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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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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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Cold Wind by C. J. Box

Cold Wind” is a combination western, mystery and thriller set in Wyoming.  It is the 11th in the Joe Pickett Novel series by C. J. Box who lives in Wyoming with his family.  He has won many award for this fiction including the Edgar, Anthony, Macavity, Gumshoe and Barry awards.  His protagonist, Joe Pickett, is a game warden not far from the remote Hole-in-the-Wall canyon that served as the hide-out for the infamous Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and other outlaw gangs.

Joe’s mother-in-law, Missy Alden, is accused of killing her husband, Earl by shooting him and stringing the body up on the blades of one of the wind turbines Earl built on one of the hills on his ranch.  This was property they essentially cheated out of Missy’s former husband, Bud Longbrake.  Bud has been hurt and resentful ever since and is also threatening to tell the court how Missy talked him into helping her get rid of Earl because her current husband was threatening to divorce her.  Missy hires one of the best defense lawyers in the country to present her defense.  Joe agrees to investigate the case and search for the missing Bud Longbrake even though he has never gotten along well with his selfish and over-privileged mother-in-law.

Meanwhile, Joe’s friend, Nate Romanowski, is hiding in the hole-in-the-wall canyon because there is a contract on his head from The Five, a group of black-ops he has worked with who know Nate has enough dirt on each of them to put them away for life.  He doesn’t figure on the source of the trouble that actually comes looking for him in that canyon hide-away while he is camping out with his girlfriend, Alisha.

Cold Wind” is very descriptive, action-packed and highly entertaining.  We get to understand what motivates many of the main characters, whether we agree with their rationales or not.  Joe and Nate especially live by a code that was more typical of the 19th century wild west than the 21st century.  Essentially the old west ethos is brought into the 21st century by virtue of the heavy-duty automatic armament that is brought to the battle.  The information about the flaws in the wind energy business and all the money to be made purely in government subsidies is also a slice of the 21st century and quite eye-opening.

What I don’t find appealing, especially in view of the many acts of gun violence this year, is the glorification of these assault weapons and the ease with which the main characters can justify their use of these weapons to kill people.  There are many instances of vigilante justice, and no one is punished for it. This is common in thriller and western genres where the protagonist is allowed to go after a bad guy (or gal) himself and take them out without any consequences.  I don’t like the message, but as a plot line, it makes for exciting reading.

Liz Nichols

 

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