Archive for category Thriller

Review: THE VALLEY OF SHADOWS by Mark Terry

The Valley of Shadows

Mark Terry


ISBN: 978-1-933515-94-6


Price: $25.95

291 pages

Reviewed by Dorothy Francis

The Valley of Shadows is Mark Terry’s most recent thriller featuring Derek Stillwater, troubleshooter for the Department of Homeland Security. A daring raid on a Pakistan Al-Qaeda cell has recovered two laptop computers which, once decrypted and translated, show Al-Qaeda is planning a series of simultaneous attacks on 5 major U.S. cities: Washington, D.C., New York City, Dallas, Los Angeles, and Chicago. The attacks would involve bombs, biological, chemical, perhaps dirty bombs and nuclear devices small enough to fit in a suitcase. All bombs are ‘dirty’ bombs in that they kill and destroy their targets. But a truly dirty bomb kills, destroys, and emits nuclear fumes that continue to wreak havoc.

Derek Stillwater is assigned to the Port of Los Angeles, leading a multi-jurisdictional Special Terrorism Activity Response Team called START. The Port of Los Angeles is the busiest port in the U.S. and the eighth busiest port in the world. It has over 7500 acres and forty-three miles of waterfront. Derek’s team’s object is to prevent the Al-Qaeda attack by locating the weapon or weapons the terrorists will use in their attack as well as the terrorists themselves. The deadline is our presidential election day.

Derek Stillwater has forty-eight hours to act.

Few attacks could cause as much chaos in America as a terrorist attack on election day. When the START team begins to close in on the Al Qaeda attackers, Derek realizes the terrorists have a deeper motive than causing chaos. He believes that one of the presidential candidates is the true target for the attack.

Which one?

You’ll have to read this thriller to find out.

Titles in the Derek Stillwater thriller series include The Devil’s Pitchfork, The Serpent’s Kill, The Fallen, and The Valley of Shadows.

I found that at first the foreign sounding character names and places were difficult to deal with, but I the suspense of the story soon pulled me in. I finished it all too quickly and I think you will, too.

THE VALLEY OF SHAOWS is available wherever fine books are sold on June 7, 2011

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy that I can keep for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was not expected to return this item after my review.

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Review: THE BURNING LAKE by Brent Ghelfi

The Burning Lake

Brent Ghelfi

Published by Poisoned Pen Press

ISBN 978-1-59058-927-4

Reviewed by Ron Smyth

The Burning Lake is the fourth thriller about Colonel Alexei Volkovoy and his extraordinarily complicated life. A veteran of the Chechnyan wars, where he lost a leg and gained a lover, Volk is a one of a kind composite of criminal, spy and hero, who can be ruthless and brutal or passionately moral at the same time. He is a damaged man, both spiritually and physically, and his struggles are such that they easily lift these books above the sort of potboiler to which international thrillers are so often reduced.

This time Volk is called upon to investigate the murder of a journalist, Katarina Mironova, known around the world as Kato, found murdered on the banks of Russia’s Techa river, near the radioactive village of Metlino. Was she simply one more victim of Putin’s war on the free press? Or was it some specific truth that she was about to reveal. Something about the nuclear industry and its disposal of the ever increasing amounts of dangerous waste that has the potential to either be reprocessed for nuclear fuel or turned into the sort of dirty bomb that could poison whole cities? Volk has a more personal involvement that adds another layer to his relationships with both his lover, Valya, and The General, for whom he sometimes must perform missions. As those secret ties to Kato begin to emerge we learn more about what makes Volk the man he has become.

By definition, thrillers must thrill and if there is a weakness in this book it lies in the lack of a worthy villain. While there are plenty of nasty people involved, some seem barely competent and none rise to the level of a Moriarty or Goldfinger.

While there is plenty of action this book far more than just another thriller. What we learn about Mayak, where a massive explosion in 1958, concealed from the world even as it irradiated hundreds of square miles of territory reveals some of the dangers the whole world still must face. This is extremely important to us all as we watch the nuclear catastrophe that is currently unfolding in Japan and decide what to do with our own nuclear waste. The US had plans to bury it at Yucca Mountain in Nevada although that plan has been scrapped. But the waste has to go somewhere.

The secret history of the atomic age is as relevant to our society today as ever. We struggle to deal with a past that shapes our future just as Volk’s past shapes his. That makes this book interesting in ways that ordinary spy stories seldom match.

Well worth reading.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy that I can keep for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was not expected to return this item after my review.

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Review: THE ORCHARD by D. L. Hayden


D L Hayden



ISBN: 978-0-9829364-0-5


309 pages


If you enjoy identifying with strong story heroines, you’ll like spunky Helen Faulkner in “The Orchard.” Cheers to the author for doing a great job of bringing Helen to life on the printed page. And another cheer for his ability to create and build suspense throughout the tale. I read this book carefully once, then scanned it a second time. Even during the second reading I found myself gasping in surprise as the plot twists increased in a way that upped the suspense to a new level.

The plot revolves around Helen, her top level job at Beeson International, and her growing dislike of her boss, Howard Jenkins. When she’s seriously injured in a fall down a stairwell, she thinks it was an accident. Later, as she recovers and her mind clears, she concludes that someone pushed her. Who? She doesn’t know. Instead of informing the police and perhaps being unable to prove her feelings, she tries to find the culprit herself. Her search for this person shows her stamina, her many abilities, and her determination. She succeeds in discovering that her boss and his underlings plan to rob the company and that they are setting her up as the patsy. I’m not going to spoil your read by revealing the book’s ending. Enjoy the author’s surprise. It will keep you thinking long after you’ve closed the book.

What kind of an orchard did Helen love so much? Apple? Peach? Pear? Readers need specific terms and sensory details in order to see the orchard scenes. The author supplied those details and showed his ability to bring a scene to life when he mentioned her boyfriend, Matt Walker’s, gift of long stemmed yellow roses rather than merely writing a bouquet of flowers. Also, specifying bonsai and sycamore instead of merely writing trees brought those passages into sharp focus.

At times the cast of 15 characters threatened to overwhelm me. Instead of a prologue, this reader would have appreciated a front page listing of all characters along with each character’s function in the story. Sometimes readers become confused if a character has both a first and last name that the author uses interchangeably.

The viewpoint shifted in places where the author needed it to shift. For the most part, he handled this well, but now and then I had to reread a passage to be sure who was in charge. Breaks other than chapter breaks helped the reader keep track of viewpoint changes.

The formatting of the pages made the reading easy on the eyes—fairly large print with a blank space between paragraphs. Enjoy your time with Helen Faulkner as she takes you to her orchard.


I have a material connection because I received a review copy that I can keep for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was not expected to return this item after my review.

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Review: LIVE WIRE by Harlan Coben

Live Wire

Harlan Coben

Penguin Group



371 pages

Reviewed by Kerri Worley

In this entertaining thriller, Myron Bolitar is in place as the very likeable sports agent who always has his client’s best interest at heart. Even though he is a successful and talented agent, he doesn’t take himself too seriously and quickly wins your heart as the good guy. He’s no James Bond even though he has all kinds of tricks up his sleeve and always lands on his feet when things grow rough. HIs job as sports agent is a very limited title considering all that he does for his clients. Specifically, he started out trying to patch up a marriage after a client was accused of infidelity but quickly was wrapped up in a budding mystery with many twists and turns.

This is a page turner that I had a hard time putting down. The reader learns of the twists and turns only when Myron does so every page is full of clues and tidbits of information that point to who is trying to break up the marriage. The limited characters gave Coben a chance to really delve into their specific characteristics and allow you to feel you know them personally. He is portrayed as a tough kind of guy but you find that he loves his family and friends and would do anything to protect them; no matter how dangerous. Myron’s fiance’ is working out of the country which gives the story the touch of romance that it needs. He is truly in love with her and finds himself missing her and craving to hear her voice.

Myron’s constitution is greatly tested when the wife of his estranged brother shows up in an odd place and is obviously in danger. Again, he proves that family, no matter what the circumstances, is very important to him and deserves his attention. He goes through great paces to track her down and to hopefully be reunited with his brother meet his nephew. Of course it all is entertwined so the sister in law leads him to the answers for which he has been searching.

I highly recommend this book and hope to catch some of the ones that I have missed from this talented author.


I have a material connection because I received a review copy that I can keep for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was not expected to return this item after my review.

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Review: THE LAST LIE by Stephen White

The Last Lie

By Stephen White

ISBN 978-0-525-95177-3

Published by Penguin Group, New York

Reviewed by Marlene Pyle

Here’s my idea of a great day: the sun is shining, and I’m out by the pool with a cold drink and a great book. The pool and the cold drink are not hard to come by; the great book sometimes is. I read a lot of books and most of them are pretty decent, but finding one that’s great…that’s a fairly rare treat. The Last Lie by Stephen White falls into the great category– Terrific plot, intriguing characters and a perfect pace. I see no way to improve this one.

Set in Colorado, the main character is Alan Gregory, a therapist with two dogs, two kids and marital problems of his own. His wife, Lauren, is an attorney in the DA’s office, and their relationship is not as smooth as it seems. After the deaths of their neighbors and close friends, Alan and Lauren have adopted their orphaned son, Jonah. Jonah’s been through a lot and it seems his troubles aren’t over yet.

Jonah’s former home has been sold. The new neighbors are a well-known attorney and his elegant wife. They are planning a major renovation of the home, but first they throw a large housewarming party. Afterwards there are allegations of a rape that took place in the house that night. Alan doesn’t want to get involved, but when information about the rape comes to him through a patient, he is drawn deeply into the ugly situation.

The only complaint I have about this novel is that I stayed out at the pool so long I got a little toasted, but that’s not White’s fault. Then again, maybe it is. If the story hadn’t been so engrossing…well, just make sure you’re in a cool, comfortable place when you start reading!

Copyright Ⓒ2010 Marlene Pyle

DISCLOSURE: I have a material connection because I received a review copy that I can keep for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was not expected to return this item after my review.

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Review: HEMLOCK LAKE by Carolyn J. Rose

Hemlock Lake

Carolyn J. Rose

Five Star Publishing

ISBN-13: 978-1-59414-884-2


311 pages

Reviewed by Amanda Capper

Carolyn J. Rose is fast becoming one of my favourite authors. I enjoyed Hemlock Lake every bit as much as The Big Grabowski, though the two mysteries have little in common other than compelling characters and believable action. Hemlock Lake is as dark as The Big Grabowski is light.

Sergeant Dan Stone is a proud and stubborn man. With a past he can’t face and a future he can’t imagine, all he has left is a job in Hemlock Lake, a town in the Catskill Mountains that forces him to do both; a town that knows about his wife’s accident, his brother’s suicide and his grief-stricken father. Now Hemlock Lake promises more pain as Dan pits himself against childhood friends in an attempt to find an arsonist who is threatening the future of the community.

Red herrings, dead bodies and romance show up to confuse our hero. Secrets are revealed and Dan feels progressively less in control, until a break in the case and what appears to be the final show down. But as Dan tries to tie up loose ends, he gets a phone call that proves all is not as it seems… and the deadly chase is on again.

It was past two a.m. when I finally put Hemlock Lake down and though I had to get up for work in four hours, I felt the book warranted the lack of sleep.

Copyright @ 2010 Amanda Capper


I have a material connection because I received a review copy that I can keep for consideration in preparing to write this content.  I was not expected to return this item after my review.

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Review: THE PANIC ZONE by Rick Mofina

THE PANIC ZONE by Rick Mofina
Mira Books, July, 2010
Tall Mass-Market Paperback
ISBN: 978-0-7783-2794-3
$9.99/$11.99 CAN.

Reviewed by Larry W. Chavis

When Emma Lane’s family picnic ends in a horrendous car crash, she is told her husband and infant son both died in the wreckage. Then why does she remember someone taking little Tyler from his car seat just before the wreck explodes into flames?

Jack Gannon is sent from New York to Rio De Janeiro to help cover a bombing that claimed the lives of two of his colleagues, a bombing blamed on the drug wars. Why, then, does it seem to have international ties?

A cruise-ship passenger dies a gruesome death from an unknown cause, causing certain top scientists to fear that some old research may have come back to haunt them.

And what ties these disparate events together? That is the question that Rick Mofina answers in his latest thriller, THE PANIC ZONE, a book takes the standard world-in-danger device of the genre to a higher level, at times leaving the reader breathless at its implications.

Beginning with the apparently random and unconnected events above, Mofina carefully builds the framework of a premise that, while a bit outlandish, becomes disturbingly plausible in his hands. The problems around which the plot revolves are real and have been discussed in the scientific and political communities for years, and recent history provides sufficient examples of human and biological experimentation, eugenics and euthanasia, that even the premise of this book is not beyond the pale of human evil. If the book has a flaw, it may be in making things slightly too easy for the master criminal, and too easy for the reporter and mother who uncover the plot. Still, there are plenty of chills and thrills to make THE PANIC ZONE a good summer read. Look for it.

Copyright ©2010 Larry W. Chavis

I have a material connection because I received a review copy that I can keep for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was not expected to return this item after my review.

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Review: BEYOND GUILTY by Richard Brawer

Beyond Guilty

Richard Brawer

Published by L & L Dreamspell

Trade Paperback: 302  pp.

ISBN 978-1-60318-196-9


Reviewed by Von Pittman

As crime novel villains go, “big pharma” is especially timely.  It is an entity that many readers will welcome a chance to hate.  Beyond Guilty almost certainly will not be the last thriller to outline elaborate and nefarious plots to revolutionize medicine and turn obscene profits.   Sloan Wexler, the CEO of Merlin-Akre Pharmaceuticals Company, takes his company up to the edge of a medicinal revolution, “a new way of doing chemistry that molecule-sized rotors, robot arms, shafts, pumps, tanks, syringes, differential gears, bearings and computers would be assembled into a bacterium-sized robot that eventually would be injected into the bloodstream to repair damaged cells or digest harmful pathogens.”   Wexler has decided to create an absolute, permanent cure for HIV-AIDS.

Wexler is in a hurry and can find no substitute for human experimentation.  He cannot wait for the outcome of legitimate medical and pharmaceutical research trials that would be necessary to perfect a nanomedical cure for AIDS.  Willing to go to any extremes, he builds a compound on an otherwise uninhabited Bahamian island to serve as a lab.  He hires mercenary former military personnel to guard it.  Under the command of the highly intelligent and resourceful Colonel Springer, they keep the curious out and the research subjects in.   It is, of course, not easy to find humans willing to be infected with HIV, then to die within weeks, even in the name of science.  Thus Wexler has found a clever and prolific source of subjects, the Texas penal system’s death row.

In Texas, convicted murderers taken to the death house at Huntsville for lethal injections.  The fortunate few of them selected to be Wexler’s subjects wake to find themselves in a pleasant cottage, on a beautiful beach, with wonderful food that they haven’t tasted in decades.  As they begin to process this incredible change in fortune, they note that except for a fenced-in area of water for swimming, the island is surrounded by sharks.  And they have no privacy; the guards maintain close electronic surveillance.  Most subjects easily resign themselves to a few more pleasurable weeks of life.  However, two new arrivals quickly disrupt the system.

Eileen Robinson is a guilt-wracked common-law wife of a recently deceased drug dealer.  She is framed and sent to death row for the murder of a politically connected burglar who had tried to steal her old man’s stash.  In the Bahamian research compound, she allies herself—romantically and practically—with  Mark Chetney, a homicidal serial psychopath, but one who only kills parents who have abused their children.  Eileen and Mark make common cause to get off the island, settle scores with their captors, ruin big pharma tycoon Sloan Wexler, and restore Eileen’s reputation, for the sake of her children.

The set-up is long, and occasionally slow, as Eileen’s back story and the means by which Texas’s executioner—Dr. Metcalfe—spare, then snatch, death row prisoners are explained.  However, once Eileen and Mark initiate their escape plan, and and Colonel Springer begins his pursuit, the action becomes fast-paced and non-stop.

The author’s inclusion of the concept of nanomedicine in the plot is articulate and intriguing.  Some of his characters, especially Wexler, Colonel Springer, and Dr. Metcalfe, Huntsville’s executioner, are nicely done.   The book could have profited from better editing.  For example, a book featuring pharmaceutical research in a fictional company should not misspell the names of two actual drug companies (Pfizer and Merck).

Readers who like the thrillers and mysteries with a medical theme should find Beyond Guilty interesting and entertaining, as well as faster-paced than most books in this sub-genre.

Copyright @ 2009 Von Pittman


I have a material connection because I received a review copy that I can keep in consideratioin in preparing to write this content.  I was not expected to return this item after my review.

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Review: IRON RIVER by T. Jefferson Parker

Dutton, January 5, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-525-95149-0
Hardcover, 384 pages
$26.95 U.S./ $33.50, Canada

Reviewed by Larry W. Chavis

In L. A. Outlaws Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputy Charlie Hood met Suzanne Jones, a.k.a. Allison Murrieta, a lineal descendant of the legendary California outlaw. Meeting her, suspecting her, seeing her violent end changed Hood in ways he is still discovering. Not the least of these is the relationship and responsibility - and fear - he feels for for Bradley, Allison’s oldest son, a responsibility that drives him in  The Renegades to try to steer Bradley away from the road his mother followed to her grave.

Now, in Iron River, Charlie Hood is on special assignment with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, ATFE to the press, but still ATF to its operatives. The river of the title is the torrential stream of guns headed across the southern California and Arizona borders to Mexico, part of the fuel, along with drugs and money, that powers the vicious cartel wars, and makes the border country a no-man’s-land of blood and death. Charlie Hood has been assigned to a special task force to do the impossible - stem the flow of guns and jail the illegal purveyors. The first operation of which he is part goes bad, and the son of the man who leads the most vicious Zeta band on the border is killed, bringing the paramilitary killers across the border to kidnap and torture the ATFE agent responsible. What follows is intrigue, danger, and violence, as Hood and the members of Operation Blowdown seek to rescue their comrade.

In the course of all this, Bradley Jones pops up, still trying to straddle the gulf between lawlessness and law enforcement, leaving Charlie Hood in deeper doubt of being able to save him.

Of the three books, this may be the best in terms of character development and insight, and in story impact. The horrendous events happening daily in Mexico, tied to the insatiable American appetite for drugs and money, are shown starkly, with no attempt to soften them. Charlie begins to understand that he, like most, has never understood the forces involved, and perhaps even glimpses larger Forces behind the events, in the enigmatic Mike Finnegan, a man who should have died in an accident but didn’t, and who knows more than he should about events he hasn’t seen - leaving Charlie Hood deeply puzzled.

While, perhaps, not the best book to be released in the new year, this one is worth your while.

Copyright ©2009 Larry W. Chavis

I have a material connection because I received a review copy that I can keep for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was not expected to return this item after my review.

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