Suspense

“The Fixer” by Joseph Finder

 

Book Cover - The Fixer

In typical Joseph Finder fashion, “The Fixer” is a barnburner of a book. There is lots of action, jaw-dropping twists, and moments when you wonder if our hero, Rick Hoffman, will live through it all.

 

Former legitimate journalist and recently fired media man, Hoffman, is down on his luck, demoted to an almost non-existent freelance job except for the press passes that haven’t yet been canceled. His girlfriend has thrown him out and he has to sleep on a couch in his dad’s old house, a house that has been neglected for years. He wants to sell it for quick cash, but in its present rundown condition nobody will pay him even what the land is worth. He makes an agreement with a quasi friend/contractor to split the profits after sale, but in the process of chasing squirrels, discovers a secret in the attic – a $3 million stash.

 

Hoffman, true to his former investigative style, starts to research what his father might have been doing at the time before his stroke twenty years earlier. A stroke that was so severe that his dad can no longer communicate. Where did the money come from? How  could a solo attorney in a rough section of town ever make that much money? Hoffman asks questions that bring the wrong kind of attention to himself and the bad guys start tripping over each other in “The Fixer” to keep Hoffman quiet, including car trunks, plastic ties, tracking devices, and assorted other scare tactics.

 

Hoffman is so frightened that he goes into hiding – his decisions are naïve and comical at the same time, but who among us honest folks in mainstream life would be able to do it any better? Finder has a genius for making his heroes real and as un-Bond-like as possible, yet with enough smarts to solve as many of the puzzle parts as necessary to get them out of trouble. Hoffman is a great character – part professional, part loyal son, part one-scared-human-being, part reckless in the face of all he sees and learns, not always  staying ahead of his enemies.

 

The reason behind the $3 million is absorbing, frightening, and serious at its core. “The Fixer” is so well written that Finder made me wonder if the plot was based on a real-life incident. Only Joseph Finder and some of the citizens of Boston know the truth for sure.

 

Finder gives us some great scenes between father and son, despite the seemingly one-sided conversations. Other supporting characters are slithery, nasty, and their behavior is worthy of the cover up that Hoffman unravels bit-by-bit.

 

I met Joseph Finder at Bouchercon (the mystery fan convention) last year. He signed my copy of “Buried Secrets,” and you can read my review of that book here.

 

“The Fixer” is a pulse-pounding page turner, a great addition to my library, and one of the best thrillers I’ve read this year.

 

For more information about Joseph Finder, his work, and the movies based on his books, please visit www.josephfinder.com

 

 

Texas Fiction – 2016 List

 

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Every once in a while, it’s fun to focus on regional fiction. It’s a chance for readers to concentrate on stories that take place in their favorite part of the world or an area that has aroused their curiosity. Sometimes, fans like to search for books written by authors that live in that region.

 

The Texas list of 36 authors is a mix of:

 

  • Authors who live there, but write books set elsewhere
  • Authors that have written novels set in Texas, but live elsewhere.
  • Authors who live in and write about Texas.

 

Click on the names to take you to the author sites.

 

Kathleen Rice Adams: “Prodigal Gun”

Susan Wittig Albert: “Blood Orange”

 

Linda Bingham: “Skyscraper Caper”

Parris Afton Bonds:  “Blue Bayou” box set

James Lee Burke: “House of the Rising Sun”

 

Valerie P Chandler: ‘Rota Fortunae’ in “Murder on Wheels”

Caroline Clemmons: “Angeline”

Catherine Coulter: “Nemesis”

Bill Crider: “Between the Living and the Dead”

 

Stephanie Jaye Evans:  "Safe from Harm"

Ann Everett: “Say You’ll Never Love Me”

 

Kay Finch: “The Black Cat Knocks on Wood”

Kinky Friedman – series about a Texan living in NYC

 

Meg Gardiner: “Phantom Instinct”  (reviewed here)

Kaye George: Imogene Duckworthy series, “Broke”

 

Linda Kozar: “Weighty Matters”

Billy Kring:  “Tonton”

 

Liz Lipperman:  “Chicken Caccia-Killer”

 

Nancy Martin: “Miss Ruffles Inherits Everything”

Larry McMurtry: “Lonesome Dove”

James Michener: “Texas”

 

Golden Keyes Parsons: “His Steadfast Love”

Mark Pryor: “Hollow Man”    

 

James Reasoner: “The Last War Chief”

Catie Rhodes:  “Rest Stop” 

Rick Riordan: “Rebel Island”

 

Terry Shames: “The Necessary Murder of Nonie Blake”

Leann Sweeney: Yellow Rose Mystery Series

 

Livia Washburn: “Peach of a Murder”

Nancy G. West:  "Smart, but Dead"

George Wier: “Cold Rains”

Lori Wilde:  “Love of the Game”

Lynn Chandler Willis: “Wink of an Eye”  (reviewed here)

Manning Wolfe:  "Dollar Signs"

Reavis Z. Wortham:  “Dark Places”

 

Celia Yeary:  “Annalisa”

 

 

Have fun choosing from this great list of Texas fiction.  🙂

 

 

 

“The Heist” by Daniel Silva

 

Book Cover - The Heist by Daniel Silva

Israeli top spy/art restorer, Gabriel Allon, would rather be working on a major art restoration in Italy, but a blackmailing member of the Italian Art Squad is able to tear him away from his project with a threat. In “The Heist,” a corrupt British spy who had been selling stolen artwork to an anonymous art collector winds up dead and a famous painting has gone missing. Enter Gabriel with his special expertise. In order to get an art dealer friend and associate cleared of suspicion for dealing in stolen goods, Gabriel must agree to do the impossible.

 

A plan is devised to lure the real thief (and murderer) into the open in order to find and recover a masterpiece that has been missing for decades – Caravaggio’s Nativity with St. Francis and St. Lawrence. But, Allon, next in line for the job as the head of Mossad, has friends and enemies in high places and it will be tricky to keep all the parties, himself included, alive and focused on the end game.

 

As we expect in Silva’s riveting series, the stakes in Gabriel’s personal and professional lives are higher than ever. In “The Heist,” Gabriel bends the laws of more than one country, enlists the assistance of men that specialize in assassination and special ops, and adds an additional layer of danger in order to help a survivor of a brutal attack years before in Syria. Returning characters create continuity for the series and keep the pages turning in true Silva fashion.

 

Silvia’s books give the reader a look at the world of politics and spies from an Israeli understanding, but we are always presented with multiple views of each of the conflicts addressed. “The Heist” is no different. This is a serious novel that tackles the Syrian turmoil, the effect of a country at war with itself, and its place within the context of the larger Middle East complexity.

 

As Gabriel is called upon to help his old friend, he is torn between duty to country and the price he has paid for it over the years. The excitement of the caper unfolds on the pages, but there is also a more cerebral feel to “The Heist ” – perhaps a nod to an aging Allon looking back over his life and taking stock. The action is less physical than in the previous book, “The English Girl,” as we are enmeshed in the worlds of art restoration, high finance, bank transfers, and politics, but there is plenty of action nonetheless.

 

“The Heist” is the fourteenth title in the sixteen book (so far) Gabriel Allon series.

 

Please visit www.danielsilvabooks.com for more information about Daniel Silva and his work.

 

“Cuff Lynx” by Fiona Quinn

 

Book Cover - Cuff Lynx

Lexi Sobado is back in Fiona Quinn’s fourth book in the Lynx series, “Cuff Lynx.” Lexi has mostly recovered from her last mission and on the first day back at the Iniquus office, senses something is not quite right with the headquarters of her top secret world. Iniquus is under attack and she needs to figure out how and why even though she’s not yet 100%.

 

Lexi’s regular role at Iniquus is to ‘puzzle’ the plans and tactics of field missions. She has the unusual skill of ‘knowing’ when something isn’t what it should be. She has a sixth sense, a psychic sense that becomes heightened well beyond the norm in the presence of evil.

 

Her skills are put to the test when she hears that Ops are failing, the founder of Iniquus, General Elliot, is in a coma, clients are losing confidence, valuable art is involved, and to top it off, Striker Rheas, Lexi’s heart’s desire, is teamed up with a gorgeous woman with few scruples. What else could go wrong? In “Cuff Lynx,” quite a lot.

 

Lexi has out-of-body experiences that help her gather Intel about the location of other people without having to leave the office or use a computer, and when she goes ‘behind the Veil’ at great risk to herself, we believe it. Quinn’s descriptions of those psychic missions are absorbing and keep the pages turning. The concept underpinning the use of the ‘Veil’ raises questions about how intelligence is gathered in the real world. If fact-gatherers were able to use this technique, would the Intel be of better quality or be obtained more quickly? Fascinating futuristic talking points.

 

The problems multiply, the evildoers abound and in “Cuff Lynx,” we’re not sure if the good guys (including her lover) are on Lexi’s side. Our heroine is a mix of sweetness, naiveté and single-mindedness unusual for an average person her age and that mix is what makes Lexi Sobado so refreshing as a central character in a thriller. The supporting characters are dedicated Special Ops professionals and Lexi’s softer character makes an intriguing contrast to the hard-core military types.

 

Over the course of the series, she is widowed, stalked by a killer, held in captivity, chased, scarred, loved, and trained in special skills that not even her Iniquus team can know about – all at a break neck pace.

 

“Cuff Lynx” can be read as a stand alone, but it’s much more fun if you read them all to experience the development of Lexi’s character and her relationship with the various members of her team. Quinn told me recently that she plans to feature the other characters in their own books. Cool.

 

Please visit www.fionaquinnbooks.com for information about the rest of Quinn’s work in fiction and non-fiction.

 

 

 

 

“Chasing Fire” by Nora Roberts

 

Book Cover - Chasing Fire

“Chasing Fire,” by New York Times bestselling author Nora Roberts, explores the world of adrenaline-pumping fire jumping in the northern USA forests.

 

Smokejumper Rowan Tripp follows in her famous father’s footsteps, spending summers fighting dangerous fires in Montana, pushing back against the raw power that challenges them every day in the field. When former Hotshot (experienced wildfire fighter) Gulliver Curry shows up as a smokejumper recruit at the Missoula base, Rowan is immediately singled out as a target for his affection. She says she doesn’t date rookies. He says he’ll get her to change her mind.

 

These are highly trained firefighters that work for long hours in volatile, hazardous conditions for days on end, sometimes being cut off from food, water, and help for long periods of time. Hotshots are specially trained to work a fire in the woods with chain saws and axes; smokejumpers have the additional training and challenge of parachuting into a fire when it can’t be reached on foot. If they’re lucky, they get to shower every couple of days.

 

“Chasing Fire” is remarkable in its descriptions of the exhausting life of a smokejumper. When not on duty working a fire, they are busy working out so that they can maintain their exceptional physical fitness. The guys and gals jump into the fire in remote mountain areas, ready to go, and must be as self-sufficient as possible. Their equipment and supplies are dropped in after the firefighters land. Part of the backstory important to Rowan’s struggles has to do with an unfortunate jump that her partner made, and the incredible guilt she carries.

 

Roberts did a great deal of research to get the details nailed down and it shows in the many harrowing fire scenes. The smokejumpers beat the fire back, saw trees and limbs, brake the fire’s progress, sometimes getting surrounded or burned, sometimes carrying out injured people. Gripping descriptions of the fires made me feel as if I had a front row seat.

 

A special bond is created among the firefighters as they risk their lives for each other every time they jump. The job is incredibly dangerous, but the jumpers look forward to the challenge and the victory.

 

But, if that kind of excitement isn’t enough in “Chasing Fire,” someone is setting fires during the dry season, first to cover up a murder, then to see the forest burn.

 

There are multiple suspects for the horrific deeds – mentally unstable characters and people out for revenge. There is a ripple effect of actions/emotions in all directions, with remorse and misplaced blame part of the mix. The stakes are ramped up as the plot unfolds and jumpers' lives are placed at risk.

 

With over 400 million copies of her books sold, Nora Roberts is accomplished at creating living, breathing, fully-developed characters. In “Chasing Fire,” she delivers a thrilling plot and pays homage to a heroic group of men and women as well. And, of course, there’s the hot romance.  😉

 

For more information about Nora Roberts (aka J.D. Robb) please visit www.noraroberts.com

 

 

“Phantom Instinct” by Meg Gardiner

 

Book Cover - Phantom Instinct - Meg Gardiner

Bartender Harper Flynn’s boyfriend has just returned her back door access card when the gunfire starts in Meg Gardiner’s “Phantom Instinct.” He is killed in the crossfire, a firebomb is tossed against the wall of liquor behind the bar, and the explosion and spreading flames cause a wall to collapse through the floor, taking a cop with it. And that’s all in the first eleven pages.

 

Harper’s job disappears with the bar and the injured Aiden Garrison, the deputy Sheriff on a case at the time of the fire, has been placed on medical leave from his. Each of them remembers three shooters that night and a year later, Harper thinks one of them is after her. Two of the shooters are dead, and nobody believes Harper and Aiden that the third ever existed. The case is closed. Or is it?

 

Aiden suffered a traumatic brain injury in the fall – serious enough to cause faulty facial recognition (Fregoli Syndrome). His people identification skills sometimes short-circuit so that he sees vicious criminals instead of the friends really standing there. That fact makes him dangerous and completely unreliable as a partner. And he is Harper’s only ally. They must work together to solve the puzzle of what really happened the night of the fire, in order to save their own lives.

 

The “Phantom Instinct” plot is edgy and complex, the players ruthless and fully developed, and it’s hard not to cringe when old ‘buddies’ reappear and work their special brand of evil. The connections to both Aiden’s and Harper’s pasts will make you wish you could read faster.

 

If you’re looking for a sweet, cuddly book…this is most assuredly not it.


“When it started, Harper Flynn had a fifth of vodka in her hand, six shot glasses lined up on the bar in front of her, and a stinging cut on her arm from a broken beer bottle.”

 

With that opening line, Meg Gardiner’s “Phantom Instinct” begins a pulse-pounding, page-turning thriller that will keep you riveted until you finish that last, gut-wrenching scene. And then you’ll yearn for more.

 

Meg Gardiner, an Edgar Award winning, bestselling novelist, writes books with strong, smart women in the lead. The plots are mind-bending, the action non-stop, and I can’t wait to get the next book.  🙂

 

Read the review of “The Memory Collector” here.

Read the review of “Ransom River” here.

 

Please visit www.meggardiner.com for information about all of Ms. Gardiner’s books. You'll be glad you did.

 

 

 

“Trapline” by Mark Stevens

 

Book Cover - Trapline

 

 

 

 

“Trapline” is the third book in Mark Stevens’ series featuring Allison Coil, a hunting guide with a talent for looking beyond the obvious in order to solve crimes in her beloved Colorado mountains. With a past that still haunts her, she is happiest away from crowds of people, following the trails into the hills on her horse, or guiding hunting parties to bag big game. Her boyfriend, Colin, a hunk that also works for her, is making serious inroads into her heart. Who can resist a guy that knows how to use an atlatl and understands without asking, what she needs?

 

A mangled body is found near a campsite, and Allison’s investigation leads to a horrifying discovery. A Senatorial candidate is shot during an outdoor speech in a nearby town, but why? And does the shooting have anything to do with the body in the mountains? As the parallel storylines sizzle and explode in “Trapline,” Stevens reveals a lot about the depths to which humans will go when greed is involved. We learn more about one of this country’s hot button topics: undocumented workers. Problems with the border, people who seek to exploit the undocumented and/or transient workers, the impact on the economy, and the scandal of private prisons, are all explored from several sides of the complex issues.

 

Allison’s best friend, Trudy, the pesto queen and kitchen cook delivering to local stores in book #2, has grown into a full fledged regional farmer and business woman who supplies assorted organic, locally sourced goodies throughout the region. This character is so well-developed that I felt compelled to search for pesto recipes while reading “Buried by the Roan.” A vegan pal shared a great one.  🙂

 

The survival of Trudy’s business may be at stake in “Trapline,” because Trudy hired workers that she thought were legal, but may not all be. She has a few that she knows very well, but as in any growing organization that hires temporary farm workers, it’s practically impossible to know everyone’s story and how they came to work there. Her boyfriend has been in charge of managing the company and she has happily given him more and more control. Can a couple survive when linked together in both business and love?

 

The unspoiled mountains of Colorado take center stage again, with discussions about the tugs of war between commercial development and a wish to keep the wild safe and protected from greedy businessmen – businessmen who seem ignorant of the fact that destroying the very wilderness that provides their livelihood gets them to sum zero. Nobody wins.

 

Readers of “Buried by the Roan” will recognize the central characters in “Trapline,” with Duncan Bloom taking a greater role this time, and others changing/growing as the books continue. Allison is tenacious about her love of the high country and fights to keep its reputation and glory intact, despite several threats to her own safety. She is tenacious about maintaining her privacy as well, but a few edges have softened since her arrival in the first book, and Stevens lets us see more of the vulnerabilities and strengths of this very human lead character.

 

Stevens is adept at weaving the majesty of the Colorado terrain with the serious societal and political topics he brings to each book. With layers of compelling story and a solid group of friends in Allison, Trudy, and the rest of the tight-knit crew, he creates page-turners that linger with us long after the books have ended.

 

“Trapline” won the 2015 Colorado Book Award for Mystery, and the 2015 Colorado Authors League Award for Genre Fiction. Deservedly so.

 

Read the review of “Buried by the Roan,” here.

“Lake of Fire,” the fourth in the series, will be available on September 8, 2015.

For more about Mark Stevens and his work, please visit www.writermarkstevens.com

 

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