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Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Held For Ransom

Russell Atkinson is a former 25-year FBI agent who has now written six books in his Cliff Knowles series. After reading his sixth book, Behead Me, I decided to jump back to the beginning with the first one, Held for Ransom. This book, as the author suggests, is sort of a blueprint about what to do and expect if you or someone in your family is unfortunate enough to be the victim of a kidnapping. There are lots of characters in this story including the victim, Carl Fischer, his family, the kidnappers, and the many FBI agents and police who are involved in the attempt to save Fisher’s life.

Fischer is one of the richest men in the Silicon Valley as the founder and CEO of Claritiva. Kidnapped from the parking lot of his company, Fischer’s family was presented with a demand for $650,000, which sounded like an odd sum to everyone. He was tied up, blindfolded, and taken to a secret location. When the FBI got involved, Knowles was contacted because his boss could not be reached and Knowles was the Principal Relief Supervisor. He was the guy who ended up not being in charge of the operation to rescue Fischer, a job that fell to the untalented and unknowledgeable Peter Stroaker, Special Agent in Charge. And the chase was on, sometimes making the FBI look like incredible professionals, other times showing them to be bumbling incompetents.


After having read both his first and sixth books, it is obvious that Atkinson’s storytelling improved greatly over the course of this novels. In this first book, he had too many characters as he wrote a book that oftentimes read like a script from the old TV show Dragnet – very matter of fact, intense but emotionally tightly controlled. Nonetheless, Knowles is a compelling figure who deftly manages the intricate politics of his agency while finding a way to work the crime. I’ve already grabbed the second book in the series, Cached Out, and I intend to read that one very soon.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

The Hell Of It All by Bob Kroll

It hasn’t been all that long sing TJ Peterson was drummed out of the Vancouver PD. Anger issues. Could’ve been because his wife was running around on him. But she and her paramour were crushed when a garbage truck flipped over on them. Or it could be his guilt from being with HIS paramour (a hooker) when that accident occurred.

To fill time, his former partner gets him some minor surveillance jobs. On one occasion, a snitch, who goes by the nickname Turtle, mentions that he overheard these 2 guys trying to top each other talking about a body buried going on 20y ago in a city campground. A cold case that doesn’t get any colder. Where is the body, who is buried, and why were they offed and unceremoniously dumped in a hole?

And remember Peterson’s hooker? Her daughter has disappeared and was last seen with one of the more violent dealers in the Canadian west. So Peterson is juggling two cases: the coldest of the cold cases and a hot current case. And both revolve around buying, selling, using, dealing, and dying from heroin.

The two separate, but strangely intertwined cases take Peterson’s days while trying to stay sober dominates his nights. All the while considering eating a bullet.

Perhaps one of the darkest noir book I have read recently, or ever. Kroll’s 2nd JT Peterson book was deeply disturbing. Probably because a close friend of my kids from high school succumbed to heroin and was missing for over a year until his remains were found in a nearby forest. In the last half of the book, I could see his face in my mind’s eye. Hopefully no one else will have the same reaction I did.

But it was a good book. Just dark. Really, really dark.

East Coast Don


Seconds to Midnight by Philip Donlay

The Eco-Watch research Citation jet is on assignment to study a solar storm’s effects on the northern lights in arctic Canada. The routine data gathering flight is interrupted when a 737 dives through the clouds nearly causing a midair collision. The Eco-Watch pilot manages to evade the 737. Co-pilot and Eco-Watch director, Donovan Nash, is horrified to see the jet’s rear door open and something is shoved out into the deathly cold of the Canadian winter.

The 737 spirals down in a descent that is one part crash and one part landing approach. The Jet manages to land on a frozen lake, but the ice cracks under the jet’s weight, but not before a passenger crawls out a window, scrambles up the wing, then jumps in the water and struggles to get back on the firm ice and crawl to the shore.

Nash orders his pilot to find a way to land the Citation on a distant part of the lake. Nash and a couple of his team trudge through the snow and find a near frozen woman and bring her back on board the plane. Her only words before passing out are a warning that they all are going to be killed. When she wakens, what remains of her memory comes in rare flashes, little of which are of help in determining her identity or how she came to be on the doomed flight.

Too much is unknown, so Nash makes the decision to keep as much about what has happened from both the Canadian and US authorities. The girl’s warning spooks Nash and puts his wife and daughter, currently on vacation in Austria, on alert. His wife Lauren is a GIS specialist with the US and has a rep as being highly resourceful when cornered.

Nash calls on an Eco-Watch employee with diving expertise to haul a ton of equipment up to join him in Minneapolis so they can get into the 737 now resting at the bottom of the frozen lake. Meanwhile, Lauren and daughter are targeted by unknowns and on the run to Scotland, then Poland, and finally the Russian embassy.

This book is #9 in the Donovan Nash series. A ridiculously fast paced book. I doubt anyone who picks this up will take more than a day or two to finish. Do I now have to go back through books #1-8? Only time will tell.


East Coast Don