A D.B. Cooper Thriller

Cooper's LootCooper’s Loot by Rick E. George
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book Synopsis: “It’s 1972, but the Neanderthal editors of reporter Bev Wikowski’s newspaper don’t have a clue. They’ve assigned her to the Women’s Pages and put her desk near the door so she can greet newsroom visitors. It’s a wonder they haven’t asked her to make coffee. Then Bev meets a buddy of the infamous hijacker DB Cooper. Cooper has sent him to gather a posse to find and dig up the loot he buried in the Cascade Mountains. Would Bev like to join the group? Suddenly, Bev’s looking at the possibility of a front-page story on every newspaper in the nation—and maybe a Pulitzer Prize. A young widow whose husband died in Vietnam, she leaves her four-year-old daughter with her parents, hides her work identity, and joins the group. But it doesn’t take long before an even bigger challenge demands every ounce of her strength: Survival.”

This was a fantastically paced thriller. An interesting idea of what may have happened during and after a famous unsolved mystery in the late 20th century. The author’s use of setting and weather made the story ring true and dangerous. The character development could have been better executed, but overall a captivating read.

I know a little bit about D.B. Cooper’s crime. It happened before I was born, so I was decades removed from the crime before I heard about it. I am surprised I haven’t come across more fictional ideas about what may have happened. This crime and perpetrator feel fraught with options.

I thoroughly enjoyed the 1970s setting in the Pacific Northwest. While my time in the Pacific Northwest was in Seattle, in the 2000s, the attitudes and landscape felt real on every page. I certainly enjoy reading books set before the Internet took over everything. No cell phones, I will enjoy this story. The forests and the mountains of Washington were carefully crafted. I could see the scene. The end of the Vietnam War was also prevalent in the story; it added to the desperation of the characters and a feel for the time.

Unfortunately, I found most of the characters were not well-fleshed out. I had a hard time keeping track of who was who. I read several times Will was the best of the lot, but honestly I couldn’t remember anything distinct about the man. The women were fighting back and forth and other than Bev, I had no idea which woman was which. It took a bit away from the story for me, but Bev gave me enough of an anchor to continue enjoying the ride.

Finally, the author presented a wonderful use of weather. The unpredictability of the snow and the wind added to the overall sense of foreboding. I am pretty sure my toes froze while reading several scenes in this book.

There was a lot of strong points in this novel, and I will look to reading additional titles by this author.

Thank you to BookSirens and the publisher for a free review copy. This review has been posted voluntarily, and the opinion is my own.

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A New Cyberthriller

FirewallFirewall by Eugenia Lovett West
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book Synopsis: “Former opera singer Emma Streat has survived the murder of her husband and the destruction of her beautiful old house. Now a full-time single mother, she struggles to move forward and make a home for her two sons. Because of her detection skills, she has become a go-to person for help–so, when her rich, feisty, socialite godmother is blackmailed, she turns immediately to Emma. Soon, Emma founds herself thrust into the dark world of cybercrime. Mounting challenges take her to exclusive European settings where she mixes with top people in the financial and art collecting worlds and has intriguing and emotion-packed experiences with men–including her dynamic ex-lover, Lord Andrew Rodale. When she is targeted by a cybercrime network using cutting-edge technology, it takes all of Emma’s resilience and wits to survive and bring the wily, ruthless criminal she’s hunting to justice. Action-packed and full of twists and turns, this third book of the Emma Streat Mystery series does not disappoint!”

I did not realize this book was part of a series when I started it. Early in the book, I was worried I may have missed too much information to jump in where I was, but quickly found the author gave plenty of hints and information about what had gone on before to be able to read this one on its own.

Firewall started out reading like a mystery, I certainly suspected several characters as being the original blackmailer, but as the story unraveled, I found it built more like a thriller, each part taking the reader a bit deeper into a larger conspiracy. The novel felt a little more like three linked novellas than one novel, but the links were there and there was some tying up of loose ends at the end of the book.

I liked our heroine, Emma. She was smart and humble. I have not read many books about former opera singers and thought that was an interesting background, I wish there could have been a little more about it in this book. It is nice to see a heroine who has a little bit of life experience, knows who she is and is still able to grow as a person.

The settings were the star of the book for me. France, Italy, Ireland, Boston were all beautifully portrayed. The bits of history and local color were utilized well in this story.

This story was full of twists and turns with bad guys turning up at the most inopportune times. I said earlier this was like three novellas, there were certainly distinct parts to this novel, but maybe it’s more like uncovering an iceberg. We discover the blackmailer quickly, but then we have to figure out who is blackmailing the blackmailer and so on through a litany of crimes. Reading this book was similar to a roller coaster; up and down for awhile, then a couple of straightaways lulling you into safety before plunging you down again at a dizzying speed.

I enjoyed this novel and am hoping to get my hands on the two earlier books in this series. This book will be available November 5.

Thank you to NetGalley, the publisher, and the author for my free copy in exchange for an honest review of this book.

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Medical Thriller

CODE BLUE: The Other End of the StethoscopeCODE BLUE: The Other End of the Stethoscope by Debra Blaine
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book Synopsis: “CODE BLUE follows Dr. Tobi Lister, a physician trapped in a wildly dysfunctional system and entangled in deadly intrigue. It is becoming obvious that something strange is happening at her clinic, but she has enough to deal with just trying to practice medicine, now that patients have become “customers” and the medical field is dictated by entrepreneurs whose sole objective is profit. And now suddenly, after nearly two decades, the man who broke her heart has resurfaced, but Tobi is determined to ignore his desperate attempts to communicate. She has no idea he is trying to warn her about a vicious Russian hacking scheme that is making billions of dollars murdering patients. But if he can’t get through to her soon, Tobi will be next.

This medical thriller emphasizes the loss of humanity felt by both physicians and patients now that medicine has become a consumer-driven industry.”

Dr. Blaine has penned a scary medical thriller that captures our current time and attitudes toward the medical profession.

I found Code Blue to be engaging and accessible. The story moved along at a comfortable pace with challenges popping up around every corner. The opportunity for medical jargon was eschewed for more everyday language.

Code Blue follows two distinct story lines: an urgent care doctor and an investigation into a cybercriminal ring. The two pieces merge logically and make a cohesive, engaging thriller.

Dr. Tobi’s scenes can get a little preachy, but it left no doubt that that patients need to be patients and not customers. The scenes in the clinic, between the doctor and her patients, were entertaining and often enlightening. In an era where we believe we are the most important person in any situation and we know everything, doctors have a lot with which to compete.

The cybercrime circle had several POVs which removed much of the mystery from this story, but increased the suspense as we learn more about their motives, operations, and lack of values.

Running between these two stories, is an old flame who draws the two sides together for the explosive climax. While this character was a little too good to be true, he was entertaining and I am ok with a perfect character from time to time in my fiction.

There was a lot going on in this book, besides the medical profession, we touched on some ecological conservation, corruption in Washington, the danger of on-line medical records, and the Jewish religion. Much of this added to characterization for me and I could imagine having a glass of wine and an interesting conversation with Tobi.

I had some minor quibbles with the book: characters named Tobi and Tony can be confusing, the situation with her brother bothered me a bit, and sometimes I was annoyed by the repetitive preaching. But overall, I enjoyed the time I spent with this novel and would read more by this author.

I would recommend this book to people who like thrillers and are interested in America’s current health care situation.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for a free e-copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

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An Earlier Book by Jeff Bond

The Winner MakerThe Winner Maker by Jeff Bond
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

From the Publisher: “Bob Fiske — the 74-year-old dinosaur who’s taught Honors English and coached varsity football for five decades — is missing.

To his Winners, class favorites Fiske designated over the years for their potential to “Live Big,” it’s heartbreaking. Fiske did more than inspire with soaring oratory; he supported their ambitions into adulthood. Four of his brightest former stars reunite to find him, putting high-octane careers on hold, slipping police barricades, racing into the wilds of Northern Michigan for clues about the fate of their legendary mentor.

Others don’t see a legend. They see an elitist whose time has passed.

When a current student — female — disappears just hours into the Winners’ search amid rumors of inappropriate meetings, the Great Man’s reputation is a shambles.

Feints, betrayal, explosive secrets from their own pasts: as facts emerge, each Winner must decide how far they’ll go for Fiske. Can the truth redeem him? Or has this cult of hyper-achievement spawned a thing so vile none of their lives will survive intact?”

I devoured this book in a single afternoon.

This book reminded me of the movie The Breakfast Club, but 10 years later. We have the jock, the Homecoming Queen, the nerd, and the mute one all brought together to search for one man who is missing and may be a criminal.

This group was not linked by detention, but maybe the opposite: an elite group of students tapped to be Winners by the teacher/coach. When he goes missing, they all come back to help find him and hopefully clear his name of wrongdoing.

I enjoyed the story. I did not think it fit neatly into one specific genre box, but chose to read it as it sounded mysterious. It could also be a contemporary story, a thriller, or a comment on society. The characters and their relationships played a strong role in the story, thus allowing it to cross many of the genre lines. There was friendship, marriage and parenting issues, unrequited love, loyalty, elitism, high school drama and much more included in these pages.

Unlike Bond’s other work (Blackquest 40), which I read earlier this year, this one was a slower story. There was time to get to know a little more about the characters and to ferret out what happened in the past and why it was germane to the mystery at hand.

I would not hesitate to recommend this book to others and will watch for future titles by this author.

Thank you to the author for a free copy in exchange for my honest thoughts about this book.

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A Legal Thriller

Law and AddictionLaw and Addiction by Mike Papantonio
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

From the publisher: “One week before Jake Rutledge is scheduled to graduate from law school, he receives the devastating news of the death of his fraternal twin, Blake. What makes this death even more terrible for Jake is that his brother died of a drug overdose. Until hearing of his death, Jake had no idea his brother was even using drugs.

When Jake returns home to Oakley, West Virginia, he takes a hard look at the circumstances of his brother’s death. In the five years Jake has been away for his schooling, his hometown has drastically changed. Because of the opioid epidemic, and the blight it has brought, many now call Oakley Zombieland. Jake can see how his town’s demise parallels his brother’s.

Undeterred, the newly minted lawyer takes on the entrenched powers by filing two lawsuits. Jake quickly learns what happens when you upset a hornet’s nest. The young attorney might be wet behind the ears, but is sure there is no lawyer that could help him more than Nick Deke Deketomis and his law firm of Bergman/Deketomis. Deke is a legendary lawyer. When he was Jake’s age he was making his name fighting Big Tobacco. Against all odds, Jake gets Nick and his firm to sign on to his case before it’s too late.”

This is a timely legal thriller. Our country is facing a crisis in the our communities as we deal every day with new opiod overdoses. The cost is more than we should be willing to accept.

I had some complaints about this book, but after closing it, I realized my complaints were perhaps petty, but also a good strategy to sharing the more important message of this story.

We are given a perfect hero. He has had some challenges in his life, but he is a crusader and he’s smart and kind and able to get things done. He interacts with other perfect people who cherish their wives, work upstream, but still have plenty of money to fly around on private jets. Some of this was hard to swallow in the moment. However, what this group of really good people set out to accomplish and the battle they have on their hands may require really good people.

What Papantonio does very well in this novel is to shine a light and humanize the opiod crisis. We go into West Virginia and see all of the different mechanisms at work. As readers, we get to see the desolation and heartache the influx of drugs have caused. We get a taste of addicts, people in recovery, drug mules, and people who take advantage of the situation financially.

There was a lot of sitting around and discussing next steps as our dream team of lawyers plotted their next moves, but this never felt unneccessary or repetitive. During the course of the story there was also love, friendship, humor, grittiness, twists and turns.

The author is clearly well-versed in this type of law and in this growing crisis. This is a book people should read to help understand why the opiod crisis is not going away and why each of us should care.

I want to thank NetGalley, the publisher and the author for allowing me to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

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A Debut Thriller!

Come and Get MeCome and Get Me by August Norman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

From the publisher: “An intrepid journalist confronts a small town’s dark secrets in Come and Get Me, a breakneck thriller for fans of Tess Gerritsen and Julia Keller.

At Indiana University, someone’s been studying the female student body: their dating customs, nocturnal activities―and how long they can survive in captivity.

When award-winning journalist Caitlin Bergman is invited back to campus to receive an honorary degree, she finds an opportunity for a well-earned victory lap―and a chance to face the trauma that almost destroyed her as an undergrad. But her lap becomes an all-out race when a student begs her to probe an unsolved campus disappearance: Angela Chapman went out one Friday night and never came back.

To find the missing woman, Caitlin must join forces with a local police detective and the department that botched her own case so long ago. But while Caitlin follows the clues behind Angela’s disappearance, someone else is following her…”

This one took me far too long to read!

I started reading it and put it down after our main character announces to a room full of students that she was a rape victim. I was not sure if I wanted to continue down the path of a male author depicting any part of that. However, I am sorry it took me so long to get back to it. I ended up liking it quite a bit.

Caitlin was a fierce, strong character who I wanted to see win with minimal damage, preferably. Every other character was suspect. They were real and each took their turn to be on the hot seat. While I did not guess who the guilty party was, there were clues and bread crumbs throughout the book.

The pacing was perfect; I did not find a dull moment. The glimpses into the perpetrator’s world were well-spaced and while dark, a great addition to the hunt.

It appears this is the author’s first novel and that he is planning a series with Caitlin. I will watch for future titles by this author.

A big thanks to netgalley and the publisher for my advanced copy!

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Blackquest 40 by Jeff Bond

Blackquest 40Blackquest 40 by Jeff Bond
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book Description:

Her company’s top engineer at just twenty-seven, Deb has blocked off her day for the one project she truly cares about: the launch of Carebnb, an app that finds spare beds for the homeless. When she’s told all employees must drop everything for some busywork exercise called Blackquest 40, it’s an easy no.

Trouble is, her bosses aren’t really asking.

Blackquest 40 is the mother of all corporate trainings. A near-impossible project to be completed in forty straight hours. No phones. No internet. Sleeping on cots. Nobody in, nobody out. Deb finds the whole setup creepy and authoritarian. When a Carebnb issue necessitates her leaving the office, she heads for the door. What’s the worst that could happen?

Armed commandos, HVAC-duct chases, a catastrophic master plan that gets darker by the hour Blackquest 40 is a fresh take on the Die Hard formula, layering smart-drones and a modern heroine onto the classic action tale.

Stand down, Bruce. Deb’s got this.

I enjoyed this fast-paced thriller.

I took a little while to get into this one and had a hard time suspending my disbelief about many things, but once I let go, I found myself engrossed in the nightmarish scene Deb has found herself.

I thought the pacing was excellent, the tech talk unpretentious and interesting, and the story, while a bit far-fetched at time, engrossing.

Throughout this novel, there were many twists and turns and Bond managed to keep the turns tight. I never felt bogged down in details or the slow middle that can often happen in thrillers. Each chapter offered a new danger.

There was a bit of tech talk. I am not a tech-y person in general, but I found the jargon interesting. And, of course, I liked Deb’s side projects and found the things she could make fascinating.

The storyline felt fresh. Sure there may be a little 80s Cold War vibe happening, but for the most part, I didn’t feel like I had read this story before.

It appears this is Mr. Bond’s second novel; I will be seeking out his earlier work, as well as watching for new titles.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for my free ebook ARC.

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