thriller

“The 7th Canon” by Robert Dugoni

 

 

The 7th Canon of the American Bar Association code: “A lawyer should represent a client zealously within the bounds of the law.” Whenever that phrase is uttered in any media platform, it’s a dead giveaway that the case under consideration will be challenging. The defendant is in a lot of trouble and we, the audience, are in for a thrill ride.

 

Peter Donley, three years out of law school, is working for his Uncle Lou’s law firm in the Tenderloin section of San Francisco, not the best address in town. He is indebted to his uncle for helping him and his mother at a rough time in their lives and is grateful for the job, but a growing family dictates that it is time to move on. He has a plum offer and is about to give his uncle notice, when Lou is hospitalized with a heart attack.

 

Uncle Lou's biggest client is the Archdiocese of San Francisco, and when one of the priests is charged with the murder of a teenager in his care, as well as possible pornographic acts, Donley catches the case, since Lou will need time to recover. The assignment looks dicey, but Donley owes it to his uncle to follow the 7th canon.

 

Father Tom Martin, complete with shaved head, an earring, and a tattoo, is not the typical parish priest, but he’s just right for the boys’ shelter in the Tenderloin. He’s been the dedicated champion of this safe haven for street kids for years. The disconnect? The evidence points to the priest; there is blood everywhere and Tom had opportunity, if not motive. Thing is, he says he didn’t do it.

 

Fr. Tom is being railroaded, but why? And why is everyone in such a rush to file the motions and convict the guy?

 

Donley must deal with the murdered teen, elusive complicit witnesses, and the evidence found at the scene, all pushing him to his emotional limits. In the process, Donley’s personal demons are forced to the surface, and Dugoni delivers another complex central character. An ambitious DA, the Chief Prosecutor, the former Governor of California, and a cop gunning for revenge, are among the tightly drawn supporting cast. There are lots of secrets with people very interested in hiding them, and we are reminded that evil often wears a suit and tie.

 

This book (a dozen versions ago) was written before the critically acclaimed David Sloane series, but placed in a drawer in favor of other novels that were published at the time. “The 7th Canon” is a standalone novel, but fans of Dugoni since the beginning will recognize certain similarities between the Sloane/Jenkins team and the Donley/Ross team. It’s great fun to see the differences in personalities, and how they approach the cases, as well as the impact that their backgrounds have on their behavior and life choices. Fun fact: “The 7th Canon” is set in the late 1980s, so no emails or cellphones figure into the plot.

 

Politics, sex, police procedure, religion, abuse, and the courtroom, make for a powerful combination, and Dugoni has woven a masterful tapestry of suspense.

 

“The 7th Canon” is a finalist in the Killer Nashville Silver Falchion Award Fiction Adult Thriller category.  Well deserved!

 

*Note: contains adult situations/themes and sporadic adult language.

 

Read my review of “In the Clearing” here.

 

Please visit www.robertdugoni.com for information about Dugoni’s appearances, his awards, and his other terrific books. Read ‘em all, folks.  🙂

 

 

 

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“Relic” by Fiona Quinn

 

Book Cover - Relic

Fiona Quinn has been writing multifaceted female characters throughout her eleven published novels and novellas. Her Lynx series was well-received and featured Lexi Sobado, female psychic and puzzler for Iniquus, a top-secret group working to rid the world of evil in its many forms.

 

Quinn’s new series, Uncommon Enemies, still has Iniquus crews providing the adventure, but features other members of the Strike Force that Sobado assisted in the Lynx series. In “Relic,” Brian Ackerman is the guy front and center, a man with a tie and a gun, and a heart in conflict. The gal he is tasked with protecting, Dr. Sophia Abadi, is a woman with whom he had a memorable one-night stand years before. He hasn’t forgotten, but she would like to. Sophia wants to keep Brian as far away as possible, but he will stop at nothing to keep her safe. If only their past will stop getting in the way.

 

Sophia is an archeologist committed to removing important relics from the path of ISIS terror, both to place the items in safekeeping and to eliminate them from being used as funding for extremist acts. Quinn reveals the real-life modern day method of discovering the probable whereabouts of the artifacts thousands of miles away.

 

The more relics found by Sophia’s team, the less the terrorists will have available to fund themselves, so this is dangerous work with a deadline. But Sophia has security issues at home and she comes under suspicion from a couple of alphabet agencies, even while dealing with crazy neighbors and family estate challenges.

 

Brian Ackerman is a guy conflicted by duty to his country and love for a woman who may be out of reach. The many questions raised, both personal and professional, keep the pages turning. Lexi Sobado appears in a supporting role, nicely tying the two series together.

 

“Relic” is topical, full of likable/complex characters, and is an entertaining addition to Quinn’s resume. Please visit www.fionaquinnbooks.com to see what other projects Quinn has in the works.

 

 

 

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Top 10: The First Four Years of Nightstand Book Reviews

 

Book Cover - Cold Dish

The first four years of Nightstand Book Reviews delivered a wide range of books to my doorstep and to my email inbox. Right from the beginning, I have received more than 100 requests a month (once over 400) from writers and publicists and friends of writers and publicists to review the latest book they had to offer.

 

It has been a fun problem to have. The strategy was (and remains) to choose great reads to chat about and share with the thousands of Nightstand Book Reviews followers around the world. The books on the site are by and large fiction, and tell a well-plotted story involving nicely developed characters. The authors are a mix of bestselling writers of longstanding, and newbies to the field when I first met them. Traditionally published or ebook only? Both happily co-exist on NBR. Occasionally I highlight biographies, great cookbooks, and helpful gardening books. A new feature in 2016 was Author Profiles. You’ll see more of those in 2017.

 

Below is the list of Top 10 books reviewed on Nightstand Book Reviews over the last four years, listed in ABC order by author. These were the books that garnered the most interest on NBR from the worldwide audience during the four years. Six books on the list were the debut novels from those authors. Some powerhouse writers (long, successful careers with great popularity) mixed in with newbies? A good book is a good book.

 

All of these authors now have multiple books out. Click on the book title to read the review.

 

Lee Child – “The Killing Floor”

 

Robert Dugoni – “My Sister’s Grave”

 

Robert Dugoni – “The Conviction”

 

Sherry Harris – “Tagged for Death”

 

Sue Harrison – “Mother Earth, Father Sky”

 

Erin Hart – “Haunted Ground”

 

Tami Hoag – “Alibi Man”

 

Craig Johnson – “The Cold Dish”

 

Leigh Perry – “A Skeleton in the Family”

 

Andy Weir – “The Martian”

 

 

Have you read any of the titles on the list? Wildly different books to be sure, with thrillers, sci-fi, traditional mysteries, and cozies in the group. 

 

And soooo much fun to read.  🙂

 

Thank you all, kind readers, for being part of the Nightstand Book Reviews community during the first four years. Your comments and participation make me smile as I search for the next great read to share with you.

 

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“The 14th Protocol” by Nathan A. Goodman

 

book-cover-the-14th-protocol

In “The 14th Protocol,” Cade Williams is a skilled computer geek and the admin for the largest email service provider in North America, Thoughtstorm. Williams is called to the mysterious 17th floor to fix what looks like a systems crash, alarms sound, he finds the problem with a minute to go, but is told NOT to fix it. Williams wonders what was really going on.


A college friend, Kyle MacKerron, is graduating from the FBI Academy and Williams goes to the ceremony, then shares his concerns about his odd work day. Kyle tells him to follow his gut and look into it. A series of bombings have occurred across the country and the severity and body count ramps up with each new attack. The FBI is investigating and Jana Baker, a rookie recruit, happens to get the assignment that leads her to the Thoughtstorm building.

 

Thoughtstorm is so security conscious that bulletproof glass protects the first eight floors of the building, and rotating digital codes are used to gain access to the different floors and work areas. What kind of company needs all that? Probably not people that are sending out e-flyers for shopping coupons.
 

The email mystery in “The 14th Protocol” covers up something so sinister that the parties involved will do anything to keep it quiet. Williams, MacKerron, and Baker are brought together to expose the truth. And what a truth it is. Nathan Goodman has penned a riveting look at what can happen when high stakes secret operations step outside the bounds of common sense. Just because we can do a thing, should we?

 

The players in Goodman’s book are intense, the action non-stop, and there are plenty of surprises along the way. The Cade Williams character hits all the right notes of a computer savvy guy, facing abject fear at being caught up in something outside his normal realm of experience, yet willing to help stop what’s happening.


The issues of privacy are raised as an aside to the action in the book. It’s fairly unsettling that someone with Cade Williams’ kind of clearance can also read the content in your  emails. This concern has been raised repeatedly while our real-life law enforcement agencies pursue terrorists and other criminals. There are pros and cons to the arguments and Goodman handles them as his absorbing tale of spies and villains unfolds.

 

There is a certain amount of tech speak in “The 14th Protocol,” but Goodman presents the information clearly and simply. We know as real-time email users that too many emails going out at once will crash the server when spammers run amuck or systems overload during a major world event. These days, there are redundancy systems in place for backups in case one goes down or needs some updating. A person like Williams anticipates surges and makes sure the system works smoothly. What could go wrong?


Pay attention to current events and you might be convinced that parts of the storyline are ripped from the headlines. I have to admit that more than one scene in “The 14th Protocol” was so intense that the book has left an indelible impression.

 

Please visit www.nathanagoodman.com for information about Mr. Goodman's other books of edge-of-your-seat suspense.  🙂
 

*Contains frequent adult language.

 

 

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“In the Clearing” by Robert Dugoni

 

Book Cover - In the Clearing

“In the Clearing” brings us the fourth installment in Robert Dugoni’s series featuring Tracy Crosswaite, former high school teacher, now detective for the Seattle, Washington, Police Department.

 

A Seattle murder case is not what it seems at first, but just when the players trip over themselves to change stories and point fingers, Tracy is approached by a former colleague to help solve a cold case elsewhere that the woman’s father had worked on as a rookie cop. A young Native American girl disappeared on the walk home from work, then was found dead in a nearby stream. The case was considered solved and closed at the time, but when the father died, his case notes were found by the daughter. She is sure that he kept the case notes for a reason. Was justice done? Was there a cover up? Why did her dad care?

 

Tracy is skeptical that anything new can be found after forty years, but agrees to take a quick look and report back, no matter what the outcome. The closer she gets to the answers, the more her own life is placed in danger.

 

The cold case is a fascinating one, involving tension between Native Americans and local townspeople, the importance of that in small town culture, and the way in which modern forensic techniques can uncover old truths. This is a Dugoni novel, after all, and “In the Clearing” studies changing values and the way in which certain crimes are viewed and handled differently today.

 

The problem with 40-year-old cases is the lack of fresh physical evidence remaining, particularly when the crime occurs outside, and is affected by the elements. Crosswaite must rely on old photos and the testimony of any still living eyewitnesses. Forensic experts are called in to take a fresh look at the existing information – what remains or can be reconstructed. A character from an earlier book visits to give her astute opinions – an appealing fit as a recurring character. Dugoni’s descriptions of the re-enacted crime are chilling and WOW, do we want to get the guy that did the deed.

 

We can always count on Dugoni to create interesting characters, and “In the Clearing” includes familiar, fully fleshed out cops from the Seattle PD for the present day case, as well as multi-layered local people for the cold case. Crosswaite, is herself a complex law enforcement character and her romantic interest, Dan, introduced in “My Sister’s Grave,” is intelligent, likable, suitably matched and we root for this couple to continue.

 

Dugoni gives us a look at the challenges women continue to face when becoming part of any law enforcement agency. It isn’t enough for a woman to be average. One has to be better in shooting scores and in cases solved, tougher with no emotion shown in front of co-workers. Otherwise the men seem to discount the contribution. It is not an easy life, when starting as a patrol officer, working all shifts, paired with men who have suspicious  wives, spending 8-12 hours a day with a partner.

 

The cold case reveals that brutality and motivation behind the search for power and greed has never changed – just the players in the unfolding pain. “In the Clearing” contains several scenes and troubled characters that demonstrate how crippling that single-mindedness can be.

 

Read my review of “My Sister’s Grave,” the first full novel in the series, here.

Take a look at Dugoni’s David Sloane series with this review of “The Conviction,” here.

 

Please visit www.robertdugoni.com for information about Mr. Dugoni’s other work, future appearances, and the excellent classes he conducts.

 

 

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“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

 

 

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“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.

 

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