The Moon That Fell from Heaven

The Moon That Fell from Heaven by N.L. Holmes

Book Reviewed by Lily Andrews

In “The Moon That Fell from Heaven” by N. L. Holmes, an emperor’s daughter is caught up in traumatizing anguish and despair, as she uncovers incomprehensible secrets at the helm of mockery by loved ones, due to her childlessness.  Purchase Here.

An unfathomable sense of misery has been growing in Queen Ehli-nikkalu’s heart, out of the resonant contempt and scorn that she has constantly received from her husband who is also her father’s vassal, King Niqmaddu. He rarely graces their matrimonial bed, yet accuses her of not bearing him any children. It is believed that a queen who doesn’t bear an heir is a liability and sadly for her, the loathing that has been coming with that assertion has severely eaten into her poise for years.

A familiar tone relaying a ton of sardonic utterances fills the air, the day unbeknownst to Ehli-nikkalu, life takes a new turn. She notices a small clay tablet drop from Niqmaddu’s sash, and onto his cushioned seat. Its inscriptions are chilling to listen to, as her secretary later interprets them from Akkadian, the formal diplomatic language that unites every kingdom. From it, she learns that her father’s kingdom back in Hattusha is in imminent danger of being taken away forcefully by his son-in-law, King Niqmaddu. An immediate alert needs to get to Hattusha, but little does Ehli-nikkalu know that this venture will not only open up a can of woes for herself, but for her loyalties also.

A stab of pity will engulf a reader as sad realities get unveiled regarding adorable characters such as Amaya, who is mourning her father’s demise after witnessing his horrendous murder. Deceptive individuals send the protagonist tiptoeing, and readers will want to see her judgment turn out right, regarding the people she chooses to abide with, such as Teshamanu and Rab-ilu. Readers will also find themselves emotionally bound to the gripping tale of a twist of fate, that she has little control over.

N. L. Holmes spreads out every new chapter with new developments and tantalizing details, that ably push the reading experience to the utmost edge and tension. Ehli-nikkalu and other major characters in this book are real, and the author does a great job of taking a reader back in history to Syria in 1213 BCE. Her new book, “The Moon That Fell from Heaven” is without a doubt a masterpiece that showcases the proficiency of women in defending civilizations and cultures, when given a chance. Holmes will once again gain a victory in your heart, with her heart-stopping creativity, and ideation, which has once again seen a difficult-to-let-go historical thriller produced.

Bird in a Snare

Bird in a Snare by N.L. Holmes

Reviewed by Timea Barabas

Bird in a Snare is the foundation stone of The Lord Hani Mysteries, a historical series that plays out in Ancient Egypt. N. L. Holmes masterfully resurrects from the sands of time a tale of a humble diplomat and a proud family man, who finds himself adrift in the whirlwind of changing times. Purchase Here.

This is a story about the life and adventures of Hani, a diplomat serving under the rule of Akhenaten. As a new horizon slowly creeps upon the land, Hani is sent to the distant realm of Syria to uncover a murder with grave political repercussions. During his mission to solve one murder, he encounters only more death, political corruption, and a fragile net of relationships between leaders. But before coming to any conclusions, he must return to his home, mid-investigation. The sun has set. And soon a new sun will shine over the kingdom. The successor who rose to the throne seems to depart from the comfort of the old ways, into a new territory; a new direction that does not seem to meet with Hani’s set life course. But, nevertheless one must adapt and above all, survive.

Bird in a Snare is well documented and offers a historically convincing depiction of what once was. N. L. Holmes world building skills melt together fiction and historical facts, in her reimagined set of events. She addresses Ancient Egypt from a macro level – mainly through state and religion – and the micro level of everyday life. But what is more, she unites these two spheres through the main character, Hani. Although the story revolves around a central figure, he is constantly surrounded by a colorful bouquet of characters, be that pharaohs, his scribe Maya, or members of his family. This psychological attention to character development is what truly animates the pages of the book.

Under the penname of N.L. Holmes, an archeologist and university professor by trade, brings her in-depth knowledge to the realm of historical fiction. The abundant knowledge of the author seeps into the text in a natural way and brings color to historical details. For all those who love to dive into historical fiction, keep an eye on Bird in a Snare and other writings by N.L. Holmes.

Enough to Make the Angels Weep

Enough to Make the Angels Weep by Ernesto Patino

Reviewed by Daniel Ryan Johnson

Enough to Make the Angels Weep is an intriguing and well-researched mystery novel. The novel features P.I. Joe Coopersmith as he investigates the murder of his client’s grandmother four years prior. However, as his investigation progresses, it becomes clear that this murder is a small piece in a much larger mystery involving the Mexican-American War, a group of Irish-born soldiers known as the Batallón de San Patricio, and a missing diary. Purchase here.

The primary mystery that will keep you turning the pages is not identifying the killer but rather the motivations behind the killing, which can be traced back over a century and a half. Ernesto Patino uses his narrative to shed light on a period of North American history that few people in the U.S. know much about but which is far more well chronicled in Mexico.

Enough to Make the Angels Weep is not a thrill a minute whodunit. However, that certainly doesn’t mean that it is not engaging. The promise of the contents of a missing diary from an Irish-born soldier who defected from the U.S. army to side with Mexico during the war keep you turning the pages. Then, once said diary is finally uncovered, you will be hard-pressed to put the book down.

You can tell from the way he writes that Patino has a history in law enforcement and as a private investigator. The character of Coopersmith is authentic, and the description of the investigation feels natural.

The book touches on current political topics, namely the reevaluation of national “heroes.” It reminds us that not only do good people do bad things but bad people can have significant accomplishments as well. However, it is important to look at the world with a critical eye willing to view the truth without blinking.

Enough to Make the Angels Weep is a well-written, thoughtful piece of historical fiction. It is a quick read and will leave you wanting to research more about the Mexican-American War and the role of the Saint Patrick’s Battalion. The uncovered diary serves as a story within the story and is a beautifully written look at love and war.

La Chimere of Prague

La Chimère of Prague: Part II (The Chimera of Prague Book 2) by Rick Pryll

Reviewed by Ray Palen

Prague is the capital of the Czech Republic and one of the largest and most bohemian cities in the European Union. It is important to have an understanding and a sense of Prague to truly appreciate this novel as the majority of it is set there during the late 1990s. Specifically, LA CHIMERE OF PRAGUE spans the length of August – December in the year 1998. Purchase Here.

It was not that long before the action of this novel that Czechoslovakia saw a schism referred to as the Velvet Revolution and later the Velvet Divorce which saw the country split into the new Czech Republic and Slovakia. Prague is found in the former and by the late ’90s became one of the business and cultural centers in all of the EU. Author Rick Pryll knows all this only too well as he lived in Prague from 1997 to 2002.

Someone who knows and understands Prague even better is the protagonist in this tale, Joseph. He is an American ex-patriot American now living and working in Prague. He is not only leaving behind the U.S.A. but also the memories of his late love. In one of the most interesting love affairs in modern fiction, Joseph was involved with a bi-sexual mermaid who died under mysterious circumstances. He still intends to get to the bottom of her death but for now, must focus on his own life and moving forward.

Joseph recognizes that change is good and not everything with his new life in Prague is bad. For instance, there is the young woman Karina who he also fell for. Karina is a waitress-turned-supermodel who Joseph felt he could have a life with — or at least some really great sex. Unfortunately, Karina left Joseph and Prague as she took off for Italy with her English tutor. As Joseph waits patiently for her eventual return he immerses himself in Prague and the family and friends he spends time with there.

Prague in the late ’90s was also a time of sexual revolution and pumping-hot techno music that seemed to stream forth from every nightclub. What will frustrate the reader is how Joseph seems to fend away love at every opportunity. Pryll digs deep into Joseph’s family history and past and it easy to know him deeply. He is an extremely sensitive and self-aware person and you are able to slip into his skin and spend time as a fellow American living in a foreign country that was still fighting for its’ own identity.

As a businessman, it is intriguing to see how Joseph feels about Prague and its’ efforts to become a player at the high finance table. In fact, the socio-economic status of this time is enough to keep Joseph occupied and forget about his love woes and constant mourning for the dead. That is until things take a turn and have him once again opening up old wounds from his past involving his deceased ex-girlfriend. You know that it must mean trouble when the only person who might be able to provide him all the answers he needs is named Naked Pete. It would probably be really cool to say you had a friend named Naked Pete, the only problem is he is terribly unreliable and never seems to pick up his phone when you really need him.

The characters in this story are all somewhat bizarre and yet very real. This is converse to the Prague that Rick Pryll has invented, a place that almost seems dream-like or taken from a fairy tale. With a central figure like Joseph, himself a fairly odd and deep-thinking character, Pryll has created a novel that grows on you bit by bit. LA CHIMERE OF PRAGUE presents a handful of problems for Joseph to solve and readers of literary fiction will be drawn to this narrative and find themselves rooting for him right through to the stories’ conclusion.

Acts of Faith

Acts of Faith: Part I of the Inquisition Trilogy by Martin Elsant

Reviewed by Ray Palen

The British Jewish historian Cecil Roth, who was educated at Oxford, wrote a book that was of special interest to author Martin Elsant. The book was entitled History Of the Marranos and of the many figures covered in it was one Diego Lopes of Pinancos in Coimbra, Portugal. Ironically, Mr. Elsant is a former radiologist living in Jerusalem and Mr. Roth died in Jerusalem in the year 1970.  Purchase Here.

While much of ACTS OF FAITH is dedicated to the descendants of Diego Lopes, Martin Elsant includes two quotes prior to his Author’s Notes from different sources. One in particular I found quite interesting: “Folded under the dark wing of the Inquisition…the influence of an eye that never slumbered, of an unseen arm ever raised to strike. How could there be freedom of thought, where there was no freedom of utterance? Or freedom of utterance, where it was as dangerous to say too little as too much? Freedom cannot go along with fear.” – William H. Prescott, The Age of Phillip II and the Supremacy of the Spanish Empire, 1858.

It is easy to pick up a history book or click on Wikipedia to find out about Diego Lopes. I prefer, whenever possible, to read historical fiction — an infusion of actual history within the opportunities that allow for creativity when re-examining historical events. I believe that this is what Martin Elsant is doing with ACTS OF FAITH, retelling historical events during one of the most difficult times in human and religious history — The Inquisitions — in such a way that it feels as if the reader is enjoying a book of fiction, filled with all the expected plot twists and turns.

The story we are following involves Maria, the daughter of Diego Lopes, and a young man whom she is quite fond of, Aristedes or ‘Ari’ Coelho. Ari had a difficult life, having to watch his parents succumb to the Black Plague when he was only twelve years of age. His Aunt and Uncle already had six children and were unable to take on another so Ari ended up spending his ‘orphan’ time living with the village priest, Father Affonso. It was perhaps this experience at such an impressionable part of his life that led Ari to join the Seminary as soon as he was old enough to.

When and Ari and Maria met she was immediately fond of him. He enjoys having biblical discussions with her, beginning with an explanation as to why the bible was not just meant for kind-hearted souls such as hers but also for sinners like himself. Regrettably, it was The Inquisitions that brought about a short falling-out period for Ari and Maria. One of Diego Lopes’s servants, Pedro, is taken by one of the Inquisition Familiars. Being a servant with no political influence, Pedro was unable to fight against the planted evidence used to imprison him. Pedro soon becomes one of the many victims of The Inquisition when he is tortured to death. Maria finds Ari and they have a heated discussion over this matter — heated only because Maria asked Ari if the Inquisitors who tortured Pedro to death were sinners and he indicated that, while they may have made unintentional mistakes in the case of Pedro, they did not sin.

Part of Ari’s seminary training included a tour of the torture chambers used by the Inquisitors. It is but the first thing that begins to slowly change his feelings about the entire Inquisition process. The Bishop, having been privy to Ari’s slight change in attitude, sits him down for a good talk. It is during this talk that Ari’s mind is made up — what the Inquisitors are doing in the name of God is nothing but absolute, unadulterated evil. The question was, how does he fight it from the precarious position he is in?

Ari learns of people being tortured just because of their contrary religious beliefs — like those of the Jewish faith celebrating the ritual of fasting during the high holy day of Yom Kippur. Ari knew that it was not just one evil Church leader but an entirely evil system that needed to be stopped. The trouble was that the Inquisition Familiars in Portugal were trying hard to emulate those from Spain — and the Spanish Inquisitions were no Monty Python sketch but one of the most deadly events in European history. The story takes a big turn when Ari’s old friend Maria finds him and tells him that her father, Diego, has been arrested as part of The Inquisition. She begs him for help, but as much as he would like to, Ari realizes there is little he can do.

The case against Diego Lopes is weak, and he is defending himself during the trial. When asked, he indicates that the only reason why he has been called out by the Inquisitors is because he has been accused of Judaizing. Things did not look good for Diego. This was a period in human history where there was not much sympathy for those who were feared. These people were simply eliminated, much in the same way that over 50,000 ‘witches’ were killed in neighboring European countries. While Diego spent months in prison, Maria spoke with Ari in fear that it was just a matter of days before he was executed.

Maria begs Ari to try and help indicating he is her last hope. It is tough for Ari to disappoint her, but there was really nothing he could do that would not find him in the same position as her father. At the same time, Ari finds is difficult to understand her proclamations that Judaism is superior to Christianity — his seminary teaching and upbringing responsible for his stance. Regardless, the latter part of this book is a retelling of the plan made to free Diego and make an escape away from Portugal. Some readers may already know of Diego Lopes’s fate but I will not spoil that here and encourage all to pick up this book from Martin Elsant and settle in for the ride in what represents the first book in the Inquisition Trilogy.

The Eye That Never Sleeps

The Eye That Never Sleeps by Clifford Browder

Reviewed by Lisa Brown-Gilbert

Traversing back in time to New York City circa the late nineteenth century, Clifford Browder’s The Eye That Never Sleeps poses a decidedly brilliant take on the historical crime thriller with an enticingly twisted narrative that brings together history, mystery, and masterfully fleshed out characters. Purchase Here.

A growing mystery is afoot in the expanding metropolis of 1869 New York City when three banks are robbed within a nine-month period. Of particular concern is the robbery of the Bank of Trade which is considered the heist of the century. Moreover, the thief has the gall to brag about the robberies by way of sending to the president of each bank gloating rhyming verses and a key to the bank within days of the wake of each masterminded robbery.

Meanwhile, unfortunately for the bankers, the police department has been overwhelmed by the heavy caseloads of other criminal investigations which leaves the city’s bankers in growing desperation. Looking for answers, they turn to private operative/ detective Sheldon Minick who agrees to take on the case for a substantial retainer which enables the financially strapped detective to pay bills and bring meat to his table.

An intriguing character from the start, Minick comes across as reserved and intelligent, but odd, as he not only enjoys baffling the criminals he chases, but his clients as well. Also, a master of disguise, he manages to successfully infiltrate the infamous Thieves Ball previously found impenetrable by police to mete out potential suspects. It is there at the ball, that Sheldon Minick encounters Slick Nick Prime aka Nicholas Hale, master cracksman and a bragging dandy whose wealth and wile allows him to answer to his proclivities at his whim.

Consequently, the thrills ensue as these two complex characters are brought together in a thrilling game of entanglement and wits with the intimate perspectives of both men’s psyche and lifestyles exposed. As a result, the vastly different character’s lives are lensed through the eye-opening details of the history, politics, and personalities of the era with particular attention to the division of quality of life, ultimately providing a compelling look at the wealthy and privileged life of the criminal Hale versus the poor but good guy Minick.

Altogether, I really enjoyed The Eye That Never Sleeps. I relished in being immersed in a story that captured the reality of that era in early New York history, especially being a New Yorker myself. I do highly recommend this book. It was a worthy read that was simultaneously informative, compelling and entertaining.