“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.

“The Witch Who Came in From the Cold, Episode 9: Head Case” by Max Gladstone (Serial Box, 2016)


This is the ninth episode in the series; reviews for all other episodes can be found here.

Things are moving into place for a huge and secret operation for the CIA known by the codename ANCHISES. Agent Gabe Pritchard would really like to not screw this one up and totally ruin his career. Things would be a lot easier if he didn’t have a golem on his back.

Rookie CIA operative Joshua Toms gets picked to meet with an operative who happens to be the big contact for ANCHISES. It’s his first big operation and he’s nervous as hell, but he also knows it’s an important stepping stone in his career. And since he kind of got caught recently revealing his affections for a certain man, he needs to show this isn’t going to affect him at all and he’s a great agent.

Meanwhile Gabe now has a golem following him and what’s even creepier is the thing’s starting to look like him. He tries every magical trick up his sleeve but nothing seems to work to stop or even slow the thing. With the help of Jordan Rhemes and a parchment of skin, Gabe has something that might affect the golem now, he just has to get the parchment into its head somehow.

And then things go from bad to worse when Gabe is at the specific location for Joshua’s operation and the golem happens to be looking for him in the basement. Gabe enlists some help . . . Actually, he basically begs Ice operative Tatiana Morozova to help him out.

Tensions are building in The Witch Who Came in From the Cold, and “Head Case” ends on one of the biggest cliffhangers of the series so far.

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

To purchase a copy of The Witch Who Came in From the Cold, Episode 9: A Head Case from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

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

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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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“Crush” by Alan Jacobson (Vanguard Press, 2009)

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After the runaway success of Jacobson’s first Karen Vail novel, The 7th Victim, our impressive FBI profiler is back in the fantastic follow-up, Crush.  While the pressure may be on Jacobson to make his second Karen Vail Mystery be just as good as his first, in my opinion, Crush is better.  Jacobson is now comfortable in writing Vail and lets her explore her boundaries and limits, coupled with having the agent be in a foreign place.

At the start of the book, Vail is on vacation in the beautiful wine country of Napa and Sonoma counties.  After the stress, pressure, and near-death experiences of The 7th Victim, Vail can certainly use the break, and has been so ordered by her ASAC.  But as Vail and her boyfriend, Detective Robby Hernandez, are about to enjoy a very expensive wine tour, they are told it’s been canceled and they’ll receive full refunds.  Vail’s curiosity gets the better of her and she soon finds that a dead body is the culprit.  Her profiling skills automatically kick into gear as she strategically maneuvers herself onto the task force, leaving Hernandez by the wayside.  But this is who she is.

Now on the Napa County Major Crimes Task Force, Vail teams up with Investigator Roxxann Dixon, as soon more bodies are discovered each with telltale signs of the “Crush Killer.”  Then the killer begins contacting Vail, threatening not just her life but that of her son if she doesn’t do exactly what he says.  But the wine industry is an important part of the nation’s economy, and the political issue of whether to release the details to the press creates more enemies for Vail.  Ultimately it will be up to her to manage and keep the task force together, and catch this Crush Killer before he gets to anyone else.

Jacobson has not only written a full-throttle thriller that will keep readers hooked to the very end, but also educates them in the niceties of wine tasting and drinking, as well as some of the different kinds of wines offered by our wine country; not to mention the number of real locations used in the book.  Crush is a story that will have you entranced, causing your mouth to dry up in a craving for that tasty red liquid; and after finishing the book you’ll feel the urge to check out Napa and Sonoma counties to see if they really are as beautiful as Crush depicts them.

CLICK HERE to purchase your copy from Bookshop Santa Cruz and help support BookBanter.

Originally written on September 29th, 2009 ©Alex C. Telander.

For an interview with Alan Jacobson check out BookBanter Episode 19.