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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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Two Himalayan Thrillers

Soul of Fire” by Eliot Pattison and “Tibetan Cross” by Mike Bond both have themes set in the Himalayas and both will leave readers both spell-bound and full of questions about international policies and actions taken in Tibet and on behalf of Tibetan freedom fighters.  Both are exciting page-turners and both will leave readers deeply troubled about what is and has been going on in Tibet and Nepal for decades.

Pattison’s new novel, “Soul of Fire,” is the eighth in his Inspector Shan Novels series.  Shan has been appointed as a token Chinese dissident to an international panel meeting in Lhasa to “investigate” the spate of self-immolation deaths of Tibetan protestors.  What Shan uncovers is a systematic attempt on the part of the commission’s Chinese handlers to control the commissions findings, discredit the Tibetan freedom-fighters and murdering anyone who objects by staging deaths as immolation suicides.  The scenes describing an immolation, which several commission members witness, is pretty graphic and grim.  It is not a subject every reader will have the stomach to read about, but anyone who follows the book to its conclusion will have a better understanding of what motivates many Tibetans to take their own lives, and also how and why Tibetan freedom-fighters continue to strike out against Chinese domination.

Bond’s “Tibetan Cross” is equally thought-provoking and it takes quite a different point-of-view.  This novel is set during the Cold War period.  Four Americans who either fought in Vietnam, or were war dissidents have set up a business in Katmandu leading treks into the Himalayan mountains.  The book opens while they are leading a group they find out are linked to the CIA on a mission that turns out to be quite different than the one they thought they signed up for.  An accident reveals that their convoy is really delivering weapons, including a nuclear bomb, to Tibetan freedom-fighters to use against the Chinese.  The CIA operatives waste no time in killing two of their American guides and chasing the other two around the world in an effort to silence them about what they saw.  The protagonist, Sam Cohen, learns through bitter experience that he cannot rely on anyone, and everyone he comes in contact with after the incident on a Nepali pass will be brutally murdered by the CIA.  “Tibetan Cross” is a very dark and cynical look at U.S. and international intelligence forces and the measures they will take to complete a mission no matter what the cost.  What I find a little disappointing is that it was difficult to develop any real sympathy for Cohen because he also employed brutal tactics and killed innocents when they got in the way.  It was hard to find anyone to actually like in this story– all the good guys were killed off.  Still, many thriller readers and fans of Bond’s earlier novels will find “Tibetan Cross” both exciting and thought-provoking. Both books get a thumbs up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Last Savanna by Mike Bond

Mike Bond has outdone himself with the adventure thriller “The Last Savanna” which has just been published by Mandevilla Press.  The saga chronicles the rapid death of the Kenyan savanna as desperate tribal poaching parties from Somalia and the Sudan infiltrate the Kenyan game preserves and wild savanna areas to hunt elephants and rhinos for their tusks.  African elephants and rhinos are fast disappearing and Bond has made the problem starkly evident through the medium of the adventure thriller.

From start to finish Bond makes the reader feel as if each character is being stalked by a lion and that at any moment any person or beast may be swiftly dispatched by the most efficient killing machine on the savanna, the lion.  By comparison, humans are messy killers.  The desperate plunderers from poorer neighboring countries invade the Kenyan savanna just to take the parts of their kill that are most valuable on the black market.  They leave the meat and skin of their prey to the scavengers.  To the Somalian tribesmen the ivory they plunder represent the ability to pay a bride price without having to wait years to build herds of goats.  For other hunters the raids into the Kenyan savanna represents the only opportunity to feed their starving families.  The money from these raids ultimately winds up funding terrorist operations for Al Qaeda and other groups.

From the point of view of the Kenyan authorities these foreign poachers are destroying the Kenyan savanna ecosystem and destroying the Kenyan economy along with their lucrative tourist trade.  They are also sensitive to the international terrorist operations that are funded through the work of the poachers. The government wants these poachers caught or, better yet, killed on sight.  One of the men called into service to hunt the poachers is Ian MacAdam, a former SAS 0fficer and Kenyan rancher.  He is reluctant to go along for he no longer has any taste for killing bad guys, but when he learns that the Somali poachers have killed a party of archaeologists and have killed or captured a former flame of his, MacAdam is on board to track down the poachers clear to Somali if necessary.

Most readers will not be able to put this tense, highly descriptive thriller down.  Those who like to see happy endings will be disappointed, that is, unless the reader is cheering for the lion or the hyena to win.  This is very definitely a tale of the survival of the fittest.

Bond is an authority on Africa.  At the age of 19 he set off on foot across the Sahara and later explored thousands of miles of African deserts, jungles and savannas.  He has also been involved in Kenyan military operations against poachers, so he has poured much of his experience into this story.

Recommended.  “The Last Savanna” is one of the best thrillers of the past year and one that can teach the reader a lot about the current ecological and socio-economic state of sub-saharan Africa.

Reviewed with a supplied copy.

Liz Nichols

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Saving Paradise by Mike Bond

Saving Paradise” is an environmental and political thriller set in the Hawaiian Islands.  It has all the elements of a great thriller: a likeable and complex protagonist (journalist/surfer, ex-Special Forces and ex-con, Pono Hawkins), an atmospheric and beautiful setting (Molokai and Oahu), and a tense mystery that nearly takes down our hero in the process of solving the crime.  Pono is a former Special Forces officer who was assigned to Afghanistan and suffers  PTSD and other psychological illnesses that plague thousands of veterans of the middle east wars.  He is characterized as a flawed but likeable guy who keeps finding trouble but desperately wants to avoid getting caught and sent back to prison.  He has a very strong loyalty to his native Hawaiian roots and wants to preserve the beauty and serenity of the islands for as long as possible.

A journalist is found washed up on the shore on Waikiki and it is quickly determined that she was actually drowned in fresh water and dumped in the ocean.  Who would want her dead?  The lead candidates all have ties to the current governor and Big Energy and are tied specifically to the burgeoning wind power industry in Hawaii.  Environmental groups are opposing the wind power lobby because they argue wind turbines endanger several species of birds and seals and contracts to set up wind farms has been bought for political favor both at the state and federal level.

As someone who supports wind energy in my own state I took with a grain of salt the conspiracy plot.  Still, I recognize that wind power does have an environmental downside, and is not appropriate in every state’s plan to diversify energy resources.  Bond argues that solar power makes more sense in a state like Hawaii, and he may well be right.  It is also true that sweetheart deals have been worked out between the alternative energy companies and Washington and certain states, but Bond has probably heightened the conspiracy theory in order to make for good book copy.

In the end I enjoyed “Saving Paradise” as a very well written, fast-paced and exciting thriller, even though the conspiracy plot left me a little skeptical.

Reviewed from a supplied copy.

Liz Nichols

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

” is an environmental thriller set in the Hawaiian Islands.

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