiwork from Canaris’s sleeper agents.
Geist shone his flashlight down the hole, revealing water flowing below.
“What is it?” Hoffman asked.
“Old sewer pipe. It connects all the estates circling the lake.”
“Including Bletchley Park,” Hoffman realized with a nod.
“And its partially completed bunker,” Geist confirmed. “It’ll be a tight squeeze, but we’ll only need to cross a hundred meters to reach the construction site of that underground bomb shelter and climb back up.”
According to the latest intelligence, those new foundations of the bunker were mostly unguarded and should offer them immediate access into the very heart of the estate’s grounds.
“The Brits won’t know what hit them,” Hoffman said with a mean grin.
Geist again led the way, slipping feetfirst through the hole and dropping with a splash into the ankle-deep dank water. He kept one hand on the moldy wall and headed along the old stone pipe. It was only a meter and a half wide, so he had to keep his back bowed, holding his breath against the stink.
After a handful of steps, he clicked off his flashlight and aimed for the distant glow of moonlight. He moved more slowly along the curving pipe, keeping his sloshing to a minimum, not wanting to alert any guards who might be canvassing the bunker’s construction site. Hoffman’s teammates followed his example.
At last, he reached that moonlit hole in the pipe’s roof. A temporary grate covered the newly excavated access point to the old sewer. He fingered the chain and padlock that secured the grate in place.
Unexpected but not a problem.
Hoffman noted his attention and passed him a set of bolt cutters. With great care, Geist snapped through the lock’s hasp and freed the chain. He shared a glance with the lieutenant, confirming everyone was ready—then pushed the grate open and pulled himself up through the hole.
He found himself crouched atop the raw concrete foundations of the future bunker. The skeletal structure of walls, conduits, and plumbing surrounded him. Scaffolding and ladders led up toward the open grounds of the estate above. He hurried to one side, ducking under a scaffold, out of direct view. One by one the remaining eight commandoes joined him.
Geist took a moment to orient himself. He should be within forty meters of their target: Hut 8. It was one of several green-planked structures built on these grounds. Each had its own purpose, but his team’s goal was the research section overseen by the mathematician and cryptanalyst Alan Turing.
He gestured for the men to huddle together.
“Remember, no shooting unless you’re intercepted. Toss those incendiaries into Huts 4 and 6. Let the fire do the work for us. With any luck, the distraction will create enough confusion to cover our escape.”
Hoffman pointed to two of his men. “Schwab, you take your team to Hut 4. Faber, you and your men have Hut 6. Kraus, you trail us. Be ready to use that machine gun of yours if there is any trouble.”
The lieutenant’s men nodded in agreement, then scaled the ladders and disappeared out of the open pit of the bunker. Geist followed on their heels with Hoffman and Kraus trailing him.
Staying low, he headed north until he reached Hut 8 and flattened against the wooden siding. The door should be around the next corner. He waited a breath, making sure no alarm had been raised.
He counted down in his head until finally shouts arose to the east and west. “Fire, fire, fire!
Upon that signal, he slid around the corner and climbed a set of plank steps to reach the door into Hut 8. He turned the knob as the night grew brighter, flickering with fresh flames.
As more shouts rose, he pushed through the doorway and into a small room. The center was dominated by two trestle tables covered in stacks of punch cards. The whitewashed walls were plastered with propaganda posters warning about ever-present Nazi eyes and ears.
With his pistol raised, he and Hoffman rushed across and burst through the far doorway into the next room. Seated at a long table, two women sorted through more piles of punch cards. The woman to the right was already looking up. She spun in her chair, reaching for a red panic button on the wall.
Hoffmann shot her twice in the side. The suppressed gunfire was no louder than a couple of firm coughs.
Geist took out the second woman with a single round through her throat. She toppled backward, her face still frozen in an expression of surprise.
They must have been Wrens—members of the Women’s Royal Naval Service—who were assisting in the work being conducted here.
Geist hurried to the first woman, searched her pockets, and came up with a thumb-sized brass key. On the second woman, he found a second key, this one iron.
With his prizes in hand, he hurried back to the main room.
From outside, there arose the wonk-wonk-wonk of an alarm klaxon.
So far our subterfuge seems to be—
The rattling blasts of a submachine gun cut off this last thought. More gunfire followed. Hoffman cursed.
“We’ve been discovered,” the lieutenant warned.
Geist refused to give up. He crossed to a waist-high safe along one wall. As expected, it was secured by two keyed locks, top and bottom, and a combination dial in the center.
“Need to hurry, sir,” Hoffmann rasped next to him. “Sounds like we got a lot of foot traffic outside.”
Geist pointed to the door. “Kraus, clear a path for us back to the bunker.”
The large soldier nodded, hefted up his heavy weapon, and vanished out the door. As Geist inserted his two keys, Kraus’s MG42 opened up outside, roaring into the night.
Geist focused on the task at hand, turning one key, then the other, getting a satisfying thunk-thunk in return. He moved his hand to the combination lock. This was truly the test of the Abwehr’s reach.
He spun the dial: nine…twenty-nine…four.
He took a breath, let it out, and depressed the lever.
The safe door swung open.
Thank God.
A quick search inside revealed only one item: a brown accordion folder wrapped in red rubber bands. He read the name stenciled on the outside.
The ARES Project
He knew Ares was the Greek god of war, which was appropriate, considering the contents. But that connotation only hinted at the true nature of the work found inside. The acronym—ARES—stood for something far more earth-shattering, something powerful enough to rewrite history. He grabbed the folder with trembling hands, knowing the terrifying wonders it held, and stuffed the prize into his jacket.
His second in command, Hoffman, stepped over to the hut’s door, cracked it open, and yelled outside. “Kraus!”
“Komm!” Kraus answered in German, forsaking any need for further subterfuge. “Get out here before they regroup!”
Geist joined Hoffman at the door, pulled the pin on an incendiary grenade, and tossed it back into the center of the room. Both men lunged outside as it exploded behind them, blowing out the windows with gouts of flames
To their left, a pair of British soldiers sprinted around the corner of the hut. Kraus cut them down with his machine gun, but more soldiers followed, taking cover and returning fire, forcing Geist’s team away from the excavated bunker—away from their only escape route.
As they retreated deeper into the grounds, smoke billowed more thickly, accompanied by the acrid stench of burning wood.
Another set of figures burst through the pall. Kraus came close to carving them in half with his weapon, but at the last moment, he halted, recognizing his fellow commandos. It was Schwab’s team.
“What about Faber and the others?” Hoffman asked.
Schwab shook his head. “Saw them killed.”
That left only the six of them.
Geist quickly improvised. “We’ll make for the motor pool.”
He led the way at a dead run. The team tossed incendiaries as they went, adding to the confusion, strafing down alleyways, dropping anything that moved.
Finally they reached a row of small sheds. Fifty meters beyond, the main gate came into view. It looked like a dozen soldiers crouched behind concrete barriers, guns up, looking for targets. Spotlights panned the area.
Before being seen, Geist directed his group into a neighboring Quonset hut, where three canvas-sided lorries were parked.
“We need that gate cleared,” Geist said, looking at Hoffman and his men, knowing what he was asking of them. For any chance of escape, many of them would likely die in the attempt.
The lieutenant stared him down. “We’ll get it done.”
Geist clapped Hoffman on the shoulder, thanking him.
The lieutenant set out with his remaining four men.
Geist crossed and climbed into one of the lorries, where he found the keys in the ignition. He started the engine, warming it up, then hopped back out again. He crossed to the remaining two trucks and popped their hoods.
In the distance, Kraus’s machine gun began a lethal chattering, accompanied by the rattle of assault rifles and the overlapping crump of exploding grenades.
Finally, a faint call reached him.
Klar, klar, klar!” Hoffman shouted.
Geist hurried back to the idling lorry, climbed inside, and put the truck into gear—but not before tossing two grenades into each of the open engine compartments of the remaining lorries. As he rolled out and hit the accelerator, the grenades exploded behind him.
He raced to the main gate and braked hard. British soldiers lay dead; the spotlights shot out. Hoffman rolled the gate open, limping on a bloody leg. Supported by a teammate, Kraus hobbled his way into the back of the lorry. Hoffman joined him up front, climbing into the passenger seat and slamming the door angrily.
“Lost Schwab and Braatz.” Hoffman waved ahead. “Go, go.”
With no time to mourn, Geist gunned the engine and raced down the country road. He kept one eye on the side mirror, watching for any sign of pursuit. Taking a maze of turns, he tried to further confound their escape route. Finally, he steered the lorry down a narrow dirt tract lined by overgrown English oaks. At the end was a large barn, its roof half collapsed. To the left was a burned-out farmhouse.
Geist parked beneath some overhanging boughs and shut off the engine. “We should see to everyone’s injuries,” he said. “We’ve lost enough good men.”
“Everybody out,” Hoffman ordered, rapping a knuckle on the back of the compartment.
After they all climbed free, Geist surveyed the damage. “You’ll all get the Knight’s Cross for your bravery tonight. We should—”
A harsh shout cut him off, barked in German. “Halt! Hände hoch!
A dozen men, bristling with weapons, emerged from the foliage and from behind the barn.
“Nobody move!” the voice called again, revealing a tall American with a Tommy gun in hand.
Geist recognized the impossibility of their team’s situation and lifted his arms. Hoffman and his last two men followed his example, dropping their weapons and raising their hands.
It was over.
As the Americans frisked Hoffman and the others, a lone figure stepped from the darkened barn door and approached Geist. He pointed a .45-caliber pistol at Geist’s chest.
“Tie him up,” he ordered one of his men.
As his wrists were efficiently bound in rope, his captor spoke in a rich southern twang. “Colonel Ernie Duncan, 101st Airborne. You speak English?”
“Yes.”
“Whom do I have the pleasure of addressing?”
Schweinhund,” Geist answered with a sneer.
“Son, I’m pretty sure that isn’t your name. I’ll assume that slur is intended for me. So then let’s just call you Fritz. You and I are going to have a talk. Whether it’s pleasant or ugly is up to you.”
The American colonel called to one of his men. “Lieutenant Ross, put those other three men into the back of their truck and get them ready for transport. Say good-bye to your team, Fritz.”
Geist turned to face his men and shouted, “Für das Vaterland!
Das Vaterland!” Hoffman and the others repeated in unison.
The American soldiers herded the commandos into the back of the lorry, while Colonel Duncan marched Geist over to the barn. Once inside, he closed the doors and waved to encompass the piles of hay and manure.
“Sorry for our meager accommodations, Fritz.”
Geist turned to face him and broke into a smile. “Damned good to see you, too, Duncan.”
“And you, my friend. How’d it go? Find what you were looking for?”
“It’s in my jacket. For whatever’s it worth, those Germans fight like the devil. Bletchley’s burning. But they should be up and running again in a week.”
“Good to know.” Duncan used a razor blade to free his bound wrists. “How do you want to play this from here?”
“I’ve got a small Mauser hidden in a crotch holster.” Geist stood up and rubbed his wrists, then unwound his scarf and folded it into a thick square. He reached into the front of his pants and withdrew the Mauser.
Geist glanced behind him. “Where’s the back door?”
Duncan pointed. “By those old horse stalls. Nobody’ll be back behind the barn to see you escape. But you’ll have to make it look convincing, you know. Really smack me good. Remember, we Americans are tough.”
“Duncan, I’m not keen on this idea.”
“Necessities of war, buddy. You can buy me a case of scotch when we get back to the States.”
Geist shook the colonel’s hand.
Duncan dropped his .45 to the ground and smiled. “Oh look, you’ve disarmed me.”
“We Germans are crafty that way.”
Next Duncan ripped open the front of his fatigue blouse, popping buttons off onto the straw-covered floor. “And there’s been a struggle.”
“Okay, Duncan, enough. Turn your head. I’ll rap you behind the ear. When you wake up, you’ll have a knot the size of a golf ball and a raging headache, but you asked for it.”
“Right.” He clasped Geist by the forearm. “Watch yourself out there. It’s a long way back to DC.”
As Duncan turned his head away, a flicker of guilt passed through Geist. Still, he knew what needed to be done.
Geist pressed the wadded scarf to the Mauser’s barrel and jammed it against Duncan’s ear.
The colonel shifted slightly. “Hey, what are you—”
He pulled the trigger. With the sound of a sharp slap, the bullet tore through Duncan’s skull, snapping his friend’s head back as the body toppled forward to the ground.
Geist stared down. “So sorry, my friend. As you said before, necessities of war. If it makes you feel any better, you’ve just changed the world.”
He pocketed the pistol, walked to the barn’s back door, and disappeared into the misty night, becoming at last…a true ghost.

FIRST

Ghost Hunt
1
October 10, 6:39 p.m. MDT Bitterroot Mountains, Montana
All this trouble from a single damned nail…
Tucker Wayne tossed the flat tire into the back of his rental. The Jeep Grand Cherokee sat parked on the shoulder of a lonely stretch of road in the forested mountains of southwest Montana. These millions of acres of pines, glacier-cut canyons, and rugged peaks formed the largest expanse of pristine wilderness in the Lower 48.
He stretched a kink out of his back and searched down the winding stretch of blacktop, bracketed on both sides by sloping hills and dense stands of lodgepole pines.
Just my luck. Here in the middle of nowhere, I pick up a nail.
It seemed impossible that this great beast of an SUV could be brought low by a simple sliver of iron shorter than his pinkie. It was a reminder of how modern technological progress could still be ground to a halt by a single bit of antiquated hardware like a roofing nail.
He slammed the rear cargo hatch and whistled sharply. His companion on this cross-country journey pulled his long furry nose out of a huckleberry bush at the edge of the forest and glanced back at Tucker. Eyes the color of dark caramel looked plainly disappointed that this roadside pit stop had come to an end.
“Sorry, buddy. But we’ve got a long way to go if we hope to reach Yellowstone.”
Kane shook his heavy coat of black and tan fur, his thick tail flagging as he turned, readily accepting this reality. The two of them had been partners going back to his years with the U.S. Army Rangers, surviving multiple deployments across Afghanistan together. Upon leaving the service, Tucker took Kane with him—not exactly with the army’s permission, but that matter had been settled in the recent past.
The two were now an inseparable team, on their own, seeking new roads, new paths. Together.
Tucker opened the front passenger door and Kane hopped inside, his lean muscular seventy pounds fitting snugly into the seat. He was a Belgian Malinois, a breed of compact shepherd commonly used by the military and law enforcement. Known for their fierce loyalty and sharp intelligence, the breed was also well respected for their nimbleness and raw power in a battlefield environment.
But there was no one like Kane.
Tucker closed the door but lingered long enough to scratch his partner through the open window. His fingers discovered old scars under the fur, reminding Tucker of his own wounds: some easy to see, others just as well hidden.
“Let’s keep going,” he whispered before the ghosts of his past caught up with him.
He climbed behind the wheel and soon had them flying through the hills of the Bitterroot National Forest. Kane kept his head stuck out the passenger side, his tongue lolling, his nose taking in every scent. Tucker grinned, finding the tension melting from his shoulders as it always did when he was moving.
For the moment, he was between jobs—and he intended to keep it that way for as long as possible. He only took the occasional security position when his finances required it. After his last job—when he had been hired by Sigma Force, a covert branch of the military’s research-and-development department—his bank accounts continued to remain flush.
Taking advantage of the downtime, he and Kane had spent the last couple of days hiking the Lost Trail Pass, following in the footsteps of the Lewis and Clark expedition, and now they were moving onto Yellowstone National Park. He had timed this trip to the popular park to reach it in the late fall, to avoid the crush of the high season, preferring the company of Kane to anyone on two legs.
Around a bend in the dark road, a pool of fluorescent lights revealed a roadside gas station. The sign at the entrance read
Fort Edwin Gas and Grocery. He checked his fuel gauge.
Almost empty.
He flipped on his turn signal and swung into the small station. His motel was three miles farther up the road. His plan had been to take a fast shower, collect his bags, and continue straight toward Yellowstone, taking advantage of the empty roads at night.
Now he had a snag in those plans. He needed to replace the flat tire as soon as possible. Hopefully someone at the gas station knew the closest place to get that done in these remote hills.
He pulled next to one of the pumps and climbed out. Kane hopped through the window on the other side. Together they headed for the station.
Tucker pulled open the glass door, setting a brass bell to tinkling. The shop was laid out in the usual fashion: rows of snacks and food staples, backed up by a tall stand of coolers along the back wall. The air smelled of floor wax and microwaved sandwiches.
“Good evening, good evening,” a male voice greeted him, his voice rising and falling in a familiar singsong manner.
Tucker immediately recognized the accent as Dari Persian. From his years in the deserts of Afghanistan, he was familiar with the various dialects of that desert country. Despite the friendliness of the tone, Tucker’s belly tightened in a knot of old dread. Men with that very same accent had tried to kill him more times than he could count. Worse still, they had succeeded in butchering Kane’s littermate.
He flashed to the bounding joy of his lost partner, the unique bond they had shared. It took all of his effort to force that memory back into that knot of old pain, grief, and guilt.
“Good evening,” the man behind the counter repeated, smiling, oblivious to the tension along Tucker’s spine. The proprietor’s face was nut brown, his teeth perfectly white. He was mostly bald, save for a monk’s fringe of gray hair. His eyes twinkled as though Tucker was a friend he hadn’t seen in years.
Having met hundreds of Afghan villagers in his time, Tucker knew the man’s demeanor was genuine. Still, he found it hard to step inside.
The man’s brow formed one concerned crinkle at his obvious hesitation. “Welcome,” he offered again, waving an arm to encourage him.
“Thanks,” Tucker finally managed to reply. He kept one hand on Kane’s flank. “Okay if I bring my dog in?”
“Yes, of course. All are welcome.”
Tucker took a deep breath and crossed past the front shelves, neatly stocked with packets of beef jerky, Slim Jims, and corn chips. He stepped to the counter, noting he was the only one in the place.
“You have a beautiful dog,” the man said. “Is he a shepherd?”
“A Belgian Malinois…a type of shepherd. Name’s Kane.”
“And I am Aasif Qazi, owner of this fine establishment.”
The proprietor stretched a hand across the counter. Tucker took it, finding the man’s grip firm, the palm slightly calloused from hard labor.
“You’re from Kabul,” Tucker said.
The man’s eyebrows rose high. “How did you know?”
“Your accent. I spent some time in Afghanistan.”
“Recently, I am guessing.”
Not so recently, Tucker thought, but some days it felt like yesterday. “And you?” he asked.
“I came to the States as a boy. My parents wisely chose to emigrate when the Russians invaded back in the seventies. I met my wife in New York.” He raised his voice. “Lila, come say hello.”
From an office in the back, a petite, gray-haired Afghani woman peeked out and smiled. “Hello. Nice to meet you.”
“So how did you both end up here?”
“You mean in the middle of nowhere?” Aasif’s grin widened. “Lila and I got tired of the city. We wanted something that was exact opposite.”
“Looks like you succeeded.” Tucker glanced around the empty shop and the dark forest beyond the windows.
“We love it here. And it’s normally not this deserted. We’re between seasons at the moment. The summer crowds have left, and the skiers have yet to arrive. But we still have our regulars.”
Proving this, a diesel engine roared outside, and a white, rust-stained pickup truck pulled between the pumps, fishtailing slightly as it came to a stop.
Tucker turned back at Aasif. “Seems like business is picking—”
The man’s eyes had narrowed, his jaw clenched. The army had handpicked Tucker as a dog handler because of his unusually high empathy scores. Such sensitivity allowed him to bond more readily and deeply with his partner—and to read people. Still, it took no skill at all to tell Aasif was scared.
Aasif waved to his wife. “Lila, go back in the office.”
She obeyed, but not before casting a frightened glance toward her husband.
Tucker moved closer to the windows, trailed by Kane. He quickly assessed the situation, noting one odd detail: duct tape covered the truck’s license plate.
Definitely trouble.
No one with good intentions blacked out his license plate.
Tucker took a deep breath. The air suddenly felt heavier, crackling with electricity. He knew it was only a figment of his own spiking adrenaline. Still, he knew a storm was brewing. Kane reacted to his mood, the hackles rising along the shepherd’s back, accompanied by a low growl.
Two men in flannel shirts and baseball caps hopped out of the cab; a third jumped down from the truck’s bed. The driver of the truck sported a dirty red goatee and wore a green baseball cap emblazoned with
I’d rather be doin’ your wife.
Great…not only are these yokels trouble, they have a terrible sense of humor.
Without turning, he asked, “Aasif, do you have security cameras?”
“They’re broken. We haven’t been able to fix them.”
He sighed loudly. Not good.
The trio strutted toward the station entrance. Each man carried a wooden baseball bat.
“Call the sheriff. If you can trust him.”
“He’s a decent man.”
“Then call him.”
“Tucker, perhaps it is best if you do not —”
“Make the call, Aasif.”
Tucker headed to the door with Kane and pushed outside before the others could enter. Given the odds, he would need room to maneuver.
Tucker stopped the trio at the curb. “Evening, fellas.”
“Hey,” replied Mr. Goatee, making a move to slip past him.
Tucker stepped to block him. “Store’s closed.”
“Bull,” said one of the others and pointed his bat. “Look, Shane, I can see that raghead from here.”
“Then you can also see he’s on the phone,” Tucker said. “He’s calling the sheriff.”
“That idiot?” Shane said. “We’ll be long gone before he pulls his head outta his ass and gets here.”
Tucker let his grin turn dark. “I wouldn’t be so sure of that.”
He silently signaled Kane, pointing an index finger down—then tightening a fist. The command clear: threaten.
Kane lowered his head, bared his teeth, and let out a menacing growl. Still, the shepherd remained at his side. Kane wouldn’t move unless given another command or if this confrontation became physical.
Shane took a step back. “That mutt comes at me and I’ll bash his brains in.”
If this mutt comes at you, you’ll never know what hit you.
Tucker raised his hands. “Listen, guys, I get it. It’s Friday night, time to blow off some steam. All I’m asking is you find some other way of doing it. The people inside are just trying to make a living. Just like you and me.”
Shane snorted. “Like us? Them towelheads ain’t nothing like us. We’re Americans.”
“So are they.”
“I lost buddies in Iraq—”
“We all have.”
“What the hell do you know about it?” asked the third man.
“Enough to know the difference between these store owners and the kind of people you’re talking about.”
Tucker remembered his own reaction upon first entering the shop and felt a twinge of guilt.
Shane lifted his bat and aimed the end at Tucker’s face. “Get outta our way or you’ll regret siding with the enemy.”
Tucker knew the talking part of this encounter was over.
Proving this, Shane jabbed Tucker in the chest with the bat.
So be it.
Tucker’s left hand snapped out and grabbed the bat. He gave it a jerk, pulling Shane off balance toward him.
He whispered a command to his partner: “grab and drop.”
* * *
Kane hears those words—and reacts. He recognizes the threat in his target: the rasp of menace in his breath, the fury that has turned his sweat bitter. Tense muscles explode as the order is given. Kane is already moving before the last word is spoken, anticipating the other’s need, knowing what he must do.
He leaps upward, his jaws wide.
Teeth find flesh.
Blood swells over his tongue.
 
* * *
 
With satisfaction, Tucker watched Kane latch on to Shane’s forearm. Upon landing on his paws, the shepherd twisted and threw the combatant to the ground. The bat clattered across the concrete.
Shane screamed, froth flecking his words. “Get him off, get him off!”
One of the man’s friends charged forward, his bat swinging down toward Kane. Anticipating this, Tucker dove low and took the hit with his own body. Expertly blunting the blow by turning his back at an angle, he reached up and wrapped his forearm around the bat. He pinned it in place—then side kicked. His heel slammed into the man’s kneecap, triggering a muffled pop.
The man hollered, released the bat, and staggered backward.
Tucker swung his captured weapon toward the third attacker. “It’s over. Drop it.”
The last man glared, but he let the bat fall—
—then reached into his jacket and lashed out with his arm again.
Tucker’s mind barely had time to register the glint of a knife blade. He backpedaled, dodging the first slash. His heel struck the curb behind him, and he went down, crashing into a row of empty propane tanks and losing the bat.
Grinning cruelly, the man loomed over Tucker and brandished his knife. “Time to teach you a lesson about—”
Tucker reached over his shoulder and grabbed a loose propane tank as it rolled along the sidewalk behind him. He swung it low, cutting the man’s legs out from under him. With a pained cry of surprise, the attacker crashed to the ground.
Tucker rolled to him, snatched the man’s wrist, and bent it backward until a bone snapped. The knife fell free. Tucker retrieved the blade as the man curled into a ball, groaning and clutching his hand. His left ankle was also cocked sideways, plainly broken.
Lesson over.
He stood up and walked over to Shane, whose lips were compressed in fear and agony. Kane still held him pinned down, clamped on to the man’s bloody arm, his teeth sunk to bone.
“Release,” Tucker ordered.
The shepherd obeyed but stayed close, baring his bloody fangs at Shane. Tucker backed his partner up with the knife.
Sirens echoed through the forest, growing steadily louder.
Tucker felt his belly tighten. Though he’d acted in self-defense, he was in the middle of nowhere awaiting a sheriff who could arrest them if the whim struck him. Flashing lights appeared through the trees, and a cruiser swung fast into the parking lot and pulled to a stop twenty feet away.
Tucker raised his hands and tossed the knife aside.
He didn’t want anyone making a mistake here.
“Sit,” he told Kane. “Be happy.”
The dog dropped to his haunches, wagging his tail, his head cocked to the side quizzically.
Aasif joined him outside and must have noticed his tension. “Sheriff Walton is a fair man, Tucker.”
“If you say so.”
In the end, Aasif proved a good judge of character. It helped that the sheriff knew the trio on the ground and held them in no high opinion. These boys been raising hell for a year now, the sheriff eventually explained. So far, nobody’s had the sand to press charges against them.
Sheriff Walton took down their statements and noted the truck’s blacked-out license plate with a sad shake of his head. “I believe that would be your third strike, Shane. And from what I hear, redheads are very popular at the state pen this year.”
Shane lowered his head and groaned.
After another two cruisers arrived and the men were hauled away, Tucker faced the sheriff. “Do I need to stick around?”
“Do you want to?”
“Not especially.”
“Didn’t think so. I’ve got your details. I doubt you’ll need to testify, but if you do—”
“I’ll come back.”
“Good.” Walton passed him a card. Tucker expected it to have the local sheriff’s department’s contact information on it, but instead it was emblazoned with the image of a car with a smashed fender. “My brother owns a body-repair shop in Wisdom, next town down the highway. I’ll make sure he gets that flat tire of yours fixed at cost.”
Tucker took the card happily. “Thanks.”
With matters settled, Tucker was soon back on the road with Kane. He held out the card toward the shepherd as he sped toward his motel. “See, Kane. Who says no good deed goes unpunished?”
Unfortunately, he spoke too soon. As he turned into his motel and parked before the door to his room, his headlight shone upon an impossible sight.
Sitting on the bench before his cabin was a woman—a ghost out of his past. Only this figment wasn’t outfitted in desert khaki or in the blues of her dress uniform. Instead, she wore jeans and a light-blue blouse with an open wool cardigan.
Tucker’s heart missed several beats. He sat behind the wheel, engine idling, struggling to understand how she could be here, how she had found him.
Her name was Jane Sabatello. It had been over six years since he’d last set eyes on her. He found his gaze sweeping over her every feature, each triggering distinct memories, blurring past and present: the softness of her full lips, the shine of moonlight that turned her blond hair silver, the joy in her eyes each morning.
Tucker had never married, but Jane was as close as he’d come.
And now here she was, waiting for him—and she wasn’t alone.
A child sat at her side, a young boy tucked close to her hip.
For the briefest of moments, he wondered if the boy—
No, she would have told me.
He finally cut off the engine and stepped out of the vehicle. She stood up as she recognized him in turn.
“Jane?” he murmured.
She rushed to him and wrapped him in a hug, clinging to him for a long thirty seconds before pulling back. She searched his face, her eyes moist. Under the glare of the Cherokee’s headlamps, he noted a dark bruise under one cheekbone, poorly obscured by a smear of cosmetic concealer.
Even less hidden was the panic and raw fear in her face.
She kept one hand firmly on his arm, her fingers tight with desperation. “Tucker, I need your help.”
Before he could speak, she glanced to the boy.
“Someone’s trying to kill us.”
 

Our Authors Bios:

JAMES ROLLINS is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of international thrillers, translated into more than forty languages. His Sigma series has been lauded as one of the “top crowd pleasers” (New York Times) and one of the “hottest summer reads” (People magazine). In each novel, acclaimed for its originality, Rollins unveils unseen worlds, scientific breakthroughs, and historical secrets–and he does it all at breakneck speed and with stunning insight.

Catch Up with James Rollins on his Website, Twitter, & Facebook.

In addition to his New York Times bestselling collaborations with Clive Cussler and Tom Clancy, GRANT BLACKWOOD is the author of three novels featuring Briggs Tanner: The End of Enemies, The Wall of Night, and An Echo of War. A U. S. Navy veteran, Grant spent three years as an Operations Specialist and a Pilot Rescue Swimmer. He lives in Colorado.

Catch Up with Grant Blackwood on his Website, Twitter, & Facebook

 

Tour Participants:

Stop by to join in on the tour you can participate or just check out the awesome reviews & giveaways!
Click here to view the 'War Hawk by James Rollins & Grant Blackwood' Tour Participants
 

Giveaway:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours for James Rollins and William Morrow. There will be 14 US winners of one (1) PRINT copy of War Hawk by James Rollins. The giveaway begins on February 12th and runs through March 1st, 2017.
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I received a complimentary digital copy of this book through Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours. My comments are an independent and honest review. 


Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Deep Water by Christine Poulson

This is a British mystery of rather low intensity and suspense. The plot revolves around the discovery of a drug to treat obesity. Another company is challenging the discovery, saying they developed it first. David, a patent lawyer, is asked to defend the biotech company's claim. Adding to the plot is that David and his wife have a daughter with a blood disease and the biotech company is developing a possible cure. A mystery develops when events go wrong in the biotech lab and one of the lab journals documenting a critical time in the obesity drug development is gone missing.

This novel is a combination of reading about research lab work and the many relationships of the characters. David and his wife have issues. Many of those working in the lab have issues too. We are also made aware of the many ethical issues involved in developing a drug. When should it be tested on humans? How easy is it to falsify results, making the tests look more productive than they really are?

I recommend this novel to those who like to read a novel of little suspense that deals with current research issues in developing new drugs. You will get to know how research labs work, how experiments are monitored, and the pressure put on the lab technicians to produce. There are plenty of red herrings included and I was a little surprised that there was not more suspense.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Christine Poulson is the author of several novels and works of nonfiction. She lectured in art history at Cambridge college before she turned to writing crime novels. You can find out more at http://www.christinepoulson.co.uk/.

Lion Fiction, distributed in the U.S. by Kregel, 256 pages.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Kregel. My comments are an independent and honest review.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Cardiac by Jeff Monaghan GIVEAWAY

Cardiac

by Jeffrey Monaghan

on Tour February 1-28, 2017

Synopsis:

Embattled CEO Jack Getty is nervous. This is his final chance to save his company. He is announcing his firm's breakthrough discovery at the world’s largest annual biotech conference. A discovery that trials show will extend human life by 75%. But as Jack approaches the podium, he suffers a major heart attack and collapses on the stage, stunning the conference attendees.
Jack is rushed to the emergency room where surgeons implant the latest Wi-Fi enabled pacemaker, saving his life in the process. What Jack doesn’t know, however, is that an underground hacking group has its sights set on manipulating his “secure” pacemaker to get information only he can provide. Despite the hackers unrelenting terror, Jack refuses to give them what they want and soon starts to uncover the true motives of this mysterious and powerful group.

My Review:

This is the most captivating novel I have read in some time. The novel started out with a bang and the action never stopped. The twists and turns in the plot kept me pushing to the end.

This novel portrays the kind of nightmare no one wants to go through. Imagine having the latest wi-fi reporting pacemaker inserted in you only to find that someone has control over it. They want information from you and can torture you until you give in to their demands.

I really like Monaghan's writing style. Even though the scenes were action packed the writing was not over done. That made the whole novel seem very realistic and very readable. The characters were well drawn. The villains really come across as nefarious. Jack, on the other hand, is a likable hero. I hope there will be more featuring him.

The plot is well thought out and tight. There were no unnecessary scenes nor long character ruminations to slow down the action. The plot was not perfect as I felt there was another person in the company who could have very easily provided the information the bad guys wanted. But, other than that, an exciting novel that kept me avidly reading to the surprising end.

I recommend this novel to readers who enjoy a captivating plot and writing style.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

Book Details:

Genre: Thriller
Publication Date: May 2016
Number of Pages: 296
ISBN: 1533641463
Purchase Links: Amazon | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

Chapter 1

Jack dropped his cell phone into his pocket, took a deep breath and focused on the moment at hand. The lights on stage were intense, their heat radiating to the dark spot where he stood just behind a thick, dark curtain off stage. A deep, musty odor floated off. A smell that reminded him of his grandmother’s sewing room. It was comforting during such an anxiety filled moment. He leaned closer, unaware, and took a deep breath. Then the stage exploded with light.
The energy and murmurs of the enormous crowd filled the auditorium. Jack’s heart began to race with a nervous excitement. He had done this a dozen times, but this time he was literally going to change the world, and hopefully save his company at the same time. He closed his eyes and took a deep, slow breath. Deep inhale. Deep exhale. And again. Slow, deep inhale. Slow, deep exhale, pushing the recent phone conversation to the back of his mind. The moisture on his palms felt cool and the tips of his fingers, cold.
He concentrated on the moment as thoughts of his pending presentation repeated in his head. Introduction...industry direction...announce test results of groundbreaking new drug...then Algen’s plans for the future...closing. Introduction...industry direction...announce DD13...Algen’s plans for the future...closing. With this announcement, he was about to push his company to the forefront of the biotech industry, and garner worldwide recognition and influence for himself and Algen.
The waiting was the torturous part. Once he started speaking it always came together. In fact, once he began, he usually slipped his notes into his pocket after the first few minutes. It was a rush having the attention of thousands waiting on every word. In fact, he enjoyed speaking in front of large crowds far more than speaking in small groups. He could avoid questions in a large crowd by simply not asking for them. He could just keep speaking. Small groups were more intimate and Jack was not good at small talk. He did his best to avoid talking to others about his personal life.
The announcer’s voice reverberated through the vast hall, "Ladies and gentlemen, I'd like to thank you all for attending our 10th Annual ASR International Life Sciences and Biotechnology Conference." Jack rubbed his palms on his pants, standing just out of reach of the bright lights.
"As many of you know, this is a very exciting time in our industry. A time that has shown extraordinary advancement in our understanding of the fundamental biological mechanisms of human life. A time when major discoveries are coming at an increasingly accelerated rate. And a time that will be looked back on as the dawning of a new age in meeting the needs of patients and doctors across the globe.”
Jack fiddled with the knot in his tie, wiggling it to make sure it was straight. He ran his palms down the front of his suit and tugged at the bottom of his jacket to eliminate imaginary creases. He stood waiting for his cue. As he waited, two sharp buzzes stung his thigh. He fumbled for the phone in his pocket.
“Crap!”
He slid the cool metal phone from his pocket and braced for more bad news. Instead, it was a text from his wife.
‘Are you free? I have more questions about Miller’
‘can’t right now. about to go on stage’
‘OK. Good luck. You’ll do great.’ ‘will call you later’
Jack grinned and wished he could talk to his wife now, but there wasn’t time. He allowed himself a moment. A moment to remember how lucky he was. His heart rate slowed and he felt calm. He reread the exchange with Cynthia as he noticed the subtle aroma of the stage curtains again. His eyes closed and he tipped his head back. She had always believed in him. Even when he told her about the times when he drank too much and ended up on the streets. Even when he didn’t believe in himself. She was the talented one, an amazing writer. But it was always she that insisted he was the one who capable of doing big things. Jack was not so sure back then. But here he was, about to do something unimaginable.
A light tap on the shoulder startled Jack. A thin, dark-haired young man stood beside him. A large identification badge hanging around his neck. He looked like a local college kid, called to work at the convention center whenever there was a big conference in town. He wore the basic conference employee uniform. A black t-shirt and khakis. The name tag hanging from his neck read Zachary Dietrich, 10th Annual ASR Conference Employee.
“Don’t forget this, Mr. Getty. You know how to use it, right?” The young man handed Jack a small remote that would allow him to change the slides in his presentation.
“Oh shoot, thank you...” Jack looked at the employee's name tag, “...Zachary. That would have been a little embarrassing getting stuck on the first slide.”
“I’m sure you would have figured something out, sir.”
“Well, I appreciate the thought, but you can’t always save someone from themselves.”
The young man smiled. “Is there anything else I can get for you, Mr. Getty? Would you like some water?”
“I think I’m good for now, thank you.”
“I don’t mean to be pushy, sir, but I highly recommend at least one drink.” Zachary lifted a steel thermos. “It’s warm water with a little lemon. My public speaking professor recommends it. It helps with dry mouth and cuts through any mucus buildup in your throat. It’s awesome.”
“Well, okay, just a quick sip.”
The young stagehand unscrewed the top and handed the thermos to Jack. Jack took it and tipped it to his lips. The young man was right. The warm, slightly sour water provided immediate relief to his parched mouth. Jack took a second drink.
“Thank you, Zachary,” Jack said as he handed the thermos back to the stage hand. “I appreciate your help.”
“No problem, Mr. Getty. Good luck, you’re going to do great,” replied the youthful man, visibly pleased that he was able to help the man of the hour. Jack smiled as he watched the young, go-getter scurry off to attend to other business. He turned his attention back to the stage.
“And we are so thankful to the city of Baltimore for making us feel so welcome." The speaker clapped in appreciation and the crowd joined him with pleasant applause. Without thinking, Jack applauded as well.
"We have a number of excellent speakers over the next few days. And I will get to those in a few moments. But first, I'd like to introduce one of the top leaders in our industry. He's a true innovator and respected member of our community. His company, Algen Incorporated, is leading the way in minimizing and reversing the effects of Alzheimer’s and other age related diseases. Please help me welcome the CEO of Algen, Mister Jack Getty!" The speaker reached his hand out towards the side of the stage, inviting Jack to come out and join him. Jack put on a smile and headed out into the lights; confident, adrenaline pumping through his veins and heart pounding in his chest. He was about to shock the world.
The crowd stood and cheered. Jack raised his right hand in acknowledgement, “thank you” he mouthed, walking onto the stage. The spotlights caused him to squint as the crowd roared in the darkness just beyond their hot, white brilliance. Jack turned back towards the speaker and continued walking, hand extended for a firm handshake. As he moved across the stage, his vision blurred. He opened his eyes wide and then squeezed them closed for a moment.
“What the...” Jack murmured.
When he opened them the speaker split in two, then four, then dozens of images swirled in front of him. Another step and now his chest began to tighten. Jack moaned, putting both hands on his chest. He blinked again. His vision began to fade and the muscles in his chest squeezed ever tighter. A heaviness pulled him towards the floor. Gasping for air, Jack struggled to keep his balance.
His next step became a lunge and he felt himself falling, unsure of when and what he would hit. A desperate reach for the shape of a podium turned into a vain attempt to catch himself. His left hand grasped for the microphone, snagged it with two fingers, and pulled the entire podium to the floor as he fell. It smashed on the stage, breaking into large pieces. The squeal of feedback ripped through the auditorium speakers. Jack slammed into the floor next to the podium with a heavy thud. His vision focused long enough to catch a glimpse of a woman in the front row, hands over her ears grimacing at the screeching microphone. He heard screams in the distance.
A hushed murmur fell over the crowd. Jack fought to stay conscious; the heaviness in his chest forced the air from his lungs. The lights above flooded into his spinning vision. He lay flat on his back, struggling to fight off the darkness that threatened to consume him.
“Someone call an ambulance!”
The pain in Jack’s chest shot down his left arm. I’m dying! The silhouette of a person appeared above him and blocked out the light. “Jack, can you hear me? Jack? Shit!” Jack wanted to respond but couldn’t. He was directing every effort to staying conscious.
“Shit, shit, shit,” Jack heard the frantic, trembling voice say. There was a firm tugging around his neck and a second voice broke into the chaos.
“Loosen it as much as you can. And unbutton his shirt. Make sure he can breathe.”
“I’m trying. Shit! Come on, Jack. Keep breathing.” The tugging at his neck became more frenzied. The voices started to fade and Jack could feel himself losing awareness.
“We’re losing him! We’re losing him! Someone please...”
He could hold on no longer. Jack willingly gave in to the darkness that was pulling him away from the voices. His body relaxed and he felt at peace. He saw his oldest son as a toddler, football grasped with both hands and that lopsided smile that warmed his heart. He saw his youngest son putting on his baseball uniform for the first time. And a vision of his wife on their wedding day pulled him deeper into his memories and away from the desperate voices.
All the commotion provided a distraction for a young, red-headed man seated at the end of the aisle. He was thirty rows back near one of the exits.
“Everyone, please remain seated,” came an announcement over the loudspeakers. The man ignored the instructions. He rose from his seat, doing his best not to draw attention. “Mr. Getty is getting the necessary medical assistance and will be okay.” The red-headed man knew this wasn’t true, at least not the part about Jack being okay. He slipped out the side doors and onto the busy streets of downtown Baltimore, anxious to blend in with the pedestrians. As he walked, he turned on his cell phone. He fought against his shaking fingers as he dialed. The phone rang.
“Yes, it’s done...yes I’m sure...I saw him hit the stage...I don’t know...they were tending to him as I left....I said I don’t know...sorry, I’m not going back in there...no way...I don’t care. I did what you asked and now I’m done.”
The man ended the call, slid the phone back into his pocket, and looked around to see if anyone had listened to his conversation, still disturbed by what had taken place. The people on the street had more important concerns than eavesdropping on a conservatively-dressed college type, so he vanished into the afternoon sun.
After a few blocks, a park appeared on the opposite side of the street. The man looked both ways and careened across the street, horns honking at him as he went. His stomach churned with anxiety and he was not completely aware of his surroundings, focused on creating as much distance as possible between him and the conference hall. He needed to find a calm, secluded place to sit and catch his breath; and his sanity.
He entered the park and saw a worn, stone bench under a large elm tree about fifty yards away. He turned to see if anyone had followed him, then made his way to the tree and settled on the hard, cool bench. He took a deep breath. His right leg bounced, quick and uncontrollable.
“Son of a bitch...”
The man ran his hand up his forehead and grasped a handful of hair between his fingers in a tight fist. He breathed again. His leg stopped bouncing and he began to relax. Then, just as he had begun to calm down, his phone buzzed in his pocket.
“Hello...sorry, I didn’t mean to hang up on you...the whole thing freaked me out. I’ve never seen anything like that in person. There’s a big difference between seeing Darth Vader choke out Admiral Motti and seeing a real human being hit the ground like that. I had to get out of there...yes, I know. All I can tell you is that it worked. I’m guessing we’ll be able to find out by the end of the day...Will do.”
The red-headed man dropped his head, slumped his shoulders, and rested his elbows on his knees. A pleasant breeze rustled the leaves in the tree above.

Author Bio:

Jeffrey Monaghan is a Silicon Valley executive with an unhealthy obsession for technology. He grew up in Southern California and currently lives in Portland, Oregon with his wife and two children. Cardiac is his debut novel.

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 I received a complimentary egalley of this novel through Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours. My comments are an independent and honest review.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

A Harmony for Steve by Hallee Bridgeman

Bridgeman does not avoid serious issues in her novels. Here she tackles spiritual warfare, addiction, and a successful Christian artist “crossing over.”

Harmony is a successful Christian pop artist who has been seeing her music climb the charts in the secular market. She has purposely entered into the general concert market to bring the gospel message to those who would never enter a church. Her path crosses that of Steve, the lead in a secular hard rock band branded as “satanic.” That meeting changes both of their lives.

Bridgeman has done a great job of developing a plot around Steve being impacted by the gospel while Harmony helps him as a friend. Steve struggles with his addictions as he turns his life around. Those who had been making lots of money from Steve's rock band are not happy. Spiritual warfare becomes a reality when Harmony's life is threatened.

I felt the depiction of those in the Christian spotlight was well done. Some on Harmony's management team dislike her moving into the secular pop market, causing tension. Steve's transformation was well done and shows how hard it came be for one to leave that kind of life style. There is a good amount of suspense in the novel as Harmony is in danger from those who hate Steve's change and want to destroy him and all he cares for.

I recommend this novel to those who appreciate real characters in real life situations. Some of those situations include satanic actions. There is a great message of redemption in the novel, however. Discussion questions are provided, as are some recipes.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Hallee Bridgeman is a bestselling author of Christian romantic suspense with more than a half million in sales. She lives in central Kentucky. You can find out more at http://www.halleebridgeman.com/.

Olivia Kimbrell Press, 334 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this novel from the author through BookCrash. My comments are an independent and honest review.