“The Darkness of Evil” by Alan Jacobson (Open Road Media, 2017)


Alan Jacobson has delighted us readers for a number of years now with his gripping Karen Vail books, and in the latest installment, the sinisterly titled Darkness of Evil, Vail comes up against what could be her greatest foe yet: a convicted serial killer.

Senior profiler at the Behavioral Analysis Unit, Karen Vail, is juggling lots of projects and problems at once; but that’s just her modus operandi, in addition to dealing with a new boss who she doesn’t really get along with. She’s also keeping her eye on Jasmine Marcks, who has just published a book about her life as the daughter of a serial killer, which she had no idea about until she was a teenager and was crucial in having Roscoe Lee Marcks brought to justice and put away for a very long time. Roscoe killed fourteen people and Vail took over the case in the early days of her career, helping the guy get put away.

Jasmine receives a note from her father. He knows about the book. He knows what she said about him in the book. He wants revenge. Vail lets Jasmine know the man is locked behind bars and everything will be okay. She is finally granted access to begin interviewing Roscoe to find out what he is up to, and then before she knows it, the serial killer escapes with help from a number of people on the inside.

The rules have changed; the stakes are through the roof. It’s a whole new ball game.

Bodies begin turning up, including a cop who was protecting Jasmine. The daughter decides to go it alone, keeping hidden and quiet, only getting in contact with Vail occasionally. Meanwhile, the ace profiler joins a crack team of US Marshals and other experts to chase down Roscoe and put him back in prison where he belongs.

The Darkness of Evil kicks it into high gear right from the start, as the reader immediately gets drawn into the book. Jacobson continues to make Vail a complex and complete character, as she juggles personal life problems, other cases, and the nail-biting terror of a serial killer on the loose who seems to have no limits to whose life he may take. He could be coming around the next corner with his sights on her. But Vail is a professional. She is experienced; a veteran. She knows what has to be done, and the reader is thrilled to be along for the ride.

Originally written on March 15, 2017 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of The Darkness of Evil from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

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“Sherlock Holmes, The Missing Years: Timbuktu” by Vasudev Murthy (Poisoned Pen Press, 2016)


When the eminent Sherlock Holmes in an altercation with his nemesis Moriarty plunged to his death at Reichenbach Falls in 1891, the world was changed forever. It was changed again when Holmes resurfaced, alive and well, in 1894, as he continued to solve cases that left New Scotland Yard baffled. But what happened during those three “missing” years?

Vasudev Murthy tells of one chapter in Holmes’s life in Sherlock Holmes, The Missing Years: Tumbuktu, as recounted by his close and trusted friend, Dr. Watson. This is the story of a most unique document created long ago that was purported to possess strange and monumental powers. Marco Polo supposedly made a rubbing of a brass disc found in the libraries of Kublai Khan.

But the document was divided in half centuries ago to protect those from the information it contained. Holmes now has half of this document secreted in his possession and seeks to discover where the remaining half is and put this riddle to rest.

While this novel doesn’t feel exactly like a work penned by Arthur Conan Doyle, it is nevertheless and fun and adventurous story taking the reader across the globe and back through time on a journey they won’t soon forget.

Originally written on March 1, 2016 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Sherlock Holmes, The Missing Years: Timbuktu from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“Career of Evil” by Robert Galbraith (Mulholland Books, 2015)


Cormoran Strike is back with a new case to solve, only this in addition to being of a usual garish and repulsive nature, is a lot more personal. It all begins when his assistant and now admitted partner receives a special package at the office. Thinking it a possible gift from her fiance, she opens it up and discovers a woman’s severed leg inside.

It’s a personal attack on Cormoran, through his assistant Robin Ellacott. Their other cases soon start disappearing when word gets out and they know they need to find who’s behind it all before they go out of business. Strike comes up with four potential suspects from his past, and while he’d like to keep Robin locked up in a safe place, she won’t hear of it and refuses, as he knew she would.

Strike gets the police involved and gives them everything he’s got on the suspects. The police want to focus on a particular man that the private detective thinks isn’t involved, leaving the other three potential murderers for Cormoran and Robin to deal with. In their most intense and tolling case yet, they have to track down where these suspects are now, since it’s been years since Strike last checked in on them; find out what’s been going on around them and find out who the likely killer will be.

The case forces Cormoran and Robin to understand their unique dynamic as partners and how much they care about each other, while their respective girlfriend and fiance rarely see them, straining their relationships. Galbraith shows another side to the characters in this case that hits a lot closer to home, as the reader gets plenty of their personal lives, as well as their professional ones, making them feel like real people. Readers will be just as hooked with this third installment and wanting more.

Originally written on February 3, 2016 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Career of Evil from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“The Paris Protection” by Bryan Devore (Bryan Devore, 2015)

Paris Protection
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The Secret Service is in some ways like the NSA, CIA or some other government lesser known acronym group: just about everyone knows who they are, but they don’t really know exactly how they operate or what they do. The Secret Service’s job is to protect the President of the United States 24/7, no matter what it takes. Their lives are always on the line for this one person. But what does this truly unique job entail?

The premise for The Paris Protection seems somewhat mundane and ordinary: a terrorist group has infiltrated the hotel where the United States President is staying and plans to assassinate her. They are fully confident in their success, while the Secret Service knows the job they have to do.

Abigail Clarke has done a lot of work – as a state prosecutor, US Senator, and governor of Virginia – and sacrificed much to become one of the most powerful and important people on the planet; many say the most important. President Clarke does not take her job lightly and has very little free time. She is now in Paris for a summit meeting as she hopes to bring the prickly subject of organized crime to the international stage and address it as a terrorist attack. For now, the day’s work is done and she is at her hotel carrying out various conference calls with important people back on US soil and around the world.

Maximillian Wolff, who once served on the Israeli Security Protection team when Yitzak Rabin was assassinated, has suffered much during his life and holds the United States accountable for its world domination, and with a huge and highly trained team of mercenaries, his plan is to remove the head of power and bring the US to its knees. His right hand man, Kazim Aslan, has spent his time as an insurgent soldier in Iraq who has lost loved ones because of the United States’ policies and wants their assassination plan to be just as successful. Maximillian also has a hero: Hannibal Barca who once brought Rome to its knees.

The Paris Protection is three-hundred-and-fifty-odd pages that is anything but ordinary and mundane. Devore skillfully takes the reader step by step through the attack, giving POVs from both sides and plenty of detail of tactics, weaponry, and skill. It is a gripping thriller at its best. Here and there, he provides some back story to his characters–again on both sides–that help the reader understand what is fueling their desire and drive. Maximillian goes into numerous contemplations of how Hannibal handled certain situations to help them in their current one, which is juxtaposed with Secret Service Agents contemplating their skill and training and what past agents have done in similar situations.

It is the ideal blend of action and story with plenty of well-researched details that keep the reader glued to the page. The story passes throughout the hotel with some impressive “battles,” eventually leading down deep into the haunting Paris catacombs that serves as a terrifying arena for a chase scene. The Paris Protection is one of those books where you don’t know who will make it out alive and how it’s really going to end; a perfect example of the thriller genre.

First published in Manhattan Book Review.

Originally written on October 27, 2015 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of The Paris Protection from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“The Lost Codex” by Alan Jacobson (Open Road Media Mystery & Thriller, 2015)

Lost Scoll
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Karen Vail, renowned FBI profiler, is back in her next adventure, only this time she’s doing something a little different: serving as a crucial member of an unusual team designated OPSIG Team Black as they attempt to unravel the story behind two ancient biblical documents.

With the first terrorist attack on US soil in some time, Karen Vail finds herself pulled into something much bigger than she can imagine. As she puts the pieces together and learns of the significance and implications of this attack that will likely turn to more, she is pulled into an elite group sanctioned by the President of the United States. The trail will take this crack covert team from DC to New York to Paris to England and eventually to Israel.

The first sanctioned Bible is purported to have been first recorded in 930CE, and after this document is rediscovered, in 1953, half of it goes missing. Then another document around the same time is discovered near the Dead Sea. Both items have potential revolutionary effects, depending on whose hands they end up in. Naturally there are many people from various “arenas” who would love to possess them, and it ultimately all comes back to the cradle of western religion.

There is good and bad with The Lost Codex. The bad is that since Vail is part of a team, the book doesn’t feature Vail all the time as readers have enjoyed in the past. However, the good is that this crack team has to use the various skills of each member to remain incognito and get to the bottom of these series of attacks. Jacobson has already proven he knows how to write a thriller, and in The Lost Codex, he leads his characters all over the world, infiltrating, researching, following up leads, and doing their jobs to the best of their abilities. It’s a thrilling book with a complex and fascinating story that pulls the reader in.

Originally written on October 27, 2015 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of The Lost Codex from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

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The Fifth Heart by Dan Simmons (Little, Brown and Company, 2015)

Fifth Heart
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One thing you can never do with Dan Simmons is pigeon hole him under a specific genre. He’s published in most, from epic science fiction to mysteries to horror to thrilling historical fiction. Other than his Blade Runneresque novel Flashback from 2011, his previous four novels have been works of historical fiction; a couple of them have been fantastic, engrossing books — The Terror and Drood — and the other two — Black Hills and The Abominable — were lacking in something. His latest novel, The Fifth Heart, is a return to those earlier, thrilling works as he takes an idea that would hook any literary fan and takes you on one wild ride. The premise is a relatively simple one: what if Sherlock Holmes and Henry James teamed up together to solve a murder?

Sherlock Holmes is in Paris on a foggy night and finds Henry James by the Seine about to commit suicide. Instead, Holmes tells him he will join him on a ship in the morning to cross the Atlantic for James’s native United States to solve a murder that was thought and assumed to be a suicide. Clover Adams was a close friend of Henry James who committed suicide in 1885 under somewhat unusual circumstances. She was a member, along with James, of the Five of Hearts salon. And yet an enigmatic message is sent to the remaining members each year indicating nothing is as simple and clear cut as it seems.

Holmes begins his painstaking investigation, interviewing many and traveling all around Washington DC. James unwittingly becomes his Watson, as he also learns that Holmes is unsure if he is a real person or a fictional character, and that the stories Watson has penned about him with the help of literary agent Arthur Conan Doyle have distorted the facts of his past cases to make them all the more adventurous and grandiose. Holmes takes on many disguises and does what he does best.

Along the way readers will get to meet some fun characters, like Mark Twain and a young Teddy Roosevelt. They will also get to meet some familiar people from Holmes’s world, including Irene Adler and the infamous Professor Moriarty. The mystery will take James and Holmes away from DC to New York and then up to the Chicago to the White City and the World’s Fair where they will attempt to thwart a plot to assassinate the President of the United States.

Simmons clearly had a lot of fun with this novel, throwing as much literary subject matter as history. It is a lengthy novel and he enjoys taking the reader on interesting tangents, which all help to keep the reader enthralled as they have no idea where the story is going to go next. As with The Terror, the language makes it feel like one is reading something penned by Arthur Conan Doyle, with the use of particular language, diction and detail. Simmons fans will not be disappointed, while Holmesian ones will be delighted.

Originally written on August 1st, 2015 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of The Fifth Heart from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

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“Finders Keepers” by Stephen King (Scribner, 2015)

Finders Keepers
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It may just be coincidence that both Stephen King and J. K. Rowling writing as Robert Galbraith feature writers getting horribly murdered in the sequels to their successive thriller series, in Finders Keepers and The Silkworm respectively. But then they are both extremely popular authors who are now writing outside of their usual genre and having a great time doing it.

In the second novel featuring the now private detective Bill Hodges, most of the book focuses on the story of renowned author John Rothstein, who is brutally killed by Morris Bellamy for money and a significant number of notebooks featuring unpublished works the world has never seen. Because the items are too hot to sell, Bellamy buries them and soon gets caught for rape, beginning a very long life sentence.

Years later Pete Saubers finds a buried trunk with some special notebooks. There is also a large amount of money. The question is should Pete turn in what he has found to the authorities, or perhaps use the money to help his family who are in deep financial troubles and at risk of divorce?

King is clearly having a lot of fun writing in this genre, as Finders Keepers is a well-developed and well-crafted mystery that builds on a strong and interesting foundation. This is one of those Stephen King books where you really enjoy the two hundreds pages of setup. Then the last third of the book is thrilling action, keeping the reader on the edge of their seat, wondering how it’s all going to work out.

Originally written on July 7, 2015 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Finders Keepers from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

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