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Defectors

Posted by on Apr 23, 2018 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Defectors

Mysterious Book Report No. 331

by John Dwaine McKenna

In light of all the nic-nac paddy-whacking that’s been going on for weeks . . . or is it months . . . or, OMG . . . years now about Russia and who did what to whom, and the when, where, why and how until we’re all sick to death of hearing about it, the MBR thought a change of perspective was in order.  So, we’re going back some six decades to the year 1960.  It was the height of the Cold War, when American foreign policy was engrossed in preventing the spread of communism, and the US and USSR battled each other at every opportunity short of actual combat.  It was when we had the arms race, the space race and spy versus spy as the two colossal governments competed for world domination while all of us little folks waited around for the nuclear bombs to start falling.

Defectors,  (ATRIA BOOKS/Simon & Schuster, $27.00, 290 pages, ISBN 978-1-5011-2139-5) by Edgar Award winning author Joseph Kanon, is the story of two brothers named Weeks.  Frank, the older one, was a rising star in the newly-formed Central Intelligence Agency until he was exposed as a communist spy, defected behind the Iron Curtain in 1949 and disappeared in the Soviet Union.  Now, twelve years later, he’s written his KGB approved memoirs, which he thinks are sure to be a world-wide best-seller, and invited his younger brother Simon, a respected New York publisher, to come to Moscow to edit and review the manuscript.  Simon’s company will then publish the finished book.  Simon, who hasn’t heard from Frank since his defection, goes to the Soviet Union with many misgivings.  He longs to see his older sibling and wants the profits that the book is certain to gather, but worries that it will be full of lies, half-truths and propaganda.  Appearing to condone Frank’s behavior is anathema to Simon.  He’s a loyal citizen of the United States of America and a book like that would reflect badly on the integrity of his publishing company, making it seem to be like an apologist for the Soviet Union.  At first, Frank is charming and social, eager for news of family, friends and the agency he turned his back on . . . whose secrets he stole and delivered to our enemies.  But then, Frank gets duplicitous, an officer of “The Service,” as he refers to the KGB, and tries to enlist Simon in a scheme that leaves him torn between family and country, at odds between the CIA and the KGB . . . and both of them in danger of losing their lives.  Defectors is a thought-provoking, timely, well-researched and enlightening novel that compares well to our modern conflicted world.  It’s utterly fascinating too!

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Blood on the Tracks

Posted by on Apr 16, 2018 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Blood on the Tracks

Mysterious Book Report No. 330

by John Dwaine McKenna

It was a lucky day for all of us when my wife June’s book club decided to read this outstanding first novel, written by a Colorado author and published in 2016.  Smart group those dozen-plus ladies, all college or public librarians, administrators and professional women, the core group of which—including June–has been meeting on the first Tuesday of the month for close to thirty years.  So, when my darling spouse said, “I think you’d really like this novel,” I paid attention.  I’m glad I did, and you will be too, because it’s nothing less than epic.  The best first novel I have ever seen.

Blood on the Tracks, ( Thomas & Mercer, PB, $15.95, 372 pages, ISBN 978-1503936867) by Barbara Nickless, will introduce readers to two of the toughest and most endearing characters in all of modern crime fiction.  Their names are Sydney Rose Parnell, and her K9 companion, a Belgian Malinois war dog named Clyde.  They’re a pair of ex-US marines who saw war service in Iraq, both are suffering from  PTSD—Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome—and they each see the ghosts of comrades who died in the war.  Now, they’re back in Denver where Sydney Rose grew up.  It’s where she works as a railroad police Special Agent for the fictional Denver Pacific Continental Railway.  She’s called in to help investigate by the Denver Major Crimes Unit when a savage, inhuman and cruel murder of a young woman takes place near railway property.  She had been an activist amongst the homeless and transients living alongside the train tracks and the only suspect is a disfigured Iraq war veteran known only as the Burned Man because of his facial scars.  The burned man and the murdered woman were about to marry, but he may be the killer . . . he was found with a bloody knife . . . but can’t remember what happened.  He doesn’t think he killed her, but can’t be sure.  The Denver homicide cops are convinced he did, but as Sydney Rose combs through the homeless camps searching for answers, her doubts mount and grow as she discovers a far-reaching conspiracy going all the way back to Iraq, and involving train-riding gangs of skinheads, white supremacists and militants, all of whom want to shut her down . . .  permanently.  The action and the pathos begins on page one and carries through to the final, pulse-pounding confrontation and battle in this thriller of thrillers.  Barbara Nickless is an author we’ll be a fan of from now on.  And hey, here’s great news!  The second installment of the Sydney Rose Parnell and Clyde saga entitled Dead Stop, is already published and available.  Their third adventure, Ambush, will be out early next year.  Stay tuned, it’s gonna be one helluva train ride!

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Slaughterhouse Blues

Posted by on Apr 9, 2018 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Slaughterhouse Blues

Mysterious Book Report No. 329

by John Dwaine McKenna

Do you ever take a chance on a book, based only on the title, or cover illustration?  It’s a fun way to discover a new author or genre you might otherwise pass up.  Or Not, in which case the non-profit stores and neighborhood churches always need stuff to sell.  But, when it works out as hoped, it’s a delightful experience.  Which is exactly what happened when the MBR was intrigued by the title of a nifty piece of crime fiction that was featured in last months edition of  The Mysterious Newsletter.

Slaughterhouse Blues, (Shotgun Honey/ Down & Out Books, PB, $11.95, 136 pages, ISBN 978-1-946502-40-7) by Nick Kolakowski is a short, but intense piece of hard-boiled crime fiction that features a pair of romantically linked antiheros named Fiona and Bill.  Together, they’re gun-loving masters of bad-assiveness . . . he’s a big-time, big-score, high-living master thief and she’s a dead-shot, merciless, hitter-for-hire.  As the tale begins, Bill and Fiona are holed up down in Cuba, where they’re on the run from the Rockaway Mob, from whom Bill “borrowed” several million dollars in their first adventure, A Brutal Bunch of Heartbroken Saps.  They know that the mob godfathers are going to come for them, but they’re unprepared for a pair of assassins who’re so utterly amoral, they’re almost insane.  From Cuba to Nicaragua to New York City, the chase is on and Bill and Fiona won’t survive unless they can somehow pull off an impressive robbery of an improbable treasure with an unspeakably ugly past.  This little gem of a novel will only take a couple of lunch hours to read, but it’ll keep you entertained a lot longer than that!

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The Bomb Maker

Posted by on Apr 2, 2018 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

The Bomb Maker

Mysterious Book Report No. 328

by John Dwaine McKenna

One way to judge the character of a hero is by assessing the nature of his or her adversary.  The wickeder the villain, the more courageous the protagonist will appear to be, because conflict creates drama, and it is the following sequence of events . . . emotional, turbulent or tragic . . . which keeps readers turning the pages.  We’ve gotta see what comes next because all humans are curious and emotional.  Now, one of Americas most psychologically astute thriller writers has come up with a novel that covers all of the above, and then some.

The Bomb Maker, (Mysterious Press, $26.00, 372 pages, ISBN 978-0-8021-2748-8) by Thomas Perry, has the reader looking over the shoulder of one of the most diabolic, evil, uncaring, solipsistic and murderous characters to come skulking down the pages of a novel since Hannibal Lecter scared the bejezus out of all of us.  He’s known simply as the Bomb Maker and his stated goal is to kill every member of the Los Angeles Police Department Bomb Squad.  When a bomb call is made in the first chapter of the novel, the LAPD responds to the threat, which soon evolves at 27,000 feet per second into a world-class tragedy.  That’s when the deputy chief of police calls upon the retired former leader of the bomb squad to come back to work on an interim basis in order to help rebuild the department.  The heroes name is Dick Stahl.  He’s been running his own security consulting firm and has just returned from a life-threatening mission in Mexico.  His sense of obligation to the members of the bomb squad that he’s tutored and mentored as captain overcomes his reluctance to get involved, and Stahl agrees to step in as the temporary commander.  The frequencies of the calls, and the sophistication of the trigger mechanisms convince him that this is no ordinary malcontent building amateurish, unreliable, simplistic devices.  The bombs are massive, complex and deadly—the work of a brilliant, though demented mind—and they’re coming with increasing persistence because the bomb maker is being pressured by his terrorist backers who want ever bigger bombs as they ramp up to an unknown doomsday scenario.  At the same time, Dick Stahl runs afoul of departmental policies and gets caught in the crosshairs of public opinion, due to the twenty-four hour news cycle in this hair-raising, propulsive and electrifying novel from the pen of America’s best thriller writer.  It’ll keep you reading and thinking about it long after the last page is turned.  Thomas Perry is at the top of his game in The Bomb Maker!

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Light It Up

Posted by on Mar 26, 2018 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Light It Up

Mysterious Book Report No. 327

by John Dwaine McKenna

As a fifty-plus year resident here in Colorado, the question I’m most often asked by out-of-state friends is: How has the legalization of marijuana affected things there?  The short answer . . . stoners love it and are flocking here in large numbers, as are criminals; government is ecstatic over the windfall from tax revenues; cops, school administrators and the armed forces are apoplectic about it.  But, if you’d like to learn more about this controversial subject, while at the same time having an enjoyable, legal experience . . . and keep all of your clothes on . . .

Light It Up, (Putnam, $26.00, 384 pages, ISBN 978-0-399-57563-1) by Nick Petrie, will introduce you to Peter Ash, an ex-marine warrior who raises bad-assery to such a high-level that even Lee Child—who rose to international fame on the back of Jack Reacher—sat up, took notice and wrote a book blurb.

In this, the third Peter Ash novel, (after Burning Bright and The Drifter,) finds him in Denver, “Just for a few days, doing a favor for a friend ,” named Henry Nygaard, a man  he met while repairing hiking trails up in Oregon’s remote Willamette National Forest.  Ash was supposed to hook up with girlfriend Juna Cassidy back in eastern Oregon, but puts the rendezvous on hold because trouble is brewing in Denver.  That’s where Henry’s daughter, Elle runs a company called Heavy Metal Protection, which performs armed escort duties for the cannabis industry.  Because Federal law prohibits the use and sale of pot, weed, ganja, or whatever else it’s called, banks refuse to deal with the entire industry.  They’re federally chartered and insured, so, all transactions with the cannabis crowd take place in cash.  Cash only.  Cash on the barrelhead.  No checks, Visa, Mastercard, Diners Club, American Express, I.O.U’s or promises of any kind.  Cash means cash . . . and cash means trouble.  Elles husband Randy, her operations manager Leonard and three hundred thousand dollars in cash have gone missing.  And by the end of his first day on the job, three of Peter Ash’s friends, including Henry Nygaard, are dead, and Ash himself has killed four armed hijackers.  And that, dear readers, is only the first few chapters in this explosive thriller that features one of the most compelling and deadly characters to come along since Clint played Dirty Harry. If you crave action, adventure and high drama that just never quits, Peter Ash is your go-to guy!

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Ultraluminous

Posted by on Mar 19, 2018 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Ultraluminous

Mysterious Book Report No. 326

by John Dwaine McKenna

This weeks MBR is one of those which are unclassifiable . . . it’s hard-boiled, cutting edge, semi-pornographic, unapologetic, compelling and utterly fascinating . . . but don’t say we didn’t warn ya.

Ultraluminous, (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $25.00, 199 pages, ISBN 978-0-374-27966-0) by Katherine Faw, comes four years after her astonishing and powerful debut, Young God.  If Ms. Faw took the literary world by storm with her first one, her sophomore work turns that world upside down and shakes it by the heels, demanding attention.  Ultraluminous is a first-person story of sex for hire.  It holds nothing back, and, much like the work of Franz Kafka, the first sentence pins the readers attention to the page like a live insect on a white board.  I met a man, when I was a whore in Dubai, who shook my hand and then passed it to his other palm and held it there, is the first sentence of the first paragraph, which holds the key to the character and ultimately, the entire novel.  Told in one paragraph bursts of no-holds-barred insights, flashbacks and a steady recital of her daily activities, the narrator inexorably leads her readers to a shattering, unexpected and horrifying conclusion that we should have seen coming, but didn’t.  Money, sex, power, addiction, justice, free will, cruelty, indolence, indifference, sadism, greed and infidelity are all topics which are touched upon in this short, thought-provoking and gut-wrenching novel.  Raunchy in places, sometimes whimsical, but always utterly riveting, this extraordinary, whip-smart and stripped-to-its-essence novel will leave you thinking about it long after you’ve read the last page.  Her first two works were so mind-altering and provocative, the MBR can hardly wait to see what Katherine Faw comes up with next, because it’s certain to be epic!

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Robicheaux

Posted by on Mar 12, 2018 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Robicheaux

Mysterious Book Report No. 325

by John Dwaine McKenna

Whenever a new book by James Lee Burke is released, I can’t wait to get my hands on it and promptly read it cover-to-cover.  It’s been that way since the early 1990s, when I heard him speak on NPR about a character he’d created; a fictional Cajun detective from New Iberia, Louisiana.  He was unique, this fictional detective, because he was an idealist with the quaint notion that he might speak for the neglected members of society, those poorly served by the American justice system because it can be so easily manipulated by unscrupulous people of wealth.  That altruism, plus an addiction to alcohol and a tendency to resort to violence when confronted by the enablers and perpetrators  of vile, vicious and evil acts against those who are powerless to defend themselves, make him one of the most interesting characters in crime fiction. And it is those very qualities, plus his reflections upon morality, philosophy, death, religion, literature and the essence of evil, which make him the most fascinating character in modern writing.  The detectives name is Dave Robicheaux.  He’s been speaking to all of us through twenty volumes and now, Mr. Burke has graced us, with his thirty-seventh novel overall, and twenty-first in the New Iberia, Louisiana deputy sheriffs series.  It’s eponymously titled Robicheaux (Simon & Schuster, $27.99, 445 pages, ISBN 978-1-5011-7684-3) by James Lee Burke . . . and it’s a masterpiece.  The novel opens with Dave ruminating about his affinity for the departed: “. . . to pause and reflect upon my experiences with the dead and the hold they exert on our lives,” in Mr. Burke’s words, and then we learn that he sees confederate soldiers; ghosts marching in the fog at Spanish Lake; and that his wife Molly has been killed in a traffic accident by a speeder.  He describes his home as “cavernous with silence” and “the world I had known being airbrushed out of a painting.” He’s depressed, lonely and suffering from hallucinations when he gets “back on the dirty-boogie,” losing decades of sobriety in the process.  He’s blackout drunk on the night the man who killed his wife is found beaten to death . . . Dave can’t remember anything . . . but his fingerprints are all over the dead mans truck.  The event leaves Dave under a cloud of suspicion, and fearful that he’s a murderer.  And although there’s a pall over him, he’s not suspended.  Robicheaux still has to do his job, because things are heating up all over the parish.  An old mob boss and wannabe filmmaker from New Orleans shows up, along with a local politician who has national aspirations and a civil war sword belonging to the family of a prominent writer.  He lives a little ways up the teche and owns the story rights to the film the Mafia Don wants to produce.  Then, there’s Dave’s old pal, and human wrecking ball Clete Purcell, daughter Alafair, a new deputy with a suspicious history, a couple of hitters from Miami, a grief-stricken widow and a string of grisly murders taking place that Robicheaux and Sheriff Helen Soileau are racing to solve before the body count reaches awesome proportions in this epic work of southern noir.  Read it for yourself and join James Lee Burke’s legions of devoted fans!

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Illegal Holdings

Posted by on Mar 5, 2018 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Illegal Holdings

Mysterious Book Report No. 324

by John Dwaine McKenna

Serendipity is the ability to make fortunate discoveries by accident . . . which is what happened here at the MBR when our mailbox, (P.O. Box 2406, Colorado Springs, CO 80901) yielded up an unsolicited new publication from a small independent press in Seattle, Washington, which brought a unique new character and a superb writer to our attention.

Illegal Holdings, (Coffeetown Press, PB, $14.95, 228 pages, ISBN 978-1-60381-591-8) by Michael Niemann, features a fraud investigator from the United Nations Office of Internal Oversight Services named Valentin Vermeulen.  In this, the third book of the series, he’s sent to Maputo, Mozambique, (Naw, me either, but if you think of the African continent as a clockface, it’s down in the five o’clock position, by the Indian Ocean) where he’s going to audit a NGO by the name of Global Alternatives—the not-for-profit, Non Governmental Organization that’s been set up and funded by a hedge fund billionaire named Vincent Portallis to revolutionize development aid—to see if they’re spending their UN grant money as promised.  It’s a boring, ho-hum assignment to the far reaches of the world . . . made brighter only by the fact that his globe-trotting lover Tessa, will be there at the same time, reporting on foreign land acquisitions in Africa.  But as soon as he hits town, Vermeulen discovers a five-million dollar discrepancy in the accounts of Global Alternatives local partner Nossa Terra, who claims that the money . . .  supposedly transferred from GA to them . . . was never received.  Vermeulen at first gets excuses—never saw, never got, never before and the like—which sets his alarm bells to ringing at full tilt.  When the chief accountant and defacto second in command at Nossa Terra disappears on the following day, the case for his guilt seems evident to everyone.  But soon after his body washes up on the beach, and there’s no doubt he’s been murdered.  It’s only the first act in a chain of violence and criminality that Vermeulen is powerless to stop, as he digs in and desperately tries to solve an increasingly complex series of crimes and evermore vicious events before he, or Tessa, or both of them are killed.  Valentin Vermeulen is a hero you can believe in, an ordinary, brave and honest man, who’s doing an almost impossible job in the toughest of places.  He’s a character you’ll like, and maybe even love, and definitely want to read more of!

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The Cuban Affair

Posted by on Feb 26, 2018 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

The Cuban Affair

Mysterious Book Report No. 323

by John Dwaine McKenna

Who doesn’t dream of sunny, warm days with an ample supply of cold drinks and an ocean to play in, when we’re up to our ear-muffs in icy roads, snow and sub-freezing temperatures, day, after day, after day . . . and if we can’t actually go there, we can at least escape in literature to the sun-soaked tip of Florida, down to swinging Key West, where  The Cuban Affair, (Simon & Schuster, $28.99, 429 pages, ISBN 978-1-5011-0172-4) by MBR perennial favorite and master storyteller Nelson DeMille, kicks off at the Green Parrot Bar.  That’s where a thirty-five year-old wounded Afghanistan war veteran, confirmed bachelor, and deep-sea charter fishing boat captain named Daniel Graham MacCormick—Mac for short—is drinking beer, watching the women, and waiting for a guy named Carlos to come down from Miami.  Carlos is a Cuban ex-pat and lawyer who’s heavily involved with the anti-Castro movement in Miami.  He may want to hire Mac and his boat, The Maine, for a few days.  When he shows up, Carlos has in tow an older distinguished-looking Cuban gentleman named Eduardo, who’s treated with all the respect of a Cuban Godfather.  The third, and last member of the entourage is an early-thirties hottie named Sara Ortega, another Cuban-American who’s involved in the movement to free Cuba from the communists.  They want to hire Mac and his boat for a ten-day fishing tournament in Cuba, and use it for cover of a covert mission to recover sixty million dollars in cash that was hidden in a remote cave by Sara’s banker grandfather on the eve of the communist revolution.  Mac refuses . . . until he hears the payoff . . . three million American dollars.  For a guy with a quarter-million in bank loans, who’s struggling to make ends meet, it’s irresistible.  He’s in.  Mac and Sara will fly into Cuba as part of a Yale University tour group, while First Mate Jack Colby skippers The Maine down to the tournament.  And so begins one of the most rollicking and timely caper novels to come along since the first Las Vegas casino heist.  Written with the sure hand and light touch of an acknowledged master of the genre, reading The Cuban Affair is just about the most fun you can have—and still keep your clothes on— during these long cold, and dark days of winter!

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False Flag

Posted by on Feb 19, 2018 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

False Flag

Mysterious Book Report No. 322

by John Dwaine McKenna

In the world of espionage, The business of spies is lies, which makes it impossible at times, to distinguish between friend and foe . . . because all covert operations are designed to advance the interests and objectives of the spying country.  Put it another way and the axiom becomes: TRUST NO ONE.  They all lie all the time.  And nowhere is this illustrated better than in a thrilling new spy yarn in which a trusted ally and friend becomes a deadly enemy.  False Flag (Blackstone Publishing, $26.99, 320 pages, ISBN 978-1-5047-9772-6) by John Altman, posits a scenario in which a rogue Israeli Mossad agent attempts to mount the deadliest terrorist attack the world has ever seen against the United States, while leaving behind a set of clues that implicate Iran.  In spy jargon it’s known as a false flag, and the hope of the renegade agency is to create an incident which will lead one’s ally and friend—the USA—to go to war in retaliation against the enemy state.  Which, in this case is Iran, where crowds routinely chant: Death to America and Death to Israel, with depressing regularity.  The plot is accidentally uncovered by an elderly Israeli-born woman named Dalia Artzi, who’s a lecturer at Princeton University in the art, tactics and history of warfare.  And although she’s considered a genius in her field, Dalia’s life experiences have left her a pacifist, and her only son a prisoner in the hands of Islamic fanatics.  She’s reluctant at first, to get involved.  But her strong Jewish faith, which has instilled in her a desire to try and make the world a better place, compel her to do otherwise.  And so, Dalia is pitted against another Israeli citizen, a young Mossad agent known only as Jana, who’s as deadly as she is dedicated and beautiful.  Thus begins a game of hide-and-seek-to-destroy that begins in Washington state and culminates in Washington, D.C., with stakes that are impossibly high, to prevent an act that’s unspeakably evil.  False Flag is so eerily prescient and electrifying that readers of all ages and sizes will find it hard to put down.  It’s a thriller of thrillers because it’s so entirely possible, and utterly plausible in today’s raucous, unstable, uncivil, unpeaceful and war-torn world.  False Flag is bound to become a classic among spy novels!

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