Monthly Archives: December 2008

Review – al-Qaeda Strikes Again

Al-Qaeda Strikes AgainCould it Happen?

Rating: 2 of 5

Author: Bill Binkley
Available: Paperback

In twenty cities throughout the United States, al-Qaeda members have infiltrated society. After altering their appearance and taking everyday jobs within their communities, they await the signal which will trigger a catastrophe more horrific than September 11, 2001. On the other side of the world, in Islamabad Pakistan, US operatives recover a list of these twenty cities during a raid in a known terrorist camp. But what to make of the list?

Though thwarted by her boss, Rennie Jordon – a low level government data analyst in Dallas Texas – begins to put the pieces of the terrorist puzzle together. Working with Wayne Kirby from the FBI, they soon identify some of the al-Qaeda operatives. Unfortunately, this success comes with a price as they both become targets and find their own lives in danger. Will they complete the puzzle prior to when the catastrophe is scheduled to occur, or will al-Qaeda take them out first?

In al-Qaeda Strikes Again, Bill Binkley offers an interesting premise but the execution of the novel unfortunately falls short. The characters are one dimensional and are in need of greater development. Also, the first half of the book lacks any significant dialogue; couple this with the extensive use of passive voice and the result is a novel that reads like an FBI case file leaving it difficult for the reader to become engrossed in the story. Once the dialogue picks up mid-way through, it reads rather flat and unnatural. While there were interesting elements to the story and the actual terrorist plot may be plausible, I found too much of the novel unrealistic to fully appreciate the central theme.

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Review – Cluck: Murder Most Fowl

Cluck: Murder Most FowlWhere Evil Comes To Roost!

Rating: 5 of 5, TMBOA Recommended!

Author: Eric Knapp
Available: Paperback

Somewhere outside of Detriot Michigan, a spectral cosmic light lasting only moments, intersects the souls of a young suburban boy named Arnold and a fabulously large Rooster. Afterward, Arnold is imbued with a second sight allowing him to see the souls of those around him, including animals – especially chickens. Seeing souls gives Arnold a slight glimpse into the future as the souls actions occur just before those of their corporeal hosts. Though an advantage in sports where Arnold can anticipate his opponents every move, it also sets him apart from the rest of humanity causing his eventual banishment by his parents to a home for boys. Recognized by Father Beau as gifted in second site, Arnold is sent to France where he joins a secret order of those men charged with banishing the souls of trapped fowl to the next life. However, though the order exists, none have the site of Arnold who quickly demonstrates his. He eventually becomes Armand – the Exorciste de Volaille – the poultry exorcist!

Meanwhile, across the world, the Rooster has also been forever changed by the light. Capable of thought and even speech, the Rooster becomes king of an ever expanding farm owned an operated by Bobby Garfundephelt and his wife. However, all is not well on the farm and without giving too much of the plot away, evil takes root on the farm and Bobby is forever haunted by the undead chickens and their Rooster king. Only Armand, now aged and scared with the wounds from setting straight the worlds “fowl” wrongs, can save Bobby. Or can he?…

Eric Knapp’s Cluck: Murder Most Fowl is a masterpiece. I honestly did not believe I would like this book as much as I did. Reminiscent of the Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone or even the best of what Tales from the Crypt had to offer, Knapp creates a intriguing and engaging tale of three lives intertwined and changed forever. This is an incredibly creative piece of fiction that in lesser hands would have come across at best campy and at worst just plain stupid. Rather, Knapp has pulled off an amazingly entertaining novel. The graphics by Ian Richard Miller at the onset of each chapter are perfect and are displayed in the oval shape of an egg. Completing the professional and all encompassing feel for the story is the unique font titling each chapter.

I don’t give out 5 stars easily and never expected to do so when I started this book. But truthfully, this is one of the most creative, different, offbeat funny, and intriguing books I’ve read this year. It is definitely not mainstream and one might have to be in the right mood to appreciate it’s brilliance, but I believe few would be disappointed in reading Cluck (I can’t believe I’m actually typing this). Good luck Mr. Knapp and congratulations on an extremely well written tale.

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Review – The Jade Owl

The Jade OwlJames Clavell meets Indiana Jones in this China Mystery!

Rating: 4.5 of 5

Author: Edward C. Patterson
Available: Paperback, Kindle

After relocating from New York City to take on the position of a lifetime, sinologist Professor Rowden Gray learns upon his arrival that his position at the San Francisco Museum of East Asian Arts and Culture has been eliminated. Furious with the last minute turn of events, Gray stumbles upon Nick Battle who is none other than the son of Gray’s long time mentor – John Battle. Gray finds that Nick possesses The Jade Owl an ancient Chinese relic previously believed to be the stuff of legend. They discover that The Jade Owl may open a sister relic The Joy of Finches held captive in the Museum’s Asian display. Together they find The Jade Owl to be more than a relic, but the key to finding the lost tomb of the only empress to rule over the middle kingdom – Wu Tze-t’ien.

An eclectic expedition team including Gray, Nick, Nick’s life partner and drag queen – Simone, a one-eyed Cherokee – Griffen, and Chinese American martial arts expert – Audrey, set out to return The Jade Owl to the empress. However, the Owl reveals itself to be much more than a relic, but a vessel for controlling, channeling, and altering Chi creating unspeakable power. These China Hands must return the Owl in time or unleash it’s dangers to the world.

In The Jade Owl, Edward C. Patterson does a masterful job at taking the reader deep into a journey of China’s cultural treasures. The history, foods, people, architecture, politics, even aromas of Hong Kong, Canton, Shanghai, Beijing, Guilin, are carefully and beautifully conveyed and Patterson’s expertise in this area shines. He has also created characters so real that one feels they are reading a diary of life experiences as opposed to fictional fantasy. As a result, The Jade Owl has all of the intrigue and interest of an Indiana Jones mystery but is grounded in the reality of true to life characters making it more satisfying in the end.

My only hesitation to giving this novel 5 stars was the lack of conflict and action driving the first half of the book. While the mystery of The Jade Owl is the backbone of the story, it seemed to fade to the background in the first half in favor of the rich cultural excursions the expedition team took as they traveled China. None-the-less, this is a very satisfying read and Patterson is a very accomplished writer.

For those looking for the cultural intrigue of the middle kingdom and a fantastical mystery involving ancient relics of a long forgotten empress, The Jade Owl delivers. It is the first of the five book Jade Owl legacy.

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Review – Fatal Encryption

Fatal EncryptionAn Alex Bellamy Murder Mystery

Rating: 4 of 5

Author: Debra Purdy Kong
Available: Paperback

Halloween—Port Moody, British Columbia: Unable to join the trick-or-treating fun due to the chicken pox, one young suburban girl is the sole witness to a costumed reveler responsible for brutal premeditated murder. Nearby, the wife of the victim’s brother storms home from a party and finds the body. But why was he killed? What did he know?

Alex Bellamy a young computer geek in need of work takes a contract job to solve recent network and computer glitches at his girlfriend’s company. He soon learns that the glitches are more than just pranks. In fact, all of the computers vital records are encrypted by an extortionist threatening to destroy all of the records or pay ten million dollars to save the company. Soon Bellamy is engulfed in a whirlwind of corporate greed and believes that not only is the company at risk but lives as well; the suburban murder and the young girls knowledge is the key to unlocking the conspirators’ identity. In his zeal to debug the company’s computer system and solve the murder, Bellamy finds his as well as his friends and families lives are in danger.

Debra Purdy Kong’s book “Fatal Encryption” is an entertaining mystery full of back room corporate deals, family squabbles and power plays, secret affairs, and murder. I enjoyed this novel. Kong creates multiple plausible suspects throughout the story leaving the reader guessing all the way until the end. I was also surprised by how bold and brave Alex Bellamy was throughout the book. He frequently questioned potential suspects telling them how he believed they committed various crimes which if true would have put him in grave danger as in most situations he was alone with these potential killers.

Reminiscent of “Murder She Wrote”, “Fatal Encryption” features an everyday guy with good observational and deductive skills who solves a crime. Kong has created an interested character and I look forward to the next Alex Bellamy mystery.

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Review – Pilate

PilateBizzaro Fiction

Rating: 4 of 5

Author: Steven Rage

Available: Paperback

Note: This book contains graphic violence, illicit drug use, non-consensual extreme sex, and potentially offensive material given the religious references.

In the drug lord controlled area know as “The Harbor”, biblical figures have been reincarnated. Immanuel, also known as El Cristo (Christ) is a young woman who has come to save those enslaved by an extremely addictive drug. She changes the lives of those she encounters – such as Pedro (Peter). However, her success negatively impacts drug trafficking.

Pilate, one of the drug lords, is an immortal vampire working for Herod the mayor of “The Harbor”. Due to Immanuel’s success, Pilate misses one of his quotas resulting in Herod brutally torturing Juan de Batista (John the Baptist) and Mary Magdalene. Pilate is infuriated by this betrayal.

The story follows the resulting power struggle between Pilate and Herod as well as Pilate’s frequent visions of his past vampire lives. Through these visions, released by Immanuel, he comes to understand who he really is and the ultimate choice he must make in this life.

Steven Rage’s “Pilate” is Bizzaro fiction, a genre I admittedly have no experience with. I found the references to illicit drug use and associated language difficult to follow given my unfamiliarity with the subject matter. I also had difficulty the first few chapters given Rage’s unique writing style and cadence. However, my inner ear eventually tuned into this style and rather than being distracted, it resulted in my complete immersion into the bizarre world Rage created.

I did find it odd at times that while the characters in the novel were well aware of historical biblical figures, other than El Cristo, no one seemed to realize they were the reincarnations of these figures.  It was also occasionally confusing which “sides” the characters were on though I believe Rage was demonstrating the internal struggle they battled between good and evil.

Rage has created an incredibly creative and detailed, though disturbing world.  Fans of this genre will find Rage’s “Pilate” a unique, creative, fast paced, brutal, dark, and bizarre novel.

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