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The Newsmakers by Lis Wiehl

The Newsmakers” is the first title in a new series by Fox News legal analyst, Lis Wiehl, and it promises to be a blockbuster.  Her protagonist, Erica Sparks, is the deeply flawed but talented and tenatious reporter who we meet on her first day of work as a reporter for GNN, the Global News Network, an up-and-coming cable news channel owned by a brilliant but vindictive and possibly psychotic billionaire, Nylan Hastings.  Erica’s first assignment puts her into the midst of a freak ferry accident that soon is revealed to be a cyber-terror plot.  The notariety Erica gains in handling the ferry disaster story lands her in the middle of an assassination situation with a potential presidential candidate.  Is it coincidence or is some evil hand putting Erica in the way of blockbuster stories?  Erica digs until she finds the solution to both crimes and in the process puts herself and many of the people around her in danger.

What I particularly like about this fast-paced page-turner are the complex characters– Erica herself and the people around her at GNN.  We get to know many of these characters very well, warts and all.  Readers who are paying attention can also see what is about to happen to Erica before she can see the outcome herself.  Instead of ruining the plot, having a somewhat obvious outcome actually heightens the intrigue because we can’t wait to see how Erica extricates herself from the mess, whether she screws up and goes back to her ways of drink and ruin, and whether some of the innocents she has dragged into her messy world will come out alive.

Lis Wiehl knows the cable news business and she knows how to deliver a heart-pounding thriller.  “The Newsmakers” formula should be a recipe for another best seller for Wiehl and her co-author Sebastian Stuart.  Two thumbs up!

Liz Nichols

(Reviewed from a supplied copy.)

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Killing Maine by Mike Bond

Mike Bond has produced another nail-bitter in his Pono Hawkins series in “Killing Maine.”  Once again, the wind energy industry is portrayed as the bad guys– the very bad guys and gals who are responsible for scamming people out of Mike Bondtheir properties, intimidating and even killing people who object to the installation of wind generators on increasing numbers of hills and mountains in Bond’s home state of Maine.

In “Saving Paradise” Pono Hawkins was able to expose illegal activity before wind power companies got a major foothold in the state.  His challenge in “Killing Maine” is several wind energy companies have already bought property and have installed many wind-farms.  The results have become painfully obvious to many of the people living near these wind farms and to those who sold land and now find their remaining property worthless and unsaleable.  Pono finds that a very significant portion of the legislature has been paid off by the wind lobby and local government officials and police departments are also taking orders from wind energy companies.

The plot goes like this:  Pono Hawkins is asked to come back to his Hawkins family ancestral home near Augusta, Maine because one of his Special Forces buddies from Afghanistan, Bucky Franklin, has been arrested and accused of killing the husband of a woman he has had a romantic relationship with.  Everywhere Pono turns to get Bucky exonerated he gets stopped.  Pono gets accused of trumped up charges by the police.  He has to travel under assumed identity in order to get back to Hawaii in order to see his dying father.  It takes the help of his genius computer tech friend, Mitchell, and the support of three beautiful women to unwind the mystery, keep Pono from being assassinated, and eventually expose the perpetrators among the wind energy lobby.

As someone who lives in Iowa, a state that now gets 30% of its power from wind, the book’s accusations are disturbing.  I agree with Bond that companies that take advantage of the wind energy subsidies to build wind farms that do not produce energy and never can produce energy because of their location, obviously, should be stopped.  It is also important to minimize other problems, such as the impact on migrating birds and bats.  They also should not be placed in locations that are heavily populated because turbines do have a negative impact on humans and animals and they will reduce land values for those who live around these generators.  When wind is placed where it makes sense and the companies running these wind farms make fair offers to landowners and prove to be good corporate neighbors, then wind is a positive addition to the energy mix and a boost to a state’s economy.

Unfortunately, there is evidence to support many of Bond’s claims and something needs to be done on a national level to stop inappropriate uses of this form of power.  Rules for getting subsidies must be tightened, or ended, and companies that use strong-arm tactics and bribery to gain a foothold in a state or a city must be stopped.  Campaign financing reform would help to lessen the likelihood of political corruption.

Bond not only addresses a very concerning issue in “Killing Maine” he does so with an absorbing, well written thriller with a complex and interesting main character, Pono Hawkins.  “Killing Maine” just sucks in the reader and makes it difficult to put the book down until the very last page– even when the reader does not totally agree with all of the conclusions about wind energy.

A winner of a thriller.
Liz Nichols

 

(Reviewd from a supplied copy.  Due for publication July 22, 2015.)

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Smokescreen by Khaled Talib and The Washington Lawyer by Alan Topol

Smokescreen” and “The Washington Lawyer” are two new international and political thrillers sure to find their share of avid fans.  Both have wickedly devious and complex plots and smart, appealing protagonists.  “Smokescreen” was published in paperback in January 2014 and “The Washington Lawyer” comes out in March 2015.

The author of “Smokescreen,” Khalid Talib, like his protagonist, is a magazine writer living in Singapore.  His story centers around a plot by members of Israli intelligence to have their prime minister killed rather than to allow that prime minister to forge a new peace accord with the Palestinians.  The deed is to happen during a visit to Singapore and is to be blamed on the Eurasian society feature writer, Jet West, a twenty-something journalist who until now has worried more about his watch collection and his fashionable wardrobe than doing something up close and personal to stop an act of terrorism.  He is assisted in his effort to save his good name, his life and foil this assasination plot by a young Singaporean district attorney and the American ambassador to Singapore.  The one orchestrating the assassination plot is a high ranking Singaporean government official who doubles as an Israeli spy.  At first I did not find Jet very likable.  He starts out rather shallow and immature, but he very quickly grows up and develops a moral compass in order to save the day. I think many younger readers will identify with Jet; he is in many ways the international face of the millenial generation.

Shortly after I finished “Smokescreen” I began “The Washington Lawyer” by Allan Topol.  I have read and liked Topol’s thrillers in the past, and this one is no exception.  In fact, I find Topol’s new work chillingly realistic and plausible.  An American senator secures a favor from an old friend, a Washington attorney who is being considered for the position of Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.  The Senator borrows the attorney’s beach house on the Caribbean island of Anguilla, but what he does not tell the lawyer is that he is taking his mistress with him to the beach house and not his wife.  The Senator also has a dirty little secret:  he has been passing defence secrets on to the Chinese for years.  When the mistress winds up dead– apparently through accidental drowning– the woman’s sister, Allison, decides to investigate.  She goes to Anguilla to investigate and quickly shoots holes in the police conclusion that her sister drown, but she finds everyone very closed-mouth about who she was with on the island or how she got to the location where she supposedly washed up on the beach.  The attorney gets caught between his conscience and his need to protect the truths that he finds out about his friend lest it taint his chances at the Supreme Court.  The plot is very sharp and edgy and so disturbingly realistic.

Of these two I personally liked “The Washington Lawyer” the most because I could see how easily decent and intelligent people can make one wrong decision that leads to ruin of many lives.  This book is particularly thought-provoking.  That being said, “Smokescreen” is a very good action thriller with colorful and memorable characters and an interesting plot that will appeal particularly to millenial readers.  Both are recommended.

Reviewed from supplied copies.

Liz Nichols

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The Russian Endgame by Allan Topol

The Russian Endgame” is the last of a trilogy in the “Craig Page Thriller” series by Topol.  It’s very much in the tradition of Ludlum and Clancy as a nail-biter of a spy thriller.

Topol doesn’t mince words.  His style is direct and description is sparse, but effective in getting across the fact that post-Cold War East-West relations are still pretty frigid.  In this Endgame chapter the EU Director of Counterterrorism Agency, Craig Page, is invited back to the CIA as its director by the new president following the assassination of the previous president.  Page tried unsuccessfully to get his predecessor at the CIA to act on a strong tip that a former Russian KGB agent was headed for the US to undertake some major act of terrorism.  As a result, that spy, Orlov, acting on behalf of both Chinese and Russian presidents, managed to recruit a Pakistani sleeper to carry out an assassination of the US president.  I won’t reveal more of the plot than this, although there are plenty more chilling episodes in the book– more than enough to keep the interest of those who like a good spy thriller.

For the most part the plot seems plausible, and very chilling at that. “The Russian Endgame” makes it very clear that in the amoral world of espionage there is more dis-information generated than truthful accounting of what is going on in foreign affairs today.  The recent revelations of phone taps on the major leaders of the world is no doubt  just the tip of the iceberg.

Spy thriller enthusiasts will have a hard time putting “The Russian Endgame” down.

Reviewed from a supplied copy.

Liz Nichols

 

 

 

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