Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Knife River by Baron R Birtcher Blog Tour Book Review



by Baron R Birtcher

April 15 - May 10, 2024 Virtual Book Tour


A sheriff fighting to keep the peace in 1970s Oregon faces a shocking secret from his town’s past, in this crime thriller from the author of Reckoning.

There are rules in the West no matter what era you were born in, and it’s up to lawman Ty Dawson to make sure they’re followed in the valley he calls home. The people living on this unforgiving land keep to themselves and are wary of the modern world’s encroachment into their quiet lives.

So it’s not without some suspicion that Dawson confronts a newcomer to the region: a record producer who has built a music studio in an isolated compound. His latest project is a collaboration with a famous young rock star named Ian Swann, recording and filming his sessions for a movie. An amphitheater for a live show is being built on the land, giving Dawson flashbacks to the violent Altamont concert. Not on his watch.

But even beefed up security can’t stop a disaster that’s been over a decade in the making. All it takes is one horrific case bleeding its way into the present to prove that the good ol’ days spawned a brand of evil no one wants to revisit . . .

My Review:

Birtcher takes us to 1970s Oregon where cowboys are tough and the lawmen have to be tougher. Tyler Dawson is both. He's a rancher who reluctantly allowed himself to be elected sheriff. He is quick to action, borders on uncontrolled anger and reminds me of Longmire.

Birtcher emphasizes the emotions of Dawson so this novel will appeal to readers who like to get a good idea of the inner turmoil through which the hero struggles. A lesson Dawson learns in this novel is the possible error of judging people by initial impressions.

The mystery aspect of the novel has roots in a death years ago. I like how Birtcher gives a few vignettes leading up to the earlier death, preparing us for how it relates to the current death. The villain is truly an evil individual and worthy of Dawson's intense investigation.

Birtcher's writing style is clear and a pleasure to read. While the narrative has much of Dawson's emotional state and thoughts, there is plenty of action that kept me reading. I recommend this novel to readers who like a forceful man keeping the law in a rough and tumble area of the not so old west.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

You can read my review of an earlier novel in the series: Reckoning

Book Details:

Genre: Crime Thriller
Published by: Open Road Media
Publication Date: April 23, 2024
Number of Pages: 338
ISBN: 9781504086523 (ISBN10: 150408652X)
Series: The Sheriff Ty Dawson Crime Thriller Series
Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | BookShop.org | Goodreads | Open Road Media

Read an excerpt:



SOME SAY THAT to be born into a thing is to be blind to half of it. Oftentimes, the things we seek and discover for ourselves are those we hold most dear.

Any cattleman will tell you that a ranch is a living thing. Not only the livestock that graze the meadowland, but the blood that nourishes the hungry soil, the trees that inhale the wind, and the rain that carves runnels into the hardpan that, in time, grow into rivers. The Diamond D is no different in that respect, some would even say it was the beating heart of Meriwether County, Oregon.

As both a stockman and the sheriff of this county, I believe this to be true.

But the events that unfolded in the autumn of 1964 cast a cloud across that land. Not just across my ranch, but the entire valley, though they didn’t bear their terrible fruit until nearly a dozen years later, in the spring of 1976. The incidents still haunt me, though others paid a steeper price than I; some with their lives, or the lives of their loved ones, while some forfeit their sanity, and still others with their souls.

That is where this story begins.



LAMBS AND LIONS hold no sway over the springtime here in Meriwether County. Some years it will snow through mid-May, other times the golden sun rides high and bright, and the river flows fast, clear and deep with high-country melt on the first day of March. Most years, it’s both, with Mother Nature keeping her whims to herself until she alone decides to turn them loose upon us.

But this particular Saturday morning was unusually quiet, not even a breath of breeze stirring the leaves of the cottonwoods that grew thick and untamed along the creekbank. I was standing outside on the gallery, sipping my coffee as I leaned on the porch rail, watching my wife, Jesse, hammer the last nail into a birdbox she had made. She must have felt my eyes on her, as she looked up from her work and smiled. A few moments later, she stepped up the stairs to where I stood and kissed me on the cheek, smelling of sawdust and lemongrass tea.

“The bluebirds are back,” she said. “I just saw them.”

“You haven’t lost your knack for building those things.”

“Plenty of practice. You got home late last night.”

I had spent the previous day transporting a man all the way from Lewiston up to the Portland lockup to await his trial. He stood accused of murdering his own wife and young child. It had been a long, depressing day, and by the time I completed the intake paperwork, locked up the substation in Meridian, and finally drove home to the ranch, Jesse was already asleep.

But this morning, everything in her expression seemed overflowing with hope and expectation. Springtime was her season and always had been.

“Want a hand putting that thing up?” I asked.

She replied by handing it to me, together with the hammer.

She watched me hang the birdbox on a post beside the vegetable garden, outside the kitchen window where I knew she’d spend her quiet mornings secretly observing the bluebirds as they built their nest and reared their brood.

“You plan on helping Caleb pick the new cowboys today?” She asked me when I came back inside.

It was the time of year when we hired a few temporary hands for Spring Works, when we’d round-up the cattle and calves from every corner of the ranch; we’d vet, brand and sort the livestock, and mend a perpetual string of breaks in the wire along miles of fenceline before we turned the herd out to the pastures for summer grazing. The Diamond D employed three permanent cowboys in addition to me and old Caleb Wheeler—our foreman for more than three decades—but with 63,000 deeded acres and another 14,000 under a Land Management lease, Spring Works was more work than the five of us could handle in the short span of time required to get it done. Every year a couple dozen hopeful itinerant riders, ropers, rodeo bums and saddle-tramps would answer the call for a temporary employment opportunity, and every year Caleb Wheeler got more riled up about what he viewed as the eroding quality of the contemporary American cowboy. He’d cuss and grump and holler about it, but he’d end up settling on three or four hands he reckoned could help us get the job done with a minimum of aggravation.

“I’m staying out of it this year,” I said, and Jesse grinned. “Figured I’d lay in a cord or two for the woodshed instead, before the weather gets too hot.”

“I saw some deadfall down by Corcoran’s,” she said.

“That’s where I was headed.”

“Make you some lunch to take with you?”

“I don’t intend to be out that long.”

“Good to hear,” she said, and winked at me before she turned, and stepped inside the house.


* * *


HALF AN HOUR later I was straddling a fallen spruce, angling the chainsaw to buck the trunk into three-foot rounds that I’d later split into quarters with the long-handled axe. The solitary labor, the sweat staining my shirt, and the burn down deep inside my muscles were a welcome balm after the week I’d had, and the air was rife with the smell of pine tar, sap and chain oil. I looked up and caught some movement in the distance, where the BLM forest gave onto an open range already knee deep with wildflowers and whipgrass. I recognized Tom Jenkins’ roping horse moving hellbent-for-leather across the flats, with young Tom leaning across her withers, one hand on the reins and the other holding his hat in place on top of his head. His mount was an admirable animal, a grullo Quarter Horse that stood nearly seventeen hands, fast and thick through the chest. Tom Jenkins handled her well, and he was beelining in my direction like he had something on his mind.

I killed the power on the chainsaw and set it in the bed of the military surplus jeep I use when I do ranch work, stepped over to the fence and took a splash of water from the canteen I’d hung in the shade of a young cedar. I didn’t have to wait long before Tom pulled up in a skidding stop inside a cloud of dust, throwing a cascade of torn earth and pebbles through the barbed strands of the wire.

“Mr. Dawson,” he said and touched a finger to his hat brim, sounding nearly as breathless as his horse. “I was hoping that was you.”

“What are you doing out here all by yourself?” I asked, but suspected I already knew the answer.

When I’d first met Tom Jenkins, he was nothing but a kid with a limp handshake, no eye-contact, and the familiar slope-shouldered gait and posture of the typical aimless teenaged slacker. At that time, he’d been well on his way to serious trouble, the variety and scope of which would have landed him in a six-by-eight jail cell where the other inmates would have eaten him alive.

He is the nephew of my neighbor to the south of me, Snoose Corcoran, whose sister had sent the kid up here from California’s central valley to his uncle’s ranch in southeastern Oregon in hopes of putting some distance between young Tom and his unquestionably poor choices of acquaintances. Ill-equipped to deal with the boy himself, Snoose begged me to take the kid on as a maverick, and I’d reluctantly agreed. After six months working side by side with trail hardened cowboys on the Diamond D young Tom Jenkins’ attitude had been readjusted, straightening both his spine and fortitude. Now, at barely 18 years of age, Tom had assumed the reins of the floundering Corcoran cattle operation from his uncle Snoose, who had been gradually disappearing into a bottle.

“Cow and a calf went missing from my place,” Tom answered. “Fence busted by the westward line, and I figured them two mighta headed for the water.”

My ranch hands ended up nicknaming the kid “Silver,” after he’d astonished us all by stepping up and winning a silver buckle for the Diamond D in the team roping event at the annual rodeo. I knew Tom secretly treasured the handle they’d bestowed, wore it like a medal, but I never spoke it; that was between my men and him.

“Where’s your uncle?” I asked.

His shrug spoke sorrowful volumes.

“So, what set you hightailing over here to see me, son?” I asked. “What’s the trouble? Besides the missing beeves.”

“I was up there on the other side of the tree line,” he said. He twisted sideways in his saddle, took off his hat and gestured with it toward a distant stretch of blue sky. “There was an eagle making low passes over the meadow, so I stopped to watch it for a minute. It was so still and quiet out there, I could hear the eagle calling out while it was gliding on the thermals.”

“You don’t see something like that every day,” I said. “Not even out here in the boondocks.”

“No sir, that’s a fact,” Tom said. “But, while I sat there watching that creature flying, all of a sudden and out of nowhere, a helicopter come buzzing across the ridge, you know the one…”

“Big stone bluff, looks like somebody cut it down the middle with a KA-BAR knife.”

“That’s the one,” he said. “Well, that chopper came in fast, and went straight toward that bird…” The young man’s voice trailed off, his face contorted like he’d encountered a foul odor. “They circled it as it flew, like they were teasing it. Two men inside the—whattaya call it?”


“Yeah, the cockpit. Then they started closing in on him, chasing it. The guy in the passenger seat had a rifle in his hands. I could see the barrel sticking out.”

What Tom was describing to me was not only a despicable and loathsome act, it was a serious crime. The mere harassment of a protected species is a federal offense; hunting and killing one merely for the sick thrill of it was another matter entirely.

“What happened, Tom?”

He swallowed drily, shook his head and looked down at the ground between us.

“He shot that bird right out of the sky, sir,” he said. “That eagle wasn’t even doing nothing, just gliding circles on the wind, and those assholes—sorry, sir—they shot him cold dead.”

I could imagine the creature’s confused and lonely cry as it spiraled down, bleeding, terrified and helpless, to the earth.

“You pretty sure about the location, Tom?”

“About four, five miles thataway, near the bluff, where the river makes that sharp bend to the south.”

“Did you get a look at either of the men?”

“Naw, they were too far away and moving pretty fast. But I got a good look at the whirlybird.”

I asked him for a description of the helicopter, and I knew right away he was referring to a Bell H-13, known to soldiers as a “Sioux.” They’d been in common use as scouting and medical evacuation aircraft by the military. I’d seen them every day when I was stationed in Korea.

“Like the choppers on that TV show?” I asked.

“Yes, sir. Exactly like on M*A*S*H.”

“Big glass bubble on the front? No doors? Looks kinda like a dragonfly?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Did you see any numbers written on it? On the tail? Or maybe on the underside?”

Tom Jenkins pressed his hat back on his head and gazed up at the empty sky beyond the forest, like he could return that beautiful animal to where it rightfully belonged through sheer force of his will. The high peaks beyond the meadow were streaked with deep blue shadows in the sunlight, their cloughs and gorges washed in purple and topped with snow so white it hurt your eyes.

“I’m sorry, sir,” he said. “I don’t remember seeing numbers or anything like that.”

His face took on the aspect of defeat, as though some personal failure had cost the animal its life.

“You did good, Tom. You did the right thing coming to me straight away. There was nothing else you could have done.”

He nodded once, his lips pressed tight, and he leaned down to adjust a stirrup that needed no adjustment.

“You want some help finding your cows?” I asked, thinking he might appreciate the company.

“I can do it, sir, but thank you. I can haze ’em back home on my own.”

“You gotta get eyeballs on the critters first. I can help you, son.”

“Thank you just the same, Mr. Dawson… Sheriff… Hell, I don’t even know what to call you.”

His expression softened for the first time since he’d showed up, a brief and fleeting smile, then his focus drifted far away again.

“Something else, Tom?”

“Just wondering.”

“Wondering what?”

“Do you think you can catch those guys who shot that bird?”

“I’m going to try my damndest.”

His eyes remained fixed on the horizon.

“What’ll happen to ’em if you do?”

I drew a bandana from the back pocket of my jeans, removed my hat, and dried the sweat that had been leaking from beneath the band.

“It’s been against the law to kill an eagle since the 1940s. If you’re not an Indian, you can’t even possess a single feather. If you get caught, you pay a steep fine and then they send you off to jail. If you’re a rancher, you could lose the leases on your land.”

Tom turned his gaze back on me, and I noted for the hundredth time that this young man no longer bore any resemblance to the person he had been on the day he first arrived here from California.

“That punishment don’t seem tough enough,” Tom said. “Not for what I seen ’em do.”

“No, it doesn’t.”

He clucked softly to his horse, and reined her back in the direction from which they’d come.

“I’d better get a move on,” he said.

“Be careful out there, son,” I said to his retreating back, but my words were lost in the distance.


Excerpt from KNIFE RIVER by Baron R Birtcher. Copyright 2024 by Baron R Birtcher. Reproduced with permission from Baron R Birtcher. All rights reserved.


Author Bio:

Baron Birtcher is the LA TIMES and IMBA BESTSELLING author of the hardboiled Mike Travis series (Roadhouse Blues, Ruby Tuesday, Angels Fall, and Hard Latitudes), the award-winning Ty Dawson series (South California Purples, Fistful Of Rain, Reckoning, and Knife River), as well as the critically-lauded stand-alone, RAIN DOGS.

Baron is a winner of the SILVER FALCHION AWARD, and the WINNER of 2018's Killer Nashville READERS CHOICE AWARD, as well as 2019's BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR for Fistful Of Rain.

He has also had the honor of having been named a finalist for the NERO AWARD, the LEFTY AWARD, the FOREWORD INDIE AWARD, the 2016 BEST BOOK AWARD, the Pacific Northwest's regional SPOTTED OWL AWARD, and the CLAYMORE AWARD.

Baron's writing has been hailed as "The real deal" by Publishers Weekly; "Fast Paced and Engaging" by Booklist; and "Solid, Fluent and Thrilling" by Kirkus.

~ Don Winslow, NYT Bestselling author

~ Reed Farrel Coleman, NYT Bestselling author

~ Shots Magazine (UK)

Catch Up With Baron R Birtcher:
Facebook - @BaronRBirtcher
Instagram - @baronbirtcher_author
Twitter/X - @BaronBirtcher22


Tour Participants:

Visit these other great hosts on this tour for more great reviews, interviews, guest posts, and opportunities to WIN in the giveaway!

Click here to view KNIFE RIVER by Baron R Birtcher Tour Hosts.

Get More Great Reads at Partners In Crime Tours

I received a complimentary egalley of this book through Partneers in Crime Book Tours. My comments are an independent and honest review. The rest of the copy of this post was provided by Partners in Crime Book Tours.

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)

Sunday, April 28, 2024

Fast Times Big City by Shelly Frome Blog Tour Book Review



by Shelly Frome

April 15 - May 10, 2024 Virtual Book Tour


Like most people, Bud Palmer felt this was just another day.

Though the era was drawing to a close, he assumed his life as a sports columnist in the subtropics, in keeping with the benign fifties itself, would go on as predictable as ever.

But that particular autumn morning he was thrust into a caper that was totally beyond him, forced him to leave Miami and take the train to Manhattan, and suddenly found everything in this restless "Big Apple" was up for grabs at a dicey turning point.

My Review:

 Frome immerses his readers into the culture of 1950s New York and broader to political events in Ireland and Cuba. It was fun to read about television shows and movies of the era. Frome is a master at creating the setting with wonderful descriptions of places.

The plot itself was slow and methodical. There was one scene with a bit of suspense but mostly the action was Bud trying to get information as he ventures in New York City. Frome's writing style includes dialogue between mob people, sometimes cryptic and hard to follow. I felt is was a bit difficult to understand how Bud was supposed to complete the task he was given. Bud felt the same, it seems. About half way through the book, at the end of one of his conversations with the person who gave him his task, Bud admits, “...he didn't understand, not at all.” (1801/3520) I was with Bud at that point.

This is a novel for readers who would like an immersion into the era of the 1950s, the mob families of the time and their possible influence on international events.

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

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Book Details:

Genre: Crime Fiction
Published by: BQB Publishing
Publication Date: February 27, 2024
Number of Pages: 250
ISBN: 9798886330267
Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | BookShop.org | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

Getting as overtired as can be, he opted for the radio once again and the show tunes station. Within minutes another song from West Side Story came filtering into his room. This time the star-crossed lovers put the images on the poster to words, yearning for “a special place,” claiming if they held on tight they could take each other there. Somehow, some day, somewhere.

Even after he switched the radio off, the sweet melody and yearning lyrics stayed with him. But soon faded and dovetailed into the dread of what might await him under these pressing circumstances. He finally let go of it all and sank into a fitful sleep.


Excerpt from Fast Times, Big City by Shelly Frome. Copyright 2024 by Shelly Frome. Reproduced with permission from Shelly Frome. All rights reserved.


Author Bio:

Shelly Frome is a member of Mystery Writers of America, a professor of dramatic arts emeritus at UConn, a former professional actor, and a writer of crime novels and books on theater and film. He also is a features writer for Gannett Publications. His fiction includes Sun Dance for Andy Horn, Lilac Moon, Twilight of the Drifter, Tinseltown Riff, Murder Run, Moon Games, The Secluded Village Murders, Miranda and the D-Day Caper and Shadow of the Gypsy. Among his works of non-fiction are The Actors Studio: A History, a guide to playwriting and one on screenwriting. Fast Times, Big City is his latest foray into the world of crime and the amateur sleuth. He lives in Black Mountain, North Carolina.

Catch Up With Shelly Frome:
BookBub - @ShellyFrome
Instagram - @authorshellyfrome
Twitter/X - @shellyFrome
Facebook - @AuthorShellyFrome


Tour Participants:

Visit these other great hosts on this tour for more great reviews, interviews, guest posts, and opportunities to WIN in the giveaway!

Click here to view Fast Times, Big City by Shelly Frome Tour Hosts.


Get More Great Reads at Partners In Crime Tours

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

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)

Friday, April 26, 2024

The Sleuth of Blackfriar's Lane by Michelle Griep Blog Tour Book Review

About the Book

Book: The Sleuth of Blackfriars Lane

Author: Michelle Griep

Genre: Historical Christian Fiction

Release Date: April, 2024

Wife. Mother. Homemaker. Detective. Kit Forge wears many hats, and if that’s not enough, she’s partnered with her father to open a new detective agency. It’s hard to be all things to all people, but Kit never shies away from the impossible. Despite her hard work and good intentions, some things fall through the cracks.

Namely, her husband.

But Jackson barely notices. He’s too busy putting out his own fires. As the new chief inspector of a busy London station, he must salvage the disaster left behind by the former police chief—an obstacle made all the harder when the superintendent breathes an ultimatum down his neck.

Against her father’s advice, Kit takes on a case involving a missing child, one in which she and Jackson become a little too emotionally involved. . .and end up endangering their own little girl in the process.

Can Kit and Jackson learn that just because they can say yes doesn’t mean they should?

Click here to get your copy!

My Review

I enjoyed this historical adventure. Griep excels in creating an authentic atmosphere of Victorian London and the police activities of the time. The historical note at the end indicates a novel that adheres to the conditions of the era. The plot contains a good balance of action and personal information. Kit, now a mother, did not seem as astute as in earlier novels. While she is still adventurous, such as running over roof tops, she does have a real sensitivity to the safety of her child. But that sentimentality could also be her downfall, being fooled into taking a case that turns disastrous.

There is a good faith message woven into the story reminding us of the impact a deed done or words spoken in love might have on another. It could be life changing.

I recommend this novel to readers who enjoy a good historical setting, intriguing characters, and an adventurous journey. 

My rating: 4/5 stars.

You can read my reviews of the earlier books in the series: The Thief of Blacfriar's Lane and The Bride of Blackfriar's Lane.

About the Author

Michelle Griep’s been writing since she first discovered blank wall space and Crayolas. She is the Christy Award-winning author of historical romances: A Tale of Two Hearts, The Captured Bride, The Innkeeper’s Daughter, 12 Days at Bleakly Manor, The Captive Heart, Brentwood’s Ward, A Heart Deceived, and Gallimore, but also leaped the historical fence into the realm of contemporary with the zany romantic mystery Out of the Frying Pan.


More from Michelle

Oh Inspiration…Wherefore Art Thou?

There are several questions I am asked frequently as an author.

“Hey, how much money do you make?”

“Can you help me get my book published?”

“How come it takes you so long to finish a story?”

But probably the most common query is this: what sorts of things inspire you? Now that is a question I can go on and on about! Don’t panic, though. I’ll be brief.

Story ideas come from every place imaginable. I’ve had plot thoughts from watching kids’ movies or even from eavesdropping at a coffee shop (note: beware what you say in public). TV series are also a favorite of mine, so much so that my latest release, The Sleuth of Blackfriars Lane, is loosely based on one of my all-time favorite PBS series.

Have you seen this show? If not, do yourself a favor and ride that pony. If you have, then you know what I’m talking about. Either way, you should know that, the main character, is a detective in Victorian London—a very sassy yet classy lady. And that’s what struck me light a lightning bolt.

This woman is Kit, the heroine in my Blackfriars series, like right there on the big screen.

So, for book III, I decided I’d let ol’ Kit open her own private investigation agency with the help of her father, a recently retired police sergeant. Of course much intrigue and chaos ensues, just like in my all-time favorite PBS series, bringing the Blackfriars series to a satisfying end.

Inspiration honestly comes from anywhere, so next time you’re rubbing elbows with an author, beware. You just might end up as a character in their next book.

Blog Stops

Babbling Becky L’s Book Impressions, April 26

Book Reviews From an Avid Reader, April 26

Book Looks by Lisa, April 26

Live. Love. Read., April 27

Vicky Sluiter, April 27

She Lives To Read, April 27

Texas Book-aholic, April 28

Happily Managing a Household of Boys, April 28

All-of-a-kind Mom, April 29

Where Faith and Books Meet, April 29

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, April 30

Sylvan Reads, April 30

Pause for Tales, April 30

Locks, Hooks and Books, May 1

Blogging With Carol, May 1

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, May 2

For Him and My Family, May 2

A Modern Day Fairy Tale, May 2

Betti Mace, May 3

Wishful Endings, May 3

Bizwings Book Blog, May 4

Daysong Reflections, May 4

Gina Holder, Author and Blogger, May 5 (Author Interview)

Kristina Hall, May 5

Tell Tale Book Reviews, May 6

The Lofty Pages, May 6

Cover Lover Book Review, May 7

A Good Book and Cup of Tea, May 7

Blossoms and Blessings, May 7

Holly’s Book Corner, May 8

Back Porch Reads, May 8

Lily’s Corner, May 9

Life of Literature, May 9

Jeanette’s Thoughts, May 9


I received a complimentary egalley of this book through Celebrate Lit. My comments are an independent and honest review. The rest of the copy of this post was provided by Celebrate Lit.

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)

Thursday, April 25, 2024

The Last Disciple: Crisis in Jerusalem by Kurt Brouwer Blog Tour Book Review

About the Book

Book: The Last Disciple: Crisis in Jerusalem

Author: Kurt Brouwer

Genre:Christian Historical Fiction

Release date: November, 2022

He was the Beloved Disciple…

…and he would be the last.

The mantle to tell the whole story has fallen on him.

From the cross, Jesus entrusted John, the youngest disciple, with the welfare of Mary, Jesus’s mother. Over thirty years later, as Jerusalem becomes a cauldron of explosive tempers, he receives a calling he doesn’t want.

Will he listen and follow?

And if he does, will it be too late?

In 62 AD, the Jewish high priest executes James, the brother of Jesus, triggering a bitter fight for power in Jerusalem that shatters the quiet life of John. The Jewish people he loves are making dangerous choices that will change the land of Israel forever.

Should he stay in Jerusalem and help hold off the Roman onslaught? Or is it time to reach out to those beyond Israel’s borders?

If he chooses to leave, what will be his message to these foreign believers? What new words of comfort could he possibly share?

Set against a backdrop of actual events, The Last Disciple: Crisis in Jerusalem is the first novel in a new series based on the Bible and Christian history.

Follow along while John faces multiple crises and comes to understand what it is to stand alone and lean on only the Lord.

Your heart will embrace The Last Disciple: Crisis in Jerusalem because John’s story is the story of our hope and promise.

Click here to get your copy!

My Review

This is an interesting novel exploring the person of John, the last of Jesus' disciples to die. It is also an exploration of the early church. We read how disciples tried to work out how to obey Jesus' teachings and how they discussed the need for more writings like those of Paul. This latter concern was pertinent to John who knew Jesus well. I was a bit surprised at the strong feelings against the Romans, John carrying a staff with him as protection.

Brouwer suggests this John was a cousin of Jesus (527/3392). This was a new concept for me but I did find some evidence for this to be true based on the various descriptions of the women at the crucifixion. I liked delving into John's personality, such as his struggle with not being Paul or Peter as he visits various churches. I did want to know how John supported himself and his care for Mary. While other disciples fished from time to time, John's method of support remained a mystery. Brouwer's writing style was good although I did find his failure to supply quotation marks between successive paragraphs of the same person talking a bit disconcerting and confusing.

This is a good fictional look at the early church and how a few of the disciples may have found their place in it. It is also a good description of the conditions leading up to the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.

My rating: 4/5 stars.


About the Author

It all started the morning I learned that the Gospel of John was published fifty years after Jesus died. Fifty years! What did John do all that time? Where did he live? Why did he wait? Frankly I got a little obsessive about this man who became the last disciple.

Living in Hawaii

For the past 20 years, I’ve been a member of a Bible-based Christian church in Hawaii. About eight years ago, our pastor, Kahu Billy Mitchell, challenged our Elders group to pray and read the Bible for one hour every morning.

It wasn’t as though we were not reading the Bible or praying every day, but he challenged us to take our devotions up a few notches. So, I did just that.

During one of those early morning sessions, I was studying the books of the New Testament in a broad sense. Who wrote them and when? What were the broad themes covered in each?

I found out that a huge gap of 50 years elapsed after the ministry of Jesus and the publication of the Gospel of John. That morning something else hit me–John outlived all the others to become the last disciple. I couldn’t stop thinking about how lonely it must have been to be the last one standing.

A few years later, I began writing The Last Disciple Series of Christian historical novels about the life of John.

The Last Disciple Series

The Last Disciple is a series of Christian novels based on the Bible and Christian history. The first in the series: The Last Disciple: Crisis in Jerusalem, begins in the year 62 AD. In it, you walk with John through the streets of Jerusalem. With him, you face multiple crises and come to understand what it is to stand alone and lean only on the Lord.

This book, The Last Disciple: Exile in Ephesus is the third in the series, following The Last Disciple: Escape to Antioch (book two) and The Last Disciple: Crisis in Jerusalem (book one).

Blog Stops

Blogging With Carol, April 12

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, April 13

Debbie's Dusty Deliberations, April 14

Texas Book-aholic, April 15

Artistic Nobody, April 16 (Author Interview)

Lots of Helpers, April 16

She Lives To Read, April 17

Locks, Hooks and Books, April 18

Guild Master, April 19 (Author Interview)

An Author's Take, April 20

Happily Managing a Household of Boys, April 21

Fiction Book Lover, April 22 (Author Interview)

Mary Hake, April 22

The Lofty Pages, April 23

Cover Lover Book Review, April 24

Book Reviews From an Avid Reader, April 25


To celebrate his tour, Kurt is giving away the grand prize of a $50 Amazon gift card!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.


I received a complimentary egalley of this book through Celebrate Lit. My comments are an independent and honest review. The rest of the copy of this post was provided by Celebrate Lit.

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)

Tuesday, April 23, 2024

The Underhanded by Adam Sikes Blog Tour Book Review


by Adam Sikes

April 8 - May 3, 2024 Virtual Book Tour


Europe’s last line of defense against neofascism—a history professor?

Professor William Dresden has found solitude in the south of France to grapple with his troubled past—a neglected upbringing, failed romances, the recent demolition of his life’s work in academia, and even witnessing genocide, among other secrets. But he soon learns that he has much larger problems when an adrift MI6 officer, Adeline Parker, calls and insists on a meeting, revealing shocking information about his family. Then a bomb explodes.

William and Adeline narrowly escape the attempt on their lives and find themselves battling a group of neofascists and extreme nationalists who are inciting violent divisions across Europe. They are pulled into a shadowy war against a cabal called the Strasbourg Executive and pushed to the brink by family betrayals, corrupt institutions, and the Executive’s subversive plots against the fabric of Western society.

To survive, William must make tough decisions and act in ways he could’ve never previously imagined—but even that might not be enough.

Perfect for fans of Dan Brown and Jack Carr


"The latest by Adam Sikes, The Underhanded, is a ripped-from-the-headlines thriller that left me awed and at the edge of my seat. It’s a suspenseful mix of historical intrigue and present-day repercussions. It reminded me of the spy craft and nerve-rattling storytelling of Ken Follett and John le CarrĂ©. A must-read for all thriller fans . . . don’t miss it!"
~ James Rollins, New York Times best-selling author

"I couldn't put down this ripped-from-the-headlines novel from a writer who gets all the details right--in The Underhanded, Adam Sikes joins the ranks of the best names in espionage and political thrillers. As his intelligent and complex hero grapples with his past and a threat posed by a secret neo-fascist cabal, you will be rooting for him all the way to the last page."
~ Deborah Crombie, New York Times best-selling author

"Fast-paced and engaging, The Underhanded grabs you from page one and doesn’t let go! Great storytelling that weaves together rogue spies, ancient secrets, and clever tradecraft—Adam Sikes is destined for great things!"
~ Ward Larsen, USA Today best-selling author

My Review:

 This is a scary novel, not because of dangers characters face but because of the underlying deception we might be taking in right now. The plot is familiar with a small group of elite aiming to rule the world. It's their technique that is unique. They do not control actions themselves, they shape ideas to incite others to do the action for them. Rather than using any force themselves, they manipulate political attitudes down to the local level. Influential news reports are sent to media outlets reporting fake events created using AI generated photos. They prey on hate, fear and nostalgia.

This novel is a well written international thriller. Sikes also explores the characteristics of most people, such as not being willing to read opposing viewpoints because it makes them feel uncomfortable and no one likes feeling uncomfortable. This makes them vulnerable to directed influence and manipulation, exactly what we see in this novel.

I highly recommend this insightful novel. It is eye opening fiction that may represent possible nefarious powers operating in the shadows today.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

Book Details:

Genre: International Thriller, International Spy Thriller, Conspiracy Thriller
Published by: Oceanview Publishing
Publication Date: April 2, 2024
Number of Pages: 320
ISBN: 9781608096008 (ISBN10: 1608096009)
Series:A William Dresden Novel, 1
Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | BookShop.org | Goodreads | Oceanview Publishing

Read an excerpt:

Chapter 1

Provence, France

The unexpected vibration of my phone startled me, and I immediately regretted bringing it out here. I should have left it tucked in my jacket draped over the chair or dropped it carelessly on the kitchen counter. As it was, only a few people had this particular number, and I wasn’t expecting a call from any of them. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to hear from Phil or Gwen or Elliot or Alison—all good people whom I would call friends—but not at this moment.

I’d been enjoying my evening of quiet reflection, lost in my thoughts, mulling over what had happened and pondering what I was going to do next. I needed to do something; I couldn’t hide away forever, even if the idea was mildly appealing. I needed to get on with my life and my work, and just a few moments ago before this distraction, some acceptable ideas had started to percolate.

The phone vibrated again, rattling on the table next to me. And the caller ID showed Restricted, which made it even more bothersome, particularly now and especially here.

The south of France—with its beautiful beaches, superb wine, decadent women, and unbridled past—was where I went to escape or relax. It was a little of both this go around. Amidst the centuries-old villages, I could read, eat, flirt with socializing, and recharge. I was content here, and after a few days or weeks, I would be fortified to thrust myself into the breach and face the big bad world.

I watched the phone vibrate once more—three times now—and debated whether to let it go to voicemail. I preferred that option. It was the better option. I didn’t want to talk to anyone. Although I had my friends and colleagues and acquaintances and could attempt a front of affable charm now and again, in my truest form I was quiet, preferring the conversations in my head to those with actual human beings.

I was a historian and I preferred books to . . . well . . . just about everything. Books didn’t need anything, just to be read and understood. They embodied a conversation with the author that was codified with ink on paper, there to be surveyed and contemplated and always available. People, on the other hand, tended to be complicated and unpredictable, some exhaustingly so.

But there it went again. My phone. Four rings now.

Voicemail, I thought. If the call was important, the person would leave a message or ring back, right?

But . . .

The phone vibrated once more, the noise jarring as it clattered on the patio table, demanding attention like the obnoxious party guest who spoke too loudly for the room and who no one could avoid. I think everyone has encountered those individuals at one moment or another.

And again—it vibrated.


I threw back the last of my wine and snatched up the phone. “Hello?”

“Hello. Am I speaking with Professor William Dresden of Princeton University?” asked a woman’s voice I didn’t recognize. She had a British accent and a confident tone, like one accustomed to chucking authority around.

“May I ask who’s calling?” I replied.

“My name is Adeline, and I have something urgent to chat with the professor about.”

“Okay,” I replied, remaining polite but noting that she hadn’t offered a last name.

“Are you Professor Dresden?” she asked again.

“I am.”

“Good. Glad I reached you.”

“What can I do for you?”

“I’ll get right to the point. Neither of us like having our time wasted,” the woman began. “My organization needs your assistance. We’re aware that for the past few years you’ve been researching the lives of some lesser-known men from the nineteenth century. You’ve argued that they were driving forces during Europe’s imperial era, and you recently gave a talk in Washington, D.C., about them. You caused quite a bit of controversy.”

I didn’t respond but she was right. My latest research had indeed caused a pompous cabal to descend from the Ivory Tower who were intent on ripping up my life’s work. By focusing on the people that surrounded the famous personalities of the past—rather than the statesmen and generals themselves—I’d shown that the aides and deputies of history were often as influential as the principals. They worked behind the scenes, pushing here and whispering there, orchestrating events according to their own designs and those of their masters. Their obscurity was their power, and these lesser-known individuals had intrigued me for the past twenty years or so.

Sadly, in recent months, more than a few scholars—people I would call my peers—had attacked my conclusions, picking apart my research methods and analysis and even my misplaced commas. Some went so far as to call me second-rate, which I will admit hurt.

It wasn’t all that surprising, I suppose. For those who’d devoted themselves to being the renowned authority on the likes of Napoleon or Roosevelt, my analysis had called into question their life’s work. One historian from George Washington University even accused me of fabricating my research, although nothing could be further from the truth. That comment truly shocked me, something I’d not encountered before and never in all my years of academia heard leveled in front of an audience.

To say it had been an uncomfortable time would have put it too gently.

Thus, I wondered what side of the argument this woman was on and what she wanted. The prospect of thrashing out some minor point of no real consequence didn’t entice me. And in my current state, if provoked, I’d likely pop off and say something I’d regret. Being kind was one of life’s most important qualities, my dear mother had always said, and I agreed with her. But after a drink or two I could become a little edgy, which might be good or bad, depending on your perspective.

“From my own work,” the woman continued, “and in light of what you claim to have uncovered about these men, I have some documents I think you should see.”

“Is that so? May I ask what they’re about?”

“They pertain to a small group of men of the same era and caliber that you lectured on. Their actions connected.”

“Could you be more specific, please?” I asked, now thinking the woman may not have called to put me on the rack. She had another angle, though it was still unclear. Maybe she was nuts. “You said your name was Adeline, and you represent who?”

“I’d rather not say anything more on the phone. All I can tell you is that the papers have been secreted away for a long time. The information they contain, coupled with events in recent years, suggests we’re facing a revived threat to both Europe and America.”

I sat up. “What? What are you talking about?”

“This may sound bizarre, but you must believe me. What I’m referring to is highly sensitive.”

“I don’t understand. What information?”

“I shouldn’t say any more right now. I need you to trust me.”

“Trust you?”

“We shouldn’t discuss anything else. It’s too dangerous. We must meet in person.”

“Too dangerous? Who are you and how did you get this number?”

I raised out of my chair and scanned the backyard of the villa. It was sunset and the shadows were dancing underneath the Aleppo Pines that dotted the hills. I felt the hair on the back of my neck stand up and, for a reason I could not explain, I wondered if I was being watched.

“Professor Dresden, I’ve no doubt you’re aware that Europe is facing numerous concerning challenges. An immigration crisis, climate impact, a resurgence of ethno-nationalists movements, Russia hammering on the eastern door . . . We need to meet tomorrow morning. Everything will become clear once we speak.”

I didn’t know how to respond. The woman wasn’t making sense. It was as if she’d drenched me with a mass of my own personal strife threaded with societal chaos and nonsense, intending to frighten or motivate me, I couldn’t tell. All I could muster was, “Thank you for the call, Miss . . . Adeline. But I’m going to hang up now. Have a good—”

“Professor, wait. There’s more. I wanted to tell you this in person, but,” she paused. “I have information about the death of your father. It was no accident.”

I slowly sat back down, her words reverberating in my ears, my chest suddenly going hollow. My father had died over twenty years ago in a car crash outside Paris. Images of a crumpled car and emergency workers scrambling about flashed through my mind. “What are you talking about? What do you know about my father?”

“Meet me tomorrow morning at eight at Le Trastevere in Villefranche-sur Mer. It’s on the water. Do you know it?”

“Yes,” I said without thinking. It was a restaurant in a small coastal town east of Nice.

“Good. See you then.”

The line went dead, but I kept the phone to my ear and stared across the countryside at the setting sun. I lost track of time, unable to form a coherent thought. The woman—Adeline—everything she’d said was at once a blur but jostled with vivid points of intense clarity . . . painful memories.

I interlaced my fingers on top of my head and pressed my palms against my temples, trying to stop the whirls of my thoughts.

Then, like one emerging from a storm, I grasped what just happened—what she’d done.

Son of a bitch.

I’d just been cold-pitched—approached without circumstance or context, and done in a manner so as to demand subsequent contact. It was how professionals orchestrated meetings when there was no logical reason for an introduction. Except this woman had done it using fear and pain, knowing enough about me to zero in on issues no normal person would have any idea about unless I’d shared it with them.

As everything began to crystallize, I then realized it was the combination of what the woman had said that was most unsettling.

I was a European historian and, by definition, my work—my life—focused on the past, not the present. Yet she’d brought up my lecture and said something about how it was connected to Europe’s current struggles . . . good Lord.

What could she possibly have to show me? What connected my work with the problems of today?

I had no idea.

As for my father—what did she mean his death was no accident? What else could it have been?

It had been nearly two decades since I’d put the man in the ground, and it had taken another year to close the man’s affairs and move on. My father—Ambassador Karl Dresden—had been an asshole, and I had no desire to reminisce.

A clap of thunder off in the distance brought me back. I glanced at my watch and saw it was getting late.

Leaning forward, I looked at the half-empty bottle of wine on the table that I’d been working on since dinner. It was a good vintage from a local winemaker, a Rhone blend, full-bodied and earthy, but I debated switching to scotch. I needed something stronger and no longer cared if someone was lurking about. If they were going to do something, they would have already done it.

Taking one last look at the call log on my phone, I snatched up the wine bottle and my empty glass and walked back into the villa. The stone walls were cracked and weathered, and the neglected hedges had overgrown what little there was of a patio.

The place hadn’t always been like this—dilapidated and forgotten. I’d spent several summers here as a child doing what young boys do, and I and my dear Olivia had come twice a year ever since we first met. She possessed a heart-stopping smile when she gazed through the backdoor across the fields. But that was a long time ago.

I made my way across the terracotta floor of the sitting room to the sideboard and opened the bottle of Balvenie. I filled a tumbler with a treble, downed half of it, swirled my glass, and finished the rest.

Shouldn’t discuss anything else over the phone. What the hell does that mean?

I poured myself a second glass—just a double this time—ran my fingers through my hair, and dropped down on the leather sofa. I leaned back, sinking into the cushion, and squeezed the bridge of my nose. When I opened my eyes, I beheld the painting above the stone fireplace. It was a landscape by Albert Bierstadt, an original, and one of the artist’s lesser-known pieces depicting the Swiss Alps, painted in 1856. It had been in my family for years.

The interplay between light and darkness was masterful. The snowcapped mountains were brilliantly lit, and the gentle slope of a hill was lush with grass and evergreens. But there were crevices and depths that were nearly black. I had always considered those places the unknown, hiding something sinister, like a troll or an evil wizard. A child’s imagination.

I took another drink of my scotch and tossed my phone on the coffee table. I closed my eyes and tried to block out the memories that Adeline had resurrected.


Excerpt from THE UNDERHANDED by Adam Sikes. Copyright 2024 by Adam Sikes. Reproduced with permission from Adam Sikes. All rights reserved.


Author Bio:

Adam Sikes is a novelist, U.S. Marine Corps veteran and Silver Star recipient, and former CIA paramilitary officer who has lived and served around the world, with combat tours in the Balkans, Iraq, and elsewhere in the Middle East. He has also operated in Central Asia, East Africa, and Europe. He is the author of Landslide, and in addition to writing fiction, Adam co-authored Open Skies: My Life as Afghanistan’s First Female Pilot. The Underhanded is his latest novel. Adam holds an M.A. in Global, International, and Comparative History from Georgetown University and resides in Southern California.

Catch Up With Adam Sikes:
BookBub - @sikesar
Instagram - @Adam_R_Sikes
Threads - @Adam_R_Sikes
Twitter/X - @Adam_R_Sikes


Tour Participants:

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Get More Great Reads at Partners In Crime Tours

I received a complimentary egalley of this book through Partners in Crime Book Tours. My comments are an independent and honest review. The rest of the copy of this post was provided by Partners in Crime Book Tours.

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)