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SoulServe

Robert S. Wilson. Robert S. Wilson, $2.99 e-book (95p) ASIN B00N16R44K

Murders that mix technology with ghosts bring Antivii agent Ray Garret into a world of secret experiments that could save his dying wife in this short, well-structured murder mystery. Though the book is a bit sparse on details (there’s no stated year or location, and Antivii’s role is never fully defined), Ray’s a very human character, good at his job and devoted to his wife, Rhonda—so much that he’s willing to risk his career in order to save her life. The links between the murders and Rhonda’s salvation grow as the race against time quickens, building to a heart-wrenching conclusion that hits the reader a few pages before it slams into Ray. There are issues with how Wilson (the Empire of Blood series) handles female characters—Rhonda is merely a plot point, and helpful scientist Dr. Rainns is a classic sexpot—but otherwise this thriller doesn’t disappoint. (BookLife)

Reviewed on 01/09/2015 | Details & Permalink

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The Maghreb Conspiracy: The Third Spy Story in Croft’s Mideast Trilogy

Roger Croft. CreateSpace, $11.90 ISBN 978-1-5008-2332-0

Set in 2005, Croft’s third spy novel featuring MI6 operative and former journalist Michael Vaux (after 2013’s Operation Saladin) tapers off after an intriguing start. A wet-behind-the-ears agent, Sebastian Micklethwait, lands an extremely sensitive assignment. Micklethwait is to travel with facilitator Mokhtar Tawil to Morocco, where Tawil will help him connect with a member of al-Qaeda’s executive committee who’s offered to provide valuable intelligence on the group’s plans. The mission, dubbed Operation Apostate, goes awry almost immediately, as Tawil is murdered on the first leg of their trip and Micklethwait himself is taken prisoner. It falls to Vaux, who’s been tapped to oversee Operation Apostate, to try to rescue the agent and salvage whatever can be salvaged. Vaux is a familiar genre staple, a maverick who gets results, but this time out, Croft doesn’t give him enough depth to be truly memorable. (BookLife)

Reviewed on 01/09/2015 | Details & Permalink

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The Organ Takers: A Novel of Surgical Suspense

Richard Van Anderson. White Light, $11.99 trade paper (306p) ISBN 978-0-9907597-1-3

Robin Cook fans will relish this taut and powerful medical thriller set in Manhattan, the first in a trilogy. Dr. David McBride’s career is in ruins after he delayed reporting that a superior was taking bribes to move patients in need of transplanted organs up the waiting list. Instead of using his superior surgical skills to save lives, David is relegated to working on rats in a research lab. Fortune seems to smile upon him when he’s offered a chance to redeem himself with a probationary period in another residency program. But before he can start that new chapter, David’s corralled by a shady figure who calls himself Mr. White and displays a disturbingly detailed knowledge of every aspect of David’s life. Unless David agrees to perform illegal kidney harvesting and transplants, White will arrange for him to be charged with drug theft. Van Anderson makes good use of his own medical training in the service of a superior page-turner. (BookLife)

Reviewed on 01/09/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Seven Days

Sterling Nixon. S&J Publisher, $9.99 trade paper (360p) ISBN 978-0-9903708-0-2

In Nixon’s novel, social ideologies clash in a complex political thriller of political corruption and patriotism. Ex-CIA and Border Patrol agent Rick Savage is a self-exiled outcast whose discovery of department treachery destroyed both his marriage and patriotic faith. He discovers the “Divided House,” a domestic civil war between the western and eastern United States (the West has stopped paying taxes and is threatening secession), orchestrated by narcissist genius Marcus McKeet. It becomes clear that the apocalyptic emergency predicted by fringe survivalists is real. Nixon’s novel, which throws in a mysterious and deadly infection for good measure, questions our government’s ability (and intention) to protect us. Conspiracy fans will crawl out of the bunker for this dystopian/conspiracy hybrid, which is an emotionally devastating and confrontational entertainment. (BookLife)

Reviewed on 01/09/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Alex Haley’s Roots: An Author’s Odyssey

Adam Henig. CreateSpace, $6.99 trade paper (118p) ISBN 978-1-5007-5149-4

Henig tracks the life of Alex Haley after the publication of his path breaking book, Roots, offering a sad reminder of the potential downsides to achieving one’s dreams. He begins by offering some social context on the TV premiere of the mini-series based on Haley’s book, Roots: The Saga of an American Family, which detailed his family’s history from Gambia, through slavery, to the present. The amazing response to the story made Haley an overnight sensation. Everywhere he went, he was mobbed. “In Philadelphia, a dozen guards were needed to protect the author.” The saga opened the eyes of millions around the world to the nature of the African-American experience and spawned a craze for genealogy. But Haley’s stardom was marred by an ill-conceived lawsuit against his publisher, Doubleday, as well as scholarly questions about his research methods and accusations of plagiarism. Adding to these problems, Henig discusses Haley’s womanizing, which cost him three marriages, and his inability to handle money responsibly. Henig recounts the highs and lows of Haley’s life with sympathy, addressing the critiques honestly. (BookLife)

Reviewed on 01/09/2015 | Details & Permalink

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The Orphan of Torundi

J.L. McCreedy. Penelope Pipp Publishing (penelopepipp.com), $4.99 e-book (294p) ISBN 978-0-9882369-3-6

When an orphaned girl raised by missionaries on the fictional Pacific island of Torundi is sent to an American boarding school in Malaysia, mystery and intrigue pop up around every corner. Questions arise, including why 16-year-old Sam Clemens was abruptly sent away after years living on Torundi, why the enigmatic Gabe Jones is always antagonizing her, and what all of this has to do with Sam’s unknown parentage. Even as Sam delves into these mysteries, she is dealing with being around other teens and living in the big city for the first time. Unfortunately, this story wavers uncomfortably between thriller and comedy, and it doesn’t find a balance between fish-out-of-water hijinks and danger-laced adventure. Sam bounces from one problem to the next, and little time is spent developing the characters or setting—her new friends lack depth, her burgeoning romance life fails to convince, and certain plot points are predictable. Nevertheless, McCreedy (Liberty Frye and the Witches of Hessen) lays the groundwork for a potentially promising series, which may yet pay off down the road. Ages 12–up. (BookLife)

Reviewed on 01/09/2015 | Details & Permalink

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From the Sky: Arrival

David McGowan, $2.99 e-book (251p) ASIN B00NLDK7YC

This stale trilogy opener unimaginatively depicts a destructive alien invasion that resembles many such events in fiction and film. The Californian town of Camberway is besieged by suspicious flying saucers, and when more strange things start happening, Camberway's residents must use all of their wits to survive. The aliens' searchlights and vaporizing beams are straight out of The Twilight Zone and War of the Worlds. Most of the characters are one-dimensional, and there are too many individual stories to keep track of. McGowan is clearly inspired by the idea of human responses to unimaginable disaster, but the conventional plot never goes anywhere new. (BookLife)

Reviewed on 01/05/2015 | Details & Permalink

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