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.

Murder at the CDC

Margaret Truman’s Murder at the CDC: A Capital Crimes Novel by Jon Land

Reviewed by Russell Ilg

I’ve reviewed more books by Jon Land than I can count but his latest, MURDER AT THE CDC, stands out for all the right reasons. Purchase Here.

And all the wrong ones, too.

That’s because the book, completed prior to the January 6, 2021, eerily explores the very mindset that made that chaotic, violent day possible. Not only does the book open with, yes, a mass shooting on the steps of the Capitol Building, it centers around a crazed plot by unified militias and extremist groups to wage what is essentially a second civil war to seize power forever.

Five years ago, we learn in the prologue, a tanker carrying a deadly bio-weapon called the “White Death” seemingly vanished into thin air. Once those contents fall into the hands of an unscrupulous politician eyeing the White House and the powerful offspring of a famed televangelist, all bets are off and a fanatical plot that dwarfs January 6 is underway. We’ve seen the politician, Senator Byron Fitch, before. It’s a classic thriller trope and there’s nothing new there.

What is new, and fabulously so, is the character of Deacon Frank Wilhyte, a man forever living in his dead father’s shadow who finds himself repeating the same mistakes with his own son. Deacon Frank’s murderous tendencies, we learn, were passed on to the boy, making them probably the oddest of father and son couplings ever seen in the genre.

At the heart of MURDER AT THE CDC, though, is its protagonist Robert Brixton, whom Land inherited from previous entries in the late Margaret Truman’s penultimate mystery-thriller series, but enhances substantially here. Brixton is drawn into the action when his grandson is nearly killed in the aforementioned Capitol shooting. That comes after Brixton meets, at his best friend Mackensie Smith’s behest, Mac’s long-lost daughter who’s troubled by something she’s uncovered at the, you guessed it, CDC where she works.

Brixton, in tandem with wronged Baltimore detective turned Capitol cop Kelly Loftus, trace the terrible truths of the Capitol shooting to its roots on Deacon Frank’s doorstep. This as even more terrible truths are revealed about the White Death’s capacity to kill millions of Americans by the bio-weapon’s wheelchair-bound creator. Around for the ride, once again, is the shadowy government fixer Brixton calls Panama, as well as the eccentric, pigeon-loving scientist known only as the Professor. Good thing because Brixton is going to need all the help he can get.

All of that combines to make the 32nd book in this stellar series a can’t miss, can’t put it down, absolute stunner of a tale guaranteed to chill you to the bone. In Land’s able hands, Capital Crimes has regained the fervent pace and keen plotting that once made these books perennial bestsellers. Jam-packed with action and intrigue, MURDER AT THE CDC is as riveting as it is relentless and relevant. An early pick for the best thriller of 2022.

They Call Me Ms.

They Call Me Ms. by Terry Adcock

Reviewed by Dianne Woodman

They Call Me Ms. takes place in the Washington metropolitan area and introduces readers to Private Investigator Vic Carella. Mitch Goldberg hires Vic to locate his stolen luxury yacht. What Vic thinks is just a simple problem of tracking down a missing vessel turns into a challenging and dangerous adventure as Mitch was not forthcoming when Vic agreed to take on the case. It comes to light Mitch is tangled up with a criminal organization that engages in arms smuggling, money laundering, and human trafficking. Purchase Here.

Mitch’s dead body turns up before Vic figures out who might have hidden the yacht and its location. Vic’s inquiries to determine who killed Mitch and his involvement in illegal and nefarious activities bring her to the attention of miscreants. She comes up against seemingly inescapable and life-threatening situations. Concurrently with Vic, law enforcement officials are investigating. Who will prevail? Will the individuals engaged in unlawful activities get away with their crimes or be stopped by Vic and/or police and government agencies?

The novel is a terrific debut in A Vic Carella Mystery series. Vic, the newly featured female private detective, tells the story from her point of view. Terry Adcock’s writing style lets readers get a first-hand look into Vic’s emotional and behavioral responses to ethical dilemmas. All the characters are imbued with distinctive personality traits, which affect their approach and reaction to situations. New challenges and more complications for the characters make readers want to know what will happen next. How complicated will their personal lives become? Can they overcome obstacles in their way? The profanity chosen by Adcock suits the characters.

They Call Me Ms. involves a challenging mystery and an organized crime group. Adcock pulls readers into this suspenseful page-turner from the start. Readers can envision vivid pictures of scenes in the story due to Adcock’s creative use of figurative language. An exciting twist to the story involves Vic’s attraction to a man seemingly operating on the wrong side of the law. The well-placed false clues and an edge of looming danger enhance the storyline.

People will find reading this fast-paced mystery a rewarding experience. Readers get a close-up view into the callous behavior of criminals and how law enforcement personnel and a private detective outside her comfort zone deal with racketeering and heinous criminal activities. Adcock has penned a riveting story that is full of action-packed conflict and builds to an edge-of-your-seat climax. It ends with a hook to keep readers interested in the next volume.

Coldwater Revenge

Coldwater Revenge by James A. Ross

Book Reviewed by Dianne Woodman

Coldwater Revenge takes place in 2002 with the setting in a lakefront community along the Canadian border. Tom Morgan, a high-powered New York lawyer, has taken a break from his job to spend time with his family. He is at a crossroads in his life and trying to choose the path he wants to follow. Shortly after his arrival in the small town of Coldwater, the body of a local man is discovered in the lake. Sheriff Joe Morgan, Tom’s younger brother, recently lost his staff and is the sole police officer in the town. Joe enlists Tom’s help in what turns out to be a high-profile murder case. During a meeting at Tom’s law firm, he finds out that a case from years ago in which he was only peripherally involved could cost him not only his job but also jail time. Time is critical for proving his innocence, but Tom refuses to leave Joe without support. Purchase Here.

When Joe becomes critically ill due to his exposure to a deadly toxin, Tom takes over the investigation, and his theories and probing questions put him in the uncomfortable position of questioning the likelihood of whether his brother or Susan Pearce, the sister of the victim, could be involved in the complicated case in which a bio-research company is also entangled. Career choices along with personal and family relationships all point toward Joe’s and/or Susan’s possible guilt. While working on the case, Tom not only is dealing with inner turmoil, possible career implosion, family differences, and his feelings toward Susan, his ex-girlfriend, but he also winds up in precarious situations that lead to life threatening danger. Will Tom escape perilous predicaments and identify the killer? Is there a potential bio-terrorist plan afoot and can it be stopped? Will Joe’s body succumb to the poison?

James A. Ross has put together a disparate group of compelling characters, each with their own agenda, who share a connection with one another that include positive and/or negative relationships. Readers gain insight into the motivations behind characters’ behaviors and reactions. The story is true-to-life in painting a picture of how a small-town sheriff skirts the edge when it comes to following the letter of the law by allowing some illegal activities to go unpunished and the subsequent fallout. Ross does a terrific job in the use of imagery and figurative language to bring the characters and storyline alive and make for a richer reading experience.

Ross draws readers in with a terrific opening line and holds them spellbound while reading this spine-tingling and suspense-filled page turner. It is a roller coaster ride for readers as they are shocked, mesmerized, and fascinated all at the same time. This riveting story includes lies and betrayal, violence with intent to maim or kill, alleged clergy misconduct, ups and downs of family relationships, secret oral language, suspected bioterrorism, moral and ethical issues, underhanded dealings, personal dilemmas, and a small amount of swearing. Coldwater Revenge is most definitely a top shelf-worthy read and a great debut of the Coldwater Mystery Series. I look forward to the release of Coldwater Confession, the second book in the series.

The Ray Bright Caper

The Ray Bright Caper by B.B. Teeter

Reviewed by Daniel Ryan Johnson

If you are looking to start a new modern detective series with a feminist twist, consider “The RayBright Caper” the debut novel of the “Kirby Mack Series.” The story revolves around the classic tale of thieves trying to pull off a heist and an underdog investigator trying to catch them. However, in B. B. Teeter’s version, this involves a secret military device as a prized possession, an unlikely band of two misfits, and an underappreciated female private security investigator. Purchase Here.

Harvey, the man who came up with the grand plan, recruits an unlikely associate, a tech-genius kid named Mark. The start of their professional relationship is a particularly enchanting part of the novel. The tension between the two is palpable, as they each try to size up the other without giving too much away about themselves. Nevertheless, to obtain trust, one must first offer trust.

The two make a great team by complementing each other nicely. There are plenty of moments where they show complete trust in one another. What is more, they seem fully dedicated to the plan. However, throughout the pages, there is a lingering tension, which erupts occasionally.

As their carefully thought-out plan is set in motion, so is Kirby Mack, who is playing for the other side. She is hired by the targeted RayBright Labs, a San Diego Defense contractor. The founders of the company catch on to the fact that something is about to happen but that something seems to elude them.
Kirby proves to be far more resourceful and skilled than her employers thought. Her intelligence and deep knowledge of human psychology enable her to see things in a different light and generally obtain what she wants. In the end, it might even turn out that she was too good for the job.

One of the most intriguing aspects of the novel is its triple narrative line. Chapters are alternatively dedicated to each of the three main characters, Harvey, Mark, and Kirby. This allows the reader a truly unique perspective on the unfolding events. It is truly fascinating to compare a singular event from multiple viewpoints as it brings into focus different details (which go unnoticed by the other participants). Therefore, the reader somehow rises above the events and has a wider view over and deeper understanding of the action.

The RayBright Caper” promises to be a great read for adults who wish to go on a thrilling adventure. B. B. Teeter is masterful at giving the suspense momentum and also at keeping events unpredictable. These are just a few of the traits that make the book particularly hard to put down.

Windfall

Windfall: A Henry Lysyk Mystery by Byron TD Smith

Book Reviewed by Daniel Ryan Johnson

Windfall: A Henry Lysyk Mystery is a well-researched story interweaving real-world intrigue into a fictional tale full of questions. Windfall is not an over the top mystery thriller where every moment is filled with high suspense and the pressing need for action. Instead, it quietly tells a tale about an unassuming former banker, who is somewhat reluctantly drawn into the maze by a love for puzzles and at the urging of his precocious niece and captivating neighbor. The distraction might be exactly what our protagonist needs to pull him out of a dark period in his life – unless the danger catches up to him. Purchase Here.

While the book may move at a more casual pace than many modern mysteries, which feel the need to fill every page with excitement, that does not mean it is lacking in tense moments of suspense. The first chapter of the book will hook you before the following chapters reel you into the world surrounding one of the most infamous unsolved crimes. Author Byron TD Smith does a terrific job of balancing these moments with wonderful character development, that leaves the reader feeling connected to those who live between the pages. All the characters feel real, and their actions are believable, which is not often something you find in the genre.

Mr. Smith’s writing flows smoothly across the pages and can make it difficult to find a place to pause your reading session. This can pose a hazard for late-night readers as they may find a short sleep ahead of them. Smith doesn’t rely on the high-octane world of sex, drugs, and rock & roll to sell the reader on his story, although all three do lurk around the edges. Instead, he relies on the compelling storylines and mildly eccentric characters he has created to keep readers engaged. He doesn’t attempt to write down to the reader to appeal to a larger audience, nor does he alienate readers with overembellished sentences.

After finishing the book, I was surprised to discover that Windfall was Mr. Smith’s first novel. The polished storytelling and literary presence read like an author who has honed his craft for years. I look forward to seeing what he will bring us next, and based on the subtitle am hoping to meet up with Henry and his friends again before too long.

The Killing of Faith

The Killing of Faith by William Holms

Reviewed by Timea Barabas

If you are looking for a fresh suspense/thriller, you should look no further than “The Killing of Faith” by William Holms. This book will take you on a thrilling journey of the rise and fall of a woman. Purchase Here.

It all starts and ends with Faith. The story, narrated in the first person by Faith herself, opens to a very grim but vague present setting. A setting that is periodically revisited throughout the chapters and which is in stark contrast to the past. She takes us back to her childhood and patiently goes through the main events of her life: engagement, marriage, motherhood.

Faith is the kind of beautiful girl that is well aware of her good looks and does not hold back from using this to her advantage. She finds little interest in school, instead, she prefers hanging out with her friends, shopping, and boys. One boy in particular. So, she enters into a tumultuous relationship that eventually leads her to drop out of school and move out from her parents’ place to a different city. Faith leaves everything for a man and a fresh start. But she doesn’t get either. Her dreams crumble and so does she. At least until another man walks into her life and she rebuilds herself through him. This becomes a pattern that repeats with some minor variation. Faith seems to have an innate drive to seek out completion in somebody else and this drives her to the edge of life.

The brilliant thing about the book is its growing suspense. And this suspense is a testament to the skills of William Holms. It all starts with the title, “The Killing of Faith”. So, naturally, the reader expects Faith to be killed at some point. But there are so many questions that arise: why? How? By whom? And as the pages of the book seem to run out and Faith is still very much alive, one starts to wonder if it will still actually happen or was it all just a ruse. This tense anticipation is the main driving force that keeps you flipping page after page.

This is not one of those books that get you hooked by a nurtured love for the main character, quite the contrary… yet the author manages to elicit feelings of sympathy and compassion for Faith as she is met with hardships. Also, her childish naiveté remains an endearing quality. The character carefully balances on the verge of a charicaturistic depiction of women and this is one of the elements that awaken such strong feelings of ambivalence toward her.

The Killing of Faith” is a captivating read, but it is not a book for all ages, as there are some explicit scenes and vulgar language. What is more, the sequel is already in preparation by William Holmes.

Murder on the Metro

Murder on the Metro by Jon Land

Reviewed by Russell Ilg

“You need to get somewhere safe,” one character tells another late in MURDER ON THE METRO, to which the other responds, “I don’t think there is such a place anymore.” Purchase Here.

That should come as no surprise, given that Jon Land has picked up the writing duties in this 31st book in the New York Times bestselling Capital Crimes series originally conceived by Margaret Truman. After all, Land is no stranger to high stakes thrillers in which the country, or entire world, hang in the balance. In MURDER ON THE METRO, those stakes include the United States government which is about to be overthrown.

Yes, you heard that right. Known for tearing his ideas from the headlines, Land actually writes his own this time out, having the prescience to pretty much predict what we all witnessed on January 6 when a mob descended on the Capitol. And the result, from an entertainment standpoint, is one of those rare literary sure things. A can’t-miss, can’t-put-it-down, can’t-believe-I’m-reading-this thriller that clicks on every level.

Land retains series vet, and international private investigator, Robert Brixton as the book’s lead, albeit with a bit more of an edge and heightened skill set. That makes him a fitting counterpoint to one of the book’s two heroines: Lia Ganz, a former Israeli commando who comes out of retirement to track down the terrorists responsible for a horrific beach attack in Caesarea. There’s also Secret Service agent Kendra Rendine, head of the female vice president’s security detail and a friend of Brixton’s.

They move in the same circles, those circles converging when Rendine suspects that the vice president’s death to a heart attack was actually foul play. It’s left to Brixton to uncover the specific means and manner, even as he comes to realize an implicit connection between the murder of the vice president, that strike on Israel, and an attempted terrorist attack on the Washington Metro that he thwarted (hence the book’s title).

That connection brings him to the White House itself and a scheming first lady dealing with her husband’s diminished mental capacity on the eve of an election, but not before Brixton and Lia Ganz break an 80-year-old nun out of federal prison. Turns out Sister Mary Alice Rose, a committed social activist inspired by the real-life exploits of Sister Megan Rice, is the only one who knows how all the pieces fit together, the glue coming in the form of a plot to murder millions of Americans.

The stunning and stupendous MURDER ON THE METRO is one of those books that’s so much fun you hate to see it end. Featuring the perfect blend of action and intrigue, plot and character, pacing and suspense, here is a template for how thrillers are supposed to read. Coming in lean and mean at 288 pages and featuring Land’s patented short, cliffhanger-rich chapters, get ready to plunge into the best political thriller in recent memory.

Dangerous Bureau

Dangerous Bureau by Roger Williams

Reviewed by Daniel Johnson

Dangerous Bureau is a book about monsters. Not the kinds of monsters that hide under your bed or in your closet – hopefully. This book is about the monsters that live next door. The monsters that you see on your television every day. The monsters that we all know are out there, but can never see until it’s too late. Purchase Here.

Roger Darrell Williams brings us the story of Tara Helms, mother of two, loving wife, and former computer hacker extraordinaire. Tara quit her job as a hacker to take care of her sick son, and aside from spending more time in the hospital than the mother of a small child should have to, her life was pretty good. Until one evening, when her little girl was abducted by one of these monsters next door. After that Tara Helms’ life would never be the same.

Williams takes us down a dark path as the abduction and murder of Tara’s daughter Cindy continues to pull her further and further into the abyss in order to take down the man who killed her child and the system that supports him. The monsters that fill the pages of Dangerous Bureau grow more and more revolting with every turn of the page, and the reader’s hope for vengeance grows stronger with each word.

Dangerous Bureau gets its name from the Intellect Bureau which is a corrupt organization within the government, striving for global domination and willing to employ the most sadistic monsters it can find in order to do achieve that goal. The Intellect Bureau paints a bleak picture of the world that we live in, with those in power being able to get away with whatever they want as long as they have the money to buy influence.

On the other side, though, the book also presents us with a message of hope. Hope that wherever monsters exist in the world, there are monster hunters working to take them down. The hope that everyday citizens will not let injustice go unchecked and instead will stand up to fight for good. The hope that even when things seem their darkest, the sun might just break through the clouds.

Tunnels & Caves

Tunnels & Caves by Robert Haydon

Book Reviewed by Dianne Woodman

Kelly Wren and Angie Morrison are in a serious romantic relationship. They co-own a farm in Willow Creek, a rural town in Texas. Wren is a former sheriff who works on cold cases along with retired detective Wayne Tolleson for the Austin Police Department. Morrison unofficially helps with the investigations, which involve three cold cases: the double murder of a man and his girlfriend, the murder of a teenage girl, and the disappearance of a college student and her boyfriend. While Morrison devotes time to aid Wren and Tolleson, she also oversees the day-to-day running of the successful farm business and deals with a stalker. Wren and Tolleson end up in dangerous and life-threatening situations while pursuing satisfactory resolutions to the unsolved crimes. Will they be successful, or will the criminals get away with their abhorrent behavior? As Morrison’s stalker escalates to more intrusive and threatening behavior, will Morrison become the victor and not the victim? Purchase Here.

Robert Haydon has written a great mystery novel with twists and turns that transports readers directly into each scene and keeps them invested in turning the pages. Witty banter, camaraderie, romantic chemistry, skillful investigating, gun battles, and farm chores are integral to this aptly titled book, Tunnels & Caves, in which police detectives face challenges while trying to solve difficult and unsolved crimes. While the detectives work hard at solving the cold cases, other situations arise that are key to the overall story arc such as a train derailment with the escape of wild animals into the countryside, a murderous criminal on the run, and a stalker with a devious plan. Readers get to see firsthand the strategies law enforcement officials use in their efforts not only to try and find answers for survivors but also to identify the guilty parties.

Haydon has created true-to-life characters with personality traits that are unique to each individual, and all of their reactions and behaviors are believable in the situations they find themselves. Carefully crafted dialogue tailored to fit the characters brings them to life and engages readers by making them feel immersed in the fictional world Haydon created. The investigation takes Wren, Tolleson, and Morrison to a number of locations, and strong descriptive writing evokes a powerful sense of place. Tension and suspense are seamlessly woven together and builds up as the story progresses leading to readers being on tenterhooks until the final outcome. A captivating and riveting mystery penned by Haydon that gets readers so invested in the story they will not want to put the book down until it is finished. Tunnels & Caves does not follow the standard book format. There is no title page, the text is double-spaced, the chapters do not start on a new page, and there are no page numbers. However, this does not detract in any way from the quality of the writing and the overall enjoyable reading experience.