Category: Thriller

Black Hat/White Hat by Glenn Della-Monica

“Black Hat/White Hat” is the action-packed story of two lovable sociopaths, Alex and Lara Cutter. It is also the story of the law enforcement officials who try to catch them. The story moves quickly as it covers the Cutters origin story, their exploits, and the efforts of FBI officer Cody and his colleagues as they try to uncover the identities of the culprits.

There is a lot going on in this book. The major focus is on the elaborately planned actions of Alex and Lara. I appreciated seeing all the details that are considered in order to pull off each scheme. If you enjoy intricately-plotted covert actions, you will absolutely love this book. It was also interesting to see the story from the other side, that of law enforcement in multiple countries trying to track down the mysterious people or group behind the string of bizarre events. (The intricacy and level of detail put into this book was truly impressive. After reading this book, as well as the author’s bio, I am definitely glad that he decided to put his knowledge and experience to work for good instead of evil!)

Character development never takes a back seat to the action. Main characters Alex/Lara, Cody, and Haley are each provided with enough background and unique personality traits to seem like true individuals. The reader can easily understand each person’s mindset, and this makes the choices they make and actions they take seem entirely realistic.

There was a surprise near the end that I didn’t see coming. I won’t say more to avoid spoilers, but I loved the way things came together. I also liked the semi-open ending, and hope that it means more adventures to follow in future books.

This book is much more than just an exciting adventure novel, however. It also gives the reader something important to think about, both during the reading and afterwards. What truly is good or evil? How does the motivation behind an action affect the rightness of that action? How much should long term benefits offset short-term “bad” actions? If you’re familiar with the DeathNote series, this book provides more to ponder about the good vs. evil dynamic.

Overall, an exciting, fast-paced, incredibly well-written story!

Book Review: The Last Roman: Exile by B.K. Greenwood

I enjoyed everything about “The Last Roman: Exile”. It’s an exciting, fast-paced combination of thriller, historical fiction, and magical realism. Since I’m a fan of all of those things, this book couldn’t have been a more perfect choice.

The story toggles between two timelines. The present-day plot deals with main character Marcus and his partner Sam trying to thwart a centuries-old plot to wreck havoc on humanity. The historical timeline moves from Marcus’ mortal days and follows him through some key moments of his immortal life. Usually when I read a dual-timeline story, I find myself rushing through one to get to my preferred plotline. In this case, both timelines were so enthralling that I honestly couldn’t choose a favorite. I find myself looking forward to the next book in the series to see what happens in the modern-day crisis, as well as to learn more about Marcus’ past adventures.

Main character Marcus was given a detailed backstory, and lots of information to help the reader understand who he was, who he is today, and how that transformation occurred. His motivations are clear and the reader feels a true sense of who this character is. Minor characters added a lot to the story as well. I particularly enjoyed Sam, and the relationship between the two.

The historical story begins in Biblical times, and I appreciated the author’s use of religious people and events in the book. I enjoyed the unique take on what may have happened to people who had noteworthy interactions with Jesus, and what happened to some of those people after the Biblical events were over. Please note that this book is NOT to be read as a theological treatise. It is a “what might have happened if…..” exercise, not a suggestion of philosophical possibility.

All in all, I loved everything about it, and eagerly await the next installment.

Book Review: Nine by Rachelle Decker

“Nine” by Rachelle Dekker is an impressive, fast-paced novel. The action starts with the opening scene, and it doesn’t ever seem to let up. Even when characters are taking a break and just talking to each other, that never-ending sense of tension is still there. Some thrillers seem to be “all action, no real substance”, but that definitely is NOT the case here. Rachelle Dekker is very skilled at keeping the plot moving along while never easing off on the important personal details that make this story so much more than a typical action/adventure.

The three main characters (Zoe, a small-town waitress with a mysterious past; Lucy, a teenager with no memory of her own past; and Seeley, an agent with a complicated past) are all incredibly well drawn and detailed. I enjoyed learning more about each of them as the story progressed, and felt like I truly “knew” all three by the book’s end.

Once you finish enjoying all the action and see what happens to the characters at the end, you can take a deep breath and realize…..all that excitement wasn’t REALLY what the book was about at all. The riveting storyline was the backdrop for an exploration of the theme of how much your past does or does not influence your present. As each character moves through this adventure, he or she contemplates the past and thinks about its effects on who they are in the present. Each also considers, in his/her own way, whether or not there’s anything they can do about the past, and whether it’s possible to write a new narrative for the future.

This is a work of Christian fiction. God is definitely present throughout the story, but more in His “still, small voice” form than in more overt ways. Personally, I liked seeing how the characters responded to God speaking to them, even if they didn’t really know Him. As a Christian, I walked away with some important things to think after reading this book.

One note: While this is definitely a Christian book, some hard-core things take place. People get shot, people die, people are tortured. Nothing overly graphic in the descriptions, but if violence is a trigger for you, please be aware that you’ll find some in this novel. I thought everything was appropriate and important to the plot, not just thrown in gratuitously, and did not detract from the message.

All in all, I loved the story. Five out of five slices of perfectly-aged Provolone.

Book Review: The Look-Alike by Erica Spindler

This just might be the best thriller I’ve read all year (and I read a LOT of thrillers). Why, you ask? For a number of reasons:

1. The main character, Sienna Scott, is a genuinely likeable person. She was handed some major negativity early in her life (a mentally ill mother, stumbling across a murder victim in college), and is working hard to move past these events. It’s nice to see this lovely young woman making an effort to reconnect with her family and achieve her dream of owning her own restaurant. Of note, events cause Sienna to worry that she may have inherited her mother’s mental illness.

2. The secondary characters, notably Jonathan, Randy, Bradley, and Mrs. Scott, are also drawn realistically and distinctly. Some are likable, some are not, and some are to be pitied, but they are all unique and interesting characters. Even minor characters, like the already-deceased Mr. Scott and Mrs. Scott’s doctors, are presented clearly enough that they seem like real people.

3. Author Erica Spindler keeps you guessing about what is real and what isn’t. The nature of Mrs. Scott’s (and possibly Sienna’s) mental illness means that she perceives people and events in a certain way. While she fully believes things are as she sees them, the reader is left unsure as to what is reality and what is delusion.

4. My favorite part of a thriller is trying to figure out who the “bad guy” is. Ms. Spindler gives the reader three solid suspects, and develops each one, along with their motives, as the story moves along. A couple of less-solid (but still plausible) suspects are also thrown into the mix. I honestly suspected multiple people at different times as I read. By the end, I had a pretty good idea, but only because some suspects are gradually eliminated. Also, since I had suspected virtually everybody at some point, I was bound to have been right. This element of multiple truly legitimate suspects really made the book stand out for me. The suspense element was handled perfectly, and I was obsessed with reading on to see what happened. I had to make myself put the book down for little things like “sleeping” and “going to work”.

5. The final reveal made perfect sense in the end. One extra-awesome bit….there was a clue I picked up early on. However, I thought it might have been an editing oversight, since I read an ARC (not a final version) of this book. As it turns out, it wasn’t an oversight at all, but a critical clue that tied everything together. The novel also gets bonus points for having the culprit be a character who was part of the book all along. I really hate thrillers that bring a character into the story late, and that person ends up being the bad guy.

All in all, five out of five slices of the freshest American cheese. I really loved this book, and it will be making my “Best of 2020” list. Bravo, Ms. Spindler!