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The Last Agent
by Robert Dugoni
Oddly, I have watched many more spy movies than I have read spy books. Robert Dugoni’s The Last Agent is a great pathway for me into the world of spy novels. It is part of a series in that Charles Jenkins is the main character in the series that bears his name. Although the characters are important to the story, appreciating the book is not predicated on having read others in the series. This book is a fine example of a story that is so engaging, so complex, that the plot stands on its own merits.
Charlie Jenkins is a retired spy, forced out by his own organization. He tries to enjoy rural life with his much younger wife and two young children. When opportunity knocks at his door, however, Charlie answers with minimal hesitation. This assignment is especially appealing because it gives him the chance to help Paulina who sacrificed herself so that he could return to his family. An extremely strong double agent mentally, she is questioned relentlessly with physical and psychological torture by Russians who want to know the identity of certain assets.
Charlie is supposed to engineer her escape from an impenetrable prison and see her to the U.S. and freedom. She is in an extremely compromised physical condition and is heavily guarded. Getting her out would take a lot of skill and planning along with a dose of good luck. The Russians want her information badly and have the advantage of Putin’s extensive “Big Brother” network of cameras. Fortunately, Charlie has support from his handlers with assets all over Europe and a huge bank account that gives him leverage with a former Russian agent.
There are so many intricate steps in achieving the various goals along the way. Not everything goes smoothly so a lot of improvisation is required. Hideous weather both hinders and helps. Disguises and unusual means of transportation are called into play. I guarantee this book is a page turner that will keep you reading way past “lights out.”
I would like to extend my thanks to NetGalley and to Thomas & Mercer for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: General Fiction (Adult), Mystery & Thriller (Spy)
Notes: #2 in The Charles Jenkins Series, but I read it as a standalone with no problems understanding or enjoying it.
Publication: September 22, 2020—Thomas & Mercer
His anger spiked; he couldn’t believe the agency that had allowed him to be tried for espionage now had the audacity to seek his help.
You Americans are too impatient. It is your consumerism. You want everything now. This minute. You must learn Russian patience. We must take the first step before we take the second.”
Viktor Federov knew well that Big Brother had returned to Russia, though the method of spying—once Russians reporting on fellow Russians—now employed computer technology cameras, and cell phones.
Two Reasons to Run
by Colleen Coble
I have to admit that in the middle of a complicated transition (i.e. I moved), I had forgotten that One Little Lie was Colleen Coble’s first book in The Pelican Harbor Series, and I had read it. Going into the second book of the series, Two Reasons to Run, was indeed like reading it as a standalone. I had a few confused moments along the way, but the plot is compelling and Coble is a good storyteller. I was able and motivated to push through my mental rough spots.
Jane Hardy, Pelican Harbor’s police chief, has reunited with her teenage son Will. Will’s father Reid had escaped from a cult with him many years ago, but Jane had been told her son was dead. The plot involves Jane’s and Reid’s efforts to overcome the past and re-establish relationships with various family members. Meanwhile, Jane is asked by a grieving mother to investigate her son’s death on an oil rig. Can Jane avert a terrorist plot without losing her life or risking the safety of those she loves?
The pace is quick, the characters are believable, and the oil rig setting in the Gulf is interesting. The cult background and a hired killer make the intrigue even more complicated. The questions center around who is behind the plot, what motivates the terrorist, and how he tries to achieve his goal. The answers rest in Jane’s strength and determination and Reid’s love for Will and Jane and his faith in God.
I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
Category: Mystery & Thriller, Christian
Notes: #2 in The Pelican Harbor Series, but can be read as a standalone.
Publication: September 8, 2020—Thomas Nelson
No excuses, no rationalizations. His naked sorrow over his behavior touched the sore places of her heart with a soothing balm.
White pickups were as plentiful as shrimp here…
“I know, I know. I’m struggling with it too. But God doesn’t want us to live in fear, honey. At some point you have to have some faith in God’s provision.”
The Suicide House
by Charlie Donlea
Thrillers are not generally my cup of tea, but Charlie Donlea’s books are good examples of the fine line between thrillers and classic mysteries. His The Suicide House is a solid mystery with multiple murders, many possibilities of felons, quirky investigators, and threads crossing each other at odd angles. The Suicide House also has a psychological edge, journal writings that will send chills up your spine, and spooky settings, thus moving it along the continuum with a thriller bent.
Upper grade students at the renowned Westmont Preparatory School all know something about the school’s secretive, selective society whose initiates undergo dangerous rites of admission involving The Man in the Mirror. Dangerous turns gruesomely deadly in 2019, followed by several student suicides, but no one is talking. Eventually Rory, an autistic forensic deconstructionist, is invited to conduct an unofficial investigation at the same time her partner Lane, a forensic psychologist, is persuaded to consult with a podcaster who is producing shows that garner a wide following. Neither Mack, the show’s producer, nor anyone else who has investigated, is totally convinced that the accused teacher, Charles Gorman, committed the crimes. There is no physical evidence that he did, and there also is blood from a fourth unidentified person at the crime scene.
My favorite character is Rory who channels her various quirks into finding solutions to cold cases by identifying with those involved and by making connections garnered from the evidence she finds. She is highly intelligent, but her special abilities and what the author calls her “afflictions” make life difficult for her. She finds relief in the details of her work and through reconstructing antique dolls. Her main social contact is Lane who knows her well and goes the extra mile to adjust circumstances to meet her needs.
I recommend this book as an exciting and complex mystery and a bit of a thriller. It goes back and forth by chapter in time frame, setting and perspective. Not particularly good for bedtime reading, The Suicide House will keep you puzzling, guessing, and turning those pages up to an exciting revelation. Four more chapters will bring closure and leave you with a satisfied smile.
I would like to extend my thanks to Netgalley and to Kensington Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Mystery and Thriller
Publication: July 28, 2020—Kensington Books
Every day brought a funneling twister of emotions. It was how her brain waves fired. If she wasn’t worrying, she was obsessing. And if she was’t obsessing, she was planning. Her mind never really settled down. There was always a low hum of activity going on in her head.
As they made their way through the forest, their steps were fueled by a steady dose of trepidation and curiosity. They had only the seniors to deal with, the summer to get through, and initiation to conquer.
The files represented the case that had woken him up at three in the morning the previous summer. He hadn’t gotten a good night’s sleep since.
I have enjoyed all the cozy mysteries in Cudney’s Braxton Campus Mystery Series and want to share information about the great prices available for a limited time for different books in the series. To see his blog post about this sale and his works, follow this link. (There is also a thriller on sale, but I have not read it.)
The Jerusalem Assassin
by Joel C. Rosenberg
Not every book is a good match for every reader. I think that may have been the case for me and Joel C. Rosenberg’s The Jerusalem Assassin which is a Christian political thriller. Most of this book is the setup for a very convoluted assassination plot involving groups of high level leaders and secret operatives from seven countries as well as a terrorist group.
It becomes apparent to world leaders that the president of the Palestinian Authority “doesn’t want to go down in history as the man who made peace. He wants to be remembered as the man who refused to surrender to the ‘criminal Zionists’…” In response, the leaders of the United States, Saudi Arabia, and Israel decide to meet on the Temple Mount and announce a peace proposal. Unfortunately, that opens the door for a targeted attack on the leaders of those countries.
Without the included Cast of Characters, I would have been lost. Instead, I was able to follow plot development by continual back and forth referencing of unfamiliar names, slowing the reading down considerably. I can’t say I actually enjoyed the book until the final fourth when the action played out.
The main character is Marcus Ryker who is ostensibly working for the Diplomatic Security Service, but is actually a special operative for the Central Intelligence Agency. Highly trained, efficient, and trusted, he uses his many connections to obtain critical information. He is a caring Christian, but his job puts him and those he loves in danger. I learned a lot about the daily physical and weapon training for agents and also the complicated logistics involved in setting up security for a U.S. president for a special event abroad.
Although the scenario of world conflict and years of attempts at a Middle East peace settlement are real, the details of the book’s plot and the people involved are fictional providing the author with much flexibility in creating his story. The results are deadly for many of the characters.
I would like to extend my thanks to NetGalley and to Tyndale House Publishers for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: General Fiction (Adult), Mystery and Thriller
Notes: 1. #3 in the Marcus Ryker Series, but this book did not appear to rely on very much background from other books.
2. This author has written many books, both fiction and nonfiction, that focus on the Middle East.
Publication: March 17, 2020—Tyndale House Publishers
They were coming, and he knew they were coming, and he knew why—they were coming to kill him and to kill the president and to kill anyone else who got in their way. They were coming to settle scores.
…he and his son-in-law “must have undergone a Vulcan mind meld at some point, so unified are their views on theology and politics and even where in the Old City to buy the best baklava.”
Mahdi, the long-awaited Promised One…when that savior came, he would finally judge the Jews, the Christians, the atheists, the agnostics, and the pagans. Indeed, the Mahdi would judge every infidel and do so with fire and fury such as the world had never seen nor imagined.
One Little Lie
by Colleen Coble
I didn’t know quite what to expect from Colleen Coble’s new series Pelican Harbor, so I dove into the first book wondering how the author would combine some mystery, a little thriller, and a bit of clean romance while incorporating a Christian viewpoint. Not that it couldn’t be done or hasn’t been done, but it is not my typical cozy mystery read. As it turns out, One Little Lie is a page turner. Its plot and characters have depth, and the threads occur on many levels. The reader has to wonder if they are parallel or will possibly collide making this a very intricate mystery indeed.
Jane Hardy is chosen to be the new Pelican Harbor Chief of Police after her father resigns. What was behind his leaving the force? Why is Reid Dixon, who makes documentaries, having conversations with Jane’s father? Reid has been granted approval by the mayor to follow Jane around. Besides the pressure of extra scrutiny on her first days as Police Chief, why does Reid’s presence make her uncomfortable? Several murders and kidnappings later, events ramp up to a high danger level for Jane and her K-9 officer and companion Parker. Who can Jane trust?
The prologue of this book is set fifteen years earlier during an attack on a cult. That event and the years prior cast a shadow and create devastating secrets for the characters in this book. As for the Christian viewpoint, some of the characters in the book trust in God and have a relationship with Him. Those characters have challenges in which they rely on God; other characters come to see that believing in God could impact their lives and choices in a positive way as they struggle to get past the lies others have told them. This book provides closure for many threads, but I feel there is more story to be told in Pelican Harbor, Alabama. I’m looking forward to the publication of Strands of Truth, the next book in the series, in September 2020.
I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
Category: Mystery, Romance, Christian
Notes: 1. #1 in the Pelican Harbor Series
2. Discussion questions are included at the end of the book.
Publication: March 3, 2020—Thomas Nelson
Jane had no idea how much he was going to mess with her life. It had been a long time coming. Retribution was an exciting word, one he’d rolled around and around in his head for years. It would be a freight train coming for the Hardys at full speed. None of them would understand his purpose until it was too late.
But if Olivia could face the horror of her future, surely Jane could face the past that couldn’t reach out and hurt her any longer.
She teetered on high heels and wore tight-fitting jeans and a top that showed off her curves. False advertising. A cute figure was never a substitute for a beautiful spirit.
Little Girls Sleeping: an absolutely gripping crime thriller
by Jennifer Chase
My general philosophy is “I don’t read thrillers, especially psychological thrillers.” They just hold too much impact for me. I read an online review, however, that led me to believe that perhaps I should make an exception for Little Girls Sleeping, the first in a new series by Jennifer Chase. As I started reading this thriller, I wondered if I had made a mistake as the story involves the disappearance of young girls and gives some insight into the twisted mind of the perpetrator. Soon, however, the tale expands into the story of returning veteran Katie Scott and Cisco, her K9 military companion.
A former police officer, Katie is taking some time to decide her next career move when she comes across a cold case file on her uncle’s desk. For Katie, the case is personal because it brings up memories of a childhood friend at camp who was murdered. The rest of the book tracks Katie’s pursuit of the truth and is part thriller, part mystery, and part police procedural. If you are drawn to K9 stories you will certainly enjoy this one as Cisco plays a major role.
Katie, who suffers from PTSD, is a strong and determined young woman. Her character is likable, and readers will look forward to watching her develop in future books in this series. She has support from a childhood friend, Chad, and from her uncle, Sheriff Scott. The plot line is engaging. At about 60% through the book, I had figured out who the evil “Toymaker” is—but I was wrong, and at about 80%, the true murderer is revealed. At that point, however, the action just gets more intense. I’m glad I read this page turner, and I am happy to report no nightmares as a result.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Bookouture for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Mystery and Thriller
Notes: 1. If you are interested in the review that inspired my choosing this book, visit blogger/reviewer Shalini.
2. #1 in the Detective Katie Scott Series
Publication: May 31, 2019—Bookouture
The detective didn’t scare her. She had encountered some real tyrants in the army, from sergeants to training officers, so Templeton was like a yapping little dog to her—fierce, but only annoying at best.
Anxiety was a stealthy and unpredictable enemy.
She rubbed her hands together and let the happy memories flood her mind—at least for a short period. Sometimes it was difficult for her to let the positive things into her life. Her experiences had skewed her perception so that everything seemed on the verge of catastrophe. It was as if she had blocked out anything good in her life.
Some Choose Darkness
by Charlie Donlea
I am very conflicted as I finish Charlie Donlea’s Some Choose Darkness. The reason? It turned out to be more of a thriller than I had anticipated. This reader’s taste leans towards Agatha Christie and cozy mysteries. I cut my teeth on Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys. I avoid thrillers because they stir me up too much. I chose to read Some Choose Darkness because I had read a book by Donlea previously and enjoyed it. Somehow I did not expect an intense work of fiction about a serial killer. The problem is that although in some ways I didn’t enjoy reading it, I felt compelled to finish the tale, to make all of the pieces fit together. Donlea has masterfully crafted a thriller with so many layers and connections that rapid page turning is a necessity. Add to the plot not one, but two characters with autism and obsessive/compulsive disorder and this retired teacher is all over it.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Kensington Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Mystery and Thriller
Publication: May 28, 2019—Kensington Books
With Lane’s reputation as a forensic psychologist and criminal profiler for the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit, and Rory’s credentials as a reconstructionist who pieced together the very findings the algorithm looked for, they made the perfect team. Police departments listened to their conclusions, and many had started using Lane’s software to track homicides on their own.
Like a tuning fork that has been tapped, the vibration from the mystery surrounding the woman was at once barely audible but yet impossible to ignore.
Rory’s greatest gift was her ability to piece together cold cases, to pore over the facts and discover things other investigators missed until a picture of the crime—and sometimes the perpetrator—became clear in her mind. Her understanding of a killer’s thinking and motive came from examining the carnage he left behind.
Thunder of Heaven
by Ted Dekker
In reading Ted Dekker’s Thunder of Heaven, I deviated somewhat from the types of books I usually read. My thirteen year old granddaughter recommended this Christian thriller, and I wanted to gain insight into her reading preferences. Having said that, I should clarify that Thunder of Heaven is not written for the younger reader; it is an adult novel without the inclusion of sex or vulgar language. I do not normally read thrillers; but, although suspenseful, this is not the kind of psychological thriller which will keep me up for nights to come.
Shannon and Tanya have grown up in the jungles of Venezuela where Shannon’s parents are coffee farmers and Tanya’s parents are missionaries. Their blooming romance and happy lives are interrupted by horrific events in this action packed story that focuses on good versus evil, the sacrifices of love, and God’s bigger plan.
I had some confusion with the identity of the characters, but it eventually surfaces that the confusion is intentional and is resolved in the end. The plot is strong and intricate. The Venezuela jungle setting is interesting, well depicted, and perfect for the tale Dekker weaves.
Thunder of Heaven deals with some of the bigger spiritual questions. Can God use evil for good? Can a person become possessed by satanic powers? Can a Christian have a vision from God? What is the ultimate sacrifice? The exploration of these topics is not simplistic and is woven throughout the book coming to a head in the resolution of the conflict.
I am new to Dekker’s work, but Dekker is not new to suspense aficionados. A best-selling author, he has written over thirty books which have been translated into multiple languages. Two of his works have been made into films. His chosen genres for his storytelling are thriller and suspense, fantasy and speculative, and historical fiction. I’m looking forward to reading more novels by this author.
Category: Thriller, Christian Fiction
Notes: Thunder of Heaven is book 3 of the Heaven Trilogy, but as the publisher says, “Each is a stand alone story that in no way depends on the other.”
Publication: August 28, 2005—Thomas Nelson
“If your life made too much sense to you, you might forget about God altogether. It is man’s most prolific sin—to be full of himself. But your tormenting has left you soft, like a sponge for his words. It’s your greatest blessing.”
“We see only the terrible tragedy; he sees more. He sees the ultimate glory.”
Abdullah was no one to play with. His heart was the color of his eyes, Yuri thought. Black.
Father…dear God, I’m lost down here. Forgive me. I’m lost and lonely and confused. I hate this man and I hate that I hate him. And I don’t even know if that’s possible! What are you doing? What is your purpose here?
by Margaret Mizushima
The action starts in Burning Ridge in the first chapter where readers also get filled in on the series background and meet some of the characters. From a rough and tumble bar fight, this novel moves on to a bright and sunny horseback ride for Cole, the local veterinarian, and his daughters in the Colorado mountains. The family ride turns dark and the mystery begins.
Margaret Mizushima has written a K-9 police procedural. No cozy mystery, this work of fiction looks at an evil-plotting mind plagued by excesses of greed. Main characters Deputy Mattie Cobb and her K-9 partner Robo find themselves in danger as she tries to solve a horrific crime that turns personal. Many are involved in finding the murderer, and there are a variety of suspects. Get ready for a surprise ending. In the process of the investigation, Mattie discovers parts of her past that she never knew as well as secrets buried deep in her psyche. She learns to accept help and to expand her ideas of what constitutes a family.
Burning Ridge is a page turner as are the other books in this fast moving series. It contains lots of information about K-9 officers shared in a non-didactic fashion.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Crooked Lane Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Mystery, Thriller
Notes: 1. This is #4 in the Timber Creek K-9 Mystery Series. It is good as a standalone, but be aware that each book reveals a little more about Mattie’s past as she comes to grips with it.
2. This contains more upsetting violence than I usually read, but it is within the acceptable boundary for me. Everyone is different so be aware that it contains some torture.
Publication: September 11, 2018—Crooked Lane Books
An occasional clump of young aspen shot up toward the cloudless blue sky. Spring leaves, bright green and as yet unblemished by summer dryness, quivered at the ends of branches, their spade-like shape seeming to catch even the slightest of breezes. “Look at the aspen leaves, girls. They’re dancing.”
Robo lay on his cushion, his eyes pinned on her every move. She’d learned from experience that her emotions went straight to her dog.
“Life can be full of regrets if you focus on them. We make decisions for whatever reasons we have in the moment, not because we have some superhuman vision of what will happen in the future.”