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.

The Nosferatu Conspiracy:  The Sleepwalker

The Nosferatu Conspiracy: The Sleepwalker by Brian James Gage

Book Reviewed by Dianne Woodman

The Nosferatu Conspiracy: The Sleepwalker is the first book in a new series that takes place in both Romania and Saint Petersburg, Russia. Brian James Gage has written a gripping, edge-of-your-seat supernatural thriller with his own interpretation of Russian history involving Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin and the Russian Imperial Romanov family during the reign of Tsar Nicholas Aleksandrovich Romanov II. Rasputin, a powerful and deceptive vampire with extraordinary, otherworldly abilities, has orchestrated an elaborate scheme that will enable vampires to rule the world and use the human population as a food source. Members of the Romanov family are crucial to the success of Rasputin’s game plan. Vampire hunters with special weapons are trying to thwart Rasputin’s efforts in his promise of victory for bloodsucking evil beings to triumph over humankind. The hunters face a time-constraint for trying to put a stop to this calamitous undertaking. Who will be the victor? Will humans serve as vampires’ food supply or will humans destroy any chance of vampires running rampant?   Purchase Here.

This nail-biting and electrifying story is split into three parts, each with thematically relevant titles that wonderfully tie the storyline together. Chapter headings include the date and time, which are important to the story in the countdown to either the successful or unsuccessful implementation of Rasputin’s goal. Some headings also include quotes from a vampire bible written by “Vlad Draculea”, diary excerpts from a Romanov family member, and newspaper clippings. It is easy to keep straight the myriad of individually distinctive characters in the story, and all of the minor characters are important in supporting the development of the plot. The transitions between past and present events are handled seamlessly. Descriptive writing by Gage’s use of vivid details, figurative language, and sensory information draws readers into this fascinating rendition of events surrounding Rasputin and the ending days of the Romanov Dynasty.

The Sleepwalker incorporates historical figures, religious officials, seers, malevolent entities, underground sects, political revolution, familial love, friendship, odious conflicts, treachery, secret plots, and gory/graphic violence. It is full of nonstop tension with unpredictable twists and turns that explodes into a spine-tingling climax. Gage does a thorough job of explaining Romanian folklore about vampire-like creatures, which is extremely helpful for anyone unfamiliar with these mythological beings and their powers. The English translation is provided for the words and phrases that are written in an appropriate foreign language for the story. The Sleepwalker forms an auspicious beginning for a new series. At the end of the book, Gage includes a brief overview of what will transpire in The Nosferatu Conspiracy: The Sommelier, which is the second installment in the series.


Kensington: Kensington: a memoir about friendship, love, and life in a small town by Robert Haydon

Reviewed by Dianne Woodman

Kensington: a memoir about friendship, love, and life in a small town is a fascinating recollection of Robert Haydon’s life in the 40’s and 50’s that also includes enthralling ancestral stories along with entertaining anecdotes involving animals. Haydon’s family moved from Kensington, Maryland, to Dallas, Texas, in 1957. Haydon not only shares some of his unforgettable memories of Kensington through engrossing stories but also writes about the tough scenario the family faced that prompted the move to Dallas. During Haydon’s teen years in Dallas, music became an important part of his life, especially after he met Steve Miller, a fellow classmate, who shared his love of music. This friendship led to the formation of a band that included other fellow classmates, and the group named themselves “The Marksmen Combo.” This was the beginning of Haydon’s performing career, which brought him into contact with some of the greatest musicians of all time, who are mentioned in the book. Purchase Here.

This memoir grabs readers’ attention from the very beginning with the wonderfully written prologue that sets up the story, which is told in the stylistic tradition of a novel. The Haydon and Mann families joined together through marriage and had different outlooks on life. The Haydon’s led a rural lifestyle, whereas the Mann were city folks. Haydon shares intriguing snippets about his ancestors along with more specific details about the lives of his grandparents and immediate family members. Pivotal and historical events in the lives of both families that are touched on by Haydon connect with readers’ emotions. Haydon also uses vivid, sensory details along with realistic dialogue to draw readers in and keep them invested in continuing to turn the pages. The black and white photographs sprinkled throughout the book not only help legitimize the story but also help readers visualize the people that are an inherent part of it and the places where events have taken place.

Haydon does an excellent job of using anecdotes that pull readers into the heartaches and celebratory moments experienced by individuals in this well-researched narrative that also provides readers with opportunities to form their own opinions about some of the material presented in this historical account. The honest and genuine telling of moments and events that encompass family and friends will appeal to readers, especially anyone who is interested in influential rock music icons and a real insight into what it was like growing up in the 40’s and 50’s. Kensington is an enjoyable, moving, and enlightening memoir that covers historical junctures and personal incidents of a time period in history that was far different than today’s culture.

Choice Cut

Choice Cut (the Cut Series, Book 3) by Arnold Eslava-Grünwaldt

Reviewed by Lisa Brown-Gilbert

Book three in his penetrating “Cut” series, Choice Cut by author Arnold Eslava-Grünwaldt dispenses to readers yet another fast-paced, and intensely exciting addition to his well-received crime thriller series, within which, he capably continues to delve into the activities of the criminally debauched in Yonkers, New York, and the skilled team of detectives that pursue them and bring them to justice. Purchase Here.

Maintaining the pace of excitement, drama, and thrills author Grünwaldt artfully continues the general storyline from book two, populated with most of the same characters, particularly the resilient and tough, Detective Sergeant Hamilcar Hitchcock and members of his general assignment squad. With a challenging mystery brewing, the story moves quickly and flawlessly into new and twisted scenarios calling for Sergeant Hitchcock and his team to move into action.

This time, the story starts out with members of the general assignment squad finding themselves coming to terms with the end result of their previous investigation which led to the nearly fatal shooting of a revered fellow officer and the unfortunate and temporary loss of another valued officer. However, the thrills and twists are just beginning with the discovery of a recently deceased male who may possibly be the casualty of a serial killer known as “The Butcher” whose victims are referred to as “one of the butcher’s cuts.”

Meanwhile, the mystery intensifies when somewhere in a hospital bed artist Jerome Samuels dies holding onto the knowledge of a dark secret from his past, one brimming with regret and betrayal. Initially famous for his tattoo art, Jerome Samuels leaves behind hints of his secreted past within his artwork. Specifically, his tattoos leave indelible hints to his grimy past and a well-endowed stash. Also, leaving behind two ne’er do well sons, Paske Samuels and half-brother Ben-Moon Wallis, the two scheme on finding the clues to their maligned father’s hidden treasure. Moreover, unbeknownst to them, they are not the only ones looking for clues to Samuels’ stash. Someone else has their eye on that same prize and lurks in the shadows willing to go to great lengths to get what they want and murder is no exception.

Ultimately, as criminal elements cross paths, the excitement continues to build within the story as the butcher’s presence in Westchester becomes an increasing terror making for an intense race against time and crime for Detective Sergeant Hitchcock and his team to unravel this web of evil and greed.

Essentially, I really enjoyed Choice Cut, by author Arnold Eslava-Grünwaldt. In fact, I have enjoyed the other books in the series as well. Each book so far has turned out to be a fascinating, multi-perspective mystery, populated with great characterizations, especially Detective Sergeant Hamilcar Hitchcock. Overall, the story rages with clever literary twists and turns that take you deep into the heart of darkness, the mind of a killer, and into the backstory of the heroic detectives that do the really hard work. Consequently, this book as well as his others, are worthy reads that I personally think would make a great TV series or movie.

A Time for Murder

Murder, She Wrote: A Time for Murder by Jessica Fletcher and Jon Land

Reviewed by Russell Ilg

“It’s just that the research I did turned up a murder where you used to live, where you were an English teacher.”
“There was a murder, and someone was arrested, yes, Kristi.”
“Were you the one who caught him, Mrs. Fletcher?” Purchase Here.

That exchange, between Jessica Fletcher and a young woman she thinks is a reporter from the local high school newspaper, forms the heart of A Time for Murder, the 50th entry in the iconic Murder, She Wrote series. Jon Land, current series shepherd, has chosen to celebrate that milestone by taking us where no reader (or viewer, for that matter) has ever gone before: into Jessica’s past, specifically twenty-five years back in time, and the result is nothing short of a smashing, slam-dunk success unrivalled in the annuls of literary pop culture.

Jessica’s still married to a much alive husband Frank. And they’re raising their eight-year-old nephew Grady at the time, as she tries to carve out a career as a high school English teacher while struggling to get published.

“Is this a mystery?” one of her students asks, as the class dissects one of Jessica’s own short stories that she distributed anonymously.

It’s not supposed to be, but that gets her thinking, as does the murder of the beloved high school principal who was just about to hire her full-time. An office mishap is suspected at first, until Jessica displays her keen powers of observation for the first time while working with Appleton Maine’s only detective, none other than future Cabot Cove sheriff Amos Tupper.

But that flashback to the past is only part of Land’s fourth, and best, effort in the series so far. In the present, the high school reporter for whom Jessica granted an interview turns out not to be a reporter at all; in fact, she’s not even in high school. And when she turns up murdered herself after badgering Jessica about that murder in neighboring Appleton, we’re off to the races on a dead sprint that swiftly reveals a clear connection between these two killings separated by twenty-five years.

Blood Relations

Blood Relations by Edward Cohen and Kathy Cohen

Book Reviewed by Lisa Brown-Gilbert

A twisted legal thriller which satisfies with as much grit as it does with intrigue, Blood Relations by co-authors Kathy Cohen and Edward Cohen keeps you rapt and wound tight till its shocking ending.Purchase here.

Absolutely worth the read, this legal thriller brings readers to the hot and steamy locale of New Orleans, where behind the closed doors of the selective Cameron and Munger law firm, things turn out to be just as hot and even steamier. And when young Kyle Cameron accidentally discovers his father’s infidelitous relationship with sexy femme fatale co-worker, lawyer Laura Niles, he aims to entice his father’s love interest away. However, things take a turn for the horrific when Laura Niles is found murdered and Jake –Kyle’s father–winds up in the center of a circumstantial whirlwind of evidence that could destroy his career, marriage and even his life. Facing jail or execution, Jake has no choice but to trust his ne’er-do-well son and lawyer, Kyle, trying the case that would make or break him.

Wholly a story that wields egos, money, wealth and the culture of New Orleans with apt storytelling and style, this narrative hosts an ensemble of complex characters that intrigue and draw ire, as well as scintillate – brimming full of personality with grittily imperfect characters whose tremendous egos have them crossing seemingly inviolable boundaries, unabashed by consequences. Especially engaging are the complex and prominent males, Jake and Kyle Cameron. Dysfunctional as father and son, both womanizing men are caught off balance by the draw of the unforgettable and exceedingly carnal Laura.

The authors Cohen tell an authentic story that treats readers to a vividly painted setting wrapped around an intense legal drama complete with plot twists and sexy interludes, leading to a read that makes both the blood and the senses boil. They tell an intelligent and intriguing story that immediately draws in the reader with its reveals of interludes of dark pasts, bad choices, family dysfunction, and legal drama, all buried deep in a web of deceit, murder and sex, the reveal of which keeps you rapt until the end. Additionally, I found the nod to the 1940s noir movie, Laura especially engrossing as it plays out within the psyche of Kyle, further enhancing this well- written story.

Altogether, Blood Relations makes for a juicy adult-themed murder mystery that is well worth the read. I enjoyed the twisted plot, swimming in intriguing twists, dysfunction, drama, and steamy sexuality. Ultimately, this is the type of book that should be considered a must-read for fans of legal thrillers.


The Experiment

The Experiment by Robin Lamont

Reviewed by Lisa Brown-Gilbert

Robin Lamont’s The Experiment, the third addition to her well-received Kinship series, traverses the rough terrain of animal rights in a story that not only takes readers seamlessly into a world that brims with webbed mystery but also exposes the horrific aspects of a subject that is not often visited – the protection of animals. Purchase Here.

Promptly, from the narrative’s outset, the suspense begins to build, as we meet the story’s engagingly complex protagonist, Jude Brannock, a senior investigator at The Kinship, an organization specializing in undercover investigations of large scale / industrial animal abuse. Jude anxiously broods about a recently hired investigator, Time Mains her trainee, who suddenly seemed to be mysteriously missing in action. Investigative Trainee Tim Mains embarked on an independent mission to go undercover to gather, document and report violations at a targeted company Amaethon Industries. After a spate of little to no contact from Tim, Jude embarks on an intense mission to find the missing investigator determined to get to the truth of his whereabouts, especially after his cryptic message of being on to “something big”. However, Jude’s interest in the mystery of Tim’s disappearance turns out to be more than just a “platonic” or “comrade in arms” type of concern for him as it turns out the two had started an affair that had to be kept out of sight.

Meanwhile, as the progress of her investigative efforts continues, Jude finds herself confronting a debilitating personal health issue. Her intimate feelings towards Tim brought on a deepening mystery as she hears evidence of his untoward behavior, including drug use, and an intense romance with a young woman, all while he was supposed to be working undercover investigating. It was now clear to her that Tim may not have been the man she thought she could trust not only with an important heartfelt job and not to mention with her heart.

Fundamentally, as a whole, The Experiment turned out to be a good stand-alone read that I found to be both creative and satisfying as a mystery read. Ultimately, the story captivated me with a mystery that deepened and twisted as the plot progressed centered around subject matter that I personally found a refreshing relief from the usual mystery genre fare. And as for characterizations, I found Jude to be a well-crafted central character whose own complex personal history intrigued, just as much as the other mysterious elements within the narrative which author Robin Lamont did a splendid job of culminating, into a cohesive and intriguing work that wielded suspense well. I look forward to her other books as well as hoping to see The Experiment made into a movie. I think it would be great and this book is definitely a must read.

Capitol White

Capitol White by Joe Pistone and Jon Land

Book reviewed by Russell Ilg

As a crime film connoisseur, I place Donnie Brasco among the very best the genre has to offer. Watching Johnny Depp, as the title character, spend five years undercover inside the New York Mob, before ultimately bringing down the infamous families at the top of the food chain, remains great fun every time I watch it. Purchase Here.

So it was with great interest that I plunged into Capitol White, more or less a direct sequel to that movie, penned by former FBI agent Joe Pistone working in tandem with bestselling thriller writer Jon Land. The twist is Donnie himself has been re-imagined wondrously here as a fictional hero, as opposed to a fictitious one, to spectacular success.
Pistone famously chronicled his years living undercover in Donnie Brasco: My Undercover Life in the Mafia – A True Story. Capitol White may be all fiction but you wouldn’t know it from the writing and I had to remind myself numerous times that what I was reading was made up instead of a literary rendition of Donnie’s next major case.

And what a case it is, as we follow the now retired Brasco being lured back into action when a pair of current agents come to him with the story that his mentor’s recent death was the product of murder and not natural causes. Before you can say “Martin Scorsese,” Pistone’s famed undercover doppelganger is all-in on what got FBI Assistant Director Paul Weinman killed, following a trail that leads to a shadowy cabal of Washington powermongers who, by all indications, have usurped the opioid trade for their own nefarious ends.

Hence the title Capitol White, a play on “China White” which is one of the many street names for heroine. It’s oddly appropriate, given that Donnie will stop at nothing to ferret out the politicos and crooks running the show, as coolly professional in fiction as he was in fact, even if that means going back undercover, something he’d promised his family he’d sworn off forever.

For my money, those scenes with his wife and three young sons are the very best in the book, especially when his youngest boy becomes responsible for uncovering a crucial clue (as well as the book’s chilling denouement). William Faulkner once said that the greatest conflict is the human heart at war with itself, and Donnie struggles mightily to keep a vow made to his family while honoring an obligation to the man who was his lifeline during those dangerous years he spent undercover.

This is gritty crime-thriller writing of the highest order, hardboiled prose packed with a punch made all the more enjoyable by a superb unabridged reading by Alexander Centese. Centese’s measured voice and cadence make the tale’s noir-ish elements even more foreboding as Donnie plunges deeper and deeper into a darkness that threatens to swallow him whole at every turn. The first-person narration crackles with authenticity, helping to (re)establish Donnie’s street creds and smarts as he negotiates a Washington, DC terrain that seems little different than the New York streets on which he made his bones, politicians no different from mob bosses. A rollicking, riveting and relentless read/listen.