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Secrets of State, by Matthew Palmer


Author: Matthew Palmer
Publisher: Putnam
ISBN: 9780425281017
Genre: Mystery | Thriller


A former top expert at the State Department, Sam Trainor was forced out of the Washington establishment and into the private sector, working as an analyst for a consulting firm. As he struggles to adjust to a corporate, profit-driven version of the work that had been his life, he stumbles across an intelligence anomaly—the transcript of a phone conversation about upending the delicate political balance keeping India and Pakistan from all-out-war. Yet Sam knows that conversation can’t have occurred—because he is having an affair with one of the alleged participants, and they were together at the time of the call.

As he digs into the source of this misinformation, he realizes there is more at stake than just bad intel. Someone is deliberately twisting the intelligence to stoke the simmering conflict between India and Pakistan, nuclear-armed rivals that have already fought multiple wars. And Sam’s new employer could be at the center of it.


A solid 4-STAR outing from Matthew Palmer for SECRETS OF STATE, a thriller that had all the right ingredients and hit all the right notes. The characters are nothing new, but familiar territory is okay as long as there is enough elsewhere to make up for it. And while the plot is nothing new either—terrorists stealing a nuclear weapon to blow up a city—again, that was okay, as the author came at this from a slightly different angle, with a new bead covering old ground, which freshened up a doomsday scenario with likeable enough characters.

Set against the backdrop of simmering tensions between India and Pakistan, Palmer gives us a what-if that’s oh so plausible right now. And while most authors are focused on the usual suspects and setting that are becoming tired, he reminds us that the world at large is still a very dangerous place.

What sets SECRETS OF STATE apart from the average read, are the small things. And it’s not often we get a view of places like Mumbai and it’s slums—never mind the people that live there. A thoroughly enjoyable, and quick read, so much so I’ll be buying a few more of Palmer’s works as I suspect they’ll be just as enjoyable a romp as SECRETS OF STATE was.

Deep Blue Trouble, by Steph Broadribb

I was excited to hear that DEEP BLUE TROUBLE, the follow up to Deep Down Dead by Steph Broadribb, will be available as early as November 15 as an ebook. Personally, I’m not sure I can wait till May 2018 for a printed copy, so just might end up with the ebook first. And if you haven’t read DEEP DOWN DEAD, then check out my review and Q&A with Steph.


Single-mother Florida bounty hunter Lori Anderson’s got an ocean of trouble on her hands. Her daughter Dakota is safe, but her cancer is threatening a comeback, and Lori needs JT—Dakota’s daddy and the man who taught Lori everything—alive and kicking. Problem is, he’s behind bars, and heading for death row. Desperate to save him, Lori does a deal, taking on off-the-books job from shady FBI agent Alex Monroe. Bring back on-the-run felon, Gibson “The Fish” Fletcher, and JT walks free.

Following Fletcher from Florida to California, Lori teams up with local bounty hunter Dez McGregor and his team. But Dez works very differently to Lori, and the tension between them threatens to put the whole job in danger. With Monroe pressuring Lori for results, the clock ticking on JT’s life, and nothing about the Fletcher case adding up, Lori’s hitting walls at every turn. But this is one job she’s got to get right, or she’ll lose everything. 



Format: Paperback
Published: May 1, 2018
Publisher: Orenda Books
ISBN: 9781910633939

Sworn to Silence, by Linda Castillo


Author: Linda Castillo
Publisher: Minotaur Books
ISBN: 978-1250161635
Genre: Murder-Mystery, Crime


Kate Burkholder has recently been appointed Chief of Police of the Amish community of Painters Mill, Ohio, where she grew up before leaving to study law enforcement in the outside world. Her knowledge of the Amish makes her the perfect candidate. When a serial killer whose spree sixteen years before was dubbed the Slaughterhouse Murders returns, Kate is determined to catch him. But she’s also desperate to keep a secret from her past that will make her task harder.


I finished reading this book late last night having read it in two sessions. I think I would have finished it faster if it wasn’t for a couple of missteps that were irritating and annoying.

The first came about a third of the way in. And, up until that point, I would have given this book a 4-Star rating. But it seems, like many writers in not only this genre, but elsewhere, not content to just tell the story from one POV, they are littering their narrative with first-person and third person omni, as if this makes them look clever. Trust me, it doesn’t.

It’s irritating and annoying, and jerks the reader unnecessarily out of the narrative. Why they feel the need to do this is beyond me. It was downhill from there on in. The pacing suffered, and I felt like I was having to wait to find out what was happening to the main character, Police Chief Kate Burkholder. Who, up until that point, was shaping up to be an intriguing flawed character hiding her own dark secret.

To make things worse, the author then felt the need to up the ante on the overly graphic descriptions of the victims and crime scenes, with an egregious depraved scene featuring the murderer. Not only did it feel unnecessary, it was repulsive—simply meant to shock. Add in the fact that author decided to abruptly give Kate some romance in the guise of a burnt-out cop who’s also hiding his own secret [that of murder] and you start to loose all sympathy for either character.

With so much going for this novel, including a great setting—we’re deep in Ohio Amish country—a Chief of Police who herself had been brought up Amish. Who has survived a terrible ordeal as a 14 year-old. And have her tell her story, was thoroughly immersive and had me sucked in from page one … so why break the up the flow and pacing? Why intersect another character in such an obtrusive manner? Why jerk the reader out of what is, essentially, Kate’s narrative?

I guess without asking the author, I’ll never know. The broken manner of telling Kate’s story fatally wounded this novel, for me, and quite frankly, impeded the impact of what happened to her later. Again, her encounter with the murderer at the end of the novel, just became egregious—told for shock value.

I was left feeling there were so many missed opportunities, emotionally and narratively speaking. Which is a shame, because Castillo’s voice for Burkholder was excellent, the dialogue was clever, snappy and tart in places, and the setting out of the ordinary; and, for the most part, the writing was well above average.

All in all, this only rates 3-stars, if that, given the unnecessary flaws.